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Comentari :: globalització neoliberal
Make Poverty History ?? : Make Capitalism History !!!
12 ago 2005
We have no doubt that most of those who are taking part in the anti-G8 campaign are genuinely interested in fighting these issues. But think for minute. "Make Poverty History" is a slogan which hardly anyone disagrees with. It's such an innocuous slogan that Government ministers like Gordon Brown have jumped on the bandwagon
There is no question that world poverty is one of the greatest obscenities of our time. In a world of plenty 30,000 children starve to death every day. A billion people, one sixth of the world's population live on less than a $1 a day. A third of the population of the world live on less than a £1 [see table below]. And the depth of poverty is increasing throughout the planet. This is not just in Africa, Asia and Latin America but also in the richest countries on the globe. In Britain, between 1979 and 1995 the top ten percent saw an income rise of 70% whilst the income of the bottom tenth fell by 10%. And that's just the official figure from the Department of Works and Pensions. Today, even as the welfare state is being cut back, the number of people dependent on means tested benefits is at record levels.

We have no doubt that most of those who are taking part in the anti-G8 campaign are genuinely interested in fighting these issues. But think for minute. "Make Poverty History" is a slogan which hardly anyone disagrees with. It's such an innocuous slogan that Government ministers like Gordon Brown have jumped on the bandwagon. He hopes to boost his popularity with "debt forgiveness" schemes for Africa etc. The slogan is supported by Churches, headed by a Catholic Church which condemns priests who get involved in fighting poverty in Latin America, by trades unions who have failed their members, by a thousand aid charities who promote religion and a whole raft of ageing pop stars who don't seem to see that "partying against poverty" has a faintly ridiculous air. None of these people have even a minimal criticism of the system which creates that poverty and their "solutions" are frankly utopian.

The World Crisis

Global poverty has increased dramatically since the 1970s when the post-war boom came to an end. This isn't a novelty under capitalism. The law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall means that at certain point the cycle of accumulation is arrested or stagnates. When this happens only a massive devaluation of existing capital values can start accumulation again. In the twentieth century the two world wars were the outcomes.

Today we have had thirty plus years of stagnation and the system has only limped along through the massive accumulation of debt, both public and private. Individual capitalist states have tried to cut their deficits by cutting welfare spending but cannot fully abolish it without inviting social collapse. So the new trick is to get everyone to buy more and more useless commodities with money they have not got. This accounts for the gargantuan personal debt in the West as workers here buy the cheap commodities from the sweat shops of the world. On the edge of the system massive exploitation is sometimes accompanied by outright slavery for 100 million workers who labour for next to nothing. Workers all over the world create commodities which contain the value of their labour power which has been taken from them. Since the capitalists don't return them anything like that value in wages they become poorer.

No Such Thing As Fair Trade

In international terms the wealthier countries will continue to deflect the crisis on to the weaker ones. Put simply this is because the richer capitals benefit from the competition to produce low-priced goods at rock bottom wages. What is more, the more integrated into global capitalism an impoverished country such as Mali becomes the more poor peasants and rural workers join the ranks of the unemployed. This is an iron law of capitalism. Under capitalism the idea of "fair trade", so dear to the "Make Poverty History" campaign is therefore a cruel joke.

It is the same with the idea of debt relief. Brown has proposed that 21 African countries get 100% debt relief. This sounds generous until you realise that the move is part of the British game to weaken other former colonial states' strategic interests in Africa. And there are catches. Countries given such help are forced to adopt a restructuring plan which further ties them to the coat tails of the dominant or imperialist states.

The IMF and the World Bank represent the interests of these states so they never offer loans unless the countries in question get rid of laws which might protect (however inadequately) local workers.

A final little game of the system is called "aid". Unicef wants the rich countries to give 0.7% of their gross national income as aid to the (non) "developing" world. Aid, however, is also part of the racket. No aid is given without strings. Either the recipient country has to sign away the marketing rights of its local monoculture, or the money it receives can only be used to buy goods from the "donor country". Those "goods" are, in the vast majority of cases, weapons to be used on the local population. Hence the dominance of the military in these states.

Much has been made in the British press recently of the fact that the "aid" has been appropriated by corrupt military regimes. In fact only this month the Nigerian anti-corruption commission has demonstrated that corrupt military dictators have milked the country of something $220 billions since independence in 1960, equal to all the "aid" to sub-Saharan Africa in the same period. But who were these dictators? The same officers who were trained at Sandhurst Military Academy because the British wanted to control the Nigerian Army knowing it, in turn, would control the country.

Imperialism's Grip

This is no surprise. There is hardly a thing that goes on in Africa that is not the consequence of the interference of the imperialist competition between the dominant states on the planet. Even the massacres in Rwanda a decade ago were a direct result of the situation left by imperialism and colonialism. By means of divide and rule Belgium had controlled the territory. The minority Tutsi tribe were promoted against the majority Hutu. When the Belgians left the Tutsi took the place of their colonial masters. The whole world imperialist order -- that goes under the agreeable euphemism of 'the world community' -- knew for a year that the Hutu massacres of the Tutsi were being planned. Not only did it do nothing to prevent this, it did everything to encourage the massacres by removing troops. And when the Hutu massacre began the only way the Tutsis could be identified was by the identity cards they carried which the Belgians had marked with their tribal origin. A million people died as a result. The world watched as the imperialist powers waited to see what was best for them.

Some people think that "imperialism" is just a word, an invention of a few crazy old Marxists who refuse to accept that capitalism is the best system in this best of all possible worlds. In Africa, in Asia and in Latin America it is not an abstraction. Millions of lives are ruined every day by this reality.

The Only Alternative to Capitalism

These are the material roots of the system. Capitalism depends on the growing poverty of the many to increase the wealth of the few. It will not be shaken by pop concerts or by legal demonstrations (as the 2 million who demonstrated on Feb 15th 2003 against the Iraq War well know), nor will letters to Tony Blair stir the conscience of our ruling class. It won't be changed either by a few dramatic but ultimately futile stunts from the Dissent wing of the campaign.

Many reading this will also consider themselves "anti-capitalist". Many will have taken part in the anti-globalisation movement of recent years. Many will understand that the causes of global poverty lie in the laws of the capitalist system itself. Many will want a society in which all hierarchies are destroyed and the planet is run for the needs and benefits of all who inhabit it. But this poses a hard question. What is the alternative? The people who have coined "Make Poverty History" are not interested in an alternative. They want to keep capitalism. They want us just to feel good we have done our bit to make capitalism more "human", more "ethical". In other words they don't really stand for an effective confrontation with the causes of poverty at all.

History only offers a limited number of options. If not capitalism then what? Well, the means exist for an alternative to this system which is based on profit and exploitation of wage labour. Capitalism has developed the means to create a global society based on human cooperation and rational planning: A society which could decide that cost is irrelevant when we make environmental or humanitarian decisions. Such a society would only be able to do this because it had abolished money, the means of exchange that allows the capitalist to rob us of the fruits of our labour. It would also have no national frontiers, no national rivalries and no ruling class anxious to hang on to the wealth we have created for them. The planet is rich enough to ensure a decent, even abundant, life for all its inhabitants but only once the antagonistic social relations which allow the rich to foment wars, famines and unjust laws have been overthrown.

Such a system we can only call "communism". And by that we do not mean anything like the system that ruled the USSR under Stalin and his heirs. Indeed such a society is as far from the idea of communism as it is possible to be. It will take some time for the myth that Stalinism equalled communism to be laid to rest but one day it will be. Just as surely as the capitalist crisis will provoke a revival of the collective struggle of wage workers everywhere. Since we create the wealth of the world we have the potential to change the world. Once the world's workers are conscious of their power and the goal of a classless, moneyless, stateless society we will be unstoppable.
Workers of the world, unite, we have a world to win.

Internationalist Workers’ Group Canadian affiliate of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party
Email: canada ARROBA
website of Internationalist Workers' Group Canadian affiliate of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party

This work is in the public domain

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