FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Converging Against Capitalism

 

No topic divides the globo protest movement like the diversity of tactics question. Anarchist snake marches or well-marshaled parades of opinion? A brick through a window or a seat at the table?

And while the better-coifed protesters nearly always prefer the second set of options, even they’ll concede that it’s the first set–tactics intended to disrupt and piss off the cops–that gets the headlines. The demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank last month were no exception. By the time DC rush hour was over on Friday, the first projectile had been lobbed through the window of a Citibank office. By mid-afternoon, some 650 protesters, most part of the loosely organized Anti-Capitalist Convergence, would be in jail. The US anti-globalization movement was back in the headlines.

Whose Streets?

“I’m so sick of these protests,” a journalist friend complained to me as we walked through Adams Morgan, a formerly diverse DC neighborhood that is now home to interns from a diverse array of non-profits. “I feel like I’m under siege,” he said. To protect the neighborhood from marauding globo-kids, city workers had removed all of the trashcans for blocks; urban detritus was already piling up. Minutes later, a caravan of police cars sped by, providing a shrill, high-speed escort service to someone important. “That must be one of delegates,” my friend said, referring to the IMF/World Bank meeting invitees who now merit as much security as Dick Cheney. “They don’t like to go outside without their taxpayer-financed escorts.”

Their Streets

While the globalization protesters did succeed in getting back in the news–no small feat for a movement that seemed all but washed up after September 11–they didn’t rack up many points with the locals this time. With posters wheat-pasted all over downtown, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence called on demonstrators to “shut down DC.” The ACC even had an image of what the ensuing chaos would look like: a fist choking off the metro roadway system. A powerful symbol, certainly, but perhaps not the best way to grow the movement, as they say. “Peaceful demonstration is fine, but if people can’t get to their jobs, its disruptive,” a DC construction superintendent told the Washington Post. “They should lock them all up.” Elsewhere in the city, another group of demonstrators was handing out leaflets to passing motorists, apologizing for any disruption. The massive police force brought in from as far as Chicago wasn’t charmed by such niceties. The friendly kids ended up in jail too.

Knowing they were outnumbered, the Friday protesters had a strategy to bite back at the cops: fake 911 calls intended to divert the men and women in blue to mock emergencies all over the city. A victory of sorts for those who lamented the heavy-handed tactics of the police, but also a concession to charges that the demonstrators are from elsewhere, “invaders,” as my journalist friend might say. Who else would intentionally divert emergency services away from Southeastern DC, one of the most notoriously under-served communities in the country? When Public Enemy rapped that “911 is a joke,” and “Now I dialed 911 along time ago. Don’t you see how late they’re reactin’?” I don’t think Chuck D. and Flava Flav were complaining about fake calls from globo-kids.

By Saturday, cooler heads were prevailing. There were few of what the press terms “black-clad protesters” in the crowd; most were cooling their heels in the central DC lock up. The afternoon march from the Ellipse felt more like a parade or a pageant than a political protest. Somewhere near 17th and K streets, the procession stalled and the crowd began chanting that perennial favorite: “Whose streets? Our streets!” “I feel a little embarrassed chanting this,” my marching partner confided. “They’re so clearly not our streets.”

All Capitalists Converge

Despite smaller than predicted crowds — organizers estimated 20,000 participated in Saturday’s march and rally; cops put the number at closer to 5,000 — the protesters no longer represent a fringe element within political discourse. A majority of Americans would now seem to agree with the sentiment espoused by one popular poster: “Capitalism Sux.”

Ralph Nader, the rally’s star speaker, summed up the oddity of this particular American moment best. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to Rush Limbaugh or Amy Goodman,” Nader told the screaming crowd on the lawns of the Ellipse. “Right now everyone is saying the same thing: ‘send the corporate crooks to jail.'”

While Nader maybe right, this particular crowd was all Goodman fans. The only likely Limbaugh listeners were corralled into a tiny counter protest encircled by police protectors. They stood stone-faced, holding up signs that read “Daddy Wants His Credit Card Back,” “Fry Mumia,” and “All Capitalists Converge,” and “Hold the Tear Gas – I’m a Conservative.”

“I’m more of a pro-capitalist myself,” a well-dressed bystander told me. In town from Florida, he was wearing an oxford cloth shirt in pink, a favorite color among the moneyed. But when pressed, the gentleman, who makes his living as an investment manager, launched into a tirade against capitalism to rival that espoused by any of the marchers-by. “What’s happened in this country with corporate corruption is a disgrace,” he told me. “These CEO’s have stolen more money than they could ever spend. It’s really bad.” When I broached the subject of his personal money, he became glummer still. “I’ve lost a fortune. Everyone I know has lost money.”

What Next?

The months since September 11 have not been kind to the US anti-globalization movement. Unlike Europe, where protests against mondialisation neo-liberal, have continued to attract hundreds of thousands, the ranks of the US demonstrators have thinned considerably. The war is a big reason: much of the activist crowd that once denounced genetically modified food and structural adjustment has since moved onto Bush’s wars. And the labor movement, nervous about the easy camaraderie between said war protesters and the globo forces, has pulled much of its support too.

But despite the absence of density on the streets, the US movement now exerts more influence on the debate about globalization than ever. The famously leaderless protests have spawned a generation of savvy movement leaders who, if they don’t yet have a seat at the table, are now standing close to the door. To put it bluntly, we’ve won, something that no-less a capitalist tool than the Wall Street Journal now freely admits. “This weekend, the protesters returned,” Alan Murray wrote in a recent column. “Their zeal is undiminished. But to a degree many of them still don’t recognize, they have won the argument. Capitalism now has the black eye they tried so hard to give it.”

The procession through the streets of DC did not have the feel of a victory march, though. And few of the protesters seem to have any idea of the depth of the despair felt by real capitalists right now. “People are shocked,” the investment manager from Florida told me. “They’re holding on to stocks that are close to worthless with no end in site. What can I tell them? Get into cash? The fact that greedy and corrupt CEO’s are to blame just makes it worse. They should have a protest about that,” he said, pointing to the demonstrators winding slowly by.

Maybe next time they will. Jennifer Berkshire can be reached at: jenniferberkshire@attbi.com

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail