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10/1/02 9:55 PM
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From The Quarantine Against Greed
A report from the WB/IMF Protests
by Mark Engler
New Internationalist October 01, 2002 Print-Friendly Version Email This Article To A Friend
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Even without our protests telling them so, it must be obvious to the finance ministers who attend the annual meetings of GLOBAL ECONOMICS the IMF/World Bank that their institutions are sick. Those inside the Washington, D.C., headquarters can't feel so healthy after the year that passed. It was a year when corporations that they nurtured and nourished, like Enron, collapsed with little warning and less grace. When countries that had long swallowed their prescriptions, like Argentina, found themselves suffering from nauseous economies and rashes of popular uprising. And when a critic they cut from their innards like a malignant growth, Joseph Stiglitz, walked off with a Nobel Prize. If they care to listen to the protests, the ministers will hear at least one diagnosis that explains their various ailments: "Infectious greed." And they will learn that, as a remedy, thousands of activists have joined a Saturday march to "Quarantine" them. Here on the streets, Greenpeace wears white sanitary garb. The scores of police present used mass arrests to overwhelm a much smaller number of Anti-Capitalist Convergence protesters on Friday. But now they are also enlisted in the pageant: Their barricades, the action suggests, are needed not so much to keep criticism out, but rather to keep the contagious delegates away from the general public. There is no doubt that global justice chants echo through the meeting chambers. But it is equally certain that the IMF and World Bank feel less affected by our modest attempt at containment than by a global state of siege that has constrained them in the past year. I was intrigued to watch a short video on the Washington Post web site, in which Citigroup USA Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer exhibits the defensive posture of the meetings: "I think that every time there's a crisis, every time there's a global slowdown, you're bound to have a questioning of the policies that are being followed," he says. "My guess is that if we were in a situation with global growth of 5% and no major crisis in the emerging markets, you wouldn't have these questions." What is fascinating to me is that Fischer does not need to elaborate the actual questions that compel his response. Here in Washington, D.C., questions push in from all sides. They come from private investors who hesitate to invest their confidence in IMF schemes and from economists -- even from World Bank President James Wolfensohn himself -- eager to disassociate themselves from the "Washington Consensus" that ruled development thinking for two decades. The questions come from a public distrustful of the corporate representatives that hover around the meetings. And most of all, questions come from countries in the global South, where eruptions of outrage greet any IMF and World Bank representatives brave enough to actually face the public, and where even some governments now ask, "Is there a way to break free?" During the Quarantine march, I walk with Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "That a country like Argentina is now considering defaulting to the IMF is something that would have been unimaginable even a few years ago," he says to me. "Or look at Brazil, where the IMF tried to lock in the new government to their policies. It didn't work. They haven't committed. "There's going to be a lot more countries trying to figure out ways to go around the IMF. It's happening slowly, but it's happening." The prerogative of the ministers, it seems, is to prove that their malady is nothing so serious -- that it's just a bit of a cold. As we walk along amidst the drums and puppets, Mark Weisbrot and I are joined by a journalist who has just visited the official proceedings. Exporting Enron Bush Brewing Poverty And Violence In El Salvador
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they're guardedly optimistic. its http://www." Bush said. But they're not here not because they don't care and they're scared and they're not activists anymore. However. "Let's face it. And yet this is not the last time that trade and terror would intermingle during the weekend." he leaves no room for a vision of freedom based on open debate and democratic self-determination. -." Those who turned out on the streets knew that a crackdown had been forewarned.S. from a certain perspective. "The protesters put themselves in a place to be arrested. politics." By returning to the long and difficult process of churning up the waters at its base. the logic was irrefutable." moved swiftly against radicals who threatened to disrupt traffic as part of a direct action dubbed the "People's Strike. On Friday the police. the deliberations from Capitol Hill about how broad an endorsement Congress will grant President Bush for his invasion of Iraq dominate the front pages.one where "free markets" and "free trade" rule.org/content/showarticle. In the press." she reports.ZNet | Global Economics | From The Quarantine Against Greed 10/1/02 9:55 PM "Inside. He said simply. the institutions that make up the global justice movement in the U.cfm?SectionID=13&ItemID=2408 Youth ZNet InterActive Page 2 of 3 . She quotes the President from the announcement of his Administration's National Security Policy last week: "There is a single sustainable model for national success.in part. and Free Enterprise. reminds us that Bush has rarely missed an opportunity to use the war on terror to advance his trade agenda. released to warn of potential terrorist activity in the weeks surrounding the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Never mind that the place in question was Freedom Plaza. Seattle was not built in a day. But. You are either with us or against us.zmag. And her view is no doubt true -. The officers hand-cuffed and bussed away as many as three hundred activists who did nothing more severe than to gather in a public park and beat drums against the impending invasion of Iraq. They're not here because they're building a rooted community movement. Even so. few among the 650 swept up expected the authorities' response to be so nonchalant. Activist Maude Barlow. They're not here because they're squatting in their cities. By connecting the IMF and the World Bank to corporate scandal. "Freedom.that their "intelligence" cannot distinguish legitimate threats to national security from past instances.S. coalitions." * * * II. When Bush stares down "the enemy. It infuriates me to think that the individuals who write such alerts are the same people who are charged with protecting the country -. and cash advances. these days) was the word used to describe the police attitude toward arrests." the writer Naomi Klein said on Friday when remembering the A16 demonstrations that took place here two and a half years ago. D. seeing themselves as defenders of "critical national infrastructure. the chairperson of The Council of Canadians." She offers this analysis of the situation: "A lot of people aren't here this week." And. dutifully recited in the memo. as organizer Mike Prokosch of Boston's United for a Fair Economy noted earlier this weekend. the protections of civil liberty so thin. "Optimistic that it won't get worse. Three weeks ago a bulletin from the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center. The idea that media hype and the internet magic created the 1999 protests against the WTO is false.its unions. where a few protesters broke some bank windows. They're not here because they're fighting against illegal deportations of refugees. But another theme haunts the demonstrations. "Pre-emptive" (a popular term in Washington. To construct that gathering it took almost a year of caravans. Rather.C. In its aftermath. devoted a full paragraph to the protests that ultimately assembled this weekend. he pledges to wield the military might at his command to enforce this "single model" -. Police Chief Ramsey was plain-spoken enough. "That wave is over. Democracy. this constitutes a shameless politicization of our fear. * * * III. it is also true that these times of war and recession are difficult ones for global justice organizing in the United States." It is an optimistic take. the protests this weekend seek to capitalize on one of the major themes in U." For the people of the United States. we had the luxury of riding a wave of unusual interest and excitement. "Those protests were bigger. he says. "Optimistic of what?" Weisbrot asks.
.. a writer and activist based in Brooklyn. a movement leader from Cochabamba. we can hope that there exists a more potent contagion in this world. <www. protests is less "The Whole World is Watching" than.C. the mood of our Washington. "We Are Watching the World.com>.org/content/showarticle. however.S. And he suggested instead that we learn about the successes of popular movements across the globe. and that we begin to celebrate them as our own. its community groups.C. It is a wise counsel. New York.ZNet | Global Economics | From The Quarantine Against Greed 10/1/02 9:55 PM environmentalists.S. We hear stories of Brazilians defying warnings of financial ruin to assert their right to elect officials that truly represent them. people. Government are not the victories of the U.reduce their water pressure to but a trickle. D. Oscar Olivera.org>.may well ride high once again. where an awesome crowd of 350. D. can be reached at < engler@eudoramail. perhaps this is a good thing.like an extreme version of a "low flow" showerhead . Print-Friendly Version Email This Article To A Friend ZNet Top | Home http://www.newint. and its collections of young radicals -. Mark Engler. This weekend we viewed videos of South Africans taking direct action to remove the filters that . Ours is the germ of infectious solidarity." he said. "The victories of the U. And we read e-mail dispatches from London.cfm?SectionID=13&ItemID=2408 Page 3 of 3 ." At a time when a rampant unilaterialism dominates this city. the escalating battle against the FTAA will demand it in coming years. Indeed.000 reportedly rallies against an invasion of Iraq. For now. perhaps did best to capture the importance of this battle against provincialism.zmag. This essay first appeared on the web site of the New Internationalist magazine. Bolivia. For even as we quarantine greed in Washington.
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