“The credibility of the G8 is at stake,” warned Blairite charitymonger Bono on 15 May, in response to claims that the world's richest governments will use next month's G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, to renege on promises they made on aid at the 2005 summit in Edinburgh.
The opportunism and cynicism of the G8 leaders is certainly something. Russia and Italy, for instance, are pushing to ditch the G8 countries' commitment to raise an extra £25 billion in development assistance cash by 2010. Russian officials justify their retreat by saying that in 2005 they felt sorry for Tony Blair following the 7/7 attacks.
For socialists, however, the G8 never had any credibility.
Even if they came up with the whole £25 billion tomorrow, that would still be only one thirteenth of the G8 countries’ arms budgets (or one eighth of the US’s).
And the G8 presides over an economic and social system which sees trillions squeezed every year from the world’s workers, small farmers and poor in order to boost capitalists' profit margins. A system responsible for environmental destruction, racism and war.
Even at its best, its most liberal, its most generous to the world’s poor, the Blairite agenda for the G8 is about making the capitalist market work better. It is about is about state action to tidy things up the edges of the world economy so that the basic framework of exploitation can continue.
Whatever the Heiligendamm summit agrees on aid, the environment and other issues, it will not help the workers and poor of the developing world.
To even the best varieties of charitable pleading, begging for a few more crumbs from the tables of the rich, the left must seek to counterpose international workers' solidarity for democratic and social rights. We must pose demands that cut against the logic of the market, explaining that only democratic provision for social need can really end world poverty. And we must build links between the labour movement in Britain and workers' and other popular movements in the developing world in order to fight for these demands.
Unfortunately the signs are that, as in 2005, the British unions are planning to make themselves the tail to the liberal/NGO “Make Poverty History” dog. Although Unison, for instance, is raising demands for public healthcare, education, water and sanitation across the world, these are buried deep in fluff about “Your Voice Against Poverty”.
Workers’ Liberty members will be travelling to Germany with other supporters of the No Sweat campaign to protest at the G8 summit. We will be taking the message of democratic control, social provision and international workers’ solidarity to the thousands of workers and young people who will attend the summit to show their hatred for everything the G8 stands for.
• We'll be leaving on Friday 1 June and returning late on Sunday 3. Tickets on the No Sweat minibus will cost £50. If you'd like to come, get in touch: email@example.com
• Your Voice Against Poverty, supported by Unison and Amicus as well as various religious and charity groups, is organising a demonstration in London for Saturday 2 June, calling for debt cancellation, more and better aid, “trade justice” and action against climate change. The march starts at 11 am from various London venues — see
www.yourvoiceagainstpoverty.org.uk for updated details.