Culture Wars/Current Controversies

History As End: 1619, 1776, and the Politics of the Past

This is a damn good article. I think there are a number of things going on here that nearly all commentators miss. As the Thomas Piketty study recently pointed out, the “culture war” is primarily between the different factions of the elite: the traditional business/military sectors vs the rising elites in high tech industries, the professional/managerial sectors, etc. It has always seemed to me that these sectors weaponize culture war issues as a means of building constituencies for their own side. Also, given that class divisions are at a 100 year high, ruling class sectors use the culture war to distract from class issues by making everything just about race, gender, etc. Lastly, and this theory is obviously more esoteric and controversial, it seems to be that sectors of the elite are developing a kind of “progressive fascism” as an endgame or at least a Plan B.

The Marxist interpretation of fascism is that it is merely the strong arm of capitalism, which capitalism turns to when threatened by the left. That’s a serious oversimplification, but it’s true capitalist classes will make common cause with fascists and other right-wing authoritarians when necessary as a means of preventing challenges to class power. Traditionally, fascism and/or right-wing authoritarians have used right-wing tropes/shibboleths like “Faith, Family, and Country” or “Duty, Order, and Obedience’ as their ideological superstructure. But it’s entirely possible and more clever to create an authoritarian ideological framework with a progressive gloss. Stalinist regimes did this to some degree, as did the French revolutionaries and other similar regimes.

For some time I’ve noticed that our ruling class seems to be building a regime where class divisions are actually widening, the military remains as expensive and expansive as even, the police state is strengthened, the Kafkaesque bureaucracy continues to expand, etc. but where the ideological framework that is used is one that adopts “progressive” symbolism and rhetoric. For instance, I suspect that “defund the police” is going to be used to create a “woke” national police force eventually, ostensibly in the name of replacing local police departments full of untrained racist yokels. The Green New Deal is just about expanding corporate welfare for politically connected green industries. The Left will point out how the ruling class and/or right-wing will weaponize racism as a means of undermining class politics and strengthening state power, but it’s possible to use anti-racism for the same purpose. Why would Twitter be giving millions of dollars to someone like Ibram X. Kendi? It seems there is an end game here.

By Matthew Karp, Harper’s

Last spring, 155 years after the fall of Richmond, the Confederate capital surrendered again. In April 1865, the capitulation was swift and almost outlandishly theatrical: after learning that Robert E. Lee’s army had withdrawn from nearby Petersburg, the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, and his military guard escaped south under cover of darkness, setting half the city on fire as they fled. Early the next morning, the first Union troops arrived. As Richmond’s black residents celebrated in the streets—joined by more than a few poor whites—the black soldiers at the head of the Union column worked to put out the flames. The embers of a regime dedicated to preserving African slavery were extinguished by hundreds of former slaves. The occupying forces then marched to Davis’s executive mansion and commandeered it as their headquarters.

The second fall of Richmond was hardly kinder to the Confederate president. In June of last year, Davis’s eight-foot bronze likeness, which had presided over the city’s Monument Avenue for more than a century, was torn from its pedestal and dumped into the street—his face nullified with black paint, his overcoat spiked with pink and yellow, and his outstretched hand now reaching upward as if making a forlorn appeal to the heavens. In the weeks that followed, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, and Matthew Maury, Davis’s bronze company on Monument Avenue—the so-called Champs-Élysées of the South—were likewise eliminated from view, but they at least enjoyed the honor of an official state removal. Davis, their chief, received no such courtesy: protesters tied ropes around his legs and dragged him to the ground with what news reports described as “a tiny sedan.”


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