About ’Rogue Capital’

8 July by Jean Nanga


The CADTM publishes a commentary by Jean Nanga on the notion of rogue capital mentioned in the interesting study entitled “The financialisation of malaria in Africa: Burkina Faso” (April 2022), produced by Sasha Mentz-Lagrange and Stefanie Swanepoel for the African Centre for Biodiversité (ACB).

This report convincingly shows that as part of its strategy of financializing “’major’ diseases’ capital is hoping to render the struggle against malaria profitable. Through the international Target Malaria network it is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) that is the main contractor and source of funding in Burkina Faso, (also active in Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali and Uganda). It has thus superseded, or even replaced, public authorities as the principal actor in this field.

However, criticism of private sector supremacy ( such as The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein), ideal of advanced capitalism, in the struggle against malaria is somewhat confounded in this report with the ambiguous concept of ’rogue capital’ [p. 6] [1]. This expression without doubt describes BMGF-style philanthrope-capitalism: ’Rogue capital is characterised by wealth extraction with real material negative impacts on people’s lives and the ecology (FIAN International et al., 2020) in order to provide returns to shareholders, who are very rarely linked to the system being looted. When rogue capital enters a country with a weak and highly corrupt governance system it is able to shape to a large extent the conditions under which it operates’ (p. 10). This gives the impression that such practices are not a standard characteristic of capitalism. Although they may be marginal or exceptional phenomena in the history of capitalism they still incarnate aspects of imperialism. The influence of transnational corporations is more apparent today than it ever has been, particularly in the way they mould the global south, in general, and Africa in particular. Already in the early days of globalization (the mercantilist era), [2] the dynamic expansion of capital fashioned non-European societies (and their echo on European societies - be it no more than the consumption of tomatoes, sugar, tea, potatoes, etc.) . ’The East India Company’ from 1600, the Royal Niger company from 1886 - at the origin of colonial Nigeria - are leading examples, not forgetting the tragic fate of North America’s original peoples at the hands of the worst villains. Through structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

IMF : http://www.worldbank.org/
policies, among other measures, the current neo-liberal phase of globalization is consecrating the domination of large private companies, a certain updating of this polyrhythmic tradition of capital, which is in fact uninterrupted, unless we deny the permanent existence of these relations of domination.

The will of private capital to permanently establish its supremacy is expressed at another level; by the working partnership between the UN (a multilateral organisation, it must be reminded) and the World Economic Forum. [3] Agencies such as UNESCO, FAO, WTO WTO
World Trade Organisation
The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.

, ILO or the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa, considered to be progressive over the 60s and 70s and even a part of the 80s, have become seriously compromised. This is where the influence of the BMGF (world leader in philanthrope-capitalism) and its likes are the most present. The Economic Commission for Africa, the WHO or the NEPAD are all in favour of spreading the use of GMOs (Bill Gates has investments in research and development in this field). But States, the UN or pan-African agencies are not reduced to being simply transmission belts, their leaders and directors embrace the objectives either out of ideological conviction or out of class interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. while at the same time pretending to be guided by the general interest. [4]

The use of the expression ’rogue capital’ to signify something other than business Mafias or Mafia business inscribes such practices in an adhesion to the perpetuation of the capitalist system by romanticizing Capitalism’s history and its barbarism which has taken place on all continents since primitive capitalism to today’s Neo-liberalism. Over the last decades, this pro-capitalist criticism of Neo-liberalism seeks to differentiate between ’good’ industrial capitalism and ’evil’ financial capitalism. It is based on a truncated, Fordist/Keynesian view of the history of Capitalism. [5] The post WW2 period that produced the Welfare State (allowing the rise of the standard of living in the working classes and mass consumption in the big capitalist societies) is considered an exception in the history of Capitalism since the 18th century. Keynes justified the need to reform Capitalism by the threat, since the middle of the 19th century, presented by the rise of a dynamic class labour movement; the Communist movement, the spectre that haunted the capitalists, that haunted the bourgeois European States. A spectre that had already, toward the end of the 19th century, prompted Bismark, the German Chancellor, to create a rudimentary forerunner of a Capitalist Welfare State. The Capitalists’ fear of Communism was amplified by the Russian Revolution of October 1917 which profoundly modified the balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. of power between Capitalists and the Proletariat, even between the colonized and the colonial powers. After their independence the former colonies retained the concept of the State as an economic actor at the head of social services, generally of poor quality which showed their capitalist underdevelopment. Globally, the communist threat subjected capitalism to a civilizing influence, even if this influence was perverted by the Stalinist regime.

This was most strongly perceived in the aftermath of the Second World War up to the end of the 1970s, during part of the so-called Cold War period opposing the capitalist bloc of the so-called ’free world’ against the so-called communist/socialist bloc under the leadership of the USSR (albeit Stalinist), a leading victim of Nazi Germany, as well as that of Europe’s communists whose resistance had been significant. While capitalists had generally, in a country like France, collaborated with the Nazi occupiers, and were discredited, producing the dynamism of the post-war social struggles, which were quite rich in social gains. This accounts for the nostalgia for this period, including in a large part of the alter-globalist movement in the capitalist centre, which is mainly critical of ’wild capitalism’, or the supposed current excesses of capitalism.

This said, during these three decades, Capitalism remained predatory and in-egalitarian. Mass consumption in the developed Capitalist societies did not reduce social inequalities as testified by the ecocidal practices developed by techno-science in both blocs (while there were early whistle-blowers, they were ignored in the general consumerist atmosphere infused with the ideologies of ‘progress’ and economic growth), as also testified by colonial and neo-colonial wars (’The cold war was cold in the North but hot in the South’, said Daniel Bensaid), which were fought for the control of natural resources to feed the consumer markets - being an avatar of capitalism, Fordism-Keynesianism was compatible with imperialism and unequal exchange), as also evidenced by racism (from the United States to South Africa - the South African economist Stephen Gelb considered the South African apartheid regime to be ’racial Fordism’) and by support for pro-capitalist monopolistic and dictatorial regimes in Africa, Latin America and Asia as well as in Europe (Spain, Greece, Portugal). Such were the in-glorious realities of those decades.

The increase in the foreign debt of the Third World countries corresponded with the end of these three decades, a consequence, among others, of the incitements to borrow, supposedly in order to finance development which these countries hoped would bring them into the consumer market. Because of the abundance of liquidity Liquidity The facility with which a financial instrument can be bought or sold without a significant change in price. in the big European and North American banks the World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

offered loans at low interest rates Interest rates When A lends money to B, B repays the amount lent by A (the capital) as well as a supplementary sum known as interest, so that A has an interest in agreeing to this financial operation. The interest is determined by the interest rate, which may be high or low. To take a very simple example: if A borrows 100 million dollars for 10 years at a fixed interest rate of 5%, the first year he will repay a tenth of the capital initially borrowed (10 million dollars) plus 5% of the capital owed, i.e. 5 million dollars, that is a total of 15 million dollars. In the second year, he will again repay 10% of the capital borrowed, but the 5% now only applies to the remaining 90 million dollars still due, i.e. 4.5 million dollars, or a total of 14.5 million dollars. And so on, until the tenth year when he will repay the last 10 million dollars, plus 5% of that remaining 10 million dollars, i.e. 0.5 million dollars, giving a total of 10.5 million dollars. Over 10 years, the total amount repaid will come to 127.5 million dollars. The repayment of the capital is not usually made in equal instalments. In the initial years, the repayment concerns mainly the interest, and the proportion of capital repaid increases over the years. In this case, if repayments are stopped, the capital still due is higher…

The nominal interest rate is the rate at which the loan is contracted. The real interest rate is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation.
and then increased the rates; already poor countries saw the burden of sums to be repaid multiply. The debtor countries were pressed into Neo-liberalism by the policies, inspired by experiments in Pinochet’s Chile, of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Jimmy Carter (followed by Ronald Reagan) in the US,. The financial markets became deregulated and through forced structural adjustment programmes wielded by the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
), of which they are subordinate members the invisible hand doctrine returned to favour. Public social services, which were already insufficient and of poor quality, were the first to feel the unpleasant effects. [6] Some mentioned a re-colonization of Africa, but what happened was rather a neo-liberalization of neo-colonialism – whatever the words used, a neo-colonial situation must not be confused with a colonial one –, which favoured a greater grip by transnational companies on so-called sovereign States (actually dependent without being colonies, see the case of Françafrique), on economies and societies in the Global South. The local elites and dominant classes conspired with their Northern counterparts to make profits and exploit their local popular classes, who are the first to fall prey to serious tropical diseases.

Neo-liberalism is a historical phase of Capitalism, a form of capitalism relieved of constraints and complexes, especially since the end of the Communist bloc in and around 1990 and the equilibrium found with the labour and emancipation movements that had been more intensely active up to the 1970s. Their dynamism was at that same time gradually attenuated through social gains, trade union policies becoming increasingly ’reformist’ and by the exponentially increasing abundance of consumer goods (Pier Paolo Pasolini defined this consumption fever as: a fever of obedience to an unstated order). As from the 1990s Capitalism found itself without effective competition; shed of the menaces of Communism; the emancipation movements had become weakened; mainstream economic ideological conformism had triumphed. Unleashed, the savage capitalism of the 18th and 19th centuries returned as if well rested and in fresh attire ready for new combats and new horizons, even professing to have been enlightened by having crossed swords with the emancipation movements, professing individualism as a form of emancipation and promising a free and radiant future: a hegemonic Capitalist future deaf to criticisms of economic growth, technological innovation and any other concept of progress than its own. Currently, Capitalists do not hesitate to counter-produce a discourse of ’market ecology’, to promote so-called ecological practices grotesquely under-scaled in relation to the damages they have themselves caused. Capital is not ready to scuttle to save humankind, or the non-human. Capital accumulation, whatever the cost (for the others), always was, is and forever will be its credo in all its neo-liberal, financial, industrial, and commercial forms.

The financial form of Capitalism, now dominant, corresponds with its neo-liberal phase and emerged at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. It is the spearhead of capitalist development, not an alternative byway that leads off from a fictive moral and humanist capitalism. The precursors of Bill Gates and his cronies, the first American super rich (Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, John Pierpont Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, etc.), because of their attitudes, actions, manipulations, indecency, corruption of American administration and - with the complicity of the US government - foreign administrations, earned the nickname of ’Robber Barons’. Claiming to be Christians they hoped to buy their places in Heaven, pay for their sins and smooth over their public images by creating philanthropic trusts which grew into powerful public relations tools. In this age of market globalisation and advanced ’private sector supremacy’, Bill Gates (who is also a shareholder in, among others, the arms industry, a very prosperous sector of capital, even before neo-liberalism), like his peers, is simply following in the footsteps of these model capitalists. Protecting Human lives from dangerous diseases such as Chikungunya, Dengue fever, Malaria or Zika [7] and the mosquitoes that transmit them is not the fundamental concern of the BMGF and the other investors obstinately researching into the genetic modification of mosquitoes in Burkina Faso, Australia, Brazil, the West Indies or the USA (in California or Florida) despite failures in the Caiman islands and Malaysia where undesirable secondary effects of the processes were noticed on Humans and non-Humans alike. The only goal of this research is more and more capital accumulation . [8] This is for capitalism, not only for the financial actors, ’the law and the prophets’ (Karl Marx).

The current ecological (climate, biodiversity, etc.) and social (growing inequality, poverty, etc.) crises, as well as their history - unlike the ’economic science’ textbooks - show that capital is not only rogue, but structurally cynical and criminal. Thus, even if at present, through the growing and deadly multidimensional/globalizing grip of capitalism, the end of the world seems a more real possibility than the end of capitalism (Fredric Jameson), there is no question of confusing pro- and anti-capitalist anti-neoliberalism, of contributing to the whitewashing of one capital over another. Beyond opposition to the use of genetically modified mosquitoes, to the financialization of the struggle against malaria and other diseases, it is a question of removing health from the clutches of capitalism. This cannot be achieved without also fighting its hold on all other sectors of society and on non-human life. It is as a multidimensional totality that capitalism must be fought. The hope of an ecological and social life other than the one imposed by capitalism is not to be lost, it is to be revived.




Tranlated by Mike Krolikowski & Christine Pagnoulle.

Footnotes

[1Published by FIAN International, Transnational Institute and Focus on the Global South, Rogue capital and the financialisation of territories and nature (2020). The phrase ’Rogue Capital’ is inspired by George Bush Jr’s use of the expression ’Rogue State’, like a thief accusing other thieves of dishonesty.

[2Contrary to the ideas spread by some academic and media sources, echoed by part of the alterglobalist movement, globalization is not a new phenomenon that arose over the last decades of the 20th century. Already in the 19th century, Karl Marx wrote ’The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre’ Capital, book I, Chap. XXXI, ’Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist’. Otherwise said, the capitalist society that evolved from the 18th century is a result of the dynamic of planetary expansion, originally global mercantilism: ’Globalisation gave birth to capitalism’ as Alain Bihr recently wrote in his three volume study, Le premier âge du capitalisme (1415-1763) (Lausanne/Paris, Syllepse, 2018-2019). The end of the 20th century was not the birth of Globalization but its neo-liberal capitalist phase characterized by, among other signs, the intensification of the commodification of all that it is possible to commodify, the increasing importance of the financial sphere, deregulation of finance including that which was already active in the previous phases of Capitalism (for example, ’whilst Darwin published on human origins Indians were being hunted down in Argentina. The chase was financed by obligatory bonds. Once the Indians had been eliminated their lands were redistributed between the bond holders. Each bond was exchanged for 2500 hectares (6 177 acres), reports Sven Lindqvist in Exterminate all the brutes, [Stockholm, 1992, p. 155), referring to an Argentine historical work from 1964. ’Financialisation’ did not at all mean that the extortion of profit values in the productive sphere (mining, industry, etc.) had ceased to be central to capitalism, as is observed in the delocalization of industry towards countries where labour comes cheap or the declared or undeclared importing of cheap labour. An important part of financial capital has its origins in this exploitation and overexploitation of the workforce.

[3Collective authorship, La gouvernance globale sous l’emprise des entreprises ! L’accord de partenariat entre le Forum économique mondial (FEM) et l’ONU est une menace dangereuse pour le système onusien. Lettre ouverte à , Secrétaire général des Nations unies, 7 octobre 2019 (Global Governance under Private influence! UN Partnership agreements with the World Economic Forum are a dangerous threat to UN principles. Open letter to M António Guterres General Secretary of the United Nations). https://actionsolidaritetiersmonde.org/inquietudes-face-a-une-emprise-grandissante-des-entreprises-transnationales-sur-les-organisations-des-nations-unies-consacrees-a-lalimentation/(in French)

[4Such collusion can also be found outside Africa. France has often requested recommendations favourable to capital from expensive consultant agencies such as McKinsey - supposedly transnational experts in neo-liberalisationm - or advice that French civil servants and national agencies are supposedly incompetent to produce (’In most cases ministerial teams are competent and should be able to realise, independently, the expertise, the changes and the necessary structural adjustments’). In Belgium, McKinsey has suggested a reform of public education and won the contract for counselling the said reform, in order to subordinate Belgian education and research to the expectations of private enterprise.

[5Henry Ford was an American pro-fascist car manufacturer who advocated for higher wages so that workers could purchase the goods they produced; John Maynard Keynes was an English economist, theorist of the economic entrepreneurial state, of the rejection of the principle of the self-regulating market or the ’invisible hand of the market’, of social policies that reduce inequality, unemployment, etc.

[6See, for example, the documents produced by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt/CADTM (formerly, Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt): www.cadtm.org.

[7The report rightly includes the American Presidential Initiative against Malaria in the ’financialisation of malaria’ (p. 24). The US Presidency seeks to save the Africans whilst ignoring, also through structural racism, the conditions of the populations of its own miserable ghettos, and Native American reservations. This is soft power: helping the poor at home is not profitable.

[8In Brazil, «This method costs between 670, 000 to 1.6 million Euros the first year and about 335 000 Euros each year thereafter, to maintain the transgenic population of mosquitoes, for a town of 50,000 inhabitants’.See AFP/L’Express, ’Brésil : une ‘usine’ de moustiques OGM pour venir à bout de la dengue,” L’Express, 30 July 2014 https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/sante/bresil-une-usine-de-moustiques-ogm-pour-venir-a-bout-de-la-dengue_1563037.html (in French). [I found plnty of sources of English but none that mentions figures for costs.]

Jean Nanga

est militant du CADTM en Afrique, il collabore régulièrement à la revue Inprecor.

Other articles in English by Jean Nanga (3)

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