YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 4, 2017

Did Hillary fail or was it the labor policies of the Democratic Party?

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occupy-dc-cornel-west-wideIf Donald J. Trump’s base is the white working class, then it raises the question, how did it come to pass that the candidate of the Democratic Party, once known as the Party of the working man, fumbled?

The well-funded Mrs. Clinton claims that misogyny in tandem with James Comey’s interventions determined her fate in 2016, and perhaps those were to an unknowable extent operative, but we must ask if labor unions solved the problems of industrial society as old time pols insist? (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_to_trade_unions. )

Recall that the period following the Civil War was also a period of extensive immigration to fill the burgeoning labor demand, and that Democrats were a Party that had persisted in a period characterized by westward expansion and urbanization (while Republicans had been the voice of Big Business and agrarian nativism.) Workers were raising hell, as students of the late 19th century (e.g., Robert Wiebe’s The Search for Order) will acknowledge, and (leftist) historians will mark the Progressive movement as responding to strikes and immigration (even as some condemn these WASPs for racism. e.g., https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/).

Democrats did not solve the problem of nativism (exacerbated by necessary immigration to develop the continent—also the predictable opposition of displaced Indians and Mexicans); instead they catered to the ethnic preferences of the new Americans, leaving us with the New Deal “innovation” of multiculturalism as a mode by which elites could micromanage group conflict (https://clarespark.com/2011/06/16/the-antiquated-melting-pot/), pretty much as labor unions would fare, strengthened in the New Deal, ostensibly to ameliorate worker suffering in future depressions and to advance “cooperation” over (Darwinist) “competition.” And so FDR and his supporters maintained their class position, though the consequences for “labor” were not what “cooperation” had promised.

But don’t expect the very “Green” Democratic Party to raise the question of the effectiveness of labor unions in solving the deeper problems of industrial society—namely the mind-numbing nature of de-skilled “labor” and worker health and safety. Without a qualm bleeding hearts condemn their (inferior) fellow human beings to a life blessed at best by gross material satisfactions, for the redder Democratic Party hearts crave equality of condition, not equality of opportunity to scale the heights of human possibility.

November 5, 2013

Kerry Washington, SCANDAL, and miscegenation

Kerry W in "Olivia Pope" mode

Kerry W in “Olivia Pope” mode

This blog is about actress Kerry Washington’s confusion about the primary fear of segregationists in both the antebellum North and South and then in the post-60s age of multiculturalism. The host of SNL November 2, 2013, complained that she was paired with a white president. Ms. Washington seems not to have understood that her sexual liaison with the white President was the scandal of SCANDAL.

On Monday November 4, the bean counters of NPR noted Ms. Washington’s appearance on SNL, noting that she was funny, and that it was scandalous that there was no regular African-American female cast member.  (See the “diversity” issue brought up here also: http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/11/03/snl-recap-kerry-washington-eminem/.)

It is indisputable that the fear of miscegenation was the great fear of Americans before bohemianism and bogus ‘anti-racism’ overtook American culture,  recent developments that have screwed up the formulators of affirmative action, who relied on blood and soil definitions of identity, as had their German Romantic forebears. What box to check when the applicant has “mixed blood”?

What follows is an excerpt from my book ms. that lays out the overpowering importance of “amalgamation” that infused even so advanced a city as antebellum Boston, home of abolitionism and such luminaries as William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Charles Sumner.  By radical Enlightenment, I refer solely to intellectual freedom and human rights as limned in the Declaration of Independence and the First  Amendment to the US Constitution. (I call the Progressives conservative enlighteners, because they co-opted ‘science’ in the service of political stability and social cohesion, discarding the search for truth.)

[excerpt Hunting Captain Ahab, chapter 2:] One distinguished proto-Progressive was Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of the State of Massachusetts (1830-60), Herman Melville’s father-in-law and patron until his death. I have joined two of Shaw’s major decisions to suggest a leitmotif for the Melville Revival: the paradoxical Progressive gesture of simultaneous incorporation and encysting; we will see this process repeated as ambivalent Melville scholars elevate/reject Melville as Ahab, charismatic transmitter of radical Enlightenment.

Judge Shaw had decriminalized labor unions in his landmark decision of 1842, Commonwealth v. Hunt.[i] In Sarah C. Roberts v. City of Boston, 1849, however, Judge Shaw created the precedent for Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896, the “separate-but-equal” doctrine that was not overturned until Brown v. Board of Education removed the legal basis for school segregation in 1954. Concluding the Roberts case, Shaw announced a unanimous decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court upholding the right of the Boston Primary School Committee to exclude black children from white schools as long as blacks were educated elsewhere. The Chief Justice explained, “The law had not created, and could not alter the deep-rooted prejudice which sanctioned segregation.” Undaunted, Charles Sumner, advocate for five-year-old Sarah Roberts and her father Benjamin, pressed on, accompanied by fellow abolitionists and integrationists, white and black. With the added support of sympathetic opinion in the towns, school segregation was outlawed by the state legislature and signed into law April 28, 1855. Prayed the New York Herald May 4,

“Now the blood of the Winthrops, the Otises, the Lymans, the Endicotts, and the Eliots, is in a fair way to be amalgamated with the Sambos, the Catos, and the Pompeys. The North is to be Africanized. Amalgamation has commenced. New England heads the column. God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!” [ii]

Propinquity alone must overwhelm blue blood; ring the tocsin! Not so for Captain Ahab as he took “Bell-boy,” the black child Pip, into his cabin: “Come! I feel prouder leading thee by thy black hand, than though I grasped an Emperor’s!” Melville and his revivers often diverged in their approaches to independent labor organization and its multifarious amalgamations; the labor question, in turn, is entwined with epistemology in an Age of Revolution. In the venerable centrist discourse (in use since the English Civil War) agreeable folks possessed qualities hitherto associated with race or ethnicity: moderates were good (Tory) Anglo-Saxons; extremists were bad (Hebraic) Anglo-Saxons, overtaken and infiltrated by radical puritanism–the source of all obdurate, selfish, polarizing and deceptive materialist influences. As introduced above, I use the term “corporatist” and “organic conservative” to characterize the triumphant ideology of postwar businessmen, federal bureaucrats and union leaders, the moderate men of “the vital center,” viny humanists all. Emulating the gradualism advocated by the eighteenth-century politician Edmund Burke, the corporatist ideologues presented their scientific socio-economic theory as progressive, i.e., updated and rectified liberalism. The claims of individuals would be balanced against the claims of community and tradition. A weak social democracy was the outcome, with the stipulation that the doctrine of abstract rights, a Jacobin innovation, was out of bounds.

The holistic “vital” vision would unify warring fragments. Spiritualized but fact-loving moderates were at odds both with materialists to their Left (such as the IWW and the Socialist Party, later the Communist Party and the anti-Stalinist liberal Left) and with materialists to their Right. During the Depression, the Left wanted independent labor unions, extensive government regulation of industry, and all forms of social security (including health insurance) to emanate directly from the federal bureaucracy; the market-oriented Right opposed all labor unions and all state regulation. (For the latter, “inefficient” national social security programs would undermine self-reliance, choice, and local control. At that time, some Progressives classified National Socialism as a racist movement of the Left, not the Right; indeed, during the 1930s Gerard Swope’s social democratic proposals, more extensive than Roosevelt’s, were greeted by Herbert Hoover as “fascistic.”)

Kerry femme fatale mode

Kerry femme fatale mode

                [i]  10. See Philip Foner, History of the Labor Movement In The United States, Vol.1 (New York: International Publishers, 1947), 163-64. Foner was discussing the Whig pretense that their party served the interests of independent workingmen using suffrage to remedy their grievances. Shaw’s decision had made it legal “to organize and bargain collectively” (but with “enough leeway” to be gutted by “reactionary judges”). In 1839-40, seven leaders of the Boston Journeymen Bootmaker’s Society had been indicted and found guilty for conspiracy, the bootmakers having made rules that would have excluded non-members from the craft. It was argued that they maliciously intended to destroy the plaintiff’s business; Shaw was reversing a Municipal Court decision that had held the Bootmakers’ regulations a conspiracy, enforced or not. Foner quoted Shaw’s opinion: associations could “adopt measures ‘that may have a tendency to impoverish another, that is, to diminish his gains and profits, and yet so far from being criminal and unlawful, the object may be highly meritorious and public spirited. The legality of such an association will therefore depend upon the means to be used for its accomplishment. If it is carried into effect by fair or honorable and lawful means, it is to say the least, innocent, if by falsehood or force, it may be stamped with the character of conspiracy.’ ” Shaw had drawn a clean boundary between honorable and dishonorable social action; Melville would be interrogating Shaw’s distinction in his most disputed texts: what if the fair and honorable were always punished, while the rascals were deemed “innocent”?

                [ii] 11. See Leo Litwack, North of Slavery (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961), Chapter 4 for a full discussion of the conflict. The Roberts case was argued by Charles Sumner before Shaw’s court, Dec. 4, 1849. Melville began writing Moby-Dick in 1850.

April 21, 2013

Fascism: what it is, what it is not

obama_change_hitler_lenin-mdm-e1318046441364When either political party or the alienated OWS crowd demonstrates, inevitably there will be a few Hitler signs among the various groups, at which point mass indignation sets in, with finger pointing and squeals: how dare you accuse me or my group of such a horrible affiliation! Everyone who gets angry is correct, and the carriers of the Hitler signs probably are angry too, but are also uneducated about the sources of “fascism” or “Nazism” or (in the case of Franco-dominated nationalist Spain, what is sometimes called “clerical fascism”).

There is massive confusion in both political parties about the nature of “fascism” so this blog tries to review European and American history from the Enlightenment to the present and bring some clarity to the matter. I apologize in advance for the compressed and reductive sentences that follow, but I will be close enough in my analysis.

Start with the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. This matters because 1. Mass literacy was enabled for the first time; and 2. The 20th century dictatorships were frequently blamed by conservatives on mass culture enabled by literacy and then the radio, movies, and television. Self-educated persons (autodidacts) have been the target of elites threatened with dispossession since ordinary people were first able to argue with their “betters” –who had previously interposed themselves between reader and printed page to tell the “lower orders” what the texts actually said. (Elites are still doing it, but now most have Ph.D.s in the humanities.)

The scientific revolution of the 17th century only made matters worse for elites. Now empiricism and worldliness seemed to have pushed mysticism and other-worldliness off the historical stage. The following “enlightenment” produced different results in different countries. England and France took one path, while Germany, under the name of Enlightenment, preserved mysticism and the related notions of “roots”, “national character,” and “Zeitgeist” (the spirit of an age).

The Industrial Revolution, made possible by the deists and “mechanical materialists” of the Enlightenment, terrified all previous ruling classes and institutions, for a numerous and skilled new industrial working class threatened to challenge their dominance. Lords and ladies did not know how to manage machines, and many made common cause with the industrial bourgeoisie to keep the new workers in harness. The Social Gospel in America, like its European counterparts (e.g. Bismarck’s social insurance), was aimed to alleviate the worst working conditions, to avoid dispossession by a revolutionary mob, one that could be inspired by either anarchism or communism, both strong in the 19th century, and both products of the French Revolution.

This is not a guillotine

This is not a guillotine

(By comparison, the American Revolution was a walk in the park, and tended to breed populists, angry debtors, or small utopian experiments limited by middle class values, as opposed to European socialism or anarchism theoretically grounded in Marx or Bakunin.)

Where we are so far: Confronted by a new, potentially dangerous class, European elites dreamed up ways to co-opt and contain their potential usurpers. One of their most potent weapons, apart from the welfare state, was the earlier conception of organic nationalism, a contribution of the Germans in league with ultraconservative opponents to Jacobinism, then to Napoleon. 19th century culture was characterized by insurgent nationalism, with inspiration taken from folk cultures. Progressivism in both America and Europe was an elite innovation that followed Germany in its top-down structure of buying off or co-opting the working class. It was the middle class professions who were designated and trained to keep the masses in line—as “healers,” bureaucrats, teachers, lawyers, intellectuals in the new media.

Enabled by the Great War, the Soviet coup of October 1917 was the event that spawned all future developments in the world. Its centrality to subsequent world history cannot be exaggerated, and all the right-wing movements that followed reacted to the phantasm of working-class dictatorship, including fascism in Italy, then the weak Weimar Republic (social democratic), then the conservative nationalists who put Hitler in power in Germany to stop communism in that country, then the Franco-led rebellion against the social democratic Spanish Republic. Each of these fascisms is distinct from the others, was rooted in European history, and cannot be transposed into the present, except for tiny fringe groups, annoying but of little consequence (with the exception of radical Nazified Islam, which is no fringe element).

LaRouche demonstration sign

LaRouche demonstration sign

Many conservatives in America, particularly the organic nationalists, want to pin Nazism on the Left, because of the word “socialist” in the name of the Nazi Party (Nationalist Socialist Workers Party). (For what “Socialist” meant to Nazis see https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/,)This misconstrues what socialism meant to Hitler and his associates. “Socialist” referred to self-sacrifice for the sake of the “people’s community” for the Nazi conception of the state was Aryan: i.e., racially homogeneous and purified of [anti-social, individualistic] Jews. And Jews were held to be the embodiment of capitalist greed. By the late 1930s, the coalition between Nazis and conservative nationalists was broken, laying the groundwork for the Army revolt in the 1940s (the last gasp of conservative nationalism), and crushed by Hitler.

All three of the major fascisms were mystical and statist, and took the “Prussian Road” (state-controlled) to modernization. However, the various fascisms cannot be simply equated with communism, which gained many adherents as the culmination of progress and the final emancipation of the individual. For the various fascisms, progress was a bourgeois trick that led to uppity behavior in the working class, and there was much in these fascist cultures that leaned back toward bygone ages, medievalism and the Roman Empire, to be precise, whereas communism was future-oriented.

Take this example from one Spanish fascist calling for the “integrated state”: the speaker is Calvo Sotelo, the monarchist leader of those opposing the democratic Spanish constitution of 1931: “Against this sterile state I am proposing the integrated state, which will bring economic justice, and which will say with due authority: ‘no more strikes, no more lock-outs, no more usury, no more capitalist abuses, no more starvation wages, no more political salaries gained by a happy accident [pensions], no more anarchic liberty, no more criminal conspiracies against full production’. The national production will be for the benefit of all classes, all parties, all interests. This state many may call fascist; if this be indeed the fascist state, then I, who believe in it, proudly declare myself a fascist!” [quoted in Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, pp. 7-8]

As I have written before here, it was social democrats that distanced themselves from fascism, by mischievously equating communism and fascism/Nazism. Social democrats (today, the left-wing of the Democratic Party in America) disguise their own statism by declaring themselves anything but “totalitarian.”  But insofar as they copy the organic nationalism that enabled fascism, or impose a multicultural, covertly racist, discourse in public space, the social democrats may be viewed, as I do, as proto-fascist. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/, or https://clarespark.com/2011/02/10/multiculturalism-cui-bono/.)

We aren’t in an American variant of fascism yet. We still have two capitalist parties confronting one another, but with contrasting strategies for wealth creation: one is derived from Keynes, the other from von Mises, Hayek, and the Friedmans. We still have the Constitution and the various Amendments. That some opinion-leaders in each party are capable of calling their opponents totalitarians or fascists, is a symptom of their continued domination of mass education. Someone has to call them on it, and I have tried to do that here. Education reform that fails to outline the history I have summed up here is complicit with reaction.

We still have a working class majority along with a middle-class that can either torture their students or clients with half-truths, or could emancipate them with a proper political education, and both these classes remain up for grabs.

Where they go, goes liberty. (For the difficulties of defining “liberty” see https://clarespark.com/2016/03/17/what-does-liberty-signify/).


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