August 25, 2009
Verdict: Suicide—Eric Kaufman Replies To Kevin MacDonald
Kevin MacDonald has written an interesting review of my book, The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America. While we agree that the United States had an Anglo-Protestant ethnic core, we disagree about why this dominant ethnic group lost power. My argument is that liberal Anglo-Protestant elites, in conjunction with pro-immigration business interests, undermined Anglo hegemony. For Professor MacDonald, Jews played a key role in unseating WASP power.
Interestingly, I have also had this critique leveled at me from left-wing writers who complain that my account reduces ethnics to passive subjects rather than active players in reshaping the country.
Yet I am unpersuaded that Jews or any other non-WASP group had much influence in WASP decline—for the same reason I believe that black Americans had very little impact on ending slavery. Of course minorities will advance their interests where they can. But in the case of blacks or Jews in the early 20th century, they had little power to do so.
The reality is that WASPs largely controlled American society until the 1960s, serving as the country’s presidents, legislators, writers and educators, and providing religious and commercial leadership. If WASPs had stuck together as an ethnic group—as they did momentarily in the 1840s-50s and in the 1890-1925 period—they could have maintained immigration quotas and assimilated immigrants into the WASP ethnic group. (Here I refer to full ethnic assimilation of the kind that absorbed the Scotch-Irish, Huguenots and Knickerbockers, not mere “civic” assimilation in which hyphenated identities persist)
The truth is that WASPs were usually divided. Business interests relentlessly pushed for more immigrants, as they do today, while the American Federation of Labor, led by Samuel Gompers, a Jew, clamored for restriction. Protestant clergymen and businessmen pushed for the admission of Chinese contract labor in the 1860s, 70s and 80s, fighting a losing battle against the Labor-driven Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In the words of one, “The Chinese shall populate the Pacific Slope, and why not?”. Another was blunter: “I don’t care where I get my labor from, a white man or a chinaman, a mule or a horse”. The same is true today, where surveys find that unionized workers are most opposed to immigration while the wealthy most likely to support it.
Among some American WASP intellectuals, there was a restrictionist movement which was influenced in part by eugenics. But the eugenics movement was actually quite inclusive: Irish and German Catholics were now “Nordics” on the same level as WASPs because they were viewed as racially similar. Most American Anglo-Protestant nationalists were not so quick to accept Catholics: the 6-million member, predominantly northern and anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s expressed the sentiment of far more Anglo-Protestants than the elite eugenicists of the Immigration Restriction League. Prohibition in 1920 succeeded as a largely an anti-Catholic movement.
And when it came time to enact the 1924 National Origins quota act, Anglo-Protestants, who dominated Congress because of malapportioned congressional districts favoring rural areas, battled Irish, German and Scandinavian groups who wanted to base the quotas on the immigrant population rather than the native one. In the end, the WASPs won out over their fellow “Nordics”.
Did the Jews play much of a role in this? I would argue that they were too small and powerless to have much effect. Certainly they were foursquare against restriction, but so were other southern and eastern European ethnic groups.
Jewish intellectuals did have some effect. The Frankfurt School and psychoanalysis were not influential in the immigration debate, but Franz Boas was: in anthropology, he challenged the idea that immigrant groups had smaller skulls in the 1910s and 20s—not enough to make a difference but a voice nonetheless. Felix Adler had some effect on John Dewey’s Liberal Progressivism in the 1900s and Horace Kallen influenced WASP radicals like Randolph Bourne in the 1910s. The New York Intellectuals in the 30s, 40s and 50s were more influential, but again, only to the extent that their more prominent WASP fellow travelers (i.e. C. Wright Mills, Harry S Truman, Wendell Willkie) agreed.
In the end, it was up to the liberal WASPs, the John Deweys, Randolph Bournes and Jane Addamses of this world, to take or leave the ideas of Jews. In most cases, liberal WASPs generated their own cosmopolitan ideas, influenced mainly by ecumenical Protestantism of the Pauline “there is neither Jew nor Greek” variety. In many cases, the WASP liberals actually influenced the Jews, as with the Protestant “Settlement” movement which many Jews joined. WASP liberals could also draw upon the universalist utterances of American Founders. who sometimes gushed about serving as a sanctuary for all of Europe’s oppressed (though many forget that at other times the same Founders spoke of being the true Anglo-Saxons).
Jews and some Catholics did rise to prominence in Hollywood by the 1920s and 30s. But for the most part they simply reproduced the WASP image of America, with WASPs (or WASPified others like Rita Hayworth or Kirk Douglas) serving as lead characters while ethnics remained sidekicks. Frank Capra the Sicilian elevated “Mr. Smith” of the provinces as the clean face of the nation.
Only when liberal WASPs pushed the nation toward being universalist, then multiculturalist, could Jews, Catholics and blacks exercise some power. This happened in the 1960s with congressional redistricting and the Voting Rights Act.
In the 1970s and after, minorities begin to play a much bigger role. But I still believe that, without the approval of white racial liberals, ethnic minorities would be relatively powerless.
You might even see Jews, who are almost all white, throwing their lot in with the majority. Orthodox Jews, for example, tend to vote Republican and conflict with their nonwhite neighbors in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Let’s also not forget that race theorists often betrayed WASP America because their view was more inclusive of Catholics and they viewed anti-Catholicism as bigotry while eugenics was considered rational and Enlightened.
If WASP America was to have been saved, the small band of eugenicists like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard could not play a key role. The push would have to be sustained by the mass anti-Catholicism of the Klan, Masons, American Protective Association and preachers like Billy Sunday, who had an audience of millions. Elites of colonial stock who were proud of their WASP ancestry—Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge and the D.A.R.—would have had to prevail over German, Irish and Scandinavian lobbies and Anglo business interests.
Scientific racists and Social Darwinists who preached a more inclusive message of Nordic unity actually undermined the idea of a Protestant nation descended from Anglo-Saxon Protestant settlers and pioneers.
So in writing the autopsy report for WASP America, I would pronounce the case one of suicide, not murder.
Eric P. Kaufmann (email him) is Reader in Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America and The Orange Order: A Contemporary Northern Irish History. Informational links added by VDARE.COM.
I Still Think It Was Murder!
I appreciate Eric Kaufmann’s comment on my review of his The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America.
As I noted in the review, and especially in the longer version posted on my Occidental Observer website, I acknowledge that pre-existing traits of WASPs—all reducible to individualism—were a component in the fall of Anglo-America. However, I place more emphasis on Jewish influence as a necessary (not a sufficient) condition for the collapse of Anglo-America.
Kaufmann implies that Jews would have indeed attempted to institute the collapse of Anglo-America, “but in the case of blacks or Jews in the early 20th century, they had little power to do so.” This may have been true early in the 20th century (but see below). But in the case of Jews, it was certainly not true in the post-World War II era, which is when by all accounts WASP America collapsed.
Jewish power increased dramatically after World War II—as shown, for example, by Truman’s recognition of Israel over WASP opposition in the Departments of State and Defense after intense lobbying from Jewish groups. Consider also Lucy Dawidowitz’s statement, quoted in Aviva Weingarten’s Jewish Organizations’ Response to Communism and Senator McCarthy, that in the early 1950s “for anyone in public life [anti-Semitism] is the sign of Cain. So overwhelming is the disrepute of anti-Semitism that an unrestrained demagogue like McCarthy has studiously avoided the Communist provocation and has, as a matter of fact, tried to establish himself as a philo-Semite.”
It is doubtless true that Jewish organizations did not have enough power early in the 20th century to bring down Anglo-America. For example, the organized Jewish community was indeed on the losing side of the immigration battles of the 1920s. Nevertheless, they had substantial power even during this period—not only in the area of immigration policy, but for example in the abrogation of the Russian trade agreement against the policy of the Taft Administration because of Russia’s treatment of Jews.
Kaufmann stresses the role of the business community in influencing anti-restrictionist immigration policy. But he ignores the key role of the organized Jewish community in delaying restrictionist legislation at least 20 years after the public favored it. In doing so, he relies on statements of individual businessmen eager to import labor rather than historical studies of how immigration law was hammered out in Congress (see, e.g., Naomi Cohen, 1972: Not Free to Desist: A History of the American Jewish Committee 1906–1966; Sheldon Neuringer, American Jewry and United States Immigration Policy, 1881–1953). In fact, the organized Jewish community was more important in opposition to immigration restriction than business interests in the entire period until the passage of the 1965 immigration law.
In my review, I quoted Edward A. Ross writing in 1914 to the effect that Jewish forces were by far the most important and effective anti-restrictionists. Ross’s comment fits well with the historical research cited above. Jewish leadership of the anti-restrictionist effort is quite apparent in getting Presidents Taft and Wilson to veto restrictionist legislation. This material is elaborated in my Culture of Critique chapter on immigration.
This certainly doesn’t mean that all Jews were opposed to immigration restriction. Samuel Gompers was indeed a restrictionist. But it does mean that the organized Jewish community, Jews in Congress, and Jewish financial support, were critical in preventing immigration restriction long before 1924.
Similarly, there is little doubt that the organized Jewish community was the main organizing force in producing the 1965 law. My views on the importance of Jewish groups in the 1965 law have been supported by Vanderbilt University historian Hugh Davis Graham.
In The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, Kaufmann emphasizes the importance of elite institutions. He states that the fall of Anglo-America was a top-down revolution, not a revolution from below. He particularly highlights the role of the New York Intellectuals.
I certainly agree that it was a top-down movement. However, in his reply to me, Kaufmann minimizes the importance of the WASP Darwinian intellectual elite who were powerful through the 1920s, noting that the latter did not have the allegiance of the Protestant masses.
He can’t have it both ways: He can’t propose a top-down model for the demise of Anglo-America and at the same time dismiss the importance of the collapse of the WASP intellectual elite.
As Kaufmann wrote: “Whenever the northeastern ‘WASP’ elite make common cause with their less prestigious but more numerous provincial kin, Anglo-Protestant ethnic nationalism revives” (p. 26). It really didn’t matter if the Protestant masses didn’t believe in Darwin or evolution.
Again, my view is that the eclipse of Darwinism left the ethnic defense of Anglo-America to religious and popular movements, and that these were unable to dominate elite intellectual discourse, the academic world, or the media. This left a huge opening for the triumph of the New York Intellectuals and other—anti-WASP—movements of the left.
If Darwinism had won the war for the intellectual high ground, the New York Intellectuals and the Frankfurt School’s implicit ideological message that WASPs had a moral imperative to give up hegemony would have been a non-starter. That’s why I (along with scholars like George Stocking and Carl Degler) emphasize Boas—his triumph in academic anthropology sealed the fate of Darwinism.
Contrary to Kaufmann’s implication, Darwinism in the social sciences is much broader than the eugenics movement—including, relevant to this discussion, theories of the importance of racial defense.
Kaufmann reiterates his view that “it was up to the liberal WASPs … to take or leave the ideas of Jews.” This is the most difficult point to argue for either side of this debate. My view, especially as elaborated in this section of the longer version of my review, is that Jewish intellectuals were in the driver’s seat by the 1940s, that they dominated the New York Intellectuals, and that they promoted people like Dewey who advanced ideas that were compatible with theirs.
Minimally, what’s missing from Kaufmann’s analysis is a detailed examination of the relative importance of Jews and WASPs among the New York Intellectuals and exactly how they influenced each other. For example, David Hollinger writes in Science, Jews, and Secular Culture:
“If lapsed Congregationalists like Dewey did not need immigrants to inspire them to press against the boundaries of even the most liberal of Protestant sensibilities, Dewey’s kind were resoundingly encouraged in that direction by the Jewish intellectuals they encountered in urban academic and literary communities”.
Exactly, but this certainly gives major influence to Jews among the New York Intellectuals. Dewey, whose “lack of presence as a writer, speaker, or personality makes his popular appeal something of a mystery” (Sandel, M. J. (1996). Dewey rides again, New York Review of Books May 9, p. 35), thus represented the public face of a movement dominated by Jewish intellectuals.
As documented in my Culture of Critique chapter, my view of the New York Intellectuals as a Jewish movement is accepted by other scholars. And I reiterate my other reasons for supposing that Kaufmann underestimates Jewish influence, none of which Kaufmann disputes in his letter: the strong Jewish identity of Jewish New York Intellectuals and the lack of ethnocentrism on the part of non-Jewish New York Intellectuals; the close connections between the New York Intellectuals and other Jewish intellectual movements, particularly the Frankfurt School and psychoanalysis; the very intensive role of the organized Jewish community in financing the New York Intellectuals, Boas, and the Frankfurt School and in promoting these cosmopolitan ideas in the media and the educational system; similar anti-nationalist tendencies by Jewish intellectuals in other societies.
This last is of special importance here, because Kaufmann suggests that the Jewish New York Intellectuals were influenced by their WASP counterparts. But all the evidence is that Jewish intellectuals did not need WASPs to push them in this direction. Anti-nationalist tendencies have been common among Jewish intellectuals throughout the 20th century, most notably in Eastern and Central Europe prior to WWII. In all these societies the Jews became an anti-national intellectual elite, but they recruited and promoted sympathetic non-Jews as well—much like in later decades the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives recruited non-Jews who accepted their views on Israel and other Jewish issues. The fact that the New York Intellectuals started out as Trotskyites—the quintessential internationalists—long before they absorbed WASPs like Dewey also points in this direction.
I stress Jewish influence on the media as a gap in Kaufmann’s analysis. Kaufmann counters that “for the most part they simply reproduced the WASP image of America.” But ignoring Jewish influence entirely seems unwarranted given that Jews already owned more elite media than WASPs by the 1930s. This trend was exacerbated after World War II, when Jews controlled the three major television networks. In his book, Kaufmann stresses the point that, because of the rise of television, the exposure of Americans “to the values and outlook of the New York/Washington/Hollywood elite thereby took on great significance”, citing Lichter et al. (1986). However, that same study showed that 14 percent of the news media elite were religiously affiliated Jews and 23 percent were raised in a Jewish household, indicating that people of Jewish background were overrepresented approximately by a factor of 10 among elite journalists. Indeed, Kaufmann himself, relying on Lerner et al. (American Elites, 1996) shows that Jews outnumbered Anglo-Saxons 58–21 among elites in television.
In my review, I show that the attitudes promoted by Jews in the media are influenced by their Jewish identity and reflect the liberal/left/cosmopolitan attitudes of the wider Jewish community. I also show that the media has very positive images of Jews and promotes specifically Jewish issues, such as the Holocaust. As Jonathon and Judith Pearl have noted, television portrays Jewish issues “with respect, relative depth, affection and good intentions, and the Jewish characters who appear in these shows have, without any doubt, been Jewish—often depicted as deeply involved in their Judaism”.
In the movies, a common theme is Jews coming to the rescue of non-Jews, as in Ordinary People, where a Jewish psychiatrist who rescues an emotionally repressed WASP family. Kathryn Bernheimer (1998, 162) notes that “in many films, the Jew is the moral exemplar who uplifts and edifies a gentile, serving as a humanizing influence by embodying culturally ingrained values.” WASPS, on the other hand, are routinely portrayed as emotionally and sexually repressed snobs who have no ethical scruples in competing with Jews or other outgroups. Minimally, Kaufmann should discuss the relative influence of Jews and WASPs on the media at different points in history.
To conclude, there is a strong case to be made that Jews were influential in the fall of Anglo-America. As Yuri Slezkine among others has shown, Jews became an elite throughout Eastern and Western Europe beginning in the late 19th century. The rise of Jews to elite status in the United States is no different, and it should not be surprising that they were an important factor in the decline of the previous elite. In order to make his argument for WASP suicide, Kaufman at least needs to consider the available evidence on Jewish influence.
My verdict remains: Murder.