False Hopes for a Better World Ruthless Criticism

On the Protests Against the G8:

False Hopes for a Better World

1. The protest movement points to the evils of the world. But how do they proceed against its designers without naming the reasons and purposes of the interests at work?

Take first this description:

“The world shaped by the dominance of the G8 is a world of war, hunger, social divisions, environmental destruction and barriers against migrants and refugees.” (Another World is Possible! G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany: Call to International Demonstration in Rostock, June 2, 2007)

Yes, there is nothing to say in objection to this. It is like that. However, anyone who begins this way has an obligation to say why it is like that. Because, by itself, this only points to facts. Facts, by the way, and this is very important, which no one denies. Nobody says the contrary. If one listens to Chancellor Merkel and the list of tasks that she wants to deal with, then one sees in this list of tasks an acknowledgement of all these descriptions. If the Chancellor says we need to take steps in the peace process, we need peace-keeping interventions, what is this except an acknowledgement of the fact that wars prevail in this world? If the leaders of the G8 governments say we must worry about Africa, fight poverty, is that anything other than an admission that hunger is a millionfold? Of course, all this is clear to them, they derive their tasks directly from it! Social division, they also know about that. That has a more domestic meaning, the problem of the “underclass.” Environmental degradation, the Chancellor puts that on the summit agenda too. The fact that environmental degradation exists and increases is clear to them, it is clear to the public, it is clear to the protestors.

If one states a fact in this way, then the question as to why it is being protested against becomes an awkward question. Protesting against facts that nobody denies is an awkward thing. What does it really mean: I protest against hunger? One hears already: that should not be. But everyone now says that really should not be. Who says: I am for more people going hungry? One cannot really protest against facts that nobody denies. One can only protest against the purpose, the interest, the point of view that causes what everyone regards as evil. One can only protest against the cause, against the purpose, which brings out this negative effect. But one cannot protest against the effect. It is quite twisted if someone says: we want to protest against it.

This continues:

“Every five seconds, a child dies somewhere in the world from hunger. More than 800 million people are chronically malnourished. Primarily responsible are unjust world trade policies, forwarded by the rich industrialised countries within the G8 and other international institutions. Despite the whole-hearted promises of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in 2005, until now only a small proportion of the debt of Southern countries has been cancelled. The G8 states are the biggest destroyers of the climate. They are alone responsible for 43% of worldwide CO2 emissions as well as being in favour of a renaissance of nuclear energy, which we decidedly reject. The G8 states are responsible for 90% of worldwide weapons exports and a new era of war for raw materials.”

Why the G8 does this is not their concern. They do not say: we want to protest against this and the reasons for it; they want to show alternatives. They want to say that, nevertheless, this does not have to be. They do not want to say why it is like this. Now, it is already a funny message about the great powers to report that the unbelievably destructive weapons that they have, which they use to force the whole world to their will, to say of these great powers: they do bad and not good in the world. Yes, then what are the weapons for, if not for giving gifts? However, they talk about power, about state power. And yet all this is no secret. And all this in order to then say that, with all these means, they do bad and not good. As we said, one should be obligated to say why they do that, but they have no interest in this at all. On the contrary: the critics are content with the negative judgment that they can imagine good deeds, but the great powers do not do them; they conclude with this negative judgment, and it is even the active consensus of the movement that their common position consists only of the negative judgment.

In order to reiterate this point: the overall movement promises that it is in solidarity among themselves. And it is in solidarity by the fact that no one wants to force on the others an analysis of the causes. The movement unites itself merely by designating the evils. One barely catches them saying, this is the reason; the movement does not put this forward, the movement is united only by the naming of evils. There are even slogans like “some call this capitalism,” and here I do not know whether this is from one of those who do not want to call it capitalism, but says that there are those who do, but not us, because we gather everyone together who acknowledges the negative judgment, who wants to deplore the absence of good. Or whether they want to offer their interpretation in a completely pluralistic way: some call this capitalism, namely us! It already does not care whether it is this or that, in both cases it already separates the explanation of the cause from the evil. The denounced evils are the common basis of the movement. Then the attribution of the cause is the semi-private matter of the individual demonstrator; everyone can hold it to be whatever he wants. Vice versa: they think that a debate about the causes would attenuate the revival, divide the movement, and then the broad mobilization would be hurt. Now, however, and this is quite important, they end with the negative judgment, and really say to the world: they do bad and not good, and still more: they do bad and not the good that we consider necessary and that we wish for – with this sentence they act as if they have offered an explanation about the G8 states and their purposes, but it is still merely a negative judgment. They only ascertain an absence, and not why it happens and why it happens in this way. Those who emphasize all the time that these states neglect to do something good wants to say something about these states. Not about their real calculations, but about what they consider their task to be. It is a huge confession of their belief in these imperialistic monsters, who they say want to destroy them. They have an unshakeable good opinion of those who have such great responsibilities for doing good at which they fail. Anyone who always says: they don't bother to do good, underlines that they think they have this as their task. And it is shown in their disappointment.

2. The alternatives they point to are very close to the official agenda promoted by the G8. This is no coincidence: they accuse the mighty states of failing to pursue alternatives that would make capitalism function differently.

A second, longer quotation, from the Call for Action for the June 5th demonstration in Rostock:

“Blockade the G8 – Stop the Wars! Against Militarism, War and Torture.”

The participants in the Summit Conference represent the world’s eight mightiest governments, which help create the problems – for which they then decide upon the so-called solutions. They speak of 'global governance' and of 'humanitarian intervention', of 'strengthening civil society' and of 'steps to peace', but in reality they mercilessly use 'might makes right' methods to make a world order serving the continuation of their own power and their capitalistic profits …” (Dissent! Network of Resistance)

All that matters is a narration of the problems. They say: these countries only create problems for which they then offer no solutions, they only offer so-called solutions. They accuse the great imperialists of not solving the problems of the world, but of aggravating them, creating problems instead of overcoming problems. Imagine how incredibly constructive one must be in order to make a reproach against the great powers! “Problem” has become a keyword, you can argue about problems on any talk show. A problem means anything that is not in order, any trick that does not succeed. Itchy and Scratchy can come to an agreement that we have problems, that the world is not the way it should be. Talk shows go this way: the problem of immigration, the problem of unemployment, the problem of the national debt...

If the word problem is used, then one must first grasp who has the problem and wherein it lies. If one reproaches the G8 for not solving problems, for example, the problem of hunger, or the problem of scarce drinking water, or the problem of climate change, then one notices that one joins the official terminology of the Summit and means something completely different. The Summit raises a problem on my behalf, the problem of global warming, the different national interests meet to blabber about it, about whether one does not have to do something about the problem of global warming. They have a problem with it: first of all, with the potential damage to their economies; secondly, with the other large capitalist nations that do not carry the expenses for the resolution of the worldwide climate problem, which they would happily like to earn money from. Now, a critic comes along and thinks, for example, of the inhabitants of the Seychelles, who soon will be standing up to their neck in water. Or the inhabitants of Spain, where districts threaten to disappear, and he wonders who could actually do something, and then says that the G8 do nothing. However, he does not say: no, they have different concerns, but says: and the G8 does not solve the problem that they proclaim. A wondrous equivocation, a marvelous equating of completely different things! The one means their problem in competition, the other means the poor people in the third world. Both agree that the problem of the climate must not be ignored. And then, on this basis, they reproach the G8 for not solving the problem. The problem of the G8 concerns the way they compete between themselves, how they can provide a solution to this. And they do not have the problem of the people in the Sahel at all. Since they do not try to solve this problem, they also do not fail at it, so one should not accuse them of not solving this problem.

It is this total mixing of an ideal significance of problems, i.e. one keeps in mind that there are people with problems, but also that the states have a problem with the poverty of these people because they end up refugees on their doorstep, or because diseases spread or because states fail. And both these stories become simply the problem of hunger, the problem of the climate, the problem of the debt, etc., they are simply equated, and then one acts as if one’s own idealistic request has to be a part of the agenda of the great powers, but the great powers are too stupid to process this agenda. It is a refusal to identify a conflict of interests by accusing them of not taking seriously the problems that they have nevertheless. Or in other words: in the problem formula, the victims of capitalism and the problems that imperialism has with these victims are set together and thus represent the faith that the great imperialists could nevertheless not be so ignorant of the victims that they produce.

Take this sentence again, it is revealing:

“The participants in the Summit Conference represent the world’s eight mightiest governments, which help create the problems – for which they then decide upon the so-called solutions. They speak of 'global governance' and of 'humanitarian intervention', of 'strengthening civil society' and of 'steps to peace', but in reality they mercilessly use 'might makes right' …”

Here it is striking! So these people regard global governance as a benefit and military interventions as a good deed. Because someone who says: they talk about it but in action they do something different, means that these would be good promises but what actually happens is the betrayal of these promises. This title “global governance” means, by the way, world government, rule practiced on a worldwide scale. They remain guilty because the world wants this and they do not supply it. Then what are military interventions?! The Kosovo war was like that, an intervention with military force for preventing genocide, meaning that war was legitimized at that time by the fact that other sovereigns must be eliminated because our court of human rights ruled that they should not exist. A clear legitimization of an aggressive act becomes represented as “the world needs, but they do not supply it.” Peace-making, peace-processes, these are what armed forces undertake everywhere. They have an ideal for everything, everything that you can imagine as better than it is in reality, and criticize the reality for lagging behind the high idea that they have of global governance and peace making.

Then at the next point, the keyword from the first quotation “we want to protest against this and show the alternatives.” What then are the alternatives that they imagine? Here one needs to read further on; what are the alternatives? “Together with millions of people around the world we say: Another World Is Possible!” Wherein does this other world lie?

“For the immediate cancellation of illegitimate debt and comprehensive debt relief for the countries of the global South!”

Remember, debt cancellation for the states in capitalism that make the granting of credit unsatisfactory is the writing off of something that has already been given up on. Now they have the idea that this would be an excellent good deed for the countries of the south. If debts are canceled, also here another small reminder, they do not even go so far as to ask where do the debts actually come from? They assume that the poor countries are always the losers in international business dealings, that they must then have nothing and must run up debts, that the debt condition in itself expresses that they are the losers in the competition. All this is not important; one must cancel the debts, probably so that the whole process of losing can get going again from the beginning!

“Against the sale of public goods and services.”

Here their another world that is possible is terribly close to what is already possible here: transport in nationalized trains, garbage disposal, etc., not in private hands.

“For a speedy and radical transfer to renewable energies!”

One can really say, Merkel needed to be at the summit only to get “a significant rise in energy efficiency,” also a national demand.

“For the immediate and permanent abandonment of nuclear energy”

Here one notices, on the one hand, this is very close to the German legal situation; on the other hand, it is a little ahead of the German legal situation, a little against the fact that it is again weakened.

“For the overcoming of walls and borders! Against detention camps and deportation!”

Yes, here the misery of refugees is noticed. In a world where, throughout large parts of the south, the bases of life are devastated and become ever more devastated, where, however, the last inhabitants of the savannah can be seen on high-definition television, where wealth gets thrown away, to say in such a world that one must simply get rid of all borders and then it is ok, that is simply laughable, this really does not go, this humanism is really not practical.

“For a peaceful world! End the military imposition of economic and power-political interests through the G8 states!”

The sentence suggests a reason for wars: the imposition of economic and power-political interests. So you know that these countries have economic and power-political interests that require military force. They do not then say, we simply demand a quick end to this, concluding that this should no longer be. The eight states should simply impose their economic and power-political interests in a different way! Now you think of alternatives, and alternatives are terribly close to all the official requirements of what global governance today requires and how the world market must be regulated so that it is stable, sustainable and unquestioned. They have a better idea for everything, but they always have a better idea for what already stands on the agenda.

Here they indict in the name of an ideal of good rule on a global level. It is the conception that the world needs good government. And the powerful ones, which nevertheless have the means, do not deliver it. After this, something else is added: they do not only say, the powerful ones do not do the good that we imagine, but they also say: the powerful ones do not do the good that they could do, nevertheless, with their immense power; these critics know better uses for the power of the G8, for the power that the states have over others. In addition, you have the conception, the absurd idea, power and force over others does not have to be there to force others to do something that they do not want to do and which is not good for them, but power and force over others could be one great opportunity to force the whole world to do good. Here it is noticeable that what Attac essentially represents, and the spectrum of which Attac is just the spokesperson, does not want to be a protest against imperialism, in view of its realism. But the protest is the protest of the idealism that belongs to this realism! This is a group of protestors who keep in mind the power of the states, and who are ready and willing to translate the power of these states into responsibilities. They formulate great responsibilities for the great powers, and then raise the reproach that those who hold this power do not follow these responsibilities, and that they could also use their power to impose them.

Such a protest, and this is also no wonder, succeeds in its way. The protest is not simply suppressed by the G8 organizers. In Glenneagles, it was totally remarkable, pop music types were received by Blair and whole heads of state; and once again, the Chancellor telephones or meets with Bono. The protest is acceptable as an appeal to the G8 for the responsibility of the G8. It is not simply seen as: they contest us. In their disappointment with the powerful can still be heard the expectations that are absolutely addressed to them. That signals the competence expected of them; the powerful ones are responsible for the state of the world, they are responsible for its improvement. One demonstrates to the powerful, and they always hear that they put their trust in us, for all their disappointment. And then they say to the protests: send us a delegation, then we will talk about the problems of the world. If one has solutions as to how it can be better solved, why not? And then at the edge of these summits there are always these meetings, usually with second rank politicians, in which they discuss the problems of the world with the protestors. And that is also no wonder. If the protest is sustained only by the belief in the good tasks of the great powers, then they would be stupid to reject – lock, stock and barrel – the protest that so ennobles them. Nevertheless, this takes nothing away from the fact that, along with this, they also send the police against those who threaten to become militant, who are already criminalized in the lead-up to intimidate everyone like crazy. Because the governments want to divide the protest into those whose credulous disappointment in them they take up with pleasure and into those in whom, only by the militancy of their appearance, they notice an irreconcilability that cannot offer anything.

Now two things about the protest. They end with the negative opinion, they are left accusing the governments of not doing what they are supposed to do, of not taking seriously the climate problem, the poverty problem. If you notice that the governments do not look the way that you imagine, then nevertheless make clear what the governments are about instead; find out what the purposes of the governments are. This does not happen, but something else happens: the question why good is omitted is given an answer. There is a difference whether I explain what they do and why, or whether I make up tasks for them, and explain why they neglect this. There is an interesting form of explaining this neglect, which again shows how on the wrong track this protest is: the explanation is called "neoliberalism."

3. All because of “neoliberalism”

“The policies of the G8 stand for a neoliberal globalisation and deregulation, economic policies oriented towards the capital returns of international financial investors and companies.”

Thus, why they do not simply do good: because they operate an economic policy that serves only the financial interests of the large investors and corporations and not the state and the common weal. There one must ask oneself, then why is there neoliberalism at all? Here you really discover no other answer than that a professor from Chicago seized the imaginations of the economic policy makers, and ever since the 1980s, neoliberalism has flourished and it eliminates the whole nice welfare state management of capitalism that existed in the past. Someone who says neoliberalism as a reason for the bad things in the world gives a reason that has nothing to do with the constitution of our community, but one that lies in a wrong policy, in a wrong direction of economic policy. Economic policy – so they think – reduces the welfare state instead of further developing it, privatizes instead of continues to make use of public enterprises, forces lower customs duties and opens markets instead of each state in world trade being allowed to use tariffs however they find beneficial. What is enumerated here as directions, the dismantling of the welfare state, deregulation, privatization, liberalization of world trade, all this is correct, it is undeniable that all this happens. But it is preposterous to say that a mere doctrine that occurred to somebody is the cause, and then everyone copied it. And it is also incorrect that this is a policy that only serves the interests of capital and not the public interest. It is true that capitalism has changed in comparison to the era that these types look back upon as the nice phase of the welfare state and also rather varnish in retrospect, but this does not matter here. It is not because some professor in Chicago had a new idea, but because capitalism progressed in its own logic.

Thus, if today the welfare state is dismantled, then this disassembly only shows what it was always good for. It was good, first of all, for the integration of the working class, those who in former times were once rather difficult for the capitalist state to manage, who were even sometimes revolutionary; after the Second World War, the question whether the communists would not win was on the agenda in many of the states of Western Europe. And the welfare state had the purpose of making the working class useful, of keeping it intact, to hold those who are not used in reserve because they might be needed again. The circumstance that the working class has become politically tame, that it has really been integrated since then by these measures, makes all the expenditures for their integration today relatively superfluous. The working class has become well behaved, nobody is revolutionary anymore, nobody thinks anymore that capitalism must be overthrown, so the concern that was practiced in former times is also no longer needed.

Secondly, this is what the progress of capitalism led to; the entrepreneurs caused this progress in that they continued to increase the productivity of labor ever more and thereby freed themselves from people. Because productivity today is so high that millions are no longer needed, one also no longer needs to practice consideration for the care of the workers any more in this way, and then the pressure of unemployment on the work force is sufficient to discipline people, then they perform their service without any promise of a secure existence or even a pension.

This applies to the other side as well: the competition of the capitalist nations has changed. It is not that a politico-economic doctrine lead to a new competition, but after the war the competition of the capitalistic nations had to be restored once again; then, once it was, there became a competition over the growth possibilities which one state takes away from the other. Now there is a competition to attract international capital; this is now the competition of locations for capital investments. And in the location competition everything that the states have for an internal existence really stands on the test stand as a means of competition. The national budget, the social infrastructure, the education system, pensions – everything is used as a means of competition for the nation in the fight to attract internationally active capital. And on this basis, the states discover the poverty of their own population as a weapon that they can use in the competition. This has to do with the competition between them, they allow it for this purpose, and they want to win it. This has nothing to do with an abrupt change in doctrine. One must turn it around: the neoliberal school of political economy found a hearing because it agrees with the competitive situation of the nations, but not vice versa, that the nations went into competition because they heard of this Milton Friedman from Chicago. Now, however, those who always harp on neoliberalism want to say: this is an ideology, a theory that has triumphed, and there is actually no rational reason for it; it is actually unreasonable for the state and even harmful to it. But this is not true.