The Swiss sociologist and political thinker Jean Ziegler is seen as a critic of globalisation. For decades he has fought against famine and poverty and against those behind the capitalist conditions, which are to blame. For many years he was a Member of the Swiss Bundestag for the Socialist Party in the National Council. Between 2008-2009 he was the UN special correspondent for the right to nutrition. In 2008 he was elected to the advisory committee for the Human Rights Council.
Mr. Ziegler, your book “Der Hass auf den Westen” has just been recently published. In what way is the west hated? The age of colonialism is long since over…
Jean Ziegler: The title of my book “Der Hass auf den Westen” can be shocking. My book is about two forms of hatred. The hatred of the southern hemisphere, where 4.5 billion of the world’s 6.7 billion people live, has two very different sides to it. There is the pathological hatred. This is Al-Qaeda, terrorism, which is organised crime.
Then there is rational hatred, the desire to revolt against the cannibalistic, western established world order. In Bolivia, for example, it has been 3 years since the first democratically elected native president in 500 years was elected. There is an incredible identity movement underway, a democratic opposition movement, which has arisen from the five major native tribes in the Andean highlands.
Evo Morales, thanks to this opposition movement now has the power to take control of over 200 foreign companies and to direct new terms of agreement. Suddenly, this poverty stricken Bolivian government has the money to lead their people out of misery and famine. This is the rational hatred.
Mr. Ziegler, where does this hate stem from?
Ziegler: It has two sources. The first source is a wounded consciousness. It’s like the holocaust; we don’t know why a wounded consciousness, a terrible crime, takes two, three generations to surface. The peoples of the South are now experiencing the same thing. Slavery and the colonial massacres are two terrible wounds that continue to live in people’s [collective] memory. Only generations after these particular massacres have taken place, these wounded memories have entered political consciousness.
I would like to tell you an anecdote to illustrate this point. In December 2007, French President Nicolas Sarcozy is in Algiers for the first time to negotiate oil contracts. The French delegation sits down at the table at the presidential palace in Algiers. Before the negotiations even begin, President Bouteflika says: “First, I want an apology for Setif!” Setif is the terrible massacre that the French Foreign Legion committed against Algerian civilians on 8th May 1945. It left over 42,000 either dead or wounded. Quite upset, Sarkozy answered: “I have not come here for nostalgia.” The response from Bouteflika: “The memory before business”. Subsequently, there were no negotiations. The last state visit that Bouteflika was due to make to Paris was due to take place last July. It was cancelled because an apology for Setif still hasn’t been made.
What are the reasons for the schizophrenic attitude of the West?
Ziegler: The West with 12.8 per cent of the world’s population is a minority that has ruled over the planet for over 500 hundred years. At the end of the 15th century, when the earth was round, after the Columbus’ fourth voyage, there was genocide in Latin America. Then there was the slave trade lasting 350 years, then 150 years of colonial massacres and territorial occupation. Today there is a tyranny of global finance capital.
Last year, according to the World Bank’s own statistics, the world’s 500 largest companies dominated 53 per cent of the world’s gross product. This financial capital, concentrated in the hands of some Western oligarchs has a power that has never before been wielded by any king, emperor or pope in human history.
Southern peoples see this financial dictatorship as the last stage of the West’s strategy of exploitation and oppression. The slaveholders are sitting in the stock exchanges that determine the commodity prices and speculation, which – although not visible – are responsible for hundreds of thousands of starving people. Every five seconds a child under the age of 10 dies of hunger.
In April of this year, the number of constantly starving people exceeded the one billion mark for the first time. And this on a planet teeming with wealth. Today, there is no longer fate. A child, who as we speak is dying of hunger, is murdered. This world order, which the West is imposing on the planet, creates its own theory. The West believes in the universality of its own ethnocentric values.
I have just come from the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Each of the Western ambassadors, so clever, subtle and cultivated when he speaks, speaks in the name of humanity, universal values and preaches his teachings to the peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa. This is basically the paradox of the Western discourse, which stems from their total blindness, because the material oppression, which is produced by the West also produced their discourse of legitimacy. And today, this is no longer tolerated.
Will world history now emanate more and more from the South? Is that not too utopian a view?
Ziegler: Today, things are indeed dictated by the Euro-Atlantic world, along with the couple of corrupt oligarchies in the peripheries of China and India. They have integrated commodity prices in their commercial exploitation and they still continue to plunder the massive South.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, this subcontinent, where people are dying of starvation by the thousands ever single day, is a geological wonder. There is incredible wealth. The looting goes on, however, because the corporations, as in many countries, have been able to utilise corrupt leaders who sign up to these exploitative contracts. The real story, the story of the mobilisation of resistance, of the emergence of life and political solidarity is taking place in the South.
What is happening with today’s mobilisation in the Andean Highlands, what is happening in Venezuela or Ecuador is radically new. These forces are even emerging in Africa. Marx said that the revolutionary must be in a position to hear the grass grow. And this grass is growing everywhere in the periphery of the Western financial dictatorship.
In your book, you talk about a lot about the changes taking place in Bolivia and about Evo Morales. Are these real alternatives to the developments of – as you call it – “predatory capitalism”? Many have criticised the developments in Bolivia as totalitarian…
Ziegler: You can have any political prejudice. You can be left, you can be right. We live in free societies in Western Europe. But the ignorance and arrogant condemnation of the revolutionary movements on the periphery are unworthy. The creative, community and solidarity developed story is taking place instead in the Andes and in the 12,000 native tribes that make up Bolivia. In many parts of South America history is being made and we ought to learn from them. But in Europe, something is happening.
I no longer believe in the European nation whose sovereign rights are now determined by capitalist commodity rational. The EU is nothing more than a corporate board of directors. No values and no ambitions remain. But there is civil society, this wonderful brotherhood. I’ll go back to the Heiligendamn in summer 2007. I was on the other side of the barbed wire. There were 140,000 people from 41 nations of all political persuasions. There were pastors there, Trotskyites, young and old. They were all there and have been discussed. They were all driven by the moral imperative, not by the political imperative or any party ideologies. Immanuel Kant said: “The humanity that is being done to another, destroys the humanity within me.” This moral imperative is the engine of a new civil society that will no longer tolerate a society in which a child dies of hunger every five seconds.
This civil society is very strong in Germany through the World Hunger Relief and Greenpeace. The revolt of consciousness will come. Germany is the most vibrant democracy in Europe. There is no weakness in a democracy. The fundamental rights exist and they may be needed to force our government to waive the dumping of EU agriculture in Africa and to the break the bondage binding third world countries, rather than continuously promoting the interests of creditors such as Deutsche Bank and other major bank. I am quite confident this uprising of conscience is imminent.