The French Situationist philosopher, Guy Debord, once wrote that the consumerist society whic exploits the world does so not simply through its economic power but “in its capacity as the society of the spectacle”. The G8 summits have become an essential part of this spectacle. The rulers of the globe today insist on a passive acceptance of the world they have created.
They now also want to determine the parameters of protest. Hence the crude attempt to deny us the right to march past the gates of Gleneagles Hotel where Bush, Chirac, Blair, Berlusconi, Putin and their friends will be cocooned on July 6. In the interests of a peaceful, non-violent rally it is essential that the restrictions be immediately removed. The hotel is virtually a fortress even without a police presence, but to ensure the total safety of the neo-liberal gang, the police, army and marines could assemble inside its perimeters and refrain from occupying the free space outside. The alternative might be chaos.
The increasingly isolated politicians and their embedded supporters in the media regard the millions who protest against the new order against its economic dictates and its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine as misguided young people at best, or at worst as potential terrorists. They do so because they have coalesced around a programme deregulation, privatisation, “flexible” work hours and war where necessary.
This was spelt out with surgical precision by Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, Larry Summers (currently president of Harvard University where he is busy arguing that women are genetically incapable of becoming scientists, etc): “The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. There is only one set of laws and they work everywhere.”
This is the mantra of politicians centre-left and centre-right who govern the Western world. They tell us that there is no alternative to the current system, thus reducing democracy and its institutions to a farce. Why then the glycerine tears over Africa? Why is that continent such a poignant sight? Why is Africa the last resort of scoundrel politicians and their hangers-on?
It was the same over a decade ago. A big fuss, a big spectacle but nothing changed. Why? Because there are structural causes and the structures at fault were created by the G8 and its forebears. The venal elites that rule most of Africa do so in alliance with giant corporations which milk the wealth of the country. The continent is rich in oil, gold and diamonds. It could fund its own recovery, but it has not been left alone and leaders who tried to change things were assassinated or removed. Regime-change is an old Western habit.
There are other continents where people have taken their destiny in their own hands. Latin America, which in the words of its poet-philosopher Eduardo Galeano, “was born into independent life mortgaged to British banks”. Two centuries later, as a Montevideo taxi driver puts it: “They say the Lord will provide. They think God runs the IMF.”
This Latin America is today in revolt against social engineers of the IMF and other US subsidiaries. In Venezuela, the Bolivarian movement has won power through the ballot box and three US attempts to impose regime-change have been defeated. In Bolivia there is a semi-permanent insurrection by indigenous peoples against privatisations. They have demanded a constitution that protects their lands and their mineral wealth from the corporate looters. And there are signs that many Africans are watching closely.
A friend just back from Ethiopia wrote me a few days ago:
“Trip was amazing. Demonstrations prior to election day number two million in Addis. Then, on the day itself, rural people lined up for miles to vote. When the government and the opposition both claimed victory the next day, all hell broke lose. No gasoline, banks closed, and a state of emergency declared. None of it reported in the press, of course. I got out on a KLM flight after passing through three military checkpoints “
And that is how real change will come, with people fighting for their democratic rights and losing their fear of the elites who govern them. The north wants the states in the south to reduce their functions to surveillance and punishment. Leave everything else to the market. The Latin American continent is saying “no”. When Africa does the same, it will begin to move forward, too. These are the noises that northern politicians do not like to hear. That is why making sure they hear them is crucial on July 6.
TARIQ ALI is author of the recently released Street Fighting Years (new edition) and, with David Barsamian, Speaking of Empires & Resistance
TARIQ ALI will be speaking at the Make the G8 History rally at the Old Theatre, London School of Economics on Tue 28th June @6:30pm with George Monbiot, George Galloway MP and others.