The G8 summit in Japan

Originally published in May 2008.

This year’s G8 Summit will be held between July 7th and 9th by Lake Toya in Hokkaido, Northern Japan.

Since the beginning of last year, NGOs, leftists, trade unions and greens have organized several events and formed networks connected to the Hokkaido summit. The position of these networks and organizations range widely from those opposing the G8 to those seeking to influence G8 leaders. Of course, anti-capitalist radicals from all over Asia are also determined to use this summit to build the strength of the movement against global capitalism.

This has led them to their present position of being fervently ‘pro-science’ (ie pro-corporate science) and extremely critical of environmentalism. The team donned suits and formed a number of front groups (am I the only one who always wonders why a person is presented as a plausible pundit just because they’re from something that can be called a think-tank?) with names like Global Futures and London International Research Exchange.

Coalitions

In Japan, leftist movements (the new Left and several sectarian groups), dating back to the 60s, still have a strong influence within the social movement sector. However, due to their violent past during the 70’s and subsequent struggles amongst the Left, even now NGOs are reluctant to work with the Leftists. (For example, in an incident in 1972, the Rengo Sekigun (United Red Army) murdered disloyal elements at one of their mountain hideouts calling it a ‘purge’ and there was a shoot-out at the Asama Mountain Lodge between the police and the Red Army.)

So what are the chances for a broad movement against the Japan summit? The situation is different in various parts of the country. In the Kanto area, for example, (the Eastern part of Japan, including Tokyo), NGOs and Leftists work independently from each other. The NGOs have formed the ‘G8 Summit NGO Forum’ in which they discuss and offer possible alternatives to the G8. The ‘G8 Summit NGO Forum’ was already born in January 2007 “as a civil platform by Japanese NGOs’ broad coalition for the 2008 G8 Summit in Toyako, Hokkaido”. As of July 2007, 101 NGOs were affiliated with the forum. These NGOs are working on areas such as the environment, poverty elimination and development, human rights and peace.

The ‘G8 Action Network’ of the Leftists, on the other hand, opposes the G8 altogether, pointing to its undemocratic character. The ‘G8 Action Network’ is the anti-neoliberal globalisation network of various Japanese organizations and movements, including dozens of groups and more than 150 individuals. It calls on “all social movements, peasant organizations, women, migrants, urban and rural poor, fisher folks and civil society from all over the world who are resisting free trade in its many forms, war and militarism, the privatisation of essential services and natural resources, illegitimate debt and the domination of global finance, and fighting for and building real people based solutions to global warming, to come and join us in the week of action against the G8 here in Japan.”

What becomes highly important here is the fact that the NGOs and the Leftists started to walk separate routes last year. This separation was induced by the founding of the NGO Forum in order to gather together the various NGOs in Kanto area. The newly established NGO Forum was bound by a manifesto which prohibited anti-G8 activities. The “Basic Principles for Activities of the NGO Forum” are to facilitate proactive advocacy activities when it is not possible to make joint proposals or reach agreement through discussion; to conduct its activities in a democratic manner, with an emphasis on achieving consensus among all participating NGOs; to give importance to the process of discussion among NGOs as well as achieving results through advocacy; and to oppose any advocacy activity that employs violence or illegal means. Thus, the Leftists found themselves excluded from participation in this forum.

The situation is very different in the Kansai area however. Here (mainly Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe), the NGOs and the Leftists are looking for possible ways to work together. Mutual executive committees were created in cases such as the “Citizens Environmental Summit (CES)” in Kobe, and the “Symposium toward G8 Summit” in Osaka.

What makes Kansai different from Kanto is that the NGOs and the Leftists in Kansai held a successful common forum last year, an alternative forum to the 40th commemorative meeting of the Asian Development Bank. More than 50 local and international NGOs and 1,000 people in total participated in this forum. There were 17 workshops, and also some demonstrations. The executive committee of this forum consisted of organizations such as the Kansai NGO’s Council, the ATTAC Kansai group, and the trade union’s conference.

Anarchists

Apart from the NGO’s forum and the Leftist G8 Action network, a network of Japanese anti-authoritarians and anarchists, was formed in May 2007. The ‘No! G8 Action’ was initiated right before the G8 2007 in Rostock, where it learned from the European anti-G8 protest. Then it began to prepare its own projects. One of its focuses has been to work within the G8 Action Network coalition. Now it strives for bringing Japanese and East Asian impetus into this stage of the global anti-capitalist struggle.

Generally speaking, No! G8 Action is a network of radical movements. But they are trying to work with a wide range of groups, including certain reformists and academics. In the past, anti-authoritarian groups were excluded from the wider coalitions. So this time, they have decided to call for coalition-building themselves. Some academic and intellectuals in particular, they say, are sympathetic.

Japan hosted the Okinawa G8 Summit in 2000. At that time protests focused around the US bases and only a few anti-capitalist groups were involved. There were no moves to organise a global mobilization in 2000; this year will see Japan’s first major global mobilisation.

[Disclaimer: This text has been adapted from http://gipfelsoli.org/Home/Hokkaido_2008/4867.html; http://www.wombles.org.uk/article2008021571.php; and http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/02/392319.html]