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Short’s cure is the disease

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Issue 1727

What we think

Short’s cure is the disease

“SELF INDULGENT” and “intolerable”. That’s what Labour’s development secretary Clare Short says about people who protest against globalisation and the killer policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

Short wants the law of the jungle, where the big capitalists try to devour the rest of us despite the suffering this causes. The United Nations Development Report for 1992 found that “as a result of economic crisis and the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) adopted in response, social spending has been sharply reduced in a large number of heavily indebted countries.

“This has had a direct effect on the population’s standard of living, infant mortality, school enrolment and nutrition.” Even the World Bank itself admitted a month ago that “in general there has been an upturn in growth across the globe, but the poor gain less during periods of economic expansion under structural adjustment programmes.” On average, economic growth in poor countries fell by two thirds after SAPs were introduced.

Christian Aid’s Mark Curtis, in response to Short, says, “Forty years ago the gap between the richest and the poorest people in the world was less than half what it is today.”

One example of what New Labour’s free trade message means came last week from Nicaragua in Latin America. The right wing Nicaraguan government, using the same language as Clare Short, launched a bitter attack on trade unions and anti-sweatshop campaigners who have criticised the clothing company Chentex.

This Nicaraguan-based clothing firm supplies some of the US’s main retailers such as Wal-Mart. Chentex pays 20 cents (13p) an hour to workers who stitch trousers that sell for $30 (20). Workers have given evidence of forced overtime, sackings, beatings, intimidation and low pay. Eleven union activists were sacked this year after an “illegal strike”. Clare Short is acting as the left face of murderers-the hatchet men of the multinationals, IMF and World Bank who preside over the deaths of 19,000 children a day.

But it is not just people in the West who have revolted against capitalist globalisation-millions of people in the Third World itself have as well. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, from Ecuador to Malawi, people have risen against precisely the policies that Short insists are good for them. The people who demonstrated in Seattle, Prague and Nice are on the side of those revolts which are the voice of hope in a brutal world.

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