Multinational Monitor

APR 2000
VOL 21 No. 4


The IMF on the Run: The International Monetary Fund Tries to Outrun its Critics
by Robert Weissman

Twenty Questions on the IMF
by the Monitor Staff


Unraveling the Washington Consensus
An Interview with Joseph Stiglitz

Globalization, Regionalism and Democracy
An Interview with Samir Amin


Behind the Lines

Against IMF "Realism"
- Brutal Banking

The Front
BHP's Big Mining Mess - The U'wa/Oxy Standoff

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book and Video Notes

Names In the News


Understanding Globalization

Field Guide to the Global Economy
by Sarah Anderson and John
Cavanagh, with Thea Lee
Institute for Policy Studies
New York: New Press, 2000
143 pages; $16.95

This coffee-table style book is the most accessible book about globalization published "post-Seattle."

By combining a variety of graphs, charts and political cartoons with hard statistics on salaries, trade in legal and illegal goods, financial flows and job creation, the Field Guide succinctly illustrates the impacts of  the global economy on workers, consumers and the environment.

The authors describe the major institutions and policies driving globalization, explain what is new about it today, and handily rebut the major shibboleths put forward by the proponents of corporate globalization, including the common refrains, "Globalization Lifts All Boats," "What's Good for General Motors is Good for the Rest of Us," "Increased Trade = More Jobs at Higher Wages," and "Trade = Democracy." 

They finish by surveying effective responses to the newly globalized economy, including initiatives by students, workers, environmentalists, artists and consumers who have worked to slow the process down and hold it more accountable.

The book guides readers into further learning and action through a well-selected list of organizations and resources provided in the appendix.

The Field Guide will be useful to both those who have little to no prior knowledge of the issues surrounding the debate over the global economy, as well as anyone who wants a handy set of statistics on globalization.

Panic Rules!

By Robin Hahnel
Cambridge, Massachusetts
South End Press, 1999
125 pages; $12.00

In Panic Rules!, American University economist Robin Hahnel outlines the causes and dynamics of the global economic crisis which spread from country to country in the late 1990s, as well as the various schools of thought in the debate over what to do about it. 

The post-Bretton Woods "boom" of 1980-97 was hardly the era of universal prosperity that neoliberals suggest. Most of the world's citizens were worse off in income terms in 1996 than they were at end of the 1970s; and the growth of world GDP per capita was lower than during the 30 years following World War II, when international market controls and government interventions were stronger.

The mainstream debate over reforming financial markets -- a cause that has become more acceptable since the crisis appeared -- has pitted neoliberal free-marketeers who advocate for even more liberalization and less "interference" with the workings of the market against a group of "new" international Keynesians, some of whose proposals to regulate capital flows and speculative runs on currency (including the so-called Tobin tax -- a tax on currency speculation and/or short-term investments in stocks) could help ward off future economic meltdowns and are becoming more and more politically viable with time.

The book's title refers to the difficulty that individual countries have in considering restrictions on capital outflows without sparking a panic. Hahnel argues that some system of coordination among countries is required.

But such controls will only work if they are combined with other measures, including massive debt relief and price supports for Third World commodities, he argues.

While the two mainstream "teams" struggle to dominate top-down efforts to steer the juggernaut of the global corporate-led economy, a third, bottom-up strategy is emerging. Grassroots organizations, unions and others are cooperating across national borders to contest the negative aspects of globalization and build a system of international cooperation which, he argues, is the only means of achieving democracy, equity and environmental sustainability.

There are potential pitfalls in organizing such an international movement, Hahnel points out. For instance, it would be a strategic mistake for progressives to allow the issue of international equity to be reduced entirely to the issue of international labor and environmental rights and standards.

 Panic Rules! is helpful to those who want to understand how global financial speculation has created the crises of the past few years and helpful in guiding the discussion on alternatives.

Global Village or Global Pillage?
Produced and written by Jeremy Brecher
with Tim Costello and Brendan Smith
Washington, D.C.: Preamble Center, 1999
26:46 minutes

Titled after a book by the same authors, this short video documentary uses graphic but easily understood examples to demonstrate how the global economy afflicts consumers, the environment and especially workers.

The producers borrow footage from promotional videos for corporate relocation to show how corporations pit workers from different countries against each other, and follow a Westinghouse worker from Indiana, where she lost her job, to a maquiladora in Juarez, Mexico, where she is invited to train workers who make less than one-tenth of what she once did. The documentary also visits sweatshops (in both the United States and Central America) and entire villages devastated by transnational development projects whose ultimate beneficiaries are remote corporate investors and their supporters in multilateral development banks. 

Through interviews, a variety of activists and economists at the cutting edge of the fair trade movement, including Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee, Loretta Ross of the Center for Human Rights Education, Jubilee 2000 Africa leader Kofi Klu and consumer advocate Ralph Nader analyze developments in the global economy. 

Like Panic Rules!  the movie ends by describing a bottom-up, movement-led solution: "the Lilliput Strategy."  The documentary sweepingly reviews successful examples of this strategy, including the computer-networked campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the campus-based campaign against the use sweatshop labor by the GAP, and the Bridgestone/Firestone union fight, which generated solidarity from workers in Brazil and Japan.

The producers urge both that transnational institutions such as the IMF and WTO be targeted, and that protections for human rights, environmental principles and economic rights be integrated into all future international trade agreements.

This video is both educational as well as a useful tool to expand the base of the anti-corporate globalization movement. Yet it leaves open the question of how the audience can get involved. Thus, while it is certain to help catalyze discussions about the global economy, those who screen it should be prepared to offer suggestions for people who want to know what they can do.

Deadly Embrace: Nicaragua, the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund

Produced by Elizabeth Canner and Ashley Eames
Directed by Elizabeth Canner
Washington D.C. Nicaragua Network Education Fund
1999; 30 minutes.; $35 (including shipping).

This documentary is a scathing indictment of how neoliberalism, as practiced by the World Bank and IMF, has "embraced" Nicaragua, a country that suffers from more than 60 percent unemployment, a poverty rate of more than 70 percent and one of the highest per capita debts in the world after a decade of World Bank/IMF assistance. 

Nicaragua reached a structural adjustment agreement with the World Bank and IMF in 1991, shortly after emerging from a decade-long civil war. Far from helping the country rebuild, however, the consequences of structural adjustment have been catastrophic  for ordinary Nicaraguans, most of whom were already teetering on abject poverty.

As one campesina, Blanca Obando Fonseca, puts it: "I have lived under three governments. Even under the dictatorship of Somoza, when there were problems, at least there was work and I went to school. Under the Sandinista government, there was war and there was a blockade, but there wasn't hunger. We were never without rice and beans. But now, even with my husband Daniel working, we have passed times without being able to eat."

While structural adjustment has destroyed the productive base of society, including by eliminating credit supports for small and even mid-to-large sized farmers, as well as by other means, it has opened the door to multinational investors and helped to create a corporate free trade zone in Nicaragua where the average wage is 69 cents an hour. 

A companion guide to the video provides additional historical analysis, a country profile, maps, suggestions for organizing activities and a resource list for further investigation.

This low-budget video should serve as another useful tool for grassroots education efforts about the global economy and the consequences of policies mandated by remote institutions such as the IMF and World Bank in developing nations.

-- Charlie Cray


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