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Historical Recapitulation of a Static Order

The Convergence of Capitalism, Anti-Radicalism, and War

by NORMAN POLLACK

Nothing has changed since 1945 (if not, indeed, still earlier), the aftermath of World War Two the consolidation of a position of world dominance, facilitated by global devastation virtually everywhere else, and, with that opening, the push for a viral anticommunism at home based on conjuring a false threat in order to turn the screws of domestic ideological and political repression. Within a decade of the raw harshness of McCarthyism/Taft-Hartley, symbolized by the execution of the Rosenbergs and the radical cleansing of the labor and civil-rights movements, we see the Official Line of geniality at home and humanitarianism abroad, both of which marking the already circumscribed boundaries to political-intellectual-literary discourse and social change itself. Democratization in America and its US projection overseas became the more meaningless the more it was bruited about, starting with Eisenhower-Kennedy and coalesced in bipartisan continuity ever since.

There are no real exceptions, party struggles themselves an in-house affair purportedly addressed to the dangers of International Communism as rather, the cudgel, to knock down domestic radicalism and keep the public in line. That is what I mean by a “static order,” not CONSENSUS as popularized at mid-century by Hofstadter, Lipset, and liberal academic culture, but an imposed, pressurized closure of thought which marshaled all of the incentives America had to offer, carrot-and-stick, to keep monopoly capital and global market expansion on track. And by “historical recapitulation” I mean, we are back in the 1950s, internalized restraint, false consciousness in the acceptance of hegemonic goals, war-readiness at a finger snap, now however with the assist of technological means to exert far tighter social control over the life and thought of the nation, combined with still greater habituation—after decades of war, intervention, propaganda—to the idea and practice of America’s version of global leadership.

Why even pursue the analysis? In part, historical recapitulation is DOA in an international framework of multipower states, clearly aware of and no longer acquiescent in the exercise of US unrestrained power. The world has changed. Despite, or perhaps because of, America’s nuclear arsenal, and its infantile urge to have its way in all things, Russia and China—here US geostrategic thinking and planning are correct in identifying them as alternative power centers, yet, I submit, wrong in deterministically conceiving them as Adversaries to-the-death—are obviously leading counterweights to its demand for global hegemony, with even the EU beginning to chafe at the prospect of being drawn into an American-led confrontation with Russia of unspecified as yet scale and lethality. Too, other countries now are contributing to the decentralizing of the world power structure, Latin America, led by Brazil, coming out from under as not before, and, in general, the entire Third World, IMF notwithstanding, is feeling its oats.

The danger of historical recapitulation in a changing world power system is that for the US acting with impunity is no longer an option, yet to make it so–the clear intent of Obama, his national-security advisers, the military and intelligence communities, and, I speak advisedly, the whole of major American capitalism—it becomes increasingly necessary both to engage more forcefully and expand the sphere of engagement. Adversaries become Enemies, even Mortal Enemies, and whereas in the first stages of the Cold War Russia had pride of place in US crosshairs, with China, to be condemned, and seemingly fought outside the Cold War umbrella, as in Korea and Vietnam, China is presently of coequal status with Russia as the Devil Incarnate. Hence, expand the military, with bases encircling the Major Threats, set traps to smoke them out (Ukraine and Japan as stalking horses, respectively) to America’s supposed military advantage, and create a receptive atmosphere at home, if not of war, then of SILENCE. Massive surveillance has a way, ultimately, of neutralizing dissent, the proverbial look-over-the-shoulder now extended to the telephone, the Internet, an ever-enlarging schema of communications’ targets.

This is not Cold War Two, but, with minor fits and starts, a continuation of the original social-economic-political-structural framework. American capitalism has not changed, only intensified its inner logic of consolidation and imperatives for international growth and expansion, in which case, why should the US global posture change? It hasn’t, and instead, because of the static social order, where the degradation of labor is mated with hitherto unparalleled wealth-concentration, law, custom, ideology all sanction a process enshrining the status quo as a finely tuned engine of exploitation. Obama still wears the mask behind which McCarthy hides (or doesn’t hide so much as let POTUS carry water for him—or his spirit), providing another link in the historical chain of Exceptionalism-seemingly-by-divine-right, a still more exaggerated claim to world moral superiority because under the systemic strain of imperial decline.

America has rejected the challenge of self-democratization, favoring instead, as much by choice as by a societal process of capitalist development (of which the choice is, in fact, a nondeterministic, and for that reason, one more noxious and questionable, leading preference in such a context), a modernized version of classic fascism—internal pacification, outward expansion, the first achieved through social control, the second, market fundamentalism, in both cases, seemingly NORMAL, the key to what I term liberal stabilization and/or liberal militarization (which already contains the element of stabilization) of American life, thought, and culture. Even this week, daily signs the bridge is falling down: schoolchildren hostage to American insanity of gun violence; ISIS military gains in Iraq, calling into question the whole record of American intervention and the untold misery it has created for peoples who never asked for its “liberating” effects; and the latest titillation in American politics, Eric Cantor’s defeat in the Virginia Republican primary. The last-named seems for the moment to outshine all other news, the New York Times, in its editorial, “In G.O.P., Far Right Is Too Moderate,” (6-12), claiming the high ground of liberal lamentation for the sorry pickle the party is in, when in reality, it, as always, misses deliberately the contours of the political-ideological landscape, by shielding Obama and the Democrats from what is, at best, the quasi-permanent synthesis of capitalism, anti-radicalism, and war defining bipartisan accord on the essentials of USG policy.

My Comment on the NYT editorial, same date, follows:

As usual, NYT persists in dichotomizing the American party system when in fact Republicans and Democrats remain essentially the same: a self-devouring Exceptionalism of pathological xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and war-mindedness. You ask, will Cantor “and other members of the [Republican] leadership be replaced by even more divisive politicians determined to stage confrontations with the president at every juncture?” Good question, wrong (implied) answer.

First, the result is not internal to the Republican party. The entire political spectrum is roaring down a rightward incline. This result merely reflects a society-wide impulse toward fascism. Cantor is swept up in a tide pulling both parties, beyond immigration, toward full acceptance of confrontation toward Russia and China, massive surveillance of the American people, and overwhelming militarism at the expense of, what you ask in your next question (but fail to see the context): “Will they [Republicans] continue to ignore a stagnating economy, inadequate education and decaying cities?” Both parties have allowed militarism to trump these vital needs.

Second then, the confrontation with Obama is fake to miniscule, Obama himself in the forefront in the formation of a National Security State which is draining the lifeblood out of American protestations of democracy. Are “the majority of Americans…appalled by this extremism?” Hardly. Obama’s drone assassinations elicit hardly a whimper, likewise, demonizing Putin.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.