1993 marked the end of my department chairmanship, and none too soon. I had become chair in 1987 when Betsy Downey, who seemed a permanent fixture in that position, suddenly decided she had had enough. She was having hot flashes, and the stress was getting to her. She designated me as her successor, and the department, now including Gena DeAragon, Tim Sarbaugh, and Steve Balzarini as well, duly followed her instructions and elected me to the position. My first three-year term went well, and I was reelected to a second term in 1990 with only one dissenting vote. My second term was not as harmonious. Betsy, in particular, took exception to my practice of hiring temporary adjuncts to teach Western Civilization with the authorization of the dean of Arts and Sciences, Fr. Kevin Waters, but without a departmental vote. Betsy led a departmental revolt against such high-handedness, and I would have resigned already in 1991 or 1992, if Fr. Schlatter had not persuaded me to at least serve out my term. This I reluctantly did, finally quitting in June 1993, to be replaced by Steve Balzarini. That fall I took my second sabbatical, this time for a full academic year.
Nick graduated from the University of Washington in June with a degree in civil engineering and a specialization in waste-water management. He sought and got employment in Seattle, working for a number of environmental engineering firms over the years. Today he lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Kim Korinek, a professor of sociology at the University of Utah, and his one-year-old son Sebi.
In August 1993 we went to Germany again, this time for the triennial Stackelberg family get-together at Schloss Höhnscheid. Trina and Nick attended as well and joined us in an excursion to the old university town of Marburg and several days in Berlin, the city where Trina was born.
Two of my nephews got married in 1993. Betsy’s son Chris Chandler married Mireya at his rented summer home on Lake Willoughby in Vermont on August 21st.
Olaf’s son John married Marianne at a beautiful winery in Kenwood, California, in November. This was also my first chance to meet Trina’s new boyfriend, Garth Jonson, a Canadian of Icelandic extraction a year behind Trina at Harvard. Garth had a quirky sense of humor that complemented Trina’s own weakness for sarcasm very well. A year-and-a-half later they married in a private ceremony to which none of their relatives were invited.
Earlier that year, in September, Sally’s parents, Amy and Carl Winkle, celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They had married at the height of the Second World War, while Carl was on temporary leave.
To cap off the year, we traveled to Toronto, Canada, to attend the annual convention of the Modern Language Association (MLA). The temperature was well below zero, very different from the last time I had been in Toronto, in May 1970, at the time of the Kent State shootings. This time we spent more time in Toronto’s vast underground shopping complex with a hungry two-year-old in a futile search for an open restaurant. I was scheduled to give a paper on Ernst Nolte’s (mis)interpretation of Nietzsche. Nolte, anxious to provide Nazism with an intellectual pedigree to rival Marxism (and at the same time to exonerate Christian conservatives from complicity with Nazism), portrayed Nietzsche as the philosophical progenitor of fascism. In my paper I refuted his charges point by point. I pointed out that Nietzsche had thoroughly condemned nationalism, antisemitism, and the militarism and imperialism of the Wilhelmine Monarchy and the Second Reich. He had clearly identified such contemporary leaders of the völkisch movement as the Imperial Court Pastor Adolf Stöcker and the racist Eugen Dühring as the foremost contemporary proponents of the “slave morality” he so despised. His “slave morality” was best exemplified by precisely the kind of world-rejecting “idealism” preached by the kind of völkisch ideologues whose right-wing counterparts would later support the Nazis. Although I thoroughly disagreed with Nolte on his interpretation of Nietzsche and shared none of his cold-war values, I was somewhat ambivalent about his very controversial role in the Historikerstreit. He had precipitated this “historians’ dispute” by arguing that Nazism (and by extension the Holocaust) was just the mirror image of and an understandable reaction to the supposedly greater threat, violence, and criminality of “Asiatic” communism. This was an outrageous attempt to downplay Nazi atrocities, but I did appreciate Nolte’s forthrightness in putting anti-Marxism (and its close relative, antisemitism) at the center of Nazi ideology.
Nolte’s analysis is superior to the liberals’, whose values I nonetheless prefer: at least he views fascism as essentially different from communism, not as essentially the same. I despise Nolte’s right-wing politics but I agree with his historical analysis. The value of Nolte’s work lies in clearly showing the organic nature of Nazism: Nazism as an organic product of German society rather than an extraneous imposition. There’s something honest about Nolte that appeals to me, no matter how much I may despise his political values.
While Nolte saw anti-communism as an at least partially redeeming trait of Nazism, I saw it as all the more reason to condemn Nazism! This was where our values were diagonally opposed. In February 1993 I wrote in my journal:
The ultimate right-wing canard, which, if truly believed, attests almost to feeble-mindedness, is that egalitarians must believe that people have similar skills, talents, endowments, functions, etc. Egalitarians may be said to contribute to excellence by challenging the sense of entitlement of the “gifted,” as if their gifts justify seizing the pie from the hungry.
Already in 1990, with the end of the cold war, I had noted:
Why the Historikerstreit is überholt [no longer relevant]: the major force behind this right-wing revisionism was anti-communism. German history had to be revised to serve the anti-communist front (with U.S. blessing). For most of the historians in the dispute, exculpation of the Germans serves the anti-communist cause. Nolte is different, because for him the argument is reversed: anti-communism serves to revise (and upgrade) German history, not the other way around.
Ever since 1990 I had been following developments in Eastern Europe (the collapse of communism and the introduction, through “shock therapy,” of capitalism) with dismay, as recorded in my journal over the years:
8/16/1990 The events of 1989 don’t mean that Marxist analysis was wrong; they only mean that Marxist confidence was mistaken. Class analysis is not disproved by the fact that the bourgeoisie, the bourgeois spirit, has proven far stronger than Marx had expected.
8/18/1990 Communism serves a very useful function in Eastern Europe today, as the lightning rod that draws off social criticism and thus protects existing (or newly created) institutions and their privileged elites (mostly former communists). Perhaps that is the only way to introduce the free market: make communism take the blame for the hardships that will inevitably follow. That is the function of the Polish joke about communists having turned the aquarium into fish soup and free marketers facing the task of turning fish soup back into an aquarium.
The collapse of communism is revealing all sorts of truths: for one thing it reveals the time-honored Western assertion that the USSR is behind all world crises as the self-serving falsehood it always was.
The collapse of communism as the triumph of communist self-criticism. Is it too much to hope that it will lead to similar self-criticism in the West?
10/13/1990 The fascists’ number one enemy has self-destructed.
12/18/1990 “Stability:” code word for protecting the privileged.
1/19/1991 The “Gulf War:” will it come to be seen as the first great North-South conflagration when the first world let the third world have it with all its technological superiority? The message to the impoverished masses of the world is, “Keep in your place.” The hollowness of cold war rhetoric about Soviet expansionism now stands revealed. An imperialist power cannot help but behave like an imperialist power.
From the American Historical Review (Dec 1990), p. 1524: “The origins of the Dutch War provide another depressing illustration of the manner in which men of power are able to appropriate the consciences of men of talent.”
4/13/1991 Is the lesson of the failure of communism that people are inevitably power-hungry, hence communism must degenerate into authoritarianism, or is it that human nature is indeed more resistant to change than optimists assumed, hence people cannot be won for a social order based on unselfishness?
4/27/1991 The easy transition of Stalinists to capitalists should throw into relief what is common to both: opposition to revolutionary democracy (Trotskyism).
5/27/1991 Memorial Day: the legalized murderers are celebrating their crimes.
6/20/1991 Project, not for me but for someone: show how the corruption of communism in the USSR is the result of timid, bureaucratic, Menshevik, bourgeois tradition, not of Leninist voluntarism. Perhaps it can’t be done. Trotsky vs. Stalin.
6/29/1991 Two ways of looking at the collapse of communism: 1. Communism doesn’t work; 2. Its enemies were too strong (the effort to sustain it was not great enough).
8/22/1991 The great political question of our time is, what is to prevent the property-owning majority from using its powers to protect its privileges? But even here there is historical progress. A hundred years ago the question would have read (world-wide at least) “the property-owning minority.” Multiculturalism as the political weapon of un-propertied minorities. Perhaps the failure of communism or Marxism is merely due to the shrinking of the underclass, i.e., to its success?? One more example of the dialectic.
Project: Socialism in the twentieth century: from the rise of the masses to the rise of elites. (Reflections on failed Soviet coup.) Coup leaders all referred to as right-wing conspirators. Good in showing that “left” still enjoys a more favorable aura. Even appropriate insofar as coup leaders were merely seeking to retain their power and privilege. Yet jarring to the extent that leaders acted on “true” socialist motives: the defense of equality and equity. And where the excluded are a minority, socialism will not be “popular.”
8/26/1991 Reflections on coup in USSR last week [in which coup leaders unsuccessfully tried to halt Gorbachev’s reforms]: revolt of the new bourgeoisie in the USSR attests, in a sense, to the success of communism in creating a new bourgeoisie, who now feel thwarted by the system from achieving their full ambitions, including the ownership of private property. An ideology that originally gained appeal by promising freedom to the underclass, is now perceived as restricting the freedom of the dominant class. The contraction of the underclass and the growth of the dominant class, paradoxically made possible by communism, now account for its unpopularity.
1/10/92 Two aspects of the Cold War: on the one hand it was a campaign against communism as an authoritarian system; on the other hand it was a campaign in defense of the privilege of wealth against the militant advocates of the poor. As the century recedes, as communism collapses, the continuity of the North-South conflict becomes clearer.
The irony is that now [head of the German Democratic Republic Erich] Honecker is again to be punished for his communism: this time not by the Nazis, but by their heirs.
1/18/1992 Marxism is not dead; it is changing, developing, and growing. What has died are certain dogmas; what remains is the enterprise itself.
2/15/1992 Parallels in the “overthrow” of Christianity and communism: a rebellion against the imposition of virtue. People don’t want to have to be charitable and love their neighbors. People don’t want to be constrained in the pursuit of their own happiness. People want their own freedom, not others’. Rousseau (and Marx) were upset by this, which is why people are upset at them.
Maybe the advantage of Christianity over communism is that it can be practiced even if the whole world rejects it; not so communism, which can only be practiced under conditions that insure that everyone practices it.
2/22/1992 Why it is so necessary for the new Germany to punish Honecker: to create the illusion that the mass of common citizens were mere victims. Honecker’s punishment makes possible the integration of East Germans in a united Germany.
2/23/1992 The Gulf War as defense of universal values of human rights—for Americans and Europeans: only through monopolization of fossil fuels at cheap prices can the material basis for the enjoyment of these rights be created. If Americans and Europeans were really interested in universalizing human rights, they would have to work for the redistribution of economic benefits that alone make the creation of the material basis for the enjoyment of human rights possible.
3/11/1992 Gena DeAragon’s talk on feminist history entitled, “Add women and stir?” a formula she then criticized as insufficient. But in her response to questions she shows that she has herself not moved beyond this stage. When asked how she would write the history of the Gulf War from a feminist perspective, she said it should include the role of women in combat. Rather than critiquing the war itself as contrary to the interests of women, or of other groups excluded from power, she offered a “feminist” interpretation that not only leaves the patriarchal structure untouched but actually strengthens it.
3/15/1992 The great political question is, how do you develop true solidarity, true community? It is a question that challenges every community, from the family to the village to the nation to the human race. Socialism is a response to that challenge. Free market ideology is an avoidance mechanism. Fascism is deliberate deception.
9/5/1992 The vilification of Stalin as more criminal than Hitler is a function of our wealth and the need to defend it from the threatening poverty of the southern hemisphere. Hence the effort to impose equality must be seen as leading to greater crimes than the effort to maintain inequality… The effort to strengthen the underclass must be seen as more dangerous than the effort to strengthen the dominant class.
10/4/1992 The irony that now populations of former communist nations (e.g., East Germans) are considered to have a different mentality than people in the West—even though one argument against communism used to be that it presupposes the possibility (and desirability) of creating a “new person.”
2/5/1994 Headline in the New York Times on the Chiapas rebellion: “Mexican Peasants Fighting the Future”.
Emmet exhibited an early precociousness, as recorded in my journal:
2/22/1992 The study of little children as the study of human nature: Emmet starting to cry (out of impatience) just when Sally takes him on her lap and fiddles with her bra to expose her nipple to feed him—even though he may have shown no signs of hunger before. The prospect of immanent satisfaction making clear to him his state of dissatisfaction, which until then he had not noticed.
3/8/1992 Sally: “Roots and wings—I like that metaphor. That’s what parents should give their children.”
5/19/1992 Emmet, sitting behind me on the floor, laughing as I hit the computer keys, as if it were being done for his entertainment.
2/13/1993 End of the twentieth century: the first real word the baby says is “plane.”
5/16/1993 Emmet’s generic name for dogs, at least our two dogs, is “Marley.” Having learned three names for two dogs, “Marley,” “Cloudy,” and “doggies,” he is understandably confused as to which term refers to one of them or both.
5/28/1993 Emmet’s first two phrases: “See you soon,” and “I love you.” Because he doesn’t quite understand the second one, he gets them mixed up and usually says, “I love you soon.” He can count to ten, but has no patience with seven or eight. On a good day he will get to six before jumping to nine and ten. On a bad day he jumps immediately from two to nine and ten!
2/5/1994 Emmet at 11 o’clock at night when I go in to put his blanket back on: “Hello, Daddy. I am sleeping. I don’t want to wake up.”
2/26/1994 Emmet: “Don’t worry, Daddy. We all make mistakes.” Or: “Just relax.”
6/11/1994 Louise, after Emmet has successfully gone on the pot: “I’m so proud of you, Emmet.” Emmet: “I’m proud of you, Louise.”—Louise: “Why’s that?”—Emmet: “Because you go on the potty.”
7/7/1994 Emmet arriving at [Sally’s colleague] Anna Monardo’s party: “Hello. I’m Emmet. I’m two.”
5/20/1995 Emmet saying not “When I grow up I’ll be a daddy,” but “When I grow up I’ll be Daddy.”
6/21/1995 Emmet: “When I grow up I’ll be a belly dancer.”
In 1992 our good friend and fellow Central America activist, Lisa Brown, decided to challenge the establishment head-on by running for the Washington state legislature. On October 18th, a couple of weeks before her victorious election, I recorded the following disagreement among her supporters:
The Lisa Brown campaign and the issue of Gail Ament’s letter to the editor refuting an earlier letter-writer accusing Lisa of Marxism and sympathy for the Sandanistas [she had been in Nicaragua during the elections in 1990, in which the Sandanistas were defeated after blatant American intervention]: Gail’s compelling defense of Lisa, including both an analysis of Nicaraguan society and a denunciation of efforts to distract attention from concrete Washington State issues, was criticized by Lisa and others for reviving an issue that should have been left dormant (on the assumption that people would forget about the earlier letter) and for giving “a rational response to an irrational attack.” But that is just what the campaign should be doing! Their purely tactical concern with “winning” illustrates the process by which politics corrupts reasonable people.
To our great delight Lisa won that election.
She was also one of the few Democrats to be reelected in 1994, the year of the terrible Republican onslaught that led to the defeat of the incumbent Speaker of the national House of Representatives, Tom Foley. Lisa went on to a brilliant career as Majority Leader of the Washington State Senate.
I got some taste of local politics myself in the summer of 1993 when I was asked to represent land-owners on the Spokane River on a “Citizens’ Advisory Commission” to the County Planning Department, which led to the following journal entry in August 1993:
The complexity of politics. As a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee to the County Planning Department I oppose on principle any measure that will lead to further development and higher residential density in rural areas. One way to prevent development is to oppose the extension of the sewer system, an absolute prerequisite for any major residential construction. But I favor sewer construction because it protects the drinking water. Yet extension of the sewer almost requires development—because of the huge financial cost. What position to take?
A couple of months later I recorded the following entry:
Wayne Andresen, manager of the Inland Empire Paper Company, at the Citizens’ Advisory Commission meeting yesterday, while speaking in opposition to the County Planning Department’s policy of filing a formal title notice with the County Auditor on property that may be taken by the county to widen roadways or build new roads (the title notice serves as a way of officially informing property owners of the county’s intention to take the property at its present value): “This is a question of what kind of society we want to live in, a society in which people are free to dispose of their property or a society in which property is controlled by the government.”
On April 21st, 1994, Papa died, a month short of his 84th birthday. It was the first of a series of deaths to come in the years that followed, involving not only our parents’ generation, but our own and our children’s generations as well. Papa’s death did not receive much notice in the German press, overshadowed as it was by the death, on the same day, of former U.S. President Richard Nixon.