Prague Bankers Insist they Really Want to ‘Help the Poor’



The recent demonstrations in Prague against the international capitalist financial institutions, like previous protests against meetings of international bankers in other cities, have put the issue of imperialist exploitation of the peoples of poor countries forcibly before world public opinion.

The attempts of the capitalist press and governments to portray these actions as emotional outbursts of antisocial “anarchist” youth have not been able to obscure this basic message. Over the din of media hype, the major organizers of these protests have made clear that their method is mass demonstrations and not violence.

The capitalist press itself in its own way has testified to the impact of these protests by going on a campaign to try to show that the international financial institutions now have hearts.

For example, the Oct. 1 “News of the Week in Review” section of The New York Times ran a substantial article by Joseph Kahn saying that the world bankers had to back off from their arguments about the laws of the market being the panacea for the poor:

“But as Prague sweeps up the shattered shop window glass left over from the violence-plagued meeting of global aid agencies last week, one thing has become clear: The old way of thinking is now economically debatable and politically untouchable.

“In its place is emerging a new consensus about helping the poor that shifts some of the burden to the rich.”

Certainly the Czech authorities did not seem to share any of the feelings of the protesters. They declared a state of siege and mobilized huge numbers of police to try to overawe them. There were more than 11,000 of police present on Sept. 26, almost equal to the 15,000 demonstrators.

Moreover, despite the fact that the Czech regime, supposedly the star pupils of the capitalist marketeers, hosted the IMF-World Bank meetings in the name of the internationalization of market relations, they proved to be “protectionists” with the respect to the internationalization of protests against the operation of the capitalist market.

Three hundred protesters were halted at the border. Others were subjected to a long waiting game. And people from other East European countries that wanted to join in the protests were denied visas.

The international bankers’ party was deliberately held in Prague to demonstrate the triumph of the world market over “Communism” and as a tribute to the capitalist perspectives of the “post-Stalinist” rulers of the countries in which capitalism had been abolished. Therefore, the presence of protesters from these countries testifying to the catastrophic effects of these attempts on the masses of working people in these countries would strike the most discordant note possible.

But, as Kahn wrote in The New York Times, the discordant notes in the global capitalist “harmony” have become too loud for the administrators of the capitalist institutions to ignore. For example, 41 nations now have debt loads of more than 125 percent of their gross domestic product:

“Rich nations have begun the slow process of relieving this crushing burden, but the drumbeat to forgive much more of the Third World’s debt is deafening for government ministers, who seem to up their pledges with every antiglobalization riot.”

Kahn did not mention it, but certainly on the minds of the international bankers was that the biggest “antiglobalization riot” has been the recent mass upsurge in Indonesia, a country of over 200 million, which was directly provoked by IMF dictates.

That is where the IMF made its most rapid and notable retreat, but basically the same policies by international capitalism and its institutions are perpetuating and deepening the economic crisis in Indonesia and in many other Third World countries, such as Ecuador, where an upsurge that nearly became a revolution also recently took place.

These drumbeats of impending disaster are not going to be changed by a little divertimento about the new “humanitarian conscience” of the world bankers.

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[Editor’s note: We reprint this article by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM). In 1989, the Bastille Appeal was launched, inviting popular movements throughout the world to unite in demanding the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debt of the so-called developing countries. This crushing debt, along with neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the global South, has led to an explosion of worldwide inequality, mass poverty, flagrant injustice and the destruction of the environment.


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