The Pragmatic ‘Real Power’ of the US


10-08-09, 10:20 am

No one can put their finger for sure on who holds the real power in the U.S. – the kind of power elected by none but key to the development of events. The US is a country which has led the world since the downfall of the old western colonial monarchies. Its rulers have been in charge of playing that role. Still less can anyone deny the astute pragmatism shown by this unknowable elite whenever the great power’s existence has been at stake.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed power at a moment when his nation was going through a very difficult time. Some of his statements even earned him the label of “traitor to his class”. This is conclusive proof of how pragmatic the U.S.’s real power actually is. As life would have it, FDR was the savior of capitalism in the U.S., never mind that he’s still Washington’s least revered ex-president.

Roosevelt laid down a number of principles in his State of the Union Address to Congress on January 6, 1941 that today would cause him to be called a communist, namely:

- Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

- Jobs for those who can work.

- Security for those who need it.

- The ending of special privileges for the few.

- The preservation of civil liberties for all.

- The enjoyment of the fruit of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

A president who pioneered these and other no-less advanced ideas in matters of international relations would no doubt put America’s real power at risk.

“When you extract all the wealth out of the colonies, but never put anything back into them, things like education, decent standards of living, minimum health requirements… all you’re doing is storing up the kind of trouble that leads to war”, FDR’s third child Elliott quoted his father as saying, in his book As He Saw It.

It’s clear, however, that those at the pinnacle of power in the U.S. chose to take the risk in order to secure the fresh image FDR provided. The prestige he achieved at home with the “New Deal” program he launched to cope with the economic crisis in 1929-1932, and the political alliances and unusual amount of support that his “Good Neighbor Policy” helped him gain throughout the continent.

The struggle of African Americans for their civil rights jeopardized the country’s integrity and security when heroes as outstanding as Malcolm X and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sprang up. Trends such as Black Power, which in the 1960s brought forth a pre-revolutionary situation, coincided with the need to recruit black soldiers for the Vietnam War. In response, the political establishment made substantial concessions in interracial relations. In the name of national security, the real power successfully neutralized the danger by giving the black population a significant amount of space.

The Cuban Revolution triumphed on a continent crammed with dictators who kowtowed to Washington, but where the ideals of anti-imperialism and social justice were spreading like wildfire. The U.S. tried out unprecedented, albeit useless, projects such as the so-called “alliance for progress” and made a number of readjustments in their methods of rule. These essentially replaced military control with methods of participatory democracy that placed power in the hands of the oligarchies and their parties. There’s no doubt that the extent of such adjustments was decided by the real power, never by the party in government.

That the exchange of ideas within the U.S. society plays a major role in the overall political orientation of the masses is beyond question. Yet, the pressure brought by this struggle hangs over the politicians, go-betweens of sorts, who are assembled in two political parties and who depend on financial contributions to their campaigns by those who also control the media.

A look at the U.S. today suffices to show that under the current extraordinarily complex national and international circumstances, the real power has once again OK’d the election of a different president, who comes carrying a bundle of reforms bound to get widespread domestic and foreign support and to make up for the prevailing hopelessness that George W. Bush’s dreadful government left in its wake.

Obviously, there are other diverse forces acting within this real power who measure risk in a different way. Perhaps this explains the constant incoherence we notice in the development of the governmental policies put forward by Obama, all of them designed to preserve both capitalism and U.S. dominance.

Read or listen to Roosevelt's speech 'The Four Freedoms':