This is the essence of tragedy,
To have meant well and made woe, and watch Fate,
All stone, approach.
The year is 1933. The dictator Adolf Hitler takes power in Germany; the dictator Franklin Delano Roosevelt takes power in America. Roosevelt promptly recognizes the Soviet Union, and establishes diplomatic relations with Stalin’s government. The Soviet Union has already murdered millions of people. The Soviet Union under Stalin has already murdered millions of people. The Holocaust is ten years into the future.
So let me get this straight: Lovecraft’s personal correspondence expressing “qualified support of Hitler” is supposed to fill us all with tremendous outrage. Fine. How are we supposed to feel about Henry Wallace and Premier Molotov — Owen Lattimore and Chairman Mao — Harry Dexter White and Agent Sound? And who the heck is this guy?
Prior to his departure in May 1943, Davies brought a fresh print of Mission to Moscow to the White House for a sneak preview. After its viewing, he secured FDR’s permission to take a copy with him to Moscow, along with a sealed envelope that the President had prepared for Stalin.
When Davies arrived in Moscow, Amb. Standley, not informed of the mission in advance, resigned in disgust. Davies met Stalin in the Kremlin and read him the letter. He emphasized the US government’s disapproval of British imperialism and broadly hinted that the USA and the USSR, without the British, could rule the world together. Having betrayed British allies and destroyed the incumbent Ambassador, Davies then retired with Stalin to the Kremlin screening room to watch Mission to Moscow, where his cinematic glorification of the dictator, to his disappointment, did not win a rave review, but only a grunt or two. [CIA.gov]“Owen who?” Never mind. Go back to watching Band of Brothers.
The first National Socialist book burnings took place in May of that year, beginning with the works of the radical Jewish “sexologist” Magnus Hirschfeld — who, if I’m being perfectly frank, probably should have been considered degenerate. Hirschfeld, by the way, helped popularize the term “racist,” and is an excellent example of what the British psychologist William McDougall called a “race-slumper” (Francis, 1999).
In any case, books are burning — which obviously wouldn’t sit well with Lovecraft, who has long believed that “the absolutely first requirement of any mature or genuine civilisation is complete intellectual and artistic freedom; so that no restriction whatever would be placed upon any sort of individual thought or tastes” (V.12).
Hitler’s “attempt to banish arbitrarily all literature he does not like” is “essentially uncivilised”; indeed, his entire program is “extreme, grotesque, & occasionally barbarous” (IV.235). Lovecraft sees no reason whatsoever “to ban Jewish books, to impose disabilities on Germanically cultured Jews, or to assume that — biologically speaking — a dash of Semitic blood unfits one for Aryan citizenship” (IV.193).
And yet, to Lovecraft, “there is a certain basis behind some phases of the attitude [Hitler] represents” (IV.235). In fact, there is even “something to be said for one phase” of “his much-advertised & hysterically condemned Jew policy” (IV.193):
There is a very real & very grave problem in the presence of an intellectually powerful minority springing from a profoundly alien & emotionally repulsive culture-stream, defying assimilation as a whole, & using its keen mentality & ruthless enterprise to secure a disproportionate hold on the mental & aesthetic life of a nation. In such a case it is foolish to quibble about ‘rights’ & ‘principles.’ The question is whether an enormous Aryan nation, with all the innate feelings & perspectives of Aryan culture, is going to allow its formulated expression (literary models, art, music, &c.) to bely & embarrass it by reflecting an altogether different & sometimes hostile set of feelings & perspectives through a gradual & imperceptible Semitic control of all the avenues of utterance.
It is needless to point out that a nation’s literary & artistic utterance depends very largely on those who control the periodicals, schools, colleges, publishing houses, galleries, theatres, & so forth — this control largely determining what works & types of art shall receive preference in presentation to the public & in treatment by critics, & what attitudes shall receive official recommendation.
If such control be gradually seized by a culture-group profoundly foreign to the natural culture-stream of the nation, the result is bound to be tense, awkward, & finally intolerable. […] If a minority-overriden culture has any vitality at all, it will revolt in the end — & of course crudely at first.It is precisely this crudeness that Lovecraft hopes to avoid:
In my opinion, all nations ought to take quiet & moderate steps to get such pivotal forces as education, large-scale publishing, legal interpretation, criticism, dramatic management, artistic control, &c. into the hands of those who inherit the respective mainstreams of thought & feeling of those nations. Chinamen ought not to let American missionaries dictate & interpret their policies — & by the same token Aryans ought not to leave their guidance & interpretation to persons of an irreconcilable Semitic culture.Therefore, Lovecraft concludes, although Hitler’s “ethnological theories (as distinguished from any defence of a purely Aryan culture) are contrary to the maturest beliefs of science” (IV.235), “just this much […] is perfectly & irrefutably sound” (IV.249):
namely, that no settled & homogeneous nation ought (a) to admit enough of a decidedly alien race-stock to bring about an actual alteration in the dominant ethnic composition, or (b) tolerate the dilution of the culture-stream with emotional & intellectual elements alien to the original cultural impulse.
Both of these perils lead to the most undesirable results — i.e., the metamorphosis of the population away from the original institutions, & the twisting of the institutions away from the original people…… all these things being aspects of one underlying & disastrous condition — the destruction of cultural stability, & the creation of a hopeless disparity between a social group & the institutions under which it lives.That goes for all nations: Germany, China, and “if the Jews had a nation of their own,” Lovecraft would “be the first to insist that it be kept free of Aryan influences” (IV.206).
As it is, I honestly regret the Aryan taint (any infusion is a “taint” if it’s where it doesn’t belong) in the noble and ancient culture of Japan.The issue, Lovecraft emphasizes, is not biological: an “absolute colour-line […] against Jews (though attempted by Hitler) is ridiculous,” because “the trouble with the Jew is not his blood — which can mix with ours without disastrous results — but his persistent & antagonistic culture-tradition” (IV.194). Lovecraft is “well aware that a large amount of the race-stock included within the nominal bounds of Jewry is excellent and quite assimilable by a Nordic majority” — consider those “keen, gray-eyed, white-skinned German Jews like the first August Belmont, or ascetic Portugese-Jewish types like those whose blood has already tinctured to a great extent the body of the Spanish people” (II.65). No, “the real, impassible barrier is cultural,” not biological, in that “our whole system of values differs utterly and irreconcilably from the Jewish system” (IV.205).
It remains a fact that many modern nations need to take steps to preserve the integrity of their own native cultures against shrewd and pushing alien influences. One must view such problems realistically — without patriotic sentimentality like Hitler’s on the one hand, and without idealistic sentimentality on the other hand. Certainly, a dash of alien blood of a superior race (among which a large section of Jews as well as Mongols must be included) does not harm another superior stock so long as the culture is unimpaired. But that’s where the rub comes. When the alien element is strong or shrewd enough to menace the purity of the culture amidst which it parasitically lodges, it is time to do something. So far as Jews are concerned, it wouldn’t hurt a nation to absorb a few thousand provided they were not a physiognomically aberrant type and provided they left their culture and folkways behind them so that the new generation would hold no memories except of the dominant racial tradition. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury is no less golden because the anthropologist’s old man was an ex-Cohen.Whereas Lovecraft is “not prepared to admit that the essentially exotic and Oriental culture-stream of the Hebraic tradition has any legitimate place in a Western and Aryan civilisation.” (II.64). Any “absorption” of Jews into such a civilization, then,
absolutely postulates a complete cultural surrender on their part — an acceptance of our own Aryan point of view, loyalties, religion, and heritage. In other words, they must throw themselves wholly into the main stream and utterly forget their own individual past; else they will engender unpleasant cross-currents of taste and feeling which will continue to make them socially distasteful. […]
So I say that, whilst it is eminently desirable to salvage good Jewish race-stock by very gradual absorption into the Aryan and dominating body, it is absolutely necessary that this salvaging be accompanied by a total effacement of the newcomers’ traditions. They must suffer a complete intellectual and aesthetic amnesia, and join us as Aryans when they do join.
As for the Semitic culture — it is not for us to say one word either for or against it in an absolute sense. We do not feel its impulses, and can never know its essence. Certainly, it has produced a powerful set of ideas and standards, and who are we to say that these are any less important, intrinsically, than our own? As with Chinese culture, whose absolute greatness we freely acknowledge, we may say that Jewish culture is doubtless highly excellent in its proper place. But that place is not among us, for those points of view which are eminently harmonious when working with other Hebraic ideas, become utterly discordant, hostile, and injurious when brought in contact with points of view whose source and directions are wholly distinct and opposite.To choose one relevant national example (IV.206):
A man brought up in the real German tradition, with early impressions confirming the virile pagan and Protestant psychology which belongs to the nation and excluding any of the hereditary teachings peculiar to another culture, ought certainly to be a full citizen and potential officeholder even if 1/4, 1/2 or fully Jewish in genealogy. But no man who inherits Jewish feelings and perspectives ought to hold a pivotal post in any Aryan nation. That’s no insult to intellectual Jews — it’s simply common-sense. […]
The test ought to be cultural — depending on each individual’s personal history and natural reactions, as determined by proper psychological and other investigations. If any undoubted Caucasian thinks and feels like an Aryan, then let him hold office in an Aryan nation. This would not only cut down the unpleasant foreign percentage in power, but would speed up the assimilation of the whole alien element. (Of course, no new members of an alien culture ought to be admitted to a nation except in small quantity.) […]
Good Jew-Aryan relations can come only after these plain truths are recognized on both sides. In the end, there will have to be a separation of the cultural Jew from the body politic, plus a complete absorption — with abandonment of hereditary traditions — of thousands of other Jews. That will call for concessions on both sides — the Jews will have to realise that they can’t drag their folkways into our national patterns, while we will have to abandon the tight race-lines of the Hitlerites. That ought not to be a hardship either way. The Jews are used to subordinate positions, and good governments need impose no hardships on their unassimilable faction. And on the other side — Aryan nations have taken on varying doses of Semitic blood in the past (Spain has oceans of it; England and America since Cromwell’s time have absorbed a trickle) without any unfavourable results whatsoever. Give and take.“What, then, shall we do with our Jews?” Lovecraft sums it up (II.67):
Well — as with the negro, there is only one thing we can do as an immediate expedient to save ourselves; Keep them out of our national and racial life. With the negro the fight is wholly biological, whilst with the Jew it is mainly spiritual; but the principle is the same. We are Aryans, and our only future as a self-respecting stock lies in our resistance to anything like an Alexandrian mental hybridisation. Let us preserve and glory in our own inherited Western life and impulses and standards, and let us resist to the death any attempt at fastening to our body of national custom any feeling or feature aside from that which we legitimately derive from the tall, fair Aryans who begat us and who founded our English civilisation and Anglo-American nation. If a certain number of outlanders desire to dwell separately among us, it may be politic to let them — at least, for a time. But let us swear by the living God, as we respect ourselves as free Northern white men, that they shall lay not a hand on our institutions, and inject not an ideal of theirs into the massed inheritance which is ours.
To the Jew we must say, ‘live your own life, here or elsewhere; but remember that you live among Aryans, who are not to be disturbed.’
When the interloper seeks a voice in our councils, and subtly endeavours to mould the national feeling in accordance with his own standards — among which latter is a cynical disregard of our sentiments and cherished loyalties, visible in bolshevistic Trotzkys and iconoclastic Ben Hechts — there is only one possible answer from the unemasculated sons of the honest roast-beef Englishmen and rawboned Yankees who made this nation; and that answer is just this — ‘You go to hell.’The outcome Lovecraft wishes to avoid is exemplified by New York City, which “is virtually lost to the national fabric” (IV.194).
Our literature & drama, selected by Jewish producers & great Jewish publishing houses like Knopf, & feeling the pressure of Jewish finance & mercantile advertising, are daily getting farther & farther from the real feelings of the plain American in New England or Virginia or Kansas; whilst the profound Semitism of New York is affecting the ‘intellectuals’ who flock there & creating a flimsy & synthetic body of culture & ideology radically hostile to the virile American attitude.At this point — that is, in 1933 — “there is no question” that New York’s “overwhelming Semitism has totally removed it from the American stream” (IV.230).
Regarding its influence on literary & dramatic expression — it is not so much that the country is flooded directly with Jewish authors, as that Jewish publishers determine just which of our Aryan writers shall achieve print & position. That means that those of us who least express our own people have the preference. Taste is insidiously moulded along non-Aryan lines — so that, no matter how intrinsically good the resulting body of literature may be, it is a special, rootless literature which does not represent us.To be clear, it is not that “Jews own all the papers” (IV.306),
but merely that they control their policies through economic channels. The one great lever, of course, is advertising. Virtually all the great department stores of New York (except Wanamaker’s) are solidly Jewish even when they deceptively retain the names of earlier Aryan owners; & a clear majority of the large shops of other sorts are, as well. These Semitic merchants are clannish & touchy to the very limit, & will arrange to withdraw all their advertising at once whenever a newspaper displeases them. And, as Mencken has pointed out, their grounds of displeasure are limitless. They even resent the frequent use of the word “Jew” in the news, so that papers speak of “East Side agitators,” “Bronx merchants,” “Russian immigrants” &c.
Let any N. Y. paper try to refer to these people in the frank, impartial, objective way a Providence or Pittsburgh or Richmond paper would, & the whole pack of synagogue-hounds is after it — calling down the vengeance of heaven, withdrawing advertising, & cancelling subscriptions — the latter a big item in a town where 1/3 of the population is Semitic in origin & feelings. The result is, that not a paper in New York dares to call its soul its own in dealing with the Jews & with social & political questions affecting them.(For a concrete example of a “social & political” question: Lovecraft is of the opinion that “no jury of New York Jewish radicals ought to try a man accused of labour crimes against law & order,” “for those bastards would acquit a brute who had shot up dozens of innocent people if they thought he did it ‘for the social revolution’” (IV.368).)
The whole press is absolutely enslaved in that direction, so that on the whole length & breadth of the city it is impossible to secure any public American utterance — any frank expression of the typical mind & opinions of the actual American people — on a fairly wide & potentially important range of topics. Only by reading the outside press & the national magazines can New Yorkers get any idea of how Americans feel regarding such things as Nazism, the Palestine question (in which, by every decent standard, the Arabs are dead right & both England & the Jews intolerably wrong), the American immigration policy, & so on.
This is what I mean by Jewish control, & I’m damned if it doesn’t make me see red — in a city which was once a part of the real American fabric, & which still exerts a disproportionately large influence on that fabric through its psychologically impressive size & its dominance both in finance & in various opinion-forming channels (drama, publishing, criticism &c.). Gawd knows I have no wish to injure any race under the sun, but I do think that something ought to be done to free American expression from the control of any element which seeks to curtail it, distort it, or remodel it in any direction other than its natural course. As a matter of fact, I don’t blame the Jews at all. Hell, what can we expect after letting them in & telling them they can do as they please? It is perfectly natural for them to make everything as favourable for themselves as they can, & to feel as they do. […] I criticize not Mr. Bernard Kopp-Davis — nor Sig. Giambattista Scagnamiglio nor M. Napoleon-Francois Laliberté — but merely the condition brought about by a reductio ad absurdum of the flabby idealism of the “melting-pot” fallacy. […] I’d hardly advocate Nazi tactics, but I certainly would welcome a greater assertiveness & independence among the native stock.That’s the dream, anyway (IV.194):
Some day I hope that a reasonably civilised way of getting America’s voice uppermost again can be devised. Not that I would advocate violence — but certainly, I can’t regard the Nazis with that complete lack of sympathy shewn by those who take popular newspaper sentiment at face value.S. T. Joshi singles out one of Lovecraft’s letters as “acutely embarrassing” (1936):
[Hitler’s] vision is of course romantic & immature, & colored with a fact-ignoring emotionalism … There surely is an actual Hitler peril — yet that cannot blind us to the honest rightness of the man’s basic urge … I repeat that there is a great & pressing need behind every one of the major planks of Hitlerism — racial-cultural continuity, conservative cultural ideals, & an escape from the absurdities of Versailles. The crazy thing is not what Adolf wants, but the way he sees it & starts out to get it. I know he’s a clown, but by God, I like the boy!Fine. Wonderful! Be embarrassed. You can have Albert Jay Nock instead (1933):
The wretched state of things in Germany continues. It is a manifestation of a nation-wide sentiment that any honest-minded person must sympathize with, but its expression, under the direction of a lunatic adventurer, takes shape in the most revolting enormities.