(مقال عربي 21)
واحدٌ من أقوى الأسلحة التي تستخدم لنشر وتعزيز سيطرة النظام الإمبراطوري الجديد، أو إمبراطورية رأس المال، هو سلاح الديون، فمن خلال خلق الديون تقوم المؤسسات المالية الدولية بانتزاع سلطة القرارات السياسية المفصلية من الحكومات الوطنية؛ مثل القرارات المتعلقة بتخصيص الموارد والإنفاق الحكومي والسياسات التجارية والضوابط النقدية، وما إلى آخر هذه القرارات. فالديون يمكنها أن تُخضِع أي بلد أكثر بكثير من الاحتلال العسكري.
(to be published in Arabic for Arabi21)
One of the most powerful weapons used to spread and consolidate the control of the new imperial system, the Empire of Capital, is debt. By creating debt, international financial institutions wrest authority from national governments over crucial policy decisions; decisions over allocation of resources, government spending, trade policies, monetary controls, and so on. Debt can subjugate a country far more comprehensively than a military occupation.
The deceptive appeal of loans, unlike the invasion of foreign troops and the arrival of tanks patrolling the streets, is the illusion that they are a form of financial assistance; a boost to the economy that fosters independence. The rhetoric of foreign armies, declaring that they are invading your country to liberate you from tyranny, is seldom believed by anyone in the invaded country; but when the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or some other creditor offers billions of dollars in loans, they are welcomed with almost unanimous gratitude.
The conditions imposed by a military occupation; curfews, checkpoints, restrictions on movement, and so on; are obvious and immediate. The conditions imposed by economic occupation; public spending cuts, privatization, modification in the tax system, etc; are less immediate, and often hard for average citizens to understand. But, the ultimate impact of these conditions is far greater, and longer-lasting, than any level of domination achievable by conventional military invasion.
After any revolution, when a corrupt, dictatorial regime has been overthrown, the standard move is to cancel the former dictator’s debts, or at least subject them to a meticulous audit to determine to what extent the funds received from international lenders were actually utilized for their stated purpose. This is an essential step; this is what guarantees that what has taken place is a genuine revolution, and not merely a transfer of power. The new government must make a clean break from the relationship between the former regime and its international backers, and redefine the framework of any new relationship. It must, in a word, begin with a clean slate.
Obviously, this did not happen in Egypt. It did not happen in Tunisia, or in any of the Arab Spring countries. Rather, the new governments that came to power following the overthrow of long-standing dictators, made every effort to affirm their commitment to the dictators’ obligations to their financiers. This stance was enough to transform what could have been revolutions into little more than transfers of power from one party to another, while maintaining the overall stability of the system. In my view, this was the single biggest mistake of the opposition party beneficiaries of the uprisings; they did not follow through on the overthrows, they simply replaced the deposed rulers, leaving all else basically the same.
Today, most obviously in Egypt, there is mounting pressure to force devaluation of the local currency, with an end goal of converting the currency to a floating exchange rate. At least one of the primary reasons for this effort is to arbitrarily increase the leverage of debt. When the market determines the value of your currency, the market also controls the value of your debt, and therefore, your ability to pay it back. If you received a loan, for example, of $100 million in 2011, because of the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound, today you owe 150 million more Pounds than you did when you first took the loan, though the dollar amount has not changed. It is a mechanism for making debt unpayable, because the amount you have to pay, in your own currency, can be arbitrarily increased by lowering the currency’s value; and the value of your currency will be determined, essentially, by your creditors.
There is no way out of this quicksand except unilateral debt cancellation. That is what makes a revolution victorious, and without this step, that is what renders a revolution null and void.