G8 Rostock: What did the G8 summit achieve?

Socialists must build powerful alternative to capitalism

Nero’s fiddling while Rome burns comes to mind as the US faces its worst drought since the Great Depression and Bush dodges making a concrete commitment for carbon emission reduction. Even rock stars turned campaigners Bono and Geldof were unimpressed with this G8 summit – it must have been bad!

The climate change deal was described by The Guardian (London) as having more holes than a golf course. Even before the meeting began Bush dashed any hopes when he made it clear he would not support any specific proposals for tackling climate change for fear of damaging the US economy.

14 of the 25 countries where the World Trade Organisation runs anti-poverty programmes have seen GDP either remains at the same level or fall. However, the G8’s 2007 promises for the eradication of poverty amounted to only an extra $3 billion a year. Compare this to the over $1 trillion spent on arms in 2005.

Most G8 members are not even on target to meet their 2005 pledges. For the poor masses in Zambia, the Gleneagles pledge would have meant an increase to the national budget of a third. This has not materialised. As a result the health system is collapsing with one doctor for every 14,000 people compared to one per 600 in the UK.

The Gleneagles G8 meeting promised to provide universal access to treatment for Aids/HIV before the end of the decade. The declaration from this year’s meeting reiterated this promise but refers to five million sufferers despite general acceptance that ten million people are infected. This clearly represents a retreat from the previous promise.

Big business mandate

The G8 leaders have been forced to address these issues because of the pressure from ordinary people who are horrified by the deprivation and suffering that exists. Fundamentally, Bush and Co’s mandate comes from big business. They see their job as defending profits and they defend the ideas of free trade, privatisation and deregulation.

Around 15,000 police were mobilised from across Germany to defend the summit. Despite enormous weaponry and machinery the police were not able to prevent road blockades by determined protesters from delaying the start of the meeting or to prevent demonstrations taking place.

This is a small but historic victory for the anti-capitalist movement. However we want to do more than just delay meetings. The protests will be most effective if they raise questions about how the G8 leaders can be delayed permanently, how to deal with state repression and what can replace the G8 and their system. These questions and others came up at the anti-G8 events. Socialists from the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) put forward the need for the anti-globalisation movement to forge links with the workers’ movement and for working class struggle internationally for the transformation of society along socialist lines.

Young people in Rostock last week wanted to discuss these ideas. Unfortunately, the trade unions had not mobilised for the event. But struggles taking place in South Africa, in Latin America and elsewhere will show their role and an increase in such struggles will make the ideas we propose more concrete.

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June 2007