excerpts from the book
imperialism in the 21st Century
by James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer
Fernwood Publishing - Zed Books,
"Globalization" refers to the widening and deepening
of the international flows of trade, capital, technology and information
within a single integrated global market.
"Globalization" involves the liberalization of national
and global markets in the belief that free flows of trade, capital
and information will produce the best outcome for growth and human
welfare (UNDP 1992).
The network of institutions that define the structure of the new
global economic system is viewed not in structural terms, but
as intentional and contingent, subject to the control of individuals
who represent and seek to advance the interests of a new international
This class, it is argued, is formed on the basis of institutions
that include a complex of some 37,000 transnational corporations
(TNCs), the operating units of global capitalism, the bearers
of capital and technology and the major agents of the new imperial
order. These TNCs are not the only organizational bases of this
order, which also include the World Bank, the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions (IFIs)
that constitute the self-styled "international financial
community," or what Barnet and Cavenagh (1994) prefer to
call "the global financial network." In addition, the
New World Order is made up of a host of global strategic planning
and policy forums such as the Group of Seven (G-7), the Trilateral
Commission (TC) and the World Economic Forum (WEF); and the state
apparatuses in countries at the centre of the system that have
been restructured so as to serve and respond to the interests
of global capital. All of these institutions form an integral
part of the new imperialism - the new system of "global governance."
Throughout history, ruling classes representing small minorities
have depended on a coercive state apparatus and social institutions
to defend their power, profits and privileges. In the past, particularly
in the Third World, imperial ruling classes financed and supported
overseas and domestic religious institutions to control exploited
people and deflect their discontent into religious and communal
rivalries and conflicts.
U.S. foreign policy is largely directed towards serving the TNCs
In Colombia, Mexico and Peru, peasant-guerrilla movements were
active; in Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Brazil, significant
peasant movements emerged. In Venezuela and Argentina, urban uprisings
and trade union strikes gained popular support. The threat from
below to the U.S.-backed neoliberal elite consensus led Washington
to seek a new ideology to support its intervention through the
military and police. The "fight against narco-trafficking"
has served Washington's empire-building purposes. First, it has
disguised Washington's repressive and exploitative policies behind
a high moral purpose, and thus domestic public opinion has been
neutralized. Second, the fight against narco-traffickers has allowed
Washington to penetrate the internal security forces of Latin
America and establish its own political agenda. Third, the "narco-traffic
war" has allowed Washington to have direct access to the
society in order to push its economic and counter-insurgency agenda.
By focusing the fight against narco-traffic towards Latin America
and towards the countryside, Washington has been able to aim blows
against real or potential social revolutionary movements. If Washington's
leaders were truly serious about drug-trafficking issues, it would
instead focus internally, on the large international banks that
launder most of the drug money; they would arrest corrupt police
who take drug bribes; they would invest more in anti-drug education;
and they would provide decent jobs for the low-paid, marginal
groups of workers who become drug dealers. The decision to look
overseas and downward, instead of inward and upward, is a political
choice, an imperial requirement.
Any objective analysis of drug trafficking
would have to conclude that the issue is essentially a "market,"
or "demand," problem. Fundamentally it is an internal
problem of the U.S. and its government, society, economy and cultural
The "externalization" of the
drug problem has a double value for Washington: it deflects a
deep critique of U.S. society and economy, and it provides a pretext
for the continuous manipulation of Latin politics, politicians
and [military officials.
Washington's "war on drugs" is directed towards increasing
U.S. power in Latin America. The use of drug money laundered through
U.S. banks finances Washington's trade imbalances, while the drug
war increases Washington's general influence over economic policy,
allowing U.S.-based TNCs to buy Latin American public enterprises
at scandalously low prices and to penetrate markets.
The reason the U.S. has concentrated its anti-drug campaign in
Colombia is because Washington is fearful that this Latin American
nation could become he second Vietnam... Washington's anti-drug
war is deeply intertwined with its counterrevolutionary politics:
its military aid is mainly directed towards destroying peasant
links to the FARC. By eradicating coca, promoting cheap imports
and repressing peasant organizations, the U.S. and the Colombian
military hope to drive the peasantry out of the countryside and
isolate the guerrillas.
Between 1960 and 1964 the Right divided between a populist sector
that attempted to "co-opt" the reform agenda of the
revolutionary Left and a "hard Right" that aligned with
the military and the conservative hierarchy of the Church,
In Brazil, Chile, Peru and Venezuela the
populist Right, in alliance with the U.S., pushed for agrarian
reforms to divide the peasants from the radicalized working classes
and urban poor. Under tutelage from the U.S., reform was combined
with physical repression in the form of "counter-insurgency,"
The bourgeoisie combined electoral and armed struggle. Under pressure
from the Left and the popular movements, the "populist sectors"
of the Right began to lose control of the "reform process."
Increasingly the "hard Right" began to organize paramilitary
groups, mass protests and economic boycotts (disinvestment, lockouts).
The "electoralist Right" increasingly abandoned its
"populist alliance" and began to prepare covert armed
action in alliance with the military and U.S. intelligence agencies.
The "reformist phase" of the
Right ended in 1964 with the military coup in Brazil. Preceded
by mass demonstrations in which it utilized its ties with the
traditional Church, conservative mass media and civic associations,
the Right fomented economic paralysis and socio-political polarization.
In this context the "hard Right" allied with the military
to launch the military coup.
The point is that the Right possesses
an instrumental view of democracy. For the Right, the class character
and orientation of the state determines its practice towards armed
or electoral struggle.
The Brazilian Right's decision to take
the road of armed struggle via a military coup set an example
for the rest of Latin America. Military coups subsequently took
place in Argentina (1966 and 1976), Bolivia (1971) and Chile (1973).
The phase of right-wing electoral competition with the Left ended.
The Right's inability to control the "reformist" process
and its loss of electoral support strengthened the sectors oriented
towards armed struggle. The Alliance for Progress announced by
Kennedy was dead. The U.S. once again aligned itself with the
"hard Right." In the ideological terms, the Right shifted
from a democratic discourse to national security, from agrarian
reform to export-oriented "modernization."
The decade from 1973 to 1983 was a decade of unrestrained right-wing
violence from the government and through paramilitary groups.
Rightist violence reached unprecedented heights. In Central America,
350,000 people were killed and over 2.5 million went into exile.
In South America (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and
Peru), close to 70,000 people were killed. The Right resorted
to state terror on a massive scale.
Repressive policies were oriented towards
disarticulating civil society, particularly the popular sociopolitical
movements; destroying the political intellectual framework of
the nationalist, populist and socialist political and intellectual
leaders; and, more importantly, restructuring the economy and
The second phase of the rightist strategy
was to reshape the economic, state and class structure to concentrate
wealth in the export elites, banks and multinationals and to centralize
power in the executive (military) branch of government. Accompanying
these political-economic changes, the Right created a new neoliberal
political-intellectual framework from which to shape economic
and social policy. The combination of violent rule and "liberal
reform" was first embodied in Chile under Pinochet and was
followed later by military rulers in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia.
The Right deepened its ties internationally while disarticulating
civil society internally. The United States and the international
financial agencies provided large flows of financial resources
and economic advisory groups to consolidate right-wing regimes
Many of the key right-wing economic advisors were graduates of
universities in the U.S. specializing in free market dogma (University
of Chicago, Stanford, Harvard, etc.).
Once the liberal institutional-economic framework was set up and
the process of accumulation and concentration was taking place,
the Right debated the question of "governability." The
discussion focused on forms of legitimization, rules for resolving
the conflicts of interest within the ruling class and methods
to contain popular unrest. The issue of governability became acute,
with the return of mass struggles in Brazil (1979-85), Chile (1983-86),
Argentina (1982-83) and Bolivia (1981-84), as well as the revolutionary
struggles in Central America (Guatemala and El Salvador).
The military regimes were no longer the
most viable political instruments to deepen and extend the neoliberal
model promoted by the Washington consensus. re Right turned towards
a negotiated transition, in which an electoral system would preserve
the state but leave the socio-economic class structure intact.
What was crucial for the Right was the selection of appropriate
interlocutors who would accept the parameters of politics established
during the dictatorship and respect the impunity of the military.
... From the pinnacle of rigid class structures
the Right controlled the mass media and financial resources to
project an image of legitimacy, while practicing a new style of
authoritarian politics [Latin America 1980s -1990s.] Under the
electoral facade of the 1990s the Right rules through the executive
and legislates by executive decree. It guarantees the continuity
of its rule by forcing through laws allowing for the reelection
of the president, and it pressures and corrupts representatives
and judges to approve anti-labour legislation that weakens trade
unions and undermines class solidarity.
The Right engages in class warfare, strengthening
the bourgeois class by privatizing key public enterprises and
thus concentrating more power and economic resources in the hands
of its key class supporters. The Right facilitates mergers of
mass media empires, thus centralizing ideological control in the
hands of right-wing capitalists. Neoliberal policies are less
an "economic" strategy than a political-class strategy.
Economic policies and political decrees are directed towards disarticulating
the social base of the Left, and legal measures are enforced by
Any discussion of the Right in Latin America must take into account
the U.S. imperial state and multinational banks and corporations.
They play a central role in shaping the strategies and providing
organized support and financing of the Latin American Right. In
fact, conceptually they are an integral part of the Right.
U.S. strategy [in Latin America] is right-wing
because its intervention and articulation is in defense of policies
that favour the maximization of profits and their free remittance
by a small elite of banks and corporations at the expense of the
income of wage earners and national growth. Washington's policies
are articulated with business and financial groups of the Right
against popular movements. Its free market ideology resonates
with the liberal doctrines of the Latin American Right and is
hostile to the redistributive policies of the Left.
Washington, through the National Endowment for Democracy [NED],
financed seminars, meetings and publications on the theme of "redemocratization."
[Latin America, 1980s] The "new democracy" embodied
in the Washington consensus excluded popular consultation, agrarian
reform, redistribution of income and comprehensive public social
services. Instead it centralized power in the presidency as an
instrument of neoliberal policy.