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Jean Ziegler: "This World Order is not just murderous, it is absurd"

By       Message Siv O'Neall     Permalink
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You say in your book that "the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere have decided to demand compensation." To whom will they turn?

Jean Ziegler.
To the West of course. But the West remains blind and deaf to the claims of the South with their awakened memories. See the outrageous rhetoric of Sarkozy in Dakar in July 2007 or the failure of the World Conference on Racism in Durban in 2001.

While making the West responsible, does this not clear the governments of the South, who are also actors of capitalism, of their own responsibility?

Jean Ziegler. Yes, the example of the appalling regime of Nigeria, which I spoke of at length in my book, attests to this. Nigeria is the eighth largest oil producer in the world, the first in Africa. It is the  most populous country on the continent with 147 million inhabitants. Life expectancy is only forty-seven years. Over 70% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Malnutrition is permanent. There are no schools, no health services. All this because of the endemic corruption of military dictators who have successively held power since 1966. The bond of trust between citizens and the state is broken by corruption and looting. But the responsibilities are shared. The oil companies exploiting the immense wealth of the country, Shell, Elf, Exxon, Texaco, Repsol ..., are the active accomplices of the generals. Oil companies favor corruption because it serves their interests. When negotiating the sharing of wealth and property, it is infinitely better to have corrupted leaders to deal with rather than a democratically elected government that defends the public interest. I condemn corruption. The generals of Abuja are crooks, but all the same, we must see the origin of this evil power system where the accomplices keep the corrupt in place.

You say that barbaric capitalism is showing its true face. What can this lead to?

Jean Ziegler. The collective consciousness is about to begin a process  of apprenticeship and analysis. The social counterattack is getting organized. We are currently experiencing a very favorable stage of this movement. France is certainly socially unjust, but it is a vibrant democracy. Information is circulating. The freedom of the press is guaranteed. Thus, it is time for analytical reasoning to begin. Outsourcing, for example, is rooted in the concept of social dumping. In response to this, the reactions of employees have often been resignation: "There is nothing we can do, it is the market that decides." There was a very profound alienation on the part of the working classes when faced with the "invisible hand" of the market. Many workers had come to believe that unemployment, deregulation and labor insecurity were inevitable. Meanwhile, over the past decade, social protection of employees has melted like snow in the sun. However, these lies have now collapsed. The invisible hand has finally became visible: it is the hand of the predators. How will the social counterattack be organized? We do not know yet, but that is the central issue.

Among emergency measures to address the crisis, is it possible to create a regulation of tax havens?

Jean Ziegler. We must eliminate them altogether. This is one of the most urgent measures to be taken. It should also abolish bank secrecy and restore the rule of a public sector when it comes to public services, reverse privatization, impose strict regulations for capital movement, ban outsourcing and regulate the stock market to avoid speculation. It is certain that the financial oligarchs who operate exclusively to maximize profit must be submitted to state regulation. Free trade is an evil when the state loses its regulating force. The interest of the country is social justice, a secure livelihood, progressive taxation to ensure a redistribution of national wealth, absolute priority given to job security, equitable distribution of resources and social democracy.

Do you believe that a common front for the peoples of the South and the West might be possible?

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Jean Ziegler. I am sure that this process will lead to a new global social contract. The opposite of a self-regulating market is the law. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in the Social Contract: "Between the strong and the weak it is freedom that oppresses and the law that liberates." I am absolutely certain that people will understand that Western inhumanity inflicted on others destroys the humanity that is in them. We possess moral imperatives, a conscience of identity. This cannibal order of the world, this reign of predators, which we witness in the daily massacre of famine is no more acceptable to the citizens of the West. The proof exists, with the colossal fund-raising for banks, the growing availability of enormous wealth to deal with the abysmal overexploitation and poverty of so many peoples in the South. A new contract of solidarity and dialogue between the South and West will be developed by people released from their feeling of living in different worlds.

The risk that this crisis might increase the inequalities that already exist or favor a reaction are real. Is this not showing too much enthusiasm?

Jean Ziegler. I know the argument. The stock market crash of 1928 and the global economic crisis gave birth to fascism in several European countries. But fascism was born from the humiliation of defeat, that of Germany at the end of the First World War, a desire for revenge. The Western victors did not do anything to stop it, preferring Fascism to Bolshevism and to a revolution, which the bourgeois elites felt a panicky fear for. The world was still largely colonial. We are not at all in the same situation. What is threatening us today, if the West does not wake up, is the pathological hatred of groups from the South and growing violent racism in the West. But these hazards can be averted. In the Babylonian Talmud, there is this mysterious sentence: "The future has a long history. "It is important that the West welcome the resurgent memory of the South, recognizing crimes committed, and that we offer compensation. And the West must, first of all, consent to dismantle the cannibalistic order of the world, move from capitalism to civilization. Barack Obama is coming to power in an aggressive empire, overly armed, which claims military, economic and political hegemony on the planet. Will it dismantle its imperial structures and inaugurate an international policy based on reciprocity, cooperation between peoples, in short, a policy subject to the norms of international law? I doubt it. The mobilization of social forces in Europe and in the South, resistance to the restoration of the capitalism of the jungle will be essential for a humane civilization to come alive on our planet. But the tremendous resurgence of memories by African-Americans who made Obama 's election victory possible, already in itself gives a lot of hope.
Interview conducted by Cathy Ceiba


 [1] Original title in French: La haine de l'Occident (Albin Michel)

 [2] The residence of the President of France

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 [3] In fact, the G20 summit did not claim to be able to solve the crisis. They don't really admit the presence of a crisis or that anything fundamental should have to be changed. According to Hervé LAYDIER, Attac, France:

"According to the leaders of the 19 states plus the EU, the current economic and social system has nothing to blame itself for. The only problem is to "support the global economy" and to "stabilize the financial markets". Only one reform is foreseen: the reform of "the financial systems". The market economy is not being questioned, outsourcing and social dumping are not even mentioned, "the rules of the WTO" (the World Trade Organization) are considered good. Sum total, it's the people who, in the final analysis, will have to pay for the breakage resulting from the crisis." 

Original text in French:

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Siv O'Neall was born and raised in Sweden where she graduated from Lund University. She has lived in Paris, France and New Rochelle, N.Y. and traveled extensively throughout the U.S, Europe, and other continents, including several trips to India. (more...)

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