The Clare Spark Blog

December 4, 2013

McCarthyism, then and now

Schine, McCarthy, Cohn

Schine, McCarthy, Cohn

First read this fine article first published in 2005: http://tinyurl.com/n7o6j5x Harvey Klehr on Joseph McCarthy, publ. Frontpagemagazine.com Dec. 4, 2013. Then see my blog on M. Stanton Evans’s recent biography of Joe McCarthy: https://clarespark.com/2014/02/05/joe-mccarthy-and-the-warrior-spirit/. In an exhaustive review of continued resistance to the presence of Communists at large in academe, Professor Klehr hints that it is a mistake to admire McCarthy because he did not have the proof that briefly opened Soviet archives after 1989 have disgorged, and that Harvey Klehr,  John Earl Haynes, Alexander Vassiliev, Mark Kramer, and Ron Radosh have publicized. (Add important books on the Rosenbergs [Radosh and Milton] and Alger Hiss [Allen Weinstein] that were published before the fall of the Soviet Empire.)

To most of those who control curricula and the media, Joseph McCarthy is considered to be a far right zealot, an opportunist, and a disgraced drunk. Many of those who defended his victims argue that it was not communism that was McCarthy’s target, but the entire apparatus of progressivism/the New Deal State. In any case, the focus on McCarthy’s personality and careless “smears” has deflected attention from 1. actual communist penetration of the US government, and 2. the blurring of the boundaries between social democrats (liberals) and communists under direct control from the Comintern–all arguably practitioners of bureaucratic collectivism/statism.

In this blog, I ask why more attention has not been paid to the authoritarian liberals who aided FDR in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and why I had to be the one to expose them, as I have done on my website and in my book on the Melville Revival. Was it only Popular Front politics that silenced the critics of crypto-fascism in America, wherein the progressive bourgeoisie joined ranks with Stalinists and Trotskyists to oppose Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Franco’s Spain? Or was it the alliance with postwar West Germany to fight the Cold War?

Here is a partial index of blogs that exposed the authoritarian liberals for all to see. Their co-optation of Nazi or German methods for controlling “the little guy” was inexcusable, unless you understand that progressivism was always elitist and top-down, averse to dramatically improving public education in economics, the law, and the institutions of government that favored upward mobility. Some readers have appreciated their import, some readers like the blogs from neo-Nazi sentiments, while mostly they have been ignored, with the exception of a few devoted artists, libertarians and anarchists. I must add that no reviewer of my book publicized the revelations of crypto-Nazism in social psychology at Harvard and other eminent universities, even when they liked my Melville criticism. For that reason, I have posted the more daring excerpts from the book on the website.

Redscarecomic

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/

https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/

https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/ (much of this one was in the first draft of my dissertation, but not published)

https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/

https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/02/the-watchbird-state/

September 4, 2013

The Syria crisis and historicism

arabs-take-syria-crisis-to-un-1327616110-3682I am in no way an expert on current relations in the Middle East, but I have found one article that seems rational and appropriately analytic, written by Caroline Glick: http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2013/08/obamas-bread-and-circuses.php#.UiduRyC71lA.facebook.

Who is supporting Obama’s recent foreign policy moves? The Wall Street Journal and various moderates, i.e., neoconservatives. As I write this short blog, those who support Obama’s desire to have a limited strike in Syria are calling their opponents “isolationists.”  These include Bret Stephens writing in the Wall Street Journal, and Ron Radosh, writing for Pajamas Media. Stephens is critical of neo-isolationism, while Radosh seems primarily concerned with the weakening of executive authority. Radosh writes “Our country cannot afford the luxury of weakening of presidential power and authority, which could stifle the ability to act when it is most needed in the future. Supporting the authority of the Chief Executive to act, does not mean conservatives and Republicans should stop being critical of the policy of the Obama administration, its half-way measures, its contradictions and its overall embarrassing incompetence. But to weaken the authority of any Chief Executive to act, including President Barack Obama, will only hurt the nation and stifle our ability to respond to aggression effectively, now and later.” it is somewhat buried within a comparison of “isolationists” before and after WW2. But are the conditions the same?

ISOLATIONISM”. It is not historically correct to label every opponent of Obama’s latest initiative in the Syria crisis as an “isolationist,” though some may be so. The opponents of American involvement in European affairs as European countries fell into the lap of the Third Reich during the 1930s (see https://clarespark.com/2013/08/31/the-devil-in-history-a-j-p-taylor-vs-r-palme-dutt/ ),  were largely from the Midwest and South: many bought the defeatist line of such unapologetic antisemites as Joseph P. Kennedy while he was Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Kennedy even warned a gathering of fifty mostly Jewish Hollywood “moguls” in 1940 that Hitler would win and that they should therefore not make anti-Nazi films, a point that is overlooked by Ben Urwand’s sensational book Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler (Harvard UP, 2013). And before that, FDR’s support of the Neutrality Act allowed the Spanish rebels to destroy a popularly elected government in Spain. FDR was worried about “the Catholic vote.”

At the time, like populist antisemites before them, Hitler and his admirers in other countries blamed all modern warfare on an international cabal of Jewish financiers who also controlled the new mass media. From J. A. Hobson onward, “the Jews” made wars for the sake of unseemly profits (see Hobson’s words here: https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/). Such was the source of much “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. (And I have not mentioned prior French upper-class ongoing hatred of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s emancipation of the Jews, echoed by the tsarist agents who dreamed up The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, itself based on an earlier French rightist fantasy.)

This is a confusing time for Americans of both political parties. What I see missing from the commentary of Obama’s supporters is the appropriate hesitancy of intervention that is considered to be either “too little too late” or misdirected and likely to further empower Iran, Syria’s ally and patron. The opponents of Obama are not wary of any foreign intervention because of the Jew-hatred that marked “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. The dissenters’ case is made on strategic grounds, blended with a mistrust of this administration’s competence in foreign affairs, including its appeal to a non-existent “international community.”

The moral of this short blog: Historicism is the practice of looking at conflict without specious analogies to prior conflicts. Each new conflict is unique and our opinions are largely based on guesswork and such often suspect and multi-layered statements as become public.  The best of us are groping in the dark. It is all too human to seek patterns and precedents in the past, but that may be a fool’s errand, for the historians or other experts upon whom we rely are captives to an often inaccessible record along with their biases and preferred interpretations.

While it used to be the case that historical judgments about the causes of prior wars were based on the archival record (such as it is), we have nothing to go on now but the statements of our leaders. Should we trust their veracity and good intentions? When did properly skeptical historians become “authoritative” journalists? (See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/06/the-new-left-activist-scholars/.)

December 8, 2012

Hobsbawm, Obama, Israel

Hobsbawm in worker's cap

Hobsbawm in worker’s cap

I. Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the most famous and influential of all the communist historians, died Ocober 1, 2012. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Hobsbawm. He was eulogized by leading liberal newspapers as one of the most “eminent historians” of the world, but was denounced by David Horowitz and Ron Radosh, who asked their readers to avoid his history-falsifying works. I thought that I should see for myself, so read his famed “tetralogy” published from 1962 on, ending with his (then) final word on modernity in 1994, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These were The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, The Age of Capital: 1848-1875, The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, and The Age of Extremes: 1914-1991. I found the same line put forth by the UCLA Department of History where I earned my doctorate, and throughout the textbooks now used by countless students interested in American, European, and world history. (In his autobiography (2002), Hobsbawm credits George Soros with partly funding the last book in the series, Age of Extremes: suggesting that EH had adopted the “moderate,” i.e., social democratic, line)

Notable about the four books is the target audience of educated lay readers. Hence his [big] claims are not footnoted, but he does provide bibliographies and indices. What is most striking about the tetralogy is his range: he fused economic history, political history, social history, the arts, mathematics, and sciences. In those cases where my own scholarship is competent (the arts and intellectual history), I found his opinions to be either sketchy, derivative, or ideological and hence distorted and present-minded.  (See https://clarespark.com/2012/12/22/my-oppositional-defiant-disorder-and-eric-hobsbawm/,  https://clarespark.com/2012/11/23/historians-vs-pundits-the-eric-hobsbawm-synthesis/. For a drastically different reading of Melville’s Moby-Dick see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

For most of the four books, I thought that EH was conforming to the “antifascist” Popular Front strategy initiated by the Soviet Union after 1935; that would explain his praise of the post-1945 synthesis of Left and Right as embodied in social democracy, but that “Golden Age” of capitalism would end in a new crisis of the 1970s and 80s, almost as bad as “the Great Slump” of the 1930s, now worsened by Reagan and Thatcher.

The ending pages of such an ambitious project are worth summarizing. Hobsbawm is deeply worried about the future, which is up for grabs, and yet “dark.” Overpopulation is not only straining the food supply, but the industrialized world, everywhere, is likely destroying the planet. The nation-state is obsolete (globalization having been created by the 19th century industrial bourgeoisie), and yet there is no international agency that could impose the necessary regulations that would ensure the survival of our species.

The competition inherent in neoliberalism, Adam Smith’s elevation of the market, and Darwinism are his targets. EH distances himself from Stalin’s terror, but holds fast to Lenin. This is crucial, for Barack Obama is very close to Hobsbawm in his own political project, i.e., redistributionist (in the interest of social justice), Green-friendly and internationalist in its preferred outcome.

"The Lord's Prayer," Hans Haacke, ca. 1984

“The Lord’s Prayer,” Hans Haacke, ca. 1984

II. Consider now Hobsbawm’s continual ribbing of “the Jews”, nowhere more evident than in the short paragraph he devotes to Israel, which transmits the strangest summary of the Jewish state’s founding and subsequent history that I have ever seen, not to be exceeded in nastiness by the most jihadist of Israel’s enemies. Indeed, this ratattatat is indistinguishable from jihadism, and speaks poorly of the Left, to which Hobsbawm has ever remained attached.

From Hobsbawm, AGE OF EXTREMES, (Penguin, 1994) p. 359. (EH”s “extremes” refer to “laissez-faire capitalism/neoliberalism” on the one hand, and Soviet communism as its rational, enlightened antithesis.) Throughout the four books (but especially in the last two), Hobsbawm identifies himself with the oppressed and exploited “undeveloped world” that has been polluted and otherwise abused by the imperialistic “developed world”. Vehement as is his critique of neoliberalism, Reaganism and Thatcherism, his dislike of Israel is even more pronounced, as in the following, bizarre description of Israel, its founding, and its relations with neighbors.

“…the USSR had been among the first to recognize the new state of Israel, which later established itself as the main ally of the USA, and the Arab or other Islamic states, Right or Left, were united in repressing communism within their frontiers. The main force of disruption was Israel, where the Jewish settlers built a larger Jewish state than had been envisaged under the British partition (driving out seven hundred thousand non-Jewish Palestinians, perhaps a larger number than the Jewish population in 1948), fighting one war per decade for the purpose (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982). …Israel also turned itself into the most formidable military force in the region and acquired nuclear arms, but failed to establish a stable basis of relations with its neighbor states, let alone with the permanently embittered Palestinians within its extended frontiers or in the Diaspora of the Middle East. The collapse of the USSR removed the Middle East from the front line of the Cold War, but left it as explosive as before.”

Here EH, of Jewish parentage, creates a brief narrative that is not only false, but jumbles together discrete conflicts that no professional historian would fail to analyze in context. EH goes out as not only an ideologue, but arguably a prime example of Selbsthass. Could anything be more transparent than the image of the Jewish state as pushy, grabby, destabilizing, ungrateful, and world-destroying?

November 23, 2012

Historians vs. pundits: the Eric Hobsbawm synthesis

Liberty Leading the People

For a more recent assessment of Hobsbawm, see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/08/hobsbawm-obama-israel/.

I was going to write a straightforward few paragraphs on the irresponsibility of today’s journalists/pundits compared to archive-scouring historians. But in the meantime, I was reading Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 (1962), and my focus changed to the achievement of EH’s major work, and its precise transmission of Marxist-Leninist dogma, dialectical materialism and all, as he strives to fuse the Hegelian opposites of Romanticism and neoclassicism, letting vitalism and mysticism into his ostensibly rationalist synthesis explaining the rise of mass politics after the French Revolution.

For those who have missed the furious debate since the death of EH and his legacy on October 1, 2012, here is a sampling of what I have read. Ron Radosh’s essay was my favorite, for it was a fine survey of opinion, and also recounted some horrifying details missed by others, for instance, EH’s ferocious rejection of Israel, which he wished would be nuked, according to one unpublished account.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Hobsbawm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/01/eric-hobsbawm-historian

http://frontpagemag.com/2012/bruce-bawer/intellectuals-rally-to-eulogize-stalinist-eric-hobsbawm/

http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2012/10/13/can-stalinist-be-good-historian/

Though I thought that EH was clueless regarding the contributions of the Romantic composers and authors (e.g. their exploration of human emotions as worthy subjects for art, often leaving more rigid forms for fantasy. Cf. EH condemning the Romantics as Satanists, or as flunkeys for the bourgeoisie and its heroic individualism/economic liberalism),  I came away with one valuable insight: EH explains that the creation of the new industrial working class kept both aristocracy and bourgeoisie on edge up to the present day. For it was the (middle-class) French Revolution and Napoleon that elevated the self-esteem of “the People” in what EH calls the double revolution: 1. The French Revolution, and 2. The Industrial Revolution. (He implied a third factor: the development of “national cultures” that would lead, in his later life, to the lauding of “liberal nationalism” as a spur to further progress, with capitalism yielding to communism and the defeat of the bourgeois oppressor.)

In whatever period I have studied since the Enlightenment, I have seen the red specter operating in the imaginations of every artist and writer. Certainly it is foregrounded in the work of Herman Melville, whose interpreters cannot make up their minds whether he is a Romantic individualist (of the type that EH excoriates) or a proper moderate conservative like themselves, hence the Ishmaelite repudiator of that arch-individualist and revolutionary Captain Ahab (or his successor, Pierre Glendinning).

EH mentions Herman Melville twice, though he does not go into any detail whatsoever. I presume that he viewed Moby-Dick as an allegory for the French Revolution and those that followed in 1848, perhaps dwelling upon the multi-colored crew of harpooners, as did C. L. R. James, a favorite of the New Left anti-imperialists. But this would make EH no better than the bourgeois primitivists EH attacks as perpetuators of the noble savage image. [Added, Nov. 23: In his second book, EH makes it clear that he believes that Moby-Dick is an indictment of American capitalist-imperialism; he has a superficial reading about whaling ships and the denouement near Japan. EH believes that Melville is the greatest artist of the American 19th century, for that reason, obviously.]

Alarmingly, EH’s book on the “Age of Revolution” laid out the synthesis that guided my graduate work in history at UCLA, and that now dominates textbook writing throughout the liberal school system in America. Prende garde, mes amis. Eric Hobsbawm, in death lauded by many communists, liberals, and conservatives alike, fused the roles of pundit and historian, leaving us with activists in both fields, while drowning in their wakes those historians whose regard for the truth is, well, undialectical. (For my assessment of “activist” scholars see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/06/the-new-left-activist-scholars/.)

May 23, 2010

Some dirty little secrets

Claire Berlinski, Ph.D.

During the last few weeks, an exceptionally portentous fight has broken out owing to a recent long and juicy article in the Spring 2010 edition of City Journal by Claire Berlinski. This essay was angrily dissected in several rebuttals by Ron Radosh in Pajamas Media, and by others on the Humanities Net internet site, the History of Diplomacy (H-Diplo). The conflict concerns whether or not both academic historians and their reading public have been fully informed of documents surreptitiously copied from the closed archives of the former Soviet Union, and now under wraps in Russia. Berlinski’s initial article, A Hidden History of Evil, reported that historians in high places had ignored the documents made available by researcher Vladimir Bukovsky (once an inmate of a Soviet psychiatric hospital) and Soviet dissident Pavel Stroilov, the latter in exile in London. First noting the world-wide obsession with Nazism (neglecting even more numerous Soviet atrocities), the opening paragraph ends with this remark: “The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.” Moreover, in her concluding paragraphs, she speculated that utopian theories had more appeal than we have admitted; hence she concludes that there is broad resistance to exposing the crimes of the now-darkened Gorbachev and his predecessors: “Indeed, many still subscribe to the essential tenets of Communist ideology. Politicians, academics, students, even the occasional autodidact taxi driver still stand opposed to private property. Many remain enthralled by schemes for central economic planning. Stalin, according to polls, is one of Russia’s most popular historical figures. No small number of young people in Istanbul, where I live, proudly describe themselves as Communists; I have met such people around the world, from Seattle to Calcutta.”

In the process of formulating his set of responses claiming that the not-so-sensational “Top Secret” documents were either already known to reputable scholars, or were understandably not commercially appealing to publishers, Ron Radosh contacted leading figures in Soviet Studies, including Jonathan Brent, Mark Kramer, and John Earl Haynes, in effect putting them all on the spot, whereupon they described in detail what had been translated and where (most of) the materials could be found. The Radosh piece concluded that Berlinski’s argument was so weak as to be unpublishable. Berlinski then replied to Radosh, sticking to her guns. Radosh fired back again, while today City Journal, defending its reputation as a reliable conservative publication, published a long series of comments by leading figures in the imbroglio. Having placed this riposte on her Facebook page, Berlinski stated that she would no longer be involved in “petty” squabbles of this nature, reiterating a statement that she had made in her second article in response to Radosh. (All these publications are posted on my Facebook profile. For other significant comments by scholars, see the archives of H-Diplo.)

Although curriculum formation in the interwar and Cold War periods is my field of interest, diplomatic history and primary sources in the Russian language are not in my skill set, but I do know many of the participants in this now polarized debate, owing to my research into the Cold War Melville revival and long association with leftists and, more lately, neoconservatives. I am struck by several matters having to do with censorship:

1. The institutional constraints on all historians, including professional and emotional investments in earlier publications regarding the facts of still controversial subjects, i.e., I am told on good authority that historians are not given to revising the earlier work that made their reputations, even when new contradictory sources appear; if true (and it sounds accurate to me), this is an unbearable fact; and

2. Berlinski’s suspicion that [social democrats and today’s Communists] are ideologically incapable of confronting the full horror of the Soviet past, an opinion that finds resonance in her supporters; and

3. The vexed issue of “American exceptionalism” as fought over in the Texas textbook wars. (For a review of Joan Hoff’s book on the Faustian character of U.S. foreign policy, see this review by diplomatic historian Thomas M. Nichols: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/roundtables/PDF/Roundtable-IX-23.pdf.) This last point may be the most relevant context that explains why the fight between Berlinski and Radosh has taken on such a high profile and is being hotly argued, for Cold War revisionist historians such as Joan Hoff remain in the saddle, and we are witnessing major backlash from conservatives. (By revisionists, I refer to the 60s generation that argued that U.S. imperialism, as embodied, for instance, in the lout Joe McCarthy, was responsible for the Cold War.)

These interests of mine are too big to flesh out in a short blog, but I do want to comment on a brief interchange regarding the fracas between two Facebook friends of Berlinski’s, whose names I have chosen to withhold. The back and forth seemed to come at me out of nowhere. Indeed, I nearly fell over when I saw this:

[commentator #1] “The dirty little secret in this issue which no one EVER talks about, is the, let’s call it coincidence, between the disproportionate involvement of Jews in the Marxist movement in the past and currently and the disproportionate number of Jews in academia and the media elites seems to bring any investigation of the evils of communism to a shuddering halt.

The same people have no problem correctly criticizing the Governor of Virgina for his inability to recognize the unmentioned slavery that underlay his celebration of Confederate month.”

[commentator #2] “There was also a disproportionate number of Jews in anti-communist political writing and theorizing… and I would guess a disproportionate number of Jews who are writing about the evils of hiding communism’s sins.

And I doubt the academics who are Jewish who are active in the “the commies meant well; let’s move on to other things” are motivated by any wish to protect Jews from scrutiny. Many people of that tendency are also anti-Israel; it’s a way they can prove that they have transcended petty ethnocentric concerns.”

[#1]”…you’re right. You are guessing. And since the field of “anti-Communist political writing” is such a tiny percentage of political writing by the elites, that just goes to prove my point.

I have been part of this scene for 50 years and I am not guessing. You might as well face it. If it makes you feel any better, there were also a way disproportionate number of Jews against Nazism.

There is nothing wrong with the inescapable fact that our ethnic heritage heavily influences us, except trying to ignore it. It is this kind of bald intellectual dishonesty that pollutes the entire field.

I assure you being a descendant of several Confederate generals makes me look at the Battle Flag and hear Dixie differently than you….

If I had been living in the Pale of Settlement getting whacked by the Tsarist Cossacks on a regular basis, I would have been an eager Communist Party member too and I my pride in the ideals of that revolution might have taken generations to wash through my family.” [end FB excerpt]

I should begin by saying that #1, descendant of Confederate generals, regards himself as “a Zionist” (in a message to me). Notwithstanding his support for Israel, he both blames and does not blame Jews in academia and in the media for the ostensible cover-up of these eye-opening Bukovsky-Stroilov materials. The Jews cannot help being influenced by their “cultural heritage.”  Moreover, Jews are “disproportionately” involved in controlling educational media, Hollywood, and publishing, as well as disproportionally involved in “the Marxist movement.” The Jews (though not in the majority) are so powerful that they have sealed our lips, except for his. This claim reminds me of a book written by UC Santa Barbara professor Albert S. Lindemann, Esau’s Tears: The Rise of the Jews and Modern Anti-Semitism (Cambridge UP, 1997). Lindemann considered himself a friend of Jewry, yet his statistics could be deployed to buttress the argument of  #1, or for that matter, the notorious Kevin MacDonald (author of a trilogy ending with Culture of Critique). Jews had too much power after their emancipation (look at the omnipotent Frankfurt School!). Could not such claims imply that the Holocaust was rational, given the pushiness of the Western European Jews, and the nature of the Jew-polluted Soviet regime (and here I refer solely to MacDonald, not Lindemann, though some may find the implications of Esau’s Tears troubling).

What #1 and other readers may not wish to see is that membership in Marxist-Leninist organizations meant the renunciation of religion and nationalist identities of any kind, and after the late 19th century, that meant compulsory anti-Zionism. One enlisted in the internationalist brotherhood of proletarians: there, and only there, was the seat of loyalty, forget cultural heritage. For anyone to assert that Marx, the open antisemite (though leftists hotly deny this), was any kind of Jew is to imagine a racial essentialism that must trump the cultural inheritance that #1 postulates in his own case and to that of a group he has not studied, but believes he understands and is sympathetic toward. Yet, even such a friend to the Jews as Paul Johnson in his history of the Jews refers to persons with Jewish parents as Jews, even though they have renounced any “particularist” (i.e., non-internationalist) identity. This can only mean that Jews are a race, not a religion or persons devoted to a particular set of moral values. Yet Johnson refers to the Soviet officials of Jewish background as “Non-Jewish Jews.” Of course, in his defense, antisemites don’t make these fine distinctions because they are ardent believers in racial character, which can never be thrown off.

If there are any dirty little secrets to be found here, it is the fact that “Jews” are not powerful enough to control either Hollywood, or the media, or academe, or Wall Street (I threw that last one in, don’t blame #1), and especially can they not control their mothers. Ideology and/or the profit motive, yes. Jewish power and solidarity? You have got to be kidding or a born-again populist. Start reading every entry on this site starting May, 2009.

July 11, 2009

Multiculturalists and Wilsonians can’t diagnose “the new antisemitism”

foreskinman[12-28-12: This essay explains in a roundabout way, how it is possible to be anti-Zionist without viewing oneself as antisemitic. “Peace is the answer.” It is especially timely given the possible nomination of the anti-Israel Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.]

I. Given the Senate hearings preparatory to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court that are to begin July 13, I thought it would be timely to review how leading academics and other hip intellectuals are handling or ignoring the notion of the law, liberally conceived. Also, I am interested in the claim that her appointment would be a welcome gesture of “inclusion,” long overdue. Hence, this blog, which should be read in connection with my last one on unfinished revolutions. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.)

Professor Bernard Harrison recently delivered a well-received lecture at a recent conference on antisemitism at the U. of Haifa, June 22, 2009. (The link is http://www.edu.haifa.ac.il/~ilangz/antisemitism_conference/. What follows is my critique of two aspects of his general argument: 1. His notion of “prejudice” is not analyzed sufficiently as a term developed by propagandists for the “progressives” (conservative reformers staving off socialism and communism or any other replay of the “jacobin” French Revolution, often through the co-opting of dissident groups); and 2. The idea of “international community” is another “progressive” nostrum that flies in the face of international law and cannot achieve its stated objective of conflict resolution. (I refer the reader of this blog to an excellent essay by legal scholar Samuel J. Spector, disseminated through Middle East Forum that makes the same criticism as I do regarding the underlying ideology of Wilsonian internationalism (the hazy notion of “self-determination,” in Spector’s case study, dealing with the failed diplomacy in resolving problems in the Western Sahara.)

bernard3

The premise of Harrison’s paper was that the once pervasive antisemitic prejudice was based on exclusion, but that it is now superseded by the newer paranoid variety that carries “the scent of death” and “the stench of bad eggs.” In deploying the idea of inclusion as a strategy to fight “prejudice” Harrison does not step outside the assumptions of “multiculturalism”–a policy that bears no relation to what used to be called the melting pot or pluralism–features of the secular state, that is, a state that forbids any and all religious establishments that hold themselves apart from the liberal state and the rule of law. Moreover, he appears to be unaware of the history of racial theory and the assumptions of populist and/or Marxist-Leninist anti-capitalism, with its important persistence in so-called “anti-imperialism,” black liberation theology, or Third World-ism today.

Harrison seems to think that Jews are now enjoying relative “inclusion.” But closer analysis of actual historic persons suggests that, for many,  if a non-Jew includes this or that person of Jewish origin in his/her charmed circle, it is because that exception is a good Jew (i.e. not a fanatic: s/he behaves like a Christian, or agrees with the ever-compromising world view of the “moderate” and “rational” gatekeeper, or worse, submits to Sharia law). This highly conditional idea of inclusion is forcefully brought out in the Radoshes new book on Truman and the founding of Israel, where Truman was strongly put-off by pushy, pressuring Zionist Jews, preferring those like Chaim Weizmann who concurred with his own self-image of the moderate man. It was the pleas of Weizmann and Truman’s old friend Eddie Jacobson who persuaded him to support the new Jewish state in May 1948 (but de jure, not de facto). Thus Truman is portrayed as facing down a recalcitrant and insubordinate Department of State, probably because of his earlier connection with Christian Zionism, blended with more recent humanitarian sympathies with stranded displaced persons in Europe, who were denied entrance to Palestine by the British, and who could not enter other societies as well, given their swelling numbers as many Jews fled Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, adding great numbers to the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, and all living in horrendous conditions.

Harrison has made a distinction between a “new antisemitism” and what he claims is a now virtually passé form of social prejudice. Ignoring the actual history of ethnopluralism/multiculturalism as transmitted by J.G. von Herder and the German Romantics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, he supposes that all stigmatized groups, including Jews, are imagined not as coherent collectivities of persons sharing a national or other group character (such as ‘race’), but as collectivities of “individuals.” This does not square with the historical record. In the U.S., intellectuals such as Horace Kallen, a Progressive, clearly understood that “ethnic” solidarity or cultural nationalism trumped the alarming notion of proletarian internationalism, or the kinship of workers everywhere as Socialist and Marxists had been arguing.  (One favorite test question on the Ph.D. field exams in the UCLA Department of History was to state whether ethnicity or class was the engine of American history. The right answer was undoubtedly “ethnicity” since “class” was constantly collapsed into “race” while I was there, in good anti-imperialist fashion, and stranding the white working class as bearers of “white skin privilege.”)

Turning again to Harrison’s lecture, such social prejudice that makes exclusion or inclusion the test of either prejudice or acceptance, he traces to Rousseau and the (undifferentiated) Enlightenment, not to idealist Germany, with its leading intellectuals in opposition to the “mechanical materialist” French Enlightenment influence, both before and after the French Revolution. Oddly, for Harrison, the conceptual flaw of “exclusion” as the test for prejudice is that it lays “the Chosen People” open to the charge of bigoted exclusiveness. (Clearly, he does not understand or does not report the concept of chosenness as imposing a moral burden on Jews to repair themselves as individuals, through repentance and reparation to the wounded.) Anyway, he thinks such a form of social prejudice has nearly faded away, masking the infinitely more lethal threat of antisemitism that he (and Jean-Paul Sartre) attributed to genocidal Hitler and their current manifestations: Manichean antisemitism in which the division of the universe into the dualing forces of Good and Evil precedes the specifically paranoid conspiracy theory that comprises the new antisemitism. In other words, I infer that Harrison is defending moral relativism, another tic of progressives and moderates, who seek to compromise what may be irreconcilable conflicts with a “middle ground.”

It is my understanding that the conception of Good versus Evil is a feature of absolutist religious world views, and I hasten to add, not Judaism.* The latter has no conception of the devil or of original sin and fallen flesh redeemed by the Saviour. By contrast with Christianity, Judaism as a way of life constantly interrogates the individual as to the possible mixed motives for apparently good and generous gestures, whereas the Christian humanities professors and other intellectuals I have encountered either hesitate to look inside altogether or throw up their hands as to the possibility of any positive knowledge whatsoever of the human psyche. “It is all a mystery,” they often say, or quoting Scripture, we see “through a glass darkly.”   Harrison might have brought out this crucial contrast between some forms of Christianity and Judaism, but did not.

Does the current animus against Zionism and Jews in general have anything whatsoever to do with irrationalism or a fight to the finish between the forces of light and darkness?  The point I made above regarding good Jews (or other token friends from stigmatized groups) still holds. To the “progressive” person, the acceptable Jewish friend has converted away from the collectivity of bad, grasping, pushy, vulgar Jews; indeed has rejected her or his “essence,” but don’t think that the tolerant now-and-then bigot is necessarily comfortable or unwary about a possible switch back to the underlying collective “identity” of the Jew, black, woman, Scotsman, etc. Why? Because “prejudice,” taken by itself is a purely psychological/cultural category invented by social psychologists that is disconnected from the real world of political power,  economic interest, gender domination, and other material considerations. Telling the supposed bigot that s/he has a distorted, i.e., irrational idea of “the Other” is to ignore the structures of domination and irreconcilable conflicts out there (many of which cannot be erased through education or better communication or sensitivity training. And here I am condemning a wide array of social policy that seeks to ameliorate “prejudice”).

To put it plainly and severely, Harrison is worried that the recrudescence of the panicky paranoid variety of antisemitism is creating a “bunker mentality” that focuses Israelis on “security,” not “peace.”” He actually says this straight out, though this, to me, appalling statement, is almost buried by an avalanche of his opinions on other scary matters relating to growing violence against Jews everywhere. So notwithstanding the importance of Arab oil to the West for the last seven decades or so, or the penetration of the Islamic world by Axis elements before and during the 1940s, or the internal hard-line antidemocratic governance of the Arab states and Iran (featuring of course the control of women, and/or economic backwardness and tribalism), Harrison apparently believes that there is a plausible peace process in the offing between Israel and her neighbors, if only all parties would purge themselves of the irrational components of their psyches. And of course the moderate men, the mediators, will sensitively and artfully manipulate the warring parties to eliminate psychological obstacles to compromise (compromise being the braiding together of Good and Evil?). To me, that was the subtext of Harrison’s presentation at the U. of Haifa: a call to moderation and sanity, led by philosopher-kings.

II. In the remaining part of this essay, I  discuss the rejection by progressive anti-Semites of the chief tenet of the bourgeois Enlightenment: equality before the law– the keystone of the liberal state and of liberal nationalism. It is my suspicion that this so-called “legalism” has long been the gravest unpardonable sin indulged in by “the Jews”  and by their “Hebraic” Judeo-Christian progeny in the West.” As a would-be peacemaker in the time of multiculturalism, Bernard Harrison doesn’t see this.

It is no wonder that Carl Schmitt, Hitler’s favored legal theorist has been rehabilitated by some Leftists. This posting continues the thought expounded above with a distinction between rootless cosmopolitanism and rooted cosmopolitanism, expressed through the contrast between conceptions of liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism.

In the new book by Allis and Ronald Radosh that traces the intricate diplomacy surrounding the U.N. partition of Palestine and then the Jewish state (A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, HarperCollins, 2009), they describe the findings of a prominent Democratic lawyer, Oscar R. Ewing, who determined that the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 was in conformity with international law, and that international law was based on the conquest theory of property.  That is, the Allied Powers had defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first world war, and were entitled to dispose of the previously Turkish lands as they saw fit (Safe Haven, pp.287-288). Hence, the idea of the partition of Palestine (as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 29, 1947) did not violate international legal precedent. Against this sort of claim, Arab nationalists had long latched onto the Wilsonian notion of “self-determination.” It occurred to me after reading these pages that the common phrase “international community” must be the foil to “international law” and that “self-determination” was an intrinsic notion of multiculturalism, which stands, therefore, outside the law (and indeed any kind of universalist ethical imperative).

   Another way to put it is this: Ewing and such predecessors in America as Senator Charles Sumner or his ally Thaddeus Stevens (two of the “Black Republicans”) were advocates of the rational liberal state, understood as that overarching set of laws that guaranteed the protection of individual liberty and the common welfare. Liberty was understood not simply as limited government, but both as equal opportunity to advance through merit, and most crucially as equality before the law, i.e., one law for rich and poor alike. Such a classically liberal orientation has been characterized as “rootless cosmopolitanism” by its enemies, and as many of you know, Stalin abhorred and disposed of such an ideology that inevitably spawned enemies of the people. Prior opponents were organic conservatives of the Woodrow Wilsonian ilk, whose “cosmopolitanism” was “rooted.” What follows is Wilson’s own definition of community and its notion of Gemeinschaft.

[footnote from my article (“Margoth vs. Robert E. Lee”) https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. See Woodrow Wilson, “A Calendar of Great Americans,” Mere Literature, 209-210: “[Like Lincoln, Lee was also “national in spirit”]: He fought on the opposite side, but fought in the same spirit, and for a principle which is in a sense scarcely less American than the principle of Union. He represented the idea of the inherent–the essential–separateness of self-government. This was not the principle of secession: that principle involved the separate right of the several self-governing units of the federal system to judge of national questions independently, and as a check upon the federal government,–and to adjudge the very objects of the Union. Lee did not believe in secession, but he did believe in the local rootage of all government. This is at the bottom, no doubt, an English idea; but it has had a characteristically American development. It is the reverse side of the shield which bears upon its obverse the devices of the Union, a side too much overlooked and obscured since the war. It conceives the individual State a community united by the most intimate associations, the first home and foster-mother of every man born into the citizenship of the nation. Lee considered himself a member of one of these great families; he could not conceive of the nation apart from the State: above all, he could not live in the nation divorced from his neighbors. His own community should decide his political destiny and duty.”

So where do the Jews come in? If anyone here has read George L. Mosse’s numerous books on the popular culture of Nazism, you will remember that the Jew was commonly seen in German novels or similar artifacts as the snake in the garden that attacked the roots of the tree. In other words, the Jewish threat is always, in one form or another, that of destroyer of “local rootage,” i.e., community and the solidarity that occurs within families, ‘races,’ and nation-states, with the nation state understood as control over specific territories and resources, as opposed to that of Gesellschaft: the liberal state as guarantor of freedom and safety for individual citizens. How do we “Jews” poison the well? Through the control of money and the media, through the advocacy of science and technology, the defense of equality before the law, skepticism, political and religious pluralism. Name your poison in this secular, hence jewified, world. In my view, this is what the Harrison paper misses (for many of these “Jewish” sins predate the onset of modernity and comprised Jew-hatred, and not simply exclusion or “social prejudice” but death to the Jewish collectivity, a collectivity understood by its opponents to share a common militaristic and domineering national character, instigated by its cruel and vindictive, particularistic God), and yet any serious student of intellectual history must recognize the pattern.

Finally, I refer you again to the paper posted on this website and excerpted above, as it spells out, in often entertaining detail, the difference between a “mechanical materialist” (i.e., “Jew” or Charles Sumner type) and an anti-science, anti-materialist organic conservative of the Woodrow Wilson-Robert E. Lee type. Although this distinction is developed throughout my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, this paper goes beyond the book and is more concrete with respect to Melville’s conservative racist persona as expressed in a book of poems he wrote as a meditation upon the Civil War and Reconstruction. Another of my essays on the origins of multiculturalism is found at https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/. Readers here who are curious about the “rootless cosmopolitan” should look at the following paragraphs from Freud’s essay “Thoughts for the Time on War and Death” (1915):

[Freud describes what I call “the rootless cosmopolitan.”]… Relying on this unity among the civilized people, countless men and women have exchanged their native home for a foreign one, and made their existence dependent on the intercommunication between friendly nations. Moreover anyone who was not by stress of circumstance confined to one spot could create for himself out of all the advantages and attractions of these civilized countries a new and wider fatherland, in which he would move about without hindrance or suspicion. In this way he enjoyed the blue sea and the grey; the beauty of snow-covered mountains and of green meadow lands; the magic of northern forests and the splendour of southern vegetation; the mood evoked by landscapes that recall great historical events, and the silence of untouched nature. This new fatherland was a museum for him, too, filled with all the treasures which the artists of civilized humanity had in the successive centuries created and left behind. As he wandered from one gallery to another in this museum, he could recognize with impartial appreciation what varied types of perfection a mixture of blood, the course of history, and the special quality of their mother-earth had produced among his compatriots in this wider sense. Here he would find cool, inflexible energy developed to the highest point; there, the graceful art of beautifying existence; elsewhere, the feeling for orderliness and law, or others among the qualities which have made mankind the lords of the earth.

Nor must we forget that each of these inhabitants of the civilized world had created for himself a ‘Parnassus’ and’ a ‘School of Athens’ of his own. From among the great thinkers, writers and artists of all nations he had chosen those to whom he considered he owed the best of what he had been able to achieve in enjoyment and understanding of life, and he had venerated them along with the immortal ancients as well as with the familiar masters of his own tongue. None of these great figures had seemed to him foreign because they spoke another language – neither the incomparable explorer of human passions, nor the intoxicated worshipper of beauty, nor the powerful and menacing prophet, nor the subtle satirist; and he never reproached himself on that account for being a renegade towards his own nation and his beloved mother-tongue.”

*But see Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (Harper and Row, 1987), a large popular work dedicated to a Christian gentleman who is a friend to the Jews. In his first chapter Johnson calls their all encompassing and world-changing moral law “totalitarian” and making clear channels between right and wrong, good and evil. Using the word “totalitarian” in this context is provocative and ahistoric, especially as Johnson lauds the Jews as upholding life above all things, in contrast to their contemporaries in antiquity. But as I read further into the book, it seems to me to be one of the best history books for a popular audience that I have encountered.

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