Mitt Romney and the Republican Party seem to be channeling Soviet nostalgia, and well they might. The death of communism has not been good overall to the health of the conservative movement, and oddly enough -- Karl Marx is one of the sharpest political theorists now to explain the predicament that this whole planet is in.
But perhaps first, I should talk about the death of Marxism. The fall of the Soviet Union supposedly showed the hollowness of the Marxist ideology, giving the handmaidens and apologists of the free market theory a hunting license to lay to waste the entire planet. Up until the moment that Boris Yeltsin pulled a fast one on Mikhail Gorbachev and broke up the Soviet Union, the fall of the USSR was proof of the criminality of the Soviet system, its long term unworkability, and its inate inferiority to the religious beliefs of free market capitalism.
So, what's happened since 1990? The GINI index for the USA has gone sky high. What's the GINI index? It's the measure of income inequality that's used as a yardstick for every country in the world. The only people who've benefitted from the hegemony of the USA in world affairs have been the plutocrats. The middle class has stagnated, as people have worked harder and harder progressively just to attempt to stay in the same place. Instead, we have real estate rapers building 60,000 square feet "homes" where they can entertain Newt Gingrich and the Reverend Jerry Falwell. That's progress for you.
Once upon a time, New Deal liberalism and Fordism, the principle of paying employees a better than "just living" wage so that they could buy some of the products they manufactured, ruled America. The New Deal came to America as a memory of Teddy Roosevelt progressivism. And TR did what he did because of the depridations of the robber barons of the 19th Century. From the New Deal was forged the principles of not only a living wage, but strong American unions, and eventually the United Nations Charter.
It didn't hurt America that there was a strong Soviet Union with a competing religion. The presence of Soviet Union-style Marxism allowed the two party system in America to evolve into Cold War Democrats and Wall Street Republicans, with the Joe McCarthy spear carriers of the American right eventually standing all by themselves in the corner (until they re-emerged with the campaign of Barry Goldwater in 1964). These political constellations of near-left, right, and far right in America look like they're fixed into the history of the USA, but now there's a joker in the mix. More on that later.
The cold war produced Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson, but Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover won the day as far as US history from then until now. Thanks in part to Nixon's Southern strategy, the right wing influence grew and grew, up until today. Meanwhile, liberalism shrank as American power overreached itself and New Deal ideas began to coast on fumes. I can mark the date in 1972 when I felt that American power had reached its absolute zenith. From then until now, it's all been downhill.
A good part of my political point of view rests on the theories of historic economic and political cycles. If we want to put a rough date on the length of New Deal and Cold War liberalism, we could go from the years 1930 to 1970. Around 1970, the New Deal coalition began to break up, and Richard Nixon perfected his Southern strategy.
1970 up until today represents the Age of Reagan. Although Reagan didn't take power of the White House until 1980, his ideas were on the rise from at least the time of Nixon's election in 1968. The holding action of whatever resembled New Deal liberalism was officially dead by the time that Bill Clinton became president.
The 1990s were the times of American triumphalism. We were indeed, the big swinging dicks of the world. Capitalism American style was the only way to go, and inferior peoples all over the world were preached at about how they should get with the system. The 1990s were also the time when the effects of neoliberalism were beginning to pinch shoes all over America. The massive job outsourcing for the religion of free trade sent factory jobs in Ohio to Mexico, China, and Bangladesh. While offloading factories began with Reagan, the trend continued like progressing cancer for America.
Reagan's fight with the air traffic controllers was the big opening gun in the emasculinization of the American labor union, and we were all downsourced and offsized, with according reductions in American wages and fringe benefits. Once again, the decline of the unions is in good part directly linked to the rise of the libertarian, free market right wing.
The decline of American liberalism and the growth of the religion of Milton Freidman and Ronald Reagan were part of the grand cycle of American politics and the world economy. During this period, the beliefs of the right attacked and tore down the safety valves that had been put in place by the New Deal to fight the principles of Marxist-Soviet communism. From 1930 up until 1970, it was the philosophy of the US government to provide better standards of living to the majority of the population, and part of the motivation for this was the presence of the Soviet Union and its competing ideology.
From 1990 to the present, we've had Bill Clinton end welfare as we know it, as well as the repealing of the Glass-Stegall Act. And then we had G.W. Bush, who managed to screw the pooch over everything else. I would contend that the death of the Soviet Union pushed the United States substantially more in a rightward direction, leading us up to the conditions we see today.
And what do we see today? We see people going for years without employment. We see millions of people who've lost their homes. We've seen criminals on Wall Street walk away scot free, and then go out and redouble their bets of funny money. We've seen the financialization of the world, growing like Topsy so that collateralized debt instruments and other exotic derivatives are now worth over twenty times the actual domestic product of the world.
Where once upon a time, there was a fat and happy middle class, totally rejecting the tenets of communism (while they enjoyed some of the benefits of American socialism) now we have the plutocrats as the only beneficiaries of government largess. Socialism for the rich has produced a tenuous existence for everyone else. More importantly, we are seeing the signs of unrest, both in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. One of the few things that these otherwise hostile groups might have in common is the fact that they both reject the siren songs of the dominant narrative of American media (and the corporate masters who control them). The TeaParty blames government. Occupy Wall Street says that government is just a puppet of the real powers that be. There may come a time in the near future when these two insurgent forces realize that they both have a lot more in common than their differences.
From 1930 to 1970, the United States did everything in its power to fight the threat of communism. And one of the ways it did so was to basically repeal the class struggle. Supposedly the American way could be a rising tide for all boats, lifting people up out of poverty and into the middle class. In the process, they cut off the roots for class unrest in this country. Politics migrated to a different place. Basically, everything the USA did for the middle class was to mitigate the operational dynamics of Marxism to build the American consumer society.
Unfortunately, the death of the Soviet Union gave the right wing the daylight to run for a touchdown. But in the process of taking the principles of neoliberalism and libertarian beliefs to an extreme in government, unintentionally American conservatives created the conditions whereby the thoughts of Marx could arise from the grave.
Marxism is based in good part on commodification. If you turn everything into a commodity, it can be bought and sold at will. People who were earning good pensions and a living wage found their jobs going to Indonesia, where the Fortune 500 had no such costs. That's because under the religion of Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan, American workers' production (and jobs) could be commodified. The lowest common denominator began to operate in factory placement, and some of the worst countries in the world became attractive manufacturing platforms.
In the process, America has been hollowed out, and the natives have become very restless indeed. Perhaps the most significant thing that Occupy Wall Street will do this spring is to occupy corporate board and shareholder meetings. By occupying Halliburton and Exxon, OWS will do its part to notch class warfare up. Not coincidentally, the age of Reagan will be over 40 years old. Age of New Deal = 1930 t0 1970. Age of Reagan = 1970 t0 2010. There's a fine symmetry there, isn't there?
There may be a ten year period of transition into a truly new regime of thinking. However, between now and 2020 extreme capitalism will coexist with ever more harsh and dangerous conditions of manmade global climate change. How things actually play out, I don't have clue. What I've tried to do in this essay is to lay out a point of view that can be obviously debated.
You said that you wanted to live in interesting times?