Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.
Fight for socialism
Make poverty HISTORY
by Paul Murphy
If you believed the hype, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are committed to eradicating world poverty. They have signed up to the Make Poverty History campaign (MPH), committed to the three key demands of trade justice, drop the debt and more and fairer trade. But their presence as signatories and supporters together with such egotistical aspiring messiahs as Bono and Bob Geldof should make you suspicious.
MPH's demands, while supportable, are extremely utopian and ignore the reality of capitalist exploitation. They are based on a wish that the so-called "Third World" can develop into a "First World" on a capitalist basis. This is absolutely impossible. There are a small number of powerful imperialist nations, grouped together in organisations like the G8, which together with big business make a literal killing out of these countries, because they are able to exploit their massive raw resources and cheap labour. They have a vested interest in ensuring that these countries never develop.
Nor will they ever engage in serious debt cancellation, which operates as a ball and chain hanging around the necks of ordinary people in the under-developed countries (Indonesia spends $17 billion per year on debt repayments - equivalent to 25% of its total exports). The much-hyped proposal of Gordon Brown only means the cancellation of a certain amount of debt that was never going to be paid anyway, to allow the capitalist leaders to bask in humanitarian glory, dampen anger in under-developed countries and allow more profitable loans to be made later.
Not only does MPH's demands obviously ignore the reality of a world dominated by profit and a few capitalist powers, their "campaigning" strategy does the same. The extent of MPH campaigning extends to selling white bands (ironically produced in Chinese sweatshops) and tame protests designed to plead with world leaders and bankers to throw a few crumbs in the direction of the world's poor.
In a sense, Tony Blair exposed the real intentions of many of those who claim to support MPH when he said "It would be very odd if people came to protest against this G8, as we're focusing on poverty in Africa and climate change." By paying lipservice to the idea of tackling the world's massive problems of inequality, they intend to reduce opposition to the institutions of global capitalism, and prevent people from reaching the inevitable conclusion - capitalism is incapable of providing a decent standard of living for the majority of people around the globe.
We need to organise, not to pressurise institutions like the G8, but to smash them and replace the whole capitalist system with a democratic socialist society, which by planning the world's economy on the basis of people's needs not profit, would provide for everyone.
See the articles organising for the G8 protests, from Socialist Youth in the North,
Added to this article, Sunday May 15, 2005, The Observer
The facts about world poverty
- One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year - are caused by poverty.
- An estimated 600m children live in absolute poverty. Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases.
- Over 1 billion people live on less than 70p a day with nearly half the world's population - 2.8 billion - surviving on less than twice that amount.
- Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by a quarter in the past 20 years.
- More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year - one death a minute.
- Spread over 10 years the cost to the UK taxpayer of cancelling £1.3bn debt is £171m a year or £2.85 per UK citizen - the price of a pint of beer.
- The United Nations believes that unfair trade rules deny poor countries more than £400 billion every year. Less than 0.01 per cent of this could save the sight of 30m people.
- International trade is worth almost £6m a minute with 70 per cent of this controlled by multinational companies.
- The average cow in the European Union receives more than £1.40 a day in subsidies, more than the amount that half the world's population survives on.