For the past 50 years, global institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and more recently, the G8 and the World Trade Organisation have regularly convened in order to continue their mission of re-structuring and re-ordering the global economy.
Economic and social analysis has repeatedly shown that the policies being pursued by the G8 protect the advantages of global economic elites at the expense of the world's poor while wreaking widespread environmental damage.
In the last decade, across the world from Chiapas, to Seattle, to Prague, to Quito and now Evian, people have been calling the legitimacy of these institutions into question. The forms of protest and resistance have been rich and varied, encompassing broad cross-sections of society. The success and visibility of this resistance has partially depended upon a willingness to go beyond traditionally passive demonstrations to take more forceful and direct action against the global institutions. The recent imperialist invasion of Iraq provoked the largest demonstrations that the world has ever witnessed. Even when these globally coordinated demonstrations involve millions of people they are effectively ignored by the State. The petition of 17 million signatures collected by Jubilee 2000 urging the G8 leaders to alleviate the debt crisis of the “developing” world was similarly side-lined and ignored despite an obvious popular mandate from the people they are claiming to represent.
The failure of representative democracies to represent the wishes of their electorates means that traditional forms of political expression such as voting, demonstrations and petitions have become largely redundant. There is a need for groups and individuals to take more direct action on the root causes of the structural economic injustice being inflicted on the millions of poverty-stricken people around the world.
Throughout the last century, positive social change has depended upon the willingness of groups and individuals to go beyond legal limits in challenging existing regimes, from the suffragettes who risked their lives in the fight for the vote for women, to the anti-colonial struggles of Gandhi and Mandela. At the time these individuals and social movements have been portrayed as dangerous extremists and a menace to society. Under proposed EU legislation they and their supporters would almost certainly have been classified as “terrorists.” In retrospect history has shown them to be catalysts of progressive, emancipatory agendas. What liberties we enjoy today have been earned by actions of dissidents throughout history who have been inspired by the courage of their convictions and risked imprisonment and violent repression to challenge and disrupt the oppressive governments of their time.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the forces that wish to preserve economic and social injustice today seek to criminalise and marginalize the popular resistance that demands a more democratic and equitable world. One criteria for the effectiveness of what has been called “the anti-globalisation movement” is the level of repression that it is currently facing. This repression takes two forms. On the one hand, we have “emergency” legislation that aims to criminalise legitimate and democratic dissent. Since September the 11th at both the national and EU level, there has been an avalanche of increased powers of surveillance, restrictive border controls, punitive measures, databases and ad hoc unaccountable groups targeting protests and protestors as well as other marginal groups in society such as refugees, asylum seekers and resident migrant populations. The transformation of “activist” into “terrorist” in the eyes of the law is a calculated exploitation of the post 0911 political climate in order to justify some of the biggest erosions of civil liberties we have witnessed in Western “democracies” this century. This official policy is then reflected in the increased willingness to use violent force in the streets in a form of “arbitrary justice” against those who challenge the undemocratic and unaccountable nature of meetings like the G8.
The “war on terror” has turned into an ongoing “war on freedom and democracy” which is now setting new norms - where accountability, scrutiny and human rights protections are luxuries to be discarded in defence of “democracy.”
From the shootings in Gothenburg, the murder of Carlos Giuliani in Genoa, the near fatal incident of the Aubonne bridge incident and the attack on Guy Smallman with a concussion grenade in Geneva, and even more recently the horrific reports of police brutality in Thessaloniki, governments are clearly sending the message that they are prepared to kill and maim in order to silence legitimate dissent against oppressive global regimes. These are the handful of events that received some media attention, amidst hundreds of unreported incidents involving beatings on the street, malicious arrest and falsified evidence. The events that took place on the Aubonne bridge were not simply an isolated incident involving individual police officers, they are part of a wider political trend to attempt to intimidate those members of society who would use civil disobedience and direct action as a means of political articulation.
Underneath the empty rhetoric of development and poverty relief, the leaders of the G8 countries are deliberately increasing the disparity between the rich and poor of the world.
The neo-liberal agenda pursued by the G8 actually exacerbates rather than alleviates the problems such as poverty and environmental destruction that they claim to address.
For every one dollar in aid to developing countries, more than seven dollars comes back to rich countries in the form of debt servicing. The perpetuation of these global injustices is readily apparent to those who choose not to bury their heads in the sand. To ignore such injustice is to be effectively complicit in it. We intend to use the criminal court case being mounted against us as an opportunity to show that our actions as an affinity group in attempting to stop the delegates from reaching the summit were entirely legitimate in trying to limit the destructive impact of this meeting on the global South and the environment. The legal challenge we are pursuing against the Swiss authorities is also important to show that governments cannot use such violent repression with impunity.
The extent and force of the repression of institutions such as the EU and the G8 means that now more than ever we must show that these tactics of intimidation will not stop people from exposing the global violence and injustice that is being inflicted in the name of neo-liberalism. We can and will resist this repression, in the courts and in the media as well as in the streets.