Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Trouble With Eric Cantona's "Very Easy" Revolution



A video starring former Manchester United and France forward Eric Cantona is getting big attention online. In the clip, Cantona puts forward an idea for a "very easy" revolution, calling for a mass withdrawal of funds from the banking system.

Even in his playing days, Cantona had a reputation as one of football's thinkers, which was earned through his behaviour both on and off the pitch. Most famously, his 1995 observation that "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea", confused and delighted the press pack in equal measure. More recently, Cantona has turned to acting, and had a starring role in Ken Loach's 2009 film Looking For Eric. In interviews, he spoke intelligently about the film's themes and the process of acting in general.

Now, as the economic crisis worsens for many people, Cantona believes that "I don't think we can be truly happy when we see misery all around us." Since street protest doesn't seem to be having an effect on government policy, and "the system is built on the power of the banks", "it can be destroyed through the banks" if "three million people...withdraw their money, and the banks crash." At that point, "the system collapses" and "they [politicians] will listen to us differently."

Bank Run 2010 claim that 14,000 people have agreed to take part in the day of action on 7th December. But there are many problems with Cantona's idea. Firstly, in global terms, not many people will take part. Even if 140,000 people withdrew an average of £1,000 simultaneously, that would 'only' add up to £140 million. Governments around the world are throwing trillions at the banking sector, because the financial aristocracy has a firm grip on the levers of power. When compared to the financial clout held by a tiny parasitic elite, even a mass action pales into insignificance.

But even if the entire population of Britain (for example) withdrew an average of £1,000 each, costing the banks about £60 billion, what would follow? Well, as burglars toured the nation checking under beds, the government would simply give the banks another £60 billion in bailout money, should they ask for it. This money would then be recouped in yet more drastic cuts, leaving those with least under their beds even more vulnerable.

Though Cantona's intentions may well be honourable, he has not given his scheme sufficient thought. Revolutions are not isolated, cataclysmic events. On the contrary, they are the result of long, protracted struggles, during which the new society grows in the shell of the old. They are made in workplaces, in neighbourhoods, and yes, on the streets. Consumer power is no substitute for workers' power.
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