Posts Tagged ‘Goring’

Guns Will Make US Powerful. Obamacare Will Make Us Fat

August 7, 2013

The American Right has bitterly opposed Obama’s attempt to introduce a single-payer health service similar to those in Canada, Australia and Europe. The arguments used against it is that it has added increased bureaucracy to American healthcare. It is also claimed that American companies are also being penalised by the increased taxes needed to support it. The spurious claims that private American healthcare is superior to the socialised systems of Britain and Europe. Among the more emotive claims is that socialised medicine is somehow totalitarian, because the individual citizens in the countries that have it are supposed to be at the mercy of their government and their doctors. This argument runs that people no longer have any control over their lives, as governments and the medical profession demand that the adopt a healthy lifestyle and eating habits in order to keep medical costs low. This argument is itself specious, as it’s been a very long time since Americans have been free to ignore the advice of their own doctors. They are tied very much to the demands of the insurance companies that provide the cover for their healthcare.

One of the other arguments that the Right has used, and this is the one I intend to examine here, is that expenditure on Obamacare will critically endangers America’s military power and ability to defend freedom abroad. The Right-wing journalist and broadcaster Mark Steyn has particularly used this argument. Steyn used to write for a number of British papers, before he went to America to join Rush Limbaugh as one of the leading figures in American Right-wing journalism. The argument runs that at present, America is able to support a large military force, much of which is stationed overseas because its comparatively low government expenditure makes this affordable. During the Cold War and after 9/11, America’s forces have been actively defending the free world. This is in stark contrast to the military impotence of post-World War II Europe. Europe, according to Steyn, is crippled and decadent due to its commitment to maintaining a high level of expenditure on its welfare systems. They are therefore unable and unwilling to support military campaigns defending freedom across the world. This, warns Steyn and the Right, is what America will become unless Americans vote against President Obama, whom they deride as America’s first European president.

It’s an argument comparable to the quote from Goring about the desirability of military power over an increased food supply: Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat. The only difference is that in this case, the American Right is demanding such sacrifices in order to defend democracy.

Now let’s examine the claim in more detail. First of all, many members of the present EU did not have much in the way of an overseas Empire. The main imperial nations were Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark also had imperial colonies overseas, but they were much smaller than those of the first four countries. Germany lost its African colonies after the First World War. Spain’s colonies in Latin America broke away during a series of wars for independence in the 19th century. Belgium’s own imperial adventure in the Congo became a major international scandal due to the enslavement of the indigenous peoples to work on the Belgian crown’s vast sugar plantations, in which truly horrific atrocities were committed. Italy was a latecomer to imperialism. Its attempts to establish an empire in Africa in the 19th century resulted in some humiliating defeats by the indigenous peoples, such as at Adowa. This resulted in the downfall of the democratically elected regime and its replacement, for a time, with a military dictatorship. Its greatest attempts to establish itself as a major imperial power came with Mussolini’s dictatorship. This was done with great brutality and the infliction of horrific atrocities. It has been estimated that between Italy’s conquest of the country in the 1920s and decolonisation in the 1950s, about a third of the Tunisian population was killed fighting their occupiers. Despite the regime’s attempts to settle Italian farmers in Libya, bitter resistance remained and Italians were unsafe except in the coastal cities.

All the European powers were left exhausted by the Second World War, which stimulated nationalism and the demands for independence in their subject territories. One African or Indian nationalist commented on the way the experience of fighting with the British destroyed in the First World War destroyed their image of invincibility. Before the War the British had appeared to be supermen. Now, seeing them injured, sick and suffering like their imperial subjects, convinced Africans and Indians that they were the same as them, and could be defeated. George Orwell in one of his piece of journalism records watching a parade of Black troops in French Morocco. He states that standing there, watching them pass, he knew what was going through the minds of every White man present: How long can we continue to fool these people? Writing in 1910, the leader of the German Social Democrats, Karl Kautsky, observed the increasing opposition to European imperialism in Asia and Africa and predicted the rise of violent nationalist revolutions against the European powers in the occupied countries.

‘The spirit of rebellion is spreading everywhere in Asia and Africa, and with it is spreading also the use of European arms; resistance to European exploitation is growing. It is impossible to transplant capitalist exploitation into a country, without also sowing the seeds of revolution against this exploitation.

Initially, the expresses itself in increasing complications, colonial policies, and in a growth of their costs. Our colonial enthusiasts comfort us, with regard to the burdens the colonies now impose on us, by referring to the rich rewards the future will bring. In reality, the military expenses required for the maintenance of the colonies are bound to increase constantly from now on – and this will not be all. The majority of countries of Asia and Africa are approaching a situation in which intermittent uprisings will become continuous and will ultimately lead to the destruction of the foreign yoke. Britain’s possessions in East India are nearest to this stage: their loss would be equivalent to the bankruptcy of the English state’.

(Karl Kautsy: Selected Political Writings, ed. and trans. by Patrick Goode (London: MacMillan 1983), p. 77.)

Historians now consider that the Empire was a drain, not a source of wealth, for Britain after 1900. Britain’s gradual departure from its colonies was also a condition for the military and financial aid given by its allies, America and the Soviet Union, during the Second World War. In a series of meeting held with the British authorities and the British Anti-Slavery Society, the Americans demanded the opening up of Britain’s colonies to American trade. The Russians also demanded access to British colonial markets and Britain’s gradual withdrawal from her colonies. By and large Britain’s decline as an imperial power was peaceful, as her colonies were granted independence one after another, beginning with India and Pakistan, from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Nevertheless, Britain did fight a series of wars to retain control of some her colonies in the face of rebellion by the indigenous peoples in Kenya and Malaya.

The establishment of the welfare state in Britain certainly did add greater expenses to the government. However, Britain was unable to support its Empire due to the immense costs of the Second World War on one side and the demands by the formerly subject people’s for independence on the other. Moreover Britain was unlike America in presenting a convincing claim to be defending freedom. America’s own attempts to establish an Empire was confined roughly to the period around 1900. Britain, however, remained a major imperial power and could not present an entirely convincing claim to be defending freedom while denying its subject people’s self-government.

Steyn’s view that the establishment of a welfare state results in military weakness and a reluctance to engage with military threats on the world stage also breaks down completely with some of the other European nations. The origins of Germany’s welfare system lie in Bismarck’s legislation providing German workers with old age pensions, sickness and unemployment insurance. This was several years before the late 19th century Scramble for Africa, which saw the Kaiser attempt to gain colonies there. Furthermore, the use of military force abroad is associated in the minds of the German public with the horrors and militant nationalism of the Third Reich. This is the reason successive German administrations have found it difficult sending troops abroad, even if they were to be used as peacekeepers preventing greater atrocities from being committed by other warring peoples, such as in the former Yugoslavia. As for Italy, the BBC’s foreign affairs programme on Radio 4, From Our Own Correspondent, stated that the country was unwilling to send further troops to support the coalition forces after 9/11 out of fears for the damage terrorist reprisals would inflict on its priceless artistic, architectural and cultural heritage. The small size of many European nations, such as Belgium, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, also prevents them from sending vast numbers of troops comparable to those of America or Britain abroad. In the case of Belgium, there is also considerable amount of guilt over the horrors of the atrocities in the Congo, and it has only been in the past few decades that the country is facing up to its history in this area. After the Second World War the country, so I understand, simply wished to forget the whole affair. I don’t know, but like Germany, this may well colour any attempts to interfere militarily in another nation with the Belgian people.

In short, Europe’s gradual military withdrawal from the wider world has far less to do with the expense of maintaining a welfare state than with the economic exhaustion and social and political disruption of two World Wars, and the demands of its former subject peoples for self-determination. The European experience does not suggest that American military power will decline with the introduction of Obama’s single-payer health service, and certainly should not be used to generate opposition to it.

Advertisements

Spamfish on Modern American ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’

August 3, 2013

There’s a very interesting piece of political philosophy over at Spamfish’s site, Oprichnik Rising. Entitled ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’, it discusses the political philosopher, Sheldon Wolin’s, characterisation of modern American as an ‘illiberal democracy’, managed through policies and special lobbying groups, with the relationship between the government and corporations forming an inverted, mirror image to those of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. It begins

Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and he uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to illustrate the similarities and differences between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.[

Inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy

Wolin believes that the United States (which he refers to using the proper noun “Superpower”, to emphasize the current position of the United States as the only superpower) has been increasingly taking on totalitarian tendencies as a result of the transformations that it underwent during the military mobilization required to fight the Axis powers, and during the subsequent campaign to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War

Spamfish’s article is at http://spamfish23.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/inverted-totalitarianism/.

It’s well worth reading and I think Wolin’s central idea is largely correct. My only criticism is that in many ways the parallels between the Nazi ‘co-ordination’ of industry and the contemporary influence of private industry on government policy and organisation is actually much closer. Others on the Left have described the modern, Conservative co-option of industrialist and big corporations as ‘Corporativism without the working class’. In Fascist Italy, a corporation was a giant industrial organisation formed to represent the interest of that industry in the Fascist state. There were 12 of these corporations, whose representatives sat in an Industrial Chamber as part of new, Fascist Italian parliament. Each Corporation contained a representative from the unions and the employers’ organisation for that industry, as well as a member of the Fascist party, to represent ‘the people’. In Nazi Germany the middle class organisations, such as the guild and handicraft organisation, which had been campaigning for the greater representation of their interests in the Nazi state, were forcibly incorporated into the Reich Corporation of German Handicraft and the Reich Corporation of German Trade. These formed a kind of compulsory cartel under the leadership of the Nazi party.

There were also short-lived attempts to establish the same kind of corporativist structurre in Nazi German. Attempts to reorganise and align German big business in line with Nazi ideology and policy was countered by the leaders of those industries through their close relationship with Hitler himself, and the support other leading Nazis such as Schacht, Hugenberg, Schmitt and Goring. Following a meeting with fifty leading industrials and bank directors, including Krupp, Thyssen, von Siemens, Stinnes, springorum, Bosch, Vogler and von Stauss, and the heads of the state departments for economic policy and Nazi’s own economic policy advisors, an agreement was made to establish a permanent General Council of the Economy. Heavy industry had a very strong presence in this. Some German industrial leaders were already strongly sympathetic to the Nazis and a corporatist reorganisation of the industrial and social structure. Fritz Thyssen had had contact with Hitler since 1923 and supplied financial support to the Nazis. In collaboration with the advocates of the corporatist state in the NSDAP regional staff, he had set up Institute for Corporatist Organisation in Dusseldorf. Despite this, the party soon rejected such corporativist organisations, and Thyssen’s Institute was forcibly dissolved in 1935. In 1934 the Reich Association of Industry was replaced with the Reich Group Industry. Its leaders and those of the other business associations and chambers were appointed by the state.

The Influence of Private Industry on the Nazi Industrial Organisations

Other Nazi economic organisations were founded as private industries. The Economic Research Association, which was branch of the Reich ministry of Economics, was established in 1934 as private limited company. This was particularly concerned with the construction of fuel depots in strategically important areas. This, and similar departments, were largely untouched by the demands of the state bureaucracy The Nazi state did not attack the principle of private capitalist industry. The state economic planning apparatus curtailed company director’s freedom to manage their own firms, nevertheless the Nazi state tried to operate with the minimum of bureaucracy. In so doing, it allowed the state’s organs of administration and control to be strongly influenced by experts and representatives of private industry. The result of this was, according to historian Martin Broszat, a type of economic leader, who was half state official, and half private businessman.

Nazi Economic Organisation Close to Thatcherite and Reaganite ‘Public-Private Partnerships and PFI

This seems to challenge Wolin’s theory somewhat. Both the Fascist and Nazi states certainly attempted to use the state’s corporativist institutions to control private industry. The above examples from the Nazi regime also shows how private industry attempted to influence Nazi policy, which was frequently carried out through state organisations founded as private companies. The parallels between the Nazis’ policies in this area, and those of Mrs. Thatcher’s and subsequent administrations are particularly striking. Under these administrations, representatives of industry have entered government, and they and their thinktanks and special advisors have formulated government policy. They have also set up private corporations to carry out public policy. An example of this is the Urban Development Corporations Mrs Thatcher set up to circumvent local authorities’ influence and control over the process of urban regeneration. The core of these policies were ‘Public-Private Partnership’ between private industry and the state, and the use of the Private Finance Initiative and government subsidies to support private industry. The Tories’ proposed privatisation of the courts, and the outsourcing of welfare administration to private companies, can also be seen as another example of private industry acting as a government bureaucracy or department similar to Nazi policies in this area.