Writing on the wall

Submitted by Anon on 18 August, 2003 - 6:55

African partnerships

Paul Wolfowitz, the new head of the World Bank and prominent neo-con has given support to Blair and Brown’s idea of massive and increased aid to Africa. He pledged to persuade Bush of the necessity and justice of this plan. He also said that “there were real partners [in Africa] with whom the west could work.”

That last part is not news.

Under the Bush administration the United States has boosted its presence in Africa. The US government has been trying to get the “security” for business to happen.

The US is dependent on raw materials from Africa: manganese (for steel production), cobalt and chrome vital for alloys (particularly in aeronautics), vanadium, gold, antimony, fluorspar and germanium — and for industrial diamonds.

The latest sign of increased US military aid in Africa came in March 2004 when the military chiefs of staff of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia took part in meeting at the headquarters of the US army’s European command (US-Eucom) in Stuttgart. That meeting, apparently, dealt with military cooperation in the war on terrorism and focused on the Sahel, a buffer zone between the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, between the oil fields of the north and those of the Gulf of Guinea.

Oil is a major concern to the US and securing two pipelines is of particular importance: in the west, the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, and in the east the Higleig-Port Sudan pipeline. There is also talk of building a pipeline linking Chad and Sudan.

In Africa the US is trying to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with all countries, using a range of pretexts and cover stories. Aid is one other pretext.

One of the more bizarre pretexts is the US claim that the South African army would be incapable of conducting a large-scale operation because a large proportion of South African soldiers are infected with HIV, and would therefore need massive support from Washington to reinforce those unreliable elements. Nothing to do with South Africa’s strategically important role in the region.

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique

Behind the G8

We all know the influence big capitalism will have on the G8, through the pro-business political leaders who will conduct the discussions. What is not so well known is the extent to which big business is enmeshed in the structures of the event.

Business leaders sit on the various “task forces” that the G8 has established over the last ten years. What is more, the chairman of the bosses’ federation, the International Chambers of Commerce, meets with the President of the G8 on the eve of the Summit to make sure they are all singing from the same hymn sheet. This year’s ICC president is Yong Sung Park, boss of the South Korean company, Doosan Heavy Industries, well known for virulently anti-union policies.

The “Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS”, chaired by the boss of Shell, is expected to have a big presence at this year’s conference. This organisation exists to convince people that big capitalism is doing its best to fight AIDS, while upholding the profit-making companies who ensure that most people with HIV/AIDS — including tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa — cannot avoid medication.

The Gleneagles Hotel, where the G8 will be taking place, is owned by Diageo, the world’s largest booze manufacturer, who have major commercial interests in Africa. There their operation consists mainly in polluting rivers and putting small producers out of business.

Among other companies expected to be present are the Royal Bank of Scotland, the sixth largest bank in the world, a major financier of development projects such as the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, used by the Turkish government to destroy Kurdish and Armenian communities and monuments; and Cairn Energy, who rocketed into the FTSE 100 last year after it struck oil in the Rajasthan desert and is now exploring in ecologically sensitive regions in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Make poverty history... through slave labour

Following the revelations, reported in our last issue, that more than a million of the white “Make Poverty History” wristbands have been sourced from Chinese sweatshops in “slave labour conditions”, a new scandal has broken. Tom Hunter, a Scottish capitalist who has given £1,000,000 to MPH, is selling wristbands across Britain branded with the logos of sweatshop-using companies.

The wristbands in question, personally endorsed by Bob Geldof and Hunter, have been on sale since Monday 6 June for £2 at every store of Hunter’s high- street fashion retail outlet, USC, and his shoe chain, Office. Geldof says: “When you buy this band you promise me you will do everything you can to get on the road to Edinburgh and join us in changing the world”.

We may wonder how, exactly, Geldof plans to “change the world”. Among the companies he thereby endorses is Tommy Hilfiger.

Stephen Coats, Executive Director of the Chicago-based US/Labor Education in the Americas Project that monitors and supports the basic rights of workers in Latin America, says: “In our experience, Tommy Hilfiger is at the bottom of the list in demonstrating refusal to accept responsibility for the way workers are treated.”

Back in October 2003, the company cut and ran from its responsibilities to workers when evidence was uncovered of labour abuses at the Tarrant factory in Ajalpan, Mexico, a supplier of Tommy Hilfiger jeans. No Sweat and Solidarity were heavily involved in the international campaign of solidarity with the Tarrant workers.

None of the other companied endorsed are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, itself a pretty minimal programme. So what is the role of big business in the G8?

Hunter is Britain’s largest private charity donor, but he has an odd definition of “charity”. His own personal “charity”, the Hunter Foundation, is a fanatical promoter of public-private partnerships in Scotland, and since 2001, has helped fund the Scottish Executive’s “Schools Enterprise Programme” in which the private sector helps teach children as young as five “how to set up and run their own business” — in other words, it indoctrinates small children with free-market capitalism.

What a strange partner for Saint Bob Geldof!

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.