May Day targets
PRESS AND police hysteria about planned demonstrations on May Day in London reached new heights last weekend. The Observer reported police fears of "mayhem and anarchy amid warnings that riots could break out across the capital". This follows the previous week's police raid on a disused factory in south London. The police claimed they had thwarted "an anarchist training weekend which was preparing for violent demonstrations."
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens says that his intelligence operations have uncovered plans to carry out attacks on police, commercial institutions and government buildings. He has vowed that people who are labelled as organisers of last year's anti-capitalist actions will be taken off the streets.
The Bank of England is putting on extra security staff, although its spokesperson rather enticingly adds, "After all, we've got billions of pounds of gold and banknotes in our vaults."
Several newspapers have reported that last year's London May Day demonstrations involved 150,000 people. This would have been excellent, but unfortunately is at least ten times the number actually involved. When the media starts wildly overestimating the size of left wing demonstrations you know that something is up.
There is a systematic attempt to whip up an atmosphere of crisis, of "society under siege", in order to justify a crackdown on anyone who wants to protest about the destruction and suffering that capitalism brings. Last year traditional May Day demonstrations in many places across Britain faced bans, rerouting and other restrictions because of ridiculous claims they were about to lead to violence.
This year it is likely to be even worse (although not if you are a Nazi group which, as we saw last weekend in Bermondsey in south London, gets provided with a helpful police escort). However, despite the avalanche of lies and propaganda, there will be protests on 1 May. The broadly based group Globalise Resistance is calling for a series of protests in London on 1 May.
From 8am to 10am people will gather outside the World Patent Protection Summit which is being held at the Kingsway Hotel, 66 Great Queen Street. This meeting proudly boasts that it aims at "patent protection for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries".
The conference registration fee is �1,099 a delegate. It features workshops such as: "You can patent what?!" chaired by Bill Tyrell, the European patent attorney of GlaxoSmithKline; "Developing a lasting strategy to obtain patents in Europe", chaired by Steve Smith, the global head of patents of Astrazeneca; and "Patent enforcement", chaired by Konrad Becker, head of patents for Novartis Pharma. From 2pm to 3pm the focus of protest will move to the offices of the World Bank at New Zealand House, corner of Pall Mall and Haymarket near Trafalgar Square. Then at 4pm people who have been involved in a variety of demonstrations, stunts and protests will join together at Oxford Circus.
If the press want to highlight violence there is plenty of material to use here. There are some ruthless men to put under the spotlight. They include the patent firm bosses who, to keep up profits, deny drugs to the 25 million people in Africa with HIV.
Add to them the bankers and politicians whose policies mean 19,000 children die every day because money goes to debt repayments rather than health services.
While the press gets itself into a great lather about "the surreal Wombles protesters", and police prepare for "fresh appeals to the public to identify rioters", other matters are conveniently forgotten. Since the start of the new millennium nearly nine million children have been murdered by the debt system-surely a rather more violent act even than breaking the shopfront of a burger bar.
Across the world there is a rising anti-capitalist minority that hates the priority of profit before people. The police, the bosses and their press can feel the ground beginning to shift under their feet. One response is to belittle and slur the movement, another is to demonise and repress it.
We shall see plenty of both these tactics in the months and years ahead. Our task it to build these protests as big as possible and to debate with workers and activists about the most effective way to fight for a socialist alternative to the present rotten mess.