With Friends Like These Who Needs Enemies?
The G8 is coming to town. During the G8 summit in Gleneagles we will see a whole range of experts and analysts lecturing us about the beauties and the problems of the world market, the challenges, the past discussions, etc.
But that will be a smoke screen behind which to hide the real issue. They will try to cloak the fact that capitalism does not work, they will try to suggest some kind of reform to a system that is unreformable.
If one looks at the world situation from the perspective of this system continuing, it is a profoundly depressing picture.
The G8 is an ‘informal’ gathering of good pals. All friends are such because they share some common ground; it can be a football team, a kind of beer, past experiences... these friends will have different views on many other aspects of life. Well, the G8 assembles all the good friends whose passion is to exploit cheaply their working classes and drive the so-called ‘international community’ in the direction that best suits them. Of course, amongst themselves they have plenty of internal differences, as good friends usually do. For instance, France is not particularly happy that the US has been developing its influence in former French colonies – but all agree on the defence of capitalism. We just mentioned that capitalism does not work. That should be slightly amended because it does ‘work’ for a tiny minority.
The data is frightening if we look at it: the 365 richest families of the planet have more wealth than 40% of the global population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union we were promised a new era of high technology, yet today two thirds of humanity have never made a phone call and one third does not have electricity access, let alone internet access.
The facts and figures could fill the 32 pages of this magazine, and that is not including any figures about the destruction of the environment.
The G8 is meant to discuss how to eradicate poverty and protesters are going to march to make “our” politicians more sensitive about those issues. Bush and co will come to Scotland to tell us about world poverty, – he is an expert, after all – as the US is one of the countries where social divisions run deepest. For instance, the US hosts 25% of the world’s prison population, which amounts to a staggering 2% of the total population of the US (now one understands the real level of unemployment in the US). That figure in itself shows that there is something rotten in American capitalist society.
What the pop stars, charity icons and some labour and trade union leaders do not understand is that asking for kindness from those who run this system is like asking a wolf to take care of a flock of sheep.
This is not a question of will, it is a question of how capitalism works. Of the good old ‘invisible hand’ that Adam Smith talked about (writing so near to Gleneagles) there is only one thing left – the invisibility for millions of the positive effects of the system. What we get is not a hand up but a hammer down.
A good example is the European Constitution. That treaty is basically all previous European agreements lumped together. It deals vaguely with labour and trade union rights and goes into considerable detail about how the economic policies of the governments have to be implemented (a model that has been called neo-liberal policies, of course). The idea is to create a competitive Europe, based on the interests of big business. The workers of Europe have been on the move since the mid-nineties, we have seen strike movements in France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and even here in Britain... against governments implementing such policies. There is a view in some sectors of the trade union and labour leaderships that the Constitutional treaty is a victim of unpopular governments. Yet they fail to mention the cause of this unpopularity, which is the kind of policies that the Constitution argues for. Before the ink is even dry they have to campaign for its reform.
This is important because the motors driving the European Constitution are countries that also have an important weight in the G8, so we should not expect miracles from them. They cannot solve the problems of Europe let alone Africa. Instead of asking for kindness, we must inform “our” leaders that we do not want more of these vicious policies and that we do not want the system that generates them. We need to be clear about it. Either we accept neo-liberalism (the fashionable word for capitalism) and accept its consequences, or we fight to break with the rules of big business altogether. Socialists will always fight for every reform we can get. Ultimately however, only an entirely new form of social and economic organisation of society is the only solution.
Fortunately, in the last decade we have seen at least the outlines of an alternative, i.e. the millions that demonstrated in Seattle, and in Genoa, but also the Bolivian miners, the Venezuelan masses that overthrew a government that took power by a coup, the international anti-war movement. All of them are proof that there is a way forward, and we cannot rely on charity-like policies, all too often appearing to give ‘practical’ and ‘immediate’ help, whilst attractive is not leading to any permanent change. For that we must build the necessary instruments to transform this decrepit system. We must organise and educate ourselves.
Now more than ever another world is possible, but not within the choking confines of the outdated capitalist system. It has be to a socialist world.
To make poverty history we must consign the system that breeds it and lives by it to the rubbish bin of history, where it belongs.