Monday, September 20, 2021

Diversity Week panel scorns U.S. imperialism

Members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America’s Plattsburgh chapter argued that U.S. imperialism and corporate interests have destabilized some foreign governments, and sparked the rise of right-wing factions in those countries, at their Diversity Week panel Wednesday night in Yokum 202.

In the panel titled “The Case for Young Democratic Socialists Organizing on Campus,” club members highlighted U.S. imperialism from the 1950s to present, focusing on Guatemala and Libya.

“(The U.S) is willing to destabilize a country that nationalizes its resources and uses them for its own benefit rather than the benefit of U.S. corporations,” Young Democratic Socialists of America’s Plattsburgh chapter President Gwen Sagliocca said.

Sagliocca, a nursing major, and club treasurer Ashley Rivera, an environmental studies major opened the panel by clarifying what they believe to be misconceptions about the terms capitalism and socialism.
“Capitalism isn’t a free market, and socialism isn’t about bigger government,” Sagliocca said. “Socialism is control of the means of production.”

After World War II, Jacobo Arbenz, president of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954, wanted to give land back to citizens that had been taken by U.S. corporate interests. Trade and workers’ unions benefited working-class Guatemalans during his time, Sagliocca said. But the CIA helped organize an army led by Carlos Castillo Armas to oust Arbenz, who resigned and fled to Mexico. Soon after, Guatemala’s civil war raged.

The U.S. took a small step back during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. But under Reagan, U.S. government and corporations resumed funding to the right-wing government, Sagliocca said.

Libya, which Sagliocca and Rivera used as a modern example, underwent a similar course of splintered, unstable government.
A 1969 military coup allowed Muammar Gadhafi to seize power in the North African country .

“Everyone had health care [under Gadhafi]. Everyone got education. The literacy increased,” Sagliocca said. But according to her, the Clinton and Obama administrations used communism and the search for weapons of mass destruction as justification to involve the U.S. in Libya.

In 2011, a NATO-led bombing helped overthrow Gadhafi, which Sagliocca said created instability and allowed right-wing groups to rise.
“We’ve profited from instability in countries for decades,” Chair of the Plattsburgh City Democrats Matthew Waite said.

“[This is] not a policy issue; it’s a systemic issue,” Sagliocca said.

“We use white supremacy as a way for the capitalist class to accumulate resources,” she said. “The U.S. doesn’t know s*** about democracy.”
The panel culminated in some perspectives on what the U.S. could do differently both at home and abroad.

“With education, we need change,” sophomore finance major Ha Nguyen said. “Had I been educated on these issues, I would have probably not come to America.”
Sagliocca wants to see reparations for slavery, indigenous land reform and a restructuring of the economy.

Waite said: “(Americans) have to look in the mirror. Maybe we shouldn’t be so gung-ho about exporting democracy when our own foundation is crumbling.”

Email Kody Mashtare at

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