Zibechi: Financial inclusion and full-spectrum domination

Will money as we know iy disappear?

Will money as we know it disappear?

By: Raúl Zibechi

Financial inclusion being one of the principal neoliberal initiatives, it’s difficult to accept the scarce debate existing among those who say they are enemies of that model centered on the domination of financial capital. The World Bank (WB) is the principal impeller of financial inclusion, with the objective that all of the world’s population will be dependent on the banking system, which proposes to eliminate physical money.

The initial argument insisted that financial inclusion is necessary to combat money laundering and drug trafficking. Later the same bank was adding new arguments, very similar to those that it utilizes for “fighting poverty.” In 2015, it says on its web page: “Two billion or 38 percent of the adults in the world don’t use formal financial services and an even greater percentage of the poor don’t have a bank account” (http://goo.gl/3Tf0Nt).

The WB defends the thesis that financial inclusion contributes to reducing poverty, to “empowering women” and “impelling shared prosperity.” Among its objectives it figures that all the income and expenses of the popular sectors are carried out electronically and it promotes that social loans not be paid in cash, but rather through the banking system, as is already happening in several countries.

In the short term, the WB proposes: “to reach another billion people that are now excluded from the financial system,” even using the key word “exclusion,” to give the impression that they are disadvantaged people and that access to financial services is the key to their inclusion as citizens (http://goo.gl/NCpYqp). The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, imposed goals for offering universal access to financial services to all adults of working age no later than 2020.

The objective is to advance the use of banking in the emerging countries and in the world’s South. In the United States and in Europe people that don’t have a bank account are less than 20 percent; a number that climbs in Latina America to 50 percent and in several countries of Africa exceeds 80 percent of the population.

What’s striking, to say the least, is that the progressive governments had adopted this policy without previously opening a debate. In Brazil, the salary grew 80 percent between 2001 and 2015, but individual credit increased 140 percent. The result is an exponential growth of consumerism and of family indebtedness: in 2015, 48 percent of their income was dedicated to the payment of debts; it was 22 percent in 2006.

Financial inclusion is the first step towards the elimination of physical money, with which all of us will be dependent on the bank and the financial system, annulling or making extremely difficult our individual and collective autonomy. It is a “micro” modality of domination of a complete spectrum. In several countries, like Uruguay, limits are already imposed on the amount of money to extract from the ATMs and this year taxi rides will have to be paid with debit or credit cards.

In Germany there is a campaign against the extinction of physical money under the slogan “Cash protects you from the State’s vigilance.” Various political groups condemned the limits on cash money. Konstantin von Notz, a deputy of the Green Party, explained the reasons on Twitter: “Cash permits us to remain in anonymity during day-to-day operations. In a constitutional democracy, it’s a freedom that must be defended” (http://goo.gl/CD53LE).

The data shows a clear difference in the behavior of Germans with respect to citizens of other developed countries. Only 18 percent of payments in Germany were made with cards in 2013, compared to 59 percent in the United Kingdom, 54 percent in the United States and 50 percent in France. They (Germans) pay four of every five invoices with bills and coins (http://goo.gl/CD53LE).

I find two reasons that financial inclusion and the disappearance of physical money are not part of the necessary debates in Latin American critical thought, in the lefts and in the popular movements.

The first reason is the option for not questioning the current basis of capitalism, in other words, putting the one percent in view, although the discourse may say otherwise. Financial capital plays a central role in the current world and disputing power implies playing hard, to the point of putting at risk the conservation of presidential chairs and the benefits that political leaders usually have, since that sector has an enormous capacity to provoke crisis and precipitate the fall of any government.

We’re going through a period of accommodation to the system of the lefts and of progressivism. It’s easier to criticize imperialism abstractly that to work with their social bases that are trapped in consumerism –and therefore with financial capital through the bank– so that they overcome the culture of consumption. The cultural defeat of popular country life has led to underestimating conflict as a source of change and to over-emphasizing the electoral question.

The second completely affects critical thought and the critical thinkers. It can be defined as the inability to go against common sense, to adapt to the reality and to not place in question hegemonic ideas among the popular sectors due to a lack of commitment to them. It is impossible to advance if one isn’t capable of swimming against the current, which evidently implies certain isolation, as much of the state institutions as of the part of the population that still believes in them.

If capital continues consolidating a type of society based on mass consumption, the principal obstacle to its domination will be solved: the existence of structural and social heterogeneities. Although a part of the left believes that they are things of the past, without tianguis [1], tequio [2] and reciprocity we won’t be able to even dream of overcoming capitalism.

[1] Tianguis – outdoor public markets

[2] Tequio – collective work that each member owes to his or her community


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, April 15, 2016

Re-Published with Spanish interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




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