The World Economic Forum held its 53rd Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 16-20. This gathering of the world’s superrich oligarchs was followed by a Jan. 20 meeting of the NATO protectors and enforcers at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The NATO meeting ended without the gathered officials even agreeing on who would or could send a mixed assortment of tanks to Ukraine. Both meetings exposed the growing disarray among the world’s imperialist predators.
Competing with the fawning coverage of Davos is the constant mention of the pessimism and a deepened sense of foreboding of a sharp economic downturn. A poll conducted at Davos by the PwC Corp found almost three-fourths of the CEOs there expect a global economic decline. The poll was the most pessimistic outlook in more than a decade. (tinyurl.com/ycyzsukc)
Enormous changes are rumbling beneath the feet of the bourgeoisie. The U.S. empire and its imperialist allies are suddenly finding that they are not all powerful, despite their 800 military bases, nuclear weapons and command of NATO, the largest military alliance in history.
The WEF organizers at Davos referred to an era of “polycrises,” based on huge, interwoven risks including global recession, energy and food crises; the continuing war in Ukraine; a decade of slow growth; rising inflation; and the world climate breakdown. The past eight years were the hottest ever recorded.
Just a few years ago, the superrich, and the politicians who serve them, jetted into Davos to see and be seen. They flaunted their wealth and position as they called the shots. The WEF was the shadow government behind capitalist globalization. Based on the no-shows among top world leaders, the unofficial Davos gathering of the world’s billionaires and corporate CEOs is sliding into irrelevance. Davos has no solutions.
BRICS plus emerges
The economy of the BRICS nations, a block of developing nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa — is now larger than the EU economy. To the frustration of the U.S., Britain and the European Union, most of the countries of the Global South have ignored the U.S. dictates of sanctions against Russia. President Joe Biden had proclaimed these sanctions would dismember and collapse Russia within weeks.
But U.S./ EU sanctions would have also created famine by cutting access to grains and energy. Trade and infrastructure development with China through the Belt and Road Initiative is a far better option for the countries of the Global South; finally, they have an alternative.
In 2021, the G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the U.S. — accounted for just 30.7% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). The BRICS countries already produce 25% of the global GDP and are growing much faster.
The BRICS rapidly growing plans for de-dollarizing represents one of the greatest threats to the dollar as the international currency. Now the formerly colonized and semicolonized countries are trading in their own currencies: Chinese yuan, Russian ruble, Indian rupee and Iranian rial, and they are openly trading with sanctioned countries.
The topic of the WEF this year is “Cooperation in a Fragmented World.” Now that the global economy has grown beyond their control, this elite grouping of powerful global corporations are the ones fragmenting the global economy by ruthlessly breaking trade deals and imposing far-reaching economic sanctions. Past gatherings celebrated the benefits of free trade and competition and opposed protectionism. Globalization benefited U.S. hegemony.
Who didn’t attend Davos?
From its earliest meeting in 1971, the WEF has been an undemocratic, unelected clique that secretly meets to direct capitalist markets and interventions. At each annual gathering, there are a series of panels and an official agenda. But the real agenda is what is discussed in the dozens of secretive and clandestine meetings, which are by invitation only. The view is that the globalized world is best managed by a self-selected coalition of multinational corporations, governments and civil society organizations that the WEF has established.
But this year, other than Olaf Scholz, the new German Chancellor, none of the powerful G7 heads of state bothered to attend, and none of the presidents or prime ministers of France, Italy, Britain, Japan and Canada registered. President Biden was among those absent, with not even the vice president or a Cabinet level U.S. official attending the gathering.
Multibillionaire CEOs such as George Soros, Bill Gates or Elon Musk did not attend. None of the heads of state of the BRICS countries bothered to attend. Relatively few of China’s tech and industrial giants were there, and Russian officials and oligarchs were dropped off the list of invitees.
Of course, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made a video appearance. This is a mandatory part of all celebrations, spectacles and deliberative bodies in the imperialist world, including the Golden Globe and Grammy Awards; music festivals, the Canadian and Israeli Parliaments, and even a personal jetted-in appearance to a Joint Session of U.S. Congress.
Outside the convention center, a themed venue labeled Ukraine House hosted concerts, photo exhibits and cocktails to drum up support for the expanded war.
Even though its influence may be waning and increasingly fragmented, the annual meeting explodes the population of Davos with over 100,000 participants, media, security and a vast support staff.
The meeting, as in the past, brought together over 2,700 delegates, including 52 heads of state and 600 CEOs. There were experts from the world’s leading universities, research institutions and think tanks, along with NATO generals, FBI Director Chris Wray and the CEOs of Amazon, BlackRock and Pfizer. There is an entourage of approximately 40 staff and security for each official delegate.
The Swiss government provided 5,000 military personnel to guard this group of global predators, fully equipped with “armed fighter jets on permanent patrol duty during the conference, ground-to-air defense, additional radars, enhanced airspace surveillance and 24-hour air police service, throughout Switzerland.” (tinyurl.com/5n95cmt4) There are multiple military-style checkpoints set up around the manicured Alpine village.
The cost is $19,000 per person to attend. But a billionaire CEO must first pay between $60,000 to $600,000 a year, depending on their partner status, to be a member of this private club. Of course flights, accommodations, and meals for each private entourage is additional.
Even though many of the world’s most powerful political leaders and multibillionaires did not attend, there is still much secretive wheeling and dealing. This is papered over with panels full of vague proposals to tax the rich and to take new measures to slow the climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, delegates arrive in 1,000 to 1,500 private jets, while expressing fake concern for the environment.
The reality is that the wealthy have grown far wealthier. During the past two years, the richest 1% have amassed two-thirds of all new wealth created around the world. This leaves a mere fraction to the remaining 99% of the world combined, according to an Oxfam report published ahead of Davos. (tinyurl.com/69yfs3k7)
The capitalist system is clearly in crisis, but it won’t just go away on its own. It is up to the workers and oppressed peoples of the world to fight to get rid of it.