Walking back to work and thinking about the forthcoming G8 meetings in Scotland and Sheffield, I saw a SWP poster which showed a placard at a protest saying “Stop capitalism now” and I start thinking “What a fucking stupid thing to say”. As if capitalism means anything more in that context than a think-stop, you might as well say “stop badness”, and i was getting dismayed that the socialists will, again, be co-opting a rightful and necessary protest so that it appears to the rest of the world like all dissent is support for their outdated dogma. And then my mind spun off on this kind of fantasy number where I’m at a protest and someone with a TV camera uses the C-word in another stupid question: “Are you against capitalism?”, implying, of course, the whole ridiculous deadweight of assumptions that the socialists and free-traders have managed to calcify the debate into. And then this torrent rose up in reply and I’ve written it down below because, well, what’s a blog for if not to spill your brains onto. Oh, and i’d drunk way too much coffee as well…

am i against capitalism? what does that mean exactly, what could that mean? nonsense! what i am against is a system of debt which is a legacy of colonial exploitation, a system of trade which only reinforces the historic exploitation of the third world. massive corporations hand in glove with western governments allows us to sit on the back of those nations and choke the economic air out of them, choke it so successfully that all we get shown of africa on our tv screens are pictures of war and famine which only serve to reinfoce the prejudice that “they can’t manage themselves” and so we continue to suck the rest of the world, and the earth itself, dry to maintain our comfortable affluence, all the while stood on their backs choking them, protesting that we’ll do all we can to help them, all we can that is, except getting off their backs and stopping choking them. i’m a democrat and a liberal and those values today imply an as radical agenda as they ever did. the globalisation of economics, of markets, implies a globalisation of responsibility, of morality. two hundred years ago if you were a merchant in london selling cotton or buying shares in railways running on cheap coal then you were responsible for the exploitation that was occuring in the cotton mills of lancashire and the coal-mines of yorkshire. we passed laws to stop that exploitation, we made that happen, we recognised our complicity and took that collective action – and that’s what we need to do today, that what i want the G8 to recognise now.

  • Make Poverty History
  • Image stolen from Tolstoy: I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.
  • Zigmunt Bauman on the globalisation of responsibility