Sunday, July 09, 2006

Political Parallax Revisited

(Revised and expanded, July 11, 6:55 pm)
In my June 19 post, Been Right So Long (It Looks Like Left To Me), I began a discussion about the steady creep to the right that has been going on in the US, and the effect of Political Parallax that makes it hard to perceive that shift. I feel I got diverted by my desire to demonstrate that shift in some quantifiable way, and never really completed the theme I had set out. So, lets start out on a different tack and see where it takes us.

I think there has been an effort by the corporatist faction in America to consolidate power, which in its methods and objectives approaches an undeclared low-grade civil war. Whoa, hold on a minute, that's a little extreme!, you might well respond. And without the following information, I run the risk of coming off as a radical leftist nutter. Sherman, fire up the Wayback Machine.

Perhaps some of you have heard of the Business Plot, an attempt by the right wing in 1933 to overthrow the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The plot came unglued when it tried to recruit Major General Smedley D. Butler into its ranks, and he blew the whistle. Congress formed the McCormack-Dickstein committee to investigate.
In his testimony, Butler claimed that a group of several men had approached him as part of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a military coup. Gerald MacGuire vehemently denied any such plot. In their final report, the Congressional committee supported Butler's allegations on the existence of the plot, [2] but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.
Many records detailing these events have been destroyed, but it seems clear that in the depth of the great depression, "some American business leaders viewed fascism as a viable system to both preserve their interests and end the economic woes of the Depression." The matter was 'mostly forgotten', but details remaining are extremely alarming. Allegations of $30 Million in funding and a supposed private army of 500,000 men, the involvement of the duPont family, J. P. Morgan, Remington Arms, the Singer Sewing Machine fortune as named backers, for instance. This was not small potatoes. Suffice to say this is the most intriguing article I have yet read in Wikipedia, and is well worth a full reading.

Fast forward to 1940. Nazi Germany has absorbed Austria and the Sudetenland, and invaded Poland and France. Prominent Republicans such as Charles Lindberg support the Fuhrer, and American corporations cash in on neutrality while doing business with the Reich. The Republican campaign slogan that year; "A vote for Roosevelt is a vote for war." The Democratic response; "A vote for Wilkie is a vote for Hitler." Damn, the Dems still knew how to play hardball back then. For Prescott Bush's activities during WWII, click here.

It required the shock of Pearl Harbour to allow Roosevelt to overcome Republican opposition to American involvement in WWII, and we all know the result. It is in the aftermath of the Second World War that we see the next move from the corporatists, which may be the political play of the 20th century.

By far the worst play of WWII was when Hitler broke the nonagression pact he had with Josef Stalin. Forget what the movies and US-biased history books tell you, it was not the western alliance that broke Hitler's war machine, it was the Soviet Union. But here's the thing; Stalin, while a valiant ally in the war, stands out as one of history's biggest meanest bastards. Estimates of the number of Soviet citizens killed by Stalin range as high as 20 Million. Most died by starvation as the result of disastrous agricultural policies that removed subsistence farmers from their land in misguided collectivisation efforts. Many more died as a result of Stalin's extreme paranoia, taken out and shot or tortured to death in the infamous gulags. Stalin was evil.

And here's where we finally get back to the theme of political parallax and the best political play of the 20th century. Because in the post-war era, a great lie was sold to the American people, one I believe a vast majority of Americans still believe today. That lie was a great propaganda coup, providing the right wing with a magic hammer with which to beat its enemies mercilessly. That lie led to the cold war. That lie was that the evils of Stalin's Soviet Union were somehow the inevitable result of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Which anyone even passingly familiar with socialist doctrine can tell you is absurd.
A simple comparison that clarifies the effects of this great lie is this; The Red Scare was to post-war America as International Jewry was to Nazi Germany. The great threat that justifies all excesses. The great brush to paint all our enemies. The Red Scare.

This great lie also enabled another great lie, this one caught by Howard Zinn, and outlined in this April 2006 article in the Progressive Magazine;

"Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that--not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor--is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power...
...If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there--the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"--do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars."
So what did the corporatists gain from this? First, the military industrial complex grew unabated and exponentially despite the warning of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Second, advocates of social programs like public health care? - pinkos, that's right, pinkos painted pink by the great brush. Labour unions? - ditto, more pinkos. Thus, the McCarthy era, purging America of its 'Commie sympathizers.' In a nation that prided itself on the freedom its citizens had to advocate any political position, one entire end of the political spectrum had become off limits.

And the greatest of all benefits for the corporatist right was the wonderful ratchet effect that resulted, where political positions could only move to the right and never to the left, coming to a point in the 1980's when the very word 'liberal' came to be treated as if it were an obscenity. The 'L' word, ohmygawd! Olivia Ward did a piece on that subject in a recent Toronto Star, entitled, "How 'Liberalism' Became a Bad Word." I disagree with some of what she says (mostly in that she sees this as a very recent phenomenon, but it's an interesting read. This demonization of liberalism may be the second most effective political play of the 20th century.

The threat of communism, now labelled The Domino Theory, was a major factor in the justification (often after the fact, as the American public was not informed prior to many of the following 'foreign policy' initiatives) for;
>The overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, installation of Shah of Iran
>The ouster of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatamala, replaced by Gen. Castillo Armas
>The Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba
>The replacement of Chile's Salvador Allende by Augosto Pinochet
>US involvement in Vietnam
>The Iran/Contra affair in Nicaragua

I'm sure my readers will have more examples of American imperialism during the cold war, but this is a good start. Consider that Mossadegh, Arbenz, and Allende were all popular, democratically elected leaders, all replaced by the bloodiest of dictators. And though the Shah, Armas and Pinochet were guilty of the worst human rights violations, few people in the US condemn them because they were friendly to American business interests.

One indicator of how successful this campaign has been is how many Americans learn about Churchill's Iron Curtain speech, and how few learn of Vice President Henry Wallace's 1944 New York Times Article warning of the dangers of fascists within America. "The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

In the opening pages of Tom Clancy's Patriot Games the hero, Jack Ryan is visiting London. Unfamiliar with the English practice of driving on the left side of the road he checks to the left, where he expects traffic, then steps out onto the road and is nearly killed by a bus coming from the right. It seems to me a fitting image of what has happened to the US in the last 7 or 8 decades. While paranoically obsessing about a perceived threat from the left, America has left itself wide open for a takeover from the corporate right.