Much Ado about Nothing

Bush seemed happy to have Lula seated on his right during dinner on Friday. Hu Jintao, whom he respects for his country’s enormous market, the capacity to produce consumer goods at low cost and the volume of his reserves in U.S. dollars and bonds, was seated to his left.

Medvedev, whom he has offended with the threat of locating strategic radars and missiles not far from Moscow, was assigned a seat at a distance from the White House host.

The king of Saudi Arabia, a country that, in the near future, will be producing 15 million tons of light oil at highly competitive prices, was also sitting on his left, beside Hu.

Meanwhile, his most loyal ally in Europe, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, could not be seen close to him in the footage

Nicolas Sarkozy, who is not happy with the present architecture of the financial order, was at a distance from him, with a pained expression on his face.

In the television coverage of the meal, I couldn’t even see the president of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a victim of Bush’s personal resentment and also present at the Washington conclave.

That is how those attending the banquet were seated.

Anyone would have assumed that the following day there would be a profound debate on the thorny issue.

Early Saturday morning, the press agencies were reporting on the program that would unfold at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Every second was covered. There would be an analysis of the current crisis and the measures to be taken. It would start at 11:30 a.m. local time. First, there would be a photo op, or “family picture,” as Bush called it, and 20 minutes later the first plenary session would start followed by a another one in the second half of the day. Everything was strictly planned, even the majestic sanitary services.

The speeches and analysis would last approximately three hours and 30 minutes. At 3:25 local time, lunch, immediately followed by the final declaration at 5:05. One hour later, at 6:05, Bush would leave to relax, have dinner and sleep placidly in Camp David.

The day passed by, for those following the event, with an impatience to know how the problems of the planet and the human species could be dealt with in such a short space of time. A final declaration had been announced.

The fact is that the final declaration of the Summit was drafted by pre-selected economic advisors, very close to neoliberal thinking while, in pre- and post-Summit statements, Bush demanded more power and more money for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other world institutions under the rigorous control of the United States and its closest allies. That country had decided to inject $700 billion to bail out its banks and multinational corporations. Europe offered a similar or higher figure. Japan, its strongest pillar in Asia, has promised a contribution of $100 billion. In the case of the People’s Republic of China, which is developing increasing and advisable relations with Latin American countries, it is expected to make a further contribution of $100 billion dollars from its reserves.

Where could so many dollars, euros and pounds sterling come from, as if they are not seriously indebting new generations? How can the structure of the new world economy be built on paper money, which is what is really being put into circulation immediately, when the country issuing it is suffering from an enormous fiscal deficit? Is so much air travel to a point on the planet called Washington to meet with a President with only 60 more days left in government to sign a document previously designed to be adopted at the Washington Museum? Was the U.S. radio, TV and press right in not paying special attention to this old imperialist replay in the much-trumpeted meeting?

What is really incredible is the final declaration adopted by consensus in the conclave. It is obvious that it constitutes a full acceptance of Bush’s demands before and during the Summit. A number of the participating countries had no choice but to adopt it; in their desperate struggle for development, they do not want to be isolated from the richest and most powerful and their financial institutions, which constitute a majority in the G-20.

Bush spoke with veritable euphoria, using demagogic phrases that mirror the final declaration.

He said:

“The first decision I had to make was who was coming to the meeting. And obviously I decided that we ought to have the G-20 nations, instead of just the G-8 or the G-13. But once you make the decision to have the G-20, then the fundamental question is, with that many nations from six different continents, who all represent different stages of economic development, how is it possible to reach agreements that are substantial, and I’m pleased to report the answer to that question is that we have done so.”

“The United States has taken some extraordinary measures. Those of you who have followed my career know that I’m a free market person – until you are told that if you don’t take decisive measures then it’s conceivable that our country could go into a depression greater than the Great Depression.

“[…] we just started on the $700 billion fund to start getting money out to our banks.”

“[…] we all understand the need to work on pro-growth economic policies.”

“Transparency is very important so that investors and regulators are able to know the truth.”

The rest of what Bush said continues more or less along these lines.

The final declaration of the summit, which takes half an hour to read in public due to its length, clearly defines itself in a number of selected paragraphs:

“We, the leaders of the G-20 have held a first meeting in Washington, on November 15, in the light of serious challenges to the world economy and financial markets…

“[…] we should lay the foundations for a reform that will make this global crisis less likely to happen again in the future. Our work should be guided by the principles of the free market, free trade and investment….”

“[…] the market players sought to obtain higher profits without making an adequate assessment of the risks and they failed…”

“The authorities, regulators and supervisors from some developed nations did not realize or were not adequately warned about the risks created in the financial markets…”

“…insufficient and poorly coordinated macroeconomic policies as well as inadequate structure reforms, led to an unsustainable macroeconomic global result.”

“Many emerging economies, that have helped sustain the world economy, are increasingly suffering the impact of world braking.”

“We note the important role of the IMF in response to the crisis; we salute the new short-term liquidity mechanism and urge a constant review of its instruments to ensure flexibility.”

“We shall encourage the World Bank and other multilateral developing banks to use their full capacity in support of their agenda for assistance…”

“We will ensure that the IMF, the World Bank and other multilateral developing banks have the necessary resources to continue playing their role in the solution of the crisis.”

“We shall exercise a strong monitoring of the credit agencies through the development of an international code of conduct.”

“We pledge to protect the integrity of the world financial markets by reinforcing protection to investors and consumers.”

“We are committed to advance in the reform of the institutions of Bretton Woods so that they reflect the changes in the world economy in order to increase their legitimacy and effectiveness.”

“We shall meet again on April 30, 2009, to review the implementation of the principles and decisions made today.”

“We concede that these reforms will only be successful if they are based on a serious commitment to free market principles, including the rule of law, respect for private property, free trade and investment, efficient and competitive markets and effectively regulated financial systems.”

“We shall refrain from erecting new barriers to investment and trade in goods and services.”

“We are aware of the impact of the current crisis on the developing nations, especially on the most vulnerable.”

“We are certain that as we advance through cooperation, collaboration and multilateralism we will overcome the challenges and restore stability and prosperity to the world economy.”

Technocratic language, inaccessible to the masses.

Respect for the empire, whose abusive methods are not criticized in any way.

Praise for the IMF, the World Bank and the multilateral credit organizations, the engenders of debt, fabulous bureaucratic costs and investments directed at supplying raw materials to the large multinationals, which are also responsible for the crisis.

It goes on like that until the last paragraph. It is boring, full of the usual rhetoric. It says absolutely nothing. It was signed by Bush, the champion of neoliberalism, the man responsible for massacres and genocidal wars, who has invested in his bloody adventures all the money that would have sufficed to change the economic face of the world.

The document does not say one word on the absurdity of the policy promoted by the United States to convert food into fuel; on the unequal exchange to which we, the nations of the Third World are subjected; or on the sterile arms race, the production and trade of weapons; the rupture of the ecological balance and the extremely serious threats to peace that are taking the world to the brink of annihilation.

Only one short four-word phrase lost in the lengthy document mentions the need “to face up to climate change.”

One can see in the declaration how the countries attending the conclave are demanding to meet again in April 2009, in the United Kingdom, Japan or any other country that meets the necessary requirements – nobody knows which one – to examine the situation of the world finances, cherishing the dream that the cyclical crises with their dramatic consequences will never happen again.

Now is the time for the theoreticians from the left and the right to offer cool or heated opinions on the document.

From my point of view the privileges of the empire were not even touched upon. If one has the necessary patience to read it from the beginning to the end, it can be appreciated that it is simply a pious appeal to the ethic of the most powerful country on earth, both technologically and militarily, in the period of the globalization of the economy; rather like those who beg the wolf not to devour Little Red Riding Hood.

Fidel Castro Ruz

November 16, 2008

4:12 p.m.