Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 6, 2021

Edge of the World

Filed under: Film,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 10:49 pm

“Edge of the World” is a biopic about James Brooke, the British ex-officer who became the Rajah of Sarawak in 1842. The film allows you to have a look at an obscure figure who was something of an outlier in the emerging British Empire even if it is through a funhouse mirror. He is portrayed as a benign figure who only agreed to become a Rajah to put an end to the slavery and beheading in a region in the northwest corner of the island of Borneo.

When he read a reference to Brooke in a footnote in a George MacDonald Fraser novel back in 2009, screenwriter Rob Allyn became consumed by the idea of making a film about a “good” colonist. When the film begins, Brooke and several other British army veterans arrive on the beach in Sarawak with the sole intention of collecting rare plants and animals, not extending the rule of Queen Victoria. If you’ve seen “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, you’ll be struck by his similarities with Russell Crowe’s ship surgeon who was far more interested in discovering new species than in seizing territory on behalf of the Crown. Not only that, Allyn’s Brooke repeatedly referred to his disillusionment with the role the British played in India—like Daniel Ellsberg breaking with imperialism after seeing the reality of Vietnam as a Marine.

Despite being an obscure figure, Brooke excited the imagination of writers far more important than Allyn. He was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”, a 1888 story about two British soldiers who become “kings” of Kafiristan, a remote part of Afghanistan. A very good John Huston movie based on the Kipling story starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine came out in 1975. Ironically, despite Allyn’s Brooke denouncing the idea of a “white man’s burden”, his character has far more in common with colonialism than Kipling’s grifters.

Brooke also became the model for Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim”, even if only in the second half of the novel. Despite any reference to Conrad having prior knowledge about Brooke, the similarities between his plot and the White Rajah are so pronounced that scholars will always be looking for hard evidence. Unlike Brooke, Jim is a common sailor like Kipling’s characters, endears himself to Malaysian villagers by fending off a bandit that has been terrorizing them after who the fashion of “Seven Samurai”. For his efforts, they begin to refer to him as “tuan” Jim, or Lord Jim. Postcolonial scholars don’t see the novel as advanced politically as “Heart of Darkness”, but they do see Jim as an example of Kipling’s “civilizing mission”.

Allyn not only portrays Brooke as renouncing imperial ambitions but as someone who “goes native” after the fashion of “Dances with Wolves” or the disabled lead character in “Avatar” who chooses to leave his human shell to become a big blue avatar. A key feature of the film is Brooke’s bromance with a Sarawak prince who clearly has a homosexual desire for the British Rajah that is never requited. However, most Brooke scholars surmise that he too was a homosexual who enjoyed sex with his subjects.

The main conflict in the film is between Brooke and Mahkota, a Sarawak warlord who coveted the title of Rajah and routinely beheaded the pirates that preyed on the island’s villagers. Law and order hardly meant very much in a place that was marked by a very loose interpretation of Islam and animistic beliefs. In the concluding scenes of “Edge of the World”, Brooke learns that he has to abandon his semi-pacifist ideals and destroy Mahkota to save “his” Sarawak. He ends up beheading the warlord and making Sarawak an idyllic place both for the natives and British investors exploiting its resources. Brooke and his descendants ruled Sarawak until WWII when the Japanese occupied Borneo.

Suffice it to say that most of “Edge of the World” is pure hokum. Brooke wrote a letter in 1846 in which he revealed his true goals. “Sarawak is very flourishing, and I look forward to a fair revenue from it in a few years without distress to its inhabitants”. In the film, the White Rajah’s mansion Astana is anything but. It sits on stilts and is about the size of a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey, but windowless and sans indoor plumbing. In reality, Brooke’s mansion looks like this:

As for Allyn’s fixation on Brooke after reading a reference to him in a George MacDonald Fraser novel, I wonder if it is the one below since his character is obviously consistent with Fraser’s shrewd assessment:

 Brooke was one of the Victorians who gave empire-building a good name, whose worse faults, perhaps, were that he loved adventure for its own sake, had an unshakable confidence in the civilizing mission of himself and his race, and enjoyed fighting pirates. His philosophy, being typical of his class and time, may not commend itself universally today, but an honest examination of what he actually did will discover more to praise than to blame.

Of course, Allyn chose to ignore the business about Brooke’s “unshakable confidence in the civilizing mission of himself and his race” when writing his screenplay. That would only undermine his hagiographic film.

However, even his superiors in Queen Victoria’s court found him taking advantage of his power, even charging him with using what amounted to war crimes against the indigenous pirates who were far less lethal than the ships the Europeans sent around the world. After all, Brooke arrives on the shores of Sarawak with a sloop appropriately named “Royalist” with its six cannons used to subdue both pirates and warlords.

“Edge of the World” is available as VOD on June 21. Only recommended for those like me with a morbid curiosity.

August 29, 2020

Made in Bangladesh

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,trade unions — louisproyect @ 9:26 pm

Yesterday, “Made in Bangladesh” opened as Virtual Cinema and on Amazon Prime. It is a gritty neo-realist tale of an attempt to form a union in a small garment shop in Dakha, the capital of Bangladesh. Like “Norma Rae”, the film has a plucky woman challenging the boss and the leadfooted government agency that certifies trade unions.

The film is set in an actual sweatshop in Dakha and shows the super-exploitation and personal humiliation the 68 female women operating sewing machines and irons have to put up with. Written and directed by a woman–Rubaiyat Hossain—it depicts how patriarchy oppresses women both as workers and as wives. The lead character is named Shimu (Rikita Nandini Shimu), a 23-year old who ran off to Dakha in her teens to escape being married off to a 40-year old man. To help her make it through the first few days in Dakha, she steals her father’s wallet. This is a woman with little regard for patriarchal norms.

Shimu is married to  Sohel (Mostafa Monwar), an observant, unemployed Muslim, who despite being reliant on his wife’s meager wages, lords it over her—or at least tries to. When she takes on the role of getting co-workers to sign up for the union, she gains self-confidence in herself and finally the nerve to act independently of Sohel’s dictates.

The final scene consists of Shimu in a stand-off with the bureaucrat who has been sitting on the papers she has submitted for approving the union. It is truly inspiring. Three years ago I reviewed a documentary about Indian textile workers titled “Machines”. My strong advice is to see the two films in tandem. (“Machines” is available on Amazon Prime.) What I said about “Machines” applies to “Made in Bangladesh” as well:

Filmed almost entirely in a vast dungeon of a textile mill in Gujarat, it is hard not to see the workers as being an extension of the machines they operate. Marx described such factory life in Chapter 10 of V. 1 of Capital, titled “The Working Day”:

It usurps the time for growth, development, and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It higgles over a meal-time, incorporating it where possible with the process of production itself, so that food is given to the labourer as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, grease and oil to the machinery.

This is exactly what you see in “Machines”, a process in which workers are slaves to the machine. It is what Charlie Chaplin depicted comically in “Modern Times” and Fritz Lang depicted more darkly in “Metropolis”. As long as capitalism exists, this is the fate of the working class. In the USA, many workers wax nostalgic for the $20-40 jobs that prevailed in the 60s but for the Gujarat textile workers, the hope is for an 8-hour day and a wage that enables them to send a bit home to their family, some living thousands of miles away. Most of them appear to be ex-farmers who have been crushed by debt and drought. In the decades before Marx was born, it was the Enclosure Acts that accomplished the same results. Peasants were robbed of their means of self-subsistence and forced into the textile mills of Birmingham and Manchester that William Blake referred to as dark and satanic.




January 12, 2020


Filed under: Film,imperialism/globalization,WWI — louisproyect @ 9:33 pm

Unlike WWII, films about WWI tend to be bitter antiwar commentaries. This includes the 1930 “All Quiet on the Western Front, the 1937 “The Grand Illusion,” one of the greatest films ever made, and Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 “Paths of Glory.” Since WWI was such an obviously imperialist affair, it would be difficult to represent it as a heroic defense of freedom—even if the propaganda surrounding the war tended to make the “Huns” a demonic force.

Since, as Alexander Pope put it, fools rush in where angels fear to tread, it was no surprise that Sam Mendes would make a film titled “1917” that, while not nearly an attempt to turn the two British soldiers it features into freedom-fighters, does make their efforts to warn off their comrades from a surprise German trap look like a noble sacrifice.

“1917” is basically a two-character drama. As the film begins, we meet Blake and MacKay, two young lance corporals in a British unit embedded within a trench. The commanding officer calls in Blake, who has map-reading expertise, to lead a two-man operation that will inform another unit that the Germans are preparing a deadly trap. Blake has an added incentive to go on this mission since his brother is a soldier there. He is told to pick out someone to accompany him and he chooses MacKay, who has seen intense combat in trench warfare prior to this and earned a medal for his valor. Blake factors this into picking a seasoned soldier even if MacKay has lost his appetite for combat and, moreover, in seeing the medal as anything special. He tells Blake that it is just a ribbon.

The film evokes any number of smash hits in recent years that must have persuaded the Golden Globe judges to name it best film of 2019. The Golden Globe is made up of foreign correspondents in the USA whose taste, like the Academy Award judges, is mostly in their mouth. With separate awards for drama and comedy/musical films, “1917” won best drama although I guffawed at it a number of times. In 2018, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was named best dramatic film, one I bailed on after 15 minutes.

First and foremost, “1917” tries to stir the same emotions produced by “Saving Private Ryan,” Stephen Spielberg’s tribute to the “greatest generation.” Like the two lance corporals, Tom Hanks and his men are trying to locate Private Ryan before he dies in combat like his three brothers. It also assumes that people would buy tickets to a film that promises the same flashy but empty battlefield scenes shown in “Dunkirk,” which director Christopher Nolan shot in 65 mm large-format film stock. Finally, it has the same kind of plot that worked so well in  Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Revenant.” For most of that film, the main character, a hunter played by Leonard DiCaprio, is trying to get back to civilization after being mauled by a bear. On his own for the most part, the drama is generated by DiCaprio trying to avoid American Indian warriors or hunger on the barren plains of the north during wintertime. In “1917,” except for banal conversation between the two lance corporals, they are mostly like the main character in “Revenant”, just trying to stay alive to deliver their message rather than being delivered from wilderness hazards.

If Nolan relied on a wide-screen perspective to wow his audience, Sam Mendes uses another technological trick to keep your eyes glued to the screen. The film is shot in a single take from beginning to end, something that I only realized after reading about it after the screening. The goal was to immerse you in the experience of the two soldiers even though for me it was much more like a video game. I have to add that I have never owned one but looked over my wife’s shoulders as she played them on her new iPhone after she begin using it for the first time. Typically, the hero of a video game—often a soldier like in Mendes’s film—has to pass through increasing difficult stages in order for victory to be declared. In a video game, this involves fire-breathing dragons. In “1917,” it involved dastardly Huns. She got bored with these games after a month, just like I got bored with “1917” after 15 minutes.

In a crucial scene, “1917” veered off into the propaganda realm. Blake and MacKay have taken temporary respite in a French farm that, like much else in no-man’s-land, is depopulated. From inside a barn, they watch a dog-fight between two British biplanes and one German that is shot down. The flaming plane heads straight for the barn in just one of many artificially choreographed “thrilling” scenes and crashes just in front of the two Brits. Showing the true mettle of the civilized Anglo race, Blake climbs on the burning wreckage and rescues the German pilot who takes out his knife and stabs his rescuer to death. From that point on, MacKay is forced to soldier on alone.

In addition to getting a Golden Globe award for best dramatic film, Sam Mendes picked up best director. In my view, the most appropriate award for Mendes is most confused motivation for making a film last year. In an article about the film in the NY Times last month, Mendes made the senseless, imperial bloodbath sound like a noble cause:

After directing the James Bond movies “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” Mendes was having trouble mounting a new film project. His agent Beth Swofford suggested that he explore the World War I stories he had once told her. In 2017, a year after the Brexit vote, Mendes found further inspiration. “I’m afraid that the winds that were blowing before the First World War are blowing again,” he said. “There was this generation of men fighting then for a free and unified Europe, which we would do well to remember.”

Is this guy for real? Those winds that were blowing had to do with blocs of capital defending their narrow class interests. Germany allied with the Ottoman Empire for narrow economic gains such as providing easier access to its African colonies and to trade markets in India. Meanwhile, the Ottoman ruling class picked Germany as an ally but might have just as easily teamed up with England, which was not open to such alliance. Wikipedia states that Talat Paşa, the Minister of Interior, wrote in his memoirs: “Turkey needed to join one of the country groups so that it could organize its domestic administration, strengthen and maintain its commerce and industry, expand its railroads, in short to survive and to preserve its existence.” That’s what WWI was about, not “fighting for a free and unified Europe.”

As for England, it demonstrated an uncommon disregard for the lives of its soldiers in real life as opposed to the myth-making of Mendes’s film. As lionized in both “Darkest Hour” and “Churchill”, the Tory politician deserves a thorough debunking, especially for his role in the Gallipoli disaster. Convinced of their military (and likely racial) superiority, Churchill ordered British troops to land on Ottoman soil Normandy-style, where they expected the enemy to flee for its lives. Led by Australian and New Zealand troops, they were annihilated by Turkish troops led by Mustafa Kemal. The British lost up to 20,000 men in June/July 1915, while the entire campaign to open up a safe passageway between England/France and its Russian allies cost the lives of 53,000 British and French soldiers. Which leads me to mention another key film about WWI futility. Now available on Youtube for $2.99, Peter Weir’s “Gallipoli” features Mel Gibson as a doomed soldier in the 1981 film, a time when he had not drunk the Christian/rightwing Kool-Aid. He remarked at the time, “Gallipoli was the birth of a nation. It was the shattering of a dream for Australia. They had banded together to fight the Hun and died by the thousands in a dirty little trench war.”

Dirty little trench war. That says it all.


April 22, 2019

Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry

Filed under: imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 10:23 pm

In early February Michael Pröbsting, a leader of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, invited me to read and review his “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry: The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective”, which I have finally gotten around to. The subject of the book is of keen interest to me since I have written a couple of articles that concur with Pröbsting. To be honest, I don’t make the question of whether Russia (or China, for that matter) a Trotsky vs. Shachtman/Burnham litmus test like he does but the research he uses to support his conclusions is impressive and worth considering as a serious attempt to apply Lenin’s theories to the contemporary period that stand on their own.

“Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry” contains 27 tables and 31 figures that detail capital flows, etc., all of which are relevant to the questions at hand. In order to apply Lenin’s theories to today’s world, it is necessary to continue in the same vein as “Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism” that is replete with the same kind of data. I found this one particularly compelling:

Except for some hold-outs by otherwise sensible people like Michael Roberts, most Marxists concur that China is not only capitalist but a direct challenge to American hegemony as indicated by the chart above. Keeping in mind that Lenin defined imperialism as a system characterized by the export of excess capital, Pröbsting was careful to document China’s growing presence globally. Some on the left hail the new Silk Road project as a progressive alternative to Western multinationals but the growing resentment in both Latin America and Africa casts a shadow over such optimism.

Referring to the table above, he notes: “When we look at the accumulated stock of FDI’s outflows (by 2017) it is interesting to see the rapid catch-up process particularly of China. Despite the fact that China only became an imperialist power about a decade ago, its FDI Outward stock already equals the figures of all other Great Powers (except the U.S.)”

While some might be persuaded that China is becoming an imperialist power, there remain skeptics over whether Russia is as well, especially by those on the left like Roger Annis who have a strong ideological commitment to the Kremlin. For example, Annis wrote:

But while its per capita GDP may be well above that of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, it’s not in the same league, by a long shot, of the imperialist countries. It is roughly one fourth, or less, that of North American and West European countries. It is higher than Brazil’s, but a lot lower than Portugal’s and just over half of South Korea’s.

What about Russia’s capital exports, another key indicator of whether a country sits in the ranks of imperialist countries? In 2012, the stock of direct foreign investment in Russia was $498 billion while the stock of investment abroad was $387 billion. Compare this to Canada, with about one quarter the population of Russia: $992 billion (domestic), $992 billion (abroad). Or Britain, with less than half of Russia’s population: $1.3 trillion and $1.8 trillion, respectively (all figures are 2012, from the CIA Factbook).

Pröbsting acknowledges that Russia is weaker than China or the traditional imperialist powers but stresses its military and political weight. Furthermore, if Russia is far behind England or Germany in terms of financial capital—the traditional criterion for judging whether a country is imperialist or not—it is still in second place behind the USA when it comes to the global share of weapons exports (33 versus 23 percent).

While I have not paid the closest of attention to the debates on the left about “sub-imperialism”, I did read Pröbsting’s discussion with some interest since I am close to Patrick Bond as a friend and a comrade. Patrick is probably the highest-profile advocate of the usefulness of this analytical category. Ever the resourceful scholar, Pröbsting argues that the first instance of its being advanced within Marxism was not by Patrick but by Takahashi Kamekichi in the 1920s who theorized Japan as an example of “petty imperialism”. Since Japan lagged behind the European and American nations in terms of financial capital and capital export, he concluded it “had not yet attained the stage of imperialism”. As such, Japanese socialists should not see the main enemy as being the domestic bourgeoisie, but rather the Western powers. Doesn’t this have a ring? This is essentially the argument of the pro-BRICS left, those who defend Russian imperialism in Syria because it helps the “axis of resistance” to NATO, Western banks, and the whole nine yards. However, Patrick is at the same time one of the sharpest critics of the BRICS as well as a “sub-imperialism” theorist.

These are important questions and Pröbsting has done a good job in trying to provide Marxist solutions. My only friendly criticism is to drop the terms “pseudo-Marxist” or “pseudo-Trotskyist”. Such terms are redolent of the Socialist Equality Party and should be retired from our vocabulary.

August 20, 2018

CLR James interview

Filed under: african-american,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 1:43 pm

August 14, 2018

Samir Amin, dependency theory, and the multipolar world

Filed under: colonialism,imperialism/globalization,socialism — louisproyect @ 5:39 pm

As might have been expected, there has been a flurry of vitriolic attacks on Samir Amin from Facebook friends who share my views on Syria and Ukraine. Amin, who died on August 12th at the age of 86, is well-known as a dependency theorist and advocate of a multipolar world. Since I am both a dependency theorist after a fashion and a critic of multipolarity, at least as it is understood by most of the left, this forces me to come to terms with Amin’s legacy—a task I would not shirk from since tough questions such as this help me deepen my understanding of Marxism.

To start with, I have never read Samir Amin except for articles and interviews that have show up on Monthly Review over the years. That being said, I am fairly well-informed on dependency theory having read some of the classics long before I was on the net, even going back to my days in the SWP when I was always looking for solid, well-written analysis outside the sect’s orbit such as Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America”, Pierre Jalee’s “The Pillage of the Third World”, and Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.

Probably because I was much closer to Latin America as an amateur Marxist scholar and semi-professional activist, I naturally gravitated toward Andre Gunder Frank who had the same kind of relationship to Latin America that Amin had to Africa.

Out of curiosity, I took a quick look at Amin’s “Unequal Development” and was struck by how much his 1976 book made the same points I have been making over the years, albeit crudely.

For example, he refers to petty-commodity production in North America as an intermediate stage between feudalism and capitalism, a point I made in a recent critique of Charles Post. Furthermore, his reference to the role of the New World in facilitating the transition to capitalism is one I have made repeatedly over the years. Not surprisingly, Marx himself made the same points in the chapter on the genesis of the industrial capitalist in V. 1 of Capital:

After a period of pure and simple plundering of Amerindian treasures, intensive mining enterprises were inaugurated, and had recourse to a tremendous squandering of human resources, as a condition for the profitability of their activity. At the same time a slaveowning mode of production was introduced in order to facilitate production of sugar, indigo, etc., in the Americas. The entire economy of the Americas was to revolve around these areas of development for the benefit of the center. The raising of livestock, for example, served the purpose of providing food for the mining areas and those where the slave-run plantations were located. The “triangular trade” that began with the seeking of slaves in Africa fulfilled this essential function: the accumulation  of money-capital in the ports of Europe as the result of selling products of the periphery to members of the ruling classes, who were then stimulated to transform themselves from feudalists into agrarian capitalists.

I also happened to borrow his 1989 MR book “Eurocentrism” from the Columbia Library since my interest in these questions were piqued by Jim Blaut back in 1997 or so after he showed up on the Marxism list that preceded Marxmail to announce the publication of his “Colonizer’s Model of the World”, a book that was clearly influenced by Amin. From a quick browse of “Eurocentrism”, this is a book that I will find time to read before long since it is filled with stunning observations such as this:

Marxism did indeed advance a new explanation of the genesis of capitalism, which appealed neither to race nor to Christianity but based itself on the concepts of mode of production, base and superstructure, forces of production, and relationships of production. In contrast to bourgeois eclecticism, Marxism gives a central place to the question of universal social dynamics and at the same time  proposes a total method that links the different elements of social reality (the material base and the political and ideological). However, this double property of Marxist theory, while it gives Marxism its power, also constitutes a threat to its development. With the help of natural laziness, the temptation to find definitive answers to everything in it is great. Critique and enrichment of the theory give way to dogmatics and the analysis of texts. Limited by the knowledge available at his time, Marx developed a series of propositions that could suggest either the generality or the specificity of the succession from Graeco-Roman slavery to feudalism to capitalism. What was known in the middle of the nineteenth century about non-European peoples? Not much. And for this reason, Marx was careful about making hasty generalizations. As is well known, he declares that the slavery-feudalism-capitalism succession is peculiar to Europe. And he leaves his manuscripts dealing with the “Asiatic mode of production” in an unsystematic state, showing them to be incomplete reflections. Despite these precautions, Marxism succumbed to the temptation to extrapolate from the European example in order to fashion a universal model.

Therefore, despite Marx’s precautions, Marxism yielded to the influences of the dominant culture and remained in the bosom of Eurocentrism. For a Eurocentric interpretation of Marxism, destroying its universalist scope, is not only a possibility: It exists, and is perhaps even the dominant interpretation. This Eurocentric version of Marxism is notably expressed in the famous thesis of the “Asiatic mode of production” and “the two roads”: the European road, open and leading to capitalism, and the Asian road, which is blocked. It also has a related, inverted expression. In claiming the universality of the succession primitive communism–slavery–feudalism–capitalism–socialism (Stalin’s theory of the five stages), the European model is applied to the entire planet, forcing everyone into an “iron corset,” condemned, and rightly so, by its adversaries.

This is the kind of Marxism I live by. It reflects Marx’s letters to Zasulich, even though they are not mentioned. It rejects the kind of mechanical stagism that was adopted by Plekhanov and the Mensheviks that led them to oppose the seizure of power in 1917. It obviously reflects the lingering influence of the Cuban, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions that with all their flaws demonstrated that we were still living in the epoch of world revolution.

Within two year or so after “Eurocentrism” was published, the USSR ceased to exist. Arguably, without the USSR, Cuba, China and Vietnam would have remained neocolonies. Indeed, the collapse of the USSR was so precipitous that China and Vietnam have returned to capitalist property relations and Cuba’s future is clouded at best.

It was this reality that led Amin and others to support the idea of multipolarity even if it was improbable that Putin or Mao Zedong’s successors would ever be one-tenth as reliable as the USSR in terms of material, military and diplomatic aid.

Taking a position against NATO encroachments on post-Soviet Russia was obviously the right stand to take as was support for financial institutions outside of the IMF/World Bank system. Among the books by Samir Amin that can be read online is “Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World” that was published in 2006. Despite kneejerk tendencies to reduce Amin to a shameless propagandist, he refers to China as follows: “The real project of the Chinese ruling class is capitalist in nature, so that ‘market socialism’ becomes a shortcut enabling it gradually to establish the fundamental structures and institutions of capitalism, by reducing as much as possible the frictions and difficulties of the transition to capitalism.” Putin’s Russia is even worse in his eyes:

‘Open’ Russia is not only an ‘exporter of raw materials’ (oil first and foremost), it is liable to become no more than that. Its industrial and agricultural production systems no longer benefit from the attention of the authorities and are of interest to neither the national private sector nor foreign capital. There has been no investment worthy of the name to make their progress possible and they only survive at the expense of the continued deterioration of their infrastructure. The capacity for technological renewal and the high-quality education that underpinned it in the Soviet system is being systematically destroyed.

Who is responsible for these massive declines? First, of course, the new ruling class, which for the most part originated from the former Soviet ruling class, made fabulously rich, no doubt, through the privatization/ pillage from which it has benefited. The concentration of this new class has, moreover, reached uncommon proportions, to the extent that the term ‘oligarchy’ suits them perfectly. The similarity with the oligarchies of Latin America is certainly striking.

Published in 2006, the book obviously had little to say about the Middle East. After 2011, Amin began speaking out on the region as was understandable. He grew up in Egypt and had written many articles and some books focusing on development issues there. Among the points he stressed was the need to develop an alternative to political Islam, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

For those who have been involved in Syria solidarity, there is a tendency to condemn anybody who does not conform to what they see as the rules for membership. So, when I wrote about my intention to vote for Jill Stein, blogger Clay Claiborne began to lump me with white racists and Max Blumenthal.

Naturally, Samir Amin got the same treatment even though he wrote this about Bashar al-Assad:

The Syrian situation is extremely complex.  The Ba’ath regime, which enjoyed legitimacy for a long time, is no longer what it was at all: it has become more and more autocratic, increasingly a police state, and, at the same time, in substance, it has made a gigantic concession to economic liberalism.  I don’t believe that this regime can transform itself into a democratic regime.

In the same interview, he also said, “Moreover, compared with Egypt and Tunisia, the weakness in Syria is that protest movements are very much a mixed bag.  Many — though I don’t want to generalize — don’t even have any political program other than protest, making no link between the regime’s political dictatorship and its liberal economic policy choices.” Despite Amin’s failure to look more deeply into the protest movement in Syria, this is a far cry from what people like John Pilger or Seymour Hersh were writing.

And even if he began to veer more in their direction, I doubt that this justifies the kind of vilification that has been directed at him. Once some people reach their seventies and eighties, there is a tendency to rely on ideas that they have lived by for decades. This accounts for any flaws in Amin’s writings that will live on for the ages just as Marx and Engels’s writings do. In all the articles I have been reading about Amin in the past two days, this one make the case for his importance convincingly:

Perhaps Amin’s central thesis is somewhat obvious, but it’s often forgotten – that a true revolution must be based on those who are being dispossessed and impoverished. But he goes further in undermining the assumption that any thinking emerging from the South will lack enlightenment, or that a lack of enlightenment should be excused.

He believes the Enlightenment was humanity’s first step towards democracy, liberating us from the idea that God created our activity. He has caused controversy in his utter rejection of political Islam. This ideology, embedded for example in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, obscures the real nature of society, including by playing into the idea that the world consists of different cultural groups which conflict with each other, an idea which helps the centre control the peripheries.

Amin’s view is that organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, with their cultural and economic conservatism, are actually viewed positively by the US and other imperialist governments. And he doesn’t limit his critique to Islam either, launching similar criticism on political Hinduism practiced by the BJP in India and Political Buddhism, expressed through the Dalai Lama.

Samir Amin decribes himself as a ‘creative Marxist’ – “to begin from Marx but not to end with him or with Lenin or Mao” – which incorporates all manner of critical ways of thinking even ones “which were wrongly considered to be ‘alien’ by the dogmas of the historical Marxism of the past.”

These views are surely more relevant today than when Amin started writing. A creative Marxism takes proper account of the perspective and aspirations of the truly dispossessed in the world, break out of historical dogmas and rejects attempts to stick together a broken model, but equally sees the impossibility of overthrowing this model tomorrow.

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.


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