"Peace Corps (USA) -- a supplementary CIA weapon of economic and political interference into the life and activities of the USSR and other socialist countries. The Peace Corps is used by American secret services for clandestine and direct penetration into the work of many organizations. Its 'volunteers' collect classified information." -- Soviet Propaganda
What is the Peace Corps?
The Peace Corps is a governmental agency comprised of volunteers who promise to spend several years working in underdeveloped countries, developing infrastructure and introducing the western capitalist ethos, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons. The Peace Corps attracts many idealistic youth motivated by their unique bourgeois sense of altruism and morality -- 'a bone to the dog.'
What is the history of the Peace Corps?
Established in 1961 by the Peace Corps Act, the Peace Corps was undoubtedly the brainchild of John F. Kennedy, a man who presided over the criminal invasion of Cuba, increased American Involvement in the terrorist war against Vietnam, initiated a game of nuclear chicken with the Soviet Union that brought humanity to the brink of annihilation, and in addition to all that, was a catholic. Why, then, would such a terrible monster push to create such a seemingly noble organization? The answer can be perhaps found in his own words: "foreign aid is a method by which the United States maintains a position of influence and control around the world (1)." And truly the history of American foreign aid is nothing more than the history of the conquest of the world by American capital.
The first director of the Peace Corps, the President's Yale-educated brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, had ties to Wall Street and managed Chicago's "giant Merchandise Mart (2)," which was owned by Kennedy's father, an ardent Nazi, anti-Semite, Mafioso and bankroller of the Democratic Party; in other words, your typical businessman.
What is the role of the Peace Corps?
As stated before, it's merely a tool of capitalist exploitation foisted upon the unsuspecting peasants and workers of the underdeveloped world. In same cases, its crimes and terrors are as blatant as the Soviet propaganda would have it. Hence the experiences of Nicaragua's Leticia Herrera, onetime National Coordinator of the Sandinista Defence Committees and vice president of the National Assembly:
"My father provided the great model for all my political activities during my school years. For example, at my high school, Liceo Leonido Briceño in Guanacaste, there were four teachers who were with the Pace Corps, and they were extremely conservative. I saw how they tried to undermine the students' political expression, and how they tried to mold us to think like them. I was an honor student, and I was invited to go study English in the States for a year, but I refused because of what the Peace Corps symbolized to me.
"When these Peace Corps teachers began to learn more about me and my political positions, I was also an organizer at that time, they began a campaign against me. On two occasions they took me before the Faculty Council in order to try to have me expelled on political grounds. What saved me was that the teachers there, even if they weren't progressive, we're very honest (3)."
However, the primary goal of the Peace Corps' elite taskmasters is not to put witchfinders general into every barrio and hamlet in the developing world. Rather, they realize the limited manpower and the altruistic veil suits a different mission, namely the introduction of the western business ethos of individual responsibility, destruction of mutual-aid forms; essentially they wish to lay the framework of a limited capitalist development. Limited, of course, because the periphery must forever be subjected to the wishes of the big capitalists of the core countries.
Frank Mankiewicz, a Peace Corps bureaucrat in the 1960s, wrote that "the ultimate aim of community development is nothing less than the complete change, reversal -- or a revolution if you wish -- in the social and economic patterns of the countries to which we are accredited (4)." Nothing short of unmitigated rape!
Furthermore, consider the following which appeared in a Foreign Affairs review titled 'The Spirit of Capitalism':
"If all this seems too abstract, consider the personal story of an American nurse who spent several years in Malawi in the 1990s as a Peace Corps volunteer. In a letter to this reviewer, she described how individual accountability seemed a largely alien concept:
"Malawians are a lovely people who value social relationships above all else. My job was to teach Western-style management skills to the nursing and administrative staff [of a local hospital]. As part of a management skills training course, I instituted the disciplinary process that was on the books but unused since the British left in 1964. After a week, the supervisors returned and flatly refused to try and better supervise their employees using a disciplinary process. Why? The employees had put a 'curse' on them, and they were frightened (5)."
The point made? The primacy of egalitarian social relations must be destroyed and replaced by the western "cash nexus." This mission is no secret to those involved with the Peace Corps:
"When you arrive as a Peace Corps volunteer, you sort of assume that you're there to share everything you know, but I quickly learned there were some Western approaches that just didn't work -- for example, short-term programs that were supposed to educate the Kyrgyz to think and work according to the American capitalist model in a year or less (6)."
Her message? While short term programs intended to destroy the Kyrgyz culture aren't working, the Americans will just have to reevaluate their methods.
And this kind of far-reaching transformation isn't only sought in formerly non-capitalist economies; after the fall of Soviet capitalism, the Peace Corps scrambled to reorganize the economy on a truly Western basis:
The region struggles with its transition to a market economy. Facing limited financial support, technology and managerial skills, Kazakhstan's goals of reforming institutions, enterprises, social services and its main priority -- the education system -- would only come with outside help. Peace Corps came calling in 1992.
One of those volunteers who served in the ancient land was Tulsa, Okla., native Cap Baxter. The University of Oklahoma business major graduated the same year Kazakhstan became its own country. After working at a successful job for a couple of years, Baxter desired to become a Volunteer before turning 30 and starting a family (7).
After reading that, we have to really wonder what kind of people would volunteer with the Peace Corps. Conservative yokels from the American South? What is the goal of the Peace Corps -- humanitarian aid or facilitating the transition to the global marketplace?
The Peace Corps is an arm of the American state, which in turn is the apparatus of capitalist domination over the workers of America and the world. To assume that any function of the capitalist state is somehow independent of the mission of the whole, i.e. repression of the working class, is fallacious. Education instills class biases. The judicial/police forces repress and legislate away so-called 'deviants' who interfere with production, exchange, and consumption. The military protects American and other Western investments abroad; it enforces the rules of Empire.
Why would you assume the Peace Corps is any different?
Hayter, T. (1987). Creation of World Poverty: An Alternative View to the Brandt Report. London: Pluto Press.
Encyclopedia Britannica 2002 [Computer Software]. (2002).
Heyck, D. (1990). Leticia Herrera. In Life Stories of the Nicaraguan Revolution (pp 87-107). New York: Routledge.
Mankiewicz, F. (1967). A Revolutionary Force. In Peace Corps Reader. Quadrangle Books.
Ugh, when I went to research this in the library, I was unprepared and thus I spent an hour doing what should've taken 10. I had to buy a candy bar to get change for copies because their machine was broken and I was too lazy to copy down anything myself. I couldn't get on a computer to search the library directory because people were using those for HOTMAIL! When I finally did, I left my pen at my desk and couldn't write down the locations of every book I wanted. That's why I couldn't find a book on Alternatives to the Peace Corps. If I hadn't wasted so much time, I could have spent more time looking through Paul Cowan's The making of an un-American; a dialogue with experience. It looks like a wonderful autobiographical critique of the Peace Corps and American imperialism.
I also intentionally used 'underdeveloped' instead of 'developing' to avoid giving the impression that what's going on in these countries is "development" in any meaningful sense.
And that's that.