Friday, June 3, 2011

Strauss-Kahn: a metaphor for the practices of the IMF

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The reader will think it a tragedy that the Director General of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn, would give wings to his vice, the obsessive pursuit of perverse sex, running naked after a black maid in suite 2806 of the Sofitel Hotel in New York, even holding her down and forcing her to have sex, with details that the Attorney General of New York described minutely and, for decency, I will not tell. For him it wasn't a tragedy, but one more victim among others he has created in this world. He dressed and went straight to the airport. The funny thing was that he forgot the cellphone in the suite and so he was able to be arrested by the police when he was inside the plane.

The tragedy has not been what happened to him but to the victim, who nobody cares to know. Her name is Nifissatou Diallo, from Guinea, an African, a Muslim, a widow and mother of a 15-year old daughter. The police found her hidden behind a closet, crying and vomiting, traumatized by the violence she had suffered at the hands of the guest of the suite, whose name she didn't even know.

Most of the French press, with cynicism and undisguised machismo, tried to hide the incident, even alleging that it was possibly a trap for the future socialist candidate for president of the Republic. The former minister of culture and education, Jacques Lang, from whom one might expect some esprit de finesse, said scornfully, "after all, nobody died." That a woman is psychologically destroyed by the brutality of Mr. Strauss-Kahn didn't matter much. For those people, she is just a woman, and an African. Could it be that in this backward mentality women count for nothing except merely as "an object for bed and table"?

To be fair, we must see the incident from the perspective of the victim. There we can get the dimension of her suffering and the humiliation of so many women in the world who are kidnapped, raped, and sold as sex slaves. Only a society that has lost all sense of dignity and has been brutalized by the dominance of a materialist conception of life, one that changes everything into an object and commodity, could make this practice possible.

Today, everything has become merchandise and an opportunity to profit, from the common property of humanity that has been privatized (goods such as water, soil, seeds) to trade in human organs, to the prostitution of children and women. If Marx were to see this situation, he would certainly be shocked, because for him, capital lives off the exploitation of the labor force but not off the sale of lives. However, as early as 1847, in The Poverty of Philosophy, he sensed that "[f]inally, there came a time when everything that men had considered as inalienable became an object of exchange, of traffic and could be alienated. This is the time when the very things which 'til then had been communicated, but never exchanged; given, but never sold; acquired, but never bought – virtue, love, conviction, knowledge, conscience, etc. – when everything, in short, passed into commerce. It is the time of general corruption, of universal venality,...the time when brought to the market."

Strauss-Kahn is a metaphor for the current neoliberal system. He sucks the blood of countries in crisis such as Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and now Spain, as he once did of Brazil and the countries of Latin America and Asia. To save the banks and force them to settle the debts, they devastate the society, create unemployment, privatize public goods, reduce wages, delay retirement age, make people work more hours. Solely for the cause of capital. The developer of these global policies is, among others, the IMF, of which Strauss-Kahn was the main figure.

What he did to Nafissatou Diallo is a metaphor for what he was doing to the countries in financial difficulties. He deserves prison not just for the sexual violence against the maid, but much more for the economic rape of the people, which he developed from the IMF. Sorry.


  1. but doesnt the man deserve a fair trial? I think it wrong to judge a man before the court does.

  2. Of course he deserves a fair trial and I hope he will get one since he's apparently not eligible for diplomatic immunity, the cloak behind which so many abusers of similar rank hide in this country. But I also think Leonardo can comment based on the police report and press coverage, which is what he has done.