YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 4, 2013

The Syria crisis and historicism

arabs-take-syria-crisis-to-un-1327616110-3682I am in no way an expert on current relations in the Middle East, but I have found one article that seems rational and appropriately analytic, written by Caroline Glick: http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2013/08/obamas-bread-and-circuses.php#.UiduRyC71lA.facebook.

Who is supporting Obama’s recent foreign policy moves? The Wall Street Journal and various moderates, i.e., neoconservatives. As I write this short blog, those who support Obama’s desire to have a limited strike in Syria are calling their opponents “isolationists.”  These include Bret Stephens writing in the Wall Street Journal, and Ron Radosh, writing for Pajamas Media. Stephens is critical of neo-isolationism, while Radosh seems primarily concerned with the weakening of executive authority. Radosh writes “Our country cannot afford the luxury of weakening of presidential power and authority, which could stifle the ability to act when it is most needed in the future. Supporting the authority of the Chief Executive to act, does not mean conservatives and Republicans should stop being critical of the policy of the Obama administration, its half-way measures, its contradictions and its overall embarrassing incompetence. But to weaken the authority of any Chief Executive to act, including President Barack Obama, will only hurt the nation and stifle our ability to respond to aggression effectively, now and later.” it is somewhat buried within a comparison of “isolationists” before and after WW2. But are the conditions the same?

ISOLATIONISM”. It is not historically correct to label every opponent of Obama’s latest initiative in the Syria crisis as an “isolationist,” though some may be so. The opponents of American involvement in European affairs as European countries fell into the lap of the Third Reich during the 1930s (see https://clarespark.com/2013/08/31/the-devil-in-history-a-j-p-taylor-vs-r-palme-dutt/ ),  were largely from the Midwest and South: many bought the defeatist line of such unapologetic antisemites as Joseph P. Kennedy while he was Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Kennedy even warned a gathering of fifty mostly Jewish Hollywood “moguls” in 1940 that Hitler would win and that they should therefore not make anti-Nazi films, a point that is overlooked by Ben Urwand’s sensational book Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler (Harvard UP, 2013). And before that, FDR’s support of the Neutrality Act allowed the Spanish rebels to destroy a popularly elected government in Spain. FDR was worried about “the Catholic vote.”

At the time, like populist antisemites before them, Hitler and his admirers in other countries blamed all modern warfare on an international cabal of Jewish financiers who also controlled the new mass media. From J. A. Hobson onward, “the Jews” made wars for the sake of unseemly profits (see Hobson’s words here: https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/). Such was the source of much “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. (And I have not mentioned prior French upper-class ongoing hatred of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s emancipation of the Jews, echoed by the tsarist agents who dreamed up The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, itself based on an earlier French rightist fantasy.)

This is a confusing time for Americans of both political parties. What I see missing from the commentary of Obama’s supporters is the appropriate hesitancy of intervention that is considered to be either “too little too late” or misdirected and likely to further empower Iran, Syria’s ally and patron. The opponents of Obama are not wary of any foreign intervention because of the Jew-hatred that marked “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. The dissenters’ case is made on strategic grounds, blended with a mistrust of this administration’s competence in foreign affairs, including its appeal to a non-existent “international community.”

The moral of this short blog: Historicism is the practice of looking at conflict without specious analogies to prior conflicts. Each new conflict is unique and our opinions are largely based on guesswork and such often suspect and multi-layered statements as become public.  The best of us are groping in the dark. It is all too human to seek patterns and precedents in the past, but that may be a fool’s errand, for the historians or other experts upon whom we rely are captives to an often inaccessible record along with their biases and preferred interpretations.

While it used to be the case that historical judgments about the causes of prior wars were based on the archival record (such as it is), we have nothing to go on now but the statements of our leaders. Should we trust their veracity and good intentions? When did properly skeptical historians become “authoritative” journalists? (See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/06/the-new-left-activist-scholars/.)

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August 31, 2013

July 20, 2013

Obama’s intervention 7-19-13

LBJ signs Voting Rights Act

LBJ signs Voting Rights Act

The day of the scheduled rallies protesting the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case, the Wall Street Journal led with a news article by Coleen McCain Nelson entitled “Obama Speaks Frankly On Race.”

The word Race was devoid of inverted commas, signifying that there was nothing suspect about the concept of ‘race’.  Just as problematic, the news article described Trayvon Martin as an African-American, and we all are taught that “perspectivism” is the correct epistemology.  No need for inverted commas there either, for there is no truth, only points of view that are incomprehensible to other groups. Such are the wages of multiculturalism, the preferred liberal policy for dealing with group conflict as the acceptance of “diversity” based on race and gender.

On this website, nothing has been so frequently described as ‘race,’ racism, and how a covertly racialist discourse has dominated public debate since black supremacists hijacked the integrationist movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. For a sampling, see any of the following blogs:

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/, https://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/, https://clarespark.com/2011/02/27/remembering-ralph-bunche-american/ https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/, and especially https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/.

It appears that the most we can expect from Rupert Murdoch’s publications (The Wall Street Journal and “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel), is the namby-pamby pseudo-moderation of approved journalists and some sociologists.

On the jump page (A-5), WSJ quoted sociologist Abigail Thernstrom, who viewed the President’s intervention as inappropriate. Thernstrom is a brave voice in the wilderness, who puts the same priority on progress in the black population as I and my readers do (though her writings on that issue are not mentioned in the WSJ article. See her thoughts on progress here:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304723304577369913528826798.html ).

What about education for black children? I have yet to see a single discussion on Fox News Channel on the shocking neglect of inner-city public schools. Reform in that quarter has been blocked by the teachers unions and the NAACP that demonstrated against one of Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools in Harlem.  The American Right, following the Daniel Moynihan Report  has put much emphasis on reconstructing the black family with fathers at the helm. It is time that they put comparable energy into rectifying the major institution outside the family that is socializing our black children. There are dozens of rallies in support of Trayvon Martin scheduled today. Will any of them put the word ‘race’ in inverted commas? Will anyone criticize “African-American” leadership for obliviousness to the education of young black males? See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/26/eva-moskowitz-and-the-charter-school-movement/.

Namby-pamby pony

Namby-pamby pony

May 15, 2013

Who is Barack Obama?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:41 pm
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Moderation taught here

Moderation taught here

My most popular blogs have dealt with the enigma of POTUS, with a consensus among many of my readers that he is a narcissist, possibly of the most malignant and incurable variety. This blog makes the claim that Obama’s personality is the wrong focus of attention. We do better to look at the incoherence of the base that elected him, and what is the bond that links him to such disparate sectors of the electorate, ranging from Wall Street liberals, Hollywood moguls and celebrities, teachers unions, the AFL-CIO, youth culture, environmentalists, and “racial” minorities, including liberal Jews still tied to the New Deal embraced by their parents. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/ and https://clarespark.com/2010/04/05/is-potus-crazy/.)

Moreover, there is wide difference among both supporters and critics as to his “real” politics: Is he a stealth Leninist, a crypto-Muslim with jihadist sympathies, a liberal internationalist in the Wilsonian tradition, or a traditional Democratic Party centrist (the latter a diagnosis by disgusted Leftists and populists who hoped for a more radical, anti-imperialist agenda)?

Mental health professionals and cultural historians have (perhaps) unwittingly aided the current focus on personality disorders, especially with the proposed revision of DSM-IV in the news during the last year. (On the theoretical foundations of the DSM manuals see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/09/neurotic-vs-objective-anxiety-dsm-iv-and-beyond/. Also “identity politics” as promoted by social democrats.) That and the popularity of mental health and relationship advice on radio and television have taken the voting public into private space at the expense of a broader and more appropriate education in political and economic theory, about which the general public is ignorant, thanks to decades of indoctrination in schools and universities regarding remaking ourselves so that we are wiped clean of “prejudice” toward “the Other.” Such a purification ritual has served some social movements and their upwardly mobile adherents, but destroyed our critical faculties.

The questions we should be addressing are these: why are so many American voters glued to celebrity culture, including pundits of either major political party? Why are the public schools so awful in urban ghettoes, and who made them that way? Why has public speech deteriorated to the point where the English language has been ground down to such exclamations as “awesome”! “amazing”! “cool”! No tribe of grunting savages in the prehistoric ages of our species could have survived with such a limited vocabulary. If we taught Shakespeare today, would students even be able to read him with comprehension? Or a plot summary, even? Meanwhile, my blogs, deliberately written to a non-academic audience, are often deemed to be “over the heads” of many readers.

To answer the question posed in the title of this blog: we cannot look into the heart of Barack Obama. We are not psychoanalysts who have treated him for many years, with accurate information about his childhood and the many traumas he may or may not have endured. But we can look into his social policies, and evaluate their content and efficacy. These fail on the grounds of intelligibility and effectiveness. Both our economy and our safety as Americans are on the table.  Yet “moderates” in both parties urge us not to get over excited or too “extreme;” rather, find your “community” and cuddle up with it, no matter how incoherent or internally divided on major issues the “members” may be. (I am thinking specifically of Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly, who yesterday advised their viewers on Fox  to lay off POTUS and Hillary Clinton until “facts” on such matters as the AP scandal are uncovered.)

I would be happier with “the moderate men” if they refrained from cooling us out, and departed from the safety of their cliques inside the Washington DC Beltway. They won’t of course, for they are paid handsomely for their services to the status quo, specifically to the ideal of the neutral state, and of the notions of “healing” and “closure.” (See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.)

We are in terrible trouble, and have no one but ourselves to rely upon. We still have the internet and social media. These must be protected above all else, whatever our politics. The republic will stand or fall depending on our defense of free and inquisitive communication, let the chips fall…. (For a follow-up blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/16/divide-et-impera/.)

February 25, 2013

POTUS, Michelle, and the end of the democratic republic

MichelleOscarI didn’t expect to blog about the Oscars 2013, but the denouement, in which [naughty] Jack Nicholson handed over his duties in announcing the Oscar for Best Picture to the First Lady, dressed for the Red Carpet and surrounded by what appeared to be a private army (yes they were military, it was acknowledged today), has suggested to me that not only are Hollywood liberalism and the newly minted Democratic Party-in–name-only seriously in cahoots, but that the spirit roused by the excerpt from Les Miserables, ending with tricolors floating to the stage, along with Barbra Streisand reminding us of a 1973 movie in which she played a sweet young Stalinist—all this signals that our Leader and his followers in Hollywood and in the mass media intend to establish the Permanent Revolution in America, with the Obamas playing Lenin/Stalin/Trotsky. Someday, far, very far in the future, the state will melt away, and the “Parisian” poor will get their just deserts.

The signs were all there during the first campaign: Michelle’s Princeton thesis was outspoken in its support for black nationalism, as was her consort’s twenty-year stint in Reverend Wright’s whacked out antisemitic congregation. Non-white supremacy is in the air, while recent popular television shows, written by liberals, feature strong black characters who appear to be lamentably compromised in their sex lives, but who will likely expose and discipline corrupt white characters of great power and wealth. (Think SCANDAL or DECEPTION.)

During my days on the Left, it was obvious that Stalinists and anarchistic local artists admired angry black men, such as Malcolm X. In those radio days, I never heard of Ralph Bunche or his accomplished mentor Abram L. Harris until I started my Bunche researches at UCLA in the 1990s, and after I had gotten my doctorate. More along these lines: At the Oscars, the ever-cocky Quentin Tarantino was recognized for DJANGO UNCHAINED. That was yet another symptom of the blood lust that runs through the movie industry, a “business” supposedly controlled by older members (many of whom behave like the old Reds). Indeed, were not key movie stars sitting on their hands while movie buffs picketed outside, when the brilliant but “treacherous” director Elia Kazan was belatedly recognized a few years ago?

StreisandOscar

And what of the campaign to deny ZERO DARK THIRTY its award because it allegedly glorified “torture” in the hunt for Bin Laden?

It matters not what we call the coming political dispensation. Obama’s constant campaigning (as if for a third term), his denunciation of the looming budget cuts while threatening national mayhem (even where localities, not the feds, control the hiring of first responders or teachers), growing evidence of electoral fraud and the cynicism of some black and brown supporters, suggest that social justice means one party dictatorship and the end of the Constitution, let alone of the meritocracy.

THE_WAY_WE_WERE

It is not too late to halt the slide toward the F-word. But the opposition (that may come to include disillusioned Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and conservatives) had better read the tea leaves and wake up.

February 17, 2013

[Aristo-democrats?] want pre-school for four-year-olds?

Evelyn Waugh aristocratsThis is more of an autobiographical blog than a scholarly one. There is no more agreement over how to raise children than there is over what constitutes mental illness or mental health, or how to fix our public schools. (For related blogs, see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/16/gun-control-laws-quick-fixes-undoing/, and https://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-brills-class-warfare/.)

Nevertheless, as one of his magic bullets, POTUS proposed in his State of the Union speech that “pre-school” for all middle class and poor kids would go far in lifting them out of poverty and on to employability in the [brave new world] created by social media and other math-science-heavy fields.  Charles Krauthammer had a good time making fun of this proposal, suggesting that four year olds would no longer be allowed to dawdle and play without being pushed in a direction that did not even pay off with results past the third grade, as some studies of Head Start have shown.

This blog attempts to inject a bit of realism into the endless debate over child-rearing, with most of the Right lamenting the lack of father-headed households, and the decline of religion; presumably both repairs, bypassing overindulgent (yet pistol-packin’) mammas, would inject the sort of paternal superego that reduces crime and postpones gratification in favor of distant goals: family harmony, success in life, and fitness for family re-unification in Heaven. (Take three minutes to hear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b39ALX4neIk.)

Almost no one utters the curse word “Puritan” any longer, for they, in all their variety, have been discredited as axe-wielding killjoys (Carrie Nation!), or worse:  Harvard’s Talcott Parsons identified “romantic puritans” in America as resembling Hitler in his world-destroying rage, as if the temperance “crusade” and its related Protestant reform movements had been disastrously feminized. (There is an entire academic bibliography on whether or not Victorian women were good or bad for today’s feminists.)

Carry Nation

Carry Nation

I do not pretend to be any kind of expert on child-development, and in my own case, relied upon maternal instinct and my own favorite activities, shared with my three children.  After I found a housekeeper, I amused myself and them by reading good children’s literature aloud (A.A. Milne, E. B. White, Roald Dahl), playing both classical music and folk songs on the piano or guitar, and with frequent trips to the local hardware store that sold art supplies. And then there were museums and concerts, with a few family trips to exotic locales such as Yosemite and New Mexico.

Had I not been a grandchild of immigrants, but rather a European aristocrat (or the child of a “political” family), I would have discussed world affairs at the dinner table as my children grew older (and returned from elite “public” schools), for it would have been assumed that my children would someday be running the world  as men of affairs, probably with their wives as powers behind the thrones and competent, stylish hostesses for an elite,  with both parents as experts in hiring multi-lingual governesses and/or tutors,  and in selecting clothing, interior décor, and gardens as proof of class position and legitimacy.

What the President is proposing is typical for an inexperienced elite, who wave their magic wands to lift up the poor through government-imagined programs, without sufficient consideration of the dire material conditions in which inner-city ghetto kids live, and the likely confusion of their single mothers, whose education would  have been inadequate to begin with, owing to outdated and/or partisan curricula (assuming that they were not high school dropouts owing to teen-age pregnancy).

My most popular blogs have been given to speculating on Barack Obama’s “narcissistic” personality and ambiguous politics. This I can say with rare certainty. No leftist would propose such a pathetic Band-Aid for the poor and badly educated as an enlargement (?) of Head Start (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_Start_Program.). This hit and miss proposal should be pinned on welfare statists, formerly known as “aristo-democrats” by the more sophisticated observers.

FDR, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor R.

FDR, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor R.

January 20, 2013

An awesome Inauguration

Nation_cover_journalismHere are two paragraphs from the late Jacob L. Talmon’s final book on political messianism (Myth of the Nation and Vision of Revolution):

“The general and increasing preoccupation with the nation’s rights, needs and grievances, the brooding over its identity and its past, its fate and its manifest destiny, the reflections on its moments of glory and its failures and defeats were every case a journey into bygone ages, a reckoning with ancestors, a communing with the myth of the nation. No wonder the [19th] century produced such a flowering of the historical sciences and of a literature and art that set out to serve as a mirror to the nation’s soul and a portrait of its modes of existence. National cults grew up and spread, replete with myths, symbols, rites, liturgy, commemoration, and heroes and saint’s days, parades and displays, artistic effects and hypnotic suggestiveness. [Compare to today’s pageantry and the invocation of the Nation, https://clarespark.com/2013/01/21/citizen-obama-political-pluralism-and-the-elusive-search-for-unity/. CS, 1-21-13]

“All these tendencies fed upon and in turn promoted the far-reaching change in the image of man from that bequeathed by the Enlightenment. Far from constituting the basic element and goal of society, from being his own autonomous lawgiver and free and equal partner to the social contract, as he was seen in the eighteenth century, man was made to appear more and more a function of collective forces, past traditions, the social setting, the organizational framework, the spirit of the nation, the Zeitgeist, the milieu, group mentality, finally the race. No longer a free agent in making choices, the individual was shown to be in the grip of compulsive urges and aversions, automatically re-enacting ingrained modes of behavior and reflexes. In brief, the individual was portrayed as the plaything of the unconscious and the hereditary, a mere abstraction when pitted against the collective forces deposited in the whole to which he belonged, above all, in the nation [Talmon is not referring to Freud here, but probably to Pareto, a great favorite of some Harvard professors in the 1930s, CS]. Not man, therefore, but the nation, was the measure of all things, and the dominion of the dead was depicted as infinitely more potent than the deliberate decisions of the living. Indeed, this state of affairs was made the condition of social cohesion, political stability and the health of the nation. …Every nation was a world of its own, a unique blend. Since it fashioned countless men and determined their fate and well-being, the nation’s interests, the imperatives of its particular situation, the conditions favoring its survival, cohesion, strength and influence contained its truth, morality and justice. The latter were perspectives, not objective data.” (my emphasis, pp. 544-545)

Talmon associates these counter-Enlightenment tendencies as culminating in “integral nationalism” a characteristic of both Fascism and Nazism. If Talmon’s analysis is correct, then multiculturalism and perspectivism, inventions of the rooted cosmopolitans of Germany (Herder  and his followers) who greatly influenced 20th century pedagogy in America, should be seen in the strategy of the “moderate” Right, not to either classical liberalism or to  libertarianism in either major political party, or in the scholarly search for truth.

inauguration-intro-615cs011113

How then should we see Fox News Channel’s coverage of the second Obama inauguration?  Is this supposed vindication of the eighteenth century Constitution awesome, as in remarkable and admirable, or should we return to the words original meaning: awe-inspiring as terrifying. As Charles Sumner awesomely asked in the nineteenth century “Are We A Nation?” And how do we know (e.g. this weekend) when we are not fascists?  See (https://clarespark.com/2012/01/28/popular-sovereignty-on-the-ropes/)

January 16, 2013

Gun control laws, quick fixes, undoing

abused dogToday January 16, 2013, POTUS delivered an impassioned speech on behalf of greater gun control laws. It was a highly theatrical event, with four young children of differing colors and genders on the stage, children who had written to him of their distress and looking to POTUS as the fixer who would keep them safe from early death. Also in the audience were the parents of one of the victims of Adam Lanza’s Sandy Hook massacre. They were all part of Obama’s emotional appeal to Congress to fund research on the causes of gun violence, and the effects of violent video games.  The entire package would come to 500 million dollars.

But something strange and perhaps revealing happened toward the beginning of the speech. POTUS called upon three of the four children to say something about the guns issue after he read their letters to him, but he skipped “Grant,” the one black child.* I was literally floored, for I read the gaffe as an example of “undoing”—an unconscious process whereby we pretend that a terrible event did not in fact happen. For instance, when my infant brother died from SIDS when I was eight years old, my first response to this traumatic event was to suppress a laugh, then I had numerous dreams in which he was still alive.

If Obama was indeed repressing the follow-up statement of the black child on stage with him, then it suggests to me that his childhood of neglect, abandonment, and perhaps indoctrination, remains too painful to be acknowledged, and that much of his grandiosity is compensation for unspoken misery (as opposed to the “narcissism” commonly attributed to him by pundits).

Obamaprops

A person of his education and stated high idealism should be more aware of his own emotional processing, but alas, our culture suppresses such knowledge as nonsensical Freudianism, yet without the wisdom of the Freudians and their exploration of mental illnesses and neuroses, we are at the mercy of cocksure pundits who imagine that “families” are the solution to all emotional pain and failure. (For elaboration of this point regarding the homeless schizophrenics, some of whom become murderers, see http://jamesvpagano.com/science-schmience/.)

I beg to differ. Dysfunctional families, families who will not look at their relationships (that may be abusive, authoritarian, negligent, sentimental, bohemian, or otherwise destructive to the healthy emotional and intellectual development of children) are not having a gun problem. They have abdicated the role of mature parenting, and in a related pathology, have never thought about their obligations as citizens of a representative republic, namely their obligations to be educated about the issues that determine their votes, an education that could alienate them from their “perfectly happy” families of origin. (For more on this, see https://clarespark.com/2011/11/12/the-woman-question-in-saul-bellows-herzog/.)

During the past Christmas season, numerous organizations devoted to the rescue of abused dogs, cats, and even horses, ran ads pleading with the viewers to support the ASPCA, the Humane Society, etc.  with a monthly stipend. The photographs were of pathetic dogs and cats, hoping to be rehabilitated. But I saw human children in those sad doggie and kitty faces, uttering the same cry for attention.

How many of us care about our own children enough to examine our own roles and performance as  parents, no matter how painful that self-scrutinizing process may be? (For more on this subject of families and their often conflicted internal relationships, see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/17/bondage-and-the-family/.)

*I do not know for a fact that POTUS skipped the black child. Perhaps the latter did not want to say anything to add to his letter. But it is curious that others have not noticed this incident.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

December 8, 2012

Hobsbawm, Obama, Israel

Hobsbawm in worker's cap

Hobsbawm in worker’s cap

I. Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the most famous and influential of all the communist historians, died Ocober 1, 2012. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Hobsbawm. He was eulogized by leading liberal newspapers as one of the most “eminent historians” of the world, but was denounced by David Horowitz and Ron Radosh, who asked their readers to avoid his history-falsifying works. I thought that I should see for myself, so read his famed “tetralogy” published from 1962 on, ending with his (then) final word on modernity in 1994, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These were The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, The Age of Capital: 1848-1875, The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, and The Age of Extremes: 1914-1991. I found the same line put forth by the UCLA Department of History where I earned my doctorate, and throughout the textbooks now used by countless students interested in American, European, and world history. (In his autobiography (2002), Hobsbawm credits George Soros with partly funding the last book in the series, Age of Extremes: suggesting that EH had adopted the “moderate,” i.e., social democratic, line)

Notable about the four books is the target audience of educated lay readers. Hence his [big] claims are not footnoted, but he does provide bibliographies and indices. What is most striking about the tetralogy is his range: he fused economic history, political history, social history, the arts, mathematics, and sciences. In those cases where my own scholarship is competent (the arts and intellectual history), I found his opinions to be either sketchy, derivative, or ideological and hence distorted and present-minded.  (See https://clarespark.com/2012/12/22/my-oppositional-defiant-disorder-and-eric-hobsbawm/,  https://clarespark.com/2012/11/23/historians-vs-pundits-the-eric-hobsbawm-synthesis/. For a drastically different reading of Melville’s Moby-Dick see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

For most of the four books, I thought that EH was conforming to the “antifascist” Popular Front strategy initiated by the Soviet Union after 1935; that would explain his praise of the post-1945 synthesis of Left and Right as embodied in social democracy, but that “Golden Age” of capitalism would end in a new crisis of the 1970s and 80s, almost as bad as “the Great Slump” of the 1930s, now worsened by Reagan and Thatcher.

The ending pages of such an ambitious project are worth summarizing. Hobsbawm is deeply worried about the future, which is up for grabs, and yet “dark.” Overpopulation is not only straining the food supply, but the industrialized world, everywhere, is likely destroying the planet. The nation-state is obsolete (globalization having been created by the 19th century industrial bourgeoisie), and yet there is no international agency that could impose the necessary regulations that would ensure the survival of our species.

The competition inherent in neoliberalism, Adam Smith’s elevation of the market, and Darwinism are his targets. EH distances himself from Stalin’s terror, but holds fast to Lenin. This is crucial, for Barack Obama is very close to Hobsbawm in his own political project, i.e., redistributionist (in the interest of social justice), Green-friendly and internationalist in its preferred outcome.

"The Lord's Prayer," Hans Haacke, ca. 1984

“The Lord’s Prayer,” Hans Haacke, ca. 1984

II. Consider now Hobsbawm’s continual ribbing of “the Jews”, nowhere more evident than in the short paragraph he devotes to Israel, which transmits the strangest summary of the Jewish state’s founding and subsequent history that I have ever seen, not to be exceeded in nastiness by the most jihadist of Israel’s enemies. Indeed, this ratattatat is indistinguishable from jihadism, and speaks poorly of the Left, to which Hobsbawm has ever remained attached.

From Hobsbawm, AGE OF EXTREMES, (Penguin, 1994) p. 359. (EH”s “extremes” refer to “laissez-faire capitalism/neoliberalism” on the one hand, and Soviet communism as its rational, enlightened antithesis.) Throughout the four books (but especially in the last two), Hobsbawm identifies himself with the oppressed and exploited “undeveloped world” that has been polluted and otherwise abused by the imperialistic “developed world”. Vehement as is his critique of neoliberalism, Reaganism and Thatcherism, his dislike of Israel is even more pronounced, as in the following, bizarre description of Israel, its founding, and its relations with neighbors.

“…the USSR had been among the first to recognize the new state of Israel, which later established itself as the main ally of the USA, and the Arab or other Islamic states, Right or Left, were united in repressing communism within their frontiers. The main force of disruption was Israel, where the Jewish settlers built a larger Jewish state than had been envisaged under the British partition (driving out seven hundred thousand non-Jewish Palestinians, perhaps a larger number than the Jewish population in 1948), fighting one war per decade for the purpose (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982). …Israel also turned itself into the most formidable military force in the region and acquired nuclear arms, but failed to establish a stable basis of relations with its neighbor states, let alone with the permanently embittered Palestinians within its extended frontiers or in the Diaspora of the Middle East. The collapse of the USSR removed the Middle East from the front line of the Cold War, but left it as explosive as before.”

Here EH, of Jewish parentage, creates a brief narrative that is not only false, but jumbles together discrete conflicts that no professional historian would fail to analyze in context. EH goes out as not only an ideologue, but arguably a prime example of Selbsthass. Could anything be more transparent than the image of the Jewish state as pushy, grabby, destabilizing, ungrateful, and world-destroying?

December 1, 2012

“Populist” radicalism and Obama

Black Jesus poster

Black Jesus poster

A spirited discussion broke out on my Facebook page over a recent article in the New York Times characterizing Thomas Jefferson as a “monster.” (http://tinyurl.com/d6cnc3o.) During the course of the discussion, I decried hatchet jobs in general, pointing out that there was usually a lurking target that was not obvious to the reader. For instance, in the case of Jefferson and slavery, the historian author (Paul Finkelman) might be solely interested in Jefferson’s racism and moral failures regarding slaveholding, or there might be a larger agenda:  namely the post-60s campaign to regard the Founding Fathers and the framing of the “aristocratic” Constitution as morally tainted, with subsequent Americans battening off their ill-gotten gains. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/10/30/collectivism-in-the-history-establishment/. )

As I have written frequently, for leftists and left-leaning corporatist liberals alike, America is seen as essentially racist, sexist, imperialist, and anti-environment. In other words, we not only fail to historicize the individual and intellectually diverse Founders in their 18th century context, we are reiterating the most virulent Soviet and even Nazi propaganda. (In the latter case, it was held that Jews controlled the US, pushing it to such atrocities as the extermination of the Aryan-like indigenous “Indians,” or, during WW2 and more recently, Nazis and their sympathizers argued that Americans were fighting what was in effect a war that solely benefited “the Jews.”)

Since the election that re-elected “the first black president,” I have seen much gloom emanating from Romney supporters. I myself have suggested that there is something proto-fascist about the current direction of our country, while others declare that POTUS is a straight out Communist/Third Worlder, seeking to destroy America, aiming at its very foundations as a free market society.

Both these pessimistic, if plausible, views are speculative, but perhaps we can get more precise if we understand the rationale behind “petit-bourgeois” radicalism (populism), both as it has existed in “middle class” America, and as an explanation for Hitler’s base in the so-called Mittelstand (i.e. the lower middle-class in Germany, dominating the working class and resentful of the haute bourgeoisie). For after WW2, liberal journalists and academics seized upon the petit-bourgeoisie as responsible for Hitler’s rise to power, stressing their mobbish susceptibility to propaganda and the class resentments that Hitler exploited so effectively. Unfortunately, they ignored the conservative nationalists who put him in power, and even worse, structural continuities with Weimar social democracy and Bismarckian strategies against the rising German Left. Instead, they depicted Hitler as crazy and/or as a failed artist/thug, and explained his popularity as the effectiveness of images and propaganda in general. (This was the legacy of German Idealism that held images to constitute “reality,” a view that ignored institutions and other structural and cultural factors.)

Young James H. Cone

Young James H. Cone

During the period of my life starting in 1969 at Pacifica Radio and on through getting my doctorate (1983-1993) and then shopping my expanded dissertation (1993-1999), I watched the direction of the civil rights movement/the women’s movement that had stirred me out of somnolence during the 1960s. What stunned me was the success of upwardly mobile persons of color and women in climbing the ladders of academe, the media, and to some extent, in business and the professions. What I was not prepared for was the failure of the integrationist project in favor of cultural nationalism and even black supremacy as urged by such theologians as James Cone and his allies in the Chicago Democratic machine. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hal_Cone.) I was even more startled to see that black nationalism had pretty much taken over the civil rights movement by the mid-1960s (see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/, or https://clarespark.com/2012/11/09/race-and-the-problem-of-inclusion/.)

The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now

What does this have to do with Obama’s character and motives, open or hidden? We might do better to see him as an ambitious petit-bourgeois radical, i.e., a populist, rather than as either a fascist-in-waiting or a communist. Like his wealthy liberal supporters, he protects his own reputation by attacking [Republican] elites as the originators of “inequality,” while he satisfies his minority constituencies by increasing public sector employment and supporting teachers unions who promulgate the anti-American history curriculum described above. The aim is to instill liberal guilt and hence unquestioning support of the first black president, even as he moves toward dictatorship and reverses prior economic positions that gained him support as a “moderate.”

But keep in mind that although Marxist-Leninism supposedly focuses on the working class as the agent of revolutionary socialism, there is a strong populist appeal to this ideology, for instance in the demonization of “finance capital.” (See https://clarespark.com/2012/08/05/hating-finance-capital/.)  For more on populism see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/16/perceptions-of-the-enemy-the-left-looks-at-the-right-and-vice-versa/. And right-wing populism was undoubtedly the decisive factor in Hitler’s rise to power and to popular support for his entire regime.  I remain worried about the transition from populism/progressivism to full-throated dictatorship, call it what you will.

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