May Day 2004: All gone quiet over there

A little late with this one – almost making my own point – but passing May’s second bank holiday it’s surprising how silently the first went off. There’s a long and proud tradition of May Day being a time of celebrating the achievements of the Labour Movement the world over. In the past that’s always extended beyond trade unionism to create something of a rainbow alliance of people who’ve had to fight for their political rights.

But more recently it had been dominated by those against capitalism and globalisation. It’s no surprise that this movement has fizzled out to the stage where central London has nothing to fear and no longer bothers to lay on extra police or board up its windows. This has little to do with being distracted by the Iraq war; it’s a product of a failure to create a coherent, positive agenda.

Anti-capitalists simply said, ‘Stop the world – we wanna get off!’. It was a diverse group with a number of issues – environment, third and first world poverty, animal rights etc – the cause of which they saw as systemic, with that system being capitalism. But that’s as far as the analysis went and it simply wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, for anti-globalisation the world cannot be stopped, while we work out how to do things better. A new system would have to be ready to go the moment capitalism fell, but nobody knew what that system would be. The anti-capitalist movement was too diverse to agree on the most elementary principles and no political movement can survive without putting what it’s for before what it’s against.

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