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Eric Cantona and the anti-bank revolution

November 24, 2010

It’s not often that one person’s musings in a press interview leads to a campaign to bring down banks and to spark  a revolution. Eric Cantona is such a man.

He was interviewed by Presse Océan in Nantes and said the following about the recent protests in France “”I don’t think we can be entirely happy seeing such misery around us. Unless you live in a pod. But then there is a chance… there is something to do. Nowadays what does it mean to be on the streets? To demonstrate? You swindle yourself. Anyway, that’s not the way any more.

“We don’t pick up weapons to kill people to start the revolution. The revolution is really easy to do these days. What’s the system? The system is built on the power of the banks. So it must be destroyed through the banks.

“This means that the three million people with their placards on the streets, they go to the bank and they withdraw their money and the banks collapse. Three million, 10 million people, and the banks collapse and there is no real threat. A real revolution.

“We must go to the bank. In this case there would be a real revolution. It’s not complicated; instead of going on the streets and driving kilometres by car you simply go to the bank in your country and withdraw your money, and if there are a lot of people withdrawing their money the system collapses. No weapons, no blood, or anything like that.”

“It’s not complicated and in this case they will listen to us in a different way. Trade unions? Sometimes we should propose ideas to them.”

Now, obviously I think there are some ideas there that aren’t quite clear and some I believe to be wrong. It’s a classic example of looking for a shortcut or a silver bullet and of course, too dismissive of the mass movement protesting on the streets. It would have been much better to say “I support the protests and the protestors but I also think this should happen.”

Nonetheless, there are some positive aspects to the statement. Firstly, one of the most famous football players in the world is calling for revolutionary change or a new French revolution, based on smashing the power of the banks, which is, of course a revolution against Capitalism. As Marx pointed out in Capital “The purpose of banks is to facilitate business. Whatever facilitates business, facilitates also speculation. Business and speculation are so closely linked in some cases, that it is difficult to tell where business stops and speculation begins. Wherever there are banks, capital can be obtained more easily and cheaply. The cheapness of Capital promotes speculation, just as the cheapness of beer and meat promotes gluttony and drunkenness”. So, Eric’s analysis that “The system is built on the power of the banks” isn’t far off and his views of destroying the power of banks is more advanced than those who meekly call for more regulation, which doesn’t go to the heart of their power. Now I don’t think Eric’s plan will break it either but sometimes you have to attempt shortcuts to realize they don’t work.

But with European economies on the verge of collapse, in large part due to the parasitic banks and the blood-sucking speculators they spawn, it is no wonder that Cantona’s call has been taken up with gusto by some. As the Guardian reported “Cantona’s call appeared to touch a popular chord and generated an instant response. Nearly 40,000 people have clicked on the YouTube clip, and a French-based movement – StopBanque – has taken up the campaign for a massive coordinated withdrawal of money from banks on 7 December. It is claimed that more than 14,000 people are already committed to removing deposits. The movement is also gaining increasing attention in Britain.”

The organizers of the action explained their aims on the website http://www.bankrun2010.com/ while expressing the same pessimism as Cantona about strikes and protests when they write “Strikes and demonstrations are no longer useful because whatever we do, we are not heard. And whatever they do, we are not consulted. So we decided to hit the system at its core – THE BANKING SYSTEM”

But what they are calling for is incredibly advanced and would have wide support, if popularised.  “We, the citizens of the 21st century, heirs of generations who have sacrificed so that we may live free and dignified, demand the creation of a CITIZENS BANK- serving citizens, a bank that would put our money away from speculative fever, free of all financial bubbles designed to burst one day, free of operations that transform our loans & assets and use our debt to buy other assets.

We want banks that lend only the wealth they have. Banks that help small and medium enterprises to relocate jobs, & bank lending at zero rate. (*) Banks that support projects that benefit citizens rather than the “market”. Banks where we can deposit our money, which will then create a peaceful conscience within ourselves. Banks we will not have to be worry about. Banks whose success will sound the death knell of the merchants of death, disease and slavery. On the ruins of the old system, we want to build a banking system that will no longer sacrifice more human dignity on the altar of profit.

We, the people have finally been awakened by poverty and despair afflicting the most vulnerable among us – pensioners, welfare recipients or working poor – and is now threatening what remains of the middle class & entrepreneurs. Even these are exploited as milking cows, and we now simply want the cancellation of the public debts generated by the sick system that we no longer want. We do not want our taxes, our efforts, our resources to continue to feed this bottomless pit. We want to regain the power to coin money and free ourselves from the guidelines imposed on us by the European Union, which was built against the consent of the majority of people consulted by referendum, not to mention those whose country of origin have no organized popular consultation.”

So, the movement using  Cantona’s initial call, aren’t seeking to create chaos but rather to replace the current chaos which emerges from the banking system and speculation. Unconsciously, perhaps, Cantona and this movement have learned the lessons from a previous episode in French revolutionary history, the Paris Commune, where the power and nature of banks were mostly left untouched, as Engels explained in his introduction to The Civil War in France “The hardest thing to understand is certainly the holy awe with which they remained standing respectfully outside the gates of the Bank of France. This was also a serious political mistake. The bank in the hands of the Commune – this would have been worth more than 10,000 hostages.”

The response to Cantona’s call has been a mixture of contempt and fear. Valérie Ohannesian, of the French Banking Federation said “My first reaction is to laugh. It is totally idiotic,” A British Bankers Assoication spokeswoman, however, took it a bit more seriously  “”I don’t understand what benefit there would be in trying to crash the banking system,”

“You would very quickly get into a Northern Rock situation if everybody wanted their money at once. It wouldn’t take very long before you get queues and then you would get camera crews.

“Once something looks like a crisis it becomes a crisis. One of the reasons the Northern Rock situation escalated so quickly was there was a perception that everybody wanted to get their money out, and that made more people want to get their money out.”

While there was a pathetic article by Deborah Hargreaves in the Guardian titled “Eric Cantona’s bank protest would hurt us all” wrote “We hate to admit it, but we need banks as much as they need us. Our modern economy is too complicated to function with cash only.” This didn’t even acknowledge the call for those involved in the withdrawal movement to create a citizens bank, based on people’s interest, not profit. But you do have to hand to “King Eric”, which other footballer’s statements would provoke outrage by big banks all around the world.

So far, as yet, the withdrawal movement hasn’t hit Australia, where there is deep resentment against the banks who keep raising interest rates, even though they are making billions in profits. There is also another problem, the mass withdrawal is scheduled for December 7, when the second ashes test is on and anyone who knows anything about Australia knows that no revolution can happen when the cricket’s on.

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