Stopping the hijack

Michelle Euston reports from the May 28 conference of the SWP's 'anti-capitalist' front Globalise Resistance

The key theme that ran through the May 28 Globalise Resistance conference was the notion that the Blair government must be prevented from 'hijacking' the July 2 Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh. The conference, which was well attended by over 100 people (mostly Socialist Workers Party comrades, of course), had some good speakers. Amongst these were Richard Gott, speaking on Chavez and Venezuela; Patrick Bond and Sue Branford on 'A third way for the global south?'; and Alex Callinicos and Sami Ramadani on 'Is the US winning in the Middle East?' There were a number of workshops and the closing plenary, 'To Gleneagles!', was led off by Chris Nineham (SWP), Billy Hayes, Emily Madamombe and Martin Drewery. In the opening plenary, 'An alternative commission for Africa' (opened by Patrick Bond, Jan Burgess and Charles Abugre of Christian Aid), it became very clear that, in the words of Abugre, aid had become "an instrument of control". It had become "the problem "¦ Aid in its current form means overwhelming debt." Similarly, Eric Toussaint said: "Aid is a political instrument to dominate and exploit a developing country because it produces debt." Patrick Bond in the latest Socialist Review states: "Donor aid to Africa dropped 40% in real terms during the 1990s, in the wake of the west's cold war victory. Most such aid is siphoned off beforehand by bureaucracies and home-country corporations, or is used for ideological purposes instead of meeting genuine popular needs" (Socialist Review June). People at the conference held differing views on whether or not aid should be promoted. For example, Charles Abugre, the charity official, declared: "We should not promote more aid." But Chris Harman, the revolutionary, felt it was silly to say we do not want aid money: the question is the need to expose how and why the money is given. Harman is right about exposing how aid is used, but surely it is foolish to buy into the illusion that, in the hands of the bourgeoisie and without democracy, it can ever be used to fundamentally change the lives of the millions, or bring real benefits. As revolutionaries we want aid/solidarity to be given along class lines. In the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami, for example, we called for donations to be sent directly to trade unions and other working class and popular organisations. In this way aid/solidarity can be used to support the forces of democracy and not siphoned off by corrupt bureaucrats or used to strengthen existing power structures and relations of dependence. At the end of the day, revolutionaries seek the self-emancipation of the working class. Aid money needs to be administered by those below, for those below. During the miners' Great Strike of 1984-85 we saw such an approach in practice. However, aid that is given by the imperialist countries with the usual strings attached must be rejected. Caroline Pearce (from Jubilee Debt Campaign, who spoke at one of the workshops), made the point that in 2004 the IMF instructed Zambia to impose a wage freeze on public servants if they wanted to qualify for aid. As a result 9,000 teachers lost their jobs. During the closing plenary, comrade Nineham gave a rousing speech, despite his attempt to link in with the establishment-led Make Poverty History campaign. This, he said, had "touched a nerve in British society. People feel it is a scandal that 30,000 children die a day from poverty. They know such criminal behaviour is avoidable." Blair and Brown showed that they were not serious in tackling poverty when they took us into the war: "This is an attempt by Blair to coopt the globalisation movement. To use the language of social justice and push 'humanity imperialism' across the globe. Demonstrators that go to G8 have a different agenda - people want to see a different way that things are organised." Nineham is right to denounce this "humanity imperialism", but wrong to imply that capitalist charity-mongering somehow stands apart from this. He is also right in stressing the need for a different way of organising. But what form should this take? As revolutionaries, whilst we recognise the importance of building mass movements against the neoliberal agenda of the capitalist class, we stress the central role that the organised working class must have in leading any successful mass movement. However, for this to happen workers need their own party. Comrade Harman correctly identifies the need for a Bolshevik Party as a necessary goal: "Socialists have to build an organisation that fights on every front if there is ever going to be a serious challenge to ruling class power "¦ that can't be done with a party like the Labour Party of a social democratic sort, or, for that matter, simply by an electoral coalition like Respect "¦ This is the sort of party 'of a new sort' that Lenin set out to build in Russia "¦ it remains a necessary goal in Britain today" (Socialist Review May). This must be the central message that revolutionaries take to the G8 protests in July. Michelle Euston