YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 11, 2014

Individuality: the impossible dream?

social relationsThe problem: how to separate communists from social democrats; is “the Left” the same “left” opposed by bourgeois apologists in prior periods? The “McCarthyism” accusation that reproaches anticommunists is derived from the liberals defending the bureaucratic collectivism of the New Deal: “liberals” attacked those “fascists” from the Republican Party who opposed FDR’s remedies for the Depression. Similarly, FDR called his opponents “economic royalists.” This vituperative playbook still exists, with many conservatives conflating communists and Democratic Party stalwarts, as “the Left.”

The key to understanding the difficulty of separating communists from liberals is here: “Liberals” (not to be confused with classical liberals) selectively co-opted and defanged communist social thought in order to preserve their own elite rule, above all focusing on the working class as the likely red specter. The notion of “proletarian internationalism” was replaced with “ethnicity” or “race” as the mode of sorting people out. Both communism and liberalism partake of collectivist terms. The ‘individual’ is pathological and an outcast. Some organic conservatives agree, imagining mystical bonds (the “rootedness” of local attachments) as the route to “social cohesion” and “political stability.” Organic conservatives need not be on “the Right.” Democratic president Woodrow Wilson was surely one these localist agrarians who spurned the materialism of science. (For some Wilson anti-science quotes see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.)

Here is the key move for “socially responsible capitalists”: the “individual” only exists in repressive ideologies like supposedly unregulated “laissez-faire capitalism” and Darwinist competition. It must be defeated in favor of “the individual-in-society” who is situated in a [statist] “cooperative commonwealth.” Stubborn laissez-faire types are “narcissistic”, given to “huckstering” (Mad Men!) and must be defeated in order to emancipate the truly progressive society from “the Jews” or their surrogates.

Under the leadership and rules of “liberals” mental health professionals emphasize not autonomy and individuality, but “relationships” to groups, including sex partners, families, and workplaces. In all cases these mental health professionals, like the neutral state they unknowingly defend, preach “adjustment” and “integration” of interior, often irreconcilable conflicts, such as mothering infants versus interests outside the home and family. I personally have been subjected to this well-meaning, but futile, advice.


Finding out “who you really are” is all about limiting, not extending choices in the face of personal evolution. It is part and parcel of today’s “identity politics” —more collectivist groupiness, for only “groups” can “make a difference.” Marxists have demolished the notion of the individual, deeming such a one “atomized” or “anomic”—a version of the murderous Cain, builder of cities; similarly artists are stigmatized as Pierrots, also tied to Cain and to the Romantic Wandering Jew. After the revolution, one orthodox Marxist told me, “everyone will be a Mozart.”


Although many persons would like better control over their work processes and over aggression (as did Freud), for Marx the only route to such individual empowerment is through working class consciousness followed by working class revolution: in his view, a progressive, enlightened move that would make the politically emancipated individual able to experience “species being” (a term that he never defines comprehensibly to me, but it has some relationship to nature: enter the Red Greens). [Need I add that the Progressive movement had a drastically different definition of “progress”?]

Nor do these [social workers] expand the imagination, as do our better artists. Instead, following Marx’s necessarily limited vocabulary (he never was able to suggest just how the state would “wither away” ), he brings up earlier forms of human organization (primitivism)—see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/ (the quoted passage from “The German Ideology”), and my index to blogs on primitivism: https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/. Note that in the “individuality” image, a couple drawn in the cubist/primitive style of Picasso, defines the “individual” who can “make a difference.”

Finally, reading early Marx (the mid-1840s), I have the impression that his entire conception of worker alienation might be derived from his antagonism to all religion, in which he alleges that the worshipper gives away his body and mind to God (I don’t see how this applies to Judaism, which emphasizes a degree of free will and personal responsibility for the wrongs we inflict on others, not blind obedience). This is only a hunch, but it would explain why there has been no working class revolution of the kind Marx anticipated. At best we get a sputter of [doomed] protest as in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society. Most workers probably want the benefits of what Marxists derisively call consumerism, and the pursuit of creature comforts (including the comfort and consolations of religion) does not entail an assault on their individuality, but instead enhances it. But then I am a bourgeois, so should not be trusted to interpret, even tentatively, the major exponent of communism.


March 22, 2013

“Traditionalists” on the culture front


Kinkade “Sunrise”

[This is the second blog that mentions Andrew Klavan. See part one of this series here: https://clarespark.com/2013/03/11/do-paleoconservatives-want-a-theocracy/.]

As if the “culture wars” had not already sown enough confusion and polarization, some “traditionalists” are now encouraging right-thinking conservatives to make popular art that would challenge what is seen as the Hollywood monopoly on popular entertainment—a mass culture with way too much sex and not enough religion. Some warriors are humorously grotesque, for instance Bill O’Reilly’s offensive on behalf of the Easter Bunny. But others on the right participate in this war against “secular progressives” while others scan high culture for salutary examples with potential to heal a sick “body politic.”  For instance, Andrew Klavan (a convert to Christianity, and an ex-liberal as well, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Klavan), who writes popular mysteries, also writes on culture regularly for Pajamas Media. Klavan deplores what he calls “moral relativism,” preferring Immanuel Kant, the ethical universalist, over godless Nietzschean Supermen and the dread (and misconstrued) “deconstructionists” whom he links to Nazism. (See his talk of March 18, 2013 at the David Horowitz Freedom Center: http://tinyurl.com/ch8ucow.)

In the high Renaissance, great artists limited their subject matter to either religious art or to naked goddesses that pleased the propensities of aristocratic patrons. Recall too that Shakespeare was a Catholic, an anti-puritan, and a proponent of the organic society.  The Reformation, then the Enlightenment, began the long road to (partial) independence for artists, and a freer choice of subject matter and (subtly limited) freedom of thought and expression.

It is my own view that any repressed human being will be unable to make anything that passes for “modern” art, and that the traditionalist artists and illustrators (like Thomas Kinkade or Andrew Wyeth that seemingly upheld either “Christian” (Kinkade) or rural values (Wyeth) may be popular among older conservatives and even among liberals nostalgic for representation, but in this age of mass media with its celebration of youth culture, the call for more conservative artists and writers will find few patrons to subsidize their neo-“puritanism” except among themselves. But then today’s “culture warriors” define themselves against “modernity” and the dissenting individual, even as they protest groupiness–those notions such as multiculturalism that are collectivist in nature. For many “libertarians” (Klavan), the goal in “speaking truth to power” is to demolish Big Government, not to criticize authoritarian institutions, whether these appear at the national, local or state level, let alone within the family. (Even moderates may call for a revitalized mass culture: see https://clarespark.com/2012/04/29/fred-siegels-melodrama-of-20th-c-cultural-history/.)

Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny

We are all anticapitalists now. Modernism in the arts participated in the degeneration narrative, for these confusingly named “modernists,” the big corporation and technological pseudo-progress were agents of decadence, producing seductive consumer goods that vitiated class consciousness.  Along with celebrities, movie stars, and journalists, were the mobs unleashed by industrial capitalism, the New Woman, and the international Jewish conspiracy. Cain’s cities therefore were the site of hyper-sexuality, homosexuality, and all nervous anxieties, to be cured by a return to Nature and/or to order and anti-secular religion. The path to neoclassical safety would be mapped by primitivists and/or neo-medievalists from Left to Right seeking to renew paternal authority in the family. (On the dangers of cities see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/19/the-scary-city-lamprecht-becker-lynd/.)


Andrew Wyeth “Spring” (1978)

March 4, 2013

Romney v. the cultural politics of “Mean”

WSJ cover art March 2-3

WSJ cover art March 2-3

Fox News Sunday, March 3, 2013, ran a long interview with Mitt Romney and Ann Romney. I was struck once again by how nice the Romneys were, and how “gentlemanly” were Mitt’s opinions and demeanor.

Everyone has an opinion on why Obama defeated Romney, but no one has commented, to my knowledge, on the cultural politics of “Mean.” For instance, Seth MacFarlane was ostentatiously mean during his Oscars hosting, yet he is being defended by feminists and conservatives for nailing Hollywood actresses for adding to the dread “hyper-sexualization” that those strange bedfellows (feminists and cultural warriors of the Right) laud in the song “Boobs” that outed all those actresses who had bared their breasts for the [white slavers of Jew-controlled Hollywood]. (See Andrew Klavan’s new piece http://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/2013/03/03/conservatives-are-boobs-when-it-comes-to-pop-culture/. Then compare Klavan’s defense of MacFarlane with my own analysis: https://clarespark.com/2013/02/25/potus-michelle-and-the-end-of-the-democratic-republic/.)

Similarly, conservatives are on board with the obviously misogynistic insult to mothers when they call the paternalistic welfare state “the nanny state”.  Or take the impressively educated actor David Duchovny, interviewed on NPR last week, who explained why he could watch The Godfather over and over, for he was captivated by Marlon Brando’s transition from Mafia don to murderer, which is Duchovny’s idea of fatherhood, a point he made quite clearly.

Or take yet another example from the hip media: the much-admired series The Good Wife seems to celebrating opportunism over the moral quandaries it had previously explored in a successful Chicago law firm. “Alicia” (played by Julianna Margulies) has made the transition from self-torturing moralist to opportunist, and is demonstrably mean to the (exploited) associates in her new role as “equity partner.” Will the writers take her down in future episodes? I doubt it, because I suspect that “mean” is the new “cool,” and the chic Margulies, dressed to the nines with very high heels, is the role model du jour. Nice guys and gals finish last, and Alicia will go with the winner.

Freud and his ever dwindling followers warned about the brutalization of culture during and after the Great War. Even that outpost of balance and moderation the Wall Street Journal ran a story about female executives persecuting their female underlings, illustrating their piece with a gigantic spike heeled black shoe, the very symbol of sadism and masochism. See the first page of Section C, March 2-3, 2013: “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee: Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood.”


“Mean Streets,” the continued coolness of that train wreck Lindsay Lohan, the viewer interest in The Following, all point to a culture where cruelty is celebrated, and niceness is wimpy and old hat, something our grandparents wear, like sensible shoes. (Note that the dimunitive female mentee above is wearing flat shoes.)

Louboutin "Fetish Ballerine"

Louboutin “Fetish Ballerine”

Underneath all this sadism is the lesson the professoriate failed to spot in analyzing classic American literature. For instance, Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Man of the Crowd” gives the game away. This symbol of the urban mob is revealed as Pierrot, as the Wandering Jew, as the murderer Cain with hairy hands. As the story line of The Following plays out, expect to see the charismatic serial killer (James Purefoy) and his hunter (Kevin Bacon) meld into one fearsome intertwined specter. Both will be heartless and mean, the very embodiment of the barbarism that Freud detected in 1915, for we are not civilized yet.

The too civilized, too nice Mitt Romney, looking at his wife with adoring eyes, never had a chance.


March 21, 2012

Big Cities and the Mob

Hip cultural historians are still studying the anomie (rootlessness) they impute to big cities. While watching a recent PBS documentary on the achievements of Oscar Hammerstein II, it occurred to me that his oeuvre as a whole pointed back to a period of imagined rural or small-town neighborliness, to a time before his mother died when the lyricist was only fifteen (Fordin bio). That “neighborliness” (a soothing social bond represented in the mother-child dyad) was then translated to his idealized anti-racist international community, as then proposed by the United World Federalists (also a pet project of Harvard’s social psychologist Henry A. Murray) or in the premises of the United Nations. Although Hammerstein was a noted liberal anticommunist, his attempt to unite groups and nations with clashing political and economic interests, reminded me of Hitler’s populist elevation of the Volk, and also the Soviet attempt to merge peasants and workers, notwithstanding that peasants and workers had different material interests, as explained in this blog. https://clarespark.com/2009/08/27/hitler-and-the-jewish-mind-part-three/.

Although I had not thought of nostalgia for the pre-urban America as an underlying theme in the social thought of the early progressives, I suggest that fear of Cain’s cities, with their imputed urban neurasthenia and exacerbated individualist striving, not to speak of class warfare, animated the emotions of the intellectuals described below. The Scary City is a theme now being taken up by cultural historians, mostly writing from the left, who may have more in common with these agrarian critics of modernity than they realize. (If you have time for only one blog, choose the scary city.)








It is important to remember that “mass culture” was considered to be a mobbish urban phenomenon that explained Hitler’s support and rise to power (the Frankfurt School story, see https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/), but it was also the explanation for all manner of mental illnesses, particularly narcissism (vainglory), deranged relations between the genders, and constant back-stabbing. For an example, see the NBC series Smash, which although it appears to sympathetically portray the New York theater world from a feminist, pro-gay perspective, Smash also calls into question the values it apparently celebrates, for instance contrasting the loneliness of stardom with the mutual solidarity offered by chorus members to the Katherine McPhee character. (In the last installment, nothing “works” in NYC, including the plumbing and heating. I have watched all seven episodes again, and wonder if the contrast drawn between country and city life will now evolve into the corruption of the innocent Karen, who will, like Marilyn, be ruined by the mercenary, anti-art values of show business.) (For more on Smash, see https://clarespark.com/2012/05/18/smash-season-finales-and-the-demonic/.)

We are so wrong about the imputed innocence and wholesomeness of the  [judenrein] small town life hitherto enjoyed by “Karen Cartwright” who starts Smash with a truncated performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (JFK used “innocence” and “wholesome” to describe Marilyn Monroe’s lascivious Happy Birthday song). Alongside of tight families and neighborliness, there were also troubled social relationships and authoritarian conduct pushing toward mindless conformity, as such writers as Sherwood Anderson were quick to identify and condemn. We do better to read Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio), along with such authors as Mark Twain and Cormac McCarthy for a better reading of force and fraud in American 19th century frontier life and beyond. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/03/20/links-to-cormac-mccarthy-and-mark-twain-blogs/.)

It is time to rehabilitate the “rootless cosmopolitans” who have been unfairly demonized by multiculturalists: Stalinists and Nazis alike. As the black novelist and ex-communist Richard Wright once implied: “any place I hang my hat is home.” Thornton  Wilder’s Stage Manager, in Wright’s scenario, is nowhere to be found. (For one rendition of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer song alluded to, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mtEp2paaes.)

Thornton Wilder as Stage Manager in Our Town

September 17, 2009

Moderate Men and “Dirty” Jews, Part Two

dirtyjew[Daniel Macmillan on impudent Scots, 1837:] The discontent of the lower classes is most painful in itself in the form it takes, and the spirit it springs from. How different was the old Covenanter spirit. These Covenanters were most noble. They fought for God’s truth, and wished to rid the earth of whatever was an abomination to the Lord. Duty was the highest thing to them, and they struggled hard to obey its behest. Their boldness was not a brutal, vulgar, ignorant temerity, without reverence, without faith, but solemn and noble. I feel sure of this, notwithstanding Sir Walter’s graphic misrepresentations. I have often talked with some of the remnant of that old stock,–a few who still keep alive the holy flame,–and know what true refinement lies at the bottom of their noble natures. But, alas, that race is becoming quite extinct. The poor men, the mechanics, weavers, and the like in our towns, care not one farthing for the Covenant, or for those deeper matters of which the Covenant was a symbol. They know nothing about duty or faith, or God; they care only about their rights; they talk only about reform, universal suffrage, from which they look for justice and deliverance from oppression. They do not look up to God for help in the old-fashioned way. This may be a ‘progress of humanity,’ and all the rest of that jargon, but I, for one, cannot admire it.

[Henry James, The American Scene, 1907] Who can tell…in any conditions and in the presence of any apparent anomaly, what the genius of Israel may, or may not, really be “up to”?[1]

[Carleton Coon, a Harvard physical anthropologist, cautiously exhorts readers in a textbook published by Macmillan, 1939:]  The subject of racial intelligence has…not progressed far enough to merit inclusion in a general work of racial history; it has furthermore provided too ready a field for political exploitation to be treated or interpreted as a side issue with scientific detachment.  Races, in the present volume, are studied without implication of inferiority or superiority….The people who came to America, from the time of the Pilgrim Fathers to the imposition of the laws restricting immigration, were selected; none were fully representative of the countries from which they came.  In America they were subjected to environmental forces of a new and stimulating nature, so that changes in growth such as their ancestors had not felt for centuries produced strange, gangling creatures of their children.  In America we have before our eyes the rapid action of race-building forces; if we wish to understand the principles which have motivated the racial history of the Old World, it behooves us to pay careful attention to the New. [2]

Willful blindness in literary history?  Melville scholars have rarely seen the Captain Ahab/Cain/Wandering Jew connection.[3]  They are aware, however, that Benito Cereno and Billy Budd were translated into German and published in 1938, that Nazi censors accepted these stories into the House whose visual arts were judenrein–purged of cultural Bolshevist cubism, expressionism and Dada–the House that sponsored heroic vitalism [Grosshans, 1983], and that refused “problematic and unfinished work” [Hinz, 1979, 9]; furthermore Melvilleans have been told by Charlotte Mangold that Frederich Schönemann, an American Studies scholar at the University of Berlin and director of the first Melville dissertation in Germany), was a German patriot hostile to United States democracy.[4]  Nevertheless, Mangold’s disturbing opinions and research, like Melville’s Jewish problem, have generally been evaded, denied, minimized, or misunderstood, perhaps for the very good and simple and obvious reason that “the Melville problem” is “the Jewish problem,” indeed, as Julius Streicher made emphatic, “democracy” (i.e., America) is the Jewish problem.

How can organic conservatives maintain order in the face of “Jewish” skepticism and adherence to scientific method? Was Herman Melville struggling with “religious doubt” or with the problem of destabilizing science and organic conceptions of order? For the conservative narrator of Melville’s lengthy poem Clarel, a Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876),  Hebrew fanaticism was carried in the Judaised Christian Nathan’s Puritan blood; I suspect that Melville identified with all his brainy Jewish characters and Wandering Jews (including Captain Ahab, Isabel, Margoth, Nathan, and Mortmain) but postwar cultural politics must have made it difficult to mention, let alone analyze, Melville’s immoderate Jews and crypto-Jews.  The Melville scholars are not uniquely weak or cowardly; rather, we are dealing with a cultural taboo: making comparisons between the structures and cultures of “the western democracies” with Nazi or Soviet totalitarianism may exude the odor of insubordinate, pushy, meddling, and atypical English radical puritans (see Part One of this blog, epigraph from Edward August Freeman’s biographer, Rev. Stephens). Yet nothing is more American than the lusty empiricism, materialism, and libertarian hankering for democracy, self-knowledge, and self-management that I understand the radical liberals to have been advocating, values that have been transmuted into their opposites by conservative promoters of Anglo-American cultural hegemony, such as Edward Augustus Freeman and his friends the Macmillan brothers, founders of the great publishing house.

Here are the responses from three American scholars (widely respected for their sensitivity to anti-Semitism and other libertarian concerns in literature and politics) to my letter asking them to comment on Melville’s conceptions of his Jewish characters and related matters: with Fiedler (author of an important article in Commentary, “What Shall We Do About Fagin?”) I was concerned with growing anti-Semitism after WWII and the pressure he (and other Jewish radicals) must have been under in the attempt to expose antisemitic stereotypes in English literature; with Kazin, I wondered about Philip Rahv’s switch from Melville quasi-deprecator (1940) to Melville fan (1949). [5]

[Leslie Fiedler:] “Let me begin by saying that I do not consider Herman Melville, finally, an anti-Semite at all. He was as ambivalent on the subject of Jews as on so many others.  But I would finally agree with what Sholem Kahn said way back in 1957. [In Commentary, praising Clarel.]

“What I have been concerned about and writing about–the Partisan Review embrace of Melville, Hawthorne, James, etc.–has little to do with the subject that concerns you, though James was indeed an anti-Semite.  What troubled me was what I felt to be a contradiction between the radical politics and élitist aesthetics of that group.  The problem of “deradicalization” is more complex than you make it.  Not all of the people involved with Partisan Review, did, in fact, become deradicalized.

“In any case, I don’t think a fear of an attack on American Jewish radicals played a part.  The years after World War II were, in fact, a time of philo-Semitism.  As far as my own political development ever since is concerned, it has been too erratic and full of contradictions to be characterized by any conventional label.

“As a final word, let me suggest you try to read Clarel a little harder.  It is a difficult book, more involved with Melville’s relationship to his Christian heritage than to the Jews.” [April 3, 1987].

[Michael Rogin:]  “No doubt as a part of my general effort to rehabilitate Melville, I’ve avoided thinking about his use of Jews, except for some things I say in my book about the pyramids–and a little about Clarel.  But Clarel as a book I mostly avoided–and I see I am sending you this note on the date of your talk.  Wonderful title, wonderful subject.  But I don’t have anything to say on it.  Freud, yes, Marx, yes, Nietzsche yes, Arendt, yes, but not Melville.” [April 23, 1987.  My UCLA talk was entitled “Good Jews, Bad Jews, and Wandering Jews in Herman Melville’s Clarel.”]

[Alfred Kazin:] ” I don’t regard Melville as a ‘radical.’  I think he became more and more of a philosophic Tory–this after being a sort of conventional radical democrat (romantic period) in early works.  Melville’s views of Jews seem to me less interesting and significant in every way than his absorption in the Bible and his conflict with himself about religious questions.  Hawthorne’s portrait of HM in his journal–HM on way to Palestine–is the classic and unforgettable picture of Melville’s religious agonies, doubts, searchings, etc.  Melville, of course, did not know many or any Jews, so I find that question merely theoretical.

‘I never remember any views of Melville’s politics on Rahv’s part.  Rahv was such an intellectual Marxist to the end that he would not have understood the complexities of Melville’s very American views of democracy.” [8 July 87, Graduate Center, CUNY]

Such responses are typical.  Melvilleans seem oblivious to Melville’s fascination with the Wandering Jew; similarly they apparently are bored or repelled by crazy, simple-minded and destructive Isabel;[6] perhaps the Melville scholars have not thought hard enough about the Terror-Gothic style in life and art.  But I don’t think so.  The centenary of Melville’s birth, 1919, the “official” beginning of the Melville revival, is also the year that Hitler entered politics.  No one has wondered (in print) about the ways Melville-ism (the social lesson drawn from “Melville’s” life and art since 1919) has been drawn into the Titanic struggles of our century, in which contending ideologies all claim the soubriquet “progressive” and love the People.  Specifically, (some) Marxists and left-liberals anchored to rationalism, materialism, science, and class conflict as both descriptive and normative, compete with movements which, though not identical, share the conscious or unconscious romantic belief that a natural organicism, a rooted cosmopolitanism, will be restored with the rejection of “modernity”; i.e., the expulsion of (Jewish) hammers, (Jewish) machines, and (Jewish) money interest: [7]  These are corporatist liberalism, Italian Fascism, German National Socialism, and “New Age” or “Green” tendencies in the post 1960s counter-culture.

I am not suggesting that Melville was ever a proto-Nazi; people who resembled the aristocratic “Melville” (the conservative False Self) loathed the Hitler mob as vulgar upstarts and denounced “the Holocaust” just as “Tommo” condemned massacres of unarmed Indians.[8]  But Melville’s bad Jews are not limited to the “Hegelised” German-Jewish geologist Margoth (as Rolfe gathered from his physiognomy), or to the old orthodox Jewish men cursed by Clarel who blocked him from the rescue of the “good” Jewesses, Agar and Ruth, held captive by Nathan’s Zionism, and (perhaps) thwarting their conversion to the (less bigoted) Christianity and (perhaps) causing their untimely deaths.  The Wandering Jew, in his most lethal constructions, inhabits Melville’s imagination and Western culture.  Margoth “the apostate” yet “such a Jew” is no aberration, no inexplicable bout of bad taste.  Rather Margoth (like Banadonna, Daniel Orme and others) is the critical artist/scientist and Lockean materialist, the revolutionary bourgeois-becoming-god-knows-what, the radical puritan whose cultural practice mocks and delegitimizes organicist formulations of society and nature, turning gardens into wastelands, the Bible into a text among other texts. (For more on Margoth as symbol of modernity, desacralizing the Holy Land,  see prior blog “Margoth v. Robert E. Lee: https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/)

Afterward. In this two-part blog, I have dealt with mostly modern forms of antisemitism: the association of “the dirty Jews” with an anti-social love of filthy lucre (see the New Testament), the drive of “the Chosen People” toward domination of the entire world, and insolent, sometimes sub rosa, radicalism. In the footnotes, I have also reiterated the arguments of prior blogs, that many of today’s “anti-racists” carry a racialist discourse common to the counter-Enlightenment organic conservatives who have co-opted the term “progressives” and who, while professing their moderation, have evacuated the Enlightenment in a protofascist direction.

But there is a more subtle association of “dirt” with “the Jews,” and it has to do with the most basic precepts of Judaism. The High Holy Days are upon us, and it is the occasion when the Jew is obliged to take an inventory of his conduct during the past year. The harm done to others must be acknowledged, repented, and reparations made to the injured party. But such introspection is not confined to ten days of the year. Rather, it is a cultural pattern of many Jews, secular or religious, that s/he asks herself continually, “what if I am wrong in my opinions?” or “how do I know when my apparently benevolent behavior may have ulterior motives that are self-interested, and not at all generous?” The answers to this ongoing self-questioning are rarely  unambiguous and clear, but rather impure, unclean, and messy. Here is one possible source of the “dirtiness” that many hostile non-Jews, confident in their own moderation, purity and righteousness, ascribe to “the Jews.” And readers of my blogs may recall that Hitler found such dirty ambiguity and uncertainty intolerable. What of the millions who continue to admire him today? How do they intend to clean us up? for Part One of this series, see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/17/moderate-men-and-dirty-jews-part-one/.

Footnotes.  [1] Henry James, Collected Travel Writings: Great Britain and America (Library of America, 1993): 468.  See commentary by Alan Trachtenberg, “Conceivable Aliens,” Yale Review     42-64.

[2] Carleton Stevens Coon, The Races of Europe (New York: Macmillan, 1939): vii-viii, 652.  Cf. Lothrop Stoddard, Harvard Ph.D. urging readers in the early 1920s to stop “the revolt of the under-man”and the destruction of the white race by thinking “racially.”  Stoddard’s environmentalism is a “materialism” intended to displace empiricism: it is of course the same old conservative organicism; key words identify the pseudo-materialist discourse: “milieux,” “climate,” “roots” and “equilibria” used to describe social organization and relationships.

I want to draw a critical distinction between two kinds of merging; corporatists coerce harmony in the interests of ruling groups, while liberals merge the interests of humanity in the attainment of universal human rights. A society whose institutions are characterized by easily discernable class antagonisms, thus riven by multiple conflicts, will be molded by the corporatist leader into “the body politic” possessing consensus, legitimacy, and a “national character.” For the racialist thinker, nationalities or ethnic groups are talked about as if a conglomeration of contradictory institutions, classes, and individuals could become, in fact, one coherent body, The People. Language is deployed to arouse anxiety accordingly.

John Locke and other revolutionary modern thinkers (including the Freud of The Future of an Illusion) had a different model for human interactions, focusing on human resourcefulness and resilience, not weakness and vulnerability. The Radical Enlightenment thinkers, following Locke, stressed the need for insight into man-made political institutions; structures that were not to be confused with natural bodies. A person responds to the conditions of the natural and built environments with a more or less educated understanding, adapting to, or transforming the conditions (or leaving). The fearful isolation and relative helplessness of the individual, so pronounced in the irrationalist Charles Olson, is mitigated by social cooperation, shared knowledge, and social action. For the rationalists, individual or social progress is sometimes incremental, sometimes relatively sudden. But simply modifying the built environment would not instantly remove all forms of illegitimate authority to create a better human being or a better breed of wheat in one generation, as the Lysenkoists and other utopian social engineers imagined. These latter ‘environmentalists’ harkened to a more primitive social theory that supported irrationalist methods of persuasion to protect leaders from the surveillance of their constituencies. The two competing “environmentalisms” must be differentiated.

In his conception of the tabula rasa Locke had drastically modified the ancient Greek or Roman conception of environmentalism, which held that individuals and peoples were stamped or inscribed by climate, geography (“soil”) and culture–molded like a bit of clay. In the racialist discourse of today, such inscriptions are transmitted in “the blood” no matter where peoples or their progeny might travel. Necessarily opposing the Lockean model, which implied a fresh start for every newborn child and awesome responsibilities for its parents and other educators, the racial theorist could employ this older time-tested vocabulary of “blood and soil” to manipulate emotions, thus inducing physical responses in the audience. The unwary reader or listener would respond to dirty words, bad blood, environmental “molding” or any other evocation of “fallen flesh” with visceral revulsion or panic as if these words were germs or toxins: real threats to health and wholeness from the environment that had slyly infiltrated the body.

The radically Enlightened theorists, whether they were Marxists or classical liberals, saw class conflict and its multiple manifestations in institutions and social movements as an engine of history; their arguments for amelioration were based on ethical universalism, specifically the right of all individuals to development. The conservatively enlightened ethnopluralists counter-attacked with scientific racism: for the Social Darwinists, world history was determined solely by racial competition. Nations became individuals with a national character and a will to power; the fittest survived. At the behest of Progressive anthropologists in the 1930s, the concept of ‘race’ was shifted to ‘ethnicity’. The Leninist policy of tactical alliances with national liberation movements in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, no matter how antidemocratic, reinforced the acceptance of the organicist discourse for twentieth-century Leftists: there was no longer a universalist concept of socialism (i.e., the movement toward ever more democratic societies as understood by seventeenth- or eighteenth-century political theorists, then the Second International), but many Marxisms, each one filtered through the traditional culture of the oppressed “ethnic” group. So authoritarian, militaristic Third World cultural nationalists could reject “the West,”also conceived as an organic unity, without objections from Leninist intellectuals.

Upper-class eugenicists fretted over race suicide and the rising tide of color. Today’s anti-imperialists, some of them ‘Marxists’, decry “white supremacy” as the source of Third World underdevelopment. It is wrong, in my view, to confuse individuals with groups or to impute racial group character to classes. The multiculturalists (ethnopluralists) urge their followers to be strong and unified, as if personal or ethnic group strength and the power of the will alone could remove the sources of exploitation. Reading their unfounded optimism backward into history, the ethnopluralists resort to myth in order to strengthen and unify their racial or ethnic group against the taunts of the dominant culture. But see Julian Huxley and A.C. Haddon, We Europeans (London: Harper, 1936), 16-18. Huxley noted that scholars lacking training in science had mistranslated “ethnos” as race (17). This book was appropriated by Ashley Montagu who, while denouncing the concept of race, subtly attributed to the ostensibly non-racist concept of “ethnicity” the Lamarckian qualities of blood and soil, citing the Huxley book as support: Montagu wrote that the internationalist Huxley had advocated “ethnicity” as an organizing concept for anthropologists. But for Huxley ethnicity was a term of convenience referring solely to any population under discussion with no connotation of uniformity or kinship, while for ethnopluralists, the substitution of ethnicity for race generally did not remove the implication of group character.

The Trotskyist writers of Partisan Review were acutely aware of these issues made urgent by Popular Front literary policies that had demagogically substituted the war between “fascism and democracy” for the conflict between capital and labor in the Depression; see Philip Rahv, “Two Years of Progress–From Waldo Frank to Donald Ogden Stewart,” PR 4 (Feb. 1938): 22-30.

[3] See for instance, Wyn Kelly, “Melville’s Cain,” American Literature (March 1983): 24-40, who attempts to classify  variants of the Cain legend, 31, but there is no mention of the Wandering Jew in her text or references (nor in Susan Sontag’s work, although she knows that Jews were blamed for cholera and other plagues).

[4] See Berthold Hinz, Art in the Third Reich (N.Y.: Pantheon, 1979);  Henry Grosshans, Hitler and the Artists (N.Y.: Holmes and Meier, 1983); Charlotte Weiss Mangold, Herman Melville in German Criticism From 1900 to 1955 (University of Maryland diss., 1959): 109, fn 2.  Mangold (and other Melvilleans) should have more fully identified Schönemann. Max Weinrich’s index in Hitler’s Professors, op.cit. (282) identifies him as an important Nazi scholar in the following entry: “[b.] May 30, 1886. Instructor, Harvard U., 1913-1920. Professor of North American Civilization, U. of Berlin. Author: “Der Anglo-Amerikaner und das Judentum,” Wk II (1942); “Das geistige Geschichte Amerikas,” NSMon, October, 1942, 657-666; “Hintergrunde und Tendenzen des USA-Imperialismus,” Völk und Reich, 1942, 697-706; Die Veinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (Berlin, Junker und Dunnhaupt, 1943, 160).”

[5] See Philip Rahv, “The Cult of Experience,” Partisan Review (Nov.-Dec.1940), 412-424, then his review of Newton Arvin’s 1949 Melville study.

[6] For instance, Lewis Mumford and Henry A. Murray, but recently Ann Douglas in The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Knopf, 1977).

[7] George Mosse, Germans and Jews: The Right, The Left and the Search for a Third Force in Pre-Nazi Germany (New York: Howard Fertig, 1970).  There is an instructive (and still current) debate in Partisan Review (Fall 1938) between Edmund Wilson and William Phillips, regarding Marx’s relations to Hegelianism and organicism generally, 66-90 with Wilson taking the Hegelian position, Phillips the more materialist one.  Wilson’s views might be compared to those of E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams, as applied, for instance in Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1984). There has been some interest in Wilson on Melville on the internet Melville discussion group.  Wilson published an anthology in 1943, The Shock of Recognition, including Melville’s admiring essay of the anti-materialist Hawthorne, “Hawthorne and His Mosses.” Interestingly, Wilson was not part of the Melville Revival.

[8] Uriel Tal in Christians and Jews in Germany feels that Christian anti-Semitism eschews rabble-rousing massacres, but would exclude Jews from positions of authority in education and government, 232.

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