The Guardian 13 July, 2005


G8 words will not relieve world poverty

The G8 summit of the leaders of the powerful industrialised countries held in Scotland has failed dismally to deal with the urgent problems of climate change, trade and third world poverty. Once again there are words, words and more words signifying very little in reality.

On climate change all the other powers capitulated to the US which has refused to sign the Kyoto protocols (together with the Australian government) and has only just admitted that global warming exists and that it is a man-made problem that must be confronted. But these admissions amount to nothing given that the G8 summit failed to establish any timetable for action or any targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The big corporations of the industrialised countries can continue to pollute the atmosphere safe in the knowledge that no real restrictions are going to be imposed by their governments.

Again, on trade, there are platitudes about eliminating farm subsidies by the industrialised countries. This would clear a main hurdle to the importation of agricultural products from third world countries. Farm subsidies have been a talking point in negotiations for years but nothing serious has happened and there is no reason to think that more words in the G8 statement are going to change anything.

As a gesture to the world-wide campaign to "make poverty history" an additional A$67 billion a mere pittance compared with their spending on weapons and war in development aid is to be allocated, half earmarked for African countries. But there are many countries with massive poverty problems which, on a world scale have continued to increase. Whether this aid will be delivered remains to be seen. It is not unusual for grandiose promises to be made but never delivered.

About the only country where poverty has substantially decreased is China where millions have been relieved of poverty by the specific policies of China's socialist government.

As in the past, aid will come with strings attached such as privatisation programs and what is called "good governance". What this really means is western style "democracy" and western style capitalism. And this is the core of the problem. It is a problem of the system the system of exploitation of the labour of millions and the massing of huge profits by a very small number of corporations and financial institutions. No-one can deny that this is what is happening.

Unless millions of jobs are created, industries established and infrastructure built, rules of trade established to open the doors for third world countries, even more billions of dollars will largely flow into the pockets of the corporations of the industrialised countries and local contractors.

Bob Geldof has used music to mobilise millions, showing that there is huge sympathy for the poverty-stricken people and countries and his campaign will help to open the eyes of participants to the reality of third world poverty. But a real policy to eliminate that poverty is hardly mentioned. The problem will not be solved by just throwing millions more dollars at it. Previously, Bob Geldof's campaigning raised millions for Ethiopia, but poverty in Ethiopia is now worse than before. Why?

The leaders of the capitalist countries can never adopt policies that would undermine the economic system of capitalism of which they are the captains. They will never act against their system. It is their system that creates poverty. That is why they can never adopt policies that will really eliminate poverty. They have failed, their policies have failed, their system is a failure.

At the next G8 meeting there will be more words, perhaps a few semantic changes, but it will be more of the same prescriptions.

At one of the Geldof concerts one of the singers asked the audience "Do you want a revolution" to which there was a thunderous "yes" from the tens of thousands of young people present. It is only when this demand is given flesh and blood that the world will move forward, bankrupt politicians will be put out to grass and their equally failed system be replaced by one which gives priority to the needs of the people of every country.

Such an alternative system can only be a socialist one. There is no third way.

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