Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another tenth anniversary

Slightly less than a decade ago, I skipped London's first anticapitalist protest to go to work. It was the first and only time I did that. I still don't know why - this was temp work, and it would have been the easiest thing in the world to cancel a shift on the pretext of having to file some calluses off my feet, or flush earwax or whatever. I did take the train from south London to Cannon Street, however, just so I could pass through the milieu and see what kind of pseudo-Bakhtinian fun I was going to miss out on. It looked like fun. I trudged off, anyway, to work at the call centre and earn my five pound an hour. Started to hear rumours of a riot at the dinner break (half an hour only, but we made up for that with extended toilet breaks). By the time I got to Charing Cross station after my shift, it was closed down as was much of the centre. It turned out that a band of anti-social, drug-fuelled nihilists were being held up in their offices while the police battered the protesters outside. Naturally, almost everyone was convinced, including most of my friends, that these people deserved what they got and had brought it on themselves. I thought it was an inspiring first glimpse of resistance to New Labour, which was already mired in sleaze, ripping up its most modest election pledges and reviving the very crackpot Tory ideas that voters had just overwhelmingly rejected. But I didn't think it would last.

And then there was Seattle:



And then Prague, and Genoa. Ten years on, the ideas of that extaordinary movement turn out to be more relevant than ever. The methods of protests and carnivalesque spectacle were never going to work on their own, but they could have - sometimes did - lead to more militant action. And that is what we're looking for today, with the G20 protests and the amazing strike waves across Europe.