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 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.”


Transl. from Japanese on WatchingAmerica.com


April 9, 2018

Ralph Ellison’s ambivalence re white racism

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Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was copyrighted in 1947, but the book was not published until 1952. It has become a classic of “Negro” literature. This blog is about his mixed message concerning black nationalism, for Ellison took care to separate himself from the separatist movement headed by Marcus Garvey in the 1920s. And yet he gave much testimony regarding the appalling degree of what would be called today “white racism.” Moreover the last one-third of the book is a round condemnation of betrayal by the Communist Party (of which, like Richard Wright and other blacks in the American branch of the CP, the invisible man was an ex-member).

And yet Ellison was heaped with honors by the literary establishment; similarly he always seemed to me to be the most level-headed analyst of the (unfulfilled) promise of American life as it pertained to black citizens. This blog is also about the Herman Melville declaration that “the Declaration of Independence makes a difference.” For Melville shared Ellison’s ambivalence about the future of American democracy and the rationalism advanced by the Enlightenment. The “Epilogue” to Invisible Man suggests that Ellison had backtracked on his initial mocking words about “social responsibility,” just as Melville separated himself from Captain Ahab in the Epilogue to Moby-Dick.

One review of Ellison’s masterpiece (and his single published novel) mentions that the author became more conservative in temperament as he got older. Such is the case with many ex-communists. Perhaps Ellison, like Melville, was always upwardly mobile, and yet his emphasis on (white racism), so persuasively presented in the novel Invisible Man, must ingratiate him with today’s liberals and other moderates who support such separatist movements as “Black Lives Matter.”


March 3, 2018

Spengler, decline, postmodernism, myth

Until I opened Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (1918-1922) . I had no idea how influential this author was and is, especially in the anti-science/technology, “postmodern” counter-culture.

But Spengler was a failed academic, a German nationalist who voted for Hitler. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Spengler). And like Hitler, Spengler was an avowed follower of (the organic conservative) Goethe and of Nietzsche.

What Spengler did was to enhance the notions of “culture” and “relativism”(https://clarespark.com/2014/03/13/what-is-cultural-relativism/) to the point where “cultural history” and “rootedness” have taken over the humanities and the mass media alike; thus, we doubt the achievements of “science” and “the search for truth” as oppressive inventions of the dread West and “white male supremacy”.

(Instead we are supposed to worship “Nature” and the “Green” movement to avert the mass death incurred by the failed diplomacy of the 20th Century.)

Is Prometheus dead, not just “bedeviled” as my late friend Norman Levitt lamented? Am I on the wrong team, arguing that “science” is not a myth?

February 16, 2018

Nikolas Cruz and his undefined “mental illness”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:44 pm
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magical thinking Mother Jones.com

The Florida shooter has been identified as “the epitome of evil” by one (or many?) anchors on Fox News Channel, with an astounding conformity to the resistance of the media to any but religious (specifically Manichaean) definitions of the moral spectrum: presumably, a strong dose of “love” would have eliminated the horrors of “hate” wrought by this young adult.

What is missing from this prescription? In no particular order:

1. Mixed feelings (of “love” and “hate,” aka “ambivalence”), especially in regard to his family, living and departed. What were the bonds and/or values encouraged in either Cruz’s adopted family or family of origin?

2. What are the politics of young Cruz? Facebook was initially pushing the notion that Cruz was a “white nationalist,” a typical liberal diagnosis. But that “trending” item has been removed.

3. What are the politics of Superintendent Runcie and the faculty of the high school that was the scene of the recent Valentine’s Day Massacre? I.e., what was Cruz learning about before he was expelled (the answer appears to be “social justice,” according to Runcie’s bio: (http://browardschools.com/superintendent/bio). Did Cruz’s various schools target any individuals or groups as “the enemy”?

Other related topics tackled by “moderate” Fox News include the notion of depression, to be cured by “connectivity,” as if “atomization” encourages “personality disorders.” (https://clarespark.com/2013/05/18/friendship-in-the-era-of-anti-freud/). Cure that patient of bourgeois values and presto-chango, magical thinking does it again, namely cures dis-order. Moreover, affected families suffering devastating losses will eventually “heal” (as if the loss of a child can ever be repaired: more magical thinking).

Finally, what constitutes “mental health” is widely contested. For religious conservatives, the father-led family is vital to national “unity.” For (liberal?) practitioners hoping to alleviate (unnecessary) psychic pain, a patient history is a prerequisite to any degree of cure.

From Harvey Weinstein or Rob Porter to Nikolas Cruz, that history is missing from mass media treatments of “abuse,” notwithstanding our current preoccupation with “relationships” and “identity.” (https://clarespark.com/2013/08/01/power-relationships-identity/.)

February 13, 2018

Shylock and antisemitism

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I have a new insight on antisemitism (https://clarespark.com/2013/05/11/index-to-blogs-on-antisemitism-2/) that also illuminates what passes for liberalism today: If you read THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, the contrast between the evil Shylock and the “rational” Christians is drawn out. What Shylock stands for is legality and contract (like most of today’s conservatives).

The Christians (Antonio, Bassanio and Portia) are all about mercy and forgiveness, foreshadowing Christian Socialism and social democracy. ( See https://clarespark.com/2012/10/07/christian-socialism-as-precursor-to-orwell/; https://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/)

Shakespeare’s play regarding Shylock is wildly controversial, but the contrast Shakespeare suggested and that (Christian) Shakespeare scholar David Bevington drew out for me between liberals and conservatives is rarely drawn.

Have we not gotten beyond late medieval England?

February 10, 2018

“Black supremacy?”

One thing I will say for W. J. Cash’s “famous classic” The Mind of the South (1941), though it had typical Leftist tropes (e.g, group mind, or what postmodernists would call a “collectivist discourse”). At least Cash did not glorify the consciousness of slaves and freedmen— unlike some black nationalists who, out of one side of their mouths stigmatize Amerikkka as incorrigibly corrupt (and Jewified) and out of the other side identify their group as the most likely antidote to “white supremacy.”

Witness the leftist offensive to take down the statues that commemorate Southern generals AND the Founders, or other miscreants (Columbus!) held to have turned the virgin land into a killing field.

Rather, Cash, unlike more recent liberals and radicals, took slavery seriously enough to blame it for a romantic, hedonistic, “individualistic” (but conforming) mind-set that was typical of the pseudo-aristocratic planter class and that permeated landowning white AND black folks to their detriment as the South became bourgeoisified after the Civil War.

Cash would like to have seen ex-slaves and poor whites join together to overthrow the “Babbittry” that many liberals today identify with Trump voters, for the Democratic name-calling reminds me of Cash’s list of horribles. Like H. L. Mencken, Cash viewed Southerners as “yokels”/”fundamentalist” fools.

The black nationalists have a point, for their antagonist, Martin Luther King, Jr., was not a Leftist (though the Communist Party did infiltrate the civil rights movement, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Communist_Party_USA_and_African_Americans), but the black nationalist separatism (and implied black supremacy) would not sit well with W. J. Cash, who looked to a coalition of labor activists black and white to improve their condition. (Cash reminds me of Ralph Bunche, during the late 1930s, an Asa Philip Randolph enthusiast, who advocated for a more humane capitalism.)

January 20, 2018

“White supremacy”

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Roy Moore/NBC News photo



There is no better way to track social democrats (liberals) than the usage of the term “white supremacy.” No respectable Marxist or conservative would be caught dead using this description to characterize the West or the history of the US. (See the anticapitalist analysis here: https://jacobinmag.com/2018/01/racecraft-racism-barbara-karen-fields). And yet the phrase “white supremacy” has tremendous currency on the so-called Left, owing to its coalition with liberals during the New Deal. https://clarespark.com/2015/04/17/the-ongoing-appeal-of-the-leftist-dominated-popular-front-against-fascism/.

I have been ploughing through Eric Foner’s prize-winning book RECONSTRUCTION (1988) and noted his constant usage of the term “white supremacy,” which was repeated by earlier textbook-writing liberal historians influenced by the 1960s movements. This bears some unpacking, as it recalls the shift from class politics to an emphasis on black nationalism, particularly on the increasing acceptance of Malcolm X’s use of “white devils” on the liberal “Left.”

And yet Foner condemns the “Gilded Age” for its turning the freedmen (ex-slaves) into wage slaves. Similarly he ignores the New Left emphasis on Southern and Western Populism because it is so lily-white (not because it scapegoated banks and finance capital). Foner’s confusion surely is derived from Pop-Front politics that could not fuse liberal anticommunism with class-struggle politics.

But even more significant than the move toward explicitly racial politics, is this Foner’s deployment of “slavery” and the (failed) Reconstruction to the cause of present-mindedness, i.e., reading current values into the past, which violates the conscientious historian’s task of reconstructing the context of whatever period s/her writes about.

Conservatives rightly protest the term “white supremacy” because it assumes that all white people share the same interests. But we do better to see how the term distorts the popular understanding of US history, including the more recent move toward black nationalism/multiculturalism by “liberals.” https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.











January 7, 2018

“Are Historians Pundits?”

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Whatever happened to the “context” that postmodernists/hipsters claim to embrace? Of course historians have lost credibility; we are all journalists now, and the “consensus” that “progressives” are imposing on our young people is alarming. The line between (factual) history and (partisan) propaganda has almost broken down. Cultural anthropology reigns supreme in academe and journalism alike, while classical liberalism is defenestrated.

This blog was inspired by interviews in Washington DC conducted by History News Network publisher Rick Shenkman at The American Historical Association. Shenkman is described as both a journalist and historian (http://www.rickshenkman.com/bio). According to his “bio,” Shenkman was educated at both Vassar and Harvard, but appears not to have completed a dissertation, but to have gone with the flow in condemning Andrew Jackson’s lowbrow electorate (?).

There probably is no liberal consensus (https://clarespark.com/2016/10/17/is-there-a-liberal-consensus/), but (liberal) elites are in agreement that the masses are asses (https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/): thus Shenkman could publish a book condemning Trump voters as Stone-Age holdovers, easy prey for demagogues. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rick-shenkman/political-animals/.

Since HNN “published” (but buried) several of my articles, I have followed their progress/degeneration, noting how the profession has developed since the end of World War II, when “the liberal consensus” supposedly took hold, marking the triumph of The Popular Front Against Fascism.

If the profession of history seems one-sided, chalk it up to the New Left of the 1960s, and to the proliferation of social movements the “Left” engendered: civil rights, feminism (and gay rights), the “new” culturally focused labor history, and environmentalism. The “New” Left abandoned the 1930s emphasis on empiricism and class struggle for romantic primitivism/the counter culture. Science, like technology, was Out.

Whatever happened to footnotes?
While in graduate school, I was derided by a Trotskyist as “the last positivist.” And others on the Left claimed that I was an “atomizing” individualist/bourgeois. Apparently, not all radical claims need to be “sourced.” I am reading Eric Foner’s massive and footnoted book  Reconstruction (1988), which seems to me to feed into the most extreme claims of black cultural nationalism, conflating past and present and condemning both ante-bellum and post-bellum Amerikkka for the most horrid forms of racism and “white supremacy.” For Foner’s argument is not always sourced, nor does he explain why there was tension between the original civil rights movement and the followers of Malcolm X who famously followed.

The eminent “liberal” Columbia professor does not warn against present-mindedness (the reading of present values into the past). Neither do many of the social justice warriors who were students of New Left professors, and who may be training a new generation of “cultural nationalists” like themselves, all too given to collectivist discourses in thought and deed.

I suppose that footnotes, like facts, are sometimes atomizing and only convenient when it suits the Social Justice Warriors’ convenience.


December 26, 2017

Were Nazis “Socialists” (2)

Telegraph.com (UK)

For part one of this series see https://clarespark.com/2014/12/10/were-nazis-socialists/.

Opinion is sharply divided on this question, partly because libertarian conservatives tend to believe, following Ludwig von Mises SOCIALISM, that Nazi wage and price controls qualified Nazism as a socialist-type government, along with “interventionism” or “the third way” as a compromise between free markets and state planning. Indeed, Hitler himself talked of such a compromise during WWII, but with an emphasis on equal opportunity for the superior balanced rationalist (like himself):

[Hitler:]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 favor the development of beings of worth. It has been my wish that the educative organizations 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, Trevor-Roper translation from Martin Bormann’s notes)

[Clare:]Of course, von Mises did not consider Bolsheviks to be anarchists; rather he wrote that Socialism, inspired by Marx and Engels, had infected European sociopolitical movements (including all manifestations of the welfare state) with anti-capitalist rules and sentiments.

Such a free market orientation would freak out current day “liberals” who might be expected to emphasize the destruction of the “independent” working class, who New Deal Democrats would prefer as trade unionists. Thus it is not surprising that post-Popular Front leftists would argue that Hitler was anything but a Socialist, having done in “Jewish Bolshevism.” (Moreover, leftists would emphasize the “cultural” over “economic” factors that have been missing from liberal polemics, perhaps to ingratiate themselves with the victims of the Holocaust. For a partial correction, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Nazi_Germany.)

Not so fast, insisted von Mises, for “Socialism” was roughly synonymous with “Fascism.” (He viewed Socialism and Fascism as overlapping but distinct authoritarian movements in his SOCIALISM, first published in English 1936, then revived after the war partly by libertarian conservatives.)

Finally, the question of whether or not Nazis were Socialists is complicated by the desire of leftists/liberals to tar the “alt-Right” with the Nazi connection. For the increasingly statist left, the free market is generically the wellspring of Nazism, even going after the President.

Boulder Weekly: Trump with supposed Hitler salute

And so it was in the arguably fascist 1930s.

November 29, 2017

“What do women want?”

Charles and Mary Ritter Beard, Amazon.com

Are today’s feminists “extremists”? Does the spate of “sex scandals” have a hidden agenda? A quick Google search reveals that feminists are linked with “progressives.” And conservatives denounce “progressive feminism.”

But were leading populist-progressives friendly to feminism? Do women have too much power in “the machine age”? I had been saving a quote from Charles and Mary Ritter Beard’s popular volumes, The Rise of American Civilization (Macmillan, 1927) because I was stunned by a passage condemning “extreme” feminism in a massive popular work that emphasized female contributions to our culture throughout. This is what I have read in wonderment for I had not connected feminism with paternalism, silly me.

[Charles and Mary Beard quote:] …Over law and precedent…women advanced toward the goal of equal rights in their children.
Having won the ballot, enlarged economic opportunities, freedom to bob their hair, wear men’s clothes, smoke and swear, and extensive powers in the domestic relation, women looked for new fields of enterprise. At this point a group of the more intransigent demanded “absolute and unconditional opportunity” in every sphere. To give effect to their doctrines, they proposed an amendment to the Constitution providing that there should be no discriminations against women on account of sex in any national or state regulation.

…the more extreme of this feminist school called for a repeal of all protective legislation not applicable to men, such as laws limiting the hours of women workers and closing to the sex the heavier and more dangerous trades such as mining and brickmaking….among the advocates of equal opportunity were those who looked forward to a day when industry would be regulated, if at all, on the basis of the common interests of men and women, whatever those might be.
…[quoting Edmund Clarence Stedman] “a united head would be a monster.”

[Clare:] It turns out that this apparent tirade by Wilsonian progressives (the Beards) was directed not against feminism as much as it was against the machine age that had displaced “patriarchal authority” for a monstrous equality in heading the family.
These Wilsonian “progressives” go on to condemn modernity/the rule of money:

[Beards, cont.:] In the new order prodigal members of the plutocracy set standards of reckless expenditure and high living which spread like a virus among all members of society, making the spending of money a national mania and casting the stigma of contempt on previous virtues of thrift, toil, and moderation.

JFK and Marilyn (alternet.com)

… the father, in losing his prerogatives, lost few of his obligations; indeed they were multiplied rather than diminished, especially for the males of the upper classes. Ever more relentlessly the increase in the number of things that could be bought with money and the rising standard of life drove him to the task of acquiring wealth. And his wife, besides defying and divorcing him, could still secure alimony if he possessed an estate or any earning capacity. The “lord of creation” appeared to be on the verge of an eclipse. (End Charles and Mary Beard quote: Vol. II, 725-727)

[Clare:] Add to the sins of “machine age” capitalism as opposed to (capitalist) agriculture: “extremism”, worship of The Almighty Dollar, the end of paternal authority in the home. So radical farmers (Populists) were virtuous (i.e., proper parents)? Who would have thought that “progressives” like the Beards were down on Progress?

Who would have thought that, if you scratched the surface of progressive feminism (in its original formulation), that an agrarian radical would emerge, or that the Beards were feminists only as long as paternalistic authority was unthreatened?

Are the recent sex scandals entirely unrelated?

Populist Weinstein cartoon, Federalist Observer.com

November 26, 2017

The Sex Scandals: where do we go from here?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 10:08 pm
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Biggest Sex Scandals (radaronline.com)

Where we are now: women still emerging with horror stories about male sexual harassment in the media and politics; so far the debate has to do with male perversity and female victimhood. The melodrama continues with predictable finger pointing and sensational firings or demands for (political) resignations. (On melodrama’s categories see https://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal.)

What is missing? 1. The nature of sexuality, both female and male; 2. competition among women for the favors of potential husbands, a competition inflamed by all elements of popular culture, but especially mass media.

Have feminist movements helped or hindered the cause of female independence? What would a more constructive feminism look like?

Conservative women point to such 19th century classics such as Little Women (1868) and similar tracts supporting “domestic feminism” (the notion that women gain power by embracing the comparatively matriarchal domestic sphere or other agencies of uplift). Some radical or liberal feminists find power in invading what were once were male clubs, including the imitation of what is taken to be male aggressive and promiscuous sexuality.

No commentators, to my knowledge, point to built-in “pedophilia”—the glorification of “innocence”—- usually ascribed to early childhood (as if youngsters were not sensual beings). Add this consideration to the partly changing life expectancy, and you get mass amnesia: we may forget that biology fits both male and female to reproductive capacity after puberty (see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/02/teen-age-sex/.)

Is it any wonder that many adult males are attracted to [nymphets]? Is it any wonder that women try to prolong youthfulness/sexual attractiveness well into middle-, even old, age?

JFK and Marilyn (alternet.com)

How should we “take responsibility” for our actions when we are the playthings of our biological inheritance?https://clarespark.com/2013/05/02/teen-age-sex/

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