G20 summit: Under the shadow of the Occupy Wall Street movement

Linked on our blogs with You Say You Want A Revolution, and with can we stop an economic systemic crash? – Published on Pambazuka News, by Horace Campbell, Nov. 7, 2011.

As the global financial crisis deepens, China needs to reflect on what kind of international system can minimise war and break the power of the top one per cent, writes Horace Campbell. It should see the Occupy Wall Street movement not as a challenge, but as an asset in the fight for social justice and democracy internationally.


“We will fight to defend Europe and the euro,” Nicolas Sarkozy, November 4, 2011.

With these words of fighting, President Nicholas Sarkozy gave notice to the world that the European leaders from the right will militarize the planet in order to save the European project. After the meeting of the G20 ended in disarray in Cannes, France with no real agreement on how to develop global rules to rein in the ‘vampire squids,’ the debacle of the creeping coup in Greece was overtaken by the reality of the more precipitous and calamitous state of the Italian economy. Newspapers such as the UK’s Guardian declared that the G20 meeting ended in disarray … //


There is one body of opinion inside the intelligentsia in China who understand that as the austerity measures take root in Europe, demand will drop and unemployed European citizens will not have money to purchase China’s exports. These forces understand that the old model of an export-led economy is coming to an end. If China were truly pursuing its national economic interests and decided to ‘bail out’ the European Union by helping to recapitalise some of Europe’s banks for strategic reasons to both save capitalism and to maintain the Euro as a viable alternative to the US dollar, its first/best option would be to bail out European banks under the condition that the banks write down by 50 per cent or outright eliminate all of the sovereign debts they hold by the governments, so that the European governments would not have to implement austerity measures which hurt the growth of their real economies and cut the incomes of their people and thus their ability to consume imported goods from China.

This condition would be far more beneficial for China than either the public or private conditions discussed in relation to China providing the EU with a financial bailout. With further open debate it would become obvious that an even superior condition would be to bail out the EU under the condition that a new international financial architecture be pursued based on the premise of global capital being subordinated to a role of financing ‘developing’ in the poorest societies of the world, especially Africa and Latin America. This would include stringent regulations to curb capital flight from poor nations to the rich and supporting the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative. Offshore banks and money laundering syndicates would be brought under international control so that the G20 communiqué on ‘our fight against corruption’ would have meaning.

Suborned by ideas of ‘modernisation,’ some of the leaders of China and India could not take the lead to renew the call for a new international economic order. It is against this background of internal class and political differences in China that predisposed the Chinese President to respond with a non-committal statement issued through the media in China that said, ‘China hopes all these measures will help stabilize the European financial market and conquer the current difficulties and promote economic recovery and development’.

Hu Jintao was also looking internally in the face of those sections of the population who had been critical of past bad investment calls that were made in 2008.

Through the lobbying efforts of the international supporters of Wall Street, the leaders of Western Europe had been calling for other countries of BRICS to bail out Western Europe. Probably the most laughable of this call for bail out from BRICS came from the Finance Minister of South Africa who after the recent IMF meetings in Washington argued that as a member of BRICS, it was part of the responsibility of South Africa to pitch in to bail out the bankers in Europe. A spirited exchange between the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa and the Finance Minister brought this discussion of South Africa assisting the bailing out Europe out in the open. South African workers were not quiet, there were protests as the streets of Johannesburg and Durban became part of the 900 cities worldwide that had been inspired by the will to resist the one per cent that dominate the international system.


It is in the midst of the dead end alternatives offered by both the Obama administration and the leaders of Europe when the oppressed found a new form of politics in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. In less than two months the ideas and forms of organisation of this force opposing the concentration and centralisation of power in the world had grown to change the political calculus globally. This movement has moved to new levels of organising to the point that war veterans and members of the military are now openly supporting this mass movement of 99 per cent. A general strike in Oakland, California echoed across the United States with General Assemblies of the peoples debating how to extend the liberated spaces in order to expand the movement for real political change. A National Bank Transfer Day in the United States registered another front and demonstrated that the Occupation movement is not simply about massing and occupying public spaces.

In the past, the corporate barons and their thinktanks dominated the political discourse and turned teachers into parrots repeating the standard lines of the linkages between free markets and prosperity. However, people were seeing economic deterioration and regression before their eyes and the tenacious and pedantic work of this Occupy Wall Street movement now engaged the reality of the dominance of the one per cent oligarchy. It was this change along with the police repression that gave more visibility to the movement. Bill Gates of Microsoft had been recruited by Sarkozy to give legitimacy to the call for the FTT and Gates prepared a report Innovation with ‘Impact: Financing 21st Century Development’. But the crisis had gone beyond taxes and Gates was ignored while militarism hung over Greece.

The statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England said:

‘There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of impatience with a return to ‘business as usual’ – represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices. The best outcome from the unhappy controversies at St Paul’s will be if the issues raised… can focus a concerted effort to move the debate on and effect credible change in the financial world.’

The Occupy Movement had reached the City of London and religious leaders were being forced to take a stand on the evil spirits of greed and fraud. However, by the time the Vatican and the Church of England caught on to the power of this movement, the depth of the contagion had moved so fast that it was not only the workers with Greece who were at a crossroads, but workers in Spain, Portugal and especially Italy. In the midst of this bad news of the spread of the depression, the International Labour Organization in Geneva published its report on the World of Work that three years after the crash of 2008, ‘economic growth in major advanced economies has come to a halt and some countries have re-entered recession, notably in Europe,’ The ILO noted. ‘Growth has also slowed down in large emerging and developing countries.’ In order to deflect from this ILO report the final communiqué of the G20 summit dishonestly stated, ‘we commit to promote and ensure full respect of the fundamental principles and rights at work.’

Such declarations contradicted the essence of the push for ‘austerity.’ Bad news from the ILO on the state of the World economy came after the news from the Congressional Budget Office of the United States that the richest one per cent of US households saw a 275 per cent increase in their income between 1979 and 2007 and more than doubled their share of the national income. While the income of this layer nearly tripled, the income of the middle 60 per cent of the population rose only 40 per cent over 28 years, and the income of the poorest 20 per cent rose by only 18 per cent … (full long text).

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