YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 22, 2016

“Angry white male” explanation for the Trump victory

Bill Track50

Bill Track50

Since November 9, 2016, it has become apparent that social democrats (the Hillary Clinton supporters) are going into permanent campaign mode, playing the same tune over and over: The “angry white males” were responsible for their crushing defeat in the electoral college.

There were not weaknesses in the policies espoused by the Democratic Party since the Kennedy administration—for instance, affirmative action as undoing the sin of prior exclusion of minorities from power. Nor was the imposition of political correctness, so the ‘liberal’ argument goes, an inappropriate response to discrimination. Indeed, many Republicans and conservatives mistakenly blame critical theorists and other alleged leftists, for foisting PC on an unwitting public, and not seeing that the Democratic move was a symptom of a failed strategy to vanquish the red specter. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/.)

But what are the “angry white males” supposed to be upset and vindictive about? Obviously, they are supposed to be resisting “fairness,” “inclusion” and “diversity.” As is their (inherited?) wont, the GOP leads the pack in promoting racism and sexism: Underneath their (imputed) rage, their “fascism” stands revealed, just as it did in the late 1930s as liberals were united in blaming opponents of the New Deal for creating “mob society” in Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase.

(Don’t look for economic interest as a motive impelling such finger-pointing: such an imperative would be too much like a focus on class antagonism, a method of analysis that social democrats have done their best to denounce as ‘reductive,’ unlike their more holistic, compassionate approach.)

What social democrats (i.e., the ‘Left’ these days) refuse to face is their record of statist bungling in the interest of stability (i.e., group-think). White males– angry or not– as a cohesive category simply do not exist, except in the imaginations of the Party aiming, it claims, to halt the slide toward disintegration. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angry_white_male.

Cartoon by Monte Wolverton

Cartoon by Monte Wolverton

 

 

 

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November 13, 2014

The Anatomy of Fascism: Robert Paxton’s analysis

Layout 1Columbia University Professor Emeritus Robert Paxton has had a controversial career. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Paxton. Although the Wikipedia profile is accurate in its summation of Paxton’s thesis on generic fascism (Knopf, 2004), I will blog about it anyway, for it serves to correct misconceptions about Italian Fascism and Nazism that I have found in my reading, and in random comments on Facebook. The Wiki summary is a mostly adequate description of Paxton’s book, so I will not repeat its bullet points. But I will fill in the gaps left by the brief Wikipedia summary.

First, it is important to understand what a leap forward Paxton’s work has achieved compared to the initial response in newspapers and other media following the end of World War 2 and through the 1950s. For instance, Hitler was initially portrayed as a madman, often with bulging eyes, whose cult of the Leader led the German masses (especially the lower middle class) astray as they fell for his bizarre propaganda. (On Harvard New Deal social psychologists advancing the cult of the Leader (FDR, ostensibly the opposite of Hitler) see https://clarespark.com/2014/12/29/the-leader-principle/.) By focusing on a political history that takes in economic stressors and the total institutional picture, including continuities with prior regimes, Paxton punctures the Fuehrer myth, but also challenges the primacy of propaganda in contradiction to the “Frankfurt School” critical theorists (including George L. Mosse, specifically mentioned by Paxton) who emphasized the overwhelming influence of the new mass media in creating the fascist hordes, and who are now blamed for spreading communist ideas in America at the expense of Christianity (see https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/).

marxiantalmud

Second, many pundits on the conservative Right continue to deploy the term “totalitarianism” to describe the policies of their enemies on “the Left,” including liberal anticommunists like Paxton. While citing the importance of Hannah Arendt’s much admired first big book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Paxton takes care to distinguish between fascist movements/regimes and communist ones; i.e., he historicizes the term “totalitarian” and rejects it by demonstrating that fascists were 1. entirely anticommunist, though there was some working class participation in both Nazism and Italian Fascism; and 2. fascists never achieved the total control that they desired, being balked by already existent institutions such as families, churches, and voluntary organizations, not to speak of the conflicting personalities and agencies that fought with each other instead of obeying Hitler’s will. [He falters a bit when he mentions Arendt’s notorious mass media-created “mob society” (a variant of Durkheim’s “anomie”) to explain the radicalization of Nazism and Italian Fascism after their attempts at expansion (Italy in the Ethiopian adventure and Germany in its attack on the Soviet Union and its declaration of war against the US).]

Those conservatives who are confident that fascists in Europe were leftist in orientation will be disappointed. Moreover Paxton makes careful distinctions between fascist dictatorships, military dictatorships, and authoritarian dictatorships, both during the interwar period and after 1945.

Third, he is adamant about identifying the necessity of coalitions with already existent elites as opposed to the “seizure of power” myth disseminated by many other historians. Not all historians and political scientists are so careful to identify the German conservatives who appointed Hitler Chancellor, imagining that the upstart would do their dirty work by destroying communism in Germany and the Soviet Union. (Note that European conservatives bear little resemblance to American conservatives, including the Tea Party and libertarians: European conservatives were not averse to Big Government. See https://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/.)

In sum, Paxton lines up with other “functionalists” in history and political science, who have emphasized conflict between powerful persons and institutions that almost inadvertently radicalized their regimes (this applies not to Italy, but to Germany; Italy devolved into an authoritarian dictatorship in his typology, while Hitler’s underlings guessed at what Hitler really wanted, seizing upon his obsession with world Jewry as the agents of both finance capital and communism to perpetrate the Holocaust. For the views of the “intentionalists” see https://clarespark.com/2009/07/29/the-centrality-of-the-holocaust-to-nazi-war-aims/.)

In sum, Paxton’s is the voice of the liberal anticommunist establishment at its revisionist best. But the book also demonstrates the influence of what I have called the Conservative Enlightenment, in its effort to combat “essentialist” definitions of fascism, but still seeking a scientistic approach to defining “fascism.” There is no escape from the double bind, or is there?

Lipschitz, 1927 "Pierrot escaping"

Lipschitz, 1927 “Pierrot escaping”

August 29, 2014

LABOR DAY 2014

KOLsealLabor Day was a counter-revolutionary exercise in its very foundation during the administration of Grover Cleveland. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day. Revolutionary socialism was the last thing that the AFL or the less well-known and long defunct Knights of Labor desired.

This blog will focus on those aspects of our dominant sociology that seek to defang the labor movement. [For a blog that shows resistance to New Deal labor codes as dished out by the State by one black radical, see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/02/labor-day-2013/.%5D  But since I, unlike Sam Dorsey,  am not writing from the revolutionary Left (see https://clarespark.com/2014/05/10/why-i-left-the-left/), I will focus on those features that deter workers from acting in their own interest, for instance in their mindless capitulation to union bosses (a bureaucracy that is rarely mentioned these days).

  1. Populism versus revolutionary socialism. As I have written before, populism is a petit-bourgeois radical movement that seems to offer upward mobility to ambitious persons from humble backgrounds. Populism deploys such phrases as “the masses” or “the people” as if all but ruling elites formed a compact entity with identical economic and social interests. I don’t see why class analysis should be the monopoly of the Left. Clearly, small business and big business have different structures and problems; the same applies to male and female workers, especially with respect to child rearing and housework. (As to whether or not “class collaboration” between “business” and “labor” is a good thing or not, I leave to economists and other historians. The labor movement made its peace with capitalism during the 1930s and 1940s, and “big labor” has no revolutionary aspirations, to the disappointment of Leninists. The “labor movement” as it once existed, no longer exists in this “post-industrial” service-oriented economy.)

But even worse, populist politics, early on co-opted by “progressives” pervade popular culture, and are promiscuous in their antagonism toward “elites”. In its original form, populism was heavily antisemitic (i.e., bankers, like “Wall Street” were generically a Jewish cabal with ambitions to control the world), a fact brushed out by its New Left defenders. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/02/02/the-legitimate-aspirations-of-the-___-people/.)

I noted during the art world upheavals of the 1970s that protesters defined themselves as “populists”, not as “socialists,” for  the term “populism” however tainted by its initial anti-Semitism, was acceptable (for such intellectual celebrities as Hannah Arendt, “the people” was the opposite of a mob, implying that individuals believed in their particular individual rights; hence “the people’s” critique could apply to the supposed crimes of any elite suspected of taking away such rights, no matter how competent the elite’s members might be in their particular field). A particularly grotesque example is found in the Chomsky-ite attack on Walter Lippmann (again an antisemitic gesture) that spread the canard that Lippmann’s influential book Public Opinion (1922) called for the “manufacture of consent” in the newly developing mass media, in order to hornswoggle the gullible people-becoming-mobs. ( See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.) A similar condemnation of mass culture can be found in Hannah Arendt’s “must-read” tome The Origins of Totalitarianism (1950, 1958). And yet Arendt is worshipped by many academic radicals, as are other “critical theorists.”

A similar outrage was found in the counter-culture that continues to delight in technophobia and representations of mad scientists (see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/25/penny-dreadfuls-sinister-significance/.)

Indeed, when I defended the Enlightenment on a Pacifica radio popular morning show in the 1990s, I was accused of being a CIA agent, hence the lowest form of animal life—this from listeners who believed themselves to be anticapitalist and pro-labor.

night-of-the-living-dead

 

Cultural pessimism. What could be more detrimental to working people than the current mood of doom and gloom? Is it any wonder that they seek refuge in sports and other forms of mass entertainment, that are predictably primitivist and (stylishly) loud?

Where does this doom and gloom originate? Surely not in the aspirations of the Founders, most of whom were avid followers of the various European enlightenments, and who were guardedly optimistic about the future of the republic. I locate the apocalyptic, technophobic, and anti-intellectual mood to the regnant populism and 1960s counter-culture that arguably never had the welfare of working people as their goal, but rather emancipation from their parents—stand-ins for the evil “jewified” bourgeoisie. Enter “youth culture” as revolt against “suburban sadness.”

Materialism and the working class. American reactionaries (among whom I count the populists and faux “liberals”) come out of German (philosophical) Idealism, which was always antidemocratic and protofascist. “Materialism” is now widely understood as an addiction to consumerism and similarly shallow values, whereas materialism used to signify a retreat from mysticism to the power of the individual to use her or his senses, to reason, and thus to defend her and his interests through making sense of the world and its institutions.  This older view of “materialism” is now blamed by culture warriors of the Right on “secular progressives”—meaning persons like me who praise cultural pluralism and stand up for education in the sciences, economics, and history, putting children ahead of teachers unions and their narrow interests.

I will end this Labor Day blog by observing that teachers are petit-bourgeois and definitely NOT working class, despite their enthusiasm for their “unions” in which they ape the organization of real laborers. When I trained to be a science teacher in the 1950s, we were constantly asked “is teaching a profession? And if so, should they strike for higher wages?” It is our teachers who are preparing their students for real life as mature adults. The least they could do is not succumb to those administrators who joyfully participate in the Democratic Party urban machines and the collectivist ideologies that these mobsters dispense to kids and their parents who could and should know better.

Postscript: I got this comment from a Facebook friend Stuart Creque this morning after I asked what was interesting about Labor Day: “ My dad was a trade unionist, which is funny because he was a high school teacher, not a laborer. Teachers unionizing is rather like Hollywood writers unionizing: it has nothing to do with collective bargaining power and everything to do with self-image as “working men and women.”

But what really fascinates me about labor today is the death of solidarity. My dad exposed me to what labor solidarity was. And the interesting thing is that nowadays it seems almost nonexistent. Each union seems out for its own interests, and more likely to focus on poaching from other unions than coordinating with them or even honoring their picket lines.

In the Writers Guild of America strike a few years ago, the union actually counseled its members to write and earn as much as possible in the days leading up to the strike deadline. They had no concept that they were giving management inventory to work on during the strike, reducing pressure for a settlement. They had no concept of collecting a strike fund over time and then ordering a work-to-rule slowdown leading into the strike. They also had no stomach to hold out for synchronizing contract deadlines with other Hollywood guilds and unions.” I can only add to Stuart Creque’s comment that writers are competing with each other and thus have little motivation for solidarity in protecting the quality of their work. They form a guild, not a union.

MightisRight 

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

April 9, 2014

Disastrous nationalisms: the Kedourie version

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:05 pm
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Elie Kedourie (1926-1992)

Elie Kedourie (1926-1992)

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Elie Kedourie’s famous book Nationalism, first published in 1960, and available online in pdf format: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elie_Kedourie.

I read it because it was cited by an author whom I am reviewing for an academic publication, Aiyaz Husaini, author of Mapping the End of Empire: American and British Strategic Visions in the Postwar Word (Harvard UP, 2014). Husaini (whose writing is cryptic) appears not to have understood Kedourie’s famous book, so in this blog, I will briefly lay out the conservative late professor Kedourie’s main message, as they bear some resemblance to my own work on the sources of multiculturalism, and more, are relevant to competing narratives regarding Hitler’s intellectual ancestors, a perennial theme on this website.

I have warned readers before about aristocratic interpretations of the genealogy of Nazism and the crypto-racism of multiculturalism. (On the legacy of German Romanticism see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.) For instance, the German aristocrat Friedrich Meinecke is cited favorably in Kedourie, but without laying out Meinecke’s hostility to the narrowly educated, “unspiritual” worker in technology, quoted here: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/12/multiculturalismethnopluralism-in-the-mid-20th-century/. Compare Kedourie’s assessment on the German Romantics with that of Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism (1950, 1958). The Leninist Arendt blames “mass culture” for the appeal of Nazism and minimizes the legacy of German Romantic cultural nationalism and “nationalism” in general, unlike Kedourie.

Picasso, 1921

Picasso, 1921

It is well to remind the reader that the rise of Hitler was explained early on in cultural terms by such as Peter Viereck and his reviewer Harvard professor Crane Brinton, an admirer of Nietzsche. Although Brinton’s review of Viereck (Saturday Review, 1941) states that German Romanticism is not the only cause of Hitler’s program, he did find Viereck “reasonable.” That is weird, because organic conservatives such as Kedourie, Brinton, and Viereck, are similarly irrationalists: social bonds are mystical, not rational; established, order-making rulers are legitimate. Kedourie, at the same time he denounced anti-imperialist tribal nationalisms, lamented the invention of the printing press, democracy (as opposed to the republic or traditional state, all balancing each other out), the French Revolution, Napoleon, economic determinism (entirely Marxist in Kedourie’s view), and the Enlightenment-French notion that persons could separate themselves from empires in the name of self-determination. For Kedourie, without religion and tradition, the newly industrialized world would degenerate into mobbish democracies, and racist states, and once more we would hear that “the age of chivalry is gone.”

I have written at length here about cultural pessimism, apocalyptic fantasies, and the culture wars. I could call Kedourie an aristocratic radical or a reactionary. Do we not owe more to our children than to indulge in the gloomy Tory fantasies that opposed the political reforms of the English Civil War and that promoted the idea of the responsible individual?

We have seen years and years of horror movies, unprecedented best sellers that celebrate magic, and real-life retreats into barbarism. Can these be partly explained by movies and television shows that frequently present future technological disasters reaffirming, sometimes subtly, the old top-down neoclassical world view that Kedourie presents as the alternative to demonic Romanticism run amuck?

Fuseli-demon

Or do I give too much weight to cultural, as opposed to political and economic factors, just like the anti-Romantic [i.e., neoclassical] conservatives I am criticizing here?

For Kedourie’s opinion that the problems of the Middle East are insoluble, see this mildly dissenting publication by Harvard University: https://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/02/chasing_illusions_in_the_middle_east/.

March 15, 2013

Nirenberg’s mischievous ANTI-JUDAISM

David Nirenberg

David Nirenberg

[Abstract: Norton has published a wandering, lengthy, unreadable book whose unintended consequence may be the weakening of the current coalition between Jews and their (conservative) Christian allies in defense of Israel and of Western values.]

Nirenberg summarizes his argument here. http://chronicle.com/article/Anti-Judaism-as-a-Critical/136793/.  It is reviewed by poet and critic Adam Kirsch in a publication aimed at assimilated Jews who are either social democratic or “moderate.” http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/123971/a-world-without-jews.

I recently heard that the hot new book for students of relations between Jews and Christians was David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism (Norton, 2012). Though I wondered why this superstar cultural historian did not deploy the usual phrase “antisemitism”, I looked forward to learning how Jews were viewed in periods where I had neither languages nor deep reading knowledge: Egypt, ancient Greece, and medieval Europe. (Nirenberg is an endowed professor in the University of Chicago’s History of Social Thought department, educated at Yale and Princeton: see publications http://home.uchicago.edu/~nirenberg/publications.shtml.)  Not content to remain within his specialty, DN takes us up through the present, for this is a cross-over book, intended for the eyes of the lay reader.

I tried valiantly to make my way through this long tome, but finally gave up on it, for I find it unreadable and one step above gossip, skipping back and forth in time. I did note along the way that Nirenberg had done no archival research himself, but had mined the labors of the trendiest historians working today. The project of the book seems to be an assault not only on the bigoted West (and Islam too), but a rough ride through thousands of years of history, quoting the famous and the less famous, but ever noting continuities in “civilization’s” negative references to Jews and Judaism. (We never learn what Judaism is or was, for his topic is images disseminated by pagans, Christians, deists, atheists), nor does he adequately explain why he discards the customary phrase antisemitism.) It is my view that in a book addressed to the lay reader, an author has a responsibility to be organized, chronological, and to clearly state arguments, with constant guideposts to the uninitiated reader. For instance, you first lay out the project of the book and why non-scholars should care about it, acknowledge prior scholarly and popular literature on the subject, state an allover argument that breaks new ground, then recapitulate the journey in the conclusions. Conclusions should synthesize a new narrative, something for the reader to take away, something new in the world of thought and feeling that corrects and refines the work of colleagues.

antisemiticart

What to make of this failure to commit to either method or objectives, especially since in his last chapter he quotes Hannah Arendt, Adorno and Horkheimer, though distancing himself from their particular rationales for antisemitism or counter-Enlightenment (e.g., Jews were really “overrepresented” in commerce and finance, so who can entirely blame Hitler’s base, an accusation I have heard from other bigots.). He does, however, cite Edward Said, famously anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist. (See long footnote on the anti-Western Said in https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.)

It was not until I googled “Judeo-Christian heritage” that I could guess at the project of the book (that may be invisible to Nirenberg): besides throwing yet more red meat for the nourishment of living, active antisemites (not noted in the Tablet review), Nirenberg may intend to break up the alliance of many Christian Zionists, other non-bigoted Protestants and Catholics, with their Jewish partners in defense of Israel and of “the West” in general. It is all suggested here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Christian. (The Judeo-Christian coalition began in the 1950s, and is strong today on the conservative New Right.) Call me Paranoid.

Finally, consider the jacket to the hardback edition ($35, no pictures). It refers to anti-Judaism being built into the “genome” of the West. This is a misappropriation of genetics for a tendentious argument that “the West” has transmitted its deplorable characterizations of “Jews” through its very DNA. I have already written about such binary opposites as Nirenberg describes, but for the purpose of understanding Nazi ideology, not in undermining (consciously or not) a political coalition that is aimed to protect Jewish life and those humanistic values that are shared by Christians and Jews, notwithstanding a problematic history of persecution and religious/political/economic antagonism. See https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/ or for a more refined distinction between two strands of “Western” thought, see https://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/.

Judaism and Christian Art

Judaism and Christian Art

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  (antiwar, 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.

September 8, 2011

Getting Down with Tom Wolfe

Time lauds A Man In Full

I found an old talk, “Getting Down,” that I gave on Pacifica radio (KPFK-FM, Oct. 1, 1990), now updated because I have been reading Tom Wolfe’s best-selling novels and collected essays. I view Wolfe as primarily a bohemian, a primitivist, who, after “getting down” comes home to classicism and a really nice apartment on the Upper East Side of  NYC, cluttered, like much of his prose. (For a tour, see http://www.theselby.com/2007TomWolfe/index.html.)  It is the mark of the true gentleman, adventuring into “New Journalism” with its literary oomph, its Zola-like passion for naturalism, realism and the organically-connected big picture, that he may saunter through the lower depths of society, sliding into their particular argot; only to retreat to his natural milieu without stains to his own sense of moral purity, his character; hence the signature white suit and the shrill rejection of modern art and architecture (the modernism so favored by Wall Street types?), with a vengeance. Tom Wolfe wants us to see him as a dandy, and yet not a dandy; as an agrarian, but also the knowing and sophisticated cosmopolitan, not so very unlike (like?) a Southern gentleman of old Virginia where he was born.

What is the problem with such Wolfian wandering, perhaps nostalgie pour la boue? Bohemianism or primitivism may be the primary type of social criticism that is tolerated in a pluralist society that has banished class analysis and class politics in favor of multiple and overlapping “interest groups.”  What is class analysis?*  What it is not, is the description of the culture of classes as if they were strata, or layers, or rungs on a ladder–or tribes to be dissected by the excavating archaeologist/anthropologist (the Wolfian gesture) As many radicals in the nineteenth century conceived them, classes were described in terms of their relations to other classes, specifically the ways in which workers were exploited and coerced; lacking land or tools or capital, they were at the mercy of their employers.  This led to political organization along class lines and the rise of socialist parties, culminating in the revolutionary period that preceded and followed the first world war: this kind of social analysis that focused on structural antagonisms between capital and labor was associated by conservatives and reactionaries with the myth of Prometheus, demagoguery, jacobin purity, and Jews spewing hate and plotting to destroy Christian order. Organic conservatives in England and America were terrified in 1919, and urged each other to move sharply to the left to map, thence to co-opt, dissent, and to propose a different conception of class, one that “integrated” them into an “organic” polity. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/.)

Decor in Wolfe’s NYC apartment

In 1919 the populist anticapitalists of The Nation were indulging in a form of primitivism, like Lewis Mumford, looking backward to a golden age of little towns in a cultivated pastoral, where the economy seemed to follow the communitarian ethos of artisans and small producers, with a strong dollop of Anglo-Saxonism.  But there were other forms of primitivism in the 1920s (and earlier), with which we are all familiar: the upper-class vogue for Harlem and jazz, the romance of the South Seas, the primitive masks and artifacts which inspired Picasso and other cubists; the art of the insane which fascinated the expressionists.  These were not only forms of escape; they enabled a critique of uptight war-engendering “bourgeois culture.”  By identifying with the victims of imperialism, with honest dirt, the bohemians had a safe launching pad from which to criticize their zealously perfectionist, super-clean, hard-driving parents, the parents you could never please, because they wanted you both to be independent and choose their way of life, pretending that you were “free” to choose. (I am thinking of Melville here, especially in his first book, Typee.)

But the protest could never have matured into a politics of transformation, that is, rational politics addressing the structural causes of suffering; for after the carnival was over, the bohemians feared and (covertly) despised the lower orders, who were loved primarily as foils to their parents.  If the entertainers stopped singing and dancing and copulating, if they wanted to modernize, i.e., to participate in politics as educated equals or leaders, the spell was broken.  They had to be one’s “negative identity” for the ritual rebellion to work: the walls between self and the exotic never tumbled down. In the case of Tom Wolfe, it is notable that his most lubricious female characters have wildly arranged jet black hair; they could be whitened slave women, Lulus, who lure white men to their destruction, to the pollution of their blue blood. (For instance the irresistible femmes fatales in Bonfire of the Vanities or in A Man in Full.)

In the writings of the American Studies movement (Wolfe has a Yale Ph.D, in this field), in the counter-culture and in many New Leftists, the same bohemianism obtained.  I suspect that many New Left lovers of black people or Third World victims were seduced by the qualities imputed to them: superhuman strength, savagery, happy-go-lucky child-like qualities, sexual freedom and other forms of expressiveness, like the blues.  Or because, as peasants, they were close to the soil, rooted, and one could imagine an idyllic society where individuals did not have to make hard, ambiguous choices, in which morality was not so clear-cut and regulated, in which kindly patriarchal figures did not arouse parricidal feelings of resentment in the children: this may be the fantasy in the counter-culture embrace of organicism or Confucius or Zen, or in Wolfe’s case, of Epictetus’s Stoicism.  In this scenario, empiricism, science and rationalism were treated solely as the deceptions foisted upon their victims by capitalists; similarly, capitalist advertising terminally corrupted the lower orders with sex-obsessed media, materialism and consumerism.  What were the consequences for relations between blacks and white civil rights workers, or between workers and the counter-culture, or between opponents of government-supported shocking art and the artists who shock the public?

It is one of the myths of the upper-classes that poor people are irrational and cannot grasp their interests without the intervention of middle-class or upper-class radicals.  Many black people knew that their cultures were being misread and appropriated by these latter-day minstrel show fans.  Many workers knew that technology had made life more bearable, and that rational politics advanced their interests; they also knew how to gauge the balance of forces, and what tactics would win. Workers are correct to resent the hippie radicals who profit from our system, without, in their view, making the blood sacrifices that workers do, then, from a position of moral superiority, upbraid them, or, in Wolfe’s case, appropriate them as surrogates for masculine honor and endurance in the face of overwhelming odds (see the character Conrad in A Man In Full).**

However, we also need to understand that primitivism, although the first stage of revolt in upper-class radicalism, may not necessarily stop with the identification with “the Other”; like all carnivals, it has the potential to get out of hand.  A certain amount of understanding and even forgiveness may be in order, when the primitivists show signs of growing up.  When we work with and interact with “the Other” as real people, as unique individuals, not as figments or masks, we may correct our distortions.  With insight, we may develop a more rational political culture.  But that will mean a commitment to self-education, self-scrutiny, and a sincere, not dilettantish,  interest in the problems of all Americans, not just the faraway.  As feminists, or black nationalists, or artists, or environmentalists, or civil libertarians, we may rail at white males, or Jews who we think control the media, or small-town/red state Republicans, or rednecks, or fascists, but these labels only build higher walls between us, they do not accurately describe the forces that have created our public health emergencies, and if we persist in these constructions of the demonic, our worst nightmares may come true.  If we want people to take a higher moral position, we must envision a society and a set of working relationships that make goodness possible.

*I am not suggesting a crude Marxism as adequate to historical analysis, but a careful account of competing economic interests and perceptions of one’s own self-interest. At times, Wolfe writes like a 1930s radical, such as John Dos Passos in the U.S.A. trilogy, which he admires. But whereas the 1930s Left was generally optimistic, TW is a cultural pessimist. See second footnote.

**One theme that I have not developed in this blog is Wolfe as chronicler of decadence, the calamity inevitable in industrial, urbanized societies that breed discontented, mobbish proletarians. Ann Coulter would seem to be sharing in this dim, ultimately pessimistic view, reminiscent of Vico and Volney, and more recently Hannah Arendt’s  “mob society.” In a recent talk given in Los Angeles, Coulter leaned on Gustave Le Bon’s influential book, The Crowd (1895) while promoting her new book, Demonic. Here are Le Bon’s concluding remarks: ” After having exerted its creative action, time begins that work of destruction from which neither gods nor men escape. Having reached a certain level of strength and complexity a civilisation ceases to grow, and having ceased to grow it is condemned to a speedy decline. [Its populace becomes a crowd, i.e. a mob]…With the progressive perishing of its ideal the race loses more and more the qualities that lent it its cohesion, its unity, its strength. The personality and intelligence of the individual may increase, but at the same time this collective egoism of the race is replaced by an excessive development of the egoism of the individual, accompanied by a weakening of character and a lessening of the capacity for action. …It is at this stage that men, divided by their interests and aspirations, and incapable any longer of self-government, require directing in their pettiest acts, and that the State exerts an absorbing influence…To pass in pursuit of an ideal from the barbarous to the civilised state, and then when this ideal has lost its virtue, to decline and die, such is the cycle of the life of a people.” Such doomsday views are the staple of ultra-organic conservatives, conflating the life cycles of animals and plants with forms of human organization. (For more on this topic see https://clarespark.com/2011/04/03/progressives-the-luxury-debate-and-decadence/.)

June 19, 2011

Index to links on Hitler and the Big Lie

[Update: I have reformatted this series to make it more user-friendly. See https://clarespark.com/2010/08/14/index-to-blogs-on-hitlers-view-of-the-jewish-mind-2/%5D
Here is an index to an unpublished manuscript of mine that was years in the making. It was vetted by major scholars, and the reader will find copious footnotes in the text that survey the established literature on the subject. I know of nothing like it in the academic or popular literature. If you have time for only one segment, I recommend the last one, for it gets to the psychological nub of Hitler’s confusion and panic, but I have a special liking for the first one, where Hitler expresses his fear of romantic art.

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/08/hitler-switches-modern-art-and-more-much-more/

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/26/hitler-and-the-jewish-mind-part-one/ [I moved the footnotes to the text because the standard academic literature on Hitler and his appeal is appalling.]

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/27/hitler-and-the-jewish-mind-part-two/

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/27/hitler-and-the-jewish-mind-part-three/

August 26, 2009

Hitler and the “Jewish” mind, Part One

Durer, Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513-14)

This is an introduction to a series of posts on Hitler’s encounter with the restless, skeptical “Jewish” mind: The first posting includes footnotes inside the text: not only are the footnotes the bulk of this blog, they are crucial to seeing that famous intellectuals have perpetuated the notion that Hitler had contempt for the masses. It is my contention that this is a distortion of Hitler’s views. Rather, he saw the Jews and other “Social Democrats” as the big liars, while he was ever the knightly good father, sent to save the masses from their own demonic “objectivity craze.”  (This will be demonstrated in later parts of this title. If you want a copy of the essay in one fell swoop, footnotes at the bottom of the page, write to me at clarespark@verizon.net.  I have reformatted the Hitler series with an index here: https://clarespark.com/2010/08/14/index-to-blogs-on-hitlers-view-of-the-jewish-mind-2/. It is much more user friendly, especially since the footnotes are now endnotes and less distracting–unlike the blog you are about to read. Please use the newer one or the footnotes will drive you nuts.)

[New post starts here:] While reflecting upon Hitler’s publications (along with the productions of other “moderate men”), I have seen an incoherence and anxiety which, however affected by family history, seems primarily structured by class position; my synthesis supplements the work of those historians who have stressed counter-Enlightenment as the centerpiece of Nazi ideology.

[footnote:  See Bernard Semmel, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social Imperial Thought 1895-1914 (Harvard U.P., 1960): 41.  The social imperialists adopted Darwinism, but made tribes and races the competing units; Karl Pearson held that race or national feeling were stronger factors shaping conduct than market forces.  Also, see Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler’s World View (Harvard U.P. Paperback, 1981, orig. publ. 1975); Hans Staudinger, The Inner Nazi: A Critical Analysis of Mein Kampf (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State U.P., 1981).  Hitler was of course not supporting laissez-faire industrial capitalism favored by Social Darwinists, rather his rhetoric often echoed the reactionary utopian agrarianism one would expect from a member of the declining petit-bourgeoisie; parallel movements can be discerned in the English Distributists of the early twentieth century, American Southern Agrarians of the 1930s and in the more nostalgic sectors of the New Left, especially in those who have repressed the anti-Semitic side of populism; intellectual mentors of this tendency include William Blake, the Christian Socialists, William Morris, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, Aldous Huxley, and Lewis Mumford.  See Meyer Schapiro, review of Mumford’s The Culture of Cities, “Looking Forward to Looking Backward,” Partisan Review (June 1938), 12-24, for analysis of Mumford’s reactionary organicism; John L. Thomas, Alternative America (Harvard, 1983). These radicals would probably agree with Werner Sombart that it was “the Jewish spirit” that created economic determinism, that is, the domination of money and the market as Parsons argued in 1928. [end footnote]

Racialist thinking, I argue, is not about some ahistoric group superiority per se, ever present and perhaps inevitable, as the functionalists who write our school curricula would have it, but about corporatism/organicism: Tribal or feudal social relations are upheld or applied to halt developing societies; such localisms are undermined by concepts of international species-unity, by capitalism supposed to be moving leftward. In spite of anticapitalist brakes, industrial societies are science-driven, hence retain their capacities to promote the wandering imagination to the point of global solidarity, a solidarity in the pursuit of health and happiness, if not equality of condition.
My particular interest in Hitler’s Jewish problem stems from study of the moderate men, led by Henry A. Murray, who have revived/not revived “the forgotten” Herman Melville (1819-1891) after 1919. I inferred that double-binds specific to modernity (the demand for both truth and narrow conceptions of Order) structure ‘liberal’ socializing institutions, that Melville pointed this out most powerfully and unambiguously in Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), and possibly for that reason Melville, tracer of lost persons, both fascinated and upset many readers who then either continued to puzzle over him, or distorted his positions or rendered him persona non grata in American letters. Hitler’s revealing table talk, taken with the passages on propaganda in Mein Kampf, bear out my thesis: There are analogies between readers hostile/attracted to Ahab’s/Melville’s modernism and Hitler’s extremely anxious response to bold, expressive critical thought above all, his own and his father’s. Some key Melville readers and Hitler alike simultaneously try to hold the center/flee to the margins. They are not alone in their spaced-out confusion.

[A Pennsylvania educator, 1949:] “This wonderful something which we call life comes to the teacher in its most plastic, pliable state and condition. The teacher’s mind, will, and conviction mold the plastic mind of the pupils. It is clearly evident that the teacher’s position is important in the social and cultural relations of the group…Nervous activities must be normal to enjoy one’s work. Then the teacher speaks in a well modulated voice and not in shrill or harsh tones which disturb the orderly procedure of the class room.
“A good, careful preparation for one’s work is the chief source of confidence. One knows what he is going to do. He knows his material. Confidence utilized in the right way helps him to be positive and constructive in his teaching. He will help to have all sides of a question discussed and try to arrive at a definite decision as far as possible. It might be remembered that an opinion expressed does not constitute the teaching of social studies. The result to be achieved must be definite and not probable.” [footnote:] Charles William Heathcote, “The Teacher of Social Studies: A Reappraisal,” The Social Studies, Vol.40 (1949): 67,68.  The author was “Head, Department of Social Studies, State Teachers College, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Lord Alan Bullock (1991, 164) and his predecessors in the aristocratic Hermann Rauschning historiographical tendency in Hitler studies have constructed an extremist, a cynical demagogue descended from Marat and Robespierre. Strangely, this Hitler is a paranoid merged with narcissistic masses worshipping the Goddess of Reason/themselves, yet at the same time, the detached puppeteer gloating over the credulity/cynicism of “mob society” swallowing the Big Lie; this curious character is now a cliché in American high and popular culture. Besides Murray and Mosse, their ranks include Hannah Arendt, T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Georg Lukács, and Joachim Fest.

[footnote:] See T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, and Paul W. Massing, “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” Antisemitism: A Social Disease, ed. Ernst Simmel with a Preface by Gordon Allport (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1946): 132: “…it is a deceptive idea, that the so-called common people have an unfailing flair for the genuine and sincere, and disparage fake.  Hitler was liked, not in spite of his cheap antics, but just because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning.  They are observed as such, and appreciated….The sentimentality of the common people is by no means primitive, unreflecting emotion.  On the contrary, it is pretense, a fictitious, shabby imitation of real feeling often self-conscious and slightly contemptuous of itself.  This fictitiousness is the life element of the fascist propagandist performances.”

[fn, cont.] See also Hannah Arendt, “The Concentration Camps,” Partisan Review, July 1948, 745: “Hitler circulated millions of copies of his book in which he stated that to be successful, a lie must be enormous–which did not prevent people from believing him….”  This claim, the center of her irrationalist argument, is not footnoted; in any case, she implies that Hitler was boasting about his own successful lying in attaining the support of the German people (and which I challenge in this essay).  Arendt argues that Nazis were philistines, relativists/nihilists, not pseudo-aristocrats defending “individuality” in terms similar to her own (for Arendt: “the uniqueness shaped in equal parts by nature, will, and destiny,” 758).  Note the refusal of former critical tools: “An insight into the nature of totalitarian rule, directed by our fear of the concentration camp, might serve to devaluate all outmoded political shadings from right to left and, beside and above them, to introduce the most essential political criterion of our time: Will it lead to totalitarian rule or will it not? (747).”

[fn. cont.] See also Georg Lukács, The Destruction of Reason (London: The Merlin Press, 1980): 721-726 for the claim that Hitler learned his demagogical techniques from American advertising (imperialist Americans were the new Nazis in 1950s Stalinist propaganda). Citing Rauschning as his source, Lukács wrote, “In their speeches and writing, the fascist leaders poured out with a nauseating show of emotion their national and social demagogie, whose public second names were honour, loyalty, faith and sacrifice, etc. But when they came together in private, they spoke with the most cynical, knowing smiles of their own messages and manifestoes” (721).  It was of course English wartime propaganda that Hitler credited in Mein Kampf and he disavowed manipulativeness, see below; Cf. Jim Fyrth, Britain, Fascism, and the Popular Front (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1985): 10: “…fascism posed as a form of socialism and its anti-capitalist rhetoric was directed at the working class and lower-middle class.” The Tory/Stalinist characterization of Americans as the new Nazis persists in anti-imperialist movements today; see for instance, Alexander Cockburn’s ill-timed insinuation in The Nation, 8/17-24/92, p.163 that Jews (in the persons of Edward Alexander and the Jews who publish him) selfishly and callously minimize the suffering of other oppressed groups (American Indians and Southern slaves) by resisting [ahistoric] attempts to equate “the Holocaust” with other forms of mass death.  Cf. The New Masses during the 1930s which defended the revolutionary bourgeoisie and its development of the productive forces in the same progressive America that would be treated as a country of Bad Jews after the war.

[fn.cont.] Also see Joachim Fest, Hitler (Harcourt Brace, 1973): Fest presents a bouquet of diagnoses in “the manic simple-mindedness with which he traced all the anxieties he had ever felt back to a single source.” (101-102); “[Hitler learned everything from Marxism and its idea of the vanguard.]  He also went much further than his model.  In his nature there was an infantile fondness for the grand, surpassing gesture, a craving to impress.  He dreamed of superlatives and was bent on having the most radical ideology, just as later he was bent on having the biggest building or the heaviest tank.” (126) i.e., both Marxism and Hitler are crazy.

[fn. cont.]  Although E. Jäckel criticized the Hermann Rauschning tendency, such arguments appeared before Rauschning’s book.  See for instance, George Sylvester Viereck, 1923 (his self-published journal, with the “explosive” Hitler as Byron, vagina dentata, Jewish intellectual, and Gorgon); also Johannes Steel, Hitler as Frankenstein, with a preface by Harold Laski (London: Wishart, 1933): 7.  Describing Mein Kampf: “Eight hundred pages full of curses against Pacifists, Jews, Marxists, Internationalists, and Capitalists without a single productive idea.  His political faith as proclaimed in this book is, that everybody is wrong and only he is right.  A curious book…in which he never speaks about himself, his family, his life, or even his program for the future, but only about generalities.  Metaphysical theories on the necessity of the purification of the German race, of which he is not a member, and in addition to that, nothing but hate and again hate…. (7).  At the end of his speech he registered a child-like happy self-satisfaction” (9).  Hitler is drawn as a Henry Ford-type, not a corporatist liberal: “[Henry Ford] like himself, was a bourgeois, did not like Jews, Socialists, Communists or Revolutionaries, or government interference with private business.” (33).  On Jew-hatred, Steel writes of  “black-haired Jews who seemed to have such an easy life, just trading, arguing and talking and yet getting on and on more rapidly than he, or anyone around him” (3).  The Hitler-Robespierre-syndicalist connection was explicit in Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Our Battle (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1938): 68 ff, 77.

[fn.cont.] On 7/17/92 Los Angeles public television broadcast a British film, Führer: Seduction of a Nation, advised by Lord Bullock, which carried these themes, depicting Hitler as an inflamed narcissist, “a face from the crowd” taking in the masses with a line that “sounded democratic”; the grandiose Hitler was too close to his mother, the father was described as “authoritarian” and perhaps half-Jewish.

[fn.cont.] For other works that promulgate the Big Lie theory of Nazi propaganda/Nazi narcissism see the Fireside Discussion Group of The Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith, Hitler’s Communism Unmasked (Chicago, 1938); Louis W. Bondy, Racketeers of Hatred: Julius Streicher and the Jew-Baiters International (London: Newman Wolsey, 1946); Adolf Leschnitzer, The Magic Background of Modern Anti-Semitism (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1956): 142-143; Stanley G. Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition (Madison: U.of Wisconsin Press, 1980): 7.  In his typology of social movements, Payne describes Nazi style and organization as “Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects”; David Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 44-45; Ian Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986): 3, 147, 259-62; Martin Broszat, “A Plea for the Historicization of National Socialism,” Reworking the Past, ed. Peter Baldwin, op.cit., the (populist) Nazis [not Plato et al] invented the idea of the Big Lie! (84).

[fn.cont.] A somewhat differing impression of Nazi propaganda is carried in Leonard W. Doob, “Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda,” Public Opinion Quarterly, vol.14 (Fall 1950): 419-442.  Doob believes Goebbels defended the “truth” of his propaganda, but “credibility” was sought in the spirit of Machiavellian expediency, not morality.  But, according to Richard Crossman (British M.P.), this was (also?) the Allies’ position!  See his “Supplementary Essay” to Daniel Lerner, Sykewar (N.Y.: George Stewart, 1949): 334-335.  For Crossman, the “arch propagandist” Goebbels was sincerely deluded in his Big Lie (then described as necessarily duplicitous): “Where the Germans differed from us was not in their means, but in their ends.  The Nazis really believed that the Germans were a Herrenvolk, with the right to dominate the world; that democracy was an expression of decaying capitalism, and civil liberty a relic of a decadent bourgeois civilization; that the Soviet Union was simply a Mongolian despotism, and Communism a disease; that the Slavs were natural slaves and the Jews vermin, fit only for extirpation.  The real lie of which Goebbels was guilty was the attempt to conceal from the rest of Europe the implications of his Herrenvolk idea…. (334)  Earlier, he claimed that Nazis “took over and vastly refined Bolshevik techniques of mass persuasion (323).”  (Compare Hitler’s admiration in Mein Kampf of British war propaganda for its clarity regarding guilt and innocence; in the Crossman essay, he states that the same propaganda was solely dedicated to urging the Germans to overthrow the Kaiser and establish democracy.)

[fn.cont.] In Doob’s account, Goebbels himself did not evolve criteria for measuring the effectiveness of differing media, so tried everything to catch his fish.  As often happens, mind-managers have less confidence in their tactics than their critics.  But see Max Weinreich, “The Jew As A Demon” (Hitler’s Professors, 1946) for evidence of hypocrisy among Goebbels’ disciples.  In my essay, I make no further claim than the absence of Hitler’s bragging about manipulating the masses (against their interests) in either Mein Kampf or Table Talk. [end footnote]

I have seen nothing in Hitler’s published writings, however, to support such a view; on the contrary, it is almost always “the Jew” who manipulates the helpless; Hitler defines himself as the good teacher-saviour defeating Social Democratic/Jewish “artistry in lying.” As a representative of European high culture and (conservative) Enlightenment, Hitler loathes Weimar mass culture (also Jewish); if he must carefully craft his messages for the masses, it is in response to the imperative of mass psychology (not to be equated with individual psychology, cf. LeBon and Freud) and for their own good. Moreover, inexact translations of some small but key words in Mein Kampf have made it more difficult to spot Hitler’s consistent obsessive need for clear boundaries between categories, images, and feelings. Similarly, typing Hitler (the brute) hides the particular psychodynamics (the switch) that seem to lead him to despair/purging/more switches.

Hitler’s construction of the Jew cannot be attributed solely to family trauma and individual psychology–the authoritarian family–
but was probably a function of the historically specific hopelessness of a declining class, the small producer competing with more efficient rivals. Charting his class position would reveal collapse and quagmire. If Hitler was a psychopath then neither his craziness nor his elusiveness is unique to himself or the Germans; therein lies the true horror and the lesson for ourselves as “progressive,” “moderate,” “public interest” intellectuals similarly positioned in middle-management, and decrying class fears and class resentments.

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