>Smile, And We Might Yet Defeat Global Capitalism >By Mark Steel (ZNet Commentary / Jan 3) > >"We need a revolution," said the lad, no more than 19, in the packed meeting >organised by People and Planet at the University of Warwick. "And we, I mean >us here, can begin to make that revolution =96 right after this meeting by..." >He paused. What would he say? By mobilising the peasantry of the Coventry >area? By going on a Long March to Leicester? "By smiling," he said. "When >these capitalist bastards see everyone smiling, they won't know what to do." >There are obvious flaws to this strategy, not least that such a movement >would be bound to split, with a militant wing breaking away to laugh, while >the smilers denounced them as impatient hot-heads. But the most notable side >to his speech was that somehow it didn't seem mad. In fact there was an >endearing freshness about him. He was enthusiastic, genuinely interested in >what everyone thought of his idea, and it was positive =96 his starting point >was "we can do something". > >And it came a few days after I'd been on holiday in Athens, during which I >was invited to a meeting about "anti-capitalist protest". The first shock on >arriving was the venue, a beautiful open-air theatre, bats fluttering >through the twilight above clicking crickets while lights from the Acropolis >flickered as a backdrop. I wanted to scream: "This is all wrong. Don't you >know meetings like this are supposed to be in bare, freezing halls with a >broken heater, and start an hour late because no one can find the bloke with >the key? You people don't know how to organise a meeting at all." Then >instead of the customary 10 people, 700 arrived, including the deputy leader >of the Greek equivalent to the TUC, and the writer of the year's >best-selling novel throughout Greece. > >These incidents would tell us nothing about the year 2000, except that >unofficial global rumblings tend to back them up. The book No Logo, by Naomi >Klein, a cry against corporate greed, has sold over 100,000 copies. And it's >spawned a library of books with titles like Globalize This!, Globalization >and Resistance and Resist Globalization. Soon all the permutations will be >used up, so we'll get books called "Resisting national global corporate >trans-corporate globo-nationalness". Susan George, a veteran campaigner >against third-world debt, who has spent 25 years speaking largely to >handfuls of academics, now regularly fills theatres holding a thousand or >more, so that long-term fans probably feel like supporters of Fulham or >Sunderland, muttering "Baaah, it was cosier when we were shite." > >One "anti-capitalist conference", in Millau, France, attracted 80,000 >people. Internationally newsworthy protests against Third-World debt and >huge corporations took place in Melbourne, Prague and Nice. Ralph Nader, the >US presidential candidate supporting this movement, won 2.5 million votes >and attracted between 10,000 and 16,000 at his rallies. If enough >journalists had been covering these events, one of them would have declared >that anti-globalisation was the new rock and roll. > >None of this was sufficient to threaten world leaders. But it was a sign of >changing values. In 1989, at the fall of the Berlin Wall, the consensus was >that the free market had triumphed, and was destined to enrich the planet. >Now, while there is little nostalgia for the grotesque regimes of Stalinist >eastern Europe, the free market staggers across the stage to a diminishing >audience. In Russia, life expectancy has decreased by 10 years, and in >Africa the average income in almost every country continues to decline. >"Structural adjustment programmes", in which economies are taken over by >organisations such as the World Bank, who enforce privatisation and cuts in >public spending, have been imposed on 90 countries. > >Gradually, these measures are provoking opposition. One consequence of this >trend is that "globalisation" has become one of those words =96 like >"glasnost" in the Eighties =96 that everyone uses though few can explain what >it means. A common definition is that you can no longer do anything about >anything. For example John Monks, the leader of the TUC, when asked for his >opinion on job closures at Luton, blamed "globalisation". He looked like a >football manager interviewed after a game, wistfully remarking, "I don't >agree with the decision but at the end of the day what globalisation says is >final and we've just got to accept it." > >By the end of 2001, if you take a dodgy car back to the dealer you bought it >from, you can expect them to squeal, "Well there's nothing I can do about >that, it's yer globalisation, see." > >One strange result of all this has been that the most enthusiastic backers >of the ethos that nothing can function unless someone will make a profit >from it are the old parties once considered to be on the left =96 and none >more so than Britain's New Labour. They continued to embrace big business as >a virtue, and search for any last utilities to privatise, like someone with >no money hunting down the back of the settee. Eventually they could yell, >"Aha, I've found air traffic control, that'll do." > >So disillusionment with the major parties continued, and when this was >reflected in historically low turn-outs at elections, the excuses were >surreal. "The reason people didn't bother to vote for us," said New Labour >spokesperson Patricia Hewitt, was that "they are satisfied by us." Which >must make for some splendid debates during canvassing. "Will you vote for >us?" "No thank you, because I think you're marvellous." "Well vote for us >then." "No, I don't want to spoil your splendid record by voting for you." > >Across western Europe and America a similar pattern has emerged, of >traditional left-of-centre parties becoming increasingly tied to the free >market, as the failures of that market become more apparent. So if you're >19, and flushed with a desire to redress the growing inequality stalking the >planet, you're hardly likely to venture in that direction. And joining >Labour to turn it into a radical campaigning party would seem as ridiculous >as joining the RAC to turn it into a radical campaigning breakdown service. > >So the modern generation of activists looks outside the old organisations. >They are often described as anarchists, but only because "anarchist" has >come to mean anyone radical with a nose-stud. Some are members of groups >such as Jubilee 2000, including the Christian couple who told me that they >had taken their holiday in Prague because "we can go to a museum in the >morning and a protest in the afternoon." But most are not part of any >organisation. Instead, they are the thin end of a wedge that includes >millions around the world who have come to the conclusion that, when the >richest 360 people on the planet own the same amount of wealth as the >poorest two billion, something has gone wrong. > >And, when you think about it, if all the two billion got together and smiled >at the 360, that would look pretty spooky.
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