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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #87* - The G8, Live 8, and Africa - Taking Hypocrisy to New Levels

Date Sat, 30 Jul 2005 19:06:02 +0300

There is always a temptation to welcome any well intentioned
efforts to make the world a better place and those who
concentrate on criticising others' efforts to improve the world
can find themselves being easily dismissed as cynics and knockers.
Thus, although large numbers of people probably found the
idea of a movement against poverty and for social justice being
fronted by some of the richest people on earth (Bono and Bill
Gates to name two) to be a little bit odd, most people
acknowledged that they were 'at least doing something' and
thus should be supported.

However, it is important to ask ourselves what they were
actually calling for and whether that was a good thing in itself.
One of the stated aims of Live 8 and Make Poverty History was
to raise consciousness about Africa. That's all very well, but
what consciousness is being raised? There is hardly a person
in the world who doesn't realise that Africa is poor. Beyond the
simple message of Africa's poverty -not too useful in itself -the
message of the mobilisation seems to have been that the G8
leaders, i.e. the leaders of the USA, UK, France, Germany,
Japan, Italy, Canada, and Russia, might be persuaded to help
Africa by forgiving its debt. Unfortunately, this message is so
deceptive and wrong-headed that rather than raising
consciousness it only serves to reinforce delusions about how
the world works.
The Reality of the G8

The G8 leaders are far from being people who spend their days
worrying about how to raise Africa from poverty. In reality,
they spend their working lives actively ensuring that Africa
remains poor and they do so quite consciously. Historically,
the rich nations colonised Africa and set up imperial
administrations precisely to ensure a steady f low of wealth
from Africa to the West. Since the end of direct colonisation,
little has changed in reality. The rich nations still regularly
intervene militarily to prop up their favoured military
dictatorships and to ensure their economic interests remain

Western governments were directly responsible for the brutal
and corrupt reigns of such monsters as Mobutu, Moi, Taylor
and many, more brutal dictators. All the historical evidence
suggests that they are quite happy to cause vast amounts of
suffering to secure their economic interests and there is no
evidence that their policies have any other aim at all.
Military Intervention

While today they are less quick to use military force (although
they still do - Liberia and Cote D'Ivoire have both been
'invaded' by Western troops in the last 3 years)this is only
because they don't have to. The Third world debt crisis of the
1980s left most African countries massively indebted to the
international financial institutions such as the World Bank and
the International Monetary Fund.

Many of these debts were originally loaned by Western banks
to African dictators (mostly hand- picked by Western
governments) so that they could brutalise their populations and
ensure the continuing f low of wealth and natural resources
from Africa to the West. International finance being what it is,
African states have to pay hefty interest rates and today most of
them have repaid far more than they were ever loaned yet still
owe several times more.

This debt has been used as a very powerful stick by the
Western nations. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s they
imposed Structural Adjustment Programs on African countries
which were having difficulty in repaying their loans. These
programs were designed to ensure that countries where the
population was starving were able to repay the interest on their
debts to Western banks -"macro-economic stability" in
economic jargon. They essentially forced African countries to
cut back on social spending, fire large numbers of public
employees and divert more of their money into repayment. As
a result, most African countries give much more money to
Western banks than they spend on health or education.
Debt Relief

But surely, despite their shameful past, forgiving the debt
would at least be a start in the right direction? This might be
the case if the G8 were actually considering forgiving debt, but
in reality their debt relief program is little more than the
discredited structural adjustment dressed up as charity. Only a
small number of countries qualify for the debt relief program
(currently 18 in Africa)and they are chosen basically for their
loyalty to Western capitalism. The debt relief also has a
number of 'conditionalities' attached which demand "the
elimination of impediments to private investment, both
domestic and foreign."

This is another way of saying that they demand an end to such
things as free water services, free public education and health
care as all of these things are clearly an impediment to private
investment. So basically, governments that are loyal to the G8
will be forgiven their debts as long as they promise to stop
spending money on the poor -hardly a very good plan for
dealing with poverty. When it comes down to it, debt relief is
just another macro-economic stability measure. Debts to banks
that were never going to be repaid will be repaid by Western
taxpayers and African governments will be prevented from
running up such debts in the future by ensuring they are not
tempted to spend money on the poor. Good for the banks, bad
or everybody else.
Live 8 and Charity

At the end of the day, the Live 8 and MPH campaigns are part
of the problem rather than the solution. They built up a myth
about debt and the role of the rich nations in it. For Bob and
Bono, this was down to a mix of political naivety and out of
control egos. For the charities and NGOs involved it was
simply a very effective PR tool and a nice little earner, so
although many of them probably knew how wrong headed the
whole thing was, they weren't going to rock the boat and
scupper the best chance to fundraise of the decade.

It was left to the small number of radicals, anarchists and
socialists to point out that the emperor had no clothes. A
bunch of aging rock stars hanging out with politicians is not
going to change the world, especially when the politicians are
the same people who spend their working lives ensuring that
Africa stays poor. At the end of the day, any movement against
African poverty in the west will be no more than a means of
rich and hypocritical people appeasing their guilt unless it
addresses this obvious problem. To help people in Africa, a bit
of charity is not the first step. The first step is to stop kicking

By Chekov Feeney
This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
We also provide PDF http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html
files of all our publications for you to print out and distribute locally

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