Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 on CorpWatch
G8: Are You Happy?
by Susan George
To the reader: This isn't a description of what happened in Genoa -- most people already know that, or can find out on Indymedia. It's better described as a [bad] "mood piece", as I was and am feeling pretty traumatized and angry after the events. I'd been there since Monday, July 16 for the Genoa Social Forum, participating in various debates, doing a lot of media work and left Thursday before all the trouble started (the demonstration on Thursday, centered around immigrants' rights was perfectly peaceful).
Are you happy, G-eighters? Happy to get together in these palaces in cities emptied of their inhabitants, with all that luxury and your "security" that costs ordinary citizens a fortune? Happy with your unchanging and catastrophic neo-liberal policies imposed with impunity on behalf of transnational corporations and financial markets? Happy to make sure that the injustice on this planet gets worse with every passing year and G-8 meeting? To announce your miserable little health fund amounting to just a tenth of what poor Kofi Annan asked for last month for AIDS alone? To show off your eight impeccable suits-and-ties and your self-referential gesticulations, because the only remaining purpose of your meetings is to reaffirm that you are indeed the G-8.
Are you happy, cops? Happy you finally took out a protestor? You didn't manage that in Gothenburg but you did this time. A big premier in Genoa, a legal murder. That'll teach the little bastards. Tear-gas, water cannon, anti-riot gear, that's for amateurs--bullets are for real men. Blood on the pavement. Crushed bodies. Nice work. Happy too you could raid the alternative media center and the convergence center in the middle of the night, smash the computers, confiscate the cassettes and club people who were sleeping, so there wouldn't be any trace of your activities? Bravo.
Are you happy, protestors? Not the huge majority that backed the Genoa Social Forum--I know you're devastated and some of you bloodied--nor those many "members" of the Black Bloc who were in fact police infiltrators; but you, the genuine Black Blockers, who never participated in any of the preparatory meetings that went on for months, who don't belong to any of the 700 responsible Italian organizations that had decided democratically to practice creative and active non-violence. Are you happy with your unilateral actions, to have willfully infiltrated groups of peaceful demonstrators so that they too got gassed and clubbed; happy to have responded to police provocations which were both foreseeable and foreseen? Are you happy we've finally got our martyr?
His name was Carlo Giuliani. He was 23 years old and he went to the demonstration with his own convictions, that's enough, they weren't ours, but we protest his execution, peace be with him.
The fact remains that this movement for a different kind of globalization is in danger. Either we'll be capable of exposing what the police are actually up to and manage to contain and prevent the violent methods of the few, or we risk shattering the greatest political hope in the last several decades. Whoever bears responsibility for what happened in Genoa--and it is massively on the side of the G-8 and the police, this broad, powerful, international movement, as irresistible as the tide; this movement of peoples united in solidarity that we've dreamed about can no longer go forward in the same way. It can no longer accept that anybody can do anything. A man has died.
If we can't guarantee peaceful, creative demonstrations, workers and official trade unions won't join us; our base will slip away, the present unity--both trans-sectoral and trans-generational--will crumble. We, the immense majority with serious proposals to make; we who believe that another world is possible, have got to act responsibly. Faced with the escalation of State-sponsored terror, we must figure out how to continue our demonstrations and direct action without endangering our people; how to avoid abandoning the terrain of the public space to the explosive ultra-minority. One thing is certain: we can't give up this struggle and we will not stop fighting against the huge injustices of present globalization, but we shall have to find new democratic avenues to wage this fight.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said, "Do not do what you would most like to do. Do what your adversary would least like you to do." I fear that today our adversaries are happy. As for me, I'm just trying to surmount the events of Genoa and not give in to despair.
Susan George is Vice-President of ATTAC-France (Association for Taxation of Financial Transaction to Aid Citizens) and Associate Director of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She is author of nine books, most recently, of The Lugano Report, Pluto Press. Interested readers can visit the Transnational Institute website.
Published on Wednesday, July 25, 2001 in The Irish Times
Geldof and Bono Out of Tune on G8
by Vincent Browne
The spectacle of Bob Geldof and Bono bear-hugging G8 leaders in Genoa on Saturday was revolting. It was not just the manic presumption that they would have an iota of influence, or the phoniness and the crass attention-seeking of the exhibition that was stomach-churning. It was their giddy association with the rulers of the world and their eloquent dissociation from the tens of thousands who had gathered to protest against the unfairness and inequities of the new world order.
The G8 represents the tyranny of the new world order against the interests of the world's poor. Self-chosen on the basis of their military might and capitalist credentials, the G8 seeks to further its hegemony of the world, amid a pretense of compassion for the developing world. (Geldof and Bono unwittingly - one assumes - helped further that pretense by the ghastly photo-opportunity in which they participated.) It represents the damaging consequences of globalization and the marginalization of the Third World.
According to the United Nations Development Program, the income gap between the fifth of the world's people living in the richest countries in 1960 was 30 to 1. This had risen to 60 to 1 by 1990 and, in the era of the new world order, to 74 to 1 by 1997. By the late 1990s the fifth of the world's people living in the highest-income countries had 86 per cent of world Gross Domestic Product, the bottom fifth just 1 per cent.
This new world order means the world's richest 200 people more than doubled their net worth in the four years to 1998 to more than trillion.
The assets of the top three billionaires are more than the combined GNP of all least developed countries and their 600 million people. The top 10 pesticide companies in the world control almost one-third of a trillion world market. The top 10 telecommunications companies control 86 per cent of the 2 billion telecommunications market, (Human Development Report 1999, page 3).
The world is becoming spectacularly more unfair, and the presiders of this new order of global injustice are the G8 chums of Bono and Geldof. The superpowers did not move an inch on writing off the debts of the world's poorest nations. They repeated their obduracy over intellectual property rights which restrict the provision of life-saving drugs to poorer countries.
There was no progress on environmental protection. And on AIDS, Kofi Annan was brought along to announce a package that was woefully short of the package he has been urging for some time. He says that between billion and billion is needed annually to fight AIDS: the G8 promised a once-off .2 billion.
With a touch of (one presumes) unintended irony, the G8 leaders also promised measures against corruption and bribery. Did no one think it odd that Jacques Chirac and Silvio Berlusconi would be asked to champion honesty in politics? Chirac has been trying to hide behind a supposed immunity to avoid answering questions about allegations of mega kick-backs while he was mayor of Paris and involvement in vote-rigging.
Silvio Berlusconi was the focus of an editorial in the very cautious Economist magazine in April. It wrote: "In any self-respecting democracy it would be unthinkable that the man assumed to be on the verge of being elected prime minister would recently have come under investigation for money-laundering, complicity in murder, connections with the Mafia, tax evasion and the bribing of politicians, judges and the tax police."
A FEW others of the G8 chums of Bono and Geldof are no great shakes either. There's George Bush, who ranks as the current champion of global vandalism in his disavowal of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and his declared intention to abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
There's Vladimir Putin, the architect of the world's most brutal war currently being waged in Chechnya (tens of thousands have been killed there in the last 15 months). And then there's Tony Blair, the co-commander of the illegal, indiscriminate bombardment of Yugoslavia. He, too, had some nerve complaining about the violence of the protesters.
It was a pity Bono and Geldof could not break away from the bear-hugging and victory salutes in Genoa in time to get to Zanzibar for another high-level meeting.
This is of finance ministers from the world's poorest 49 countries. They have been meeting there since Sunday, just as the G8 meeting was breaking up (so to speak), to develop a common strategy for the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in November.
The ministers are concerned that the WTO rules have excluded the world's poorest countries from much of world trade.
The Finance Minister of Bangladesh, S. Rahama, said on Sunday: "Our 49 countries are generally facing marginalization [Our] share [of world trade] is declining in the global market and the economies in the countries are becoming impoverished by each passing day."
There was a time when our pop singers - Bridie Gallagher, Larry Cunningham and their like - knew their place.