There’s no doubt that the six weeks from March 28th – May 4th offers our anarchist movement a chance to move out of the shadows. Against the background of recession there has been rioting across Europe from Riga to Sofia. These are riots not by activists but by poor people hurting badly. The Greek uprising has provided a fine example of anarchists being prominent in a wider social movement for radical change. In Britain the war on Gaza and the Heathrow runway decision has brought protests – and direct action – back on the street across the country. They are not yet focussed on the recession but they may become so.
The G20 summit in London on April 2nd provides an opportunity for all these strands across Europe to come together as in the PARIS DECLARATION calling for a mass demonstration in London on March 28th – Saturday before summit – and across Europe on April 1st-2nd. In London the Trade Unions, Stop the War are organising marches on April 2nd. ?THE BEHEADING CAPITALISM? event by the folks behind J18 is planned for the same day. Other anarchists are planning a large entral London anarchist rally on the night of April 1st with speakers from across Europe. After G20 the European leaders move on to the NATO summit in Germany – sure to get the anarchists back on the streets
To often momentum is built over a few events then dribbles away. But this year we have the Mayday marches, a planned UK anarchist conference in London over May2-3rd and a Reclaim the Streets event in Brighton on May 4th. The fates are with us comrades, the sheeps entrails are promising, all we need are a few portents and omens to kick the whole fucking thing off,
JOIN THE SPRING OFFENSIVE!
Anti-globalisation activists are plotting a mass demonstration against bankers in the
heart of the City, the Evening Standard can reveal. —- Police are on full alert ahead of
the protest, planned for 1 April – the day world leaders arrive in London for the G20
summit. —- Thousands of demonstrators, including anarchists and anti-aviation activists, are planning a series of protests, aiming to capitalise on disenchantment with City financiers blamed for dragging the economy into recession. —- The event, dubbed ‘Financial Fools Day’, is likely to cause mass disruption as demonstrators try to block traffic and buildings by lying in tents and sleeping bags across the road. —- One source suggested the protest would include a “spectacular action”. Organisers said on the Climate Camp website: “Join us for camping, workshops, protest, positive alternatives, direct action and community.
“We need to stop this foolishness… Bring a pop-up tent if you have one, sleeping bag,
wind turbine, mobile cinema, extra shoes, action plans and ideas… let’s imagine another world.”
Protesters hope to mobilise “anti fat-cat” sentiment among students and workers affected by the credit crunch as they demonstrate against the financial system, and are inviting activists to “set up camp” in London’s financial centre.
One environmentalist source said: “People are angry about losing their jobs and bankers still getting their bonuses. People are also up in arms about the Government bulldozing anti-airport legislation through as we saw with the third runway at Heathrow.”
Despite police becoming adept at controlling such demonstrations and preventing widespread disorder of the type that occurred during the May Day and poll tax riots in the Nineties, there are fears small groups will wreak havoc.
Police sources said: “Angry activists and aggressive City trader types are a volatile mix, as we have seen before.”
During the 1999 City Riot, which left 46 people injured and caused up to £2 million
damage, fights broke out between City workers and anarchists protesting in the streets and in private premises.
The April protest has captured the imagination of anarchists. Some are plotting further
demonstrations against the G20 on the day of the summit on 2 April.
One protester said the example of Athens, where young Greeks have been rioting for several months since police shot dead a teenager, could provide further inspiration.
An anarchist blogged: “The combination of the recession, the inspiration of the Greek
anarchists and the G20 summit being in London on 2 April gives us the opportunity to
mobilise far larger than usual numbers on to the streets… Seize the time.”
Summit protests and the economic crisis
Summit-hopping is so last year. Or is it? When we began conceiving this issue a few months back, it seemed like everyone was gearing up for a busy 2009: NATO’s 60th anniversary party, the G20 summit in London, the G8 in Italy, the UN’s climate summit in Copenhagen… Ten years on from the ‘battle of Seattle’, 2009 was set to be the return of summit-hopping.
However, so far, anti-capitalists in Italy appear to have made little progress in mobilising against the G8 summit in July. What is more, everyone is talking about the UN’s climate change conference next December in Copenhagen. This comes with the awful package of environment minister Miliband calling for a mass movement for green capitalism and an austerity deal. The threat of another paralysing ‘Make Poverty History’-style mobilisation looms. On the other hand, there are, of course, some summits that continue to attract fundamental antagonism. The EU’s meeting on immigration in Vichy, France, last November was one example, despite a lack of mobilisation from the UK.
There is something that is fundamentally different from the previous decade of large anti-globalisation mobilisations: neo-liberalism itself is in crisis! The policies that were promoted by the anti-globalisation arch enemies (WTO, World Bank, IMF) are failing not only in Argentina and Mexico, but also in Europe and North America. The current financial crisis provides a platform for a systematic critique of the current economic system.
Maybe we should be excited that suddenly everyone is talking about the economy. Or should we? Many analyses of the crisis seem to be putting forward reactionary solutions. For a start, who we blame will define how we respond. Socialists blame bankers, government ministers and conservatives (and increasingly liberals) blame immigration, environmentalists and the middle classes blame the mass consumerism of the working class and the corporate media blames everyone. And what, then, will the response be? Anti-consumerism and austerity politics? Economy-boosting interest rate cuts? Tougher immigration controls? Urban riots? Blame creates hierarchies and characterises anti-globalisation protests. If we are to build a collective, emancipatory response to the crisis we need to be critical of any strategies that ignore the realities of life in capitalism, that fuel moral superiority and reinforce class divisions.
Furthermore, with every crisis comes a new conspiracy theory. The problem with these ‘explanations’ is that a capitalist crisis is not the result of the errors of a ‘small and elusive group of people’ as the conspiracy theorists want us to believe.
We live in a system that is antithetical to our needs, and importantly, our desires.
Crises are inherent in capitalism. There is no solution that will make capitalism free of crises. We can demand more regulation of the financial sector or the nationalisation and democratic ownership of banks. Still, capitalism’s crises are based in its inherent contradictory character with the desire to produce for profit-maximisation rather than social needs. And this will always be the central goal of capitalist production. A crisis won’t change that. There are more crises to come, with indications that speculation with raw materials and food could lead to much bigger misery than the bursting of the credit bubble. It is contradictory and irrational to produce, distribute and exchange resources as is done in a capitalist economy, thus capitalism without crises would be an oxymoron.
The left should take the crisis as an opportunity to push for more, to push for a system that puts our needs and desires above profit, to avoid limiting ourselves and scapegoating others. At a time where political leaders are making our demands seem reasonable (whether that’s the nationalisation of banks or a strong climate deal), we should not settle for compromise but demand the impossible!
Despite these new opportunities, there are few signs for a new wave of summit protests that can escape the attempts by governments to recuperate them. Protests are not happening outside summits now. As we write, they are happening in suburbs and big university towns. The migrant youths of St. Denis, the anti-CPE students, the Anomalous Wave movement and the Greek anarchist youth all dominate the headlines, rather than the plans for opposition to the G8 or G20. Also in Britain, radical anti-capitalist protest is no longer connected to the anti-globalisation movement, but is at the radical edge of the failed anti-war movement of 2003. Maybe in 2009 ‘suburb-hopping’ offers new opportunities for resistance?
Editorial of issue 5 of Shift Magazine, http://www.shiftmag.co.uk