Subj: Review: Made in Texas
Date: 3/4/2003 9:25:06 AM Eastern Standard Time
I write to recommend the book “Made in Texas” by Michael Lind, which I have just finished reading. I picked up the book at the local public library, hoping to find some social-cultural background on Bush which might illuminate his (backwards) way of thinking and his ability to resonate with a substantial portion of the American population.
What I found here was not only an erudite and satisfying social, cultural and political analysis but much more. Lind gives us an explanation of the Bush phenomenon on every level: economic, historical, cultural, ideological, religious and political. This is not just the usual patchwork of anecdotes and statistics crafted into a plausible political position statement. Lind persuasively places Bush in the context of the social/political/cultural structure of the Old South, the south that has battled for hundreds of years now to perpetuate a social system that is fundamentally different from, and antagonistic to, that of the North. The Bush II presidency and the triumph of the Republicans in the last election is only the latest chapter in that long American story of class warfare–the chapter in which the once apparently defeated southerners are now on top.
I find the title of the book misleading, for it emphasizes the connection of Bush with Texas, which in turn is connected in the popular conception (including my own conception prior to reading this book) with the West, ranching, cowboys, etc. The subtitle I think is more apt: “The Southern Takeover of American Politics,” for Lind makes clear that the culture and history of Texas is divided, and Bush represents not the Texas of the West and the cowboys, nor of its modernist trends represented by L. Johnson and Perot, but that part of Texas which is and has been for two centuries a part of the Deep South, the south of the confederacy, the plantation system, slavery, racism, the bitter fight against Reconstruction, the peonage of immigrant labor, rape of the land and minerals, genocidal removal of the Indians, Protestant fundamentalism, etc.
“The Southern ruling class is not, and never has been, bourgeois. The wealthy families who for centuries have dominated politics and the economy in the South, from Virginia to Texas, have roots in Britain, not among the civic burghers but among the rural aristocracy.” (p. 162) Lind, a Texan himself, clearly draws out the differences in values, thinking and culture between these latter-day feudal-like aristocrats and the capitalist values we are more familiar with. I will not go into detail here, but what is most satisfying about Lind’s analysis is that it goes all the way down to the roots of the quite different economic structure of the South. Dramatizing some of those differences he writes: “Running out of oil and gas? Don’t make car engines more efficient or power vehicles with hydrogen or electric batteries; drill in wildlife preserves and conquer oil-producing countries in the Middle East . . . . Is there a tight labor market? Don’t invest in a machine that permits one worker to do the work of three; hire illegal aliens, while lobbying the government for guest-worker programs and increased immigration quotas.” (p. 95) Lind argues that the Southern economic system differs essentially from that of the North because of its principal reliance on super-exploitation of labor (slavery, near-slavery, illegal aliens peons) and rape of the land (wasting of agricultural soil, seizure of minerals, strip mining, conquest of foreign lands), rather than on the development of industry, technology, machinery and skilled labor. The ideology corresponding to this is Christian fundamentalism, a form of Puritanism, that does not value hard work, but believes in pre-destination, millennialism (things will get worse until the next coming of Christ), and its own superiority to every other form of thought or religion. After reading this book, I think the Arabs are on to something when they call Bush a Crusader.
Lind is not an economist, nor am I, and I am sure there are things that some of you better educated than I can criticize about his analysis. If so, I certainly would like to hear what your criticisms are, for this book is a serious and quite worthy attempt at a holistic social understanding of the current political situation. It was for me highly informative, and the some of the best writing I have read about current events. This is not a dry academic exercise. Lind is partisan and passionate, and repeatedly insists on the imperative of defeating Bush, Delay, Armey, Wolfowitz and the Republican party they have taken over as the only way to return to a progressive agenda. I wholeheartedly join him in those sentiments, and am glad to have found someone in the intellectual establishment who so clearly understands the social phenomenon that Bush represents and the urgency of defeating it. I urge you also to examine him as a possible ally in your ideological struggles, or at least take his work as a starting point for a more complete critique of the present Republican regime. Comments please.
Subj: Re: Made In Texas
Date: 3/10/2003 1:11:41 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
File: Bush statement.doc (28672 bytes) DL Time (50667 bps): < 1 minute
I just got round to reading your Made In Texas critique this weekend and cannot find the words to thank you enough for your initiative and insights. I have just ordered the book so my reactions are based on the very clear presentation of Lind’s thesis. Some years ago, a book titled, “North, South and West,” whose author I do not remember and which I loaned to someone who never returned it, developed a corollary thesis of the relationship within geographic sections of the capitalist class which revealed the dominance of Wall Street (Northern capital) over the development of capital accumulation and investment in the West (California in particular) and in the South. It did not indicate the duel character of developments in Texas and its ties and roots in slavocracy, though lumping Texas with West and South as it related to Northeastern capital. Northeast capital dominated the political scene in Washington, so much so that it ordered the Bank of California as late as 1940 to split up, since it had become the single largest bank in the country, and only two years later, under pressure of production for WWII, allowed Western capital to dominate aluminum and aircraft since it was the most likely area for such production. Until now, I understood the nature of Western and Southern capital joining politically to capture the power in Washington, starting with the 1948 Republican party program to develop candidates for state and national office that would ultimately achieve their purpose through capturing their party. They succeeded through compromises with Eisenhower as President, tucking in Nixon, who had succeeded in defeating Helen Gahagan Douglas in a vicious campaign for Congress in 1948. The same Western Republican groups built up Reagan. They did not succeed with Nixon in the White House because of opposition to the Vietnam War. However, they achieved their purpose with Reagan in the White House. This put conservatism and the right wing into dominance within the Republican party and they began the process of turning the country over to the corporate elite. Within that process it is now revealed in Michael Lind’s remarkable analysis (I am relying at the moment on your presentation) that the old slave Southern bourbons used their influence in the Republican party to turn it beyond the mere question of controlling “normal” politics in Washington but to change the whole philosophy to ultra-right wing fundamentalist conservatism. The threat of corporate control of government functions, in itself, according to Mussolini or Palmero Tagliati, who both characterized fascism as corporatism, that is corporations plus government equals fascism. This is the core of the danger of the current Bush administration. We have witnessed, and note the horror of another Southerner, Senator Robert Byrd, that the country is being turned into (though he does not use the word) a fascist-type state, if they can get away with it. Trace everything that is happening around us in small or large increments, fascist-like moves and recommendations that come from the Administration way beyond the struggle against terrorism or the pressure to go to war without full justification and in complete disregard of allies and international commitments. This is imperialism at its worst with a potential of greater destruction than we witnessed in WWII where we fought the fascist Axis. If Bush succeeds in 2004 to be reelected ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, I feel sorry for the next two generations as it struggles to bring this country back to decency. The combination of Lind’s analysis of the nature of the Bush administration and the knowledge of the struggle within the capitalist class itself, resulting in the sad stealing of an election in 2000, requires the strongest mass movements in this country to put an end to the pressure for war and fascism on our soil.
Subj: Made in Texas: Website available
Date: 3/11/2003 8:06:32 AM Eastern Standard Time
Hi Sidney and others,
Since posting the description of Lind’s book I have discovered that he has published an abundance of political essays over the past few years. These are available free, on-line to anyone interested at the website www.newamerica.net . I have read two of them and find them incisive and provocative. He is sponsored by an organization named New America Foundation, which evidently is some kind of think tank. Does anyone out there know anything about this organization and their general orientation? Would appreciate a comment.
In “Made in Texas,” Lind draws a parallel between present American imperialism and that of Germany, Japan, England, etc. The analogy lies in the capture of the modern capitalist productive engines by social forces representing largely pre-capitalist or neo-feudal formations–the Junkers in Germany, the samurai-style in Japan , etc. “In these countries, various landowning military and political castes, threatened with irrelevance and extinction by industrial progress and democracy, managed to retain political power and to enlist the new techniques of science and industry to promote premodern aristocratic goals of plunder [Marx's 'primitive accumulation' of wealth?] and martial glory ….” (p. 166) and resulting in the undermining and reduction of the position of the working classes.
I think you are correct in your view of the threat posed at this moment. It is no less than that posed by that of fascist Germany, indeed may be much greater in view of the military and economic predominance of the U.S. in 2003. I believe that the situation calls for the widest possible alliances with any democratic and pro-capitalist groups, for the danger now is to that we will be swept back into neo-feudalism. There has already been a severe loss of democratic rights that will take generations to correct, in view of the appointments to the federal courts, the Patriot’s Act, etc. The group that is in power now represents a (mainly Southern) point of view that not only did not accept the outcome of the Civil War, but also resented such Constitutional institutions as the Bill of Rights and the counting of slaves as partial (3/5) people. If it is not quickly defeated it seems clear that we and the World will have to re-fight all those battles that we assumed were settled hundreds of years ago in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, and perhaps to do so from a position of political and legal inferiority. I think there are very few Americans who as yet see the enormity of what is at stake, though thankfully many are at last seeing that this administration stands for naked imperialism and suppression of civil liberty. I think it is difficult for the public at large to comprehend that this administration, and the turn that the Republican party has taken in supporting it, represent a point of view that is breathtakingly different in its attitudes towards democracy, economics and religion from anything that has preceded it in our life times; the Republicans’ thin veiling of their position through such words as “compassionate” and “security” has of course had much of the desired effect on the electorate. I think your piece on fascism is on the right track and wish you well in publication.