The Guardian August 15, 2001


TV review: The New Rulers of the World

The New Rulers of the World  A John Pilger Investigation" will screen 
on "The Cutting Edge" on SBS at 8.30pm on Tuesday August 21.From the point 
of view of imperialism, the problem with John Pilger, the London-based 
award-winning Australian journalist, is that he doesn't toe the line (or 
tug his forelock, if it comes to that).

If only he would devote his considerable talents to exposing the danger of 
Saddam Hussein, the crimes of Milosevic or the megalomania of Mugabe he 
would be lauded and applauded all over the capitalist media. But stubbornly 
he won't.

Instead he insists on exposing the machinations of imperialist governments 
and global corporations, of revealing the crimes they commit against the 
poor of the Third World in particular.

In his latest effort, "The New Rulers of the World", Dr Susan George, 
author of "A Fate Worse than Debt" effectively sums up the current state of 
global capitalism: "Do you know the difference between Tanzania and Goldman 
Sachs?

"The Gross National Product of Tanzania is $2.2 billion, distributed among 
a population of 25 million. The annual profits of Goldman Sachs are $2.2 
billion, shared among 161 partners."

Elsewhere in the program, Pilger points out that US car giant General 
Motors is wealthier than Denmark, that Ford's profits exceed the entire 
economy of South Africa and that Tiger Woods earns more "promoting" Nike 
than almost the entire work force of Indonesians "making" Nike products.

Pilger has gone undercover in Indonesia before, and does so again for this 
program. This time he poses as a fashion buyer in order to secretly film 
inside a factory making goods for clothing giant Gap, whose profits derive 
from sweatshop conditions in Indonesia.

Pilger shows how the workers, paid around $1 a day, are forced to live in 
dormitories made of packing cases. There is no running water and disease is 
always close by.

The CEO of Gap earns five and a half million dollars a year; the company's 
annual profits are $1.38 billion.

Pilger talks to Gap workers who are on a "36-hour shift", but are too 
intimidated to complain. Gap has a "Code of Vendor Conduct" that supposedly 
sets minimum standards of wages and conditions expressly to eliminate 
accusations of sweatshops.

But, as trade union leader Dita Sari points out, with Indonesia's rate of 
unemployment the "Code of Conduct" is effectively unenforceable. That must 
be a disappointment to Gap executives, I'm sure.

Pilger is not content to merely expose the discrepancies between the price 
of Gap boxer shorts in London or New York and the amount paid to the person 
who actually sewed them. He also examines the political situation in 
Indonesia that fosters this exploitation and looks at who is responsible 
for it.

He pinpoints the complicity of both the US and the UK in General Suharto's 
seizure of power in the mid '60s. Roland Challis, BBC SE Asia correspondent 
from 1964 to 1969 tells Pilger that the British Government "had" to know 
what was going on at the time: "there were bodies being washed up on the 
lawn of the British Consulate in Surabaya".

At the time, the US press glowed with reports of the economic advantages to 
the West. "Time" described the situation as "the West's best news for years 
in Asia". Meanwhile the CIA supplied Suharto's military with a list of 
thousands of Communists and labour militants to be assassinated.

A revealing segment of the program is devoted to a secret meeting convened 
by the "Time-Life" corporation in Geneva in 1967, attended by some of the 
most powerful capitalists in the world together with Suharto's Ministers. 
"Most of the Indonesian economy", says Pilger, "was redesigned in a week.

"This was the direct result of the bloodbath in Indonesia the year before, 
in which the United States and Britain had played important, supportive 
roles." Basically, global capital hammered out the conditions for its 
"intervention" in Indonesia.

Mining was discussed in one room, light industry, food services, banking 
and finance in others, until the carve-up of the country's economy was 
complete, and access had been secured to all of Indonesia's vast mineral 
wealth, markets and cheap labour  what US President Richard Nixon 
described as "the greatest prize in Asia".

In his 30-year rule, it has been estimated that up to $10 billion or one 
third of the World Bank loan to Indonesia was "lost" or stolen by Suharto 
before he was forced to step down. Pilger points out that the World Bank 
and the International Monetary Fund were originally established near the 
end of WW2 to rebuild the economies of Europe.

Later, loans were offered to poor countries, but only if they privatised 
their economies and allowed Western corporations free access to their raw 
materials.

The debt that accumulated was also used by the IMF and the World Bank, 
according to Barry Coates from the World Development Movement, as an 
instrument to force governments to implement IMF and WB policies, thus 
setting up a vicious cycle of poverty in the poorest countries.

Pilger: "The rich get richer on running up debt, cheap labour and paying as 
little tax as possible, while the poor get poorer as their jobs and public 
services are cut back in order to pay just the interest on debt owed by 
their governments to the World Bank".

But Pilger sees a change coming: as the "slave labourers" in Indonesia, 
with less money to pay for food, education and health, find their 
productivity slumping due to inhumanly long hours and little nourishment, 
demonstrators against globalisation the world over are rallying to the 
cause.

In Seattle, Melbourne, Genoa, London  wherever the G8, the WTO,the world 
economic forum, IMF and the World Bank meet  "millions are beginning to 
make their voices heard on the new economic order being imposed on them, 
especially young people. The evidence and views in "The New Rulers of the 
World" will strike a chord with many viewers, as globalisation touches all 
our lives", says Pilger.

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