“One of Castro’s closest comrades, the Argentine-born guerilla Che Guevara, had been in Guatemala in 1954 and witnessed the coup against Arbenz. Later he told Castro why it succeeded. He said Arbenz had foolishly tolerated an open society, which the CIA penetrated and subverted, and also preserved the existing army, which the CIA turned into its instrument. Castro agreed that a revolutionary regime in Cuba must avoid those mistakes. Upon taking power, he cracked down on dissent and purged the army. Many Cubans supported his regime and were ready to defend it.” (Emphasis, jw)
From The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinder
The stark choice that confronted Castro and Guevara is faced by every nation seeking independence from the U.S., a far more powerful nation with enormous resources in terms of “soft” power, economic power and military power. The more open the society, the more opportunities for CIA-engineered regime change. This was the lesson Arbenz learned in 1954 and Mossadegh before him in 1953, lessons that brought so much pain, death and destruction to their peoples in the decades to follow.
Judged by that outcome, the Castros made the right decision and as a result have presided over a healthy, educated and secure people. The drawback was that the Empire isolated Cuba economically, stifling the possibilities of more development and a higher standard of living. The Empire wants nations charting an independent course to be politically open to the regime change schemes and NGOs of the West but economically closed, shut off from more advanced economies. It is as simple as that.
For some defiant states the sort of regime change operation used against Mossadegh and Arbenz may be the only option which the United States has. This is certainly the case for China and Russia. All out war on these countries is out of reach – although the U.S. is trying to change that. The modus operandi of the Empire for the moment is to put Russia and China on the horns of tried and true dilemma. Open up politically, permit the development of forces that favor regime change – or remain less open and face criticism, especially criticism from Western governments and Western intellectuals, including the “progressive” or liberal intellectuals. This is crucial because “progressives” are the very people who – until Obama – were most likely to oppose imperial warfare – both military and economic. The Democracy Crusade is designed to neutralize them.
This criticism from the West is one lever, and an important one, that is used to force a society to be more open in its governance than its survival permits. Let us be clear. Without a rapacious West at the doorstep, the possibilities of openness and democracy are much greater in scope. Conversely, the more rapacious the West, the more restricted are the possibilities for a besieged nation if it wishes to survive and prosper with its sovereignty intact. Without sovereignty there can be no democracy. Rule conditioned on approval by a foreign source or by a puppet regime is never self-rule. So it is never democracy.
It follows that the best way to crusade for openness and democracy is to work against Western interventionism, whether that interventionism takes the form of armed attack, economic sanctions or the work of NGOs like the NED (National Endowment for Democracy). This is absolutely crucial to understand. A criticism of a besieged country will increase the pressure on that country and hence lead to a decrease in political openness. Paradoxically, this is true even if the criticism is one that calls for more democracy.
The recent events in Hong Kong are but the latest example of this dynamic. There the NED had long been actively involved in promoting “democracy,” along with other U.S. NGOs and the U.S. Consulate, with its staff of 600. These forces recruited very young “activists,” with high school students at the forefront. (A Chinese friend of mine noted with disgust that easily manipulated high school students were also in the forefront of the Cultural Revolution.) The movement sought elimination of the screening of candidates by a committee of 1200 Hong Kong residents for the next election of the CEO, a position akin to governor. The composition of the committee was open to negotiation. (It went unmentioned in the West that there was no election when Hong Kong was a colony of the UK. The governor was appointed by the Queen – period. It also went unmentioned that there is a similar sort of “screening” of candidates in the U.S., with the major parties serving in the role of screeners. If you do not believe that, ask the Greens or the Libertarians or Ralph Nader.) Most importantly the leaders of the movement and their U.S. backers made no secret of their hope that the disturbances in Hong Kong would spread to the mainland and provoke a movement against the Chinese government. They are advocates of regime change in China as are their mentors at the NED.
What has the current government of China, led by its Communist Party, done for China? It has led China out of colonial domination by the West. It has forged a level of economic development with a rapidity unseen before in all of human history. It has ended poverty for 600 million people and continues on the quest to raise millions more out of poverty. For the world it has meant a power, China, which is sufficiently strong to provide a multipolar world. That in turn means that the countries of the world have an alternative to Western domination, which has been the fate of most of the world for hundreds of years. Russia and Iran, for example, can trade with China when the West slaps sanctions on them. As a result at this moment there is the possibility of genuine decolonization (or de-neocolonization, if you will) – after centuries of the planet’s domination by a small fraction of the world’s population.
In short the current government of China is the agent of the most stunning defeat of Euro-American colonialism that the world has seen to date. After all the Chinese are almost one-fifth of humanity. One would think that this fact would be part of the evaluation of Western progressives when they looked at the Hong Kong affair. With few exceptions it was not. And this is a big problem. The world is going through a major upheaval as colonialism and neo-colonialism are suffering major defeats. That upheaval, that shift, is a lens through which Western “progressives” should look at the world. They rarely do. In failing to do so, they see the world through the ideological eyes of the West, that is, “the 1%“ at the top of the heap (or at least the 10%) if one may put it that way. China has achieved what the West hates most. It is relatively closed politically to the intrigues and machinations of the West – but economically open. This is the recipe for sovereignty and development.
The difference between the two views is the difference between looking at the world through a panoramic lens, with history in the background, and looking through a keyhole. In the latter case of tunnel vision one may only see a patch of grey through the keyhole, whereas a mighty elephant stands beyond the door.
John V. Walsh writes for Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, DissidentVoice.org and The Unz Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.