Diversionary Tactics at the G20 Summit


Last week, the Metropolitan Police department of imagination excelled itself by announcing that people from the 1990s were re-emerging to cause mayhem on the streets of London. Londoners were told they should expect to be unable to travel round their city at the weekend due to the G20 protests. The police went even further for the unfortunate residents of Tower Hamlets who live near the ExCel centre. They were told they could only leave their homes with at least two pieces of ID and visitors would simply not be allowed. Not surprisingly, the residents protested, but they were firmly put back in their box by the Met.

This police action and the massive security surrounding the G20 summit seemed designed to create an atmosphere of intolerance and unpleasantness to discourage people from attending demonstrations against global capitalism, climate change and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way of marginalising anyone who dissents from economic orthodoxy.

Indeed, many will remember that the day before the anti-war march in February 2003, the Ministry of Defence placed armoured vehicles around Heathrow airport on the grounds that there was an imminent threat. It was a magnificently absurd piece of overreaction, which did not appear to have the slightest effect on the million-plus who attended the demonstration the following day.

Many people have objected to the police attitude, including Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti and joint committee on human rights chairman Andrew Dismore, who said the police language was "not very helpful."

All this distracts from a number of important issues.

Last Saturday, there was a large demonstration calling on the G20 leaders to take action on the environment, jobs and global injustice in the face of recession. It was a welcome coming together of the development groups and environmental groups with very large trade union assistance and input.
The march was supported by Stop the War Coalition and CND, but the core message from the platform seemed to be almost Fawlty Towers-esqe in not mentioning the war.

So far, every industrial economy has gone into this recession by putting money in new shares to protect financial institutions. With each new tranche of money paid into the British banking system, repossessions have continued and very little new mortgage lending or manufacturing industry investment has followed.

The demands of job protection and investment in public services and infrastructure are the only way of ensuring that living standards are maintained and that school-leavers don't end up joining the ever-lengthening dole queue. TUC leader Brendan Barber is quite right to oppose a public-sector wage freeze and the shrill demands of the more right-wing newspapers for public spending cuts, pointing out that public spending will be key to economic recovery.

However, we cannot go into this period accepting that we'll continue pouring billions into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on an escalator of ever-increasing arms expenditure by all Western powers.
The dreadful, catastrophic recession of the 1930s ended with World War II. This recession should be ended on a process of planned sustainable economic growth that eliminates poverty around the world, rather than increasing the power of the Western economies to invade and occupy Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country they may choose.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North (London). This article first appeared in The Morning Star