Does This Sound Familiar?

Nice and very interesting little fragment of history: Thanks to Brendan McG for passing this one along.

In his book, America the Virtuous, Claes Ryn cited (p. 196) a great quote from Joseph Schumpeter’s essay on Imperialism. Does this sound at all familiar? Try substituting ‘America’ for ‘Rome’ and ‘American’ for ‘Roman’.

There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest–why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, and it was manifestly Rome’s duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people.

Yes, yes that sounds very familiar. It sounds very goddamn familar indeed.

Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.

How have I not heard this before?

Well, I was feelin’ sad and feelin’ blue

I didn’t know what in the world I wus gonna do
Them Communists they wus comin’ around
They wus in the air
They wus on the ground
They wouldn’t gimme no peace . . .

So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin’ down the road
Yee-hoo, I’m a real John Bircher now!
Look out you Commies!

Now we all agree with Hitler’s views
Although he killed six million Jews
It don’t matter too much that he was a Fascist
At least you can’t say he was a Communist!
That’s to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria

Well, I wus lookin’ everywhere for them gol-darned Reds
I got up in the mornin’ ’n’ looked under my bed
Looked in the sink, behind the door
Looked in the glove compartment of my car
Couldn’t find ’em . . .

I wus lookin’ high an’ low for them Reds everywhere
I wus lookin’ in the sink an’ underneath the chair
I looked way up my chimney hole
I even looked deep down inside my toilet bowl
They got away . . .

Well, I wus sittin’ home alone an’ started to sweat
Figured they wus in my T.V. set
Peeked behind the picture frame
Got a shock from my feet, hittin’ right up in the brain
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones

Well, I quit my job so I could work all alone
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol’ Betsy Ross . . .

Well, I investigated all the books in the library
Ninety percent of ’em gotta be burned away
I investigated all the people that I knowed
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me

Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
To my knowledge there’s just one man
That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus

Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
When I run outa things to investigate
Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
Hope I don’t find out anything . . . hmm, great God!
– Bob Dylan

I'll furnish the war

William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst

“You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.”

– William Randolph Hearst, media tycoon, responding in 1898 to artist Stephen Remington stationed in Cuba to cover a minor revolt against the Spanish colonial government. “There is no war,” Remington wrote to his boss. “Request to be recalled.” When the USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbour shortly afterwards by unknown persons the Hearst press blamed Spain, stirring up patriotism, hatred of the cowardly Spanish and war fever. Next stop: Spanish-American war.

The crushing of the Kronstadt Revolt

The Red Army attacks Kronstadt
The Red Army attacks Kronstadt

‘We will shoot you all like partridges.’

– Leon Trotsky, organiser and leader of the Red Army, 1921, to the soldiers of the naval base at Kronstadt, near Petrograd. Having described them as the ‘cream of the revolution’ four years previously for siding with the revolution, he now claimed that Kronstadt was under the thrall of ‘White Guard reactionaries’ (ie. remnants of the overthrown Tsarist regime). The Kronstadt sailors, far from wanting the restoration of the old regime, sought free elections to the local workers’ councils, as per Lenin’s 1917 pronouncement (‘all power to the soviets’ – ‘soviet’ is Russian for ‘council’). The growing tyranny of the Bolshevik dictatorship was encroaching on the autonomy of the self-managed councils, and so the struggle of the Kronstadt sailors was symbolic insofar as it represented the struggle of the authentic revolution from below against the increasingly bureaucratic and authoritarian ‘worker’s dictatorship.’ Trotsky waved the ‘White Guard’ bogeyman in front of his troops, invoked the myth that questioning of his power was tantamount to support for the enemy and sent them to fight; the revolt was crushed and the Bolshevik state continued its downward slide into totalitarianism.

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