Wednesday, May 16, 2007

G8 crackdown under way

Two related stories from the world of global capitalism: 1) the G8 has failed to deliver pledges on aid made at Gleneagles summit in 2005 (surprise, surprise); 2) German police have launched a massive crackdown on activists in advance of next month’s G8 in the Baltic sea resort of Heiligendamm. Rock star Bono, who with Bob Geldof helped inspire the Make Poverty History campaign that preceded Gleneagles, warned that failure to deliver on earlier pledges could provoke a return to the mass street protests seen at Seattle and Genoa. He said: "It's not just the credibility of the G8 that's at stake. It's the credibility of the largest non-violent protest in 30 years. Nobody wants to go back to what we saw in Genoa, but I do sense a real sense of jeopardy." Bono and Geldof set up Data to monitor the G8 pledges. Its latest report says Russia and Italy are leading the resistance while another international monitoring group concluded that progress was snail-like among the G8 as a whole. A study by a group of European NGOs said that countries were using smoke and mirrors to dress up their spending, counting not just debt relief but domestic spending on refugees and educating foreign students in their aid budgets.

Meanwhile, as the political leaders of world capital prepare to gather in Heiligendamm, the German state has unleashed a wave of repression to try and block protests. Apart from denying visas to activists from outside the EU, police have launched a series of raids and arrests which human rights lawyers say have no basis in law. A typical raid took place last week when police surrounded a left-wing cultural centre and office building in Berlin's Kreuzberg district. About 20 agents entered the building and searched several of its offices, seizing files and computers. It was part of a massive series of co-ordinated police raids in which some 880 agents of Germany's federal criminal office and 20 agents of the federal prosecution office searched 40 properties in six German states. To cover themselves, the federal prosecutor’s office said that there was a "suspicion that a terrorist group has been created to violently disrupt the G8 summit". The raids are just one part of an expensive effort by Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-wing coalition government to guarantee security for the June 6-8 G8 summit. Nearly $20 million has been spent on a fence around the summit venue to keep protesters out, which is ironic as Heiligendamm was in former East Germany, which specialised in building walls to keep people in. In Germany, the Committee for Fundamental Rights and Democracy, a human rights organisation, condemned the "systematic criminalisation" of G8 opponents. It plans to monitor the protests but warned: "Our long-standing experience with mass protest events made us fear that yet again, the actions taken against the protests by politicians, police and security services would violate fundamental civil and political rights. The numerous police raids carried out on Wednesday 9 May 2007 in social centres and private homes of some of the organisers of the anti-globalisation protests represent the first step of disproportionate state repression. The fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were thereby massively violated, and German democracy has been severely damaged."

The moral of the related stories of the failure of the G8 to deliver and the state attacks ahead of the next summit is that what the major economies hold they intend to keep. No amount of pressure or one-off protests will shift them from their mission to defend and protect the interests of the transnational corporations and financial institutions that rule today’s world. Removing them from positions of power and control is a more realistic, practical solution.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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