Anger and Optimism

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Review of 'Ten Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank', Kevin Danaher, Seven Stories Press £4.99

Kevin Danaher personifies the most exciting features of the movement against capitalism--he's angry and he's optimistic. 'We abolished slavery, we abolished Jim Crow laws, we abolished child labour, we abolished the exclusion of women from voting, we abolished the 60-hour work week, and we can abolish international banking institutions that do more to prevent democracy than to promote it,' he declares in 'Ten Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank'. He then proceeds to drive the world's ruling elite from the moral high ground by wielding an array of facts about mounting poverty, falling corporate taxation and environmental destruction.

Danaher, who played a key role in the Seattle revolt, demolishes the claim that the IMF and World Bank are part of the solution to world poverty. Instead of focusing on the needs of the poor in the Third World they enforce the writ of western corporations. By imposing cuts in public services and forcing markets open in the Third World, the deadly duo of world capitalism have succeeded over the last 15 years in adding another 200 million people to the sorry list of those in poverty.

Rather than being merely a legacy of the past, he explains how poverty is cultivated to cow the poor across the Third World by client governments of the US. For instance, in 1984 Danaher visited Guatemala, where he came across a woman whose husband had been hacked to death by the army. The husband's only crime was teaching the peasants how to raise rabbits, leaving them less reliant on the big landowners who exported food to the US.

As well as personifying the best features of the movement against capitalism, Danaher represents its weakness--a tendency to slide into a utopian fantasy of a reformed and benevolent capitalism.

While this 100-page book is crystal clear about the crimes of the IMF and World Bank, and the horrors wrought by unfettered global capitalism, it stumbles into a dead end when talking about the alternatives. Unfortunately the working class barely gets a walk-on part. Instead Danaher gives star billing to socially responsible investing, co-operatives, the Tobin tax and the fair trade movement. It's as if you're reading 'The Communist Manifesto' with half the pages ripped out. Any understanding of how capitalism creates its own gravedigger has been removed. Instead of 'Workers of the world unite,' Danaher's rallying cry appears to be 'Ethical investors of the world unite.' He says, 'Of course this sounds utopian. But utopian thinking, if linked to practical tactics, is a good thing, not a bad thing.'