FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Capitalism Versus Militarism: The Presidency

There are no purist societal categories in the real world; everything turns on interrelatedness, particularly here, with capitalism and militarism, mutual states of national conduct and spirit, each reinforcing the other, and both exemplified in the narrow boundaries within which the American presidential campaign is being conducted.

Trump (capitalism), Clinton (militarism), constitute the perfect harmonization of interests defining the modern Fascist State, one up on Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Corporatist Italy, because disguising such primal units of historically demonstrated fascism (1920s-40s) as hegemonic aspirations of global leadership, the structural interpenetration of business and government, an ideological commitment to systemic hierarchy, international and domestic, with the soothing appeal of liberalism and democracy, rhetorical gestures America’s predecessors did not waste time with, in proceeding to the serious business of domination.

Pure typologies are for textbooks. In America, capitalism and militarism blended well, indeed became synchronized from at least the post-Civil War period onward, neither capitalism nor militarism capable of going it alone even as individually each grew to major proportions. There had to be overlap, with few periods of historical exception, perhaps only the New Deal, where the repair of capitalism, putting it on its feet again, consumed the energies of policy making until the Second World War became unavoidable. Then, in what still remained, by necessity, an anti-fascist crusade, nonetheless, under the umbrella of patriotism, capitalism and militarism were brought together into an uneasy coalescence.

With the Cold War, this changed, and the respective emphases in national policies were becoming inseparable, with, in America, market penetration and intervention singly and, more generally, in combination, characterizing America’s pattern of development. By the 1960s, especially under Kennedy, there was very little squiggle room left between these supposedly polar types or goal posts. America’s structural-political-ideological choices had narrowed successively and gradually so that, unsurprisingly, Trump and Clinton have now emerged, if not as Siamese twins joined at the hip of the highest stage of capitalism known thus far, then close to that state, where confrontation, in all areas, from military power to trade and finance, makes for an irresistible force in international politics, Russia and China, the preeminent opponents and/or targets of America’s somehow-manufactured wrath.

These two exemplifications in their respective areas, Trump, capitalism, Clinton, militarism, represent mere tipping points, where, for Trump, capitalism works through, and cannot survive without, militarism, and where, for Clinton, militarism is the frosting on the cake, the ultimate good—and goal—of capitalism in protecting, chiefly for America, unilateral supremacy in world affairs. The record is there. Trump embodies capitalism better than any in our time, going back to the attitudinal complex and framework of rewards of the Robber Barons of the late 19th century, completely unapologetic in manipulating the System to his own advancement: wreck, build, it doesn’t matter, even both, simultaneously, because profit is to be made, or losses stemmed, through always plunging forward, through waste, corruption, exploitation, all honorable—and honored—tools in the pursuit of wealth.

Clinton is his mirror image in the fusion of capitalism with national power, not a bone of scrupulosity in her body as she navigates the corridors of power to the top. Here Wall Street becomes the open door or avenue of systemic advancement to achieve the integrated stage of the militarization of capitalism. Not an original thinker (nor is Trump) she merely assumes, it turns out correctly, that capitalism and militarism require each other to experience growth and fruition. We see this in her prideful assertion of belting ‘em down with top military brass as one of the boys, equally symbolic of underlying substance, her calling for the Afghan surge, intervention in Libya, bellicose view of Russia and China, approval of military appropriations in general (in sum, hardly out of the ordinary from her Democratic colleagues and the bipartisan consensus on American-defined globalization in all spheres of state activity, from Keystone XL to regime change in Latin America to military alliance systems worldwide).

What does this portend for the future, the Clinton-Trump race to the bottom, the ash heap of history? Nuclear war? Widening divisions at home, on race, power, income, status? Incremental worsening, wherein ethnocentrism and xenophobia find their domestic counterparts, the radical becoming the stranger, the Enemy, of America’s culture and time? Whatever the outcome, and I am certainly not recommending fatalism or passivity, the future cannot be thought bright. Perhaps, with Dr. King’s blessing, we can go back to the political equivalence of Du Bois’s Talented Tenth, in this case, the regnant tenth who, in declaring No to both capitalism (as presently practiced) and militarism, stand witness to the degradation of democracy and refuse complicity in its emasculation and destruction.

Social protest is not dead. Not all of America is fascist-inclined. But the negation of existing practice, the disavowal of previous history (as though these features of capitalism and militarism were deterministic, rather than the result of the institutional exercise of power on behalf of wealth and the wealthy, or the morbidly assertive in generic ways of conquest), must not be given the last word. Even one-tenth of the populace are capable of raising a collective voice of protest that will be heard, if not fully in America, then still around the world. Our modern Robber Barons cum Warriors, reflected in the presidential contest, cannot be stopped, possibly even diverted, but as everyday life grows worse, as adventurism grows more obvious and unbearable to the world at charge, perhaps, just perhaps, a turnaround is possible—the futility of self-destruction finally awakening a heretofore narcotized public.

More articles by:

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.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail