2000s >> 2002 >> no-1178-october-2002

“A damp squib”

The docility of the world population has contributed greatly to keeping intact the increasingly unequal, barbaric and rapacious society that is global capitalism. Because people believe there is no alternative to capitalism, it keeps on existing while the reformists in the EU, UN, AU, World Bank and so on seek to distract us from such an alternative by pretending they can manage capitalism in the interests of everyone. In reality, capitalism can only ever be run in the interest of the tiny minority which effectively owns the world’s means of wealth production.

In a society based on the profit motive what has been achieved as a result of the efforts of these reformists? We see before us a polluted planet, war, rampant poverty and the exploitation of the majority. Such problems show no sign of abating. It is against this background of persistent failure that international representatives of the capitalist class have periodically sought to organise summits to address the issue of development. One such was the recent Earth Summit held in South Africa which attracted some 60,000 delegates from the around the world but which proved to be a huge let-down to those nations hungry for development.

Truly, this World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) ended up a damp squib. It was simply a 10-day event of misleading the world with vacuous statements of good intent while the needs of the planet and the global poor continue to play second fiddle to the interests of global capital.

The pre-summit arrangement was to focus on a global plan to tackle problems like AIDS, depleted fish stocks and so on as well as finding ways of providing help for the Third World to have clean water and to halve poverty by 2015. Considering the US position on environmental issues, it was a pity that the US president G.W. Bush didn’t bother to avail himself of this opportunity to explain his position. Instead he sent a representative, Colin Powell, who also happened to arrive late and at a time when other leaders were leaving.

America is generally acknowledged to be the world’s worst polluter. It is all too apparent that this, the richest country on the planet is quite unwilling to make a solid commitment to fight such pollution or ease the poverty of billions of people and promote environmental conservation. Instead it decided to concentrate on what it calls its “war on terrorism”, in particular its threat to launch a military attack against Baghdad. It was for reasons such as this that the summit ended up such a hopeless shambles. Whatever commitments on paper there may have been to bring about sustainable development, these were blunted and rendered ineffectual by the divergent and conflicting interests of different capitalist groupings. Not that it would have made much difference had those commitments been sincerely meant; there are other reasons why sustainable development has not been able to take off which have little to do with the lack of political will on the part of capitalist governments. After all millions of people go to bed hungry for no other reason than that it is simply not profitable to feed them.

True to form, this summit lost sight of what it was meant to be about and ended up as an excuse for political grandstanding. While US Secretary of State, Colin Powell was booed and barracked after remarks about the famine in Southern Africa and Blair hit back at Mugabe for his remarks about Britain, the war of words steadily escalated. The divisions amongst the global capitalists seemed as pronounced as ever just as their system seems no less incapable of offering practical solutions to the very problems it continues to generate. In short it is a case of business as usual.

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