Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Marx, Holmes, and Lovecraft

It's the start of a new week and time to be done with old things and begin with new. (I write this on Monday for posting on Tuesday.) This will be the last in my series referencing To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson (Doubleday Anchor, 1953). Quotes from the book from Marx himself:
The writer must earn money in order to be able to live and write, but he must by no means live and write for the purpose of making money . . . .
I must follow my goal through thick and thin and I shall not allow bourgeois society to turn me into a money-making machine. (p. 209)
When I read those words, I thought immediately of H.P. Lovecraft, who I believe thought of himself as an amateur (in the good sense) and who failed to do the things that a professional writer does, who wrote slowly and carefully rather than being a hack (a label placed on him by Edmund Wilson by the way), and who, like Marx, declined to work and as a consequence lived very often in dire poverty. It was this poverty in fact that killed Lovecraft. If only he had lived as long as Marx . . .

Like Marx, H.P. Lovecraft was an unsentimental materialist. Lovecraft, who came from a cold northern European culture and who left his wife and died childless, may in fact have been less sentimental than the Jewish Marx, who loved his wife and children, even if he subjected them to poverty, disease, and starvation. (Strange love.) Unlike Marx, Lovecraft was conservative, a twentieth-century Tory. His view was not that History would be crowned by the advent of worldwide socialism--in other words, a supreme human society--but that humanity matters not and will be crushed under the big, green, slimy foot of Cthulhu. (It seems to me that atheists and materialists of today have more in common with Lovecraft than with Marx.) That is at least the conventional view--that Marx was progressive rather than conservative. I have a different view, for I believe that Marx and all of his acolytes right down to the present day were and are in fact hardened conservatives of the reactionary type in that they wish to restore the √©lite--of which they see themselves a part--to a position they lost with the end of feudalism. The usurpers of course were the middle class, Marx's bourgeoisie, who, in their exercise of their economic rights, reduced the power, prestige, and position of their supposed superiors to nothing, hence all the envy, hatred, and vitriol directed at them even today. Here is an illustrative quote from To the Finland Station:
From time to time, with telling effect, Marx will light up for a moment the memory of other societies which have been fired by other ideals. The disgrace of the institution of slavery on which the Greek system had been founded had at least, in debasing one set of persons, made possible the development of an aristocracy of marvelous taste and many-sided accomplishment, whereas the masses of the people in the industrial world had been enslaved to no more impressive purpose than "to transform a few vulgar and half-educated upstarts into 'eminent cotton spinners,' 'extensive sausage makers' and 'influential blacking dealers.'" (pp. 293-294; emphasis added)
Note the arrogance, the condescension, the contempt for the middle class. Note also the bitter resentment at the loss of position among the aristocracy. (Lovecraft also came from a fallen society and fancied himself an aristocrat.) Finally, note the phrase "a few vulgar and half-educated upstarts." Now we're at the heart of the complaint made by Marx and men like him against the middle class. It's the same complaint made against our current president, and it explains the extreme hatred of him by so many leftists, who seem to have lost their minds in contemplating his ascendancy: How did he get to where he is when he is so obviously inferior to us? What kind of unjust world are we living in? And how can we set it aright? (2)

I'll just add two things: One, in the end, the leftist/socialist/statist program is conservative in the extreme, a kind of reactionary belief system that wishes to restore feudal relationships among men. The real innovation, one of the most radical ideas in history and one enshrined in our founding documents, is that human beings are and by rights free. Two, Lovecraft, a lowly American pulp writer, out-Marxed Marx in his materialism and in his consequent placement of human beings at the bottom of the ladder of history instead of at the top. Although there are way too many Marxists in the world, especially among academia, the masses have made their judgment: they prefer Lovecraft--Edmund Wilson's hack--to Marx--Edmund Wilson's hero.

* * *

A few months ago, I went to a Sherlock Holmes event at the local library. It has been awhile since I read the Sherlock Holmes stories, so when the presenter started to talk about Holmes, his career, and his lifestyle, a lightbulb came on over my head. Again, I thought of H.P. Lovecraft, who, like Holmes (and Marx): was an avowed and enthusiastic amateur; lived by simple means, alone or in the household of a woman (or women) but who more or less eschewed the company of women (unlike Marx); entertained visitors to his apartment but seems to have been more or less a loner and one who lived mostly within his own thoughts and imagination; pursued his amateur studies in the extreme; and had specialized knowledge of obscure or esoteric subjects. (1) My next question was this: Did Lovecraft read the Sherlock Holmes stories? The answer appears to be yes. My final question was this: Did Lovecraft model himself at all on Sherlock Holmes? That's one for people who know more about Lovecraft than I do.

Notes
(1) The one woman in Holmes' life is Irene Adler. The one woman in Lovecraft's life was Sonia Greene. Both disappeared in a hurry. Sonia was a Russian-born Jew. Irene Adler is a native of New Jersey and not obviously Jewish. But what of her surname? We have already had one Adler in this series, the Austrian--and Jewish--socialist Victor Adler. There was also a famous Jewish psychologist named Alfred Adler, who, significantly in a discussion of Lovecraft and leftists, postulated the existence of an inferiority complex among us. Anyway, I'm not the first person to ask the question, Is Irene Adler Jewish? Look for it on the Internet.
(2) A last quote from To the Finland Station:
But with his [Lenin's] hard sense of social realities, he is quite clear about the intellectual inequalities between the intelligentsia and the masses. He quotes in What Is to Be Done? as "profoundly true and important" a statement by Karl Kautsky to the effect that the proletariat, left to itself, can never arrive at socialism; socialism must be brought to them from above: "the vehicles of science are not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia." (pp. 393-394)
Hence the arrogance and condescension of our current leftist ruling class, all of whom have come from the middle class, all of whom enjoy a middle class lifestyle, all of whom fancy themselves intellectually superior not only to the masses but also to the vulgar, moneymaking middle class, and all of whom wish to impose from above a program in which they will attain and hold power, all, they claim, for the sake of "the people."

Original text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

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