The Clare Spark Blog

November 14, 2015

No boundaries

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

It is difficult to wrench my focus away from the massacre in Paris, to concentrate on the ongoing turmoil in our most important universities, but try I must.

(First read this blog: https://clarespark.com/2014/11/27/what-black-community/.) By far the best course I took at UCLA while I pursued my doctorate was a seminar on slavery and Reconstruction taught by Margaret Washington (now at Cornell University but known as Maggie Creel when I studied with her).

Margaret Washington

We read histories written by Kenneth Stampp, Stanley Elkins, Herbert Gutman, Eugene Genovese, James Oakes, Peter H. Wood, Frank Owsley, and many more specialists on the history of the antebellum, Civil War, and postbellum South, looking often at opposing views regarding institutions and events. Dr. Creel was a strong feminist, and at least when I studied with her, she was no black nationalist. UCLA’s famously “Red” history department did not appreciate her many merits, and she left after receiving the offer from Cornell University.

It was obvious from all my graduate studies that the history of the “peculiar institution” was central to the study of US History, and in later reading, I read the major novels of Thomas Dixon, and caught up on the most recent thinking of such academic superstar historians as David Brion Davis, David Blight, Seymour Drescher, Eric Foner, and their contemporaries, all of whom were writing during the rise of black nationalism (the latter ideology a departure from Martin Luther King Jr.’s focus on integration).

I remain puzzled over their reluctance to study the transformation of the 1960s civil rights movement from integrationism to (divisive) nationalism, though I believe that the transformation of the leftist line against the very concept of “race” was central to their silence on a subject of central importance to their profession, not to speak of contemporary social movements that accept without demur separatist and “multicultural” “African-American” histories. (Do we really want to legitimate Pan-Africanism?) These eminent intellectuals accepted without protest the lack of boundaries between MLK Jr. (and his contemporary Ralph Bunche) and their most famous opponent, the now glorified Malcolm X.

In short, I believe that these prominent professors had gone with the flow. No boundaries, unlike the line drawn by Maggie Creel in 1984.

Prize-winning book by Margaret Washington on Sojourner Truth

Prize-winning book by Margaret Washington on Sojourner Truth

It was also in graduate school, that I witnessed an angry black student walking out on a lecture by Ira Berlin (by then, another prominent scholar of slavery, whose talk was focused on the creativity of many slaves, who planted their own vegetable gardens to supplement an inadequate diet furnished by their owners). This furious militant did not want to hear about slavery at all. He was obviously a warrior of the type presaging “Black Lives Matter.”

Turn now to Peter H. Wood’s major contribution, The Black Majority (on South Carolina), that I reread a short time ago. My major take away from that impressively researched work was the ongoing rivalry between black and white workers; i.e., bitter labor competition was the lingering effect of slavery. This focus on class was a welcome diversion from the now constant concentration on a supposed “institutional racism,” not to speak of the endless leftist attack on “American exceptionalism,” as if, for the protesters, blacks were still toiling on plantations. Labor competition also explains why some white policemen (themselves often of working class/urban ethnic origin) might be quick on the trigger.

Back to boundaries and the lack of them. The cry of black militants (and their lefty allies) against an obviously overstated “white supremacy” suggests that they too have no boundaries between past and present. It is clear that the fights over slavery shaped American history, but many Americans have given their lives to stop the racist practices of the past, not least in the Civil War and in the 1960s too..

One can only speculate on the parenting that misshaped today’s “social justice” warriors demanding reparations and revolution. Their liberal professors and various delinquent parents should take responsibility for their children’s deficient educations. In a misguided revolt against “puritanism” (New England is often blamed for the introduction of slavery) professors and parents alike have driven their students and children into primitivism and a misguided life that celebrates the escape into terror.

It is not only Islamo-fascists we should fear today.

More boundaries, please.

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

David K. Flowers blog, photo credit 123rf.com

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November 27, 2014

What “black community”?

youth_violence470
[This is the second of two blogs on the uproar in Ferguson Missouri, Thanksgiving week, 2014. For the first in the series see https://clarespark.com/2014/11/25/reflections-on-the-ferguson-aftermath/.%5D

For decades, I have heard the term “black community” as if even one drop of “blood” determined consciousness and interest. Even before the [mythical] “black community” erupted in rage following the grand jury “failure” to indict policeman Darren Wilson for the “racist” killing of Michael Brown, politicians and pundits in the media imagine that “blacks” or “African Americans” form a cohesive body, a veritable “people’s community,” sharing the same mental and emotional characteristics. Some of them must know that this is Pan-African, hence fascist or proto-fascist talk, but use the term because they have heard it used frequently and don’t want to be picky or hyper-intellectual. Better to agree with demagogues, politicians, and other pundits who define institutional discourses, submerging individual or occupational differences in the group. The same opinion leaders, inspired by “the Left,” refer to “the [broken] system,” –a “system” that exists only in their feverish imaginations.

In the real world, of course, there are better ways to sort out persons, apart from the lingo of blood and soil, according to economic interest and awareness. What have super-rich “black” celebrities (musicians, sports figures, actors), leaders of large corporations, hopeful entrepreneurs, other more established small business persons, hard-pressed working or stay-at-home black mothers, male or female industrial workers, domestic labor, clergy, teachers, and radio personalities, to do with the lumpen mobs burning, looting, or “protesting” in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities with large black populations? Each of these occupations has more in common with others in its socio-economic category than with “the underclass.”

Ironically, popular television shows, pressed by soi-disant “representatives” from “the black community” present heroic, successful black characters as role models, with the premise that positive images (including inter-racial sex: a rebuke to long-standing fears of “miscegenation”) will obliterate the racism that Democrats still impute to all Americans, as if slavery and Jim Crow laws still existed, or left lingering effects that infest the “body politic,” a.k.a. the fascist or proto-fascist notion of “the organic community.”

scandal

Since even “conservatives” on Fox News Channel use the term “black community” I can only conclude that the “one drop [of blood]” rule prevails and is hegemonic. I blame the white liberal establishment of the 1960s for supporting the crypto-racist, collectivist strategy of “multiculturalism” to improve “race relations.” Such pioneering civil rights figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Bunche would have been horrified to see their integrationist efforts distorted into the “Pan-Africanism” of “black power,” a development that I traced here: https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/. Or try this one to eavesdrop on white liberals betraying the “liberalism” they supposedly advocated as they bargain with “black power” troublemakers, hoping to buy them off: https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.

whathappened

I write this blog on Thanksgiving, 2014, during a week of civil unrest and destruction. I am thankful that I live in a Constitutional republic that permits this sort of vigorous dissent and call to ameliorative action.

November 25, 2014

Reflections on the Ferguson aftermath

mike-brown-protesters-ferguson
Having lived through the 1960s, later chronicling the rise of the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements on Pacifica radio, then going to graduate school in history at UCLA where I studied 19th and 20th century social movements and how they were taught by UCLA’s radical faculty, I have thoughts on the violent response to the Ferguson Missouri’s grand jury’s decision not to indict policeman Darren Wilson, which was met by lumpen mayhem and/or “protest” in the streets, not only in Missouri, but in larger cities with radicalized minority populations and sympathetic “liberal” white grownups of a certain age.

In response to the looting and burning, conservative pundit Andrea Tantaros suggested on the Fox show Outnumbered that families should sit down and talk to their (adolescent) kids, presumably to keep them on the straight and narrow. This is an understandable wish, but hopelessly naïve. Why?

As most parents know, puberty and adolescence are harrowing times, for youngsters, with or without the discipline of fathers, are rejecting parents for peer groups, and often indulge in ritual rebellions (as in their preference for the “romanticism,” drugs, fast cars, and the defiance of rock and roll). Add to this that the current population of American kids have been instructed by 1960s-70s veterans of social movements that were often New Left in orientation, hence undisciplined and attracted to anarchy and chaos, unlike the comparatively disciplined pre-war 1930s communist activists to whom they are often linked by populist conservatives.

Jimmystewartfather

Indeed, academics sometimes link the New Left spirit to that of the Jazz Age in the 1920s. There is the same primitivism and the same fantasy that pre-capitalist or “Third World” societies are closer to Nature, are uncorrupted by technology, and hence are instinctually liberated. It is imagined, incorrectly, that there are no rules about sex or aggression amongst, say, South Sea Islanders. (I have written about this misunderstanding ad nauseum. See for instance https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “Rappers, primitivism, and ritual rebellion.” Or try this more recent blog on Robert Redford’s movie The Company You Keep, with its fantasy of a reconstructed happy family close to Nature: https://clarespark.com/2013/11/17/rehabilitating-the-weathermen/. Or, compare Marx to Lenin: https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/.

I have left out one crucial cause of the looting, burning, and general protest, and it involves American communist politics in the 1960s. The Old Left should have known better, but having supported a Black Belt in the Southern US in the 1930s, later communists rejected the peaceful,  integrationist, pro-American strategy of Martin Luther King Jr. for what should be described as contemporary fascism or proto-fascism: the separatism and anti-“Euro-centricity” of the law-and-order West. It too found supporters in disaffected youth, herded together in ghettoes dominated by the Democratic machine.  (I chronicled this partly here: https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/.) The Right has correctly pointed out the power of the Democratic machines in opposing school choice, but fails to understand child development, while overestimating the power of the “strong Father,” whose authoritarianism may incite revolt in the children.

It would be better for liberals, moderates and conservatives alike to pay attention to this recent history, which remains alive today. Historians of fascism as disparate as George L. Mosse and Robert O. Paxton similarly agree that European fascism was partially sparked by youth revolt, participants in the disillusion and brutality of the masses that were traumatized and ready to rumble after the horrors of the Great War–a cataclysm whose after effects still haunt us.

The action faction, sadly, is not dead.

redblackprotester

July 19, 2012

Communist ideas go mainstream

Rosa Luxemburg

[This blog should be read in tandem with https://clarespark.com/2012/08/20/ernest-hemingway-carlos-baker-and-the-spanish-civil-war/.]

The most important idea in this blog: that the original Progressives wanted a regulated capitalism that would stave off the specter of red revolution. Their enemies were Gilded Age robber barons/ finance capital, but more so, a militant working class that seemed to be on the march, especially during the riotous year of 1919, but before that, in the take-off period for industrial capitalism after the Civil War. In the first eight months of 1919–in August introducing the first article publicizing the ostensibly forgotten Herman Melville (1819-1891), The Nation magazine advised its conservative readers to move sharply to the left, outflanking the Industrial Workers of the World and its evil twin the Socialist Party. Oswald Garrison Villard’s influential magazine preached “honest Anglo-Saxon populism” of the communitarian sort that such Anglo-Saxon upper-Midwesterners such as Ernest Hemingway would embody in his novels, for instance in A Farewell to Arms (where war is blamed on the upper classes, and suffered by hapless peasants), and then For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940, written shortly before EH was to be recruited by the KGB as revealed in The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, 2009, see https://clarespark.com/2012/07/09/hbo-does-gellhorn-in-red/).

Nation writers in 1919 also made a vital distinction between industrial capital and finance capital: the latter were Shylocks, while industrial capital was, by contrast, close to the earth, *suggesting the same primitivism, earthiness, and regressive use of language [childish prattle?] that Hemingway (a.k.a. “Hemingstein”) admired. They also posited mystical bonds to unite society, for they were at heart organic conservatives, hostile to anything that smacked of empiricism or “materialism.” Above all, they preached deference to gentlemanly, compassionate Anglo-Saxon experts, who, properly reconstructed, would avoid the extremes of heartless laissez-faire capitalism and communist revolution (Jew/Jacobin-led mob rule). That is why I call them the moderate men, and these moderates can be found in both political parties today, arguing for “the neutral state,” while at the same time, the moderate men are attuned to life among the lowly (see https://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/, with its bizarre notion that all conflict can be reconciled by the artful, manipulative “mediator” bringing progressive ideas of order to the “mixed-economy”).

For a detailed account of The Nation line in January-August 1919, see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. For more on the separation of finance capital from industrial capital see https://clarespark.com/2010/09/11/is-wall-street-slaughtering-the-middle-class/.

In a more recent blog, I summarized the main ideas of Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes in their detailed summation of the Communist movement in the U.S. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/06/03/connecting-vs-connecting-the-dots/. ) As Klehr and Haynes demonstrate the heyday of American communism was the Great Depression, or as literary scholars say, the Red Decade, where virtually every important writer studied Marx and Lenin, with many joining the communist movement, though there were vicious animosities between Stalinists and Trotskyists that remain relevant today (for instance, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, between readers of The New Masses and Partisan Review). Klehr and Haynes argue that the communist movement today is weak and nearly defunct, but did not trace the infiltration of Leninist statism into the progressive movement and the New Left, though they mention several instances where New Deal strategies such as social security were first introduced by the CPUSA (but see Professor Cherny’s objection to this claim below in his lengthy comment).

Marcus Garvey

New Left developments: The civil rights movement, under infiltration by communist thinkers and organizers, quickly turned from an integrationist movement (the MLK Jr. line) to a militantly cultural nationalist movement, drawing on both the cultural pluralism introduced by earlier progressives, and the separatism advocated by avowed fascists such as Marcus Garvey (a petit-bourgeois radical and precursor to Malcolm X), or by Communists  advocating a Black Belt in the deep American South as reparations for the horrors of slavery, debt-peonage, and Jim Crow.

Schine, McCarthy, Cohn

The New Left (many of whom were readers and admirers of the anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist British Left still reeling from the 1956 revelations about Stalin) defined itself as “anti-anti-Communist,” with a great horror of McCarthy and his vile [Jewish] henchmen, Roy Cohn and G. David Schine, arguing that anticommunism was a (continued) cover for right-wing opposition to the statist New Deal, and of course that we had not “lost China” as “right-wing loons” had insisted. It was this 1960s generation that turned once again to history from the bottoms up, or social history or cultural history, histories that had already been made fashionable and appealing by 1930s progressive journalists, authors, songwriters, filmmakers, and playwrights  celebrating the Common Man/the Salt of the Earth.  See https://clarespark.com/2012/06/16/the-social-history-racket/, but also recent blogs on such figures as Edna Ferber, Oscar Hammerstein, and Martha Gellhorn. Today, NPR, the Pacifica Foundation, and academic departments of humanities  continue the populist-communitarian strain extant since the last decade of the 19th century, antisemitism and all. What a shock it must have been when Yale University Press published its series of books that delved into the briefly opened Soviet archives, revealing that Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, et al, were guilty of espionage after all, that Whittaker Chambers was no sociopath, and though McCarthy was a vile opportunist, he was not so far off the mark as liberals had insisted.

TIME Cover, March 8, 1954

Although in prior blogs I have made sharp distinctions between liberal anticommunists (social democrats) and hardcore communists and fascists, the statism and crypto-elitism advanced by “progressivism” have so blurred the boundaries between social democracy and full-fledged Marxist-Leninism that I cannot blame those on the Right who conflate all the variant statisms into one huge encroaching monster. Popular Front politics did not stop in 1939, but persist into the present.

*It was Nation writer Lincoln Colcord who draw a distinction between “international bankers” versus “commercial bankers”; the latter were closer to the site of production, hence would make concessions to labor, whereas the international bankers were solely involved with the extraction of profits. Cf. J. A. Hobson, also favorably cited by The Nation in this period.

December 2, 2011

The Whiteness of the Whale

Frederick Douglass not black enough

I have just listened to an 8 minute rant against the OWS protesters by podcaster Adam Corolla: (http://biggovernment.com/mrctv/2011/11/30/adam-carolla-explains-the-ows-generation/).  These polarized times are friendly to those personalities who can harness and provide a catharsis for conservatives and independents outraged by the ostensibly spoiled brats of hippie parents and others who like Big Government  (a.k.a. the Nanny State) as a solution to social inequality, or who were part of the self-esteem movement in multicultural education.

There may be something to what he says regarding giving undeserving kids trophies so that they won’t feel bad about losing to the stronger or more competent in school athletics and progressive education.  What Corolla did not include in this particular rant is the sea change in American education since the civil rights movement took hold in the 1960s. An entire generation of senior scholars in American history absorbed the troublemakers who instigated scary and destructive urban riots after the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy (the latter friendly to those who would relieve the horrors of urban ghetto life). By 1968, the white northeastern liberal establishment consciously co-opted what by then was militant black nationalism, while the “cool” leaders in the media industry went primitive, feeding into long term trends in popular culture—for instance the minstrel shows, later 1920s embrace of such as Josephine Baker and flamboyant sexuality in general.  Both strategies would have been labeled as escapist by such lucid political thinkers as the late Ralph Bunche (d.1971). See https://yankeedoodlesoc.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/carnegie-corp-and-the-negro-problem/.

By the time I hit graduate school in US history in the early 1980s, the determining structures were in place: American history was taught as if instructed by Soviet anti-American propaganda. Rather than being an exceptional nation, unprecedented in its governmental reliance on popular sovereignty as a source of instruction and legitimacy, “Zionist” America* was a rotten apple with a polished red skin, but rotten to the core. The entire field of American Studies (and its affiliated cultural studies) were devoted to proving this proposition. And even post-Civil War immigrants were held responsible for the misery of “Afro-Americans” as some called the black population, even Eastern European Jews fleeing pogroms and held to be communistic infiltrators.

Not surprisingly, conservative intellectuals are recuperating the Founding Fathers and writing about the making of the U.S. Constitution, in order to combat the Democratic Party’s emphasis on the antebellum period, the Civil War, and the failure of Reconstruction, events said to have entirely disabled living blacks today! How do we know this to be true? The history profession gives its major awards to those cultural historians who assert that the Civil War and white racism are the central sources of American character and cultural identity. The vanguard of Chosen People (asserted by Herman Melville! https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/) has been banished to the back of the line in Ivy League universities and in the humanities in general.  If you are not writing about “race” you are simply not in the academic game, and heaven help the feminists who do not focus their research on women of color. Similarly, if you write about the labor movement, you had better note their earlier hostility to black, Chinese, and Latino competitors. Throw in the Draft Riots of 1863, or the inherently narcissistic character of “American individualism,” or the peculiar institution (Southern slavery) as indistinguishable from capitalism (or its financial haul from slave labor funding capitalist development), and you are on your way to a job in the history profession in actually existing major universities.

To return to Adam Corolla’s rant against OWS. Beside the strong Third World or Maoist contingent of the current organized Left in OWS, add those who were educated to believe that capitalism is not merely a failed experiment, but is positively evil and an expression of our species’ “dark side”; that whiteness itself  is proof of demonic possession and the will to plunder and disrespect the whole, wide world.  Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?

* See this excerpt from Dmitri Volkogonov, The Psychological War (1986):  “The capitalist mass media are greatly influenced by the Zionist circles.  For example, Zionist organisations in the United States control half its magazines, more than half of its radio stations, and a large number of press and radio bureaus abroad.  In other capitalist countries the picture is very much the same.  In addition to that, various Zionist organisations run more than a thousand publications in 67 countries.  This is where the military-industrial complex draws its ideological support. The capitalist mass media spread outright lies about socialism, create a climate of fear for the future, of gloom and doom.  The main idea of this vast system of disinformation is to prove that “socialism is bad” and the “free world” is good. This is how the capitalist mass media are waging the psychological war against the Soviet people, also against their own people whom the bourgeois radio centres feed with disinformation.  This is how opinions in the West are shaped when people are unable to understand the true state of things, when they think and act only under the influence of the extraneous forces that manipulate them.”

NOTE. This blog reflects my reading of the week: Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1962) and David Blight, Frederick Douglass’s Civil War (1989). 

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