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Author Topic: Historical Analysis: Then and Now
DrConway
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Babbler # 490

posted 13 September 2004 02:35 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This thread got somewhat derailed into a historical discussion about Nazi Germany, so instead of contributing to that drift, I want to run with Fidel's comments and mention an old book I ran across - unfortunately I did not write down the title but if I find it again I will edit this post.

Fidel's comment that US companies increased investments in Nazi Germany through the 1930s and 1940s reminded me of this book, as it was printed in 1941 and outlined a very salient case in favor of the argument that Nazi Germany's "respect for free enterprise" was subordinated to political and ideological objectives centering on the prosecution of war for conquest.

While it is true that large businesses were largely left untouched in the sense that the government did not directly take control of them as in the Soviet Union, it is also true that orders were given from Goering's Four-Year Plan office (and others, to be sure; Hitler's policy of overlapping authority and never clearly defining responsibilities did much to frustrate what would have been an even speedier coordination of all aspects of German society to the will of the Fuehrer), and that these businesses were thus subject to direct government directive.

However, it is clear that many rich people in Nazi Germany did not make out too badly, considering that there has been documentation of large German businesses working hand-in-hand with the German government to carve out business empires in the newly-occupied countries, and thus guarantees of large profits to be had from this expansion via conquest.

So. Was Nazi Germany a nirvana for private enterprise? If one considers only the narrow objective of guaranteed profits and a docile labor force, then yes. If one considers the broader picture, of comparing the Nazi "coordination" of the business sector in line with war aims versus economics-textbook capitalism, then no.

I think in our rush to emphasize the very real differences that did exist between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, we risk ignoring the similarities that did exist and which did prompt Hannah Arendt's book on Totalitarianism.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Vansterdam Kid
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posted 13 September 2004 03:07 AM      Profile for Vansterdam Kid   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Before something more intellgent is said, I think your analysis is bang on.
From: bleh.... | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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posted 14 September 2004 02:33 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Interesting. I recently read a progressive book about the Roman Empire (The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome, by Michael Parenti)
It notes that, while the patrician and wealthy classes routinely intimidated, brutalized, revolted against and assassinated reformers and reformist political movements which threatened their profits during the republic, they never caused any problems for the emperors, who reinforced their profits but reduced their power. Nazi Germany may be a parallel case. If the US gets rid of what democracy they have left, we may see something similar.

From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 15 September 2004 12:15 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I should clarify my point in regard to the thread title. It was commonly accepted in the 1940s and 1950s that aspects of Hitler's Germany were indeed "socialist", if not in intent, then certainly in execution. Furthermore, it was accepted that there were certain features of dictatorships that became personality cults which would be similar regardless of the official ideology - and certainly, Hitler's, Stalin's and Mao's respective reigns qualify.

Today, however, partly because of a greater time difference and also because of increasingly poor historical understanding among some people today, we understand that while there were similarities, there were also differences, and important ones, between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Further, poor historical understanding is leading to lazy assertions that the mere existence of the word "Socialist" in the NSDAP name qualified Nazi Germany as being identical to the USSR.

Before the 1990s, no one, not even amateurs, seriously considered Nazi Germany to be "socialist" in any real sense; it has, ironically, only been at the same time as the relentless conservative-backed assault on public education shifted into high gear that simultaneously, people are seriously entertaining false notions about other countries' political ideologies.

I think I've managed to muddy the waters rather than clarify them, but... anyway. Opinions?


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

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