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Global protest against the IMF and World Bank

This article is over 20 years, 1 months old
ARGENTINA IS the most blatant example of how the International Monetary Fund is prepared to destroy an economy. FRANCISCO TORRES wrote this article in the Argentinian paper Socialism or Barbarism.
Issue 1799

IN AN ordinary street, a family goes from tree to tree, looking through sealed bags of rubbish for something to eat. With quick fingers they open the bags, check the contents and take something out.

Night passes and a new day dawns to reveal a scene to make the heart drop. In an ordinary neighborhood stands a corner shop without customers, a half empty supermarket, and an emptied delivery van. Two locals remember that only two weeks ago they could buy a bit of this and a bit of that with 30 or 40 pesos, but today they could buy hardly anything.

The checkout girl looks about her at the closed tills and wonders how long it will be before they close her till. The banks in the centre of town are boiling with people who want compensation or to withdraw their life savings. The screen of the cash dispenser displays the ironic message, ‘We apologise for the inconvenience, but this machine does not dispense cash at the moment.’

The shouting begins and stones are hurled at the upper windows, where the manager of the branch lives. ‘Oi, mate, don’t be an asshole-open up!’ He replies, ‘It’s nothing to do with me-they’ve shut the safe and I can’t open it till Monday.’

Meanwhile Anoop Singh, one of the International Monetary Fund’s team in Argentina, is on television. Almost like a president, Singh recites the demands of the IMF. The message is clear: ‘You must suffer.’

In New York, Horst Koehler, president of the IMF, tells us, ‘Argentina must take a bitter medicine,’ and adds, ‘The problems which Argentina suffers from are domestic. Therefore the key to finding a solution to the crisis must be an effort which the Argentinians must make themselves.’ They want us to believe the big problem is corruption, and they don’t have anything to do with our crisis.

It’s true that in Argentina there is enormous corruption, but is that the whole problem? Didn’t the banks and the companies protected by the IMF bid to grab the telephones, the oil and the gas? Didn’t the IMF bless all privatisations? Wasn’t Argentina the model that the IMF showed to the rest of the world for years? But Koehler gives us hope: ‘Argentina is a rich country. It can grow like other countries.’

Of course, ‘the adjustment will make things worse before it makes them better’. Their message echoes the infinite number of times that our leaders said things like, ‘It’s hard but we have to be flexible,’ ‘We must open markets,’ ‘We must privatise,’ ‘We have to cut salaries and pensions to regain confidence and start to grow again.’ The latest is: ‘We have to save the financial system’-a perfect excuse to steal savings.

The truth is the world is divided in two-the haves and the have nots. The world is a complex system. But ultimately there are always these two parts. There are those who give their sweat and hunger, those who only have their hands and their work to live. A struggle envelops the world. In this struggle, the capitalists use all methods-wage cuts, exploitation, lies, tricks, corruption, bribery and, if necessary, murder.

The revolt in Argentina started to put some things in their place, but not everything. It sent some of the politicians, bosses, senators and judges to the courts. But those most responsible for this catastrophe, the IMF and the big capitalists, are still free.

Clare Short should read this

REVOLT AGAINST the misery inflicted by key institutions of global capitalism is growing across the world. That conclusion emerges from a brilliant new report by the World Development Movement published last week.

The report, States of Unrest II, shows that over the last year millions of people have taken to the streets or struck against the policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It shows that the number and scale of such protests have grown compared to the previous year. The reports shatters one of the key lies pushed by establishment politicians like New Labour’s Clare Short.

The World Development Movement says, ‘Protests against the IMF and World Bank were not limited to privileged ‘students and anarchists’ from rich countries as some politicians and the IMF and World Bank themselves had tried to claim, but were led by the world’s poorest people.’

Report author Mark Ellis-Jones says, ‘Millions of desperately poor people around the world have been brave enough to protest against IMF policies. The IMF claims to put poverty reduction at the centre of its policies but we have to ask how deep its commitment goes when the world’s poor-those closest to the policies on the ground-are its fiercest critics.’

The report documents protests in 23 countries directly linked to IMF and World Bank policies, leaving aside wider unrest and protest. Of the countries examined nearly three quarters have IMF-sponsored privatisation programmes, and half of these have seen anti-privatisation protests. The protests catalogued by the World Development Movement report are part of the global fight against global capitalism.

They are part of the same internationalist movement as the May Day march in Britain, and the great anti-capitalist protests from Seattle to Genoa to Barcelona.
Read the full report at

From Angola to India to Papua New Guinea

Protests directly linked to IMF and World Bank policies, 2001

ANGOLA: General strike by public sector workers against pay cuts.

ARGENTINA: See separate article above.

BRAZIL: Protests over plans to clear large areas of Amazon rainforest to produce export crops. Strikes, including by police, over wages.

COLOMBIA: Farmers, bus, taxi and other workers strike against IMF-imposed programme. Municipal workers in city of Cali win victory against privatisation after occupying key buildings.

ECUADOR: Farmers, students and trade unionists join with indigenous people to protest at austerity measures. Protesters occupy IMF offices. More strikes later in year against price rises and privatisation.

EL SALVADOR: Major strikes against plans to privatise health service.

GHANA: Students protest at withholding of grants.

INDIA: Repeated strikes involving millions of public sector workers against privatisation plans.

INDONESIA: Major strikes against plans to cut severance pay for retiring workers. Students and bus drivers protest at removal of fuel subsidies.

KENYA: Council workers, teachers and others strike over withholding of wages.

MALAWI: Teachers, students and others protest at non-payment of salaries and benefits, soaring prices and job cuts.

MEXICO: Major protests at price rises on food and medicine which will hit the poorest.

MOROCCO: Education and health unions call general strikes over pay.

MOZAMBIQUE: Port and rail workers strike against job cuts.

NEPAL: Protests at electricity price rises.

NIGERIA: Telecom workers strike against privatisation. Protests at fuel price rises. Students and lecturers strike over pay.

PAKISTAN: Demonstration at World Bank building over plans to cut agriculture subsidies.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Students clash with police and troops while protesting at austerity measures. Unions threaten strikes against privatisation.

SOUTH AFRICA: Major protests against water privatisation followed by huge general strike over government’s wider privatisation programme.

SOUTH KOREA: Series of big strikes and demonstrations over long working hours, job cuts and attacks on unions.

TURKEY: Rallies and protests over budget cuts and privatisations.

ZAMBIA: Municipal workers strike over non-payment of wages.

ZIMBABWE: Public sector workers strike over wage cuts. Protests at rise in prices of basic goods.


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