Protestors won’t make us hate capitalism

Quite a bit of commentary suggests that extreme protest will become more common as The People feel themselves ignored by politicians who appease and bail-out capitalism. Tosh.

I have of course no idea how The People’s anger will express itself. There may indeed be mass protest to match the previous events staged by CND, Stop the War, the Countryside Alliance or even the vast majority of those angered by the Poll Tax. But I very much doubt that most or much of it will be extreme. If millions of ordinary people feel the need to take to the streets, it is very unlikely that they will think it is chic, intelligent, relevant or effective do direct action, whether violent or non-violent. Most of them will want to bear peaceable witness to their fury. But that’s it.

The vast majority of the people who will be in London protesting against the G20 meeting next week will be sincere if silly. I say silly because they wouldn’t have to do much thinking to realise that The People may or may not want large changes to capitalism and its recent workings, but they are damn sure that massively inconveniencing their fellow-citizens whilst mouthing wildly unrealistic slogans is not constructive.

Meanwhile the hotheads and tearaways and joke revolutionaries who lead them are of course provocative much more than they are frightening. They can lock up a city and force masses of police overtime and perhaps even create some mayhem and get thumped. Some people will confuse defending their rights to be heard and even to be a nuisance with the idea that these protestors are somehow important.

The point about the joke revolutionaries is that their direct action is synthetic. They don’t believe they can cause much damage and wouldn’t really like to. They construct an argument which is supposed to look and sound like the use of force, but they are merely doing expensive street theatre.

If you want proof of any of this, try looking at Chris Knight on Channel Four News. He thinks he’s being frightening, or has the inalienable right to pretend to want to be. Yes, he doesn’t frighten me either.

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Publication date

26 March 2009