You never know what Twitter will do with a casual remark. Yesterday, just because it was on my mind, I tweeted this:
My favorite line from Captain America: “People forget that the first country the Nazis invaded was their own.”
I guess it struck a chord, because it kind of took off; it seems other people had been thinking the same thing. But the part of that quote that gets the emphasis in my head is, “People forget.”
And, sure enough, someone had to jump in with a comment to the effect that the quote seemed to excuse the Germans. And there you have it: historical ignorance in the service of reaction. It does not seem to matter to this person that “the Germans” were divided into classes, a petty bourgeoisie and a lumpen-proletariat that rushed to Hitler’s banner, a bourgeoisie that financially supported him, and proletarians that were prepared for any sacrifice to stop him. It doesn’t matter to this person that many of these Germans whom he wishes not to be “excused” were heroic fighters, waiting by the millions for a signal from the Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) or the Communist Party ( Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands)—a signal that didn’t come until it was too late. But yes, blame “the Germans.” It doesn’t matter that Hitler was so hated by the working class that, as late as 1936 there were major industrial cities he didn’t dare enter, because they couldn’t guarantee his safety. Hell, it doesn’t seem to matter to this person that many of these Germans were Jewish! They were Germans, and let us, by all means, not excuse them.
If there is no scientific understanding of the class basis of Nazism, if we view racism and xenophobia apart from the class interests they serve, if we do not think things through, we will find no way forward.