Authoritarian Regimes in the 20th Century

World History 3B

Dr. Eric Mayer

 

The Evolution and Significance of Authoritarian Governments in

Non-Western Countries

 

  1. Historical Evolution: Late 19th and 20th Centuries

  1. Vestiges of Colonialism affecting Non-Western State-Building

  1. Lack of Institutional Structures that would support more Democratic Forms of Government.
  2. National Elite Linked to or Dependent on the Dictates of the Global Economy 1870's-the present

  1. Impact of the Cold War 1947-1989--The Outcome of Containment Policy

  1. US Support and Maintenance of Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America, Africa, and Asia provided that they are capitalist and a GATT Signatory.
  2. Support for anti-Communist Regimes in the Third (Underdeveloped) World in order to contain the spread of Communism.

  1. As a Developmental Strategy 1960's to the Present

  1. State Corporatism and the "Asian Miracle" 1960-the Present

 

  • Significance of Authoritarian Regimes, 1947-the present.

  1. Governments Lack Broad-Based Popular Support

  1. Reliance on Repression
  2. One-Party Corporatist States
  3. Lack of Political and Legal rights

  1. State-Led Development leads to high rates of Economic Development

  1. "Hot-House" Capitalist and Industrial Development

  1. Rapid Economic Growth Creates a growing Middle class
  2. Eventually the Middle Class begins to demand Political Power Commensurate with its growing economic power. Leading to Regime Instability and conflict.

 

 

The evolution of Authoritarian governments or what I will term "Authoritarianism" can be traced back to the vestiges of European colonialism at the end of the 19th century.

 

In this period European countries colonized about 70% of the worlds land mass in their search for raw materials, cheap labor, and markets for European industrial products.

 

In the process of colonialism Europe set up colonial regimes that served the economic, social and political interests of the mother country while ignoring the economic and political development of the colonial country.

 

There were two types of European colonialism formal and informal. Formal Empire or colonialism was when the European mother country would send its own administrators to run the country. Informal empire is when native elite rule in the interests of the European country.

 

Often European countries would rely on a King, Emperor, Shah, Sultan or other elite to do their bidding for them. The elite leaders would be economically linked to the west.

 

The colonial people would think they were being ruled by their own people, when in fact they were being ruled by the native elite now tied to the prerogatives of the European country.

 

Regardless of the type of colonial rule the usual result as no political modernization of any kind.

 

In this context these colonial regimes became bastions for raw materials, cheap labor and markets for the Europeans and because of this never went through a commercial revolution of economic modernization that would lead to the creation of a middle class.

 

The middle class is essential for the successful function and maintenance of democracy and pluralist institutions so necessary for democratic regimes.

 

This historical and developmental situation continued throughout the early decades of the 20th century and western powers relied on these dependent third world elite to put down nationalist rebellions.

 

In the case of the US this occurred after the Spanish American War of 1898 when we acquired our first empire in the Caribbean and Asia. The US trained the police and national guard of Philippines to stop nationalist rebellion against US rule. We did this in Latin America as well.

 

I mean when secretary of state Cordell Hull referred to the dictator of Nicaragua, Somoza, as an "SOB" and why we should support such an SOB FDR told him…."Because he is our SOB"

 

The trade off was that the west would support authoritarian anti-democratic regimes provided they could create political stability so necessary for a safe and stable investment climate for Western Investors. In 1902 after Cuba became a colony of the US under the Platt Amendment and US Army occupation reporters asked General Wood in charge of the occupation what he meant by "political stability" Wood responded with a laugh "I mean US investments earning 6%". And everybody laughed.

 

By the end of WWII in 1945 and certainly with the advent of the Cold War in 1947, the creation and maintenance of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, Asia and Africa was justified by the need to contain communism on a regional and global scale.

 

Examples of authoritarian regimes were Guatemala after 1954, Cuba in the 1950's under Bautista, Iran under the Shah in 1952, Zaire under Mobutu, the Philippines under Marcos, Indonesia in 1968 under Suharto, South Korea under Syngman Rhee, the entire history of South Vietnam, and Central America from the 1930's to the 1980's.

 

After 1947 We would especially support authoritarian regimes who would sign the GATT accords…thereby insuring their membership and loyalty to the global free trade system administered by the US.

 

It was also in this context that authoritarian or "corporatist" regimes were also seen as countries that could rapidly develop using state-led development strategies where the state would actively intervene in directing investment flow and the creation of new industries and investment opportunities.

 

This happened in Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and the Philippines in the 1950's and 1960's, in Argentina in the 1970's, Chile in the 1980's.

 

By using authoritarian forms of government such regimes could actively court foreign investment and technologies. Also such regimes were attractive places for US investment due to the lack regulation, and the prohibition of militant labor unions. This meant that labor costs for manufacturing would be next to nothing.

 

To a great degree the corporatist or authoritarian development model underwrote the success of the so called "mini dragons of Asia" between 1960 and the present. South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia.

 

Also since the late 1980's with the advent of the Deng Xio-ping regime in China communism was reformed from being anti-capitalist to being more pro-capitalist as china has embraced what Chalmers Johnson has described as "soft totalitarianism".

 

In this scheme, communist regimes begin to adopt western capitalism, foreign investment, foreign technology and various economic freedoms without adopting the political freedoms that in the west we see as inseparable from economic freedom. Such a development scheme has been turned Market-Leninist, or "Free-Market Stalinism"

 

The significance of authoritarian regimes since 1947 is that they are governments that lack broad based popular support.

 

They also have failed to develop institutional structures to channel popular discontent or where the masses can make political demands on the system.

 

Due to these short comings in developing pluralist state institutions the state cannot control popular pressures since the state has created no avenues of control and therefore must rely on repression to establish order.

 

This is very significant in terms of the stability and balance of world politics.

 

Eventually the authoritarian state could be overthrown by a popular movement. If the US backed the authoritarian state the new popular regime could be very hostile and anti-US. Examples of this are Cuba 1959 to the present, Vietnam until very recently, Iran 1979 to the present, Nicaragua 1978-1988 are but a few modern examples.

 

Another significance of the authoritarian state is that it practices capitalism with military precision and because of the close cooperation between the corporate and the authoritarian state such states often engage in what can best be described as predatory capitalism.

 

The idea of such a tight collaboration between the state and private sector allows the national corporations to not only get a bigger share of the US market but to also destroy US industry through the process of dumping or selling below cost.

 

Since US competitors cannot sell below cost they will go out of business in these target industries and the state practicing predatory capitalism can then monopolize the market.

 

We have seen this in the flat panel industry, auto parts, consumer electronics. In the corporatist state such as South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia corporations competing in target industries do not go bankrupt as the authoritarian government will refund their losses.

 

In addition, capitalist authoritarian states typically discriminate against US exports by erecting high tariff barriers.

 

This fuels the trade deficit between the US and the corporatist state and transfers billions of dollar of wealth per month from the US to the authoritarian state practicing predatory capitalism.

 

Since this is all state led development, authoritarian states that practice such policies do not follow the logic of the free market as we do in the US.

 

They practice what has been called "hot house" capitalism where all the crucial elements of economic growth and development are controlled by the authoritarian state including labor, investment flow, technology transfer, imports, and the state subsidizing dumping and other practices of predatory capitalism.

 

As has been previously stated authoritarian regimes that engage in state led development create a corporate sector that is almost unbeatable in its target markets, be it auto parts, consumer electronics, video games etc.

 

Such policies also lead to extremely high economic growth rates.

 

But in many respects the authoritarian state eventually will become a victim of its own successes.

 

Within a decade of the implementation of the previously mentioned authoritarian policies a growing and dynamic middle class of managers, skilled workers, technocrats will be created--this middle class is essential for the maintenance and continuation of the development policies.

 

The managerial middle class will eventually begin to make demands on the authoritarian system for political liberalization. In other words they want political power commensurate with their growing economic power.

 

That is exactly what Tien a Men Square was all about in the late 1980's as the middle class youth spawned by Deng Xio-ping's economic reformism and "soft totalitarianism" began to demand democracy and political rights.

 

The movement was crushed, but as history has shown since the English Revolution of the late 1600's, democratic movements led by the middle class will flare up again and again and eventually will be successful in creating a democratic opening in the authoritarian structure of the Chinese government.

 

In Chile this process has occurred and culminated with the resignation of General Pinochet who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1989.

 

While he led a politically murderous regime Economically, the Pinochet government, with its austere controls, slashed inflation and stimulated production between 1977 and 1981

 

It is occurring is South Korea as every spring the workers, students and middle class engage the government in bloody clashes as they demand more of a pluralist democratic system.

 

Following a series of mass protest demonstrations in 1987, President Chun promised democratic reforms, including a direct presidential election.

 

That election, held on December 16, was won by the candidate of Chun's party, Roh Tae Woo. A new constitution, approved in 1987, took effect in February 1988. In elections held in April, opposition parties captured a majority of the National Assembly.

 

The middle class, Muslims and University Students are also beginning to challenge the authoritarian regime of Suharto in Indonesia.

 

In Taiwan, Martial law, in effect since 1949, was finally lifted in July 1987. Chiang Ching-kuo died in January 1988 and was succeeded by Vice President Lee Teng-hui, who became the first native of Taiwan to assume the presidency. The 1989 general election, won by the Kuomintang, was the first in which opposition parties were allowed to participate freely.

 

With the recent elections in Taiwan it has already occurred with the assumption of an opposition government and the end of the authoritarian dominance of the Nationalist Party.

 

Now to sum up today's lecture on The Evolution and Significance of Authoritarian Governments in Non-Western Countries. It can be safe to say that European colonialism may not have caused the creation of authoritarian regimes in the developing world, but it did stunt economic and political development and the rise of a middle class society so necessary for the creation of a democratic pluralist state.

 

Often the states after independence in the 1950's and 1960's were led by elite who were dependent and more responsive to the demands of the world economy and the political intrigues of the Cold War than they were to the needs of their own citizens. Often these state degenerated into what have been termed Kleptocracies where the elite increased their wealth at the expense of the country…Zaire, Uganda, Sudan, Angola, even Mexico could be put into this category.

 

With the rise of the cold war and the US fear of communism we helped set up and maintain brutal authoritarian regimes in places such as Iran, Central America, Southeast Asia, and throughout the Pacific Rim. These were proxy states that we expected could contain communist influence and be good trading partners with the US.

 

When these proxy regimes were overthrown by popular, mass-based movements the new regimes were usually hostile to the US.

 

After 1947 and certainly by the 1960's authoritarian regimes were seen as good for business by the US and the IMF and the World Bank and to a great degree Third World countries were encouraged to follow authoritarian developmental strategies.

 

Both directly and indirectly this would be significant, because authoritarian state-led development would lead to the Asian Economic Miracle beginning in the 1960's and continuing through the present.

 

Another important and significant outcome is that these states engage in dumping, predatory capitalism and discriminate against US exports in order to bolster their own capital reserves that are then used for further state investment in industry and thereby creating a unfair trade advantage vis a vis the US.

 

But a significant problem emerges at a certain stage in the economic development. The authoritarian state successful at implementing state-led development polices or "hot-house" capitalism will invariably become a victim of its own success.

 

As the economy booms more and more middle class workers are created who eventually will demand political rights and liberties that see middle class people in west enjoying and ultimately this will lead to a democratic opening in the façade of the authoritarian state.

 

Ultimately the authoritarian regime and its state-led development strategies carry their own internal contradictions…in that the freeing of capital and economic freedom will foment high rates of economic growth and the creation of a restive middle class that will demand political freedoms.

 

Repression will be used by the state, but in the end the state will have to give in to the political demands of the middle and managerial classes or the very stability that led to original economic expansion will be threatened by political instability.

 

This process has already occurred or is in the process of occurring in many non-western authoritarian states. In china it may take generations, but it will eventually will occur as well. This concludes are lecture for today…are there any questions?