Global Bonapartism: The G20 and the Planet

When the Finance Ministers of the Advanced States set up the G7 in 1974-75, their tongues quivered with the taste of centuries of power. The Soviet Union had begun its plummet into obsolescence. Its collapse was held off by a decade through the rise of oil prices and the cannibalization of the remarkable achievements of an earlier generation. The Third World had threatened the established order with its demand for a New International Economic Order (1973), but that would quickly be dispatched through financial trickery, one that led directly to the massive debt crisis of the 1980s and the inflation of the power of Wall Street, the City of London and the Frankfurt Finanzplatz. No rivals stood in the way of the G7. The European and Japanese Ministers happily bound their economies into dollar seigniorage, with the euro and the yen now secondary currencies in the world of international settlements. The United States was the leading edge. Its wingmen stood around: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. Everyone beamed. The future was theirs.

Like Achilles, the G7 not only killed its Hector, the hopes of the rest of the planet, but it now tied the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America behind its chariot and dragged it across the battlefield. Structural adjustment conditionalities, aerial bombardment: this was the loot and pillage of the era that opened up in 1975.

In late June, the G7 (with Russia, the G8) will meet in Toronto, Canada. This is its 33rd official gathering; it might be its final one. Alongside the G8, Canada will also host the G20. The G20 was formed in 1999 at the initiative of the "locomotives of the South," the BRIC countries (Brazil,
Russia, India and China), South Africa (who joins them in another iteration, the IBSA – India, Brazil and South Africa) and Mexico. A smart fellow at Goldman Sachs coined the acronym BRIC, but it has stuck, and it means more than that quaint sounding term from the 1990s, "emerging economies." The G20 began as a "mechanism for informal dialogue." Circumstances favored a greater role: the global financial crisis from 2008 onward opened the door. The "advanced" economies turned for consideration to their creditors among the BRIC states. This moment of crisis pushed the G20 to ask for more than an informal status. At the 2009 G20 Summit in Pittsburg, the eminences pledged, "Today, we designated the G20 as the premier forum for our international economic cooperation."

Read the rest of Vijay Prashad's analysis on Counterpunch