They Are Systematically
An interview with George Monbiot
(GEORGE MONBIOT has become one of the leading voices
of the global justice movement worldwide. He is a regular columnist
for Britains Guardian newspaper and author of Captive State: The
Corporate Takeover of Britain. He
was recently interviewed by the Socialist Worker, the transcript of
that interview follows below)
WHATS the first thing
that people should know about the functioning of the IMF and World Bank,
and how are these international institutions connected to corporate
THE KEY issue is that the
World Bank and IMF are controlled exclusively by the rich nations and
work exclusively in the poor nations. They set economic policies for
those poor nations and effectively deny the governments of those nations
from making a serious attempt at setting their own economic policies--and
therefore their own political prescriptions.
So you have a straightforward
refutation of democracy taking place here. You have the poor world being
governed by the rich world, almost exactly as if we were still living
in colonial times.
The result is that, very
often, we see decisions made which appear to favor not the interests
of the poor world--which supposedly these two institutions are trying
to help--but the interests of Wall Street brokers, foreign multinationals,
big business based in the rich world. The rich world has done very well
out of World Bank and IMF decisions, while the poor and less developed
world have done very badly.
Take the principal emergency
packages from the IMF over the past few years. These have involved enormous
bailouts, whose prime purpose is to allow foreign "investors"--which
really means speculators--to get their money out before the economies
of poor nations collapse.
There have not been any substantial
bailouts at all for such essentials in the collapsing countries as health
and education, the welfare of the poor who lose their job as a result
of the crisis, the government institutions which cant function
anymore. The bailouts seem to be aimed exclusively at securing the investments
of these foreign speculators.
More profoundly than that,
many of the crises--and the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and now
the Argentine crisis are very good examples--were caused as a result
of, principally, IMF policy that was aimed exclusively at pleasing the
financial community in the United States.
So, for instance, in Asia,
we saw the IMF demanding the removal of all capital controls and financial
controls, which exposed Asia to this incredible speculative flow of
whats called hot money--short-term funds--allowing the Wall Street
brokers to launch ferocious speculative attacks on the currencies of
the Asian countries and bring those countries to their knees.
The removal of all regulations,
which the IMF demanded, had nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare
of the nations concerned. The only possible reason for the stringency
of its demands is that it was being lobbied to make those demands by
Wall Street. The only beneficiary of those policies were the brokers
who made a very large amount of money after the East Asian collapse.
We see this pattern repeated
time and again, and you have to ask after a while: "Who is driving
this?" The only possible answer that comes to mind is that these
very exclusive financial interests in the West are driving this. And
they are systematically destroying economies all over the world.
ONE OF the messages coming
out of the United Nations Earth Summit in Johannesburg is that
institutions like the IMF and World Bank were recognizing past mistakes
and trying to be more inclusive. What do you think of this?
THERE ARE two problems with
the idea. The first is that its impossible to see how they can
reform themselves if they continue to refuse to acknowledge the scope
of the mistakes they have made in the past. Neither institution has
certain minor errors. Theyve acknowledged errors of implementation.
Theyve acknowledged that theyve gone a little bit too far
in some respects. But they havent faced up to the systematic failure
of their policies--and the fact that their policies have been, in many
cases, far more destructive than beneficial to the interests of the
Until they can do that, why
on earth should we trust them when they say that they will do better
in the future?
The second issue here is
that both the World Bank and the IMF are constitutionally destined to
fail. Partly, this is because they are controlled by the rich world,
working on the poor, so they are as undemocratic as you can get. And
in the absence of democracy, one can only expect failure. Also, because
they are effectively enforcing a debt-based global financial system,
which can only lead to more debt.
The IMF and World Bank were
created in response to the failure of the original proposal before Bretton-Woods,
made by the economist John Maynard Keynes, for a self-correcting international
financial system, where both creditors as well as debtors were obliged
to clear both imbalances of trade and international debt.
That was thrown out, principally
because of lobbying by the United States, which was at the time the
worlds largest creditor. And a wholly inadequate system--namely,
the World Bank and the IMF--was put in its place. However much you tinker
with that system, it will remain wholly inadequate.
THE U.S. governments
"war on terrorism" has had a big impact on the global justice
movement, especially in the U.S. How do you see the relationship between
the war and global justice issues?
I THINK these are intimately
connected, and I take a lot of heart from the fact that many people
who previously were campaigning exclusively on issues of corporate power
have widened the scope of their campaigning to take a powerful stand
Theres no question
that these interests are connected. Its partly because of corporate
power that you have a president called George Bush at all. We know the
extent to which campaign contributions help to steer the result in American
Its partly because
the administration feels the need to secure oil reserves that we have
this prospect of war. And one of the reasons it feels that need is that
its an administration run by oilmen and heavily influenced by
Its also mindful of
the extraordinary power of what Dwight Eisenhower called the "military-industrial
complex"--the amazing lobbying power that the defense industry
has in the United States, and indeed in other countries such as the
United Kingdom. While thats not the whole reason why George Bush
wants to go to war, theres no question that its part of
So its intimately connected
with the struggle that those of us in the global justice movement have
been involved in already.
HOW DO you think "global
justice" can be achieved?
IM WORKING on just
this myself at the moment--and looking at just what democracy would
look like if it were applied to international relations.
What would a democratic world
order look like, as opposed to the ultra-undemocratic world order we
have at the moment--the World Bank and IMF controlled by a few rich
nations, the G-8 nations bringing a great deal of weight when they get
together in their meetings, the UN Security Council controlled by the
worlds five biggest arms traders, the World Trade Organization
effectively controlled by shadowy teams of corporate lawyers who are
utterly unaccountable to the public.
Im looking at what
the alternatives might look like, and Im writing a book at the
moment that will be out in August next year called The Age of Consent.
And Im saying that what we need to work towards is a global economic
order based on consent, rather than the current one based on coercion.
So I have various models
that Im currently developing with that in mind.
WHAT ROLE does the grassroots
organizing of the global justice movement play in all this?
IF YOU read the new book
by Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, you will see
that he--the man who was previously the chief economist of the World
Bank--makes a very clear case that its only because of protest
that these issues are on the agenda at all in the rich nations.
Protests--like the ones that
were seen in Seattle, and Prague and Genoa, and Washington in previous
years--have alerted the rich world to the appalling injustices being
meted out by institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. And that
raising of consciousness is the first step toward political change.
So I would say that the protests
are absolutely essential step towards creating a just world order.
you can contact Geogre Monbiot: