In relation to Latin America, alongside the development of counterinsurgency as a primary strategy (see “Kennedy and the Third World” 9/25/2013), a secondary strategy of the Kennedy administration was economic reform of the neocolonial system. “The fall of Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela and Fulgencio Batista in Cuba—precisely two of the nations where the US neocolonial model had been most advanced—called into question the capacity of the Latin American oligarchy to continue to guarantee control of the region. Its nearly feudal mechanisms of exploitation tended to reduce the expansion of the market, and the extraordinary reactionary character of its ideology as well as its inclination to the most brutal and generalized repression, were destabilizing factors of the system and a problem for the foreign policy that Kennedy intended to project” (Arboleya 2008:156).
Kennedy therefore called for social changes, including structural reforms in land tenancy and reforms in the distribution of wealth. Kennedy’s policy thus involved an abandonment of the traditional landowning oligarchy that up to then had been considered as sustainer and protector of the neocolonial system. Proclaiming a “revolution of the middle class,” the Kennedy strategy was to support the reformist sector of the national bourgeoisie, which up to that point had confronted the powerful obstacle of the traditional oligarchy. The Alliance for Progress committed twenty billion dollars over a decade for concrete projects for the development of this reformist sector, which also would have the consequence of establishing new possibilities for US investment (Arboleya 2008:156-57).
The proposed reforms in Latin America did not represent fundamental structural changes that would involve a transition from a neocolonial system to an alternative more just and democratic world-system. They were proposed reforms of the neocolonial system. “The modernization that Kennedy proposed for Latin America was not based on the development of an independent national bourgeoisie as an alternative to the traditional oligarchy. Rather, it was based on producing a ‘new class’ that, more than related to, would form a part of the US transnational corporations and would share their interests. In short, it aspired to consolidate US neocolonialism in the region, through the articulation of a new relation of dependency, which would require a national class organically tied to foreign capital” (Arboleya 2008:157).
The proposed economic reforms of the neocolonial system did not succeed, and it was not possible for them to succeed. The Kennedy plan encountered political opposition from those sectors of US capital historically tied to the traditional oligarchy in Latin America. In addition, the national bourgeoisie did not have sufficient economic and political strength to play the role assigned to it by the plan. There was in this regard a fundamental contradiction: the national bourgeoisie, according to the plan, would transform itself into a class economically dependent on foreign capital, which therefore would render it unable to lead the nation in a project of independent economic development. Under these conditions, the national bourgeoisie would not be able to mobilize the popular support needed to challenge the control of the oligarchy and thus would be incapable of playing the political role that it was supposed to play. The national bourgeoisie would become increasingly discredited by nationalist popular sectors, which would search for more revolutionary approaches and more independent approaches to national development (Arboleya 2008:157).
The failure of the Alliance for Progress suggests the impossibility of reforming the neocolonial system in a form that promotes US interests, with the intention of establishing political stability. As long as the core-peripheral structures that promote US economic and financial penetration remain, the neocolonized nation will not be able to develop, and the needs of the people will not be met. Thus, the conditions for popular mobilization in opposition to the system, in other words, for political instability, will remain. The establishment of political stability requires the economic and cultural development of the nation, impossible under the structures of the core-peripheral relation. What is required is an autonomous national project for economic and cultural development, which could be put into place when a popular movement takes control of the government and seeks to govern in a form that represents the interest of the various popular sectors. Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador have seen the realization of this possibility.
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Kennedy, Alliance for Progress