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Economy for Human Needs

by Sabine Leidig Friday, May. 23, 2003 at 10:01 AM

"If the peace movement, globalization critics and unions unite their struggles, sand can be thrown in the gears of neoliberal globalization. Then changing direction will be possible." Translated from the German

Economy for Human Needs

By Sabine Leidig

[This address from the Easter march in Kassel, Germany on April 21, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Sabine Leidig is a spokesperson for Attac in Kassel, Germany.]

I greet you demonstrators at the Kassel Easter march!

The Iraq war has ended, we heard. We who rebelled against this war are relieved that cluster bombs do not tear people to pieces any more. Still we know the war is not over. The destruction and suffering of the Iraqi population remain, caused by two wars and the UN embargo.

The reasons for this offensive war were diverse: liberation of the Iraqi people from their dictator, earlier removal of weapons of mass destruction and combating international terrorism.

The Marburg district court recently ruled that US president Bush may be described as a “state terrorist”. This is covered by political freedom of speech in view of the circumstances of the Iraq war and by the explicit rejection of a UN mandate.

I hope we will create a balance of power one day under which George Bush, Tony Blair and their generals must answer to a legitimate international tribunal like others who committed crimes against humanity!

Weapons of mass destruction should be outlawed everywhere in the world – in the US, India, China, Israel and in Europe. These weapons should be destroyed everywhere and their production and sales prohibited and punished severely!

Dear friends, the red-green coalition rightly said No on the diplomatic plane to the deliberate Iraq war planned long ago. Many people voted for red-green last fall for that reason. The mass protests strengthened this position. Verbally opposing war and only speaking about the time afterwards were not enough. From the beginning, the German government denounced an aggression against international law, not a grave political mistake with disastrous humanitarian and political consequences.

What was at stake was a central political question, the question of participation in war – Yes or No -, not a “legal” or “juristic” question as Gerhard Schroder played down the issue. The government parties avoided answering this question. Indirect support was not refused. What backdoor remains open? What about defending German interests in Hindukusch? Will we act rightly the next time?

Let us not trust the governing leaders! Let us inform, demonstrate and struggle for an active energetic peace policy, disarmament and redistribution! Let us create another world!

The globalization that we see is the common political work of the triad powers the US, Japan and the European Union (EU). A merciless positional struggle occurs where the rich countries put pressure on the “rest of the world” to gain competitive advantages for their own transnational corporations and drive rivals into the loss zone with disastrous consequences for most of the earth’s inhabitants.

Europe and the US depend on controlling raw materials, keeping markets open and securing profitable investment possibilities. They use different strategies that can be explained from different economic conditions and problems.

Businesses in the EU have clearly increased their share in direct foreign investments in the past 20 years. The dollar as world currency and power factor faces genuine competition with the Euro and is grounded on a unique mountain of huge debts.

The US seeks to retain its dominance in the circle of hostile brothers by using its military power. What is crucial is not only oil but the political-economic control of a space far beyond Iraq that will be of central importance for the conflicts of the future, namely for competition with China and a Russia recovering again sometime or other.

The strategists in Washington have long thought and spoken of great spoils. The Arab states, Iran, Turkey and all others that are disobedient today or could be disobedient in the future are included. They all should be liberated and put back on the straight and narrow. The promises of (oil) wealth should finally benefit the people instead of the rulers. We don’t believe this!

Human rights and international law are crushed to improve a geo-strategic power position. Only a radical NO and consistent resistance is possible for us today and in the future! Only when we prevent these kinds of wars will ways to peaceful conflict resolution be opened.

What about Europe?

While 56 million citizens of the EU are threatened by poverty, there is again reliance on weapons. How long will people be killed? Neither the next US wars nor the project of rearming armies of the EU are in our interest.

Every cruise missile at the enormous price of a billion dollars removes us another step from fulfilling necessary social projects. Social justice worldwide falls by the wayside.

Europe and Germany in the pioneer role – or its corporations – cannot assure their dominance through political-military power. They fight “with the heavy artillery of cheap commodity prices”, as Karl Marx formulated. This world market strategy is doubtlessly less brutal than threatening the world with war. Nevertheless this strategy isn’t peaceful but is an explicitly aggressive strategy robbing millions of people all over the world of the possibility for a better life and driving them into impoverishment.

Waging this kind of competition increasingly demands innocent victims in Germany, not only in poor countries.

At the opening of the Hannover festival on April 6, 2003, German chancellor Gerhard Schroder said: “The announced steps for a reorganization of the welfare system are indispensable on the background of the Iraq war and intensified world economic uncertainty.” I tell you: “Agenda 2010” intends a new round of rearmament in the positional struggle. The concrete projects are not new: cut state benefits, urge personal responsibility, deregulate and privatize. For more than two decades, the share of wages and salaries in national income has fallen, social cuts were promoted and distribution from bottom to top accelerated.

This spiral is now intensified to lower wage costs and defeat rivals on the world market with low unit labor costs. Seniors, unemployed, dependent employees, the sick and low-income persons must foot the bill. Social justice, new meaningful jobs and humane social perspectives are overrun or fall under the wheel. Unions as potential intruders on the “home front” are publically discredited and forced to abandon collective protections under threat of legal regulation. In addition, a disciplining mechanism against all refractory ones was created with the security laws passed after September 11, 2001.

With all differences, aggressive strategies are pursued by the powerful in the US and the powerful in Germany. Exploitation is intensified internally in the battle for the rest of the world, producing instability and endangering and destroying human life.

“People before Profits” was a theme of the protests against the WTO (World Traded Organization) in 1999 in Seattle. The globalization-critical movement took the world stage. This watchword describes the “other world” that is possible. An economy for human needs and not against competition is a goal that can be reached through many ways and steps if people interwoven internationally everywhere in the world struggle under their respective concrete conditions.

Strengthening local markets, developing fair trade relations, taxing income justly, expanding public demand, using wealth for social prosperity, rebuilding ecologically, extending social systems, creating dignified jobs, disarming and preventing weapon exports are goals and demands that we champion to contribute to another world.

If the peace movement, globalization critics and unions unite their struggles, sand can be thrown in the gears of neoliberal globalization. Then changing direction will be possible.

I call you to the Easter march and to protest together with Attac and many other groups against the G8 summit at the beginning of June in Evian ( There the most powerful men will discuss the organization of the world according to their tastes and desires. Let us spoil their fun!

An astonishingly clear consciousness about the true reasons for the Iraq war has formed in the population. The US government in the last months has contributed more to political education than years of classes in political economy. Every gas station attendant, every taxi driver and most students know today that the US is mainly focused on oil and geo-strategic advantages over the “rest of the world”, not human rights, weapons of mass destruction or combating terrorism. We should join this consciousness.

The insights of the population on global economic and ecological connections should be used in discussing practical alternatives to this wasteful and destructive capitalism.

I’d like to conclude with a quotation from Albert Einstein. The quotation comes from a correspondence with Sigmund Freud published under the title “Why War?”

“What world could we build if the powers unleashed by war were used for rebuilding! A tenth of the energies that nations consume in war, a fraction of the money that they pulverize with hand grenades and poison gas would be enough to help people of all countries to a dignified life and to prevent the catastrophe of unemployment in the world. (…) There would be enough money and enough work to eat well if we rightly distributed the wealth of the world instead of making ourselves slaves of rigid economic doctrines or economic traditions.”

In this sense, let us resist together the power and greed for profit of the world market with the human rights to peace, self-determination, food, education, work and healthy living conditions!

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