Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators today rejected the fact that 2/3 of the world's population live on the poverty line. Early in the morning people came from all over Britain and the world to assemble on the Meadows in Edinburgh. This has been the biggest ever demonstration in Scotland since the Hunger Marches of the 1930s.
The march through the city streets began in bright sunshine at 12.15pm led by Church leaders, celebrities and charity campaigners. At 3pm the marchers, most of whom were dressed in white, stopped and held hands for a minute's silence, forming a giant white circle round the city centre that represented the white band, the symbol of the Make Poverty History campaign. The marchers flooded the streets of the Scottish capital for five hours. The Meadows were filled from end to end. Because of the size of the march some contingents were waiting for four hours to start. The demonstration was peaceful and friendly. Only one minor incident has taken place when a group of 100 young people has been penned by the police because they looked "aggressive".
In spite of all the attempts from the organisers to prevent any kind of political message the mood of most of protesters was one of disgust and contempt for the representatives of the eight leading imperialist countries of the world. These eight leaders are meeting next week in the luxurious Gleneagles Hotel sixty miles north of Edinburgh to hold the G8 summit. The G8 is the club of the seven richest countries plus Russia. The Make Poverty History campaign has tried since the very beginning to marry the noble cause of ending poverty with the root cause of the problem – capitalism and its political representatives. For this purpose, the campaign has given its platform to all kind of pop stars and celebrities that have made campaigning activity their own personal business.
The organisers of the event have not allowed any message or speaker against the war in Iraq on the main stages, while providing an opportunity to multi-millionaire businessman Tom Farmer. A lot of different people have been invited to jump on the bandwagon too. The right-wing newspaper Scotland Sunday Mail had "Scotland says make poverty history" as its main page. The Mail group newspapers have always been known for the rants against asylum seekers, single mothers, travellers or whoever they pick as a vulnerable and an easy target to victimise. Also prominent on the bandwagon was the hierarchy of the Catholic church and their network of charities. Reuters reported that Pope Benedict rushed this morning to bless Make Poverty History and today's march. Pope Benedict is the same one that has spent all his life fighting any kind of progressiveness and interest within Catholicism to empower the poor, like the Liberation Theology.
However, despite the attempts to hijack the movement to end poverty and lead it to safe channels that do not question capitalism, this has not been entirely possible. Alongside the groups brought by the different churches were campaigners for Palestine, Cuba and Iraq. Tens of thousands of young people (and not so young) were also there, quite a lot sporting red and revolutionary t-shirts plus many trade union contingents. It was inspiring for a lot of demonstrators to see Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, who played Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries, tell the crowd: "We have to remember we can make a big change by bringing back politics where it belongs – to us, the people." It was also good that Chancellor Gordon Brown, a "champion" of the campaign against poverty, decided to pull out from the main rally since there were serious possibilities he was going to be booed. He swapped the Make Poverty History event for a meeting in a lavish hotel in the city centre. So much for his "effort against poverty."
Regardless the manipulations of the mainstream media and the organisers of the event, today we have witnessed the potential to really end poverty. This is not the power of Bono or Geldof to cry crocodile tears for the 30,000 kids that die in Africa every day. Nor is it the hypocrisy of Blair and Brown pledging to end poverty. We are talking about the will to end poverty. Now it is time to find a real solution to make poverty history through the abolition of capitalism.