Power to the chickens!
april 10, 2000. The anti-WTO
demonstrations in Seattle, Washington last fall seemed to
catch the media and the rest of the world by surprise. But
spring in Washington, D.C.
— that’s a different matter.
Buoyed by their success on the West Coast,
activists have been preparing nonstop for the sequel, to
coincide with the annual meeting of the
International Monetary Fund and the
World Bank. The Berkeley-based
Ruckus Society upped its training sessions, including an
Alternative Spring Break Action Camp in Arcadia, Florida. In
Global Exchange has been hosting a weekly series of
planning meetings. On Sunday,
Cell, the community art collaborative on Bryant, held a
street art workshop to prepare puppets, signs, and banners
for the local counterpart to the
Washington demonstrations on April 17. All over the
country, union members, environmentalists, and other
activists are packing their backpacks and heading toward the
nation’s capital. And in Washington, 3,500 police officers
will be on guard, armed with $500,00 worth of new equipment.
Round Two is definitely big-time.
The organizations under attack have been
preparing for battle as well, in rhetoric that resembles the
recent attempts by the tobacco companies to paint themselves
as humanitarian do-gooders. On March 14 IMF deputy managing
director Eduardo Animat welcomed in a new era: "Together, we
can and will make globalization work for the poor." On March
28 the WTO’s brand new director general, Mike Moore,
announced a brand new "program of consultations aimed at
producing agreement on measures in favor of least-developed
countries." And on April 7, World Bank president James D.
Wolfensohn announced the publication of "a groundbreaking
new study featuring the voices of the world's leading
experts on poverty: the poor themselves."
Hallelujah! They’ve seen the light!
Maybe so, but that light is very far off,
at the end of a long dark tunnel. Debts incurred in the
1970s are still in place, binding many developing countries
to the company store. The World Bank and the IMF still see
their role as economic arbiter, with the capacity to impose
"structural adjustment programs" unilaterally on needy
countries. These programs tend to promote a reliance on
production for export, often sacrificing small local
businesses and local resources for global success. And
according to a New Economy Information Service survey, U.S.
corporations prefer to do business with dictatorships, where
the adjustments are more likely to go into effect smoothly.
The World Bank and the IMF are still sites
where money counts. In these organizations power is weighted
according to financial contribution, with the United States
and six other major industrialized countries wielding 45
percent of the vote. The whole system is still set up for
the benefit of companies in the richer northern countries.
The U.S. Treasury Department estimates that American
exporters make two dollars in contracts for materials and
consulting services for every dollar that the U.S.
government contributes to international development banks.
The system was set up to avoid economic
chaos. And from one vantage point, it certainly works, at
least in the short run. But in a global economy, there’s no
way to quarantine the haves if the have-nots come down with
an infection. And a number of countries, from Russia to
Mexico, display sores still festering from their run-in with