The crisis is inevitable
Although executives from the major banks and important international financial institutions did not attend the recent International Encounter of Economists on globalisation and the problems of development, held in Havana, almost 800 economists from 50 countries, representing many significant currents of economic thinking, did. In his opening remarks, Cuban President Fidel Castro emphasised that we are entering an epoch in which we have to begin to reconcile concepts of sovereignty or the nation state with some kind of universal sovereignty. A united world, a world with direction, he told the conference, holds no fear for him, given that such a world is needed. Following the thread of this issue, President Castro pointed to a certain embryonic direction in the UN, although this institution needs to be democratised. "Any of the world's dreamers", he said, "could dream this: that humanity is the great nation of everyone and technologies and many other creations of humanity should be at its service. "Moreover", he warned, "if this objective is not attained, the species will not survive; we are looking at a world that will not exist in 500 years, or in 100 years; we are looking at a world that has at most 40, 50 or 60 years." In the course of the conference, various experts, such as Professors Alfredo and Eric Calcagno of Argentina, criticised the presentation of globalisation as an absolutely new phenomenon lacking in historical antecedents. The speakers showed that globalisation, far from being a mysterious late- 20th century phenomenon, is a process originating within capitalism itself. They said it had acquired a greater dimension as a consequence of the neoliberal ("economic rationalist") current of the 1980s, a trend "that favoured the collapse of the socialist camp and the disintegration of the Soviet Union". There were approximately one hundred speeches by specialists and personnel from institutes and other entities, covering such subjects as the decline of the global economy, the economic invasion of the moral and political order, the distribution of power, the fragility of banking systems in the developing countries, financial crises (and filibustering in that context), and attacks on the monetary system, among other issues. Mexican academic Arturo Huerta from the Autonomous University of Mexico, observed that globalisation is de-capitalising the productive sphere to the benefit of finance capital. Ariel Franais, from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), noted that the exhaustion of the model of capital growth and accumulation that had prevailed in the world economy starting from the end of World War II is at the bottom of the crisis. The shortage of natural resources, rising prices, alongside the population explosion, has coincided with unforeseen technological developments in the search for reduced costs and the squandering of raw materials. At the same time, unemployment is increasing and, as a result of neoliberal recipes, many states are encouraging the privatisation of their principal industries and productive sources. This policy is referred to as economic reform but, in real terms, states are being robbed of their sovereignty. World Bank representative Andres Solimano commented that reforms take time, given that changing economic and institutional structures is a process of decades. However, he had nothing to say on Third World debt, the transfer of capital to the United States and other powers, or on the measures which allow them to adjust to the new international economic order, or neoliberal globalisation. That led to a consensus that the crisis which is provoking that situation will expand and affect stockmarket movements, as occurred in Mexico, then in South East Asia and, more recently, in Russia. The Havana did not offer recipes, but was a favourable tribunal for reflection and even censure, as exemplified by Mexican analyst Alfredo Jalife, who presented a paper on financial filibustering, megaspeculation and case studies. Naturally, economists participating in the meeting were aware of the activities of powerful speculator George Soros (who did not attend the event, although invited). Nonetheless, his modus operandi was a revelation, as, according to Jalife, Soros utilised crooked electronic betting to initiate the attack on the baht, Thailand's national currency, which unleashed the Asian crisis, in a domino effect. Soros was also accused by the President of Malaysia of having withdrawn hundreds of millions of dollars from Malaysian banks in a few hours, thus extending the crisis to that country. The Mexican analyst recalled that, with his "letter to the editor" of The Financial Times, Soros provoked the collapse of the Russian ruble, basing his bets on "quantum theories and the precepts of chaos theory", applied in an atmosphere of psychological panic to maximise the profits of megaspeculators who operate methodically from their "off-shore" fiscal paradise redoubts in the Cayman Islands and other locations. In his closing remarks to the conference, the Cuban President, Fidel Castro, posed the question: Is globalisation an irreversible process? "My answer", he said, "the one I give myself, is: `No!'." President Castro went on: "What type of globalisation do we have today? A neoliberal globalisation; that is what many of us are calling it. "Is it sustainable? No. Can it survive for much time? Absolutely not. A matter of centuries? Categorically not. "Will it only last a few decades? Yes, only decades. But sooner or later it will have to come to an end. "Maybe you think I'm a kind of prophet or fortune-teller? No. Do I know much about economics? No. Virtually absolutely nothing. "To affirm what I said it's enough to know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Children learn that in elementary school. "How is the transition going to come about? We don't know. Through widespread violent revolutions or great wars? That would seem improbable, irrational and suicidal. "Through profound and catastrophic crises? Unfortunately that seems the most likely, almost inevitable outcome, and it will come about in many diverse ways and through many forms of struggle. "What kind of globalisation will it be? It couldn't be any other than jointly shared — socialist, communist, or whatever you want to call it. "Does nature and, with it, the human species, have much time to survive the absence of such a change? Very little. Who will be the creators of that new world? The men and women who people our planet. "Is this about a utopia, one more dream among so many others? No, because it is objectively inevitable and there is no alternative. It was already dreamed not so long ago, only perhaps prematurely. "As Jose Marti, the most enlightened of the sons of this island, said: `The dreams of today will be the realities of tomorrow'." The megabanks and their emulous speculators will be the theme of the second encounter of economists on globalisation and development, convened for the year 2000, in Havana.
* * *Compiled from reports in Granma