The Make Poverty History demo over, the leaders of the counter summit organised a series of meetings and rallies to put forward strategy for the movement. Many of those who attended the meetings were clearly looking for concrete ideas and strategy to take the struggle forward.
But where is that strategy coming from? How has the movement gone forward since the tumultuous events around the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, 1999?
The unfortunate reality is that little progress has been made. The ’anti-capitalist’ programme has remained stuck. There are plenty of speeches denouncing globalisation – the increased global impoverishment of millions of people at the hands of rapacious capitalism. There is little in the way of coherent alternatives being proposed either in terms of political programme or how to fight back.
The general demand raised is that of continuing to build ’the movement’, ’raise awareness’, etc. But the speeches flounder around slogans such as ’join the trade justice movement’. An inescapable fact, recognised by all, is the lack of political representation for the workers and poor. At the Fighting Corporate Globalisation and Privatisation meeting, Francois Duvalle raised the issue of what kind of party is needed: Would it be broad, like the Scottish Socialist Party, or realignment of left groups and social
movements, like Portugal’s Left Bloc, or a ’coalition’, like Respect? His conclusion? ’Another left is possible’, one which needs to be debated. This hardly provided a way forward for those looking for an alternative
Juan Carlos Galvis, a Colombian activist, spoke of the effects of the neo-liberal offensive in Latin America. He called for the need to create a united front against neo-liberalism, out of which new structures for the benefit of humanity can develop. Out of the campaign against the multinationals, people could reclaim, step by step, the industries and utilities.
Alex Callinicos, one of the SWP’s leading national spokespersons, spoke of a global consciousness being developed as a by-product of globalisation. By way of explanation, he said that Britain under Margaret Thatcher was one of the first proponents of neo-liberal policies. The subsequent defeat of the working class in Britain, he said, encouraged the spread of these policies to other states around the world. He made no reference, however, to the fact that the collapse of the Stalinist states in Russia and Eastern Europe provided US imperialism – and the weaker imperialist countries – with the possibility of imposing its economic, political and military might to force through the neo-liberal agenda full-speed ahead. This was an omission of colossal importance.
Inevitably, Callinicos pushed the Respect model as the way forward. There was an opportunity to create a new left. In his view, Respect showed how the left could avoid ’the mistakes of the past’, because working with the likes of George Galloway shows it is possible to work with people on the left, not necessarily from a revolutionary background. There was no mention of socialism. There was no programmatic alternative offered. He left the audience with the question, "Can we seize that opportunity?", hanging in the air.
At the How Do We Get Climate Justice? meeting, Ken Wiwa exposed the corporate dimension of Live8: sponsored by Nokia, Moet champagne and Pimms. He decried the ’corporate takeover’ of governments, saying that there was a need to take back the governments from the corporate agenda. In reality, these regimes have always been in the pay of western imperialism. He gave the example of his own country, Nigeria, which is dominated by a few multinationals, especially the oil giants. All the examples he gave screamed out for the need to nationalise these corporations and run them under workers’ control and management. However, his conclusion was that pressure has to be put to make these corporations responsible.
Bianca Jagger followed in a similar vein. Since Bush came to power, she said, the oil companies rule the US government. Jutta Kill, from an EU-based environment group, provided some useful information on the details of carbon trading. Her answer to stopping greenhouse gas emissions and global warming? Simply: stop subsidising fossil fuels. How?
This was one of the many question unasked and unanswered.
Heading the bill at this meeting was George Monbiot. Again, he provided useful information. He made the point that the G8 will come up with all manner of ways to avoid what’s needed, which is to cut down on the fossil fuels humanity uses. He explained the big problem with bio-fuels – developed from crops, such as oil-seed rape. Some in the environmental movement put this forward as an alternative to continuing use of fossil fuels. But the result, if it was taken up in a big way, would be the use of land to feed cars and planes, instead of providing food for people.
Monbiot’s conclusion is that we have to massively lower energy consumption, lower the need for energy. What’s required to achieve that, he said, was to increase direct action and civil disobedience.
But in order for the world’s population to be able to develop – the provision of decent nutrition, education for all, housing, health services, well paid and stimulating work – the world’s workers have to be in control of the means of production. The only way we can work out a democratic plan of production which takes into account people’s needs, as well as the needs of the environment and sustainable economy, is by taking ownership and control away from the private multinationals, and developing a socialist society.