by C. Uzondu
The International Monetary Fund, that instrument of torture deployed to strip developing nations of their ability to function as sovereign governments, is on it’s death bed. It should be allowed to die and be buried. Yet imperialist circles hope to resurrect the IMF under cover of the current economic crisis. “For imperialism, this is an opportunity to re-impose imperial control. It is a critical moment to reinvest in the capacity of the IMF to impose the ‘debt trap.’” If the IMF zombie rises from the grave, “it means that the runners and the dishwashers, the workers and the unemployed, the peasants and the landless of the world have much work to do. We have to increase the ideological and political work against any and all new attempts to grant this quack doctor a new lease on life.”
Let the IMF Die
by C. Uzondu
“The debt trap is a powerful form of discipline.”
Let it die. Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seemed to be on its dying bed. After the “debtor” countries that kept the IMF alive, increasingly refused to provide the enormous funds it demanded for its toxic medicine, this quack doctor looked like it was about to go out of business.
In 2005, Brazil declared it would pay off 15.5 billion it owed to the IMF. In the same year, the same move to remove the IMF’s noose was taken by Thailand and Argentina. The noose loosening move was repeated in Bolivia, in 2006. In fact, President Evo Morales of Bolivia declared that the country would not enter into any further agreements with the IMF. Serbia and Indonesia, too decided to pay off their debts to the IMF. In 2007, when Turkey expressed interest in paying off its loans to the IMF, earlier than scheduled, the question of IMF solvency came to the fore.
The explicit attempts by these countries to remove IMF leverage by cutting the debt noose, lent credence to the challenges waged by various social movements against this quack doctor and its collaborator in crimes, the World Bank. However, more was at stake. The very viability of the IMF was in question. As more of its patients-victims rejected the quack doctor’s blood-letting of the global masses, the IMF’s ability to malpractice receded.
“The quack doctor’s hegemonic position has been seriously challenged.”
Recently, the quack doctor’s hegemonic position has also been seriously challenged from a former patient-victim. In a bold progressive movement, Venezuela has led Argentina, Nicaragua, and other Latin American countries to develop an alternative to the IMF. Their answer is Banco del Sur (Bank of the South). It is an aspect of Venezuela’s attempt to build socialism for the 21st century, by constructing alternative economic frameworks to the hegemonic imperial ones. This is not only a powerful ideological attack on the Bretton Woods institutions and their central role in constructing the governing imperial order; The Bank of the South, along with the Bolivian Alternatives for the Americas (ALBA), are concrete, if still underdeveloped, alternative structures to provide the basis for more egalitarian global economic relations.
Enter the global financial crisis.
As the global economic crisis continues to wreak havoc across the planet, especially the global south, questions continue to be raised, seemingly everywhere, about capitalism, especially the hyper neo-liberal model pushed by the Anglo world (the US and the UK).
But as is often the case, a crisis for capitalism can also be an opportunity. With a charming and charismatic imperialist reigning in the imperial heartland, determined to lead the US led West in maintaining global dominance, hope (of course) and lots of cash is being reinvested in the IMF. Already the US, Europe and Japan have promised to pay 100 billion each to the new IMF facility. One aspect of imperialism’s strategy seems to be the resurrection of the IMF. Sadistically effective in the past in facilitating the transfer of wealth from the Rest to the West, the quack doctor is being given new life to enforce death on poor countries and peoples.
“A crisis for capitalism can also be an opportunity.”
As countries, especially in the global South, increasingly desperate for capital, observe the West implement massive stimulus packages to their economies, the ideological hegemony of neo-liberalism is further shattered. For imperialism, this is an opportunity to re-impose imperial control. It is a critical moment to reinvest in the capacity of the IMF to impose the “debt trap.” Countries trapped in debt can be dictated to and plundered more effectively. Importantly, the debt trap is also a powerful form of discipline. Beggars can’t be choosers. So, it is time to make the quack doctor able to ply its trade: peddling the Hope brand snake oil.
There are problems. So far the emerging powers, Brazil, Russian, India, and China (BRIC) are unwilling to dump more of their wealth into the pot. It may be that the West does not have enough to go it alone. There is another, perhaps more important problem, a reconstituted IMF without the BRIC countries lacks legitimacy. (Remember that President Lula of Brazil recently reminded the world that it was the white boys in charge that had caused the global financial crisis).
So, the BRIC countries are unwilling to pay up, without a fundamental change in structure of the IMF which ends Western dominance of that institution. (Recall that the IMF and World Bank [WB], founded in 1946, at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, were both created in the aftermath of WWII to reconstruct the global economy, for the interest of the West). Arrogant as always, the West expects that others will pay to go to lunch but accept to be told by the West what and when they must eat.
“For imperialism, this is an opportunity to re-impose imperial control.”
Will the BRIC countries refuse and resist an untransformed IMF, which will essentially relegate them to the status of a waiter after they too paid to dine? This is unclear. Unlike Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and others,i there does not seem to be any substantive ideological commitments among BRIC to transform global economic structures in a more radical way. The BRIC countries seem to want merely to join the masters of the universe at the table.
If this is so, it means that the runners and the dishwashers, the workers and the unemployed, the peasants and the landless of the world have much work to do. We have to increase the ideological and political work against any and all new attempts to grant this quack doctor a new lease on life.
Because they have recapitalized the IMF, does not mean the battle is lost. We can organize mass movements to demand that future funds from the IMF to countries in the Global South be provided as grants, without any poverty-producing conditionalities. Maybe those who can afford to invest should forget the US stock market (really a catastrophic market for all but big time investors). President Chavez, can individuals invest in the Bank of the South?
However, whether you have money to invest or not, it is time to invest in economic justice, social solidarity, and a more egalitarian world. Let the IMF and the World Bank die. Long live the Bank of the South.
C. Uzondu can be contacted at [email protected].
i1. It should be noted that Brazil has invested 2 billion in the Bank of the South.