SHARE

Overexploitation of the working class and the theft of natural wealth

In the thought-provoking text “The Gravity of a Possible New World Recession”, published by Marxismo Vivo magazine number 15, the author, Eduardo Almeida, makes an important statement: “Financial capital controls the world at levels higher than that described by Lenin when he defined this as one of the central characteristics of imperialism[1]”. Although the statement seems correct, we decided to investigate this process on the African continent and see if this statement applies or not. In addition to seeking to understand and interpret financial capital in Africa, we also want to discuss how to get out of this situation. How to break with imperialism and how to fight for the second independence.

Of the various sectors for the study at this time we chose to start with mining, but we could have chosen oil, given its importance. Thus, the African oil industry, although dispersed in five countries (Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, Libya and Egypt), according to 2017 data, together produced 5.690 million barrels per day. That is a production superior to the production of important producers such as Canada (4th producer in the world), Iraq (5th), China (6th), Iran (7th), Brazil (8th) United Arab Emirates (9th) and Kuwait (10th).

Even with all the importance of oil production, we consider that mineral exploration, not as concentrated as oil, is carried out in almost all 54 countries, and is the best example we find of the presence of imperialist financial capital on the African continent.

We will try to explain this vicious circle that involves the abundance of mineral resources, mining, investment funds, relations with imperialist governments, relations with local governments and, finally, the explanation of the reason for poverty.

Data from mining on the continent points to the presence of the 10 largest mining companies in the world. There are other smaller and no less important companies. However, in this text we will deal with the nine largest, since two of them were unified in 2018, the year which our data is from. These companies are: Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Vale, BHP Billiton, Barrick Gold, Freeport-McMoran, Newmont Mining, Teck and ALCOA.

 

Who are the main shareholders of these companies?

On the specialized Market Screener website are the 10 largest shareholders of each of these companies, considering only the shares with voting rights. Altogether they are 49 banks and investment funds. And no more than that. Thus, of these 49 institutions, six of them have participation in five or more companies among the nine mining companies. Of these 49 institutions, by origin, five companies are from the USA and one is from Norway.

Below is a description of the main investment funds and the stake held in the ten largest mining companies:

The Vanguard Group, Inc.: Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Vale, BHP Billiton, Barrick Gold, Freeport-McMoran, Newmont Mining, Teck and ALCOA.

Capital Research & Management Co. (Global Investors): Rio Tinto, Vale, BHP Billiton, Barrick Gold, Freeport-McMoran, Newmont Mining, Teck and ALCOA.

Capital Research & Management Co. (World Investors): Rio Tinto, Vale, Barrick Gold, Freeport-McMoran, Teck and ALCOA.

BlackRock Fund Advisors: Rio Tinto, Vale, BHP Billiton, Freeport-McMoran, Newmont Mining and ALCOA.

BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Ltd.: Anglo American, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Barrick Gold and Teck.

Norges Bank Investment Management: Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Vale, Teck and ALCOA.

These nine companies, according to the Market Screener website, had an EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) profit of US $88.898 billion dollars. This is not revenue, it is profit. With that profit, if these mining companies were a European country, it would be the 25th richest country on the continent; or 7th out of 55 African countries.

 

See: BLACK ROCKS in English 

Dissecting investment funds

And who controls these investment funds? To explain this we will use the exemplary case of the Black Rock Inc fund.

Founded in 1988, BlackRock is an American corporation, headquartered in New York, and has offices in 30 countries and clients in more than 100 countries. In 2019 it was considered the largest investment fund in the world. Economic magazine “The Economist” considers BlackRock the largest shadow bank in the world.[2]

Due to its weight, size and importance, Black Rock was hired by Barack Obama to advise him on issues related to the 2007-2009 crisis.

Black Rock also stands out for being the world’s largest investor in coal plants, holding shares worth US $ 11 billion[3]. It also has more oil, gas and thermal coal reserves than any other investor. For environmentalists, Black Rock is the “biggest driver of climate destruction on the planet”[4], due in part to its refusal to part with fossil fuel companies.

 

Who are the main shareholders of Black Rock?

Continuing with information from the specialized website Market Screener, the 10 largest shareholders of Black Rock are[5]:  PNC Bank NA (Investment Management); The Vanguard Group Inc.; Capital Research & Management Co. (World Investors); SSgA Funds Management Inc.; Wellington Management Co. LLP; China Investment Corp. (Investment Management); Mizuho Financial Group Inc.; Black Rock Fund Advisors; Norges Bank Investment Management; and Merrill Lynch,Pierce, Fenner& Smith Inc.

In the book, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, Lenin explains how banks “incorporate and subordinate” each other. “I have emphasised the reference to the “affiliated” banksbecause it is one of the most important distinguishing features of modern capitalist concentration. The big enterprises,and the banks in particular, not only completely absorb the small ones, but also “annex” them, subordinate them,bring them into their “own” group or “concern” (to use the technical term) by acquiring “holdings” in their capital, by purchasing or exchanging shares, by a system of credits etc., etc…

In the diagram below we can see how this incorporation and subordination process takes place, in the specific case of BlackRock. In order not to be boring, of the 10 largest shareholders we will describe 3 of them and the reader will be able to confirm how this intricate network of financial capital presents itself.

 

 

Above we see that the investment funds that control Black Rock Inc. have close relations with those described below:

* SSgA: its main shareholders: The Vanguard Group Inc.; Capital Research Management Co.; BlackRock Advisors (an arm of BlackRocks Inc.) and SSgA Funds Inc. (which is an arm of SSgA itself).

* Mizuho: its main shareholders are: The Vanguard Group Inc.;BlackRock Advisors; and Norges Bank Investment Management.

* Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith Inc.: After the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008, as part of the bailout program for companies and banks on the brink of bankruptcy, the Barack Obama administration incorporated Merrill Lynch into the Bank of America as a department of that bank. So, instead of introducing the shareholders of Merrill Lynch, we are presenting the ten largest shareholders of Bank of America, which has among its main shareholders: The Vanguard Group Inc.; SSgA Funds Management Inc.; Wellington Management Co. LPP; BlackRock Advisors; Capital Research Management Co.;and Norges Bank Investment Management.

 

Close relations between Black Rock and Obama

The gigantic crisis of 2007 – 2009 was the first challenge of Barack Obama who was president of the USA from 2009 to 2017. Obama’s chief economic advisor was a then 31-year-old (born in 1978), Brian Christopher Deese[6], serving on the National Economic Council. He was responsible for the rescue operation of the auto industries, especially Chrysler and General Motors, which meant huge injection of public capital, closing factories, thousands of layoffs and reduced rights.  The New York Times, when describing the emerging figures of the new government, saw him as ” one of the most influential voices[7]“. But it was not only in the industrial field that he acted. Thus, B.C. Deese played an important role in saving Merrill Lynch, one of Black Rock’s 10 largest shareholders.

As vice president of the National Economic Council, since 2011, B.C. Deese has been responsible for all liberalizing policies to the taste of financial capital in the fields of: financial regulation, housing, clean energy, manufacturing and the automotive industry.The newspaper “The New Republic” described him as one of the “most powerful, least famous people”[8]. The newspapers never tired of talking about how cultured and intelligent B.C. Deese was. Would he have been famous in the Bronx or as the son of renegade immigrants?

After the Obama administration, B.C.Deese took on the important role of “Managing Director, Global Head of Sustainable Investing[9] at BlackRocks Inc.

 

Intensification of capitalist exploitation and its consequences

Lenin wrote that “Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and everincreasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., strengthens the domination of the financial oligarchy and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolists.[10]. When Lenin says that “levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolists“, it can be translated today into:

Overexploitation of workers: through low wages, exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, and accidents at work (Rio Tinto recognizes that only in 2018 did three workers lose their lives “due to fatality”).

Child labor: child labor in mining in Congo, for example, causes countless deaths of children. Only one action brought in the USA points to the death of 14 children in the collapse of mining tunnels[11]. In Ivory Coast, cocoa harvesting for Nestlé is carried out with child labor[12].

Destruction of the environment: There is no mining without destruction. The more than three hundred deaths at the Brumadinho mine in Brazil are a tragic example. But there are other ways, such as the forced removal of 10,000 families in Congo so that cobalt can be exploited for Tesla, Microsoft, Dell, Google, etc.[13]

Theft of raw materials: France has been extracting uranium in Niger for decades. It pays only 5.5% of taxes and gets 94.5% net of sales. The lights that illuminate Paris, the City of Light, are generated by the Niger’s uranium. The horrible image of poverty in that country is a consequence of the “Parisian beauty”.

Theft of land and natural resources: The charming English tea is stained with blood from peasants expelled from their land in Kenya[14]; and Unilever’s institutional propaganda says: “2.5 billion people in the world use Unilever” but what the propaganda does not say is that this empire was built with the theft of land, slave labor and the appropriation of natural wealth in the Congo occupied by the imperialists Belgians and English.

Genocide: More than 150 years of genocide and impunity; civil wars and wars between countries[15].

In this way “the monopoly, once it is formed and controls thousands of millions, inevitably penetrates into every sphere of public life, regardless of the form of government and all other ‘details’”. This quote from Lenin made over a hundred years ago remains true. There are several examples- one of the most scandalous was during the civil war in Angola at the end of the Cold War. The MPLA, aligned with the USSR, was attacked by UNITA, which was funded by South Africa and the US. At this time, Anglo American diamond company De Beers, based in South Africa, declared itself “neutral” in the conflict and had an air route that took the diamond produced and returned with food. They didn’t care about the government in power.  Just as today they invest in Latin America without questioning the government’s  character. The aforementioned financial groups have no problem with the politics of the rulers. They can be right wing like Piñera in Chile or Duque in Colombia. Or it could be the alleged rebel governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia or Maduro in Venezuela. Everyone is negotiable and the tactic is always the same: negotiate. And this is how the governments of the progressive PT, through Lula and Dilma, lent to Black Rock, with the low interest o fR $ 26 billion reais[16]. In contrast, in the 2010 and 2012 elections, Black Rock contributed to the electoral campaign of the three main parties of the bourgeois order: PT, PSDB and PMDB.

These examples demonstrate with complete clarity how correct the central theses of Lenin’s “Imperialism” are, and further, how imperialist domination in Africa goes hand in hand with the ruling elites and involves the complicit silence of many organizations that claim to be representatives of the workers and poor people.

 

Struggle for independence

Between the end of the 1950s and the end of the 1970s, there was a long period of struggles for independence that resulted in major changes in the colonial relationship. Several subjugated countries in Africa gained their independence. We say it was a great victory, but an incomplete victory. Alejandro Iturbe, editor of the magazine “International Courier”, says: “In each country, the independence process had specific characteristics, but with many common elements. One of them is the nature of the leaderships that led them. These movements of national liberation were led by organizations of bourgeois nationalist ideologies and programs, with strong anti-imperialist elements (although some of them self-defined as “Marxist Leninists”), petty bourgeois directions and popular-plebeian rank and file[17].

The masses waged heroic resistance struggles against colonialism in the first place and over time they transformed the resistance struggle into an open struggle for independence. The masses with their struggles did their part, but the process did not continue until true independence.

This happened firstly because they tried to stop and control the momentum of the masses, thus “freezing the rebellious processes”. Second, to the extent that their program was essentially bourgeois nationalist, they did not advance in the expropriation of large capitalist properties, in the nationalization of mineral exploitation, in the expulsion of foreign capital and in other anti-capitalist measures.

We can say that it was an important political victory. However, as there was no progress on economic issues, in a few decades, they went backwards and many governments turned into bloodthirsty dictatorships.

 

The struggle for Second Independence

The “freezing” of the independence struggle has brought serious damage to the African continent. The first big problem is that by not expropriating the bourgeoisie, by not expelling imperialism, these gradually grew stronger and created a black, ultra-reactionary ruling elite. The end result has been the frightening growth of poverty. The World Bank recognizes that “the number of Africans living in poverty has increased and global poverty will become increasingly African[18]“. In the same report, the World Bank says: “If the circumstances remain the same, the [global] poverty rate is expected to drop to just 23% by 2030 and global poverty will become increasingly African, rising from 55% in 2015 to 90% in 2030”.

The World Bank states that “Limited public resources challenge the financing of the poverty agenda”. In other words, it recognizes that governments do not have the money to fight poverty due to lack of resources, because they do not receive taxes from financial and commercial transactions, and because of tax evasion. However, the solution to the problem, in the opposite direction, is posed by the Economic Commission for Africa, a UN body, which supports free financial transaction; and the financing of the necessary infrastructure (roads, ports, electricity, internet, etc.) for the application of free trade treaties such as the BRICS and Free Trade Area[19].

The economic situation that this generates in the continent can also be seen in other expressions of a colonial economy. 2015 data[20] indicates that:

  • African countries received $ 161.6 billion in 2015 – mostly in loans, personal remittances, and aid in the form of donations. However, $ 203 billion was taken from Africa directly – mainly through companies that repatriated profits and moved money illegally off the continent.
  • African countries receive about $ 19 billion in aid in the form of grants, but more than three times the amount ($ 68 billion) is withdrawn, mostly by multinational companies that deliberately report false imports or exports to reduce taxes.
  • While Africans receive $ 31 billion in personal remittances from other countries, multinational companies operating on the continent repatriate a similar amount ($ 32 billion) in profits to their home countries each year.
  • African governments received $ 32.8 billion in loans in 2015, but paid $ 18 billion in interest and principal payments, with the overall level of debt rising rapidly.
  • It is estimated that $ 29 billion a year is stolen from Africa in the form of illegal timber trade, fish and wildlife. wildlife.

 

In this sense, the necessary struggle for Second Independence means driving the imperialist powers together with their companies and banks from the continent. For the writer of the International  Courier magazine Américo Gomes, “This will only take place with the method of the struggle of the working class, led against imperialism, but also against the new African bourgeois and its puppet governments, breaking with all reformist and nationalist leaderships, which do not pose these tasks as indispensable[21]“.

.

The resistance has begun

We see that the patience of the African people is reaching its limit, as in many countries former dictators are falling one by one. It began in 2011 as mass protests toppled Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years. In 2014, we saw the mobilizations in Burkina Faso that toppled dictator Blaise Compaoré, the same one who led a coup d’état against Thomas Sankara in 1987.

2017 marked the end of Robert Mugabe’s 40-year rule in Zimbabwe. And that same year, after 38 years in power, José Eduardo dos Santos saw his government lose power in Angola.

Already in 2019, after 18 years in the presidency Joseph Kabila was forced to call elections and pass on the palace keys. That same year, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashi was less fortunate, and saw his 30-year-old government interrupted by an insurrection. And in Algeria, gigantic mobilizations ended Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s 20 years of rule.

The overthrowing of dictators should and could increase in 2020. Some as old as Cameroonian President Paul Biya may fall, aged 86 and having been in power for 37 years. And some other dictators will try to keep themselves in power by changing the constitutions of their countries. There are many examples. Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo is an army general having received military training in France. Sassou Nguesso seems to like power, since his first term was 11 years (1979 to 1992),and in this second term he has ruled for 23 years.  Another example is in Eritrea, the priceless Isaias Afwerki who has been in office for 16 years and has never held elections. And we can’t leave out Paul Kagame from Rwanda who has been in power for 19 years.

Others may also have tough days in 2020, such as in Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo, who has been in power for 40 years and in Uganda, Yoweri Museveno, who has ruled the country for 33 years.

What we can also say is that in South Africa the economic crisis is on its way. As a result we observed the fall of Jacob Zuma who ruled from 2009 to 2018 and after successive denunciations and financial scandals was forced by his party, the African National Congress, to resign. So Cyril Ramaphosa took a short term and was later elected president in May 2019. Thus, South Africa is a country in deep crisis because of deindustrialization, unemployment, and with an economy in successive contractions, and we can expect that the newly elected Ramaphosa government will be a crisis government.

Workers and young people, 50 or 60 years after the struggle for independence, are a generation without memory of the experience of colonialism and their main reference is the effects of structural adjustments, globalization, dictatorships and all the harmful effects of neoliberalism.

The downfall of these governments reported above – via mobilization or even elections – are part of the process of experimentation and search for alternatives. We therefore believe that we must participate and support all ongoing or upcoming struggles, be they around wages, youth rights or in defense of democratic freedoms and against dictatorships. However, in these struggles we must place the need for a Second Independence, with a real break with imperialism and the construction of a new, more just, egalitarian and fraternal society, a socialist society.

 

 

[1]https://litci.org/en/the-gravity-of-a-possible-new-world-recession/

[2]“Shadow and substance”. The Economist. May 10, 2014

[3]“New Research Reveals the Banks and Investors Financing the Expansion of the Global Coal Plant Fleet”. Urgewald. 2018-12-05

[4]“BlackRock’s Big Problem | Making the climate crisis worse”. BlackRock’s Big Problem | Making the climate crisis worse.

[5]  https://www.marketscreener.com/BLACKROCK-INC-11862/company/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Deese

[7] “The 31-Year-Old in Charge of Dismantling G.M.” by David E. Sanger, The New York Times, May 31, 2009 (p. B1 NY ed.)

[8] The Editors (2011-11-03). “Washington’s Most Powerful, Least Famous People”. The New Republic

[9]https://www.blackrock.com/institutions/en-us/biographies/brian-deese

[10] LENIN.  Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism – www.marxists.org

[11] IRA advocates Files Forced Child Labor Case Against Tech Giants Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla for Aiding and Abetting Extreme Abuse of Children Mining Cobalt in DRC

http: iradvocates.mayfirst.org/press-release/iradvocates-files-forced-child-labor-case-against-tech-giants-apple-alphabet-dell

[12]“Sustaibale” Nestle Cocoa Made With Child Slavery, Suit Says

http: iradvocates.mayfirst.org/news/sustaibale-nestle-cocoa-made-child-slavery-suit-says

[13] 10 000 families to be moved from DR Congo cobalt site – provincial governor

http: m.news24.com/Africa/News/10-000-families-to-be-moved-from-dr-congo-cobalt-site-provincial-governor-20191218

[14]There is blood in the tea –  http: mg.co.za/article/2019-11-01-00-there-is-blood-in-the-tea

[15] If you are one of those who believe that civil wars or between countries are motivated by religious issues, by the search for peace, by corrupt and authoritarian governments and other legends, we have bad news: wars are to dominate and plunder our wealth. See who are the main shareholders of the five largest military companies (Lockheed Martin Corporation, BOEING, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman Corp) in the world and compare with the main shareholders of the mining companies. The five largest military companies are controlled by 27 investment funds. Most of these investment funds are also controllers of mining companies. Let’s see: The Vanguard Group, Inc. and Capital Research & Management Co. are shareholders in the five largest companies. SSgA Funds Management, Inc., Capital Research & Management Co. (World Investors) and BlackRock Fund Advisors these three investment funds are shareholders in four of the five largest companies.

[16]How much is 26 billion reais. Let’s compare. In 2011 the state spent 17 billion reais on household grant and served 13, 9 million families or approximately 50 million people. In other words, BlackRock alone received a small aid that would serve approximately 21 million families or 76 million people.

[17] International Courier – Publication by the International Workers  League Fourth International IWL-FI.  2018, nº 19 page 22

[18]https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/publication/accelerating-poverty-reduction-in-africa-in-five-charts

[19] UNITED NATIONS/Economic Commission for Africa -Assessing Regional Integration in Africa – Next Steps for Africa – Continental Free Trade Area

[20] https://www.quora.com/q/africas/Africa-is-poor-they-said#

[21]International Courier – Publication of the International Workers League / IV International.  2018, nº 9 page 7