The first government of the United States – we'll call it the First Union – was formed in 1777 under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which established a “firm league of friendship” between thirteen sovereign States. The political formula, then, was the consent of the States. The Second Union, established twelve years later, had a stronger central power structure; for example, the office of President of the United States in Congress Assembled, a mostly ceremonial position which had been held from 1781 on, was reformed into that of chief magistrate. This government had popular sovereignty, more or less, as its political formula, as did its successor, the Third Union, which emerged from the War of Secession. This government augmented executive power and weakened federalism – as Mencken put it:
The American people, North and South, went into the War as citizens of their respective states, they came out as subjects . . . what they thus lost they have never got back.The Third Union kept, however, the written constitution of the Second, as did the next government of the United States. This one was firmly established in 1933, but its defining features – cologuing businessmen and intellectuals, military interventionism, and nascent Universalism - appear two decades earlier; it is under Wilson that the marks of the Fourth Union begin to creep in, a collectively sentient gangrene upon the limbs of older forms. Wilson establishes the precedent of ostensibly humanitarian foreign policy – whence the term Wilsonianism – and starts the Union upon the course of adopting Universalism as its political formula. Mencius Moldbug has written briefly on its history:
Universalism is the faith of our ruling caste, the Brahmins. It's best seen as the victory creed of World War II, and it's easy to connect to the various international institutions born in that victory, which Universalists still regard as sacred if occasionally stained by human frailty, much as an intelligent Catholic sees the Roman Church. (It is not a coincidence that "catholic" and "universal" are synonyms.)The various groups within the Nationalist movement, however – poor name, but Bellamy deserves the mention – were much less homogeneous than the ecumenicals were before the First World War, and Moldbug errs in calling them all reformers. These folks were often revolutionaries – reformers perhaps in the sense which includes Anabaptists. Many of them were anti-war but not generally opposed to violence, the anarchists in particular having a fondness for propaganda of the deed – that is, terror and blood for utopia. This nasty double tendency was an obvious blight upon the efforts of the more melonheaded among them – after all, they were heretics! No good progressive can oppose making the world safe for democracy – that is, terror and blood for utopia (whoops). Their ability to fuel serious labor unrest was also a threat. They were to be swept under the semantic rug of Bolshevism and the rug burned.
Universalism is actually already the name of a Christian doctrine, the doctrine of universal salvation. This idea, that all dogs go to Heaven and there is no Hell, is best regarded as an extremist mutation of Calvinism, in which everyone is part of the elect. The modern idea of universal salvation comes to us from Unitarian thinkers such as Emerson, and forms the second half of UUism, whose devotees are, needless to say, Universalist to perfection. (It's an interesting exercise to compare the tenets of UUism to those of "political correctness.")
The Universalist synthesis united two American traditions that in the past had sometimes been at odds. One was the ecumenical mainline Protestant movement, exemplified by institutions such as the Federal Council of Churches, whose most daring theologians were moving toward humanism. The other was what might (with homage to Edward Bellamy) be called the Nationalist movement, a vast raft of secular pragmatists, socialists, anarchists, communists, and other reformers, who flocked to the German-inspired university system that developed in the late 19th century, becoming a sort of roach motel for bad ideas.
(One of the most sensible of the Nationalist philosophers, William James, seriously proposed paramilitary forced labor as the cure for all social ills - in 1906. Oh, Billy, if only you knew! And the utopia of Bellamy's enormously-influential Looking Backward (1888) is essentially the Soviet Union.)
While these groups had generally cooperated in the Progressive Era, there were some tensions - for example, over Prohibition, which the secular Nationalists found hard to swallow. These eased substantially in the New Deal, largely due to the brilliant coup in which Progressives captured the Democratic Party, their former opposition, and converted it into an extremist Progressive movement - while repealing Prohibition. FDR even had a book called Looking Forward printed under his name.
So what we'll call the upper Left – the pietists – needed to get rid of the rowdier elements of the lower Left, and the War was a perfect opportunity. Wilson conducted raids and had numerous anarchists, socialists, and pacifists deported – playing Nature for the evolution-by-selection of the new Brahmin species. Revolutionary socialism subsequently declined in popularity in the United States. And so Puritans won out over Quakers, the Union over the unions, and a new political formula was successfully being instilled. Many organs of the lower Left were in fact steadily made to converge with the nascent progressive mainstream, in a movement correlative to Brahmin generational development. For example, from a 1920 publication by New York City's Institute for Public Service:
The Nation and The New Republic, New York City, have printed many articles and editorials which pictured bolshevist theory and practice as less anarchistic than extreme critics have painted; and these magazines insist that they have been pro-fair-play not pro-bolshevist.The Nation and The New Republic are now, of course, just another couple of stained glass panels in the Cathedral. Now compare an example from a family of our ruling caste: as well in 1920, Thomas W. Lamont was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Partner of J.P. Morgan & Co. from 1910, he unofficially advised Presidents Wilson and Hoover – why not Harding or Coolidge between them? I do wonder! – and helped formulate the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan. In 2006, his great-great-nephew ran for US Senate as a Democrat. Between their genes lies one Corliss Lamont, whose Wikipedia article is notably longer than that of his financier father and – a bit more notably - contains the following sentence:
As a part of his political activities he was the Chairman of National Council of American-Soviet Friendship starting from early 1940s.It's worth lingering a moment upon the sight of this – ahem – progression. Foseti has done a bit of excavation on the elder Lamont:
Ron Chernow’s book, The House of Morgan, contains a couple of nuggets that we will need to finish our brief portrait:
In extreme cases in the 1930s, the House of Morgan would function as an unfettered government in its own right, conducting secret foreign policy at odds with that of Washington.In less extreme cases, the House of Morgan would simply direct Washington’s foreign policy.One more quote, if you’ll indulge me:His son Corliss, a socialist and later a professor of philosophy at Columbia, saw his father’s foreign-policy views as spotless: "Although my father was a successful banker, and a Republican in politics, he was in essence a liberal, particularly on international affairs."Following the death of JP Morgan, Lamont eventually emerged as the de facto head of JP Morgan bank. He also conducted US foreign policy, except for rare instances in which USG disagreed with him, in which case he conducted the foreign policy of his choosing anyway until USG changed its mind (sometimes it took a while for USG to catch up to Lamont). Lamont negotiated the agreements that ended WWI and the subsequent plans that dealt with the problem of German reparations. [. . .] He also went to Harvard, naturally.
His socialist son – don’t forget the "National Council of American-Soviet Friendship" – thought he had "spotless" foreign policy views . . . and Lamont was arguably running US foreign policy. Was this in your history book?Even during the First Red Scare, there are hints in official and semi-official documents of an important element of applied Universalism, the principle of guided popular sovereignty – we might also call it paradoxical democracy – which presents the educated and refined, being superior purveyors of the faith, as the proper interpreters and editors of public opinion. In other words, too much democratic freedom might result in a dreaded loss of democratic freedom. From the same publication from 1920 cited earlier:
Opposition to radical ideas and radical spokesmen has gone farther than verbal criticism; meetings and parades have been prohibited; the public exhibition of the Red Flag which was adopted by the Russian and Hungarian bolshevists and the German extremists called Spartacides has been forbidden; men have been put in jail for speaking at meetings, and even for being present where pro-bolshevist views were expressed. Alien sympathizers have been deported. Unquestionably disorders in America have been inspired and aggravated by bolshevic propaganda. Popular resentment against this is in danger of going too far in curtailing individual liberty.With that last sentence we see the paradox; popular resentment, though, had to be allowed to be thrown against some ideological enemy, and the progressives on the move into power in the 1910s did not enjoy the fortune of having fascism as an available scapegoat. Indeed, the Cathedral of the time – or what thus far existed of it – has itself a certain institutional, fascistic feel, with more official government presence where you'd today expect nominally private groups, such as – what a name! - non-government organizations. The press-university circuit was not so tethered in those days; the Committee on Public Information was formed in 1917 because the New York Times was not yet prepared to do its job. From the January 1918 edition of Boys' Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America:
Through specially prepared pamphlets, every citizen, indeed every boy, every girl, every man, every woman, and every child is to be kept informed about the war in such a way as to make all feel that they are in partnership with the Government at Washington. The Boy Scouts of America are going to have an opportunity of rendering real patriotic service in this program as aides to the Committee on Public Information under the slogan “Every Scout to Boost America as a Government Dispatch Bearer.” We are to help spread the facts about America and America's war. We are to fight lies with truths.America's war – and with that the Third Union looked forward to certain demise. This was the kind of propaganda Edward Bernays salivated for. Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and helped popularize his uncle's ideas in the States. He worked for the Committee on Public Information and attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference at the invitation of Wilson himself. Bernays quite clearly explains the doctrine of guided popular sovereignty in his book Propaganda (1928):
No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.With such minds on their side, the pietists and cartelists gradually absorbed more and more of the lower Left. Indeed, the American Student Union, a Communist group formed in 1935, voted in 1938 to move from pacifism to supporting FDR's foreign policy on collective security grounds. This generation of Brahmins were still divided between Stalinists and those of a less totalitarian persuasion reminiscent of the decades prior. The former, however, were the ones in charge, and they fought a war for Communism and won. Moldbug continues on the convergence of the pietists and the Nationalists:
After WWII, there was no longer any visible quarrel between these factions. Any views which contradicted Universalism became socially unacceptable in polite society. Progressive Christianity, through secular theologians such as Harvey Cox, abandoned the last shreds of Biblical theology and completed the long transformation into mere socialism. Nationalism also becomes an inappropriate term, as with the growth in American power it morphed into internationalism and, as most now call it, transnationalism.
|Les rebelles seront punis / Groupons-nous et demain / Les États-Unis / Seront le genre humain|
That pamphlet from the Institute for Public Service in New York contains at the back an adorable diagram comparing the Soviet government with that of the United States:
Note the dotted line on the Russian side - if this chart were fully accurate, the American side, for 1920 and for today, would include a good number of such dotted lines; in the latter case, it would be almost entirely made up of them. That's progress.