Watch What You Wish For… FDR’s New Deal and the American Empire



The proponents of the Green New Deal take the New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s as their inspiration and model for government social programs and government-led economic mobilization. Here are some basic facts that explode the official narrative surrounding the original New Deal.

1) The New Deal was not motivated by some special commitment to worker security and well-being. The economic and social measures of the New Deal were launched by the dominant section of the U.S. ruling class to prevent the collapse of capitalism. The U.S. and world economy in the 1930s were in the grips of the worst crisis in the history of capitalism. The New Deal was designed to rescue and rationalize the banking system, to stimulate industrial production and job creation, and to establish new regulations and forms of government intervention in order to stabilize capitalism and restore profitability.

2) The New Deal was aimed at preventing mass social upheaval, including the possibility of revolution. The Roosevelt years were about repressing and co-opting resistance and restoring people’s dwindling faith in the system. That’s why unions were recognized and institutionalized, that’s why social programs were enacted, and that’s why FDR spouted the rhetoric of “easing the plight” of the dispossessed.

3) The New Deal was not about social justice. Segregation and white privilege were built into the foundations of the welfare state that it established. Social spending and social programs were racially differentiated—with white workers receiving more of the unemployment benefits and Black workers put into welfare lines. Federal housing policy and programs were thoroughly discriminatory. Check out these two books: When Affirmative Action Was White, by Ira Katznelson and The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein.

4) The New Deal morphed into imperialist mobilization for war; and it was not government social spending that got the U.S. out of the Great Depression but World War 2 and its particular outcome. World War 2 was not some noble enterprise of America “fighting for democracy” for the people of the world. It was America waging a murderous war for greater empire, vying with other imperialist powers for control of the world, a war in which America dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

And as a result of World War 2, the U.S. became the dominant world imperialist power. The U.S.’s wartime rivals, German and Japanese imperialism, were defeated. The U.S. let the then-socialist Soviet Union bear the brunt of vanquishing Hitler and German imperialism. The U.S.’s victorious wartime allies, British and French imperialism, were greatly weakened. The U.S. emerged from World War 2 with its productive base intact.

In these circumstances, the U.S. forged the most extensive and integrated global empire in world history. The U.S. imperialists imposed the dollar as the global currency. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, created as World War 2 was ending, enabled the U.S. to control the economic lifeblood and shape the development of economies of the Third World. The U.S. moved to dominate the Middle East and gain access to and control over its oil supplies. The U.S. was able to secure cheap raw materials and obtain high profits from low-cost manufacturing and agribusiness in the Third World. After World War 2, the U.S. became the policeman of the imperialist-dominated world—and America’s genocidal wars in Korea and Vietnam were not far off.

That’s what the New Deal was a prelude to and helped make possible. That’s what Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and the proponents of the Green New Deal would have you celebrate.



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