Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 7: The Victors Segment 9/14
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4. The Fruits of Victory: Asia

Turning elsewhere in the domains of freedom, capitalism, and democracy, we naturally begin with the Philippines, which have been lucky enough to be under the wing of the leader of the Free World for almost a century. The desperate state of Filipinos in the post-Marcos democracy is reviewed in the Far Eastern Economic Review, firmly dedicated to economic liberalism and the priorities of the business community, under the heading "Power to the plutocrats." Its reports conclude that "Much of the country's problems now...seem to be rooted in the fact that the country has had in its entire history no form of social revolution." The consequences of this failure include "the jinxed land reform programme," a failure that "profoundly affects the prognosis for the incidence of poverty" among the 67% of poor Filipino families living in rural areas, condemning them to permanent misery, huge foreign debt, "massive capital flight," an increase in severe malnutrition among pre-school children since the Aquino government took power, widespread underemployment, and survival for many on incomes far below government-defined poverty thresholds, "the growth of a virtual society of beggars and criminals," and the rest of the familiar story. Government and academic experts expect things to get considerably worse. For the "rapidly expanding disadvantaged," the only way out is to seek work abroad: "legal and illegal workers from the Philippines now comprise the greatest annual labour exodus in Asia." With social programs abandoned, the only hope is if "the big-business elite, in a situation of little government interference, foregoes the Philippine elite traditional proclivity towards conspicuous consumption, and instead use profits both for their employee's welfare and to accumulate capital for industrial development."44

These conditions can be traced in no small measure to the U.S. invasion at the turn of the century with its vast slaughter and destruction, the long colonial occupation, and the subsequent policies including the postwar counterinsurgency campaign and support for the Marcos dictatorship as long as it was viable. But the Philippines did gain the (intermittent) gift of democracy. In the same business journal, a columnist for the Manila Daily Globe, Conrado de Quiros, reflects on this matter under the heading "The wisdom of democracy." He compares the disaster of the Philippines to the economic success story of Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, whose harsh tyranny is another of those famous triumphs of democracy and capitalism. De Quiros quotes the Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry, Lee's son, who condemns the U.S. model imposed on the Philippines for many flaws, the "worst crime" being that it granted the Filipinos a free press; in his own words, "An American-style free-wheeling press purveyed junk in the marketplace of ideas, which led to confusion and bewilderment, not to enlightenment and truth." With a better appreciation of the merits of fascism, his Singapore government is too wise to fall into this error.45

The Americans did introduce a form of democracy, de Quiros continues. However, it "was not designed to make Filipinos free but to make them comfortable with their new chains." It may have given the Filipinos more newspapers, but "it has given them less money with which to buy them. It has made the rich richer," with "one of the world's worst cases of inequity in the distribution of wealth," according to the World Bank. Democracy "was an instrument of colonisation," and was not intended to have substantive content:

For most Filipinos, American-style democracy meant little more than elections every few years. Beyond this, the colonial authorities made sure that only the candidates who represented colonial interests first and last won. This practice did not die with colonialism. The ensuing political order, which persisted long after independence, was one where a handful of families effectively and ruthlessly ruled a society riven by inequality. It was democratic in form, borrowing as many American practices as it could, but autocratic in practice.

Under Philippine democracy, most of the population is not represented. The politicians are lawyers or wealthy businessmen or landowners. As the political structure bequeathed to the Philippines by the American occupation was reconstituted after the overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictator by "people power," Gary Hawes writes, "it is only those with money and muscle who can be elected." Candidates are mainly "former elected officials, relatives of powerful political families and/or members of the economic elite," unrepresentative of the rural majority or even "the citizens who had demonstrated to bring down Marcos and who had risked their lives to protect their ballots for Corazon Aquino." There did exist a party (PnB) based on the popular organizations that arose against the dictatorship, with broad support from the peasantry, the labor force, and large reformist sections of the middle class, but it was to have no political role. In the elections, PnB was outspent by the traditional conservative parties by a ratio of up to 20 to 1. Its supporters were subjected to intimidation and threats of loss of jobs, housing, and city licenses. The military presence also served to inhibit PnB campaigning. Interviews with poor farmers and workers revealed a preference for PnB candidates, but a recognition that since the military and the rural elite opposed them, "the next best choice was to take the money or the rewards and vote for the candidates endorsed by the Aquino government."46

Under the reconstituted elite democracy, Hawes continues, "the voices of the rural dwellers" -- almost two-thirds of the population -- "have seldom been heard," and the same is true of the urban poor. The cure for agitation in the countryside is militarization and the rise of vigilantes, leading to a record of human rights violations "as bad as, if not worse than, during the time of Marcos," a 1988 human rights mission reported, with torture, summary executions, and forced evacuations. There is economic growth, but its fruits "have seldom trickled down to the most needy." Peasants continue to starve while paying 70% of their crop to the landlord. Agrarian reform is barely a joke. Support for the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its guerrillas is mounting after years of rural organizing.

De Quiros suggests that there has been "substantive democracy in the Philippines -- despite colonialism and elite politics." "This is so because democracy took a life of its own, expressing itself in peasant revolts and popular demand for reforms." It is just this substantive democracy that the United States and its allies are dedicated to repress and contain. Hence the absence of any social revolution of the kind that he and several other commentators in this most respectable business journal see as sorely lacking in the Philippines -- though if it can join the club of "capitalist democracies" of the Singapore variety, the tune will likely change.

Meanwhile, Survival International reports that tribal peoples in the Philippines are being attacked by the private army of a logging company, which, in a six-month campaign of terror, has killed and tortured villagers, burned down houses, destroyed rice stores, and driven thousands from their homes. They are also among the many victims of bombing of villages and other practices of the government counterinsurgency campaigns. Appeals to the Aquino government have been ignored. An appeal to the U.S. government, or Western circles generally, cannot be seriously proposed. The same is true in Thailand, where the government announced a plan to expel 6 million people from forests where it wants to establish softwood plantations.47

Miracles of capitalism are also to be found elsewhere in Asia. Charles Gray, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Asian-American Free Labor Institute (noted for its pro-business stance), observes in the Far Eastern Economic Review that transnational corporations "generally insist the host government suppress the right of workers to organise and join unions, even when that right is guaranteed in the country's own constitution and laws." The organization that coordinates trade in the Free World (GATT) does not have a single rule that "covers the subsidies that transnational corporations get though pressures on Third World governments to permit 19th century-type exploitation of labour." In Malaysia, "US and other foreign corporations forced the Labour Ministry in 1988 to continue the government's long-standing prohibition of unions in the electronics industry by threatening to shift their jobs and investments to another country." In Bangladesh, contractors for the transnationals "discriminate against women and girls by paying them starvation wages as low as 9 US cents an hour." In China's Guangdong province, hailed as one of the miracles of capitalist success in a generally bleak Chinese scene, when the government found that "the factory of a leading toy manufacturer was engaged in labour law violations -- such as 14-hour workdays and seven-day workweeks -- it approached the managers to ask them to respect the law. The managers refused, and said that if they were unable to operate the way they wanted they would close their Chinese factories and move to Thailand," where there are no such unreasonable demands.48

Go to the next segment.

44 Rigoberto Tiglao, Margot Cohen, FEER, July 12, 1990.

45 De Quiros, FEER, Nov. 2, 1989.

46 Hawes, "Aquino and Her Administration: A View from the Countryside," Pacific Affairs, Spring 1989.

47 Survival International Urgent Action Bulletin, May 1990; News, Feb. 1990.

48 Charles Gray, executive director of the Asian-American Free Labor Institute, FEER, Sept. 13, 1990. See "The Guangdong Dynamo," South, Nov. 1990, reviewing Ezra Vogel, One Step Ahead in China: Guangdong under Reform (Harvard, 1989). KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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