Trivial and Serious Violence

The young people who

have had the courage to take to the streets on every continent, and were among

the 20,000 protesters at Gothenburg (June 25), should take satisfaction from the

panic of new right politicians like Blair and Berlusconi. Abuse and repression

have become the stock response to a growing worldwide movement that has deep and

wide-ranging support among millions of ordinary people, especially in Latin

America, Africa and Asia, where violent and rapacious capitalism comes under the

banner of "free trade". The right of these people to a decent life is dismissed

by Blair as a "spurious cause".

The managers of

globalisation are worried. A critical stage has been reached in the imposition

of a centralised, bankers-run European "superstate". The euro is about to be

introduced without a single popular vote approving it. A great many Europeans

understand the dangers posed to real democracy: thus the rejection by Irish

voters of EU expansion. At the same time, the World Trade Organisation, the most

predatory of the international capitalist institutions, is set to impose its

General Agreement on Trade and Services, known as Gats, on impoverished,

resource-rich countries.

The scope of Gats is

breathtaking. Almost every human activity is designated a "service", from

transport and tourism to water, health and education. Foreign corporations will

be allowed to take over almost any public service on the basis of a secret

"agreement" that is irreversible. The EU website describes Gats as "first and

foremost, an instrument for the benefit of business". A prototype is well under

way in Britain with the coming privatisation of the London Underground, air

traffic control and sections of the health service and education.

The enduring disaster

of Railtrack is magnified many times in Africa and Latin America, where

privatisation has been imposed by diktat of the World Bank and International

Monetary Fund. In Bolivia, the sale of the water supply to foreign companies

caused prices to rise 200 per cent, consuming more than a quarter of people’s

income; even rainwater was privatised. A mostly Indian protest movement forced

the government to take water back into public ownership. No doubt Blair would

call them criminals and their cause "spurious".

The violence of a few

protesters in Gothenburg or anywhere else is trivial compared with the violence

of the economic apartheid promoted by Bush and Blair and the enforcers of "free

trade". Unrepayable debt is their essential weapon. Debt has allowed the World

Bank and the IMF to destroy local agriculture and dismantle public services.

This has entrenched poverty, as the World Bank now admits. In the Philippines,

says the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, "we have calculated that

one child dies every hour because debt repayments consume vital services like


Despite a fanfare of

promises by Gordon Brown and other G8 governments, cancellation of the debts of

the poorest countries has not happened. Instead, £40m is transferred every day

from poor to rich countries. The G8 is to meet in Genoa next month and

Berlusconi says he is sealing off the

city: no trains,

planes, cars. How frightened they are. In Blair’s plutocracy, the criminalising

of protest is a clear aim, limiting political opposition to the ineffectual

activity of parliament and other establishment bodies and to a specious "debate"

generated by an obedient media.

Because it represents

the tip of an effective political opposition, the anti-capitalist movement, in

all its forms, is being tarred as a subversive "threat", with the government and

the media seeking to alienate the public from the demonstrators by representing

them collectively as violent, and by suppressing the issues that find public

support. Propaganda orchestrated by the police before the May Day demonstration

concentrated on "wanted" activists, even associating them with the Real IRA.

This backfired, thanks

to the ridiculous seven-hour detention by police of a bemused crowd in Oxford

Circus. In Gothenburg, justification for the use of live ammunition by Swedish

police was promoted by the Guardian’s Ian Black, who reported that "the

shootings [were] apparently in self-defence". Did the protesters have guns? No,

they did not. On Monday, Black further distinguished himself with a piece that

would have delighted the spinners of Downing Street with its prominent use of

Blair’s specious remark, that the protesters were a "travelling anarchists’

circus", as if that was a fact.

Berlusconi’s plans for

a fortress in Genoa will also backfire. From Italy to Ireland, Britain to

Bolivia, too many people, who do not demonstrate, are asking why they have no

say in the decisions that have brought insecurity and hardship to their lives.

In this country, the "booming economy" is a facade behind which foreign-owned

factories are allowed to sack thousands of workers and one in four children

grows up in poverty: treble the child poverty rate in most of Europe.

Certainly, let us

discuss violence. Blair runs a violent government. He knowingly attacked

civilians with cluster bombs in Yugoslavia, killing children caught in the open.

His devotion to "free trade" involves selling lethal weapons, including hand

guns, to countries with repressive regimes and internal conflict. Supported by

only 25 per cent of the British public, his government barely has legitimacy.

The anger and frustration of non-voters and voters alike is shared across the

world and by the young on the streets. Thanks to them, real politics are back.



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