Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Twilight, 2010

Niedersachsen in Winter

As 2010 wanes we consider the events and what they mean, what they could indicate for the future. Twenty-eleven is going to be an eventful year in that in all the mass assumptions that have survived up until now probably will have little currency a year from now. Things seem to be moving that quickly.

My recent trip to Germany provided a different perspective and fueled by what I've been doing on and off MilPub over the last year . . . boosted of course by the great input this, our blog provides . . .

So I have someone I would like to introduce:

Hermann Rauschning. A conservative, actually a monarchist German politician, who joined the Nazi Party in 1932, but resigned his office as President of the Free City of Danzig Senate in 1934. Campaigned against the Nazis in 1935 and left under threat of violence for the US in 1936. Had served as a German Army officer in World War I and was wounded in action. Rauschning is also credited with a masterpiece of anti-Nazi propaganda, Hitler Speaks, which was published 1940 in the US and portrayed Hitler as a sleazy, somewhat insane, cynical opportunist in his personal policy dealings, Rauschning claiming that he had had countless personal conversations with the Nazi Leader while in the Danzig Senate. Rauschning isn't dealt with by historians today mostly because of that, since he was a propagandist.

But he was also a political theorist of fascism since he had been part of the movement for awhile and saw clearly its actual nature (having initially mistaken it for something else), so it's this "second Rauschning" I'm talking about, rather the author of an earlier anti-Nazi book, The Revolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West of 1938, that comes across today has both prophetic for his times and a strange warning - in that important similarities exist between his time in Germany and our time in the US - imo.

In The Revolution of Nihilism, Rauschning goes back to the collapse of 1918, the in-built fatal flaws of the Weimar Republic, the absolute failure of the Conservatives to do their basic duty (safeguard the Nation and people) and explains in detail the "deal of 1933" which brought the Nazis to power. His description of Hindenburg is also quite interesting. What Rauschning describes is a systemic failure of all the various institutions to deal with both the dissolving political situation brought on by the economic collapse (which in turn to a large extent was due to over reliance on foreign credit) and the revolutionary nihilism of the Nazis. Too many failed to take the Nazis seriously and after 1933 too many thought that their radicalism would be tamed and they would simply become the instrument for the return of the conservatives. The German Army of course misjudged the situation badly, and what Rauschning describes after 1934 is the relentless politicalization of the military. In the end it was no longer the heir of the old German Army, but Hitler's Army.

In Rauschning's view there were many turning points along the way, when the opposition (and there was potentially a serious one) could have stepped in and turned the tables on Hitler. What was really lacking was simply the "will" to do so - too many saw their economic/professional interests as being possibly at stake and it was easier to simply "go along" or "wait and see what happens". This of course refers exclusively to the German elites since the people were hopelessly confused and disoriented by the chaos of late Weimar and the dizzying pace of Hitler's decrees after 30 January 1933. Fear was a part of the air people breathed, violence a constant political weapon, systematic lawlessness by the new authority difficult to comprehend, while at the same time the old values and virtues were trumpeted, they were simultaneously undermined and destroyed. This since the Nazis understood that to implement their radical worldview would require the destruction of the old, conservative view, that of those who had made the opportunistic deal with them in 1933! While Hitler's successes were of course assisted by the fecklessness of the Western allies during 1933-38, the main reason for his success from the German domestic perspective was the collapse of German conservativism, according to Rauschning, which should have recognized the moral threat the Nazis manifested. In essence they should have seen the swindle and the "movement" for what it was . . .

For the very reason that we acknowledge the eternal values of the nation and of a political order rooted in the nation, we are bound to turn against this revolution, whose subversive course involves the utter destruction of all traditional spiritual standards, utter nihilism. These values are the product of the intellectual and historical unity of Western civilization, of historic intellectual and moral forces. Without these, Nationalism is not a conservative principle, but the implement of a destructive revolution; and similarly Socialism ceases to be a regulative idea of justice and equity when it sheds the Western principles of legality and the liberty of the person.
Today in Germany any criticism, even from the noblest and most genuine of patriots, is accounted one of the worst of crimes, and placed in the same category as high treason . . . xii-xiii

The basic problem in 1933 was the rejection by the ruling elites of dealing truthfully with the people, instead they lied to them constantly, painting rosy pictures of potential success, when ahead was only failure. The actual goal of the conservatives and the Nazis as well was power, but the conservatives misunderstood the nature of the tiger they were riding. Rauschning laments that this misunderstanding was the same as what had happened in 1918, when Ludendorff and the German High Command demanded "fixed resolve and unquestioning faith" in final victory, while viewing the people with a "contemptuous belittlement of the moral forces of the nation". In 1918, as in 1933, the conservative elites were mostly to blame for what followed:

But the nation that reveals this weakness of excessive capacity for illusion has a greater need than any other of criticism and plain speaking. "We have been lied to and duped" - such was the despairing exclamation, twenty years ago [1918], of no demagogue but the last leader of the old Conservative Party, von Heydebrand, when the truth about the terrible situation burst through the clouds of pseudo-patriotic propaganda. It seems our destiny to have to repeat the same mistakes with a berserker's infatuation. xiii

So, let's see, what we've got: collapse of conservatism as a political philosophy, systemic institutional failures, economic collapse linked with an irresponsible demand of foreign credit, the political focus on gaining and retaining power regardless of the means or damage, total contempt for truth and honesty in public communications, politicalization of the military, radicalism wearing the mask of conservatism, growing government lawlessness and suppression, confusion among the people exacerbated by relentless irrational propaganda (ie constant repetition of symbols, emphasis on fear), fostered unquestioning belief in future "success" by simply "going along", lack of a focused opposition and many missed turning points along the way, a political movement which is essentially a rejection of the Enlightenment/classic Western values . . . see anything familiar?

Of course history does not repeat itself, and I am not saying that the USA today is a repeat of Nazi Germany, but rather the situation that Rauschning describes in 1933-38 (remember the book was written before World War II had begun) does imo indicate certain similarities of a political resemblance. This should not be surprising since the most dynamic political philosophy in US politics today - Neoconservativism (actually the only political philosophy of note) - seems to follow a certain familiar pattern, but that's not surprising given Leo Strauss's private view . . .

In many ways the distinctions are more interesting than the similarities, but I'll comment on those in the postscript since I'm interested in any comments which will thus ultimately influence my conclusions, so this is hopefully an attempt at achieving a dialectic, a real dialogue.

There is one last point of many I could make. The predictions that Rauschning makes in regards to the coming war are many and most historically accurate: he uses the term "holocaust" at least twice although in a broader sense, predicts the quick collapse of France, the ultimate attack on the USSR, a policy of "depopulation" in regards to the Jews and Eastern Europe in general, that America will be drawn in, that Japan, Italy and Germany will be on the same side, etc. The point, however I would like to make concerns the actual political goal that the Nazis hoped to achieve. Here he relies on the thought of Karl Haushofer regarding geopolitics. Karl Haushofer is largely forgotten today, but in Edward Earle's The Makers of Modern Strategy of 1943, Haushofer rated his own chapter. Reading Haushofer today with his emphasis on strategic minerals, "heartlands", "renovating and resisting powers", and the need for a new "imperialism" one is struck by this obvious influence on what passes for US strategic thought today, yet none speak his name, obviously since no one with a few exceptions dare admit what US "grand strategy" actually is.

Rauschning provides an idea as to what the actual Nazi goal was and how Germany was not the aim, but the instrument for the achievement of that goal . . . sound familiar?

Germany's Role as a World Power

New rulership, would influence, world transformation, world hegemony - this is the direction of the principles of German foreign policy thus far considered. But they do not aim at a Greater Germany, they are not content with the place of Germany as an element of order in Central Europe; they are no by any means confined to "overland" conceptions, as Haushofer calls them. The "faith in a role of leadership in world policy" inspires the German activities. The "mystical faith in a world mission which at times of slowly crippling pressure throws itself into an unheard of inner strengthening and steeling, in order to be ready at the given moment for the highest achievement," is Haushofer's description of the actual nerve of the new German political purpose. "For we have not much more time to allow the energy of movement of the worlds Powers and the speed with which they are marching toward their immediate and remote objectives, and their thrust, already begun, though the old Great Power groups . . . to pass by, without being clear in our minds that in this approaching settlement the destiny of our people and Reich will be determined for centuries, perhaps for ever". The German situation leaves the nation no political choice. Dynamic movement is necessarily more important for us in world politics than a static condition, a condition of holding on. . .

The lesson the National Socialists draw from Germany's past is that dismemberment can only be prevented by rigid centralization. The developments of the British Empire seem to their historians to be a repetition of the error of the old German Reich. . . The essence of the German mission today is the universal task. Germany no longer menaces Britain; she is seizing the leadership only because the British nation has become feeble and weary. The young German imperialism of pre-war days was an attempt to solve our pressing population problems without suffering a continual loss by emigration; the new German will to world hegemony is the definite resolve to transform the world order under German leadership. pp 208-9


  1. A lot to chew over here, seydlitz, but let me make a few observations.

    I think one key element in the success of the National Socialists was that the conservative elements in Weimer Germany had been badly damaged by the collapse of the imperial party. Germany was a much more flexible polity in the Twenties and early Thirties than the U.S. is today, and with the conservatives/monarchists down and the Socialists/Communists still reeling from the freikorps battles in the Twenties the path to power was much broader for the Nazis then than it was for the neocons today. The paleocons, the Democrats, the old establishment orders are much less feeble than the anti-Nazi resistance was then.

    I think the other weakness of the neocon Right is that so much of its footsoldiery is drawn from the same-old wingnut Right; the Birchers and Birthers, the tax revolters, the racist mouthbreathers. These guys' problem is that their utopia is unachievable; you can run a global empire on a 10% flat tax. One of my biggest problems with this bunch of idiots isn't their inane foreign policy but their unsupportable domestic policy. They want to transform the 21st Century U.S. into the equivalent of Dickensian England, with a powerful oligarchy on top, a poorhouse-and-debtors-prison social safety net, a sort of libertarian wanktopia. It wouldn't work in practice and the elites that lead the movement know that - they rely on the magical thinking and stupidity of their orc legions.

    And, give the man his props; Hitler and his coterie included some people with a genuine political genius and a real feel for the popular emotion. If there are any in the Tea Party/New Right I don't see them. Most of them seem to be of the Chris O'Donnell stripe, incapable of keeping the Stupid out of their mouths for more than a couple of speeches.

    So in terms of political change, I don't see the same trajectory here; I don

  2. What I do see is what you describe here: strategic minerals, "heartlands", "renovating and resisting powers", and the need for a new "imperialism" and this is not just a facet of the neocons but accepted wisdom among a fairly broad percentage of the U.S. public and an article of faith among a significant spectrum of the governing class.

    Google "American exceptionalism" and you'll get a pantsload of hits, from liberal interventionists to neocon outright imperialists, talking about how this country has some sort of global mission to spread Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

    Add in the plutocrats wanting to make the global tax havens safe for their hidden lucre, the military-industrial axis looking for missions and profits, respectively, the human rightists wanting the U.S. to stop genocide and female adds up to a ton of people with a vested interest in keeping the U.S. wandering about the globe "doing well while doing good".

    I think the telltale of this is that the U.S. Congress has never even debated the amendment or repeal of the AUMF for central Asia, while the conditions on the ground have changed monstrously since 2001.

    All the things you describe, seydlitz; the deception and perversion of law, the secret use - or foolishly pointless use - of military force, the pursuit of cartoon villains like OBL abroad and drug lords/child abductors/white-girl-kidnappers at home...all of these things outline a citizenry and a ruling class in an advanced stage of political senility.

    The U.S. has always been a sort of oligarchy. This ridiculous notion of this country as the Republic of the Common Man (let's call it the "Teabagger's Delusion" to honor its most recent dreamers) is the product of a combination of wishful thinking on the part of the governed and effective crowd control on the part of the governing.

    But it HAS been our good fortune that for much of our past our oligarchs have been fairly decent men with half an eye on the common good. The last time we wandered into the degree of oligarchy we're seeing today - the late 1800s and early Twentieth Century - much of the ruling class retained a semblence of the Victorian noblesse oblige that produced people like Theodore Roosevelt and Andrew Carmody. Those sorts of people combined with the muckrakers, Socialists, labor activists, and outright radicals (and helped by the banksters shitting the bed in 1929) to moderate the imperialist and oligarchic elements in the U.S. political personality.

    This time, though, that element of "social responsibility" is gone. The spectre of an angry public turning to Communism that was present at the turn of the last century and in the Thirties is gone. We've been bombarded with the "Greed is Good" philosophy of the Reaganite philosophers for thirty years. We've had our financial crack-up, and two years later the malefactors of great wealth that engineered it are back in plush bonus territory again, with nary a peep from anyone except the usual carpers of the Professional Left.

    So I regret to say that I see us going the way of Imperial Spain; caprioling about the globe draped in our tattered Roman robes while our economy and polity rots away from within. If we're lucky we will avoid our Battle of Manila Bay; if not, we will eventually be brought up hard against the limitations of an Empire that allows its domestic industry to deteriorate and its ruling elite to avoid the hard work of imperial service while reaping the benefits of imperial tribute.

    I just hope I'm not alive to see it.

  3. FDChief-

    Agree with your points in regards to the different political landscapes - that would go under distinctions, which I haven't listed yet. "Neocon" itself is something of a catchall for what we could also call "the US Empire Party", but I use it since they provide what little intellectual scaffolding the movement has.

    Still in comparison with what the Nazis envisaged, the Neocon means/ends are rather ramshackle in comparison at least in terms of national commitment. This brings up another distinction in that the Nazis wished for total mobilization in order to achieve their aims, whereas the Neocons emphasize more the opposite - stupification by means of "American Exceptionalism" and the usual smoke and mirrors, while attempting to attain their goals through brute force and large explosions.

    What about Big "C" Capitalism or Corporatism? How would you say they compare?

  4. FDChief-

    One more thing, I suppose the Spanish Empire is the slow road, whereas Nazi Germany is the fast lane . . . both arriving at the same destination?

  5. I think that the U.S. paradigm is a fluctuating balance between capitalism (which itself goes from the relatively predatory, unregulated form that reigned from the 1860's or so until 1929 and has been regaining its form since 1980) and corporatism, which was the rule from the height of the Robber Baron/Trust Era to the early New Deal and has also re-emerged with the merger between the GOP and the plutocrats that once patronized and now wholly own it. The current condition is more corporatist than it was prior to the rise of Reagan, but I'm not sure if we're reached the level of the zaibatsu of the Chinese model of state capitalism yet. LEt's say that I'm skeptical - given the current political climate - that we can avoid a slide into outright corporatist governance within the next decade. Goldman Sachs, BP, and Nike would all have to simultaneously get caught sodomizing celebrity boys to find themselves on the outside of government now.

    And I'd argue that, rather, the Spanish trajectory in the 16th to 19th Centuries was one of ignorant pride and willful ignorance; Spain was unable to adjust its ends to its means because it wasn't willing to see what was happening both within Spain and in its colonies - the impoverishment and exhaustion of the Spanish peasants, the calcification of the Spanish aristocracy, the destruction of the middle class, the destructive effects of tax farming and central administration on the increasingly restive colonies, the inevitable revolts brought on by piss-poor colonial rule.

    The Nazis were similar only in having a grandiose concept of their place in the world. They didn't start with an empire and then lose it through sloth, self-deception, nepotism, and hierarchical rigidity. They wanted an empire and ran into the neighboring powers that didn't want them to have it.

    So I'd argue that our economic and political position now is closer to Spain's in 1699 than Germany's in 1938. Philosophically we're different from both, since the Spanish had a thought-out justification for empire and the Germans one for wanting one, while we have just sort of drifted into being what we are.

    In a sense, I think we're really closest to the late Roman Republic; having become a de facto empire through our economic and social power we cling to the republican fantasies we spun about ourselves in our rising years and pretend not to see the dysfunctions in our system of government and economy. We are unlikely to succumb to caesarism, but I find it entirely likely that we will end up with a more-or-less open oligarchy.

  6. FDChief-

    Yes, the Spanish Empire would be an excellent ideal type as well, but we have talked about this before, both you and I have used the example of Imperial Spain as a fruitful comparison to the US and agreed on it. So . . .

    What do you think of Rauschning as I've described him?

    "we will end up with a more-or-less open oligarchy."

    So, how will this oligarchy view the state? As an apparatus of rule, or as an "instrument" of the rulers to use as they wish? An instrument of course can be used and discarded, such as policy is from time to time. An apparatus of control on the other hand . . .

  7. FDChief-

    As to the economic argument being closer to Spain . . . yes, agree.

    I'll have to think more about your other comments in regards to the economics. Happy New Year Friend, Friends . . .

  8. This is where I think we need to think of Imperial Rome; our new oligarchic masters will, as the Caesars did, retain the old forms and simply insure that they are capable of manipulating them to their will.

    They do now, effectively. Tell me there was a civic or political reason for not jacking down on the ridiculous credit default swap or derivative markets that helped inflate the past bubble? These instruments generate no real value; they are, in effect, a legitimized Ponzo scheme. But the rentier class, the banksters, owns the Congress, and as such had no interest in doing anything about either letting the investors take a hiding (in fairness, a lot of "innocent" people would have been punished along with them...) or preventing the reoccurrence of the same.

    So it didn't happen.

    They will happily let the fools bloviate about guns, gays, abortion, and whatever other foolish fooling that the public fools wish to fool with. But they will ensure that their prerogatives, the tax structures, the way the "rule of law" is bent in their favor, cannot be tampered with by the insignificant proles.

    I think Rauschning would have been appalled to see a polity as rich, safe, and stable as ours quivering with fear over a handful of scabby hillmen and tumbling over themnselves to take down their trousers and hand the birch-rods to their plutocratic masters. At least his Germany had the excuse of a catastrophic collapse of a falsified imperial edifice. I think his spit-take would have been something like "Was zum Teufel ist Ihre Störung?" if I remember my German correctly.

  9. Chief/Seydlitz,
    The various churches carry the greed ethos into church policy-now a christian god wants us to be rich and prosperous.
    This then leads to the conditions that Chief describes. god wants us to be greedy. It's all circular logic.
    Re-Hitler and other conmen. They can only perform their act with the compliance/acceptance of the masses. And the basis of all cons is-YOU CAN'T CON AN HONEST MAN.
    The point istm is that we are conning ourselves, as well as being conned.
    We the people are as much a part of the problem as the leaders.

  10. Thanks gentlemen for your comments.

    Guns, gays, and god, yes and money from god too as jim reminds us. Politics reduced to little swindles and self-delusion, and vices magically transformed into virtues on the side, to make the whole thing go down easier . . . there must have been plenty of that going on in the 1930s as well . . .

    What does Rauschning say about America, he was after all writing not only to a German audience, nor only a German-American audience, but all Americans as well. I'm approaching the end of the book, and Rauschning mentions a date in March 1939, so the book was written on the very eve of the war, not in 1938 as I have said, DOI: probably around June 1939. Blame wikipedia ;-)>.

    Rauschning on America:

    "And America is already at the outset of internal convulsions produced by a war of ideologies. Here, too, a change may easily come, incredible as it seems as yet, which will convert American opposition into willing dictatorship. In the National Socialist view the political situation in America is unstable and can be developed into an outright revolution; to do this is both a tactical aim of National Socialism, in order to hold America aloof from Europe, and a political one, in order to bring both North and South America into the new order. By its ubiquity and its tactics of universal menace, National Socialism is preparing to occupy the key positions for colonial domination, for domination of the great sea routes, and for the domination of America and the Pacific." p 226

  11. Seydlitz: vices magically transformed into virtues on the side, to make the whole thing go down easier

    You don't mean something like elevating an out of wedlock teen pregnancy to virtue because abortion was not chosen, do you?

    jim- while the "Prosperity Gospels" abound, not every religious faith group embraces them. Sweeping generalization can weaken a valid argument, my friend.

  12. Al-

    Well, yes, that could be included, especially since nobody really gives a damn about the child after the birth. I think this a common trait of societies in decay, interests being mistaken for values and vice versa.

    Colonel Lang's got three threads going on WWII, especially Nazi Germany . . .

    Here's the latest . . .

    Col Lang makes the comment that we can't really compare anything to the Holocaust or the losses of WWII. I agree, but only add that this thread is about a book written in 1939 before the war began, and Rauschning is actually optimistic at the end that the worst has been temporarily avoided (the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact must have come as a complete surprise to just about everyone).

    To me perhaps the main similarity is the times themselves, we are in a period of intense change with "nations in motion" (as Rauschning describes it), or am I missing something or seeing something that is not there?

  13. I think it's important not to conflate the noise of the Right wing fringe with the "nation in motion". The uniquity of our time is the resurgence of the John Birch Right. This bizarre little subculture should have been taken out with the trash back in the Fifties but managed to survive just long enough to see Nixon's "Southern Strategy" revitalize the racist and ignorant goober wing of the Party. Through a concatenation of stupid choices by the Rovean leadership these gomers have managed to position themselves to take over much of the GOP, much as Hitler and his cronies did to the DAP in 1921. Whether they can do this - the Fuhrer had twin advantages of his personal magnetism and the weakness of Drexler, the original head of the DAP which I don't see in any of the current crop of teabaggers - is problematic, but so far they are still just a fringe.

    No, what I see happening is the overwhelming sloth of the American public being exploited by the usual suspects; wealthy plutocrats like the Koch brothers and unscrupulous powermongers like Cheney. But at the same time that this ignorant inertia can be exploited for private gain, it can't be mobilized for conquest. The Nazis had a restive, defeated, angry Germany to energize. The current U.S. is the polar opposite: lazy, complacent, bloated, and inert.

    A bad thing for the defense of Constitutional rights, but also a bad thing for global hegemony.

  14. seydlitz: Well, yes, that could be included, especially since nobody really gives a damn about the child after the birth. I think this a common trait of societies in decay, interests being mistaken for values and vice versa.

    FDChief: The Nazis had a restive, defeated, angry Germany to energize. The current U.S. is the polar opposite: lazy, complacent, bloated, and inert.

    I think there is a common issue here in terms of the US, with Chief providing the reason that the alleged "values" are twisted (interests being confused for values). One has to wonder if something is truly in the category of "values" if it can be so easily perverted for political advantage, power or personal gain.

  15. FDChief-

    Actually I agree with you and would not include the US in the current "nations in motion" but would include China, India, Western Europe, Britain, most of the Middle East, South America, sub-Saharan Africa . . . The main trait one sees in America today, and perhaps I'm being too harsh since I expect so much more, is exhaustion associated with lots of whining . . .

  16. Al-

    How else do we communicate with others about values except by language? Of course there is action, but action takes time and proximity and if the two communicating have neither? Language is the only way - especially at the scale of a national community - and language can be abused/is abused during times of revolutionary change. The Nazis talked a lot about the traditional German family and the father's authority within it, but then told the kids in the youth organizations, "don't trust the older generation, but do trust us, and the Führer is a much better father than that loser you have at home".

    So we have the paradox of the exhausted, but angry - and looking for "revolutionary" change - - public. Have not the last three election cycles shown that? People understand, especially what's left of the Middle Class, that they are losing ground and that the game's fixed and they're being ripped off constantly, but at the same time they are in the gravitational pull of "the Washington Rules" (for lack of a better than Bacevich's term) which provides the mode music and even false security that "everything will turn out right", while the elite methodically constructs the apparatus of a police state. Remember torture as stalking horse . . . so change they're getting, just not the change they want . . .

  17. Seydlitz:

    I am halfway through reading Strawson's "Hitler as Military Commander". Strawson quotes Rauschning a few times.

    But the quotes are from Rauschning's "Gespräche mit Hitler (Hitler Speaks)" which seems to be discredited, at least by Wikipedia. Not sure why? Sure, he probably never had long detailed political and strategic conversations with Hitler. But I think most of what he says that Hitler says are what Hitler actually did say in speeches and in Mein Kampf. So it appears to me to be more of a writer's device used by many authors rather than deliberate propaganda.

    Strawson's is a fascinating book by the way. He posits that Hitler won over the Army by his bloodless triumphs in the Rhineland, in the Sudetenland, and the Anschluss. Those were victories driven by Hitler's political acumen and not by any strategic genius.

    He also posits that Hitler's strategy - what Hitler called "so oder so" - (a little of this and that? - pardon my translation) is what did in the Wehrmacht eventually along with his meddling in tactics and his positioning of units down to and below battalion level. He never settled on one primary objective in Barbarossa and constantly changed the goalposts.
    His original priority was Leningrad, when that stalled he prioritized Moscow. Later it was Baku's oilfields. And then even later Stalingrad and only because of the name and its propaganda value. In other words his Schwerpunkte was scattered like birdshot at a bear.


  18. mike: Agreed wholeheartedly about the seduction of the Heer by the bloodless triumphs of the late Thirties. But I would argue that Hitler's failure of strategy was larger and simpler than tactical meddling.

    As much as he "read" the Western Allies right in 1939-10 he got Stalin completely wrong in 1941-42. The economic and physical disparity of what Germany was capable of in the East and what the Soviets had waiting for the Germans makes it unlikely that Barbarossa could ever have succeeded. Maybe if the Germans had dug in in November 1941...maybe if they had lunged for Baku in spring 1942 and held it...but probably not. I suspect that a huge portion of Hitler's "plan" depended on the Soviets falling apart like the French did. When that didn't happen, well, then it was just a grinding match, and the Soviets could lose 4-1 and still win...

    Al: The conflation of "values" with selfish wants is not unusual in any society; it's not surprising to me that the U.S. shares this trait. What is rather unpleasant is the combination of cynical manipulation of this trait by the oligarchs with the more-or-less willing acquiescence of the People. The notion of making a sacrifice for the Common Good seems as passe' as the buggy whip. I'm not saying that the U.S. was ever some sort of kumbaya-singing communal paradise, but the past 30 years seems to have sharpened our internal political divisions to a degree not seen since 1859 and our social divisions to a level last seen in the Sixties.

  19. mike-

    "But the quotes are from Rauschning's "Gespräche mit Hitler (Hitler Speaks)" which seems to be discredited, at least by Wikipedia. Not sure why?"

    I label "Hitler Speaks" as propaganda based on German sources, and this quote from JFC Fuller's "The Conduct of War 1789-1961" p 228:

    "On the question of race, he said to Rauschning:
    -The 'nation' is a political expedient of democracy and Liberalism. We have to . . . set in its place the conception of race . . . the new order cannot be conceived in terms of the national boundaries of the peoples with an historic past, but in terms of race that transcends those boundaries . . . I know perfectly well . . . that in a scientific sense there is no such thing as race . . . [but] I as a politician need a conception which enables the order which has hitherto existed on historic bases to be abolished and entirely new and anti-historic bases enforced and given an intellectual basis . . . And for this purpose the conception of races serves me well . . . France carried her great Revolution beyond her borders with the conception of the nation. With the conception of race, National Socialism will carry its revolution abroad and recast the world.-"

    First, do you believe Hitler said that to Rauschning? Do you believe Hitler ever said this in public? To a private audience?

    Rather, did he not believe it himself, or at the least would never have given away the scam? I think Rauschning is right, it was a scam and his reason behind the scam is correct as well, but I don't think Hitler ever said it where Rauschning could have heard or read it . . . rather it is simply Rauschning and his 1940 anti-Nazi propaganda, but I still agree with his view.

    Still it should be labeled as such.

  20. Bob Reich has a good column up that lays out the one large similarity between the American and German Right(s); the reliance on the Big Lie. (

    "George Orwell once explained that when a public is stressed and confused, a Big Lie told repeatedly can become the accepted truth. Adolph Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that “the size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed” and that members of the public are “more easily prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.”

    Whether it's about Iraq, or global warming, or population, or resource extraction, or immigration...there are certainly nuanced forms of the positions taken by the American Right. But for public consumption the standard technique has been to stake the position by first trumpeting the Big Lie: smoking guns and mushroom clouds, fighting them there so we don't fight them here, tax cuts for the rich equal wealth for all. By the time the Congress gets down to nut-cutting the Big Lie has moved the debate so far to the right that the possibility of anything resembling fiscal, political, or military sanity is out the window...

    Sad, but we've been seeing it since Goldwater and the American public seems OK with it. Or at least the FOX ratings suggest we are.

  21. Seydlitz -

    Strawson would agree with you. He mentions that General von Seekt, Commander of the German Army during the Weimar Republic, believed in an alliance with the Soviet Union, as did Admiral Raeder.

    There is a similar discussion at Sic Semper Tyrannis blog where it was said that a significant portion of the German diplomatic corps believed the same. Supposedly it was an old principle of Bismark.


  22. So, we've covered some good ground on this thread. Let me recap a few of Rauschning's key arguments:

    First, the geo-strategic goal of Nazism was not "national" or the establishment of a "Grossdeutschland" a hegemonic German state encompassing the German Nation. Rather it was the re-ordering of the entire world along "racial" instead of "national" lines. Nazi Germany is often used as an example of a Totalitarian "State", but strictly speaking the state elements decreased in importance as time went on, with party organizations of the movement displacing those institutions of the state.

    Second, the Nazi elite went through a constant process of selection and refinement with those who displayed utter ruthlessness and the ability to use violence rising to the top. As Rauschning writes, "brutality was part of their training". Compromise, rationality, understanding, no! Rather the ability for unquestioning obedience and willingness to use violence as the preferred method.

    Third, the state and the nation as both instruments for the achievement of their radical goals, even the total defeat of Germany and the destruction of the German state could lead to eventual victory of their reordered world along racial lines. The former Nazis who had survived would simply switch alligence to the "race" that had shown itself superior in the great racial struggle . . .

  23. So, the state and nation as means, but not an end.

    Finally there are two last points I would like to bring up, the first that FDChief mentions, the "Big Lie" . . How is this possible?

    To answer this important question, we have to go beyond Rauschning, although he mentions it, to Hannah Arendt, the best imo theorist of Totalitarianism . . .

    "The chief value, however, of the secret or conspiratory societies' organization does not even lie in the inherent guarantees of unconditional belonging and loyalty, and organizational manifestation of unquestioned hostility to the outside world, but in their unsurpassed capacity to establish and safeguard the fictitious world through consistent lying. The whole hierarchical structure of totalitarian movements, from naive fellow-travelers to party members, elite formation, the intimate circle around the Leader, and the Leader himself, could be described in terms of a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism with which each member, depending upon his rank and standing in the movement, is expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders and the central unchanging ideological fiction of the movement."
    HA, "The Origins of Totalitarianism, p 382.

    So, different levels of understanding of the great plan within the movement, with the level of gullibility highest at the lowest level and the level of cynicism highest at the highest level. The fellow travelers are outside the movement per se but believe enough in it, the rank and file party members consider themselves superior to the fellow travelers since they see some of the bs, the elite formations consider themselves superior to the rank and file and so on. Each sees the leader and the mission in a different light, the lowest as "an honest broker", whereas the upper levels as a "clever fellow". Each of the actual party levels prides itself with its own level of understanding . . .

    That something like this "works" is a clear indication that a totalitarian system in fact exists . . .

  24. So now, finally, the last point I'd like to make before the postscript, barring of course any interesting comments that carry this on in a different direction . . .

    This has to do with the attitudes towards limits by the elite within the movement/totalitarian system. Hannah Arendt writes:

    "However, the loyalty of those who believe neither in ideological cliches nor in the infallibility of the Leader also has deeper, nontechnical reasons. What binds these men together is a firm and sincere belief in human omnipotence. Their moral cynicism, their belief that everything is permitted, rests on the solid conviction that everything is possible. It is true that these men, few in number, are not easily caught in their own specific lies and that they do not necessarily believe in racism or economics, in the conspiracy of the Jews or of Wall Street. Yet they too are deceived, deceived by their impudent conceited idea that everything can be done and their contemptuous conviction that everything that exists is merely a temporary obstacle that superior organization will certainly destroy. Confident that power of organization can destroy power of substance, as the violence of a well-organized gang might rob a rich man of ill-guarded wealth, they constantly underestimate the substantial power of stable communities and overestimate the driving force of the movement. Since, moreover, they do not actually believe in the factual existence of a world conspiracy against them, but use it only as an organizational device, they fail to understand that their own conspiracy may eventually provoke the whole world into uniting against them."
    "TOT", p 387.

  25. seydlitz: "...they constantly underestimate the substantial power of stable communities and overestimate the driving force of the movement."

    This may be the best example of similarity between the NSDAP and the current American Right. In both organizations the most important facet of a member's character is not intelligence, bravery, honesty, or moral ferocity but the ability to believe sincerely in ONLY that which is the Official Doctrine. As such they see only what they are told is True, and until the moment when the first Red infantryman kicks in the door and puts five rounds in their center of mass they will continue to believe that Steiner will arrive.

    If they destroy the nation, or the world in the process, they will count them well lost. Ideological purity trumps everything. It is this very sort of thinking that produced Cannae, the Titanic, and New Coke.

  26. "American Right"? Only? Are not the current Demos under Obama the reverse of the same coin? And what would that tell you?

    The presence of the "big lie" betrays a lot imo . . .

  27. Tried to post this on Colonel Lang's "Hitler and Stalin" thread, but it was rejected:

    "Have visited both Sachenhausen and Ravensbrück. What struck me was the makeshift element of both, although less so for Ravensbrück since at the time the WGF were still there. Not really meant for large numbers of people all at once, more for smaller, more manageable numbers, continuously. The original idea was to dominate, brutalize and humiliate and then let them go. As Colonel Lang has mentioned these German camps were nothing like Auschwitz in planning or purpose.

    As to Hitler's chances against the USSR? He would have had to defeat them by fall 1942, which would have been possible imo. The best argument I've read (Fugate) is that the Germans should have done the Kiev turning movement and cleared the Ukraine, then gone into winter quarters just beyond Yelena. Moscow the target for the following Spring, and then or never."

  28. mike-

    I think the thread had been closed to further comments, since the next day not much had been added.

  29. Still considering the postscript for this one. I found the whole exchange stimulating, thanks to all who commented.

    There is one thing I would like to add to the comments in regards to this paradox which I mentioned and FDChief commented on extensively:

    "So we have the paradox of the exhausted, but angry - and looking for "revolutionary" change - - public."

    Chief links this with the resusitation of the "John Birchers" but I wonder if what we are seeing is not in fact the same Nihilist movement that Rauschning described. They don't really seem to be "for" anything, but rather emphasize some sort of obscure lost past which unfortunately for the country never actually existed. It's more about shared notions of the past that have no real relation to the past and are being used to usher in something quite different . . . now where have we seen that in history?

    The exhaustion comes in where people should be aware at this point that their "democratic system" of replacing one set of corporate/elite lackies with the other set is not going to lead to any real change, but go through the motions nonetheless.

    What are their options? Well the same options their grandparents (or great-grandparents) had in the 1930s - raise a stink and get the big boys' attention. That of course required "community" as in a shared political community but that seemingly no longer exists.

  30. I think you've characterized the Dems pretty well with your last comment, seydlitz: "demoralized, exhausted, "a shared political community that no longer exists".

    I think the difference is that the Dems, being still notionally the party of "choice", of "diversity", and the smallholder, just doesn't HAVE a "big lie" anymore. They've lost whatever faith they had left in the New Deal and have nothing to replace it with.

    The GOP, OTOH, hopes to replace the New Deal society. The orc-legions THINK they'd be replacing it with some sort of libertarian paradise where everyone gets to be Howard Roark. The elites that are giving the orders KNOW that what they'd get is just what we had before the New Deal; a Hobbsean leviathan with a very large part of the country working in fairly ugly poverty for a small oligarchy at the top.

    I agree that the Obama coterie has their little lies about the Dear Leader, but that's just the self-serving of any power elite. The D's have lost their mojo - that's the blue part of the story. The R's have a mojo - but it's a fucking scary mojo that will serve none but the senatorial class. The red part of the story is just bugnuts crazy.