FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Anniversary of FDR’s Death: “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself”

It is nearly impossible to speak truth to power when the present occupant of the White House (and his predecessors going back at least through Reagan) is already obsessed with expanding power and wouldn’t know truth if it hit him between the eyes. Truth is falsified at its inception when power takes on absolutist proportions and pursued in its own right. Cynicism, hegemony, mere acquisition, are notable examples defining a unified core of meaning and understanding, not just characterizing Trump, along with a fascination with domination and cruelty, but also his supporters and, if we were being frank, the majority of Americans, Democrats included.

In an unrelieved political-ideological landscape of haute-capitalist authority and values, the New Deal stands out in American history as the exceptional fragment of a contrived, artificial Exceptionalism (the national mythology) penetrating the epistemological foundations of the society. That bad? Worse still: a quasi-fascist State, in which FDR and the New Deal become a democratic moment of struggle against the forces of wealth, status, vast resources of capitalist accumulation, in Webster’s, control, authority, and influence over others. Interpenetration, the mutuality of interest between business and government, capitalism and the State, defines the course—lines of development—of present, and no doubt future, American nation-building. The contrast with the New Deal could not be more striking, even though the earlier political-social formation was not socialist, and signified the potential malleability of capitalism itself (capable of being altered or shaped by outside forces or influences, in this case, government, adapted to democratic ends).

April 12th, FDR’s martyrdom is far more consequential and inspiring than that of JFK, if one has in mind, in foreign policy, rallying the people to antifascism rather than counterrevolution, and, domestically, building the political economy around the elevation of the poor and unemployed, rather than a corporatist structure of wealth concentration (as occurred from Kennedy onward through Trump), fragmentation of workers’ identity and organization, and now, a direct assault on the concept of welfare and the social safety net. Trump, again, his government, the people who support him, America increasingly in general, avowedly seek the destruction of a people-centered present and future in favor of a highly-structured class system of privilege, elitism, and—perhaps one of the greatest differences with the New Deal—a permeating militarism and spirit of global domination. Can one nation, in the breadth of one lifetime, mark such a gross turnaround in purpose and execution?

Let’s turn to FDR’s First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, passionate, memorable, colorful, yet also sharply denotative in thought and language, above all, confident, the start of a great romance between the president and the American people—the opening:

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. [Compare this with Trump’s government by Twitter and tweet.] This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. [It is useful to recall just how severe and desperate were conditions at the time, FDR not sweeping under the rug the extent of unemployment and depression, nor creating diversions in foreign-policy adventurism to draw attention away from ineffectual government policies at home.] So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

[This is the start of the First Hundred Days, a time for rebuilding and extending the power and influence of government to meet the challenges of the future, as contrasted with Trump, at eighty-nine days, as I write, focused on the emasculation and destruction of government—in large part a test of their respective views on the intelligence and perspective of the people. FDR continues]: “In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am confident that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

There are many more noteworthy passages from his speeches, writings, press conferences, etc., worth remarking, from “one-third of a Nation….” to “horse-and-buggy days,” to a restatement of the Four Freedoms, on and on into the night, but surely my point is grasped, an effort, in a time of crisis, for the political leadership to address the pain for the individual from the cancer itself, in my case, to a full-court press on achieving societal reconstruction so that through a better health-care system, wellness in all its manifestations will spread its blessings, translated into quality and longevity of life, throughout the social order. That order, be it noted, is an integrated political matrix covering all bases pertinent to and contributing to life as responsive to human needs.

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 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail