The despot’s dinner party that is the G8 summit came to UK shores this year. As ideological austerity tightens its stranglehold on Europe and beyond – there is a growing opinion that the G8 exists not to resolve issues of poverty, war and hunger – but to profit from them.
Meanwhile a small group of committed activists put together an Alternate G8, bringing together some of our time’s best and freshest political, economic and social thinkers to give voice to the real alternatives to tackling the issues of our day. All those with a sense that something is wrong, but no idea if or what alternatives exist – this is for you.
What is the G8?
The first talk was delivered by John Hilary, Director of War on Want. John has worked for the past 20 years in the international development and human rights sector, and is a recognised expert in many fields across the global justice agenda. He provided a compelling and challenging overview of the G8, both this year and through its history.
Essentially, the G8 was conceived to maintain the dominance of the old colonial powers through the establishment of neoliberal institutions of control, such as the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation. The G8 exists to guarantee access and exploitation of the natural and human resources of the world, by these powers. It is a self-appointed, unelected cartel which has no place in a democratic world. The question is – how do activists respond to the G8? The answer, John says, is not to lobby the leaders – as this lends legitimacy to a morally bankrupt enterprise. Instead, we should realise the power in our numbers and launch local, national and regional direct actions which will have a profound effect.
You can hear John’s talk here.
How do we Tackle Tax Evasion?
Professor Prem Sikka lectures on Accounting as Essex Business School and is also a member of the Tax Justice Network. He provided some astounding information on the true scale of tax avoidance, the industry set up the maintain it, the government’s role in shifting the tax burden from the ‘have lots’ to the ‘have nots’, and the practical steps we can all take to bring the tax avoidance industry to its knees.
You can hear Prem’s talk here.
Wipe the Debt – Austerity is Bogus
Dave Boyle is a cooperative business consultant who works with those seeking to make co-operative, democratic business organisations. Dave asked a question which should gave us all pause – why is there so little democracy in our lives?
While some argue that our parliamentary system is democratic – our workplaces, our schools, our hospitals, and our common resources such as water and energy are not. Our lives are largely lived in autocratic institutions that we have little or no say over. Dave argues, is we were doing democracy everywhere we looked, then we would have stronger democracy as we could compare our democracies. If people were more used to flexing our democratic muscles closer to home, we would have a stronger democracy at the top.
Dave gave examples of where cooperative business models are paving the way to a more democratic world. A real eye opener, and immensely practical.
Hear Dave’s talk here.
Building a Co-operative Economy
The Key Note speech was provided by Heather Marsh, author of Binding Chaos and former editor of WikiLeaks Central. Heather’s speech focussed on the bogus value systems and culture created by the neoliberal economy we have today.
This was a stunning dissection of the ills of our current economy which separates people, punishes sharing, rewards pointless executive jobs over socially valuable work, removes ownership and control of production from the producers and hands it to parasitic organisations such as the financial services industry, governments and regulatory body.
You can hear Heather’s talk here.
A Reminder of our Power
The event was superbly facilitated with those in attendance fully invited to participate and I was reminded of the finest moments of life within the camps of the Occupy Movement. Other speakers included investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, a protesters from Occupy Gezi in Turkey, stand-up comedian Lee Camp and Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation – and each of them provided a searing critique of the way things are done, and alternative democratic methods of achieving our goals, most of which are already working, where they have been applied.
I left the event with new friends, new ideas and an enormous smile on my face. It is essential for us to seek out and share the myriad, exciting possibilities for our future world. It is not enough to challenge what is, but to actively build what is next.
To summarise the event: we have the human capital and the ideas to transform our world for the good. All that’s missing is the courage, the empowerment and the mass participation required to do so. We are a lot closer than many of us realise to breaking out of this exhausted and oppressive system.
The Birmingham Clarion Choir wrapped up the event with some great performances which you can listen to here. They sang ‘Freedom is Coming’, an African protest song, which I have included a version of below. It captures the joyful determination we must all retain if we are to not only survive but thrive in the fight for social, economic and environmental justice.
You can listen to all of the talks provided to the Alternate G8 here
You can read the Alternate G8 Declaration here