GERC: Global Economic Reform Campaign


Jan Slakov

Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 08:11:15 -0500
From: Alex Falconer MEP <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Global Economic Reform Campaign
Sender: Alex Falconer MEP <•••@••.•••>
To: Jan Slakov <•••@••.•••>


You wrote << I went to Alex's web site and copied the main article there
(by "Alex and Dave") as I think it is very good. Of course, for me to share
it round, I will need to tediously go through it and justify the lines. (If
you could send me an e-mail version that would be great.) >>

I'm happy to e-mail you the text. You'll find the html version pasted below
and a text version attached.

It sounds like you may have cut and pasted the text from the web page view.
May I suggest that a better alternative in such circumstances is to save
the html version and pass that on. Anybody with a browser would be able to
read it (minus any graphic elements), and since in our case, the html tags
are fairly minimal, apart from the bit at the beginning, even reading the
source text is a fairly easy option (as you'll see when you scroll down).

<< I tried to go to the geocites web site but my system replies that the
server doesn't have a DNS? entry or something. Anyhow, I would like to
subscribe to the list but it seems I can,t get to the web site. >>

Odd, since Geocities is a large and well established operation. The DNS is
as I understand it, basically an address book of internet servers (I think
they all have numeric codes, and the entry for the alphanumeric URL is
checked to obtain the numeric address, or something like that), which your
ISP uses to connect you. I've checked the URL I distributed and it was
correct -

Perhaps you mistyped it, or perhaps it was temporarily unavailable from
your server. If you can log onto the main geocities page
then you should be able to access the Global Citizen page. If you cannot
get this page despite retrying, then tell your ISP. It could be their
fault. That said, don't worry too much, because I will post most items on
Alex's pages as well, and distribute them through the list, so your only
problem is that you haven't signed up for the list, but then, I can add
your name, and you will just need to reply to the e-mail authorisation when
it arrives. I have also added the Global signup form, and a link to the
global site, to the compuserve site (on the global menu page).

<< Sorry that my problems will mean asking you to take time to fiddle with
these details for me, if I am to get much use of your work... >>

Please do not hesitate to ask for further assistance if needed . . . 

<< PS What does MEP (at the end of Alex' name) stand for? >>

Member of the European Parliament.

Dave Smith

Please feel free to distribute and reprint this article, but we'd
appreciate it if we could be informed of any publication it appears in, and
ask that the contact details at the end accompany any use. Thanks.

The shape of things to come
Dave Smith / Alex Falconer MEP (Member of the European Parliament)

With the approach of the triple zero year 2000 (and for purists,
the new millennium which begins the following year), we can
expect to see growing numbers of doom merchants taking to the
streets, demanding that we repent because the end is nigh. They
will doubtless be accompanied by many exploitative authors and
publishers who jump on the lucrative bandwagon, preying on
peoples' fear of the future.

Putting to one side the hype of the false prophets and the
pedlars of pulp faction, there is a third, and much larger,
category of people who believe that the human race faces a
potentially apocalyptic future.

These people do not suffer from pre millennial tension. They
don't expect the crunch to come this side of the millennium, and
probably not for quite a few years after. But, within the next
few decades, they know we face global catastrophe in several

With a few exceptions, these disasters-waiting-to-happen have
been created by homo sapiens. With fewer exceptions, they can be
averted by us, if we move fast enough and soon enough.
Unfortunately, the response so far has been uneven, sluggish, and
inadequate. Despite the fine words of some politicians, the
manmade problems are getting worse.

Global warming is changing our weather patterns, increasing the
destructiveness of events such as hurricanes, droughts and
floods. The rising seas threaten the very existence of some

Despite the need to trap carbon dioxide, we continue to devour
forests for the sake of a few years of unsustainable agriculture.

We have a global economic system which forces people to grow cash
crops for export, to finance debt repayment, when they themselves
are malnourished. Global financial institutions lock people into
poverty and unemployment as the price for loans which they cannot
afford to repay. The international monetary system is unstable,
and it is run by organisations whose modus operandi is
increasingly discredited, and who even admit (to themselves but
not openly to others) that they have made major mistakes.

People are living in misery and dying as a result. Famine, plague
and pestilence, far from being eradicated, are being exacerbated
by the globalisation of capitalism.

To the threat of environmental or economic collapse, we should
also add the dangers of international conflict. As we have
recently been reminded, we still have the capacity to blow up the
world several times over. The nuclear time bomb is still ticking
away in the hands of an expanding and increasingly rowdy nuclear

Reaction and Proaction

Many, many people see what is happening. They band together to
campaign for change, and to help those who are suffering. There
are tens of thousands of organisations throughout the world,
dedicated to particular or general action on the environment or
debt or poverty, and campaigning for human rights, peace and

As people examine the causes of the issues which concern them,
they meet other issues and other campaigners. They realise that
their concerns are related, and that the way forward is
intertwined. They forge links and make common cause, but do not
necessarily take the next step.

If these things have common causes, and it is our contention that
they do, then the solution must encompass all the problems.
Furthermore, it should not surprise us that in a world where
profits rule supreme, all roads to salvation lead back to the
global economic and financial system.

The dangers which we face in the next few decades are, if not
cataclysmic, then without doubt, extremely serious. The present
system has shown itself incapable of addressing them adequately.
We therefore need radical changes to the system.

Campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 are making great strides in
raising awareness, both among the public and politicians. If they
manage to overcome the recalcitrance of the USA et al, then the
measures they are demanding would certainly alleviate the worst
effects of the present system.

However, while debt cancellation is a necessary part of any
strategy to overhaul the global economy, it only treats the
symptoms of the malaise. Unless we also attack the root causes,
then the symptoms will recur, or we will be subject to another
manifestation of the underlying disorder.

Consider deforestation (and the consequent loss of biodiversity
and acceleration of global warming). In temperate regions, most
primary forest has already been destroyed. Tropical rainforest
is disappearing so fast that at current rates, there will be
little left by 2040. Schemes such as debt for nature swaps are
too often aimed at alternative exploitation that provides little
benefit for local populations, and in any event, are totally
inadequate to deal with this scale of destruction.

Deforestation is the inevitable result of the rapid economic
growth policies adopted by many developing nations in response
to the demands of the global financial institutions.

The (unsustainable) growth imperative permeates all the problems
we face. It makes us look at the world through a distorting lens.
Productivity is measured in terms which ignore pollution by toxic
and climate changing chemicals. When modern agriculture, based
on fossil fuels and chemical fertilisers, uses ten calories of
non-renewable energy to produce one calorie of food, is it really
an advance upon traditional practices that yield two calories of
food for every calorie of renewable energy input?

The power beyond nations

Given the undeniable severity of the consequences of inaction,
why are the nations of the world not tackling these problems
effectively? Pin the blame, yet again, on the global economic

Nations are not the only players in the game. Transnational
Corporations have bigger turnovers and more power than many
nations. They can even take on and win in battles against
supranational institutions such as the European Union. The
supposed regulators of international trade and finance, such as
the WTO, are in practice captives to the Transnationals' agenda.

It would be untrue to say that capitalist enterprises are not
interested in long term future prosperity. But they do apply a
heavy discount rate to future benefits, which means that in all
but the most extreme circumstances, short-term profits are the
prime motivation determining their actions. Such is their power,
internationally and within nations, that their short-term
perspective is inevitably the dominant factor determining
government policies.

Short termism is inherent in the global economic system. An
examination of the factors which contribute to short-termism
reveals fundamental flaws in the system. The long term solution
to the destructive tendencies of global capitalism requires that
we identify and eliminate those flaws.

This is, of course, A Massive Task. However, it is also essential
for the long term survival of the human race.

What is to be done?

A few months ago, we met with a handful of people to discuss this
situation, and what we could do about it. We agreed that given
the size of the task, any campaign must aim to involve, link and
unify in action, the many and diverse forces already campaigning
on one or more of the issues. Also, it was recognised that while
such a campaign would essentially be one which created a network
among existing organisations (it would be counterproductive to
attempt to duplicate the work which is already being done), it
should also be flexible enough to engage new supporters.

At subsequent meetings, which have involved activists from NGOs,
churches, and the labour movement, we decided to concentrate in
the first instance on building support for the idea of such a
campaign among Scottish organisations and activists. To this end
we prepared a short pamphlet that outlined the main principles
on which we thought a campaign could be built, but making it
clear that the purpose of the pamphlet was to stimulate interest
and debate, not to serve as a definitive and immutable founding
statement. Apart from anything else, we know that we live in an
imperfect world, and that attempts to impose "perfect" solutions
on it are doomed to failure (and we wish that more economists
would realise it too).

We have also been pleased to hear that similar campaigns are
being built elsewhere, offering the possibility of building a
global network, connecting national, regional and local groups.
In this context, we were also heartened by a success of the
campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. The
campaign was internationally coordinated, largely via the
internet. It has provided a valuable lesson in how progressive
forces can make use of new technology to tackle global issues.

We are now in the process of "recruitment". There have been
fringe meetings at several conferences, and we would appreciate
invitations to speak at others. The still ad hoc group operates
under the working title of the Global Economic Reform Movement,
but that's only the germ of an idea. That we still have no fixed
title is however deliberate, and reflects the early stage of
development. Having pointed the finger at the fundamental flaws,
we do not want to preempt the wider discussion of the campaign's
objectives and organisation. For that, we await your involvement.

Alex Falconer is the Member of the European Parliament for Mid Scotland
and Fife. Dave Smith is Alex's researcher. They have worked together on
many pamphlets, the most recent of which was "The Wealth Beyond Nations",
available free of charge from  25 Church Street, Inverkeithing, Fife
(telephone 01383 419330, e-mail •••@••.•••).