The Old New Left: Student Radicalism in the 1930s

Ho Chi Minh! Ho Chi Minh!

There has long prevailed a certain exceptionalism about the 1960s. It all went so well with the decade prior, with Father Knows Best on the air… and then, the Yippies are nominating a pig for President, “free love” reigns freely indeed, and the Jews sell America out in 1965. Except really big this time around.

It wasn’t that exceptional, not even the youthful vitality. For there was a student radical movement contemporaneous (sometimes collaborating with) the New Deal some 30 years before. It has been swept under the dust and much of it thrown into the memory hole, but it’s a fascinating little episode. It’s the link between Old and New Left, as these terms tend to be used. Grounded on class analysis, but with very strong concerns for racial equality and fighting fascism.

Common wisdom is that America could never swallow the social-democratic pill like Europe. Yet in an interview with former American Student Union (ASU) leader Joseph P. Lash, he confided that FDR was “accomplishing social reforms beyond the dreams of most of the Socialists of Europe.”

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Charles Reemelin’s critical review of American politics (1881)

[Best read as an appendix to the previous article on electoral violence.]

Charles Reemelin was a man who hated America. Not out of envy, spite or hatred, but out of in-depth personal experience. Sure, he insisted on simply being a patriot who sought to deliver America from the tyranny of partyism, but the subtext is obvious, especially in his case. On the other hand, his vision of what America’s political future ought to be was, sans a few of his Teutonic eccentricities, on the money in terms of predictive ability. He can be regarded as one of the most adroit and cultivated apostles of the managerial class, with a penchant for citing the primary sources of the new cameralism he endorsed — Lorenz von Stein, Wilhelm Roscher and Rudolf von Gneist, to name a few. Born Karl Gustav RĂ¼melin in 1814, he emigrated in 1832 and embarked on a political career leading up to the Ohio Senate.

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Electoral violence in America, or: Why your country had to be pozzed

M.G. Miles over at Those Who Can See, has recently compiled an article on the hidden history of American demographics.

It is one of the most capable presentations of the “cumulative migration” thesis of American decline: that successive waves of migration from Southern and Eastern Europe and ultimately from elsewhere have diluted the Anglo-American native stock and destroyed social capital, leading to today’s Weimerican Republic.

Indeed, M.G. actually understates his case in that particular post: the involvement of Italian immigrants in insurrectionary anarchism (which triggered the misleadingly named “Red Scare” — as if it were not a justifiable one) the surprisingly large amount of Finns in communist fronts are just a couple of things left unstated, though he has likely discussed them in other instances. He relies heavily on John R. Commons’ testimony for the first part.

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Communalists and constitutionalists

Liberalism and democracy are not the same, as I’ve mentioned in the context of the doctrinaires and ancients v. moderns.

“Illiberal democracy” is used as an epithet to refer to various top-heavy presidential or parliamentary republics where elections serve a mostly symbolic role to give the dog (the public) a bone. And I don’t mean blow them like in the AC/DC song. Although, figuratively, this may indeed be it.

But that’s quite a limited way of grasping the distinction. Instead let’s use a dichotomy of “communalism” and “constitutionalism.” Such as between, say, the Swiss mountain cantons of the Grey League, and… Luxembourg. Luxembourg? Yes, not even the venerable Grand Duchy was spared from the Great European Chimpout of 1848. Grand Duke William II conceded a constitution.

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Sir Robert Filmer refuted

[In which Nigel Carlsbad dons the robes of a Jesuit schoolman. All casuistry, no Aristotelianism. Also doubles as an anti-absolutist tract. I was going to devote a different essay to that, but this one might suffice.]

King Clothar had ordered all the churches of his kingdom to pay into his treasury a third of their revenues. But when all the other bishops, though grudgingly, had agreed to this and signed their names, the blessed Injuriosus [Bishop of Tours] scorned the command and manfully refused to sign, saying, “If you attempt to take the things of God, the Lord will take away your kingdom speedily because it is wrong for your storehouses to be filled with the contributions of the poor whom you yourself ought to feed.” He was irritated with the king and left his presence without saying farewell. Then the king was alarmed and being afraid of the power of the blessed Martin he sent after him with the gifts, praying for pardon and admitting the wrongfulness of what he had done, and asking also that the bishop avert from him by prayer the power of the blessed Martin.

— Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, Book IV, Ch 2, illustrating the influence of sacerdotium over imperium, in contradistinction to absolutist pretensions

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Old school cuckservatism

[A shorter and smoother piece this time around.]

The French historian Auguste de Gerando recounts an exchange between members of the Hungarian high and low nobility, in his Transylvanian travelogue published in 1845:

One day [one of these] gentlemen came to complain to a neighboring magnate. He took off his hat, which he held in his hand while the lord listened to him. The latter induced the gentleman to cover himself, for the weather was cold.

“I will not do it,” said the gentleman. “I know what respect I owe you.”

“What?,” replied the smiling man, who was a man of wit, “Are we not both equal, both nobles?”

“No doubt, but I am a simple gentleman, and you are a powerful lord.”

“I can not be more powerful than you, we have the same privileges. I am only rich.”

“This is true.”

“So you’re bowing to my purse?”

“In fact, you are right. You are rich, and I am not. There is no other difference.” And he proudly put on his hat.

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