A question about the Third World

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Apr 1 12:46:26 MDT 2001

>Dear Louis Proyect
>I am an Iranian student, interested in socialist
>alternatives and the related debates.
>I have a question in mind that I think you can help me
>about it: What can you propose as a developement plan
>for the so called "under developed" countries?

I favor any development plan that favors working people and peasants.
Within this broad framework, there are multiple approaches:

1. National bourgeois development of the Perónista, Nasserist or Kemalist
variety. Perhaps the most successful of these experiments, the government
of Juan Perón accomplished much:

a. Taking advantage of government leniency if not outright support, trade
unions were formed in every industry.
b. Social security was made universal.
c. Education was made free to all who qualified.
d. Vast low-income housing projects were created.
e. Paid vacations became standard.
f. A working student was given one paid week before every major examination.
g. All workers (including white-collar employees like bank tellers, etc.)
were guaranteed free medical care and half of their vacation-trip expenses.
h. A mother-to-be received 3 paid months off prior to and after giving birth.
i. Workers recreation centers were constructed all over Argentina,
including a vast resort in the lower Sierras that included 8 hotels, scores
of cabins, movies, swimming pools and riding stables. This resort was
available to workers for 15 days a year, at the cost of 15 cents per day,
all services included.

2. Another approach is embodied in the kind of agrarian and egalitarian
welfare state symbolized in "African Socialism" or Kerala in India. In an
Atlantic Monthly article titled "Poor But Prosperous" at
www.theatlantic.com/issues/98sep/kerala.htm, we learn:

--Life expectancy in Kerala is seventy-two years, which is closer to the
American average of seventy-six than to the Indian average of sixty-one.

--The infant-mortality rate in Kerala is among the lowest in the developing
world -- roughly half that in China, and lower than that in far richer
countries such as Argentina and Bahrain.

--Population, too, is under control in Kerala. The fertility rate is just
1.7 births per woman -- lower even than Sweden's or America's.

--What is perhaps most impressive is that 90 percent of Keralites are
literate -- a figure that puts the state in a league with Singapore and
Spain. Children in Kerala are likely to beg for pens, not money. Schools --
their classrooms clean, well-maintained, and filled with students in
brightly colored uniforms -- are found seemingly every few miles throughout
the state.

3. Finally, we can look at the success of a planned socialist economy like
Cuba's. Because it favored investment in schools and medical facilities,
the Cuban life expectancy is on a par with industrial countries like
Canada, while its work force is completely literate if not college-educated.

So, as you can see, despite the fact that I am a Marxist, I favor a wide
range of solutions that fall short of the Soviet model. I think your next
statement points to the problem. You say:

>Now a days, the World Bank and the International Money
>Fund (IFM) have prepared a developement "Recipe" for
>the Third World which is widwspread despite its
>terrible consequences, but no serious alternative
>developement strategy has been proposed from the left.

In fact, the World Bank and the IMF are only one part of the problem. They
generally have their way in weakened bodies, just as opportunistic diseases
take advantage of immune systems degraded by HIV. The HIV in the case of
nations is military intervention, disinformation, spying, subversion and
diplomatic pressure by the countries who sponsor the World Bank and IMF.
Take Chile, for example. Under Allende, modest steps were taken in the
direction of a sort of nationalist bourgeois development model, rather
falsely labeled "socialism" by Kissinger and Nixon. After the CIA and
Chilean army joined hands to overthrow Allende, the IMF stepped in and
forced an austerity regime that has lasted since the early 1970s.
Apologists for this system claim that Chile is doing better than ever, but
in reality life is very difficult for Chilean farmworkers, miners, etc.

In essence, our problem is not a lack of good ideas. I think that I could
accept and work to implement the development plan of a Peronista economist,
or one from contemporary Kerala or Cuba. Alas, the problem is that as soon
as they begin to be implemented, they will be crushed because the USA can't
stand what Chomsky calls the "power of a positive example."

I saw this with my own eyes in Nicaragua, where I worked with a nonprofit
technical aid organization that sent programmers, engineers and other
skilled personnel to assist a country choosing a mix of Cuban and Kerala
type economic measures. Falsely accused of being a base for Soviet
aggression, the country was bled to death by contra war and economic
blockade. The USA simply can not tolerate a leftist success in Latin
America because it would serve as a rallying point for similar movements in
other countries.

While I think it is useful to study models, I believe that our biggest task
is to figure out ways to move our struggle forward on the political level.
Once we have achieved power on a national scale, we will find any number of
economic models that can serve a just development model. But unless we can
defend them effectively with an armed and mobilized population, they will
certainly be smashed by the enemies of justice who dwell on Wall Street and
Washington, DC.

Louis Proyect
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