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Politicians, Protestors, and Police – The Crazy Triangle

2 September 2010

From June 25-28, the G20 leaders met in Toronto to devise an agreement on how to revive the world’s struggling economy and reduce the enormous debts they have built up by economic bailout measures. There were protest by groups who felt, correctly, that Obama, Harper, Merkel, and their fellow capitalist stooges were not concentrating on the problems that the majority of the world’s population face, such as global warming, poverty, and unemployment. For most of the time the protestors were orderly, in fact, the SPC member who went along to hand out literature, observed no violence. This began when the Black Bloc, allegedly anarchists from Quebec, started smashing store windows. Then the world was treated to the spectacle of riot police overreacting by arresting not merely rioters, but innocent bystanders and peaceful protestors.

Watching it on the news made it seem surreal. It made viewers, most of whom are supporters of the status quo, wonder of the world had gone mad. Since capitalism is an insane economic system, it shouldn’t be too surprising when such events occur. After three days of meetings, the politicians agreed to disagree on how to get the world out of its economic mess. They said they would wind down their pro-growth spending over the next few years, but left it to each member country to do that for themselves.

The G20, which included newly emerging industrial nations such as India and China, laid out plans to cut their budget deficits and overall debts considerably during the next six years. They recognized that not all the nations involved, including the most industrially advanced, would meet the agreed-on target, which is an admission of defeat before they start. French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, noted that Japan had not agreed to the tough goals set by some of them, “Some countries think the risk of deflation is more important than the risk of inflation from deficits and debt.” he said.

President Obama said there would be a renewed economic downturn if some governments slashed too much spending too soon, “We can’t all rush to the exits at the same time”. He emphasized the need to keep boosting the economy., “Our fiscal health tomorrow will rest in no small measure on our ability to create jobs and growth today. But, the G20 countries must take action to deal with their debts.”

Stephen Harper was pleased that rich countries had accepted his proposal to halve the budget deficits by 2013 and government debts by 2016. The disagreement among the G20 heads was on exactly how to do that, some advocating a bank tax to pay for financial bailouts, and others opting for austerity measures. Another idea, advocated principally by Mr. Sarkozy, is a financial transaction tax. The idea is to impose a small levy on each individual trade on the stock market. It would be a few cents, but would add up to billions that could be used to fight poverty, climate change and help meet economic goals. Canada and the US oppose it saying that it’s too socialist! The European Union supports the idea, “How do you think we can raise $100 billion each year if our budgets right now are in deficit? There’s no one who can do that”, said Sarkozy. According to Robert Bailey of Oxfam, “It’s now an opportunity for the G20 to pick up this agenda with a new, innovative financing mechanism that can raise the money automatically.”

There was no agreement to introduce reforms that would prevent another financial crisis, a decision that was put off to the next summit. For most, it’s a catch 22 situation. If they attempt to halve their budget deficits by 2013 there will be an uproar at home caused by the austerity cuts. The British government has already announced that they will impose cuts in spending by its departments, in housing benefits, a two-year pay freeze for public servants, less indexation for welfare benefits, and price increases due to a higher tax. This was announced in the June 22 emergency budget. One can be certain that many governments will follow suit.

The most amusing part of all this is the suggestion that a financial transaction tax, if implemented, could help reduce global warming. In fact, the summiteers themselves agreed to battle climate change by ‘contemplating’ cuts to the subsidies paid to carbon-emitting oil and gas industries. As one pundit put it, it was, ‘a dog’s breakfast’ of mismatched ideas.

All this was to be expected because capitalism is a global economy and thus the political heads of the world’s most industrially advanced countries must meet to deal with matters that affect the economy in the broad sense. Nevertheless, they are all responsive to the needs of the system, especially the interests of their own countries that will be different from, and will inevitably clash with, the interests of other countries, causing dissent and disagreement. What is amusing is that one of the criticisms of socialism is that it would cause chaos.

To protect those world leaders, an enormous mesh fence was erected around the Toronto hotels hosting the debates, and 20 000 police in riot gear were brought in. Our comrade who was there reported there were several hundred police outside the American embassy with guns drawn. On Saturday, June 26th, more than 30 000 people from across Ontario joined a people’s rally to demand that the governments of the G20 put the needs of the people and the environment ahead of all other concerns. The rally organizers, which included the Ontario Federation of Labour, worked to ensure the rally would be orderly. They had their own volunteer marshals who liaised with police. Composed of those from Greenpeace, Amnesty International, unions, and church groups, the march was so orderly that it had little appeal for the media who wanted something more sensational. This they had in plenty when the anarchist bloc did their thing. Harper must have felt justified in spending one billion dollars on security. To say the police overreacted would be an understatement. Reports vary on the amount arrested, from five hundred to nine hundred, only seventy-five of whom were anarchists. How do the police justify the rest? People watching the smashed windows and burned cars were arrested. Seventeen-year-old Lulu Maxwell was drawing peace signs on the sidewalk for protestors when she was handcuffed. Twelve hours later she was released without charges. Toronto resident, Tommy Taylor, was arrested while getting a soda outside City Hall. Taylor described the conditions at the G20 detention facility as ‘a scene out of a George Orwell novel’. There were cages of people screaming for water they didn’t get. A local transit fare collector spent a terrifying thirty-six hours in custody after being arrested, in uniform, while on his way to work on Saturday. Ben Elroy Yau said he was walking along college Street to the Queens Park subway station before his 6 pm shift when two police officers tackled him to the ground and yelled at him to stop resisting arrest. Ben said. I told them I was on my way to work. I was in full uniform with Toronto Transit Commission shirt, pants, I.D., and employee card.” He said they replied, ’Really, well you’re a prisoner now.’ Rau was released from the detention center at 2 am Monday morning, with four charges, including resisting arrest and obstructing justice, dropped. Photographers for Reuters and the Canadian Jewish News were arrested for merely taking photographs. These are a few of the many examples of police overstepping the mark.

On July 1, there was a rally attended by Canadians Advocating Political Participation, Amnesty International, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, calling for an inquiry. What is certain is that the police will be facing lawsuits. The C.C.L.A. is considering a joint lawsuit against the Toronto Police to help people who are seeking compensation in the Superior Court of Ontario. General counsel for the C.C.L.A., Nathalie des Rosiers, said that they have been overwhelmed with phone calls and have collected 75 complaints from people claiming wrongful imprisonment, detention, harassment, or assault by the police. What is not known at this time is what, if any, government (municipal, provincial, federal), will compensate store owners for damage to their premises. By Sunday evening, the downtown business ‘improvement’ area had a confirmed list of damage to forty retailers and restaurants. Though some damage was done to The Bay, The Toronto Dominion bank, and Starbucks, other damage was done to less famous places owned by people little better off than working class folk.

When NDP MP, Olivia Chow, asked if the Feds would compensate, Foreign Affairs minister, Lawrence Canon, delivered the usual, ‘no obligation’ reply. Ms. Chow bristled, “They may not be legally bound, but they are morally responsible. The government has spent more than one billion dollars on the summit, but they can’t commit a penny to the people who have been affected.” More questions are piling up about a secret decision of the Ontario Provincial Cabinet to give police the power to search and arrest anyone within five metres of the barrier. Now officials are saying there was no such rule at all. The provincial government says the regulation it proclaimed under the Public Works Protection Act applied only inside the fence. However, when it mattered to him, Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, called it an ‘extraordinary measure’ that allowed police to arrest anyone within that five metres and didn’t show identification. In other words, no such law existed. “I think it is beyond question that it is a major intrusion into what is ordinarily thought to be a fairly basic right to move around the city without having to have to justify your presence or submit to a search”, said Jonathan Dawe, a Toronto lawyer, who has argued before the Supreme Court on the scope of search and power by the police.

There are other pertinent questions that should be asked, but may not be. Why, since most of the G20 officials were democratically elected, were the proceedings not televised so the electors themselves could hear? Why, since these questions are so vitally important to their lives, were there no national referendums on them? Why only twenty countries involved? Why not use the UN where every country is represented? Why, since they expected trouble (or there would have been no fence) did they not have the proceedings on an army base? Why was the city of Toronto selected? So it would look good in the eyes of the world and boost tourism? If that is the case, it was a miserable failure. Why, if the G20 leaders want to get capitalism moving into high gear, did they close down Toronto’s financial district during their talks? And, what did the anarchists think they would achieve? A good question since they terrified both employers and customers at the places they attacked. If they wanted to provoke the police to violence so they could show people what a violent system capitalism is, they failed. Most people would reject such behaviour and, given the choice, prefer authoritarian government. Though anarchists claim to oppose capitalism, they spend as much time as reformists opposing the effects of it, particularly all forms of authority, so their efforts are counter-productive. Though they do not realize it, they help capitalism to exist.

As for the more peaceful demonstrators, we can say the same. What they are really saying is, ’we want capitalism without pollution and environmental destruction; without war, poverty, or unemployment.’ By concentrating on changing the effects of capitalism, they, like the anarchists, help it to continue. Nor do they change the effects that, as the companion parties of socialism have said for a century, are caused by the fundamental nature of capitalism itself.

Socialist hold that democratically elected governments, when feeling threatened, will react as brutally as dictatorships. Nor do laws prohibiting certain acts of violence or infringing on civil liberties inhibit them. They will have a convenient law on the statute books, e.g. the Canadian War Measures Act, 1070, or blindly ignore whatever rights are trampled. The governments of most industrially advanced countries have been democratically elected and, as such, control the nation’s armed forces. When a socialist-minded working class elects a majority of socialist delegates to power, they will have control of the armed forces. Until such time, they will be used to preserve and defend capitalism.

Though many questions concerning events in Toronto for the three days of the G20 meetings have been asked, the most important has not. When will people see what a pathetic excuse for an economic system is, and do away with it.

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