A new book by Rory Cormac looks at historic examples of outside state intervention in countries’ domestic politics. In the process, however, the liberal author whitewashes the role of western imperialism: the most reactionary force on earth.
Rory Cormac’s new title How to Stage a Coup (released by Atlantic Books) aims to place the subterfuge of spy networks and covert actions of states in their role of shaping politics today and throughout history. Very quickly, however, it becomes clear that the author is at pains to defend Western imperialism in contradistinction to its enemies.
From the off, we see the confusion and despair that has gripped liberal ideologues in the face of ‘secret statecraft’. In typical fashion, Cormac bemoans that this features prominently in late global politics, but has no clue as to why this might be.
In reality, subterfuge and spying has a long history, as old as politics itself. These methods were perfected over the course of the 20th century, with the US state becoming masters in the field.
Blinded by his own petit-bourgeois prejudices and owing to his liberal beliefs, Cormac cannot see the wood for the trees. What Cormac seems to take issue with is that such subtifuge appears to be increasingly aimed at ‘democratic’ Western governments, by the ‘authoritarian’ bogeymen of Russia and China.
The book is split into the different categories of covert actions that states undertake such as assassinations, coups, rigging elections, and influencing politics.
Of particular interest is a chapter titled ‘How to subvert governments and undermine democracy’. Or rather, what is of particular note is what is absent from this chapter.
Cormac goes to great lengths to highlight the role of Russian intervention in the 2016 and 2020 US elections, even noting the interference of Iran in the latter. North Korea also gets a slap on the wrist due to its persistent attempts to undermine South Korea.
Yet the interventions launched by the Western imperialists do not make the cut. When they are the victims, however, a very fine point is made. This is in spite of countless democratically elected leaders that the West has helped overthrow, such as Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran, and Salvador Allende in Chile.
Cormac does discuss these coups in other chapters. But in doing so, he briskly dresses them up and finds due justification. Indeed, a central claim seems to be that:
“The US has historically interfered covertly against other democracies, such as Iran and Chile, only when policymakers in Washington believed those democracies to be in decline.”
It just so happens that such democracies ‘entered into decline’ as soon as they began to threaten the interests of the Western imperialists! Presumably the brutal military dictatorships that often follow this trail of destruction encapsulate thriving democracies in ascent? What utter twaddle.
Right kind of coup
The real motivation for these interventions was to prevent challenges to private property, and to allow for the continued ruthless exploitation of these countries.
In Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh had taken the apparently anti-democratic move of nationalising the country’s oil, which had been developed by British Petroleum. For defying the will of British oil executives, Mosaddegh was overthrown. Here, Britain played a very active role indeed, not to be outdone by its powerful master over the Atlantic.
The story of Salvador Allende’s Chile is a well known and tragic one. The claim that the US only intervened when democracy was ‘in decline’ is shattered by the facts. Declassified documents reveal that the CIA spent three million dollars between 1962-64 on anti-Allende propaganda before he was even elected president.
On the eve of Allende’s election as president, Nixon authorised $10 million to be utilised in an attempt to prevent his assuming office. When this failed, Nixon then infamously gave the order to make the Chilean economy ‘scream’ through covert sabotage, referred to by historian Peter Winn as an ‘invisible blockade’.
Inadvertently, Cormac explains exactly how to stage the right kind of coup. It is only permissible where the masses attempt to throw off the yoke of imperialist domination, and the movement behind its popular figures threatens their power and privileges.
Cormac’s apologia for Western imperialism is couched in his concern for ‘democracy’ – a perversion of the term that would perhaps even make Kissinger blush!
The book closes with a section on how states can defend themselves from the covert action of others. To his credit, Cormac makes some salient points about how we must not allow the existence of covert action to explain away the Democrats’ defeat in 2016, or the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Cormac then goes through different options for democracy to survive, such as exposing the covert action of other states and ‘managing the narrative’. His ‘solution’ is for nations to ‘heal the divisions’ that other states will seek to exploit.
All very well and good. The Tories need only take heed that the nation is fractured, and act to bridge the divisions so as to prevent Russian-sponsored trolls fanning the flames!
But herein lies the nub: the Tories are consciously whipping up ‘culture wars’ in a desperate attempt to cut across the fundamental division that exists within society: that is, the class divide.
As society becomes increasingly polarised off the back of the abject failures of capitalism, many are realising that the division is not between workers from different nations, nor is it caused by ‘fake news’, but between the billionaires and the billions left behind.
Since Cormac is blind to the real problems, he is blind to the prognosis. Palliative treatments such as better education of populations to spot fake news cannot treat the chronic illness of a system that has entered into a new epoch of war and instability.
The only solution is the decisive victory of our class in the battles to come, and the socialist transformation of society. Only then will the dark arts of covert action to preserve the rule of a privileged minority be consigned to the dustbin of history.