The 2005 G8 Summit, held at the luxury Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland from July 6th to July 8th, was notable for many reasons but three which stood out in particular were:
- (i) the failure to come up with anything to alleviate unremitting poverty in Africa other than a pledge to raise aid by a paltry 15 billion dollars by 2010.
- (ii) a set of announcements on climate change which amount to the final and complete death of Kyoto and with it the assured continued degradation of the environment.
- (iii) co-ordinated bomb attacks in central London which came undoubtedly as a consequence of British involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
This lack of substantive progress, any progress at all in actual fact, came despite an unprecedented ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign spearheaded by Oxfam. Designed to put massive public pressure on the leaders of the G8 to cancel the debt and come up with a package of measures on trade and the environment, it culminated in a huge march in Edinburgh in advance of the summit on Saturday, July 2nd, a march which attracted upwards of 300,000 people from across Europe and the UK. In addition, held in conjunction were live rock concerts in London, Berlin, Philadelphia, Tokyo and Edinburgh organised by those sycophants to the political elite, Bob Geldof and Bono. A veritable who’s who of multimillionaire pop and rock stars turned out for this ego spectacular, along with the odd Hollywood celebrity or two, all of whom it is to be hoped shared the same private jet to save on aviation fuel.
Ultimately this latest exercise in bread and circus political campaigning achieved nothing – nothing at all.
That it did achieve nothing would have come as no surprise to anyone in possession of an analysis which penetrates beyond the symptoms of economic policies and an economic system predicated on ever-increasing profits no matter the human, social or environmental cost. Indeed, the very idea that these eight men, leaders of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, would come to Scotland, stay in the obscene luxury of the Gleneagles Hotel and, there, in between champagne receptions and rounds of golf, get to grips with the mayhem, misery and wars resulting from their policies and their economic system, was simply ludicrous from the word go.
This then brings us to that phenomenon otherwise known as the Global Justice Movement.
Arriving on the international stage with a bang at the WTO in Seattle back in 1999, this heterogeneous movement encompassing groups and people of all political stripe has grown bigger and more coherent with each passing year. And taking stock of this movement’s progress in such a short space of time, it does provide a measure of hope where previously there was none. Prior to 1999 institutions like the WTO, FTAA, and the G8, were able to meet in almost complete anonymity anywhere they liked. And at those meetings they went about their business unmolested and totally unchallenged. Well, not anymore they don’t. Now whenever and wherever they meet it’s under a state of siege.
An example of this came at this year’s summit in the shape of the biggest and most expensive security operation ever mounted in British history. A five mile perimeter fence, complete with watchtowers, was erected around the grounds of the Gleneagles Hotel and manned by thousands of police officers. Chinook helicopters were used to ferry riot police from location to location and above them fighter jets flew regular patrols. Out at sea, in coastal waters, a US aircraft carrier was in position with 2000 US Marines on board ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. All of this stands as a testament to the effectiveness and growth of the Global Justice Movement. Perhaps this movement’s most significant achievement in the six short years of its existence is in exposing the savagery and barbarity hidden behind the benign words and terms employed by the masters of the world to describe their economic policies. Words and terms such as globalization, neo-liberalism, free market, structural adjustment, etc., have all taken on a negative connotation in the public consciousness thanks largely to their efforts.
Working class movement
Various people, no doubt buoyed by the successes just mentioned, have referred to the Global Justice Movement, a movement which also encompasses the antiwar movement, as the New Left. It is here where the problem arises. For to label it New Left suggests that there was an Old Left which now no longer exists, or which has been abandoned for whatever reason. Well, this Old Left does still exist – it comprises the working class – and it remains the only force, or class, capable of taking on this juggernaut of imperialism and free market fundamentalism as it moves around the planet destroying both human and natural resources at an enormous rate.
The goal of the Global Justice Movement must now be to engage with the working class and draw it into the movement. Because, as effective and welcome as mass protests and demonstrations are, they can never be a substitute for mass industrial action. For it is only a general strike, in the UK but especially in the US, that can stop this juggernaut in its tracks, only the meaningful intervention of workers around the world that is truly capable of ushering into being the world without war and exploitation which all people of conscience and consciousness aspire to.
The mobilisation leading up to this year’s summit was organised largely by G8 Alternatives – a loose coalition made up of socialists, peace activists, environmentalists, academics, MSPs, and concerned citizens. In a week of protest marches, rallies and vigils, the event that stood out was the Alternative Summit held at various venues throughout Edinburgh on Sunday, July 3rd. 5,000 people attended plenary sessions and workshops on a wide variety of topics and struggles. Imperialism; aid, trade and debt; the politics of oil; and WMDs were just a few of the major issues analysed and discussed. Anti-imperialist struggles represented included those taking place in Palestine, Iraq, Latin America, and Ireland. Speakers and delegates included people like Susan George, Mark Curtis, Scott Ritter, George Galloway, Bianca Jagger, Trevor Ngwane, Dennis Brutus, Tommy Sheridan, and Eamonn McCann.
Three hundred and fifty protesters were arrested during and around this year’s G8, a direct result of the heavy-handed tactics of thousands of police specially drafted in from various parts of the UK. Their collective mindset was that of an army of occupation. Rather than prevent trouble and facilitate peaceful protest, they went out of their way to intimidate, confront and obstruct anyone who dared try to exercise their democratic rights to free speech and assembly.
Sadly, however, the most significant statistic was the 59 dead and 700 injured as a result of the four bombs which exploded in the London underground during the morning rush hour on Thursday, July 7th. Pictures of Tony Blair in the aftermath pontificating yet again about the need to face terrorism and the terrorists wherever they may be were every bit as nauseating as they’ve always been.
The irony is that the 350 protesters arrested were doing just that when they went up to Gleneagles. For, make no mistake, Bush, Blair & Co. are the most dangerous men on the planet, men collectively responsible for 100,000 and counting dead Iraqi men women and children; for the lives of those soldiers sent to Iraq who won’t be coming back; for the 30,000 children who die each day in sub-Saharan Africa due to hunger and preventable disease; and now for those 59 Londoners, many of whom would have been against the war and were killed on their way to work.
It is simple but true – the only way to prevent terrorism is to stop being a terrorist. These eight men, plutocrats all, their role and function that of representatives of the international ruling class, are terrorists of the most heinous kind. One day, if there is any justice in this world, the perimeter fence erected to protect them in their bubble of luxury at Gleneagles will be a permanent one erected to keep them incarcerated in the high security prison where they truly belong.