The G7 Finance Ministers meet this week, (4-5th Feb) in a swanky London hotel to chat about how they’re gonna run the global economy. The G8 is the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and er… Russia. Russia aren’t really included in the finance talks because they owe too much money, therefore it’s the G7.
The G8 are like the executive committee of the system that sees economic growth as the answer to everything. They control over half the votes in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and basically exist to make life easier for transnational corporations. It’s unaccountable, un-transparent and unelected.
So how does what goes on in these meetings affect our lives? Many of the stories you read about in SchNEWS or the corporate media can be traced back to the dodgy influence of the G8. From Iraq to PFI hospitals to the water revolts in Bolivia, the G8’s pervasive stink wafts through many bad news stories in recent years.
The G8/G7 don’t actually make policies, they issue declarations. At a meeting last October they discussed “the sustainability of health-care spending in the major countries and ideas and policies for reform of such spending.” In the UK that will mean goodbye NHS and hello privatisation.
Neo-Labour strongly opposed PFI when they were in opposition, but their principles caved in when they got into power. Now everything from schools to hospitals to roads are put under the PFI hammer. This rampant privatisation is what the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) agreement is foisting upon governments across the world. GATS came from the G8-dominated WTO talks in 2001. If these international summits seem distant and abstract, the results are neither, they are concrete and visible in hospitals and schools in every part of the UK.
A study by a consultancy company which works for the Department of Health shows that for every £200 million spent on PFI hospitals the result will be a loss of a thousand doctors and nurses. The first PFI hospitals also contain some 28% fewer beds than the hospitals they replaced while many are heavily in debt and closing wards and cutting back services.
But there is a deeper level of corporate infestation. The G8 make noble sounding task forces and ask their mates to run them - effectively asking the corporations to cure the diseases they created. The Global Health Fund set up to combat HIV/AIDS was just flogging big brand drugs and Mark Moody Stuart, former Chairman of Shell, runs their G8 Renewable Taskforce. It’s like having the Children’s Welfare Department jointly headed by Dr G Glitter and Prof M Jackson.
Blair is trying to use his presidency of the G8 to repair his damaged reputation after Iraq and separate himself from Bush in the eyes of the UK public, by talking about Africa and climate change. This year they have invited China, India and Brazil to a breakfast meeting in recognition of their growing influence but they will have to wolf down their croissants sharpish and leave by the tradesman’s entrance before the business of business gets underway. After his speech in Trafalgar Square to Make Poverty History campaigners on Thursday, Nelson Mandela will stop in to try and persuade G8 leaders to adopt Gordon Brown’s Marshall Plan for Africa.
What won’t be in the headlines are the big financial issues like the potential collapse of the dollar which has lost 30% relative to other major currencies since 2002, due partly to the monkey in the white house but mostly the instability of global capital markets. And if the dollar goes then the bubble might really burst.
The dollar is used as the world’s reserve currency, which gives a huge subsidy to the US economy. The Euro threatens this situation, but the fact that OPEC sells oil only in US$ means that the dollar’s status is maintained. In 2000, in a deliberate attempt by Saddam to strike back at the US, Iraq started selling its oil for Euros. Could this explain the rush to get Western oil companies into Iraq? The only other countries considering making the same move are Iran and Venezuela, both of which the US have recently rattled their sabres at. And they’re not joking. The Pentagon have recently been drafting a contingency plan for an invasion of Iran by land from Iraq.
The G8 try and present themselves as a tight-knit bunch of mates, but behind the scenes there is constant squabbling, deal-making and deal-breaking. International summits are their family album, Kodak moments where they hold hands and smile for the cameras of the world’s media. By presenting a show of unity they can enforce their will over the rest of the world. To some of us it will be a relief to know that behind closed doors there are long, tedious arguments going on and seemingly endless wrangles over how to achieve their goals. To create a kick-ass mobilisation against the G8 this summer will be a major challenge and will demand that we work together over the few months we have left. Diverse groups will need to find ways to work together and resistance to the summit itself will be a reflection of this diversity.
Many will want to stop the so-called world leaders and their henchmen from meeting. For others, it is critical to de-legitimise this bankrupt system by shattering the fake global unity the G8 promotes - especially in a rich state like the UK. Then there are others who don’t care about the G8 itself, only what we, as a global movement, can do about expanding our own possibilities, living together, if only temporarily, with ‘no limits’.
All this will take people, time, money and more. It’s time to get involved!
SO WHAT CAN I DO?
* Get in touch and involved with your local Dissent! Network group - www.dissent.org.uk
* Donate and raise desperately needed money for leaflets, posters and - importantly - convergence spaces. Send money to: Dissent. Cooperative Bank, Sort Code 08-92-99, Account Number 6515 5518.
* Watch out for Corporate Watch briefing on the G8 in Scotland, available on line at the end of March and as a map sometime in April www.corporatewatch.org.uk
* TRAPESE have been touring about the UK since September doing workshops and pub quizzes clueing people up about issues behind the G8, and mobilising people to get to Scotland in July as well boosting grassroots resistance in their own area. Only 21 weeks til the summit, the clock is ticking. Time to get involved? TRAPESE and Have I Got SchNEWS For You crew are planning a spring tour. If you want to host an event contact firstname.lastname@example.org call 07904 452297 or the SchNEWS office. See www.trapese.org for dates and more info.