The Clare Spark Blog

July 15, 2019

The “women of color” meme is bogus

The “Women of Color” meme is ungrounded in historical reality. Even Fox News conservative guests like savvy Buck Sexton, while criticizing “The Squad,” have failed to identify what is confusing or incorrect about the “women of color” meme (or perhaps their minds are on more pressing issues). No wonder, for that meme is leftover from the all-encompassing 1960s civil rights movement that a few conservatives still oppose. or misunderstand.

  One cannot simply blend “the Yellow peril” (Chinese), Reds (the dissimilar but  often lumped together Indian tribes), Blacks, recent immigrants from Central America (“Mexicans” or Africans), all Latinos and women, yet moderates like Heather Mac Donald, deny the basic facts of American and/or World history.

Enter “multiculturalism,” that ostensibly exists to eradicate “discrimination” based on “race” or gender, while erasing individual difference in favor of collective discourses. The same goes for “people(s).” Take ex-slave Blacks, originating in West Africa during the age of expansion. Yet “multiculturalism” (a holdover from German Romanticism), designates “African-American” as if Africa, a huge continent, is a single society (which hides the history of Muslim enslavement of other black Africans.)

The German theologian J.G. von Herder, whose collectivist followers or inspirations included Kant (a comtemporary) and Fichte (a follower), is considered to be the founder of “cultural history” are legion (including postmodernists), got the ball rolling in the late 18th century. There was a Herder revival in The Third Reich (1933-1945), which is damning enough, but leave the question of Western “fascism” aside for now. What is the matter with Herder and postmodernists? Like other collectivists, they omit individual difference, thus all blacks are supposed to share the same personalities and interests, enabling multiculturalists to claim that there is no difficulty in lumping them together. Clearly, “the pomos” are not figures of the Left, for class difference is also eliminated.

No matter how corporatist liberals appeal to “white supremacy,” their protestations fall onto (my) deaf ears. You don’t have to a Marxist to smell rats.

What about the other “colors”? “Asian-Americans” are not a category at all. Chinese are not Japanese or Vietnamese or Indonesians, though Chinese workers were a threat to  working-class “whites” as did foreign labor in general in the 19th Century. Labor competition is invisible to most liberals.

But to conflate Indian “removal” or near-extermination with slavery or immigration is also ridiculous. What about Mexicans or other (often part-Indian and un-removed) “Latinos” who are part of the debate over open borders vs. current laws? We may look to current cultural nationalist tendencies since Mexico lost a substantial amount of land in the 19th C. War with Mexico. I see the current immigration flap as enmeshed in the understandable desire to reverse that victory of “Yankee imperialism” as if William Walker (have you heard of this Southern adventurer?) was from New England.

The case of “women of color” is more complex, since “white women” are considered to be exploiters of the “colored,” as some surely are. But one cannot conflate working-class women with other “whites.” “The Squad” may have a point in this restricted case, but I have not, for personal reasons, investigated that crucial matter.

I do know that I am not a Marxist, having too much regard for individuals and, also, I look askance at actually existing “socialist” movements and countries. Forgive me for belaboring the obvious, but I am a historian.

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February 14, 2013

Is there a “culture of violence”?

Tintoretto Origin of the Milky Way

Tintoretto Origin of the Milky Way

Ever since the Newtown massacre, in addition to calls for “gun control,” pundits have been tossing around the term “culture of violence” as yet another way to blame mental illness on the modern world, in this case, popular culture as manufactured by Hollywood, the music industry, and television producers.

This blog looks at some of the “culture of violence” explanations, criticizing them as ideological and non-explanatory. My villains are academics, pundits, and other “experts.”

The Marxist-Leninist slant: violence is built into the relationship between capital and labor, or employer and employee. The big guy confiscates the product that should rightfully belong to the little guy, who are not only the victims of (usually finance capital), but who are thoroughly alienated from the work process. Some call this “the Marxist theory of alienation.”

The Frankfurt School critical theorists (synthesizers of Marx and Freud): mass culture destroyed the radical will of the working class, bourgeoisifying what should have been the vanguard of the communist revolution and corrupting them with desires for material comfort. Erich Fromm, for instance, complained about The Escape From Freedom, and blamed the rise of Hitler on working class authoritarianism. More Eros recommended, but only a moderate amount. Tame that [Puritan] superego that sends revolting children off the deep end!

Antisemitic populists: Hollywood and the mass media have wrecked the family, particularly respect for paternal authority, aided by feminists. Male Jews are primarily blamed for their worldliness, love of gold (gelt), unleashed aggressiveness, thuggishness, and insatiable desire for the flesh of female Christians. This sounds weird and sick, but it is probably the most widespread form of protest today, though few will cop to it.

Cultural historians and the New Left. Only a follower of the famous German sociologist Max Weber would be so dopey as to find culture the route to understanding the emotions, expunging economic and political factors and substituting the power of myths, symbols, and [mis]representations in general that have fooled the masses into believing that we have a functioning democracy (I have some sympathy for this view). The entire cultural studies gang will describe America as possessing a culture of violence, for there can be no escape from the past in which prior white Americans slaughtered native Americans, raped the environment, prolonged chattel slavery, stole the Southwest from the Mexicans, marginalized women and gays, etc. etc. Thus violence is built into the American character.  To deny this is to align oneself and one’s associates with the most heinous characters in world history. 1930s Communists had a more favorable version of American history, seeing the bourgeoisie as having developed the productive forces that would enable working-class control. Some Progressives agreed with them, and feared the worst. (See the followers of Frederick Jackson Turner and his frontier thesis for this scenario. See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/18/whaleness-2/. )

Clare’s musings: There is no such thing as a culture of violence. Horror movies are probably deployed to serve as catharsis for necessarily repressed rage against the parents who have the thankless task of socializing their children from narcissistic little savages, into citizens prepared to participate in a democratic republic, to earn a living, and to rear responsible citizens of their own. However, our species is also suggestible. I do not know how those suffering from mental illness process the gory images so omnipresent in movies and crime shows on television. It would be a fine thing if “behaviorist” psychologists and psychiatrists tackled such problems, and were less attuned to labeling the various “disorders” in order to satisfy the FDA and other regulatory agencies, plus the drug companies who are sedating millions of Americans. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/05/17/beethoven-and-some-rosy-prometheans/, for its critique of behavior modification, the parent of cognitive psychology?)

terrier valentine

Liebestod. Happy Valentine’s Day and welcome to our Brave New World.

December 22, 2012

My “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” and Eric Hobsbawm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

oppositional-defiance-disorder-1

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

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

May 15, 2012

Progressive uplift vs. “New Left” nihilism

Bill Ayers, Weatherman

Several writers on the Right have been selling books with the premise that the Progressive movement in early 20th century America was protofascist, or fascist and racist. Their aim is to mobilize their constituencies to vote for organic conservatives like themselves in the hopes of halting “the nanny state.”  Similarly, they dwell on the President’s links to racist extremists in the period before he ran for office as a uniter, not a divider.

In this blog, I argue that it is an error to link in any way whatsoever the Progressive uplifters and more recent advocates of violence and anarchy. For uplift was an orderly process, an expression of the “moderate” strategies of the chief publicists of progressivism. It was also, at its core, defined against “revolutionary radicalism” as evidenced in the I.W.W. or anarchism in the labor movement. Here is a juicy example of their thought, taken from my book on Melville and from a previous blog. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/13/supermen-wanted-early-freudians-and-the-mob/, also https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/.)

[Revolutionary Radicalism, “Epilogue”:] “In this rapid survey of a new and important educational idea we have carried Marja, the immigrant girl, from king and caste-ridden Europe to America, the land of hope and opportunity. We have seen her struggle with an unknown tongue and with ways of life unfamiliar to her. In the end we see her transformed, reborn–no longer foreign and illiterate, but educated and self-respecting. Later she will marry and her children, though they may have traditions of another land and another blood, will be Americans in education and ideals of life, government and progress. It was been worth while that one man has broken through this barrier and made the road clear for others to follow.

“All real education has the development of discipline as its basis. Poise, self-control and self-esteem are characteristic of the well-ordered mind, and the growth of these in the industrial worker makes for efficient service and better wages. Gradually there is an awakening of social consciousness–the awareness of one’s place in society and the obligations such membership entails upon the individual in respect to the group or racial mass, with a constantly developing sense of one’s personal responsibility in all human relationships.

“In conclusion, the higher significance of this work means that we must descend the shaft and share the lives of those that dwell in the lower strata–the teeming populations that never see the stars or the green grass, scent the flowers or hear the birds sing–the huddled, hopeless foreign folk of the tenements. We are living in the Age of Service, and are growing into a conviction that life is not a matter of favored races or small, exclusive social groups, but embraces all humanity and reaches back to God. To those of prophetic soul comes a vision of the day that haunted Tennyson when ‘The war-drum throbbed no longer and the battle flags were furled/ In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.’ ” [From N.Y. State Legislature. Joint Committee Investigating Seditious Activities, Revolutionary radicalism: its history, purpose and tactics with an exposition and discussion of the steps being taken and required to curb it, being the report of the joint legislative committee investigating seditious activities filed April 24, 1920 in the Senate of the State of New York (Albany: J.B. Lyon, 1920), 2014, 2201, 3136-3137.]

Here we have a statement that is clearly ideological in favor of order and their version of Americanization; for a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/ .

Far different was the Prairie Fire contingent of Maoists (along with hippies and anarchists?): See /http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_Underground_Organization#Prairie_Fire_1974) who took over (replaced?) Students for A Democratic Society from the “Old Guard” in the late 1960s. First a bit of socialist history. In 19th century Marxist thought, it was the educated and urbanized working class that would comprise the vanguard of change. But after the stunning success of the Soviet coup in October 1917, Leninism (a branch of socialist thought that lauded bureaucratic centralism and the vanguard of intellectuals), the old Marxist anti-statist paradigm was discarded in favor of “Marxist-Leninism” with its attendant Trotskyist notion that the communist utopia could leapfrog over the bourgeois democratic phase, and stir the victims of imperialism to overthrow their European or American masters by any means necessary. (It was Stalin, not Trotsky, who insisted upon “socialism in one country.”) In China, a model for 1960s revolutionaries everywhere, the rural population was now the revolutionary vanguard, provided that they were taught by the correctly indoctrinated intellectual layer.

Such journalists as Theodore White and Edgar Snow transmitted the Maoist message to American radicals, where they received support from a communist-sympathetic faction in the U.S. Department of State.  (For details, see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/30/links-to-review-essay-on-hemingway-spy-mission-to-china/.)

To these developments in revolutionary theory, add the general brutalization caused by the slaughter of the Great War, much emphasized by George L. Mosse and his students at the U. of Wisconsin; while in the realm of culture, primitivism ruled the 1920s as a white response to the growing power or prestige of New Negroes, New Women, and working class radicalism. Indeed, Ernest Hemingway’s rise to cultural prominence as a manly prose stylist may be seen as a purification of the too-florid and feminized Victorian culture that had put white males on the defensive. Supermen were wanted, and supermen were provided by our leading writers in the Nietzsche fad that still finds adherents among ambitious students, for instance those who follow such decadent musicians as Jim Morrison and the Doors.

And what were the order-loving nativists of the Progressive movement doing after the war? They were certainly not manning the outposts of the grand innovations of mass media, including radio and the movies. Rather, that task fell to recent immigrants, who sought audiences among the masses whose instinctive populism was fully exploited, as I described here in my blog on Charles Murray (https://clarespark.com/2012/05/04/3957/):

“Early Hollywood had no illusions about mass taste, and provided adventure, sex and violence to a readymade audience that already was alienated from snooty and exclusive nativist old families. The Mayers or Goldwyns or Laemmles and their movie or television offspring still adhere to populist feeling and a hefty dose of primitivism. Social realism and didacticism do not sell, except as a warning to other “liberals” that the natives are restless and gun toting, or that criminals may be running everything. But Murray is worried that the white working class is obese and watches too much television, as if the skinnier upper classes do not enjoy the more sophisticated adventures, romance, soft porn, escapism, and even artiness provided by the younger writers and producers, affected as they have been by counter-culture naughtiness, identification with Marlon Brando or James Dean, clever parodies, and fun.”

When I first started my Pacifica radio programs on the art world in the early 1970s, I noticed that the Los Angeles hipster male artists were fans of Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X. Since I was relatively uneducated in the ways of black supremacy or nihilism* in general, I was not on guard. Not long ago, I checked out a copy of a manifesto titled Prairie Fire (1974), a production of the Weather Underground (authors William Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Jeff Jones, and Celia Sojourn). It was so violent in its language and in its aims, that I had to put it down; it was simply unbearable in its stridency. For a fictional peek into the European nihilists who were their contemporaries, see William Herrick’s Love and Terror (1981), a brilliant and disturbing work that reveals the mindset of the Baader-Meinhof gang. The intellectual antecedents of such urban terrorists are not to be found in the utopian thought of Marx, but in the ravings of such radicals as Marx’s rivals: Proudhon and Bakunin, earlier Babeuf, later George Sorel. For all of them “property is theft” and no crime is too vicious, no product of human labor off limits to their fury and defiance.

I wrote this blog because I see the some of the same thuggery in some protest movements (the “Red-Greens”, the Occupy Wall Street troops, Chicano irredentism, or black liberationist tendencies–see photo of Michelle Obama associating with the Nation of Islam below). I worry that the Baby Boomer parents of the antiwar generation who raised their children to be spontaneous and creative, will only egg on the mindless acting out in which they, the sadder but un-wiser generation, frequently indulged as young women and men. These nouvelle enragées owe nothing to the progressives who led both American political parties to dominance in the 20thcentury. It is also true that Communists infiltrated the progressive movement, using the Popular Front as their entry. The writing of “cultural history” has been deformed accordingly.

*By nihilism, I do not refer to anthropology that argues for cultural relativism and historicism, but to the apparent promotion of “beast of prey” by Nietzsche in such works as Beyond Good and Evil or The Genealogy of Morals, both read and studied by Jim Morrison (see comment below that defends Nietzsche against such readings).

Michelle Obama and friends

October 10, 2011

Populist catharsis on Wall Street

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia U. professor

The Occupy Wall Street movement has the support of Old Leftists (Stalinists, Trotskyists), populists, tenured professors steeped in Keynesian economics, Big Labor, and an assortment of young people worried about their student loans and the lack of job opportunities. Some pundits on Fox News have been interpreting this protest movement as a product of disillusion with Obama, and a movement to his Left. My view is that it is a calculated event and part of his campaign for re-election, and perhaps even managed and instigated out of the White House, expressing Obama’s own Leninism as reinterpreted by Keynesian economics and a long-lived “soak the rich” philosophy that is directed against imputed Jewish control of everything: As “the money power” [the obscenely bloated Jew] controls banks, hedge funds, the media, advertising, and plants computer chips in our brain so that the ‘Jewish’ mask is not penetrated by ‘Jewry’s’ victims and sets them against their parents.  I.e, Through the control of “public opinion” the money power perpetuates its oligarchical, illegitimate control, and celebrates “corporate greed.”

No one should see OWS as anything resembling a leftist revolt, and those [New Leftists] who are crowing over it should hang their heads in shame, for they have sold out, possibly in the expectation that they would be rewarded with advancement in the new Obama dispensation.

This is how 19th century Marxists (not Leninists) operated in the past; unlike OWS, they were generally analytical, focused, disciplined, and had a goal in sight:

1. They identified a revolutionary agency—the new working class that, in their analysis, would be increasingly immiserated and would stop production in a general strike and take over the reins of power, this time abolishing classes altogether and, with a more just distribution of resources, would institute communism: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It was vague, but Marx at least saw the bourgeoisie as a progressive class that had created and developed  the productive forces that would enable capitalism’s transcendence into a society of abundance and the defeat of needless toil.

2. Along with this optimistic prophecy, at any particular stage of struggle, the Marxists asked themselves, “given the correlation of forces, what is the task of our generation?”  This required constant study of every institution; also focus on the likely allies to revolutionary struggle. Marx himself predicted that parts of the bourgeoisie would break off and join the working class. Crucially, one didn’t expect “the streets” to be the site of structural transformation. There had to be a ripened situation, such as a crisis of capitalism. So it seemed in the Great Depression, and hence hordes of intellectuals, workers, and small businessmen joined the Left or the Popular Front with its antifascist agenda. (Some even stayed there after the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, and their children often remained tied to some form of Leftism, no matter how attenuated .)

3. The romantic part of Marxism is this: there could be no preconceived plan for the just society—a plan that we could all look at. There were no Federalist Papers or copies of a proposed Constitution for the working-class revolution.  Rather, it would evolve organically out of revolutionary struggle and the leadership of the “conscious” working class. It could not take place in a technologically backward society (here is the point of divergence from Leninism and Maoism or Third Worldism).

Surely, only a half-educated demagogue such as Keith Olbermann or a “progressive” neo-Keynesian college professor such as Jeffrey Sachs would see the present situation as ripe for revolution, in a series of demonstrations populated by frightened, undereducated youth and opportunistic labor unions or diehard Stalinists. Is there socialism ahead? I doubt it. Maybe fascist dictatorship given the populist rage and Jew-hatred that is cropping out even as I write this, and not only in the U.S.

I am not a Marxist myself, but one who appreciates the wealth-creating potential of free markets and limited government. The Republican Party should do a better job in explaining supply-side economics and defending those aspects of conservation and environmentalism that are grounded in sound science and medicine. And responsible historians and journalists should remind the public that Hitler’s base consisted of right-wing populists*: the petit-bourgeoisie, including small producers (peasants and artisans), unemployed and unorganized workers, civil servants, and everyone who profited from the expropriation of “Jewish” property and “Jewish” jobs. It is a canard of the Marxist-Leninist Left** that fascism is the triumph of finance capital and big business, though, to be sure, elements of those groups (in addition to monarchists or the army, including the Freikorps) served in coalition with Hitler until he kicked out such officials as von Neurath and Schacht, 1936-38.

*I am not forgetting the left-wing populism of the Strasser brothers. But that militant anti-bourgeois wing of the Party was decimated in the Night of the Long Knives.

** Lenin was influenced by the populist antisemite J. A. Hobson, see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.  How many students today can describe the debate between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin or Stalin about imperialism and backward societies?

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