Diverging tracks

30 June 2005

Morning all – or, if not all, Steven. I am one of Open Democracy's team of crack reporters (the one in the tent, by the way) heading for Gleneagles to cover the G8 summit and attendant protests.

Thankfully, I have had no need of dealings with Virgin to set up my trip north. Eschewing the ever-fragrant Branson, I have booked my ticket with the Thin Controller, the famished co-ordinator of Globalise Resistance’s train to Edinburgh. The chartered train will be slow, and, as Network Rail could not guarantee the buffet would be free of Coca-Cola and Nestle products, without refreshment. That, of course, is not a problem – if anything, it will leave less for the Scottish midges to feast upon (and, as several corpulent Ecuadorian mosquitoes will testify, that will be me).

Many of those who take their seat on the train on Friday were in evidence at the London School of Economics on Tuesday. At a Make the G8 History rally, the battle lines for the G8 protests were drawn. Not the battle lines between eight of the world’s best financially endowed leaders and the 5,999,999,992 whose lives their decisions will influence, but between competing visions of how civil society should position itself as it peeks upon the mighty from the long grass of the Gleneagles rough.

There will be myriad camps fashioned in and around Edinburgh, Glasgow and Gleneagles over the coming days. Some are already there – including the Dissent! rural convergence space, a microcosm of a utopian world of autonomous communities. Figuratively, there are two camps, roughly defined as those who think Richard Curtis is a good egg and those who consider him, Bono and Bob Geldof as the spangle veneers for the government’s We Love Africans, We Do PR blitz. At the LSE event, run by War on Want, Red Pepper and the World Development Movement, punters were largely of the latter persuasion. Oxfam, Curtis and the other big cheeses of Make Poverty History had drifted so close to Gordon Brown’s neo-liberal development agenda, they argued, that the movement had ceased to be a cry for justice and become a begging whimper.

So, are we to close the Group of Eight down or big it up? Is it the catalyst of hope for the global south or the cat o’ eight tails with which the planet’s poor are gratuitously scourged by the West? Will the feedback from Live 8 drown out the Africans, Latin Americans and Asians who say they are being co-opted in to Make Poverty History and all the conditionality and skewed trade it now appears to endorse? Will Steven escape his Welshian nightmare? We shall see.

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