YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 24, 2015

Multiculturalism vs. [Yid] Red spies: which agitates the Right?

atheist-logicThis blog was inspired by the failure of Fox’s Outnumbered 4-24-15 to explain cases of censorship of the popular movie American Sniper ( the topic was repeated on The Five). They became agitated over the threat to free speech, when they could have identified why college administrators were bowing to the will of a small cadre of Islamist protesters at the University of Maryland; these administrators defending multiculturalism at all costs. One wonders why this “moderate” but right-leaning network is so weak on political theory, for it is obvious that “tolerance” versus “Islamophobia” is crucial to job retention in the hipper universities, public or private. (To be sure, unfree speech is the outcome of censorship in the name of diversity, but multiculturalism deters free speech insofar as it encourages essentialist cultural nationalism: see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/.)

How to explain this failure of vision? Scholars, television writers, and journalists seeking right-wing readers and eyeballs know that it enhances their reputations to pretend that there remains an atheistic red menace threatening (Christian) America. Even the latest episode of Scandal played the KGB card, resuscitating the Cold War. One wonders why, given the declining membership in the CPUSA since the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, carefully delineated by historians/political scientists Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Alexander Vassiliev in Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale UP, 2009).

(Perhaps it is lingering antisemitism, for “the Jews” were ‘”disproportionately” represented in the Old Left, and “populism”—antagonistic to “finance capital,” remains popular on both left and right. Even Lenin may be seen as a populist, for he was notoriously influenced by the antisemitic journalist J. A. Hobson. See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.)

JudaismAndFreemasonry

Whether or not my suspicions are correct, it is obvious that conservatives frequently confuse left-liberals and communists, frequently conflating them as “totalitarians” and, gulp, progressives—as if the US Constitution, despite its capitulations to Southern slaveholders, was not the vanguard of political thought at the time of its framing, with such as Hamilton and Jefferson not avatars of social and economic progress, despite their differences.

This entire website has been preoccupied with tracing the “roots” of multiculturalism to the German Romantic reaction to the “materialism” of science and Enlightenment as understood in 18th Century France. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/. The second link suggests Herder’s antisemitism, not noted in the historical commentary on his contribution to the notion of national character/groupiness.)

It is a grotesque misreading of history to think that the old Reds were not anti-racists, hot for “proletarian internationalism” as opposed to (proto-fascist) “nationalism,” and its associated (Gentile) “melting pot.” Indeed, that was the attraction that helped recruit working class immigrant Jews to the Communists, and family ties made a difference to their (liberal) descendants.

It is pointless to go on fingering “the multicultural moderate men” for their covert racism disguised in their rooted (as opposed to rootless) cosmopolitanism, documented throughout my website. And Fox News Channel employees, no less than those of the Wall Street Journal, are above all, oblivious to the history of the Left, and only moderately opposed to the nearly pervasive (often latent) antisemitism that blinds them. For instance, after all the decades I spent around the Left, no one, repeat, no one ever mentioned Saul Alinsky (born a Jew). His significance and influence are figments of certain conservative imaginations.

sparthitup2

June 4, 2014

Did “bureaucratic rationality” cause the Holocaust?

“Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process”: Dream Theater

Don’t expect a sophisticated, historically correct account of either antisemitism or “the Holocaust” or the history of Israel to come out of the European or American Left. They have abandoned the pro-Enlightenment Marx for Lenin, Norbert Elias, and Foucault, and have gone native as well.

I have just finished reading Enzo Traverso’s The Origins of Nazi Violence (The New Press, 2003), which seeks to set us straight about the vexed questions raised by the “historians’ debate” of 1986. Traverso takes on Ernst Nolte (the rightist who blames Nazism on the Soviet revolution), Francois Furet (the liberal who uses the word “totalitarian” to equate Nazism and Communism), in favor of such fashionable figures as Norbert Elias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Civilizing_Process), Max Weber, Adorno, Horkheimer, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, and Zygmunt Bauman.

Traverso, an Italian Trotskyist now teaching at Cornell University, fits perfectly into the academic Left in America, for (unlike Marx who favored the progressive bourgeosie), he pushes the Leninist line influenced by the antisemitic journalist J. A. Hobson (but also early Marx, as in “On The Jewish Question”), but with a twist. Whereas Hobson (like Marx) blamed the rule of money, specifically an international cabal of Jewish financiers and their seizing of mass media for modern wars, Traverso follows the Max Weber/Frankfurt School/cultural studies analyses that pin modern antisemitism on the Enlightenment, the all-controlling machines and division of labor initiated by the Industrial Revolution, and the brutalizing imperialism that it spawned. Traverso’s imagination contains an anti-Promethean Frankenstein fantasy populated by imperialists of Europe who flocked into Africa to swipe all their raw materials, open markets, massacred millions of “inferior” natives, and because of their rivalries initiated the Great War that further brutalized humanity and nationalized the masses. Enter Nazism and the steel helmet, symbol of the demise of the noble ancient warrior.

But wait! There is more. As a postmodernist and fierce opponent of science in service to the monsters, Traverso focuses on the biological metaphors applied to hapless victims. These images take on a life of their own, impelling the mass murders of Jews. Representations rule, ignoring the material interests that motivate leaders and the led. In the process, Traverso claims that the antisemitism of medieval or antique societies was entirely displaced in favor of scientific racism/social Darwinism. Thus the reader must not consider the lingering effects of Christian antisemitism in the 20th Century. (Or by extension, Muslim antisemitism today.)

Maddening science itself is to blame, but of course not the “science” of dialectical materialism. Or the pseudo-science of “social engineering” that explains Lysenkoism. For Traverso entirely discounts any role of heredity: all is environment in the shaping of human character.

I find it interesting that Traverso, a highly educated Europeanist, can utterly ignore the roles of the Germans Herder, Kant, and Fichte, in his intellectual history that nails the “Western” 19th century to the wall. For it was they who started the intellectual offensive on the “mechanical materialism” of the French Enlightenment, disempowering the all-too empirical, increasingly literate masses with their German Romantic notions of national character and the superiority of the Greek-influenced Germanic culture: a culture that celebrated the “rooted cosmopolitan” and laid the groundwork for today’s multiculturalism and cultural relativism. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.

If it is difficult today to separate out progressive capitalists in the Democratic Party from hard-core communists, it may be their shared optimism that explains this strange alliance that is mis-educating our children. Taking heredity into account spoils their fun in demolishing the positive material and moral achievements of “civilization.” (For early Marx’s view of industrialism, technology, and the progressive bourgeoisie see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/.)

Oh, did I mention that the subjugation of women in non-Western countries elicits not a peep from the esteemed cultural historian from the Trotskyist Left?

elias

April 5, 2014

Standing up to bullying social democrats

 

FatCatArt.ru

FatCatArt.ru

I have been reading Peter Weiler’s biography of Ernest Bevin, a leading social democrat in early 20th century Britain, and it is a lucid guide to what social democrats (i.e., the moderate men) are and how they came to power. Weiler also explains populist antisemitism, which may be intrinsic to the social democratic world view. For labor reformer Bevin, socialism was all about controlling Shylock (p.74). (SD will be my shorthand for social democrats.)

The SD world view is this: they are not militants of the labor movement: their goal is not a worker’s state. Rather, they aimed for better wages, working conditions, and life chances for the once growing industrial working class. For the SDs, this would be accomplished through trade unionism and state power that would regulate capitalism, especially the financial sector. Professor Weiler calls this strategy corporatism or labourism. I call it proto-fascism. Many scholars refer to Italian Fascism as the “corporative state” or the “ethical state,” For the corporative state mediated between employers and workers, imposing harmony through state power. Many scholars compare the New Deal to the Mussolini solution to class warfare.

ENTER THE JEWS. As Weiler tells it, Bevin saw industrialists as natural allies to workers, whereas the money men were managing affairs in their own interests alone, cutting down profits for industrialists. Lowered profits meant that workers would have to take it on the chin, lowering wages so that fat cat financiers could maintain their outrageous life styles, while workers languished, unprotected and unloved. “Money” and heartlessness were ever associated with a fictional un-Christian animal called “the Jews.” Some major social theorists blamed “the Protestant spirit” for capitalism (e.g. Max Weber, C. Wright Mills), Protestantism being tinged with Hebraism and a particular love for the Old Testament. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/10/07/christian-socialism-as-precursor-to-orwell/.)

J. A. Hobson, a journalist, was read by “progressive” Brits and Americans alike (including Bevin), and it was he who was most aggressive in spreading the word that “the international Jew” not only was a cabal of money men, it controlled all newspapers and the media. (The Nation magazine in 1919 cited Hobson’s work: see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. Also https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.) The widely circulated Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a hot item in the Arab world today) made the further claim that the cabal would urge their readers to rise up and overthrow their nationalist masters, so that “the Jews” could move in, attack religion, and thus control the world, as was their inheritance as the Chosen People. Reform Jews ran away from this stereotype and many are ready to cave into a “binational state” in Israel as a way of pacifying their SD rulers and the Muslim world.

What does this have to do with standing up to bullying social democrats? As long as our intellectuals look to the state or any other bureaucracy or tribal entity to enforce “social justice” we are doomed to an eternity of authoritarian rule. Human rights do not encompass the rights of the corporative state (a.k.a. the welfare state) to substitute for individual choice and individual responsibility. Human rights are about standing up to illegitimate authority, wherever it may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of our consciousness. This task is not as easy as it sounds. (For part two of this essay see https://clarespark.com/2014/04/06/standing-up-to-bullying-social-democrats-2/.) midwest-map

March 28, 2014

Populism and pop culture: good or bad for the republic?

Populism3Much of this website has been devoted to the analysis of populist demagoguery, with ample quotations from the past and present. Another priority of mine has been the state of popular culture criticism, emanating from both Left and Right. This blog is a guide to my own thinking about 1. Populism as ideology and its targets; 2. Populism as reasonable suspicion of elites and “experts”; and 3. The populist character of major television shows and movies despite the impression that single figures or “billionaires” directly direct their content.

First, the original populists were farmers demanding that currency be placed on both gold and silver standards. They also resented the excessive rates demanded by railroads that transported their goods. Muckrakers like Frank Norris (The Octopus, 1901) appealed to this constituency and their progressive sympathizers, who went on to co-opt the original populist demands, for instance, Louis Brandeis’s first major study was of railroads, their practices and finances. (On Norris see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Octopus:_A_Story_of_California. On Brandeis’s career, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Brandeis#Against_monopolies. I read Melvin Urofsky’s biography, that highlighted the early interest in railroads.) populistantisemitism In a mass society, “flooded” with “swarms”  of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not surprising that the invention of movies would appeal to the new arrivals and their taste for spectacle, glitter, adventure, shape-shifting, scandalously naughty and corrupt rich people (not dissimilar from those who had dominated the European countries from which they had fled), sex, and violence (part of their everyday lives, both here in the new tough cities, and in the old country), triumph over adversity, and shows of virtuosic force, either military or in sports.

Movies and television shows remain populist in the sense that they appeal to ordinary working class and middle class viewers (“ordinary people”), with only a few arty movies made to maintain respectability and an aura of literariness to the more educated urban viewer. And such offerings might be reactionary, as in the esteemed film The Remains of the Day (1993); I wrote about its content here: https://clarespark.com/2014/04/21/remains-of-the-day-revisited/.

In my experience, leftists that I once knew did not depart from this essentially Leninist populism. (Marx was more favorable to the bourgeoisie, who were developing the productive forces, and who were likely to split over the inevitable working class revolution that he anticipated. Whereas Lenin was influenced by J. A. Hobson, who publicized the notion that an international cabal of Jewish financiers would not only inspire imperialist war, but would control newspapers and other media. Marx’s early essays “On The Jewish Question,” or on money as the universal pimp, however, dealt with Jews as hucksters and the embodiment of the money power, whose reign would be overthrown in the new dispensation.)

For instance, Pacifica radio [where I was program director for eighteen months (2-81 through7-82), and before and after that, a volunteer program producer on the politics of the arts–1969-1998] was plainly populistic and anti-imperialistic, not radical in the Marxian sense, though the news department supported the uprising in El Salvador and the Nicaraguan revolution. I recall my boss, the manager Jim Berland, warning me not to allow programmers to use the term “capitalism.” Our target should be “big business.” This is a typical petit bourgeois (populist) move, and bears no resemblance to European or American communism as originally formulated. Similarly, like other “community broadcasters” we were to appeal to the listener sponsors by mentioning our deviation from “corporate/commercial media”—this referred to presumably billionaire-controlled outlets intended solely for the spread of propaganda favorable to imperialism, finance capital, and rich people in general.

The flaw in this reasoning is that big bad mass media always was populist—but with commercial interruptions. NPR and PBS make their appeals on that basis (sometimes claiming the higher objectivity and gravitas). The antisemitism of the old WASP elite is retained in its denigration of “Hollywood” as generically Jewish—a claim that may be taken advantage of by some professional right-wing pundits , who want to return “traditional Christian values” to “popular culture.” Populist impulses exist across the political spectrum, but are frequently reactionary.

What is not populism?Elites” or “experts” may be corrupt or legitimately superior in their talents, labors, and contributions to society. To view each and every one with skepticism may be populistic, or it may be valuable inquisitiveness that we must support, even as “discovery anxiety” sets in. But don’t look to the bought-intelligentsia and kept-journalists who “analyze” politicians, social policy, education, and mass media productions. They are part of the legitimacy apparatus that is partly responsible for the Great Dumbing Down of our country. Ask your children to make a distinction between a democracy and a [democratic] republic, and watch their puzzled faces. I am sometimes told that my blogs are “over the heads” of even educated readers. I welcome questions if I yield to esotericism or obscurantism. It is probably my writing, which is sometimes dense and compressed, and not the usual thing on the internet. populistrage

January 8, 2014

The Frontiersman/Settler as all-purpose scapegoat

JacksonAs everyone knows who has followed this website, I have been trying to separate the early progressives from the post-New Left progressives, all the while noting shifts in the Leninist line. I have used changes in the teaching of the humanities as my guide to larger cultural shifts.

During the last week, I have been slogging through Sydney E. Ahlstrom’s A Religious History of the American People (Vol1 Yale UP, 1972, Doubleday, 1975, second ed. Yale UP: 2004). It is the most boring possible book, more of antiquarian interest than historical interest, because Ahlstrom, a Yale professor of note, followed Max Weber’s lead, and stigmatized “economic determinism” as reductionist. So the reader is subjected to such notions as “the American character”, “the American mind” and “Puritanism” (especially the English variety) as the primary source of evil in the settling of the American continent. Indeed, Ahlstrom, seemingly attached to the medieval order,  trashes the Radical Reformation and the English Civil War, failing to note that puritanism changed its concrete content depending on what social movement it was attached to.

In my series on the Anne Hutchinson historiography (https://clarespark.com/2010/05/15/blog-index-to-anne-hutchinson-series/, or https://clarespark.com/2013/08/05/evil-puritans/), I quoted from an unpublished paper by UCLA professor Robert Brenner in part four on the subject of historicizing puritanism:

“…if it…makes sense, in the first instance, to see a certain unity in Puritan ideology in order to understand its broad connection to an emerging social order, and its incompatibility with an older one, it is necessary also to comprehend that this unity was, only to a limited degree, ever realized in practice.  This was because supporters of the Puritan cause were themselves drawn from different, conflicting classes within the emerging bourgeois society; in consequence, they tended to shape their religious conception in correspondingly different ways, in accord with their disparate experiences and conflicting needs.  Thus, there arose quite divergent, indeed ultimately incompatible, ideologically and organizationally distinct, tendencies within a broader, loosely-defined Puritan movement.  Puritan religious groupings were obliged, in fact, to develop their movements and ideas on two “fronts”: on the one hand, against the adherents of the old religious regime in order to replace it; on the other, against one another to impose their particular notions of both the contents of the Reformation and the structure of the new social order.  Thus, there arose quite distinctive Puritan trends, with conceptions corresponding to the different social strata from which different Puritan groupings recruited their membership: from the new aristocracy, from the small producers and tradesmen of town and country; from the ministers themselves.  Indeed, these conceptions changed and developed…with the changing activity of these religious groupings…in other words, in accord with the changing nature of the movements themselves.  It was only when Puritan-type ideas became associated not only with groupings from potentially revolutionary social layers, but with actual revolutionary political movements that they took on a revolutionary character.  This did not take place, as we shall see, until after 1640.”

This interaction of economic interest and culture is what I have attempted to trace throughout the website, distinguishing between “moderate” Enlighteners (i.e., social democrats) and the more materialist figures, whether these be on the Left or Right. By contrast, Ahlstrom’s book positions itself in the timeless Center. He welcomes the Enlightenment and science, but splits the difference, praising John Locke for his book The Reasonableness of Christianity.  What Ahlstrom detests is of course Indian killing, slavery, and uncouth religious revivalism on the frontiers, along with their uncertified lay preachers and circuit riders. Since these are labeled extremists and weirdos (along with women-led movements such as temperance), one can assume that we are in the territory of the moderate men, especially since Yale professor David Brion Davis is singled out for outstanding scholarship. Along with Ahlstrom, Davis had written an article condemning the anti-Catholicism of the mid 19th Century, when German and Irish immigrants poured into the still expanding continent. Indeed, “ethnicity” is Ahlstrom’s major analytic category.

Opinion on the Jacksonians drastically changed in the US field since the days of Claude Bowers (a racist Democratic politician: see https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/.)  Such luminaries as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and numerous other historians looked  to the Jacksonians as defenders of the Common Man, the stalwart enemy to bankers and other exploitative elites.

But all that changed with the ripening of the New Left, aroused by the civil rights movements and opposition to the war in Viet Nam.  My late friend and Forest Hills High School classmate Michael Rogin made a huge splash and engendered much controversy when he published his “Marxist “ “psychohistory”  Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (Knopf, 1975). Rogin’s argument apparently lined up with critics of US imperialism such as William Appleman Williams, but the latter attacked Rogin’s thesis. (See Rogin’s response to Williams here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1975/oct/16/daddy/.)

Michael Rogin

Michael Rogin

Rogin pulled together all the 1960s major themes:  the monomaniac Jackson (another Captain Ahab) committed genocide against the native Americans, providing a model for future adventures in white domination, militarism, and violence. About this time, we renewed our friendship, and Rogin supported my work at Pacifica and at the Yankee Doodle Society. I know how shocked he was at the reception of his book, and also that he was in a friendly correspondence with David Brion Davis of Yale, who had taught American intellectual history at Cornell while I was still there, decades earlier. What I did not see at the time was that the turn toward ethnicity (as opposed to class) was a calculated response to the red specter, made worse by the Soviet upheavals in 1905 and 1917. (For an example, see quotes from Horace Kallen here: https://clarespark.com/2009/12/18/assimilation-and-citizenship-in-a-democratic-republic/.)

Rogin also recommended that I read Richard Slotkin’s Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier (Wesleyan U. Press, 1973). It was the same attack on popular Protestant religion in the 19th century that had earlier been mounted by D. B. Davis and Sydney Ahlstrom.

It was Lenin, not Marx, who criticized the imperialists, for him these were generically the international Jewish conspiracy of finance capital, as publicized by J. A. Hobson.  (By contrast, Marx hoped that the workers and their allies in the advanced industrial democracies made possible by the progressive bourgeoisie, would lead the way to socialist revolution. He was not anti-American, but rather praised the Northern victory in the Civil War as a great achievement.)

Why is this relevant today? The Leninist Left and the Social Democratic Left seem to have merged sometime after the 1960s upheavals, but they drew upon longstanding efforts by “progressives” to fend off the red specter, with the Left upholding Popular Front antifascist politics. Today, white males are seen as the enemy by the reigning academics in the humanities: like Ahlstrom’s frontiersmen they are individualistic, self-reliant, overly emotional, antinomian, ecocidal, racists, sadistic killers (Cormac McCarthy’s targets in Blood Meridian? or see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_of_the_Hunter_(film)), and probably given to (communitarian) country music, even some rock and roll. And white males (especially those in the wild South and West) are the chief villains of US history, and of course comprise the unregenerate population of the Republican Party and the even more unspeakably “anti-Christian” conservative movement. For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/11/30/railroading-captain-ahab/.

Jackson swatting Indian

Jackson swatting Indian

September 4, 2013

The Syria crisis and historicism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

September 28, 2012

“Bibi” and the human nature debate

CNT poster 1937

(This blog should be read along with https://clarespark.com/2015/01/22/orwells-wartime-essays-some-surprises/ and https://clarespark.com/2012/10/15/orwell-power-and-the-totalitarian-state/.)

Recent historians are acknowledging that the transition from pre-capitalist societies to capitalist societies is prolonged, tempestuous, and violent.  At the bottom of all the fights between political factions in our country (the U.S.), can be discerned sharp differences over the precise content of “human nature.”

For instance, in David Horowitz’s recent book Radicals (2012), he concludes that progress (linked by him to utopianism and perfectionism) is a leftist/fascist illusion; that human nature is evil, and the best we can expect in the route to amelioration is “compromise.” He thus marks himself as a moderate man, and is aligned with some of the figures most criticized on my website, notwithstanding DH’s strong support for Israel and opposition to jihadist Muslims. (For instance, Harvard Magazine is promoting “The Case for Compromise” in its Summer 2012 issue.)

This last week I carefully read George Orwell’s famous work Homage to Catalonia (1938). It is a confusing work, though much admired by anarchists and Trotskyists for its testimony as to Orwell’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, in which he witnessed the destruction of POUM by Stalinists, leading him to denounce all bourgeois influences as fascist, and also to complain about non-peasants and non-laborers as “money-grabbing.” He went on to denounce journalists and Communists for betraying the facts of the Spanish Civil War.

This populist term of abuse (“money-grabbing”) led me to wonder if Orwell’s critique of Communism, Fascism, and “Ingsoc” in 1984 was not at least partly motivated by an aversion to the “jewification” often ascribed during his lifetime to the modern world, a “materialist”/anti-“spirituality” modernity that seen as inducing “degeneration” from the late 19th century onward. Indeed, in the last words of 1984, the rehabilitated Winston Smith sings ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree /I sold you and you sold me –‘, suggesting that the modern world has been commodified, reducing all human relationships to the cash nexus; but more, he is as hard as any Frankfurt School “Western Marxist” on the horrid influence of mass media in controlling the proles, the “85%.”  [In prior blogs I have noted that Hitler had been assumed to carry cunning Jewish blood;  that Hitler himself viewed Soviet Communists as fronts for finance capital; and that J. A. Hobson’s influential study Imperialism (1905) blamed a conspiracy of wealthy Jews for war, which they instigated through their control of international finance and mass media (in his case, newspapers).] I am not concluding anything in particular about Orwell’s possible Jewish problem, but noting that it is worth exploring. (For pertinent blogs see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/, https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/https://clarespark.com/2011/06/19/index-to-links-on-hitler-and-the-big-lie/, and https://clarespark.com/2009/11/17/melencolia-i-and-the-apocalypse-1938/.)

On September 27, 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Few of the press reports I have seen mention the beginning of his speech, in which he explained global conflict as a fight to the death between modernity and medievalism. In the process, he highlighted the Enlightenment elevation of science, technology, and medicine, fields in which Israel excelled, but which threatened their hostile neighbors who worshipped death and promoted unquestioning obedience to authority (i.e., to the medieval order).

“Bibi” also urged that his formulation of conflict was more precise than a rival formulation between “tradition” and “progress” (much used in the culture wars, I might add).  The Jewish tradition, he argued, looking back to Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah, comprised the very foundation of “civilization.” This is an argument that one rarely hears in public these days. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/30/bibi-as-warmonger/, for the photo used by the Wall Street Journal, which may have chosen to depict Bibi as the bossy and militaristic Jewish deity promoted by Talcott Parsons in 1942.)

Now, Netanyahu and David Horowitz are both known as conservatives, yet they differ considerably on the subject of human nature.

The Enlightenment view of human nature relied upon travel narratives, that demonstrated that the material resources of cultures and their modes of exploitation/production that were just being discovered during the period of Renaissance exploration, determined their belief systems: thus was derived “cultural relativism,” a notion that has been resisted by some believers and manipulated by leftist “anti-imperialists” to discredit modernity tout court. The notion of “progress” was a distinctively Western notion that in turn depended on worldliness, science, reason, and the determination to lift up humanity to unprecedented heights. Moderns learned to understand their ancestors, but not to  worship them and their mores.  With economic and political development, perhaps wars and less cosmic conflicts over land, markets, and resources could be eliminated one day.

We have just completed the Jewish New Year, in which Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, caps the period of inner examination and resolve to improve one’s relations with the Jewish God. Repentance and fairness is an obligation every day in the year for Jews. Clearly, a view of human nature is implied in the notion of self-improvement and reparations. That view is not oriented to a better world after death, nor to the notion that we are necessarily befuddled by our evil propensities, carried in the very DNA of our species. Christopher Hitchens’s 2002 Orwell study (Why Orwell Matters) ends with a stunning revelation about the “radical” Hitchens view of human nature:   Like other British intellectuals with a highbrow education, he doesn’t see sadomasochism in Orwell,  but thinks it normal: “With a part of themselves, humans relish cruelty and war and absolute capricious authority, are bored by civilization and humane pursuits and understand only too well the latent connection between sexual repression and orgiastic vicarious collectivized release. Some regimes have been popular not in spite of their irrationality and cruelty, but because of it.” (p.191)

Freud himself noted that aggression was part of our natures, and often difficult to control, but he would never have agreed with Hitchens on S-M as normal. Part of human nature, in the rationalist Enlightened view that I share, is in the development of curiosity about the past, including those unresolved conflicts that linger into the present to the confusion of our political culture (world-wide), which is highly heterogeneous and internally conflicted.

Sadly, the counter-Enlightenment influences remain strong enough to halt appropriate curiosity in the young, to the detriment of the progress that the more advanced parts of humanity still find compelling and swear by. In our New World scenario, the Devil (or the demonic) is a relic of the dead past and his persistence in the belief systems of some political entities and societies should be strongly resisted. Nothing less than the survival of our species and the planet depends upon it. Medievalism was not only bad for the Jews, it was bad for all of humanity.

September 10, 2012

Index to blogs on populist demagoguery

Lyonel Feininger Emeute

One way to look at the New Left ascendancy in the media and throughout educational institutions is to note that while separatist ethnic or women’s studies created mindsets of victimology, thus promoting an antidote to, and  insurgency against, “the Man” or against “white male supremacy”, history and other humanities professors and political scientists promoted anti-imperialism, depicting the U.S. as a hateful sham democracy. Some of the leading professors admired by New Leftists were Walter La Feber (Cornell), and William Appleman Williams (U. of Wisconsin-Madison), but these were preceded by such progressives as Frederick Jackson Turner, Charles Beard, and Richard Hofstadter.

It was Turner (1893, 1921) who warned that the closing of the frontier and its free lands would force the issue of socialism onto the stage of history; while Charles Beard attacked the money-mad founders (Hamilton), and Hofstadter suggested that the moderate men needed to tone down the conflict between labor and capital through co-option of movements from below; i.e., selective concessions. (See especially https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/ and  https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ Some may dispute my characterization of Hofstadter, who did criticize populism and antisemitism in The Age of Reform and The Paranoid Style but his first book on Social Darwinism would support progressivism as remedy for laissez-faire capitalism, understood as nature red in tooth and claw. That stereotype persists today in pro-Democratic Party propaganda.)

Thus we find ourselves in a situation where mass media and the humanities are heavily weighted against the “vile” Republican Party, which is not only evil in itself, but which could force a communist revolution in reaction to its supposed repression of working class and middle class aspirations that progressives have so far successfully prevented.

Not one of the academic programs or anti-imperialist historians mentioned above lobbied for the study of antisemitism, not even after WW2. “The International Jew”, a.k.a. “the money power” occupies all of their imaginations, however hidden by monikers such as “Wall Street” or “Corporate greed”.  We ignore the power of their pervasive and largely undetected propaganda at our peril.

https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/

https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/

https://clarespark.com/2011/02/02/the-legitimate-aspirations-of-the-___-people/ (the original Populist movement in the US with comment on Michael Kazin’s book)

https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/25/the-state-of-the-union-stinks/

https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/

https://clarespark.com/2012/08/05/hating-finance-capital/

https://clarespark.com/2012/07/19/communist-ideas-go-mainstream/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/03/eros-and-the-problem-of-solidarity/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/07/charisma-and-symbolic-politics/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/14/ron-paul-anarchist-in-chief/ (Phillip Smyth’s guest blog on right-wing populism)

https://clarespark.com/2012/12/01/petit-bourgeois-radicalism-and-obama/ (on James H. Cone and other black supremacists)

https://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics/

https://clarespark.com/2015/05/02/multiculturalism-and-the-persistence-of-feudalism/ (inspired by Mosby and the Baltimore events)

September 19, 2009

Populism, progressivism, and corporatist liberalism in The Nation, 1919

Oswald Garrison Villard

   In my last blog, I objected to David Brooks’s drastic separation of populism and progressivism. Here is an excerpt from the second chapter of my book on psychological warfare in the Melville revival (Hunting Captain Ahab (Kent State UP, 2001, second ed. paperback 2006). Readers of prior blogs will see ample evidence of the deletion of “Jewish” materialism in favor of “Christian humanism” in the fused populist-progressive movement. The influence of Hobson’s notion that finance capital was the cause of war is apparent in Villard’s Nation of 1919; it seems that international finance capital had dictated the peace as well. The Nation recommends a racially-inflected moderation as the remedy of choice to defeat class war and Bolshevism. For more on J. A. Hobson’s attack on “finance capital” see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.

[Book excerpt:] Blue-pencil deletions in The Nation (1919) and in a book for Jewish immigrants (1925)

Raymond M. Weaver’s 1921 biography of Melville had emphasized Melville’s romantic propensity to buy the blissful illusions constructed by bourgeois sentimental culture; these “stupendous discoveries” necessarily evaporated upon contact and brought him down. It is a commonplace of liberal Melville criticism, following Raymond Weaver’s lead, that “disillusion” with the bourgeois idea of progress after the debacle of the Great War to end all wars explains the receptiveness of writers and the reading public to the ever disillusioned Melville, who not only saw through the duplicities of confidence-men before anyone else, but prophesied the totalitarian dictators, Stalin and Hitler. Historicizing gobbet-girls will interrupt: “Just a minute: who was disillusioned after the war, who had been betrayed, and what was to be done?”

Weaver’s essay celebrating Melville’s centenary appeared in the Nation, 2 August 1919, the year of (apparently contagious) international revolution; the negotiation and ratification of the Versailles Treaty; raging class, ethnic, and racial conflict in the U.S.; and violent right-wing reaction, including the establishment of the anti-Bolshevik division of the FBI. The Nation responded with hysterical entreaties for reform even before the conclusion to the Versailles Treaty negotiations, regarded by editor Oswald Garrison Villard as a betrayal by Woodrow Wilson.[i] An editorial of February 8 unabashedly urged repressive tolerance as remedy of choice:

[Nation editorial:] The process of turning the thoughtful working people of the country into dangerous radicals goes merrily on…Readers of the Nation do not need to be reminded that for half a century it has opposed socialist dogma as energetically as it could; and it will continue to oppose it. But in the present premises it is concerned with preserving to every law-abiding citizen and organization the right to present for public consideration his ideas, no matter how erroneous they may appear. The democracy that cannot preserve that right for its minorities cannot live. It is the men who are denying that right, and not the Socialists or I.W.W.’s, who are the most dangerous enemies of the social order today.

For we live in perilous times. Privilege in Russia and Germany has dissolved, and in Great Britain is on the brink of dissolution. The people have lost faith in their rulers and leaders. Let not our privileged classes imagine that the United States is immune. Signs multiply that precisely the same unrest is working here. Deny men the right to discuss their grievances and to redress them through changes in the law, and you develop the temper recently expressed by one of the Socialist leaders: “I, for one, have severed all relations with the enemy. I have stopped signing petitions or other instruments of a pleading nature. I will endorse demands only. It is time that we came out in the open…We must isolate ourselves–fight alone. This is the method by which we will be able to demand–not beg–our rights.”

This is a spirit that cannot be put down by threats or suppression, and woe to that society in which it becomes rampant. We desire no violent revolution, and therefore we adjure the holders of privilege and power solemnly to consider whither their present course of repression leads. Perhaps it is not even yet too late.[ii] [end editorial]

The progressive but counter-revolutionary theme was constantly reiterated: “reconstruction” in the conciliatory mode of the Anglo-Saxon heritage. The search for “common ground” would lead the masses away from proletarian revolution and dictatorship; against the Spartacist Manifesto (reprinted in the Nation, March 8) claiming only socialism could bring peace and order, Anglo-Saxon progressives summoned another voice from Germany. Berlin professor and pacificist, F.G. Nicolai, argued that Karl Liebknecht, the recently murdered Spartacist leader, could have been brought into the system: “Revolution must come; not the revolution which is put through by force, but ordered revolution fought with spiritual weapons.”[iii] Another article opposed the “efficiency scientist,” pleading for a reformed academic humanism to protect “ordered progress,” the alternative to [Ahab-cancer]: “rampant Bolshevism” “malignantly seek[ing] to slay the great serpent, or at least scotch it into impotence.” The triumph of materialism would result in pseudo-humanism–chaotic, sentimental and dilettantish. In a pre-emptive strike, the reformed Ph.D. would promote Christian humanism: gentlemanly art was a moderating criticism of social evil.[iv] Freed from [Jewish] materialist science, [Christian] scholarship–once more liberal and courteous, prudent and restrained, spiritual and holistic–would not present a clear and present danger to capitalist and (patriarchal) family order.[v] Structural change was somewhere else, far, very far into the future.

The “disillusion” explanation for the Melville Revival has truth in it, but has been misunderstood. Internationalism was in the air; the world was confronted with two sublime visions after 1917, Lenin’s and Wilson’s. Both would find intellectual support in Melville’s White-Jacket: the perception of irreconcilable conflicts of interest between haves and have-nots, and the peace, order, and prosperity projected by the Protestant mission. Although Wilson’s and Lenin’s visions were apparently contradictory, at times the Left supported both. As Socialist H.W.L. Dana wrote to James Graham Phelps Stokes:

[Dana to Stokes:] The propaganda which I find most necessary here in Massachusetts is one in favor of Wilson’s ideals. So anxious do I feel myself to protect Wilson from attack, that I find myself ready to hold a position more radical than his in order to draw the fire of the reactionaries upon us. What does it matter if we are crushed out, so long as his liberal ideals remain…I am willing to sacrifice those things which one holds dearer than life, my reputation and the understanding of my fellow men, if I can only contribute a little toward that great solution of the problem of war; so that my bleeding brothers may not have bled in vain. [vi]

Thus Villard’s vehement opposition to the League of Nations gains added significance. The following is a synthesis of diagnoses and presciptions transmitted by the Nation, January-August 1919, reproducing the Judgment Day discourse of Villard and other writers. Materialism was linked both to Shylock/Wilson (international finance capital, the source of imperialism), and to Russo-Semitic mud of Greenwich Village (Freud’s “nauseous juices”).[vii] The “hostile spirit” of mass politics (likened to “white ants”), was eating at the foundations of society. Mammon, Freud, Eros, science, and cities marched past shriveling Anglo-Saxons.[viii]

Villard (who had once believed that the Fourteen Points would end war and arms races) howled at the betrayal of the Versailles Treaty, more or less denouncing Wilson as a hypnotic confidence-man, long aware of the Allies’ secret agreements to divest Germany of land and colonies.[ix] At the “mad” Peace Conference, Wilson’s disguise had been discarded of necessity; the lone wolf and egotist was snuggled in [Shylock’s [x]] pocket, international finance capital. Thought by the pathetically eager and gentle millions to be the carrier of the Christian mission, Wilson was sponsoring the League of Nations to promote peace, while conniving with other insider imperialists to dominate the world.[xi] Meanwhile, Europe lay in smoking ruins, bankrupt and hungry. The red flame of revolution leapt from Moscow to Munich, to Budapest, to Vienna, to London, to Paris, to Milan: Americans should be quarantined with a “Chinese Wall” to block the news (or “whirlwind”) from Europe.[xii] The disappointed, suspicious masses everywhere were tinder for the conflagration to come. Workers in Winnepeg, New York, Seattle, Toronto, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), and Waltham (Massachusetts) were poised to take power. In the vacuum left by the fallen Wilson, the most deluded, stubborn and headstrong false messiahs would be taking the van, pointing away from the calm, careful, and free deliberations of Anglo-Saxon politics, most plainly exemplified in the Puritan town meeting and its spawn, the “honest populism” of the North Dakota Non-Partisan League. They were moving toward the savage (Jewish) vengeance of socialist revolution, mind-control, and the bureaucracy that would follow in an inefficient, decadent worker’s state.[xiii]

Under these desperate circumstances, what should a moderate man do? While praying for another Savior/Superman (an economic dictator or a Lord Robert Cecil), Villard’s action-oriented magazine (with very few exceptions) put out a familiar appeal to rational conservatives. The Right, in its crusading zeal to stamp out the Left, was destroying the Constitution and every semblance of civil liberty, driving orphaned Wilson children into the arms of [Jewish Bolshevism] where presumably they would be betrayed once again, this time for good.[xiv] Similarly, by invading the Soviet Union, America and the Allies were only consolidating the irrational hold of the Bolsheviks. Unmolested, the Russians would revert to type and turn inward; meanwhile, a profitable trading relationship with the Russian masses beckoned.[xv] To avert the bloody massacre of class war, Christian conservatives were to make a few needed sacrifices, move sharply to the Left, and engage Labor as partners to Capital in a Christian, decentralized, associationist state of humanistic, anti-materialist but productive brothers and sisters.[xvi] Alien and exploitative international finance capital (up in the air) should be banished; native commercial capital (close to the ground) would remain. If even twenty intelligent industrialists set their minds to it, conferred and planned, the problem of class warfare could be solved in a matter of weeks.[xvii] The socialist claim for international solidarity through “workers’ control”[xviii] was jettisoned in favor of spirituality and a reinstated family of democratic Christian gentlemen, one or more of whom would befriend the common people: a “builder of more stately mansions.”[xix] In spite of the Nation’s occasional support for liberal internationalism and opposition to racism and national chauvinism, (12 April, 540), the scientific but Jewishly-divisive suggestion of opposing interests between Capital and Labor had been discarded for the mystical but (internally[xx]) unifying glue of race and national character. Honest Anglo-Saxons invited shifty immigrants to rationally assimilate through class collaboration, even if they were racially unfit to get it, quite.

An anonymous review of George Woodberry’s “Nathaniel Hawthorne: How to Know Him” clarified American historicism in the Nation. Every writer (not only Hawthorne) should be first considered with regard to his all-shaping environment and the ideas of his time. Second, the writer, now located geographically and molded accordingly, should be considered with regard to his peculiar and idiosyncratic responses. These are the relevant factors of his biography. “Art,” however, was a separate category from life. “Aesthetics” were related to standards of universal literature; unity was found only in the aesthetic realm. Alas, non-Anglo-Saxons could only hope to peer at Hawthorne. As the reviewer noted of literary scholar George Woodberry: “[However singular and parochial Hawthorne might have been] there is no one now living who is so peculiarly fitted by racial inheritance to speak of Hawthorne with sympathetic understanding.”[xxi] Relations between Hawthorne and Woodberry were guaranteed to be harmonious since, happily, a similar biological environment had pre-soaked their individualities; why, they nearly had the same name. (Relations between Hawthorne and the Melville revivers would be as trouble-free; it shall be seen that Hawthorne’s insights into Melville’s obsessive character, especially as recorded in the former’s English Notebooks, would influence assessments of twentieth-century Melville revivers, almost as if a blood brother could not be contradicted.)

But such a rooted, blood and soil historicism would logically have to sabotage the rational search for “common ground” so strenuously advocated by Progressives as the approved Anglo-Saxon solution to class warfare. This impasse was addressed six years later by Nation reader Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, a pluralist and pragmatist, who was the self-proclaimed intellectual descendant of Kant, Comte, Spencer, LeBon, Durkheim, McDougall, Cooley, and John Dewey. Levinger identified two brands of extremism: 100 percent Americans pursuing the “lost cause” of anti-Semitism; and maladjusted Jews suffering from “oppression psychosis.” In his book Anti-Semitism in the United States: Its History and Causes (1925), Levinger softly explained that American “soil” sprouted neither Marxists nor nativist hysterics: “class consciousness” and “prejudice” disappear when hard hearts melt and rationally adapt to new conditions. Jewish immigrants should leave behind their rigid European formulations of Fascismo versus Socialism, Czarists versus Bolsheviks. In racially and ethnically diverse, sprawling, brawling America, unity would yet be found in the “higher synthesis” of “group minds” admiring their “ideal self.” An all inclusive God-figure smiled on equal opportunity, experiments in group adjustment, and a “scientific” sociology in which “group mind” (an “empirical fact”) confers “functional unity.” Worrisome dissension, hate and inter-group violence were produced solely by “hysteria,” the residual “high emotional tone” left in the dissolution of artificial wartime unity. With corrected “gradation of loyalties” and discreetly harmonized “overlapping” “group affiliations,” groups, not individuals, would be possessed of the “individuality” for which democrats yearned. The national (nascently international) symphony should commence. As for domination, there isn’t any. Levinger explained after quoting James Mark Baldwin, a sociologist:

“The real self is always the bi-polar self, the social self.” Empirically, not only are civilization, history and government the products of social heredity; the individual himself as we have him owes his mental content, many of his feelings and motor responses, and his ultimate ideals to the group in which he was born and has developed. On this basis the ancient conflict between the isolated individual and the group domination becomes unimportant, if not meaningless, from the empirical point of view (32).”

Regretfully, 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.”[xxii] By the end of the 1930s, Melville’s isolatoes (Ahab, Pierre, Isabel, Margoth) would be desaparecidos. Wholeness (but not whaleness) commanded “American” literature.

The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal rights to every individual citizen. The new social psychology was sanely designed to wrest the concept of individuality from individual persons to groups: races, ethnicities and business corporations.[xxiii] There might be no commitment to civil liberties in the practice of corporatist intellectuals had not the bloody repression of oppositional political speech during the first two decades of the twentieth century apparently propelled workers and their allies toward socialism, forcing moderate conservatives to forestall revolution in the disillusioned lower orders after the Great War by incorporating libertarian ideals and subversive writers. But the inspiring enlightenment rationalism of John Locke, Condorcet, and the Founding Fathers [xxiv] was vitiated by the racialist Progressive discourse derived from German idealism and the ideas of J. G. Von Herder, the hyphenated Americanism promoted after 1916 that advocated antiracist social and educational policies persisting today as “multiculturalism.” [xxv] Horace Kallen’s Culture and Democracy in the United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples (1924) [xxvi] linked blood and soil determinism with anti-imperialism, boldly asserting an eighteenth-century völkisch social theory against materialist class analysis, proletarian internationalism, and war:

[Kallen:] “The experiments on the salamander and the ascidian, on the rat and the rabbit, make a prima facie case, the importance of which cannot be seriously questioned, for the inheritance of acquired physical traits. The experiments upon the white mice make an even more significant case for the inheritance of acquired “mental” traits (29). …The American people…are no longer one in the same sense in which the people of Germany or the people of France are one, or in which the people of the American Revolution were one. They are a mosaic of peoples, of different bloods and of different origins, engaged in rather different economic fields, and varied in background and outlook as well as in blood…The very conception of the individual has changed. He is seen no longer as an absolutely distinct and autonomous entity, but as a link in an endless historical chain which is heredity, and as a point in a geographical extent involving political, economic, social organization, and all the other factors of group life, which are his environment (58-59).

[Kallen, cont.:] …The fact is that similarity of class rests upon no inevitable external condition: while similarity of nationality has usually a considerable intrinsic base. Hence the poor of two different peoples tend to be less like-minded than the poor and the rich of the same peoples. At his core, no human being, even in a “state of nature” is a mere mathematical unit of action like the “economic man.” Behind him in time and tremendously in him in quality, are his ancestors; around him in space are his relative and kin, carrying in common with him the inherited organic set from a remoter common ancestry. In all these he lives and moves and has his being. They constitute his, literally, natio, the inwardness of his nativity, and in Europe every inch of his non-human environment wears the effects of their action upon it and breathes their spirit (93-94)…Americans are a sort of collective Faust, whose memories of Gretchen and the cloister trouble but do not restrain the conquest of the new empire, and perhaps, the endeavor after Helen (265). (my emph.)”

Researchers would not examine unique individuals with highly variable life experience, capabilities and allegiances: more or less informed individuals making hard choices in shifting situations that were similarly available to empirical investigation, reporting their findings to anyone who cared to listen and respond. For many “symbolic interactionists” or “structuralists,” “society” or “the nation” was a collective subject composed of smaller collective subjects or “sub-cultures”: classes, races, ethnicities, and genders; these collectivities each possessed group “character” expressed in distinctive languages; we communicated solely through the mediations of symbols or “institutional discourses,” and badly. The dissenting, universal individual (the mad scientist) had been swallowed up, while at the same time the conservative reformers claimed to protect or restore individuality in their rescue of deracinated immigrants. Such confusing policies, I believe, are a futile attempt by planners from the right wing of the Progressive movement to impose a sunny, placid, crystalline exterior upon social actors–both individuals and groups–riven by unrecognizable but seething inter- and intra-class conflicts.[xxvii] Although Progressive “corporate liberalism” has been derided by recent populists and New Leftists, its critics have not brought out the organicist sub-text, which, curiously, many radical critics carry but do not seem to see. Melville as Ahab and other dark characters diagnosed the demented character of ‘moderate’ social nostrums;[xxviii] his conservative characters blinkered themselves for the sake of family unity. Why this semi-visible racialist discourse on behalf of a more rooted cosmopolitanism was deemed indispensable to many Progressives is one theme in my book. The construction of the Jungian unconscious as site for Progressive purification and uplift is further developed below as I draw a straight line between some aristocratic radicals of the 1920s and their New Left admirers in the field of American literature.


[i]. Villard believed that the Peace Conference would degenerate into a contest for spoils without the presence of Wilson, The Nation, 2/15/19, 252. On 2/22, “The Net Result” (on the Peace Conference) argued that leaders were failing to perceive the importance of class conflict as national alignments gave way to those of class (268).

[ii] “Danger Ahead,” The Nation, 2/8/19, 186-187. (In the same issue, Nathaniel Hawthorne was lauded as a genius whose writing, formerly held to be parochial, was now to be judged in competition with universal art.) According to revolutionary socialists, tolerance is repressive when it masks social impotence; expression is “free” but may not be translated into measures for structural change beyond social democratic reformism.

[iii] “The Future of the World,”The Nation, 3/22/19, 298.

[iv]  Norman Foerster, “Reconstructing the Ph.D. in English,” The Nation, 5/10/19, 747-50. See also Richard M. Gummere, “The Modern World and the Latin Classroom,” 1/4/19, 13-14; Grant Showerman, “Measuring the Immeasurable,” 7/5, 12-13. Study of the classics would stave off the catastrophe resulting from the scientific vogue for quantitative results. See Norman Foerster, Literary Scholarship: Its Aims and Methods (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1941). Foerster et al were reforming the teaching of literature, seeking “to sort, order, weigh, apply—what the scholarship of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth so devotedly accumulated” (29-30); they will “expose and counteract the unbounded appetite for material power, combined with the self-deception of flimsy ideologies from eighteenth-century sentimentalism to twentieth-century totalitarianism” (31).

[v]  See Nation 1/25, 136. Jews are perennial radicals, no matter how wealthy; 4/19, 664-65; 4/26, 646-647; 5/3, 668, 675, 678.

[vi]  See the James Graham Phelps Stokes papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Butler Library, Columbia University. The Second International supported Wilsonian diplomacy, the Third did not support Wilson’s “alternative to Bolshevism” (the League, the International Labour Organization) until 1933, when Stalin felt himself menaced by both Germany and Japan. See Kathryn W. Davis, The Soviet Union and the League of Nations 1919-1933 (Geneva: Geneva Research Center, 1934), 3-23. Also see Arno J. Mayer, Wilson vs. Lenin: Political Origins of the New Diplomacy 1917-1918 (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1964), 368-393. Mayer saw both visions headed in the same direction: “Lenin’s immediate aim was destructive: class war in preparation for the transitional dictatorship of the proletariat. However, his ultimate objective of the classless society in a warless world had the same hopeful and utopian quality as Wilson’s search for a peaceful community of sovereign democratic nations of unequal power” (393).

[vii]  See the hostile review of Albert Mordell, The Erotic Motive in Literature, 7/19, 94. Freud’s only God is Venus who “rages like a fire” “defaming and defacing” noblest names like Galahad and Lancelot. See also Walter A. Dyer, “The New Order at Juniper Hill,” 7/26, 104-106. The “Anglo-Saxon race” is free from ideas of “class revolution” (106); Fabian Socialism (bearing “inherent common sense”) is contrasted to the Greenwich Village “red radical[s]” with their “Russo-Semitic” “lineage” (104). The Right (a banker, an economist, an editor) is not characterized racially. The same issue notes that British conservatives in a “National Unity Movement” will remove false teachings from the working class (131).

[viii] “Mental Reconstruction,” a review of five recent books, 5/31/19, 871-873.

[ix] See Oswald Garrison Villard, “The Truth about the Peace Conference,” 4/26, 646-647. See also 2/15, 252; 2/22, 268; 5/10, 721, 728-30; 5/17, 826; 7/5, 30. Also, “The Failure of Moral Leadership,” 7/5, 4 (the hypnotic Wilson to which even The Nation had succumbed; the need for a spiritual revival); 5/5, 14-16; Lincoln Colcord, “Why Wilson Was Defeated at Paris,” 5/17, 782-84. Colcord explained that the secret treaties of the Allies had been published by Trotsky, November 1917; Wilson had them, but would not act. “With the ineluctable knowledge of their existence and terms, he outlined, a month later, his famous Fourteen Points…It is only fair to assume that he himself was deluded; at all times he promised himself that he would rectify the error when the Peace Conference came” (783). The preceding article, “Madness at Versailles” was harsher: “His rhetorical phrases, torn and faded tinsel of thought which men now doubt if he himself ever really believed, will never again fall with hypnotic charm upon the ears of eager multitudes. The camouflage of ethical precept and political philosophizing which for long has blinded the eyes of all but the most observing has been stripped away, and the peoples of the world see revealed, not a friend faithful to the last, but an arrogant autocrat and a compromising politician.” With the sane liberal center abandoned, there are two hostile camps: radicals and reactionaries. Wilson is with “the staunch supporters of power and privilege, the controllers of great wealth and dictators of social favor, the voluble champions of the established order against every form of revolution, the preachers of hate and prejudice, and the timid and dependent whose souls are not their own”(779). See also 7/19, 68.

[x]  Although Polish pogroms were vigorously protested, anti-Semitism in The Nation was implicit in its characterizations of finance capital and foreign radicalism. See especially W.G. Roylance, “Americanism in North Dakota,” 7/12, 37-39, a defense of the populists and their Anglo-Saxon antecedents the Lollards. “The League in North Dakota represents the organized revolt of the farmers, who make up the majority of the population, against long-continued exploitation of financial Shylocks and marketing profiteers.” The populists are not “European [dishonest] radicals” but examples of “honest American progressive democracy.” Failure will only come from outside the system (autocratic forces that hate democracy). In a review of a pamphlet, Shylock Not a Jew, by Maurice Packard and Adelaide Marshall, 6/28, 1018, the reviewer belittled “the little brochure” as unilluminating and belaboring the obvious.

[xi]  See the reprint of a pamphlet by the English anti-imperialist, J.A. Hobson, “The New Holy Alliance,” 4/19, 626-628: Wilson “willingly poured his idealism into the Smuts plan”; a “conspiracy of autocrats” will defeat true internationalism and control the world. Also, Lincoln Colcord, “A Receivership for Civilization,” 6/28, 1009-1010: The press has been hiding this story–American boys will be giving their lives to protect bond investors in Europe. Cf. 5/24, 820: U.S. soldiers will die to protect loans to China; Anglo-American imperialism will rule the world; progressives in the Republican Party are splitting from the Old Guard on this. Also, 7/5, editorial, Elihu Root, the servant of finance capital is swaying Republican opinion away from the progressive bloc to join Wilson and the Democrats, all of whom are in their pockets. Also, “[P]ossibly other inner circles” of finance capital for the benefit of Wall Street are mentioned in connection with the Treaty, 8/2, 140-141. The anti-Semitism of Hobson’s influential study of imperialism (1905) has been noted by Lewis Feuer, but from the Right. See Lewis Feuer, Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1986).

[xii]  4/15/19, 485, “the whirlwind approaches across Europe.” Villard, “Germany Today: Food or Chaos,” 3/29, 464-465.

[xiii]  2/15, 246-247; 3/29, 464-66, 496-497; 4/26, 650-652; 4/12, 542-49; 4/19, 601-603; “Reason in Revolution,” 6/14/19, 932. If we open lawful channels for change, labor can realize its demands. 5/10, 726 on “May Day Rioting”: we should stick to “the Anglo-Saxon method [the moderate way] of settling our difficulties by peaceful means and no others.” Also, 6/7, 899, The “Anglo-Saxon way of altering social and political institutions by free debate and discussion” contrasted to “Prussian intolerance.” Also, Allen McCurdy, “Wanted–A Ballot Box,” 7/5, 9-10. Also, W.G. Roylance, “Americanism in North Dakota,” 7/12/19, 37-39. William MacDonald, “North Dakota’s Experiment,” 3/22, 420-422, “The Technique of Revolution,” 3/22, 417; 5/10, 738-39; 6/7, 899; 3/15, 396; 5/5, 10-11; 6/14, 955-56; 3/29, 460, 467-68; 5/17, 839-40; 5/31, 871-72; 7/5, 23; 7/12, 43.

[xiv]  “While They Dance the Tango,” 3/22, 452; Spartacism is unchecked, we need an economic dictator, also 459: labor and capital must sit down and transform industry; John Kenneth Turner, “A Pledge to the World,”7/5, 14-16: Lord Robert Cecil (like the model subscriber to The Nation?) had departed from the feudal and reactionary ways of his Vere de Vere type ancestors, standing for peace and cooperation with labor, in control of all the impulses that made for irresponsible demagoguery of the past. 3/8, “Poisoning the Wells”; 3/29, 485-486; 4/12, 553-54; 4/19, 595, 626-628; 5/3, 692, 699; 5/17, 806-808; 6/28, 1000; 7/12, 37-39; 7/26, 97.

[xv] 2/8, 188-190; 3/22, 413; 4/5, 522-25; 5/10, 792.

[xvi] See the review of M.P. Follet, The New State, 1/18, 97: the neighborhood group would be the embodiment of the “group state” that replaced the “crowd state.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis [ideological successors to Melville’s father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of the State of Massachusetts] represented the change from a state that protected individualistic privilege to a conception of law as the “outcome of community life and bound to its service.” 3/1, 314-15; 3/29, 459, 463, 478-79; Richard Roberts, “England in Revolution,” 5/17, 784-85; “The League of Nations in Danger,” (sermon by Charles Gore, Bishop of Oxford, who fears  education and science as promoters of competition, not Christian corporatism), 806-808; 5/31, 866-67; “The Problem of the State,” 8/2, 137.

[xvii]  6/7, 931-44; Lincoln Colcord, “The Carving of Russia,” 6/14, 940-941, for the distinction between “industrial bankers” versus “financial bankers.” The “international bankers” stand in the background of the negotiations in Paris, arranging the destinies of men.” Commercial bankers are “outside” this scenario. Unlike the “financial” bankers, the commercial ones (e.g. National City Bank connected to Standard Oil, American International Corporation, and the banking-engineering firm of Stone and Weber) are close to production, wisely making concessions to labor. The former (e.g. J.P. Morgan) see the state as existing to clamp down on debtors. 7/12, 28: The Non-Partisans are not Socialists; they want to buy cheap and sell dear; alien speculators and alien control of markets and terminals are to be eliminated. In the same issue, a review entitled “Immanent Idealism” (a synthesis of the old idealism and pragmatism) recommends its formless self as best counter to emancipated, atheistic, international democracy (23). 2/15, 243; 3/22, 452; 4/12, 536.

[xviii]  2/8, 217, 241; Special Correspondent, “The Shop Stewards Movement,” 2/22, 277-279 (favorable towards worker’s control); 3/22, 451; 3/29, 477-78; 5/3, 680; 5/10, 722.

[xix] A.A. Berle, Jr., “The Betrayal at Paris,” 8/19/19, 170. Cf. 160, “An Appeal to America Not Yet Written by Woodrow Wilson,” in which the ideal leader is not a friend of one class over another, but helps classes to understand each other, then see their common interest and common justice.

[xx]  Internal to “the race,” not the individual psyche.

[xxi]  Unsigned review, 2/8, 202, possibly Carl Van Doren.

[xxii]  Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, Anti-Semitism in the United States, Its History and Causes (N.Y.: Bloch, 1925), 29, 333-34, 39-44, 51, 71, 78, 94-95, 110, 115.

[xxiii]  A clipping preserved by Carey McWilliams is revealing in this regard: Woodruff Randolph’s editorial in the Typographical Journal 9/4/37, protested recent right-wing offensives; the headline read “Incorporate Unions? Step Toward Fascism, Says ‘Typo’ Secretary.” Randolph contrasted the business corporation “partly a person and partly a citizen, yet it has not the inalienable rights of a natural person” with “A labor organization [which] is organized to do in numbers what each may do individually under his inalienable rights.” Carey McWilliams Papers, UCLA Special Collections, Box 14.

[xxiv] James W. Ceaser, Reconstructing America, Chapter 2. Ceaser differentiates among the Founders, arguing that Jefferson’s political rationalism existed in tension with received ideas on race; the overall effect was to replace political science with natural history as the guide to sound government. Condorcet, the most comprehensively democratic philosophe, the champion of internationalism, popular sovereignty, public education, feminism, and progress, and enemy to separation of powers and checks and balances (as ploys of elites to subvert democratic will), was annexed to the conservative enlightenment to give liberal credibility to the New Deal elevation of the executive branch of government over the legislative branch. See J. Salwyn Schapiro, Condorcet and the Rise of Liberalism (N.Y.: Octagon Reprint, 1978, orig. pub. 1934, repub. 1963), 276-277: “Security for both capital and labor is essential if freedom of enterprise is to survive…Responsibility in government can be more efficiently maintained by giving more authority to the executive, who would wield power, not as an irresponsible dictator, but as a democratically chosen official responsible to a legislature whose essential function would be to act as the nation’s monitor. Progress has been the peculiar heritage of liberalism to which it must be ever faithful in order to survive.” Condorcet joins Paine and Jefferson as fodder for the moderate men of the vital center.

[xxv]  I am using 1916 as a milestone in the promotion of ethnopluralism because of the publication of the Randolph Bourne article, “Trans-National America,” and a now forgotten book by the head psychologist of the Boston Normal School, J. Mace Andress, Johann Gottfried Herder as an Educator (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1916). The latter introduced Herder as the precursor to Franz Boas and advocated the new “race pedagogy.” There was no ambiguity about the welcome counter-Enlightenment drift of German Romanticism in this work. For Andress, the German Romantic hero was a rooted cosmopolitan, fighting to throw off [Jewish] materialist domination to liberate the Volksgeist. In 1942, Herder was presented as a Kantian, pantheist, cosmopolitan and quasi-democrat, even a supporter of the French Revolution in James Westfall Thompson, A History of Historical Writing, Vol. 2, 33-138, especially 137.

Some more recent intellectual historians are rehabilitating Herder along with other figures of the Hochklarung, similarly held to be avatars of the freethinking emancipated individual. In his talk at the Clark Library symposium “Materialist Philosophy, Religious Heresy, and Political Radicalism, 1650-1800,” (May 1, 1999) John H. Zammito declared that Herder’s philosophy (the demolition of mechanical materialism?) cleared the way for the further development of natural science in Germany. The key figure for these scholars is Spinoza, his pantheism the apex of “vitalist materialism.” Margaret C. Jacob, author of The Radical Enlightenment, 1981, was organizer of the conference, but we are using the term with differing assumptions about scientific method and what, exactly, constitutes the radical Enlightenment.

[xxvi]   Horace M. Kallen, Culture and Democracy in The United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples, (N.Y: Boni and Liveright: 1924), recognized in Alfred E. Zimmern’s review in The Nation and the Atheneum, 5/17/24, 207, as a shift away from Lockean environmentalism toward hereditarian racism, however (benignly) characterized as “a cooperation of cultural diversities”; Zimmern linked Kallen’s pluralism to that of William James. He did not mention Randolph Bourne’s Atlantic Monthly essay of 1916, “Trans-National America.” See also Robert Reinhold Ergang, Herder and the Foundations of German Nationalism, (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1931), Chapter III. On the explicit and implicit antisemitism/Counter-Enlightenment in Herder’s position, see p. 92: “The Hebrews ‘were a people spoiled in their education, because they never arrived at a maturity of political culture on their own soil, and consequently not to any true sentiment of liberty and honor.’ ” There it is, the Big Lie of rootless cosmopolitanism. See p.95 for the basis of Herder’s anti-French revolt: Rousseau’s Contrat social is not the force that binds a nation, but nature’s laws of blood and soil; Nature, not Culture creates interdependence; for Herder there is only Nature and all history is natural history; environmentally acquired characteristics are inherited by the corporate entity.

[xxvii] See for instance, Louis Filler, Randolph Bourne (Washington, D.C.: American Council On Public Affairs, 1943). The Council was a Progressive organization producing pamphlets during the war and promoting cooperation between capital and labor. Louis Filler (also a Nation writer) explained why Randolph Bourne, espousing an orderly “international identity” for America and explaining war as an outgrowth of nationalism, had been wrongly deemed as irrelevant to the youth of the 1930s; we need Bourne today. Filler explained, “Alien cultures, Bourne declared, brought new forces and ideas to American life. [Those bossy, snobbish Anglo-Saxon assimilationists who controlled everything, so] discouraged retention by immigrants of their Old World heritage did not thereby create Americans. They created “hordes of men and women without a spiritual country, cultural outlaws, without taste, without standards but those of the mob.” Moreover: “those who come to find liberty achieve only license. They become the flotsam and jetsam of American life, the downward undertow of our civilization with its leering cheapness and falseness of taste and spiritual outlook, the absence of mind and sincere feeling which we see in our slovenly towns, our vapid moving pictures, our popular novels, and in the vacuous faces of the crowds on the city street. This is the cultural wreckage of our time, and it is from the fringes of the Anglo-Saxon as well as the other stocks that it falls. America has as yet no compelling integrating force. It makes too easily for this detritus of cultures. In our loose, free country, no constraining national purpose, no tenacious folk-tradition and folk-style hold the people to a line.” What would be done about such a state of affairs? “America is a unique sociological fabric, and it bespeaks poverty of imagination not to be thrilled at the incalculable potentialities of so novel a union of men. To seek no other good but the weary old nationalism–belligerent, exclusive, inbreeding, the poison of which we are witnessing now in Europe–is to make patriotism a hollow sham, and to declare, that, in spite of our boastings, America must ever be a follower and not a leader of nations.” Do not, therefore, denigrate any culture that has driven stakes into the American soil: do not, certainly, term it un-American: “There is no distinctive American culture.” Do not, above all, set up American material achievement as a token of American fulfillment: “If the American note is bigness, action, the objective as contrasted with the reflective life, where is the epic expression of this spirit?” We were patently inhibited from presenting in impressive artistic form the energy with which we were filled. The reason was that we had not yet accepted the cosmopolitanism with which we had been endowed. Americans of culture could be made of the Germans in Wisconsin, the Scandinavians in Minnesota, and the Irish and Italians of New York. “In a world which has dreamed of internationalism, we find that we have all unawares been building up the first international identity (76-78)…[Bourne’s] ideas, his experiences, the warp and woof of his personality were not necessary to a generation that believed it had discovered impersonal economic laws that (properly applied) would at last bring about a settlement of human affairs (133).”

[xxviii]  Cf. David Leverenz on the “Ugly Narcissus,” Ahab: “He certainly is not afflicted with contradictory or discontinuous role-expectations. But he does start to experience a desire for [sadomasochistic] fusion, previously blocked by his obsession.” In Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989), 294.

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