These people think that Africa is a country of animals, that we do not think, that we know nothing, but they are wrong. We are human beings, we know what we want and we will fight on to victory.
– Zimbabwean participant at the 2011 International Conference of Peasants and Farmers vs. land-grabbing
The aptly named “Hunger Summit” is the one year anniversary of the inaugural conference of the “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition”
, the corporatist strategy for the recolonization of Africa led by Big Ag and the G8. A year ago I called the opening session a Wannsee Conference for Africa
. Obama was master of ceremonies at Camp David. This year Britain’s David Cameron has the honors. The criminal conference will deliver a progress report and issue a public strategy. African farmers, tribes, consumers, environmental and civil society groups are opposing this, with support from anti-corporatists and democracy activists from all over the world. Here’s the order of battle.
The whole project is being led by the US and UK governments (and paid for by their taxpayers), along with the rest of the G8. USAid is playing its usual role as “humanitarian” front group, “public” sector version, while Bill Gates and his “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” serve as its “private” counterpart. The corporate beneficiaries, who have signed “letters of intent” to join the “investment” program (meaning they put up pennies to the taxpayer dollar, while being slated to extract 100% of the profits), include the GMO cartel led by Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, along with Norway’s Yara (earmarked to build a massive synthetic fertilizer factory), arch-commodifier Cargill, Unilever, Diageo, and others. Bono is reprising his role as useful idiot celebrity tinsel. An African fig leaf is provided in the form of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), which is the Stockholm Syndrome blueprint African governments developed in the wake of the West’s “structural adjustment” assaults, meant to beg for “investment” on the corporations’ own terms. The New Alliance is certainly the fruition of this radical corporatization of Western investment. Six African governments – Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Tanzania – have already joined up, while the accession of four more – Benin, Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal – is considered by the regime to be imminent. (But the US remains frustrated by the ambivalence of Kenya, which was supposed to be the crown jewel member by now.)
The people of Africa are opposing this, represented by a coalition of hundreds of democracy networks, tribal alliances, and groups representing real farmers and pastoralists. These comprise the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and include the African Center for Biosafety, the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP, a member of the worldwide Via Campesina, the Farmer Way), the NGO Federation of Collectives (FECONG), the Coalition for African Genetic Heritage (COPAGEN), the Food Sovereignty Campaign, Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development (COMPAS) Africa, the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Association (PELUM), the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), People’s Dialogue, Rural Women’s Assembly, and many others.
Here we have a clear division between democracy and the criminal elite. We have the aggressive power of the 1%: the US and other Western governments, corporations, the corporate media and technocracy, and other elitists including racist liberals and NGOs. The whole project has had zero input or representation from the 99%, and from the people of Africa least of all. The roster of participants reads like a Tom Friedman dream guest list. It includes every illegitimate elite which is alien to the Earth, and excludes every part of humanity. Just like corporatism in general, and GMO imperialism in particular. Opposing this assault is a lineup truly representative of African farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and the citizenry in general.
Even if one didn’t know the issues, it would be clear who’s right and who’s wrong, who represents democracy and freedom, and who represents evil.
The goal of the New Alliance is the corporate Gleichschaltung (coordination) of African agriculture and trade practices and policies for maximum plunder and domination. It’s the same slate of globalization and commodification practices which have already devastated much of humanity. African governments are to collaborate in dominating and exploiting the people and the land.
*A severe and rigorously enforced “intellectual property” regime, for the benefit of the GMO cartel and its patents, which were the result of piracy in the first place.
*The privatization of land. Indenture loans and distribution facilities for proprietary GMO seeds, synthetic fertilizer, industrial machinery, commodified crops bound for ethanol and industrial food processing, can’t be arranged with people farming a commons. As a prerequisite, corporate gangs who would dominate and exploit these people and their land first need government to enclose and parcel out the land. This has been a priority of the World Bank going back to the 1980s. USAid chief Rajiv Shad has emphasized that the goal is to accelerate land grabbing
. As Via Campesina put it, “These policies aim to allocate title deeds to land in order to facilitate the purchase and sale of landed property. In the end, poor peasants and other rural people lose out to the benefit of those who have the means to purchase land.” (p. 14)
*The formation of economic hierarchies to centralize and integrate production, processing, storage, and distribution. All this is to be done according to corporate specifications, toward the goal of forcing most farmers off the land, and reducing the rest to indentured servitude or wage slavery within a cash-based commodification regime. Today the farmers of Africa are smallholders and commons managers producing food for their families and communities. This is what must be eradicated and replaced by industrialized corporatization.
*Open borders for corporate dumping and looting (“free trade” is the standard Orwellian term for this; a truthful term would be something like corporate command trade), where it comes to the government-approved and licensed “formal sector”. Meanwhile traditional markets and actual free trading among the people would be criminalized and repressed.
*”Free trade” zones, tax-free zones, laws licensing the total repatriation of profits by Western “investors”. The ravage of Asia is set to be reproduced in Africa.
*Impose expensive industrial infrastructure on farmers. Offer credit in order to indenture them and trap them on the cash-crop treadmill. The procedure is always the same everywhere, with only minor modifications. 1. Propaganda – you have no choice but to get on board with commodification, and you better do it fast or you’ll be left behind. 2. Enforce this with dumping and general coercion into a cash economy. 3. Offer the necessary product (GMO seeds, synthetic fertilizer, industrial herbicide and pesticide, machinery, oil) and the loan in order to buy it. 4. In this way destroy most independent farmers completely, turn the rest into indentured sharecroppers or wage slaves.
We already see the end result of this in Asia, Latin America, and in South Africa which already has a corporatized regime. Seeds and the land are largely enclosed, farmers have been reduced to servitude, profits are ruthlessly extracted and removed from the country.
Beyond the usual short run goal of corporate plunder, the ultimate goal of the “New Alliance” is to force GMOs upon Africa.
All this is being called a “second green revolution”, a “green revolution in Africa”. We already know what the first Green Revolution did. It drove up the population while accelerating the arc of enclosure. It drove ever more people off the land and into cities. Shantytowns have always been the direct, intended result of this agricultural policy. The goal was to further separate humanity from the land, to assault subsistence food economies and replace them with food commodification, forcibly turn subsistence farmers into “job”-seekers, drive up the population, drive up the proportion of the population which is food insecure, drive down wages. In all these ways it increases desperation and infighting among the destitute masses, and aggravates and accelerates the processes of colonialism and corporatism in general. Today’s GMO onslaught is an escalated version of all this. That’s why neoliberalism calls GMOs a “second green revolution”.
There are many idiots and criminals who still believe and propagate the lies of the “Green Revolution”. But it takes only a look at the historical record and current events to see that corporate agriculture has nothing to do with feeding people and everything to do with starving them for the sake of its profit and domination imperatives. How does it feed an African community to force it to stop feeding itself and start growing cash crops to be turned into ethanol for Western cars? How does it feed people to drive them off the land they farm and into shantytowns? How does it feed people to impose artificial scarcity on the abundance their work coaxes from nature?
Let’s cut through all the lies and filth. If you want humanity to eat, you want people to provide their own food, as organic communities. If you want corporations and governments to crush this normal, natural food system and replace it with their system of scarcity, coercion, domination, extraction, you want only the 1% to feed. (As for the Western middle class among whom this attitude is common, the bell is tolling for it as well, and if you wonder where the 1% intends for you, look to the farmers of Africa now. In the end you’re slated to be liquidated the same way, even if it takes a little more time.)
We see the results in Asia and Latin America: immense shantytowns, mass coercion of women into sex work, over 300,000 cotton farmer suicides (really murders) in India. We also have the African example of the Makhatini Flats cotton farmers of South Africa, who were similarly economically destroyed.
All this is now what’s being consciously planned for the people of Africa. It’s truly the plan for the second, far more vicious, colonization of Africa, this time not by ad hoc national rapacity, but coordinated and administered by disciplined totalitarian corporations led my Monsanto. This, I think, is the primary battleground on Earth today. In my next post I’ll write about the alternative to this, and what’s to be done.