Prague: Can the IMF be reformed?
by Norbert Stary* The question of the day is: Can the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) be reformed? Can they be transformed into democratically controlled institutions serving the interests of the majority of the world's people? Young radicals like the Czech student Alice Dvorska, press spokesperson of the Initiative against Economic Globalisation, are clear: "They are unreformable institutions representing the interests of transnational capital." But some more established theoreticians on the Left (and also even on the Right) are calling for reform of the world's financial institutions. Can a tiger become a vegetarian? The most drastic forms of pauperisation can be modified on the principle that you don't milk a milch cow dry. But that's all. Any attempt to fundamentally change the character of these institutions — by transforming them into democratically controlled institutions serving the interests of the majority of humanity — is like trying to turn a tiger into a vegetarian. It's just not on. The tiger's stomach simply can't cope with a vegetable diet. Its organism is structured for hunting and meat-eating, and if a tiger's a tiger, it has to have meat. The IMF and the World Bank talk about "cancelling" the debts of the poorest countries. But when we get down to the nitty-gritty, we find that they will only agree to this if the usual IMF conditions are accepted: more privatisation, including privatisation of public services, more cuts in public spending, further closures (in the poorest countries!) of cash- strapped institutions providing health care, education, etc. Private ownership The IMF's organism is geared to maximising the profits of transnational corporations which want the rest of the world completely privatised at knock-down prices. For the IMF to be capable of behaving otherwise, it would have to become a totally different organisation. The deeper meaning of the struggle against the IMF, the World Bank and globalisation is that it is a struggle against private ownership which inevitably leads to concentration of capital in the hands of transnational corporations, on the one hand, and to mass poverty, on the other. The leaders of the IMF won't agree to this, no matter how often they say they want to help the poor.
* * **This is an abridged translation of an article by Norbert Stary which appeared in the Czech left-wing daily Halo Noviny on August 23, courtesy of Postmark Praha