YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 29, 2018

“Come together”…. divisions and continuities in progressivism/Democratic Party

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cowboy with lassoo.american history https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSM5MpKSnqE. (The Beatles: Come Together) This blog is about the confusion bequeathed by “progressives” to partisan politics; namely the labeling of “Left” beliefs to both social democrats AND to revolutionary socialists. This is impossible because social democrats co-opted many of the demands of socialism/communism while defanging the threat of transformed property relations. Both conservatives and liberals perpetuate this confusion, prefigured by those (sort of) Jeffersonian/Wilsonian democrats Charles and Mary Beard in their popular two volumes on The Rise of American Civilization (1927):

1. In their ambivalent discussion of the antebellum South, the Beards found it good because of the aristocratic flavor to Southern civilization, but the South was bad because of slavery. (The Democratic Party is still elitist, favoring the administrative state and the “money power” while simultaneously deploring, as moderates, its excesses.)[Update, 6/4/18: I was wrong about the Beards favoring the South. As Jeffersonian agrarians they admired farmers and labor (the latter in their fights for free land), but viewed expansionists as imperialists (especially in Volume 2, see below, item #3. OTOH, the Beards loathed the Northern capitalist class, as much as any socialists.]

2. The American Revolution against Britain was good because of the participation of farmers and workers (who later escaped to the West), and with the support of Edmund Burke (in his Whig phase but bad because it trashed British capitalists and (moderate)statesmen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGLGzRXY5Bw. (Revolution: Beatles)

3. Frontiersmen/farmers and hunters were good insofar as they were lower-class escapees from class domination (thus the image of the cowboy symbolizing US history), but bad as expansionists and imperialists (in both Volumes 1 and 2).

The Constitution was all bad, because this coup d’état was put over the (more local?) Articles of Confederation and elevated the class conscious Federalists. Charles Beard had already trashed Alexander Hamilton in his 1913 publication An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Current liberals prefer “the living Constitution,” spurning “originalist interpretations.”

Further similarities between Beards and current liberals: Beards are decidedly secular, thus despising Puritans as domineering and, as Protestants, fostering (forbidden) individualism; collectivist discourses, identity politics as Mary Beard (a feminist) plugged women back into US history; family values (of Jefferson and his expansionist followers); white male supremacy, Woodrow Wilson-style globalism (in Volume 2). The Beards deemed abolitionists “haters.” Whereas, all you need is love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oHeeEot35M (The Beatles)

These links are available to interested readers: :https://clarespark.com/2013/08/05/evil-puritans/; https://clarespark.com/2018/01/20/white-supremacy/; https://clarespark.com/2011/08/01/alexander-hamiltons-rational-voice-of-the-people/

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April 3, 2011

Progressives, the luxury debate, and decadence

Thos. Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1836

Our nation is currently embroiled in a turmoil over finances, the debt, and the potential fall of the  American Republic, indeed, of the West itself. This blog sketches contrasting theories of progress and decadence. The purpose is to identify the eclectic character of history as written by the Progressives and their progeny. I propose that there are three primary schools of interpretation: one is entirely religious, and two are secular, but are not identical. All three are infused with what historians call “the luxury debate,” the secularism debate, and the danger of cities.

1. Many Christians take the position that there was a Golden Age in Eden before Eve ate of the Apple. Since that fatal bite, the world is fallen, and all hopes for amelioration are transferred to Paradise. The world we inhabit is a vale of tears and we “see through a glass, darkly.” The author Hilaire Belloc was of this view, and, like other ultra-Catholics, fixated his attention on the Crucifixion as the moment when Christ’s passion  purified humanity of its sins, promising a better place for the faithful after death. Arthur Lovejoy’s book, The Great Chain of Being, spelled out the Platonic-Christian world view very clearly. If an historian is known by the ability to distinguish between change and continuity through the accumulation of empirical evidence, then such “periodization” is irrelevant within this anti-materialist world view. See my blog on Nicholas Boyle for an example: https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.

2.  In the eighteenth century, Volney and others (Vico, earlier) dramatically intervened in the conservative Christian world-view with the cyclical view of history. That secular and “scientific” view is illustrated in Thomas Cole’s famous series The Course of Empire. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Course_of_Empire.) Cole’s bleak prognosis remains the preferred interpretation for organic conservatives who liken the course of history to the life cycles of plants (Goethe, for instance). A seed germinates, flourishes, then drops to the mold. Similarly, a warrior class is feminized by excessive love of luxury, and fails to maintain its defenses, hence  is invaded by warrior-barbarians, is destroyed, and we are left with romantic  ruins only. Such was the vision of those who posited a sequence of inevitable stages in the history of humanity. Keep in mind that “the Jews” have been seen as agents of feminization,  illicit luxury, and debauchery by such as the Nazis and New Dealers alike. Asceticism was the ticket to neoclassical order,  a point challenged by romantic Nietzsche in Genealogy of Morals.

3. With the development of capitalism and industry, innovations grounded in a scientific (materialist) and worldly view of humanity and its future, various optimistic proposals emerged before and during the American and French Revolutions. The most famous intervention was by Marx, but he was competing with various Utopians, also believers in Progress: Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Comte.  But in all these cases, human nature was not fallen or doomed, but rather susceptible to changes in the environment and particularly in institutions that brought out the best in [malleable] human nature. Although the new industrial working class did not turn out to be the revolutionary class that would bring about emancipation and utopia(for Marxists), there was enough servile revolt (actually starting with the English Civil War) to implant the continued fear of the red menace in the upper classes. Their pre-emptive strategy was to make concessions to social movements originating from “below” or to attempt to co-opt them through various motions of conservative reform. The Populist-Progressive movement is the most prominent and still powerful of these tendencies in America; they were following that master strategist Bismarck, originator of social insurance even as he made the German Social Democratic Party illegal. Populist-Progressives may be found in either the Democratic or Republican Parties (the latter as “moderates”) and are spurned by “social conservatives” today.

Since the moderate men must deal with a constituency that is internally conflicted, they take pieces of earlier world-views and incorporate all of them in an incoherent and confusing mix. But mostly, they are slippery and hard to pin down, except where the Marxist-Leninist Left is concerned.  That Left is either purged or marginalized, so that current journalists can simply describe what was originally a “moderate conservative” movement as “the hard Left” fading gently into left-liberalism. State power in the service of redistributive justice unites all these tendencies—Marxist-Leninist Left and progressives alike. The moderate men support science, but attempt to halt the inevitable warfare between science and religion.  The recent British movie Creation (2009), a recounting of Darwin’s emotional struggles as he moved toward publication of The Origin of Species (1859), is one example. Yes, Darwin finally puts out into the world his completely destabilizing view of evolution and natural selection, removing God from direct interference in the plan for humanity, but he is buried with full Christian honors in Westminster Abbey. Goethe, with his Pelagian heresy (we are not fallen, there is no original sin), is memorialized throughout the progressive West as the greatest cosmopolitan intellectual ever, but Goethe’s view of human society and progress is grounded in the life of plants and follows Herder’s cultural relativism and rooted cosmopolitanism. His American utopia has no modern Jews—they lack “reverence” and “roots.”

Who then are the moderns? We are left with the classical liberals or libertarians. These thinkers, following Adam Smith, von Mises, Ayn Rand, Hayek, and the Friedmans, see competitive markets as the route to wealth creation and a better life on earth. They are worldly, but not immoralists, for some see the need for state action (see especially the legal theorist Richard A. Epstein). Their European predecessors were the “mechanical materialists” denounced by all the ultra-conservatives, faux liberals, and dialectical materialists who followed. It is this school (not necessarily united within their ranks) , who put the future in the laps of our assessing, choosing, individual selves, who reject the fatalism of Vico, Volney, or their Greek and Christian-Platonic predecessors. (For more on this subject see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/.)

September 11, 2010

Is Wall Street slaughtering “the Middle Class”?

 [updated 12-7-11] “Middle class” is the word of the week: Keynesians want workers to be consumers, for demand-stimulus is the only arrow in their quiver as preventive politicians and schemers. Just listen to POTUS. But who is in the “middle class” and why does nomenclature matter? Is class a “ladder” that one climbs, to be defined by income/consumption patterns; or is class position a particular relationship to the mode of production in historically specific societies, each of which must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis (Obama used the ladder metaphor in his 12/6/11 faux TR speech on the “New Nationalism”)?

Several Facebook comments lately have made this a pressing issue, for the term “middle-class” is a construction by progressive sociologists who were mystifying the more rigorous materialist definition of “class,” in particular “the working class.” These sociologists were probably deploying the older term referring to persons of “the middling sort” who had left England and the European countries to seek greener pastures in the New World. In other words, these were younger sons of aristocrats, artisans, small traders and merchants, and displaced peasants (small landholders). But what has come to be seen as the “Marxist” definition of the proletariat is another category altogether, and must not be confused with “the middling sort” –a group with options to seek a better deal in finding employment or starting a business, especially in a period with an expanding economy and a “virgin land.”

A proletarian is a person with no land or tools to fall back upon in times of economic contraction or transformation. Thus subsistence farming cannot be the fallback position in the face of industrialization and the onset of machine or automated production. As the materialists explained, such a person has nothing to sell on the open market but her or his labor power. Before the days of protective legislation, you could work or starve, so the labor market became a site of social unrest and potential disturbance as cheaper labor (of women and children) or chattel slavery offered higher returns to the new industrial entrepreneurs. From the days of antebellum working-class abolitionism to the first important stirrings of labor unionism after the Civil War, workers fought for the right to organize themselves to protect their jobs and improve their life chances. Presented with a specter of revolution both in Europe and America, American proto-progressives were frightened by Marx’s predictions and impressed by Bismarck’s social insurance, as they were by the reforms in Britain brought about by mid-19th century Christian Socialists (see https://clarespark.com/2011/11/25/3293/) . Over the next one hundred fifty years or so, the conservative reformers pre-empted the revolutionary temptation from below through a sumptuous banquet of “reforms” or “adjustments”: the legalization of “good” labor unions who would limit their demands to higher wages and better working conditions such as the eight-hour day; worker’s compensation; the 19th century offer of cheap land in the American West; later state-administered welfare programs; birth-control measures; Americanization programs; “free” public education;  immigration restriction; the encouragement of home ownership; high taxation to pay for statist redistribution measures; female suffrage, social security, and now state-initiated quotas in many institutions based on race or gender, and so on.

Moreover, progressives switched the Jeffersonian notion of a “negative state” (defending slavery and state’s rights) to that of a “Jeffersonian” or “Enlightenment” “positive state,” with all the statist collectivism in the purported interest of “social justice” that transformation entailed– as “individualism” became a personality disorder, not liberty to choose a life path and to work toward the goal of upward mobility and the creation of plenty and new, life-enhancing and  labor-saving  technologies that would in turn serve the creative development of individuals and communities. Or, as some New Deal progressives put it, “Hamiltonian principles” (an energetic government guided by American exceptionalism) would produce Jeffersonian results, i.e., “the people” against the “economic royalists”. Has this synthesis worked?

But above all, some progressives aimed to shape the imaginations of the labor force, using different tactics as the occasion demanded. One of their more questionable accomplishments was the introduction of the word “middle class” to describe, not themselves as “middle management” (i.e., as administrators, corruptible journalists, bureaucrats, mental health professionals, mediators, and curriculum developers instilling “moderation,” and “liberal internationalism”). Rather they fastened that “middle class” label on labor (including female labor in the home), the better to form an electorate that would think of itself as “the people” and not as members of a specific class or other group that conceivably looked to its own interests above those in competing groups. In a related move, faced by the opposition of business interests focused on meritocracy, competition in every facet of the economy,  and free markets, some [WASP] progressives deftly separated “industrial capital” from “finance capital, ” thus pitting “Main Street” against “Wall Street” a.k.a. “the money power,” understanding that “Wall Street” was the natural habitat of [Jewish] rampaging greed, theft, and social irresponsibility. See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. [Added 9-25: On 9-24, Matt Miller, the “moderate” moderator of “Left, Right, and Center,” a popular program originating in Los Angeles NPR station KCRW, made the exact same distinction as The Nation of 1919: Miller lamented the separation of Wall Street from Main Street when he proclaimed that the “finance engineers” were in charge [of  the national economic railroad] instead of adhering to their (?) role as “real engineers.”

Indeed, when President Barack Obama addresses factory workers and calls them “the middle class” has he unconsciously adopted the old Leftist belief that “the working class” has become “bourgeoisified”; i.e., jewified with lust for the golden calf? Or is he catering to their [illicit] desires for the consumer goods associated with middle class status, while simultaneously deflecting their resentments and fears toward the designated enemy in Woe Street and away from Leviathan?

Today is the ninth anniversary of the successful Islamist attack on the World Trade Center towers, and upon the Pentagon. Is it any wonder that a disturbingly large number of opinion makers, not just limited to leftist radicals, believe or imply that the hubristic materialistic, aggressive “Wall Street”-dominated U.S. brought this frightful assault upon itself? For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2011/10/10/populist-catharsis-on-wall-street/, that focuses on the faux leftism of Occupy Wall Street.

April 18, 2010

Links to Nazi sykewar, American style

 

 

       https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/

This series reveals the astounding opinons derived from German and Nazi war propaganda that were adopted by leaders of the progressive movement on the threshold of America’s entrance into World War Two. It is deeply shocking to those who see an unbridgeable chasm between Roosevelt and Hitler. It also underlines the theme of this website: the growing literacy and numeracy of ordinary people since the invention of the printing press terrified aristocrats in Europe, and their opinions were easily transmitted to American progressives whose social democratic aspirations created a new aristocracy in America, similar to the idea of the Platonic Guardians. For a related blog with more evidence see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/. On the power of Jeffersonian agrarianism among progressives, see https://clarespark.com/2011/08/14/review-in-the-garden-of-beasts-by-erik-larson/.

https://clarespark.com/2010/02/17/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-three/

https://clarespark.com/2010/02/16/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-two/.

https://clarespark.com/2010/02/14/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-one/. (Don’t miss this one: it expresses the progressive fear of the rationality of ordinary people. who may see through propaganda.)

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