The Group of Eight (G8) nations comprise around 53.0% of global nominal GDP and 42.5% of global GDP. A primary reason for this is because they control most of the world’s capital. This fact is directly related to these nations’ colonial and imperial history. Decades of capital accumulation have provided the ruling elites of this group with a power previously unthinkable. Of course, this accumulation did not occur by accident. It is the product of wars, exploitation, racism, the repression of labor, polices based on the creation of famine and the denial of basic human rights for millions of humans around the planet.
Founded in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis and including only five nations at the time, the G8 is one of the answers of the monopoly capitalists to the crisis of capitalism that began in 1973. Designed to resolve intercapitalist rivialries and provide a united front against those nations and peoples that oppose it, the G8 functions much like a business association or international crime syndicate. Coincidentally (or not), the time of the G8’s creation also saw the establishment of the Trilateral Commission; a group of capitalist and government leaders convened to address the threat of “too much democracy” that resulted from the worldwide revolutions and rebellions that rumbled around the planet after World War Two and culminated in the period we now call the Sixties. As the recession of the 1970s crept into the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s, workers and others left behind as a result of the recession watched while the safety net and worker reforms they and previous generations had fought for were stripped away. Unsurprisingly, the response of the capitalist powers to the failure of their system to sustain itself was to attack those who actually produced the wealth. Despite long and occasionally violent struggles around the world, the Reagans, Thatchers and their ilk eventually won. Personal and national debt grew as corporations forced open markets to sell their cheaply produced goods (now that union labor had been forced to lie down and begin the Europe and the US) and earnings for the wealthiest soared.
Under the guise of bringing the free market and freedom to the world, Wall Street and its international henchmen (and women) forced itself on previously closed markets in the former Soviet Bloc and China. In addition, capitalists forced countries in the southern hemisphere to accept debt and bank loans to pay off the interest on that debt as international capital searched for more resources to consume, labor to exploit and markets to create. Countries where income was once reasonably equitable across the board found themselves with a disparity between the haves and the have-nots at greater ratios than ever before. Naturally, wars broke out in many of these nations as religious and ethnic identities were exploited by the elites for their own gain. Even Europe experienced this when the nation of Yugoslavia disintegrated before the world’s eyes.
And then there’s NATO. Originally formed to keep the Stalinist states of the Soviet Bloc at bay while the capitalist nations secured their position in postwar Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should have met its end when the Stalinist nations fell in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Instead, NATO expanded its mission and became the military wing of the G8 and its neoliberal globalization project. As neoliberal champion Thomas Friedman stated in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15….” From Bosnia to Afghanistan to Libya, NATO has consistently proved that it is there to provide the cover of a coalition for attacks on states and peoples that do not agree with the G8’s ideas for global capitalism.
Despite the fact that they share a common motivation, the member governments of the G8 have not always agreed. There have been times when various national interests have prevented unanimity. Most often, the capitol that squawks the loudest is Washington, which is used to getting its way. As with many of its other alliances and agreements, Washington uses the power of the G8 and NATO when their goals and methods match Washington’s. Otherwise, Washington goes its own way, intent on prevailing. The invasion and occupation of Iraq is perhaps the best and most recent example of this, while the invasion and ongoing war in Afghanistan is a prime example of Washington using NATO as a cover for its designs.
Over the past decade, meetings of the G8 have been met with massive protests. Those protests have been met with repression. Actions include preventing protesters from crossing borders to preemptive arrests and detention. The sheer scope of the repression of the protests proves a concerted effort by law enforcement that stretches across borders and involves intense surveillance and infiltration. The police forces at the protests themselves have not been shy either. In fact, at a protest in Genoa, Italy in 2003 a young protester named Carlos Guiliani was shot and killed by police.
The next meetings of the G8 and NATO are scheduled to be held in Chicago from May 15-22 2012. An August 28, 2011 meeting is being called by the United National Antiwar Conference (UNAC) network and other groups to organize against the G8/NATO legacy of poverty, greed and war. Already, law enforcement and other government officials are threatening activists. In fact, Chicago’s superintendent of police Gene McCarthy recently spoke of mass arrests and violence against protesters. One can fairly assume that his stance has the support of the Chicago Mayor’s office and other law enforcement agencies like the Secret Service, FBI and so on. In response, the UNAC and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression have issued an open letter demanding Mayor Emmanuel guarantee civil liberties for the protesters and that he call off his dogs in the police department. The legacy of police violence against protests in Chicago is a long one, stretching at least from the attacks on the Haymarket protests in 1886 through the repression of the labor, racial and antiwar struggles of the 20th century. While the effectiveness of such a letter is questionable should law enforcement decide to prevent the protests, it is important that the word on law enforcement’s intentions gets out. It is even more important that these meetings do not pass without protest.
Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available in print and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org