Tuesday, November 24, 2009

National Socialism, Mighty Leaders, and the Holocaust

National Socialism, considered as a form of government, did not lead inexorably to the holocaust.  We have only to look at the brand of National Socialism that developed in Italy to see that.  The Italian National Socialists were not anti-Semitic.  In fact many Jews fled from Germany to Italy during Hitlers reign.

A form of National Socialism is developing in the Russian Federation today, but there is no reason that it should decide to slaughter the ethnic minorities in the Federation.  There is a segment that is proud of being 100% ethnic Russian, but the official policy is that Russia needs to be in a Federation and that all the other ethnicities in the Federation are officially equal to the Russian.

Also, Putin isnt a totalitarian dictator.  He could be if he wanted to be, perhaps, but he would have to buck some resistance and engage in a level of brutality that has a very bad name in modern Russia.  Russia, a Russian majority, wants an authoritarian government, and they want it to be socialistic in the Welfare-State sense.  They want it to be benign.  Russians want the government to take care of them, not run roughshod over them.  And in modern Russia that may work, for Russia has lost its passion.  It has no overriding plans to conquer or proselytize. 
And it wasnt just German National Socialism that was guilty of holocaust-type activities in World War II.  We know that Stalin did it as well, and we also know that the Japanese did it.  The common link here isnt National Socialism but Totalitarianism, and not just Totalitarianism but Totalitarian governments led by messianic leaders (Germany and Russia) or a messianic cause (Japan).

If I were a Jew I might think that the killing of the Jews by the Nazis was worse than the killing of millions of political deviants by Stalin, or the millions of Chinese killed by the Japanese, but it seems more balanced to focused upon the evil of totalitarianism coupled with a Messianistic ruthlessness.  It isnt the Right Wing or Left Wing in Liberal Democracies that we have to worry about -- or even Racism as long as we dont abandon our Liberal Democracy for a totalitarian form of government and a dictator with a God complex.
Could European pogroms be engaged in the future?  Yeah, sure, but probably not against the Jews.  I can see them happening in Europe against Muslims.  There is a Messianic desire on the part of Islamists to conquer Europe.  Whether that desire is realistic, and whether most Muslims in Europe are consciously going along with that desire is debatable.  Also, any such pogrom is likely to come from the grass-roots levels and not officially from on-high.  Those on-high are politically correct in regard to those matters.

Obviously the Jews could be attacked in the Middle East.  Arab nations have regularly declared war upon Israel.  Israel is a small nation and its continued existence will probably remain precarious.  No doubt the Islamists would love a final solution to their Jewish problem, and it is prudent to see the parallels between Nazi and Islamist views about the Jews.  Those views are not supported by biology, history or anything in reality, but many Nazis prior to and during World War II believed them passionately, and many Islamist (and traditional) Muslims believe them passionately today.  So yes, something like the holocaust could occur against the Jews in the future --  but in the Middle East and not in Europe.  

Note that it was in the Middle East that a totalitarian dictator (Saddam Hussein) with a God complex arose He too ruthlessly killed his enemies.  He used WMDs against the Kurds in the North and the Shiites in the South.  His regime was a variation of National Socialism. 
Heidegger favored a benign form of National Socialism.  Wolin, very much a critic of Heidegger, writes on page 93 of Heideggers Children, Circa 1935, as Heideggers political radicalism began to wane. . . .   All of Heideggers critics must contend with that waning.  Heidegger was no longer an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi form of National Socialism after 1935.  German National Socialism didnt develop as Heidegger hoped.
Heidegger scrambled around after the war to put the best face on his involvement with the Nazis during the 1933-35 period.  Many of the friends and associates he cut socially during that period cut him after 1945.  But some, especially Hannah Arendt (Wolin has a low opinion of her motives) came to his defense.

Did Heidegger learn his lesson?  Probably not.  Like the Marxists who long for a better Socialism he probably thought that some form of National Socialism would work better in Germany and Europe than Liberal-Democracy.  He undoubtedly came to understand that he had blundered by backing Hitler.  He believed a better leader could have been found. 

But where is the hero in the Thomas Carlyle sense? Could someone like Frederick the Great (in the Carlyle hagiographic sense) arise in these modern times?  Wikipedias comment about Carlyles work seems revealing: 

[Carlyles] last major work was the epic life of Frederick the Great (1858-1865). In this Carlyle tried to show how a heroic leader can forge a state, and help create a new moral culture for a nation. For Carlyle, Frederick epitomized the transition from the liberal Enlightenment ideals of the eighteenth century to a new modern culture of spiritual dynamism: embodied by Germany, its thought and its polity. The book is most famous for its vivid, arguably very biased, portrayal of Frederick's battles, in which Carlyle communicated his vision of almost overwhelming chaos mastered by leadership of genius. However, the effort involved in the writing of the book took its toll on Carlyle, who became increasingly depressed, and subject to various probably psychosomatic ailments. Its mixed reception also contributed to Carlyle's decreased literary output.

Later writings were generally short essays, often indicating the hardening of Carlyle's political positions. His notoriously racist essay "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question" suggested that slavery should never have been abolished, or else replaced with serfdom. It had kept order, he argued, and forced work from people who would otherwise have been lazy and feckless. This – and Carlyle's support for the repressive measures of Governor Edward Eyre in Jamaica – further alienated him from his old liberal allies. Eyre had been accused of brutal lynchings while suppressing a rebellion. Carlyle set up a committee to defend Eyre, while Mill organised for his prosecution.

No comments: