Global demo for cancelling Third World debt
By Eva Cheng
BRUSSELS — An international demonstration planned for June 19 to press for the cancellation of all Third World debt was endorsed at a conference organised by the Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt at the Free University of Brussels on March 12-13. The conference was attended by more than 550 activists from 40 organisations in 17 countries.
"The problem of Third World debt does not exist in isolation. It is part of a system ... a system that increases the power of capital and reproduces that power relationship ... a system which is plagued by contradictions", said Francois Houtart from the World Forum for Alternatives in his summary of the two-day discussion. Answering those who say that the campaign's ultimate objective is to build a "humane capitalism", Houtart said, "This system can't be made more humane. It must be overhauled ... We must put forward an alternative."
He continued, "The struggles so far have been fragmented, there's a need to come together, build new alliances ... a common analysis, a thorough analysis that attacks the underlying logic of this mechanism and not just the phenomenon [of Third World debt]. A network is taking place and it needs a forum of expression which is exactly the role played by this conference — a meeting place for various currents."
The extent to which other participants agreed with Houtart's strategic conclusion to overhaul capitalism was not clear. Such unity was not sought, although sporadic remarks on the issue were made. Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina, a 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner, stressed the urgent need for oppressed people to take action and chart a strategy for emancipation from the dominating forces, but there was little time for him or other delegates to present their exact perspectives.
The organisations represented at the conference are engaging in one form or another of anti-imperialist struggle. Some speakers presented a sharp critique of capitalism, arguing that Third World debt is an expression of the subjugation by imperialist governments and big businesses — often in collaboration with their Third World counterparts — of the interests of the Third World people.
The conference objective of defining a common platform for campaigning around the debt issue within a loosely defined anti-imperialist framework was largely achieved. Another gain was the information exchanged between groups about the state of each others campaigns.
The need for more coordination and joint action was addressed, especially on the first day, which was devoted to more focused exchanges between the 60 or so campaign representatives. Delegates from various Third World countries also took the opportunity to do further planning for a meeting of the anti-Third World debt campaign groups based in the Third World to be held in South Africa later this year.
A number of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist mobilisations are planned for May and June in Europe, and organisers of these events attended the conference. The mobilisations include: a Euromarch against unemployment, social exclusion and racism in Cologne, May 29; a counter-summit a week later to oppose the summit of the Group of Eight imperialist powers, also in Cologne; the June 22-24 world meeting of the ATTAC (Campaign for a Taxation on Financial Transactions); and a one-month-long inter-continent caravan of Indian peasants, starting in May.
International delegations came from Argentina, Australia, the Basque country, Brazil, Britain, Congo, France, India, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Russia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Venezuela. Delegates from Togo and Pakistan had also planned to attend, but were refused visas by their governments. For more information visit <http://users.skynet.be/cadtm> or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.