so doing, the Right abandoned "conservatism"
in the European sense and wedded itself to a cause
which contributed to some subsequent situations and
problems. Napoleon III, whose comic-opera regime gave
Karl Marx so much good material, was a pioneer in
bringing together themes from Right and Left to win
mass support while pursuing a rather unspecified national
"glory." The Lesser Napoleon combined nationalist
rhetoric, welfare programs, strong executive government
("Caesarism"), frequent plebiscites, and
interference in markets overseen by his ideological
mentors, the Positivists, who had all gone into banking
and engineering and did quite well under the Second
Empire. The Suez Canal, built by France and then not-too-subtly
alienated by Britain, was an outstanding Positivist
engineering project and suggested, at least, a partial
withdrawal from social engineering into plain engineering.
Whether we may call Napoleon III a "proto-fascist"
is perhaps a matter of taste.
real revolutionary in terms of wedding a great territorial
state to the formerly left-wing doctrine of nationalism
was, of course, Bismarck. In 1879, the Iron Chancellor
abandoned his liberal, free-trading supporters and
forged new alliances with mercantilist Sonderinteressen
(special interests) in industry and agriculture and
founded the welfare state to draw support away from
socialist parties. Thereafter, German politics became
a fight between various programs of national-socialism
and plain old socialism, as F.A. Hayek pointed out
Road to Serfdom (Chicago: University of Chicago,
1944 [pp. 167-180]).
France, the program of Charles Maurras and the Action
Française – the eternal French Nation ruled by
a legitimate King, Catholicism with the sentimental
bits (that is, Christianity) taken out, and whatever
else came to mind – helped re-define the political
spectrum. The terms "Left" and "Right"
– rather useless, anyway – never fully recovered from
all these shifts. Romanticism, too, became the property
of the new "right-wing" nationalists. As
I pointed out last week, this emerging European synthesis
left little work for those who took the final steps
into "national socialism" and "social
ATLANTIC ‘THEORY BARRIER’
good news, I suppose, is that what I call the Atlantic
theory barrier still held. The broad differences between
life and politics in the New and Old Worlds tended to
slow down the transmission of new European social theories
to North America. Since most of these new ideas were
pretty awful, this was all to the good. Only in the
1880s did German-trained American scholars bring word
of the great advances being made under Bismarck’s "social
monarchism" and it took a while, after that, for
us to be blessed with similar institutions. Around the
same time, European immigrants brought us that other
great discovery, Marxism, further increasing our potential
chronology is only approximate, and I would be the
first to admit that Francis Lieber had already brought
a working knowledge of Hegel’s philosophy to Abraham
Lincoln’s War Department, where, I am sure, it was
extremely useful. George Bancroft was already applying
Hegel’s system to the writing of American history,
finding out, rather shockingly, that American "democracy"
and not the Prussian monarchy
was History’s end-goal, a discovery which renders
Francis Fukuyama’s recent meditations quite unnecessary.
of this may explain why José Martí
on our side of the water – could still be, at once,
a liberal, a Romantic, and a nationalist in the late
19th century. Martí was born in
Cuba to peninsular (Spanish) parents in 1853.
He early committed himself to republican and liberal
ideals. Already in 1870, he was exiled to Spain for
his support of the 1868 rebellion, which became the
Ten Years War. There, Martí acquired a law
degree and acquainted himself with the liberal and
radical politics of the Spanish Left. He read and
traveled widely, living in Mexico and the United States
among other places, and developed a unique viewpoint
based on his experiences, observations, and reading.
developed a body of thought centering on liberalism,
republicanism, and a broad notion of social reform,
all of which entered into his nationalism. In this,
Martí bears some resemblance to Thomas Paine,
another widely read propagandist with a straight-forward
style. Cuban nationalists – Castroite and anti-Castroite
draw on Martí ’s
work and claim his legacy. Martí was a prophet
and his religion was liberal-republican Cuban nationalism.
Asked at his famous trial, following the failed attack
on an army barracks near Havana in July 1953, who
was responsible for the raid, Fidel Castro answered,
a Romantic and eclectic thinker, Martí never
built an elaborate system of thought like that of,
say, Karl Marx. He wanted Cuban independence from
Spain, "social justice," a republic, and
a broad class of small landowners – that hardy perennial
of republican theory. Beyond that, he hoped for a
resurgent Latin American civilization based on cooperation
between the Spanish-speaking nations of the New World.
To achieve these goals, Cubans needed to drive Spanish
power from their island, while somehow avoiding the
clutches of the rising American empire. A true "Pan-American,"
Martí found much to admire in the North Americans
– Emerson was one of his heroes – but he didn’t see
them as divinely appointed to run the western hemisphere,
much less the world.
OF THE NORTEAMERICANOS
leave it to the reader’s imagination why Cubans like
Martí might have wished for an end to the plunder-seeking,
favoritism, and mercantilism associated with Spanish
rule. What is more interesting, for our purposes,
are Martí ’s
finely etched comments on the United States and its
(formerly "their") people. For example:
"Between the shanties of Dakota and the virile
and barbaric nation in process of growth there, and
the cities of the East – sprawling, privileged, well-bred,
sensual, and unjust lies an entire world. From
the stone houses and the majestic freedom north of
Schenectady, to the dismal resort on stilts south
of St. Petersburg, lies another entire world. The
clean and concerned people of the North are worlds
apart from the choleric, poverty-stricken, broken,
bitter, lackluster, loafing Southern shopkeepers sitting
on their cracker barrels."1
I would merely add that the loafing shopkeepers were
probably engaged in story-telling, a Celtic art-form
well developed in the South, of which Martí
was perhaps unaware.
in the New York Evening Post in 1889, Martí
described Cubans’ view of the United States: "They
admire this nation, the greatest ever of those which
liberty has raised up; but they distrust those elements
which, like worms in the blood, have begun in this
marvelous republic their work of destruction."
Cubans could not "honestly believe that the excessive
individualism, the worship of riches, and the prolonged
celebration of a terrible victory are preparing
the United States to be the model nation of liberty….
We love the country of Lincoln just as much as we
fear the country of Cutting."2
But surely it was Lincoln’s terrible victory as much
as individualism and riches, which made possible the
country of Cutting. As historian Clyde Wilson observes,
"Historians who are well aware of the corruption
that followed the war, for instance, seem to imply
that it mysteriously appeared after Lincoln’s death
and somehow miss the obvious conclusion that it was
implicit in the goals of the Lincoln war party."3
But Martí , like many Romantic liberal nationalists,
admired Lincoln, and rather than stage a running debate
with the founder of Cuban nationalism, I move on.
had a strong sense of the "plunder-seeking"4
alliance of business and government which characterized
late 19th-century America, an era still
held by mainstream historians to illustrate the evils
of "laissez faire." Martí
described the Gilded Age: "These new tartars
sack and pillage in the modern manner, riding in locomotives….
These birds of prey form syndicates, offer dividends,
buy eloquence and influence, encircle Congress with
invisible snares, hold legislation fast by the reins
as if it were a newly broken horse, and, colossal
robbers all, hoard and divide their gains in secret….
Senators visit them by back doors, cabinet members
visit them in the quiet hours after the working day
is over; millions of dollars pass through their hands….5
This actually sounds a lot like our present
ruling alliance of state and business – whether we
call it corporatism, corporate syndicalism, or neo-mercantilism.
The interested parties in politics and business have
perfected the system in the meantime and the millions
are now billions. Finally, the politicians were actively
creating crony-capitalism, as Walter Karp always
pointed out, and were not merely pawns open to corruption.
aspects of American life gave Martí pause:
"They [the Americans] believe in need, in the
barbarous right as the only right: ‘this will be ours
because we need it.’ They believe in the invincible
superiority of the ‘Anglo-Saxon race over the Latin.’"6
He also criticized the norteamericanos’ racial
attitudes towards blacks and Indians, but since whole
brigades of critical theorists remind us daily of
these matters, I doubt that my adding to the discussion
is really necessary.
saw the United States as a "nation of different
interests, hybrid composition, and frightful problems,
a nation resolved, before putting its own house in
order, to engage in an arrogant and perhaps childish
rivalry with the world."7
Here, Martí was perhaps more right than he
knew, for it was precisely the desire of those who
favored the "large policy" of overseas economic
empire to externalize perceived problems overseas
instead of putting their own house in order.
As "Marse" Henry Watterson, editor of the
Louisville Courier-Journal, put it with characteristic
bluntness and bombast: "We escape the menace
and peril of socialism and agrarianism, as England
has escaped them, by a policy of colonialism and conquest….
We risk Caesarism, certainly, but Caesarism is preferable
"expansionists" like Watterson, Theodore
Roosevelt, and Brooks Adams believed overseas imperialism
to be the only alternative to socialism, anarchism,
and the like is less than clear. Self-interest may
enter into it, as well as the drive to exercise power
and seek glory. William Appleman Williams and Walter
Karp both have something to say to us, here. Making
the case that there were, and are, alternatives besides
socialism and empire is precisely the point of antiwar.com.
LAS ENTRAÑAS AS DEL MONSTRUO
for José Martí that eloquent
if unsystematic critic of the emerging American empire:
he was already dead when Watterson issued his manifesto.
Martí was killed in May 1895, fighting in the
first phase of a war for Cuban independence, a war
he had helped organize and whose most eloquent spokesman
he was. It was probably just as well. He would have
hated to see the arrogant norteamericanos resolve
the Spanish-Cuban War on their own terms, shoving
aside the Cuban leadership and using their war with
Spain as the jumping-off point to Pacific empire.
Marti had launched the war in 1895 precisely because
he feared US intervention. The rebels, with a broad
base among Cuba's black population, were close to
victory in 1898. The US intervened to keep the radicals
knew the dangers. He wrote to a friend shortly before
his death that it was his duty "as far as I understand
it and have the courage to realize it – to prevent
for a time, with the independence of Cuba, the United
States from extending itself through the Antilles
and falling, with this greater force, upon our lands
of America. Whatever I have done up to today, and
shall do, is for this…. I have lived in the Monster
and I know its insides: my sling is that of
David."9 We who live in the
limbs of the beast, if not exactly its entrails –
those would be between Virginia and Maryland, wouldn’t
they? can sympathize. After all, our lands
were conquered even earlier.
PEACE, NO WAR’
predicted that a lengthy war in Cuba would create
a pretext for US intervention. Cuba would become an
American colony. "Once the United States is in
Cuba," he asked, "who will drive it out?"10
We have the answer to that question and it wasn’t
pretty. Later Cuban revolutionaries wedded to very
bad theory managed to transform an American protectorate
into a Soviet protectorate. There are those who say
that "after Castro falls" we can "normalize"
relations with Cuba. Actually, we could do it ten
minutes from now. Sanctions against Iraq punish and
brutalize the Iraqi people in a vain attempt to bring
down a despised leader. The same thing applies to
Cuba. We might as well open up trade before the Canadians
and Europeans get all the best deals. Yes, I know
that socialist "management" accounts for
much of Cuba’s decline into a stone-age economy. But
this is part of the larger case against socialism
and is by the way. Why add to the Cubans’ misery with
sanctions which even Mr. Lincoln might have hesitated
to impose on the Confederacy?
what about "defense"? I should think that
with all his spending in this area, Uncle should be
able to repel any actual Cuban invasions rather easily.
If we can’t defend ourselves from Cuba, a lot of money
must have gone down some domestic and foreign "rat-holes."
would be very interesting to compare Martí’s
views on America with those of another keen foreign
observer, Alexis de Tocqueville. No less than Newt
told you to read Tocqueville. This would be an interesting
project for some keen young historian as we enter
the Second American Century.