YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 6, 2016


Damian Gordon slideshow image

Damian Gordon slideshow image

(Update 1-8-16: This is NOT an anti-religion blog. My point is that secular, pluralistic societies are notorious for undermining the claims of particular religions.)

The agitated response to the claim by N. Korea that it had tested an H-Bomb reminded me of Eisenhower’s seminal 1961 farewell speech warning of a [godless] “military-industrial complex.” The heart of progressivism lies in this warning: that the Bomb unleashed powers that heretofore were reserved for the deity. The (moderate conservative) remedy is love in the service of international understanding, i.e., multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and the prophetic vision of Woodrow Wilson that eventuated in the United Nations (preceded by the League of Nations).

That is the overarching message of Carroll W. Pursell Jr.’s Readings in Technology and American Life (Oxford UP paperback, 1969).  The running theme in this solely “progressive” roundup of source readings was echoed by historian Friedrich Meinecke’s explanation for the rise of Hitler: technology, unharnessed by the moderating power of religion, would raise a race of monster technicians from the lower orders, unimpressed by elite leadership. (The German historian’s analysis is found here: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/12/multiculturalismethnopluralism-in-the-mid-20th-century/.)

Make no mistake: Pursell is a devoted progressive, hence not hostile to the rule of experts (a salutary effect of professionalization in the applied sciences): experts who would be motivated by such dodgy and indefinite notions as a knowable “public interest,” the planning state, and “service” (a.k.a. “duty”). What Pursell is pitching is Conservative Enlightenment in the service of Big Government. (Radical Enlightenment leads to free market economics, not bureaucratic collectivism. See https://clarespark.com/2015/12/29/milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-1962/.)

Where would godless technology lead in a secularizing society? To the rule of robots with selected human features? If we feel ourselves turning into mindless machines, perhaps we should look to the apparent benefits of conformity to rules handed down by “experts,” not to advances in our particular understanding of the material world we inhabit.


January 15, 2015

Antisemitism vs. “anti-Zionism”: is there a difference?



http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/France-envoy-to-JPost-Jewish-crisis-nothing-to-do-with-Israel-and-the-Palestinians-387738. Headline: “France envoy to JPost: Jewish crisis has ‘nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians’.” Michael Wilner’s column, quoting French Ambassador Araud, dated January 14, 2015 in The Jerusalem Post, disturbed me, so I am writing a short summary of the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda and sentiment (i.e., “anti-Zionism.”) (The discussion of antisemitism is continued here: https://clarespark.com/2015/01/18/is-antisemitism-rational-or-irrational/.)

First, the notion that antisemitism in Europe is limited to Muslim immigrants and their offspring flies in the face of history, particularly in the history of France, where antisemitism, often associated with the reaction to the French Revolution (Napoleon, to be precise), flourished on the reactionary Right. It is well known that wartime Occupied and Vichy France showed little resistance to shipping off Jews to concentration camps and death. As the late David Wyman has shown, all of the West abandoned the Jews of Europe, including the United States. Nor did any of the “anti-fascist” combatants in WW2 call a conference after the war to conduct some soul-searching.  Instead, multiculturalism was increasingly institutionalized and allied with the United Nations. Indeed, the very first issue of Commentary publicized and supported the New Deal notion of “intercultural education”; see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/16/the-antiquated-melting-pot/.

Despite some efforts to credit Harry Truman with recognizing the Jewish State in 1948, it was the competition between the US and the Soviet Union (plus the willingness of Sabras and refugee Jews to take large casualties in the 1948 war) that enabled Israel’s existence as something more than a binational state controlled by Brits, Arabs, and Jews expected to limit immigration and hence aggressive “expansionism” as UN rapporteur and Acting Mediator Ralph Bunche feared. https://clarespark.com/2014/05/17/miracle-man-ralph-bunche-saves-the-un/, and https://clarespark.com/2014/06/18/how-ralph-bunche-sold-out-and-failed-in-palestine/.

As long as the Soviets expected a Jewish state to join the Eastern bloc, they supplied weapons to fighting Jews fending off invasion from five Arab neighbors, much to the horror of Bunche, the UK, and the US Department of State.  But when Israel allied itself with the West, communists everywhere lost their enthusiasm. Today’s New Left apes the revised Soviet line, equivalent to what is now called “the Palestinian narrative.”  (The Palestinian narrative in one sentence: “rooted” poor Arab farmers (the majority) were uprooted by rootless cosmopolitans (a few urban Jews), especially the “maximalist,” modernizing Jabotinsky faction whose ideological descendants now dominate Israeli politics, thus inspiring Left cadre in US academe to mount boycott campaigns.)

Palestinian narrative in maps

Palestinian narrative in maps

In today’s liberal political discourse, “the Left” refers both to social democrats and to communists. I usually draw a sharp line between these incompatible “left” factions, but with respect to Israel, it is hard to maintain a distinction. Social democrats (many of whom represent themselves as moderates or “neocons”) support Israel to the extent that Israel will acquiesce to a “peace agreement” with “Palestinians” even as “the right of return” is a condition of “peace” from the Arab side. Because of this attitude, many conservative Jews, horrified by the end of a Jewish homeland and haven-state, conflate antisemitism with “anti-Zionism” on the grounds that Israel is “where the Jews are.” I believe that this is mistaken.

Look at today’s liberal or “moderate”-dominated mass media, even those with intellectual pretensions:  even after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris (along with the kosher grocery store killings), the tenets of multiculturalism reign undisturbed—except that radical Islam is split off from moderate Islam, thus maintaining a reactionary ideology (multiculturalism) that suits the United Nations and its internationalism and ostensibly peaceful globalism; i.e., mechanisms are now in place to stop wars through “inclusion,” toleration of “difference” and international law.

Alas, it is considered to be a fringe belief that female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Muslim countries. What is at stake is the refusal to accept modernity, so that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about resistance to modernity that has elevated the status and influence of women, Jews, and ordinary people; rather, even our most public intellectuals continue to describe the Mid-East conflict as a fight over the control of a small strip of land. Nor do they trouble themselves over the intertwining of antisemitism and misogyny, let alone the exact character of Nazism, whose baleful influence is still felt throughout much of the Nazified Arab world and Iran.

honor killing

honor killing

Much of this website is devoted to the study of antisemitism, which is not taught in our schools, though token gestures are made toward teaching “the Holocaust” particularly when other “genocides” are included to discredit “the [capitalist imperialist] West.” The particular threat offered by intellectually combative Jews (either secular or observant, viewed as catalysts of change) is thus buried in a populist offensive against capitalism, “materialism,” and science. (See my index on antisemitism here: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/29/index-to-blogs-on-antisemitism/.)

June 18, 2014

“Feminized” and “jewified” modernity, and my breakup with Ralph Bunche

palestinetugofwarI recently went through my notes from the Ralph Bunche papers at UCLA, some of which had been already posted: https://clarespark.com/2014/05/17/miracle-man-ralph-bunche-saves-the-un/. You may remember that he became Acting Mediator for the Arab-Israeli conflict after the Stern Gang assassinated Count Folke Bernadotte, September 17, 1948; the [pseudo] settlement of this conflict was a test case for the efficacy of the new United Nations after WW2. Indeed, Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize for his ‘successful’ mediation that resulted in the 1949 armistice lines between Israel and her neighbors.

Earlier, in the 1930s, Bunche was a leftist, possibly a member of the CPUSA, though that is hard to pin down, as he was all over the various left factions that fought with each other during the Great Depression. Some will see him as solely as a follower of Norman Thomas or A. Philip Randolph. But he wrote to Alger Hiss in support of his struggle with the anticommunists, and he was also on the editorial board of the communist publication Science and Society (though he later resigned). I made a photocopy of a strongly anti-imperialist, anti-racist declaration of W. E. B. Dubois from the mid-1930s, and find little in Bunche that deviated from the DuBois anti-capitalist positions. Indeed, Bunche’s pamphlet A World View of Race, autographed by DuBois, is an anti-racist, anti-imperialist classic of the genre.

Bunche was effectively co-opted during and after his stint as Gunnar Myrdal’s chief research associate while the latter was writing about An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy ) published 1944. By then, Bunche had proven his usefulness to the liberal elite by identifying those “Negro betterment organizations” that were likely to get out of hand and effectively upset the status quo. His next job was with the OSS, where he downplayed US influence in Africa, then he was hired by the State Department, to which he remained loyal during his time with the UN. During the summer of 1948, he addressed the top dogs in that department to warn them that Israel was inevitably “expansionist” [and trouble owing to increased immigration], a warning he later repeated to upper-class Americans in private meetings. [Added 6-24-14: this “expansionist” line would come to duplicate radical jihadist propaganda that Israel and its Western allies were seeking to destroy Palestinians and other Muslims through “expansion” into territories once held by Islam, including Muslim penetration into the Europe that the Arab world had ostensibly civilized.]

By that, I mean that he aligned with those State Department figures who wished to cooperate with Arabs (whose oil was crucial), and who were also eager to maintain an increasingly shaky alliance with Great Britain against the Soviet threat. But perhaps the most important point to take away from this brief summary of Bunche’s politics is this: RB entirely accepted the UN and State Department line that the question of a Jewish state must be framed as two victimized peoples fighting over a small strip of land, strategically located for the failing British Empire. Nearly all the scholarship that followed takes this identical, incorrect line.

What is modernity? To its reactionary enemies, modernity signifies economic development along with the rise of banks and financiers, political democracy, the emancipation of the inquiring mind, a free quality education for all children, urbanization, secularism and pluralism, but above all, equality under the law for rich and poor alike. But for the Muslim world, the emancipation of women was probably one of the most painful developments as it was a symptom of reduced paternal authority in the family. I remember reading a book from the late 1940s that registered the indignation that Israel’s enemies expressed at the sight of sabra women going about, unaccompanied, wearing shorts and sandals.

1922 antimodern image

1922 antimodern image

Even my most erudite friends fail to see this distinction between fighting over land and borders and the “Pan-Arab” resistance to modernity. An incorrect analysis leads to bad strategy, destructive school curricula, and worse journalism that more often than not, concludes in some form of moral equivalence between Jewish and Palestinian atrocities: an ideological analysis based on irrational antagonism toward “the Other.” (see https://clarespark.com/2012/10/11/the-other/).

What neither Bunche nor pundits in our own time saw with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict was as follows: It was never about land and borders or “Otherness.” The “question of Palestine” was always about Muslim resistance to modernity. And Jews along with emancipated women signified a rupture in human history that was intolerable. Modern machines, modernist skyscrapers, and technology, along with other common antimodern tropes, had nothing to do with their animus against a Jewish state. Most disturbingly, Bunche made it his mission to preserve the legend of Count Bernadotte’s greatness; agreeing with him that the displaced “Palestinians” should enjoy the “right of return”, and carefully editing out of Bernadotte’s memoir all evidence of hostility to the Jewish leaders they encountered during their “peace” efforts in 1948.


It is astonishing that Bunche, a very astute person, did not see that at the time; perhaps it was a leftover from his days on the anti-imperialist Left. Moreover, his lack of understanding (the Palestine problem is insoluble), suggests that though he was a highly educated person and very liberal and systematic in his notes on Africa, he was morally compromised by his alliance with more powerful men. Bunche’s disgust with antisemitism, the main subject of my article on his relations with Myrdal, probably reflected 1. The communist line at the time, and 2. The Jews he praised were probably communists supportive of the labor movement; his anti-antisemitism probably did not reflect his deeply held beliefs. I find it painful to acknowledge this. His diaries are not free from disdain at Jews who fawned over him.

Bunche Nobel

October 27, 2012

Melville, Orwell, Doublethink

 This is my second major Orwell blog: see https://clarespark.com/2012/10/15/orwell-power-and-the-totalitarian-state/ for the first one.

During my recent forays into the changing interpretations of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), I was surprised to learn that Orwell had read passages from Herman Melville’s White-Jacket (1850) while broadcasting on the BBC during the early years of WW2. Specifically, he excerpted a gory description of a naval doctor performing an unnecessary and fatal amputation on a wounded U.S. sailor. Elsewhere in White-Jacket, HM had sharply and vividly written about “flogging through the fleet,” a practice that he abhorred, possibly because he had been caned as a child by his own father. Indeed, Roy Porter sent me an ad from a British newspaper offering White-Jacket as sadomasochistic porn. (On the dynamics of sadomasochism see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/21/managerial-psychiatry-jung-murray-and-sadomasochism-2/.)

Though at least one Orwell biographer (Jeffrey Meyers) has emphasized GO’s masochism, I have not found a source yet that relates where the conception of Doublethink originated. Did Orwell know about “cognitive dissonance” from experience, or reading, or had he read Melville’s Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), where Melville not only describes his mother’s frequent mixed messages, but invents “Plinlimmon’s Pamphlet” that praises “virtuous expediency” as the best morality attainable on this deceptive earth. My book on the Melville Revival (Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival)  is nearly entirely devoted to this theme of the double bind/cognitive dissonance/virtuous expediency, all of which signify what Orwell chose to call Doublethink.

Here are the double binds that I suggest were made apparent in Melville’s novels, and then may have driven his academic revivers in the 20th century into all manner of psychogenic symptoms and illnesses. (It is my contention that Melville readers who wished to advance in academe had to suppress the evidence before them in order to please the reigning ideology in the universities that employed them, so many derided Melville/Ahab as crazy, while defending Plinlimmon’s sensible philosophy, that they attributed to their “moderate” Melville/Ishmael .) But first take Doublethink in Pierre.

  1. There is no conflict between “truth” and Order. Mary Glendinning, Pierre’s mother in the novel, wants her son “just emerging from his teens” to grow into a manly individual, but not such an individual that he disobeys her choice  in choosing his future wife, who will also be perfectly obedient to her wishes.
  2. Pierre is expected to revere his dear perfect (Christian) father, but he must not be so good a Christian as to rescue from near-beggary his “natural” half-sister Isabel.
  3. Pierre reads the double bind, jilts his mother-chosen fiancée, runs off with Isabel, and mother dies of insanity. This book will not end well. (See Pierre’s scolding mother in this hard to find set of illustrations by Maurice Sendak, for a truncated edition of Pierre. https://yankeedoodlesoc.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/pierre3.jpg.)

In the much quoted Father Mapple’s sermon in Moby-Dick, the abolitionist preacher speaks of snatching the truth even if it lies hidden under the skirts of judges and Senators. It is unclear here whether “truth” signifies the truth of Christ, or of the truth as defined by lawyers (or today, scientists). But it is a fact that during Captain Ahab’s speech on “the quarter-deck”, he declares that “Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.” Since Ahab is widely described as a blasphemer, I suspect that it is empirical truth that the relatively powerless see, and which is denied by their superiors, that Melville meant to call out. Which links him now to Orwell’s famous “dystopia.”

For Winston Smith works in “the Ministry of Truth” where he rewrites history to suit the propaganda requirements of Big Brother and the Inner Party. Recall Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938), where he denounces journalists for taking the Soviet line that all anarchists and Trotskyists were in league with Franco’s fascists. John Dos Passos, in Century’s Ebb, remembered Orwell as an individualist striking out at those man-made institutions that forced him to lie for the sake of Order. Compare Dos’s elevation of Orwell as truth-seeker to the trendier line that Orwell, like Melville, was a premature anti-imperialist, and for that alone we honor his life and work.

[Added 11-10-12 Dos quote: )“If one thinks of the artist as…an autonomous individual who owes nothing to society, then the golden age of the artist was the age of capitalism. He had then escaped the patron and had not yet been captured by the bureaucrat…. Yet it remains true that capitalism, which in many ways was kind to the artist and to the intellectual generally, is doomed and is not worth saving anyway. So you arrive at these two antithetical facts: (1) Society cannot be arranged for the benefit of artists; (2) without artists civilisation perishes. I have not yet seen this dilemma solved (there must be a solution), and it is not often that it is honestly discussed.” (George Orwell, in TRIBUNE, 1944). Quoted by Arthur M. Eckstein, “George Orwell’s Second Thoughts on Capitalism,” The Revised Orwell, ed. Jonathan Rose (Michigan State UP, 1992), p.204.

Another double bind that is especially relevant today:  There is no conflict between national identity and international identity. Hence, the United Nations is our best bet to avoid wars of the catastrophic magnitude of the world wars of the 20th century, or to halt “voter suppression” on November 6, 2012. Such are the psychic requirements of political correctness, the term itself an example of Doublethink, for facts (correctness) are non-partisan. Melville’s takedown of “virtuous expediency” is more to the point.

For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2012/10/14/reality-and-the-left/. For “political correctness” as decorum, an idea passed out by liberal elites, see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/, especially the suggestion by Christopher Edley, whose career has been remarkable.

September 30, 2012

Bibi as warmonger?

[Before you read this blog, please see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/29/index-to-blogs-on-antisemitism/, especially the last paragraph, just added to the index.]

During my extensive research on the history of antisemitism, I read all of this book published originally in 1942: Jews in a Gentile World: The Problem of Anti-Semitism. The authors were unknown to me: Isacque Graeber and Steuart Henderson Britt. Amazon. com offers a hardcover copy at $939.45. The book was a series of essays written by prominent persons including Talcott Parsons, just then reaching the height of his fame and influence as a sociologist at Harvard. Parsons blamed the Jews for their brutal, domineering, and militaristic conception of the deity. Is Parsons’ ahistoric view of the Old Testament Jewish God still relevant, especially to moderates like himself?

Here is how the Wall Street Journal depicted the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the day after his UN speech 9-27-12. Note the facial expression that in tandem with the  headline suggests a forcefulness/pushiness that I did not detect in what I thought was a cautious but firm address. One Facebook friend proposed that the photo suggested a warmonger sending young American boys into battle. I agree, especially as WSJ (p.A12) claimed that he did not address the Palestinian issue. (He did say that a Palestinian State should be demilitarized.)

WSJ image of Bibi at UN

December 15, 2011

Gingrich and the socially-constructed “nation state”

Ferdinand Toennies, German sociologist

A discussion has opened up on a Humanities-Net discussion group, “ The History of Antisemitism, “ regarding Newt Gingrich’s remark on a cable channel (“the Jewish Channel”) that “the Palestinians are an invented people.”  Liberals and leftists in the group associate such a remark with the far right. This blog seeks to historicize the notion of the nation state, arguing that each has a distinct history and that nation-states cannot be lumped together as all being “socially constructed”  as one list member has argued.

“The nation-state” has long been a target of both revolutionary socialists and social democrats, who both prefer some form of internationalism (either proletarian or Wilsonian); think of Marxist Benedict Anderson’s “imagined communities” or, in the liberal camp, the advocates for the League of Nations, then the United Nations. But the British Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote famously about the distinction between conservative nationalism and liberal nationalism. The latter, he wrote, allowed for the progressive ascension of movements against arbitrary privilege, while conservative nationalism was solely about the control of territory and resources. Ferdinand Toennies, writing in the late 19th century, made a similar distinction when he contrasted Gemeinschaft with Gesellschaft.*

Sadly, it has been the fashion of the post-1960s academy to support Gemeinschaft (an irrationalist racialist discourse denying individuality) against the more rational Gesellschaft (a rational state based upon equality before the law, and susceptible to adjustment and revision; viewing societies as collections of individuals, not races). Hence, the reign of identity politics since the New Left takeover of the humanities, with its “multicultural” emphasis on the constructed category of “race” as against objective class and gender interests. (See my blog https://clarespark.com/2009/12/18/assimilation-and-citizenship-in-a-democratic-republic/.)

As for Israel, its origin is grounded in a mixture of factors that is very confusing to the uninformed. To say that it was simply like other recent nation-states, i.e., socially constructed, is inaccurate and reductive. Many persons on both Left and Right would argue for historicizing each nation state, without subsuming them under one overarching epistemology. Gingrich was accurate about the invention of the Palestinians as a distinct people, but it was tactless of him to make that claim, as most Palestinians are likely, in this time, to be convinced of their peoplehood, and that is the diplomatic situation facing us.  Other conservatives, Charles Krauthammer for one, have made this precise point and are distressed that Gingrich said what he did; but recall that Gingrich was speaking on the Jewish cable channel, and obviously hoping to get “Jewish” votes (https://clarespark.com/2011/06/17/the-famed-jewish-vote/), positioning himself against the current administration that has been openly hostile to Israel’s current government, and apparently ignorant of the history of the region.

* See Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Civil Society, ed. Jose Harris, transl. Jose Harris and Margaret Hollis (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. Originally published in 1887, Tönnies’s book is considered to be a classic work of sociology, but not until after the first world war (xxviii-xxviii) was it canonized. At first seen as a “communist tract,” it was taken up by German “ultra-nationalists,” and in America during the 1930s was read as “an essay in consensual structural functionalism.” The editor of this edition seems favorably disposed to this elusive and mysterious work. Tönnies was the son of a merchant banker, and given his hostility to modernity, one wonders how much of his disgust with the modern world was intertwined with his feelings about his father. In 1892 he “helped found Society for Ethical Culture, the vehicle for his life-long involvement in various co-operative, social reform, and self-improvement movements.” (xxxi-xxxii)

October 9, 2009

Conflict Resolution: Ralph Bunche’s Nobel Prize (3)

Image (49)Today, October 9, 2009, President Barack Obama learned that he was to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; some believe that it was given in anticipation of the pacific and internationalist diplomacy that his administration would embody.  Since I have been writing for months here on progressives and their confidence in the efficacy of “conflict-resolution” as the jewel in their crowns, I am commenting on two figures today who also advocated an end to war. First, here is Woodrow Wilson, thirteen years before he commenced his promotion of the League of Nations; indeed the last of his famous Fourteen Points called for precisely such an international organization. But in the speech below, it is clearly the class war that alarmed him while he was still President of Princeton University. (The material that follows is the conclusion of my blog https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/ ):

     Representing the American Whig Society at the Sesquicentennial Celebration at Princeton University, a quaking Wilson addressed his magnificently dressed international audience, October 21, 1896; his topic “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” “The Old World trembles to see its proletariat in the saddle.” “The literature of your own race and country” would instruct the masses, and neutralize “the work of the noxious, intoxicating gas which has somehow got into the lungs of the rest of us, from out the crevices of [the scientist’s] workshop…I should tremble to see social reform led by men who have breathed it; I should fear nothing better than utter destruction from a revolution conceived and led in the scientific spirit. Do you wonder, then, that I ask for the old drill, the old memory of times gone by, the old schooling in precedent and tradition, the old keeping of faith with the past, as a preparation for leadership in the days of social change?” Closing his remarks, a calmer Wilson elaborated his pacific model of the perfected university, breeding ground for democratic leaders to be trained in the ascetic ideal, hence liberated from Sumner’s ruptures, Margoth’s foul wind[s],[1] and the example of Europe’s runaway horsy proles. Serving “the nation,” it would be

           ” the home of sagacious men, hard-headed and with a will to know, debaters of the world’s questions every day and used to the rough ways of democracy: and yet a place removed–calm Science seated there, recluse, ascetic, like a nun, not knowing that the world passes, not caring, if the truth but come in answer to her prayer; and Literature, walking within her open doors, in quiet chambers, with men of olden times, storied walls about her, and calm voices infinitely sweet; here ‘magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn,’ to which you may withdraw and use your youth for pleasure; there windows open straight upon the street, where many stand and talk, intent upon the world of men and affairs. A place for men, and all that concerns them; but unlike the world in its self-possession, its thorough[2] way of talk, its care to know more than the moment brings to light; slow to take excitement; its air pure and wholesome with a breath of faith; every eye within it bright in the clear day and quick to look toward heaven for the confirmation of its hope. Who shall show us the way to that place?”

   With science safely closeted and purified, the South would rise again. Wilson’s home was a typically Southern one: quieted, for a time, but not subdued. In the late 1930s, one writer stated flatly that the South had justifiably hated the North, and without remission: ” The late war had seemed to them a test between the strength of men and the strength of things, between a spiritual philosophy and a materialistic philosophy; and they were convinced that the result of it would be the extinction of everything they valued. They felt that more-and-more and not better-and-better was the inevitable motto of the new order; and they believed that such a premise was comfortable only with the standardized and the un-polite; the essentially un-human.” [3]

The genteel South, like much of the anti-consumerist, anti-commercial 1960s counter-culture and New Left, would not be railroaded by Yankee Puritans; would not be uplifted by “geologic Jew[s]” into the modern age. [end excerpt, Margoth v. Robert E. Lee]

     Also, on this website, I have suggested that the Southerner Wilson viewed “self-determination” as analogous to “state’s rights,” and that his collectivist ideology, in a typical “progressive” gesture erased the individual and epistemological materialism in general in favor of “community” or “the public interest” (as defined by elites). Add to that the numerous blogs in which I likened the now omnipresent “peace studies” or “conflict-resolution” exercises in the schools, to a kind of “coerced harmony” from above, in which the artful, manipulative, but always rational and neutral “mediator” brings to the table two irrational entities, whose lust for war, in this industrialized but disorganized world of deadly weapons widely distributed to the crazies, will ignite the planet in a war that will destroy everyone with unprecedented ferocity.

     The fear of apocalypse was present in the imagination of Ralph Bunche as he was given the task of mediating the war of 1948, after the new state of Israel was invaded by her neighbors. His labors as mediator earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, but as he states (privately) in his papers, he thought that he should have given it back. The armistices that he negotiated were not peace treaties at all, but the result of unanticipated Israeli military victories in late 1948 that had brought Egypt to the table, lest Israel expand further beyond the borders agreed upon by the United Nations partition resolution of November 29, 1947. For the Arab states, the armistice agreements were stopping points in a war they would never relinquish until the Jews and their State were out of the Middle East.

    Nor was Bunche the disinterested figure that has been painted by hagiographers. His papers show that both during the period he was assisting Count Bernadotte and after he became Acting Mediator (Bernadotte had been assassinated in September 1948) he was transmitting the strategies advanced by the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Office of the U.K., for instance in the designs that the U.K. had on the Negev as a site for a military base. I see the armistice negotiations as a charade, but Bunche’s success is made the inspiration for student exercises in effective conflict-resolution in a booklet prepared by the National Center for History in the Schools (UCLA), A Unit of Study for Grades 9-12. It is entitled “Infinite Patience, Indomitable Will, Ralph Bunche, His Struggle for Peace and Justice,” while the publicity for the Spingarn Medal awarded to him in 1949 restores the Great Man theory of history.

   A few scholars have noted Bunche’s real influences and the dynamics of conflict that led to the armistices between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria (Michael J. Cohen and before that, J. C. Hurewitz), but in the material presented by UCLA Magazine, he is lauded “for his success in negotiating a peaceful settlement….” as if the United Nations intervention alone had led to a resolution of conflict.

    To link these three sections together (Wilson, the spirituality of Southern Review, and Bunche), my complaint is not against conflict-resolution as such, but rather the invisibility of irreconcilable conflicts, grounded in competing material economic, political, and cultural interests, in the minds of many advocates of “peace studies.” When Wilson relegated “science” to the nunnery, he was throwing overboard the only methodology that could minimize future violent conflict: that is, narrowing the difference between the rich and poor nations through economic, political, and cultural development. Unless the meaning of “spirituality” is changed to the unblinkered search for the multiple material and ideological causes of conflict, we have nothing but words, words, words along with glittering medals that signify nothing.

[1] Herman Melville, Clarel, 2.26, 1-24. Margoth has insulted the Roman Catholic Church, declaring that “All, all’s geology, I trow.” Margoth is first introduced in the text at the dung-gate. The narrator explains that it marked where “By torch the tipstaves Jesus led,/ And so through back-street hustling sped/ To Pilate./ Odor bad it has/ This gate in story¼.” (1.24, 16-20).

 [2] Compare to Wilson’s description of the Radical Reconstruction program: “Thorough” in Division and Reunion.

 [3] From Southern Review Vol.3 (July-April 1937-38), “What The South Figured 1865-1914,” by John Donald Wade. See also Frank L. Owsley, “Jefferson Davis,” Southern Review, Vol.3, 762-768. Affirming the State’s rights position, Owsley points out that, despite modernization, differing sectional interests remain. The majority may not tyrannize minorities. Cf. Geographer Sumner’s survey of the American continent in “Are We A Nation?” Our rivers and mountains confer natural unity on the nation. In the same volume of Soutern Review see also Donald Davidson, “Regionalism as Social Science,” 209-224, for his preference for Turner over Beard. The essay may be read as supportive of multiculturalism and postmodernism. For a repudiation of Robert E. Lee’s too passive stance, see Andrew Nelson Lytle, “Robert E. Lee,” SR Vol.1 (1935-36): 411-422. “[It was not Lee, who submitted, and trusted in God’s mercy, but rather] those who led the Ku Klux Klan, that society which made survival possible.

September 11, 2009

Oil politics and Obama’s “Israel”

Herbert Feis, economic advisor to FDR

Since James Traficant, ex-Congressman from Youngstown Ohio, newly released from jail, appeared on Fox last night (9-10-09) on Greta Van Susteren’s program, and since he explained recent American interventions in the Middle East as a product of omnipotent Jewish machinations (machinations that eventuated in the understandable attacks of September 11, 2001!), I thought it appropriate to review 1. the importance of oil to American interests as early as the middle of the second world war; and 2. Obama’s abysmal ignorance of the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, let alone the diplomacy surrounding the founding of Israel and America’s ambiguous role in it.

Here is a passage from Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, subtly reiterating the hostile Arab narrative at the end of the second world war (i.e., the Holocaust was Europe’s doing, and Arab states should not be asked to bear the burden of the sins of others: the Jews should disperse and return to their countries of origin. This argument has never changed).  I believe it is an indication of the Obama presidency’s likely attitude toward the U.S. role in mediating the conflict between Israel and her neighbors. He briefly reminisces about his trip to the region:

[Obama:] “I talked to Jews who’d lost parents in the Holocaust and brothers in suicide bombings; I heard Palestinians talk of the indignation of checkpoints and reminisce about the land they had lost. I flew by helicopter across the line separating the two peoples and found myself unable to distinguish Jewish towns from Arab towns, all of them like fragile outposts against the green [sic?] and stony hills.

We have an obligation to engage in efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East, not only for the safety and security of the people of the region, but for the safety and security of our own children.” (Audacity of Hope, p.322. Can you decode these statements without me, readers? The U.S. was never neutral, and is not now. The conflict was not about two peoples fighting over the same piece of land–the cycle of violence frame to the conflict– but was about the fears of a disunited group of Arab states fearful of their own impoverished populations, and terrified of an advanced democracy, keen on economic development, planted in their region. All other explanations come from corporatist liberals who think both sides are irrational and susceptible to mediation by the neutral intervention of more rational and compassionate powers. On corporatist liberalism, see https://clarespark.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-corporatist-liberal-and-why-should-they-frighten-us/ . Heaven forbid that Israel should conduct negotiations with its neighbors without U.S. bullying.)

In these three sentences (I found no other pages on the subject), could we have made inferences about Obama’s likely foreign policy, or his grasp of the politics, history, and geography of Israel and its environs prior to the election? Will it be continuous with that of Roosevelt administration official Herbert Feis, one of Roosevelt’s economic advisors? This is what Feis wrote in his concluding thoughts on international cooperation regarding Middle East oil, published in 1946, but referring to failed U.S. government initiatives in 1943-44 and centering on Saudi Arabia:

[Feis:]”…no program having merely to do with the protection of oil resources can prevent them from becoming a cause of dispute if the great powers quarrel about the political control of the region. If any one of them takes measures hostile to the others or encourages threatening attacks against established political positions of the others, then each oil field in the Middle East will be the scene of turmoil, plot, and counterplot.

Within the next year this may become a grave danger. Arab opposition to further Jewish immigration in Palestine might express itself in a repudiation of existing American and British rights and a search for Russian protection in such measures. This is highly unlikely; but if such a situation arises, it must be ardently hoped that the USSR will not exploit it. There will only be “order in oil” if the large powers work with, not against, each other in the management of the political affairs of the Arab states. Otherwise, any international agreement on oil will be without future. Its phrases would be merely weapons to wound.

Here lies the test of future diplomacy. If it fails, there will be no harmonious way of assuring the availability of Middle Eastern oil to the United States. Whether or not we protect established American enterprises in the regions against the troubles that may beset them will become primarily a matter of military calculation. We shall have to bend over those plotting boards on which the rights and destinies of nations are measured solely in units of force. In other words, we shall be in the anteroom of war.” [Herbert Feis, Seen from E.A., pp189-190]

As I will show in future blogs, the U.S. was concerned solely with protecting oil supplies that would be vital for the restoration of Western Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, and this entailed maintaining the alliance with Great Britain, a shaky one as the war ended. (If you don’t believe me, read Skidelsky in vol. 3 of his Keynes biography.) Hence during the various UN interventions in the conflict between the aspiring, then actual, Jewish state and its neighbors (1947-49), the U.S. looked to its own long term interests. The notion that the U.S. elites were ever a disinterested, morally motivated friend to Jews and Israelis, let alone supine in their acquiescence to New York Jews and their votes or Hollywood and its propaganda, is a convenient myth for populist politicians in the U.S. and anti-Western forces elsewhere.

In my view, the primary reasons that a Jewish state exists today are 1. the temporary diplomatic and material support of the Soviet Union (secret arms shipments from Czechoslovakia that angered Bunche, who saw the Israelis as likely communists and undoubtedly expansionist), deployed in the expectation that  Israel would join the Soviet bloc, while throwing Great Britain out of the region; and 2. the willingness of Israeli Jews to take huge casualties to defend its tiny nation. It was only Israeli military victories in defiance of UN interference that brought Egypt to the negotiating table in early 1949, and the armistices that were mediated by Ralph Bunche were not for peace and defensible borders, but for a halt in the fighting, for Israel was expected to conquer yet more territory. [This latter interpretation is based upon my reading of the Ralph Bunche papers at UCLA, collected by Sir Brian Urquhart as he wrote his biography of Bunche. For another blog on this subject, see https://clarespark.com/2014/05/17/miracle-man-ralph-bunche-saves-the-un/.]

It is crucial to understand that without oil from the region, the Marshall Plan would have failed, for oil was central to the economic recovery of Western Europe. America’s own supplies were already drying up. It was not just romantic Arabism in the U.S. State Department that determined U.S. policy, but the Cold War. Current misconceptions about the love of the U.S. for “the Jews” or for Israel only lead us away from the economic-political reasons for U.S. policy. Isolationists and populists from the likes of Traficant or Patrick Buchanan or, to climb up a notch in the status ladder,  Walt and Mearsheimer, are patently absurd when they claim that the “Israeli lobby” determines U.S. foreign policy. It is even more shocking when Jewish leftists or left-liberals echo their ignorance about the history of the region.

These are my thoughts on the anniversary of the attacks of 9-11-01, and I fear that they are all too relevant. Norman Podhoretz is going around complaining that Jews are too liberal. I wish that he would complain about the ignorance of diplomatic history or the indifference to it, as evidenced in the schools and in the media.

[Added 4-11-10: see this recently declassified document http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/CriticalIncidentNo.14.pdf. Although heavily redacted, it validates my analysis that the Cold War context was crucial to writing diplomatic histories of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the U.S. was ready to intervene if Israel attempted to expand its borders beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Throughout the State Department document, the desire for “stability” in the region is paramount. U.S. policy is clearly stated.]

August 9, 2009

What is a corporatist liberal? And why should they frighten us?

Tony Grist Janus 2011[Janus painting by Anthony Grist,2011]To those practiced in political theory, the term is an obvious oxymoron. That is, a corporatist thinks in collectivist terms, while a liberal (at least in the eighteenth century version) focuses on individual rights, competitive markets, and advance through merit. During the 1960s-70s New Left radicalism, “corporate liberalism” usually referred to the despised Democratic Party that was seen, as all capitalist parties were, as part of the business-oriented state that was therefore irrevocably set against the working class. It was my teacher at UCLA, Robert Brenner, who suggested that I use the term “corporatist liberal” instead; he may have wanted to emphasize the protofascist character of the “progressive” capitalist state whose psychological warfare I was studying (and in this case referring to Italian Fascism, with its organization by occupation, the so-called sindicati, with the [corporatist or corporative] state imposing harmony on capitalists and workers from above, in similar fashion as the New Deal intended.

But I liked the term because it suggested the institutional double-binds that Herman Melville had revealed in some of his more autobiographical texts, so the oxymoron formulation brought that out. For instance, he was to search for truth as an original artist, but not upset the conservative* formulations or belief systems of his patrons and family–clearly an impossible task (see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/). Similarly, in graduate school, I discovered that original historical research was demanded, but not so original that it undermined the published work of the faculty that awarded the Ph.D.  [8/11/09: I have been criticized by one academic  for sounding like a disgruntled failed graduate student here, so let me give an example: in a course on women reformers of the nineteenth century, I was punished for using class analysis, indeed one well-known feminist historian stated outright that I should have been thrown out of the program (apparently for noting that not all women had the same economic  interests). In general, class was collapsed into ‘race’ and gender at UCLA, in keeping with the “anti-imperialist” and anti-Western orientation of UCLA at that time. Similarly, I was accused of racism for opposing cultural nationalism as an inevitable outgrowth of separate “ethnic studies” programs. Still, I stuck to my guns and after only eleven years got my Ph.D. in U.S. history.]

In other double binds, I found contradictions between loyalty to one’s country of origin while simultaneously becoming a citizen of the world, sensitive to suffering humanity wherever it might be found. Hence the compromise of “the rooted cosmopolitan” as opposed to the unreliable “rootless cosmopolitan” that I have written about in other blogs and in my book on the Melville revival. This notion of the compatibility of [moderate] “nationalism” and “internationalism” is everywhere today, and must immobilize those who think that all conflicts with other nations can be negotiated peacefully. As I saw while researching Ralph Bunche’s actions as mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the notion propagated by progressives such as Elmore Jackson that an artful and rational mediator could manipulate irrational warring parties to come to their senses and compromise, came straight out of strategies emanating from capitalist managers that disagreements between capital and labor* could be arbitrated by skilled mediation. So much for peace studies or conflict-resolution in general. They are part of the utopian thought of populist-progressives and dominate the mainstream media.

positive state

Briefly, what corporatist liberals do is switch from one P.O.V. to its opposite, as if no contradictions were involved. I trace the aversion to this tactic and to its association with Women to early childhood impressions. What follows is a brief but meaty extract from my conference paper given at the Modern Language Association in 2002. Do not despair if it is too much for you. Just read it, or skip it, and move on below.

“Extrapolating from his texts (and from the writings of other Symbolists) perhaps Melville’s demonic clouds are related to the “ruffled brow”: the sudden pained and searing glance that mars the happy mother’s smooth placidity when her child vomits, wets his bed, soils his clothing, touches his genitals, blurts out a dirty word: the glance that makes him feel so poisonous to her, he imagines she would like to spit him out…and yet, she molded and branded him in her womb-factory: she is his double and his shadow.  Ever entwined, they are Eve/Cain, the Wandering Jew, Beatrice Cenci, and Pierrot: over-reachers whose self-assertion and gall will be rendered innocuous in the final scene.  The thick black eyebrows of the Gothic villain (like the mark of Cain or Pierrot’s black mask) will trigger the memory of Mother’s distress and her child’s shame.  Romantic defiance, in its identification with the designated enemies of authority, portends only degeneracy and decline; as Melville has shown us, it brings remorse and cleansing punishment, not better forms of social organization.  The cancellation of early childhood “dirt” and parental disapproval (which may be registered as sadness–Mortmain’s “muffled” “moan”–as well as anger), then the return of the repressed in the ostensibly opposed symbols, “archetypes” and “types” of popular culture, undermines emancipatory politics.” [This will be hard going for many readers. To see the original MLA paper, please write to clarespark@verizon.net. It is both psychodynamic and anchored in Melville’s texts, but I think, clear enough.]

What I wrote is an hypothesis only, and to be persuasive, would have to be verified through examination of the early childhood brain under similar stress, that is, so far as I know, currently beyond the capacity of physiologists (neurologist Robert Scaer has observed this as traumatic to the child). But it intrigues me and seems plausible  for it links the intertwining of misogyny and antisemitism that I observed in the biographies of Melville readers: Woman is the [switching] Jew of the Home.

In all the academic literature I have read recently, no explanation is offered that adequately explains why antisemites are so often fearful of women, especially mothers, clinging or otherwise: the important feature to me is their inexplicable switching. I am not satisfied with explanations that refer to “the Other” as produced by the projection of forbidden aggression onto Others who must then be controlled (the Kleinian object- relations explanation pervasive in “cultural studies” with its generally post-colonial slant).  As I have mentioned elsewhere, that formulation of “scapegoating” was produced by the very social psychologists who, during the late 1930s and 1940s, created programs of “civilian morale” and “preventive politics” through psychological testing in order to provide consensus and order. Their goal was not discovery of new and useful truth and/or an informed and appropriately educated clear-eyed and critical citizenry. (I am referring to such corporatist liberals as Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, Henry A. Murray, and Harold Lasswell, with allies among the much lauded “critical theorists” whose influence in the humanities remains powerful. See especially chapters two and nine in my book Hunting Captain Ahab for documentation that shocked my doctoral reading committee, but, not surprisingly, remained invisible in published reviews of my book.

Compare this emphasis on the double-bind with Jonah Goldberg’s scathing critique of the Progressives, who are nailed for statism and authoritarianism but not for immobilizing us through the double bind. For instance, if you compromise your art or writing to please authoritarians of the Left or Right, then you are not an original artist/writer, but a courtier. If you sacrifice “order” to be true to your vision, you may not be able to support yourself through your craft–you are what Melville called a castaway. The consequence: those with independent incomes make art or saleable books, and their life experience may estrange them from the various less fortunate whose  vision could enrich their own. )

    Which brings us to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war on terror. As long as we pretend that all conflicts can be compromised through skillful (i.e. manipulative) mediation, we are helpless to defend ourselves or our allies against determined enemies for whom “peace treaties” (i.e., the rule of law) are irrelevant and tactical only. What I have been arguing here, as elsewhere on this site, is that corporatist liberalism, the ideology of “civilized” progress, indeed, of the United Nations itself, does not only make us crazy in attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable (such as Truth versus Order), its continued hegemony may threaten all life on our planet as we ignobly submit to determined aggressors in thrall to premodern and antisecular ideologies, and who will stop at nothing to maintain traditional hierarchies and privilege. (By secular, I mean the older definition that specified the separation of Church and State; I did not mean the newer meaning where “secular” equals “atheistic” or suggests Jacobin hubris/popular sovereignty.)


*Marxists postulate that there is a structural antagonism between capital and labor. In later years, I have rejected that formulation, and prefer to look at concrete situations, for instance, where there is either a labor shortage or a labor surplus. Moreover, as Michael Mann and other sociologist have argued, the state is not simply dependent upon capital, but has its own particular interests. This should be obvious from the recent brouhaha in Wisconsin with respect to teachers unions. And when I used the term “conservative” with respect to Melville’s relatives, I did not mean to equate the religious conservative Democrats who supported his projects, with the classical liberalism of the Founding Fathers, especially Hamilton. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/10/31/gossip-and-the-gullible/, for links to blogs on Hamilton.)

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