carnivals vs. capital



What Actions Have You Been Involved In?

JB from Reclaim the Streets

mk->> Could you talk about actions you've been involved with that you consider to have realized positive results, whether through achieving the goal of the protest or maybe through getting a message out or strengthening an activist community or network?

JB->> I think June the 18th was an extraordinary example of a global network, as can be seen by the forty-three countries getting involved. And I think for me, there were three ways of trying to define the success of June the 18th. One was its process in terms of networking, and creating this network on a global level, which has happened. When I read an email this morning that 10,000 people, mostly cross-tribal, in Nigeria at Port Harcourt had occupied the offices of AGIP gas and then had blockaded the Shell HQ, it was like, "Yeah! Amazing, absolutely amazing." Meanwhile, I ran into a little thing that one guy in some town in Argentina had creatively transformed a clock. There's this clock apparently sponsored by some media outlet that celebrates the 500th anniversary of Columbus. And, June the 18th, this one guy went and basically covered it in red paint.

So, this diversity in the network is really amazing. But also on a local level lots of groups have come together in London that wouldn't normally come together. And all over England there were about forty different groups working specifically for June the 18th, who hadn't worked together before. And I think they'll continue to work, continue to create affinity groups and so on. So for me, that was the success of June the 18th. The day was just a cherry on the cake, in a way.

The other thing was the education, trying to get people to think about capital, think about financial markets and so on. And I think the booklet
The Square Mile is great, it works toward that. I think the Evading Standards works a bit towards that. I think that's been really important, educating activists. Also on a wider level, the fact that all the media's been talking about anti-capitalist protesters. Getting that vocabulary into the public domain is very important.

And thirdly, for me, the threat of disorder is always greater than the organizing principle of the social movement. A nice little anecdote there was all the letters that were going from the law firms and from the Corporation of London, and all the businesses. A letter was sent to the CEO of every single business in the Square Mile, and he was told (well, I say "he," it probably was "he") to distribute it to all employees. So everyone in the city, before the day even happened, was building up, thinking about it. They would have been for a moment thinking about the ethical consequences. I don't have a fancy that it was a very in-depth thought, but they normally go 365 days of the year, probably don't for a minute even think that anyone gives a damn about what they're doing. But the fact that they're thinking "Well, there's going to be 10,000 people on this one day who are going to actually give a damn" I think was important. A nice little anecdote: I have a friend who, because of her job, has some fairly wealthy clients. And one of these clients said to her the other week, "Do you know anything about RTS?" And she said, "Oh, I might." And she said, "Well, my husband who runs an Internet company," nothing to do with finance and banking, quite trendy, young, but I think quite big Internet company in the city. She said, "He's been up until three every morning all weekend, and he's had to employ four Ph.D. level consultants at enormous expense to put virus programs on all their computer equipment for June the 18th." So, you know, that threat of disorder was extraordinary, and it's not even a bank. So fuck knows how much it cost the bank to protect their stuff from a virus! And that was just because one person from a Sheffield June the 18th group in an FT article said, "We don't need to occupy their offices because we can just do it with viruses." And then this big article came out in a magazine called IT, which talked all about how hackers were going to work on June the 18th. That was it.

mp->> But was anyone even planning that?

JB->> I don't think so. No, an off-handed remark. So for me the mythology and the use of mythology, this is art and poetry and imagination. You make them imagine that you're even more scary than you are. And I think that's very powerful. I think that all social change has involved that kind of level of mythologizing, really. You realize how powerful it is. Well, as I say, I think the three, the education, the planning and the threat of disruption, they work in that way. It was strange, I wasn't nervous before the day, and I couldn't understand why. Partly it was how surreal it was, the idea that I'd worked for a year for one day. That just felt pretty weird. And the other thing was I felt it had already succeeded. I felt that even if we hadn't done any action that those things had succeeded. I think it will be very interesting where we go next. I don't know where we go next. I'm confused. I'm scared, to be honest, of what the state is gonna to do. Are they going to ban RTS? Are they going to just come in and take everyone in the meeting? Are they going to try and find scapegoats, organizers? Or are they just going to go for the guys who were smashing out the windows? Who knows. Part of me wants to do it again. I like the idea of really pushing the carnivalesque aspect, because carnivals were a regular feature, they'd happen every year. I quite like the idea of having this carnival against capital every year. In a sense, if it's a carnival against capital, it suggests that it can't be recuperated. Because only capital can recuperate the carnival. I mean, of course it will be recuperated, and at that moment you dissolve it. But it would be fucking difficult to recuperate carnival against capital. Well, maybe not, actually. Given post-modern capitalism, it's pretty easy to recuperate anything.

 

 

 

  • Square Mile (Squaring Up to the Square Mile)
    Refers to the area of the City of London, defined by the medieval walls of the city, which is the world's most important financial center. London handles more foreign exchange, has more foreign banks, and deals with more foreign stocks than any other city in the world. While a large percentage of London's financial business occurs outside this concentrated area, the Square Mile is both a tangible and symbolic focus of the staggering wealth and power being manipulated by global capitalists. Squaring Up to the Square Mile is a pamphlet prepared by Corporate Watch and Reclaim the Streets for the June 18th Carnival Against Capital. Detailed maps of the City of London pin-point the location of many institutions, banks, corporate headquarters, and watering holes wherein the fate of the world is bandied about every day. The pamphlet includes clear, concise definitions of key financial and economic terms (stocks, futures, loans, currency exchange, investments, commodities), bringing the abstract concepts and esoteric vocabulary of global finance down to a concrete, intelligible level. An invaluable educational tool for critics and opponents of globalization.

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  • Evading Standards
    A hilarious prank newspaper produced for RTS street parties, spoofing the London newspaper the Evening Standard in format and style. On June 18th 1999, the front-page headline screamed "Global Market Meltdown" (by-line Watt Tyler and Emma Goldman). Inside were a range of articles and photos, from info and opinion on the growing world-wide resistance to globalization, to a 1649 letter from Digger Winstanley to the City of London. Similar to the spoof Seattle Post-Intelligencer on N30.

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