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Soaring Capital Profits and the Mountain of Corpses

For the first time in the history of humanity, a surplus of goods could satisfy the basic needs of all earthlings. The moral imperative lives in all of us. Capital rule, the rule of finance capital over the economic events of the world, is nearly total.

Excerpts of an address by Jean Ziegler, UN special ambassador for the right to food at the opening of the Anti-G8 summit in Rostock, June 2007

[This address published by attac Germany in "Sand im Getriebe," Nr. 61, 10/10/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.attac.de.]

By Jean Ziegler

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I thank you for the honor of speaking with you.

Immanuel Kant said: "The inhumanity inflicted on another destroys the humanity in me." Every day 100,000 persons on this planet die of hunger or its immediate consequences. In 2006 according to the World Food Report, a child under seven died of hunger every five seconds. 854 million people are permanently and grievously malnourished. This amounts to one of six persons on this planet. Every four minutes someone loses eyesight on account of vitamin A deficiency. These casualty statistics from the World Food report are undisputed. The same report says world agriculture in its present development could feed twelve billion people with 2700 calories per adult. There are 6.2 billion people in the world. No fatality occurs. For the first time in the history of humanity, a surplus of goods could satisfy the basic needs of all earthlings. There is no fatalism for the daily massacre. A child who dies of hunger is murdered.

This murderous and absurd world order kills without necessity. We are gathered together against this absurd world order to explore analytically the causalities leading to this unacceptable daily massacre and not only to protest rhetorically.

Regardless of our intellectual camp, party, union, church or socialization process, the moral imperative lives in all of us, to speak with Kant. This moral imperative lives from identity with the other. We have the happiness of being here in Rostock, Germany, probably the most vigorous democracy on this continent. Germany is also the third-strongest economic power of the planet. At the same time, we are also the voices of people without a voice. [... ]

Over 40 percent of the world population lives below the line of extreme poverty according to World Bank statistics, 2.7 billion out of the 6.2 billion people today. They do not live like people. We must fight for them.

I received a paper from the SPD (centrist party of Gerhard Schroeder) in the German Bundestag on January 17, 2007. The German government commented on the agenda of Heiligendamm to the subcommittee on Globalization and Foreign Trade.

Africa has priority, we read in the first section. Then investment security was named as the most urgent problematic for Africa that the summit had to solve. Investment security! On the five pages, there was no mention of hunger, contaminated water or epidemics even though civil wars instigated from the outside were prompted by epidemics. Most of the heads of state and prime ministers are on the other side of the fence. Nevertheless they have no legitimacy.

First of all, they only represent 13 percent of the world population but presume to speak for the other 87 percent. Secondly and more importantly, the rulers of the world today are the oligarchs of transcontinental finance capital. According to 2006 World Bank statistics, the most powerful five hundred private transnational conglomerates controlled 52 percent of the worldwide gross domestic product, the goods, services, capital and patents produced in the world in one year. This cold monster, these transnational businesses, functions according to the profit maximization system. That is normal.

The social contract, social justice, the values of the enlightenment, human rights and solidarity belong to the community of free citizens. Suing Nestle, Siemens and Novartis for not promoting social justice would be misguided. They are not concerned about minimum wages or human rights in the third world. Why should they be concerned? Profit maximization is their goal.

I hate morality. What is involved is a system of structural violence, not saying one is good and the other is better. If Peter Brabeck, president of the world's largest food and drinking water corporation Nestle does not increase capital profits 15 percent as in 2006, he will be out the door. Structural violence in predatory capitalism is the motor. This motor of predatory capitalism is driven by poverty, greed and an incredible dynamic. The world domestic product more than doubled between 1992 and 2002 in the first ten years of globalization according to World Bank data. World trade tripled and broke the magical 6-trillion mark of annual goods and services. Energy consumption doubles every four years. Globalization functions.

After the bipolarity of the community of states was annulled through the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991, the capitalist production process broke out of its territorial confines. This capitalist process has conquered the world and created a uniform regulatory authority - the so-called "invisible hand" of the world market. This is manifest on the stock exchanges where capital can race around the world 24 hours. A Swiss banker operates with a subsidiary in Tokyo at the speed of light, 300,000 kilometers a second. When the trader tanked up with cocaine falls into bed, London, Zurich and Paris take off. When the stock exchanges break the ice again, they open in New York, Ottawa and so on. Capital rule, the rule of finance capital over the economic events of the world, is nearly total. These oligarchs have a power that a king, emperor or pope never had in the history of humanity.

Their legitimation is so-called neoliberalism. On one hand, it is a total delusional idea. On the other hand, it functions when all normative forc3es are cancelled - state authorities, unions, parliaments and so on. In every moment, capital goes where it can gain maximum profit - total liberalization. When whole public sectors of economic life are dissolved, privatized and subjected to the profit maximization principle, the capital profits are maximum. At the same time, the mountain of corpses soars.

Let me return to hunger. In 2005, 842 million people in the world were permanently and gravely malnourished. Obviously one can say the increase is not so strong because the world population has also risen. I don't know about that. While we are together two hours, 176 children under age seven will die of hunger. A child who dies of hunger is a child. This child could be my child or your child. The child dies, not some kind of demographic curve or statistical number.

[... ] Radical reforming means there are no objective laws of the economy. It is a relapse into total irrationality when anyone argues economic happenings obey objective laws and not the laws of the class struggle, the laws of mutual subjectivity or human will. Hunger is only one example. In 2006, the industrial states paid $349 billion in production- and export subsidies. This is almost a billion dollars a day. On any African market, you can buy Italian, French or German fruits and vegetables at half or a third the price of equivalent domestic products. The African farmer is a few yards away with his products. He works himself to death 15 hours a day without the least chance of gaining a respectable subsistence income. That is a fact. The agricultural dumping policy - the African market is flooded with cheap subsidized European agricultural products - could be stopped tomorrow morning through democratic mobilization.

Agricultural dumping decisions were made in Brussels. The German chancellor sits on the ministerial presidium. The German agricultural minister is on the agricultural board. Both could demand cancellation of the export subsidies without compensation. Of Africa's 52 countries, 37 are pure agricultural lands. On December 31, 2006, the foreign debt strangling the 49 poorest countries of the world amounted to $3.1 trillion.

The weight of member countries in the governing council of the International Monetary Fund depends on their financial power. Thus the weight of Germany and the German finance minister is very great. Through mobilization, democratic means, elections and appeals of improvement, we could demand the finance minister vote for the starving children in Honduras, Bangladesh and Mongolia and against the interests of the creditor banks in Europe and North America.

[... ] In Niger, the second poorest land of the world, the national veterinarian service was privatized three years ago. This happened on order of the International Monetary Fund because veterinarian-medical articles with a stable low price are a market distortion. This disturbs multinational companies. Niger is a marvelous land of 720,000 square miles with ten million residents. The people there live from cattle, camels and goats, 20,000 head of cattle. I spoke with prime minister Hama Armadou about privatization. He said: "Come with me." The next day we went to the canister cities. Thousands and thousands and thousands of totally ruined cattle-breeding families live there if one can call this life. They simply cannot pay for the vitamins, the anti-parasites, the vaccines of the free market of the multinational veterinarian companies.

Liberalization must end. A normative foreign trade policy is vital. A normative foreign trade policy means the World trade organization and the International Monetary Fund must be dissolved without compensation. These are dictatorships.

In conclusion I would like to say something about ourselves and our movement. We must defend ourselves against the outside. I believe we are now at a crossroads. Consciousness is created at every summit. Resistance fronts meets and strengthen each other. We need not explain anything to the adversary. We must strike the adversary. But we must explain ourselves better to a not yet conscious public, a public that is not yet self-confident.

Karl Marx said: "The revolutionary must hear the grass grow." Today we witness the slow growth of a planetary civil society. This began eight years ago in Seattle. Then came Porto Alegre and so on. A new planetary civil society, a brotherhood of the night, is arising - made by many new or old social alliances rediscovering their mission: from the Via Campesina, German unions, segments of the churches, the new important attac movement, the women's movement, the catholic women's movement in Koln 2000 for debt cancellation and Jubilee 2000. The living Internet is the new historical subject today.

We are always urged to present a counter-program. [... ] This demand is wrong and must be recognized as wrong. Every historical revolutionary process runs exactly the same. The human conscience knows what it does not want. We don't want any world trade organization. We don't want any central bank. We don't want any tax havens. We want the abolition of foreign debt. [... ] We want the introduction of the Tobin tax. We don't want any speculative capital that attacks economies like mosquitoes and then withdraws again within a few hours when the profit rate falls. We don't want any almighty multinational companies that do not recognize any normativity or human rights and do not respect all the labor contracts signed here but not accepted beyond the ocean.

That is the program of Porto Alegre. I could read it aloud to you. You know it by heart. We know what we don't want. The moral imperative functions that way.

We also know the horizon of our struggle. Che Guevara always said, revolutionaries are opportunists who have principles. We know what the horizon is. This horizon stands in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, derived directly from the 1776 American Declaration of Independence and the 1789 French Declaration of Humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations says in Article 1: "All people are born equal and free in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should encounter one another in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood." Article 3 says: "Everyone has the right to life, freedom and security of his or her person." That is the horizon. How can we approach it? That is the mystery of the liberated freedom in the person. We do not need any benevolent journalists to give a hypothetical account. We don't need to invent some program and some central committee as a decision-making authority. We are that authority with our conscience. History can only go forward this way. [... ]

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