photo-report of ‘dancing on the grave of capitalism’ demo

by David Broder

Three weeks to the day after the SWP’s March on the City demonstration in the City of London, tonight saw the “Dancing on the grave of capitalism” action timed to coincide with Halloween and thus featuring lots of dressing up. This, the latest in a series of anti-capitalist demos organised in response to the financial crisis, took place in Canary Wharf.

The protest was apparently the brainchild of members of the Radical Anthropology Group and people formerly involved in campaigns such as Reclaim the Streets, but in fact the 200-strong crowd was largely composed of Socialist Workers’ Party students (‘SWSS’, banner depicted below). A sprinkling from the Socialist Party, Workers’ Power, Anarchist Federation and Class War were present, as well as some people holding a poppy-decked banner for an Army veterans’ union. The demonstrators stood outside Canary Wharf tube station shouting abstract anti-capitalist slogans as City types looked on, bemused.

The slogan “anti-anti-anti-capitalista” made another appearance, as did “one solution – revolution” although another slogan had been toned down somewhat since the October 10th March on the City demo: “they say bankers, we say wankers” had bizarrely morphed into “they say bankers, we say jobs”. Perhaps they were wary of swearing in the wake of the recent Russell Brand/Andrew Sachs affair.

The demo, which had no demands and no real politics to speak of, merely served as part of the SWP’s ongoing “activist” turn after the abandonment of its electoral fronts.

11 thoughts on “photo-report of ‘dancing on the grave of capitalism’ demo

  1. Best to avoid sounding like sour grapes comrade. I have my issues with the SWP too, but that shouldn’t come between us on a united front against capitalism.
    It’s a pity that we can only make token gestures at present, but of course the very basis of capital is exploitation on a day to day basis. The latest manifestations of this however do highlight how it is geared to make us pay for their crisis.
    It really is quite sickening to see how the super-rich bankers and speculators; (is there a difference?) who have created the ‘crisis’ through the greed of the system are also the ones making us pay whilst they rip us off ! **

    ** for a non SWP take on this see Naomi Klein in this morning’s Guardian.


  2. Looks like it wasn’t very good. I don’t know why these kids bother, it’s not like the people who work in Canary Wharf are going to be won over to their side.


  3. Halshall: it would be better if they actually had some strategy to fight over pay and jobs and prices rather than just doing stunts. Who’s it meant to impress?


  4. In Greece activists have taken more SERIOUS direct action, such as tagetting chains of supermarkets to force them to reduce prices. In some cases forcibly requisitioning food and distributing! These demonstrations at the City are simply political posturing. Our movement should take actions which at least try to serve the interests of our class. A good start would be targetting Asda, or Safeway with action to force price reductions or the energy firms.


  5. Friday 31st October 2008
    Petition to PM Gordon Brown

    1. Abolish Tax Havens
    2. Tobin Tax Now
    3. Total Reform of CAP

    Dear Gordon Brown,

    In these extraordinary times a world-wide coalition of people from civil society are calling on you to take bold action and work with other world leaders to ensure the new, global financial architecture is for all people and the planetary ecology, and not just a few.

    FYI a detailed, initial, international response from individuals, social movements and non-governmental organisations meeting in Beijing on 15 October 2008 can be found at, and others are in the pipeline, as you would expect.

    But today, I would particularly like to draw your attention to the following:

    1. in working to reform the world financial system, in particular at the upcoming Summit in Washington on November 15th, we urge movement constructively towards the creation of a transparent, viable global fiscal authority with effective representation for all nations, and with real power to regulate global markets and redistribute wealth.
    2. many of us consider these principles to be fundamental to the ending of poverty, injustice and war and therefore necessary if there is ever to be world peace
    3. we therefore call upon you and other leaders to build a coalition of countries – from north and south alike – determined to work together, and use this time of immense opportunity to these ends
    4. in particular we call upon you – by way of basic starting point – to make public your desire to close down all world tax havens and bring in appropriate, social support mechanisms world-wide, including as a flagship the Currency Transaction or Tobin Tax, CTT. And also: to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, away from corporate and large landowner subsidy and towards EU food sovereignty, basic service provision and, most essentially housing needs.

    Abolish Tax Havens: cleaning up tax havens (where approximately 11.5 trillion dollars are stored) is essential if we are to have an open, transparent system and an effective, global fiscal authority.

    Tobin Tax Now: CTT, via a small levy on international currency trades must be brought in as soon as possible. This would mean:

    (i) billions of dollars per annum in global tax revenues. Monies received could then be ring-fenced for use in global poverty reduction (the Millennium Development Goals).
    (ii) a potentially sizeable redistribution of wealth to the most needy, via regional social funds and/or grassroots community organisations providing effective public service provision – ie to provide the basic housing, sanitation and clean water needs for the millions who are (already or about to be) dispossessed, and so begin the process of ending poverty world-wide.
    (iii) no financial representation (of currency trading) without global taxation – a basic principle of democratic governance
    (iv) potentially the ‘response element’ of your proposed early warning system: as you may be aware Professor Tobin originally suggested this tax as a means by which to cool markets, levying at a higher amount when they are looking to overheat
    (v) potentially we do not endure yet more civil unrest – including terrorism – world-wide because of western double standards, the injustice of world poverty and global social exclusion. Nor will we have to wait another three generations for this opportunity if you act skilfully and campaign for Tobin now.

    CAP Reform: as you are aware nearly half the EU budget (33 billion GBP) is currently spent on this subsidy, which severely curtails agricultural competitivity in the poorest sections of the word. Much of the subsidy goes towards large corporations and landowners. Many in civil society would like to see good subsidies remain (those for small farms enhancing ecological and wise food sovereignty) but the rest of this money redirected away from corporations and rich landowners and exclusively towards projects that are socially just, for example:

    To help create a green, democratic EU economy
    To enhance local, national and or EU-wide food sovereignty
    To provide social housing and other basic services for those most in need
    To provide structures for local decision making and democratic empowerment (local subsidiarity not corporate subsidies)

    Overall, I hope you see this is as an opportunity to work with other world leaders and bring about the kind of reforms that visionaries once pioneered for the UK in the form of the NHS, only this time a safety net for the whole world. Think of it as the beginnings of a World Health Service.

    I am aware that you will have substantial opposition for a programme like this from the neo-con ideologues in the White House and elsewhere, but the Doha meeting follows Washington at the end of November. If you and other progressive leaders from the rich north are willing to stand up for an end to poverty, world-wide, at this historic juncture you will undoubtedly gain immense support from the many countries effected and world social movements. But if you do not, you will almost certainly face a great deal of discontent and civil unrest.

    Yours sincerely

    Mark Barrett
    (in personal capacity)

    More info:

    1. Abolish Tax Havens: info is available at
    2. Tobin Tax Now: please read Colin Cowdery on CTT in this month’s Prospect
    3. Total Reform of CAP increasingly open info about the CAP subsidy regime is available at | and

    November 2008 | Pay-as-you-go finance
    We’ll never get rid of booms and busts. But a Tobin tax on capital transfers would at least help us pay for the bad times
    Clive Cowdery

    A free market economy, combined with income redistribution and a responsive welfare state, remains a successful and attractive model. Indeed, it has the best record in history for combining economic growth with poverty alleviation. Add a careful bias by government towards the working poor and the socially excluded, and such a model gives western economies a fighting chance of tackling their common challenges: how to accelerate social mobility, fund an aging population and maintain international competitiveness.

    Most of the imminent market reforms will be useful. Capital ratios for financial companies will be stronger, some speculative trading curbed, asset transparency clearer, and financial oversight strengthened. Protectionist measures that risk damaging the economy’s ability to self-generate should, with a little political will, be seen off.

    But the biggest market failure may not be addressed: that the profits of the last boom had been banked by the private sector before the bust arrived—leaving the public sector with the bill. A redesign of capitalism is needed—one that funds the cost of the whole economic cycle, including the inevitability of a future bust, from the capital transfers and profits generated in the next upturn. But to claim this prize policymakers must act swiftly, whilst laissez faire fundamentalism is weak.

    How can we slow down volatility and irrational exuberance during the next upturn, whilst also providing for the cost of future bailouts from private profits, rather than public subsidy? The world has had a model for such a pay-as-you-go system for exactly 30 years—it’s called the Tobin tax.

    In 1978, James Tobin, a Nobel prize-winning economist, first proposed the idea of a levy on capital transfers that would be applied uniformly by all major economies. A tiny amount (say less than 0.5 per cent) would be clipped from all foreign currency exchange transactions to deter speculation and fund public goods. The rate would be low enough not to damage long-term investment (where yields over time are expected to be higher), but would deter speculators moving large amounts of currency around the globe as they seek to profit from minute differences in currency fluctuations.

    As well as slowing volatility in fragile economies, the tax would yield enormous sums. But in a classic example of the law of large numbers, the cost would be absorbed by the international currency market. Only around 5 per cent of the $2 trillion traded each day is related to trade and other real economic transactions—the rest is simply financial speculation which often plays havoc with national budgets and allocation of resources.

    So let’s assume an effective tax base of $75 trillion annually—which takes at face value the claims of Tobin tax critics that currency trade would decline from current levels, and that some trade would circumvent the tax. Now apply a rate of, say, 0.2 per cent: an annual yield of $150bn in receipts then becomes available. If the next boom lasts for five years, then $750bn—the size of the current US bailout—has been generated at a neutral cost to the taxpayer.

    Any reforms to capitalism that emerge in the next few months must accept the reality of boom and bust during an economic cycle, and should seek to smooth the future impact of both. A pay-as-you-go system modelled on the Tobin tax can aid stability by slowing down the speed with which market traders react to changes in prices of currencies. They will have to pause to calculate the need for their profits to exceed the tax. This deliberate throwing of “grit” in the system could smooth fluctuations while the tax receipts fund the correction of future imbalances.

    The Tobin tax was designed for currency markets but the same pay-as-you-go principle could be adapted to other large-scale capital flows such as credit and derivative markets. The concept is as simple as insurance—collecting a tiny premium from every movement in large markets, to insure the stability of the system as a whole.

    Critics of the Tobin tax have focused mainly on the formidable implementation challenges: international agreements, collection, tax avoidance, and the question of which national or international body will control the receipts. But the real barrier has always been political. And that’s why policymakers should now give it urgent and fresh attention—while vested interests are weakest, and the case for a more resilient system is strongest.

    Politicians have never felt more powerless than when dealing with the financial crisis of recent months. But in reality they have never had more power to change things, with resistance from the financial lobby so weak. A dynamic reform agenda, which starts with a positive affirmation of free markets but seeks to insure them over the economic cycle, has a better chance today than ever before. Moreover, once the basic stability costs have been covered, income from a Tobin tax could be earmarked for meeting global challenges such as international development and climate change, especially in poor countries. Presented in populist language as a small daily transfer from Wall Street to Main Street, and with substantial national sovereignty retained over the collection and distribution of tax revenues, it’s a platform that I hope proves irresistible to political leaders.


  6. In response to James Fisher, I agree we need strategy, but getting people together to manifest publically their opposition to capitalism and hopefully germinating alternative practices, isn’t a bad tactic to start to develop such strategies. And I think we should always mobilise our creativity in doing so; not just some stunts; creativity is another aspect that capitalist domination seeks to repress amongst the working and studying masses, and we should reclaim that; people in struggle always do, so it’s a good tradition to keep up and helps any movement to grow, but this needs to take root on all fronts of capitalism: on the streets, in the workplaces and trade unions, in universities, and even in and around the courts to stop them from taking away the few rights we’ve got left!


  7. Yes, let us sit on our arses and do sod all while preserving our revolutionary credentials.


  8. So what was the purpose of the demo, and what did it achieve? What did it contribute to building our movement and posing an alternative to capitalism?


  9. Got a bit of publicity on the telly and the papers , didn’t it ? And it’s only one of many ways to fight back.
    Do you suggest we do nothing unless we follow your sage advice on the internet to the letter?


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