Nick Clarke examines the reality behind the G8 agenda and looks at the alternative
As the leaders of the G8 countries, together with their overpaid, overfed and self important delegations, meet at the luxurious Gleneagles estate in the Perthshire countryside, we welcome protesters to Scotland from a myriad of campaigns, pressure groups and political organisations, from a host of countries, from every continent, to disrupt, protest and make their opposition heard.
With Britain holding the Presidency of the G8 this year, Blair gets his chance to play host to those other party animals: George W. Bush, Gerhard Schroder, Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi, Paul Martin, Vladimir Putin, Junichiro Koizumi and Jose Manuel Barroso. Blair will also be there in his role as president of the EU! Blair will no doubt grin, pose for the cameras and throw his weight around as Bush’s loyal flunky, to ensure that the
US president is not too isolated.
The failure of the mutiny by Labour MPs, following their disappointing election result, and Gordon Brown’s apparent acquiescence, means that a serious challenge to his leadership never materialised. As President of the G8, Blair has decreed that the ‘main themes’ at Gleneagles should be Africa and climate change. On Africa, Blair comes across as some manic-eyed, 21st century missionary, displaying a ‘we know what’s best for you’ parochialism!
Perceived wisdom is that this is a continent on ‘the edge of disaster’. Wrong! This is a continent in the midst of a catastrophe and has been for many decades. It has reaped the whirlwind of the colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries and the worst excesses of the global grip of imperialism. Raw materials – both human and material resources – have been plundered: from the slave trade to rubber, sugar and precious minerals such as gold, oil and diamonds. These rich reserves do not benefit the millions of Africans and their societies, but are used to satisfy the drive for profit of international capitalism and the greed of the elites of these countries. Colonial powers such as Britain, France, Portugal and Belgium, and the institutionalised racism and white supremacism of apartheid were the agents of this robbery.
Today, international capitalism with such corporations as Anglo American, De Beers, BP and Lonrho, together with the local stooges of Western imperialism such as Mobuto and Savimbi, have taken on that role. This legacy of this relationship is that Africa contains 18 of the world’s 20 poorest countries. Western government and global corporation financed warlords and their gangs bring untold misery to millions.
Education and welfare is strangled by the need of children to work, to earn money to help their families survive. Aids/HIV is rampaging through almost every country of sub-Saharan Africa, and the western pharmaceutical conglomerates squabble over the cost of the drugs that could relieve some of the pain felt by fellow human beings – they are the sacrifice demanded when putting profit before people.
Of course the debt owed by African and other developing countries, should be written off. The original debt has been paid off several times over. It is the extortionate interest, which the banks demand, which ensures the continuation of debt-slavery. This is the minimum they deserve after decades of super-exploitation by colonialism and imperialism. On top of this there should be aid with no strings attached. Many ‘aid’ packages today are no such thing. The conditions of the ‘donations’ dictate that goods and services are purchased from the ‘contributing’ country.
Similar to the situation under colonialism, socialists should be arguing that African states should not just the have the right to self-determination from the influence of former colonial powers, but also from the neo-colonialism of the WTO, IMF and other ‘world’ bodies dominated by the G8 members. These bodies attempt to impose neo-liberal, free market solutions onto debtor nations, thus further enslaving the people to the agenda of international capital.
Already the masses in some of these countries are fighting back, most recently in Bolivia. Here a joint campaign has been organised between the working class and the indigenous people against water and gas privatisation. The mass movement has taken on the transnational corporations with strikes, protests and blockades. It has removed one president from office and stopped another candidate becoming head of state.
Britain, like other imperialist states, also encourages its arms industry to sell highly profitable hardware to some of the world’s poorest countries, often allowing their local mouthpiece to retain power, oppress their people and suppress the progressive and genuinely democratic movements. Many of these are the same African countries for which Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are claiming to show ‘humanitarian’ concern.
Don’t forget, it was the same hypocrites who attacked Iraq for stockpiling non-existent weapons of mass destruction who are the biggest arms dealers in the world. They supply all kinds of equipment designed to torture, maim or kill to anti-democratic regimes, including, in the past, to Saddam Hussein. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, worldwide spending on arms exceeded £560 billion, needless to say almost 50% of that was spent by the USA.
Gordon Brown says that he will be in Edinburgh on the Make Poverty History (MPH) march. This is the man responsible for Britain’s public finances, who pledged that the budget for the war on Iraq was limitless, thus adding many Iraqis, both young and old, to the impoverished of the world. For the last 8 years, he has been the second most powerful elected politician in Britain, yet he has only just discovered that there are thousands of children dying in Africa from poverty and the policies that his government and class pursue.
While it is important to highlight the criminality, horror and inhumanity of the world order and the global capitalist system we live under, it is also vital that we also put forward a positive vision of how we can change that.G8 Alternatives has organised a week of events, protests and an alternative summit to that going on in Gleneagles.
The authorities have given their full backing and cooperation in the organising of the sanitised MPH demonstration on 2 July, which has been given the blessing of Gordon Brown, Bono, Bob Geldof and other worthies. These people fear the militant anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist/ anti-war forces which have made their international impact felt from Seattle onwards. They want us all on our knees, offering our prayers up to the G8 leaders, begging for some charitable relief. The spirit of the MPH demo is illustrated by the fact its organisers have threatened to stop people using megaphones or banners on the march, have removed Stop the War speakers from the platform and have insisted everyone wears white. Still at least the red, socialist contingents should be more visible and distinctive.
Meanwhile, the Wednesday protest at the Gleneagles G8 conference venue has met with official obstruction. The Gleneagles demonstration has been targeted, because its participants are not going to beg G8 leaders to be nice. They know that to make poverty history, you have to make capitalism history. Those G8, self-appointed leaders of the world, are not our friends, as Sir Bob Geldof laughingly, tells us. They are the topmost representatives of that capitalist and imperialist system, which is responsible for most of the major ills in the world today.
In their attempt to frustrate us in exercising our democratic right to protest against the
G8 butchers, the authorities have been deploying the fear factor. Up to now, a combination of the police, Scottish executive and local council have denied permission for an organised, stewarded demonstration up to the steel security barrier that surrounds the venue. Instead their response was to offer an unacceptable, static 4,000-person rally in the local village park, for a cost of £20,000. This has been rejected. No cost should be put on the freedom to protest.
Alternative vision of the world
Contrast this with the £ millions of taxpayers’ money spent on security and hospitality to ensure these eight men and their entourages get a luxurious, relaxing mid-week break in the Scottish countryside. Despite the best efforts of the G8 Alternatives organisers, the authorities now risk thousands of anti-capitalist protesters arriving in the Perthshire countryside with no organised focus.
Everyone should be encouraged to go to all the demonstrations at Gleaneagles, Edinburgh, Faslane nuclear base and Dungavel detention centre, but the Alternative Summit in Edinburgh on the Sunday is crucial. Its role will be to provide the opportunity for activists and socialists from around the world to exchange information and ideas about the global situation, and to discuss an alternative vision of a world where people come before profit, where social ownership replaces private property, where alienation is destroyed and replaced by a genuinely democratic worldwide community. The only real and lasting solution to inequality and poverty across the planet is the struggle for communism – a classless, stateless society of abundance for all.