Just A Shot courtesy of Cat Reyto, Toronto
ON NOVEMBER 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States in what is being referred to as an “Electoral College landslide.” What does Barack Obama stand for? Prior to speaking in Berlin, Germany on July 24, 2008, Obama had declared, “I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century.” Then, in Berlin, he presented himself as a “citizen of the world.” What is the connection between Obama’s self-promotion as future world leader and world citizen?
To assist readers to understand what U.S. President-elect Obama stands for, we are posting below a paper titled An Obama Presidency and the Battle of Democracy. The paper deals with Obama’s speech, A World that Stands As One, delivered in Berlin before 200,000 people. The paper was presented to the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) held in Ottawa in August 2008.
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IN THIS POsT-COLD WAR PERIOD, amid the growing all-around crisis of the world dominated by the owners of finance capital, a profound crisis of values has set in. The monopolies and oligopolies through governments under their control are unable to claim legitimacy for their rule and credibility for their plans. A vast discontent grips the world. An increasing multitude engages in acts of conviction, revealing a broad demand for an alternative to what’s inhuman and what’s against conscience. Obama’s A World that Stands as One speech was delivered as a prayer of hope that this crisis can be transcended. This transcendence can only succeed, according to Obama, if the world’s people accede to a world defined by “a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.” These ideals are promoted as if independent of the actual historical situation that gives rise to the acts of conviction in the first place. These ideals are put forward as if universal and not the anti-human outlook of a narrow group of individuals wedded to a status quo in crisis. These ideals are in defense of the “wealth that open markets have created…. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet.”
On the one hand, the world exists as the great complexity of the whole of natural and human history. Neither society nor nature can be transcended; this is all that exists. And yet Obama’s and other’s arguments for American ideals independent of time and space and historical experience are calls for transcendence, for something coming from beyond nature and society. They are actually ploys for blocking insight into worldwide crisis and making plans and formulating aims on how to transcend the limits placed on resolving the crisis. A clash between the modern productive forces and capitalist social relations of production underlies the crisis facing all nations and peoples at this time, with nature and society at threat. On the other hand are the stands of the world’s peoples and their acts of conviction. These stands and acts are rooted in the interests, reasons and passions of people trying to sort out the problems. In order to do this, all peoples and nations need to bring forward their own thinking in light of the achievements and developments of world thought. World thought must be of such a calibre that it can provide guidelines to action in dealing with worldwide crisis as it is expressed in the multitude of struggles of the working class, peoples and nations for emancipation and independence. Today, world thought itself faces crisis as it is blocked from bringing forward the conceptions and definitions consistent with what is required to open society’s path to progress, not in small part by the ideals that Obama and others promote, which serve in fact as a cover up for the war aims of the imperialists.
A central issue concerns the battle of democracy, which is at the heart of sorting out these questions. This battle faces at this time its own crisis. Can a modern definition of democracy be argued out in order to sort out these stands and interests in conflict? The notion of American ideals as put forward by Obama is in opposition to what natural and human history are revealing and also to negate the stands and interests of the peoples of the world in the battle of democracy.
Importantly, these ideals are also advanced amid a heated debate within the U.S. establishment dealing with the decline of U.S. preponderance and their hegemonic position. On the one hand, arguments are advanced concerning American ideals, such as the following by Condoleeza Rice, “As in the past, our policy has been sustained not just by our strength but also by our values.” Furthermore, “an international order that reflects our values is the best guarantee of our enduring national interest, and America continues to have a unique opportunity to shape this outcome. Indeed, we already see glimpses of this better world… Shaping that world will be the work of a generation, but we have done such work before.” On the other hand, in Berlin, Obama, argued that “In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. People of Berlin — and people of the world — the scale of our challenge is great. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.” At the heart of the debate on all sides is that the only way to stave off eventual decline is by striving for world domination. In order for this to take place the world must be remade in the image projected by the U.S. military and bureaucratic machinery, either unilaterally or multilaterally. In any case, Anglo-American ideals are at the heart of their drive for domination.
And here lies a problem for Obama and others who advance similar arguments. All people do not share these ideals. In the period following the end of the bipolar division of the world and the Cold War, marked by the demise of the Soviet state system, there are no recognized and established values of legitimacy accepted internationally, while the international standard of human rights is impugned by the great powers that have usurped power by force. Nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War, disequilibrium, anarchy and violence grow. Every historical achievement, both in theory or practice is under attack by forces of reaction and counterrevolution. The advances of the millennia are trampled underfoot by imperialism led by the U.S. The nations and peoples from the lands of most ancient developments of civilization are either under direct aggression or are being threatened with obliteration, as is the case with Iran and Korea (Hillary Clinton on Iran, John Bolton on Korea, etc.) If the results and achievements of peoples seeking independence, enlightenment and a society fit for its members are disregarded, why should any people find the pleas for uniting under American leadership to be in their interest and deserving of their consent? Might they, based on their historical experience, advance different ideals? Moreover, why should other nations, including big powers agree with the ideals advanced by an American, simply based on the size of their military enterprise and position in the world? Might not the Russians, Chinese, Germans, French, Indians or others put forward their own values? But more importantly, how will these questions be sorted out in the present historical context?
U.S. political leaders past and present are demanding that their leadership be accepted on the basis that they can establish an international order that could bring about peace and stability. But they cannot do away with the crisis over values. Nor can they do away with the fact that the U.S. elites remain in conflict among themselves. And this division takes place notwithstanding the fact these ideals are supposed to be held in common and are put forward as a force for uniting around a common purpose and standard of statecraft. Furthermore, these ideals did not come out of the struggles of the working class and people, nor do they express the historical experiences of peoples and nations imprisoned under the dictate of the U.S. bureaucratic and military machinery. In fact, these ideals are put forward in order to cover over the contradictions and conflicts that mark the world, as well as to inflame the situation with prejudice and preconceived notions to the advantage of the elites. Moreover, the very existence of these so-called high ideals are rooted in attacks on theory and knowledge and are assaults on world thought, which includes all the advances and achievements of human history. These attacks leave the human mind disoriented and aimless. These attacks subvert the necessary way of looking at the world and providing plans and a way forward; and this lies beneath the anarchy and wrecking of political society. This perversion of theory, knowledge and world thought underpins the dissipation of the human, natural and energy resources and the destruction plaguing the peoples and nations of the world. In this sense, one of the greatest crimes of the contemporary era is the use of the state of monopoly capitalists to deprive people of an outlook on the world.
This criminal activity also affects the elites of the bureaucratic and military state machinery domestically and abroad. Faced with the incoherence of a so-called Bush Doctrine, this problem viewed from the perspective of Anglo-American elites is addressed by individuals such as Philip Bobbitt, a former U.S. state functionary with ties to the British establishment and a professor of constitutional law:
“What is lacking in order to respond to the remaking of the global strategic environment that is under way and the emergence of market states is far more than a declaratory policy of preemption. We need a systematic renovation of our thinking, roughly like that which occurred during the First World War when the U.S. emerged from isolation to become a great power. Then, as now states were called upon to find new basis for legitimacy, both internationally and domestically Similarly, after the Second World War was terminated by the use of atomic bombs, there appeared a group of intellectuals who, in a remarkably short period of time, developed the concepts of nuclear deterrence Now we desperately need a body of theory to understand the Wars on Terror. It is shocking that, years after 9/11, the U.S. government has generated no consensus on the general nature of the struggle we face.”
The Obama campaign for presidency is being used as a means to “correct” the incoherence of the so-called Bush Doctrine by promoting a new basis for legitimacy and a “renewal of thinking.” More to the point a key issue for the military and political establishment is that they have no coherent doctrine and war aim. And this above all else Obama must repair as president. Bush argued that, “we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends…. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction and the core compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack.” He also argued for imposing by means of armed intervention and financial strangulation, U.S.-engineered systems of governance in the name of democracy and human rights. This appears to many defenders of the American way as an incoherent list. And with party competition pushing personal ambitions to grosser and more perverse stands domestically and a constitution that does not ensure the permanent continuation of any particular regime’s hold on power and claim to authority, the U.S. ruling establishment is faced with the problem of succession of leadership and continuity of government. Any purported doctrine becomes fodder for an opposition. In the current world climate, this opposition must salve the unease of the political establishment, while not discrediting what has already been put in place. It takes several election cycles to fit out a bureaucracy properly for the establishment’s strategic aims. In order to prevent a complete breakdown, the electoral process must provide a vent for the various factions demanding a say-so. This venting must be accomplished with the promise to keep the working class and people marginalized and deprived of political power, while maintaining a thin veneer of democracy. These are some of the problems that Obama faced as he spoke in Berlin.
To show he was the champion of U.S. empire worthy of endorsement from all quarters, he was called upon to deliver a doctrine fit for empire building in this transitional period. On the one hand, he must capitalize on all past doctrines; the military and bureaucratic machinery is organized on their basis. On the other hand, a future president must put forward a doctrine that attempts to justify what cannot be justified. Once the past achievements and results in the battle of democracy are trampled underfoot, and past crimes and infamies against nations and peoples are promoted as principles, anarchy and violence reign. Under such circumstances no pretence of legitimacy can promise to the owners of capital that a status quo can be maintained or salvaged from chaos. How can a U.S. president promise to be the rightful guardian for the world capitalist system if this cannot be achieved?
Furthermore, by appearing in Berlin, Obama hoped to make a historical connection to the beginning of the Cold War. He proclaimed that the world should stand as one in the manner declared by Anglo-American imperialism at the end of World War II as they proceeded to divide the world based on ideological considerations of anti-communism. He sees the beginning of the Cold War and not the achievements of the anti-fascist war as high points in the battle of democracy. He sees the initiation of the Cold War and the establishment of the bipolar world order as a model to guide the efforts of government serving the owners of monopolies and oligopolies by creating a world in their own image. He claimed, “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.” Partnership and cooperation are the so-called ideals put forward by Obama. This is not simply an argument for multilateralism in a multipolar world in opposition to the apparent unilateralism in a unipolar world with a hegemonic ‘hyperpower’ at its head, as advanced by the Bush administration. Obama puts forward, as a model for this partnership and cooperation, the constitutional basis of the United States. He takes from the preamble to the Constitution the conception “to form a more perfect union” and on that basis “to seek with other nations, a more hopeful world.”
Obama, along with others, is suggesting that from its inception, the United States provided the basis for unity among disparate peoples, regions and social systems. It represented the “new world” and was called the world’s “last best hope.” The notion of evolving towards “a more perfect union” has a presupposition that the U.S. was formed as a “league of peace” that could prevent war among the various states that formed a system of republics within a federal arrangement according to the Constitution. Furthermore, this basis for a system of states would ensure against civil war and insurrection, especially by the faction of the majority without property, according to Madison, one of the founding fathers. On the basis of this model of union competing social systems based on free labour and slave labour coexisted and colonized the continent until chattel slavery was abolished. The history “to form a more perfect union” included acts of genocide while subjugating peoples and nations.
Obama puts forward the ideals that express this union and its constitutional basis as an example to be imposed on the world in order to overcome its divisions. Obama argues, “we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world. Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, keep the promise of equality and opportunity for our people.” The United States in this view is a model of a “new world” that was created to escape the dynastic wars, feudalism and the class struggles of Europe. That is, the American exceptionalist outlook and model brought forth provide the possibility to escape from history.
What is significant and should not be dismissed as mere rhetoric is that it’s a “union” based on a “promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people.” The world is seen as a network of peoples, plagues, wars, nuclear threats, etc. The “union” projected as an example would consist of a network of individuals seeking opportunities, and this would form the basis of a new world order. A “world that stands as one” is a prescription against peoples and nations seeking their own path of progress, upholding their own ideals. The not so hidden threat by a self-proclaimed world leader is the negation of nations and peoples seeking independent paths.
Obama intones, “The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.” Of course Obama is not referring to the militarized wall which divides the Korean nation, or the apartheid wall in Palestine, or the militarized wall of exclusion on the Mexican border, which he supports. He is referring to the need of political and economic elites to find a way to bring order internationally on their own terms, but without big power conflict and major war. Obama is basing his claim to leading the world on the model and values which follow from the history of “to form a more perfect union.”
Why does Obama speak about “walls” that divide at this particular historical juncture? Obama was seeking to establish his credentials and credibility on the international stage. By attempting to give definition to the post-Cold War period and provide it with coherence that many felt the Bush Doctrine blocked, Obama hoped to strike a pose akin to Churchill’s at the outset of the Cold War. In 1946 the former British Prime Minister delivered his Fulton, Missouri “Sinews of Peace” speech, in which he claimed that an “iron curtain” of the Soviet Union (a notion advanced by the Nazi Goebbels) was imposed on Europe. The speech was an important rationalization of the Anglo-American imperialists for attacking the anti-fascist united front, claiming that there now existed two worlds, one called ‘free’ and centred around the U.S., the other called ‘slave,’ centred around the Soviet Union. Churchill, along with others, called for an Anglo-American grand strategy (including geopolitical considerations and war aims) linked to notions of laws and values to combat this development. The Soviet Union subsequently conciliated with the notion of two worlds and on this basis a bipolar world order was created. In similar fashion, Obama hoped to provide the outlines for an appropriate strategy, notions of legitimacy and values in order to meet the needs of the elites.
The manner in which he addresses this problem was highlighted in the post-Cold War period in numerous fora and by various individuals, such as Tony Blair, who in his 1999 addresses in Chicago and to the North Atlantic Council said: “The basic thesis is that the defining characteristic of today’s world is its interdependence, that whereas the economics of globalization are well matured, the politics of globalization are not; and that unless we articulate a common global policy based on common values, we risk chaos threatening our stability, economic and political… ‘We’ is not the West…. ‘We’ are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts…. We can no more opt out of this struggle than we can opt out of the climate changing around us.”
Of course, on the basis of examining one speech it is difficult to reach conclusions about Obama’s notion of historiography, but nonetheless this is arguably an important exercise. It would be too easy to dismiss Obama as representing the main centre of reaction in the world and simply say he is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of people so that they can be more efficiently subjugated and exploited. Or that he is simply opposing Bush’s policies to replace them with something similar or worse. Or, for that matter, that the Bush administration marked an aberration to and a betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system of governance. To argue in this way misses the significance of passing through an historical turning point in which no individual or collective can act in the same way as before the mid-1980s. Those who act in the old way face extinction due to the powerful historical forces that led to the turning point and crisis in the first place. The Soviet Union and the bipolar division of the world have passed into history. The unravelling of the world that emerged from WWII is not finished. Yet, nearly a quarter of a century on, new arrangements have not been put in place, while anarchy and violence reign.
The number of genocides in the world rooted in big power subversion and aggression has increased significantly. Wherever people face natural or social catastrophe, military solutions are offered. From the perspective of the political, economic and military elites no clear way out of the crisis appears. After decades of attacking the very basis of theoretical work as part of the anti-communist crusade of the Cold War period, no consensus has been reached among them on how to ensure peace and security to the world’s peoples, and yet they claim the authority to wield political and economic power used in their exploitation and domination. Obama was in Berlin to put the thin veneer of ideals forward as a solution that favours the owners of monopolies and oligopolies. But why a speech in Germany addressed to the people of the world? Obama’s appearance in Berlin was reminiscent of the trip made to Bitburg, Germany by Ronald Reagan with Helmut Kohl in order to commemorate the World War II war dead in a cemetery that included the Nazi SS. Reagan’s visit was met with all around condemnation, to which he responded that those buried in Bitburg were as much victims as were the inmates of concentration camps. The blasphemous charade was orchestrated to symbolically show that a world dominated by imperialism with the U.S. at its head was united against communism, and that the anti-communist crusade of the twentieth century was essential for the democracy and world order promoted by the Americans and their allies. When Obama appeared in Berlin he claimed that at the end of World War II, “America, Britain, and France pondered how the world might be remade Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.”
Not a word crossed Obama’s lips about the defeat of Nazism, or the creation of a world standing as one on the basis of eradicating fascism. Instead the speech in Berlin put forward a prescription for the post-Cold War world modeled on the anti-communist crusades of the Cold War. However, faced with new “historical challenges” the U.S. and other powers cannot use the proscription of the Cold War period, the policy of containment, as the main instrument for asserting a “preponderance of power.” Today, Obama argues the world is so intertwined that the challenges to the rule of the monopolies and oligopolies can be threatened by any number of “terrors,” including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, plagues, climate change, etc., and these know no national boundaries, they cannot be contained. Importantly, from Obama’s perspective, big powers must militate against conflicts among themselves and work out the arrangements that prevent a repeat of the inter-imperialist wars of the twentieth century. However, this cannot be done on the basis of simply uniting in the UN. Not only does Obama not mention the anti-fascist war, but without a reference to the UN, a real achievement in the battle of democracy, he describes NATO as “the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security” and states that it was born out of the “victory over tyranny.” He suggests that “If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York.” Moreover, this “new global partnership” would include the already existing and expanding worldwide system of American military bases, as well as the European responses to “critical areas” in the world. A major focus would be Asia and the battle for control and domination there. Furthermore, the various new “challenges” would be faced with efforts directed on the basis of geopolitical, military and business considerations. In other words, military blocs are ideals according to Obama.
The battle of democracy is the earmark of the twentieth century, and remains the identifying feature of the twenty-first century. The history of this struggle was written in blood and at the cost of great sacrifice of the world’s people. This history identified aspects of democracy as a feature of class society that needed to be conceptualized and actually established within the definite historical context of imperialist war and proletarian revolution. The delineation of these features of democracy was brought forward through the struggles against imperialist war and aggression, for national liberation and independence and in defense of rights for all.
The defeat of fascism in 1945 was a highpoint in the battle of democracy. This struggle, led by the then socialist Soviet Union and a united front of anti-fascist resistance forces, crystallized a demand that fascism must be eradicated. As a corollary, a contemporaneous conception of democracy emerged. Democracy would not be true to itself if it allowed for the existence of fascism. This norm of democracy was established by a world united as one. This conclusion was a landmark in world thought. On its basis real achievements appeared, including the notion of a world of United Nations, established on the basis of the recognition of the rights for all by virtue of their being human. It should be noted that immediately, Anglo-American imperialism carried out subversive activities to undermine the conception of rights in general and human rights in particular to suit their self-serving aims in the UN. Nonetheless, they could not remove from consciousness immediately that the unity of independent nations and peoples presupposed a definition of aggression recognized in a new international standard, the crime against peace, which referred to “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.”
The history of this battle of democracy must have its summation. This summation must include what is positive and what is negative, what is forward looking and what is regressive. Such a summation would be an important component of what is needed most, but is still lacking — a modern definition of democracy. In the contemporary world, a democrat is whosoever fights to harmonize the conflicting interests of individuals and their collectives, among the collectives, and of individuals and collectives with the general interests of society. A modern definition of democracy is needed in order to sort out the conflicting interests to the advantage of the people so that the social fabric of the society is not torn apart. Without such a conception, a people cannot address the general interests of society, including a question of deep concern: will there be war or peace? Can they remove a government of war and militarism? Can they criminalize leaders and organizations that commit crimes against peace? Can they have an anti-war government? Can they have constitutional guarantees for these rights and the enabling acts to carry them out? In short can the people have a say so?
According to Obama’s Berlin speech the answer will be no. In a post-Cold War arrangement he claims that peoples should “trust” the powers that be, those that promote the high ideals as put forward by Obama and others. At one time, rising up against feudalism and the ancient regimes of Europe, the bourgeoisie put forward a conception of trust by which authority would be legitimated by the consent of the governed, and on this basis nation-states were built in their image. At this time the existence of nations and peoples is being threatened, sovereignty and independence is being disregarded. The nation state, once the jewel in the eye of the bourgeoisie is now seen as a hindrance to the rule of the monopolies and oligopolies, not least because the existence of a polity and political association today will compel people to demand a say so on the questions of war and peace. It is a demand for a say so on questions concerning destruction, violence and anarchy that can motivate people to question the legitimacy of those in power who ask for trust.
In this light, Obama’s words should be paid close attention to because beneath the prayer of hope is a hatred of history, the repetition of the desire to escape history viewed from the past of former empire builders. As the writing on old New England puritan tombstone reads, “As I am now, so shalt thou be.” Obama represents those who know sooner or later their days are numbered. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security advisor and Obama supporter, pointed out, “History is a record of change, a reminder that nothing endures indefinitely… So it will be with the current American global preponderance. It, too, will fade at some point….” In order to hold off this fate, Obama is being promoted as a voice giving a summation of the past so that the future is kept at bay. In this summation, what is sacred is profaned. The history of the struggle of democracy is not turned upside down, but is presented instead as a perversion, where the people are asked to accept necrophilia, lying with the dead, as a forward-looking vision.
It is important to point out that what was done in Germany in 1948 by the U.S. was an essential part of reversing the gains of the struggle against fascism and the battle of democracy. At the conclusion of World War II, various arrangements and agreements were made at Yalta and Potsdam concerning the post-war world, and most importantly what should be done with Germany. The agreed upon decisions included denazification, decartelization and the smashing of the Nazi military industrial complex. Germany was divided into sectors under the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union, and was to eventually be unified under their control until the completion of denazification. Against all previous agreements, the U.S. and Britain demanded the partition of Germany in order to destroy the process of denazification and the breaking apart of the cartels of the Nazi military industrial complex, as well as block reparations to pursue the imperialist struggle against socialism, going as far as threatening the possibility of a new world war in which nuclear weapons would be used. The risk of WWIII was acceptable to the U.S. in order to consolidate an anti-communist front and force the division of the world on an ideological basis. This brinkmanship was a constant feature of the Cold War decades, even as the Soviet Union betrayed socialism, becoming a social imperialist superpower, while acceding to the notion of two worlds, irreconcilable, in conflict. A bipolar world order was established generated by the contention and collusion of the two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. A key component of the Cold War from the perspective of the U.S. was the constant propaganda against the Soviet Union, which was called communist, claiming that it stood in the way of unity of the world’s people. In similar manner the Soviet Union attributed all problems in the world to U.S. imperialism. All questions in the world were addressed within the framework of the bipolar division, and rights were granted based on allegiance to one or the other superpower.
Obama promotes the events in Berlin in 1948 in order to negate the conclusions and results reached in 1945 and afterwards in the battle of democracy. An examination of the developments surrounding 1948 in Germany and the entire Cold War period is important in revealing the word of the present. Step by step the U.S. and Britain forced the partition of Germany in order to integrate western Germany under the Marshall Plan into west Europe and create a West German state. The Soviet Union and democratic people everywhere opposed each manoeuvre by Anglo-American imperialism, seeing it as the resurrection of revanchist forces and the militarization of the situation. Germany had been divided into four zones among the U.S., France, Britain and the USSR. The U.S. and Britain amalgamated their zones economically by December 1946. Already in the summer of 1947 the Americans for the division of Germany were carrying out large-scale propaganda. By July 1947, western Germany was created under the Marshall Plan. A separate currency was established for West Germany in June 1948. By September 1948, a special parliamentary council was convened in order to create a West German state. Each of these steps was very worrisome in itself. Furthermore, denazification was being brought to a halt with Nazis being promoted into the bureaucracies, intelligence services, etc. Teams of commercial lawyers and unelected officials of the American government bureaucracy in secret were carrying out the work, while a constant barrage of propaganda pointed at Soviet intransigence. The so-called intransigence, including the Berlin “blockade,” were attempts to prevent the violation of the agreements for denazification, land reform and reparations. The U.S. used propaganda about the blockade to establish their “spectre of communism” and to create polarization in the anti-fascist ranks. All of this was taking place within the context of the Truman Doctrine and the U.S. containment policy. Also, significantly, the propaganda was used for promoting some form of European and American military force. This would give rise to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which again was the work of commercial lawyers and unelected government bureaucrats in the U.S. NATO gave impetus to the consolidation of the West German state. It also provided one of the conduits for Nazis, including those under indictment for war crimes, to gain military and bureaucratic positions. The creation of NATO was also in part to solve what was perceived by the imperialist powers as the “German problem.” On the one hand, Germany must be kept down so that a war among the major powers would not rip apart Europe. On the other hand, the creation of the western German state was carried out to provide a force to be used against the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies.
Germany continued playing this role in line with NATO following the demise of socialism in the Soviet Union. Following the end of the Cold War Germany participated in its first military attacks with NATO in the former Yugoslavia, during which the military alliance under U.S. leadership used the aggression to, among other reasons, subvert the UN. Germany at the time was competing for markets with the U.S. and the other powers, and NATO provided a means of mitigating the scale of the conflicts, while further seeking to isolate Russia. This use of NATO is providing the grounds for deepening the today. In the April 2008 meeting of the NATO forces in Bucharest, Germany and the U.S. conflicted over the admission of Georgia to NATO. Georgia, a former member nation of the Soviet Union, was among the countries being courted to militarily and politically surround Russia. Bush pushed hard for Georgia’s inclusion in NATO. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed this admission on the basis that it would be perceived as a threat by Russia, undermine European unification and, because of conflicts over territories and borders, NATO would be forced to confront Russia directly. The spectre of major war and big power conflicts still stalks Europe. Several days ago, using the pretext provided by Georgia and others, heavy military incursions by Russia have resulted in many deaths. If Georgia was in NATO the nightmare that showed its beginnings in the Balkans could still see the light of day. The friction in NATO in April might be considered another reason for the Obama speech. The German problem, the Russia problem, the American problem will not quit this world until the people have a say so over questions of war and peace.
Following the military victory over fascism, the Anglo-American imperialists led the fight to negate the content of the battle of democracy by subverting the forms that were being developed to ensure peace and democracy, including the UN, its conception of opposing the crime against peace, and declaration that rights belong to all by virtue of being human. First and foremost, this negation was accomplished by transforming a world united as one against fascism into a front against communism. The Cold War resulted. The Cold War and the bipolar division of the world are finished. With the end of the polarity created by imperialism and especially the two superpowers, the possibilities emerged of a world with the rights for all recognized. Why was it not declared, Now that the negation of the world united against fascism itself stands negated, let’s unite on the basis of negating the right of the oligopolies and financial institutions? Why can there not be a world in which the multitude of stands of peoples and nations unite in a mighty current recognizing that the oligopolies’ usurpation of the right to a monopoly on the means of violence that routinely threatens nations and peoples with genocide and extinction is a crime against peace? Today, however, from the mouths of people such as Obama comes a different view. The apologists for a world dominated by the owners of capital fight might and mane to cover-up through their disinformation and negate the new historical content of the battle of democracy. The hope is that this negation will prevent people from discovering the new forms for this new historical content out of their own experience and thinking, while building on the achievements and results of the past.
The ideals that Obama and others of the elite promote are a cover up of the U.S. strategic goals and war aims. Such has always been the case. For example, U.S. imperialism under Woodrow Wilson entered WWI to “make the world safe for democracy,” catapulting the U.S. into the position as a major imperialist power, which then preceded to establish its own stranglehold on world affairs through its international financial arrangements, contributing to the conditions for WWII. The public declarations of the state machinery’s secret arrangements and goals are specifically promoted in opposition to others’ ideals and are put forward in such a manner to demand that discussion be diverted from formulating other’s aims and to block people from having their own thinking. The ideals to which Obama specifically refers are connected to the war aims and strategic goals that he and his supporters believe should define the international situation. A general despair exists among elites that two decades after the Cold War, the U.S. with all its military power cannot bring about a new international order to their advantage. If such arrangements cannot be put in place, U.S. credibility is in disrepute. Guarantees must be made and a guardian for the whole system must be provided in order to avoid an interminable crisis of legitimacy. If such a thing came to pass, big power conflict including major war amongst them is a real possibility. Obama is coming forward as a leader of the world in order to provide this guardianship. In order to accomplish this task it is important to put forward a doctrine more coherent then the so-called Bush Doctrine.
Presidential doctrines combine so-called ideals in the form of national interest and U.S. strategic aims with the military and political establishments’ response to international standards, as recognized by the big powers. Presidential doctrines are the official government policy statements dealing with foreign affairs and military strategy. The doctrines are sources of the war aims of the political and military establishment. They do not pass through the Congress for approval. In fact, as pronouncements of the President, they promote the presidency to what was recognized by the Supreme Court as the “sole organ of American foreign affairs.” They are the result of reason of state and as such are the public expression of what is termed national interest or national security and are opposed to public interest.
It would prove useful to briefly review the presidential doctrines. Since the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, when the U.S. was referred to as the “empire of reason,” a task of the presidency has been to put forward empire-building aspirations, while maintaining a republican form of governance for its federal arrangement, rooted in the U.S. constitution. Specifically, the Monroe Doctrine on the one hand lay U.S. claim to the affairs of the western hemisphere against the European Holy Alliance and other powers desire to colonize or monopolize markets in the Americas, including the Caribbean. On the other hand, the Doctrine raised the profile of the President in foreign affairs, which in its initial incarnation covered war against the First Nations and for the colonial expansion of the slave power across the continent. The Doctrine provided the explicit rationale for the war under President Polk against Mexico in 1845 and for colonizing the southwest and western parts of the continent under the messianic banner of “manifest destiny.”
At the outset of the modern imperialist epoch, Theodore Roosevelt put forward a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904, in which he asserted that the U.S. demanded neighbouring states be “stable, orderly, and prosperous…. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.” Specifically Roosevelt introduced the notion of international police powers and police actions carried out under the aegis of the U.S. President, and on this basis promoted gunboat diplomacy worldwide in order to maintain “open markets.”
The Monroe Doctrine and its corollary were invoked numerous times for purposes of aggression. For example, John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, used the doctrine in 1954 to rationalize the overthrow of the Arbenz government and the funding and arming of anti-communist forces in Guatemala. JFK invoked the Doctrine in relation to Cuba in 1962, claiming, “The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere, and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That is why we have cut off our trade. That is why we worked in the Organization of American States and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. That is why we will continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it.”
Henry Stimson, Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover put forward a Doctrine at the time of the Japanese invasion of China and the establishment of the puppet government in Manchuria. Along with references to territorial integrity and national sovereignty, the Stimson Doctrine stressed the U.S. Open Door policy. The Truman Doctrine was put forward in 1947 with the granting of military aid to Turkey and Greece. The doctrine argued for “support[ing] free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The doctrine was aimed at the destruction of the anti-fascist unity that emerged in the world through the resistance struggles in World War II. It was instrumental in organizing a worldwide front on the basis of anti-communism and was used in support of the American policy of containment. In 1957, Eisenhower advanced a new doctrine proclaiming that the U.S. would intervene in the Middle East if a government ‘requested aid’ against communism. In 1965, Johnson formulated a doctrine that stated the U.S. would use military force against communism and on that basis invaded the Dominican Republic and escalated the war against Vietnam. The Nixon Doctrine put forward the need to support “local allies” for intervention, while furnishing military and financial aid, and leaving aggression and subversion to “local” anti-communist troops; it was the basis of “Vietnamization” of the aggression in Vietnam. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution, the Carter Doctrine announced that the Persian Gulf was a vital national interest of the U.S. If the President determined that an “assault” had taken place on these interests, it could be opposed “by any means necessary,” which in American strategic doctrine includes the use of nuclear weapons. The Reagan Doctrine promoted military action with anti-communist insurgents in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, Ethiopia, etc.
From Monroe through Reagan, presidential doctrines have staked out a realm of independent executive action in foreign affairs that not a few have argued are ultra vires, or beyond the legal power and authority of the president. Since the Monroe Doctrine, each subsequent one is built on the previous declarations, while referring to specific cases. It should be noted that in the U.S. presidential system of governance, each Presidential Doctrine was accepted as a legal principle based on the precedent of previously imposed decrees, in much the same manner as laws are judged to be legitimate by the Supreme Court. With the so-called Bush Doctrine, the U.S. elites faced a crisis of credibility which threatens the legitimacy of their system of governance. It is important to stress that this crisis is not specifically due to the betrayal of the principles of the U.S. Constitution or the lying connivances of the Bush administration. Of course, such things are happening and are of dire consequences to the peoples and nations of the world. But of greater significance, by far, is that the very crisis of capitalism which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of the bipolar division of the world, is still at work and it will be thoroughgoing in upending everything that stands in its way.
During the Cold War period and before, the relations internationally were among nation-states. The big powers routinely would not recognize nations and peoples and through colonization and genocide subjugated many. Against this onslaught, peoples seeking independence raised the banner of national liberation and the self-determination of nations. The working class and peoples of various nations overthrew the rule of the owners of capital and struck out on the path of constructing socialism. These struggles were part and parcel of the battle of democracy. Following World War II, as was pointed out, the U.S. promoted the policy of containment, which was backed up by the constant threat of nuclear holocaust. A mark of the change wrought in the international system is the announcement by Obama and others that imperialist containment of nation-states in the current period might not be applicable. Obama argues by claiming that the forces driving the current wave of what is referred to as globalization, the centrality of the capitalist world market, give “rise to new dangers — dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.” This is not an admission that the crime against peace should now be punished and the rights of monopolies and oligopolies to have their say over all the world’s affairs should be restricted. This is not recognition of the historical content of the battle of democracy projected in the image of a world united against the aggression on nations and peoples and support for opening up their independent paths of development as a basis of their flourishing. Instead, it is an admission that in the eyes of the U.S. elite nations and peoples now stand in their way and they are expendable. This attitude can only precipitate greater crisis. It stands in absolute antagonism to the inexorable law of social development, which operates independent of will and drives the world towards the creation of new societies.
This law of social development operates through the relations of humans and humans and humans with nature. Its cognition allows for the new content of the battle of democracy revealing its features. New forms must be sought for this new content. All peoples and nations must find their own path. In order to give direction to the creation of the new society, arguing out modern definition of democracy is essential so as to infuse the world with this possibility. In response to the independence of peoples and nations, Obama argues for “cooperation and partnership” between the U.S. and Europe. “America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
At this point it should be emphasized that the creation of the present federal arrangement of the U.S. involved the conquest of nations and peoples. That is the expansion of the U.S. was a “foreign affair” under Presidential control. Such had been the case since the origins of the U.S. under its constitution. Such was the case in 1803, when Jefferson acquired from Napoleon the vast territories internal to the continent, home to many nations and peoples, as a colonial transfer known as the Louisiana Purchase. And such was the case afterwards in Florida, Mexico, Alaska, Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, etc. From the beginning, the path to “form[ing] a more perfect union,” as it was put forward in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, involved what is now known as “foreign affairs.” The union was put forward as an 18th and 19th century “league of states” whose function was to dominate and control conflicts among states and regions that might have their own aims and interests and hold off civil war. Also it was to mitigate and oppose the influence of any other powers seen as “foreign.” We might surmise from the context of the Presidential election campaign that this “union” would be a model for uniting the world under a U.S. president as commander in chief. It cannot be emphasized enough that this is a different conception of arrangements than that which followed the world war against fascism. Of course, the UN today, like all institutions, is in need of democratic renewal and modern arrangements are needed to ensure peace and mutual benefits among all peoples and nations. However, the notions coming from the U.S. are for an entirely different order, in which the crime against peace is not recognized as an international standard and all peoples and nations are under threat. Arguably we should understand the ideals Obama advances as part of a presidential doctrine that would cover U.S. grand strategy and war aims for this post-Cold War period.
In conclusion, the machinery demands at this time a god, a deux ex machina, that can be guardian of their worldwide interests. The desire for world domination through their leadership of the international order is paramount. In order to provide this leadership, a vision must be advanced of one world at peace. This vision requires that the big powers not go to war against one another to re-divide the world. It requires that the working class and people accept that they are merely a resource for the creation of wealth feeding the insatiable greed of the rich, who feel the shortage of capital as a deprivation imposed on them. It requires that people not seek independent paths for their emancipation and development. It requires that nations and people recognize that their right to be cannot block the movement of capital nor trump the needs of the usurious lust of the money markets. In order to enforce this vision and fulfill this desire, the god from the machinery apparently must take the form of commander in chief. The reason for this is that from the perspective of the U.S. elites, every issue in the world, every problem, every conflict and contradiction must be looked at first and foremost as a business consideration and treated primarily with a military solution in mind.
Obama was auditioning for the role in Berlin, where he advanced an argument for “a world that stands as one.” In doing so, he presented himself as a two faced Janus. Janus, the two-headed god, was a gatekeeper looking backwards with one head and forwards with the other. The one head declares, “the world is everything that is the case,” while the other shouts “the surrounding world is different for each of us, …not withstanding that we move in a common world.” The one head gives voice of a world bereft of history and the possibility of forward motion, of opening a path of progress, of taking the high road of civilization. The facts of the matter as presented are all the problems of the contemporary world, that are seen as external, existential threats and terrors to the ethos of the owners of capital who have yet to produce their new world order. Unite around ideals and values that are timeless, deny your own direct historical experience, says this voice. And, most importantly, recognize that there must be no space for conceiving the world in any other way: it is what it is; another world is not possible. In other words, there must be no space for peoples to sort out the conflicts among individuals and their collectives in a manner that harmonizes them and also harmonizes the individual and collective interests with the general interests of society. There must not be democratic renewal on the basis of arguing out modern definitions. If this happens to mean that the viability of nations and peoples are called into question, so be it. The other head declaims that the world is whatever I make of it; it’s my history, my experience that counts. Yes, you too can have your quaint experiences and cultures, but in the dangerous world of today, you must not think through the relations of humans with humans and humans with nature. You must not put forward your own outlook or raise your own ideals; this will only contribute to the already divided world. If you do so, you will be responsible for the consequences that follow from your differences.
Listen carefully to what is being said by Obama and others who are put forward from the machinery: they are negating the recognition of the crime against peace for a reason. Their hatred is for the independence of nations and peoples. Listen carefully when Obama says walls must no longer divide, that these walls must come down. It cannot be overemphasized that these walls refer to the thinking and ideals of the multitudes of peoples of the world. Their many voices and acts of conviction stand necessarily antagonistic to the incoherence of those who come forward as guardians to a world dominated by the owners of monopolies and oligopolies. The desire of the guardians is clear: they do not want people to read the writing on the walls. A new world can only be based on the independence of nations and peoples and rights that belong to all by virtue of being human. Arguing out a modern definition of democracy is essential. Without finding the new forms for the content of the historical struggle for democracy that is revealing itself, people will face the dangers of major imperialist war without a say so.
It is said that in ancient times, mysterious writing appeared on the wall at the court of Belshazzar: mene, mene, tekel, u-pharsin: The days of your kingdom are numbered and brought to an end; you have been weighed in the scales and found wanting; your kingdom has been divided.
Source: TML Daily, November 5, 2008 – No. 158