The attempted rape and sexual abuse of an African cleaning woman by the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), embodies, in microcosm, the historical and contemporary legacy of colonial/neo-colonial relations. Efforts to portray this criminal act as an individual obsession or a personal failing or a “Latin idiosyncrasy” fail to take account of the “deep history” in which these psychological pathologies are embedded.
The first clue is evident. On the one-hand, a powerful white European politician representing the collective will of the global capitalist class, with the financial resources to severely punish poor and indebted countries that disobey its prejudicial economic fiat. On the other, a single mother, a black working woman from a former French colony in West Africa (Guinea), which was “stripped clean” by the departing French colonial officials for daring to assert its independence and subsequently forced to submit to “neo-colonial” economic impositions ensuring its stagnation and subordination.
Was it “lunacy,” as Martin Wolf of the Financial Times claimed, that DSK would throw over a powerful, prestigious post and likely the presidency of
The history of the European, and later
The absolute power of the colonial administrators allows them to secure total submission from those who are powerless—the single African women isolated from family and friends. The latter is subject to firing, blacklisting, unemployment, intimidation, humiliation, and insults for daring to denounce their colonial superiors. These circumstances and relations are reproduced today in all the countries subject to the dictate of the IMF, the Central Bank of
They Come, They Plunder, They Rape
The IMF and their imperial financial accomplices take advantage of the debts and crises of corrupt and complicit rulers to dictate terms for loans. The top officials seize sovereignty and impose economic policies, which privatize and de-nationalize the entire economy, reduce wages and pensions, worsen working conditions, and retain a veto on all local economic appointees. The IMF and Central Banks re-colonize the debtor country: all earnings from trade and investment are primarily directed outward and upward. The neo-colonial division of labor involves imperial capital and black labor.
Embedded in this world-historic system of power, the powerful officials of international organizations have the financial and military backing of the
DSK did not expect his sexual advances to be resisted by an immigrant, a former French colonial subject. Initially denied submission, DSK relied on force and violence. The black cleaning worker did not struggle and then submit, as too often is the case with workers’ movements. She made her outrage a public issue and un-masked the violent criminal behavior that lay behind the respectable, affluent facade. She confronted the ruler before a larger democratic public.
How many millions of Indo-Chinese and Algerian working-class and peasant women and their descendants, who suffered similar indignities during the French colonial administrations, must now feel vindicated by the simple act of denunciation by the Guinean cleaning woman, so far from Africa, but so close to the hearts of rebellion against the universal injustices inflicted daily by the IMF and its local accomplices.
The Reactions of the Left: the French Socialists
Not surprisingly, the majority of French Socialist opinion has defended DSK and accused his victim of being part of a sinister capitalist conspiracy against the principle chosen mouthpiece and enforcer of international capital. The French Socialist Party has a long and sordid history of supporting bloody colonial wars:
Colonial socialism in Europe, like imperial liberalism in the
The fact that sectors of the left in
If there is any conspiracy to frame DSK, it certainly does not come from any elite or banking cartel. What is much more likely is that after the initial jailing and indictment, the financial powers backing DSK will move into action: they have secured his conditional release under bail; the victim and accuser has been subject to intense police interrogation, and more media and legal pressure can be expected to force her to retract charges.
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of sociology at SUNY