G8 fail to ‘Make Poverty History’
A quarter of a million people marched in Edinburgh on July 2nd on the Make Poverty History (MPH) demonstration. It was the largest protest ever witnessed in Scotland and reflected the intense anger that exists in society at the effects of capitalist neo-liberal policies on the world’s poor.
In the run up to the G8 meeting 360,000 people sent emails to Tony Blair demanding "trade justice", while in the UK alone 9.3 million white, Make Poverty History, wristbands were sold.
The leaders of MPH, a mix of NGO’s, charities, churches etc, in conjunction with Bob Geldof and Bono, argued that this summit was a unique opportunity to take decisive action to end the scandal of poverty. However, they consciously sought to avoid criticising the G8 leaders, never mind capitalism. The MPH campaign was also used by Blair and especially Gordon Brown to portray themselves as the champions of Africa and as committed anti-poverty campaigners.
This is despite the fact that Brown has been in the vanguard in advocating privatisation and trade liberalisation for the poorest nations.
While some of those who marched in Edinburgh had illusions that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown through the G8 would deliver something tangible on aid, debt cancellation and the environment the outcome of the G8 summit will have shattered those hopes.
"The G8 have betrayed the 1.1 billion people living in poverty across the world and the millions who supported the MPH campaign." – War on Want’s response to the G8 communiqué.
"The final communiqué is a disaster for the world’s poor. The agreements are nowhere near sufficient to tackle global poverty and the environmental crisis that we face." – World Development Movement.
Even the MPH’s official response to the G8 communiqué was forced to admit that the aid promised by the G8: "Will arrive 5 years too late and falls far short of aid needed to end poverty in the worlds poorest countries."
In fact, the decisions taken at the summit of the world’s richest nations in the luxury of the Gleneagles Hotel will make things worse not better.
50 million children will die between now and 2010 before the extra money promised by the G8 is even seen. By then one child will die from poverty every 3.5 seconds.
The G8’s promise to spend an extra $50 billion on aid by 2010 is mainly made up of money already pledged. Only $20 billion is new money and is likely to be taken from future aid budgets rather than new money. By 2010 it will have been 40 years since the United Nations agreed a target for the G8 of 0.7% of their annual wealth to be spent on aid. Currently it stands at 0.2%
"Fair trade" was a central demand of those who supported the MPH campaign. It was recognition of the brutal impact of capitalist neo-liberal policies which forced poor countries to "liberalise" i.e. privatise their economies in return for aid. This has resulted in precious resources leaving the poorest countries and flowing instead into the bank accounts of the dominant multinational corporations.
It’s business as usual following the G8 summit. Both the European Union and the US have now launched campaigns aimed at the WTO meeting later this year to force developing countries to open their manufacturing and services sectors to privatisation.
On Debt cancellation
Only 18 countries will qualify for debt relief out of the 60 identified as needing immediate debt cancellation to meet anti-poverty targets set in 2000. That means this year those countries that do qualify will get no more than $1 per person in relief. MPH called for ten times that level of debt cancellations.
Three weeks after the G8 summit agreed this measure it was revealed that rather than cancelling those debts immediately the G8 had in fact only agreed to do so for three years. Furthermore, there are now moves to allow the World Bank to re-impose debt repayments if countries are: "not on track with their programmes", in other words not carrying out the "free market" measures of privatisations, cuts in public spending and deregulation of the economy that the capitalist institutions insisted on for qualification in the debt cancellation programme.
A socialist alternative to make poverty history
An estimated two billion people worldwide live in poverty – on less than $2 a day. This is a direct result of the profit- driven policies of the capitalist elite and the 500 multinational companies that dominate the world economy. These policies that have massively increased the burden of exploitation on the poorest countries of the neo-colonial world through capitalist agencies like the World Bank, WTO and the IMF among others.
These have included an insistence on countries receiving aid only as a precondition that they open up their economies and allow the selling off of state assets to Western multinational companies. Water, gas and and other key resources have been privatised in Africa and Latin America through these neo-liberal policies. These same corporations have forced down the price of commodities from these countries to increase their profit margins.
At the G8 demonstration the International Socialist explained that to make poverty history is was necessary to tackle the disease as well as the symptoms. The disease of capitalism has to be eradicated to finally end poverty.
The 600 people in the world, whose wealth is greater than the poorest 3 billion, control and own the 500 multinational corporations that control the world economy. Democratic socialism would mean taking these companies into public and democratic ownership and using the wealth to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease.
Capitalism doesn’t just keep billions in poverty in the neo-colonial world. Even in the west the working class are under attack like never before. Capitalist governments like New Labour’s in Britain and Schroeder’s in Germany are slashing away at workers rights, pensions and the welfare state.
A genuine democratically planned and run socialist society is the only lasting solution to an otherwise bleak future of poverty, war and instability.
This article will appear in the September edition of ‘International Socialist’