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Matriarchal Fascism: Clinton, Embodiment of US Power

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The recent Democratic debate gave a hint of Clinton’s pro-Wall Street ingrained posture, frightening because at its foundation is the fusion of militarism and capitalism, both at a heightened stage of development. The harpy of Cold War intervention and regime change, Clinton has used American foreign policy to maximize a US-defined and sponsored pattern of globalization, based on the encirclement, containment, and isolation of both Russia and China, in order to shape a hierarchical domestic structure of retrograde social and economic policies favoring elite financial and industrial groups now popularized as the 1% but in reality a far more complex system because of its militaristic/expansionist underpinnings. When and if fascism comes to America, if it has not already, it will be deceptively clothed: not hardened far right Republicanism, but respectable, seemingly reasonable Liberalism personified by the Clintons with Obama cultivating the intermediate ground.

Who needs Rubio, Cruz, Bush, etc. etc., when Clinton already possesses, better than they, the articulated paradigm of Wall Street, Pentagon, think tank planning and connections which has propelled America’s counterrevolutionary role in global affairs, all internalized and ready for execution. I say “matriarchal,” then, not to indicate gender per se, but in her concrete case, an overseeing, overarching figure, ready to take command of the full apparatus of power, the new head of the family, using the subterfuge of motherly caring for the disadvantaged and the poor to firm up and tighten a ruling class seeking political-ideological dominance at home and abroad while pursuing traditional imperialist goals of market penetration, a sustained supply of raw materials, the advantages of outsourcing through reliance on a global labor market, and the consequent retardation of Third World modernization and autonomy. Bill Clinton is chimp change compared with what Mrs. Clinton can effectuate under the handle of counterterrorism and neoliberalism: a world open to American spoliation and rapine (including the acceleration of climate change).

Fascism? Yes, in any meaningful sense, beginning with continuing the Obama policies of mass surveillance, indictment of whistleblowers, the use of federal regulatory agencies to protect the interests ostensibly to be regulated, then moving to the principal structural criterion of fascism borne out by Germany, Italy, and Japan (see Barrington Moore’s chapter, “Asian Fascism,” in his monumental Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy): the interpenetration of business and government, an integration of political structure which, even in the absence of the military component, fosters unimpeded capitalist development under the auspices of the State. This winning combination ensures the quelling of dissent over industrial and financial practices and power, habituates the populace to consumerism and patriotism, and employs State worship to cover over capitalistic excesses including the degradation of the environment. Add to the foregoing the undoubted place of the military as a synthesizing force in the political economy and carrying out its objectives, and, indeed, fascism is not a species of name-calling but an accurate description of impending reality.

One cannot but feel that Clinton is the quintessential expression of American tendencies from the late-19th century to the present, from Mahan’s free-trade imperialism effected through the battleship navy, to TR’s buttressing of corporatism via support for the House of Morgan (along with a severe attitude toward dissent and radicalism), to Wilson’s internationalism as preview to the comprehensive framework of globalization (as symbolized in the Siberian Intervention and assumptions underlying the League of Nations), to Harding-Coolidge-Hoover straightout favoritism toward American business at home and abroad (which Clinton conveniently tucks away from view), to the mixed legacy of the New Deal, where authentic reform directed to the social welfare of the bottom-half in the throes of the Depression is partly counterbalanced by the National Recovery Administration’s active fostering of monopoly power and wealth concentration, to the postwar period until the present, an unrelieved landscape of business growth harnessed to market expansion and military intervention, all—except for New Deal welfare measures—feeding into Clinton’s assertive brand of militarized capitalism, a process sufficiently far along as to establish boundaries, political, ideological, economic, difficult to navigate through, much less counter and ultimately transcend, unless and until what we term the political class overthrows haute-capitalist influence and rejects America’s hegemonic goals.

Surprisingly, the New York Times’s editorial, “Hillary Clinton Botches Wall Street Questions,” (Nov. 16), raises critical points on her debate performance which cast doubt on her suitability to be president. All will soon be forgiven, but this minor outburst perhaps signals wider concern in the electorate over the state of the economy and America’s global position of intervention. The editorial in fact approves of her foreign policy credentials, the blip on Wall Street unfortunately a diversion: “Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris dominated [the debate] at first, allowing her to highlight her superior experience in world affairs. But it was those attacks that made her badly muffed response to questions about her fealty to Wall Street all the more jarring.” It quotes the exchange between Sanders and Clinton, in which Sanders says, in substance, that Wall Street contributions to Clinton’s campaign (“’They expect to get something. Everybody knows that’”) will influence her policies, to which she replied, with injured pride, to the moderator, “’Wait a minute, he has basically used his answer to impugn my integrity.’”

To its credit, The Times is not blind-sided. When Clinton went on to explain, “’So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them to rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who attacked our country,’” The Times acidly observed: “Predictably, Twitter exploded with demands to know what campaign donations from big banks had to do with New York’s recovery from 9/11. Answer: little or nothing.” Rising further to the occasion, the editorial (perhaps unintentionally recalling the earlier slogan, What’s good for GM, is good for the country) lashed out:

Since 2001, she and Bill Clinton have earned more than $125 million for speeches, many of the most lucrative made before financial groups. That does not account for the millions given directly to her campaign, and to political action committees backing her. Nearly 15 years after the 2001 attacks, Mrs. Clinton was earning more than $200,000 for a 20-minute speech. Most of those took place behind guarded doors. But one can guess that she and the financial executives were not still talking about 9/11.

A superb indictment (the guarded doors calling to mind Clinton’s contempt for transparency, as in her evasion about her private email accounts at State) of opportunism, personal enrichment, an above-the-law mental set that manifestly touches on issues of responsibility and integrity.

It gets even better, as though The Times suddenly had pangs of conscience: “Middle-class Americans associate Wall Street with the 2008 meltdown of the economy that cost so many their homes and savings. In the debate Mrs. Clinton repeatedly referred to her plan for reining in banks, but offered few specifics. This is what happens when Hillary Clinton the candidate gets complacent.” However, it’s not clear whether the criticism is directed to her complacency or to the substance of her argument. (At least Sanders wants the restoration of Glass-Steagall, the separation of investment and commercial banking, which she pooh-poohed as inadequate without offering an alternative.) The editorial continues, “Her effort to tug on Americans’ heartstrings instead of explaining her Wall Street ties—on a day that the scars of 9/11 were exposed anew [the Paris attacks]—was at best botched rhetoric. At worst it was the type of cynical move that Mrs. Clinton would have condemned in Republicans.” Yet all is not lost, The Times finding the situation perfectly salvageable: “She should make a fast, thorough effort to explain herself by providing a detailed plan for how she would promote measures protecting middle-class Americans from another financial crisis.”

My New York Times Comment on the editorial, same date, follows:

…the type of cynical moves” says it all. The Times is to be congratulated for its frankness. No doubt it still will endorse Clinton, which is doubly unfortunate knowing how much she and Bill are sponging off Wall Street and leading the sophisticated charge for upper-groups’ aggrandizement. Throughout her career she has presented herself as moderately Left while pursuing an agenda favorable to existing wealth and power. Add to that an extreme hawkish foreign policy, which she has amply demonstrated, and one finds her at bottom not distinguishable from her more vociferous Republican rivals. 2016 will be a sad time in US history, both major parties locked in a consensus on war, intervention, and regime change. (This does not make Sanders any the more appealing, for his foreign policy is equally interventionist and warlike.)

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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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