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Legacy: The Gift That Destroys America

Thanks Dave Lindorff for “President Barack Obama’s Crappy Legacy,” CP, 10-5-16, an excellent overview of the devastation being left behind, on a whole range of problems, many of which have been self-created, by the outgoing Obama Administration. Before reading the article, I was contemplating a different tack, in which Obama was the mere expression, symbol, and exemplar of American policy over the long-term and America in general. Lindorff’s examples illustrate well where we’re presently at; my thinking is particularized around the contemporary meaning of fascism as applied to the United States, Obama a water boy—keeping the Nation /team supplied, not with water but the poisons of imperialism abroad, plutocracy at home, the connecting link political murder in all of its sordid manifestations, from drone assassination to intervention, confrontation, and regime change, and an intensified domestic structure and political economy of class-power and the reification of capitalistic wealth as a moral absolute.

Obama is not a causal force, but an easily replaceable object, the summation of a century-plus of societal development of capitalism-driven hegemony in world affairs—and before that, at least a half-century of industrial-financial concentration to lay the foundation for, and make practicable, the quest for unilateral global dominance. There is nothing innocent about how America assumed the historical direction it has taken. One might almost go back to John Locke himself to get a sense of the political-philosophic underpinnings for a social order identified so narrowly with individualism and self-enrichment devoid of collective obligation as to produce glaring differences in wealth, power, status by whatever it takes, including racial immiseration as a subchapter of the larger condition of labor exploitation.

America, at least since 1800, has been founded on the destruction of community (the Alien and Sedition Acts a harbinger of things to come), which is to say, with Locke, that capitalism would have a clear field for advancement and for taking on a purist complexion where property rules supreme. Repression is in America’s DNA: Shooting down workers in the Great Railway Strikes of 1877 or the Bonus Marchers under Hoover are not random incidents; still less, the sustained pattern of underconsumption to keep a laboring people docile in pursuit of their class interests. In this general setting, domestic and foreign policy cannot be separated, are indivisible, with market penetration the “soft” side of imperialism (as opposed to armed intervention) while building up surplus value for the giant corporations. In the well-oiled machine of capitalism, little is left to chance—and without positing conspiracy theory, one can see how Obama, like either of his successors, Trump or Clinton, makes perfectly good sense, the historical-structural-ideological logic of the situation.

The historical boundaries of America are progressively narrowing; through concerted effort, radicalism is drying up, a broadly Left alternative seemingly out of reach. Yet, I say “seemingly,” because knowing the score does not mean people have to succumb to it. The more one comes to realize the looming fascistic proportions of the society, the more incentive to fight back, not alone, which is futile, but through building a potential mass of disaffection, drawing upon a not-negligible heritage of freedom also in America’s past. Consensus is an overrated thesis in taking account of the relative lack of social protest, the sameness in the political choices offered, the proneness to militarism saturating the popular culture. The Emperor (Obama) wears no clothes; he is an utter fake, worse, a traitor to the cause of people’s government. That he is black is only the latest mystification surrounding the dynamics of power. If I were Dr. King or Paul Robeson I would shutter in my grave at the betrayal of social purpose, the promise of what could have been, the opportunity offered, by his election.

On every front—war, the environment, race, corporate regulation, income distribution, etc.—America is falling back, hardening in attitude, callous of all others standing in the way of omnipotence, callous of those within, who are suffering and/or have the temerity to call for increased democratization as the path to wholeness and averting catastrophe. Legacy? It is that of being on the edge and looking into the abyss of totalitarian self-encirclement having the potential of bringing the world down if the clear field for hegemony is not opened. Obama can be rated a good enough field general in preserving the work of his predecessors, immediate and distant, the work of counterrevolution in warding off rising aspirations in the Third World while maintaining a Pax Americana to supervise and be the chief beneficiary of a globalization process inimical to socialism and productive of a two-tiered international framework of advancement and retrogradation, exclusively within a capitalist orbit.

I, for one, shall not be sorry to see him leave the presidency, knowing full well that his successor and those to come after will not be any better.

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.

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