Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:06
Originally written: 02 July 2005
Today’s Live 8 concerts are a plea to the Group of Eight nations to double aid, cancel debt, and rework trade laws to lift African nations out of poverty.
Sixty percent of Canadians polled, believed that Live 8 can help the poorest Africans. When informed of the cost associated with meeting the goals of Live 8, about the same percentage thought that the money should, instead, be spent on the health care system in Canada. According to Live 8’s worldwide producer, Harvey Goldsmith, “we want to stand shoulder to shoulder, to push to get countries to listen,” and “these concerts are the mouthpieces of the public.”
Apparently, the Canadian public is saying “keep the money at home.” The politicians will probably listen to that.
Goldsmith says that “some of our goals are already being met. We can really do it.” Twenty years after the Live Aid concerts, poverty is worse, and the debt has increased. Is that success? Alleviating the debt, or even cancelling it, has been discussed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) for years. The WTO’s version of debt alleviation comes with strings. Expect that any Group of Eight debt relief will also have strings, such as “free trade” and privatization.
The history of protest movements is not one of notable success. The anti-war movement, failing to end war, has melded with other protest groups. The protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam are often credited with ending that war. Even if we accepted that, U.S. military deaths had started by 1959 and “officially” end in 1975. So it took more than 15 years, and about 58,000 U.S. military deaths in Vietnam, and the protests, to end that war. The war in Iraq is about four years old, with fewer than 2,000 U.S. military casualties. Already, without the huge protests, the U.S. public is beginning to lose its taste for the war. Given these facts, the anti-Vietnam war protests do not seem to deserve as much credit as they are given.
Back to Live 8. Bob Geldof and the other performers are the draw, not the African poverty issue. Undoubtedly, the concerts have raised awareness, but history shows than any activity generated by the concerts is not likely to last. The Group of Eight leaders are not likely to be shaking in their boots as a result of these concerts, because they know that the draw is the music, and the African poverty issue merely tags along.
The Canadian poll shows that there does not appear to be any real commitment from the working class to deal with problems in far-off Africa. Even if the Canadian working class was willing to give up some health care cash to relieve African poverty, there is no guarantee that any money taken from health care in Canada would end up being directed out of Canada to relieving African poverty.
Enjoy the music, decide to do something about poverty, but do not fool yourself. Governments work for the rich. Any debt relief will be calculated to assist the capitalists in donor countries at least as much as the poor in Africa. For example, Canada might forgive some debt, but demand that Canadian companies be given access or contracts in the debtor country. That is far from unusual in current foreign aid practices. The benefit accrues to capitalists in Canada. If the poor benefit too, that is good media coverage for the politicians. Even if the poor do not benefit, the politicians get good media coverage for the pretense.
The bottom line is that as long as there is a money-based bottom line, poverty which most people in Canada cannot even imagine, will continue. So use your conscience to keep you active. Use your brains to realize that to eliminate poverty we must first eliminate the cause: capitalism.