Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 7: The Victors Segment 12/14
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7. Comparisons and their Pitfalls

The chorus of acclaim for the triumph of capitalism delights in comparison of Western and Eastern Europe, deploring the deprivation, suffering, and environmental damage in the regions that have been subjected to Soviet rule. But many in the Third World seem reluctant to join the celebration of victory, even regarding the victims of Soviet tyranny as luckier than they in respects that are far from trivial (see chapter 12, section 1). One reason offered by priests, journalists and others is that the state terror faced on a daily basis by Latin Americans who dare to raise their heads has been qualitatively different from the repression in Eastern Europe in the post-Stalin period, terrible as that was in its own ways; and they do not share our reluctance to see the powerful and systematic influence of the states and corporations of the state capitalist world in establishing and maintaining the grim conditions of their lives. It takes some discipline to avoid seeing these facts.

Another comparison that might be addressed is suggested by the huge flow of capital from Latin America to the United States and the West generally (see pp. 98, p. 242). Again, the situation in the Soviet satellites was different. One commentator on their affairs, Lawrence Weschler, observes that

Poles, like most Eastern Europeans, have long lived under the delusion that the Soviets were simply bleeding them dry; in fact, the situation has been considerably more complex than that. (The Soviet dominion was in fact that unique historical perversity, an empire in which the center bled itself for the sake of its colonies, or rather, for the sake of tranquility in those colonies. Muscovites always lived poorer lives than Varsovians.)
Throughout the region, journalists and others report, shops are better stocked than in the Soviet Union and material conditions are often better. It is widely agreed that "Eastern Europe has a higher standard of living than the USSR," and that while "Latin-Americans claim mainly economic exploitation," "Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe is principally political and security-oriented" (Jan Triska, summarizing the conclusions of a Stanford University symposium on the USSR in Eastern Europe and the U.S. in Latin America).59

In the decade of the 1970s, according to U.S. government sources, the Soviet Union provided an $80 billion subsidy to its Eastern European satellites (while their indebtedness to the West increased from $9.3 billion in 1971 to $68.7 billion in 1979). A study done at the Institute of International Studies of the University of California (Berkeley) estimated the subsidy at $106 billion from 1974 to 1984. Using different criteria, another academic study reaches the estimate of $40 billion for the same period, omitting factors that might add several billion, they note. When Lithuania was faced with Soviet economic retaliation after its declaration of independence, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Soviet subsidy to that country alone might approach $6 billion annually.60

Such comparisons cannot simply be taken at face value; complex issues arise, and they have never been properly addressed. The only extensive recent effort to compare the U.S. impact on Latin America with that of the USSR on Eastern Europe, to my knowledge, is the Stanford symposium just cited, but it does not reach very far. Among many striking gaps, the contributors entirely disregard repression and state terror in Latin America and the U.S. role in implementing it. Writing in May 1986, the editor states that "some left-wing forces in Latin America and all dissidents in Eastern Europe have little hope of bringing about substantive changes, either peacefully or through violence." One contributor even takes seriously (though rejecting) the astonishing statement by Mexican writer Octavio Paz in 1985 that it is "monstrous" even to raise the question of comparing U.S. policies with those of the Soviet Union. Most take it as obvious, hence needing no real evidence, that U.S. influence has been disinterested and benign. In fact, this 470 page study contains very little information altogether.61

Many questions would arise if such comparisons were to be undertaken in a meaningful way. Contrary to standard conventions (generally followed in the Stanford symposium), it is hardly plausible to regard U.S. security concerns in Latin America as comparable to those of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, or even to take seriously the conventional doctrine that security concerns are "probably the greatest factor in shaping U.S. policy toward Latin America" (Robert Wesson, presenting the "historical overview and analysis" for the Stanford symposium). In recent memory, the United States has not been repeatedly invaded and virtually destroyed by powerful enemies marching through Central America. In fact, its authentic security concerns are virtually nil, by international and historical standards. As one participant in the symposium finally concedes, "U.S. national security interests in the Caribbean [as elsewhere in the hemisphere, we may add] have rested on powerful economic investments" (Jiri Valenta) -- which is to say that they are termed "security interests" only for purposes of the delusional system. Furthermore, it makes little sense to attribute to the United States greater tolerance for "political-ideological deviations" on the grounds that it does not insist on "the U.S. brand of democracy" and tolerates "authoritarian dictatorships," while the USSR insists on Leninist regimes (Valenta). What the U.S. demands is an economic order geared to its interests; the political form it takes is largely an irrelevance, and it is surely not in question that the U.S. often regards murderous terrorist states quite favorably if they satisfy the operative criteria.62

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59 Weschler, "Poland," Dissent, Spring 1990; Triska, "introduction," in Triska, ed., Dominant Powers and Subordinate States: The United States in Latin America and the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe (Duke, 1986).

60 Raymond Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, 499. M. Marrese and J. Vanous, Soviet Subsidization of Trade with Eastern Europe (California, 1983); P. Marer and K. Poznanski, "Costs of Domination, Benefits of Subordination," in Triska, op. cit. Peter Gumbel, "Gorbachev Threat Would Cut Both Ways," WSJ, April 17, 1990.

61 Triska, op. cit., 11; Paz cited by Jeffrey Hughes, 29.

62 Wesson, Valenta, in Triska, op. cit., 63, 282. 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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