Vol. XLI No. 30 July 23, 2017

Roads of Battle Greet G-20 Summit

R Arun Kumar

THE recent protests that welcomed the G20 Summit are a reflection of the brewing discontent against the continuing global economic crisis. With their future at stake, young people constituting the majority of the protesters led the way in expressing dissent. They stood up bravely to police brutality. Creativity was on wide display during all the days of protest before and during the Summit.

Preparations for the protest started months in advance. The Left Party (Die Linke), German Communist Party (DKP) joined various social movements, environmental, Church groups and several other organisations representing various sections of the society, and planned the protests. Coordination with parties and groups from other countries was established. Apart from the protests, seminars on various themes were also planned and held. An alternate ‘People’s Summit’ was held on both the days of the G-20 Summit. It is because of such an extensive planning and preparations that more than 100,000 protesters descended on Hamburg.

The German government too mobilised more than 20,000 police force from throughout the country to face the protests and secure the city. Latest technology was put to use and communications were hacked. Drones and helicopters were used extensively so much so that people felt that helicopters were ‘parked in the clouds’. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had boastfully stated that by allowing the protests her government wants to show the world, what democracy really means. It seems she wanted to demonstrate the way to handle protests and showcase her prowess in protecting human rights!

All her plans to showcase Germany and its superior democratic system boomeranged. The largest selling German daily Der Spiegel, commented that the level of police deployment and violence reminded one of the West Germany in the 1970s and was never seen since. In the guise of dealing with the anarchists, police unleashed brutality on even peaceful protesters. Media, as usual, focused on the activities of the handful anarchists and ignored the thousands of peaceful protesters and police brutality on them. The anarchists through their actions helped the media and ruling classes, to divert the attention of the world public at large from the demands of these protests and the alternatives discussed. Rabid conservative media outlets like the Fox News used this opportunity to propagate utter lies like, “they (the protesters) are angry that America isn't footing the bill for every social justice issue the world can come up with”!

Most of the protesters were questioning the very rationale of 20 or 21 people sitting in a Summit to decide on the future of the entire world. It is true that the G-20 grouping represents countries that account for more than four-fifths of gross world product and three-quarters of global trade, and home to almost two-thirds of the world’s population. But still the point is, more than 150 countries are left out. With blatant disregard for the sovereign rights of other countries, G20 discussed ‘global economic growth, international trade and financial market regulation’.

Through the protests, youth demanded to fix responsibility for the never before seen unemployment rates. They questioned those responsible for pushing nearly 38 per cent of working youth into extreme to moderate poverty. They were disgusted over the fact that “the people who cause the misery that we have all over the world today – refugees, wars, and so on – are sitting right now in the G20 and having a chat”. They were concerned about global warming and the unbridled plunder of natural resources, environment and over the very future of the human civilization.  Venting their anger, they organised a zombie march and named the huge rally as ‘Welcome to Hell’.

How justified these protests are, can be discerned by leafing through the official statements, documents adopted in the Summit. The main document that had come out of the Summit is the ‘Leaders Statement’. It talks about the current economic situation and expresses satisfaction that ‘growth’ is on the right trajectory, though insufficient. To hasten growth, what follows is the usual neo-liberal prescription, demonstrating capitalism’s current bankruptcy of ideas.

The Statement wants the countries to “identify strategies to facilitate and retain foreign direct investment” and urgently calls for the “removal of market-distorting subsidies and other types of support by governments and related entities”. It needs no mention that these very policies have ruined agriculture and industry in many countries of the South and led to immiseration of people.

Another important aspect in the Statement is the purported aim “to foster favourable conditions for the development of the digital economy” to ‘foster investment’ (Remember Indian government’s push towards digital economy and ‘demonetisation’). More importantly, the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO is scheduled in December this year in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. Big business and finance capital is once again shifting its attention to activate the WTO as many of the trade deals (Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP and Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact, TTIP) they had visualised, remain stuck. In this ministerial round, they want to seek new rules that will reap them profit-making opportunities in the digitalised economy of the future and also on the fast growing, lucrative ‘e-commerce’. Through this, they intend to prise open new markets and legally ensure that corporations are not forced to take measures benefiting workers. All the talk of SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) in the Statement is hogwash and intended to appease domestic opposition, as the SMEs will not be able to sustain the assault unleashed by giant e-commerce corporates like Amazon, FedEx, etc.

Finance capital’s intent to devour countries of the South comes out in a single line in the Statement: “encourage the private sector to seize African economic opportunities”. Seize, an important word here, is further explained in another document – ‘G-20 Africa Partnership’. This document talks about launching the initiative ‘Compact with Africa’, which aims at “creating a favorable business environment and supporting private investment...improving the macroeconomic, business and financing frameworks for private investment (both domestic and foreign)”. Another interesting aim is, “increasing domestic revenue mobilisation via an investment-friendly tax system, combining domestic tax reforms, containing profit-shifting and tax evasion” and to “improve the business framework by implementing reliable regulation and institutions, improving investor protection and dispute resolution mechanisms, providing political risk insurance”. So the intentions are pretty clear – open up the economy for the exploitation of foreign capital, reform the tax systems accordingly and ‘insure’ foreign capital from popular protests.

Reforming the tax system is one of the recurring themes in many of the Summit documents. Though the stated purposes are to ‘ensure better resource mobilisation’ and ‘improve tax compliance’, we can be sure that all this is intended to serve finance capital. Introduction of VAT is one of the important conditionalities imposed by the IMF on the crisis ridden countries like Greece and the people are devastated. In this background, no guesses about who benefits from our ‘nationalistic’ GST!

The document called ‘Action Plan’ makes an interesting read. Detailing the steps taken by our country to promote inclusive growth, the document notes: “India is introducing labour market reforms to provide security to workers, increase female participation in the workforce and make doing business easier”. It has been proven beyond doubt that ‘labour reforms’ is a misnomer for inclusive growth with a real intention of benefiting corporates. Compare these with the policies of countries like France, Japan and China. France stated that it is easing tax burdens on low-income households to increase their purchasing power. Japan is trying to ensure equal pay for equal work and reduce long working hours while China stated that it is reducing tuition fees and increasing subsidies for higher education. This tells us the naked face of the ‘inclusive policies’ pursued by the BJP government!

The purpose of the G-20 Summit, is only to ease the capitalist system out of the deep morass of crisis and quench finance capital’s thirst for super-profits.

The protests on the other hand are an expression of popular anger against these very attempts and policies of exploitation and subjugation. They are for a better life for the people.

The Summit documents show that the representatives of the ruling classes are not ready to heed to popular demands. The protests showed that people are not ready to be either cowed down or disheartened.

It is time for us to choose our side and decide our actions.

“The road it might be rough

But the good road is a-waitin’

And boys it ain’t far off”