Historic roots of far Right threat to U.S.

From the new September-October 2012 issue of News & Letters:

From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya

Historic roots of far Right threat to U.S.

Editor’s Note: Originally the lead article in the June-July 1964 issue of News & Letters, this article analyzed trends and events of retrogression and the resistance to it that are still remarkably current in today’s Tea Party-infested USA. Footnotes are added by the editors.

* * *

The easy victory of Barry Goldwater as Republican presidential candidate is more–a great deal more–than a defeat of the alleged Republican “moderate mainstream.” The illogic of the extremism of the Far Right is the logical end to “traditional” conservatism. It is the cancer of a new form of fascism attacking the lifeblood of thriving American capitalism.

1964 protester
A protester arrested during a 1964 civil rights action in Brooklyn, New York.

BELATEDNESS OF “STOP GOLDWATER” DRIVE

The belatedness of the start of any “stop Goldwater” drive not only was no accident, but it would never have started at all if it weren’t for the outcry abroad at Goldwater’s Republican primary victory in California. The indecision of General Dwight Eisenhower was an indication of how deeply inbred in the Republican Party is the Far Right. But it wasn’t only that phenomenon which kept the Republican officeholders, who did fear loss of local elections in the industrial states of the North if Goldwater turned out to be the Republican presidential nominee, from starting a “stop Goldwater” drive.

The truth is that not only Republican officeholders, Far Right or moderate, but also “independent” Democratic journalistic pundits had, up to the outcry abroad, actually urged that it is time to give the conservative wing of the Republican Party its “chance at the polls,” as if a general election in the mightiest empire is no more than a game to show “democracy” at work.

None of Goldwater’s reactionary stands frightened them: after all, in 1952, “Mr. Republican,” Robert Taft, had lost the Republican nomination, not because he had authored the anti-Labor Taft-Hartley Act, but only because General Eisenhower could be a “winner.” But, this time, once the foreign press shrieked in horror, the pundits here suddenly “discovered” that the presidency of a country that could set off a nuclear holocaust wasn’t something to be traded back and forth between “liberals” and conservatives. And it was first then also that they discovered that Senator Goldwater wasn’t just “lending respectability to extremists”; Goldwater himself was the extremist.

THE BIRCHERS AND “THE MODERATES”

The height of immorality, however, was manifested among the so-called “moderate mainstream.” From George Romney to Henry Cabot Lodge, and from William Scranton to Eisenhower’s brother, [1] the predominant voice was: “Let’s get a progressive program” so that we can say, the minute we capitulate to Goldwater, that he is running on “our program” and can be trusted to execute the Civil Rights Bill, [2] though he opposed it. In this respect at least, Goldwater and his Birchite supporters [3] stuck to their “principles,” whether that was the claim of unconstitutionality of the Civil Rights Bill, the open shop [4] principle, or the “defoliation” of South Vietnam’s jungle by “a little bomb.” [5] All we have to remember is that it is precisely such reactionary stands that laid the basis for the Civil War, which was initiated by the South.

The loss of votes in November at the polls won’t be half as important to Goldwater as the retention of the tight, disciplined Birchite organization which won him the Republican Party machine, and stands ready to become the polarizing force for all Far Right groups, including that of the Southern racists and actual Nazis who opposed Goldwater because he is, partly, Jewish. Herein lies the greatest danger of all; the symbolism of Goldwater for all the Far Right, from the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party, the many lawless organizations thriving in the South as well as the young fanatics in the North who are so brainwashed in our colleges that they take, at face value, the “principles” of “rugged individualism,” “states’ rights,” “private initiative vs. Federal bureaucracy,” and opposition to “a soft on Communism policy” though it would end in nuclear holocaust.

This Goldwater symbolism, this organizational ability of the Birchers to become a polarizing force for the neo-fascist elements just below the surface can lead to nothing short of civil war in the U.S. and all-out war abroad for conquest of the world.

McCARTHYISM AND GOLDWATERISM

Anyone who dares call this “the American way” must be made to face the new barbarism which puts McCarthyism in the shade. Even at his heyday that demagogue, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who wreaked so much havoc in our lives, was a man without an organization. His fighting of “the soft on Communism” policy was concentrated on individuals–in the State Department as in the entertainment world, it is true; in the Defense Department as in academic institutions–but nowhere did that demagogue take on a whole race.

Here, on the other hand, we have an organization, the Birchers, infiltrating the Republican and Democratic Parties, attracting all other Far Rightists, from the KKK to the insignificant American Nazis, bringing the full weight of the Southern totalitarian states to bear upon the Negroes who number no less than one-tenth of the population–at the very moment when the Negro Revolution has shown it means not to be stopped though capitalism is on the rampage, and the Southern face of this Far Right is running completely amok in the magnolia jungle of Mississippi. Moreover, the new form of fascism is not satisfied to stay South but is invading the North both with racism and openshopism, not to mention war jingoism.

THE ELECTION AND NEW FORMS OF REACTION

It is true that Goldwater’s open anti-labor stand has, judging by the conversations in the shop, finally awakened white labor, even where it too is racist, to the dangers of Goldwaterism, or the attempt to revert to the open shop. But there is no point whatever in lulling ourselves to sleep with the complacent statement that Goldwater cannot win the election. After all, runs that argument, he is minority even within his own Republican Party, and when the electorate has expressed itself, Goldwater will be just another also-ran who will soon be forgotten.

Will he? It is true that he is making it easy for that conservative Texan now occupying the White House and playing the role of liberal poor country boy to get straight back into the White House. But Lyndon Johnson’s election will not basically change the objective situation of capitalism on the rampage any more than Senator Everett Dirksen’s “fight” for the Civil Rights Bill changed his vote for Goldwater.

The cancer of reaction is already in the bloodstream of American capitalism. It has been there for a long, long time. It will not disappear with the defeat of that most reactionary capitalist representative, Goldwater.

FEARS OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

The point is that American capitalism, though its profits have never been higher, is on the rampage. The point is that, although the middle class has not suffered the economic rout they experienced during the Depression, it too, is suffering from having won the war but not seeing the spoils of victory. It is full of fear–fear Automation will next rid itself of the middleman as it already is depopulating the factories; fear that it will be “outvoted” in the UN by all the “underdeveloped” countries “it” is supporting; fear its favored place in white Protestant America is being undermined by the Negro Revolution, the Jew, the Catholic, the “foreigner”; fear that the Russian ICBM’s have scored a nuclear stalemate; fear that the Chinese guerrilla victories would extend themselves throughout Southeast Asia, and perhaps also in Africa and Latin America; fear that “one man, one vote” might lead to it no longer being the majority in legislative halls of these United States of America.

“Affluent” America is being swept up by the whirlwind of a revolution left unfinished for 100 years. The Negro Question, which has always been the key to U.S. image and development, has torn the facade of democracy to shreds. There is, indeed, no need to travel behind the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain to see totalitarianism at work; all that is needed is to go down to Mississippi.

As a world phenomenon, the new, prosperous neo-fascistic face of capitalism appeared when prosperous automated capitalism and the OAS brought Charles de Gaulle to power in France in 1958. [6] But at least de Gaulle, before going glory-hunting to more spacious fields than Algiers (such as challenging U.S. political and atomic “leadership” of Europe) did end the war in Algeria. The American Republican phenomenon wants to begin with an atomic adventure–and not tomorrow, but today, anywhere at all, preferably the “foliage” of South Vietnam. Goldwater is a great deal more moronic than de Gaulle, and his power would be so much vaster and terrifying that he could, with his trigger-happy finger on the nuclear “button,” unleash a nuclear holocaust without waiting for a tomorrow.

There is no point to consoling ourselves with a very probable Goldwater defeat at the polls. A defeat at the polls will not rid us of the organization–the Birchers–that made it possible for him to “capture” the Republican Party, and is already bracing itself for other battles. Just as the Dixiecrats in the Democratic Party continue to arm themselves, with or without Federal aid, to fight the unarmed Freedom Fighters, [7] so the Birchites in the North become the polarizing force for reaction. The significance of the Goldwater phenomenon will outlast the November election.

PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM NEEDED

Self-activity of the masses can overcome this reaction, after as before the election. The Negroes have no intention whatever to continue the horrible co-existence with the George Wallaces and Ross Barnetts–or Goldwaters. But it is also true that unless there is unity of the movement to freedom with the philosophy of freedom, the forces for world war will swallow up everything. A Goldwater hand on the atomic trigger, even if it is only his wish thus far, is too close for comfort.

The capitalists have always been militantly class-conscious, have always known how to divide and rule, and are now growing so impatient for world domination that they are ready to do business with the new Hitlers. Appearances change. Quiet Goldwater types replace the ranting maniacs. But quiet or otherwise, new appearance changes nothing in the content. We must remember that automated prosperity will always have unemployment as a concomitant and war as the only alternative. The one thing that is new is that state-capitalism has become so degenerate that it turns to “extremes” even though there is no economic depression for it.

The spectacle of Walter Reuther and Henry Ford II sharing seats of honor at the $1,000-a-plate dinner for President L.B. Johnson is a forerunner of the type of election campaign the labor bureaucracy intends to conduct this year. Once again labor will be chained to one of the capitalist parties; the civil rights organizations will do the same. Yet it is clear to all that an integrated society cannot be achieved under capitalism. All that will happen will be that the long, hot summer will extend itself into the cold, hard winter; the terror in Mississippi spread itself North, unless the freedom forces face with sober senses not only their continued struggles to realize freedom, but the unfolding of comprehensive philosophy for the reconstruction of society on totally new beginnings.

____________

Notes:

1. These Republican politicians were allied with the Critical Issues Council set up by former President Dwight Eisenhower and chaired by his brother Milton. The 1964 Republican convention rejected their proposals to denounce the John Birch Society and to support the Civil Rights Bill.

2. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed shortly after this article was written. Goldwater voted against it, claiming that it violated “individual liberty” and “states’ rights”–a position echoed by Ron Paul today.

3. The extremist Right-wing John Birch Society, still active today, claimed that labor unions, the civil rights movement and Medicare were Communist conspiracies. One of its founders was the father of the billionaire Koch brothers.

4. In an open shop, workers do not have to join a union that represents them. This year, 20 states passed or proposed right-to-work laws that outlaw closed shops.

5. Goldwater advocated “defoliation of the forests by low-yield atomic weapons” in the Vietnam War.

6. The same current of French officers, former officers, paramilitaries and Algerian colonizers who brought de Gaulle to power through a 1958 coup formed the OAS (“Organization of the Secret Army”) to stop Algerian independence through another coup attempt, bombings and assassinations.

7. “Freedom Fighters” refers to the Black-led freedom struggles also known as the civil rights movement.

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