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The Socialist 1 June 2011 |
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Glencore - Profiting from global hunger
Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info
The Swiss based multibillion dollar mining, energy and food trader Glencore was listed on the London and Hong Kong stock markets on 24 May. Protesters from the League of Social Democrats and Socialist Action (CWI Hong Kong) showed their opposition to a company that makes a handful of speculators insanely rich while impoverishing millions.
Glencore is profiting from the current China-driven bubble in global commodity prices. Even before its stock market debut, Glencore controlled 60% of the global zinc market and 50% of the copper market as a trading intermediary.
Glencore is a major speculator and manipulator of commodity prices, gambling on price movements that hammer the poor, but enrich its small band of directors and fellow speculators. The company made a financial killing from rising wheat prices in August 2010, when Russia - the world's third largest exporter - suffered its worst ever drought.
The Asian Development Bank recently warned that an additional 64 million people globally could be thrust into extreme poverty this year as a result of skyrocketing food and fuel prices. Inflation has been a trigger for massive movements across the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. Also in Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian economies, food prices are fanning discontent.
Glencore has caused misery for thousands of townspeople living near its copper mines in Zambia. Local residents told the Daily Mail of acid in the water supply and huge clouds of sulphurous gas drifting through their homeland. The company is also accused of tax avoidance in Zambia, cheating the desperately poor country and its people of a few crumbs from its banquet table.
The initial public offering of Glencore shares will make its eight directors fabulously rich. Chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, will become one of Europe's richest men with a paper fortune of nearly $10 billion from the flotation and his own 15% stake.
With an estimated valuation of about $60 billion, Glencore will be the first company in a quarter century to make the FTSE 100 (the London market's biggest companies) on its first day of trading.
Glencore was founded by the US fugitive Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland in 1983 after being indicted by federal prosecutors for tax evasion and trading with Iran. Rich was later pardoned by former US president Bill Clinton, on his final day in the White House, in a move that drew massive criticism at the time.
The company recently appointed as a non-executive director and 'environmental adviser' none other than Tony Hayward, who as former chief executive of BP presided over last year's massive oil spill and bungled clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico - the biggest oil spill in US history.
Glencore is a symbol of all that is wrong with capitalism and why working class people around the world need to join the fight for democratic socialism. Only through public ownership - placing the mining and energy industries under democratic workers' control and management - can these resources be planned in the interests of the majority, rather than being used as gigantic chips for the billionaires in the casino of global capitalism.