On April 16, 2000 upward of 20,000 anti-globalization protesters descended on Washington, DC to resist the destructive neoliberal policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. On the heels of the stunning victory in Seattle on N30, hopes were high that the A16 demo would shut down the meetings and once again show the world the power of bottom-up, horizontal resistance.
A16 didn’t turn out to be another Seattle, but the worldwide struggle against neoliberalism was largely successful nonetheless. The relentless pressure of mass demonstrations at every summit meeting, coupled with ever more militant resistance from the residents of the affected countries, left the so-called Washington consensus in ruins. IMF capitalization plummeted in the following years as more and more poor nations opted out of the financial straightjacket of exorbitant interest rates and austerity measures demanded of IMF loan recipients.
Today, the tentacles of neoliberalism are encircling previously exempt populations in Europe and the US, as international bankers demand their speculative losses be made good by people already on the verge of destitution. In countries like Greece and Latvia, massive cuts in social services are forcing millions into poverty, in order to repay the IMF the billions that went to bailing out casino capitalists. In other countries, like the US, neoliberals wreak their havoc without middlemen, but the results are the same. Here in Washington, DC, home of the IMF and World Bank, school budgets are being slashed, homeless shelters closed, city employees laid off, and Metro fares raised, all to make up budget shortfalls caused by rescuing multi-billion dollar banks from their own greed and stupidity. DC is also the target of an invasion by Wal-Mart, who plans to open four stores here in 2012. This is the same Wal-Mart that received millions from the World Bank for energy projects in Haiti and Mexico.
The rest of the world is not taking this lying down. In Greece, strikes and protests are near daily occurrences, to the point that the economic disruption may be costing the government more money than they save through austerity measures. Students in England have rioted in response to tuition hikes, destroying the lobby of the Liberal Democrat party headquarters and attacking Prince Charles’ car – with him inside it. A spontaneous, leaderless revolt in Tunisia has driven one president into exile, and the transition government is already falling apart.
Here in the US we live at the heart of the capitalist empire. More than any other people in the world, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to derail the imperial machine. This year the IMF and World Bank will once again begin their spring meetings on April 16. The IMF Resistance Network invites all enemies of neoliberal capitalism to join us in the streets of DC to fight for a just and free world.