From Ebola to Iraq, two faces of a criminal world order

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
12 November 2014

On Sunday November 9th, the Ministry of Defence proudly announced the first bombings by British unmanned drones over Iraq. According to the MoD they were aimed at "ISIS targets". But who knows how many civilians - men, women and children were blown up - as "collateral damage", just as in every single past western intervention in the Middle East?

On the very same day, in the west African country of Sierra Leone, where the British Navy has set up a high-profile rescue mission against the Ebola epidemic, 111 new cases of this lethal disease were officially diagnosed, the highest single number in one day, since the epidemic was officially recognised, back in August. And this was in just one of the African countries which has been devastated by the epidemic so far.

The western Frankenstein

There are striking similarities between these two events. In the Middle East, decades of western military and political intervention have stoked up so much despair and frustration, that the whole region has been turned into a huge time bomb.

The states of the rich countries could have used their considerable economic resources to help the region's populations to improve their living conditions. Instead, they used these resources to shore up military dictatorships whose job it was to repress the populations, in order to protect the interests of the western multinationals which were plundering the region's natural wealth. And when these dictatorships proved unable to contain the despair of their own peoples, or not pliable enough to satisfy the multinationals' greed, the rich countries used the power of their military machine to crush any unrest and prop up even more reactionary forces.

In their blind and frantic profiteering, the western capitalist classes have become real-life Dr Frankensteins, creating, today in Iraq, the likes of the Sunni ISIS militia, but also a host of Shiite militias, which are just as much a threat to the population.

Africa's plague

Likewise with Ebola. Is it just due to "bad luck" if most - although not all - major epidemics of the past decades started in Africa? No, it is primarily due to the fact that Africa is the world's poorest continent. And isn't this a bitter irony, since it is naturally-rich Africa which is the cradle of mankind?

So what happened? Quite simply, centuries of plunder of Africa's resources by European merchant capitalists and the decimation of its population sent as slaves to America's European plantations - that's what happened.

Today, all western governments congratulate themselves on the role of their predecessors in "ending slavery" and pay lip service at the celebrations which take place every year. But slavery never really stopped in Africa itself. It just took a different form, with western companies continuing to exploit Africa's workers in rich mines and industrial plantations, on behalf of their shareholders.

And in Africa too, the resources of the rich countries were used to shore up dictators, who were all the more vicious and rapacious as the crumbs left to them by the western companies got smaller. Such regimes had no more concern for the conditions of the population than their western masters. Basic amenities - sanitation, health care, electricity and water provision, education - were hardly developed.

These are the conditions feeding the spread of epidemics, which could otherwise be stopped, provided they were dealt with early enough.

Capitalism is the problem

Whether in the Middle East or in Africa, the British capitalist class bears a particularly heavy responsibility - as the beneficiary of what was once the world's largest colonial empire and, today, as one of the world's richest economic powers.

This is what makes Cameron's claim to the high moral ground particularly hypocritical - whether it be regarding Britain's intervention against the "evil" ISIS militia in Iraq or the Navy's very symbolic "humanitarian" presence off the coast of Sierra Leone, a former British colony, decimated by slave merchants and now so close to the hearts of Britain's diamond traders.

But beyond the predictable and cynical hypocrisy of the likes of Cameron, these events shed a crude light on the criminal oppression that the capitalist system imposes on the world population, especially its poorest sections. That this should backfire, one way or another - whether in the form of a brutal militia like ISIS, or in the form of a devastating Ebola epidemic - is built into its criminal nature. This is why it is in the interests of mankind as a whole, to get rid of this system of oppression. This will have to be the task of the international working class.