Friday, April 24, 2009

Aid to Poverty

The German magazine Der Spiegel has a report upon development aid in Africa and its problems which is well worth quoting extracts from .

"...The main reason that there is starvation in Africa is that there are no profits to be made in cultivating or trading foodstuffs. Either developmental aid ruins the profits or corrupt leaders rob their people blind..."

"..UN's employees are paid to fight hunger, and that's why they usually write reports in which they dramatically portray the situation in Africa and which they usually end with appeals demanding more donated food... And what happens when the help comes? First the merchants complain because the cost of food drops through the floor. Nor is it worth it, under the status quo, to build up any surplus stocks. Then, the farmers complain because their crops become worthless..."

"...Where there is hunger, it results from unethical leaders who steal from their people and let them either starve or rush them into wars...Kenya currently has 94 ministers and assistant ministers, each of whom earns more than $20,000 (€12,940) a month on top of having their own state-funded compound...."

In a previous Der Spiegel interview Kenyan economics expert and capitalist apologist James Shikwati said that aid to Africa does more harm than good.

Shikwati: ...Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle...

SPIEGEL: In the West, there are many compassionate citizens wanting to help Africa. Each year, they donate money and pack their old clothes into collection bags ...
Shikwati: ... and they flood our markets with that stuff...Why do we get these mountains of clothes? No one is freezing here. Instead, our tailors lose their livlihoods. They're in the same position as our farmers. No one in the low-wage world of Africa can be cost-efficient enough to keep pace with donated products. In 1997, 137,000 workers were employed in Nigeria's textile industry. By 2003, the figure had dropped to 57,000. The results are the same in all other areas where overwhelming helpfulness and fragile African markets collide..."

As Socialist Banner has always claimed , the craziness of the capitalist market economy creates the contradictions that provides for the existence of poverty alongside plenty .Patching the system up with humanitarian aid fails to deliver the real solution . Only socialism can end African's poverty .

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Better Under Apartheid???

From our SPGB blog :-

"My life was better during apartheid," says Vincent Ntswayi, who held a steady job in Johannesburg during white rule but has only been intermittently employed since. "Freedom turned out to be just a word. Real freedom, real power, that comes from money — and I haven't got any money."

Let us be clear: Socialists were pleased to see the demise of apartheid in South Africa but warned at the time that capitalism with its attendant 'problems' including bad housing, inadequate health care, cheap schooling, unemployment, poor transport, police brutality, and pollution would continue.
But, later this month - some 19 years after the release of Mandela - workers will have the opportunity to vote in South Africa's parliamentary and presidential elections. The result is already known: they won, we lost.
Mass murderer Mbeki is no longer seeking to represent the capitalist class and is likely to be replaced in this role by Zuma, whose alleged background in corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering should serve him and those he represents well. The equally odious and corrupt 'Mother of the Nation' Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is almost certain to be elected too.

Thus the rich will stay rich and the poor stay poor in the land of rape and money.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Liberation of who ?

"We were colonised by the French. We were forced to go to war. Forced to follow the orders that said, do this, do that, and we did. France has not been grateful. Not at all." Former French colonial soldier, Issa Cisse from Senegal, who is now 87 years-old, looks back on it all with sadness and evident resentment.

Papers unearthed by the BBC reveal that British and American commanders ensured that the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944 was seen as a "whites only" victory. The BBC programme has seen evidence that black colonial soldiers - who made up around two-thirds of Free French forces - were deliberately removed from the unit that led the Allied advance into the French capital.Allied Command insisted that all black soldiers be taken out and replaced by white ones from other units.

By the time France fell in June 1940, 17,000 of its black, mainly West African colonial troops, known as the Tirailleurs Senegalais, lay dead.Many of them were simply shot where they stood soon after surrendering to German troops who often regarded them as sub-human savages. After the liberation of the French capital many Senegalese soldiers were simply stripped of their uniforms and sent home. To make matters even worse, in 1959 their pensions were frozen.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

poverty and NGOs

On the day that G20 leaders meet in London, millions of poor children in countries like Kenya are facing hunger and malnutrition. Save the Children estimates that there are up to 100,000 more malnourished children in Kenya today as a result of last year's rise in food prices.

Save the Children's Director of Policy said: "Poor people in the poorest countries were hit hard by the rise in food and fuel prices last year. The financial crisis will hurt them even more, and children are most at risk...What poor people want and deserve is that these promises are delivered on. G20 leaders have said that they will do what is necessary to revive their own economies. With equal urgency they should do whatever it takes to protect the world's poor, including poor children, from a financial crisis that was not of their making"

An estimated 4 million people in Kenya face acute food shortages for the next year as they live in areas hit hardest by the drought and food prices.

Save The Children can appeal as often as they wish to the good will of the world's capitalist class . Viewed from a socialist aspect, such appeals bestows its beneficence upon the capitalist class in addition to the favours that it patronisingly grants to the deprived and destitute. Even if NGOs such as Save The Children were groups genuinely seeking, on humanitarian grounds, to reach out to the needy (as some may honestly do , we readily admit ) they would still not escape being branded blind groups groping in the dark.
The work and assistance programmes of NGOs cannot be anything but a red herring. Having been brought into existence by the exploitative money-oriented system and being completely dependent on the same underhand methods of this unfeeling system for their survival what else can the activities of NGOs be if not messing about in trivialities? The main problem confronting humanity revolves around ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing social wealth. How many NGOs mount platforms to explain this simple truth to their target groups? How many NGOs ever distribute press releases about working people replacing this profit-oriented system with a higher social system based on collective and democratic ownership of the means and instruments of production?

Poverty and want are necessary offshoots of the capitalist socio-economic formation. Trying to get rid of the former whilst leaving the latter intact amounts to putting the cart before the horse. The only genuine assistance the NGO community could lead to the suffering people of this capitalist world is to stop collaborating with the owners of capital and instead, join forces with socialists to get rid of this system based on money. NGOs could use their resources to help usher in a system where production is not for profits' sake but for the satisfaction of needs. Under such a system nobody will have to run around begging for funds in order to help the needy—in fact there wouldn't be any more needy people.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Drowning for Labour Fluidity

Socialist Banner has previously reported on the woes of the migrant and has repeatedly stated that workers have no borders. 200 migrants were feared dead off the coast of Libya, after the smugglers' boat which was supposed to take them to Italy capsized.The UN refugee agency estimates that more than 67,000 people undertook the dangerous voyage to Europe in smugglers' boats in 2008. More than 1,700 are known to have died, but that figure could be far higher.

Echoing much of our analysis is the head of the UN refugee agency, Antonio Guterres when he said :-

"I think it's important to recognise that in today's world where as we have seen, money moves so freely, and goods tend to move also more and more freely, there are still tremendous obstacles for people.People need to move because they can no longer live in their countries of origin because of war, because of environmental degradation, because of poverty, there are many reasons that force people to move."

The International Labour Organisation says that despite the current global financial crisis, falling birth rates across western Europe will cause a labour shortage over the next few years. It says Europe should think about making it easier for people from the developing world to come in and work.

"You have a strong demand for labour particularly in industrialised countries," explained Patrick Taran, a migrant labour specialist with the ILO."They need people to fill the low skilled jobs in agriculture and construction, manufacturing, domestic work, in health care, and you have a lot of people, including with skills, who need those jobs and are willing to come for them."

He adds "When there's no job at all at home, when you have a family to feed, you will take risks to make sure that you and your family have food on the table."

As socialists are concerned, it is not a case of chanting “Migrants are welcome here” , which implies we as workers have some right to say who is and isn't welcome in the first place; nor even of saying that the immigration laws should be relaxed. We understand that the thing which makes workers leave behind their communities, and go to a place where their language is not spoken, is the wages system itself. This underlies the need for us to recognise our identical position with regards to the wages system, and work together, as workers across the world, across boundaries, to create a commonly owned planet where all can live in security.