Friday, December 26, 2008

Fox News Not With the Rest of US History

by Norman Markowitz

I former student of mine sent me a article from the website Open Left,
posted by David Sirota. The article was titled "Historians Pretty Much
Agree That FDR Prologued the Great Depression". Sirota had appeared on
Fox News with Monica Crowley, who parleyed her fawning internship with
Richard Nixon at the end of his life into a career as a minor
conservative "pundit." Sirota was there to challenge this absurd "big
lie,"which Crowley raised on Fox News, and he tried to, only to be
laughed at. In his article, Sirota tries to get in the last laugh by
citing scholarly sources in detail where Fox propagandists cited none,
not even the false and twisted sources that Joe McCarthy was famous for

With all due respect to Sirota, who deserves respect for subjecting
himself to Fox News, one really doesn't have to be defensive about this
issue, and answering Rupert Murdoch's propagandists is almost beside the
point. The rightwing hatred of and mythology about New Deal labor
liberalism, like all extreme prejudices, is essentially about them, or
rather the class interests they serve and the audiences they seek to
influence. Citing real and documented history to them is a little bit
like the attorney for the Jewish-American plaintiffs who in the 1920s
sued Henry Ford, publisher of the virulently anti-Semitic newspaper, the
Dearborn Independent, which in turn had published the major anti-Semitic
tract, _The Elders of the Protocols of Zion_. based on a totally
fabricated set of events and accompanying historical chronicle. When
the attorney cited in very great detail,real Jewish history, Ford
responded famously that history itself was "the bunk" That is pretty
much what the Fox News people were implying when the laughed at Sirota.

Of course, there is a rightwing school of thought, much more among
economists than historians, who do contend that New Deal regulatory and
social welfare policies did prolong the depression, which would have
been far less severe if 1920s Republican policy had been continued.
There are even those ultras who attack Herbert Hoover for moving in a
"statist" direction away from the free market principles of Calvin
Coolidge. But outside of the right, its media and think tanks, most of
this has never been taken seriously by most historians since it flies
in the face of real events. Unemployment reached a peak of between 25%
and 38%(the former statistic is from the Hoover administration, the
latter from labor movement sources) in the Winter of 1932-1933. New
Deal policies over the next four years cut those numbers in half and
also led to a significant strengthening of the labor movement and with
that workers rights. The major setback of 1937, where the term
recession was first coined, has been attributed, as Sirota rightly says,
by most historians to Roosevelt's reduction in spending. These are
liberal and centrist historians by the way, scholars who are in
substance more not less conservative than major New Dealers. New
Dealers like Harold Ickes and others called this recession a "capital
strike" against both the administration and industrial workers, and
Ickes particularly condemned the "50 families" who controlled much of
the corporate wealth of the country.
For myself and most Marxists, the failure of the New Deal was always
that it did not go far enough, not that it went too far, in increasing
workers rights and seeking to regulate the abuses of capital. What
"Historians pretty much agree " on is that the depression did not end in
the U.S. before WWII, as it really didn't end anywhere else, except in a
grotesque way in Nazi Germany, where the fascist dictatorship smashed
the unions, launched a huge state supported re-armament program,
builidng what I consider to be th first modern military industrial
complex, not only or even primarily as an economic program but as the
basis for wars of aggression and conquest.
In the 1930s, the U.S. had about 1/3 of the world's industrial
production and was before the New Deal significantly behind other
developed capitalist countries in its regulatory and social welfare
programs. The New Deal, as Fox News will never understand, both saved
and instituted significant reforms of the capitalist system, which stuck
for the next two generations. As Marxists and Communists "correctly"
understood at the time, these reforms were by no means permanent and
would be challenged by the capitalist class, which in reality only
accepted them as an alternative to socialism, when the capitalists were
in a position to do so(as they were politically by the 1980s).

Fox News is trying to send a message to Obama that following the New
Deal model as against continuing the Bush policies will have a
disastrous effect. That is a message that insults Obama's intelligence
and one that he can only laugh at.

Speaking of laughter, or rather a little satire at Fox expense, I can
imagine other Fox News sorties into twentieth century history, for
example "Historians pretty much agree with Patrick Buchanan that U.S
inovlvement in World War II was largely unnecessary and peace was
possible with Hitler were it not for the Roosevelt administration;"
"Historians pretty much agree that Roosevelt tricked the Japanese into
bombing Pearl Harbor to save his friends in London and Moscow;"
"Historians pretty much agree that Roosevelt 'gave' Eastern Europe to
the Soviet Union in 1945 because of his socialist sympathies;"
"Historians pretty much agree that Communists in the State Department
were directly responsible for the Chinese Revolution;" "Historians
pretty much agree that General MacArthur's policy of bombing China and
using nuclear weapons in Korea and China would have won the Korean
war;" "Historians pretty much agree that General Westmoreland's call in
1968 for 200,000 more troops after the Tet Offensive would have brought
victory in Vietnam, were it not for the liberal media and the anti-war
movement" and so on and so on. Fox News could dig up literally and
figuratively talking heads to support those positions, but they would be
digging the graves of the past instead of advocating policies that help
dig the graves of contemporary capitalism, which they have been doing
for many, many years.
Norman Markowitz