The Clare Spark Blog

June 17, 2019

Bad “Fathers”

patriotic tattoo/pinterest

This statement will be even more hostile than the first blog I wrote on the Wood prize-winning book: https://clarespark.com/2011/10/30/collectivism-in-the-history-establishment/

This particular blog is about the attacks on the American Constitution by liberal democrats, an attack facilitated by the renowned (and much honored) Gordon S. Wood, Professor Emeritus at Brown University. It is about the claims of his book, The Creation of the American Republic (1967), a lengthy work which might have raised the hackles of such as C. Wright Mills, a hero to the New Left (for the Gordon Wood book is repetitious, abstract, and possibly impenetrable for many readers (including me), and, I suppose, an apology for mainstream Democrats who laud “the living Constitution.” in favor of a dead letter.  For more about Wood, see https://vivo.brown.edu/display/gwood.

I will go on, since I have a clearer idea of the major players in this production of Democratic Party ideology. Attorney Mark Levin is surely not one of them, for he defends the republican-fathered Constitution weekly on (moderate) Fox News Channel, while (left-leaning moderate) Wood attacks modern-day Republicans who revere it. Make no mistake: Wood was out to get the Founding Fathers, but also to vindicate the Revolutionary generation that, unlike their elitist successors, responded to “the People.” The Federalists responded solely to “elites,” whose interests were opposed to real democrats attuned to the public interest, rather than “individualism.”

Indeed, self-identified “populist” Wood could have summarized his book with my opening sentences  .He is a very prominent academic, whose book was awarded  both the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize. and whose appearance at UCLA was honored with a reception at fellow-liberal’s Joyce Appleby’s home in Westwood, attended by much of the History Department. Professor Appleby’s  private office rant about “hating” Charles Beard is now explicable to me, for Appleby was a liberal, and definitely not a Marxist.

Charles and Mary Beards’ popular books, The Rise of American Civilization (1927) took a class-struggle view of The American Revolution and US development. (I have described it in two prior blogs.) Charles and Mary Beard thought that the Constitution was a “coup” engineered by the upper-class.

By contrast Wood frames his book as a struggle of Antifederalists (the real democrats) against elitist Fathers (—the Anglophile?) Federalists, whereas the Beards termed the British as the aristocrats whose stranglehold on America was interrupted by a  democratic uprising. So far Wood and the Beards partly agree, but Wood’s position is that “the critical period” leading up to the framing of the American Constitution was an imposition on the People. Now the Constitution is mistakenly revered as a testament to a pseudo-democracy. Wood thinks that this event was such a momentous conflict that he compares it to The American Civil War, a conflict which posed Union over States Rights. (Did Professor  Wood mean to stand with the South?)

Slavery (neither wage-slavery nor chattel slavery) was mentioned in the Index to this prize-winning book by renowned liberal historian, Gordon S. Wood

June 16, 2017

Populist “momentum”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:57 pm

momentum1

Ministry127

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 with 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.”

mobpopulism

Transl. from Japanese on WatchingAmerica.com

February 24, 2020

The American Revolution as told by two historians

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:40 pm

I doubt that many young (or older) people appreciate the gravity of our country’s founding, for it was an  innovation in many respects: for instance in the Constitution, but especially in the freedom of religion,  popular sovereignty, and free speech. This blog mentions two leftish books, one by John C. Miller, The American Revolution (1943) and the other by Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible (1979).  Nash is one of two formulators of the US History Standards, is a noted professor of History at UCLA,  and a specialist in the colonial period. (I studied with Nash in graduate school.)

I start with Professor Nash, who obviously was much affected by the 1960s New Left, with its emphasis on race, class and gender. Nash chose to emphasize class conflict and the focus on the class unrest in the northern cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. One would think that the working class was largely responsible for the Revolution and that the w-c  (the working class is abbreviated as “w-c” here and below) played a large part. Moreover, Nash’s History Standards did not share the same emphasis on the w-c but, rather, eliminated it. The US History Standards expected grade and high school students to master details that left out the w-c bias of his earlier work.. Is Nash a moderate, yet expecting much more of his projected grade and high school history students than even the graduate work that I accomplished at UCLA, or that media treatments of the appalling ignorance of young persons would expect?

By contrast, Miller, also a left-liberal (who else gets published these days?)Miller probably wrote his seemingly exhaustive study during the Red Decade, but looked at mostly the rising middle-class and upper classes. Miller, unlike Nash, treated the South, especially the upper-class planters. Miller also devoted much space to  the English side.  Miller was more favorable to Puritanism and to trade in general. In his  version of the Revolution, Tories in England and America played a bigger part, although he obviously was a student of the American Revolution in most of its facets.

I apologize for this blog, for it possibly features my own preoccupations, being a maven for the amazing and startling American Revolution, its dynamics,  a quality education and, above all, freedom of speech and expression (crucial items that seem to be disappearing from our public life). 

January 20, 2020

I spent a long time in wondering whether or not David Armstrong, the author of A Trumpet to Arms… (1981) was a liberal Democrat or a Red, and then I realized that it was my problem, for I have some difficulties with my conservative FB friends (around issues of feminism, etc.). This blog is about Armstrong’s book on the emergence of the counter-culture and alternative media, begun in the 1960s in the Berkeley Free Speech movement, and then the US involvement in Vietnam, but culminating in ecology (including nuclear power), multiculturalism (as contrasted to “imperialism”), anti-racism, New Age mysticism, anti-Puritanism, “subjectivity,” drug culture, the vogue for electric cars, high rises, “balance,” localism in the style of Woodrow Wilson, excessive wealth, feminism, gay liberation, and the preference for “Love” over “hate.” All these were issues with which I grasped during my short stint as Program Director for the Los Angeles Pacifica radio station, KPFK-FM. (I wondered then too, whether it was a social democratic vs. Marxist outfit. I found the same conflict during graduate work at UCLA). It is same fight for anti-capitalism vs. laissez-faire market forces that I have devoted much of this website to, whatever the topic.

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:10 pm

January 10, 2020

The Cold War, a moderate liberal version

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:47 pm

The Cold War, liberal version I have just finished Louis J. Halle’s infuriating accounting of the Cold War As History (1967), a book that was assigned to me at the UCLA graduate program in US History, a book that I had avoided until now, possibly because of “The Bomb.” I was only 9 years old when the threat of nuclear warfare commenced, and I still remember the headlines. But Halle minimized our trauma (shared by many, I surmise), by initially claiming that the USA had a virtual monopoly of nuclear secrets (ignoring the historical record, where the Soviet Union had been working on physics since early in the 20th Century, and certainly during World War II (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_atomic_bomb_project.) So there was no question about the importance of nuclear warfare early in the Cold War. Although the moderate man Halle changed his line in later pages, this blatant error changed my estimation of this historian, and I began to see Halle’s rendition as a liberal apologist, whose emphasis on “globalism” and other values was characteristic of the UCLA history department.

This blog is about his other claims, some of which were similarly startling, for instance that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist, but not a communist (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ho_Chi_Minh.) Similarly, Chairman Mao is not a regular Red, but a unique figure, because the Chinese Revolution in 1949 pitted peasants, not workers, against Chiang Kai-shek. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Zedong, also my review of Moreira’s book https://clarespark.com/2011/06/30/links-to-review-essay-on-hemingway-spy-mission-to-china/)

But the most egregious error was the typical liberal emphasis on McCarthyism as a factor in the Cold War, as if the Venona Project had never existed (though it may not have been declassified at Halle’s time of composition, so I can’t finger Halle for this error, though liberal historians blame McCarthy for messing up US history, see https://clarespark.com/2014/02/05/joe-mccarthy-and-the-warrior-spirit/).

Then there is the elevation of “white supremacy”, a typical liberal trope from the late 1960s. Finally, Halle came out against science and Enlightenment in his elevation of myth. (I have had this argument before, in a public fight with another liberal.)

January 1, 2020

The culture war over US and World History Standards

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 3:06 pm

https://www.hepg.org/her-home/issues/harvard-educational-review-volume-69-issue-2/herbooknote/history-on-trial_160. The culture war over the teaching of US History or World History has been much worse than anything in the art world. This blog tries to tease out the major issues in that still heated war.

First, the history wars polarized liberals and conservatives, although “soft Marxist” Gary Nash (with whom I studied at UCLA) was probably pushed to “moderation” by his collaborators.

Nash knew about antisemitism but limited it to “the Holocaust” and “The Emergence of the Jews” as a relic of the classical period (World History) As a social democrat (which incorporates populism) he avoided all talk about “the money power, as did his Stalinist colleague (my advisor Alexander Saxton).”

As expected, Nash, a veteran of the 1960s, emphasized class, race and gender (see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/.) His book, Red, White and Black, but both Standards were focused on globalism, racial minorities, particularly blacks, Indians, and Latin Americans, Africans, Chinese, and Mexicans. In general, the Standards were way too advanced for most young folks and advanced students, even me. Like many other leftists, Nash’s book deploys a discourse of melodrama and multiculturalism throughout. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal/.)

Finally, throughout his book (History On Trial, 1997), Nash (along with Charlotte Crabtree and Ross Dunn) emphasizes that he will not elevate Western civilization above other cultures. This too is globalism.

December 22, 2019

Culture Wars

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:43 pm

For about twenty years I addressed the arts community and others on “The Sour Apple Tree,” an hour program that I performed on KPFK-FM, a Pacifica program from Los Angeles, in which I questioned all arts institutions, especially their politics ). Of course I covered with great interest the controversy over the art works of Robert Mapplethorpe (a gay man who died of AIDS,) and Andres Serrano, the creator of Piss Christ. This blog is about the issues raised in a collection of documents published by Richard Bolton, entitled Culture Wars that cover the uproar over the “obscene” art produced and exhibited during the period from late 1989-1990 (mostly in 1990).

The dispute raised important cultural problems that remain unresolved, which is why I address it today. First, the fight over the changing meanings of “obscenity”(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_obscenity_law. It mentions Pacifica, which P lost) The sensitive ears of children must be protected!)

Clearly, leftists both reds and social democrats were pitted against conservatives, a situation which persists today in the hotly contested question of the “impeachment” of President Trump.

Generally, l line up with the classical liberals in this matter (the question of censorship of art or more general ideas of morality such as abortion and divorce).

It was to be expected that Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic photographs would raise a rumpus, as the gay rights movement was relatively new; furthermore the AIDS epidemic was raging. But how to explain the Catholic Serrano’s images of Christ on the crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine? (Although Serrano supposedly interrogated his own Catholicism, was Christian America to take this obscene portrayal of God lying down?)

Again, the unresolved “obscenity”matter. Was Serrano guilty of an act of social irresponsibility? Although the fight seemed to about government funding of the arts (and humanities), it was not about that; rather it was about a matter that is currently roiling the nation: I was a government grantee myself.

Will we have a thoroughgoing pluralism or not?

December 16, 2019

Bohemia and the New Left

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:42 pm

I have been reading Richard Miller’s Bohemia: The Protoculture Then and Now (1977). RM. listed as not a scholar, but a journalist (It was not assigned in graduate school, though it does have copious footnotes. RM has read many of the same books as I did, including more than I have done about fascism, often using Nazi/German sources.)

This blog is about my reaction to RM’s thesis, which fits right into the Democratic Party since the New Deal. The book and its claims hit me like a revelation since it identified the pre-conservative Clare when I was a good social democrat, ambiguously in cahoots with the Old Left, though we differ on the sources of fascism (RM imagines that the protoculture of Germany after WWI was presaged by the Wandervogel movement, which he sees as one source of his much-praised contemporary model bohemia, which should move us into “anarchy.”

This is how I read RM: as I have recounted many times, the event of the 1960s, which energized my loyalty to Pacifica listener-sponsored radio, was the New Left emphasis on black liberation/civil rights, emphasized by RM as the claim that all music was black (clearly controversial).

RM imagines that Pacifica-FM radio in Berkeley was an outpost of acceptable bohemian thought. And a model of the tension between technology (the Bomb) and typical counter-culture protest Until the last chapter, I thought that RM was a technophobe for he disses some of Hitler’s projects, (i.e., the Volkswagen).

In some ways, RM was a typical populist, blaming “romantic Nazism” for elevating “finance capital” for the rise of Hitler. Also, he attributes “compassion” for everything good in the world, just like today’s Democratic Party liberals, while hard-heartedness is a quality of the hated conservatives.

I have not mentioned RM’s taste for gore, dwelling on the horrors of war in World War I, easily transferred to his case against US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. RM’s environmentalism is possibly located here, rather than being a proto- Green.

Finally, RM is a Francophile, locating his type of proto-cultural bohemian in the early 19th C. among the Parisian artists and poets, and reflected in his detailed discussion of the Commune (a common favorite of the Left, seen as precursor to full-blown Communism).

December 10, 2019

Richard Hofstadter on Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1865-1915 (1944)

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:20 pm

/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Hofstadter. Read this Wiki bio first. As Wiki describes, though RH started out as a Red, he soon switched to social democracy. His negative opinion of Darwin was rejected by later Red graduate students at UCLA: I don’t know why (see below), especially as RH rejected materialism and the abuse of science here.

Indeed, RH wrote this early book in the tradition of Charles Beard (see https://clarespark.com/2018/05/29/progressive-legacy-to-democratic-party/), and other confusing Progressives, and yet was an inspiration to later Red historians and the New Left generation who similarly denounced racism, imperialism, expansionism, and the Industrial Revolution that exploited immigrants. And like the Progs, RH embraced pragmatism (Peirce, William James, and John Dewey). 

I suppose that Darwin became fashionable during the climate change offensive, though his views on marriage were retrograde. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/04/14/darwin-and-the-climate-change-debate-the-greens-have-it//)

If I became a sort-of conservative, it was no thanks to my graduate training at UCLA.

December 2, 2019

Four books on Hitler and the Rise of Nazism.

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 3:03 pm

The four books are Nazi Culture by George L. Mosse (1960, 1981), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer (1960), Der Fuehrer by Konrad Heiden (1944). and by Georgi Dimitroff The United Front: the Struggle Against Fascism and War (1938). [Guess which one parroted the Russian Soviet line and was discarded by my Stalinist dissertation advisor, Alexander Saxton!] I have listed them in the order read (not by date of publication).

The Heiden book was my favorite, because I appreciate the amount of detail he brought to Hitler and his friends/enemies, for instance, the emphasis on obedience as opposed to racism. Sadly, his book ended after the hair-raising “Blood Purge” of the S.A. and others of Hitler’s compatriots. Also, unlike Shirer or Dimitroff, he did not blame all industrialists (or finance capital) for financing National Socialism, but specified particular individuals for helping Hitler on his way. Heiden was also unique in distinguishing the peace period (that may account for the support of the U.S., France, and Britain in ’34, when Hitler seemed more benign. He brought an ultra-Freudian analysis to Hitler’s childhood and early adult psyche, while Heiden’s portrait does not entirely jibe with the later Hitler’s amazing persona.

I don’t remember other than the popular Wisconsin professor George L. Mosse making an issue of “race,” although everyone (except the Stalinist) discussed the Aryan myth. Of course, all these histories noted the persecution of the Jews except for Dimitroff who was more interested in class struggle (bourgeoisie vs. the working class) directed against both Communists and acceptable social democrats (anti-pluralists).

October 12, 2019

The F word

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:42 pm
Satyr and Goat

The F word I don’t mean the common word for sexual intercourse that I used to spell “phuque” out of a surfeit of gentility unlike the constant use of that word in a bewildering variety of contexts, perhaps giving witness to the coarsening of our culture.

Rather, the f word refers to “fascism,” which is bandied about without thought to precision. I have asked if we are there yet, given the current direction of the Democrat Party. Although numerous pundits on the Left (including social democrats) used to label free market advocates with that insulting moniker in the 1930s; the accusation continues today in Democrat punditry and common usage alike.

I do not pretend to be a specialist in European history but am somewhat obsessed on the “fascism” word, partly because I lived through the beginning of World War II as a child. I have read a lot about the F word, and know that there is no generic term for “fascism.” Scholars take care to distinguish between Hitler-style fascism; Corporate State fascism (see the 1960s New Left term for capitalism (ever repressive to the working class); Mussolini-style fascism (some see the syndicalist type of fascism in Italy); or precursors such as the Action Francaise. Then Franco-style repression in Spain, aided by Germany and Italy.

I have objected in the past to the twinning of communism and fascism. That was a no-no to the Left (of which I was once a part) but Ludwig von Mises noted in his book Socialism that fascism in Germany entailed price controls, defying the free market laws of supply and demand. Taking a similar tack, Ernst Nolte in Three Faces of Fascism describes Marxism as the indispensable precursor of fascism (for which, I believe, Nolte has taken a lot of abuse from the Left in the “Historian’s Debate” in Germany,1986).

And although I generally line up with Trump-supporters, I hold fast to doing history: which means that racism, sexism, antisemitism, and imperialism are part of our US history. Despite their sharp differences, German and Italian fascisms were both racist, sexist, antisemitic, and imperialistic. Of course, few would deny that. But George Orwell objected to its promiscuous usage in Tribune, (1944) writing to accord “fascism” only to Germany and Italy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism, quoting George Orwell: “the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else … Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathisers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist” That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.”

August 13, 2019

Melodrama, Jeffrey Epstein, and “The Loudest Voice” Finale

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This blog is about my conviction that, despite the plethora of conspiracy theories swirling about the death of Jeffrey Epstein, it is all too plausible that sheer incompetence could have accounted for his death by suicide. I am that disgusted with my media contemporaries who have excelled in technology, but abandoned to melodrama the masses of ordinary people whom they ostensibly serve. https://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal/.  

Turn now to the final segment in the Roger Ailes/Trump saga on 8-11-19, The Loudest Voice, which represented the triumph of victim Gretchen Carlson (played by Naomi Watts) in the downfall of the villainous power behind Fox News Channel (Ailes. played by Russell Crowe), which supposedly was the final nail in the coffin condemning its unethical, sexual harassing Roger Ailes to irrelevance and death. Few would deny that “fair and balanced” Fox is “moderate,” yet this cable news channel (Fox) was supposed to be a vehicle for Trump/Hitler by Showtime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loudest_Voice.

The Showtime miniseries received mostly bad reviews; some were horrified by the monstrous Ailes, but no one of the major entertainment publications mentioned the Ailes/Fox link to Hitler or the Klan. Nor did the “paranoia”-inducing Fox as represented by Showtime mention its heavy Democratic presence as the balancing part of its “moderate” self-presentation.

Princeton professor and Christian ethicist Robert P. George appeared on Fox News Channel 8-12-19 to lament the loss of a vital civic culture, one I assume with a respect for facts and morality. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_P._George. The widely respected Professor Robert P. George is a moderate Democrat, though he harbors Christian conservative views which rhyme with the ethos of FNC. Surely, part of morality is presenting facts. We supposedly live in a Christian culture, which is devoted to self-improvement, civilization, and science. Yet we adhere to heroes, villains and victims, as if these outmoded categories had real-world corollaries. I suppose that heroes refer to the “objectively” neutral world of what turns out to be outright “liberal” propaganda.

To some knowable extent, women collaborate in their “victimization.” When will we grow up?

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