The UN Social Summit opened this week, five years after the first one was convened. At the first Social Summit, the objective was the eradication of poverty in the developing world. Well, not that it’s news to anyone with any suss but the poor are even poorer now than they were five years ago, or fifty for that matter.
What makes the difference between then and now is the fact that now, the developed world (after having hammered the developing world even further into the ground) has gotten the leaders of the developing countries, especially those in Africa, to take the blame. Well not the entire blame, just most of it. It’s funny really what short memories we have. The wars going on across Africa are, in large part, the end product of the Structural Adjustment programmes forced on developing countries by the World Bank and the IMF, yet here we have leaders, including our own, asking African countries to shoulder at least part of the blame for the current state of affairs.
But is this a really true reflection of the state of the African continent? Caught between the East and the West during the decades of the Cold War and the anti-colonial struggles, African countries were as much at war then as they are now. Need I name them? Perhaps I should. Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Algeria, Morocco, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, South Africa, Namibia…and on it goes. In fact, if you add them all up, there were more wars going on then than now and we’re not including all the other casualties of the Cold War in South and Central America and Asia.
So why now? Could it be that it’s getting more and more difficult to hide the fact that the world is getting wealthier and wealthier by the femto-second* due to all the advances in production technologies and the emergence of a truly global capitalist production and distribution system? So once more, let’s blame the victim but this time, let’s make sure they understand that they aren’t really victims, in fact they never were and it was all their fault in the first place.
In other words, they’re running out excuses so they’re attempting to do to the developing world what they did to the so-called socialist world namely, occupy the ‘moral high ground’ in their relationships with the developing world. Effectively it’s, “You naughty boys, you’re going to have to learn how to behave before you get any supper.” They did this with the USSR from the second it was born and they did it to Grenada too, seventy years later. Have we forgotten that it’s the same countries who sold weapons and traded intelligence with South Africa, who are now telling us to pull up our socks up and that it’s all our fault!
The issue here, bluntly put, is that any country, no matter how small or insignificant that attempts to ‘go it alone’ in any kind of way, will be slapped down under one pretext or another, most times by the US. Have we forgotten Nicaragua, Panama, Beirut and Iraq already? This nonsense about ‘developing countries having to shoulder the blame’ just neatly sidesteps the issues. I mean really! “Look at at all that loot we gave you and you just squandered it all!”, that’s what the West is saying. When Mobutu amassed his millions, most of it in dollars, I didn’t hear anyone in the White House whining and whinging about corruption in the Congo.
In the old days, developing countries could to some degree ‘play the East off against the West’ but at the end of the day, most developing countries still took a quasi-socialist road to development, planned economies, state-owned companies, 5-year plans and so on. This of course, was entirely unacceptable to the West. At the same time the US was plowing billions into South Korea, countries such as Tanzania and Ghana were struggling to overcome not only their colonial legacies but were also trying find their places in the world market aided by another country that also wasn’t permitted entrée to the world market, the Soviet Union! Indeed, the primary condition of ‘aid’ from the West to African countries was that they bought into the ‘western way of life’. Sound familiar?
The US didn’t plow billions into any African country except in the form of weapons to Savimbi, Mobutu and their ilk. The fact that leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah had a vision of a united, socialist, African continent, no matter that they screwed up in the end, simply could not be tolerated. And, it can be argued that it failed precisely because the West made damn sure it did.
This is not to say that the leaders of African countries don’t have a part and responsibilities to carry in the current (and past) rounds of meltdown but that’s not the issue, in fact, the Western powers have played a subtle sleight-of-hand by conflating the two issues in an entirely ahistorical manner and most people seem to have bought into it. The global mass media effectively rewrites history pretty well everyday on the 7-o-clock news, so it’s real easy to disconnect the past as it happened from the past as it is presented.
The issue of development today is the same as it was then, except that today the Western powers have run out of excuses. They’ve run out of credible enemies as well, even the Drug Menace is wearing thin, perhaps because a goodly percentage of the western world’s population is stoned on something or other and it can no longer be denied or blamed on swarthy South Americans, or hook-nosed Lebanese ‘terrorists’.
In fact, the western world has run out of excuses entirely for pretty much everything, so in effect, they’re washing their hands of the whole affair by getting the developing world to take the rap. So pervasive is the western propaganda that they’ve even got developing countries buying into the ‘population explosion, too many people’ myth once more and voluntarily sterilizing themselves! At the same time, in some European countries, the population can’t even reproduce itself, they’re all too old!
If I seem angry, it’s because I am. The 20th century saw not only the most horrific events but also the most progressive. It was the century in which entire populations tried, for the first time, to take control of their own lives and they tried and they tried and they tried, and they’re still trying. To have these struggles thrown in our faces as ‘failures’ is the final indignity. The 21st century starts with the most powerful revolution of all, the IT revolution, with its possibilities of producing enough of everything for everybody and doing it globally.
* Pretty much the smallest unit of time we can measure
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