G8 2005

The Mafioso of the world get away with it - thanks to Bob, Bono and the Beeb

SSP on Make Poverty History demo

As the travelling circus that is the G8 packs up its tents and moves on, historians may look back on the past weeks and view recent events as being of the same form and mold as the mass hysteria surrounding the death of Princess Diana - a largely media orchestrated event with little lasting substance in reality.

The G8 have met and come to their - wholly undemocratic - decisions. And beneath the bluster and spin what does it all amount to? Sir Bob and Pope Bono told us that "this was our time"; that this was the year when the G8 should grasp the nettle and deal with the problems of Africa; that Live 8 would send a message to "the leaders" to Make Poverty History, and what's more to "do it now". More truthfully, and with significantly more perspective, Nelson Mandela told the world "Poverty is not a natural phenomenon. It is man made and can be unmade." Well, "the leaders" met - and what did they come up with?

On climate change - nothing. A big fat zero that leaves the world hurtling towards environmental disaster. It was progress, we were told, seriously, that America now acepted there was a human component to global warming. Welcome to the real world, George, twenty years after the rest of us.

On fair trade - a "credible" date will be set to "discuss" it. The problem here isn't opening up developing world markets to multinational capitalism you understand. "We" already have that taped. The problem is conceding/denying access of these pesky developing world producers to our so called "free-market" here in the West.

On debt cancellation - they agreed to cancel debts of eighteen countries who were largely not paying the money back anyway, because they are so impoversihed. In real terms this means £800 million a year in new money for the next three years - less than is being spent on the occupation and rape of Iraq. Only countries who qualify through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative get this i.e. those that agree to open up their state owned services such as education and water to exploitation by western corporate capital.

On aid - they agreed to double aid by 2010, to the levels of GDP agreed by the UN nearly 40 years ago. The level of new aid agreed is about a quarter of what aid agencies say is immediately necessary.

On aids - free drugs for Africa. At least that's the way it was spun. It remains to be seen whether the G8 and the world pharmaceutical companies will be so charitable in reality.

To paraphrase one African commentator and anti-poverty campaigner - "the world roared, but the G8 whispered."

State orchestrated protest - Brown and Blair's need for "left" cover

Hundreds of thousands marched and protested - but in the end virtually the whole of this deal - tawdry as it was - had largely been worked out months beforehand by the diplomats of the eight countries involved and had been well trailed in the more authoritative and credible broadsheet media. So what was it all about? How did we end up with the stomach curdling sight of Bob Geldof resting his head on Tony Blair's shoulder on the front page of the Daily Record and, without any empirical justification, claiming that B.liar had done more to end world poverty than any man in history?

I have never been a fan of Geldof, ever since he slagged off Bruce Springsteen as "boring" when the Boomtown Rats record Rat-trap was No 1 in the UK. Politically Geldof is a right wing free marketeer unfit to lace the boots of a man who - without any cameras or journalists being present - walked into a Women's Support Group caravan in Yorkshire with a cheque for £100,000 for the striking miners in the nineteen eighties. And it is a well known fact,surely, that Pope Bono's sunglasses are only stapled to his head to stop his massive Christian ego leaking out. Whatever genuine concern these rich and pampered rock stars may have had for Africa - and let's grant they started out genuine - they ended up in this whole sorry episode being no more than Brown, Bush and Blair's useful idiots. 

At every opportunity they watered down concrete demands to general slogans. At every turn, with the help of the tabloid media and the BBC, they tried to turn numbers away from marching in meaningful protest against the G8, and towards participation in cheer-leading pop concerts where any criticism of the G8 "leaders" was banned on stage.

Even the Make Poverty History demo - in essence the closest thing this country has ever seen to a state orchestrated demo (where the Brownite media, particularly in Scotland, managed the grotesquely Orwellian trick of associating Gordon Brown with a protest against his own policies) - was not to be allowed to become too large. Nonsense press releases from Geldof about fleets of boats bringing people from the continent were in sharp contrast to the reality of eight - count them - eight LIve8 concerts on the day of the Edinburgh march. The theme would continue on the 6th July where another concert was organised in Edinburgh on the same day as the G8 Alternatives demo at Gleneagles. This demo, specifically anti-capitalist and socialist in content, was, in stark contrast to the officially sanctioned protest on the 2nd, one that had to be fought for every inch of the way, and one the authorities attempted to stop right until the last moment. But Bob and Bono, through the pages of the press, continued to megaphone to we mere mortals that Edinburgh was the place to be. Presumably it would have been easier for the riot police to pen us in those geometrical streets.

So what was this really all about? The G8, aware of the history of mass protest in Seattle, Genoa etc were anxious to funnel that protest down safe avenues this time around. They wanted an agenda that was about the rich countries "helping" Africa, rather than a specifically anti-capitalist critique about their role in multi-national globalisation and the global impoverishment that process has brought about. Cue the NGO's, cue the charities, cue the celebs and cue a compliant New Labour media establishment fresh from its election success of portraying the Lib-Dems as the "only" and "safe" alternative to Blair.

Also, specifically in a UK context, Blair and Brown had their own motivations. Blair wanted to recover some central ground lost on the Iraq war. Geldof duly obliged help this master-liar portray himself as the honest broker at the G8, trying to help the poor African folks, but being hindered by others less saintly and progressive. For Brown, linked irretrievably with Blair on Iraq and economic policy, here was an even more important opportunity for a man who hopes to replace Blair as New Labour leader and Prime Minister of the PPP/PFI opportunity that is Great Britain PLC.

Brown will need the "left" vote in the Parliamentary Labour Party, the constituencies and the unions to win a leadership contest with any Blairite candidate. Here was a reasonably safe foreign poicy issue on which he could perorate, gesticulate and associate to his hearts content; one that would add to the carefully cultured Brownite myth that Gordon is really an Old Labour wolf in New Labour city gent clothing. For the thousands that marched on the Make Poverty History demo the suffering and deaths of thousands a day were the issue. For those master manipulators behind the scenes it was about providing a left cover opportunity for Gordon Brown, one with a stage cast of unwitting thousands.

Struggle is the test

This strategy was enormously successful. No one who was on "Make Capitalism History" demo at Gleneagles on the 6th July and who then saw the national media coverage afterwards (Newsnight Scotland honourably excepted), could doubt the conscious participation of the media in helping Blair and Brown and Bob and Bono write their despicable, poisonous and lying narrative around this summit. Real people did real business behind real closed doors - your job was to lie back and enjoy the gig. Anyone else trying to say anything different was an anarchist yob, running about like a headless chicken, fighting the police.

However, it is a credit to the the international anti-capitalist movement, and particularly to the SSP in Scotland, that they did not get it all their own way. Our relatively small forces struggled to make our points; but they were made and on occasion heard.

The very fact that the Gleneagles demo took place was itself a triumph. Here at last, unmediated by any other agenda, was the real face of protest, the real ideological alternative to naked capitalist corporate barbarism across the face of our planet - and until the police deliberately left an empty field open to invasion by the tactically unschooled it looked rather like a joyous and peaceful carnival.

All forces are tested in the arena of struggle. In the past few weeks I would argue that the forces of reformism, anarchism and the Greens (at least their Scottish incarnation) have been tested and found wanting.

Those who would reform the system but who do not challenge capital, or worse, believe that lasting reforms can be delivered by the very mafioso system that enslaves our world, were, at the end of the day, too easily used by cynical politicians and their arse-licking celebrity friends for short term political ends.

The anarchists too, were useful idiots in their own way, providing another jigsaw piece to the Blairite narrative with their inchoate oppositionism directed at the paraphenalia and outgrowths of capitalism rather than capitalism itself.

The Greens simply turned out to be pro-establishment policemen. The Sell-Out Seven Green MSP's who, in the Scottish Parliament, voted with the rest of the establishment cabal to hang, draw and quarter four Socialist MSP's for a non-violent peaceful protest about the right to demonstrate at Gleneagles, should lower their heads in shame.

They voted to deny these MSP's constituents representation in the Parliament for a month. They voted to with-hold wages from these MSP's - who, unlike the Greens, only take the average wage of a skilled worker - for a whole month. Worst of all, they endorsed punishment by association by penalising SSP Parliamentary Staff who hadn't even participated in the protest by denying them a living wage for a month also. With "friends" like these, who needs enemies? We have still to see a single letter in any of the press from a rank-and-file Green activist disassociating themselves from these draconian and politically opportunist actions.

Socialists, on the other hand, can hold their heads high. We organised dozens upon dozens of meetings up and down the country, either with G8 Alternatives or as the SSP, explaining the real issues underlying the G8 summit and the real underlying cause of world poverty - world capitalism itself. We raised at every opportunity in Parliament, in public, and in print, those self-same issues and connections about globalisation, privatisation, imperialism and "free trade".

While participating with the NGO's, churches and trade unions in the broader movement for reform we produced and distributed material that argued that real change only comes through struggle against the All-Consuming Beast itself.

Above all we kept the real flame of anti-capitalist protest alive by insisting and ensuring that the ideological voice of the world's poor and oppressed was taken to the very gates of the Gleneagles summit on Wednesday July 6th, 2005.

Steve Arnott 10th July 2005