By Johan Galtung
28 Jul 2014 – Kuala Lumpur
They made it, with constructive alternatives – the New Development Bank and the Contingency Reserve Agreement–to the US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Those two parts of Bretton Woods were basic pillars in the economic infra-structure of the US Empire in the hands of the US Congress. Loans were disbursed in return for “structural adjustment” –privatization, budget cuts, devaluation, repatriation of profit, also against BRICS countries. US companies were commissioned for huge jobs serving local elites. Untold damage was done in spite of some recent changes in rhetoric.
The USA used them to export the US economic–and with it the social, political, cultural, military–order through loans, grafting it upon social bodies that after some time rejected the implants as foreign and incompatible. Even a decaying order however brilliant it may have looked to the untrained eye as late as the 1990s.
What remains today of that US “order” is the military part with more than 1,100 bases and outposts around the world, as against 37 for the Roman and 36 for the English empires at their peaks around 118-AD and 1898 – the two runners – up (William Blum). We know what happened.
Nobody has so consistently, brilliantly, with such perseverance critiqued this system as Susan George. In a wiser world two Nobel prizes would accrue to her; in economics for having understood how the system works; in peace for having weakened root causes of violence.
The BRICS countries bring five different experiences to the job, different among themselves and different from the USA. They will also, inevitably, project from themselves, but the package will be more diverse and relevant to the countries of the world, not only the poor ones. Three know colonialism and liberation, two had revolutions against imperialism. Four are working on alternatives to capitalism. And in India there is a Gandhian sarvodaya undercurrent that may surface.
The two basics, nature and human needs, stand a better chance.
What a break this New World Deal! But, there are some caveats.
This revolution, like revolutions in general, did not come from the bottom, from the Group of 77. Revolutions rarely do. They come from close to the top, from those higher up but short on some basic dimensions. Among the five BRICS countries are the richest (except for EU and USA), the largest, and the most populous countries. Two of them are the oldest surviving civilizations. But one thing was denied them by the USA: a corresponding hold on those global institutions. G-20 did not help. A wiser US Congress might have avoided or at least postponed what happened with some legislative changes; now too late.
They, particularly RIC (Russia, India, China), were high on most but short on that one–”rank-disequilibrated” is the term–and for BS (Brazil, South Africa) the same, regionally. Inner tension is a strong force, not only competing in the total structure against EUSA but inside the structure, using the high–their resources–to pull up the low-the lagging. Inside the countries they have thousands, elites, who have done exactly the same individually. They know what they are doing, striving for the balance at the top. They arrived. BRICS are now arriving where EUSA are declining.
And then, what happens? Depends, and what it depends on, also depends.
Take an average student revolutionary, high on education and knowledge, low on power and age. He lashes out against the powers that be for engaging in policies benefiting themselves, impoverishing others, and rightly so. She lashes out against men in power, pointing out how they engage in policies strengthening patriarchy with all its direct, structural and cultural violence, and rightly so.
Catching up on age comes automatically to all; catching up on power only to some. And then they may find many of their ideas known, tried out and found wanting, in a more complex reality. And join the conservative quietude of balance; never being heard from ever since.
But then there are those who persevere. Better informed, lifting the veils of conservative “wisdom”? Driven not only by the drive for balance and power, but by values so deeply internalized that they last the whole life. Some slide into the pigheaded if reality gets remote.
What we are saying is that BRICS may end up where the USA was.
It would be better to draw on the expertise and companies of five countries than one; but only those 5? And how about the new UN development agenda, from 2015 also focused on inclusive growth and decent work–the Open Working Group Report? To G77, their mass basis so to speak?
Or, will it be fighting financial crises with massive bailouts to the banks – their crises, their banks – living off interests charged? Could they treat countries now emerging like they were treated by USA? Or become a self-appointed economic security council competing with UNSC-United Nations Security Council where BRICS has two vetoes, EUSA three. Then there is Germany in the G5+1–they may try a 5+1 with BRICS too. They seem to like it.
None of this has to happen. Be sure, the world will be watching, and so will the BRICS trade unions inside BRICS. One thing they could easily do which will make it less likely to happen: New Economics.
BRICS should work on new economy and new economics hand in hand. Good theory inspires good practice, and vice versa. Many ideas have come up these last decades; just to assemble them, make them visible (also to each other) would be a gift to humanity. Orthodox economics was system and growth oriented, blind to whatever happened to nature, humans and distribution; new economics should not err in the opposite direction but try to cover all of that. Theory can guide, even steer, warning against going astray mainly serving the rich in rich countries–themselves. To fight a wrong theory make a better theory; to fight wrong institutions make better institutions. They did.
Down the road: a non-$ dominated economy, a non-NSA dominated internet.
What an exciting period we are entering.
Originally published by Transcend Media Service here.