Dead Men Left

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Good old Bob Geldof

DML going soft in its dotage? Not a bit of it. There are two pressing concerns in the lead-up to the G8 summit:

1. There will be a Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh on 2 July, at which hundreds of thousands are expected. Coaches are booked from absolutely everywhere and there are trains going from the major cities. It will be bloody enormous. However, Gordon Brown, aided by his NGO cheerleaders in Oxfam, is making a serious attempt to co-opt the protests, partly as a prop for his leadership ambitions, and partly (one suspects) with longer-term ambitions to reinforce New Labour's weak social base. There have been serious attempts by MPH to curtail the more radical elements of the global justice movement: alone amongst the major civil society organisations, the Stop the War Coalition has been refused affiliation; on a smaller scale, Globalise Resistance have been asked to amend their website to avoid "inciting violence".

In practice, the more conservative elements amongst the MPH leadership are playing a dangerous game: there is absolutely no guarantee that well-informed protestors will swallow the Brownite line on Africa, and the simple call to "make poverty history - make war history" has an intuitive appeal, however much the Basil Fawlty tendency ("Don't mention the war!") hope otherwise. The particular danger for them is that, in addition to the MPH-supported rally on Saturday 2 July, many thousands of demonstrators will attend the anti-G8 protest on Wednesday 6, on the opening day of the summit. This will shift the initiative away from those hoping to merely support Brown at the G8, and towards those opposing further forced "liberalisation" in the developing world - and, indeed, the entire institution of the G8.

2. Following on from that, MPH has called for an increase in aid, debt cancellation, and trade justice. The Brownites will agree heartily with the first, at least look pious about the second, and pretend the third simply does not exist. After Brown's grand announcement on EU aid, Christian Aid, for example, rightly pointed out that an increase aid is of little benefit without also making trade between rich and poor nations more equitable. The all-night vigil for trade justice attracted tens of thousands to Westminster a few weeks back, pushing Brown himself onto the back foot. "Trade justice" means more than just creating a so-called "level-playing field", with restrictions on trade lifted everywhere: it means allowing developing countries to protect their industries as they see fit, just as every single developed nation once did.

Geldof is to be thanked, then, for demanding those who leave his gig on 2 July in London make their way up to Edinburgh:

"After July 2 we begin the long walk to justice. After the concert, we'll begin telling people to get to Edinburgh." He urged children to take time off school and everyone else to skip work to travel to Edinburgh.

Equally, if Geldof is keen to push the recommendations of the Commission for Africa (CfA) concerning trade, he is asking for significantly more than the British government - or any G8 nation - are currently prepared to give. Moving quickly past the major flaws in the CfA's final report (documented here - PDF), it is quite explicit in its support for poorer countries to develop their own trade policies, and move towards opening trade up only at a pace they set themselves.

You heard the man. Skip work, bunk school and get yourselves to Edinburgh and Gleneagles for 6 July.