Britain over the past fortnight has gone through in a highly concentrated form the experience of the movement against global capitalism. Our movement went through the protests in Seattle in November 1999 through the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 to the great anti-war marches.
People who took part in the protests against the G8 summit in Scotland were flung abruptly from another high point of the anti-capitalist movement back into the global state of emergency proclaimed by George Bush after 9/11.
This was symbolised by the experience of those of us who returned from Edinburgh on Thursday last week, the day of the London bombings, on the Globalise Resistance train.
When we arrived at Euston that evening, we were greeted by perhaps 100 police officers, who filmed us as we got off. No wonder Al Qaida is running rings round the British state with such absurd priorities reigning in Scotland Yard.
But the bombings shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the significance of the protests in Scotland. In the first place, Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s attempt to co-opt the global justice movement failed.
Upwards of 300,000, the demonstration in Edinburgh on Saturday 1 July was the biggest yet seen at a G8 summit — bigger even than the historic march in Genoa on 21 July 2001.
The organisers of Make Poverty History had tried to suppress any reference to the war in Iraq. Yet the march was covered in anti-war placards and slogans and the Stop the War Coalition mounted a highly successful rally at the end.
In many ways the London bombings have been very convenient for Blair. They helped to obscure the fact that the summit completely failed to live up to his and Brown’s promises.
This is reflected in the row between Bob Geldof and even the most mainstream non-governmental organisations involved in Make Poverty History such as Oxfam and Christian Aid. They have denounced the paltry measures against global poverty that were agreed at the summit.
Secondly, the G8 Alternatives march on Wednesday of last week asserted the right to protest at the very gates of Gleneagles. The huge police operation failed to prevent the demonstration and couldn’t even stop protesters breaking through part of the security fence.
Thirdly, G8 Alternatives also mounted a highly successful counter-summit in Edinburgh on Sunday 2 July. Some 5,000 people attended the counter-summit. The participants were overwhelmingly from Scotland itself.
They packed into plenaries and workshops to follow and take part in an immense variety of different debates. I spoke alongside George Monbiot at a huge workshop organised by Globalise Resistance on alternatives to neo-liberalism.
The workshop involved a stimulating discussion about how to ensure that the planet has a future.One thing that struck me was the youth of many of those taking part.
The Stop the War Coalition mounted a very moving Naming of the Dead rally on Calton Hill in Edinburgh on the Sunday evening.
Many of those there could only have been 11 or 12 at the time of the Seattle protests. They were becoming part of a movement whose origins they were too young to remember properly.
Like the European Social Forum in London last October and the victory of the left no campaign in the French referendum on the European constitution, the Scottish protests offered a spectacular confirmation of the enduring strength and the wide diffusion of anti-capitalist consciousness.
We have also been given a very strong reminder that the anti-capitalist movement can only remain effective if it challenges not simply corporate globalisation but also imperialism and war.
A heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of those in the movement to find ways to continue to give expression to opposition to capitalism and war and to help it grow. It is here that, amid the horror that increasingly grips the world, the real hope for a better future is to be found.