G8 and Their System

They ARE the Problem, but They ARE NOT the Solution

Revolution #008, July 17, 2005, posted at revcom.us

The G-8 conference in Scotland closed with a package of hype and lies about ending global poverty. The eight leaders of “the world’s richest countries” agreed to increase their aid to the Third World by $50 billion a year and cancel the debt for 14 countries in Africa.


First off, it is an outrage that the leaders of these eight countries have the power to make decisions over the lives and futures of literally billions of people.

The G-8—the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, and Japan—are not just “the world’s richest countries,” but also the world’s most notorious imperialists with long histories of bullying, invading, and robbing countries all over the world. Their wealth and power today has everything to do with this history. And international relations today are structured to continue this exploitation.

Not Even “A Start”

The decisions reached at this G-8 summit will not even scratch the surface of global poverty.

What impact can $50 billion have in a situation where a billion people live in extreme desperation and hunger on less than $1 a day, and two billion (one in every three people) are anemic, mainly due to malnutrition?

The Third World now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in so-called aid grants. And this is on top of the larger extraction of profit, the mechanisms of unequal trade, and the relentless exploitation of people’s labor

Digging into Root Causes

Even if they were inclined to do so, ( which they are not!), these imperialists actually cannot do anything to really address, let alone eliminate the massive poverty and attendant suffering throughout the world, particularly in the Third World.

This is because men like Bush, and Britain’s Tony Blair, and France’s Jacques Chirac represent and defend a global system—governed by capitalist dynamics and imperatives. And so, the whole G-8 process will not and cannot touch the underlying causes of poverty.

Take for example, the ruination of the world’s small farmers.

Step by step, wider swathes of the world’s agriculture are being brought more fully into the international capitalist market. Small peasant farmers are increasingly forced to produce goods for the world market and find themselves competing with more mechanized and productive farming throughout the world. They get forced out of business, wealthier farmers or foreign agribusiness buy out their land. And hundreds of millions of them are driven into the slums of swelling megacities—to unemployment and desperate hopelessness.

The imperialist powers actually see such dynamics as an importance source of growth and profit. For example, the U.S. government demanded, as part of their NAFTA agreement, the right to buy up the most productive land and flood Mexico with cheap U.S. corn.

Today China is flooded with 150 million ruined peasants looking for work in the cities. And their desperate willingness to work for some of the world’s lowest wages is seen as the very engine of this “success story” of capitalist development in China.

The imperialist system thrives and depends on the ongoing impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people.

How It Works

Capitalism, by its very nature, demands attention to “the bottom line.” It is rooted in the relentless competition for profit maximization, the constant accumulation of capital and expansion of markets. Its dynamics demand the aggressive cheapening of costs, and the unending hunt for new places with new and more favorable conditions for making profit. Capital rushes in and out without any social responsibility, leaving people ruined in its wake.

This nature of the capitalist market shifts the production of athletic shoes—from South Korea to China; from China to Vietnam—as countries compete, not to abolish poverty, but to offer it up for exploitation!

How is it conceivable to abolish the poverty of sweatshop conditions while remaining WITHIN the framework of such a system? The leaders of the G-8 countries can no more abolish poverty, than a vampire can live without sucking blood.


Headlines blared that the G-8 leaders agreed to cancel the debts of 14 countries in Africa.

First: think of how twisted it is, after two centuries of slave trade, colonialism and imperialist exploitation, to claim the people of the world owe anything (even one penny!) to these imperialist gangsters and their banks!

Second, this G-8 debt cancellation only affects $40 billion in debts (compared to the over $500 billion dollars in debts owed by the world’s 60 poorest countries in 2002, and the $260 billion that Brazil alone owes today.

Third, these “forgiven” debts were obviously seen by the banks themselves as uncollectible—so cancellation now intends to clear the ground for a new more profitable wave of loans.These 14 countries must accept new demands imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank—including ending any remaining “impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign.”

In short, the terms of “debt forgiveness” lock in the conditions that caused the current debt and impoverishment in the first place.

Imaginary Moments

Imagine a hypothetical transnational corporation controlled by people who believe in global “social justice.” Think of what would happen. This corporation would rapidly lose its market share, as competitors produced the same goods for less. It would be punished by “financial markets” for “under-performing” (i.e., not maximizing profits). It would be bought out and restructured or simply go under.

Another thought experiment: Imagine what would happen if some imperialist leader decided to propose basic changes in the world economy. Like corporations based in his country would be forbidden to “pick up and move” from country to country when taxes or wages became “unfavorable.” Or like proposing that all debts—internal, external, or even personal—simply be cancelled. Such laws would produce chaos, corporations would leave, banks would go under, political forces would demand his resignation, and he would be removed (one way or another).

G-8 leaders have outrageous and unjust power over people’s lives—but they do not have the power to go against the basic operations of the capitalist system.

A Final Thought Experiment

Now, imagine that somehow global poverty and debt has disappeared overnight —but at the same time, the laws, structures, institutions, governments, ideas, and lopsidedness of today’s global capitalism were still in place. People would wake up with pantries full of food, cancelled debts, a little savings, a guarantee of living wages, and so on.for the moment at least. (Yes, yes.... this is impossible, but it’s just a thought experiment!)

So what would happen then?

All the capitalist mechanisms that produce extreme poverty and lopsidedness would immediately kick back in again.

The peasant farmers of the countryside would still find themselves competing—under conditions where their machinery, fertilizer, and seed grains are still controlled by foreign corporations (the way Monsanto today controls 52% of seed for South Africa’s staple corn crop).

Highly mechanized foreign producers would still drive down prices, and soon the children of peasants would be working in the fields again.

Wage workers in Third World countries would find factories boarded up—their wages no longer low enough to “attract capital.” And the doors would not reopen until a new flood of ruined farmers had driven wages down again.

Three companies (owned in G-8 countries) would still (like today) control 95% of the processing and export of cocoa in Africa’s Ivory Coast, and have a stranglehold on the very lives of that country’s people. And much of the wealth of the whole planet would still be concentrated in the dominant countries of world imperialism, so that future development would still require attracting or borrowing investments from a few countries and global banks.

In short, even if poverty were magically eliminated—the very workings of this capitalist system would RECREATE that massive poverty—bringing it all back wherever the system’s tentacles reached.

And this could happen very quickly and dramatically. In Indonesia, the crisis of 1997 struck and within months had driven 20 million more people into poverty. Crisis (fueled by bankruptcy, currency speculation, and the mobility of capital) struck Mexico in 1994, Southeast Asia in 1998, and Argentina in 2000-01—leading to murderous cycles of debt and austerity and further impoverishment.

False Hopes, Real Truths

On July 8, British Prime Minister Blair said, announcing the G-8 package: “It isn’t the end of poverty in Africa, but it is the hope that it can be ended.”

No. This was not about “hope,” but about illusion—especially the dangerous illusion that the G-8 imperialists who are so clearly “part of the problem” might (under pressure) become “the solution.”

Ending poverty requires breaking out of that capitalist framework. Without that you cannot have balanced, integrated, sustainable development in both industry and agriculture that is geared to the needs of the people. You don’t have the capacity to mobilize the energy and determination of the masses to solve the acute problems they face. And without that, the oppressed and their highest historic interests cannot shape the direction of society.

When political forces in Brazil wanted to vote out the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick threatened that Brazil could either keep the FTAA or get used to trading only “with Antarctica.” And of course, the threat of military attack is never far away.

One decision of the G-8 summit was to jointly support the expansion and training of a military force to police the continent. Guess where this force will stand and what it would do if a serious attempt was made to REALLY dig up the roots of poverty in Africa? Actually abolishing poverty (and all that gives rise to poverty) will require radical upheaval, ongoing revolution and struggle against those who profit from the misery of the people.

Once you are outraged by the extremes of poverty and driven to act, then you have to take a second leap. Once you see how deeply poverty and oppression is woven into the very fabric of the dominant world capitalist order—then you must leap to settling for nothing less than the overthrow and abolishing of all this exploitation and oppression.