Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal has international repercussions

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The recent indictments of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on criminal sexual assault charges are widely seen, especially by women's rights organizations, as another case of powerful and wealthy men thinking they have the right to sexually exploit women in subordinate positions. The charges against Strauss-Kahn include attempted rape, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment of a hotel housekeeper.

Unfortunately, many corporate media reports are treating the case more as a matter to titillate their audience than as a serious story to explain. Strauss-Kahn, like anybody, is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And the accuser also has rights, which should be respected.

The incident has wide political implications. In the first place, Strauss-Kahn, a French citizen who is head of the International Monetary Fund since 2007, was being talked up as the probable candidate of the Socialist Party in the April 2012 presidential elections in France. The poll numbers for the incumbent, rightist Nicolas Sarkozy of the Union for a Popular Movement, are rock-bottom low, so Strauss-Kahn was seen as a very likely future president.

The scandal knocks him out of the running, and it remains to be seen whether any other Socialist Party politician can win.

Some in France have suggested Sarkozy operatives are behind this case. This is far-fetched. But it is certainly true that for the moment, the scandal has probably helped either Sarkozy or the leader of the far-right National Front Party, Marine Le Pen.

The French Communist Party, in a statement on its website, pointed out that rape is a serious crime and that the U.S. justice system should do its job. The party also said the French people have very important political issues to deal with and should not allow themselves to be distracted by a sleazy scandal.

It is possible that the fall of Strauss-Kahn may have a worldwide impact on the IMF.

The IMF and World Bank were established in 1944 as a result of an international conference at Bretton Woods, N.H. The IMF eventually became a major source of development aid, especially for poorer countries.

However, the IMF has always, by design, been dominated by wealthy European countries plus the United States. Votes on the IMF governing board are allotted on the basis of the size of the economies of the member countries (most countries in the world), rather than the size of their populations. Thus France, with its population of 62 million, has 107,635 votes, while India with a population of nearly 1.2 billion, has only 58,832 votes. Moreover, major decisions require an 85 percent majority, further strengthening the Euro-American hegemony.

This, along with the "tradition" that the head of the IMF must be a European, has meant that the IMF has acted as an instrument of the interests of the ruling classes of the wealthy imperialist countries. Especially after the fall of the Soviet Union and the other European socialist states, poor countries have been caught between having to accept IMF and World Bank dictated "structural adjustment" policies, or forgoing help.

Structural adjustment means that in order to get loans from the World Bank and development aid from the IMF, countries have to open themselves up to bogus free trade, privatize their state enterprises and many services, and cut public budgets to the bone. This has led to an impoverishment of wide sectors of the populations of already poor countries, and serious damage to health care, education and other public services.

A very small number of countries have simply refused to cooperate with these policies. Most notably, Argentina thumbed its nose at "structural adjustment," and has been better off for doing so. But few have dared to imitate that example.

There have been many attempts to find ways to end reliance of poor countries on the Bretton Woods organizations. The integration attempts in Latin America, including the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America, UNASUR and MERCOSUR, have sought to better coordinate regional aid and development resources.

And recently, the rise of the BRICS group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as a powerful economic bloc has shown signs of being a game-changer, even as some crisis-wracked European countries look to the IMF for help.

The BRICS countries have been pushing within the IMF to change the way it does business, and to some small extent, Strauss-Kahn was open to this. For example, he was willing to reconsider the dominant role of the U.S. dollar.

But now all this is up in the air. American corporate economist Joseph Lipsky has replaced Strauss-Kahn on an interim basis. The international media are pushing the idea of French Economics Minister (and IMF governing board member) Christine Lagarde to permanently replace Strauss-Kahn.

As a member of Sarkozy's conservative government, she would be likely to promote the status quo. On the other hand, the BRICS countries and other poorer states are calling for an open process in which the "traditional" selection of a conservative European figure is set aside, giving them a chance to push for fundamental changes.

Yet other countries, such as Cuba, see a necessity to replace the entire Bretton Woods setup with a new system based on international equality and solidarity.

Photo: Dominique Strauss-Kahn (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

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  • As the author pointed out, Argentina is one of the courageous countries which refused the dictate of the IMF, which had forced the previous Argentinian administration to assume the neoliberal policies, forcing her to privatize its national assets to sell to private companies, often foreign, such as Repsol of Spain, at fire sale prices, and imposing ordinary Argentinians miserable life. I have watched the policy of the Menen administration, and predicted (about 10 years before its collapse) that the Argentinia economy to collapse, which it did. For example, I employed a taxi for a day, and the driver was an ex-engineer of a cemento company which was privatized, forcing him to drive a cab.
    However, after the collapse, Argentina has a great president, in the name of Nestor Kirchiner, who kicked out the IMF with a help of another great Latin American president. Now many Latin American countries are doing much better than the US and the EU countries.
    It should be also noted that there were some African countries such as Malawi and Kenya which followed the dictates of the IMF owned and controlled by financial speculators or financial terrorists, forcing their people to starve to death, and then these countries revolted against the financial terrorists of the IMF, and the results are that they can feed people, and even can export some food.
    DSK is one of the obedient servants to the financial speculators, and he should remain in the US jail, though at this moment innocent until proven to the contrary.
    The IMF must be either abolished or reformed 100% so that it can provide real helps to allow those poor countries to become prosperous, instead of making Goldman Sacks richer. Though Goldman Sacks might go down in the not far away future, as the CDS (credit defaul swap) has shot up recently, indicating that it is now in a real trouble.

    Posted by kotoko tateishi, 06/04/2011 7:11pm (3 years ago)

  • Ok someone famous acts badly. He should be punished IF he did what charged with. But instead of covering the alleged bad acts of those at the top.

    We will have a Free media only when, American and most news sources, gives as much coverage to the untold story of 70% of all American paid less then the need, as to the famous.

    We will have a Free Press only when those in poverty tells their own story in their words.

    Posted by JanofMaine, 05/28/2011 11:43am (3 years ago)

  • Certainly like the article and Nagin's comment. We have no idea if Strauss-Kahn is guilty until he is tried, if he ever is. But given the role of the IMF in the destruction of weaker nations for the benefit of richer ones, shouldn't he be arrested for "pillage" if not "rape?" --JIm Lane in Dallas

    Posted by jim lane, 05/24/2011 3:11pm (3 years ago)

  • It should be noted that the victim of this attack was a Black woman and a member of the Hotel Workers union. Certainly her union membership contributed to her confidence in reporting the attack and to the hotel's decision to pursue the complaint.

    Posted by Rick Nagin, 05/23/2011 6:57pm (3 years ago)

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