Sunday, 29 March 2009

On the Eve of the G20

I'm heading back to London tomorrow, just in time for the kick-off of the G20 Summit. The meeting of world leaders is already being called the most important G20 ever held, and it isn't just world leaders that are anticipating the big event.

This weekend G20 protests raged across Europe. At least 35,000 people marched in London calling for drastic government action on jobs, welfare and climate change. Of course, protests and the G20 have gone hand in hand since the group's inception, but this year is different. The old protesting stalwarts, who have always opposed the global capitalist system, are now finding a more receptive audience standing at the side of the road watching them march. One large banner at today's protest in London read, "Capitalism isn't working - another world is possible." Four years ago such a banner at the G20 would have seemed silly and irrelevant. For a middle class that has watched the economy collapse around them, the argument may sound quite convincing these days.

Today's march to Hyde Park in London was largely peaceful - just one person was arrested all day, for being drunk and disorderly. But there is a risk that as the week goes on the protests - in London and elsewhere - could turn violent. People are anxious, and there is a palpable sense that this G20 summit may be a turning point in the way this crisis unfolds. Last week George Soros predicted that this G20 summit could be the last opportunity to avoid a world-wide depression.

Large protests have already taken place in Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, and many more are scheduled for later this week across Europe.

It will be an interesting week to be in London.

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