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If Ronald Reagan was America's neo-Julius Caesar, his adopted son was the first George Bush (just as J.C. adopted Augustus). And look what THAT progeny wrought. I fully expect that over the next century, no fewer than seven Bushes will have run or become president (mimicking the Roman Caesarian line). Goodbye, American Republic.
From review of Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia by Gore Vidal
Skepticism -> Political Skeptic
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We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation,
reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
FDR. speech after the election (1936)polyarchy: A system where the participation of masses of people is limited to voting among one or another representatives of the elite in periodic elections. Between elections the masses are now expected to keep quiet, to go back to life as usual while the elite make decisions and run the world until they can choose between one or another elite another four years later. So polyarchy is a system of elite rule, and a system of elite rule that is little bit more soft-core than the elite rule that we would see under a military dictatorship. But what we see is that under a polyarchy the basic socio-economic system does not change, it does not become democratized.
▬William I. Robinson, Behind the Veil, Minute 1:29:15
Right or wrong the USA is a great country. Probably the greatest country in the world in XX century which has chances to preserve its position in XXI centry. A new Rome. With its own share of greatness (The computer revolution was essentially the USA creation) and cruelties.
The USA is a country with very interesting, unique in many respect political processes. And since 1980 it became the central power driving the spread of neoliberalism all over the globe. The epicenter of worldwide neoliberal revolution. This transformation of former Trotskyites into staunch defenders of capitalism (Neoconservatism) is also predominantly the USA development although it somewhat mirrors Mussolini period of Italy when many communist also switched sides and joined right forces and far-right nationalist party. The USA also has many prominent political scientist which move this science forward probably faster then their counterparts in Old world. Although not always in right direction ;-). The conversion of Fundamentalist Christians sects into formidable political force is another interesting US development, which has few historical precidents. This "American Taliban" now became the cornerstone of the Republican Party which lost its Lincoln's roots almost completely. Enough to say that such presidents as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon on many important issues are to the left of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton (the second neoliberal president after Reagan, the man who sold Democratic Party to Wall Street). Classic conservatives are now marginalized in US political spectrum and are represented by very few magazine such as The American Conservative
As many I became dismayed with the USA foreign policy since Clinton administration. And tried to understand why the USA elite slided into a jingoistic foreign policy as well as intransigence of those who managed to keep the country hostage to such an extreme views. Was it hubris of the US elite after crusing the USA? Was it degeneration of the US elite similar to degeneration of Bolsheviks elite which led to collapse of the USSR? Was in understanding of the limits of capitalism and the need to international expansion at all costs to maintain profit level of the USA multinationals? Was it dominance of "deep state" which since 1962 replaced old institutions as the dominanc political force.
For a skeptic like me it was clear that the USA political landscape in 70th drastically chanced, and not to the better. In a way Clinton started the "era of neocons" in the USA foreign policy which was continued and enhanced by Bush II and Obama. While triumph of neoliberalism after dissolution of the USSR might be one part of the answer, the other part is unclear. It can be growth of dominance of "deep state" (and connected with it MIC) or financial oligarchy, or degradation/transformation of corporate elite, or some combination of those factors. It is also important to understand the reasons of disintegration of the "New Deal" consensus which allowed financialized/speculative neoliberal economy to emerge. Rather than claiming that deregulation and financialization were a plot of the elite of the Reagan era, that eventually led to the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 and Enron debacle in the early 2000s, we need to understand the political pressures under which policymakers became hostages of financial élites and neocons.
The notion of political skeptics is difficult to define. I think one suitable and pretty wide definition is people who whom MSM reporting cause strong allergic reaction, and who legitimately suspect MSM to be overly preoccupied with brainwashing and propaganda efforts . Who instinctively do not trust the declared by political establishment intentions, want to read between lines and see the second opinion along the lines of general definition of Skepticism:
Skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.
As Barry Fagin noted in his 1997 article in Skeptical Inquirer:
... a skeptic should be familiar with history, politics, and economics, despite their lack of strong predictive value as social sciences. ...
Politics is socially sanctioned force: political solutions to problems are all about forcing people into a course of action. This provides a way to distinguish moral statements from political ones. ...A perspective that recognizes this distinction between politics and morality...
...they should apply the same techniques of critical inquiry toward the institutions of politics that they apply to all other institutions. The institution of government and the use of coercion as a social tool, the two central characteristics of politics, should be examined critically.
In an atmosphere of constant brainwashing by neoliberal MSM it is important to have a second source of information. Otherwise the whole idea of informed citizen disappear in a dense smoke screen of constant lies and distortions of MSM. This is especially true about foreign events, where the level of brainwashing now approaches or exceeds the level typical for Brezhnev's USSR. That's why BBC and Voice of America were radio stations so widely listened in Soviet Union. People listed to them despite authorities attempts to jam them. Sometimes it was possible to listen to them only late at night. And people stayed late just to get some information over the constant noise of the jammer. Their coverage allowed to compare official Communist propaganda with Western propaganda and thus more closely approximate what actually happened in the world. Not that anybody blindly trusted iether BBC or Voice of America. We should do the same to get a second opinion about foreign events even from sources we do not fully trust. Or which are targeted by MSM in order to close this extra channel of information as untrustworthy.
Most of the United States journalists are serving as apologists for the administration (aka presstitutes). According to Urban dictionary the latter is
A term coined by Gerald Celente and often used by independent journalists and writers in the alternative media in reference to journalists and talking heads in the mainstream media who give biased and predetermined views in favor of the government and corporations, thus neglecting their fundamental duty of reporting news impartially. It is a portmanteau of press and prostitute.
Let me tell you something Alex, as soon as the economy collapses the presstitutes will be clamoring for war to distract the American people from the domestic problems.
This term is especially applicable to foreign correspondents. And it can't be otherwise if we understand the structure of ownership of major media outlets in the USA. This is especially true for coverage of foreign affairs. In this area the dominance of Neoliberal propaganda is complete and absolute. Cases when undesirable news are allowed are so rare that can be compiled in Red book. Huge amount of money are allocated annually on pushing right staff through the throats of unsuspecting (and mostly disinterested) citizens. Which made few natural skeptics to feel like students in a Chinese re-education camp. You need to add the corruption of academy, including complete corruption of economic departments around the country that became propaganda outlets of neoliberalism with propagandists of financial oligarchy in key positions.
That means that the level of brainwashing is not only comparable to the level that was typical in the USSR. It means that the smoke of propaganda is even more dense. And it is more visible in foreign policy, as the latter has always been more elite-driven, and more insulated from public opinion, than domestic policy. But today’s not only the gap between the US neoliberal elite and regular Joe & Jane is the largest in decades but the ideology they process and which dictates their action is questionable. That means that they push the course the is harmful for the interests of the state if we think that it represents more then 1% of the population. And regardless of your political affiliation, everybody agree that this is a already grave problem for American republic (it was never a democracy) and might influence the chances for the existence of this nation in the next, less carbon intense , century.
MSM successfully try to suppress the voice of people who are promoting a more restrained version of foreign policy, such as Andrew Bacevich, Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Paul Craig Roberts, and paleo conservatives (grouped around The American Conservative magazine) who warn about the danger of recklessly playing world globalization card and the cost of maintaining neoliberal empire. The sad truth is that their voice is not heard. Rupert Murdoch (who was invited to the USA by Reagan with the explicit purpose of controlling the narrative in MSM by neoliberal elite) media empire dominates press coverage like a giant Propaganda department of financial oligarchy and neocons. Compete control of MSM and contract army allow the elite completely escape civil control in foreign policy. Much like was the case with Soviet Politburo. In this sense the USA is an occupied country much like the USSR was. And methods tried for control of population in foreign countries are returning return home like chicken which come to roost (see Big Uncle is Watching You). As Ron Paul noted (A Tea Party Foreign Policy, Aug 27, 2010) :
“As many frustrated Americans who have joined the Tea Party realize, we cannot stand against big government at home while supporting it abroad. We cannot talk about fiscal responsibility while spending trillions on occupying and bullying the rest of the world. We cannot talk about the budget deficit and spiraling domestic spending without looking at the costs of maintaining an American empire of more than 700 military bases in more than 120 foreign countries. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for cutting a few thousand dollars from a nature preserve or an inner-city swimming pool at home while turning a blind eye to a Pentagon budget that nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.”
In addition to affecting domestic priories (which actually were set beforehand, so the word reflecting and more correct that affecting ) it shows those priorities often earlier and more transparently. That means that attempts to understand the US foreign policy are essential for all concerned citizens of the country. People who are do not agree with the Western elites course are now excluded from the traditional political processes, and their country is changed without their participation and consent. The two party system is perfect for that. The only thing they can do is to try to understand the direction of this change which is often hidden under thick smoke of MSM propaganda. For example, the US foreign policy reveals one interesting trend that as soon as US elite start playing labor arbitrage it stopped to be the national elite. It jointed Neoliberal International which in a ways is similar to Communist International with just different class calling the shots and the annual Congress in Davos instead of Moscow. In this sense the bet on globalization that we observe is not accidental. It reflects the strategic decision to sacrifice well-being of domestic population for the preservation of profits of the globalized, transnational elite. Which is the essence of neoliberalism as a social system. Of course, it's better to be a part of domestic population of the USA or GB then the domestic population of Ukraine or Malaysia as the degree of sacrifice in well-being can be quite different. But the trend is universal. For this reason isolationalism promoted by paleo-conservatives such as Patrick J. Buchanan might be the only way to preserve remnants of democracy in the USA. Please remember where NSA got its initial training in total interception of metadata of phone calls.
To get a glimpse of real USA foreign policy you need to avoid domestic MSM. There are two sources that are more objective and can provide valuable the second opinion on the subject:
When I was young I was greatly influenced by Tamotsu Shibutani’s ideas of symbolic internationalism ( social world , attitude , social climate , delinquent behavior ) popularized in his groundbreaking book Social Psychology . I think that this still a valuable perspective that allow analyze MSM propaganda from a interesting angle -- as specialized organization serving the interest of the elite in their need for brainwashing the population in order to coerce them to do the what the elite wants. Herbert Blumer (1969), who coined the term symbolic interactionalism, set out three basic premises of the perspective all of which can be manipulated by propaganda.
This is close to Elite Dominance Theory perspective which is most concise for was formulated by Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief
Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Human social life can be studies in terms of manipulation of social symbols by each participant along with the unique for each participant view of the social scene based on the reference group. And MSM talking heads are part of your reference group. Such symbolic manipulations are partially based on cultural patterns and use a complex symbolic language in which the participants align and realign their respective positions and contributions. While norms provide a framework of expectations, what happens in each social/historical context is unique. That gives human society a unique characteristic -- flexibility of adapting to historical situation. Now this unique ability for adaptation is in danger due to overwhelming power of MSM.
Individual actors on social scene adjust their actions based on both pressures and contributions of others and the way they view the social scene. The latter concept is closely connected with the important concept of reference group. As Tamotsu Shibutani stated:
Martyrs of one sort or other are apparently found in all societies, and they usually become objects of curiosity, if not of vituperation. Less unusual men also attract attention - the dedicated scientist who carelessly uses his pay check as a bookmark, the mountaineer who risks his life scaling dangerous peaks, or the boy in the tenement who practices his violin doggedly amid the taunts of his neighbors.
Such conduct has been explained in several different ways, but an especially plausible hypothesis is suggested by Thoreau's famous lines: If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Most individualists tend to be somewhat estranged from those immediately around them, but rarely do they live in complete isolation.
Such extreme cases of non-conformity provide a point of departure for the study of more frequently found forms of diversity. Deliberately, intuitively, or unconsciously each person performs for some kind of audience; in the drama of life, as in the theater, conduct is oriented toward certain people whose judgment is deemed important. In a complex society like ours, in which there are so many audiences, it often becomes necessary to identify the one for which an individual is performing in order to make his behavior comprehensible. The current popularity of the concept of reference group rests in part upon its utility in explaining behavior that is oriented toward audiences that are not obviously represented on the scene. Sociologists have long been concerned with audiences, for they usually explain conduct in terms of social control.
Social control refers not so much to deliberate influence or to coercion but to the fact that each person generally takes into account the expectations that he imputes to other people. The kinds of observations that have been accounted for in terms of what has been called the normative function of reference groups, one of the two functions they are alleged to have (21, 28), can he explained through the application of a long-familiar theory of social control to the conditions prevailing in modern mass societies. What is implied in the writings of Cooley, Dewey, Mead, Park, and Sapir must be stated more explicitly, however, since most of these men did not address themselves specifically to the study of mass societies. This task can be facilitated by making a distinction between (a) the perspective that is imputed to an audience and '(b) the people who make up an audience.
Another powerful idea is institutionalism -- social theory that focuses on developing a sociological view of institutions -- the way they interact and the way they affect society. It provides a way of viewing institutions enlarging the traditional views of political economics and can explain why so many businesses end up having the same organizational structure (isomorphism) even though they evolved in different ways. In many ways institutions shape the behavior of individual members. That why, for example, we can speak about bankers as a special social class. And it helps to explain why bankers represent a formidable political force as representatives of one of the most influential, most powerful institutions of the modern society. In a way, the quip by senator Dick Durbin that banks own Congress is not a hyperbole, this is just a honest assessment of the situation. Here is how the term is defined in Understanding Society The new institutionalism
The new institutionalism in sociology is a particularly promising prism through which to understand a lot of social behavior and change. Victor Nee and Paul Ingram define the approach in these terms in Embeddedness and Beyond in The New Institutionalism in Sociology:Specifying the mechanisms through which institutions shape the parameters of choice is important to an adequate sociological understanding of economic action. These social mechanisms, we argue, involve processes that are built into ongoing social relationships -- the domain of network analysis in sociology. Yet, how institutions and networks combine to determine economic and organizational performance is inadequately theorized in the sociological study of economic life.The new institutional economics is essentially a marriage of the familiar assumptions of rational choice theory with the observation that “institutions matter”—that is, that the behavior of purposive individuals depends critically on the institutional constraints within which they act, and the institutional constraints themselves are under-determined by material and economic circumstances. So institutions evolve in response to the strategic actions of a field of actors. The paragraphs quoted above make it clear that the approach stipulates a very tight relationship between institutions and norms regulating behavior. The approach pays close attention to the importance of transaction costs in economic activity (the costs of supervision of a work force, for example, or the cost of collecting information on compliance with a contract). And it postulates that institutions emerge and persist as a solution to specific problems of social coordination.
An institution is a web of interrelated norms -- formal and informal -- governing social relationships. It is by structuring social interactions that institutions produce group performance, in such primary groups as families and work units as well as in social units as large as organizations and even entire economies. (Nee and Ingram, p. 19)
As Serdar Kaya noted, the current National Security State (also called "deep state") that replaced traditional US "semi-democratic" model can be viewed through the prism of Mancur Olson’s theory of distributional coalitions (The Rise and Decline of the Turkish “Deep State”: The Ergenekon Case )
Mancur Olson’s theory of distributional coalitions holds that, as societies establish themselves, group interests become more identifiable, and subsets of the society organize in an effort to secure these interests.
Since these interests are best served by coordinated action, institutions emerge.
Yet, such institutions tend to be exclusive by nature, and pursue only the interests of their own members, who account to a very small minority.
This exclusivity factor is of special importance in the way these rent-seeking (or special-interest) groups operate, since, unlike highly-encompassing organizations, exclusive organizations do not have an incentive to increase the productivity of the society.
This is due to the disproportion between the sizes of the exclusive organization and the population.
To use Olson’s idiom, such organizations are in a position either to make larger the pie the society produces or to obtain larger slices for their members.
“Our intuition tells us,” Olson says, “that the first method will rarely be chosen.”2 Because, on the one hand, it is very costly to increase the productivity of society as a whole, and on the other, even if this is achieved, the The Rise and Decline of the Turkish “Deep State”: The Ergenekon Case 101 members of the minuscule organization will accordingly reap only a minuscule portion of the benefits.
Therefore, exclusive groups aim to present their own interests as being the interests of their constituencies, and to use all of their organizational power for collective action in that direction.
That is still the case even when the organization’s cost to the society is significantly more than the benefits it seeks for its members.
Such behavior is not at all unexpected of exclusive organizations, since it is the very policy of exclusion itself that enables the group to distribute more to its members.
In that respect, disproportional allocation of resources goes hand in hand with barriers to entry into the favored areas of the special-interest group.
Yet the existence of barriers to entry further damages the society by reducing the economic growth.
When coupled with the interferences of the special-interest groups with the possibilities of change in the existing state of affairs, the level of the reduction in economic growth can be large.
In order to achieve their goals, special-interest groups engage in lobbying activities and collusion – both of which, by creating special provisions and exceptions, further increase not only inefficiency but also (1) the complexity of regulation, (2) the scope of government, and (3) the complexity of understandings.
See also Mancur Olson's rather primitive views on monarchy/absolutism in "Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development". American Political Science Review 87 (3): 567–576. September 1993.
The most typical institution of the modern society is corporation. In an except from his book Life Inc published on Boing Boing site Douglas Rushkoff give an interesting take on the danger of corporation dominance in modern life (the social system which he calls corporatism):
... people of all social classes making choices that go against their better judgment because they believe it's really the only sensible way to act under the circumstances. It's as if the world itself were tilted, pushing us toward self- interested, short- term decisions, made more in the manner of corporate shareholders than members of a society. The more decisions we make in this way, the more we contribute to the very conditions leading to this awfully sloped landscape. In a dehumanizing and self-denying cycle, we make too many choices that -- all things being equal -- we'd prefer not to make.
But all things are not equal. These choices are not even occurring in the real world. They are the false choices of an artificial landscape -- one in which our decision-making is as coerced as that of a person getting mugged. Only we've forgotten that our choices are being made under painstakingly manufactured duress. We think this is just the way things are. The price of doing business. Since when is life determined by that axiom?
Unquestionably but seemingly inexplicably, we have come to operate in a world where the market and its logic have insinuated them- selves into every area of our lives. From erection to conception, school admission to finding a spouse, there are products and professionals to fill in where family and community have failed us. Commercials entreat us to think and care for ourselves, but to do so by choosing a corporation through which to exercise all this autonomy. Sometimes it feels as if there's just not enough air in the room -- as if there were a corporate agenda guiding all human activity. At a moment's notice, any dinner party can slide invisibly into a stock promotion, a networking event, or an impromptu consultation -- let me pick your brain. Is this why I was invited in the first place? Through sponsored word-of-mouth known as buzz marketing, our personal social interactions become the promotional opportunities through which brands strive to be cults and religions strive to become brands.
It goes deeper than that second Starbucks opening on the same town's Main Street or the radio ads for McDonald's playing through what used to be emergency speakers in our public school buses. It's not a matter of how early Christmas ads start each year, how many people get trampled at Black Friday sales, or even the news report blaming the fate of the entire economy on consumers' slow holiday spending. It's more a matter of not being able to tell the difference between the ads and the content at all. It's as if both were designed to be that way. The line between fiction and reality, friend and marketer, community and shopping center, has gotten blurred. Was that a news report, reality TV, or a sponsored segment?
This fundamental blurring of real life with its commercial counterpart is not a mere question of aesthetics, however much we may dislike mini- malls and superstores. It's more of a nagging sense that something has gone awry -- something even more fundamentally wrong than the credit crisis and its aftermath -- yet we're too immersed in its effects to do anything about it, or even to see it. We are deep in the thrall of a system that no one really likes, no one remembers asking for, yet no one can escape. It just is. And as it begins to collapse around us, we work to prop it up by any means necessary, so incapable are we of imagining an alternative. The minute it seems as if we can put our finger on what's happening to us or how it came to be this way, the insight disappears, drowned out by the more immediately pressing demands by everyone and everything on our attention.
What did they just say? What does that mean for my retirement account? Wait -- my phone is vibrating.
Can the hermetically sealed food court in which we now subsist even be beheld from within? Perhaps not in its totality -- but its development can be chronicled, and its effects can be parsed and understood. Just as we once evolved from subjects into citizens, we have now devolved from citizens into consumers. Our communities have been reduced to affinity groups, and any vestige of civic engagement or neighborly goodwill has been replaced by self- interested goals manufactured for us by our corporations and their PR firms. We've surrendered true participation for the myth of consumer choice or, even more pathetically, that of shareholder rights.
That's why it has become fashionable, cathartic, and to some extent useful for the defenders of civil society to rail against the corporations that seem to have conquered our civilization. As searing new books and documentaries about the crimes of corporations show us, the corporation is itself a sociopathic entity, created for the purpose of generating wealth and expanding its reach by any means necessary. A corporation has no use for ethics, except for their potential impact on public relations and brand image. In fact, as many on the side of the environment, labor, and the Left like to point out, corporate managers can be sued for taking any action, however ethical, if it compromises their ultimate fiduciary responsibility to share price.
As corporations gain ever more control over our economy, government, and culture, it is only natural for us to blame them for the helplessness we now feel over the direction of our personal and collective destinies. But it is both too easy and utterly futile to point the finger of blame at corporations or the robber barons at their helms -- not even those handcuffed CEOs gracing the cover of the business section. Not even mortgage brokers, credit- card executives, or the Fed. This state of affairs isn't being entirely orchestrated from the top of a glass building by an élite group of bankers and businessmen, however much everyone would like to think so -- themselves included. And while the growth of corporations and a preponderance of corporate activity have allowed them to permeate most every aspect of our awareness and activity, these entities are not solely responsible for the predicament in which we have found ourselves.
Rather, it is corporatism itself: a logic we have internalized into our very being, a lens through which we view the world around us, and an ethos with which we justify our behaviors. Making matters worse, we accept its dominance over us as preexisting -- as a given circumstance of the human condition. It just is.
But it isn't.
Corporatism didn't evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living -- the operating system on which we are now running our social software -- was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self-sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.
Its basic laws were set in motion as far back as the Renaissance; it was accelerated by the Industrial Age; and it was sold to us as a better way of life by a determined generation of corporate leaders who believed they had our best interests at heart and who ultimately succeeded in their dream of controlling the masses from above.
We have succumbed to an ideology that has the same intellectual underpinnings and assumptions about human nature as -- dare we say it -- mid-twentieth-century fascism. Given how the word has been misapplied to everyone from police officers to communists, we might best refrain from resorting to what has become a feature of cheap polemic. But in this case it's accurate, and that we're forced to dance around this F word today would certainly have pleased Goebbels greatly.
The current situation resembles the managed capitalism of Mussolini's Italy, in particular. It shares a common intellectual heritage (in disappointed progressives who wanted to order society on a scientific understanding of human nature), the same political alliance (the collaboration of the state and the corporate sector), and some of the same techniques for securing consent (through public relations and propaganda). Above all, it shares with fascism the same deep suspicion of free humans.
And, as with any absolutist narrative, calling attention to the inherent injustice and destructiveness of the system is understood as an attempt to undermine our collective welfare. The whistleblower is worse than just a spoilsport; he is an enemy of the people.
Unlike Europe's fascist dictatorships, this state of affairs came about rather bloodlessly -- at least on the domestic front. Indeed, the real lesson of the twentieth century is that the battle for total social control would be waged and won not through war and overt repression, but through culture and commerce. Instead of depending on a paternal dictator or nationalist ideology, today's system of control depends on a society fastidiously cultivated to see the corporation and its logic as central to its welfare, value, and very identity.
That's why it's no longer Big Brother who should frighten us -- however much corporate lobbies still seek to vilify anything to do with government beyond their own bailouts. Sure, democracy may be the quaint artifact of an earlier era, but what has taken its place? Suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of citizens, and the occasional repression of voting notwithstanding, this mess is not the fault of a particular administration or political party, but of a culture, economy, and belief system that places market priorities above life itself. It's not the fault of a government or a corporation, the news media or the entertainment industry, but the merging of all these entities into a single, highly centralized authority with the ability to write laws, issue money, and promote its expansion into our world.
Then, in a last cynical surrender to the logic of corporatism, we assume the posture and behaviors of corporations in the hope of restoring our lost agency and security. But the vehicles to which we gain access in this way are always just retail facsimiles of the real ones. Instead of becoming true landowners we become mortgage holders. Instead of guiding corporate activity we become shareholders. Instead of directing the shape of public discourse we pay to blog. We can't compete against corporations on a playing field that was created for their benefit alone.
This is the landscape of corporatism: a world not merely dominated by corporations, but one inhabited by people who have internalized corporate values as our own.
And even now that corporations appear to be waning in their power, they are dragging us down with them; we seem utterly incapable of lifting ourselves out of their depression.
We need to understand how this happened -- how we came to live for and through a business scheme. We must recount the story of how life itself became corporatized, and figure out what -- if anything -- we are to do about it.
While we will find characters to blame for one thing or another, most of corporatism's architects have long since left the building -- and even they were usually acting with only their immediate, short-term profits in mind. Our object instead should be to understand the process by which we were disconnected from the real world and why we remain disconnected from it. This is our best hope of regaining some relationship with terra firma again. Like recovering cult victims, we have less to gain from blaming our seducers than from understanding our own participation in building and maintaining a corporatist society. Only then can we begin dismantling and replacing it with something more livable and sustainable.
Professor Bacevich argues that the US political landscape is governed by large corporations, which created an aggressive regime inclined to launch the wars to promote the US corporate interests in distant parts of the globe. He called this trigger happy phenomenon the new militarism . Which, while serving the interest of large corporation, is powered by crucial for neoliberal regime the convergence of interests of:
If we assept that the USA is a neoliberal empire, then it's dangerous illusion to consider Democratic party and Republican Party as different parties. Both are representative of interests of financial oligarchy which became as occupies of the country, much like Bolsheviks behaved in the USSR. In this sense political dominance of a single party in the USSR and dual party system of the USA are twins, separated at birth. Both parties represent interests of a single political constituency -- the top 1% (or 0.01% to be exect). For example democrat Obama represents Republicans more then democrats in all major foreign policy issues and many domestic issues too. Somebody aptly said that the only common trait between Franklin Roosevelt and Barak Obama is that both are traitors of their class. Such a George W Obama .
Dems and Repugs are more like left and right wings of the same neoliberal party with Dems being more aggressive in foreign policy and repugs in domestic policy (aka in destroying New Deal). In a way, Obama’s greatest service to the American people might be undermining two-party system illusion. I think only countercultural conservatives defend currently the interests of the country. Such as Andrew J. Bacevich (see also his articles in TAC), Ron Paul, Patrick J. Buchanan, etc. And conservatism does not mean stagnation. Conservatism just means reliance on traditional values, attempt of preservation as many as possible valuable, proven social constructs/elements of the past and integration of them within the society development framework. As Andrew J. Bacevich observed:
Conservatism—the genuine article, not the phony brand represented by the likes of Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, or Grover Norquist—has now become the counterculture.
That actually exclude both Democratic Party and Republican party. The first became a neoliberal party, the party of financial oligarchy. The latter, while superficially attached to conservatism, also is a neoliberal party just positioned to the right of the center by switching to a neoconservative formula of protecting the well-to-do and promoting endless wars while paying lip-service to traditional values. Both parties are pandering to the Israel lobby. And even if the Republican party does make a comeback in 2016 on that basis, in no way it will advance the conservative cause. Reviving that cause requires a different formula and a different party altogether.
Still despite those recent developments, American two party system is a very interesting way to manipulate the public. It represents the same but much more sophisticated and smooth mechanism of manipulation of public opinion as in totalitarian societies including neo-theocratic flavors (for example the USSR, where the ruling party was simultaneously a dangerous high-demand religious cult, with Marxism-Leninism serving as a civil religion). It is clear that political philosophies can become civic religions. The telling signs of such conversion of an political philosophy (aka ideology) into secular religion might include formal services, ceremonial functions, the existence of clergy, structure and organization, efforts at propagation, observation of holidays and other similar manifestations associated with the traditional religions. In Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F.2d 197, 212 (C.A.N.J., 1979), a federal District Court in New Jersey raised this very question:
A more difficult question would be presented by government propagation of doctrinaire Marxism, either in the schools or elsewhere. Under certain circumstances Marxism might be classifiable as a religion and an establishment thereof could result.
despite of its accent of greed ("greed is good") and serving interest of financial oligarchy instead of top layer of party and state bureaucracy (nomenklatura) neoliberalism very similar to Marxism-Leninism as existed in the USSR (jstor.org):
Conventional analyses of secularization typically deal with revealed religions and the increasing disenchantment of their adherents with revealed religious doctrines under conditions of rapid industrialization and urbanization. Very little research, however, has dealt with the rise and decline of religiosity or the impact of secularization in social systems organized around a civil religion. This investigation approaches the development of the Bolshevik party in the Soviet Union as an example of a civil religious movement to test Weber's notions of enchantment and disenchantment against the experience of devoted party activists in order to see how increasing industrialization has influenced the civil religion of Marxism-Leninism and the behavior of individual followers of Marxism-Leninism. Hence, this analysis seeks to discover whether or not a dynamic of secularization, perhaps akin to the growing disenchantment among devoted Protestants from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries as discussed by Weber, might be found in post-revolutionary communist societies, like the present-day USSR. If such a dynamic of secularization does exist, then the question of civil religious revivalism, or revitalization movements, will be addressed to consider how and where such revivalistic movements might develop within post-revolutionary, secularized communist systems.
The key element of this political invention is that it allows to divide the population into two camps by attracting people to one of the two opposite poles using peripheral (wedge) issues like abortion or gay marriage and forcing them to compromise on the more important and economically vital issues (both parties supported deregulation and actually the major part of New Deal was killed by Clinton's henchmen Rubin and Summers):
Pareto emphasized the psychological and intellectual superiority that the elites obtained, he believed that the elites were the highest accomplishers in any field and he discussed how there were two types of elites (governing and non-governing). He also extended on the idea that a whole elite can be replaced by a new one and how one can fall out from elite to non-elite.
Mosca emphasized the sociological and personal characteristics of elites. He said elites are an organized minority and that the masses are an unorganized majority. The ruling class is composed of the ruling elite and the sub-elites. He divides the world into two groups: ruling class and class that is ruled. Mosca asserts that elites have intellectual, moral, and material superiority that is highly esteemed and influential.
Sociologist Michels developed the Iron Law of Oligarchy where, he asserts, social and political organizations are run by few individuals, and social organization and labor division are key. He believed that all organizations were elitist and that elites have three basic principles that help in the bureaucratic structure of political organization:
Mills published his book The Power Elite in 1956, in which he identified a triumvirate of power groups - political, economic and military - which form a distinguishable, although not unified, power-wielding body in the United States. Mills proposed that this group had been generated through a process of rationalization at work in all advanced industrial societies whereby the mechanisms of power became concentrated, funneling overall control into the hands of a limited, somewhat corrupt group. This reflected a decline in politics as an arena for debate and relegation to a merely formal level of discourse. This macro-scale analysis sought to point out the degradation of democracy in advanced societies and the fact that power generally lies outside the boundaries of elected representatives. A main influence for the study was Franz Leopold Neumann's book, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, 1933-1944 , a study of how Nazism came to power in the German democratic state. It provided the tools to analyze the structure of a political system and served as a warning of what could happen in a modern capitalistic democracy.
The elite theory analysis of power was also applied on the micro scale in community power studies such as that by Floyd Hunter (1953). Hunter examined in detail the power relationships evident in his Regional City looking for the real holders of power rather than those in obvious official positions. He posited a structural-functional approach which mapped the hierarchies and webs of interconnection operating within the city – mapping relationships of power between businessmen, politicians, clergy etc. The study was promoted to debunk current concepts of any ‘democracy’ present within urban politics...
This type of analysis was also used in later, larger scale, studies such as that carried out by M. Schwartz examining the power structures within the sphere of the corporate elite in the USA.
In his important book Who Rules America?, G. William Domhoff researched local and national decision making process networks in order to illustrate the power structure in the United States. He asserts, much like Hunter, that an elite class that owns and manages large income-producing properties (like banks and corporations) dominate the American power structure politically and economically.
Burnham’s early work
The Managerial Revolution sought to express the movement of all functional power into the hands
of managers rather than politicians or businessmen –
and control. Many of these ideas were adapted by
paleoconservatives - ->
But Burnham failed to see the possibility of conversion of oligarchic republic into empire. The latter is an important transformation so we need to understand it.
An interesting insight into this notion was provided in article TGIF: We Were Warned about the Rise of Empire by Sheldon Richman
June 13, 2014 | fff.org
American critics of U.S. foreign policy (as well as some neoconservative supporters) often refer to the United States as an empire. This is not an emotional outburst but a substantive description of the national government’s role in the world. But what exactly is an empire? This question is all the more relevant today with Iraq is being consumed by sectarian violence and calls for renewed U.S. intervention here are increasingly louder.
In 1952 the journalist and novelist Garet Garrett (1878–1954) took up this question in contemplating post-World War II America. The resulting essay, “The Rise of Empire,” is included in his anthology, The People’s Pottage (PDF). It bears close study today.
Garrett was an important figure in what has come to be known as the “Old Right,” an eclectic group of writers and politicians (mostly Republican) who emerged in the 1930s to oppose militarism and the centralization of power under the New Deal. (For a history of the Old Right, see my “New Deal Nemesis: The ‘Old Right’ Jeffersonians” [PDF].)
Garrett began with this somber message:
We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: “You now are entering Imperium.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.” And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: “No U-turns.”
If you say there were no frightening omens, that is true. The political foundations did not quake, the graves of the fathers did not fly open, the Constitution did not tear itself up. If you say people did not will it, that also is true. But if you say therefore it has not happened, then you have been so long bemused by words that your mind does not believe what the eye can see, even as in the jungle the terrified primitive, on meeting the lion, importunes magic by saying to himself, “He is not there.”
(For evidence that the American empire is older than Garrett thought, see my “Empire on Their Minds.”)
The country’s institutions may look the same, Garrett wrote, but a “revolution within the form” has occurred:
There is no comfort in history for those who put their faith in forms; who think there is safeguard in words inscribed on parchment, preserved in a glass case, reproduced in facsimile and hauled to and fro on a Freedom Train.
Garrett next proceeded to carefully isolate the characteristics of empire. After examining Rome’s transition from republic to empire, he wondered,
If you may have Empire with or without a constitution, even within the form of a republican constitution, and if also you may have Empire with or without an emperor, then how may the true marks of Empire be distinguished with certainty? What are they?
Republics, he said, can make war, conquer territory, and even acquire colonies, depending on how one defines the term, so “let us regard the things that belong only to empire, and set them down. Then we shall see.”
He came up with five traits:
(1) Rise of the executive principle of government to a position of dominant power,
(2) Accommodation of domestic policy to foreign policy,
(3) Ascendancy of the military mind,
(4) A system of satellite nations for a purpose called collective security, and,
(5) An emotional complex of vaunting and fear.
It’s easy to see how closely this fits the United States today. For a long time, the executive branch has been the dominant branch of government. For example, as Garrett noted, the war power has moved entirely into the hands of the president, despite the Constitution’s language and Congress’s half-hearted attempt to hold on to some power with the War Powers Resolution. Since the Korean War, it’s the president who decides when the country goes to war. (Even when Barack Obama tossed the question of bombing Syria to Congress last year, he and others maintained that he had the unilateral power to act if he wanted to.) During the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, lawyers inside and outside the government spun broad theories of autocratic executive authority over national security based entirely on the apparently thin Article II of the Constitution.
Garrett wrote that the “aggrandizement of the executive principle of government” occurred by congressional delegation, reinterpretation of the language of the Constitution, innovation, the appearance of administrative agencies, usurpation, and increasing involvement in foreign affairs. This last is especially relevant, because the executive can always assert that foreign policy cannot be made by 535 members of Congress.
The subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy is accomplished by claiming that without national security, nothing else matters. So domestic concerns must take a back seat to foreign affairs. The national-security establishment’s sheer demand for goods and services — which produces the military-industrial complex — diverts the economy from serving consumers to serving the state. As long as the president can keep the people in fear of foreign enemies, he can justify the transfer of resources from the private sector to the government sector. It is too easy for the executive to answer any challenge by playing the “I know things that you don’t know” card. As Garrett wrote,
It needs hardly to be argued that as we convert the nation into a garrison state to build the most terrible war machine that has ever been imagined on earth, every domestic policy is bound to be conditioned by our foreign policy.
One need only look around to see evidence of the “ascendancy of the military mind.” Not even a looming fiscal crisis prompts a serious reconsideration of America’s far-flung military presence or its putative “interests” everywhere. Reverence for the military intrudes on everyday life; one cannot watch a ballgame or even a televised cooking competition without being subjected to sappy expressions of gratitude for supposed “service to our country.” Americans did not always have a worshipful disposition toward the military.
As in Garrett’s time, satellite nations are today called “allies.” Americans are not only obliged to cough up billions of dollars each year in armaments and cash to support those alliances, they also must be prepared to go to war to defend countries throughout the world. In his recent speech at West Point, Obama included the defense of allies in his definition of America’s “core interests.” Thus the American people are on call should most of Europe up to the Russian border, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and other nations find themselves threatened — even if their own conduct provoked the alleged threat.
Garrett’s phrase “an emotional complex of vaunting and fear” couldn’t better apply to today’s America. Government officials beat their chests in describing how powerful, exceptional, and indispensable America is for the world. No one, they say, can challenge America’s dominance and leadership in the world. Yet at the same time they advise Americans to fear Islamic terrorism, China, Russia, Latin American drug lords, and sundry other threats. That’s vaunting and fear.
Finally, Garrett made a point that is entirely relevant today: “a time comes when Empire finds itself — a prisoner of history.” A republic, Garrett wrote, can determine its own history. “But the history of Empire is world history and belongs to many people.”
We’ve all heard presidents say that America’s responsibilities to the world have been thrust upon it and cannot be avoided. It is not a matter of choice. That’s the doctrine which Garrett had in mind:
What is it that now obliges the American people to act upon the world?
As you ask that question the fear theme plays itself down and the one that takes its place is magnifical. It is not only our security we are thinking of — our security in a frame of collective security. Beyond that lies a greater thought.
It is our turn.
Our turn to do what? you may ask. Garrett nails the political establishment’s reply, which is calculated to awe Americans into blind compliance:
Our turn to assume the responsibilities or moral leadership in the world.
Our turn to maintain a balance of power against the forces of evil everywhere — in Europe and Asia and Africa, in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, by air and by sea — evil in this case being the Russian barbarian. [This is especially pertinent now.]
Our turn to keep the peace of the world.
Our turn to save civilization.
Our turn to serve mankind.
But this is the language of Empire.
We’re told, however, that American empire is unique because it is dedicated to freedom and peace. This claim cannot withstand scrutiny: look at the regimes American administrations have supported and support today. But Garrett said that even if this claim were granted, the case for empire would be self-defeating because its price is bankruptcy.
So even if “this is Imperialism of the Good Intent,” he wrote, it would also have to be the “Empire of the Bottomless Purse.”
Putnam saw the development of technical and exclusive knowledge among administrators and other specialist groups as a mechanism by which power is stripped from the democratic process and slipped sideways to the advisors and specialists influencing the decision making process.
If the dominant figures of the past hundred years have been the entrepreneur, the businessman, and the industrial executive, the ‘new men’ are the scientists, the mathematicians, the economists, and the engineers of the new intellectual technology.
Dye in his book Top Down Policymaking, argues that U.S. public policy does not result from the demands of the people, but rather from Elite consensus among Washington, D.C. based non-profit foundations, think tanks, special-interest groups, prominent lobbyists and law firms. Dye's thesis is further expanded upon in his works: The Irony of Democracy, Politics in America, Understanding Public Policy, and Who's Running America?
That means that foreign policy of the USA is determined solely by interests of elite and common people are just pawns in the Great Game . That explains aggressive character of the USA foreign policy( aka Mew Militarism as it was called by Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University and former Colonel of the US army Andrew J. Bacevich). In the XX century there were literally just a dozen years when the USA were not engages in some war or several of them. Among them (from How many wars has the United States been in):
Boxer Rebellion, 1899 - 1901
United States occupation of Nicaragua, 1907-1933
United States occupation of Honduras, 1907-1933
United States overthrow of Guatemalan Government, 1907-1933
Intervention during Panamanian Election, 1908
United States occupation of Cuba, 1912
United States occupation of Veracruz, 1914
United States occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934
United States occupation of the Dominican Republic, 1917-1924
Mexican Expedition, 1916 - 1917
Battle of Ambros Nogales, 1918
World War I, 1917 – 1918 (time span of U.S. involvement)
European Theatre, 1917 - 1918
First Battle of the Atlantic, 1917 - 1918
Russian Revolution, 1918-1920 (time span of U.S. involvement)
Polar Bear Expedition, 1918 - 1919
American Expeditionary Force Siberia, Soviet Union, 1918 - 1920
World War II, 1941 – 1945 (time span of U.S. involvement)
Second Battle of the Atlantic, 1941 - 1945
Pacific War, 1941 - 1945
African Theatre, 1942 - 1943
European Theatre, 1944 - 1945
Korean War, 1950 - 1953
Operation Blue Bat, Lebanon, 1958
Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuba, 1961
Operation Powerpack, Dominican Republic, 1965 - 1966
Vietnam War, 1962 - 1973 (time span of United States involvement)
Laotian Civil War, 1962 - 1973
Cambodian Civil War, 1969 - 1970
Contra War, El Salvador, 1981-1990
Invasion of Grenada, Grenada, 1983-1984
United States invasion of Panama 1989 - 1990
Persian Gulf War, Iraq, 1991
Operation Desert Shield, 1991
Operation Desert Storm, 1991
Somali Civil War, 1992 - 1994
Operation Provide Relief, 1992
Operation Restore Hope, 1992 - 1994
Yugoslav wars, 1994 - 1999
Bosnian Conflict, 1994 - 1995
Kosovo Conflict, 1997 - 1999
Here are suggestions of Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott (The NATO Afghanistan War and US-Russian Relations Drugs, Oil, and War Afghanistan) for changes in the USA foreign policy:
So I am now publishing my talk with this preface for a North American and international audience. I believe that the most urgent task today to preserve the peace of the world is to curb America’s drive towards unchallenged dominance, and to re-energize the UN’s prohibition of unilateral and preemptive wars, for the sake of coexistence in a peaceful and multilateral world.
To this end, I hope that Americans will mobilize against American dominationism, and call for a policy declaration, either from the administration or from Congress, that would:
- explicitly renounce past Pentagon calls for “full spectrum dominance”  as a military objective for American foreign policy,
- reject as unacceptable the deeply-ingrained practice of preemptive wars,
- renounce categorically any US plans for the permanent use of military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kyrgyzstan, and
- recommit the United States to conducting future military operations in accordance with the procedures set out in the United Nations Charter.
I encourage others to join me in urging Congress to introduce a resolution to this effect. Such a resolution might not initially succeed. But it would help focus American political debate on what I consider to be a topic that is both urgent and too little examined: American expansiveness as a current threat to global peace.
he first deep analyses of American exceptionalism was done by Niebuhr from the religious positions in his famous book The Irony of American History. Niebuhr as a theologian considered it to be a sin that inevitably lead to the false allure of simple solutions and lack of appreciation of limits of power. In his opinion "Messianic consciousness" which constitute the core of American exeptionalism, was partially inherited form religious dogmas of early religious sects which came to colonize America. But in all major manifestation it is identical to good old nationalism.
As somebody said any unbiased analysis of the nationalist activities leads to a disappointing conclusion: nationalists can behave as compradors: as enthusiastic servants of a foreign occupier of their own territory. In this case international banking cartel. Ukraine is one example, Serbia and Georgia are other but very similar examples...
The policy which oppose exceptionalism is often called Noninterventionism
Noninterventionism is a rather clunky and unappealing label for a set of very appealing ideas: that the U.S. should mind its own business, act with restraint, respect other nations, refrain from unnecessary violence, and pursue peace. If future administrations took just a few of these as guiding principles for the conduct of foreign policy, America and the world would both be better off.
There were several important thinkers who contributed to understand of this complex phenomena:
See also neo-conservatism which is a related phenomenon. In this case the pre-eminence of the USA as the sole superpower needs to be maintained at all costs.
In his foreword to Niebuhr's book Bacevich noted:
In Niebuhr's view, America's rise to power derived less from divine favor than from good fortune combines with a fierce determination to convert that good fortune in wealth and power. The good fortune cane in the form of vast landscape, rich in resources, ripe for exploitation, and apparently insulated from the bloody cockpit of [European] power politics. The determination found expression in a strategy of commercial and territorial expansionism that proved staggeringly successful, evidence not of superior virtue but of shrewdness punctuated with a considerable capacity for ruthlessness.
In describing America's rise to power Niebuhr does not shrink from using words like "hegemony" and "imperialism". His point is not to tag the United States with responsibility for all the world's evils. Rather, it is to suggest that it does not differ from other great powers as much as Americans may imagine.
...Niebuhr has little patience for those who portray the United States as acting on God's behalf. "All men are naturally inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in this political cause by investing it with religious sanctity," he once observed. " This is why religion is more frequently a source of confusion then of light in the political realm.". In the United States, he continued "The tendency to equate our political [goals] with our Christian convictions cause politics to generate idolatry."
In the introduction to American Exceptionalism and Human Rights Michael Ignatieff identifies three main types of exceptionalism:
I would add to it
The contributors to American Exceptionalism and Human Rights use Ignatieff's essay as a starting point to discuss specific types of exceptionalism -- America's approach to capital punishment and to free speech, for example -- or to explore the social, cultural, and institutional roots of exceptionalism.
Another important contributor to the analysis of American exeptionalism is Anatol Lieven
"America keeps a fine house," Anatol Lieven writes in his probably best book on the American Exceptionalism (America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism ) "but in its cellar there lives a demon, whose name is nationalism."
While neocons definitely played an important role in shaping the US policy immediately after 9/11, the origins of aggressive U.S. foreign policy since 9/11 also reflect controversial character of the US national identity, which according to Anatol Lieven embraces two contradictory features.
Both are much older then 9/11. The first aggressive, expansionist war by the US was the war of 1812. See American Loyalists, The Most Important War You Probably Know Nothing About - By James Traub Foreign Policy
The War of 1812 matters because it was America’s first war of choice. The United States did not have to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, to survive as a nation and indeed President James Madison did not want to. The newly founded United States was growing westward but the “war hawks” in Congress pressed for a conflict with America’s former colonial masters in the hopes of gaining even more territory to the north. The term “hawk” was coined in the run-up to the War of 1812 and the hawks of U.S. foreign policy have been with us ever since.
The War of 1812 was America’s first neocon war. With an audacity that would become familiar, the war hawks appealed to a combination of personal pride — the British navy was forcibly conscripting Americans — and the prospect of material gain — the absorption of British Canada — wrapped up in love of country. No one said the conquest of Canada would be a “cakewalk,” but the hawks were confident the Americans would be greeted as liberators.
These two mutually-excusive impulses caused wide oscillations of the US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and influenced the nature of U.S. support for Israel. Due to those oscillations those two contradictory impulses are undermining the U.S. foreign policy credibility in the eyes of the worlds and complicates reaching important national objectives.
Some try to attribute the idea of “American Exceptionalism” to Alexis de Tocqueville — though he never penned the phrase. In reality this term is of German origin and was used by German Marxists who were trying to explain weakness of worker movement in the USA. The idiom was popularized by neo-conservative pundits (aka former Trotskyites) soon after WWII.
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