The Clare Spark Blog

November 17, 2013

Rehabilitating the Weathermen

The_Company_You_Keep_posterhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Company_You_Keep_(Robert Redford film) (no Jews)

http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/07/25/a-review-of-neil-gordon-s-the-company-you-keep/.

From what I read of the Wikipedia description of the movie based on Neil Gordon’s novel  THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, it seems that Jews as red-diaper babies have been purged from the screenplay. Hence Counterpunch can safely allege that the movie is about Love, and [uncontaminated Christian love] at that. This blog dissents: the original novel is really about the rehabilitation of William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, whose names are mentioned frequently in the novel, along with other outlaw celebrities who have allegedly gone straight, and who are associated with POTUS. (I don’t know if these names appear in the movie, which I have not seen, but which was received well overseas.)

Neil Gordon’s thesis (in the novel) is stated by one of his characters, an FBI agent and Viet Nam vet whose genitals have been destroyed in Nam. Obviously a mouthpiece for the author, “John Osborne” views the Weatherman faction that grew out of Students for a Democratic Society, as motivated less by ideology or any thought out political strategy than by loving attachments, by “the company you keep.” Hence the intense value placed on loyalty to one another as the various characters live as fugitives from the law after a bank robbery where a guard was murdered by one of their hotheaded associates .

In the novel, there are several “Jewish” characters, whose names are anglicized in the Redford movie (for instance, the nosy reporter Ben Schulberg becomes Ben Shepard). Moreover, in the novel they are the children of “Jewish” communists, one a suicide after being harassed by McCarthyism. And from the outset, Israel is mentioned as irretrievably lost to the ethics of Amor Vincit Omnia: love and community solidarity are the theme of the novel.

It is odd that Gordon’s characters are identified in any way with the Left or New Left, unless you take into account that the prewar British Right also contained within its many factions, equally anticapitalist, antistatist types, such as G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and T. S. Eliot. [I learned this through reading G. C. Webber’s The Ideology of the British Right 1918-1939 (London: Croom Helm, 1986), who deemed this type to be “aristocratic backwoodsmen.” All three (the Distributists Chesterton and Belloc, and Eliot) were elevated by Seward Collins’s American Review, a publication of the mid-1930s that was explicitly pro-fascist, agrarian, and even pro-Nazi. Readers might be surprised to see FDR’s New Deal State grouped by Webber with right-wing movements, along with Mosley’s fascists, the aristocratic backwoodsmen, and Tories.]
For much of the novel takes place in woodland settings: the Hudson Valley near Woodstock, and the woods of Michigan—Ernest Hemingway country.

Make no mistake: this novel rehabilitates the Weathermen as well as weed. We learn that the characters are essentially monogamous (despite much late adolescent free love alluded to), are knightly rescuers (they got Timothy Leary out of jail and safely to Algiers), and are willing to sacrifice themselves for their children. And of course their political opinions coincide with the politics of this administration and with the most anti-American propaganda as churned out by New Left anti-imperialists who view Amerikkka as dominated by murderers and warmongers.

In a prior blog (https://clarespark.com/2010/11/13/the-porgy-controversy/) I claimed that Nature was a character in DuBose Heyward’s popular novel. The same could be said of Gordon’s ingenious characters, whose knowledge of woodland lore, maps, and survivalism, enables their hairbreadth escape from the law and the FBI until the semi-happy ending.  Were we to compare Gordon’s heroes and heroines with prior individuals and movements, I would be inclined to include in that company, the “honest Anglo-Saxon populism” of the upper Midwest, with Frederick Jackson Turner, with Ernest  Hemingway’s early stories that were located in the same region and that were equally primitivist and tribal, and with the often anarchistic OWS movement. (My dissertation director advised me to watch out for those writers who wrote romantically about Nature, for it was a sign of upper-class identity that they not only appreciated “Nature” but sought to preserve it.)

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gordon’s novel is the emphasis he places on the cooperation of ordinary Americans as the Weatherman fugitives attempt to evade capture by the authorities. Gordon imagines that these young people, born to privilege and educated in the best universities, had the support of the locals wherever they might flee.

And of course there is a happy ending, for Amor Vincit Omnia. Just ask the ferociously anti-Israel publication Counterpunch.

Ascoli_Satriano_Painter_-_Red-Figure_Plate_with_Eros_-_Walters_482765

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September 22, 2012

Materialist history and the idea of Progress

Rerum Novarum by gercalher

[This is the second of two blogs on the ambivalence surrounding the First Amendment. The first is https://clarespark.com/2012/09/21/milton-mason-melville-on-free-speech/. For an interview with David Horowitz about the book reviewed here, see http://tinyurl.com/adtw9c2. ]

Another marker in the culture wars has been laid down by David Horowitz’s new book Radicals (Regnery, 2012). The chapters recount the careers of Christopher Hitchens, Bettina Aptheker, Cornel West, assorted Weathermen bombers (mostly female), and Saul Alinsky’s power-grabbing, crypto-Leninist nihilistic ideology.

But it is the last chapter wherein Horowitz lays his cards on the table. As a traditionalist (i.e., Burkean, Disraelian) conservative, he assails the “progressives” described throughout the book, lauds “compromise” as the alternative to “progressive” atheism, puritanism, perfectionism and futurism, and then declares, pessimistically in my view, that all civilizations are cyclical: they rise and fall. This view is of course associated with Counter-Enlightenment organic conservatives, who impose the life cycle of plants (Goethe famously did this), onto human organization.

In short, with his apparent view that all conflicts can be compromised, David Horowitz is aligned with the moderate men. Though he is dismayed by aggressive radical atheists, whose foibles include a Manichaean distinction between Good and Evil, DH’s essentially religious orientation to conflict resolution seats him at the same table as the radicals he vigorously criticizes throughout. I can only infer that anyone who discerns irreconcilable conflicts must be an Evil extremist who destroys [ neoclassical] social order. His vision is antagonistic to “puritans” (i.e., Hebraic Protestant voluntarism, worldliness, and free-market capitalism, which he links to the Satanic). Such a posture is in agreement with the Elizabethan compromise of Anglo-Catholicism or even the liberal Catholicism promoted by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rerum_Novarum), a landmark pronouncement on the necessity of class harmony.  In other words, class harmony is Good, while unfettered materialism/atheism destroys and demoralizes families and all ordering institutions, in effect abandoning children to body- and spirit-crushing factories, nihilism and the terrifying immensities of an empty universe. Only a Satanist (or Promethean Romantic?) would commit such Evil acts.

Rerum Novarum Cupidus

I did not recognize myself as a materialist historian in any of Horowitz’s radicals.  Nor does he engage the battle of the sexes, putting quotation marks around the word “sexist”* (p.194)as if women have nothing to complain about.  I am a feminist, a materialist, and a secular Jew, who puts aside my private beliefs as I read archival materials and attempt to get inside the head of historical actors. DH is attuned to family relationships, as am I, and indeed faults Hitchens for failing to address his relations with his suicidal mother, a crypto-Jew.  But his criticism is not Freudian in any sense, but looks like a rebuke to the Mother’s dire “romantic” influence on her son, who never severed his ties with the [Romantic, Satanic] Left.

I have throughout this website carefully marked the original Progressive movement’s aims in addressing the red specter (through selective co-option), and in creating institutions that would soften relations between labor and capital—in order to prevent red revolution spurred by laissez-faire capitalism. I have also recognized the Communist infiltration of the progressive movement, taking advantage of New Leftism and its anti-anticommunist agenda, that further enabled the takeover of the humanities by the social justice avatars. But I cannot give all weight to the New Left for the deranged politics that confuse our political culture. We remain resistant to science and imagine that we are free when we are submissive to impulses laid down in early childhood, and reinforced in much of popular culture and/or partisan propaganda.

It is curious that nowhere in his book, does DH look at economic history or the conflicting models for wealth-creation offered by Keynesians as opposed to the followers of Milton Friedman, Hayek, et al. Nor does he get down and dirty in exploring generational conflict of the [Freudian] kind so tellingly explored by Herman Melville and a host of other authors. For that would be dipping into materialist history, facing “things as they are,” and perhaps delineating too disruptive, ambiguous, and kaleidoscopic views of how we got into this mess.  (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/.)

[Added, 9-23-12: Compare DH’s view of “human nature” to this passage from John Dos Passos’s post-radical period:

Responding to German students as to what is admirable about US, “I told them they should admire the United States not for what we were but for what we might become. Selfgoverning democracy was not an established creed, but a program for growth. I reminded them that industrial society was a new thing in the world and that although we Americans had gone further than any people in spreading out its material benefits we were just beginning, amid crimes, illusions, mistakes and false starts, to get to work on how to spread out what people needed much more: the sense of belonging, the faith in human dignity, the confidence of each man in the greatness of his own soul without which life is a meaningless servitude….Faith in self-government, when all is said and done, is faith in the eventual goodness of man.” (p.508, Virginia Spencer Carr’s bio of John DP)

*The complete paragraph begins on p.193: “It is not because radicals begin by being unethical people that they approach politics this way. On the contrary, their passion for a future that is ethically perfect is what drives their political agendas and causes others to mistake them for idealists. But the very nature of this future–a world without poverty, without war, without racism, and without “sexism”–is so desirable, so noble, so perfect in contrast to everything that has preceded it as to justify any and every means to make it a reality.” I thank David Horowitz for welcoming discussion and catching my error. In a second communication, DH explains that the quotes around “sexism” expressed his dislike of viewing sexism and racism as comparable discriminations. Many readers will agree with him, but in a recent publication (Created in the Image of God)  David Brion Davis, a liberal, devotes an entire chapter to the subjugation of women, which Davis does compare to slavery.

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