2020 a year of movements worldwide

2020 begins as 2019 has ended: under the sign of social movements. On New Year’s Day 2020, hundreds of thousands demonstrate in Hong Kong against the restriction of freedom rights. Already on 19 January, 150,000 citizens take to the streets again and demand free elections. As a result of these mobilizations, the democracy movement achieved great success in the mid-July primaries.

2020, a year pf movements worldwide

The sardines and the corona viruses

On the same 19 January, 50,000 “sardines” gather in Bologna to warn of a rightward slide in the upcoming regional elections. A week later, the Democratic Party candidate wins a clear victory over the national conservative Lega candidate. Behind the name of the “sardines”, which caused a strong change of mood throughout the country at the end of 2019, lies the idea of creating a densely crowded swarm with a large number of demonstrators.

From February onwards, the swarms that fight for changes in Res Publica around the world are joined by an opponent with the sensible name Corona. The global sardines face the questions: what happens if mass events become fundamentally sensitive? What if governments use the pandemic to dissolve or suppress the movements?

In Hong Kong, rallies are banned, critical MPs are deposed, leaders are imprisoned, and parliamentary elections scheduled for September are postponed by a year. This weakens the largest social movement in recent years by global comparison, but does not destroy it.

Latin America will become the new dynamic centre. In Chile, a popular movement launched in October 2019, strongly influenced by women, demands the drafting of a new constitution by a constituent. This should guarantee gender equality, social justice and empower indigenous minorities. The Pinochet Constitution, in force until now, had drawn up a holy alliance of repressive militaries, neoliberal Chicago Boys and ultraconservative Opus Dei in 1980. After the right-wing government postponed the coordination with the Virus pretext, the left is able to keep up the pressure against police violence and thanks to sanitary measures. On 25 October, 79 percent voted for a new constitution and 78 percent for a constituent assembly.

Pachamama versus colonial cross

The Bolivian left experienced a similar landslide victory a week earlier. The Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS), which was ousted by a neo-liberal-right-Catholic coup at the end of 2019, wins the new elections with 55 percent of the vote. One reason for the heavy defeat of the White upper class is the disastrous pandemic policy under a health minister who belongs to Opus Dei. The ballot was enforced by an alliance movement of trade union, Indigenous and rural women’s organisations. It is also a victory of the Indian “Pachamama"culture over the Colonial"Christian” cross. “Pachamama” means “Mother Earth"and” mother world". It symbolizes the close connection between social, ecological, Native American and feminist dynamics.

Something quite similar has been going on in Peru since the deposing of the president by reactionary forces on 20 November. A movement similar to the Bolivian one succeeds in overthrowing the government. The perspective is, as in Chile, the creation of a new constitution that creates more participation, social equality and guarantees for women, as well as for Indigenous and Afro-Peruvian minorities. A new factor in the Andes, but also in other countries, is ecofeminism, whose main base is rural women. It is supported by the experience of farmers that climate change and the destruction of nature by corporations such as Glencore are destroying livelihoods.

Global rise of feminism

Feminism – in conjunction with other movements – also plays a key role in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. In the three largest states of Latin America, this leads to a particularly striking strengthening of Democratic vigilance – not least within their own ranks. This is not a coincidence, since left authoritarianism is also closely linked to deep-rooted Machismo. In Brazil, the combined movements of women, rural and homeless people, blacks and LGBT people mean that new left - wing forces of a bureaucratized and power-fixated Workers ' Party (PT) are taking over. In Mexico, it is above all women and Indigenous people who demand human rights from the left-wing populist president. And in Argentina, on December 10, historically strong feminism succeeds in winning the right to abortion after a months-long campaign.

So we would be in Poland and Belarus. The first movement that succeeds in putting the Catholic Church and its right – wing Conservative government in the limelight is the women’s movement – supported by left-wing and liberal men. In Belarus, too, women play an outstanding role in the fight against the repressive autocrat. What stands out with all the feminist-dominated movements, especially in Latin America and Europe, is the double emphasis on imagination and nonviolence. The times when fantasies of violence affected critical thinking in many moving minds seem far away.

This is also evident in the USA, where the MeToo movement has created space for a different way of thinking-also in the left. The murder of George Floyd, on 25. May is not only for Blacks, but for the first time since the 1960s – for many White people a beacon, without the feminist awakening in the previous years, inexplicable. Despite the massive police violence and the provocations of Trump and his “Bad Boys,” violence within the Black Lives Matter movement remains an exception. This political maturity and the synergy of a whole series of breakthroughs are the main explanation for Trump’s defeat. Thus, the rather surprising electoral successes for Joe Biden in Nevada and Arizona have much to do with a renewed trade union movement that relies heavily on Latinas and Latinos.

Arab and African movements

The oldest of the latest social movements, the Arab Revolution, is far from its original strength. But in the Maghreb and Lebanon in particular, it shows that it is just as little finished as the French Revolution was a decade after it broke out. Thus, the fact that less than 24 percent of voters in Algeria participate in the constitutional vote on 20 November proves the strength of the road. In Lebanon, the inter-faith democracy movement in which women speak is facing two catastrophes: the pandemic and the Explosion of August 4.

While most of the uprisings in the Arab world have been and are being fought by the Sunni Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi), the main allies of the United States and Israel, the Lebanese and Syrian movements are mainly confronted with Iran and Hezbollah, as well as indirectly with Russia. This is reminiscent of an experience from 1968, when the Paris and Prague Spring coincided in time. Block thinkers at that time only expressed solidarity with one of the two emancipation movements, the Enlightenment-autonomous thinkers supported both. You do not think in categories of blocks and powers, but of movements and content.

Just as there is a global shift of the Movement Centre to Latin America, there is a shift to the Colossus Nigeria in Africa. Since October, a youthful civil society has been mobilizing against the military. The maintenance of power by the old elites has facilitated the rise of the terrorist Boko Haram. The experience of the Arab Spring shows that movements weaken fundamentalism. The Alternative to Islamism is not to strengthen the elites, but the dissidents, including the progressive Islamic.


In Europe, too, social movements, especially the climate and women’s movements, show that the Alternative does not mean globalization or nationalization. The corona pandemic, which is initially feared to exacerbate nationalism, strengthens human care and solidarity. This is an important reason why, in addition to neoliberalism, which has suffered since the financial crisis, right-wing populism is also in crisis. How strongly the climate movement continues to influence political life is illustrated by the effect of the occupation of the Bundesplatz in September.

The two ballots at the end of September and the end of November confirm that the women’s movement has also remained strong despite no meetings or rallies. A clear majority of women vote against new fighter jets, which are only accepted by chance. Their yes to corporate responsibility led to their national mores. Half of the women also accept the ban on war activities. This brings a third movement to the fore: the pacifist-anti-militarist movement. But what is still missing is the trade union. The outstanding role of Care staff in the pandemic offers the opportunity for a social Offensive to strengthen the public service and the working people.

The Bern elections also confirm the continuity of the 2019 movements: the candidate close to the movement performs best in the executive, while the Legislative one results in a left-ecological women’s slide. The new magic formula in the capital is called RGL: red-green-purple. And this combination thrives best both locally and globally in social movements, the oxygen of democracy.