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New York , 2nd February 2002, back out on the streets against the
WEF Forum. Pic: NYC Indymedia
THE DUST SETTLES
...and the organised left expose themselves as the fad-rebel
wankers we always knew they were
Three weeks ago New York City got to host the World Economic
Forum. As a 'tribute to the victims of September 11th', Manhattan
taxpayers got to indulge a bunch of tobacco, oil and airline magnates,
and a wannabe-planetary-cabinet of shady statesmen. Collectively,
these people are responsible for an infinitely greater number of
deaths and shattered lives than the combined kill-rate of every
Arab who ever strapped on a C4 corset.
The WEF - think Bilderberg group with Bono in tow - is yet another
(yawn) boys-club of capitalism's shot-callers. Cue Troy McClure:
"You may remember us from such classics as Davos, and Melbourne's
(later upstaged) own S11 (2000) street fight..." Anyway - it
was their antics that sparked the alternative World Social Forum
in Porto Alegre, Brazil (another nice idea quickly colonised by
red flag hierarchies), and twice yearly mass protests from across
the anti-capitalist spectrum. But not this time.
Patriot Act and Bush-whack rhetoric aside, it's fairly predictable
that the lefty-millionaires Sierra Club should bottle out of confrontation
with the power brokers in the post-S11 city of tears. No real surprise
either that the AFL-CIO unions and the host of 'Global Justice'
NGOs of every shade of red and green balked at the idea of ruffling
the feathers of New York's finest. As the city's press, on both
the left and the right, cranked up the spectre of an "al Qaida
like black bloc" (Village Voice) massing like "barbarians
at the castle gates" (Newsweek). A string of Direct Action
Movement 'faces' lined up to distance themselves from anyone whose
agenda aimed for anything greater than a moratorium on badger baiting.
"Vandalism is inexcusable," lamented John Sellers, the
caribina king of the ludicrously-bankrolled Ruckus Society. Needless
to say, the reporting (in an almost blanket fashion) concentrated
on the differences in tactics between the anarchists and the liberals.
No space was given to the gaping ideological chasm between the RaisetheFist
militia on Fifth Avenue, and the 'raise the Tobin tax' lobbyists
munching vol-au-vents with the delegates in the Waldorf Astoria
In the event, a few thousand anarchists and assorted revolutionary
types took to the streets and, amidst an outpouring of sympathy,
the 'poor darlings' of the NYPD dutifully kicked the shit out of
them and threw a couple of hundred in jail.
The events in New York merely illustrate how the organised left
(in the UK as elsewhere) has used September 11 to re-position itself
in an, at best, more compliant, and at worst, more authoritarian
Liberal Britain has been split between the trembling lips and disappearing
tails of those who are content to wrap themselves in a tear-stained
stars and stripes and vanish up Uncle Sam's arse, and those who
have (at last) been freed to brandish their handcuffs and lay down
their own blueprints for a capitalist super-state. Either way, Britain's
left-wing have finally exposed themselves as the fad-rebel tosspots
we always knew they were.
"Standing protesting outside Gap is a strange thing to do
when civilians are being killed in Afghanistan," Globalise
Resistance's Guy Taylor tells a fawning Andy Beckett (Guardian G2,
Jan 17 'Has the Left Lost Its Way'). The implication being that
before September 11 - before perceived public support for resistance
to world dictatorship evaporated in an explosion of dust, glass
and cello music - it was perfectly natural to be protesting outside
Gap as civilians endured a blitzkrieg of Allied firepower in Palestine,
Indonesia, Columbia and Iraq. Beckett goes on to quote a stream
of liberal left-wing tossers who's politics were so well-founded
that they'd managed to pull off complete ideological U-turns after
a only couple of weeks of heart-tugging ('poor old America') Newsak.
'Formerly hardcore left-wingers' were apparently getting all gooey
over Tony Blair's Montgomery makeover. The Ecologist ran a debate
titled: 'Is the anti-corporate globalisation movement a finished
force in the post-11 September world?' Guardian columnist Suzanne
Moore was just one of those, converted by the smell of cordite,
giving it the: "I was wrong to oppose the bombing," line
as the Taliban fled Kabul - as if the women of that city had thrown
their oppressors out themselves, and were not about to become the
latest subjects of a US-manufactured puppet state.
As a rule, the anti war movement in Britain has been reluctant
to confront the illegitimacy of the warring authority. Though opposed
to the bombing, most silently-accept a 'first world'/US orchestrated
'solution' to Afghanistan: namely the Western annexation of Central
To be fair, this reactionary slide had begun well before the World
Trade Centre attack. The SWP (perhaps after finally accepting the
absence of 'workers' in its ranks) had already switched its preferred
handle to 'Globalise Resistance'. Having left it a little late to
fasten their name to the anti-capitalist upsurge of 1999 (as they
had done with the Poll Tax, CJA etc), they wasted no time ramming
branded anti-war placards into the hands of pacifist old ladies
and fearful Muslims as Blair strapped on his flak jacket. No sooner
had the first F-16s scrambled and Globalise Resistance was morphing
again - this time into the Stop the War Coalition.
Anti-capitalism (a phrase that was itself adopted by liberal left-wingers
trying to avoid any pro-revolutionary tags), has been dropped altogether
by the left in favour of "movement for globalisation with justice".
You may laugh, but the underlying thought processes behind this
repositioning are a little more sinister.
One leading voice of the liberal left is the New Internationalist
magazine. Their January/February issue was subtitled 'Another World
is Possible'. The introduction promised "visions" of "many
diverse pathways into a better, fairer world". The reality
merely reinforced what Orwell pointed out over sixty years ago;
that the organised left's version of 'democracy' is little different
from the right's, and despite the tags, they have no intention of
doing away with the constraints of capitalism - and would merely
replace the domination of private capital with that of state capital.
Or to bring that observation up to date 'a (neo)liberally-distributed
amalgamation of the two'. Global PPPs anyone?
The 'visions' put forward by the NI's gathered worthies are 'diverse'
in the same way the aims of the navy are 'diverse' from those of
the air force. Every proposal in the magazine is legislative and
authoritarian. According to the writers, elected bodies could be
re-jigged, governing institutions formed, legislation passed and
treaties re-written. The lack of aspiration is depressing... unless,
of course, you're setting yourself up for a seat in 'the world parliament'.
The World Parliament is Lord Monbiot's offering. Another spin on
electoral 'representative' democracy peddled with all the fervour
of a Republican governor. Completely disregarding the lessons of
history, where electoral democracy has failed to either represent
or serve the people (other than those 'elected' and their chums),
Monbiot taunts would-be detractors with: "Power exists whether
we like it or not... so we might as well democratise it". You
can't dis-invent the Bomb - eh!
As if a host of similar statist adventures (every election anytime/anywhere,
the policy reversal of all elected bodies - e.g. the German Greens,
the failure of Kyoto, the carbon trading style legislative loop-holing
that followed, Nato - and it's complete disregard for law/anybody
else, the failure of; the UN; the EU; every other power-invested
institution to address anything other than its own pay checks ...and
so on) hadn't all resulted in those in power completely fucking
over everyone else, Monbiot goes on to outline his global hegemony
leading the rest of us skipping to milk and honey-dom. He never
mentions, however, if two wolves and a sheep were doing the catering...
Joining Monbiot in the NI is Jim Shultz ('executive director of
The Democracy Centre'), who uses the genuinely inspiring example
of the Cochabamba people's ejection of the Bechtel water company
from Bolivia, to 'envision' - not for people everywhere to rise
up against their usurpers, not for the global rejection of economic
dictatorship, not even for the ditching of the Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA) agreement and all similarly oppressive international
trade treaties, but (wait for it) a 'bill of rights' to ensure the
FTAA does not overrule regional laws. Go Jim. Go...!
Maybe we should be grateful that the left has come clean - shaken
off their Seattle rain capes and returned to bickering about vote
counts and electoral funding. For some time, the rhetoric of the
leading left wing/environmentalist NGO's has been almost indistinguishable
from that of the World Bank's... - though admittedly, this revealed
precious little about either faction's agenda
But, the question remains - how wide is the influence of the organised
left and their liberal overlord companions - and how substantially
are they capable of stemming the rising revolutionary tide anyway?
There are those who hope they are well capable; the bods from the
FBI who spent half of last month dismantling LA's RaisetheFist.org
with the site's founder, Sherman, locked in the basement; the EU's
Working Party on Terrorism who are right now in Spain, drafting
a document on intelligence sharing about political activists in
order to stamp out "violent urban youthful radicalism";
the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection
(PCCIP) and the half dozen US state and private sector bodies it
initiated under the National Security Council and Department of
Defence (to name but two) to combat 'hacktivism' and 'cyberterror!';
the Swedish authorities who have just rejected the appeals of eight
activists, each serving between 3-4 years, for using SMS messages
to stop their mates getting hammered by police at the EU summit
in Gothenburg last year; every boss, landlord and New Labour voter;
every shareholder, whip-cracker and charity director, (insert your
own 'come the revolution they'll be the first against the wall'
list here), and everyone else who, overtly or covertly, revels in
the deal capitalism has dealt them.
Back in Porto Alegre, undoubtedly the left's blueprint for a 'world
parliament' (in his keynote address Chomsky called it a sketch of
the beginnings of a 21st Century International), the predictable
has happened. Two years in, and the 2002 Forum is already playing
host to corporate lobbyists, media clowns and WEF delegates ("jumping
ship from NYC"). Naomi Klein (one of the 10,000 invited 'delegates')
describes the WSF as at risk from "turning from a clear alternative
into a messy merger" with their New York antithesis.
In protest to what Znet's James Adams calls "left-wing corporatism",
600 attendees of the alternative Jornadas Anarquistas - Anarchist
Journeys - (some of the 50,000 'excluded' internationals who had
travelled to Porto Alegre to unite and discuss outside the 'conference
centres') "broke off from the opening march and occupied a
three story house, building barricades in the streets, in order
to emphasize that, as one IMC (Independent Media Centre) poster
put it, 'Porto Alegre isn't the social democratic paradise that
the PT (Brazilian Workers Party) makes it out to be.'" (The
PT control the municipal government and view the WSF as a party
conference - draping the town in their flags, propaganda and party
faithful.) Needless to say: " Local police, under the command
of the PT, and dressed in full riot gear, surrounded the house immediately,
nearly running over one squatter at a particularly high point of
However - despite the fifth International looking set to follow
the first into a dog-pit of flying fur and shattered dreams, perhaps
things are not so bleak. The 50,000 who gathered outside the auspices
of the WSF in Porto Alegre, and the two thousand that took on the
WEF in New York - plus the tens of millions who have already learnt
the hard way that genuine, direct, democracy will never follow a
recount, a rebrand or any amount of reform - do not look like they
are about to jack-in the revolution because Washington's 'busted'
the safety catch off its Winchester.
Undoubtedly the atmosphere of resistance has changed. But, just
because the warmongers were quicker to colonise the airwaves, it
doesn't follow that they win the (global) war. By shirking off that
protest-chic, the reformist-statist-liberal-left has finally brought
some clarity to the message they have been concealing from disgruntled
'democrats' for years - namely, that they do not seek the overthrow
of illegitimate power, merely its replacement. Now that's clear,
we can get on with the fucking revolution!