Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“Striking students insistent on free elections and a change in government then sent hundreds of their numbers into the countryside to visit industrial plants and talk with workers, enlisting their involvement in the general strike.”

A general strike can be one of the most potent noncooperation methods in the repertoire of nonviolent resistance. It is a widespread cessation of labor in an effort to bring all economic activity to a total standstill. Although it is easy to broadcast the call for a general strike, it is exceedingly difficult to implement for the maximal impact that it potentially exerts. What’s more, a general strike must be called prudently, because it loses its effectiveness if weakly executed.

The Occupy movement’s calls for a general strike in the United States on May 1 make me think of an instance in which a general strike was brilliantly carried out and with great effect, in Czechoslovakia in 1989 — for only two hours.

For years beforehand, the sharing of subversive literature, drama and ideas against the communist regime had been occurring in Czechoslovakia, virtually unseen. In fact, historian Theodore Ziółkowski reminds us that “almost from the moment when the Soviet empire, after Yalta, swallowed up the nations of Eastern Europe, the fight against Communism began.” Thousands of clandestine samizdat (Russian for self-published) publications had been manually typed on onion skin with carbon paper, read, passed from hand to hand and circulated sub rosa. Incarcerated authors and dramatists worked intensively in contemplation and planning from their prison cells. While building strong networks among these civil society organizations in formation, Czechoslovaks considered how to withdraw their cooperation from the communist party-state, and thereby bend it to the popular will.

On November 17, 1989, in Czechoslovakia’s capital, Prague, police brutally interrupted a student demonstration. In ...

Published: Monday 30 April 2012
Such a change in policy could result in adding around two million jobs in the advanced economies over the next year, as opposed to only about 800,000 if current approaches persist, according to the report.

European governments, in particular, should adopt more worker- friendly approaches in dealing with fiscal austerity, according to the agency's "World of Work Report 2012" that was released here and at its headquarters in Geneva Sunday. 



Such a change in policy could result in adding around two million jobs in the advanced economies over the next year, as opposed to only about 800,000 if current approaches persist, according to the report. 



Persistently high rates of unemployment in the Arab world and Africa also put those regions at high risk of social unrest, according to the 128-page report, which noted that most of Latin America and some Asian countries have emerged in relatively better shape in that respect. 



The report comes at a critical moment, particularly for key advanced economies where pending elections appear to offer stark choices between candidates and parties that favor very different approaches yawning fiscal deficits and high unemployment. 



In France, for example, the current front-runner, the Socialist Party's Francois Holland, favor more worker-friendly policies than the more austere approach taken by the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy. 



And in the United States, the all-but-certain Republican challenger to President Barack Obama, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has endorsed his party's proposals for sharp cuts to social and government jobs programs, combined with reductions in already-low tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals. 



The report charged that the combination of fiscal austerity and tougher labor market reforms - or de-regulation - adopted by many advanced economies, especially in the Eurozone, have proved devastating to job creation, in ...

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
With a commitment to truth – scientific, ethical, and personal – a society can overcome the many crises of poverty, disease, hunger, and instability that confront us.

The world’s greatest shortage is not of oil, clean water, or food, but of moral leadership. With a commitment to truth – scientific, ethical, and personal – a society can overcome the many crises of poverty, disease, hunger, and instability that confront us. Yet power abhors truth, and battles it relentlessly. So let us pause to express gratitude to Václav Havel, who died this month, for enabling a generation to gain the chance to live in truth.

Havel was a pivotal leader of the revolutionary movements that culminated in freedom in Eastern Europe and the end, 20 years ago this month, of the Soviet Union. Havel’s plays, essays, and letters described the moral struggle of living honestly under Eastern Europe’s Communist dictatorships. He risked everything to live in truth, as he called it – honest to himself and heroically honest to the authoritarian power that repressed his society and crushed the freedoms of hundreds of millions.

He paid dearly for this choice, spending several years in prison and many more under surveillance, harassment, and censorship of his writings. Yet the glow of truth spread. Havel gave hope, courage, and even fearlessness to a generation of his compatriots. When the web of lies collapsed in November 1989, hundreds of thousands of Czechs and Slovaks poured into the streets to proclaim their freedom  – and to sweep the banished and jailed playwright into Prague Castle as Czechoslovakia’s newly elected president.

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I personally witnessed the power of living in truth in that year, when the leadership of Poland’s Solidarity ...

Published: Friday 16 December 2011
The outlook for the global economy in 2012 is clear, but it isn’t pretty.

The outlook for the global economy in 2012 is clear, but it isn’t pretty: recession in Europe, anemic growth at best in the United States, and a sharp slowdown in China and in most emerging-market economies. Asian economies are exposed to China. Latin America is exposed to lower commodity prices (as both China and the advanced economies slow). Central and Eastern Europe are exposed to the eurozone. And turmoil in the Middle East is causing serious economic risks – both there and elsewhere – as geopolitical risk remains high and thus high oil prices will constrain global growth.

At this point, a eurozone recession is certain. While its depth and length cannot be predicted, a continued credit crunch, sovereign-debt problems, lack of competitiveness, and fiscal austerity imply a serious downturn.

The US – growing at a snail’s pace since 2010 – faces considerable downside risks from the eurozone crisis. It must also contend with significant fiscal drag, ongoing deleveraging in the household sector (amid weak job creation, stagnant incomes, and persistent downward pressure on real estate and financial wealth), rising inequality, and political gridlock.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Nouriel Roubini, click here."

Elsewhere among the major advanced economies, the United Kingdom is double dipping, as front-loaded fiscal consolidation and eurozone exposure undermine growth. In Japan, the post-earthquake recovery will fizzle out as weak governments fail to implement structural reforms.

Meanwhile, flaws in China’s growth model are becoming obvious. Falling property prices are starting a chain reaction that will have a negative effect on ...

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