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Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1976:
When a New Just Monetary System
Was On The Agenda

by Nancy Spannaus,

Reprinted with permission from The New Federalist, Vol. XVII, No. 14, June 9, 2003

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United Nations/Y. Nagata
Guyana’s Foreign Minister Frederick Wills addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 8, 1975.


The time was August 1976, a period of furious debate over how to pull the world out of a deepening financial crisis triggered by the Oil Hoax of 1973. Third World nations, and even municipalities in the United States were threatening to declare debt moratoria in the face of unpayable debts. Most important, the political discussion among nations had been saturated by a proposal for a new, just world monetary system which had been proposed by then-Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche in 1975: the International Development Bank. LaRouche's IDB proposal added the crucial ingredient of cheap credit for long-term technology transfer for both the undeveloped and industrial sector, to the then-dominant demands to reduce debt burdens, and ensure affordable raw materials flows.

In this environment there occurred the Fifth Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, a meeting of 85 nations, representing approximately 2 billion people. Under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the conference issued a declaration demanding "a new world economic order," with its "essential component" being a "new, universal finance and currency system." Armed with the implicit threat of a debt moratorium, the Non-Aligned leaders sought negotiations with the industrialized countries on their demands, at a "North-South Conference" scheduled for Paris in mid-September.

As Lyndon LaRouche stated in his recent speech in Bangalore, India, the situation at that time was one of great promise, and hope, that leaders of the industrialized nations—including the United States—would act in their own interest to grant the just demands of the Third World, and establish new arrangements that would launch a world recovery. LaRouche's political movement was growing by leaps and bounds in the United States, and put an extraordinary amount of pressure on the Ford Administration, as well as constituency institutions, to, as LaRouche put it, "negotiate on a rational basis on the necessary measures with the developing sector, in the sense of the real national interests of the U.S.A. as the leading industrial power in the world."

In addition, LaRouche's influence was reflected in the stance of the Italian government, which was prepared to allow Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti to coordinate negotiations between the developing sector and Western Europe. Japan and France were also willing to enter serious negotiations.

In the end, however, the opportunity was lost. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the British succeeded in breaking apart the Paris negotiations, after which time a process of "divide and conquer" destroyed the pro-Colombo forces in the developing-sector and industrial countries for decades to come. - The Non-Aligned Movement -

Most people today, even the "well-informed," don't recall the great days of the Non-Aligned Movement, the days when it was led by extraordinary statesmen, who were both patriots and world citizens, and who passionately believed in realizing the concept of national sovereignty and the general welfare, which had been exemplified in the American Revolution.

The NAM's formation followed upon a major historic event, the 1955 Bandung Conference of Asian and African Nations. This summit meeting was the first time the Third World nations, most of them fresh from winning their independence from colonialism, had met together without the Western powers present. Its unifying principles were anti-colonialism and the commitment to peace and development. Twenty-nine nations attended, under the leadership of such nation-builders as Indonesia's President Sukarno, India's Prime Minister Nehru, and China's Zhou Enlai.

These leaders, particularly Sukarno, explicitly appealed to the anti-colonial principles of the American Revolution and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Noting that the conference was meeting on the anniversary of Paul Revere's ride (April 18, 1774), Sukarno paid tribute to the American War of Independence as "the first successful anti-colonialist war in history," while noting that "that battle which began 180 years ago is not yet completely won." He went on to blast free trade as colonialist, and to refer to Roosevelt's well-known concepts of conquering fear and poverty.

This grand beginning was followed up in 1961, by the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement, which was established in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The continuity was evident in the prominent role played at that event, by Nehru, Sukarno, and Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. Because the leadership had decided not to permit membership by those nations who had allied themselves with either the Western military alliances (such as SEATO or NATO), or with the Warsaw Pact, only 16 nations were involved in this founding conference. The criteria for membership included support for national independence and liberation struggles, and peaceful co-existence between sovereign nations, as well.

NAM's economic policy was always a matter of intense debate, often breaking down between those who wanted to collaborate with the industrialized countries in getting technology transfer within a new international economic order, and those who demanded a form of "third worldism," which, at its worst, insisted upon opposing technological progress for its people.

President John F. Kennedy, in his short time in office, was sympathetic to the aspirations of the Third World, as some of his more famous foreign policy programs showed. But, with his death, and the expansion of the Vietnam War, interlocutors in the industrialized world were few. It was not until the political movement of Lyndon LaRouche began to emerge as an international force, in the early 1970s, that there was new hope infused into the NAM. - What the NAM Demanded -

EIRNS/Stuart Lewis
One of the greatest of Non-Aligned leaders: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, seen in Washington, D.C., in 1982

The chief leader of the revived NAM was Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru, and Prime Minister of India beginning in 1966. Coming into the Colombo summit, Prime Minister Gandhi had formulated the following demands:

  1. Immediate suspension of the foreign debt payment "of the poorest countries and those countries subjected to imperialist pressures."

  2. A "new universal monetary system," which should replace the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

  3. The creation of new liquidity, which should be automatically coupled to the needs for worldwide development.

  4. The world community of nations should be included in this "universal system" by means of triangular trade agreements among the developing sector, the socialist countries, and the developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

These ideas, which dovetailed with those which LaRouche had put forward in his IDB, were then incorporated into the final resolution at Colombo.

What is striking about this resolution, especially compared to today, is its scope, and depth. These leaders knew it was the system that was the problem, not a few details.

For example, the introduction states: "The heads of state of the Non-Aligned countries consider that economic problems have become the most grave in international relations.... It becomes more and more evident that the present system cannot promote the development of the developing countries nor hasten the elimination of hunger, disease, and illiteracy.... Also, the institution of the new international economic order is of the highest political importance...."

The components of that new international economic order were then outlined with some specifics, including demands for "complete restructuring of international economic relations," "the right of every country to exert its sovereignty," and their commitment to "collective action" to achieve:

1. restructuring of trade, to improve the terms of trade.

2. restructuring of production, including "transfer of technology".

3. overhaul of international monetary arrangements, to end the "anarchy of floating" rates, and to "forge a link between liquidity creation and development finance."

4. guarantee of an adequate transfer of resources.

5. a satisfactory solution for the public debt, and

6. the inputs required to permit adequate food production in the developing countries. - LaRouche's Role -

The leading spokesman in the industrialized West for achieving this new global monetary arrangement, then as now, was economist and political leader Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche had been in intensive discussions with Third World governments, in particular, since 1971, to the point where his 1975 IDB proposal led to panic in pro-IMF, Kissinger circles. A high-level diplomatic meeting between LaRouche and Middle Eastern leaders, scheduled for Paris in 1975, drew direct threats from Secretary of State Kissinger, and was subsequently cancelled.

LaRouche's collaborators had been involved in shaping the Colombo resolution, and they moved aggressively in its wake, to exploit the breakthrough to force debt moratoria and negotiations for a new monetary system. One of those collaborators, Guyanese Foreign Minister Dr. Frederick Wills, took the point.

After the post-Colombo North-South meeting was sabotaged, Wills was determined to press ahead. He used his address at the United Nations General Assembly, on Sept. 27, 1976, to demand the replacement of the IMF system by "development banks." Citing the Colombo resolution by name, as well as other UN resolutions, Wills' presentation reached a climax at the following point:

"The billions on this planet who live in the developing countries and whose existence is subjected to the constraints of the few who manipulate to their advantage the present-day economic system, have pinned their hopes on the modest programme put forward in Nairobi and elsewhere. Their determination is adamant, inexorable and relentless. The IMF and the Bretton Woods monetary system must give way to alernative structures such as the international development banks, which are not geared to the revival and reconstruction of Europe nor preferential arrangements for the developed market economies, but rather to the just distribution of the gains of an equitable global system...."

While Wills' speech provided new impetus for a new wave of mass organizing by LaRouche's electoral campaign in the United States, and elsewhere, the situation was not sufficiently ripe for its success. Brutal violence destroyed the great opportunity for reorganizing the monetary system in a way that would have prevented the devastating assault that was to follow on U.S. and European living standards, as well as those of the Third World.

Today, however, that opportunity has reappeared, in a situation where LaRouche's credibility in forecasting the current financial collapse is at unprecedented heights, and heads of state and government leaders are again looking to LaRouche's ideas to reconstruct a broken world, by returning the United States to anti-colonial, pro-development policies like those of FDR. The Non-Aligned Movement itself is being revitalized under the leadership of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, and South African President Mbeki, and now we have the movement surfacing in Bangalore. If we miss this chance, it is unlikely that there'll be another.

Note: for more information see EIR Vol. 25, No. 32, and EIR Vol. 26, No. 41.




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