Workers' Voice mailing list
October 3, 2018
RE: Break the BRICS!
The 10th annual BRICS summit was held in Johannesburg, July 25-27. This was a meeting of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. But alongside the pomp of the privileged rulers of the BRICS was the protest by activists from BRICS countries, especially those from South African social movements. Preceding the BRICS summit was a Johannesburg teach-in on July 23-24 about the real role played by the BRICS in world capitalism, as opposed to the anti-imperialist rhetoric from BRICS officials and apologists. Then on July 26 the “Break the BRICS Coalition” marched to the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg where the BRICS summit was being held.
The BRICS summit was followed a month and a half later by a conference of BRICS ministers on Sept. 14-16 at the International Convention Center of Durban, the largest city in Kwa-Zulu Natal. It, too, was met by protest from South African social movements. Just prior to the conference, it was denounced at a meeting at John Dunn Hall in Wentworth.
The voices from the counter-BRICS protesters can be heard in a “BRICS-from-below reader” that was prepared for the Johannesburg Teach-In, entitled BRICS Politricks: new subimperial power plays. It contains the views of a number of activists and academics, including Patrick Bond, a professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand Wits School of Governance. He was formerly associated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he directed the Centre for Civil Society from 2004-2016. He has written a number of books of interest including Politics of climate justice: paralysis above, movement below and Durban’s climate gamble: trading carbon, betting the earth, and along with Ana Garcia, he edited BRICS: An Anticapitalist Critique.
For more information about the BRICS-from-below protests, see https://www.bricsfrombelow.org/.
Pictures from the BRICS-from-below teach-in: https://www.bricsfrombelow.org/below-Teach-In-pics.php
The July 25 protest against the BRICS “New Destructive Bank”: https://www.bricsfrombelow.org/SOLIDARITY.php <>
Following are excerpts from the first two of 27 chapters in BRICS Politricks: new subimperial power plays. The full book can be downloaded at https://peoplesbrics.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/brics-politricks-for-july-2018-johannesburg-teach-in.pdf.
Together as a bloc, the five BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - control a quarter of the earth’s land mass but 42% of its population. The BRICS are relatively inwardly-looking economies; although they host 46% of the global workforce, they are responsible for just 14% of world trade and 19% of Gross Domestic Product (although this rises to 27% if measured in purchasing power parity terms…)…
There is extensive ceremonial pageantry and back-slapping at these events [BRICS summits], although they usually last just two days. Parallel conferences of business leaders typically have access to the state officials, unlike other official civil society BRICS events, which are kept on the sidelines and are usually held weeks before. …
There are also usually an ‘uncivil society’ summit held by leftwing critics simultaneous with the BRICS leaders’ summit, e.g. in Durban in 2013, Fortaleza in 2014, Goa in 2016, Hong Kong in 2017 and Johannesburg in 2018 - under the ‘brics from below’ or People’s BRICS rubric, which in Johannesburg will be expressed as a ‘Break the BRICS’ protest. …
…the BRICS-from-Above claim that the bloc is somehow pursuing a form of anti-imperialism … represents a talk-left walk-right process Regrettably, as seen next, this perspective is often endorsed by upward-gazing admirers from the intelligentsia and civil society, whom we can term ‘BRICS from the Middle.’
Two views of the BRICS: Optimistic or Pessimistic
…the expectation from civil society is for BRICS to promote southern agency and seek balance, equality and justice on the global stage. Civil BRICS believe the objective of BRICS is to seek change change, to ask a new set of questions about how things are done in global governance and to give voice to some of the key demands of the South….. (as articulated by Oxfam & African Monitor).
…the expectation from uncivil society is for BRICS to promote Western systems of exploitation, and amplify uneven development, inequality and injustice on the global stage. Uncivil society believes the objective of BRICS is to seek to join not change existing systems of economic and geopolitical power, to reaffirm how things are done in global governance, and to repress the key demands of the South.
The rapper Ewok captured the spirit of progressive social forces in South Africa with his condemnation of elite politics at a March 2013 protest outside the Durban Convention Centre: “You dropping BRICS from above? We’re throwing bricks from below!”
For the second time, the leaders of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) summit in South Africa, this time at the Sandton Convention Centre from July 25-27. …
Brutal versions of neoliberal ideology prevail in all five BRICS, aside from Brazil during Workers Party rule….
Inequality subsequently rose in each of the BRICS. Even in Brazil, “After falling for years, inequality and poverty increased during the [2015-2016] crisis,” according to a May 2018 International Monetary Fund (IMF) study. To make matters worse, the main theme of the 2018 [BRICS] conference is the so-called “4th Industrial Revolution” (emphasizing robots, cybertechnology and Artificial Intelligence). Unemployment, state-corporate surveillance, repression and social engineering will worse. …
One central problem is that the BRICS elites fit too snugly within - not against - Western imperialism, especially the most destructive multilateral agencies….
Supposed BRICS ‘alternatives’ to Western power include the New Development Bank (NDB), Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), a potential credit ratings agency, and BRICS corporations’ Foreign Direct Investment. These are not genuine alternatives. In reality they amplify imperialist processes. These specifically empower the World Bank and IMF (through mutually-reinforcing deals)…
Even more tragically, the BRICS have not offered any way for the world to defend against U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to our planet.
One of the main threats to Middle East peace and global justice is
the Trump-Israel axis that bulldozes over the most fundamental rights
of Palestinian people and promotes hatred, racism, walls and wars
across the continents. While people are building a new global
anti-apartheid movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions,
BRICS policies promote corporate impunity, undermine democracy and
adapt to imperialist agendas against Palestine. India imports 50
percent of all Israeli weapons exports while Brazil ranks among the top
six markets for Israeli weapons. Much of its foments repression against
their own people and surveillance policies.
China and India are today among Israel’s main trade and investment partners, and there remains a strong impetus for South African corporations to increase trade with the Zionist-Apartheid state,…. Chinese, Russian and Indian companies collude with Israelis on ‘Big Data’ - which translates into more surveillance of societies.
BRICS elite are crushing their own societies’ instincts for democracy and justice. …
When the BRICS countries’ elites do business in Africa, their ethics reflect some of the most anti-democratic and predatory practices that we have seen since the Berlin conference of 1885 [that mapped out the carving up of Africa into European colonies] and the likes of Cecil Rhodes and King Leopold. Similar to Western corporate behavior in corrupting local leaders, Africa suffers malevolent BRICS state, parastatal and corporate interventions in local politics. ….
Communities fight back
The BRICS are among the societies with the greatest contradictions and repression - but also the most active resistance. Anger is rising … The South African working class remains the most militant on earth, for example (according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Survey). …
In our own region, resistance is taking many forms, because across
Africa and the world, it is not only western imperialism but also BRICS
subimperialism that is putting extreme pressure on communities,
environments, labour forces, youth, the elderly and everyone. And
resistance is sometimes very passionate:
* In Mozambique, there are regular community protests against Brazilian land-grabbing in Tete Province (against Vale coal mining) and Nampula (against ProSavana).
* In South Africa, social protests against [then South African president] Zuma prevented his acquisition of eight Russian Rosatom nuclear reactors for $100 bn.
* In Zambia, community protesters regularly criticize the Vedanta operation at Konkola, which is wrecking the local environment in addition to looting national resources.
* In Zimbabwe, not only the Marange community – where 2000 protested renewed mining in May – every single citizen was adversely affected by Chinese and Zimbabwean military looting of $15 billion worth of what Robert Mugabe in 2016 calculated as missing diamond revenue.
* Across Africa there are periodic protests against South African corporations – e.g. MTN in Nigeria – which peaked in April 2015 when a variety of company and embassy offices witnessed demonstrations against that year’s xenophobia.
From the standpoint of activists working for social, economic and environmental justice from below, BRICS elites are their opponents, for:
* adopting reactionary policies;
* assimilating into imperialist agencies to the detriment of the world’s most vulnerable;
* offering only bogus ‘alternative’ institutions;
* suppressing democracy;
* allowing their firms’ unlimited corporate irresponsibility;
* imposing extreme forms of surveillance, censorship and digital repression, including expansion of the ultra- destructive 4th Industrial Revolution; and
* engaging in prolific corruption. But in each case, people are standing up to resist.
Activities to “Break the BRICS” will give greater voice to these
communities, unions, women’s and youth groups, ecologists and many
other social movements. <>
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Posted on October 16, 2018
Some typos - including SWV # - have been corrected.