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Imperialism

Who Really Won the Space Race?

Last October’s anniversary of the launch of the Sputnik artificial satellite has led to much discussion as to who won the space race. Usually it is argued that the United States unproblematically “won.” But this is a very simplistic picture and one that should be challenged. Above all, the focus on nations “winning” or “losing” needs to be rejected. It is the rich and powerful who are doing the winning. And they can come from any country.… | more…

The War for Control of the Periphery

Steven Hiatt, ed., with introduction by John Perkins, A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption (San Francisco: BK Currents, 2007), 310 pages, paper $24.95.

Just before John Perkins, author of the bestselling Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, decided it was no longer possible to remain silent about his intimate involvement in the economic warfare waged against the Global South, he sat despondently before the ruins of Ground Zero, totally incapable of visualizing the tragedy: all he could see was a U.S. contractor delivering millions of dollars of weapons to the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Perkins understood himself—a former economic advisor for a multinational utilities contractor, similar to Bechtel—and others like him, to be products of a “system that promotes the most subtle and effective form of imperialism the world has ever witnessed.” Mainstream commentators addressing Perkins’s book ignored the vivid recounting of his own personal involvement as an economic hit man. This is undoubtedly because Perkins used this experience to emphasize the substantial connections between U.S. intelligence agencies, multinational corporations, and political elites of the Global South, laying bare the true motives of “development.” As an “economic hit man,” Perkins fabricated nearly every economic forecast he was asked to produce—as his bosses clearly expected him to do. This led him to repeatedly attack U.S. economic dogma in Confessions… | more…

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism

All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity. It would accomplish nothing to remind them, as I have done, that their remarks reproduce, almost word for word, what European reactionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century (such as Bonald and de Maistre) said to condemn the rupture that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had produced in the history of the Christian West… | more…

Abu Ghraib and Insaniyat

The issues that I will cover in this article and the cases I would like to describe make for uncomfortable reading. But I believe that it is important to record the torture at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq and to deconstruct the culture that accommodated and legitimated it, because what happened cannot be relegated to a mere footnote in the history of the region. I feel the same about Halabja and the chemical warfare employed by Saddam Hussein with the sponsorship of the “international community,” which is why I covered it in my other writings.1 I do not want to be misunderstood as arguing that the cultural context I will explain here is all-encompassing, that the U.S. presence in international society is singularly destructive, and that the “West” as an idea is nothing but “intoxicating.”2 What I say is much more confined. I am arguing that Abu Ghraib could not have happened without a particular racist current in the United States, that the individuals who committed the atrocities against the detainees were not isolated, and that they were part of a larger constellation with its own signifying ideational attitudes toward Muslims and Arabs. Those are the general claims that I would like to qualify in the following paragraphs… | more…

On the History of Imperialism Theory

In his illuminating survey, “The Imperialist World System: Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years” (Monthly Review, May 2007), John Bellamy Foster remarks that “The concept of the imperialist world system in today’s predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries….had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth.” While acknowledging that traces of such a concept could be found in Marx and Lenin, he feels that “The classical Marxist approach to the worldwide spread of capitalist relations has often been characterized as a crude theory of linear stages of development” whereby the less developed countries would necessarily traverse the same path as the more developed ones. Among the adherents to this view Foster includes Marxists in the Second and Third Internationals… | more…

Rediscovering the History of Imperialism: A Reply

The Research Unit for Political Economy’s (RUPE’s) brief historical account here of the origins of the Marxist theory of imperialism constitutes a crucial corrective to common errors regarding that history. In my article, “The Imperialist World System: Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years” (Monthly Review, May 2007), I began by pointing out that Baran’s book was an outgrowth of classical Marxist thought—the ideas of Marx, Lenin, and Luxemburg. At the same time it represented a sharp departure from the rigid orthodoxy of linear development that had come to characterize so much of socialist (as well as bourgeois) thought—often presented in terms of Horace’s phrase, quoted by Marx, “the tale is told of you.” Baran’s treatment of the imperialist world system was a startling contribution at the time that his book appeared, challenging the conventional assumptions of both the right and an increasingly calcified left.… | more…

November 2007 (Volume 59, Number 6)

Notes from the Editors

Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book The Age of Turbulence (Penguin 2007) set off a firestorm in mid-September with its dramatic statement on the Iraq War: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: that the Iraq war is largely about oil” (p. 463). The fact that someone of Greenspan’s stature in the establishment—one of the figures at the very apex of monopoly-finance capital—should issue such a twenty word statement, going against the official truths on the war, and openly voicing what “everyone knows,” was remarkable enough. Yet, his actual argument was far more significant, and since this has been almost completely ignored it deserves extended treatment here. … | more…

Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia

Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia

Since the late 1990s, the United States has funneled billions of dollars in aid to Colombia, ostensibly to combat the illicit drug trade and State Department-designated terrorist groups. The result has been a spiral of violence that continues to take lives and destabilize Colombian society. This book asks an obvious question: are the official reasons given for the wars on drugs and terror in Colombia plausible, or are there other, deeper factors at work? Scholars Villar and Cottle suggest that the answers lie in a close examination of the cocaine trade, particularly its class dimensions.… | more…

A silent complicity

The world cannot afford to let the tragedy of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia be forgotten due to the silence of those who were actors and accomplices of that brutal genocide.… | more…

The Empire’s illegal wars

When the United States and its NATO allies started the war on Kosovo, Cuba immediately defined her position on the front page of the newspaper Granma, on March 26, 1999. This was done in a Declaration of her Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the title of “Cuba’s appeal to end NATO’s unjustified aggression against Yugoslavia.”… | more…

October 2007 (Volume 59, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

It is almost unheard of for a whole issue of MR (other than occasionally one of our special July-August issues) to be devoted to a single contribution. The typical MR issue consists of a lot of short articles. We have no intention of changing that. Nevertheless, we are making a rare exception in the case of Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” which we regard as the definitive critique at this stage both of the U.S./NATO role in the exploitation and exacerbation of the Yugoslavian tragedy and of the “Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse” that made this possible. So effective has been the media propaganda system at presenting the imperialist wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s as “humanitarian interventions” that this not only bolstered support for the invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq (in defiance of international law), but is now being offered as a justification for further possible “humanitarian interventions” elsewhere, such as Iran, the Sudan (Darfur), Nigeria, and even Venezuela… | more…

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part I)

A Study in Inhumanitarian Intervention (and a Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse)

The breakup of Yugoslavia provided the fodder for what may have been the most misrepresented series of major events over the past twenty years. The journalistic and historical narratives that were imposed upon these wars have systematically distorted their nature, and were deeply prejudicial, downplaying the external factors that drove Yugoslavia’s breakup while selectively exaggerating and misrepresenting the internal factors. Perhaps no civil wars—and Yugoslavia suffered multiple civil wars across several theaters, at least two of which remain unresolved—have ever been harvested as cynically by foreign powers to establish legal precedents and new categories of international duties and norms. Nor have any other civil wars been turned into such a proving ground for the related notions of “humanitarian intervention” and the “right [or responsibility] to protect.” Yugoslavia’s conflicts were not so much mediated by foreign powers as they were inflamed and exploited by them to advance policy goals. The result was a tsunami of lies and misrepresentations in whose wake the world is still reeling.… | more…

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