Trilateralism - an overview
excerpted from the book
edited by Holly Sklar
South End Press, 1980
In 1973 the Trilateral Commission was founded by David Rockefeller,
Chase Manhattan Bank chairman, Zbignew Brzezinski, [President
Jimmy] Carter's national security advisor, and other like-minded
"eminent private citizens." Some 300 members (up from
about 200 members in 19730 are drawn from international business
and banking, government, academia, media, and conservative labor.
The Commission's purpose is to engineer an enduring partnership
among the ruling classes of North America, Western Europe, and
Japan-hence the term "trilateral"-in order to safeguard
the interests of Western capitalism in an explosive world. The
private Trilateral Commission is attempting to mold public policy
and construct a framework for international stability in the coming
decades. ..."trilateralism" refers to the doctrine of
world order advanced by the Commission.
Shortly before Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, Richard Ullman
wrote from inside the foreign policy establishment: "In the
U.S.- among elites, at any rate-trilateralism has become almost
the consensus position on foreign policy." But it was only
at the time of Carter's election that the Trilateral Commission
was given much media attention. "Sound the Alarm: the Trilateralists
are Coming" teased William Greider in a post-inaugural article
on the Carter Administration and the Trilateral Commission. Jimmy
Carter has picked no less than twenty-five trilateralists to serve
in the highest posts of his administration. Besides Brzezinski,
founding director of the Trilateral Commission, we find: Vice-President
Walter Mondale, (former) Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, (former)
Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, Secretary of Defense
Harold Brown, and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Paul Volcker.
Trilateralists don't make a habit of speaking directly and
openly to us, the mass of world citizens (whether they are in
government or out of government). But from their publications
and other statements as well as by their actions, we can glean
a clear sense of their ideology, goals, and strategy...
To put it simply, trilateralists are saying: (1) the people,
governments, and economies of all nations must serve the needs
of multinational banks and corporations; (2) control over economic
resources spells power in modern politics (of course, good citizens
are supposed to believe as they are taught; namely, that political
equality exists in Western democracies whatever the degree of
economic inequality); and (3) the leaders of capitalist democracies-systems
where economic control and profit, and thus political power, rest
with the few-must resist movement toward a truly popular democracy.
In short, trilateralism is the current attempt by ruling elites
to manage both dependence and democracy-at home and abroad...
Trilateral Origins: Western Business on the Defensive
Trilateralism is rooted in a long tradition of elite ideology
and corporate planning. For example, a private U.S. organization
called the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), founded in 1918,
remains a powerful force in shaping public policy and perception.
As the Council's 1919 handbook explains:
"It is a board of initiation-a Board of Invention. It
plans to cooperate with the government and all existing international
agencies and to bring them all into constructive accord."
The CFR had its special chance to be a "Board of Invention"
during and after World War II when it played a pivotal role in
formulating U.S. war aims, constructing the post-World War II
international economic and political order, and guiding U.S. policy
over the last quarter century. In the postwar period, it was relatively
easy to bring all parties into "constructive accord."
Western Europe and Japan were in ruins; the U.S. emerged from
the war as the unrivaled economic, military, and political power.
Through massive economic and military assistance programs like
the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Western Europe and Japan were reconstructed, following U.S. specifications,
into stable trading partners and bulwarks against the "communist
threat." The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund
(see article by James Phillips), and other international organizations
were founded during that early period. They became pillars of
the postwar international trade and monetary system known as the
Bretton Woods System (because it was established at Bretton Woods,
New Hampshire in 1944); the Soviet Union and other "Socialist
bloc" countries dropped out in the early stages when it became
clear the system was to be designed mainly by and for the United
A lesser-known companion institution to the CFR is the Bilderberg
Group. Bilderberg, founded in 1954, is a European-led organization
which is well attended by heads of state and other "influentials"
from Western Europe, the U.S., and Canada. The catch-word for
the times was "Atlanticism" not "trilateralism";
Japan had not yet earned its place in the so-called "club
of advanced nations" which formed the Atlantic Alliance.
Domestic stability and international stability were closely
linked under the umbrella of the welfare/warfare state. Policy
makers and presidents like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson
stepped up efforts to fight the worldwide "war on communism"
(read "war for capitalism") alongside the domestic "war
on poverty"-with the support of liberals, big labor, and
big business. ("Cold War liberalism" is the name given
to the dominant ideology of the postwar period.) Corporations
reaped lush profits from domestic military production and rapidly
expanded out into the empire which U.S. foreign aid remodeled
and U.S. guns protected. Stability at home was maintained with
varying doses of butter (expanding social welfare programs in
the context of a prosperous economy) and political repression
(McCarthy era of the 1950s; FBI and CIA counter-intelligence programs
to disrupt and destroy progressive movements in the 1960s and
70s; systematic police brutality against Chicano/as, Blacks, Native
Americans, and Puerto Ricans.
With the sixties and early seventies came the collapse of
the postwar international economic system and crisis in the welfare/
warfare state. In advertising a 1979 feature story, "The
Decline of U.S. Power: the New Debate Over Guns and Butter,"
Business Week exclaims:
READ IT AND WEEP... Between the fall of Vietnam and the fall
of the Shah of lran the United States has suffered a series of
shocks signaling a steady erosion of U.S. power throughout the
world...The entire U.S.-created post-World War II global economic
system is in danger of destruction.
What are some of these shocks? Broad and militant protest
and sustained political mobilization shook the stability of trilateral
governments. The struggle for workers', students', and peasants'
power brought France near revolution in May 1968-a climactic year
throughout Western Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Watergate was
a public display of government deceit and immorality. As trilateralists
see it, a "crisis of democracy" plagued the West. (Carter
sermonized about the continuing crisis in July 1979, calling it
a "crisis of confidence"-in government, national purpose,
The rout of the U.S. military from Vietnam-formalized by the
Paris treaty of 1973 and finalized with the fall of the Thieu
regime in April 1975-undermined severely the U.S. role as global
police for international capitalism. Domestic constraints were
placed on direct and covert U.S. military action as the public
said no to massive intervention abroad and Congress took steps
to curb the imperial presidency and its zealous scouts, the CIA.
The "oil shock" came with the October 1973 Arab
oil embargo (against the U.S. and the Netherlands because of their
support for lsrael during the October War) and OPEC price hikes
of 1973-74. OPECs success awakened Third World and Western leaders
alike to the potential of "commodity power" on the side
of raw materials producers (and not just the "middlemen"
corporations and consumer nations, as before). Oil gave OPEC the
clout to force the rising Third World call for a New International
Economic Order (NIEO) onto the Western agenda.
"1973 [observes Brzezinski] was the year in which for
the first time the new nations-the Afro-Asian nations, so to speak,
inflicted a political reversal on the advanced world... In some
respects, if 1945 was the beginning of the existing international
system, 1973 marked the beginning of its end and hopefully the
beginning of its renovation and readjustment."
But the post-World War II economic order began to disintegrate
even before OPEC and Vietnam cracked the armor of Western imperialism.
The new menace of "stagflation"-stagnant economic growth
with associated widespread unemployment plus rampant inflation-proved
immune to modern economic medicine, highlighting the deepening
economic crisis of world capitalism. Trade rivalry was mounting
among the U.S., Japan, and Western Europe. West Germany and Japan
were fast becoming economic Frankensteins, challenging U.S. hegemony
over the international capitalist system. By the mid-sixties the
traditionally large U.S. trade surplus had begun to erode; by
1971 the U.S. was running trade deficits, importing more than
it exported. A huge buildup of dollars outside the U.S.-a result
of hegemonic military and foreign aid activities- became disruptive
of international monetary relations. Through inflation and speculation
the dollar weakened against the Japanese yen and West German mark.
International economic reform was needed. But before mutually
agreeable reforms could be initiated President Nixon and Treasury
Secretary John Connally unilaterally demolished the tottering
Bretton Woods System on 15 August 1971 an important date on the
international business timeline), and attempted to reassert U.S.
supremacy with a strongly protectionist "New Economic Policy."
The "Nixon shocks" violated the rules of "free
trade"-the unobstructed flow of money, goods, and services
between countries-enshrined in Bretton Woods. Indeed, such a harsh
display of economic nationalism raised the specter of trade wars
between the so-called free world powers, and horrified corporate
captains such as David Rockefeller for whom international free
enterprise is gospel.
On the political front, Nixon and Kissinger attended to the
emerging U.S.-China-USSR triangle to the neglect of the Cold War
alliance. Western Europe welcomed detente with the Soviet Union,
but not at the expense of its special relationship with the U.S.
The overtures to Peking marked by Kissinger's secret trip in July
1971 and Nixon's pageant in February 1972 came as a special shock
to an uninformed Japan.
The Trilateral Commission was launched before all the tremors
described above had yet registered on the economic/ political
seismograph. The Commission's aim is to "nurture habits and
practices of working together" among the trilateral regions
in order to: promote a healthy (i.e., mutually beneficial and
not mutually suicidal) level of competition between the capitalist
powers; forge a common front against the Third World and Soviet
Union; "renovate" the international political economy
in the interest of global business and finance; make trilateral
democracy more "governable."
The trilateral regions, Commissioners point out, "have
the largest shares of world trade and finance and produce two-thirds
of the world's output." The Commission's overriding concern
is that trilateral nations "remain the vital center"
of management, finance, and technology (i.e. power and control)
for the world economy-a world economy which (in Brzezinski's words)
would "embrace" and "co-opt" the Third World
and gradually reintegrate the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and
China (known as the "dropouts" in trilateral lingo).
Trilateral Commissioners assert: "history shows that
every effective international system requires a custodian."
Today, the super-economies-West Germany and Japan-must share the
custodial role with the United States. Trilateralism, a form of
"collective management" under U.S. tutelage, is the
necessary response if corporate capitalism is to endure and prosper.
The New Corporate Empires: Spreading the Ideology of Profit,
Stability, and the Trilateral Way
Trilateralism is the creed of an international ruling class
whose locus of power is the global corporation. The owners and
managers of global corporations view the entire world as their
factory, farm, supermarket, and playground. The Trilateral Commission
is seeking to strengthen and rationalize the world economy in
Trilateral Commissioner George Ball (investment banker and
former undersecretary of state) applauds the growing number of
"cosmocorps" which are engaged in taking the raw materials
produced in one group of countries, transforming these into manufacturing
goods with the labor and plant facilities of another group, and
selling the products in still a third group...[all] with the benefit
of instant communications, quick transport, computers, and modern
These corporations control vast amounts of natural resources;
monopolize the production of commodities vital to our daily lives,
such as food and energy;* and dominate the research and development
of new technology...
Corporate allegiances are based on the dictates of worldwide
economic growth and profitability. Mobility is the global corporation's
chief asset. The Irving Trust Company advertises proudly: "The
Multinational Corporation. The Sun Never Sets on it...The profit
motive has propelled it on a fantastic journey in search of new
opportunities." As a multinational bank, Irving Trust's job
is "making sure the sun shines brightly" on corporate
investment. The global corporation is most at home in a profit
haven-a place where politicians are obliging, labor is cheap and
"disciplined," tax breaks and tax "holidays"
(which permit a corporation to go untaxed for up to 15 years and
longer) are plentiful; and there are little or no governmental
regulations (as in a "free zone" which is free of taxes
and regulations), an absence of competition, ready supplies of
local credit, and sustained political stability.
Throughout the world we repeatedly see the relation between
profit return and political repression. As one commentator wrote
in Fortune about South Africa:
"South Africa has always been regarded by foreign investors
as a gold mine, one of those rare and refreshing places where
profits are great and problems are small. Capital is not threatened
by political instability or nationalization. Labor is cheap, the
market booming, the currency hard and convertible."
It doesn't take nationalization and revolution to make a corporation
pack up and leave. If the sun should start to set in the form
of higher wage bills, taxes, and other profit ceilings, then the
corporation will "run away" to another corner of the
globe where the "sun shines brightly." We see this pattern
within the United States when corporations move South w here cheap
nonunion labor remains a regional attraction.
Trilateralists want corporations to be free to pursue "the
true logic of the global economy" (to use Ball's words).
Global corporations, explains Ball, are "the best means yet
devised for utilizing world-resources according to the criterion
of profit: an objective standard of efficiency." Capitalist
economists continually refer to "the big tradeoff,"
between efficiency and equality: more equality means less efficiency
and vice versa. The simple Law of Private Profit holds that greed
motivates effort; more effort means more output: more output enhances
the "common good." To stoke the fires of greed, capitalist
institutions, in the words of a prominent economist, "award
prizes that allow the big winners to feed their pets better than
the losers can feed their children." The logic of capitalist
efficiency is one of the devices by which wealth and power are
increasingly centralized. Two myths help sustain this inequality:
the myth of "equality of opportunity" (which keeps people
believing that at least their children will have a chance at the
grand prize) and the idea that if someone is not successful it
is probably their own fault (blame the victim, not the system).
The real tradeoff is between equality and inequality of resources
and opportunity. Facts speak loudly and clearly in the United
States, the most "affluent" society in the world. Today
one-fifth of the population would be classified as poor if not
for governmental assistance. There are now 24.7 million people-about
11.6 percent of the total population-with incomes below the federal
poverty level according to the U.S. Department of Commerce (that
figure would more than triple if the poor above the federal poverty
level were counted). In 1953, 1.6 percent of the adult population
owned 32 percent of all privately owned wealth. " That figure
has changed little in the twentieth century. The U.S. standard
of living is the tenth highest in the world-not first. The United
States ranks fifteenth in infant mortality and literacy among
the nations of the world and even lower on other measures of social
welfare.' The U.S. imprisons people at a higher rate (per capita)
than any other country in the West except South Africa! Private
profit is the standard for a system which makes a mockery of democracy
and a necessity of repression, condemning people to poverty and
joblessness in the U.S. and throughout the free (for corporate
Managing Third World Dependence: Revitalizing Imperialism
Trilateralists have always known that "issues related
to economics are at the heart of modern politics" and they
are determined to consolidate a world economy in which all national
economies beat to the rhythm of transnational corporate capitalism
(all hearts leaping at the sight of corporate products and all
minds thinking in the language of technocrats). Trilateral elites
hope to guarantee a stable supply of raw materials, cheap labor,
and an expanding market place for global corporations by strengthening
the bonds which keep Third World "development" (read
"underdevelopment") defined by and dependent upon the
expansion of the leading capitalist economies.
The Third World calls for a New International Economic Order
(NIEO) to redress structural inequities and protect national economic
(and political) sovereignty. The Commission is attempting to substitute
a "Renovated International Economic System" renovated
by and for Trilateral Inc. Christopher Makins (then deputy director
of the Commission) calls this "gradualist or reformist approach"
to international change the "middle way between the rock
of conservatism and the whirlpool of revolution." He cautions
those who advocate "profound economic, social, and political
" too extreme measures could have a self-defeating effect
by threatening to throttle the goose which can lay the golden
eggs of growth. "
The trilateral goal is to reorient efforts to redistribute
global resources into promotion of a so-called "new order
for mutual gain" (a concept elaborated by Richard Cooper,
undersecretary of state for economic affairs, among others). This
would be nothing more than the old order for trilateral gain thinly
disguised by a few flourishes of affirmative action for Third
World elites and whatever "trickle-down" effects an
expanding world economy could afford. As always the rich in the
rich and poor countries will get richer at the expense of the
poor in all countries...
Looking to the lessons of the past and faced with a volatile
future, trilateralists seek new terms upon which to dictate to
the Third World. (See article by Philip Wheaton for trilateralism's
proposed terms for the Caribbean.) In discussing attitudes behind
the rise of the modern welfare state-the terms upon which capital
continues to dictate to labor-Commissioners observe that they
are rooted "in ethical and philosophical values of the West
as well as in enlightened self-interest, since a minimum of social
justice and reform will be necessary for stability in the long
run. " Accordingly, Commissioners describe the major tasks
of their "strategy for the management of interdependence"
as: "keeping the peace, managing the world economy, satisfying
the basic human needs, and protecting human rights." Regarding
"basic human needs," Commissioners write:
The alleviation of poverty is a demand of the basic principles
of the West as well as simple self-interest. In the long run an
orderly world is unlikely if great affluence in one part coexists
with abject poverty in another while "one world" of
communication, of mutual concern, and interdependence comes into
The regimes of countries which the Trilateral Commission calls
"International Middle Class countries" or "new
influentials" (mentioned above) are to be co-opted with an
increased role and stake in international management and split
from the ranks of Third World countries.
In this trilateral scheme of divide and rule, the poorest
countries (or "Fourth World") are to be pacified with
a basic human needs approach. Symbolic minimal welfare programs
would be administered through Western-dominated agencies such
as the World Bank in accordance with a world development budget.
Needless to say the terms of development would be dictated along
lines which serve the global corporation in promoting an orderly
(The Trilateral Commission classifies as "Fourth World"
those "resource-poor, low-income developing countries that
lack large foreign exchange reserves, buoyant export prospects,
or the ability to service credit on commercial or near-commercial
terms." It "includes some 30 countries with nearly I
billion people, among them India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, some tropical
African countries, and a few countries in Latin America."
In the "Third World" category" are countries like
Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and Malaysia, which enjoy substantial foreign
exchange reserves, high prices for their exports or ready access
to capital markets.")
Corporate controlled economic growth operates according to
the "Law of Uneven Development"-"the tendency of
the system to produce poverty as well as wealth, underdevelopment
as well as development. The gap between rich and poor countries
widens. Workers and peasants grow increasingly impoverished as
national income rises and a narrow strata at the top is enriched.
Commissioners themselves admit (outside their classrooms and corporate
PR activities): "meeting basic human needs is not necessarily
the same as fostering economic development"; "a great
deal of our past thinking on economic development has failed to
put human beings in the center of transitional strategies";
and "rising per capita GNP figures may well obscure increasing
misery within the state in question." Nonetheless, they promise
more of the same, declaring: "countries that want economic
development would be well-advised to welcome foreign firms on
appropriate terms'' (i.e., terms appropriate and profitable for
In discussing the goal of alleviating poverty, trilateralists
conclude: "we do not have the human resources to eliminate
poverty within the immediately foreseeable future; but we can
contribute toward that end over a longer period of time."
What they mean is that without steps to redistribute existing
wealth and to reallocate the means of producing wealth, poverty
and hunger are here to stay. (Dahlia Rudavsky analyzes the Commission's
plans to cultivate more food for profit while perpetuating poverty.)
Trilateralists correctly note that "for the weaker developing
countries, interdependence appears as a system of dependence...As
they see it their entire economy and external trade have been
shaped according to priorities defined by stronger industrialized
states and not by their own needs." They fear that "the
idea of greater self-reliance, which is, in fact, an indispensable
goal of development policy, could degenerate into a rejection
of an integrated world economy if present trends continue."
In 1975, Brzezinski warned:
'...today we find the international scene dominated on its
overt plane more by conflict between the advanced world and the
developing world than by conflict between trilateral democracies
and the communist states...;he new aspirations of the Third and
) Fourth Worlds united together seems to me to pose a very major
\ threat to the nature of the international system and ultimately
to our own societies. That threat is the threat of denial of cooperation.'
How do the trilateral powers keep Third World states "cooperative?"
In the wake of World War II, old-style colonialism gave way to
neocolonialism. The neocolonial state has formal political independence
but "in reality its economic system and thus its political
policy is directed from outside. Instead of a single colonial
master, the neocolonial state may have many new masters: Western
governments (especially the U.S.), the International Monetary
Fund, banking consortiums, global corporations. Western powers
have intervened repeatedly to sabotage and smash governments which
challenged the tightly woven fabric of dependency: Iran, 1953;
Guatemala, 1954; the Congo (now Zaire), 1960; Brazil, 1964; Dominican
Republic and Indonesia, 1965; Bolivia, 1970-71; Chile, 1973. (The
1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, orchestrated by the CIA and
top government and military officials with President Kennedy's
approval, was defeated.)
Debt dependency is one of the neocolonial leashes around a
Third World country's neck. The leash is let out to allow Western-directed
development projects to gallop ahead-returning enormous profits
to foreign corporations and banks. Or, the debt leash can be pulled
in tight-as part of an economic and political destabilization
campaign-to strangle a rebellious nation into submission.
Destabilization is the dominant system's "cure"
for any government which threatens the economic freedom of international
business as it becomes "more" responsive to the needs
of its people. And the global doctors know just how painful their
cure can be; it kills the body to save the cancer. The overthrow
of Chile's democratically elected government is a case in point:
-- From a memo to Chilean President Frei, September 1970,
in Controlling Interest. The case of Chile's destabilization following
Salvador Allende's presidential victory is well documented. Nixon,
Kissinger, and CIA director Richard Helms succeeded in their efforts
to "make the economy scream" by orchestrating an economic
blockade of the country-cutting off U.S. aid and all lines of
international public and private bank finance and orchestrating
economic and political sabotage within the country. Military assistance,
however, was increased in order to encourage and enable the army
to overthrow Allende's government and smash Chilean democracy
to bring back "economic freedom."
More than 30,000 people were killed, including President Allende,
resisting the military coup of September 11, 1973. Since then,
over 2,000 people have "disappeared" and most are presumed
dead. More than 100,000 people have been Jailed for political
reasons; torture is commonplace. Thousands of people have been
forced to flee into exile. --
Three years before the coup U.S. Ambassador Korry communicated
Washington's sinister promise:
'Not a nut or bolt shall reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende
comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile
and all Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.'
Events in Jamaica in the late 1970s reveal a newer brand of
debt diplomacy-its more insidious style is preferred by trilateralists
over the Chilean coup scenario. Even more than before, the International
Monetary Fund acts as chief ambassador of Western capitalism in
the art of debt diplomacy. The IMF is not the world's biggest
loan-shark, but it is the most important; the IMF" good housekeeping
seal" is the green light for lending by banks, government
agencies, and other international financial institutions like
the World Bank. The U.S. and other trilateral countries control
The IMF program of economic stabilization spells austerity
for the mass of the population. Measures are designed to entice
foreign investment: so-called "luxury" social welfare
programs like food and education subsidies are dismantled; wages
are kept down. Harsh repression is often needed to carry out a
forced cut in already meager living standards and redirect resources
to the export business sector (the key sector for economic health
in the IMF's view) which is largely foreign owned and controlled.
Not surprisingly, the Commission has recommended a strengthening
and expansion of the IMF's role in monitoring the international
monetary system and managing "interdependence." As Franz
Hinkelammert points out: "The Trilateral countries see 'interdependence'
as a weapon in this conflict [between Western capitalism and the
people of the Third World] and the use of this weapon is called
The "Human Rights" Strategy
When it comes to protecting human rights, Carter has launched
the so-called Human Rights Campaign and committed the United States
to "shaping a world order" that is "just,"
"peaceful," and "more responsive to human aspirations."
The Commission uses this same rhetoric for the same purpose: it
is a moral mask on the face of trilateralism with its goal of
"shaping a world order" that remains responsive to corporate
aspirations. Trilateral states do not piously practice the human
rights they preach-either inside or outside their borders. Indeed,
repression and counterinsurgency are the glue for the trilateral
mask of reform.
Placing the Carter Human Rights Campaign in its proper historical
context, James Petras observes:
'Morality is the recurring ideological expression of U.S.
imperialism in a period of crisis: it is what is offered to the
world in place of substantive changes in the world's economic
and social order.'
When substantive change does occur it reflects a failure of
the human rights policy, not a success. No case illustrates this
more clearly than long-time Western support of the Shah's regime
in Iran and its 1978-79 overthrow by the Iranian people. The Shah's
regime received more U.S. military equipment than any other country
in the world and was an economic bonanza for global corporations.
With Saudi Arabia, the Shah's regime was to provide stability
in the Middle East and moderation in OPEC policies, securing oil
for the trilateral regions.
Trilateralists caution that "in many cases, the support
for human rights will have to be balanced against other important
goals of world order." They use detente with the Soviet Union
as an example of where balance is needed. But the cases of countries
like Iran, Nicaragua, South Korea, the Philippines, and South
Africa are far more telling. Henry Kissinger bluntly explains
the lesson to be drawn from events leading to the overthrow of
'The fundamental challenge of a revolution is this: certainly
wise governments forestall revolutions by making timely concessions;
indeed the very wisest governments do not consider adaptations
as concessions, but rather as part of a natural process of increasing
popular support. However, once a revolution has occurred, the
pre-eminent requirement is the restoration of authority. These
concessions, which had they been taken a year earlier might have
avoided the situation, accelerated the process of disintegration...'
Trilateral economics dictate unceasing exploitation. Still
trilateralists rhetorically claim "a basic human solidarity
with the oppressed." The lesson we must draw from events
in Iran and around the globe is that human rights trilateral style
is a move played in the game of world politics. lt is never played
"in solidarity with the oppressed" but only by and for
Keeping this point in mind, we see that two seemingly contradictory
strategies are employed by trilateralists toward the same end:
to keep conservative pro-Western Third World elites from being
supplanted by progressive forces. First, there is maintenance
of police states, or national security states as they are commonly
known in Latin America, wherever they can remain stable and serve
the needs of Western capitalism. Many of these regimes have served
an increasingly important function as regional police and sub-imperialists
under guidelines set forth in the Nixon Doctrine.
Second, there is encouragement of "democratization"
or "liberalization," as the Carter administration calls
it. The goal is to transform client dictatorships into pro-Western
subordinate forms of limited capitalist democracies (sometimes
referred to as "new democracy" or "viable democracy").
Liberalization is not a gift of the international ruling class.
It comes of necessity when the revolutionary potential of the
population is mounting under the unceasing repression and poverty
of the police state; it entails the concessions Kissinger spoke
of regarding Iran. Or it comes of necessity when local businessmen
and landowners are closed out of wealth accumulation shared only
with privileged foreign corporations. Often the ruling clique
has a stranglehold on the economy (such as the Somoza family did
in Nicaragua). If there is too much graft and patronage (and too
much money leaving the country for Swiss bank accounts and foreign
property) stymieing the growth of the middle class and stunting
economic development, then pressure mounts within the capitalist
class and middle strata for a civilian government.
Democratization trilateral style requires the existence of
a moderate alternative to military dictatorship, such as Antonio
Guzman in the Dominican Republic (see article by Lisa Wheaton
on events in the Dominican Republic). The moderate platform promises
greater political freedom for the population while encouraging
an expanding middle sector of entrepreneurs and consumers within
a capitalist economy. By curbing the practices of arbitrary imprisonment,
murder, exile, torture, and blanket censorship-focusing repression
on the "extremists"-capitalists hope to defuse the popular
struggle for universal economic and social rights (employment,
food, housing, health, education) and true political participation.
These rights go beyond what trilateralists see as the "minimum
of social justice and reform" necessary for stability (and
expanding markets) to directly threaten trilateral neoimperialism.
When liberation forces are strong, with widespread popular
support, democratization has no chance of success. Witness the
failure of the U.S. attempt to install the Bakhtiar regime in
Iran or impose a conservative coalition government in Nicaragua
(as the Sandinista-led victory drew near). In both cases, Washington
was surprised when the people proved powerful enough to overthrow
their respective dictatorships. Washington was again surprised
when the people refused to hand their country back to U.S. caretakers.
The trilateral strategy of democratization is a strategy of co-optation.
It has a chance of success when power lies with the reformist
elements in society, but not in the face of a broad-based revolutionary
Managing Western Democracy: Limited Democracy is "Governable
Trilateralists are not only concerned with managing international
events. They are determined to manage North American, West European,
and Japanese democracy, fitting these societies ever more closely
to the needs of global capitalism.
During the 1960s and 1970s ruling elites in the United States-and
throughout the West-were challenged with militant protest from
a wide cross-section of the public: workers, Native Americans,
;Blacks, women, poor people, students, Chicanos, Asian Americans,
gays, environmentalists. The antiwar movement shook the bipartisan
foreign policy consensus which was grounded in the Cold War and
U.S. supremacy. Pressure mounted for a more equitable and democratic
political, economic, and social system.
Protest was nonviolent and violent, organized and spontaneous,
short-lived and enduring. Hundreds of thousands of people marched
on Washington, a wave of riots hit major cities and universities
were shut down. The ruling class response was often brutal. Protesters
were beaten and jailed, leaders were murdered. Students, white
and Black, were shot down at Kent State and Jackson State. Police
brutality was widespread, especially in minority communities.
The FBI escalated its counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO)
against Black, Native American, and Puerto Rican liberation struggles;
the New Left; the antiwar movement; and the Women's movement.
The CIA carried out a covert action campaign within the U.S. and
abroad against U.S. citizens assumed to be involved in antiwar
activity known as Operation M HCHAOS (MH standing for matters
related to internal U.S. security and CHAOS signifying its goal
of infiltrating and destroying anti-war groups).
In 1975 the Trilateral Commission released its book-length
study, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of
Democracies to the Trilateral Commission. Noam Chomsky best summarizes
the theme: "Trilateral's RX for Crisis: Governability Yes.
The 1960s are the point of departure for the trilateral analysis.
J Samuel Huntington, author of the chapter on the United States,
describes this period as the "decade of democratic surge
and of the reassertion of democratic egalitarianism." What
must follow, as the trilateralists see it, is the reassertion
of elite rule and decades of public apathy. Thus, domestic items
on the trilateral agenda include: reducing the expectations of
the poor and middle class, increasing presidential authority,
strengthening business-government cooperation in economic planning,
stricter press self-regulation and government oversight, and pacification
of rank and file labor...
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