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FOR all the triumphalist bombast from Boris Johnson and other Western leaders as the G7 wrapped up today, campaigners are right to warn that the summit has not advanced solutions to any of the most pressing crises — from Covid-19 to climate change — we currently face.
By ratcheting up the confrontational rhetoric about China, it has if anything set solutions to these truly global problems back. But it could hardly avoid doing so.
On its opening day the G7 declared its intention of upholding “a fair and mutually beneficial global economic system” — it will be news to the vast majority of people worldwide that such a thing exists — before specifying the threat to this panglossian state of affairs.
“We will consult with each other on collective approaches to address non-market oriented policies and practices,” it stated, name-checking China as the main party guilty of these heresies.
This is not surprising. The G7 is an imperialist club. It was established as a co-ordinating bloc for the US and its allies to exercise control over the global economy.
When founded in the 1970s it had some claim to represent the world’s biggest economies — the socialist Soviet Union excluded, of course — but that is no longer true at all, given the rise of China especially and also of other emerging economies such as India and Brazil.
It is an ideological bloc rather than a forum for global heavyweights. US President Joe Biden made no bones about that today: “America is back in the business of leading the world, alongside nations who share our most deeply held values.”
One reason the G7 cannot seek to resolve global problems is because it is not a globally representative body, but one which excludes countries accounting for by far the greater proportion of the world’s population.
It is not the United Nations and, as its three nuclear-armed members — Britain, France and the US — have shown, it does not give tuppence for the views of the UN when it comes to questions like abiding by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which came into force in January.
But another reason is that its entire existence is designed to perpetuate “market-oriented policies and practices.”
There has sometimes been a touch of naivety to calls for “world leaders” to address questions deeply rooted in the capitalist mode of production, from the Make Poverty History movement of the early 2000s to the climate change crisis.
Such movements have played an essential role in raising pressure for action. But they cannot fall into the trap of assuming “world leaders” are neutral actors who can be persuaded to act in the public interest.
The leaders of the world’s biggest capitalist states operate on behalf of capitalist ruling classes and are invested in the existing capitalist order.
Capitalism, because its motor is the relentless drive for profit and its outcome the concentration of wealth, is the driver of both climate change and global inequality. As Marx observed, it tends to destroy its two sources of wealth, nature and human beings.
No reform or regulation of capitalism has ever resulted from a conference of the rich deciding to act on their consciences. All change has been forced from below, by popular revolt and by the power of working-class organisation.
Many of the demonstrators who have come out against the G7 — and faced entirely unwarranted police persecution for doing so — understand this. The purpose of protests is not to change the minds of the rich, but to mobilise the forces that can take them on.
These “world leaders” do not represent us or our interests. The whole labour movement should be clear on that as the US court moves this week from Cornwall to Brussels, from the G7 to Nato — that is, from the economics of Washington’s supremacy to its enforcement by military might.
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