this is part three in a series of columns I wrote for Street Roots in ’99/2000
During the Cold War, when American military aid was used to overthrow democratically elected governments, anyone who opposed this “patriotic” nonsense – either in the foreign nations or here in the US – was labeled as a “communist.”
In the 1950s, this label was certain to carry with it social retribution. People’s careers were destroyed, often forcing the targeted persons and their families to relocate to distant places and take up a new identity. Many, however, chose the suicide option. Most people these days are at least nominally familiar with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and its infamous leaders – Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, who would dominate American politics for much of the rest of the 20th Century.
Reagan, an untalented actor who sat out WWII due to his increasing admiration for fascism, strong-armed his way into the presidency of the Screen Actor’s Guild, then immediately set about attacking anyone who defied his leadership, and in the process was able to exert an incredible influence upon Hollywood. For instance, in the 1950s, portrayals of German soldiers and leaders in WWII movies usually focused on their gallantry and patriotism, and rarely showed them as anything other than vicious military opponents. This changed drastically toward the end of the ’60s, when both Nixon’s and Reagan’s influence briefly faded.
In mentioning the names of Reagan and Nixon, it should be understood by the reader that they were merely front men of a political movement. This political movement is today still a behind-the-scenes power and with a few exceptions, its power has largely gone unchallenged. Some of them – Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfled in particular – held various positions within the Nixon, Reagan, and Bushs’ administrations.
In his farewell address as President, Dwight Eisenhower described this economic and political juggernaut as a “military/industrial complex (M/IC),” and warned of its threat to America’s so-called democratic society. It was already too late.
The M/IC’s frontman Nixon, who – despite being Eisenhower’s Vice-President – was reviled and marginalized by the administration. Still, he was next in line to become President after the Republican Party forced him onto the ticket. Eisenhower refused to endorse Nixon when his VP ran for President in 1960.
The Democrats, who in those days were an opposition party rather than mere competitors for control of the M/IC, nominated the youthful John Kennedy, who was seen as an outsider and a liberal (“liberal” societies allow things like free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, the right to vote for a candidate of one’s choice, and worker’s rights – rights reserved for the wealthy and privileged before the era of nation/states, and tightly controlled under fascist regimes and other dictatorships).
Kennedy was seen as someone who could heal the rifts which had opened a lot of people’s eyes about the oppression of the poor and minorities in this country, and lead America into a new era of prosperity and peace for all of its citizens.
The leaders of the M/IC found this unacceptable. American workers, they discovered, weren’t pacified by the high wages paid them in the hopes that they would become grateful, loyal employees. Instead, the working class developed a sense of rising expectations, and wanted more say in the conditions at their workplaces, increases in non-wage benefits, and more influence in politics. The US working class had to be taken down.
This fit in perfectly with the ruling class’s plans.
The high standard of living for the typical American worker served to create unrealistic expectations in the minds of workers in developing countries. Before long, factory workers all over the world would be demanding such luxuries as running water and electricity in their homes, and education for their children. In the political climate of the early ’60s, the rising expectations of the US working class was given voice on college campuses, as more families than ever could afford to send their children to college. Something had to be done to keep the militant forces of liberal Democracy in the US from taking control of the world’s dominant economy and interfering with the elite’s plans for the creation of a New World Order that would solidify and make permanent the grasp on power European/American ruling classes were afraid of losing.
This meant war.
The M/IC enlisted the aid of reactionary conservatives throughout the country, particularly in law enforcement agencies, in order to contain the Civil Rights and other liberal social movements. Not to mention the more militant, liberatory ones.
Between 1964 and 1968, there were at least 200 major violent confrontations between Black people in the inner cities of the U.S. and the forces of order and power. At least 1900 died in these clashes, and over 8000 were injured. Thousands more were put in prisons and jails. Add to this the growing opposition to the war in Vietnam, and the US seemed to be in danger of erupting into civil war. The situation was so grim that power-mad President Lyndon Johnson would not run for re-election, having been dismayed by the turmoil in American society he had done so much to create. During his tenure as Vice-President and President, the U.S. had experienced its greatest amount of assassinations of social and political leaders ever – including his predecessor President Kennedy, MLK Jr., Malcom X, Robert Kennedy – all seen as liberal reformers and civil rights champions, it’s worth noting.
Who would step up as the strong leader who would re-unite the U.S. and make it great again? The choice American voters faced in the ’68 election was between Hubert Humphrey (who defiantly defended the Chicago police’s ruthless attacks upon demonstrators and the media during the Democratic National Convention, where he was given the party’s Presidential nomination. This position was not shared by many of the convention’s delegates, who were beaten and tear-gassed as they attempted to enter the convention site), the alternative choice offered was Richard Nixon, the rabid anti-Communist thug from the ’50s, back from the political grave now that his main adversaries – the Kennedys – were at rest in their real, actual graves. Either way, the US would have the right man in office. Someone who would not only unleash a bloodbath abroad in order to protect M/IC and IMF/WB interests, but would also begin the process of taking down the American working class, along with the country’s industrial might. US citizens had proven too uncontrollable to trust with the highest level of industrialization on Earth. They had to be punished, as well as removed from direct access to the means of production, or the New World Order would never arise.
Nixon was the M/IC fascist dream-come-true. Under his administration, both covert and open warfare was carried out against just about everyone with liberal views. Not only in the US, but everywhere. Democratic, post-colonial governments in Africa, Latin America, and Asia were overthrown in bloody coups, their populations terrorized. All with American military aid and IMF/WB money. The US itself seemed to be preparing for revolution after President Nixon announced he had instigated the invasion of the S.E. Asian nation of Cambodia – a peaceful, prosperous U.S. ally – on April 30, 1970. Within days, hundreds of thousands of students on close to 80% of all American college campuses were launching anti-war protests against this highly illegal act of international aggression. During May, over 100 activists and protesters were killed by police or National Guard forces. All this in addition to the war against the Black Panther Party, which had seen over 100 of its members killed, and hundreds more arrested during Nixon’s first year in office. Many US inner cities and college campuses were under periodic military occupation.
Clearly, the forces of order and power were in danger of losing their control of America. Under Nixon’s reign, the consolidation of wealth, the unleashing of corporate political power and assets, the suppression of the free press and independent media, and the use of federal agencies and local sheriffs departments as secret political police had begun in earnest.
Nixon, however, failed to achieve all he could have, and set back plans for America’s role in the NWO, due to his (as with the original fascist generation of leaders) over-zealousness. He was forced to resign in disgrace after he and the Republican party were discovered to have rigged the ’72 presidential election to ensure Nixon’s re-election.
The later administration of James Earl Carter is vilified by Republicans for “letting the cat out of the bag” by telling the public they could no longer expect their accustomed standard of living. This was true, and everyone with an understanding of economics and global politics knew it. It was easier for many Americans to believe the lie, though. The lie that America could return to its “golden age” of post-WWII prosperity, when it dominated the world’s economy and defined the world’s development for a generation. Carter’s realistic message had offended public sensibilities and frightened the ruling class, who feared the unruly American citizenry would wise up and seize control of their economy.
What was needed to get things back on-course was a complete puppet, someone not only ruthless in his exercise of authority, but also too dim-witted to be able to use the Presidency for his own advantage.
Once again digging into their past era of greatness, the forces of order and power dredged up the dottering remains of Ronald Reagan. Once again, the message was how the strong leader would make the nation great again – the ever-repeated fascist promise. This was served up to a public confused and frightened by a generation of political chaos and economic uncertainty.
With Reagan’s election, America’s fate was sealed.
Recommended reading for more background on this era:
Agents of Repression, by Jim Vanderwall and Ward Churchill
Year 501: the Conquest Continues, by Noam Chomsky
The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many, also by Noam Chomsky
The Imagination of the New Left, by George Kastiaficas
The Beast Re-Awakens, by Martin Lee