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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The American Way: Nixon's In China

Nixon/China
Drink up, you Commie.

"Only Nixon could go to China" was the line, as the old red-baiter himself traveled to the Far East and "opened up" China.

Similar, if unspoken, sentiments must be prevalent on Wall Street, as the ostensible emissary from our minority populations takes on the dismantling of Social Security.

Of course, what Nixon accomplished was more of a death blow to Communism than a thousand "domino-theory" Vietnams could ever be. Today the political philosophy in China is clearly a State Capitalism, with the vestigial slogans of Communist policy serving only as a logo of identity, like the Nike "swoosh."

It is rather instructive to note that the transition to Capitalism in the totalitarian state was not only swift and relatively turbulence-free, but also that China actually was able to model what our country is more subtly becoming without the messy transitions that have had to come to pass in our "democratic" society. The wedding of business and government has been more difficult here, but it is coming to resemble what China looks like. Another "democracy," Japan, got there decades ago.

It's a neoliberal world.
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I want to digress for a moment and put Cold War Communism into a little bit of perspective. The most potent objection to the Soviet Union, and to China and other countries that were moving towards communist governments was their commitment to migrating that system of government worldwide. It was thus easy to launch into the "Great Game" and turn the world into a Risk game-board, with our competing "sides" engaged in lethal and high-stakes gambits for control of the potential "satellite" countries. You're either with us or against us, the "running dog capitalists" vs. the Orwellian totalitarian regimes of the Communists.

It's important to note that it was image of the "totalitarian" nature of these countries that sold the Cold War to the common folk here in the West, the nuances of communist economics subsumed beneath and conflated with oppression. Not only were the unfortunate citizens of these countries "de-motivated" by "free" goods provided by "the state," but they were also told what to do and think and were marched into "re-education camps" (mental institutions and gulags) if they didn't agree with the program.

It's clear that there is/was a great deal of truth to this particular slant of propaganda, but I don't think it's fair to simply accept it without looking at the broader reasons that perhaps encouraged, or made necessary, the emergence of an iron fist in these countries. While we focus a great deal on the propaganda, let's not forget that the West had a far more potent weapon to undermine these nascent experiments in communism than propaganda or even military power. That weapon was Capitalism and its markets.

There was a reason why an early commitment to world hegemony was made in the Communist movement. Simply put - if there are countries that control resources and manufacturing under a Capitalist structure, those countries that are trying to do otherwise are nonetheless forced to "do business" with the profiteers, in matters of sheer survival. There is no way a country, or community, that is organized on a non-profit model can compete with and survive alongside profiteering neighbors. If the Capitalist neighbors, like the United States, were as friendly to freedom and diversity as they claim to be, then they would make certain indulgences that would permit the experiment to run its natural course. However, to the extent that they are permitted to survive, the people-friendly nature of the communist arrangement would eventually undermine and subsume those systems that drive wealth to an elite.*

Of course, the elite's "spidey-sense" is well-activated before such a thing can happen, so they are of course not to be "permitted to survive," and there you have the Cold War. They're committed, apparently, to undermine themselves in their own time - a fact that they seem to be singularly blind to until pitchforks have come out, but they get better and better at pushing that judgment into the future - and they don't need no stinking communists to help with the process.

(It's a neoliberal world.)

A miniature version of the Cold War could be seen in the '70's, when the off-grid commune movement was systematically demonized and disparaged in the U.S. media, no doubt assisted by a little COINTELPRO action from the government. We all know how bad communes were/are: Dirty, sexually profligate, child-neglecting and gypsy-thieving operations all. Yes, there were some that fell right into that narrative, but in all fairness - setting up a cooperative/commune in the United States, where one is absolutely surrounded by profit-incentivized commerce is a task that would have brought Don Quixote himself to guffaws.

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Back to Nixon in China, and Obama in the White House.

To say that the power structures in the United States are entrenched would be an understatement. Leaving aside the 35% contingent on the "patriotic" right who are content to say "yes, but they're our power structures," it's safe to say that this fact is at odds with what most people would consider America's "self-image." The canonical "self-image"** of America is that we, the People, are the primary movers in this blessed government. More and more of us as individuals don't believe this anymore, of course, but as a collective, we're still "exceptional."

And that is why Nixon continues to go to China. In our entrenched politics, direct, uncynical action is impossible. In Venezuela or Bolivia, one may get away with electing an indigenous person as national leader (and good on them) who hasn't made the back-deals necessary to ascend to power, but in the United States, these back-deals are done before campaigns are even unleashed. (Of course, in Latin America these brave folks but their very lives on the line in this uncynical brand of politicking, with not only the local greedheads but also the Great Greedhead of The North conspiring against them. But that only adds to the admiration.)

"Nixon goes to China" is, simply, what American politics is.

In Liberal America, Wake Up!, Max Eternity writes of Obama's betrayal, and notes that Maggie Thatcher did a similar disservice to a constituency that she should have represented.
Cutting Social Security is a very bad idea, and it's the last thing one would expect an African-American president to consider, let alone actually propose! Yet where no other white, Democrat president has ever dared to go, is exactly where President Obama now chooses to be in his open advocacy for Social Security cuts...

Sure there are racists who criticize Obama just for the sake of it, however... there is a lot of criticism Obama rightfully deserves. It is immature and ignorant to forego that and instead hold on to some romantic, idealized version of what Obama is about, so as not to face what "Obama has wrought," his becoming yet another minority celebrity in a growing list of African-American men and women who have betrayed the interests of minorities, a damned circle to which Harry Belafonte so rightly pointed out a decade ago Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell belong...

England has now laid its first female prime minister, the late "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, to rest. And now the world reflects on - and attempts to reconcile the memory of - a woman who did nothing for women, but plenty toward crushing the poor and working class while simultaneously ensuring more riches for the already wealthy. Obama has chosen this same path; using his seductive charm and power of persuasion to harm those he should be most committed to helping.
Maggie was Nixon, too.

The sad conclusion is that a sincere representative of the people would be, and most certainly is, quickly vetted out of the process so that only the disingenuous survive. Just as much of the anti-Communist chattering class muted themselves as Nixon dazzled the liberals by "opening up" China - because they knew in their hearts that he was "up to something," and he was, so is it that Barack Obama slipped with relative ease into the most powerful office in the country. He was "up to something," as well - it is the only explanation for his ongoing resume of actions that benefit the powerful and the wealthy at the expense (and how could it be otherwise) of the poor and the once-middle-class.

The Irony

There's an irony here, of course - it was the liberals who were convinced for years that it was they who had Trojan-Horsed "The Man" with an "articulate" minority who would play "eleven-dimensional chess" with the power elite.

Oh, what a chuckle they are having on Wall Street.
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*The totalitarian, centralized forms these governments were organically forced to adopt can be seen more as necessary "fronts" thrown up to negotiate with the capitalist systems of the rest of the world, rather than as a domestic political necessary to "pacify" a reluctant citizenry, which is the accepted narrative peddled here. The corruption of these centralized governments was the corruption brought by greed, by the corrosive effects of access to the money driven powers of the West. Hence, the spector of Kruschev being suckered into those "kitchen debates," where he was maneuvered into proclaiming that the Soviet system could satisfy consumerism just as ably as American-style capitalism. That sly bastard Nixon again.

**While the "self-image" of America is arguably a contentious concept in these economically-challenged and politically fractious times, my criteria for it would be the image that we dare tell our children. It's been awhile since I've been in an elementary school, but I'm pretty sure we're still speaking of ourselves in terms of liberation from colonial tyranny and as historically precocious bringers of civil freedoms to the world.

What we don't like to tell the children is that even as The Revolutionary War was being fought, much thought and effort was being put into play by the land-owners and the neo-aristocracy of American to ensure that democracy didn't get too far "out of hand." These "rebels" against the British were going to make damned sure that they would retain their privilege in the new, infant country. Much of what we are suffering today has a direct line to those early decisions, as did the problems of the Gilded Age and the murky history surrounding the Depression, Fascism, World War II, the New Deal and the McCarthy-ism that nurtured red-baiters like Nixon into political influence.

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