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(en) Britain, Organise* #64 - what's all the fuss about the g8?

Date Sat, 11 Jun 2005 21:49:02 +0300


The forthcoming Summit of the Group of Eight (or G8 to it's
enemies), to be held in the Scottish golf resort of Gleneagles
between July 6th and 8th, has stimulated opposition in a
number of political areas. This article looks at the what's in
store for the world's leaders this summer.
First, what exactly is the G8? The G8
consists of 8 of the most powerful nation
states in the world. It has been in existence
for over 30 years and its job is to be a forum
for policy discussion for the ruling class. It
is, however, primarily symbolic and an
oppor tunity to do good PR with the media
and lobbyists. The real decisions are made
in other places outside the glare of the
media and beyond the protests of the
opposition.

Anyone for... golf?
Gleneagles itself is an excellent choice for
the state as it is suitably isolated and
situated in a rural area with little local
political radicalism. The nearest cities are
Perth and Stirling, neither of which have a
large indigenous left or alternative culture.
Opposition and protests have followed the
G8 wherever it has met. These protests
appeared to have reached both their height
and their lowest point when, at the infamous
2001 Genoa events, the police killed the
activist Carlo Giuliani and beat and tortured
Indymedia and other oppositional
journalists. Since then, however, there has
been massive opposition at the G8 summit
at Evian, France in June 2003 and this
year's summit is far from going unopposed.
The opposition
Who, then, is leading the opposition to the
G8 and why? The organised and mobilising
opposition can be divided into three
currents. The largest of these is the Make
Poverty History coalition.


Make Poverty History - Jesuits, union
bureaucrats and the Boys Brigade?
When the G8 last came to Britain, in
Birmingham in 1998, the main mobilisation
was by those calling for debt relief. In this,
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs),
charities and church groups were at the
forefront and the left had a minimal profile.
Though in Britain at this time groups such as
Reclaim the Streets were regularly
organising creative protests and street
parties,the international `anti-globalisation'
and `anti-capitalist' movements were yet to
play a significant role. The descendants of
that mobilisation today are the Make
Poverty History coalition. This coalition,
which makes no pretence of being anti-
capitalist, wishes to pressurise world leaders
into cancelling the debt of the `developing'
world. Make Poverty History span the entire
spectrum of lobbying politics and unite the
Baptist Union with the Jesuits, Islamic Relief
with Comic Relief, the TUC and the Boys
Brigade. It is holding a march in Edinburgh
on the Saturday before the G8 comes to
Scotland, a march which will possibly be the
largest the country has ever seen. It is at
this march that the authorities fear an
`anarchist' bloc, bent on wreaking havoc and
destruction, will emerge. But more on
media myths later. The main `radical' and
ostensibly anti-capitalist mobilisation takes
the form of G8 Alternatives (G8Alt), a
coalition involving The Scottish Socialist
Party, Scottish CND, Friends of the Earth,
World Development Movement, Muslim
Association of Britain and others.

SWP front?
G8Alt has been dismissed as a front for the
Socialist Workers Party. The truth is
somewhat more complex. Rather, the SWP
has managed to dominate the coalition
from the beginning and maintained control
through frenetic activity and paying careful
attention to the appearances of open and
democratic organisation. Being, in
Scotland, no more than a Platform (i.e. a
fraction) within the Scottish Socialist Party,
it has done this through the branches it
dominates and its front organisations such
as Globalise Resistance. The rest of the
Scottish Socialist Party has been too busy
with other campaigns, notably the General
Election, to prioritise the G8 and has been
willing to allow the legwork to be done by
the SWP, despite the unease this may bring.
The SWP have thrown themselves in with an
eye to recruitment and the building of a
power base in Scotland, which up to now
has eluded them. The other groups which
have affiliated have likewise allowed the
SWP to dominate, or have been too small
and marginal to affect changes. The
Scottish Trade Union Congress, despite the
moderation of the G8Alt proposals, has
declined to come on board, though a small
number of individual union branches have
affiliated.

So what are the G8Alt planning?
Other than supporting the Make Poverty
History march, the G8Alt is organising a
counter-summit in Edinburgh featuring the
great and the good of the anti-globalisation/
anti-imperialist movements at the bargain
price of £15 entrance fee. It is supporting a
demonstration outside the Dungavel
Detention centre in solidarity with asylum
seekers and refugees and it is supporting a
blockade of Faslane nuclear submarine
base called by Scottish CND and Trident
Ploughshares. It is also sponsoring a day of
`direct action' at Gleneagles itself. This day
of direct action so far consists of a no more
than a traditional march and demonstration,
which they calculate will be about 20,000
strong. This demonstration, scheduled for
Wednesday 7th July, coincides with the day
of action around Climate Change called by
People's Global Action. This day of action is
being supported by the third oppositional
current, the Dissent Network of resistance
against the G8.

Dissent: a network of resistance?
The Dissent network, formed in the Autumn
of 2003, is an informal network of broadly
libertarian local groups, including London's
WOMBLES, Cardiff Anarchist Network,
several social centres and specific `working
groups'. It describes itself as " a
mechanism for communication between
local groups and working groups involved in
building resistance to the G8 and capitalism
in general. It hopes to exist long after the
world leaders have returned home..."
(Dissent statement in `Days of Dissent'
pamphlet October 2004. The network is
open to anyone accepting the hallmarks of
Peoples' Global action, itself a network,
formed in 1998, international in scope and
involving a diverse range of anti-
globalisation groups and social movements
including the Zapatistas, the Brazilian
landless peasants movement and European
`autonomists'. The PGA's hallmarks commit
it to a rejection of capitalism, patriarchy,
religious fundamentalism and racism and to
embrace a "confrontational attitude" calling
for "direct action and civil disobedience" and
an organisational philosophy based on
"decentralisation and autonomy" (from PGA
Hallmarks). So the PGA is an implicitly
libertarian organisation, though not one in
the tradition of class struggle anarchism
Dissent are mobilising for the pre-G8 march,
for the Faslane action (Trident Ploughshares
are participating in both G8Alt and Dissent)
as well as for the Climate Change day of
action. To this end they are planning various
innovative and creative ways to blockade the
summit and disrupt the free-flow of hot air
therein. These tactics may include
approaches to the Gleneagles area via the
local hills with an army of revolutionary
ramblers. A People's Golfing Action network
of "anarchist golfers" may appear,
complimenting the Clandestine Insurgent
Rebel Army planned. Beyond these
humorous and media-friendly approaches
the Dissent network has been trying to
establish a Convergence Space somewhere
in rural Perthshire or Stirlingshire, where the
many activists committed to direct action as
well as discussion might gather. Dissent
has also taken legal support, medical
support and international activist training
seriously. This has lead sections of the
media in Scotland to paint Dissent as the
likely organisers of a fearsome anarchist
Black Bloc of professional rioters. There are
certainly some on the left aping these
tactics.

The good, the bad and the Black Bloc
Relations between G8Alt and the Dissent
network are cool but Dissent supporters
have attended the open G8Alt organising
meetings and have suggested that the
mobilisations organised by G8Alt and
Dissent may complement each other and
successfully argued that the state must not
be allowed to paint one group of protesters
`good' and the other `bad' in a divide and
rule tactic. Whether this level of unity in
diversity holds is another question. The
security for the G8 events will affect local
residents considerably and it is likely that
people in nearby Auchterarder will be virtual
prisoners in their own village. Local
activists, including CND in Stirling have been
subject to low-level police harassment for
several months.

Media hysteria
Sections of the media have attempted to
whip up a low-level hysteria that focuses
upon the possibility of `anarchist' violence
and the spectre of the `Black bloc'. Water
cannon and tear gas are expected to be
deployed if confrontation does take place
and threats of live ammunition being used
have been leaked to the press in an obvious
attempt to intimidate people wanting to
take direct action. One of the problems with
the Dissent network is the lack of grassroots
organisation in communities and
workplaces in Scotland. Many (though not
all) of the English based Dissent activists are
highly mobile, perhaps only intermittently
involved in local struggles. They are the
infamous summit-hoppers, heading off to
where the perceived `action' is. In Dissent
publications there is much talk of anti-
capitalist movement but little focus on
where the dynamic for such a movement
might come from. The Dissent network
seems to rarely look beyond the activist
milieu of which it is a part. Although it talks
of leaving behind a stronger ant-capitalist
movement following the G8 protests, it isn't
clear how this might come about.
So, come July the stage is set for massive
protest, considerable hot air and some
creative direct action. Anarchist
communists from all over Europe and
beyond will be there, part of a class struggle
red and black contingent (not bloc!) and
supporting effective direct action. But, more
importantly perhaps, they must be there
when the circus has left town and the day to
day effects that the likes of the G8 create
remain to be fought. Less media-friendly,
probably less exciting but ultimately more
impor tant.

For more info see www.dissent.org.uk
===========================================
Organise is the magazine of the Anarchist Federation.
It is published twice times a year to promote discussion
and the development of anarchist communist theory.

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