Must Read Books:
Dark Victory

Dark Victory: The United States and Global Poverty. by Walden Bello. London: Pluto Press, 1994.

Note: The following are notes from the above book. I found the book seminal, eye-opening, life-changing. I recommend that you buy and read the entire book. Only by reading the entire book will you get the whole picture. The following quotes, I hope, will whet your appetite. --Colby Glass

[Walden Bello is professor of Sociology and Public Administration at the University of the Philippines.]

"The vile and the villanous are getting their way, overcoming every obstacle, crushing all opposition in their path" (x).

"... what happened in the 1980s... Reaganism and Thatcherism were only the tip of this iceberg, a world-wide phenomenon called 'rollback'" (x).

"The debt-cum-adjustment crisis is shown for what it is -- a protracted war against the poor" (xi).

"This book... confirm[s].. the widely shared sense that the collapse of the South and the greater insecurity in the working and living conditions of most of the people in the North were consequences of.. a sweeping strategy of global economic rollback.. by.. Northern political and corporate elites to consolidate corporate hegemony" (2).


Is this "a conspiracy theory of recent history? Far from it... This is never the way that major shifts in national policy come about... What usually occurs is a much more complex social process in which ideology mediates between interests and policy" (3).

"Transmitted through social institutions such as universities, corporations, churches... market ideology became a dominant force only when a political elite which espoused it ascended to state power on the back of an increasingly conservative middle-class social base.. " (3).

"...the promotion of interests took precedence over ideological integrity during the Reagan-Bush era. Deregulation... became a means not of breaking up oligopolies but of doing away with the obstacles in the way of corporate mergers and acquisitions that led to an even higher concentration of corporate wealth" (4).

Dismantling the Activist State

"In the South, the debt crisis of 1982 served as the opening for the imposition of structural adjustment programs -- via the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- that sought to roll back the statet from economic life...

"Washington's.. strategic objective.. was to dismantle the system of state intervention and support that had enabled newly industrialized country producers, following the 'Japanese model,' to compete successfully against American corporations" (5).

The Costs

"In developing countries, an estimated 13-18 million people, mostly children, die from hunger and poverty each year. That is about 40,000 people a day, or 1,700 people an hour.. " (51).

"With hunger and malnutrition on the rise, tuberculosis and cholera -- diseases that had been thought to be banished by modern medicine -- have returned with a vengeance...

"... rising levels of violence... the drastic social impact of disastrous depressive adjustment policies imposed by the IMF.." (52-3).

"Public health-care system throughout [the South] are collapsing.. owing to World Bank- and IMF-imposed budget cuts... breakdown of water and sewage systems" (55).

"Intensifying the.. environmental crisis" (63).

Underlying Agenda

"Judged by its ostensible objectives of... bringing about renewed and sustained growth, structural adjustment has been.. a resounding failure.

"But judged by its underlying strategic goals of shoring up the interest of the North and resubordinating the South within a North-dominated international economic system, structural adjustment has undoubtedly been a tremendous success" (67).

"So massive was the decapitalization of the South that a former director of the World Bank exclaimed, 'Not since the conquistadores plundered Latin America has the world experienced a flow in the direction we see today'" (68).

"Perhaps the best representative of this governing elite... was Mexico's Salinas.. who defined his mission as the reversal of the nationalist and social gains of the Mexican Revolution in the name of efficiency and growth" (70).

Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs)

"...the East Asian economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea... were extolled as free-market models... [but] many U.S. policymakers knew that their success... stemmed mainly from the commanding role of the state in most of these economies" (72).

"...the Reagan administration['s]... purpose was to reduce the threat they [the NICs] posed to U.S. economic interests by rolling back the state from its leading role in the high-speed growth of these economies" (73).

"Aggressive trade tactics directed at all comers gave the 'free-market' adminstrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush the distinction of being the most protectionist since the days of Herbert Hoover" (81).

GATT as a Weapon

"GATT [General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs]... favors the United States [corporate interests]... and may have crippling effects on the efforts of the South to develop" (82).

"Transnationals want 'free trade' simply because it frees them from government intervention -- they don't want free trade in the conventional sense" (Economist Bill Rosenberg on GATT)

"Unilateralism and the GATT, in short, are two faces of the same process of resubordination directed at those countries which threaten to make the break through to developed status... It seeks to reinforce a set of global economic practices [which] favor the continued dominance of the status quo powers, in particular the United States" (85).

Domestic Rollback

"To the free market idealogues who came to power with the Reagan administration in 1981, the rollback of the South was part of a broader strategy that involved... the dismantling of the New Deal.. in the United States... its main thrust was to end the fragile social contract between big capital and big labor that had emerged out of the Great Depression" (86).

"The tales [Ronald Reagan] loved most as a boy and man were stories of individualist heroes. [H]e never noticed that it was the government that had protected these frontier heroes, set aside land for homes and schools, built telegraph lines and underwritten construction of an inter-continental railway system" (Lou Cannon, Washing Post)

From 1965 to 1980 there was a massive exodus of U.S. production jobs to foreign countries. "This corporate discontent with one of the pillars of the New Deal state -- a high-wage labor force -- had momentous consequences" (89).

"Margarite Thatcher and British capital provided a role model for the Reaganites with their 'monetarist' assault on the welfare state" (90).

".. during Reagan's first term... deep cuts in federal taxes... a windfall for the rich... was accompanied by an assault on the interventionist powers of government... targett[ing] those agencies and programs that managed the 'social safety net' created by the New Deal...

"By the end of the Republican period, the combination of federal and state cuts had resulted in a real cut in welfare benefits.. of about 40 per cent.." (90).

"...federal aid to the cities.. plummeted by 60 per cent... The upsurge of crime, spread of drugs, and consolidation of inner-city poverty were among the predictable results.

"The third major policy thrust was deregulation... [it] led not to lower prices through greater competition but to skyrocketing charges, owing to professional solidarity or collusion... deregulation became a means not of breaking up monopolies but of doing away with obstacles to corporate mergers and acquisitions" (91).

"The fourth key prong of Reaganomics was aimed at breaking the resistance of labor to corporate capital's drive.. to reduce costs and increase profitability... The Federal Reserve.. adopted a tight monetary policy.. to break labor by triggering a deep recession...

"With more than ten million people unemployed in 1982, it was impossible for organized labor to maintain wage standards..." (91).

In addition "Reagan sought confrontation with organized labor... the Air Controller's strike of 1981, which ended with the wholesale dismissal of all the strikers and the dissolution of their union... sent a message... that it was open season on labor... [resulting in] aggressive union-busting, prevention of unionization through right-to-work laws, replacement of full-time with part-time workers, wage and benefit 'give-backs' under threat of plant closure, and increased subcontracting of work" (91-2).

The result of Republican economic theories has been to "give the U.S. a Third World appearance: rising poverty, widespread homelessness, greater inequality, social polarization" (97).

"..the greater income that accrued to the corporations from the tax cuts and labor's waning power went not to enhancing America's productive capacity, but mainly to financing corporate takeovers, hothouse speculative activities, junk-bond operations on Wall Street, investment in low-wage sites in Asia and Latin America, and soaring executive salaries" (99).

"By 1990 the non-military portion of the federal budget that was spent on infrastructure was down to 1 percent, having fallen from almost 7 percent in the early 1950s" (99).

Dark Victory

".. the Reagan and Bush administrations, having dismantled many of the stabilizing social mechanisms of the New Deal state, could not address the discontent and disaffection unleashed by their policies except through largely punitive measures. U.S. expenditures on criminal justice increased four times faster than the budget for education... with the number of Americans behind bars tripling between 1970 and 1990, the U.S. achieved the distinction of imprisoning a larger share of its population than any other nation" (105).

Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

Return to Philosophy Homepage