Historically, there have been ideologies that prevent escape from poverty because their aim is to perpetuate poverty and social inequality. Indeed, there are ideologies that benefit from maintaining inequality and poverty, as these form the basis of their consensus. If marginalization and poverty were to disappear, these ideologies would lose their reason for being. When there is abundance, most people live well, and these extremist ideologies remain hidden, like mice waiting for “lean times”. However, they take advantage of crises to emerge, presenting themselves as saviors and change, aiming only for power and personal interests.
States often use the dynamics of poverty and social inequality to foment conflicts and revolutions. For example, Lenin used the hardships of the proletariat – the poor, workers, unemployed – as a means to promote significant political changes, often under the banner of class struggle. Consider, for example, the tragic event known as “Bloody Sunday” in 1905 in St. Petersburg as an instance when the oppression and violence of the Tsarist state against its citizens helped create fertile ground for the Russian Revolution.
It must be clear that not only the Russian Revolution, but other revolutionary movements have followed a similar model, taking advantage of moments of crisis to advance their objectives. In a broader context, communist revolutions and right-wing extremism are two sides of the same coin in using crisis to mobilize popular support, albeit for opposite ends.
In times of economic and social crisis, some political parties may use the issue of immigration and security to gain electoral support, creating a correlation, often used for political purposes, between immigration and security problems.
In short, power dynamics can exploit poverty to maintain control, and revolutions often promise change in the name of the poor but can end up perpetuating new cycles of power and oppression.
Concretely, states have implemented a real strategy that we might call the “strategy of the poor,” a term that immediately evokes a tactic of exploitation, historically used by states to achieve their ends, often under the guise of noble intentions. This strategy can manifest in different ways, all united by the use of the poor or needy as a tool to achieve further aims, often having little to do with their assistance or improving their living conditions.
In a historical context, for example, late 18th-century France used the “strategy of the poor” as a pretext to expand its imperial borders. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign was justified by the need to intervene on behalf of a population oppressed by a corrupt government. However, behind these seemingly altruistic motives were more pragmatic and strategic objectives, like weakening British dominance in India and Egypt.
In more recent times, peace missions or humanitarian aid promoted by some states, including again France, must be analyzed critically. Operations in the African continent, for example, do not stem from a desire to stabilize turbulent regions and provide support to local populations but arise from geopolitical and commercial interests, such as the extraction of natural resources and maintaining political influence.
The case of South Sudan is emblematic: revelations about the wealth accumulated by local leaders while their country is immersed in a bloody civil war raise disturbing questions about the real beneficiaries of international aid and its actual destination.
On the other hand, we must not be deceived about the real intentions of humanitarian aid, which are often just a facade for military interventions and the achievement of political objectives. Examples of this practice have been observed in various parts of the world, from the Balkans to the Middle East, and involve the world’s major powers. Particularly significant are the words of Colin Powell in 2001, who saw NGOs as “force multipliers” for the United States in Afghanistan, revealing a strategic view of humanitarian aid as a tool of foreign policy.
In conclusion, the “strategy of the poor” is not just a practice of the past but a current and controversial phenomenon, inviting critical analysis of the true impact of international aid and peace operations on the development and sovereignty of developing countries.