Presidential Timber? Termite-Infested Wood

Patriotism = refuge of the fascist. He/she is the professional virgin of monopoly capitalism who protesteth too much a devotion to democracy while gnawing away at its foundations in the voracious appetite for Order, Profit, War. This was the essence of the third Republican debate: American Exceptionalism besieged at the gates by Big Government, a pristine privatization of mind, structure, values–the David to slay Goliath in the name of entrepreneurial freedom, lower taxes, a shrunken Welfare State, all coalescing into a potent war machine to universalize American market advantage and curb the activities of enemies of the state, both domestic and foreign.

Nothing changes; this has been the litany of the American political culture implemented by both major parties (with Democrats mounting a slightly more oblique attack on government) since the end of World War II, and the ideal ideological context paving the way for the Third. Watching the debate, one gained a privileged look into the seething cauldron of hatred for authentic democracy, which necessarily includes social justice, a comprehensive equalitarian system of wealth and power, the end to bloated militarism, an earnest desire for peace, and now, belatedly breaking the surface of consciousness, the political-structural reversal of climate change and custodianship of Nature’s heritage as the most prized possession of humankind—a cauldron of hatred, then, self-devouring the philosophic and practical underpinnings of a free society. It was that bad, yet not unexpected, just as careful scrutiny on the Democratic side in debates reveals a seemingly more subdued condemnation of democratic principles violated in fact by a disproportionate aggressiveness in foreign policy (I include Sanders here) which rules out societal well-being for all the people.

This is discouraging, as though civilization is becoming militarized-privatized out of existence, encompassed by a colossal instinctual death-wish, the product of an unsatisfied thirst for power no longer capable of permanent achievement as the world-system itself hedges in US unilateral domination of others’ aspirations and freedoms. America, accustomed to counterrevolutionary bliss in its global role as conservator of unrestrained capitalism, is experiencing doubts, not about its values and legitimation, but about its prowess, its military might to bludgeon home these values, ranging from the dynamics of internal wealth concentration to one of several corollaries, climate-destruction, or another, racial tension, or another, widespread poverty and disease affecting the lower-third of the population. Capitalism trumps commonwealth, fascism here operable through skipping over the stage of social democracy to reach an advanced stage of government-business interpenetration shielding corporate wealth from all moral obligation: an economy utterly contemptuous of society.

Those voices: the dismantlement of government as code for the abolition of regulation where the public good is involved. (Regulation drawn up by the vested interests, then enforced by government, which by and large is the history of regulation in America, starting with Theodore Roosevelt’s Bureau of Corporations and Woodrow Wilson’s Federal Reserve System, is another matter and the true meaning of interpenetration, drawing Capitalism and the State together into a co-partnership of hierarchical wealth-protection and the public financing of imperialism and military power.) The voices: concern for the middle class as code for a plebeian fascism skillfully used as the stock-in-trade for disguising the roots of financial-commercial-industrial control of the state apparatus in the furtherance of still deeper private consolidation. Here the elephant in the room is foreign policy, shaping and assisting monopoly capitalism via everything from outsourcing, foreign investment, tax havens, trade alliances, the importing of critical raw materials and natural resources on favorable terms, to the direct intervention into the internal affairs of real and potential customers and partners of other nations globally. Foreign policy is equally germane to the domestic framework (which the candidates of both parties never talk about), the habituation to military gains, intervention, war as confirmation of American power and superiority, being a quite deliberate way to instill an attitude of acquiescence into the body politic for Authority, the continuation of militarism, and, aiming at blacks, other minorities, and working people in general, a deferential mindset toward presumed betters and the Nation itself.

Meanwhile, people and society alike are being bled to death through the astronomical military budget which leaves nothing over for, and serves as pretext for, the ruthless scrubbing of the social safety net. Wealth concentration corrodes the very vitals of the social order. And still, the presidential campaign goes on, leaving everything intact while whipping up enthusiasm for the Termites of Reaction to do their thing, chiefly, provoke international confrontation, divert attention from basic problems at home, enshrine the status quo in rotting wood.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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