From grade school through grad school, we are told that U.S. forces must intervene in this or that country in order to protect U.S. interests, thwart aggression, and defend our national security. U.S. leaders fashioned other convenient rationales for their interventions abroad. The public was told that the peoples of various countries were in need of our civilizing guidance and desired the blessings of democracy, peace, and prosperity. To accomplish this, of course, it might be necessary to kill off considerable numbers of the more recalcitrant among them. Such were the measures our policymakers were willing to pursue in order to “uplift lesser peoples.”
Ruling classes throughout the world hate and fear communism not for its lack of political democracy, but because it attempts to establish economic democracy by building an egalitarian, collectivist social system—though they rarely come right out and say as much. This counterrevolutionary interventionist policy rests on several dubious assumptions that might be stated and rebutted as follows:
“The United States must play a counterrevolutionary containment role in order to protect our national interests.”
This is true only if we equate “our national interests” with the investment interests of high finance. U.S. interventionism has been very effective in building neo-imperialism, keeping the land, labor, natural resources, and markets of Third World countries available at bargain prices to multinational corporations. But these corporate interests do not represent the interests of the U.S. people. The public pays for the huge military budgets and endures the export of its jobs to foreign labor markets, the inflow of thousands of impoverished immigrants who compete for scarce employment and housing, and various other costs of empire.
Furthermore, revolutionary governments like Cuba, Libya, Vietnam, and North Korea were—and still are—eager to trade and maintain peaceful relations with this country. These countries do not threaten the national security of the United States or its people, but the overseas interests of global capitalism. If allowed to multiply in numbers, countries with an alternative socialist system, one that uses the land, labor, capital, and natural resources in collectivist ways, placing people before profits, would eventually undermine global capitalism.
“The United States has a moral obligation to guarantee the stability of nations that are undergoing democratic development but are threatened by revolutionaries and terrorists.”
In fact, most U.S. interventions are on behalf of corrupt and self-serving oligarchs and antidemocratic militarists (who take power with or without the benefit of U.S.-sponsored showcase elections). Third World oligarchs are frequently educated at elite U.S. universities or end up on the CIA payroll, as do their police chiefs and military officers, many of whom receive training in torture and assassination at U.S. counterinsurgency institutions.
“Fundamental social change should be peacefully pursued within the established order of nations rather than by revolutionary turmoil.”
U.S. policymakers maintain that they favor eliminating mass poverty in poorer countries and that they are not opposed to the laudatory objectives of social revolution but to its violent methods. They say that transformations must be effected gradually and peacefully, preferably through private investment and the benign workings of the free market. In fact, corporate investment is more likely to deter rather than encourage reform by preempting markets and restructuring the local economy to fit foreign capital extraction needs. International finance capital has no interest in bettering the life chances of Third World peoples. Generally, as Western investments have increased in the Third World, life conditions for the ordinary peasants and workers have grown steadily more desperate.
That last point frequently goes unmentioned in discussions about the ethics of revolutionary violence. The very concept of “revolutionary violence” is somewhat falsely cast, since most of the violence comes from those who attempt to prevent reform, not from those struggling for reform. By focusing on the violent rebellions of the downtrodden, we overlook the much greater repressive force and violence utilized by the ruling oligarchs to maintain the status quo, including armed attacks against peaceful demonstrations, mass arrests, torture, destruction of opposition organizations, suppression of dissident publications, death squad assassinations, the extermination of whole villages, and the like.
Most social revolutions begin peaceably. Why would it be otherwise? Who would not prefer to assemble and demonstrate rather than engage in mortal combat against pitiless forces that enjoy every advantage in mobility and firepower? Revolutions in Russia, China, Vietnam, and El Salvador all began peacefully, with crowds of peasants and workers launching nonviolent protests only to be met with violent oppression from the authorities. Peaceful protest and reform are exactly what the people are denied by the ruling oligarchs. The dissidents who continue to fight back, who try to defend themselves from the oligarchs’ repressive fury, are then called “violent revolutionaries” and “terrorists.”
For those local and international elites who maintain control over most of the world’s wealth, social revolution is an abomination. Whether it be peaceful or violent is a question of no great moment to them. Peaceful reforms that infringe upon their profitable accumulations and threaten their class privileges are as unacceptable to them as the social upheaval imposed by revolution.
In pursuit of counterrevolution and in the name of freedom, U.S. forces or U.S.-supported surrogate forces slaughtered 2,000,000 North Koreans in a three-year war; 3,000,000 Vietnamese; over 500,000 in aerial wars over Laos and Cambodia; over 1,500,000 in Angola; over 1,000,000 in Mozambique; over 500,000 in Afghanistan; 500,000 to 1,000,000 in Indonesia; 200,000 in East Timor; 100,000 in Nicaragua (combining the Somoza and Reagan eras); over 100,000 in Guatemala (plus an additional 40,000 disappeared); over 700,000 in Iraq;3 over 60,000 in El Salvador; 30,000 in the “dirty war” of Argentina (though the government admits to only 9,000); 35,000 in Taiwan, when the Kuomintang military arrived from China; 20,000 in Chile; and many thousands in Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Brazil, South Africa, Western Sahara, Zaire, Turkey, and dozens of other countries, in what amounts to a free-market world holocaust.