Bury the debt, not the dead

Against the International Monetary Fund


Introduction

The International Monetary Fund & the World Bank are two of the most powerful organisations in the world today. Their role is to regulate the worlds economy and in this are seen to "generously" provide loans to "developing" countries. What this document is intended to do is expose the world-wide exploitation these 2 organisations, as a mechanism of imperialism, are responsible for.

Development of the IMF

Shortly after the second world war, plans for a new world trade & world monetary order were prepared in the US. These plans were designed to prevent a world economic crisis such as in the 1920s, & also to develop the international expansion of US capitalism (which as a result of WWII emerged in a strong position to ensure this).

Founded by 44 countries, the IMF & World Bank are complimentary organisations; the former responsible for short term balance of payment aid, the latter for long term project related aid. Without membership in the IMF (which means integration into the capitalist system), no admission to the World Bank. Without playing by IMF rules, no development aid from the World Bank. A classic example of the carrot & stick principle.

Today, there are 151 member-countries of the IMF. The vast majority are located in the Three Continents (Asia, Africa, South & Central America), yet these countries have no real influence on IMF policies. Instead, to ensure the power of the advanced industrial countries (US, Canada, Japan, etc), a quota system was devised which, contrary to the usual "one vote, one country" system as in UN organisations, grants a percentage of votes according to a country's national income, gold & foreign exchange reserves, size & fluctuations of foreign trade & export dependence. The US share of the total quota is 19.9%, followed by the UK with 6.9%. Any change in quotas requires an 85% majority!

Impact of the Policies

The main function of the IMF is to provide its members with financial aid to cover short-term gaps in their balance of payments. Essentially, it is an international organisation through which countries of the capitalist north can impose their financial & monetary interests, & sometimes other interests, on the countries of the Three continents. No-where is this clearer than in the IMFs "stabilisation programmes" which it forces on countries as a condition of repayment. Standard parts of this are ; devaluation of national currency, abolition of liberalisation of controls on foreign trade (intended to set an export boom in motion & bring i foreign exchange), wage cuts, & cuts in social programmes (ie health, schools). There is often a marked deterioration in the supply of basic materials of the poor.

In historical colonial times, developing countries were forced to develop one-sided monocultural export structures. The colonies provided agricultural & mineral raw materials which were essential for the industrialisation process of the metropoles, often under armed force.

This basic pattern continues today, with the IMF replacing the gun-boats. This one-sided orientation towards the interests of the imperialist countries has prevented the development of food production for domestic requirements. The abolition of foreign trade controls creates an opportunity for multi-national corporations to gain access to the raw materials. The traditional agriculture of countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Ethiopia, etc. has been destroyed & replaced by the growing of cotton, sisal, coffee, cocoa, bananas, sugar; all for export. The ecological destruction we are seeing of the rainforests in the Three continents is directly related to the situation of imperialism. The de-forestation also produces dangers for the indigenous peoples who live in these areas. Due to land clearing for cattle-ranching, cash-crops, mining, dams, & road-building, thousands of people are displaced, their traditional live- lihoods destroyed & ultimately their very cultures.

With this comes intensified repression by police, army, and paramilitary forces against any resistance, from ecologists and indigenous peoples. An even more blatant example of what the IMFs function is, is seen in the "debt for exports" concept, in which export goods are traded to companies who'll take over the balance of payment debts. In 1988 Fiat sought permission to accept Brazilian debt in payment for cars.

Politics of the IMF

The IMF attaches great importance to its supposedly non-political character, arguing that the principle of non-discrimination ensures all countries are treated equally in the granting and conditions of loans. The IMF states it is purely economic. However, not only does it ignore the often devastating social & political impacts of its economic policies, but its practise tells another story. Chile, during the time of socialist president Allende, was refused a stand-by agreement after the country was plunged into difficulties by a US destabilisation programme.

After the military coup in 1973, the IMF quickly came to agreement with the new fascist Pinochet regime. After the Soweto uprising, the IMF gave South Africa a loan of US$ 464 million in 1976, a sum almost equal to the increase in military expenditure that year. In Nov.1982 the IMF again granted S.Africa a loan totalling US$1.1 thousand million, even though the UN General Assembly just voted 121 votes to 3 aginst IMF aid for Apartheid. With the help of Canada & most W.European countries, the US forced the loan through with 53% of the vote in the IMF. In 1982 El Salvador received loans which caused a sensation because of the generous terms attached; no interest rates, subsidies or changes in prices of agricultural goods. As late as May 1979, nine weeks before Somozas overthrow, the Nicaraguan regime received an IMF credit.

The forcing through of IMF stabilisation programmes has also determined the fate of many gov't.s, leading to their downfall because they implement these programmes. With remarkable frequency, IMF interventions coincide with military coups; the military take-over in Argentina in March 1976- as in 1962- was closely connected with negotiations for an IMF stand-by credit. The civilian gov't. couldn't force through the IMF demands because resistance was too strong. The military took advantage of the crisis & took power. It proceeded to crush popular resistance, the "dirty war" between 1976-78, & soon reached agreement with the IMF. Similiar situations occured in Brazil 1964, Chile & Uruguay 1973, Turkey in 1960,71, & 80.

The unrest following the implementation of IMF policies is well known; massive riots, "bread riots", demonstrations, & strikes. These are forms of popular resistance against the attempts of imperialism to force the poor to pay for the "Debt crisis".

As we can see, the results of IMF & World Bank, & essentially imperialist politics, is millions of people deprived of the basis of their subsistence.

Wimmin are often in the centre of this attack. With the payment of a wage to a man, or higher wages for a man, the sexist interpretation of what capital recognises as wage-earning work shows the patriarchal structuring of society, right down to the family unit. This includes the sexuality, the birth & raising of children, relationships, cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping. This "housework" is seen as a labour done out of love.

The head of the house, the man, is legally & ideologically given control over the family. In this way the power & work relations within the family make up the basis of the gender & class division. So the exploitation of wimmins work forms an integral part of capitalism. But wimmin also face attacks in reproduction rights, & on a world scale this is seen as "population policy". Abortion restrictions here, & forced sterilisation in the Three continents are connected; to capital there is "surplus" population in the Three continents, where wimmin are frequently used as test cases for new birth- control devises, forced sterilisation, & as markets for (often defective) pharmaceutical products. We see this in Nestle infant formulas (which have thus far caused 3 million infant deaths), Ciba-Geigys' preparations Mexaform & Enterofrom (for acute diarrhea, both products contain Clioquinol, which leads to a serious nerve ailment called Smon), as well as birth control pills 20 times stronger than those on the market in N.America.

Gene technology is increasingly being applied to the Three continents, & not only in the agribusiness. There are also measures to reduce the population; forced sterilisation programmes, birth control injections effective for 3 months at a time. Here, they call abortion "murder of an unborn life", in the Three continents they talk of "overpopulation".

This "overpopulaton", as defined by capital, means "too many mouths to feed", "smaller profits", & a greater potential for unrest. This "overpopulation" is directly connected to such institutions as the IMF & World Bank. The family, in the Three continents becomes a means of survival, & when one in four children die before age five, you produce more children to work in the fields, to gather food. Neither famine nor poverty are natural. On the contrary, they are the result of world imperialist policies, in which the IMF & World Bank have a key function.

Canada

Canadian involvement in the IMF & World Bank seems small in comparison to the United States, but this has more to do with economic status. Canada has contributed to the development of the IMF since day one. It has a vote quota of 3.2%, the 6th largest. All its major banking institutions; Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto-Dominion, Bank of Montreal, National Bank of Canada, & Bank of Nova Scotia, are engaged in the business of the IMF & World Bank. Last year, 1988, most of these banks were selling off their loans to corporations & investors. The Toronto- Dominion sold $780 million of loans to less developed countries, & swapped $308 million of Mexican loans for bonds in that country. The Bank of Montreal did not participate in this swap citing the pricing wasn't "adequate". These banks have billions of dollars loaned to countries in the Three continents.

Conclusion

The response from most groups opposed to the IMF policies has been a call for 'debt cancellation' or re-negotiation of payments. This may mean a temporary breathing space, but new mechanisms will replace the old ones. Recent statements made by bankers, such as at last years congress in W.Berlin, show that negotiations on re-payment, or partial cancellations, are quite compatible with IMF & World Bank policies in the long term.

As can be seen, the interests of many seemingly diverse groups (ecological, anti-racist/anti-apartheid, anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist, Central American solidarity groups, indigenous peoples, etc) are present in the struggle against imperialism, embodied in two of the most powerful organisations in the capitalist world; the IMF and World Bank. The real challenge aginst the IMF & World Bank lies in these movements, & the liberation struggles of many of the countries in the Three continents where revolutionary struggles are now being fought; but only if we develop strong anti-imperialist politics. Because the structures & methods of imperialism are international, our resistance must also be international.

Reference

IMF & The Debt Crisis, Zed Books.

Autonomous Groups Days of Action Against the IMF & World Bank Congress in West Berlin 1988

Globe & Mail Sept. 1988, Business

Vancouver Sun, Sept. 14 1989

Turning The Tide, Noam Chomsky

Dollars & DictatorsGrove Press

We have copies of the Autonomous Groups in West Berlin Anti-IMF document, for a copy send $3ppd to; Autonomedia A-5 1720 Douglas Victoria, BC V8W 2G7 Canada

This document was written in 1989 by Endless Struggle.