Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wolin, Sheldon S. Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. NJ: Princeton, Princeton University Press. 2008, 2010. Preface, pp. xvii-xxiv.

  As a preliminary I want to emphasise certain aspects of the approach taken in this volume in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. Although the concept of totalitarianism is central to what follows, my thesis is not that the current American political system is an inspired replica of Nazi Germany’s or George W. Bush of Hitler. (1) References to Hitler’s Germany are introduced to remind the reader of the benchmarks in a system of power that was invasive abroad, justified preemptive war as a matter of official doctrine, and repressed all opposition at home – a system that was cruel and racist in principle and practice, deeply ideological, and openly bent on world domination. Those benchmarks are introduced to illuminate tendencies in our own system of power that are opposed to the fundamental principles of constitutional democracy. Those tendencies are, I believe, totalising in the sense that they are obsessed with control, expansion, superiority, and supremacy.
  The regimes of Mussolini and Stalin demonstrate that it is possible for totalitarianism to assume different forms. Italian fascism, for example, did not officially adopt anti-Semitism until late in the regime’s history and even then primarily in response to pressure from Germany. Stalin introduced some “progressive” policies: promoting mass literacy and health care; encouraging women to undertake professional and technical careers; and (for a brief spell) promoting minority cultures. The point is not that these “accomplishments” compensate for crimes whose horrors have yet to be fully comprehended. Rather, totalitarianism is capable of local variations; plausibly, far from being exhausted by its twentieth-century versions would-be totalitarians now have available technologies of control, intimidation and mass manipulation far surpassing those of that earlier time.
  The Nazi and Fascist regimes were powered by revolutionary movements whose aim was not only to capture, reconstitute, and monopolise state power but also to gain control over the economy. By controlling the state and the economy, the revolutionaries gained the leverage necessary to reconstruct, then mobilise society. In contrast, inverted totalitarianism is only in part a state-centered phenomenon. Primarily it represents the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilisation of the citizenry.
  Unlike the classic forms of totalitarianism, which openly boasted of their intentions to force their societies into a preconceived totality, inverted totalitarianism is not expressly conceptualised as an ideology or objectified in public policy. Typically it is furthered by power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions. There is a certain heedlessness, an inability to take seriously the extent to which a pattern of consequences may take shape without having been preconceived. (2)
  The fundamental reason for this deep-seated carelessness is related to the well-known American zest for change and, equally remarkable, the good fortune of Americans in having at their disposal a vast continent rich in natural resources, inviting exploitation. Although it is a cliché that the history of American society has been one of unceasing change, the consequences of today’s increased tempos are, less obvious. Change works to displace existing beliefs, practices, and expectations. Although societies throughout history have experienced change, it is only over the past four centuries that promoting innovation became a major focus of public policy. Today, thanks to the highly organised pursuit of technological innovation and the culture it encourages, change is more rapid, more encompassing, more welcomed than ever before – which means that institutions, values, and expectations share with technology a limited shelf life. We are experiencing the triumph of contemporaneity and of its accomplice, forgetting or collective amnesia. Stated somewhat differently, in early modern times change displaced traditions; today change succeeds change.
  The effect of unending change is to undercut consolidation. Consider, for example, that more than a century after the Civil War the consequences of slavery still linger; that close to a century after women won the vote, their equality remains contested; or that after nearly two centuries during which public schools became a reality, education is now being increasingly privatised. In order to gain a handle on the problem of change we might recall that among political and intellectual circles, beginning in the last half of the seventeenth century and especially during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, there was a growing conviction that, for the first time in recorded history, it was possible for human beings to deliberately shape their future. Thanks to advances in science and invention it was possible to conceive change as “progress,” an advancement benefiting all members of society. Progress stood for change that was constructive, that would bring something new into the world and to the advantage to all. The champions of progress believed that wild change might result in the disappearance or destruction of established beliefs, customs, and interests, the vast majority of these deserved to go because they mostly served the Few while keeping the Many in ignorance, poverty, and sickness.
  An important element in this early modern conception of progress was that change was crucially a matter for political determination by those who could be held accountable for their decisions. That understanding of change was pretty much overwhelmed by the emergence of concentrations of economic power that took place during the latter half the nineteenth century. Change became a private enterprise inseparable from exploitation and opportunism, thereby constituting a major, if not the major, element in the dynamic of capitalism. Opportunism involved an unceasing search for what might be exploitable, and soon that meant virtually anything, from religion, to politics, to human wellbeing. Very little, if anything, was taboo, as before long change became the object of premeditated strategies for maximising profits.
  It is often noted that today change is more rapid, more encompassing than ever before. In later pages I shall suggest that American democracy has never been truly consolidated. Some of its key elements remain unrealised or vulnerable; others have been exploited for antidemocratic ends. Political institutions have typically been described as the means by which a society tries to order change. The assumption was that political institutions would themselves remain stable, as exemplified in the ideal of a constitution as a relatively unchanging structure for defining the uses and limits of public power and the accountability of officeholders.
  Today, however, some of the political changes are revolutionary; others are counterrevolutionary. Some chart new directions for the nation and introduce new techniques for extending American power, both internally (surveillance of citizens) and externally (seven hundred bases abroad), beyond any point even imagined by previous administrations. Other changes are counterrevolutionary in the sense of reversing social policies originally aimed at improving the lot of the middle and poorer classes.
  How to persuade the reader that the actual direction of contemporary politics is toward a political system the very opposite of what the political leadership, the mass media, and think tank oracles claim that it is, the world’s foremost exemplar of democracy? Although critics may dismiss this volume as fantasy, there are grounds for believing that the broad citizenry is becoming increasingly uneasy about “the direction the nations is heading,” about the role of big money in politics, the credibility of the popular news media, and the reliability of voting returns. The midterm elections of 2006 indicated clearly that much of the nation was demanding a quick resolution to a misguided war. Increasingly one hears ordinary citizens complaining that they “no longer recognise their country,” that preemptive war, widespread use of torture, domestic spying, endless reports of corruption in high places, corporate as well as governmental, mean that something is deeply wrong in the nation’s politics.
  In the chapters that follow I shall try to develop a focus for understanding the changes taking place and their direction. But first – assuming that we have had, if not a fully realised democracy, at least an impressive number of its manifestations, and assuming further that some fundamental  changes are occurring, we might raise the broad question: what causes a democracy to change into some non- or anti-democratic system, and what kind of system is democracy like to change into?
  For centuries political writers claimed that if – or rather when – a full-fledged democracy was overturned, it would be succeeded by a tyranny. The argument was that democracy, because of the great freedom it allowed, was inherently prone to disorder and likely to cause the propertied classes to support a dictator or tyrant, someone who could impose order, ruthlessly if necessary. But – and this is the issue addressed by our inquiry – what if in its popular culture a democracy were prone to license (“anything goes”) yet in its politics were to become fearful, ready to give benefit of the doubt to the leaders who, while promising to “root out terrorists,” insist that endeavour is a “war” with no end in sight? Might democracy then tend to become submissive, privatised rather than unruly, and would that alter the power relationships between citizens and their political deciders?

  A word about terminology. “Superpower” stands for the projection of power outwards. It is indeterminate, impatient with restraints, and careless of boundaries as it strives to develop the capability of imposing its will at a time and place of its own choosing. It represents the antithesis of constitutional power. “Inverted totalitarianism” projects power inwards. It is not derivative from “classic totalitarianism” of the types represented by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Stalinist Russia. Those regimes were powered by revolutionary movements whose aim was to capture, reconstitute, and monopolise the power of the state. The state was conceived as the main centre of power, providing the leverage necessary for the mobilisation and reconstruction of society. Churches, universities, business organisations, news and opinion media, and cultural institutions were taken over by the government or neutralised or suppressed.
  Inverted totalitarianism, in contrast, while exploiting the authority and resources of the state, gains its dynamic by combining with other forms of power, such as evangelical religions, and most notably by encouraging a symbiotic relationship between traditional government and the system of “private” governance represented by the modern business corporation. The result is not a system of codetermination by equal partners who retain their distinctive identities but rather a system that represents the political coming-of-age of corporate power.
  When capitalism was first represented in an intellectual construct, primarily in the latter half of the eighteenth century, it was hailed as the perfection of decentralised power, a system that, unlike an absolute monarchy, no single person or governmental agency could or should attempt to direct. It was pictured as a system but of decentralised powers working best when left alone (lassez-faire, lassez passer) so that “the market” operated freely. The market furnished the structure by which spontaneous economic activities would be coordinated, exchange values set, and demand and supply adjusted. It operated, as Adam Smith famously wrote, by an unseen hand that connected participants and directed their endeavours toward the common benefit of all, even though the actors were motivated primarily by their own selfish ends.
  One of Smith’s fundamental contentions was that while individuals were capable of making rational decisions on a small scale, no one possessed the powers required for rationally comprehending a whole society and directing its activities. A century later, however, the whole scale of economic enterprise was revolutionised by the emergence and rapid rise of the business corporation. An economy whose power was dispersed among countless actors, and where markets supposedly were dominated by no one, rapidly gave way to forms of concentrated power – trusts, monopolies, holding companies, and cartels – able to set (or strongly influence) prices, wages, supplies of materials, and entry into the market itself. Adam Smith was now joined to Charles Darwin, the free market to the survival of the fittest. The emergence of the corporation marked the presence of private power on a scale and in numbers thitherto unknown, the concentration of private power unconnected to a citizen body.
  Despite the power of corporations over political processes and the economy, a determined political and economic opposition arose demanding curbs on corporate power and influence. Big Business, it was argued, demanded Big Government. It was assumed, but often forgotten, that unless Big Government, or even small government, possessed some measure of disinterestedness, the result might be the worst of both worlds, corporate power and government both fashioned from the same cloth of self-interest. However, Populists and Progressives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as trade unionists and small farmers, went a step further to argue that a democratic government should be both disinterested and “interested.” It should serve both the common good and the interests of ordinary people whose main source of power was their numbers. They argued, perhaps naively, that in a democracy the people were sovereign and government was, by definition, on their side. The sovereign people were fully entitled to use governmental power and resources to redress the inequalities created by the economy of capitalism.
  That conviction supported and was solidified by the New Deal. A wide range of regulatory agencies was created, the Social Security programme and a minimum wage law were established, unions were legitimated along with the rights to bargain collectively, and various attempts were made to reduce mass unemployment by means of government programmes for public works and conservation. With the outbreak of World War II, the New Deal was superseded by the forced mobilisation and governmental control of the entire economy and the conscription of much of the adult male population. For all practical purposes the war marked the end of the first large-scale effort at establishing the tentative beginnings of social democracy in this country, a union of social programmes benefitting the Many combined with a vigorous electoral democracy and lively politicking by individuals and organisations representative of the politically powerless.
  At the same time that the war halted the momentum of political and social democracy, it enlarged the scale of an increasingly open cohabitation between the corporation and the state. That partnership became ever closer during the era of the Cold War (1947-93). Corporate economic power became the basis of power on which the state relied, at its own ambitions, like those of giant corporations, became more expansive, more global, and, at intervals, more bellicose. Together the state and corporation became the main sponsors and coordinators of the powers represented by science and technology. The result is an unprecedented combination of powers distinguished by their totalising tendencies, powers that not only challenge established boundaries – political, moral, intellectual, and economic – but whose very nature it is to challenge those boundaries continually, even to challenge the limites of the earth itself. Those powers are also the means of inventing and disseminating a culture that taught consumers to welcome change and private pleasures while accepting political passivity. A major consequence is the construction of a new “collective identity,” imperial rather than republican (in the eighteenth-century sense), less democratic. That new identity involves questions of who we are as a people, what we stand for as well as what we are willing to stand, the extent to which we are committed to becoming involved in common affairs, and what democratic principles justify expending the energies and wealth of our citizens and asking some of them to kill and sacrifice their lives while the destiny of their country is fast slipping from popular control.

  I want to emphasise that I vew my main construction, “inverted totalitarianism,” as tentative, hypothetical, although I am convinced that certain tendencies in our society point in a direction away from self-government, the rule of law, egalitarianism, and thoughtful public discussion, and toward what I have called “managed democracy,” the smiley face of inverted totalitarianism.
  For the moment Superpower is in retreat and inverted totalitarianism exists as a set of strong tendencies rather than as a fully realised actuality. The direction of these tendencies urges that we ask ourselves – and only democracy justifies using “we” – what inverted totalitarianism exacts from democracy and whether we want to exchange our birth-rights for its mess of pottage.

Wolin, Sheldon S. Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. NJ: Princeton, Princeton University Press. 2008, 2010. Preface to the Paperback Edition, pp. ix-xvi.

  Democracy Incorporated describes certain tendencies in American politics and argues that they are serving to consolidate a unique political system of “inverted totalitarianism.” Rather than attempting a summary of the volume, I want to examine a contemporary political development that, it could be argued, invalidates or undermines my thesis. I am referring both to the unprecedented election in 2008 of an African American as president and to the widely held expectation that the Obama administration would proceed promptly to undo the excesses of the Bush regime, many of which I had used as evidence in support of the thesis of Democracy Incorporated.
  In adopting “change” as the signature theme of his presidential campaign, Obama chose an idea as American as the proverbial apple pie. Ever since the nation’s beginnings, Americans have seen themselves as futurists, notable for their receptiveness, even their addiction, to change and to its counterfeit, novelty. Typically, change was considered to be virtually synonymous with progress, with the promise of steady material improvement in the lives of most citizens as well as a better future for their children. Change thus tended to be identified with expanded opportunity rather than with a fundamental shift such as that represented by Jacksonian democracy, when power relationships among groups and classes were significantly altered. Another example of fundamental change was the abolition of slavery, although arguably the political promise of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments was not realised until the presidential election of 2008.
  Throughout much of American history, government has been an active promoter of fundamental change. The Civil War amendments were aimed at undoing past wrongs associated with the institution of slavery. New Deal programmes significantly improved the lives of ordinary people, especially the poor, and marked a change in direction, away from free-market capitalism and toward a mixed economy notable for significant governmental initiatives and “interference” in the economy.
  Thus we have two distinct conceptions: or of change, each involving active governmental intervention. One we can call mitigative or tactical change. It seeks to redress a situation or condition without significantly modifying power relationships (e.g., a “tax break for the middle class”). The other, paradigmatic or strategic change, institutes not only a new programme but recasts basic power relationships: it reforms, empowers, sets a new direction (e.g., a single-payer health care system). Democracy Incorporated describes the paradigmatic change represented by the amalgamation of state and corporate power.
  Sometimes a paradigmatic change takes the form of an attack on an entrenched or longstanding status quo – for example, reducing the power of the antebellum plantation owners. Sometimes a mitigative change might seek to undo a previous paradigmatic change in order to restore, to a limited extent, the status quo ante. For example, that included governmental wiretapping, surveillance, and denial of due process, might be undone by restoring prior practices more respectful of due process and First Amendment rights.
  Paradoxically, Obama’s victory might turn out to be a reaction, a yearning for a certain status quo ante that would rescind some of the changes introduced by the Bush-Cheney administration, such as torture of detainees. If so, then the change promised by the 2008 election may be more mitigative than paradigmatic, aiming to restore or modify rather than opting for a sharply different direction.

  In the mid-twentieth century, starting with the Cold War and its anti-communist crusade at home and abroad, and attaining its consolidation in the Reagan counterrevolution, the national fixation on change, while it retained a strong economic and technological driving force, was joined to a new and self-conscious conservatism. The result was a unique dynamic: change that professed to look backward to some distant “city on a hill.” It was not regressive in the sense of actually restoring the past. Rather than “new conservatism” appealed to an idealised, mythical past as a strategy in its “culture war” against “liberalism.” It combined political, religious, and cultural elements into an ideology that appealed to Founding Fathers, the “original” constitution, biblical texts, “family values,” the sanctity of “traditional marriage,” and a militant patriotism. (“America, Love It Or Leave It.”) Its economic ideology also looked to an imagined past, to a “free economy” where harmony and prosperity had resulted from enlightened selfishness and “small government.”
  Conservative politics, however, was far from being merely nostalgic. In deliberately promoting inegalitarianism it qualified as paradigmatic. The celebration of the unchanging provided ideological cover for the basic aim of reversing or modifying as much as possible the changes previously introduced by egalitarian social programmes. By reducing or eliminating programmes that had helped to empower the Many, inegalitarianism reinforced a structure which combined state and corporate power. Although the administration of George W. Bush would continue and even intensify the attacks on liberal social programmes and the “liberal culture of permissiveness,” it substituted a new paradigm that would refocus the dynamic which anticommunism had first generated. It would push outward in an aggressive quest for imperial hegemony, an emphasis different from the somewhat more provincially minded Reagan conservatives. The new paradigm would display a unique feature, one virtually unknown to previous versions of national identity. It would define the scope of its dominion by postulating an enemy – terrorism -  that had no obvious limits, neither temporal nor spatial, nor a single fixed form. Thus the new paradigm introduced a monumental change that redefined national identity, overshadowing “republic” and “democracy.” The “United States,” hitherto a name that denoted the lower half of a continent, now signified a global empire.
  Empire constituted a paradigmatic change, yet, like that love that dare not speak its name, it was repressed during the 2008 campaign even as the role of the presidency was evolving from a national to an imperial office. Attention was directed instead to the unprecedented spectacle of an African American candidate competing for and winning the highest office in the land. Before gauging the extent and type of change represented by that election, we need to ask: against what background has that change taken place? One might argue that throughout much of the twentieth-century white Americans have accepted and adulated African American public performers – musicians, actors and actresses, and writers – even as the most white Americans tolerated segregation, discrimination, and racial slurs. Following the 2008 election all manner of established groups began to press their agendas on the incoming administration: environmentalists, health care advocates, state governors, antiwar groups, and, inevitably, corporate lobbyists. Strikingly less prominent were those advocacy groups representing African Americans. Had the election of “one of their own” had the ironic result of inhibiting instead of empowering?

  Before August 2008, when the public first began to become (or be made) aware of the brewing economic crisis, “change” had been primarily associated with ending the American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and with a promise both of sweeping socioeconomic changes (e.g., health care reform, environmental safeguards) and of political reforms (e.g., restoring constitutional protections, outlawing the practice of torture, disavowing an expansive notion of executive power). Yet there was no talk of halting construction of the huge permanent American embassy in Baghdad, only Obama’s promise to honour the Bush timetable for withdrawing most troops from Iraq during the summer of 2009 while rebuilding the military commitment to Afghanistan and pursuing the Taliban into Pakistan: in short, no talk of disentangling from our imperial commitments.
  In the immediate aftermath of the election it became increasingly apparent that Obama’s notion of change was a highly pragmatic one. The specific kind of change and their scope and depth would be contingent on circumstance and political calculations, rather than determined by the intensity of the public reaction against Bush-Cheney policies – that is, mitigative rather than paradigmatic.
  At the outset there was the opportunity of choosing the actual agents of change, those who would head the departments and preside over the courts. The controlling premise appeared to be that there was a relatively small political class, an elite, from which crucial appointments should be made. The operatives who were selected to be in charge of finance, economic policy, foreign affairs, regulatory policy, and health care proved to be seasoned deciders. Before the debacle of compromised cabinet nominees (Daschle, et al), Obama’s original cabinet selections consisted primarily of Clintonistas, suggesting that they had been chosen before the gravity of the economic situation became widely acknowledged. They represented, in other words, a decision which assumed that the economy would remain more or less on course that the situation in Iraq was being stabilised. This is borne out by the fact that, even before Obama took the oath of office, he and the leaders of the Democratic Party largely followed the initiatives proposed by the Bush administration during its final weeks. The major one was the $600 billion bailout of the major banks and credit institutions whose arcane and largely unregulated practices were mainly responsible for the crisis. At the same time, the Obama administration hastened to staff its councils with seasoned veterans from the financial world. Save for the huge sums involved and the brazenness of the giveaway, what could be more unchanging than the perpetuation of the cozy and longstanding relationship between Washington and Wall Street?
  One might conjecture that paradigmatic change is less likely during periods of prosperity when members of society are presumably contented, but that when things are going very wrong society is apt to be more receptive to major, even paradigmatic changes. However, as the interval between 4 November 2008 and 20 January 2009 began to shrink, grandiose promises of change gave way to proposals for rescuing the economy rather than altering its fundamentals. Once the economy began to slide ever more downward, it was widely reported as inevitable that notions of change would have to be scaled down and subordinated to new priorities of confronting a worsening economic climate. Thus as change yielded to the priorities and requirements of policy and administrative decision making, the scope of change “contracted” and got lost in translation. Supporters, too, began to change, consoling themselves that Obama would at least be better than Bush: if not change, then a respite.
  Politically sobered by the encounter with complexity, Obama adopted nuance and exchanged the rhetorical flourishes of the political campaign for the measured, inside discourse of “policy” and “decision making.” Policy is commonly defined as the attempt to formulate a set of rules and guiding principles of action for achieving a specified purpose or outcome. It might also be described as the revelatory moment when the commitment to substantive change is tested. Judging from some of the early decisions of the Obama administration, the two paradigmatic opportunities presented by the apparent stabilisation of Iraq and the economic recession were squandered in favour of “rescuing” or restoring as quickly as possible the economic status quo ante and of increasing the imperial military presence in Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Crisis called for continuity, not departures.
  It was not the banks alone that failed; so too did the political and economic imagination. In desperation liberal pundits and think-tank employees decided to go “historical,” hoping to find inspiration in FDR’s New Deal and its response to the Depression. Besides overlooking that FDR had no more embittered opponent than the great bankers of his day (he called them “economic royalists), it seems not to have occurred to establishment theoreticians that the main point of FDR’s action was that he did not try to imitate his predecessors or seek an earlier precedent for his programmes. He chose, instead, to innovate, or, more accurately, to experiment with paradigmatic changes. It is revealing of the deep conservatism of our times that references to the New Deal have largely avoided associating it with the notion of “experimentation” even though during the 1930s the phrase familiarly used was “the New Deal experiment,” which was suggestive of a departure from business as usual and of a commitment to trying new and untested ideas. It was also overlooked that FDR was pressured from below by popular movements demanding programmatic action: Huey Long’s “Share the Wealth,” the Townsend Plan for guaranteed incomes for all citizens.
  If FDR and the New Deal exploited an opportunity for change, Obama and his administration assumed automatically the limits of change. Which raises the question of whether the truly profound change of the twentieth century, the dominance of corporate power -  politically, economically, and culturally – has not produced an equally profound change: the effective management of the citizenry. Clearly, these two developments – corporate dominance and a managed electorate – point to a certain political rigidity that is reflected in perhaps the most striking aspect of the present predicament: the absence of alternatives other than variations on the theme of economic orthodoxy. When the idea of nationalising the banks was being suggested it provoked an immediate storm: it was alleged as tantamount to “socialism.” The Obama administration panicked and immediately declared it had no such plans, thereby denying itself a range of more imaginative remedies.
  That reaction points to another great regressive change: the paucity of intellectual proposals that deviate from the current orthodoxies. This reflects a quiet but paradigmatic change: a shift in intellectual and ideological influence from academia to think tanks, the vast majority of which were conservative and dependent upon corporate sponsorship. Whereas the former had on occasion housed and nurtured deviants, “impractical dreamers” of new paradigms and challengers of orthodoxy, the think-tank inmates are committed to influencing policy makers and hence their horizons are restricted by the demands of practicality and constricted by the interests of their corporate sponsors to proposing mitigative changes.
  Shortly before his inauguration President-elect Obama tried to explain why it would be necessary to scale down some of his promises for wide-sweeping social and economic reformers by saying that “we must look forward rather than back.” In effect, that was then, this is now. Yet Obama’s remark was misleading on both accounts. First, the new administration was being less than candid about the systemic significance of the solutions it was introducing. In using the financial institutions as the means of recovery it was reinforcing the state-corporate alliance. The significance of the placement of governmental representatives on the boards of various banks and financial institutions was in effect the legitimation of that alliance and of the paradigm shift which it represented. The fundamental nature of that shirt was underscored in the bailout of General Motors Corporations. The terms of the settlement involved the co-optation and neutralisation of a powerful trade union, the United Automobile Workers. Under the terms of the bailout, the government –or as it was said “the taxpayers” – lent GM $50 billion. The union, which had also been forced to buy a 55 percent share in Chrysler, now had to draw upon its pension fund to purchase 17.5 percent of the shares in GM. The union further agreed to a wage freeze and pledged not to strike. In return it received representation on the corporations governing board but with the proviso that its shared would not bring voting rights. The workers’ union also agreed to accept the loss of several thousand jobs of its membres. Thus, under the terms of the “agreement,” the union was, in effect, incorporated and rendered a party to its own humiliation and, given the highly doubtful future of GM itself, facing a possible chance of losing everything.
  Obama’s reluctance to look backward had a more profound significance than the abandonment of a policy promised during the presidential campaign. From the beginning of his presidency he made it clear that he would strive to “reach out” to congressional Republicans and to make change a bipartisan affair. The crucial consequence of that strategy was to suppress any serious attempt to educate the public concerning certain potentially impeachable actions of Bush administration officials, most notably the extreme expansion of presidential powers (including “signing statements), the practice of torture, the denials of due process, and, above all, the lies that were employed to justify the war waged against Iraq. Rarely has Santayana’s famous dictum – roughly, “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” – been more relevant. When the actions of the Bush administration are compared to the one that led to the attempted impeachment of President Clinton, we have the clearest indication of the limited vision of the Obama administration. While “the audacity of hope” which Obama wrote about in his autobiography certainly has been fulfilled by the fact of his own election, that audacity does not appear to challenge the system of power which has brought the nation an endless war, bankruptcy, recession, and high unemployment. Change aplenty and all feeding the drift toward the system described in the pages that follow.

  July 2009

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. NY: New York, Basic Books. 1957. pp 240-246.

  We appraoch the end. The anxious feature now was that in the last two years suspicious areas no longer proved to be precancerous leucoplakias, but definitely malignant recurrences of the cancer itself. At Christmas time Schur removed a sequestrum of bone, the one about whose existence Freud had become doubtful, and this gave considerable relief. But at the same time a swelling appeared and gradually took on an increasingly ominous look. Early in February Schur was certain it meant a recurrence, although he could not persuade Exner of the diagnosis. It was decided to call in Wilfred Trotter, the greatest authority of his time on cancer. I brought him along to introduce him to Freud, who had last met him at the Salzburg Congress forty-one years before. He made an examination on February 10 and again on Feburary 21 and 24, but was also doubtful of the diagnosis and recommended further observation. Schur and Anna were desperate. Daily observation over years had made them equally expert in a way no stranger could be. Schur wrote urgently to Pichler who answered on February 15 with the advice to apply electrocoagulation followed by radium treatment. Professor Lacassagne, the Director of the Curie Institute in Paris, was fetched and made an examination on February 26. He could not advoce radium treatment, however. A biopsy had disclosed an unmistakable malignant recurrence, but the surgeons decided it was inaccessible and that no further operation was feasible. So the case bore now the fatal title “inoperable, incurable cancer.” The end was in sight. Only palliative treatment remained, and for this purpose recourse was had to daily administration of Roentgen rays. Lacassagne came again from Paris on March 12 to superintend the special arrangements for this. The journeys for the treatment in Dr. Neville Samuel Finzi’s house in Harley Street proved extremely exhausting, but the treatment had some success in keeping the trouble at bay.
  Freud notified Eitingon of his situation, and that the treatment would give him a few more weeks of life during which he could continue his analytic sessions. His last letter to him was on April 20, a few lines only.
  On March 19 Heinz Hartmann, one of Freud’s favourite pupils, paid him a visit, a final one. Marie Bonaparte was also in London from February 5 to February 18, from February 25 to March 1, and from March 13 to March 19. Freud wrote to her after these visits: “I want to say again how sorry I am not to have been able to give you more of myself when you stayed with us. Perhaps things will be easier next time you come – if there is no War – for my pain has been better of late. Dr. Harmer, who has just been, finds that the treatment has had an unmistakable influence on the appearnce of the sore place.”
  She was again in London from March 31 to April 1, and this visit was followed by a much less cheerful letter.

  “April 28, 1939

  “Meine liebe Marie:
  “I have not written to you for a long time, and no doubt you know why; you can tell by my handwriting. I am not getting on well; my complaint and the effects of the treatment share the responsibility in a proportion I cannot determine. The people around have tried to wrap me in an atmosphere of optimism: the cancer is shrinking; the reactions to the treatment are temporary. I don’t believe any of it, and don’t like being deceived.
  “You know that Anna will not be coming to the Paris Congress because she cannot leave me. [The Congress of French-speaking analysis.] I get more and more dependent on her and less on myself. Some intercurrent illness that would cut short the cruel proceeding would be very welcome. So should I look forward to seeing you in May? …
  “With that I greet you warmly; my thoughts are much with you.


  She came for his last birthday and stayed three days, which seem to have been more enjoyable. Freud wrote after it: “We all specially enjoyed your visit, and the prospect of seeing you again soon is splendid, even if you don’t bring anything from S. [Segredakei used to sell Greek antiquities in Paris]
  “Just think, Finzi is so satisfied that he has given me a whole week’s holiday from the treatment. All the same I have not noticed the great improvement and I daresay the growth will increase again in the interval, as it did in a previous one.”
  Marie Bonaparte came again to London on June 2 for a couple of days, and after that got the last letter she was ever to receive from Freud: “The day before yesterday I was about to write you a long letter condoling with you about the death of our old Tatoun [A favourite chow.] and to tell you that on your next visit I should eagerly listen to what you may have to relate about your new writings, and add a word wherever I feel I can. The two next nights have again cruelly destroyed my expectations. The radium has once more begun to eat in, with pain and toxic effects, and my World is again what it was before – a little island of pain floating on a sea of indifference.
  “Finzi continues to assure me of his satisfaction. My last complaint he answered with the words: ‘At the end you will be satisfied too.’ So he lures me, half against my will, to go on hoping and in the meantime to go on suffering.”
  Marie Bonaparte came to see Freud twice more, on June 29 for a couple of days, and for the last time, from July 31 to August 6.
  Freud was very eager to see his Moses book appear in English in his lifetime, so my wife, who was translating it, worked hard and the book was published in March, to Freud’s gratification. He wrote to Hanns Sachs: “The Moses is not an unworthy leavetaking.” He of course received a number of letters about it. Here is one from H.G. Wells.

  “March 1939
  “My dear Freud:
  “Your book was waiting in the hall when I came home from the Royal Society Conversazione at half past eleven and I found it so fascinating that I did not get to bed until one. I am rather exercised about one point, about Aaron. The Bible makes it clear that Moses could not talk to the Israelites. He needed a spokesman. Now if Moses was not simply tongue-tied but ignorant of Hebrew and without any desire to learn Hebrew Aaron becomes his interpreter, which seems to me to strengthen your case enormously. But for some reason you do not stress this. All the rest of your suggestions I find immensely probable.

  “My warmest salutations
“Yours ever       
  “H.G. Wells”

  And here is a translation of one from Einstein.

  “Sehr geehrter Herr Freud:
  “I thank you warmly for sending me your new Work, which has naturally interested me greatly. I had already read your two essays in Imago, which Dr. Klopstock, a physician friend, had brought me. Your idea that Moses was a distinguished Egyptian and a member of the priestly caste has much to be said for it, also what you say about the ritual of circumcision.
  “I quite specially admire your achievement, as I do with all your writings, from a literary point of view. I do not know any contemporary who has presented his subject in the German language in such a masterly fashion. I have always regretted that for a non-expert, who has no experience with patients, it is hardly possible to form a judgement about the finality of the conclusions in your writings. But after all this is so with all scientific achievements. One must be glad when one is able to grasp the structure of the thoughts expressed.
  “With sincere admiration and with cordial wishes

  “A. Einstein”

  The British Psycho-Analytical Society celebrated the twenty-fifth years of their existence by holding a banquet in March, and it was the occasion of my receiving the last letter I ever did from Freud.

  “March 7, 1939
  “Dear Jones:
  “I still find it curious with what little presentiment we humans look to the future. When shortly before the War you told me about founding a psychoanalytical society in London I could not foresee that a quarter of a century later I should be living so near to it and to you, and still less could I have imagined it possible that in spite of being so near I should not be taking part in your gathering.
  “But in our helplessness we have to accept what fate brings. So I must content myself with sending your celebrating Society a cordial greeting and the warmest wishes from afar and yet so near. The events of the past years have brought it about that London has become the main site and centre of the psychoanalytical movement. May the Society which discharges this function fulfill it in the most brilliant fashion.

“Ihr alter                             
“Sigm. Freud”

  The reason why he here added his first name to his signature was because he had learned that in England only peers of the realm signed with a single word; it was one of the peculiarities of England that much amused him.
  He had written on February 20 to Arnold Zweig, giving him an account of the uncertain progress of his condition, and on March 5 he wrote his last letter to him. In it he advised him to emigrate to America rather than England. “England is in most respects better, but it is very hard to adap oneself to it, and you would not have my presence near you for long. America seems to me an Anti-Paradise, but it has so much room and so many possibilities, and in the end one does come to belong to it. Einstein told a friend recently that at first America looked to him like a caricature of a country, but now he feels himself quite at home there …. There is no longer any doubt that I have a new recurrence of my dear old cancer with which I have been sharing my existence for sixteen years. Which of us would prove to be the stronger we could not at that time predict.”
  In April a blow fell that Freud found hard to bear. He was very dependent on the day to day ministrations of his personal doctor, Schur, in whose judgement he had supreme confidence and to whom he was devoted. Yet Schur himself was not faced with a painful dilemma. His quota number for the United States had been called up, and if he did not accept it he would imperil his and his children’s future. He decided to take it, and to pay a visit to America where he would take out his first naturalisation papers. He left on April 21 and got back on July 8. Dr. Samet took his place temporarily, and then Dr. Harmer, with Exner in charge. During his absence he received regular reports which showed no serious worsening until the end of the time.
  On his return he found a great change in Freud’s condition. He looked much worse in general, had lost weight and was showing some signs of apathy. There was a cancerous ulceration attacking the cheek and the basse of the orbit. Even his best friend, his sound sleep which had sustained him so long, was now deserting him. Anna had to continue her practice of applying orthoform locally several times in the night.
  One of the very last visitors was one of Freud’s earliest analytical friends, Hanns Sachs, who came in July to take what he knew would be his last leave of the man he called his “master and friend.” Sachs was particularly struck by two observations. One was that with all the distress of his painful condition Freud showed no sign of complaint or irritability – nothing but full acceptance of his fate and resignation to it. The other was that even then he could take interest in the situation in America and showed himself fully informed about the personalities and recent events in analytical circles there. As Freud would have wished, their final parting was made in a friendly but unemotional fashion.
  Freud, like all good doctors, was averse to taking drugs. As he put it once to Stefan Zweig, “I prefer to think in torment than not to be able to think clearly.” Now hoever, he consented to take an occasional dose of aspirin, the only drug he accepted before the very end. And he managed somehow to continue with his analytic work until the end of July. On September 1, his granddaughter Eva, Oliver’s child, paid him a last visit; he was specially fond of that charming girl, who was to die in France five years later.
  In August eerything went downhill rapidly. A distressing symptom was an unpleasant odor from the wound, so that when his favourite chow was brought to visit him she shrank into a far corner of the room, a heart-rending experience which revealed to the sick man the pass he had reached. He was getting very weak and spent his time in a sick bay in his study from which he could gaze at his beloved flowers in the garden. He read the newspapers and followed world events to the end. As the Second World War approached he was confident it would mean the end of Hitler. The day it broke out there was an air raid warning – a false alarm, as it turned out – when Freud was lying on his couch in the garden; he was quite unperturbed. He watched with considerable interest the steps taken to safeguard his manuscripts and collection of antiquities. But when a broadcast announced that this was to be the last War, and Schur asked him if he believed that, he could only reply: “Anyhow it is my last War.” He found it hardly possible to eat anything. The last book he was able to read was Balzac’s La Peau de chagrin, on which he commented wryly: “That is just the book for me. It deals with starvation.” He meant rather the gradual shrinking, the becoming less and less, described so poignantly in the book.
  But with all this agony there was never the slightest sign of impatience of irritability. The philosophy of resignation and the acceptance of the unalterable Reality triumphed throughout.
  The cancer ate its way through the cheek to the outside and the septic condition was heightened. The exhaustion was extreme and the misery indescribable. On September 19 I was sent for to say good-by to him and called him by name as he dozed. He opened his eyes, recognised me and waved his hand, then dropped it with a highly expressive gesture that conveyed a wealth of meaning: greetings, farewell, resignation. It said as plainly as possible “The rest is silence.” There was no need to exchange a word. In a second he fell asleep again. On September 21 Freud said to his doctor: “My dear Schur, you remember our first talk. You promised me then you would help me when I could no longer carry on. It is only Torture now and it has no longer any sense.” Schur pressed his hand and promised he would give him adequate sedation; Freud thanked him, adding after a moment of hesitation: “Tell Anna about our talk.” There was no emotionalism or self-pity, only Reality – an impressive and unforgettable scene.
  The next morning Schur gave Freud a third of a grain of morphia. For someone at such a point of exhaustion as Freud then was, and so complete a stranger to opiates, that small dose sufficed. He sighed with relief and sank into a peaceful sleep; he was evidently close to the end of his reserves. He died just before midnight the next day, 23 September 1939. His long and arduous life was at an end and his sufferings over. Freud died as he had lived – a realist.
  Freud’s body was cremated at Golder’s Green on the morning of 26 September in the presence of a large number of mourners, including Marie Bonaparte and the Lampls from abroad, and his ashes repose there in one of his favourite Gracian urns. The family asked me to deliver the funeral oration. Stefan Zweig then made a long speech in German which was doubtless more eloquent than mine but which could not have been more deeply felt.