Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Is there really an infestation of Nazis?

All this talk about Nazis proves my point that the century we understand the least is the one that just ended. Somehow, it’s acceptable to castigate anyone wearing brown but the colour red is only worn by harp-playing cherubs.How did this happen?

Any rational moral condemnation of anyone who supported or empowered Nazism or racism has to include Communism as well. There is no way at all to conclude that either ideology is more murderous than the other. And the Jacobins can be thrown in there, too – along with Napoleon.

But if this test is applied it winds up throwing out three quarters of the writers and artists of the last two centuries. If this had a point, it's not really clear what it would be. So why is it still important to perform ritual kowtows to anti-Nazi McCarthyism?

Despite what universities say, pre-war Nazi Germany was in no way comparable to Stalinist Russia, or even East Germany. As Simon Wiesenthal once said, "The Stasi was much worse than the Gestapo, if you consider only the oppression of its own people." The Stasi at its apex boasted almost two orders of magnitude more employees than the Gestapo.

And the gap between East Germany and high Stalinism is just as wide. Nothing at all like the cannibalistic insanity of the Stalinist purges took place under Ulbricht, Honecker and other Germans.

Before the war, the Nazi state was extraordinarily popular with its citizens. In Richard Evans' history of the Third Reich, he quotes extensively from the dispatches from the exiled Social Democratic leadership. Sometime around 1938 they were admitting that opposition to the Nazis essentially no longer existed, much as opposition to the New Deal no longer exists in US society today.

Remember that the Holocaust was a military secret. It is inextricably bound up with the history of WWII and is best understood as a war crime and it’s difficult to imagine anything similar happening in a peacetime Third Reich.

Supporting the Nazis in the 1930s meant wanting to expel Jews from Germany, not murder them. How people feel about, say, the whites of Kenya and Rhodesia, is perhaps a rough approximation to the same sentiment. It is difficult to find anyone these days who has not given some kind of moral support to one or another species of totalitarian nativism.

People also say the Communists had "good intentions" whereas the Nazis were somehow intrinsically evil. But that is ahistorical. Both movements were entirely sincere in their beliefs, and both were purveyors of hatred on a massive scale. There is no contradiction in these statements. Why is it somehow worse to hate someone because of their race, than because of any other accident of birth – such as class origin?

Has anyone read Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s explanation of why Stalin is not a dictator? To summarise, Stalin is not a dictator because he is not officially a dictator. He is just the organiser of the democratic process by which the Party makes decisions – his was no more than a clerical position or “general secretary.” But of course Stalin was a dictator. And of course welfare is a vote-buying operation. The votes stay bought, don’t they?

In some ways German anti-Semitism bore more resemblance to black racism than to white racism. It was the racism of resentment, not the racism of contempt. National Socialism, unlike mainstream socialism (which was aristocratic and intellectual from day one) was in many ways a genuinely lower-class and lower-middle-class movement.

The rhetoric of racial struggle is a two-way street. In Nazi Germany, the white proletariat won the battle for power, and created a state which genuinely reflected their hopes and fears. But in the US, and ultimately in the world, it went the other way around, and the socialist elite rule the white proles, using ethnic underclasses as a sort of paramilitary army. Sam Francis's phrase for this is “anarcho-tyranny.”

Only by understanding these "totalitarian democracies" (in Jacob Talmon's phrase) as proper parts of history can we defend ourselves against them. Exceptionalising the Nazis promotes a fiction which is not, in any way, shape or form, useful to anyone.

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