COLUMN INCHES

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The Independent Online
After recent rioting in the City of London, here is how some press commentators reflected on the motives and justifiability of the protest against capitalism:

THE VARIOUS issues at the heart of the Carnival Against Capitalism are issues we should all be engaged with. We should cancel world debt, we should reject the dominance of the car and we should turn away from the exploitative jungle law of global capitalism, and not just because a bunch of cranks, anarchists and eco-warriors with more temper than sense fancy it will make a fairer, tidier world. I feel frustration and rage myself that all of the humanity and caring that was on display in the City last Friday has been squandered.... The violence on Friday and to a much lesser extent the violence on Monday morning is not excusable, but it is understandable. Whole swathes of people are disenfranchised not by poverty or social exclusion but by the narrow vision of life on the planet which is encouraged by our febrile love affair with the great god money. The clash between politics and people has never been more violent, or more extreme. And that, not a bunch of crusties smashing up McDonald's, is what's going to end up hurtling us all into anarchy.

Deborah Orr,

Independent

THE CRUSTIES and New Age hippies, the anti-motorist groups and anarchists, the animal rights activists and earth mothers may not recognise themselves as the upholders of a fine English tradition. They probably think of themselves as radical and left wing, at the cutting edge of the fight against global capitalism, exploitation of the workers and the destruction of society as we know it.... But they are as much a part of merrie England as folk music and Morris dancing. Since the year dot the English have had a bloody- minded attitude towards progress, capitalism, wealth-creation, technology and, above all, authority in its many guises.... The anti-capitalism rioters probably couldn't tell you what it was they really wanted or what exactly they were complaining about. For most of them, the entertainment value was being part of a protest, never mind what it was about.

Nigel Hastilow, Birmingham Post

DURING A YEAR spent working on mergers and acquisitions for Schroders, a City of London merchant bank, I saw myself as one of Karl Marx's working men of the world, with nothing to lose but my chains. But Britain's huge financial services sector is treated with such ignorance, contempt and envy by most of my fellow countrymen that, despite this personal experience, I feel an obligation to stand up for it.... This unprecedented riot in the heart of our capital has met with barely a comment. Had the same event happened in Brixton, the Government would already have set up yet another independent inquiry. But in the aftermath of this body blow to London's reputation as a civilised place to do business, there has been silence. The inescapable conclusion is that most people believe that the "rich oafs in pinstripes and bowler hats" deserve anything they get.... City slickers earn their money by working at a pace that most of us would not be prepared to contemplate. They pay a high price, in terms of marital breakdown, loneliness, illness and early burnout. In the years since I left Schroders, not for one moment have I missed the job, or the salary.... Each of us is better off because of the bankers. Not only do they buy newspapers, eat meals, decorate their houses and service their Porsches. Their patronage also sustains much of Britain's art, theatre, opera and ballet. Strangely enough, the nation's cultural life depends on the successful worship of Mammon.

Edward Heathcoat-Amory, Daily Mail

I HAVE often praised the City of London in this column. It is possible to argue the beneficent effects of its colossal wealth. But we all know how powerful capitalism is. Watch your local superstore wreck the livelihood of the local fishmonger, newsagent, butcher, baker and candlestick maker. That happens on a global scale all the time.... Capitalism has brought much prosperity to all of us, but it is facile to think of it as a liberator, and since it began many of the best minds - not just Marx, but figures as diverse as Tom Paine, Carlyle, William Cobbett and Pope Leo XIII - have seen it as something fundamentally evil. True, it wasn't my windows being broken, and it wasn't my shirt they were setting fire to, but I was rather grateful to the rioters for bringing chaos to the Square Mile for a day and reminding us that money stinks.

AN Wilson,

Evening Standard

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