Today In History -10 February 1868, Florida
Republican conservatives draft new constitution which concentrates political power in the hands of the governor and limits the impact
of the Black vote. This is made possible by Conservatives, aided by military forces, who seize the convention hall and establish
control over the reconstruction process in Florida.
This violent act to restrict the rights of minority citizens and suspend the operation of normal democracy is by no means an isolated incident in the history of rightwing politics in the USA or elsewhere. Conservatives eschew the ability of the State to do very much at all - whether economics, education, welfare or whatever, private enterprise is favoured. Its definition of democracy is all too often a deeply qualified one and all about defending the elite's privileges in the face of what is termed fanaticism on the part of the democratic majority - that is, anything that in any way challenges the power and wealth of the richest.
The military however is another matter - neoliberals accord military and policing as the key responsibilities of the State, although even there the private profit motive is introduced wherever possible. Whole wars have been found to support the corporate business agenda - Iraq being a major recent case, with Libya following on.
Not all conservatives are blind to the dangers or as unprincipled as the neoliberal wing which dominates the Republicans in the USA and other conservative parties around the world in pursuing ever more vicious and unyielding ideologically-driven policies. It was one of their own, a former military commander, President/General Dwight Eisernhower who, in his farewell address of January 1961, warned of the growing danger of the then emerging military-industrial complex. Driven by its need for conflict to feed its business needs, he voiced his concerns about the armaments industry taking on a life of its own in needlessly and endlessly fostering conflict and war. In this, it would seek ever more influence over politics and threaten democracy, liberty and freedom.
Eisenhower also warned against the rise of a scientific elite, linked to the military, being allowed to drive public policy in a range of fields, not least the military. In this, the ceaseless development of ever more powerful, devastating and even sinister weaponry has proven him right: from "tactical" nuclear weapons and the neutron bombs of the 1980s to the drones of today and, being developed now, the DNA-seeking, 100% computerised, non-human operated drones of tomorrow. Terminator seems just a few steps away.
Yet his words went unheeded by both Democrats and Republicans, so that now the USA spends nearly as much on weaponry as the rest of the world put together. This in a society where thousands die each year from malnutrition, where tens of millions even now have little effective healthcare and where life expectancy is lower than in many so-called Third World countries. This too in a country where the Patriot Act has done away with many legal safeguards and where progressive political and environmental protesters are officially ranked alongside jihadists as potential terrorists, especially where their views bring them into conflict with the arms industry or the military.
But the neolibs don't care - and in the 145 years since the coup d'etat in Florida, possibly the only thing that has changed is that they would not need to physically seize the convention: they would already have the whole process stitched up and probably outsourced. War, rumours of war and threats are what keep the military-industrial complex going - peace is anathema to it. And so the President's words ring prophetically true, but go unheeded.
Here is Eisenhower's full farewell address to the nation 17 January 1961: