THE PROTESTS against the rich and powerful at the Earth Summit in South Africa have been inspiring. Following on from the protests in Barcelona and Seville earlier this year, they are a powerful rebuttal to all those who claimed the anti-capitalist movement was dead after 11 September.
They are also a rebuttal to those, such as New Labour’s ‘minister for globalisation’ Clare Short, who claim that anti-capitalist protesters are all privileged, white, middle class kids from rich countries. Short claims that the poorest in Africa and elsewhere welcome investment from multinational corporations and ‘free’ trade because it will improve their lives. But it is workers, the poor and the dispossessed who protest against the multinationals and governments who are destroying their lives.
The protesters proudly say they have been inspired by the great anti-capitalist protests in Seattle in 1999 and Genoa last year. Many media commentators claim that the main conflict at the Earth Summit is between the rich countries and the poor ones. The giant corporations, the business elite who head them and the politicians who serve them are mainly based in the richer countries.
They will use any means to enforce their writ across the globe, as shown by the way US president George Bush threatens anyone who challenges it. South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, opened the Johannesburg summit speaking of a world ‘characterised by islands of wealth, surrounded by a sea of poverty’. There are islands of wealth and a sea of poverty in every country.
In every country there is a ruling elite of businessmen, bankers and governments which exploits and lives off the backs of the rest of the population. Even in the poorer countries there is a tiny layer of rich people who are as parasitic as their kind everywhere. They happily collaborate with the elite in the richer and more powerful states. That is why protesters in South Africa this week are just as bitter against people like Mbeki who are part of this global elite.
The main divide in the world is not between rich and poor countries, but between a multinational elite versus the rest of us. In the richest countries, like the United States and Britain, millions of people face poverty and increasing exploitation.
In Britain one in three children live in poverty. Millions of workers face long working hours, increasing workloads, unsociable shifts and low pay. Look at the picture of strikers from Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Scotland on this page.
These workers are paid a pittance for doing vital work in hospitals. They have far more in common with the black women in South Africa raging against poverty and injustice outside the Earth Summit than they do with any fat cat boss in Britain.
And both are part of the same global struggle as the Indonesian workers who marched against job cuts imposed by the multinational Nike last week (pictured on front page). The capitalist system always seeks to divide working class people. Bosses, government and the press try to turn the workers of other countries into our enemies.
Racists try to turn people’s anger at poverty and misery onto the scapegoating of asylum seekers and people with a different skin colour. But if black and white workers unite together we can create a powerful force not only against the racists, but also against the bosses who inflict long hours, low pay and miserable working conditions. And that in turn can be a vital link in the growing global mood of resistance and solidarity.
Four weeks to the march – Saturday 28 Sept, London
l1pm, central London. Book transport now
Approach unions, campaigns and community groups
For flyers, posters and transport information phone the Stop the War Coalition on 020 7053 2155 or go to www.stopwar.org.uk called by Stop the War Coalition and Muslim Association of Britain, supported by CND.