Alarm bells ringing at the IMF | Letters

There is a link between your warning that the International Monetary Fund needs to change policy to ensure that the benefits of global economic activities are shared by the majority (Editorial, 20 April) and Yanis Varoufakis’s gung-ho ode to The Communist Manifesto (The long read, 20 April).

It is clear that the economic insecurity inherent in ever more open borders, and the fetishism of exports and international competitiveness, has generated a backlash, and that era is coming to an end. However, the only ones who have turned this crashingly obvious downside of free markets to their own political advantage are the likes of America First Donald Trump, France First Marine Le Pen and Hungary First Viktor Orbán.

Progressives are floundering because they let their distaste for the motives and personalities of “nation first” politicians obscure the approach’s potential to strengthen progressive causes if couched within the vote-winning promise of a more secure future. Key to this is protecting and rebuilding national economies, allied to a cooperative working together of nation states to take back control from international capital and big business in order to achieve this goal.

Protectionism is a logical response to the insecurity that is roaring up national class ladders. The key debate will be between those shaping it to benefit the majority nationally and cooperating to spread its advantages globally, and those fence-sitters leaving the field open to rightwing populists.

Colin Hines

East Twickenham, Middlesex

• While it’s welcome that the IMF is sounding alarm bells as world debt rises (Report, 19 April), the IMF’s thinking appears confused. For example, in 2005 the world’s poorest countries might have had their debts largely written off, but because 30 of the 67 poor countries it assesses are now in debt distress or at risk of being so, the IMF is again closely monitoring developing-country debt. And emphasising China’s contribution to global debt since 2007 belittles the use of stimulus in China. By initiating a credit-fuelled boom, China sucked in so many imports that it attenuated the severity of the global financial crisis for much of the rest of the world.

Neither should we forget that in 2016 IMF economists warned that austerity policies could do more harm than good. Looking at global economies since Thatcher and Reagan embraced neoliberalism, the economists concluded that rising inequality was bad for growth and that governments should use controls to cope with destabilising capital flows. So the IMF’s return to championing budget deficit reduction (used by the UK government to justify austerity) is disappointing because it appears to reject its own evidence in favour of Thatcher’s “there is no alternative”.

David Murray

Wallington, Surrey

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