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March 6, 2013


It may well be possible to assert that Powell, as US Supreme Court Justice, became more tempered as a thinker in a context of the greatest seriousness; and it is also clear that he had previously had extensive experience in the personal politics of the politics of the state of Virginia as a school board chairman and as a renown corporate lawyer, becoming eventually the president of the American Bar Association, although there are aspects about the information readily available on him that are clearly hagiographic.

But from the reading of his famous Memo or “Manifesto” of 1971, it is clear that his particular psychology and his visceral-intellectual vision of society, life-and himself-led him to commit some serious contradictions within said text.

And because this text is credited with laying the base for the US conservative counter-counter culture onslaught that in the 70s began to consolidate itself, to finally ignite after 1980 with Ronald Reagan, its contradictions are those also of the voice and soul of conservative power itself in the US.

And all power, in the United States, is profoundly conservative.

But the essential gist of the memo was the use of the de facto power of the corporate world to intervene in, obstruct and mold social tendencies as way of protecting corporate power.

And the cosmic phantom of socialist revolution and a most infantile fear of a future overturning of social order-in the just the way it had taken place in Cuba-was naturally drawn upon by Powell as a starting point from which to fight back.

But this was not Powell’s real fear as he explicitly lays out in his text.

And what you find is a clear understanding that corporate power, because of its de facto nature, should officially and publicly stay out of politics.

On the surface.

But behind the scenes and through non political proxy mechanisms of influence, it should fight like hell-tooth and nail-to keep America, form his standpoint, America.

And his manifesto proposes, as continuation to the concept of government lobbies, the notion of a kind of shadow control of public opinion through the direction and oversight of intelligent and intellectually sophisticated individuals –usually with some kind of academic grounding or background-who would form part of organizations of a cellular structure to develop sound implementation strategies, at all levels, of tacit social influence in the favor of business and against the forces of chaos and social dissolution in the form of liberal ideology and its social agents.

And it would be business itself that would finance this-because, naturally, it can.

And the enemy, in Powell’s eyes, was most especially the University campus and its dominance at the time by liberal, progressive minded professors and lectures, and not really communists.

And Powell is tacitly revealing, in his text, one of the greatest examples of historical duplicity and government trickery that I personally considered as the most unfortunate aspect of six years of Richard Nixon as president; for it was not, by then, the fear of communism in the US –or even Chilean society-that truly motivated US anticommunist resistance, although this is what they said.

The real attack was on intellectual liberalism in society itself-both in the US and in Chile-with the purpose of extending the influence and de facto power of corporations, of ITT and a most simplified understanding of the economic thinking of Milton Freidman.

But communism and the threat of even free-market Socialism, were conveniently used to mask the need for a kind of ideological cleansing of society in Chile-but most especially in the United States, too.

For this is what de facto corporate power, organized as prototype, intellectual “think tanks” and in the White House itself, saw as its best interests with regards to its own future.

And that future, as these people saw it, required the subordination of society to the interests of business itself.

And forty years later, it is pretty damn clear what they meant by that!

Just look at US society today!

Life, for all of you, is just simply having a job so that you get to live and indulge in consumer, “I phone Life”, at the highest level of material comfort that is socially possible for you.

And you are not really perturbed by, or even interested in, anything else, as far as can I see!

But here I give you a psychological analysis, more or less point by point, of Lewis F Powell as reflected in his 1971 text known as the “Powell Memo”; and it is out of these psychological circumstances that I will make explicit the intellectual contradictions he also enters into in the same text:

1)   The starting point of the text is a most simplified and Manichean vision of the traditional economic order of society at the mercy of liberalism, in the US sense of the that word; and it is clear from the text that Powell perceives this as a threat to all he holds most dear to his privileged and traditional Virginian heart-and it is, as perceived by him, a mortal threat to his very identity and to the identity of America itself.

2)   And because this threat strikes so deeply in him as a person, as a form of mortal attack, he is justified in defending himself in almost anyway necessary, as part of the life and death struggle he sees himself as part of. And it is this pitted and core struggle that he extrapolates to what he perceives as the division in society itself, in social reality around him.

3)   For part of the subtle and restrained vehemence that his text conveys is because of a sense of insult, offense and debasement he sees himself as an objet of. And it is the personal charisma and charm of intellectually seductive college professors and young people’s attraction to them that he openly identifies as a danger to society, which must be limited and subjugated, but of course not openly-it must be done carefully through rival ideas and through the imposition on universities of balance in regards to different social voices.

4)   For Powell bases part of his denouncements on a sentiment of unfair treatment of the business world by intellectuals-especially the most popular of them; and it is not fair that this sector of society should have such a voice and influence; and it is not fair that we should be popularly demeaned the way we are; and it is ridiculous-he finally concludes-when you think that we, as a group, are the owners of pretty much everything!

5)   Why should we accept this-he implies-when we are the true, economic masters of society? And it is time we came to an awareness of this, and it is time that we took action to defend this beloved country of ours, even if it tacitly means overriding the mechanism of democratic governance itself-such is the importance and the gravity of the duty we are called to fulfill.

6)   And in his emotional simplification of what he saw as reality, he intellectually reached for a symbolic gun as tool of immediate and decisive imposition and resolution of the problem he (and Richard Nixon and McNamara and many others) perceived as America’s problem-but that in many ways was only his own. And the gun is the memo itself, a sharp and reasoned strategy of human will as imposition.

7)   And he blew us all away!

8)   But in Powell’s favor I must add that he does not appear to be overly-or zealotly(sic)-religious, just in the same way Nixon et al. were not, either.

9)   That is a breed of dumbass that would not come on the scene in full force until George Bush, Sr-being his son, George W. Bush, the lead donkey on the Jerry Falwell-Billy Graham mule train that still today tramples and defecates allover Washington DC as a most unfortunate present day component of Pentagon Democracy itself.

10) And you might as well grab a switch and whack some ass: what else can you do?

This is the legacy of Lewis F. Powell Jr. and the Powell Memorandum, before he was named by Nixon as Supreme Court Justice in the same year. And the greatest contradiction in which he incurred, most inadvertently, was the continued use of the word “democracy” to label a system of governance that subjugates society and human intellectual vitality to the interests of economic power, thus undermining-and rotting from within-the very tradition he claimed he loved and lived to serve. But I, quite frankly, don’t to see that love: I see the protecting and fostering of business interest against society itself, against people and their better welfare. And I still see that today, and with a much greater tacit and shadow sophistication than Powell was capable of foreseeing-or even imagining-in 1971.

And he represents a very interesting milestone on the road the subjugation of civilian rule to economic power in the systemic way that I refer to as Pentagon Democracy.

But Powell wasn’t the first, and he was writing on behalf of a force in society that by then had been in full surge since the end of WWII-and this is the Insolvent Phantom itself that Eisenhower, ten years earlier, had warned against.

And today we are all insolvent, although some of us have millions of dollars.

And at the very heart of all of this is human misery, fear, ignorance-especially psychological-and the suppression of intellectual-vital passion.

And out of this psychological substratum arises the American cultural and institutional context of control as cerebral, human will as imposition over others.

And its force can be felt and observed in the words and personal tone of Powell in his memorandum as a characteristic of his personal psychology.


Powell Memorandum text:

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