The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin

TrumpReaganMyth

As Trump dramatically pulls out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, while sending John Bolton to Moscow to negotiate a new agreement regarding the production of nuclear weapons, it appears that false narratives about the Cold War’s conclusion could be influencing White House foreign policy.

It is clear that Trump seeks to present himself as a new Reagan to the elderly, red state, FOX news audience. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” was intentionally lifted from Reagan’s war-chest of campaign slogans, presented as “Let’s Make America Great Again” in 1980. Now, it looks as if Trump is “escalating the arms race” in order “defeat the Russians,” further fulfilling his image as the new “gipper.”

On FOX News, Right-Wing Talk Radio, and other Republican-aligned sections of US media, Ronald Reagan is treated as an immortal hero and icon. The religious and military obsessed neoconservative right-wing has canonized him to the point that one almost expects to see graphics of Reagan adjusted to include halos, or to see FOX news anchors cross themselves after uttering his name. Endless radio and TV segments in the right-wing media sphere have been dedicated to memorializing the man who held the US Presidency from 1981 to 1989.

The mythology perpetuated about the Reagan Presidency is that, while cowardly democrats had negotiated with the Soviet leaders and called for de-escalating the arms race, Reagan escalated the drive to build nuclear weapons. Reagan’s escalation of the arms race is said to have forced the Soviets to increase military spending, causing economic problems in the USSR. The heroic POTUS is said to have beat his chest with thunderous “tear down that wall” speeches, blasted the USSR as an “evil empire,” and eventually forced the Communists to surrender through his sheer strength, boldness, and refusal to compromise.

The problem is that the Republican narrative regarding the Cold War is largely inaccurate. While pressure to increase military spending certainly played a role in placing economic pressure on the Soviet Union, the USSR was destroyed by a political, not fiscal crisis. The political crisis that destroyed the USSR was mainly influenced by liberal soft-power policies from the US government not militarism and threats.

Greenspan

As Americans brace for an economic downturn, adherents of free market ideology are busily assuring everyone that their ideas must be not be questioned.

Just two days after the Stock Market dropped on October 10th, the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Review featured an article entitled “How to Fix the Great American Growth Machine.” The piece repeated a series of neoliberal clichés, and contained some obvious logical holes.

The article pointed toward the unregulated nature of US railroad construction in 1800s as an example of American free market superiority, ignoring the millions who died in the process. The construction of railways connecting North America’s coasts involved the displacement and genocide millions of Native Americans. It also involved millions of Irish, African-American, and Chinese people being worked to death. The racist expression “You don’t have a Chinamen’s chance” referred the semi-slave conditions that Chinese Americans faced when laying rails in western states.

The article hailed the period of 1865 to 1900 as an ideal time in US history due to lack of government interference with business. The article ignored how frequently the US stock market fell into crises during this time, with “panics” frequently leading to bank failures, mass unemployment, and widespread societal turmoil. The article also ignored  in the appraisal of this supposedly glorious era, that it was the time, not just of robber barons and widespread government corruption, but also of child laborers and sweat shop factory conditions.

 

US flag soldier

While militarism is prevalent across US society, the idea of a new, big confrontation between superpowers seems quite unrealistic for contemporary America.

Our grandparents told us stories of the Second World War. All four of my own had participated in some capacity. The Second World War was not a “regime change” operation carried out under the guise of humanitarianism. The Second World War was a battlefield clash between two global alliances that sought to destroy each other. The war involved mass mobilizations of the population. In order to achieve victory, the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain were forced to put society under the most ironclad discipline.

In the USA, children collected scrap metal and watched the skies for Japanese planes. The population had “meatless Tuesdays” prioritizing agricultural products for the front-lines. The automakers put commercial cars on hold and manufactured military vehicles instead. Japanese-Americans were interned in prison camps. The Trotskyite Communists who opposed the war, along with fascist sympathizers like the German-American Bund, were locked in prison or detained by federal authorities, and every able bodied young man was required to join the military. The entire country was mobilized for victory, and victory was achieved.

Would such a thing be possible today?

CalebMaupin

On October 6th, Caleb Maupin addressed a gathering of young activists from Students & Youth for a New America. His full length presentation discussed many wide ranging topics including: Superman Comics, Economics, Marxism, China, Iran, Yemen, US history, the Soviet Union, and much more. The full presentation is now available for viewing online.

PopeChina

The Roman Catholic Church and the Peoples Republic of China are set to sign an agreement, which would formally end the hostilities between these two entities. The Chinese government will formally acknowledge the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church in China. In exchange, the Pope will reinstate ex-communicated Bishops selected by the Communist Party to lead Catholics on the Chinese mainland. In this context, it is worth reviewing the shifts and evolutions of Catholicism in global politics.

Opposing Capitalism and Marxism

Surprising as it may be to many Republicans in the United States, the Roman Catholic Church officially opposes capitalism. In fact, clerical anti-capitalism predates Marxism by centuries. As the merchant class was emerging in Europe, Catholic theology tended to uphold the “natural order” represented in the feudal hierarchy. The church saw the marketplace as a sinful mess of greed and anarchy.  Gutenberg’s printing press, which led to the translation and widespread publication of the Bible, and eventually the Protestant Reformation, is seen as the opening shot act in the struggle resulting in the eventual rise of liberal democratic nation-states and the market. Papal proclamations that shifted regulations on money-lending laid the foundations for modern finance. For example, the roots of the titanic institution known as Bank of America can be traced back to early Italian bankers, who emerged as the church loosened its restrictions on Usury.

While Catholic anti-capitalism, which emphasizes morality and obedience over “economic freedom,” has been longstanding, the ideology of Marxism is something Rome has always opposed. Catholicism views Marxism as godlessly fomenting revolts against legitimate “God given” authority. Furthermore, Marxist economic determinism is perceived as undermining the moral responsibility of individuals for their actions.

NSO796775524

As the Brexit process moves forward, calls for a second Scottish Independence Referendum are picking up steam. The SNP is calling for a second referendum, paving the way for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, and remain in the EU.

Imagine the people of a country, faced with increasingly difficult economic circumstances, organizing a mass movement and declaring independence. Then, imagine a new government that puts the country’s natural resources under state control and sells them on the international markets, and uses the proceeds to build infrastructure and subsidize the construction of a vibrant domestic economy.

This is a scenario that has played out many times throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The struggle for domestic control over oil profits has been central in a very high percentage of the revolutions and geopolitical confrontations of modern times. The “Yes” movement in Scotland fits in with a global pattern related to energy and the global capitalist market.