YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 27, 2017

The Bret Weinstein affair: whither the Democratic Party?

The fruits of MC at Evergreen

Occasionally, some pundit will chastise the Democratic Party for not focusing on its future after some elements of its base (especially the white working class in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan) decamped to Trump in 2016. Sadly, this apparently “rational” project (see HRC at Wellesley) is devoid of recent history.

Like the failed candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New Left youngsters from the 1960s and 1970s are now aging, and they are predictably taking their place as professors or as leading editors and politicos/personalities in the mass media. Don’t we remember how the Viet Nam war shaped their lives, making them primarily “anti-imperialists,” and to a lesser extent, warriors on behalf of the working class as were their parents in the 1930s?

And since the New Deal/progressive movement co-opted and defanged what is now termed “the extreme Left” (or “the hard Left”), their liberal professors (e.g., at the prestigious colleges where student strikes/protests took place: UC Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard), coddled their antiwar, civil rights oriented students, reproducing themselves as good social democrats, sympathetic to Eurocommunism, thus technically still “liberal.”

To the amazement of the real Left, the demands of the (tamed) radicals for “inclusion” signified a renewed commitment to segregation by race and gender. The manner by which “liberals” included repressed groups through the cultural term “multiculturalism” did not prompt reflection on key events since the Russian revolution of October 1917. Only a few of the sophisticated radicals were more interested in social movements since that earthquake (the Soviet coup) shook the globe, and they were not easily duped. But they too had their sponsors in academe and in the press, so a few of them are now on the commanding heights of “culture.”

Ever since the Popular Front took over https://clarespark.com/2012/07/19/communist-ideas-go-mainstream/, it has been hard to tell the difference between factions of the so-called “Left.” And so it seems that one of the “very progressive” pack is Bret Weinstein, the biology professor at Evergreen State College, who has been charged with “white supremacy” by some black and brown students (probably cultural nationalists, surely not internationalist communists). https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/05/26/students-demand-firing-of-college-professor-who-objected-to-event-that-kicks-white-people-off-campus/.

Bret Weinstein in playful mood

Professor Weinstein, were he a true Leftist (hence had been instructed in the history of dissent, not just nomenclature in evolutionary biology), would have seen this coming. http://inference-review.com/article/on-being-a-fish.

September 3, 2014

Solidarity on “the Left” vs. disunity on “the Right”

conflictmanagementPOTUS delivered his usual mixed message today, first vowing to smash ISIS, then softening his stance to one of “managing conflict.” This blog is about why the Right can’t unify to defeat such typical ‘switcheroos.’

All graduate students in today’s better doctoral programs are marinated in the ideology of “progressivism.” How did this come about? I have traced the origins of managerial attempts to deal with the frightening rise of the “laissez-faire” bourgeoisie that threatened to spread Jacobin-type revolution in the early years of the Industrial Revolution–not because the liberals were Jacobins, but because the early years of the Industrial Revolution, spawned by an alliance of bourgeoisie and aristocracy, suggested a revolution of the new industrial working class. Class relations in Britain were never the same again.

To review: aristocrats in England bonded with the new industrial working class (drawn from deskilled artisans and peasants) against the bourgeoisie. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/.) Disraeli’s Young England and its Christian Socialist allies provided a model for forward thinking politicians and journalists in the United States after the Civil War (the take-off period for rapid industrialization now that the agrarian South was supposedly vanquished). Enter the Progressive movement that skillfully co-opted the anti-elitist populist movement, a movement composed of small producers on the land, and directed against railroads for instance. But the progressives never stood with working class organizations or the dread specter of “proletarian internationalism”—rather, they installed “ethnicity” or “race” as the socio-economic division that mattered, erasing “class” as a category for sorting people’s interests out.

The Nation magazine moved sharply to the left in 1919, to avert bloody class warfare, but they supported populism, not communism. Their stance could not have been more elitist or counter-revolutionary. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/.) Oswald Garrison Villard’s crypto-organic conservatism or a gentleman’s version of the route to social cohesion is obvious, and no communists were taken in by his anti-capitalist fulminations.

You could say, with accuracy, that progressives and leftists hated each others’ guts until the brilliant stroke of solidarity against “fascism” in the mid-1930s that was called “the Popular Front.” Such solidarity between social democrats and hard leftists continues to exist, scandalously in my view, with social democrats controlling the discourse. For no Marxist should abandon empiricism and materialism (i.e., empiricism) to be absorbed by the alleged management of structural conflicts offered by social democrats (i.e., progressives who don’t like Progress as delivered by relatively unregulated market economies).

Hence, the confusion today over Obama’s “true” loyalties: is he a Leninist or a managerial centrist? Opinion on the Right is sharply divided, perhaps because selected pieces of New Deal reformism still exist in the upper reaches of the Republican Party, for instance in the impetus toward Medicare accomplished during the Eisenhower administration, a statist remedy that would serve as models for other reforms in Big Government, such as Obamacare marching toward “Medicare for all.”



I cannot blame the Tea Party for its animus against what appears to be the passivity of Congress in resisting the Obama administration’s apparent big lurch to the Left, but I do fault them for unnecessary sectarianism, particularly among the social conservatives who appear to have abandoned the separation of Church and State, and look to a religious revival to repair structural problems in American society, all the  while denying that there is any racism on the Right.

Contra many conservatives, “liberalism” is not a religion, but an ideology that will triumph as long as the pseudo-leftist social democratic managerial discourse dominates popular culture/public and private speech.

"Progressive rock, Italian style

“Progressive rock, Italian style

Until the hopelessly corrupt Chicago machine is dislodged, there is no stopping Big Government. Whatever the flaws of the “Republican establishment” it would serve classical liberalism well to take a lesson from the leftist playbook and practice “solidarity forever.” [Update 9-4-14: There cannot be solidarity on the Right as long as mutual hostility exists between small and big business. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/07/08/the-u-s-government-isnt-friendly-enough-to-big-business/. This argues that [New Deal reformism] favored small business over big business. This will shock many in The Tea Party.]

July 18, 2014

Sartre, existentialism, and red antisemitism

The Void Game ad

The Void Game ad

I have been reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s much lauded first novel Nausea (1938), followed by his canonical Anti-Semite and Jew (written ca. 1944).

It is difficult to imagine the younger Sartre as a future revolutionary socialist (though he presents himself, dubiously, as an anti-Stalinist) reading the novel, as compared to the wartime essay that nearly everyone quotes to the effect that society creates the Jew it needs for ideological purposes, i.e., actual Jewish behavior is irrelevant.

This blog continues the theme that I have developed on this website: it is increasingly difficult to separate social democrats from revolutionary socialists.
The early progressives made no secret of their counter-revolutionary goals, as I laid out here: https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. These conservative reformers, no less than New Dealers, were frank about their politics: proletarian internationalism was their monster, and in its place they offered a paternalistic, elite-led welfare state that would contain any hanky-panky from below.

But the Soviet Union did a sharp about face with the rise of the various (irrationalist) fascisms in Italy, Spain, and especially Germany. At first appalled by the slaughter of revolutionaries in China (see Harold Isaacs’s famous book) that prompted a sectarian assault upon “Social Fascists” after 1928, the Soviets suddenly made common cause with the bourgeoisie through Popular Front politics in 1935—as long as there were bourgeois anti-fascists, as seemed to be the case during the Depression years, and especially after prominent intellectuals took up the Loyalist cause in Spain.

Someone should have told Sartre that, for in his novel, playing the Nietzschean, perhaps, he added to the voices of the resolutely anti-bourgeois, anti-modern voices of trendy European philosophers—Husserl (?) and Heidegger to mention a few of the nihilists confronting “the death of God.” For “Roquentin” there was only the Void and the denial of progress, most importantly in the possibility of overcoming evil—the very staples of the Judeo-Christian world view (this Manichaeism is not a traditional Jewish belief: in “old-fashioned” Judaism,  humanity should seek to fix or rectify self-destructive behavior).

Roquentin, a writer, seems paranoid to me, certainly disoriented, and hostile to his own body. Here is a striking passage from the novel:
“The thing which was waiting was on the alert, it has pounced on me, it flows through me, I am filled with it. It’s nothing: I am the Thing. Existence, liberated, detached, floods over me. I exist.” (p.98, New Directions paperback, my emph.) What struck me reading this passage was his quick association between liberation and detachment. I could not help thinking of the lyrics of the old song “After You’ve Gone” (1928) which are quoted several times in the novel. It was made famous by [Jewish] Sophie Tucker (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAuCSSLC-bk), and other major pop singers, but in the novel, Sartre is moved by its imagined Jewish composer and its “Negress” songstress. (Turner Layton was not Jewish, but a black songwriter, as was his lyricist Henry Creamer (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turner_Layton.)

Layton-Creamer Goodbye Alexander

Layton-Creamer Goodbye Alexander

Sartre was born into a Catholic family, and early on in the novel, I took him for a lapsed Catholic—his world was that bleak and dessicated, while his body or Nature was that repulsive, as horrifying, perhaps as the mother figure/vagina that was the real Thing. What if he became a communist because that creed and its mystical dialectical materialism reattached him to an abstract cause that did not frighten him?

Turn now to his influential essay written during the war years in France. Usually taken to be a philosemitic tract, condemning Europe for its pervasive antisemitism, I was startled to see how he ended it with a standard communist trope: the working class understands its situation in the material world and is free of antisemitism, while it is the (muddled?) bourgeoisie that uses “the Jew” as scapegoat, to deflect petit-bourgeois (lower middle class in today’s argot) discontent away from their masked masters. Jews escape their “inauthenticity,” he claims, by reading Hegel’s “Master and Slave,” and finding authenticity in revolt against the ever antisemitic bourgeois oppressor. Through communism, antisemitism will disappear.

In rereading Sartre’s essay I was struck by his attack on mob society (shades of Hannah Arendt), and the anomie [inflicted by cities and industrialization?]. An entire flood of academics, young and old, follow the nearly identical philosophy of Emile Durkheim/the Frankfurt School/critical theory/the New Left/counter-culture mystics seeking both attachment and detachment.

One wonders how many of them are similarly on the lam from Mom and her illicit sticky power in the modern world.


June 7, 2014

Marx vs. Lenin

Masks_weird_wonderfulMany of my conservative and neocon friends on Facebook have difficulty in separating “socially responsible capitalists” from hard-core revolutionary socialists. This blog continues my rumination on The Hunger Games, but with an emphasis on the sharp differences regarding the shape of the future utopia within “the Left.” I am particularly interested in the power of the state as embodied in any kind of planning bureaucracy, as this notion of “Big Government” is under assault from the Right.

I started reading Marx while at Pacifica Radio. I was most interested in Marx’s theory of alienation (an emotion I strongly felt as a married woman), but was not aware at that time of how different the original Marxian vision was compared to Marxist-Leninism as it is called, and that became familiar to me primarily through Stalinists and Trotskyists whom I met at the radio station and in graduate school. Upon reflection, I was probably closer to Rosa Luxemburg’s Marxism, which sharply differed from the Third Worldism (Maoism) that dominates academe today. She was a strong adherent to the views of early Marx, that proposed that the socialist revolution could only come when the entire world was industrialized, and the working class sufficiently educated to take power, abolishing the exploitation and alienation that Marxists insisted was present in capitalist (classical liberal) society.

Here is a quote from The German Ideology that I found while wondering why Katniss Everdeen was so keen on hunting and gathering (see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/01/the-hunger-games-trilogy-reactionary-and-postmodern/, and note my recent discussion of Hobson’s influence on Lenin here: https://clarespark.com/2014/06/04/did-bureaucratic-rationality-cause-the-holocaust/.

[Marx:] “…as soon as the distribution of labor comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic. …”

Note that Marx’s examples all refer back to pre-capitalist stages of social organization, and are silent regarding what future work might look like, apart from the work we associate with primitive cultures. And yet a few pages on, he explains that without technological innovation, world-wide, there can be no conditions for overthrowing modern industrial exploitation and alienation:

{Marx arguing against German counter-Enlightenment philosophers:] …it is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world and by employing real means, that slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the mule and spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and…people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. “Liberation” is a historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about my historical conditions, the [development] of industry, commerce, (agri)culture, the [conditions of intercourse]….(Robert C. Tucker translation: On the relatively recent publication of this work see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_German_Ideology. The quote from early Marx suggest that he would be considered to be a Menshevik, not a Leninist.)

While still at UCLA, some undergraduates approached me to observe what they viewed as bullying in a class taught jointly by Robert Brenner and Perry Anderson, two commanding presences in the history department. Lucky me, I chanced to attend the class where the Luxemburg-Lenin-Stalin debate was covered. The issue was whether revolutionary socialists should leap-frog over capitalism and support “reactionary” liberation movements in colonized undeveloped countries, with Luxemburg arguing against such tactics, but Lenin (like Mao after him) was all for fighting [the Western oppressor], no matter how backward the society. This was surely not Marx’s vision.


“Bureaucratic centralism” is of course the preferred form of statism for the Leninist Left, while Marx was a strong advocate for the withering away of the state after a brief period of popular worker rule.

It was the genius of the progressive movement that they selectively appropriated those features of revolutionary socialism that buttressed elite rule, but in their statism, they should be associated with the “anti-imperialist” Lenin, and to a lesser extent with Marx and Luxemburg. But one should not blame conservatives for confusing New Deal liberals with communists. The Popular Front against “fascism” (i.e., the limited government of the classical liberals) made that bewilderment possible. (For more in this vein see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/21/managerial-psychiatry-jung-henry-a-murray-and-sadomasochism-1/.)

Hugo Gellert poster, 1924

Hugo Gellert poster, 1924

October 11, 2013

What do liberals want?

power1This question was asked by Roger L. Simon 10-10-13, on Facebook, perhaps flummoxed by the conduct of Congressional Democrats and POTUS. I will try to answer that question, but in no particular order.

First though we must distinguish between anticommunist social democrats and those hard Leftists who have joined the progressive movement and who may formulate many of its political and cultural positions. This separation is not easy to determine, as even the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote like a social democrat in his last books. These are Popular Front tactics, and “liberals” today are more likely to be the “moderate conservatives” of yesterday, or, as I call them, “corporatist liberals.” (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-corporatist-liberal-and-why-should-they-frighten-us/. This is the only link to prior blogs that  I will include in my overview of today’s pseudo-liberals.)

The POTUS appointment of Janet Yellin suggests Keynesian economics will rule the Fed. Even Maynard Keynes would not have approved of the promiscuous use of his demand-stimulus measures today; it was intended for the Great Depression, and many countries indulged in the bureaucratic collectivism that he sponsored during the 1930s. But Lord Keynes was a conservative economist, a point lost on today’s journalists, especially Paul Krugman.

To answer Roger L. Simon most directly, liberals advocate “social justice” through the welfare state. Since American history is a horror story as “liberals” tell it through their command of the textbook industry and school curricula, reparations are in order. Hence the preferential treatment for Green corporations, affirmative action, and separatist cultural studies departments, including “whiteness studies.”

The term cultural studies requires unpacking: Liberals abhor “the melting pot” that ostensibly turned out lookalike robots fashioned by Fordism, but advocate the furtively racialist notion of multiculturalism and the hyphenated American. The intent is to defame classical liberalism as racist, while promoting their racialist discourse as emancipating. Cultural relativism (distorted beyond recognition from its Enlightenment intent) has dissolved empiricism and science along with universally comprehended facts and cultural syncretism.

In practice Liberals have lengthened the Popular Front against Republicans. The Communist Party of the 1930s first abhorred the “social fascists” of the New Deal, but then adopted the Comintern–generated Popular Front against fascism, circa 1934-35. As late as the end of the red decade, CP writers (especially Stalinists) were blaming big business for Nazism, thus appealing to the strong (often anti-Semitic) populism and isolationism that characterized the US after the Great War. Oddly, movement conservatives sympathetic to small business are often equally anti-elitist, giving much needed ammunition to the failed Democratic Party that swears allegiance to the New Deal and the welfare state. Bereft of sound economic arguments (the New Deal failed), many liberals pursue social/cultural issues with as much zeal as movement conservatives. For instance, Democratic pols nail the Right’s supposed “war on women,” and put great energy into abortion rights, gay marriage, and “secularism.” It is my own suspicion that aggressive atheists are either agents provocateurs or convinced leftists seeing all religion as the opiate of the masses.

Many liberals don’t mind Jonah Goldberg’s best-seller Liberal Fascism. But his tirade against “the nanny state” conflates paternalism with maternalism, and in effect makes American Progressives the inspiration for European fascism. This was a mistake on Goldberg’s part, as a few academics noted, but who pays attention to these characters nowadays? The final effect is to make real American proto-fascism invisible.

Fascists opposed the labor movement and the Soviet experiment, and the forms fascism took in Europe were distinctive and historically specific. They were all movements of the Right, even though Hitler and Mussolini shared a populist past above all opposed to “laissez-faire capitalism,” and those aspects of modernity that emancipated the imagination and gave voting rights and free public education to the dreaded lower orders.

What corporatist liberals do NOT want, besides communism: Since the liberal base is composed of incoherent constituencies with widely differing demands, they cannot form a rational set of ameliorative changes. They are trapped in time, beholden to discredited ideas such as Wilsonian internationalism and the organicist rhetoric of the political family/nation.

The ideologies I have described are tackled in depth throughout this website and understood by many authors on the right, and I can only wonder why PJM’s ex- CEO Roger Simon is ever at a loss to explain “what liberals want.” Women may not know what they want in all cases, but as a writer himself, Simon must know that his opponents want to obliterate the very notion of the individual and to substitute collectivist categories for how we think of our unique, irreplaceable selves and the world. The “liberal” “will to power” (often discussed on the internet) is not power for its own sake, but “power” for well-meant, but finally utopian, objectives, as ”…experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny…..” (Thomas Jefferson, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch18s11.html) .


June 30, 2013

The origins of “political correctness” (2)

political-correctness2[Update, 9-20-13: rules against “hate speech” were enforced by the institutionalized censorship in the movie industry long before the 1960s. “Entertainment” was sharply differentiated from “propaganda” or any movie that portrayed other countries unfairly. I.e., “Love” trumped “hate”. Amor vincit omnia. Thank you Will Hays and Joseph Breen, and lately, Loretta Lynch!]

The Paula Deen affair has returned the subject of “hate speech” and “political correctness” to the headlines. In part one of this sequence (https://clarespark.com/2013/06/23/the-origins-of-political-correctness/ and https://clarespark.com/2013/07/04/independence-and-the-marketplace-of-ideas/.) I tried to correct the widespread impression on the Right that “cultural Marxism” was responsible for what is considered to be an infringement on the First Amendment. Indirectly, I sharply criticized “paleoconservatives” for aligning themselves with such as Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby that blamed the imputed Jewishness of the German “Marxist-Freudian” refugees for gagging white, Christian Americans. (This was especially notable in Bill Lind’s piece on the origins of PC. See the dissemination of his line here: http://monroecountydailytest.blogspot.com/2011/06/politically-correct-attitudes.html. For more on Willis Carto see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Carto).

In this blog, I will extend my discussion, taking into account 1. The hypocrisy of punishing Paula Deen for using the “N” word long ago while liberals deploy a racialist discourse that fails to criticize the very notion of “race”; and 2. The understandable confusion arising from the politics of the [Comintern initiated] “Popular Front” against fascism in the 1930s, wherein communists and New Deal liberals were seen as one coherent political entity, which they were not. Both were statists and bureaucratic collectivists, but whereas New Dealers were conservative reformers trying to stabilize capitalism, communists were revolutionary socialists, hoping to turn the world upside down.

First, the question of hypocrisy. Even before the Soviet coup, it was the progressive movement that dreamed up the notion of the hyphenated American in the nineteen teens (1916). Their purpose: to counter the then left-wing generated notion of proletarian internationalism with the notion of ethnicity. Out went the melting pot, and in came the hyphenated American, thanks to such as Randolph Bourne and Horace Kallen (the latter a teaching assistant to William James, the pragmatist philosopher).

(See https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/, and https://clarespark.com/2009/12/18/assimilation-and-citizenship-in-a-democratic-republic/. The latter blog quotes Horace Kallen.)

American nationality was thus redefined. The syncretic melting pot American was out. The hyphenated Americans were in. There would be a mosaic or salad of grouplets, sharing the same capacity for love and compassion. Hence was born “multiculturalism” prefigured by the German Romantics as a weapon against rootless cosmopolitans. The very notion of the individual was erased, for “individualism” was associated with narcissism, selfishness, jingoism, and hateful big business, the latter allegedly disgraced during the Gilded Age. The “individual” was all Head and no Heart; such a demon atomized society, leaving in its wake the lonely crowd. He was the generic “Jew,” and was indistinguishable from the WASP elite.

As a further weapon against class politics during the Great Depression, the big liberal foundations adopted the notion earlier popularized by William James as cultural pluralism: that social conflict could be managed with better intercultural communication: there would be no problem with “compromise” if we understood each other better. Later progressives would see that abusive language hampered the rational state of mind that would allow warring parties to submit to mediation. Ralph Bunche saw through the intercultural strategy in his lengthy memoranda to Gunnar Myrdal (ca. 1938-1940), and was stigmatized as an “economic determinist” for his pains in Myrdal’s An American Dilemma (1944). (See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/10/ralph-bunche-and-the-jewish-problem/. Also https://clarespark.com/2011/06/16/the-antiquated-melting-pot/.)

Thus the stage was set for Ivy League professors and big liberal foundations to bargain with troublemaking blacks during the late 1960s. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.) I have shown in this review of progressive politics that there was no critique of race or ethnicity, but rather an assault on the dissenting or “different” individual. Paula Deen was caught like a fly on flypaper, and no public figure has, to my knowledge, criticized the liberal media for hypocrisy, for it is they who persist in the racialist language of groupiness, and who believe that keeping the “N” word to oneself will solve major structural problems, e.g., the opposition of teachers unions to school choice and/or merit pay.

Second, the confusing Popular Front. Some readers were unconvinced by part one of this blog sequence. They persist in seeing a purely communist lineage for PC. For many on the Right, the boundaries between social democrats and communists have been blurred. For this, we can blame the Comintern that initiated the coalition of bourgeois parties and revolutionary parties from 1934 onward. But make no mistake: the Democratic Party remains a bourgeois party, making strategic gestures that only appear to be anti-racist, but this strategy will not bear close scrutiny as I argued above.

This passage from Hugh Thomas on Spanish politics at the time of the Popular Front (1934) may help to explain why there are divergent views on the origins of political correctness:

“At this time, with the shadows of war and fascism alike growing, the Soviet Union had a good reputation in Spain as elsewhere among Left and progressive people. The great Russian experiment did not yet seem to have betrayed its ideals. Thanks to an extraordinary programme of propaganda and unprecedented secrecy, the facts of agricultural collectivization were as yet unknown, and the persecution of Trotsky not understood. The communist party was to claim that they were responsible for the pact of the Popular Front which fought the Spanish general elections of February 1936. But it required little prompting for the socialists to adopt the salute with the clenched fist and bent arm (originated by German communists), the red flag, the revolutionary phraseology, the calls to unite in the face of international fascism demanded throughout the world by communist parties. ‘Anti-fascism’ and ‘the Popular Front’ were becoming powerful myths, almost irresistible to those who both loved peace and liberty and were impatient with old parties. Equally important on the Right were the myths of empire and national regeneration. The appearance in the Cortes elected in 1933 of a fascist and a communist was a portent and a warning.” (p.117, The Spanish Civil War)

In Thomas’s account, communism and social democracy bled into one another, thanks to the [preventable] polarization in Spain. Extend that bleed to Europe and to the United States, and you have the impasse of today.  Bereft of history, but armed with groupiness, the First Amendment becomes an item in the arsenal of demagogues where “ignorant armies clash by night.”

Paula Deen is road kill.

Paula Deen

December 22, 2012

My “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” and Eric Hobsbawm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

September 10, 2012

Index to blogs on populist demagoguery

Lyonel Feininger Emeute

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

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

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

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



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









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

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


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

August 20, 2012

Ernest Hemingway, Carlos Baker, and the Spanish Civil War

Orwell, 1938 dust jacket

This blog is not a defense of Trotskyism. The Spanish Civil War and its treatment by literary historians is important because only the “Trotskyists” of, say, Partisan Review or The New Leader in the late 1930s nailed the Stalinists and their fellow travelers for covering up such events as the purges of the old Bolsheviks (1936 onward), and for penetrating liberal organizations devoted to cultural freedom, turning them toward statism, dialectical materialism, silencing criticism of the Soviet strategy in Spain, and joining with the “only” antifascist forces, i.e, the Comintern and its docile filmmakers, novelists, screenwriters, and other artists.

The “liberals” (who succumbed to the Popular Front during the 1930s), and who continue to opine on the course of the Spanish Civil War, leave out the Soviet-directed destruction of Jose Robles, POUM, and the Anarchists, thus passing over these atrocities but also skipping over the twists and turns of the Comintern during the 1930s and early 1940s. (Examples: from 1928 on, Communists were devastating critics of the “social fascism” of the New Deal and of Social Democracy in general; but the Popular Front was effectively in charge from 1935 onward; then the Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939) reawakened the older critique of the Western democracies as really imperialists, like Hitler; but then the Nazi invasion of the S.U. reawakened the Popular Front with the American bourgeoisie in order to defend the Soviet Union and to quash isolationist sentiment.) (See Stephen Schwartz’s article on Stalinist treachery in Spain here: http://www.jewcy.com/post/cheapest_transaction. )

Carlos Baker’s 1969 biography of Ernest Hemingway had no problem describing Joris Ivens as a Communist filmmaker: I don’t know enough about Baker’s own political allegiances to say why. Perhaps Baker agreed with those for whom the communists were just another form of enlightened and moral liberal, maybe a bit more serious about uplifting the masses and rooting out nativism and American sympathizers with Hitler and Mussolini. Such naiveté was how communism infiltrated the New Dealers and their populist sympathizers: Only the Stalinist Left was held to be serious about fighting fascism or criticizing the Neutrality Act of the Western democracies that prevented the supplying  of arms and oil to the Spanish Loyalists. “Trotskyites,” the Comintern declared, were in league with fascism and Nazism! The Comintern-controlled Abraham Lincoln Battalion is still presented as comprised of idealistic young Americans, for instance in the atrociously slanted and mendacious HBO movie Hemingway and Gellhorn, most of which is devoted to the Spanish Civil War, and which ignored the bloody, faction-ridden history of that crucial conflict, without any political criticism from dozens of reviewers all over the world. (For a brief review of the HBO offering, see https://clarespark.com/2012/07/09/hbo-does-gellhorn-in-red/,)

Princeton professor Carlos Baker was oblivious to George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938),* a deafness that allowed him to record, without comment, that Hemingway sent his editor Maxwell Perkins as a taste of what to expect in For Whom The Bell Tolls, “Pilar’s” account of the Anarchist massacre of the “Fascists” of [Ronda]. Worse, Baker described Gustav Regler only as a friend of Hemingway’s. But Regler’s 1959 memoir The Owl of Minerva (cited by Baker) did describe a conversation with Hemingway in 1940, wherein Hemingway chastised Regler, the former political Commissar of the Twelfth International Brigade, for deserting the Communists! Having read Regler’s fascinating memoir and having quoted from his book regarding Hemingway’s feisty defense of the Communists in Spain (see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/30/ernest-hemingway-and-gellhorn-in-china-1941-4/) I was not amazed that briefly opened Soviet archives revealed that Hemingway was recruited by the KGB in late 1940, despite his strong criticism of André Marty and Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria) in his popular novel—a criticism that did enrage such American Communists as Mike Gold or the reviewer writing for The Daily Worker.

La Pasionaria

And while well-situated liberals in the most prestigious newspapers might have thought in their own minds that they were allies to “the common man,” they were in practice tolerant of their friends on the Soviet-controlled Left. After the war, these same Popular Fronters hated to be associated with (vulgar) McCarthyism, so that the identification of communist penetration of American institutions left the nailing of an American Fifth Column to the far Right. Since the Soviets had defined the Right (Big Business) as fascist, the “liberals” would characterize these “loons” as paranoid extremists, a label that persists to this day, notwithstanding the archival research of Mark Kramer, Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Alexander Vassiliev, to  name a few.

And that is how we lost the Cold War and the struggle for hearts and minds—until the Soviet Union collapsed from within. Sadly, it was too late for the better American universities. The Popular Front had done its work and generations of Americans were disabled from seeing into the wildly successful cultural work of the Soviet Union and/or Communist China.

*[Added, August 23, 2012: A dispute has broken out in the Comments section to this blog, regarding Orwell’s intentions in his novel 1984. John Dos Passos wrote a biographical chapter on Orwell in his Century’s Ebb (1975): “Orwell’s mind was shaking loose from the Socialist dogma. He began to see history whole: ‘What is obviously happening,’ he wrote in his offhand way, ‘is the breakup of laissez-faire capitalism and of the liberal-Christian culture. Until recently the implications of this were not foreseen because it was generally imagined that Socialism could preserve and even enlarge the atmosphere of liberalism. It is now beginning to be realized how false this idea was. Almost certainly we are now moving into an age of totalitarian dictatorships–an age in which freedom of thought will at first a deadly sin and later on a meaningless abstraction.'” (p.64). Dos Passos finishes with this thought (relating how Orwell had become an invalid, afflicted with tuberculosis): “Relapses took him to hospitals. All the while he stuck with ferocious tenacity to the novel he was writing. 1984 was a bitter parable of the totalitarian world he saw developing out of German Nazism, Russian Communism, and the decay of the spirit of liberty in Britain….(65-66) I.e., Dos Passos sees the parable as the last stage of Orwell’s gradual disillusion with the libertarian promise of Socialism and Communism. The following chapter is a scathing account of the indifference of Hemingway and Gellhorn to his search for his friend Jose Robles, using fake names.]

June 3, 2012

Connecting vs. connecting the dots

George Wallace, ca. 1960s

In this campaign year, pundits are constantly complaining that Romney is not “connecting” with the electorate, because he is wealthy (but lacks “the King’s touch”?). The same accusation was directed at him by his populist competitor Rick Santorum, who did “connect” with Pennsylvania coal miners, because, he stated, it was in his blood. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/04/02/touch-me-touch-me-not/.) This emphasis on a vaguely stated  blood and soil “connection” should scare us, for it evades the question of policy, and which candidate offers better economic and diplomatic policy recommendations to maintain American institutions and national security. In the blog that follows, I will try to show how two major books, in their zeal to keep America steady,  fail to inform us of lingering irrationalism in American political culture, an irrationalism that is characteristic of the middle, not the “extremes.” These books are

Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, The American Communist Movement: Storming Heaven Itself  (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992), and Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab: The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970 (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1970).

Here are two meticulously documented books written for the general reader. The first, by Klehr and Haynes,  concludes that although the communist movement was messianic and directed from Moscow, it was never a substantial threat to the American consensus; indeed, Communism did itself in through such errors as the blunder in running Henry Wallace for president in the Progressive Party campaign of 1948, preceded of course, by the zig-zagging moves of the late 1920s-early1930s, as it veered against the New Deal (seen as “social fascism”), followed by the Popular Front of 1935 onward, then the shock of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 (that killed the Popular Front), then after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, shifting back to Popular Front politics, only to be sunk once again by the revelations of Khrushchev in 1956. Klehr and Haynes see the years from 1960-1990 as “twilight years.”

I remember reading Ellen Schrecker’s book, No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities (Oxford UP, 1986), when I first started my dissertation research.  She claimed that communism had always been relatively weak, and that the crusade mounted against it by the Right and by Trotskyists, had over-reacted to the detriment of our political culture. When I finished the Klehr-Haynes survey of (now defunct) communism in America, I had the sinking feeling that their book was not incompatible with Schrecker’s argument; that two scholars I greatly admired had not deviated from the “moderate” line of liberal anticommunism, which, while stigmatizing Marxist-Leninism as a religion, did not demand that it, along with its statism/bureaucratic collectivism, be banished from the democratic pluralist spectrum of competing interest groups; nor were they alarmed by the arrival of New Leftism and black nationalism from the 1960s onward. Such a drastic erasure would have linked the authors to the dread anti-intellectual, paranoid extremism of the far right, i.e. to the subject of Lipset and Raab’s survey of irrationalist social movements in the U.S.

In my own experience, both as programmer and for 18 months as Program Director at a Pacifica  radio station (KPFK-Los Angeles), then in graduate school at UCLA in the Department of History, I felt the sting of Communist ideology and organizing: Stalinists were entirely entrenched at Pacifica, and CPUSA organizing got me fired when I put a few Trotskyists on the air, programmers who were complaining about the Spanish Civil War and other insults to the amour propre of such as William Mandel, who used to read from Pravda as a legitimate source of news. Trotskyist intellectuals called their “progressive” competition Stalinoids, and that is an accurate term, though the CPUSA, directly and indirectly, continues to influence mass media, alternative media, and the humanities departments of the major universities, not with a nod to Stalin, but rather to Third Worldism and what they insist is the lamentable history of crooked capitalism in America. In other words, Klehr and Haynes did not consider the penetration of communist ideas into the progressive mainstream, though they point out several times communist initiatives that were taken up by the Roosevelt administration, also the general communist/populist hostility to “finance capital.” While at UCLA, there was no animus directed against Stalinism; rather I met many famous Communist academics, and those (Leninists) on the faculty supported separatist ethnic and women’s studies, just as 1930s Communists supported a Black Belt in the American South to compensate the descendants of slaves; i.e., the racialism of the multicultural discourse did not discourage Communists in the UCLA Department of History, and the most anti-imperialist students were rewarded with fellowships and jobs.

Moving on to Lipset and Raab. These authors come out of the Harvard school of sociology and social relations as it developed from about 1939 onward, linked most famously to the cultural anthropology  (or “structural functionalism”) of Talcott Parsons and the political science “typology” of Max Weber, along with the diagnosis of urban anomie postulated by Durkheim.  Here are the liberal anticommunists who contrast “democratic pluralism” with the “patterns of prejudice” they see as a continuing theme in U.S. political culture, all too given to hysteria. They too are progressive pundits, though, unlike journalists, as academics they were at the top of their profession and remain hegemonic. Among their targets such easy prey as the anti-Masons, the Know-Nothings, Joseph McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and George Wallace. They are big on how conservative elites ensnare unwary little people suffering from status deprivation. (And it was the “moderate” line after WW2, that the Nazis won by capturing the lower middle class, atomized by “mass society.” Democratic pluralism is their antidote to “mass culture.)

It was in their big book from 1970 that I saw multiculturalism/groupiness in action, with the notion of multiple group affiliations as the heartfelt solution to excessive cerebration by such “economic determinists” as Ralph Bunche in his late 1930s memoranda to Gunnar Myrdal (see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/10/ralph-bunche-and-the-jewish-problem/).  Lipset and Raab’s most important revision of class analysis was to redefine class altogether. Whereas Marxists defined class as a specific relationship to the means of production, analyzing power as distributed in given institutions, these Parsonians define class as a ladder, as “status” (i.e. “caste”) encompassing life style and income. What such a definition does is remove the question of contracts and their potential asymmetry from consciousness. All of mass media buy into this Lipset and Raab managerial definition. This erasure of classes as standing in a particular relation to each other, instead of “life style choices” demonstrates to me that such intellectuals have taken on the task of managing conflict by defining everyone who sees structural problems in our society as extremists. They cut out the anti-statist libertarian right who see free markets as wealth creators and the road to opportunity, and they cut out what is now called “the hard left” who make their case on the premise that capital/capitalism exploits not “labor” but a vaguely defined “middle class.”

Prometheus, Heinrich Fueger, 1817

Say what you will about the failures of the Soviet Union. At least its better advocates saw the communist experiment as the culmination of the Enlightenment and the realization of individuality. The best that the moderate men came up with has been “the inherent tension between social egalitarianism—the democratic impulse—and political liberty—democratic restraint.” (Lipset and Raab, p.514) By restraint, the authors mean the stamping out of excessive moralism and resentment, a moralism exemplified by the awful romantic New England Puritan. Moderates like us do not storm heaven, do not copy Prometheus, are generous of spirit; indeed our groupiness is spirituality personified. Orwell anyone? (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2010/09/11/is-wall-street-slaughtering-the-middle-class/.)

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.