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Peter Mertens: Mutiny in South and North

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Picture: ANA Files/2018 – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the European Parliament as far back as 2018 under the theme ‘A partnership of equals based on shared values’. At the Cumbre de los Pueblos (Peoples’ Summit) at the European Parliament, Peter Mertens, the Secretary General of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, speaks about the movement of history and the breaking points that have led to a mutiny against the current world order. The countries from the Global South have refused to side with the Western allies even though they disagree with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, because of sanctions, the Mertens says.

By Peter Mertens

Dear presidents, dear foreign ministers, dear members of parliament, panelists, friends, and comrades at this Peoples’ Summit at the European Parliament.

History proceeds in waves, and I think it is important to understand the movement of history. The unipolar era under the dominance of the United States is coming to an end.

The future belongs to multilateral relations between countries and peoples, with mutual respect and reciprocity, without outside political or military interference. Within this framework, enormous numbers of people have committed themselves in recent days to building lasting relations between Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe.

We all know: as the movement of history continues, some cling frenetically to the certainties of the old world going down. For some European forces, respect and reciprocity are still difficult concepts.

A senior European Union diplomat told Euronews last week, “it seems that the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean want to be seen as equal partners”.

It “seems” that they want to be seen “as equal partners”. So in that man’s mind, they are not equal partners. It is this neocolonial attitude that still haunts the minds of old forces. A number of diplomats, government leaders and forces in Europe have not seen, or have not wanted to see, the changes in the world order since the turn of the century.

They failed to see how the illegal war against Iraq in 2003 definitively undermined the credibility of the United States as the so-called leader of the world. That was an initial breaking point.

They failed to see how the 2008 financial crisis undermined the credibility of Western financial institutions, and rightly so. That was a second breaking point.

They failed to see how on the other side of the world, the BRICS was created in response to that global financial crisis.

They failed to see how the rest of the world reacts differently to the war in Ukraine, than the West. And I do not mean the issue of condemning Russia’s invasion, which is a violation of international law, a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. In the global south, they know only too well how important sovereignty is.

I’m talking about the sanctions, that is a third breaking point. Economic sanctions, embargo, shutting down the SWIFT interbank system and freezing central bank reserves. Everyone knows that all those sanctions can be used against other countries tomorrow, and in fact have been used against different countries for years, just think of the criminal embargo and blockade against Cuba.

With three breaking points, the war against Iraq in 2003, the financial crisis in 2008, and the war in Ukraine in 2022, our world has changed profoundly.

Recently, Fiona Hill, a former staff member of the US National Security Council, said that the vote of countries of the global South against the sanctions against Russia is nothing but “mutiny”. Mutiny!

They call it mutiny that countries and peoples want to make their own decisions about their own resources, whether lithium or cobalt, and claim the right to process the resources.

They call it mutiny that countries and peoples refuse to take sides in a trade war and a new cold war forced upon them from Washington.

They call it mutiny that the unipolar era of the United States is quietly coming to an end.

Let’s then embrace that mutiny, because it is on the right wave of history.

In Europe, too, there is mutiny. People are suffering from rising inflation and poverty, the erosion of labour rights and increasingly repressive laws. The class struggle in Europe goes up and down, like the waves of the sea. But it is there, and it is fighting against the same global order, the same monopolies, the same system of exploitation.

If we can get the mutiny of the North to lend a hand to the mutiny of the South, and vice-versa, we can turn the world around, in the democratic, social and ecological direction this planet needs.

Long live respect, friendship and solidarity among peoples. Long live mutiny!

Peter Mertens, the Secretary General of the Workers’ Party of Belgium

This article was first published in Peoples Dispatch