YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 3, 2016

Apocalypse today (post-election 2016)

Charlotte NC 2012  Getty Images

Charlotte NC 2012 Harvest Moon Grille
Getty Images

This posting is about my response to the mass media hysteria after the Trump victory and transition to the Trump presidency.

The media, controlled as they are by “moderates,” is unable to explain the quandaries that the progressive movement is facing as it tries to grapple with its future, especially as it relates to the “white working class.” I might have been similarly baffled had I not studied social movements in U.S. history. I refer to the sharp turn to the pseudo-Left enacted by the inheritors of the Mugwump-ish conservatives after the shock of the Bolshevik revolution and the growing sympathy in this country for revolt among the working class and its allies. Behold how the (“moderate”) Nation magazine reacted to another apocalypse—this time to Woodrow Wilson’s contribution to the Versailles Conference that ended World War I: https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. Briefly, editor Villard urged his readers to emulate the populist-progressives to prevent looming socialist revolution and the rule of the international Big Money.

(Yet Oswald Garrison Villard was no democrat in his preference for elite, non-Jewish rule. Such is the vexed lineage of social democracy. Is it any wonder that “the Left” is unable to unmask itself?)

“Nativist” is the more polite term for “racist”—a moniker that Democrats prefer to affix to their rivals among Trump supporters. It is no surprise, then, that liberals, unembarrassed by 20th century New Left history, should not publicly understand that affirmative action, like all of “identity politics,” is inherently a quota system that is racist in its conception. Some on the Right complain that reverse racism exists. Such persons are apparently oblivious to the leftist insistence on “white supremacy,” a variant on the anti-imperialism of the counter-culture/New Left. (I.e., Dems insist that white workers are structurally unable to modify their own racism, because they indirectly profit from non-white subordination; we remain mired in the social relations of slavery. Upward mobility is only a fond fantasy perpetrated by laissez-faire capitalists to fool “the people.”)


The Old Left believed in “history”—in the inevitable triumph of socialism through class consciousness.

The New Left said goodbye to all that, and counted on its own inherited moralism, elitism and subtle racism to vanquish threats from below. Is it any wonder that the Democrat Party is boxed in, with nowhere to go?

Ben Tillman 1906, Pinterest

Ben Tillman 1906, Pinterest

June 11, 2016

Are “the People” misguided? Is America “racist”?

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establishmentThis blog is about the fecklessness of “the Republican establishment.” In prior blogs I have noticed that both major political parties cater to “the People” (a demagogic term never broken down into structural components, especially class or gender differences in needs and outlook: see https://clarespark.com/2016/06/04/multiculturalism-the-missing-term-in-the-trump-fiasco/ and https://clarespark.com/2016/06/09/sex-and-aggression-in-hillarys-following-in-either-gender/.)

Moreover, the “establishment” has refused to move away from Trump’s ostensibly “racist” remark about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, despite indications that the judge (like many lawyers) may indeed be tied to cultural nationalism, a.k.a. “identity politics”/multiculturalism, not to speak of an opposing law firm representing the plaintiffs tied to the Clinton campaign.

I include in my list of suspicious characters the obvious elitist Wall Street Journal and the more folksy Fox News Channel, both run by moderate men who do not diverge from Hillary Clinton’s fusing of workers and small businessmen.

Here is how to spot a moderate man: he or she uses the following key words: “compassion,” “teamwork”, “imagination,” “rainbow connection,” “a positive outlook,” “inclusiveness,” and “diversity”—-all in the service of “making the world a better place” and “health.” Let us recall that leading supporters of the New Deal/FDR called themselves “moderate conservatives” to distinguish themselves from Nazis and other upstart movements on either Left or Right that challenged their “centrist” (fair and balanced) leadership. FDR himself termed his opponents “economic royalists.”

PBS ad for Constitution series

PBS ad for Constitution series

Are Donald J. Trump and/or his followers among “the People” racists, as Paul Ryan and other top Republicans imply? Or does the “establishment” entirely misunderstand “racism,” forgetting its lineage?

We could answer this question if we knew more about the history of the Old Left versus the New Left. I was startled to discover that Marxist-Leninists came out against racism in the 1930s. True, some bashed the progressive bourgeoisie, but not so much after the Popular Front against fascism was declared in 1934-35.

It was the Leninist/Maoist and anti-imperialist New Left that changed all that hyping of the productive forces that would or should produce the revolutionary working class. I remember the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s very well; Amerikkka was now deemed to be classist, racist, sexist, and exploitative of Nature/Woman. Witness the popularity of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and the nascent Green Party.

New Leftists pretending to be hard-hats

New Leftists pretending to be hard-hats


These “social justice” radicals went to graduate school and entered the professions, including teaching and show biz. Many formed a network of buddies, got their PhD’s and now control the humanities and mass media, the social democrats (and some communists) among them warning against white male heterosexual supremacy, going so far as to propose exterminating the literary greats of yesteryear (at Yale for instance).

After all, if Shakespeare and Milton were widely read by the slobs, they must be part of the paranoid “People” and we all know that “the People is an ass.” https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.

Our betters insist upon it.

March 16, 2015

Who were the precursors of the New Left? The WASP establishment or Communists?

viperscoverUntil I read Philip Wylie’s best seller A Generation of Vipers (1942), I had assumed that the sprinkling of red-diaper babies who rose to prominence in the social movements of the 1960s, were the bearers of the intellectual ideas that gave rise to the women’s movement, the antiwar movement, the back to Nature movement, and to multiculturalism, with its emphasis on “race” over “class.”

(I should have known that no true communist would sort people out by “race” as the anti-racist Soviet Union was adamant about the conception of proletarian internationalism; moreover, communists wrote A World View of Race in the mid-1930s, that identified the fiction of “race” with the aims of the imperialist bourgeoisie, letting workers off the hook.)

I had already learned at Cornell U. in my course with David Brion Davis that “evil was back” with the renewed popularity of Reinhold Niebuhr, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1940s. And the “evil” within each of us (to cite Penny Dreadful), was there to offset excessive progressive optimism about the promise of American life, which enabled upward mobility for the Common Man or Woman.

What stunned me about the Wylie “sermon,” that echoed everything that Henry A. Murray and his Harvard associates alleged (e.g., Walter Langer, Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, etc.), was his diatribe against Cinderella turning into Mom, the source of all angst in the male sex, including the medical profession. Here is a sample of Wylie’s vituperative book of essays:

“MOM IS THE END PRODUCT OF SHE. She is Cinderella…the shining-haired, the starry-eyed, the ruby-lipped virgo aeternis,  of which there is presumably one, and only one, or a one-and-only for each male, whose dream is fixed upon her deflowerment and subsequent perpetual possession. This act is a sacrament in all churches and a civil affair in our society. The collective aspects of marriage are thus largely compressed into the rituals and social perquisites of one day. Unless some element of mayhem or intention of divorce subsequently obtrudes, a sort of privacy engulfs the union and all further developments are deemed to be the business of each separate pair, including the transition of Cinderella into mom, which, if it occasions any shock, only adds to the huge, invisible burthen every man carries with him into eternity….Mom is an American creation.” (Chapter XI, p.184)

Wylie, like Henry Murray, was a convinced Jungian and primitivist, and like the pagan Murray, was an avowed elitist, also a free-love kind of fellow (but not an advocate for gay rights, for “nances” were sub-textually tied to Mom.) So Wylie was obviously attacking “sentimental” conservatives of a fundamentalist religious bent. He shared with Murray an admiration for the true grit of the Russian people, a taste for internationalism, and for FDR’s personality, with Wylie going so far as to suggest that those who lacked the [independent, masculine, upper-class unsentimental education] should not even vote or hold elective office.

Moreover, the immigrants, preceded by the Nature-wrecking pioneers were a bunch of rowdy rascals. Anyone who denied this was a Mom-identified sentimental “patriot” and deserving of contempt—in short, a viper of the type that devout Christians embodied. Such conservatives, he alleged, had twisted the life and legacy of Christ, ignoring the imprecation to “know thyself,” i.e., to know thy limitations, that such (feminized) devils are not “trained to rule” (Murray’s notes to Melville’s White-Jacket).

I have reported elsewhere that Murray thought that Hitler had Jewish blood (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/, footnote 2), and I didn’t understand this until I read Wylie on the Jews. Wylie spurned vulgar beliefs that upper-class Jews controlled the world (they were but a small portion of the elite, though they controlled the new media), but agreed with Talcott Parsons (Murray’s colleague) that the Jews were vain and believed in their chosen-ness and separateness. And Hitler’s crime was not just to persecute the Jews, but to imitate Jewish pridefulness; the Germans were the new Chosen People.

Where could Hitler have gotten this horribly mistaken idea unless he was something of a Jew himself, putting on airs and vain…rather like Mom.

The Wikipedia bio of Wylie states that he went on to become an early Green and fierce opponent of nuclear power. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Wylie.)

Philip Wylie, nature-lover

Philip Wylie, nature-lover

Although recent research has to some degree vindicated Joe McCarthy, uncovering the presence of Communist spies out to steal secrets for the benefit of Soviet-style internationalism, we should pay more attention to the dour pessimism of the old WASP establishment, who were the true parents of New Left movements, all smacking of the populism and “middle way” espoused by Philip Wylie and his contemporaries.

Wylie’s daughter, a novelist herself, has insisted that her father was no misogynist, it should be noted that “Mom” is a middle-class clubwoman married to a businessman, beguiled by materialism/consumerism/: the Northeastern elite’s idea of a Republican. And such benighted sentimentalists shouldn’t be trusted to vote.

July 2, 2013

Groupiness, group-think, and “race”

EyeshapesThe close attention that the media are giving to the George Zimmerman trial in Florida is being justified by reporters because the verdict may trigger civil unrest in the form of “race riots.” Thus it is assumed that politicized “blacks” and “Hispanics” are potential mobs, like guns cocked and ready to shoot.

Yesterday I asked some Facebook friends what they thought “race” and/or “racism” meant.  I got some intriguing replies (several amazed me), that will be answered here.

First and foremost, no Russian revolutionary deployed the notion of “race” to divide their capitalist enemies. Marx had some nasty things to say about Jewish money and hucksterism; he was also demeaning about “the idiocy of rural life.” Lenin, influenced by J. A. Hobson, took up Hobson’s  anti-imperialism and blamed wars on a ring of international Jews in finance and the media. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.)

In his own imagination, Lenin was defending the colonized victims of capitalist imperialism, and many a New Leftist or post-colonialist, sought to defend “the Other” from the depredations of evil white people in Europe and America. (On formulations of “the Other” see https://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/.) As good Marxist-Leninists they were “anti-racists”.  Until the New Left period, communists were ardent foes of “racism” along with antifascist liberals like Julian Huxley who sought to criticize the assumptions of racism and even ethnicity. (See We Europeans (1936). Huxley and Haddon argued that the original meaning of “ethnos” signified a given population, with no intimation of group characteristics transmitted through heredity.

Which brings me to “racism” as it was taught to me in graduate school. Everyone knows that physical variations in skin color and susceptibility to diseases characterize different human groups as they have evolved.  But “racists” take that further: they create a hierarchy of “races” in which they claim that each race has particular mental capacities, emotional, and moral characteristics that pertain to every individual in that “race.” (For Herder’s counter-Enlightenment project in developing the notion of the rooted cosmopolitan 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/. Such thinking led straight to Hitler and the notion of the racially pure “organic nation” or “people’s community.”)

The notion that communists of any sect put “race” above “class” as a way of predicting the future is ludicrous. It was certain liberal and New Left American historians, contemplating the expansionists of the 18th and 19th centuries, who collapsed “class” into “race.” The U.S. field is still divided over this matter, with a very few still admitting class struggle to the classroom, while others prefer “racial” struggle to explain the horror of “American identity.”  (Gender and Nature got added to that model, sometime during the 1970s. See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/. It is true that some leftists applauded “whiteness studies” in order to conform to Leninism. Why the Left  has not outed black supremacist doctrines as advanced by James Cone puzzles me, for “black skin privilege” is a contradiction in their social theory. See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/. )


There was a time when people threw around the word “race” to signify any group of people, for instance, the English race, the French race, or any other group. Throughout this website I have criticized the notion of national character, which can only be valid to a limited extent, i.e., owing to the laws and traditions of any particular people or peoples in this oddly fractured world that is often divided up by diplomats into internally incoherent “nation-states” as spoils of war.

Multiculturalism, as I have explained ad nauseum, is covertly racist while pretending to be anti-racist.  MC is groupiness at its most lethal. Anyone can spot a hater, but the racialist discourse of progressives is harder for most people to decode.  Beware of “professionals” whether these be social psychologists, teachers, textbook writers, or other advocates of groupiness, for they look not into the minds and emotions of unique individuals, but make broad generalizations about group minds and group-think.  Compare Freud to Carl Jung and you get the picture. Freud dealt with suffering individuals; Jung with racially-specific archetypes. One was a would-be healer, the other a quack, whose occasional formulation of universal archetypes was a sop to his liberal followers. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/. )

Such quackery could kill us all. We are one species, and humanity (though we may differ in how we view conflict or how we identify the source of evil) is objectively linked together, forever.  


January 21, 2013

Citizen Obama, political pluralism and the elusive search for Unity

Raft of the Medusa

Raft of the Medusa

Although POTUS nodded in the direction of “the enduring strength of our Constitution” and quoted lines from the God-given Declaration of Independence, and with a cynical reference to “American exceptionalism,” the statism of Citizen Obama’s second inaugural brought us closer to the French Revolution, with its Jacobin emphasis on equality of condition, than to the American Revolution that promised a meritocracy grounded in equality of opportunity. (Recall that France, unlike England, always had a strong central state; recently France voted in a Socialist government that has levied a 75% income tax on the rich.)

What struck me about today’s awesome inauguration speech was its frank partisanship, indeed, its appeal to class warfare, but not only did Citizen Obama appeal solely to his Democratic constituency, he defined “the Nation” in terms that can only be described as anti-pluralist and either socialist or proto-fascist (see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/20/an-awesome-inauguration/, also https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/).  If Citizen Obama has his way, political pluralism will give way to one party dictatorship, perhaps to rule by executive decree. (See the juridical thought of Carl Schmitt, who made the transition from social democracy theorist to Nazi without difficulty.)

Many “rightist” pundits have noticed the offensive against the Republican Party, that reiterated accusations made by the hard Left during the waning New Deal years that Republicans were, by temperament and policy, Nazis. The line continues that all Republicans are Southern racists, while the Democratic Party, as led by Obama and his multiculturalist followers, are the true inheritors of the civil rights movement, making corrections and reparations to overcome the white male supremacy that was supposedly the basis for American nationality pre-Obama. In this, he has the support of the New Left and the American Studies academics—and all of the cultural studies crowd, who take pride in their freedom from “economic determinism.” In other words, they cannot explain the difference between the economic policies of Lord Maynard Keynes versus Friedrich Hayek versus Milton and Rose Friedman.

guilt and anxiety

But we must not push the analogy to the French Revolution too far. For the French Revolution came to signify war and Napoleon’s bourgeoisification of Europe.  Echoing (?) the infamous appeaser Neville Chamberlain, Obama stands for “peace in our time.” In other words, he is boiler plate anti-imperialist and antiwar, except for the class war necessarily waged on behalf of “the rising middle class,” his new name for what used to be called “the working class”.  Even progressives used to know a petit-bourgeois radical (Obama) when they saw one, but today’s progressives have abandoned accurate nomenclature for populist, triumphalist politics. “Off with their [Federalist] heads.”

Many of the pundits on Fox News recognized the speech for what it was (a socialist screed), while a few seemed to expect a call for a middle ground, that no man’s land where erstwhile progressives feel comfortable in making compromises for the sake of ‘social cohesion’ and ‘political stability’. These are the buzz words of ‘moderate’ conservatism, the “Democratic” inheritors of the New Deal  and Wilsonian “internationalism.”

With the country divided and anxious, this day of bogus unity and bogus reverence for the American Constitution can only be a caesura in an ongoing civil war that was present from the beginning of the United States. (For a recent installment see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/24/culture-wars-and-the-secular-progressives/.)


September 22, 2012

Materialist history and the idea of Progress

Rerum Novarum by gercalher

[This is the second of two blogs on the ambivalence surrounding the First Amendment. The first is https://clarespark.com/2012/09/21/milton-mason-melville-on-free-speech/. For an interview with David Horowitz about the book reviewed here, see http://tinyurl.com/adtw9c2. ]

Another marker in the culture wars has been laid down by David Horowitz’s new book Radicals (Regnery, 2012). The chapters recount the careers of Christopher Hitchens, Bettina Aptheker, Cornel West, assorted Weathermen bombers (mostly female), and Saul Alinsky’s power-grabbing, crypto-Leninist nihilistic ideology.

But it is the last chapter wherein Horowitz lays his cards on the table. As a traditionalist (i.e., Burkean, Disraelian) conservative, he assails the “progressives” described throughout the book, lauds “compromise” as the alternative to “progressive” atheism, puritanism, perfectionism and futurism, and then declares, pessimistically in my view, that all civilizations are cyclical: they rise and fall. This view is of course associated with Counter-Enlightenment organic conservatives, who impose the life cycle of plants (Goethe famously did this), onto human organization.

In short, with his apparent view that all conflicts can be compromised, David Horowitz is aligned with the moderate men. Though he is dismayed by aggressive radical atheists, whose foibles include a Manichaean distinction between Good and Evil, DH’s essentially religious orientation to conflict resolution seats him at the same table as the radicals he vigorously criticizes throughout. I can only infer that anyone who discerns irreconcilable conflicts must be an Evil extremist who destroys [ neoclassical] social order. His vision is antagonistic to “puritans” (i.e., Hebraic Protestant voluntarism, worldliness, and free-market capitalism, which he links to the Satanic). Such a posture is in agreement with the Elizabethan compromise of Anglo-Catholicism or even the liberal Catholicism promoted by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rerum_Novarum), a landmark pronouncement on the necessity of class harmony.  In other words, class harmony is Good, while unfettered materialism/atheism destroys and demoralizes families and all ordering institutions, in effect abandoning children to body- and spirit-crushing factories, nihilism and the terrifying immensities of an empty universe. Only a Satanist (or Promethean Romantic?) would commit such Evil acts.

Rerum Novarum Cupidus

I did not recognize myself as a materialist historian in any of Horowitz’s radicals.  Nor does he engage the battle of the sexes, putting quotation marks around the word “sexist”* (p.194)as if women have nothing to complain about.  I am a feminist, a materialist, and a secular Jew, who puts aside my private beliefs as I read archival materials and attempt to get inside the head of historical actors. DH is attuned to family relationships, as am I, and indeed faults Hitchens for failing to address his relations with his suicidal mother, a crypto-Jew.  But his criticism is not Freudian in any sense, but looks like a rebuke to the Mother’s dire “romantic” influence on her son, who never severed his ties with the [Romantic, Satanic] Left.

I have throughout this website carefully marked the original Progressive movement’s aims in addressing the red specter (through selective co-option), and in creating institutions that would soften relations between labor and capital—in order to prevent red revolution spurred by laissez-faire capitalism. I have also recognized the Communist infiltration of the progressive movement, taking advantage of New Leftism and its anti-anticommunist agenda, that further enabled the takeover of the humanities by the social justice avatars. But I cannot give all weight to the New Left for the deranged politics that confuse our political culture. We remain resistant to science and imagine that we are free when we are submissive to impulses laid down in early childhood, and reinforced in much of popular culture and/or partisan propaganda.

It is curious that nowhere in his book, does DH look at economic history or the conflicting models for wealth-creation offered by Keynesians as opposed to the followers of Milton Friedman, Hayek, et al. Nor does he get down and dirty in exploring generational conflict of the [Freudian] kind so tellingly explored by Herman Melville and a host of other authors. For that would be dipping into materialist history, facing “things as they are,” and perhaps delineating too disruptive, ambiguous, and kaleidoscopic views of how we got into this mess.  (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/.)

[Added, 9-23-12: Compare DH’s view of “human nature” to this passage from John Dos Passos’s post-radical period:

Responding to German students as to what is admirable about US, “I told them they should admire the United States not for what we were but for what we might become. Selfgoverning democracy was not an established creed, but a program for growth. I reminded them that industrial society was a new thing in the world and that although we Americans had gone further than any people in spreading out its material benefits we were just beginning, amid crimes, illusions, mistakes and false starts, to get to work on how to spread out what people needed much more: the sense of belonging, the faith in human dignity, the confidence of each man in the greatness of his own soul without which life is a meaningless servitude….Faith in self-government, when all is said and done, is faith in the eventual goodness of man.” (p.508, Virginia Spencer Carr’s bio of John DP)

*The complete paragraph begins on p.193: “It is not because radicals begin by being unethical people that they approach politics this way. On the contrary, their passion for a future that is ethically perfect is what drives their political agendas and causes others to mistake them for idealists. But the very nature of this future–a world without poverty, without war, without racism, and without “sexism”–is so desirable, so noble, so perfect in contrast to everything that has preceded it as to justify any and every means to make it a reality.” I thank David Horowitz for welcoming discussion and catching my error. In a second communication, DH explains that the quotes around “sexism” expressed his dislike of viewing sexism and racism as comparable discriminations. Many readers will agree with him, but in a recent publication (Created in the Image of God)  David Brion Davis, a liberal, devotes an entire chapter to the subjugation of women, which Davis does compare to slavery.

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. 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.

January 2, 2010

Jottings on the culture wars: what are they?

Ad, Harvard Magazine, Nov.-Dec. 2009

[Added July 6, 2013: There is massive confusion on what the culture wars are about. Bill O’Reilly pits “traditionalists” against “secular progressives” as if either group was internally coherent; while David Horowitz views [anti-Western] whiteness studies as making a “melodrama” that may explain the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin debacle ( http://tinyurl.com/l5wgmrl).

This essay tries to unpack the culture wars by analyzing the confusing and unsettled sociology that has polarized America. Some of my questions interrogate  both sides in the “culture wars,” rejecting the emphasis on culture to the exclusion of history, political science, and social theory.  (My own views tend toward the classical liberal: thus I am one of those “secular progressives” denounced as enemies to Easter Bunnies and Christmas trees.)]

It is true that politics are messy, by contrast, sociology as the product of German Idealism, is not.  Look back to Herder, Goethe and their successors who promoted a rooted cosmopolitanism. Their identity politics are tied to the utopian longing for stable national (or international) identity where its mosaic bits assume a beautiful pattern, stretching and yawning perhaps, but not confused, not switching, not turning on each other.  With the mosaic in place (i.e., all “ethnic” groups embraced and expressing themselves, but monomaniacs/socially irresponsible capitalists cut out), hostility/prejudice will become irrational: “inclusiveness” and state regulation will have removed rational sources of disaffection. [1]

The identity that matters to enlightened “moderates” equates “totalitarianism of the Left and Right” leaving pluralistic “liberal” democracy as the emancipated, yet irrationalist, alternative.  However, the antifascist pluralism they represent is not the liberalism of the revolutionary bourgeoisie (the classical liberals) but a shattering of what is stigmatized as the Egotistical Sublime (Ariadne’s enthusiasm for labyrinths, or the long view of history.).  Following conservative sociologists (e.g., Max Weber, a German patriot and supporter of the Weltkrieg), their social world is packed into separate categories: political, economic, and the cultural, yet the latter has a life of its own that cancels the politics and economic interest; human competence is dissolved into Negative Capability, at best, grasping only fragments.  The New Pluralism-without-Snakes-and-Spiders merges the individual with its “ethnic (multicultural) communities”–all joyously “fused” in the state (or is it the Great Chain of Being? or nowhere at all? is the state both there and not there?): a totally mystical “public interest” in societies with antagonisms between the owning classes and those dependent on them, the latter with nowhere to go.  This corporatist liberal “web and woof” is the spiritual hammock supporting us against “totalitarianism” of both the Left and Right. 

Where do the left-populists and social democrats fit in?  How can there be anti-racist politics while thinking in racialist terms?[2]  All the questions I have raised are intertwined with the larger debate over epistemology: Heraclitus vs. Bacon and the empiricists.  How do ordinary people, responsible for exercising the duties of citizenship, relying upon observation, study, and experience, know that their actions and judgments are not the products of a flawed methodology?

This blog, like others on this website, addresses the contemporary crisis in the humanities, a feverish condition said by some Rightists to have been imposed by Gramsci, Lukács, Frankfurt School critical theorists such as Adorno and Marcuse, and New Leftists who have taken the strategic heights in education and social policy.  With the ascendancy of Reagan republicanism, revisions of the literary canon and the history curriculum generated by multiculturalism, feminism, and black nationalism have been seen by some conservatives as mindless new developments leading to resurgent antisemitism and neofascism.  I share their concerns, but many conservatives cannot defend their own records nor can they reform the reformers, for they have not situated curriculum reform within the problematic of “democratic pluralism” and its vicissitudes (e.g. Lipset’s and Raab’s  The Politics of Unreason (1970), a venue created by “pragmatic” conservatives long before the “tenured radicals” of the 1960s generation began their “Left” stampede).[3]

As an artist and scholar familiar with some of the history of antidemocratic propaganda, psychological warfare, and censorship, I am disappointed and impatient with the scholars who have taken part to date.  I see mostly polarization and self-righteousness, little self-criticism or generosity or insight: more feints among different factions of counter-Enlightenment vying for the vanguard position, each waving the banner for humanitarian values and methodological sophistication.  I see little robust intellectual confrontation between radicals, liberals and conservatives.  And the wars rage on and on, spurred by the dubious appropriations of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and chaos theory.[4]  Underneath the chatter and jargon and ad hominem insults to colleagues and to humanity at large, the questions of greatest importance to our survival lie buried; no reform strategies can be formulated without answers, and the questions are susceptible to empirical investigation:  Is there or is there not inevitable class exploitation in bourgeois democracies? Can social democratic reform remove what the revolutionary left insists are structural antagonisms?    Are contracts between persons, corporations, and nations contracts at all if one party is coerced by the other?  And who shall adjudicate disagreements if the weaker party balks?  If many people are oppressed, how shall they organize themselves to redress grievances, or should we breed a race of supermen?  Are modernization and industrialization really destroying the planet?  If so, what, if any, mass activity could halt or reverse the destruction?  What are the responsibilities of families, schools, corporations and the media in providing the critical and emotional tools to understand and ameliorate our worsening condition?  Have they ever done so?

Here come the masterless men. As hitherto orchestrated and conducted, the culture wars have diverted attention from these life-and-death issues, as perhaps they were intended to, as they have always done.  Nor have conservatives admitted the source of their anxieties: the tender moment of late adolescence when young people are separating from families of origin and lacking family responsibilities that later on might discourage political radicalism.  Conservative social psychologists applying the lessons of psychological warfare are alert to the power of modern fiction in making subversive notions attractive and acceptible.  Take the case of Herman Melville and his “elusive” or “ambivalent” texts, which though apparently conservative or reactionary, have aroused the energies of expert propagandists of the Right who fear his effect on young readers. For instance, some noted psychological warriors have explained how radical messages may be smuggled into harmless appearing fantasies, making stressed readers more receptive to new ideas, ideas they would normally reject as alien if encountered in an explicitly political context:

“…Of crucial significance may be those who are under strain, ambivalent, at once torn between loyalty to patriotic values and to the new values being offered by the communicator.  Such a segment may be a crucially important target, and it is necessary to understand the nature of its ambivalence and the implications for psychological warfare possibilities.  While such a segment is drawn to the new values, its allegiance to the old is made more compulsive by guilt feeling evoked by its attraction to the new.  Among such a population we should expect strong ritualistic conformity which would serve to deny evidences of hospitality to the alien values.  Beneath this ritualism, however, we should also expect to find the repressed side of the ambivalence, the side which represents a disposition to espouse the new values.

Research is now needed on the readiness of individuals under strain to accept communications which represent both the expressed and the repressed sides of their ambivalence.  It has been suggested that such individuals will reject any overt statement of the repressed side; but that they may pay attention if the repressed value is expressed in fictional form, so that it may be received on the level of fantasy, thus protecting the receiver from the need to decide whether or not he believes, or is willing to accept, such a conflicting value.  It is our belief that research along lines such as these would have far reaching operational usefulness for psychological warfare.” [5]

 [Clare:] Such sophisticated machinations at the highest levels of government suggest why apparently harmless cultural artifacts as the novels students read in high school and college can fluster vigilant ideologues.

Blunted tools have brought us to the current impasse over teaching methods, curriculum, and standards.  We are besieged by crazy-making, historically incorrect specters of our own fully feeling, fully thinking selves: The modern artist as slipping Titan, the obsessive Faustian autodidact, the obsequious romantic lover, the miscegenating rootless cosmopolitan, the vindictive muckraker.  Their unpardonable sin is the bad news that uncontrollable curiosity and unbalanced temperaments have shoved in our faces: there are or may be class antagonisms that cannot be reconciled by conservative reform, i.e., by negotiation and adjustments that do not severely threaten the economic interests of ruling classes.  So the hyper-individualistic “materialistic” Jew is converted to “the [idealist] new historicism”and disappears into “community” as defined by others; the judenrein center finds itself ensconced in the administered state.[6]

1930s intellectuals sometimes called this condition fascism; today it is more benignly labeled ‘multiculturalism,’ and is touted as the remedy for prejudice, scapegoating, and intolerance.  As social policy its longevity has been guaranteed by state, foundation, and university funding.  To speak against it incites accusations of Right-wing racism and worse.  Don’t bother applying for a CPB grant or a job in public broadcasting if you disdain the multicultural narrative of world history as racial/ethnic conflict, the genocide and ecocide perpetrated by “white males” or “the West”–a sad story that new textbooks, curricula, and television or radio programs celebrating “diversity” will bring to a happy end.

Although “Left” and “Right” have been internally at loggerheads over this social policy, all parties agree that insurgent blacks, women, and gays of the New Left initiated and now preside over the new wave of reform.  Before that (the early 1970s), an unbroken, unchallenged master narrative of Western progress is said to have reigned in academe and the media.  For the hard Right, the narrative was rational, unified and benign; for the hard Left (including anti-imperialist whites, people of color, and women, but not materialists), the narrative was entirely malignant; for the “moderate” critics straddling both positions, the narrative was contradictory and ambiguous, but would be resynthesized with the vigorous new blood and perspectives of the hitherto excluded, the better to launch a really Enlightened non-Marxist New New Left.[7]

My work takes none of these idealist positions, but seeks to document some of the major thinkers and social movements that promoted cultural policies coinciding with their perceived class interests.  No materialist has publicized the history of multiculturalism or “identity politics,” a history which cannot be deciphered without recalling competing prewar definitions of fascism, protofascism, and antifascism.  Hence I reject as ideologically distorted previous attempts to periodize the culture wars.  I suspect that the media, publishing, and academe are structurally precluded from describing the origins of this dispute for fear of damage done to the reputations of most postwar “liberal” intellectuals, whether positioned on the Left, Right or Center.  Nobody wants to say he has been successful by conforming to pseudo-democratic institutions, in some ways indistinguishable from their analogs in Germany and Italy before 1945; nobody wants to admit he is suffering from a massive failure of nerve.


     So-called multiculturalism is a reactionary ideological offensive that  confused individuals with groups and suppresses economic explanations for conflict and change in favor of cultural anthropological ones.[8]  As a manifestation of German Romanticism, it was an aesthetic theory buttressing a political structure: an irrationalist völkisch “aristo-democracy” (Herder).[9]  The German Romantics and their popularizers in England and America, men like Carlyle and Emerson, waved their supple poetic individuality, unique, yet imperceptibly diffused into race and nation and time itself as Schlegel had advised.  The aristo-democrats were the blooming correctives to the dessicating “mechanical” rationalism and universalism that had undergirded popular sovereignty for the seventeenth-century political theorist of constitutional democracy, John Locke.  In the eighteenth century, Piranesi would visualize this Lockean world in a series of engravings, his nightmarish urban spaces/prisons.  Lord Byron counterattacked with Lockean Prometheans, images of indomitable humanity: fatherless, yet kind, ameliorative and intellectually fortified.  In the later nineteenth century, Piranesi’s desolate, gigantic scenes of torture would reappear in James Thomson’s City of Dreadful Night, the City ruled by numeracy and literacy personified in Melencolia, the Queen patterned after both Dürer’s famous image of writer’s block, and George Eliot, Thomson’s contemporary, the realist novelist, author of Felix Holt, Radical.

I have mentioned just a few instances of cultural conflict over accountability: the culture wars are fought over you and me, non-experts in an advanced, complex, and hierarchical, yet “democratic” industrialized society.  Confident in the capacity of ordinary people to test their betters, Locke, like ourselves, was up against centuries of conservative antidemocratic propaganda on behalf of a tribal or feudal order where either Nature or arbitrary authority were taken for granted as immovable. Not surprisingly, social obligations (contracts) were vertical, links in the Great Chain of Being, not horizontal agreements between equals, each party theoretically free to walk away from a bad deal.  Locke’s antagonistic contemporary, the proto-Tory Robert Filmer (d. 1653) summarized centuries of antidemocratic wisdom in his Patriarcha:

[Filmer:] I know not how to give a better character of the people than can be gathered from such authors as have lived among or near to popular states.  Thucydides, Xenophon, Livy, Tacitus, Cicero and Sallust have set them out in their colours. I will borrow some of their sentences.

‘There is nothing more uncertain than the people: their opinions are as variable and sudden as tempests: there is neither truth nor judgment in them: they are not led by wisdom to judge of anything, but by violence and rashness, nor put they any difference between things true and false.  After the matter of cattle they follow the herd that goes before: with envious eyes they behold the felicity of others: they have a custom always to favor the worst and weakest: they are most prone to suspicions, and use to condemn men for guilty upon every false suggestion.  They are apt to believe all news, especially if it be sorrowful, and, like Fame, they make it more in the believing: when there is no author, they fear those evils which they themselves have feigned: they are most desirous of new stirs and changes, and are enemies to quiet and rest.  Whatsoever is giddy or headstrong, they account manly and courageous, but whatever is modest or provident seems sluggish: each man hath a care of his particular, and thinks basely of the common good: they look upon approaching mischiefs as they do upon thunder, only every man wisheth it may not touch his own person.  It is the nature of them: they must either serve basely or domineer proudly, for they know no mean.’  Thus do their own friends paint to the life this beast of many heads.  Let me give you the cypher of their form of government.  As it is begot by sedition, so it is nourished by arms: it can never stand without wars, either with an enemy abroad, or with friends at home.  The only means to preserve it is to have some powerful enemy near, who may serve instead of a king to govern it, that so, that they have not a King over them, for the common danger of an enemy keeps them in better unity than the laws they make themselves.   [10]

The foil to all this irrationality is of course the reformed queen/king; the paragon of moderation has renounced absolutist, arbitrary rule for a limited, constitutional monarchy: one that protects the body politic from combative and divisive “special interests.”  Unlike the Cool Head with the Warm Heart, Filmer’s “people” are the locus of selfish individualism; the people are incapable of solidarity without an external enemy; the ever-befuddled people lack the self-control to separate inner voices and impulses from the outer world; the people have no self-respect: they may be servile or, given a measure of authority, they will whip their charges to extract obedience; i.e., the barbaric, headlong people have neither the taste nor the capacity for gentleness or politeness.  Let them have outlets for their characteristic sadism and masochism, as Geoffrey Gorer proposed in 1934; ‘tis better than the trap of romantic love.  After the war Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism popularized the notion of protofascist “mob society”–both cynical and gullible–in terms that echoed Filmer.  Similarly, Todd Gitlin has claimed that the mounting Right-wing critique of the new curricula is best understood as a frenzied hunt for new scapegoats after the Cold War was won in 1989; Gitlin asserts that the presence of the Other provides the only source of “national identity.”

Return now to the seventeenth century.  Responding to the autocratic Filmer, John Locke adumbrated his concept of legitimate authority. In the Second Treatise on Civil Government, Locke argued that monarchs were not beyond criticism, nor were the people so unbalanced that they could not assess their own interests and the performance of their protectors:

[Locke:] The end of government is the good of mankind; and which is best for mankind, that the people should always be exposed to the boundless will of tyranny, or that the rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed when they grow exorbitant in their use of power, and employ it for the destruction, and not the preservation, of the properties of their people?

Nor let anyone say that mischief can arise from hence as often as it shall please a busy head or turbulent spirit to desire the alteration of the government.  It is true such men may stir whenever they please, but it will be only to their own just ruin and perdition.  For till the mischief be grown general, and the ill designs of the rulers become visible, or their attempts sensible to the greater part of the people, who are more disposed to suffer than right themselves by resistance, are not apt to stir.  The example of particular injustice or oppression of here and there an unfortunate man moves them not.  But if they universally have a persuasion grounded upon manifest evidence that designs are carrying on against their liberties, and the general course and tendency of things cannot but give them strong suspicions of the evil intentions of their governors, who is to be blamed for it?  Who can help it if they, who might avoid it, bring themselves into this suspicion?  Are the people to be blamed if they have the sense of rational creatures, and can think of things no otherwise than as they find and feel them?  And is it not rather their fault who put things in such a posture that they would not have them thought as they are?  I grant that the pride, ambition, and turbulency of private men have sometimes caused great disorders in commonwealths, and factions have been fatal to states and kingdoms.  But whether the mischief hath oftener begun in the people’s wantonness, and a desire to cast off the lawful authority of their rulers, or in the rulers’ insolence and endeavours to get and exercise an arbitrary power over their people, whether oppression or disobedience gave the first rise to the disorder, I leave it to impartial history to determine.  This I am sure, whoever, either ruler or subject, by force goes about to invade the rights of either prince or people, and lays the formulation for overturning the constitution and frame of any just government, he is guilty of the greatest crime I think a man is capable of, being to answer for all those mischiefs of blood, rapine, and desolation, which the breaking to pieces of governments bring on a country; and he who does it is justly to be esteemed the common enemy and pest of mankind, and is to be treated accordingly. [11]

Yes, Locke says, there are demagogues, but they would have no credibility were it not for the excesses of the rulers.  Taken with his statements on natural law it is clear that Locke is not protecting private property as unlimited personal aggrandizement, but the confiscation of lower-class property and labor by tyrannical rulers–a crucial distinction for those who view Locke as an image of Filmer’s people: the possessive individualist par excellence. The radical liberal ideal of one set of rules for rich and poor alike and the assumption of rationalism upon which the rule of law depended was a radical innovation; it remains an advanced position and belongs in the democratic tradition, notwithstanding efforts to brand Locke as a hypocrite.[12]

Tories and Whigs crucially differed on the educational potential of “the people.”  If Nature’s God was a democrat for the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century progressive bourgeois, organic conservatives reclaimed Nature for the aristocracy.  In antebellum America, Filmer’s good fathers were models for socially responsible slaveholders contrasting their benevolent paternalism with the cruelty of northern laissez-faire capitalism and class struggle.  Indeed, the distinguished historian of the South, C.Vann Woodward, a participant in the Martha’s Vineyard conference on “Racism and Education” revived the southern apologist for slavery George Fitzhugh to lobby for organic conservatism as antidote to today’s mass society.[13]  Filmer’s image of “the people” would be indistinguishable from “the unconscious” in the social psychology espoused by many in the twentieth-century Progressive movement–conservative reformers responding to the rapid growth of industrialism and class warfare that Northern victory in the Civil War facilitated.  Mass “irrationality” remains the argument for the eternal rule of philosopher-kings operating “in the public interest” in bureaucratic collectivist societies.  While Lockean ideas of the common good have been co-opted, Filmer’s theory shades upper-class secret machinations from the blazing eyes of the lower orders.  The unresolved debate between Filmer and Locke frames this essay; our models of human capacity determine our politics as we face “the mischief…grown general” on our endangered planet.

Are we coping with the decadence of  ‘late capitalism’ (as I thought when I began graduate school in 1983) or are we living in societies that remain dominated by pre-modern social relations, and that have not made “the transition from feudalism to capitalism” (as Marxists formulate the problem)? Is Marx more accurately seen as a product of German Romanticism, left-sounding, but right-wing and reactionary in his organic social model? The American Progressives/progressives were conservative reformers whose English counterparts were Burkean gradualists and social democratic Fabians.  In all my published work, I have taken Marxists[14] and progressives to task for ignoring a feature of modernity, the double-bind, that could have helped them to explain and combat racism, antisemitism, and the social forces that have led to mass death.  The double-bind is omnipresent in the modern family and the university, both pseudo-liberal socializing institutions in a muddled society.[15]  I suggested that class-conscious double-bind theory is more relevant to the appeal of Nazism than social psychological concepts of “scapegoating” or projective identification so reminiscent of Filmer’s ostensibly objective portrait of “the [socially irresponsible] people…fear[ing] those evils which they themselves have feigned”; then I applied “the switch” (or is it the magic wand?) to the cases of utopian reformers and disillusioned radicals.[16]  Elsewhere on this website, I reviewed some influential definitions of antisemitism, suggesting that we refine our understanding of the processes that legitimate mass death.

As the alternative to völkisch social psychology and the non-explanatory “empiricism,” “functionalism,” or “theory” it has spawned, I propose a return to individual biography but with greater attention to historically specific psychodynamics, archival research, and close reading than, to knowledge, has been applied, not only with regard to the actors we study, but to our own defenses as we distance ourselves from “extremists” like Hitler. My work as a whole is an attempt at a materialist psychoanalysis, one inseparable from an intellectual and social history of institutions, movements, and individuals; like Freud in The Future of An Illusion (1927), forthrightly rejecting the “humanist” idea that science and religion can peacefully coexist, that science and history are branches of literary theory, cultural anthropology, or comparative religion (though religion may provide the vocabulary with which political conflict is described).  Above all, I emphasized that the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century spawned an inductive method of investigation, an entirely open-ended journey, a leap into the unknown.  It is specious to claim, as various political factions are wont to do, that “the Enlightenment” necessarily leads variously to fascism and genocide, or social democracy, or unregulated capitalism or socialism.  Such narrow politicking proceeds with a deductive method that cannot co-exist with science or humanitarian values: most particularly for our purposes, with God-like confidence the (moderate) conservative reformers pronounce their grand principle: The Jewish God is bigoted, YAHWEH’s effluent, bourgeois society, is bigoted: let there be Multiculturalism, let the Crumbs drop from Massa’s Table.


[1] For cultural nationalists, the mosaic represents “self-reliance” as expressed in economic autarky, the unit being the ethnic nation.  Such organization would make it difficult for workers to unite across “ethnic” or “cultural” lines. By biological determinism, I do not mean that the followers of Herder had a materialist understanding of the natural sciences. As John Crowe Ransom or Eric Voegelin understood the völkisch idea of a national culture, there would be a spiritual uniformity in a people who had interacted for a lengthy period with their specific material environment, evolving into a balanced relationship with nature and each other. This was the point of T.S. Eliot’s famous remark (1933) about limiting the number of freethinking Jews in the interest of local stability. See Ransom’s crucial essay “The Aesthetic of Regionalism,” AR Vol. 2 (Jan 1934): 290-310, for an elucidation of scientistic localism that infuses contemporary concepts of multiculturalism and compare to Herder’s concept of nationality as described by Eric Voegelin, The History of the Race Idea (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989).

[2] Until I read the political sociologist Eric Voegelin on the history of the race idea, I did not understand this point. Voegelin rejected the concept of “race” as too materialist because of its biological implications. Instead he embraced Herder’s seminal idea of cultural nationalism.

[3] See the tone set by Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Education (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1990): “…the men and women who are paid to introduce students to the great works and ideas of our civilization have by and large remained true to the emancipationist ideology of the sixties” (xiv)…a new form of thought control based on a variety of pious new-left slogans and attitudes (xvi)…The denunciations of the “hegemony” of Western culture and liberal institutions that are sounded so insistently within our colleges and universities these days are not idle chatter, but represent a concerted effort to attack the very foundations of the society that guarantees the independence of cultural and artistic life–including the independence of our institutions of higher education (xviii).”  The radical canon includes Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche (7); quoting Schiller, Kimball praises dissent and complains that the tenured radicals now occupy the moderate center (188-89).

Few have challenged Kimball’s periodization of the “P.C.” debate, nor are the “radical” challenges to the canon seen as élite initiatives, in which a folkish idea has been co-opted and nervously managed by the corporatist liberals on behalf of social stability.  See for instance Gregory S. Jay, “The First Round of the Cultural Wars,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/26/92, B 1-2: The move toward multiculturalism emanated from academic “have-nots” after the 1960s.  Also the militant Heterodoxy, edited by David Horowitz and Peter Collier, Vol.1, #1, “PC Cover-Up,” which argues that left-over Stalinist progeny, 1960s veterans of the New Left, are fighting a rear-guard action which “must be fought to conclusion”: the future of America hangs in the balance.  The writers decry the apocalyptic mentality of “the Left,” chiliastic originators of twentieth-century brutality. [added 1/5/2010: since I wrote this note, I have tended to share the Horowitz-Collier sense of urgency, especially after studying the vogue for Maoism on the Left and chiliasm on parts of the Right.]

A similar urgency informs a more recent debate on PBS (McNeil-Lehrer, 10-26-94) between Lynn Cheney, former head of NEH, and Professor Gary Nash, director of the UCLA National Center for History in the Schools which has produced a curriculum guidebook for grades 5-12 (flexible and adaptable to local conditions and preferences, according to New York Times, 10-26-94, B-8).  Cheney charged that the forces of political correctness have triumphed in the historical profession, and are destroying belief in a flawed, but on balance, great nation; Nash defended his guidebook as “a revolution” in the teaching of history, which will deemphasize “dates, facts, and names” in favor of critical inquiry into an evolving history which is always “provisional and contingent,” sensitive to the presence of women and minorities (labor not mentioned in the TV program, though Nash’s Urban Crucible celebrates the role of radical artisans in the American Revolution).  When charged by Cheney with denigrating all wealth (but not that of an African king) Nash contrasted Carnegie with Rockefeller.  Both Cheney and Nash say they want a critical approach to US history; both agree that a revolution is in progress. Joyce Appleby, president of the American Historical Association sees the culture wars as the chief struggle of our times (conversation with the author).

[4] See Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994) for a spirited attack on such appropriations and all anti-Enlightenment tendencies in the humanities.  The authors (who seem sympathetic to sociobiology) suggest that scientists may go their own way, teaching the humanities themselves if the present situation is not remedied.

[5] John W. Riley, Jr. and Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr., “Research for Psychological Warfare,” A Psychological Warfare Casebook, ed. William E. Daugherty and Morris Janowitz (Johns Hopkins U.P., 1958): 543.

[6] I am adopting the formulation of generic fascism as a centrist social movement that has obliterated liberalism, forcing agreement between the goals and interests of capital and labor, as suggested by David Stephen Lewis, Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism and British Society 1931-81 (University of Manchester Press, 1987).

[7] For the latest example of the moderate position, see Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America is Wracked by Culture Wars (N.Y.: Henry Holt, 1995).

[8] If ethnic and gender studies were organized to deal with populations as they have been historically defined by others and often themselves, then there would be no objection from anti-racists.  Such programs need not ignore class issues, nor need they mythologize in search for glorious ancestors.  However, these programs were institutionalized in response to status group politics, and tend to reinforce biological determinism by their very organization.  As I have argued at public meetings, the separation of gender and “racial” issues in special programs has served as an excuse for “regular” curricula to ignore the needs expressed by previously excluded groups to see society and history as a whole.  See David A. Hollinger, “Postethnic America,” Contention 4 (Fall 1992): 79-86, for an interpretation that superficially resembles my own; however, he does not look to the possible structural incapacity of our society to respond to the social democratic reforms he proposes, or the structural antagonisms that make “common ground” a utopian wish or a tactical compromise.

[9] F.M. Barnard, Herder’s Social and Political Thought From Enlightenment to Nationalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965): Chapter IV.  J.G. Herder (1744-1803) is credited with the founding of social psychology, cultural anthropology, and comparative literature in various interpretative works (see above).

[10] Robert Filmer, Patriarcha and other political works, ed. Peter Laslett (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1949): 89-90.

[11] John Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government (London: J.M. Dent, 1955): 233-34 (Part II, sections 229, 230).

[12] See Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution (Princeton U.P. 1993).  The high point of popular sovereignty was attained during 1643 in the rising of London radicals in the English Civil War.  The radical puritans were defeated by the Independents or oligarichic republicans; the voice of the people (vox populi)was replaced by the (returning) voice of public safety or public health (salus populi).  Locke would seemingly conform to the latter, but as Brenner states, the Independents’ politics, with all their limitations, were more progressive than anything preceding or following in England.  David Hume considered Locke a troublemaking Whig. See Robin Blackburn [Caribbean slavery] for a more critical assessment of Locke’s politics.

[13] George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters, ed. C. Vann Woodward (Harvard paperback, 1960): viii, xiv.  Woodward sees Fitzhugh’s critique as relevant to societies which, although rejecting Communism, suffer from “mass production, mass organization, and mass culture”; Fitzhugh is linked to “Young England, Disraeli, and Tory socialism.”

[14]I am trying to distinguish between those aspects of Marx’s thought that were original, and those that were already part of the critical apparatus of Western thinkers.  Vico for instance, recognized the importance of class conflict as the engine of history; see Isaiah Berlin, Vico and Herder . Once Marx’s contributions are historicized, what is left apart from a cyclical view of history with elements of classical and Christian thought? The old order is doomed, like all social organisms, it must decay.  The antithesis of the bourgeoisie, the increasingly desperate and immiserated working class, naturally free of the corruptions of money, will be the reinvigorator of society.  The State will wither away once money has lost its power to pervert the body politic.  What if Marx did not stand Hegel on his head?

[15] See my article “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA Historical Journal Vol.10, 1990; Enter Isabel: The Herman Melville Correspondence of Clare Spark and Paul Metcalf, ed. Paul Metcalf (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991) for more substantial explorations of double-binds in Melville’s family and in the discourse of progressive reformers, most recently in declassified documents from the Psychological Strategy Board, 1951-53.  Double-bind theory was used by Gregory Bateson and R.D. Laing in the 1950s and 1960s, but limited to the instance of the schizophrenia-inducing, cold/seductive mother sending mixed signals to sons.  See Carlos E. Sluzki and Donald C. Ransom, editors, Double-Bind: The Foundation of the Communicational Approach to the Family (N.Y.: Grune and Stratton, 1976): 11.  Conducive to schizophrenia is “the absence of anyone in the family, such as a strong and insightful father, who can intervene in the relationship between the mother and child and support the child in the face of the contradictions involved.”  With Melville’s guidance and the experience of years in “alternative” journalism, then my graduate education, I have applied it to all liberal institutions caught in the uneven transition between hierarchical and egalitarian social relations.

[16] Cf. Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God That Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1987): 17.  Muller argues that disillusioned Nazis continued to be skeptical of the Enlightenment, whereas ex-communists became liberals and social democrats.  I argue that “late capitalism”squashes its democrats (left-liberal materialists), producing conservatives who claim the scientific openness and objectivity of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, but do not necessarily practice it.

December 23, 2009

She Who Gets Slapped: the magic of middle-aged Boomerdom

from the sadomasochism collection of S.T.

[Racy song from World War I:]

Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parley-voo?
Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parley-voo?
Mademoiselle from Armentieres,
She hasn’t been kissed in forty years,
Hinky, dinky, parley-voo….

“Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms,” by Thomas Moore

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day
Were to change by to-morrow, and flee in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear;
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sun-flower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.

Here are numerous excerpts from Daphne Merkin’s long article on movie director Nancy Meyers: “Can Anybody Make a Movie for Women?” NYT Dec.15, 2009. My reminiscence of one feature of second-wave feminism follows.

[Merkin:] With her black-framed glasses and penchant for wearing clothes that seem like a softer variant of a man’s business suit — white blouse, yellow cardigan over slacks, low-heeled patent-leather pumps — the petite and attractive Meyers might pass for a lawyer or professor; there’s nothing about her that shouts V.I.P. She looks, rather, like the kind of woman who has always been cute and has always conveyed a certain approachability to men. Her jewelry is equally understated, as unblingy as can be, consisting of two gold rings and a gold bracelet. Everything about her suggests an innate tastefulness and the kind of self-image that isn’t based on making a grand impression. Goldie Hawn, whose relationship with Meyers also goes back to the ’70s, puts it this way: “Nancy has the clout. She doesn’t have to own the clout.”

…Part and parcel of that uniqueness is Meyers’s focus on making films that both feature and speak to middle-aged women, a demographic that studios traditionally ignore for fear of not bringing in the all-important opening-weekend numbers by which a movie’s position is assessed and its future success seemingly foretold. The simple truth is that any movie that is not aimed at 15-year-old boys, who come out in droves on Friday night for movies like “Transformers,” is seen as something of a risk. Movies like “It’s Complicated” unfold at the box office in a different pattern than movies that are skewed younger; their success is based more on long-range playability and word of mouth than on instant impact. Still, in a movie culture consumed by youth and its trappings — vampires, werewolves, stoners and superheroes — Meyers’s decision to pay attention to a part of the population that is often construed (and often construes itself) to be invisible stands out in bold relief. The fact that this decision has proved to be commercially shrewd says something about her instincts as a moviemaker but also says something about a previously unsatisfied hunger, composed of two parts daydream and one part hope, that is finally being addressed. “She’s a pioneer with regard to representing older women,” Diane Keaton said over lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “She’s the only one delivering the fantasy for women over 55. You’re beautiful, charming and you get two guys instead of one.”

…Meyers, then, has rushed in where angels fear to tread to rescue the middle-aged and manless woman from her lonely plight. She has taken this sorry creature, who is bombarded with reminders of her vanished youthfulness everywhere she turns, and placed her in an alternate universe, where she is not only visible but desirable just the way she is. (It helps, of course, if she looks like Diane Keaton or Meryl Streep, and if she gets to wear a carefully chosen wardrobe of flattering clothes.) “Feminism didn’t admit the longing for romance,” Barbara Probst Solomon, a writer and critic, says. “And it also didn’t admit that romance often didn’t go with success. Her movies give women their reward — you feel nourished, the way you used to feel about old-time Hollywood movies. You’re not just an old bag sitting with your laptop at the beach — you’ve got your prince. It permits you to have your fantasy.” It is not unique, of course, that Meyers’s vision of life is unabashedly romantic — call it retro or call it postfeminist — but what sets it apart is that she is putting it at the disposal not of unformed 18-year-old girls but of accomplished 50-something women for whom romance is generally no longer considered an option, either because they are too old or because they are too threatening.

…she is proposing the somewhat radical notion that there are second acts in women’s lives and that they don’t necessarily hinge on being a desperate housewife in search of the next “It” bag or a cougar on the prowl. Far from it. The interesting thing about “Something’s Gotta Give” and “It’s Complicated” is that the women in them aren’t remotely on the hunt, seeking proof of their sexual appeal in the form of studly younger men — or men their own age, for that matter. These women are self-sufficient and notably energetic. They may not have men, at least when we first meet them, but they make do with friends and children and siblings, for whom they whip up tasty dinners and homemade pies and laugh over their own situations.

…Her love of seductive surfaces — of rooms graciously adorned with bowls of flowers, glowing lamplight, color-coordinated pillows on the couch, pieces of art, books and touches of pleasing texture in the way of curtains, cashmere throws and rugs — is undoubtedly part of the allure of the upscale world she creates. (That world is also almost pre-ethnic — with the exception of the Asian actor B. D. Wong, who appears in “Father of the Bride” and its sequel, few non-Caucasian faces appear in Meyers’s movies.)

…What is clear is that Meyers doesn’t like shadows — metaphorical or real ones. So it is that on a Tuesday morning she is to be found in the editing room with Joe Hutshing, making like a one-woman clean-up squad. “Can you get rid of this dot, this dot and this dot,” she instructed an assistant editor, pointing out infinitesimal, invisible-to-the-human-eye blurs on the screen. A little later, as she and Hutshing went over shots of the backyard view of Streep’s house (they created a water view where none existed), she wanted all the dead trees edited out. Then it was on to the spiky plants. “Every plant that is spiky is removed from this movie,” she announced, a note of hard-won triumph in her voice. “You have no idea. Keep it all soft.”

…The more I talked to Meyers the more I realize that she prefers for her movies — for life itself — to have a rosy, unconflicted presentation. My sense is that whatever warts exist, she airbrushes out, the better to come away with a happy ending. (Her friends warn her off films that are too bleak. “People are always protective of me when they give me movies to see,” she said. “They think I’m going to break.”) At worst, her films can give off an air of tidy unreality — and it is this unexamined aspect, I think, this failure to even hint at darkness, that most fuels critical ire. Richard Schickel condemns Meyers with faint praise, hinting that she and the studios have struck a devil’s pact of sorts. “Clearly there is an audience for sweet little middle-class romances of the kind she makes, and it pleases the studios to indulge a woman, whom they would not trust with more vigorous projects. It’s as if they’re trying to say: ‘Hey, we’re not sexists. We make Nancy Meyers movies.’ ”

…As part of the audience for whom these “sweet little middle-class romances” are intended, I must say I find this assessment, whatever its kernel of truth, a bit harsh. For one thing, romantic comedies are harder to write than they appear. Sherry Lansing, former chairwoman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures, who championed “The First Wives Club” and tried for years to develop a script called “The Older Woman” without much success, says it is a genre that is “unbelievably difficult to get right.” For another, what’s wrong with a little wish fulfillment? It might be said that Meyers, who has not remarried and is currently involved with, as she puts it, “my movie,” has spun gold from the hay of her own losses, turning the painful aftermath of divorce into comedies where she, in the form of her characters, gets to call all the shots.

…The middle-aged woman as dream icon: lovable, desirable, unleavable. What’s not to warm to about that? I would love to be able to reshoot some of my own life and relationships — and it wouldn’t be half-bad if Alec Baldwin played the role of my ex-husband. We all run what-if scenarios over in our head, and part of the pleasure of this kind of entertainment is the way it lets us roam through our own imaginations as we follow the retakes Meyers’s movies offer us. Given the high divorce rate and the equally high failure rate of second marriages, I’m guessing her latest movie will bring in crowds of grown-ups eager to see their own miscalculations and missteps played out on the large screen against a backdrop anyone would be proud to call home. “It’s Complicated” may not be entirely believable — nor “Something’s Gotta Give” particularly persuasive — but they offer their creator and all the women who relate to her stand-in self, in the form of Keaton or Streep, a good deal of laughter to help get them through the night. And that’s no small piece of magic. [end, Daphne Merkin excerpts]

[Clarespeak:]   What is remarkable about Merkin’s generally positive essay on Nancy Meyer’s oeuvre in film, is that no matter what little qualifications are pumped in to give the piece an air of critical distance, she presents a woman who precisely matches the fantasies of shoppers at the better clothiers, manicurists, hair salons, and plastic surgeons, and whose idea of feminism is that of “role reversal”: “[Meyers], in the form of her characters, gets to call all the shots.”  In so doing, Merkin reiterates one of the class-bound moves of 1960s-70s feminism, in which masters and slaves trade places. I have seen this behavior in the feminist art world, in academic Women’s Studies, and in the conduct of individual women of my acquaintance. But what else would we expect from a periodical (the NYT) whose advertisers cater to exactly this class of urban women, trained from childhood to maintain themselves as “hot” decorative objects (also capable of amusing banter) appealing to good male providers?

Sadly, this was not the way the second-wave of feminism started out. Everyone of my age remembers the almost overnight transformation of the culture, as young women who had been humiliated and thwarted in the road to fame by male New Left “heavies” took to their typewriters and churned out instant best-sellers about male domination, exposing misogyny in literature and the other arts, rediscovering first-wave feminist heroines, and in general, attempting to formulate an “alternative” female culture that would encompass the needs of women in all classes and climes. And an intrinsic part of this project was the assertion of a unique “feminine” sensibility that men didn’t get, hence would not support the efforts of right-on women in the arts. In academe, there were even women who thought that their attention to the women airbrushed from history would cause all of history to be rewritten with “gender” the analytic category par excellence. (Joan Wallach Scott, for instance, now at the top of her profession.)

Those were heady, thoughtless, stupid days, and many a conventional marriage broke up as women took upon themselves the freedom they imagined men enjoyed, while many a professional man became enamored of hippies and New Age escapism, changing spouses accordingly. I knew this cohort well, and almost every one of the feminists I then knew and promoted on my radio programs and elsewhere either had a red family of origin or newly attached herself to some fraction of the left, whether it be Marxist-feminism or New Left feminism, which was odd, because “patriarchy” (the social division that is primary to a feminist) is an ahistoric notion and couldn’t be farther from the complex historical analysis that a proper Marxist (or non-Marxist historian) should exemplify. But rules were laid down by the new dominatrices, and compliant guilty males and ambitious females acquiesced, with nary a murmur or moral qualm. And part of this explosion of P.C. animosity took the form of exposing the inadequacies of their ex-husbands or lovers, naming names, the more famous the better.   Another task was the feminist demolition of Freud (see the passage in  https://clarespark.com/2009/11/08/is-the-history-of-psychiatry-a-big-mess-2/ where I mention the attack on Freud as a sell-out to his gender by covering up real sexual abuse of his female patients with the invention of the Oedipus Complex, female variant).

Role-reversal was a losing strategy, not to speak of its intrinsic immorality in a movement that appealed to “equality.” The Battle of the Sexes has not been terminated; rather, new wine has been poured into old bottles. Escapist “magic” makes money as the Boomer generation swells the prospective movie and television audience, and Daphne Merkin struggles with “chronic depression” that she appears not to understand (see an earlier NYT article in which she darkly exhibits her mental states).  The second-wave feminists (a few of them) are now installed in academe and related venues, though their youth has fled, while the masses of women continue to struggle with the same issues that beset them before the 60s-70s feminists made the scene: e.g. women are terrified of aging for good reason.  Here is just one example, from experience, not from formal studies: Discarded women who loved their ex-husbands may continue to feel protective toward them, finally discovering that their concern was never reciprocated in a similar lifelong commitment. And to add to the insult, the older woman may find that she is expected to dress herself as if she were an anorexic adolescent girl. But wait! There is the “understated” Nancy Meyers uniform, as described by Daphne Merkin above. Such are the ways of “liberal” feminism in the time of Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton. Mamma Mia!

August 27, 2009

Hitler and the “Jewish” Mind, Part Three

Werner Sombart, Neo-Nazi idol

[This is the last of three entries on Hitler’s encounter with the restless, skeptical, switching “Jewish” mind. It should be read along with my earlier blog on Hitler and modern art (“Hitler, Switches, Modern Art and more….”) as introduction to the three recent entries. Also see the materials from my book chapters two and nine that document the actions of social psychologists on behalf of ‘civilian morale,’ or preventive politics, also posted this month.]

[Concluding entry to Hitler and the “Jewish” mind:]  How can we synthesize the separate facets of Hitler’s situation? First, he is self-identified with a defeated power (Germany, the victim of treachery whose victory was stolen) and with rural producers, the declining class whose interests are opposed to industrial workers and their bosses as well as to bankers. (Peasants and landowners need cheap industrial goods but want maximum prices for their foodstuffs, while workers and industrialists depend on cheap farm prices to keep the costs of labor down and the buying power of wages up.)  Hitler’s affinity group is organized politically as the agrarian interest, the backbone of conservative nationalism and German imperialism: Prussian Junker landowners and small farmers wanting tariffs and autarky to protect their prices from international competition. Hitler can revitalize the ruined pastoral if both hidebound reactionaries and wandering workers will only see his light: his solution will protect and restore everyone, rich and poor, parents and children. Crucially, peasants and workers are no longer at odds, but the stable foundation of the rectified neo-feudal order; national, not international unions, may be brought into the system without tearing it apart as long as “the Jews” go away.

Personal history has energized his politics; Hitler may have believed that his civil servant father Alois, dying suddenly of apoplexy, was felled by his own internal contradictions between cosmopolitanism and extreme nationalism and Hitler’s angry insistence (at age 12) in maintaining his difference as an artist and stubbornly rejecting his father’s occupation; he is simultaneously angry that he has been betrayed, abandoned and impoverished: if father was so cosmopolitan, why couldn’t Hitler be an artist? That is, he read the double-bind and father died, a dependent’s worst nightmare: truth leads to destitution. Now political expediency and personal predilection combine: Like other romantic anticapitalists, Hitler chooses the viewpoint of the declining aristocracy glad to pay agitators for the defeat of capitalism-becoming-socialism, a process impelled, the more prescient members of this patrician class believe, by their stubborn brethren who won’t make humane concessions and interventions, but madly press their selfish interests.

Like other agrarians (English Tories, ex-Southern slaveholders in the U.S.) Hitler sees the Jew as undermining the capacity for uncluttered communitarian thinking and social relations through the institutions that “the Jewish character” has brought. The Jewish spirit (as Werner Sombart called it) is the source of real class divisions that Hitler longs to erase. Specifically “Jewish” institutions–money, the Stock Exchange with its absentee ownership, international capitalism, the press, and the intellectual disciplines and attitudes associated with modernity like the study of political economy–literally divide master and man and have inserted themselves between the good consistent parent and the grateful child.

Secondly and crucially, like the good parent turned bad, “the Jew,” a personification of any thoughtful materialist class analysis, confuses the child by unanticipated and frightening switches. As a commentator on group life, “the Jew” asserts the natural rights of individuals and the fallaciousness of blood-and-soil doctrines of identity that ignore the uniqueness and free will of the individual. However, as a commentator on voluntarism and the power of the will, s/he points out structures of determination and the difficulties in decisively separating agency from structural imperative! As a commentator on sexual repression, s/he points out the joys of sex and emotional expressiveness. But as a commentator on bohemian libertinism s/he points out human interdependence and the obligations of the individual to suffering humanity, the noble renunciation of selfish “sensual” gratification (like promiscuity, a cheap fame and popularity) on behalf of higher, finally more satisfying moral principles: the protection of intimate relationships and the pursuit of universal truths and uplift of the poor, relationships and processes whose complexities are still under investigation and are by no means fully comprehended.

[footnote:] Geoffrey Gorer’s presentation of de Sade’s delightful Constructive Sadism (1934) suggests that promiscuity is not the exciting self-indulgence of happy lovers, but a flight from sex, sensibility and experience, i.e., a refusal of intimacy, individuality, and compassion; that romantic love is tied to the senses that report continued domination in collectivist, “egalitarian” societies. (See Hunting Captain Ahab for key quotations.) For Werner Sombart, romantic love was a threat to tradition; along with the heroic entrepreneur and the stranger unbound by local ties, here were the ingredients of “the breakthrough” and monomania.  See Samuel Z. Klausner, Introduction, The Jews and Modern Capitalism, op.cit., xxxii, lxxi.  The rehabilitation of de Sade began in the early 1930s when Gorer was allied with Stalinists; the incriminating passages were deleted from the revised edition of 1953.  “The breakthrough” was a concept Thomas Mann thought was responsible for the rise of fascism, see Doctor Faustus.  Lukács believed the concept of romantic love was one of three sources of Marxism; he supported Goethe’s confidence in apprehending the natural world against Kant’s medievalist insistence on the “unknowableness” of nature and of radical evil in human nature, see Goethe and His Age (London: Merlin, 1968): 200-201. [end footnote]

Hitler is not the only one who has felt anxiety when confronted with the boundary between what he does and does not understand, but nevertheless is called upon to judge and act in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty.   Such intellectual and emotional mobility is the bewildering accompaniment to decisive and wise social action; here I believe is the combined satisfaction and burden of Jewish chosen-ness subtly expressed by Freud in Moses and Monotheism (1939) (I may be misreading Freud here). Here and elsewhere Freud opposed the primitivist acting-out and nihilism often associated with his name. In accounting for the murder of the Jews of Europe, he implicitly linked himself and the Jews (specifically their intellectual and ethical achievements) to the social idealism of the radical puritans. All in all, “the bad Jew” is quite the ideal of balanced, well-proportioned Greek classicism cut to the human scale, quite the moderate man.

[footnote:] On the “deplorable quarrelsomeness of the Greeks”see C. Bradford Welles, “The Hellenistic Orient,” The Idea of History in the Ancient Near East (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1955): 159.  “They were little ready to let go any advantage to another, although this may have been only a consequence and an extension of the qualities which made them unique as a people–their restless and aggressive curiosity, their impatience of authority, and their reluctance to acknowledge a superior.”  This volume links the historical imagination to science, democracy, technology, and optimism; it is of course contradicted by helplessness and other-worldliness.  Cf. Mosse’s claim that the young Greek ideal lay at the heart of Nazi ideology; i.e., Nazism was a romantic youth revolt, see George L. Mosse, “Introduction: A General Theory of Fascism,” 12. [end footnote]

[Hitler, Oct. 24, 1941:] The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before–and I remember that I drove them to despair…When science finds out that it has to revise one or another notion that it had believed to be definitive, at once religion gloats and declares: “We told you so!” To say that is to forget that it’s in the nature of science to behave itself thus. For if it decided to assume a dogmatic air, it would itself become a church.

[Hitler, Jan. 22-23, 1942:] …A fly began buzzing. Foxl [Hitler’s terrier at the front during the First World War] was stretched out at my side, with his muzzle between his paws. The fly came close to him. He quivered, with his eyes as if hypnotized. His face wrinkled up and acquired an old man’s expression. Suddenly he leapt forward, barked and became agitated. I used to watch him as if he’d been a man–the progressive stages of his anger, of the bile that took possession of him. He was a fine creature…To think they stole him from me!…On my return [to the trenches] he hurled himself on me in frenzy (232-233).

[Hitler, Jan. 23, 1942:] A good three hundred or four hundred years will go by before the Jews set foot again in Europe. They’ll return first of all as commercial travellers, then gradually they’ll become emboldened to settle here–the better to exploit us. In the next stage, they become philanthropists, they endow foundations. When a Jew does that, the thing is particularly noticed–for it’s known that they’re dirty dogs. As a rule, it’s the most rascally of them who do that sort of thing. And then you’ll hear those Aryan boobies telling you: “You see, there are good Jews.”
Let’s suppose that one day National Socialism will undergo a change, and become used by a caste of privileged persons who exploit the people and cultivate money. One must hope that in that case a new reformer will arise and clean up the stables (236).

[Hitler, Feb. 19, 1942:]…I could live very well in a city like Weimar or Bayreuth. A big city is very ungrateful. Its inhabitants are like children. They hurl themselves frantically upon everything new, and they lose interest in things with the same facility. A man who wants to make a real career as a singer certainly gets more satisfaction in the provinces.

[Hitler, Sept. 1, 1942:]…The relations between master and man in old Vienna were charming in the mutual loyalty and affection which characterized them. There is only one town in Germany, Munich, in which social differences were so little marked. I can blame no Viennese for looking back with sad longing to the Vienna of old; my younger sister is filled with this nostalgia (680).

Contrast with American reactionaries.     Hitler wants the same aristo-democracy lauded by American reactionaries: Lothrop Stoddard, William McDougall, the Southern Agrarians, and “new historicist” admirers of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound—some of whom are nativist radicals acceptable to the anti-Stalinist Left. It is they, like the German Romanticists before them, who have furthered hyphenated Americanism to dilute the power and appeal of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Enlightenment, turning the word “bourgeois’ into an all-purpose insult connoting only tyranny and decadence. It is the aristodemocrats who pretend to have “decoded” antidemocratic propaganda since World War II, in their inversion of slavery and freedom, vitiating public life and the humanities. It was not the rootless cosmopolitans who invented the discourse of scientific racism.

Surely, Hitler was not alone in backing off from the intellectual and emotional inconsistencies of modernity that he affixes to Jews as others have done with radical Protestants, puritans, romantics, and modern women, yearning for a stable image of the good authority figure who would never turn on the child or drive the child to turn on him. That Hitler chose such extreme and obsessive (sadomasochistic) methods to purify himself and the world of bilious “dirty dogs” is perhaps explicable (but only partly) through analysis of a brutal childhood which he never described in the first person, the death of his father, and an antidemocratic cultural inheritance. And of course, Hitler’s obsession may have been tolerated owing to the similar ambivalence with which “the West” has embraced a modernity neither internalized, nor fully actualized, nor entirely understood.

Obviously, an alternative approach to Nazi “irrationality” would have to examine the fragility and novelty of the radical Enlightenment, then the ongoing class project in which organic conservatives masked themselves as “progressives,” attempting to divert the titanic energies of science and democracy into “gradual” change apparently in “the public interest” but often advantageous only to their class. I suspect that such efforts could not persuade the powerless were children not punished for evil thoughts and speculation, as if fantasy and reality were merged, as if thinking angry thoughts made their acting out more acceptable. Even Darwin held these views and observed the insane to study untrammeled emotions. [footnote:] See G.T. Bettany, The Life of Charles Darwin, London, 1887.

After all, ordinary people, in the bourgeois democracies at least, can use public libraries and reflect upon and deepen their own experience, can avail themselves of the good counsels of past emancipators from illegitimate authority. The defining attribute of the conservative Enlightenment, of pseudo-modernism, then, is the triumphant circumscription or shutting down of rival wandering imaginations: here is the highest achievement of “character,” the proof of “sanity.”

Masochism builds character. To put it another way, I have been describing repressive tolerance, the conditions under which “radical” Enlightenment ideas may be incorporated or co-opted by established institutions. The scientific analysis of social institutions advanced by seventeenth-century empiricism is apparently absorbed, but in practice turned against the mountaineering lower orders uplifted by natural rights, popular sovereignty, mass education, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Shockingly, the Left has abandoned the education of ordinary people: While promoting “tolerance” and empiricism (multiculturalism, “identity politics”, the “new historicism”) the “anti-racists” switch the very concept of the dissenting, goal-oriented individual capable of standing outside “the system” or “the body” to observe its processes, thus to produce universally valid abstract knowledge, a description of reality independent of bodies or class position and intended to facilitate accountability and rational amelioration. In the thought of Werner Sombart (1911), after 1933 an enthused Nazi, that detached (disillusioned?) observer was essentially the profit-seeking Jew, a kill-joy mountaineer who both repulsed and attracted him:

[Sombart:] [We see “the teleological view”] in all those Jews who, with a soul-weariness within them and a faint smile on their countenances, understanding and forgiving everything, stand and gaze at life from their own heights, far above this world…Jewish poets are unable simply to enjoy the phenomena of this world, whether it be human fate or Nature’s vagaries; they must needs cogitate upon it and turn it about and about. Nowhere is the air scented with the primrose and the violet; nowhere gleams the spray of the rivulet in the wood. But to make up for the lack of these they possess the wonderful aroma of old wine and the magic charm of a pair of beautiful eyes gazing sadly in the distance…Goethe said that the essence of the Jewish character was energy and the pursuit of direct ends.”

[footnote:] Werner Sombart, The Jews and Modern Capitalism (Transaction Press, 1982): 266-267.  Do the beautiful sad eyes belong to depressed, disappointed, martyred mother?  For a Marxist interpretation of European antisemitism derived solely from economic forces and class position, see Abram Leon, The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation (N.Y.: Pathfinder Press).  The writer was leader of the Belgian Trotskyists and an anti-Zionist, executed at Auschwitz, 1944 at age 26.  For Leon, the Jews (whose numbers had dramatically increased in the twentieth century) were caught between decaying feudalism (when they lost their social-economic function to Christians) and decaying capitalism (economic crisis squeezed their petit-bourgeois rivals); hence for Leon, the Jewish question cannot be solved without socialist transformation. [end footnote]

By drawing a hard line between Hitler and the corporatist liberals/the New Left, by refusing to examine the analogous confusing confrontations between tradition and modernity in our political and intellectual life, we obscure one important dimension of mass death, not only in “the Holocaust,” but in our timid responses to threats ranging from a weakened First Amendment to ecocide. In my view, only an ever more energetic redeployment of the Enlightenment critical methods and objectives disdained or scuttled by the (pseudo) moderate men will save us from newer and even bigger catastrophes: outcomes which cannot switch from bad to good.

[Note: these entries on Hitler’s view of the “Jewish” mind were read by Roy Porter, Robert Brenner, and my teacher of the German language, Lewis Jillian in the early 1990s. At the time of writing I was writing from the Left. I had not yet read von Mises or Hayek, hence did not consider the argument that class divisions are erased by the self-regulating free market. Still, much of this essay remains valid, for instance, the conflict between the interests of peasants and workers that Stalinists tried so hard to erase through the planning state, with horrible consequences.]

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