Modern Autoreduction? Financial protests continue

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Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside The Stock Exchange in the City of London on 10 October to protest against the government’s bail-out of crumbling corporations and the likely impact that the looming recession will have on the British and global working classes. Under the motto “Capitalism isn’t in crisis; capitalism IS crisis”, the demo was organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) but was attended by a wide variety of people, many of whom were students, who are likely to be personally affected by the ‘credit crunch’ in different ways, such as by rent increases, job losses and general price increases.

Several hundred people headed to the Bank of England and spilt into smaller groups to avoid the somewhat disorganised City police, pushing through their lines and often catching them unawares. Protesters managed to get into an upmarket shopping centre called the ‘Royal Exchange’ and, once the police got their act together, they set their dogs on people. Protesters, however, got away with quite a lot more than they were expecting and eventually the demo ended with speeches in Bishopsgate. Others did not join the march and remained stationary outside the Stock Exchange, holding various banners. One banner read “capitalism is crisis” and lead to some interesting conversations with passers-by, who were mostly well-dressed city workers.

A number of other related protests also took place, including one in Edinburgh on 24 October outside the corporate headquarters of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS). There is strong opposition by trade unions to the HBOS and Lloyds TSB merger as this is likely to lead to redundancies at a time when people are feeling more and more insecure about their pay, pensions and other employment terms. People are also worried about other financial aspects of their lives. According to a report by Standard & Poor, 335,000 households in Britain are currently in negative equity (where the house value is less than that of the mortgage). Halifax, which is part of HBOS, has suggested that this fall in the value of houses is the greatest in over 50 years.

Recent weeks have seen proposed industrial action by a number of work sectors over pay and other employment conditions; a series of initiatives regarding housing and anti-eviction actions, such as by London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP); and projects relating to prices, such as the London-based Price Reduction Campaign, which aims to initiate something similar to the 1970s self-valorization or ‘autoreduction’, and in Italy people have demanded en masse that ordinary people should not have to pay high prices at a time when they cannot afford to keep up mortgage payments and job security is low.