Making Waves About the G20

Yesterday, the weather was sunny and mild with a light breeze: perfect conditions for making a few waves about the upcoming G20 events in Berlin and Hamburg.

The activist group Top Berlin organized a boat protest, "They Call It Partnership, We Call It Hell",  to help raise public awareness about the hypocrisy behind two major G20 events that are due to take place in Germany this summer: the African Partnership conference happening in Berlin on June 12-13th, and the G20 conference happening in Hamburg on July 7-8th.

Thankfully, cruising from Rummelsburger Bucht to Goerlitzer Park along the Spree's placid waters wasn't hellish at all. It was almost a trip to heaven, with smooth sailing almost all the way. Things got choppy at one point as a couple of police boats pulled up alongside us, but apparently they were just there to make we were safe and sound. I guess some pirates had been sighted in the area...?

Not all boat trips can happen under such favourable circumstances though, as the ever-rising death toll from the Mediterranean and Tripoli coasts reminds us. This year, a record number of refugees have already drowned whilst fleeing war-torn areas of the Middle East and impoverished parts of Africa, by boat. By the end of April, the Guardian reported that more than 1000 people had already lost their lives to those seas - a record number.

Fences for People - Freedom for Profits at SO36 on June 6th will dig deeper into the facts behind G20 rhetoric

As the organizers of the boat trip pointed out on their blog

"During the time of slavery, many people drowned in the sea because they were thrown overboard. Or because they jumped themselves to escape the hell of the slave ship and the plantation. Today they are drowning during the attempt to reach Europe in crowded boats... looking for a safe, better or simply different life."

International trade bodies like the G20 claim that they want to create a truly global economy, and the sorts of trade agreements that they favour do ensure that money and goods move from producers (e.g. the developing nations) to suppliers (e.g. developed nations) without too many regulatory or financial barriers getting in the way. On the other hand, though, many of the corporate interests that are represented by the G20 also make a killing (sometimes literally) by installing physical barriers to stop people moving from those same developing nations to the West.  Money can move freely, in other words, but people can't.  The freedom that the G20 talks about sounds great until you realize it's only freedom to create a modern kind of feudal system, where the workers are forced to stay in the fields and earn low wages, making cheap goods for their distant overlords. That system includes you and me whether we like it or not and, as the old adage says, 'If you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem.'

It's a subject that touches an especially raw nerve in Germany. The legal system here seems like it's still heavily biased toward protecting property, rather than people; for instance, it's illegal to touch someone else's garbage but, until last year, there was no law against sexually assaulting a woman on the street. How's that for a stark contrast?

And, at least two guys that I know here have been arrested for throwing a plastic drink bottle at a car after its driver attempted to run them over at a demo. So apparently, attacking a car riles up the authorities more than the idea of vehicular homicide does. Absurd situations like this are a constant bone of contention here in Germany, so it's understandable that the left wants to stop them being exported to the rest of the world, too.  And exporting them is, arguably, the G20's whole raison d'etre.

All this makes the G20s decision to hold two of its annual meet-ups in Germany even more intriguing. Is the organization waving a red rag at the bull of the European left... or is it waving a white flag at all the activists who have criticized it for being too inaccessible, in the past? The only way to find out is to get involved!

The next boat tour will be on June 10th at 11 a.m.  More info is available on this link

The German language call to action for all G20 event can be found here

English info about G20 activism worldwide can be found here

Making anti-capitalism cuddly again? The boat owners showed the softer side of the left scene via a teddy bear masthead.


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