Are we seeing genuine protest felt by many on our streets, or “rent-a-mob anarchists” ? There were some of the older, tough anti-globalisation types you see at things like G8 or G20 protests. My view is that some of these people have a real point – one ignored because our politics is so inane and has no real dialogue in it. We are also seeing younger people like “casseurs” seen at Parisian demonstrations, from the grim housing estates around Paris. In French protests, the casseurs are often apart from the main body of demonstrators, and spend as much energy attacking students and passers-by as they do fighting the police.
My guess there was a solidly political core to the anger be expressed. The only explanation was that a bunch of rich people in power are heartlessly taking something from poor kids, because they are selfish and do not care. There is some underlying talk of frustration with economics as if people don’t matter, and excuses about a global system in which the rich can just transfer their assets, business, jobs and abode. There is a broad sense that the country is being run by the rich, and the rich are not playing fair and the government is a bunch of millionaires sitting around the cabinet table, waiting for the private sector cavalry to save them and allow them to claim credit when the business cycle changes. My guess is that those days have gone. The rich and privileged are playing the system for their own advantage, and money as a means of making money that reaches everyone has failed. The key demonstrations are the sit-in demonstrations at branches of Topshop and other stores owned by Arcadia, a notably tax-efficient company not above exploiting sweat-shops. Other big firms are also been accused of tax avoidance by protesters, though the firms involved are not accused of tax evasion, which is illegal.
In Iraq, before white men had to arm themselves to the teeth to survive, I often heard Saddam, known to be a monster, praised as at least keeping order and the Mullahs off the people’s backs – this from people who believed that Iraq was on the way to modernity before he was imposed. There is a similar feeling here that the Jabberwock of global money-dealing may be better than trying to fend for ourselves through genuine work that meets needs and builds community. Better the devil we know? I believe it is time for ‘regime change’, but this can’t be anything less than a sea-change in economic understanding.
What chance substantial change when protest means throwing snooker balls at cops in a system that jails Assange but can’t deport criminal killers on human rights grounds? We may be in for at lot of trouble when enough people realise what we should be protesting about.