President Obama begins his first European tour this week, starting
with the G20 economic summit, he’s finding that much of the rest
of the world has suddenly become quite uppity.
all goes as planned, by the time these word are published, floats
will have departed in late morning April 1 on a "Financial
Fools Day" parade from four different subway stations in London
and formed a cross in front of the Bank of England to stage a “Bankers
Banquet.” Meanwhile, British global warming protestors will have
set up “Climate Camp,” a tent city in front European Climate Exchange
on Liverpool Street while a giant iceberg is slated to start melting
in front of the Excel Center where on April 2 the G20 Economic Summit
will be getting underway. But that’s not all. Demonstrations are
planned at the Royal Bank of Scotland and the U.S. Embassy and a
“shadow summit” will have opened at the University of East London
near where the actual summit will be held.
this follows last Saturday’s massive Put People First march to Hyde
Park, sponsored by a coalition of more than 100 unions, churches,
charities and political activist groups that paraded under the slogan
"Jobs, Justice and Climate.”
is right to be angry as there is nothing inevitable about this recession,”
Trade Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber told the protestors
Saturday. "Today is the birth of a powerful progressive voice."
London protests, both in their size and political content, should
put to rest a notion that the spirit of the 1999 anti-globalization
outpouring in Seattle had died. Those demonstrations were prescient,
coming as they did before a gathering of the World Trade Organization
and warning of the foreboding direction underway in international
economic affairs – the pitfalls of then little-understood, unrestrained
and unregulated process of globalization.
outcome is clear now: an economic crisis has hit hard in the biggest
and richest capitalist countries evoking pain and anger on the part
of the working and middle classes and, instead of economic advance,
many of the poorest regions of the planet are facing dire circumstances.
week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the host of the G20 summit,
was appealing to people to not be cynical about the summit and its
prospects for success. However, at the same time, officials in the
UK and the United States were clearly in a damage control mode,
trying to lower expectations about what might come out of the Excel
Center deliberations. According to one report British officials
have been suggesting the G20 leaders might have to reconvene in
six months or so to take another stab at resolving their differences
and rescuing the world’s economy.
said he had not been traveling across the globe to have the summit
close with a bland statement of little agreement on how to tackle
the growing crisis. Yet that is exactly what seasoned observers
in the world of capitalist economic are predicting will happen.
while the economic crisis is worldwide, and nearly everyone agrees
the only possible corrective action must be global, the governments
of the 20 or so countries involved in this week’s talks are a complete
loggerheads over where to go from here. While they rail against
“protectionism,” each nation or region involved is advancing its
own interest in the negotiations while shoring up their economies
along national or regional lines.
United States wants the major powers to step up efforts to stimulate
their economies through government spending. The response from Europe
has been an adamant “no.” The Europeans want the U.S. to agree to
a new architecture for the world capitalist system that would involve
cross border regulation and policing they believe would militate
against the current crisis re-occurring. United Nations officials
and non-governmental organizations are pressing for immediate and
massive aid for the poorer countries of the world that stand to
be devastated by the crisis. Such assistance would logically come
through the International Monetary Fund (IMF); emerging states like,
China, Brazil and South Africa are insisting on easing the austerity
demand the IMF usually makes on aid recipients and greater representation
of the fund’s governing body (currently pretty much run by the U.S.)
as the prospect or progress at the summit dims, impatience with
the leading participating governments is mounting. Last week,
Reuters news agency reported, “resentment is rising about how
catastrophic errors in the boardrooms of the West are hurting the
step up in demands for stronger and comprehensive action with regards
to the international economy isn’t restricted to Europe. Prime Minister
Brown probably heard its sharpest expression when he visited Latin
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is clearly exasperated. He had
previously said that he didn’t want the summit - which he will attend
- to only produce an agreement to meet again. Perhaps Brown had
conveyed to him the “another-summit-in-six-months” suggestion his
aides in London were then floating to the media and are now voicing
publically. Lula went off.
the G20 becomes a meeting just to set another meeting, we'll be
discredited and the crisis can deepen,” said Lula.
financial crisis was not caused by any "black person"
or "poor person," Lula said, adding that the major Western
capitalist countries should take responsibility for solving the
current economic situation. "This was a crisis fostered and
boosted by the irrational behavior of people that are white and
blue eyed," he said. "Before the crisis it looked like
they knew everything about economics. And now they have demonstrated
they don't know anything about economics,” adding, "These were
people who appeared to be gods of wisdom."
for a long time has been highly responsible in terms of regulating
our financial system," he said at a joint press conference
with Brown, “The part of humanity that is responsible should pay
for the crisis." He called on the rich countries to avoid limiting
immigration during the crisis because that would make poor people
its "victims." Lula also criticized the U.S. and Britain
for their plans to bailout banks by buying or insuring their “toxic”
assets, saying the money involved could be better spent.
press report said Brown “looked uncomfortable alongside his Brazilian
counterpart.” Another reported that UK Cabinet Minister Douglas
Alexander, who was in the audience, “rolled his eyes.”
later to explain his "white people with blue eyes," comment,
Lula said he was not being prejudiced, only underscoring the fact
that poor people stand to bare the brunt of the crisis.
wouldn’t know it by depending on the major U.S. media, but Brown’s
trip to Latin American had another purpose of which the huddle with
Lula was only part. He went from Brasilia to a meeting in Vina del
Mar, Chile – of Centre-Left leaders from around the world seeking
a united approach to the issues before the G20 summit. Present were
prime ministers Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain and Jens Stoltenberg
of Norway; US Vice President Joe Biden; and presidents Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva of Brazil, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Tabare
Vazquez of Uruguay and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
result of the Lula-Brown meeting was the British leader’s endorsement
of a call by Brazil for the creation of a $100 billion fund to boost
international trade. In Chile, Brown pledged to carry the proposal
to the London summit.
the eve of the Vina del Mar summit, Bachelet cited the present economic
crisis as a "great opportunity to lay the groundwork for a
second stage in globalization." She called for joint actions
at the global level, more open markets, and stronger governments
with the aim of "prosperity for all and not just for some."
"The 21st century will either be governed by all of us together
or it will be governed by no one at all," she said.
President Kirchner complained that the current system is in disarray.
"It is a world without rules," she said.
President Zapatero said the world economic order must undergo "reform
and change," be further democratized and incorporate environmental
changes. "The future of the economy is the green economy,"
has also demanded that the world economic powers take immediate
steps to head off a looming a crisis in the markets for energy and
food amid the global economic downturn.
Tuesday, Bachelet, Lula, Kirchner and Venezuelan Presidents
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana and Ronald Venetiaan
of Suriname, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, and vice presidents of Uruguay,
Ecuador, and Colombia were scheduled to arrive in Doha, Qatar for
the second Arab-South American countries summit where the world
economic crisis is on the agenda along with plans for expanded trade
and cooperation between the two regions.
while visiting Moscow where the crisis is evoking almost continuous
street protests, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of a potential
catastrophe arising from the world economic crisis. "I am concerned
that if we do not properly address this issue swiftly, this may
develop rather alarmingly into political instability, into a political
around the world we see a growing list of political instability,”
said Ban. “If we do not manage it properly, this crisis, I am concerned
that this crisis may develop into global political instability.
If life goes much like this and harder...social unrest will surely
proposals are actually adopted in London this week and whatever
the wording of a final communiqué turns out to be, there are larger
questions that are unlikely to be taken up seriously but remain
world agenda when the meeting is over. These include:
Merkel’s call for the creation
of an international economic body, similar to the United Nations
Security Council, and a “new charter for a global economic order,"
"This may even lead to a UN Economic Council, just as the
Security Council was created after the Second World War,"
Merkel said. A similar proposal has been offered by UN Commission
on international financial reform headed by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel
Prize Winner in Economics. Stiglitz has coupled a call for a
quick restructuring of the IMF and the World Bank with the creation
of UN Economic Council. He was one of President Bill Clinton's
chief economic advisers and was once chief economist at the World
suggestion by the government of China that there be a global reserve
currency instead of the U.S. dollar. The Obama Administration
has officially blown off the proposal and the British have made
it clear it is not going to get much attention at this week’s
summit. However, the issue will not go away, having been met sympathetically
in various countries including Russia, France and the countries
of Latin America.
insistence by Lula and other emerging nations’ leaders that the
World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of trade negotiations be
jumpstarted. The now-stalled negotiations have floundered over
disputes over export opportunities and protections for local industries
from import surges.
lower-your-expectations spin was in full motion on the eve of the
G20 summit. Before departing Washington this week, President Obama
both rejected the idea of a split with Europe and appealed for unity.
"The most important task for all of us is to deliver a strong
message of unity in the face of crisis," he told the Financial
none of this renders the summit either meaningless or counterproductive,”
said the British Independent newspaper. “Rhetorical commitments
to a coordinated stimulus, even if they are largely descriptive
of what is happening anyway, help to herd national economic policies
in a similar direction. They also make it less likely that countries
will resort to protectionism, which was a main cause of global deflation
in the 1930s. Far better, then, that the leaders of the world should
meet, talk and issue bland communiqués than that they should stay
at home and indulge in populist gestures, which often include tariffs
on imports and subsidies for domestic producers.”
prescription is not likely to be swallowed by the protestors in
the streets or the capitals of the emerging or the poorest nations.
Nor will it stem the outrage the “populist gestures” are intended
old ideas of unregulated free markets do not work, and have brought
the world's economy to near-collapse, failed to fight poverty and
have done far too little to move to a low-carbon economy,” the British
labor leader Barber said. "If we can generate fabulous wealth,
as we can, then surely we can learn how to distribute that wealth
more fairly. If we can unleash a technological revolution then surely
we can ensure that everyone on this planet gets the food, the shelter
and the health care that they need.”
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here
to contact Mr. Bloice.