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From: The Socialist issue 241, 15 February 2002: Sleazy Labour Rewards Greedy Bosses

Search site for keywords: Capitalism - Africa - HIV - AIDS - Arms - Tony Blair

Capitalism Has No 'Conscience'

TONY BLAIR dismally failed to resolve any of the many problems facing the peoples of central Asia on his recent tour. But that didn't stop him jetting off to Africa to try and solve that continent's problems.

However, news pictures of 'saint' Tony grinning widely won't actually eliminate poverty, HIV/Aids or war.

Tackling these problems requires a massive redistribution of wealth and power from the multi-billionaire capitalists and their Western governments.

HIV/Aids pandemic

TAKE THE issue of Aids for example. The giant pharmaceutical companies are determined to defend their profits by preventing the production of cheaper versions of drugs to treat HIV/Aids.

In southern Africa, where one in five people are HIV-positive, these companies organised a legal challenge to stop the South African government importing cheap retro-viral drugs.

But mass pressure from trade unions and community campaigns in the country and internationally exposed their profiteering.

The pharmaceutical companies also realised that their price fixing would be exposed if they went to court. Consequently, they dropped their legal action.

However, sufferers and campaigners alike are still battling with president Mbeki's capitalist government which refuses to fund a drugs treatment programme.

'Debt' relief

DESPITE ALL the ballyhoo in recent years by Chancellor Gordon Brown and other finance ministers in the world's powerful G8 countries to write off $100 billion of the $260 billion debt of the world's poorest countries, precious little has happened.

Of 25 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries only one - Uganda - is anywhere near having its debts written off. But given the dominance of the rich capitalist countries in international financial institutions like the IMF, this is hardly surprising. For example, the US has 18% of votes at the IMF whereas Mozambique has just 0.06%.

Debt relief is also conditional on implementing IMF-approved Structural Adjustment Programmes, ie. measures to open up their economies to foreign competition, deregulating labour and privatising publicly-owned industries.

Needless to say the unfavourable terms of trade, whereby the price of exports from the poorest countries are forced down by the economically dominant countries, remain.

In Africa, Asia and Latin America, child labour is used by local producers to produce cash crops like cocoa and coffee which are bought by multinationals who profit from such practices.

Wars of profit

AS THE Socialist reported last week, British arms manufacturers have increased their sales to some of the poorest countries and repressive regimes in Africa, including Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

In 1999 African nations bought £52 million of British arms, rising to £125 million in 2000 and to an expected £200 million last year.

So when Blair piously lecturers us on 'failed states' perhaps he could explain how Britain's arms sales are making for a safer world.

Again, it is the Western based multinationals who have benefited from the blood-soaked trade in diamonds and other precious goods, fuelling devastating wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the case of the Congo, its eastern mineral rich areas are permanently occupied by armed forces all extracting gold, diamonds and now coltan. Coltan is the heat resistant compound used in mobile phones and 'playstations'. The US considers it "highly strategic".

This is why the imperialist powers are reluctant to act against these conflicts because they allow easier access to mineral riches.

Guilty conscience

WHEN TONY Blair piously speaks of the problems of Africa as being "a scar on the conscience of the world", he is deliberately missing the point.

It's not the world's workers and poor who are to blame, rather it's the greed of the multinationals who are guilty of causing and perpetuating poverty, disease and wars.

It is the former, by taking control of the world's resources and democratically planning production within a socialist system, who will begin to solve the world's problems.

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Article dated 15 February 2002

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