Statement by the Regional Secretariat

Coronavirus Pandemic in the Shadow of Capitalist Exploitation and Imperialist Domination of People and Nature

31 March 2020 by Siyada

The Coronavirus pandemic is threatening to truly become a humanitarian disaster at a global scale.

It coincides with and exacerbates a multifaceted global crisis: political, economic, social, environmental and climatic. In other words, we are currently experiencing a crisis of a patriarchal, racist capitalist system, which will have grave and disproportionate impacts on the vulnerable and marginalized groups, especially societies in countries of the Global South, including North Africa.

This health crisis exposes the crimes of a capitalist economic system, manifested in the destruction of our environments, sustainable agriculture and the associated cultural and social systems in order to impose globalised destructive structures that are inappropriate for protecting our health as individuals and as societies.

And if we do not mobilise and demand a just response to address this pandemic, this economic system will have serious consequences on the poorest and most vulnerable. We must learn lessons from past experiences to defeat this virus and find real solutions to the multiple crises we are going through, including the climate crisis as well as end inequality and injustice in order to build a new, just and sustainable world order.

 Capitalism in crisis

The multifaceted crisis that has gripped the world over the past few years is worsening, as financial markets have managed to weaken even the strongest economies in industrialised countries.

We are also witnessing an escalation of disastrous capitalist economic policies, lived in parallel with the growing hostility and racism towards refugees and migrants, not to mention the disturbing rise of the extreme right forces in the world. This crisis exposed the catastrophic extent of centralised urban policies, which prioritize industrial, real estate and commodity investment over agricultural production processes, as well as public services such as health and education that are destined to the vast majority of rural people, who are the main producers of our food, the most essential need for the survival of humanity.

The seizure/grabbing of agricultural land for financial speculation and the production of agro-fuels to ensure the food security for some select countries, exacerbate the rise in food prices, which will lead us to a new food crisis. Extractivism and pillaging of natural resources have intensified using ever more costly, dangerous and environmentally destructive technologies. However, these practices are necessary in order to maintain a certain lifestyle hegemonic in western countries, a lifestyle based on perpetual growth and consumerism currently imposed on all mankind.

The consequences of this capitalist-imperialist onslaught are being felt above all in the peripheral regions of the world: global South. It is there that small peasants get stripped of their lands, plunging them directly into extreme poverty. And it is there that the increase in prices of basic foodstuffs automatically translates into hunger and famines. Moreover, we have millions of workers being laid off as a result of decades of neoliberal policies that enshrine pauperisation and exclusion. Add to this the effects of global warming, which result in thousands of deaths due to drought, desertification, floods and hurricanes.

Parallel to the explosion of the debt crisis in the early eighties of the last century, countries of our region (and the global South in general), were subjected to violent interventions by the international financial institutions; the International Monetary Fund IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
and the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

, in order to direct and shape their public policies as well as to balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. the budget by reducing public spending. The purpose of these interventions was to provide sufficient liquidity Liquidity The facility with which a financial instrument can be bought or sold without a significant change in price. to pay off debts and buy Western commodities Commodities The goods exchanged on the commodities market, traditionally raw materials such as metals and fuels, and cereals. .

Since then, indebtedness has remained a system to subjugate the peoples of our region and prevent them from building their economies beyond the absolute subordination to imperialist states. Despite the formal cessation of structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

policies, these institutions have continued to interfere through their guiding reports to our submissive governments.

Decades of neoliberal policies and the mad rush for private profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. led to the privatisation of public hospitals and the imposition of large austerity in the budgets for public services, including health. This constitutes a crime and millions of innocent people will pay dearly, especially in our subjugated countries. All of this combined with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic may result in a serious humanitarian catastrophe. Our hope is that the rise in temperatures of spring and summer may weaken its ferocity and a swift discovery of a drug/vaccine would avoid or at least mitigate this terrible fate.

 The Global Health Crisis – The Coronavirus Pandemic

The current health crisis must be analysed and understood in this global context. This crisis, which will have severe social and economic consequences and that will exacerbate other crises, is not a natural catastrophe, as promoted by some. Covid-19 is not a Chinese virus, as some say (US President Trump, for example), expressing racist attitudes; but is a virus resulting from the intensification of a destructive capitalist agricultural/farming system that creates an imbalance in our environment through land grabbing and water-exhausting mono crop cultures, the increase in industrial animal husbandry for the commercial production of meat and dairy products, as well as the widespread deforestation and habitat loss.

The capitalist mode of production brutally penetrates the remotest corners of our earth and invades the extreme limits of the planet, undermining the metabolic equilibrium that enables society to live sustainably and in harmony with its surroundings. This growing rift between the accumulation of capital and nature is even threatening our planet as a place of habitation for humanity and other species. It is becoming clear that various crises and disasters are intersecting in an immiserating, murderous and violent way within the capitalist system. And we do not doubt that the potential treatment of this pandemic will be subjected to the logic of the merchants of war and death, that is, how much profits can be made by corporations!

This global health crisis and its repercussions are only one facet of the capitalist exploitation and the imperialist domination of peoples and nature. In our North African region, the virus has begun to penetrate and is already taking lives, albeit slowly for now, and there is no doubt that it will rise, and the measures announced are only a warning that precedes the disaster.

Millions of small farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolks and other small-scale food producers (the majority of which are women) who bear the burden of providing daily food to everyone else are forced to work during this pandemic. In order to ensure that food production continues, millions of them will be at risk of contracting the virus. It goes without saying that closing borders with Europe and the reduction of access to markets will have major social consequences (redundancies, unemployment, bankruptcy, indebtedness, etc).

It is evident that the risk of infection lurks on poor agricultural workers and peasants, especially without taking the right measures to protect them and other workers who are driven to toil in intolerable conditions. Moreover, the majority of these working poor do not have the purchasing power to ward off the risk of the virus by purchasing the necessary medicines and food that they need.

What is happening in the world and in our region is pushing us more urgently to struggle for popular sovereignty over the wealth, resources and food, because the agro-industrial complex (agribusiness) will force people to work, without compensation and without strict protection measures, as this will affect their balance-sheets and reduce their profits. The harsh reality that our societies are currently experiencing has demonstrated, yet again, the importance of defending public services because they constitute a social safety-net that cannot be compromised or subordinated to the directives of international financial institutions seeking to control and dispossess us.

On this basis, we in the regional secretariat of the North African Food Sovereignty Network demand/call on:

  • Small farmers, agricultural workers, and fisherfolks to continue to organize and fight in order to obtain all their rights under the current exceptional circumstances, by considering methods of collective struggle that ensure their protection from infection and disease.
  • Reconsidering development policies in the Global South and North Africa and learning from this crisis by re-prioritising productive activities such as inward-looking sustainable agriculture and fishing and providing health and educational services to citizens as the basic processes for sound and sustainable development that serves our peoples.
  • Our governments in North Africa to assume their full responsibilities in preserving and ensuring the safety of all workers, including agricultural workers, small peasants, and fisherfolks, by applying safety measures in agricultural areas and fishing areas.
  • Paying compensation to all workers (formal or informal) affected by the current crisis, and allocating specific funds for them.
  • Providing all hospitals with the necessary equipment to avoid an escalation of the health crisis, to be paid for by progressive taxation. And if necessary, put private hospitals and clinics at the service of patients free of charge to deal with this crisis.
  • Providing the necessary food supply and confronting head on all corporations/companies that will seek to raise the prices of some produce and materials, given the high demand for them.
  • Putting an end to all neoliberal policies as well as the cancellation of public debts and “free” trade agreements that do not serve the interests of the poor and marginalised in our countries.

We also express our solidarity with all the peoples of the world, especially those that are suffering under the crushing weight of economic sanctions such as the Iranian, Cuban and Venezuelan people or are living through deadly wars and occupations in countries like Libya, Syria, Yemen and Palestine. Nor can we forget the fate of migrants and refugees who are being turned away by fortress Europe. At the same time, we demand our governments to support and show solidarity with other African countries in their efforts to confront this global epidemic.

We, at the regional secretariat of the North African Network for Food Sovereignty, refuse that our people (especially the marginalised classes) pay the price of our rulers’ neoliberal policies, by pledging our resources and wealth to external and internal capital, which will make us much more vulnerable in confronting this crisis if the current situation continues for a long time.

Finally, we must not let this crisis normalise the escalating use of surveillance, militarism and other authoritarian measures that undermine our freedoms and democracy. Some of these measures may be appropriate as a short-term response to public health emergencies, but they should not be allowed to become the new standard for the post-Coronavirus world.

Every crisis is an opportunity, and the capitalist-imperialist system – together with our despotic and comprador elites – will seek to renew itself by other means through dispossessing people of their wealth. We must not allow this. We urgently need to search for sustainable and equitable alternatives to the current world order. The only solution before us is unity and solidarity in order to build a new world in which people’s sovereignty, democracy and social justice prevail.

Sovereignty over our land and food … sovereignty over our destiny!

Regional Secretariat for the North African Network for Food Sovereignty

Source: Siyada




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