So the generosity of the G8 countries has not lived up to the commitments made at Gleneagles, but the promises to double aid to Africa by 2010 have been reiterated. Real money was promised for tackling HIV, TB and malaria, but this is not just for Africa and there is no evidence that this is new money. Promises cost nothing, but they are good spin. It is no wonder that celebrity campaigners like Sir Bob Geldof and Bono are making a fuss.
Can aid from the richest capitalist nations answer the needs of some of the world’s poorest populations in Africa and elsewhere? Can capitalism, through aid, trade or any other measure, actually solve the problems of starvation, disease and poverty? To listen to the G8, Geldof and Bono you would think so. But to answer this question we need to understand how Africa got into the state it is in today, to look at how capitalism has destroyed the pre-capitalist systems as it came in contact with them.
When the capitalist nations of Europe engaged in the scramble for Africa they were not looking to give aid, but to make a profit. And the populations they found there were not waiting for a food handout, nor for a charity to teach them to fish or farm or hunt, but producing for themselves according to the development of their economies and cultures at the time. These were destroyed by new settlements, by force, but above all by trade, by cheap mass produced goods that put many small scale producers out of business.
However, the destruction of traditional subsistence economies has accelerated from the middle of the 20th Century, sometimes through imposing single cash crops (ground nuts in Ghana, cotton, coffee…), sometimes through imperialist war or disease, sometimes through development aid which becomes an enormous debt that the population has to repay (and that will only be written off when it is clear it can never be paid back). But behind all these destructive influences is capitalism’s ruthless need to exploit every last market and source of raw materials, and to carve up the world into spheres of strategic interest.
As a result millions have been forced off the land, into shanty towns, into refugee camps and feeding stations, into fleeing to the more industrialised countries of Europe. Starvation and disease are the results of capitalist development in Africa today. Aid, even if it can help a few individuals, cannot reverse this tide.
Capitalism, as a system for producing and distributing the means of existence, has long since ceased to be of any positive benefit to humanity. This is why a revolution is needed, the fundamental reorganisation of society in accordance with human need, not the inhuman needs of the market. Alex 9.6.07