Monday, March 26, 2012

The Road to Totalitarianism

Freedom Betrayed, continued….

In 1938, Hoover took an extended trip to Europe, visiting leaders of many of the countries on the continent – including a visit with Hitler. Upon his return to the United States, he made several addresses in regards to this trip and his views of the situation.

These included addresses in New York, San Francisco, and Oklahoma City. I offer the following, from his address in Oklahoma City:

Not one of those 14 totalitarian [Communist or Fascist] nations started with the intention to surrender liberty. They started by adopting panaceas to cure slumps or overcome economic difficulties….In variable doses they undertook credit and currency manipulation, price fixing, pump priming, and spending with huge deficits and huge taxes….they had the illusion that…[there] was a middle road between Fascism on the right and Socialism on the left.

Many will read these words and look to recent times in the United States, exclaiming that this is exactly what is happening in the U.S. today. Some wrongly point to this turn as having begun with Obama. Others see Bush as the culprit. There can be no denying the parallels.

However, the roots go back much further. I have referenced before “The Revolution Was” , but it seems appropriate to refer to it again here. In 1938, Garet Garrett wrote, regarding Roosevelt’s New Deal, that we should look in the rear view mirror for the revolution:

The Great Depression as it developed here was such an opportunity as might have been made to order. The economic distress was relative, which is to say that at the worst of it living in this country was better than living almost anywhere else in the world. The pain, nevertheless, was very acute; and much worse than any actual hurt was a nameless fear, a kind of active despair, that assumed the proportions of a national psychosis.

Seizures of that kind were not unknown in American history. Indeed, they were characteristic of the American temperament. But never before had there been one so hard and never before had there been the danger that a revolutionary elite would be waiting to take advantage of it.

This revolutionary elite was nothing you could define as a party. It had no name, no habitat, no rigid line. The only party was the Communist Party, and it was included, but its attack was too obvious and its proletarianism too crude, and moreover, it was under the stigma of not belonging. Nobody could say that about the elite above. It did belong, it was eminently respectable, and it knew the American scene. What it represented was a quantity of bitter intellectual radicalism infiltrated from the top downward as a doctorhood of professors, writers, critics, analysts, advisers, administators, directors of research, and so on — a prepared revolutionary intelligence in spectacles. There was no plan to begin with. But there was a shibboleth that united them all: "Capitalism is finished." There was one idea in which all differences could be resolved, namely, the idea of a transfer of power. For that a united front; after that, anything. And the wine of communion was a passion to play upon history with a scientific revolutionary technic.

The prestige of the elite was natural for many reasons; but it rested also upon one practical consideration. When the opportunity came a Gracchus would be needed. The elite could produce one. And that was something the Communist Party could not hope to do.

Now given — (1) the opportunity, (2) a country whose fabulous wealth was in the modern forms — dynamic, functional, non-portable, (3) a people so politically naive as to have passed a law against any attempt to overthrow their government by force — and, (4) the intention to bring about what Aristotle called a revolution in the state, within the frame of existing law — Then from the point of view of scientific revolutionary technic what would the problems be?

They set themselves down in sequence as follows:

The first, naturally, would be to capture the seat of government.

The second would be to seize economic power.

The third would be to mobilize by propaganda the forces of hatred.

The fourth would he to reconcile and then attach to the revolution the two great classes whose adherence is indispensable but whose interests are economically antagonistic, namely, the industrial wage earners and the farmers, called in Europe workers and peasants.

The fifth would be what to do with business — whether to liquidate or shackle it.

(These five would have a certain imperative order in time and require immediate decisions because they belong to the program of conquest. That would not be the end. What would then ensue? A program of consolidation. Under that head the problems continue.)

The sixth, in Burckhardt's devastating phrase, would be "the domestication of individuality" — by any means that would make the individual more dependent upon government.

The seventh would be the systematic reduction of all forms of rival authority.

The eighth would be to sustain popular faith in an unlimited public debt, for if that faith should break the government would be unable to borrow, if it could not borrow it could not spend, and the revolution must be able to borrow and spend the wealth of the rich or else it will be bankrupt.

The ninth would be to make the government itself the great capitalist and enterpriser, so that the ultimate power in initiative would pass from the hands of private enterprise to the all-powerful state.

Each one of these problems would have two sides, one the obverse and one the reverse, like a coin. One side only would represent the revolutionary intention. The other side in each case would represent Recovery — and that was the side the New Deal constantly held up to view. Nearly everything it did was in the name of Recovery. But in no case was it true that for the ends of economic recovery alone one solution or one course and one only was feasible. In each case there was an alternative and therefore a choice to make.

What we shall see is that in every case the choice was one that could not fail:

(a) To ramify the authority and power of executive government — its power, that is, to rule by decrees and rules and regulations of its own making; (b) To strengthen its hold upon the economic life of the nation; (c) To extend its power aver the individual; (d) To degrade the parliamentary principle; (e) To impair the great American tradition of an independent, Constitutional judicial power; (f) To weaken all other powers — the power of private enterprise, the power of private finance, the power of state and local government; (g) To exalt the leader principle.

There was endless controversy as to whether the acts of the New Deal did actually move recovery or retard it, and nothing final could ever come of that bitter debate because it is forever impossible to prove what might have happened in place of what did. But a positive result is obtained if you ask:

Where was the New Deal going?

The answer to that question is too obvious to be debated. Every choice it made, whether it was one that moved recovery or not, was a choice unerringly true to the essential design of totalitarian government, never of course called by that name either here or anywhere else.

Hoover is describing how these 14 totalitarian states were not born in such a condition, but gradually evolved to fascism / communism. Garett describes in detail the process used to achieve the same result in the U.S. in the 1930s. Hoover believes none of these nations began with the intention to move to a totalitarian state. Garett sees things differently: he sees that there was an elite guiding these events and guiding the conclusions.

I would only (humbly) add that it cannot be mere coincidence that these transformations occurred in many states throughout the world at the same time.

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