Socialist Worker

Trevor Ngwane backs protests against Gleneagles G8 summit

Issue No. 1943

Trevor Ngwane

Trevor Ngwane

I will be coming from South Africa to Edinburgh in July to confront the G8. I hope you will be marching with me.

The G8 includes the countries that are at the centre of imperialist domination across the world. The US and Britain are two of them — the powers responsible for the horrors in Iraq.

But we should also remember that other countries such as France, Italy and Germany are the dominant countries enforcing debt. Even when the debt is lifted, they impose the conditions of privatisation, asset stripping and job losses.

These governments are also the protectors of the major corporations, whose tentacles ensnare all parts of the world. The multinationals do not just rely on their own economic power and pressure. They also need the military, financial and political backing of states.

When we protest at the G8 we will raise all the building blocks of poverty, all the elements which go to keep billions in such desperate situations.

The G8 countries are the premier policemen of a system that favours the rich and hurls whole continents into crisis. Africa has been fed neo-liberal medicine for over a decade. The result has been ruin, not progress — except for a small elite.

With all the talk of global agencies like the IMF and the World Bank it is easy to forget that the corporations are the heart of the beast. We should not take our eye off them.

However, the role of the G8 should not be underestimated. Our social movements have made great strides since the 1999 demonstrations at the World Trade Organisation in Seattle. In response world leaders have become more manipulative and have altered their rhetoric.

It is good that people like Tony Blair are forced to talk about Aids, debt and trade. But we should not forget that Blair, and those like him, stand with the system of capitalism, which is itself the root problem.

There is a feeling in many parts of the world about inequality, Third World poverty and debt which worries people like Blair.

I think in Britain the response to the tsunami must have shaken New Labour. It showed that it was not just people in the anti-capitalist movement who feel strong bonds with those suffering across the globe.

The launch of Make Poverty History is another example, showing how many, many people — beyond the ranks of the usual protesters — want to see action. There is a rising feeling inside the working class, even if it does not yet turn to action, about injustice and imperialism.

It cuts against the notions of individualism and competition that are pushed at us all the time.

Of course there will be attempts to divert this feeling. At the G8 let’s march together and seriously discuss the way forward. At the recent World Social Forum there was a beautiful intervention at one of the major rallies from Coumba Toure, a women’s rights and anti-poverty activist from Senegal.

She sang a freedom song and then told a story about how we should destroy the cage imprisoning all the birds rather than pay 50 cents to buy a single bird’s freedom, as people seeking luck do in the streets of Dakar.

This must be our vision — to destroy the capitalist cage which imprisons Africans and all of humanity’s social, economic, political and cultural development.

Any lesser vision will be a capitulation to the bird-seller, who sells us the birds’ freedom but is the one who imprisoned — and continues to imprison — the birds in the first place.

It is only when workers rise up in an organised way and refuse to make profits for the capitalists that we will be able to stop the world’s injustices.

Only organised workers can wage a challenge and win decisively and permanently against the capitalists. We must know this and never forget it. It is only when we know this that we can respect the working class and have confidence in ordinary workers, employed and unemployed, even if at the present moment they are not leading the struggle because they have forgotten their own power.

It is very easy for workers and the masses to lose confidence in their own power when their leaders and the organisations they trust turn against them and join the bosses. Workers start to believe the lies that they are not important, that they know little or nothing, that they are nothing.

Just imagine how weak and powerless you can feel if you are unemployed or a casual worker in a materialist world where money is said to be everything. Our job as activists is not to believe the lie that workers are nothing.

Our job is to help the working class regain its confidence. We must find ways to help workers remember their own power. This won’t be easy and it won’t happen in one day. We must tell workers, “You are not the people they say you are. You are not the people you think you are. You have the power to change things. Yinina abantu (you are the people who count).”

Trevor Ngwane is the full-time organiser for the South African Anti-Privatisation Forum. For more information go to

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