Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Economic Colonisation: The Forgotten Killer

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Hitler’s Henchman Joseph Goebbels

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."
G. W. Bush

Many will argue that these statements can be applied to the rhetoric on the war on terror; the so called imminent danger, the potential loss of many innocent lives.

But how real is this threat? How many of us are suffering the consequences of daily attacks? Many of us were shocked and saddened by the events of 7/7, but since then what has happened? Not many of us live in constant fear. The media constantly spews a climate of fear, fraudulently attempting to terrify the masses into believing that terrorism is the only plague to our otherwise civilised world. But even in the 21st century, a century of abundance and waste, a war on want would save far more lives than any war on terror!

What terrorist has murdered millions or destroyed nations? The answer does not come from a race, religious group or a political party, but a force that has mass support across the political spectrum. This terrorist is called “Debt,” the most efficient killer in the world.

'Relieved of their annual debt repayments, the severely indebted countries could use the funds for investments that in Africa alone would save the lives of about 21 million children by 2000 and provide 90 million girls and women with access to basic education.'
UNDP Human Development Report 1997, p. 93

Ten years after the UNDP report, it is evident that politics have not changed and debt repayments continue, the sum of which is beyond both decency and taste. Those who benefit from these debt repayments are those who bank roll institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the Paris Club. These are the high rollers, multi-millionaires or billionaires and Western Central Banks. It is this way that wealth flows from the very poorest people in the world to the richest.

‘God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East ' proclaimed Bush in 2006. Why doesn’t his God instruct him to deal with poverty and debt? Perhaps he is really listening to the rich and influential and not God at all!

Even so, economists have continued to inform the world (the eager poor to be precise) that there will be enough growth in wealth for everybody, and they are right, everyone can be fed and provided with shelter and clothing. However, the reality is so very different,

Furthermore economists have been telling the world (the eager poor to be precise) that there will be enough growth and wealth for everyone. They are right, everyone can be fed and be provided with shelter and clothing. But the reality is so very different; we live in an unequal world.

“225 people own more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people"
UNDP Human Development Report 1998

So who is driving this force of mass indiscriminate killing?

"There is a very broad consensus among African governments that the IMF and World Bank terms are often harsh and unsuitable generated severely adverse effects on the overall economies of these countries especially with regard to agriculture, manufacture and foreign trade"
Conference of the Institute for African Alternatives, Onimode, B. [ed.], The IMF, the World Bank Bank and African Debt, Zed Books, 1989.

Capitalism itself relies on the philosophy of self-interest, profit maximisation and greed to enhance production. This leads to a desire to control all available resources to harness their economic potential. Practically it leads to the rich and powerful seeking to control the financial affairs of as much of humanity as possible. The capitalist economic system itself that dominates the world directly leads to this situation. It does indeed produce growth and wealth. Never has the world been as wealthy as it is today, but this wealth does not find its way to the poor and this is its perpetual weakness.

So what can we do? What is the solution?

Well first off, charity pop concerts are not the solution. The good willed people of Britain attending charity concerts to end poverty have been (deliberately I may add) given false hopes. The millions raised are barely enough to pay off the interest Africa has accrued for a few hours.

Some $700 million per day now flows in debt repayment from the developing world to the developed world
UNDP Human Development Report, 1997

Evidently, even if we had a concert a day, it would not be enough. We would need at least 700 concerts a day. If you attempt to transform a system from within, the system changes you. Therefore, a new model, a new paradigm, a fresh perspective on this issue is needed. If we all want to stop this rampant killer that is responsible for the equivalent of 21,000 9/11’s and over a million 7/7’s each year, then we must provide a sincere and valid solution.

"…and give up what remains of your demand for interest… Deal not unjustly and you shall not be dealt with unjustly” 2: 278-279

“…Freeing a slave or feeding on a day of hunger an orphaned relative or a poor man in the dust; then to be one of those who have iman and urge each other to steadfastness and urge each other to compassion…” Surat al-Balad: 13-17

“…that is because they say, 'Trade is the same as interest.' But God has permitted trade and He has forbidden usury.” 2:275

“Give your relatives their due, and the very poor ….” Surat al-Isra': 26

It is a lie that the current financial world order is fair to the poor or that developed nations are not directly responsible for the exploitation of the resources of the poorest people on this earth. It is a lie that these economic policies do not directly kill millions. It is true that the capitalist economic system itself is responsible for the death of tens of millions of human beings. It is time for a war on want.


1 comment:

Zeital said...

"It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and myths that surround it".

John Pilger

As we reminisce over economic colonisation, and transition from traditional imperialism to the ‘new’ liberal imperialism to accompany the conscience of the liberal democracies it is worth revisiting what occurred in South Africa following the fall of the minority regime, and majority rule.

John Pilger’s excellent article summarises some of the main issues which are very relevant especially with regards to so called ‘aid’ and economic incentives to Africa.



In an article for the Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg, John Pilger describes the 'social and economic catastrophe' that replaced the African National Congress's 'unbreakable' promise' to end the poverty of the majority.

By John Pilger

04/10/08 "ICH" - -- The political rupture in South Africa is being presented in the outside world as the personal tragedy and humiliation of one man, Thabo Mbeki. It is reminiscent of the beatification of Nelson Mandela at the death of apartheid. This is not to diminish the power of personalities, but their importance is often as a distraction from the historical forces they serve and manage. Frantz Fanon had this in mind when, in The Wretched of the Earth, he described the “historic mission” of much of Africa’s post-colonial ruling class as “that of intermediary [whose] mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation: it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged”.

Mbeki’s fall and the collapse of Wall Street are concurrent and related events, as they were predictable. Glimpse back to 1985 when the Johannesburg stock market crashed and the apartheid regime defaulted on its mounting debt, and the chieftains of South African capital took fright. In September that year a group led by Gavin Relly, chairman of the Anglo American Corporation, met Oliver Tambo, the ANC president, and other resistance officials in Zambia. Their urgent message was that a “transition” from apartheid to a black-governed liberal democracy was possible only if “order” and “stability” were guaranteed. These were euphemisms for a “free market” state where social justice would not be a priority.

Secret meetings between the ANC and prominent members of the Afrikaner elite followed at a stately home, Mells Park House, in England. The prime movers were those who had underpinned and profited from apartheid – such as the British mining giant, Consolidated Goldfields, which picked up the bill for the vintage wines and malt whisky scoffed around the fireplace at Mells Park House. Their aim was that of the Pretoria regime - to split the ANC between the mostly exiled “moderates” they could “do business with” (Tambo, Mbeki and Mandela) and the majority who made up those resisting in the townships known as the UDF.

The matter was urgent. When FW De Klerk came to power in 1989, capital was haemorrhaging at such a rate that the country’s foreign reserves would barely cover five weeks of imports. Declassified files I have seen in Washington leave little doubt that De Klerk was on notice to rescue capitalism in South Africa. He could not achieve this without a compliant ANC.

Nelson Mandela was critical to this. Having backed the ANC’s pledge to take over the mines and other monopoly industries - “a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable” - Mandela spoke with a different voice on his first triumphant travels abroad. “The ANC,” he said in New York, “will reintroduce the market to South Africa”. The deal, in effect, was that whites would retain economic control in exchange for black majority rule: the “crown of political power” for the “jewel of the South African economy”, as Ali Mazrui put it. When, in 1997, I told Mbeki how a black businessmen had described himself as “the ham in a white sandwich”, he laughed agreement, calling it the “historic compromise”, which others were called it a betrayal. However, it was De Klerk who was more to the point. I put it to him that he and his fellow whites had got what they wanted and that for the majority, the poverty had not changed. “Isn’t that the continuation of apartheid by other means?” I asked. Smiling through a cloud of cigarette smoke, he replied, “You must understand, we’ve achieved a broad consensus on many things now”.

Thabo Mbeki’s downfall is no more than the downfall of a failed economic system that enriched the few and dumped the poor. The ANC “neo liberals” seemed at times ashamed that South Africa was, in so many ways, a third world country. “We seek to establish,” said Trevor Manuel, “an environment in which winners flourish.” Boasting of a deficit so low it had fallen to the level of European economies, he and his fellow “moderates” turned away from the public economy the majority of South Africans desperately wanted and needed. They inhaled the hot air of corporate-speak. They listened to the World Bank and the IMF; and soon they were being invited to the top table at the Davos Economic Forum and to G-8 meetings, where their “macro-economic achievements” were lauded as a model. In 2001, George Soros put it rather more bluntly. “South Africa,” he said, “is now in the hands of international capital”.

Public services fell in behind privatisation, and low inflation presided over low wages and high unemployment, known as “labour flexibility”. According to the ANC, the wealth generated by a new black business class would “trickle down”. The opposite happened. Known sardonically as the wabenzi because their vehicle of choice was a silver Mercedes Benz, black capitalists proved they could be every bit as ruthless as their former white masters in labour relations, cronyism and the pursuit of profit. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in mergers and “restructuring” and ordinary people retreated to the “informal economy”. Between 1995 and 2000, the majority of South Africans fell deeper into poverty. When the gap between wealthy whites and newly enriched blacks began to close, the gulf between the black “middle class” and the majority widened as never before.

In 1996, the office of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was quietly closed down, marking the end of the ANC’s “solemn pledge” and “unbreakable promise” to put the majority first. Two years later, the United Nations Development Programme described the replacement, GEAR, as basically “no different” from the economic strategy of the apartheid regime in the 1980s.

This seemed surreal. Was South Africa a country of Harvard-trained technocrats breaking open the bubbly at the latest credit rating from Duff & Phelps in New York? Or was it a country of deeply impoverished men, woman and children without clean water and sanitation, whose infinite resource was being repressed and wasted, yet again? The questions were an embarrassment as the ANC government endorsed the apartheid regime’s agreement to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which effectively surrendered economic independence, repaid the $25 billion of apartheid-era inherited foreign debt. Incredibly, Manuel even allowed South Africa’s biggest companies to flee their financial home and set up in London.

Certainly, Thabo Mbeki speeded his own political demise with his strange strictures on HIV/Aids, his famous aloofness and isolation and the corrupt arms deals that never seemed to go away. It was the premeditated ANC economic and social catastrophe that saw him off. For further proof, look to the United States today and the smoking ruin of the “neo liberalism” model so cherished by the ANC’s leaders. And beware those successors of Mbeki now claiming that, unlike him, they have the people’s interests at heart as they continue the same divisive policies. South Africa deserves better.

First published the Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg.