Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 29, 2018

The Fate Of Millions – Unequal Trade, Debt, Poverty, Starvation and Death

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,imperialism/globalization,poverty — louisproyect @ 8:36 pm

Käthe Kollwitz, “Poverty” (1897)

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)

The power and importance of original quotes cannot be stressed enough. It is most revealing and undeniable, especially to the incredulous, to let Presidents, Prime Ministers and military leaders speak for themselves. If enough people in power say much the same thing, you can be sure that there is a policy in there somewhare. Through tutoring, speaking, articles, debates and general argument, I have always found that original quoted statements have the most powerful impact; far more than any dialogue from me or any journalist or academic could ever have; and were an integral part of my political education. Some of these quotes are chosen not necessarily because of who said them but how true and educating they are. Although some of the quotes may be dated, the ideology of capitalism remains more inhuman, predatory, warlike, not only murderous but more genocidal every day. Many of these quotes are not widely known, some not at all. So spread them as widely as possible so that many more people can know what really goes on in this troubled world in our name.

Ever wondered how is it that after more than some 200 years of modern capitalism, the vast majority of humanity in this overwhelmingly rich and abundant world is still in massive poverty and debt of some hundreds of billions of dollars to the rich world? This “debt” is absolutely unpayable. It is such that the rich world owns the national wealth of these countries in perpetuum. Otherwise how is it that they are still so poor after so long? They are only so poor because we are so rich. There is no other way of looking at it. Especially for us British, who have plundered the world’s raw materials and cheap labour for centuries. And under imperialism, the rich capitalist world of the US, Britain, and the rest of the wealthy world still take everything from them every day.


“Don’t forget, there are two hundred million of us in a world of three billion. They want what we’ve got, and we’re not going to give it to them!”

(US President Johnson.)


“Before people can do anything they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific.”

(US Senator Hubert Humphrey.)


“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword and the other is by debt.”

(US President John Adams, in the 1800s.)


“There are two ways of conquering a foreign nation. One is to gain control of its people by force of arms; the other is to gain control of its economy by financial means.”

(US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, in the 1950s.)


“We get a five to one return on investment in Africa, through our trade, investment, finance and aid. … We’re not aiding Africa by sending them aid. Africa’s aiding us.”

(US Representative to the United Nations Andrew Young, February 1995.)


“American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force, without a secret police force. Now, more than ever, each of us is forced to make a conscious choice whether to support the system of minority comfort and privilege with all its security apparatus and repression, or whether to struggle for real equality of opportunity and fair distribution of benefits for all of society, in the domestic as well as the international order. … A considerable proportion of the developed world’s prosperity rests on paying the lowest possible prices for the poor countries’ primary products and on exporting high-cost capital and finished goods to those countries. Continuation of this kind of prosperity requires continuation of the relative gap between developed and underdeveloped countries – it means keeping poor people poor. Increasingly, the impoverished masses are understanding that the prosperity of the developed countries and of the privileged minorities in their own countries is founded on their poverty.”

(Former CIA officer Philip Agee, in his book CIA Diary.)


“The per capita income gap between the developed and the developing countries is increasing, in large part the result of higher birth rates in the poorer countries… how should we tackle these problems?… It is quite clear that one of the major challenges of the 1970s … will be to curb the world’s fertility.”

(US President George Bush.)


“Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the Third World.”

(US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.)


“Our responsibility as Christians makes us tremble. The northern hemisphere, the developed area of the world, the 20% who possess 80% of the world’s resources, are of Christian origin. What impression can our African and Asian brethren and the masses in Latin America have of Christianity, if the tree is to be judged by its fruits? For we Christians are largely responsible for the unjust world in which we live.”

(Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara.)


“The ever more sophisticated weapons piling up in the arsenals of the wealthiest and the mightiest can kill the illiterate, the ill, the poor and the hungry, but they cannot kill ignorance, illness, poverty or hunger…”

(Cuban leader 1959-2008 Fidel Castro.)


“I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for. And if unfortunately their revolution must be of the violent type because the ‘haves’ refuse to share with the ‘have-nots’ by any peaceful method, at least what they get will be their own, and not the American style, which they don’t want…”

(General David Shoup, Commander of the US Marine Corps, 1966.)


“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.”

(A Marxist? No; US President Abraham Lincoln.)


“Our so-called foreign aid program, which is not really foreign aid because it isn’t to foreigners but aid to us, is an indispensable factor in carrying out our foreign policy.”

(US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, in a rare moment of honesty, October 25 1956.)


“The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

(First Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.)


“In its 46 years of existence the UN has been used more often than not as a tool for Western – shall we say US – foreign policy goals. UN ineffectiveness over the years cannot be blamed entirely on Cold War divisions. An overwhelming majority of the US Security Council resolutions were vetoed by the US and Britain. Most had little or nothing to do with the Cold War, but were supporting anti colonial struggles in the Third World.”

(India Quarterly, Delhi, October 1992. [Note: The use of the word “western” or the “west,” almost always means the capitalist and imperialist world.])


“Food aid is a fertiliser which grows a rich crop called hunger. It is a contradiction in terms.”

(African leader Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia.)


“This is a huge, colossal battle against imperialism, because what we are proposing is that the enormous, unpayable debt of the Third World be repudiated… it isn’t $700 billion; it’s more like $900 billion, and, in 20 years we’ll have to pay $3 trillion, that is, $3 million million. They want to take $3 trillion from this hungry, starving to death world in 20 years, gentlemen! It’s impossible, of course; the first thing we should realise is that it is quite impossible. This is the battle for all of the Third World countries, for more than 100 countries. It is enormously important. This is the battle for this hemisphere’s independence… This is the battle for the lives and future of 4 billion poor and hungry people. … That’s why we say that payment of that debt is an economic impossibility, a political impossibility. You practically have to kill the people to force them to make the sacrifices required to pay that debt.”

(Fidel Castro, to Latin American Federation of Journalists, July 6 1985.)


“We hold that man cannot exercise his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without the ownership of the land and the tools with which to work. Deprived of these, his life, his liberty and his fate fall into the hands of the class that owns those essentials for work and production. This ownership is today held by the minority in society, the capitalist class, exercising through this ownership and control an economic despotism without parallel in history.”

(US Socialist Labour Party.)


“The top 400 people own more wealth now than the bottom 185 million Americans taken together. That is a medieval structure.”

(US political economist Gar Alperovitz.)


“Three-fourths (one may say nine-tenths) of the people of the world are poor… but the miserably poor want to turn the world upside down … They regard the United States as basically in favour of the status quo. All rich people are supposed to be that way. More significant, perhaps, is the fact that Moscow [Soviet Union] is regarded by most of the poor people around the world as the friend of the poor and of the rebel… In a nation motivated by revolutionary fervour, including countries which have recently become independent and those undergoing rapid social change, there is great enthusiasm for planning for the future. Five, seven, and even ten-year plans are popular. People are told to sacrifice present living for future benefits to the nation and to their children. Emphasis on consumer goods for the present generation seems disloyal, unpatriotic, and even immoral… Russians, who are pictured as sacrificing themselves today for the benefit of their children of tomorrow, are somehow regarded as more admirable than profligate Americans.”

(US Information Agency Director George Allen.)


“A modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

(Canadian economist John Galbraith.)


“The question to be asked is not what we should give to the poor but when will we stop taking from the poor.”

(Jim Wallace, Sojourners, USA.)


“Indeed, there is freedom in the capitalist countries, but for whom? Of course not for the working people, who are forced to hire themselves out to the capitalists on any conditions just to avoid finding themselves in the ranks of the huge army of people who are “free from work”. …”Freedom” in capitalist countries exists only for those who possess money and who consequently hold power.”

(Soviet President Nikita Kruschev.)


“In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.”

(Karl Marx and Frederick Engels”The Communist Manifesto.”)


“…the 200 richest people have more assets than the 2 billion poorest.”

(US economist and internationalist David Korten,)


“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.”

(Howard Scott.)


“The foreign policy that monopolistic capital imposes is a ruinous one for the people of the United States. The United States had some thirty billion dollars in gold in its reserves at the end of the Second World War; in twenty years it had used up more than half of these reserves. What has it been used for? With what benefit to the people of the United States? Does the United States perhaps have more friends now than before?

In the United States many people proclaim that they are defending liberty in other countries. But what kind of liberty is it that they are defending, that nobody is grateful to them, that nobody appreciates this alleged defence of their liberties? What has happened in Korea, in Formosa [Taiwan], in Vietnam? What country has prospered and has achieved peace and political stability under that protection from the United States? What solutions has it found for the great problems of the world? The United States has spent fabulous resources pursuing that policy; it will be able to spend less and less, because its gold reserves are being exhausted.

Perhaps the influence of the United States is greater now than it was twenty years ago when the war ended? Nobody could say so. It is a certainty that for twenty years, under the pretext of the struggle against Communism, the United States has been carrying out a repressive and reactionary policy in the international field, without having solved the problems of a single underdeveloped country in the world… The United States wants to “liberate” Cuba from Communism, but in reality Cuba doesn’t want to be “liberated” from Communism.”

(Fidel Castro, quoted by US journalist Lee Lockwood, May 1965.)


“The world can support its population and more. You have to think of who owns the means of production of life’s means of subsistence. When you understand that you will know the one true reason for poverty and starvation in this very rich and abundant world; where some 40,000 children below the age of one will die tonight from lack of the simple basic things like food, clean water, education, doctors and medicines to make them well when they become ill – things that we in the rich neo-colonial or imperialist world not only take for granted, but take from them every day of our rich lives without even thinking about it. It is as if we rip open the stomach of an already starving child and consume the contents. All because we in the imperialist world have historically grabbed most of the production of humanity’s very means of subsistence of life itself. Isn’t that how we got so rich and they are still so poor?”

(Respondent to British TV discussion program The Wright Stuff.)


“Those who know the normal life of the poor… will realise well enough that, without economic security, liberty is not worth having.”

(British economist and politician Harold Laski.)


“The IMF consistently demands that its pupils make drastic reductions in civil spending, but arms budgets remain untouched. When asked about this anomaly, Fund personnel recoil and explain in pained tones that such measures would be ‘interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign nations’ (which is exactly what the Fund does every working day).”

(Susan George, in her excellent book on the world debt crisis, “A Fate Worse Than Debt.”)


“Either we free ourselves of the foreign debt burden, acquired without benefit to us or solution to our problems, or we doom three-quarters of humankind to a future without hope… millions of human beings who, along with a right to be born, have an obligation to pay… This means the debt is devouring humankind, devouring peoples and nation states that no matter what they do… find the debt grows and is, therefore, absolutely unpayable.”

(Carlos Serrate, Bolivian delegate, Latin American and Caribbean foreign debt conference, Havana, Cuba, 1985)


“The huge effort of the past two years resulted in an export surplus of a billion dollars a month. Yet this money served only to pay the interest on the debt. It’s impossible to go on this way; we have already taken everything the people had to eat, even though two thirds of them are already going hungry. When we borrowed, interest rates were 4 per cent; they’re 8 per cent now and at one point they even went as high as 21 per cent. Even worse, these loans were contracted by the military, mostly for military ends – $40 billion were swallowed by six nuclear plants, none of which is working today. The people are now expected to pay off these debts in low salaries and hunger. But we have already reimbursed the debt, considering the interest paid. We must stop giving the blood and the misery of our people to pay the First World.”

(Archbishop of Sao Paulo Brazil, Cardinal Paulo Arns, 1985.)


“When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: “Don’t think, don’t politicise, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think!””

(Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.)


“Capitalism has neither the capacity, nor the morality, nor the ethics to solve the problems of poverty.”

(Cuban leader 1959-2008 Fidel Castro.)


“Capital eschews no profit… just as Nature was formally said to abhor a vacuum… A certain ten percent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20% will produce eagerness; 50%, positive audacity; 100% will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300% and there is not a crime it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even the chance of its owner being hanged.”

(British economist T.J.Dunning, quoted by Karl Marx.)


“We in the West must bear in mind that the poor countries are poor primarily because we have exploited them through political or economic colonialism.”

(Martin Luther King.)


“Why should the labour of the many become the capital of the few?”

(English economist and historian Michael Briant.)


“The meek may inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.”

(US billionaire industrialist John Paul Getty.)


“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

(Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara.)


“Does it sound outrageous to you that military spending for fiscal year 2000 will be almost $290 billion and all other domestic discretionary spending, such as education, job training, housing, Amtrak, medical research, environment, Head Start and many other worthwhile programs will total $246 billion, the biggest disparity in modern times?”

(US Senator Dale Bumpers.)


“What sort of world will we hand over to our children? What sort of life lies ahead for those five billion mouths that we will have to feed in our underdeveloped world, those five billion bodies that have to be clothed, shod and sheltered, those five billion minds that will strive for knowledge, those five billion human beings that will struggle for a decent life, worthy of the human condition. What will their quality of life be like?

The Executive Director of UNICEF has said that in 1981 the life of a child would be worth less than $100. If such a sum were judiciously spent on every one of the five hundred million poorest children of the world, it would cover basic health assistance, elementary education, care during pregnancy and dietary improvement, and would ensure hygienic conditions and a water supply. In practice it has turned out too high a price for the world community. That is why, in 1981, every two seconds a child paid that price with its life.

…In the face of nuclear war threatening us, the drama of underdevelopment and exploitation that oppresses us, and the economic and social crisis that plagues us, there is no place for resignation of accommodation. The only solutiomn in keeping with man’s stature is to struggle.

And this is the message I bring in my capacity as Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. To struggle tirelessly for peace, improved international relations, a halt to the arms race and a drastic reduction in military spending and that a considerable part of those funds be dedicated to developing the Third World.”

(Fidel Castro, Speech at the 7th Non Aligned Summit.)


“How far, O rich, do you extend your senseless avarice? Do you intend to be the sole inhabitants of the earth? Why do you drive out the fellow sharers of nature, and claim it all for yourselves. The earth was made for all, rich and poor, in common. Why do you rich claim it as your exclusive right?”

(St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.)


“Weary men, what reap ye? Golden corn for the stranger. What sow ye? Human corpses that await for the avenger. Fainting forms, all hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing? Stately ships to bear our food away amid the stranger’s scoffing. There’s a proud array of soldiers what do they round your door? They guard our master’s granaries from the thin hands of the poor.”

(English poet Jane Francesca Wilde.)


“Capital has one sole driving force, the drive to valorise itself [maximise profits for its owner], to create surplus-value [profits], to make its constant part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour. Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.”

(Karl Marx, Capital Vol 1.)


“What is a bank robbery compared to the setting up of a bank?”

(Gernam playwright, author and activist Berthold Brecht.)


“the United States is slipping into a category of countries – among them Brazil, Britain, and Guatemala – where the gap [between rich and poor] is the worst around the globe.”

(United Nations Human Development Report, 1966.)


“We need a Nuremberg to put on trial the economic order that they have imposed on us, that every three years kills more men, women and children by hunger and preventable or curable diseases than the death toll in six years of the second world war.”

(Cuban leader 1959-2008 Fidel Castro.)


“I am a servant of the hungry, the exploited and the oppressed. Before giving them – if I can do this – the treasures of my spirit, I am obliged to give them bread, justice and freedom. Precisely by participating in the privileges of the intelligentsia, I acquire the means and, consequently, the obligations to actively support society, illuminating its political and social road, stigmatizing those who deceive it and indicating it, as far as possible, the true road and cautioning it against perils.”

(French writer Romain Rolland.)


“Famine and hunger are not inevitable, but are caused by identifiable forces within the province of rational human control. I have tried to identify some of the forces. You are part of humanity; you can be part of that control.”

(Susan George in her excellent book “How the Other Half Die.”)


“How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread!”

(French philosopher, author, poet and journalist Anatole France.)


“The social system in which a man, willing to work, is compelled to starve, is a blasphemy, an anarchy, and no system.”

(Irish writer Thomas Devin Reilly.)


“The law doth punish man or woman That steals the goose from off the common, But lets the greater felon loose, That steals the common from the goose.”

(Anonymous 1764, during the English land enclosures, where land in common was privatised.)


“Our trade with the Western world is insignificant; 85% of our trade is with the other socialist countries. This crisis affects only 15% of our trade; we’re the ones least affected. This is why we can be the standard-bearers of this cause and speak with complete freedom. …we can feel secure because, fortunately, we depend very little on the Western world, and we don’t depend at all on economic relations with the United States. I wonder how many other countries in the world can say the same.”

(Cuban leader 1959-2008 Fidel Castro.)


“Was the earth made to preserve a few covetous, proud men to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the Earth from others, that these may beg or starve in a fruitful land; or was it made to preserve all her children?”

(Gerrard Winstanley, The New Law of Righteousness, 1649, some 200 years before Marx.)


“We have a single system, and in that system the only question is the price at which the proletariat is to be bought and sold, the bread and circuses… From top to bottom the whole system is a fraud, all of us know it… all of us are consenting parties to it.”

(US historian and journalist Henry Brooks Adams.)


“The dirty truth is that the rich are the great cause of poverty.”

(US political economist, social scientist and author Michael Parenti.)


“If Latin America were to abstain from borrowing any further money and would pay these ten percent of export earnings for twenty years – at stable world market prices – toward foreign interest charges of 6 percent, these interest payments would amount to almost 430 billion dollars by the year 2005 while total debt would increase to about 445 billion dollars.”

(Philippine Currents, Aug 1987.)


“Countries such as the U.S. and Britain have taken it upon themselves to decide for us in the developing world, even to interfere in our domestic affairs and to bring about what they call regime change.”

(Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe.)


“Esteemed Chairman; Distinguished Representatives of the World Community. I have not come here to talk about Cuba. I have not come to denounce in this Assembly the attacks to which our small but worthy country has been subjected for twenty years. Nor have I come to use unnecessary adjectives to wound a powerful neighbour in his own house…
The first fundamental objective in our struggle consists in reducing and finally eliminating the unequal exchange that prevails today and that makes international trade a vehicle for the further plundering of our wealth. Today, the product of one hour’s work in the developed countries is exchanged for the product of ten hour’s work in the underdeveloped countries… …a historic and moral obligation of those who benefited from the plunder of our wealth and the exploitation of our men and women for decades and for centuries…

Mr Chairman and distinguished representatives, frequent mention is made of human rights, but mention should be made of the rights of mankind. Why should some people go barefoot so that others may ride in expensive cars? Why should some live only 35 years so that others may live to 70? Why should some be miserably poor so that others may be exaggeratedly rich?

I speak on behalf of the World’s children who do not even have a piece of bread (Applause); I speak on behalf of the sick who have no medicine; I speak on behalf of those who have been denied the right to life and human dignity… (Applause)

You cannot speak of peace on behalf of the tens of millions of human beings all over the world who are starving to death or dying of curable diseases. You cannot speak of peace on behalf of nine hundred million illiterates…

Enough of words! We need deeds. (Applause.) Enough of abstraction! We need concrete action. Enough of speaking a speculative new international economic order which nobody understands! (Laughter and applause). We must speak about a real, objective order which everybody understands.”

(Fidel Castro, speech to United Nations, Oct 12 1979.)


“Wherever possible we should try to shape our aid programme to fit more appropriately the pattern of our trade and investment interests in different countries.”

(British Foreign Office, January 26 1968. By the 1990s, for every £1 of this “aid” to poor countries, more than £4.60 came back in profits from those same poor countries. How else could it be that we are so enormously rich and these peoples remain so devastatingly poor?)


“Of what use is political liberty to those who have no bread? It is of value only to ambitious theorists and politicians.”

(French revolutionary leader Jean Paul Marat, 1790.)


“And so, what did the Director of UNICEF say? That if the countries of Latin America had the health levels of Cuba, the lives of 800,000 children would be saved every year. Eight hundred thousand! And if the Director of UNICEF, an agency of United Nations, says that, I ask: Who is it that kills those 800,000 children under one year of age every year? Who is it that kills countless other millions of children between one and fifteen years? Who is it that reduces life expectancy to 40, 45, 50 years in so many places, throughout the centuries? This has happened and goes on happening, to the shame of all of us. The answer is exploitation, colonialism yesterday, imperialism now. And what about those lives, don’t they count? And as to the millions who are growing up mentally retarded or physically disabled, who is causing all of that, who is the guilty party, who is responsible for it?”

(Fidel Castro, at the Meeting on the Foreign Debt of Latin America and the Caribbean, Havana, Aug 3 1985.)


“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”

(Nelson Mandela.)


“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us.”

(Michael Jackson, singing about the poor in Brazil.)

May 11, 2018

The World Debt Crisis

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 4:13 pm

 

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)

Some 40,000 children will die tonight in this tremendously rich and abundant world. They will die for lack of the most basic necessities such as food, clean water, health and education. Since the beginning of capitalism, how is it that the poorest peoples of this world still owe a debt of trillions of dollars to the richest? Isn’t that absolutely ridiculous when you think about it? To say nothing of murderous.

But keeping the world in debt is a deliberate policy of the rich imperialist world. Tremendous profits are made by keeping all the poor countries in debt indefinitely. The total world debt in 2017 runs to some trillions of dollars. Of course it can never be paid, but that is not the point. The point is to gain massive profits by keeping these poor countries in debt permanently. If the rich world governments’ financial institutions and banks miraculously cancelled the debt, it would immediately start to accrue because of the grossly unequal trade relations between the rich and the poor world and new debts.

What is the view of the rich world?

Who Owes Whom? Who Aids Whom? Unequal Trade, Poverty And The World Debt Crisis.

 

“Don’t forget, there are two hundred million of us in a world of three billion. They want what we’ve got, and we’re not going to give it to them!”

(US President Johnson.)


“Before people can do anything they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific.”

(US Senator Hubert Humphrey, 1957.)


“There are two ways of conquering a foreign nation. One is to gain control of its people by force of arms; the other is to gain control of its economy by financial means.”

(US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, in the 1950s.)


“By the use of economic aid we succeeded in getting access to Iranian oil and we are now well established in the economy of that country. The strengthening of our economic position in Iran has enabled us to acquire control over her foreign policy and in particular to make her join the Bagdad Pact. At the present time the Shah would not dare even to make any changes in his cabinet without consulting our Ambassador… to step up both our political price and our military demands. …economic relations with these countries would ultimately allow us to take over key positions in the native economy.”

(From a letter from US Council on Foreign Relations member billionaire Nelson Rockefeller to President Eisenhower, January 1956.)


“Whenever the Western powers are determined to get a given vote through either the [UN] Security Council … or the General Assembly … governments are warned. If they do not behave they will not get debt relief, World Bank capital projects, easier IMF [International Monetary fund] adjustment conditionalities or urgently needed hard currency IMF credit to pay oil bills. Reduction or cut-off in bilateral aid is an additional threat.”

(Erskine Childers, adviser to UN Secretary General.)


About three hundred and fifty mostly US major monopolies and their foreign subsidiaries now own or control much of the world’s economic output. At least ten US transnational monopolies each has more dollar assets than, say, Britain or Japan; some of them, like Standard Oil or General Motors – many times over. Now consider the fact that Third World debts to the West – some $900 billion at 1985 figures – amount to thousands of times the dollar assets of each of these ten US monopolies and you will have some grasp of the nature of imperialism. It means that the advanced capitalist countries own the poor countries and their economic output in perpetuum.

What plans does the US have for all of us in this world?

 

“The Plan is for the United States to rule the world. … it is ultimately a story of domination. It calls for the United States to maintain its overwhelming superiority and prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not that the United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful.”

(US Vice President Dick Cheney, June 2002.)


This is economic warfare, more permanently devastating than cluster bombs or cruise missiles.

By the 1970s the “underdeveloped” countries’ foreign debts already ran to some $5 billion. It is now in the trillions. The cost of servicing these ‘debts’ was some $54 thousand million a year, interest which “grew” at the rate of 21% in the 1970s alone. By 2016 it was many times that figure.

In the Philippines in 1972, 1 peso was worth 15 US cents, in 1985 it was less than 5 cents. Its foreign debt in 1985 was 11 times it was in 1972: from $2.3 billion to $25 billion. In 1960 a ton of coffee could buy 37.3 tons of fertiliser, in 1982 it could buy only 15.8 tons – less than half, with the same amount of coffee as in 1960. In 1959, 6 tons of jute could buy a truck, in 1982 it took 26 tons of jute to buy the same truck.

In the 1980s, Brazil had the biggest overall debt. But Panama, with a population of two million and a foreign debt to the mega-rich transnationals of $4.5 billion, had the largest per-capita debt in the world. This meant that each child in Panama was born owing foreign rich world banks some $2,250, an amount the average Panamanian could never earn in a lifetime, which was the 45 years average or less for such poor countries. In 1984 Mexico was using 72% of its oil just to pay the interest on its debt, which continues to increase year by year.

 

According to 1986 US Food and Agricultural Organisation figures, over 42,000,000, people, half of them children, die every year from hunger or hunger related illnesses. These peoples are not at war with the imperialist nations. Their crime is that they have ‘traded’ with the US, British, West European, Japanese and other capitalist transnational monopolies.
“Our so-called foreign aid program, which is not really foreign aid because it isn’t to foreigners but aid to us, is an indispensable factor in carrying out our foreign policy.”

(US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, in a rare moment of honesty, October 25 1956.)


“We get a five to one return on investment in Africa… We’re not aiding Africa by sending them aid. Africa’s aiding us.”

(US Representative to the United Nations Andrew Young, February 1995.)


“Wherever possible we should try to shape our aid programme to fit more appropriately the pattern of our trade and investment interests in different countries.”

(British Foreign Office, January 26 1968.)


Other types of loans or aid are, for example. so-called green or agricultural dollars, which are “invested” in highly profitable agri-business – agricultural and food contracts, with the subsidiaries of rich countries’ corporations who often own not only much of the agricultural land, but often the transport, packaging, processing and shipping of food resources in the poor countries.

Whatever the rich world’s relations with these countries, whether it is in trade, aid or loans, the rich nations profit enormously and the poor continue to suffer poverty, hunger and death.

 

“This is a huge, colossal battle against imperialism, because what we are proposing is that the enormous, unpayable debt of the Third World be repudiated… it isn’t $700 billion; it’s more like $900 billion, and, in 20 years we’ll have to pay $3 trillion, that is, $3 million million. They want to take $3 trillion from this hungry, starving to death world in 20 years, … This is the battle for the lives and future of 4 billion poor and hungry people. … You practically have to kill the people to force them to make the sacrifices required to pay that debt.”

(Fidel Castro, to Latin American Federation of Journalists, July 6 1985.)


“The huge effort of the past two years resulted in an export surplus of a billion dollars a month. Yet this money served only to pay the interest on the debt. … When we borrowed, interest rates were 4 per cent; they’re 8 per cent now and at one point they even went as high as 21 per cent. …these loans were contracted by the military, mostly for military ends – $40 billion were swallowed by six nuclear plants, none of which is working today. The people are now expected to pay off these debts in low salaries and hunger. But we have already reimbursed the debt, considering the interest paid. We must stop giving the blood and the misery of our people to pay the First World.”

(Archbishop of Sao Paulo Brazil, Cardinal Paulo Arns, 1985.)


Millions of children in this “free market” world of capitalism wake up every day of their short lives with no clean water to drink, nothing to eat and no school to go to. And when they get ill, through the lack of clean water, food and education, there is no hospital for them, no doctor or medicines to make them well, and they die in their millions every year.

Always a leading spokesman for the too many poor nations of this world, Fidel Castro asks:

“What sort of world will we hand over to our children? What sort of life lies ahead for those five billion mouths that we will have to feed in our underdeveloped world, those five billion bodies that have to be clothed, shod and sheltered, those five billion minds that will strive for knowledge, those five billion human beings that will struggle for a decent life, worthy of the human condition. What will their quality of life be like? The Executive Director of UNICEF has said that in 1981 the life of a child would be worth less than $100. If such a sum were judiciously spent on every one of the five hundred million poorest children of the world, it would cover basic health assistance, elementary education, care during pregnancy and dietary improvement, and would ensure hygienic conditions and a water supply. In practice it has turned out too high a price for the world community. That is why, in 1981, every two seconds a child paid that price with its life.”

(Fidel Castro, Speech at the 7th Non Aligned Summit, New Delhi, 1983.)


At the Latin American and Caribbean foreign debt conference of 1985 in Havana, Carlos Serrate of Bolivia remarked:
“Either we free ourselves of the foreign debt burden, acquired without benefit to us or solution to our problems, or we doom three-quarters of humankind to a future without hope… millions of human beings who, along with a right to be born, have an obligation to pay… This means the debt is devouring humankind, devouring peoples and nation states that no matter what they do… find the debt grows and is, therefore, absolutely unpayable.”

(Carlos Serrate, Bolivian delegate, Latin American and Caribbean foreign debt conference, Havana, Cuba, 1985)


It is global finance capital, in the guise of self proclaimed ‘benign’ financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Bank of International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the Trilateral Commission, all of which are owned and controlled by the US except the BIS, and the wealthy G-whatever group of countries, all of which have the combined economic and therefore political power which continues to devastate the poor countries comprising some 80 percent of humanity who suffer constant poverty, starvation and death.

But there’s the United Nations to ensure fairness isn’t there?

The United Nations, dominated and controlled as it is by the rich world, especially the US, is but a paper tiger which despite its fine words, policies and directives, has almost no political or economic power.

“The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.”

(US Ambassador to the UN, Senator Daniel Moynihan.)


“There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that is the US, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along …”

(US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton.)


“When large scale or high risk operations are contemplated and American engagement is necessary, we will be unlikely to accept UN leadership. Rather we will ordinarily rely on our own resources or those of a regional alliance – such as NATO – or an appropriate coalition – such as that assembled during Operation Desert Storm.”

(US Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright)


“It would be some time before I fully realized that the United States sees little need for diplomacy. Power is enough.”

(Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.)


“A world government can intervene militarily in the internal affairs of any nation when it disapproves of their activities.”

(UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.)


“One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that’s come before them where we’re involved, and it didn’t upset my breakfast at all.”

(US President Reagan, New York Times, November 4 1983.)


“America’s foreign policy is now being run by the International Monetary Fund. When the President decides to go to war, he no longer needs a declaration of war from congress.”

(US Secretary of Labour Robert Reich, January 7 1999.)


“What the Trilateral Commission intends is to create a worldwide economic power superior to the political governments of the nation states involved. As managers and creators of the system, they will rule the future.”

(U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, 1964, in his book “With No Apologies.”)


Another World Bank “gift” is toxic waste:

The worst kind of ‘economic logic’ of the US occurred in one of the world’s most serious disasters. Due to severe safety inefficiencies, in December 1984, the US owned Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India smothered the whole area with poisonous gas, causing some 15,000 deaths, including very many children and residents in the area, also many thousands of immediate and long term disablements and permanent illnesses, trees and animals in the wider areas also died.

“I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

(Chief US economist for the World Bank Lawrence Summers, December 1991.)


The US Has Always Seen Latin America and the Caribbean As Its Own Back Yard.

When we buy a banana, orange or other fruit, we usually buy it from one of two major US owned transnational fruit companies or their foreign subsidiaries. Typical companies are United Fruit of America and General Fruit of America. These companies and their often disguised foreign subsidiaries frequently own or control most of the fruit production, but also the land, railroads, ports, banking and finance and major infrastructure of the Latin and Central American and Caribbean regions, much of Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and much of the Middle East.

 

“I am against any interference in the internal affairs of the Latin American countries. But under certain conditions I consider exceptions possible.”

(US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.)


These ‘exceptions’ seem to occur quite frequently. Just a few are listed here:

In 1916 the US landed troops in the Dominican Republic and occupied till 1924. And in 1965 the US overthrew a progressive government there. US troops occupied Cuba in 1898-1902, 1906-1909, and 1917-1923. The 1901 Cuban constitution, written by the US, gave the US the right of intervention. After earlier interventions, the US further practised this “right” at Playa Giron (the Bay of Pigs) against Fidel Castro in 1961, and was defeated.

The US still has an illegal base on Cuban soil at Guantanamo. In 1914 the US landed marines in Haiti and occupied till 1934. In 1954 the US overthrew the progressive government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, reversed its social policies of land reform and agriculture. US troops occupied Nicaragua in 1912-1925, and 1926-1933 when they set up Somoza’s National Guard which murdered Augusto Sandino (hence the Sandinistas).

The US crushed a popular uprising in Puerto Rico in 1950. The US also overthrew the popular government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in the 1950s, when it attempted nationalisations of oil and land. In the 1960s the US and Britain overthrew the progressive and popular government of Cheddi Jagan in Guiana. The US overthrew the popular and democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 and installed the dictatorship of Pinochet, which immediately murdered many thousands and reversed popular policies. And the above incomplete list was added to by the US invasion and continuing occupation of Grenada in 1983.

 

“Intervention is justified as a policy of the United States whenever its citizens and capital is at stake.”

(US Secretary of State Elihu Root, 1908.)


“Intervention is justified wherever it becomes necessary to guarantee the United States’ capital and markets.”

(US President Taft, 1912.)


“We do control the destinies of Central America… Until now Central America has always understood that governments which we recognise and support stay in power, while those we do not recognise and support fail.”

(US Under Secretary of State Robert Olds, 1927.)


“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a nation go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

(US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, referring to Chile under popular elected leader Salvador Allende.)


Two such Latin American examples are outlined briefly below.

Cheap Fruit From Nicaragua.

With US connivance and full support, the popular Nicaraguan leader Augusto Sandino was murdered in 1934 by the National Guard of US preferred dictator Anastasio Somoza Garcia (“Tacho”), a former employee of the US Rockefeller Foundation.

 

“That guy may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

(US President Roosevelt, on an earlier Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza.)


In 1956, with further US support, another dictator Luis Somoza was put in power. Anastasio II “Tachito”
(Little Tacho) became head of the National Guard and became President in 1967.

“Now that’s the kind of anti-communist we like to see down there.”

(US President Nixon, on another Nicaraguan dictator Luis Somoza, British television documentary, November 15 1983.)


The popular Sandinista revolution and support for the FSLN obtained power in Managua in 1979 and was spreading to the rest of the country with socialist policies such as, land distribution and cooperative farming, health, education and literacy. The influence of Cuba and Nicaragua spreading to other Latin American countries such as El Salvador frightened the US out of its wits.

“The United States could never permit another Nicaragua, even if preventing it meant employing the most reprehensible means.”

(Zbigniew Brzezinski, June 1980.)


The CIA perpetrated the mining of the Nicaraguan port of Corinto. And with the power of its armaments and media support for opposition groups instigated a take-over by the Chamorra government of middle class business, property and land owners.

Cheap Fruit From Guatemala.

One way or another, if the peoples of these countries dare to take over what is rightfully theirs, the US will soon intervene to get it back for US owners and shareholders. At one time Guatemala was virtually controlled by the US United Fruit Company. Now other US transnational companies have moved in.

President Jacobo Arbenz, elected in 1952 with 72 percent of the votes (that’s a bigger majority than any British Parliament or the US government), instituted land reform which involved taking over land owned by the US United Fruit company, with compensation at a valuation United Fruit itself had made for tax purposes: $600,000. United Fruit rejected this and the US Government on behalf of United Fruit claimed $16,000,000 from Guatemala. The US invaded Guatemala in 1954 and Arbenz was overthrown and land was restored to the United Fruit company. Dulles called it “a new and glorious chapter to the already great tradition of the American States.” Justification for the invasion, as usual, was “international communism.”

A year before the invasion Eisenhower had said:

“Any nation’s right to a form of government and economic system of its own choosing is inalienable… Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.”

(US President Eisenhower, April 16 1953.)


The day after the invasion the Guatemalan Government urged the UN Security Council to be convened to deal with the events, but was turned down by the President of the Security Council Henry Cabot Lodge – who I’ll introduce you to below.

Nobody’s saying it was and inside job, but Walter Bedell Smith, Director of the CIA before Dulles, became President of the United Fruit corporation after Arbenz was overthrown; Secretary of State John Dulles had been legal advisor to the United Fruit corporation; his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles was President of the United Fruit corporation; Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs John Moors Cabot was a large shareholder of United Fruit; and that already mentioned unbiased US statesman, Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador to UN and President of UN Security Council was on the board of directors of United Fruit.

Cheap Tin and Tungsten From Vietnam.

Vietnam asks:

“…I saw the helicopters… Americans moving towards our village… we sat there huddled together… American appeared at the entrance… fired point blank at grandmother Toan. She sank slowly to the floor… grenade… I crawled out… bodies of my sister, little brother, uncle Duc, cousin Thu and her baby… Americans… mutilated bodies with bayonets… baby in convulsions… I hid… heard uncle Huong’s voice… I asked him “is anyone else alive?” “No little one, everyone’s killed.” Please, tell me why were they all killed?”

(Twelve year old Vo Thi Lien, sole survivor of the US Son My massacre
(My Lai on US military maps) March 16 1969.)


US President Eisenhower had already answered Vo Thi’s question when she was only four years old:
“Let us suppose we lose Indochina. The tin and tungsten that we so greatly value from that area would cease coming. We are voting for the cheapest way that we can to prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most terrible significance to the United States of America, our security, our power and ability to get certain things we need from the riches of the Indochinese territory and from Southeast Asia.”

(US President Eisenhower, justifying US aid to France’s war against Vietnam, Aug 4 1953.)


“It is rich in many raw materials such as tin, oil, rubber and iron ore… This area has great strategic value.”

(US Secretary of State Dulles referring to Vietnam, March 29 1954.)


“One of the world’s richest areas is open to the winner of Indo-China. That’s behind the growing US concern… tin, rubber, rice, key strategic raw materials are what the war is really about. The US sees it as a place to hold – at any cost.”

(US News and World Report, April 4 1954.)


“Geographically, Vietnam stands at the hub of a vast area of the world… He who holds or has influence in Vietnam can affect the future of the Philippines and Formosa [now Taiwan] to the East, Thailand and Burma with their huge rice surpluses to the West, and Malaysia and Indonesia with their rubber, ore and tin to the South… large store-houses of wealth and population can be influenced and undermined.”

(Former US Ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, Boston Sunday Globe, Feb 28 1965.)


The US war against Vietnam was another war of capitalist domination of the world’s cheap labour and raw materials. The overt fighting has ceased, but the war in terms of economic cost will continue for many generations, such as chemical poisoning of the land and fisheries by the US Dioxin defoliant and children and farmers still being killed by explosives in the soil.

To date, not one cent of the $3.25 billion 1973 Paris Agreement agreed by the US has been paid to Vietnam. Four years later, in 1977, Vietnam had to start paying some $145 million of US aid debts of the former US puppet government of South Vietnam demanded by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other US global financial institutions.
“Well, the damage was mutual… We owe them nothing.”

(US President Carter, on Vietnam, 1978.)


“United States policy is exactly to squeeze Vietnam… If Vietnam suffers economic hardships, I think that is just great.”

(US National Security Council representative Roger Sullivan,, April 1980.)


But We Give Them Aid, We Gave Them… Built Them…

Most people seem to think that Western so-called ‘aid’ is free. Every dollar of this ‘aid’ invested in the 1970s in ‘underdeveloped’ countries returned some 4.2 dollars to multinational corporations in this ‘charitable’ capitalist world. In Red Nose Week 1999, for every pound so generously donated, some £4.8 came back to Britain from those poor countries in profits and debts.

Crucial to any useful understanding of poverty is to understand that capital, to continue to make profits for its owners, must continually grab ever larger amounts of ever cheaper labour and raw materials from the poor countries, which should be using their raw materials for themselves, if there’s any left.

We who are also unwitting victims, who nevertheless share in the benefits of such a system; will solve no problems by feeling guilty and giving charity. The hungry people do not require that of us. What they require of us is control of a government that will control this ridiculously wealthy socio-economic system which perpetrates this economic crime, this system which exploits and makes mere appendages of capital of us all.

April 11, 2018

My Dear Americans – The British Sceptre Passes to the US

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,Great Britain,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 10:02 pm

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)


The British Government, having lost their gamble with the Nazis in the pre-war Munich deals with the Nazis, then having had to run begging to the US for economic and military aid in the war and afterwards, had to cede Britain’s colonies, overseas assets, markets and foreign military bases to the US and submit to US demands for bases in Britain in order to bring our wartime allies, the Soviet Union, within range of US nuclear bombers in the US led Cold War and without any British control. In other words the British Sceptre passes to the US.

“…to set forth the political, military, territorial and economic requirements of the United States in its potential leadership… including the United Kingdom itself as well as the Western hemisphere and the Far East. The first and foremost requirement of the United States in a world in which it proposes to hold unquestionable power in the rapid fulfilment of a programme of complete re-armament… to secure the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by foreign nations that constitutes a threat to the minimum world area essential for the security and economic prosperity of the United States.”

(Economic and Financial Group of the US Council of Foreign Relations, 1940.)


“The question of leadership need hardly arise. If any permanently closer association of the two nations is achieved, an island people of fifty millions cannot expect to be the senior partner. The centre of gravity and the ultimate decision must increasingly lie with America. We cannot resent this historical development.”

(The Economist Oct 19 1940.)


“Well, Boys, Britain’s broke. It’s your money we want.”

(British ambassador to Washington, Lord Lothian, November 23 1940.)


“Whatever the outcome of the war, America has embarked on a career of imperialism in world affairs and in every other aspect of her life… Even though by our aid England should emerge from this struggle without defeat, she will be so impoverished economically and crippled in prestige that it is improbable that she will be able to resume or maintain the dominant position in world affairs that she has occupied for so long. At best, England will become a junior partner in a new Anglo-Saxon imperialism in which the economic resources and the military and naval strength of the United States will be the centre of gravity… The sceptre passes to the United States.”

(President of the US National Industrial Conference Board Virgil Jordan, to the Annual Convention of the Investment Bankers’ Association of America, Hollywood, Dec 10 1940.)


“Gradually, very gradually, and very quietly, the mantle of leadership was slipping from British shoulders to American.”

(Elliott Roosevelt, on the Atlantic Charter conference with his father US President Franklin Roosevelt and British PM Churchill in August 1941.)


“My dear Americans, we may be short of dollars, but we are not short of will… We won’t let you down. Standards of life may go back. We may have to say to our miners and to our steel workers: “We can’t give you all we hoped for. We can’t give you the houses we want you to live in. We can’t give you the amenities we desire to give you.” But we won’t fail.”

(British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin to the American Legion, London, Sept 10 1947.)


“Today Americans know that they are the dominant power in the world… and they expect the rest of us to respect their leadership.”

(Tory Lord Woolton, Sunday Times, July 16 1950.)


“Mr. Bevin went to New York, determined to prevent the precipitate rearmament of Germany… He failed… Faced with an American ultimatum… he toed the line.”

(New Statesman and Nation, Dec 2 1950.)


“We British must recognise that American policy must prevail, if there is an honest difference of opinion between us as to what to do next in the world struggle. He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

(Labour MP Commander King-Hall, National Newsletter, June 28 1951.)


“Do we need Britain? The British Empire, for all its reduced power, has a valuable string of naval bases around the world – Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Suez, Aden, Singapore, to mention the most important… The colonies take one into the economic sphere – tin, rubber, uranium and other raw materials… We need Britain.”

(New York Times, Jan 9 1952.)


“You may be sure that we shall stand by you on fundamentals.”

(British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in letter to US President Eisenhower, 1953.)


“…this Marshall Plan is going to be the biggest damned interference in international affairs that there has ever been in history. It doesn’t do any good to say we are not going to interfere. … I don’t think we need to be so sensitive about interfering in the international affairs of these countries.”

(US Senator Cabot Lodge to the US Foreign Relations Committee regarding post war Marshall aid to Britain and Western Europe.)


“Whether we like it or not, we must all recognise that the victory which we have won has placed upon the American people the continuing burden of responsibility for world leadership. The future peace of the world will depend in large part upon whether or not the United States shows that it is really determined to continue its role as a leader among nations.”

(US President Truman’s message to Congress, Dec 19 1945.)


“Am I wrong in saying all British governments since 1945 have done what the Americans have wanted?”

(British MP Tony Benn.)


“…the United Kingdom is already dependent on United States support.”

(British Foreign Office, 1958.)


“It is cheaper to fight with soldiers of other nations even if we have to equip them with American arms, and there is much less loss of American life.”

(US Senator Taft, Washington, May 19 1951.)


“It takes a man and a gun to fight. The United States is providing the gun, Europe the man.”

(US General Eisenhower, Paris, August 1951.)


“We fought World War I in Europe, we fought World War II in Europe, and if you dummies will let us we will fight World War III in Europe.”

(US Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque.)


“…what has been our one and only basic policy in the last thirty years. This is that we prefer to fight our wars, if they be necessary, in someone else’s territory.”

(US JCS document, 1946.)


“We are proposing dollars to arm men other than our own men. We are contributing dollars rather than men.”

(US General Marshall, August 1 1951.)


“Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient… I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world… has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.”

(US President Carter, on British PM Tony Blair’s subservience to the US, on BBC Radio.)


“The UK will… take on at times the role of a Trojan Horse … but its effectiveness in this role will depend on… not appearing to act as a US stooge.”

(British Foreign Office, 1972.)


“We’ve got to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.”

(Observer editor Roger Alton to his journalists, January 2003.)


“…the US did not want to be the only country ready to intervene in any trouble spot in the world. We hoped the British would continue to uphold their world-wide responsibilities.”

(US Secretary of State Dean Rusk to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.

 

March 27, 2018

Not about oil?

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,oil — louisproyect @ 7:10 pm

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)

Not About Oil? They Must Be Joking – Just One of the World’s Many Resources that the History of Interventions, Occupations, and Wars Are Always About.

What many of the world’s wars and interventions are all about. One of the world’s most valuable resources controlled by a wealthy few; from British control of Middle East oil before the Second World War to US control of global oil resources after the war.

“We must become the owners, or at any rate the controllers at the source, of at least a proportion of the oil which we require.”

(British Royal Commission, agreeing with Winston Churchill’s policy towards Iraq, 1913.)


“He who owns oil will own the world… who has oil has empire.”

(Henry Berenger, Commissioner General for Oil Products, France, during WWI.)


“In oil Baku is incomparable… Baku is greater than any other oil city in the world. If oil is king, Baku is its throne.”

(British journal The Near East, on Britain’s invasion of the Soviet Union along with 14 other countries in the Wars of Intervention after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.)


“These International bankers and Rockefeller-Standard Oil interests control the majority of newspapers and use the columns of these papers to club into submission or drive out of public office officials who refuse to do the bidding of the powerful corrupt cliques which compose the invisible government”

(US President Theodore Roosevelt, New York Times, March 27 1918.)


“if we appear to be reactionary in Mesopotamia, there is always the risk that Faisal will encourage the Americans to take over both, and it should be borne in mind that the Standard Oil company is very anxious to take over Iraq.”

(Sir Arthur Hirtzel, Head of the British government’s India Office Political Department, 1919.)


“The pioneering spirit should now lead American capital and American engineering to seek new sources of petroleum supplies in foreign fields for the benefit of the America of tomorrow. Nor can this be done without popular support inspired by general appreciation of oil as our servant, a servant that works 24 hours a day and 7 days a week”.

(National Geographic magazine February 1920.)


“The real menace of our republic is this invisible government which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy length over city, state and nation. Like the octopus of real life, it operates under cover of a self created screen… At the head of this octopus are the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests and a small group of powerful banking houses generally referred to as international bankers. The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes. They practically control both political parties.”

(New York City Mayor John Hylan, 1922.)


“I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. … In China in 1927 I helped see to it that the Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

(Testimony of General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps, to the McCormack Dickstein Committee. 1935.)


“Hitler’s deputy Hess’s mission to Britain was to suggest:”a profitable agreement in the form of an alliance against Russia as a result of which Germany was to receive the Ukraine and the Caucasus oil regions… .”

(The Times Oct 5 1942.)


“The oil of Saudi Arabia constitutes one of the world’s greatest prizes.”

(US Secretary of State Cordell Hull, 1943.)


“The oil in this region is the greatest single prize in all history.”

(US oil geologist and director of the American Petroleum Institute Everette Degolyer, 1944.)


“Our petroleum policy toward the United Kingdom is predicated upon a mutual recognition of a very extensive joint interest and upon a control, at least for the moment, of the great bulk of the free petroleum resources of the world … it is the view of the United States government that US-UK agreement upon a broad, forward looking pattern for the development and utilisation of petroleum resources under the control of nationals of the two countries is of the highest strategic and commercial importance.”

(US government memo of June 1945.)


“[Middle East oil is] a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

(US State Department, 1945.)


“We need to promote internal political stability and in particular to influence individuals so that public opinion does not become so hostile to our oil companies that their commercial operation becomes impossible.”

(British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in a note to a government cabinet, October 1945.)


“As the largest producer, the largest source of capital, and the biggest contributor to the global mechanism, we must set the pace and assume the responsibility of the majority stockholder in this corporation known as the world… Nor is this for a given term of office. This is a permanent obligation.”

(Secretary-Treasurer of US Standard Oil Company, Leo Welch, 1946.)


“Behind the conflict in the Near East is OIL. Britain owns rich wells in Iraq … Socialists … [must] … condemn the Oil Imperialism of Britain and America and demand the pooling of all the oil resources of the world according to the needs of the peoples.”

(British Lord Fenner Brockway, 1947.)


“Our strategic and security interests throughout the world will be best safeguarded by the establishment in suitable spots of ‘Police Stations’, fully equipped to deal with emergencies within a large radius. Kuwait is one such spot from which Iraq, South Persia, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf could be controlled. It will be worthwhile to go to considerable trouble and expense to establish and man a ‘Police Station’ there.”

(British Foreign Office memo, 1947.)


“Now the Pacific has become an Anglo-Saxon lake, and our line of defence runs through the chain of islands fringing the coast of Asia.”

(US General MacArthur, Daily Mail March 2 1949. [Areas which have massive oil resources.])


“Persian [Iran] oil is of vital importance to our economy. … We regard it as essential to do everything possible to prevent the Persians from getting away with a breach of their contractual obligations. [To give the British massive advantages in their oil supplies.]”

(British Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison, 1950s.)


“The most significant example in practice of what I mean was the Iranian experiment with which, as you will remember, I was directly concerned. By the use of economic aid we succeeded in getting access to Iranian oil and we are now well established in the economy of that country. The strengthening of our economic position in Iran has enabled us to acquire control over her foreign policy and in particular to make her join the Bagdad Pact. At the present time the Shah would not dare even to make any changes in his cabinet without consulting our Ambassador.”

(Letter from US Council on Foreign Relations member billionaire Nelson Rockefeller to President Eisenhower, January 1956.)


“We must at all costs maintain control of this oil.”

(British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd, to US Secretary of State Allen Dulles, January 1956.)


“Our interest lies in keeping Kuwait independent and separate, if we possibly can, in line with the idea of maintaining the four principle oil producing areas under separate political control.”

(Head of the eastern department of the British Foreign Office Derek Riches, August 8 1958. [Classic divide and rule again. The British separated Kuwait from Iraq in 1913.])


“Iran is the only source of Middle Eastern oil which is not under the control of an Arab government, and present production could be considerably increased in an emergency. This strengthens the West’s hand viv-a-vis the Arab oil producing countries.”

(British Joint Intelligence Committee, 1961.)


“It [Saudi Arabia] has no moral code of laws and its criminal justice is is of mediaeval barbarity… Corruption is widespread. The country sits on top of some of the richest oil resources in the world…”

(British Ambassador Colin Crowe, to Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home, June 20 1963.)


“Aden is essential for our vital oil and strategic interests.”

(British commander in the Middle East Air Marshal Charles Ellsworthy, mid 1960s.)


“The economic health and well-being of the United States, Western Europe, Japan depend upon continued access to the oil from the Persian area.”

(US President Carter, Department of State Bulletin, April 1978.)


“The US deliberately constructed out of the ruins of the war an international monetary order based on the dollar… With its nuclear and armed forces, the US stood ready to guarantee this open economic system against threats from the Soviet Union on the outside and enemies that might close off certain markets and needed resources such as oil on the inside. As both banker and cop, the US was the guarantor of the postwar global economy.”

(Business Week March 12 1979.)


“Western industrialised societies are largely dependent on the oil resources of the Middle East region and a threat to access to that oil would constitute a grave threat to the vital national interests. This must be dealt with; and that does not exclude the use of force if necessary.”

(US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, March 11 1981.)


“As outlined in the paper, the strategy for Southwest Asia, including the Persian Gulf, directs American forces to be ready to force their way in if necessary, and not to wait for an invitation from a friendly government, which has been the publicly stated policy.”

(US Defense Dept, New York Times May 30 1982.)


“In the future, we are more likely to be involved in Iraq-type things, Panama-type things, Grenada-type things… Our position should be the protection of the oilfields. Now whether Kuwait gets put back, that’s subsidiary stuff.”

(Chairman of US Armed Services Committee Les Aspin, 1990.)


“Mideast oil is the West’s lifeblood. It fuels us today, and being 77 percent of the Free World’s proven oil reserves, it is going to fuel us when the rest of the world has run dry. … It is estimated that within 20 or 40 years the U.S. will have virtually depleted its economically available oil reserves, while the Persian Gulf region will still have at least 100 years of proven oil reserves.”

(US General Schwarzkopf, February 8 1990.)


“It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the Unites States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent, indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil production and price.”

(US political scientist and academic Noam Chomsky, September 11 1990.)


“Shell’s operations are impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.”

(Ken Saro-Wiwa, from a secret Nigerian military memo, May 1994. He was executed in 1995.)


“If they turn on the radars we’re going to blow up their goddamn SAMs [missiles]. They know we own their country [Iraq]. We own their airspace… We dictate the way they live and talk. And that’s what’s great about America right now. It’s a good thing, especially when there’s a lot of oil out there we need.”

(US Brigadier General William Looney, June 24 1996, Washington Post, August 30 1999.)


“So where is the oil going to come from? … The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies,”

(US Vice President Richard Cheney, CEO of oil company Halliburton, 1999.)


“Colombia is now the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel and Egypt. Direct U.S. military intervention looms on the horizon for this region
(Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru), which exports more oil to the U.S. than the entire Middle East.”

(CovertAction Quarterly magazine, 1999.)


“US aid is to improve U.S.-Kazakh military cooperation while establishing a U.S.-interoperable base along the oil-rich Caspian.”

(US State Department Report, 2002.)


“In oil’s name, the United States is immersed in a new kind of colonialism, for the resources that lie under foreign feet. They couldn’t care less about the people. Therein lies an even greater tragedy.”

(U.S. Dept. of State, Congressional Budget Justifications: Foreign Operations, 2003.)


“… we’ve got to win a real war, which involves using a lot of troops and building a nation, and that’s at the core of the president’s strategy for rebuilding the Middle East.

(William Kristol, chairman of the PNAC
(Project for the New American Century), 2004.)


“Whoever controls oil controls much more than oil.”

(US Senator John McCain, June 17 2008.)


“Our aim is not simply to appropriate oil in one way or another
(say in easily accessible Nigeria or Venezuela) but to crush OPEC. Therefore we have to use direct force in order to get hold of large and concentrated oil deposits which can be opened up rapidly so as to put an end to the artificial oil shortage and thus to lower the price… Since this is the ultimate and there is only one target possible: Saudi Arabia… Fortunately, these are not only rich oilfields but they are also concentrated in a very small area, a fraction of the Saudi Arabian territory… While Vietnam was full of trees and brave people and our national interest was almost invisible, what we have here is no trees, very few people and a clear objective.”

(Adviser to US Defence Department Professor Miles Ignotas.)


“The mistake of the West was to put the Sauds on the throne of Saudi Arabia and give them control of the world’s oil fortune, which they then used to propagate Wahhabi Islam.”

(British novelist Salman Rushdie.)


“We do not have any defence treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defence or security commitments to Kuwait.”

(Margaret Tutweiller, US State Department, deliberately enticing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which was a few days later.)


“Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world. And the biggest gas reserves in this hemisphere, the eighth in the world. Venezuela was a U.S. oil colony. All of our oil was going up to the north, and the gas was being used by the U.S. and not by us. Now we are diversifying. Our oil is helping the poor. … If the United States was mad enough to attack Iran or aggress Venezuela again the price of a barrel of oil could reach $150 or evan $200.”

(Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez.)


“And finally, this notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.”

(US President George Bush.)


“[Genocide] certainly is a valid word in my view, when you have a situation where we see thousands of deaths per month, a possible total of I million to 1.5 million over the last nine years. If that is not genocide, then I don’t know quite what is.”

(UN humanitarian coordinator Denis Halliday on US sanctions on Iraq.)


“Natural resources and inanimate energy… are increasingly regarded as affected with public interest… Certainly they were left by God or geology to mankind and not to the Standard Oil Company of California. If this is not sound moral doctrine, I do not know what is.”

(US writer Stuart Chase.)


“The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”

(US activist and author Ralph Nader.)


“The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.”

(US Vice President Dick Cheney.)


“It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil.”

(US President George Bush.)


“Now you have people in Washington who have no interest in the country at all. They’re interested in their companies, their corporations grabbing Caspian oil.”

(US writer Gore Vidal.)


“Bahrain lies at the epicenter of Gulf security and any violent upheaval in Bahrain would have enormous geopolitical consequences. Global economic stability depends on the uninterrupted export of crude oil from the Gulf to markets around the world, a job that historically has been assigned to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.”

(King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, whose billionaire family have ruled Bahrain since 1780.)


“From the 1920s into the 1940s, Britain’s standard of living was supported by oil from Iran. British cars, trucks, and buses ran on cheap Iranian oil. Factories throughout Britain were fueled by oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which projected British power all over the world, powered its ships with Iranian oil.”

(US journalist and author Stephen Kinzer.)


“Control over the production and distribution of oil is the decisive factor in defining who rules whom in the Middle East.”

(US critic and author Christopher Hitchens.)


“The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.”

(English playwright Harold Pinter.)


“If you go into the Ecuadorian Amazon and you stick your hand in the ground, what you get is oil sludge. The oil companies continue doing whatever they please.”

(Equadoran President Rafael Correa.)


“In Iraq, [American administration] said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction endangering mankind. With this pretext, the U.S. intervened militarily, and all they did is take control over oil fields, and oil wells.”

(Bolivian socialist President Evo Morales.)


“My point is that it’s incorrect to say that the Iraq policy isn’t working. It is working. It is doing what they want. They have got control of the oil and they are exporting it, and they have stripped a government that was 90% state owned and they are privatizing it.

(US political economist, social scientist and author Michael Parenti.)


“…an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq… with no public debate and at enormous potential cost… allocates the majority of Iraq’s oilfields, accounting for at least 64% of the country’s oil reserves, for development by multinational oil companies.”

(In other words, mostly US companies. The Rip Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, British Non Government Organisation, Platform, 2005. Quoted in William Blum “America’s Deadliest Export. Democracy. The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything else.”)


“…an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq… with no public debate and at enormous potential cost… allocates the majority of Iraq’s oilfields, accounting for at least 64% of the country’s oil reserves, for development by multinational oil companies.”

(In other words, mostly US companies. The Rip Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, British Non Government Organisation, Platform, 2005. Quoted in William Blum “America’s Deadliest Export. Democracy. The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything else.”)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.

 

February 9, 2016

A return to the question of whether Russia is imperialist

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,mechanical anti-imperialism,Russia — louisproyect @ 9:54 pm

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 4.45.01 PM

One of the main talking points of the pro-Kremlin left is that Russia is not imperialist. This goes hand in hand with an analysis claiming that Putin’s intervention in Ukraine was purely defensive, a move against the genuine imperialists in Washington, London and elsewhere.

The last time I dealt with this question was in June 2014 when I replied to Roger Annis, a tireless defender of Kremlin foreign policy. Annis has once again made the same arguments on Links magazine in Australia in an article co-written by Renfrey Clarke who shares his orientation to Russia. Titled “Perpetrator or victim? Russia and contemporary imperialism”, it rehashes many of the same arguments that are supposedly based on Lenin’s “Imperialism, the final stage of Capitalism”.

As I indicated in a commentary on John Clegg’s article “Capitalism and Slavery”, I find social science definitions of terms like capitalism, socialism and imperialism problematic. To start with, they are describing economic systems that are global in character so when they are used to taxonomically describe a particular country, they are strained to the breaking point. When Trotsky took up the question of whether the USSR was socialist, he answered in terms that defied the formal logic of the social scientist: “To define the Soviet regime as transitional, or intermediate, means to abandon such finished social categories as capitalism (and therewith “state capitalism”) and also socialism. But besides being completely inadequate in itself, such a definition is capable of producing the mistaken idea that from the present Soviet regime only a transition to socialism is possible.”

When it comes to a term like imperialist as a category that applies to a particular country, there is little doubt that the USA, Great Britain, or Germany qualify. This is made clear in page after page of Lenin’s essay. But using the search tool available on the Marxist Internet Archives, you will find Lenin referring to “Russian imperialism” on many occasions:

Have the socialists of France and Belgium not shown the same kind of treachery? They are excellent at exposing German imperialism, but, unfortunately they are amazingly purblind with regard to British, French, and particularly the barbarous Russian imperialism. They fail to see the disgraceful fact that, for decades on end, the French bourgeoisie have been paying out thousands of millions for the hire of the Black-Hundred gangs of Russian tsarism, and that the latter has been crushing the non-Russian majority in our country, robbing Poland, oppressing the Great Russian workers and peasants, and so on.

The European War and International Socialism, 1914

The attitude of the Soviet Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic to the weak and hitherto oppressed nations is of very pradtical significance for the whole of Asia and for all the colonies of the world, for thousands and millions of people.

I earnestly urge you to devote the closest attention to this question, to exert every effort to set an effective example of comradely relations with the peoples of Turkestan, to demonstrate to them by your actions that we are sincere in our desire to wipe out all traces of Great-Russian imperialism and wage an implacable struggle against world imperialism, headed by British imperialism. You should show the greatest confidence in our Turkestan Commission and adhere strictly to its directives, which have been framed precisely in this spirit by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.

To the Communists of Turkestan, 1919

You speak about the revolution in Russia, but, Citizens Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli [Menshevik politicians], you have all studied socialism, and you realise only too well that so jar your revolution has only put the capitalists in power. Is it not trebly insincere, when, in the name of the Russian revolution, which has given power to the Russian imperialist capitalists, you demand of us, Germans, a revolution against the German imperialist capitalists? Does It not look as if your “internationalism”, your “revolutionism” are for foreign consumption only; as if revolution against the capitalists is only for the Germans, while for the Russians (despite the seething revolution in Russia) it is agreement with the capitalists?

Chernov, Chkheidze, and Tsereteli have sunk completely to the level of defending Russian imperialism.

An Unfortunate Document, 1917

This is what crops up when you do a search on the exact term “Russian imperialism”. It is also worth examining “Imperialism, the final stage of Capitalism” to see if there are any references to Russia there. While Lenin takes care to single out British and German domination of the financial sector, even to the point of specifically pointing to Deutsche Bank’s penetration of Russian “holding companies”, he does not let Russia off the hook in chapter six titled “The Division of the world among the great powers”. In a chart titled COLONIAL POSSESSIONS OF THE GREAT POWERS, Russia is in second place behind Britain:

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He even makes comparisons between England and Russia in their pursuit of colonial exploitation:

The British capitalists are exerting every effort to develop cotton growing in their colony, Egypt (in 1904, out of 2,300,000 hectares of land under cultivation, 600,000, or more than one-fourth, were under cotton); the Russians are doing the same in their colony, Turkestan, because in this way they will be in a better position to defeat their foreign competitors, to monopolise the sources of raw materials and form a more economical and profitable textile trust in which all the processes of cotton production and manufacturing will be “combined” and concentrated in the hands of one set of owners.

It is of course of some interest that Lenin refers once again to Turkestan, one of those regions that were seized by Catherine the Great and that were victims of the Great Russian Chauvinism that Lenin fought from his sick bed until the day he died. Like Ukraine, these regions never felt like they were truly free in the USSR. It is most unfortunate that people like Annis and Clarke are essentially seeing things the same way that Stalin did in the 1920s even though they supposedly got their political training in the Trotskyist movement.

On a more fundamental level, I find the term “imperialist” as an adjective for a particular country problematic when it functions in the same way that the term mammal applies to a kind of animal or perennial to a type of flower. A bear is always going to be a mammal while a zinnia will never be a perennial. These are fixed categories. When it comes to social and economic entities, it becomes a lot more problematic. What criteria do we use? Lenin thought that the size of financial holdings was key. For Annis and Clarke, this means that Russia is not a player: “A mass of evidence shows that in terms of the financial instruments ‒ stocks, bonds, derivatives, bank deposits, money-market funds ‒in which wealth is mostly held within modern capitalism, the finance capital of present-day Russia is startlingly weak.”

Let’s look at fascist Italy for comparison’s sake. In the 1930s, the three largest banks had a capitalization of about 500 million lira each. Since one dollar was equal to 20 lira at the time, this meant that they were worth about $25 million each. On the other hand, the five largest banks in the USA were all worth over a billion dollars each in 1935 according to a January 21, 1936 NY Times article. So Italy was not even in their ballpark. Does that mean that Italy was not an imperialist nation?

In fact, it was the very weakness of Japan, Italy and Germany in 1939 that made them more aggressive. When you are top dog, you don’t go out and pick fights with those trying to overtake you as the alpha male after all. You don’t pay them any attention except when they looking to displace you. That’s when you defend your pack. That is why the “pacifist” and “democratic” nations like the USA and Britain could scold the aggressive fascists even though they were far more harmful to people living in vast empires covering the globe.

This brings us to Putin’s Russia. Perhaps finally recognizing that when the Kremlin sent its troops to Donetsk and Luhansk or its bombers to Syria might compromise them in the eyes of a few Marxist malcontents, Annis and Clarke try to excuse this bad behavior. Boys will be boys, after all.

Meanwhile, are Russian interests taken into account when the “rules of the game” of the capitalist world-system are determined? By no means. For years after the dissolving of the USSR, Russian elites held out hopes of joining NATO. Instead, NATO has been expanded to the point where Russia now faces a threatening arc of U.S.-aligned states, on or near its borders, from Turkey to Estonia. The clear goal of imperialist policy is to pressure and intimidate Russia, so as to deepen its peripheralisation and in the longer perspective, to force its break-up.

 In these circumstances, what can one say about the Western denunciations of “Russian imperialism”? Rarely have such fervent protestations been so wide of the mark, or backed by so little substance.

 Does all this matter? If a country uses its armed strength to meddle in affairs outside its borders, doesn’t that make it imperialist per se? The trouble with that line of reasoning is that it quickly leads to absurd conclusions. Countries of the periphery commit armed aggression against one another with horrible regularity. The Ogaden War of 1977-78 began when Somali forces invaded Ethiopia. Did that make Somalia an imperialist power?

This, of course, is what the article is really about, not trying to pin down the exact character of the Russian economy. It is really about what Clausewitz referred to as “warfare being a continuation of politics by other means”. Annis and Clarke essentially view Ukraine’s Euromaidan as an encroachment on legitimate Russian interests in the same way that JFK viewed Soviet missiles in Cuba. Just as was was the case with any former colonial nation seeking support from the Kremlin, Ukraine or any of the Eastern European “buffer states” naturally would have developed an orientation to any global power that could give them some leeway against the Kremlin. Those are the realities of global politics.

Finally, what I found most telling is the comparison with Somalia invading Ethiopia. I wonder if this was subconsciously an admission on the part of Annis and Clarke that they felt guilty serving as Putin’s attorneys. If you want to make comparisons, you start with the fact that Ethiopia—like Tsarist Russia in the 18th century—was a precapitalist empire. The Ethiopian emperors colonized the Oromos to the south and the Eritreans to the north. It also colonized the Ogaden region in between Ethiopia and Somalia that was home to people of Somalian ethnicity and who were practicing Muslims. In 1977, Somalia “invaded Ethiopia” only in the sense that it sought to reassert control over territory that had been seized by Menelik II in the 19th century just as he had conquered the Oromos and the Eritreans.

Very soon the conflict became enmeshed with the Cold War as the USSR gave its backing to the Ethiopian Dergue that supposedly was evolving in a “Marxist-Leninist” direction while Jimmy Carter threw his support behind the Somalians. If your tendency is to choose sides based on who the West was supporting, naturally you would back the Ethiopians even if the Dergue was rapidly transforming itself into a military dictatorship with scant regard for human rights or economic justice.

Interestingly enough, CounterPunch has been a mainstay of the rights of the Ogaden people largely through the various articles published over the years by Graham Peebles such as this:

The ONLF [Ogaden National Liberation Front] is cast as the enemy of the state, and regarded, as all dissenting troublesome groups are, as terrorists. They in fact won 60% of seats and were democratically elected to the regional parliament in the only inclusive open elections to be held, back in 1992. Civilians suspected, however vaguely of supporting the so-called ‘rebels’, are forcibly re-located from their homes. The evacuated villages and settlements, emptied at gunpoint HRW (CP) record, “become no-go areas” and in a further act of state criminality, “civilians who remain behind risk being shot on sight, tortured, or raped if spotted by soldiers”. Children, refugees report are hanged, villages and settlements razed to the ground and cattle stolen to feed soldiers: HRW record (CP), “water sources and wells have [also] been destroyed”. Systematic, strategic methods of violence and intimidation employed by the Ethiopian regime, that has, Genocide Watch (GW) state, “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali population”.

It is regrettable, of course, that there are so few people writing about Ukraine for CounterPunch who have the political and moral clarity of Graham Peebles who can see through Cold War or New Cold War nostrums of the sort associated with Roger Annis. Neither the Ogaden people nor the Ukrainians are pawns in a chess game. They have a right to national independence and social justice whichever side gives them a momentary advantage in a struggle against the oppressor. If Lenin could come to Russia in a railway car provided by the Kaiser, why would we expect long-suffering colonized peoples to act any differently?

January 2, 2016

Greece as Rashomon

Filed under: Greece,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 6:37 pm

Like Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”, the story of Syriza is also one about a rape told from different, self-serving and contradictory perspectives. For both the sectarian “Leninists” and the anarchists, Tsipras’s failure was ultimately a failure to smash the state and proceed rapidly toward the construction of communism. For post-Keynesians like Jamie Galbraith and Mark Weisbrot, there was a strong identification with Syriza’s general program and approach. When Tsipras finally signed an accord with the bankers that was even more austere than the demands put upon Greece in the beginnings of the negotiations, his supporters blamed the bankers rather then Tsipras for essentially taking the nation hostage. As for the capitalist ideologues at the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, you get more or less the inverse interpretation of the ultraleft. Where they would have seen a plus, the neoliberals instead saw a minus: Greece was a tragedy caused by Tsipras’s anticapitalist hubris.

Since the last version of what happened is so patently absurd, there is no point commenting on it. It is the clash between the first two that interests me especially since they both strike me as undertheorized. Probably the best presentation of the Marxist analysis can be found on Michael Roberts’s blog in an article titled “Greece: Keynes or Marx?” that was written before the infamous deal that amounted to a new round of debt and austerity. Referring to an interview that Sebastian Budgen conducted with Costas Lapavitsas, he finds fault with Lapavitsas’s confession that he remains committed to Keynesianism despite being a sharp critic of Alex Tsipras: “Let me come clean on this. Keynes and Keynesianism, unfortunately, remain the most powerful tools we’ve got, even as Marxists, for dealing with issues of policy in the here and now.”

Roberts concludes his article thusly: “The issue for Syriza and the Greek labour movement in June is not whether to break with the euro as such, but to break with capitalist policies and implement socialist measures to reverse austerity and launch a pan-European campaign for change.” I want to return to this question of implementing “socialist measures” later on but for now would dwell at length on a matter that came up in Roberts’s article that has preoccupied me for some time, namely whether repudiating the debt owed to Western banks would have broken the back of austerity, a view shared by Marxists and post-Keynesians alike.

In a way, the question of the Greek debt reminded me of the problems faced by an old friend who was forced to run up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt because illness prevented him from going back to work after he retired. Social security did not leave him enough to pay the rent and medical bills for Parkinson’s treatments, a disease that actually kept him unemployable. His strategy was to go to bankruptcy court and appeal to have the debts written off. This might have offered temporary relief but in the long run he would have run into another financial crunch. It would seem to me that Greece has the same sorts of problems with a chronically backward economy amounting to its Parkinson’s.

As an example of how debt relief can become a kind of panacea for the left, there is Eric Toussaint’s article in CounterPunch titled “Greece: an Alternative”. He writes that a “popular government” would do the following:

Suspend debt payment, organize an audit and radically reduce the debt and its repayment by an act of repudiation (which will necessarily be unilateral), adopt discriminatory measures to protect the people’s savings invested in debt.

This measure and others recommended in a laundry list of radical reforms would be the first stage in establishing 21st century socialism in Greece, one that was inspired by Venezuela’s demonstration that “it is entirely possible to resist the capitalist offensive.” Since his words come from a 2012 speech, we can certainly fault Toussaint for being a flawed seer but more egregiously for being unable to theorize Venezuela properly. It was not socialism that was being built but something owing more to John Kenneth Galbraith as Hugo Chavez would have been the first to admit.

As many of you know, Syriza’s economists were very interested in the Argentine solution to austerity that was facilitated by a kind of debt repudiation in 2001. This matter is taken up in Roberts’s article, where he quotes Lapavitsas on the supposed success of Argentine debt restructuring and peso devaluation: “I hasten to add that in the case of Argentina (though by no means would I suggest that Argentina is a shining beacon for the Left), it is much-maligned and much-misunderstood. What was obtained in that country after default and exit was vastly better than what held before and vastly better than what would have happened had the country continued along the same path, for working people.”

Roberts challenges this assumption:

The breathing space created for Argentina by breaking the dollar peg [an Argexit, in effect] does not seem to have restored the Argentine economy to stable growth. After a few years of a commodity-export led boom, the Argentine economy is back in crisis, despite Keynesian policies adopted by the government. There has been a 6% fall in per capita GDP since 2011.

There’s a lot more to be said about what happened in Argentina in 2001 especially if it is going to be used as a model for a Grexit and debt repudiation. Long before I began writing about Greece, I tried to analyze Argentina’s long-standing economic ills that like my old friend’s Parkinson’s is of a rather chronic nature going back to the British colonization of the 19th century.

To start with, it is important to note that although Argentina defaulted on bond payments in 2002, it eventually agreed upon a debt restructuring that was acceptable to the IMF and major banks in the USA and Europe. Despite a hefty “haircut”, most investors saw them as an opportunity to make a handsome profit especially since interest rates had plummeted to historic laws in “safer” bond markets.

In fact Wall Street banks made a killing in the bond restructuring deals. Goldman Sachs made millions of dollars in fees, as did other blue chip firms. Even if the working class suffered from the devaluation that went along with the 2001 Argexit, the bourgeoisie could toast itself with champagne over the profits that could be enjoyed.

Furthermore, at the very time the terms of the restructuring had been nailed down, Argentina’s economy began to improve dramatically. In September 2005, the nation enjoyed its 37th consecutive month of positive growth. What accounts for this? Notwithstanding the devaluation of the peso in 2001, agricultural exports remained pricey and a rising demand for soybeans and other essential crops lifted the economy. With a government committed to financial austerity, the balance sheets continued to tend more to the black.

Within four years, Argentina appeared to be on top of the world again as the FT reported on July 18, 2005:

The Argentine government this week made a triumphant return to the dollar-denominated debt market, only three and a half years after staging the largest default in world history and less than two months after restarting payments on its private debt.

In the first issue in foreign currency since the default at the end of 2001, investors, led by foreign investment banks, oversubscribed the $500m offer by more than three times. The government set a cut-off point of 7.99 per cent interest on the 2012 bonds, barely more than the price being paid by neighbours Brazil and Uruguay – neither of which have Argentina’s recent history of missed payments.

Argentina has managed to attract so much foreign interest that the treasury expects to make a similar issue in coming months.

All this was taking place when Nestor Kirchner was president. While nobody could possibly confuse this veteran Peronist as an advocate of 21st century socialism, he certainly was seen as part of Latin America’s Pink Tide, so much so that Mark Weisbrot could regard him as having “made an enormous contribution in helping to move Argentina and the region in a progressive direction” shortly after his death.

Like Venezuela, Argentina is no longer considered to be on the front lines of anti-imperialism. Falling commodity prices have made both nations vulnerable to external pressure from lending institutions.

But even if the consequences of debt repudiation were short-lived, why wouldn’t Greece consider similar measures if for no other reason that like my old friend going to bankruptcy court, it would at least spell some relief even if not permanent. Perhaps such a solution might seem worthwhile as long as you ignore the immediate consequences following the devaluation of the peso in 2001. In a 2002 article in the New Left Review titled “Racking Argentina”, David Rock described the calamity that befell the country:

Of Argentina’s population of 37 million, 52 per cent—some 19 million people—now fell below the official poverty line, while 20 per cent, 7.5 million, could no longer afford sufficient food. There were reports of children starving in the impoverished rural province of Tucumán. Unemployment soared to 23 per cent of the workforce, with a further 22 per cent ‘under-employed’—in part-time jobs and seeking further work. Public services disintegrated: hospitals could no longer treat the sick; schools closed, or gave up any attempt to teach. State pensions and public-sector workers’ salaries went unpaid. The construction industry came to a halt. Faced with declining revenues, the federal government had started to issue ‘Lecop’ bonds in lieu of wages. The provinces followed suit, led by Buenos Aires with its patacones, and by early 2002 there were some 4 billion pesos’ worth of local bonds in circulation.

Advocates of a Grexit refer to the short-term suffering that might accompany the devaluation that would attend adoption of a new currency but can they project a recovery based on an uptick in commodity exports? One Greek is skeptical. In a May 16, 2012 blog post titled “Weisbrot and Krugman are Wrong: Greece cannot pull off an Argentina”, Yanis Varoufakis wrote:

While it is quite true that Argentina’s export performance in 2001 was by no means better than Greece’s today, it is crucial to note that Argentina’s export potential in 2001 was vastly superior to that of Greece’s in 2012. By export potential I mean the degree of underutilisation of productive resources whose employment can, potentially, produce goods and services for which there is effective demand. In 2001, Argentina’s farms were woefully underproducing primary commodities that were, at that time, seeing their demand skyrocket. In sharp contrast, idle productive resources in Greece cannot produce much for which there is increasing demand.

Take for instance shipping and tourism, mentioned by Paul Krugman as two potential sources of Greek export growth: Both are in speedy decline! Additionally, whereas in the case of Argentina, its next door neighbour (Brazil) was entering a period of rapid growth, Greece’s neighbours are showing no such signs of vitality. Indeed, our traditional trading partners are also buffeted by recession (pushing down the demand for Greek tourism) while non-EU countries (such as Russia) cannot, and will not, make up the difference to any appreciable degree.

These are the hard facts that all leftists have to deal with, no matter what version of “Rashomon” they put forward. If Argentina was not a suitable model for Greece, could Cuba or the Soviet Union be to one’s liking? For the anarchists and Alex Callnicos, these would be just as unsuitable since nothing could come close to their communist ideal their imagination summoned up. Most Marxists are more inclined to accept the dialectical realities that Marx described in the Critique of the Gotha Program: “What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”

If we are ready to accept a communist society stamped with such birthmarks, does that mean that a communist Greece would have met our expectations? For those of us who had a chance to see Nicaragua in the mid-1980s, we would have gladly accepted a new Greece, warts and all.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of obstacles in our way, starting most importantly with the consciousness of the Greek masses. No matter how desirous readers of the Marxist press were for the abolition of capitalism in Greece, there were worrisome signs that the average Greek was not up to our lofty standards. Leaving aside the polling results on leaving the Eurozone, there were indications that parties standing for communism were simply not that popular no matter how many general strikes or mass demonstrations had taken place on the streets of Athens. As a barometer of revolutionary fervor, votes for Antarsya and the KKE were minimal at best. This leads one to consider the possibility that our anger might be better directed at the taxi driver or barber shop owner who was foolish enough to vote for Tsipras than Tsipras himself.

If by some miracle, the KKE had been voted into office, what would be the outlook for a communist society plus warts (and under such a grotesquely Stalinist sect, they would be plentiful.)

This leads me to an article by William I. Robinson that appeared in Truthout today. I first came across Robinson’s writings in the late 1980s when he was reporting from Nicaragua with his writing partner Kent Norworthy in the Guardian newsweekly in the USA, a newspaper that is sorely missed. Robinson now teaches sociology, global studies and Latin American studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a specialist on globalization. His “Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity” is a good starting place for those trying to theorize the struggle against capitalism in a world in which capital has taken wings to fly around the world in a ceaseless quest for profits. Unlike the period that began in Marx’s age and came to a conclusion in the post-Bretton Woods period, today’s bourgeoisie could care less about the “health” of its body politic. If American bridges and railways are falling apart, why should it matter to a hedge fund manager? His only obligation is to his investors and himself.

Robinson’s article is a critique of Thomas Piketty, who is one of those thinkers that is for social justice while rejecting Marx, a problematic stance to say the least. He makes an essential point about the conditions we face today:

Transnationally oriented elites and capitalists captured governments around the world and used states to undertake sweeping restructuring and integration into a new globalized production and financial system. The “neoliberal counterrevolution” opened up vast new opportunities for accumulation. Free trade agreements and financial liberalization lifted state restrictions on cross-border trade and capital flows. Privatization turned over everything from public industries, to educational and health systems, mail service, highways and ports to transnational corporations and provided an investment bonanza to the transnational capitalist class as it concentrated wealth as never before. Labor market reform led to the erosion of regulated labor markets. As workers became “flexible,” they joined the ranks of a new global “precariat” of proletarians who labor under part-time, temporary, informalized, non-unionized, contract and other forms of precarious work.

For those of us trying to build revolutionary parties, it is essential to keep in mind the social and economic realities we face. In the 1970s the American Trotskyist movement made a fatal decision to base its strategies on the supposition that a repeat of the 1930s was in the offing. When reality interfered with that strategy, the party rejected reality and continued on its futile path until it lost 90 percent of its membership.

As opposed to the SWP leadership and virtually all the other sects, Lenin was a master of getting to the heart of underlying socio-economic dynamics. In the early 1900s leading up to the “What is to be Done” conference, he tried to explain that “Economism” was a reflection of the more primitive, handicrafts phase of Russian capitalism when shops were smaller and more isolated. He noticed the great concentration of large factories in major cosmopolitan centers and concluded that a more professional and more generalized approach was needed in line with the changed circumstances.

Economism belonged to Russia’s past; orthodox Marxism was the way forward. He saw modern social democracy as corresponding to the highly complex and specialized nature of modern mass production. He saw socialist parties as the working-class equivalent of large-scale industrial plants. A centrally-managed, large-scale division of labor was needed to move the struggle forward, just as it was necessary to construct steam locomotives. Lenin was no enemy of capitalist technology and mechanization. Rather he sought to appropriate its positive features whenever necessary.

Isn’t it about time that Marxists began to explore the organizational forms and strategies that correspond to the world that William Robinson describes? If large-scale industrial plants (Fordism, in other words) are the forms appropriate to the party that Lenin built, should we not be thinking of post-Fordist methods of struggle that use the Internet in the same way that Lenin used Iskra? These are points I have been making for the past twenty years or so and please excuse me in advance for making them as long as I have breath to make them.

December 14, 2015

Radical takes on World War Two

Filed under: Fascism,imperialism/globalization,Syria,war — louisproyect @ 9:12 pm

For baby boomers the decision to join a Trotskyist group in the 1960s entailed coming to terms with WWII especially if you were a Jew. Unlike the Maoists (the CP was generally not an option in those wild times), the Trotskyists viewed the war as a continuation of the inter-imperialist disaster of 1914. As someone who became persuaded by Trotsky’s ideas, putting the war into historical context was made easier by the analysis of Ernest Mandel, a Jew and a member of the Belgian resistance during WWII so committed to class politics that he distributed anti-fascist leaflets to German troops whom he regarded as “workers in uniform”.

His 1976 essay “Trotskyists and the Resistance in World War Two” drew distinctions between the allies versus axis conflict and those that involved struggles for self-determination or the right of the USSR to defend itself from counter-revolution by any means necessary.

Ernest Mandel and the authors represented in Donny Gluckstein’s collection Fighting on All Fronts: Popular Resistance in the Second World War are part of a broader current that rose to prominence during the 1960s out of their “revisionist” take on the supposedly Good War. This includes Howard Zinn, whose chapter on WWII in a People’s History of the United States is titled “A People’s War?” and a number of New Leftist historians like Gabriel Kolko and Gar Alperovitz. To a large extent, Lyndon Johnson’s simultaneous embrace of New Deal domestic policies and the genocidal war in Vietnam forced leftist historians to come to terms with FDR’s historical legacy. The war that many of our fathers fought in, including my own who received a Bronze Star in the Battle of the Bulge, had to evaluated in the light of Marx’s “ruthless criticism of the existing order_, ruthless in that it will shrink neither from its own discoveries, nor from conflict with the powers that be.”

Donny Gluckstein is the son of Yigael Gluckstein, better known as Tony Cliff—the founder of the British SWP. He is a lecturer at Edinbergh College and a member of the SWP. He is also the author of A People’s History of the Second World War, a book that comes highly recommended based on the evidence of the new collection. I learned about Fighting on All Fronts from Tom O’Lincoln who contributed the article “Australia: A war of racism, imperialism and resistance”. I have known O’Lincoln for nearly twenty years as a cyber-comrade and have deep respect for his scholarship. He is a member of Socialist Alternative in Australia, a group that shares the SWP’s general theoretical approach but that is not part of its worldwide tendency. With Tom’s recommendation, I looked forward to reading Fighting on All Fronts since WWII “revisionism” is very close to my heart. Suffice it to say that I was not disappointed.

The book is divided into two parts: War in the West and War in the East. While every article is praiseworthy both in terms of the scholarship and the commitment to a class analysis so sorely missing nowadays, I would like to focus on one article from each part to serve as an introduction to a volume that excels from beginning to end.

Janey Stone’s “Jewish Resistance in Eastern Europe” is a stunning treatment of a topic that is of special interest to me as a Jew and a radical. Stone is a Jew whose mother lost most of her family in the Holocaust and who describes herself as an anti-Zionist. It delves into questions that go to the very heart of Jewish identity and survival. As she unravels the conflicting strands of Zionism, collaboration and working-class resistance, Stone tells a story that is simultaneously inspiring and dispiriting.

The brunt of her article is to challenge the idea that Jews went passively to their death in concentration camps, a view reinforced by both mainstream scholarship and popular culture, with “Schindler’s List” depicting Jews as lambs going to the slaughter and needing a Christian savior.

While nobody would apply the term savior to Jan Karski, a Pole and a Christian, his efforts on behalf of Jews would have made an interesting screenplay but arguably one that Hollywood would have dropped like a hot potato given its take on Roosevelt. Stone explains that after Karski prepared a report on the death camps in Eastern Europe that he discovered after penetrating the Warsaw Ghetto disguised as a Ukrainian soldier, he went to FDR to alert him to the impending human disaster. Karski was disappointed to discover that the president was more interested in the status of Polish horses than that of the nation’s Jews.

Ultimately it would be up to the Jews themselves to organize their defense with the Jewish Labor Bund providing most of the leadership. Stone describes the confrontation between Polish fascists who had been terrorizing Jewish shopkeepers and Jewish activists in 1938 that resulted in ambulances being summoned to carry off the battered thugs who had been lured into an ambush.

Stone tackles the stereotypical view of Poles as anti-Semites with copious evidence to the contrary, especially among the working class that was by and large committed to socialist politics. Furthermore, even in the peasantry, which was by no means as progressive as the workers, there was much more anti-Semitism among the wealthy farmers than those toward the bottom. When peasants organized a ten-day general strike in 1937, the Jews offered support. A Bundist youth leader reported: “During the strike you could see bearded Chassidim [religious Jews] on the picket lines along with peasants.”

Given the widespread attention to Hannah Arendt’s contention in Eichmann in Jerusalem that the Judenrat (Jewish council) was complicit in the extermination of millions of Jews, Stone’s nuanced treatment of this question is essential reading. Citing Lenni Brenner, whose research into this period is essential, Stone points out that Zionists were selected by the Nazis to staff the Judenrat more than all other political groups combined. The remainder came from the traditional Jewish religious establishment.

Some Judenrat figures were barely distinguishable from the Nazis, including Mordechai Rumkowski from the Lodz Ghetto who ran it as a slave labor camp. However, in most cases the collaborationists simply failed to support the Bundist underground and opposed all forms of struggle.

Despite such treachery, struggles did break out. Bundists were on the front lines but so were Labor Zionists. The Zionist officialdom might have made common cause with the Nazis but the more radical youth groups such as Hashomer Hatzair were willing to fight. However, not every Jew was strong enough to engage in combat. For many, the determination to survive was paramount. Setting up soup kitchens or creating art to raise peoples’ spirits was their way of joining the resistance. Even humor was used as a weapon. A joke made the rounds in this bleak world: A Jewish teacher asks his pupil, “Tell me, Moshe, what would you like to be if you were Hitler’s son?” An orphan was the reply.

Although Jews were most often left to their own devices to fight against the Nazi genocide, there were allies. As stated above, the Poles often acted in solidarity despite the fact that they risked certain death if discovered. Stone singles out Zegota, the Council to Aid Jews that was founded in 1944.

Zegota’s headquarters was the home of a Polish Socialist (Eugenia Wasowska) who had worked closely with the Bund. The organisation held “office hours” twice each week at which time couriers went in and out. Despite the enormous number of people who knew its location, the headquarters were never raided by the Germans. One “branch office” was a fruit and vegetable kiosk operated by Ewa Brzuska, an old woman known to everybody as “Babcia” (Granny). Babcia hid papers and money under the sauerkraut and pickle barrels and always had sacks of potatoes ready to hide Jewish children.

The best known Zegota activist is Irene Sendler, head of the children’s division. A social worker and a socialist, she grew up with close links to the Jewish community and could speak Yiddish. Sendler had protested against anti-Semitism in the 1930s: she deliberately sat with Jews in segregated university lecture halls and nearly got expelled. Irene Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them with false documents and sheltering them in individual and group children’s homes outside the ghetto.

Turning to William Crane’s article “Burma: Through two imperialisms to independence”, we are reminded that for many people living in the British Empire, Japan could appear as the lesser evil especially in a place like Burma where George Orwell worked as a cop. In his essay “Shooting an Elephant”, he reflected on the surly natives.

In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.

As was the case with India’s Congress Party, resistance to colonialism in Burma was fairly tame with native elites seeking an end to the sort of discrimination that was revealed in Orwell’s complaints. Its vanguard was the Young Man’s Buddhist Association that was founded in 1906 by a British-educated Burmese lawyer.

Eventually the movement grew more militant even if its leadership remained in the hands of the elites who referred to themselves as Thakins, the word for masters. In a new movement that emerged in the 1930s called We Burmans Association, the Thakins drew upon working class support to extract concessions from the British. Like many colonial elites living under British rule, the Burmese nationalists were seduced to some extent by fascist ideology. If “democracy” meant living under the British boot, it was no surprise that rival imperialisms might have a certain appeal.

But another rival to British capitalist democracy had even greater appeal, namely the USSR. In 1939 the first Communist cell was created in Burma under the leadership of an Indian named Narendra Dutt. Despite being a member of this cell, a man named Aung San decided in mid-1940 that an alliance with Japanese imperialism would be more useful for the cause of Burmese independence. He worked closely with Keiji Suzuki, a colonel in the Imperial army who had come to Burma disguised as a businessman and charged with the responsibility of lining up support from nationalists like Aung San, who was the father of Burma’s new president—a reformer who has shown little interest in attacking the deep state that has been in existence for many decades.

Along with other Thakins, Aun San constituted themselves as the Thirty Comrades who became the core of Burma’s wartime armed forces. They received training by the Japanese military in occupied China and began recruiting the men who would join with the Japanese in 1942 in a general assault on British rule. If your yardstick for judging political movements is based on how they lined up in WWII, you will certainly have condemned Aung San on an a priori basis. But as Trotsky pointed out in a 1938 essay titled “Learn to Think”, there are times when workers will find it advantageous to make temporary deals with fascist imperialism rather than its democratic rivals. The only caveat, of course, is that such deals are strictly pragmatic and strictly temporary.

Unfortunately in the case of Burma, the deal was more like a double-deal when the Japanese began their occupation. Aung San and his comrades had exchanged one colonial oppressor for another.

One of the most glaring examples of Japanese disregard for Burmese rights was the construction of a “Death Railway” that became the subject of Pierre Boulle’s novel “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” and the 1957 film directed by David Lean based on Boulle’s novel. You are probably aware that Alec Guinness played the British prisoner of war who in supervising the work crew made up of POW’s lost sight of its use to the Japanese war effort. He saw the bridge much more in terms of Britain’s “civilizing” role in places like India where railways and telegraphs supposedly outweighed colonial exploitation, even in the eyes of Karl Marx early in his career.

What the film leaves out was the costs of its construction on native lives. For that you need to read William Crane’s article:

The conditions for the native labourers in Burma were equivalent if not worse as they were unprotected by even the semblance of concern for the welfare of POWs. The railway upon its completion had consumed as many as 100,000 lives. But we need to draw no special conclusions about the Japanese psyche from the “Death Railway” or any of their other horrific crimes. For the Japanese were trying to catch up with the “civilised” empires of Britain and France, and in the course of this ended up competing with the death tolls they had accumulated over a much longer period of time during the few years of the war. The railway, like the Shoah in Eastern Europe, was the outcome of this process, the realisation of a dream that “projected Japanese dreams of industrial fortitude, economic robustness, and Asian domination”.

Like Donny Gluckstein’s collection, James Heartfield’s Unpatriotic History of World War Two belongs on the same bookshelf along with Zinn, Kolko and Alperovitz. Written in 2012, it is a close to a 500 page debunking of the Good War mythology that is filled with deep insights into how really bad it was. If the Gluckstein collection focuses more on the progressive movements that coincided with a savage bloodletting, Heartfield’s book concentrates much more on the latter. It would be difficult for anybody to read his book and be taken in by the Greatest Generation balderdash that continues to dominate the mainstream narratives of an inter-imperialist rivalry whose damage to humanity and nature alike remains unparalleled.

As many of you realize, I have been sharply critical of Spiked Online, a website that is the latest permutation of a one-time current on the British left known as the Revolutionary Communist Party that emerged as a split from the group that would become Tony Cliff’s Socialist Workers Party. While I generally found the contrarianism of the RCP problematic, particularly around environmental issues, I must admit that any influence it had on James Heartfield’s willingness to spend years of research to write this book that sticks its finger in the eye of the Good War nonsense is to be commended. With so much of the left ready to see the Russian adventure in Syria as a repeat of the war of liberation led by the Red Army against Nazi barbarism, it is of considerable importance to have a book like the Unpatriotic History in our arsenal.

One of the prime dispensers of WWII patriotic gore is the website Socialist Unity that counts John Wight as one of its primary contributors. At one time I considered it a useful resource for regroupment efforts such as the one that took place when RESPECT was a major player on the British left. But when it became obvious that its more fundamental purpose was to breathe life into the Great War mythology and Labour Party reformism, I realized that one’s attitude toward Winston Churchill remained a litmus test for the left. When Socialist Unity began posting “greatest generation” type nonsense about Churchill, I tried to remind Wight et al that the famine in Bengal was really not that great. Suffice it to say that the take on the famine at Socialist Unity amounted to a kind of genocide denial.

The chief value of Heartfield’s book is its copious documentation on how people such as Roosevelt, Churchill, and even Stalin were no better than the Japanese and Germans around a number of questions, particularly their treatment of working people who were cannon fodder and virtual slaves in wartime production when the elementary right to strike was viewed as treasonous.

Chapter Six of Unpatriotic History is titled “Imperialist War” and makes for essential reading. Like every other chapter, it is filled with revealing data and quotations from the warmakers that hoists them on their own petard. Heartfield cites Leo Amery, The Secretary of State for India:

After all, smashing Hitler is only a means to the essential end of preserving the British Empire and all it stands for in the world. It will be no consolation to suggest that Hitler should be replaced by Stalin, Chiang Kai-Shek or even an American President if we cease to exercise our power and influence in the world.

While promoted as a benign free trade policy, Roosevelt’s Open Door Policy was a bid to replace Britain as the world’s number one empire as Leo Amery clearly understood. After signing the Atlantic Charter, FDR articulated the kind of paternalism usually associated with his fifth cousin Theodore:

there seems no reason why the principle of trusteeship in private affairs should not be extended to the international field. Trusteeship is based on the principle of unselfish service. For a time at least there are many minor children among the peoples of the world who need trustees in their relations with other nations and peoples.

But the grand prize for overall depravity goes to Winston Churchill based on this account that clearly would have offended his fans at Socialist Unity:

At a Cabinet meeting on 10 November 1943, Prime Minister Churchill said Indians had brought famine on themselves because they were ‘breeding like rabbits’ and so would have to pay the price of their own improvidence. Churchill’s prejudices were backed up by his chief scientific advisor Frederick Lindemann, Lord Cherwell, in a letter the following day: ‘This shortage of food is likely to be endemic in a country where the population is always increased until only bare subsistence is possible.’ Cherwell carried on to turn the truth on its head, moaning as if it was Britain that was subsidising India, not the other way around:

After the war India can spend her huge hoards of sterling on buying food and thus increase the population still more, but so long as the war lasts her high birth rate may impose a heavy strain on this country [i.e. Britain] which does not view with Asiatic detachment the pressure of a growing population on limited supplies of food.

Let me conclude with some parting thoughts on the spate of World War Two nostalgia that has followed in the wake of Russian entry into the war on the Syrian people. On September 28th, Vladimir Putin made a speech at the UN proposing a coalition against ISIS similar to the one that united the USA, Britain and the USSR in World War Two.

What we actually propose is to be guided by common values and common interests rather than by ambitions. Relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism. Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, it could unite a broad range of parties willing to stand firm against those who, just like the Nazis, sow evil and hatred of humankind.

John Wight was obviously one person carried away by this rhetoric to the point of swooning. Showing that he would not be taken in by any weak-kneed aversion to the necessary tasks of a war on fascism, he informed his readers at Huffington Post and CounterPunch that firebombing Dresden and barrel-bombing open-air markets in Syria were not game-changers:

Barrel bombs are an atrociously indiscriminate weapon, for sure, and their use rightly comes under the category of war crime. However just as the war crime of the allied firebombing of Dresden in 1945 did not invalidate the war against European fascism then, neither does the atrocity of Syrian barrel bombs invalidate the war against its Middle East equivalent today. When the survival of a country and its culture and history is at stake, war can never be anything else but ugly, which is why the sooner it is brought to a conclusion in Syria the better.

This specious blast of hot air is so filled with bad faith and faulty logic that it would take a year to elaborate on all of its sinister implications. So let me take a minute to nail them down.

To begin with, the war between Germany and the USA was a war between empires. As Leo Amery stated above, “smashing Hitler is only a means to the essential end of preserving the British Empire and all it stands for in the world.” The democracy enjoyed by Britain was made possible only by its super-exploitation of India, Kenya, Burmese, Egypt, China, et al. This was obvious to anyone who has read Lenin even if it was lost on an aspiring Colonel Blimp like John Wight.

But the most important insight that can be gleaned by Wight’s invocation of the Good War is its affinity with a figure whose ghost walks across the parapet of the Assadist left, namely Christopher Hitchens. His footprints can be seen in all of the Islamophobic articles that appear on a daily basis from people like Wight, Mike Whitney and Pepe Escobar who recently referred to the anti-Assad fighters as “mongrels”, the kind of epithet that usually rolls off the tongues of Israeli politicians.

In 2008 Hitchens wrote an article titled “WW2, a War Worth Fighting” that essentially sums up the outlook of laptop bombardiers like John Wight and everybody else extolling the air war on Syrian rebels from the safety of their offices in the USA or Great Britain–especially the last sentence that jibes with Wight’s ghoulish musings on Dresden.

Is there any one shared principle or assumption on which our political consensus rests, any value judgment on which we are all essentially agreed? Apart from abstractions such as a general belief in democracy, one would probably get the widest measure of agreement for the proposition that the second world war was a “good war” and one well worth fighting. And if we possess one indelible image of political immorality and cowardice, it is surely the dismal tap-tap-tap of Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella as he turned from signing the Czechs away to Adolf Hitler at Munich. He hoped by this humiliation to avert war, but he was fated to bring his countrymen war on top of humiliation. To the conventional wisdom add the titanic figure of Winston Churchill as the emblem of oratorical defiance and the Horatius who, until American power could be mobilized and deployed, alone barred the bridge to the forces of unalloyed evil. When those forces lay finally defeated, their ghastly handiwork was uncovered to a world that mistakenly thought it had already “supped full of horrors.” The stark evidence of the Final Solution has ever since been enough to dispel most doubts about, say, the wisdom or morality of carpet-bombing German cities.

September 29, 2015

Will the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank be any different than the World Bank?

Filed under: Argentina,China,economics,imperialism/globalization,Latin America — louisproyect @ 10:33 pm

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The day before yesterday an article appeared on the Guardian website that had the aura of a Chinese government press release:

As world leaders met quietly behind the scenes, others lined up to express support for the new development push that aimed to eliminate both poverty and hunger over the next 15 years. They replace a soon-to-expire set of development goals whose limited success was largely due to China’s surge out of poverty over the past decade and a half.

China’s president vowed to help other countries make the same transformation. Xi said China would commit an initial $2bn to establish an assistance fund to meet the post-2015 goals in areas such as education, healthcare and economic development. He said China would seek to increase the fund to $12bn by 2030.

And Xi said China would write off intergovernmental interest-free loans owed to China by the least-developed, small island nations and most heavily debt-burdened countries due this year.

He said China “will continue to increase investment in the least developed countries,” and support global institutions, including the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that is due to launch by the end of the year and is seen as a Chinese alternative to the more western-oriented financial institutions of the World Bank.

After having read and reviewed Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia’s “BRICS: the anti-capitalist critique”, I am more skeptical than ever about Chinese altruism especially the role of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank referred to in the last paragraph above.

I was also puzzled by the provenance of the article since it was included with others in the category “Sustainable Global Development” that was support4ed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is described as follows:

This website is funded by support provided, in part, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Content is editorially independent and its purpose is to focus on global development, with particular reference to the millennium development goals and their transition into the sustainable development goals from 2015.

All our journalism follows GNM’s published editorial code. The Guardian is committed to open journalism, recognising that the best understanding of the world is achieved when we collaborate, share knowledge, encourage debate, welcome challenge and harness the expertise of specialists and their communities.

I confess that I have as much confidence in this foundation’s commitment to sustainable development as I do in the Windows Operation System, especially for their promotion of the Green Revolution, an application of chemicals to food production that has led to all sorts of problems as I indicated here: https://louisproyect.org/2009/09/20/food-imperialism-norman-borlaug-and-the-green-revolution/

In an article for Huffington Post, Richard Javad Heydarian, the author of the forthcoming “Asia’s New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for Western Pacific State”, casts a skeptical gaze over the Chinese gifts to the developing world, reporting on the Philippines’s encounter with the China EximBank, an entity that the new bank will likely mimic:

Under the Arroyo administration (2001-2010), the Philippines’ National Broadband Network (NBN) signed a $329.5 million contract with China’s ZTE Corp. to upgrade its facilities and communications network. It also signed the $431 million Northrail infrastructure contract, which was awarded to China National Machinery and Industry Corp. (Sinomach) and largely financed by the China EximBank.

The NBN-ZTE venture, however, would be mired in a massive corruption scandal, after investigations revealed huge kickbacks, cost inflations, and irregularities in the contract. Failing to meet laws requiring competitive bidding, the Philippines’ Supreme Court, meanwhile, struck down the Northrail project.

The common perception in the Philippines is that the ZTE and Northrail contracts were some sort of bribe to pressure/persuade the Arroyo administration to compromise on South China Sea and sign up to the controversial and secretive Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) agreement in 2005, which was deemed unconstitutional and in violation of Philippine national patrimony and requirements for transparency and consultations with other branches of the government, particularly the legislature.

During his recent visit to Tokyo, Philippine President Beningo Aquino also complained about the alleged decision of the China EximBank to prematurely demand drawdowns from its Northrail project loan at the risk of default. In short, Aquino suggested that China wanted to punish his government for standing up to China by using its loan payment card.

In a CounterPunch article dated March 6, 2015, Ecuadorian journalist Raul Zibechi considered the possibility that Chinese investments in Latin America could have a different character than what the Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank offered. Initially China was focused on mineral extraction and agricultural commodities such as soybeans but in the more recent period, it has invested in areas that depart from the traditional colonizing relationship between the core and the periphery. They include arms manufacturing in Latin America, which offers the possibility of ancillary benefits to the non-military sector just as was the case with radar after WWII, and infrastructure. He points to the construction of two hydroelectric dams in the Santa Cruz province. One is named the Kirchner after the late President and the other is called the Cepernic after the late governor of the province. Another ostensibly worthwhile project is the upgrade of railway equipment, including cars to renovate dilapidated trains. So how can you be like the old-time Anglo-American imperialists when you are building dams and modernizing the railway system in Argentina? How dare you stand in the way of progress?

If the goal is “sustainable development”, it is doubtful that there is much difference between the World Bank when it comes to hydroelectric dams. The Dialogo Chino website that is dedicated to tracking the impact of Chinese investment in Latin America referred to these dams as “mired in environmental conflict” in a February 13, 2015 article.

Experts claim the maximum level of the Kirchner dam, at the same average level of the Argentino Lake, is unsuitable, increasing the level of the lake and causing tides that will erode the front of the Perito Moreno glacier and stop the traditional blocks of ice breaking off, a phenomenon that attracts thousands of tourists.

The controversy is not without precedent. Across the border in Chile, also in Patagonia, the HidroAysén project would have resulted in the construction of five hydroelectric power plants, two on the River Baker and three on the River Pascua. However, fierce criticism from environmental groups and indigenous communities resulted in a council of ministers rejecting the project last year.

“The dam will be fed from the lake, whose level will rise and fall to meet Buenos Aires’ energy requirements and consumption. The glacier will not be immune to variations and their erosive effects,” argues Gerardo Bartolomé, the engineer at the head of an online petition aiming to ensure the correct environmental studies are carried out for the dams.

Similarly, Juan Pablo Milana, a glaciologist and researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), believes the dams will cause irreversible damage to the Spegazzini and Upsala glaciers.

“The glaciers are already subject to the forces of nature and introducing further changes is complicated. Increasing the level of the Argentino Lake will create a flotation effect. Lower water pressure at the base of the glacier will not only cause detachment of ice but will also change the way it breaks off,” explains Milana.

It seems that the Chinese engineers overseeing the project worked on the Three Gorges Dam so you can get an idea of how much thought has gone into the environmental impact in Argentina.

Finally on the question of Argentina’s rail system. Pardon me for sounding like an unrepentant Marxist but when I hear about improvements to a transportation system that is primarily intended to haul commodities from the interior of a country to its seaports, I reach for my revolver.

This is an article I wrote on the construction of railroads in Argentina in the 19th century as part of a series on the financial crisis in the country back in 2002. Somehow I doubt that China’s intentions are any nobler than Great Britain’s.

The Collapse of Argentina, part one: Railway Imperialism

As the Argentine economic collapse began to deepen, I decided to search for radical or Marxist literature on the country written in English to help me understand the situation better. This proved futile (although I continue to be open to recommendations). Nestor Gorojovsky, an Argentine revolutionary who I have been in touch with on the Internet or by phone for at least five years now, could recommend nothing. (His own efforts at a Marxist overview of Argentine history can be found at: http://www.marxmail.org/archives/january99/argentina.htm.) Not even after posting an inquiry to the H-LatinAmerica list, whose subscribers are exclusively academic specialists, were any recommendations forthcoming.

Taking the bull by the horns, I plan now to fill this gap beginning now with a series of posts based on scholarly material from Columbia University’s library. Although I do plan to review literature on Argentina written in Spanish, most of the source material for my posts will be in English, a language that I am more comfortable with when it comes to higher-level analysis.

My own involvement with Argentina dates back to the mid 1970s when I was drawn into a faction fight within the world Trotskyist movement over political perspectives in Argentina. The two main antagonists in the debate were the late Joe Hansen, Trotsky’s bodyguard at Coyoacan and a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, and the late Ernest Mandel, the renowned Belgian economist who was on the executive committee of the International Secretariat. The Americans and their mostly English-speaking followers (I use the word advisedly) backed a Trotskyist group in Argentina that appeared to be implementing their own orthodox approach.

Led by the late Nahuel Moreno, this group participated in trade union struggles, the student movement and opposed the ultraleftist guerrilla formations that were kidnapping North American executives or hijacking trucks in order to dispense meat and other goods in poor neighborhoods like Marxist Robin Hoods. It was one of these groups that the Mandel faction backed. Although they paid lip service to Trotsky, these Argentine guerrillas organized as the PRT/Combatiente were more interested in applying Regis Debray’s foquismo theory to the urban sector.

My role in all this was to battle the Mandel supporters in Houston, Texas who held a near majority in the branch and whose affinity for guerrilla warfare was open to question. Most were disaffected from the SWP leadership, whose alleged “petty-bourgeois” orientation to the student movement was supposedly leading the party to ruin. A couple of years later, the SWP leadership would go completely overboard in a kind of ‘workerist’ orientation to the trade unions, thus robbing the dissidents of their raison d’etre. By the time this turn had taken place, the SWP and the Fourth International had parted ways. As a local leader of the anti-Mandel faction, I had the opportunity to spend long hours in discussion with Argentine co-thinkers who visited Houston to give reports for our faction. Security was extremely tight in those days and I had to check my 1968 Dodge Dart for bombs before driving any of them to a public engagement.

During that intense struggle, I gained a deep appreciation for the Argentine people, their culture and their revolutionary will. Although I grieve to see their personal suffering today, I am inspired to see them acting collectively for a better country and world. One hopes that their heroic example can begin to erode the “TINA” mood that has affected wide sections of the left since 1990.

In this first post, I want to address the question of Argentina’s “golden age”, a notion that you can find in many left publications or on the Internet. In this version of Argentine history, the country is seen as an exception to the rest of Latin America where conventional notions of “imperialism” and “dependency” might not apply.

For example, British state capitalist theoretician Chris Harman writes:

Argentina is an industrial country, with a higher proportion of its workforce in industry than in Britain. It’s also a country where working people have, within living memory, experienced living standards close to west European levels. It was known as the ‘granary of the world’ at the beginning of the 20th century, with an economy very much like that of Australia, New Zealand or Canada, centred the massive production of foodstuffs on giant capitalist farms for the world market. Relatively high wages made it a magnet for millions of immigrants from Italy and Spain who brought traditions of industrial militancy with them.

Brad DeLong, an economist who held a post in the Clinton administration and who is a ubiquitous figure on leftwing electronic mailing lists, wrote the following on Progressive Economists Network (PEN-L):

As I said quite a while ago, Argentina was a first world country–like Canada, Australia, or New Zealand–up until the 1950s. Arguments that development possibilities were constrained by relative backwardness may work elsewhere: they don’t make *any* sense for Argentina.

If views like these are meant to support a kind of Argentine exception to the Leninist concept of imperialism or its subsequent elaborations such as the Baran-Sweezy theory of monopoly capitalism, they are mistaken. They would fail to see Argentina’s role in the world capitalist system, which–despite favorable moments–has been that of victim of imperialism. Comparisons with the USA, Canada, etc. are specious, even if in a given year income or other statistics were comparable. The *structural* questions are far more important for understanding Argentina. Despite the presence of European immigrants, industrialization, national independence, the lack of feudal-like latifundias, etc., Argentina had much more in common with direct colonies in the 19th century like India.

Specifically, one of the main factors that led to Argentine dependency was its reliance on British capital and expertise for the construction of railways in the 19th century. Just as was the case in India, these steam-driven showplaces of modernization did nothing but drain the country of capital and force it into a secondary role in the world economy.

If one is a Marx “literalist,” there can obviously be a lot of confusion about the introduction of railways into Argentina or India, especially when Marx wrote:

I know that the English millocracy intend to endow India with railways with the exclusive view of extracting at diminished expense the cotton and other raw materials for their manufactures. But when you have once introduced machinery into locomotion of a country, which possesses iron and coals, you are unable to withhold it from its fabrication. You cannot maintain a net of railways over immense country without introducing all those industrial processes necessary to meet the immediate and current wants of railway locomotion, and out of which there must grow the application of machinery to those branches of industry not immediately connected with railways. The railways system will therefore become, in India, truly the forerunner of modern industry.” (“The Future Results of British Rule in India,” NY Daily Tribune, Aug. 8, 1853)

In contrast to these early hopeful writings, before Marxism had developed an understanding of the negative role of imperialism, the historical record demonstrates that foreign owned railways did not lead dependent countries to become anything like the those of the investors, engineers and builders from the core. Rather than serving as a catalyst for Argentine industry, they did nothing except enrich British finance capital, the nefarious Barings Bank in particular. For a scholarly treatment of this subject, we can turn to Alejandro Bendaña’s 1979 PhD dissertation “British Capital and Argentine Dependence 1816-1914”. (Bendaña was a senior level Sandinista official who served as ‘responsable’ with Tecnica, the volunteer organization I was involved with in the 1980s. He continues to participate in the radical movement, nowadays with the Center for International Studies in Managua and the Jubilee Campaign against 3rd world debt.)

The most important sector of the Argentine ruling class in the 19th century was the ‘estancieros’, or ranchers. From 1820 onwards, they began to develop an alliance with British capital, which was seen as strategic for the goal of exploiting the country’s land-based riches. Arising from within its ranks, Juan Manuel de Rosas emerged as the primary spokesman for this class. British merchants played an important role in guaranteeing the Argentine rancher access to world markets. Smiling benignly on this interdependence, the British consul wrote:

the manufactures of Great Britain are becoming articles of prime necessity. The gaucho is everywhere clothed in them. Take his whole equipment – examine everything about him – and what is there not of raw hide that is not British? If his wife has a gown, ten to one that it is made at Manchester; the camp-kettle in which he cooks his food, the earthenware he eats from, the knife, his poncho, spurs, bit, all are imported from England. . . Who enables him to purchase these articles? Who buys his master’s hides, and enables that master to employ and pay him? Who but the foreign trader. Stop the trade with foreign nations, and how long would it be before the gaucho would be reduced to the state of the Indian of the Pampas, fed on his beef and horse-flesh, and clothed in the skins of wild beasts? (Bendaña, p. 34)

However, one important piece was missing from this jigsaw puzzle. Unless a modern railway system was introduced into the country, Argentine goods would be not as competitive with those of countries which could deliver beef, hides, and etc. to seaports in a much shorter time over rail rather than horse-back. Furthermore, unless workers and managers could make reasonably quick trips over rail between cities and rural points of production, the entire system would lack the kind of internal cohesion that other capitalist countries enjoyed. From the standpoint of classical economics, one would think that it would be to the mutual benefit of English and Argentine capitalist classes to develop a kind of partnership. Instead, what transpired has much more in common with the con games of the 1990s in which Wall Street banks got rich at the expense of the Argentine people. Except, in the 19th century, it was Barings Bank rather than Goldman-Sachs that was doing the robbing.

To look after its interests in this vastly ambitious railroad-building enterprise, the Argentine government named North American William Wheelwright as its agent. They were overly optimistic. After making the rounds in British banking houses, Wheelwright said in 1863 that a deal could be done only on the following basis:

–The land grant must be doubled (land adjacent to the tracks given free to the railroad company.)

–45 percent of the railroad revenue would be counted as working expenses.

–The profit ceiling would be raised to 15 percent, more than triple the norm.

–Most importantly, the expropriation clause would be eliminated.

Although the Argentine ruling class and its British partners were committed to liberalism in the economic sphere (the model for 1980s-90s neoliberalism), this loan-sharking deal had nothing to do with free market principles. Such concessions could only reflect the internal weaknesses of a bourgeoisie that relied on cattle ranching, as opposed to the British ruling class that had accumulated vast amounts of capital through manufacturing, and then finance.

When the shares for Central Rail, the new British-owned railroad, sold sluggishly, the bankers demanded further concessions. No longer would working expenses be limited to 45 percent, they would be *whatever the company accountants said they were*. So, not only do you get concessions forced down the throat of the Argentine government, you get an 1860s version of the kind of accounting that Arthur Anderson did on behalf of the Enron crooks.

To make sure that all the Central shares got sold, the British investors demanded that the Argentine government buy 2000 shares, which is a little bit like asking someone being hijacked to drive the truck. An Argentine Minister glumly commented:

We are faced with having to lower our heads for all these demands and any other ones that may be put before us given our nation’s need for the railway’s benefits and our own incapacity to secure these by any other means. (Bendaña, p. 93)

Finally, in the May of 1870, 17 years after the original conception and 7 years after work began, the first locomotive arrived in Córdoba. Over the course of the 1870s, the Argentine state provided nearly 40 percent of the guaranteed profits for the new railroad. In a nutshell, the wealth of the country was being drained to make sure that British investors enjoyed super-profits. Furthermore, the British enterprise was tax-exempt. This turned out to be a bonanza for the Central Argentine Land Company that came into existence in 1871. Unlike the railroad, commercial exploitation within land claim areas were far less risky and had no particular claim to the kind of tax-exempt status enjoyed by large-scale capital projects. Once again, the weak Argentine bourgeoisie had been given an offer that it couldn’t refuse.

With British technological superiority, one might at least hope that the new railway would provide adequate service. As it turned out, the Argentine people had ended up with a Yugo rather than a Rolls-Royce. Public complaints about service and rates grew legion.

Central was just the first in a series of white elephants. Next came the Northern, the Eastern, and the Great Western Railways, all financed by the British and all imposing larcenous penalties on the people of Argentina. A government audit revealed that the East Argentine railroad was marked by an excess of employees (exclusively English at high salaries), overly generous salaries for company directors, inadequate rolling stock, dubious accounting procedures, and bloated operating costs.

When such exploitation operates in open view, one might ask why the Argentine capitalists did not rebel. After all, if one is committed to national development, then one must allow oneself the ultimate weapon against foreign exploiters: expropriation. Unfortunately, except for the urban middle-class, such calls were not made. As is the case today, the dominant fraction of the national bourgeoisie lost its nerve. And like today, the ideological excuse for inaction was a commitment to the “free market.” The estancieros regarded their own economic well-being as synonymous with the extension of railway lines made possible by foreign investment.

When the harsh reality of British theft collided with the delusional schemas of the local bourgeoisie, voices of dissent began to be heard in parliament. Why couldn’t the nation redeem itself through seizure of properties that were based on criminality to begin with? Even the conservative “La Nación” asked in 1872:

Can and should the state build all railways itself and expropriate existing ones? We do not believe that the benefits of state railways should necessarily carry us to the latter consequence . . . Although the country cannot afford expropriation now or for many years to come, there may come a day when revenue and necessity may, possessed of means and facing a need for new lines, expropriation might become convenient. (Bendaña, p. 152)

Skilled as they were in keeping the natives at bay, the British turned to one defense after another. They bribed ministers, congressmen and railroad bureau officials to vote against nationalist legislation or to look the other way when laws were being broken. When this proved insufficient, the British were not above gunboat diplomacy. In late 1875, the British bank in Rosario suddenly demanded immediate repayment of railroad notes as part of a maneuver to destroy local financial competitors. When the nationalist-minded local governor in Santa Fe sided with his countrymen, the British sent their navy to blockade the city. Buenos Aires caved in to the show of force and the British won their demands without a shot being fired. Bendaña cites H. S. Ferns’s “Britain and Argentina in the Nineteenth Century”:

“prosperity had created a nation of boosters, and the porteños (Buenos Aires elites) looked at the Governor of Santa Fe as Pierpont Morgan might have regarded William Jennings Bryan.” (p. 258)

By 1913, Great Britain owned 95.8 percent of all private railways in Argentina. That amounted to 60.2 percent of total British investment in the country. The economic consequences on the nation were enormous. Arturo Castaño, a legislative deputy and rail expert, warned:

“the more the railways extend themselves, the greater will be the economic disruptions, and the greater will be the migration to the cities from the provinces. A third of our national production is absorbed by the railways, without the Executive being able to intervene in rate-making due to an administrative system which favors the companies.”

Indeed, when foreign capitalists absorb a THIRD of national production, the question of imperialism has to be addressed.

The railway era lasted about a century. The first 3 decades, from 1830 to 1860, were a time of rapid expansion in the imperial centers. The spread of railways into Asia, Africa and Latin America did not produce concomitant benefits. Although Cecil Rhodes characterized railroads as “philanthropy plus 5 percent,” the profits were always far higher and the progress realized in countries such as Argentina was far less than advertised.

In my next post, I will take up the question of Juan Perón and his legacy.

September 18, 2015

BRICS: the anti-capitalist critique

Filed under: Counterpunch,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 7:36 pm

Thick as BRICS: an Illusory Alternative to Neoliberalism

Author of Revitalizing Marxist Theory for Today’s Capitalism and other books written in defense of classical Marxism, University of Manitoba professor Radhika Desai probably spoke for the majority of the left when she wrote a Guardian op-ed piece titled “The Brics are building a challenge to western economic supremacy”. Key to this challenge was the creation of a Development Bank that can serve as an alternative to the IMF and the World Bank. As she put it:

The Brics countries do have a mortar that binds them: their common experience, and rejection, of the neoliberal development model of the past several decades and the western-dominated IMF and the World Bank that still advocate it. Their rapid development over the previous couple of decades was despite, not because of, this. Countries whose governments were able and willing to resist this model developed faster.

At the heart of her analysis is the notion of “development”, a term somewhat distinct from the socialist aspirations of earlier generations but one clearly in sync with a chastened left that while not quite agreeing with Margaret Thatcher’s TINA, does see some good in putting people to work on state-sponsored projects that generate tax revenues and raise the standard of living. If it isn’t socialism, at least it is some kind of New Deal. If a capitalism based on “neoliberalism” is to be avoided at all costs, why not opt for a more progressive and humane capitalism that is the “lesser evil”? If this sounds like the argument that some activists make for voting for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders, you may be on to something.

At least some people resting on the foundations of Marxism disagree with Desai. In a newly published collection of articles by Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia titled BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique, you can find powerful arguments making the case that this supposed alternative to neoliberalism is no alternative at all. Whatever your stance on this debate, you would be well served by reading this book since it will enable you to make an informed political decision. It should be added that Pluto Press has published both Radhika Desai and this new book so they deserve kudos for helping the left keep abreast of important theoretical challenges.

Read full article

August 23, 2015

“Anti-imperialist” schemas versus BRICS reality

Filed under: economics,imperialism/globalization,mechanical anti-imperialism — louisproyect @ 6:47 pm

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.40.02 PM

Mike Whitney: The dollar is toast. The IMF is toast. The US debt market (US Treasuries) is toast.  The institutions that support US power are crumbling before our very eyes. The BRICS have had enough; enough war, enough Wall Street, enough meddling and hypocrisy and austerity and lecturing. This is farewell.

UJUH: South Africa is pushing two high profile candidates into the top leadership layer of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB).

These two are Tito Mboweni who has been appointed as the Non-Executive Director to the Board of the BRICS New Development Bank and Lesley Maasdorp who has been nominated to become one of four Vice Presidents of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB).

When the World Economic Forum named Maasdorp as a Young Global Leader in 2007, he was already a matured leader. This is after serving the ANC’s economic desk in the pre 1994 era and then graduating into public service. He served as a special advisor to the minister of labour, Tito Mboweni. He then moved to become deputy director in the department of public enterprises where he oversaw major state assets restructuring and privatisation of the time. Maasdorp broke into the top business league in the mid 2000s with positions at different intervals that included; President of Bank of America Merrill Lynch for Southern Africa, Vice Chairman of Barclays Capital and Absa Capital and International Adviser to Goldman Sachs.

Andre Vltchek: “Among the BRICS, there is no place for countries that are siding with the colonialist powers, as there is no place for those nations that are tormenting and sacrificing their own people. For now it is still just an acronym of the countries, its members. But soon, who knows, it may be interpreted as the Broad Revolutionary Internationalist Causeway towards Socialism.”

RT.com: While investors drop Greece like a hot potato Russian and Chinese companies plan to take part in the privatization of Greek state assets, considering them a good investment.

Russia’s leading gas producer Gazprom is considering taking part in the privatization of the Greek gas company DEPA and grid operator DESFA. The Greek Government is currently inviting bids for DEPA, but it plans to keep 34% of DESFA, Reuter reports.

Experts estimate a controlling stake in DEPA would cost about $1.5 billion.

In June 2014, I wrote a commentary on the question of Russian imperialism, making the case that even if it didn’t meet the yardstick established by Lenin in 1914, it was still imperialist in the same sense that Japan was in the 1930s or for that matter Czarist Russia, which colonized nations on its borders. On the other side of the debate, Roger Annis maintained that there are no significant Russian or Chinese banks so how can they be imperialist?

That may be the case but the New Development Bank is projected to be a competitor to the World Bank and a major financier of 3rd world development projects that would supposedly put the interests of the people over profits. Somehow this does not seem to square with Marx’s theory of capitalism but that would not seem to deter people like Mike Whitney and especially Andre Vltchek who views China as following its own rules and not that of a Westerner like Karl Marx: “Only the Western thinkers can define such things as ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’, not Asians, and ‘Chinese socialism’ means nothing to them; it is just a pose, a charade.”

For many BRICS has a totemic quality, as if there could be such a thing as “good capitalism” as opposed to the demonic, mustache-twirling variety found on Wall Street or London’s financial district. I was reminded of that just today when Ron Jacobs forwarded an interview with Thomas Mountain to Marxmail. Mountain turns out to be a former member of Robert Avakian’s cult who retains a soft spot in his heart for China as if the old-time spirit of Maoism lingered on:

Chinese aid has built more schools, hospitals, water and electric infrastructure than all the western governments and the UN combined, and is set to do much more if the present programs that have been announced are implemented. China recognizes that Africa needs educated and skilled personnel to help develop African resources and it is in China’s interest to help make this happen. Again, doing this is a long term investment that will pay off for China, both in good will and in their companies’ bottom lines.

So maybe colonialism is not such a bad thing as long as it has Chinese characteristics? Well, maybe Mountain had the early writings of Karl Marx in mind who thought that the British colonization of India had some benefits: “The political unity of India, more consolidated, and extending farther than it ever did under the Great Moguls, was the first condition of its regeneration. That unity, imposed by the British sword, will now be strengthened and perpetuated by the electric telegraph.” (Of course, years later Marx explicitly renounced these views and equated British rule to grand larceny.)

Is this far-fetched? Comparing China to Victorian England? Not if you read what Nick Turse has to say about the Chinese presence in newly independent South Sudan:

Hungry for energy reserves, minerals, and other raw materials to fuel its domestic growth, China’s Export-Import Bank and other state-controlled entities regularly offer financing for railroads, highways, and other major infrastructure projects, often tied to the use of Chinese companies and workers. In exchange, China expects long-term supplies of needed natural resources. Such relationships have exploded in the new century with its African trade jumping from $10 billion to an estimated $200 billion, which far exceeds that of the United States or any European country. It has now been Africa’s largest trading partner for the last five years and boasts of having struck $400 billion worth of deals in African construction projects which have already yielded almost 1,400 miles of railroad track and nearly 2,200 miles of highways.

A civil war in South Sudan has recently imperiled China’s interests. It was forced to withdraw 300 oil workers when forces hostile to the government threatened them. As an indication of the UN’s willingness to come to the aid of stability whenever the natives get too restless, just as was the case in the Congo in Lumumba’s time, the Blue Helmets are there to “keep the peace”. It is of some significance that China has sent detachments of the PLA to help them out.

For those who like their politics kept simple if not stupid, the whole idea of the BRICS is to counter the power of Wall Street. That being the case, can I make a pitch for being able to handle complexity? Like understanding that Lloyd Blankfein is just fine with BRICS (obviously the two honchos from South Africa with ties to Goldman joining the new BRICS bank serving as all the evidence you should need). Turns out the scumbag-in-chief of Goldman-Sachs went over to China to give his blessing to the New Development Bank at Tsinghua University. You can watch him chatting it up with the dean of the business school here, a chap named Qian Yingyi:

Qian doesn’t seem to understand that the BRICS countries are on a collision course with Western financial interests, at least based on the evidence of the men he has appointed to the business school’s advisory board: Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, Citigroup Inc.’s Michael Corbat, Blackstone Group’s Steve Schwarzman, Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein and Carlyle Group’s co-founder David Rubenstein.

So the obvious question is whether this business about rival hegemonic blocs, with the West being Evil and the BRICS being Good, makes any sense with Goldman-Sachs’s bromance with someone like Qian Yingyi. Of course, we should never forget that it was a Goldman-Sachs big-shot who first got gung-ho on this development, even coining the term BRIC (before South Africa was added.) Jim O’Neill wrote “Building Better Global Economic BRICs” in 2001. It is mostly a call for figuring out how to make money in emerging markets and contains none of the hysterical warnings about how Wall Street is threatened by a new white-horse riding hegemon.

One of the interesting theoretical questions that arises out of all this is whether the old understanding of imperialist rivalry based on 1914 and 1940 make much sense in understanding today’s world. I would offer this as a potential research topic. WWI and WWII were ignited by rival nationalist agendas in line with defending capitalist industry. Protectionism via tariffs was the name of the game.

But over the past 30 years or so, capital is much less interested in building walls around local industry, as the hollowed out shells of Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh would indicate.

In a brief chat with Patrick Bond at the Rosa Luxemburg conference in NYC this weekend, I raised the question of whether Lenin’s much-heralded book on imperialism is that useful in understanding today’s world. He suggested that Rosa Luxemburg’s writings are more relevant in many ways. Hmmm. Given her affinity with David Harvey’s analysis, which places an emphasis on capital’s ability to take flight and move wherever a profit can be made, that’s something that makes a lot of fucking sense.

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