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29 March, 2009

Jobs, Justice and Climate

In the UK yesterday, Trades Union Congress general secretary, Brendan Barber, said this to world leaders assembling for the G20 summit meeting next week. "The old ideas of unregulated free markets do not work, and have brought the world's economy to near-collapse, failed to fight poverty and have done far too little to move to a low-carbon economy."

The Metropolitan Police estimate that 35,000 people marched through London on the 'Put People First' demonstration, the first of many events planned for the G20 summit. Put People First's slogan is "jobs, justice and climate".

With civil unrest growing across Europe as job losses mount and the recession bites ever harder, I really hope that the G20 leaders are listening. We've had decades of unfettered greed and government-backed corporate callousness, the rich have got richer and the poor have starved. The fiction that 'economic growth' will filter down to the poorest and make everybody better off has been exposed, and the future is looking bleak for working people everywhere as the value of their pensions has halved in a single year.

We might struggle through this recession but worse ones are coming. Peak oil is nearly upon us. Climate change is now unstoppable. The population is still growing and resources are still dwindling. Economic growth has natural limits and we are reaching them. Managing global capitalism requires more skill and ability than the world's capitalists and their governments are able to provide.

This is the kind of future that leads to uprising. It is the kind of future that leads to riots and even revolution. I hope the G20 leaders, isolated as they are from real life by their power and wealth, do not underestimate the amount of anger there is among the people they have been exploiting for so long. That crowd of 35,000 in London is the tip of an iceberg of resentment and disgust. It could easily turn from a peaceful march with reasonable requests into a furious mob, burning effigies and storming the parliament.

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