Protests mark G-8 summit in Germany

News Analysis

Demonstrators from throughout Europe flooded Rostock, Germany, this week to protest the G-8 Summit being held June 6-8 in nearby Heiligendamm.

On the weekend preceding the G-8 meeting, clashes between 16,000 riot police and an estimated 100,000 protesters turned an initially peaceful demonstration into a skirmish. Over 500 people were injured and many hospitalized. Many protesters were jailed.

Security measures for the summit, which is being attended by leaders of the eight largest world economic and military powers — the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia — have been overwhelming, and reportedly includes the largest massing of armed force in one place in Germany since the Second World War.

The clampdown started weeks before the summit. The German authorities carried out “preventive raids” on organizations’ offices, where arrests were made. Biometric data was collected on key activists, including their “scent,” so police dogs could identify them at demonstrations.

Repressive actions by the police have taken place in cities and towns throughout the country.

At Heiligendamm, demonstrators were kept at least seven miles away from the luxurious hotel where the summit was taking place. At the cost of 12 million euros, the authorities constructed a fence to keep protesters out of town. The fence has become a poignant symbol of the spending priorities of the powerful and the mighty, and of how little they care for the urgent needs of the rest of humanity.

Key topics at the summit include world climate change and the Kyoto accord, aid to Africa, the state of the world economy, and the controversial anti-missile defense shield the U.S. is trying to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Division and discord were expected to characterize the summit, given that many members of the G-8 are already ensnared in political and economic conflicts, including with each other. Such divisions were evident in the preparatory meeting held in Potsdam, Germany, where Iraq, Iran, Darfur, Kosovo and Afghanistan were discussed.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro was among the pundits who noted that the meeting was taking place at a critical time. 'The summit will take place in an environment of acute crisis, both political and economic, which directly threatens the planet,' he said. The Cuban leader has been particularly outspoken about global environmental issues in recent months.

The prospect of agreement on climate change measures is already being considered a “no-go,” as the U.S. is expected to block all meaningful accords.

The debate about how to approach various problems on the African continent, which some left-wing political analysts regard as the next big battleground for inter-imperialist rivalry, was also expected to be marked by discord.

The U.S., for example, has irked many of its G-8 rivals in its support for, and participation in, Ethiopia’s recent military invasion of Somalia.

British imperialism has also set its sights on Africa. Former British Prime Minster Tony Blair, before stepping down, made a swan-song tour that started in Libya and ended in South Africa.

Russia, on the other hand, is making public declarations of goodwill, promising to forgive the debt owed to Russia by the poorest African nations, estimated at $500 million. It has already forgiven $11.3 billion in such debt.

As the world economic crisis continues to deepen, where 2 percent of the people live in unimaginable luxury and the other 98 percent either struggle to make ends meet or simply to survive, the rich and the powerful know that this situation cannot be sustained interminably. They must know that where there is injustice, rebellion is not far behind. The G-8 leaders must be looking over their shoulders.

Laura Petricola (laurajpetricola @yahoo.com) writes from Athens, Greece.