With millions of jobs and homes under threat and the planet on the brink of environmental catastrophe, the urgent need for global action over the economy could not be clearer.
Yet discussions at next week’s summit of the G20 world leaders in London will offer no solutions.
The stated aims of the summit are ambitious.
They involve no lesser tasks than stabilising financial markets, enabling “families and businesses to get through the recession” and putting the economy “back on track for sustainable growth”.
Gordon Brown’s hopes that it will boost his falling ratings are looking shaky.
He has staked his reputation on fixing the recession, embarking on a world tour to rally support for his plans for a “global New Deal”.
Despite his efforts, the International Labour Organisation this week warned that the world faces a future of poverty and joblessness with global unemployment set to leap by 40 million this year.
Former trade secretary Stephen Byers is the latest Labour figure to suggest that Brown has overplayed his hand, cautioning that the agenda for the summit is too ambitious.
This follows warnings from foreign office minister Lord Malloch-Brown that the summit is likely to fail.
Gordon Brown wants world leaders to sign up to a plan to boost economic growth through a “fiscal stimulus” plan of tax cuts and state spending.
Both he and Peter Mandelson have suggested that there is overwhelming international consensus on the way forward.
Yet this is clearly not the case. Both German and French finance ministers have said that they won’t support Brown’s plans.
“I disagree with this idea completely,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month.
“It’s not time to look at more growth measures.”
And there are other divisions. While many countries want increased regulation of markets, Japanese and Chinese leaders oppose attempts to regulate free trade.
Even if an agreement is reached at the G20, past form shows that many states are likely to ignore the final declarations.
Last November’s G20 summit issued a lengthy denunciation of protectionism, but the World Bank points out that 17 out of 20 of the states that signed up to it have since introduced protectionist measures.
The biggest problem with the G20 is that whatever their differences over policy, world leaders share the same aims – to get capitalism up and running.
Yet even before the economic crisis hit, capitalism was a system based on rising inequality, poverty and war. The recession has made this worse.
That’s why the demonstrations at the G20 are so important. They say boldly that we will not pay for a crisis that is not of our making.