The BRICS: A hegemonic, not a capitalist project

Apr 22, 2016
By Francois Houtart
In China, according to official sources, 70 percent of lakes and rivers are polluted. The Ministry of Environment has published the results of a survey on urban pollution in 74 cities of the country: the average concentration has a rate seven times higher than the number of particles recommended by the WHO1. In January 2013, the state of alert was declared in Beijing because of an excess of pollution and thousands of children were hospitalized. The Interior Ministry noted 80 perecnt increase in 30 years of "cancer villages" in the outskirts of industrial cities; their number was 4592 in 2012. According to the Lancet Medical Review there are in the world 3.2 million premature deaths due to water pollution. In 2010, 1.2 million deaths were Chinese. According to the same source, in India, the number of victims for the same reasone, was 620,0003.
The BRICS: Competition, Not Anti-Capitalism
Brazil is one of the main predators of the Amazon rainforest, together with the other countries with a portion of its surface. The new forest code, promulgated by Dilma Roussef, is oriented toward "modern agriculture", i.e. monocultures4. In the West of Amazonia, oil exploitation in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru continues to cause well known natural disasters. The Ecuadorean project not to exploit the oil reserves in the Yasuni National Park has been abandoned. Mining projects are penetrating the southwestern Brazilian territory, thanks to hundreds of thousands of hectares of concessions. To the south, the extension of monoculture, especially soybean in the Matto Grosso do Sul, palm oil and sugarcane, are at the origin of huge areas of deforestation.
At the center of the Amazonian forest, the exploitation of precious woods leaves devastated some areas and the construction of hydroelectric dams flooded hundreds of thousands of hectares, often territories of indigenous peoples. The roads for the transport of agricultural and extractive products through the forest are multiplied, such as TIPNIS in Bolivia. In short, each country has "good reasons" to exploit a part of the forest for their development. The result announced by FAO in March 2013 is that in 40 years there will no longer exist an Amazon rainforest, but only a savannah dotted with some woods.
In short, writes Vandana Shiva, "Obsession with growth overshadowed concerns about sustainability, justice and human dignity." It must be noted that the "sacrificial" character of the typical economic development of the logic of capital accumulation still orientates the policies of the BRICS and of the countries of the South.
The Relations of the BRICS with Their Peripheries
It is also important to study the type of center-periphery relations of the BRICS. Undoubtedly, there are serious differences with the relations between states of the North and the South, but when it comes to private multinational enterprises, like Arcelor-Mittal and Tata of India; Vale, Imbef, Odebrecht of Brazil; Angloamerican of South Africa; Claro of Mexico, etc., they are functioning within the same logic. Certain state companies (Petrobras) act similarly: maximize profits exploiting comparative advantages. Even some states of the BRICS purely and simply reproduce the model of North-South relations.
Concentration of land in Africa responds to the needs of countries that do not have enough space to develop their agricultural production activities. This is the case of the Gulf countries. But we must also include China and India. The latter country has secured control in Ethiopia of 600,000 hectares of land for agro-industries and has invested US$640 million in the Homos region for monoculture of sugarcane. Such a policy requires in Ethiopia the relocation of 1.5 million farmers and we could cite numerous other examples in Tanzania, Benin and Cameroon.
Brazil concluded in 2010, an agreement with Mozambique and the European Union to develop 4.8 million hectares of sugarcane for the production of ethanol to furnish Europe. Indeed, the continent does not have enough land to meet its plan to spend 20 percent of green energy in 2020. Capital is provided by Europe, technology by Brazil, while environmental and social costs are at located in Mozambique. Thousands of farmers must leave their land to join cities that are already overcrowded. In the center of the continent, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mining contract signed by China provides that the Kinshasa government guarantees the absence of strikes, which contradicts the right of workers.
In conclusion, even if the social and solidarity considerations are introduced in the development of the South-South relations by the BRICS, the logic of growth remains the same. Gosh Jayathi conclude: "Many trade and South-South investment agreements and their consequences, are unfortunately similar to those of North-South relationships, not only for investment protection, but also to guarantee the Intellectual Property Rights."
All this helps to reinforce the destructive character of the dominant model, at a time when many instances, notably international, alert governments and public opinion on the need for a radical change of perspective. To avoid that ecosystems deteriorate irremediably and also considerable human costs through the center-peripheries relations of the BRICS, it is necessary to propose a change of development matrix and finally also to promote the definition of a new paradigm.
Telesurtv, April 21, 2016

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