Briefing from ROAPE Volume 7 Number 19
Brandt Report: A Critical Introduction
The Brandt Report offers a strategy for resolving the present crisis of the financial system of international capitalism. One of its main concerns is the increasing inability of Third World countries to meet their debts to private banks. This situation is seen as grave because it creates further crises when individual governments are unable to maintain consistent import policies, thus adversely affecting their own development strategies and causing chaos in the system of world trade. Solutions suggested are two-fold. Firstly, the Report sees the necessity for an expansion of trade between ‘North’ and ‘South’ , initially made feasible by increased funding to Third World countries by multinational institutions. Secondly, it emphasises the necessity to extend free trade arrangements. However it fails to acknowledge, much less come to terms with contradictions within the strategies which it advocates. Its suggestions for the restructuring of international financial institutions and national trading policies, (necessary because ‘if left to themselves economic forces tend to produce a growing inequality’ ), fail to take any account of the nature of contemporary capitalism and the problems and contradictions involved in its reconstruction. By ignoring these problems and by giving them a timeless quality (e.g. by stating that they could only be implemented when the battle against inflation is resolved in the West), this report contains little of real substance, constituting a collection of ‘well intentioned’ formulas with substantive moral posturing. Nevertheless there are important political side issues which emanate from its conclusions. The report's advocacy of a social democratic ideology supporting multinational institutions, an expanded World Bank role and extended free trade (with implications for the control of multinationals), is consistent with the policies of the World Bank's forthcoming World Development Report, but severely contradicts the overall emphasis of Thatcher and Reagan governments, which advocate narrowly defined national and strategic commitments. But political reaction against Reagan's policies should not be equated inevitably with support for the extension of quasi-World Bank activities at an international level. There has been ample evidence of the effects of World Bank policies and of the pressure which they can exert on individual development strategies, for there to exist an understanding of their negative political consequences in the past. Even if these policies were clothed with the humanitarian concerns implicit in the Brandt Report, it is unlikely that they will be substantially different.