WASHINGTON -- Joshua Greenberg was doing a simple accounting reconciliation when he happened upon a red flag in the books of the Global Justice Network. A longtime volunteer at the Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit and a participant in this week's A16 anti-globalization rally, the accountant could hardly believe his eyes when he traced the source of a string of $1,000 cash contributions to the GJN: employees at the Institute for Justice, a conservative legal organization based in Washington, D.C.
"Why would a bunch of right-wing lawyers in D.C. funnel money to a progressive group in Oregon that wants to smash the WTO?" asks Greenberg, who by day works as a senior analyst at PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP. "But when I took my questions to the executive director, she was obviously uncomfortable with the conversation."
Greenberg decided to do a little research on his own and stumbled on the anti-globalization movement's dirty little secret -- when it comes to the WTO, the leftist anti-free trade movement is in bed, both philosophically and financially speaking, with radical right-wing conservatives.
Greenberg's discovery, which was widely publicized in a report by the Wall Street Journal, has begun to undermine much of the rhetoric invoked by anti-free trade activists. "De-fund the Fund, Break the Bank, Dump the Debt" is the official rallying cry of the upcoming Mobilization for Global Justice protests; except for the issue of debt forgiveness, the protesters' agenda bears a remarkable resemblance to economic policies long advocated by archconservative economists and legislators.
Indeed, on the eve of mass demonstrations in Washington, D.C., that target the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and are often referred to as "Seattle East," organizers continue to be pestered by rumors of collusion with corporate interests.
"Who hates the IMF? Who wants to get rid of the World Bank?" asks Martina Shubyk, an economist at the University of Chicago. "People who don't want U.S. tax dollars to bail out Third World countries, companies that don't want to give a leg up to their suppliers in poor nations -- and, of course, American union organizers."
Shubyk points to the last two presidential campaigns of former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan, as well as comments by Republican leaders like House Majority leader Dick Armey and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, as ironic testimony to the long-standing hatred that conservatives harbor for both the IMF and the World Bank and those organizations' efforts to invest in and bail out Third World nations.
"When Armey led the effort to renege on payment of U.S. dues owed to the IMF, he argued Republicans weren't worth their weight in salt if they couldn't 'say no to $18 billion to an international organization run by a French Socialist,'" Shubyk notes.
While the extent of the political alliance between organizers of this week's protests and right-wing proponents of free trade is largely a matter of speculation, prominent conservatives continue to laud the organizers of the A16 protests. "Even though it's eerie to see the 'Break the Bank' posters going up around town," says Jose Piñera, a researcher with the Cato Institute, "I'd be stupid to look this gift horse in the mouth. In fact, we welcome this refreshing moment of common sense."
Not as amused by the protests are representatives of the World Bank and the IMF who are meeting in Washington this week in the hopes of advancing a measure that would allow some of the poorest nations of Africa, Latin America, and Asia to sell goods to the United States and other Western nations without facing import tariffs or quotas.
"We really feel like we're being sucker-punched," says Christine Factor, a spokesperson for the World Bank, "when it's the World Bank that has been trying to advocate for human rights and economic empowerment for half a century." Although officials at the World Bank would not comment explicitly on the allegations linking conservatives and the A16 protests, Factor did urge the participants in the protests to "funnel their creative energies" toward getting Congress to ratify World Bank proposals.
"We have a debt forgiveness proposition on the table; we have a call for increased grants to developing nations; we are trying to give some of the poorest countries a chance at survival through trade and not loans," asserts Factor. "We are the organization that is bringing the developing world's agenda to the table. If not the World Bank, then who? The U.S. Congress?"
South to the Future's stories contain fictional and factual elements. Except when public figures are being satirized, any use of real names is accidental and coincidental. Comments? Holler@sttf.org.