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  • Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Chinese President Xi Jinping during the welcoming ceremony at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, July 9, 2015.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Chinese President Xi Jinping during the welcoming ceremony at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, July 9, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

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The Global South isn't challenging the economics of the North, but replicating it.

About 150 years ago, Marx had already said that capitalism was the most effective economic system that humanity had invented to produce goods and services, but he also indicated the price to be paid: destroying the very foundations of its own wealth, nature and labor. In the short term, indeed, the logic of the market is the shortest route to economic growth and this is the basic orientation that emerging countries and the vast majority of Southern countries have adopted. It is what can be observed both in the growth model of the BRICS, as in the ignorance of the "externalities” and also in the relationship established between the BRICS and their peripheries.

With the reform of Den Xiaoping in China, meaning the opening to the market, China has kwon a spectacular growth. However, we must not forget that it had been prepared by the elimination of extreme poverty and the establishment, not without difficulties, of a "poverty with dignity", ensuring access to most essential goods. On this basis, the adoption of some market mechanisms would quickly create growth. There is today a controversy in China regarding environmental and long-term social effects of this model, but in the short term there is unanimity to accept it. The influence of Xiao Shou Chuang, the governor of the Bank of China (Central Bank) is growing and it means the increase private banks and greater openness to foreign capital. In this perspective and as an example, 70 percent of oil production and 80 percent of their treatment are in the hands of five multinationals (Archer Dawns, Millard, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus-Wilmas). In Vietnam, the Doi Moi (Renovation) had the same effects.

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In Brazil, the policy of President Lula, continued by Dilma Roussef, was, on the one hand, the adoption of capitalist logic to accelerate growth and, secondly, the redistribution of a (quite modest) part of the surplus profit through social policies of welfare, which certainly took out of misery tens of millions of people, but without affecting conclusively the social distances measured by the Gini index.

In India, the central bank governor, appointed in mid-2013, who has been an alumnus of MIT, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and professor at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Chicago, cannot be expected to reject the logic of economic development promoted by these institutions of thought and power. In addition to these data, the BRICS have given a contribution of 75 billion dollars to the IMF, thereby strengthening its share of votes.

On the other hand, in a slightly longer historical perspective, one should note that in the South practically all political parties of socialist or Marxist origin who have come to power in the course of recent years (after Bandung), and all National Liberation Movements, adopted neoliberal policies or at best post-neoliberal orientations, but not post-capitalist. This is the case in Africa, where governments issued from Marxist oriented Liberation Movements, as has been the case with Angola or Mozambique, South Africa, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde. In Asia, one can cite Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, China and Vietnam. In the Middle East, it has been the case of countries led by Ba'ath parties (Iraq, Syria). In Latin America, Uruguay, Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Bolivia have been moving through similar processes.

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In fact, the conviction is that there is no other way to develop productive forces than to adopt the logic of the market, because of its short-term efficiency and the conception of modernity remains the same as the one of the capitalist system: a linear view of progress on an inexhaustible planet. In the same philosophical approach, the struggle against poverty has been assumed by most governments in the line of the United Nations (Millennium Development Goals by 2015), or in a humanistic perspective within the regimes of socialist or social democratic type, or as a way of broadening the base of the market in neoliberal countries.

In terms of the relationship with nature, Marx had noted the growing imbalance of metabolism (material exchanges) between nature and humankind, which he said would lead to serious problem. He explained the phenomenon by the difference between the rate of reproduction of capital and nature, the latter is slower, and believed that only socialism could rebuild this balance. But socialist societies (USSR, China), did not adopt this position, destroying nature at the same pace as capitalist societies. It is only recently that Marxist thinkers have rediscovered the concept of Marx and come to the concept of eco-socialism.

Modernity brought by capitalist logic has imposed its conception of growth, to the point of invading the collective cultural universe, whatever the social perspectives. Thus the BRICS and most of the South, have adopted the model of growth of the North, precisely that which has led to environmental destruction and social disasters that we know. Therefore, it is not enough to build an anti-hegemonic pole, even if in the current situation, it is a positive initiative.

Francois Houtart is a priest and sociologist from Belgium.
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