On the hundred thirty-seventh anniversary of the Johnstown flood, in which the perquisites of plutocrats outweighed by a substantial margin the mere survival of workers ‘downstream’ from upper class revelry and SOP, a pair of items from World Socialist Website that provide a dandy overview, on the one hand, of the depredation and plausible annihilation that awaits humanity if the epoch of capitalist hegemony continues, and that examine the cultural resistance to mass collective suicide that is visible in spite of the rich’s control of the means of production and distribution of whatever ‘the marketplace of ideas’ seems to serve up as a random ‘product;’ a fiery set of assessments that fit quite well with Tom Johnson’s biography’s recollections of Johnstown itself, excerpts of which appear in today’s Quote-of-the-Day; powerful indictments that also mesh nicely with a posting from The Undefeated about the ideological battles that took place between Jackie Robinson and Malcolm X; a pair of views of culture and its potential that also intertwine powerfully with a TruthDig analysis that examines the unity in approach to class war among members of the upper crust themselves, all of which amounts to a hodgepodge reality orientation about what is happening, how to think about it, why it is happening, and why it all matters to scrappy scribes or stalwart citizens: “What have been the overall consequences already for American society and culture of decades of continuous warfare? …I hope some of the facts and figures I’ve presented so far are suggestive. But when one is discussing the character and quality of everyday life, its profound deterioration over time, and in the context of a discussion of art, such facts and figures remain a little cold. It is precisely at this moment, ironically, that one wishes one could point to a film or novel, a drama or series of paintings, that somehow captured this historical transformation in concrete imagery, that provided a key to understanding the essential truth about the past several decades, or at least critical aspects of it. One of our chief difficulties—and criticisms—today is that there has been no such work, or very, very little of it.
Speaking very broadly, the past quarter-century has seen the emergence of a profoundly brutalized and brutalizing culture in the US. Never in history has so much degradation (or trivia) been combined with such advanced technologies. There is hardly an anti-social or psychotic impulse that has not made its way to the public by the most up-to-date means—and hardly one that has not found academic or intellectual justification, no less! Human beings in the future will look back on all this with astonishment.
War has become perpetual. In the 20th century by contrast, wars were shorter, horrible, they were exceptions to the rule. They were considered a terrible waste of human resources, horribly destructive. My father’s generation fought in World War II, my grandfather’s in World War I. Men (and they were mostly men) got out of the military, and they never wanted to put on a uniform again. Often they didn’t want to talk about the entire experience.
When one thinks of World War I, certain films come to mind, especially Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion from 1937 (although for the most part I will be discussing American films and books), All Quiet on the Western Front (both Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel and Lewis Milestone’s 1930 film version), Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms(1929—also turned into films in 1932, directed by Frank Borzage, and 1957, directed by Charles Vidor) and, much later, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). …World War II was ideologically sold to the population as a war against fascism, and there was a powerful democratic sentiment felt by many of those who fought, but it remained an imperialist war, a war fought between the great powers for the division and redivision of the world. The anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian theme found expression in many films, not only made in the immediate war years, but extending into the subsequent decade and into other genres (Westerns, film noir, science fiction).
American films about the Korean War tend to be bleak, perhaps because it was the first war US imperialism lost, or at least in which it was fought to a standstill. In many of the films, US forces are taking, or have just taken a beating. There is a lot of anti-communist rubbish and patriotism, of course, but the overall mood is one of gloom and disillusionment. …(A typical tale would envision a scenario in which) (a)lmost everyone is killed by the end, including the colonel (who awakes from his catatonic state only to rush into the fighting and almost immediately get killed), except for the sergeant and the lieutenant. In the final scene, Ryan reads the names of the dead, while the Ray character throws their medals down the side of a hill. (More recent materials receive an assessment in Part Two).”—World Socialist WebSite
Malcolm X and Robinson’s beef represented two rival, but very real viewpoints in African-American culture in the mid-1960s. Three months after the Clay and Robinson comments, Malcolm X, now completely removed from the Nation of Islam, embarked on his pilgrimage to Mecca. The trip forever changed his worldview. He found spiritual wholeness for the first time in his life. Gone were the beliefs of white people as exclusively evil. He saw Muslims with ‘blonde hair and blue eyes’ practicing the same faith. His calls for a separate black state vanished, too.
Many Americans, including Robinson, were astonished by this new Malcolm X. Was he for real in wanting to cooperate with civil rights leaders, many of whom he berated only months earlier? What was his endgame? In his rise to national prominence and controversy, Malcolm X won a legion of followers, particularly young people who adored his audacious attitude. But at this time in his life, the hate surrounding his name perhaps outweighed the love.
(Assassins cut Malcolm down before such a rapprochement could come to pass). ‘The person or persons who murdered Malcolm have stilled his articulate voice, (Robinson) wrote in his March 1965 column for The Chicago Defender. ‘But, in making him a martyr, they have only deepened whatever influence he may have had. In addition, they have generated a senseless brutal … war which sees black hands raised against brothers at a time when we most need unity among black people.’ Robinson later referred to the assassination as a ‘tragedy of the first order’ in his autobiography.”—The Undefeated
Think Nazi Germany. Its purpose was not military domination or even control of individual liberty. These were incidental to the first purpose: the global primacy of German corporations and the German 1 percent. The point of World War II, from the German perspective, was that after the war, Daimler-Benz would be the world’s largest car manufacturer, Krupp and Thyssen would be the dominant steel manufacturers, IG Farben would be the dominant chemical and pharmaceutical company and Deutsche Bank would lead world banking and finance.
It didn’t work out that way. The U.S. destroyed the physical plant of both Germany and Japan – our two main commercial rivals – and U.S. manufacturers and banks had a field day. The American middle class boomed.
(This temporary condition lasted no longer than the postwar ‘miracles’ of Japanese and German and former colonial economies, which induced selective investment away from the U.S.). As the accumulated wealth of the American middle class was re-allocated abroad by the capitalist system, the capitalists began the drive to eliminate the drag on profits of global competition by consolidating into global monopolies. That is the purpose of the Trans Pacific and Trans Atlantic ‘trade’ deals promoted by U.S. President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and the global cartel of banksters they represent, who provide the financing (debt) to enable the capitalists to compensate each other for lost future profits when one is aggregated into a new and larger monopoly by another.
(This has elicited resistance everywhere, from Brexit fanatics to Asian cold feet). So Obama went to the U.K. to lay down the law and explain the dire consequences of any resistance to that New World Order. Then he went to Asia to deliver the same message. He will push for a vote in Congress on the Trans Pacific deal as soon as possible, while he still has the support of the pre-Trump GOP of Paul Ryan. Capitalists of the world unite! The fascist future is in reach.”—TruthDig