Sunday, September 17, 2006

Barca mba Barzaak.

They come ashore in boats barely alive. A perilous journey at sea. Cuban refugees welcomed by their compatriots in Flordia? No. The migration is from Africa, economic refugees from basketcase economies, landing in Fortress Europe on the shores of Spain. The situation is a crisis of the failure of globalization, all boats are not lifted up as capitalism expands its markets.

"Barca mba Barzaak", the migrants say before jumping into the rickety wooden boats - "Barcelona or the Afterlife".

Which is why capitalism's vast armies of the unemployed, as Marx called them, are now migrating to Europe and the U.S. This then is the other face of globalization. The ugly reality that the WTO and other Free Trade deals have not benefited Africa as they have the new fordist economies of Asia.

In Africa the economic boats have not been lifted up by globalization in fact their economies are sinking, or else the multitude would not be taking to real boats to find work in Europe. With that work they can send money home. Money needed for survival, for capital to even run a farm or small business.

Until there is a fordist capitialist economy in Africa it will continue to export humans instead of goods.But such an economy would put Africa, like the new capitalist economies in Asia, in competition with Europe, the U.S. and Asia. And that would not fit the new Imperialist agenda.

Africa is the cheap labour source for Asian economies like China. It is the cheap bread basket for Europe and the U.S. It is a resource rich, capital poor source of mineral wealth for the big Mining and Petroleum companies. Africa is seen as a market for export to, as the boom in cellphones shows. It's poverty is insured by competing Imperialist capitals despite their hand wringing charity.

It is not in their interests to create a capitalist economy in Africa, tying World Bank and IMF investment first to privatization of state capitalist enterprises, a colosal failure, and now to moral economic blackmail.

In Africa of the 21st century we see the same evolution of capitalism that was experienced in 19th Century India. It took over a century before India became today what Marx had predicted for it then. In Africa that process of creation of a capitalist economy is occuring despite local politicians, religion, or Imperialist hinderance. How many human sacrifices it will take to create it is the question. In this more technologically advanced period let us hope it is faster than occured in India.

This decline of Indian towns celebrated for their fabrics was by no means the worst consequence. British steam and science uprooted, over the whole surface of Hindostan, the union between agriculture and manufacturing industry. These two circumstances – the Hindoo, on the one hand, leaving, like all Oriental peoples, to the Central Government the care of the great public works, the prime condition of his agriculture and commerce, dispersed, on the other hand, over the surface of the country, and agglomerated in small centers by the domestic union of agricultural and manufacturing pursuits – these two circumstances had brought about, since the remotest times, a social system of particular features – the so-called village system, which gave to each of these small unions their independent organization and distinct life.

These small stereotype forms of social organism have been to the greater part dissolved, and are disappearing, not so much through the brutal interference of the British tax-gatherer and the British soldier, as to the working of English steam and English free trade. Those family-communities were based on domestic industry, in that peculiar combination of hand-weaving, hands-spinning and hand-tilling agriculture which gave them self-supporting power. English interference having placed the spinner in Lancashire and the weaver in Bengal, or sweeping away both Hindoo spinner and weaver, dissolved these small semi-barbarian, semi-civilized communities, by blowing up their economical basis, and thus produced the greatest, and to speak the truth, the only social revolution ever heard of in Asia.

Now, sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness those myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their ancient form of civilization, and their hereditary means of subsistence, we must not forget that these idyllic village-communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies. We must not forget the barbarian egotism which, concentrating on some miserable patch of land, had quietly witnessed the ruin of empires, the perpetration of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns, with no other consideration bestowed upon them than on natural events, itself the helpless prey of any aggressor who deigned to notice it at all. We must not forget that this undignified, stagnatory, and vegetative life, that this passive sort of existence evoked on the other part, in contradistinction, wild, aimless, unbounded forces of destruction and rendered murder itself a religious rite in Hindostan. We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.

England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.

Then, whatever bitterness the spectacle of the crumbling of an ancient world may have for our personal feelings, we have the right, in point of history, to exclaim with Goethe:

“Sollte these Qual uns quälen
Da sie unsre Lust vermehrt,
Hat nicht myriaden Seelen
Timur’s Herrschaft aufgezehrt?”

[“Should this torture then torment us
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur
Souls devoured without measure?”]
[From Goethe’s “An Suleika”, Westöstlicher Diwan]

Karl Marx

Missing the target

Heather Stewart
Sunday August 27, 2006
The Observer

Debt relief deals worth a total of $100bn have failed to tackle the problems of the poor countries they are meant to help, according to new research.

G8 leaders promised debt write-offs worth $40bn at last year's Gleneagles summit as part of a worldwide push to 'make poverty history'; but the authors of a report presented at the annual conference of the European Economic Association in Vienna this weekend say that, for many countries, indebtedness is a symptom of deeper issues.

Nicolas Chauvin of Princeton University, and Aart Kraay of the World Bank, examined the debt relief programmes offered to 62 poor countries since the late 1980s. They found that, in general, writing off debt has little impact on public spending or gross domestic product per capita, and many recipients slide back into the red again and again.

'We find very little evidence that debt relief has had any impact on the level or composition of public spending. Nor do we find that debt relief has led to improvements in policy or increases in investment rates,' the paper says.

'To put it plainly, in these countries debt is not the real problem but a symptom of deeper structural problems,' said Chauvin. 'Unless debt relief changes these underlying problems, it is likely that it will be followed by debt re-accumulation, in turn necessitating further debt relief.'

Twenty of the countries in the study received six or more write-offs in the 15-year period, trapped in a vicious circle by what the authors call 'persistent country characteristics', and returning for help repeatedly. Nicaragua had a total of 10 waves of debt relief, while Mali, Tanzania and Senegal all had eight.

Chauvin said the research didn't prove that debt relief was a waste of money - but it did show that multi-billion-dollar debt cancellation alone was unlikely to be effective.

The authors also found that, in general, debt relief hadn't been directed to the poorest countries in the world, or to those that are the most indebted.

Police evict Africans in raid on France's biggest squat

Police yesterday stormed the biggest squat in France, evicting hundreds of west African families from a squalid, disused hall of residence at one of France's elite universities. The decaying, five-storey Building F on the campus of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in the south Paris suburb of Cachan, had become a symbol of France's social and racial divide.

Sound of the angry sea

Their governments cannot stop them. Neither can the EU, where the desperate west African migrants are headed.

The very real possibility of death at sea, perhaps as high as one in ten, seems little disincentive. Rather, it is an accepted part of a high risk equation: "Barca mba Barzaak", the migrants say before jumping into the rickety wooden boats - "Barcelona or the Afterlife".

"They see Spain as their El Dorado, even though the gates to El Dorado are firmly shut," said DJ Awadi, a hugely popular Senegalese rapper who has become an unlikely champion of the migrants' cause, after releasing a hit internet single and slideshow that captures their plight.

"It shows that these young people have lost all hope at home."

Some 12,300 African migrants, including thousands of Senegalese, have made the perilous sea journey this year to the Canary Islands, which is Spanish territory and is seen as a gateway to Europe.

That is more than double the figure for the whole of 2005. And more than 1,000 people, mainly young men who have paid thousands of dollars to middlemen and carry the hopes and dreams of their families, are thought to have died at sea, while attempting the crossing since January.

In recent months, Senegal has become the main launching point for the migrants, who come from all over West Africa, and DJ Awadi said that he felt obliged to do something to bring the debate about emigration and its causes into the open.

So last month he recorded Sunugaal, which means 'Our boat' in the local Wolof language. In the song, he rails against the Senegalese government for the mass unemployment, political arrests and corruption that have driven the youth to desperation.

"All your beautiful words, all your beautiful promises, we always wait for them," he raps angrily in the chorus.

"You promised me that I would have a job, you promised me that I would never be hungry,
You promised me a future, up to now I still see nothing,
That's why I decided to flee, that's why I break myself in a dugout,
I swear it! I can't stay here one more second,
It is better to die than to live in such conditions, in this hell."

While the music is catchy and the lyrics powerful, it was the decision to release it on the web, with an accompanying slideshow, that has made it such a hit.

The D-day package from Senegal to Spain

West Africans are paying hundreds of pounds for a perilous 1,200-mile trip by open boat

In pictures: The crisis in Los Cristianos

Angelique Chrisafis in Los Cristianos and Claire Soares in Dakar
Saturday September 9, 2006
The Guardian

Illegal immigrants aboard a fishing boat at the port of Los Cristianos in Tenerife
Illegal immigrants aboard a fishing boat at the port of Los Cristianos in Tenerife. Photograph: Philippe Desmazes/Getty

As sunbathers lay on the beach beneath towering hotels and British tourists browsed in a souvenir shop called Bloody Hell Offer On Ciggies, a strange vessel slowly floated into shore past the jet-skis and Jolly Roger pirate ships of Tenerife's prime package holiday resort.

The small, canoe-shaped African boat heaved with the weight of more than 100 people, staring exhausted at Los Cristianos, the concrete holiday metropolis that was their first glimpse of Europe. They had been on the Atlantic for 15 days with a single Yamaha motor and no cover from the sun.

This was the fifth boat of the day carrying men in various states of desperation. As supplies had dwindled some had gone without food for five days, others had not drunk for two days. The few who could no longer bear it had dipped a plastic mug into the sea and drunk the salt water, which had dehydrated them further and started to play tricks with their brain. Others had skin raw and bleeding from wet clothes rubbing against them for days on end - "a mixture of burns from the sea salt and the petrol from the boat's engine", said a local doctor. The unlucky ones before them had wounds so infected that limbs had to be amputated.

"Thank you father and mother," was painted in French on the side of one brightly decorated boat, towed into the port by the coastguard before police helped the men into a Red Cross field hospital. "I have left my family behind, I'm scared, but I thank God I'm alive," said a man waiting in a line for a coach that would take the group to a nearby detention camp. He had paid more than a year's savings to risk his life by sailing for two weeks through this breach in Fortress Europe. But he felt it was worth risking the 1,200-mile sea-journey that has drowned between 500 and 3,000 west Africans in makeshift wooden boats this year. All he wanted was a job. The migrants' motto in Wolof, the Senegalese language, is "Barca ou Barzakh" - "Barcelona or the afterlife".

In the past week around 3,000 illegal immigrants from west Africa have reached the Canary Islands by boat, taking advantage of a window of perfect sailing conditions from the coast of Senegal and Mauritania. Around 23,000 made it to the Spanish archipelago this year, five times the total for the whole of last year. Most have arrived in Tenerife.

"This is Spain's worst humanitarian crisis since the civil war," said Adán Martín, president of the Canaries' regional government. The former army barracks being used as detention centres across the Canaries are overflowing and the measures to patrol the coastlines are inadequate, he said. More than 700 teenagers who have arrived on boats without their parents have had to be made wards of the Spanish state. But accommodation for them is so full that a camp is being built at the top of Tenerife's mountain.

Spain's prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, this week vowed to expel the "cheating" immigrants. But almost all arrive without papers and refuse to reveal their nationality in order to avoid repatriation. Most are from Senegal which has no repatriation treaty with Spain, others are from Mali, Mauritania, Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

After the men have spent 40 days in a holding camp, the Spanish have no option but to release them, often flying them to cities such as Madrid or Valencia and leaving them on the street with a sandwich, no money and a paper requesting they leave Spain, which is easy to ignore. Hundreds have made their way to Barcelona where there is a large Senegalese community to help them. Others slip into illegal employment.

Those arriving say the passage to the Canary Islands in an open fishing boat, known as a "pirogue" or "cayuco", is referred to in Senegal as the "D-day package" after the Normandy landings. For at least £400 per person, a boat of 60 or more passengers will set out with petrol for the motor, rice, biscuits and water and gas bottles to cook and keep warm. Seventeen people died last month when a gas bottle exploded. Most of the passengers cannot swim and are scared of water so sit rigidly in one place getting sores on their backs and shoulders from rubbing against the wood.

The trip can take a week to two weeks, but there have been cases of boats getting lost and taking 20 days. Many of the boats have a global positioning device, but some malfunction. Earlier this year one boat washed up on the other side of the Atlantic in Barbados with 11 desiccated corpses on board.

High in the mountainous pine forest of northern Tenerife, Mamadou Gueye, 17, who recently arrived by boat, sat at a school desk in a teenage holding centre concentrating on his Spanish lesson.

"I'm the oldest of four, I had to come here to help my parents," Mamadou said. "It's just a normal part of life. At home everyone knows someone who has left by boat. I came in a pirogue with 140 people, none of whom I knew. We sailed for a week, eating rice. When the waves got high, the others said: 'Don't worry, as soon as we get to Spanish waters, our suffering will be over'. When I left my father said to me, 'If you need to cheer yourself up, think about football. Say your prayers, don't fight other boys and behave well.' I'll stay for five years and then go home to beautiful Senegal."

Senegal, despite its relative stability, has an unemployment rate of 40% and half the population is under 18. Of 11 million Senegalese, around 3 million are living abroad. Most are working illegally and sending home £363m in official remittances a year - equivalent to 9% of the country's GDP.

In Los Cristianos, locals in bikinis line up at the port to watch as each new boat comes in. "Soon our kids will be learning African history at school, not Spanish, and there will be no jobs for them," said one woman. A poll by Spanish radio station Cadena Ser found 89% of Spaniards thought too many people were arriving.

A handful of immigrants whose corpses came ashore in boats are buried in Tenerife's capital's cemetery in graves marked "unknown immigrant". Many locals are sad that the blue expanse around the islands are now known as the watery graves of Africa. "It's not the image we'd want," said a Spanish tourist from Bilbao.







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