Beginning on Saturday 28 March in London and Berlin, and culminating in mass protests around the world on 4 April millions of working people and peace activists mobilized to express their rage at the deepening capitalist economic crisis and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

The week of protests coincided with the meeting of the G20 in London, England, (1-2 April) and NATO in Strasbourg, France, (3-4 April). At the G20 Summit, leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, which account for nearly 90% of all global economic activity, met to discuss their strategies for rescuing capitalism from its own worsening unraveling and to prevent each country from going its own way to resolve domestic concerns. At the NATO gathering, leaders of the Western military alliance sought to reach agreement on the scale and format of escalating that bloc’s war in Afghanistan. Protesters motivated by a variety of interests met both meetings to express the deepening anger of people around the world at the calamity orchestrated by 30 years of neo-liberal capitalist globalization and their determination to stop the expansion of NATO’s war in Central Asia. They were joined by millions around the world demonstrating in solidarity within their own countries in the largest day of global action since the anti-Iraq War actions in 2003.

Even prior to the opening of the G20 meeting in London, tens of thousands of protesters served notice that the whole world would be watching the deliberations later that week. In London at least 20,000 gathered in a peaceful procession demanding jobs, government control of the financial system, and punishment for those who led the world into economic crisis. In Berlin thousands marched in solidarity, but were met with police violence.

As the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries gathered in London on 1 April, protesters around the world poured into the streets of their respective countries to present an alternative vision to that being articulated at the Summit. In London, tens of thousands of protesters assembled at several points throughout the city. Some met at the Royal Bank of Scotland (a central players in the financial meltdown) and the Bank of England. There, police restricted the movement of the protesters causing some scuffling. Others descended on the U.S. Embassy to protest the escalation of the NATO war in Afghanistan. Finally, large groups marched through The City, London’s financial center, demanding nationalization of the banks, dismissal and prosecution of executives who run the leading financial institutions, and even an ‘end to capitalism.’ In fact, an overriding theme of the protests in London and around the world was that capitalism has failed and an alternative social and economic order should take its place.

Protests were also held throughout Mexico, where the Party of Communists reported thousands marched against capitalism, for an end to NAFTA, and for the rights of indigenous people. The Mexican Party of Communists kicked off days of national protests on 1 April under the theme, ‘The day of international struggle for the rights of workers, [and] against exploitation.’ Demonstrators also gathered in cities across Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Asia on 1 and 2 April.

Further marches took place on Wall Street in NYC on 3 and 4 April where over 10,000 protested against capitalist greed, escalation of the war in Afghanistan as well as the ongoing war in Iraq, and for support of people victimized in the economic crisis through home foreclosures and layoffs while wealthy bankers receive billions in public bailout money.

In fact, on 4 April the world came together in the streets to express their disgust at the global capitalist crisis and its associated war policies. Italian media reported that in Rome over 2.7 million workers marched in joyous procession, led by that country’s largest trade union federation (CGIL) and Communist Parties. ‘There’s too big a gap between what needs to be done and what is being done,’ CGIL leader Guglielmo Epifani told the throng, with banners reading ‘Together to Build a Different Future’ and ‘Down with the New Mussolini,’ a reference to Italy’s rightist prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. In Strasbourg, France, where leaders of NATO were gathering to ‘celebrate’ 60 years of the capitalist military alliance and plan to ratchet up their war in Afghanistan, over 20,000 took to the streets and at points actually controlled parts of the city.

The protests and palpable sense of rage germinating among the people throughout the world had a noticable impact on the leaders of the G20. Prior to the gathering Brazil’s President Lula da Silva pointedly stated that the source of the economic crisis was to be found among the leaders of Western financial companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, Goldman Sachs, DeutscheBank, and Societe Generale (among others). At the G20 Summit the host, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, pronounced the ‘end of the Washington Consensus’ and called for a fundamental re-ordering of the world’s economy, which would include a hefty dose of regulation and government intervention.

The Washington Consensus was the guiding philosophy of radical capitalism formulated by Milton Friedman and his allies in the Chicago School of Economics. They became the chief economic advisors to General Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the U.K., President Ronald Reagan in the U.S., and a host of dictators and crooks around the world from the 1980s onward. Friedman’s ideas led to the doctrine of ‘Shock Therapy’ imposed first in Latin America in the 1980s, then on the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union from 1989 onward. It led to the deepening of global poverty, the wrecking of the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, and the near complete control of the world’s wealth by a handful of well-placed Western financial institutions and multinational coroporations. With its emphasis of global unregulated financial markets, complete ease of movement for corporations, erosion of workers rights and safety protections, destruction of environmental regulations, and privatization of all aspects of a nation’s economy, the Wasghington Consensus model forced workers into a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of wages and working conditions, contributed to the rapid acceleration of global warming, and transformed governments from agents responsible for the welfare of its citizens into security agents to protect the interests of global finance capital and multinational corporations. With Reagan in the White House and Thatcher at 10 Downing Street, advocates of the Washington Consensus captured control of the IMF and World Bank, using those powerful institutions as mechanisms to impose draconian economic policies on heavily indebted countries, many of them former colonies only recently having achieved independence from Western imperialist states like the U.K. and U.S. To ensure their perpetual control of the global economy, proponents of the Washington Consensus forced through a string of ‘Free Trade’ treaties in the 1990s including NAFTA and formation of the WTO that further expanded the unfettered reach of multinational corporations and finance capital. It was within that framework that the armature for the current global economic crisis was forged. As Sam Webb, National Chair of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), noted in a report to the CPUSA National Committee on 21 March 2009, this crisis is ‘the offspring of a crisis of overproduction … and overaccumulation … that are at the core of capitalism’s dynamics and contradictions. [T]his is a crisis of capitalism in which its production relations became a parasitic fetter on the development of its productive forces.’

The working class and its allies who poured into the streets around the world over the past week clearly understood the nature and source of the current crisis. In Mexico, labor leader Luis Alfonso Vargas Silva explained that the economic meltdown should be ‘paid for by the rich’ who are responsible for it, not the workers ‘whose lives are imprisoned within the capitalist system.’ In London, Strasbourg, Rome, and elsewhere banners proclaimed that ‘capitalism has failed’ and that a new global economic order based on justice, equality, and the rights of working people needed to be built on the wreckage of the current system. As Webb said to the CPUSA’s National Committee, ‘[This] is a time when the parameters of the possible have expanded geometrically. … It is in the course of these and other struggles that the balance of power will shift and new openings will appear for more far-reaching reforms of an anti-corporate, even socialist nature.’ The past week of global action suggests the growing people’s movement in favor of a profound transformation of the world’s economy and points to the deepening solidarity of people across every continent, in every country to work for this more just future.

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