White Power: A Steroid for American Politics
Call it what you will, unilateralism, hegemony, global dominance but such a foreign policy must use all available resources to be implemented. As one guy put it, US “unilateralism [was/is built upon] an odd collection of idealists, religionists, and militarists” and is supported by corporations no longer committed to “a socially responsible capitalism” or to “a humane model of economic development.” [Empires Workshop, Greg Grandin]
“Globalization” is the latest euphemism for such a capitalism, world wide, and it dawned on me that the white power movement is not tangential to the prevailing political agenda, domestically or internationally. That is how I was thinking about it, as tangential, aberrational, and it’s how it’s being written about. But it is part and parcel of the global domination project that has been pursued since at least JFK’s death, which project is also covered over with euphemisms, e.g., “humanitarian interventionism,” counterinsurgency, limited war, promoting democracy worldwide, the war on terror, anti-communism, nation-building. Take your pick.
I believe it is this project that explains most of American politics today, both domestically and internationally. And supporting the white power movement and parts of its agenda - anti-immigration, anti-gun control, militarization of police forces, pervasive surveillance of “urban life” - makes sense because it fits as an ally for this project if for no other reason that the white power people are nationalistic and racist. And, of course, any politics of world dominance - whether that politics be American, British, German, Russian, or Chinese - must be both nationalistic and racist.
So it is a mistake to see and treat the white power movement as tangential, as aberrational, as something like a cancer that has invaded the body politic. From the standpoint of a politics of world dominance, this movement is far from a cancer on the body politic. In fact, it would be better to treat it as a steroid or other “performance enhancing drug.”
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
White Power and American Politics
It is pretty important to locate the white power movement in US politics in order to understand its appeal and our politics.
The easy and currently the prevailing view is that the white power movement is aberrational. That is, it is not central to US politics, plays no essential role in US politics, and is the result, by and large, of what might be called the “damaged” minds of charismatic individuals. By this view, the movement originated in the minds of those who had been adversely affected by, say, the Vietnam War or by US wars in the Middle East. So, it is crucial to identify these individuals by means of certain “warning signs” that allegedly give them away. The all-seeing state needs to be fortified to prevent the kind of violence visible in El Paso, Pittsburgh, Charleston, and even Christchurch, New Zealand.
Now, these views rest on certain assumptions, the most important one being that US politics is not the kind of politics that would benefit from or could make good use of a white power movement. And this view of US politics depends upon the view that US foreign policy, since the end of World War II, was essentially benign; that is aimed at ameliorating the human condition by changing those parts of the world characterized by widespread poverty and “rurality.” By means of large and pervasive agricultural and industrial projects, the US would change the underlying conditions – poverty, backwardness, illiteracy, tribalism – that led to violence and to an embrace of communism. The US would, it was and is declared, change lives, livelihoods, and even landscapes.
However, it is fairly obvious now that such assumptions about US foreign policy are rather hollow insofar as US policy clearly aims at establishing US global dominance based on free enterprise, counterinsurgency, and cultural hegemony. Some argue that the Cold War as waged by the US was always about hegemony, while others argue that it was only with the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union that US elites severed the links between its exercise of power and “development” aimed at the amelioration of the human condition.
But so long as US policy is understood as aiming at global dominance, it does not matter, from the standpoint of the status of white power, whether such dominance was the goal from the end of World War II or from the end of the Cold War. By either view, it becomes clear that a white power movement would serve the cause of global dominance and would be a useful prop for supporting US hegemony.
And so, by this view, the white power movement is anything but aberrational because it is part and parcel of a US foreign policy that aspires to hegemony or global dominance. So it is not surprising there were links between the conduct of US foreign policy and the white power movement. For example, in light of Angola’s civil war, along with the nationalist movements fighting against white rule in Rhodesia,” the Ford administration was willing to rely on “mercenaries” who had connections to the white power movement, such as Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown, creator of Soldier of Fortune magazine and a passionate supporter of the white regime in Rhodesia. As one white mercenary from the US said: “What we have here is an ideal core of white people who are able to raise the standard of living among the Africans.” And among these mercenaries, Rhodesia represented a society even, because of its white supremacist regime, superior to US society. So, in racial terms – but not only in racial terms - the white power movement both asserts US superiority at least as it once was and is willing to fight to recover that superiority by military or paramilitary means.
Insofar as US elites are pursuing a program of global dominance, then just so far they will tolerate those who support that program and will do so even if it means embracing some tenets of the white power movement, whether that means resisting gun control, redeeming US participation in the Vietnam War, or endorsing torture. It also means that we shouldn’t expect the white power movement to disappear when Trump disappears from the White House. That movement has arisen within and draws sustenance from a certain kind of politics, a politics that strives for, aspires to global dominance, a “Pax Americana” if you will. And it will be only when US elites reject this kind of politics that the white power movement will disappear from the American political drama.
As I have said before in these pages, our problems are political problems and they cannot be solved unless we adopt a different kind of politics. To reject the idea of white supremacy, one must reject policies that endorse global dominance by white people. For as Muhammad Ali once said, defending his refusing induction into the US military during the Vietnam War: “Ain’t no Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger!’” It really is a simple as that.-->
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
US Foreign Policy: Coherent or Contradictory?
Kathleen Belew, in her quite remarkable book, Bring the War Home, argues, as many have before her, that there was “a fundamental contradiction of the Cold War” by which the US, allegedly the moving force for democratizing the world, allied itself with “antidemocratic governments” in order to defeat communism. But whether this contradiction is real or not depends on how the Cold War was understood, whether it was being waged to bring democracy to the world or whether its purpose was, by means of “free enterprise,” to gain “global domination” for the US. Belew argues that by supporting antidemocratic regimes, the US broke the “bond between liberty and social responsibility,” a bond that was embedded in the New Deal, the civil rights movement, and other post WWII political policies. But what Belew doesn’t seem to notice, except somewhat tangentially, was that the Cold War was being waged precisely in order to break this bond, that because of the Cold War, the US and others could no longer afford to prioritize their “social responsibilities.” Realistically, the Cold War had to be waged for the sake of global dominance by the US, even or especially at the expense of meeting the demands of “social responsibilities.”
Put differently, “democracy,” understood as guaranteeing both “liberty and social responsibility,” was no longer taken to be a “realistic” goal by US ruling elites. Allegedly, in the face of “existential threats,” e.g.,, communism, such a view of democracy was no longer realistic or prudent. In the face of such threats, US “global dominance” was absolutely essential and was to be founded on “free enterprise,” eventually, free enterprise as “globalization.” And to advance this goal by these means, there was nothing contradictory about supporting a regime like Pinochet’s Chile, which was both anticommunist and based on free enterprise. That Pinochet’s regime practiced torture and “disappearances” was only a necessary evil that had to be tolerated to secure US global domination and worldwide oligarchy.
As Belew puts it: “This contradiction employed a definition of democracy that broke a long bond between notions of liberty and social responsibility. Instead, liberty was linked to with free enterprise.” And also linked with US global dominance. “Not only did this occlude a long American intellectual tradition joining democracy to with social welfare . . . but it further aligned US democracy with aspirations of global dominance.” [p.83]
But from this viewpoint, that is, once US elites decided to link liberty with “free enterprise” in order to gain “global dominance,” any contradictions in US foreign policy disappear. Supporting a oppressive regime like that of the Somoza family in Nicaragua, which embraced “free enterprise” in the guise of US companies operating there while kowtowing to the US, makes perfect sense, whether or not that regime’s enemies were communists or nationalists. It was enough that the “Sandinistas hoped to free Nicaragua from the influence of the US government and business” to make it incumbent on the US elites to oppose them. To pretend that the US elites had any significant interest in Nicaragua achieving democracy or respecting human rights is just that, a pretense. And, hence, those who entertained such pretenses seriously, like Jimmy Carter, needed to be gone or “educated.” They had to be “schooled” in what a politics of realism, that is, a politics of imperialism, is all about.
So, US foreign policy was, in fact, quite coherent, once you understand what its ends were, global dominance based on free enterprise. Which helps explain why US foreign policy has changed so little over the past few decades.
Saturday, August 24, 2019
King Leopold’s Ghost
Lying at the roots of what we “civilization” are crimes so heinous that it is impossible to describe them adequately. A book, King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild, is a history of the Congo and the mass murder, the genocidal killings that took place there around the beginning of the 20th century. And this mass murder, which some estimate reduced the native population of the Congo by 50% and totaled maybe 10, 000, 000, was the official but hidden policy of King Leopold who controlled the Congo while being king of Belgium.
But as Hochschild makes clear, it wasn’t only the Belgians who engaged in mass murder. It was also the French, the Germans, the British, and the Americans. “What happened in the Congo was indeed mass murder on a vast scale, but the sad truth if that the men who carried it out for Leopold were no more murderous than many Europeans then as work or at war elsewhere in Africa. Conrad said it best: ‘All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.”
And again: “Around the time the Germans were slaughtering Hereros [native in what is now Namibia], the world was largely ignoring America’s brutal counterguerilla was in the Philippines, in which US troops tortured prisoners, burned villages, killed some 20,000 rebels, and saw and estimated 200,000 Filipinos die of war-related hunger or disease. Britain came in for no international criticism for its killings of aborigines in Australia, in accordance with extermination orders as ruthless as [those of the Germans against the Hereros]. And of course in neither Europe nor the United States was there major protest against the decimation of the American Indians.” [p. 282]
Machiavelli is famous for saying that rulers, to be successful, need “to learn to be able not to be good.” Well, I wonder about that assertion insofar as it seems there isn’t much learning how not to be good is necessary. Humans, especially those who wield great power and think of themselves as superior to those they consider to be primitive or savages, are capable of the most heinous crimes in order to be successful, in order to gain the kind of immortality that comes from fame. But maybe Machiavelli knew this and wanted to make clear that at the root of what we call “civilization” is barbarism and cruelty. Machiavelli attributes Hannibal’s success to his cruelty, that is, to his inhuman cruelty. And, of course, if inhuman cruelty is required to found a civilized human order, it is also required to fortify or defend that order.
One risks being labeled an “idealist” or naïve’ if she contests Machiavelli’s brand of “realism.” And yet, left uncontested, we are left with King Leopold’s ghost and the sale of chocolate hands in a Belgium even today absent any exhibits recognizing Leopold’s mass murder. If King Leopold’s ghost doesn’t haunt you, then you have made your peace with a realism that can justify mass murder, torture, and slavery. That is, I submit, a rather strange place to be.
The “American Dream”
The more I read the more I am struck by how artificial, how phony our way of living, our society is. That is, it strikes me, more and more, how difficult it is to maintain what we like to think of as an exceptional society, as a way of living this is almost “natural” or at the very least in accord with what might be called “laws of nature,” and especially “laws of human nature.”
Our great wealth was generated by the institution of slavery, where millions of human beings were held in bondage via violence, rape, torture, and death. Without these crimes against humanity, the US would not be the wealthy, powerful nation it is today. Criminality, of a horrendous kind, lies at the base of our “exceptional society,” our “city on a hill” that we think enlightens the world.
And would our “exceptionalism” be possible without institutions that distort human beings, bending them into shapes that are, at best, somewhat benign? Would it be possible to maintain our society without huge, bureaucratized corporations or bureaucratized institutions we call “schools?” And would these institutions be possible without “socializing,” as we like to call the coercion needed to maintain what we call “civility,” human beings? And for those who resist such “socialization” we have built other humongous and inhuman institutions called “prisons” or “correctional institutions.” The size of these institutions allows anyone who wants to see that our society is actually fragile, its civility the result of coercion rather than of virtue.
And of course no listing of such characteristics would be complete without a mention of the propaganda, the mountains of propaganda that is needed as another prop for our exceptional society. So much of this propaganda, like all well-done propaganda, we aren’t even aware of. It is, as the saying has it, hidden in plain sight. So when our police are militarized, dressed up like warriors in our “high tech” society, we just accept this as normal, as the way things must be. Even more amazing, when after 9/11 signs appeared around Washington D.C. saying, “If you see something, say something!” very few commented that this is the kind of sign that could have been found in novels like 1984 or Animal Farm. And, of course, it is quite common, almost mandatory now, to say “Thank you for your service” to anyone in a uniform or designated “a first responder.”
“Land of the free, home of the brave?” So we believe but it is difficult to accept this as an adequate description of the place we now call “the homeland.” “America the beautiful?” Perhaps, but its beauty, which it no doubt has, is being covered over by institutions and mores that may best be described as ugly. Amongst “the good, the bad, and the ugly” it is the ugly that seems most prominent.
Friday, August 16, 2019
Conspiracy Theories, Conspiracy Theorists
Some of our most famous politicians have been conspiracy theorists, but more on that in a bit. First, it is necessary to consider such theories and the role they play politically.
There is a visible and an invisible or hidden social and political order. The ruling class(es) construct the visible order through their public acts, including of course their speeches and their behavior. This visible order is important for legitimizing the power, the authority, the rule of these classes. Of course, this order is constructed in such a way as to justify, to legitimize the power of the ruling classes, turning their power into authority (or authorizing its power). To do this, it is essential to present threats to the established order, “the establishment” in the vernacular, as illegitimate because these threats are unwise, unjust, or un-American. And because of the fluid nature of politics, threats are always arising and needing to be dealt with, controlled, managed, or deflected. As Machiavelli noted, government and politics are all about conspiracies.
However, there are times then the invisible order threatens to become visible, to go “on stage,” as it were, by becoming part of the drama being played out in public. When these moments arise, what are called “conspiracy theories” appear, with their advocates the “conspiracy theorists” leading the charge. Often these moments occur when seemingly aberrational events occur, e.g., the assassination of a president or an attack on “the homeland.” At such moments and in their aftermaths, it is crucial to the establishment that they are seen as aberrational, and not as the result of the invisible order and its movers and shakers. Hence, conspiracy theories must be dismissed as fantasies, as the products of disturbed and delusional minds. Otherwise, the invisible will become visible while the visible loses its legitimacy and thereby its authority. The ground is then prepared for significant, even revolutionary political and social changes.
Some of the most significant events in American history offer evidence for this view of things. That is, significant political change has often followed upon the successful propagation of what may be called conspiracy theories, by which the visible order is revealed as a façade behind which an invisible and politically undesirable order operates. Thus, in 1800 Jefferson successfully exposed the Federalists for the “monarchists” they were; Andrew Jackson exposed the conspiracy that allowed John Quincy Adams to become president in 1824, leading to what many historians call the “Age of Jackson;” Lincoln exposed the conspiracy of “Roger [Taney], Franklin [Pierce], James [Buchanan], and Stephen [Douglas]” to perpetuate slavery throughout the United States; FDR exposed the conspiracy of the “capitalists” whose greed brought on the Great Depression; and Trump has allegedly exposed the conspiracy of liberals and socialists who seek to undermine America’s greatness.
Hence, it is only to be expected that the ruling classes will seek to dismiss conspiracy theories and theorists because they are threats to their power, their authority, and their rule. It is then not at all surprising that the conspiratorial possibilities arising from the Epstein affair are, on the one hand, being ridiculed by establishment politicians and commentators while, on the other hand, Trump is promoting such theories. For how could an established political order hope to survive the charge that a former president engaged with a man involved in the sexual exploitation of “under aged women,” that is, children? Surely, such a charge, if substantiated, would go quite far in undermining the legitimacy of a political order that attracts and then rewards those who engage in pedophilia with its highest offices. Moreover, it is no more surprising that Trump, who claims to want to “drain the swamp” that is D.C., would seize upon the conspiratorial possibilities of the Epstein affair. And, as noted above, he wouldn’t be the first president to do so.
Conspiracy theories and theorists are often the butt of ridicule and in some instances such ridicule seems justified. But in other instances, conspiracy theories and theorists thrown light on the real character of our political order, a reality that is often disguised by those who control and profit from the established order. It seems prudent then to consider such theories and theorists with an open mind for by doing so we might learn something about our political situation.
Monday, August 5, 2019
What We Need
Unless we Americans can get beyond our delusions, we are screwed. Unless we can understand that our nation is anything but exceptional, that its most important issues have little to do with foreign enemies, that our nation was built on slavery and genocide, and was expanded via war and a religiously motivated imperialism, we are going to continue to experience domestic bloodshed and domestic violence on a grand scale. In light of Oklahoma City, Charleston, El Paso, Dayton, this is all that needs be said. These crimes are political crimes, not the result of mental illness, post-traumatic stress, or abuse.
Friday, August 2, 2019
Slavery, American Capitalism, and American Politics
I am reading a wonderfully illuminating book entitled The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist. Baptist’s argument is that slavery was an essential, even the core of the development of American capitalism and this is “the half [that] has never been told.”
Here I want to reproduce two passages because they illustrate how allegedly political “enemies,” Federalists and Republicans, collude even at the expense of justice and of basic human decency. And illustrations like this are important to see today when our “two” political parties may be accurately described as “indispensable enemies.” That is, indispensable for maintaining our Orwellian oligarchy.
“The interlinked expansion of both slavery and financial capitalism was now the driving force in an emerging national economic system that benefited elites and others up and down the Atlantic coast as well as throughout the back country. From Jefferson and Madison’s perspective, the soon-to-be states of the Mississippi Territory would yield votes in the Electoral College and Congress, votes to be used against the Federalists – and more than they would have gained by courting hard-core states’ rightists….The Republicans now formed a pro-finance, pro-expansion coalition that ingested many onetime Federalists and dominated US politics until, by the 1820s, it became a victim of its own success.” [pp. 33-34]
“Between the end of the American Revolution and the Fletcher v. Peck decision in 1810, slavery’s expansion linked the nation together. The needs of the nation encouraged the growth of a complex of institutions and patterns – and, just as significantly, excuses – that made national political and financial alliances possible. The needs of individual enslavers and others who hoped to profit from the expansion of all sorts of economic opportunities encouraged the growth of a more powerful set of national capabilities, more market-friendly laws, and more unified markets. The needs of national expansion, plus the ability of chained people to walk, trapped enslaved people as absolutely held property in the political compromises, political alliances, and financial schemes of the United States and in the very map of the young republic. Slavery, and specifically, the right of enslavers to sell and to move their slaves into new territory, became a national practice: as a strict definition of property under constitutional law, as habit and expectation, and as a pattern of political compromise.” [pp. 35-36]
Apparently Orwellian oligarchies are nothing new to American political scene.
“Trump’s” Racism: It Ain’t the Problem
The problem isn’t Trump’s racism. The issue is or should be understanding the white power as a movement based an ideology that consists of a coherent worldview of white supremacy and a forthcoming apocalypse. This kind of understanding has been undermined, subverted by the tendency, decidedly visible in the mainstream media and in our political discourse, to see events like Oklahoma City as isolated events committed by madmen or by forlorn, lost, or psychotic individuals. Tim McVeigh was deeply embedded in the white power movement and it seems quite implausible that he was, as he himself contended, acting alone with the help of two others who he forced to help him. And his behavior in this regard is consistent with the teachings of those who lead the white power movement.
Or consider the case of Dylan Roof, the young man who massacred nine black worshippers at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. He indicated his attachment to and to being influenced by the white power movement by his postings online which included a Rhodesian flag patch, referring to a cause that the Aryan Nations Congress had pushed in 1983. He also used a code for Heil Hitler, the number 88, that had been visible in the 1980s, along with his use of the Confederate flag that refers to white supremacy against what is called “multi-culturalism.” And, of course, thanks to the Internet, Roof could have been radicalized without ever attending an Aryan Nation Congress, e.g., any white power meeting, or even any other white power activist.
Throughout the 80s, the 90s, and even now, events that should be attributed to the white power movement are treated as isolated or aberrational events and not as the result of an ideology that many find legitimate, to say the least. As one commentator has put it: “White power should have been legible as a coherent social movement but was instead largely narrated and prosecuted as scattered actions and inexplicable lone wolf attacks motivated not by ideology but by madness or personal animus.” [Bring the War Home, Kathleen Belew, p. 237]
Treating the problem as if it is Trump’s racism that we need to be most concerned with, and thinking that removing his from office will accomplish something significant, is to repeat the myopic view that racism or white supremacy in the United States is a reflection of madness or personal idiosyncrasies. As despicable as Trump is, his racism is merely a reflection of his embrace of the white power movement and its ideology of white supremacy and the coming apocalypse. We can get rid of Trump, either by impeachment or voting him out, but that will not do much of anything to damage the white power movement. As Belew puts it so well: “Knowledge of the history of white power activism is integral to preventing future acts of violence and to providing vital context to current political developments. Indeed, to perceive the movement as a legitimate social force, and its ideologies as comprising a coherent worldview of white supremacy and imminent apocalypse – one with continued recruiting power – is to understand that colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a postracial society were never achieved. Violent, outright racism and anti-Semitism were live currents in these decades, waiting for the opportunity to resurface in overt form.” [Belew, p. 239]
Focusing on Trump and his racism blinds us to a more significant problem, viz., a political movement that embraces racism and religious fanaticism, that is, the white power movement. And it this movement that must be confronted politically, socially, and legally. To succumb to what some call “Trump hysteria” will, strangely enough, facilitate the success of the white power movement.