5 Years Ago Today…
President George Bush, presiding over a war we heard about every single day on the news, a war that was supposed to be over, visited Britain, and Stop the War Coalition held the biggest weekday demonstration in UK history. Thinking about this, I’ve realised just how much things have changed in those 5 years.We’ve seen Bush be ‘re-elected’, despite only winning due to electoral fraud. We’ve seen the War in Iraq slide down the agenda, Saddam executed, people forget that we were even going after WMD in the first place (had to stop and think about that acronym). Many nations, including our own, have new leaderships, and as of only 3 weeks ago, America is all set for one of its most radical (with a tiny r) presidencies of the last hundred years.
The demonstration itself would almost certainly not be possible. Bush’s last visit drew only a fraction of the crowds; the police prevented any protest from taking place in Whitehall, now armed with the SOCPA legislation and the fear of terrorism on our soil that the 7th July brought. That day in 2003, I stood opposite the entrance to Downing Street and screamed down my megaphone (since then, sadly lost) and even made a good friend (yes, you know who you are!).
If I remember correctly, ASBO’s were just being introduced; now we don’t even question the government’s right to label someone as “anti-social” and criminalise them out of their community. Whilst repression of protests was already a major issue, it was nothing like it is now.
The whole protest scene was being dominated by 1 issue: the war. It would be another year before the words “Make Poverty History” meant anything particular to anyone, let alone reminded us of the year popstars hugged politicians as they looked the other way and did next-to-nothing. Now we’re all fretting about the possibility of Climate Change.
No one had thought of having a climate camp, let alone been ridiculed by activists, emerged triumphant, been ridiculed by society and made the victims of the biggest injunction case in UK history, emerged triumphant then gone and done a 3rd round of win!
At the same time, Climate Change has gone from issue of discussion, a crises of the future, to something imminent and indisputable. Obama recently announced his intention to carry through his election promises in this area, creating 5 million new US jobs in the “Green Sector”, and an incredibly capitalist solution to Climate Change. The guy might renege on this, but compared to Bush, Obama has already exceeded him from day 1.
The issue now isn’t whether Climate Change demands 80% emissions cuts by 2050, its whether those cuts need involve massive reductions of real-terms consumption, and a new way of organising society.
But the issue now is also whether or not we’ll suddenly wake up in 5 years and find ourselves living in some kind of authoritarian nightmare, where we can be stopped in the street and forced to identify ourselves simply because a police officer doesn’t like the look of us. Indeed, we may not even know the ways we’re being monitored.