The inversion of Joe Hill: don’t mourn for me, ORGANIZE. Today, more perhaps than ever, the message is clear, timely, appropriate. America is tilting so far rightward as to pose a menace to global peace. This is not Trump’s doing alone; for over a half-century US near-unilateral world dominance was being actively constructed and implemented by both major parties, with comparatively little resistance from the body politic. The Great Celebration is finally coming to an end, an international context of political-structural-economic decentralization as Russia, China, and the Third World have come into their own, nullifying America’s hegemonic claims to moral certainty and superiority.
Hence, the nervous display of ethnocentric-xenophobic power, Behemoth not giving up lightly, although the national image of Fortress America, aka, America First, strikes a responsive chord and formula for electoral success. The choice of living in the world or dominating it is painful to the largest military power in history, backed by a nuclear arsenal second to none, and fed all these years a constant diet of war, intervention, regime change, in sum, counterrevolution to hold all factors constant pertaining to American power and might—painful, but apparently, business as usual, against accommodation, the collective decision reached.
Trump works fast, prepared to shove cabinet appointments through, asserting through executive action a significant modification of trade policy, setting a tone of ultra-nationalism, but in the long wash hardly a departure from his predecessors on final goals: alternative routes to monopoly capital, the routes themselves predicated on a disposition to autarky and military strength. He works fast, yet, on close inspection, this is because the foundation for global supremacy, affording him this freedom of action, had been laid by those who came before: an unrelieved sameness of integrated domestic and foreign policy holding the world structure hostage to America’s intentions.
Wealth, whether national or individual, recognizes its own—similarly, power. When Monday (Jan. 23) labor leaders tramped to the White House, groveling at Trump’s feet, we saw the logical consequences of a movement that had lost its will, drive, and historical role as a progressive social force, accepting crumbs from the table of plutocracy. Shocking? No, because by-and-large affiliated with the Democratic party, labor had negated and denied its class identity and position. There are no Joe Hills or Wobblies today, more likely, instead, war hawks who seek a larger share of the war pie, itself steadily enlarged to fulfill a supposed Imperial Destiny. Clinton, meanwhile, is Trump in pants suit, even more militaristic than he, banking on a nebulous tradition of social reform to carry forward a belligerence in reclaiming international leadership to the setback of the world masses.
Poor Hillary, she has had ample role models drawn from both parties—not an independent bone in her body—in shaping her outlook. Yet, given the shrunken ideological spectrum, in which a valid Left either doesn’t exist or is negligible, she is currently hailed as a heroic figure wrongfully denied the presidency. If she had won, TPP and NAFTA would have gone forward, still not as the authentic democratization of capitalism, but the liberal (i.e., co-partnership of business and government, with heavy emphasis on the military) mode of wealth concentration. This liberalism is first and foremost antiradical, with national chauvinism running a close second easily channeled into uncritical patriotism.
Obama is now celebrated as a world-shaking democratic leader (this week’s New Yorker lead by George Packer), a willful distortion of truth to disguise—because he is black(?)—a core posture of Reaction and the bloodless invocation of violence. He is standard operating procedure in the formulation and conduct of policy. Neither Clinton nor Trump questioned drone assassination or the suppression of dissent at home, both confident their positions would find favor or go unnoticed. Cursedly, they were right, just as policies of rendition and torture do not draw criticism, and whistleblowers are threatened with jail. Rather than take each President in turn, beginning with Truman through the likes of Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Bill Clinton, and the two Bushes, it is sufficient to note that continuities in foreign policy have received acceptance and accolades as the mark of wise statesmanship, as domestic policy meanwhile unrelievedly and steadily contributed to the maldistribution of wealth, spoliation of the environment, solipsistic human relations, an ethos of greed, a mindset of nirvana-like splendor and self-righteousness.
The ecstasy of Vietnam, the state of rapture in bringing crushing death to a near-helpless people, who, in fighting back, merely intensified the hatred shown them, typifies the mid-point of where we are at as a nation. Donald and Lyndon are not that far apart (if at all), a Republican and a Democrat, nor are Kennedy and Hillary, in this case, both Democrats. Nor Harry and Reagan, both specialists in Cold War intervention, again from presumably rival parties. There is plenty of ecstasy to go around, and more to come, whichever party is in power. Fortress America is not a gated community in macrocosm. The gates will stand open for the armies marching out, as the military budget threatens to dwarf all else. Civil liberties, already a casualty (did, from the start, the Democrats put up effective opposition to McCarthyism?), can only look forward to further deprivation and suspicion.
Am I too pessimistic? I can only say, prove me wrong—before it is too late. And of course, not me, but it will take tens of millions to turn the situation around. I fear that will not happen, the poisons of a false consciousness, Nazified in tenor, having become sunk too deeply over time in the American psyche. Bill, Hillary, and Barack made Trump possible by happily engaging in the process of continuity—conduct expected of Republicans, but not (although it should have been) expected of Democrats.