Posts Tagged ‘Reichstag’

Noakes and Pridham on the Middle Class Precursors of Nazism

March 13, 2019

As well as discussing and documenting the history of Nazism, Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham in their book Nazism 1919-1945: 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934 (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983) also discuss the precursors of the Nazis from the late 19th century to the time of the First World War.

They state that radical nationalism first arose amongst the German middle class, who resented their political exclusion by the aristocracy and who felt that the dominance of the aristocracy had weakened Germany through alienating the German working class. This radical right was organized outside parliament in Leagues, such as the Pan-Germans. These middle class radicals rejected the liberal attitudes of patriotism, tolerance and humanity of their fathers, especially when it came to ‘enemies of the Reich’. Noakes and Pridham write

This ‘new Right’ – like its French counterpart – developed outside the political parties in pressure group-type organisations known as ‘leagues’ – the Pan-German League, the Navy League, etc. Its ideology reflected the ideas and political aspirations of the middle-class generation which had grown up in the immediate aftermath of German unification and came to maturity in the 1890s and 1900s. These men had discarded the remnants of the enlightened 1848 Liberalism of their fathers and grandfathers. According to Heinrich Class, who became chairman of the Pan-German League, three ideals had characterized the liberalism of his father’s generation: ‘patriotism, tolerance, humanity’. However, ‘we youngsters had moved on: we were nationalist pure and simple. We wanted nothing to do with tolerance if it sheltered the enemies of the Volk and the state. Humanity in the sense of that liberal idea we spurned, for our Volk was bound to come off worse.’ For men like Class the fortunes of the new German state had acquired paramount importance: their own self-esteem came to be bound up with the prestige of the new Reich.

The populist flavour of this new nationalism derived from their sense of exclusion from the traditional Prusso-German establishment. As successful businessmen, professionals and bureaucrats who had benefited from the rapid economic development following unification, they resented the patronizing attitudes of the traditional elites who tended to regard them as parvenus. Moreover, they felt that the elitist nature of the political establishment weakened Germany by alienating the masses, encouraging the growth of class spirit and dividing the nation. In their view, this fragmentation of the nation was also encouraged by the existing political system of parliamentary and party government. This, it was felt, simply reinforced the divisions between Germans and led to the sacrifice of national interests for the benefit of sectional advantage. They rejected the idea central to liberal democracy that the national interest could only emerge out of the free interplay of differing interests and groups. Instead, they proclaimed a mythical concept of the Volk – an equivalent to the pays reel of pre-1914 French nationalism – as the real source of legitimacy and claimed that current political institutions (the Reichstag, parties etc.) were distorting the true expression of national will. In their view, the key to uniting the nation was the indoctrination of an ideology of extreme nationalism: above all, the goal of imperial expansion would rally and united the nation. (pp.4-5).

They also state that these volkisch nationalists believed that Germany was under threat by the ‘golden international’ of high finance and western liberalism, controlled by the Jews, the ‘black international’ of Roman Catholicism and the ‘red international’ of socialism. Thus there was a foreign threat behind their domestic opponents the left Liberals, Catholic Centre Party and the Social Democrats, and so considered these parties guilty of treason. (p.5). The radical right became increasingly influential in the years before the outbreak of the First World War as a reaction to the rise of the German socialist party, the Social Democrats, which became the largest single party in the Reichstag in the 1912 election. The government appeared too willing to compromise with the moderate left, and so the traditional German Conservatives began to join forces with the radicals. (p.5).

They state, however, that it was during the War that this new Right really gained influence through demands for a victorious peace’ that would give Germany foreign colonies and stave off further demands for increasing democracy in Germany. This saw new political parties founded by the industrialists to obtain this goal. They write

It was, however, during the course of the First World War that this new Right seized the initiative. The main focus of their efforts was a campaign to commit the Government to a so-called Siegfrieden in which Germany would use her expected victory to demand large-scale territorial annexations in both East and West in the form of overseas colonies. This was regarded as vital not simply in order to re-establish Germany as a world power, but also as a means of diverting pressure for democratic reform at home. As the pressure for a compromise peace and for constitutional reform increased after 1916, the Right responded with even more vigorous agitation. The main emphasis of this campaign was on trying to reach a mass audience. On 24 September 1917, in a direct response to the Reichstag peace Resolution of 17 July, a new party was founded – the Fatherland Party. Financed by heavy industry, and organized by the Pan-German League and similar bodies, its aim was to mobilise mass support for a Siegfrieden and to resist moves towards parliamentary democracy. The party soon acquired over a million members, mainly among the middle class.

The Pan-Germans were, however, particularly anxious to reach the working class. Already, in the summer of 1917, a ‘Free Committee for a German Workers’ Peace’ had been established in Bremen by the leader of a ‘yellow’ i.e. pro-employer workers’ association in the Krupp dockyards, which carried out imperialist propaganda supported by the army authorities. Among its 290,000 members was a skilled worker in the railway workshops in Munich named Anton Drexler, who established a Munich branch of the organization on 7 March 1918 and who soon was to become a co-founder of the Nazi party. (pp.5-6, my emphasis).

They go on to say that this party was originally very limited, with only forty members, and so the Pan-Germans were forced to try more effective propaganda themes, such as outright anti-Semitism. (p.6).

It’s thus very clear from this that Nazism definitely was not a genuinely socialist party. It has its origins in the radical, anti-parliamentary nationalism of the late 19th and early 20th century middle class. Its immediate parent organization was a fake worker’s movement set up by Germany industry and supported by the army. This contradicts the allegation by modern Conservatives, like the Republicans in America and the Tories over here, that the Nazis were a socialist party.

However, the ‘Free Committee for a Workers’ Peace’ does sound like something founded by the Tories, when they were declaring themselves to be the true party for working people two years ago. Or the creation of Tony Blair, when he was still in charge of the Labour party, and determined to reject any real socialism and ignore the wishes of genuine Labour members and supporters in order to gain funding from industry and votes from the middle classes, who would otherwise vote Tory. And who very definitely supported imperialist wars, although they were camouflaged behind rhetoric about freeing Iraq and giving its people democracy.

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Hitler Against Politicians and Nazis Functionaries on Management Boards

December 15, 2018

Hitler’s Table Talk (Oxford: OUP 1988) is also interesting for what it reveals about the Fuhrer’s attitude towards politicians sitting on the boards of private companies. He was against it, because he believed that it merely allowed the companies to enrich themselves corruptly through getting their pet politicos to give them government subsidies. Hitler said

No servant of the state must be a shareholder. No Gauleiter, no Member of the Reichstag and, in general, no Party leader must be a member of any board of directors, regardless of whether the appointment is honorary or paid; for even if the individual were actuated solely by the interests of the State and even if he possessed the integrity of Cato himself, the public would lose faith in him. In capitalist states it is essential for a great enterprise to have in its employ men of influence – hence the large numbers of members of Parliament and high official who figure on boards of directors. The amounts disbursed to these personages in directors’ fees, share of profits and so on is more than recouped by one or two fat government contracts which they are in a position to secure for their company.

The Danube Shipping Company, for example, paid out eighty thousand Kronen a year to each of the dozen Members of Parliament, who sat on its board of directors. But it recouped itself many times over for this expenditure through the influence these men were able to exercise in its favour. All the competition was eliminated and a virtual monopoly was gained – all to the detriment of the state, or, in other words, of the community. It must therefore be accepted as an absolute principle that no Member of the Reichstag, no civil servant and no party leader must be in any way connected with business of this nature. (pp. 594-5).

When an official retires from state service, he should not be allowed to enter a line of business with which he previously had official dealings. For one may be quite sure that any firm would be gladly employ him – not on account of the services he could render, but for the connections which he undoubtedly would have. If this were not so, then directors would not earn fees amounting to thirty-six marks a year-and more. Further, it is a scandal that men of this kind should usurp the positions to which others have a prior claim, namely, those who have passed their whole lives in the service of an enterprise and have risen, step by step, to the top. This one characteristic is alone sufficient to demonstrate their immorality of the whole system. (pp. 595-6)

Hitler had discussed the case of the Danube Shipping Company and it corrupt connections to the German parliament on a previous occasion. He said

The problem of monopolies handed over to capitalist interests interested me even in my boyhood. I’d been struck by the example of the Danube Shipping Company, which received an annual subsidy of four millions, a quarter of which was once shared out amongst its twelve directors. Each of the big parties was represented in this august college by at least two of its members, each of them pocketing about eighty million kronen yearly! One may feel sure that these mandarins saw to it that the comrades voted punctually for the renewal of the subsidy! But the Socialists were acquiring more and more importance, and it happened that none of their lot was on the board. That’s why the scandal broke. The Company was attacked in the Parliament and in the press. Threatened with being deprived of the subsidy, it replied by abolishing the passenger-service. And since the politicians on the board had already taken care that no railway should be built along the Danube, the riverside populations were the chief victims of these arbitrary measures. A solution of the conflict was found quite rapidly-and you can imagine which! Quite simply, the number of members of the board was increased to fourteen, and the two new seats were offered to two well-know Socialists-who hastened to accept them.

What makes England so fragile is that her whole economic system is founded on similar principles.

From the moment of our seizure of power, having my own set ideas on the subject, I took the precaution of forbidding every director of a company to be a member of the Reichstag. Since men who have interests in a private company cannot be objective on a great number of questions, I likewise forbade office-holders in the Party to take part in business of a capitalist complexion. The same prohibition applies, by the way, to all servants of the state. I therefore cannot allow an official, whether he belongs to the Army or to the civil administration, to invest his savings in industry, except in companies controlled by the state. (pp. 366-7).

Hitler was a murderous tyrant, and he and his foul regime were responsible for the deaths of 11 1/2 million innocents in the concentration camps – 6 million Jews and 5 1/2 million assorted gentiles. He was responsible for a War that killed 40 million or so. And if he had won the War, he would not only have exterminated the Jews, the Gypsies and the disabled, but also the Slav peoples of eastern Europe, the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians.

But in the instance, Hitler is absolutely right, however offensive it is to say it. The corporate system, which has emerged in America and Britain is a menace to politics and society. In America, private companies heavily donate to the main political parties and the campaigns of individual politicians. It’s why Congress is now notorious for not doing what ordinary electors want, but passing legislation that only benefits big business. This has resulted in massive disaffection amongst the American public, only 19 per cent of whom has said in polls they trust the government to work for them. And because Congress no longer expresses the wishes of the people, but the capitalist oligarchy, a study by Harvard University a few years ago concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy.

And Britain is very much suffering from the same situation. A recent study showed that most politicians in parliament were held directorships in at least one company, and so a significant proportion of them – well over half – were millionaires. During New Labour’s period in office, very many company directors and senior managers were put in position of government, frequently on those bodies that were supposed to be regulating their industries. And this followed the pattern set by John Major’s Tory government, which became mired in a scandal over this sleaze. George Monbiot, who is very definitely not a Nazi, described the situation under New Labour in his book, Captive State. As did Rory Bremner and the Johns Bird and Fortune in their book, You Are Here. Private Eye has also continually reported the close connections between politicians, civil servants and private companies, and the revolving doors between government and industry, particularly regarding defence. And again, this bears out what Hitler said:

What makes England so fragile is that her whole economic system is founded on similar principles.

And you know that when a mass-murderer like Hitler is right, something is very, very seriously wrong. This has got to change, and private enterprise has to be forced out of politics.

The British Press’ Glowing Reviews of Second World War Pro-Nazi Book

February 10, 2018

Richard Griffiths, What Did You Do During the War? The Last Throes of the British pro-Nazi Right, 1940-45 (London: Routledge 2017).

I recently sent a review of the above book to the conspiracy/parapolitics website and magazine, Lobster. It’s been proofread and corrected, and hopefully will go up on the site before too long. The webmaster’s been very busy with work recently, hence the delay.

Richard Griffiths is an Emeritus Professor of King’s College London, and the author of several books on the British and European extreme Right. These include a biography of Marshal Petain (1970), the head of the collaborationist Vichy government during the Second World War, Fellow Travellers of the Right (1980), Patriotism Perverted (1998) and An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Fascism (2000).

The book is a study of how British Nazis and Nazi sympathisers reacted to the outbreak of the Second World War and internment. Some gave up their activities entirely, others carried on underground. A number also carried on as before. And some angrily denied that they had been Nazis, and blamed and attacked instead their former comrades. Another tactic was to infiltrate genuine, non-political pacifist groups, like the Peace Pledge Union, in order to influence British politics to avoid a war with Nazi Germany.

Oswald Mosley’s Lies about Not Collaborating

One chapter gives the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, another well deserved kicking. Mosley claimed that when war was declared, he ordered his goose-stepping squadristi to cooperate with the authorities and obey their orders. This was in the text of a speech published in Action, the British Union of Fascists newsletter. In fact, Mosley advised only those members of squalid organisation, who were members of the armed forces, to obey orders and cooperate. In the original speech he made it clear that he expected the rest of the thugs to carry on their activities and pro-Nazi propaganda as normal. The speech was then carefully edited, published in Action to make it appear that Mosley had issued orders for comprehensive cooperation with the authorities. This was then taken up uncritically by his biographers.

This is another piece to add to the mountain of scholarship demolishing the sympathetic picture of Mosley created by Skidelsky’s biography in the 1970s. This was comprehensively refuted by Stephen Dorril in his biography of Mosley, Blackshirt, which came out a few years ago. Among other things, Dorril disproved Mosley’s claim that if the Nazis had invaded, he would never collaborate with them and serve in government ‘as another Quisling’, referring to the head of the puppet Norwegian government. In fact, he was quite prepared to do so.

Bryant’s Nazi Apologia, Unfinished Victory

But one of the most unsettling studies in the book is chapter 2, ‘The Reception of Bryant’s Unfinished Victory ‘, subtitled ‘The myth of public unanimity against Nazi Germany in early 1940’. Arthur Bryant was a writer of popular histories, such as English Saga (1940), The Years of Ednurance 1793-1802 (1942) and The Years of Victory 1802-1812 (1942). In the ’30s he had written academically respected biographies of Charles II and Samuel Pepys.

Bryant was a committed Conservative, and one of that party’s functionaries. In 1929 he became educational advisor to the Bonar Law Conservative College at Ashridge. His first book was The Spirit of Conservatism. Shortly after its publication he became editor of the college magazine, Asbbridge Journal. In 1937 he was made general editor of the National Book Association, the Tories’ answer to Gollancz’s Left Book Club. He was not only strongly in favour of appeasement, but also a supporter of Hitler and the Nazi regime. In 1934 he described Hitler as a mystic, who had enabled Germany ‘to find her soul’. From the late 30s he included in his columns in the Ashbridge Journal and The Illustrated News diatribes attacking what he saw as the libels and slanders put out by the ‘warmongers’ who were leading the country into conflict with the Nazis. In 1939 he was asked by Horace Wilson to write an article on the British point of view for the German press. This was never published, though it did form the basis for much of Unfinished Victory, and was approved by Chamberlain. In July 1939 he was unofficially authorised by Chamberlain to go to Germany to speak to a number of Nazi leaders, and Chamberlain later offered to pay his expenses from Secret Service funds.

The book’s introduction began by asserting that now we at war, Britain would fight with a unity of resolve and purpose. But it then qualified this with arguments for peace with the Nazi regime. And much of this was explicitly anti-Semitic, following Nazi propaganda. He described how Hitler’s seizure of power was greeted with joy by the German people as the new revolution.

He then went on to blame the Jews for the abortive Communist Revolution, claiming that it was led by the ‘Jew, Kurt Eisner’, and the Russian ambassador, the ‘Hebrew, Joffe’. Joffe had indeed been involved in promoting the Communist revolution, but Eisner was the leader of the workers’ soldiers and peasants’ council in Bavaria. I think he was a radical Socialist, rather than Communist, who believed that the Councils should form an addition to parliamentary government, not their replacement. It’s an attitude very different to Lenin’s idea of a bureaucratic state controlled by the Communist Party.

He then went on to accuse the Jews of exploiting the property market in the First World War, so that by 1939 after by five years of anti-Semitic legislation and persecution they still owned a third of real property in Germany. He stated that the Jews had exploited the 1929 Crash and the consequent inflation to make themselves increasingly dominant in politics, business and the learned professions. A quarter of the Social Democrat politicians in the Reichstag in 1924 were Jews, and they controlled the banks, the publishing industry, cinema and theatre, and a large part of the press ‘all the normal means in fact, by which public opinion in a civilised country was formed’.

He then claimed that there was a Jewish campaign to remove gentiles completely from politics and the privileged occupations. He wrote

Every year it became harder for a Gentile to gain or keep a foothold in any privileged occupation. At this time it was not the Aryans who exercised racial discrimination […]. By the third decade of the century it was the native Germans who were now confronted with a problem – that of rescuing their indigenous culture from an alien hand and restoring it to their own race.

Press Reaction Largely Positive

This is vile, murderous nonsense supporting a regime bent on persecuting the Jews to their deaths, even before the launch of Hitler’s infamous ‘Final Solution’. So how did the British press react to this nasty, mendacious piece of Nazi propaganda? In general, they loved it. The book received glowing praise from the Times Literary Supplement, the New English Weekly, the Fortnightly Review, the Church of England Newspaper, Peace Focus, and very many provincial newspapers, like the Sheffield Star, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, the East Anglian Daily Times, and the Cardiff newspaper, Western Mail.

There were critical reviews, however, in the Spectator, which was strongly anti-appeasement, the Jewish Chronical, the Manchester Guardian, New Statesman and other newspapers of that type. Two female critics of the Nazi regime submitted highly critical reviews in the journal Time and Tide. One of these was Emily Lorimer, the author of What Hitler Wants, who stated

“All the best and biggest Nazi lies are here, presented with a garnish of scholarship and erudition […] Please God, your clever book has come too late to take any readers in. “

Rebecca West writing in the same magazine declared that the book was
“a paean to Hitler so glowing, so infatuate, that it might be have been entitled ‘Kiss Me, Corporal’.”

The great historian, A.J.P. Taylor called the book and its author what they were in the Guardian in the very title of his review ‘A Nazi Apologist’ and made the point that much of the book was based on Hitler’s speeches. And Richard Crossman in the Staggers pointed to Bryant’s connection to the Conservatives and the appeasement camp.

Bryant himself started a series of correspondence defending himself with the Spectator and the Jewish Chronicle. His publishers at MacMillan, initially enthusiastic, became progressively cool towards it, trying to find reasons to refuse publication. Bryant was still promoting and defending his book as late as May 1940. What changed his attitude was the accession of Winston Churchill as PM, and the disappearance of pro-Nazi groups like Information and Policy. Later in the month Lovat Dickinson of MacMillan’s asked Hugh Trevor-Roper to inquire whether Bryant should be interned as a Fascist. Trevor-Roper advised against this on the grounds that views change with the times. And Bryant ended up writing pieces in the Ashridge Journal describing Hitler as ‘a terrible calamity’ and referring to the ‘terrible and evil things we are fighting’.

The Myth of British anti-Nazism and Concern for the Jews

One of the great myths about the Second World War was that it was fought to defend the Jews. In fact, as the Tory journalist and polemicist, Peter Hitchens points out, Britain entered the war to honour the defence treaties we had made with France and Poland. And the historian Martin Pugh has also said that Churchill’s reasons for promoting war with Germany were hardly altruistic. They were entirely geopolitical. Churchill was afraid that German domination of the North Sea and Baltic would threaten British naval supremacy. And although in private he described Mussolini as ‘a perfect swine’, he had made trips to Fascist Italy and was an admirer of General Franco. And a friend of mine pointed out that in none of Churchill’s speeches does he ever condemn Fascism. He attacks Nazism and the Axis, but says nothing about the wider political ideology to which they belonged.

Griffiths points out that the book’s enthusiastic reception by the majority of the British press shows that large numbers of the British population were indifferent to the sufferings of the Jews. He argues that the idea that the war was fought to destroy a brutal regime was a later war aim. Most Brits at the time believed that Nazi aggression had to be countered, but there was more interest in understanding Nazi Germany than condemning the internal structure of Hitler’s vile dictatorship.

He also argues that while there was little of the visceral anti-Jewish Hatred in Britain like that, which had propelled the Nazis to power, there was considerable ‘social anti-Semitism’ in popular culture. Jews were excluded from certain social groups, jokes based on anti-Semitic caricatures, such as their supposed greed for money, ignorance of British social conventions, as well as the suspicion in popular literature that they were the leaders of subversive groups, and were cowards and profiteers in war. Griffiths writes

Though, in contrast to rabid anti-Semitism social anti-Semitism may have appeared comparatively innocuous,, its depiction of the Jew as ‘other’ could lead to apathy and lack of concern when faced with examples of racial intolerance and persecution. On the one hand, as Dan Stone has pointed out, the British public could manifest a ‘casual anti-Semitism’ which fell into the trap of accepting the ‘reasons’ for the German dislike of the Jews. […] on the other hand, while Nazi measures could shock people of all views, may people found it possible to ignore the problem altogether, while speaking only of the matters, in relation to Germany, that they believed to be ‘important’.

The Importance of Maintaining Auschwitz and Educating People about the Holocaust

This attitude clearly changed after the War when the Allies investigated and condemned its monstrous crimes against humanity, prosecuting and hanging the Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. And an important part of this change was the revelations about the Holocaust. Which is why Holocaust Memorial Day, the preservation of Auschwitz as a museum and memorial to the innocents butchered there and the various Holocaust memorials and museum across the world are important. Its why the real Nazis, unlike Mike, are keen to minimise the Holocaust and deny it ever occurred.

Hypocrisy of British and Libels against Mike and the Left

But this also shows up the hypocrisy of the various papers, which last week published the gross libel against Mike, accusing him of being a Holocaust denier when he is certainly no such thing. Much has been published on the Net and elsewhere about the Daily Mail’s murky, pro-Nazi past, including how the father of editor Paul Dacre was a fanboy of Adolf. And the scum are still doing it. Mike has put up an article this morning about a vile piece in the Torygraph repeating the anti-Semitic tropes of the American Right about the Jewish financier and multi-millionaire, George Soros, accusing him of covertly funding anti-Brexit groups. This part of the American Right’s suspicion that Soros is responsible for all manner of anti-democratic, subversive political groups. It’s part of the anti-Semitic trope of the Jew as leader and instigator of subversion. Perhaps they’d like to go a bit further and claim that he’s also trying to enslave the White race and bring about its destruction through race mixing?

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/02/10/anti-semitic-jewish-conspiracy-story-about-soros-confirms-the-businessmans-own-fears/

Soros against Zionists Because of Collaboration with Nazis in the Murder of Hungarian Jews

Of course, this is just more politically motivated smears. The Israel lobby also hates Soros, because, as Mike points out, he is bitterly critical of Israel’s persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Soros himself is of Hungarian descent, and he despises Zionism because of the way they sold out Hungarian Jews to the Nazis. Kasztner, the leader of the Zionists in Hungary, tried to make an agreement with the Nazi authorities to allow several thousand Jews to be deported to their deaths, so long as the Nazis spared some by sending them to Israel. it’s another example of the way Zionists would collaborate with real Nazis and murderous anti-Semites to promote their own cause, even if it meant the mass murder of Jewish men, women and children.

The Hypocrisy, Smears and Anti-Semitic Tropes of the Israel Lobby, the Blairites and the Lamestream Press

This shows just how selective and hypocritical the British press’ attitude to anti-Semitism is, as well as that of the groups promoting the smears – the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Tories and the Blairites in Labour. These smears are used exclusively to isolate and marginalise the Left as a political threat to the cosy neoliberal politics and support for the racist, persecutory regime in Israel. But when it serves their purpose, they will use the same anti-Semitic tropes against those Jews, who also threaten them.

John McDonnell and Anti-Marxist Scaremongering on Thursday’s Question Time

September 18, 2016

I was talking to Mike this evening about John McDonnell’s appearance on Question Time last week, when all the other panelists, including Alistair Campbell, Soubry for the Tories and Dimbleby himself all tried to pile into him and attack himself and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. I didn’t see the programme, but heard from Mike that at one point someone attempted to score a point accusing McDonnell of being a Marxist. McDonnell said he was, and that as a Marxist he was overjoyed at the 2008 financial crisis, as this was the kind of massive economic crisis that is caused by capitalism. Mike took this McDonnell answering in the conditional: this is what he would believe, if he was a Marxist. But even if McDonnell is a Marxist – which is debateable – this still is not necessarily a reason why he should be feared or disqualified from government.

There’s a difference between Marxism and Communism. Communism is a form of Marxism, but as historians of the Soviet regime and political scientists will tell you, it is a form of Communism based on the interpretation of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. And I was taught by the tutor at College on the rise of Communism in Russia, that Lenin adapted and reformed Marxism as much as his ideological opponents and enemies in democratic socialism. I should point out here that before he began the course, he made a little speech stating that he wasn’t a Communist, and if, by some accident, he found himself in such a party, he would very soon find himself thrown out of it. This is pretty much true. The official ideology of the Soviet Union was Marxism-Leninism, and it broke with the ideas of the German Social Democrats, and particularly that of Karl Kautsky, as the leading European Marxist party. In 1910 the German Social Democrats (SPD) were world’s leading socialist party. They had 110 deputies in the Reichstag, the German parliament, 720,000 members and over 70 newspapers and periodicals. (See John Kelly, Trade Unions and Socialist Politics, p. 27).

The party had been riven by ideological conflict in the 1890s over Eduard Bernstein’s ‘Revisionism’. Bernstein had argued that Marxism was wrong, and that far from impoverishing the workers in the operation of the ‘iron law of wages’, the workers were becoming more prosperous. He therefore urged a revision of Marxist socialism, abandoning the aspects that were no longer relevant. Instead of the Hegelian dialect, he urged instead that the party should incorporate and adapt the ideals of the great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. This did not mean abandoning socialism or the nationalisation of industry. Indeed, he saw the emergence of joint-stock companies as the type of capitalist institution, which would gradually become transformed as society developed to produce the new, socialist society of the future. Despite widespread, and fierce opposition, Bernstein was not thrown out of the party. Lenin, who had previously been an admirers of the Germans, really couldn’t understand this. When he met Karl Kautsky, the Austrian leader of German and Austrian Marxism, during his exile from Tsarist Russia, Lenin asked him that question. Kautsky replied that they didn’t do that kind of thing. Lenin went berserk, called him a prostitute, and published a pamphlet attacking Kautsky and denouncing him as a ‘renegade’.

Kautsky was no enemy of democracy. I’ve put up various pieces from Marx, Kautsky and the French Marxist, Lucien Laurat, showing how they all supported, to a certain degree, parliamentary democracy. Marx never ruled out violent revolution, but was increasingly of the opinion that there was no need, as socialists were winning considerable concessions and advances through parliamentary politics. Kautsky and Laurat fully support parliamentary democracy. Kautsky himself despised the workers’ soviets as undemocratic, and bitterly attacked the Bolsheviks for their suppression of human rights. He hated the disenfranchisement of the bourgeoisie, their subjection to slave labour and how they were given the worst jobs, and were given the worst rations. He also attacked the Bolsheviks’ monopolisation of the press and their destruction and banning of competing parties, newspapers and publications. And rather than industry being nationalised in one fell blow, as the Bolsheviks had done, he argued instead that Marxism demanded that industry should only be nationalised gradually at the appropriate moment. This was when the various capitalist firms in a particular economic sector had merged to create a cartel. It was only then that the industries should be taken over by the state, and run in the interests of the working class and the people as a whole. After the Bolshevik revolution, Kautsky supported the Mensheviks, their ideological rivals, in the newly independent state of Georgia in the Caucasus, before that was finally conquered by the USSR.

Lenin, by contrast, had argued in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done, that the Russian socialist party should be led by committed revolutionaries, who would command absolute authority. Debate was to be strictly limited, and once the party’s leaders had made a decision, it had to be obeyed without question. Lenin had come to this view through his experience of the conspiratorial nature of Russian revolutionary politics. He was influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary – but not Marxist – Chernyshevsky. He also adopted this extremely authoritarian line as an attempt to prevent the rise of factionalism that divided and tore apart the Populists, the Russian agrarian socialists that form Marxism’s main rival as the party of the peasants and working class.

Now I’ll make it plain: I’m not a Marxist or a Communist. I don’t agree with its atheism nor its basis in Hegelian philosophy. I’m also very much aware of the appalling human rights abuses by Lenin, Stalin, and their successors. But Marxism is not necessarily synonymous with Communism.

During the struggle in the 1980s in the Labour party with the Militant Tendency, the Swedish Social Democrats also offered their perspective on a similar controversy they had gone through. They had also been forced to expel a group that had tried to overturn party democracy and take absolute power. They had not, however, expelled them because they were Marxists, and made the point that there still were Marxists within the party. Thus, while I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe that Marxism, as opposed to Communism, is necessarily a threat.

It’s also hypocritical for members of New Labour to try to smear others with the label, when one element in its formation was a Marxist organisation, albeit one that came to a very anti-Socialist conclusion. This was Demos. Unlike conventional Marxists, they believed that the operation of the Hegelian dialectic had led to the victory, not of socialism, but of capitalism. The goal for left-wing parties now should be to try to make it operate to benefit society as a whole, rather than just businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Arguably, this form of Marxism has been every bit as destructive and doctrinaire as Militant. Blair seized control of the Labour party, and his clique swiftly became notorious for a highly authoritarian attitude to power. Events were micromanaged to present Blair in the best, most flattering light. Furthermore, the policies they adopted – privatisation, including the privatisation of the NHS and the destruction of the welfare state, the contempt for the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the long-term sick, who were seen as scroungers and malingerers, resulted in immense poverty and hardship, even before they were taken over and extended massively by Cameron and now Theresa May.

Traditional Marxists in the Labour party, as opposed to Communists and Trotskyites aren’t a threat. And neither McDonnell nor Corbyn are either of those. What has damaged the party is the pernicious grip on power of the Blairites, who have turned it into another branch of the Tories. It is they, who have harmed the country’s economy, provoked much of the popular cynicism with politics, and impoverished and immiserated its working people and the unemployed. All for the enrichment of the upper and middle classes. It is their power that needs to be broken, and they, who are responsible for acting as a conspiratorial clique determined to win absolute control through purging their rivals. It’s long past time they either accepted the wishes of the grassroots for a genuine socialist leadership, and made their peace with Corbyn, or left to join the Tories.

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.

Hunter S. Thompson on the Corruption and Depravity of George Dubya

February 9, 2016

I’ve just finished reading Hunter S. Thompson’s classic, bitter, satirical salute to Las Vegas and the ending of the Hippy Dream, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The biographical sketch of the great gonzo journalist at the back of the book stated that while his critical reputation may rest of the books he wrote in the 1960s and 1970s, his satirical talons remained sharp throughout his career. And gave a few of the man’s comments on George ‘Dubya’ Bush as an example.

So how did Dr Gonzo view Bush? Basically, with much the same kind of visceral loathing and contempt he had for Richard Nixon. Warning: There is very strong language here. Like his road trip with his attorney to Las Vegas, his comments are only for those with true grit. Viewers of a nervous disposition should look away now.

He declared Bush’s election victory to be ‘the most brutal seizure of power since Hitler burned the German Reichstag in 1933 and declared himself the new Boss of Germany.’

In 2003 he had the following words about Bush and his cabinet in his internet sports column, Hey Rube: ‘Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? They are the racists and hate mongers among us – they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis.’

There always has been a part of the Republican party, who really been fully paid up members of the Klan. And the situation is worse now, with Trump advocating the deportation of immigrants, the construction of a wall with Mexico, and the registration of Muslims. Reading his journalism about the implosion of the Hippy scene and the New Left, it was clear that Thompson really was expecting something like the emergence of a genuine dictatorship under Nixon. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, not least because Tricky Dicky was carted off to jail for Watergate. But it’s a very distinct possibility if Trump gets in.

Cameron Demands Cabinet Ministers Take Oath of Personal Loyalty

February 1, 2016

During the Third Reich, the Germans had a joke: ‘What’s the biggest, most useless choir in the world?’ The answer was ‘The Reichstag, because it’s got 600 members, but only sings two songs.’ The joke referred to the fact that, although Hitler had complete dictatorial powers under the constitution, they were his only so long as Germany was in a state of emergency. So every four years, by law Hitler had to recall them and get them to renew the state of emergency. The two songs the German parliament sang were at these occasions were the Nazi Party anthem, the Horst Wessel Song, and ‘Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles’. After that, the Reichstag was dismissed for another four years, leaving the Nazi delegates to go home to look forward to another four years of hate, murder, torture and genocide.

Last week, Mike over at Vox Political put up this piece comparing Hitler’s insistence on the German army and civil servants taking a personal oath of loyalty to him with Cameron’s insistence that the cabinet swear their personal allegiance to him over the question of EU membership: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/29/camerons-loyalty-tests-over-eu-membership-in-imitation-of-hitler/. This shows just how insecure Cameron and his party are over the whole issue of the European Union, as well as the creeping Nazi hunger for personal power behind the mask of relaxed post-modern management he’s tried to adopt. Last week the cabinet, then the civil service and finally the army. If only he could dissolve parliament, declare a state of national emergency and round up all those wretched Reds, trade unionists, disabled people and asylum seekers. In the meantime it reminds me of this scene from the Blues Brothers:

Can we look forward to the day when Cameron, chasing Corbyn and the Labourites hell for leather to Number 10 in his car goes careering off an unfinished raised highway to his doom? And on the way down IDS, his partner, says ‘I have always loved you’, before they both hit the road so hard that it nearly carries them to the centre of the Earth?

Workers’ Councils as a Support for Democracy

March 18, 2014

Eisner pic

Kurt Eisner, Bavarian politician and Workers’ Council leader, in 1918.

Yesterday I put up a piece about the establishment of workers’ control of industry during the Russian revolution in 1917, when Lenin granted the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils – the soviets – the power to manage the enterprises in which their members were employed. Germany also experienced a council revolution of its own 1918, following its defeat in the First World War. This was a period of immense political turmoil throughout Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Germany, the Kaiser was forced to abdicate and his noble successor, Prince Max of Baden, granted sweeping changes to the constitution. Germany was to become a constitutional monarchy, stripped the emperor of command over the army and made the Reichstag, the German parliament, responsible for deciding war and peace. In Germany the revolution started on the 29th October, when the sailors at Kiel mutinied against an order to launch one last attack on England. With support from the dockers, they established a workers’, soldiers’ and sailors’ council. From there the movement spread through the rest of Germany.

Although the councils appear to have been modelled on the Russian soviets, there was very little Communist influence in them. Most of their members belonged to the majority socialist Social Democrat Party. In many cases the movement fizzled out after a year. In some parts of Germany they acted as Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, advising working people on how to obtain better wages, conditions or housing. Only in the Ruhr did they attempt to nationalise the mines. Their existence was a matter of considerable controversy, as majority of the German Social Democrats felt that they were a threat to the parliamentary democracy they wished to create.

The leader of the workers’ council in Munich, Kurt Eisner, was a left-wing theatre critic. He was not a radical nor an opponent of parliamentary democracy. He wished instead to combine the new workers’ councils with parliament to create a system where the workers and peasants had a direct influence on parliament. In a meeting with the representatives of other German states in Berlin, Eisner thus explained his ideas

The workers; and soldiers’ councils must remain the basis of the whole movement, and in the south the peasant councils too, which in the east would be agricultural labourers’ councils. The more the workers’ and soldiers’ councils were given an opportunity to do fruitful work the less we would have to fear the bogy of chaos.

With regard to the question of the National Assembly it was entirely obvious that it must be summoned. This applied to the Reich as well as to the individual Diets. The revolution was no the same as democracy, the revolution would have to create democracy (Hear, hear!)

It must thus be our task to use the time to lead the whole mass of the people towards democracy. There were people who maintained that democracy consisted of elections every five years and then remaining at home for five years. That was the bourgeois parliamentarianism of the past. Now all productive forces must be employed in the work of democratic consolidation…

The revolution was only two weeks old, and if there was much discussion about the excesses of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, one thing was certain: they had not yet ignited a world war; such small matters should not be taken too seriously…

F.L Carsten, Revolution in Central Europe 1918-19 (Aldershot: Wildwood House 1988) 183.

In a debate in the Bavarian cabinet with Frauendorfer, who opposed the councils, Eisner stated that giving the council legislative, rather than advisory powers, would be Bolshevism, to which he was opposed. He was instead a supporter of parliamentary democracy. This was, however, qualified in a speech he made a few days later to a conference of Bavarian workers’ councils.

The workers’ councils shall be the parliaments of those doing physical and also intellectual work, and if this is countered by the view that the National Assembly, the Diet, will make these workers’ councils redundant, then I maintain: on the contrary, we may do without the National Assembly rather than without the workers’ councils. (Tumultuous applause.)

For, if the National Assembly is not to lead again into empty parliamentarianism, then the living force of the workers’ councils must unfold itself., The workers’ and other councils are as it were the organization of the electors. The electors must watch and be active and must not leave it to the deputies to do whatever clever or stupid things they see fit to undertake. The function of these councils in my opinion is the direct politicization and democratization of the masses…. (pp. 185-6).

Eisner, however, lost the subsequent Bavarian elections and the Diet passed a Basic Law establishing the Diet as the organisation to which ministers were responsible, rather than the councils. Eisner was therefore asked to offer his recognition the next day, the 21st February. As he was on his way to the Diet to do so, he was shot dead by an extreme right-wing aristocrat, Count Anton Arco-Valley.

Parliament should clearly be at the heart of British politics as the cornerstone of democracy and representative government down the centuries. There is, however, a real problem in that many people are alienated from government., especially the working classes, who feel that all the parties are the same. This is to some extent true, as all the parties have adopted the same Neoliberal policies to a greater or lesser extent. If the parties really are serious about trying to get more people to take an interest in politics, then they need to create institutions where ordinary people genuinely feel that their voices are heard, and that politicians are not left to do whatever they wish in parliament regardless of the views or the impact it will have on the electorate. And politics should be far more than simply a case of putting a cross in a box every five years. We now need an expansion of politics and democratic institutions, not the atrophied state in which they have lapsed since Thatcher.