Rage in Rostock

[Sunday]

Super, smashing, gr8
A protest at the upcoming G8 summit results in violent clashes as police fight running battles with a “small minority” of “hardcore anarchists”. Sounds typical enough of G8 meetings (apart from last year in Russia).

This time the ruck was in Rostock, Germany. I was not there to witness the teargas and spilt blood; instead I watched the events on Sky News and chuckled at the newsreaders’ bewilderment at why people would use violence for political ends. Okay, so some of these projectile-throwing kids have neither considered Kropotkin nor bothered about Bakunin – and might well barf at the thought of reading Marx and Engels, let alone Lenin – but that’s not to say that they don’t have passionate views… which they express with paint bombs.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see think setting fire to cars and throwing stones at cops changes the system. Anger isn’t enough. But there’s no denying that peaceful protest is almost completely ignored. Chuck a brick through a window and you’re on the nightly news but there’s no coverage if you march sensibly and thank the police afterwards.

Yo, Blair!
In London, protestors lined the Thames to call upon Blair to effect real change at his last G8 gathering. Obviously, this was the message to the media – and it was reported on the rolling news channels – but I doubt that those demonstrating were naïve enough to believe that Blair would be influenced by their actions.

Predictably, the far larger demonstrations in Rostock were covered on Sky News for what felt like hours. I can’t blame them. Would you rather watch violent clashes or listen to Midge Ure and Annie Lennox talking about poverty?

It’s not just the lack of media coverage – peaceful protest does not achieve the effect of making the politicians take heed. Two years ago at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, the rock star and respectable anti-poverty campaigner Bono said that if there was no abolition of extreme poverty then violent protests would be legitimate. I await Bono’s endorsement of the masked youths who will be battling the police in Germany for the next week, but I suspect he will remain silent on the failed tactics.

Let’s look at what you could’ve won…
While the world leaders smile for the cameras, the advocates of peaceful protest will be berating the violent protestors for spoiling it for everyone. And they’re right, in a way. Who wants to be tear-gassed? But without the riots: no headlines.

Some of the “violent” protestors might just be spoiling for a fight, but objectively they are increasing costs. If this year’s G8 love-in were to pass unmarked, like last year’s, it would be a great disappointment – so I am heartened by the tens of thousands of people protesting in Rostock and the planned events of the week.

Doubtless there will be NGOs that welcome any minor concession given, any modest reform, as though the world had drastically changed. On climate change, President Bush has pre-empted the meeting by announcing plans for his own talks on reducing carbon emissions in a speech hailed as a breakthrough; in reality, there was no substance beyond the plans for more talks. And on poverty…

The imperialist countries of the G8 are dependent upon the underdevelopment, perhaps it is better to say maldevelopment of the “developing world”. This does not mean that all people in imperialist countries are complicit in a dependency which is enforced culturally, economically and militarily. The size and scale of anti-poverty demonstrations suggests that ordinary people who reside in the oppressor nations do not approve of the results of oppression and so there will, in time, develop a widespread understanding of the nature of the global capitalist system.

If any reforms are offered up that alleviate the effects of capitalism and imperialism this is a good thing. But the effects global inequality cannot be lessened by the imperialist bourgeoisie. As the famous non-violent protestor Martin Luther King Jr. observed:

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

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