The Clare Spark Blog

July 16, 2011

Disraeli’s contribution to social democracy

One of the chief tactics of populists and progressives is to depict themselves as persons of the “grass roots”; as spokesmen for the common man and woman against “the money power.”

And [hook-nosed] moneybags are held by the populist-progressives to control all information in the society, with the exception of underground messaging and alternative media. The internet has only facilitated such carelessness and populists can be found on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. I have found them to be haters and uninterested in the histories they claim to depict with accuracy, deluded into the belief that they are correcting the “propaganda” generated by serious students of the past. There is money in it, as the book sales figures or viewers of some “traditionalist” conservative stars can attest. This blog seeks to correct a common misconception I have found in the ranks of some who deem themselves conservatives: that Rousseau* generated the Jacobins, and that a straight line can be drawn between the furious mob behavior in the Reign of Terror and the Democratic or even moderate Republican (“RINO”) opposition.  And the enemy is “secularism, ” redefined to signify atheism, a.k.a., worship of the Goddess of Reason, rather than religious pluralism and the separation of church and state.

As everything on this website will attest, populism and progressivism did not spring, fully-formed, from the industrial working class, or small farmers, or any other sector of the population de-skilled or otherwise harmed by the industrial revolution and the concentration of ownership in corporations. Rather, its ideology was largely cooked up by those European intellectuals who identified with a threatened aristocracy, and who wrote copiously in order to persuade a frivolous and conspicuously consuming class of lords and ladies, princes and kings, that they had better unite with The People against the “laissez-faire” industrial bourgeoisie that was the chief cause of lower-class suffering with the advent of science, the machine age, utilitarianism, railroads, the Higher Criticism of the Bible, and of course, Darwinism.

With a renewed devotion to “religion” (now seen as instrument of social control for all classes) the aristocracy would mend its ways, reverting to the gentle paternalism that was believed to have existed in the Middle Ages, and the new education-hungry working-class would settle for those reforms that did not threaten the social order as it had existed before mad scientists and engineers made the scene. The lower orders would be treated to lots and lots of spectacles and costume parties.

Benjamin Disraeli, a prolific author before he entered the British parliament, later to become Prime Minister and the Earl of Beaconsfield, wrote novels all his life, but the group of novels relevant to this posting was published in the mid-1840s, and meant to introduce “The New Generation” that would represent “Young England.”  Coningsby, Sybil, or the Two Nations, and Tancred, or the New Crusade,** were a trilogy intended to instruct Europe as to the chaos that was to be generated by the new industrial poor, whether they be slaves to the machine or miners–unless they were rescued by an enlightened and progressive aristocracy. Sybil, in particular, sounded the tocsin, and appeared the same year, 1845, as did Engels’ famous book on the condition of the working class in Manchester. Disraeli’s father, Isaac D’Israeli, never renounced Judaism, but did baptize all his children into the Church of England, home of the Elizabethan Compromise.

What Disraeli accomplished was to provide the moderate conservative alternative to the red specter that was haunting Europe. The Good King would represent the People against all forces of dissolution, and all would be self-sacrificing as their model, Jesus Christ, had been. Without faith, there could be no sense of duty, and everyone was bound by duty and those rights that kept the peasantry prosperous, and the male working class not exhausted or forced to compete with female and child labor.

Sybil with book

Disraeli was hardly alone in his prescriptions for a measured progress, with his religious model apostolic Christianity and the “reverence” it embodied. He was writing in the tradition of Hume and Burke, of the German Romantics (including Herder and Goethe). His contemporaries, such as hero-worshipping Carlyle and the Christian Socialists, and later Bismarck, would echo the same tradition of conservative reform, staving off excess of every kind, whether it be upper-class selfishness (“individualism” or “puritanism”) or lower-class licentiousness and excessive interest in the heroism of some Old Testament figures (see Kingsley’s Alton Locke, a founding document of Christian Socialism, puported to be the confession of an ex-Chartist, now dying of consumption).

Populism is inconceivable without hero-worship and the obeisance to opinion leaders, stand-ins today for the Good King imagined by Disraeli. In the populist appeal to emotions (“compassion”) and false utopias, rather than to careful analysis of policy, the notion of a democratic republic is subverted beyond recognition, wherever it may be found, on the left or right. Class warfare, wielded cynically by some Democrats, works, for populists hate capitalism/the money power. That is “the way we live now.”

*See image from Columbia Today (Alumni Magazine responding to 1968 student strike):

** See cartoon and description of Tancred in Arab News: The blurb author misses the point of Disraeli’s trilogy: to relocate the fount of Christianity in Jerusalem rather than Rome. Disraeli seems to have reconciled his Judaic ancestors with Christianity by finding heroism, honor, and direct communication with the Deity in the Middle East. What this may hint about relations with his father is speculation on my part. He does mention “theocratic equality” in Tancred, which suggests that equality is defined in religious terms, not material ones (those of the working poor who rise in the class system are tamed through deference and self-control), and that an established religion is the major source of social solidarity.

With respect to his relations with Judaism, his move was simply to stress the Judaic origins of Christianity, thus knocking out the antithesis between Good Christian and Evil Jew and making Jerusalem and environs the cradle of civilization. I don’t know if he was the first to do this, but it was certainly an obsessive theme. In Tancred, he complains bitterly about antisemitism, and lets none of his characters off the hook. It is unfortunate that in the process, he cleaved to contemporary notions of race and national character.

It is also interesting that his orientalist hero, Tancred, Lord Montecute, is prevented at the last minute from marrying the gorgeous Jewess Eva. In the last sentence we discover that his parents have come to Jerusalem to get him away from all those too rich, brilliant, and irresistible  Jews. There is also a hint that momma’s puritanism may have driven Tancred to excessive religiosity and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem/Syria, where any sensitive, shy fellow would have gone off the deep end, faced with all that glamor. As for Sidonia, a character sometimes identified with a Rothschild or even with Disraeli himself, Sidonia is wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, and the model man of the world, brilliant and a linguist, but he lacks a heart: Sidonia is incapable of emotional attachments–he is a rootless cosmopolitan, the very embodiment of THE MONEY POWER, as drawn by the would-be aristocratic anticapitalist, Benjamin Disraeli.

July 29, 2009

A Synthesis for Antisemitism since the American Civil War

Filed under: 1 — clarelspark @ 9:27 pm
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Ignatius Donnelly, author, leader, antisemite

A hedge fund manager asked me if there was a generational conflict between the baby-boom generation and the younger Americans; also mentioning that there is a great deal of animus now being directed against Wall Street. In his view, such attacks were quite antisemitic. So I wrote something that would address the question of “the Jews” and American politics since the American Civil War, a conflict that unleashed the forces of industrialism and expansion that the South, in charge of the antebellum government, had opposed unless the industrial economy would retain slave labor. What follows is that compressed history.

The WASP ruling group in America (including segments both of the Northeastern establishment and the Southern agrarians)  compromised in the face of industrial capitalism and the swarm of immigrants that it attracted,  as the industrial society dramatically accelerated after the Civil War. The WASP populist-Progressive strategy (beginning with some Mugwump reformism, then the Progressive institutions that took off in 1900) was to oppose unbridled capitalism (nailing it on the profit-crazy Jews), and to concede the great cities to the Democratic machines, with all the corruption and patronage that entailed. The Irish and Italians carved out their own urban mini-empires, while the immigrant Eastern European Jews, predisposed to socialism (especially after the Soviet coup of 1917 that promised an end to antisemitism), joined Roosevelt’s New Deal with joy, thinking that this patrician was their special friend and protector; moreover that social democratic remedies would end the depression (it didn’t: the war did). Or they went all the way to become communists, and were parents to the most activist and effective organizers of the 1960s generation: their offspring had no trouble finding favor with an already antisemitic, anticapitalist, “liberal internationalist” Northeastern establishment, and instead of being crushed, went on to take charge of the mass media, the humanities, the schools of education, and journalism, supported morally and financially by the “liberal” foundations, such as Rockefeller and Ford (derived from famously anti-Semitic families). In other words, these “moderate conservatives” a.k.a., social democrats, were very skilled at co-opting and defusing oppositional individuals and movements, and rewriting prior American history to make “the American empire” [sic] uniquely imperialist, evil, and deadly to minorities.

The “moderates” would change all that, and they have been in charge for some time. What they appear to fear most is growing “inequality” for that portends revolution or other servile revolts. The super-rich and their heirs will sacrifice much of their wealth to reduce the appearance of inequality. (Indeed, the latest cover of Harvard Magazine (July-August 2008) shows a bloated bird with a mouthful of worms, oblivious to three skinnier birds fighting over a single worm: The headline: “Unequal America, The growing gap.” The birds stand on an American flag. The Harvard Corporation does not harbor supply-siders, apparently.

So the defense of free markets and equal opportunity was relegated by default to the anticommunist Right, that was, until recently, almost entirely isolationist, nativist, and heavily antisemitic too (the neocons call this old guard paleoconservatives). The “neocons,”  many of whom are former (Jewish) Trotskyists or ex-social democrats, want both social liberalism and pro-growth economics, understanding that there is a positive role for the state in regulating and stabilizing markets, but that a balance must be struck, so that the state does not discourage investment and self-reliance. But safety nets are also a requirement, for innovating markets can be brutal in their effects (and these effects can be permanent and irreversible). To achieve such a balance (or an approximation thereof), old policies and programs require constant reevaluation and tweaking.

Sadly, the social democratic (redistributionist) establishment has hardened its positions, demonizing “neocons” and sponsoring reparations of various kinds to abused minorities, rather than cleaning out the corruption of the cities and in the unions. Thus we have the national polarization of today, with populists in both the extreme Left and the extreme Right attacking each other but also attacking the centrists (who want to devise a more rational capitalism in line with such as Hayek and Milton Friedman). Populists are always at least latently antisemitic, for they have internalized a discourse that conflates all Jews with what used to be called “the money power,” and, like the Jew-hating European Right, populists (perhaps unconsciously) identifying “the Jews” with Wall Street, the profit motive that causes class warfare, control of mass media, and the popular culture that has, in their view, caused decadence and coarsened the culture.

I have laid out an all too compressed way of defining social history since the Civil War with its often embedded antisemitism. To answer the question originally posed to me by a hedge-fund manager, I don’t think that an historian would see the “baby boomers” as a unified group, but rather as a highly diverse large population that will, as a class, bankrupt entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

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