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A call for a new faction ... one which might very well do America proud
Students that are dazzled by Marx often don't get very far with their new calling when they hunker down to spreading discontent, insubordination, etc. in America. After preaching their new-found message to the masses most fervently, they first find many Americans nodding, which of course feeds their hopes for imminent revolution. So they keep pressing, subverting, exposing, until they are sure that the wicked capitalism which seems to be synonymous with the United States is about to fall! It's going down, baby!
Until they find that their "maximization of America's contradictions" had exactly the same effect as an old-style Geraldo talk show. Social nirvana for two weeks.
Why is it that a philosophy which many fine scholars have insisted represents the very quintessence of science always ends up being the Kato Kaelin of American political discourse or the Joey Buttafuco of it?
The answer is simple, and can be found in a highly complex text known as The Federalist, Issue X. In it, James Madison explains what a faction is, and the harm that an overbearing one can cause. Then he says that factions, though always potentially harmful, are easily checkmated in a system of liberty because such political freedom allows other factions to do battle with one that's becoming more and more of a threat. So it's only a matter of time before any potentially mighty faction will fall.
This is precisely what happened with the Stalinists. In the 1930s, many were preaching, and more than a few were subverting. One was Whittaker Chambers, who was part of a Soviet spy ring. He was the errand boy for a more direct spy by the name of Alger Hiss, a man of good breeding that came from a fine home. The kind of fine home that associates "common" with "criminal."
Chambers basically crawled away once he lost faith in Communism as an ideal. He knew very well that, when a faction is riding high, opening your voice against it will only get you singled out.
In fact, he knew it so well that he considered himself damned lucky that his literal pleading for a job was answered by Time magazine shortly after his defection.
It wasn't until the Stalinist faction was being slowly, but inexorably, brought to heel that Chambers decided that it was safe to open his mouth. Stalin's regime had gone from exotic foreign land to fair-weather-jilter to war ally as of December 1941; this probably made Chambers' mouth clap shut even more. As of 1947, though, it was becoming apparent that the Soviet Union was not really America's friend and partner in the quest for a more progressive future but a slowly growing enemy of the West. This became apparent when the government of East Germany a Soviet ally - began blocking the (other) Allies' ground transportation routes to West Berlin, a show of unfriendliness which looked suspiciously like breaking one's word to a recent war partner.
Truman's administration successfully parried that blow with a Napoleonic maneuver the Berlin Airlift but it also noted, quietly but definitively, that the bear with what appeared to be a playful smile was actually signaling an aggressive challenge. It wasn't long before a new consensus began spreading that the Stalinists were no longer cute and exotic anymore.
George Kennan spearheaded this at the theoretical level with his famous "containment" article, which was soon adopted as administration policy. Let the bear feast in his own turf, as defined by the post-World-War-2 divvy-up, but don't let him feast on yours. This was generally taken as a compromise at the time, but even compromises have losers: this one's was the "Uncle Joe Is A Good Man To Know" clique. Also losing out were the one-worlders who hadn't already abandoned their dream in exchange for complaining about "preferential treatment for veterans" in the loan market.
It looked like American Stalinism was going to meet the same fate as an earlier flirtation with Mussolini worship, which Stalinolatry had basically replaced. After having the run of the best-seller list, it looked very much like the Stalin fad would sink to the dust-covered shelves of the library, the ones browsed only by frightened-looking scholars.
Right after "Communism's Last Stand" in 1948. A faction which is on that downward slide tends to not take such a lowering lying down, and the Stalinists were true to form in this regard. Deciding that it was time for Roosevelt's successor to meet a type of candidate of the same mettle as an earlier Roosevelt, the Progressive party quickly formed, and nominated Henry Wallace to carry the "somewhat assertive but basically friendly Soviet bear" standard. Many a one-worlder and many a socialist rallied to the Progressives, and its slogan of the twentieth century being that period of history born and raised for the common man.
It was at this point that other factions began picking at what could loosely be described as the "social democracy" one. The remaining Menckenite conservatives took Wallace's pro-common-man stand as an opportunity to brush off their old, pre-Mussolini, wit, and indulge in some jokes at the Wallaceites' expense. One of them was a young World War II veteran named William F. Buckley, who decided to carry a sign to a Wallace rally proclaiming "Give The Atom Bomb To The Russians!"
As of pre-November 1948, such a dally was only a prank, whose purpose was to make the one-worlders look like squishy-faced wimps. The government investigations that are always part of any retooling on the world stage were, as usual, being conducted out of the ken of the public; Parnell Thomas' decision in April 1947 to begin examining suspected "fifth columnists" for possible subversion had not really caught the public's imagination. Nor, I should add, Buckley's, either.
It was at this point that Whittaker Chambers decided it was safe for him to step forward, and to testify against his old deliverer and "cross-class chum" Alger Hiss. This too passed out of the national spotlight: it wasn't until Chambers had repeated his charge that Hiss was a Communist over the public airwaves instead of on the Congressional witness stand an accusation which successfully provoked a slander suit from a newly-class-conscious Hiss, and led to Chambers introducing the now-famous "pumpkin papers" into evidence - that the New York Times decided that there was something printable about this seemingly newsless case. A write-up published on December 12, 1948 suggested, though, that this new sensation was little more than a curiosity; the tone of the article shows it.
This was where the Stalinist subversion issue stood as of the end of 1948: a basically routine spy sweep to look for friends of a foreign nation that seemed to be fast becoming a new enemy. Had it been confined to this, chances are that the fate of the Stalinist faction would have been akin to the libertarian faction: basically laughed down to a few true believers, ones easily stigmatized as "cranks," and then slowly coming back into the semi-mainstream through the efforts of those believers and other characters of the happy-few type. From the standpoint of the public, the anti-Communist sweeps were too low a flyer to merit a blip on the political radar screen as of the end of '48; Wallace's defeat, and Truman's victory, meant the end of the trend. Most of the ones caught up in it were just there because they were broke, most probably, or had gone Communist about the time when the U.S.S.R. was sort-of on our side. No need to worry, really; the recent defeats were alarm bell enough for those types, and government investigators would deal with the ones who needed a different kind of dinger. The scenes of this issue were basically played out underneath the stage, with only the occasional bit player surfacing from the stage floor, briefly.
This is where the issue stayed until this new underground stream burst out into the newspapers the following year. The Soviets, despite the predictions of the best experts which had all insisted that the atom bomb would not be deployable by the U.S.S.R until 1955 at the earliest, had exploded one successfully in 1949. The public began seriously wondering how.
The real reasons are still being debated today, making "the truth" of this issue more of a litmus test for the beliefs of the expounder. But the American public soon found "reason enough" when the more casual reader of the newspapers was buttonholed by evidence gathered by the more thorough. The government of the United States, it became evident to the common-sensical, had been seriously compromised in the area of security by a foreign power that was becoming increasingly hostile.
That made the Hiss Case "suddenly" fit to print. The drama involving an "idealistic" young Establishment lawyer befriending, or falling in with, a genuinely dedicated "old-boy" Communist one who converted right around the time of the market crash of 1929 became compelling. Especially for the less-than-genteel sector of the free press, who began to see more than a hint of "the boss's son" in Hiss the kind of son that was supposed to make more of himself than a mere "common criminal."
It must have been a bit of a shock for the Posh Hills country club set to see one of their own take that all-too-familiar two-word phrase a little more literally than most, but that didn't stop them from closing ranks with each other to assert a kind of class interest that is characteristically their own. Hiss might have "fallen down" a wee teensy bit, but he was still One of Them!
So out came the worthies, from Eleanor Roosevelt on down.
Which awoke a name who used to be one of her husband's own. Joe McCarthy was the Senator who had successfully been elected to the seat of Robert LaFollette, and as such had to have more than a trace of liberal in him. Had he not been awakened by what was largely the class-conflict side of the issue, he probably would have been held up as a fine example of the "new modern liberal Republican."
But destiny called, and he was soon at the head of a faction which been almost non-existent in 1945: the anti-Communist faction. He began a four-year, publicity-drenched campaign to hunt out Communist subversives in the United States government, which quickly spilled over into "society." The Battle of the Factions was on; those who had had nothing but dislike for Communism and/or Communists now had their champion, and a real political momentum which always feeds a growing faction. In 1950, they not only had the U.S.S.R's flouting of the United Nations as a mediating body for the Korean conflict, but they also had in their hand the exposure of "the atomic spies" Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, arrested for espionage relating to the A-bomb. 1951 added to this by the judge presiding over their trial blaming the Rosenbergs explicitly for making the Soviets far more aggressive on the world stage than they would have been had the A-bomb blueprints not been sent to them.
One of those who fell in quickly with the McCarthyite ranks was that same William F. Buckley. His first book, God and Man At Yale, had resulted in him being pasted by the finer set in a manner similar to that faced by both Chambers and McCarthy, and he had also spawned imitators. His next book was a defense of McCarthy from the outside, unlike another rich Irish family who was giving old Joe a little help from the inside the Kennedys. Bobby was one of McCarthy's staffers.
But if the moralities were stern and the cause was just, then why did McCarthy crash and burn? And come to think of it, why was he, and his enemies, so hard to peg as either "bourgeois" or "proletarian?"
Because of something the Founders knew, which every American Marxist has un-learned: America is a multi-factional society. What is known by the Marxist as "capital" and "labour" is seen by the average American as only two of many factions.
Such as the two others which McCarthy tackled: the university faction...and the armed forces. McCarthy's accusations against General George Marshall was the beginning of the shift in public perception of him from crusader to demagogue. Murrow's frappe de grâce would have fired a blank had McCarthy not pre-supplied the bullets by his own blundering.
This was how the most dangerous faction ever to hit America was successfully brought to heel, along with its extinguisher too - much like Oswald's assassination of Kennedy followed by Ruby's shooting of Oswald at the end of 1963. Somewhat weirdly, the next attempt at mass subversion during the Vietnam War saw the "Hate America First" faction using an anti-armed-forces strategy themselves, with the place of Marshall being taken by Robert McNamara.
The United States has been able to win a series of quick wars ever since the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, and has indeed been the victor of the Cold War for approximately twelve long years. Long enough for the internationalist aginners to be looked at as ineffectual idealists again.
Until recently. When the anti-war machine got up and running, the same old fears concerning foreign subversion got up and running because the presently-being-wound-up war was a telegraphed response to the destruction of the World Trade Center in the public mind. This made the peace types look less like pro-Communists in the public mind and more like pro-Nazis.
The obvious anti-Semitism among some of Saddam Hussein's faithful allies merely emphasized the point that the present anti-war faction cheered for a side that had launched an aggressive attack on the scale of Pearl Harbor. The objection that Iraq isn't the same as al-Qai'da sounds almost as obfuscatory as a 1942 protest that the Nazis were only dragged into enemyship with the United States as a result of an imprudent alliance with a completely different nation, the Empire of Japan.
Politics tends to work with taboos. Despite the relative ineffectualism of the stop-any-war faction at this point in time, the perceived threat they pose is now seen as worse than at the high point of Communist infiltration simply because the peacies stomped on the we-must-defend-American-soil-at-any-cost taboo. The best they can hope for, it looks like, is to be cast in the role of Blubber the Wonder Mouth, as Michael Moore was at the recent Academy Awards.
I happen to feel a sort of filial affection for this crowd, to the point of offering some faux-grandfatherly advice to them: If you want your teeth to stay intact, dear lad [sayeth this wise old 33-years-of-age slacker], you have to get less gallantish and more cagey. Here's how you do it:
It's obvious that the pose of "the higher loyalty" is wonderful for getting the attention of the American public, especially when it looks as if you've become a sort of permanent advocacy group for whatever world power, great or small, single-nation or collection of them, happens to be hostile to "America." I know that some of you suspect that you're being used by such hostile powers, or are stigmatized as "Yankee as*****s" Wilsonians in lotus-eater form but nevertheless accept is as the burden of carrying the standard of peace...that Old Glory of yours, the nuclear disarmament sign, known to the less initiated as the "peace sign."
I also know that you have to be sticklers in the area of principle, and I even know how it's enforced. You don't want those lounge-lizard types successfully arguing in the singles bars that you guys are nothing more than a bunch of skirt-chasers with a pose, now do you? That, most probably, is what got a few of you older ones beaten up, isn't it?
I do feel an affection for you guys; the sight of the younger ones being beaten up après-guerre would cause me real pain. And slipping from your standard would probably make you look weak thus inviting a real crusade against all of you.
It seems time for you guys to live in the catacombs, and I have the perfect way. Not only does it square with your traditions, but it also carries a real risk (for the sake of principle) combined with an avoidance of the taboo-stomp which your present course seems to have led to. Here it is:
The peace sign was designed by none other than the Third Earl of Russell. The job of an Earl is to be a representative of the British Sovereign presently Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This is the head of the same State that was America's staunchest ally in the current conflict.
I remember, as do you, how central Anglophilia was to the forging of the peace faction. This is part of your roots, a legitimate and unquestionable part of them. Why not go back to this?
If you're worried about losing your force as a goad, there's no need to be: the position I'm about to suggest for you is sufficiently counter-cultural for you to garner the press attention you most definitely need.
There is a way for different ethnic groups and classes to live peaceably with one another, one that has been proven to work most of the time throughout history. That means of promoting the peace is monarchy.
What's wrong with making universal peace part and parcel of a political institution that has been proven to work almost continuously for the Nation that's the "Mother of Parliaments," Great Britain? If it can be done for Communism, then surely it would be not much of a stretch to do so for monarchism, now would it?
Best of all a good and enlightened Sovereign would not only not interfere with a sub-institution featuring goods and property held in common, He or She would probably go out of His or Her way to protect it! (Never mind the terminology usually used; it'll be as easy to master as those in the Marxist lexicon.
(It'll be educational too. Good for you.)
© 2003. Daniel Ryan.
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