[Marxism] Niall Ferguson

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 7 13:20:17 MST 2004


At 03:07 PM 12/7/2004, you wrote:
>Louis:
>
>you said recently (couldn't find the exact one) that you have written some 
>critical analyses of or to Michael Ignatieff (our modest canadian 
>contribution to the defense of empire, but very slippery). Have you 
>written anything to or about Niall Ferguson, the latest star in the 
>defense and exaltation of empire?  i heard him recently on CBC radio and 
>he made my blood boil. Although he is very knowledgeable as an historian, 
>he ultimately defends the US empire on the grounds that it the only 
>defense against...terrorism. No wonder this privately (they say 
>"public")-schooled Scotsman is now rewarded with a post at Harvard (just 
>like Ignatieff!)
>
>i know there must be marxist assaults on this apologist but I'm not adept 
>enough with google to find them.
>
>steve heeren


Here's a Boston Globe article on "trophy professors" that is focused on 
Ferguson:

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2003w26/msg00020.htm

Here's a critique by Znet'er Paul Street:

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/April2004/Street0424.htm

Here's Chomsky:

aA:  I’m interested in your response to those like Niall Ferguson – who 
write about the values of imperialism, such as increased education levels, 
GDP, etc.

nC:  Niall Ferguson doesn’t bother telling you that in the 18th century, 
India was one of the commercial and industrial centers of the 
world.  England was a kind of a backwater – it had much greater force, but 
not commercial or industrial advantages.  It was able to forcefully impose 
on India what was now called the neo-liberal program of free-market, 
tariffs, etc. etc.  Meanwhile England itself, which was a powerful state, 
raised high protectionist barriers to protect itself from superior Indian 
goods...textiles, ships, and others.  There was massive state intervention 
in the economy, the United States later did the same thing – stole Indian 
technology.  Over the next 200 years, that tyranny led to an impoverished, 
agricultural country, while England became a rich, industrial society.  The 
mortality rate in India after 200 years of British rule was about the same 
as when they took over.  There were railroads, but they were run from the 
outside – they were there for extraction of resources.  Meanwhile, tens, if 
not hundreds of millions of people died in famines - the famines were 
horrendous.  So that’s the history of the British in India.  After India 
won its independence, it began a path of development, picked up again where 
it was two centuries ago.  It’s true that while under the imperial system, 
some of the better features of Western society leaked through, but India 
had a rich literature and culture long before England came in.  Basically 
it was a murderous, destructive, several centuries of history, which India 
then got out of.  Then it began to develop where there were no more 
famines, and the infant mortality rate began to improve enormously.  There 
are still a lot of problems, many traceable back to the English 
days.  That’s the history of English imperialism.

But what about the United States?  Take the idea that the U.S. is going to 
bring a democracy to the Middle East.  Now let’s take a look at the place 
where the U.S. has had a maximal influence for a century...the Carribean 
and the Central America.  No competition.  Totally under U.S. 
domination.  And it’s pretty much the same people who are running it now, 
mostly drawn from the Reagan administration, who also came in calling for 
enhancing democracy.  It’s a disaster!  A total disaster!  The massacres, 
the destruction
Nicaragua, one of their main achievements, now about 60% of 
the children under two are suffering from severe malnutrition which main 
cause partial brain damage.  Now that wasn’t happening when the guys in 
Washington launched their terrorist war in the early '80s.  Of course 
they’ve got formal democracies – you can push a button and vote.  After the 
popular organizations were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people 
were killed.  Now you can push buttons and vote.  But the more honest 
members of the Reagan administration and scholarly analysts agree and say 
that the U.S. was only willing to accept what they call “top-down” forms of 
democracy...in which traditional elites remain in power.  Which is 
precisely what they’re trying to in Iraq.

In order to create democracy in Iraq, first of all we have to prevent 
elections!  The U.S. is desperately seeking to avoid elections, because 
they might bring in Iraqis we can’t control.  The U.S. has imposed an 
economic regime rather like the one the British forced on India.  The 
entire economy must be available to be purchased and run by Western, mainly 
American corporations.  For the moment, they’ve left out the oil, but that 
will come.  They’ve imposed a tax regime which is a dream of the Bush 
administration – the top 15% tax – again something which no sovereign 
country would accept.  The idea is to make sure that the economy is taken 
over by Western corporations.  Meanwhile the U.S. is building the biggest 
embassy in the world, 3000 people, for Baghdad...because they’re going to 
hand over sovereignty?  With the biggest embassy in the world?  It’s 
ensuring that the American troops can stay there as long as they 
want.  What they want to create is exactly the kind of democracy that 
they’ve created elsewhere.  Just look around the rest of the Middle 
East.  Most of the governments that we most strongly support are brutal, 
vicious dictatorships.  No elections, with much autocratic rule.  There has 
been one elected leader in the Middle East, one, who was elected in a 
reasonably fair, supervised election...namely Yassir Arafat.  So how do the 
great "democrats" like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld treat him?  Lock him up in a 
compound so that he can be battered by U.S.-provided arms to their local 
client under military occupation.  They force him out...they declare his 
administration irrelevant while they force in somebody who they think will 
be more pliable.

If you’re an American intellectual and you’re on television, you can say 
that you’re bringing “democracy.”  But if you’re an ordinary person whose 
brain is functioning, you can see what they’re trying to do is destroy 
democracy.  You know, it’d be very nice if Iran conquered the world, and 
the mullahs had a miraculous conversion and decided they were in favor of 
democracy and justice, and brought democracy and justice to the 
world...that would be lovely.  But what happens?  Do we pay any attention 
to it?  Do we waste one second talking about the possibility?  No.  We look 
at their record, we look at who they are, we look at what they’re 
doing.  And then we ask what are the chances? And the chance is zero.  But 
look at our leaders...we’re supposed to treat our leaders with reverential 
awe -  but we can also be reasonable.  What are the chances of their even 
wanting to bring democracy to the Middle East?  They’ve never done it 
anywhere else, and they’re trying to do it now?  You see any evidence for 
it?  The only evidence is that they say so.  Stalin said he was bringing 
democracy to Eastern Europe.  Do we praise him with great awe?  No!  We 
dismiss him.

full: http://int.usamnesia.com/noamchomsky-2.htm

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