In March 1967, Joan Robinson, Professor of Economics at Cambridge University and one of world’s foremost economists attended a seminar in Estes Park, Colorado to express concern on U.S. involvements in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
It is obvious enough that the United States crusade against Communism is a campaign against development. By means of it the American people have been lead to acquiesce in the maintenance of a huge war machine and its use by the threat or actual force to try to suppress every popular movement that aims to overthrow ancient or modern tyranny and begin to find a way to overcome poverty and establish national self-respect.
Robinson’s statement is one of the most piercing and insightful critiques of American foreign policy that I have ever come across. It should make any reader pause, rub their eyes, and read it again.
Have you ever asked yourself why the U.S. is so forgiving of Communist China or the authoritarian rule of Saudi Arabia? After all, when was the last time any of these countries had an democratic election?
The answer is very simple: China and Saudi Arabia participate in the world economy. As long as they play by the rules set forth after WW2, the U.S. does not have a problem with their authoritarian and undemocratic governments.
In other words, the Cold War had nothing to do with the the fear of Communism as a form of government and a threat to the freedoms afforded by Capitalism. Instead, the Cold War had everything to do with U.S. fears that new nations would gain control over their sovereignty and refuse to participate in the new world economy created by the U.S.
This is exactly what Joan Robinson was referring to when she said that “the United States crusade against Communism is a campaign against development”.
Let’s take a look at the internal record.
A study of the political economy of U.S. foreign policy in the early 1950s, sponsored by the National Planning Association and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, observed that the primary threat to the capitalist system was the economic transformation of communist societies “in ways which reduce their willingness and ability to complement the industrial economies of the West”.
The exact remarks are as follows:
The Soviet threat is total — military, political, economic and ideological. Four of its specific aspects are important for an understanding of present and prospective international economic problems. It has meant:
(1) A serious reduction of the potential resource based and market opportunities of the West owing to the subtraction of the communist areas from the international economy and their economic transformation in ways which reduce their willingness and ability to complement the industrial economies of the West;
(2) A planned disruption of the free world economies by means of Soviet foreign economic policy and subversive communist movements;
(3) A long-term challenge to the economic pre-eminence of the West arising from the much higher current rates of economic growth (particularly of heavy industry) in the Soviet system.
(4) A source of major insecurity in the international economy due to the fact that Soviet communism threatens not merely the political and economic institutions of the West but the continued existence of human freedom and humane society everywhere.
Notice the common denominator? Just like the Clinton campaign said back in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Communist Soviet Union was a threat to the U.S. because their “economic transformations” would “subtract” from and possibly challenge the “economic pre-eminence of the West”. Any country which threatened to “subtract” itself from the “economies of the West” were automatically added to the enemies list.
Once you begin to understand the actual threat of communism, or any similar ideology for that matter, the past and the present become more clear.
Since the early 1940’s, internal State Department records show that the U.S. assumed that it was going to emerge from WW2 as the world’s dominant power. One of the primary aims during and after the war was to create a “Grand Area” to serve the needs of the American Economy.
If you want to learn more about about this topic, please read:
Thanks for reading,
Joan Robinson, “Contrasts in Economic Development: China and India“, in Neal Doyle Houghton, ed., Struggle Against History, U.S. Foreign Policy in an Age of Revolution (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968)
The Political Economy of American Foreign Policy; Its Concepts, Strategy, and Limits (1955); report of a study group sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the National Planning Association, chaired by William Yandell Elliott with representatives of the U.S. elite (including the Chairman of the Board of the General American Investors Company, the Associate Director of the Ford Foundation, the Dean of the Columbia Business School, and the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Administration. (Henry Holt & Co, 1955), p.42