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Black Friday Backlash From The Rest Of The World

A demonstration on Black Friday in a local site of Amazon in Leipzig, Germany
A demonstration on Black Friday in a local site of Amazon in Leipzig, Germany
Stuart Richardson

Droves of customers stampeding through large department stores on Black Friday was once a uniquely American phenomena. But the traditional day-after Thanksgiving shopping sale event has recently gained traction in other countries that have no connection to the American holiday. The insatiable consumerism that fuels American capitalism, it seems, is a more viable export than ever.

Black Friday has caught on big in Europe the last few years, despite grumblings about the marketing madness from local critics of the American model. Large U.S.-based multinationals, like Amazon, have undoubtedly accelerated the spread, with online shopping convenience for what is otherwise a regular working day in the rest of the world.

But this year, there looks to be the first tangible backlash. In Europe, where workers tend to enjoy greater social protections, the frenetic drive to increase sales at all costs — online and off — is being met with resistance. Labor unions in Germany and Italy chose to target both Black Friday and Amazon plants this year with strikes to undermine one of the busiest sales days of the year.

" Employees need to perform their best on Black Friday in the service of Jeff Bezos Amazon's founder and the customers," Ronny Streich, a strike leader in Leipzig, told the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung . "And all this under working conditions that make you sick in the long run."

Amazon represents "a new model of exploitation" of workers around the world, Daniele Boroli, an Italian senator from the center-left Democrat party, told the Rome-based La Repubblica . Francesca Benedetti, a union leader at an Amazon plant in northern Italy, concurred, stating further that the joint strike in two European countries "gives even more value" to the protest. "It shows that it isn't just our site that has problems with this company," she said. "All around the world Amazon creates work conditions that are absolutely not compatible with our culture of protection" for workers.

The tension is not just a question of worker's rights, however. Several countries and large cities have sought to protect entire industries from creeping American-led, digitally-driven neoliberalism. Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft have faced opposition from entrenched taxi industry interests in European countries. At the same time, local competitors in markets such as Russia and China pose another challenge to the U.S.-based leaders.

The American "economic way of life" dominated throughout much of the 20th century, capped by the fall of Communism in 1989. Will the explosion of Silicon Valley over the past two decades mean a sequel in this century? Steven Hill, an economist and author of Raw Deal: How the "Uber Economy" and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers, has his doubts, pointing to Uber's troubles as a good example of how success may not last. Speaking this week with the French daily Le Monde , Hill said the digitally connected economy "threatens the economic model that was successfully implemented after World War II by Europe and the United States. The biggest threat is in the way that people work and the future of work itself." A thought for Americans enjoying their holiday, and for the rest of us busy shopping at the office.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Israel's Choice Right Now: Halt "Collective Punishment" Or Lose U.S. Support

As fighting has resumed and intensified in the southern area of the Palestinian territory, more and more criticism builds from around the world. How much longer can Israel fight this war for if it loses the support of even its most steadfast allies?

December 1, 2023, Khan Yunis, Gaza: Palestinians carry an injured man following the Israeli bombing on Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza

Saher Alghorra/ ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — Can Israel wage its war in Gaza without caring about the opinion of its allies?

Since fighting resumed in the Palestinian territory on Friday, serious disagreements have emerged with the United States and, to a lesser extent, with France . It is the disagreements with the U.S. that carry significant consequences: Washington plays a vital role in this conflict by supplying weapons and deploying a considerable military apparatus to deter the regional expansion of the confrontation.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here .

This weekend, both Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vice President Kamala Harris expressed serious reservations about how Israel is conducting its operations. The issue at hand is the massive aerial strikes on densely populated areas, resulting in a considerable number of civilian casualties.

These criticisms came after Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel last week on the eve of the resumption of hostilities, urging Benjamin Netanyahu to change to a strategy that better protects civilians. Israel chose not to heed this advice, resulting in the current diplomatic tensions.

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