June 25 2008: Arriving for Japan’s First G8 Counter-Summit and Mobilization

June 25

We are four friends who just flew across the world for a meeting we were not invited to. Why would we feel compelled to do such a thing? It is exactly because we were not invited to the 2008 Group of Eight (G8) Summit that we feel we must go.

The G8 meetings bring together world superpowers once a year to set global economic, environmental, and political policies. You are invited to this meeting if you are the leader of a rich, powerful country interested in colluding with other governments to consolidate the power of the global wealthy elite. You are not invited if you are a citizen of the world, from either a "rich" or "poor" country, who is interested in building communities based on mutual aid, human needs, and respect for the environment. We think this is a recipe for an unjust world, and we plan to crash their party.

The G8 meetings were conceived in the early 1970s in response to a burgeoning economic recession. Initially just the G6 (consisting of six member states) the meetings brought together world superpowers to talk about how to respond to the crisis and establish economic security for themselves. The summit eventually expanded to include a total of eight member states – the UK, US, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, plus the president of the EU, and today the G8 presents itself as a forum for establishing world economic stability and tackling global problems, such as climate change, hunger, and disease, and poverty.

When the richest, most powerful leaders of the world come together, is it really to talk about how to help the poor? And why is it that after every annual meeting, all they ever seem to accomplish is further consolidation of their power and securing of their economic advantage? In reality, the G8 meetings have been a part of a general trend towards international neo-liberal economic policies that privilege corporate interests at the expense of the world’s poor. The policies instituted by G8 member states do the exact opposite of the G8’s stated "humanitarian" goals. They give "aid packages" that trap the poorest countries into debt while removing social programs. They wage wars and commit military atrocities, from the invasion or Iraq to the funding of Israeli bombers. They maintain the oil and coal-based energy systems that cause climate change. And they perpetuate corporate power at the expense of direct democracy.

But there is another story simultaneously being told–one of resistance, alternative organizing, and people coming together to create a more just society. In response to the G8, as well as other transnational institutions that generate neo-liberal policies, a global resistance movement has blossomed. From Italy to Calgary, Switzerland to Japan, people have come together to try and prevent the G8 from making any more decisions that will adversely affect people’s lives. In the most recent meeting of the G8 in Germany, global activists physically blockaded the G8 meeting entrances and set up eco-camps outside of the summit, where they sought to model alternative social structures by providing earth-friendly food and housing for international activists.

Even on our first day of Japan, the area of Kamagasaki in Osaka was witnessing a riot, one of many in the past years, in response to the precariousness of work and survival. All over Japan, homelessness and poverty has been on the increase, especially over the last ten years as the Japanese government has imposed neo-liberal market policies and privatization measures on its population. Just as there has been a rise in homelessness and poverty, there has been a rise in resistance. From the organization of precarious workers to homeless encampments to the expansion of alternative media, people in Japan are fighting back.

The G8 summit is undemocratic at its core, setting policies that affect the world, while denying the input of most of the global population. But alongside the G8 meetings will be a powerful counter-summit, where a diverse gathering of people from around the world will come together to discuss alternatives to this system of hierarchical power and greed. The four of us, the Just Words Collective, will be sending out regular accounts of our experiences in Japan, including interviews with social justice organizers, reports on the anti-G8 actions, and pieces of the discussions on how we might work together to build a better world.