Posts Tagged ‘Folklore’

Trump and the Nazis’ 19th Century Precursors

March 27, 2016

I’ve blogged several times about Donald Trump and the very strong similarity between his rhetoric and racial politics and those of the Fascists, Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. Trump is racist, and preaches a violent intolerance towards political opposition, as well as Mexicans and Muslims. However, reading Karl Dietrich Bracher’s The German Dictatorship: The Origin, Structure and Consequences of National Socialism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1971) I was also struck by the extremely strong parallels between Trump, the American Republican party, and the 19th century precursors of Nazism in the various anti-Semitic movements in Germany.

In the first chapter ‘The Preconditions’, Bracher devotes an entire section to ‘The Role of Anti-Semitism’, pp. 52-64, in which he discusses the infamous forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Semitic racial stereotyping, and the social and political origins of organised anti-Semitic parties and organisations, like Adolf Stoecker’s Christian Social Party and Wilhelm Marr’s League of Anti-Semites, as well as other, minor, anti-Semitic political parties such as the Social Reich Party and the German Reform Party. He notes that German political anti-Semitism had its origins in the social disruption caused by industrialisation, the development of capitalism, and urbanisation. They were also attempts to draw the masses away from Socialism and the SPD to give their support to the traditional, Conservative-authoritarian social order.

He also discusses how the rise in anti-Semitism in Germany was a response to the influx of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution during the spate of pogroms that erupted throughout the Russian Empire in the 1880s. On page 55, Bracher writes

But when the optimism of the Enlightenment began to give way to an irrational volkisch nationalism, the idea of the eternally ‘demoralizing’ role of the Jew began to take root. His assimilation seemed impossible; his character was unalterably negative. The religious difference became a moral one; the image of the secularized Jew was based on a mythical-deterministic concept, a combination of reaction and impotence, hatred and fear. The quintessence of this type of anti-Semitism was the fear of the dark world of the ghetto and of the conspiratorial workings of ‘international Jewry’ as told of in pamphlets and novels since the turn of the century, a fantastic mixture of falsified and misunderstood Jewish works and stereotyped invention. The influx of Jews from the ghettos of the East furnished daily proof and arguments for the fear and hatred of the unknown. At the same time, their presence was held responsible for the problems and difficulties which changing social and economic conditions wrought in the lives of a people in an industrial society brought up on pre-industrial social ideals. According to Wilhelm Marr, Bismarck’s Reich was practically a ‘New Palestine’, which in all vital respects was under Jewish alien domination. The right-wing, anti-Bismarck opposition was a mainstay of this early wave of the 1870s and 1880s, when conservative Protestant and anti-liberal Catholic forces forged a temporary alliance.

There are glaringly obvious parallels with today’s refugee crisis, and the rhetoric surrounding Muslims, in which they are considered to be unassimilable into modern democratic society. As for Marr’s description of the Bismarckian Reich as a ‘new Palestine’, this sounds very much like the anti-Semitic rhetoric from the American Nazi Right, which describes the contemporary liberal American government as ZOG – the Zionist Occupation Government.

American Conservatives, like the Republicans, try to contrast Socialism with democracy. They pose as defenders of the latter against Socialism, which is always portrayed as totalitarian, and practically synonymous with Communism and Nazism/Fascism. Hence all the rhetoric claiming that Obama, who actually isn’t even particularly liberal, is really a Communist-Nazi-Muslim. One Trump supporter interviewed by Jordan Cheriton, stated that he wasn’t going to vote for Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a ‘Democratic Socialist’. The young man stated that Sanders, as a Socialist, would govern totally, even telling Americans how they should lie in bed.

Apart from being a grotesque distortion of Socialism, it also ignores the fact that some of the anti-Semitic movements in 19th century Germany did have a quasi-democratic character. One of the leading anti-Semitic politicians in Germany at the time was Otto Boeckel, a folklorist and the author of a pamphlet Die Juden – die Koenige unserer Zeit (The Jews – Kings of Our Time). Boeckel also published a paper, Reichsherold, which Bracher states ‘had a pronouncedly progressive, anti-clerical, anti-capitalist tenor. It propounded near-radical democratic ideas’. Boeckel himself was political quite liberal, and broke with the League of Anti-Semites because he found them too conservative, founding his own Anti-Semitic People’s Party. Boeckel became the first independent anti-Semite to be elected to the Reichstag after he won an election in a Conservative stronghold near Marburg in 1887. Boeckel himself wanted the segregation of Jews and Gentile Germans.

The League of Anti-Semites also demanded laws to prevent further Jewish integration and assimilation into German society. It based these on similar measures elsewhere, such as contemporary American laws against Chinese immigration. (p. 60). And one of the other, most successful anti-Semitic politicians of this period was Hermann Ahlwardt. Ahlwardt, like Boeckel, won his seat an Conservative district, this time in a rural seat near Berlin. Bracher writes of him that

He had neither organization nor funds ,but he travelled tirelessly through the countryside to preach his anti-Semitic, anti-aristocratic gospel to the peasants. His campaign was directed against ‘Jews and Junkers’, against the racially marked ‘parasites’, the ‘predatory beasts’ and ‘contaminators’. He used socialist arguments to indict the economic ‘exploiters’ who were abusing notoriously blind ‘Germanic’ trustfulness. His contention that were it not for Jews, only half of all existing laws would be necessary held particular appeal. (P. 61.)

In 1895 the Anti-Semites, with the support of some conservatives, tried to introduce into the Reichstag a resolution by Ahlwardt to stop Jews being admitted into Germany. This was rejected by 167 votes to 51, and the anti-Semites consequently went into decline. In 1893 the Anti-Semitic parties, in total, had held 16 seats. In 1912, this had gone down to seven.

Unfortunately, their influence persisted as they became allied with the conservatives, who also adopted their anti-Semitic rhetoric.

(Y)et they remained an influential latent force when tactics dictated collaboration with the Conservatives, who furnished both funds and respectability. The radicals became demagogic auxiliaries, and the Conservatives themselves incorporated anti-Semitic slogans in their platforms, as in the so-called Tivoli Programme of the Berlin party congress of 1892. The agrarian interest groups (the Farmers’ League (Bund der Landwirte) and the German National League of Commercial Employees (Deutsch-nationaler Handlungsgehilfenverband), organized in 1893, became staunch backers of this course. The individual splinter groups now were replaced by the institutionalisation of anti-Semitism within the framework of an anti-Marxist, nationalistic, traditionalist ideology. The year 1893, the year of transition, also saw the founding of the Pan-German League (Alldeutscher Verband), which was conceived of as the vanguard in the fight against the continuing influx of ‘eastern Jews’, the electoral victories of the SPD in the Reichstag elections of 1893, and the policies of Bismarck’s successor, Caprivi. (p. 63).

The similarities between Ahlwardt then and Trump today seem close. Ahlwardt was an independent, who campaigned without the backing of a major political organisation. The Trumpenfuhrer is, of course, an extremely wealthy man, campaigning for the nomination for one of the two main American parties. He is, however, also claiming to be an outsider. His campaign is self-funded to a greater extent than his electoral rivals, as the big business donors he approached refused to finance him. He has turned this to his advantage by claiming to be some kind of underdog attacking the corporate control of politics. Despite the fact that he is part and parcel, if somewhat estranged, of that same corporate control.

Trump and his rival for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz, want to end Muslim immigration to the US. They also want heavier surveillance of Muslim communities. Trump would like the remaining Muslims in America to be forced to carry identification documents, while Cruz wants heavier police patrols in Muslim areas. It’s also been suggested that what they really want is Muslims’ segregation into ghettos. There’s an obvious parallel there with Ahlwardt’s plan to halt Jewish immigration into Germany, and legislation to keep them separate from Gentiles.

There is some hope offered in these parallels, in that the fortunes of the Anti-Semites after the defeat of Ahlwardt’s immigration bill suggests that if Trump and Cruz’s demands for similar laws against Muslim immigration, those will also decline. It also shows that there is nevertheless a continuing danger of a resurgence of the racist extreme Right, if their policies and rhetoric are taken over by mainstream Conservatives.

Even if Trump isn’t Hitler, or even Mussolini, ready to pitch America into the nightmare of racial persecution and authoritarian, one-party dictatorship, his rise, like that of the organised anti-Semites in Wilhelmine Germany, may lay the groundwork for the emergence of just such a dictatorship at a later date. The German anti-Semites and Conservatives promised to save their people and their way of life, from the threat of big business, Socialism, and foreign – Jewish – immigration. Trump and Cruz need to be stopped, if not for us, then certainly for our grandchildren.

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Iain Duncan Smith and the Monsters of Folklore

June 26, 2014

Ian Duncan Smith pic

I’ve previously written a number of posts comparing Iain Duncan Smith to a serial killer, specifically Andrei Chikatilo, the ‘Russian Ripper’, who raped, killed and ate about 54 children and men before the Soviet Union’s finest caught and shot him. This is because of the immense death toll caused by his welfare reforms, amounting to an estimated three every four hours, coupled with his absolute absence of any remorse or willingness to concede that his actions are responsible for any kind of suffering and death. Indeed, he insists that they are right, merely based on his own ‘beliefs’. Worse, he is actually proud of them, absurdly comparing them to William Wilberforce’s campaign against slavery.

Well, if he wants to make that comparison, then the folklore of the various colonial peoples brutalised and exploited by their European conquerors, as well as the lower class European victims of forced transportation to the colonies also provide an extremely close parallel and a metaphor for the suffering deliberately inflicted by IDS’ policies.

Murdering Indians for European Industry in the Andes

One of the monsters of Peruvean and Andean Indian folklore is a tall man, either of European descent or a mestizo (mixed race-European/Indian), dressed in a long, black coat. Concealed underneath this are two long knives, which he uses to kill his Indian victims. He does so in order to obtain their body fat, which is exported to Europe to maintain the machines of European industry.

This particular folkloric monster has been around since the conquest of South and Central America by the Spaniards in the 15th century. It’s a folkloric response to the destruction of the indigenous civilisations of the Incas, Aymara and other peoples, and their enslavement and exploitation by their European conquerors under the repartimiento system, in which Indians were allocated to their Spanish overlords as slave labour. Although Peruvian governments from the late 20th century have tried to raise the status of the indigenous peoples, for example, replacing the word for them, ‘Indio’ – ‘Indian’, with ‘Indigena’ – Indigenous Person, there is still considerable shame associate with Indian ancestry. The myth of this serial killer is effectively a metaphor for the way the indigenous peoples of the Andes suffered and died for the material enrichment of their European overlords, and the mechanised industry that became emblematic of European exploitation, industry and culture.

The Murder Factory for 19th Century Indian Emigrant Labourers

A similar myth also appeared thousands of miles to the east, in India, in the 19th century. After the abolition of slavery, European planters, industrialists and colonial administrators became concerned about the lack of available cheap labour to cultivate the sugar plantation on which the economies of the Caribbean nations, as well as other colonies scattered around the globe, such as Mauritius, the Seychelles and Fiji, depended. They therefore began to import Chinese and Indians as indentured labourers. Technically free, these people were exploited and suffered conditions every bit, and sometimes worse, than the Black slaves they replaced. The system deeply shocked some British and imperial politicians and administrators, as well as many leading Christian priests and ministers, who denounced it as ‘a new system of slavery’. This systematic abuse and exploitation of indentured Indian labourers under the ‘Coolie Trade’ also helped stimulate the campaign for Indian independence. Indian nationalists reasoned that expatriate Indians would only be treated with dignity and respect if they had the full support of an independent homeland. Some labourers were obtained through kidnapping, and the British authorities in India and China during the 19th century organised a series of raids against gangs, who had seized and held labourers against their will in order to supply the trade. Initially there were no arrangements to keep families in touch with relatives working abroad, so it was common for children and husbands simply to disappear one morning, without being heard of again, or to reappear suddenly as much as twenty years later. The response was the creation of another myth of mechanised murder for the sake of European industry.

The myth spread that those Indians, who signed on for work abroad, were taken to a secret factory. There they were killed, and the cerebro-spinal fluid extracted from their skulls, for use in Europe. A drawing circulated of a group of Indians hanging from a beam, with a text in Hindi explaining what had been done to them. As with the Andean serial killer, this expresses metaphorically and in personal terms the exploitation and death inflicted on the imperial subaltern peoples for the benefit of European colonial industry.

Children Abducted for their Blood by Kings in 18th century France

These monsters weren’t confined just to the subject people’s of the British and Spanish empires, however. in the mid-18th century a rumour spread through France warning parents to guard their children. They were being abducted by a wealthy lady, who took them to a richly furnished, dark coach. She served a king, who was suffering from a terrible disease, which could only be treated with the blood of children, who were thus killed to alleviate his suffering. Folklorists such as Marina Warner have suggested that this was created by the use of force by the French state to provide settlers for the new French colony of Louisiana in America. The unemployed and poor were particularly targeted by the authorities. The French Crown was becoming increasingly unpopular due to its extravagant luxury and unrestrained, absolute power and so the disappearance of people without trace, especially children, became linked to the idea of a corrupt and literally bloodthirsty monarch.

Babies Killed for their Organs in 1990s’ Rumours

Similar fears appeared in the 1990s in the widespread rumours that people were being drugged and even killed to supply black market transplant organs. In one of these stories going around the Central American republics, a woman had had her baby abducted. The child’s body was eventually founded, gutted and stuffed with dollar bills. With the money was a note saying, ‘Thank you for your co-operation’. These stories led to a massive atmosphere of suspicion and anger towards Americans and Europeans, and tourists were warned about the dangers of inappropriate or insensitive behaviour towards children. In one instance, a female American tourist had wanted to take photographs of a group of children in Guatemala. The local people became highly suspicious of her intentions, with the result that an angry mob developed, and eventually erupted into a full-scale riot. The woman and her husband, I believe, had to be taken to the local police station for their own safety, which was itself attacked. Several police officers and the couple themselves lost their lives in the violence. Again, it is not hard to see the myth behind this tragic incident as an expression of the highly exploitative relationship between Latin America and its much richer and economically dominant neighbour to the north.

Iain Duncan Smith and the Death and Exploitation of the Poor and Unemployed for the Aristocracy and Industry

IDS’ own welfare reforms also conform to the pattern of industrialised exploitation and murder, which are the essential subjects of these myths. They attack the very poorest members of the society, the unemployed, the sick and disabled, for the benefit of an aristocratic elite. Like the myth of the Andean serial killer and murder factory in Indian ‘Coolie’ folklore, these reforms are carried out for the benefit of the employers. IDS, McVey and Pennington have created a system of forced labour through the workfare system. It’s a system that needs the threat of death from benefit sanctions in order to make it work. And so IDS can join the monsters and industrial murderers of the brutalised and exploited from around the world.

I wonder if, should he ever make a state visit to Peru, someone should ask him very publicly if he still has two long, sharp knives with him, and if he really does to the people of England what his kind has been doing down the centuries