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Beyond “Strangelove”: America and Nuclear War

Trump, at this writing, is torn between Romney and Giuliani for Secretary of State, quite modest in differences over foreign policy and nuclear war, as alternatives go. Probably Giuliani, the more brash and outspoken of the two. But it doesn’t matter; either one is capable, as is Trump, of an end-of-times scenario when circumstances, to each, seem appropriate. The circumstances? A cumulative build-up of fear, suspicion, ideologically rigid self-righteousness, when loss of honor (aka, no longer belief in capitalist global ascendance, and domestically, a class-arranged hierarchical nation of working-people’s subordination) replaces the will for legitimated world dominance on unilateral lines.

The problem is, the international system is perpetually evolving and does not stand still. America has shown the way to the militarization of hegemony, and the genie cannot be restored to the bottle. Conquest is in the air; America’s future seemingly depends on it. I say “seemingly,” because what can arrest its lethality, comprehensive democratization of the social order, has no place in the US political economy (and perhaps never did) and its future planning.
From Clinton to Clinton, Obama to Trump, and why not go back (?), Kennedy to Reagan, Bush to Bush, America has had one unrelieved record of antiradicalism and counterrevolution, the two together reciprocally defined and operational, so that the boundaries of decision-making have left us, as with so much else, like the parched land of narrow desert bereft of human feeling and the affirmation of life itself.

Dr. Strangelove was thought an exaggeration in 1962, when it was released. Now it can be seen as a gross underestimation of the condensed hatreds boiling up, ostensibly, exclusively, from the working class, but actually characterizing America (which the bipartisan triumph of Reaction demonstrates by the recent election). Trump exposed the plebeian fascism of workers, Clinton, the more fully developed form for her supporters, with radicals now neutralized and worse, as an unstable numerically diminishing third force, sidetracked by cultural politics because taking on the combined power of business and the military appeared infeasible or somehow wrong. Old Left? New Left? Both swallowed up in the vortex of unremitting capitalism, its outer layer of public relations peeled away, only to reveal a totalitarian mindset of grubby aspirations for wealth, status, power, thinly disguised as individualism but intentionally fooling no-one.

To choose between Romney and Giuliani (or some general or admiral standing in the wings), like choosing between Clinton and Trump, makes a mockery of human choosing—an important part of freedom. Choice is denied away as too dangerous for running a social organization, and with it, rule of law, because in real or potential conflict with the security, identity, structural-ideological privilege, and accustomation, of upper groups who now rule un-self-consciously as mere entitlement, in the way, as they see it, of how the System was intended to be. On this, they may be right; capitalism was never intended for equitable wealth-distribution, unless as so defined by its elites. Why even pretend to justice and fairness when the facts speak otherwise? Inequality is the dynamic factor in the individual’s capital-accumulation process, and society’s war-making proclivities. It is what makes the sun rise and set for the vast majority of people in America today, whether demarcated by a white working class without a college degree, or a black community vulnerable to police brutality. Inequality is inscribed in the very process of Americanization: Learn to bend the knee to one’s betters, memorize the traits and social values which lessen the anxieties of those in a class-position above you. Provide cannon-fodder which enables the System to realize its self-defined potential, whether aggression, suzerainty, market penetration.

The present alignment of parties, with little hope of internal or external nourishment, draws a curtain around structural-economic prospects of systemic transcendence. Is that grounds for pessimism, much less paralysis? Emphatically, resoundingly NOT. When a society has its back to the wall, as I believe America has, this is no time for retreat; for now there is nothing to lose. Internment camps may lie just around the corner for all of us—undocumented immigrants already having been served notice. (And of course, whatever happens to one segment of the population can happen to others.) Trump may not be Hitler, Clinton may not be Ilsa Koch, but they both, on occasion, give a good imitation of the genuine article. Whether coming events instill fear in those who are targeted, here insinuation, targeted defamation (rather than, as practiced abroad, targeted assassination), or simply career and other forms of discrimination, the dissenter finds himself/herself under moral obligation to offer resistance: Americanization, at its finest.

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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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