Third World - Beyond the demand for debt cancellation

sept/oct 1999

Earlier this year, on June 18th, tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations across the world, intended to coincide with the G7 summit of the world's seven richest powers, which was then taking place in Cologne, Germany. Hundreds of different groups and campaigns were involved in organising these protests over a wide range of issues. However, as the Third World debt crisis was the first item on the summit's agenda, the main demand of the day was that the G7 should endorse some form of cancellation of this debt.

In London, the event took the form of a variety of activities held in several parts of the capital. In addition to the cancellation of the Third World debt, which was a demand common to all the events held on that day, there were other demands ranging over a wide range of issues. Some of these protests then converged towards the City itself - to stage a "carnival against capitalism", to use the words of the organisers. The police, who had watched the demonstrators benevolently in other parts of the capital, attacked those in the City, particularly when they tried to occupy the LIFFE (London International Futures and Foreign Exchange), the very heart of international financial speculation in the City. There were serious clashes between riot police and the demonstrators. This triggered outrage among politicians and in the media over the next few days, with claims of a mysterious "conspiracy organised over the Internet to destabilise the City" - a very strange "conspiracy" indeed, since the organisers' plans for that day had been available for weeks to anyone with an Internet connection, including the police!

Of course, this ridiculous reaction had nothing to do with the way the protest was organised nor even with the damage caused by the protestors. For the powers-that-be, the City must remain the inviolable sanctuary of capital and there can be no question of allowing protestors to even hint at the idea that the institutions and financial milchcow of capitalism should be blamed for the catastrophic ills of today's world, let alone challenged.

Yet, if there is a Third World debt crisis in the first place, it is precisely due to today's worldwide financial merry-go-round and the large companies' frantic search for new sources of profits. If the conditions of billions of people in the Third World have been going downhill over the past decade - in a catastrophic way in the poorest countries - it is first and foremost to satisfy the greed of bankers and big shareholders in imperialist heartlands such as Britain.

The City demonstrators were, therefore, perfectly right to lay the blame where it belongs - on the City. And one can only wish that in the future, there will be more demonstrations targeting the City and the devastating role of capital in today's world. Only for such protests to have a real impact, they will have to be the expression not just of the anger of a relatively marginal milieu as on June 18th, but of a significant layer of those who are at the receiving end of capitalism here - the working people and jobless.

However, the organisers of the "carnival against capitalism" gave no indication that they were trying to break from their isolation. The nature of their protest, as a general denunciation of capitalism, in particular in relation to the Third World debt crisis, failed to emphasize the parallel social catastrophe caused by capitalism for large sections of the population in Britain. This was a political and a social choice on the part of the organisers which left out the working class here. No effort was made either to canvass the support of the workers and jobless for the June 18th demonstration either. And this was even more true of the other events held on that day, which stopped short of denouncing the destructive role of capitalism for society as a whole. Ironically one of the groups involved, People's Global Action, went out of their way to try to bring to London a contingent of Indian farmers (who, in the end, were prevented from entering the country) but made no attempt at bringing along a contingent of London's huge army of low-paid casual workers, for instance.

Deliberately or not, this is perpetuating the age-old argument that the working classes of the rich countries should consider themselves "privileged" compared with the poor masses of the Third World. As if all the exploited did not have the same social interests and should not be on the same side of the barricade when it comes to fighting capitalism!

But this is precisely where the ambiguity of the protests organised on that day lies. They were all meant to expose, in more or less radical terms, the plight imposed on the Third World by the capitalist market. But is the aim of the organisers to fight for some kind of reformed capitalism by demanding that one of its most perverse aspects, the indebtedness of the Third World, should be ended - or is it to fight capitalism itself, that is ultimately with the objective to replace it with another type of social organisation?

In fact, this very same ambiguity lies at the heart of the entire movement campaigning for the cancellation of the Third World debt and other similar campaigns such as those against the World Trade Organisation, or those demanding that financial transactions should be taxed worldwide in order to reduce the damage caused by the casino economy.

Obviously, the sincerity and determination of those who support these campaigns is not in question here, nor their anger against the devastating impact of capitalism. What is in question is the choice of these campaigns to target particularly revolting aspects of the capitalist system in isolation, as if they could be "rubbed out" within the constraints of the rule of capital. Such an approach amounts to dodging the issue of what capitalism is really about, while claiming to address the fundamental failures of the system. In short, this is a revamped version of reformism, adapted to today's period of prolonged crisis, in which the traditional reformist parties, such as Labour in Britain, are proving just as blatantly servile to the greed of capital as the traditional parties of the capitalist class.

The poor world's burden

Before discussing the demands of the campaigns supporting the cancellation of the Third World debt, It is worth recalling the cause and the catastrophic impact of today's Third World debt crisis.

International agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, etc, are all connected to the rich imperialist countries. As such they are not likely to exaggerate Third World poverty. Yet, the regular reports they produce expose, year after year, the continuing downward slide of conditions in the Third World and the growing gap between rich and poor countries.

This growing gap is nothing new. For instance, in 1950, production per head in the five richest countries was 35 times larger than in the thirty or so poorest countries; by 1973, it was 44 times larger and 72 times larger in 1992. That this gap keeps increasing reflects primarily the continuing plunder of the economies of the poorest countries by imperialist multinational companies. The British shareholders of mining giants such as Lonrho or RTZ have built (and are still building) their wealth on the underground resources of the poorest African and Asian countries. And since dividends had to be sent back to the City, the huge profits made by these companies were never ploughed back into the local economies. Not only has this plunder of local resources failed to provide any benefit for the populations, but it has often resulted in more poverty. Thus the food multinationals who turned countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Mali into the main sources of cocoa and peanuts for their European factories, at the same time eradicated a large part of the old staple agriculture, thereby creating food shortages in countries which had been self- sufficient before.

Overall, despite the myth of "development aid", the net transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich countries, which began in the colonial days with the plundering of local resources, has never been reversed since, quite the opposite. Over the past three decades, this transfer has been increased through the mechanisms of debt, which have pushed many poor countries even further into poverty.

Starting from the mid-1970s and the return of the capitalist crisis, the capitalist class of the rich countries redirected a larger part of their wealth towards the financial sphere. Banks were awash with funds while western manufacturers were looking for new markets to make up for reduced demand. The international institutions of imperialism (IMF, etc..) moved in to pressurise Third World countries to borrow in order to buy western products, particularly weapons. The Third World's external debt, which was relatively low at £38bn in 1970, soared to £320bn by 1980, £670bn in 1990, to reach £1270bn last year.

This does not mean of course that these large amounts of money were actually paid to the poor countries. A large proportion of these sums went straight back into the coffers of western shareholders in the form of payment for procurements or infrastructure contracts. And what was bought was not even necessarily of any benefit to the Third World populations - certainly not the helicopters and tanks bought by the local dictators, which were more often than not used against local people. But this lack of any local benefit is even the case with large projects financed by international loans, as was shown a few years ago by the Pergau dam scandal in Malaysia. This project was an ecological catastrophe for the local population but a great source of profits for the British construction industry.

But of course, loans have to be repaid eventually, with interest payments running until they are. The main incentive for the western banks to lend money to the Third World in the 1970s had been that they could charge comparatively high interest rates - under the pretext that they were taking risks and with the IMF's approval - at a time when interest rates in the rich countries were low. But soon the poor countries faced difficulties with debt servicing. In August 1982, the Mexican government issued a statement saying that it had to stop all interest payments. This triggered panic among international bankers. Faced with the threat of a major bank crisis, the imperialist governments stepped in to rescue their respective bankers by using public funds to cover their losses.

As it turned out, exploiting the Third World debt milchcow was proving a more risky business than had been so far expected. For the time being the imperialist banking system was safe - thanks to western public funds - but for how long?

The IMF steps in

It was at that point that the IMF and the international financial institutions of imperialism took on the role of financial policemen of the world, with a double brief. On the one hand they would ensure financial stability by providing emergency loans to avoid a repeat of the 1982 Mexican crisis and protect the profits of Western bankers. On the other hand, these institutions would ensure that the poor countries would still be able to borrow (and therefore to buy from western multinationals) by offering them ways of alleviating their interest payments - through rescheduling their debt. But this service would only be provided if the IMF could oversee the policies of the governments concerned - according to the interests of imperialism, needless to say. By 1987, this overseeing role was tightened even further with the introduction of the so-called "Structural Adjustment Programmes" which became the compulsory pre-condition for any debt rescheduling by the IMF.

None of these measures was really designed to reduce the burden of the debt for the poor countries, of course. Each time their debt was rescheduled, it meant a significant increase in their outstanding debt, even if interest payments were temporarily easier to make. On the other hand, the demands put on the poor countries by the IMF became increasingly drastic. State expenditure was to be squeezed in order to devote more resources to debt-servicing. Invariably this was done at the expense of social expenditure since, for instance, the army and procurement budgets had to remain intact in order to protect the interests of western companies. So health and education were the main victims of the IMF's inroad into the poor countries' budgets. Where there was a nationalised industry, the IMF demanded that part of the debt should be converted into shares in these companies - thereby starting, in the late 80s, what was going to become later, a process of wholesale privatisation. Of course, this allowed international banks to gain yet another means to strangle local economies according to their interests.

The IMF's pressure on the poor countries was significantly stepped up in the 90s. This time, with the huge development of the financial sphere and enormous growth of capital flows resulting from deregulation in the imperialist countries, the IMF's role was to open up the economies of the poor countries completely to these capital flows. The privatisation of all public companies became a compulsory feature of "Structural Adjustment". What little public infrastructure there was, was taken over by western multinationals, who kept only the parts which were profitable and closed down the rest. Very often in fact, the so-called "foreign direct investments" in the poor countries had no aim other than to take over a local competitor, close it down, and then import (at a much higher price of course) the same products from elsewhere. For the populations, the consequence was a higher cost of living and reduced public services (and in these countries public services were already below the bare minimum) and a weakening of the local economy.

Ironically, the IMF experts claimed that their aim was to pull the poor countries out of poverty by helping them to increase exports. This was the rationale for them to open up their economies to "foreign investments". But how could they increase their exports if their industries were being trimmed down drastically by foreign investors who were there just to make a quick buck or eliminate any local competition? Besides, despite all the efforts made, most so-called foreign "investors" were looking for short-term lending with a high return. For them, only a handful of Third World countries qualified - none of them among the poorest. This left the poorer countries with what has been traditionally their only source of income - their natural resources.

The financial crisis which began again in the winter of 1994, in Mexico, and re-emerged less than three years later, in July 1997, this time in South East Asia, resulted in a rapid deterioration of the situation for most poor countries across the world.

The first consequence of the crisis was to accelerate a trend which had already started earlier in the decade - the fall of raw material prices on the world market. In 1998, these prices fell by between 15 and 40%, slashing by the same amount their income from exports. For Zambia, for instance, one of the world's largest producers of copper and one of the world's poorest countries, this has resulted in the value of domestic production dropping by 9% in 1998 - or roughly the equivalent of the cost of servicing its debt. And, of course, while the slump in commodity prices means heavy losses for the poor producing countries, it means higher profits for the manufacturing companies of the rich countries. Taking this into account, the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich countries has increased even further over the past few years.

Another consequence of the financial crisis has been to make credit sparser and dearer. Thus, since 1997, the flow of capital from the rich countries to the Third World has almost halved, while new bank loans have been reduced by nearly 60%. As a result, the basic interest rate applied for the poor countries is high, around 10 to 15% (and real interest rates are even higher), whereas it is below 5% for the rich countries. In some of the poor countries which have been more directly threatened by the shockwave of the financial crisis, the governments have even been forced to offer much higher interest rates (as high as 40% in the case of Brazil for instance) in order to prevent international financial companies from withdrawing their funds.

All these consequences add up. Today the poor countries face even worse financial difficulties when it comes to servicing their debt, not to mention its actual repayment. In many cases this has pushed them to the verge of bankruptcy.

The G7 masquerade

The response of the rich countries to this dramatic situation - particularly dramatic for the populations, although this is certainly not the main concern of the G7 governments - was reflected in the sensational headlines which followed the Cologne summit in June this year: "$100bn" (or "90%" depending on the paper) "of the Third Word debt written off".

The first point to make about this "write off" is that it takes a huge dose of hypocrisy for the leaders of the world's seven richest countries to present themselves as "compassionate benefactors" of the Third World. Indeed, their claim to be alleviating the poorest countries' debt burden is pure deception, for the simple reason that these countries have already repaid the equivalent of a large part of their debt just through paying interest on it.

A simple calculation can illustrate this point. Assuming that a loan has been made on a 15% interest rate (a low rate these days for loans to Third World countries), it takes just under 80 months for interest payments to add up to the total value of the loan itself. Yet, whether the funds are lent directly by the IMF/World Bank, rich countries' governments, private banks or indirectly by "investors" buying government bonds sold on the financial markets, the lifespan of loans is usually significantly longer than 80 months. Moreover this lifespan increases (and the value of the loan itself as well, despite the fact that no fresh money is actually lent) every time the loan is rescheduled. This means that debtor countries often have to pay interest adding up to several times the value of a loan and still have to repay the loan itself. Thus between 1980 and 1996, for instance, Sub-Saharan Africa's interest payments amounted to more than twice the total value of the money it borrowed during that period. Yet, by 1996, its debt had trebled compared with 1980!

All this puts the "generosity" of the rich countries' leaders in a rather different light. The "unrecoverable" loans to the poorest countries that the G7 are willing to "write off" are in fact old loans which have already been repaid several times over by these countries through servicing their debt. Having squeezed out of these loans as much as they could (and much more than they were worth) mostly for the benefit of their home-based multinationals, the leaders of the rich countries can obviously afford to forget about them!

But the G7's "generosity" is even more hypocritical than that. The Cologne announcement was the latest in a series which began with the launch of the so-called "Highly Indebted Poor Countries" initiative (HIPC) by the IMF, at the end of 1996. The purpose of this new programme, the latest of a long series, was officially to help out the poorest countries, or rather the most "deserving" among them from the IMF's point of view. The IMF promised that these countries would eventually benefit from a "reduction in the stock of eligible debt of up to 80%". This figure of 80%, which was originally decided at a G7 summit held in the French town of Lyon, was subsequently increased to 90% in Cologne.

The snag in the IMF's pledge was the phrase "eligible debt". What was meant by this was not the total external debt of these countries, but the original value (before any rescheduling) of the loans they had received from G7 governments alone. But what about the loans received from other sources? Although a passing mention was made of the need for some reduction in "commercial" debt (i.e. loans by international private banks), no figure was put on it and, to date, western banks have said nothing about writing off any debt. Nor is there any question of reducing the poor countries' debt to the IMF and other international institutions. As a result it has been calculated that behind the gloss of the 90% write-off figure, the real debt of any benefiting country would be reduced by less than 10%!

Besides, out of the 150 countries which, according to the United Nations, are currently falling into the debt trap, only 41 were deemed eligible for HIPC by the IMF. But not without further stringent conditions. In short, they had to have implemented the Structural Adjustment policies demanded by the IMF (ie tight austerity measures coupled with a full opening up of their economies to western capital) and the IMF had to be satisfied with the results obtained. Then and only then would the debt reduction actually be granted.

Its is no wonder, therefore, that over the 18 months between the launch of HIPC and the Cologne summit, only two countries - Uganda and Bolivia - have been awarded a debt reduction, which in both cases amounts to around 9% of their total debt. Before mid-2002 another six poor countries should benefit from this programme, bringing the total to eight out of 150 over a period of four years! At this rate, the G7 leaders could just as well state clearly that their aim is to bleed every penny they can out of the poor countries - which, at least, would be the truth!

The Jubilee 2000 coalition

The fact that the present state of the poor countries and the treatment metered out to them by the imperialist powers shocks a significant section of public opinion was illustrated by the 17 million signatures collected on a petition demanding "that the unpayable external debt be cancelled by the end of the year 2000", which was presented at the Cologne summit by the Jubilee 2000 coalition.

What is Jubilee 2000? When it was set up originally in 1997, it was a church-inspired movement. Its aim was to invite the imperialist leaders to act in a "Christian way" at the turn of the millennium by declaring a "jubilee", that is a day when all debts are forgiven and slaves are freed as the Bible's Old Testament requires should be done every fifty years. Since then, many currents from various backgrounds have joined the Jubilee 2000 coalition: some come from the far-left, social- democrat or green milieus; others from Third-World nationalist background; others still are respectable institutions such as, in the case of Britain, a number of trade-union bodies, charities or academic groups. And while the original religious slant of the coalition has more or less disappeared (although not a certain moralistic approach), the only common denominator between these very different currents is the demand formulated in the Jubilee 2000 petition:

"We, the undersigned, believe that the start of the new millennium should be an opportunity to generate new hope for life for millions of people now imprisoned by poverty due to the illegitimate indebtedness of their countries. In order to make a fresh start possible, it is vital that reparation be made for the injustice of an external debt whose payment is demanded of those who neither contracted, nor were consulted, nor benefited from it. A debt which has been repaid many times over but which continues to grow day after day. A debt for which those who made the loans are as responsible, if not more so, as those who received them. We therefore call on the governments of the creditor countries to cancel these unpayable debts before the end of the year 2000, and to take effective measures to restore to those peoples who have been impoverished by them the means necessary for a dignified livelihood, by disactivating the mechanisms which helped to create indebtedness".

It is clear from reading this text that every effort was made to avoid stating clearly who or what should be blamed for the plight of the poor countries. Mysterious "mechanisms which helped to create indebtedness" are considered as a factor, but they are not described, obviously to avoid having to blame the role of finance capital and the looting of the Third World by western multinationals. Likewise the petition falls short of laying the blame clearly at the imperialist creditors' door. They are said to be "as responsible, if not more so" than the debtors who should therefore also carry a share of the blame. Even if one has to recognise that the corrupted ruling elites of the Third World often live off their countries' debt at the expense of the populations, their parasitism is nothing compared to that of the capitalist classes of the imperialist countries. Not setting the record absolutely straight in this respect is refusing to take sides clearly between the oppressors and the oppressed.

Nor does the petition state clearly the extent of debt cancellation it is demanding. Does the phrase "unpayable debts" mean the entire debt, or does it mean that part of the debt that the poor countries cannot "afford" to repay - as if the poor countries could afford to service or repay any of their debt without the population having to foot the bill!. Likewise, no mention is made of the "Structural Adjustment" plans imposed by the IMF, despite their catastrophic consequences in the poor countries.

These euphemisms and convoluted side-stepping of the real issues obviously reflect what Jubilee 2000 is about - a coalition whose participants choose to leave their ideas behind in order to attract as much support as possible, including from people who advocate, for instance, a return to the "good old days" of the 60s, when finance capital was still "under control" (in their view at least) and indebtedness was a marginal issue in the Third World. Never mind the fact that these "good old days" saw the development of the western multinationals' plunder of the Third World and paved the way for the return of the capitalist crisis in the early 70s and the subsequent explosive development of finance capital!

Can capitalism lift the debt burden?

How are Jubilee 2000's demands to be fulfilled? According to this petition, the governments of the creditor countries are expected to deliver the goods. If these governments are expected to cancel a part (or all) of the Third World debt, it means expecting them to force finance capital to forget about the corresponding share they get of the total £110bn interest paid annually by the Third World today, not to mention the value of the original debt. At the same time they are expected to convince their own arms merchants and other capitalists that they should happily renounce a large part of the profitable contracts they have with the poor countries. Moreover, western governments are meant to provide the poor countries with "the means necessary for a dignified livelihood, by disactivating the mechanisms which helped to create the indebtedness". But this would mean that these governments would have to stop the plundering of the poor countries by western multinationals, thereby cutting the profits of their own capitalists. At the same time, it would mean redirecting a significant share of the rich countries' wealth (which is mostly owned by their capitalist classes) towards the poor countries in order to lift their standard of living to a minimum level.

Why should governments who are the trustees of the interests of their respective capitalist classes choose to go against these interests, especially when the only threat they have to face is a petition, even with 17 million signatures? At best they will make hypocritical gestures such as that of the Cologne summit, to satisfy public opinion for the time being.

One could argue, of course, that in theory imperialism could afford to cancel the entire debt of the poorest countries. From a purely economic point of view this is probably true. Except that, as was the case in each of the financial shockwaves of the past two decades, the different states of the rich countries would then step in to cut the losses of their own capitalists, using public funds. Ultimately, therefore, the working population of the rich countries would have to foot the bill. This is another danger that the Jubilee 2000 coalition conveniently ignores, but as was argued earlier, this is not by accident but as a result of its political and social choices.

Moreover, one should not forget that the "mechanisms which helped to create the indebtedness" of the poor countries are in fact part of the consequences of the overall capitalist crisis. It is this crisis which, since the 70s, resulted in a redirection of an enormous amount of capital towards the financial sphere, because the capitalist class was no longer prepared to risk their capital in productive investment. So even if imperialism did cancel the entire debt of the poorest countries, this would not end the capitalist crisis nor bring under control the flows of capital which constantly threaten the economies of the countries they target. The poorest countries would be temporarily free of their debt burden, but they would still be easy prey for capital flows in search of a quick buck - if only because the local ruling elites would seek to retain the income they gain by acting as paid intermediaries for foreign capital.

As to imposing measures that would really reduce the profits of the imperialist bourgeoisie as a whole, even in a limited way, it will take a struggle on quite another scale, using far more radical means than petitions, periodic "carnivals" and street demonstrations. One only has to remember the bloody wars waged by imperialism against nationalist movements who dared to shake its domination, or the catastrophic blockades imposed for decades on nationalist regimes such as that of China and Cuba, who, although quite willing to trade with imperialism, committed the crime of wanting to protect their own countries against imperialist plunder.

What way out of poverty?

There are currents which are part of the Jubilee 2000 coalition while at the same time they share some of the criticisms formulated above as to the coalition's political limitations.

Many of these currents, often influenced by nationalist ideas, are based in Third World countries, where the approach adopted by the coalition probably appears even more unrealistic than it does from here. For instance, the Gauteng declaration, issued by a number of South African groups in March this year formulates a list of objectives which, in addition to the cancellation of the entire Third World debt, includes a call for political changes in the poor countries, asserts the need to shake the political and economic domination of the rich countries and demands that "reparations must compensate for economic and social damage incurred by our people, to finance the rebuilding of our own infrastructure and society and to restore our dignity". However it stops short of formulating how these objectives are to be achieved.

Other groups have adopted more radical platforms. One of these groups, for instance, is the Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt (COCAD) which originated in Belgium before spreading to other countries. One of COCAD's leading figures outlined the Committee's objectives in a French paper (Le Monde Diplomatique) in the following way: "COCAD supports the total cancellation of the dependent countries' debt. It is in favour of using the funds thus freed to cater for the needs of the populations and lay the basis of a lasting development. COCAD adds that these resources should become part of a national development fund under the control of the social movements. This fund should have other sources of income: Northern countries should transfer to each Southern country the assets held in the North by their own wealthy (..) Additional income could come from damages paid by the richest industrialised countries to the dependent countries on account of the plunder they have suffered (and still do)".

Like the Gauteng participants, COCAD is therefore conscious, and rightly so, that cancelling the debt in and of itself will not resolve the problem of poverty. But just like Jubilee 2000, its objectives are still formulated in a way which implies that they can be implemented within the framework of the capitalist system.

As to the means of achieving these aims, however, COCAD is more explicit that the Gauteng participants and more radical than the official Jubilee 2000's line, but only in the vaguest way: "To impose these objectives, it will be necessary to build a powerful citizens' movement on a world wide scale and a united front of the indebted countries".

To its credit, and unlike Jubilee 2000, COCAD does not claim that petitioning governments will be enough to achieve its aims. But the formulations used are designed to leave the same sort of veil over the real content of the means advocated. What does "a powerful citizens' movement" mean? What will its methods of struggle be? What social forces will it based on? Will it be only a pressure group, even a large one, whose only aim will be to influence the policy of governments? And what does "a united front of the indebted countries" mean? A united front between the various dictators who run these countries? Or a united front between the populations themselves, including against their rulers? Why not spell things out?

In a way COCAD is the most striking example of the groups in the Jubilee coalition which, while developing a criticism of the ills of today's capitalist world, stop short of drawing clearly the consequences of their analysis. COCAD insists on being a "network" rather than a political organisation, on cultivating "pluralism" and "working out new solutions" rather than trying to use, even critically if it comes to that, the experience of those who have fought capitalism in past generations. But does it really want to fight capitalism? In any case, by their very nature, the objectives it sets itself and the means it chooses to achieve them, can only spell failure.

For those who are involved in the coalition, circulate its petition and take part in its demonstrations - especially among the youth - it is certainly a way of expressing a genuine anger against a system which is both unjust and irrational. In the course of their personal development this can even be a useful stage which can help them to acquire a better understanding of the world. For some this understanding is all they are looking for. But those who think that understanding should be a means for action will not find this means in campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 or COCAD. Instead of looking for so-called "new solutions" and trying to re-invent the wheel, in order to comprehend today's world, they would find many more answers by studying the old texts written by Marx and other Marxist writers. They will find in these texts a methodology to help them to comprehend the reality they are confronted with - and above all they will find the idea that in order to understand the world, one needs to set oneself the aim of changing it. This understanding will allow them to break away from the kind of "classless" approach adopted by Jubilee 2000, COCAD and the like (which has, in fact, a lot in common with Blairism) and to choose the side of the working class, that is the proletariat. Because this class is the only social force which has the capacity and the strength to achieve the social transformation required to build a rational economy on a worldwide scale, free of poverty.

17 September 1999