Shut down the IMF
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Washington DC is the latest venue bracing itself for being the focus of an international mobilisation and demonstration campaign. This weekend's meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank will be picketed by tens of thousands of people from all over North America and beyond.
A mass rally and non-violent protest is planned for the US capital next Sunday, 16 April, following on from last November's mass protest at the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Seattle talks and the June 1999 Carnival Against Capitalism
The organisers of the days of action around the IMF/World Bank meetings have called on those ``who rallied in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation, and those who supported them, to come to Washington in April.
``In Seattle we contributed to the collapse of a dangerous attempt to control the world's economy and resources for the benefit of corporations and the wealthy. That was an exhilarating, landmark victory. But of course it was just a beginning.''
The scale of the protest in Seattle and the unnecessarily violent reaction of police, who broke up peaceful protests with tear gas and rubber bullets, effectively stalled the summit and stopped a new round of trade negotiations starting. The scale of protest at World Trade Organisation policies has prompted considerable backtracking by the organisation since Seattle.
The protest organisers believe that ``the IMF and World Bank have been empowered by the governments which control it (led by the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, France, Canada, and Italy - the ``Group of 7,'' which holds over 40% of the votes on their boards) with imposing economic austerity policies in the countries of the so-called `Third World' or global South'.
``Once southern countries build up large external debts, as most have, they cannot get credit or cash anywhere else and are forced to go to these international institutions and accept whatever conditions are demanded of them.
``None of the countries have emerged from their debt problems; indeed most countries now have much higher levels of debt than when they first accepted IMF/World Bank `assistance'.''
There have been some differences between the protest and lobby groups focusing on the IMF World Bank meeting. The broad tent of Mobilisation for Global Justice, who are organising the responses, have been calling for a boycott of all official contacts with the World Bank. Jubilee 2000, the group lobbying for cancellation of less developed economies' debt, want to attend some of the meetings to make their case.
Notwithstanding these differences, the Washington Police have trained 1,500 officers in dealing with so called ``civil disturbances''. $1 million has been spent on new helmets, protective gloves, shin and chest guards.
Federal status has been conferred on the IMF and World Bank meetings, which apparently means that the US secret service can be called upon to intervene in the protests.
Despite these ominous developments, tens of thousands of people will still make their way to the Washington venue to make their three simple demands: ``De-fund the IMF, break the World Bank and dump the debt''.
The Mobilisation for Global Justice Campaign can be contacted on the internet at a16.org.