YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 16, 2017

Populist “momentum”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:57 pm


Rereading Lawrence Goodwyn’s THE POPULIST MOMENT (1978), a must-read for graduate students in US history. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/us/lawrence-goodwyn-historian-of-populism-dies-at-85.html?_r=0.

I now may understand why the New Left veterans support what is obviously a petit bourgeois movement, devoid of working class identity, but nailing “finance capital.” There is a belief that “cultural” factors such as a loss of deference can lead to more searching critiques of society that could lead to transformational politics. This belief in momentum explains why Daniel Greenfield and other conservatives call social democrats “radicals.”

Goodwyn uses the phrase “cultural radicals” to characterize the Populists and Greenbackers. That aligns him the cultural anthropology that has taken over economic determinism that characterized the writing of massive progressive histories of American history and that was foreshadowed by the Wilsonian progressives Charles and Mary Beard during the Jazz Age (The Rise of American Civilization,1927). https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/.

Competition and individualism bad, cooperation and collectivism good.

Hence we can understand why New Left intellectuals would support “race” and “gender” black power or girl power collectivist movements, rejecting individual differences among the groups that the New Left academics support.

It is true that populism was the most radical movement in US history. But if my intuition is correct, the leftward momentum theory would explain the generational support for the Democratic Party that we can observe today.

We are all populists now, claiming the mantle of “the people.”


Transl. from Japanese on WatchingAmerica.com


September 17, 2017

Fascism and The Big Lie

 Conservative Dinesh D’Souza sums up his new book The Big Lie thus: The Left is Fascist, not the Right as the Left alleges.

What is wrong with D’Souza’s picture?

1. It is true that there is no agreement among scholars about whether or not there is such a thing as “generic fascism,” but historians have created a mountain of scholarship attacking the general notion of “fascism” as a generalized type. I have myself made the distinction between specific forms of “fascism” here, trying perhaps to get out of the muddle by making autodidacts empowered by the printing press the underlying target of authoritarian wrath. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/04/21/fascism-what-it-is-what-it-is-not/.) My opinion: D’Souza is throwing around dated concepts he doesn’t understand; 1930s Pop Front/New Deal liberals accused their conservative opponents of “fascism,” while some liberals returned the favor by smearing the New Left with the same moniker (and with respect to the New Left mystification of class relations, the liberals were accurate).

2. D’Souza has misappropriated the notion of the ‘Big Lie” as propagated by Hitler in Mein Kampf. Hitler was blaming the Allies (specifically Britain) for war propaganda and above all “the Jews” for being bad fathers to the German Volk. (See https://clarespark.com/2014/01/16/hitler-and-the-big-lie-corrected/.) In other words, a sharply divided Germany could be united without the analysis provided by (evil, materialist) Jewish Bolshevists (the Communists). In this, I agree with the Left that fascism was a counter-revolution. I would add that “fascism” is continuous with the Counter-Reformation and even (Protestant) organic conservatism (https://clarespark.com/2015/01/23/what-is-an-organic-conservative/.)

3. Scholars are at odds over the relationship of social democracy and Nazism. Some of my (conservative) FB friends have pointed out some structural similarities between “the planning state” and Hitler’s regime. I countered with the notion of Hitler’s “Fuehrer principle” that overrode inevitable divisions among Nazi bureaucrats. (With this point, I agree with some anticommunist social psychologists. See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/. The social psychologists were tools of the New Deal, however, and partook of their authoritarian irrationalism and snobbery regarding the masses who were not “trained to rule.”)

4. I still do not know how to answer the question I posed at Pacifica radio (KPFK-FM) in Los Angeles in the late 1980s-90s: “How Do We Know When We  Are Not Fascists?” The much vaunted notion of “free speech” is, in my view, a ploy by “antifascists” to legitimate the Democratic Party and the forces against “political correctness.” No one has solved the problem of authoritarianism, that can be either subtle or direct. I continue to puzzle over this baffling ambiguity.

That is the tortuous path that I, as a freethinker, tread. D’Souza would have done well to read https://clarespark.com/2014/12/10/were-nazis-socialists/.

September 5, 2017

“The rule of law”

2014 demonstration

This blog is about the  Left’s rejection of the Constitution, which is more complicated and simpler than meets the eye, especially on a day when Jeff Sessions has announced a suspension of DACA as unconstitutional. (For a liberal attack on such claims see https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2014/03/26/fox-news-attacks-obama-for-dream-act-he-didnt-e/198629.)

Marxist-Leninists view the U.S. Constitution (and all laws derived from it) as the repressive mutterings of an “executive committee of the [aristocratic and imperialist] bourgeoisie. New Leftists, social democrats and the Democratic Party that they more and more inhabit agree with this Marxist and progressive formulation that makes mockery of the notion that there is “one set of rules for the rich and for the poor alike.”

But it is less obvious that “the rule of law” is a subset of Jew-hatred and the resentment of outlandish Jewish/maternal power in the modern world, made apparent in the ever more trendy assault on mass media.

I have written extensively both on the origins of multiculturalism and of antisemitism on this website, but it became even clearer after reading yet another assault on the allegedly merciless devotion to the rule of rabbis and Judaism in late antiquity in a recent much-praised popular book by Tom Holland, In the Shadow of the Sword: the birth of Islam and the rise of the global Arab empire (2012). It should be obvious that this cultural history’s project is to blame the Jews (and their devotion to “law”) for all the monotheisms, including Islam! It is but a short skip to the current leftist notion that all Jews are terrorists, or as the Israeli television series Fauda says, “attack dogs”! (H/t Jennifer Loeb Chocron for pointing this out.)

(Was it a coincidence that a previous British ex-Christian James Thomson wrote The City of Dreadful Night, extending this Counter-Enlightenment tradition to include women, such as George Eliot? See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/; on Holland’s debt to Christianity see http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/religion/2016/09/tom-holland-why-i-was-wrong-about-christianity.)

Turn now to the teaching of American history as dominated by liberals and New Leftists: the Constitution is an “aristocratic” document, forged by pettifoggers/shysters/Shylocks. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shyster.)

Just look at the attention paid these days to Madison’s Federalist #10 by such popular oppositional writers as Howard Zinn.

Joshua Trachtenberg’s The Devil and the Jews (Yale UP, 1943) comes to mind, but did he mention the connection between “shyster” lawyers and their alleged demonic powers?

August 26, 2017

The Monument Business

Robert E. Lee monument, Charlottesville VA

This blog is about one aspect of the fight over American history: the question of modernist abstraction versus “naturalistic” representation. (I have put on my art historical hat/immersion in leftist cultural criticism.)

First read this: https://clarespark.com/2014/03/20/role-models-talcott-parsons-and-structural-functionalism/. (This suggests that statues may be “role models” for “the masses”).

In the spate of demands by “antifa” protesters, the numerous monuments/memorials to Confederate luminaries (and, of course, Columbus) must be taken down by social justice warriors, for they point to a shameful past that had best be forgotten and/or replaced by different monuments that commemorate the resistance to slavery and the glory days of the civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks House, Detroit, now in Berlin Germany

Presumably, such monuments (to black/brown power) will hasten the demise of “white supremacy” (a feature of Amerikkka), surely an apocalyptic fantasy with no grounding in the real world.


Modernism vs. conventional representation.

What are the “white supremacists” protesting? Might it be the growth of progressive nostrums to soothe the structural antagonism between “the money power” and the masses (populism), realized today in the fight between Big Government and ordinary people?

Or is the fight about labor competition exacerbated by labor unions and other policies that co-opt “dissent”—all embodied in “realistic” monuments (unlike modernist abstraction or dialectical notions showing the pull of opposing forces).

Bibliography: Victor Davis Hanson and David Horowitz have both written about this culture wars event: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450749/confederate-statues-removed-while-racist-progressive-statues-remain, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450689/erasing-history-censoring-confederate-past-rewriting-memory-mob-vengeance; https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/08/24/the_progressive_war_against_the_dead_134819.html.

Other National Review commentary: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/450706/what-do-confederate-statues-say; http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450551/confederate-statues-republicans-democrats-should-let-them-be.

And, by David Horowitz: http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/267676/racist-attacks-america-and-trump-david-horowitz. (I agree with DH on the connotations of “white supremacy” but he doesn’t go far enough. “Cultural Marxism” was not  primarily about the “racism” that DH deplores, but about balance/stability as delivered by “antifascist” social democrats in the “Popular Front.” (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/.)

Here are some neglected aspects of the “culture wars”: https://clarespark.com/2013/01/02/index-to-blogs-on-culture-wars/).

August 14, 2017

Skin in the game

Adam video game

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fights-in-advance-of-saturday-protest-in-charlottesville/2017/08/12/155fb636-7f13-11e7-83c7-5bd5460f0d7e_story.html?undefined=&utm_term=.ffba0ee1bc89&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1. Compare to  http://althouse.blogspot.com/2017/08/there-was-no-police-presence-we-were.html, a fine analysis by Harry Lewis regarding the role of the police in failing to separate the warring sides and more.

This blog is mainly about the missing terms in the media discussion of the Charlottesville riot: the fantasy of “unity,” present-mindedness, “fascism,” and discipline.

Moderation. The press has reverted during and after the weekend Charlottesville riot to its “moderate” position: condemning both (equally culpable) “extremists” as evil, while implying that its “moderation” is laudably (progressive). So the “moderate men” continue to hold the “center.” (See Yeats’s famous formulation.) Also, https://clarespark.com/2015/04/07/who-are-the-moderate-men/.)

This a deeply deceptive way of talking, for analysis suffers when we cannot identify class interests: what social groups inhabit the so-called “alt-Right”? Are they all “white” workers? Do the  protesters know the first thing about actually existing “fascism” (that was distinctive in say, Italy, Germany, France and Spain?)

Unity. And Fox News Channel (like the others) has been united in the hope that we can “come together” to defeat the dark forces on both sides. I have been wondering for some time if we are living in some variant of a “fascist dictatorship,” for (populist) Nazism stressed the Volk or the “people’s community,” in the effort to stamp out (divisive) communism, and the longing for an impossible unity reminds me of Hitler’s utopian deadly premise.

Any student of US history knows that sectionalism is paramount, and defies any attempt to reconcile the conflicting regions of our country. (https://clarespark.com/2014/03/13/what-is-cultural-relativism/.)

Discipline. Which brings me to the traditional Jewish imperative to subdue the negative part of “human nature.” This sets up a conflict with those ideologies that see the self as all good or all bad. So the press (including many assimilated Jewish journalists) calls for “love” all around, presumably encompassing faith, hope and charity.


Arthur Szyk, Lodz, Poland, ca 1939; pinterest.com

But the racism that is and was opposed by progressives/the New Left is not quickly or easily eliminated, for it is embedded in the existing major ideologies, each requiring separate analysis. For we must refrain from reading our current values into the past (present-mindedness), while still recognizing those pseudo-progressive institutions holding minorities back (e.g., teachers unions).

But such analysis is missing from our dumbed down culture where “ignorant armies clash by night.” (Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold)

August 6, 2017

The Free Speech Muddle

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

free-speech [Update, 8-31-17: I had the same trouble when I was program director of Pacifica radio station KPFK; no one wanted to look at our own ideology. ]

The MSM is all aflutter this week, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinted that journalists, as well as leakers, might be held responsible for publishing classified information. This blog is about the fantasy that the West (including the US) distinguishes itself from all forms of tyranny by its vaunted freedom of speech and expression as promised, say, by the US Constitution.

I say “fantasy” because, although freedom of [anything] is a lifelong achievement; a fulfillment that may or may not be achieved even in old age by the best of us.

The notion of journalistic freedom, for instance, depends on the assumption that American print media have never been partisan. (If you want to see polarization, just look at the 1790s as Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian agrarians slugged it out.)

Then there is the issue of government secrecy: anyone who has used the FOIA option, knows that the State can redact at will, so that crucial documents remain off limits to citizens (including academics and journalists).

We might add the barely admitted problem of self-censorship, some on grounds of politeness or intimidation, some from not daring to look inside ourselves too closely, some by ideology: the facts are always in dispute.

Let us now briefly turn to the subject of “fascism” a taunt that is bandied about these days, without much understanding by the anti-Trump protesters, old and young alike. The various fascisms that sprung up after the calamity of WW1 in the 1920s and 1930s, were distinct from one another. But they were all authoritarian and counter-Enlightenment. (Italy and Germany in particular were distinguished by the cult of the charismatic Leader and the one-party state). So “anti-fascists” like to attach themselves to “Free Speech” as proof that there is no authoritarianism in the West, particularly in the post-1960s USA, even as we pass laws affirming “diversity” and arbitrary notions of “community”—all in the name of human rights!

August 3, 2017

Getting my goat

Two “liberals” appearing to “balance” Tucker Carlson on Fox News have prompted this irate blog. One is Canadian born and trained Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, now a University Professor at (liberal) Northeastern University, the other is Minnesotan Ethan Bearman, a Bay Area up and coming talk show host.

Dr. Barrett avers that potential speakers must promote “debate,” but not indulge in “hate speech,” while Bearman stated that “historically disadvantaged groups should get preferential treatment.” (That means that if your ancestors were “oppressed,” quota systems are okay, even if they discriminate against “white people,” Jews, and Asians.)

Neither guests emphasized the search for truth, for they echo the allegations of postmodernists/liberals. Discarding the search for (empirical) truth, signifies the ever-more pervasive lack of standards, and opens the door to the less obvious forms of racism, and the acquiescence to pseudo-moderation and the collectivist discourses/groupiness imposed by Big Government.

Which brings me to the “populism” admired by Fox News Channel. It is no accident that the American populists (identified by FNC with the President), were antisemitic (in their rage against all banks), but the current avatars of populism pretend to speak for “the People” against “elites.” I understand that many populists today resent Big Government, but it pretends to be a meritocracy that establishes “standards” of truth/rationality, creditworthiness, and of correct grammar and style, but it is not.

Whereas progressives like Barrett and Bearman embrace the collectivist discourses of the Left, disallowing individualistic (?) merit. Thus Dr. Barrett ignores the (hyper-individualistic) search for truth that may silence her version of debate, while Bearman in his present-minded zeal to repair the policies of the past, promotes one type of reparations.

I thought that  David Horowitz tried to discredit the “reparations” tactic years ago, for which he has gotten much grief from the Left (and more indirectly by epigeneticists and “Ancestry”-type websites).

July 16, 2017

What does 21st Century “Americanism” mean to you?


We are currently polarized around the question of nationalism vs. globalization. With the football season only a few months away, the fate of the now unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick has now generated some discussion of “patriotism” that many associate with “nationalism.”

Indeed, in high school we were taught that “nationalism, militarism, and imperialism” caused the rise of fascism after World War One. No mention of the Progressive or “Middle Way” response to industrialization that Hitler lauded in the Table Talk. The point was not to take patriotism to “extremes” as did the dictators.

Doesn’t Hitler sound like a “moderate” progressive here, lauding elites, collectivizing “the people,” and lauding “balance”?

[Hitler, 1942]:] “The English have to settle certain social problems which are ripe to be settled. At present these problems can still be solved from above, in a reasonable manner. I tremble for them if they don’t do it now. For if it’s left to the people to take the initiative, the road is open to madness and destruction. Men like Mosley would have had no difficulty in solving the problem, by finding a compromise between Conservatism and Socialism, by opening the road to the masses but without depriving the élite of their rights. Class prejudices can’t be maintained in a socially advanced State like ours, in which the proletariat produces men of such superiority. Every reasonably conducted organization is bound to favour the development of beings of worth. It has been my wish that the educative organisations of the Party should enable the poorest child to lay claim to the highest functions, if he has enough talent. The Party must see to it, on the other hand, that society is not compartmentalized so that everyone can quickly assert his gifts. Otherwise discontent raises its head, and the Jew finds himself in just the right situation to exploit it. It’s essential that a balance should be struck, in such a way that dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives may be abolished as well as Jewish and Bolshevik anarchists….”(Jan. 27, 1942, p. 253).

I have been reading Felix Gilbert’s The End of the European Era, 1890 To The Present (Norton, 1970) and like other social democrats, he describes the Russian Revolution of 1905 as a “socialist revolution.” Of course it was not, as the tsar remained in power and only modest reforms were achieved. But the lead up to 1905 was worth reviewing, for autocratic Russia was beginning to be industrialized, which opened the way to liberal reformism, and ultimately to Revisionism (the Menshevik road to socialism).

But what did 1930s Stalinists mean by the claim that “Communism is “20th Century Americanism”? I had always assumed that Reds were pulling the wool over American eyes, but I now wonder if they meant that for traditional Americans (loyal to the Constitution) they expected that “Americanism” would be adapted to a modicum of free speech and “good” labor unions, i.e., progressivism and the Third Way.

What do you think?

Hatsune flag posted by a libertarian nationalist


July 4, 2017

Ambivalence on Independence Day

Monday evening July3, 2017, Charles Krauthammer held forth on American history and its transformation since the 1960s when New Leftists began their long march through the institutions, now dominating US history, emphasizing America’s “sins.” His remedy: conservatives should copy the New Left project by entering academe, but with a different emphasis (I doubt that he was serious in suggesting a higher conservative birth rate.)

Krauthammer didn’t specify how US history should be taught, and here is my recommendation for a more mature approach.

When I was in history graduate school at UCLA, we were taught that there was a mighty debate on “present-mindedness.” [“Present-mindedness” signifies reading our current values into the past, which the better historians resist. It is even scandalous that New Leftists were sent up the ladders by (guilty liberal?) senior faculty at the Ivy League schools.]

Ironically, it was the demonstrably racist Woodrow Wilson who might have most inspired the progressivism of Charles and Mary Ritter Beard to write a massive popular history in 2 volumes, The Rise of American Civilization, publ. 1927, coming off the First World War. The Beards were not ambivalent, condemning even the Constitution as an elite plot against the people.

Not so Herman Melville, who lauded the sublime, vanguard project of the new American nation. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.) He even wrote in a letter that “The Declaration of Independence makes a difference.” And yet, Melville struggled with ambivalence most of his adult life, an internal fight that has escaped most of his revivers including Charles and Mary Beard.

I view ambivalence as a normal human emotion, and most appropriate to modernity on America’s birthday. The Founders celebrated liberty at the same time as many feared the too-excitable, too eager to govern, electorate. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/, most obvious in Madison’s Federalist #10.)

What Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist, might have stated on Tucker Carlson’s show is that ambivalence is a widespread and normal human emotion—That we need not succumb to excessive super-patriotism, nor should we bow down to America-hating and flight.

Here’s to mixed-emotions on July 4, 2017. Happy Birthday, America, always becoming and never entirely fixed.

June 24, 2017

Elitism in the Democratic Party

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:04 pm
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Abstract: Disappearance of class as organizing category in favor of “race” and gender, hence focus on “white supremacy” and demonizing Republicans; forgetting that Progressives were class conscious Republicans/Mugwumps co-opting radical movements, leaving themselves in charge. The outcome: Big Government programs designed to take the edge off of “capitalism.”

The most stunning development in the recent Democratic Party soul-searching in the wake of the unforeseen victory of political newcomer Trump over the progressive stalwart Hillary Clinton has been the disappearance of class as a salient consideration in the formulation of conflict. Thus we see, more and more, the emergence of “white supremacy” in the argot of (pseudo-liberals). One would never guess that the political party of “the working man” was all at sea over how to proceed. A predilection for aristocratic control will do that to you. https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. (“Class, like gender, is an objective category that should not be discarded, no matter how pro-free market, we might be. See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/.)

Readers of this blog will remember that the Popular Front politics of the New Deal are to blame for the literal erasure of class struggle even though New Leftists focused on the Gilded Age as the heyday of labor and farmer unrest. https://clarespark.com/2015/04/17/the-ongoing-appeal-of-the-leftist-dominated-popular-front-against-fascism/.

But the civil rights movement changed all that, for the martyrs du jour were not “racist” white male workers, but rather Southern blacks (and later women) who had been in motion for decades (as it turns out). It was only the Old Left who made the connection between race and class, emphasizing imperialism in the West. And feminists (before they were co-opted by “liberals”) had also focused on “internal colonialism.”

It became unfashionable to recall that progressivism came out of the “Mugwump” strain in the Republican Party, let alone such prior famous figures as pro-black Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mugwumps.

If we believe in “progress” we had better sign up for the party that implicitly co-opted“ the common man,” with collectivist Big Government programs even as FDR criticized “economic royalists” to his Right.

The “Left,” like the moderate Republicans,  is populated by elitist Big Government social democrats these days.

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