Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is it socialism? Socialism and the Civics, Patriots and the Pie and Mash Squad

A nationalist comrade sent me the following - from a Facebook thread - recently and asked if the below account of NSDAP social and economic policies was 'true':

Multi-national industries in occupied territory were particularly targeted for state ownership

* Large public works programs supported by deficit spending

* Disbanding of all private welfare institutions, in an effort to socially engineer society by selecting who was to receive social benefits

* The National Socialists provided a plethora of social welfare programs under Nazi’s concept of Volksgemeinschaft which promoted the collectivity of a “people’s community” where citizens would sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The NSV operated “8,000 day-nurseries” by 1939, and funded holiday homes for mothers, distributed additional food for large families, and was involved with a “wide variety of other facilities.”

* During the 12 years of the Third Reich, government ownership expanded greatly into formerly private sectors of strategic industries: aviation, synthetic oil and rubber, aluminium, chemicals, iron and steel, and army equipment. The capital assets of state-owned industry doubled during this same period, whereby the nationalization caused state-ownership of companies to increase to over 500 businesses.

* By the late 1930s, taxation, regulations and general hostility towards the business community were becoming so onerous that one German businessman wrote: "These Nazi radicals think of nothing except ‘distributing the wealth,'

A particularly interesting one for you history deniers:

* The Nazi social welfare provisions included old age insurance, rent supplements, unemployment and disability benefits, old-age homes, interest-free loans for married couples, along with healthcare insurance, which was not decreed mandatory until 1941.

Yes, I can say that all the above was true.

I came across my first account of German Nationalist policies in a beginner's textbook on Keynes, which described how Sweden and National Socialist Germany flourished throughout the Great Depression because of (what the author believed) was Keynesian policy.

At the time I read the book - the mid-1990s - rural and regional Australia was afflicted with great unemployment as a holdover from the recession of the early 1990s, a slump which was compared by many to that of the 1930s. So the German National Socialist and Swedish Social Democrat fiscal and monetary remedies proved to be attractive to me. (But I wasn't a fascist sympathiser at the time: I still believed in the Holocaust, and found Hitler, National Socialism and fascism abhorrent).

Another friend has added, to the above Facebook exchange:

The fact the Nationalist Socialist Germany is considered economically Left by many today, shows how far to the economic right we are.

Ive heard these before, they are more or less true (with important caveats, that being the intent of government ownership). This was the way the world was then. Before neo-liberalism and deregulated lassez-faire capitalism, these kind of policies were normal. Look at Post WWII tax rates in America. Positively wealth redistibutionary.

On the subject of high taxes: the Great Depression was caused by tax and tariff increases. It all started in the US:  Herbert Hoover imposed the 60% Smoot-Hawley tariff in 1929-1930 and then raised the top rate of income tax from 25% to 63% in 1932, and countries all across the world - including the UK, Australia, Japan and Germany - responded with their own Hoover-style super-tax and tariff hikes. The US recession went global as a result.

On coming into office, Hitler didn't cut income taxes, but he did, according to supply-side doyen Jude Wanniski, exempt shares in the top German companies from capital gains tax; he also cut taxes for companies that reinvested their profits. On the trade front, he negotiated trade agreements - or barter agreements, rather - with thirty countries, which circumvented the huge Smoot-Hawley tariff blocking off international trade. (His autarchy policies, which encouraged self-sufficiency, were intended to be another way of getting around Smoot-Hawley).

The West - and Japan - recovered after the war because of cuts to the enormously high Depression and wartime tax rates. Those post-war rates do look high to us today - the top rate of income tax in the US, even by 1980, was 70% for anyone making over $USD100,000 - but because of generous loopholes, rebates and deductions, hardly anyone paid them. In addition, by 1950, the gold standard and fixed exchange rates had been reintroduced. As for the tariff walls of the 1930s, these were knocked down after a series of free trade agreements, including the much-aligned GATT.

But I digress; I'm leading into a discussion of supply-side economics, when what I want to write about here is Hitler's socialism. The above Facebook quotation raises the question: what leads us to characterise certain politicians as socialist, even Marxist? Is it their social policies - like those of Hitler's, listed above - or is it something deeper... I believe the latter. What makes a politician socialist, even Marxist is his championing the cause of a particular class - the working class. For this reason, I view Trump as the most socialist - even Marxist - American president in the last hundred or so years. He has donned the mantle of saviour and protector of the (white) American working class, and so should rightly be considered socialist even if he doesn't see himself that way. The fact that Trump does not endorse Marxist-Leninism, and most likely never has read a word of Marx or any other socialist intellectual, doesn't matter; what does is that he has managed to present himself to the American workers as their representative.

In contrast, Sanders - who campaigned as a self-conscious socialist, that is, a socialist who recognised himself as such - did not succeed in winning the votes of the blue-collars in the Democrat primaries; he only managed to attract the middle-classes - the white collars - and the bohemians. That seems paradoxical, to be sure, but modern politics is filled with paradoxes.

Sometimes what a politician says matters more than what he does. Lenin claimed to be 'for' the working classes and the peasantry and yet starved them to the death and executed them in the millions; but we should still - in my opinion - see Lenin as a genuine Marxist and socialist and class warrior... By that criteria, Hitler, too, should be regarded as a genuine socialist - and even Marxist - regardless of whether his policies were, objectively viewed, 'for' or 'against' the working class and their interests (and in the end, who is it that judges, we may ask).

Fascism finds its political center in the working classes, just as Trumpism does (but this is not to say that both fascism and Trumpism are the same thing). Back in the 2000s, when the English Defence League first appeared, it succeeded in enrolling many British working class men; its base was located in the British working class. It was this element, in combination with others, that gave the EDL its 'fascist' character. The EDL leadership may have protested that the EDL was a multi-culti, philo-Semitic, 'pro-Israel' organisation, but this rhetoric hardly fooled anyone. The resemblances between it and earlier, overtly fascist formations - such as Mosley's BUF - were blindingly obvious to students of history. The doctrinal purists of the Far Right who opposed the EDL pointed, like the EDL leadership, to the 'Zionism' of the EDL and its multi-cultism, and they raised suspicions that the EDL may have been formed by agents of the British 'secret state', but all this ignored the implicit whiteness of the EDL and the implicit fascism.

In fascism, practice precedes theory, and part of that practice is the cultivation of a working-class base - doctrinal purity comes later. And so does any other form of purity. We must acknowledge that many of the followers of the EDL, and the Neo-Nazi 'skin' movements, came from the ranks of the lumpenproletariat, not the proletariat (but a fine line exists between the two). How much more beneficial, for the Far Right, it would be if these uncouth types could be discouraged from entering the movement and more clean-cut and well-presented types (like those overall-wearing, cloth-cap wearing proletarians in Soviet iconography) could be persuaded to join. But alas, in politics, things don't work out that way. You can't pick and choose; nor can you isolate and segregate certain factions of the Far Right from the other. Nor can you say that you only want 'good' working class people to join. (For the past thirty or so years, the Far Left has been keeping out of its ranks what it regards as the 'bad' members of the working class; as a result, it has gutted whatever working class membership it had and turned itself into a bourgeois, non-working class and non-socialist (in the true sense of the word) movement).

The EDL seems to have waned, but several anti-Islamist offshoots - such as the North West Infidels and the South West Alliance linger, and so do the Australian equivalents: the UPF, Reclaim Australia, True Blue Crew... This so-called Australian 'patriot' movement does boast a sizeable working class following, and could be said to be quasi-fascistic in some respects. Like the EDL, it has been corrupted by Zionism and civic nationalism, but, on the other hand, it does show fascist potential - more so than the political parties with which it is aligned (Rise Up! and Australian Liberty Alliance). In other words, they stand close to the socialism of the NSDAP variety, about as close as the skinhead formations. Ideological proximity to the tenets of the NSDAP doesn't equal identity, of course, but the skins and the patriots are the closest we'll get - for the time being - to an Australian neo-fascism.

The interesting thing about the UK scene is that the civic nationalist and the overtly fascist groups are prepared to work together: see an account of a 2016 Liverpool demonstration here, which saw the civic-nationalist, 'hooligan' outfits NW Infidels, SW Alliance and the Pie and Mash Squad standing alongside the (now banned) National Action, which was a self-proclaimed 'national socialist' group. I take this as evidence that the gap dividing the two tendencies in Britain has been bridged. Likewise, that gap could be surmounted here in Australia.

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