GRRRrrr8 - It Ain't
editorial - SchNEWS, 3 June 2005
"The harmful effects of the corporate globalisation project have led to mass popular protest and activism in the South, later joined by major sectors of the rich industrial societies, hence becoming harder to ignore. For the first time concrete alliances have been taking shape at a grassroots level. It is fair to say, I think, that the future of our endangered species may be determined in no small measure by how these popular forces evolve."
- Noam Chomsky, author, academic and general trouble maker.
For five hundred issues SchNEWS has been providing information for action to people involved in fighting for a better world. In that time we've covered hundreds of campaigns and struggles from across the world and learnt a simple lesson from all of them - without breaking the rules, the fight against injustice is a waste of time.
It's a lesson quickly learnt by anyone involved in the biggest single issue campaign in history - anti-capitalism. Well paid propagandists are always telling us how corporate capitalism is the only way of running things and that any other way of organising society simply won't work. But people in power have always said that - from the Roman Emperors to Hitler with his Final Solution and thousand years Reich. The individualistic, consumerist culture based on ever expanding credit that capitalism created in the second half of the 20th century has made things quite nice for large middle classes in the US, Europe and elsewhere - but only on the basis of sweatshops, poverty and war in the majority world. And it's completely unsustainable.
The United States is easily the strongest military power in the world but its increasingly selfish and warlike nature is a sign of weakness, not strength. USA inc. runs a $500bn annual trade deficit - US citizens consume $10bn more a week than they create. The 'American way of life' is a credit-based bubble subsidised by the rest of the world - as well as an increasing number of Americans forced into poverty - and is only maintained by the threat of overwhelming military force. It can't go on.
And then of course there's climate change. At the heart of capitalist culture is a massive denial of the fact that economic growth, on which all its economic prosperity is based, is entirely unsustainable. Blair and the boys may be talking about it at upcoming G8 Summit at Gleneagles but capitalism's inbuilt need for 'growth' means they'll be entirely incapable of doing anything to prevent it.
By the time children alive today are hitting middle age, for instance, the Himalayan glaciers will be disappearing, causing droughts that will threaten the rice production that feeds one third of humanity. That's just for starters. Capitalism can't solve these problems - only popular anti-capitalist movements uniting worldwide can. And the good news is there are lots of them.
As reported in SchNEWS over the years, anti-capitalism is alive and kicking across the majority world. From the slums of Venezuela and Bolivia to the anti-occupation uprisings in Palestine and Iraq, people are organising against poverty, privatisation and injustice. Anti-capitalism, in a hundred forms, isn't a choice for millions of people in the South. It's a necessity.
There are important lessons we need to learn from these struggles, most importantly the need to build solid, local campaigns about the things that concern people most. The privatisation of basic services, casualisation, the endless growth of eco-cidal consumerism are things most people in Britain outside fatcat areas oppose. We need to show people how direct action can resist them and win.
But living in the heart of the beast, surrounded by the boardrooms and hotels where deals shattering the lives of millions are made, also gives us special responsibilities. We can expose these deals and sometimes stop them by invading the gatherings of gangsters making them. The people in the countries affected can't do this. It's important that we do.
Those in power can handle people going on the occasional police-controlled march. They can also, let's be honest, handle small groups of people doing actions that no one else gets involved in. What they can't handle is people making alliances, building links, supporting and learning from each other through action. We've always been at our best when we've joined up with others - supporting the Liverpool dockers when their union deserted them, shutting down the World Trade Organisation in Seattle alongside NGOs, faith groups and many others - and been at our worst when we've retreated into subcultures that revel in being different from everyone around us.
That doesn't mean we should never do anything that offends people who think you can change the world by asking politicians nicely. But most people wanting to resist capitalism (as opposed to talking about it) know instinctively that you're not going to achieve anything if you play by capital's rules.
Thousands of young people these days are getting involved in politics through development charities, anti-war groups and environmental campaigns because they hate the obscenity of poverty, war and a capitalist system that is killing our planet. It would be a crime if the only people talking to them were sects telling them that police-approved marches and listening to speeches mark the limits of anti-capitalist activity.
But that will happen if we always look for differences to argue about with new people rather than points of agreement to act on. An instinct for unity in action is the breath that keeps anti-capitalism alive. Without it we might as well give up.
Social centres can be important places for building links with local communities. But when they become home to a lifestyle proud to be cut off from others they represent a retreat, not a success. If everyone is white and under 35 and no one's talked to the people at the mosque across the road because muslims are 'hierarchical' it's probably time to get out more.
Tony Blair recently said that "it would be very odd if people came to protest against this G8... I don't quite know what they'll be protesting against." If we want to wipe the smile off the face of this lying, duplicitous war criminal, we have to make our protests against this mafia get together effective.
If a few small actions against the G8 get picked off while big demonstrations do what they're told by the cops, Blair and Co will sleep comfortably in their five star beds. But if we start convincing the mass of protesters that demonstrations need to break the rules to be effective we can send a message of anti-capitalist solidarity around the world. Let's do it.
- SchNEWS (3rd June 2005)