G8: Millions demand an end to poverty

As the leaders of the G8 imperialist powers begun to assemble in Gleneagles, Scotland, where hotel room rental runs to £685 per night, millions of people around the world took to the streets on demonstrations and attended concerts to demand action to end the human suffering and misery that affects two thirds of human kind in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The largest of these protests took place in Philadelphia, in the heart of US imperialism where up to one million people participated in a concert which was the biggest demonstration in the history of the city. The massive turnout at this event was a reflection of the growing opposition to the Bush regime inside the USA particularly because of the bloody war in Iraq and his right-wing agenda.

In Edinburgh, Scotland more than 250,000 participated in the largest demonstration Scotland has ever seen. Other major cities like Tokyo, Paris, Berlin and Rome also saw large concerts. In addition to those attending these events, an estimated two billion peopled watched these concerts on television.

One thing the G8 leaders and the capitalist class of Africa, Asia and Latin America fear is a mass movement of the working people of these countries to fight the system that breeds the misery in which they live. They fear that even the events organised on July 2 would help boost the confidence of the peoples of these countries to fight for their rights. The Live 8 events were not therefore broadcast in most African countries. Only the relatively wealthy few with satellite TV could watch them!

Those who marched in Edinburgh took a conscious political decision to go to a demonstration. While some attending the concerts went to hear the music the overwhelming majority of those also were motivated to attend these events as a means of demanding the G8 leaders take action to on debt and trade to help relieve the suffering of million in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Human solidarity

These protests and concerts mobilised millions of people who were also driven by a spirit of human solidarity – of linking together with others all over the world to protest at the policies of the international capitalist leaders. Significantly, this internationalist spirit was reflected at the mass concert in Philadelphia where the actor Will Smith, declared that two hundred years ago in Philadelphia the American Declaration of Independence was made. "Today we make a new declaration of ‘inter-dependency’. We are all in this together". For the CWI the "We" does not include the G8 and the system they represent.

The hip-hop star Kanye West went further and attacked "politicians who drive home in their Bentleys every night and watch thousands of Africans die".

Even at the many of these concerts a ‘class division’ was in evidence. In London the "golden circle" included tickets sold at £1,000 where a bottle of Dom Perignon Champaign was sold for £99 per bottle.

The mobilisation of such vast numbers of people around the world in support of action to end poverty represents a positive step. In one sense, the demand of ‘Live 8’ for governments to take action to end poverty was an advance over ‘Band Aid’ twenty years ago which raised money from its followers as a form of ‘charity’ to try and alleviate poverty.

Yet at the same time the events which took place on July 2nd 2005, including the mass protest in Edinburgh, were a retreat on the anti-capitalist mobilisations in Genoa, Seattle and other cities of previous years. The mass protest in Edinburgh included thousands of youth who were looking for an alternative to capitalism. The tremendous delegation from the CWI was able to get the support from some of these young people. It was however dominated by various NGO’s, charities and religious organisations rather than the labour movement.

Gordon Brown spoke at a meeting of Church leaders stressing the role of the Churches in combating poverty. Yet it will not be prayers that end the suffering of the poor. It will only be determined struggle and the overthrow of capitalism – the system supported by Brown – and the building of socialism which will the suffering and exploitation of the masses.

The leaders of Live 8 have however, raised tremendous expectations amongst those who participated at the concerts and the demonstration in Edinburgh. They are riding a tiger. The high expectations they have aroused in these mobilisations can turn to bitter anger when the capitalist leaders fail to act or take any substantial measures to end the poverty of the masses in Asia, Africa or Latin America. At the Edinburgh demonstration this was unintentionally hinted at by the singer Billy Bragg. He semi-humorously warned the G8 leaders that if nothing was done it would not be the fault of those present at the march but of the G8 leaders themselves and "we know were you live".

Internationally, the G8 summit and Live 8 has been used as an attempt to rehabilitate Bush and especially Blair in Britain. Although Bob Geldolf and Bono may genuinely wish to end the misery of the African peoples and those of Asia and Latin America they have played a negative role in helping to try and bolster Blair, Bush and the other G8 leaders. It is these leaders and the capitalist system they represent which is responsible for the human suffering inflicted on the majority of worlds’ population. The struggle to ‘Make Poverty History’ means a struggle against these leaders and the system they represent.

Pathetic aid

The leaders of Live 8 demand more aid is given to these poorest countries, debt forgiveness and fair trade. The pathetic levels of aid and unfair trading system undoubtedly reveal the hypocrisy of capitalism. At the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 the 22 richest countries agreed to increase international aid to 0.7% of their own GDP. By 2004 only five countries had met even this paltry target. US imperialism was prepared to give a mere £10.9 billion – 0.16% of its GDP.

Yet even an increase in aid to the levels demanded by the G8 leaders would not solve the problem. Imperialism and capitalism still would continue their brutal exploitation of these countries. In Nigeria for every US$1 given in aid US$14 is taken out of the country in debt repayments.

The current trading system benefits the major imperialist powers. Under capitalism a ‘fair trading system’ is not possible. Free trade can also have devastating consequences in the neo-colonial world. By lifting trade restrictions it will mean greater destruction of local industries by the multi-national companies.

The debt mountain of £125 billion hangs like a concrete slab around the necks of the masses of the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is not a question of debt forgiveness. The CWI demands the cancellation of the debt. The G8 agreed to reduce the debt of the poorest 18 countries. The aim is now to extend this to another 20 countries. Yet every country in Africa, Asia and Latin America is crippled by the debt burden. It corrosively eats into the life of the entire populations of these countries.

In Ecuador, where a mass uprising overthrew the government this year, every child begins life saddled with a debt of US$1,212. By the time they will earn their first wage packet it will have risen to US$25,000! The debts in Latin America began to build up two centuries ago. No wonder the Latin American 19th century independence fighter, Simon Bolivar warned, "We’ve more to fear from the English debt than Spanish swords".

Those who were mobilised to participate in the protests and concerts of Live 8 were motivated by a desire to end misery and poverty. These mobilisations have increased the awareness of the exploitation of the masses in Asia, Africa and Latin America by imperialism. The question is how to end it and end the suffering of the masses in these countries. At the concert in London, Madonna said we need a ‘revolution’. She did not explain what type of revolution or what this means. A revolution does not mean increasing aid or debt ‘forgiveness’ or fair trade. A democratic socialist revolution means the working people of the world taking over the running of society and introducing a democratic socialist plan of production geared to meeting peoples need rather than profit.

Unfortunately, neither Madonna nor the other well-meaning celebrities who were at these events could explain what alternative can end the suffering of all those exploited by capitalism. This can only be achieved by putting an end to the system of capitalism and imperialism and replacing it with socialism. The democratic socialist planning of the world economy is the only way to end the misery and horrors of capitalist exploitation. It is necessary to build an international movement of the working class and poor that will fight to overthrow capitalism and begin to build socialist. That is the only way to make poverty history.

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July 2005