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 States.

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 future.)

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 their interest.

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 management techniques...

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 profit) world...


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 changes":

" 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 being."

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 world economy.

(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 the corporations).

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:

' 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.

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 destabilization."


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 Shah:

'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 the oppressor.

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 movement...


Managing Western Democracy: Limited Democracy is "Governable Democracy"

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. Democracy NO."

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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