In business to spread poverty
The heads of the world’s richest countries have arrived in Gleneagles, Scotland. They are not here to tackle world poverty, however, despite some of the hopes raised by their hypocritical rhetoric. They are here, of course, to tighten their stranglehold on the world economic system. To ensure that worldwide the neo-liberal policies of enforced privatisation and attacks on the living and working conditions of billions of workers and poor continue to be driven through. In short, their stay in the exclusive Gleneagles hotel is to perpetuate world poverty. They are in the business of making poverty.
As with all G8 meetings, the presence of the likes of Bush and Blair, Chirac and Schroder has been met with angry demonstrations all week. But the start of the summit was the focal point. And the forces of the state were prepared, with over 10,000 police on duty from all over Britain. They had spread disinformation to discourage people from attending the protest – TV and radio on the day constantly announcing that the demo had been cancelled, attacking protesters in Edinburgh in the run-up to the demo and revelling in the sensationalist media reports and so on.
When the 150-strong contingent of the Committee for a Workers’ International and International Socialist Resistance set off, we were prepared for any eventuality. In the end, an hour’s drive took four hours, as the two coaches and two mini-buses ran the gauntlet of a series of roadblocks and searches. In scenes reminiscent of the momentous miners’ strike of 1984-85, riot police could be seen hiding behind hedgerows and patrolling fields all over central Scotland. An immense steel fence had been erected around the grounds of Gleneagles. Service stations were shut down.
On arrival in the town of Auchterarder, CWI/ISR formed a contingent with our own stewards. It was just as well. Despite all the negative and hysterical media hype, we found the vast majority of the people in the town friendly and interested in the event, taking leaflets and chatting. Some shops had notices in several languages welcoming the protesters. The police claimed 5,000 were on the march. Double that, if you want to get nearer the truth. Our contingent’s red flags were distinctive, the songs and chants anti-capitalist, internationalist and socialist. Effective.
It was clear, however, that the police were ready and more than willing for a physical confrontation. The narrow streets meant that the demonstration had nowhere to go in the event of a police charge. Unfortunately, the organisers did not seem to have taken this into account as the stewarding was practically non-existent. The result was that the demo quickly ground to a halt when it reached the barricaded entrance to Gleneagles. It was going nowhere. People were starting to get crushed.
Riot police peered over gardens, tooled up for a fight. They were about to move in, splitting up the demonstration in order to attack it more easily. Police officers in uniform disappeared behind walls opening up plastic dustbins full of riot gear, reappearing moments later fully armed. These are the scenes the media will concentrate on to try to discredit the anti-capitalist groups. They will happily listen to the likes of Bob Geldof and pat him on the head, while they listen to his bleeding hearted pop concerts, even give him a place around a table.
The CWI/ISR, however, continues to build on the anti-capitalist mood. These protests are an important part of building resistance. But the real power to change the world and make poverty history lies, potentially, in the hands of the working class around the world. Linking the struggle against poverty to the workers’ movement – to the fight against privatisation of essential industries and services, and other attacks – is what is needed. Equipping the workers’ movement with a socialist programme which can provide a viable alternative to capitalist greed and injustice, is the only long-term alternative.