Germany and the U.S. Empire (Pt. 3)
I don’t normally comment on current events unless they are connected to economic events or theories of capitalist economic crises. However, the terrorist acts in Paris that led to the deaths of at least 130 civilians and the injuring of scores of others forces an exception.
I deplore the deaths of civilians in Paris whose only crime was enjoying a night of partying, drinking and music, a “crime” I have been guilty of myself. This follows the terrorist attack in Beirut and the apparent bombing of a Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt causing the deaths of 224 passengers. All these acts seem to be the work of supporters of the Islamic State, also called ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.
The media has shown much more concern about the mostly white Western European victims in Paris than they have for the victims on the Russian plane, not to speak of the victims of Islamic State terror attacks in the Muslim countries such as the recent attack in Beirut. But bad as the carnage caused by the terrorist acts organized or encouraged by the Islamic state have been, it pales before the much greater number of civilians that are being killed not only in Syria but in many other countries being attacked by U.S. imperialism and its satellites such as France.
Even if we count the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Twin Towers attack on September 11, 2001—also innocent bystanders whose only “crime” was showing up at work at the World Trade Center in New York that day—the total number of civilians killed by individual or small-group terrorist actions such as those carried out by the Islamic State or al-Qaeda is still dwarfed by the number of dead resulting from the terrorist war against terror waged by the U.S. government, Israel and the Empire’s imperialist satellite states against the peoples of the Muslim world and beyond. Are the lives of white Parisians more valuable than of “brown” Syrians, Iraqis or Palestinians? I say no! Black and Brown lives matter just as much!
It is also worth noting that the “war on terror” launched by George W. Bush and continued under President Obama has been joined with great enthusiasm by the French government. Paris is hoping the U.S. will allow France to once again become the colonial master in all but name of Syria.
The war on terror is itself being waged with terrorist methods. That is, the government of the U.S. and its satellites are using methods of warfare that in the past were associated with individual and small-group terrorist acts. One famous example is the assassination of Crown Prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie by Serbian nationalist terrorists in June 1914.
In the late 19th century, several Russian czars were assassinated by Russian populist terrorists. In contrast, in the traditional warfare waged by states against other states, individual leaders of the state were not targeted. These days, however, the U.S. government and its satellites including the French government of France are targeting leaders just like the individual terrorists of old. But with this difference. Unlike the traditional terrorists, the leaders of the U.S. government and its satellites command the most powerful state machines of repression and violence in all human history.
For example, in violation of all international law the U.S. government handed over President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was a prisoner of war, to his executioners. Similarly, Colonial Qaddafi of Libya was murdered after which then-U.S. Secretary of State and now the Democratic Party front-runner for the presidential nomination paraphrased the ancient Roman dictator Julius Caesar with “we saw, we conquered, he died.”
This statement clearly signaled approval of Qaddafi’s murder without even the pretext of a trial. The message was that any head of government who dares resist the Empire will face death at the hands of imperialism—either officially (the case with Saddam Hussein) or unofficially by assassins (the case with Colonial Qaddafi).
For many decades, the U.S. government has carried out assassinations of heads of government and other political leaders it doesn’t approve of as an instrument of policy. Among the heads of state murdered was General Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Trujillo was a brutal dictator who had for many years been a loyal servant of Washington. But in 1961, Washington decided that he had outlived his usefulness and had him killed, much like a Mafia “godfather” orders the killing of a former ally who is no longer useful.
And then there was the assassination of a truly great leader by agents of the U.S. world empire, the Congo’s Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, a tragic loss whose effects are felt to this day. There were many attempts by the U.S. government to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, all of which fortunately failed.
I will also mention the 2,000 to 6,000 deaths that occurred in Panama in 1989 when the U.S. government took it upon itself to arrest the Panama leader General Manuel Noriega because a U.S. grand jury had indicted him on “drug trafficking” charges. Noriega’s real crime in Washington’s eyes was that he attempted to follow a somewhat independent policy not entirely to the liking of U.S. imperialism.
In order to arrest Noriega, thousands of Panamanian citizens were killed, probably more than the casualties in the 9/11 Twin Tower terror attack, even ignoring the huge difference between the populations of the United States and Panama. Noriega was then flown to the United States where he served decades in U.S. prisons.
Imagine what would happen if Russia or China, for example, landed troops in Washington, D.C., killing thousands of U.S. citizens in order to seize the U.S. president and then flew him or her to Beijing or Moscow, tried him or her for violations of Russian and Chinese laws and sentenced him or her to decades in prison. And they explained that they had to do this because some judicial body in either Beijing or Moscow had charged the U.S. president with violating some Chinese or Russian law.
I also have to mention the CIA’s infamous “Operation Phoenix” program, which targeted Vietnamese resistance leaders personally for assassination. Another example would be the U.S. handing over of lists of members of the Communist Party of Indonesia that its intelligence agencies maintained to the Suharto regime butchers in 1965.
A textbook example of individual terror is provided when U.S. President Obama sitting in the White House determines who will be killed by computer-controlled drones without benefit of trial or any judicial procedure whatsoever. This makes a mockery of any principle of bourgeois democracy or indeed any concept of the rules of war. Very often to kill one alleged terrorist, many civilians including children have been killed. At the same time, though it is now clear that Bush, Cheney and Co. lied about Iraq, the U.S. government has made no move to bring these lying war criminals to trial whose crimes have caused a death toll dwarfing those killed by the terrorist attacks of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and all other individual and small-group terrorists of all ideologies put together in all of history.
These terrorist polices pursued for decades by the U.S. government and its satellites in the absence of mass revolutionary struggle inevitably provoke acts of small-group and individual terrorism in response. Indeed, Osama bin Laden began his own career as a terrorist leader by working for the U.S. empire in Afghanistan against the people of that long-suffering country before he turned against it and founded al-Qaeda, which then carried out many small-group terror attacks including the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers.
It seems that none of the persons involved in the Paris attacks came from Syria. But since ISIS controls some Syrian territories and cities, the impression is created in the media that the attacks in Paris represent an attack by Syria against the people of France. Similarly, the 9/11 attacks were pictured as an attack by Afghanistan against the United States, though none of the people involved in the 9/11 attacks came from Afghanistan. Just like 9/11 was used as an excuse by the Bush administration to invade and occupy Afghanistan, the attacks in Paris are being used as an excuse to support stepped-up bombing of Syrian cities and towns that are under the control of the Islamic State. The French government has already carried out massive bombing raids on the Syrian city of Raqqa on the excuse that it is currently controlled by the Islamic State.
All this follows a massive campaign that began in 2011 against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. This includes the arming and training by the CIA of “moderate rebels” operating in Syria who often use terrorist methods of struggle. The campaign also includes demands by U.S. President Barack Obama that the Syrian president step down and play no further role in Syrian politics. This is in direct violation of a basic principle of bourgeois democracy in international relations, the right of nations to self-determination.
Completely lost in the imperialist propaganda around Syria is the principle that only the Syrian people have the right to decide what form of government they should have and who should lead the government of Syria. The people of Syria alone have the right to determine the fate of President Bashar Assad and his Baath Party or any other Syrian politician or political party. The principles of bourgeois democracy, not to speak of Marxism, demand nothing less.
Realistically, in the conditions that now prevail in Syria, created by massive U.S. and French intervention in its internal affairs, especially since 2011, the decision of the deeply divided Syrian people on what form and who should lead their government can probably not occur through fair, peaceful, democratic elections among the contending Syrian parties.
But again, that is a matter for the Syrian people to decide, not the government of the U.S. or the government of France, Syria’s former and would-be future enslaver, or even the governments of Russia, Iran, China or any other country. If Syria has a government that has not come to power through “fair and free elections” and is dictatorial, this is no excuse for the U.S. government, France, the “international community,” or the United Nations to step in. The principle of self-determination applies regardless of the nature of the government of a given country.
Should we have called in 2000 for an invasion and occupation of the United States by troops from the “international community” because the Republican Party through its control of the Supreme Court managed to install its defeated presidential candidate George W. Bush illegally as president of the United States?
No, that was a concern of the people of the U.S. And as it turned out, the U.S. people in their majority did not feel it was worth the effort that would have been necessary to build a mass movement to enforce the victory of Democratic candidate Albert Gore. In reality, no government is less democratic than one imposed by a foreign power. This is especially true of the governments imposed by the U.S. world empire-controlled “international community” and its various organizations such the United Nations Security Council.
My attitude toward individual and small-group terror
As all Marxists have always been, I am opposed to individual or small-group terror attacks such as those carried in Paris, Beirut, and various countries of central Africa, or the bombing on the Russian plane and the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. First, I deplore the loss of lives of civilians who are the targets of these terrorist attacks. The deaths of these civilians, who presumably held a wide range of political views, in no way advanced the struggles of oppressed nations or classes for liberation.
Second, such attacks only strengthen the forces of reaction. It is obvious that the far right-wing and neo-fascist parties that have been gaining ground due to the economic stagnation following the crisis of 2008 have benefited to one degree or another in all countries. Islamophobic demagogues in the rest of the world, including “our own” Donald Trump, are drooling at the thought of the political gains they expect to realize as a result of the Paris attacks.
In addition, the repressive “security forces” of the imperialist states have launched a major new campaign against the freedom and privacy of Internet communications. There are also growing demands by these organizations for all software used in encrypted communications to include “back doors” allowing the governments and their secret political police to listen in.
There is another reason for opposing the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Africa and elsewhere. In the minds of not a few of the oppressed masses of the Muslim, and not only the Muslim, world, these terrorists may appear as heroes. Unlike those who carry out terrorist attacks by pressing keys on computer consoles without facing the slightest personal danger, suicide bombers carry out their terrorist acts with no hope of personal survival.
This is not how criminals out for personal gain, or cowards, act. Their self-sacrificing actions—they make the ultimate sacrifice, after all—encourage the masses of oppressed people to look toward individual heroes for salvation. Since today’s individual and small-group terrorist attacks are often carried out by religious groups such as ISIS, these actions further encourage oppressed people to look to supernatural forces like an almighty god for salvation.
The idea here is that the sacrifice of a few can atone for the sins of the many and therefore bring salvation from God, who will then respond by intervening to save his people. In reality, no individual or small group of individuals, or nonexistent beings like God, can bring salvation to the oppressed. Only the oppressed can do this, and they can do this only by involving everyone—men, women, young and old—in mass struggle, both peaceful and armed. Isn’t this the lesson of Vietnam’s victory against first the French imperialists backed by U.S. imperialism and then U.S. imperialism directly?
A practical suggestion to combat terror
I want to make a practical suggestion that I think can greatly reduce the danger of new terrorist attacks such as occurred in Paris, Beirut and other cities and the senseless loss of innocent lives they entail. In 2003, as George W. Bush and Tony Blair moved to launch their unprovoked invasion of an already devastated and disarmed Iraq, millions of people were in the streets of New York, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, Rome and other imperialist capitals demanding no war on Iraq!
In those days, we saw no individual or small-group terrorist attacks. But most of the people who engaged in these action became discouraged and went home when the war went ahead anyway. Anti-war demonstrations have become smaller and smaller, and in many countries, including the United States, they have virtually ceased altogether.
Let’s get back on to the streets! Let’s show the young women and men of the Muslim world and other young people driven to despair by the world imperialist economy and deliberate destruction of their countries by the Empire that there is another path! A path of mass struggle, unlike individual or small-group terror attacks aimed at civilian bystanders, can actually win. That is the lesson of Vietnam!
We must show the people of the oppressed nations that they have allies in the imperialist countries, much like we showed them during the days of the war against Vietnam and more recently in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq by Bush and Blair.
They must see that they have allies among the “pagans”—nonbelievers, of which I number myself, Jews and “Crusaders” (Christian believers)—in their struggle against the murderous criminal—and yes, terrorist—policies of the imperialist governments from Israel to France headed by the greatest terrorist criminals of all, those who control the U.S. government. If we do that, the dangers of more terrorist attacks will be greatly reduced.
I am now writing about the descent of Germany—the land of poets and philosophers from Kant to Hegel, of Heine and Goethe, of Einstein and other great scientists whose number is too great to list here, and last but not least Marx and Engels—into barbarism followed by physical and moral ruin. I want to end with a statement of one of Germany’s greatest sons, Karl Liebnechkt.
In the dark days of 1914, the imperialist media of that day were whipping up national hatred and war hysteria just like they are doing today in the wake of the Paris attacks. The majority of the leadership of the German Social Democratic Party enlisted in the war—headed by the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Field Marshall Eric Ludendorff, Hitler’s future mentor—against the Russian czarist autocracy.
In reply to these treacherous leaders, Karl Liebneckt declared, “The main enemy is at home!” Today, we can add that the greatest terrorist murderers of unarmed civilians sit in the Elysees Palace, the Pentagon, and above all in the White House. Imperialism, not the Islamic State or other similar terrorist groups, is the main enemy!
Down with the terrorist war on terror! Down with Islamophobia! Welcome all refugees driven from their countries by the terrorist war on terror! Victory to the liberation struggles of the people of Syria, Iraq, Palestine from the river to the sea, and all the oppressed peoples of South Asia, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa! Only a world free of national oppression and class oppression can be a world free of violence and terror.
— Sam Williams
The ‘Great War’ and the origins of German fascism
The class conflicts of capitalist society extend into the armed forces. This is especially true in times of all-out war. During all-out wars such as World Wars I and II, much of the population, including the working class, is organized and armed. The top commanding stratum of the army—the commissioned officers—are recruited from the ranks of the large landowners (1) and big capitalists.
The rank-and-file soldiers, who do the bulk of the fighting, are recruited from the ranks of the working class. The lower-ranking officers—the noncommissioned officers, or NCOs—are recruited as a rule from the middle class. To a much greater extent than in peacetime, members of the middle class, directly in their role as NCOs, get to command the workers in uniform. As in peacetime, however, the middle class in the guise of the NCOs are themselves thoroughly subordinated to the ruling class of big capitalists and large landowners in the form of the commissioned officers. In turn, like the rest of the capitalist state apparatus, the top brass is subordinated to the kings of the money market, finance capital. If the money markets fail to provide the funds, the military collapses.
The wartime organizing and arming of the working class creates a potentially dangerous situation for the ruling class. The mass of the workers are organized and armed by the state itself. They are, of course, not armed and organized in their own class interests. On the contrary, the workers in uniform are organized bureaucratically to give their lives in the interest of their exploiters. All the same, it is during wartime that ironically the capitalist state power draws closest to a situation that characterizes a workers’ state—a dictatorship of the proletariat.
As is the case in a workers’ state, the workers are armed and massively organized. All that is necessary to create a workers’ state—the precondition for the transition to socialism—is to replace the commanding bureaucracy—the brass—by the democratic organization of the working class in support of its own class interest and not in the interest of their exploiters. To accomplish this, it is necessary to overthrow the dictatorship of the commissioned officers over the workers in uniform, replace it with elected representatives of the workers, and then use this armed power to remove the government of the exploiters and replace it with the government of the workers and their allies among the exploited toilers. This is exactly what happened during the Russian Revolution of October 1917.
How then does the ruling class remain in control during wartime? It must rely on the weapon of propaganda. The enemy—not the real class enemy but the nations the imperialist war is being fought against, and their leaders—is demonized. Even in the relatively “small-scale” colonial wars that rage today, the leaders of the countries or movements the U.S. is attacking are presented as monsters in human form.
A contemporary example is provided by the current shooting war in Syria. President Assad has been presented as one of the worst tyrants in history, fighting the besieged “defenders of democracy”—so-called “moderate rebels”—that happen to be allied with U.S. imperialism. Other examples in recent years are provided by the war that destroyed Yugoslavia (Slobodan Milosevic), Iraq (Saddam Hussein), and Libya (Colonel Qaddafi). During these wars, Milosevic, Hussein and Qaddafi were successively pictured as among the most awful tyrants in all human history.
In all-out wars such as Germany was engaged in between 1914 and 1918, this demonization takes place on a far greater scale. But for the ruling class, the supreme danger remains. If the war “lasts too long” and the spell of chauvinism is broken, the ruling class faces an armed and organized working class.
It is no accident that the leaders of Germany—and Austria, Russia, France and Britain—fully intended to keep the war that broke out in mid-1914 short and end it victoriously “before the leaves fell”—and before the war could be converted into a revolution, or series of revolutions.
However, unfortunately for the war-makers in Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris and St. Petersburg the war couldn’t end in a victory for all the contending parties. As in “peaceful” capitalist economic competition, there are in wars winners and losers. The “short war” became a long war.
Within a factory, the capitalists depend on factory managers, and in the trenches of production foremen, to keep the production workers in line. In a shooting war, they depend on the middle strata—the NCOs—to keep the armed workers in line and under the spell of chauvinism until the war is won.
The middle classes, which in normal times have no organization of their own—indeed, middle-class people tend to be individualists who despise organization and discipline—are much more prone to chauvinistic propaganda than is the case with workers. The defense of “the fatherland” provides these human atoms with a cause and the military an all-embracing organization. The human atoms of the middle class then find themselves in a position of authority and command while themselves being commanded by those above them in the military hierarchy.
Many middle-class individuals find this escape from the miserable atomized individualism that characterizes their peacetime lives as liberating. They find a great cause, the defense of country, the fatherland, the motherland, or the Reich. “We”—citizens of the nation-state at war, whether rich or poor—are all in it together. Those who wear the uniform, from field marshal to private, are comrades in a “sacred cause”—of Germany, France, Britain, USA or Russia. Germany Above All! (2) or “USA, USA!”
Adolf Hitler in his personal biography provides an example of a middle-class person of no account—a human atom—who suddenly found a great mission for himself in the Great War. Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1889 in a small town near the German border, Hitler was the son of a customs official named Alois. Alois is said to have beaten his young son, his wife Klara and the young “Adi’s” siblings. It seems that Adolf was relieved when his father dropped dead while drinking his morning glass of wine. There would be no more beatings of himself, his siblings or his beloved mother.
Before he died, Alois had hoped that his son would follow his example and become a member of the Imperial Austrian Civil Service. But the individualistic young “Adi” had other dreams. Good in drawing, Hitler aspired to become an artist. He was proud that he was in terms of nationality a German—a member of the ruling nation in the Austrian Empire that oppressed so many other nationalities. In this, he wasn’t all that different from many a poor young southern U.S. white person who take great pride in their “whiteness.”
Young Adolf took an interest in history and politics from boyhood on, though apparently, if his biographers are to be believed, he didn’t aspire to be a politician at this stage. From an early age, Hitler came to identify as a German nationalist who believed that Austria’s Germans should unite with the Germans of the “Kaiserreich” in a greater German Reich that would include all Germans.
Perhaps he was reacting against his father, who was strong supporter of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. If Germany and German Austria united, the border between them would disappear and so would the elder Hitler’s job as a customs officer.
The young Adolf, according to his biographers, came to despise people of the oppressed Czech nationality, which—all proportions guarded—played a role for nationalist Germans similar to that which “Negroes” played for poor southern U.S. whites. There is evidence that Hitler was a thoroughgoing anti-Czech racist before he became an anti-Semite.
After he dropped out of high school—though he had the intelligence to graduate, he lacked the discipline to complete his high school studies—Hitler left Linz, where the Hitler family had settled, and moved to Vienna. There he imagined his great artistic talents would be discovered. He wanted to be a painter and applied to the Vienna School of Fine Arts. Much to his surprise, his talent was not recognized by those in charge of admissions. He was turned down because his sample drawings were deemed “unsatisfactory.” He tried a second time but with the same results.
Perhaps if he had been the son of a large landowner—especially if he had been a member of the nobility or the son of a wealthy banker—his talent would have been recognized. Not a few bourgeois historians have asked the question: Even assuming that Hitler had only a limited artistic talent—it is said that he couldn’t paint the human form—wouldn’t it have been better to have had one more mediocre painter admitted to art school than have him take the path that led to the Third Reich, World War II and the Holocaust? (3)
Of course, this question assumes that all these horrors were created by Hitler virtually single-handedly. This is similar to another question that is often asked about Hitler. Imagine you could be transferred back in time to Austria in the year 1889. You see the little baby “Adi,” Klara’s beloved boy child. Like all babies, he is innocent. But he is destined to become the creator of the Third Reich, the author of the Holocaust, and the initiator of World War II with its tens of millions of victims. Would you strangle the innocent babe in the cradle and save the lives of the tens of millions of people who were destined to die in World War II?
This is nothing but the inversion of the Christian myth of the innocent boy child Jesus of Joseph and Mary of Bethlehem, who was destined to save the world from sin by dying on the cross. In the inverted Hitler myth, capitalist society is innocent and only Hitler is guilty and brings misery to the world.
When Hitler was turned down the second time, the functionary of the arts school who gave him the bad news told young Adolf he should apply to architecture school, since his drawings indicated some talent. So maybe Hitler did have some talent in that direction. However, he could not become an architecture student because he lacked the required high school diploma.
As it turned out, Hitler was to achieve success in the related field of automobile design. He was apparently the person who conceived the idea of the Volkswagen Beetle, a car that was destined in the post-World War II world to be common on the roads not only of his native Austria and beloved Germany but in far off America as well. But “Adi” has not gotten the credit for this achievement, which he arguably deserves, and is much better remembered for his other achievement—the Third Reich.
If only he could have done this without first creating the Third Reich, Hitler might today enjoy the same sort of acclaim that Steve Jobs (4) gets for conceiving another wonder of 20th-century capitalist industry, the pioneering Apple II home computer. But then again, considering Hitler’s inability to be successful academically, his ultimate success as an automobile designer would not have been possible if he had not managed to make himself German dictator first. And for obvious reasons, in the post-World War II era Volkswagen didn’t want to emphasize Hitler’s role in founding the company and helping to design its most famous product, the Volkswagen Beetle. It would not have been good for sales.
After it became obvious to Hitler that he would have no success as a professional painter or architect, Hitler found himself a man without any prospects in life. He scratched out a meager living painting postcards for tourists, first in Vienna and then in Munich. He certainly didn’t attempt to get a factory job and join a union, though that would have brought in a higher income than painting postcards. Lacking even the discipline necessary to acquire a high school diploma, Hitler would not have been able to tolerate the discipline of the factory floor.
In any event, the life of a factory worker and trade unionist was an intolerable thought for the middle-class son of a civil servant. However, he was interested in and a shrewd observer of politics. He respected the power of the massively organized Austrian Social Democratic Party, which the right-wing German nationalist parties Hitler was sympathetic to lacked. But the right-wing, racist German nationalist Hitler despised everything that the old pre-1914 Social Democracy stood for.
Hitler left Vienna around 1913 apparently to avoid military service and moved to the southern German city of Munich located in the state of Bavaria. Hitler, who didn’t have the discipline to get a high school diploma or become a factory worker, could stand the thought of service in the Austrian peacetime imperial army. But then came August 1914 and the idea of joining with millions of young German chauvinists in a war against Germany’s enemies. Germany above all!
In the trenches of the Great War, Hitler was to find his mission in life. In this respect, the future leader of German fascism was to be far from unique. And though we can blame Hitler individually for more crimes than any other individual in all of history, we cannot blame him for the Great War, since he had zero power and influence when the war broke out in August 1914.
The economic background
By the eve of the Great War, the stimulatory effects on the world capitalist economy of the gold discoveries in South Africa, the Yukon and the Klondike, and the cyanide process allowing the extraction of extra gold from relatively poor ores, had a run its course. An era of deflationary depression lay ahead. But the Great War itself by postponing the onset of this deflationary depression was to transform that depression when it finally arrived into a super-crisis that would dwarf all other crises, panics and depressions in the storied history of world capitalism.
Again, Adolf Hitler (5) cannot be blamed for any of this. As I have explained elsewhere in this blog, the shortages caused by the Great War boosted market prices of commodities, which had already risen above their underlying production prices, far higher. In terms of gold—not depreciated currency—the market prices of commodities, already “too high” relative to their prices of production, more than doubled! The effect was like a major gold discovery in reverse.
If commodity prices had been depressed relative to prices of production, as was to be the case when World War II began, or if the war had coincided with a major gold discovery, the economic effects of the war would have been very different. But in a situation where prices were already high relative to production prices, the doubling of commodity prices over a six-year period sharply reduced the profitability of producing money material. Under the capitalist mode of production, when it is not profitable to produce a commodity, even if that commodity serves as money, the commodity is not produced. At the same time, the sharp increase in prices meant a great increase in the quantity of money was necessary to circulate the same quantity of commodities.
However, the production of gold declined at an accelerating rate right up until 1921, just after the gap between the prices of the world’s commodities (measured in terms of gold) and their prices of production (also measured in terms of gold) reached its greatest extent. Unlike the case during the Second World War, where money was extremely abundant and interest rates remained low, during the Great War money was “tight” and the rate of interest soared. This was true for all the belligerent powers, since the money market where interest rates are determined is international.
As far as material destruction was concerned, the Great War was far less destructive than World War II because air power, the most destructive element in modern warfare, was still in its infancy. But financially, as far as economics is concerned, the reverse was the case. The only thing that saved the world capitalist economy right after the Great War from a global economic disaster was the absence of industrial and agricultural overproduction.
The war had suppressed capitalist expanded reproduction, the breeder of overproduction and the economic crises that arise from it. Instead of producing additional means of production to expand the overall level of production, many factories shifted to production of means of destruction or means of supporting the workers in uniform who while wearing the uniform do not produce surplus value. (6)
Without massive overproduction, you cannot have a crisis of overproduction. While the war stimulated industrial production in the United States, production actually declined in Germany due to the increasing shortage of inputs—raw materials. The decline in industrial production in Germany caused by war and blockade dwarfed the decline in industrial production caused by any pre-1914 crisis.
Stabilizing the post-World War I capitalist economy
The biggest problem facing the capitalist world economy in the immediate postwar period—1918-1920—was halting the increase in commodity prices in terms of gold and allowing them to fall back to the actual prices of production. Only in this way could the expansion of the quantity of money material be adequate to ensure the resumption of normal capitalist reproduction that with its inevitable ups and downs had prevailed before 1914.
There are two ways to lower prices in terms of gold. One, the value of the currency can be maintained and prices lowered in currency terms. This is what happened in the stronger capitalist countries, especially the United States and to some extent Great Britain and Japan in 1920-1921. However, in those countries where the ruling classes had been greatly weakened by the war, including Germany, governments didn’t dare apply deflationary measures with the inevitable sharp rise in unemployment that accompanies deflation.
In the case of the United States, whose position among the leading imperialist countries had been greatly strengthened, the workers, including the veterans who were returning to the factories from the trenches, were in a mood to strike to defend their living standards against the ravishes of wartime and immediate postwar inflation. But U.S. workers were, considering their lack of independent organization, consciousness and traditions, very far from overthrowing the capitalist system. The deflationary recession of 1920-1921 by suddenly increasing unemployment therefore ended the postwar strike wave without in any way threatening the rule of the capitalist class.
Things were very different in Germany. The German workers already had a long history of supporting the German Social Democratic Party and were educated in the basic ideas of scientific socialism. True, their party had betrayed socialism on August 4, 1914, by voting for war credits. By this action, the Social Democracy had gone over to the side of German imperialism. This was to be the greatest single betrayal in the history of the organized workers’ movement before the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which by this time resembled the pre-war Social Democracy in Germany in many ways—with the difference that it controlled the state power—betrayed under Gorbachev and handed political power back to the bourgeoisie at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s.
No doubt many rank-and-file workers were carried away in the wave of chauvinist hysteria whipped up by the capitalist ruling class that swept Europe in August 1914. But the four years of trench warfare had sobered them up. And the example of the Russian workers played a huge role in reviving the class consciousness and revolutionary spirit of the German workers. The problem was that the party of the German workers, the SPD, was in ruins. The official leaders of the SPD like Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske had gone over to the side of imperialism and were now deadly opponents of the revolution.
The revolutionary forces that had existed in the Social Democratic Party, represented by such figures as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebneck and Franz Mehring, were struggling to build a new workers’ party, first as the Spartacist League and then under the banner of the new Communist Party of Germany. But it takes time to build a new revolutionary party and in the critical years of 1918 to 1923, it was time that was lacking.
In 1919, the counterrevolution gained a major victory when it succeeded in murdering Luxemburg and Liebneckt. Mehring, who was already a man of advanced years, died soon after. The revolutionary leaders of the new generation lacked both experience and the prestige that comes with it. In the end, the consequences were to be fatal to the German revolution.
This is not the place to write a history of the betrayal of the German revolution and the attempt to build a new revolutionary communist party. To even attempt to do so would fill volumes and this is not the purpose of this blog. Here I will just set down the basic facts.
In November 1918, a revolutionary rebellion that swept the workers in uniform and then spread to the workers in the factories succeeded in ending the war and toppling the Hohenzollern monarchy. Germany’s real leaders were the military commanders—Field Marshals Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg. They told Kaiser Wilhelm II that he had to go, and insisted that an armistice be signed immediately regardless of the cost. The Hohenzollern monarchy so beloved by these military leaders had to be sacrificedfor the time being in order to save the one thing they loved even more, private property both in land and in capital.
When things settled down, Ludendorff and Hindenburg hoped to bring back the Hohenzollerns to the throne. In the meantime, the top German brass maneuvered the treacherous leaders of the SPD to take over the government. Then the top military leaders could blame the “Marxist” SPD chiefs, who had in reality betrayed Marxism, and “the Jews” for Germany’s defeat in the Great War and the signing of the disastrous Treaty of Versailles.
After all, they argued, hadn’t Germany just defeated one of its leading enemies, Russia, which had surrendered in March 1918 at Brest-Litovsk? Moreover, at the time of Germany’s surrender, not a square inch of Germany’s prewar territory was occupied by enemy soldiers. The German surrender must have been the result of internal betrayal. The Jews were selected for special blame by the brass because they were the only part of the German population—about 2 percent—that could by a considerable stretch be considered a “foreign” element.
The last thing the German ruling class needed was to have the many revolutionary-minded workers/soldiers return to mass unemployment. This ruled out for the time being the kind of deflationary policy that the newly created U.S. Federal Reserve System followed in 1920. Instead, the Reichsbank followed a policy of inflationary currency depreciation to lower the price level in Germany (as measured in terms of gold) toward the prices of production but not nominal prices (measured in depreciated paper marks).
As a result, unlike the United States, Britain or Japan, Germany did not experience a recession and a massive wave of layoffs such as swept the victorious imperialist countries in 1920-1921. Instead, prices in terms of depreciating paper Reichsmarks rose while German industrial production—stimulated by the industrialists’ wishing to spend to convert their depreciating money capital into real capital before it lost more value—actually rose in 1920-1921, though it remained below the peak levels of 1913.
As a result of the lost war, Germany was stripped of all its colonies and lost territory within Europe as well. Certain areas inhabited by Germans were placed under the rule of the newly independent Poland and Czechoslovakia (7), an artificial country cobbled together out of fragments of the old Austria-Hungarian Empire that no longer existed. The German empire, which had always been modest compared to the empires of Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the Russian Empire that ended with the October Revolution of 1917, was no more.
The Austrian empire also collapsed leaving behind the German rump state of Austria that still exists today. Though the postwar events were to largely strip Germany of its money capital, its industrial capital—particularly fixed capital—remained intact. Germany Social Democratic leaders—called the “November criminals” by German right-wing nationalists—earned the contempt of the majority of the people of Germany by accepting Germany’s sole guilt in the war, which was far from the case, and agreeing to pay massive reparations designed to cripple Germany economically.
The crisis of 1923
The crisis of 1923 was both a political, social and economic crisis, though it was not a crisis of overproduction. In 1923, France occupied the Ruhr Valley, the center of Germany’s heavy industry, because Germany was unable to meet its reparation payments. Hatred of Germany was extremely strong in France because that was where most of the fighting of the Great War had actually occurred. Germany’s humiliation of France in 1870 still rankled, nor was victorious Germany’s annexing of Alsace-Lorraine forgotten. (8) Paris was determined to permanently weaken Germany.
The weak German government responded to France’s aggression by calling for a campaign of “passive resistance” and urging the workers to withhold their labor power. The Reichsbank, as part of the policy of passive resistance, began to print paper marks without restraint so the idle workers could be paid. The result was that postwar inflation, which up to that point had been an “ordinary” inflation, transformed into a hyperinflation, during which the paper Reichsmark lost virtually all its value in the course of 1923. This has been described as the “death of money”; more strictly it was the death of the Reichsmark as a paper currency that represented money—gold—in circulation.
During that crisis-ridden year, there were to be two quite different plans for insurrection aimed at overthrowing the weak Berlin government, whose actions had thrown Germany into complete economic and political chaos. One came from the left. An insurrection was planned by the German Communist Party to establish a Soviet-style government and carry out a socialist revolution in Germany. But the Communist leaders both in Moscow—where Lenin, incapacitated by a stroke, lay dying—and in Germany called the planned insurrection off at the last moment.
The other attempt at insurrection went ahead. It was called by Adolf Hitler in Munich and has gone down in history as the “Beer Hall Putsch.” Its aim was to establish a fascist dictatorship in Germany modeled on the Mussolini fascist regime that had seized power in Italy the preceding year. The Hitler insurrection was easily put down by the Munich police, who remained loyal to the Berlin government. Surviving the threats to it from the extreme left (the Communist Party) and the extreme right (the Nazis), the Wiemar bourgeois democracy survived for the time being. And as we will see, economic events were soon to give it a more extended respite.
The development of German fascism and the transformation of German anti-Semitism
During the years 1918-1923, the supreme aim of the German capitalist ruling class was to save what could be saved and prevent the German working class from coming to power. The capitalists’ most important ally was the German Social Democratic Party, whose leaders were determined to prevent an October 1917-style revolution from occurring in Germany. Instead, the SPD, which had supported the war and then signed the disgraceful peace treaty, insisted that socialism had to be achieved democratically through the Reichstag, Germany’s bourgeois parliament. In practice, this meant the continued rule of the capitalist class, though with a more democratic facade than was the case before 1914.
Right-wing soldiers—mostly non-commissioned officers—organized armed bands called the Free Corps to put down the workers’ uprising by force. For example, the Free Corps quickly overthrew the short-lived Soviet republic in Bavaria, where the still unknown Adolf Hitler was living. During this period, the Free Corps and the Social Democrats worked hand in hand. This collaboration between the armed bands of the Free Corps and the Social Democrats led to the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919, depriving the emerging German Communist Party of its most able leaders.
This collaboration between the fascistic Free Corps bands and the SPD was to later under different conditions make plausible the claim of the still inexperienced German Communist Party that the Social Democracy was itself a form of fascism. In reality, between 1918 and 1923 incipient German fascism was far too weak and disorganized to create a dictatorship of its own. At this stage, the role of German fascism was to work with the Social Democrats to make sure that a workers’ dictatorship, which would be far more democratic than any form of bourgeois democracy could possibly be, was not established and therefore helped save bourgeois rule in a democratic guise.
Biographers of Adolf Hitler often attempt to answer the question of when and why Hitler became an anti-Semite. There is some question whether Hitler was even anti-Semitic before World War I. Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf”—My Struggle—claims that he became an anti-Semite in Vienna. But it seems that Hitler maintained fairly good relations, even friendships, with individual Jews right down to the outbreak of the war, something which would have been unthinkable after the war.
What is involved here is not so much the development of Hitler’s personal anti-Semitism but the transformation of the German nation’s anti-Semitism, which Hitler as an individual simply reflected. If Hitler’s murderous anti-Semitism had been merely an individual trait, then the Holocaust and its later consequences including the founding of the apartheid state of Israel, which rendered the Palestinian people homeless, would have been inconceivable. In dealing with racism and anti-Semitism as it developed in Germany between the two World Wars, we are dealing not with pathology of a single man but of a whole society.
In order to carry out the Holocaust, there also had to be a large number of people who believed that the physical extermination of the European Jews was a reasonable policy option and were prepared, if not to actively participate, to look the other way. In other words, the kernel of “bad Nazis” needed to be surrounded by a pulp of indifferent “good Germans.”
Before August 1914, anti-Semitism had been widespread among Germans—and even more so Austrian Germans, who did not support the workers’ movement led by the German and Austrian Social Democratic Party. In Germany, people on the left believed in the full assimilation of the Jews into the German nation, while people on the right as a general rule believed that Jews could never be “true Germans.” The emancipation of the Jews—the belief that Jews could become full members of the nations of Europe whether or not they continued to practice the Jewish religion—was a heritage of the Great French Revolution. (9)
Conservative Christian Germans, who rejected both the democratic ideas of the French Revolution and the workers’ movement and remained under the influence of the church, believed that the Jews were responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ and would be held to ultimate account by God for the “greatest crime in history.” But Christianity always included a way out for individual Jews who were willing to convert to Christianity and accept Jesus as their lord and savior.
In the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries, an increasing number of German Jews converted to Christianity in order to be fully German in all things including religion. Among these German Jews was Karl Marx’s father, Hershel, who changed his name to the German Heinrich. Marx himself was raised as a Lutheran and always considered himself to be a German as far as nationality was concerned.
The new “racial anti-Semites” held that the Jews were a different biological race and therefore could not become German through a change in religion. In this view, the German Jews were not and never could be “true” Germans.
In practice, however, the path toward the full assimilation of Jews into the German nation seemed an irreversible process, and the reactionaries who opposed it appeared to be fighting a losing battle. In the prosperous years before World War I, the vote for the anti-Semitic parties—the forerunners of the Nazis—progressively declined. Unlike the case in the Russian Empire, violence against Jews in Germany was rare. The “Jewish question” seemed to be fading away, though more rapidly in the “Kaiserreich” than in Austria.
But this changed radically with the defeat of Germany in the Great War and the rise of the fascist, anti-communist Free Corps movement. The top generals, headed by Ludendorff, who had been Germany’s virtual dictator in the final two years of the war, and Hindenburg, who has Germany’s president and was to appoint Hitler chancellor in 1933, had come to the decision that the war must be ended at virtually any cost in order to prevent a socialist revolution.
But how could they explain this decision to the middle-class NCOs? They could hardly give their real reasons. If they had, they would have said: “Sorry boys, we told you that this fight was about the German nation. Germany, Above All! But what we really meant was Property, Profit and Rents above all! We had hoped to expand our property and therefore have enough left over to share the crumbs with you. But unfortunately we were unsuccessful because we and you couldn’t keep the working-class soldiers in line long enough. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Now, as one last favor, will you help us put down the workers’ uprisings and then go home and enjoy your new life of poverty?”
No, the top brass couldn’t tell the truth to their middle-class lackeys like the still unknown Hitler, who really believed in Germany—Above All! Nor could they openly say that the German working class was the real enemy. The workers were far too important a part of the “German nation” to say that. The middle-class Hitlers “loved” the German workers as a productive part of the German nation. They only objected to their internationalist, independent class organization, which, as they saw it, turned the workers against their beloved German nation. So the top German brass had to find a foreign element in Germany who, it could be argued, were not really Germans at all.
Germany before World War I, unlike the United States—or present-day Germany—had attracted few immigrants. Certainly, immigrants were not flocking to chaotic inflation-ridden Germany after World War I. Germany was very much a classic European nation state whose population for the most part belonged to a single German nationality. The closest thing to “foreign elements” in Germany were therefore the Jews, though they too were Germans as far as nationality was concerned. But you have to make use of the material you have.
So the German Jews were assigned the role as the “foreign elements” who were not “really” Germans despite all appearances to the contrary, and had “betrayed” the German nation during its supreme “struggle for existence” during the Great War. So it was the Jews who the German brass insisted were responsible for Germany’s defeat and the wretched Treaty of Versailles—which had been signed by the Social Democrats at the insistence of the top generals themselves.
Hadn’t Karl Marx himself been a Jew! Therefore, it was the Jews who had organized the Marxist Social Democrats, which had educated the workers in the spirit that the workers had no country and should identify with their fellow workers and not the beloved German fatherland. Therefore, it was the Jews who had stabbed us in the back, they said, and robbed us of the victory “we” had won on the battlefield! For men like Hitler, and not only him but many other middle-class NCOs who thought like him, their previous mild disapproval of the Jews was transformed into murderous, all-consuming hatred.
The rise of the Nazi Party
Hitler himself did not join the Free Corps. Instead, he was assigned the role of a spy by his commanding officers to report the activities of the many political groups and sects that were appearing on the chaotic political landscape of defeated Germany. Like other such spies, Hitler apparently attended classes organized by the top brass that explained that the Marxists and Jews had “stabbed Germany in the back.” One group Hitler was assigned to take a look at was a tiny political sect called the German Workers Party. Despite its name, it was a far-right group committed to extreme German nationalism and anti-Semitism, the very program that Hitler himself supported.
It called itself the German Workers Party because it aimed to win the German workers away from working-class internationalism and instead to dissolve themselves into the German Racial Community. Hitler soon discovered that he had exceptional ability as an orator and agitator and was invited to join the tiny right-wing sect.
Over the next few years, through a process akin to natural selection, Hitler emerged as the most influential leader of the right-wing armed bands and the competing right-wing political sects. He had all that was necessary for this role. He was intelligent, believed deeply in the right’s message of extreme German nationalism, anti-communism and anti-Semitism and was a spellbinding speaker. He personified in his own biography an impoverished member of the middle class. In the years ahead, there would be many impoverished members of the German middle class who would identify with Hitler and his message.
In order to win the German working class away from the organized workers’ movement, whether revolutionary Communist or even reformist Social Democratic, Hitler decided to rename the German Workers Party the National Socialist German Workers Party.
It stood for a “socialism” that, unlike Marxist socialism, was based on the unity of all classes in Germany: capitalists—as long as they were not Jewish, of course—workers and landlords. It soon earned the nickname “Nazis” from its opponents. It gradually replaced the armed but chaotic Free Corps bands with a more organized structure centered around the person of the leader—fuhrer in German. Originally, the Nazi Party was strong only in south Germany near the Austrian border. Here it was nourished by the racist, anti-Semitic currents that had always been stronger in Austria than in Germany proper.
The Nazi Party had a very peculiar structure. First, it made no pretext of any type of internal party democracy once Hitler’s leadership had been consolidated. Instead, it adopted the so-called leadership principle as its form of organization. As “der Furhrer,” Hitler appointed the other top leaders personally, and they in turn appointed lower-ranking leaders. However, like a normal political party it ran candidates for office and published a party newspaper called the “Völkischer Beobachter,” a term that can be loosely translated into English as the “Racist Observer.”
Its other feature was that it had its own militia called the SA (Sturmabteilung, assault division in German), usually called storm troopers in English. The storm troopers had been the name of German elite forces during the Great War, somewhat like the Navy Seals and Special Forces are in the U.S. military today.
The storm troopers beat up opponents of the Nazis, especially those associated with the organized workers’ movement. They attempted to achieve by force the demand of the National Socialists that the workers give up their class organization in favor of a “socialist” organization based not on the separate organization of the workers as a class but on the political dissolution of the workers into the German nation. In practice, the National Socialist German Workers Party attracted relatively few workers Instead, it consisted of middle-class army veterans who faced dim prospects in postwar Germany.
In many ways, postwar Germany was an oppressed nation unjustly forced to accept all the blame for the imperialist slaughter of World War I and burdened with gigantic reparation liabilities designed to cripple its economy. But the elemental drive of German monopoly capitalism was not only to shake off Germany’s national oppression arising from its defeat in the Great War. That in itself would have been progressive and democratic. However, the drive of German monopoly capitalism was always to transform imperialist Germany once again into an oppressor nation but with a much larger empire than it had before World War I.
The drive of German monopoly capitalism coincided perfectly with the racist nationalism of Hitler and his Nazi Party. This was the crucial difference between the national liberation movements of non-imperialist capitalist nations and the fascist nationalist movement of an oppressed but still very much of an imperialist Germany.
The economic situation in the mid-1920s
After 1923 in the wake of calling off the planned Communist-led insurrection and the failure of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, both the political and economic situation changed considerably. A new mark was established at the old gold value at the end of 1923. Without going into the technical details, how was the stabilization of the mark accomplished?
Hyperinflation had wiped out virtually the entire money supply of Germany. However, money abhors a vacuum. The sky-high interest rates in Germany attracted vast amounts of loans as U.S. finance capital, on the hunt for the highest possible rate of interest, lent money to Germany, where the rate of return was highest. The reparations that Germany owed Britain and France were then reduced to more manageable levels by the Dawes Plan and then the Young Plan. Germany borrowed money from New York to meet its reparations payments to France and Britain, which then used the reparations to pay the debts they owed the U.S. There was even enough money left over for Germany to rebuild and rationalize its industry.
Unemployment was high—about 10 percent—and the German economy went into recession in 1926 when the U.S. Federal Reserve raised its (re)discount rate, but then quickly resumed growth when the Fed lowered the discount rate again. It seemed that the U.S. Federal Reserve had acquired the power to play the German economy like a violin. Compared to the chaos of the war economy, and the postwar inflation climaxing in the hyper-inflationary collapse of 1923, the years 1924 through 1928 were relatively calm. Exhausted by the inconclusive revolutions of 1918 and 1923, the German people found the new situation at least tolerable if not desirable.
In politics, the relative stabilization of the German economy was reflected by a swing to the center. In the elections held in May 1928 at the height of the 1920s prosperity—modest though it was in Germany—the Social Democrats got the greatest number of votes, 29.8 percent of the total cast. This was well ahead of the hard right but non-fascist German Nationalist Party, which got only 14.2 percent. The fascist Nazis got only 2.6 percent of the vote. On the revolutionary left, the Communist Party got 10.6 percent, again considerably less than the Social Democratic Party, which was committed to the bourgeois parliamentary democracy of the Wiemar Republic.
Therefore, despite claims that Nazism reflected the very essence of the German nation, all it took was the very modest prosperity of the middle 1920s to push the Nazis to the margins of German politics with apparently no prospects of gaining control of the government. The great mass of the German people, the working class and the middle class alike, were more than willing to give the Wiemar democracy a try. If even modest prosperity had continued, it is virtually certain that almost nobody would remember Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party today.
But appearances were deceptive. Beneath the surface, the disruption between market prices and prices of production had been only partially resolved by the deflations and inflationary currency devaluations of the early 1920s. The problem mostly lay in the U.S., by far the world’s largest economy. During the deflationary recession of 1920-1921, U.S. business had run out of inventory before market prices, which in 1920 were higher relative to production prices than they had ever been in the history of capitalism, could fall back to parity with those prices.
The result was that while world gold production began to recover somewhat from the deep depression that had hit bottom in 1921, it remained well below the 1913-1914 level. But commodity prices, when reckoned in gold, remained above the 1913-1914 levels while, as the world economy recovered from 1921 onward, both world trade and world commodity production rose well above pre-World War I levels.
The stabilization of world and German capitalism after 1923 was thus illusionary. The world capitalist economy responded to a growing shortage of hard gold cash by increasingly substituting credit for cash. Such credit inflations always end in a crash. As the world economy headed for the inevitable crash, no country was to be hit harder than Germany.
To be continued.
1 In feudal times, the ruling landowners engaged in endless wars to defend and if possible expand their landholdings. They therefore had a strong military tradition, and it is from their ranks the top brass—the field marshals, generals, colonels, and so on—have been traditionally recruited. Prussia, the most powerful state in pre-1914 Germany, was especially known for the militarism of semi-feudal landowners, called Junkers. (back)
2 Though the “Song of the Germans” is still the national anthem of modern Germany, the verses that include “Germany Above All” are no longer part of the official anthem because of its widespread use during the Third Reich. This fact, which visitors to Germany are not always aware of, can be a cause of embarrassment and misunderstanding. Today, only German neo-Nazis use those verses. Of course, even without these verses, the German national anthem, like the national anthems of all the imperialist states, not least the U.S.’s own “Star Spangled Banner,” are used by the ruling class to whip up hatred of other nations, especially in times of war or other grave social crises. (back)
3 Though most of the writers who pose this question are pro-Israel, we could also add the creation of the apartheid state of Israel, which would never have come into existence in the absence of the Holocaust. Could we perhaps then liberate Palestine from the river to sea if we were to invent a time machine that took us back to 1889 and strangled Klara Hitler’s beloved boy child Adi in the cradle? (back)
4 I don’t want to say that Steve Jobs was capable of committing the crimes of an Adolf Hitler. But still like the young Hitler, who lacked the discipline to graduate high school, the young middle-class Jobs lacked the discipline to graduate from Evergreen College in Oregon, which his adoptive parents sent him to at the cost of great financial sacrifice.
Jobs like Hitler also considered himself to possess considerable artistic talent and he too wandered rather aimlessly as a young man before he hit it rich as a computer entrepreneur in the mid-1970s Silicon Valley. Both men were destined to become wealthy, Hitler through sales of his book “Mein Kampf” after he became the dictator of Germany and Jobs through his success at Pixar and Apple. And both men were loved by considerable numbers of people who didn’t know them personally but were swept up by the “cult of personality” that surrounded both men.
Of course, Jobs didn’t become the dictator of his country, crush its union movement—though workers at Apple have never enjoyed union protection—killed millions of people only because of their “race,” or started a world war that killed tens of millions of people. Jobs was “only” a corporate and industrial tyrant. But it does make you wonder about the type of people who manage to rise from the depths of the people to the top of bourgeois society and become its heroes. (back)
5 It seems likely if Hitler had been strangled and died in the cradle in 1889 that another person could have taken his place and history would have followed much the same course it ultimately did anyway. Weren’t there many other potential candidates for the role that Hitler was to play in history? Once Hitler won out in the race to play the role of Germany’s fascist leader, the other potential Hitlers were suppressed. Here Georgi Plekhanov’s essay on the role of the individual in history is especially relevant. (back)
6 For the classical political economists, soldiers along with domestic servants were the classic examples of unproductive (of surplus value) workers. (back)
7 Czechoslovakia, established in 1918, was dissolved twice in the course of the 20th century. The first time was in 1939 when Hitler’s armies occupied Prague in the wake of the famous Munich Agreement of 1938. The second time was after the overthrow of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1989, part of the wave of bourgeois counterrevolutions that swept through eastern Europe that year. Czechoslovakia was finally dissolved in 1992. The two successors states are the Czech and Slovak Republics. (back)
8 Marx had warned the Germans of the foolishness of this action. He pointed out that this would lead to an alliance of France and Russia against Germany, which is exactly what happened in 1914. (back)
9 The Great French Revolution is hated by the anti-Semites and Zionist movement alike. Both agree that the Jewish people can never assimilated into the “gentile” nations and therefore must leave them. (back)