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By Stéphanie Jacquemont, Damien Millet, Eric Toussaint, Christine Vanden Daelen
Contrary to what its leaders proclaim, the IMF is not the institution that helps countries in crisis, but rather the one that imposes draconian austerity programs and defends an economic model that is structurally generator of poverty and inequality. The IMF is in fact an instrument of the great powers used to monitor the maintenance of the capitalist system and the interests of the great transnational corporations.
For a few days, all the international media have been reporting a possible sexual assault committed by Dominique Strauss Kahn in New York, and the photo of the IMF director general in handcuffs went around the world. Without commenting on his possible culpability in this event, we want to denounce another type of scandal: the actions of the IMF itself.
Contrary to what its officials proclaim, the IMF is not the institution that helps countries in crisis, but rather the one that imposes draconian austerity programs and that defends an economic model structurally generator of poverty and inequality. If it is possible to speak of a rescue in this matter, it is rather that of the banks, while the peoples are sacrificed. Deeply undemocratic, since the richest countries have more than half the votes in the board of directors, the IMF is in fact an instrument of the great powers used to monitor the maintenance of the capitalist system and the interests of large transnational companies.
Very active for several decades in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe, it took advantage of the crisis that erupted in 2007-2008 to solidly penetrate Western Europe. Thus, it imposes on the peoples of the most industrialized countries the same harmful recipes that led to a tragic impasse in the countries of the South that applied them.
In the United States, thirty years of neoliberal policies allowed for widespread deregulation of the financial sector, which led directly to this enormous crisis. During its first phase (2007-2009), some "social buffers" were established, only temporarily, in the United States and Europe, to limit the risks of a social explosion. The implementation of the shock strategy began in 2010 and initially affected the weakest countries in the debt chain: Greece, Ireland, Portugal… The IMF is at the center of this strategy.
In April 2009, in London, the G20 summit decided to re-float the IMF in order to allow it to intervene in over-indebted states. Big winner from that operation, the IMF saw its lending capabilities triple from $ 250 billion to $ 750 billion. For the first time, the IMF may also consider borrowing from the financial markets. After a serious legitimacy crisis at the beginning of the 2000s, due to the failure of its policies in the countries of the South and the numerous anti-IMF rebellions, it seems that the lean times have ended for this institution. Consequently, in less than a year it has opened a line of credit in a dozen European countries and is now intervening on multiple fronts.
In this context, DSK strives to communicate the idea of a new IMF, breaking with the mistakes of the past… However, the logic of the imposed policies has not changed. A veritable hurricane of austerity is beating down on Europe. IMF delegations are simultaneously sent to large capitals and study, from the top of their rooms in luxury hotels and from the offices of the Ministry of Finance that occupy as if they were their own, the balance sheet of their plans without considering the consequences social.
The examples are numerous. The IMF suspends a loan to Ukraine as a result of the Ukrainian government's decision to increase the minimum wage; In order to continue receiving financing from the IMF and the European Union, Latvia must drastically reduce civil servants' salaries and retirement pensions; Greece must accept larger privatizations than originally planned and question the continuity of many social rights; Iceland, to receive the endorsement of the IMF, seeks to outline the popular will that has already been expressed by referendum, on two occasions, against the payment of the debt. Everywhere, the IMF agrees with the bankers against the interests of the people. Everywhere, it favors the spectacular deepening of inequalities, the development of corruption, and the maintenance of peoples in submission to neoliberalism. While some hoped that DSK would establish a lasting New Keynesian policy, it is in fact pursuing an ultra-liberal policy, worthy of Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman. Contraction of public demand, compression of wages, precarious employment, privatization constitute the core of its orientation.
Beyond this aspect, the current international system is not only capitalist but also patriarchal and sexist. Until now, only the presidents of institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization have been men. Machismo and patriarchal character automatically go hand-in-hand with behaviors of domination, harassment or sexual violence.
Regardless of the real responsibility of DSK in this case, currently mediated, the trivialization of such behaviors must be denounced. The fight against capitalism is inseparable from the fight against a patriarchal system, since these systems of domination have common roots and feed on each other. The economic and sexual exploitation of women has continued to strengthen under the incessant attacks of neoliberal globalization promoted by international financial institutions. Trafficking in women, their migration to ensure the survival of their family, the exponential growth of the feminization of poverty and the extension of informal and forced labor of women, shows us every day. Inequality of sex, class and race is constantly being reinforced under the effects of the policies imposed on the peoples, especially by the IMF and the World Bank. The imbrication of the systems of domination is such that any real emancipation of human beings - men and women - cannot be achieved without simultaneously fighting capitalism, racism and patriarchy.
Whether or not the facts concerning DSK are confirmed, what is certain is that there can be no impunity for an IMF official, and all those who work for an international institution must be held accountable for their actions. The IMF, as an institution, must also be prosecuted for the multiple violations of fundamental human rights that it has committed and continues to commit in many, many countries. The replacement of the IMF by a world democratic body charged with the stability of currencies and the fight against financial speculation is urgent. For more than sixty years, the IMF has acted against the people with total impunity. Now the message must be clear: the IMF above the law is finished.
Stéphanie Jacquemont, Damien Millet, Eric Toussaint, Christine Vanden DaelenThe authors are members of the Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt. To appear at the end of May: Damien Millet, and Eric Toussaint (coordinators), La Dette ou la Vie (Debt or life), Aden-CADTM, Brussels-Liège, 2011. Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt - CADTM - May 18, 2011.
Translated by Griselda Pinero.