The question of what the American Revolution was primarily about – ideals or governmental forms, politics or economics – was temporarily settled by the framers themselves in 1788 when they imposed it as a fact that the revolution had been fought to establish a strong central government which embodied in many details the exact details the revolution had claimed to find odious, and flouted in many ideals the exact ideals the revolution had claimed to embody.
Here at least there’s no question – the emphasis was on a form of government, a republic. They called it (and themselves) “federalist”, but even then that was clearly just a successful Orwellian terminological inversion. It was actually the framers and adherents of the new Constitution who were anti-federalist in normal terms, according to the standard usage of the time, while their opponents whom they successfully smeared as “anti-federalist” were at least arguing on behalf of something closer to true federalism, power much closer to its true source in the people. (I won’t claim they were all sincere.)
I think it’s moot to ponder how sincere the “federalists” were as champions of this central government. If the rise of the fossil fuel age and the industrial revolution really necessitated strong central governments, then perhaps this Constitution was one of the better (I don’t say “good”) attempts to harmonize that need with protecting the people’s rights and freedoms. At the same time, Hamilton and others seemed ardent to maximize power for its own sake, and displayed the standard elitist contempt right from the start. It’s beyond dispute that a major purpose for this power concentration was to use it aggressively for continental imperialism. The Federalist repeatedly cites this goal as a reason to concentrate federal power. What later came to be called “Manifest Destiny” was already a core element of the Founders’ ideology.
So what’s the specific link between imperialism and the republic form of government? In On Revolution
(chapter 2, section 4) Hannah Arendt emphasizes how Founders of various stripes agreed that a desired goal was to encourage faction among the people in domestic matters while seeking a united front where it comes to foreign policy. She quotes Jefferson as wanting “to make us one nation as to foreign concerns, and keep us distinct in domestic ones”, and cites Madison’s Federalist #10
, with its celebration of “the spirit of party and faction”, which of course was to be kept within the limits of representative government.
This formula would allegedly generate the maximum political freedom within the country compatible with a sufficiently strong projection in foreign policy. While this was already dubious in the 18th century, in modern times it appears in a sinister light. We see what it means today: The elites encourage and foment discord among the non-elites, while we must all submit to the astroturfed united front for whatever foreign policy our betters assure us is necessary, no matter how wasteful, deranged, and destructive to the very domestic freedom and prosperity for which the policy allegedly exists in the first place.
This puts in a different light Arendt’s contention, no doubt literally true, that ” the direction of the American Revolution remained committed to the foundation of freedom and the establishment of lasting institutions.” The question is begged more starkly than ever, Freedom for whom? To do what?
But this question was already being begged when Madison wrote numbers 10 and 51
. It’s here that he notoriously posited that the greatest threat to social stability would be the rancor of the people, who to him were inherently a kind of proto-mob ready to realize their full mob potential at any moment, against the elites. It was explicit in Madison’s concept that political elites need to exist at all (only they, as elected representatives, know how to organize power and run a government). Implicit were such propositions as that economic elites need to exist at all; that their wealth and property concentrations are justified; that their own aggressive actions, which from the outside and from the receiving end look like depredations, are the natural way of the world and can’t be held accountable in any way (therefore if the people react with anger it’s really they who are the aggressors); that a foreign policy designed and dictated by those elites is to the benefit of “the country” as a whole. All this, so viciously and tiresomely familiar to us today, adds up to compel the strong presumption that another implication of Madison’s scheme was that the very “faction” celebrated by Madison and Hamilton and even Jefferson was always intended to be a tool of divide and rule.
However it was with the original intent, we now know it represents the essence of misdirection. For America, the rule has long been (if it wasn’t always) aggression against others and hijacking of public resources, which is always for the benefit of the elites only, and could only ever accidentally coincide with the interests of the people. The misdirection is meant to distract from this and help trump up the tawdry “united front”.
It’s this fraudulent pretension to a unified America in its foreign policy which Wikileaks has directly attacked with this latest document delivery. The leaks demonstrate in the clearest detail how the specially designated foreign policy elites are the same petty, incompetent crooks we’re so familiar with everywhere else, and how their concerns are the exact same combination of crime and meanness as we see everywhere else. But most importantly in assaulting their pseudo-monarchical secrecy prerogative, a key trapping in their very claim to authority and power, Wikileaks has dealt a blow to their ability to pseudo-legitimately maintain this prerogative. Once the people understand once and for all what a sham “foreign policy” is, in the same way they’ve come to understand the central “federal” government as a fraud and a parasite in domestic policy, we’ll finally be ready to relinquish it completely, all at once or in stages.
Here’s just a few things the leaks have proven:
Each leak is something which should never have been classified in the first place. It proves how promiscuously they’ve abused the classification privilege, as a matter of normal practice. We citizens already knew under Bush that this privilege needed to be rescinded. (Of course, we now know that most of the liberals were lying when they said that at the time.)
Each leak is proof that there’s no real “national security” at stake. Each proves further that the only secrets regard the power and crimes of the elites.
Every document is further proof they have no valid secrets. Each act of secrecy is an affront to democracy and a violation of the social contract.
As has already been proven with previous deliveries, the leaks don’t endanger the American people or our interests. On the contrary, to whatever extent the leaks hinder the corporate agenda, they serve the American interest. The empire itself, and the stateless corporations themselves, are contrary to the American interest, as history has proven over and over, every time. Empire serves no one but imperial elites, and harms everyone else. In 2008 that became brazen here in America.
We saw the NYT and the WaPo suppress leaked information
which lessens the case for war with Iran, at the request of the administration. (We got it through the Guardian.) So there we see the scurrying cockroaches exposed in broad daylight – your leaders, your elites, your government, and your media, suppressing evidence against war.
Wikileaks has proven that elite secrecy has no right or reason to exist at all, and that transparency is a citizen right and imperative. With the evidence of the leaks, no one can any longer argue for secrecy other than as a brazen celebrant of domination for its own sake. No one can any longer cite “reasons of state”, or that the elites know pertinent facts at all, let alone pertinent facts which can’t safely be shared with the public. No one can any longer argue with a straight face that foreign policy has anything to do with “American interests”, or anything other than the same ugly, paltry elite interests.
We’ve now seen it all, and we know there’s no there there. From here on, we know secrecy is nothing but an anti-democratic ritual. We must be all the more relentless in asserting sunlight as a democratic ritual. No one can see the American flag when its hidden away in the dank and dark. Only the sun shining upon it renders it visible at all. So there’s the real essence of the symbol. Not the mere dyed fabric, but the light upon it. Darkness, secrecy, is the true mortal insult to the symbol, and to the essence.
We should also recognize how this bogus “foreign policy” astroturf, which we can trace to the original framing of the system, is by now completely entwined and indistinguishable from globalization. The slow but steady progress of over two hundred years has been for these elites, and their government, to extract the wealth of the land they did nothing to work for, abscond upward in power and “law” with it, and eventually detach government and law themselves from the land. The anti-sovereign globalization entities and agreements represent the full logic of the entire process. The WTO is a kind of one world super-constitution. All of this is rule by pure administrative decree, intended to extract all wealth and power from the land but leave behind the dead husk of government, law, and civil society. This husk is now meant to be just a weapon against the people, but nothing in itself. It’s a world-historical secession of the elites.
The neoliberal franchise is a sick joke. It’s the symbol and ritual of nothingness. And then this stateless, anti-sovereign body is to rule the disenfranchised people by direct bureaucratic tyranny, as the direct private agent of the corporations. That’s the goal of globalization.
When “federalism” was redefined and centralized upward in 1888, and organized to be focused on a false unified foreign policy, this secession process was set in motion. From there it’s been the same vector and the same logic which have advanced through every trial. Since the end of the Cold War, in the face of imminent Peak Oil, this false federalism is attempting its final upward redefinition. But this depends upon keeping the people gazing spellbound up into the fog, instead of seeing clearly how every truth is right there in front of us, easy to understand, and always at our own level, except where it’s actually below us.
There’s no reason at all for wealth and power to concentrate upward. The people are understanding this intuitively. We’ve always known to be suspicious of globalization, and now we know to reject it completely. This means we must also reject the globalizing elites. We should see their “foreignness” for what it is and reject it. They chose to abstract themselves from our land and wage war upon it and us. So while we reject their foreign policy front, we can accept that framing against themselves.
A good place to start is to actually see them for what they are, and insist upon this clarity at all times. We know they mean us nothing but harm. If we didn’t know before that every secret is kept not on our behalf but against us, we know it for a fact now. We can thank Wikileaks for the documentary proof of the illegitimacy of the elites’ foreign policy pretensions and alleged prerogatives.
And since the false federalism which has led us so far astray was already based upon this false foreign policy emphasis in its inception, we must take our hard-won knowledge and apply it back as we reconceive our democracy. This has been a case study in the falseness of representative pseudo-democracy itself, and proof of the need for and unique legitimacy of positive democracy.