Editorial from the July 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
This month the world’s most powerful politicians are getting together in Gleneagles to discuss how best to exercise their power. Two thousand years ago, in 60 BCE, the three most powerful men in Ancient Rome – Crassus, Caesar and Pompey – met to form a shadow government, one which recognised the reality of their personal power as opposed to the nearly defunct formal constitution of the Republic; in much the same way as the Titanic recognised the iceberg’s right of way. Known as the First Triumvirate, it wasn’t to last – power cannot work against the logic it’s based on; so the rulers of Rome were impelled into a civil war they didn’t want because the needs of their camps demanded it.
Now, the G8 has a similar function to this ancient pact: the open and honest rule of the most powerful states beyond the formal international equality and niceties of the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation. The G8, a self-selected club of the richest countries in the world, co-operating together on trade related issues: an open acknowledgement of the golden rule – them as have the gold rule. Unlike the WTO or the UN, it is not an international bureaucracy, but an opportunity for the leaders of the powerful states to meet and discuss policy – a caucus rather than a conference.
It is hopeless to imagine, as some more soppy minded followers of Blair and Brown do, that the G8 can be turned into a force for good in the world. As the most powerful figure in the G8, the President of the United States has shown, the self-interest of the powerful comes first.
He won’t agree to Brown’s proposed International Finance Facility, because it doesn’t fit with America’s plans. Although Blair’s Big Idea – for want of a better term – in international politics is that “our” values can coincide with “our” interests, the reality often is that the values are the garnish to the capitalist feast.
Nor, though, can chanting like plebeians voicing their views in the Forum be of much help. There can be no doubt that in the current world order, the reality is that what these ultra wealthy and ultra powerful states want will happen. They each have the men, the guns and, by Jingo, the money too. Any hope that they will give any attention to the hoi polloi, other than fobbing them off, is a barren one. Business as usual is their god.
Within nation states – where the ruling class is cohesive, their interests similar and where they have to rely on workers administering their interests – political democracy can function and the rule of law have some footing. Politicians and administrators can be and are held to account. Between nation states though, in the murky wild-west of international law, all these constraints are off.
International diplomacy is clandestine, furtive, removed as far as possible from the democratic gaze. The meetings at Gleneagles will be held behind locked doors, far away from the eyes of anyone interested in proceedings, as the eight colossi bicker and bargain the loot of the whole world. In the ancient world, the definition of a tyrant was a ruler who couldn’t walk around without bodyguards: the meetings at Gleneagles will be conducted behind an awesome ring of steel and firepower.
If the G8 were smashed, if its meetings did not happen, the mere practicalities of the existence of these hyper-rich states would mean that they would still have to collaborate and co-ordinate their interests. Simply by being in existence, they have an effect on the politics of the world as irresistible as gravity.
Clearly then, the only way to make progress is to remove the obstacle of these powerful camps and end the interests and powerbases they represent. This can only be done by raising a force adequate to resist them – a movement on a global scale, coherent and co-ordinated, so that one day the rulers of the Earth will wake to find our meeting of the workers, a clique 6 billion strong has settled on their doorstep. Our strength won’t be military or financial but creative. We have made the world as it is by our labour, and by the light of our industry and reason we will finally dispel the shadow of privilege and power.