Confronting the G8: "They are 8, We Are Millions"

Revolutionary Worker #1204, June 22, 2003, posted at

We received the following from A World To Win News Service:

9 June 2003. A World to Win News Service.Some 120,000 people from all over Europe came to Evian to oppose the gathering of the heads of the countries that rule the world, the Group of Eight (G8). This week of spirited demonstrations and lively political debate about why the world is the way it is and what it would take to build a different one was part of a continuing series of actions by the anti-globalization movement that stormed onto the world political stage in Seattle. What made this one particularly crucial was that it was the first time the G8 has dared to meet in a populated region since the enormous, militant protests in Genoa in 2001 when massive police attacks resulted in the death of Carlo Giuliani--last year saw the spectacle of the heads of the world's most powerful countries forced to meet in an isolated resort in the Canadian Rockies. It was also a major test of strength between the people and the imperialist forces of darkness in the political climate following the Iraq war and the unprecedented worldwide upsurge against it.

The G8 huddled on June 1-3 in this spa in eastern France, apparently chosen, among other reasons, because its location tucked in between the Alps and Lake Geneva makes it easy to cut off from the rest of the world. Demonstrators began to arrive by car, bus, train and even bicycles and on foot during the middle of the week before. Among them were students, teachers, young professionals and union members, first- timers and veteran activists of all ages, people of every conceivable orientation and lifestyle and a very broad range of political forces. In Annemasse (France), Geneva and Lausanne (across Lake Geneva in Switzerland) they set up tent villages and held a series of small marches and rallies.

On Saturday, 31 May, a group of demonstrators broke into the grounds of the World Trade Organization in Geneva. That evening, in a symbolic encirclement of the G8, 52 bonfires were lit simultaneously around the shoreline of Lake Geneva. In Annemasse, more than a thousand people protesting against attempts by the French Socialist Party (the governing party until last year) to pose as part of the "altermondialiste" (alternate world) camp were attacked by security forces. Demonstrators chanted "Sarkozy fascist, SP collaborators" (Sarkozy is the new right wing Interior Minister who has spearheaded repression against immigrants and others, without much opposition from the Socialists.)

NGOs and some political groups organized a "counter-summit" in Annemasse aimed at the G8's "illegitimacy." Thousands discussed and debated the environment, the reasons why African development has been strangled and the role of Third World debt, AIDS, Palestine and the Middle East and many other burning issues that involve the worldwide profit system dominated by a handful of great powers.

The main events came on Sunday, June 1. Starting at 4 a.m., several thousand protesters blocked the road to Evian. Although the state criminals were all safely ensconced behind a ring of steel in Evian itself, the logistics and technical personnel and staff they depended on were lodged in Geneva. By concentrating on this weak point, the demonstrators were reportedly able to delay the summit opening by several hours. Police tear gassed them, arresting about 400, and the demand that they be freed became the aim of further marches and demonstrations throughout the day.

At 11, as police attacked demonstrators who had sat in and stopped traffic on the Geneva-Lausanne motorway, a British demonstrator hanging a banner from an overpass was very seriously injured when an officer cut the rope, plunging him 20 meters (22 feet) into the concrete. Several hundred demonstrators trying to reach Evian were stopped by police firing tear gas and concussion grenades.

Continuing throughout the afternoon, some 70,000 people on the French side and another 50,000 on the Swiss, according to organizers, converged on the border. They marched for hours in a long line stretching from Annemasse to Geneva. The crowd was mainly young, with a sizeable minority of older people. Among them was a contingent of the World People's Resistance Movement from France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, carrying banners that said, "Defeat and resist the invasion of Iraq" and "Free Palestine, End the Occupation." In their leaflets and in other ways, they also pointed to the danger of U.S. intervention against the People's War being led by the Communist Party (Maoist) of Nepal, raising the slogan "People's Liberation Is Not `Terrorism', Imperialists and Reactionaries Hands Off Nepal!" Some 25,000 WPRM leaflets were eagerly received.

That evening, as demonstrators returned to Geneva, following a clash with a small group of protesters, police fired volleys of teargas, plastic bullets and water cannons and mounted baton charges against a growing crowd that included youth from nearby public housing estates. Eventually thousands fought back against the police with stones and Molotov cocktails in a battle that lasted through much of the night. For the first time ever, German police--a thousand strong--were brought in as reinforcements. Along with their Swiss counterparts, they charged into crowds, their riot sticks flailing. The police surrounded and raided Le Usine, a building serving as a protest and alternate media headquarters. About 50 people were detained and half of them formally arrested. Police also attacked protesters trying to demonstrate in the hotel district of Lausanne, arresting scores, and surrounded the camp near the university, where they dragged away 287 people, apparently at random.

A certain pattern emerged: there would be a minor incident and police would respond with massive and indiscriminate violence, provoking more fighting. This seems to have been the same deliberate policy carried out by the authorities in Genoa and other anti-globalization events, of attempting to criminalize the protests--to brand the demonstrators as criminal and use the violence provoked by the police to try and politically isolate them.

On Monday, 2 June, despite a ban on all further demonstrations in Geneva, protesters from both sides of the border marched to the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva to denounce the attempts of the rich countries to force the developing countries to privatize state-run utilities such as water, so that they can be snatched up by powerful multinationals. A police attack meant to show they were in control instead ended in chaos, as German and Swiss cops skirmished with crowds of onlookers, youth, tourists and activists in the city center. Although most of the anti-globalization forces had left, the final session of the summit on Tuesday, June 3, saw several thousand demonstrators block Geneva's main bridge joining the two halves of the city.

At the G8 meeting itself, the imperialist countries unanimously passed a reactionary American resolution declaring that "the pre-eminent threat to international security" comes from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and "terrorism," hypocritically closing their eyes to the main thrust of current events--the Bush/Blair devastation and occupation of Iraq and the U.S.'s threats to follow up with more wars. In fact, the eight heads of state endorsed Bush's threats against North Korea and Iran, while French efforts succeeded in torpedoing approval for a U.S. proposal that would have given advance approval to the U.S.'s use of force against these countries. In a similarly contradictory fashion, Jacques Chirac's announcement that France would send special forces to help out the U.S. in Afghanistan marked a certain "normalization" of relations between America and its main imperialist would-be rival, but apparently Bush was particularly offended that Chirac referred to him as "one of several" leaders at the summit, reflecting a continuing French uneasiness with exclusive American hegemony.

In their domination of most of humanity, their bleeding of the peoples of the third world and their grinding down of the people in their home countries, the rulers of the G8 countries are the biggest source of mass destruction the world has ever known. The truth of the slogan "They are eight, we are millions" can be seen in the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist spirit of so many of the protesters who want to build solidarity with the people of the world and who potentially represent hundreds of millions of people in the imperialist countries.



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