Five quotes that will get you thinking
On hegemony, imperialism, 'progress' and putting anti-imperialism into practice
I’ve pulled together these quotes, some of which I’ve recently come across, some of which I’ve known about and reflected on for some time, as an example of the hegemony, imperialism and notion of perpetual progress that underlies our growth-based economic system. Only through greater awareness of the structural forces at play can we begin to create a better system, and the final quote outlines how that can be done: by choosing people and the planet to be at the heart of our governments.
Reflections from a decorated Marine on the purpose of his time in the US military:
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
Major General Smedley Butler, who died the most decorated US Marine in American history, in a speech given in 1933. Source: The Racket, Matt Kennard.
A two-minute clip of an ex-CIA agent talking about why socialist countries must be destroyed by the US:
“Former CIA agent and whistleblower Philip Agee outlining why the CIA has to destroy any alternative to Capitalism”, Friendly Neighbourhood Comrade on X/Twitter
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An ex-economist at the IMF explaining how his conscience demanded he resign from the institution and its harmful practices:
Dear Mr Camdessus
Today I resigned from the staff of the International Monetary Fund after over 12 years, and 1,000 days of official Fund work in the field, hawking your medicines and your bag of tricks to governments and to people in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. To me resignation is a priceless liberation, for with it I have taken the first big step to that place where I may hope to wash my hands of what in my mind's eye is the blood of millions of poor and starving peoples. Mr Camdessus, the blood is so much, you know, it runs in rivers. It dries up too; it cakes all over me; sometimes I feel there is not enough soap in the whole world to cleanse me from the things that I did in your name ...
The beginning of a 150 page open resignation letter by IMF economist Davison L Budhoo. More details in this article by New Internationalist.
An excellent reminder that poverty isn’t natural, and is created by an economic system based on artificial scarcity and commodification of the things we need to survive for the purposes of driving further profit and growth:
Multinational corporations routinely expropriate land in poor countries (or “buy” it from corrupt politicians), force the local populations off the land (so they cannot grow or hunt their own food), and offer the “luckiest” among them jobs cutting down the forest, mining minerals, or harvesting fruit in exchange for slave wages often paid in company currency that can only be used to buy unhealthful, industrially produced food at inflated prices at a company-owned store. These victims of market incursion are then often celebrated as having been saved from “abject poverty.” With their gardens, animals, fishing and hunting, they had been living on less than a dollar per day. Now, as slave labourers, they’re participating in the economy. This, we’re told, is progress.
pp. 63-64, Civilised to Death: The Price of Progress, Christopher Ryan.
An interview by Matt Kennard with former President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, on the 2019 coup by the US and UK that removed him from power, and what we can do about imperialism:
“I continue to be convinced that the empire, capitalism, imperialism, do not accept that there is an economic model that is better than neoliberalism,” he tells me. “The coup was against our economic model…we showed that another Bolivia is possible.”…
“This is a struggle not only in Bolivia, or Latin America, but throughout the world,” Morales says. “Who do natural resources belong to? The people under the control of their state? Or are they privatised under the control of transnationals so they can plunder our natural resources?” …
“In politics we must ask ourselves: are we with the people or are we with the empire? If we are with the people, we make a country; if we are with the empire, we make money.
“If we are with the people, we fight for life, for humanity; if we are with the empire, we are with the politics of death, the culture of death, interventions, and pillaging of the people. That is what we ask ourselves as humans, as leaders: ‘Are we at the service of our people?’” …
The US and Britain continue working to bring Bolivia to heel, alongside their local compradors. But, in this indigenous-majority country, they appear to have met their match.
Morales tells me that constructing union power was the basis of the democratic revolution, but the most important thing was getting into government.
“Arriving with political power allowed us to close the US military base, we expelled the DEA, we expelled the CIA. Incidentally, the US ambassador who was conspiring, who was financing the 2008 coup [attempt], we expelled him, too.”
He pauses. “We’re not just talking about anti-imperialism, we’re putting anti-imperialism into practice.”
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If you have any thoughts on the above, or are aware of similar quotes by whistleblowers I’d love to hear about them. Please share in the comments.