THE GUARDIAN: “[T]he book’s just the start of a conversation. I don’t know what you do about private education or private fuckin’ anything – I’m not a bloody politician. I want to address the alienation and sense of despair that you see all around us. Everyone’s fucked off, everyone’s had enough, so it don’t matter to me how much people have a go at me, because I live in the world and walk around, and people are going, ‘Well done, Russell, well done, son.’ I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to die for this.” He finally takes a breath. “Yeah, I’m ready to die for it.” […] I am excited. I’m going to enjoy this like nothing else, because for once I’m on the right side of the argument. And this is the right time. I feel it. I feel it. The means exist.”
I ask if he normally talks so fast. “Yes. Yes. So now, why I’m excited and why I endorse not voting, is because the farther politics drifts to the right, the better it is. Good. Antagonise people. Let’s get to the point where people are no longer just satisfied with iPods, iPads, iWatches. To the point where people go, ‘I’ve had enough.’” Is he advocating rioting? “It doesn’t have to be through rioting. It can be through total disobedience, non-payment of taxes, non-payment of mortgages.”
Caring capitalism was a blip, from 1945 to the end of the 70s, he says: a one-off created by the second world war and the founding of the welfare state. “Capitalism is going to continue to increase inequality. And people are preparing now for what follows capitalism. If people are informed and activated, it will be something that’s more liberal and fair; if they’re not, it will be draconian and terrifying. I think people in power are preparing for the latter. That’s why $4.2bn worth of military equipment has been transferred to local police authorities in America over the last 15 years. Why London authorities are buying water cannons and why Thomas Piketty’s book is causing such a stir.” MORE
EXCERPT: David Graeber is best known for his idea of debt cancellation. Personal debt cancellation used to be a common policy in ancient civilisations; every seven years, all debt was cancelled. The Bible refers to “debt jubilees”, where everyone’s debt would be reset to zero. It’s especially nice that it was called a “jubilee”, creating an even more euphoric sense of carnival. In Islam, too, usury, credit at extortionate rates – like Wonga or whatever offer – is forbidden. So this bizarre-sounding notion has strong historic precedent. It is a mark of how far into materialism we have descended that it seems unfeasible in our world.
David explained that debt repayment has a powerful moral charge in our culture, that people feel ashamed about debt and guilty about non-payment. Seventy-five per cent of Americans are in debt, 40% owing more than $50,000, while an estimated nine million British people are in “serious debt”. What David Graeber, the anarchist, is suggesting is that all personal debt, debt for normal people, is cancelled. Think about it. That means you. All your debt cancelled. […] I thought about the ramifications. Well, obviously, most people would be thrilled. Tuesday night you go to bed with a credit card bill, mortgage and a bloody headache; Wednesday you wake up with a spring in your step and a pound note in your pocket. What a touch. Obviously this is not such good news for credit card companies and banks; overnight, their entire operation has irrevocably altered. Most of these companies are international, too, so what would the impact be on global finances? I imagine a mainstream economist – and let me tell you off the bat, I’ve no fucking intention of asking one – would say this action would instigate financial meltdown.
What Graeber says in response to this is that $700bn was written off and trillions were lent to banks as the result of the 2008 financial crash. When the reckless and greedy trading, lending and gambling of the financial industry led to an economic breakdown that, if not resolved, would’ve provoked social upheaval, possibly Revolution, the governments of affected nations got together (in a smoky, dim-lit room?) and decided to press reset on the economy. Aside from a few people carrying plants out of their offices in cardboard boxes, I don’t remember there being many consequences at all. Just some people with plants looking confused by a revolving door. Oh, and 13.1 million American people had their homes foreclosed. Because their debt, it turns out, was real; it was only the debt within the financial sector that was imaginary. It was only the people who generated the crisis who got three magical wishes from an economic genie. There was no abracadabra for ordinary people, they just got abraca-fucked. So we are not discussing whether or not debt cancellation is a possibility; we know it is, we’ve seen it, they’ve done it. All we are discussing is whom it is possible for. Them or us. MORE