The Clare Spark Blog

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).

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