Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
This year, global summit counter-mobilisations are coming back into vogue for the left. They were an ever-present feature of the alter-globalisation movement, but it seemed their time had passed as activists began to favour more localised, decentralised tactics, policing became more effective
and the media lost interest.
However, in the face of a series of summits of critical importance to the future direction of global politics, this year activist networks across the world are coming together once again. And the old debates surrounding the efficacy of summit mobilisation are back too.
‘Summit season’ begins on 2 April, when Barack Obama will make his first presidential trip to Europe to attend the G20 summit in London. Delegates from the most powerful nations in the world are coming to discuss how to give capitalism the kiss of life.
While those inside focus on financial reform, the protesters on the streets outside the summit will march under the banner of ‘Put People First: Jobs, Justice and Climate’. Others are seeking to intervene more directly. The Camp for Climate Action plans to pitch tents in London’s financial district on 1 April to highlight the role of the ‘fossil and financial fools’ in causing both climate change and the economic crisis.
Many of the G20 delegates will jet off to mainland Europe the day the summit ends – and the protests will follow them. This time leaders will be meeting for a Nato conference held jointly in Strasbourg and Baden-Baden. As well as discussing escalating the war in Afghanistan, delegates will also be celebrating Nato’s 60th birthday. A large demonstration is being organised by unions, NGOs and the anti-war movement (including the Stop the War Coalition and CND), and decentralised direct action will be staged to impede the summit.
The momentum will continue into the summer. The G8, the focus of dramatic past counter-mobilisations, will be hosted in Italy, on the remote island of Lampedusa. Although Italian activists are principally organising around education and anti-racism issues at present, a coming together of southern Europe’s radical left networks is to be expected. Meanwhile, a series of climate camps modelled on the UK’s will take place across northern Europe.
Finally, in December, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen for the ‘COP-15’, to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto treaty, which is set to expire in 2012. Environmentalists across the globe are already discussing how to intervene. The debate is split between those wishing to pressure delegates into making the ‘right choices’ and those seeking to shut down the summit entirely. Klimax, the Copenhagen-based organising group, proposes a ‘mass action concept’ to bridge the divide. Arguing that ‘a good deal is better than no deal – but no deal is way better than a bad one’, Klimax has called a counter-summit to run in parallel and inform actions.
Similar debates are being played out across the different counter-mobilisations, usually involving a split between the coalitions of NGOs and unions organising large demonstrations and radical groups planning civil disobedience and more militant interference.
Even if this year’s counter-summit mobilisations successfully encompass a broad political spectrum, many question the efficacy of this form of protest. ‘Summit-hopping’, as critics call it, can sap energy from long-term local campaigns and focus it on mega-spectacles that produce questionable concrete results. Proponents, though, see counter-summits as inspiring symbolic manifestations of resistance, and opportunities to reach out to other social groups.
However we on the left intervene, we must ensure that our message is relevant. Now more than ever, society needs a coherent and viable alternative to ‘business as usual’. If done well, this year’s mobilisations might just provide the necessary ‘jump start’ for serious oppositional responses to the ecological and economic crises.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns