By JEFF MACKLER
Some 14,000 participants-including heads of state, finance ministers, and journalists-are expected to attend the Sept. 29-30 Washington, D.C., annual joint meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). Estimates for the number of protesters range up to 100,000.
The city of Washington has requested an additional $30 million in funds to police the protests, while District of Columbia Police Chief Charles Ramsey has violence-baited protest organizers for the purpose of frightening away potential participants. A $3 million, 2.5-mile-long, 9-foot-high, steel and concrete fence is planned to ring the White House and the D.C., WB, and IMF buildings.
The last anti-WB-IMF protest in this city, in April 2000, witnessed an army of state and local police descending on peaceful demonstrators in actions that were carefully calculated to intimidate and even eliminate protesters from the scene. A total of 1200 were arrested, though not a single demonstrator was convicted of any illegal act.
The IMF and WB, largely controlled by the leading imperialist nations and dominated by the United States, serve as the leading lending institutions for world capitalism. Their loans, especially to poor nations, are linked to a spurious assortment of capitalist economic nostrums that are touted as representing the road to economic progress.
In fact, the loans are tied to agreements that compel debtor nations to initiate structural adjustment programs and austerity measures aimed at the forced privatization of public industries and lands and to open themselves completely to the world capitalist market. The result is massive layoffs, the ruination of non-competitive industries of poor countries, and the further degradation of their economies, social services, and physical environments.
WB and IMF policies, coupled with other neo-colonial imperialist measures in the present period of world capitalist globalization, have reduced much of the underdeveloped world to states of poverty, disease, unemployment, and war rarely seen before in modern history.
In virtually all cases the debt amassed by the poor nations has grown to such a huge proportion of their national budgets that it is unpayable. The annual interest on WB and IMF loans often exceeds the entire yearly gross national product of an oppressed nation.
A statement by one of the main coalitions organizing the Washington, D.C., protests, the Mobilization for Global Justice, captures the sentiment of the protesters challenging the IMF and WB’s policies:
“The voices demanding change have grown stronger and stronger. The finance ministers and international bureaucrats who shape the world economy to make the rich richer and the poor poorer need to know that these past two years have not just been a bump on their road to global domination.
“The peoples’ movements of the world will not stand idly by while those holding power continue to impoverish and oppress the majority of the world’s peoples and ravage the earth’s environment and resources while enriching themselves and corporations.”
In addition to the Mobilization for Global Justice, two other broad coalitions are central to the protest: 50 Years is Enough! and the Anti-Capitalist Convergence are mobilizing the hundreds of groups that constitute their networks.
The Global Justice coalition has urged the IMF and World Bank to open their meetings to the public, “cancel all debt for the world’s poorest nations, help make education and health care more available in these countries, and stop funding oil, gas, and mining projects that harm the environment.” Global Justice has aptly pointed out: “We’re not asking for the cancellation of the debt; we’re saying that it has it’s already been paid.”
IMF Director Thomas Dawson, apparently stung by the sharpness and clarity of protester demands, has taken on the job of damage control. Dawson states, “Our two organizations have forgiven billions of dollars of debt owed by poor nations but none of their 183-member countries had proposed the total debt forgiveness many protesters have called for.”
Contrary to the WB’s own reports that the quality of health care and education have generally declined in underdeveloped nations, Dawson argues that “poor countries with IMF and World Bank lending programs have increased rather than decreased spending on health, education, and other social programs.” Dawson says (with a straight face) that although he cannot speak for the World Bank, he believes its policy is “to avoid projects that damage the environment and to learn lessons from those that had.”
The capitalist spin doctors have made a point of meeting with leading protest groups with the aim of dividing and/or wooing those who might be lulled into a “partnership” with offers of observer or “consultant” status in IMF/WB proceedings.
AFL-CIO’s left-sounding rhetoric
The national AFL-CIO has announced plans to mobilize tens of thousands of trade unionists for the Sept. 30 anti-globalization protest. An AFL-CIO statement reads:
“This fall, America’s unions will unite with a broad range of activists from around the world to insist on transforming the rules and institutions of the global economy to ensure that they work for working people….
“The fall meetings of the IMF and World Bank will be among the most significant gatherings of the proponents and decision makers of corporate-led globalization in 2001. We cannot stand by as these institutions continue to structure global economic rules for the benefit of corporations and the wealthy and deny basic justice to the majority of the world’s people.
“The IMF/World Bank are forcing national “structural adjustments” that include privatizing, downsizing and slashing spending by governments; recklessly opening trade doors to exploitative foreign investment; and promotion of so-called “labor flexibility” moves, such as reducing the minimum wage and weakening workers’ protections. Some countries are spending more each year trying to repay loan debts to these institutions than they are able to spend to meet the basic health, sanitation, and education needs of their people.”
Left-sounding AFL-CIO rhetoric has been commonplace in recent years as labor’s top bureaucrats seek to use the genuine mass sentiment against the destructive effects of capitalist globalization to advance reactionary protectionist legislation schemes in Congress, which are designed to keep foreign and competing products out of the United States.
The AFL-CIO misleaders’ answer to the mounting attacks on U.S. workers is to counterpose U.S. jobs to the jobs performed by workers of other countries-including supporting legislation that bans Mexican truckers from entering the United States.
Rather than organizing a united struggle of U.S. workers against the ever-increasing attacks on unionized and no-union workers, AFL-CIO labor fakers restrict their activities to lobbying and pressuring Congress to adopt trade agreements that protect U.S. industry.
In this regard, the three major AFL-CIO demands are:
· Opposition to the granting by Congress of “Fast Track” trade negotiating authority to President Bush. Fast Track would bar Congress from more than a minimal review of trade agreements Bush negotiates, and would not require protections for workers’ rights and the environment in the core provisions of the trade agreements-despite extensive protections for business interests.
· Support for the call to unconditionally cancel the debts owed by the poorest countries to the IMF and the World Bank, using the institutions’ own resources.
· Opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement aimed at extending the terms of the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Instead of taking on the bosses at the point of production and joining in mass coordinated international actions, including strikes, to defend the interest of all the world’s workers, the AFL-CIO sees its future in pressuring its Democratic Party “allies” to prevent the Bush administration from engineering trade agreements with minimal congressional input.
Relying on the twin parties of U.S. capitalism as opposed to the power of working people has brought U.S. labor to its lowest point in modern history with the smallest number and percentage of workers organized in unions and lowest number of strikes since statistics were first gathered some 44 years ago.
IAC flirts with the Democrats
The main Washington, D.C., anti-globalization protest is set for Sunday, Sept. 30. The vast bulk of the participants will be there to protest the rapacious effects of U.S. and world capitalism on working people and the oppressed everywhere.
The just anger that workers will express can only threaten to rock the unstable boat of the labor tops who pretend to fight the bosses with reactionary protectionist mirrors while refusing to exercise labor’s real power at the workplace.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, the International Action Center, a group closely associated with the Workers World Party, has organized a Washington, D.C., mass protest with several other groups at the White House.
The IAC presents a long list of issues in which Bush administration policies run counter to the interests of the vast majority of American workers. But virtually absent from the IAC’s protest is mention of the simple fact that the Democratic Party has been equally responsible, if not more so, for the past decade’s assaults on working people and democratic and human rights.
In past years the IAC has organized similar “fight the right” protests that feature the endorsement and participation of liberal Democrats. The resort to lesser evilism has long hindered the development of mass independent working-class political and economic action.
This is the case with the IAC’s muted protests as well as with a number of the anti-globalization groups who falsely saw in Ralph Nader’s campaign, which sometimes included causes in common with right-wing protectionist bureaucrats, a viable alternative for working people.
Indeed, the critical fight over capitalist globalization requires a clean break with capitalist economic and political institutions. The anti-globalization protests can only give impetus to this struggle.