Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
G8 - Make capitalism history
Make socialism our future
HUNDREDS OF thousands of protestors are expected to descend on Edinburgh in early July to demonstrate against the annual summit of the bosses club, the G8. Authorities and protest organisers in Scotland have been plunged into administrative chaos after Bob Geldof, out of the blue, called for a million people to march against poverty outside Gleneagles where the G8 are holding their summit.
by Gary Mulcahy
20 YEARS after the Live Aid gigs, free concerts are to be held in the eight countries of the G8 to "raise awareness" of global poverty. There is no doubt that the issues raised, by the great and good of the pop world, such as the AIDS pandemic, world poverty and environmental destruction, stir a powerful resentment from the mass of people towards the political elite of rich countries. Due to events such as the war on Iraq and the tsunami disaster, working class people have become more internationalist in outlook and more conscious of the horrors of global capitalism.
Since Live Aid 20 years ago, the gap between rich and poor on a global basis has widened to an unprecedented level. One billion people live on less than $1 a day. Over two billion survive on less than $2 a day. Yet, the richest 200 people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 2.4 billion. Every day 6,000 people die from HIV/Aids because they cannot afford the drugs that are now available which can reduce deaths. Yet the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies in the US made $35.9 billion profits in 2002 alone.
In 2002, the world's ten richest individuals had a personal fortune of $266 billion - five times more than the annual flow of aid from rich to poor countries. This amount of money would be enough to meet the United Nations' "millennium goals" such as the halting and reversing the spread of AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases, reducing infant mortality by two-thirds and lowering the number of maternal deaths in childbirth by three quarters between now and 2050.
The G8 has been the target of mass demonstrations in recent years for its pro-big business policies that have resulted in mass poverty and exploitation. It has been responsible for promoting the "structural adjustment programmes" or SAP's which the World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have used to plunder poor countries of their resources and to exploit workers. These SAP's include granting loans to governments on the condition that they privatise public services, de-regulate industry and labour and open up their markets to multinational companies. These policies have resulted in a massive shift of wealth from the poor to the rich. As services have been privatised, multinationals have looted countries of their resources, impoverishing millions and enriching the world's wealthiest individuals. This neo-liberal agenda has destroyed the economies of many countries, in turn adding to the debt owed to these capitalist institutions.
While George Bush, Blair and the rest of the G8 rat-pack are put up in luxurious surroundings in Gleneagles, a different welcome is being planned for those protesting against the G8. A steel perimeter of "ripper mesh" fencing will stretch for several miles around the summit. Over 10,000 interlocking panels of the 8ft-high fencing have been erected around the hotel to provide an exclusion zone of almost a mile in diameter. While the G8 gets underway, police snipers will be on the roof of the hotel pointing guns at those protesting, backed up by an SAS team and military personnel armed with anti-aircraft weapons on standby. It will cost the taxpayer over £150 million to hold the G8. The British Treasury has provided £20 million alone for security.
Make Poverty History
Make Poverty History, an alliance of charities, religious leaders, NGO's, celebrities and many other organisations, has continued to call on the G8 and governments to tackle poverty through three demands: trade justice, drop the debt and more and better aid. Make Poverty History has correctly described the dire situation the majority of people on the planet face today. However, their demands on how to make poverty history and their reliance on lobbying world rulers are unfortunately deeply flawed.
The call for "fair trade not free trade" is based on the belief that a "fair" economy can be achieved on the basis of capitalism and that it is possible to improve everybody's living standards while still allowing for profits to be made. However, exploitation of workers and the environment is an inextricable and fundamental part of capitalism. Profits in reality are made from the exploitation of workers. If an employer can make a worker work longer hours or increase productivity while not increasing wages accordingly, the employer increases profits. More profitable companies can also expand, taking more of the market from their competitors through the increased exploitation of their workforce. Profit, the exploitation of workers, is the driving force of capitalism. Any steps to tilt the balance in favour of poor farmers and workers in the neo-colonial world at the expense of major multi-nationals' profits, would be faced with resistance by big business. In order to improve the conditions of working class and poor people, a fight against big business is necessary.
G8 = big business
The G8 and governments around the world however represent the interests of big business and protect the capitalist system. All the political leaders of the G8 are massively funded by multi-nationals, who obediently legislate in favour of big business. Lobbying of right-wing capitalist politicians is not only a fruitless exercise but can also sow illusions that workers have something in common with them. Unlike the strategy of Make Poverty History and NGO's however, the majority of people who will be on the streets of Edinburgh in July will be there to protest against the G8, not to lobby them.
One of the issues due to be discussed at the G8 summit is debt. Structural adjustment programmes have sunk poor countries deeper and deeper into debt. In sub-Saharan Africa, governments spend more on servicing debt to rich countries - $300 billion - than on the health and education of children. Blair has announced that debt is a priority for the G8 at Edinburgh. However, the British government's rhetoric on debt stands in stark contrast to their actual record. Britain first promised to increase aid to just 0.7% of GDP back in 1970. Today it is still stuck at a miserly 0.35%. Gordon Brown and Blair have both proposed the establishment of an International Finance Facility which would grant aid funded by borrowing on the bond market. IFF represents a continuation of linking aid to the further liberalisation of poor countries economies which would result in higher debt. But even this initiative may not even be discussed at the G8.
G8 governments were recently shamed into increasing aid after the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster by the inspirational show of solidarity by working class people throughout the world in raising money. But without democratic control over aid by workers and the poor in these countries, most aid ends up being stolen by corrupt charities, aid agencies and government forces. In the countries affected by the tsunami, none of the 1 million people left homeless have been re-housed. Local charities are issuing fake receipts to con tens of thousands of pounds from central disaster funds. One aid boss has been accused of using donations to build himself a £30,000 house - and then spending a further £1,500 on appliances and electric ceiling fans in every room. Warehouses are still full of clothes, food and medical supplies, while refugees are given rotten, out-of-date food that makes them sick.
Cancel the debt
Socialists support the cancellation of all debt. On it's own this would not stop the imperialist dominance of big business over the neo-colonial world. The problems facing the masses of these countries cannot be solved on the basis of capitalism. There are more than enough resources on the planet to provide a decent living standard for all, many times over. The technology and technique exists to plan for society's needs. As long as these resources are in the hands of a tiny rich minority, human suffering and environmental destruction will continue. Only by placing the world's resources in the hands of workers and poor people under democratic control, can humanity begin to plan for the needs of society. This requires a fundamental break with capitalism and the establishment of a socialist plan of production.
The only force that can bring about socialist change in the advanced capitalist and the neo-colonial countries is the working class, who through their collective cohesion and indispensable role in production can bring the capitalist system shuddering to a halt. Already we are beginning to see a re-awakening of the workers' movement across the world that has led to sharp conflicts with the capitalist class in many countries. The Socialist Party, together with our sister parties in the Committee for a Workers' International is intervening in these movements and building a socialist alternative which can once and for all truly make poverty history.
What we fight for
- Immediate write-off of the debt burden.
- Aid to poorer countries to be based on grants instead of loans.
- End the neo-liberal conditions attached to aid and debt write-off.
- For an immediate increase in aid to the levels needed.
- For democratic control of aid and its distribution by elected committees representing the working class, trade unions and the poor.
- Imperialism out of the neo-colonial world.
- Support for the working class and poor masses in their struggle to overthrow the corrupt pro-capitalist governments of the neo-colonial world.
- Abolish the IMF, World Bank, WTO and other international capitalist institutions.
- Bring into public ownership the 500 major multinationals and transnationals that dominate the world economy under democratic working class control and management.
- Make capitalism history. For the building of a socialist planned economy internationally to abolish poverty, hunger and disease.