Social Scientist. v 18, no. 205-06 (June-July 1990) p. 74.


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74 SOCIAL SCIENTIST

war in Vietnam, while nothing of the sort is happening now. But no Marxist ever derived the existence of imperialism from the fact of wars; on the contrary, the existence of wars was explained in terms of imperialism. Why a Vietnam has not happened since then is thus a separate matter; but the theoretical perspective in terms of which we saw Vietnam is after all a more basic question and cannot be brushed aside just because no Vietnam has happened in the last 15 years.

Moreover, while nothing on the scale of Vietnam has happened since then, plenty has happened and is happening to belie the proposition that the world today is in any way fundamentally different. There was the invasion of Grenada after what many believe to have been a ClA-engineered assassination of Mr. Bishop. There has been the invasion of Panama, justified on the fantastic argument that the jurisdiction of a US court extends to foreign countries as well. There has been the remarkable spectacle of the US using its domestic social crisis, i.e. drug-abuse among the young, as an argument for attenuating the sovereignty of states across the entire Latin American continent. Blockading countries, kidnapping people from sovereign lands, waging battles against peasants to alter their production decision (even while demands for raising the prices of alternative crops to cocoa have met with a stubborn refusal): all these have been practised. These are not stray incidents: the idea has been espoused quite openly that the US can legitimately allow kidnapping or even assassinations of foreign nationals who may have been guilty of crimes according to US laws. Just the other day, the US Attorney General openly justified the kidnapping of a Mexican doctor, accused of complicity in the assassination of a DEA agent, on the grounds that for him American lives came first (imagine what would happen if India abducted the Board of Directors of Union Carbide, the MNC whose gross negligence resulted in the loss of thousands of lives by MIC gas-poisoning in Bhopal). And above all, there have been the sponsored wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, not to mention the perennial struggle with Cuba.

These, to be sure, are epi-phenomena. International skulduggery is a symptom of imperialism, but not its essence. Imperialism, viewed as a fundamental set of economic relations characterising the world, is also stronger today than ever before, at least in the post-war period. Some years ago, there was talk of a New International Economic Order. The underdeveloped countries, notwithstanding their profound differences, met at various forums and articulated demands for a change in international economic relations. The demands often did not amount to much, but today there has been a systematic 'rolling back* (to use Dulles* phrase) of all such efforts. The G-77 is in a shambles. Commodity prices continue to be at a disastrous low, forcing the underdeveloped countries to dissolve their united stand, and appear before G-7 countries as individual supplicants. The low commodity prices have contributed much towards the 'successful* control of inflation in advanced capitalist countries, just as they have contributed



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