The G20 in Toronto: Mayhem from Inside the Fences

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Leaders from 20 major economies gathered in Toronto last June 26-27, 2010 in the first Summit of the G20 in its new self-designated role as “the premier forum for international economic cooperation.” Its mandate is no less than licking the gravest economic crisis the world has seen since the 1930s, and ensuring “strong, sustainable and balanced global growth.”

But just what was “accomplished” by the recently concluded G20 Summit in Toronto?

First, the summit misrepresented profit growth for economic recovery. Even before the Toronto summit, the G20 leaders have been patting themselves on the back for rescuing the world from a deeper depression, citing rising GDP figures, rallies in the stock market, the “stabilization” of the financial system, increasing bank profits and more business activity. In fact, this uptick is artificial and unsustainable as it is solely reliant on trillions of dollars of public money handed out by governments the to the biggest banks and failing conglomerates as bailout money. But for the rest of the population, conditions in the real economy remain desperate. In the US, 15 million workers were officially reported as jobless in May 2010, apart from 1.1 million discouraged workers and 8.8 million involuntary part-time workers. In the European Union, there are 1.8 million more people unemployed compared to a year ago. Worldwide, unemployment increased from 178 million in 2007 to 239 million in 2009, which is the highest level ever recorded, according to ILO figures. And no one among the G20 leaders dared claim that the jobs crisis was going to be solved anytime soon – which only shows the what kind of recovery they are really concerned about.

Second, in keeping with the myth of recovery, the Summit promised decisive action on “fiscal consolidation”, calling for halving of budget deficits by 2013 and stabilizing debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016. By this they mean withdrawing stimulus measures, imposing fiscal austerity and new taxes (or user fees) in order to raise revenues needed to cover the bailouts handed over to the finance oligarchy. This translates to wholesale job cuts particularly in the public sector, and slashing education, health, housing and other social and welfare programs. This will only worsen the already dire situation of billions of working people around the world. It will also further constrict effective demand in the economy, prompting Paul Krugman to warn of a third depression in the offing.

On the other hand, the Summit offered mere platitudes for addressing the major issues of financial reforms, climate change and global hunger. Two years since the collapse of financial markets across the world, there are still no concrete measures being implemented to rein in the predatory and reckless practices of bankers and financial speculators that precipitated the crisis. Not even a tax on big banks to help pay for the mess they’ve made, or a levy on financial transactions to discourage further speculative flows and fund social and development programs. Summit leaders pompously announced $224-million in grants for agriculture in Bangladesh, Rwanda, Haiti, Togo, and Sierra Leone – a miserly sum compared to the $1.2 billion spent on their own security for two days in Toronto.

Lastly, the Toronto G20 Summit will be remembered for the untrammelled brutality and viciousness of state security forces in dealing with protesters who chose not to be silent and passive as G20 leaders hatched new schemes to screw the world. Toronto police deliberately allowed a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of protesters from all over the world to display their rage by smashing windows and torching vehicles with full media coverage. After images of mayhem were played up in corporate media, with very little commentary on the substantial issues raised by protesters, the police cracked down with their newly purchased guns, armoured vehicles, helicopters and sonic canons, exerting little effort at distinguishing between “window smashers” and non-violent protesters. Even media people and bystanders were included in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, many of whom complained of physical, sexual and psychological abuse under police custody.

But we should never forget that the gravest the violence and injustice in Toronto was still inflicted by the honourable and distinguished gentlemen toasting the success of another gathering from inside barbed wires and concrete fences. (Posted by

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