Riots and revolutions: Europe's young radicals?

Monday 8 October, 6.30pm until 8.30pm, Foyles Charing Cross, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB

Such was the global political upheaval of last year that many across the political spectrum were moved to ask whether 2011 would become as era-defining as 1968 and 1989. Even those uncertain about the aims and prospects for the Arab Spring couldn’t help but feel inspired by the youth-led demands for democracy and change, which stood in stark contrast to the seeming conservatism and apathy of their Western counterparts. Similar enthusiasm for the spirited rebellion of the young has been shown towards a number of anti-austerity movements such UK Uncut, Spain’s Indignados, Alexis Tsipiras’ Greek SYRIZA coalition and the youthful support for Hollande in France. Meanwhile, from one-off demonstrations such as SlutWalk to large-scale calls for social change like Occupy, social media has become an increasingly influential mobilisation tool for global protest.

Yet a celebration of the radicalisation of previously apathetic youth turns to profound concern over the rise of a ‘new European far right’, with the likes of Hungary’s Jobbik and Finland’s True Finns complemented by the electoral breakthroughs of Le Pen in France and Golden Dawn in Greece. There is much discussion of how what unites European youth is the relative hopelessness of the ‘jilted generation’, saddled with debt, ageing populations and high unemployment. The exodus of the young from crisis-ridden countries such as Ireland and Greece seems to indicate the depths of youthful desperation, although some see opportunity for new allegiances and communities of interest to be formed through the turmoil. For some, last summer’s English riots were an angry and incoherent reaction against the politics of austerity; for others, however, the nihilism of the riots suggested that the generation told they have ‘no future’ had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Do Europe’s youth need to unite together as particular victims of the crisis, or would such a perspective simply breed division between the generations, undermining social solidarity? Is it useful to discuss social movements and problems in generational terms at all?  Are there grounds for apprehension in the rise of populism, or is there a danger of scaremongering? Is there potential for a European Spring, or is it more a case of hope springs eternal?


This strand is part of the Crisis in Europe debate series, organised by the European Network of Houses for Debate “Time to Talk”, with the support of the Open Society Institute.

Speakers
Clive Bloom
emeritus professor, English and American studies, Middlesex University; author, Riot City: protest and rebellion in the capital

Neil Davenport
writer; head of sociology, JFS Sixth Form Centre; contributor, spiked

Mary Fitzgerald
writer; editor; campaigner; former senior editor, Prospect

Myriam Francois-Cerrah
DPhil candidate, Oriental Studies, Oxford University; journalist; regular panellist, BBC1's Big Questions

Dr Ashley Frawley
lecturer in sociology and social policy, Swansea University

Thais Portilho-Shrimpton
journalist; former campaign coordinator and web editor, Hacked Off

Chair:
David Bowden
coordinator, UK Battle Satellites; columnist, spiked

Produced by
David Bowden coordinator, UK Battle Satellites; columnist, spiked
Recommended readings
What happens when you take the politics out of protest?

Unlike past protest movements where ideologies came into conflict, today's uprisings are raw and reject traditional political structures

Ashley Frawley, Independent Voices, 2 October 2012

Spain police fire rubber bullets at Madrid protest

The demonstrators - known as Indignants - say

BBC News, 26 September 2012

Riot City: protest and rebellion in the capital

Since 2000, London has seen unprecedented levels of unrest. Its streets have become the battleground for a host of new demands and new ideological standpoints; its occupants, protesters and authority alike, have had to invent new tactics to cope with the pressure of street politics and advances in social media.

Clive Bloom, Palgrave Macmillan, 26 July 2012

This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement

Occupy Wall Street protests have spread around the world, with a common slogan of “We are the 99%.” But there is a great deal of confusion and misperception about this movement. This book clarifies the who, what, when, where, why, and how of this movement. It provides profound insight into the movement’s power, messages, significance, methods, and impact.

Sarah Van Gelder, Berrett-Koehler, 1 January 2010


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