BRICS and the emerging new multilateral world

BY:Duncan McFarland| May 19, 2024
BRICS and the emerging new multilateral world


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

BRICS was formed in 2009 as an organization of economic dialogue and cooperation among large countries of the developing world. Topping the agenda was the impact of the 2008 Great Recession in the U.S. and Western dominated international financial system, which caused tens of millions of workers all over the world to lose their jobs. This partial meltdown showed the instability and weakness of the post World War II capitalist-imperialist economic structure which included the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and international trade based on the U.S. dollar.

BRICS from the beginning considered alternatives to U.S. hegemony, especially broader and more inclusive decision-making in issues of world economy. BRICS was not founded as a political organization advancing a working-class agenda nor does it have a military component. However, its push for economic democracy in global institutions is an important step towards creating a multilateral and more just and democratic world order.

Popular in the developing world

BRICS is popular in the developing world; the original five countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) expanded in 2024 to include five more (Iran, Saudia Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Ethiopia). Some 25 other countries have applied for membership which will be considered at the Kazan meeting in Fall 2024.

World economic production is shifting from the US and West to emerging economies. Since 2008 the rate of economic growth in the Global South has been much faster than the US and Europe. Today, the aggregate GDP of BRICS is larger than that of the G7 (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan) and the gap in advanced technology is closing.

New organizations for multilateral cooperation

Marxists consider that major changes in the economic base will be reflected in changes in the superstructure. BRICS is one of many new organizations reflecting this change. There are many examples; Hugo Chavez was a leader in initiating multilateral cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba has recently hosted a meeting of the New International Economic Order and is an active participant in CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries). Mercosur is an important trading group in South America. In Asia, new organizations include the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation organization. China has led the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative to construct infrastructure connecting the continents. There are many other examples.

The BRICS cconomic program

How successful is BRICS in pursuing economic cooperation? Critics in the West are dismissive, saying that the great differences among BRICS countries in their internal social systems make agreement impossible on significant issues. But the critics underestimate the deep historical connection shared by most BRICS countries as former colonies and semi-colonies victimized by colonialism and imperialism. The Bandung Conference of Asian and African countries held in 1955 was a seminal meeting calling for a new world of justice and democracy.

The BRICS New Development Bank was set up in 2015 and as of 2023 invested $32 billion in projects in the Global South for sustainable development. Total pledges to the bank are $100 billion, with an additional $100 billion to start a new financial emergency fund to bail out financially stressed countries. This fund could take the place of the IMF emergency bailouts which are based on neoliberal policies of greater exploitation of workers. The New Development Bank is headed by Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil; its policy is to abjure financial speculation and focus on supporting projects featuring green energy and high tech industry.

There are a number of collaborative initiatives. For example, BRICS is launching an Artificial Intelligence Study Group and the BRICS Institute of Future Networks, to ensure that developing countries are not left out of this rapidly advancing technology. There is exploration of a Global Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation mechanism, to share data on agriculture, ecological conservation and disaster reduction. There is a proposed Science and Innovation Incubation Park along with scientific exchanges. We will see how these many projects bear fruition.

De-dollarization a strategic goal

It is in de-dollarization that BRICS is working towards fundamental change in international trade. The U.S. in recent years has greatly expanded unilateral economic sanctions targeting many countries with independent policies. The sanctions are particularly effective when applied to small countries like Cuba. U.S. sanctions are possible because the U.S. dollar (along with the Euro) is the standard for international trade. Consequently, there has been much discussion of establishing a BRICS currency to replace the US dollar. Meanwhile, BRICS has become a center for de-dollarization initiatives such as the increasing trade in national currencies.

Support the progressive trend towards a multilateral world

U.S. imperialism wants to stop the emergence of a new, multilateral world of greater democracy. The very fact that BRICS holds major international conferences on the world economy independent of the U.S. is an anathema. Communists should support this growing trend towards a more democratic alternative to the U.S. dominated global trading and financial system, while recognizing the political limitations of the different new organizations such as BRICS. Cutting the military budget, connecting the peace movement to forces in the Global South, supporting strategic campaigns such as Cuba solidarity, and countering U.S. cold war propaganda are all important tasks.


    Duncan McFarland is an activist with the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the Peace and Solidarity Commission, CPUSA.  

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