Juan Bosch, Pentagonism: A Substitute for Imperialism.
“WHAT IS PENTAGONISM?
If people in many parts of the world still say that there are imperialist countries and colonialized countries, it is because we have not yet realized that pentagonism has taken the place of imperialism.
In the days when it still existed—a period which lasted until the end of the Second World War—the essence of imperialism was the conquest of colonies in order to invest the surplus capital of the conquering country in them and to take out the raw materials with which to keep the industrial plants of the mother country function. At the same time, the colonies were turned into markets for the mother country’s industrial production, thereby established an endless chain that fettered the economic life of the colonies through political submission to the mother country.
As can be seen from this summary description of the phenomenon called imperialism, a colony was both a zone in which capital was invested and a zone in which profits accumulated, for its labor was cheap, its raw materials were bought at low prices, he banking system of the mother country lent very little money, making only short-term loans at a high rate of interest, the transportation of goods to and from the mother country was controlled, and high tariffs were put on what the colonials bought, while the manufactured productions of the mother country coming into the colony were high-priced. This situation of economic control, in the final analysis, had one sole purpose: To see to it that the colonial worker received, let us say, ten monetary units per hour of work and had to pay fifty units per hour of work to buy a product that was made in the mother country with the raw material that this same colonial worker—or one from another colony dependent on the same mother country—had produced for five times less money.
Conquering a colony and keeping it a dependent territory called for the use of a military power whose sole purpose was to conquer and keep a hold on a colonial empire. This required funds, arms factories, specialized schools for the training of officials and civil administrators to be sent to the colonies, and poets, musicians, painters, journalists, and orators to create the heroic atmosphere appropriate to wars in the territories destined to be colonies. But this atmosphere has disappeared and children being born now will have to resort to old books and films of other eras to know what colonial armies were like.
Imperialism is now a shadow of the past, yet out of intellectual inertia we keep saying that imperialism still exists and we keep accusing this or that country of being imperialistic. In view of the fact that two-thirds of mankind lives in capitalist societies, and in view of the fact that Lenin indissolubly tied imperialism to capitalism—with its own reason for being, when and where it occurred—by saying that imperialism was the last stage—or the most advanced stage—of capitalism, there are those who think that imperialism still exists because capitalism still exist. But this is an illusion. Imperialism no longer exists and capitalism has survived it.
What is the explanation for what we have just said?
It is that imperialism has been replaced by a superior force. Imperialism has been replaced by pentagonism.”
“To succeed in the exploitation of its own people, pentagonism colonized the mother country; but since the colonization of the mother country must be achieved through the same military process as was used to conquer a colony and since it cannot wage war against its own people, the mother country sends its armies out to make war on other countries. And since sending the army of the mother country out against a foreign territory was what was done in the bygone days of imperialism, people continue to think that imperialism still holds sway. But this is not the case. The fact is that the use of military power has not changed; what has changed is the purpose for which it is used.
The military forces of a pentagonist country are not sent out to conquer colonial territories. War has another purpose; war is waged to conquer positions of power in the pentagonist country, not in some far-off land. What is being sought is not a place to invest surplus capital for profit; what is being sought is access to the generous economic resources being mobilized for industrial war production; what is being sought are profits where arms are manufactured, not where they are employed, and these profits are obtained in the pentagonist mother country, not in the country that s being attacked. A contract for bombers brings in several times more profit, in a much shorter time, than the conquest of the richest mining territory, and the contract is obtained in, and brings money in from, the place where the center of pentagonist power lies. The armies operate a long way away from the pentagonist power, but the planes are built at home, and this is where the fabulous sums come out of the pockets of the pentagonized people, who are at the same time the mother country and the seat of pentagonist power.
The pentagonized people are exploited as colonies were since they are the ones who pay, through taxes, for the bombers that enrich their manufactures; the mother country thus turns its own people into its best colony; it is at once a mother country and a colony, in an unforeseen symbiosis that requires a new word to define it. It is no longer a classic imperialist power because it does not need colonial territories in order to accumulate profits. It accumulates them at the expense of its own people. A mother country that exploits and an exploited colony no longer eist. There is something else: ‘the impentagonal’ or the ‘metropo-colony.’
What the United States spends in a month of war in Vietnam it could not recoup in five years if it were to devote itself togetting cheap raw meterials out of, and at the same time selling expensive manufactured products to, what was formerly Indochina. And what the United States spends there in a year of military operations it could not recoup in half a century even if the Vietnams-North and South-were covered with a layer of gold half an inch thick. If the diamond mines of the Transvaal were situated in Vietnam, they would not produce in fifty years of intensive exploitation what the United States spent fighting in Vietnam in 1967.’
“Pentagonism does not operate on the basis of capital investments in a colonial territory. Pentagonism operates with military methods commensurate with or similar to those used by imperialism, but its purpose is different. For to pentagonism the territory that is going to be attacked, or is under attack, is only a place destined to receive expendable material, both mechanical and human. Costly war material is going to be consumed in this place: bullets, bombs, medicine, clothes, cement, equipment to build barracks and roads and bridges, food and drink for the soldiers, and also the soldiers themselves, or at least many of them. The attacked country is the final depository of goods that have already been produced and sold and paid for in the mother country.
From a certain point of view, it would not matter to those who accumulate profits through the production of these goods whether they were thrown into the sea or used up in war maneuvers. But in the former case the endless chain of production—high profits, high salaries, greater sales, ultra-rapid accumulation of capital and increase in production once more, and so back to the beginning of the cycle—would be broken, since the production of such expensive and such short-lived equipment could not be justified if it was not meant for war. Moreover, only a state of war—which the pentagonized people accepts as an emergency situation—permits fabulous expenditures and the quick signing of contracts with firms that have at their disposal the prestige, the credit, and the means to produce materiel immediately.
It must be realized that in order to fulfill a production contract for B-52 bombers—to stick to our example—hundreds of millions of dollars must be discounted in one of or several banks, and this can be done easily only by those industrialists who are directly or indirectly directors of these banks; that is to say, large contracts must go to established firms which have financial and industrial power beforehand.
As far as business is concerned, pentagonism is man’s most fabulous invention and necessarily came into being in the capitalist countries par excellence—the countries of overdeveloped capitalism—since it was there that the capacity for accumulating profit was placed at the top of the scale of social values.
Pentagonism has various advantages over worn-out and now useless imperialism. We can mention two of these, one economic and one moral. The first lies in the fact that pentagonism provides the most rapid and safest means of capitalization conceivable in the world of business, since all of the profits,–or almost all—get into the hands of war merchants even before the military equipment has been put to use. In this respect, perhaps only work in the gold mines of California brought such rapid, pure profit, although it was, of course, relatively limited. The second advantage—the moral one—lies in the fact that pentagonism leaves the prestige of the pentagonist country, which is the attacker, intact, because it can say to the world—and to its own people, who are giving the money for the materiel and for the profits of the businessmen and at the same time are providing the soldiers who are going to use this materiel and die while they use it—that it is not making war to conquer colonial territory; that is to say, it is not acting out of imperialist motives.
This last is true, but at the saem time it hides the more important truth: that a little roup of bankers, industrialists, businessmen, generals, and politicians is making war to obtain rapid and generous profits, which are translated into accumulation of capital and therefore into new investments with which they raise their profits all over again.
The partial truth that serves to hide the fundamental truth is in turn an instrument of propaganda for continuing along the path of pentagonism. Youngsters in the army are easily convinced that their country is not imperialistic, that it Is not making war in order to conquer a colonial territory. What is more, they are led to believe that they are going to their deaths to help the attacked country, to save it from an evil. And this is very important, for to lead men to die and to kill it is always necessary to offer them a moral banner to fortify their consciences and justify their actions in their own eyes.”
“The United States had been organized in the eighteenth century as an eminently individualist society; its political constitution, its customs, and its traditions were those of an individualist country. Nonetheless, following the great socio-economic crisis of 1929 the United States had begun to turn into a mass society—which was, of rouse, a consequence of the greater scope of industrial activity—and at the end of the Second World War it was already a mass society in all respects.
This mass society continued to be organized, juridically and institutionally, as an individualist society, and, as is logical, at the very heart of American life there came into being, and there still exists, a life and death conflict between what it is—a mass society—and what it believes it is—a society of free individuals.
In a conflict between the juridical or institutional appearances the social truth, the latter will win out in the end. The latter is alive and the former dead; the latter produces real facts, thoughts, and feelings that take over with the power to bring on new developments; on occasion it pretends to obey the juridical-institutional appearances, but in the final analysis it will act in terms of its own nature because this nature is the intimate and real expression of the social truth.
The American social truth today is that the people are placed, without their consent and without their knowledge, with the framework of an individualist society. The solution of this conflict between what the country is and what it believes it is presents itself in terms of mass action directed by a will that lies outside its consciousness. This will outside its consciousness centers in powers that do not figure in the political constitution of the United States or in any of the laws of the country that could be considered to be of a constitutional type.
Mass society has thus produced organs of power that have no place either in the traditional institutions of the country or in the customs of the people. One of these powers is the military; another, although it does not lie within the scope of this book, is the CIA.”
“Thinking to occupy the place that England was leaving empty, the United States believed that it was going to be traveling a familiar road; that its work would be less difficult because of its knowledge of the English experience; that it would follow in the footsteps of Great Britain; and that the fruit would be juicy since it was going to inherit a whole empire.
This schema, however, was not followed because England proceeded to get rid of its colonies peacefully; only Malaysia and Kenya suffered armed uprisings—and later the extreme south of Arabia—and England was to try to recover only one position, that in Egypt.
But on the whole England got rid of its colonies without violence. The American schema was to be applied in the case of another country, France, in its colonial territory of Indochina. The United States was to propose itself as the heir to France in Indochina, and was to inherit the revolutionary war that brought about the withdrawal of France from Southeast Asia. It was not to inherit the French colonial empire.
But the United States did not intend to inherit the English colonial empire in order to maintain it under the same conditions in which England had maintained it. It neither wanted nor needed to occupy colonial territory; all it wanted was to have governments of its own making in these territories and native military forces prepared to face the threat of Communism. Its plan consisted of having at its disposal dependent armies formed by the natives of these colonial territories, armed and directed by the United States. As soon as it gained recognition in Geneva as the heir to France in Indochina, the United States went on to mount a South Vietnamese army that in a few years went past the half-million mark. The United States put the schema that it had elaborated for the colonial territories of England into effect in Indochina.
Thus in its early days pentagonism intended only to organize the colonial world in its own way. ‘Its own way’ was to retain power through native governments and armies, but not to occupy countries with America military forces and not even to maintain civilian authorities there; so-called training missions would be enough. In cases of crisis, military bases for American forces could be obtained in these territories. As is obvious, this was a new form of imperialism, but nonetheless imperialism, in view of the fact that these new armies were to receive all their equipment from the United States. The significance of this was that the territories were destined to consume productions of the United States’ war industry. It was in this ‘unavoidable exportation’ of military equipment that pentagonist industrialists were to find the source of the profits they were seeking. They were no longer interested in extracting raw materials form the dependent countries because the United States had entered the phase of overdeveloped capitalism which gets its principal raw materials from other basic raw materials.
In regard to these basic materials, their supply had been assured in sufficient quantities ever since the days of the Second World War; it was not necessary to open up new sources to supply them.
But changes occurred both in the world and in the United States. In the colonial world the peoples were ready to fight for their freedom, and one after the other the Dutch, English, French, and Belgian empires toppled or were transformed; in Asia, in Oceania, and in Africa new nations made their appearance in what had previously been colonies.”
“The plan for extending pentagonist power through armies of other countries operated at several different levels, according to the different political, social, economic, and military means available. On some occasions the establishment of air, naval, ballistic, and nuclear bases was negotiated , and the American employees of these bases were isolated from native ‘military circles’—to use a phrase that has typical American sociological implications. In some cases the anti-Communist argument was not used and there was no infiltration in the field of political philosophies.
But infiltration reached the deepest level possible in the dependent countries, and in every case uniformity of equipment was sought in order that the majority of foreign armies might be equipped by the great war industry of the United States.
The government of any nation depends upon the control of its armed forces. This is a principle as old as humanity. By taking indirect control of the armed forces of other countries, pentagonism transferred the seat of power in these countries to the pentagonist seat of power.
In a certain sense this process was an imitation of the methods of imperialism. In each colonial territory, the imperialist country organized native armies when it was sure that it already had control of the situation; but the leaders of these native armies were always natives of the mother country. In this way the army of the colony operated in the colony, whereas decisions were made int eh mother country. In all the crises that came about in the colonies, these colonial troops were used against their own peoples. In cases of an international war, the colonial troops could go—and frequently did go—to fight in the war theater, which on some occasions was the mother country and in others a bordering country.
The pentagonist power followed this method on other levels, which is understandable since the successor of imperialism had to take advantage of imperialism’s accumulated experience. Once control of the armed forces of a juridically independent, but economically and politically dependent, country had been firmly taken, every attempt on the part of the governors of this country to govern independently was blocked with the threat of a military coup, and frequently the coup has come about by the simple exercise of excessive pentagonist power.”
In the same way in which imperialism subjugated the society of the colonial territory and made it think, feel, and act in colonial terms, pentagonism has succeeded in pentagonizing American society. This poses a serious problem of conscience of the men and the peoples who have been attacked—or are in danger of being attacked—by pentagonism.
Must we consider all the people of the United States responsible for the deaths, the destruction, the intrigues, and the abuses that pentagonism commites in the world? Is a worker in South Dakota guilty of the death of a Vietnamese child burned by napalm?
The answer cannot be simple. This worker in South Dakota is pentagonized; he acts as if he were drugged. But he is in a sense responsible; he has placed his desire for well-being and personal security above his duties toward humanity. If he accepts the fact that in order to have an automobile and a refrigerator, a compatriot of his—or perhaps his son or his brother—burns a Vietnamese child with napalm, there is no doubt that this American worker is an anti-human being. The drug of well-being has made him indifferent to the suffering and death of an Asian child, and perhaps the root of the problem lies in that word, for if the child is Asian this means that he is not American, and if he is not American his suffering and death have little value.
This attitude of the worker in South Dakota is not due to the fact that he is a worker. American scientists and those from other Western countries have been the first—and continue to be the most enthusiastic—supporters of pentagonism. Capitalism could not have become over-developed without the participation of scientists, and the large majority of the scientists of the United States placed themselves in the service of the American high command of industry for one principal reason: to earn more money. These scientists inherited centuries of experience amassed by thousands of investigators, many of them unknown, most of whom died in poverty. Scientific experience is a common good belonging to all men, which must benefit the whole world and not only the scientists and those who hire them. It is frequently argued that in all cases scientists work for humanity, even if it is in an indirect form, but this argument is debatable, since no definite proof that it is true has yet to be presented.”
“Like all the rest of the goods of overdeveloped capitalism, television is also used by pentagonism. No less than sixty million Americans see and hear the President of the Republic, thanks to television, all at the same time and in all the cities and towns of the country, an advantage that the President employs to serve the cause of pentagonism. Of these sixty million television viewers, the majority have been made passive by the habit of watching television; they are ready to accept what they are told as long as it is presented with a good sales technique. Of course, when the President of the Republic speaks, he uses the best sales technique, with his words carefully selected by the most expert propaganda technicians, since he has them at his disposal; and along with this consummate technique he uses the great psychological weight of his position—that is to say, the enormous prestige of the President of the United States. Television can be used—and frequently is used—so that other people may say the opposite of what the President has said; but it happens that these other people never have an audience as great as the one that the head of the country has, so that there are millions of Americans who hear the President and do not hear those who argue against his opinions. Theoretically, it is possible to put forth ideas contrary to those of pentagonism, but the truth is that there is no competing with high officials, and above all with the President of the Republic, when it comes time to count the number of viewers.”
“Professors and students protest American military action in far-off territories of poor peoples; they do so in paid announcements in newspapers and magazines that are read only by those who are convinced beforehand of what the ads say. Many of these ‘dissenters’ protest at a number of universities and research centers that are financed by pengatonism. This paradox explains why, when the time came to liquidate the protest movement that shook the University of California at Berkeley—a giant, even in American terms—it was easy to dismiss the chancellor of the university, who was accused of the crime of thinking as the students who protested did.”