Friday, 8 June 2007

The G8 - the Imperial Powers continue to meet

When I began this blog I had so much in me that I was furious or disappointed about and that I wanted to get out of my system. A month on I seem to expelled so much of it from me. I can understand why the average life of a blog is 3 months because that gives you time to send off all the things that have been bugging you. Maybe, also, it is a consequence of the time of the year, what journalists used to call the 'silly season'. Also we are in limbo, Blair has left but he is still here and so without current pricks from the advance of dictatorship in the UK or other behaviour to make me indignant, my fuel source wanes. I did find out this week that there is no point trying to us a mobile phone on the train between Sheffield and Leeds as you can get no signal at all. Just in case you happen to be travelling that way. This was even the case on a Virgin Trains train which claimed to have better connectivity. Anyway, that is hardly an issue to form the basis of overthrowing the government!

It is a time for conferences and the most noticeable one is the G8 summit. It is interesting that more attention is paid to this than anything that ever goes on at the United Nations. The G8 are the USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Japan and Canada. It used to be the G7 until Russia abandoned Communism. Aside from Canada, the members of the organisation are the same as if you had assembled the leading imperial powers in 1907. I think this reinforces my point made in an earlier post, that views of the world being divided between the empires put forward before the First World War retain relevance today. Personally I have always argued that the Second World War and the Cold War was like putting a 'freeze frame' on developments in the world and with the end of the Cold War this came off and we are back to the issues of the Edwardian period (strictly 1901-10, but usually seen as stretching to 1914). Some argue that the ideologies of the Cold War simply concealed a much longer term tension between the two continental powers Russia and the USA, going back to the 1860s, particularly over control of the third - China.

It is more than likely that China will become the ninth power to join the G8, not least because it is so economically tied to the USA. The USA is in billions of dollars of debt to China for things it has imported. In turn China is seeking to invest in the USA as it already has in Canada and Australia as well as in Africa and South-East Asia seeking raw materials. As at the end of the 19th century, the USA portrays itself as being democratic in the face of Russia's non-democratic perspective. In turn Russia feels weak and seeks to reinforce its position by blustering militarily.

In some ways the G8 wield the powers over other parts of the world that their predecessors did. For example, the fate of millions in Africa is still determined by them. Who gets AIDS drugs, what levels of debt will countries face, who will be sold arms? All of these things have parallel to the imperial period. Climate change is often presented as something new, but those of the 19th century with their factory filled cities knew about it. Rules about fires in cities like London date back centuries. People since the Stone Age have been witnessing deforestation and particularly since the 18th century saw industrial revolutions. The imperial powers, despite concepts such as the 'white man's burden' in that they should contribute something to the developing countries, have mainly focused on pushing their economies forward and that remains the issue today. This is the key reason why Bush remains hesitant on doing anything regarding emissions.

Given the approach Al Gore has adopted on climate change and his movie 'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006), it is an interesting to speculate on the 'what if?' of if he had scraped sufficient votes in 2000 to have become president. My guess is that he would have been tied down heavily by US industry not to pursue as strong restrictions as he now advocates. The twist of this 'what if?' may not be played out yet. Sitting here in 2047 we may say 'well wasn't it a good thing Gore lost the presidency because he was able to make far greater an impact on climate change than if he had done'.

We have 8 leaders now assembled, they seem powerful and probably are more so than another selection of 8 leaders one might pick (there are some candidates such as Brazil, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, India and certainly China who would probably outrank countries like Italy and Canada in terms of 'power') and yet, do they truly hold power? I would argue no. Some have more power than they have the intelligence to use, notably Bush. However, the others are shackled by big business, its wealth, its connections. Even when they have the foresight, understanding and will to bring about change such as reducing global poverty, developing world debt or to provide reasonably priced drugs, they often cannot. Their abilities to act are hampered by business leaders who run companies that have held such power now for over 100 years and have gone through wars often with minimal harm. Imperialism is still around, but note as V.I. Lenin suggested, imperialism is the highest stage of capitalisms, hence it is the capitalists, not the politicians, who are the highest imperialists.

Coming all rather old school there at the end, which was unexpected. Maybe anti-globalisation is much older than current campaigners and myself think and so may the responses are older too? I will give this some thought.

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