Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The world is changing and we have an important role to play

by Michel Collon, 11 March 2011.
Source: Correo del Orinoco English Edition, no 55.

After the Latin Americans, came the Arabs. And tomorrow, the Africans? Why did Washington and Paris have to draw back in Tunisia and Egypt. How are they going to save the foundations of the neo-colonial system. And what is our role in seeing that the world truly transforms itself?

For a long time the Empire seemed to be invincible. The United States could at will, using the most absurd pretexts, violate the United Nations Charter, impose cruel embargoes, bomb or occupy countries, assassinate heads of state, provoke civil wars, finance terrorists, organize coups d’état, arm Israel for its aggressions.

It seemed the US could do anything it wanted and pessimism prevailed. How many times have I heard people say: “They are too strong, how can we get rid of these corrupt Arab regimes that are accomplices of Israel?” The response has come from below: the people are stronger than the tyrants. But we all feel that the struggle has not ended by only eliminating Ben Ali and Mubarak. It has just begun. To wrest real changes, those who are pulling the strings from behind must be neutralized. Hence it is vitally important to figure out the mechanisms of this system that produces tyrants, protects them and, when necessary, replaces them. And to understand why this Empire is weakening and how it will try to maintain its power at all costs.

No Empire is eternal. Sooner or later, the arrogance of their crimes provokes general resistance. Sooner or later, the cost of ‘maintaining order’ is greater than the profits that these wars bring to the multinationals. Sooner or later, the investments in the military will be at the expense of other sectors of the economy, so that they will lose their international competitiveness.

And the US is no exception to the rule. The rate of profit of their multinationals has decreased since 1965 and the indebtedness and speculation bubbles have only delayed and worsened the situation. Their share in the world economy dropped from 50% in 1945 to 30% in the 1960s. Today it is around 20% and it will be about 10% in 20 years. No army can be stronger than its economy and the US is therefore increasingly less able to be the world’s policeman.

Now the planet is becoming multipolar: there is a different balance between the US, Europe, Russia and, above all, the large countries of the South. China in particular has proved that to be independent is the best way to make progress. The US and Europe cannot impose their will as they used to do. Their neo-colonialism seems to be heading for an early demise. In fact, this US decline has been increasingly visible over the last decade. In 2000 the Internet bubble burst. In 2002, the Venezuelan population foiled the ‘made in the USA’ coup d’état and Hugo Chavez embarked on his great social reforms that led to peoples’ resistance all over Latin America.

In 2003 Bush’s war machine bogged down in Iraq, as in Afghanistan. In 2006 Israel failed in Lebanon and in 2009 in Gaza. The defeats are mounting up. The wonderful revolt of the Tunisians and Egyptians has wrought miracles. We now hear the US extolling the ‘democratic transition’ while for decades they have been supplying tyrants with tanks, machine guns and training seminars in torture!

But we must go into the roots of the situation. Rejoicing over the first steps must not mean overlooking the path that remains to be pursued. It is not only Ben Ali who plundered Tunisia, it was a whole class of profiteers. It was not only Mubarak who oppressed the Egyptians, it was the whole regime around him. And behind this regime, the US. What was important was not the marionette, but who was pulling the strings. Washington, like Paris, is only trying to replace the worn-out marionettes by other, more presentable ones. What the Tunisians, Egyptians and others want to resolve is not which ‘new’ leader will make new promises. Their question is rather “Will I have a real job with a real wage and a decent life for my family?

Only recently Latin America was experiencing the same poverty and the same despair. The enormous profits from oil, gas and other raw materials went to swell the coffers of Exxon and Shell while one Latino out of two lived below the poverty threshold, without being able to pay a doctor or a good school for the children. Everything started to change when Hugo Chavez nationalized oil, changed all the contracts with the multinationals, demanding that they pay taxes and that profits be shared. The following year $11.4 billion were paid into the State Treasury (for 20 years the figure was zero!) and this started the implementation of social programs: health care and school for everyone, doubling of the minimum wage, support for cooperatives and small businesses that create jobs. In Bolivia Evo Morales is doing the same thing. And the example is spreading. Will it reach the Mediterranean and the Middle East? When will there be an Arab Chavez or an Arab Evo? The courage of these masses of people who are rebelling deserves an organization and a leader who is honest and determined to see it through.

Real political democracy is impossible without social justice. In fact the two problems are intricately linked. No one sets up a dictatorship for pleasure or simple perversion. It is always to maintain the privileges of a small clique who grab all the wealth. The dictators are the employees of the multinationals.

Five years ago, Védrine, former French minister of foreign affairs, had the gall to claim that Arab people were not ready for democracy. This theory remains dominant among a French elite who, more or less openly practice anti-Arab Islamophobia. In fact, it is France that is not ready for democracy. It is France who massacred the Tunisians in 1937 and 1952 and the Moroccans in 1945. It is France that has led a long and bloody war to stop the Algerians from exercising their legitimate right to sovereignty. It is France who, through a statement by their revisionist president, refused to recognize its crimes and pay its debts to the Arabs and the Africans. It is France who protected Ben Ali right up until he got on to the plane that took him away. It is France who has imposed and maintained the worst tyrants in Africa.

The current anti-Muslim racism kills two birds with one stone. First, in Europe, it divides the workers according to their origin, and while there is all this fantasizing about the burqa, the employers happily attack wages, the conditions of work and the pensions of all the workers, with veils or without. Instead of wondering “But who imposed these dictators on them?” By reversing the victim and the guilty one, the former is demonized.

This is the fundamental debate and it depends on all of us to see that it is highlighted. Why the US, France & Co. – who have the word ‘democracy’ always on their lips –do not want real democracy? Because if the people can decide how to use their wealth and their work, then the privileges of the corrupt and the profiteers will be in great danger!

To hide their refusal of democracy, the US and their allies agitate in the media about the ‘Islamist peril’. Do we see them alerting us and leading huge media campaigns about the Islamists who are submissive to them like the odious regime of Saudi Arabia? Do we hear them excusing themselves for having financed the Islamists of Bin Laden in order to overturn a leftwing Afghan government that had emancipated the women?

Our world is changing very quickly. The decline of the US opens new prospects for the liberation of peoples. Great upheavals are likely. But what direction will they take? If they are to be positive, it depends on each of us circulating genuine information so the shameful stories of the past become known, so the secret strategies are unmasked. All this will help to establish a great debate, popular and international.

What kind of economy, and model of social justice do people really need? The official information on this issue is catastrophic. So if the debate is to be started and spread about, each of us has an important role to play. Information is the key.