Monday, 27 June 2011

JJ Ray: Hitler was a socialist debunked. Part Nine, "Discussing so called 'Objections' to his theory part 2"

Objection 2


This is the essay he's talking about. And if you haven't read it yet, it's best to do so before reading the rest of this post.

Modern day Leftists of course hate it when you point out to them that Hitler was one of them. They deny it furiously -- even though in Hitler's own day both the orthodox Leftists who represented the German labor unions (the SPD) and the Communists (KPD) voted WITH the Nazis in the Reichstag (German Parliament) on various important occasions -- though not on all occasions.

As explained elsewhere, Any Nazi/communist collaboration had machiavellian justifications, especialy against the Weimar democracy that they both detested. The Nazi voted against it from the Right, and the Communists voted against from the Left; It still remains that there were two entirely different sides and reasons behind it. And additionally the Nazis also marched lock step with the other right-wing parties like the Nationalists and the Stahlhelm. And the Nazis went against the expropriation referendum of 25/26. So when they had a chance to act in a real socialist manner, They actualy failed to do so. Both the SPD and the KDP supported passage of that referendum, the Nazis did not.

"Although the SPD and KDP both supported the referendum, the communists failed to create United Front committees, and the two parties conducted entirely separate campaigns." - Bernhard Fulda "Press and politics in the Weimar Republic", p121-122.

Anyway, lets talk about the main point here.

As part of that denial, an essay by the late Steve Kangas is much reproduced on the internet. Entering the search phrase "Hitler was a Leftist" will bring up multiple copies of it. Kangas however reveals where he is coming from in his very first sentence: "Many conservatives accuse Hitler of being a leftist, on the grounds that his party was named "National Socialist." But socialism requires worker ownership and control of the means of production". It does? Only to Marxists.

Er. Sorry, Socialism at it's most basic is indeed an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources, How you achieve this is of course, another matter. But the means of production in nazi Germany, ideologically consisted of Private property, and their economy made capitalism an adjunct of the state, as Ian Kershaw told us earlier.

"Whatever level of state intervention, it could be argued quite forcefully that belief in private property was central to fascist ideology, as [Roger] Eatwell states: the sympathetic reference to socialism did not mean that fascists accepted the abolition of private property. This was seen as a law of nature." - "The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right" p141.

Plus The Nazis never interfered with the profits made by such large German firms as Krupp, Siemens AG, and IG Farben. In fact...

"Nazi planning left business intact, from the great firms like IG Farben all the way down to small retailers and backstreet artisanal workshops" - Richard Evans, "The Third Reich in Power", p371.

Before anyone brings up dictionaries, one does not use a dictionary to find the meaning of important concepts and ideas, it's really only for spelling. we look for answers to rather complex concepts, in real academic books.

But let's have a look at the Dictionary definition for socialism anyway shall we?



[mass noun]

a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole

. Policy or practice based on this theory

. (In Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism

The term ‘socialism’ has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state Communism, and social democracy; however , it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammelled workings of the economic market. The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended towards social democracy.

Contrast this to what Zeev Sternhell says on p7-8 in his "The Birth of Fascist Ideology", which i have already quoted from. Any intervention in the Nazi economy was only for its military ends and had nothing to do with socialism. Nazi Germany; private ownership, private profits. Not socialism!

And perhaps one could consider Richard Overy, who never calls the Nazis socialist. He refers to Germany as having a dirigisme economy which is a form of capitalism, and Hitler a "reluctant dirigiste" at that because again he only wanted to control the parts of the economy that were related to war. See his book "War and Economy in the Third Reich", p2.

So Kangas is saying only that Hitler was less Leftist than the Communists -- and that would not be hard. Surely a "democratic" Leftist should see that as faintly to Hitler's credit, in fact.

No, Kangas is not saying that at all

At any event, Leonard Peikoff makes clear the triviality of the difference:

Contrary to the Marxists, the Nazis did not advocate public ownership of the means of production. They did demand that the government oversee and run the nation's economy. The issue of legal ownership, they explained, is secondary; what counts is the issue of CONTROL. Private citizens, therefore, may continue to hold titles to property -- so long as the state reserves to itself the unqualified right to regulate the use of their property.

Which sounds just like the Leftists of today.

And the German owner was still the master of his property, the system of regulation did not take over total control as Peikoff suggests. It's Just more of the same superficial Bullshit. If anything, the Nazi economy resembles more the modern day Japanese economy rather than anything else inherently modern leftist, as even a certain "Robert Locke" reminds us. Both Nazi Germany and Japan are Dirigisme capitalist economies, neither socialist.

Japan is something that is virtually impossible by definition within the frame of reference of neoliberal economics: a non-socialist state-directed system.  To over-simplify a bit, it is a centrally-planned capitalist economy.

Neoliberal economists are dimly aware of the fact that fascist and Nazi economics were centrally-planned but not socialist, but they tend to dismiss these economic systems because of the attendant political horrors and have made precious little effort to develop rigorous theoretical accounts of how they worked.  As we shall see, the Japanese [economic] system has achieved many of the things the fascists wanted.

But it must be stressed, just because they share economic similarities does not mean that modern day Japan is a Fascist or a Nazi state. It clearly isn't Totalitarian for one thing!

As to Peikoff himself, You'd think it be hard to make Bill O'Reilly look sane and rational, but he actualy manages to achieve just that

And just for the lols, Here's part of an amusing Conservative critique of him

"Peikoff, deriving all his intellectual inspiration from the corrupted sources of Rand's quasi-leftist view of human nature, is not fit to give advice on any important question of social policy [or History for that matter. My addition.]. Lacking any knowledge of the fundamentals of realpolitik, his proposals can only serve to distract the individual from confronting the real problems at issue. Randian idealism about human nature and morality is incapable of providing guidance in a world that is far different than either Rand or Peikoff imagines it to be. By following it in their own lives, Rand and Peikoff have brought ignominy and ruin upon themselves and their cause. We should all be wary of taking advice from anyone inspired by such polluted intellectual currents"

Some other points made by Kangas are highly misleading. He says for instance that Hitler favoured "competition over co-operation". Hitler in fact rejected Marxist notions of class struggle and had as his great slogan: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer" (One People, One State, one leader). He ultimately wanted Germans to be a single, unified, co-operating whole under him. 

The nazi regime operated a Working Towards the Führer concept, Nazi Germany was both a monocracy (rule of one) and polycracy (rule of many). Hitler held absolute power but did not choose to exercise it very much; the rival fiefdoms of the Nazi state fought each other and attempted to carry out Hitler's vaguely worded wishes and dimly defined orders by "Working Towards the Führer". and if that's not competition over co-operation, then i do not know what is. for more details, see Ian kershaw here, but i think the following quote sums up the idea well...

"Fritz Wiedemann, one of Hitler's adjutants, wrote that Hitler 'disliked the study of documents. I have sometimes secured decisions from him, even ones about important matters, without his ever asking to see the relevant files. He took the view that many things sorted themselves out on their own if one did not interfere.' The result was, in the words of Otto Dietrich, Hitler's press chief, that 'in the twelve years of his rule in Germany Hitler produced the biggest confusion in government that has ever existed in a civilized state.'

Nor does Hitler's daily routine at this time sound like that of a political workaholic. Fritz Wiedemann wrote, 'Hitler would appear shortly before lunch, read through the press cuttings prepared by Reich press chief Dietrich, and then go into lunch. When Hitler stayed at the Obersalzberg [the mountain in southern Bavaria on whose slopes Hitler built his house - the Berghof], it was even worse. There he never left his room before 2.00 p.m. Then he went to lunch. He spent most afternoons taking a walk; in the evening straight after dinner, there were films.'

Albert Speer, the architect who was to become the Nazi armaments minister, tells how, when Hitler was staying in Munich, there would be only 'an hour or two' a day available for conferences: 'Most of his time he spent marching about building sites, relaxing in studios, cafés and restaurants, or hurling long monologues at his associates, who were already amply familiar with the unchanging themes and painfully tried to conceal their boredom.' The fact that Hitler 'squandered' his working time was anathema to Speer, a man who threw himself into his work. 'When,' Speer often asked himself, 'did he really work?' The conclusion was inescapable: 'In the eyes of the people Hitler was the leader who watched over the nation day and night. This was hardly so.'

Hitler was not a dictator like Stalin who sent countless letters and orders interfering with policy, yet he exercised as much or more ultimate authority over the state and was at least as secure as a dictator. How was this possible? How could a modern state function with a leader who spent a great deal of time in his bedroom or in a café?

One answer has been provided by Professor Ian Kershaw in a careful study of a seemingly unimportant speech given by Werner Willikens, State Secretary in the Ministry of Food, on 21 February 1934. Willikens said:

"Everyone who has the opportunity to observe it knows that the Führer can hardly dictate from above everything he intends to realise sooner or later. On the contrary, up til now everyone with a post in the new germany has worked best when he has, so to speak, worked towards the Führer ... in fact it is the duty of everybody to try to work towards the Führer along the lines he would wish. Anyone who makes mistakes will notice it soon enough. But anyone who really works towards the Führer along his lines and towards his goal will certainly both now and in the future one day have the finest reward in the form of the sudden legal confirmation of his work." - Werner Willikens [State Secretary in the ministry of food], speech. 21 feb 1934.

'Working towards the Führer' suggests a strange kind of political structure. Not one in which those in power issue orders but one in which those at the lower end of the hierarchy initiate policies themselves within what they take to be the spirit of the regime and carry on implementing them until corrected. Perhaps the nearest example we have in British history occurred when Henry II is supposed to have said, 'Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?' and the barons rushed to Canterbury to murder Thomas à Becket. No direct order was given, but the courtiers sensed what would please their liege lord.

Professor Kershaw believes that the practice of 'working towards the Führer' is a key insight into understanding how the Nazi state functioned, not just in the 1930s, but also during the war, and is particularly relevant when examining the provenance of many of the administrative decisions taken in the occupied territories. It gives the lie to the excuse offered by some Nazis that they were just 'acting under orders'. Often, in fact, they were creating their own orders within the spirit of what they believed was required of them.

Nor does the idea of 'working towards the Führer' excuse Hitler from blame. The reason Nazi functionaries acted as they did was because they were trying to make an informed judgment about what Hitler wanted of them and, more often than not, the substance of their actions was retrospectively legitimized. The system could not have functioned without Hitler or without those subordinates who initiated what they believed were desired policies.
'Working towards the Führer' can be used to explain the decision-making process in many of those areas of domestic policy that Hitler, through temperament, neglected. Most political parties, for example, have a carefully conceived economic policy at the core of their manifesto. The Nazis did not. Indeed, one academic joked to me that the question, 'What was Hitler's economic policy?' was easy to answer -'He hadn't got one.' Perhaps that is unfair in one respect, for despite a lack of policy, Hitler always had economic aims. He promised to rid Germany of unemployment, and, less publicly trumpeted but, in his eyes, more important, to bring about rearmament. Initially he had only one idea how to achieve this and that was to ask Hjalmar Schacht, a former president of the Reichsbank and a brilliant economist, to 'sort it out'. Apart from rearmament and strengthening the army, Hitler had little detailed interest in domestic policies.
Surprisingly, for those who believe that a successful economy has to be guided by a political leader, in the short term Hitler's delegation of the economy to Schacht seemed to work. Schacht pursued a policy of reflation financed on credit, and alongside this implemented a work-creation programme based on compulsory work service for the unemployed." - Laurence Rees,"The Nazis: A Warning from History", p52 -55.

See also, Richard Evans...
"The Darwinian principles that animated the regime dictated that competition between companies and individuals would remain the guiding principle of the economy, just as competition between different agencies of state and party were the guiding principles of politics and administration." - Richard Evans, "The Third Reich in Power", p410.

Other claims made by Kangas are simply laughable: He says that Hitler cannot have been a Leftist because he favoured: "politics and militarism over pacifism, dictatorship over democracy". Phew! So Stalin was not political, not a militarist and not a dictator? Enough said.

He was, he was, he was which is why Kangas claims Stalin NOT to be a socialist! Notice how Ray doesn't actualy refute his arguments but instead repeats them?

In summary, then, Kangas starts out by defining socialism in such a way that only Communists can be socialists and he then defines socialism in a way that would exclude Stalin from being one! So is ANYBODY a socialist according to Kangas? Only Mr Brain-dead Kangas himself, I guess.

See last comment. Well me and Ray can agree Stalin exhibited a Totalitarian varient of Socialism, but where we disagree is that it doesn't mean Socialism itself is inherently totalitarian. As Kangas states...

"Socialism has been proposed in many forms. The most common is social democracy, where workers vote for their supervisors, as well as their industry representatives to regional or national congresses. Another proposed form is anarcho-socialism, where workers own companies that would operate on a free market, without any central government at all. As you can see, a central planning committee is hardly a necessary feature of socialism. The primary feature is worker ownership of production."

If you're interested, this by the way is what Kangas wrote about Soviet Union's supposed "socialist credentials"...

"The Soviet Union failed to qualify as socialist because it was a dictatorship over workers -- that is, a type of aristocracy, with a ruling elite in Moscow calling all the shots. Workers cannot own or control anything under a totalitarian government. In variants of socialism that call for a central government, that government is always a strong or even direct democracy… never a dictatorship. It doesn't matter if the dictator claims to be carrying out the will of the people, or calls himself a "socialist" or a "democrat." If the people themselves are not in control, then the system is, by definition, non-democratic and non-socialist."

So does Ray do a good job refuting Kangas? Not really!

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