YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 26, 2015

Economic history vs. cultural history: the case of Nazi Germany and its informal empire in Spain

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Hitler and Schacht 1934

Hitler and Schacht 1934

One of the least attractive features of popular culture is its fixation on the lurid and demonic.  I need not belabor this point, for it is possible to study political history (including military history) while entirely ignoring the everyday, less glamorous factors such as trade policy and its impact on everything else, including the rise and fall of dictators, of empires, and jazzy generals.

This point is particularly relevant after a long weekend celebrating the fallen heroes of recent wars—with zero attention to the fundamental causes of these slaughters, all of which were probably preventable.

While television audiences were shedding tears (real and crocodile), I was reading a new book that has turned my head around regarding the importance of trade policy and economic history to the conflicts (and villains) we abhor and would like to prevent. It is Pierpaolo Barbieri’s Hitler’s Shadow Empire: Nazi Economics and the Spanish Civil War (Harvard UP, 2015).

Instead of foregrounding a relatively weak Adolf Hitler as the boss of the world starting in 1933, the author traces the career of Hjalmar Schacht, the economic star whose career got underway during the Weimar Republic, and who was instrumental in creating an “informal empire” in Spain that decisively elevated Franco. With one book, Barbieri has changed the focus of preceding work on the Spanish Civil War (widely considered as the crucial event that opened WW2).

Franco as personality cult leader

Franco as personality cult leader

The author summarizes his argument here: “…the German intervention in the Spanish Civil War constituted a project of informal imperialism inspired by Hjalmar Schacht, the lead economic architect of the Nazi recovery. Schacht’s was an alternative vision of German hegemony in Europe, one that favored Weltpolitik [the Wilhelmine acquisition of colonies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weltpolitik%5D over Lebensraum [the racist expansionism entailing dislocation of peoples, detailed in Mein Kampf].

“The opportunity for Germany was born out of Iberian decline. Spain’s decades-long duel with itself led to a nasty, brutish, protracted civil war. The Nationalist rebellion that ignited it was not only uncoordinated but also largely unsuccessful; the generals sparked the social revolution they had sought to prevent. Broke and divided, their rebellion seemed doomed. In order to prevail against Spain’s legitimate government, they needed the tools of modern warfare the country had not been able to afford for decades. The diplomatic decisions of July 25, 1936 made fascist intervention the primary determinant of the war’s outcome. In what has rightly been called “a world war in miniature” it was fascist intervention that allowed for Nationalist victory. …For all its poverty, Spain remained resource rich—-and a resource-starved Third Reich seized its chance.” (250-251). (For Barbieri’s own selection see http://www.salon.com/2015/04/18/the_banker_behind_hitlers_shadow_empire/.)

In other words, underdeveloped Spain became an informal colony of Germany, shipping its abundant raw materials (foodstuffs, iron ore, pyrite, wolfram) in order to get armaments from industrialized Germany. That is, until Schacht lost his influence to Goering’s feckless drive for power and a formal empire (Schacht was losing power after 1937, and was finally released at Nuremberg).

As I write this summary of Barbieri’s argument, I remind the reader that the Obama administration’s trade plans (TPP) are mostly ignored by journalists and social media, with the exceptional observation that the details are being kept secret from Congress. Why aren’t we all jumping up and down over this clearly sneaky and illegal development? Indeed, why do we not expect our schools to teach the elements of finance and economics, let alone world geography and the distribution of resources so that we can understand the deep, usually hidden, causes of conflicts and mass death?

Why? Because our “betters” would rather focus on the lurid and sensational, the sentimental and the Great Man theory of history (i.e., cults of personality). In so doing, we are playing to the mob that we are creating with our intellectual laziness.


May 18, 2015

Matthew Weiner’s MAD MEN and the double audience

Don Draper meditating on California coast

Don Draper meditating on California coast

(Spoilers ahead). In all my years of watching television, I have never been so flummoxed as I was by the final season of Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men that purports to trace the ups and downs of its primary characters in a small NYC advertising agency, “Sterling Cooper” through its absorption into McCann Erickson. The series was set  during the late 1950s through the early 1970s, a period of great social upheaval.

I have written about the show before, arguing that it was odd for television writers to worry about the sponsors of the shows that they write, given that they purport to represent the real world uncontaminated by its corporate sponsors. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/10/24/mad-men-and-the-jewish-problem/.)

It never occurred to me until I looked up the definition and history of “irony” that the series had perhaps a double audience: one that would see it as a highly produced, realistic soap opera faithful to the period; while another would “get it” as standard {Jewish?] left-liberal self-hatred and anti-Americanism. (On the double audience for “irony” see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony.)

For the last episode, eagerly anticipated by its fans, looked as if Don Draper, the dark, alcoholic, chain-smoking, womanizing genius adman (played by Jon Hamm) was going down, down, down, along with the American Dream, viciously portrayed in prior episodes such as the one with “milk and honey” in the title. Instead, Draper found at least a temporary reprieve at, of all places, an Esalen-type setting in the vicinity of Big Sur that persistently asked the question “How do you feel about your feelings?” Don, bottled up since his miserable childhood and perhaps on the brink of a heart attack, is suddenly redeemed by the confession of a depressed, unloved stranger in an encounter group, and goes on to embrace some kind of ersatz Indian religion installing him in a chanting hippie-garbed assembly, then to write a great Coca Cola commercial that not only unifies Draper with the mostly successful and “strong” female characters but affirms international groupiness. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/03/06/groupiness/, and http://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/.)  On the commercial see http://www.coca-colacompany.com/coca-cola-unbottled/cokes-hilltop-featured-in-final-scene-of-mad-men.

Don Draper is literally and figuratively unbottled at last.

During my radio days of chronicling the fights in the art world, I used to know several New Yorker writers of fame. One or more complained to me about the ads for luxury goods that they felt compromised their ostensibly daring liberal stories and reportage. Similarly the artists and critics I met during the 1970s viewed themselves as hugely radical in both form and content. They loathed their bourgeois patrons (“Merde!”), pretty much as did the artistic vanguard that emerged before and during WW1.  I suppose that these artlings (not one of whom was a disciplined Red, by the way) comprise the peanut gallery that has praised Mad Men for the last seven seasons. They will “get it,” unlike the high-end consumers who fall for such arrant trickery.

As for myself, at the very end of the finale, I shouted out “Real or Fake?”

My outburst remains a radical query, and I don’t know the answer. I read once that irony was an unimaginative  excuse for an oppositional stance that failed to undermine or transform repressive cultures.

Then I thought about the venom hurled by Chomsky and his followers toward Walter Lippmann for encouraging the “spinmeisters” who “manufacture consent” (http://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/): magicians and puppeteers like the fictional Don Draper, archetypally a Jewish liar.


May 16, 2015

What is hate speech and where did the notion come from?

Demo after Gabrielle Gifford shooting

Demo after Gabrielle Gifford shooting

Google and Facebook are supposedly enlisting the public’s help in removing “racist” screeds from their websites, according to an article in The Times of Israel (http://www.timesofisrael.com/google-and-facebook-need-your-help-to-police-online-hate/.)

At first glance, this may seem like a good idea, but there is a latent subtext that I find disturbing, for there is no consensus regarding what constitutes “hate speech” but more, the notion harkens back to a discredited (social democratic-“liberal”) notion that Hitler prevailed because of his superior grasp of “propaganda.” (See http://clarespark.com/2009/06/04/modernity-and-mass-death/, especially the discussion of a conference at UCLA arguing that “propaganda kills.”

That notion was advanced by the Frankfurt School philosophers, the “critical theorists” in league with New Deal social psychologists who were appalled by the advent of mass media and the all-too-gullible mobs it aroused. What they left out was the history leading up to the victory of the Third Reich over its conservative nationalist opponents (initially in coalition with Nazis). “The People” were asses, as classicists had ever averred (see http://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/).

We must go back to Plato’s Phaedo to find a classical example of such nonsense, for according to Plato (a favorite of the liberal left), the “Body” was the site of illusions, particularly the passions that favored the senses that foolishly identified “the truth”, with speech. So ordinary people (including women and slaves—the lower orders) could not be trusted to lead the Republic, blabbermouths that they are, for as New Deal social psychologist Dr. Henry A. Murray insisted, the People are “not trained to rule.”

It was a hard, long slog to achieve such (arguably limited) free speech as we enjoy now. Beware of efforts to give too much weight to rhetoric over other socioeconomic institutional factors. What is needed is better, more widely disseminated history and political science, not more censorship.

Left-liberal propaganda poster

Left-liberal propaganda poster

May 9, 2015

Monster Moms

sweet kaulitz09, Deviant Art

sweet kaulitz09, Deviant Art

Ever since I read Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers (1942) I have been racking my brains for the origins of his diatribe against MOM. Here is how Wylie, later to be matched by the fictional mother in Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), or the frequent naming of the welfare state as “nanny state” by conservative journalists, described the transformation of the faultless Cinderella into a (secret) monster:

[Wylie:] “MOM is the end product of SHE. She is Cinderella…the shining-haired, the starry-eyed, the ruby-lipped virgo aeternis,  of which there is presumably one, and only one, or a one-and-only for each male, whose dream is fixed upon her deflowerment and subsequent perpetual possession. This act is a sacrament in all churches and a civil affair in our society. The collective aspects of marriage are thus largely compressed into the rituals and social perquisites of one day. Unless some element of mayhem or intention of divorce subsequently obtrudes, a sort of privacy engulfs the union and all further developments are deemed to be the business of each separate pair, including the transition of Cinderella into mom, which, if it occasions any shock, only adds to the huge, invisible burthen every man carries with him into eternity….Mom is an American creation.” (Chapter XI, p.184)

[Clare:] Here are some of my prior musings upon the origin of the Bad Mother, ambivalently celebrated in film noir and pop culture: First, Freud described the Oedipus complex, in which daughters would inevitably compete with Mom for the favors of Dad. This can’t end well.

Second, the Switch from smiling caretaker to Bitch Goddess, of good Mother to bad: (This is an excerpt from an MLA paper I delivered in 2002 to the Melville Society):

“Extrapolating from his texts (and from the writings of other Symbolists) perhaps Melville’s demonic clouds are related to the “ruffled brow”: the sudden pained and searing glance that mars the happy mother’s smooth placidity when her child vomits, wets his bed, soils his clothing, touches his genitals, blurts out a dirty word: the glance that makes him feel so poisonous to her, he imagines she would like to spit him out…and yet, she molded and branded him in her womb-factory: she is his double and his shadow.  Ever entwined, they are Eve/Cain, the Wandering Jew, Beatrice Cenci, and Pierrot: over-reachers whose self-assertion and gall will be rendered innocuous in the final scene.  The thick black eyebrows of the Gothic villain (like the mark of Cain or Pierrot’s black mask) will trigger the memory of Mother’s distress and her child’s shame.  Romantic defiance, in its identification with the designated enemies of authority, portends only degeneracy and decline; as Melville has shown us, it brings remorse and cleansing punishment, not better forms of social organization.  The cancellation of early childhood “dirt” and parental disapproval (which may be registered as sadness–Mortmain’s “muffled” “moan”–as well as anger), then the return of the repressed in the ostensibly opposed symbols, “archetypes” and “types” of popular culture, undermines emancipatory politics.” [This was an inference only. I have never seen it described in the psychoanalytic literature, let alone by feminists.]

Third, political scientists and historians agree that since the Industrial Revolution, paternal authority in the home has diminished, giving rise to “domestic feminism.” Men would be the absent breadwinner, no longer paterfamilias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pater_familias), while Mom now (seemingly) ruled the roost, then, in her moralistic way, going on to invent progressivism and its welfare state. Simultaneously, Jesus became feminized, as Ann Douglas pointed out in her overwrought defense of traditional, masculinist Calvinism in The Feminization of American Culture (1977).

Fault Magazine, Femme Fatale

Fault Magazine, Femme Fatale

Fourth, “splitting” as the Kleinian object relations analysts describe it: Romantic attachments, whether to the family or to other love objects, often entail idealization. The [narcissist], depleted of “narcissistic supplies” demonizes what was once a perfect creature. Which brings us back to Papa Freud, who had already figured this out in his descriptions of romantic love and idealization.

Fifth, and perhaps the most current and relevant. Mom’s are supposed to keep us safe, but I hear reports that pre-teens and teens are suffering from OCD and related problems (e.g. eating disorders) because the world is perceived as just too dangerous. Even omnipotent Mom is helpless against these real-life monsters: jihadism, global warming, race relations gone wrong, etc. Hence the pop culture vogue for zombies, werewolves, vampires, etc. who have nothing to do with the return of the repressed but are signs of objective media-fortified anxieties.

There is no escaping from the Good-Bad Mother (or Father either), for these imagos are reinforced in popular culture, but rarely analyzed in journalism, not even by many feminists.

All attachments are problematic. Get used to ambivalence, and if your parent is gone, my advice is to focus on her or his strengths, not her weaknesses. (http://clarespark.com/2013/05/12/i-remember-mama-betty-spark/.)

May 5, 2015

What is “context” and how is it relevant to the Pamela Geller flap?

Context-is-king-1024x7681Lots of pundits, bloggers, and non-writers have been talking about free speech and the affronts to it. The occasion for all this jabber is the event managed by activist Pamela Geller and her event at Garland, Texas, that resulted in the death of two would-be invading Islamist gunmen.

Some commentators have complained that the drawing of a cartoon of Mohammed was provocative and incendiary, while others have vigorously defended untrammeled free speech, let the chips fall.

I am most concerned with the widespread notion that we actually have free speech and exercise it at will. That is one subject on this blog. (http://clarespark.com/2015/01/12/what-free-speech/.)

But I am also amazed by William J. Donahue’s statement on Fox News Channel, referring to the larger “context” of Geller’s alleged provocation.  (He had already written about angry Muslims earlier this year with respect to the bombing of the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris: http://www.catholicleague.org/muslims-right-angry/.)

Donahue as posted by Daily Kos

Donahue as posted by Daily Kos

As I have described here before, the once fact-based profession of history has been taken over by postmodernists, who, following Hayden White, view all published history as “literature.” I myself have advanced the observation that we are “prisoners of our contexts,” (http://clarespark.com/2014/12/18/rape-culture/), though I would never go so far as the postmodernists by throwing out all science as a swindle insofar as it affects “objectivity.”

As I discovered when first conducting my Melville research, finding the relevant context for artists and their critics (or for our own cherished beliefs) is a challenge. For instance, Freudians will focus on Melville’s family situation; Marxists will scrutinize him for class, racial, and gender prejudices; “progressives” attempting to co-opt both Freud and Marx will, and have, looked at his family very selectively, and then will praise him to the extent that they believe that he generally reflects their own “moderation.” If they have to suppress documents that contradict progressive notions, they will do that too. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.) And the preferred “moderate” position is “multiculturalism” for it keeps us divided and racism and collective categories are  intact,. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/.)

The relevant context for the Pamela Geller/free speech flap is “multiculturalism”. No one sees this, for the assumption is either that Geller is a “hater” who “incites” Muslims, or, conversely, that we have untrammeled free speech and we must go to the wall on its behalf, lest we betray the First Amendment.

This latter position ignores case law, and worse, often reads back into English history the precedents for free speech, ignoring that the common law originated in medieval times when perfect obedience to orders and personages above oneself in the Great Chain of Being was taken for granted. Kings, Popes, and the nobility were at constant war with one another over conflicting rights, but the notion that peasants and townspeople should enjoy the same privileges was unheard of.

Get used to it, readers. The progressive bourgeoisie and growing mass literacy brought us such free speech as we currently enjoy, and “free speech” has always been contested by special interests that want freedom of expression for their own causes, but would deny it to their adversaries.

Do academics enjoy free speech and academic freedom, as they proudly proclaim? It depends on their superiors. As sociologist Stephen Turner has observed over and over, all scholarship is subsidized. But even if academics could get jobs based on pure merit and objective criteria, we would still be faced with our own limitations. As the lady said, we are to some unknowable extent, all prisoners of our contexts (personal and institutional).

Herman Melville would agree with me.


May 2, 2015

Mosby, multiculturalism and the persistence of feudalism

A populist take on feudalism

A populist take on feudalism

I have been  reading both older and newer scholarship on European history from late antiquity to the late Middle Ages, and am struck by several features that persist in our political culture: obedience to “authority” (stable hierarchies); and the search for “leaders” reminiscent of the Good Kings of feudal times—the King who, unlike “the Jews,” was not money-mad or selfish. Populists from Left to Right yearn for his return, for he makes us feel safe in an unpredictable and hostile world.

It has occurred to me that the nostalgia for the Middle Ages that I have noted earlier (see http://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/ or http://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/), is not nostalgia at all, but a sign that capitalism, individual opportunity, self-reliance, and mass participation in politics as individuals weighing facts (as opposed to ethnic identification—the hyphenated Americans) has not yet been achieved, though such 19th century figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote about “self-reliance.” (http://www.emersoncentral.com/selfreliance.htm.)

How does multiculturalism undermine the virtues we attribute to market societies, and the rule of law for rich and poor alike, equality that is presumably built into our Constitution and the notion of “liberty”?

First, we might go back to the late 18th century and look at Herder and other German Romantics (all reactionaries fearful of “materialism” and the singularity of the rootless cosmopolitan).  For it was Herder and his followers who popularized the notions of ethnicity and national character—collectivist notions that would be institutionalized in the Aryan supremacist Nazi State (a time when Herder’s notions were revived, and in vogue, though the 19th century racists had already become popular).

But the major impetus to multiculturalism in the US was the fear of proletarian internationalism and a feisty new industrial working class (much of it immigrant), that seemed to be taking power after the American Civil War unleashed industrial development and then after the Soviets mounted their revolution in 1917, prefigured by socialist movements in the US and Europe. So such figures revered by liberals as Randolph Bourne and Horace Kallen stressed the long-standing idea of ethnicity as way more important than class conflict or even so an elastic concept as “class interest.”

What does this have to do with black nationalism and the future of the six black cops in Baltimore, charged by Marilyn Mosby in the death of Freddie Gray?


The most relevant feature of cultural nationalism is the belief that each “ethnicity” or “race” is incomprehensible to members of other designated groups. Out goes any potential agreement on “facts” in the upcoming trial of the black cops, for black nationalists will view the three black cops as “race traitors” who should have acknowledged that the forces of law and order are out to get them in the interests of “white supremacy.” All of a sudden, Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore, has no particular bias as an opportunist taking advantage of token reformism as a response to the condition of blacks in Democrat-run urban ghettoes, for all blacks, like all whites, share the same (class) interests in the argot of multiculturalism/racism.

Such is the deadly logic of multiculturalism with its outdated, but persistent, notion of “ethnic” tribalism, a leftover from pre-capitalist periods in history, periods notorious for their hostility to dissent, innovation, and agreement on universal facts, independent of “perspectivism”/“point of view.” Is it any wonder that we are polarized to the point of collapse of the rule of law, for decades and centuries of indoctrination and experience have convinced much of our black population that there is no justice and no peace.

Maoist conception of the vanguard

Maoist conception of the vanguard

April 24, 2015

Multiculturalism vs. [Yid] Red spies: which agitates the Right?

atheist-logicThis blog was inspired by the failure of Fox’s Outnumbered 4-24-15 to explain cases of censorship of the popular movie American Sniper ( the topic was repeated on The Five). They became agitated over the threat to free speech, when they could have identified why college administrators were bowing to the will of a small cadre of Islamist protesters at the University of Maryland; these administrators defending multiculturalism at all costs. One wonders why this “moderate” but right-leaning network is so weak on political theory, for it is obvious that “tolerance” versus “Islamophobia” is crucial to job retention in the hipper universities, public or private. (To be sure, unfree speech is the outcome of censorship in the name of diversity, but multiculturalism deters free speech insofar as it encourages essentialist cultural nationalism: see http://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/.)

How to explain this failure of vision? Scholars, television writers, and journalists seeking right-wing readers and eyeballs know that it enhances their reputations to pretend that there remains an atheistic red menace threatening (Christian) America. Even the latest episode of Scandal played the KGB card, resuscitating the Cold War. One wonders why, given the declining membership in the CPUSA since the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, carefully delineated by historians/political scientists Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Alexander Vassiliev in Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale UP, 2009).

(Perhaps it is lingering antisemitism, for “the Jews” were ‘”disproportionately” represented in the Old Left, and “populism”—antagonistic to “finance capital,” remains popular on both left and right. Even Lenin may be seen as a populist, for he was notoriously influenced by the antisemitic journalist J. A. Hobson. See http://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.)


Whether or not my suspicions are correct, it is obvious that conservatives frequently confuse left-liberals and communists, frequently conflating them as “totalitarians” and, gulp, progressives—as if the US Constitution, despite its capitulations to Southern slaveholders, was not the vanguard of political thought at the time of its framing, with such as Hamilton and Jefferson not avatars of social and economic progress, despite their differences.

This entire website has been preoccupied with tracing the “roots” of multiculturalism to the German Romantic reaction to the “materialism” of science and Enlightenment as understood in 18th Century France. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/, and http://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/. The second link suggests Herder’s antisemitism, not noted in the historical commentary on his contribution to the notion of national character/groupiness.)

It is a grotesque misreading of history to think that the old Reds were not anti-racists, hot for “proletarian internationalism” as opposed to (proto-fascist) “nationalism,” and its associated (Gentile) “melting pot.” Indeed, that was the attraction that helped recruit working class immigrant Jews to the Communists, and family ties made a difference to their (liberal) descendants.

It is pointless to go on fingering “the multicultural moderate men” for their covert racism disguised in their rooted (as opposed to rootless) cosmopolitanism, documented throughout my website. And Fox News Channel employees, no less than those of the Wall Street Journal, are above all, oblivious to the history of the Left, and only moderately opposed to the nearly pervasive (often latent) antisemitism that blinds them. For instance, after all the decades I spent around the Left, no one, repeat, no one ever mentioned Saul Alinsky (born a Jew). His significance and influence are figments of certain conservative imaginations.


April 17, 2015

The ongoing appeal of the Leftist-dominated Popular Front

popular-front-boxThis blog is about why Popular Front political coalition continues to exist, and why it is hard for the Right to resist “leftist” smears of fascism and racism. But it is primarily about the emotional appeal of a far left faction within American “progressive politics.”

Where did the Popular Front originate? Stalin’s sectarianism persisted until 1935, when he decided to bond with the hated bourgeois parties against variants of fascism as it emerged in China (on Chinese massacres, see Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution), Germany, Italy, and Spain. Whereas social democrats had formerly been stigmatized as warmongers and enablers of repressive anti-communist regimes, now it was deemed expedient to join with other “bureaucratic collectivists” (statists) to defeat laissez-faire capitalism (specifically finance capital) against creeping or already existent “fascism.” (http://clarespark.com/2013/04/21/fascism-what-it-is-what-it-is-not/)

Popular Front politics persist today in the “progressive movement” (Mrs. Clinton!) that confusingly blends “the working class” with “the middle class.” (See the distinction here: http://clarespark.com/2010/09/11/is-wall-street-slaughtering-the-middle-class/.) It remains moot for me whether the Reds swallowed the New Deal or the conservative reforms initiated by FDR swallowed and defanged the Communists. What is obvious is that such New Deal innovations as multiculturalism (covertly racist but in line with the “tolerance” that ameliorated “prejudice”) were taken up by academics and journalists once associated solely with the “hard Left.” Reading such as Alan Wald (a Trotskyist who lauds Stalinists, and is  a prominent cultural historian of the literary left teaching at the U. of Michigan: https://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/people/profile.asp?ID=299), it is hard to discern a clear line that would separate Wald from the New Dealers, for instance, in his recent book Trinity of Passion (2007), Professor Wald adopts the lingo of the Pan-Africanists, referring to his “Black” victims and heroes as “African Americans.” This tic should be, but is not, anathema to an anti-racist of the Left. (Liberal feminist and internationalist Martha Nussbaum adopts the same “multicultural” terminology.)


What is the appeal of Leninism, apart from its obvious advantages in gaining employment for leading academics and journalists?

First, it appropriates an already existing emotional repertoire promoted by mass and high culture alike: that of melodrama with its vocabulary of clearly defined heroes, villains, and victims. (See http://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal/.)

Second, with such clear boundaries between categories, even the most humble person can identify with the lineage of heroes speaking truth to power and, at least imaginatively, lifting up the “oppressed” to the role of major actors in the melodrama of history.

Third, the script is easily mastered. It takes no deep knowledge of political history or economics to assume the mantle of heroism, even Prometheanism at its most masochistic. Marx’s theory of exploitation and/or his concept of alienation are easily mastered axioms, resonant with pre-existent popular resentments of the wealthy and privileged. (Academic social theorists of the Foucauldian or Thompsonian Left will find this blog hilariously retarded, but I am assuming that it was vulgar Marxism that appealed to the populist-progressives.)

Fourth, progressivism affords to the misfits and escape artists “a kind of home” (to quote Pacifica Founder Lew K. Hill’s suicide note) for the nerds and the marginal, who do not see themselves reflected in popular culture. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/10/21/links-to-pacifica-memoirs/.)


Fifth, the affiliation with New Deal progressivism and communism alike, purifies the self of negative emotions, such as envy. As long as “equality” refers solely to equality of condition as opposed to equality of opportunity, one need not blame oneself for what the “dominant culture” refers to as “failure.” The (imaginary) “system” is “rigged.” (Just ask any Democrat.)

I started this entry with a brief mention of the persistent Popular Front Against Fascism. It is obvious that for all “progressives” the Republican Party and/or the Tea Party are the current “fascists” who must be defeated, lest the Dark Night (“reaction,”  i.e., proto-fascist nationalism and imperialism) of the twentieth century returns.

April 12, 2015

Christos Tsiolkas, the postmodern Balzac?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:46 pm
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Christos Tsiolkas in Guardian interview

Christos Tsiolkas in Guardian interview

The Slap is a novel by Chris Tsiolkas, 2010, and was the winner of The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Christos Tsiolkas (b. 1965), author of the award-winning novel The Slap and a consultant/writer for the Americanized mini- series on NBC is gay and locates himself somewhere on the Left, though one might guess, since his novel’s characters are either bureaucrats or other professionals like himself, that his work, both in Australia and in the (hated) America is intended for disappointed hard Leftists: their politics now indistinguishable from welfare statism. He even names one of his (gay) minor characters “Lenin.”

This blog is about the postmodern novel (“there is no truth”) written by a non-working class person (but impersonating persons of the working class), who is given to nihilism, ribaldry, and finally, acceptance of an adulterated status quo. By that I mean that though many of his characters are working class, they have failed to make the promised revolution predicted by Marx and Lenin, though the author does not share Marx’s enthusiasm for modernity (http://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/). I suspect he has been influenced by critical theory that surely dominates the U. of Melbourne, where he received his Arts education.

Rather, the Tsiolkas crew is ruled by their passions, and has yielded to secularism, consumerism, sex, pop culture, drugs, and despair. One wonders just how depressed he is, and how disappointed he is in the social democratic modern world. He seems more comfortable with his deceased Greek peasant grandparents in this interview given to The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/10/christos-tsiolkas-melbourne-greece.

Which is not say that Tsiolkas has not written a compelling book that held my attention throughout its 482 pages, for he dealt with all the issues raised by the 1970s counter-culture, finally settling for multiculturalism and the underdogs (including an Aboriginal convert to Islam, the model good father). His characters range from Greek émigré grandparents to three-year-old Hugo, the undisciplined, still breast-fed child who is slapped by a Greek hyper-masculine petit-bourgeois, and whose vindictive hippie-ish mother Rosie strives to punish “Harry”: they are all prisoners of their contexts and cannot relate to one another, except with slaps, betrayal (lots of extra-marital sex), or resignation to an intolerable status quo (though the youngsters go through the motions to prepare for higher education).

Rosie and Hugo

Rosie and Hugo

Tsiolkas, the postmodern Balzac (?), does not appear to like any of them, though he may most closely identify with the veterinarian of mixed blood, Aisha (part Indian, part Brit, and in the NBC version, a physician). One television critic complained that in the [toned down and cleaned-up] US version, the characters were not “likeable”. Perhaps that is because the author doesn’t like any of his all too human characters (except for the darker-skinned ones), a typical primitivist trope that Marx would have dismissed as right-wing Romanticism. (compare Aisha in the Australian adaption to the American version: http://www.dcdmedia.co.uk/newsroom/nbc-greenlightsthe-slap-following-format-rights-acquisition-from-dcd-rights/.)

Australian Aisha

Australian Aisha

US Aisha

US Aisha

That this novel was adapted twice for television, was widely read and a prize-winner in the UK Commonwealth should give us pause, for it is a grand, sweeping portrait of nostalgia, decadence, and above all, the impossibility of inter-generation empathy/communication.

April 7, 2015

Who are the moderate men?

hd wallpapers

hd wallpapers

My last blog (an ad from the Wall Street Journal) may have aroused confusion. Although I wrote a long essay/blog on the moderate men years ago, I should summarize why I find them repellent.

1.Calling oneself the “moderate” alternative to “extremism” on either Left or Right is a strategy devised by psychological warriors in social psychology that was exposed as sykewar by Ellis Freeman in 1940, in his chapter “Beating the Dead Horse,” in Conquering the Man in the Street (see favorable abstract here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellis-freeman/conquering-the-man-in-the-street/).Freeman explained that everyone is for “moderation”; but the term needs to be analyzed as a strategy in precise context, without necessarily implying that everyone who is “immoderate” is nuts.

2.Social psychologists allied to FDR and the New Deal (progressives) used to call themselves “moderate conservatives” (just like FDR, the conservative reformer, who viewed his Depression measures as averting red revolution), but using today’s argot, they should be seen as left-liberals or social democrats, or even populists. For they believe that such problems as “income inequality” can be solved through measures imposed by a strong, paternalistic state. I see them as pre-fascists, but not fascists, at least not yet.

beanforest etsy.com

beanforest etsy.com

3.The moderate men at the WSJ or Fox News aim to get eyeballs, whether on the left or on the right. They also believe fervently that the state is neutral and that all conflicts, no matter how structural in nature, can be arbitrated or mediated with a skillful “moderate” at the helm, capable of manipulating the “crazies” at the extremes. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who advertises himself as an “independent” comes to mind.

4.Another favored moderate term is “balance” as in “fair and balanced.” I wrote about the moderate men and “balance” here http://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/, and here: http://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/, and here: http://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/ (retitled, “Balance, equilibrium, and psychological warfare”).

Yesterday’s advertisement from a WSJ insert (http://clarespark.com/2015/04/06/the-moderate-men-endorse-spoiled-brats-in-readers/) was meant to convey that “moderation” is usually exercised upon behalf of an elite, who can have anything they want from life. More FDR again, and Franklin Roosevelt was misportrayed by his social psychologists (the ones whose views are reflected today on PBS and network television alike) as the polar opposite from such super-villains as Hitler: the good father sharply contrasted with the bad father.

FDR in top  hat: NBC News

FDR in top hat: NBC News

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