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SHOOT THE LENINGRAD COWBOYS: G8 FOR DUMMIES (BY A DUMMY)

WHAT IS THE G8?

The Group of Eight (G8) is an informal organisation that unites some of the world's biggest capitalist states. It has no judicial status, no charter or constitution, no permanent organs, no headquarters. That puts its decisions outside of any sort of democratic control. It's an important "meeting spot" for the world's most powerful leaders to reach consensus amongst themselves which is later imposed on the entire world. It helps form the international solidarity between elites. And quite naturally that leads to the precedence of private and corporate interests over democratic and collective ones, leading to privatisation, deregulation, increased capital mobility and erosion of the populations' control over local economies. It makes the G8 one of the most powerful instruments of the capitalist globalisation and of neoliberal agenda.
The G8 has formed at the time of oil-related global economical crisis. Its first summit took place in 1975 in France and included Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. In 1976 Canada joined; in 1998 Russia has become the 8th member of the group. It was admitted not so much for the size of its economy (as of 2004, it was the world's 16th largest) but for its richness in natural resources such as gas and oil, and its nuclear arsenals. It still has observer status on some
The eight G8 countries, combined, control 48% of the votes in International Monetary Fund (IMF) and have 45% of shares in World Bank. They also possess de facto control over World Trade Organisation (WTO). It all permits them to manipulate debts and dictate international rules of trade, keeping the resource-rich poorer countries in quasi-colonial dependency.
The violence that they inflict isn't just on the economical level. According to an Amnesty International report, two thirds of all global arms transfers between 1997 and 2001 came from the USA, Russia, France, UK and Germany. They are all large suppliers to African countries whose poverty they ostensibly want to make history. On top of that, countries like the US and the UK are providing direct military aid to regimes with poor human rights record such as Colombia, Israel etc.; Russia sells arms to Myanmar.
The G8 summits were also a focus for large protests that brought the "antiglobalisation" to the forefront of protest movements. The first one, in Birmingham, England, was initiated in 1998 by People's Global Action (PGA). Last year's summit was held in Gleneagles, Scotland, this year's one will take place between July 15 and 17 in Strelna, a suburb to the south-west of St. Petersburg, Russia. Next summit is to happen in Heiligendamm, Germany.
The most infamous G8 summit, however, was its 27th one, in Genoa, Italy, in 2001. The confrontation between police and protesters led to the death of a 23 years old anarchist Carlo Giuliani who was shot in the face by a carabinier and then ran over by a police jeep.

THE AGENDA

This year's president country of the G8, Russia, has suggested to put the main focus of this year's G8 summit on world energy policies. The Communique on Energy Security the G8 leaders are to approve that has been leaked to Reclaim The Commons organisation (www.reclaimthecommons.org) calls for increased investments in oil, gas and coal industries, and more disturbingly for development of nuclear industry. That is despite the fact that there are no reliable long-term solutions for getting rid of the nuclear waste, and the mortal peril of the nuclear power plant disasters such as the Chenobyl catastrophe in Ukraine in 1986. This, along with, say, construction of hydroelectric dams and monoculture forestry, is the G8's way to fight the climate change and carbon dioxide reduction. Nuclear energy is nowhere near as "clean" as they claim.
Russia, for its part, is ready to establish the international centre of uranium enrichment, according to President Vladimir Putin. Internally, it plans to construct a total of 40 new nuclear reactors by 2030, aiming to produce about one fourth of the country's electricity by nuclear means. Next year, for instance, construction of a new nuclear power plant will commence some 100 km from St. Petersburg.
Among other chief topics on the official agenda there are the counteraction to infectious diseases, and education. Russian authorities refer to the need of the education systems to meet the requirements of global economy. Their talk of free movement of skilled personnel and adaptation of migrants via education is merely rhetorical as the immigration into Russian Federation is rather restricted, and illegal immigrants (largely from other ex-USSR countries) are either ignored by the authorities, or persecuted. As for the health problems, Russia has proposed to form a trust fund to fight bird flu epidemic, to be managed by the World Bank. That might be seen as attempt to move the attention away from the growing AIDS epidemic in Russia and of the way that the HIV positive people are discriminated against, almost as a matter of official policy. The G8 leaders are to discuss the fight against poverty; Putin suggested shifting the focus away from Africa and onto Central Asia. That probably means providing support to some of the world's most brutal authoritarian regimes such as Uzbekistan (whose army has reportedly killed hundreds of protesters in the Andijan massacre last year), Turkmenistan (with its absurd leader Saparmurat Niyazov firing thousands of medical workers, abolishing age pensions, and closing down cultural institutions) etc.

RUSSIA

Russian Federation since late 1990s has successfully introduced the Orwellian model that combines eternal anti-terrorist war (its pet rogue nation is Chechnya) with encroachment on democratic freedoms. Mass media channels such as TV stations and newspapers are one by one brought under the control of the Kremlin. At the same time the government is getting a better grip on NGOs (thanks to a new law that makes them subject to direct supervision of the authorities), local elections, political parties etc.
That allows the state to go ahead with neoliberal reforms, for example that in communal and housing services (reportedly related to Russia's planned entry into the WTO). Few of them are met with resistance, but last year's move of the government to "monetise" (that is, to turn into payouts) the privileges of groups such as pensioners or invalids brought thousands of people into the streets.
On the street level, the increasing violence from various right-wing groups is a rather troubling tendency, as it largely goes on unchecked by the authorities. There were several hundreds of attacks by the fascists over the last few years, all over Russia. A lot of neonazis are charged with just hooliganism for their roles in racially or politically motivated violence. Several antifascists were killed. St. Petersburg anthropologist and hate crimes expert Nikolai Girenko was shot through his apartment door; St. Petersburg musician Timur Kacharava was stabbed after a Food Not Bombs action; Moscow punk Alexandr Ryukhin was knifed as he was walking to a gig; African Unity activist student Lampsar Samba was gunned down in St. Petersburg. There were also numerous fatal attacks on immigrants or students from Africa, Latin America, Asia, ex-USSR countries and so on. The fishy bit is that the authorities do not differentiate between left-wing and right-wing opposition - they are all "extremists". St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko, commenting on the capture of a neonazi gang that is connected with several murders, has noted that the gang members "tried to discredit the city" before the G8 summit. Its leader Dmitry Borovikov has been shot dead while being arrested in May; his family connections with important police figures permitted him to avoid capture for several years.
Moscow has seen fascist organisations blocking with Orthodox Christian fanatics in a crackdown on gay community that the police seems unwilling to halt. Several gay clubs in the capital were attacked recently, and the lynchers were not stopped. During the attempted gay pride march in Moscow on May 27 which the city authorities have banned (largely on moral grounds) the police was more concerned with stopping the gay rights activists rather than the nationalists who attacked them. It might be seen as a rehearsal in using the violent right-wingers against protesters; all the authorities need to do is let it happen.
One of the powers that may be used in street violence is pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi ("The Ours"). It has proven links with football hooligans, and has been involved in attacks on members of (authoritarian) opposition groups including the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) and Red Youth Vanguard (AKM).
Some of the preparations for the G8 summit are more open. St. Petersburg special forces police (OMON) has got three armoured cars from Israel, specifically designed to disperse crowds - the people can be pelted with water, tear gas, or paint. 40 extra CCTV cameras will be placed on the Nevsky prospect (St. Petersburg's main avenue). The city police were put on heightened alert from May 15, and held trainings on dispersing antiglobalists. St. Petersburg airport Pulkovo will only recieve planes with official delegations during the summit, and the Neva and Eastern part of Gulf of Finland will be closed for all ships between July 13 and 17.
The homeless people were being removed from St. Petersburg (much like before the city's 300th anniversary that also gathered Bushes, Putins and Blairs of the world together in Strelna, and made the atmosphere in the city rather full of police oppression). According to Nochlezhka charity, a few months ago there were at least 8.000 people living in the streets, cellars and stairwells - former pensioners who lost registration or were swindled or coerced out of their apartments, and others who left or fled homes (inofficial data puts that number at 50.000). On top of that, there are thought to be about 150.000 unregistered migrants in St. Petersburg - whose life has become harder with increased police presence.
For their part, Moscow authorities have de facto banned any and all demonstrations in the city through the Summer. The last big ones were a few thousand-strong sanctioned march organised by fascists in November 2005, and a meeting against the construction of an oil pipeline next to Baikal lake that brough about 1.000 people into the streets. It wasn't legal but the police didn't interfere. Moscow mayor Yuriy Luzhkov said all non-sanctioned actions will be suppressed.
Another chance for the police to have a go at dispersing large gatherings was in late May, when over a thousand people have started an impromptu tent camp outside the State Duma (Russia's parliament) to protest against the Sotsialnaya Initsiativa building corporation that swindled them out of their earnings and against the corrupt bureaucracy that let it happen. The OMON took a swift action. 50 arrests.

ORGANISING FOR PROTESTS

However, despite the oppressive atmosphere, there are groups in Russia that are organising the protests against the G8 summit.
The one that has the closest ties with anarchist movement is Network Against G8 (SPB8), formed in September 2005. Its principles are as follows:
* The initiative is aimed against the states, current dominating economic system and all forms of oppression.
* For the participants of SPB8 any discrimination on basis of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and age is intolerable.
* We make decisions by consensus. In case of lack of consensus on some questions groups of SPB8 participants may make their own statements and actions not contradicting these basic principles.
* During the preparation of protest actions we are not interested in co-operating with organisations aiming at taking power.
* We approve of any methods of resistance, if they are aimed against the rulers but not against the people of G8 countries. Any member of the network is free to choose his / her own tactics.
The local groups that partake in the network include the long-running St. Petersburg League of Anarchists (PLA), anarchopunk collective Punk Revival (PV), Epicentre infoshop collective, radical environmentalist movement Rainbow Keepers, Food Not Bombs, HIV+ rights group FrontAIDS and also individual anarchists.
NOG8-2006 initiative is another grassroots group that's involved in preparing for protests. It claims to be a part of Dissent network, and is working on the Russian translation of "We Are Everywhere" book, to be completed in the weeks leading up to the G8 summit.
Some of the closely aligned groups outside of Russia include Zaraz collective in Ukraine, Pretspars collective in Latvia, Pavasaris infoshop in Lithuania, 375crew collective in Belarus, Indymedia websites in Eastern European countries, Polish Anarchist Federation, Abolishing the Borders from Below (ABB) collective in Germany, Dissent-UK and Dissent-Germany, European and North American parts of PGA, etc.

EVENTS

The preparations for the G8 protests have gotten seriously underway in the last few months. January has seen mobilisational meetings in Berlin, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. ABB collective has additionally organised two mobilisation "info-tours" in Germany, in April and May. In February a large international meeting was held in Kiev, Ukraine, to co-ordinate the efforts of activists all over Europe. Two Russian anarchists were arrested at the border of Belarus on February 21 when they were coming back; they were unlucky enough to have political literature on them when Belarussian authorities were preparing to re-elect President Alexander Lukashenko. May's European Social Forum in Greece has seen several seminars on G8. An international bike caravan (featuring a mobile exposition about the G8) has started off in Berlin on June 2. It will go through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and land in St. Petersburg by the time of the protests.
Russian activists weren't idle either. On March 5 in Moscow "anarcho-Mardi Gras" was held. During the event the pancakes where given out to passersby, and an effigy of the G8 was to be burned. However, OMON intervened which led to 12 people being arrested for staging an illegal protest. Another one, also in Moscow, was more lucky: there were no arrests at the April 18 theatrical action against commercialisation of education (which is on the G8 official agenda this year). On April 27 FrontAIDS held a "Medicine Not Bombs" action on Moscow's Red Square demanding from the G8 health ministers (who were meeting that day) to allow for non-patented, generic drugs to be made available to treat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria etc. About twenty people were promptly arrests, many of them beaten.
Some of the projects to come to fruition around the time of protests include a special issue of Avtonom, Russia's most popular libertarian magazine published by Autonomous Action (AD) organisation, pamphlets with Russian versions of anti-corporate texts, thousands of posters to be distributed in various cities, etc. For information in English you can refer to Abolishing the Borders from Below magazine.
On top of that, a Food Not Bombs gathering is scheduled for mid-July, with groups from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Irkutsk, Volgograd, Odessa and more taking part. Moscow will also see the Libertarian Forum (July 8 - 12) which the anarchists organise. The program includes discussions, trainings, seminars, as well as actions, film nights and gigs. Russian Social Forum is taking place between July 13 and 15, probably at the Kirov Stadium in St. Petersburg (the venue where the cancelled gig by the Rolling Stones was to be held). The organisers are thought to be in negotiations with the city administration for a sanctioned demo on Saturday July 15. It is a much larger event but it's boycotted by some anarchists as the groups taking part in the march are likely to include Stalinist and nationalist parties such as the Communist Party of Russian Federation (KPRF), maybe even some fascist organisations like Movement Agaist Illegal Immigration (DPNI) (who are antiglobalist as long as that means being against "Russia's enemies").
As for SPB8 plans around the G8 summit, they will include non-sanctioned demos, and simultaneous actions in different parts of the city. Due to high risk of police repressions there will probably be no central camp or convergence centre in St. Petersburg; some Russian Social Forum structures might be used. SPB8 structure for the protests will include human rights / legal advice groups, teams of street medics, and information work / public relations groups.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

SPB8 and other Russian groups have called for solidarity events to be organised near Russian embassies / consulates and such on the Global Action Day, July 14. Rising Tide and Earth First! are additionally proposing the International Day Against Climate Change and G8 on July 15. In the US, Farragut Squares Collective is organising the Eight Days of Resistance in Washington, DC, between July 9 and 16.
The G8 and other leaders of the world are to be met with resistance wherever they go. And this resistance is to be global in nature if we are to have a chance to succeed in changing the world for the better.

Get in touch for more information or to co-ordinate the efforts:
http://www.spb8.net / diyhc (at) yahoo (dot) com
Szarapow, with thanks to U.W. and F.R. / SPB8 (Network Against G8)

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