YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 29, 2014


KOLsealLabor Day was a counter-revolutionary exercise in its very foundation during the administration of Grover Cleveland. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day. Revolutionary socialism was the last thing that the AFL or the less well-known and long defunct Knights of Labor desired.

This blog will focus on those aspects of our dominant sociology that seek to defang the labor movement. [For a blog that shows resistance to New Deal labor codes as dished out by the State by one black radical, see http://clarespark.com/2013/09/02/labor-day-2013/.%5D  But since I, unlike Sam Dorsey,  am not writing from the revolutionary Left (see http://clarespark.com/2014/05/10/why-i-left-the-left/), I will focus on those features that deter workers from acting in their own interest, for instance in their mindless capitulation to union bosses (a bureaucracy that is rarely mentioned these days).

  1. As I have written before, populism is a petit-bourgeois radical movement that offers upward mobility to ambitious persons from humble backgrounds. Populism deploys such phrases as “the masses” or “the people” as if all but ruling elites formed a compact entity with identical economic and social interests. I don’t see why class analysis should be the monopoly of the Left. Clearly, small business and big business have different structures and problems; the same applies to male and female workers, especially with respect to child rearing and housework. (As to whether or not class collaboration between “business” and “labor” is a good thing or not, I leave to economists and other historians.)

But even worse, populist politics pervade popular culture, and are promiscuous in their antagonism toward “elites”. In its original form, populism was heavily antisemitic (i.e., bankers, like “Wall Street” were generically a Jewish cabal with ambitions to control the world), a fact brushed out by its New Left defenders. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/02/02/the-legitimate-aspirations-of-the-___-people/.)

I noted during the art world upheavals of the 1970s that protesters defined themselves as “populists”, not as “socialists,” for  the term “populism” was polluted, yet acceptable; hence its critique could apply to the supposed crimes of any elite, no matter how competent its members might be in their particular field. A particularly grotesque example is found in the Chomsky-ite attack on Walter Lippmann (again an antisemitic gesture) that spread the canard that Lippmann’s influential book Public Opinion (1922) called for the “manufacture of consent” in the newly developing mass media, in order to hornswoggle the gullible people. ( See http://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.) A similar condemnation of mass culture can be found in Hannah Arendt’s must-read tome The Origins of Totalitarianism (1950, 1958). And yet Arendt is worshipped by many academic radicals, as are other “critical theorists.”

A similar outrage was found in the counter-culture that continues to delight in technophobia and representations of mad scientists (see http://clarespark.com/2014/06/25/penny-dreadfuls-sinister-significance/.)

Indeed, when I defended the Enlightenment on a Pacifica radio popular morning show in the 1990s, I was accused of being a CIA agent, hence the lowest form of animal life—this from listeners who believed themselves to be anticapitalist and pro-labor.



Cultural pessimism. What could be more detrimental to working people than the current mood of doom and gloom? Is it any wonder that they seek refuge in sports and other forms of mass entertainment, that are predictably primitivist and (stylishly) loud?

Where does this doom and gloom originate? Surely not in the aspirations of the Founders, most of whom were avid followers of the various European enlightenments, and who were guardedly optimistic about the future of the republic. I locate the apocalyptic, technophobic, and anti-intellectual mood to the regnant populism and 1960s counter-culture that never had the welfare of working people as their goal, but rather emancipation from their parents—stand-ins for the evil “jewified” bourgeoisie. Enter “youth culture” as revolt against “suburban sadness.”

Materialism and the working class. American reactionaries (among whom I count the populists and faux “liberals”) come out of German (philosophical) Idealism, which was always antidemocratic and protofascist. “Materialism” is now widely understood as an addiction to consumerism and similarly shallow values, whereas it used to signify a retreat from mysticism to the power of the individual to use her or his senses, to reason, and thus to defend her and his interests through making sense of the world and its institutions.  This older view of “materialism” is now blamed by culture warriors of the Right on “secular progressives”—meaning persons like me who praise cultural pluralism and stand up for education in the sciences, economics, and history, putting children ahead of teachers unions and their narrow interests.

I will end this Labor Day blog by observing that teachers are petit-bourgeois and definitely NOT working class, despite their enthusiasm for their “unions” in which they ape the organization of real laborers. When I trained to be a science teacher in the 1950s, we were constantly asked “is teaching a profession? And if so, should they strike for higher wages?” It is our teachers who are preparing their students for real life as mature adults. The least they could do is not succumb to those administrators who joyfully participate in the Democratic Party urban machines and the collectivist ideologies that these mobsters dispense to kids and their parents who could and should know better.

Postscript: I got this comment from a Facebook friend Stuart Creque this morning after I asked what was interesting about Labor Day: “ My dad was a trade unionist, which is funny because he was a high school teacher, not a laborer. Teachers unionizing is rather like Hollywood writers unionizing: it has nothing to do with collective bargaining power and everything to do with self-image as “working men and women.”

But what really fascinates me about labor today is the death of solidarity. My dad exposed me to what labor solidarity was. And the interesting thing is that nowadays it seems almost nonexistent. Each union seems out for its own interests, and more likely to focus on poaching from other unions than coordinating with them or even honoring their picket lines.

In the Writers Guild of America strike a few years ago, the union actually counseled its members to write and earn as much as possible in the days leading up to the strike deadline. They had no concept that they were giving management inventory to work on during the strike, reducing pressure for a settlement. They had no concept of collecting a strike fund over time and then ordering a work-to-rule slowdown leading into the strike. They also had no stomach to hold out for synchronizing contract deadlines with other Hollywood guilds and unions.


August 27, 2014

The imagination going dark

cannibalferoxBefore I left for a summer jaunt, I reread George Fitzhugh’s CANNIBALS ALL! (1857), a defense of slavery as a benign institution, especially as compared to the voracious capitalism and radical politics he claims to have witnessed in the industrial revolution.  What makes this work important is hardly its timeless wisdom or exhaustive research into the historical record, but the stunning fact that C. Vann Woodward, the foremost (liberal) historian of the South, wrote a lengthy preface for its republication in 1960.

Why would a liberal resuscitate such a relic in the mid-20th century? Woodward doesn’t tell us, but it is a good bet that Fitzhugh’s enemies and his were cut from the same cloth; that Fitzhugh’s reactionary cooking the history books to make all slaveholders throughout the West and the American South the best of patriarchs: religious, classically educated, family oriented, agrarian, and never, never turning slaves into throwaway commodities as the materialistic, science driven Northern laissez-faire capitalists were allegedly doing. Woodward undoubtedly saw Fitzhugh as the model New Deal liberal, paternalistic, agrarian, and statist, avant la lettre.

On the airplane that took me back East I saw three movies, one older, two recent: Brazil, Divergent, and Transcendence. Before that, I had leafed through a large art history book, heavily illustrated, entitled Symbolism at my son’s house. I feel that I am drowning in postmodernist negativity regarding science, technology, “positivism,” and the modern world, for all these works were retreats into the Dark Ages, mysticism, and even postmodernism (even Christopher Nolan, who has a conservative following,  is awash in ambiguity and subjectivity.)

The Symbolist painters of the 19th century were lyrical and visually extravagant, carrying forth many of the themes developed on this website—escapism into a re-enchanted world: primitive, pagan, nature-loving, risqué, often Catholic. But the movies I watched on the airplane were typical film noir: As the Erudite want to take over the world (Divergent) choosing their version of “human nature” as justification for their oppressive and divisive leadership (compare to Fitzhugh’s hated abolitionists and utopians), the Abnegation faction that currently rules is under threat but ably defended by young misfits who see through the traps set by the (Űbermenschen). The symbolism is obvious to the audience: the rationalists have carved up the human personality according to the division of labor that Fitzhugh too criticized as dehumanizing.

The Isle of the Dead (1884)

The Isle of the Dead (1884)

It is this division of labor that has turned the lights out all over Europe and America, de-skilling honest craftsmen, and corrupting the new industrial working class, once the projected saviors of humanity, with cheap and abundant consumer goods.

Is it any wonder that nearly all our sci-fi movies are set in murderous, visually degraded, crazy-making cities, and that popular entertainment has gone dark and mobbish? For in olden times, there were heroes capable of slaying the monsters who stalked the land. Those days are gone forever, except in the imaginations of the younger filmmakers who, like Nolan, has his characters (apparently) join forces with eco-terrorists who confuse science with The Bomb. (Were Orwell alive today, he would see himself as a prophet, for the social democrats have inverted freedom and slavery. Don’t confuse the tenets of social democracy with communism, for the communists viewed technology and science as emancipating for toiling humanity.)




Jen Liu (2006) featured in Environmental Impact show (2014)

Jen Liu (2006) featured in Environmental Impact show (2014)


Nowadays, we have the dubious choice of eating or being eaten, dreaming in our pop culture of unpolluted Nature, meditating upon “whole foods.”

August 17, 2014

Improving “race relations”: Left, Right, and Middle

racerelationsThe race riot in Ferguson, Missouri (August 10, 2014 onward), is a reminder that we have made little progress in resolving the vexed question of “race relations” in America. This blog suggests that neither Leftists, Rightists, nor Moderates have a clue as to how to proceed in ameliorating what are called “race relations.”

 I became interested in this subject while researching my book on the so-called “revival” of Herman Melville, universally lauded for his allegedly advanced position on prejudice and “race.” So I read a book published during WW2, by Gunnar Myrdal, assisted by Ralph Bunche: An  American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy (Harper, 1944), a massive research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation in order to fend off the race riots that were anticipated at the end of the looming conflict with Nazism and other fascisms.  Immersion in the Bunche Papers at UCLA and related materials alerted me to this volatile, incendiary, and unresolved subject.

First, an outline of the positions as put forth by American political factions and organizations:

The Left: American history is essentially racist and destructive; propertied white males have abused indigenous peoples, blacks, Nature, immigrants, and women. There is no solution to the race problem short of revolutionary transformation achieved through [inter-racial] class struggle directed against finance capital (the master puppeteers). After the revolution, all particularisms (e.g. “identity politics”) will disappear in an internationalist commitment to communism and true individuality.

Liberals and other anticommunist social democrats: It must be noted that Bunche and Myrdal were at odds over prior strategies to solve “the Negro problem.” Bunche was infuriated by the liberal solution of “better communication” between whites and blacks. At that time, Bunche was writing from the left of Myrdal (a Swedish social democrat), and urging that blacks join unions to overthrow autocratic union bosses and all other bureaucrats toward the objective of worker’s control. At times, he (or more likely Myrdal) called for a more effective welfare state. Myrdal’s responses to Bunche’s militant memoranda resulted in mischaracterizing Bunche as an “economic determinist,” while leaning on him to separate troublemaking black “betterment organizations” from the harmless ones. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/08/04/carnegie-corp-and-the-negro-problem/.) Bunche correctly identified the Marcus Garvey movement and its offshoots as fascist and escapist, while criticizing such venerable organizations as the NAACP and Urban League as indifferent to the cause of Labor.

[But during and after WW2, Bunche was successfully co-opted by the liberal establishment and became an ally of the State Department and its British counterparts in his mediation of the “insoluble” Jewish problem (see http://clarespark.com/2014/06/18/how-ralph-bunche-sold-out-and-failed-in-palestine/.)]

Since the acceleration of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the repertoire of non-solutions has been added to by liberals: affirmative action, separatist curricula in academe, multiculturalism, whiteness studies (the latter adopted by the far left since it damns Amerikkka and the West). Through dwelling on the errors of the  past, while ignoring present-day education and other practical solutions, black rage has probably accelerated, though prominent black writers were angry enough (e.g., James Baldwin, Chester Himes).

The Right: There is no cohesive conservative movement on this subject, but the most persistent call for relief from race riots, a threatening black underclass, incomplete transition to middle class status by American blacks, and female headed households (with excessive illegitimacy in “the black community”) has been a call for the rehabilitation of the patriarchal black family along with a religious revival, presumably headed by strong father figures willing to discipline and inspire children to study, to renounce gang membership, and to adhere to traditional religious principles. (The latter is expressed in support of school vouchers that would include sectarian religious schools, hence this strategy implicitly rejects “secular” solutions to group antagonisms.)

Given the sharp disagreements over strategy within the fighting factions of American politics, it is not surprising that Masters of Sex delivered a muddled episode on August 10, 2014 (see http://clarespark.com/2014/08/16/ferguson-mi-masters-of-sex-and-the-dilemma-of-the-white-liberal/).

Clare’s advice: Had the phrase “move on” not been sullied by the ultra-liberal George Soros forces, I would advise concerned Americans to stop dwelling on past failures and errors, but to focus on a quality education for all children, neither idealizing nor demonizing those aspects of the Western past that are irrefutably “racist” and demeaning to non-whites. There is a heated debate right now regarding whether or not “race” even exists as it is currently imagined; a revival of Lamarckianism may be in the works. As for the father-led family, that mostly conservative strategy seems utopian to me, and would take to long to demonstrate results, unlike potential changes in school curricula and in the media. [Update 8-29-14: it has been objected on Facebook that women may be inadequate parents too. This is true, but it is one feature of conservative ideology to drastically separate male and female roles in the family: men are the disciplinarians, while women offer unconditional love. Why should parenting be taught in the schools to prepare youngsters for the likely road ahead? Both parents should be setting boundaries and educating their kids for real life which is always a struggle, whatever the period in which kids must function.]

One thing is for certain: Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools in Harlem have established that black and brown children can “succeed” beyond our wildest dreams if there is strong cooperation between school staff and parents, and a challenging curriculum.

Hope looms on the horizon, but we are all responsible, white and non-white alike, for pushing Eva Moskowitz’s agenda forward, notwithstanding opposition from entrenched interests such as teachers unions (see comments below).


August 16, 2014

Ferguson MO, Masters of Sex, and the dilemma of the white liberal

Imipassioned integrationist demands action from white doctor

Imipassioned integrationist demands action from white doctor

[For my first take on this series, see http://clarespark.com/2013/10/22/masters-of-sex-and-70s-feminism/%5D

By an odd coincidence, the last episode of Showtime’s hit series Masters of Sex (10 August, 2014), took on the problem of race relations in St. Louis Missouri at the same time that the suburb of Ferguson was exploding in looting and confrontations between “militarized” police and blacks.

This blog is about the double bind white liberal writers are trapped in, given the particular history of race relations in the US. Should they rescue the black population from bigotry  (e.g., Huckleberry Finn, Intruder In The Dust, affirmative action/multiculturalism/whiteness studies) or is it up to blacks to save themselves (e.g., the Black Power movement “by any means necessary”)? (For my blogs on the black power movement see http://clarespark.com/2010/07/15/index-to-black-power-blogs/)

In the last episode of Masters of Sex, Courtney Vance plays Dr. Charles Hendricks, the head of Buell Green, a “Negro” hospital in St. Louis, who has hired the twice disgraced William Masters, expecting him to carry out (Vance’s) specifically “integrationist” project. But Dr. Masters doesn’t see that convincing his white patients to follow him to a dubious neighborhood in the era of segregation is not his, but Hendricks’s priority, a point missed by the Los Angeles Times recap (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-masters-of-sex-recap-racial-tension-flares-at-bills-new-hospital-20140810-story.html.) Masters tells Hendricks that he has his own battle ahead in pursuing his tabooed research on the physiology of sex, while handing off to his mistress the task of persuading his old patients off to follow him to an all black hospital. Virginia, stereotypically enough, is more emotionally attuned and hence more manipulative than he is. The last shots show “Hendricks” leaving in a huff, for the second time pulling down a flyer that Virginia Johnson had put up, soliciting volunteers for the sex study that she and Bill had initiated, and that is, like her, “ahead of her time.”

Disgusted "Hendricks"

Disgusted “Hendricks”

[Earlier in the episode, Masters had shown himself to be unusually empathic with blacks by chastising his reactionary wife “Libby” for forcing her black maid to wash her hair (under the delusion that “Coral” had brought lice into the house). She half-heartedly apologizes to Coral’s protective 'boyfriend', who classifies her with hopelessly insensitive “white people.” Yet both Bill and Virginia are seemingly floored by the request to adjust their priorities, putting militant integrationism ahead of their sex project.]

The producers and writers of Masters of Sex are nothing if not present-minded, inventing situations and characters that are the essence of political correctness. Seizing on snippets of the real history of the Masters and Johnson collaboration and then their ultimately failed marriage (divorced in 1992), the creators populate their series with assertive women struggling against the odds, repressed authoritarian males, closeted lesbians, tormented homosexuals pretending to be straight then seeking “conversion,” aging women, prostitutes, oppressed but passive-aggressive blacks, outspoken blacks—all characters who have starred in the social movements of the 1960s and 70s; the target audience is presumably fascinated by the transformations they believe they have wrought via their activism.  

But with the presence of the ardently integrationist “Charles Hendricks” (who sees himself as a pioneer like William Masters) Showtime has placed itself in a political quagmire, for the American polity (both Left and Right) has no idea how to proceed in the romantic project of making up for generations of slavery, then Jim Crow. The real history of the Masters and Johnson collaboration is interesting enough, but present-mindedness (judging the past through the lens of present mores) is the real spoiler. Like the shows on HBO, Showtime delivers soft porn and the frisson, whatever literary merit surfaces now and then (and it does in the episode where, through Virginia’s skillful extraction, Bill exposes his relations with his cold, abandoning father).

(PS. I could find zero pictures on the internet showing angry confrontations between Libby, Coral, or her ‘boyfriend’ Robert (really her half-brother as we will discover in episode 6), even though these tense encounters are in the script of episode 5. Real life does not imitate art.)

Sunny view of Libby-Robert confrontation

Sunny view of Libby-Robert confrontation

August 14, 2014

Understanding Obama’s ongoing appeal

Ridha Ridha "Normal Ambivalence"

Ridha Ridha “Normal Ambivalence”

Many dark thoughts cross my mind as I contemplate the list of failures attributable to POTUS, but ranking the reason for his continued popularity in some quarters goes beyond his obvious appeal to recipients of state largesse, proud or despised minorities, and guilty liberals.

Why has no one mentioned his stirring speeches promising national unity that helped elect him in the first place? For his healing messages imply that not only warring sections of our country shall be reunited, but that the disunity that we feel inside ourselves, and inside our supposedly harmonious “families” shall also be resolved.

And yet ambivalence is part of the human condition, as Freud controversially alleged in his formulation of the inescapable Oedipus Complex. One old standard partly and incompletely expresses these mixed feelings that occasionally surface, but are usually quickly repressed. (Here is Nat King Cole singing the Vincent Youmans tune “Sometimes I’m Happy” 1957: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtPeknt0mBA.)

Psychiatrists Melanie Klein, Heinz Kohut and Otto Kernberg, in their studies of “object relations” and “narcissism” all explored the common practice of “splitting” in which we escape ambiguity and ambivalence by turning those figures (public or private) who arouse deep emotions into all good or all bad figures. I find myself doing this myself, and it is only in retrospect that I correct these black and white divisions. For like most other people, I am capable of either demonizing or hero-worshipping figures who are themselves sometimes benign, sometimes threatening, but always struggling to stay afloat.

Perhaps it is the greatest challenge we face as historians, as journalists, or as citizen-critics of our leaders to understand that each of us lives within a controlling, often menacing, context that we did not choose; moreover that we struggle to rationalize our own self-interest and to conform to the imprecations of our parents and siblings to be like them, to maintain idealized attachments, and indeed to like them without ambivalence.

We would rather escape into desolation or into the illusion of unity than face “things as they are” (Melville, speaking through the dubious (?) narrator of Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), or try his The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857)—if you can take the challenge to your amour propre.)

Ryoshimizu, "Ambivalence"

Ryoshimizu, “Ambivalence”

Here is a related blog: http://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/, with a disquieting painting by Max Beckmann expressing alienation and lack of connection with others or “things as they are.”

Beckmann, Paris Gesellschaft 1931

Beckmann, Paris Gesellschaft 1931

August 7, 2014

Modernity versus modernism

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:34 pm
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modernity2Modernity may be said to start with the invention of the printing press, as ordinary people began to read religious texts for themselves, without priestly mediation and interpretation. So historians generally start “the early modern period” with the Reformation and the proliferation of “radical sects,” many of them utopian, such as the Diggers in England. (There had been outbreaks of communal democracy before this, e.g., the Lollards or some earlier apostolic Christians/Jews).

So from roughly the 16th century onward through European wars and revolutions, often couched in the language of religious controversy, modernity led to the contentious emancipation of women, Jews, and ordinary people, not without strenuous objection from the ruling aristocracies of Europe, who were themselves sharply divided but who united against “the People” upon whom they projected their own paranoia. (See the famous and entertaining fight between royalist Robert Filmer and Whiggish John Locke here: http://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.)

Modernity generated supporters and antagonists in the world of culture. It would be nice and easy to contrast order-loving neoclassicists with Romantics, but the Romantics were themselves divided, as were some neoclassicists. For instance, Wordsworth and Coleridge started out as enthusiasts for the French Revolution, but balked at the Jacobin takeover, worship of “the Goddess of Reason,” and the Reign of Terror, turning then sharply against science and Enlightenment. These were “right-wing” Romantics, to be sharply contrasted with the Promethean Lord Byron, the most prominent of the “left-wing” Romantic poets. ( The Danish critic Georg Brandes is very good on these distinctions.)

Just as people sorted themselves out according to how they felt about the French Revolution and its aftermath, the same happened after the Soviet coup of 1917. But the cat was out of the bag: the interior life was now fodder for artists and writers, and those “realists” and “naturalists” so beloved by the Soviet nomenklatura, were competing with those wild men and women influenced by Freud, Jung, and other explorers of the psyche. Some usually conservative writers, like Herman Melville, vacillated between Romanticism and neo-classicism, leading to the sharp divisions among Melville critics who find these turnabouts anxiety-provoking.

So modernity generated a usually reactive modernism. Modernism is an entirely different kettle of fish from “modernity,” being mostly a movement in the arts in reaction to the idea of progress, a shibboleth that had taken a big hit with the Great War. Even before the war, the rise of women (including “the moral mother” displacing paternal authority in the home), cities, industrialism, the loss of the agrarian myth, “the death of God,” mass politics, comparative luxury, and cultural pluralism inspired fears of decadence and mob rule. Even before WW1, Freud, Marx, and Darwin all discombobulated elites and in various ways inspired fears of decadence and the femme fatale—an all-purpose scary symbol representing all these trends (see http://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/).

The Great War that ended the lengthy “balance of power” among European states seemed like the logical culmination to these vast transformations, and the war itself that enabled the Soviet coup led to an earthquake in culture that made the French Revolution look tame, but also causal in imposing “state terror.”

I have written extensively about the turn toward the interior psyche in all its moods, particularly primitivism as ritual rebellion, and also about the recurrent image of Pierrot, an example of the alienated artist as murderer, as Cain, as zany. In prior blogs, I have mentioned Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Sartre, all experimenters with language and form and all modernists in revolt against some aspect of “modernity.” [I have not dealt with "postmodernity here, but it is directed against science and enlightenment too, viewed perhaps as too bourgeois.]

To end with a “relevant” observation, I would guess that the rise of the moral mother (along with the emancipation of Jews) was the most important and relatively neglected of the cataclysmic developments all too briefly outlined above. Not enough has been made of the linkage between antisemitism and misogyny. (None of my speculations is in the Wikipedia discussion of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernity.)

Many conservatives look longingly back at the time when “rational” men, not “irrational” women, ruled the roost. It is why I reject the “right-wing” strategy for taking back the culture from “the left.” (http://clarespark.com/2014/07/01/the-rightist-culture-war-strategy-wont-work/.)

Sonia Delaunay painting

Sonia Delaunay painting

July 26, 2014

CV as of 2008: Clare Spark, Ph.D.

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 10:45 pm
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clare early 1970s Ruscha show prankI could have used this for “About Clare Spark” for the website, but chose to do a different type of autobiography. Here is my CV as of 2008. Hundreds of blogs not included, but they are all grounded in prior research, all of it published or presented to peers at conferences. Pacifica and radio experience generally not included.

E-MAIL ADDRESS: clarespark@verizon.net
DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: August 10, 1937, New York City
UNIVERSITY DEGREES: Ph.D. in History, UCLA; 6/93; M.A. in History, UCLA, Fall, 1984; M.A. in Teaching Science, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 6/59; B.S. with distinction, Cornell University, 2/58.


2008.Forthcoming review of Peter Moreira, Hemingway on the China Front: His WWII Spy Mission with Martha Gellhorn, Journal of Cold War Studies (withdrawn for publication on my website: http://clarespark.com/2011/06/30/links-to-review-essay-on-hemingway-spy-mission-to-china/).

2007. “Arthur Schlesinger’s Missing Vital Center.” History News Network. http://www.hnn.us/articles/36239.html., “Gunnar Myrdal’s A Lot More Complicated Than You Think.” History News Network, March 12.

2006-2008. Regular commentator on the politics of culture for Pacifica Radio Station KPFT (Houston), LivingArts, archived and streamed live on the web.

2006. Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival (Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP, 2nd ed. Paperback).

2004. “What Lies Behind the Multicultural Approach to History?” History News Network. http://www.hnn.us/articles/4533.html.

2004. “Ralph Bunche and the Jewish Problem.” UCLA Bunche Center for African-American Studies, 2-21 Symposium.

2002. “Melville’s ‘Private Faith’: Christian Antisemite or Crypto-Jew?” paper for Modern Language Association meeting, December 28, 2002, New York City.

2002. “Margoth v. Robert E. Lee: Melville’s Poetry and Rival Conceptions of National Unity,” paper for panel “The Nineteenth-Century Artist,” American Literature Association Meeting, June 1, 2002, Long Beach, California.

2002. “Herman Melville: Dead White Male,” History News Network, http://www.hnn.us/articles/665html.

2002. “Chomsky versus Lippmann,” posting on History of Diplomacy discussion group, Humanities Net, January 15.

2001. Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival (Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP). [Reviewed in London Review of Books (Oct.31, 2002), Harper’s (June 2002), Southern Humanities Review (Spring 2002), Christianity and Literature (Summer 2002), American Literature ( 2002 ), CHOICE (Nov. 2001), Library Journal (2001). Modern Language Quarterly (June, 2003), Bloomsbury Review, American Literary Scholarship, The Year’s Work in Literature, Leviathan (2003), Minutes of the Charles Olson Society (April 2004), Journal of Cold War Studies (Fall, 2005)

2001. “Race, Caste, or Class? The Bunche-Myrdal Dispute Over An American Dilemma,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society Vol.14, No.3 (Spring 2001): 465-511.

[Abstract: Few observers doubt that Gunnar Myrdal and Ralph J. Bunche had sharp methodological disagreements and differing approaches to tactics for ending “the Negro problem.” Myrdal has been criticized as a statist liberal and utopian moralist by recent cultural historians defending “progressive nationalism” (multiculturalism), while Bunche has been characterized as a vulgar Marxist, and, with Myrdal, a denigrator of “black culture.” Inspection of An American Dilemma in contrast with Bunche’s research memoranda suggests that Myrdal represented himself as a Burkean conservative, while Bunche’s analyses transmit the radical puritan libertarian tradition, but without rejecting social democratic remedies en route to working-class control of industry. Their shared emphasis on class-based remedies to end poverty and powerlessness, however, renders them similarly unassimilable in a period where the progressive left has generally embraced racial or ethnic “identity,” not class power, as the source of individual emancipation, mental health, and economic betterment.]

2000. “Moderating Melville.” Conference paper, American Literary Association, May 27, Long Beach, California.

1999. “Klara Hitler’s Son: The Langer Report on Hitler’s Mind,” Social Thought and Research, Vol.22, No. 1/2, pp. 113-37.

1998. “Hunting Captain Ahab: The Dark Side of the Melville Revival, 1919-1998,” September 25-26. Symposium in honor of Alexander Saxton sponsored by UCLA.

1996. “From Light Into Darkness: the modern artist as Promethean, explorer, psychoanalyst, moralist and materialist–the case of Melville’s Isabel.” Paper for session “Femme Fatale as Subversive Icon,” Conference on “Love and Politics in Literary Perspective,” March 1 and 2, sponsored by Departments of Classics and Comparative Literature, California State University at Long Beach.

1991. Enter Isabel: The Herman Melville Correspondence of Clare Spark and Paul Metcalf, ed. and annotated by Paul Metcalf (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press).

1991. Commentator, two papers on Pierre. Melville-Whitman Conference, Siena College, Oct. 4.

1991. Other talks on Melville and modernism vs. fascist and protofascist reaction delivered to the History Department, University of Connecticut Oct. 21, Undergraduate English Association, Fordham University, Oct. 29, WBAI-FM, New York City, November 1.

1991. “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA Historical Journal Vol. 10, 1990. Winner Theodore Saloutos Award, $500 annual prize for best essay. [Originally a Sermon delivered to the First Unitarian Church, 1/8/90: the legacy of radical protestantism, institutional double-binds specific to modernity, anti-Semitism as antimodernism directed against the Reformation and empiricism; organicism versus materialism on the Left, romantic anticapitalist movements in Anglo-American culture, and the significance of recently declassified government documents from the Psychological Strategy Board (1951-53) regarding government psychological warfare. Contrary to expectation I found no evidence of a U.S. plot to magnify the Soviet threat.]

1990. “Call Me Isabel: Herman Melville as Feminist,” paper delivered at the annual meeting of The American Studies Association, Nov. 2, the panel on “feminist perspectives.”

1987. “Pacifica Radio and the Politics of Culture,” American Media and Mass Culture, ed. Don Lazere (University of California Press).

1987. “Good Jews, Bad Jews, and Wandering Jews in Herman Melville’s Clarel,” Lecture co-sponsored by UCLA Department of History and the Program in Comparative Literature, April 23.

1986. “The Battle for Pacifica Radio,” Paper delivered to California American Studies Association, April 25, panel on Culture and Dissent: Women in Politics.

1982. [on the recent controversies within the Pacifica Foundation and KPFK], sponsored by the radical caucus of The Modern Language Association, annual meeting.

1981-82. “The Sour Apple Tree,” KPFK Folio: a monthly column on the theory and practice of alternative media; proposals for new directions in programming.

1978. “The Rescue” (a montage concerning ideology in the public sculptures of Horatio Greenough), Journal of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, June/July.

1978. “Masochism Builds Character,” in Education; Papers in Honor of Fletcher G. Watson, ed. Leo Klopfer (Harvard Graduate School of Education).Education in Science and Science

1976. “About the Culture,” (jacket notes), Sentimental Songs of the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Takoma Records, A-1048).

1975. “The Politics of Feminist Art,” member of panel chaired by Carl Baldwin for the annual meeting of the College Art Association.

SCHOLARSHIPS, GRANTS, HONORS: Post-doctoral fellowship, Williams Andrews Clark Jr. Memorial Library, “The Artist as Hero, 1680-1800,” (a seminar directed by Robert Folkenflik, summer, 1989; I studied the ongoing conservative response to Milton, and romantic anticapitalism in William Blake, William Morris, Eric Gill, D.H. Lawrence, and Aldous Huxley); Rosecrans Fellowship, UCLA Department of History 1987-1988, 1988-89; Graduate Division Fellowship, UCLA 1986-87; Distinguished Scholar Award, UCLA Alumni Association 1985-86; Carey McWilliams Fellowship, 1985-86; Alfred P. Sloan National Fellowship, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1958-59; New York State Scholarship, 1954-58.

The National Endowment for the Arts (1974: to produce 39 radio programs on the politics of the art world; 1977: to produce, write and direct a series of montages on the social roots of popular music in the age of Jackson); The National Endowment for the Humanities (1976: to write radio scripts on the politics of middle-class music 1820-1860); 1979-80: to direct the development of a radio series exploring unity and conflict in postwar America as documented in the Pacifica Archives); California Council for the Humanities (1982: to direct a series of symposia establishing social contexts for twelve contemporary plays originated at KPFK). 1972 Major Armstrong Award for FM Broadcasting (second place in educational documentary, for Jim Morrison: Artist in Hell). Appointed to Academic Senate Systemwide Affirmative Action in Hiring and Academic Programs Committee by UC Student Lobby (1984-86). Appointed to ASUCLA Communications Board by Graduate Students Association (1984-85). Nominated for membership on California State Council for the Humanities by Kathryn Kish Sklar, 1982.

EMPLOYMENT: Spring Quarter 1985, Field Studies Coordinator for UCLA undergraduate seminar in history of mass media; helped teach class and developed syllabus and bibliography for critical media studies with grant from UCLA Office of Instructional Development.

February 1981-August 1982, Program Director, KPFK-FM (Pacifica Radio, Los Angeles). It was my objective to clarify the identity of Pacifica Radio as alternative institution and to build credible programming and empathic relations with the audience consistent with Pacifica’s stated ideals. Significant progress toward the creation of an desegregated radio station, sensitive to the historical experience of women, people of color, and labor, was achieved. Subscriptions increased by 20%, I planned and organized the three most successful fund-drives in KPFK history to that date, listener-support was at a new high. The new direction in programming (critical and historically informed) attracted unusual and laudatory press coverage. I produced and/or developed 35 new regularly scheduled programs and numerous symposia: 6 “Teach-Ins” (on El Salvador, the arms race, Southern Africa, reproductive rights for women, Northern Ireland, and Reaganomics); 2 day-long Peace Festivals (involving every peace organization in Southern California and numerous artists and poets), and Peace Week (in support of the June 12, 1982 NYC demonstration).

The Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors unanimously adopted a resolution that I authored: Pacifica programming would encourage critical thought in culture and politics alike, adopting a principled opposition to racism and sexism. The controversy which erupted over implementation of this (“illiberal”!) resolution eventually drove me out of the station and back to graduate school (where I had started work in U.S. intellectual history, Fall, 1980). The history of “ethnopluralism” (which I traced while in graduate school) suggests that “multiculturalism” as currently practiced is a piecemeal and ineffective conservative liberal strategy to contain and redirect the unpredictable energies of postwar anticolonialism and antiracism, inducing further fragmentation/ghettoisation of the hitherto oppressed and excluded. In 1981 I viewed integrated programming simply as balanced history, comprehending the experience of all groups without idealization; some programming would deal with issues of particular relevance to specific groups, such as women, non-whites, etc., but these would be understood as part of a larger picture of political, economic, and cultural (i.e., institutional) conflict, often global in character. Our explorations would not presume any particular political outcome: our analytic method would be grounded in inductive, not deductive logic; the question would remain open as to what kind of social/economic organization would best encourage the release of human creativity and development. In its populist zeal to “smash capitalism” (without critical reflection), however, an unreformed Pacifica tends to promote separatism, alienation, and despair.

August-September 1980, Producer and Host, “The Afternoon Air,” KPFK. Researched and produced a daily (weekday) three-hour montage of news, public affairs features and documentaries, music and interviews. (I continued this assignment while Program Director, 2/81-10/81)

1971-73, Faculty, School of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts; taught Radio Workshop, Mass Media and the Audience (critical tools for analysis).

1972, UCLA Extension, Coordinator: “The Arts and Social Change.”

1971-72, Co-Director, Drama and Literature, KPFK.

1958, 1959-60, Chemistry, biology and general science teacher, Jamaica High School (Queens, NY), Los Angeles High School.

1979, Consultant to Executive Director, Pacifica Foundation (long-term program development and fund-raising)

1978-80, Consultant-expert, The National Endowment for the Arts. I served twice on the radio panel (Media Arts division) and represented all of radio at the policy review panel (Media Arts) in 1980, leading the protest against cultural imperialism in arts funding at the NEA.

1972-82, Public lectures/demonstrations, slide shows on the politics of alternative media, censorship in the arts, sex and violence in recent feminist art and photography. Sponsored by Berkeley University Art Museum, Aspen Design Conference, Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, UCLA Women’s Resource Center, UCLA Department of Art, UCLA Extension, AAUW of Los Angeles, etc. Also, lecture/demonstration classes at UC Irvine (Moira Roth), School of Visual Art (Joyce Kozloff), Cooper Union (Hans Haacke), The New School for Social Research, NYU Film School, and Otis Art Institute.

A featured speaker at invitational conferences, including Community Arts and Community Survival (American Council of the Arts in Education, 1972); Women in the Arts (University of Wisconsin, 1973); Women in Media (UC Berkeley, 1974); The Artist’s Survival (Associated Councils of the Arts, 1975); Critical Communications Conference (Stanford University, 1978, San Diego State, 1979); and attended Independent Radio Producers Conference, Markle Foundation, 1979).

RADIO PRODUCTION: 1969-1994. Hundreds of critical commentaries (closely analysing politics and structures in museum exhibitions), documentaries, “performances,” and interviews, many nationally distributed by Pacifica Program Service. Guests have included Herbert Marcuse, Anais Nin, François Truffaut, John Kenneth Galbraith, Dennis Brutus, Ntozake Shange, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Daniel Ellsberg, Richard Foreman, Roger Angell, and Harold Rosenberg. Long documentaries treated Jim Morrison and Nietzsche, Picasso’s politics, De Kooning’s patronage, “bad taste” in popular culture, authoritarianism and protofascism, artistic and cultural freedom, psychosurgery, etc. From 1988-98, I wrote and presented my series “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” that compared analyses of “fascism” before, during, and after World War II, and continued my study of the transmission of twentieth century European and American history in the major museums. Recent 90 minute programs presented Herman Melville’s suppressed annotations to Milton’s Paradise Lost, with readings of radical Melville passages by Roscoe Lee Browne, August 1, 1990, arguing for Melville’s oscillating identifications with both Ahab (a left-wing puritan) and Ishmael (a romantic conservative).

OTHER ACTIVITIES: In 1974, composer Joseph Byrd and I founded The Yankee Doodle Society, a production group of artists and scholars whose advisors and endorsers have included Julian Bond, Roscoe Lee Browne, David Brion Davis, Herbert Gutman, Michael Rogin, Roger Shattuck, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Richard Slotkin. I have co-produced four narrated concerts of nineteenth-century popular music, two sets of recordings (4 disks: Takoma A-1048, Musical Heritage Society 834561) which reconstruct middle-class music of the early and mid-nineteenth century; and have produced, written and directed A Change of Tears: Sentimental Song and Purity Reform in the Age of Jackson, a 10 1/2 hour collage of dramatized documents and music from antebellum America demonstrating contradictory themes in the emerging industrial culture, for instance: “family values” can be seen either as conservative nostrum for social and economic ills or as the bulwark of democratic opposition to illegitimate authority. Actors included Hershel Bernardi, Roscoe Lee Browne, Beatrice Manley, David Birney and William Schallert. These activities have been funded through private contributions, NEH, NEA, and TOSCO. The collage was broadcast in its entirety on July 4, 1994, KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, rebroadcast Thanksgiving 1994 and Labor Day 1995.

DISSERTATION TITLE: The “Melville” Revival, 1919-1953: An Unclosed Case Study in Conservative Enlightenment.

DOCTORAL COMMITTEE CHAIR AND OTHER MENTORS: Alexander Saxton (Chair: intellectual/cultural/social/labor history); Gary Nash (colonial history); Margaret Washington Creel (slavery and reconstruction); Kathryn Kish Sklar (women and nineteenth-century reform movements); Robert Brenner (English history during the transition from feudalism to capitalism; attended all sessions of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History under his direction, 1988- ); informal study with other professors including Saul Friedländer (representations of the Holocaust), Simon Schaffer and Roy Porter (history of science and medicine), Albert Boime (18th-20th Century European and American art history, the recent controversy over NEA funding).

READING COMMITTEE: Alexander Saxton, Saul Friedländer, Carolyn Porter (UC Berkeley), Albert Boime, Robert Brenner, Katherine King.

DISSERTATION SUMMARY: Utilizing ignored or newly available sources (the papers of Raymond Weaver, Richard Chase, Charles Olson, Jay Leyda, and Henry Murray), I reconstructed patterns of censorship in “the Melville Revival” and challenged current interpretations of Melville and Melville criticism since 1919; the relevant context is the institutionalization of psychological warfare before, during, and after World War II, with Melville’s character Captain Ahab increasingly characterized with hostility as bearer of Radical Enlightenment. In the rhetoric of New Dealers and their left-wing allies, Ahab (a savage Hebrew prophet) is an “anticipation” of Hitler and Stalin: the ideological thrust of this Conservative Enlightenment tendency is explicitly antimaterialist and antidemocratic. I have contrasted Burkean conservatism, romantic anticapitalism, Christian Socialism, organicist Left and New Left thought, with the libertarian thought of Locke, Mandeville, Adam Smith, etc. Melville’s approach to biography is seen as alternating between (family-splintering) “British” empiricism and (family-reunifying) “German” Romanticism.

Archival research in the papers of leading Melville scholars disclosed widespread physical and emotional distress while writing about their subject, also ambivalence and/or hostility toward Melville in the published writings; moreover there has been widespread suppression of biographical and textual evidence in Melville studies since 1919, the year “America’s greatest writer” (1819-1891) was ostensibly rescued from philistine contemporaries. My account of the making of the “Melville” [ruin] is correlated with the varied endeavors of antifascist liberals in American Studies, social psychology, and the Committee for Economic Development (socially responsible capitalists adopting Keynesian economics in the early 1940s). These were pragmatists and ethnopluralists who nervously defined themselves against both Marx and Freud in the 1920s and 30s. I suggest that the periodization of “Cold War culture” (as the creation of “fascist” Republicans after 1947) is a disingenuous construction of the moderate men, organic conservative supporters of the New Deal; we do better to examine antidemocratic narratives and myths (Narcissus and Icarus, the apocalyptic sublime) extant since the emergence of science and democracy in ancient Greece, intensified after the Reformation and the invention of the printing press and the popular revolutions that followed.

For the moderate conservatives, Melville was the charismatic specter of the artisan autodidact/the romantic Wandering Jew, bearer of empiricism, freethought, dissent, republicanism, and internationalism. During the 1930s, at the same time that Hitler was constructed by scholars and journalists as a failed artist, narcissist, materialist and clown (the freak of mass culture), crazy Ahab (formerly recognized as abolitionist/Chartist/artist/Melville by many readers) was separated from his creator. New Left critics have tended to follow this conservative nationalist (Jungian) explanation for both fascism and Melville’s downfall; i.e. feminized bourgeois sentimental culture, not the right-wing coalition directed against modernity/the labor movement, explains “totalitarianism” in the twentieth century and Melville’s “crash” after Moby-Dick.

I account for censorship in Melville studies in this context: acting against fanciful “subjectivist” 1920s Melville critics who allegedly conflated autobiography and text, life and art, “objectivist,” fact-finding Melville scholars publishing in the mid-1930s and after have cast doubt on his veracity by (apparently) elevating his status as the “artist” who skillfully transformed plundered “literary sources”; crucially the “second wave” Melville critics have usually rehabilitated the later work (Clarel and Billy Budd). This ploy undermines his accuracy as a reporter of 1. structural antagonisms between the interests of naval officers and common sailors (White-Jacket) and 2. double-binds in supposedly benevolent institutions transmitting incompatible expectations for both truth and (conservative) order (Pierre). Here are potentially irreconcilable conflicts that may not be compromised or moderated; their perception is a threat to the legitimacy of the corporatist liberals; hence explosive issues in the Melville biography (family violence, imputed insanity, the possible existence of an illegitimate half-sister) have been uneasily managed, perhaps to protect the notion that Melville attained genuine (conservative) Enlightenment in his old age after his protracted narcissistic adolescence, his “pathological puritanism” (quoting Henry A. Murray). He could not have been responding to betrayals and structural antagonisms in the real world. In sum, the terms of enlightenment (history, science, progress, facts) have been co-opted by moderate conservatives in the humanities to discredit the radical Enlightenment embodied in the empiricist Melville, who has been reconstructed as a sadder-but-wiser ex-romantic, progressing from destructive Captain Ahab to the prudent Captain Vere.

WORK-IN-PROGRESS: 1. At the request of Pacifica listeners, I have compiled a syllabus and book-length illustrated reader, “Eros and the Middle-Manager,” consisting of radio talks from my series “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” (1988- ), essays on Melville’s ambivalent identification with the Romantic Wandering Jew (showing the dynamics of his oscillation between fully feeling, freethinking, incorruptible historian/sociologist and melancholic ex-radical), and a monograph that challenges postwar scholarship on Hitler’s psyche, suggesting that conservative nationalist psychoanalysts and political scientists (the progressives), in a distortion of the textual evidence, have disseminated the image of Hitler as an Ahab-ish Bad Jew, the Big Liar: crazy, sadistic, cynical, domineering, contemptuous of the masses, and protean. The gullibility of The People, their bad taste and susceptibility to demagoguery (not economic crisis, class position of the squeezed petit-bourgeoisie, the growing working-class movement, and Left sectarianism, the continuity with Wilhelmine expansionism and imperialism), is held to be the major cause of the Nazi rise to power. (Hitler, however, constructed himself as effective fatherly communicator, not Liar; the Jews, like Filmer’s People, were the Big Liars.) The Reader is evolving into a handbook for democratic communicators. My work suggests new directions for cultural studies, intellectual history, psychoanalysis and counseling, situating personal troubles and family interactions in the broader context of history and politics in the twentieth century, specifically in the social sciences and humanities as managed by “the antifascist liberals,” the moderate men, who, since the mid-1930s have attempted to forge a middle way against the extremes of laissez-faire capitalism and Nazism/Bolshevism (the latter sometimes understood as jacobin democracy/anarchism). Tracking the subtly antidemocratic social relations constructed by “vanguard” corporatists (presenting themselves as genuine liberals) and directed against artists, intellectuals, and autodidacts, is central to the project.
I also have numerous unpublished manuscripts, including a long article on the historiography of Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1636-38). All my work is focused on the teaching of the humanities and how ethnopluralism and other irrationalist ideologies have tended to undermine the independence and self-understanding of citizens.

Darren Mulloy and the John Birch Society

mulloyJBS.jpgThe author is quoted in the Vanderbilt University Press handout for reviewers, quoting the author: “I don’t see the John Birch Society as some part of the ‘lunatic fringe’ of American society, but as a part of the wider culture of the Cold War and as a bridge to the contemporary conservatism of the Tea Party.” VUP: “The John Birch Society played a significant role in the development of the conservative movement as we know it in the U.S.” This statement ignores that the book states unequivocally that it covers the period 1958-1968, with no materials justifying this p.r. guide to potential reviewers, who, presumably will take this book to establish the continuity claimed between the conspiratorial, demonized, and fantastical Welch and his followers and the current disparate foes to “big government.”

D. J. Mulloy is an associate professor in a Canadian university, where he is a member of the history department.A historian is peer-reviewed by the originality of his research and the novelty of the primary sources used. Here are the “primary sources” listed by Professor Mulloy (not one of these is considered to be a primary source comparable to private papers, letters, and diaries, though these must exist in the papers of chief actors in the postwar period from Eisenhower on through Nixon and Ford, not to speak of Buckley and other right-wing characters described in the book):
1. John Birch Society periodicals, pamphlets, and speeches
2. Website for JBS.
3. Books (written by eight authors, including Robert W. Welch, Jr.)
4. Newspapers and periodicals
5. Official documents and reports

This is an astounding publication to have emanated from an academic press (Vanderbilt UP, 2014). There are zero examples of either Welch diaries, his correspondence, or the diaries and private correspondence of the chief actors in the melodrama limned by Mulloy. One can only conclude that VUP published a hatchet job directed against all Republicans and conservatives. This despite the evidence supplied by the Venona documents, and the material unearthed by scholars allowed to examine the briefly opened Soviet archives, that did provide proof of Soviet sabotage and spying, as reported by established and more cautious scholars such as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, Mark Kramer, Ron Radosh, Alexander Vassiliev, and Allen Weinstein.

Moreover, where extremely controversial events are concerned, Mulloy will often cite one book, rather than a variety of interpretations, including those that disagree with whatever claim he makes at the moment in his mad dash through the postwar period.

Chief among his targets is those who claim that the US military budget was justified in light of the fighting strength of the Soviet Union. This is one of the contentions of those Stalinists who accuse [fascist] Americans of starting the Cold War, and of exaggerating the Soviet military threat. Indeed, one prominent New Leftist alerted me to recently declassified CIA documents ‘proving’ that the US was guilty as charged by the Left. But when I looked at these documents, I saw no such materials, but rather, in reviewing the documents treating the Psychological Strategy Board of the 1950s (under the Truman and Eisenhower administrations), I found only disagreement and confusion in high government circles regarding the best approach to dealing with Soviet expansionism. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_Strategy_Board, and my detailed article “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA Historical Journal Vol. 10, 1990.)

Another of Mulloy’s professional lapses is his failure to distinguish between class interest and his imprecisely rendered notion of “conspiracy.” Nor is there even an entry in his index for the Popular Front, which might have explained why it was difficult for “extremist” conservatives such as Welch to distinguish between communists and social democrats, a problem that persists today as more and more professed revolutionary socialists deploy the argot of the counter-revolutionary social democrats. (Eric Hobsbawm is one example: see http://clarespark.com/2013/10/28/hobsbawm-israel-the-totalitarian-idea/.)

Moreover, what Mulloy never explains to the reader is this: Marx was never a conspiracy theorist; this was a theoretical point that the JBS didn’t understand, nor probably William F. Buckley either. Socialist revolution would not come from a small group of fanatical terrorists barking out orders from Moscow, but would result from working class revolt, owing to their increasing immiseration under capitalism (resulting from declining rates of profit—a prediction that failed to materialize as Marx had predicted). (Bureaucratic centralism and statism were “Marxist-Leninist” innovations.)

I suppose Mulloy is yet another social democrat who projects his elitism upon a social movement that it does not resemble at all. The populists described in Mulloy’s book were first and foremost suspicious of statist elites, and still are (http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/ which is indeed elitist).

Working class agency/the labor movement is entirely invisible in Mulloy’s mural of postwar Amerikkka, the land of the easily duped.


July 20, 2014

“National character”: does it exist?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:33 pm
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nationalcharacterOne of the worst habits of journalists and academics is to refer to countries as if they were one individual, all virtuous or all evil, depending on the author: hence “America” or “Germany” as opposed, say, to the real material and ideological divisions in a particular country, and to individual differences and variations within those divisions. The same goes for class stereotypes, such as “bourgeois” or “working class.”

The omnipresent “multiculturalists” try to correct this habit of personifying nations, by pointing to the need for “inclusiveness” in societies characterized by “diversity”. But they don’t mean that individuals count for anything, for their discourse is collectivist, whether applied to countries or classes. Thus American blacks, for instance, have group character that is incomprehensible to other groups (especially white people), unless they are “people of color” who know the White Man’s nasty habits. If the [dominant culture] is “good” (i.e., anti-racist) it will practice “toleration” and give a leg up to “people of color” through various state-imposed programs such as affirmative action or immigration reform. Since the multiculturalists control the dominant discourses, their opponents are ipso facto “racists.”

So don’t expect a revival of the [evil] melting pot, as that was a bourgeois, culture-crushing imposition on its victims. No, we will devolve into a society of grouplets, each with its own “group facts.”

This social theory we owe to German Romanticism, that was then revived in the 20th century, particularly by the “ethno-pluralists” of the New Deal in the 1930s and 1940s, trying to explain Nazism. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/, and http://clarespark.com/2010/04/12/multiculturalismethnopluralism-in-the-mid-20th-century/. Hayek was up against this tradition in all his books: see http://clarespark.com/2010/10/09/david-riesman-v-friedrich-hayek/.

Ukrainian souvenirs

Ukrainian souvenirs

Is there anything, then, to this notion of “national character”? It comes down to this: either we have a collectivist discourse or we look at individual differences and deviations from imputed group character. There are numerous scholars who believe that “traditions” create national character. For instance, all native born Brits are stoic, all Frenchmen and other Latins are sensualists, while for many Marxist-Leninists, the working class has its own group character, which is pure and hell bent for revolution under the benign guidance of bureaucratic centralists and dialectical materialism.

In my view, we pursue such easy classification at our peril.

John Bull

John Bull

July 18, 2014

Sartre, existentialism, and red antisemitism

The Void Game ad

The Void Game ad

I have been reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s much lauded first novel Nausea (1938), followed by his canonical Anti-Semite and Jew (written ca. 1944).

It is difficult to imagine the younger Sartre as a future revolutionary socialist (though he presents himself, dubiously, as an anti-Stalinist) reading the novel, as compared to the wartime essay that nearly everyone quotes to the effect that society creates the Jew it needs for ideological purposes, i.e., actual Jewish behavior is irrelevant.

This blog continues the theme that I have developed on this website: it is increasingly difficult to separate social democrats from revolutionary socialists.
The early progressives made no secret of their counter-revolutionary goals, as I laid out here: http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. These conservative reformers, no less than New Dealers, were frank about their politics: proletarian internationalism was their monster, and in its place they offered a paternalistic, elite-led welfare state that would contain any hanky-panky from below.

But the Soviet Union did a sharp about face with the rise of the various (irrationalist) fascisms in Italy, Spain, and especially Germany. At first appalled by the slaughter of revolutionaries in China (see Harold Isaacs’s famous book) that prompted a sectarian assault upon “Social Fascists” after 1928, the Soviets suddenly made common cause with the bourgeoisie through Popular Front politics in 1935—as long as there were bourgeois anti-fascists, as seemed to be the case during the Depression years, and especially after prominent intellectuals took up the Loyalist cause in Spain.

Someone should have told Sartre that, for in his novel, playing the Nietzschean, perhaps, he added to the voices of the resolutely anti-bourgeois, anti-modern voices of trendy European philosophers—Husserl and Heidegger to mention a few of the nihilists confronting the death of God. For “Roquentin” there was only the Void and the denial of progress, most importantly in the possibility of overcoming evil—the very staples of the Judeo-Christian world view.

Roquentin, a writer, seems paranoid to me, certainly disoriented, and hostile to his own body. Here is a striking passage from the novel:
“The thing which was waiting was on the alert, it has pounced on me, it flows through me, I am filled with it. It’s nothing: I am the Thing. Existence, liberated, detached, floods over me. I exist.” (p.98, New Directions paperback, my emph.) What struck me reading this passage was his quick association between liberation and detachment. I could not help thinking of the lyrics of the old song “After You’ve Gone” (1928) which are quoted several times in the novel. It was made famous by [Jewish] Sophie Tucker (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAuCSSLC-bk), and other major pop singers, but in the novel, Sartre is moved by its imagined Jewish composer and its “Negress” songstress. (Turner Layton was not Jewish, but a black songwriter, as was his lyricist Henry Creamer (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turner_Layton.)

Layton-Creamer Goodbye Alexander

Layton-Creamer Goodbye Alexander

Sartre was born into a Catholic family, and early on in the novel, I took him for a lapsed Catholic—his world was that bleak and dessicated, while his body or Nature was that repulsive, as horrifying, perhaps as the mother figure/vagina that was the real Thing. What if he became a communist because that creed and its mystical dialectical materialism reattached him to an abstract cause that did not frighten him?

Turn now to his influential essay written during the war years in France. Usually taken to be a philosemitic tract, condemning Europe for its pervasive antisemitism, I was startled to see how he ended it with a standard communist trope: the working class understands its situation in the material world and is free of antisemitism, while it is the (muddled?) bourgeoisie that uses “the Jew” as scapegoat, to deflect petit-bourgeois (lower middle class in today’s argot) discontent away from their masked masters. Jews escape their “inauthenticity,” he claims, by reading Hegel’s “Master and Slave,” and finding authenticity in revolt against the ever antisemitic bourgeois oppressor. Through communism, antisemitism will disappear.

In rereading Sartre’s essay I was struck by his attack on mob society (shades of Hannah Arendt), and the anomie [inflicted by cities and industrialization?]. An entire flood of academics, young and old, follow the nearly identical philosophy of Emile Durkheim/the Frankfurt School/critical theory/the New Left/counter-culture mystics seeking both attachment and detachment.

One wonders how many of them are similarly on the lam from Mom and her illicit sticky power in the modern world.


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