YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 4, 2014

“Race relations” as managed by the Left

whitepolice[This is the first of two blogs on the subject of race relations after Ferguson. See https://clarespark.com/2014/11/25/reflections-on-the-ferguson-aftermath/.%5D

Is there a thread linking the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner cases?

This blog is about the horrific consequences of abandoning the widely differing details of each of these deaths, in favor of collapsing unique events into the discourse of “race relations.”  This, along with securitizing mortgages, was a practice initiated by the white liberal establishment in response to thuggish “cultural nationalists” who mounted urban race riots in the mid to late 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of legal integration was annexed to the Pan Africanism of “black power” with the blessing of cultural anthropology and the Democratic Party. This recent history, documented in widely available books, has either been ignored or forgotten or buried. For my blogs on this transformation see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/ and  especially https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ .

The most elite universities and foundations came up with the idea co-opting the mob’s “leaders.”  Along with this mystification that erased individual differences for the sake of the organic community/multiculturalism/social stability/group cohesion, came the ratification of a certain kind of reactionary nationalism.

Recall that for decades, Nazis and “fascists” were believed to be produced by excessive “nationalism.” Only a few voices bothered to make distinctions between contrasting forms of “nationalism.” The anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, was one of these. Oddly the late historian Eric Hobsbawm was another, but he was arguing from the communist Left, whereas Sumner thought of himself as a moderate conservative.

First, Charles Sumner: For the lawyer Sumner, an admirer of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution (that he viewed as having the force of law, affirming human equality and negating slavery), the state had limited functions: national security and the protection of individual human rights (that meant equality before the law, rich and poor alike). He was also a modernizer who believed that all Americans deserved an excellent free education. See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/. For Sumner’s view of railroads as modern improvements see https://clarespark.com/2013/11/30/railroading-captain-ahab/, and https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.  I see Sumner as a proponent of limited government. Were he alive today, he might be a libertarian with a bias in favor of meritocracy; he would surely be enraged by the inferior educations tolerated in ghetto schools. Sumner was a man of the Enlightenment, as was his intellectual descendant Walter Lippmann (see https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.)


Second, Eric Hobsbawm, who made crucial distinctions between liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism in a widely read Nation article: Liberal nationalism, unlike its conservative form, was about reducing privilege, step by step. Conservative nationalism was solely about the control of territory and resources, in competition with other states.

The cultural nationalism favored by today’s liberal elites who  push “multiculturalism” based on racial identity or similar forms of artificial “community” (like affinity groups), would have to be rejected by that forgotten man, Sumner.  Hobsbawm would probably go along with the ethnicity/race craze that has substituted for class analysis since the days of the Popular Front, even though 1930s Marxist-Leninists were strongly anti-racist before they got their marching orders from Stalin to bond with their prior class enemies, the “anti-fascist [imperialist, racist] bourgeoisie.”

Then the New Left came along, allegedly the friends of the downtrodden. Those who had benefited from prestigious educations went on to fight for the commanding heights of academe and journalism, which they now occupy, having been tolerated by weak-kneed liberals (conservatives having been banished from the respectable humanities owing to their “McCarthyism”). Their students have been indoctrinated into the belief that “African Americans” (a Pan-African term) are a cohesive whole, each one oppressed by “Whitey.” Some of these new model “anti-racists” even write popular television shows in which blacks not only enjoy interracial sex or marry with whites, but dominate them, sometimes behind the scenes (Scandal comes to mind: will Olivia Pope and her “gladiators”–other liberals masquerading as moderate Republicans– ever escape from her father’s net?).

Even some anchors on Fox News Channel accept the premises of identity politics: the police should “look like” the communities where they enforce the law, as if “white people” need to be reined in or “balanced” by members of minority groups. (Joe Hicks made two appearances on Fox, mocking such a premise, but he has disappeared from their channel as of this writing.)


If historian Michael Burleigh is correct, and the most salient feature of Nazism was the “racial state,” then I will have to drop my cautious use of the term “proto-fascist.” We are in for it, the real thing, shipmates.


The law is now a dead letter, as dead as Charles Sumner’s vision of limited but just government.  (For an academic critique of nationalism that I found on the web see http://professornerdster.com/nationalism-why-wont-you-just-die-seriously/.)

July 26, 2014

Darren Mulloy and the John Birch Society

mulloyJBS.jpgThe author is quoted in the Vanderbilt University Press handout for reviewers, quoting the author: “I don’t see the John Birch Society as some part of the ‘lunatic fringe’ of American society, but as a part of the wider culture of the Cold War and as a bridge to the contemporary conservatism of the Tea Party.” VUP: “The John Birch Society played a significant role in the development of the conservative movement as we know it in the U.S.” This statement ignores that the book states unequivocally that it covers the period 1958-1968, with no materials justifying this p.r. guide to potential reviewers, who, presumably will take this book to establish the continuity claimed between the conspiratorial, demonized, and fantastical Welch and his followers and the current disparate foes to “big government.”

D. J. Mulloy is an associate professor in a Canadian university, where he is a member of the history department.A historian is peer-reviewed by the originality of his research and the novelty of the primary sources used. Here are the “primary sources” listed by Professor Mulloy [not one of these is considered to be a primary source comparable to private papers, letters, and diaries, though these must exist in the papers of chief actors in the postwar period from Eisenhower on through Nixon and Ford, not to speak of Buckley and other right-wing characters described in the book: CS ]:
1. John Birch Society periodicals, pamphlets, and speeches
2. Website for JBS.
3. Books (written by eight authors, including Robert W. Welch, Jr.)
4. Newspapers and periodicals
5. Official documents and reports

This is an astounding publication to have emanated from an academic press (Vanderbilt UP, 2014). There are zero examples of either Welch diaries, his correspondence, or the diaries and private correspondence of the chief actors in the melodrama limned by Mulloy. One can only conclude that VUP published a hatchet job directed against all Republicans and conservatives. This despite the evidence supplied by the Venona documents, and the material unearthed by scholars allowed to examine the briefly opened Soviet archives, that did provide proof of Soviet sabotage and spying, as reported by established and more cautious scholars such as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, Mark Kramer, Ron Radosh, Alexander Vassiliev, and Allen Weinstein.

Moreover, where extremely controversial events are concerned, Mulloy will often cite one book, rather than a variety of interpretations, including those that disagree with whatever claim he makes at the moment in his mad dash through the postwar period.

Chief among his targets is those who claim that the US military budget was justified in light of the fighting strength of the Soviet Union. This is one of the contentions of those Stalinists who accuse [fascist] Americans of starting the Cold War, and of exaggerating the Soviet military threat. Indeed, one prominent New Leftist alerted me to recently declassified CIA documents ‘proving’ that the US was guilty as charged by the Left. But when I looked at these documents, I saw no such materials, but rather, in reviewing the documents treating the Psychological Strategy Board of the 1950s (under the Truman and Eisenhower administrations), I found only disagreement and confusion in high government circles regarding the best approach to dealing with Soviet expansionism. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_Strategy_Board, and my detailed article “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA Historical Journal Vol. 10, 1990.)

Another of Mulloy’s professional lapses is his failure to distinguish between class interest and his imprecisely rendered notion of “conspiracy.” Nor is there even an entry in his index for the Popular Front, which might have explained why it was difficult for “extremist” conservatives such as Welch to distinguish between communists and social democrats, a problem that persists today as more and more professed revolutionary socialists deploy the argot of the counter-revolutionary social democrats. (Eric Hobsbawm is one example: see https://clarespark.com/2013/10/28/hobsbawm-israel-the-totalitarian-idea/.)

Moreover, what Mulloy never explains to the reader is this: Marx was never a conspiracy theorist; this was a theoretical point that the JBS didn’t understand, nor probably William F. Buckley either. Socialist revolution would not come from a small group of fanatical terrorists barking out orders from Moscow, but would result from working class revolt, owing to their increasing immiseration under capitalism (resulting from declining rates of profit—a prediction that failed to materialize as Marx had predicted). (Bureaucratic centralism and statism were “Marxist-Leninist” innovations.)

I suppose Mulloy is yet another social democrat who projects his elitism upon a social movement that it does not resemble at all. The populists described in Mulloy’s book were first and foremost suspicious of statist elites, and still are (https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/ which is indeed elitist).

Working class agency/the labor movement is entirely invisible in Mulloy’s mural of postwar Amerikkka, the land of the easily duped.


April 19, 2014

‘Totalitarianism’ (2)

pimpsup-hosdownOn April 17, I wrote this popular blog: https://clarespark.com/2014/04/17/totalitarianism/. It was preceded by a related blog that also was popular: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community. The blogs on ‘totalitarianism’ got lots of views probably because it was not widely known at that time that there was a pseudo-democratic movement afoot to eliminate the Electoral College and substitute the trappings of a popular democracy, in effect, reversing the Constitution and eliminating the notion of a constitutional republic in favor of [mob rule, urban domination]. In other words, such details as the marketplace of ideas, checks and balances, and separation of powers would be obsolete and “anti-democratic” because they are ultimately controlled and defined by “the big money”—or so such blue-state politicians as Andrew Cuomo would have to argue.

We have seen the signs of such a transition to authoritarian statism already: the expedited passage of the Affordable Care Act (and then lawlessness in its implementation), the increasing power of the executive branch, the takeover of academe by “Democrats” who shamelessly proclaim themselves the police force that will patrol dissident factions (i.e., the Tea Party and all those who fear Big Government: see https://clarespark.com/2014/04/12/the-organization-of-american-historians-taking-sides/), and the turnaround of Brandeis University in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali—an insult supported by the Harvard Crimson staff, devoted as they are to multiculturalism, as opposed to the clash of civilizations thesis advanced by Hirsi Ali, who unequivocally states that there are no moderate Muslims. Similarly, the Secretary of State John Kerry’s deluded hope that he might broker a peace between Arabs and Israelis, reflects the assumptions of multiculturalism, as opposed to recognizing that there are some “differences” that are not only irreconcilable, but cannot be settled by mediation or “inclusion.” (And what the Left wants is a binational state, i.e., the end of a majority Jewish state, and the return of Jews to dhimmi status.) Soon we will all be requested to bow and scrape before our Platonic Guardians or the new nomenklatura.

Ever since I read Barack Obama’s two books in 2008, I have feared a bloodless transition to either fascism or communism. (Why bloodless? The population is so pacified/brainwashed, and force so unevenly distributed that I do not expect significant resistance.) BUT, I do not equate the two forms of statism, and have written extensively about this distinction in the past: The revolution of Communism promised to fulfill the promise of the Enlightenment with its ideal of individual emancipation, while Fascism (in all its variants) was a counter-Revolution that erased the Enlightenment, substituting the judenrein “people’s community” for the independent individual endowed with civil rights. Now look at the discourse of the Left and its stronghold in the Democratic Party: its key words are “families” or “the people” or “community”—entities that, in contrast to terroristic Republicans/Israelis/Goldfingers, are noted for their tender care and outreach to “the oppressed.”

One explicator of this crucial difference between fascism and communism was the late communist historian Eric Hobsbawm. See https://clarespark.com/2013/10/28/hobsbawm-israel-the-totalitarian-idea/. Sadly, Hobsbawm lacked the critical distance not to bash Israel and finance capital, as have other leftists, Karl Marx for instance in his early essay on “Money” as “the universal pimp.” But my most persuasive argument against the use of the word “totalitarian” is this: why are artists and dissidents murdered, locked up, or bought off in these omnipotent societies if it is so easy to impose total control on the population in societies with a tradition of cultural pluralism and at least a measure of free thought? Who but intellectuals benefit from this emphasis on the Soviets as compared to the Nazis and all their atrocities?

Two authors stand out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Nolte#The_Historikerstreit. Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism (Hannah Arendt’s “great book”). Whatever their motives, such books and arguments take our attention away from the dynamics of Hitler’s rise to power and the unspeakable consequences of the Third Reich. As I write this, the factions that make up the right wing in America (not to be confused with the European Right) are still fighting with each other. Until the magnitude of the crisis that confronts us is broadly recognized and addressed in solidarity, excising those fringe groups and behaviors that really ARE racist, terroristic, populistic, and lawless (the Klan, Neo-Nazis, usually blamed by the Left on “the Right”), there is little doubt about who wins and who loses. If we get to 2016 without a coup (call it what you will), I will be the most surprised of anyone. plato

October 28, 2013

Hobsbawm, Israel, the totalitarian idea

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:14 pm
Tags: , , , ,

EH workers caphttps://clarespark.com/2012/11/23/historians-vs-pundits-the-eric-hobsbawm-synthesis/





And related blogs on totalitarianism





October 6, 2013

The wild ones: Brando, Pacino, romantic rebels

Brando_-_The_Wild_OneIn prior blogs, I have tried to understand the appeal of such film masterpieces as The Godfather series. This blog will go beyond what I have written previously.

[Written in late August 2013:] Speaking of angst, on the flight home I watched all of The Godfather  (175 minutes). Like zillions of others, I thought it was a powerful and well-made movie; I have done zero research on it yet, but here are some guesses ahead of my future study. First, it was obviously Coppola’s FU to the Hollywood system. The first villain, though not identified as Jewish, was vulgar (rather like Citizen Kane/Cain). His name was Woltz (sounds German, could be German-Jewish). The corruption of Hollywood stands for a society that is utterly bought and sold by criminal elements: politicians, law enforcement, newspapers, everybody that shapes public opinion or protects us from the bad guys: (more Citizen Kane). The transformation of war hero, Ivy-educated Michael from “civilian” to his father’s successor as head of the family “business” could signify that brutalization of the young that is said by many historians to have followed the Great War. Note that conflicts between gang bosses are always referred to as wars, not disputes between criminals. In the world we see depicted everybody is guilty, except for the women, who are merely hysterical when they are not putting up with spousal abuse or neglect. They are both protected from the world of men, or are contented to be Sicilian breeders and feeders. Finally, I noted the importance of neighborhood, religion, family and ethnicity to Southern Italian immigrants. The Godfather series came out during the height of the social policy transition from an emphasis on class, to an emphasis on the durability of ethnic ties over class ties. The Corleone family has not assimilated, and doesn’t care. They hew to the colorful ways of 19th and 20th century urban ethnics with their scofflaw patronage systems, or in the case of the Corleones, Sicilian peasants and the patriarchal system. In comes localism, radical historicism, and multiculturalism. In other mass media offerings, the demonic is celebrated, in dangerous neo-Romantic fashion, see https://clarespark.com/2013/03/30/philip-roth-the-following-and-identification-with-the-aggressor/.

[This was a sentence from Hunting Captain Ahab (my book on the 1920s Melville revival), quoting a progressive American Rabbi:] Lee Levinger’s “exceptional individual,” the “genius or social discoverer” was linked to the “criminal or social rebel.” Mad and tragic misfits–like stubborn, hypersensitive, primitivistic Jews regressively merged with their “alters” or “other”– refused the “tolerant” “social self.”

In a Facebook comment yesterday, I expressed my discomfort with the Godfather series, arguing that it was typical counter-cultural in its intention and result. A few howls went up, as many view the first two in the series as masterpieces of movie-making. They are surely skillfully made, but I will continue to analyze them as morally suspect, even dangerously so.

First, are they artifacts of the counter-culture (including the Left)? In the days when I was on the radio or in graduate school at UCLA, I met countless leftists, some of considerable fame and reputation. Many of them urged me to prove my bona fides by engaging in some criminal act. One street theater fellow even urged me to steal something from a wealthy art-collector’s home. Another (in academe) attempted to borrow money from me (illegal), or to engage in an action that would help a red buddy to evade taxation. Being a first child, I am very disposed to following the rules, and such approaches were anathema. I always viewed my younger sister as the rebel in the family (which she was), which is typical first child behavior on my part. I was the Apollonian, she was the Dionysian.)

I left the Left because when the chips were down, these supposed freedom fighters did not support me when I was purged as program director by a Stalinist manager (who actually forged a document to “prove” that I had been warned as Pacifica procedures directed), and then the mostly Trotskyists or anti-Stalinist leftists for whom I went out on a limb, neither anticipated my imminent firing (which I did), nor did they go beyond letter-writing to the President of the Pacifica Foundation, a prominent Berkeley radical New Leftist, who ended up upholding “at will” firings–so much for solidarity with the labor movement and its allies. In retrospect, the leftist commitments of my “friends” did not amount to much. They were perhaps primitive rebels, of the type described by communist historian Eric Hobsbawm in one of his shorter books (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bandit).

Then, after having received the doctorate in history, I was shopping my book ms. around. Verso books solicited the book ms., one of their editors told visiting academics that my book was to be published, but when I refused to drop the chapter on Tory resistance to the rising (crypto-Jewish) Whig bourgeoisie, I was warned to look elsewhere. Again, some prominent Left friends who had been published by Verso, sympathized with my “shabby treatment” but did nothing to defend my interests in getting the book published. Bucknell UP did the same song and dance; I must tone down the politics, or else. It was the Melville descendant, Paul Metcalf, whose close friend was on the board of Kent State UP, who took interest in my work and brought the ms. to the attention of Kent State UP, who not only published it with enthusiasm, but gave me no page limit, allowed extra photos, then entered it into every conceivable book award. These were mostly women younger than I, and exceedingly supportive.

Excuse this digression: the point is that these “leftists” or “counter-culture” types mentioned while I was still on the radio or in grad school, were all talk and no action. I was being the good lefty, encouraging the labor movement, while they were protecting their air time and such power as they imagined they had.


Back to the appeal of The Godfather series, or for that matter, of Al Pacino in the remake of Scarface. I have written before about ritual rebellion and the primitivist gesture.  (See https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “ Rappers, Primitivism, and Ritual Rebellion”). No one would argue that The Godfather series (especially the first and second installments) are not virtuoso movie-making. Some aesthetes would argue that art and propaganda are not to be intermingled. I cannot agree with that judgment. Every art work is a cultural artifact and is positioned within the larger conflicts of the time.

Who does not want respect? Who does not want the family to be cohesive and protective of each member? How many of us get such respect or loyalty, in the family or out of it? How many of us crave the safety of the imagined family? The museums are chock full of jewelry or weaponry of bygone days, and they attract that infantile part of us that loves glitter, simplicity, and “honor”—no matter how bogus, no matter how far we fall back into a re-imagined early childhood.

Movies will do that to us, whether they serve as catharsis of violent impulses, or identification with heroes or antiheroes. Primitivism is a poor substitute for concerted political action grounded in the universalist ethics embodied in the laws that civilized people make. Enjoy the barbaric yawps if you like, but don’t pretend that they are a substitute for advanced morality. Above all, take note that these gangster sons in the Coppola movies never have to suffer through individuation. They neither “kill” the father, nor forge a separate identity from the Stern Patriarch. That’s where the wild things are.

February 2, 2013

“Totalitarianism,” polarization, and single-issue politics

Leninism-picturePolarization. Pundits and politicians today often complain about “polarization” as an obstacle to “compromise,” without acknowledging that there may be irreconcilable conflicts that cannot be mediated, no matter how skillful or flexible the warring parties. However, it is acknowledged that the two major political parties are at odds over the best way to achieve economic growth: Democrats  want Keynesian demand-stimulus and government spending, while conservative Republicans and libertarians want free markets and limited government as the road to prosperity, for it is the private sector that holds their attention, though some of their admired forbears advocated a government safety net (the Friedmans, Hayek). Perhaps we should calm down a bit: there are two capitalist parties, and no one is ideologically inclined to eliminate the other Party, at least not yet.

Single-issue politics. Social movements of the 1960s that piggy-backed off the civil rights movement  (feminism, gay rights, animal rights, environmentalism, now Latino/Hispanic rights) are generally supported by liberals, but tend to dismay conservatives, who see such issues as feminism and gay rights as destructive to the family and even causes of cultural decline and coarsening): hence the “culture wars.” And no one is giving an inch, so that single-issue politics tend to polarize us even further, with each side in the various struggles accusing their opponents of authoritarianism, narrow-mindedness or even “totalitarian” tendencies.

Leftists would have to view single-issue politics as mostly disruptive and even a bourgeois distraction to the class struggle, which will, after the revolution, remove all obstacles to the development of the human personality under the new dispensation. Whereas I see these various movements as incommensurate, that is, they should be treated as separate entities with different histories and implications for how we manage the economy. They should not be jumbled together or even compared to the struggle of black Americans to achieve equality of opportunity.

Totalitarianism. I asked some of my Facebook friends to explain what they meant by “totalitarianism.” They agreed that it signified a kind of statism that would go beyond anything we have now in the West, eliminating all civil liberties, freedom of speech, etc. Nearly all read Orwell, and already feel the heat of Big Brother in some tendencies of the Obama administration, or even in the social movements mentioned above insofar as they impose PC or are alarmingly “secular.” Orwell was unenthused over “secularism” too: see https://clarespark.com/2015/01/22/orwells-wartime-essays-some-surprises/. Meanwhile, pundits of the Right and even the middle, tend to use “totalitarianism” in a manner that equates Soviet Communism and Nazi Germany as functional equivalents, which Orwell did not, hoping for an English “Socialism.” (Orwell did see Socialism as an ongoing theme in Nazi Germany, but he was mistaken. (See https://clarespark.com/2014/12/10/were-nazis-socialists/.) For other writers, the Holocaust is viewed as terrible, but a distraction from the millions of victims under the Soviet Union and Communist China.

In his conclusions to The Myth of the Nation and Vision of Revolution: Ideological Polarization in the Twentieth Century (UC Press, 1981, Transaction Press paperback ed., 1991) Jacob Talmon does not equate the terror states of Nazis and the Soviets, reducing each to a kind of ultra–statism, though both regimes had to resort to terror in order to discipline their constituencies. They had different historical trajectories as I have constantly argued here before. Nazis regressed to the brutalities of the archaic and to feudal social relations, while Reds believed they were emancipating the lower orders from the modern world as directed by the imperialist bourgeoisie. Reds would complete the unfulfilled bourgeois project, while Nazism was a counter-revolution. (Irving Louis Horowitz appropriates Talmon to paper over the polarities that Talmon emphasizes between Nazis and Soviets, in my view, because Horowitz is allied with such as Hannah Arendt. Page numbers below are from the Transaction Press version.)

Several years ago, I vehemently criticized Jonah Goldberg’s best seller Liberal Fascism as misleading and wrong-headed. (See  https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/.) Since reading the Goldberg  book, one that was much admired on the Right, I have read Eric Hobsbawm’s  tetralogy on modernity that does find communism to be an outgrowth of the Enlightenment and of the bourgeois revolution that the French mounted in 1789, but certainly not Fascism or Nazism. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/11/23/historians-vs-pundits-the-eric-hobsbawm-synthesis/, https://clarespark.com/2013/01/15/golden-globes-lincoln-clinton-hobsbawm/, https://clarespark.com/2012/12/22/my-oppositional-defiant-disorder-and-eric-hobsbawm/, https://clarespark.com/2012/12/08/hobsbawm-obama-israel/) .

The redoubtable historian Jacob Talmon covered the same period as Eric Hobsbawm, but from a liberal anti-communist point of view. He faults both Leninism and the various fascisms for erasing the conception of humanity and the value of the individual, but would never agree with Jonah Goldberg that progressivism was a precursor to a kind of “liberal fascism”, i.e. to the excessive statism that alarms the Republican Party, libertarians, and some of the writers for National Review.

Jacob Talmon Stamps

Jonah Goldberg, a popular writer, was in over his head.

Here is an example of what Talmon means by “totalitarianism” in the drive toward Soviet bureaucratic centralism or “totalitarian democracy” : “Lenin experienced that sense of movement, of the eternal tug of war, of unbridgeable contradictions, of the approaching crisis, with an intensity and urgency unmatched by anyone in his circle….movement, contradiction, conflict, breakthrough, change were to him encased in an evolving totality held together by the iron-cast law of historical inevitability. The irresistible march of history could neither be affected nor could be allowed to be interfered with by human arbitrariness, caprice, preferences, feelings, sentiments, residual inhibitions.” (p.339) In Lenin’s historical imagination, the bourgeoisie (finance capital) was the oppressor standing in the way of the development of “personality.” A dictatorship of the proletariat” would destroy the bourgeoisie, thus going all the way to fulfilling the promise of Enlightenment and its liberation of thought.

For these authors, “totalitarianism” is less about total control, but rather a “breakthrough,” a “vision of revolution” that seeks to overturn the world as it exists in its totality. Totality is the essence of the world “totalitarian.”  Nazism overthrows the German Right and the Weimar social democrats, while celebrating neo-feudal social relations, with the Leader directing the organic racially purified “people’s community” (the integral Nation). By contrast, communism imagines an international working class proletarian brotherhood, who have abolished nationalism, imperialism, and capitalism. Without these evil “isms” all people would be able to develop a full individuality. But the fascisms deter anything smacking of the individual, glorifying instead the State/Party/as the embodiment of the people’s community. For Mussolini there was nothing outside the State, and the State would work its coercive magic on the sindicati (He had once been a revolutionary Syndicalist, influenced by George Sorel, and his masculinist cult of violence and war.)

(Hitler’s volkischness would be enlarged globally so that each state, under German leadership, would be its own racially pure polity, but his war aims were mostly directed to stopping the  Soviets and expanding into the Slavic areas that were bread  baskets; that would entail enslaving the inferior Slavs.)

Populism. But everyone, Populist-Progressives, anarchists, George Sorel, and all the anticapitalists in Europe, including Nazis and Leninists alike, hated the rule of money, going so far as to stigmatize “economic determinism” as a Jewish imposition. For  Lenin. insofar as he was influenced by J. A.  Hobson,  finance capital was seen as a Jewish plot to take over the world (see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/, and Talmon pp. 204, 439, 473-74 and passim); for Hitler, “Jewish Bolshevism” was a front for finance capital (also “Jewish”) and worse, the Jews were the “anti-race,” for they valued, from antiquity onward, humanity as one species: Talmon insists on this.

We should get our history straightened out, recognizing the stunted political imagination that the careless use of political language imposes. Now that defiled brain is a species of terror. And it feels “totalitarian” to me.

January 15, 2013

Golden Globes, Lincoln, Clinton, Hobsbawm

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 9:37 pm
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clinton-harlemTwo events stood out for me during the 2013 Golden Globes award show:

  1. First, Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, defining her “self,” her “identity,” primarily as both a private person and a lesbian.  It made for surreal television.  If action creates essence, as Sartre argued, then sexual preference is the most significant action in our lives. Such are the fruits of single-issue politics. But Hollywood sells sex and violence, and many men are turned on by lesbian sex, so why should I be shocked?
  2. Second, the surprise visit of Bill Clinton, sometimes known as “America’s First Black President,” ahead of the award that he hoped would go to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Clinton not only stumped for Spielberg’s movie, he lauded the virtues of “compromise” (obviously lecturing Republicans who were and would be the butt of Sarah Palin jokes).   (See http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-golden-globes-2013-bill-clinton-makes-surprise-stump-speech-lincoln-argo20130113,0,1854944.story.)

I have been rereading the British communist historian Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution 1789-1848, (1962) partly because he makes much of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. His emphasis on social property relations at the expense of individual biography (except in the case of Napoleon, whose ambition and military genius changed Europe forever, bringing it out of stable, rooted, feudal, collectivism into the sad, bad, uprooted world of bourgeois  individualistic profiteering), was exactly how I was taught history in graduate school at UCLA.

Here is one example that illustrates Hobsbawm’s grand method. He is describing the economic relations that determined the American Civil War– no room for “compromise” here (nor for the women and men who comprised the moralistic abolition and antislavery movements, or the drastic political realignment that led to the Republican Party and its first Republican president, elected on a free soil platform):

[Hobsbawm, p.179:] Only one major obstacle stood in the way of the conversion of the USA into the world economic power which it was soon to become: the conflict between an industrial and farming north and a semi-colonial south. For while the North benefited from the capital, labour, and skills of Europe—and notably Britain—as an independent economy, the South, which imported few of these resources) was a typical dependent economy of Britain. Its very success in supplying the booming factories of Lancashire with almost all their cotton perpetuated its dependence, comparable to that which Australia was about to develop on wool, the Argentine on meat. The South was for free trade, which enabled it to sell to Britain and in return to buy cheap British goods; the North, almost from the beginning (1816), protected the home industrialist heavily against any foreigner—i.e. the British—who would then have undersold him. North and South competed for the territories of the West—the one for slave plantations and backward self-sufficient hill squatters, the other for mechanical reapers and mass slaughterhouses; and until the age of the trans-continental railroad the South, which controlled the Mississippi delta through which the Middle West found its chief outlet, held some strong economic cards. Not until the Civil War of 1861-65—which was in effect the unification of America by and under Northern capitalism—was the future of the American economy settled. [end Hobsbawm quote]


Considering his gratuitous snipes at “backward…hill squatters,” “mechanical reapers” and “mass slaughterhouses”,  is there any doubt that Hobsbawm was more emotionally attuned to medieval collectivism and the peasantry, than to a modern world dominated by mass death, greed, and machines, notwithstanding his sometimes defense of the bourgeoisie as producers of the new industrial working class that would climb the mountain to socialism?  Does that same ambivalence characterize the business of Hollywood movies and television?

(Illustrated: a rural version of Jodie Foster, child actor]

December 22, 2012

My “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” and Eric Hobsbawm

Oppositional_Defiant_Child_ODDToward the end of his autobiography (Interesting Times), the recently deceased ‘most important historian in the world’, Eric Hobsbawm, showed his contempt for the American Constitution, writing “Forced into the straitjacket of an eighteenth-century constitution reinforced by two centuries of talmudic exegesis by the lawyers, the theologians of the republic, the institutions of the USA are far more frozen into immobility than those of almost other states in 2002.” (p.409)

During the last month or so, I have read all of Hobsbawm’s famed tetralogy, his grand synthesis of world history from the French Revolution to the 1990s. As one exegete (Gregory Elliott) of Hobsbawm’s intellectual development claims, EH’s Marxism no longer lauds Marx as prophet of revolution, but rather as analyst of the disastrous globalization perpetrated by the bourgeoisie. To put it plainly, Hobsbawm adapted to the Leninist anti-imperialist moment approved by the younger Leninists. These avatars of “social justice” dominate the humanities today, including history, sociology, comparative literature, art history, etc. (For one blog on Hobsbawm related to this one, see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/08/hobsbawm-obama-israel/.)

As I have written previously, few would admit to being a Stalinist any longer, but Lenin’s anti-imperialism remains untarnished among not only the “hard left” but among Democratic Party activists. In other words, the Popular Front lives on, with the cooperation of George Soros (Interesting Times, p.310), Oliver Stone and his facilitators at Showtime or HBO, most movie and television celebrities, the professoriate at the better universities, and all progressive media. None of them, to my knowledge, has come out against anti-Zionism. Nor, I would guess, would any of them find anything objectionable about Hobsbawm’s depiction of the frigid American Constitution, deemed insane by the greatest historian ever, as numerous obituaries aver.

It is most curious that Hobsbawm the internationalist par excellence, not only remained a Communist all his life, but that he presents himself constantly as a “Jew”, but “anti-Zionist,” as anti-sectarian, as the avatar of Popular Front politics, as one for whom national loyalty and identification are out of date; rather, he divided the world up between fascists and anti-fascists. It is obvious from his writings that America, like Israel, like those Republicans (or a few centrist Democrats) who think that the Constitution was a good idea and still relevant and worth enforcing, are on the Wrong Side of History.

Some definitions are in order: Popular Front tactics were devised by the Comintern to trick New Dealers and other social democrats into supporting the Reds. The latter came out as “anti-fascists” in a broad oppositional front to Hitler and Franco around 1935. This tactic supplanted the “sectarianism” of the Third International, that defined New Dealers as “social fascists.” Hobsbawm wrote his books against “sectarianism” by which he meant not only the disastrous comrades from 1928-1934 (who allowed Hitler to prevail), but anything that smacked of Trotskyism or New Leftist go-it-alone operations. (Perhaps Pop Front politics are not relevant, for EH mentions Kondratiev waves to explain the weakness of capitalism, and such an economic theory would lead him to what he and others deem to be “democratic socialism.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Schumpeter.)

Hobsbawm’s position is puzzling, for during the halcyon Pop Front days, the Stalinist New Masses wrote favorably about the progressive bourgeoisie that had developed the progressive forces, empowering and presumably radicalizing the new working class. But the Leninist anti-imperialism line changed all that: no matter how regressive, any anti-Western movement in what used to be called the Third World was seen as a Good Thing, no matter how brutal and backward the society in question. Edward Said pushed this line and thousands of academics cheered. Even feminists who should have known better.

Perhaps I am suffering from “oppositional defiant disorder” for taking issue with the British Leftists who have, in my experience, invaded America, for they dominated UCLA and other top schools while I was in graduate school during the 1980s and early 1990s. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oppositional_defiant_disorder.) Surely, my shrink at UCLA (once a forensic psychiatrist in Massachusetts) thought that I was irrationally defiant in not knuckling under to authority, for he told me that after I had received the doctorate, much to his relief (or surprise?). As I have confessed before, it was confided to me by one in the know that my numerous critics referred to me as that “hysterical feminist.” Which was odd, for I viewed myself during those years as an old-fashioned Marxist, annoyed by the right-wing social democrats on the faculty who were sponsoring separatist ethnic and gender studies, and who were patently oblivious to the conflicts engendered by class position. But they did focus on “inequality.” I was chastised and mocked in private and public for deviance, for thinking that white male professors should catch up on their reading and integrate the latest scholarship on women and minorities. (For a partial index to my research on mental health theories see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/18/blogs-on-mental-health/.)


Since then, I have rejected any particular political alignment, favoring the stance of the independent scholar, faithful to archival research and criticizing other historians for departing from the objectivity once lauded by scholars writing in the humanist tradition.

Meanwhile, watch out for the British Leftists. They can impress an American reader, for they are highly acculturated, display their cultural capital promiscuously, and can mislead the unwary reader into thinking that they are other than a cult, a guild characterized by Eros und Bund, and speaking mostly to each other, their impressionable students, and apparently POTUS and his appointees. See https://clarespark.com/2012/07/19/communist-ideas-go-mainstream/. (I learned about Eros und Bund from the late George L. Mosse, the prolific historian of popular culture in the Third Reich and in pre-Nazi Germany. Almost all  his books are fascinating, though I deplore his debt to German Idealism.)

December 18, 2012

Blogs on mental health

Virginia Woolf, suicide

Virginia Woolf, suicide

Most of this website is devoted to our political culture and its bizarre evasions of mental health issues. I blame this on an aversion to anything smacking of [the Jew] Freud and his followers in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically-oriented therapies. We would rather look to religion, myths of the happy family, the notion that this is “the best of all possible worlds,” and pills as prescribed by much of the psychiatric profession. Our continued blindness to the psyche, our obliviousness to problematic institutions, and to problems in families will only lead to more mass deaths of the shocking character of Newtown, December 14, 2012.  We will continue to “undo” these preventable catastrophes in a desperate and fruitless attempt to escape from reality–whether from scapegoating or from premature diagnostics.

https://clarespark.com/2014/03/20/role-models-talcott-parsons-and-structural-functionalism/ (the ruling paradigm for mental health today)



https://clarespark.com/2013/03/28/power-and-aristocratic-radicals/ (on the Foucauldians)



https://clarespark.com/2012/12/09/neurotic-vs-objective-anxiety-dsm-iv-and-beyond/ (retitled Holiday blues and unhappy families)




https://clarespark.com/2012/12/12/white-rage-black-surrogates/ (takes up the recent flap on Jamie Foxx on SNL)






https://clarespark.com/2010/11/29/index-to-lobotomy-blogs/ (don’t miss case 123, before and after: truly remarkable and awful)

https://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/ (some on military psychiatry, some on ideology of progressive psychologists and writers)



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?

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