IT’S TOUGH being an anarchist these days. After all, what’s the point of owning a black balaclava, combat boots and a personal eyewash dispenser if the object of your hatred causes its own downfall?
Why bother travelling from Seattle to Quebec, to Halifax and around the world if the omnipotent forces of capitalism have done themselves in without any help at all from the brotherhood of the black hood? How frustrating to take on the man, if the man just hauls off and knocks himself cold?
What a cruel denial of validation, that so many protests had so little effect. Turns out the revolutionaries could have stayed home, saved the bail money and capitalism would have wrecked itself anyway.
How bad is the global recession? It’s so bad that even anarchists are out of work. That is if they actually worked, which they don’t.
For anarchists, the problem isn’t supply and demand or the vagaries of the market, because there’s not much of a market for their services anyway. It’s just that capitalism is collapsing, so what’s left to protest?
It’s pretty evident that some righteous steam has leaked out of the professional opposition movement. You could see it in the relatively mild melees at the G20 summit in London. The confrontationists did as much damage as they could, but judging from the television coverage, they lacked their usual gusto.
Sure, hooded men attacked the Royal Bank of Scotland and vandalized the lobby. But that seemed futile since the failed bank is pretty much owned by the British people now anyway.
In fact, the protest was so tame that the only fatality was due to natural causes. The bobbies never even got out their tear gas.
Things have changed out there, that’s certain. Some experts are predicting, if not the end of capitalism, certainly the end of the George Bush no-fetters, grab-what-you-can variety of it.
So who’s an anarchist to hate? The Americans will be out of Iraq pretty soon and have soured on foreign military adventures. Here in North America, we’ve never really had class hatred to exploit.
Sure, the black hood gang can still hate the bankers who got away with fortunes as the economy tanked. But lots of people are mad about that. You don’t have to be a radical to despise the greed heads at AIG who collected bonuses after almost bankrupting the U.S. economy.
But maybe the anarchists should thank the uber-materialists for fulfilling a prediction that goes back to Karl Marx. Marx believed that capitalism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.
Certainly those seeds, if they exist, have been well watered over the past few years. Markets and industry are in crisis, companies are folding, some billionaires have been reduced to mere millionaire status and last week the G-20 ponied up another trillion dollars to bail out the global economy.
And surely the protest crowd takes heart in the fact that the crisis has recharged calls for curbs on international trade. They’ve demanded protected markets for years.
Now it seems that even industry itself is determined to calcify global trade. For evidence, look no further than the car business.
The North American auto industry is so weak from the economic slowdown and its own strategic mistakes that it’s no longer a threat to foreign markets, if it ever was. At the same time, American workers are losing their jobs and their incomes, so they can’t afford to buy foreign imports.
Emerging powers like India and China have used the liberalized global trade system to revolutionize their economies in ways not seen for 60 years. Life has improved for millions. But does the sudden economic introspection of countries like the U.S. and Britain mean that ends, too?
Even in America, where deregulation has reigned as the prevailing financial dogma since the days of Ronald Reagan, there are calls for economic controls. Leading European powers are demanding much stricter supervision of financial markets.
Where are we headed? All we know for sure is that it’s a time of massive change. Maybe things will get better sooner than we think, but they’ll never be the same. In retrospect, that might be a good thing, too.
Dan Leger is director of news content for The Chronicle Herald. The opinions expressed here are his own. ( firstname.lastname@example.org)