After the G8

Submitted by AWL on 21 July, 2005 - 8:44

We asked socialists and activists to comment on the way to campaign against world poverty after the G8 summit.

Workers will fight back

Mick Duncan, No Sweat

The poor are poor because they are exploited. But they fight back. The many illegal strikes by workers in China, or union organising drives in Haiti, show workers fighting back in the hardest and poorest of conditions. We should give solidarity. The better we wage the struggle against exploitation here, the better we’ll be able to organise that solidarity. Workers’ rights and workers’ solidarity worldwide, a struggle for the working class worldwide to gain control over the productive wealth it has created, should be our focus — not appeals to the rich to ease up a bit.

Accountability but not conditions

Trisha Rogers, Jubilee Debt Campaign

We must make our voices heard, both to the Blair government and to the other finance ministries. What’s on the table for debt relief isn’t enough and has harmful economic policy conditions still attached.

We must distinguish between accountability — that’s fine, governments receiving aid should account for how they use it — and economic policy conditions. The present qualifications for entering the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief scheme include harmful policy conditions.

The UK government has agreed that they will not impose economic policy conditions on aid, but debt relief still has those conditions.

Big public actions do have an effect. We have to keep the pressure up.

End liberalisation

John Coventry, War on Want

The next step as regards the Make Poverty History campaign should be to put wholesale pressure on the UK government, which is taking a lead in imposing trade liberalisation and privatisation of services on developing countries, leading up to to the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong in December. Without an end to this forced liberalisation and privatisation, there is no chance of making poverty history.

Hold them to promises

Malcolm Fleming, Oxfam

It depends on what the G8 do say. We’re trying to push them as far as they’ll go. After the G8, depending on what’s happened there, the campaign will continue — to put more pressure on the G8 governments and hold them to the promises they make.

Different ways of relating

Colonel Klepto of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army

We’ll be evaluating the success of the process. Our training is to get people to learn to play more, to liberate themselves through play. That is useful not only in protests but in work and everywhere. Clowning is a way to get people to learn new ways of relating. We see that as continuing way beyond the G8.

The Iraq Procurement Conference in April 2004 [where CIRCA took part in the protest along with No Sweat and others] was only our second action. We have expanded a lot since then. We had 150 people on the Make Poverty History march, all trained up.

We’ve recently done a nine-city tour, and we now have gaggles of clowns in all of the cities — in Paris, in Belgium, in Ireland, and in many British cities.

Take responsibility for the effects of globalisation

Jabez Lam, campaigner for Chinese migrant workers’ rights

The G8 has been a force behind promoting corporate globalisation and encouraging the free movement of goods and capital. At the same time they restrict the movement of people.

All their policies are about opening up the world for capital, but they don’t want to take responsibility for the movements of labour created by the process. The so-called "bogus asylum-seekers" are people displaced because of the political conflicts or economic changes of corporate globalisation.

Take Eastern Europe. Before 1989 everyone who left Eastern Europe for the west was a hero. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, they became problems — because they didn’t serve a political purpose any more.

By promoting corporate globalisation and simultaneously restricting the movement of people, the governments are deliberately creating a market for criminals to exploit. It is reckoned that half a million people in this country are "illegal" in their immigration status. They form an underclass which the employers can rely on to do the dirty work while being unable to claim any legal rights.

Poverty and climate change

Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth UK

Climate change is likely to have its biggest impact on the poorest countries, so combatting poverty and dealing with climate change have to go together.

We need to press ahead with a plan to cut carbon emissions nationally and internationally. I think Bush is becoming increasingly isolated. Britain also needs to do more through the EU, and with India and China.

Domestically, the Government is publishing its review of climate change strategy in November. Despite all the Government has said, carbon emissions have gone up under Blair, while they actually went down under the Tories. We are calling on the Government to support a new Bill to make it a legal requirement on government to cut carbon dioxide emissions by three per cent each year.

Build on the potential

Hilary Wainwright, editor Red Pepper

There’s the sense of a potentially powerful movement here at the G8. People in it are hoping for a total, unconditional cancellation of the debt; real action on climate change; and an end to exploitative — i.e. neo-liberal — economic policies. What they will get from the G8 is more of the same, repackaged.

So we have a radicalisation which can go two ways. It can be recuperated and absorbed by the new found "caring" rhetoric of Gordon Brown; or it can develop a radical momentum. It’s up to us to highlight the gap between what people demonstrating in Edinburgh want and what the G8 delivers, by persisting with campaigns for uncondititional debt cancellation and by building a powerful coalition for action on climate change — on the scale of the anti-war movement.

Blair and Brown are trying to use the G8 to regain the moral high ground after being discredited over the Iraq war. But lots of people, not just the radical left, have come to see the arms trade and the build up of military spending as a prime cause of poverty. We have a huge consciousness-raising task ahead to build on the radical dynamic of a mass expression of concern — I wouldn’t call it a movement — and stimulate it so as to turn into a political movement for radical change.

Local campaigning

An activist from the "Reshape" group in Glasgow, part of the Dissent network

Our group is going to carry on, but we haven’t had time to decide exactly what we focus on. We’re using the G8 summit to form quite a tight affinity group.

Some of us have also been involved in opening up a social centre in Glasgow, and we want to get that established and enable some community activities to have an independent place to base themselves. One of the big issues coming up in Glasgow will be the M74 extension.

Local people must decide

Niccolo Sarno, Friends of the Earth International

On 6 July we are publishing a report on poverty which argues that institutional solutions, inspired by the neo-liberal economic model, are doomed to fail. We believe that communities and local people can determine their own sustainable and equitable futures when they are given access to and control over their natural resources and appropriate technology.

The report highlights the threats to forests and fisheries, and the fact that water is becoming dirtier, scarcer, and costlier for people in many parts of the world.

Trickle-down is a myth. Trade liberalisation benefits giant corporations but fails people. Development aid has failed. It is often linked to privatisation, which means putting nature up for sale, and to food production for export and not for the hungry.

But the report shows how progress can be made in poverty eradication through community-based resource management. Local Friends of the Earth groups are heavily involved in supporting those community-based activities.

We want solidarity, not appeals for generosity

Rosa Zulu, International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe

The first issue to bear in mind is that for every US dollar that Africa receives in aid, $3 is paid out on debt repayments and interest. The countries of Africa are spending more on debt serve than they are receiving in aid and loans.

Then there is the question of what was done with the original loans. For example, in South Africa, the loans received before 1994 — how were they used? They were used for maintaining the apartheid state. Is it fair to ask black South Africans to repay those loans?

Across Africa, a lot of the so-called loans ended up in the pockets of corrupt dictators who were supported by the G8 like Mobutu in Zaire, Arap Moi in Kenya, and Banda in Malawi.

Malawi applied for a loan from the British overseas development office of about £1 million, earmarked for development. They placed an order for £0.5 million worth of tear gas, which was then transferred to the regime in Zimbabwe. The loans have not always been unsed for development purposes.

Where they have been used for development purposes, the development has not benefited ordinary Africans. It has benefited the ruling elite and the corporate elite. It has gone into the provision of infrastructure to help the multinationals operate in Africa.

For us in Africa, the question is, who should repay those loans? Under the structural adjustment plans demanded by the IMF and the World Bank, it is the ordinary person.

In Zimbabwe, 300,000 school children are out of school. The public health service has collapsed. The three largest public hospitals — two in Harare, one in Bulawayo — have no drugs other than painkillers.

Electricity, water, sewage, and garbage removal services have been privatised, and especially in garbage removal, the contracts went to the ruling elite. They have failed to deliver on the contracts, so the services have broken down.

Any company owned by a member of the ruling elite — a stationery company — was given a contract to supply chemicals for water purification. One third of the way through the contract they stopped supplying the chemicals, and the water supply in Harare has become erratic.

In 2000 the Blair government supplied Land Rover trucks to the Zimbabwean regime. Daimler-Chrysler is supplying trucks which the government is using as ordinary and armoured police carriers. Five of them have been converted for water cannon by an Israeli firm.

That is the sort of thing the funding is used for — for privatisation, for the acquisition of police vehicles.

The G8 is tasking president Obasanjo of Nigeria, and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, with ensuring that there is democracy and good governance in Africa. But Obasanjo is a former military dictator who has taken his uniform off. Trade-unionists and socialists in Nigeria are being harassed and victimised.

In South Africa, you have the demolition of shanty towns by private armies which they call the Red Ants. Thabo Mbeki has consistently refused to speak out against the oppression in Zimbabwe.

So we can see what sort of democracy and good governance the G8 is talking about — democracy meaning that the multinationals can do as they please.

What is the alternative? In Zimbabwe have the Zimbabwe Social Forum and our organisation, the ISO. In South Africa you have the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the Landless People’s Movement. There are organisations in Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, and smaller groups in Tanzania and other countries, which have been waging struggles against the effects of privatisation and neo-liberalism.

Activists in Africa have no hopes from the G8 or Obasanjo and Mbeki to deliver democracy and good governance, or to deliver social services for that matter. The way forward is not to rely on the G8 or events like Live8. The way forward is for the organisations across in Africa to lead the struggle, to work together, and to share ideas and experiences — against the West’s plans for so-called democracy and good governance, against the neo-liberal policies that come from the IMF and World Bank, and against the regimes that rule Africa.From activists in Europe, we want solidarity with our working-class organisations, not appeals to the G8 to be more generous.

The movement is growing

Michael Rainsborough, Dissent network

The G8 meets in Russia next year and Germany the year after that. Meetings have already been organised for them, and some of the resources generated here can be transferred to those mobilisations. It’s a continuing thing.

The G8 is more or less falling apart by itself. George W Bush has said American interests come first, and rejected the Kyoto protocols. Even people who know the Kyoto protocols are insufficient will see the G8 discredited.

In general, there is a growing movement — Indymedia is becoming established within civil society, and there are more and more people with more experience from this type of gathering.

The Dissent hallmark was set up under the People’s Global Action (PGA) hallmark, though it’s not really the same thing. PGA is based on the process of globalisation. It is organised throughout South America, Asia, and Europe, with some organisation in North America though not so much yet in Africa.

The PGA network is "horizontal", anti-authoritarian, but it is not opposed to socialist organisations. The next meeting was due to be held in Nepal, but has now been moved to India.

The real strength is coming from the global South — so we are turning to the global South, and turning to the women’s movement, to see what they want.

South African struggles

Nina Benjamin, South African socialist

In South Africa, there hasn’t been much of a focus on the G8. People are absorbed in their own immediate struggles. The battles here are largely around privatisations — a lot of them around the implementation of pre-pay water meters and electricity meters as a part of privatisation and corporatisation.

In some areas, the water has been fully privatised, in others, it is being corporatised as a first stage to privatisation, but the meters are being installed everywhere. The big European multinational Suez Lyonnais is heavily involved in the water privatisation.

The other big issue is housing. There is no state provision any more, so a lot of action is about resisting evictions.

What we need is solidarity with these working-class struggles.

Interviews by Martin Thomas

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