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Book Reviews

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BRANDT REPORT [image, unknown] Book reviews

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This month we sift through a collection of books and pamphlets clarifying the Brandt Report; and look at a textbook on minorities that's too good to miss.

Editor: Anuradha Vittachi

Roundup:Books on Brandt

Not just books, but pamphlets too. They range from the adulatory to the criticaL CWDE’s Cartoonsheets are visually attractive, with useful quotes and basic information — an explanation of Brandt’s topics rather than a critique. Oxfam’s leaflet pack, The Brandt Report, has one set of explanatory leaflets (accurate but uninspired) and another set which are lively and thought-provoking (including Tony Vaux’s parable reprinted in this N.I. issue, page 23). Danus Skene is sometimes on target, sometimes off-beam. He questions Brandt’s model of the world as a social democratic welfare state, but his discussions of ’Capitalism’ and ‘Marxism' are simplistic and misleading.

More substantial is the IDS Bulletin, Britain on Brandt. It contains 16 items, including descriptions of responses to Brandt by the UK Parliament, business, trades unions, and voluntary organisations. The last is particularly interesting: Roy Laishley shows in detail how churches, charities, lobbyists and campaign groups have reacted to an unexpected UK public interest in the Brandt Report. Eight entries are articles by development specialists — some technical, others dealing with fundamentals. Michael Lipton writes usefully on Third World debt, while others argue for and against Brandt, not usually from a radical viewpoint

Third World Quarterly has six articles including major contributions by Dudley Seers and Andre Gunder Frank. Gunder Frank argues that monetarist opposition to Brandt is not blockheaded (merely wrong-headed), since monetarists believe that Northern states must cut production and tame their trades unions in order to reserve profit margins. Frank believes that ‘Keynesian analysis and remedies are no longer useful in the North and increasingly useless in the South’. Seers notes that ‘aid to governments of “poor” countries is one thing: aid to poor people of these countries, another’, and criticises the Report for avoiding these fundamental issues of repressions by Third World elites.

The Creation of World Poverty is a radical departure from the conventional wisdom. The Brandt Report, Teresa Hayter argues, is ‘primarily concerned with the preservation of the existing world order’. And it is this very world order which has created poverty and under-development and which still generates inequality and injustice. From the plunder of the Incas and Aztecs to the “triangular” slave trade, from European conquests to the world dominance of the United States, from 15th century privateers to 20th century multinationals, Hayter argues that the creation of poverty is the necessary counterpart of the accumulation of wealth. It is a disturbing thesis, well if polemically argued, and with a number of telling quotations. The issues are not merely of historical interest if the argument is sound, the Brandt Report is irrelevant and a quite different approach is needed.

Fighting World Poverty chronicles a 10,000-strong lobby of the UK Parliament in May 1981. It contains speeches by MPs, academics, and others, the briefing given to lobbyists, and the government’ s response. It is generally pro-Brandt, with some reservations. The Handbook of World Development has two main sections. Section I has A-to-Z entries on development topics: Access to Markets, Added Value, African Development Bank, Agrarian Reform, and so on. Most are written with special reference to the Brandt Report, whose views they explain and quote rather than criticise. Section II consists of A-to-Z entries on Third World countries, with basic data plus a 500-word description. One misses, however, the really important indicators found in NI’s own Country Profiles: income distribution, self-reliance, position of women, and political freedom. On the whole this is a valuable reference guide, but far too cosy for comfort.

Brian Wren

The Brandt Report (leaflet pack), Oxfam, 274 Banbury Rd, Oxford, 60p plus postage.

Brandt Politics and the Church, pamphlet by Danus Skene, SCAWD, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1 EC, Scotland, 5Op plus p & p.

Britain on Brandt, IDS Bulletin Vol 12 No. 2, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RE, £2.50 plus p & p (4Op UK).

Cartoonsheets: North-South; Trade; Unemployment; UN Water Decade; Food & Agriculture; the Poorest Countries; Energy; Population; Health; Aid; and Education. First three published, others in preparation. 18p each (1-20 copies), 16p each (20-50), 14p each (50-l00), 12p each for 100 or more. Centre for World Development Education, 128 Buckingham Palace Rd, London SW1.

The Creation of World Poverty — An Alternative View to the Brandt Report
, by Teresa Hayter, Pluto Press (in association with Third World First), pbk £2.50.

Fighting World Poverty, report on UK Parliamentary Mass Lobby on Brandt, World Development Movement, Bedford Chambers, Covent Garden, London WC2 8HA. 95p plus p. & p.

Handbook of World Poverty: The Guide to the Brandt Report, Longmans pbk £1.95. Third World Quarterly October 1980, Vol. II No. 4, £3.00, New Zealand House. 80 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4T5. Also available from Third World First as an off-print, 40p plus p. & p.


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Minority myths

Minorities A Teacher's Resource Book for the Multi-ethnic Curriculum
by David Hicks
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Heinemann Educational (pbk) £8.50
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Do you dominate people or let them dominate you? In David Hicks’ excellent Minorities, racism is traced back through prejudice to the need to dominate. It’s an experience every reader knows personally, whether as dominator, dominated, or both. Hicks builds on this basic awareness of the tensions in one-to-one relationships to extend the social perceptions of his audience.

Sadly, the stuffy subtitle of the book may narrow its readership. Dedicated but hard-pressed teachers of multi-ethnic curricula will no doubt be grateful for Hicks’ detailed practical help: lists of reports, books, films, slides, several experiential games, even assessment schemes and a sample course in World Studies. But it would be a pity if such an attractive and thought-provoking text was left unread by others concerned with broadening immature horizons in a less specialised way — teachers in general (and especially in teacher training colleges), youth leaders and parents.

Hicks argues that teaching young people to think fairly about majority/minority issues is a part of teaching them to think maturely. Holding one’s own viewpoint as the norm and assuming all others are off-centre is symptomatic of the majority outlook and also of the undeveloped, egocentric thinking of a child. Much of the book is designed to challenge and up-end majority prejudices. There is a ‘myths versus facts’ section on minorities; a checklist of Ten Quick Ways to evaluate racist overtones in children’s books — and most valuably, a first-rate selection of ‘alternative’ viewpoints from around the world. These voices from minority groups speak with such lucid strength that conventional attitudes suddenly seem absurd. Notable are several limpid and stirring quotations from North American Indians which deserve to become part of our common cultural heritage.

Capitalism and the under-development of Latin America
...being the book that argued that interdependence was a bad thing

WHO IS MILTON Friedman’s least-favourite ex-pupil? Andre Gunder Frank must be a strong contender. Bred and educated among conservative North Americans, Frank first viewed the causes of Latin American underdevelopment as ‘largely domestic’, generated by a feudal plantation system owned by inflexible Hispanic aristocrats.

Three years of first-hand observation in Brazil and Chile, plus a deep delve into their histories, brought Frank to a dramatically different conclusion. He stopped blaming feudalism and accepted the Marxist view that colonialist capitalism had initiated a process of underdevelopment. The ‘mother country' — first Iberia, then Britain, now the US — was the sun-like centre of a satellite system of colonies. Unlike the sun, though, which gives out warmth, the political centre sucked in its sustenance like a giant sponge.

With the zeal of the convert, Frank took this thesis a stage further. Each colony’s capital city, he said, was a centre (or ‘metropolis’) to its satellites, the provincial towns; each town a metropolis to its surrounding countryside. In Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America, a compilation of five revolutionary essays written in 1964-5, he used his metropolis-satellite model to show how the economic dependence instituted by colonialism continues to underdevelop Latin America today.

It was a landmark in the development of Marxist theory — and a face-saver. By the 1950’s, embarrassingly, capitalism still hadn’t crumbled. The workers of the westem world seemed less interested in revolution than the next pay-rise. Lenin had explained the delay once: showing how pressure had been transferred from European workers to the colonised peoples. The Westem proletariat had begun to benefit from the pillage of the Third World and revolution lost its sheen.

By the mid-twentieth century, though, this explanation wasn’t enough. Many colonies had won their independence. If they had provided capitalism’s lifeblood, as Marxists claimed, the industrial world should now be shrivelling. But the North continued to fatten and the South to falter. Furthermore, some Southerners seemed to live as luxuriously as Northern millionaires, while the poverty-stricken millions were poorer than ever.

Then along came Frank, thank — well, perhaps not heaven, but Marxists could thank the ‘dependency school’ of which Frank was a leading proponent, for his more elaborate centre-periphery model. Imagine the metropolis-satellite constellations in a cone. The cone is Latin America. The large area at the base represents the rural poor. They actually produce a realisable surplus from their labours in the fields or down the mines. But this surplus doesn’t enrich their own meagre living standards. Instead it is sponged up by those in the provincial towns, small employers and merchants on the next stratum. In turn the wealth of these towns is sponged up by the capital city at the apex of the cone. Finally part of this wealth is sponged away by foreign investors who repatriate it to the apex of the rich world.

The system hinges on the collaboration, unconscious perhaps, of the governing elite who live in the capital city. Without the West. These elites talk the same language (literally as well as metaphorically) as their ex-colonisers, they dress like them, drink like them, think like them. And they get a cut of the productive surplus before the rest slides into the pockets of their foreign friends. So poor countries; despite formal political independence, remain locked into an old system of economic dependence which perpetuates underdevelopment, committed to this disastrous course by their culturally hybrid ruling classes.

From this perspective, the New International Economic Order recommended by the Brandt Report seems completely wrong-headed. Cutting the parasitic links with the metropolitan economies and gaining regional self-reliance is the first priority. Talk of ‘interdependence’ simply reinforces the exploitative connection. Only equals can engage fairly in free trade. There can be no interdependence between unequals — only sugar-coated exploitation.

Way back in 1736, Jose Armendaris, Viceroy of Peru, observed that the commerce of his kingdom had come to be a ‘paradox of trade and a contradiction of riches...thriving on what ruins others and ruined by what makes others thrive’; whose ‘development lies in the management of foreign trade and its decline in the freedom of others'.

Less melodically, less coolly, accompanied instead by a dull clatter of academic polysyllables, statistics, and a counter-productive vehemence, Andre Gunder Frank argues out the Viceregal

Anuradha Vittachi

Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (1967)
by Andre Gunder Frank
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Monthly Review Press (currently out of print)
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New Internationalist issue 104 magazine cover This article is from the October 1981 issue of New Internationalist.
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