YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 18, 2014

Rape culture

rape-culture-imageThis blog is about “rape culture” (an invention of such “man-haters” as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon in the 1970s), “The Affair” (a Showtime series), and postmodern treatments of the battle of the sexes.

The second wave of feminism did not turn out well, although some of the chapters in The Shock of the Global (Belknap Press of Harvard U., 2010), state or hint that feminism was the most lasting of the 1970’s “human rights movements” that displaced the “Cold War consensus,” going so far in its chapter on Rock Music to claim that groupies were sexually liberated, like androgynous rock stars, making a lasting contribution to the war against the puritanical 1950s. That a woman wrote this chapter, inverting freedom and slavery, should not surprise us. The second wave of feminism was sex-obsessed and most of the activist women I have known would hate this blog.

I have written earlier about the unwinnable and inevitable “battle of the sexes” for all research and personal observation show that men and women are put together differently, and no amount of activism, cross-dressing, or preaching will change these biological differences. (I wrote about androgyny here: http://clarespark.com/2014/01/23/androgyny/.)

DavidBowie

Thus when postmodern feminists of either sex try to contrast male and female perspectives on events in a marriage or an affair, they get it only partly right, as for instance, the contrasting views of recent events in Noah vs. Alison in “The Affair.” (For instance, Noah initially sees Alison as a femme fatale, a perception reiterated in the Fiona Apple death-obsessed song “Container” that heads each episode; whereas Alison sees Noah as the more aggressive of the pair.)

What is missing is any depth of insight into the difficulties in maintaining the romance in any relationship. Also MIA is the attraction that all mature adults feel for the unspoiled beauty of young children, who we imagine to be “innocent” of the animal urges that torment us in attempting to maintain a monogamous relationship, especially a relationship with children who may arouse contrasting and incompatible feelings in fathers versus mothers. (See http://clarespark.com/2009/06/16/woody-allen-and-the-myth-of-the-artist/.)

Most public speech is heavily censored, much of it by ourselves, as we fight to maintain our idealizations of those we love or admire. So we count on poetry and fiction to illuminate the “dark” side of our impulses, but authors, no matter how talented, well-intentioned, and “conscious” may have the same limitations as readers. For we are all populated internally by “ignorant armies that clash by night.” As I have maintained often on this website, we are to an unknowable extent prisoners of our contexts.

This blog has been abstract and vague for reasons of privacy, or perhaps not. For as Herman Melville famously observed in his “crazy” novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), “It is impossible to talk or to write without apparently throwing oneself helplessly open.” (Note the qualifying word “apparently”; this is how Melville hooks the reader, laying traps wherever he wanders. On the ideological misreadings of Melville’s oeuvre see http://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

“NO TRUST.”

notrust

December 10, 2014

Were Nazis “Socialists”?

stalin-mao-hitler-murderers-secret-combinationWith so many readers expecting short blogs readable on smartphones these days, it is not surprising that a limited number of my numerous Facebook friends have the patience to read deep-diving explanations of why they have swallowed the rumor that Hitler and the Nazis or others called “fascists” were indistinguishable from Communists and other advocates of “progress.” Still, I promised to deliver something that serious conservative readers would find digestible.

First, it is well known that communist historians in America have often blamed “Republicans” for Nazism. Pick up even the anti-Stalinist New Leader, ca. 1941 for just one example of among many. It is understandable that many conservatives, waylaid by the term “National Socialism” would return the favor by pouncing on the word “Socialism,” without deciphering its meaning to Germans.

Even before Hitler was appointed Chancellor by German President Paul von Hindenburg (to destroy the threatening German Communist Party and the Soviet Union, but with von Papen as Vice-Chancellor to hold Hitler in check), citizens of the Reich understood the concept of socialism to entail sacrifice of the individual for the benefit of the state. I already pointed this out: http://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/. The exact quote in this series German Psychological Warfare: Survey and Bibliography edited by Ladislas Farago (1941) on behalf of the American “moderate” progressives is here Note the date, 1920:

“43. Spengler, O. Preussentum und Sozialismus. Muenchen: Beck, 1920.
PRUSSIANISM AND SOCIALISM. Spengler, a philosopher turned political prophet, ‘discovered’ during the war years the close identity of Prussianism to Socialism. Prussianism and “genuine Socialism”—not of Marx, but of Friedrich Wilhelm I, which was authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-revolutionary—are consolidated in the old Prussian spirit and are equal to each other because both mean power. This thesis was taken up by the Nazis in what was called ‘Socialism of action.’ Socialism meaning comradeship, service, and duty, not class struggle.” [And what “moderate” anticommunist would not find this appealing? CS]

Second, many rightists swear by Jonah Goldberg’s best-seller Liberal Fascism. I read the book twice and blogged about its slant and deficiencies here: http://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/. No historian or serious intellectual takes this book seriously. It does feed into the misconception fostered by ardent anticommunists that it is proper and appropriate to paint the Hitler moustache upon any progressive, particularly those that were interested in social hygiene and public health, as Hitler really was, though in the context of Aryan superiority and “the People’s Community.”. I suspect that there is a strong misogynistic element motivating Goldberg and his followers, especially with their insistence that the welfare state is better described as the “nanny state.” Or perhaps there is less misogyny here than bitterness over the departure of the patriarchal father in the home, disciplining children and allocating family resources: a process that has been going on since the rise of industrialism and the rise of “the moral mother.” (See http://clarespark.com/2012/02/25/moral-atheists/, and http://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/.

Third, although virtually all historians agree that the populist/anti-bourgeois S.A., one obstreperous faction of the new Nazi party, was finished by June 30, 1934 (the Night of the Long Knives), one recent scholar agrees that a minimal socialist element persisted throughout the Nazi regime (see Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism for this judgment, that I have not seen duplicated elsewhere in the English language, though in his earlier book The Racial State, co-written with Wolfgang Wipperman, he makes no such claim).

Finally, rightist culture warriors have spread the inflammatory myth that the refugee scholars of Jewish descent (the Frankfurters fleeing Nazism, who unsuccessfully attempted to fuse Marx and Freud) have turned the heads of the American electorate, propagating the notion of political correctness. I find this particularly infuriating and even likely to be antisemitic. See one of many blogs on this subject: http://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/. Rather, it was the early Progressive movement, all Christians by the way, who invented identity politics; i.e. “ethnic” or hyphenated American identity would suffocate “proletarian internationalism.” Later, to mollify and co-opt the social movements of the 1960s, similar elitist statists deployed the crypto-racism of “multiculturalism” and “cultural relativism” to quiet the new “extremists” (some of whom did sympathize with the Old Left, especially Leninist anti-imperialism).

I can understand that many conservatives remain hung up on anticommunism and continue to defend Joe McCarthy, for major scholars have examined the briefly opened Soviet archives after 1989, and found that many of McCarthy’s claims were based in fact. But these same scholars have also documented the fall of the KGB and the sharply dwindling communist movement in America. I refer to Mark Kramer, Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Ron Radosh, to name a few. None would deny that Hitler’s task, as patronized by German conservatives, was to destroy the independent working class movement and its inspiration, the Soviet Union.
To imagine that Hitler was “really” a communist/Socialist, is to weaken the argument against the increasing statism demonstrated by the Obama administration. As Paxton and others convincingly demonstrate, Leader, Party, State, and sub-agencies (such as the SS) were in constant conflict during the Third Reich. Earlier scholars failed to see that the State was up for grabs during the Third Reich, partly because of sequestered documents.

obama-hitler

Ironically, where conservative have ammunition linking “socially responsible capitalists” to Nazism, they fail to use it. For instance, to my knowledge, only I have uncovered ignore the important role that New Deal-affiliated social psychologists played in mind-management during the late 1930s and early 1940s: if you want to dig up scandals, this one is a dilly, for such luminaries as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, and Walter Langer consciously adopted Hitlerian methods of controlling the little people (the mob) they held responsible for Nazism. (See http://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, and http://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/. Henry A. Murray argued that Jewish blood would explain Hitler’s success in fooling other world leaders.

December 4, 2014

“Race relations” as managed by the Left

whitepolice[This is the first of two blogs on the subject of race relations after Ferguson. See http://clarespark.com/2014/11/25/reflections-on-the-ferguson-aftermath/.%5D

Is there a thread linking the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner cases?

This blog is about the horrific consequences of abandoning the widely differing details of each of these deaths, in favor of collapsing unique events into the discourse of “race relations.”  This, along with securitizing mortgages, was a practice initiated by the white liberal establishment in response to thuggish “cultural nationalists” who mounted urban race riots in the mid to late 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of legal integration was annexed to the Pan Africanism of “black power” with the blessing of cultural anthropology and the Democratic Party. This recent history, documented in widely available books, has either been ignored or forgotten or buried. For my blogs on this transformation see http://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/ and  especially http://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ .

The most elite universities and foundations came up with the idea co-opting the mob’s “leaders.”  Along with this mystification that erased individual differences for the sake of the organic community/multiculturalism/social stability/group cohesion, came the ratification of a certain kind of reactionary nationalism.

Recall that for decades, Nazis and “fascists” were believed to be produced by excessive “nationalism.” Only a few voices bothered to make distinctions between contrasting forms of “nationalism.” The anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, was one of these. Oddly the late historian Eric Hobsbawm was another, but he was arguing from the communist Left, whereas Sumner thought of himself as a moderate conservative.

First, Charles Sumner: For the lawyer Sumner, an admirer of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution (that he viewed as having the force of law, affirming human equality and negating slavery), the state had limited functions: national security and the protection of individual human rights (that meant equality before the law, rich and poor alike). He was also a modernizer who believed that all Americans deserved an excellent free education. See http://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/. For Sumner’s view of railroads as modern improvements see http://clarespark.com/2013/11/30/railroading-captain-ahab/, and http://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.  I see Sumner as a proponent of limited government. Were he alive today, he might be a libertarian with a bias in favor of meritocracy; he would surely be enraged by the inferior educations tolerated in ghetto schools. Sumner was a man of the Enlightenment, as was his intellectual descendant Walter Lippmann (see http://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.)

radicalrepublicans

Second, Eric Hobsbawm, who made crucial distinctions between liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism in a widely read Nation article: Liberal nationalism, unlike its conservative form, was about reducing privilege, step by step. Conservative nationalism was solely about the control of territory and resources, in competition with other states.

The cultural nationalism favored by today’s liberal elites who  push “multiculturalism” based on racial identity or similar forms of artificial “community” (like affinity groups), would have to be rejected by that forgotten man, Sumner.  Hobsbawm would probably go along with the ethnicity/race craze that has substituted for class analysis since the days of the Popular Front, even though 1930s Marxist-Leninists were strongly anti-racist before they got their marching orders from Stalin to bond with their prior class enemies, the “anti-fascist [imperialist, racist] bourgeoisie.”

Then the New Left came along, allegedly the friends of the downtrodden. Those who had benefited from prestigious educations went on to fight for the commanding heights of academe and journalism, which they now occupy, having been tolerated by weak-kneed liberals (conservatives having been banished from the respectable humanities owing to their “McCarthyism”). Their students have been indoctrinated into the belief that “African Americans” (a Pan-African term) are a cohesive whole, each one oppressed by “Whitey.” Some of these new model “anti-racists” even write popular television shows in which blacks not only enjoy interracial sex or marry with whites, but dominate them, sometimes behind the scenes (Scandal comes to mind: will Olivia Pope and her “gladiators”–other liberals masquerading as moderate Republicans– ever escape from her father’s net?).

Even some anchors on Fox News Channel accept the premises of identity politics: the police should “look like” the communities where they enforce the law, as if “white people” need to be reined in or “balanced” by members of minority groups. (Joe Hicks made two appearances on Fox, mocking such a premise, but he has disappeared from their channel as of this writing.)

unicorn

If Robert O. Paxton is correct, and the most salient feature of Nazism was the “racial state,” then I will have to drop my cautious use of the term “proto-fascist.” We are in for it, the real thing, shipmates.

cultural-nationalism

The law is now a dead letter, as dead as Charles Sumner’s vision of limited but just government.  (For an academic critique of nationalism that I found on the web see http://professornerdster.com/nationalism-why-wont-you-just-die-seriously/.)

December 2, 2014

Academics, artists, and the “Nazi question”

affinity-groupsSometimes I ask myself, why do I read so much about theories of “fascism” and/or Nazi Germany? This blog attempts to answer that question, with some asides on the socialization of academics. My overall concern is why we don’t have a proper education for democracy.

I. First, my apparent “obsession”: Being born in 1937, I was a small child during WW2, and I still remember my anxiety when my father went off to join the Army medical corps; then we followed him around the country as he spent most of his service as a pathologist at various army bases. I don’t remember a time when I did not fear for his life, though he didn’t get in trouble until he suffered life-threatening allergies in Guadalcanal—the one time he (briefly) left the States. I didn’t hear a word about “the Holocaust” until after the war, and then my parents were reluctant to give me any details. It wasn’t until television treated the subject in the early 1970s that I first understood the magnitude of the event. And it was not until 1986 when I heard David Wyman and Deborah Lipstadt lecture on the cover-up of the event. After that, I even asked my favorite professor when Americans first learned about it, and she answered: “1945”—clearly the wrong answer. Thus began my extended inquiry into the character of anti-Semitism and related distorted notions. Before that, I had constantly minimized the power of this so-called “prejudice,” which left me vulnerable to many leftist personalities, many of whom were supposedly “Jewish.” (For some of my unusual blogs on anti-Semitism, see http://clarespark.com/2010/11/14/the-abcs-of-antisemitism/, and http://clarespark.com/2010/11/16/good-jews-bad-jews-and-wandering-jews/. Generally,  “bad” Jews are seen as “rootless cosmopolitans”: the anti-race or the enzymes that accelerate “change.”)

affinity2

Second, because I started studying censorship in the art world in 1969, I came across the interrogation of “myth and symbol” by various artists, both living and dead. This in turn, led me to the power of patronage and the fractured history of Christianity and paganism. Since much of contemporary art was reworked versions of modernism (starting in the nineteenth century), it was but a short step to the art and culture of the interwar period. Thus I was plunged into the controversies over Nazi versus Soviet art, sculpture, and architecture—controversies that had never been resolved. (I should add that the Museum of Modern Art did much to entrance me with the many variants of modernism, but like other museums, their labels were not informative: we were supposed to admire and not think too much about what conditioned the production of these materials.)

Arkady Plastov Threshing on the Collective

Arkady Plastov Threshing on the Collective

Third, as a result of my collaboration with composer and musicologist Joseph Byrd (in the 1970s), I got a grant to provide the cultural context for American sentimental song in the early to mid-nineteenth century. This led to Melville—an arch-critic of sentimentality—and then to graduate school in US history at UCLA, where I convinced (with some difficulty) my dissertation director Alex Saxton to allow me to study two different time periods (I was still obsessed with fascism): the family relationships and politics of Herman Melville (1809-1891) AND the period of the Melville Revival, mostly occurring in the interwar period, which facilitated the investigation of how far “fascist” beliefs had penetrated the US. I am told that had I been in an English department, I would never have been allowed to study a “major figure,” but Saxton had been a novelist in his youth, and though an unreconstructed Stalinist, he never entirely gave up his artistry to the Party—how else to explain his unusual permissiveness in my case?

BigWomanII. In recent weeks, I have returned to my interest in modern European history, filling in books that I had missed. Followers of my blogs will notice older references to George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, and the Frankfurt School, but then to recent readings of Robert O. Paxton, George L. Mosse, and Michael Burleigh.

Yesterday I completed a historiographical survey of all the literature on Nazi Germany by the late French historian Pierre Ayçoberry [The Nazi Question (Pantheon, 1979)], that denies the very existence of a generic “fascism,”  ending with the conclusion that whether Nazi German was unique or continuous with German history remains entirely unsettled. (In a few years, the much publicized and unresolved “historians’ debate” broke out in Germany; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historikerstreit.)

Fabius Maximus image

Fabius Maximus image

What have I learned from this immersion in academic and literary treatments of European and American history? Aside from my oft stated premise that we are all, to some unknowable extent, prisoners of our context (including the access to primary sources), it occurred to me that my reverence for the “better” academic historians was misplaced: that they had been asking the wrong questions of their laboriously collected evidence, for, as the sociologist Stephen Turner has observed, scholarship is subsidized [by specific institutions with an agenda].

The question I should have been asking, but have hinted at throughout the website is this: under what conditions is it possible to have a functioning democratic republic? Has one ever existed? Why talk about scholarship at all, when there is so much pressure from institutions to stay on the narrow path prescribed by family, other patrons, “affinity groups,” and the anxieties of readers? If I have been a maverick, is it not because I am not dependent on a salary, or by anyone’s approbation but my own [possibly flawed] sense of what is reasonable, given the materials at hand? Why didn’t Pierre Ayçoberry raise these issues? Could it be that his ideology and that of Pantheon books–that of an academic “right-wing social democrat” (a term that Ayçoberry loathed)–preclude such tough questions?

Above all, is the “civilized” West ready for an appropriate education for democracy?

R. B. Kitaj, Rise of Fascism, 1975-79

R. B. Kitaj, Rise of Fascism, 1975-79

November 27, 2014

What “black community”?

youth_violence470
[This is the second of two blogs on the uproar in Ferguson Missouri, Thanksgiving week, 2014. For the first in the series see http://clarespark.com/2014/11/25/reflections-on-the-ferguson-aftermath/.%5D

For decades, I have heard the term “black community” as if even one drop of “blood” determined consciousness and interest. Even before the [mythical] “black community” erupted in rage following the grand jury “failure” to indict policeman Darren Wilson for the “racist” killing of Michael Brown, politicians and pundits in the media imagine that “blacks” or “African Americans” form a cohesive body, a veritable “people’s community,” sharing the same mental and emotional characteristics. Some of them must know that this is fascist or proto-fascist talk, but use the term because they have heard it used frequently and don’t want to be picky or hyper-intellectual. Better to agree with demagogues, politicians, and other pundits who define institutional discourses, submerging individual or occupational differences in the group. The same opinion leaders, inspired by “the Left,” refer to “the [broken] system” that exists only their feverish imaginations.

In the real world, of course, there are better ways to sort out persons, apart from the lingo of blood and soil, according to economic interest and awareness. What have super-rich “black” celebrities (musicians, sports figures, actors), leaders of large corporations, hopeful entrepreneurs, other more established small business persons, hard-pressed working or stay-at-home black mothers, male or female industrial workers, domestic labor, clergy, teachers, and radio personalities, to do with the lumpen mobs burning, looting, or “protesting” in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities with large black populations? Each of these occupations has more in common with others in its socio-economic category than with “the underclass.”

Ironically, popular television shows, pressed by soi-disant “representatives” from “the black community” present heroic, successful black characters as role models, with the premise that positive images (including inter-racial sex: a rebuke to long-standing fears of “miscegenation”) will obliterate the racism that Democrats still impute to all Americans, as if slavery and Jim Crow laws still existed, or left lingering effects that infest the “body politic,” a.k.a. the fascist or proto-fascist notion of “the organic community.”

scandal

Since even “conservatives” on Fox News Channel use the term “black community” I can only conclude that the “one drop [of blood]” rule prevails and is hegemonic. I blame the white liberal establishment of the 1960s for supporting the crypto-racist, collectivist strategy of “multiculturalism” to improve “race relations.” Such pioneering civil rights figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Bunche would have been horrified to see their integrationist efforts distorted into the “Pan-Africanism” of “black power,” a development that I traced here: http://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/. Or try this one to eavesdrop on white liberals betraying the “liberalism” they supposedly advocated as they bargain with “black power” troublemakers, hoping to buy them off: http://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.

whathappened

I write this blog on Thanksgiving, 2014, during a week of civil unrest and destruction. I am thankful that I live in a Constitutional republic that permits this sort of vigorous dissent and call to ameliorative action.

November 25, 2014

Reflections on the Ferguson aftermath

mike-brown-protesters-ferguson
Having lived through the 1960s, later chronicling the rise of the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements on Pacifica radio, then going to graduate school in history at UCLA where I studied 19th and 20th century social movements and how they were taught by UCLA’s radical faculty, I have thoughts on the violent response to the Ferguson Missouri’s grand jury’s decision not to indict policeman Darren Wilson, which was met by lumpen mayhem and/or “protest” in the streets, not only in Missouri, but in larger cities with radicalized minority populations and sympathetic “liberal” white grownups of a certain age.

In response to the looting and burning, conservative pundit Andrea Tantaros suggested on the Fox show Outnumbered that families should sit down and talk to their (adolescent) kids, presumably to keep them on the straight and narrow. This is an understandable wish, but hopelessly naïve. Why?

As most parents know, puberty and adolescence are harrowing times, for youngsters, with or without the discipline of fathers, are rejecting parents for peer groups, and often indulge in ritual rebellions (as in their preference for the “romanticism,” drugs, fast cars, and the defiance of rock and roll). Add to this that the current population of American kids have been instructed by 1960s-70s veterans of social movements that were often New Left in orientation, hence undisciplined and attracted to anarchy and chaos, unlike the comparatively disciplined pre-war 1930s communist activists to whom they are often linked by populist conservatives.

Jimmystewartfather

Indeed, academics sometimes link the New Left spirit to that of the Jazz Age in the 1920s. There is the same primitivism and the same fantasy that pre-capitalist or “Third World” societies are closer to Nature, are uncorrupted by technology, and hence are instinctually liberated. It is imagined, incorrectly, that there are no rules about sex or aggression amongst, say, South Sea Islanders. (I have written about this misunderstanding ad nauseum. See for instance http://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “Rappers, primitivism, and ritual rebellion.” Or try this more recent blog on Robert Redford’s movie The Company You Keep, with its fantasy of a reconstructed happy family close to Nature: http://clarespark.com/2013/11/17/rehabilitating-the-weathermen/. Or, compare Marx to Lenin: http://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/,

I have left out one crucial cause of the looting, burning, and general protest, and it involves American communist politics in the 1960s. The Old Left should have known better, but having supported a Black Belt in the Southern US in the 1930s, later communists rejected the peaceful,  integrationist, pro-American strategy of Martin Luther King Jr. for what should be described as contemporary fascism or proto-fascism: the separatism and anti-“Euro-centricity” of the law-and-order West. It too found supporters in disaffected youth, herded together in ghettoes dominated by the Democratic machine.  (I chronicled this partly here: http://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/.) The Right has correctly pointed out the power of the Democratic machines in opposing school choice, but fails to understand child development, while overestimating the power of the “strong Father,” whose authoritarianism may incite revolt in the children.

It would be better for liberals, moderates and conservatives alike to pay attention to this recent history, which remains alive today. Historians of fascism as disparate as George L. Mosse and Robert O. Paxton similarly agree that European fascism was partially sparked by youth revolt, participants in the disillusion and brutality of the masses that were traumatized and ready to rumble after the horrors of the Great War–a cataclysm whose after effects still haunt us.

The action faction, sadly, is not dead.

redblackprotester

November 21, 2014

Love Stories: the curious case of CASABLANCA

casacastI just finished reading the script for Casablanca (1942), and realized that the real love story is between “Rick” (Bogart) and “Renault” (Claude Rains) who, at the last minute stroll off together to join the Free French. It is all about sacrifice, this movie, so perfect for both the military and the home front.

This blog is about the fascination that “love stories” have over politics, including what we think of war and other matters of social policy. I ask, what role do television and movies play in our willingness to fight for our Constitutional rights, or, alternatively, to escape into fantastic realms, whether these are apocalypses, various forms of utopian politics (on either Left or Right), sports, or trashy diversions such as soft porn television shows?

First, let’s delve into the politics of one of the most praised movies of all time, Casablanca, set in French Morocco, December of 1941. What I remembered from this movie was the love story, not the spin it put on French resistance since the shocking Fall of France in June 1940. I began to suspect its sub-text after I read historian Robert O. Paxton’s revisionist Vichy France (first published in 1972). Read Paxton’s various introductions to later editions of his books here, and you will get the gist of his argument, which decodes the movie under discussion, revealing it to be communist propaganda:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ciM0KTvWTV0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=Paxton%2BVichy%2B2001+edition+introduction&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sEhuVPapFoKgoQTSkoKQCg&ved=0CC8QuwUwAA#v=onepage&q=Paxton%2BVichy%2B2001%20edition%20introduction&f=false . Then read the script for the movie, which is also easily found online. Note that one of the chief writers was screenwriter Howard Koch (later blacklisted in the 1950s), who went on to write the script for the notoriously Stalinist Mission to Moscow (1943).

But first Paxton: he reveals that resistance to German occupation was not only weak, but that the majority of Frenchmen favored “neutrality” during the early 1940s, adjusting to the new world order which would be controlled by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain; long gone were the days of the Popular Front of 1936; much of French conduct during the Occupation and Vichy is explicable owing to anti-Communism. Moreover, most French feared the notion of a second front, for they were already subjected to bombing by England, their traditional enemies and imperial rivals. The depiction of “Renault” is improbable (he is a somewhat enigmatic policeman in the movie, who is suddenly willing to join with “Rick”—a café owner, who was previously an activist who went straight from opposing Mussolini’s attack on Ethiopia to defending the Spanish Republic). Yet, in the movie, Rick is tough, cynical, and apparently unaffiliated, seemingly oblivious to persecutions visited upon Europeans on the lam from Hitler seeking exit visas to Lisbon.

Cherchez la femme to explain Rick’s apparent hard-heartedness. In Paris, Rick had a brief but torrid affair with “Ilse” (a femme fatale and played by the Swedish Ingrid Bergman), who inexplicably left him. (We find out later that she was married to “Victor Laszlo”, the leader of the Czech resistance, played by the nobly represented Paul Henreid.) Later, Ilse, a bit “pneumatic” (as Aldous Huxley would have said) will yield to passion once again, but Rick, returned to his preference of politics over romance, will sacrifice his temporary happiness so that both Ilse and Victor can escape Nazi-infested Casablanca. Reverting to type, he will kill a Nazi (Strasser). (For the depoliticized plot see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casablanca_(film).)

Even more improbably than the budding alliance between Rick and Renault (who may be gay), the clientele of Rick’s café rise up and sing the Marseillaise, thus linking Victor, France and Rick’s customers to Jacobin France, a favorite Communist tic. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Marseillaise. In fact, as Paxton insists, leftist Frenchmen were comparatively weak after 1848; it is preposterous that the customers would, by singing, so openly defy the German military who have entered Rick’s café.)

Marseillaise

The romantic plot is not so devoid of complications either; strong Rick purifies weak Ilse of her impulse to stay with him in Casablanca by lying to Victor about their sexual encounter the night before; Ilse came to him solely to pick up the exit visas, he lies. “We’ll always have Paris,” the freedom fighter, restored to the correct posture, declares. And as part of the film’s subtext, the Free French have no communists, just adherents of the nationalist and superpatriot Charles de Gaulle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_nationalism).

I began this blog by complaining about the ubiquity of “romance” over politics, real history, and realism in the mass media. It is amazing to me that film critics are incapable of seeing through this escape mechanism. But perhaps not. Audiences would prefer to believe that [obsessive] love conquers all, even though mature persons of either sex understand that [adolescent] passion fades, to be replaced by friendship, responsible parenthood, or conversely, multiple affairs or divorce. As long as populist progressives control movies and television, Amor Vincit Omnia wins every time, along with self-sacrifice for the sake of “the People”–a different kind of love, but even more intense. Romantic love, by itself, is way too subversive.

Buyers beware.

Renault with Strasser

Renault with Strasser

For the source material, also probably written by [leftists?] Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, see Everybody Comes to Rick’s (also online, note that the heroine is an American named Joan Meredith, not a Scandinavian). It was sold to Warner Brothers for only $20,000.

November 16, 2014

Progressive uplift vs. “New Left” nihilism

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:16 pm

clarelspark:

Reblogging because immigration reform is on the table, and many conservatives do not appreciate the degree to which assimilation was nothing more than anticommunism. Today the correlation of forces is different. Communism is not a threat, but the condition of unemployed labor should concern us all.

Originally posted on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog:

Bill Ayers, Weatherman

Several writers on the Right have been selling books with the premise that the Progressive movement in early 20th century America was protofascist, or fascist and racist. Their aim is to mobilize their constituencies to vote for organic conservatives like themselves in the hopes of halting “the nanny state.”  Similarly, they dwell on the President’s links to racist extremists in the period before he ran for office as a uniter, not a divider.

In this blog, I argue that it is an error to link in any way whatsoever the Progressive uplifters and more recent advocates of violence and anarchy. For uplift was an orderly process, an expression of the “moderate” strategies of the chief publicists of progressivism. It was also, at its core, defined against “revolutionary radicalism” as evidenced in the I.W.W. or anarchism in the labor movement. Here is a juicy example of their…

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November 13, 2014

The Anatomy of Fascism: Robert Paxton’s analysis

Layout 1Columbia University Professor Emeritus Robert Paxton has had a controversial career. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Paxton. Although the Wikipedia profile is accurate in its summation of Paxton’s thesis on generic fascism (Knopf, 2004), I will blog about it anyway, for it serves to correct misconceptions about Italian Fascism and Nazism that I have found in my reading, and in random comments on Facebook. The Wiki summary is a mostly adequate description of Paxton’s book, so I will not repeat its bullet points. But I will fill in the gaps left by the brief Wikipedia summary.

First, it is important to understand what a leap forward Paxton’s work has achieved compared to the initial response in newspapers and other media following the end of World War 2 and through the 1950s. For instance, Hitler was initially portrayed as a madman, often with bulging eyes, whose cult of the Leader led the German masses (especially the lower middle class) astray as they fell for his bizarre propaganda. By focusing on a political history that takes in economic stressors and the total institutional picture, including continuities with prior regimes, Paxton punctures the Fuehrer myth, but also challenges the primacy of propaganda in contradiction to the “Frankfurt School” critical theorists (including George L. Mosse, specifically mentioned by Paxton) who emphasized the overwhelming influence of the new mass media in creating the fascist hordes, and who are now blamed for spreading communist ideas in America at the expense of Christianity (see http://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/).

marxiantalmud

Second, many pundits on the conservative Right continue to deploy the term “totalitarianism” to describe the policies of their enemies on “the Left,” including liberal anticommunists like Paxton. While citing the importance of Hannah Arendt’s much admired first big book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Paxton takes care to distinguish between fascist movements/regimes and communist ones; i.e., he historicizes the term “totalitarian” and rejects it by demonstrating that fascists were 1. entirely anticommunist, though there was some working class participation in both Nazism and Italian Fascism; and 2. fascists never achieved the total control that they desired, being balked by already existent institutions such as families, churches, and voluntary organizations, not to speak of the conflicting personalities and agencies that fought with each other instead of obeying Hitler’s will. [He falters a bit when he mentions Arendt’s notorious mass media-created “mob society” (a variant of Durkheim’s “anomie”) to explain the radicalization of Nazism and Italian Fascism after their attempts at expansion (Italy in the Ethiopian adventure and Germany in its attack on the Soviet Union and its declaration of war against the US).]

Those rightists who are confident that fascists in Europe were leftist in orientation will be disappointed. Moreover he makes careful distinctions between fascist dictatorships, military dictatorships, and authoritarian dictatorships, both during the interwar period and after 1945.

Third, he is adamant about identifying the necessity of coalitions with already existent elites as opposed to the “seizure of power” myth disseminated by many other historians. Not all historians and political scientists are so careful to identify the German conservatives who appointed Hitler Chancellor, imagining that the upstart would do their dirty work by destroying communism in Germany and the Soviet Union. (Note that European conservatives bear little resemblance to American conservatives, including the Tea Party and libertarians: European conservatives were not averse to Big Government. See http://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/.)

In sum, Paxton lines up with other “functionalists” in history and political science, who have emphasized conflict between powerful persons and institutions that almost inadvertently radicalized their regimes (this applies not to Italy, but to Germany; Italy devolved into an authoritarian dictatorship in his typology, while Hitler’s underlings guessed at what Hitler really wanted, seizing upon his obsession with world Jewry as the agents of both finance capital and communism to perpetrate the Holocaust. For the views of the “intentionalists” see http://clarespark.com/2009/07/29/the-centrality-of-the-holocaust-to-nazi-war-aims/.)

In sum, Paxton’s is the voice of the liberal anticommunist establishment at its revisionist best. But the book also demonstrates the influence of what I have called the Conservative Enlightenment, in its effort to combat “essentialist” definitions of fascism, but still seeking a scientistic approach to defining “fascism.” There is no escape from the double bind, or is there?

Lipschitz, 1927 "Pierrot escaping"

Lipschitz, 1927 “Pierrot escaping”

November 7, 2014

‘Cultural Marxism’ blogs and immigration reform

racialsuicide

[Update 11-11-14: The illustration that heads this blog is horrid racist propaganda, which I do not endorse. I posted it because it embodies the fear of miscegenation that dominates all ideologies that fear racial mixing.]

This is only a partial index on the subject that has dominated this website. I have been disturbed by those Facebook postings that blame a group of refugee [assimilated, “Marxist-Freudian”] Jews fleeing Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s (sometimes known as the critical theorists) for what is perceived as “identity politics” (“multiculturalism”) and/or “political correctness”. These men (plus Hannah Arendt) include T. W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and Leo Lowenthal: each of these prolific social critics found sponsorship in already existing social psychology and cultural anthropology as emboldened by FDR’s New Deal.

By focusing on these “critical theorists,” the older revolutions in the West, that of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, have been conveniently ignored by conservatives and liberal Republicans alike, yet the fights between and within Protestantism and Catholicism are among the most portentous events in world history, encompassing a policy that remains current and hotly contested: immigration reform that would presumably increase the number of Catholics likely to support the Democratic Party. [E.g, the nasty aspects of capitalism and “Social Darwinism” are generally attributed to [Hebraic, puritanical] Protestantism, while social democracy, “compassionate conservatism,”  and even some aspects of communist ideology echo much of Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891). This is not to ignore the liberal Protestants and secularists who supported the Social Gospel, and now the Democratic Party.]

Journalism, so-called “progressivism,” and even the writing of history could be drastically modified were Barack Obama’s plans to massively increase the Catholic population adopted.

totalitarianism_01

Here is my index that 1. Highlights the stakes for writing about social movements and “change” in ignoring the Reformation; and 2. Clears up the misidentification of the Frankfurters as the initiators of PC, identity politics, and the culture wars. The Frankfurt School focus was restricted to “fascism” and Nazism, which they generally blamed on mass media and demagogue-loving popular culture (with its elevation of “social imperialism,” consumerism, bad taste, the Leader principle and celebrities in general). I.e., the supposedly revolutionary working class had been bought off with vanities and luxuries of every type. Such as Erich Fromm located the source of Hitler’s appeal, not in the racial state and the elimination of ‘Jewish domination,’ but in “working class authoritarianism.”

In other words, the critical theorists were bohemian philosphers and, upon closer examination, organic conservatives beholden to German Idealism who disliked the impetus that the Enlightenment brought to the self-confidence of ordinary “puritanical” naifs who pretended to understand “things as they are.” With such a stance, the refugees from Hitler’s Germany were welcomed and promoted by the liberal “progressive” establishment in the most prestigious American schools.

http://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/

http://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/

http://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/

http://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/

http://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/

http://clarespark.com/2013/06/23/the-origins-of-political-correctness/

http://clarespark.com/2013/06/30/the-origins-of-political-correctness-2/

http://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/

http://clarespark.com/2014/06/04/did-bureaucratic-rationality-cause-the-holocaust/

http://clarespark.com/2014/09/20/taking-responsibility-for-ourselves-and-society/

"Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy"

“Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy”

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