★ ★ ★ ★
ALL FOR ONE? ONE FOR ALL!
By Mike Hembury
Well, the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg has been and gone and a hundred thousand people took to the streets to protest about the injustice of the global capitalist system and were greeted with the full range of state-of-the art police repression. The hideous obscenity of a system in which the eight wealthiest men in the world own more than the 27 billion poorest was drowned out in the manufactured media outrage at a bunch of cars set alight by teargassed demonstrators and freelance agent-provocateurs stirring up trouble.
Big deal that the police said before it all kicked off that they would be going on the offensive. The show must go on, and the show went on. In the blue corner, Angela Merkel fulfilled her role as the saviour of globalisation, liberal democracy, and the Paris Accords. Donald Trump, in the red corner, fulfilled his role as the bruiser from fossil fuel capitalism’s goon squad, showing that there’s a sizeable section of the ruling class ready and willing to take us all down on the route to dictatorship, fascism and ecocide in the name of profit.
But although it’s easier for many of us to live in a supposedly liberal democracy than in an illiberal autocracy, the whole Merkel-Trump face-off is still phoney. After all, it was basically capitalist globalisation, and its precursors—bog-standard imperialism and colonialism—that got us into this mess in the first place. Because the G20 is not some genteel club for the well-to-do. It is the meeting of the global representatives of the one percent. It includes such rough customers as Russia (war in Chechnya, Syria, war on queers, war on dissent), Turkey (war in Kurdistan, dictatorship in the name of inter-Islamic factionalism), Saudi Arabia (current proposed decapitation of 15 dissidents, war in Yemen, support for ISIS and the most brutal forms of patriarchal repression), as well as the USA and the UK (war in the Middle East, Afghanistan, exporters of anti-human neoliberal policies around the world).
Of course, none of this was on the agenda. War and state repression are par for the course for the governments of the G20, so this is not something that really requires discussion. Nor was there any talk of the terminal bankruptcy of the capitalist system. Not bankrupt in the sense that there isn’t still a shitload of money to be made from squeezing the global poor, and exploiting and extracting the guts out of the planet. But bankrupt in the sense of moral bankruptcy. Bankrupt in the sense of business as usual in the face of on-going planetary catastrophe on multiple levels, with more to come.
Oh, and of course, the Paris Accords. Such a big deal was made about the G20 splitting into the anti-Trump majority around the issue of upholding the Paris Accords, with Donald out on his own. But at the end of the day this is still a matter of too little too late. The Paris Accords are a paper tiger. There is nothing in them except voluntary goals. And even if those goals were upheld to the letter, we’d still be heading for 2 degrees of warming or more, which is still way too much for comfort. The Paris Accords, and the whole of the G20 charade, is about maintaining the conditions for business as usual. And business as usual means maximum profit extraction, with maybe a gradualist, pie-in-the-sky kind of approach towards maintaining a liveable planet. So the G20 has nothing to say about putting the global economy on the equivalent of a war footing in order to retool for the challenge of saving the environment.
The G20 still talk about the environment as if it were something else, far away. Like maybe the Amazon rain forest, already maimed by deforestation and defiled by oil exploration. But the environment is not just the damaged Amazon, and the melting ice caps, and the plumes of methane erupting from the tundra, and the Sixth Extinction now officially underway. It’s also the air we breathe, the water we drink, the plastic and chemicals and other poisons we ingest, and the heightened levels of UV radiation that we expose ourselves and our kids to every time we go out in the sun.
All of this is already intolerable—for us and for the planet—and it marks just the beginning of the age we are entering.
It almost seems ironic that in many respects it is the Chinese who are taking the lead in the field of zero-carbon economic re-tooling. They recently managed to power the north-western province of Quinghai for an entire month on renewables alone.
How come they were capable of this, when a massively wealthy country like the US, or even Europe, is apparently not?
It is basically because they are still committed to a certain level of central planning, i.e. to what used to be known as the “command economy”, or even plain old Keynesianism in the west. Of course, there is nothing democratic about China’s centralised planning system. But it still shows that it is able to pull of something that the so-called free market can’t.
But imagine a democratically planned economy genuinely controlled by the producers and consumers—more along the lines of the socialized economy of revolutionary Barcelona in 1936 than any of the Stalinist supposedly communist bureaucracies of recent history.
Imagine a world where the economy is no longer about preserving the obscene super-privileges of the one percent.
A world where that wealth—and the wealth of the various war machines and fossil fuel empires around the globe—is used to alleviate humanity’s most pressing needs.
A world where it’s no longer all for one, but one for all.
Mike Hembury is an Anglo-Berliner originally from Portland, England. He’s a writer, translator, musician, coder, sailor, environmentalist and guitar nerd in no particular order. You can follow Mike on Twitter here: twitter.com/schnappz