'STOP THE MASTERS OF BUSINESS AND WAR’ read one of the placards at the protests against the recent G8 summit of the world’s most powerful leaders, which took place in the French village of Evian.
As a simple formulation the slogan sums up the G8 leaders pretty well. George Bush and Tony Blair defied the opinion of large sections of their own population and made ordinary Iraqi people pay a terrible blood price for their war aims. The Russian leader Vladimir Putin has followed an absolutely barbarous policy in his denial of the Chechen demand for independence, reducing Chechen cities to rubble and killing thousands of innocent people, as has been well documented by human rights groups. The leaders of France, Germany and Italy, are currently waging war on their own populations through neo-liberal reforms which will cut pension rights for ordinary workers and increase social and economic inequality.
The G8 leaders are also united in betraying their promises to significantly reduce the levels of debt paid by poorer countries, which condemn tens of thousands of people to a silent death every day. At the G8 summit in Cologne in 1999 world leaders promised $100bn in debt relief for the most indebted countries, one third of what the Jubilee 2000 campaign had been demanding. Of that small amount only $36bn has been delivered. 1.2 billion people still live on less than on dollar a day and 19,000 children still die each day due to lack of basic resources caused by debt.
The weapons used by Bush and Blair in Iraq are not only deadly when they are used, but also from the very moment of their creation. They suck huge amounts of money away from ‘weapons of mass salvation’, the water, food, and resources which could provide the millions condemned to poverty the means to live happy, fulfilled lives, and instead channel that money into ‘weapons of mass destruction’, the cluster bombs and B-52s used with such deadly effect.
In response to these polices a truly global mass movement has grown up in recent years which is organising not only to resist, but also to go further, to begin to create a new type of world based on participatory democracy, peace, environmental sustainability, and social equity.
I was lucky enough, along with several other York students, to participate in some of the protest actions that took place near this year’s G8 summit. Around 120,000 took part in a vibrant and diverse march which had two starting points and converged on the Swiss/French border. Trade Unionists and protest veterans of ‘68 joined with the new generation of young radical activists influenced by the anti-war movement. Protest songs were played from giant speakers and a samba band kept spirits high with it’s infectious rhythms. Many of the local inhabitants displayed peace signs from their windows and came out to clap, hand out food and drink, and give support to the protest as it came by. Thousands more had joined blockades earlier in the day in an attempt to delay the proceedings of the summit.
The protests were part of a chain of resistance which began with the protests in Seattle in 1999 and which show no sign of abating. On the day after the protests the French working class began a nation wide strike against pension cuts shutting transport, postal deliveries, newspapers and schools. If the vibrancy and confidence of the new protest movements can be fused with the social weight and economic power of the working class then the possibilities for creating a better world are endless.