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Spectrum Shift: A Period In-Between

America self-criminalizes, as its hegemonic ambitions further expand. The spectrum shift is not mere bipartisan circularity, as may have once been the case, but something more significant: epochal political-structural change, perhaps, in near-historical time (say two-three decades), irreversible. I mean a decisively RIGHTWARD turn, however gradual-seeming the process. The US, notwithstanding science and technology, is a textbook case of systemic atavism, a reversion to type, the type being advanced—i.e., mature—capitalism requiring its increased militarization if it is to continue to expand and show a profit. Absent the New Deal, America stands in world-historical terms in the 1930s, analogous to a late stage of Weimar Germany and Imperial Japan (its formative growth). In all three cases, 2017 America, 1933 Germany, 1931 Japan, society is on the threshold of fascism.

Paths to fascism may differ, yet one cannot hide its capitalistic inner core, ever-raised to more concentrated-consolidated proportions: monopolism, cartel-organization of business, zaibatsu. It is as though capitalism were fated to summon socialism on the global scene, leaving however a sufficient imprint on socialism as to deny its fullest humane potential, while it, capitalism, in need of constant renewal, took the next step, preparation, through business development and social-cultural regimentation, of full-scale fascism. We’re there, the preparation stage, gazing blind-eyed into the abyss; where once—centuries ago, republican doctrine, mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, labor struggles—freedom was in the air, now nihilism and emptiness fill the vacuum created by essentially a permanent war doctrine, a deregulatory spirit of enterprise, cynicism over democratic values and social change.

Why capitalism? Its expansion? Its militarization? Its transmogrification from Adam Smith to Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and the country bearing witness to their election, values, record? Even under Smith and his times, moral obligation was a known factor in societal relations; no longer, when a president, and this I believe symbolizes the Obama administration, a country silently and/or indifferently looking on, engages in targeted assassination, the vaporization of humans, thousands of miles away, and his successor, Trump, is already laying down the gauntlet for world (starting with regional) conflagration and a climate at home intolerant of dissent. I submit, capitalism cannot have it any other way, if everything from surplus value, avoidance of a declining rate of profit, its modern shaking down, in America, from an industrial to a financial base (calling for more outsourcing, more intervention in the affected countries), all of which is systemically-historically re-created on a daily basis, defines so well the present course. Too, the commodification of the human being, as added insurance of—although also integral to—capitalist stability and growth, must not be overlooked.

We focus on Trump, as though eight years of Obama did not create the foundations for the latter, and before that, even in the most immediate terms (not raising the whole pattern of American capitalist development), Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, the Bushes (perhaps those also not mentioned—and definitely going back further to T. Roosevelt and Wilson) prepared the way. The period in-between, referred to above, is not the usual transition or interregnum to which we are familiar, but a deeper, more profound, more overarching historical phenomenon, the potential eclipse of democracy as we know it (even when practiced so inconsistently and falsely). At least remnants are present, as is the memory, both of which are under pressure and becoming redefined to fit America’s posture in a New Cold War (the last never really having ended), a silently enveloping repression in which all of the safeguards associated with the New Deal are being undone, eliminated.

Military capitalism is transmuted into American Exceptionalism. The two form a loving couple, much as do the interpenetration of business and government. State and Capitalism, promoting one another, are becoming near-interchangeable, except that now the State is more avowedly than ever a Class-State in America, reducing government’s function to that of serving as the political protector and economic stimulus of first resort as well as supplying the military muscle for geopolitical global dominance, imperialism, market penetration, the traditional nuts-and-bolts of keeping capitalism going and growing, the ledger and bayonet another consanguinity of structure and purpose. We have much to look forward to, a glance in the rearview mirror helpful to our understanding and realization of continuity, so that a simplistic demonization of Trump, and consequent elevation of Obama and all that came before, does not cloud our vision of coming catastrophe.

At this historical-structural juncture, it is hard to see how America can escape the fate of fascism; if we are, as I think, in-between, not only is there, anyway, a thin line separating advanced capitalism from fascism (borne out earlier by Germany and Japan), but more to the point, there is insufficient will to draw back, to weigh democracy and fascism and determine to return to and reawaken the former. America is hoisted on its own petard (the explosive the case contains is an amalgam, beyond capitalism and militarism, of ethnocentrism, xenophobia, contempt for human excellence in non-invidious terms—or any terms), a seemingly free agent, yet chained to its evolving identity from early on, as private/corporatist business primacy in a nominally public state. Obama gave us Pacific-First with comprehensive naval-military support. Trump may cross the line. As US political leaders and military commanders are fond of saying, “All options are on the table.” Are we as a nation too jaded to savor the words, their meaning, their implication for ultimate destruction of the planet, and short of that, an extended interlude of fascistization of the global structure—also assisted by the nuclear arsenal and its threat of usage—under, now, American rather than German or Japanese leadership? What of socialism, can it withstand the falsification of humanitarian beliefs and convictions, its peculiar properties, in such circumstances? Fascism devours all before it. America sits at the table, with knife and fork at the ready.

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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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