The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have a well-deserved reputation for being the loan sharks of global capitalism. Both institutions are infamous for forcing poor countries in the global south to ruin their own economies in order to further enrich Western corporations. Nations who decline to borrow money at exorbitant interest rates and then beggar their populations to pay it back (or worse, default on their existing debt), are subjected to trade sanctions that have been described as “the economic equivalent of nuclear war.”
The neoliberal regime represented by the IMF has generated intense, and largely successful, resistance across the world. In Argentina a popular revolt in response to the 2001 economic collapse, caused by strict adherence to neoliberal policies, saw three governments toppled in a month. Piqueteros threw up barricades of burning tires on the highways, workers took over their factories, and “Que se vayan todos!” became the rallying cry for an entire nation. After the passage of NAFTA in 1994, the Zapatistas established their own autonomous territory in the Mexican state of Chiapas that survives to this day, in spite of continuous government repression. In North America and Europe massive protests greeted neoliberal elites at every summit, including Seattle in 1999 when the World Trade Organization meeting was completely shut down. In Barcelona in 2001 the World Bank canceled a summit entirely for fear of protests.