TRNN speaks to demonstrators and South African activist Patrick Bond, who say tens of thousands are taking to the streets to challenge corporate power at the G20 summit
Jaisal Noor: Thousands of protestors from around Europe and the world, who say “The G20 has failed to solve many of the issues threatening world peace”, poured into Hamburg to join the main demonstration dubbed “Welcome to Hell” by the alliance of anticapitalist groups who organized it. Earlier this week, riot police cleared protestors off the streets of Hamburg using water cannons. Kemal, Protestor: We’re here today because we think that the G20 has no place here in Hamburg. Has no place in the world. It is not needed. It is an organization of the ruling classes, of the imperialist system that deepens exploitation around the world, that produces fascism and racism, particularly Trump, who presents himself as a racist and says “I am willing to use the nuclear bomb.” And to invite such a man here, in the name of so-called capitalist democracy, and therefore legitimizing him, it is outrageous. Jaisal Noor: Up to 20,000 police officers will be on hand for the main demonstration. Police expect around 100,000 protesters in the port city, some 8,000 of whom are deemed by security forces to be ready to commit violence. Organizers reject that claim. Michael Martin, Co-Organizer, ‘Welcome to Hell’ Protest: In our opinion, the recent statements that imply that there are 8,000 perpetrators who are prone to violence, coming and using that as a reason to ban the camps, is political propaganda. They are doing this to interfere with the right to gather and to inhibit our protest and to attack our protest, and to prevent the protest so that only the nicest images of Hamburg are seen. But that is exactly what we don’t want. We want to show that protests are necessary, important and have a purpose. Jaisal Noor: Earlier in the week, 4,000 demonstrators marched through the city to highlight inequality, climate change and trade policy. This is U.S. activist, Nelini Stamp. Nelini Stamp: We need a new visionary politics. We need a new vision that is born out of compassion and solidarity for every human being that lives on this planet! Jaisal Noor: Activists organized a counter-summit, where we reached South African activist, Patrick Bond. Patrick Bond: The German police, for several decades, have had cat and mouse tactics with increasingly sophisticated demonstrators and this goes to the late ’60s in which some of the cutting edge technology of oppression has emerged. And that’s what’s being tested out now. But the most visible thing is the numbers of the police. They will be outnumbered by demonstrators but this is one of those extraordinary battles of will and boundless faith. Obviously, we hope they’re no fatalities, but one of the things will be tested is the stability activists’ mood in the intricacies of a major city. It’s a corporate city, one with enough of the old traditions of labor. Here we are in a major, old factory, for example, to reflect power against the oppression of the state trying to defend the privileges of the G20, in turn defending world corporate power. It’s gonna be a great showdown here. Which it’s really very much like the old anti-corporate globalization rallies of even the Battle of Seattle. Those spirited on-the-street activity to block the elites are usually preceded by counter-summit that include intellectuals and activists that enjoy gathering. That’s what I’ve been at here in compound, which is an old factory. It is beautifully handled by 70 organizations that come together in surprising degree of unity, stretching from socialists and anarchists through social democrats and environmentalists. I think actually we’re looking at a very good model where in Germany’s second largest city, a city known for its openness, the biggest port in country, second biggest in Europe, the activists here have really put on an extraordinarily rich display of different kinds of protests and proposing alternatives. That strikes me as what’s different now in 2017 than the prior generation. Many more advanced kinds of ideas about harmony, for example, about different sorts of strategies that would be counter-neoliberal and anti-imperialist. I’m very heartened because so much of what activists normally do is to protest, but one could be rather distracted simply by the street action. I’ve also been nurtured enormously by all that has happened here at the counter-summit. Jaisal Noor: The G20 meeting follows the G7 summit in Sicily a month ago, which exposed deep divisions between Western countries and US President, Donald Trump, on issues including climate change, trade and migration. Patrick Bond: Yes, absolutely, and the G20 is one place where 19 countries with varying degrees of support, did believe that the Paris Climate Accord would serve their interests and they felt that the United States, which had been the foot-dragger all along, the US State Department negotiated many provisions of the Paris Agreement like “no liability for past climate damage”, “no binding emissions”, that provision naturally served everyone’s interests because it didn’t really mean much. Now what Trump has done is grown to question the general sense of coherence within global climate [inaudible 00:05:29]. I think it gets even more tense given what’s happened in North Korea and that maybe Donald Trump is an unreliable loose cannon, and whether between Russia, China, Syria, Qatar, all of the regional crises bubbling away, and with the threat of egos pushing NATO further towards Russia as exemplified in the visit that Trump made, he really is ungovernable so G1 versus G19 situation. Jaisal Noor: We’ve been talking about how the 19 countries besides the U.S. are sort of thinking about how to counter some of what Trump’s agenda is with climate change and some other things. Has there been talk with the intellectuals and other representatives of those countries on how to oppose neo-liberal policies in those countries as well? Because we see Merkel, we see the French President, the British leadership, are all pushing neo-liberal policies on a local level as well. Many of those, for example, in the British, the Brexit came as a result of this waning British-European influence and power in the world as well. Patrick Bond: [inaudible 00:06:49] Trump could even argue was a reaction to that white working class losing income at this period of globalization. I think actually the tide has turned and the name Bernie Sanders came up many times these last two days, as well as Jeremy Corbyn and what he’d done to reenergize some of that in not just England but across Europe. Yes, with the terrible truth, Macron VS Le Pen, the French voted more neo-liberalism and it may well be that Merkel wins reelection because two more leftist parties that Die Linke, The Left party, socialist and then the Greens haven’t found a basis for unity, especially with the social democrats. So yes, this will continue and this is the richest state here in Hamburg, Germany’s second biggest city. But there’s an acute awareness that the policies, especially with finance ministry, Wolfgang Schäuble, has imposed on Greece could be the model for what will happen at the G19 in terms of Africa, and that is the compact with Africa. That is a major initiative, especially that Merkel and Schäuble, two German leaders, they want to say to their electorate, “Look, we doing something for Africa, inviting more investments so we have fewer African migrants crossing the Mediterranean and ending up in Germany.” About a million Africans here. That would be one of the PR strategies that Merkel wants to get out of this G20 meeting, an endorsement for what is effectively a new scramble for Africa and imperial agenda of private corporations with state subsidies for infrastructure PPPs, Public Private Partnerships, but frankly on the ground in Africa, they’re called Public Private Copering. I think that’s going to be what really does come out of the G20 when you get so many of the neo-liberals and their only real question is “Are they together with Donald Trump? Or are they going to be fighting him over specific geo-political and climate issues?” What I think the agenda of corporate power is going to be on display in the G20 itself will be very obvious. Actually [inaudible 00:09:03] that’s why probably what this group will do, which is to kettle the G20, could be a model for future politics in which large numbers, maybe tens of thousands, will on Saturday, come together in the city and actually surround and really lock in the G20 leadership. They’re meeting Friday and Saturday in one of the central summits and everyone is saying “That wasn’t a good idea. We should never, ever have another major meeting like this, inside a city, especially one with such strong activists as Hamburg.” They didn’t learn that lesson in 2001, from Seattle in ’99, Washington in 2000, I could go on. At that point, they move out to discrete locations where they could police the boundaries. For example, 10 years ago when the G8 met in Heiligendamm, and it was a far away place so it was very difficult, the activists had to march for miles to get to the site of the protest. Here it’s concentrated and so every day this week, massive protests, massive police repression. Tonight is the big test, the anarchists are out in thousands. This is their attempt to save, especially starting from the [inaudible 00:10:18] district of Hamburg, that they want to take the space in the city. Jaisal Noor: For ongoing coverage of the G20 summit, and Putin and Trump’s meeting on Friday, stay tuned to the RealNews.com. This is Jaisal Noor.