Posts Tagged ‘Leader Principle’

The Nazi Labour Front and Tory Employment Policy

December 4, 2018

I found this very interesting passage in Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). It’s about the Labour Front, or Deutschearbeitsfront to give it its German name.

This was the Nazi organization which was set up to replace the trade unions, which the Nazis declared were ‘Marxist’ and banned. This provided some recreational services to German workers through the Strength Through Joy movement and a minimum of restraint on employers. Instead of the trade union committee, there was a Council of Trustees, elected by the workers, but selected by the employer, whose job was to explain and promote the boss’ decisions, and give him any complaints the workers had.

But German employer-worker relations were strictly hierarchical, and followed the Nazi Fuhrerprinzip or ‘Leader Principle’. Just as Adolf Hitler was the Fuhrer of the German people, so the employer was the Fuhrer of his workforce. German employment law forbade the sacking of workers, who had been employed for over year without giving them due notice. And mass discharges in plants over a certain size had to be preceded by giving the Council of Trustees due written notice.

But the workers were also bound to their employers, and could not leave them if they worked on farms, while those that were employed in industry would not receive unemployment benefit for six weeks if they left their previous job without proper cause. Brady writes

Here as elsewhere the whole machinery redounds primarily to the advantage of the employer. Every effort is made to cut down labour turnover. In late chapters various methods for achieving this effect will be discussed. But the Labour Front has not been content with programmes for attaching workers to a given plot ground,, and hence to a particular employer, nor with an absolute prohibition against strikes of all kinds. These it heartily endorses, but it goes even further.

It goes so far, for example, as to declare workers who leave agricultural employment during the crop season saboteurs and unworthy of German citizenship. It warns all that “to gather well and surely the harvest is your foremost and weightiest task. Whoever neglects this duty and leaves his position with the farmer without due warning in order to into industry is a saboteur, and must be excluded from the community of the German people…” There are other and more direct punitive measures: “A labourer who gives up his work place without important or justified grounds or who has lost his position through a situation which justified his immediate discharge can receive as a rule no unemployment subsidy for six weeks…” Simultaneously, he can be “locked out” from his place of last, and all other employment until such time as he can submit proof of the reasons for losing the first job. (pp. 130-, my emphasis).

So far, workers aren’t being stopped from finding another job if they leave their previous employment, and farm labourers who give up their jobs aren’t being denounced as saboteurs. But it is Tory policy not to give unemployed workers unemployment benefit for a certain number of weeks. I can remember when it was brought in under John Major. You weren’t given unemployment benefit for a set period if you had made yourself ‘voluntarily unemployed’. And this policy has been extended to any unemployed individual, regardless of whether they left their job voluntarily or not, through the delays Cameron and May have built into the benefits system, and particularly with the problems accompanying the rollout of Universal Credit. So far, however, the Tories haven’t also followed the Nazi policy sending the ‘workshy’ – arbeitscheu – to the concentration camps. But perhaps its only a matter of time.

Tony Greenstein on his blog showed how completely false the accusations of anti-Semitism made against Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour party were by discussing the case of one man, who was so accused because he put up a photoshopped picture of a Jobcentre sign saying ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’. This was the Nazi slogan on the entrance to Auschwitz, ‘Work Makes You Free’. But there’s nothing anti-Semitic in the photo. It’s a comment on the government’s policy towards the unemployed. Particularly as Ian Duncan Smith, or some other Tory minister with a similar hatred for the proles, had actually written a newspaper column with a paragraph stating that ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ was quite right. Someone else spotted the paragraph, and had it removed from the website on which it was posted, before they thought too many had seen it. But they had, and many had taken screenshots.

It is no exaggeration in this respect to say that the Tories are following Nazi policy towards the unemployed. And this is likely to get even worse the longer they’re in power. And if they carry on as they are, eventually the Tory conferences will start with May goose-stepping on to the stage to cries of ‘Sieg Heil!’ and ‘Duce, Duce!’

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Class Hegemony and the American Idealisation of the Super-Rich

August 7, 2013

In her article on the Tory abuse of sociology, Kittysjones quotes the great American author, Jack London, on American’s attitude to their own poverty and servile condition compared to the wealthy. Americans, according to London, did not see themselves as exploited. Rather, they saw themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. This appears to be true. Others have remarked that American voters tend to support the tax cuts that benefit only the multi-millionaires, while cutting the government services on which they depend, because they see themselves as one day belonging to the same class. It’s a classic example of what Marx called ‘false consciousness’ and the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci formulated as class hegemony. It’s the way the members of the working and other exploited classes take on the cultural values and ideas that justify their exploitation and the power of the ruling classes. In this case, it’s very much a continuation of 19th century ideas of personal advancement through hard work. An article in the Financial Times observed that Americans believe in equality of opportunity for groups, but not collective equality. The idea is the classic Liberal view that once obstacles to advancement are removed, the individual can work his or her way up through society by means of their own talents and hard work. The same idea was held very strongly in 19th century Britain. One of that centuries leading politicians once toured the northern industrial towns. In a speech before a crowd of ‘the labouring poor’, he declared that the power of advancement lay within the reach of all of them. The same attitude continues to permeate and inform modern American attitudes to poverty, class and social advancement.

At one level, there’s nothing wrong with it. People should have the right to use their talents to improve their position in society. One of the great boasts of American political and social culture was that people could do that in the land of free, in contrast to the feudal class systems of Europe. The same classlessness is also found Downunder in Australia. The reverse side of this aspirational attitude, at least in America, is that frequently poverty is seen not as the result of unjust social arrangements, but simply as the individual’s own fault.

This attitude has become increasingly pronounced with the rise of the Right following Reagan’s electoral victory. The Right’s political rhetoric during the last two elections celebrated the achievements of the wealthy business elite. It vehemently demanded further tax cuts in their favour, and attacked any imposition of government controls and regulation as an attack on their freedom and their ability to benefit the economy. Despite America’s strong and admirable democratic tradition, there’s also an extremely disparaging attitude to attempts to create greater equality. Advocates and promoters of such egalitarianism are frequently sneered at by some members of the Right as ‘equalitarians’.

At the risk of once again falling into Godwin’s Law, these attitudes also have parallels with Nazi ideology and that of the German Conservatives, which preceded and in many ways prepared for it. Karl Dietrich Bracher in his book The German Dictatorship notes that Hitler saw the success of business leaders in terms of his Fuhrerprinzip (leadership principle) and corresponding rejection of nationalization. In Bracher’s words ‘The leader principle explained the superior position of business leaders; they had succeeded because of their abilities; socialization or co-determination would be nothing more than a return to democracy and popular rule.’ Six years before the Nazis seized power, the extreme Right-wing author Edgar Jung published a book, Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen (The Rule of the Inferiors) attacking the Weimar republic and demanding an elitist, Corporative state. Bracher also notes that one of the groups the Neo-Nazi NPD attempted to appeal to in the 1970s was ‘daring entrepreneurs’. I doubt very many respectable businessmen actually joined them, preferring to support the ‘Brown Reactionaries’ their predecessors sneered at in the Horst Wessel Song.

Now I am again certainly not claiming that the modern Conservative Right in American and Britain are Nazis. However disgusting Cameron and co’s policies are, they are not comparable in horror and depravity to those of the Third Reich. I am merely pointing out that they share with the Nazis extreme elitist attitudes that favour the business elite, and governments in their favour, while keeping the majority poor and political inactive.

Source

Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure and Consequences of National Socialism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1971).