This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Thoughts on the Rise of Nazism

(From 2008-9)

Once upon a time there was an infamous series of experiments performed where a number of volunteers were asked to administer a progressively stronger series of electric shocks to a test subject if the subject failed to remember a sequence of words. Unknown to the volunteers, they were the actual subjects of the test; the putative “subject” was an actor and the electric shocks were fake. But, believing that they were administering actual shocks to a fellow human being, who squirmed in discomfort, cried out, jerked, and ultimately fell silent and was to all appearances either dead or unconscious, the majority of the “volunteers” continued to faithfully obey their orders to administer the shocks. The psychologist who carried out this experiment concluded that the essentials of fascism/Nazism – which ultimately rests on the bedrock of contempt for other humans – are present in most normal people and only await an opportunity for expression.

We are social animals. Therefore we are obedient to the pack leaders and their orders, as long as we can convince ourselves that those orders are given with authority. Naturally our willingness to obey orders is greater if those orders reinforce our individual natural tendencies. If we are fundamentally violent people (as the abovementioned experiment demonstrates) who are constrained by social norms to keep those violent impulses in check, we can easily allow ourselves to ignore those impulses when the authority figure endorses our doing so or actually orders it. And as history demonstrates, violent nations tend to prevail over more peaceful ones.

At the same time, every normal person has violent impulses and socioeconomic pressures increase those violent impulses. Some of us can’t handle those impulses and end up as sociopathic mass-murderers like Cho Seung-Hui (of the Virginia Tech shootings) or John Allen Muhammad (the Beltway Sniper). The rest of us bottle up part of the stress and let the rest out in cheering for some football team or smashing cars with hammers. But, as I said, part of the stress accumulates – along with a feeling of cumulative helplessness, a feeling of things spinning out of control – and anything that gives order to our lives, lets us imagine that things are under control, even if not under our individual control, attracts us. This is why uniforms and armies fascinate so many people. Very, very few social animals, whether dogs or humans, are comfortable with actual freedom, because freedom means decision making and taking full and complete responsibility.

In a blog post a while ago, I had examined the reasons why the First World War was important and worthy of study. I’m one of those who believe that there was really only one World War, and that the First War led inexorably to the Second because of the way it was conducted, the way it was concluded, in the victorious Allies imposing an unjust peace on the defeated Germans (including a blockade that dragged on for months after the war was over, and a demand for war reparations that led to hyperinflation and widespread misery) at and after Versailles. Those conditions were ideal for sowing widespread disaffection and the desire for a strong leader who would instil confidence, make people feel that they were on top of their problems, and in fact they paved the way for someone like Hitler.

Although Hitler wouldn’t actually come to power till 1933, he was already strong enough in 1923 to attempt a coup d’etat – the tragicomic Beer Hall Putsch in Munich – at the head of an agglomeration of right wing militias that had the tacit support of the German Army. That the putsch failed wasn’t to cause problems for Hitler; he was to admit, later, that it was a blessing in disguise; when he came to power, it was in a democratic election, with popular support.

The 1929 Great Depression was a factor in the rise of Nazism insofar as it destroyed what prosperity the German middle class had built up during the years after the end of the hyperinflationary phase of the early twenties, which itself was a direct result of the Versailles Treaty and the war reparations it imposed on Germany. By then Hitler, long since released after serving the farcical prison term he had been sentenced to after the Munich putsch attempt, had consolidated his position and built up a support team of like-minded Nazis: Gregor Strasser, Ernst Röhm (who had for some years after the putsch, where he had played a major part, left Germany to become a Colonel in the Bolivian Army but returned to help Hitler to power; Hitler had him murdered later, in 1934, during the “Night of the Long Knives”), Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, Rudolf Heβ (later to become Hitler’s deputy and to fly to Britain to try and make peace, only to end his days in Spandau Prison outside Berlin) and Dr Josef Paul Goebbels. It was not a really large team, but it didn’t need to be, because the soil of Germany had become fertile for Nazism after the humiliations of Versailles. The German people, bereft of hope, were looking for a strong man saviour; a Messiah of sorts; or, if we return to the analogy I used earlier, to a strong alpha-male pack leader.

In this, you’ll understand, perceptions matter, so a personal magnetism and charisma is an immense asset and dictators of all shades deliberately and systematically create a personality cult, because a personality cult is the worship of a pack leader. So long as the pack believes in the leader’s wisdom, vision or capacity to rule, even if none of these features exist in reality, its members will do just about anything for him. They will cheerfully follow him down to hell and their own destruction. Right to the last, even to the fall of Berlin, the Germans continued to believe in Hitler’s quite nonexistent genius (if he’d ever had any, it had long since deserted him, as the course of the war had clearly shown after Stalingrad) and indeed many of them continue to believe in him to this day.

So there you have the first two features essential for the existence of Nazism: a people craving order, and a strong leader who can appear to be able to provide that order.

The third thing that is essential, it seems to me, is that a nation that has any chance of falling to Nazism must be racially or ethnically largely homogeneous; for reasons I’ll mention shortly, while a very heterogeneous nation or society may succumb to a right wing or even ultra-right wing regime, it won’t quite develop a real Nazi regime. Germany, with its overwhelming Teutonic ethnicity, was ripe for Nazism.

The fourth necessity, and the one that most people think about first when they hear the word “Nazi”, is the existence of a helpless minority, who, however, are present in enough numbers that they can be passed off as a national enemy. These “national enemies” need to be helpless so they can’t fight back, yet they can’t be so small in number that the idea of blaming them for anything is obviously garbage. And they need some feature which can easily make people hate them. The Jews of Germany fitted all these criteria: they (well, the orthodox part of the populace, at any rate) dressed differently, prayed differently, ate differently, and so marked themselves as a people apart; many of them exhibited a keen business sense and committed the unpardonable sin of being financially prosperous, so it was extremely easy to make people believe they were foreigners sucking the blood of the toiling Aryan masses; and according to the Bible they not only strung up Jesus, they said of themselves that his blood would be on their heads and on the heads of their children, so there was religious sanction for murdering them, too. The fact that so many of them were also Communists was just the icing on the cake.

To sum up: the Jews were different, they were religious enemies, and they were either financially successful or damned Bolsheviks. What more do you want in an enemy?

This, by the way, is why it’s erroneous to compare the late Bush regime in the US to the Nazis. The Bushies were right-wing, militaristic, and had some other features in common with the Nazis, but they didn’t – couldn’t, even if they wanted to – blame all Muslims, all Arabs, all Asians or anything of that order for the attacks of 11/9. The US is simply too heterogeneous a nation. In the German case, the Jews didn’t actually have to do anything to prove themselves the enemy. They didn’t have to have a Mohammad Atta. It was enough that they were Jews.

Then, of course, no Nazi regime can come to power if there is a strong pre-existing government in place. No such government will allow a Nazi regime to grow strong enough to pose a real threat; they’ll either crush it completely or co-opt the Nazi groups, keeping them in a completely subservient position, for their own purposes. Russian right-wing gangs like “Nashi” (“Ours”), for example, were co-opted by the Putin regime to serve as strong arm bully-boys and tolerated as long as their racist depredations stayed within limits.

But when the government itself is weak, when it is more concerned with its own survival to spare any thoughts for the burgeoning Nazis, or, much worse, when it is a right wing regime itself and tries to bring the Nazis into the state machinery (for instance by trying to integrate Nazi militias into the regular military) then it encourages the Nazis actively and passively and paves the way for its own destruction, because the strong-man pack-leader system characteristic of Nazism doesn’t allow any other rival power centre to develop or exist (Ernst Röhm, more responsible than any other single Nazi for Hitler’s rise to power, discovered this the hard way). The German Weimar Republic in the early thirties was crumbling fast, with politicians vying with each other for a shot at power, and conniving with whoever they imagined would help them win office. Weimar Germany, which had never had a stable existence, had never learned its lessons either. Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch had been launched using militias armed and trained by the German Army, militias like the Oberland League and the Hermann Bund apart from the Nazi Party’s own Sturm Abteilung (SA). The Munich garrison’s commander, General von Lossow, helped the Nazis all he could. Obviously, all these aids didn’t prevent Hitler’s men from trying to bite the hand that fed them; and yet, ten years later, the Weimar Republic’s own chancellors, especially Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher, would co-opt those same Nazis and – believing they were using them – actually help them get to power.

Then, like any other movement, religious or political, Nazis need funding. While the Nazis called themselves socialists (the word Nazi comes from National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei, National Socialist German Worker’s Party, the official name of this organisation) and therefore one would have expected them to be, economically, of the middle left, they very early on established an extremely close relationship with Big Business, which was terrified of the Communist threat and which provided them funds to fight the Bolshevik menace. The Nazis reciprocated by crushing the trade unions, locking up the Social Democrats, Communists, and anyone else with even vaguely left-wing credentials, and quite soon the factories of Siemens and Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach were running on slave labour supplied by the Nazis.

Don’t let’s forget those evicted and dispossessed Jews either. Their businesses, homes and other property were up for grabs to Nazi Party members and to those in their good books. Some of those funds came in very handy for the party; especially after the death camps went into business, Jewish gold, whether as money or jewellery or as gold tooth crowns or spectacle frames  – a fair fraction, it’s likely, still lies in Swiss bank vaults to this day – became one of the major sources of the Nazi finances.

Also, Nazism is fundamentally a cult of war; its features are such that the strong leader needs always to be demonstrably protecting the pack from a threat, and once the internal threat (Jews, Communists, etc) has been dealt with it needs an external threat. This external threat can only be “countered” by endless war, whether it’s a real war or just preparations for war. If you have a strong military-industrial complex, war preparations are excellent economic stimulants. Everyone’s happy; the factories have orders, the people have jobs, and the strong leader is secure in his chair. This can go on as long as those wars are being won or the people can be made to believe that the wars can be won. And since endless preparation can’t go on in the absence of resources, war becomes an inevitability; military products aren’t (unless you have a captive market) economically viable as exports, so you can’t keep trading for resources without reaching a point where you have to either step down on the war planning front or go to war, if only to grab those resources you need to keep preparing for war. If he steps down on the war planning, the strong leader reveals his feet of clay. So he has to go to war. He doesn’t have a choice.

Therefore, there are three legs of the tripod on which Nazism rests, psychological, political, and economic. Germany in the early 1930s had all of them: an impoverished, ethnically homogeneous people who yearned for order and a strong leader; a weak government, ripe to be taken over, and full of unwitting collaborators; and businessmen willing and able to fund the movement. It’s a combination that’s rare but very far from unique, and it can occur again.   


(Addendum 1)

"That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2).

A long time ago, heaven help us, in the wild and wonderful world of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, an unmarried woman called Maria Anna Schiklgruber brought forth into the world an illegitimate (as it was then) child, whom she named Alois.

When Alois was five years old, he acquired a father by marriage; one Johann
Georg Hiedler married Maria Anna, and a few years later Alois Schiklgruber joined the Austrian customs services, where he did fairly well.

At the age of 39, in 1876, for reasons of his own, he applied to have his name changed from Schiklgruber to that of his (by now long deceased) stepfather, Hiedler, asserting that Hiedler was his actual birth parent. The application went through, and, perhaps as the result of a clerical error, Alois Schiklgruber became, not Alois Hiedler, as he had intended, but Alois Hitler.

You understand where this is heading, don’t you?

Alois Hitler turned out to be what, in modern terms, might be termed as a bit of a ladies’ man. His third liaison and second marriage produced several children, of whom the fourth was the first to survive: a sickly young child called Adolf.

All right, so what is the significance of all this genealogical twaddle and tosh?

Imagine if, for whatever reason, Alois hadn’t bothered to change his surname (13 years before baby Adolf was born) or the application had been refused. Then we wouldn’t have had an Adolf Hitler. We’d have had an Adolf Schiklgruber.

And so what?

Imagine those great Nazi Party rallies at Nürnberg, der Führer waving his arms about on the dais, speechifying.

Führer: “The international Jewish conspiracy must be defeated!”

Audience: “Heil Schicklgruber!”

Führer: “The Bolsheviks must be crushed!”

Audience: “Heil Schickl...hmmmmf...gruber!”

Führer: “We must win Lebensraum in the East!”


Damn Alois.


(Addendum 2)

 20 April 1945. As Russian shells fall like rain on the ruins of Berlin, and as the streets of the city begin to quake under the tracks of Soviet T 34/85 and JS-2 tanks, the Führer of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler, is cut off and trapped in the Führerbunker under his Chancellery. Ironically, it is also his birthday. One of the most fascinating ten days in the history of the world are about to begin.

Any of the regular readers on my blog will know of my – almost obsessive – interest in the Nazis. He or she will also know that this fascination has nothing whatever to do with admiration – quite the contrary. I hate the Nazis and their ideological successors, the neo-Nazis, Zionazis, and Hindunazis, equally; and also I hate them on several levels, ideologically, sociologically, and emotionally. But all the same, the Nazis fascinate me, and I believe that it is essential to examine and explain the reason and the significance of my fascination. For although, theoretically, the Nazi ideology died in Berlin in 1945, the skeleton, the framework as it were, of the ideology survived, and is alive and well to this day.

The first and most fascinating thing about Nazism is how it is just about the only philosophy I can think of that has absolutely no positive things about it. Think as I might, I can find nothing positive, in any sense, to say about Nazism. It may be a difficult thing to say and back up with evidence – and I may be wrong – but Nazism is wholly, completely, negative.

We should probably begin by comparing Nazism with other ideologies. Unlike socialism or communism, Nazism makes no concessions whatever to the average man. Even if socialism and communism do not always practice what they preach, they always paid lip service to the “working man”; if capitalism actually ended in impoverishing the worker for the greater good of the moneyed classes, it did theoretically offer the dream of earning enough as the reward of hard work to promote oneself up the social ladder, by dint of one’s own efforts, free of governmental interference. Even in history, if you look at all the nastier regimes, they had a few positive points. The great conquerors killed millions and destroyed civilisations, but they brought artisans and craftsmen to enhance and enrich their own cultures; they usually left the drawer or water and the hewer of wood strictly alone, and confined their depredations to the parasitic upper classes of the cultures on which they preyed. But one cannot make any such concessions for the Nazis. There never was anything good about them.

It may seem almost trite today to say that the Nazis were racist. They were, of course, but they were much more than that. Race was not, in the Nazi scheme of things, just something that set apart one line of descent of humanity from another. In the Nazi worldview, race was the only thing. It was something so basic to their thinking that “race” virtually equalled “species”. And far be it for the Nazis to confine “race” to skin colour; no, while the blacks and Jews were naturally scum beneath contempt, even among white people, the Latin races and – especially – the Slavs were Untermenschen, “subhumans”, of an order far below that occupied by the pinnacle of human evolution, the Aryan race, of which the Nordic peoples were the exemplar.

Once you begin thinking of other peoples as inferior to you not just socially but even biologically, it becomes easy to begin thinking of them as vermin – as rats, for example, infesting the space you wish to occupy, and fit only for complete and total extermination. And, obviously, you cannot admit – even to yourself – the cultural or scientific achievements of such peoples. They are far below your notice. You just do not admit that they exist. This may have its own after-effects, as I shall discuss in a moment.

Then, of course, once you accept to yourself that other peoples are inferior to you, it’s a natural step to thinking that they must be inferior to you in every way – and so, everything about you must be superior, not because it is intrinsically better, but because you are doing it, and you are the master race. This leads naturally to a position of unquestioning acceptance of one’s own actions and therefore a rejection of everything new, if it is even theoretically capable of overturning cherished beliefs. So you have Hitler rejecting the idea of atomic research until very late – simply because it was “Jewish science”. Otherwise, the Nazis might have come up with the Bomb.

OK, so you’ve convinced yourself that you are superior to everyone else and that what you know and believe is superior to what everyone else knows and believes. What comes next?

What comes next, if we go by history, is the idea that since one’s race is the highest, most evolved, and fittest to survive of all, then – by a simple extension of Darwinism – no other race is fitted to survive. In fact, one might go so far as to say that it becomes one’s bounden duty to exterminate all lesser breeds, excepting the few needed to serve as slave labour to the master race. Any Nazi creed leads naturally to the idea of aggressive war against those neighbours who happen to be of the “inferior races”. Whatever the rationale advanced to justify this war, the ultimate thinking is the same: “We are better than them, we have to get rid of them before they get rid of us. We owe it to our children.”

In fact, this is a recurrent theme song of all right-wing ideologies, for some reason: “We owe it to our children.”

Now, before we go on to discuss what happens before this phase of aggressive war is launched, it might be instructive to consider what Nazism does with dissenters.

You need to remember that Nazis always identify themselves with the state – and the state, say the Nazis, is the property of the Master Race, and of the Master Race alone. The Master Race, equally, is represented by the Nazis. Nobody else has the right to represent it. So anyone going against anything the Nazis say is automatically not just an enemy of the Nazi party but of the State and by extension of the Master Race itself. Such a person is obviously as tainted and unworthy of life as the lesser breeds like blacks or Slavs or Gypsies or Jews. Therefore all dissent is not just anti-party or anti-national, it is anti-race and is an existential threat. It is much more than dissent. It is traitorous in the most fundamental way.

It now becomes possible to understand why Nazis hate those who have any differences with them so much. They can do nothing but hate them. This, and not Stalin-like paranoia, is why the concentration camps were as filled with dissident “Aryan” Germans as they were with Jews and Gypsies. This policy brings dividends in two ways -  first, just by killing or imprisoning everyone who does not think like them, the Nazis leave only those who are willing to follow them outside, and automatically increase their “support” (whether real or feigned); and, second, the property of the imprisoned and murdered, and the facilities enjoyed by them, can be shared out among the faithful. That can be passed off as progress.

There is a second great truth about the Nazis – this is the fact that they draw on a hidden well of xenophobia and racism in ordinary people. Nazism can only gain the sort of support it does, and has done throughout history, by giving the people the opportunity to release that racism and xenophobia. Most people will probably conform to “accepted social norms” which prohibit targeting people on behalf of skin colour or religion, except in private. But once the state, in the person of the Living God (see below) says it’s OK to be  a xenophobic racist, why, then all restraints are off, and the true ugly face of the people emerges. I doubt if ordinary Germans – and the French they conquered and occupied - would have handed over their Jewish neighbours and friends to the concentration camps without this basic, suppressed, thread of racism and bigotry. (Of course the “Western democracies” of the era had the racism in full view, but it was directed towards the peoples of their colonies, and the people of the said colonies were “lesser breeds without the law”, so that did not matter anyway).

A third great truth about the Nazis is that Nazism is extremely useful, in its early stages, for right wing non-Nazi governments to use as a handy political and military tool. The original Nazis were backed by the Weimar republic, the
Zionazis backed the Irgun, Haganah and Stern Gang, and the Hindunazi militias are covertly allowed to function by the right wing political parties in India. All over Eastern Europe, neo-Nazi groups receive so much unofficial support from the governments that they can get away with almost anything. The right wing governments imagine they can use the Nazis – until the Nazis rise up and eat them. It is the nature of the beast.

Now, the fourth great truth about the Nazis is that if you look at it, Nazism is basically a religion drawn to an extreme. It takes the religious idea of faith in a deity and turns it into faith in an ideology, racialism; further, into faith into the official bearer and protector of that faith, the party, and, at the pinnacle of the party, the Leader. This Leader may be an individual actually present and leading, a Führer, like Hitler. It may be an individual who is deceased or never even existed, but to whom the official ideology is ascribed and to whose “teachings” it draws its roots. That teaching is never hidden; it is always held up to public view in such prominent fashion that most people take it as a joke, until too late.

In Hindunazism, for instance, these individuals are the late VD Savarkar and MS Golwalkar, (and, before them, the entirely mythical king Ram) – with their absolutist declaration that India belongs to the Hindus only, and that those of other religions can exist here only under sufferance, enjoying “nothing...not even human rights”. But the exemplar, the perfect icon of Nazism, who in fact declared his entire agenda in advance in Mein Kampf, was the original Führer, Adolf Hitler.

Hitler was a fascinating man in many ways, but possibly the most fascinating

aspect of his personality was his ability to draw the most complete and almost hypnotised support of the vast majority of the German people to his cause. This hypnotism was such that whatever statement or claim he made, no matter how outrageous, was considered the self-evident and received truth. Even in the last days, with his air force destroyed and his army shattered, with his enemies from east and west converging on the shattered ruins of his capital, he was still proclaiming to his (adopted – he was Austrian by birth) nation the inevitable victory of Germany and the triumph of his super-weapons. And somehow or other the remnants of the German army kept fighting until the last, and even after Hitler’s own suicide, his top officers kept the faith alive up to the final surrender.

As a corollary to this faith, it becomes natural to declare the Führer a god of the faith. And as any religion can attest, a god needs priests, and priests fight among themselves for favour and recognition – just as in the Christ myth the apostles debated among themselves which of them was the greatest. Unlike the common image of Nazism as a unitary, efficient machine, it is, like any religion, basically an agglomeration of competing fiefdoms, inefficient and wasteful, united only in the desire to find favour in the eyes of the Supreme Living Deity. And naturally everything the Supreme Living Deity does is right, simply because the Supreme Living Deity does it.

And, as a further extension of this logic, Nazism can never win. Even if it does manage some temporary military victories, it will ultimately fall apart because it will always have to either keep reinventing a strong, deity-like Führer – or else it will collapse because of infighting among all the deputies and acolytes of the original Führer after he departs the scene. As an ideology, therefore, Nazism comes with an inbuilt self-destruct mechanism.

But that will not stop the Nazis of today from launching their own racialist and imperialistic wars, and while we can forecast the broad course of what will happen afterwards – defeat and collapse – it will take a terrible toll of the victim peoples. Lebanon in 2006 was a prime example from recent times.

The very unreality of Nazism – and the fact that it operates in a cloud-cuckoo world of its own – is clear if you look at what happened with Hitler. Even as the Red Army advanced to within streets of his lair, and plaster rained down from the ceiling from shell explosions, he was still, in the last will and testament he was dictating, pressing on the German people their manifest destiny – to win territory in the East.
These people are dangerous lunatics – with the accent on the “dangerous”. This is why we should study them, and crush them before they can do any damage. If we don’t, then we’d better not ask for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for you and me.


(Addendum 3

It’s difficult, nowadays, living in India, to forget the second-most well-known comment of a certain extremely well-known, bearded nineteenth-century German Jew.

In order to understand what I’m going on about, it might be of some use to go back in time and revisit the Weimar Republic of Germany, in the 1920s and early 30s, that time of political, economic and social turmoil when the old order, shattered to pieces by the First World War, was reluctantly giving place to the new. Hyperinflation seared the economy; a loaf of bread might cost a billion Marks. Germany swarmed with political parties of the right and the left, and revolution was in the air.

There was Adolf Hitler, then Führer of the National Sozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiters Partei (NSDAP) – later to be infamous as the Nazi party; there was its street fighting arm, the roughnecks of the Sturm Abteilung (SA); there were all manner of right wing militias, which enjoyed the covert  support of the German state; organisations professing utter loyalty to the German nation, with names like the Oberland League and Kampfbund, armed, uniformed, and trained by the German Army, of which more anon; but which were not supposed to be part of any formal military force. These militias were primarily filled with ex-soldiers smarting from the defeat in the war, and looking for someone to blame. Their leaders were hysterically anti-Jewish, anti-Communist, and “nationalistic” to an extent that one normally doesn’t associate with sane individuals.

There was a German Government; democratically elected, but weak, effete, a crumbling agglomeration of individuals, most of whom were either out for the main chance, or else scheming for the formal restoration of the Kaiser’s monarchy; a government that, after the defeat of the Great War, had made itself utterly subservient to the dictates of the British and French victors, less a government in fact than an agency for the exertion of victor’s justice on the populace.

There was a Communist Party; inspired by the success of the Russian Communists in their recently concluded Civil War, it dreamt of its own Revolution of the proletariat, and had its own street brawlers; but which got no armaments or funding from any outside source, and was therefore of less effect as a fighting arm than its opponents. Like other Communist movements of the time, it dreamt of a world without borders, where the proletariat of different nations would live together without the intervention of the nation-state and artificial national boundaries. Accordingly, its opponents claimed that its loyalties lay with foreign agencies, not with the state.

There was a German Army, the Reichswehr, which was, by the Treaty of Versailles, forbidden to exceed 100,000 men (in those days of non-mechanised combat, a hundred thousand man army was paltry indeed) or have tanks or aircraft. This Reichswehr was staffed by officers who were allegedly non-political, but who were, like the police, riddled from top to bottom with right-wingers, monarchists, and Nazis.

The story of the Weimar Republic is instructive: it’s the story of how a national government can allow itself to be destroyed, through inaction and through its own complicity, and be replaced by a fascist dictatorship – simply because too many people chose to wait until too late or chose to look the other way.

The story of the Weimar Republic is also the story of the rise of the Nazi Party: for if the republic had responded promptly and effectively, Nazism could have been crushed, and the history of the last eighty-odd years would have been substantially different. Therefore we need to study the Weimar Republic primarily through the viewpoint of what the Nazis did to it and how it reacted.

Before I go any further: for the purposes of this post, I shall use the term “Nazi”. By this I don’t necessarily mean the party led by Adolf Hitler; as I said, Hitler was then the chief of the NSDAP, and apart from the NSDAP and its SA goons, there were many other militia of different shades of right wing ideology. In order to simplify things I shall refer to all of them collectively as the Nazis – and most of them eventually ended up as part of the Nazi party anyway.

Any fascist party, almost by definition, is a party of exclusion: it excludes anyone it deems to be the “other”; by reason of race, language, political affiliation or any combination of these, it identifies an ‘other” which it claims to be the Enemy. And, as a corollary, a fascist group speaks for (or, rather, on behalf of) the majority – which it identifies as “nationalism.”

For Hitler and the Nazis, then, the Enemy was threefold.

The first were the effete “traitors of November” who were allegedly responsible for the defeat in the Great War. Since these were primarily socialists and social democrats, ergo, they were responsible for the defeat (not the battlefield reverses, which, being soldiers and ex-soldiers, the Nazis could not bring themselves to admit).

The second lot of the Enemy were the Jews. Now the Jews were a readymade enemy, a sitting target one might call them. They were not – at least theoretically – Aryan Germans. They worshipped (again theoretically) a different deity. By and large, they were economically successful, an unpardonable sin in Nazi eyes for someone who was not a genuine German with rights, someone who remained an interloper even if he or she had ancestors living in Germany for centuries. And, since the Jews were economic competitors for the German capitalists and industrialists, the latter paid the Nazis to take on the Jews. Cosy arrangement, don’t you think?

The third set of enemies was the Communists. They were enemies on several levels. First, they were internationalists. I did say that the Nazis were ultranationalists. So the Communists, being suspected of extranational loyalties, were automatically the enemy. Then, of course, Communism is (at least in theory) the opposite of fascism in being inclusive – the enemy of the Communist is the class enemy, not the black or Jew or whatever. Thirdly, the Communists, being Communists, were also the enemy of the capitalist-industrialist group who were already paying off the Nazis against the Jews. And of course there were many Jewish Communists – unlike the Jews of Eastern Europe, the average German Jew was never particularly religious – so that was a double sin.

So what did the Nazis do? First, they set out to make themselves synonymous with the state. What the Nazis were, that was the nation. What the Nazis did, therefore, they did for the nation, and anyone opposing them was automatically an enemy of the nation. The Nazis understood all too well something that the Bush gang used much later. Wave the national flag, and the opposition will dutifully fall in line.

The Nazis had a powerful rallying point, the fact that what was indisputably German territory, the Rhineland, was under French occupation, and the Weimar Republic did doodly-squat to get it back.

And, naturally, the tone of the times meant that the Nazis had sympathisers literally everywhere. Even when they launched an open rebellion against the state, the tragicomic Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923, all that happened to the ringleaders was a temporary imprisonment. Nazi crimes were always never quite “crimes”; they were legitimate expressions of nationalistic outrage. The victims of the Nazis were always responsible for whatever happened to them; for whatever the Nazis did, they did for their love of the Nation. Including the pogroms, murders, bombs, and the like. The militarism and the worship of war as the highest state of being was all part of the same thing, as was the myth-making (such as the myth of the pure Aryan German superman, backed up by moronic “philosophy”).

And the Weimar Republic’s politicians watched. They either did nothing, or tried to counter the right wing politics of the Nazis by more right wing politics. While the nation reeled from the Great Depression, and the Nazis gained ground among the middle class, they played their little political games and allowed their soldiers to get ever more nazified under their very eyes. And so the Nazis came to power in 1933 by election, and they never let power go till the Second World War ended in their defeat in 1945.

I should mention that the Nazis had inspiration: the Fascists of Italy, cut from basically the same cloth, who took power in 1922 by rather more direct means than the Nazis did. The Fascisti launched a March on Rome and threatened civil war unless they were put in power. The King of Italy capitulated, and Fascist leader Benito Mussolini was made Prime Minister of Italy. I shall speak a little more about this in a moment.

Now to return to the comment of the famous German Jew I mentioned at the beginning of this article, when I, an Indian, look around, I see some worrying things.

The Weimar Republic had the Nazis. We in India have the Hindu Right, whom I call the Hindunazis. I call them the Hindunazis for many reasons, not least the fact that they openly admire and seek to emulate the Nazis. But there are so many other resemblances:

The Nazis had the Jew as the Enemy, the Other who would not integrate, who looked different and prayed different. The Hindunazis have the Muslims and increasingly, the Christians, who are Other, Foreign, don’t integrate, have different gods, and should be wiped out. As the Hindunazis say, “pehle kasai, phir isai” (first the Muslims, then the Christians) will be destroyed.

The Hindunazis also have their sights on the secular people, those who think that different religions should get along and that minorities have the same rights as the majority, just as the Nazis targeted the socialists.

And, naturally, the Hindunazis hate the Communists. The Communists are all, you know, Chinese agents. And the Chinese allegedly occupy Indian territory, so the Communists are Quislings and fifth columnists and enemies of the state.

Of course, right wingers everywhere always attract funding from capitalists and industrialists, because they think the right wingers will protect their interests. The German capitalists poured funds into the Nazi war chest; the Indian capitalists will pay off the Right.

Then we have the profusion of “patriotic Hindu organisations”, with names like Abhinav Bharat, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, and the like. These are basically gangs of armed goons who have repeatedly and viciously attacked and murdered people who are their “enemies”: Muslims, Christians, secularists, leftists, and so on. And just as whoever the Nazis declared as the enemy became the national enemy, because the Nazis were the Nation, so whoever the Hindunazis declare the enemy is the National Enemy. And Hindunazi violence is not just pardonable; it’s justifiable, even glorifiable, because it’s done for the Nation, often waving the Indian flag to establish that little fact.

And just as the Reichswehr and the police became riddled through and through with Nazis while the nation succumbed to incompetent government, corruption and stagflation, the Indian government is corrupt, incompetent, unstable, and seeking to counter the Hindunazis by competitive right wing policies. The Indian Army, on which I shall be writing another blog post in the near future, was supposedly non-political (I never believed it was, and in the army blog I shall state my reasons). But serving Indian Army officers are now being investigated for passing explosives on to the Hindunazis to make bombs with, and retired Indian Army officers run military training schools for them too. And when Hindunazis are actually found to be guilty of violence, the law works slow, slow, slow, or not at all.

And just as the hyperinflation-wracked Weimar Republic’s citizens looked for someone to blame, India’s people, with costs steadily rising, a collapsing social order, violence everywhere, a declining economy, a deteriorating environment, and so on, seek enemies to blame it all on; and like the Nazis, the Hindunazis have enemies ready to blame.

There are other similarities, too many to mention, but a few are:

*The Nazis wanted Lebensraum in Eastern Europe. The Hindunazis want the forcible capture of Pakistan.

*The Nazis and Hindunazis both rely on mythology to claim superior status, and both claim descent from “pure Aryan stock”.

*The Nazis and Hindunazis both worship violence as a weapon of first resort.

*The Nazis made the alleged burning of the Reichstag by the Communists a pretext to begin emergency rule and suspend the rule of law. The Hindunazis used terrorist bombings, more and more of which now turn out to be their own handiwork, to press for what amounts to emergency rule and suspension of the rule of law.

It’s unlikely that the Hindunazis will get to power in India on their own by electoral methods. When they were in power in the past, they had to rely on less right wing coalition partners who kept them somewhat in check. But they have been responsible for forcing a competitive rightwards shift in the political sphere, and if they succeed in suborning the army (by no means impossible), they might try a March on Delhi a la Mussolini. They might even get away with it.

Oh yes, Karl Marx was right. The only problem is that history this time round might just not repeat itself merely as farce.

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