The Dress Rehearsal and the Rolling Coup
By Dennis Loo (10/13/13)
Before World War II, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931) provided a foretaste of the global confrontation that eventually took tens of millions of lives, including twenty million alone in Russia.
If you were only looking, however, at the time at the particularities of the Spanish Civil War or of the Japanese invading China and not seeing how the political and economic forces in play were the leading edge of something even larger, then you would – as most did – miss the significance of these events.
Many people are similarly missing the full import of the U.S. government shutdown. They think that the GOP is committing political suicide with its extortionate tactics over ACA (aka Obamacare) and “entitlement” spending (aka social programs and needed programs like the FDA’s food inspections and scientific work re: global warming). They are misreading this political fight as one that will only damage the Republicans and benefit the Democrats and see the polls that indicate plummeting support for the Republicans as evidence of this.
Nothing, however, could be more incorrect.
This mistaken view is based upon the erroneous idea that the voters are the ones who actually exercise political power and that public sentiment can be and is translated into political figures being elected that reflect that public sentiment. This notion sees public policy (i.e., laws and regulations and how they are implemented) as reflecting what the majority of the population want because elections determine who serves in office and what public officials do while in office. These views come out of assumptions inherent in democratic theory.
This is not, however, how political power is actually exercised and democratic theory will lead you to misunderstand what is really going on.
What matters in public affairs and in the making and shaping of public policy is not who is in office or which party has the majority. What matters is how the central political questions are framed because how they are framed determines what the “solutions” to those problems will be.
To illustrate: if you frame the problem of the economy as one of excessive government spending on social programs (but not of government spending on the military), then the “solution” is to slash social programs.
If you frame the problem of security as the danger of (anti-state) terrorism, then the “solution” is to eliminate citizen’s rights (privacy, probable cause, right to dissent, etc.) in the name of an ever-expanding apparatus of control (surveillance and the suspension of due process and the rule of law) geared to taking emergency actions designed to ward off the threat of “terrorism.”
If you frame the problem of the shrinking funds for government spending on public needs such as jobs, education, and social welfare as meaning that you have to further reduce taxes on the wealthy so that they can supposedly create more jobs (right!), then the “solution” is to impose more and more austerity on the poor and middle classes and further enrich the very wealthy.
Are these three examples of framing not the dominant frames in official discourse? Do these frames not account for the decisions being made by our public officials, regardless of their party affiliation?
Ask yourself: are the radical right-wing getting their way and do they not represent the cutting edge of public policy-making, even though they lost the last two presidential elections?
While the GOP is suffering in the polls because of their extortion resulting in the government shutdown, notice that Obama has not done either of two things that he should do and you would expect him to do if he really was on the side of the people rather than colluding with the Republicans.
One, he has the power under the 14th Amendment to lift the debt ceiling so that the government could continue to pay its bills, end the shutdown, and avoid the disaster of default, but he refuses to use it.
Two, he and the Democratic leadership will not call out the Republicans for their fascist tactics and exploit and expose the fact that the Republicans are behaving in a criminal manner that is endangering the lives of people and setting a dangerous precedent for how a small minority can dictate the terms. We are not talking here about the equivalent of a filibuster when one or a few halt a particular bill from being passed. We are talking here about shutting down the government itself.
New rules are being set for how this government will operate. The shock doctrine, to borrow Naomi Klein’s phrase, is being implemented as a device to pave the way for a government coup to take place. Before you dismiss this as alarmist talk please note that there are various ways and differing degrees by which a coup can occur. They do not necessarily need to involve an armed take-over, although such a classic scenario cannot and should not be ruled out of the question.
What we see right now is a rolling coup in the sense at this point of a tiny group holding the whole government hostage to its demands. The GOP will get at least some of its demands met in this next week. That is practically a certainty. And then it will move forward from there, advancing, not retreating, and demanding more and more until they get what they want.
People sometimes incorrectly say, “Remember the Nazis came to power through elections.” This is not how it happened. The Nazis’ popularity in the German elections was actually falling prior to Hitler being appointed to the Chancellorship.
The German economy was in a shambles and there was a crisis that could only be resolved through radical measures. From the perspective of the ruling groups in Germany who reached a point where they could no longer govern as they had been, it was either hand power to Hitler, the fascist, or stand by while the communists took power. The German ruling class thought that they could control Hitler and they didn’t have to think twice about whether they’d rather have fascism or socialism. As recounted by History.com:
[German President Paul Von] Hindenburg, intimidated by Hitler's growing popularity and the thuggish nature of his cadre of supporters, the SA (or Brownshirts), initially refused to make him chancellor. Instead, he appointed General Kurt von Schleicher, who attempted to steal Hitler's thunder by negotiating with a dissident Nazi faction led by Gregor Strasser. At the next round of elections in November, the Nazis lost ground—but the Communists gained it, a paradoxical effect of Schleicher's efforts that made right-wing forces in Germany even more determined to get Hitler into power. In a series of complicated negotiations, ex-Chancellor Franz von Papen, backed by prominent German businessmen and the conservative German National People's Party (DNVP), convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, with the understanding that von Papen as vice-chancellor and other non-Nazis in key government positions would contain and temper Hitler's more brutal tendencies.
Democratic theory, which most people have been raised on and see the world through its premises, will lead you to misunderstand what is going on now. You will miss the nature of the trajectory of events, just like people missed the signs of the coming conflagration in the 1930s.
If you want to avoid the deadly consequences that are being rehearsed before our eyes in real time, then get down and study these events carefully and acquaint yourself with revolutionary theory. Without that theory you will not be able to understand what’s really going on here.
The stakes are extremely high.