The G8 summit was held in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, from June 17th – 18th. It is eight years since the G8 summit held at Gleneagles in July 2005. Emancipation & Liberation covered that summit quite extensively in issue no. 11 (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/category/publications/emancipation-liberation/issue-11/). Little has changed.
The first article by John McAnulty of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) shows the wider significance of the Enniskillen location chosen for this summit. This venue was chosen to help prop of the UK-Irish government Peace Process in the North and to maintain this as an international example of imperialist conflict resolution. As the second report, this time from eirigi highlights, massive amounts have been spent on security, with police and other security forces mobilised from across the UK. Significantly, police forces from across the UK, are now also being sent to help the PSNI manage the annual Orange Order sectarian Unionist/Loyalist supremacist marches. Legitimate attempts to protest at Enniskillen and Belfast were clamped down on by the police, just as they were in Edinburgh and Auchterarder in 2005.
This is followed by two earlier articles. One from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) highlights the significance of the choice of venue for the British government, and Ireland’s current position, subjected both to EU and US/British imperialism. Another from eirigi, makes an overall political assessment of the two day event.
1. SAVING THE PEACE – THE INFORMAL AGENDA OF THE G8 SUMMIT
In terms of world politics the Lough Erne G8 meeting was a dud. Its main business was to whip up the flames of war against Syria. Although the US and Britain are increasing imperialist military intervention, they were unable to generate a wider support.
The other main issue was a choreographed pantomime, framed by straight men in the NGOs and Social Democracy, that set out an imaginary global strategy where the great powers would turn on the transnational companies that they represent and bring them to book over tax avoidance! This in a meeting where Ireland stands exposed as a tax haven, local politicians lobby for a lowering of corporation tax and Cameron threatens to withdraw from Europe if a minute transaction tax is applied to big finance! Clearly no-one remembers the Edinburgh G8, when we all solemnly agreed to make poverty history.
In fact the main significance of the G8 was its location. An informal agenda item was the need to shore up the local peace process.
This Irish role of the G8 was not the subject of analysis, although politicians and media constantly referred to the showcasing of the North, it was assumed that this was entirely fortuitous and that the G8 was too large an entity to pay any attention to a scrap of land on the north-western corner of Ireland.
But the location of the conference was entirely at the gift of British Prime Minister Cameron to make the most effective political use of. And in the North he found much to worry about.
The truth is that the flag protests undid years of patient work and millions of pounds spent to establish the normality of society here. Internally enormous damage was done to the pretence that police and state would defend democratic rights. The icing on the cake was the reality that the riots were provoked by the leading party in the executive who fully support the sectarian demands of their supporters and utterly refuse to agree a programme of reform 15 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
Much of this lies at the door of the British. At no time in 30 years of war did they discuss withdrawal from Ireland. When they were in a position to dictate terms they based their solution on partition. Of necessity this involved a sectarian solution with the unionists as top dogs. Bound by the contradictions of their own solution, they are reduced to chivvying the Unionists to show restraint while pressuring the nationalists to accept the triumphalist posturing demanded by loyalism. This strategy is strongly supported by the US, justifying a side trip by Obama on his way to the G8. This is because the Irish peace process has international significance as a successful example of conflict resolution used to bamboozle oppressed people across the world, with Martin McGuinness a frequent speaker lauding the wonders of the local settlement.
In the context of G8 this involved Cameron:
· Showcasing the achievements of the peace process, · Highlighting the bright future of Business/Tourism · Deploying the state forces in a display of shock and awe.
The achievements of peace
Much was made of the “cohesion” statement of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness issued shortly before the G8. Yet the statement actually illustrates the unstable nature of the local settlement. It is 15 years late, all the major issues have been left to one side, it was only produced following enormous pressure from the British and the content is aspirational twaddle. For example, in relation to the increasing sectarianism of civil society and the growing number of apartheid “peace walls,” the aspiration is that they be removed in a decade – with Robinson absent-mindedly remarking that they may be replaced by gates!
This level of achievement indicates the problem that the British face. The peace process was designed to preserve unionism, but it was imposed against their will and has constantly been pushed to the right, making the system more and more unstable.
The bright future
Local capitalism has a single economic strategy – cut corporation tax! There are a few problems with the strategy:
It’s one of the main factors in the Celtic Tiger boom and the subsequent collapse.
Even if successful, it would mean competing with a 26 county state with much greater levels of political stability.
It’s not on offer. Tax levels must reflect the needs of the British state, not the local capitalists.
What was announced was a package of warmed over initiatives. The jewel in the crown was special enterprise zones – a proposal that led to an immediate row when it was announced that it would be taken from the environment portfolio to be administered by Robinson and McGuinness. Even among the MLAs the expectation was of another round of sectarian carve-ups and patronage with little overall economic impact.
The one claim of success in the growth of tourism was to be amplified by the G8 meeting. It was conveniently overlooked that the conference hotel was in receivership following the property crash.
In fact the increase in Tourism, which in any case leveled off last year, has a very simple mechanism – the insertion of public subsidy and the extraction of private profit. Event after event has been subsided culminating in the G8 meeting itself. The car crash of the Derry “UK city of culture” is being outdone by the farce of the bizarre flop of the World Police and Fire Games, a “D” celebrity of the event world brought here on a tide of money.
Even if the industry were to overcome the damage of the flag protests, the fact is that the strategy is unsustainable. Belfast’s Titanic Quarter has successfully attracted visitors, but they would need full bookings for a quarter of a century to recover the public investment.
Shock and Awe
So what is left is shock and awe.
The mass mobilisation of armed police in Belfast and Enniskillen, the mass invasion of British riot squads, the countless checkpoints, the investment in military technology, including a local drone system, the pop-up jails ready to round up protestors, the £60 million price tag, all those were so incredibly out of proportion that they called out for explanation.
The police claimed stupidity. It had proved impossible to estimate the threat to the conference. Given the revelations of mass surveillance by the state and the constant local spying, this can be dismissed. It’s a claim made even more ludicrous when we consider that the protests were led by the local union bosses, who are defined by decades of social partnership with the state and could not have been seen by the state as a threat. Nor does the stupidity defense explain the public nature of the mobilization. The police presence would have appeared less threatening parked a few streets away, instead of cheek by jowl with vastly outnumbered demonstrators.
No – the police staged a mass political demonstration to indicate the armed threat they could deploy. Who was the threat aimed at?
To some extent it can be claimed that it is a response to global instability and a growing unwillingness to accept public protests aimed at the G8 wherever it is held, yet that point was made more forcefully in London, where the police staged pre-emptive commando raids on protestors.
Locally one point can be established right away. The threat of force was not aimed at the Loyalists except in the most indirect of ways – hinting that British police would be less open to be turned around by loyalist pressure. The massive police presence, hemming in the Belfast trade union demonstration, was totally unable to move a few dozen Loyalists staging a “flag” protest inches from the trade union rally. The fascists were able to spew hatred of trade unionism in general and Irish trade unionism in particular, waving the Israeli flag to insult some supporters of Palestinian rights and assert their support for an Israeli-style blitzkrieg against their nationalist opponents.
Britain is determined that the marching season should pass without major violence and the local administration scaffolded into some semblance of stability. The history of the Orange demonstrations and the recent flag protests show that they are equally determined that there be no major confrontation between the state and their loyalist base. That leaves only one option – nationalist protests must be quietly smothered by deploying overwhelming numbers of police.
As with many other aspects of Irish politics, there is a hidden dimension that must be included for a full understanding of events. The final element of the G8 protests was the absence of Sinn Fein from the ranks of the protesters. Before G8 an important part of their political strategy was to be present as part of the Left. They did this even when openly speaking out of both sides of their mouth – supporting austerity in Stormont and protesting it on the streets.
The space for such posturing has narrowed. During G8 they were firmly on the side of the state, with Gerry Adams arm in arm with DUP minister Sammy Wilson, inside the Obama tent applauding the platitudes of US imperialism.
John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy-Ireland), 4.7.13
(Socialist Democracy note: this analysis was written before the announcement that British police would be deployed in Ireland over the 12th Orange demonstrations.)
2. PSNI TARGET EIRIGI MEMBERS IN CLAMPDOWN ON G8 OPPOSITION IN BELFAST
Following the arrest and detention this morning (Wednesday) of a member of the socialist republican party, éirígí, while putting up anti-G8 posters on Belfast’s Falls Road, the PSNI also seized similar posters from other members of the party in the Glen Road area of the city.
Pádraig Ó Meiscill was arrested beside the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast this morning (Wednesday) and taken to Grosvenor Road barracks by the PSNI as he and another party member, John McCusker, were erecting posters opposing the G8 summit.
It is believed that Ó Meiscill is the first member of any opposition political party to be arrested during the current ‘security’ clampdown in the run-up to the G8 conference in Fermanagh.
éirígí’s general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, condemned the arrest and said, “Both Pádraig and John were putting up posters calling for opposition to the G8. Such activity falls well within the scope of what the vast majority of people would consider to be legitimate and peaceful political activity.
“However, both members were accused by the PSNI of ‘causing criminal damage’ by erecting the posters. When both men challenged the PSNI personnel on the ludicrous reason for stopping and questioning them, the PSNI then stated that Pádraig, who is well-known as a Gaeilgeoir and Irish language activist, was being arrested and taken to Grosvenor Road barracks ‘to have his identity checked’.
“This arrest was later followed by other incidents which included the harassment of other party members in the Glen Road area of Andersonstown and the seizure of anti-G8 posters under ‘anti-terror’ legislation by the PSNI.
“All of our party members who were subject to this PSNI operation today were engaged in legitimate political activity. They were breaking no laws and they were not engaged in any form of disruptive or other activity. Despite these facts, they were clearly targeted in a coordinated manner by several heavily armed PSNI units.
“It is clear that the PSNI is acting under strict political orders to suppress any form of political opposition against the forthcoming G8 summit in Fermanagh and today’s incidents are a clear indication of the true nature of the intense security operation currently being deployed across the Six Counties.
“In recent days, the PSNI and others have sought to create an oppressive atmosphere of fear and intimidation ahead of the G8 conference in an attempt to stifle legitimate political protest. The entire buildup, with high profile policing operations, British military deployments, temporary prisons, round-the-clock special courts and airborne drones, is clearly designed to prevent any form of political dissent against the reactionary capitalist and imperialist policies of the G8 countries.
“Our members are being harassed, arrested and party literature seized as they attempt to cut through that climate of intimidation by engaging in legitimate political activity aimed at sending a message to the general public that people are entitled to protest against the aims of the G8.
“That is clearly a message which the PSNI are under strict orders to prevent being heard.
“Despite this harassment, our members intend to continue going about the same type of political activities which the PSNI now deem to be illegitimate.”
Mac Cionnaith added, “The PSNI’s targeting of our members should send a clear warning out to other political parties of the left, to trade unionists and to community sector groups organising against the G8 summit. It is warning that what has previously been accepted as normal political activity is now under threat in the Six Counties.
“Although they may deny it through their slick PR machines, the PSNI and the powers-that-be in the Six Counties are intent on preventing citizens from exercising their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of political expression in order to stifle opposition to the G8 summit.”
(First posted on:- http://www.eirigi.org/latest/latest120613.html#sthash.vNcDBEWE.dpuf)
3. IRELAND: A COUNTRY DOMINATED BY IMPERIALISM
The hosting of the G8 Summit in Co Fermanagh shows the degree to which Ireland is still dominated by imperialism. This most immediate illustration of this relates to the location of the summit itself. For despite it being in an Irish county, the event is hosted by the British Government. This points to the fact that Ireland remains divided. By choosing County Fermanagh as the location Britain is sending out the clear message that its state (incorporating the six counties of Northern Ireland) is intact and that the political settlement on which it rests is stable. The G8 Summit will give a clear endorsement of this position. Of course this completely undermines the notion promoted by nationalists that the status of the north is more fluid and it is somehow moving towards joint sovereignty or a united Ireland. The reality is that partition is the arrangement favoured by imperialism (not just Britain but the US and EU as well) for maintaining political and economic stability in Ireland. In these circumstances the idea that the intervention of imperialism of whatever stripe, or the “logic” of capitalist development, can play a progressive role in Ireland is an illusion. They are in fact barriers to self-determination.
However, imperialism is not just maintained through external force. The most important element is support from a section of population of the subjugated nation. In Ireland this support comes from the capitalist class. Throughout its history the Irish bourgeoisie have been inconsistent fighters for both self-determination and national development. Frightened of the potential power of Irish labour it has been more willing to seek accommodation with imperialism than achieve national rights. While it still makes gestures towards Irish Republicanism it has long abandoned the ideology and has used the power of the state to suppress the various attempts to revive republicanism as a movement. In common with imperialism, and for the same reasons, the Irish capitalist class supports the continuation of partition.
What underpins the political alliance between the Irish capitalist class and imperialism is the domination of Ireland’s economy by foreign capital. While limited attempts were made at national development in the 1930’s & 40s, by the early 60’s these had been abandoned and the southern state opened itself up to foreign capital. This accelerated with membership of the EEC in 1973 and has continued apace through the period of the Celtic Tiger up to the present day.
Ireland is now one of the most globalised economies in the world. It is also one that is dominated by foreign capital. For example, of the top (in terms of turnover) 50 companies in Ireland, 31 are multinationals. Many of the remainder that are nominally “Irish” are oriented on the international market and a large proportion of their operations are based overseas. Multi national companies dominate pharmaceuticals, information technology and financial services. The foreign presence in those sectors of the economy that are most export orientated is so dominant that Irish exports actually exceed the value of GDP.
Ireland has a two-tier economy – a top tier composed of foreign owned companies oriented to the international market, and a bottom tier of indigenous owned companies catering to a relatively underdeveloped domestic market. This divergence is reflected in the wide gap between GDP, the output generated within Ireland and GNP, the income that goes to residents. The gap, which stood at 20 per cent in 2011, indicates both the big profits being made by foreign firms and the extent to which value is being extracted from the Irish economy as those profits are repatriated.
One of the reasons that profits are so high in Ireland is the low level of corporation tax. At only 12.5 per cent it is one the lowest in the world. Moreover, while this is the head-line rate the “effective” rate for multinational corporations is constructed tax arrangements for specific companies that deliver a rate of less than 2 per cent. Apple executives have publicly acknowledged that the company has had a special arrangement with the Irish government since 2003. Between 2009 and 2012 it paid just 0.05% on the $22 billion earned by its Irish subsidiary, Apples Sales International. This company has no production attached to it and employs only a handful of people. In hosting such profit declaring entities the Irish state acts a clearinghouse for the profits of multinationals. The description of it as a “tax haven” is a correct one.
The epitome of Ireland’s accommodating approach to international capital is the banking collapse and the subsequent Troika bailout. This came about when the property boom, fuelled by lending into Ireland by European financial institutions, turned to bust and the Irish banks were left with liabilities far exceeding assets. Rather than let the banks fail the Irish ruling class was prepared to bankrupt their own state to guarantee the bondholders would suffer no loss. To continue with this approach they were prepared to enter a bailout programme that transferred decision-making on a raft of government policies to the Troika. Despite all the talk of the importance of “economic sovereignty” Ireland has probably less now than it did in 1922.
The Irish capitalist class sees its fortunes as being completely bound up with those of imperialism. Even the old gestures towards some idea of independence such as “military neutrality” have been abandoned. The Irish state supported the Iraq War (most obviously by allowing use Shannon airport by the US military); it contributes personnel to EU rapid reaction forces; and is drawing ever closer to NATO membership. Most recently it has supported the EU intervention in Africa with Irish troops deploying under the command of British officers for the first time since 1922.
The complete identification of the Irish bourgeoisie with imperial-ism rules it out of any role in the struggle for national and democratic rights. For these can only be won in opposition to imperial-ism. That task must fall to the working class. In the circumstances that we face today the slogan that “the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland” still retains its relevance.
4. ANTI-G8 – REPORT OF ACTIVITY
For the last number of weeks éirígí activists have been in preparation to oppose the G8 visit to Ireland.
That opposition was based on a simple, but true, premise. This was a visit by eight individuals who have been responsible for war crimes and widespread human rights abuses, and who collectively share a political and economic ideology that has not only crippled Ireland’s economy but which has also condemned tens of millions of people around the world to death as a result of poverty and hunger.
These same war criminals kill their opponents without compunction from a safe distance in order to maintain the position of wealthy and powerful elites around the globe.
The purpose of the G8 visit to Fermanagh was to show how ‘normal’ Britain’s six-county colony in Ireland has become – that the Irish struggle for justice had been defeated. Along with many others, éirígí aligned itself to that respectable minority seeking to prove that notion wrong.
It was evident from the security measures put in place across the Six Counties and which even extended into the Twenty Six Counties that Ireland is a society which is far from ‘normal’. The cost of the British security operation in the Six Counties has been estimated to have been a minimum of £50 million and may also reach double that amount.
Those measures were put in place to prevent and intimidate people from exercising their rights to freedom of political thought, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.
A special surveillance operation was also put in place to monitor the movements of anti-G8 demonstrators across a wide range of organisational backgrounds including political activists, trade union members and environmental campaigners.
At least one independent news outlet has reported how the PSNI and other British intelligence gathering agencies targeted and tracked key personalities such as long-time civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey, Bloody Sunday campaigner and socialist Eamonn McCann, and éirígí’s general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith.
While all this was happening, establishment parties and puppet politicians in Stormont and Leinster House welcomed the G8 and cheered at the hypocritical calls for peace from war criminal Obama. They should hang their heads in shame.
éirígí members and supporters in Belfast, Dublin and many other areas were actively engaged in protest against the visit.
In the Six Counties, Britain’s police forces harassed, stopped, questioned and searched éirígí activists. In one case, a party activist was arrested and detained for several hours in Belfast for the ‘subversive offence’ of pasting an anti-G8 poster on a wall. In response, activists quickly staged a protest outside Woodbourne barracks against such outright and repressive political policing. Undeterred by this harassment activists continued putting up posters throughout West Belfast.
Members of other groups and organisations actively opposed to the G8 fared no better.
On Saturday June 15th, amid heavy rain and an even more ridiculously heavy British police presence, an éirígí contingent formed part of the ICTU-organised protest in Belfast city centre. Although threats had been made against éirígí’s participation in the trade union organised demonstration by a newly formed fascist group, the Ulster Defence League, numbers within the éirígí contingent was noticeably larger than expected with many new supporters attending.
Throughout the weekend and during the G8 visit, éirígí activists dropped banners over the main M1 motorway, visible to all passing traffic, with very clear messages: ‘Imperialists Out of Ireland – G8 Not Welcome’ and ‘G8 – Capitalism Kills’.
On Monday June 17th, a sizeable éirígí contingent with members from both the 6 and 26 Counties took part in the anti-G8 march which commenced in Enniskillen and then snaked its way for several miles along heavily policed country roads to the main outer security fence near the hotel where the G8 leaders were encamped.
At this point, éirígí activists were the first to penetrate the G8’s ‘ring of steel’ and to go over the razor wire. As more anti-G8 opponents followed, riot squads emerged from behind nearby hedgerows while additional British police reinforcements were deployed to the scene.
In this centenary year of the Dublin Lock-Out of 1913, ‘a respectable minority’ re-emerged in Ireland in recent weeks to again challenge the might of the powerful and the wealthy in order to give a voice to the voiceless of many nations and ensure that the true meanings of justice and freedom were heard above hypocritical tones of capital and greed.