YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 29, 2014

2014 in review

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:49 pm

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 88,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 27, 2014

George Orwell pitied Hitler but hated the money power

Orwell passport photo, undated

Orwell passport photo, undated

I have already posted blogs on George Orwell (http://clarespark.com/2012/11/17/index-to-orwell-blogs/), but had not yet read his essays from the early 1940s. I now have a clearer and bleaker idea of his politics, which are more clearly expressed in such essays as The Lion and the Unicorn, which dismayed me as the meandering thoughts of an anti-modern populist than that of the democratic socialist portrayed by recent leftist intellectuals.

First, there is his pity for Hitler, published in his review of Mein Kampf in New English Weekly, 21 March, 1940. [Orwell:] “I should like to put it on record that I have never been able to dislike Hitler. Ever since he came to power—till then, like nearly everyone, I had been deceived into thinking that he did not really matter—I have reflected that I would certainly kill him if I could get within reach of him, but that I could feel no personal animosity. The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him. One feels it again when one sees his photographs—and I recommend especially the photograph at the beginning of Hurst and Blackett’s edition, which shows Hitler in his early Brownshirt days. It is a pathetic, dog-like face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a rather more manly way it reproduces the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that that is how Hitler sees himself. The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is there. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds.

“…Also he has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life…. However they may be as theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their people….” [End, Orwell excerpt]

Second, there is the strongly embedded populist antisemitism in his declaration of his own English brand of Socialism in The Lion and the Unicorn, published in December 1940. For he not only wants a distinctively English Socialism (think of IngSoc in 1984), he is adamant about the outrageous role of usury, the domination of the money power, and the resultant income inequality derived from the English class system. He means to expropriate the English aristocracy and their unearned wealth, all along believing that his statist plan is part of the English tradition that spreads itself uniquely into past, present, and future. I.e., he believes in English national character, defined as vaguely Christian, but not observant.

And his view of Jews is often characteristically European. Nowhere, though he believes himself to be an anti-antisemite, he fails to understand that Jews represent modernity and its endless intellectual combativeness. Indeed, he professes great admiration for the admittedly reactionary poets whose anti-Semitism is too little noticed by literary historians: Eliot, Pound, Lawrence, Yeats, even Kipling (on the latter see http://www.heretical.com/miscella/kipling2.html).

Finally, there is the homoerotic and misogynistic poem of his own that he quotes in Looking Back on the Spanish War, published in 1943. I quote only the first two verses of a longer poem written to an Italian militiaman “two years after the war was visibly lost.”

[Orwell:] “The Italian soldier shook my hand/ Beside the guard-room table;/ The strong hand and the subtle hand/ Whose palms are only able/ To meet within the sound of guns,/ But oh! What peace I knew then/ In gazing on his battered face/Purer than any woman’s!….”

What may we infer about these excerpts? Putting them together, we must ask, given Orwell’s ambivalence about Trotsky, what should we make of “Emmanuel Goldstein”? “Emmanuel” is a synonym for Christ, while the populist animus to gold is all too apparent. In combining these names, is Orwell rejecting Jesus as Jew? Is Eric Blair (Orwell’s birth name), perhaps, the crucified Christ he projected into Hitler?


And yet conservatives frequently cite Orwell in their general critique of “totalitarianism”—a term that I have criticized as outdated and historically incorrect, as the various fascisms and communism have nothing in common but their use of terror as a method of disciplining the masses. Still it should be kept in mind that some of the essays I read (1940-43) were written during the shocking Nazi-Soviet Pact; moreover Orwell predicted that if Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the Russians would not resist. So his initial views on “totalitarianism” are not so surprising. (See http://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics/.)

I continue to find George Orwell as problematic as in my earlier blogs, and am disgusted with the British Left’s failure to cite these obvious motes in the great man’s eye. Might it be his own sadism that is most salient in the Orwell biography?

Eric Blair with Mother, 1903

Eric Blair with Mother, 1903

December 24, 2014

“blood on their hands”?

Anti-Iraq war image depicting Tony Blair

Anti-Iraq war image depicting Tony Blair

What is incitement or “fighting words” and who does it? Some statutes state that it is illegal to incite others to commit crimes. Voices from both sides of the increasingly polarized political spectrum are accusing personalities or groups of having “blood on their hands”—yet the punditry continues to classify “peaceful protest” promoting hate as an exercise of free speech. I was stunned to discover that there are actual laws in the UK, Canada, and the US warning that such acts as spouting “fighting words” are tantamount to encouraging crime (though less so in the US). (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incitement (on British law), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_words, comparing Canada and the US, with case law examples.)

Tell that to Hollywood writers, journalists, or to academics of any political stripe. It is not widely known that wealthy liberals, through their foundations, had resorted to better communication as the favored strategy in solving “the Negro problem” as it was called in Gunnar Myrdal’s famous book, An American Dilemma (1944), a study said to be a landmark in “race relations.” One of Myrdal’s less publicized warnings to readers was a direct threat to hidebound Southern conservatives. Myrdal was neither a revolutionary socialist nor, pace one biographer, an optimistic moralist appealing to Christian consciences. Rather, in one rarely quoted passage, the Swedish social democrat and economist was explicitly cautioning “Southern conservative(s)” who had better heed the lessons of history and to

“…begin allowing the higher strata of the Negro population to participate in the political process as soon as possible, and to push the movement down to the lowest groups gradually…also to speed up the civic education of these masses who are bound to have votes in the future.…political conservatives, who have been successful for any length of time, have always foreseen impending changes and have put through the needed reforms themselves in time. By following this tactic they have been able to guard fundamental conservative interests even in the framing of the reforms. They have thereby also succeeded in slowing them up; changes have not overwhelmed them as avalanches. They have kept the control and preserved a basis for the retention of their political power. Southern conservatives should further learn from history that, over a period of time, the conservative forces in society cannot afford to abstain from the tremendous strategic advantage of forming the party of “law and order.” This is such an immense interest for conservatism that if–for constitutional and other reasons–the law does not come to the conservatives even when they are in power, the conservatives had better come to the law.

“But the great majority of Southern conservative white people do not see the handwriting on the wall. They do not study the impending changes; they live again in the pathetic illusion that the matter is settled. They do not care to have any constructive policies to meet the trends. They think no new adjustments are called for. The chances that the future development will be planned and led intelligently–and that, consequently, it will take the form of cautious, foresighted reforms instead of unexpected, tumultuous, haphazard breaks, with mounting discords and anxieties in its wake–are indeed small. But we want to keep this last question open. Man is a free agent, and there are no inevitabilities. All will depend upon the thinking done and the action taken in the region during the next decade or so. History can be made. It is not necessary to receive it as mere destiny.” [End, Myrdal quote, his emphasis]

Myrdal, like his patrons, the Carnegie Corporation, wanted to forestall incitement by red agitators who, preying upon real grievances, would incite race riots and other forms of disruptive protest.

But these words were written in the early 1940s (probably by Myrdal, not Bunche, his chief assistant, then a radical), and we face a more subtle brand of incitement today. Its form is the cynical belief, shared by academics, movie and television writers, hip journalists, and perhaps many politicians (all catering to minorities and women, certainly not the white working class), that not only is everybody corrupt, motivated solely by the will to power, but that the American future is hopeless, for we are led by criminals masquerading as businessmen and the politicians who protect them. It is they, these bold [populist] speakers of truth to power, who give each other cushy professorships and other trophies indicating excellence in the arts, while inciting hatred of the American past and present, with no analysis of effective or ineffective social policies.

As published in Rolling Stone

As published in Rolling Stone

Recall the worshipful popularity of The Sopranos, or that James Spader (“Red Reddington”) in the popular series The Blacklist, informs the female FBI agent he is protecting that the world is run by criminals. I have just seen American Hustle which ends with the lines “The art of survival is a story that never ends.” I assume that the writers view themselves as surviving in a specifically American business environment that rewards con artists like themselves. The same could be said of the hit Netflix drama House of Cards that weaves an intricate tale of secret deals between power-seekers who have zero interest in social policy, except for the obligatory nod to feminism through a failed effort to get anti-sexual assault in the military through Congress. In the fashionable bleak mood even Democrats are phonies. Holden Caulfield has won hearts and minds.

While stopping for a moment to eat lunch, I heard Neil Cavuto on Fox lamenting the cynicism of the young, who have lost faith and trust in [earthly] “leaders.” I am suggesting something different: that cynicism is a form of incitement. Rightists correctly blame POTUS, Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, and Bill de Blasio of playing the race card while (at times) calling for national unity. But there is nothing peaceful in the protests of black supremacists and their self-righteous, indoctrinated young white allies, masked as crusaders for social justice.


More than “faith” or “trust” in “leaders” we need to teach the young to distinguish between cynicism and healthy skepticism. Cynicism may produce well-made, clever and lucrative “art” and entertainment, but it is rational skepticism that leads to healthy, rational citizen participation in democratic processes.

December 21, 2014

Origins of free speech and the Cuba question

War Production Board, 1942-43, NARA

War Production Board, 1942-43, NARA

There is an impression, widely disseminated by supporters of the Obama administration, that renewing “diplomatic relations” and/or freer trade with Cuba (i.e., the lifting of the embargo) will lead to an improvement in the human rights situation there. This blog explores the origins of free speech, and it had nothing to do with free trade or capitalism, though one leftist newspaper thinks it does, perhaps because Marx supported free trade in the hopes of accelerating the socialist revolution: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/jul/01/in-praise-of-william-cobbett, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Cobbett.

Here are some other societies thought to be outposts of cultural freedom: ancient Greece (although Plato wanted to banish poets from the Republic, and Aristotle wrote that some men were born to be slaves); England, both in the Magna Carta and in the time of the English Civil War (Milton’s Areopagitica and/or Paradise Lost its most famous examples); the seventeenth century scientific revolution, mostly British, but also the short-lived Dutch Republic, with Spinoza leading the way; and most famously the American Revolution with its Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, soon to be followed by the French Revolution and its Declaration of Human Rights; and finally the invention of social media and the no-holds-barred free-wheeling internet. But free speech was a privilege of elites and did not extend to ordinary persons, who were either slaves, serfs, landless, or under-educated and irrational. (New England Puritans were ever in the vanguard of free public education.)

I prefer to periodize the onset of free speech with the invention of the printing press, enabling the progress of mass literacy over many centuries. In prior blogs, I have suggested that although we technically enjoy freedom of expression, various elites have placed road blocks to the “liberty” we imagine that we possess. Moreover, I have more than hinted that the chief target of anti-Semitism is intellectual combativeness, a habit of mind that led one Melville scholar (Princeton’s Lawrance Thompson) to entitle his study of Herman Melville, “Melville’s Quarrel With God”(1952). In other words, HM was all too Hebraic, luring readers to perdition. Such consistent double-talking, self-erasing texts, and unequivocal assaults on authority, even his own (Ahab! See http://clarespark.com/2013/01/08/is-ahab-ahab-the-free-will-debate/). “Such a Jew” could not be tolerated in “free Ameriky” as one character mocked in The Confidence-Man and again in his post-Civil War poem Clarel.


I will end this blog with a quote from George Orwell, who has been taken up by conservatives as a fierce critic of “totalitarianism,” ignoring his strong attachment to working class men, to materialism, and to the Left:

[Orwell, Looking Back on the Spanish War, 1942:] “I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously coloured what they wrote, of they struggled after the truth, knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that “the facts” existed and were more or less discoverable. …Nazi theory…specifically denies that such a thing as “the truth” exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as “science.” There is only “German science”, “Jewish science” etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future, but the past….”


We are living in this nightmare world today, and until we all rouse ourselves to address the “postmodern” “multicultural” education that is hegemonic and that supports only “group facts” indecipherable to other “races” or “genders” we will continue to wither, or at best, to sell out inside Nineteen Eighty-Four.

For a related blog see http://clarespark.com/2014/10/08/index-to-blogs-on-totalitarianism/. “Totalitarianism” is a term that Orwell used frequently, but is now out of date.

December 18, 2014

“Rape culture”

rape-culture-imageThis blog is about “rape culture” (supposedly an invention of such “man-haters” as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon in the 1970s, and carried on, controversially, by such as misogynistic, yet Romantic and quixotic, Aaron Sorkin: see http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/14/newsroom_finale_did_aaron_sorkin_forget_how_to_write_a_tv_show.html), http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-newsroom-crazy-making-campus-rape-episode, “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/.)


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/.)



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). For my rundown of Paxton’s most recent book, see http://clarespark.com/2014/11/13/the-anatomy-of-fascism-robert-paxtons-analysis/.

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.


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 or “the people, untrained to rule”) 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/.)


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.)


If historian Michael Burleigh 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.


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.”)


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”?

[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 in 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.”


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/.


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

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.


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.


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