Rant: Germany, Nazis, Historical Ignorance

Rant on

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.

Fascism: What it is, How to Fight it

What is National Socialism?

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18 thoughts on “Rant: Germany, Nazis, Historical Ignorance”

  1. Nazism was and always will be a working class movement, victimizing a few for your own benefit is not new 3rd way democrats have confused everything by conflating the open borders for capital with open borders for people, you give people to much credit to say that the social democrats didn’t support him and even the communists, it happened in france as well, if your are poor and oppressed you will betray your fellow if it means you think your children will have a better time of it(this is a purely narcissistic attitude) but about 70% of people are at best sociopath and all breeders are narcissists.

    Hitler promised a better life to most people and he delivered, between ’32 and 42 this should be paid attention to and if you want to make comparison to trump it may backfire because he will not deliver.

    I remember German anti-fascists that where here in TO in the early 90’s that repeatedly apologized to me, these where AFA people!! the only thing I could think to say to these 20 year old. was make sure it does not happen again, because it really was not their fault.

    OK if the opposition was really as widespread as you assert WWII would not have happened, if Communist and anarchist had been willing to suicide bomb, Hitler would have been dead at the beer hall attack, but we where not willing because people did not realize the threat partly because they thought they had real support form Russia, which they didn’t same with France and why they got so easily overrun, we are going again with the next generation of lePen

    You might consider that despite twitters apparent resistance relative to facefork, they are still agents of the state and should not be trusted in any way that provocateurs will attack and try to harm people, Peter teil has demonstrated that there are no lengths to which the people that control the world will not go to destroy people they don’t like no matter the cost, because their welfare is so large no cost is to much

    I’m stopping making sense and stopping because I am also ranting, my points are valid if you can make them out

  2. Is the 2 min warning new? i never noticed it before but I have to say it great.

  3. skzb – when you write “waiting by the millions for … a signal that didn’t come until it was too late.” Are you referring to Moscow having directed the Communist Party to prioritize destruction of the Social Democrats? Given that the KPD usually polled between 10 and 15%, would it have made any difference?

  4. Oneil: “Are you referring to Moscow having directed the Communist Party to prioritize destruction of the Social Democrats?” Yes. The whole reactionary nonsense of “social fascists.” That, combined with the Social Democratic breaking their backs to hold back their own forces, and the refusal of them both to unite against Hitler.

    ” Given that the KPD usually polled between 10 and 15%, would it have made any difference?”

    Almost certainly, given that it wasn’t a question of polling (after all, Hitler lost the election), but of armed insurrection, and millions of those who followed the Social Democrats were equally ready for action.

  5. just another easterner” I follow you, but you are wrong. Fascism is always based on the petty bourgeoisie. As it becomes a mass movement, and as the working class leadership fails to show any spine, yes, it will drag along a section of the most backward workers, but they are never more than a drop in the ocean. Follow the links at the bottom of the OP.

  6. great links. funny how all of this somehow slipped through the cracks of my public high school education.

  7. Sorry your not understanding what I am saying and I was certainly unclear, the basis of all class struggle is capital, all political movements organized around capital whether they are workers movements as National socialism certainly was put capital at there center, but the power came from the workers, the socialists where to busy waiting for stalin and the democratic socialists where the same traitorous petty bourgeoisie they where in spain, and are now, no one organized against him, I mention the beer hall attempt because if he had been willing to walk up to hitler and embrace him with a bomb vest instead of planting it on a timer, wwii would never have happened but people that where conscious, where to filled with authoritarianism (stalin for the socialists or fascism for the democratic socialists), Trotsky was a communist that is why he rejected stalin and was assassinated by him.

    Hitler was primarily funded buy actual capitalists but the power of his movement came from the working class who’s lives where being destroyed and where being offered nothing by either the socialists or the democratic socialist , this sounds familiar, if the socialists had not been such weakling and been willing to organize actual revolution during the Weimar Republic and not allowed themselves to be blocked in 1919, Hitler would have had nothing to grab on to, and he really did make many germans lives better, that is why many many still supported nazism even after the war, hence the apologies from the AFA people because in the early 90’s there where still many people that still supported hitler, probably still are today if you look at how the troika treated greece.

    Sorry rant off(or maybe ramble off)

    All class warfare assumes there are classes, classes are a function of the state, eliminate the state, well you might be a communist, or in more common parlance an anarchist(ducks and runs)

  8. I understand, I just disagree. Nazism, the fascists of Mussolini, those of Horthy, and Franco, were never working class movements, they were petty-bourgeois and lumpen in their bulk and in their program (until gaining power, of course, at which time the program immediately became bourgeois). And the state did not create classes; private property creates classes, and the state then comes into existence to protect private property.

    But to claim that the bulk of Hitler’s support came from the German working class is worse than historical ignorance, it is slander.

  9. Franco is an outlier and never had any support except for american and german fascists, but in spain again socialists where waiting for stalin, and as I said the democratic socialists where traitorous and stabbed both the socialists and the anarchists in the back.

    You can argue that somehow hitlers support was primarily from the lumpen proletariat but that can only be argued if you a) assume they are somehow different from the proletariat and b) you assume that if they where they where not fallen given the grievously high unemployment at the time, I mean would you argue that 50% of the US population during the depression was lumpen proletariat and there for defective and libel to become nazis? would you say that the IWW was full of nazis because they primarily recruited and stood for the lumpen proletariat?.

    The power for all Hitler and Mussolini where both certainly grounded in a working class nationalism that drew on the mythology of rome in both cases(though hitler invented another mythology to reenforce it ) and the idea not the actuality of democratic rule, and the literal reestablishment of rome with Mussolini.

    as for Horthy I can’t really address him because I just don’t know enough but my impression is he was like franco he was given an opportunity by the germans and took it, and was then supported by the US and other western powers after the war.

    Class cannot exist without the state, property in any abstract sense cannot exist without the state and it has always been enforced by violence, and land property that you do not work yourself is abstract property, any amount for rent seeking must be enforced by the state, well that is the basis of aristocracy that is class.

    I don’t agree that the working class in Germany didn’t support hitler, I don’t think that is supported by actions and hitler didn’t wait to get into power to be supported by the bourgeois, gandpa bush and many many others that supported there party throughout the late 20’s and 30’s say otherwise, IBM, many banks and most of the corporations in gemany where in far before they took power, but the people the real power where the ones that didn’t say no, they are the brown shirts that marched, they turned there fellows in to the SS they are the ones that fought the war. They didn’t have to, there is an archive(I don’t have a link at the moment) to the raw reports to the SS and it’s informative, it’s lots of betrayal and it’s betrayal you don’t see from northern Ireland, or south africa , it happened in the south during the civil war and you see it now in the US.

    OK I’m going far afield, more rant(ramble off)

  10. I want to suggest that this is an example of things that evolve together. The european national state and capitalism grew up at the same time, interacting, co-evolving. Neither of them would be the way they are today without the other. Either of them might exist in some very different form without the way they have been warped together.

    It’s like cattle and grass. They evolved together. Grass has silica that wears away teeth and cattle have special teeth to handle that. Cattle trample vegetation, and grass has special adaptations that let it recover quickly from being trampled. Etc. A marriage made in heaven. in the places where they win, cattle kill the other plants and other animals can’t eat grass. They create the environment for each other.

    It’s no use arguing whether the state creates capitalism or capitalism creates the state. There’s no cheese at the end of that tunnel.

  11. Stephen- to extend the benefit of the doubt, Trotsky is not the only historian to examine the rise of Nazism. For the last 40 odd years, a great deal of attention has been given to revisionist theories that underplay the support of the elite that benefited the Nazis and to try to tie them more closely to the working class. All part and parcel with the “Dangers of Populism” meme that we have been debating in other threads.

    The working class is not to be trusted because it is ignorant and easily swayed. Con men rise up and offer workers their hearts’ desires and like sheep they follow. Some historians have even tried to paint Hitler as a working class reformist. I’m not sure how you can reconcile the idea that he was improving the lot of the working man while employing slave labor on industrial scales, but some capitalist apologists manage.

  12. We can see this same message of “it’s the working class–populism, not the elites” playing out in real time. Many have labeled Trump a populist but every study I have seen indicates that his support is mostly white middle to upper class. There are a lot of people in this demographic who are very much willing to be persuaded that they are the downtrodden but the actual numbers don’t bear this out. Blaming problems on other people is a classic fascist tactic.
    From his actions (Goldman Sachs bankers and multi-millionaires everywhere) it can be seen where his actual support has come from all along.

  13. The thing with Nazism is it was a coalition between (roughly) generals, shopkeepers and farmers. These have little objectively in common, so it was necessary to make up a fantasy narrative that seemed to be serving all of their interests (i.e. invade Russia, farm their land, use the cover of the war to kill Jews and sell their stuff).

    Once the narrative really took off, losing touch with reality, all kinds of people could join it for it’s own sake. it was no longer necessary to have a relevant class interest; being in a particular class is itself a fact that you have to accept to act on.

    In the face of mass propaganda and intimidation backing it, the question was not what class you objectively were, but what class the fantasy let you aspire to.

    A landowner? A rich man? A hero? If you were Aryan, you got to choose.

  14. And, once Hitler had cannily manuevered his way into complete power, those who criticized the regime (or had done so in perceived safer times) were rounded up, disappeared, or sometimes murdered outright in broad daylight.

  15. SKZB

    Sure if you want to partially quote me and remove all context
    as for everyone else, in what part of what I said made you think that the middle or contemplative classes or the capitalist class where not responsible for nazism?

    was it where I said “…hitler didn’t wait to get into power to be supported by the bourgeois, gandpa bush and many many others that supported there party throughout the late 20’s and 30’s say otherwise, IBM, many banks and most of the corporations in gemany where in far before they took power,…”

    Fascism is state capitalism, but fascism overlaps with socialism which is what people can see as a short term solution to the desperate plight that they live in.

    The working class in germany did support hitler and no amount of socialist realism will change that, to believe that propagandists and state violence does not exist is to live in a weird world where there is class war but no effect so that people have absolute free choice, there would have been consequences but like the nazis burned the parliament the socialist and the democrats could have said no, with there bodies with there minds,

    deka denken sind frei

    and free men will cry

    deka denken sind frei

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