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Cancel Third World debt!
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 65/No.29July 30, 2001

front page editorial
Cancel Third World debt!
Workers in Argentina, Brazil protest austerity moves, bosses worry about international spread of economic crisis
Workers in Buenos Aires protest in July against government plan to slash wages of public employees and pensions. Workers in Argentina and Brazil have mounted struggles against austerity plans dictated by IMF that assault their jobs and living standards.
Workers and farmers in this country have a stake in joining with working people in Argentina to demand cancellation of the foreign debt. Argentina, like most semicolonial countries around the world, is being squeezed by an ever-mounting debt to bankers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other imperialist centers.

The foreign debt imposed on the Third World is not a relation among equals. It is based on the relationship between a handful of oppressor powers--whose headquarters is in Washington--and the majority of nations oppressed by imperialism. The most industrialized countries, which enjoy a greater productivity of labor, extract huge profits by imposing unequal terms of trade on the semicolonial nations, whose economies are subjected to and distorted by the domination of these imperialist powers. The debt squeeze on Argentina and other semicolonial countries is simply a vehicle to suck enormous amounts of wealth into the coffers of the imperialist banks.

Despite massive interest payments, Argentina's debt continues to grow. Last December the International Monetary Fund offered Argentina a $40 billion emergency "bailout" loan to forestall default. But today its foreign debt has risen to a record $130 billion--in a country with an annual gross domestic product of $374 billion.

Altogether, the Third World debt stands at more than $2 trillion. Governments have paid many times the value of the original loans in interest, and most have ended up more indebted than before.

The only solution proposed by the wealthy bondholders and their representatives in Washington and other imperialist capitals is to demand that the governments of Third World countries make working people pay--to slash wages and social benefits, raise transportation fares, sell off state-owned industries and lay off thousands of workers, and similar measures. Argentine president Fernando de la Rúa's latest moves to satisfy the imperialist investors and bankers--to cut pensions and public employees' wages by 13 percent--is the latest example of the brutal disregard of the capitalist rulers for the well-being of millions of working people.

The exploiters' austerity demands are couched like a blackmailer's note. IMF officials tell the Argentine government, "You must cut back, or there will be no more loans." The government tells the provincial governors that "you must achieve a 'zero deficit,' or be responsible for the country's ruin." And they all turn to working people to demand "sacrifice" in order to avoid financial collapse.

Washington and its cohorts, however, are increasingly worried that the Argentine government, despite its best efforts, will default on the debt. They are aware of the weakness of the economies of other semicolonial countries such as Brazil and Turkey, and are afraid that an Argentine default may have serious international repercussions. Their problem is compounded by the downturn in the economies of imperialist countries from Japan to the United States.

The biggest problem facing the capitalist ruling classes, from Washington to Buenos Aires, is that working people are not submitting meekly to their demands to accept even lower living standards and increasingly give up their national sovereignty to the imperialist powers. For the past several months, unemployed workers around the country--including meat packers, construction workers, oil workers, and other industrial workers--have been organizing and protesting. They have blockaded highways, have stood up to police assaults, and have reached out for support to employed workers. The July 19 general strike in Argentina is another sign of the growing confidence of working people. Similar labor resistance is unfolding throughout Latin America, from Brazil to Ecuador.

Joining the fight to demand cancellation of the Third World debt is a way for working people in the United States to wage a common fight for jobs and decent living conditions for all working people. Such a fight will lead increasing numbers of working people to see that capitalism offers nothing more than economic catastrophe, brutality, and war, and that a movement of the toilers needs to be built to remove the billionaires from power, establish governments of workers and farmers, and join in the fight for a world based on human collaboration and solidarity--socialism.

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