[sixties-l] Fwd: Smile, And We Might Yet Defeat Global Capitalism

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/03/01

  • Next message: William M. Mandel: "Re: [sixties-l] Bedtime for Democracy"

    >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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