Originally posted 26 November 2009. . .
As noted in the previous post, the roots of today’s electoral field has deep roots, and the subject of this post explains how some of the groundwork was laid.
Back before the Reagan Revolution, and long before PNAC [People for the New American Century] set the agenda for the neoconservatism of Bush II, one man set the agenda for the years to come.
Writing at a time when even a Richard Nixon was willing to embrace healthcare, environmentalism, and a guaranteed minimum income for the poor, Lewis F. Powell Jr. offered a striking new vision of America, one made real by his successors.
Though best known for his tenure on the United States Supreme Court from January 7, 1972, to June 26, 1987, Powell was a far more interesting figure: Spook, merger of corporate giants, and far-thinking political strategist.
Powell was a Harvard Law School graduate who entered the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, where was assigned to the Operational Intelligence Division of the Directorate of Intelligence of United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe, specializing in German communications intelligence and reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the end of the war.
After the war, he became a corporate lawyer for a large Richmond, Virginia, law firm—specializing in the issue closest to the heart of the corporate machine, mergers and acquisitions. Another specialty was tobacco litigation, and his chief client was the industry’s lobby, the Tobacco Institute, the industry’s immensely powerful lobbying arm. He also served on the board of directors of Philip Morris for the seven years preceding his elevation to the bench, furthering a certain intimacy with the art of killing smokers for fun and profit.
One of his Virginia neighbors was Eugene Sydnor Jr., Director of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Casual neighborly conversation about their perception of the nation’s “plight” provoked the lawyer to draft a memorandum—often called the Powell Manifesto—which he handed to his neighbor on August 23, 1971. Blogger Ed Encho at STATION CHARON rightly dubs it the Looter Capitalist Manifesto.
His manifesto is represented in the transformation of every institution in our lives, which have been warped to the woof of the oligarchs and corporocrats.
The memo begins:
Attack of American Free Enterprise System
DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.
Writing at a time when national movements had challenged the racism of mainstream society, were waging a campaign against the Vietnam War, and were raising critical questions about the growing power of corporations, Powell declared,
Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.
What he prescribed was a wide -ranging program of propaganda, one which increasingly dominates our mass media, but one has recreated the universities—then boiling founts of dissent and challenge—into bulwarks of the corpocracy.
While the chamber played a role in the unfolding events, other organizations such as the Cato Institute [a major Reagan Administration], the Heritage Foundation, and similar institutions—which had the great advantage of names other than “chamber of commerce”—took center stage, flooding the airwaves, filling the op-ed pages, and infiltrating the everyday discourse of journalism.
Since the entire memo is available at the link, I will focus here on an issue close to home [literally, here in Berkeley]. I leave it to readers to decide if Powell’s strategy has proved effective.
The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting (sic) from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.
Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult to identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence—far out of proportion to their numbers—on their colleagues and in the academic world.
Social science faculties (the political scientist, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.
There’s a whole lot more, after the jump. . . Continue reading