G8: Who are the Hijackers?

by MIKE MARQUSEE

"FROM July 6 to 8, violent extremists will be converging on Scotland," declares the Dissent Network, one of the groups planning militant opposition to the up-coming G8 summit, "They’ll be trying to meet at the Gleneagles hotel, and we’ll be trying to stop them." A neat inversion of the mainstream media presentation of what promises to be a symbolic confrontation with worldwide resonance.

On one side, the world’s most elite club, the leaders of the "Group of Eight" (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States), whose economies account for two-thirds of global wealth, but currently pour more money into pet food than international development. On the other, a diverse grassroots global justice movement determined to "make poverty history" — by forcing the G8 to cancel debt, increase aid and end unfair trade practises.

Remarkably, since its emergence into western consciousness with the Seattle protest of 1999, this movement has succeeded in making its cause so fashionable, that pop stars queue up to join its ranks (or at least be seen to join its ranks) and corporations vie to sponsor its initiatives. Even the politicians at whom the protests are aimed seem eager to be associated with the movement, when they’re not busy trying to demonise, divide or protect themselves from it.

Gleneagles was chosen as the site for the summit because it combines luxury with security. The 80-year-old French chateau style golf resort is set in 850 private acres of stunning Perthshire scenery. It’s remote by British standards, but not nearly remote enough to deter large numbers of protesters — which is why the police have banned a march to the resort planned for July 6.

For decades, Gleneagles was a high society fixture. After the London "season", it was yachting at Cowes, polo at Deauville and golf and grouse shooting at Gleneagles. These days the hotel relies on "Great Gatsby" discount packages to American tourists and the corporate conference business — of which the G8 gathering is the crème de la crème. Gleneagles is owned by Diageo plc, one of the planet’s biggest booze-merchants, whose brands include Johnnie Walker (over four bottles consumed worldwide every second), Guinness, Baileys, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Jose Cuervo. The company recently reported a half-year operating profit of £1.1 billion on a turnover of £4.98 billion — somewhat more than the United Kingdom will spend on aid for the whole of the current financial year.

Of course, the corporate connection, along with the expense (£150 million to the U.K. taxpayer) and five-star comforts, are being played down by the G8’s image-managers. Gleneagles is stocking up on fair trade coffee. The summit, we are told, is to be made "carbon neutral", thanks to a £50,000 grant for green projects in Africa. More significantly, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown have sought to paint themselves as champions of global justice. Brown has presented a modest debt-relief initiative (with stringent conditions, including the requirement that countries eliminate "impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign") and Blair has donned the "Make Poverty History" wristband created by NGOs organising what promises to be a 2,00,000 strong demonstration in Edinburgh on July 2.

The wristbands have become symbols not only of the cause but of attempts to incorporate and exploit it. More than a million of them were produced in Chinese sweatshops shamed by some of the world’s worst labour practices. And shops in the U.K. are selling a version of the wristband — personally endorsed by Bob Geldof — branded with the logos of companies accused of violating workers’ rights in developing countries, including fashion empire Tommy Hilfiger. The "exclusive online partner" for Geldof’s "Live 8" pop concerts (timed to step up the pressure on G8 leaders) is America Online, part of the Time Warner media behemoth, a beneficiary and sponsor of the very policies the musicians hope to challenge.
So while politicians and editors fret about "anarchists" hijacking the protests, global justice activists are entitled to ask just who the real hijackers are.

When not being treated as a threat to law and order, a domestic Al-Qaeda, these activists are subject to mockery and condescension. They are told to leave the making of history to wiser heads, to be "realistic", not to ask for too much. But despite the subtle and not so subtle attempts to blur the distinction between the agents of wealth and power and the agents of change, increasing numbers see through the public relations ruse. They compare the $50 billion increase in aid they’re calling for to the more than $150 billion cost of the U.S.’s war on Iraq, and they know that reality demands radicalism, not soft soap.

This essay originally appeared in the The Hindu.

MIKE MARQUSEE is the author of Chains of Freedom: the Politics of Bob Dylan’s Art and Redemption Song: Muhammed Ali and the Sixties. He can be reach through his website: www.mikemarqusee.com


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: A New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative