rn: VICTORY! Wld Bank, IMF shaken to the core – Naomi Klein


Jan Slakov

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000 11:56:39 -0700
From: Sid Shniad <•••@••.•••>
Subject: VICTORY! World Bank and IMF were shaken to their core - The
  Globe and Mail 

The Globe and Mail                                   Wednesday, April 19, 2000


        The World Bank and the IMF were shaken to their very core

        By Naomi Klein

        I admit it: I slept in.
        I went to Washington, D.C., for the protests against the World Bank 
and the International Monetary Fund, but when my cellphone rang at 
some ungodly hour with word that the new plan was to meet at 4 a.m. 
Monday morning, I just couldn't do it.
        "Okay, meet you there," I mumbled, scribbling street intersections 
with a pen that had run out of ink. There was absolutely no way. Bone 
tired after 13 hours on the streets the day before, I decided to catch up 
with the demos at a more civilized hour. And so, it seems, did a few 
thousand other people, allowing the World Bank delegates, bussed in 
before dawn, to get to their meeting in bleary-eyed peace.
        "A defeat!" many of the newspapers pronounced, eager to put this 
outbreak of messy democracy behind them and concentrate on more 
newsworthy subjects: Oprah's new magazine, for instance, and the 
fortunes of Pets.com.
        Canadian expat-in-Washington David Frum couldn't get to his 
computer fast enough, declaring the protests "a flop," "a disaster" and, 
for good measure, "a flat soufflé." In Mr. Frum's estimation, the activists 
were so discouraged by their inability to shut down the IMF meeting on 
Sunday that they took to their beds the next day rather than brave the 
rainy streets.
        Ahhh, the desperate cries of a man waking up -- no matter how early 
in the morning -- to the realization that history is passing him by.
        It's true it was tough to drag butt out of bed on Monday, but not 
because of the rain or the scary cops. It was tough because, by then, so 
much had already been accomplished in a single week of protests. 
Shutting down a meeting is good activist bragging rights, no doubt, but 
the real victories happen around those dramatic moments.
        The first sign of victory came in the weeks before the protest, with a 
rush among former World Bank and IMF officials to come out on the side 
of the critics and renounce their former employers. Most notably, former 
World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz said the IMF was in 
desperate need of a large dose of democracy and transparency.
        Next, a corporation gave in. The protest organizers had announced 
that they would take their calls for "fair trade" as opposed to "free trade" 
to the doorstep of the Starbucks coffee chain, demanding that it sell 
coffee grown by farmers who are paid a living wage. Last week, only four 
days before the planned protest, Starbucks announced it would carry a 
line of fair-trade certified coffee.
        And, finally, the protesters defined the terms of debate. Before the 
papier-mâché was dry on the giant puppets, the failures of many World 
Bank-financed mega-projects and IMF bailouts were outlined in 
newspapers and radio talk shows. More than that, the critique of 
"capitalism" just saw a comeback of Santana-like proportions.
        The radical anarchist contingent The Black Bloc renamed itself the 
Anti-Capitalist Bloc. College students wrote in chalk on the sidewalks: "If 
you think the IMF and World Bank are scary, wait until you hear about 
Capitalism." The frat boys at American University responded with their 
own slogans, written on placards and hung in their windows: "Capitalism 
brought you prosperity. Embrace it!"
        Even the Sunday pundits on CNN started saying the word 
"capitalism" instead of just "the economy." And the word makes not one 
but two appearances on the cover of yesterday's New York Times. After 
more than a decade of unchecked triumphalism, capitalism (as opposed 
to euphemisms such as "globalization," "corporate rule" or "the growing 
gap between rich and poor") has re-emerged as a legitimate subject of 
public debate. This kind of impact is so significant that it makes the 
disruption of a routine World Bank meeting seem almost beside the 
point. Sure, the delegates won a tactical victory by making it to their 
meeting. But having to wake up at 4 a.m. and sneak under cover of 
darkness and police escort is itself a profound public-relations defeat for 
an organization whose president, James Wolfensohn, says he comes to 
work every day "thinking I'm doing God's work."
        Besides, the protesters may have been kept from disrupting the 
meeting by police barricades, but rarely have barricades been less 
effective: The World Bank and the IMF, though protected physically with 
astonishing force and brutality, were shaken to their very core.
        The agenda of the World Bank meeting, and the press conference 
that followed, was hijacked utterly. The usual talk of deregulation, 
privatization and the need to "discipline" Third World markets was 
supplanted by commitments to speed up debt relief for impoverished 
nations and spend "unlimited" sums on the African AIDS crisis.
        Of course, this is only the beginning of a long process. But if there is 
a lesson of Washington, it is that a barricade can be stormed in spirit, as 
well as in body. And Monday's sleep-in wasn't the nap of the defeated, it 
was the well-deserved rest of the victorious.