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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 June 2007

Rostock, Germany

80,000 demonstrate against the G8 summit

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo by SAV. SAV is the Socialist Party's sister section of the section of the Committee for a Workers' International in Germany.

For people watching the television news, the coverage of the anti-G8 protests has been dominated by reports of violent clashes between police and some protesters. It is no surprise that the media chooses to report on this rather than on the huge numbers of peaceful protesters, their message of opposition to the G8 and their wish to see an end to war and poverty.

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge in Rostock, Germany

The lion's share of the violence in today's world is committed at the hands of those very G8 leaders. Over 655,000 civilian deaths in Iraq, 70 wars in the last two decades or so, and over $1,000 million spent on arms in 2005 alone by governments around the globe, mainly by the governments in the G8.

During the G8 clashes on 2 June, over five hundred protesters were injured, 165 arrested and there were over 400 injuries to police. However, demonstration organisers estimated that there were over 80,000 anti-G8 protesters in total and that the clashes, involving a minority, were not a major feature until after the end of the march.

Given the escalation in police repression against anti-G8 demonstrators over the last few weeks, columns of police marching down the sides of the demonstration and the whirr of police helicopters hovering above were not unexpected. However the extent of the police aggression was much greater than predicted.

Police intimidation

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

Dozens of water cannon and police vans sped through the streets and the sound of sirens was constant. At a protest in Hamburg last week police used pepper spray on those protesting outside a meeting of international finance ministers.

In the weeks preceding the 2 June demonstration there were raids on the offices and homes of left-wing activists across Germany in an attempt to limit the expression of anger against the G8 leaders and to discredit anti-G8 protesters as 'extremists'.

This appears to have backfired somewhat as following these attacks there was a sharp increase in ticket sales for transport to Rostock.

Some of the official demonstration organisers (ATTAC, charities, NGOs etc) say that the police are blameless for the violence. There have been reports of groups of people blocking a fire truck and throwing stones at the banks and the police.

If true, these tactics carried out by small groups are incapable of stopping the summit, let alone abolishing capitalism. In fact they can be used by the police and the state as an excuse to increase repression and to prevent the real message of the need for an alternative to capitalism from being communicated.

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

These tactics can drive a wedge between the protesters and the wider working class who can otherwise be won to the demands of the demonstration for an end to poverty, privatisation and war and also to the need for an alternative to capitalism.

Therefore, violent actions by small groups should be condemned, but it is necessary to also say that the actions of the police and the state against those who oppose the G8 leaders and their policies are the basis for such clashes. An estimated thirteen thousand police had been mobilised from across Germany. An enormous wall costing e12.5 million has been built to 'protect' the summit.

Shops and other businesses in Rostock were urged to remain shuttered against the risk of damage from the protesters. Such measures have been taken to discredit and intimidate those who wish to demonstrate their anger.

Recent mass demonstrations against G8 summits and against the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have been almost entirely peaceful. Across the world mass anger exists against the G8 and all they represent.

In July 2005 a Make Poverty History march brought a quarter of a million people out onto the streets of Edinburgh against a G8 summit. Since then it has been made clear to many people that the 'group of eight' has no intention of alleviating even the worst conditions.

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

G8 demonstration in Rostock, Germany, photo SAV

In fact conditions have worsened for many as even greater wealth is accumulated at the top.

In India, where we are told an economic boom is taking place, the slum population has doubled in the last twenty years to 60 million people and far from consigning poverty to the history books, worldwide three billion people now struggle to survive on less than $2 a day.

It is not only in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia that deprivation exists. In the richest country on the planet, the US, 60 million people live on less than $7 a day.

Here in Germany, workers and youth have seen their living conditions deteriorate massively as huge attacks are made on wages and working conditions and there have been massive cuts in public services and social security.

We live in a capitalist system which is unplanned, chaotic, anarchic and fundamentally incapable of meeting the needs of people and the environment. However, among the organisers of the anti-G8 protests were charities and NGOs who still ask that we make an appeal to the likes of Bush, Blair and Merkel who act in the interests of big business.

This has created a sense of frustration among some layers of youth who, angry at the continuation of wars, occupations and poverty, can have an impatient and desperate approach to the protests.

This has been exacerbated by the failure of the trade union leaders to assume a leadership role in the movement. The absence of the organised working class on the demonstration weakened it hugely.

No other section of society has the capability of defeating the G8 and the bosses' system they represent. The working class suffers daily at the hands of the likes of Bush, Merkel and Sarkozy and yet workers' leaders in the trade unions have not drawn the conclusion that a massive fight-back is needed.

The German TUC did not mobilise for the G8 protests. Not only was this opportunity missed, but the absence of the trade unions on the demonstration is in part responsible for the partial breakdown in effective protesting.

A trade union presence, with its method of organisation and struggle would have brought an added seriousness and a discipline to the protest.

It also would have served as a link between the wider working class and the radicalised youth who tend to be the most vocal opponents to capitalism at this stage.

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In The Socialist 7 June 2007:

Labour cheats NHS

PFI - a licence to print money

Petition on NHS: Stop cuts and privatisations (word)

War and terrorism

Fight Brown's agenda of war, cuts & privatisation

Socialist Party workplace news

Postal workers fight closure

Coventry says 'keep our Post Office open'

CWU delegates attack link with Labour

Come to the Shop Stewards' Network conference

National Shop Stewards Network Founding conference

Ritzy - low-paid workers strike again

G8 Summit protests

80,000 demonstrate against the G8 summit

Activists with ideas

What we think

Drowning in an ocean of debt

Socialist Party feature

Young people: a bright future... or different shades of grey

International socialist news and analysis

Bolivia: Release Adam Ziemkowski

South Africa: Public sector workers in mass fightback

The Arab-Israel 1967 war: repression and bloodshed continues

Socialist Party news and analysis

Don't trust the Trust schools - organise!

Tony Blair "brings church into school"

Weekly bin collections AND recycling schemes

Black and Asian group: Socialist ideas to unite all workers

Take part in the 22-28 June Fighting Fund week of action

The fat cat and the 'cleaning lady'

Workplace news and analysis

Remploy management squander opportunities

Tesco strikes show new mood


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