London Calling to the Faraway Crowds


At the beginning of April, the G20 group of major world economies met in London. Media attention focused as much on the confrontation between police and demonstrators outside the conference as on what was going on between the suits inside. The London police were their usual charmless selves and even managed to kill an uninvolved man, Ian Tomlinson, on his way home from work.

Despite the hype from the media and police, the actual fracas on the streets was relatively minor. That the media spent more time on this shows the total lack of expectation that the conference itself would deliver anything of significance. But who were the attendees, what was it supposed to be trying to do and why did no-one expect it to deliver?

The G20 was informally put together in the aftermath of the 1998 Asian Financial crisis and formalised five years later. It consists of the G7, the old "West" (USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Italy) plus Japan, combined with 13 other economies from Asia and the rest of the emerging world. Whereas in the aftermath of the 1998 crisis it was very much the G7 laying down the law to the Asian and other G20 countries, ten years on, this relationship has, if not reversed, radically changed.

The G20 is now the G7 plus all the main countries they owe money to - the other members being China, Australia, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, plus the EU. Collectively, the G20 economies comprise 85% of global GNP, 80% of world trade (including EU intra-trade) and two-thirds of the world population.

The reason for the meeting in London was the current financial crisis and what to do about it. The reason that no-one really expected it to achieve anything significant is because, although the G7 is now no longer in a position to dictate terms to China and the rest, neither are they yet powerful enough to tell the USA how to clean up its act. So, despite all the spin about how much of workers and taxpayers money the governments are going to spend to bail out their friends in the banks, no-one is surprised that the result is a stalemate.

Whatever the changes in the move from the G7 to the G20, one thing stays the same, Ireland is still not invited. This is not the first time in history that a meeting to decide the economic fate of Irish workers has been held in London without our having any say in the matter. But it is symbolic of what's wrong with the way the world is being run, from the days of the British empire, through the USA-led G7, to the new East-West G20.

We are excluded from having any say not because we are members of something that is too small, the Irish nation, but because we are members of something too big, all the ordinary people all around the world who don't have a say in the running of the world economy.

We can't be allowed to have a say, so long as the priority for the system and the political and business elites is furthering their own power and profits at our expense. Until that problem is solved, no group of governments, unanswerable to their own people, whether elected or not, can stop the crises happening again and again.

Workers Solidarity 109 May - June 2009 Edition

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