More poverty, more missiles
Ostentatious and pompous as ever, the 33rd G8 summit took place from June 6 to June 8 at the Kempinski Grand Hotel in Heiligendamm on the Baltic. Jim Moody reports
Leading politicians from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and the USA met together; they were joined by the EU's representative, president of the EU Commission José Manuel Durà£o Barroso. In addition, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa participated under the designation of G8+5.
But what in fact did this much-trumpeted meeting of the leaders of the principal capitalist countries decide? For Africa, nothing new; in fact, cries of backsliding were the order of the day from the likes of Sir Bob Geldof and Bono. They were incensed that the G8's past promises have really resulted in very little.
A far cry from the group hug atmosphere in Gleneagles in 2005, when Geldof, the Live 8 organiser, was invited to address the G8 world leaders. Still the Blair sycophant, though, Sir Bob was reported by the BBC as praising the prime minister, who had apparently "gone down all guns blazing" trying to get the G8 to honour their aid commitments.
What Saints Bono and Geldof were sounding off about was based on their belief in their own hype about the decisions from previous G8 get-togethers. This pair of tired pop stars interpreted the cosy chats of the 'great' men and women of the planet at Gleneagles to mean that they were worried about the environment, Africa, world poverty and numerous other concerns altruistically beyond their roles as arbiters of capitalist rule. Of course, it was not to be, and the two old rockers feel betrayed. At Gleneagles, G8 leaders agreed to increase aid by £25 billion a year by 2010, half of which was to go to Africa, but the target looks likely to be missed by a whopping £11 billion; in other words, only 56% fulfilled.
While Bono and Geldof cry out against the effects of capital's exploitation, they also serve as a kind of safety valve. They are the modern-day father Gapons. On the one hand, they give voice to the widespread anger that exists against a system that reduces millions of Africans to the depths of poverty. When Geldof says, "Something must be fucking done", he expresses the sentiments of huge numbers of sincere people. Likewise when he bitterly talks about the all too flimsy 'success' of the last G8 having now been 'betrayed'. An assessment echoed by African leaders whose countries are heavily dependent on aid: Dr Brian Chituwo, Zambia's health minister, similarly called the G8's failure to keep its promise to increase aid to Africa a "betrayal".
But what do Bono and Geldof propose to fucking do? Though they are quite prepared to rant and rave - and even say rude words - they believe that the leaders of the big countries, especially the G8, are the solution. So pop concerts and fronting demonstrations goes hand in hand with the cosy chats and the fawning sycophancy.
Where, really though, does African poverty come from? It certainly does not derive from some inherent tendency to corruption, the existence of dictatorships and the outbreak of devastating civil wars. That is to confuse cause and effect, and the main cause lies in the global pecking order.
There has been decolonisation. Nevertheless imperialism and an unequal division of labour ensures that Africa remains a victim. This can be illustrated by the gallant efforts of local rulers to lift their post-independence countries out of poverty by boosting production. Kwame Nkrumah declared that if Ghana could double the output of cocoa production it would overcome the problems of underdevelopment and usher in the dawn of an African socialism. Superhuman efforts achieved pretty much this aim, only for it all to come to nothing: the extra cocoa on the market depressed prices by a similar amount. But then that is how markets work, for all of Nkrumah's talk of socialism.
Of course, markets are not simply markets. They are not the products of nature. They are controlled, bent, perverted by these in control. Against the US and the EU the weak and highly unstable African countries have not a chance.
True, before the 1960s, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) declared quite correctly that the old borders bequeathed by imperial rule were completely artificial and bore no imprint of African authenticity. Accordingly, the OAU refused to accept them as legitimate. However, once the leaders of African countries tasted state power, their views rapidly changed. The pan-African nationalism of the petty bourgeoisie morphed into the nationalism of the bureaucratic and military elite. To continue with the old OAU policy would have threatened new-found power, wealth and privileges. So the organisation did a 180Â° flip and reversed its position. The old borders became sacrosanct.
Only the working class can pursue the goal of unity. First regional, then global. And without such unity Africa is doomed to remain at the bottom of the global pecking order for the foreseeable future. If things continue to deteriorate in Africa, the US might agree to a certain loosening or even a partial reversal of the neoliberal screw. However, America has its own imperatives. It is a declining imperial power that is ruling over a declining capitalism. The turn to finance capital is therefore no mere whim by this or that US president. It is a particular stage of capitalist decline: the stage of parasitism.
What specific form working class unity takes is a matter that will in the main be determined by the course of the world revolution itself. But there is every reason for the formation of regional parties. Workers in southern Africa, those in countries such as Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia, have every reason to forge the strongest organisational links with their brothers and sisters in South Africa. This reflects economic and social realities. Ditto the formation of a pan-Arab party joining north Africa with the Middle East.
So the solution for Africa's wars, the poverty and disease, including the scourge of HIV/Aids, lies with the working class. Not with self-obsessed figures such as Bono and Geldof, or with more aid and debt relief. And certainly not with the G8.
Putin protesteth too much. Or so it would seem over the eastern European missile crisis.
The anti-missile missiles that the USA would like to place on the territory of the Czech Republic and Poland will surely make no difference to the balance of terror between Russia and Nato.
Given the current state of technology, it is wrong to imagine that these or any other ABMs are reliable when it comes to knocking the missiles of rival powers out of the skies. Certainly if it came to a full-scale launch. Yes, with careful pre-planning and prior knowledge of trajectory, speed, target, etc, well placed ABMs can hit their intended target. Hence such a system might work against Iran or North Korea, as the US says it is intended to do.
However, if Russia were ever to engage in hostilities with Nato involving a nuclear attack - admittedly an unlikely scenario - it would simply overwhelm the system with the number of warheads it has in its armoury. They would be launched from land and sea and often in the form of multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicles (Mirvs). A Mirv is simply a collection of nuclear weapons carried on a single intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). We would therefore not be talking about one or two missiles, but rather hundreds of Mirvs - a veritable barrage, in fact. No-one is suggesting that US ABMs in the Czech Republic and Poland would be able to deal with this situation, were it to arise.
In other words, despite the hype from the Kremlin it is quite obvious that Russia is not the target of the projected US missile system in eastern Europe. They are, yes, for use against 'rogue states' such as Iran and North Korea.
However, that is not the end of the story. What exercises the military strategists of the Pentagon, certainly in terms of medium-term perspectives, is the militarisation of space. Developments in space science are being sold to the US public as a return to the Moon, of the next frontier being Mars, and so on. But the Moon and Mars provide an ideological cover and perhaps such missions will be used as a technological test bed. Nothing more.
In reality, the game is a military one. Fantastic as it might only recently have seemed, the idea of basing nuclear-powered weapons platforms in orbit around the Earth is in the offing. Laser weapons based in space would certainly enable military controllers on the ground to hit missiles before or just after they have been launched.
So protection against fanatical enemies and the wonders of space exploration are what is being sold up front. But what is really happening is the normalisation of anti-missile defence and therefore the notion of fighting and winning a war against a nuclear power.
Within such a framework, it is thus easier to work out that it is this rational kernel of space wars that Putin is objecting to. Doubtless he is playing to Russian nationalism for political reasons. But, although the east European missile sites may be developed with an eye on Iran and North Korea, the agenda of the US is much more extensive.
Counters in this dangerous game are already being moved, quite apart from Putin's and the Russian state's voiced and unvoiced concerns. Earlier this year, on January 11, China's armed forces used a missile to shoot down one of its own orbiting satellites. CNN reported the following week that "US government officials" thought the test "could undermine relations with the west and pose a threat to satellites important to the US military". Clearly - that was the point, as the Chinese state saw and sees it.
The G8 meeting showed once again what is wrong with our capitalist-controlled world and gave us a glimpse of the nuclear hell it could unleash if we allow it to continue.