The Clare Spark Blog

September 18, 2009

Bad Sex in the New York Times

J. A. Hobson, author of Imperialism, a Study

According to a young curator from a significant local arts institution, the younger scholars are in backlash mode against their Marxist, Maoist or New Left professors. Instead of looking at artworks from the standpoint of whether or not the artist is a right-on revolutionary or a tool of the bourgeoisie, they are doing archival research! GOOD NEWS! In passing, he mentioned that there was a widespread belief amongst the post-60s professoriate that there was something called “the system” (the oppressor) and that “the system” has “agency,” which is to say that its tentacles extend to every aspect of the society and TOTALLY determine the content of its cultural productions. Such a postulation did not meet his approval. Which signifies to me that art historians are starting to look at the art object first, then moving on to the conditions of its production, as opposed to starting with “the system” (always an art-crushing system).

This is the best news from academe and its associated institutions that I have had in years.

If you have been reading the blogs on this website, you already know that I focus on the curriculum and how the teaching of the humanities can affect mental and even physical health. As I reflect upon changes in the university from the 1960s on, I believe that the New Left generation did behave like a gang, muscling its way into the universities and the media in fields that were most susceptible to their influence: sociology, journalism, U.S. and European history, American Studies, art history, and literary history/theory. One wonders how they pulled it off. Perhaps the preceding generation of liberals (take Lionel Trilling for instance) were too invested in moderation (progressivism as conservative reform) to recognize the threat to what I have been calling true liberalism posed by their proudly “activist” graduate students. And of course the activists were pointing to real weaknesses in American institutions, which the civil rights movement had pounced upon for decades. So the guilty liberals virtuously caved to “anti-imperialism,” and we have the current polarization that I have been criticizing here as creating a mobbish political culture, but for this I blame the Left with its fictional “system” more than I do the tea party protesters, who are currently sounding more libertarian and fiscally conservative  than bent on foisting “traditional values” on those of us who are proudly secular in separating church and state.

David Brooks, the “moderate” Republican who writes for the New York Times made a distinction in his column of Sept. 17, 2009 between the progressives and the populists. ( Brooks opines that the tea-party  protesters should not be dismissed as racists, but as [misguided?] Jeffersonian “populists,” to be contrasted with the “Hamiltonian” progressives [progressives were Jeffersonians, not Hamiltonians]. In the historiography on the progressive movement in the early 20th century, however, populists and progressives are generally grouped together as a single movement. Both wanted the state to break up monopolies. One might argue that aspects of the Populist Party program of the 1890s were co-opted by the Progressives under Woodrow Wilson, but the populist-progressive ideology posited a “system” (the omnipotent money power/ laissez-faire capitalism) that had to be fought on behalf of the little guy. (David Brooks should have read Edward Berkowitz and Kim McQuaid, Creating the Welfare State (1980), which traced the transformation from Wilsonian localism though Hoover’s New Era on to Roosevelt’s ever more statist New Deal.) One of their most important publicists (whose ideas were in sync with Christian Socialism and Fabian Socialism) was the popular British journalist and economist  J. A. Hobson (1858-1940), author of Imperialism: A Study (London: Constable, 1905), and an important influence on Lenin. Here are my notes from this seminal book:

p.51 [finance capital/Jews] “These great businesses—banking, broking, bill discounting, loan floating, company promoting—form the central ganglion of international capitalism. United by the strongest bonds of organization, always in closest and quickest touch with one another, situated in the very heart of the business capital of every State, controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, chiefly by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience, they are in a unique position to manipulate the policy of nations. No great quick direction of capital is possible save by their consent and through their agency. Does any one seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European State, or a great State loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connexions set their face against it?” From his chapter “Economic Parasites of Imperialism.” P.54: they control the Press, and hence “public opinion.”

Page 149: On racial and national antagonisms that preclude international cooperation: “I can only repeat that this is a matter for experiment, and that the experiment has never been tried. Racial and national antagonisms have been so fed, fostered, and inflamed, for the class and personal ends and interests that have controlled politics, that the deeper underlying sympathies and community of different peoples have never been permitted complete expression, much less personal assertion. The most potent and pervasive forces in the industrial, intellectual, and moral life of most European races, so far as the masses of the peoples are concerned, have so rapidly and closely assimilated during the last century as of necessity to furnish a large common body of thought and feeling, interests, and aspirations which furnish a “soul” for internationalism.” Cf. p.198. Laissez-faire capitalism is “ethically indefensible.” [end, Hobson quotes. As I reread these notes I am reminded of the founding principles of the Pacifica Foundation, which echo Hobson, almost word for word. See my blog]

Is it any wonder that during the prewar late 1930s and 1940s, Nazis were linked by corporatist liberals, not to the populist, antisemitic left (its primary origin as a social movement), but to the laissez-faire Right, to “fascist Republicans?”* (I am not ignoring the conservative nationalists who thought they could use Hitler as a tool to defeat communism, or the monarchists in the military who hated the Weimar Republic.) Similarly, Brooks’s “populists” are small-town or rural Social Darwinists, hard-hearted, possessed by the puritan work ethic, and anal-retentive.

David Brooks’s essay is the second most emailed article in the NYTimes. [9-19, it is now number one, which means that Brooks’s revisionism may have gone viral on the net.] It appears that we are still arguing about this crucial assignation/assignment.

*The left-populist Strasser wing was lopped off after Hitler was put in power, and in his Table Talk, Hitler presented himself as a Third Way moderate:

[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 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).


  1. […] onward, “the Jews” made wars for the sake of unseemly profits (see Hobson’s words here: Such was the source of much “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. (And I have not mentioned […]

    Pingback by The Syria crisis and historicism | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — September 4, 2013 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  2. […] First and foremost, no Russian revolutionary deployed the notion of “race” to divide their capitalist enemies. Marx had some nasty things to say about Jewish money and hucksterism; he was also demeaning about “rural idiocy”.  Lenin, influenced by J. A. Hobson, took up Hobson’s  anti-imperialism and blamed wars on a ring of international Jews in finance and the media. (See […]

    Pingback by Groupiness, group-think, and “race” | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — July 2, 2013 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

  3. […] by J. A.  Hobson before the Revolution,  finance capital was seen as essentially Jewish (see; for Hitler, “Jewish Bolshevism” was a front for finance capital (also […]

    Pingback by “Totalitarianism,” polarization, and single-issue politics « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — February 2, 2013 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  4. […]    In my last blog, I objected to David Brooks’s drastic separation of populism and progressivism. Here is an excerpt from the second chapter of my book on psychological warfare in the Melville revival (Hunting Captain Ahab (Kent State UP, 2001, second ed. paperback 2006). Readers of prior blogs will see ample evidence of the deletion of “Jewish” materialism in favor of “Christian humanism” in the fused populist-progressive movement. The influence of Hobson’s notion that finance capital was the cause of war is apparent in Villard’s Nation of 1919; it seems that international finance capital had dictated the peace as well. The Nation recommends a racially-inflected moderation as the remedy of choice to defeat class war and Bolshevism. For more on J. A. Hobson’s attack on “finance capital” see […]

    Pingback by Populism, progressivism, and corporatist liberalism in The Nation, 1919 « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — May 15, 2012 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  5. Ms. Spark,
    From the massive of your blogs I see that you purport very hard to be considered Ayn Rand
    of our times. There is, however, one principal difference that won’t let you to achieve such
    a recognition, either from enemies of socio-economic changes in favor of majority,
    or from supporters of the changes.
    While Rand, at least, created her own regressive elitist universe of pseudo-ideas,
    you just repeat the worn out, decisively refuted, anti-progressive and anti-egalitarian accusations
    which have been used against unbiased analysts of modern capitalism by
    practically every contemporary reactionary “pundit” with extremist views,
    from ultra-Zionists to Pat Robertson, from Ann Coulter to Jonah Goldberg,
    from Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck.
    Every social, economic or political thought/idea, and every researcher or just observer expressing their
    pertaining views is evaluated by you from the heights of Zion mount.
    Therefore, If Lenin was influenced by some ideas contained in J.A. Hobson’s book “Imperialism: Study”,
    because, as it is well-known, he himself worked on and later wrote the most comprehensive and deep
    analysis of imperialism for his times, he was influenced by “anti-semitic” views of J. A. Hobson, also
    expressed in that book.
    Presenting yourself as quite knowledgeable in matters of theory of communism and socialism,
    you must know that Marx, Engels, Lenin and other theoreticians of Marxism were firm internationalists,
    and always were raising their voice against any form of racism, ethnical and national hatred.
    They invariably and continuously claim only class, i.e., socio-economic division within nations, never
    ethnical one. So why do you constantly try to rudely distort the essence of their views and ideas, by
    linking those great thinkers (whether you like their ideas or not) to antisemitic perversion?
    I offer you an honest bet, regarding the last question: if you find any quote (not taken out of the context)
    from any written work of any of the Marxists I named above, that can be, with high plausibility, interpreted as
    antisemitic (not anti-bourgeois, including, of course, Jewish bourgeois), then I’ll drink vodka (I don’t drink alcohol at all)
    from your old slipper; otherwise you should quit blogging and retire to housework.
    You not taking this straight and just bet will signify your complete intellectual defeat and I’ll continue to send “remedy” to
    your ideological Zionist sadomasochism.

    Comment by Arnold Shcherban — October 16, 2011 @ 8:17 pm | Reply

    • It would be nice if Arnold learned English so that he might make some sense. Other wise, with his jumbled melange of phrases and words, all we get is pseudo intellectualism written by someone more concerned with thumbing a Thesaurus than in making sense..

      Comment by warnertoddhuston — May 19, 2015 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  6. […] Lenin was influenced by the populist antisemite J. A. Hobson, see  How many students today can describe the debate between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin or Stalin about […]

    Pingback by Populist catharsis on Wall Street « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — October 12, 2011 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

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