Mar 122017

By James Petras99GetSmart


US militarism expanded exponentially through the first two decades of the Twenty-First Century, and was embraced by both Democratic and Republican Presidents. The mass media’s hysteria towards President Trump’s increase in military spending deliberately ignores the vast expansion of militarism, in all its facets, under President Obama and his two predecessors, Presidents ‘Bill’ Clinton and George Bush, Jr.

We will proceed in this essay to compare and discuss the unbroken rise of militarism over the past seventeen years. We will then demonstrate that militarism is an essential structural feature of US imperialism’s insertion in the international system.


Vast increases in military spending have been a constant regardless of who was President of the United States, and regardless of their popular campaign rhetoric to curb military spending in favor of the domestic economy.

Under ‘Bill’ Clinton, the war budget increased from $302 billion in 2000 to $313 billion in 2001. Under President George W. Bush (Jr.), military spending jumped from $357 billion in 2002 to $465 billion in 2004, to $621 billion in 2008. Under President Obama (the ‘Peace Candidate’), military spending soared from $669 billion in 2009 to $711 billion in 2011 and then apparently declined to $596 billion in 2017. Currently, the newly installed President Trump is asking for an increase to $650 billion for 2018.

Several observations are in order: Obama’s military budget in 2017 excluded spending in several ‘Defense-related’ departments of government, including a $25 billion increase for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program. Obama’s total for military spending for 2017 adds up to $623 billion or $30 billion less than Trump’s proposal. Moreover, Obama’s military spending for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which is not listed in the annual budget proposals, included the cost of US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and numerous other countries and had skyrocketed during his term. Indeed, Obama’s eight years in office exceeded George W. Bush’s military spending by over $816 billion dollars.

President Trump’s proposed increase in military spending is in line with the Democratic President’s trajectory – contrary to the claims of the mass media. Clearly both Republicans and Democrats have massively increased their reliance on the US military as the driving force of world power. While Obama’s 2017 budget included $7.5 billion for ‘ISIS operations’ (an increase of 50%) and $8 billion for cyber warfare and (counter) terrorism, the largest increase was for stealth warplanes, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, clearly aimed at Russia, China and Iran. The Navy and Air Force got three quarters of the budget.

Under Obama, the US escalation of weaponry was not directed at ‘terrorist groups’ but, instead, at Russia and China. Washington has been intent on bankrupting Russia –in order to return it to the vassalage of the pre-Putin decade. The CIA, Obama, and the Republican Partys’ ferocious campaign against Trump is based on his overtures toward Russia. The centerpiece of the decades-long US quest for unipolar domination now depends on stripping Trump of his power and appointments, which in part or whole, are seen as undermining the entire structure of US military-driven imperialism as had been pursued by the previous four administrations.

Trump’s increase in military spending is apparently intended to be a ‘bargaining chip’ in his plan to expand US economic opportunities – cutting deals with Russia, renegotiating trade with China, East Asia (Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea) and Germany, all of which comprise the bulk of the US trillion-dollar annual trade deficit.

Trump’s repeated setbacks, the constant pressure on his appointees and the toll inflicted by the mass media on every aspect of his persona and personal life, even in the face of a historic increase in the stock market across the board, indicates a deep division among US oligarchs over power and ‘who governs’. Not since the onset of WWII have we witnessed fundamental cleavages over foreign policy. Previous conceptions of partisan debates are out of date. The financial press (the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal) is openly aligned with the militarists, while the financial marketers on Wall Street support Trump’s pro-business domestic policies and conciliatory overtures to Russia and China. Most of the propaganda mills, dubbed ‘think tanks’, with their stables of academics, ‘experts’, editorialists, and liberal and neoconservative ideologues promote military aggression against Russia. Meanwhile, the populist social media, grass roots Trump supporters, domestic manufacturers and the nation’s Chambers of Commerce press for domestic tax cuts and protectionist measures.

The Army is pro-Trump and favors his concept of regional wars for economic gains. In contrast, the CIA, the Navy and Air Force, which benefited significantly from Obama’s lopsided war budgets, pursue a policy of global military confrontations with Russia and China and multiple wars against their allies, such as Iran, regardless of the devastation such a policy will have on the domestic economy.

Donald Trump’s concept of imperialism is based on exporting products and capturing markets while attracting multinational corporation capital back to the US for re-investing their profits (currently over one trillion held overseas)in the domestic market. He opposes economic and military alliances that have increased US trade deficits and debt in contrast to the previous administrations of militarists who accepted crippling trade deficits and disproportionate US spending on military intervention, bases and sanctions against Russia and its allies.

President Trump’s goal of making Western Europe pay a greater share of NATO (and thus reduce Europe’s dependence on US military spending) has been rejected by both political parties. Every one of Trump’s small steps toward improving relations to Russia has aroused the ire of the unipolar military imperialists who control the leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans.

Militarist imperialism has offered a few tactical concessions to Russia’s allies – the unstable agreements with Iran and Lebanon and the flimsy peace accords in Ukraine. At the same time Washington is expanding its military bases from the Nordic-Baltic regions to Asia. It threatens support for military coups in Brazil, Venezuela and Ukraine.

The strategic purpose of these bellicose moves is to encircle and destroy Russia as a potential independent counter-weight to US global dominance.

President Trump’s initial policy has been to build ‘fortress America’: Increasing the military budget, building up police and military power along the Mexican border and within the oil rich Gulf States. Trump’s agenda would strengthen the military in Asia and elsewhere in order to enhance the US’ economic bargaining position in bilateral negotiations with the aim of enlarging its export markets.


The United States is witnessing a deadly confrontation between two sharply polarized imperialisms.

Militarism, the established form of US imperialism is deeply entrenched within the permanent state apparatus. This includes the 17 intelligence agencies, the propaganda departments, the Air Force and Navy, as well as the high tech sector and the commercial capitalist elites who have benefited from foreign imports and foreign low cost skilled labor at the expense of US workers. Their record is one of disastrous wars, lost markets, declining wages, deteriorating living standards and the relocation of well-paid jobs abroad. At best, they have secured a few, weak vassal regimes at an enormous cost.

The Trump regime’s attempt to fashion a strategic imperialist alternative revolves around a more nuanced approach: He seeks to use military power to enhance the domestic labor market and secure mass support for overseas economic intervention.

First and foremost, Trump realizes that Russia cannot be isolated from its markets in Europe and defeated by sanctions. This led him to propose negotiating a global agreement for large-scale trade deals, which would favor US banks, oil, agriculture and upscale industries. Secondly, Trump supports ‘social imperialism’, whereby US exports markets, based on local US industries, labor and banks, would lead to higher wages and profits for American businesses and workers. US imperialism would not depend on costly and failed military invasions, but on overseas ‘invasions’ by US industries and banks who would then return their profits to the US for investment and further boost the stock market already stimulated by his stated plans for deregulation and tax cuts.

President Trump’s transition to this new imperial paradigm faces a formidable adversary which has so far succeeded in blocking his agenda and threatens to overthrow his regime.

From the beginning, Trump’s failed to consolidate state power, an error which undermined his administration. While his election victory gave him the Office of the Presidency, his regime is only one aspect of state power, which is vulnerable to immediate erosion and ouster by the independent coercive and legislative branches, intent on his political demise. The other government branches are filled with holdovers from the Obama and previous regimes – and are deeply committed to militarism.

Secondly, Trump failed to mobilize his elite supporters and mass base around an alternative media. His ‘early morning Tweets’ are a flimsy counter-weight to the concentrated mass media attack on his governance.

Thirdly, while Trump moved successfully to secure international support with Japan and England, he backed off from dealing with Russia — which will be central to undermining his imperial adversaries.

Fourthly, Trump has failed to connect his immigration policies with an effective new program of domestic employment and he failed to expose and capitalize on the draconian anti-immigrant policies waged under the Obama administration, during which millions were imprisoned and expelled.

Fifthly, Trump failed to clarify the link between his pro-market economic policies and military spending and how they are linked to a totally different paradigm.

As a consequence, the success of the liberal-neo-conservative militarist assault on the new president has put his central strategy in retreat. Trump is under siege and on the defensive. Even if he survives this concentrated onslaught, his original conception of ‘re-making’ American imperial and domestic policy is in tatters and the pieces will blend the worst of both worlds: Without expanding overseas markets for American products and a successful domestic jobs program, the prospects are for President Donald Trump to revert to overseas wars and usher in a market collapse.

James Petras is author of  The End of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireExtractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle EastRead other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

Feb 272014

El análisis de James Petras


“Tenemos que analizar en conjunto lo que está pasando”, dijo el sociólogo estadounidense James Petras en su análisis semanal de la coyuntura internacional por CX36, Radio Centenario. “Si simplemente enfocamos sobre Ucrania y Venezuela, perdemos el cuadro general”, agregó y subrayó que “esto forma parte de una ofensiva imperialista, con el golpe y la invasión en Libia; el golpe en Egipto, la invasión a Siria, los golpistas en Ucrania y ahora los terroristas en Venezuela, es todo parte de una nueva ofensiva imperialista que  busca homogenizar el mundo bajo la bandera del neoliberalismo con gobiernos autoritarios” pues “ya no confían en la democracia y el libre mercado como en los años ’90. Ahora la única forma de imponer el neoliberalismo es a partir de la violencia y las dictaduras, y los que piensan que el imperialismo está en declive están equivocados”, aseveró. A continuación transcribimos la columna de James Petras, que puede volver a escuchar aquí:

Héctor Vicente: Ya estamos en contacto con James Petras. Buenas tardes, ¿cómo está?

James Petras: Estamos muy bien.

HV: Muy bien.

El primer tema que queríamos consultarle, es la situación que se está viviendo en Ucrania, con la orden de arresto que se dictó contra el destituido presidente Víktor Fédorovich Yanukóvich; hay declaraciones del primer ministro ruso Dmitry Medvedev, cuestionando la legitimidad de las nuevas autoridades ucranianas. ¿Qué nos puede decir en torno a todo esto?

JP:  Esclaro que la Unión Europea y los Estados Unidos han conseguido un gobierno que esta a la orden de su política. Y está empezando ahora una purga, de toda la oficialidad del régimen democrático para poner en su lugar a representantes de los diferentes sectores de la oposición.

A partir de la toma de poder de los golpistas, empieza la segunda guerra entre los colaboradores para ver quién consigue qué puesto y qué puede conseguir del gobierno y a partir de las negociaciones con la Unión Europea.

Lo que hay que entender es que Ucrania, a partir de esta violencia, es un país en bancarrota, no tiene ningún acceso a los fondos que Rusia desplegó ni tampoco recibe financiamiento del mundo occidental. En esa situación, los europeos y el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) encabezando las negociaciones, exigen lo que ellos llaman ‘reformas’. Esto significa que el FMI va a dictar la política económica, y les va a ordenar que ellos deben terminar con las subvenciones a la calefacción, el gas, etc.; que deben eliminar muchos de los gastos sociales; deben imponer un plan de austeridad; y van a imponer una serie de medidas de privatizaciones con el consecuente aumento del desempleo.

Esto a la vez, va a crear otros conflictos entre los golpistas, porque un sector golpista está dispuesto a aceptar los mandatos del FMI y otro sector va a decir ‘para qué luchamos si estamos peor que durante la época de Yanukóvich. Incluso tiene como candidata a la presidencia a Yulia ‘la ladrona’ Timoshenko que estuvo encarcelada por robar más de 400 millones y ahora la presentan como candidata.

Ahora, más allá de la situación precaria de los golpistas y de la nueva situación frente al FMI; hay otros problemas. Ayer los golpistas eliminaron el bilingüismo, nulificaron la lengua rusa en la parte Este del país, donde la gran mayoría de las personas hablan ruso; y eso  puede provocar la división del país entre el Este pro ruso parlante y el resto, los ucrano parlantes.

También hay un sector fascista que está tumbando los monumentos que se erigieron celebrando la derrota de los nazis, y quieren volver a imponer las doctrinas que apoyaron durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial cuando colaboraron con los nazis.

El peligro es que tratan de expulsar a la flota rusa del Mar Negro, particularmente de Sebastopol; tratando de eliminar los derechos de los ciudadanos rusos. Entonces, si tratan de expulsar la flota rusa, es muy posible que Rusia intervenga y apoye la separación de Crimea y el Este ucraniano, lo que aumentará las tensiones entre los países occidentales y los apoyantes de la posición rusa.

En todo caso, el golpe de estado no ha solucionado ningún problema económico y ha provocado nuevas divisiones y luchas entre los golpistas.

HV: Se genera más inestabilidad en la zona. ¿Se puede generar alguna reacción rusa?

JP: Bueno, por el momento la respuesta es cautelosa. Están estudiando que políticas van a adoptar los golpistas, que sector va a quedarse con el poder y qué política impondrán.

En todo caso Rusia no va a prestar los 15 mil millones de dólares que habían acordado con el presidente Yanukóvich ni va a rebajar el precio del gas; además Ucrania tiene una deuda de 73 mil millones y este año está obligada a devolver 12 mil millones y en este momento no tiene ni una mínima fracción de ese dinero. Los países occidentales, encabezados pro Estados Unidos y el FMI, ya adelantaron que no van a prestar ni un centavo si no comienzan a aplicar un plan de austeridad y terminan la política nacional. Tienen que entrar en la onda neoliberal como lo hicieron España, Irlanda o Grecia, donde se aplicaron fuertes recortes públicos y se profundizaron las privatizaciones de toda la riqueza.

Entonces, primero dicen reformas y luego préstamos. Primero neoliberalismo y luego financiamiento. Y eso inevitablemente va a crear  condiciones muy graves para las grandes mayorías en Ucrania, no saben lo que se les viene porque la dictadura del FMI es la peor forma de gobernar un país.

HV: Dimitió el primer ministro de la ‘transición’ egipcia, Hazem al Beblawi; quien estaba al frente del gobierno desde el golpe de estado militar contra Mohamed Mursi en 2013.

JP: es una profundización de la militarización, este gobierno de transición era simplemente una fachada porque el general (ministro de Defensa y jefe del Ejército, Abdel Fattah al) Sissi, es el que manda en el país y ahora está descartando la fachada, y va a imponerse como una dictadura militar sin pretexto de coalición con civiles, liberales ni nada. Primero fue la purga de los Hermanos Musulmanes, después de los sectores nacionalistas, y ahora es la purga de los liberales que están de alguna forma subordinada al gobierno. Las políticas en Egipto están cada vez más represivas.

El juicio contra el ex presidente Mohamed Mursi y las medidas que han tomado contra los opositores, son del estilo de Pinochet, no tienen nada que ver  con el retorno a la democracia.

HV: Parece que se instaló la inestabilidad definitivamente en Egipto.

JP: Empieza la resistencia, en diferentes vertientes. Hay grupos en protestas legales, hay grupos en protestas callejeras y crecen los grupos armados.

La situación va a seguir inestable y tal vez, después que gaste los primeros préstamos que le dio Arabia Saudita el gobierno va a enfrentar una situación muy difícil porque no tiene sus propios recursos ni capacidad de generar nuevas inversiones. Mientras tanto, el gobierno por la fuerza impone una tranquilidad relativa, pero el futuro es muy oscuro por la dictadura.

HV: Le propongo venir para nuestro continente y sobresale la situación que se vive en Venezuela, que aquí en CX36 hemos estado siguiendo incluso con testimonios en directo desde allí. Ahora el presidente Nicolás Maduro, convoca a una Conferencia Nacional de Paz para el miércoles, con los líderes de la oposición.

JP: Es posible que pudiera convocarlos para entrar en discusión y diálogo. Hay que ver qué tiene la agenda, cuáles son los puntos de coincidencia, qué propuestas tiene la oposición, para que el gobierno pueda mantener los cambios sociales – populares y mientras tanto, aceptar la ley y el orden del marco democrático. Porque hasta ahora la oposición está funcionando con una doble agenda, hablan de democracia pero practican la ilegalidad y la violencia, y actúan como quinta columna para Estados Unidos.

Es difícil imaginar que están dispuestos a dejar la política actual. Espero que haya un cambio de actitud, pero la táctica actual de Washington y sus representantes, (Henrique) Capriles y (Leopoldo) López, era una política de tensión, de hostigamiento constante para provocar un desgaste. Y no sólo eso, en Táchira –provincia del interior del país- tratan de tomar territorio y establecer una base para el lanzamiento de la oposición violenta.

Debemos tomar con mucha precaución sobre esta convocatoria, porque los medios de comunicación siguen fomentando la violencia. Washington rechaza el diálogo mientras sus interlocutores están débiles y quieren repetir lo que hicieron en Ucrania, o sea, imponer condiciones inaceptables para descartar el gobierno, frustrar las bases sociales y poco a poco debilitar la estabilidad del gobierno de Maduro.

No hay que tomar en serio la idea de una reconciliación, es una política de desgaste. Negociar y movilizar. Desgastar significa mantener tensiones para que la economía no funcione, la gente no pueda ir al empleo, falten mercancías en las tiendas. Es una guerra estrecha.

HV: Usted mencionó Táchira, allí se comprobó incluso la participación de paramilitares colombianos, además por allí se hace el contrabando a Colombia.

JP: Y lo peor es el Alcalde de Táchira, es de la oposición y está fomentando el terrorismo y los tránsitos de colombianos y toda la mafia, que está mezclada con toda la política de la oposición.

El gobierno debe intervenir allí, desplazar al Alcalde, porque está actuando contra la Constitución e imponer un gobierno que pueda reflejar sobre él y actuar dentro de la Constitución.

Pero en este momento sólo tiene la Guardia Nacional allá y está tratando de ver en qué grado puede establecer la tranquilidad para la gente que no está con la oposición pueda seguir funcionando normalmente.

HV: El presidente Maduro denunció a CNN y expulsó a sus corresponsales de Venezuela.

JP: Es que abiertamente están actuando, de forma muy descarada, mostrando la violencia de forma favorable, haciendo propaganda flagrante a favor de la desestabilización. Ningún gobierno puede tolerar medios que son instrumentos del terrorismo. CNN es el primer culpable de estas prácticas, por eso deben cerrarse inmediatamente para que no lo puedan imitar los otros medios de la oposición,  que no puedan hacer ese tipo de medio terrorista.

HV: En Ecuador hubo elecciones locales y el partido del presidente Rafael Correa, ‘Alianza País’ perdió en Quito, Cuenca y Guayaquil.

JP: Hay un gradual desgaste en las clases medias de las grandes ciudades; el gobierno se sobre confió y no está tomando en cuenta la pobre gobernabilidad de los alcaldes, particularmente en Quito.

Hay necesidad de reconsiderar lo que está haciendo el gobierno. En las provincias, en la parte rural, Alianza País ganó las elecciones, pero perdió Quito porque se descuida mucho las condiciones de la vida cotidiana, algo de las condiciones del gobierno, corrupción, etc. El problema del centro izquierda es que se están agotando las posiciones más progresistas, por estar demasiado tiempo en el poder se descuidan las bases sociales que originalmente los pusieron en el poder. El señor Correa debe hacer una autocrítica y ver en que grado debe revisar la política exclusivamente extractiva –exportaciones petroleras, mineria, etc.- y buscar diversificar la economía, ampliando la participación más allá de los círculos de Alianza Pais.

El problema con estos resultados, no pasa por solamente ser un castigo, sino que los que se están aprovechando de las dificultades de Correa es la derecha. En Guayaquil, el alcalde Jaime Nebot, que siempre fue de derecha es un social cristiano; Mauricio Rodas –que ganó la Alcaldía de Quito- es de centro derecha; entonces la debilidad de Correa no está favoreciendo a la izquierda ni a los movimientos sociales. El descontento popular está desliándose hacia la derecha, hacia políticos peores que Correa y ese es el drama que estamos viviendo. Y no sólo en Ecuador, sino también en Brasil y Argentina, por varias razones que ya comentamos pero que podemos repasar. La izquierda  esta debilitada por la fuerza que tiene el centro izquierda, entonces cuando hay problemas con el centro izquierda, la derecha se beneficia.

HV: ¿En qué otros temas viene trabajando?

JP: Tenemos que analizar en conjunto lo que está pasando.

Hemos visto una ola de golpes e invasiones, si simplemente enfocamos sobre Ucrania y Venezuela, perdemos el cuadro general. Esto forma parte de una ofensiva imperialista, con  la invasión en Libia; el golpe en Egipto, la invasión a Siria, los golpistas en Ucrania y ahora los terroristas en Venezuela, es todo parte de una nueva ofensiva imperialista que  busca homogenizar el mundo bajo la bandera del neoliberalismo con gobiernos autoritarios. Ya no confían en la democracia y el libre mercado como en los años ’90. Ahora la única forma de imponer el neoliberalismo es a partir de la violencia y las dictaduras, y los que piensan que el imperialismo está en declive están equivocados.

Tenemos que tomar en cuenta no solamente la violencia y los golpistas; la derechización de Françoise Hollande en Francia, invadiendo África y haciendo concesiones a los negocios; el nuevo gobierno en Italia con Matteo Renzi, que promete privatizar la Economía y despedir cientos de miles de empleados públicos; Mariano Rajoy en España que quiere revertir todas las leyes sociales; etc. tenemos una ola derechista que nos está pasando por delante y tenemos que pensar en una contraofensiva porque no se puede parar estas cosas simplemente criticando a los gobernantes.

HV: ¿Hay herramientas, instrumentos, a nivel internacional para que los pueblos logren por lo menos ensayar una coordinación frente a esto?

JP: Si, hay varias organizaciones, pero más social que políticas. Hay organizaciones de campesinos, sindicatos, ecologistas, etc. Pero falta una perspectiva más claramente partidaria, política.

El a-partidismo, la oposición a los partidos políticos,  es un error. Tendrían que entrar en la política de combinar las formas de lucha, electoral y acción directa, pero hasta ahora se quedan divididos.

HV: ¿Y eso debilita mucho a los sectores populares?

JP: Si, porque están luchando con una mano mientras que con la otra están frenando.

HV: Muy bien, Petras, le agradecemos mucho este análisis. .

JP: Un abrazo.

Dec 282013

By James Petras, 99GetSmart



In ancient Rome, especially during the late Republic, oligarchs resorted to mob violence to block, intimidate, assassinate or drive from power the dominant faction in the Senate.  While neither the ruling or opposing factions represented the interests of the plebeians, wage workers, small farmers or slaves, the use of the ‘mob’ against the elected Senate, the principle of representative government and the republican form of government laid the groundwork for the rise of authoritarian “Caesars” (military rulers) and the transformation of the Roman republic into an imperial state.

Demagogues, in the pay of aspiring emperors, aroused the passions of a motley array of disaffected slum dwellers, loafers and petty thieves (ladrones) with promises, pay-offs and positions in a New Order.  Professional mob organizers cultivated their ties with the oligarchs ‘above’ and with professional demonstrators ‘below’.  They voiced ‘popular grievances’ and articulated demands questioning the legitimacy of the incumbent rulers, while laying the groundwork for the rule by the few.  Usually, when the pay-master oligarchs came to power on a wave of demagogue-led mob violence, they quickly suppressed the demonstrations, paid off the demagogues with patronage jobs in the new regime or resorted to a discrete assassination for ‘street leaders’ unwilling to recognize the new order’.  The new rulers purged the old Senators into exile, expulsion and dispossession, rigged new elections and proclaimed themselves ‘saviors of the republic’.  They proceeded to drive peasants from their land, renounce social obligations and stop food subsidies for poor urban families and funds for public works.

The use of mob violence and “mass revolts” to serve the interests of oligarchical and imperial powers against democratically-elected governments has been a common strategy in recent times.

Throughout the ages, the choreographed “mass revolt” played many roles:  (1) It served to destabilize an electoral regime; (2) it provided a platform for its oligarch funders to depose an incumbent regime; (3) it disguised the fact that the oligarchic opposition had lost democratic elections; (4) it provided a political minority with a ‘fig-leaf of legitimacy’ when it was otherwise incapable of acting within a constitutional framework  and (5) it allowed for the illegitimate seizure of power in the name of a pseudo ‘majority’, namely  the “crowds in the central plaza”.

Some leftist commentators have argued two contradictory positions: On the one hand, some simply reduce the oligarchy’s power grab to an ‘inter-elite struggle’ which has nothing to do with the ‘interests of the working class’, while others maintain the ‘masses’ in the street are protesting against an “elitist regime”.  A few even argue that with popular, democratic demands, these revolts are progressive, should be supported as “terrain for class struggle”.  In other words, the ‘left’ should join the uprising and contest the oligarchs for leadership within the stage-managed revolts!

What progressives are unwilling to recognize is that the oligarchs orchestrating the mass revolt are authoritarians who completely reject democratic procedures and electoral processes. Their aim is to establish a ‘junta’, which will eliminate all democratic political and social institutions and freedoms and impose harsher, more repressive and regressive policies and institutions than those they replace.  Some leftists support the ‘masses in revolt’ simply because of their ‘militancy’, their numbers and street courage, without examining the underlying leaders, their interests and links to the elite beneficiaries of a ‘regime change’.

All the color-coded “mass revolts” in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR featured popular leaders who exhorted the masses in the name of ‘independence and democracy’ but were pro-NATO, pro-(Western) imperialists and linked to neo-liberal elites.  Upon the fall of communism, the new oligarchs privatized and sold off the most lucrative sectors of the economy throwing millions out of work, dismantled the welfare state and handed over their military bases to NATO for the stationing of foreign troops and the placement of missiles aimed at Russia.

The entire ‘anti-Stalinist’ left in the US and Western Europe, with a few notable exceptions, celebrated these oligarch-controlled revolts in Eastern Europe and some even participated as minor accomplices in the post-revolt neo-liberal regimes.  One clear reason for the demise of “Western Marxism” arose from its inability to distinguish a genuine popular democratic revolt from a mass uprising funded and stage-managed by rival oligarchs!

One of the clearest recent example of a manipulated ‘people’s power’ revolution in the streets to replace an elected representative of  one sector of the elite with an even more brutal, authoritarian ‘president’ occurred in early 2001 in the Philippines.   The more popular and independent (but notoriously corrupt) President Joseph Estrada, who had challenged sectors of the Philippine elite and current US foreign policy (infuriating Washington by embracing Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez), was replaced through street demonstrations of middle-class matrons with soldiers in civvies by Gloria Makapagal-Arroyo.  Mrs. Makapagal-Arroyo, who had close links to the US and the Philippine military, unleashed a horrific wave of brutality dubbed the ‘death-squad democracy’.  The overthrow of Estrada was actively supported by the left, including sectors of the revolutionary left, who quickly found themselves the target of an unprecedented campaign of assassinations, disappearances, torture and imprisonment by their newly empowered ‘Madame President’.

Past and Present Mass Revolts Against Democracy:  Guatemala, Iran and Chile

The use of mobs and mass uprisings by oligarchs and empire builders has a long and notorious history.  Three of the bloodiest cases, which scarred their societies for decades, took place in Guatemala in 1954, Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973.

Democratically-elected Jacobo Árbenz was the first Guatemalan President to initiate agrarian reform and legalize trade unions, especially among landless farm workers.  Árbenz’s reforms included the expropriation of unused, fallow land owned by the United Fruit Company, a giant US agro-business conglomerate.  The CIA used its ties to local oligarchs and right-wing generals and colonels to instigate and finance mass-protests against a phony ‘communist-takeover’ of Guatemala under President Arbenz.  The military used the manipulated mob violence and the ‘threat’ of Guatemala becoming a “Soviet satellite”, to stage a bloody coup.  The coup leaders received air support from the CIA and slaughtered thousands of Arbenz supporters and turned the countryside into ‘killing fields’.   For the next 50 years political parties, trade unions and peasant organizations were banned, an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered and millions were displaced.

In 1952 Mohammed Mossadegh was elected president of Iran on a moderate nationalist platform, after the overthrow of the brutal monarch.  Mossadegh announced the nationalization of the petroleum industry.  The CIA, with the collaboration of the local oligarchs, monarchists and demagogues organized ‘anti-communist’ street mobs to stage violent demonstrations providing the pretext for a monarchist- military coup.  The CIA-control Iranian generals brought ‘Shah Reza Pahlavi back from Switzerland and for the next 26 years Iran was a monarchist-military dictatorship, whose population was terrorized by the Savak, the murderous secret police.

The US oil companies received the richest oil concessions; the Shah joined Israel and the US in an unholy alliance against progressive nationalist dissidents and worked hand-in-hand to undermine independent Arab states.  Tens of thousands of Iranians were killed, tortured and driven into exile.  In 1979, a mass popular uprising led by Islamic movements, nationalist and socialist parties and trade unions drove out the Shah-Savak dictatorship.  The Islamists installed a radical nationalist clerical regime, which retains power to this day despite decades of a US-CIA-funded destabilization campaign which has funded both terrorist groups and dissident liberal movements.

Chile is the best-known case of CIA-financed mob violence leading to a military coup.  In 1970, the democratic socialist Dr. Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile.  Despite CIA efforts to buy votes to block Congressional approval of the electoral results and its manipulation of violent demonstrations and an assassination campaign to precipitate a military coup, Allende took office.

During Allende’s tenure as president the CIA financed a variety of “direct actions” –from paying the corrupt leaders of a copper workers union to stage strikes and the truck owners associations to refuse to transport goods to the cities, to manipulating right-wing terrorist groups like the Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty) in their assassination campaigns.  The CIA’s destabilization program was specifically designed to provoke economic instability through artificial shortages and rationing, in order to incite middle class discontent. This was made notorious by the street demonstrations of pot-banging housewives.  The CIA sought to incite a military coup through economic chaos.  Thousands of truck owners were paid not to drive their trucks leading to shortages in the cities, while right-wing terrorists blew up power stations plunging neighborhoods into darkness and shop owners who refused to join the ‘strike’ against Allende were vandalized.  On September 11, 1973, to the chants of ‘Jakarta’ (in celebration of a 1964 CIA coup in Indonesia), a junta of US-backed Chilean generals grabbed power from an elected government.  Tens of thousands of activists and government supporters were arrested, killed, tortured and forced into exile.  The dictatorship denationalized and privatized its mining, banking and manufacturing sectors, following the free market dictates of Milton Friedman-trained economists (the so-call “Chicago Boys”).  The dictatorship overturned 40 years of welfare, labor and land-reform legislation which had made Chile the most socially advanced country in Latin America.  With the generals in power, Chile became the ‘neo-liberal model’ for Latin America.  Mob violence and the so-called “middle class revolt”, led to the consolidation of oligarchic and imperial rule and a17 year reign of terror under General Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.  The whole society was brutalized and with the return of electoral politics, even former ‘leftist’ parties retained the dictatorship’s neo-liberal economic policies, its authoritarian constitution and the military high command.  The ‘revolt of the middle class’ in Chile resulted in the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the oligarchs in Latin America to this day!

The Contemporary Use and Abuse of “Mass Revolts””  Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela , Thailand and Argentina

In recent years “mass revolt” has become the instrument of choice when oligarchs, generals and other empire builders seeking ‘regime change’.  By enlisting an assortment of nationalist demagogues and imperial-funded NGO ‘leaders’, they set the conditions for the overthrow of democratically elected governments and stage-managed the installment of their own “free market” regimes with dubious “democratic” credentials.

Not all the elected regimes under siege are progressive.  Many ‘democracies’, like the Ukraine, are ruled by one set of oligarchs.  In Ukraine, the elite supporting President Viktor Yanukovich,   decided that entering into a deep client-state relationship with the European Union was not in their interests, and sought to diversify their international trade partners while maintaining lucrative ties with Russia.  Their opponents, who are currently behind the street demonstrations in Kiev, advocate a client relationship with the EU, stationing of NATO troops and cutting ties with Russia.   In Thailand, the democratically-elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, represents a section of the economic elite with ties and support in the rural areas, especially the North-East, as well as deep trade relations with China.  The opponents are urban-based, closer to the military-monarchists and favor a straight neo-liberal agenda linked to the US against the rural patronage-populist agenda of Ms. Shinawatra.

Egypt’s democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi government pursued a moderate Islamist policy with some constraints on the military and a loosening of ties with Israel in support of the Palestinians in Gaza.  In terms of the IMF, Morsi sought compromise.  The Morsi regime was in flux when it was overthrown: not Islamist nor secular, not pro-worker but also not pro-military.  Despite all of its different pressure groups and contradictions, the Morsi regime permitted labor strikes, demonstrations, opposition parties, freedom of the press and assembly.  All of these democratic freedoms have disappeared after waves of  ‘mass street revolts’, choreographed by the military, set the conditions for the generals to take power and establish their brutal dictatorship – jailing and torturing tens of thousands and outlawing all opposition parties.

Mass demonstrations and demagogue-led direct actions also actively target democratically elected progressive governments, like Venezuela and Argentina, in addition to the actions against conservative democracies cited above.  Venezuela, under Presidents Hugo Chavez and Vicente Maduro advance an anti-imperialist, pro-socialist program.  ‘Mob revolts’ are combined with waves of assassinations, sabotage of public utilities, artificial shortages of essential commodities, vicious media slander and opposition election campaigns funded from the outside.  In 2002, Washington teamed up with its collaborator politicians, Miami and Caracas-based oligarchs and local armed gangs ,to mount a “protest movement” as the pretext for a planned business-military coup.  The generals and members of the elite seized power and deposed and arrested the democratically-elected President Chavez.   All avenues of democratic expression and representation were closed and the constitution annulled.  In response to the kidnapping of ‘their president’, over a million Venezuelans spontaneously mobilized and marched upon the Presidential palace to demand the restoration of democracy and Hugo Chavez to the presidency.  Backed by the large pro-democracy and pro-constitution sectors of the Venezuelan armed forces, the mass protests led to the coup’s defeat and the return of Chavez and democracy.  All democratic governments facing manipulated imperial-oligarchic financed mob revolts should study the example of Venezuela’s defeat of the US-oligarch-generals’ coup.  The best defense for democracy is found in the organization, mobilization and political education of the electoral majority.  It is not enough to participate in free elections; an educated and politicized majority must also know how to defend their democracy in the streets as well as at the ballot box.

The lessons of the 2002 coup-debacle were very slowly absorbed by the Venezuelan oligarchy and their US patrons who continued to destabilize the economy in an attempt to undermine democracy and seize power.  Between December 2002 and February 2003, corrupt senior oil executives of the nominally ‘public’ oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) organized a ‘bosses’ lockout stopping production, export and local distribution of oil and refined petroleum produces.  Corrupt trade union officials, linked to the US National Endowment for Democracy, mobilized oil workers and other employees to support the lock-out, in their attempt to paralyze the economy.  The government responded by mobilizing the other half of the oil workers who, together with a significant minority of middle management, engineers and technologists, called on the entire Venezuelan working class to take the oil fields and installations from the ‘bosses’.  To counter the acute shortage of gasoline, President Chavez secured supplies from neighboring countries and overseas allies.  The lockout was defeated.  Several thousand supporters of the executive power grab were fired and replaced by pro-democracy managers and workers.

Having failed to overthrow the democratic government via “mass revolts”, the oligarchs turned toward a plebiscite on Chavez rule and later called for a nation-wide electoral boycott, both of which were defeated.   These defeats served to strengthen Venezuela’s democratic institutions and decreased the presence of opposition legislators in the Congress.  The repeated failures of the elite to grab power led to a new multi-pronged strategy using:  (1) US-funded NGO’s to exploit local grievances and mobilize  residents around community issues; (2) clandestine thugs to sabotage  utilities, especially power, assassinate peasant recipients of land reform titles, as well as prominent officials and activists; (3) mass electoral campaign marches and (4) economic destabilization via financial speculation, illegal foreign exchange trading , price gouging and hoarding of basic consumer commodities.  The purpose of these measures is to incite mass discontent, using their control of the mass media to provoke another ‘mass revolt’ to set the stage for another US-backed ‘power grab’.  Violent street protests by middle class students from the elite Central University were organized by oligarch-financed demagogues.  ‘Demonstrations’ included sectors of the middle class and urban poor angered by the artificial shortages and power outages.  The sources of popular discontent were rapidly and effectively addressed at the top by energetic government measures:  Business owners engaged in hoarding and price gouging were jailed; prices of essential staples were reduced; hoarded goods were seized from warehouses and distributed to the poor; the import of essential goods were increased and saboteurs were pursued.  The Government’s effective intervention resonated with the mass of the working class, the lower-middle class and the rural and urban poor and restored their support.  Government supporters took to the streets and lined up at the ballot box to defeat the campaign of destabilization.  The government won a resounding electoral mandate allowing it to move decisively against the oligarchs and their backers in Washington.

The Venezuelan experience shows how energetic government counter-measures can restore support and deepen progressive social changes for the majority.  This is because forceful progressive government intervention against anti-democratic oligarchs, combined with the organization, political education and mobilization of the majority of voters can decisively defeat these stage-managed mass revolts.

Argentina is an example of a weakened democratic regime trying to straddle the fence between the oligarchs and the workers, between the combined force of the agro-business and mining elites and working and middle class constituencies dependent on social policies.  The elected-Kirchner-Fernandez government has faced “mass revolts” in the a series of street demonstrations whipped up by conservative agricultural exporters over taxes; the Buenos Aires upper-middle class angered at ‘crime, disorder and insecurity’,  a nationwide strike by police officials over ‘salaries’ who ‘looked the other way’ while gangs of ‘lumpen’ street thugs pillaged and destroyed stores.  Taken altogether, these waves of mob action in Argentina appear to be part of a politically-directed destabilization campaign by the authoritarian Right who have instigated or, at least, exploited these events.  Apart from calling on the military to restore order and conceding to the ‘salary’ demands of the striking police, the Fernandez government has been unable or unwilling to mobilize the democratic electorate in defense of democracy.  The democratic regime remains in power but it is under siege and vulnerable to attack by domestic and imperial opponents.


Mass revolts are two-edged swords:  They can be a positive force when they occur against military dictatorships like Pinochet or Mubarak, against authoritarian absolutist monarchies like Saudi Arabia, a colonial-racist state like Israel, and imperial occupations like against the US in Afghanistan.  But they have to be directed and controlled by popular local leaders seeking to restore democratic majority rule.

History, from ancient times to the present, teaches us that not all ‘mass revolts’ achieve, or are even motivated by, democratic objectives.  Many have served oligarchs seeking to overthrow democratic governments, totalitarian leaders seeking to install fascist and pro-imperial regimes, demagogues and authoritarians seeking to weaken shaky democratic regimes and militarists seeking to start wars for imperial ambitions.

Today, “mass revolts” against democracy have become standard operational procedure for Western European and US rulers who seek to circumvent democratic procedures and install pro-imperial clients.  The practice of democracy is denigrated while the mob is extolled in the imperial Western media.  This is why armed Islamist terrorists and mercenaries are called “rebels” in Syria and the mobs in the streets of Kiev (Ukraine) attempting to forcibly depose a democratically-elected government are labeled “pro-Western democrats”.

The ideology informing  the “mass revolts” varies from “anti-communist” and “anti-authoritarian” in democratic Venezuela, to “pro-democracy” in Libya (even as tribal bands and mercenaries slaughter whole communities), Egypt and the Ukraine.

Imperial strategists have systematized, codified and made operational “mass revolts” in favor of oligarchic rule.  International experts, consultants, demagogues and NGO officials have carved out lucrative careers as they travel to ‘hot spots’ and organize ‘mass revolts’ dragging the target countries into deeper ‘colonization’ via European or US-centered ‘integration’.  Most local leaders and demagogues accept the double agenda: ‘protest today and submit to new masters tomorrow’.  The masses in the street are fooled and then sacrificed.  They believe in a ‘New Dawn’ of Western consumerism, higher paid jobs and greater personal freedom . . . only to be disillusioned when their new rulers fill the jails with opponents and many former protestors, raise prices, cut salaries, privatize state companies, sell off the most lucrative firms to foreigners and double the unemployment rate.

When the oligarchs ‘stage-manage’ mass revolts and takeover the regime, the big losers include the democratic electorate and most of the protestors.  Leftists and progressives, in the West or in exile, who had mindlessly supported the ‘mass revolts’ will publish their scholarly essays on ‘the revolution (sic) betrayed” without admitting to their own betrayal of democratic principles.

If and when  the Ukraine enters into the European Union, the exuberant street demonstrators will join the millions of jobless workers in Greece, Portugal and Spain, as well as millions of pensioners brutalized by “austerity programs” imposed by their new rulers, the ‘Troika’ in Brussels.  If these former demonstrators take to the streets once more, in disillusionment at their leaders’ “betrayal”, they can enjoy their ‘victory’ under the batons of “NATO and European Union-trained police” while the Western mass media will have moved elsewhere in support of ‘democracy’.

Dec 182012

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

“A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the events of today.” – Michael Parenti, Historian, Author The Face of Imperialism