YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 7, 2014

Modernity versus modernism

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:34 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

modernity2Modernity may be said to start with the invention of the printing press, as ordinary people began to read religious texts for themselves, without priestly mediation and interpretation. So historians generally start “the early modern period” with the Reformation and the proliferation of “radical sects,” many of them utopian, such as the Diggers in England. (There had been outbreaks of communal democracy before this, e.g., the Lollards or some earlier apostolic Christians/Jews).

So from roughly the 16th century onward through European wars and revolutions, often couched in the language of religious controversy, modernity led to the contentious emancipation of women, Jews, and ordinary people, not without strenuous objection from the ruling aristocracies of Europe, who were themselves sharply divided but who united against “the People” upon whom they projected their own paranoia. (See the famous and entertaining fight between royalist Robert Filmer and Whiggish John Locke here: https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.)

Modernity generated supporters and antagonists in the world of culture. It would be nice and easy to contrast order-loving neoclassicists with Romantics, but the Romantics were themselves divided, as were some neoclassicists. For instance, Wordsworth and Coleridge started out as enthusiasts for the French Revolution, but balked at the Jacobin takeover, worship of “the Goddess of Reason,” and the Reign of Terror, turning then sharply against science and Enlightenment. These were “right-wing” Romantics, to be sharply contrasted with the Promethean Lord Byron, the most prominent of the “left-wing” Romantic poets. ( The Danish critic Georg Brandes is very good on these distinctions.)

Just as people sorted themselves out according to how they felt about the French Revolution and its aftermath, the same happened after the Soviet coup of 1917. But the cat was out of the bag: the interior life was now fodder for artists and writers, and those “realists” and “naturalists” so beloved by the Soviet nomenklatura, were competing with those wild men and women influenced by Freud, Jung, and other explorers of the psyche. Some usually conservative writers, like Herman Melville, vacillated between Romanticism and neo-classicism, leading to the sharp divisions among Melville critics who find these turnabouts anxiety-provoking.

So modernity generated a usually reactive modernism. Modernism is an entirely different kettle of fish from “modernity,” being mostly a movement in the arts in reaction to the idea of progress, a shibboleth that had taken a big hit with the Great War. Even before the war, the rise of women (including “the moral mother” displacing paternal authority in the home), cities, industrialism, the loss of the agrarian myth, “the death of God,” mass politics, comparative luxury, and cultural pluralism inspired fears of decadence and mob rule. Even before WW1, Freud, Marx, and Darwin all discombobulated elites and in various ways inspired fears of decadence and the femme fatale—an all-purpose scary symbol representing all these trends (see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/).

The Great War that ended the lengthy “balance of power” among European states seemed like the logical culmination to these vast transformations, and the war itself that enabled the Soviet coup led to an earthquake in culture that made the French Revolution look tame, but also causal in imposing “state terror.”

I have written extensively about the turn toward the interior psyche in all its moods, particularly primitivism as ritual rebellion, and also about the recurrent image of Pierrot, an example of the alienated artist as murderer, as Cain, as zany. In prior blogs, I have mentioned Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Sartre, all experimenters with language and form and all modernists in revolt against some aspect of “modernity.” [I have not dealt with “postmodernity here, but it is directed against science and enlightenment too, viewed perhaps as too bourgeois.]

To end with a “relevant” observation, I would guess that the rise of the moral mother (along with the emancipation of Jews) was the most important and relatively neglected of the cataclysmic developments all too briefly outlined above. Not enough has been made of the linkage between antisemitism and misogyny. (None of my speculations is in the Wikipedia discussion of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernity.)

Many conservatives look longingly back at the time when “rational” men, not “irrational” women, ruled the roost. It is why I reject the “right-wing” strategy for taking back the culture from “the left.” (https://clarespark.com/2014/07/01/the-rightist-culture-war-strategy-wont-work/.)

Sonia Delaunay painting

Sonia Delaunay painting

Advertisements

June 11, 2014

Individuality: the impossible dream?

social relationsThe problem: how to separate communists from social democrats; is “the Left” the same “left” opposed by bourgeois apologists in prior periods? The “McCarthyism” accusation that reproaches anticommunists is derived from the liberals defending the bureaucratic collectivism of the New Deal: “liberals” attacked those “fascists” from the Republican Party who opposed FDR’s remedies for the Depression. Similarly, FDR called his opponents “economic royalists.” This vituperative playbook still exists, with many conservatives conflating communists and Democratic Party stalwarts, as “the Left.”

The key to understanding the difficulty of separating communists from liberals is here: “Liberals” (not to be confused with classical liberals) selectively co-opted and defanged communist social thought in order to preserve their own elite rule, above all focusing on the working class as the likely red specter. The notion of “proletarian internationalism” was replaced with “ethnicity” or “race” as the mode of sorting people out. Both communism and liberalism partake of collectivist terms. The ‘individual’ is pathological and an outcast. Some organic conservatives agree, imagining mystical bonds (the “rootedness” of local attachments) as the route to “social cohesion” and “political stability.” Organic conservatives need not be on “the Right.” Democratic president Woodrow Wilson was surely one these localist agrarians who spurned the materialism of science. (For some Wilson anti-science quotes see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.)

Here is the key move for “socially responsible capitalists”: the “individual” only exists in repressive ideologies like supposedly unregulated “laissez-faire capitalism” and Darwinist competition. It must be defeated in favor of “the individual-in-society” who is situated in a [statist] “cooperative commonwealth.” Stubborn laissez-faire types are “narcissistic”, given to “huckstering” (Mad Men!) and must be defeated in order to emancipate the truly progressive society from “the Jews” or their surrogates.

Under the leadership and rules of “liberals” mental health professionals emphasize not autonomy and individuality, but “relationships” to groups, including sex partners, families, and workplaces. In all cases these mental health professionals, like the neutral state they unknowingly defend, preach “adjustment” and “integration” of interior, often irreconcilable conflicts, such as mothering infants versus interests outside the home and family. I personally have been subjected to this well-meaning, but futile, advice.

pierrot_by_ladysivali

Finding out “who you really are” is all about limiting, not extending choices in the face of personal evolution. It is part and parcel of today’s “identity politics” —more collectivist groupiness, for only “groups” can “make a difference.” Marxists have demolished the notion of the individual, deeming such a one “atomized” or “anomic”—a version of the murderous Cain, builder of cities; similarly artists are stigmatized as Pierrots, also tied to Cain and to the Romantic Wandering Jew. After the revolution, one orthodox Marxist told me, “everyone will be a Mozart.”

standard_Individuality

Although many persons would like better control over their work processes and over aggression (as did Freud), for Marx the only route to such individual empowerment is through working class consciousness followed by working class revolution: in his view, a progressive, enlightened move that would make the politically emancipated individual able to experience “species being” (a term that he never defines comprehensibly to me, but it has some relationship to nature: enter the Red Greens). [Need I add that the Progressive movement had a drastically different definition of “progress”?]

Nor do these [social workers] expand the imagination, as do our better artists. Instead, following Marx’s necessarily limited vocabulary (he never was able to suggest just how the state would “wither away” ), he brings up earlier forms of human organization (primitivism)—see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/ (the quoted passage from “The German Ideology”), and my index to blogs on primitivism: https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/. Note that in the “individuality” image, a couple drawn in the cubist/primitive style of Picasso, defines the “individual” who can “make a difference.”

Finally, reading early Marx (the mid-1840s), I have the impression that his entire conception of worker alienation might be derived from his antagonism to all religion, in which he alleges that the worshipper gives away his body and mind to God (I don’t see how this applies to Judaism, which emphasizes a degree of free will and personal responsibility for the wrongs we inflict on others, not blind obedience). This is only a hunch, but it would explain why there has been no working class revolution of the kind Marx anticipated. At best we get a sputter of [doomed] protest as in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society. Most workers probably want the benefits of what Marxists derisively call consumerism, and the pursuit of creature comforts (including the comfort and consolations of religion) does not entail an assault on their individuality, but instead enhances it. But then I am a bourgeois, so should not be trusted to interpret, even tentatively, the major exponent of communism.

April 26, 2014

The State of the Blog/Irreconcilable Conflicts

Deviant Art

Deviant Art

In the month of April, the Yankee Doodle Society website saw an unexpected drop in visitors. The numbers are still good, especially given the amount of competition in the blogosphere. To date (since the summer of 2009 when the Obama administration introduced much drama into the political culture) there have been 366,029 views, a number that always astounds my family and acquaintances.

But given the cultural emergency we find ourselves in, I am disappointed and dissatisfied, especially since I have shortened the blogs to reach an audience that is distracted and possibly frantic regarding the future of our ostensible representative republic, a condition I have represented as proto-fascist. The rest of this blog speculates about the many causes for the April drop. I cannot know, on my own, why I get between 150-250 views/day, compared to the prior record of between 250-350/day. What follows amounts to a meditation regarding the state of our political culture and my own persona as a kind of Nanki-Poo (“A wandering minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches….” For a recent rendition see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN6S8g1QrqU.)

First, like the masked Nanki-Poo, I am a misfit, a representation of the “uncanny” or “unheimlich.” Most of us crave for some stable group affiliation. My insistence on irreconcilable conflicts, both internal and external, contradicts the “moderate” tone of much public discourse. Such blogs as “The Illusion of National Unity” may make some of us squirm (https://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/), especially as we are taught to respond to identification with “the American people.” True, there are the rulers and the ruled, but the entire discourse of the organic conservatives (i.e., social democrats and various Burkean rightists) offends my sense of reality. As a materialist sharply opposed to mystical bonds, I see disunity within myself, within most families, and certainly within the various ideologies of modern politics: who can readily distinguish between communists and social democrats, or between “ultra-conservatives” and “compassionate conservatives”? Are the dreaded “neocons” easily classified, or do they vacillate? (I am one of them, or so some believe.) I would rather see myself as a striving scholar, living with only provisional judgments and very curious about those archives that remain outrageously sealed to the public.

More than “unity” (a rarely achieved perfect meeting of minds), I value the creative imagination that sees through the “harmony” imposed by the State and by other institutions pushing groupiness (my word) as the route to “social stability” and “cohesion.”

Second, my most popular blogs seem to appeal to those using the internet to vent their intense dislike of POTUS. How many are given to paranoid conspiracy theories, I cannot tell.

Third, when I post my blogs on academic websites, I find that my numbers diminish as readers get to know me. The research or opinions I post often contradict the current line that keeps academics in line and predictable to their employers. One would think that academic readers would value an open mind and be willing to revise their past judgments, but apparently not.

Fourth, I am an unreconstructed feminist; I see the battle of the sexes as interminable and permanent. Men and women are put together differently, which is fine with me, and so are gays. But I cannot go along with conservative nostrums that imagine father-led families as the solution to poverty and crime. Nor do I gasp that American culture has been “feminized” as do the masculinists. The more both genders move toward androgyny, the better. Girls will stand up for themselves and accept leadership roles, while more “sensitive” men might become less patient with subordination to abusive superiors in the various hierarchies that help them defend the nation and/or earn a living.

wanderingminstrel

Fifth, I am quite certain that the culture wars are not only a waste of time, but defy the cultural pluralism for which we supposedly strive. We should be putting more focus on the schools, on the regressive direction of teachers unions, and asking more of our schools, especially in the teaching of critical thought, contrasting theories of economic growth, science, and competing narratives for how we got to the current state of fragmentation and polarization—not only between political parties and “races,” but between rural/small town inhabitants and the large cities.

Sixth, and perhaps most important, I live with ambiguity regarding such basic contradictions as objectivity vs. radical subjectivism, or free will versus determinism. Part of growing sadder and wiser is this ability to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. Most people seem to want unchanging rules and hence relief from doubt, including self-doubt.

Some may see this blog as a tiresome kvetch; perhaps it is. But I am grateful for those thoughtful and courageous readers who have stuck with me. Some are on Facebook, but others come from parts unknown. There seem to be fewer and fewer sadomasochists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis than was the case when I started the blog—surely a cause for celebration.

Picasso seated Pierrot, 1918

Picasso seated Pierrot, 1918

February 22, 2014

Healthy Skepticism

noimageThis blog is about healthy skepticism versus the sort of philosophical skepticism that is blatantly nihilistic and/or reactionary. In writing this piece, I am immersed in rereading my favorite passages in Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857). Like most of his other works, the theme of the book is protest against the rule of the moderate man of the Enlightenment. Even another “Captain Ahab” makes an early, but brief appearance as a wooden-legged scoffer at the masquerades of the multiform confidence men who dot the book. These con artists are shape shifters, and include “Black Guinea, the herb doctor, the cosmopolitan, and more. The theme is “No Trust.”

What we are to distrust (says Melville) is the moderate Enlightenment theme of cosmic benevolence, and the very idea of progress from pre-industrial to market societies, where everyone wears a mask (role-playing) and bamboozles his or her victims. I remember the art critic Harold Rosenberg lauding this particular Melville text in the late 1940s, perhaps as his sour response to the weakly resisted Holocaust, the latter surely an example of an absent deity and the depraved indifference of humanity writ large. He read the text with understanding of its allover trajectory of nihilism and abandonment in an empty universe. Such are the ways of nihilism, a popular artistic theme in the immediate period following WW2. What do I think of this trend, still extant today? davidhume To a large extent, we are all prisoners of our particular families, personal and world histories. I will give “the new historicists” that. What is the engaged citizen supposed to do, given the imprisonment in specific contexts? Should we all turn ourselves into the figure of Pierrot, the spectator, who comments, but with blood on his hands because of his passivity? (For a picture of Picasso’s immobilized seated Pierrot of 1918, and a collage linking antisemitism and misogyny see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/24/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets-2/.) Melville went back and forth on this question: sometimes roaring as the unmasker of frauds, sometimes soothing himself with reveries that returned him to the perfectly happy family.

[David Hume on moderation, History of England, Vol.8, pp 310-311, jousting with Locke:] “The Whig party, for a course of near seventy years, has, almost without interruption, enjoyed the whole authority of government; and no honors or offices could be obtained but by their countenance and protection. But this event, which in some particulars has been advantageous to the state, has proved destructive to the truth of history, and has established many gross falsehoods, which it is unaccountable how any civilized nation could have embraced with regard to its domestic occurrences. Compositions the most despicable, both for style and matter, have been extolled, and propagated, and read; as if they had equaled the most celebrated remains of antiquity. And forgetting that a regard to liberty, though a laudable passion, ought commonly to be subordinated to a reverence for established government, the prevailing faction has celebrated only the partisans of the former, who pursued as their object the perfection of civil society, and has extolled them at the expense of their antagonists, who maintained those maxims that are essential to its very existence. But extremes of all kinds are to be avoided; and though no one will ever please either faction by moderate opinions, it is there we are most likely to meet with truth and certainty.”

And why not embrace the manipulative moderates, rejecting Locke and empiricism as Hume did, to his everlasting glory in the political ruling class? Few of us have the inner strength and indomitable will to escape the prisons of our contexts, to strip ourselves and our institutions of pretense. And so we fail. Back in the days when I was friends with leftists, I remember reading that it was the task of each generation to determine what was possible, given the times, to accomplish something that would advance human liberation.  I still think that is a noble aspiration, and grown-up too, for only chiliasts and other apocalyptic thinkers and actors would imagine immediate utopian outcomes to our efforts at understanding the world with a modicum of accuracy. The point of this blog: to be skeptical of pretenses to expert knowledge, but, after much investigation, to make a stand for empiricism and  self-discovery, for human mental and physical health, even though present pressures and future developments could render our decisions flawed and ignorant. But not to succumb to utter nihilism, as Melville did during a difficult period in his own life, lived in a transition from a pre-industrial world to a new world that seemingly rewarded only frauds and phonies.

[From Moby-Dick:] “Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure.  Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks.  Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

     Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?  For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life.  God keep thee!  Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”(Northwestern-Newberry edition, 363-364). Has Ahab seized the narration, or is it the survivor/spectator Ishmael who warns against knowledge of the self that could estrange him from the family of origin? Or is the narrator saying that to discover that we don’t know ourselves is an unbearable horror?

Pierrot can and should bend the bars of his prison to escape, at least for the moment. We should know when we bite our tongues, and forgive ourselves for not always speaking or writing what we most deeply feel and think. I feel an Ishmael writing here.

Lipschitz, Pierrot Escapes

Lipschitz, Pierrot Escapes

May 10, 2012

Androgyny, with an aside on Edna Ferber

Kleo, by Kremena Ivanova

“Receptiveness is a rare and massive power, like fortitude; and this state of mind now gave Deronda’s face its utmost expression of calm benignant force—“  [Ch.24,  Daniel Deronda, 1876, by George Eliot, nom de plume for Marianne Evans]

I read a lot, but rarely does a sentence such as George Eliot’s stick in my mind as a life lesson. I’m not sure we mean the same thing by “fortitude” (its religious meaning is to soldier on as vessels of God’s will), but if she means a kind of courage and honor that women usually attribute to men, then I am with her in her suggestion of androgyny. For every artistic person must combine the qualities often assigned either to men (fortitude) or to women (receptiveness).

In reading and teaching the literature of the past, militantly gay academics, journalists, and critics, have detected closeted gays in 19th century literature. We were not there, so cannot evaluate such annexations to the (male) gay project, but in the case of Herman Melville, it is possible that he was simply androgynous, blending the receptiveness and fortitude recommended by George Eliot. Melville’s British admirer, James Thomson (“B.V.”), was thinking of Eliot when Thomson wrote his famously pessimistic poem “The City of Dreadful Night”: the Queen who ruled this godless, desperate place, was none other than Eliot! See my essay https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/, where I quote an interchange between Thomson and Eliot, also from his poetry. For misogynistic images linking Gorgon, vagina dentata, and androgynes as Pierrot figures, see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/assorted-degenerates/.

In the past month or so, I have been reading some of the major novels of a 20th century successor to George Eliot, the famed best-selling author Edna Ferber (1885-1968) who, unlike George Eliot, never shacked up with a man (Eliot’s love was Goethe biographer George Henry Lewes, 1817-1878). Indeed, Ferber’s spinsterhood is in doubt among some younger critics, who deduce that she must have been a lesbian. But in the case of Ferber, it is crucial to go back to her texts and to her autobiography in order to evaluate her status as a feminist and antiracist avant la lettre.

I have read in this order, Showboat (1926), Giant (1952), So Big (1924), and her first autobiography, A Peculiar Treasure (1938), also Ferber (1978),  a semi-debunking biography by her great niece Julie Goldsmith Gilbert, who reveals her as a closet racist, and a mother- and-sister-hater, as well as a probable lover of several men. In the 1938 autobiography, though she has been writing as a regionalist and a friend to the “common man”, she suddenly comes out as an indignant ueber-Jew, furious with Hitler for Kristallnacht. And yet, she rejects her father, the small businessman (of Eastern Europe extraction and owner of a dry-goods store) in favor of her German Jewish ancestry through mother, which is ever so much more aristocratic in their tastes. Her most appalling villain is a New England Puritan (with all the Hebraic characteristics assigned to them), “Parthy”—Magnolia’s penny-pinching mother in Showboat.

It happens that aristocratic women in Europe were not only educated, but were influential behind the scenes, if we are to believe the 19th Century novels of Benjamin Disraeli, who glorifies and adores them (see https://clarespark.com/2011/05/04/disraelis-captive-queens/) . Similarly, in Ferber, her female heroines are remarkably persevering, outspoken, and progressive in all their social views; they are autodidacts like herself; they also are not great beauties. But most remarkably, they conquer their hidebound conservative antagonists with wit, compassion, endurance, and the power of their arguments, i.e., they are admitted to boy’s clubs to take off the rough edges. Would that all outspoken women were so persuasive, or all plain women so beloved by men.

In real life, Ferber adopted all the traits of the traditional woman eager to please various establishments: she had a nose job, was a fashion plate, threw herself into home decoration, gourmet food, and grand dinner parties; but most importantly, ingratiated herself with the leading WASP progressives and assimilated Jewish businessmen-artists (such as “Dicky” Rogers or his half-Jewish collaborator Oscar Hammerstein II, whose lyrics could not be more traditional in the subordination of women to men). As an aesthete and a moralist, Ferber lived out the European tradition of the aristocratic woman who pulls the strings behind the scenes. Or was she the puppet of social forces and inner drives that she had yet to master? (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2012/04/24/the-subtle-racism-of-edna-ferber-and-oscar-hammerstein-ii/.)

On the illustration: the two white lines on the right of the image are probably damage to the post card I scanned, advertising a student art show at El Camino College.

May 8, 2010

The Free Will-Determinism Debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 9:19 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 

exhibition announcement, Cal State Dominguez Hills

My fight with a Reagan Republican Catholic who hates housework and feminism. 

Two days ago, a Facebook friend who describes herself as a Reagan conservative and as a Catholic, posted on her FB page a protest against housework, which she HATED (she did use caps).  I responded, unwarily, that “after the revolution, men would clean a new dirty house every day.” I was thinking of the day workers (often illegals) whose life did in fact consist of such dreary and repetitive tasks, not pacing their work as a stay-at-home middle-class housewife might (with the potential cooperation of a considerate family), but faced with the accumulation of many days of scum, grease, and other forms of dirt, and dependent on the savvy of the employer with respect to toxic chemicals and allergens. What followed next was a stressful interaction, for this person was in a rage against me, and my supposed cohort, 60s feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who were melded in her mind as disgruntled man-haters. If I had had any painful experiences, I had it coming to me.  Women in general had no grievances: she loved men, period. There was no way to pacify her, but it did give me an insight into how those second-wave feminists might be regarded by a conservative woman age 41. This happened the day of the stock market plunge, and to calm myself I wrote the recent blog on social cohesion and adjustment.

 Some personal history.   Oddly enough, during the late 1960s when I heard the first rumblings of the new feminism, I thought that these must be unnatural women who had abandoned their maternal responsibilities. (I was not that different from the conservative woman who freaked out on May 6.)  Not long afterwards, I began my radio programs on the art world and how artists were faring in powerful arts institutions. That activity took me away from the nest into a wider world of political and social controversy, and the spell of traditional marriage was broken and my political education finally began in fits and starts, but I remained relatively naïve, compared to what I might have been had I been raised in a feminist household. Meanwhile, I had used my Pacifica radio program to publicize the growing movement of feminist art and design, and collected slides of sex and violence in the images of women artists and photographers while I was teaching part-time at Calarts. At some point, during this period of personal transition, I must have read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (a book that was not only pro-woman, but anti-imperialist), for I used passages from that book to illustrate the slide show I presented during the 1970s at numerous public venues. After I had returned to graduate school, I saw that the 60s women’s movement had elevated some feminists to prestigious positions in the postmodern academy where they confined themselves to women’s issues, and with a few exceptions, did not embed the situation of women in a larger social context. And most disturbingly, some of the women I had assisted had bonded either with the Left (even when those Left factions were supporting Third World countries that were barbaric with respect to gender relations) or had gone entirely mystical.

 Am I socially irresponsible?   To return to the subject at hand: my Facebook adversary had resorted to “free will” as her explanation for my failed marriage. It later occurred to me that she, like many other religious conservatives, had rejected any kind of historical, materialist, and structural explanation for the condition of women, including her own: She was a good woman, had chosen a good man (who did the floors for her), and I was very bad and irresponsible, deserving my fate.  Oddly, she, the out-of-control happy/unhappy housewife, was in a fury, while I remained relatively placid (though inwardly churning) as I attempted to explain myself, finally ending the FB friendship as it was clear that our differences were too deep to negotiate.  

Return of the unrepressed.    As prior blogs here should have made clear, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct a personal history that cleanly separates structure from agency, or as Herman Melville constantly reminds us in his stories, to separate “fixed-fate” from “free will.” We are left with uncertainty and ambiguity–a no-no to classicizing politicos of either Left or Right who prefer clean boundaries to messy conjectures and possible contradictions. And here, perhaps, we come to the double-binds I have been relating on this website.

    The law holds us personally responsible for all infractions, and yet many of the television crime shows depend on “profiles” of the criminal to track him or her down. These profiles commonly relate parenting deficits and other family catastrophes that shaped , indeed sculpted the future murderer or rapist. In Richard Wright’s Native Son, Bigger Thomas’s lawyer, a Jew named Max, unsuccessfully uses Bigger’s childhood and adolescence of racial oppression and trauma to argue for Bigger’s acquittal in several murders, one accidental, the other deliberate. Nor could any other type of insanity defense been effective, for the McNaughton Rule (still holding in half the states of the U.S.?) states that the test for insanity is to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. And long before that, Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise for eating of the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge—the knowledge of good and evil that elevated them, hubristically, to equality with God. And Eve, distant mother of Pierrot and Lulu,  is the femme fatale in the story. (I am inviting my lawyer friends to explain to me how there is no double bind as described above.)

    Cherchez la femme as they say, but don’t look for me.  I’m still in hiding. And Happy Mother’s Day.

February 20, 2010

The Glenn Beck Problem

Pierrot collage by Clare Spark

[Added 9-1-10: This blog has obviously been evolving as I have tried to place Glenn Beck’s views in some recognizable historical narrative. For a liberal account of Beck as demagogue that I find disturbingly distorted see http://hnn.us/articles/130820.html. My search for Beck follows; I should say that Beck does urge his viewers to do their homework and to read primary sources, then challenge him if he is mistaken in his characterization of the Founders, or any other claim he makes. That is not the usual practice of a demagogue (who does not permit, let alone welcome, criticism from the crowd):]

Click onto the illustration and read what German agent George Sylvester Viereck wrote about Hitler in 1923: you will find the line “he storms their reserve with his passion.” Yesterday I posted my objection to Glenn Beck’s obsession with blaming everything wrong with our society on “the progressive movement.”  I also objected to his tendency to equate right-wing social democrats with communists, an error only a person with little knowledge of 20th century European history would make. Given the millions who tune into every program and who think he is a powerful weapon in the campaign against “Big Government,” it is not surprising that one of my Facebook friends immediately objected to my criticism of a man he thinks is a hero, but who, though I often agree with him, sometime suspect to be a power-hungry demagogue, taking advantage of ever-growing dissatisfaction with U.S. domestic and foreign policies to feed his ego and to line his pocket, while playing the earnest clown. Whatever his motives, there is no excuse for indicting “progressivism” as a “cancer….” as he did in his keynote address at CPAC, or his comments today (May 26, 2010) trashing Bernays and Lippmann. Usually  this is an antisemitic jibe from the Left and Chomsky, but Beck was vehement and nasty.  I am disgusted. See my widely circulated essay https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/

[Added, March 19. I have been reading about Edmund Burke and his revival from the 1950s on. Paleoconservative Russell Kirk (a founder of National Review) and his ultraconservative Burkean allies in academe are probably the intellectual sources for Beck. Although on many points, he seems to be a libertarian, he is also opposed to any view that does not regard the Christian God as the source of order and liberty–along with Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich, his opponents are “secularists.” Hence his attempt to remake the Founding Fathers into believers in God as the chief lawgiver of “moral natural law”–the source of order, with the state as a usurper insofar as it threatens (upper- or middle-class) property, the ballast for “tradition.” This places Beck as a follower of Edmund Burke, as I believe Jonah Goldberg to be, who is as rattled by “the Jacobins” as the source of totalitarian/statist control.)* [Added 6-6-10: I was much mollified and gratified by Beck’s support for Israel during the last week. How this fits in with his general ideology, I cannot say. Added 7-18-10: Beck clarified what he means by rights being God-given: he was contrasting this position with the competing notion that rights are gifts from the State, a key Nazi idea.] [Added 10-30-10. I am taken aback by the Harvard UP published book by Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (2002). This book is more helpful in explaining the religious Right and their alarm at secularism than any other history book I have ever read. If intent matters, Hamburger bolsters the case that the writers of the Constitution did not banish religion from the public square, far from it. See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/05/hamburgers-separation-of-church-and-state/.]

This blog is about the danger of allowing any media personalities to do our thinking for us, and I am not speaking about Glenn Beck alone, nor do I wish to insult his viewers or listeners, but they should be on guard. As my long-time friend political scientist Stephen Eric Bronner wrote in one of his first books (this on German Expressionism), making a passionate work of art or viewing it, though valuable in itself, cannot substitute for the thoughtful study, investigating, organizing and other activity that resists illegitimate authority. Professor Bronner wrote enthusiastically about Rosa Luxemburg too, as well as other radical social democrats who were associated with the Second International. These activists were called left-wing social democrats, because they meant to educate the masses in the most advanced industrialized societies and through majority acquiescence (as opposed to bureaucratic centralism) make the transition from capitalism to socialism. Luxemburg herself was an anti-Bolshevik and argued with Lenin about issues that are still red-hot today, such as supporting anti-colonial social movements that were antidemocratic and backward. (I am updating the debate between Luxemburg and Lenin, originally about the nature of imperialism, and about self-determination in the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, not about Third World dictatorships of today. (Thanks to Steve Bronner for the correction. But as Robert Brenner and Perry Anderson taught the debate in a session I audited, the issue concerned  left-wing alliances with antidemocratic entities, so I extrapolated to the present, when the hard Left does ally itself with dubious entities. For an entirely negative view of Luxemburg and other “Non-Jewish Jews” see Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews. Johnson has the clearest exposition of twentieth-century politics and diplomacy affecting the future of Jewry that I have ever read. It is especially welcome at a time when a new “peace process” is under way.)

All this is to explain that “right-wing social democrats” like FDR were conservative reformers, similar in their views to those of Edmund Burke, ardent critic of the French Revolution and its threat of popular sovereignty. Bronner, though a prolific author, is not typical of today’s radical (Leninist) Left. And I have shifted my own position, as my Pacifica memoir makes clear. As an historian with a background in science education, my most positive contribution must be to encourage individuals to be skeptical of all pronouncements from politicians and other celebrities, and to withhold their support until they know among other things, who is financing their endeavors: Arab sheiks? Closet Islamic jihadists? Americans remain innocent, characters in a novel by Henry James. We remain child-like in our quickness to trust. We are not experienced in the ways of amoral and jaded Europeans or elites from other societies who would destroy democratic movements in their own countries and who seek to bring down the West tout court, for the West is full of bad examples, such as the American and French Revolutions. Do we know the extent to which their financing of university programs and media corporations such as Rupert Murdoch’s outfit is affecting their programming (Fox) or curriculum (Columbia U.)?

While reading Schiller’s and Goethe’s plays over the last few years, I was struck by the complexities of their plots, for they were writing in a time when court life was full of intrigue. Perhaps that is why I collect masks and images of Pierrot. Artists knew that it was bad, really bad out there.

* On the subject of Edmund Burke as a liberal constitutionalist and not an organicist, see Rod Preece, “Edmund Burke and his European Reception,” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation Vol.21, Number 3 (Autumn 1980): 255-273. Preece argues that Burke’s European admirers mistook him for an organicist thinker, and that for Burke, there was a contract between the state and the individual; moreover that he was opposed to Platonic guardians, but preferred practical men of affairs (the moderates) to be running things. But that Burke was horrified by Jacobins and the French Revolution, there is no dispute. If Preece is correct, then Russell Kirk’s name should be added to those who have misunderstood Burke.

November 10, 2009

White Walls and Shadows: Irrationalist explanations for Nazism, pro and con

Image (91)

A Pierrot painted in Sam Francis's Jungian phase

 ( This essay follows https://clarespark.com/2009/11/02/a-ride-through-the-culture-wars-in-academe/.)

[Untitled poem submitted to London Mercury by an Englishman, Lawrence Binyon (a William Blake reviver of the 1920s):] From the howl of the wind/ As I opened the door/ And entered, the firelight/ Was soft on the floor;/ And mute in their places/ Were table and chair/ The white wall, the shadows,/ Awaiting me there./ All was strange on a sudden!/ From the stillness a spell,/ A fear or a fancy,/ Across my heart fell./ Were they awaiting another/ To sit by the hearth?/ Was it I saw them newly/ A stranger on earth? 

 Here are some prestigious irrationalist accounts of Nazi antisemitism, a problem often linked to the scandal of Western immobility as the destruction of European Jewry proceeded apace.  The explanations I shall discuss have helped to shape postwar academic formulations of twentieth-century conflict and race relations, not only our understanding of the Holocaust.  There is much to recommend them, especially when we understand the great overarching, still disputed question: were the horrors of the Nazi period an aberration, perhaps exacerbated by propaganda and bad diplomacy? Indeed, were the horrors so singular, compared with the excesses of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and other brutal regimes?  How important was the presence of Hitler to the success of the Nazis, and to what degree were his racial beliefs common enough to explain his widespread support in all classes?  To the extent that the writers I discuss remind us both of Nazi uniqueness and of their continuities with other antidemocratic regimes of  past and present, I believe they are helpful to the vigilant libertarian.  But we must ask, how precise, comprehensive, and non-partisan is their cultural description of history; how scientific are their analytic categories?  A socially responsible historian may not mold events to fit a predetermined outcome.  I will continue my thesis (in numerous blogs on this website) that many antidemocrats view the Enlightenment itself as a Jewish plot–a shadow on the white wall of Authority, an uncanny innovation that estranged them from their families of origin; the aristocratic radicals, long entrenched in the humanities, are particularly energetic in promoting this interpretation. See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/22/on-literariness-and-the-ethical-state/ and https://clarespark.com/2009/11/19/the-scary-city-lamprecht-becker-lynd/.

 [From Alfred Rosenberg’s “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Jewish World Policy,” conspiratorial Rabbis are speaking:]  “We will adopt every liberal idea of all parties and persuasions and instruct our speakers to dilate upon them, until we have exhausted people with fine speeches and produced in them a disgust for speakers of all persuasions. In order to control public opinion, we must sow doubt and discord by allowing the different sides to express contradictory opinions for so long [that] the Gentiles get lost in the confusion: they will decide that it is best to have no opinion at all on constitutional questions, that the people lack the proper perspective on these things, and that only he who leads the people can really comprehend these things.” [1] 

[Hitler argues with Otto Wegener and Rudolph Hess regarding the possibility of a Jewish state in Palestine:] “The Jew notoriously likes to remain anonymous so long as he is not in our power. He takes off his mask only when he has gained domination—or at least when he believes he has. After the war, it seemed as if, thanks to the war, Jewry had won the upper hand throughout the white world.  So the time seemed ripe for the Jews to pose as the masters. In Germany that was, as it is now, indisputably evident.  Then, when he has succeeded in seizing the leadership in all the white nations, all that remains is the establishment of a headquarters to truly dominate the world.  And that would correspond to the Jewish state. Any sooner, such a state would make no sense, have no significance—it would even be a mistake.

   “The fact that now it is to be situated in Palestine, the Promised Land, the source, three or four thousand years ago, of the migration that would conquer the world—that is not only conceivable, but even proof that my train of thought is correct.

   “It also proves, however, that our struggle and our mission, which only we regard as the struggle and mission for Germany, is perceived by worldwide Jewry as if it were directed against its totality—against the Jews as such.  Therefore, wherever they wield power, they will use it to paralyze and prevent our work.

    “That is why no nation would take in the Jews as a whole if they were to be expelled from Germany, nor would the Jews agree to a Jewish state in the sense of a concentration of the entire Israelite tribe.  For in so doing, they would be betraying their faith in the promise; they would be giving up the struggle, at the very moment when they thought they had, in fact, won it.”

     “It is quite certain,” Hess said, “that we will have the entire Jew-dominated world against us if we simply throw the Jews out of Germany. This they cannot accept, because of the consequences. For in such a case, another nation will do the same, and others will follow in their turn.”

     “We have already reached that point,” Hitler resumed, “when we established the party program.  And to this day, I have been unable to find a better solution than the one we foresaw at that time.

     We must be very clear about the fact that we cannot remove the Jew as such.  Rather, we must make it impossible for parasites to exist; we must prevent them from continuing to gain a foothold on the body of our Volk, from infusing poison into that body or attempting to gain power over it.  At that point, the Jews will leave Germany of their own accord.  For when it becomes impossible for a parasite to live its parasitic existence in a certain place, it wanders off elsewhere, where conditions are more favorable to it, or it perishes.”

    “I truly believe,” I agreed, “that this is the only possible way to achieve our goal.” [“I” is Otto Wegener]

    “But it seems to me that the solution of the social question as we conceive it, and as I would like to bring to fruition and to success in my social economy, also contributes to the possibility of removing this parasitism.”

     “This is contradicted,” Hess interposed, “by the fact that the socialist movements all over the world are run precisely by Jews and were founded by them.”

     “No,” Hitler said.  “That is not a contradiction. The error of the economic order until now, and the error that exists in the general concept of the monetary system, has long been discovered by a few clever Jews, perhaps without their finding a solution.   And the industrialization of the economy and its world-wide expansion will bring it all the more into view—that, too, they have understood.  Therefore they could not help but fear that in time the world will come to the realization that the existing order must be changed—which will certainly also narrow their chances for parasitism, if it does not obliterate them.”

   “ …The Jew’s parasite brain works quickly with its sixth sense. It thinks: if I can no longer engage in my parasitism in its previous form, then I must simply look for some opportunity in the new, in the coming form.  Until now, it was my highest aim to gain power over the state in order to secure my domination and my way of life.  Now, if new forms of government develop, we must simply try to seize power in the newly formed state.  Since the new form will be brought about by revolution and the industrialization of the subjugated working masses, it will be simplest to start by assuming leadership during the revolution.  Then we will be able to use the revolution to bring about, by straightforward means, both the new state and our new domination: the state of the working masses, whom we command and which we rule!

    “It is hard for me to believe the Jew so purposeful and intellectually superior that he actually submitted these considerations so systematically in the councils of the Elders of Zion; that from the first he thought them through in the way just elaborated—that would be uncanny. But his sixth sense guides him instinctively and unconsciously along the correct path, where, admittedly, consciousness has long since come to him.”

   “But then you are dealing with two different methods of the Jews, which must oppose each other and are actually mutually exclusive,” I objected.

    “As long as the Jews use them,” Hitler explained, “they will not hamper each other.  A crow does not scratch out another crow’s eyes.  But if we, for example, wanted to implement such a social economy and establish a state along those lines, resembling the dictatorship of the proletariat, as they call it so splendidly, then you’d be surprised how both groups would pounce on us, the liberalist parasites who employ the methods of the past as well as the Marxist-Bolshevik parasites who practice the new method.  And since they have a firm grip on their populations, although they make up only two to five percent of their number, they will sic these people on us! For now we are dangerous to both: to the one group because we want to free ourselves from them, and to the other because our social economy once again cuts the ground from under them.

   “That is why I am still not at all clear about this social economy. Not that I think it wrong. On the contrary! I’ve already told you as much. But I ask myself whether it is expedient to burden oneself with two enemies at once.  And that is a political consideration.

    “Which is the more dangerous enemy—I mean, the one that threatens us most immediately? Without a doubt it is Bolshevism—we can safely call it Jewish Bolshevism. For if it were not Jewish, it could be given a different format.  In that case, we might even be able to come to terms with it at some later date. But we will never be able to come to terms with Jewish Bolshevism without signing our own death warrant.

“Once we have recognized it as the primary enemy, however, we must avoid rousing the remaining Jews in the world against us until the Bolshevik danger has been removed.  That is why we may not expel the Jews who live in Germany, we may not expropriate their goods, we may not harm a hair on their heads; and that is why we may not go public with our social economy and other problems and plans, with which we would rouse liberalistic world Jewry and the entire liberalistic world against us.  Rather, we must live peacefully with them!  We can keep liberalism in check—indeed we must do so—but it must be done very cautiously, sensibly, with economic expediency. And when we arrive at systematic economic control through the state, which is the problem everyone else is fiddling with, we must manage it in such a way that private property also survives for economic transactions and that private initiative is harnessed for our program.

    “This by no means signifies that we must relinquish or even betray our socialist aims.  The aims remain firm and unshaken.  But the means must be chosen and executed according to the dictates of reason and expediency.” [2]

      Christian antisemitism was conditional: Jews could overcome their badness by conversion to Christianity; whereas in the credo of scientific racism, Jews were genetically unconvertible: stiff-necks were a changeless feature of the national character.  According to Raul Hilberg, the Claude Lanzmann film Shoah, and the public television documentary The Longest Hatred, Christian antisemitism provided the chief precedent for scientific racism, Hitlerian scapegoating, and the toleration of the Holocaust by the Western powers.  The continuing salience of Christian antisemitism must not be ignored.  Whatever it says about complicity or indifference to the fact of the Holocaust on the part of millions of Europeans and Americans, however, this explanation does ignore the actual views of Hitler and his chosen antecedents.  Why should this be?  I would argue that Hitler’s economic response to the Depression may not resemble the carefully equilibrated welfare state created by American conservative reformers before and after the war. While denouncing racism, the leading writers have not relinquished a  pre-existent racialist discourse.

      Ruth Benedict’s Race and Racism (1942) was a warning meant for the upstart capitalists to the Right of the paternalistic New Dealers.  While at first the cultural anthropologist describes scientific racism in “the Third Reich…[as] following a long series of precedents in European anti-Semitism,” Benedict switches.  First she presents a materialist account of antisemitism as false consciousness diverting German workers from the source of their worsening condition: Hitler’s “armament program [which] cut consumer’s goods and increased hours of work and lowered real wages.”  But then she calls for more “social responsibility” with its corporatist, fascist-sounding solution:  “A democratic state, when it lives up to its minimum definition at all, is the one institution that represents all parts of the body politic.  It can propose for itself [sic] programmes which will eventually benefit the whole body.”  I.e., if the American Scrooge did not adopt the reformist tactics of the corporatist liberals, he could expect Nazi-type populist demagoguery directed against the stony-hearted, hyper-individualistic [Jewishly avaricious] bourgeoisie resisting “the regulation of industry,” hence intensifying “racial persecution.”

      Ironically, this type of historical explanation assigns responsibility for Hitler’s rise to power to his self-designated Other: brutal nineteenth-century laissez-faire liberalism.  Hitler’s völkisch populist politics and dreams of autarky, however, cannot be conflated with liberalism.  I am not saying that Benedict deliberately does that in her publication of 1942; later centrist or Popular Front ideologues  [3] have constantly likened fascists, however, to McCarthy-ite “fascist Republicans” or “big business” or “Wall Street” or “monopoly capital” or “heavy industry” or “Zionists” or the National Association of Manufacturers in order to distance Hitler from other bureaucratic collectivists (i.e., themselves) intervening in collapsing economies during the interwar period. [4]

      Nor was Hitler in any sense Christian, though many of his most ardent Protestant supporters were.  George Allen Morgan was a philosophy professor at Duke University; in the early 1950s a member of the Psychology Strategy Board of the National Security Council.  In a prestigious publication, What Nietzsche Means (Harvard U.P., 1941), Morgan clearly reformulated cultural conflict in the radical thought of Hitler’s immediate predecessors.  Which is not to say that Morgan made the connection; rather, Morgan and his admirers joyfully defended Nietzsche, and, probably like Jung in 1946, took Hitler for a materialist guttersnipe for whom Nietzsche was the antidote.  To nineteenth-century élite social theorists, Morgan wrote, the relevant antithesis was no longer Christian and Jew, but the sternly ascetic “moderate” pagan culture of aristocracy versus the sentimental bourgeois culture of Jews/Christians that ever incited slave rebellions and destroyed genius–the individuality of the displaced aristocrats.  Crucially, Heraclitean cultural relativism sought to delegitimate the universalist epistemology of science: “diversity” was deployed against Jewish-Christian notions of equality.  Indeed, in the Table Talk Hitler clearly specifies his pagan sentiments: Christ was good because he was an Aryan, not the good Jew he appeared to be; rather, he was destroyed by gold-worshipping Jewish materialists for his anti-capitalist revolutionary activity; Paul and his Christian successors were all levelling bad Jews.  Why?  Because they sentimentally defied the aristocratic principle in nature and protected the weak; for Hitler, Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche were the world’s greatest philosophers.[5]  Morgan’s picture is consistent with the evidence I have seen; it does not jibe with the image of Hitler, the maven of sentimental mass culture, as both “Left” and “Right” factions in the American culture wars of the late 1980s and 90s would have it.[6]

      A second and related explanation holds that the Nazis were irrational because they attacked Good Jews (the assimilated German Jews) and/or confused capitalists with communists.[7]  If we could only get rid of such irrational antisemitism, these numerous social theorists may be saying, class envy would disappear.  According to Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, “A common mistake…is to attribute the existence of antisemitism to the antisemite’s jealousy of Jews’ economic success, instead of recognizing that the economic jealousy is a consequence of an already existing antipathy towards Jews.”[8] Here is the Harvard line: prejudice creates (correctable) class conflict. Similarly, cultural anthropologists like Gregory Bateson, Ruth Benedict, and Klaus Theweleit concentrate on “types” fruitfully quivering in bipolar allegiance/tension.[9]  As Parsonian functionalists they were responding to left-wing social democratic arguments:  that industrial capitalism creates the material conditions and class agency for democratic reform; thus capitalism and socialism are not Hegelian “opposites” or antitheses; rather the rationalist reform movements, led by the most educated and advanced members of the working class, could progressively realize the unfinished libertarian project of the radical bourgeoisie: privileges and pleasures hitherto reserved for the leisured class could be available to all in a context of material abundance or sufficiency.  This is of course was the socialist theory of the pre-Lenin European Left, the Second International, not the bleak ascetic vision promulgated by many Leninists, radical Catholic corporatists and deep ecologists.[10]  When fascists saw materialist capitalism and materialist communism as closely related, they were often merely following assumptions of other Europeans, from the Left and Right alike.  But there were popular conspiracy theories as well, theories that rely upon “the switch.”

      The refusal to examine class position and allegiance in ourselves and in our objects of critical inquiry has created the cuckoo-land of the postwar period.  Take the psychoanalytic theory of ambivalence, as we shall see, a central issue in Hitler’s psychobiography.  Although (as psychiatrists) functionalists will recognize “ambivalence” it is usually conceived as a static push-pull of love-hate, Eros-Thanatos, or action-passivity originating solely in the family, that is, in the play of innate conflicting instincts, not as an historically specific dilemma in which one may, like Hitler, be forced to please social classes that may be at odds with each other; or as other rebellious petit-bourgeois intellectuals, be torn between pleasing oneself and one’s patrons.  That is, the artist may identify with the fully observant, fully feeling [Romantic Wandering Jew] then disavow and demolish the family-shattering perceptions (perhaps attached to angry fantasies) that have briefly been experienced and which have destroyed (in fantasy) the good parent who pays the rent.  Nor do the functionalists address the concrete content and “plausibility” of such “histories” as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in which the communists are purveyors of false utopias, secretly in the pay of finance capitalists, who, controlling the media, mass desire, and the money supply, can make the masses rise at will (no conflict there!); nor do they examine the ongoing prestige of antidemocratic narratives–the linked cautionary myths of selfish (Jewish) Narcissus and over-reaching (Jewish) Icarus; nor the omnipresence of racial (i.e.,cultural) explanations for historical change, with history itself stigmatized as typical Jewish “reduction of religion.”[11]

      Alan Bullock (1991) emphasizes Hitler’s “twisted” antisemitism (madly confusing capitalist and communist, loathing miscegenation); but Bullock erases the tricky Jewish switch from emancipating communist to enslaving finance capitalist delineated in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which Hitler had read, believed, and promoted.[12]  Lord Bullock fortifies instead his construction of a crazy Hitler (earlier identified as narcissistic failed romantic artist produced by “the countryside,”7-8, 11, 5), while curiously suggesting rational reasons (“internationalism, egalitarianism, and pacifism”) for Hitler’s antimodernism.  Bullock reports Hitler’s views:

 “In international affairs Jewish capitalists sought to divert nations from their true interests and plunge them into wars, gradually establishing their mastery over them with the help of money and propaganda.  At the same time, the Jewish leaders of the international Communist revolution had provided themselves with a world headquarters in Moscow from which to spread subversion internally through propagation of the Marxist parties of internationalism, egalitarianism and pacifism, all of which Hitler identified with the Jews and saw as a threat to Aryan racial values.  [Not to “national communism, anti-capitalist on a world scale”; i.e., natural order? [13]]

[Bullock, cont.]   Turning the argument the other way, anti-Semitism provided Hitler with further justification for Germany to follow a policy of conquering additional living space in the East at the expense of Bolshevik Russia, which Hitler constantly identified with the Jewish world conspiracy.  Not only would this strengthen the racial character of the German people, but it would destroy the base of international Jewry, and cut off the poisonous plant of Marxism at the root.     In Hitler’s twisted cosmological vision, the eternal enemy of the Aryans, the race which possessed the power to create, was the Jew, the embodiment of evil, the agent of racial pollution which had undermined and destroyed one civilization after another…(161).  His was a closed mind impervious to argument or doubt (163).” [14]

      The antifascist ethnopluralists, themselves tied to the “identity politics” that disguise competing material interests as the primary locus of social conflict,[15] ignore the testimony of historical actors. For the Nazis, “class” analysis (of the type offered here) was the poisonous plant of false consciousness: the foregrounding of class antagonisms made the true community of interest within the racial group invisible; thus, as their argument runs, the Protocols would make sense.  For instance, Alfred Rosenberg complained that Italian Fascists were blind to the hidden connections between finance capital and Marxism, were oblivious to the racial brilliance of switching Jews in adapting to novel situations and manipulating them toward the goal of world domination, i.e., the defeat of the völkisch, participatory politics the Nazis would initiate:

  [From Alfred Rosenberg, “The Folkish Idea of the State”;  unlike the Italian Fascists, National Socialists are not duped by Jews:] “Fascism still lacks the insight to see that international private and stock-exchange capitalism, against which Fascism has not begun to fight, was and is the very same element which pays for Marxist propaganda throughout the world, that a community of interest between Marxism and international loan capital existed and still exists–namely, to make the national industries which are tied to the soil dependent on mobile loan capital.  And Fascism has not yet comprehended that this community of interest is symbolized by the fact that the leadership of one as well as the other power finds itself almost exclusively in the hands of the Jewish race or of a few personalities compliant to Jewish money.  The danger for Fascism in Italy consists of the fact that it won a great victory, thanks to one personality, but does not yet represent such a strong ideological system that one could hope it would survive the death of Mussolini.  That danger already exists today that Jewish stock-exchange capitalism naturally takes into consideration the new force as such, and in the realization that it cannot be fought against directly, approaches Fascism as a false friend.

[Rosenberg, cont.] …The internationalism of the Jewish world stock exchange, in league with world revolution, stands today at the highest point of its power.  And yet this internationalism is already fighting for its existence, for its strongest opponent–still invisible in many states, in some already under way, fully developed in National Socialism–is growing.  And the world political task of National Socialism consists of knocking one state after the other out of the world-political power system of today, and in the end, leaving no people under international management, but only a series of organic, folkish state systems on a racial basis.”   [16] 

    Rosenberg’s populist fascism opposes the duplicitous tactic of “the rabbis” (quoted above) whose deployment of intellectual pluralism and combat only confuses the masses, subjecting them to the demagoguery that will destroy normal racial solidarity and independence for the pernicious internationalism that is always, at bottom, a ruse for the rule of money.  Rosenberg, a national socialist, knows exactly what the competition is offering; he is neither confused nor inconsistent, given his racialist assumptions.  Bankers are the enemy and the word banker is “raced” as Jewish and bankers are opposed in interest to “national industries…tied to the soil.”

      A third explanation sees Nazism as bourgeois decadence.  Popular among nativist radicals, it brings out the latent antisemitism in some New Leftists and in counter-culture anti-imperialism.  Both the Soviets and American crypto-Tories have made Hitler (the consummate anti-bourgeois, anti-sentimentalist!) into a product of disintegrating capitalism and sentimental bourgeois culture.  They and similar thinkers have conflated American puritans/Jews and Nazis, functionally equating “genocides,” in this case, the extermination of European Jews, the American Indians, American blacks, the Vietnamese, etc.  Harvard professor F.O. Matthiessen, “a Christian and a Socialist,”identified Melville’s Ahab, a prototypical American, with the alleged savagery of the Hebrew prophets (1941, 1948).[17]  Also centered at Harvard were the Walter Langer team, authors of The Mind of Adolf Hitler, originally a 1943 report for the OSS but revised for publication in 1972 to diagnose hippie-fascists.  Langer, aided anonymously by Henry A. Murray, Ernst Kris, and Bertram Lewin, attempted to account for his subject’s “ambitiousness” and “extraordinary political intuition” (atypical of a “basically illiterate peasant family”); Langer and Murray actually gave credence to rumors that Hitler carried Jewish blood: Langer reported that Hitler’s grandmother might have been a servant in the home of the Baron Rothschild; Murray was impressed by a Jewish godfather to Hitler;[18] what’s more Hitler’s brilliant (Jewish) insights into the minds and hearts of the little men (the class base of fascism for the CIA and other moderates during the 1950s) should be adapted by American mind-managers.  Here are more excerpts from the declassified Murray report to FDR, 1943: 

 [The following diagnosis of Hitler’s condition was prepared by W.H.D. Vernon, under the supervision of Murray and Gordon Allport, all Harvard men:] “ Now it is known that syphilophobia often has its roots in the childhood discovery of the nature of sexual congress between the parents.  With a father who was an illegitimate and possibly of Jewish origin, and a strong mother fixation, such a discovery by the child Adolf may well have laid the basis of the syphilophobia which some adventure with a Jewish prostitute in Vienna fanned to a full flame. [fn: “This is mere conjecture and must be treated as such. But it is the sort of explanation which fits known psychological facts”]…Hitler’s personality structure, though falling within the normal range, may now be described as of the paranoid type with delusions of persecution and of grandeur.  This stems from sado-masochistic splits in his personality…Just as the father is the cause of his mixed blood, the source of his domination and punishment, and of the restrictions of his own artistic development; just as in the childish interpretation of sexual congress, the father attacks, strangles, and infects the mother, so the Jew, international Jewish capital, etc., encircle and restrict Germany, threaten and attack her and infect her with impurities of blood…But the mother is not only loved but hated.  For she is weak, besides he is enslaved to her affections and she reminds him all too much, in his role as dominant father, of his own gentle sensitive nature.  So, though he depends on the German people for his position of dominance, he despises and hates them, he dominates them, and because he fears his very love of them, he leads them into the destructiveness of war where multitudes of them are destroyed.  Besides, the Jewish element in his father identification permits him to use all the so-called “Jewish” tricks of deceit, lying, violence, and sudden attack both to subject the German people as well as their foes (78-80).”

 [Henry Murray: Hitler’s “revengeful dominance” is “a counteraction to insulted narcism” presumably inflicted by his (possibly half-Jewish) father:] “…Knowing something of the character of Alois Hitler, we can safely infer experiences of abasement and humiliation suffered by the son….(196)…Since many of the prominent positions in Vienna were held by Jews, some of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, as well as his hatred of Vienna, can be attributed to humiliations received from the upper classes during these years…(199)  [The “determinants” of Hitler’s antisemitism:]…3. The suitability of the Jew as an object on which to project his own repudiated background and traits: his Jewish god-father (and possibly his Jewish grandfather), his physical timidity and sensitiveness, his polymorphous sexual impulses…5. The realization, after having once embarked on the road to militarism, that the stirred-up aggression of his followers needed some outlet…7. In building his military machine the anti-militaristic Jewish people could not be of much help to him.  At bottom, Fascism is the advocacy of the aggressive drive over and above the acquisitive drive (with which the Jew has generally been identified), and, by the same token, it is the substitution of Power and Glory for Peace and Prosperity, a materialistic paradise on earth (with which Communism and the Jew have also been identified).  Finally, the Nazi doctrine of fanatical irrationality (thinking with the blood) is antipathetic to the intellectual relativism of the Jew.  Thus there are several fundamental points of opposition (as well as certain points of kinship) [where?!! C.S.] between Nazi ideology and Jewish ideology (207-209).

 [Murray, cont.]  Hitler has a number of unusual abilities of which his opponents should not be ignorant.  Not only is it important to justly appraise the strength of an enemy but it is well to know whether or not he possesses capacities and techniques which can be appropriated to good advantage.  Hitler’s chief abilities, realizations, and principles of action as a political figure, all of which involve an uncanny knowledge of the psychology of the average man, are briefly these: [21 items follow, including:]…Heiden speaks of “Hitler’s frequently noted incapacity to impose his will in a small circle, and his consummate skill in winning over a crowd prepared by publicity and stage management, and then, with its aid, vanquishing the small circle, too” (211).

     So what is this “Jew”?  Brutal/humiliating/hypermasculine or timid and gay?  Or both, as in Jewish switching, a.k.a. “sudden attack”/”intellectual relativism”?  Not surprisingly, Hebraic types (for Murray, Melville as Ahab) were deplorable to the crypto-Tories/New Dealers, because, after instructing guileless WASPS in mind-control, they turn around to blast good non-humiliating father-figures, to decode the mythic narratives that alone  confer national unity or group solidarity in a pluralist society.[19] 

       The writing of George L. Mosse, distinguished mentor to a generation of New Left cultural historians at the University of Wisconsin, similarly transmits the ambivalence of the moderate conservatives.    Mosse’s investigations into the sources of Nazi culture address modernization theory and develop a utopian, mass political lineage for Nazism.[20]  What were the Nazis: moderns, antimoderns, or a distinctive, confusing new blend of both?  In answer to my letter requesting a clarification of his influential formulations, Mosse replied that he once believed “National Socialism was largely a critique of modernity,” a view he has since revised: “…I think it was part of a protest of modernization…I would say that National Socialism masked modernity even as they were furthering it.” [21] Mosse seems to be saying that, on second thought, the Nazis were cunning and dishonest in their goals.  I wonder if Mosse’s “switch” overrelies on a definition of modernity as the advent of industrialization, not the institutionalization of civil liberties in the state; the unintended effect is to relativize Nazi brutality and level distinctions between autocratic and democratic bourgeois societies, a difference Mosse is elsewhere careful to maintain, cautioning me that I could “certainly compare völkisch movements to American conservatism,” but not “Nazi Germany to the United States.”  He does not say which American conservatives he thinks are völkisch; probably the right-wing populists, not the (élite) ethnopluralists!  Mosse went on to distance himself from analyses like my own that discern analogies between the world-views of ethnopluralism (identity politics) and national socialism.  He wrote, “I reject the current controversy over macho multiculturalism or postmodernism having anything whatever to do with Hitler’s psyche.  That seems to me totally unhistorical.”

      The confusions of conservative Enlightenment permeate Mosse’s writing when he is not in his materialist mood.[22] In The Holy Pretence: A Study in Christianity and Reasons of State from William Perkins to John Winthrop (1968), a book about “emancipation of political action from moral restraint,” Mosse frets that “…the victory of the Dove can lead to unbridled idealism, and the ignoring of secular realities; while the victory of the Serpent means the total acceptance of what the sixteenth century called ‘Machiavellism’” (154).  Mosse lauds the Baroque synthesis that prudently balanced the Serpent and the Dove so that “neither obliterates the other.”  The realism of the secular world was not achieved through science and libertarian ideas, he argues, but through wise adjustments in religion itself (152) [cf. Dumont, 1977].

      The leftward trajectory of the Reformation is an ongoing concern for anyone who analyzes propaganda and fascism.  Writing seven years later in The Nationalization of the Masses (1975), Mosse makes the crucial point that the modern intellectual constantly historicizes and demystifies symbolic discourses; this habit militates against the maintenance of a stable national identity expressed through symbols.[23]  When inside the anti-materialist Aristotelian civic humanist tradition, Mosse will not turn around and demystify “moderate” mind-managers in the West, the followers of Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons.  Given his reputation among New Leftists and other antifascists, Mosse has presented a disturbingly inaccurate synthesis for the intellectual origins of fascist brutality in his “General Theory of Fascism.”[24]  Arguing against the “stereotype” that fascism is a reaction to liberalism and socialism (1), Mosse claims throughout that fascism (Nazism more than Italian fascism) selectively appropriated and, through its control of mass media, put a corporatist spin on Western ideals (5, 14, 17-19).  Hitler and Mussolini are carefully separated; Hitler came out of the jacobin antipluralist, antiparliamentary tradition of mass politics and popular culture (the repulsive part of the West); the more pluralist Mussolini allowed new and old élites to co-exist because he respected aristocratic culture and tradition; this aristocratic culture embraced the German idealism that Mosse suggests was foreign to Nazis (3, 10, 28, 33, 35).  Fascist violence originated in the brutality and camaraderie of World War I (which Mosse blurs with youth and the mobs of the French Revolution, aka Napoleon, “Romantic Nationalism,” “popular sovereignty” and “workers movements,” even “middle-class virtues”), not the medievalism of the aristocracy (4, 6, 9, 10, 17-19, 21, 25, 31, 37, 38).  There was no counter-revolution and no civil war; weak bourgeois institutions simply collapsed, and Hitler and Mussolini presented themselves to fill the void.  Conservatives left the Nazi government after six months (19).

      Mosse is politically allied to the pluralists and pragmatists of the moderate center (many of whom were intrigued with Italian Fascism during the 1930s) and who have abandoned the open-ended processes and unpredictable outcomes of liberal nationalism, instead redefining American nationality on the basis of a mosaic of rooted ethnic groups; i.e., they are ready to play ball inside the fences erected by élites.  With intellectuals like Talcott Parsons and Henry A. Murray, the moderate nationalists have recommended that the state rely on the manipulation of symbols to enforce “integration” and “national unity” while simultaneously denouncing the tyrannical animal called mass politics!

     Of course, as Mosse also realized, one problem with the formulation of a clear-cut Nazi radical conservatism or reaction [25] was Hitler’s desire to bring railroads, improved tools, and “welcoming farms” to central Europe; and, like other eugenicists, Hitler believed he was scientific, critical, and independent, following the truth wherever it might lead.  No less than the Burkean conservatives (including “socialists” like Karl Pearson, then the Fabians), the weaving, quilting Hitler wanted modernity and progress without the loss of a stable national/ethnic identity: capitalism without tears, slavery without guilt.  Sentimental Christians and Jews were de trop.

 [Hitler, Table-Talk, Oct. 15, 1941:]  Inflation is not caused by increasing the fiduciary circulation.  It begins on the day when the purchaser is obliged to pay, for the same goods, at higher sum than that asked the day before.  At that point, one must intervene.  Even to Schacht, I had to begin by explaining this elementary truth: that the essential cause of the stability of our currency was to be sought for in our concentration camps.  The currency remains stable when the speculators are put under lock and key.  I also had to make Schacht understand that excess profits must be removed from economic circulation….All these things are simple and natural.  The only thing is, one musn’t let the Jew stick his nose in.  The basis of Jewish commercial policy is to make matters incomprehensible for a normal brain.  People go into ecstasies of confidence before the science of the great economists.  Anyone who doesn’t understand is taxed with ignorance!  At bottom, the only object of all these notions is to throw everything into confusion (65-66).

 [Hitler, Nov. 5, 1941:]  The Jew is the incarnation of egoism…The Jew has talent for bringing confusion into the simplest matters, for getting everything muddled up…The Jew makes use of words to stultify his neighbors. And that’s why people make them professors….

     If the Jew weren’t kept presentable by the Aryan, he’d be so dirty he couldn’t open his eyes.  We can live without the Jews, but they couldn’t live without us.  When the European realizes that, they’ll all become simultaneously aware of the solidarity that binds them together.  The Jew prevents this solidarity.  The Jew owes his livelihood to the fact that this solidarity does not exist (119-120).

[Hitler, Feb. 3-4, 1942; Hitler identifies with heretics; Jews have instigated the “collective madness” of witch hunts carried out by organized Christianity:]  A Jew was discovered to whom it occurred that if one presented abstruse ideas to non-Jews, the more abstruse these ideas were, the more the non-Jews would rack their brains to try to understand them.  The fact of having their attention fixed on what does not exist must make them blind to what exists.  An excellent calculation on the Jew’s part.  So the Jew smacks his thighs to see how his diabolic strategem has succeeded.  He bears in mind that if his victims suddenly became aware of these things, all Jews would be exterminated.  But, this time, the Jews will disappear from Europe.

     The world will breathe freely and recover its sense of joy, when this weight is no longer crushing its shoulders (288).


                [1] See fn. below, Nazi Ideology Before 1933.

               [2] Henry A. Turner, Jr. ed. Hitler—Memoirs of a Confidant (Yale UP, 1985): 69-72. Otto Wagener “was a prominent oficial in the Nazi Party with close ties to Adolf Hitler from the autumn of 1929 until the summer of 1933. Wagener served as chief of staff for the storm troop auxiliary, the S.A.; headed the  Economic Policy Section of the party’s national executive (Reichsleitung); worked on special assignment for Hitler in Berlin; headed the party’s Economic Policy Office during the early months of the Third Reich; and briefly served as commissar for the economy.” [ix]

                [3] See the writings of Nation editor Cary McWilliams or the speeches of Michael Parenti.

                [4] Though he distances himself from Marxist explanations for Nazism/fascism as the rule of monopoly capital, Ian Kershaw does see entrepreneurship as a prominent value of Nazism. See The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives, Fourth edition (London: Arnold, 2000): 67. “The mammoth profits of the major concerns were no incidental by-product of Nazism, whose philosophy was closely tied in with provision of a free hand for private industry and eulogization of the entrepreneurial spirit.”

                [5] Table Talk, May 16, 1944, 720; but Hitler also admired Uncle Tom’s Cabin!  Could it be because the freed slaves were to be repatriated in Africa?

              [6] [From my letter to an historian of madness:] I’ve started to read the short book on Hitler and power by Ian Kershaw, and was fascinated to see that he follows a Weberian model of the charismatic leader casting a spell on the nationalized masses, and notes, without explanation, that Hitler sees everything in black and white, vulgarly simplifying complex historical events…And there is not a word about German Romanticism, or Herder, and only unexplained mentions of the volkisch Right. Hitler is treated as the man of the mob, its embodiment even, an outsider and autodidact. So for these conservative writers (like Kershaw), Hitler is fascinating as the encapsulated horror of five centuries of lower-class hubris. And the lower orders really are outsiders to the empyrean realms of traditional elites, are they not? 

                [7] For examples of German irrationality in confusing capitalists and communists, See J.P. Stern, Hitler: The Fuehrer and the People (U.C. Press,1975): 80; Arno Mayer, Why Did The Heavens Not Darken? (Pantheon, 1988): 92; Jeffrey Alexander and Chaim Seidler-Feller, “False Distinctions and Double Standards: The Anatomy of Antisemitism at UCLA,” Tikkun, Jan-Feb 1992, 12-14.  For the latter, genocide was waged initially against assimilated German Jews; it was not about class, rather “nonrational, psychological, and symbolic causes were more important causes of antisemitism than many had once believed.”  The crazy German explanation permeates New Left culture, see Ellen Willis’ well-known article on the myth of the powerful Jew, Village Voice, 9/3/79.  The oddness of the Germans in confusing capitalists and communists seems to be taken for granted by nearly every Jewish scholar I have consulted. See also Louis Harap, who applies the same formula to the Populists: “For Donnelly, the Jews were the preternaturally clever men who were both the money power and the brains of the revolutionary resistance to that power. (This was an example of the polar stereotyping that was to become more common in the twentieth century, culminating in the canard that the Jews were not only the banker- capitalists who were impoverishing the people, but also the leaders of the Bolsheviks, who were leading man into a subhuman state.” Louis Harap, The Image of the Jew in American Literature (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1974), 428. But evangelical Catholics in the 1930s were attacking materialistic civilizations (i.e., rational, secular society): Capitalism and Bolshevism had similarly elevated “natural man.”

     More recently, Saul Friedländer creates a set of opposites that are not antitheses: Referring both to rhetorical strategies in both Mein Kampf and the film The Eternal Jew, and noting that “images of superhuman control typically gives way to the second one, subhuman threats of contamination, microbial infection, spreading pestilence,” he writes, “Images of superhuman power and subhuman pestilence are contrary representations, but Hitler attributed both to one and the same being, as if an endlessly changing and endlessly mimetic force had launched a constantly shifting offensive against humanity.

“Many of the images, not only in Hitler’s vision of the Jew but also in Nazi anti-Semitism generally, seem to converge in such constant transformations. These images are the undistorted echo of past representations of the Jew as endlessly changing and endlessly the same, a living dead, either a ghostly wanderer or a ghostly ghetto inhabitant. Thus the all-pervasive Jewish threat becomes in fact formless and unrepresentable; as such it leads to the most frightening phantasm of all: a threat that looms everywhere, that, although it penetrates everything, is an invisible carrier of death, like poison gas spreading over the battlefields of the Great War.” In Nazi Germany and the Jews Volume 1, The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (New York:  HarperCollins, 1997): 101-102. Friedländer begins the quoted paragraph by criticizing Hitler’s view of the Jewish conspiracy as implying “a stupefied, hypnotized mass of peoples completely at the mercy of the Jewish conspiracy,” but is he offering a similarly irrationalist explanation as “in fact formless and unrepresentable”? Although Friedländer describes “The Eternal Jew” exhibition of 1937 (p.253-54), an exhibition that presented “racially typical” images of Jews, he does not go on to review the Christian myth of the Wandering Jew (also  der ewige Jude) in all its variants; variants that suggest the wandering Jew as having the characteristics of the return of the repressed; i.e., the facts of the material world that cannot be successfully repressed, but that return in distorted and threatening forms that must be controlled or eliminated for the sake of social harmony.

                [8] Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Executioners, p.40. Cf. Ivan Illich, KPFK broadcast with Jerry Brown, April 5, 1996.  Class societies beset by political conflict (hence structurally discouraging friendship) arise from the artificial manipulation of needs and desires in the modern world.  Overstimulating music (whatever departed from quieting Gregorian chants) have contributed to [anomie].  Illich participates in the ongoing luxury debate, argued against materialism and on behalf of politeia.

                [9] See Gregory Bateson, “Morale and National Character,” Civilian Morale, Second Yearbook of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, ed. Goodwin Watson (Reynal and Hitchcock, 1942): 71-91; Ruth Benedict, Race and Racism, 1942, 163: “If we are to make good use of the great powers of education in combating racism, two goals should be kept clearly distinct.  On the one hand, it is desirable to teach in the regular social studies the facts of race and of the share of different races in our civilization.  On the other hand, it is necessary to hold up ideals of a functioning democracy; it is necessary to help children to understand the mutual interdependence of different groups; it is necessary to encourage comparison of our social conditions with conditions that are better than ours as well as with those that are worse.”  Of course, the idea that race yields other than superficial physical differences is denied throughout, so why is she so insistent on maintaining race as an analytic category?  Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies: Psychoanalyzing the White Terror (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1989) takes the same “moderate” position, defining its gentle, poetic, pacifist, fragment-loving antifascism against totalitarianism: both militarist (armored) Right and bourgeois scientific hyper-intellectual (armored) Left (including Marx and Freud).  Unlike these avowedly feminist theorists, the fascist type loathes the people he mobilizes (this is the conservative view of Hitler as bad Jew).

                [10] Cf. Meinecke, German Catastrophe, 72-73: “Hitler wanted to overtrump the bourgeois, class-egotistical nationalism of his heavy-industry patrons and money providers, and also the Marxism of the Russian bolshevists, which he attacked with special zeal and which wanted to condemn the bourgeoisie to extinction.  He therefore seized upon the idea that the creation of a new fruitful folk community need not rest upon the one-sided victory of the one or the other of the social forces contending against one another–that the natural groupings of society did not have to be unceremoniously destroyed–but that they must be steered around and educated to serve a community which included them all.  Hitler’s undertaking seemed to promise more continuity with the traditions and values of the existing bourgeois culture than the radical new edifice of bolshevism.  With this idea he bribed a wide circle of citizens.  The working class, he intended, should be inspired with the full pride that their productive work merited and thereby lose all their inferiority complexes which sprang from the beginning of the class struggle.  The same fundamental idea of nurturing the special pride of the professional classes and amalgamating them with the all-embracing community was also extended to the peasantry.  There was no lack of specious enticements for all classes–celebrations, festivals, and so forth…[To combat liberalism’s amorphousness, Hitler created] those youth organizations which were expected to give the whole coming generation uniform basic conceptions and at the same time to satisfy the natural impulses of youth.”

                [11] See editorial, “Psycho-analysis and Faith,” Times Literary Supplement, May 27, 1939, 313, quoted in Freud Without Hindsight: Reviews of his Work 1893-1939, ed. Norman Kiell (International Universities Press, 1988): 647-648: “What is perhaps most remarkable about this theory [Moses and Monotheism, that barbaric Europeans are scapegoating Jews because they (Nazis) are really anti-Christian] is that it is peculiarly Jewish in its reduction of religion to the plane of history, though this plane is conceived with a new comprehensiveness.  But unlike the similar attempt of another great and influential Jewish thinker, Karl Marx, Freud’s is based on the conviction that Jewish monotheism, and its creative development into Christianity, are definitely in the main line of human progress.”

                [12] See Norman Cohn, Warrant For Genocide (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1968).  Cf. my account of the Protocols with Leonard Dinnerstein, “Antisemitism in Crisis Times in the United States,” Anti-semitism In Times of Crisis, ed. Sander L. Gilman and Steven T. Katz (N.Y.: N.Y.U. Press, 1991): 216.  “According to the “Protocols” Jews had an affinity for Bolshevism, manipulated economic and political power, and were determined to undermine the world order.  They allegedly favored alcoholism, spread pornography, subverted Christian principles, and would no doubt take over American government and society if allowed to do so.”  The Introduction argues that religious antisemitism was secularized: “…the perversity of the Jew’s nature in betraying Christ over and over again (throughout history) becomes the biologically determined quality of the Jew which leads to the Jew’s heartless role in the rise of capitalism (or communism–take your pick)….”  The functionalist authors, themselves wedded to “identity politics,” have erased the particular threat of “Jewish” science and anthropology which found a fluid “identity” in learned experience, not tradition or the acquired instincts of national character.

                [13] See Hitler’s Secret Book (N.Y.: Grove Press, 1961, written 1928): 132, 135: “…present day Russia is anything but an anticapitalist state.  It is, to be sure, a country that has destroyed its own national economy but, neverthless, only in order to give international finance capital the possibility of an absolute control…” p.135: “…we base ourselves [!] on the hope that one day the Jewish character–and thereby the most fundamentally international capitalistic character of Bolshevism in Russia–might disappear in order to make place for a national communism, anti-capitalist on a world scale.  Then this Russia, permeated once more by national tendencies, might very well come up for consideration in terms of an alliance with Germany.” This is a very damaging quote to those who think that Nazism was not a movement of the Left, or who while deploring the right-wing direction of nationalism, make tactical alliances with national liberation movements, no matter how anti-intellectual.

                [14] Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (Harper Collins, 1991).  See pages 160-61 for Bullock’s distortion of Hitler’s attitudes toward propaganda as revealed in Mein Kampf, taking his quotes out of context and implying the canard that Hitler cynically and consistently promoted the Big Lie (to bamboozle Germans), rather than fastening such deceptions on the Big Jewish Press and British propaganda during the World War,  but the good father/good teacher Hitler was protecting the masses from the confusion that resulted from ambiguity and uncertainty. ).

                [15] Not only between capital and labor but between producers competing on the market. Whether one is a Marxist or libertarian will affect one’s evaluation of market competition.

                [16] Alfred Rosenberg, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” “The Folkish Idea of the State,” Nazi Ideology before 1933, Introduced and transl. by Barbara Miller Lane and Leila J.Rupp (Austin: University of Texas, 1978): 57, 64-65, 70-71.  These ideas should be compared to David Welch’s reading of the 1934 Nuremburg rally (as presented in Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will) in which Welch ignores Hitler’s obvious attempt to affirm labor unity with the Party after the purge of the S.A.Rohm-Strasser faction, apparently in order (for Welch) to claim the over-riding interest of establishing “the principle of leadership” (i.e., Hitler is the hypnotist lacking a coherent ideology).  However, the theme disclosed in Welch’s evidence is not leadership as domination, but merging/the rebuilding of Germany as a proletarian nation/immortality.  See David Welch, Propaganda and German Cinema 1933-1945  (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 156-157.  The lines Welch quotes that refute his own argument include “…Corpsmen. ONE PEOPLE, ONE FšHRER, ONE REICH!” ONE.  Today we are all workers together and we are working with iron… SONG. We are true patriots, our country we rebuild.  We did not stand in the trenches amidst the exploding grenades but nevertheless we are soldiers. VARIOUS..down with the Red Front and reaction. ALL. You are not dead, you live in Germany.  HITLER. My comrades, you have now presented yourself to me and the whole German people in this way for the first time.  You are representatives of a great ideal.  We know that for millions of our countrymen work will no longer be a lonely occupation but one that gathers together the whole of our country.  No longer will anybody in Germany consider manual labor as lower than any other kind of work.  The time will come when no German will be able to enter the community of this nation without having first passed through your community.  Remember that not only are the eyes of hundreds of thousands in Nuremberg watching, but the whole of Germany is seeing you for the first time.  You are Germany and I know that Germany will proudly watch its sons marching forward into the glorious future….”

     Cf. the introduction to the screening of Triumph of the Will, on public television, 9/17/92.  Film critic Michael Medved explained that the world’s greatest culture had succumbed to monstrous madness; the thrust of the propaganda was put vaguely as Hitler the Savior’s unification of Germany in response to the S.A. purge, the only source of divisiveness Medved mentioned.  The film was so compelling, he said, that only clips could be shown in Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series.  The issue of Nazi Germany’s pseudo-proletarian identity was entirely evaded by Medved, yet it was the principle theme of the film, with the frequent reiteration of Germany’s classless and casteless new social structure (at the same time legitimating the leadership of the most racially fit fighting minority that had selflessly brought the revolution to this stage).  In fact, the S.A. was not a source of division, but the stronghold of “left” populists who had demanded a völkisch, anticapitalist revolution that would abolish class divisions to restore racial unity; it was always the materialist bourgeoisie, Marxists and Jews who intruded, not the S.A. splitting the country.  I found the two hour film soporific; the claim that it is brilliant and irresistible supports the thesis that Hitler successfully deployed propaganda to put one over on the German people.

                [17] See F.O.Matthiessen, American Renaissance (Oxford U.P., 1941); From The Heart of Europe (Oxford U.P.,1948): 182-183.  See Lord James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol.II (N.Y.: Macmillan, 1891): 275-276, 278, 281-82, for a more ambivalent account of American [Chosen People]: “If you ask an intelligent citizen why he so holds [incorrect majorities will be persuaded of the right], he will answer that truth and justice are sure to make their way into the minds and consciences of the majority.  This is deemed an axiom, and the more readily so deemed, because truth is identified with common sense, the quality which the average citizen is most confidently proud of possessing.  This feeling shades off into another, externally like it, but at bottom distrust–the feeling not only that the majority, be it right or wrong, will and must prevail, but that its being the majority proves it to be right.  This feeling appears in the guise sometimes of piety and somtimes of fatalism.  Religious minds hold–you find the idea underlying many books and hear it in many pulpits–that Divine Providence has specially chosen and led the American people to work out a higher type of freedom and civilization than any other state has yet attained, and that this great work will surely be brought to a happy issue by the protecting hand which has so long guided it (276).”

                [18] Walter Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report (Basic Books, 1972): 102-103. Murray, op.cit.

                [19] Alex Bein (cited above) relies on Alan Bullock and the Langer report in his presentation of Hitler’s personality.  The influence of the crypto-Tories in American Studies is the terrain of my book on the Melville revival.  One of the central debates in American history surfaces in an essay by Barbara J. Fields, “Ideology and Race in American History,” Region, Race and Reconstruction, ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (N.Y.: Oxford U.P., 1982): 143-177.  This subtly argued essay challenged the New Left/American Studies interpretation of white supremacy (not class conflict) as the motor of American history.

         [20] Compare to Sternhell, Ze’ev. Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, translated by David Meisel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Pre-fascist ideology in France set the stage for the Vichy Revolution in 1940-41. Revolutionary syndicalism and radical nationalism of the late 19th century were fused in the 1920s and 1930s to create a novel, mass based, youth-inspired revolt against materialism and decadence blamed on liberalism, democracy and reformed Marxism (i.e. social democracy). For the prefascists, the enemy was finance capital and monopoly, seen as Jewish, American and British. The deracinated individual was the source of decadence, and the compensatory discourse was corporatist/communitarian and meant to integrate the proletariat into the nation through a strong planning state, coterminous with the nation. Emphasized family, work (in tradition of medieval guilds), and region. Did not eliminate profit or private property. Neither ideology nor economic crisis alone could have created this revolutionary departure from the principles of 1789; hence the implicit warning to other social democrats: don’t allow economic crisis to develop: this ideology is still extant. Sternhell somewhat plays down the antisemitic, Christian character of the sources of the ideology, though he does not deny it. France was “impregnated” by the ideology of fascism (a revolution of the spirit: modern, aesthetic, and moral, exalting blood and soil, instinct, force, violence, the healthy body, sacrifice, and monkish asceticism, futurism, modern architecture of Le Corbusier, and Freud). The nonconformist journalist politicos in the 1930s penetrated popular culture; only a few of them, however, explicitly embraced nazism and fascism, though they came very close. Henri De Man the principle theorist of an idealist Marxism. (Sternhell does not consider historical materialism to be idealist.)

    This book is directed against Marxist interpretations of fascism as a reaction by monopoly capital to working class militancy in a period of economic crisis. Sternhell thanks A. James Gregor (a self-described fascist and biographer of Mussolini) in the acknowledgments.(vii) and places five of his books in the bibliography. Also Mosse’s General Theory of Fascism, and Masses and Man.

    Sterhell does not explain how Freud could contribute to fascist ideology, given that Freud did not advocate unleashing the instincts, as did Jung, for whom the unconscious, home of the racial ancestry and spirits, was a source of creativity.

                [21] Cf. Erik Levi, Music In The Third Reich (N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press, 1994): 124, commenting on the paradoxical Nazi views of technological progress misted over with anti-industrial romanticism. , a conflict that was apparent in confused music policies.

                [22] See The Crisis of the German Ideology (1962), and Toward The Final Solution (1980).

                [23] George L. Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses: Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany From the Napoleonic Wars Through the Third Reich (Howard Fertig, 1975).

                [24] See Mosse, “Introduction: A General Theory of Fascism,” International Fascism, ed. George L. Mosse (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979): 1-41.

                [25] Mosse’s Nazi Culture was criticized by readers as ignoring the role of technology in the Third Reich, he reports.  See also Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967)

October 31, 2009

Blacks, Jews, Aryans, and all that Pierrot jazz

Filed under: 1 — clarelspark @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

Image (79)

September 21, 2009

Managerial Psychoanalysis: Jung, Henry A. Murray, and sadomasochism (1)

 

Image (86)

progressive psychiatry in SURVEY GRAPHIC, 1947

This is the first of a three part essay on Jung and some of his followers, whose influence in America is probably underestimated; for instance he thrives in “New Age” thinking. The criticisms I lodge against Jung and the Jungians apply to “adjustment”-oriented ego psychology  and describe the eroticism favored by middle-managers I have studied. Since Dr. Henry A. Murray was one of the chief Melville Revivers, and identified personally with Melville, I have added materials taken from Murray’s essays on personology, as edited and collected by the late Edwin S. Shneidman, but also poems and sketches by other practitioners of sadomasochism. (These will appear in the blogs that follow this one.) The picture that finally emerges is fiercely anti-Freudian, misogynistic, and antisemitic.  Teachers and mental health professionals are asked to read these disturbed and disturbing materials, especially as Murray’s sadomasochism has been described in books by Forrest Robinson and Claire Douglas.

SONS AND MOTHERS

     ” Marxism lies in ruins on the ground. It had to die in order that German labor might find its way to freedom, that our nation might again be a nation. Where formerly Marxist songs of hate resounded, there shall we proclaim brotherhood to the workers. Where once the machine guns of the Reds scattered bullets, there we will make a breach for class freedom; where once a spirit of materialism triumphed there we, resting on the eternal right of our nation to freedom, labor and bread, will proclaim the union of all classes, races and callings in a new glowing idealism before our own nation and before all the world.” [Goebbels, quoted Survey Graphic, Nov. 1933, 549, 550]

     “Another dimension of Lasswell’s achievement, and one largely missed by his readers and commentators, is its radical and even revolutionary commitment to democratic goals. Because Lasswell has always used a special vocabulary that most of his political science colleagues have never bothered to understand, and because, further, this vocabulary is notably free of emotive, polemical, and ideological expressions, Lasswell has been frequently misperceived to be an antidemocratic élitist and a reactionary who would do for and to society what B.F. Skinner has done for and to the pigeons….

     “The Lasswellian conception of democracy has always stressed the widest possible shaping and sharing of those values that promote or exemplify human dignity… To be sure, Lasswell has not identified the particular institutional transformations that would promote such values, but neither did Rousseau indicate the political system required for the operation of the “general will,” nor Marx produce a blueprint for the political economy that would follow the revolution. The fact is, we are so habituated by sloganizing about political and social change that we fail to recognize advocacy of such change unless it is accompanied by a certain barricade rhetoric. Hence the full import has been generally missed of what Lasswell means by political psychiatry and integrative politics. [Arnold A. Rogow, “A Psychiatry of Politics,” (University of Chicago Press: 1969), 141,142]

      “May Day came, with its processions of boys and girls, men and women, singing as they marched to Tempelhof, where they gathered, the largest single audience ever assembled in Germany, to hear the labor speech of the Leader. We listened to it over the radio with a little group of countrymen, all full of eagerness to know what the Nazi labor program would be, how they would deal with unemployment and with the great trades-unions. We got nothing but what we disrespectful Americans call ballyhoo. It was the sort of speech that would be made before a Civic Federation audience or a Manufacturer’s Association: flowery sentiments about the brotherhood of workers with brawn and workers with brain, about commonweal instead of individual profit, about a united country where employer and employe[e] march hand in hand for the Fatherland. There was nothing that could be called a program, a definite plan, and our little group of Americans marvelled that Hitler would dare to so disappoint his waiting followers.

     “But the next day his real plan was carried out without warning. The trades-unions were dissolved, a leader of labor was appointed (the Ley whom the labor representatives in Geneva refused to recognize), the “principle of leadership” was substituted for democratic majority rule, the funds and properties of the trades unions were taken over….

     ” I did my best to discover what the policy of the Nazis with regard to labor really was. The whole world has known for years that Hitler’s movement was financed by the great industrialists on his promise to drive out Communism and break up the trades-unions, but on the other hand we were told that many workers had been won to his cause by his promise to make Germany truly Socialistic, a country of equal opportunity, where there should be neither rich nor poor.” [Alice Hamilton, Survey Graphic, 1933, 550. Hamilton, a progressive, worked in industrial medicine. Her analysis of Nazism remains the view of Marxist-Leninists blaming monopoly capitalism, and ignores Hitler’s “Third Way” between communism and capitalism, resonant with American progressivism.]   

      “The era of campus violence seems to have passed. Students are no longer locking up administrators, burning buildings, or engaging in strikes. But the crisis in higher education is not over. Many colleges and universities are in financial trouble. Many students are still dissatisfied with some aspects of higher education. Professional pride is not keeping faculty members from joining unions.” [The Management and Financing of Colleges (The Committee for Economic Development: 1973) p.7]

      Throughout my study of the Melville Revival, I have dwelled upon postwar psychological warfare and preventive politics to suggest the relevant context for “the Melville boom” of the 1940s.  Although Ahab’s usefulness to Cold War ideologues has been noted,[1] the iconography of Ahab has not been linked to a particular Tory diagnosis of “romantic” fascism as an excrescence of democracy, of autodidacticism run amok, as the inevitable outcome of forces unleashed in the American and French Revolutions.  Nor has the Melville Revival been viewed as one episode in the perennial struggle within universities and the media to define and circumscribe radicalism in America, to set limits to the wandering Protestant imagination, to the mobility and penetration ascribed to the Romantic Wandering Jew.  Nativist radicals (Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, Henry A. Murray, all admirers of Carlyle and Jung) have rejected “Marx” and “Freud”[2] as alien, dogmatic, deterministic, and divisive; the “class hatred” jacobinical Marxism spawns is held to be the product of heartless ratiocination.  Murray, Lasswell, and their circle (Mumford, Walter Langer, et al) have reproduced Melville’s most antimodern attitudes while claiming a vanguard, emancipating identity for themselves.  Murray, for instance, was offended by Melville’s sympathy with Melville’s character Pierre, in my opinion, not because Melville so nakedly attacked his parents, but because he exposed the family double bind: the structural conflict between truth and order suggesting that pluralist remedies could not harmonize classes and other antagonistic groups; that “virtuous expediency” was not an acceptable option for moralists torn up by the contradiction between Christian theory and practice.

     Although “pluralism” was once our official ideology, an exclusionary organicism called “multiculturalism” is enforced by corporatists who define and enforce “mental health”: the repressed alternative is free-thinking liberalism made efficacious through self-knowledge and social knowledge, through the retrieval of an accurate history.  Therefore, in practice, “pluralism” is hegemonic: gender, ethnic, and “racial” (or other “interest-group”) politics are legitimate, while class politics are Jewish and toxic unless populist, in which case the enemy is the International Jewish Mother grinding the face of the poor.  Unmanageable conflicts (today called “stress”) originate within individuals (no longer “victims”), who then are the major locus of reform.  The mind-managers have exploited the findings of depth psychology, co-opting it to diagnose and control potential dissidents.  They replicate Melville’s consciousness at its most defended and paranoid, that is, where he projects forbidden rage onto class enemies who must then be controlled.  These alluring villains are 1. the insatiably demanding and perfectionistic moral mother (usually masked by the scientific Jew: together they represent the Market) and 2. the mob generated or aroused by the hot brain and cold body of the Jewish scientist/moral mother/demagogue.  But this defense (projective identification as termed by object-relations theorists) cannot be acknowledged as such; Melville, a “great American writer,” like American élites should be manly, i.e., finally rational and in control, even as he drowns.  His obvious problems (both artistic and personal) are either delimited and suppressed or attributed to the aggressions and deficiencies of irrational women (who control the family) and other philistines (who control the market).

     However, Melville’s achievement may have been limited and distorted by his class position; his confusing switches may express the sado-masochistic social relations of middle-managers, of the professionals and intellectuals whose (partial) freedom of expression is contingent upon their willingness to dominate “the lower orders” on behalf of their superiors in the caste/class system; who “excel” by switching off the connection between idea and emotion, art and life, theory and practice, diagnosing Icarus instead.  Such ethereality leads to promotions: the reformed over-reacher enters a higher class as a molten disembodiment, a skylark.  Rescuing the confusing Lover/ Mother/Jew of the Home he has angered and worried, another celebrated poet (Sir John Collings Squire) privately recounted the submission and impassibility that suggests metamorphosis:[3]

 “Beloved, do not fret or knit your brow,/  Never be feared for me,/  You have forced my heart to red eruption now: I am full of fire and free.

 It hurt me in that shaded room, you were/ So logical and blind,/  It hurt me in the autumn woods, you were/ So lovely and so kind.

 Whatever I see of you hurts me, visions come/ Of you, chameleon-wise,/ Surprising, expected, voluble and dumb-/ Oh, enigmatic eyes!

 Go on as you’ve begun/ With voice and form and face,/ Do what you will with me, for at their height,/ Great joy, great pain embrace.

 Hurt me, oh, hurt me, press the ichor out,/ Torture the thing that’s I,/ Let me but bear my destined fruit, I’ll shout/ With joy, and happy die.

 There was a time when you, with eyes averse,/ Said that I was a fool:/ I was hurt and glad: you’ll never hear me curse,/ Flogged in Apollo’s school!

 I cannot any longer separate/ One prompting from another,/ Or yet distinguish mate from inspiring mate,/ Joy sister, and pain brother.

 Everything pains, and everything exalts,/ The world’s ablaze with light,/ I do not think of merits or of faults,/ Even of wrong or right–

 Only I live for Poetry, only I long/ To fructify; only I cling/ To this conviction, now so sure and strong,/ That I was born to sing. ” [4]  

     For the ultra-conservative poet and critic, J.C. Squire (a British supporter of Italian Fascism), the incestuous intermingling of pain and pleasure produced numbness, then enlightenment: an object (“thing”) became subject (“I”) under “torture”; Squire was uplifted to a realm beyond good and evil, beyond pain, perhaps beyond the scrutiny of the hypercritical and constantly changing parent.  At the poem’s climax he is freed from competitors, blissfully confident of his identity as sole legitimate creator (or is he? there is more than a touch of irony in the strange ending).  Perhaps other fascist sympathizers have felt the same longing to “press the ichor out” to achieve a similar transcendence, but then are equally uneasy with their victories.

     To the extent that middle management refuses to know itself and evolve, it perforce must be either protofascist or ineffectual when faced with authoritarian challenges from the Right.  Refusing painful and embarrassing (because delegitimating) self-explorations, the social thought of the Melville Revivers is situated among Terror-Gothic responses to mass politics; as political Symbolists they may not analyze fascism except as irrational: their anti-intellectualism, revealed in a root-and-branch rejection of “science” is defined as entirely rational.  For the remainder of this section, we will examine the failure of Murray and other authoritarian psychologists (either Jungians or “ego psychologists”) to assess the enemy, protect life, and advance cultural freedom.

     Like Picasso, Murray resorted to primitivist escape, apparently from “civilized” women, but more likely from the rationalism, perseverance, and indignation associated with the working class brain.  Such irrationalism in high places has had consequences for public policy today.  One example was spelled out in my exegesis of the Langer report psychoanalyzing Hitler for the OSS in 1943, and made public in its “original” form in 1972 as a response to the “hippie-fascists” of the 1960s and 1970s, and as a demonstration that psychohistory could prevent errors in managing relations with other recent and future dictators.  The mostly favorable newspaper reviews suggest that antifascist intellectuals will not read a code they should have mastered, for instance that Langer’s portrait of Hitler resembled that of the German agent, George Sylvester Viereck, who, in 1923, imagined the explosive Hitler as Pierrot: androgynous, decadent and a Jew; that is, a mask for the New Woman (or woman with book), breeder of the new Hun (Eve/Cain: Ahab/working class).  The treason of the intellectuals reflects an ideological imperative to explain Nazism as the revolt of the masses, invidiously contrasted to the American people’s community managed by corporatist liberals, for instance, in the Committee for Economic Development.  A comparative structural analysis would have taken the heat off psychopathic Germany, making fascism one common response to economic crisis, and not simply identical with “monopoly capitalism” (the latter a populist or Stalinist formulation). 

    As I have been using the word, fascism is a cultural revolution seeking to reinstate authoritarian social relations and predictable outcomes in open-ended liberal, rationalist, democratic societies moving forward by educating its populace in the ways of critical thought and universalist ethics.  New Leftist critiques of mass culture should be compared to the nativist radicalism of Murray and his circle; there is an intertwined anti-Semitism and misogyny in recent radical scholarship that has not been identified, and which cripples attempts to diagnose structural determinants of cultural pathology.  This study should be contrasted with other analyses of censorship that see cultural pluralism as the norm, repression as aberrant, and invariably produced by extremists of the right and left; extremists whose type is Melville the frontiersman, the desperado defined against impartial liberal élites.

     Bartleby’s mysticism, immobility, and self-exile may express the remorse that followed Melville’s wicked, contaminating identification with the atheistic, materialistic, revolutionary bourgeoisie and their incendiary offspring, the combination whose deadly ambition has caused the absolutist Good Father to disappear: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions in life, and his relations with his kind,” observed Marx and Engels in a provocation of 1848.  “Where dat old man?” Melville asked in the voice of his infant son Malcolm, throughout his European travels of 1849.  But this parent never existed: he was always a phantom, perhaps what the child/apostate fears he demolished, the victim of his little (short Margothian) “gibes.”  Melville presented the type in his portrait of the Indian-hater, Colonel Moredock, an Ahab (or a Pierre, later a Nathan) of the backwoods: self-reliant, instructed by the unmediated contact with nature, and obsessed with avenging the massacre of his family, but unsated, finally killing Indians for the art and craft of it.  The frontiersman Moredock and his disease (monomania) were the predictable outcome of a world deprived of good kings: that is, patriarchs who obeyed God by fulfilling their paternal obligations toward their dependents, in this case enforcing an orderly western, i.e., Whiggish, expansion that would not arm and inflame the people.

      Only a mask can represent the non-existent “moderate man”; Picasso’s seated Pierrot, like Nietzsche’s wanderer, empty, a spectator and a nihilist, drops the mask to beg for “another mask.”  For Dr. Henry A. Murray (1893-1988), a “moderate conservative” strategically masked as a “left-wing democrat,” the longing for a tolerant father to protect him from the perfectionism of his mother represents a broader, equally hopeless, social yearning for a unifying myth to reconcile groups or forces that seem increasingly intent on annihilating one another; it is the imminent disaster that some of Melville’s characters thought they recognized in the class polarizations of the Civil War and the Gilded Age that followed.  For the merchant and proto-Christian Socialist Rolfe in Clarel (1876, and held by many Melvilleans to be Melville’s mouthpiece), the antagonists in one corner were all-too-liberal protestant pluralists who had abandoned the sane children of the vital center and who, like Derwent (a Matthew Arnold type), were fellow-travelling with the irreverent “Hegelised” German-Jewish geologist Margoth (“such a Jew!”); and in the other corner, their opposition: the deceptively reformist but ever tyrannical Catholic Church.  Where was the good father of the Center who would restrain the predatory side of capitalism that was driving workers into suicidal opposition?[5]


     [1] Donald Pease in Ideology in Classic American Literature, ed. Bercovich  and Jehlen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

    [2] The errors and weaknesses of either figure are pounced upon to discredit institutional analysis, historical memory, and introspection, while what is valuable and original may be annexed to projects at odds with their goals.

     [3] Here is a montage J. C. Squire preserved in his scrapbook: The headline reads “We Nominate for the Hall of Fame”:  Underneath the romantic photo of the black-haired, suited, pipe-smoking, calmly gazing young Squire, the caption reads: “Because his parodies have been as critical and amusing as any of our generation; because he is one of the best known of the Georgian poets; because as a critic he is the most able young man in England, devoted to upholding conservative standards; because he is the  editor of the London Mercury, which under his direction has become the most successful literary magazine in England: and finally because he is now, happily, on a lecture tour of the United States.” Below, Squire pasted two cartoons: one apparently of G. K. Chesterton heading toward the Statue of Liberty on a miniature ocean liner; the other purporting to be “a study by an American girl of eleven” entitled “Do You Recognize Her?” The woman is a frightening figure whose attributes are literally present: “Raven hair, star-like eyes, arched eyebrows, seashell ears, rosy cheeks, pearly teeth, cherry lips, swan-like neck, and lily-white hands go to make the picture.”  (The eyes are actually represented by stars of David: are they the eyes that detect frauds?) I am certain that Squire did not recognize himself in the laudatory remarks quoted above. His letters and notes, his alcoholism, reveal the same self-loathing and sense of inauthenticity that I have found in all the Symbolists under examination.

            [4] Ms. “They Learn in Suffering,” J.C. Squire.  The last four verses were crossed-out.

           [5] See George Mosse on nationalization of the masses, Lasswell’s technocratic military élites; Murray’s call for an eclectic sacred text to replace the Bible; Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1940s.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.