People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 20, 2004

        Reagan Presidency Was An Anti-Communist Crusade

 Chittaranjan Alva


THE passing away of Ronald Reagan will be remembered the longest by the imperial hawks he helped create and nurture during his long career in conservatism and anti-communism. Starting out as a B-grade movie star, he got active in the Actors’ Guild, then an instrument of oppression against progressive artistes.  The rest of his life was an orchestration of this reactionary politics.


In 1980 he chose to launch his presidential bid from the small city of Philadelphia in Mississippi in the south, where three civil rights workers had been assassinated in State-sponsored violence in 1964 for helping blacks register as voters. The symbolic gesture to reaction was blatant. Reagan won every one of the southern states except one against the incumbent southerner, president Jimmy Carter.


Even then Reagan may not have won the election but for duplicity. The imperialist meddling by the Jimmy Carter presidency had set it on a collision course with the new regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran, after the deposition of the Shah, whom the Carter administration stood by to the end. The outcome was the taking of hostages in the US embassy followed by the US misadventure to try and militarily free them. The US was shaken by the events. Sensing the mood, Reagan’s public stance was never to negotiate with “terrorists” that the Carter administration desperately was trying to do. Yet, through his campaign manager William Casey and vice presidential candidate George Bush, Reagan secretly negotiated with a section of the new leadership an arms deal with Iran to fight Iraq provided the hostages were not released till the election was over. Some commentators have called this an act of treason. Subsequently, the hostages were indeed released five minutes after Reagan was sworn in as president, and Iran did receive an infusion of military aid thereafter – a pointer to the Irancontra deal some years later when arms were clandestinely sold to Iran and the money used to illegally finance the counter-revolution against the Sandinstas in Nicaragua.


Despite his dealings with Iran, Reagan also sent Donald Rumsfeld to negotiate with and arm Iraq.


The same duplicity became the hallmark of Reagan’s subsequent presidency, both at home and abroad. At home, he quickly got down to using public money to promote private “religious” education discriminating against blacks, allowed the Central American drug mafia via CIA conduits to flood the ghettos of American cities with cocaine and used the money generated to put down popular movements and governments in Latin America as was admitted by the CIA itself in 1998, while simultaneously drastically cutting back on housing, education and social programmes for the poor. At the same time massive tax breaks were given to the rich and the super-rich.  Thus the Reagan promise to downsize government turned out to be an attack on the deprived and promotion of the rich.


It was people of Latin America, particularly of Central America, who bore the brunt of Reagan’s anti-communist policies. He got down to quickly strengthening relations with the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile that had been responsible for the murder of President Salvador Allende and thousands of other communists and patriots. Similarly, the dictatorship in Argentina responsible for the killings or disappearance of thousands of patriots and Left-wing supporters was cosied up to. During the two terms that Reagan served as president nearly 200,000 people were massacred by death squads comprising basically anti-communist guerilla hit teams trained, armed and funded by the CIA. The world was outraged 24 years ago when Archbishop Oscar Romero, a senior church functionary in basically a Catholic country and a staunch critic of the death squads, was murdered in El Salvador while saying mass. The Liberation Front in El Salvador that enjoyed overwhelming support of the people was continuously targeted by the death squads. The same was the case in Gautemala. In tiny Grenada, US marines were sent in to smash the progressive government.  In Haiti, the terrible regime of the Duvalier dictatorship was strengthened.


The progressive Sandinista government in Nicaragua was especially picked out to be harassed, destabilised and wrecked by contras, again armed, trained and funded by the CIA, even though it had won elections which were certified by the World Court in the Hague to have been fair. It was then that Reagan showed his contempt for world opinion and withdrew support to the World Court. The Noreiga dictatorship in Panama, with blood on its hands, was treated as a friend until Noreiga himself could not but protest at US moves to take over the Panama Canal.


In international affairs Reagan needlessly inaugurated a confrontation with the Soviet Union, undoing the earlier policy of détente, and unleashing a mad arms race that could have brought the world to a nuclear holocaust. Simultaneously, he provided assistance to the most medieval forces in Afghanistan that today manifest themselves in the Taliban and the Osama bin Ladens, who have come full circle and trained their guns against the United States itself.


The massive arms race that Reagan unleashed was basically financed out of the savings from the rest of the world. In what came to be known as Reaganomics, he successively raised interest rates until at one point it reached more than 24 per cent. Money from everywhere in the world – but notably Arab petrodollars, later known as Eurodollars because it was processed through European banks – began to flow into US coffers. The other side of the Reaganomics coin was to give attractive tax breaks to the rich and the super-rich, while sizably dismantling help to the poor, education, health and other welfare programmes. In Britain Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher became his staunchest foreign ally and herself imitated Reganomics, which came to be known as Thatcherism. The same lap-dog role is being played by Labour prime minister Tony Blair today –whom Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn has described as a “Thatcher in trousers” – in relation to President George Bush’s aggression on Iraq.


The Reagan arms race raised the level of strategic nuclear parity of the US in relation to the Soviet Union to many times superiority in a few years. Partial disclosures now suggest the world could have been destroyed many times over through sheer accident in the US military establishment. The Soviet Union did not join in the arms race because it felt in any nuclear exchange such quantity would be unnecessary. Statistics now show that Soviet military spending as a percentage of GDP indeed did not rise notably during this period. But American military spending did. Thus the Reagan era was basically an era of war-mongering, meddling and imperialist domination.


By 1985 Gorbachev appeared on the scene, and he tried to blunt Reagan’s ideological attack of the Soviet Union being an “evil empire”. At first he introduced perestroika or economic restructuring that quickly degenerated into a kind of free enterprise promotion rather than the restructuring of the socialist economic system. Then followed glasnost or openness that degenerated into mad consumerist demands being raised rather than an expansion of socialist consciousness. The subsequent events had nothing to do with the Reagan onslaught, but internal mismanagement. Nevertheless Reagan and the conservatives claimed victory.


The Reagan legacy was passed on to George Bush Sr, the next president, who lost no time in unleashing the first Iraq war, and subsequently George Bush Jr has carried on with the same reactionary tendency by unleashing the second Iraq war in utter disregard of world opinion.