Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Hitler Honeymoon of 1933

When Allied troops starting liberating German concentration camps at the end of World War II, the world was shocked. Rumors that Jews and other people Hitler considered undesirable had been being systematically exterminated turned out to be true. By then the U.S. and the British Empire had embraced the idea of total war: the destruction of civilian populations in Germany and Japan by fire bombing, later to be capped by the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Germans were just plain bad.

In 1945 most Americans re-wrote German history in their minds, even more than they had in 1941. Many Americans had expressed an admiration for Benito Mussolini starting in the 1920s, or for Hitler in the 1930s. Once the United States officially entered World War II (we had already been fighting the Japanese in China and the Germans in the Atlantic), public opinion became vigorously patriotic, nationalist, and solidly against the opposing nations and their political leaders.

Even today it is hard to talk objectively about how the Nazi Party came to power, or what governance was like in Germany aside from the Holocaust and decision to invade Poland.

Hitler wanted power, and he wanted it badly, and behaved not unlike such politicians of all races and throughout the ages. He emphasized bright and shining ideas, while dimming the ideas that were less popular with voters. Only once he made himself dictator, in 1934, did he begin to behave, from our point of view, really badly.

Hitler was appointed to the most powerful office in Germany, Chancellor, on January 30, 1933, after the dismissal of General Schleicher. His Nazi Party, in the recent election, had won 195 seats, making it the largest in a multi-party Reichstag (congress). As a compromise his cabinet contained only 4 Nazi ministers, the others being mostly technocrats. His Vice-Chancellor, Franz von Papen, had been the leader of the right-wing of the Catholic Center Party (Zentrum).

To win the election Hitler had declared he was for peace [sound familiar?], for Christianity (he himself was Roman Catholic, as were many Nazis), and ready to get the economy going again (it was in the Great Depression). He even toned down his anti-jewish rants.

Hitler had his own problems. The Nazi Party was huge, it largely consisted of fiefdoms, and any of several of its war lords thought themselves every bit as fit to become dictator as Hitler. Adolf needed leverage against the more radical and disloyal members of his own party, and for that he courted German conservatives, moderates, Roman Catholics, military men and business men. He did maintain his anti-communist stand. Pope Pius XI "remarked how pleased he was that the German Government now had at its head a man [Adolph Hitler] uncompromisingly opposed to Communism and Russian nihilism." [Franz von Papen Memoirs, page 279]

The economic program consisted of some deregulation of industry, combined with an employment program. The largest component sent young people to work on farms, where there had been a labor shortage. The Autobahn (equivalent to our Interstate Highway System started in the 1950s) was begun. There was some increased military spending (Germany had a very tiny army as a result of treaty limitations). Disputes between labor and capitalists were settled, generally in favor of the workers. Hitler declared on May 10, 1933, "The new State will no longer represent the sectional interests of a group or a class, but will be the trustee of the nation as a whole." The tourist industry was even revived by giving workers paid holiday tours. [Franz von Papen Memoirs, page 284]

Sound like the New Deal? That is because it was, only done more quickly and effectively. The main difference is that, because there was almost no business regulation in the U.S. in 1933, but German business was highly regulated, the New Deal program included a lot of new regulation of business. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped President Roosevelt's most fascistic programs, notably the NRA (National Recovery Administration).

Of course most honeymoons come to an end. During this period fanatical Nazis beat up Jews and Communists. Opposition political parties were dissolved. Opposition to Hitler within the Nazi party was liquidated in the Night of the Long Knives. When President Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler absorbed his powers and filled his cabinet with members of his own party. Many Germans, even former communists and social democrats, had joined the ranks of the Nazis; there was no effective opposition. Hitler was popular because he had restarted the economy. Instead of being happy with that he began preparing for the glory of war and the extermination of Jews and other perceived enemies of his new Third Reich.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The State of Barack Obama

An interesting way to teach American History would be to have the students read each of the State of the Union addresses, starting with George Washington's first. What students would mainly learn would, hopefully, was to not put too much stock in the opinions of a single politician, even if he is the President of the United States. [for the record, I have read only a limited set of these addresses, notable those I included in my Internet Biography of Andrew Jackson.]

In four years we will know how much of the objectives outlined in Barack Obama's speech have been achieved. Probably little.

What we already know is the 2013 State of the Union speech failed to inform Congress or America of the State of the Union. It was filled with misleading statistics, political hype, digs at the Republicans, meaningless tales of individual Americans, and just plain obfuscation. President Obama wants some good things: more confidence in the private sector, resulting in more jobs; world peace (without sacrificing American power or imperialist loot); a higher minimum wage; more careful Federal spending. He even wants both more natural gas production and less global warming. But wanting things is the easy part. We all want to have our cake and eat it too. That is why we are not a nation of savers.

The word "bank" is not mentioned in the speech, except for "food bank." That is a pretty funny thing. Compare Andrew Jackson's speeches, which almost always had something to say about banks. What's wrong with this picture, Mr. President? Could not 90% of the problems of "middle class" Americans be summed up in one word: banks?

His speech provokes the Islamic faithful, which means we must continue to spend more money on bloodshed, or leave the Islamic nations to work out their own fates. "And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace." Which means the private property of the Palestinians will not be returned to them, nor will damages be paid. So the prior sentence, "but we can -- and will -- insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people," is just a bold-faced lie. The oppression of women in Israel, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and numerous American allies will be overlooked, but used to justify murder with drones in Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, and other states not buckling under our imperialist demands.

As to good jobs, the President wants to fill them with immigrants: "real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers." Perhaps the President should be required by the Constitution to report on his campaign donations. Then we would know what policies he will pursue.

Getting $9 per hour will not make anyone "middle class." Thirty years ago, even, $9 an hour would not have made a person middle class. Why won't the President use the term "working class?" There are a lot more working class American citizens than middle class ones.

History has shown their is only one sure way to make working class Americans middle class. Unionize them, and use the power of the union (One Big Union, united to seek fairness for all) to take, not just higher wages, but a fair share of capital and a majority share of decision making power. But the state of union organizing is not mentioned.

Nothing about clear cut forests from sea to shining sea. Nothing about mountaintop removal. Nothing about overpopulation. Nothing about reproductive rights.

Nothing about the rapid proletariatization of the work force by robots and artificial intelligence. No honest talk about foreign policy or the destruction of the American economy by the imperialist military budget.

Nothing about the Obama policy of closing down marijuana clinics in states where they are legal; nothing at all about the effects of U.S. recreational drug consumption on crime in the U.S. and in Mexico.

Mr. Obama just proved again that he is a very good political campaigner, but can't settle down to actually governing a nation with liberty and justice for all.

Of course Democrats will find much to love in the speech, and Republicans will find much to hate. Again, illustrating what George Washington and other Founders foresaw, that the party system would be bad for America. That is why political parties are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Philippines War, American Christianity, and Islam

"It is the modest, not the presumptuous, inquirer who makes a real and safe progress in the discovery of divine truths." — Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke

As part of my preparation (or really procrastination) for writing The U.S. War Against Asia (aka The Asian War) I recently completed the most excellent God's Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 1898-1902 by Susan K. Harris.

In tracing how an ostensibly democratic and anti-imperialist nation rationalized becoming an imperialist power by seizing Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines against the will of their inhabitants, Susan Harris goes into the details of the 19th century transformation of the United States into an overtly Christian nation. Part of that project (for it did not occur spontaneously) was a re-writing of the history of 18th century America, particularly the period between 1750 and the passing (marred by massive fraud) of the U.S. Constitution.

History is always a summation. We cannot study, even if we wanted to, what each American inhabitant did and thought, for instance, on each day of 1776, important as all those thoughts and actions in that particular year must have been. When doing a summary the acts of including or excluding may make for very different end products.

In the 19th century the Enlightenment, which was secular and non-religious, was largely erased from the story of the American Revolution and the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Tom Paine was practically obliterated from history, not for writing Common Sense, which was acceptable to patriots, but for writing Age Of Reason, which was unacceptable to Christians. Thomas Jefferson could not be so easily obliterated, but his early atheism and later deism (which is just atheism with its ass covered) was quietly dropped from the discussion.

In the 19th century, despite the Abolitionists and Emancipation Proclamation, Christianity became deeply intertwined with racism in these United States. How did a doctrine that originated as anti-racialist, and explicitly welcoming all human beings, come to be deeply racist? It started long before the first Church of England member stepped foot in Virginia. [Note also the myth that our nation was founded by Puritans in Massachusetts. That is post-Civil war malarkey. Most Americans who bothered with religion before 1776 were Church of England, and Virginia was the first and most prominent English colony in America.]

Christianity became a European, or "white race," religion, because it was supplanted by Islam as a global religion between 700 and 1500 A.D. Christianity became the dominant religion in the "Near East" and in northern Africa by supplanting previous localist religious cults between 300 and 600 A.D. Islam was created specifically to correct obvious errors in Christianity, Judaism, and paganism. The idea that God (now Allah) needed a son for a co-god was replaced with the idea that Jesus Christ was a great prophet like Moses. Most of the Koran consists of retelling of Bible tales and early Christian fables.

Islam was remarkably successful as a philosophy, culture, and mode of governance. Pretty soon Christianity, already in its Dark Ages, had retreated to the core of Europe. Islam became a global, multiracial religion that extended from Spain across north Africa to Indonesia. When Christianity emerged again in the form of Portuguese and Spanish piracy in the late 1400's, it was incapable of seeing non-whites as full human beings. While some converting to Christianity did occur amidst the pillaging of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, in almost every case non-white Christians were supervised by white priests.

However, it is not fair to blame the destruction of the American Indian tribes in what is now the United States on Christianity alone. Greed played the major part, and it affected the subscribers to the Age of Reason. Nor were the Rationalists immune to racist sentiments. They simply rationalized their racism. For Christian slave owners God ordained the inferiority of the black race; for atheist slave owners like Thomas Jefferson, Nature ordained that same inferiority.

Sexism, too, seemed pre-ordained to almost all men, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, and atheist alike. The Roman Catholic church, to this day, teaches the inferiority of women as a major theological truth. Protestant sects have changed their minds, or not, sect by sect over time. Atheists have led in the women's liberation department, but for decades allowed practice to lag theory.

Apparently it was Robert Ingersoll who reminded Americans of the role of Thomas Paine in the American Revolution and the creation of our system of governance. Even as the Sugar Trust and its imperialist allies enslaved Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines at the turn of the century, the prestige of science was rising with the prestige of America's industrial might. The world of trains, telephones, and radio had not been foreseen by the prophets of the Bible or Koran. Americans became more secular, even as most tried to keep a gloss of Christianity as a cover. The racial barriers crumbled, gradually at first, and then in a great tumble in the 1960s.

The military-christian-political complex, however, regained a lot of momentum after the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001 brought Islam to the fore as the new Enemy.

We seem to have come to an odd point in history. We have a not-entirely-white President of the United States who has been accused of being a Muslim because his absentee father was nominally an adherent of Islam. Barack Obama professes to be a mainstream Christian Protestant. He has proven he is just as good at killing non-white non-Christians as any prior American president. Half the nations of the world remain home to at least one American military base. Republicans in Congress demand war with Iran and Syria and Democrats keep their mouths shut for fear of Christian backlash.

Religious crazies of all sorts have become used to using the products of scientific reasoning. Soon crazies (other than Obama) will be sending out cheap unmanned drones to smite their enemies. Meanwhile, sects new and old can fish for converts with smartphones and Facebook.

I began this essay thinking about how resilient (and destructive) the Christian America myth has been. Now I am thinking: how do we know if we are in a period of stability? The elements of change could be in place already. Changes in allegiance as great as when Christianity swept over Eurasia in the 4th century, Islam swept over the world in the 7th century, and Communism swept over much of the world in the 20th century could be upon us. Some sect I have never heard of could be getting ready to conquer the world, without its members even being aware of their destiny.

Or perhaps the Age of Man is coming to a close just as surely as the Age of Dinosaurs once did.

Still, apocalypses are pretty rare. Like the rest of humanity tomorrow I will wake up and make the best of the situation at hand, just like any other day. I'm lucky I'm not not in Somalia or Mali or Afghanistan where Obama's henchmen fight it out with Islamic extremists and ordinary people get caught in the crossfire (including the economic crossfire).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hagel, Hitler, Iran and Zionism

As American mainstream politicians go, Chuck Hagel can be counted as one of the good guys. A number of Senate Republicans disagree, and mainly showed their own evil agendas when questioning Mr. Hagel, who stood before them as President Barack Obama's nominee to become the new Secretary of Defense.

The Republicans think Mr. Hagel is soft on Iran, and so Obama must be soft on Iran too. What has Iran ever done to the Republican Party, or to the U.S.? They kicked out our puppet, the mass-murdering dictator Shah of Iran, decades ago, and set up a democracy. They hold elections in which pro-American politicians can't win a majority in parliament. They are developing nuclear power (note the Republicans are all gung ho for nuclear power in the U.S.). I think nuclear power is a bad idea, but it should be stopped in the U.S. before we go meddling in other nation's business.

They suspect Mr. Hagel of not being a Zionist and anti-Palestinian racist. He is not sufficiently pro-Israel, as shown by past remarks in which he pointed out that Zionists have a lot of political power in the U.S. Note the Republican Party is competing with the Democratic Party for Zionist campaign contributions. You'd think they were a bunch of ultra-orthodox Jews, the way they promote Israel's occupation of Palestine.

Here on the opposite side of the nation a seemingly unrelated Letter to the Editor in the Gualala, California based Independent Coast Observer [subscription required], reminded me that a lot of this whole misidentification of enemies goes back to fundamental mistakes of fact and ideology originating in the 1930s. Modern Americans universally agree that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were evil, but they don't have the facts at hand to make reasonable comparisons to new "enemies" like Iran and Islam, or "friends" like Israel.

I've frequently heard "progressive" Democrats and those few brave people left of Democrat call Republicans fascists. I try to refrain: there are both minor and major differences between Republican politicians and Fascism proper. Nor should we forget that the much more radical American left of, say, 1930 to 1980 had little problem calling the Democratic Party fascist, which I can't agree with either. In both cases I think there have been specific policies or at least rhetoric that did deserve the fascist label. I just believe over-gereralizing is a major part of the American political laziness problem.

The letter, from R. Silva, wants to correct a previous letter on the subject of Christianity. R. wants Christianity to be about love, which is fine. But R. can't quite refrain from attacking non-Christians, saying in his or her 4th paragraph: "Sir, I would remind you that is exactly what Hitler successfully did in the 1930s and 1940s, resulting in the holocost (sic), which killed six million Christians and Jews [...]" The ellipsis is the editors, and is one of the few cases where I wish the rest had been printed.

Christians were killed in the holocaust? Well, yes, but ... that is almost like saying we should pity Catholics because Catholics were killed in the Inquisition in Spain. It turns the Holocaust on its head. Hitler imprisoned and killed everyone who openly disagreed with him (but not the young man who grew up to become Pope Benedict XVI). He did not kill them for their religious affiliation. He killed them because they disagreed with him, or were in his way, or had something he wanted. He killed Jews because of their race; converting to Christianity was no escape. The Christians he killed were mainly Lutherans and Roman Catholics, but most Lutherans and Roman Catholics joined the Nazi Party if they could, and fought in the German army. Hitler even killed substantial numbers of Nazi Party members for disagreeing with him.

The big losers, by denomination, aside from the Jews were atheists [See the Atheist Holocaust].

Although there was some promotion of German/Nordic, pre-Christian ideas, the Nazi (German National Socialist) Party was explicitly Christian. Article 24 of the Nazi Party Program states as a party demands "liberty for all religious denominations in the State so far as they are not a danger to ... the moral feelings of the German race. The party stands for positive Christianity." [1] The Nazi Party was opposed to Communism, atheism, and secularism.

At the time, while there was a typical modern secular trend in Germany, the Lutheran Church was by far the largest denomination in Germany. The Roman Catholic Church was the only other major organized religion, and had local majorities in much of southern Germany. In particular the former Kingdom of Bavaria, where the Nazi Party originally triumphed, was majority Catholic.

While Hitler's rise to power has to be credited mainly to him and his party, it was the Catholic Church, and the votes of the members of the Reichstag controlled by the Vatican, that effectively chose to give Hitler power in 1933. Franz von Papen was the Roman Catholic power broker for the deal, along with Eugenio Maria Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, known as the Nazi Pope.

So why does R. Silva believe Hitler was not a Christian? Why does R. Silva not know Hitler was born Catholic and died Catholic, and that all the great fascist leaders were Roman Catholic? It is not R. Silva's fault. History in detail is time consuming, so most people must take their cues from summaries, including grade-school text books and TV. I would not say Hitler was a pious Catholic, unlike Spain's General Franco. But neither was the fact that Hitler was a Roman Catholic hidden from the world at the time.

Things were different in 1933 when both Hitler and Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to power after their years in the political wilderness. Americans and Germans, pretty much everyone in the world, were mainly worried about the economy. It was the Depression, those who did not have jobs were barely surviving, and those who had jobs worried they would not have them long. Hitler came to power mainly on the basis of his economic program, not because of his anti-Semitism or militarism. Germany's economy improved much faster than America's, and FDR's economic program was practically a copy of Hitler's, just lagging a year or two.

The party that elected Roosevelt to office (and Democratic majorities to Congress) was really an alliance of convenience of two parties. The Southern Democratic party was based on racism (segregation) and corruption, and was almost exclusively Protestant in religious affiliation. The Northern Democratic party was based on corrupt urban machines and was almost entirely ethnic (non-Anglo) and Roman Catholic in religious affiliation. The Vatican, through the American Roman Catholic Church, worked hard to keep the United States neutral in the fight against fascism and later in the first couple of years of World War II.

When the United States finally entered the war after Pearl Harbor, it was a propaganda problem for the Democratic Party, the Vatican, and the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States. Any American sympathy for Hitler, Franco, Petain, and Mussolini disappeared overnight (though some hid their lights under baskets). Although the Japanese had initiated the war, Adolf Hitler was designated Public Enemy Number One, as Roosevelt had previously planned with the British Empire,

The Vatican was quite please with Hitler's extermination of atheist-communism in central Europe, but remembered what had happened late in World War I. America had tipped the balance against Germany. Suddenly Pope Pius XI eased the Vatican into neutral. As the atheists (Russians) started crushing the Catholics & Lutherans (Germans) on the Eastern Front, and especially after the Allies invaded southern Italy, the Pope became increasingly critical of Hitler. In the United States, powerful Catholic figures in the Democratic Party prepared for a soft landing.

Hitler a Catholic? Forget about it! Such a bad man must be a satanist pagan. In any case, America's right wing (Democrat and Republican alike) was preparing to go back into completion with Communism after the war. Who would be our new ally? Why, Pope Pius XI. And his pet dictator, General Franco. And a bunch of Catholics and Lutherans who took off their swastikas and waved American flags to welcome the New World Order. To get public buy in for an alliance with global Catholicism, the actual religious affiliations of the fascists had to be allowed to fade from public memory.

William Shirer, in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, gives some key insights about Martin Luther, the first Protestant (well, first who did not fall victim to the Inquisition). "The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of Jews ... advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler." [2]

Since the Republicans who questioned Chuck Hagel act as non-Jewish Zionists, it might seem strange to compare them to Luther, Pius XI, and Hitler. But the point is not the particular group that is hated or attacked. Justice should be blind to a person's race and creed. Zionism is inseparable from crimes against Palestinians. War and economic crimes against Iran (or any other nation) are no different than Hitler's economic crimes against Jews or his invasion of Poland, Russia, and France.

The Republican Party has created its own Hell on Earth. No one is allowed to say, "Palestinians have human rights," or "Iranians have human rights" or "Islam should be treated like any other religion." The misinformation and hatred build on each other until a once reasonable man like John McCain ends up sounding like Hitler. The Republican Party rhetoric meant to secure Zionist campaign contributions (and Jewish and pro-Israel Christian votes in swing states) has already hurt many people around the globe. It helps Al-Qaeda do its recruiting. It is ethically wrong and pragmatically idiotic. It needs to stop.

[1] Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon and Schuster, N.Y., 1960. page 234.
[2] Ibid, p. 236.