Archive article from The Socialist Issue 400
Millions demand an end to poverty
AS THE leaders of the G8 imperialist powers began to assemble in Gleneagles, Scotland (where hotel rooms are £685 per night) millions of people around the world took to the streets and attended concerts to demand action to end the suffering and misery that affects two thirds of humankind in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Tony Saunois, CWI secretary
The largest of these protests took place in Philadelphia, in the heart of US imperialism. Up to one million people participated in a concert which was the biggest demonstration in the history of the city. The massive turnout at this event was a reflection of the growing opposition to the Bush regime inside the USA, particularly because of the bloody war in Iraq and his right-wing agenda.
In Edinburgh more than 250,000 participated in the largest demonstration Scotland has ever seen. Other major cities like Tokyo, Paris, Berlin and Rome also saw large concerts. In addition to those attending these events, an estimated two billion peopled watched these concerts on television.
One thing the G8 leaders and the capitalist class of Africa, Asia and Latin America fear is a mass movement of the working people of these countries to fight the system that breeds the misery in which they live. They fear that even the events organised on 2 July would help boost the confidence of the peoples of these countries to fight for their rights.
The Live 8 events were not therefore broadcast in most African countries. Only the relatively wealthy few with satellite TV could watch them!
Those who marched in Edinburgh took a conscious political decision to go to a demonstration. While some attending the concerts went to hear the music, the overwhelming majority were motivated by the demand that the G8 leaders take action on debt and trade to help relieve the suffering of millions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Millions were driven by a spirit of human solidarity - of linking together with others all over the world to protest at the policies of the international capitalist leaders.
This internationalist spirit was reflected at the mass concert in Philadelphia, where the actor Will Smith explained that two hundred years ago in Philadelphia the American Declaration of Independence was made: "Today we make a new declaration of 'inter-dependency'. We are all in this together". For the CWI the 'we' does not include the G8 and the system they represent.
The hip-hop star Kanye West went further and attacked "politicians who drive home in their Bentleys every night and watch thousands of Africans die".
Even at these concerts a 'class division' was in evidence. In London the "golden circle" included tickets sold at £1,000 where a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne was sold for £99 per bottle.
THE MOBILISATION of such vast numbers of people around the world in support of action to end poverty represents a positive step. In one sense, the demand of Live 8 for governments to take action to end poverty was an advance over Band Aid twenty years ago which raised money from its followers as a form of charity to try and alleviate poverty.
Yet at the same time, the events which took place on 2 July, including the mass protest in Edinburgh, were a retreat on the anti-capitalist mobilisations in Genoa, Seattle and other cities of previous years. The demonstration in Edinburgh included thousands of youth who were looking for an alternative to capitalism. The tremendous delegation from the CWI was able to get the support from some of these young people. It was however dominated by NGOs, charities and religious organisations.
Gordon Brown spoke at a meeting of church leaders stressing the role of the churches in combating poverty. Yet it will not be prayers that end the suffering of the poor. It will only be determined struggle and the overthrow of capitalism - the system supported by Brown - and the building of socialism which will end the suffering and exploitation of the poor.
The leaders of Live 8 have, however, raised tremendous expectations amongst those who participated at the concerts and the Edinburgh demonstration. They are riding a tiger. The high expectations they have aroused can turn to bitter anger when the capitalist leaders fail to act or take any substantial measures to end the poverty of the masses in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
At the Edinburgh demonstration this was unintentionally hinted at by the singer Billy Bragg. He semi-humorously warned the G8 leaders that if nothing was done it would not be the fault of those present at the march but of the G8 leaders themselves and "we know were you live".
Internationally, the G8 summit and Live 8 has been used as an attempt to rehabilitate Bush and especially Blair in Britain. Although Bob Geldof and Bono may genuinely wish to end the misery of the African peoples and those of Asia and Latin America they have played a negative role in helping to try and bolster Blair, Bush and the other G8 leaders.
It is these leaders and the capitalist profit system they represent which is responsible for the human suffering inflicted on the majority of the world's population. The struggle to 'make poverty history' means a struggle against these leaders and the system they represent.
At the concert in London, Madonna said we need a "revolution". She did not explain what type of revolution or what this means. A revolution does not mean increasing aid or debt 'forgiveness' or fair trade.
A democratic socialist revolution means the working people of the world taking over the running of society and introducing a democratic socialist plan of production geared to meeting people's needs rather than profit. This is the only way to end the misery and horrors of capitalist exploitation and to make poverty history.
The spirit to change the world
Titi Salaam of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), CWI Nigeria, spoke to Leah Jones:
"THE MASSIVE protests we saw show that people really do want poverty to end and have an eagerness for another world. They are sick of the capitalist system but confused about the methods they should use to change it.
"I think a little reform may be gained but look at the outcome of the anti-war protests. The G8 may feel threatened and make some concessions but will not change their minds, as the root cause has not been addressed.
"You cannot get rid of a tree by cutting off its branches. In the same way, you cannot get rid of poverty by cancelling debt. The roots have not been addressed. The inequalities of the capitalist system have not been addressed. And so, the problem, the poverty, will always come back.
"In Nigeria, when we call protests, nothing moves. People don't go to work and everything stops. Because the state, because the police are so heavy-handed, protests often turn violent and they will use everything they have against the people.
"People still come out to protest though. All over the world it is the same. In Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe, there is the same spirit all over the world that people want to make a change.
"Even though people were so tired they still came and listened to our meeting after the demonstration in Edinburgh. Our analysis showed how corrupt the system is but also showed that another world is possible and that people are ready for change.
'There is a need for good leadership, and our organisation really stood out on the demonstration for being so organised and so different."