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Sinclair Lewis – Profile of an American Demagogue (excerpt from ‘It Can’t Happen Here’)

Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, portrays a world where several of the popular Far Right and populist demagogues of the 1930s—including Louisiana Senator and corrupt oligarch Huey Long, antisemitic priest and radio show host Father Coughlin, and  pro-Nazi Kansas minister Gerald Winrod—combine forces. They win the presidency and turn the country into a dictatorship wrapped in a kitschy Americana. (Although Long was assassinated before the 1936 presidential campaign, Coughlin and several others did join together, forming the far right Union Party. Their candidate, William Lemke, received over 900,000 votes in the race.)

It Can’t Happen Here’s protagonist is Doremus Jessup, a liberal who is the editor of a small town Vermont newspaper. Senator Buzz Windrip—based on Long—is the book’s successful presidential candidate and, soon after, the first dictator of the United States. Lee Sarason is Windrip’s Steve Bannon—a circus-show svengali who guides Windrip’s ambitions and later takes the crown himself.

The famous passage below isn’t so much an eerie prognostication of Donald Trump—although it is that, too—so much as a description of the canned shtick of the American right-wing demagogue. Trump is merely the latest incarnation of this hackneyed role, which seems to have a perpetual audience. Far RIght demogaguery allows talented speakers to harness the emotion of the public and tap into their disenchantment at the systemic problems of capitalism. But instead of directing this anger at the system, it is channeled toward Jews, blacks, immigrants, and finance capital; and the the very structures that created these problems are reinforced.

* * *

“Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching Senator Windrip from so humble a Boeotia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.

Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill. Seven years before his present credo—derived from Lee Sarason, Hitler, Gottfried Feder, Rocco, and probably the review Of Thee I Sing—little Buzz, back home, had advocated nothing more revolutionary than better beef stew in the country poor-farms, and plenty of graft for loyal machine politicians, with jobs for their brothers-in-law, nephews, law partners, and creditors.

Doremus had never heard Windrip during one of his orgasms of oratory, but he had been told by political reporters that under the spell you thought Windrip was Plato, but that on the way home you could not remember anything he had said.

There were two things, they told Doremus, that distinguished this prairie Demosthenes. He was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.”

But below this surface stagecraft was his uncommon natural ability to be authentically excited by and with his audience, and they by and with him. He could dramatize his assertion that he was neither a Nazi nor a Fascist but a Democrat—a homespun Jeffersonian-Lincolnian- Clevelandian-Wilsonian Democrat—and (sans scenery and costume) make you see him veritably defending the Capitol against barbarian hordes, the while he innocently presented as his own warm-hearted Democratic inventions, every anti-libertarian, anti-Semitic madness of Europe.

Aside from his dramatic glory, Buzz Windrip was a Professional Common Man.

Oh, he was common enough. He had every prejudice and aspiration of every American Common Man. He believed in the desirability and therefore the sanctity of thick buckwheat cakes with adulterated maple syrup, in rubber trays for the ice cubes in his electric refrigerator, in the especial nobility of dogs, all dogs, in the oracles of S. Parkes Cadman, in being chummy with all waitresses at all junction lunch rooms, and in Henry Ford (when he became President, he exulted, maybe he could get Mr. Ford to come to supper at the White House), and the superiority of anyone who possessed a million dollars. He regarded spats, walking sticks, caviar, titles, tea-drinking, poetry not daily syndicated in newspapers, and all foreigners, possibly excepting the British, as degenerate.

But he was the Common Man twenty-times-magnified by his oratory, so that while the other Commoners could understand his every purpose, which was exactly the same as their own, they saw him towering among them, and they raised hands to him in worship.”

= = =

Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (NY: New American Library/Penguin, 1935/2005), pages 70­–71.

Seymour Martin Lipset on the Black Panthers and Antisemitism

Thus Stokeley Carmichael who was a leader of both the Student Nonviolent (now “National”) Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and of the Black Panthers before abandoning the struggle in America for residence abroad, accounted for the resentment expressed toward Jews by black militants as a result of “the exploitation [of blacks] by Jewish landlords and merchants,” in an article published in The New York Review of Books in 1966. Elsewhere, he wrote: “You let just one Negro get a Molotov cocktail and throw it at some Jew’s liquor store and they call out the whole damn National Guard.” In an interview with David Frost on April 13, 1970, Carmichael declared that, in his judgment, Adolf Hitler “was the greatest white man.” He went on to say that he could not describe men like Johnson, Nixon, Truman or Churchill as “great people,” since they “were doing things against my people.”

The most overt expressions of anti‐Semitism have come generally from the most militant of the black organizations, the one with closest ties to sections of the white New and Old Lefts, the self‐described Marxist‐Leninist Black Panther party. The party goes out of its way to identify as Jews those in the Establishment who oppose it and who happen to be Jews. Thus, in the Dec. 21, 1968, issue of The Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver attacked Judge Monroe Friedman, who presided over the Oakland, Calif., trial of Huey Newton in the following terms: “If the Jews like Judge Friedman are going to be allowed to function, and come to their synagogues to pray on Saturdays, or do whatever they do down there, then we’ll make a coalition with the Arabs, against the Jews….”

The Panthers have even argued that Judge Julius J. Hoffman gave the Jewish defendants in the Chicago conspiracy trial better treatment than he gave Bobby Seale. Connie Matthews, international coordinator of the party, wrote in The Black Panther of April 25, 1970, that there was an alliance between the Jewish judge and the Jewish defendants:

“It was a Zionist judge, Judge Hoffman, who allowed the other Zionists to go free but has kept Bobby Seale in jail and sentenced him to four years for contempt charges. Bobby Seale alone stands trial again in April on conspiracy charges. With whom did he conspire? The Zionists?

“The other Zionists in the… trial [i.e., Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin] were willing and did sacrifice Bobby Seale and his role in the conspiracy trial to gain publicity.”

Now clearly Rubin and Hoffman are in no way “Zionists.” This is simply a code word for Jew, just as it has become in Eastern Europe.

Though opposed to all capitalists, the Panthers single out Jewish businessmen for attack. Thus, a statement in the May 19, 1970, issue of the party newspaper declares that they are against “Zionist exploitation here In Babylon, manifested in the robber barons that exploit in the garment industry and the bandit merchants and greedy slum lords that operate in our communities.” In describing a tenants’ action in Atlantic City against a landlord, an article in the June 13, 1970, Black Panther praises the tenants for “gathering together to form a United Front against Zionist Pig Sobel….” The article concludes with the exhortation: “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE — DEATH TO THE ZIONIST PIGS.” And as if to prove that the reference to Sobel was not fortuitous, the paper a week later carried a story on “Substandard Housing in America” which referred to buildings “owned by a Zionist by the name of Rosenbaum.”

= = =

from Seymour Martin Lipset, “The Socialism of Fools,” New York Times, January 3, 1971, page 6.

Alison Weir on Clay Douglas’s ‘The Free American Hour,’ Aug, 25, 2010

Recently the website IfAmericansKnewAlisonWeir went down, which documented some of cryptoantisemite Alison Weir’s more outrageous statements. We’ve pulled it out of archive.org to make it more available. The first post was a transcript of one of her appearances on the Clay Douglas show, and the second showed that one the first things she did upon becoming Council for the National Interest president was to send out propaganda based on classic antisemitic tropes.


SOURCE:
https://web.archive.org/web/20160308024336/http://ifamericansknewalisonweir.com

Transcript: Alison Weir on The Free American Hour, August 25, 2010

originally posted March 25th, 2011

Below is a complete transcript of Alison Weir’s August 25, 2010 appearance on the Free American Hour internet radio show, hosted by far-Right and anti-Semitic activist Clay Douglas (freeamerican dot com). The full audio of this broadcast is available here. Alison Weir has also appeared on the Free American Hour on April 23, 2010 and February 9, 2011.


Continue reading ‘Alison Weir on Clay Douglas’s ‘The Free American Hour,’ Aug, 25, 2010′

Irving Howe: Bundist Vladimir Medem on Bolshevik dictatorship

More serious were the warnings of Vladimir Medem, the Bundist leader recently come to the United States, who argued at the [Jewish Socialist] Federation’s 1921 convention that “the dictatorship of the proletariat” must necessarily degenerate into a dictatorship of the ruling party over the proletariat. Only through democracy, Medem insisted, could socialism be fulfilled.*

* In a long-forgotten article published in a 1918 issue of the Warsaw Bundist paper, Lebns-Fragen, Medem wrote: “The guns of the conscripted Bolshevik soldiers are directed not only at the bourgeoisie. They are turned against the socialist working class. The day is not far when revolutionary tribunals of the more ‘kosher’ Bolsheviks will be set up to shoot the more ‘suspect’ of their own comrades… And if today Lenin years to shoot Abramovitch [a Menshevik leader], may he not wish to shoot Trotsky tomorrow?

“A socialist government that turns to the methods of terror signs its own death warrant.”

###

The debate over Bolshevism brought the Forward to a major crisis. It was not possible to keep these differences locked into the inner circles: polemical articles spilled across the pages of the paper. Opposition to [Forward founder and Bolshevik supporter Abraham] Cahan was led by Vladimir Medem, a leader of the Bund who had recently arrived from Poland and was acknowledged in all segments of the Jewish world as a figure of moral and intellectual authority. Medem launched a principled attack on the enthusiasm so many Jewish socialists were displaying for the Bolshevik dictatorship, and he was especially sharp in the polemical assaults he directed at Cahan. Neither before or since has Cahan been treated so roughly, even unceremoniously, in his own pages. Though other anti-Bolsheviks were briefly kept out of the Forward pages, Medem carried too much prestige to be treated that way. A dying man, he wrote scathingly about the Bolsheviks, attacking Lenin as a kalter gazlen (a cold-blooded thug). The worst apologists for the Bolshevik dictatorship, he wrote, are not those who deny it violating socialist or democratic ethics, but those who say, “Yes, they are doing it and it’s right.” Arguing against Cahan’s quasi-Leninist notion of a “transitional dictatorship,” Medem stated what would become the classical socialist critique of Bolshevism:

This is the same revolutionary conceit which looks upon a cluster of “conscious ones” as the heroes who represent…the wise, the adept, the leaders. … The mass is nothing but inert material to be molded. If it balks at going along peacefully, then it must be dragged along forcibly. If the truth has no effect on it, then lies must be employed.

If a reversion to the Spanish Inquisition is necessary for the realization of socialism, then we can do without such a socialism.

# # #

Irving Howe, World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the Eastern European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), pages 328–29, 541

Update December 31, 2017: I recently found a scan the Medem article which Howe refers to at the Marxist Internet Archive: see Vladimir Medem, “On Terror.”

Edward Bellamy Disses Anarchists in “Looking Backward”

Edward Bellamy’s utopian novel Looking Backward 2000–1887 is often praised as the best-selling agit-prop socialist novel of the late 19th century. In fact, it’s a wooden didactic piece which praises a purely technocractic future, disses the radical left, and is complete with the main character having a super-creepy marriage. In this passage, Bellamy clearly tries to promote the idea that the radical left of his day was a “false flag” operation:

“By the way,” said I [main character Julian West], as the doctor read aloud to us some of these items, “what part did the followers of the red flag take in the establishment of the new order of things? They were making considerable noise the last thing that I knew.”

“They had nothing to do with it except to hinder it, of course,” replied Dr. Leete. “They did that very effectually while they lasted, for their talk so disgusted people as to deprive the best considered projects for social reform of a hearing. The subsidizing of those fellows was one of the shrewdest moves of the opponents of reform.”

“Subsidizing them!” I exclaimed in astonishment.

“Certainly,” replied Dr. Leete. “No historical authority nowadays doubts that they were paid by the great monopolies to wave the red flag and talk about burning, sacking, and blowing people up, in order, by alarming the timid, to head off any real reforms. What astonishes me most is that you should have fallen into the trap so unsuspectingly.”

“What are your grounds for believing that the red flag party was subsidized?” I inquired.

“Why simply because they must have seen that their course made a thousand enemies of their professed cause to one friend. Not to suppose that they were hired for the work is to credit them with an inconceivable folly.* In the United States, of all countries, no party could intelligently expect to carry its point without first winning over to its ideas a majority of the nation, as the national party eventually did.”

* I fully admit the difficulty of accounting for the course of the anarchists on any other theory than that they were subsidized by the capitalists, but at the same time, there is no doubt that the theory is wholly erroneous. It certainly was not held at the time by any one, though it may seem so obvious in the retrospect.

###

source: www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bellamy-ed/works/backward/ch24.htm

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward 2000–1887, originally published 1888.

U.S. Green Party’s Ajamu Baraka Linked to Holocaust Denier

An image Barrett promotes in his writings on Holocaust Denial.

An image Barrett promotes in his writings on Holocaust Denial.

The U.S. Green Party is well-known to be a home for antisemites and conspiracy theorists. In fact, this seems to be such an accepted fact in the party that it has nominated Amaju Baraka for vice president, even tho he has a very public history of working with Holocaust Denier Kevin Barrett. This includes being in an anthology Barrett edited, and appearing on his radio show.

  • It was not a fluke that Baraka was in the anthology; he appeared on Barrett’s Truth Jihad radio show at least twice: see here and here.
  • For Barrett’s views on Holocaust Denial, see here and here.
  • A Green Party national co-coordinator replied by smearing those who pointed this out as an attempt to “run interference for apartheid in Israel” — despite the fact that the discussion was in reference to Holocaust Denial, and had no references to Israel.
    Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.01.50 PM
  • Jill Stein, or whoever is running her twitter account, has refused to reply to tweets, but has “liked” a tweet saying it’s acceptable that Baraka is working with a  Holocaust Denier.

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There is no justification for anyone on the Left working with Holocaust Deniers. This is not a new issue for the Greens either; the Canadian party just expelled a member for Holocaust Denial.

The Green Party needs to publicly denounce Holocaust Denial, break links with deniers, and institute mandatory education about antisemitism for all national and state-level staff.

UPDATE: According to Gawker, Baraka claims he knew nothing about Barrett’s views — despite the fact that they were public before his radio shows appearances. He claims he is the victim of a vast media conspiracy, saying,

“This witch-hunt against Ajamu Baraka is utterly bizarre, and the people participating it—from the media barons who ordered it to the lowly reporters who carry out those orders—are pathetic cowards who disgrace the name of journalism.”

It seems that everyone is to blame except Ajamu Baraka.

afff-front-cover

Barrett’s anthology, which includes a contribution from Ajamu Baraka, alongside a host of well-known neofascists and antisemites.