Posts Tagged ‘Junkers’

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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Karl Kautsky on Inflation, Unemployment and the Workers

March 19, 2014

Kautsky pic

This is the day when George Osborne will announce the budget. He has already declared that it will ‘business friendly’, which means that there will be more tax cuts for the rich, further attacks on inflation and cuts in welfare benefits. I was watching a piece on what they expect Osborne’s budget to cover on BBC 1’s breakfast show. At the same time I found this passage in the writings of the German Socialist leader, Karl Kautsky, from 1910.

Inflation and the burden of taxation and the Junkers’ [Prussian aristocracy] brutality are all based on conditions which will not change so easily: they will be just as important in 1911 as in 1910 – even more so; for the armaments race is continuing. The government will, of course, do everything possible to postpone all new demands until the period after the next elections – a reason for them to hasten these, but it will be unable to do so at will. In England the Conservatives are going strong. They have already forced the Liberal Cabinet to strengthen the Navy. If, as expected, they take the helm during the course of the year, then armaments will be increased at an even more rapid rate.

Inflation, however, will not lessen. Anyone who want to know what to expect on this score, would do well to observe American conditions, which are decisive for the international food market. We must be prepared for a further increase in prices.

Some may argue that unemployment has made a not insignificant contribution to the embitterment of the masses, and that in a year’s time it will have declined considerably because the crisis will have been overcome. This is true insofar as the next year does promise to be more favourable for business. But it is doubtful whether business will do brilliantly. And this time, even more than in the last period of prosperity, the employers’ organisations will cream off all benefits, and the workers’ only taste of prosperity will be higher prices; for prosperity means an increase in commodity prices.

Karl Kautsky, ‘The Mass Strike’, in Patrick Goode, ed. and trans., Karl Kautsky: Selected Political Writings (London: Macmillan 1983) 67.

Of course, it’s very much of its time and place, written four years before the First World War, when Britain, Germany and the European powers were locked in an armaments race. The Tories have now savagely cut back on our armed forces, though military development is continuing. But apart from that, it all seems horribly familiar. The tax cuts for the rich will see the tax burden shifted to the poor, the world is still profoundly affected by changes to the American economy, the last paragraph will certainly be true next year, no matter who Osborne says to the contrary.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Adolf Glasbrenner’s ‘Constitushun’

February 23, 2014

Looking through the anthology of German literature from the Vormarz, the period of social and industrial discontent in Germany in the early 19th century that produced the 1848 revolutions, I came across Adolf Glasbrenner’s Konschtitution. Glasbrenner (1810-1876) was a radical Berlin journalist and writer. He trained as a merchant, but from 1830 turned to writing as a Liberal. He published the newspaper, the Berliner Don Quixote, which was banned in 1833. In 1835 he moved to Switzerland, where he published a number of works anonymously. In 1848 his Freien Blatter (Free Pages) was banned in Berlin, and he took part in the revolution that March. He became the leader of the Democratic Party of Neustrelitz in the German state of Mecklenburg. He was forced to move to Hamburg in 1850. His newspapers the Deutschen Sonntagszeitung and Phosphor were banned in 1856 and 1858. He had a constant battle with the censor as the manager of the Berliner Montagszeitung. In his works Glasbrenner wrote in the Berlin dialect, using typical figures from Berlin society, such as the casual labourer Nante and the petty-bourgeois rentier, Buffey, to satirise the contemporary political situation, in order to strengthen the popular masses’ trust in themselves, and so help prepare the way for the 1848 revolution.

Konschtitution is written in the Berlin dialect as a father attempting to explain the Prussian constitution to his son. While it’s like the 13 demands of the Berlin Workers’ Central Committee in that both are of their time and place, it also struck me as being relevant to today’s Britain. Both Britain and Wilhelmine Germany are constitutional monarchies, and the same basic concepts of government are common to each, even if there are many differences. The judiciary in Britain still are independent, for example, whether they will continue to be so under this increasingly illiberal and authoritarian government is a good question. Here’s my attempt at a translation:

Constitushun

Today I ‘splained to my son, Willyum, what the constitushun is, dat is, in what you call the ‘high style’, and I fink dat I’ve ‘spressed it quite statesmanlike. I said to ‘im namely. The constitushun, dat’s the separashun of power. The king does, what he wants, and the people, they do, what the king wants. The ministers are therefore responsible, that nothing happens. The king rules quite irresponsibly. The government choose by means of an electoral law the people’s representatives. It’s necessary dat every law is realized. Every law only then has validity, when it’s realized.

The people’s representatives come together in two chambers and hold speeches. The first chamber consists of rich servants and the second of nightwatchmen. The chambers must be listen to in every case. Should the chamber not be listen to in every case, the crown has the right to dissolve it, but only ever for three months, in case it shouldn’t last longer. In the case that there is continual disunity between Crown and chamber, the old state diet is convoked, which steps through it in the chamber’s complete duties.

The chamber can also grant new taxes. The penalty for refusing tax established by law, should not be under ten years penitentiary. About the people’s monies (finances), everyone must be passed three months in an account, in which receipts and expenses tally. Should several millions be missing annually, these are to be viewed as spent. Should the citizens come to beggary or starve, the king is liable, to explain in a proclamation, that he’s sorry.

Justice is quite independent, but the judges can be transferred or removed. Everyone is equal before the law. Every subject has right to have his opinion about himself, and to assemble under the same conditions. The military do not swear to the state, because you don’t know what expires. The form of the state is monarchic-pulcinelle [a figure from the Italian Commedia del’Arte]. Without junkers [Prussian aristocrats], police, cannons and bigots, no freedom is possible.

The stupid boy stood there with his gob open, as I ‘splained the Constitushun to him. “Now do you know?” I asked him. “Nah, not quite yet”, he said, howling. That so annoyed me, that in anger I gave him a hard box on the ear., in which I expressed, ‘You prat, now know what the Constitushun is!’

I thought of translating the term ‘Junkers’ in the sentence ‘Without junkers, police, cannons and bigots, no freedom is possible’ as ‘toffs’ or ‘aristos’, to make it really contemporary, now that we have a government dominated by them, but I thought that would be stretching things a bit too much.