World: Occupy Wall Street goes global

Demonstrations in eighty cities. Individuals take first tentative steps to pressure the banking system, as this movement evolves.

The movement initiated by a small group in a park near New York's Wall Street has spread to other US cities, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, the UK and elsewhere. The people want a change in the system to contain corporate greed and stop rewarding financiers for irresponsible casino banking activity. 

It's unclear how far this protest will spread or how big demonstrations will become. But a march in Berlin was large, and protests in Rome turned violent.

Sister movements seeking an end to the Afghanistan War and enhanced Student Rights have sprung up in America. At this time there appears to be neither co-ordinated leadership emerging nor clear set of demands stated. And protest numbers are quite small at present.

But, according to Bloomberg, protestors in the US at one branch of JPMorgan Chase intend to withdraw deposits and close bank accounts en-masse and shift their money into credit unions or co-operative banks. 

I recall during the apartheid era, the British pressurised their own corporations into withdrawing from operations in South Africa. Barclays was the most famous casualty of a concerted campaign as 'Apartheid Bank' graffiti was tagged onto the walls of some branches. A student boycott saw a decline in Barclays' slice of the student market from 27 to 15%, which precipitated a drop in the banking group's stock price before it withdrew from South Africa in a fire-sale in 1986. Barclays resumed operations in South Africa in 2007 after acquiring ABSA, a local concern, but this time round its brand is secure.

Perhaps today the withdrawal of accounts might have limited impact, as a huge proportion of protestors will be overdrawn or have loan accounts to repay before shifting allegiences.

'Capitalism is Broken' is the mantra but which system is proposed, and how many of these protestors are committed anarchists, trades unionists or socialists who've believed this doctrine for decades?

It's clear there's genuinely widespread concern though as youth unemployment in Italy nudges 28% and in Spain 45%. In the UK people are working ever-longer hours to meet the needs of everyday living. And the threat of renewed recession looms in these countries as governments attempt to reduce debt piled up by previous administrations during the 'boom' years before 2008.

But why protests are springing up in the East or Australasia is beyond me right now. With the exception of Japan, these places are sound by comparison, surely?

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