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Eric Toussaint – a courageous whistleblower
by Jean Ziegler
15 October 2013

This text is the postface of Eric Toussaint’s book, Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an Exemplary Man), Al Dante, Marseille, 2013.

In our Europe with its uniform conscience, wishy-washy consensus, and triumphant State-imposed logic, any attempt to break with the current brutal world order is considered to be either a utopian project or quite simply delirious. A revolutionary, on our continent, is at best considered to be original, a kind of intellectual bum, an inoffensive dreamer, or a colourful outsider, at worst, a threatening troublemaker, a deviant, or simply mad. Meanwhile, global capitalist financial oligarchies govern the planet, according to a self-legitimising ideology based on economic rigour, noxious nationalism, and a human rights doctrine subtly promoting discrimination. Am I exaggerating? Real, living democracies that respect the freedom and the pursuit of happiness of their citizens do exist in the United States, France, Belgium, England, Switzerland and many other Western countries. However, in their neocolonical empires, confronted by the marginalised populations they dominate, these same Western democracies practice what Maurice Duverger calls fascism abroad: in many countries in the Southern hemisphere, all social indicators have been negative for more than 50 years (except for demographics). Malnutrition, misery, illiteracy, chronic unemployment, endemic diseases, and broken families are the direct consequences of the unbalanced terms of trade and the tyranny of debt. Western democracies practice a form of genocide based on indifference. Régis Debray has remarked: “Free (wo)men need slaves.” [1] That is the price to pay for our fragile prosperity in the West!

People in poor countries are working themselves to death to finance the development of rich countries. In reality, it is the South that is financing the North – especially its dominant classes. Debt is indeed the most powerful means of domination used by the North against the South today.

More capital flows from the South to the North than in the opposite direction. Every year, the poor countries send considerably more money to the upper classes in rich countries than they receive in the form of investments, cooperation loans, humanitarian aid, and “development” aid.

No need for machine guns, napalm, or tanks to subjugate and reduce people to slavery. Today, all we need is debt.

Foreign debt has become a weapon of mass destruction. It enslaves people and destroys their belief that they can be independent, thereby ensuring permanent worldwide domination by those capitalist financial oligarchies.

In 2013, a child under the age of ten will die of hunger every five seconds. Every day, 57,000 human beings die of hunger. Nearly 1 billion of our 7 billion fellow human beings suffer from permanent and serious malnutrition. This is happening on a planet, which according to the FAO, could easily feed 12 billion people (2200 kilocalories per day).

As a percentage of its population, Africa is the continent on which there is the greatest number of famished people: 36.2% in 2012. In absolute figures, it is Asia that comes out on top in this macabre competition. The foreign debt noose prevents the most impoverished countries from making the minimum required investments urgently needed for their farming systems.

Although 37 of the 54 African countries are nearly entirely agricultural with vast swaths of fertile land, and a relatively small population; in 2012, $24 billion worth of food had to be imported into the continent due to the lack of agricultural investments. Seed production and animal and mineral fertilisers are all lacking. There are 250,000 draught animals on the continent, but less than 85,000 tractors. In 2013, the hoe and the machete are still the main tools used for farming there.

Only 3.8% of arable land south of the Sahara is irrigated. The rest is watered only by rainfall, and is subject to the deadly risks entailed by a chaotic climate.

The IMF is in charge of managing the debt of poor countries, and its mercenaries are the firefighters of the international financial system, who transform themselves into arsonists just at the right time…

When there is a major crisis, they intervene in exotic financial places, making sure above all that no international speculators will lose their initial wager. The Economist, which is not exactly the voice of a left-wing firebrand, has written: “… So when sceptics accuse rich country governments of being mainly concerned with bailing out western banks when financial crisis strikes in the world, they have a point.” [2]

For decades, Jacques De Groote played a key role in maintaining, reproducing, and strengthening this cannibalistic world order: as Belgium’s Executive Director at the FMI and World Bank, and as an advisor to the predator Joseph Désiré Mobutu.

Today, De Groote has been brought before Swiss courts in Bellinzona with six Czech co-defendants for “aggravated money laundering and fraud,” according to the bill of indictment delivered by the Swiss Ministry of Justice.

Eric Toussaint has written a fascinating, incisive and extremely well-documented book about the stormy career of the nefarious Jacques De Groote.

Toussaint is a world-renowned author and a precious advisor to the numerous governments attempting to refute their odious debt. His research and publications have made him a leading authority on these matters, even for the IMF and the World Bank. Among his works, Your Money (or) Your Life - The Tyranny of Global Finance (2005), and Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank. Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers (2010), World Bank: a never-ending coup d’Etat (2006) are indispensable works for understanding how the current world economic order — established by capitalist financial oligarchies — functions.

Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an exemplary man) is a profound and lively scientific work that is in a league of its own. Jean-Paul Sartre made a distinction between scientific, analytical, erudite works, on the one hand, and “books that take action,” on the other. Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an exemplary man) is in the latter category, because its author acts as a whistleblower — one who takes bold action.

As I am writing these lines, the Bellinzona penal court has not yet given its final verdict. We must therefore continue to scrupulously presume the innocence of Jacques De Groote – even if that is a difficult attitude to maintain.

Nevertheless, Eric Toussaint’s book has raised many troubling questions. How could a figure like De Groote continue engaging in his questionable activities at the IMF and World Bank with total impunity? What kind of protection did he enjoy, and who were his accomplices?

This powerful book answers those and other pertinent questions.

Translated by Charles La Via and Mike Krolikowski

Jean Ziegler is the author of Mass Destruction – the Geopolitics of Hunger, Editions Points, 2012 (in French).

Footnotes :

[1Régis Debray, in Le Tiers monde et la gauche (The Third world and the left), collective work, Editions du Seuil, 1979, p. 79.

[2“A Plague of Finance,” The Economist (London), 29 September 2001.

Jean Ziegler