Wednesday, November 17, 2021

No, Hitler Wasn't a Socialist - Nor Was Trump!

While the term "Nazi" stood for "National Socialism" the Nazis had little to do with Socialism other than to hijack the name for their own purposes.

Labels are just that - labels.  In some parts of the world, the "Liberal" party is actually conservative, while "Labor" represents industry.  Republicans back in the 1800's were against slavery and represented Northern industrial concerns, while Democrats were from the South wanted to preserve their "peculiar institution" and later fought for Jim Crow. Over the years, they have largely swapped political positions.

The reality of politicians is (act shocked) that they will do whatever it takes to get elected and stay in power.  If they see a parade outside their door, they get out in front of it.  This is how prohibition came to be, as well as the resurgence of the KKK in the 1920's.  It is how the McCarthy "Red Scare" era came - and went so quickly.  Recall that both Nixon and Kennedy jumped on that bandwagon as it drove past.

People have been trying, in recent years, to rehabilitate Hitler - or, if that fails, to label their political opponents with his name.  Actually, they have been trying this for years. People deny the holocaust happened, or trivialize the extent of it.  Even among its victims, there is tension.  I recounted before how back in the 1980's, they tried to put a small monument - the size of a headstone - with a pink triangle on it - at Auschwitz, to commemorate the gays who were murdered there.  A group of orthodox rabbis protested, saying that Auschwitz should only be a memorial for the innocent victims of the holocaust.  Yea, fuck orthodox rabbis.  Or orthodox anyone for that matter - narrow-mindedness knows no religious boundaries, worldwide.

As part of this rehabilitation, many argue that Hitler was a "man of the people" and a "Socialist."  He helped Germany recover from the great depression and the injustices of the Versailles treaty!  He couldn't help it that the Allies forced him into war!  If you want to believe that, you probably believe that Mussolini made the trains run on time. In reality, Italian trains have never run on time, and Mussolini's "black shirts" were just a collection of petty criminals and grifters who ran the country into the ground.

Yes, it is true that early on in the Nazi era, they built the world's largest hotel as a worker's vacation resort.  And yes, they built cruise ships so the "workers" could take a Volksvacation.  And yes, the Volkswagen car was conceived as a "worker's" car that they would drive on the new Autobahns.  And maybe if Hitler had left it at that, the world would be a different place today.  But the reality was, the worker's hotel was never finished (and indeed, sat partially abandoned until fairly recently) before the war, and the cruise ships never made many cruises before they were taken for war use.  Few Volkswagens were built before the war and fewer workers ever bought any.  And the autobahns were used mostly for moving troops and later on as ad-hoc airfields.

Nazis dabbling in socialism sort of ended there. Worker's unions were nationalized and strikes were basically outlawed.  This was not a party of the workers, but of the industrialists. The Nazi government was a grifter's government, where each party official tried to make off with as much loot as they could - often literally, after they invaded other countries.

I recently read a book which drove home this point about a black marketeer in France who supplied the Kreigsmarine with materials. He became one of the richest people in France before the end of the war, and even though he was Jewish, was protected by the military because he helped them loot the country.  Luxury goods, artwork, champagne, food, whatever - it all got shipped back to Germany, where it was sold to consumers and the profits pocketed by German officials and officers - and France was made to pay for the goods as well!

This guy made a fortune from the Nazis - helping them make even more.

Of course, this was not a sustainable business model - nor a very efficient one.  It was doomed to fail, eventually, as they ran out of stuff to loot. Sure the big German industrial concerns, such as Krupps, were making lots of money supplying war materials, but when the bombs started falling on the factories, those profits went right up in smoke. In the waning days of the war, Hitler declared that everything of value in Germany should be destroyed, as the German people had failed him and didn't deserve anything better but to suffer.

That's not Socialism - not even close.  It was Fascism, plain and simple.  And what is odd is that the very same people who a few years ago were trying to rehabilitate Hitler's reputation as the guy who built autobahns, are now trying to paint the far-left as Nazis.  The "Hitler wasn't so bad" canard didn't fly, apparently, so their new strategy is to say, "Oh yea? well you're more like Hitler than we are!"  It comes down to schoolyard taunting.

Of course, there is a marked difference between a dictator who takes power through brute force and an elected Socialist government that nationalizes health care. One is elected, the other not.  I am not saying I am in favor of "big government" but an elected government is preferable to a military junta or a coup d'√Čtat.  What these self-proclaimed patriots are saying, in effect, is that since they don't like the decisions that an elected government might make in the future, we should abolish all elections and appoint Trump for life.  And on January 6th, we came very close to that - closer than many people would think.  Maybe it had all the slapstick comedy of the Beer Hall Putsch or maybe it was closer to the Reichstag fire.   Make no mistake, it isn't hard to figure out who is closer to Nazism on the political spectrum.

The screwy thing about it all was that Hitler proclaimed he was fighting Communism or "Bolshevism" which like "National Socialism" claimed to be all about the workers, but quickly devolved into a dictatorship indistinguishable from that of Hitler's.  In fact, once the war against Germany was over, the West went to war - a cold war - against Russia. Hitler thought that the West would unite with him against the Communists, but the reality was, his interests and tactics were more akin to Stalin's than Roosevelt's.

And no, Stalin wasn't a Socialist - or even a Communist - but a brutal dictator who murdered millions - as was Mao.  None actually served the people they claimed to be trying to help.  They served their own interests first - acquiring power and brutally keeping it.  Communism sucks - mostly because it quickly becomes a dictatorship.

So what is up with this latest effort to reform Hitler - or to make him appear to be a Leftist instead of a Rightist?  Well, it is complicated, and like anything else there is a small nugget of truth to it, obscured by layers of politcal bullshit.  If you can't reform Hitler's reputation, then smear your opponents with it!  It is a neat political play, oddly coming from a party who worships one man in a cult of personality.

As I noted at the start of this piece, political parties are just labels - and labels can change and change rapidly.  Prior to the 2016 election, the term "Fake News" was being used by the Left to discredit such media "outlets" as "Infowars" as well as the use of rumors and conspiracy theories on the Internet.  Trump co-opted this term to mean anything from the mainstream news media or "MSM" which itself became kind of a dirty word among his supporters.  Even today, there is a small but loud minority of people who simply refuse to believe anything they see in the mainstream media, unless it is on Fox News (and even they are on probation!).

So labels like "Communist" or "Socialist" or "Democracy" mean little or nothing, as no country in the world has yet to practice real Communism or Socialism or Democracy - which is probably a good thing.  A central committee directing the "workers" who "own the means of production" would be an unmitigated disaster - and was, to the extent it was tried.  Similarly, if everyone was put on the dole, no one would work (as we have seen time and time again, worldwide).  And direct Democracy - where everyone votes on everything?  That fails, as Heinlein noted, when everyone realizes they can vote themselves a raise.  The fiasco of ballet propositions in California (and other States) have illustrated why direct Democracy doesn't work - and why our "founding fathers" never envisioned such a nightmare.

What some argue we need, is a strong-man dictator to "get things done!"  No more pussy-footing around with the bill of rights (other than the 2nd Amendment, of course - and the first, but only applied to Facebook and Twitter!).  We need a guy who will kick ass and take names!  You know, someone like... Hitler.  So you see how silly this all is - they try to paint the Left as Nazis, but what they really want is a dictator of their own.  Maybe both sides - at least the extremists - want that.  A dictator of their own.  And it will be a good thing if neither side gets one.

Yes, it is frustrating that it seems nothing ever gets done or done well.  And the media likes to harp on this -with stories about government waste and inefficiency, or police abuse, or corruption in high places.  Surely there has to be a better way of getting things done!

The reality of our present governmental system is that, while horribly inefficient, noisy, and prone to breakdown, it actually combines the best aspects of all these various forms of government.  We have a social safety net - or nets - in the forms of various government social programs that are not always easy to qualify for (nor should they be) and often have a "work requirement".   We have elections which can roust parties from power, if enough people are disgusted enough, as they were when Nixon left office or in November of 2020 (and again on January 7th of 2021).  But it is also a system which allows a President to push through policies like a strong-man dictator, but with limitations.  And the inertia of the "Deep State" as Trump called it, act as a flywheel to sudden change.  It's not a bad little clockwork, this Constitution the forefathers cobbled together, despite its many alleged flaws.

Some people put this up against the mythical ideal of a "perfect" government, that always does the right things all the time (and what are the right things depends on who you are talking to!).  And of course, our government comes up lacking, as this mythical perfect government used in comparison is a myth.  "If only..." they say, "We could change this one thing!" then the world would be perfect.  And what that "one thing" is again, depends on who you are talking to.  Outlaw abortion.  Legalize marijuana.  Elect Trump-for-life.  Guaranteed annual income.  Forgive student loan debts.  Free College.  Whatever - usually the "just one thing" is something that profits the speaker personally and also has a snowball's chance in hell of being enacted.

So what's the point?  Well, first that labels are meaningless and misdirection.  In the name of a better world, many liberals embraced eugenics back around the turn of the Century. Fascists embraced genocide instead.  Whenever one side gets absolute power, it corrupts absolutely.

And this is what worries me, as our economy seems to be on the verge of.... well, something.  Perhaps just a stag-flation malaise like we had in 1979, or perhaps a full-blown depression as in 1929.  An economy hollowed-out with debt, and an international economy about the same, particularly in China.  Will we succumb to easy answers and hand over our hard-fought system of government to people who, well, are basically blithering idiots?

I hope not.  But we'll just have to wait and see.