- Communism is an apolitical and an economic doctrine that aims to replace private property and a profit- based economy with a collective ownership of property by the community with an aim of ensuring social equity.
- As a political ideology, communism is generally considered as extreme-left , making fewer concessions to market capitalism and electoral democracy than do most forms of socialism.
- As a system of government, communism tends to center on a one- party state that bans most forms of political dissent.
- Communism focuses on equality, collective ownership and production for societal good. It is based on the ideas of Karl Marx which gives prominence to three things:
- Ownership of wealth by community.
- Centralized economic planning
- Protection of the working class and their interests.
- In the era of late 19th Century, major philosophical terms like socialism and communism were often used simultaneously. Communism was considered as an economic-political philosophy which was evolved by famous philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels during this period. Marx and Engels wrote and published “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848.
- In a communist society, all private ownership would be obliterated, and the ways of production would belong to the whole community. In the communist movement, a popular motto was that everyone contributes according to their competence and received according to their requirements. Therefore, the needs of a society would be put above and beyond the specific needs of an individual.
- Communist Countries
- The last five remaining Communist countries are China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam. They aren’t pure communism but are transitioning from socialism, where the state owns the components of supply.
- According to Marx, that is a necessary midway point between capitalism and the ideal communist economy. Modern communist societies rely on a mixed economy.
Characteristics of Communism
- In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and co-author Friedrich Engels outlined the following 10 points.
- Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes
- A heavy progressive tax or graduated income tax
- Abolition of all rights of inheritance
- Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
- Centralization of credit in the hands of the state
- The state would control communication and transportation
- The state factories and instruments of production would cultivate wastelands and improve the soil
- Equal liability of all to labor and establishment of industrial armies (especially for agriculture)
- The gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country
- Free education for all children in public schools and the abolition of children’s factory labor
- The manifesto mentions state ownership in its last three points, making even this pure vision of communism sound like socialism. But Marx argued that state ownership is a valid stage in the transition to communism.
Differences Between Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, and Fascism
Attribute Communism Socialism Capitalism Fascism Factors of production are owned by Everyone Everyone Individuals Individuals Factors of production are valued for Usefulness to people Usefulness to people Profit Nation building Allocation decided by Central plan Central plan Law of demand and supply Central plan From each according to his Ability Ability Ability Value to the nation To each according to his Need Contribution Income, wealth, and borrowing ability Value to the nation
Communism in China
- Communism in China gained prominence through the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded in 1921. After the Russian Communist Party parted ways with the Kuomintang (KMT) party of China, Mao Zedong changed the Party’s strategy by focusing more on winning mass support among the peasants rather than trying to capture industrial towns.
- After being elected as the chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Party in 1931, Mao Zedong gradually consolidated his position as the real leader of Chinese communism.
Reasons for Communist Support in China
- The KMT had little to offer in the way of reform as they were inefficient and spent too much time looking after the interests of industrialists, bankers and landowners. As they made no effective attempts to organize mass support, this provided the main opportunity for Mao and the communists to win mass support.
- Poor industrial working conditions continued despite of the presence of specific laws designed to remove the worst abuses, such as child labour in textile mills.
- In the early 1930s there were a series of droughts and poor harvests which caused widespread famine in rural areas. In addition, forced labour and high taxes were prevalent. In contrast, the land policy followed in areas controlled by the communists was much more attractive No effective resistance was offered to the Japanese when the Japanese moved into south Shensi to attack Mao. This turned out to be a crucial factor in the communist success.
- As soon as the Japanese were defeated in the Second World War in 1945, the Chinese Communist Party was involved in an intense battle for supremacy in China with the KMT. Mao Zedong had the support of peasants and the middle class who were disappointed by the performance of Kuomintang. After the communist victory over the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1949, Mao Zedong set about rebuilding a shattered China.
Problems of China in 1949
- China witnessed a long period of war which restricted its development. It faced several problems. Some of those have been mentioned below:
- The country was devastated after the long civil war and the war with Japan. The result was railways, roads, canals and dykes had been destroyed and there were chronic food shortages.
- While industry remained backward, inefficient agriculture was incapable of feeding the masses.There was a need to ensure food security for the poverty-stricken people.
- In 1949, the Chinese society witnessed wealthy landlords and industrialists who dominated the society. Thus, land reforms were part of immediate to-do list for Mao and the communists to ensure equitable society.
100 Flowers Campaign (1957)
- The Chinese government, under Mao wanted to resolve tensions between classes in the society. Consequently, the government held open discussions for conflict resolution between the cadres and experts or intellectuals. Mao stated “Let 100 flowers bloom and 100 schools of thoughts contend ”. The idea was to allow constructive criticism but the idea failed as he received aggressive criticism which targeted the over-enthusiasm and incompetence of the party cadres. The Chinese Communist party was criticized for being over-centralized and undemocratic.
- Moreover, few intellects also demanded opposition parties. The campaign showed that the bitterness against communism still existed. Mao realized it and called off the campaign immediately. Soon after, he launched the Great Leap Forward in 1958 to consolidate the advancement of socialism and to protect the communist revolution.
Great Leap Forward (1958)
- The Great Leap Forward involved focused developments in both industry and agriculture, in order to increase agricultural output and to adapt industry to Chinese conditions. Its most important features are as under:
- The Introduction of Communes:
- Mao aimed at decentralization of power by using communes. A Commune was a unit larger than collective farms, containing up to 75000 people, divided into brigades and work teams with an elected council. They ran their own collective farms and factories, carried out most of the functions of local government within the commune and undertook special local projects. Each commune thus, acted as a local self-government. The communes also built roads, canals, dams, reservoirs and irrigation channels. They provided social service as they ran schools, primary health centres and creches. The communes comprised of children, women, housewives, elderly and the workers- skilled as well as unskilled. Each family received a share of the profits accrued and also had a small private plot of land. Mao talked of 600 000 ‘backyard steel furnaces’ springing up, organized and managed by the communes.
- Change of Emphasis from Large to Small Factories:
- Instead of aiming for large-scale industries as envisaged by Russia and the west, much smaller factories were set up in the countryside to provide machinery for agriculture. They were much more than merely collective farms – they acted as an efficient unit of local government and they enabled the central government to stay in touch with local opinion.
- The Introduction of Communes:
Cultural Revolution (1966-69)
- This was Mao’s attempt to keep the communist revolution on track and the Great Leap Forward on a pure Marxist-Leninist course.
- The revolution was aimed at countering the right wing leaders who demanded introduction of capitalist features on the lines of Russia like greater wage differentials and larger private plots to farmers which they felt necessary for improving the efficiency of communes.
- Mao criticized the demand and argued that such an approach would lead to the emergence of wealthy peasants who would soon exploit the poor and vulnerable sections, effectively ending the communist revolution.
- There was a great public debate between the rightists (including Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping) and the Maoists about which course to follow. Mao Zedong used his position as Chairman of the Party to rouse the young people and launched a desperate campaign to save the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. His supporters, the Red Guards (mostly students), toured the country supporting Mao’s case. Intellects were sent to visit countryside to understand the challenges of rural life.
- The Cultural Revolution caused great violence as Mao supporters started attacking the critics of Mao in a violent manner. The infamous gang of four which included important leaders and Mao’s wife were chiefly responsible for the excesses committed by Mao’s supporters. Many lives were ruined causing chaos. Mao blamed the Red Guard leaders and defence minister for the unfortunate situation. Consequently, Mao tried and executed many Red Guard leaders for committing excesses. The Cultural Revolution ended in 1969 as Mao was cleared of all blame. Though the revolution held up the economic development by 10 years, some economic recovery did happen in 1970’s. By the time of Mao’s death in 1976, China was well on the way to economic recovery.
Communism in China After 1976
- After Mao’s death in 1976, a power struggle followed within the communist Party. The anti-Mao faction emerged stronger which made Deng Xiaoping as the leader. The gang of four, including Mao’s wife were put to trial for the excesses committed during the Cultural Revolution. In June 1978, the new phase in China began as Deng Xiaoping gained the ascendancy. Some of the dramatic policy changes done by him are as under:
- The changes introduced during the Cultural Revolution were reversed. Properties confiscated from former capitalists were returned to their surviving owners. The democratically elected groups replaced the revolutionary committees to run the local government. There was more religious freedom. Also, intellects were provided with greater freedom to express themselves in literature and the arts.
- Loans were accepted from foreign governments and banks, and contracts were signed with foreign companies for the supply of modern equipment. In 1980, China joined the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ( IMF).
- Permission was granted for the setting up of private industrial companies. Also, state farms were given more control over planning, financing and profits.
- The state paid higher prices to the communes for their produce and reduced taxes in order to stimulate efficiency and output. These measures had some instant success as the grain output reached a record level in 1979, and many peasants became prosperous .
- The capitalist measures like bonuses, piece-rates wages and profit-sharing schemes were encouraged.
- China saw several poster campaigns in 1978, often in praise of Deng Xiaoping. By 1979, posters became progressively daring as they attacked Mao’s policies and started to demand several human rights including the right to criticize the government openly. This infuriated Deng, who launched a fierce attack on the leading dissidents, accusing them of trying to destroy the socialist system. Many were arrested and given prison sentences of up to 15 years.
Reasons for Survival of Communism in China
- China implemented economic reforms prior to the political reforms. The move helped preserve communism as economic prosperity and higher living standard abated the need for political protests.
- The Chinese leaders made sure that the differences between left and right wing communists never really deepened to the extent which would lead to split of the party.
- Deng Xiaoping did not hesitate to use force and was clear in his mind about one-party system unlike in Russia where Gorbachev was sympathetic to multiparty system and not willing to use force.
- Ethnically and culturally, the Chinese were a homogeneous society as compared to the USSR where more than half the population was non-Russian.
- The 100 Flowers campaign gave early warnings for Mao and the Chinese leadership which allowed them to take timely measures to save the communist revolution. The Great Leap Forward was a step in such direction with a design that would suit the Chinese needs.
- The Chinese communism was more united and showed flexibility to rectify their plans within time to ensure survival of communism.
|Chinese Communism||Russian Communism|
|Less focus on heavy industries and more on basic consumer goods||Focus on heavy industries like steel, iron, etc.|
|No shortage of consumer goods.||Shortage of consumer goods.|
|Decentralized industrialization. Mao talked about the ‘Great Leap Forward’ through which 6 lakh backyard steel furnaces were to be managed by communes||Centralized industrialization.|
|Focus on agriculture centered economy.||Focus on industrialization.|
|Communes were much more than a conglomeration of communes as they acted as units of self-governance and provided welfare services and allowed the party to interact with masses.||No such innovation.|
Communism Outside Europe
Reasons for Involvement of USA and USSR
- Korean crisis was an extension of existing ideological differences between the United States and the USSR. It had already been reflected in splitting of Germany in two parts (East and West Germany). The ideologue war of the capitalistic states promoted by USA and the communist states supported by USSR led to the division of Korean peninsula after a series of politico-strategic confrontations.
- The race to dominate more territories by expanding their ideology throughout the world in general and Asia in particular led to proxy war situations in places like Korea and Vietnam.
- Both the United States and the USSR viewed each other with mistrust and suspicion. The USA got exceedingly apprehensive about the spread of communism in Korean peninsula and thus decided to actively participate in the process to prevent the increasing communist influence.
- Despite Korean peninsula not wielding any strategic importance to the USA, role played by USA in Korean War exemplifies the degree of animosity between these two great powers of that time. It confirmed the existence and importance of bi-polar world post World War II, divided on the lines of nature of polity and economy. USSR’s “sphere of influence” ( Eastern Europe) had antagonized USA, which viewed this influence as USSR’s aggressive policy of world domination.
- North Korea coming under communist regime amplified their fear. After Eastern Europe, that had already come under pro-communist regime, supported the hypothesis of USA about USSR ’s acrimonious intentions. Stalin had brought Eastern Europe under communist regime by providing financial aid under the Molotov plan (similar to USA’s Marshall Plan), thus confirming the USA’s claim of USSR ’s expansionist intentions and strategy. On the other hand, USSR viewed Marshall Plan (American aid for Western Europe post world war II) as a tool to enhance American influence in Europe, based fundamentally on capitalism. USSR considered this as a threat to its own territory with more number of countries in its neighbour coming under capitalism.
- The “Truman doctrine” (American foreign policy to counter soviet geo-political expansion plan) was in full display and every effort was put to stop communist expansion in Korean peninsula. Berlin blockade (Soviet attempt to obstruct western countries transit into part of their territory located in Eastern Germany) had already communicated the limits to which USSR can go for guarding its influence. Thus, the intentions of USSR posed a great threat to American doctrine.
- Korea had been under the control of Japan since 1910 until 1945 when it surrendered to the Allied powers (Soviet and US were part of allied powers). Korean peninsula was divided into two parts, separated by the 38th parallel.
- Northern part was to be controlled by Soviet and southern part was brought under USA. This was done to execute proper surrender of Japanese forces in both parts and assist in their withdrawal from the peninsula. As per USA, this division was temporary and once the election for entire Korean landmass was conducted, the two great powers (US and Soviet) were to leave the Korean mainland.
- The presumption of USA was based on the fact that South Korea, that had two- thirds of population , would easily overrule the communist North Korea’s electoral choice. Eventually, unification of Korea would take place without any communist form of government gaining ground. However, the UN supervised election was conducted only in southern part and it came to be known as the independent Republic of Korea or South Korea with its capital as Seoul. Russians created the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea under the communist government of Kim II Sung, with its capital at Pyongyang.
- Just like Germany, no unification could be achieved and no formal agreement was signed to annul the 38th parallel. This artificial man-made border segregated the landmass into two different nations under control of two different types of polity. South Korea adopted the capitalistic form of economy while North Korea, under the influence of Russia, remained a communist nation. In 1949, Russian and American troops were withdrawn, leaving the landmass to its own, without any effort to reunite the landmass.
North Korea’s Attack on South Korea
- North Korea attacked South Korea in June 1950. No primal reason had been ascribed for this attack and only speculations are made for different possible reasons. Some of the important reasons are:
- Kim II Sung’s own idea, motivated by his aggressive policy, to unify both countries. Also, Chinese (a communist country) increasing military strength in Taiwan made him buoyant and encouraged him to attack South Korea.
- Communist Russia saw a chance to expand communism in Pacific and thus indirectly tried enhancing their sphere of influence. It also provided Soviet a chance to verify the authenticity of Truman doctrine (will they actually go to an extent of war to prevent USSR expansion) and thus supplied the North Koreans with tanks and other equipment.
- The communists in North Korea claimed that South Korea had started the war, when troops of South Korea had crossed the 38th parallel.
- US secretary of state had not mentioned Korean peninsula in its scheme to protect and defend landmass in the Pacific island, which gave North Korea a fearless chance to attack.
Role Played by USA
- North Korea had won almost entire South Korea before west could get into action. This alarmed the US administration which not only saw it as a communist expansion but also a challenge to USA by attacking the state established with the US help. US, holding an army in Japanese island, decided to mobilize army immediately so as to provide resistance to advancing front of North Korea. Meanwhile, the US also started work on gathering global support through the United Nations against North Korean attack and to isolate USSR in world geo-politics as supporter of an aggressor and danger to world peace. Russia abstained from attending the UNSC as a symbol to express their veto on any decision taken against North Korea.
- UN passed ‘uniting for peace’ resolution to overrule any possible veto that might be assumed because of Russian abstention. It was passed to restore existing boundaries along 38th parallel. American troops in Japan were mobilized to Korea even before the UN could decide what action to be taken. The UNSC demanded North Korea to withdraw her troops. However, this was ignored, and thus UN asked member states to send help to South Korea.
- Their arrival was just in time as it prevented complete overrun by the communists. Communist forces had captured almost whole country barring the south-east, around the port of Pusan. North Korean forces were pushed back by the UN forces and by the end of September UN troops had entered Seoul thus taking the capital back in their hand. Instead of calling for a ceasefire, the American troops planned to advance into North Korea, thus crossing 38 th parallel. With the UN approval, US found this to be an opportune time for uniting the country and hold free elections. The US troops got close to North Korea, alarming the Chinese government, which warned USA that China would not resist if UN troops entered North Korea.
- However, the warning was ignored. UN troops ravaged over North Korea, attacking Pyongyang and occupied two-thirds of North Korea and reached the River Yalu, the frontier between North Korea and China. Communist Chinese government decided to use military so as to push back the capitalist aggressive UN led American force and eventually won over South Korea up to Seoul again. Even the use of atom bomb was said to be stipulated on China.
- However, this was eventually not used fearing mass destruction and a possible beginning of a world war again. American army again pushed back the Chinese army back to North Korea and eventually the frontier was restored along 38th parallel. No peace treaty was signed though.
Impact of Korean War
- Mutual distrust among people of Korean peninsula was tempered for a long time to come leading to massive destruction on both sides.
- Mutual suspicion led to the arms race as a constant threat of further attack was maintained. North Korea succeeded in developing atom bomb and in recent times, it also claims to have developed the hydrogen bomb. Although South Korea did not develop Nuclear weapon, but it has US support against North Korea’s aggressive stance.
- The Truman doctrine, which was to curtail expansion of communism, adopted for the first time for military power, instead of economic power.
- Prestige of the United Nations took a big hit as it was now considered to be influenced by capitalistic powers.
- China’s military strength gained a lot of repute and it started to be considered as one of the leading powers of the world and its claim for permanent seat in UNSC received firm boost.
- It intensified the cold war between the United States and Russia.
- Since China sprung up as a new contender in the race of establishing their power in the world, many alliances started to emerge in Asia and pacific. Countries in Indo-China region started to rely on Chinese financial assistance and leveraged Chinese military strength against the western power. The US started to focus on curtailing Chinese influence and adopted policy of encircling china and also formed SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization). It was obvious that many states wanted to stay away from the Cold War and remained non-committal. India being one of them, and in this back drop, Non Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed.
- Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, were together called as Indo-China. French ruled Indo-China region in South-East Asia. Once they got independence from France by late 50’s, instability followed and led to civil war conditions in Vietnam. USA intervened to prevent the spread of communism to southern part of Vietnam, but could not succeed.
- Vietnamese fought war of independence from 1946 to 1954 against France. Also, Japan had defeated countries in Indo-China region during the World War II and had good military presence there. The League for Vietnamese Independence (Viet Minh), led by the communist Ho Chi Minh, provided stiff resistance to these two powers. The Viet Minh reflected collection of different political shades and was not dominated solely by communist idea. Its ultimate goal was to get rid of foreign rulers. Japan had surrendered by the end of 1945 which led Ho Chi Minh to declare the whole of Vietnam as an independent nation.
- However, the French were on the side of allied power who had won World War II, decided not to leave their hold on Vietnam. This led to a confrontational situation as hostilities eventually broke out which lasted for eight long years, ending with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954.
- Success of Viet Minh can be partly ascribed to their skill of guerrilla tactics. French, though on victorious side (World War II ) were devastated with the after-effects of the world war, and thus failed to send enough troops to match the Viet Minh guerrilla tactics. Role of the new Chinese communist government of Mao Zedong was extremely critical as they supplied the rebels with arms and equipment. The USA involvement was the direct outcome of cold war discourse directed firmly by Truman Doctrine. Americans, at first, supplied the French with military and economic aid but to no great help. In order to prevent the spread of communism throughout south-east Asia, America decided to participate in war against communism directly by taking part in war.
- Geneva Agreement (1954), declared Laos and Cambodia as independent while Vietnam was temporarily divided into two states by the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of Viet Minh, formed government in North Vietnam. A separate government for the time being was stipulated in South Vietnam until the elections were held in July 1956 for the entire country , which would then become united.
- Unfortunately, elections were never held, another Korean like fiasco was in making. A civil war gradually developed in South Vietnam which eventually embroiled the North Vietnam and the USA.
Reasons for Civil War in Southern Vietnam
- The South Vietnamese government, chosen by a national referendum in 1955, refuted to conduct election for the whole of Vietnam. The USA, did not pressurize the government to carry out the Geneva treaty (1954) mandated election, as they expected a communist victory if the elections went ahead. US President Eisenhower ( 1953-61) believed that the ‘domino theory’ – could be applied to countries also, i.e. if one country in a region ‘fell’ to communism, it would quickly ‘knock over’ all its neighbors.
- President of southern Vietnam came from a wealthy Roman Catholic family, whereas three-quarters of the population were Buddhist peasants. They felt discriminated on several levels. Land reform of the type carried out in China and North Vietnam formed the most important issue for them.
- Coming from the peasant background, land ownership held greater significance to them. President was infamous for his corrupt practices and was considered to be too liberal towards America, which enraged Vietnamese citizens.
- In I960, various opposition groups collectively formed the National Liberation Front (NLF) including many former communist members of the Vietminh. They demanded a democratic national coalition government which would work towards united Vietnam and further appropriate reforms.
- Guerrilla tactics was used by them to attack government officials and buildings as sign of their protest. Buddhist monks expressed their protest by public immolation.
- Despite this violent state of affairs, the President remained in denial mode, declining any dissent and kept accusing them of politically inspired communist tactics. Harsh methods used by him to gag any criticism went against his popularity and had to eventually lose his designation due to a coup carried out in 1963. After his death post-coup, the country was ruled by a succession of generals, with no stability in government.
- US geopolitics had failed to uproot communist regime in North Korea and in Cuba. Vietnam provided them a chance to overthrow their power completely, not only to prevent south Vietnam from being converted into communist state but also annihilating communism in North Vietnam and thus stopping a plausible “domino effect”. Though their intervention was for the independence of the Vietnamese people, but in reality it was to check the rise of the communist bloc .
- Once the information of the Vietcong (as the guerrillas were now known) receiving supplies, equipment and troops from North Vietnam was confirmed, the United States decided firmly to curtail such mutual synergy which may lead to communist establishment in southern parts.
Phases of War
- Changing policies under different Presidents of US during Vietnam War:
- John F. Kennedy (1961-63): He ensured minimum involvement of American soldiers in anti-guerrilla war. He introduced ‘safe village’ policy which accommodated common villagers in fortified fort leaving out the Vietcong. It did not succeed as Vietcong were peasants too, who would mingle with peasants inside village.
- Lyndon Johnson (1963-69): He bombed North Vietnam (1965) under impression that Vietcong were supported by North Vietnam and hence to win a war, destruction of northern part will be strategically crucial. America got so deeply involved in war during this phase that it started to be called as ‘Johnson’s War’. Heavy bombs were used and half a million soldiers were flown into Vietnam.
- It evoked strong public opinion against the war in USA and demands to pull back Vietnam offensive was made. Mounting monetary loss also raised technical concern for its sustainability. Johnson announced the stoppage of bombing of North Vietnam and peace talk was expected to be the way out of the Vietnamese fiasco. Even this could not be achieved for next 5 years.
- Richard Nixon (1969-74): Nixon ’s idea of ‘Vietnamization’ entailed the gradual withdrawal of US troops out of Vietnam and simultaneous training of people of South Vietnam to arm them with fighting skill. Nixon started to bomb North Vietnam heavily again, especially “the Ho Chi Minh Trail Through Laos and Cambodia, along which supplies and troops came from North Vietnam. However, it again failed to achieve any solid gain. Nixon was vehemently criticized by general masses in US and by world leaders. Cease fire arranged in January 1973 led to the withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam and both North and South were expected to respect the frontier along the 17th parallel.
- A peace settlement was signed in Paris in January This ended conflict with the US but fighting between the Saigon regime and the NLF continued. The NLF occupied the presidential palace in Saigon on 30 April 1975 and unified Vietnam.
Reasons for Failure of USA
- The USA failed to recognize that NLF (National Liberation Front) was not a communist proxy and it genuinely attempted to address public grievances regarding poor governance. Such ignorance made them unpopular and people were drawn to anti American groups. Thus the US indirectly helped in spread of communism from north to south.
- The Vietcong, like the Viet Minh, were experts at guerrilla warfare and were fighting on familiar territory. The Americans found them extremely hard to distinguish from common peasantry. It is for this reason that continuous supply of food and arms was maintained along Ho Chi Minh Trail.
- The Vietcong received crucial help from North Vietnam in the way of troops while China and Russia, supplied arms.
- The North Vietnamese were firm in their belief to unify the landmass across the 17th parallel and no form of US bombing deterred them in their resolve.
- The US in later part of war was under extreme pressure from its own people to stop war and bring back soldiers back to home. Also mounting financial loss and extreme criticism for negligence of environment quality showed futility of prolonging war anymore.
- Cuban Revolution is remembered for its changing relationship with the United States in different period of time and its role in cold war that brought almost US and Russia to the brink of nuclear war. It also served as an example of changing economic structure and its repercussions on national growth and geo-political relations.
- Cuba attained independence from Spanish imperial power in 1898 when US invaded Cuba. Later on, independence from the US was achieved on May 20, 1902. Fulgencio Batista was elected as President for the first time in 1940.
- He was supported by Communist party of Cuba and had excellent presidential term.
- However, in his second term in 1952, he seizeds the power in a military coup. This term turned out to be dictatorial. Crony Capitalism dominated everyday economic processes and organized crime flourished unabated. Public utilities were in dilapidated state and the unemployment soared, especially in nonsugar farming season.
- It was under this backdrop that people started to rebel though not in an organized form but gradually it gained momentum.
- The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt carried out by Fidel Castro and its allies against the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 1 January 1959, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state. Finally, after series of events, Cuba became full-fledged communist country.
- This transformation from US driven economy to communist state had a far reaching changes in its economic structure, which eventually resulted a Fidel Castro and Fulgencio Batista diametrically opposite relationship with USA. This changing relationship matrix with USA attracted USSR, staunch enemy of US at that time, closer to Cuba. Cuba was to be used in a strategic move by USSR against USA in time to come. The Cuban revolution not only changed political establishment and economy structure in Cuba but also its trade relation, geopolitical prioritization and nature of development process.
Causes of Cuban Revolution
- US Control over Cuban Economy: US companies had a lot of investment in the industrial sector of Cuba, its trade and in land ownership. Crony capitalism along with greed led to the deploring state of masses.
- Excessive Influence in Internal Matters of Cuba: US troops were deployed far too frequently, which led to its continuous conflict with Cuban administration.
- Quality of Life: Social disparity was immense as the wealth remained concentrated in the hands of few, while masses remained in abject poverty. Employment opportunities were very less, especially because Cuban economy depended largely on sugar, which was controlled by very small number of exploitative capitalists.
- Export Dependent Economy: Cuban economy did not diversify and it was very much dependent on export of few goods and that too largely to US making the Cuban economy highly vulnerable.
- Political Instability: Political institutions could not develop properly which led to unfair electoral processes. Governance was riddled with corruption and patronage system , to the detriment of common people. In 1952, Batista, former Cuban President, became President for the second time by conducting a coup.
- Batista Cruelty: His dictatorial regime gagged dissent and his criticism was dealt with extreme brutality. This changed people’s opinion and middle class which was his strong base , started to drift away from him. Army was poorly paid and their recurrent defeat at the hand of guerrilla force further demoralized them. Even America, later on, stopped supplying help in the form of arms and ammunition, as the US didn’t want to be linked with human violation that was becoming common in his regime.
- Fidel Castro’s Incessant Attempt to Release Cuba from Repressive Power: In 1952, Castro ’s party had won election but was not allowed to form government. In fact, it was annulled by Batista. Castro’s attempt to overthrow Batista in 1953 failed as he was caught and sentenced to jail. Though, under mounting public pressure, he was released after two years of jail. Castro toured the United States to influence anti-Batista people to support his move against Batista. Castro went to Mexico, where he formed revolutionary group with Che Guevara and attempted another coup in Cuba, though unsuccessful. His land reform movement made him very popular in hilly areas.
Fidel Castro’s Reforms
- Land Reform: Seventy percent of land ownership was concentrated in the hands of few and most of them were foreigners. He redistributed land among farmers which antagonized the Americans.
- Social Reform: Education and Health restructuring formed the cornerstone in providing critical government services.
- Nationalization: Castro nationalized few refineries owned by American capitalists. This was strongly objected by American business clout and lot of sanction was put against Cuba. In a strong retaliatory move, he nationalized every utility.
- US Trade Sanction: Cuban economy was heavily dependent on US import from Cuba. With sanctions on trade, Cuban trade shifted towards USSR, which found this trade as an opportunity to play out geopolitical moves.
- Socialism (or Democratic People’s Republic or Socialist Republic): In the republic of Cuba, only one party i .e. the Communist party was to be allowed. It would not endorse any candidate. They were to be elected without any party involvement.
Bay of Pigs Invasion
- It was CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) of USA financed and supported invasion in Cuba mainland by Cuban refugees living in USA to topple the communist government under Fidel Castro. Castro’s anti-US stance, pro-USSR bend and nationalization of economy had vexed USA. In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to prepare a force of Cuban exiles for an armed attack on Cuba. John F. Kennedy inherited this program when he became the President in 1961.
- In April 1961, around 1400 men armed with American weapons and using American landing craft waded ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The idea was to resonate with common people of Cuba against the regime of Castro. However, it failed terribly and Castro used this as an opportunity to foment unanimous rage against the ‘imperialist USA’. This attack provided Castro a legitimate reason to look for its border defense and thus requested additional Soviet military aid. Eventually that aid included missiles, and the construction of missile bases in Cuba that sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly came on the verge of a nuclear war.
Events after Missile Crisis
- Situation had become extremely volatile and little passionate decision would have changed the course of world. Despite being urged to go for a full scale invasion, US under Kennedy’s leadership acted cautiously by ordering a blockade of Cuba to keep out the 25 Russian ships which were bringing missiles to Cuba. He also demanded the dismantling of the missile sites and the removal of those missiles already in Cuba.
- Khrushchev acted promptly and ordered the Russian ships to turn back, leading to a compromise solution. He promised to remove the missiles and dismantle the sites. Kennedy promised that the USA would not invade Cuba again, and undertook to disarm the Jupiter missiles in Turkey. A hotline was established between the US and the USSR for swift communication in time of such dire situations. Nuclear threat was realized to be real and extremely dangerous. Hence to prevent the effect of any future nuclear test on environment, in time of ‘Nuclear arsenal race’, a treaty named NTPT (nuclear test ban treaty) was signed by the USSR, the United States and Britain in 1963.
- Castro was furious with Khrushchev for ‘deserting’ him. He believed that Cuba should have been made active participant in making such a big decision but such negligence reflected bad on Soviet.
Chile Under Salvador Allende (1970-73)
- In 1970, Salvador Allende, a Marxist, created history by being selected as the President of Chile. He was the world’ s first Marxist leader to be voted into power through a democratic election.
- He was a leader of a left-wing coalition of communists , socialists, radicals and social democrats known as Unidad Popular (UP). It was probably the first communist movement which was non-violent. Though it did not continue for more than three years, it was enough to highlight the problems faced by Marxist government in the democratic system.
- Chile had culture of thriving democracy, unlike the other right bent government of South America. Eduardo Frei, the president before Allende favored socialist reforms like land redistribution and nationalization of copper mines.
- His economic policy kept macroeconomic indicators in optimum conditions for that time and yet he lost to Allende in 1970 elections. His loss in a way highlights the conundrum a socialist government had to face in time of economic hardship.
Reasons for Defeat in Election
- Partial nationalization of copper factories made him look bad in both groups. The left saw him going against the socialist norm by not completely nationalizing factory .while right wing considered nationalization as drag, and a compromise with efficiency.
- In 1969, severe drought increased food inflation. Also, low productivity industrial growth meant poor per-capita earning, thus enhancing poverty. In this backdrop, miners demanded hike in wages and went on strike, which was dealt brutally by police. This made him infamous due to which he lost the next election.
- Imposed price caps on companies.
- Increased wages for all kinds of workers.
- Nationalization of banks, copper industries and textile industries.
- Fastened the land reform process.
- Restored diplomatic relations with Castro’s Cuba, China and East Germany.
Reasons for Removal
- Land redistribution impacted those sections of farmers negatively, whose land could be taken for redistribution. They did not sow their field, which resulted in agricultural failure thus leading to increase in food prices. These farmers often slaughtered their cattle as a supplementary means of earning (like the Russian kulaks during collectivization).
- Once the productivity dropped, private investment decreased. The government had to artificially keep economy afloat by continuous expenditure. This left government with very little money that could be spent on social security.
- Nationalization of copper meant greater trade union power and thus more strikes and bargaining power for higher wages, even if company makes less profit.
- Extreme left ideals made certain section of political clout radical and they pursued aggressive land redistribution policies by evicting farm owners. Allende was too soft and too slow for them.
- US capitalistic outlook could not cope up with rapid nationalization of resources and tried to hurt Chilean economy as much as possible. Neighboring countries saw Chile with suspicion as they were afraid of Chilean influence on their economy.
- The power of President to circumvent congress obstruction to any bill by referring the matter to the people made opposition suspicious about Allende. They were apprehensive of his design of changing constitution to his advantage and then getting it approved by referendum. It was this fear that brought opposition together and with the help the army, they staged a coup. Left-wing leaders were inhumanely treated and tortured and Allende was rumored to have committed suicide. CIA has been accused to have played a key role in ouster of the left.
Other Interventions by USA
Reasons for Interference in Polity of Nations
- American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had played an active role but in very tacit manner to get rid of government of countries where country was led by leaders having a pro-communist inclination.
- Many local proxy politicians or army generals were used to bring down the government with communist bias either by supporting a coup or by strategic planning that led to the transfer of power in some puppet government with pro-capitalist disposition. American interest in general and industrialist benefit in particular used to be the prime motive for such political interference in clandestine way. Definitely, Cold war had its indirect impact on such political exercise. Fear or suspicion of new independent countries getting out of imperial shackles being drawn to socialist or communist idea was real.
- The US leadership believed that no chance could have been taken in those times, especially when imperialism was linked to capitalism. Conscious effort was made to keep general masses of USA in complete darkness, so as to prevent any judgmental bias against the government’s move. In the case of major military interventions, cases were presented as necessary evil that was needed to eliminate the much bigger threat of communism.
- Every effort was made to keep Humanists at bay as they were seen as a hindrance to the intelligence agency activities in foreign land. Techniques included attempts to carry out assassinations, rigging of elections, organizing and financing acts of terrorism, economic destabilization and, in the last resort, full-scale military intervention.
South East Asia
- Indo-China region spreads over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. All of them got their independence from France by Geneva agreement in 1954. Several years of western imperial repression had left impression of exploitative west on the people of these countries. Any economic interference by west was seen with doubt and reservations.
- Admittedly, their past oppression was based fundamentally in economic benefits to the foreign land. Also, Chinese and Soviet models that favored peasantry and labour seemed much more attractive to them as the masses still were either peasants or small labour. These two big communist powers left no stone unturned to have long lasting influence on neighboring countries, be it by financial aid or by giving arm supply. Amidst this backdrop, the interplay of Soviet and US geo-politics on foreign land by supplying arms and ammunition to different countries, often divided masses in two factions led by their leaders which led to the socio-political instability. Long drawn civil wars, political disruption, frequent coup were some of the most common strategy used by US to get their demands fulfilled.
- USSR and China had geographical proximity with Northern Vietnam where communism influence was dominant. It made US administration worry about the spread of communism to other countries of Asia in general and Laos and Cambodia in particular. The use of ‘domino theory’ by U.S . President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed this fear clearly. Above that, Chinese and Soviet role had already been tested in case of North Korea, which despite being minority in terms of its population, kept US supported UN peace keeping force at bay.
- Another Korean peninsula or Germany like division would imply conceding at least a part of land to communist force. Hence, it was of utmost importance for the United States to flip the chances of any such scenario taking real shape. Direct military intervention would have been not only costly (as Vietnam war was already going on) but also could have painted US as an aggressor thus eliciting fear in other Asian countries, especially in China. The United States, thus, could not afford a full-fledged war with country as big as China.
- Thus, covert political stir up was sought as a line of discourse and it was planned to topple the leader with communist bias so as to establish a pro-capitalist government.
- Left group nationalist party Pathet Lao was obviously a threat to the larger objective that was being pursued by USA in time of competing ideologies all over the world. Prospect of the newly independent country falling in grip of communism could have defeated the chance of USA to promote capitalism in the east, as more or less, every other big nation was adopting some form of socialist pattern of economy. It also meant losing a market for its investor.
- Right wing backed by USA through series of disguised interventions had removed many left-wingers from important position by 1960. It was an attempt to weaken left from within so that no mass protest could take place against US interference. Such gradual but strong influence had left the Leftist political class hapless and clueless.
- In desperation to prevent their gradual decay to inevitable death, they decided to revert back with aggression and resorted to armed force. It seems, US was almost waiting for this situation when it would get a moral license to save the ‘masses’ from aggressive communist forces .
- Accordingly, US replied by gathering 30,000 anticommunist forces brought from all over Asia. It acted as a symbol of showing strength of opinion of people from different regions standing against communism. Between 1965 and 1973, US bombarded Laos massively under the pretext of killing the forces that were against the welfare of development of nation. However, it had no real effect.
- Even after a decade of bombing, people could not be convinced to the idea of capitalism being the talismanic force. Once the exhausted and worn-out US forces withdrew from Vietnam, leftists in Laos took over. This implied that right had no ground in the economy thus right leaders lost all its clout and had to leave the country. In December 1975, the Pathet Lao eventually took over and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was proclaimed.
- Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were almost tied together by ‘Ho Chi Minh trail’ – a logistical system that interweaved these three countries together. Much to the disgust of US , there was a constant interaction at border area, which not only acted as a safe zone of transit but also a zone of spreading the idea of communism. In Cambodia, America engineered a coup to replace Prince Sihanouk in 1970.
- Heavy bombing had already destroyed national economy , which led to five years of civil war. These issues were raised by the communist party of Cambodia and used it as a force against American indulgence with far-right faction of Cambodia. This created a revolutionary situation which led to the US losing control. It ended power being transferred to Pol Pot ( leader of communist part of Cambodia) and the Khmer Rouge ( followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia).
- There was no such dire role played by US in Thailand polity. However, it did serve the purpose of cold war in different way. It served as base ground for US to launch its plane for bombing in Northern Vietnam. US presence in Thailand was so overwhelming that it created considerable resentment among Thai people and that was the tipping point between US and Thais which demanded them to leave the country.
- US, on the other hand, claimed such popular discontent as communist overtures and tried to give no importance to such mass dissent. Over 40000 American troops were active in trying to suppress opposition guerrilla fighters and training Thai government forces to serve the US interest in the region.
- In late 1950s and 1960s, frustration in imperialist colonies triggered nationalist feelings among the masses, which often took the shape of another strong force of that time i.e., communism as an ideal end goal. Africa is a resource rich continent and falling to communism would have implied no entry to capitalist investor of the west. Also, for European nations, Africa was too close to leave it fall in hand of communism.
- In such a case, it could become a threat to Western Europe, flag bearers of capitalism. Also, a Cuba kind of situation was to be avoided at any cost where capitalism lost its ground to communalism and was later on used as proxy by Soviet to the detriment of US security.
- In order to prevent the revolutionary movement snatching independence from imperial force and deciding on its fate by own, America engineered their independence and guided them to the form of polity that suited best to United States interest.
- Thus, it pressurized western nations to end their imperial rule and establish a liberal and democratic market economy. This would not only give US free hand in manipulating puppet leader selling their resources cheap but would also allow American goods to be sold in African market. Truman doctrine of preventing communism from expanding was also always in play, thus diminishing any Chinese or Soviet influence.
- It got its independence from Belgium in 1960. Copper export formed its formidable earning source and was largely controlled by Belgian companies and few American investors in Katanga region. Prime minister of Congo desired economic independence and exclusive national economic policy based on the idea of national growth. It was considered as indirect reference towards nationalization of copper mines. Belgian companies and the US firms tried to encourage secession of Katanga region, so as to make Congo economy disabled by stoking civil war.
- Congo Prime Minister raised this issue in UN and USSR. It was considered by US as a direct indication of anticapitalist stance. CIA hatched a plan to destabilize the polity and then establish government of its liking. It colluded with opponent parties and got the existing Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba dismissed. It was a non-military interference with same objective of bringing countries in US clout.
- PM was some time later assassinated and a puppet Prime Minister General Mobutu was chosen, so as to ensure continuous extraction of minerals. Not only America prevented its likely loss of already invested money by impending nationalization but it also opened the Pandora box of opportunities for its industrial class.
- It became independent in 1957 and its leader wanted to maintain good relationship with both communists and capitalists. However, his increasing closeness with communist power like USSR, China and East Germany annoyed the United States. The CIA, with the help of opposition leaders, hatched a coup when the leader Nkrumah, was out of the country and he had to remain in exile forever.
- The Middle East not only provided geo-strategic location where multiple communist force of east and capitalistic forces of west met. But also vast reserve of oil provided an extensive advantage to have good terms with them.
- The United States and other western countries wanted to maintain some influence there, both to block the spread of communism and to keep some control over the region’s oil supplies.
- Eisenhower Doctrine (1953-61) implied that US would not hesitate to use arms against armed aggression of communist state on the Middle East countries. Since 1945, the United States has played communist card numerous times in the Middle East region to destabilize the existing government to take advantage of the resources.
- In 1950, the Shah (ruler) of Iran signed a defense treaty with the USA targeting the communist force of USSR which had been trying to set up a communist government in northern Iran. Americans believed that a resource rich country could not be risked to be lost to communist influence especially when American development was so heavily driven by the precious oil that came so cheap to them as modern equipment to drill oil was almost exclusively owned by western powers. In 1953, the Prime Minister, Dr Mosaddeq, nationalized a British-owned oil company.
- Consequently, the US and Britain organized a coup to oust the then existing prime minister and restored the Shah to full control. Shah enjoyed US support until 1979 when their partnership took different turn as the Iranian revolution ended this partnership on very bad note.
- In 1958, General Abd al-Karim Qasim transformed Iraq from a monarchy to a republic. His modern and liberal ideas led to the development of Iraqi communist party which alarmed the Americans as America did not want to lose control in the region. A series of covert steps were taken to bring down this liberal form of government.
- The CIA had made several attempts to destabilize Iraq- by stoking a Turkish invasion or by financing w Kurdish guerrillas who demand autonomous status. In 1963, Qasim was overthrown and killed in a coup backed by the CIA and Britain.