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I join [the Communist Party USA] without enthusiasm, but with a sense of obligation. … My fundamental reason for joining is that I don’t like capitalism and want to get rid of it.
~ Richard Hofstadter (circa 1938)
Like the proverbial frog in a cauldron of water, the distinction separating a warm bath and frog soup is only a difference of a few degrees. Likewise, people are dumbstruck with how America’s academy (i.e., colleges, universities, law schools and, to a degree, public schools) has gradually devolved since the 1860s from vaunted institutions of higher learning to breeding grounds for Marxist socialist groupthink and vast shantytowns of Social Darwinism, postmodernism, education atheism and anti-intellectual propaganda.
Today’s offering will critically examine the work of an iconic figure of the academy.
As an historian, I became introduced to the works of Richard Hofstadter (1916-70) rather late in my academic studies. In 2004, while studying history at Michigan State University, one of my professors, Dr. David Bailey, was an ardent admirer of this public intellectual and had us study and critique Hofstadter’s magnum opus, “Age of Reform.” Hofstadter was the DeWitt Clinton professor of American History at Columbia University and is regarded as the “iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus.” Liberal academics still lionize his oeuvre because his Marxist and progressive worldview strikes a consensus chord with the overwhelming majority of contemporary historians, intellectuals, academics and politicians on the left.
From 1933 to 1939, Hofstadter was an avowed communist. In 1938, he joined the Communist Party USA, yet pragmatically qualified his action:
I join without enthusiasm, but with a sense of obligation. … My fundamental reason for joining is that I don’t like capitalism and want to get rid of it. I am tired of talking. … The party is making a very profound contribution to the radicalization of the American people. … I prefer to go along with it now.
Hofstadter, like many duplicitous academics and leftist intellectuals, openly praised Nazism, fascism and communism, but later recanted and ended the Communist stage of his life in late 1939 because of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Germany after Hitler’s invasion of Poland, which started World War II on Sept. 1, 1939.
The following are Hofstadter’s most significant writings, followed by a brief commentary of how these works have affected the arena of ideas:
“Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860–1915” (1944), a brief critique of American capitalism during the Populist and Progressive Eras – in essence a devastating attack against the Industrial Revolution, which Hofstadter characterized as a ruthless, “dog-eat-dog” economic competition the Robber Barons justified by invoking the doctrine of Social Darwinism. Hofstadter’s historiography here amounts to psychological projection.
“The Age of Reform” (1948), a consensus analysis of the populism movement in the 1890s and the Progressive Era of the early 20th century and ending with the New Deal in the 1930s. Hofstadter’s main purpose for writing this work is not to retell an extensive history of the three movements, but to analyze the common beliefs of the reform groups in our modern perspective, in order to elucidate many distortions.
This opus exemplifies the ideas of the venerated historian Charles Beard, Hofstadter’s major influence, whose work is dominated by leftist historical revisionism, Social Darwinism, a Marxist zeitgeist and enduring anti-Christian and anti-American bias. On Beard’s materialistic model of class conflict Hofstadter would later write: “Beard was really the exciting influence on me,” particularly the social-conflict model of U.S. history that stressed the struggle between competing economic groups (primarily farmers, Southern slavers, Northern industrialists and the workers) and minimized abstract political theories that weren’t translated into policy.
“Anti-intellectualism in American Life” (1963) and “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1964), explains the provincialism in American society, warning it contains much anti-intellectual fear of the cosmopolitan city, presented as evil by the xenophobic and anti-Semitic Populists of the 1890s. Hofstadter blames the political and ideological lineage between the Populists and anti-communists on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism, the political paranoia apparent from the 1930s-50s. Nevertheless, the Venona Papers (1995) would vindicate McCarthy’s reputation; but leftist academics, the media, Hollywood and the Democratic Party still shamelessly slander this bona fide American hero as a person who purposely ruined lives and who abused his power.
Euphemism is defined as “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.” Liberalism, democracy and progressivism are euphemisms for Marxism, socialism and communism, which are all totalitarian, fascist ideologies. Since the 1860s, socialist academics have held a monopoly over the academy, and since communists define “truth” as “anything that will promote communism,” they have purposely obfuscated, distorted and revised history to fit their Marxist critique of America and pervert truth with heavy doses of euphemism.
How long has our iconic Ph.D. academics like Charles Beard, Richard Hofstadter, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Norman Pollack, C. Vann Woodward, Lawrence Goodwyn, Robert Wiebe, Cornel West, Laurence Tribe, Noam Chomsky and many, many other in-house radicals been treasonous advocates of the destruction of American values and, ultimately, of America itself? In reality, academics are some of the biggest hypocrites as they relentlessly howl against free-market capitalism, yet they live on government subsidies for their “research,” endowed chairs, tenure, large speaker fees and royalty advances for their books.
No academic today would call Hofstadter a communist, yet his early membership in the Communist Party USA, his open hatred of capitalism and his enduring Marxist critique against American exceptionalism, which is evident throughout his entire oeuvre, especially in his book, “Age of Reason,” leave me with no other rational conclusion.
For 80 years, Richard Hofstadter has stood at the vanguard of American history by not advocating veritas (truth), but Marxist historical revisionism as his weapon to define and dictate history to the useful idiot masses. To this day Hofstadter remains an iconic figure in the American academy because his historiography – “I hate capitalism and everything that goes with it” – so singularly reproduces their utter revulsion of American exceptionalism, conservatism, capitalism, Christianity, natural law and objective truth.