[The following is the Preface and the Introduction of the second edition of "The MSU-Iran Film Project", published by The Committee to Stop the MSU-Iran Film Project in October, 1977. I am transcribing and making this available on the Internet as a document of lost and found history. There are a few minor spelling and grammar corrections, but for the most part this is as it appeared in the pamphlet (my transcription errors excepted). -- jd (My home page)]
The MSU-Iran Film Project
The Iran Film Project
This second edition of "The MSU-Iran Film Project" comes five months after one thousand copies of the first edition were published and rapidly sold. This new edition ha a few changes which reflect both the development of the Committee's political consciousness and political activity.
The Introduction has been altered considerably and advances our recently developed understanding of U.S. imperialism. The section on the film project has been updated, the conclusion revised. And the chronology at the end has been added listing our numerous actions and victories.
Committee to Stop the MSU-Iran Film Project
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The American University no longer serves merely local, state, regional or even national interests. Today, the American university is an international institution, not only training students from abroad, but actively participating in the development or underdevelopment as it were, of countries around the globe. This role of the university reflects the role of the U.S. government, which in turn only reflects the needs of the controlling economic interests in this country -- the megalithic trans-national corporations. As such an understanding of the role of the modern university global affairs requires an understanding of corporations and their function.
Most Third World countries' economy and political systems are dominated by imperialism, which is headed by the U.S. U.S.-based transnationals control the resources and markets of these countries and maintain this position with the armed might of the Pentagon. The sole aim of the giant corporations is profit, big profit, the bigger the better. Any way they can get it. The trans-nationals manipulate U.S. foreign policy to their own ends, whether it be deposing President Salvador Allende in Chile for threatening Kennecott's copper mining investments, or overthrowing Prime Minister Mossadegh in Iran for threatening Standard Oil's investments there.
Imperialism is not a misguided foreign policy. Imperialism is capitalism at its highest stage, made necessary in the incessant drive for economic control and larger profits. As an international system, it dominates all of our social institutions, marshalling them to its service.
The American university is certainly no exception. Universities have traditionally responded to the social-economic needs of society. But these needs have not been determined by the people. They have been determined by the small controlling group or class of people; and only by a concerted struggle by the rest of the population have the majority's needs been considered. By controlling university funding, whether through the state legislature or private donations, this elite ruling class has dictated for the most part what universities will teach, and what kind of research they will do.
When the U.S. emerged from World War II as the most powerful capitalist country, with the economies of the European nations in ruins, it rapidly set about consolidating a global empire. The corporate needs were no longer merely statewide, regional or national -- they were international.
As American corporate interests expanded and intensified their economic penetration throughout the world, the U.S. government increased its necessary responsibility of first, assuring the multi-nationals access to the natural resources of the third World, and then protecting those interests from the people of the Third World who demand control of the wealth of their countries and struggle for the political and social emancipation which is rightfully theirs.
At present, in most of these countries dominated and exploited by the U.S. and its multinationals, there exist "puppet" governments. By controlling land, factories, and resources, as well as the global market, and also maintaining military bases and counterinsurgency forces and a ruthless CIA ready at any time to carry out a coup, the U.S. is able to fairly well control many of the underdeveloped kept countries of the world while maintaining a fašade of their independence.
This fašade is weakening. Third World peoples are demanding control of their lives and their resources. The people of Cuba, Vietnam, and Angola have won their independence; the people of southern Africa and the Persian Gulf region are fighting for theirs.
Puppet governments use brutal and ruthless means to stay in power -- with continued U.S. aid. This is because the people they rule are starving, because they are dying of malnutrition and diseases which, in this country, were wiped out for the most part years ago. This is because they are paid pennies for their work, because they cannot speak or act freely, because they cannot afford to live and will throw out the dictators and foreign corporations that control them at the first change they get. So the dictators are not giving the people many chances.
Human rights are not just a question of torture and censorship and prisons. Human rights include enough food, adequate housing, sanitary living conditions, medicine, education and safe jobs at living wages. Fulfillment of these rights is within reach. There is not so much a crisis in production as there is a crisis in distribution -- ion the distribution of power. The power sys what is produced, who produces it and for what ends. Right now the huge corporations hold that power. They have literally stolen the wealth of the people all over the world and left them in a state of immense poverty.
What is the university's role in all this? The American university, as the research and development arm of the U.S. corporations and U.S. foreign policy, designs the machinery, both literally and figuratively that makes the wholesale theft from the Third World possible. It trains students in the sophisticated techniques necessary to run this sophisticated machinery. And it refines and passes on the ideology that justifies such theft.
Most universities, such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Pennsylvania State, the University of Chicago and 400 other educational institutions have received grants from the Pentagon to carry on research in fields the Pentagon is interested in such as physics, biology, chemistry and psychology. One example was the development of napalm, present to the people of the world by Harvard University.
Michigan State University, a glowing example, has over $22 million worth of international programs. Last year it received over $50 million in grants and research moneys, much of that from the federal government as well as several million from corporations and trade organizations. This outside money determines the scope and direction of research, and the direction, more often that not, points to new, more efficient methods of making profits and not for meeting human needs.
On an international scale, MSU exports technology to Latin America, Africa and Asia. The U.S. government usually subsidizes this foreign "aid". Other common funding agencies include the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. The most common conduit for government money is the State Department's Agency for International Development (AID). In few cases can the Third World country afford to purchase MSU's assistance.
Foreign aid serves corporate interests indirectly in several ways. The foreign aid builds the infrastructure, that is, the transportation system, the communication network, the power plants, the schools that make the extraction of profit easier. Rather than lug, say, buckets of copper ore over the mountains and through the forests, a railroad can do the job. Rather than pay high U.S. wages to an American to run the railroad, set up a school to train the local population to run it. Messages need to get from the mines to the coast, so telegraph lines must be built. The catch in all of this is that this infrastructure is oriented to the needs of the mining company, which sends the profits to America, and not to satisfy the needs of the local citizens.
Foreign aid also keeps the economics of underdeveloped kept countries from immediately collapsing due to the massive draining of wealth. The aid also builds the local military and police forces to suppress any potential revolutionary activity, lest any nationalization of foreign investments take place.
Foreign aid serves corporate interests directly, too. Much of the foreign aid is "tied" -- loans must be spent on the U.S. on U.S. goods, a roundabout method of corporate welfare. Aid can also be withheld until countries submit to corporate demands. In the 1960s, "Food for Peace" (a foreign aid program) shipments to India were put on a month to month standby basis until India let Standard Oil of Indiana control the marketing of its chemical fertilizers there at its own price.
There are a number of built-in incentives for MSU to undertake an international project. The university skims off between 60 and 70 percent of the project cost for what it calls overhead -- a lucrative source of extra funds in a fiscally-strapped state like Michigan. Rumors float around faculty circles that professors who are instrumental in landing such programs have been rewarded with tenure and pay raises. The professors also have an opportunity to travel and enjoy added status as the guest of the host government.
An extreme example of an international program scenario might run as follows. Adolph Hitler, chancellor of a European country, has a population problem. Being a country ravaged by a recent way, he requests U.S. assistance. The U.S., recognizing an ally in Chancellor Hitler, agrees to help him out. MSU, known for its outstanding record in population control, agrees to undertake the project. Professor X believes it will be a challenge. When Professor X and his colleagues arrive in Berlin they do not question Mr. Hitler's reasons, but set about working on blueprints of a new kind of oven and a clever new showerhead, as if it were some sort of algebra problem.
Perhaps a bit too extreme. But a closer examination of MSU's actual record in international programs comes very close to this grisly exaggeration. In the 1950s, MSU did supply the south Vietnamese dictator Ngo Dinh Diem with pistols, tear gas and a blueprint for his secret police force. MSU currently tells the south Korean government, with the help of a complex computer program, how to move up to 10 million "healthy and well-educated" people from the countryside to the urban manufacturing centers. Perhaps George E. Rossmiller, MSU Field Project Director forgot to ask, or refused to hear, that most of those factories in the urban manufacturing centers are foreign-owned, that the workers are paid pennies an hour, working ten or more hours a day, six days a week, that strikes are illegal, that any criticism of the government is a jailable offense. MSU is telling President Park Chung Hee, a vicious dictator, how to get more cheap labor so foreign owned corporations can make more profits for the stockholders back home!
In Brazil, a country equally notorious for its lack of all human rights, MSU is helping the military government build its agricultural infrastructure. Brazil is a country rich in natural resources: water, land, timber, minerals, and human potential. The efforts to quickly benefit from these potentials by foreign transnationals and, in the past few years, a growing effort by the local ruling class, has been hailed in the U.S. as the "Brazilian miracle." The wealth extracted from Brazil has truly been phenomenal, but a miracle? For the rich only. Brazil's rapid development has resulted in the genocide of Brazilian Indians (not unlike Native Americans I this country in the late 19th century), has forced millions of peasants off their land into overcrowded cities where they meet unemployment, inflation, diseases and starvation. Brazil is ruled by a military junta known by human rights groups for its "death squads" of right-wind vigilantes operating with the consent of the police, for its torture, its political prisoners, its censorship. Brazil has taken on an aggressor role in South America, building its armed forces and making motions to establish hegemony over the South American continent and South Atlantic Ocean, with U.S. approval. Brazil is also in hock up to it sears to foreign banks -- a $28 billion foreign debt, one of the largest in the world. But as sure as capitalist economies go in cycles, Brazil's miracle is turning sour. The Gross National Product (GNP) growth rate is falling and the inflation rate hit 46 percent last year. To salvage its faltering economy, Brazil has turned to the agricultural sector for exportable goods. Brazil, a country with widespread starvation and malnutrition, has turned to exporting food. Black beans, long a staple of the Brazilian diet, are in short supply, yet Brazil, according to the New York Times (April 14, 1977), is now the world's second largest exporter of soybeans. The rich farmlands are owned by U.S. and European and Japanese agribusiness concerns as well as the wealthier Brazilian landholders.
Michigan State is building Brazil's graduate agricultural programs at seven Brazilian universities -- building the educational infrastructure necessary to increase agriculture production. Does the food go to the people who need it? No, it goes out of the country to the higher priced northern hemisphere markets in order to pay off the bank loans.* The crisis is not production, it is in distribution. MSU's assistance only strengthens the Brazilian military junta by helping stabilize its shaky economy.
Besides designing the infrastructure and providing the techniques for extracting profits from Third World countries, the university provides a public relations service. MSU has taken this role to an extreme. In its Iran Film Project, MSU has undertaken the actual production of films for still another ruthless dictator, the Shah of Iran. These films, dealing in part with ancient Persian history and in part with a retouched version of contemporary Iranian life, will be shown in U.S. high schools and colleges, serving an important function in molding public opinion about Ian above and beyond whatever academic or aesthetic value the films may have. The university, by virtue of its "neutral" image, sells the public on the idea of imperialism.
Universities are enmeshed in imperialism in other ways -- through direct links to corporations. In 1975, MSU owned $42 million worth of corporate stock and $18.5 million worth of notes and bonds. Endowment funds, development funds and pension funds frequently end up on Wall Street, tied to the success of U.S. imperialism.
MSU President Clifton Wharton provides an example of other kinds of links. Wharton sits on the boards of directors of Burroughs Corporation and Ford Motor Co. and has close ties with the Rockefeller Foundation. His wife, Dolores Wharton, is a director of Kellogg, Phillips Petroleum, Michigan Bell and Michigan National Bank (Lansing). President Wharton also advises the U.S. government on foreign agricultural policy. Last year, President Ford appointed Wharton to a new Board for International Food and International Development. The board's function will be to assist AID in setting basic policies and recommending which countries could benefit from university overseas programs. University faculty is frequently called upon to advise the government as well as corporations about appropriate policies.
These overt and covert links to imperialism are, in a way, to be expected. He who pays the piper calls the tune. But the collaboration of the university with the government and corporations in furthering the oppression of people around the world, in the name of "aid" offers particular opportunities in the struggle to effect fundamental changes in the world. The university plays its role in our present economic system by transmitting and shaping ideology to prepare "dutiful" and "useful" members of society. It provides research and the development of technology and techniques to smooth out the workings of economic exploitation. It tells governments how to stabilize their economies so that further exploitation may continue for a while. It legitimizes imperialism. And it provides for millions of dollars of capital for corporate operations here and abroad.
The university, however, is a public institution. And this is the crux of the contradiction. As taxpayers, we support it. As students, we give it our money. As voters (at least the state constitution says so) WE run it.
We can change it, too. We can raise crucial issues before the public eye about not just the university, but about the entire system of U.S. domination and exploitation. And we can work to hamper and halt the university's collusion with U.S. imperialism and its pack of vicious dictators.
*"In all", the Times reported, "agricultural exports may reach $9 billion in 1977, giving Brazil its first trade surplus in four years." Last December, the New York Times reported critics of Brazil saying that "agricultural expansion (in Brazil) had concentrated on cash crops for export -- including soybeans, sugar and coffee -- while domestically consumed food crops had lagged behind population growth. Food, the major item of most Brazilian's budget has led to the rise in the cost of living. The result of the food-price spiral, critics and nutritionists say, is that 40% of Brazilians are suffering from malnutrition, the major cause of infant mortality."
The Iran Film Project
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