Han Speckens on Tue, 17 Jul 2001 20:21:40 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] Beware of the Moderates

It was the triumphant American state that fashioned the present "global economy" at Bretton Woods in 1944, so that its military and corporate arms would have unlimited access to minerals, oil, markets and cheap labour. In 1948, the State Department's senior imperial planner, George Kennan, wrote: "We have 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality . . . we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation." The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were invented to implement this strategy. Their base is Washington, where they are joined by an umbilical cord to the US Treasury, a few blocks away. This is where the globalisation of poverty and the use of debt as a weapon of control was conceived. When John Maynard Keynes, the British representative at Bretton Woods, proposed a tax on creditor nations, designed to prevent poor countries falling into perpetual debt, he was told by the Americans that if he persisted, Britain would not get its desperately needed war loans. More than half a century later, the gap between the richest 20 per cent of humanity and the poorest 20 per cent has doubled; and "structural adjustment programmes" have secured an indebted imperium greater than the British empire at its height.

The danger of the "moderate" view, which refuses to contemplate the sheer rapacity of western state power, is that it can be co-opted. The World Bank and the IMF, now under siege as never before, have devised their survival tactics in relation to this. Overnight, the IMF, the greatest of the loan sharks, has begun to sound like an institutional Mother Teresa, with a "mission to defeat poverty". Together with the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation, it now promotes "dialogue" with "moderate" non-governmental organisations (NGOs) opposed to globalisation, anointing them as "serious opponents", in contrast to the "hooligans" on the streets. Clare Short's Department for International Development employs this tactic, co-opting leading NGOs for "consultation", even commissioning them to contribute to government white papers. This collaboration should not be underestimated. Following the successful attack on the WTO in Seattle two years ago, more than 1,200 groups and organisations from 85 countries called for a "moratorium" on further liberalisation of trade and an "audit" of WTO policies as the first stage of reforming it. The WTO and its creators in Washington were delighted, for its legitimacy was not in question. Yet, this secretive, entirely undemocratic body is the most rapacious predator devised by the imperial powers. The Economist calls it an "embryo world government" - which no one has voted for. Beware of moderates.