Durban, 25th of March 2013


Oilwatch International notes that the economic and political formation known by the acronym BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) started as an idea of Goldman Sachs for describing the main emerging markets. It is easy to read as a grouping conceptualized not in the interests of the people or the earth but for the sake of capital accumulation for the 1% and dispossession of the 99%, sustained by a system for the continuing extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.

The world has thus been saddled with yet another arbitrary and artificial multi-lateral collective like the G8, the G20 and whatever other “G” may be dreamt up tomorrow. Generally, such groupings have the role of subverting formal multilateral processes where some possibilities still exist for democratic decision-making. Groupings like the BRICS are like old-boy clubs, bestowing a sense of exclusivity on their members and enticing them to work for the collective interest of the powerful and to the detriment of others. When BRICS collectively gave $75 billion to the IMF in 2012, it was not Europe or the US which lost voting power – but Africa. When BRICS (minus Russia) signed the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ with Washington in 2009, this sleazy deal confirmed that the fossil-fuel addicted economies could continue polluting unabated while the rest of Africa is cooked by climate change.

The governments of the BRICS pretend that they are standing up against neo-colonial and imperial forces. They also suggest that their countries’ corporations compare favourably to the global North’s. These claims have little foundation in reality. The BRICS’ infamous power, oil and other fossil-fuel companies (whether private or state-owned) engage with impunity in the same misbehaviour that foreign transnational companies in the same fields do. They aid repression, drive environmental destruction and harm local livelihoods.

Brazil’s Petrobras, Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil, India’s CoalIndia Ltd., China’s CNPC and Sinopec, and South Africa’s Sasol, among others, are all extending their reach deep into their continents and beyond, taking advantage of each country’s role as regional hegemon.

Given the definition of the BRICS as a grouping of “markets” rather than societies, it is not surprising the way they are reduced to their products. As Russian analyst Anna Ochkina writes for the Durban “brics-from-below” coalitions: “Brazil is essential for agricultural supplies, China provides cheap labour, India supplies cheap intellectual work force for high tech industries, South Africa provides minerals and Russia supplies minerals, oil and gas. The scale and conditions of provision of these resources for global capital makes BRICS countries essential for the current system” [1].

While the BRICS present themselves as offering benevolence to the territories they plan to economically carve, their own peoples have to endure serious socio-economic, political and civil rights violations. They live with serious inequality, lack of adequate infrastructure, increased levels of violence and other symptoms of development oriented not toward people but rather toward government and corporate profit [2].

Oilwatch views groupings of this ilk as attempting to partition the world into various markets and spheres of influence, and to support each other as they meddle in the affairs of nations they work to exploit and oppress. Blocs like the BRICS are wedges for breaking apart other, more democratic spaces, eroding solidarity and promoting narrow market interests.

This week’s BRICS summit in South Africa will be a key battleground for both emerging and already imperial forces. As the biggest economy on the African continent, South Africa found that it could not stand by and watch while what was the BRIC began a second scramble for Africa, without trying to grab a slice of the pie for itself. And so South Africa forced itself into contention and the BRIC acquired an “S”.

Africa’s minerals and other resources have been objects of desire for plunderers and adventurers of every ilk over the centuries. Of late, land grabs have supplemented the grabbing of other African resources. Through these grabs, BRICS and similar blocs seek to entrench failed neoliberal agendas as well as an already obsolete fossil fuel- and dirty energy-driven civilization. The BRICS do not seem to realize that the destination of their planned drive on wheels of markets driven by dirty investments and the grabbing of resources is a brick wall. Or dead troops in search of their leaders’ mineral interests (as in unfortunate South Africans in the Central African Republic just as BRICS begins its Durban summit).

The grouping of nations into blocs by commodities and financial traders such as Goldman Sachs must rank as one of the most blatant subversions of the collective rights of peoples today. The situation will only be exacerbated by Goldman Sachs’ likely influence over the BRICS Bank proposed at a recent March meeting in South Africa. One leading Johannesburg official at Goldman Sachs is the former governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and Pretoria has requested that SA be the host for the new BRICS Bank – which Beijing reportedly supports.

Such a BRICS Bank could only exacerbate the social, economic and environmental chaos already caused in part by multilateral financing. Existing development finance institutions in BRICS countries – like South Africa’s Development Bank of Southern Africa or BNDES, the Brazilian development bank – offer sobering lessons. The spectacular failures of Goldman Sachs, as well as those of other Wall Street companies holding huge stocks of physical commodities such as oil storage tanks, metal warehouses and power plants [3], should send strong signals that their dreams and desires must be repudiated and rejected.

Oilwatch International denounces the contraption called BRICS and all other groupings set up to drive divisive and exploitative agendas around the world. We believe the time has come for the peoples of the countries in groups such as the BRICS, G8, and G20 to demand that their elected leaders shun those harmful blocs that destroy formal multilateral spaces and plunge the world into violence and deeper crises as evidenced by spiralling climate change, financial, economic and food crises.


[2] Friends of the Earth South Africa. 20 March 2013. Brics-from-below summit: Watching and challenging power!…
[3] CNBC. 11 March 2013. Goldman Leads Decline as Wall Street Commodity Revenues Plummet

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