September 30, 2002
What Is the Difference Between Far Left and Far Right?

The extremely, extremely smart and amazingly prolific Niall Ferguson uses the occasion of the publication of British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm's memoir to ask--seriously and thoughtfully--just why is it that we have some sympathetic tolerance for the likes of Eric Hobsbawm (who spent the 24 years from 1930 to 1954 in enthusiastic and unthinking corpse-like obedience to the every whim of Josef Stalin) while we would have no tolerance at all for an equivalent enthusiastic and unthinking corpse-like obeyer of Adolf Hitler (even if he had written "the best starting point I know for anyone who wishes to begin studying modern history").

This is, I think, an important question with both positive and normative sides. On the positive side, there is no doubt that we do treat Eric Hobsbawm differently than we would his notional Nazi counterpart--Niall Ferguson certainly does--and it is important to figure out why we do so. On the normative side, there is a different question: should we treat Hobsbawm differently?

In one way I think Niall lets Hobsbawm off too easily. He does not call an intellectual foul on Hobsbawm for claiming that he was obeying something called "the party" rather than a clique of time-servers obedient to a mad paranoiac in the Kremlin.

I do think that there is an answer to Niall's question. As Norman Davies has said, even the Nazis' vision of utopia was ugly. By contrast, it seems to me at least that Russian Communist leaders like Lev Bronstein, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mikhail Gorbachev all had visions of utopia that are very close to those of the rest of us. The story of them and their victims is a tragedy, unlike the story of Hitler, Heydrich, Goebbels, Himmler and company, which is simply a horror. (Of course, one must not forget that those like Stalin, Dzerzhinsky, Lenin himself, and Andropov had... very different visions of what a good society looked like. Focus attention on the years of High Stalinism, and it is much harder to maintain any daylight between Communists and Nazis.)

I think that this is the true answer to the positive question. I don't have a view on the normative question--or, rather, I have two opposed and contradictory views.


arts.telegraph.co.uk - What a swell party it was. . . for him: ...But was there really such a great moral difference - as Hobsbawm insists there was - between being a fascist and being a Communist? The essence of Communism is the abnegation of individual freedom, as Hobsbawm admits in a chilling passage: "The Party... had the first, or more precisely the only real claim on our lives. Its demands had absolute priority. We accepted its discipline and hierarchy. We accepted the absolute obligation to follow 'the lines' it proposed to us, even when we disagreed with it... We did what it ordered us to do... Whatever it had ordered, we would have obeyed... If the Party ordered you to abandon your lover or spouse, you did so."

Consider some of the "lines" our historian dutifully toed. He accepted the order to side with the Nazis against the Weimar-supporting Social Democrats in the great Berlin transport strike of 1932. He accepted the order to side with the Nazis against Britain and France following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939. He accepted the excommunication of Tito. He condoned the show trials of men like Laszlo Rajk in Hungary. In 1954, just after Stalin's death, he visited Moscow as one of the honoured members of the Historians' Group of the British Communist Party. He admits to having been dismayed when, two years later, Khrushchev denounced Stalin's crimes at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party. When Khrushchev himself ordered the tanks into Budapest, Hobsbawm finally spoke up, publishing a letter of protest...

What a swell party it was. . . for him
(Filed: 22/09/2002)

Niall Ferguson reviews Interesting Times by Eric Hobsbawm

The lives of historians are generally a bore. After all, any historian worth writing about spends most of his time - like Gibbon - just scribble, scribble, scribbling. Yet Eric Hobsbawm's life is the exception that proves that rule. For his life helps us to answer one of the most puzzling historical questions of the 20th century: why did so many otherwise intelligent people become Communists?

That Hobsbawm is one of the great historians of his generation is undeniable. His quartet of books beginning with The Age of Revolution (1962) and ending with The Age of Extremes (1994) constitute the best starting point I know for anyone who wishes to begin studying modern history. Nothing else produced by the British Marxist historians will endure as these books will.

Though I cannot claim to know him well, Hobsbawm is also a man I cannot resist liking. Politics aside, I find we have an uncanny amount in common: like me, he reveres the great Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, is devoted to jazz, as I am, and for most of his career spent four months a year in New York, as I am about to do. We even come close to agreeing about the value of "what if" questions in history. Hobsbawm saves for his very last page the revelation that he too thinks "that the German Europe that would have emerged from the Kaiser's victory [in the First World War] might have been a better proposition than the world of Versailles".

Knowing all this, I found myself gripped by the central paradox that dominates this autobiography. How could such a brilliant and congenial scholar be so politically wrong for so long - for 50 years, to be exact, the period of his membership of the Communist Party? And how can he continue to believe, as he clearly still does, that something can be salvaged from the ghastly enterprise of Lenin and his cronies? "The dream of the October Revolution", he writes, "is still there somewhere inside me . . . I have abandoned, nay rejected it, but it has not been obliterated."

Interesting Times is, in some measure, an Apologia pro vita sua. It would be easy to read it and conclude: "Well, who would have done otherwise in his situation?" Born in 1917 - just months before the Bolshevik Revolution - Eric Hobsbawm's formative years were spent in Vienna and Berlin. As a half-English Jew (his grandfathers were a London cabinet-maker named Obstbaum and a Viennese jeweller named Grun) he already had two good reasons for feeling an outsider. What a time for a teenager to be reading the Communist Manifesto - with Hitler on the brink of power. Although it is worth remarking that there were plenty of people in much the same situation who did not rush to join the Communist Party.

Even after his arrival in England in March 1933, he remained in some measure a "natural" Communist. From St Marylebone Grammar School he won a scholarship to that greenhouse of the English Left, King's College, Cambridge. Being a Communist was almost obligatory for the scholarship boys of those days - the likes of John Cornford, the handsome great-grandson of Darwin, who later fought and died in Spanish Civil War. And what fun it all was later, in the 1960s, by which time Hobsbawm was one of the established stars in the Marxist intellectual firmament, egging on the students at Birkbeck College to revolt like their counterparts at the Sorbonne.

Yet there is a need to look a little more closely at all this. The Far Left will always be chic while the Far Right is irredeemably repulsive. But was there really such a great moral difference - as Hobsbawm insists there was - between being a fascist and being a Communist?

The essence of Communism is the abnegation of individual freedom, as Hobsbawm admits in a chilling passage: "The Party… had the first, or more precisely the only real claim on our lives. Its demands had absolute priority. We accepted its discipline and hierarchy. We accepted the absolute obligation to follow 'the lines' it proposed to us, even when we disagreed with it…We did what it ordered us to do…Whatever it had ordered, we would have obeyed… If the Party ordered you to abandon your lover or spouse, you did so."

Consider some of the "lines" our historian dutifully toed. He accepted the order to side with the Nazis against the Weimar-supporting Social Democrats in the great Berlin transport strike of 1932. He accepted the order to side with the Nazis against Britain and France following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939. He accepted the excommunication of Tito. He condoned the show trials of men like Laszlo Rajk in Hungary.

In 1954, just after Stalin's death, he visited Moscow as one of the honoured members of the Historians' Group of the British Communist Party. He admits to having been dismayed when, two years later, Khrushchev denounced Stalin's crimes at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party. When Khrushchev himself ordered the tanks into Budapest, Hobsbawm finally spoke up, publishing a letter of protest. But he did not leave the Party.

In the end, the only way to understand this extraordinary trahison d'un clerc is precisely as a succession of acts of quasi-religious faith. In a surprising aside, Hobsbawm himself refers to "the Party" as the "Communist Universal Church" and later admits: "For young revolutionaries of my generation, mass demonstrations were the equivalent of papal masses for devout Catholics."

But what a curiously flexible faith this was in practice. On the one hand, Hobsbawm continued - and has continued - to "favour… insurrection or guerrilla conquest" wherever these seemed to be "realistically on the agenda", while denouncing "global neo-liberalism" and "[free] market fundamentalism". On the other, he has enjoyed all the imaginable benefits which free capitalist democracies have to offer.

Apart from being excluded from intelligence work during the war - which he rather bizarrely complains about - and having to wait rather longer than expected to be given a chair, his long allegiance to a hostile power has never been held against him here. Nor has it in the United States, where he spent a third of every year between 1984 and 1997. As for his continuing broadsides against "market fundamentalism" - as personified, of course, by Margaret Thatcher - these ring distinctly hollow coming from a man who has been substantially enriched by the publication of his books by a host of commercial publishers around the world.

But then, Communism always was a schizophrenic kind of faith, preaching equality for all, while preserving la dolce vita for the Party elite. Italian Communism, Hobsbawm confesses, was always his favourite variant. Where else do the Communists have Tuscan farmhouses, where one can "stretch out…on the terrace overlooking the Val d'Orcia after lunch, listening to the voice of Callas singing 'Casta Diva'…?" It's a far cry from the storming of the Winter Palace.

"Can humanity live without the ideals of freedom and justice", asks Hobsbawm, "or without those who devote their lives to them?" The tragedy of Communism - and it was a tragedy that cost the lives of tens of millions - was that a man of Eric Hobsbawm's intelligence could not see, and still cannot see, that Communism was the negation of both freedom and justice, for the sake of a spurious and ultimately bogus egalitarianism.

  • Niall Ferguson is Professor of Political and Financial History at Oxford. His new book, 'Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World', will be published by Penguin in January.

  • Allan Massie reviews Interesting Times by Eric Hobsbawm

    Being a communist retarded the progress of Eric Hobsbawm's academic career in the early 1950s; remaining one, long after most had fled the party, furthered it. Doubtless it wouldn't have done so if his historical writings had not commanded the respect of colleagues, but being known as a Marxist and still a member of the party certainly helped to make him a celebrity and globe-trotting don.

    Hobsbawm was born British, his grandfather being "an immigrant London Jewish cabinet-maker", but his mother was Austrian, also Jewish, and Eric spent his early childhood in Vienna, "the impoverished capital of a great empire, attached, after that empire's collapse, to a smallish provincial republic of great beauty, which did not believe it ought to exist". His parents died. He went to live with an aunt in Berlin, and it was there that he became a communist. The family were "entirely unobservant", yet "knew we were, and could not get away from being, Jews".

    He was brought to England in 1933. "After the excitements of Berlin, Britain was inevitably a come-down." But he discovered jazz, his love for which would "later serve me well in unexpected ways". He also got a good grammar-school education, and won a scholarship to King's, Cambridge. There, in time, he was elected to the Apostles - "Communism had nothing to do with my election, although the famous photo of six Apostles that appears in every book on the Cambridge spies contains four Communists." Since he held a British passport, he wasn't, like so many Jewish and anti-fascist refugees, interned in 1939-40, but was called up, first serving in the Royal Engineers and then in the Education Corps. His war was uneventful, unsatisfactory: "The main reason why I wasted my country's time and my own during most of my twenties was almost certainly political."

    It is easy to understand why Hobsbawm became a communist. "Communism represented the ideal of transcending egoism and of service to all humanity without exception." It is much harder to understand why he remained one; and I'm not sure he can explain it to himself. He now writes that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, "it must now be obvious that failure was built into the enterprise from the start". Admittedly, this wasn't so evident even 40 years ago. After all, in 1960, in his last conference speech, Aneurin Bevan was still saying that the economic challenge "is going to come from Russia" which was "at last able to reap the material fruits of economic planning and public ownership". Yet even then, by his account, Hobsbawm had few, if any, illusions about the Soviet Union. He had been there once, in 1954, as a guest of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and returned home "politically unchanged if depressed, and without any desire to go there again". Two years later, he disapproved of the Russian suppression of the Hungarian rebellion; yet, unlike so many, he remained in the Party.

    In contrast, he recognises that "internationally speaking the US was by any standards the success story among twentieth century states", and that it would be "the preferred destination of most human beings who must, or decide to, move to a country other than their own". He himself evidently relishes America, especially New York and Chicago, and has interesting things to say about it. "It is the only country in my political lifetime where three able presidents (FDR, Kennedy, Nixon) have been replaced at a moment's notice, by men neither qualified nor expected to do the job, without making any noticeable difference to the course of US and world history."

    So why remain a communist? One reason, certainly, was that there were still communist parties, especially the Italian, with which he felt comfortable. Another was that the Soviet Union remained "the supporter of the liberation of oppressed peoples, notably in South Africa" (so long, that is, one might add, as the Soviet Union itself was not the oppressing power). It was also that "emotionally I belonged to the generation tied by an almost unbreakable umbilical cord to hope of the world revolution and of its original home, the October Revolution, however sceptical or critical of the USSR". It was also a matter of pride. Yet it is clear that, by the time he reached middle-life, Hobsbawm's commitment to communism was a sort of post-1745 Jacobitism, sentimental and nostalgic.

    He has led a full life, and this is an uncommonly interesting and agreeable autobiography, packed with detail and often wise reflection. The chapter on the 1960s is especially good. "It may be argued," he concludes, "that the really significant index of the history of the second half of the twentieth century is not ideology but the forward march of blue jeans. But, alas, I am not part of that history."

    Posted by DeLong at September 30, 2002 11:59 AM | Trackback

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    Comments

    There is a vital difference, at the individual level, between being a Communist and a Fascist. On the one hand, one could be a decent person, and become a Communist out of the best of intentions. One did, however, have to surrender all critical intellectual judgment, during the course of Stalin's regime, to remain a Communist. On the other hand, decent people did not become fascists. There was never a question of intellectual integrity for fascists, because what you got was what you asked for.

    I have met many ex-Communists whom I have liked a great deal. I have yet to meet an ex-fascist that I could stay in the same room with.

    Posted by: Leo Casey on September 30, 2002 12:55 PM

    Prof. DeLong, what did Henry Ford's antisemitisme do to his company's cars and future ?

    Posted by: Hans Suter on September 30, 2002 01:06 PM

    I seem to remember that Ferguson has written something about Heidegger in the past and thus knows that intelligent, personable Nazis are indeed forgiven their ideological weaknesses. It's just that there aren't very many of them.

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on September 30, 2002 01:11 PM

    In NYC we have a "KGB bar" which regularly gets glowing mention in the local press for being, as its web site says, "a big hit among New York's scene-hungry younger literati, who flock to KGB regularly for one of the hottest reading series in town." (http://www.echonyc.com/~bucky/kgb/)

    Needless to say there is no "Gestapo Bar". In a newspaper story the owner of the KGB said he had wanted an espionage/secret-police related name with appeal for the intellectual set, and ran through the list of the names he had considered. "Gestapo" wasn't even on it!

    Back in the early 80s when communism was still apparently running strong, Tom Wolfe wrote an interesting essay on the long-time attraction of intellectuals to socialism and socialist authoritarianism, "The Intelligent Coed's Guide to Socialism". It carries a bit of an extra kick today for the look back in time. In it Wolfe names people still well known today who were then defending the Soviets' invasion of Afghanistan -- and, even more interestingly, those then trying to criticize the invasion while avoiding any criticism of communism per se, by calling the invasion some sort of "right wing" distortion. Hmm... Google says it's on the web at http://www.worldandi.com/public/1987/january/ss3.cfm

    A couple years ago the NY Times ran a touching story of the quaint characters residing in an old age home for old-time Communists, happily recalling the good old days of Lenin and Stalin under their portraits. I think it was Michael Kelly who asked if anyone could imagine the Times running such a sympathetic and bemused story on the residents of a retirement home for old Nazis, recalling the good old days of Hitler and Goering under their portraits.

    Posted by: Jim Glass on September 30, 2002 01:34 PM

    "Russian communist leaders...had visions of utopia that are close to the visions of the rest of us" !!! Speak for yourself professor. One could say the same thing about Pol Pot.

    I don't want to live on a collective farm run by party members who kill or imprison those they disagree with. (You should educate yourself on how much blood was on Kruechev's hands. His later tepid antiStalism was as much an expiation of his own guilt.) The reason communism is still viewed as acceptable is that so many accademics and psuedointellectuals spent their adult lives as mini-Hobshawns. It was fashionable to be a Stalinist and many people find it charming that Picasso, Neruda, et al were inane Stalinists. I remember in the seventies people in the US waving NLF (Viet Cong) flags and you can still go to bars and clubs and still see images of Che Guevara plastered around NYC. Those people are still alive and still work at newspapers and magazines and universities all over the US and Europe. They will never admit how wrong they were and how wrong they still are.

    Posted by: Josef on September 30, 2002 01:49 PM

    Re:

    >>I don't want to live on a collective farm run by party members who kill or imprison those they disagree with.<<

    Well, Mikhail Sergeyevich and Lev Davidovich certainly agree with you--that wasn't the kind of society they wanted to build. Whether Nikita Sergeyevich agreed with you too is something that one can argue about--but given who he was and what the foundations of his power were, I think that his 1956 Party Congress speech denouncing Stalin was a very brave and gutsy move.

    And, as I said--the fifth paragraph, remember?--I have two opposed and contradictory views as to whether we should treat ex-Stalinoid Communists differently from ex-Hitlerite Nazis.

    Posted by: Brad DeLong on September 30, 2002 02:05 PM

    I think there is another vital difference between Hobsbawm and this hypothetical Nazi intellectual: Hobsbawm actually exists. It is difficult for me to conceive of an intellectual Nazi - a true believer - worthy of respect, but it is not impossible. I'd like to think I would treat such a person with some respect, and pay attention to what such a person said. I can't think of anyone who fits the bill, but they may exist. Some holdover from Franco's Spain perhaps, or a disenchanted Mussolini supporter.

    But there is another approach to this argument: we do tolerate a lot of intellectuals who were once Nazis, and there is no way to tell at this stage whether they were telling the truth about their loyalties before 1945 or after. Most of those people were still conservatives after the war, some ardent nationalists and anti-communists. Many Nazi scientists and engineers, philosophers and businessmen thrived after the war.

    And, we don't always tolerate loyal communists, even after recanting. I haven't heard much about Christa Wolf in recent years - she was manditory reading when I was an undergrad. Of course, she didn't just support communism, she reported to the Stasi.

    As for why ex-communists get treated much more sympathetically than ex-Nazi these days, it's because they gave up. The Nazis fought to the end, and took a lot of people with them as they went down. The communists just called it quits. It's hard to sustain hate for people unless there's been blood spilled.

    Still, I think there is something to the case that communism - even Stalinism as misguided as it was - is different from fascism. All the various strains of Marxism are still about building a better world for everyone, no matter who they are, without consideration of colour, religion, class or caste. Fascists were - at best - about better lives for the "right" people, whoever they are.

    Socialists are cosmopolitain, and that sells a lot better in the long run than the contradictions of tribalism. It took until the last two decades for even the mainstream right to cotton on to that, and even today conservative parties in the developed world don't all seem to have caught on.

    The left's dreams are harder to disagree with than the right's, regardless of what one thinks of their practical merit. Even when we judge someone's adherence to some disreputable figure or group as foolish, it is hard to judge the true believer in the dream more harshly than that. With fascism, we have to ask how anyone could believe something so horrible. I know, of course, the degree to which poverty, defeat and shame helped bring about the far right's rise. That may explain it, but it doesn't justify it.

    The far right thrives on dreams of vengeance for wrongs, imagined and real. We recognise that vengeance is not a noble sentiment, even if we can forgive those who feel it. The far left has always fought for the betterment of man. That remains a noble impulse, even when hopelessly botched.

    Posted by: Scott Martens on September 30, 2002 02:13 PM

    Oh, my. Comments along the line of ...

    >> I have met many ex-Communists whom I have liked a great deal. I have yet to meet an ex-fascist that I could stay in the same room with ...<<

    >> The left's dreams are harder to disagree with than the right's ... it is hard to judge the true believer in the dream ...<<

    >>The far right thrives on dreams of vengeance for wrongs ... The far left has always fought for the betterment of man. That remains a noble impulse, even when hopelessly botched. <<

    ... remind me of a Professor from Rutgers (wish I could remember the name) who'd written a history of socialism and was pushing it on one of those PBS book talk shows some time back. He'd been describing the many sins and crimes of capitalist regimes when the host said: But socialist regimes have done the same things -- rigged elections, invaded by force, oppressed civilians -- yet you don't criticize them the same way.

    The Professor was very open about it. He said -- If you're asking if I apply a different standard, I do. The difference between left and the right is that the left acts with good intentions to improve the human condition while the right acts from selfishness. It is not correct to criticize good intentions that go wrong as we do acts of greed. A double standard is appropriate.

    -- Talk about rationalizations for oppression and mass murder. Good intentions gone wrong!!

    Personally I wonder how any waking person could seriously have believed the "dream" of socialism even in the 30s after the show trials and starving of the kulaks. And could *anyone possibly* doubt the cynicism behind the "dream" after the Stalin-Hitler Pact?? I mean, if you don't like Nazis, well ... Not to mention all the times the communists sent tanks running over their own civilians to preserve their dream state. (I was in Prague and saw it myself in '68 -- that woke me up from any dreaming I was doing for sure.)

    Looking at numbers drawn from Prof Delong's excellent _Slouching to Utopia_ (which I hope will become required reading in every high school in America when completed) we see the numbers of *civilians killed* (non-combat deaths) by various regimes.

    Soviet Communists 62 million.
    Chinese Communists 39 million
    Cambodian Communists 1.7 million
    Vietnamese Communists 1.7 million
    North Korean Communists 1.7 million
    Polish Communists 1.6 million
    Yugoslav Communists 1.1 million

    Or about 109 million dead for the nice guys with good intentions pursuing the dream (Some botching!!) versus ....

    German Nazis 21 million
    Japanese Fascists 10 million
    Portugese Fascists 0.7 million
    Craotion Fascists 0.7 million
    and maybe add in the Chinese Kuomintang at 10.4 million,

    ... or about only 43 million for the nasty, unsympathetic, vengeful lot.

    From the numbers, it is not *at all* apparent to me why communists are deemed so much more "likable". and their "dreams" more sympathetic, than those nasty fascists. I'd think one would have to be in some sort of dream state to enjoy such a mental condition. Especially now, with *hindsight*.

    Yet so much empathy for those well intentioned ultra-mass murders still exists. It's a puzzle. I'd suspect in reality there are three practical reasons:

    (1) From the start the communists aggressively *marketed* themselves as having humanistic goals -- and many who didn't bother to pay attention to their deeds bought it.
    (And after they did, well ... then there had to be *good reasons* for things like Stalin allying with the Nazis!)
    (2) During WWII our government made a pact with the second-worst devil of the moment and gave our good ally Uncle Joe far more favorable publicity than any Soviet propaganda minister could have ever possibly have dreamt of.
    (3) What Wolfe said. Socialism just has a natural appeal for many in the intellectual class, still today. (Who doesn't like the idea of the smart and well-intentioned ruling for the common good? That's us!)
    As Sontag said, communism was just fascism made successful with a human face -- and that face is still fooling 'em.

    Posted by: Jim Glass on September 30, 2002 03:16 PM

    Personally I wonder how any waking person could seriously have believed the "dream" of socialism even in the 30s after the show trials and starving of the kulaks.

    Robert Conquest notes that it was commonly said during the Great Terror, "If only Stalin knew": i.e., if only he knew he woud have stopped it. Many very intelligent people in Russia believed that there was a future for socialism, even during that horrible time. Saying that anyone who believed in socialism was a fool simply wishes away the problem.

    The thought I found most illuminating on this subject was elaborated in Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. A character in that novel points to the story of Oedipus, who despite the best of intentions and no way of knowing better, committed a horrible crime which brought ruin to his city. The suggestion is that the modern focus on intentions may lead us to ignore great evils.

    Posted by: alkali on September 30, 2002 03:35 PM

    Why do we even let the Gorbachevs and Krueschevs off the hook. Krueschev went to Ukraine in '38 to finish up the great terror and make sure that the collectivization slaughter of the 30's held up. He was instumental in liquidating Ukrainian nationalists after the USSR and NAZIs divided up Poland and the rump part of Ukraine that ws then part of Poland. Was Kreuschev gutsy in 1956? Wasn't that the year he surpressed the Hungarians with mass murder and deporations to the gulag? Sounds like a real "liberty, egality, fraternity" type to me.

    Moving ahead to Gorby, he is still despised in Russia. It is only here in the west that he is lionized. Russians heard plenty of speeches from this dolt telling them that if they only worked harder or drank less or believed in fairies he could transform their society (a society that would continue to include collectives and "all power to the soviets", I may add.) Only the worst hacks believed what they heard from him, he is held in contempt by the majority who could see plainly how MORALLY bankrupt was communism.

    This business that "leftists" somehow have a superior utopian vision is all nonsense and most of you who are making this arguement know that it is a straw man arguement. Modern totalitarian statist are always for the common man. (Mussolini himself started as a communist economics professor.) It usually boils down to whose heads will get bashed in before heaven is brought to earth. As for me, I can't even agree on first principles that we should all share the same utopian ideals. Equality of rights is possibly, but people who believe in paradise on this earth are usually too dangerous to be allowed to run things.

    Posted by: Josef on September 30, 2002 03:46 PM

    >>Robert Conquest notes that it was commonly said during the Great Terror, "If only Stalin knew": i.e., if only he knew he woud have stopped it...<<

    But how could intelligent, educated intellectuals in the west(which is what I am talking about here, not just "anybody") believe that a dictator like Stalin *didn't know*?

    If you were a starving peasant caught there at the time you might have to believe such a thing -- the only alternative being despair.

    But if you were a comfortable western intellectual looking at such things, when do you ask yourself, "Do good intentions really justify show trials, starvation and death on such a scale?" (And Wolfe was talking about intellectuals looking back from the 80s with hindsight -- and we can see the same thing even today.)

    As to Oedipus, he had no choice due to fate. Neither did the kulaks. But Stalin had a choice. So did the western intellectuals watching him. They didn't lack information as Oedipus did, although many may have been as blind as he wound up.

    Posted by: Jim Glass on September 30, 2002 04:06 PM

    Mr Glass, if we're going to compare corpses, I have never understood why the right's body count has to start at 1919. There have to be a good 30 or 40 million native Americans and Australians who belong firmly in the category of capitalist dead, not to mention 10 million in the Belgian Congo, God only knows how many others in Africa, and the whole slave trade (must be another 30 million or so dead there, not to mention that whole chattel slavery thing.) I should also toss in, for good measure, the Irish potato famine (4 million IIRC), and all the dead in WWI (that's some 30 million - although mostly not civilian.) All dead in the persuit of property, profit and market share. Perhpas I should add Vietnam - I think the VIetnamese still claim about 5 million dead, but I could be misremembering the figure. If the ones the communists killed count, shouldn't the South and America's count too? And the 500,000 killed by Suharto in the 60's. Then there's Biafra - I'll bet that's good for another 500,000. Oh, and another half million for the US, racked up in the Phillipines during America's brief stint as colonial overlords. And the Opium Wars - how many people did British capitalists kill off by selling dope to China?

    If I count British drug dealers, perhaps I should count Columbian ones too. They're in it for the money. Oops, I forget some of them are communists. Well, we'll call it even.

    Amartya Sen makes a good case for some 50 million more dead in India due to capitalist health care when compared to the Chinese version. I imagine a similar argument could be extended to other underdeveloped countries. Oh, not to mention the dead of AIDS who could be helped by modern drugs, except that it's not very profitable to sell drugs to poor people. Communism's gone for the most part, but capitalism's body count keeps rising.

    Then, of course, there's the credits side. How many Russians didn't die because the USSR, even under Stalin, had better nutrition and health care than under the Czars? How many in China, for essentially the same reasons? And Africa? The Russians and their allies and clients sent a lot of medicine and medical equipment to Africa. It wasn't always as good as Western stuff, but when you can't afford much, something is better than nothing. Or perhaps I should count Russia's post-capitalist dead among the right's losses?

    While I'm at it, Pol Pot once denied that he saw the DPRK as a socialist state at all. Perhaps his murders need to be taken off the left's books?

    If you want a corpse count, you've got to take a very narrow accounting to find that the left has killed more. None of the people named above died through revolutions gone bad, they were systematically slaughtered or left to die by people who could have helped them. They died for nothing but the most crass reasons.

    Or, you could reject the whole idea of counting corpses for what it is: a cynical measure that reflects more on the people involved than on ideology. Killing lots of people was a part of the Nazi ideology, and for that reason if nothing else Nazi ideology deserves its condemnation. It has never formed a part of socialist ideology, even when it formed a part of some socialists' practice.

    Socialism didn't come into being in a vacuum and the injustices it tried to address didn't become acceptable just because Stalin proved to be schmuck. That was why people stuck with it, and why some still do. That was why there were quite a few popular (or at least not very unpopular) pro-Soviet revolutions well into the 1970's, long after everyone knew the truth about Stalin.

    If you want to argue that those choices were foolish, I'd agree with you. If you can't understand why people might choose to believe in something - even something false - rather than accept a deeply unjust world, then you are a bigger fool than those who backed the Soviets at their worst.

    Posted by: Scott Martens on September 30, 2002 04:12 PM

    I really angered my Marxist brother in law (who like Martens above believes everything evil in the world comes from captalism) by saying that communism is more evil than nazism because communism takes the best impulses of man (the belief in fraternity, equality and solidarity with other men) and ends up twisting those notions to extreme evil while nazism is extremely evil right up front. This allows communism to attract supporters from people who want to do good and causes them to actively support or make excuses for the objectively horrible. Nazism does not do this. What communism does then is to ensnare good people in a bad cause and is thus more evil.

    Posted by: larry levin on September 30, 2002 04:33 PM

    There are some further fallacies in the corpse comparisons. The goal of the Nazis was the genocidal killing of "inferior " beings most of which occured in a relatively short time (1940-45). The figures for communist regimes encompass longer periods and include the rather ironic fact that Communist regimes were equal opportunity killers, whose victims included large numbers of Communists! Thus Communist regimes were the most efficient killers of Communnists? (Think of the purge trials). Second these numbers for communist regimes include famines; which were a direct consequence of their regimes. So why not include casualties from war which were a direct consequence of fascist/Nazi policy. Italy in Abysinia for example, or civillian casualties caused by the German war machine. If you think you can prove something about the relative merits of the two regimes by adding up corpses, you are "barkin up the wrong tree." The real question is why such homicidal regimes existed at all. Looking at history, the thirty years war in Germany, the actions of the Inquisition, are examples of similer muderous regimes that differed only in the "productivity" with which they dispatched their victims. One then has to look at the sort of conditions that spawned these regimes and one has to say the prime cause of this was World War I and the Versailles peace.

    Posted by: Lawrence on September 30, 2002 04:44 PM

    >> Why do we even let the Gorbachevs and Krueschevs off the hook...<<

    I won't say anything about Nikita, but Gorbachev changed everything when the people took to the streets in Leipzig and the East German dictator Honecker wanted to roll the tanks over them like in Hungary and Prague, but Gorbachev said: No -- if that's what it takes to preserve the system it's not worth it.

    Honecker objected that that would be the end and he'd wind up in a West German prison (like he did), but Gorbachev said then that's how it's gonna be. Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader who wasn't a killer, literally.

    Someone earlier mentioned Kundera. Kundera observed that the first generation of Soviet leaders were literally killer thugs who killed off all competition from the next generation, which is how the Politboro became geriatric. But ironically they wanted the same things for their kids that everyone does -- a better life, good education and so on. So when Gorbachev and his allies finally came to power they hadn't killed anyone, had western-style education and values, and didn't want to kill anyone. And when they had to order the tanks to roll over innocents to keep the system in place they couldn't do it, so it all ended. Well that's what K said.

    Of course the Russians hate Gorbachev today, he was captain of the ship when it sank. But we were lucky he was there, I am convinced.

    Gorbachev had competitors and if one of them had gotten his job things might have been different in Leipzig, and the system could have lasted a bunch more years. The inevitable collapse might not have been so peaceful. Paranioa was rife in high places and there are stories coming out now saying the Soviets went on high military alert in their last days in response to a routine western exercicse that some of them thought was setting up a sneak attack to exploit their weakness. We never even knew it. Scary, if true. With the wrong type of leader that kind of stuff would only have gotten worse as conditions did. Who knows...???

    In any event, it was one hell of a lot harder for a person in Gorbachev's shoes to say, "if the system takes so much killing and oppression to preserve, it's not worth it" than it was for any western intellectual to say it -- yet he beat so many of them to it.

    Posted by: Jim Glass on September 30, 2002 04:49 PM

    Hey, this blog's beginning to resemble that Old Age Home for communists Jim mentioned. Ah, for the good old days of the gulag.

    Scott Martens makes a number of serious intellectual errors in his comments, the most blatant being:

    "Killing lots of people was a part of the Nazi ideology, and for that reason if nothing else Nazi ideology deserves its condemnation. It has never formed a part of socialist ideology...."

    Au contraire, read some Lenin. As Hitler did, and took notes. Mao famously talked about having to break eggs to make an omellette. Pol Pot and his fellow Paris-trained intellectuals deliberately included mass murder in their plans.

    In fact, Nazi is short for National Socialism, and Mussolini was a socialist. The totalitarian states were basically the same things, all that differed were the fashions. That's why lefties today have soft spots for communism it was fashionable intellectually.

    BTW, Jim Glass's totals only added up people killed by their own governments. Your comparison is of apples to pomegranates.

    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on September 30, 2002 05:03 PM

    "...why is it that we have some sympathetic tolerance for the likes of Eric Hobsbawm (who spent the 24 years from 1930 to 1954 in enthusiastic and unthinking corpse-like obedience to the every whim of Josef Stalin) while we would have no tolerance at all for an equivalent enthusiastic and unthinking corpse-like obeyer of Adolf Hitler (even if he had written "the best starting point I know for anyone who wishes to begin studying modern history")."

    By a curious coincidence, The Straight Dope happens to have quite recently addressed this, after a fashion:

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/020927.html

    It turns out that a rather better-known figure than Mr. Hobsbawm serves as a counter-example to the assumption made in the above question.

    Posted by: Sylvia Li on September 30, 2002 06:04 PM

    The core problem is that liberals honor sincerity of intent so highly. It tends to make them susceptable to moral equivalences.

    Scott Martens should write 'The Black Book of Capitalism' as a companion to 'The Peoples History of the US'

    Posted by: Arheles on September 30, 2002 06:05 PM

    Scott Martens is pathetically grasping at straws in his comparisons, comparing the 19th century under the czars to the 20th under USSR. What next, a comparison of cuba's health care to the Black Plague in Middle Age Europe. (And only an muddled fool like Dr. Sen would suggest that India has been capitalist in the 20th century.) This is my last post along this line, but as I said in my first, those who try to put socialism/communism on a higher moral level are either naive or trying to defend their own backing of what is at least an equal part of the greatest evil in modern history.

    Posted by: Josef on September 30, 2002 06:24 PM

    Is anyone else as tired of the constant generalizations about "liberals"? There are few liberals who weren't glad to see the Soviet Union go.

    This is the life of a liberal: people to the left of us accuse us of being wishy-washy sell-outs, while people to the right of us smear us with every wrong-doing of the wackos to our left.

    There are clearly people who are soft on Communism's legacy because they are sentimental for their own extremist youth. But I don't think that's the only thing going on. (I'm talking about how you can name a bar "KGB", but not "Gestapo".) Lots of people who despised Communism still think Communist kitsch is funny. (Anything that smacks of socialist realism makes me laugh.)

    I think it's because we're closer to the time we beat Communism than we are to the time we beat the Nazis. In the 60s, it was socially acceptable to make a slapstick comedy about the Nazis (Hogan's Heros), full of jokes about the Gestapo; today it's hard to imagine a show like that getting the green light. It's because we beat the Soviets so recently that it's funny; we are now laughing because we were so recently afraid. It's whistling past the graveyard after the fact.

    In thirty years, the only thing anyone will talk about the Soviet Union is Stalin.

    Posted by: Walt on September 30, 2002 06:41 PM

    Why is someone who lies to himself regarding his murderous ideology preferable to someone who frankly acknowledges it?

    Posted by: Will Allen on September 30, 2002 06:54 PM

    In fact, Nazi is short for National Socialism, and Mussolini was a socialist. The totalitarian states were basically the same things, all that differed were the fashions. That's why lefties today have soft spots for communism it was fashionable intellectually.

    There are few better ways to flush away one's credibility than to come up with that Limbaugh-esque chestnut, which is fractally wrong in ways that I could waste an essay on enumerating. (Mussolini was no socialist, as Ezra Pound could tell you. And the members of the Italian Communist Party.) But Patrick appears to be good at spoiling interesting discussions with such turds in the punchbowl.

    More intriguingly, I think that Ferguson, in writing about Hobsbawm, is writing about himself, or an idea of himself as historian: one of those counterfactuals he likes so much. (While Ferguson says they are at best acquaintances, I seem to remember a friend who did research for his books saying that he was at a dinner with both men. And Mariella Frostrup. But that's a different discussion.) Ferguson's work on the German economy, from 'Paper and Iron' onwards, is meticulous and enthralling, even for a non-specialist like myself, but I can't help thinking that its cool distance implies a certain thankfulness that his maturation as a historian took place in the decade of Thatcher, not Hitler. A 'there but for the grace of God go I', if you like.

    Enough of the cod psychology, though: I think you're right, Brad, to suggest that the justification (if, in retrospect, an invalid one) for Hobsbawm and his contemporaries was the belief that the goals of the Communist project, once achieved, could absolve the failures of those involved in it. The story of those Americans who went and worked in the Soviet Union before the war is instructive, to that effect. And it's a truism, however grating, that it was primarily the rapid industrialisation of the USSR in the 1930s that staved off the Nazi advance in the 1940s. Make of that whatever judgement you will.

    Posted by: nick sweeney on September 30, 2002 07:21 PM

    >>Soviet Communists 62 million.
    Chinese Communists 39 million
    Cambodian Communists 1.7 million
    Vietnamese Communists 1.7 million
    North Korean Communists 1.7 million
    Polish Communists 1.6 million
    Yugoslav Communists 1.1 million

    German Nazis 21 million
    Japanese Fascists 10 million
    Portugese Fascists 0.7 million
    Craotion Fascists 0.7 million
    and maybe add in the Chinese Kuomintang at 10.4 million,<<

    Jim Glass has claimed that these numbers are drawn from "Slouching Toward Utopia". A few points:

    1. It is in the first place misleading to cite the source for these numbers as "Slouching Toward Utopia". That book is not yet published. All that is available is a pre-publication draft very clearly marked as "Old Draft" on this website.

    2. Within that draft, Brad very clearly indicates that the source of these numbers is "Death By Government" by RJ Rummel, not research of his own.

    3. Brad comes very far from endorsing these figures unconditionally. I quote him at length:

    "Rummel excludes from his count of genocide the deaths of soldiers in time of war, and the "incidental" deaths of civilians in time of war (that is, deaths that occurred as a consequence of what could be classified as military operations directed against enemy armed forces or war-making power: military exercises like the British night bombing of German cities during World War II are counted as episodes of genocide). Rummel's estimates of genocide are only of the people whom governments, in time of peace or far from the battlefront, have killed.

    Some of the estimates are solid; some are shaky; some are wild guesses. Some are barely estimates at all: we know next to nothing of what has gone on in North Korea over the past fifty years, and Rummel's guess--he doesn't label it an "estimate"--is based on the projection that North Korea has been no better and now worse than similar countries with similar ideologies and similar degrees of self-imposed isolation.

    I think some estimates are too high, and some are too low (I suspect Communist China and Nazi Germany should be switched). But Rummel's estimates are not without evidence, and on average I have no reason to believe that they are biased in any systematic way."

    5. Jim has removed the numbers relating to the UK, Turkey, Mexico, Pakistan and Indonesia in order to make it look as if the table Brad quoted is a straightforward comparison of Communism with Fascism (and indeed, one in which Fascism comes out favourably). This was not the case; the purpose of printing the table in the first place was to support the aggregate number of 156 million deaths.

    It is, in this context, extremely misleading (to the point, frankly, of dishonesty), to try to create the impression that these numbers, pulled from a non-current draft and removed from their context, carry the scholarly imprimateur of Brad DeLong. I really do think that some sort of apology is in order.

    6. The numbers themselves look strange to me; the Vietnamese figure in particular is almost twice as large as that quoted in the "Black Book of Communism".

    7. Is there another Jim Glass who commented on this website yesterday deploring the practice of trying to paint one's political opponents as evil people, or am I simply confused?

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on September 30, 2002 11:45 PM

    I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the obvious Capitalism equivalent to the supposed fellow-traveller sin of accepting evil today for the sake of a better future. Vast swathes of the US are quite happy to accept vast amounts of human misery, both in the US and in the rest of the world, justifying this on the grounds that this is supposedly the price you pay for wealth (or in the case of the 3rd world putative future wealth). If one is willing to accept such an argument and feels no need to try to improve the lot of those suffering, I can't see how one can then criticize those who accepted that "eggs needed to be broken" on the way to omelette of a better society. And in at least one case, China, the course they steered largely did deliver what was promised. Perhaps the same could be argued for Russia, though that's more contentious.

    Posted by: Maynard Handley on October 1, 2002 12:25 AM

    Why we give ex-Commies an easier time than ex-Nazis
    There are three main reasons why we have a more favourable view of the USSR and its fellow travellers than of Nazi Germany and its supporters, these being empirical, philosophical & political.
    Empirically, Nazi Germany caused more harm than Soviet Russia, and in a shorter time.
    The Lenin-Stalin regime took about 40 years to violently and prematurely shorten the lives of at most 20 million persons. The Nazi regime needed only 12 years to kill more than double that number.
    Further the major part of USSR's political homicide was instrumental, not fundamental, to the regimes purpose. That is, Soviet atrocities were instrumental to communist purposes, which was the establishment & extension of Soviet power. Whereas Nazi atrocities were fundamental to fascist purposes, which were the extermination of non-Aryan races.
    Philosophically, the USSR justified itself in terms of Enlightenment ideology of Liberty, Equality & Fraternity. Although the social constructions of Soviet state were a hollow joke at the expense of the Enlightenment, it is hard to be too hard on people who at least nominally share the progressive West's ideals.
    Politically, we never go into an out and out shooting match with Soviet Russia. In fact, the USSR was the senior partner in Alliance against fascism, and did most of the heavy lifting in that struggle. One is obliged to view the USSR more favourably than Nazis, for that reason only. That is certainly how DeGaulle, Churchill & Roosevelt viewed the matter.

    Posted by: Jack Strocchi on October 1, 2002 02:07 AM

    Daniel

    >1. It is in the first place misleading to cite the source for these numbers as "Slouching Toward Utopia". That book is not yet published. All that is available is a pre-publication draft very clearly marked as "Old Draft" on this website.<

    If you don't like that "unpublished" source, why not try the Appendix III in Norman Davies: Europe; Oxford UP (1996) which is very much published?

    The fact is that Stalin had no problem with the Soviet Union contracting a "Friendship Treaty" with Nazi Germany in late September when Britain and France were already at war. So amicable were relations between the two treaty partners that protocols provided for the exchange of liaison officers along the mutual border between Soviet and German forces across what had been Poland's territory, an arrangement which continued until the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 [Norman Davies: Europe; OUP (1996), p. 1000ff].

    In Robert Conquest's recently published study of Stalin, he cites a report-back to the Foreign Office by the British ambassador to Nazi Germany in 1936 about the contingent of ex-Communists in a march past of the Nazi SA [the Brown Shirts] being the best turned out.

    Strip away the nationalist and racist features of the Nazi Party's fundamental programme adopted in 1920 [J Noakes + G Pridham (eds): Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 1; University of Exeter Press (1983), p. 14ff] and what remains is basically a socialist programme that does not look out of keeping with the manifestoes of socialist parties in W Europe after WW2. Recall that Hitler in his rhetorical rants condemned "Bolshevism", not "socialism".

    Posted by: Bob Briant (UK) on October 1, 2002 04:36 AM

    Nick Sweeney writes:

    " (Mussolini was no socialist, as Ezra Pound could tell you. And the members of the Italian Communist Party.) But Patrick appears to be good at spoiling interesting discussions with such turds in the punchbowl."

    Here's looking at you, Nick:

    http://gi.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_mussolini.html

    <<--------quote----------

    Mussolini was born in Predappio, near Forli, in Romagna, on July 29, 1883. His father, Alessandro, was a blacksmith, and his mother, Rosa, was a schoolteacher. Like his father, Benito became a fervent socialist. [snip]

    Socialist Affiliations

    Expelled by the Austrians, he became the editor at Forli of a socialist newspaper, La Lotta di Classe (The Class Struggle ). His early enthusiasm for Karl Marx was modified by a mixture of ideas from the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, the revolutionary doctrines of Auguste Blanqui, and the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. In 1910, Mussolini became secretary of the local Socialist party at Forli.

    [snip] Appointed editor of the official Socialist newspaper Avanti, he moved to Milan, where he established himself as the most forceful of all labor leaders of Italian socialism. He believed that the proletariat should unite "in one formidable fascio (bundle), preparatory to seizing power. Some see this as the start of the Fascist movement.

    When World War I broke out in 1914, Mussolini agreed with the other Socialists that Italy should not join it. Only a class war was acceptable to him, and he threatened to lead a proletarian revolution if the government decided to fight.
    ------endquote------>>

    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 1, 2002 08:10 AM

    >>If you don't like that "unpublished" source, why not try the Appendix III in Norman Davies: Europe; Oxford UP (1996) which is very much published?<<

    Bob; Does Norman Davies source his numbers to Brad DeLong? I was, in this instance, not objecting to the numbers themselves (though I do happen to disagree with them). I was objecting to the misleading citation.

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 1, 2002 08:59 AM

    Oh by the way, me me me, everybody read my weblog, everybody look at me etc. I have my own theory on this matter posted there.

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 1, 2002 09:00 AM

    On the subject of corpse counting, don't forget the tobacco companies. Let's exclude people who choose to smoke knowing the health risks. You've still got companies who want to expand markets in Asia and who've done their best to keep people ignorant of the dangers. And our government has often taken their side in trade negotiations. Tobacco kills about 400,000 Americans a year and perhaps 2-3 million globally--I've read estimates that in the coming decades the number could rise to ten million per year. I suspect that even if you only counted people who took up smoking not knowing the dangers, you'd get a death toll that has already surpassed the 100 million in the Black Book of Communism. It's not the same thing, of course--it's selling a cancerous, addictive product to people often ignorant of the danger in order to make money. Which makes it okay.

    And another thing about corpse counting--how did Rummel come up with his 62 million figure for the Soviet Union? The Black Book says 20 million. That includes Lenin's famine of 5 million dead, the Ukrainian famine, the Great Terror of 1937-1938 (700,000 executions), and Stalin's various ethnic cleansing campaigns.

    I agree with what others have said--there's a double standard employed in corpse counting. Mao is rightly held to account for the insane economic policies of the Great Leap Forward, which killed 20-30 million (probably the bulk of the dead under him). But noncommunist countries are not held to the same standard. One of the first people I know of to point this out was Peter Berger in his 1970's book Pyramids of Sacrifice, where he said that Brazil's economic policies had probably killed millions of its own children. And of course there's no need to single out Brazil--as someone else pointed out in this thread, we casually accept the deaths of 8 million children per year on the grounds that our wonderful economic system is leading to utopia, though mainstream economists such as Jeffrey Sachs say we could drastically reduce that number with increased foreign aid aimed at improving health. It's rather odd to see people shedding tears over the 7 million starvation deaths in the Ukraine under Stalin when we could be preventing about that many deaths every year if we wanted to.
    It almost makes you think people count corpses for purely ideological reasons.

    Posted by: Donald Johnson on October 1, 2002 09:03 AM

    very true -- of course, as it's pointed out above, the real boondoggle is taking the arbitrary cut-off date of 1900, thus ensuring that you're mainly going to capture periods in which the rapidly growing power was Communist. A starting point of 1800 would change things radically!

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 1, 2002 10:52 AM

    I'm astonished to learn that the career of a marginalized historian shows that "we" are kinder to communists than fascists. Werner von Braun and Leni Riefenstahl really paid the price, didn't they. And what about Nazi sympathizer Prescott Bush, or beloved womanizer and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond? Zell Miller recently makred the passing of one of the stalwarts of the Georgia White Citizens council by saying "a great tree has fallen" or something similarly heartwarming. Heisenberg and Heidigger got off with some mild remarks. De Man had a happy career. Celine's works are widely studied with few complaints. And so on.

    Posted by: citizen k on October 1, 2002 11:25 AM

    Daniel
    >Does Norman Davies source his numbers to Brad DeLong? I was, in this instance, not objecting to the numbers themselves (though I do happen to disagree with them). I was objecting to the misleading citation.<

    No, Norman Davies does not cite Brad DeLong as a source. In the case of the Soviet Union, he cites Russian historians who gained access to official Kremlin archives in the early 1990s.

    Horrific as they are, the respective body counts of victims of the Nazi and Soviet regimes is only one part of the balance. Patrick Sullivan's quote on Mussolini's biography above here seems to me very much to the point. Mussolini regarded himself as "leftist". More specifically, in Martin Clark: Modern Italy 1871-1995; Longman Higher Education; (2nd ed. 1996), p. 250, the author - an academic historian at Edinburgh University - writes about the policies of Mussolini's fascist government, "They seemed to offer 'a third way', between capitalism and Bolshevism, which looked attractive in the Depression. . ."

    My passionate belief in this is that we need to be dispassionately objective in recognising that the economic policies of the Nazis were intended to be "socialist". Stripped of the nationalist and racist features, the Nazis applied economic policies which were not distinctively different from those of socialist and some other governments in Western Europe after WW2 - administrative controls on prices, wages and investment, managed international trade with foreign exchange controls and state-owned enterprise, such as VolksWagen. The difference can be seen in the relatively "free market" policies, at least by European standards, applied in West Germany when Adenauer was Chancellor during the 1950s and '60s, the time of the German economic miracle.

    To judge by some distinguished analysts of Nazi economic policy in Germany before WW2, this assessment is not eccentric. We have this from Peter Temin: Lessons from the Great Depression: The Lionel Robbins Lectures for 1989; MIT Press (1989), p 117:

    " 'In the long run, the Nazis aimed essentially at an economic system which would be an alternative to capitalism and communism, supporting neither a laissez-faire attitude nor total planning.' [ Hardach: The Political Economy of Germany in the Twentieth Century; University of California Press (1980), p 66 ] They introduced administrative controls over investment through licensing and direct allocation of raw materials. But their brand of socialism emphasized central control over economic activity rather than public ownership of firms. Instead of dispossessing private owners, the Nazis severely circumscribed the scope within which the nominal owners could make choices by currency controls, taxes on profits and direct allocation measures of the state."

    The ideological gloss of the Nazis was plainly "socialist" as in: "The tax-department chief of the Association of Industrialists emphasized that it was useless to attempt a precise comparison between old and new tax regulations because the important issue was 'the new spirit of the reform, the spirit of National Socialism. The principle of the 'the common good precedes the good of the individual' stands above everything else." [Avraham Barkai: Nazi Economics; Berg Publishing (1990), p. 185]

    Nor is this leftist slant unique to the ideologies of just German and Italian fascism. It was a feature, too, of the pathetic and utterly abortive attempt by Sir Oswald Mosley to start a fascist movement in Britain in the 1930s. We have this contemporary description in the diary of George Orwell while he was researching the background for the book that became: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). The diary entry for 16 March 1936 reads:

    "Last night to hear [Sir Oswald] Mosley speak at the Public Hall [Barnsley, South Yorkshire], which is in structure a theatre. It was quite full - about 700 people I should say. About 100 Blackshirts on duty, with two or three exceptions weedy looking specimens, and girls selling Action etc. Mosley spoke for an hour and a half and to my dismay seemed to have the meeting mainly with him. He was booed at the start but loudly clapped at the end. Several men who tried to interject with questions were thrown out . . . one with quite unnecessary violence. . . . M. is a very good speaker. His speech was the usual clap-trap - Empire free trade, down with the Jew and the foreigner, higher wages and shorter hours all round etc. After the preliminary booing the (mainly) working class audience was easily bamboozled by M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle, condemning the treachery of successive governments towards the workers. The blame for everything was put upon mysterious international gangs of Jews who were said to be financing, among other things the British Labour Party and the Soviet. . . . M. kept extolling Italy and Germany but when questioned about concentration camps etc always replied 'We have no foreign models; what happens in Germany need not happen here.' . . ." [George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Vol. 1 An Age Like This 1920-1940; Penguin Books, p. 230]

    The significance of this report is that it was a contemporary account by an unusally acute observer of politics and not intended for publication - the diary was not published until 1950, after Orwell's death. As Orwell writes: ". . M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle." What is also certain is that Mosley himself regarded his politics as leftist. As he wrote in a letter to The (London) Times [26 April 1968]: "I am not, and never have been, a man of the right. My position was on the left and is now in the centre of politics."

    Incidentally, in the later 1940s Mosley was one of the early proponents of European integration but then Hitler had the same idea.

    Posted by: Bob Briant (UK) on October 1, 2002 11:58 AM

    Since some others have referred to my comments some final words ...

    >> If you think you can prove something about the relative merits of the two regimes by adding up corpses, you are "barkin up the wrong tree." <<

    Read again. I didn't say one regime was better than the other. To the contrary, I was reacting to others who did -- saying communism deservedly is more likable and sympathetic than fascism.

    If one wants to say communism shouldn't be considered "worse" just because it killed maybe 60 million more I might agree. But then it sure seems odd to argue it was *better* while killing all those many millions more solely on the basis of its claiming to have good intentions!

    How high do the bodies have to be piled (and how deep do entire populations have to be impoverished -- also see the numbers on that given in _Slouching_) before one begins to wonder, "Hey, about your likable good intentions..."?

    I just don't see communism as being better.

    Daniel Davies writes:

    >> Jim Glass has claimed that these numbers are drawn from "Slouching Toward Utopia<<

    Indeed! http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/TCEH/Slouch_power4.html

    >> It is in the first place misleading ...That book is not yet published ... Brad very clearly indicates that the source of these numbers is "Death By Government" by RJ Rummel ...<<

    I can't say how many times on usenet, after giving a link to a professional source that contains footnotes pointing to original data, I have been accused of "misleading" people by doing so. It's perplexing.

    But if you sue me over it I will have to implead Prof. DeLong as a defendant. He didn't keep these numbers safely locked up in his desk but recklessly published them on his very reputable web site, setting up the risk that naive folk might take them as being credible. So you'll be suing him too.

    >> Brad comes very far from endorsing these figures unconditionally ...

    If you read Rummel, *he* doesn't endorse them unconditionally. He says there is a very large margin of error in them -- because the communists didn't inventory the dead as the nazis did -- and gives them only as a middle estimate. He also notes that this in itself is an incredible statement about a regime: that the *margin of error* for the number it killed is in the tens of millions.

    >> Jim has removed the numbers relating to the UK, Turkey... the purpose of printing the table in the first place was to support the aggregate number of 156 million deaths. <<

    Well, If you think it strengthens the case for the communists to compare the 100+ million number for them to the number for all other regimes combined for the entire century, be my guest.

    >> I really do think that some sort of apology is in order. <<

    To whom? To Stalin and Mao because they really weren't so bad with only 100 million dead, more or less? To those western intellectuals to whom all those dead, and the gross impoverishment of a good part of the world, meant less than the attraction of a dream? Sorry.

    I mean, there seem to be people out there who look at US politicians today and say "Damned hypocrites", who then look the history of communism and say, "Well, they were pursuing a dream, you have to sympathize with their good intentions even if they were mistaken". Huh?

    We can't see gross cynical hypocrisy anywhere but in the present tense? If the US had signed a pact with Hitler to divide a good piece of Europe between us, would people be saying, "Well, when you are pursing a dream of a better world mistakes happen, so it wasn't as bad as the victims say, surely we had good intentions because our leaders always said we did. Repeatedly".

    >> Is there another Jim Glass who commented on this website yesterday deploring the practice of trying to paint one's political opponents as evil people, or am I simply confused? <<

    Political opponents?? Moi? I've been registered independent from voting age and don't think in those terms, usually. As Wolfe wrote in the essay I gave the link to earlier, it is a sociological thing, not a political party thing. There were certainly many liberal Democrats I admire for being very tough on communism when it seemed to be doing well.

    Brad's opening piece was on the phenomena of there being much more social sympathy for communism than fascism today, despite the objective history of each. That's all I'm talking about. The Wolfe essay sums my feelings on that much better than I have here. Do you think Wolfe owes people an apology?

    I'll just add that I agree with Larry Levin that it was hardly a *virtue* of communism that it preached good intentions to keep the believers on board while conducting show trials, making Nazi pacts, militarily occupying countries and running gulags -- unless one counts gross deceit as a virtue. Nor is it a personal virtue to continue believing in the professed good intentions of others long after they start producing such results.

    Posted by: Jim Glass on October 1, 2002 12:15 PM

    >> ... as it's pointed out above, the real boondoggle is taking the arbitrary cut-off date of 1900 ... A starting point of 1800 would change things radically! <<

    To the contrary!

    Prof. DeLong's original question was why is there today so much more sympathetic tolerance for Communism and its alumni than for Fascism and its alumni? (Hobsbawm, the KGB bar, etc.)

    Now concededly, from 1800-1899 Communist governments did not a single bad thing and harmed nary a human hair. But neither did Fascist governments.

    So that still leaves them in a tie -- no edge for the Communists there!

    Posted by: Jim Glass on October 1, 2002 12:25 PM

    >>To whom? <<

    To Brad DeLong, for quoting him out of context to support a view he does not hold, and to me, for making me go to the freaking trouble of confirming that I hadn't misremembered the draft of "Slouching". The other forum participants might be due one for trying to put one over on them (despite what you claim immediately above, there was no link and none but the vaguest reference to "Slouching" in your original post, as a quick glance upthread will reveal), but they can ask for it themselves.

    >>Now concededly, from 1800-1899 Communist governments did not a single bad thing and harmed nary a human hair. But neither did Fascist governments.

    So that still leaves them in a tie -- no edge for the Communists there!<<

    But which raises the question of how dare people claim to be proud of being supporters of either "capitalism" or "democracy", whose mixture of good, bad and merely selfish intentions did for well over a hundred million in India, Africa and America during that century.

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 1, 2002 12:49 PM

    "Here's looking at you, Nick"

    Um, no. Here's some advice, Patrick: a brief foray with Google and Ctrl-F 'socialism' do not, combined, comprise a substitute for research. Reading through the links you post would help, also, since selective quotation is the mark of a poor argument. Yours ends just before the salient moment: it's generally accepted by all but the most stubborn wingnuts that Mussolini abandoned his four years of socialism in 1918 and embraced the authoritarian, dictatorial philosophy that would become known as Fascism. To imply that Mussolini can be classed as 'a socialist' per se because he was a socialist during the First World War is simply ludicrous, and I suspect you know it.

    Posted by: nick sweeney on October 1, 2002 02:30 PM

    Nick Sweeney backpeddles from "no socialist" to temporary socialist:

    "...since selective quotation is the mark of a poor argument. Yours ends just before the salient moment: it's generally accepted by all but the most stubborn wingnuts that Mussolini abandoned his four years of socialism in 1918 and embraced the authoritarian, dictatorial philosophy that would become known as Fascism. To imply that Mussolini can be classed as 'a socialist' per se because he was a socialist during the First World War is simply ludicrous, and I suspect you know it."

    I know that socialism was the family ideology of the Mussolinis, as would anyone who bothered to read the article I cited. He was from birth authoritarian, dictatorial, and violent.

    Yes, he effortlessly changed his tactics and created a new party that he thought (correctly) would be more palatable to the general public.

    Not exactly alone in such tactics, as socialists have created consumerism, feminism and environmentalism to market their political leanings. Perhaps standing Hayek ("To the Socialists of Both Parties") on his head: The cultivated children of barbarian parents?

    However, (and again in the article I provided) Mussolini switched back to being officially a socialist at the end of his career, under the protection of the German army. He began executing his former Fascist colleagues, before he was caught and killed himself.

    The larger point being lost on Nick is that Mussolini's switching makes the case quite dramatically that all these totalitarian ideologies are basically the same thing. Mussolini could change from one to the other and back again, BECAUSE they were merely fashion changes. Like hemlines on womens' skirts or lapels on mens' suits.

    Further, we saw the same thing in E. Germany and other E. European countries after WWII, as numerous Nazis became Communists. For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks.

    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 1, 2002 03:42 PM

    "On the subject of corpse counting, don't forget the tobacco companies."

    And how about old age! Where do people live the longest? Diabolical!

    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 1, 2002 03:45 PM

    Daniel,

    >But which raises the question of how dare people claim to be proud of being supporters of either "capitalism" or "democracy", whose mixture of good, bad and merely selfish intentions did for well over a hundred million in India, Africa and America during that century.<

    But capitalism doesn't claim to be "well intentioned." It is ethically neutral. As Adam Smith wrote back in 1776:

    "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens." [Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations; (1776) Book 1, Chapter 2]

    The ultimate justification for capitalism as a means of allocating scarce resources among alternate uses is much the same as Churchill's justification for democracy: "It is the worst possible form of government [or system] apart from all the others."

    Public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange is not necessary for providing social safety nets or for addressing inefficient resource allocation because of externalities. Democratically elected governments can and do regulate, tax and subsidise the supply of goods and services and negotiate contracts with private sector companies to supply products and services which the companies would not otherwise undertake. Virtually all governments of the affluent countries intervene in their market systems. What matters are the "why" and "how" of intervention, and whether the forms of intervention applied are cost-effective in achieving the intended objectives.

    Posted by: Bob Briant (UK) on October 1, 2002 03:59 PM

    In one of those coincidences that, as Mencken wrote, makes life interesting, Stuart Buck has a column up today that bears on this thread title:

    http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/techwrapper.jsp?PID=1051-250&CID=1051-093002C

    <<--------quote-----------
    In fact, "smart" people are all too often prone to fall for the belief that they alone know how to run the world, and that government should be massively centralized, so that "smart" people like themselves can make decisions properly. One sees this in the intellectuals (e.g., Heidegger) who sympathized with the Nazis, and much more so in the predilection that many Western intellectuals had for Communism and socialism. Judging from the 20th century, it seems that "smart" people are more, rather than less, likely to support the evils of totalitarianism.

    This is not to say that "smart" judges will end up promoting socialism, or that "stupid" judges will never do so. But the smarter the judges, the greater the risk that they might realize that they are smarter than the average person or elected representative, and then become all too eager to step out of their institutional role in order to create law themselves. Smart judges may tend to undermine democracy, in other words, unless (like Socrates) they force themselves to remain aware of how ignorant they truly are.
    ------endquote------->>

    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 1, 2002 04:17 PM

    >The larger point being lost on Nick is that Mussolini's switching makes the case quite dramatically that all these totalitarian ideologies are basically the same thing.<
    The larger point seems to have sailed by you Patrick. Mussolini and Hitler's party's along with the Communists were attacking the Social Democrats. In their attack they borrowed some element of the Social Democratic program. To ignore all the rest Hitler's program, that was the foundation of the party (which by the way was not part of the program of 1920) allows you to make the most absurd statements. Along the same lines we could likewise say Liebenstraum (living space) in the east, accompanied by the genocidal murder of its current residents (also in the program) is no different than Abraham's injunctions in the Bible to take the promised land from the Canaanites; or the Israili's occupation of the West Bank. Thus we come to the remarkable conclusion that Jews were the original anti-semites.
    Hitler, on coming to power, borrowed and implemented a recovery program from his predecessors in the conservative government that was close to a "Keynesian" program. It was succesful, and made Hitler far more popular than he would have been otherwise.
    It doesn't make him a Keynesian either, nor does all those "conservative" things he did like crushing unions and providing monopoly protection for German industry make him a Christian Democrat. If pigs had wings I guess they'd be birds. If they had wings.
    Lawrence

    Posted by: on October 1, 2002 04:27 PM

    Daniel Davies wrote that I should apologize...

    > To Brad DeLong, for quoting him out of context to support a view he does not hold .... <

    When he put the heading "Civilians Killed by Governments in the Twentieth Century: Top Twenty Regimes" over that list of numbers, he didn't mean it??

    Well, if he tells me I somehow misrepresented him re that, I'll be glad to apologize to him.

    > ... and to me, for making me go to the freaking trouble of confirming that I hadn't misremembered the draft of "Slouching". The other forum participants might be due one for trying to put one over on them ...<

    I tried to "put one over on them" by referring them to a source on this very web site, so they could read it for themselves if they wanted to?

    > ... (despite what you claim immediately above, there was no link and none but the vaguest reference to "Slouching" in your original post, as a quick glance upthread will reveal) ...<

    The "vaguest reference" was...
    "Looking at numbers drawn from Prof Delong's excellent _Slouching to Utopia_ (which I hope will become required reading in every high school in America when completed) we see the numbers of *civilians killed* (non-combat deaths) by various regimes."

    Are you saying I should apologize for assuming people who are regulars to this site would know that _Slouching_, which is listed on the front page and has been for a couple years I believe, would realize it was here? And for only posting the actual link the second time I mentioned it?

    OK, I apologize!

    >>Now concededly, from 1800-1899 Communist governments did not a single bad thing and harmed nary a human hair. But neither did Fascist governments. So that still leaves them in a tie -- no edge for the Communists there!<<

    >But which raises the question of how dare people claim to be proud of being supporters of either "capitalism" or "democracy", whose mixture of good, bad and merely selfish intentions did for well over a hundred million in India, Africa and America during that century<

    Well, I don't remember making any claim of being proud supporter of anything, so I don't see what I said that would be bothering you there.

    However, if one were to try to ID the "best" system of an earlier era, like the 19th C, one might look at the alternatives that were around at the time and their relative success at increasing human welfare during the period. You know there was great poverty in India, Africa America and everywhere else even before capitalism. It was practically universal in fact, world life expectancy being about 25 and all. And as far as reducing it goes, capitalism and democracy, for all their grievous faults relative to any unspecified ideal, do seem to have been unbeaten in practice.

    But in any event, as Josef said, regarding the simple topic of why communism today gets so much more sympathy than fascism generally and whether it deserves it, bringing in the problems of other systems of other eras does seem like changing the subject.

    Look, why so testy? It's not like I said anything bad about *you*.

    I'll drop the whole thing from here and you can have the last word.

    Posted by: Jim Glass on October 1, 2002 04:31 PM

    'Not exactly alone in such tactics, as socialists have created consumerism, feminism and environmentalism to market their political leanings.'

    The feminism and environmentalism canards are pretty old, but consumerism???? Did I miss the memo?

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 1, 2002 04:34 PM

    Patrick wrote:

    >>Nick Sweeney backpeddles from "no socialist" to temporary socialist:<<

    "Are you now, or have you ever been ...."

    I can't quite remember who it was who referred to Fascism as "the socialism of fools", but whoever they were, they'd have despaired of Patrick Sullivan.

    Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 1, 2002 10:42 PM

    >I can't quite remember who it was who referred to Fascism as "the socialism of fools"<

    It is not for me to defend fascists but Sir Oswald Mosley - who attempted to start a facist movement in Britain in the 1930s - had previously been a cabinet minister in Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government of 1929-31. Admittedly, Mosley did resign in May 1930 but he said that was because the government was doing too little about unemployment.

    In 1931 Mosley set up the New Party for the general election that year - does that seem a tad familiar? John Strachey signed up. The Party did badly in the election with no returned candidates but John Strachey did go on to higher and better things as a minister in Attlee's post-war Labour governments (1945-51). In 1932 Mosley launched the British Union of Fascists but that had no success in any subsequent elections to Parliament either.

    Perhaps the really startling insight is that Lloyd George, the last Liberal Party prime minister of Britain (1916-22), went to Germany in 1936 to meet Hitler. After the meeting he is on record as saying: "Fuhrer is the proper name for him. He is a great and wonderful leader." What makes that especially curious is that as we can read in the quote from George Orwell's diary above, reports of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany were already in the public domain in Britain.

    Posted by: Bob Briant (UK) on October 2, 2002 03:15 AM

    There's an important point that people are missing. The Nazis were repugnant because their policies focused on racial differences, which are heritable and immutable. They were killing people because of who they were, not because of what choices they made.

    The (old school) Communists focused on class, which seems to be mutable, and thus more benign - until you recognize that groups (like the wealthy peasants aka kulaks) were marked for death by their status at birth.

    The new school of Communism (call it Transnational Progressivism or radical Socialism or whatever) melds the above two, with class differences seen as emerging inevitably from race differences. It combines the "internationale" and antidemocratic flavor of old school communism with the race focus of the Nazis. While calls for the destruction of the white race are not (yet) mainstream because the aggrieved do not have sufficient military power, there is a tremendous amount of animosity and blame directed towards whites.

    Before you deny this, ask yourself how many times "racism" has been proferred as the cause of a given social ill. And then ask yourself who, by implication, is responsible for (unjustly) continuing this pattern of "racist discrimination"...

    Note also: One thing that's often forgotten is that the Nazis assailed the Jews for being shrewd businessmen who preferentially profited in a capitalist system. In many ways, this is reminiscent of those who assail the technocratic elite for being "too white" (and Asian, Indian, etc., though this often goes unnoticed in their diatribes).

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 2, 2002 06:08 AM

    I continue to be astounded by the self-unawareness displayed here with the likes of:

    "I can't quite remember who it was who referred to Fascism as "the socialism of fools", but whoever they were, they'd have despaired of Patrick Sullivan."

    I make that: Fascism = socialism. Thanks for the help, Daniel.

    P.S. It seems to have been August Bebel's coinage.


    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 2, 2002 08:47 AM

    Lawrence also helps me out with:

    "... all those "conservative" things [Hitler] did like crushing unions...."

    Who was it persecuting Poland's Solidarity union movement?

    Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 2, 2002 08:55 AM

    >Who was it persecuting Poland's Solidarity union movement?<
    Posted by Patrick R. Sullivan at October 2, 2002 08:55 AM
    Ahh Patrick, you seem to be so lost. Of course the Communists so what. The Communists didn't like democracy either. You have written above re Mussolini that it was easy to switch from totalitarian socialism to fascism because the mind set was the same. If so what about those socialists who switched to conservative political positions. Judge Bourke pops into ones mind, and there are others now in the Republican party who were avowed socialists in the sixtiies. Does this not indicate ergo that Conservatism is liklewise a totalitarian mindset? I objected to the simple equating of Fascism with Socialism because it is so obviously wrong both historically and logically. It was after all the Conservative government of Hindenberg that felt comfertable in bringing Hitler into the government as Chancellor, it was conservatives who led the appeasedment movement, and it was conservatives who felt that Hitler could prove a counter weight to the rise of communism. On the other hand the first victims of Germany's new totaliutarian regime were Social Democrats. It is dishonest Patrick to make that assertion.
    Lawrence

    Posted by: on October 2, 2002 03:52 PM

    It seems, historically and economically, the real reason the rabid right in this country has such a visceral hate for "communism" (ie the Soviet Union and client states) more than it does for other countries with similarly bad governments (including many they support, such as Marcos) is simple: One of the first acts by the new Soviet Union was to nationalize the oil industry.

    The politics of oil was important even back then. Oh that Model T!

    Posted by: Dave Romm on October 3, 2002 04:37 AM

    Interesting thing happened to me apropos of this dicussion last night. I was out with some friends and I mentioned, in some context I can't remember, someone being "tossed in the gulag". Blank looks. Not one (of 3) had any idea what a "gulag" was. These were all people in their late 20's or early 30's, college educated, one with a masters degree (In anthropology, for christ's sake!). The thing that creeped me out about it when I thought about it later was - this isn't just some vocab word. There's a lot of history and politics behind that word. But the interesting thing is, I'm sure every one of them could give a pretty accurate definition of "concentration camp" - and assume that they were a Nazi invention.

    It looks to me like the crimes of the Nazis will live forever, courtesy of Speilberg et. al. (not, of course, that that's a bad thing), but those of the Soviets are already fading into history...

    Posted by: Jimbo on October 3, 2002 06:46 AM

    It's true that people today get much of their "knowledge" of history from the movies, so that Spielberg (in both his serious movies and in Indiana Jones) has ensured that the Nazis will be better known than the Commies as mass murderers.

    But then, Leopold II of Belgium has been little more than a footnote in Hannah Arendt's book The Origins of Totalitarianism, though "King Leopold's Ghost" has done a little bit to correct that. It's a cliche among some intellectuals that megamurders are committed by people trying to build a utopia (communist or nazi style), when Leopold did it purely for the money.

    Posted by: Donald Johnson on October 3, 2002 01:06 PM

    >It looks to me like the crimes of the Nazis will live forever, courtesy of Speilberg et. al. (not, of course, that that's a bad thing), but those of the Soviets are already fading into history...<

    Absolutely. But then the Soviets had a head start into propaganda. Besides, kulaks are not victims most urbanised westerners can readily identify with now, nor the third of the Soviet Politburo who met untimely, violent ends. Perhaps someone will some day make a heroic movie about Anastas Mikoyan, in the Soviet hierarchy, who managed to make it from the October Revolution through Stalin's terror, then Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin to peaceful retirement in the Brezhnev era. Whatever the twists and turns of the Party line, Mikoyan was always on the correct side.

    Lenin was quick to recognise the value of movies as a ideal propaganda medium to reach a popular audience, which is why Eisenstein was able to attract sponsorship from the impoverished Soviet state in the 1920s to make outstanding movies that have a largely coincidental connection with the events the movies purported to portray. As George Orwell put it in Nineteen Eighty-four: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

    A little while back I started to reflect on the past spate of Hollywood movies about Robin Hood, the entirely legendary bandit romanticised in English ballads of the 14th and 15th century. As some of us may recall from many movie theatre visits long ago, Robin Hood and his Merry Men robbed the rich to pay the poor, after deducting expenses, of course. It seems to me the movies amounted to thoroughly deplorable ventures in romanticising crime and creating ideal roll models for gangsters, terrorists and wannabe dictators. If anyone figures on taking over the apparatus of government by non-electoral means: Taxing the governed to make newly installed apparatchiks affluent, doesn't have quite the same motivational resonance, true as it will likely be.

    Posted by: Bob Briant on October 3, 2002 02:41 PM

    Say, a movie regarding Mikoyan would be interesting, although I don't know if the term heroic applies. Regarding Robin Hood, a similar dynamic applies here in the United States, although they usually aren't fictional characters. Billy the Kid was a ruthless killer that the pulp fictionists turned into a romantic figure. Just recently, when multiple killer and thief John Gotti did the taxpayers a favor and departed his last abode, a Federal Prison, for places unknown, he was likewise eulogized as a romantic figure of great integrity. For too many,it takes a personal experience of the utter terror provided when some individual with violent, evil, intent is encountered before it becomes obvious that such romanticism is idiotic.

    Posted by: Will Allen on October 3, 2002 03:44 PM

    Patrick's proved his own folly time and again here, but he should think about this question: was Churchill a liberal?

    Posted by: nick sweeney on October 3, 2002 06:03 PM

    I keep seeing "kulaks" referred to as if this was some wealthy class of people deserving the murder they typically got. A kulak might have been someone with two cows instead of one. In the Soviet early 1930's people were so terrified of being labeled a kulak that many peoiple in Ukraine and Kazhakstan simple let their animals run wild. The animals starved and were not available to bring in the harvest, contributing to the Terror Famine. I hear hate-filled leftists in the US speak the same way about families making more than, say, $100K. (A carpenter married to a nurse can make that much in some parts of the country.) I hope some of you aren't ready to start slitting their throats yet.

    Posted by: Josef on October 4, 2002 11:12 AM

    >was Churchill a liberal?<

    Churchill's changes in political allegiances and ministerial appointments were sufficiently complex to challenge dependable recall so I hurriedly consulted a few reference sources immediately to hand.

    To simplify somewhat, Churchill was originally elected to Parliament in 1900 as a Conservative but fell out with the Party over his commitment to free trade principles and switched to the Liberal Party in 1904, going on to serve in an astonishing variety of cabinet positions in Liberal governments and the war-time coaltion of 1916 on through to the general election in 1922 when he was defeated in his constituency. He returned to Parliament for a different constituency in October 1924 as "constitutional anti-socialist", becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer (treasury minister) in the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin from 1924 through to the general election of 1929 when a Labour government was returned. Churchill rejoined the Conservative Party in 1925 and remained a party member thereafter but did not serve again in any ministerial capacity through the National and then Conservative governments of the 1930s until the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939 when he became First Lord of the Admiralty (= navy minister) in Neville Chamberlin's war-time government.

    On Chamberlain's resignation on 10 May 1940, Churchill became prime minister of the war-time coalition government through to the defeat of the Conservatives in the general election of July 1945. In 1951, after the general election that year returned the Conservatives to power, Churchill again became prime minister and served through in that capacity to 1955.

    Readers may like to know of a new and recently published biography of Churchill by Roy Jenkins, who served as a minister in various Labour governments in the 1960s and '70s then as President of the EC Commission from 1977 through 1981. I regret to admit I have not (as yet) read this new biography of Churchill.

    Posted by: Bob Briant (UK) on October 4, 2002 12:21 PM

    My attempt at finding a difference:

    The Soviet gulag was nightmarishly bad, but it wasn't comparable to this:

    'That this unit of 500 men --- made up of police reservists, not trained in combat, and seeminly tangential to entire holocaust programme --- could be directly responsible for the shooting deaths of 38,000 people and the transportion of 100,000s of thousands of others to their deaths, makes depressing reading indeed.'

    I don't have Hitler's Willing Executioners on me, so I can't type the reference up, but the men of Police Battallion 101, perfectly average 30 year olds, married, many with kids, taken pretty much from all over Germany, did the following:

    Entered hospitals and shot all Jews there, women, elderly, children, and infants alike.
    Shot the elderly, infirm, and infants who could not be brought to the central collection point during their operations.
    Eliminated 600 Jews in their first operation through individual point-blank gunshots to the back of the head. They complained about getting viscera and brains on themselves in the process.

    That's the kicker for me: say what you will about the USSR, but its policies didn't result in average citizens shooting 8-year old girls in the back of the head for the crime of their ethnicity.

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 4, 2002 01:57 PM

    >It seems to me the movies amounted to thoroughly deplorable ventures in romanticising crime and creating ideal roll models for gangsters, terrorists and wannabe dictators.<
    There is a new biography of Jesse Jame out by Hicks that I would highly recomend. Apropos of this thread he draws a direct link between the activities of the Jamesm gang, the Klu Klux Klan and fascists and Nazis. Basically there social basis were veterins who came home to find a political and social revolution underway and were mobilized to defeat it. In the book Hicks is able to draw a direct connection between James and overthrow of the political regime in Missouri that enforced civil rights for blacks. Newspaper editors who supported this change explicitely compared him to Robin Hood. He describes him as the first modern "terrorist," and a succesful one.

    The movies that glorified James (there were two), did so by claiming he was a defender of the little man. But the little man was really an ex-confederate racist who was trying to achieve racial segregation. This was a familar item in movies during the thirties, which glorified the south and tried to make the civil war go away. So in terms of westerns these things are different than one mioght expect-they tended to reinforce the racial status quo in the US. (A conservative position).

    Let us return to the origen of this thread. No one today is proud to be an ex-Nazi or KKK member. OIn the optyher hand those who were socialists or even communists were clearly on the right side when it came to race. Furthermore, mopst abandoned the Party (Communist) in two large waves. One during the Hitler-Stalin pact the other follewing the Kruschev revelations concerning Stalin. In general they including Hobswahn behaved in a generally principled manner. When it was clear to them that something was wrong and in conflict with their ideals concerning justice theyu generally acted in conformance with their ideals. On the other hand a Nazi, Fascist or KKK member who acted on their ideals would justifiabley be tried as a war criminal.
    Lawrence

    This plays into movies who basically portrayed James and others as

    Posted by: on October 4, 2002 02:40 PM

    >That's the kicker for me: say what you will about the USSR, but its policies didn't result in average citizens shooting 8-year old girls in the back of the head for the crime of their ethnicity.<

    What I think horrifies me most about the Nazis was not the casual brutality of concentration camp guards or field executioners out in the invaded territories but the meticulous planning and construction of the gas chambers and crematoria by bureaucrats and professional technicians committed to improving operational efficiency. Sadly, there will always be some pathological thugs addicted to bullying and brutality - as in the KKK. There are many reports on record from camp survivors equivalent in brutality to the murder of an eight year-old that you describe. For me it came as a profound shock to realise that there were also those who would evaluate alternatives and then carefuly plan for mass extermination of people applying the best professional principles. That professional support, the planning and the orchestrated supply chain are terrifying insights into the extremes of our human experience.

    The Soviets were just not in that league of professional efficiency. The equivalent shock about the Soviet system for me came only quite recently. As someone remarked earlier in the thread, the publicity for mass starvation from the collectivisation of farms, the gulags, and the Soviet terror machine has never been as extensive as that applied to the Nazis. One explanation is straight forward enough - the Soviets were among the victors of the war and the Soviet Union was a closed country were the state apparatus routinely suppressed incidental news about internal crashes of railways or domestic airlines, let alone about events in huge prison camps located in the further reaches of Siberia beyond the Arctic Circle or what happened in the deeper recesses of the KGB headquarters in Lubyanka Square, Moscow.

    The surpise a couple of years back came on reading some Russian historians with access to Kremin archives in the early 1990s: there had been an attempt by Molotov and a surviving old guard to depose Khrushchev in 1957, the year after he had denounced the cult of Stalin at a secret session of the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party. Marshall Zhukov, the outstanding Soviet battlefield commander of WW2, came to Khrushchev's support in the Central Committee debate. Zhukov read out from official reports recording how Stalin, as Party General Secretary, with Molotov as Soviet President in the late 1930s before the start of WW2, had been signing off approvals for executions by the tens of thousands, in many hundreds of cases for the executions of dedicated Communists, members of the Politburo and Central Committee as well as party functionaries from remoter parts of the Soviet Union. These were fellow revolutionaries and party comrades consigned to dispatch by a bullet in the head. I do not suppose we shall ever quite fathom the reason. I wonder if the perpetrators understood themselves?

    The outcome of the Central Committee debate in 1957 was that Khrushchev remained in power while Molotov and his old guard associates were retired away from politics for their remaining years. Some things had changed after the 20th Congress. The losers were not executed.

    Posted by: on October 4, 2002 05:48 PM

    'What I think horrifies me most about the Nazis was not the casual brutality of concentration camp guards or field executioners out in the invaded territories but the meticulous planning and construction of the gas chambers and crematoria by bureaucrats and professional technicians committed to improving operational efficiency.'

    I agree it'd be less disturbing if it was just casual brutality; but it wasn't. It was intentional, official policy, and commited by a wide swath of perfectly normal, unpoliticized German citizens.

    A society that can convince, or allow, lots of middle-aged guys with 1.5 kids from the suburbs to personally shoot women, children, and infants in the back of the head for nothing more than their ethnicity, to supposedly move towards a better society, is depraved beyond belief. There's just no comparing between the levels of personal evil involved in the two systems.

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 4, 2002 06:35 PM

    Jason:

    Why is murder on the basis of ethnicity more reprehensible than murder on the basis of being branded a "reactionary" or a "kulak" or an "intellectual" at the whim of the state?

    There's just no comparing between the levels of personal evil involved in the two systems.

    Have you actually read the Gulag Archipelago? or the KGB? or any biographies of Stalin? For example, see here:

    Stalin essentially "created" class conflict in the countryside by declaring that the kulaks were the rural equivalent of urban factory owners and therefore the class enemy of poor peasants who must be "liquidated as a class". In the "dekulakization" drive that followed, anyone who opposed the Communists or collectivization was branded as a kulak and ruthlessly dealt with, effectively decimating the Russian countryside of its best and most motivated farmers. By some estimates, over 5 million farmsteads were destroyed, while millions of people were either killed, left homeless, or sent into exile in Siberia. The end result was a collectivized, compliant peasantry and the worst man-made famine in history.

    How is that not Hitler-esque? Stalin demonized a group based on its invented crimes and sanctioned and supported its mass murder. And lest you say that the kulaks were "rich" and thus sorta "deserved it", remember that the Nazis' attacks on the Jews were largely based on jealousy for their success as bankers/moneylenders/etc.

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 4, 2002 10:55 PM

    Sorry - should have read "or about the KGB"

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 4, 2002 10:56 PM

    Boy, is this thread wandering far afield.

    Leaving aside the pointless (who murdered more MILLIONS of civilians), the aesthetic (is it worse to shoot an 8 year old through the head for her ethnicity, or to starve her to death because of her class), the inaccurate (Stalin's executioners also preferred the shot in the back of the head, and left the mass graves of its victims all over the former Soviet Union, (OOH! I think I'll always love typing 'former Soviet Union!)), and the Idiotarian ("capitalism" murders people with cigarettes, which of course no socialist govt. allowed to be sold after the Surgeon General's report), we can get back to the original question: why more tolerance for Communism than Facism?

    I think the answer has been touched on here: particularism vs. universalism.

    Nazism wanted to kill people on the basis of 'race' and nationality. So all 'non-Ayrans' knew that Nazism was a threat to them.

    But Communism was a universalist ideology. Anyone could join 'the side of the angels.' That meant anyone could potentially end up an oppressor, rather than oppressed.

    There's an old joke about three ex-commies: "The Hitler-Stalin pact was my Kronstadt." "The purges were my Kronstadt." "Kronstadt was my Kronstadt." Well, I got them all beat. As soon as I understood what genocide was, I became an anti-Nazi AND an anti-communist.

    All ex-Communists like Hobsbawm were people who once looked forward to mass murder, but anticipated that they'd be among the killers rather than the killed.

    And this isn't a 'perversion' of a noble doctrine. Somewhere in his letters to Engels, Marx looks forward with approval to the deaths of reactionary individuals, reactionary classes, and whole reactionary nations! "And that too is progress," he commented on his vision.

    Note that Nazism also had its utopian visions. Further, one can argue that Nazism didn't have murder as a core constituent of its vision. Hitler made some efforts to ship the Jews abroad. He just couldn't find anyone who'd take them.

    Both movements appeal to both the good and the evil in people's souls. The good side, which never really has to be implemented, lets you congratulate yourself on your virtue. The evil that provides the motive power. Note Whittaker Chambers's story in Witness about his experience at his brother's graveside. He was in mourning, and all these people just drove past, uncaring that his brother was dead. He filled up with an irrational rage at society in general, and that was when he became a true Marxist.

    To see what matters to a movement, ask what they'll give up. Marxist Leninists compromised with Capitalists, were willing to come to power by elections or votes, changed their positions on almost anything you can think of -- but they never budged on abolishing the rule of law, getting rid of 'burgeois" civil liberties, or implementing 'the Red Terror' as soon as they had the power. Lenin branded Kautsky a traitor to Marxism because he renounced oppression.

    That's the dirty secret of defenders of Communism: a vision of the future as "a boot stamping on a human face, forever", with them doing the stomping. But with Facism, you had to be the right nationality or 'race' first to join up. Not being eligible for membership in the oppressors club enabled leftists free to denounce the Fascism. Communist willingness to enroll them in the ranks of killers seduced them into pretending they were benevolently motivated.

    Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge on October 5, 2002 01:58 AM

    Stephen,

    You and I are plainly on the same wavelength about this so forgive me if I nit-pick a little.

    Italian fascism was not initially racist in the way that the Nazi "programme" was from its very foundation in 1920 and only became so under the influence of the Nazis in the late 1930s and into WW2, which Italy joined belatedly on 10 June 1940. Racism was not an inherent part of early fascism - and whatever else, Hitler did accord Mussolini the honour of pioneering the fascist state. Secondly, the categories of deemed inferiors fit for extermination in Nazi ideology extended to include gypsies, communists, homosexuals, slavs, and people with mental disability. The Nazi vision of gaining "lebensraum" [living room] in eastern Europe included the notion of permanently enslaving the peoples of conquered territories there so long as they were considered fit for useful work.

    Thirdly, a big difference between the Nazi and Soviet regimes on their respective home territories is that - as Kershaw points out in his recently published study of Hitler - the personnel establishment of the Gestapo in Germany and Austria was quite small relative to a combined population of close on 80 million. Unlike the Soviet Union, internal security in the Third Reich was not considered a threat to government.

    Compare that with what happened in the German Democratic Republic in East Germany after WW2 where, at its peak, the Stasi came to employ over 80,000 and the population was only some 16 million. As became evident on collapse of the GDR regime in 1989, the Stasi kept active files on a third of the population. Families and friends were encouraged to inform on family members and friends. The initial opening of the Stasi archives in the early 1990s lead to devastating breakups of families and friendships, so much so that access to the Stasi archives came to be restricted. A similar picture emerges from later published personal accounts of what happened during Mao's Cultural Revolution in China in the late 1960s when husbands and wives became very cautious about what they said to their spouses.

    Eastern German citiziens were also surprised to learn of the affluent living conditions of the Communist nomenklatura and apparatchiks there but then Mao in his dotage developed a liking for young girls which the Party duly provided for.

    As suggested before, I believe we need to be dispassionately objective about this.

    Posted by: Bob Briant on October 5, 2002 09:04 AM

    'All ex-Communists like Hobsbawm were people who once looked forward to mass murder, but anticipated that they'd be among the killers rather than the killed.'

    This is a completely ridiculous statement, Steven.

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 5, 2002 01:24 PM

    Stephen:

    Is fascism more "exclusive" than communism? Perhaps, but there are fascists of every stripe and color, from David Dukes to Louis Farrakhans to Osama bin Ladens. Furthermore, the commies of the ex-USSR were less than benevolent to the non-white Russians and the Jews - there were racial overtones there as well.

    Jason:

    Do you agree now that the difference btwn Communism and Fascisim is essentially academic, at least w/r/t their methods and motivations for mass murder?

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 5, 2002 09:13 PM

    'And lest you say that the kulaks were "rich" and thus sorta "deserved it"'

    I've never seen anyone seriously make this argument.

    'How is that not Hitler-esque? Stalin demonized a group based on its invented crimes and sanctioned and supported its mass murder. And lest you say that the kulaks were "rich" and thus sorta "deserved it", remember that the Nazis' attacks on the Jews were largely based on jealousy for their success as bankers/moneylenders/etc.'

    From my reading the Jews were killed, basically, as racial (definition of the Volk through "not Jewish or Slavic") and religious (the problem of Jesus's religious/racial group "rejecting" Christianity) scapegoats.

    I certainly don't see class-conflict style "jealousy of their success" as a central component. Where's the rhetoric pushing for the confiscation of their riches, for one thing?

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 6, 2002 03:34 PM

    According to Nazi doctrine, the Party's anti-semitism was officially based on ethnicity, not religion. The Party's basic programme adopted in 1920 demanded "freedom for all religious denominations in the State". The Programme later goes on: "[The Party] combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and without us, and is convinced that our nation can achieve permanent health only from within on the basis of the principle: The common interest before self-interest."

    The racist Nuremberg laws of 1935 denied jews full citizenship rights and thereby precluded jews from working in the professions. A surge of mob attacks and looting of shops and businesses owned by jews had started up in March 1933, only a few months into Hitler's Chancellorship, but by accounts seems to have abated through 1934. Sources report economic considerations, such as adverse consequences for German insurance companies, were likely contributing factors both for the lull and for the subsequent Nuremberg laws which abrogated citizenship rights.

    In all, while there is clear evidence of economic motivation in Party activism and official legislation by ordinance, it is difficult to evade a conclusion that Hitler's personal grasp of economic issues was decidedly thin. At the time the Party's fundamental programme was adopted in 1920, he evidently knew little about the Russian revolution of 1917.

    In his case, nationalism and pathological anti-semitism seem to have been predominant motivations even though the Party's fundamental programme includes such familiar socialist policies as: jobs; abolition of incomes unearned by work - especially usury; nationalisation of corporations [trusts]; profit-sharing in large industrial enterprises; insurance for old-age (pensions); land reform; education reform - "curricula . . [for] the requirements of a practical life"; improving national health standards; editors of, and contributors to the press to be citizens.

    Posted by: Bob Briant on October 7, 2002 03:51 AM

    Jason:

    Bob Briant beat me to it - he said pretty much what I was going to say. The Nazis really were National Socialists , and that's reflected in both their programs (as ref'd by Bob) as well as their racially charged rhetoric against the uber-capitalists of the day: the Jews.

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 7, 2002 04:48 AM

    Just because the Nazis favored some socialist programs doesn't mean their anti-semitism had anything to do with confiscatory class conflict.

    Again:
    'I certainly don't see class-conflict style "jealousy of their success" as a central component. Where's the rhetoric pushing for the confiscation of their riches, for one thing?'

    Where are the speeches calling for the seizure of Jewish assets in class-warfare terms? The most relevant thing I can find is a decree requiring them to register their assets, with a line about ensuring the "proper use" of assets. Nothing much appears to have come of this; for one thing, why would they destroy Jewish businesses in Kristallnacht, rather than just take them? That the Reich repeatedly destroyed Jewish property in the process of slaughtering Jews makes me think it was more about the Jews themselves than their property.

    Yes, their property was often siezed, but that was almost a side-issue in German anti-semitism.

    About the religious roots of German anti-semitism, compared to Germany's stated desire under the Riech for freedom of religion: I'm
    talking about the fundamental conflict between Christianity and Judaism. I'm of the opinion that virtually all anti-semitism can be traced back to the problem Christianity has with Jesus Christ's ethnic and religious group rejecting their new religion.

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 7, 2002 02:33 PM

    Jason:

    Where are the speeches calling for the seizure of Jewish assets in class-warfare terms?

    Ok, you asked for it. Here are some quotes from Mein Kampf:

    Yet at the same time he [The Jew] continued to undermine the ground-work of that part of the economic system in which the people have the most practical interest. He bought up stock in the various national undertakings and thus pushed his influence into the circuit of national production, making this latter an object of buying and selling on the stock exchange, or rather what might be called the pawn in a financial game of chess, and thus ruining the basis on which personal proprietorship alone is possible. Only with the entrance of the Jew did that feeling of estrangement, between employers and employees begin which led at a later date to the political class-struggle.

    Finally the Jew gained an increasing influence in all economic undertakings by means of his predominance in the stock-exchange. If not the ownership, at least he secured control of the working power of the nation.
    ...
    The division created between employer and employees seems not to have extended to all branches of life. How far this Judaizing process has been allowed to take effect > among our people is illustrated by the fact that manual labour not only receives practically no recognition but is even considered degrading. That is not a natural German attitude. It is due to the introduction of a foreign element into our lives, and that foreign element is the Jewish spirit , one of the effects of which has been to transform the high esteem in which our handicrafts once were held into a definite feeling that all physical labour is something base and unworthy.

    The so-called national-minded bourgeoisie, blinded by its own material interests, opposes this life-or-death struggle of the workers and places the most difficult obstacles in their way. Not only does this bourgeoisie hinder all efforts to enact legislation which would shorten the inhumanly long hours of work, prohibit child-labour, grant security and protection to women and improve the hygienic conditions of the workshops and the dwellings of the working-class, but while the bourgeoisie hinders all this the shrewd Jew takes the cause of the oppressed into his own hands. He gradually becomes the leader of the trades union movements, which is an easy task for him, because he does not genuinely intend to find remedies for the social wrong: he pursues only one objective, namely, to gather and consolidate a body of followers who will act under his commands as an armed weapon in the economic war for the destruction of national economic independence. For, while a sound social policy has to move between the two poles of securing a decent level of public health and welfare on the one hand and, on the other, that of safeguarding the independence of the economic life of the nation, the Jew does not take these poles into account at all. The destruction of both is one of his main objects. He would ruin, rather than safeguard, the independence of the national economic system. Therefore, as the leader of the trades union movement, he has no scruples about putting forward demands which not only go beyond the declared purpose of the movement but could not be carried into effect without ruining the national economic structure. On the other hand, he has no interest in seeing a healthy and sturdy population develop; he would be more content to see the people degenerate into an unthinking herd which could be reduced to total subjection. Because these are his final objectives, he can afford to put forward the most absurd claims. He knows very well that these claims can never be realized and that therefore nothing in the actual state of affairs could be altered by them, but that the most they can do is to arouse the spirit of unrest among the masses. That is exactly the purpose which he wishes such propaganda to serve and not a real and honest improvement of the social conditions.
    ...
    When the Zionists try to make the rest of the world believe that the new national consciousness of the Jews will be satisfied by the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, the Jews thereby adopt another means to dupe the simple-minded Gentile. They have not the slightest intention of building up a Jewish State in Palestine so as to live in it. What they really are aiming at is to establish a central organization for their international swindling and cheating. As a sovereign State, this cannot be controlled by any of the other States. Therefore it can serve as a refuge for swindlers who have been found out and at the same time a high-school for the training of other swindlers.

    I could go on, but the point is that Hitler blamed the Jews for capitalism and socialism, for communism and democracy simultaneously. He was a raving loon, but the historical record is clear: a substantial part of Hitler's demonization of the Jews was based on their economic prominence , their control of the means of production, and their "swindling, cheating" nature.

    The point being that class warfare rhetoric was central to the Third Reich.

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 7, 2002 10:24 PM

    I think intellectuals who resent wealthy capitalists are drawn to opposing ideologies. The intellectuals think they should rule because they have high intelligence and lots of book learning and credentials that are rather like the modern equivalent of feudal titles. Socialism as practiced by the Soviets put planners rather than businessmen in charge. Intellectuals wanted to be planners and call the shots. Fascism is too tribally parochial to appeal to intellectuals and intellectuals are more attracted to ideologies that more abstract and less based on blood. I realize Godless doesn't agree with this line of argument. Yes, the communists killed a lot of intellectuals. But the Soviet Union required a lots of administrative and scientific experts to plan and give advice.

    BTW, if anyone finds it difficult to read the little pop-up dialog if you open the comments in a new tab in Mozilla or the latest Netscape it will show up full screen.

    Someone tell Brad De Long that he can get useful MovableType customizations from one of my blogs here at this URL on TechiePundit: http://www.techiepundit.com/archives/000018.html#000018 and one of the customizations is how to fix his fixed sized pop-up comment dialog. I have two fixes where one makes the pop-up stretchable and the other opens in a different full screen way.

    Posted by: Randall Parker on October 7, 2002 11:47 PM

    godless: I think you're stretching the definition of facist WAY outa shape here. If by "facism" we mean a society organized in something like a fashion that Mussolini would have approved of, then it's hard for me to stretch Osama bin Laden into that. About Farrakhan I lack infomation.

    Still, let's assume Farrakhan is a facist. Does he propound a vision of society that anyone may potentially join? No, it's for blacks only. And Italian Facism was for Italians only, and Nazism was for Aryans only. Communism, in contrast, was potentially for everyone.

    godless and Jason: I used to read Nazi stuff, and they hated Capitalism with a vengence. But unlike the Communists, they focused on national solidarities and conflicts. I recall a speech by Mussolini in which he said, more or less, that Facists reached much the same conclusions as Communists, but they reached it by way of the concept of 'nation', whereas Communists reached it by way of 'class.'

    What it comes down to is the definition of socialism. If class conflicts and class hatreds are defined to be part of the socialist worldview, then Nazism is in no way socialist. If 'state control of the economy' (at least in the begining) is seen as the essence of socialism, then the Nazis have a good claim on that title.

    Jason: "This is a completely ridiculous statement, Steven." And your mother wears Army boots.

    Now, do you have an argument, or evidence, or just ad hominem?

    Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge on October 8, 2002 02:30 AM

    Stephen:

    I think we agree on more than we disagree. You say: "Facists reached much the same conclusions as Communists, but they reached it by way of the concept of 'nation', whereas Communists reached it by way of 'class.'"

    My only quibble with this would be that Fascists get there by the concept of "race" rather than that of nation per se . That's why Osama and Farrakhan belong in this group: they appeal to their race/nation (the Muslim Ummah/the black people) to condemn capitalism and elites and to found an authoritarian government that'd be different from that of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia only in the details (e.g. theocratic or not). In particular, this government would come complete with secret police, mass murder, militarism, state controlled industry, and jingoistic nationalism.

    The reason that fascists and communists end up in the same place is because race & class are not orthogonal. Race is of course hereditary, but what's often neglected (or intentionally ignored) is that class is also partly hereditary (due to both genetics and monetary inheritance) and covaries with race. The real factor is jealousy against those who've made it, particularly if they're somehow "different" from the rest of the population.

    That's why authoritarian governments always end up launching pogroms against high IQ elites, whether they be Jews in Germany, kulaks in Russia, intellectuals in China or Chinese in Malaysia.

    Posted by: godlesscapitalist on October 8, 2002 05:32 AM

    'I could go on, but the point is that Hitler blamed the Jews for capitalism and socialism, for communism and democracy simultaneously. He was a raving loon, but the historical record is clear: a substantial part of Hitler's demonization of the Jews was based on their economic prominence , their control of the means of production, and their "swindling, cheating" nature.

    The point being that class warfare rhetoric was central to the Third Reich.'

    I think "class warfare rhetoric" requires, as a central component, a confisicatory element. I still haven't seen an example calling for confiscation, much less anything making it a central point.

    'The real factor is jealousy against those who've made it, particularly if they're somehow "different" from the rest of the population.'

    Had Jews in the Reich really "made it?" Google gives this. I can't find anything else along these lines (well, other than white supremacist sites).

    'While Jews formed just under 1 per cent of the total population of Germany, in certain professions and occupations there was a markedly higher percentage of them. Thus 16 per cent of all lawyers practising in the Reich were Jews, and about 10 per cent of all doctors and dentists. Among bankers it was as high as 17 per cent. Against their over-representation in certain areas of lucrative commercial activity must be set the fact that in 1933 one in three Jewish taxpayers had an annual income of less than 2,400 marks and one in four Berlin Jews was receiving charity.'

    Oh: the party may have called for elimination of all capital income (!), among other things, but did they ever get close to this result?

    Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 8, 2002 09:20 AM

    The entry for 16 March 1936 in George Orwell's diary about Mosley trying to drum up support for the British Union of Fascists is clear about him speaking from a "socialist angle" and with an evident appeal to workers' class interests. The relating passage from the entry quoted above is:

    "M. is a very good speaker. His speech was the usual clap-trap - Empire free trade, down with the Jew and the foreigner, higher wages and shorter hours all round etc. After the preliminary booing the (mainly) working class audience was easily bamboozled by M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle, condemning the treachery of successive governments towards the workers."

    This was from a public speech at a real meeting and in Britain whereas several sources have suggested that Mein Kampf was regarded in Germany as a somewhat indigestible tome, originally published in 1924, which active Nazi party members often tended to keep prominently on bookshelves but didn't actually read - perhaps rather like most Marxists and Communists "reading" of much of Marx's writings beyond the Communist Manifesto.

    Posted by: Bob Briant on October 9, 2002 12:08 AM

    godless: I think you're confusing 'Fascism' and 'Nazism.' Mussolini did invent the movement, after all, and therefore has some credibility as to what it was about.

    As far as I know, Mussolini's Fascism wasn't racist. Hitler's was, definitely.

    Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge on October 10, 2002 03:01 AM

    A discomforting issue raised by the Nazi assumption of unchecked political power in Germany from 1933 on is the fact that this was endorsed in two popular plebiscites (or referendums) in November 1933 and August 1934, the later endorsing the unchallengeable position of the Fuhrer as supreme authority.

    In both cases, the plebiscites approved the propositions put with huge majorities. While contemporary observers, such as William Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich), comment that there was widespread pressure, amounting to intimidation in cases, nether he nor others seriously challenge a judgement that, almost certainly, there was majority popular support for the Nazis at the time even if the sizes of the substantive majorities were probably less than the returns from the plebiscites indicated.

    The question is whether a democracy - as the preceding Weimar Republic undoubtedly was - can "legitimately" vote to abrogate the fundamental rights and characteristics of what we regard as democratic governance. The drafters of the US Declaration of Independence in 1776 - (?) Thomas Jefferson - had anticipated this question by referring to "inalienable rights" but that pushes on the issue to that of from whence do such continuing "inalienable rights" derive and in what sense are the rights permanently "inalienable".

    The citizens of the Soviet Union and other Socialist Republics for the most part seem not to have any corresponding opportunities to endorse in popular plebiscites what amounted to one-party states. However, the Soviet Constitution of 1953 included fulsome guarantees of rights to freedom of expresssion and worship and the like. Such guarantees did not come to much absent institutions competent to ensure enforcement of the rights but there were undoubtedly constitutional guarantees of personal rights. In that respect at least, it can be said there was a difference between the "socialism" of the Nazis - with the principle enshrined in their fundamental programme of: The common interest before self-interest - and that of the Marxist Socialist Republics which proclaimed inspiration from Marx and Lenin.

    Posted by: Bob Briant on October 14, 2002 04:36 AM
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