What is the IMF? What is the World Bank? What do they do?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) are basically two big global loan sharks. Their stated goal is to help the poor, the needy, and the developing world, but their actions have helped to deprive millions of the basic necessities all in the name of profit.
For example, the countries they've loaned money to are on average 61% MORE in debt now than when they originally received the loan! That's like having to pay back a college loan, but instead of your debt going down, it goes up!
Not only does the IMF and WB make it impossible to pay back these loans, but when they loan countries money, they do it with strings attached. These strings are called "Structural
Adjustment Programs", which is just a fancy name for cutting social programs, like health care, education and farm subsidies to local farmers making food affordable to the people of these countries. These cuts are often called privatization, meaning that private companies run the schools, and since all these people are poor, the school closes for lack of profit. Don't ya love capitalism?
Ultimately what the IMF and WB end up doing is turning over the resources of these nations to Western investors and putting debt repayment on the top of the list of the government's priorities. In short, the entire country's economy is subordinated to Western investors. In Mozambique, a country ravaged by floods that left thousands dead and millions homeless, they continued to pay $1.4 each week to the IMF and WB. Even though its people may not have access to clean water, food or housing, the Western banks get their cut first. Not to mention the fact that because of the "structural adjustment programs" the percentage that Mozambique spent on health and education combined amounted to a measely 4% of the country's budget. The real disaster here is not the floods, but the adjustment programs.
And of course the WB and IMF are dominated by the U.S. In fact, the countries that donate the most capital have the most say in how the bank is run, and who is the richest country in the world? The U.S. of course. So it's U.S. corporations and capitalists that benefit from the debt slavery and the privatization programs imposed upon the Third World, and it's the poor people of those countries who foot the bill. The IMF and WB are essentially tools of the bosses which assist in their race to the bottom for ordinary workers.
Washington DC, April 16th
Comrade Brian and I met comrades in DC and assisted in setting up the ISO camp on the South Lawn of the White House (the Ellipse). After we finished setting up the table, Comrade Brian and I went around selling papers and met some comrades from the Canadian International Socialists (IS). I bought an "IMF - drop debt" button and their SW paper. More comrades from Canada came and we (the ISO) sold papers together, though it was a bit confusing to see two different editions of the SW at once. But the paper selling was awesome! People couldn't stop buying them. In Ten Days That Shook the World John Reed wrote:
All Russia was learning to read, and reading - politics, economics
history - because the people wanted to know... The thirst for
education, so long thwarted, burst with the Revolution into a
frenzy of expression. From Smolny Institute [HQ of the Soviet]
alone, the first sixth months, went out every day tons, car-loads,
train-loads of literature, saturating the land. Russia absorbed
reading matter like hot sand drinks water, insatiable...
... We came down to the front of the Twelfth Army, back of Riga,
where gaunt and bootless men sickened in the mud of desperate
trenches; and when they saw us they started up, with their pinched
faces and the flesh showing blue through their torn clothing,
demanding eagerly, "Did you bring anything to read?"
That's kind of how it was in DC, and it wasn't even close to a revolution by any means! I later learned we sold 1,000 papers alone that day. So roughly 1 in 10 people had one.
Around noon the sun came out, scorching all of us. Many became weary because of the heat. I got pretty impatient myself; I wanted to march goddamnit! not listen to "consumer advocate" Ralph Nader blab on and on about the new movement. I wanted to move!
When the cops did let us march it was about 2 o'clock. The ISO marched together as a contingent, but as the demo began to move, we lost some of our tightness as a group. I carried a "Workers of the World UNITE AND FIGHT" sign. We chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, IMF has got to go", "1,2,3,4, Stop the War on the Poor", "Corporate Greed? We say NO! IMF has got to go!" and "Hey IMF, whaddya say? How many kids did you kill today?".
Between 10,000 and 20,000 were out there. I was quite pleased at the turnout, this being my first large demonstration, although I was disappointed that we did not (and could not) shut down the IMF and World Bank meetings.