It’s been a few months since I read Samir Amin’s Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism? but one of the key chapters remains a thought through everything I think about these days “accumulation by dispossession.” Although David Harvey is the man who is credited with its conception, Samir Amin takes the concept further – looking at how colonisation was yet another means of dispossession and that globalised capitalism is its continued mask.
To Western governments, wealth precedes human rights; what matters is to bribe a few corrupt leaders to keep their mouths shut and their countries open to Western “investment” – ensuring that the profits on gleaning resources are kept by the West and not in the hands of the local people. According to ACTSA’s 2007 report ‘Undermining Development‘ 70% of Zambia’s GDP is made through Copper sales – yet the company that owned the mines (the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines) was forcibly privatised by the IMF in 1999, with aid donors withholding $530 million in aid. These were sold off 7 parties, all owned by large Western corporations. The profits that Zambia gained through copper sales are now being fed to shareholders and company directors based outside of Zambia, rather than the Zambian people themselves. Is this any different from the time of Gandhi’s anticolonial protest to cotton production outside India?
It’s no light message that all of that which will affect people of the non-west (and therefore the poorest) the worst is that which is pushed aside by our governments. Climate change, trade justice, reconciliation for the ex-colonised, a recognition of colonial genocide, oil spills in Nigeria, high food prices, … the list is endless.
As much as many on the left would disagree, it was because of Western Dominance that NATO has fought for Libya. Even as I type, the NATO aligned countries is forcing through the recognition of the National Transition Committee to ensure that Libyan investment remains open to Western resource exploitation. NATO pushed the ‘No Fly Zone’ restriction through UN Security Council because Gaddafi was largely anti-Western, unlike Bahrain, Syria and other British and American allies. Kicking out British and American military bases, and ensuring that oil companies gave 80% of their profits to the Libyan government, Gaddafi held power for himself – not for the West, and certainly not for the Libyan people. Chomsky explains it best:
What faces us – the growth of poverty, inequality, marginalised peoples, the desolation of peoples’ rights – these are all aspects of a global problem, not a local concern. Why we cannot pull down the detritus that is capitalism in Britain, or Spain, or Greece, is because our demands are only treating the symptoms, and not the causes, of a much larger disease. We are isolating each symptom, and removing it instead of actually realising that these symptoms are completely and utterly interconnected. Globalisation has disempowered us unless we work together.
This is my dispute with Owen Jones’ “Chavs” which pulls out a select group (white, working-class, men) and attempts to justify why these people have been targeted by the tabloid press. In each case, his justification is usually somewhat valid, but it lacks full political analysis. Take the BNP/EDL – is the threat really lower wages, poor housing conditions, etc? Yes, but why does that exist? Simply saying the government doesn’t place enough regulation on the social economy is shallow; deeper analysis would look to the similarities present globally and would observe that this trend is international.
The problem with companies outsourcing to other countries is not that this kills the job sector in the UK, but that the system of globalisation ensures that the said company will exploit resources wherever it can. It is that the simple rights that we have here – the right to join/form a union, the right to a minimum wage, the right to housing, etc – are not universally set. In fact, they are purposely skewed towards protecting the West and dispossessing the poor. Our governments support this because through this system, wealth and ownership remains in the West. We provide “services” in exchange for the far more valuable, and yet far cheaper natural resources.
The whole picture of global economics is Upside-Down. It’s why the poor here are getting poorer and why there is the rise of the middle classes in India, Kenya, etc. The huge divide between rich and poor internationally is the marker in this transition – and it will be the reason that this system will fall. There will be riots. Many, many more.