The G8: Protesting the Protest

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Dec 13 2005 16:10
The G8: Protesting the Protest

One of the problems that charities have experienced in the last twenty years or so has been what is referred to as ‘compassion fatigue’.

Images of the pot-bellied, malnourished kids of sub-Saharan Africa, it was found, did not play well in communities where male unemployment often ran at 80%, single mothers fed their wains a diet of fish fingers and cornflakes, and pensioners froze to death in the winter trying to shave a few extra pounds off their heating bills. Diseases such as TB and even rickets reappeared and hospitals began to admit people from working class communities diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition. As the working class traditionally contributed more to ‘famine relief’ at the behest of wealthy charities and wealthier pop stars than the middle and upper classes put together, the charities sat up and took notice. They began to harp on about tackling poverty ‘at home’ as well as abroad, and people were urged to give generously to provide after-care facilities for the kids of single parents in inner city Salford or rehab centres in Edinburgh and Newcastle. Basically, working class communities were asked yet again to self-medicate without the fuckin’ price of the medicine and put their hand into their own pockets to come up with the cash. And those asking them to do so are the self-same people, celebrities and nonebrities alike who asked us all to the G8 summit in Scotland. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, many people have told them to go fuck themselves.

Like ‘compassion fatigue’ many of us are now suffering from ‘demo fatigue’, especially in relation to the anti-globalisation ‘protests’ where anarchists generally get the ‘rioter’ bit part thrown in. For a while it was nice to turn up just to piss off the liberals and challenge the stereotype of what an anarchist is but it has long since ceased to be anything more than a distraction (and a theatrical wan at that) from real struggles.

If charity begins at home then so does the class war against capitalism and its adherents. Those who joined the smugfest jamboree to ‘make poverty history’ this summer by standing at a security cordon shouting at the cops or singing along with Sting, Bono and Geldof were only part of one of the most carefully staged and choreographed non-events of modern times. Whether you followed the yellow brick road to Edinburgh or Gleneagles, the Wizard of Geldof will still fuck you over in the end, and declare hand-in-hand with Bush, Blair and co. (I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide who’s missing the brain, heart and courage bits), that in the end we should just leave it all up to the baby Jesus and the World Bank.

The Longbridge Rover workers weren’t at Gleneagles, neither were the Arntz Belting Company workers up here in the north-west who’ve lost their jobs, nor the hundreds of textile workers, shipyard employees, engineering operatives, farming workers and fishermen whose jobs have gone down the toilet here in the last 20 years. The threatened cuts in health and education, rising rates bills, the looming water tax, the growth in casualisation, out-sourcing, privatisation and the gentrification of our towns and cities will not be tackled by standing in a field outside Auchterarder with a placard in one hand and a sleeping bag in the other. It might seem obvious but it’s worth saying nonetheless.

Only a struggle to ‘make capitalism history’ at the coalface will succeed, and it is to local workplaces and communities that we should look to unravel the bonds of poverty and oppression on a day-to-day basis. That struggle is not without reverberations, because those of us who fight against the water tax here, for example, are fighting against the same agenda and interest groups who’ve imposed it elsewhere in the world. Given the nature of global capitalism the struggle against job cuts in Strabane or Cork or Belfast also means opposition to shit wages and the general exploitation of third world workers who usually ‘benefit’ from those job cuts here. If the slogan ‘global is local’ is to mean anything then hopefully some of those who went to Scotland in July will think, ‘if that’s the case, what the fuck was I doing in Perthshire?’

Mairtin O’Cathain

From the pages of Working Class Resistance, magazine of Organise!