Hitler’s Beneficiaries (2005) by Gotz Aly reviewed
Gotz Aly’s book Hitler’s Beneficiaries (2005) is groundbreaking. Aly breaks with the dogmatic view held by many myth-makers on the “left” that the German working class despised Hitler’s tyranny. It dispenses with the shared mythology found among almost all First Worldists, be they Trotskyist or Marxist-Leninist or whatever. Aly thoroughly shows that Hitler’s regime did not survive at the expense of the German working class, but because of it. Hitler’s regime was able to stay in power, even when it was losing the war, because it was popular among ordinary Germans:
“Precisely because so many Germans did in fact benefit from Nazi Germany’s campaigns of plunder, only marginal resistance arose. Content as most Germans were, there was little chance for a domestic movement that would have halted Nazi crimes. This new perspective on the Nazi regime as a kind of racist-totalitarian welfare state allows us to understand the connection between the Nazi policies of racial genocide and the countless, seemingly benign family anecdotes about how a generation of German citizens ‘got through’ World War II.” (2)
Aly explains how the fascist regime’s imperial conquests were used to elevate the standard of living of ordinary Germans. This made the regime quite popular and dulled any resistance to its policies, including its radical racist policies. Nazi policy makers were very aware of the connection between imperial conquest, expropriation of the wealth of oppressed peoples, and domestic social peace. So much were they aware of this connection that they often sought to micro-manage every aspect of the plunder and exploitation of the conquered lands in order to assure continued German popular support. Aly’s book is important for those seeking to understand the relationship between the First World and Third World today. Just as the average German reaped benefits from German conquests, so too do First World workers reap huge benefits from the imperialist world system. Just as the Nazi regime designed a system to expropriate the wealth of oppressed peoples and other countries to benefit the German population, so too do policy makers today in the First World seek to benefit the populations of the First World at the expense of the Third World. The book is an important one for those seeking to understand how class structure changes due to imperialism.
Popular, Young and Radical
The word “Nazi” gets thrown around to mean all kinds of things. It is almost always associated with brutal, unpopular dictatorship. Though the Nazi regime was a brutal and unpopular dictatorship toward those that it oppressed, most Germans did not perceive it that way. Most Germans were not on the receiving end of its jackboot. According to Aly:
“The Third Reich was not a dictatorship maintained by force. Indeed, the Nazi leadership developed an almost fearful preoccupation with the mood of the populace, which they monitored carefully, devoting considerable energy and resources toward fulfilling consumer desires, even to the detriment of the country’s rearmament program.” (25)
Aly paints another picture of the regime, at least as it was experienced by Germans. Hitler’s regime was very popular, radical, and young. It was not perceived as representing the old, stale, conservative order. It was seen as very new and different. The Nazi revolution was seen as exciting. It was a revolution for and by the young. For example:
“When Hitler came to power in 1933, Joseph Goebbels was thirty-five years old. Reinhard Heydrich was twenty-eight; Albert Speer, twenty-seven; Adolf Eichmann, twenty-six; Josef Mengele, twenty-one; and Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank, both thirty-two. Hermann Göring, one of the eldest among the party leadership, had just celebrated his fortieth birthday.” (13-14)
Later, during World War 2, according to one survey, the average age of mid-level party leaders was 34, and within the government 44. (14) Nazi leaders were some of the youngest in the world. Germans in their 20s and 30s were deciding major state policies. The Nazi young were shaping the world. They were deciding the fates of peoples and nations. Most Germans did not see the regime as oppressive and stogy, they saw the regime as redesigning a young and brave new world:
“For most young Germans, National Socialism did not mean dictatorship, censorship, and repression; it meant freedom and adventure.” (14)
Even during the war, the regime was popular:
“The German leadership created and maintained a kind of wartime socialism aimed at attracting the loyalty of ordinary citizens.” (53)
The regime was not dominated by conservative pessimism, but by youthful optimism about overcoming the old divisions between Germans. The regime saw the traditional divisions and inequality between Germans as a big part of the problems that faced the nation. The youthful spirit of the regime meant that it was more likely to take on ambitious social programs to overcome these divisions. The regime put a premium on unity and social peace, at least among Germans. This peace was more often than not bought at the expense of other peoples. Even though the Nazi ideology preached inequality between the races, it placed great importance on equality among Germans. This was the “socialist” aspect of “National Socialism.” Although, in reality, there was nothing truly socialist about the Nazi regime. There is no such thing as “National Socialism,” the only true socialism is internationalist. Real socialism does not merely represent the interests of a single nation’s workers. Real socialism represents the interests of the proletariat, which is the international revolutionary class. Socialism and communism should not be confused with nationalism.
Debt, Taxation, Aryanization
As the Nazi regime began its rearmament program, it borrowed extensively. As the regime rearmed, and even as it went to war, it sought to shift the burden away from ordinary Germans. The regime sought to keep the social peace. During World War 1, between 1914 and 1918, the average German’s standard of living fell almost 65 percent. The Third Reich did not want a repeat of this situation as they planned for World War 2. (35) In 1939, one Nazi law stipulated: “Previous standards of living and peacetime income levels are to be taken into account when calculating degrees of family support for members of the Wehrmacht.” (69) The Nazi regime sought a “socially just sharing of the burden” in the years leading up to the war and after. (38) The regime accomplished this in many ways. For example, the Nazis regime’s taxation policies were redesigned to lift the burden from the ordinary German. (55) The Nazi hierarchy rejected tax policies that would alienate their popular support. (50) The Nazis implemented progressive taxation designed to create popular support. One Nazi report was happy of the successes in 1943: “People meet their financial obligations, mortgages are paid off, and court-ordered repossessions are on the decline.” (58) Tax breaks were especially extended to farmers and subsidies were extended (55) At the same time, the Nazis increase the tax burden on the wealthy. “The trend toward soaking businesses and the wealthy gained further momentum in the fiscal year 1942-43.” (62) Hitler also increased the burden on those who made “effortless income” through investments in the stock market. (65) Industrialists complained that the Nazi regime was siphoning off 80 to 90 percent of business profits in 1943. Even though this figure is an exaggeration, it gives a sense about the Nazi’s orientation to keep the social peace at home. (68)
In addition, the Nazis kept the social peace by increasing welfare and state benefits. They voted for an increase in social programs and in pension payments, especially for small-time pensioners. They called for “blue- and white-collar workers to be put on equal footing” to give them a preliminary taste of the harmonious future to come. This future would be achieved by “generous reform of the social welfare state in the interest of working people.” Over and over, the more ideological wing of the regime often intervened against the more pragmatic wing. Social peace and social benefits often won out over fiscal responsibility. Despite budget problems, people like Martin Bormann, Albert Speer, Heinrich Himmler, and Food and Agricultural Minister Herbert Backe intervened for ordinary Germans. Hitler was able to stay aloof from the debate. (57)
As it rearmed, made war, and sought to keep the social peace, the regime went into massive debt so much so that it faced eventual financial collapse. The Nazis borrowed from domestic and foreign sources. Eventually, they would strong-arm occupied countries into “loaning” the regime large sums. The Nazis had no intention of paying these sums back and entered them as revenue in their books. (266) The Nazis used whatever financial tricks were available to hide the true extent of their borrowing. In 1938, Göring stated, “I know no other way to keep my Four Year Plan and the German economy going.” (45) The borrowing reached a point where the only solution to keeping the German economy afloat was to cannibalize the Jewish population and, eventually other peoples. The cannibalization of Jewish assets was referred to as “Aryanization.” Aly writes:
“Forced to come up with ever more creative ways of refinancing the national debt, they turned their attention to property owned by German Jews, which was soon confiscated and added to the so-called Volksvermögen, or collective assets, which by no means restricted to German society, implied the possibility of dispossessing those considered ‘alien’ (Volksfremden) or ‘hostile’ (Volksfeinden) to the ethnic mainstream.” (41)
“[The state] distributed material goods that improved the popular mood. The political leadership unambiguously directed civil servants ‘to act, in light of their special responsibility toward all the people, with corresponding understanding of the concerns and needs of family members of front-line soldiers.’” (70)
Aryanization was the transfer of Jewish assets into the hands of the regime and into the hands of ordinary Germans. (41) The regime sought the “definitive removal of Jews from economic life” and “transforming Jewish wealth in Germany into assets that will deny [the Jews] any economic influence.” (44)
“Aryanization was essentially a gigantic, tans-European trafficking operation in stolen goods. It may have taken different forms in different countries, but the ultimate destination of the revenues generated was always the German war chest. These funds enabled the Reich to defray its main financial burdens.” (184)
Aryanization took various forms from outright plunder of assets and terror against Jewish people to legal and quasi-legal measures. Banks and other financial institutions helped the process. “The bank directors were not the ones doing the actual plundering here, but they acted as accessories, helping maximize the efficiency of the dispossession campaign.” (50) Often, the transfer was thinly disguised. For example, the regime forced Jews to surrender their assets for government stocks and bonds. On paper, the Jews were compensated. (43) Göring stated:
“The Jew is being driven from the economy and is surrendering his economic assets to the state. In return he is being compensated. His compensation is noted in the ledger sheet and accrues a certain amount of interest. That is what he has to live on.” (45)
In the end, the population would be driven into exile and liquidated in the Holocaust, never redeeming their property. For example, in 1938, Jewish liquid assets, according to one calculation, which excluded real-estate and business assets, totaled 4.8 billion reichsmark which could be confiscated by the Reich. The process was repeated again and again. This helped keep the state solvent. The state also took preemptive measures when Jews sought to flee or transfer assets out of Germany. In 1938, the state issued an edict that the proceeds of the expulsion of Jews go directly to the Reich. Jewish goods were sold at cheap prices to the public, while at the same time financing the regime’s war-chest and social democratic policies. (43-47) Librarian Gertrud Seydelmann recalled the auctions of Aryanized goods in Hamburg’s working-class districts:
“Ordinary housewives suddenly wore fur coats, traded coffee and jewelry, and had imported antique furniture and rugs from Holland and France… Some of our regular readers were always telling me to go down to the harbor if I wanted to get hold of rugs, carpets, furniture, jewelry, and furs. It was property stolen from Dutch Jews who, as I learned after the war, had been taken away to the death camps…” (130)
“The Reich and its citizens also benefited from the increased availability of capital, real estate, and goods ranging from precious stones and jewels all the way down to the cheap wares sold at flea markets. The dispossession of the Jews also stabilized the economies and calmed the political atmosphere in occupied countries, greatly simplifying the task of the Wehrmacht. Goods sold off at less than their actual worth provided an indirect subsidy to both German and foreign buyers.” (248)
The regime sought to justify the plunder of Jewish assets with their racist, but also social democratic, ideology. Those who pushed for social democratic reform were also those who pushed the most genocidal policies. The two were linked. (57) In 1938, Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick stated:
“Assets currently in Jewish hands are to be regarded as the property of the German people. Any destruction of or decrease in their value means a decrease in the collective assets of the German people.” (45-46)
Selling off of Jewish goods also slowed down inflation, associated with the war. It also eased the tax burdens on ordinary Germans, yet more benefits accrued from plunder. (186) The Aryanization of assets helped keep the economy afloat, increased the luxuries available to the German population, and helped keep government benefits flowing. The policies were popular with ordinary German tax payers. The Aryanization of Germany would later become the model for a more ambitious Aryanization throughout occupied Europe. (46-48)
War, Occupation, Plunder
Even during the height of the war, Germans were, generally, satisfied with their lot. Just as the Nazis cannibalized Jewish assets in order to increase social peace, they also transferred value from those countries they occupied to Germany. Aly writes:
“[O]nce the Nazi state undertook what became the most expensive war in world history, the majority of Germans bore virtually none of the costs. Hitler shielded the average Aryan from that burden at the cost of depriving others of their basic subsistence.” (9)
“The Nazi regime required the constant military destabilization of the periphery in order to maintain the illusion of financial stability at the center of the Reich.” (40)
The regime designed elaborate methods to offset war costs and also to keep value flowing from the occupied countries to Germany in order to keep Germans happy. One way that they accomplished this was by requiring occupied countries to pay for their own occupation.
“Over the course of World War II, Germany mandated unprecedented contributions, along with compulsory loans and population-based ‘quotas,’ on the defeated countries of Europe. These financial tributes soon exceeded the total peacetime budgets of the countries in question, usually by more than 100 percent and in the second half of the war by more than 200 percent.” (77)
“By 1943 the majority of the Reich’s additional war-related revenues came from abroad, from foreign slave laborers in Germany, and from the dispossession of Jews as ‘enemies of the state.’ These sources of income underwrote a significant portion of Germany’s military efforts.” (79)
These occupation costs were used to exact more and more tribute from the defeated. For example, the French complained that the tribute paid to Germany for occupation costs was being used for things that had nothing to do with occupation. (78) In Greece, plundering wiped out “some 40 percent of real Greek income” in 1941. (248) This was part of a larger process of shifting the burdens of the war away from Germans onto other peoples.
Another way that the Germans offset their costs and plundered occupied peoples was through requisitioning materials needed on the spot from occupied peoples. Germans introduced Reich Credit Bank certificates, a kind of promissory note for services and goods used by the occupation forces. These were used so that the military did not have to forcibly confiscate goods. The certificates gave the plunder the appearance of legality, an air of legitimacy. The introduction of certificates was the introduction of a second currency:
“German bayonets forced the defeated enemy to accept ultimately worthless pieces of paper as a de facto equivalent of their own currency. The damage to the French economy was scarcely noticeable at first, while the German economy earned a tidy profit.” (88)
This was repeated elsewhere in occupied areas. This second currency made the short term transfer of value easier, but it also had the side-effect of destabilizing the local currencies of occupied peoples. This made long-term transfer of value more difficult because the introduction of a second currency controlled by the Germans wrecked the economies of the occupied peoples. The introduction of the certificates helped streamline the short-term plunder of occupied peoples. Later, in 1943, these certificates were withdrawn to stabilize the franc in France. (87) This was part of an ongoing conflict between policy makers. Some sought to transfer as much value back to Germany as immediately as possible to offset war costs and keep Germans happy. Others recognized that there would be a bigger pay off to Germans if the economies of occupied countries were kept stable. More value could be siphoned off to Germany in the long term.
Plunder was also carried on through other financial manipulations that benefited Germans at the expense of occupied peoples. The Nazi occupation forces disguised their plunder of the occupied peoples through currency manipulations that favored Germans. The Germans consciously manipulated currency exchange rates in their favor. Currency manipulation benefited both the German economy and soldiers in the occupied countries. Germany relied on the importation of raw materials to maintain its war effort and domestic production. Currency manipulation made the purchase and export of materials to Germany cheaper. It gave German soldiers in the occupied areas more purchasing power to buy more goods for themselves and allowed them to send more to Germany. Manipulating foreign currencies both kept German consumers well supplied and it added to Germany’s war-chest. (76-81)
Plunder in Hand and Mail
German soldiers emptied the shelves of occupied countries. They plundered and stole. However, they also paid for goods that were radically undervalued. German policy was designed to crash the economies of the occupied countries to aid in value transfer to Germany. An intended effect of this was to increase the purchasing power of German soldiers. The goods they acquired were consumed by soldiers themselves or sent back home to Germany through military packages. Also soldiers carried goods back with them when they could. Many Germans look back fondly of the abundance of foreign luxuries made possible by the war. Germans who received goods from the occupied lands “boasted and bragged.” Aly quotes a German who lived through the period:
“I remember a number of nice things… that friends and relatives would proudly unpack from parcels received from ‘abroad’… People had more respect for the sender and compared him favorably with those who hadn’t sent anything back.” (97)
Laws were changed to encourage the smooth flow of value to Germany. Deputy Finance Minister Reinhardt intervened to settle complaints on Germany’s northern and eastern borders. He invoked a decree by Hitler: “It is the Führer’s will that as many foodstuffs as possible be brought back home from the occupied eastern territories and that customs authorities take a hands-off approach.” (106) Also, the customs border between Germany and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Monrovia was abolished. This prompted a “purchasing frenzy” among German soldiers. One official wrote, “the luggage nets of the express trains are packed to the roof with heavy suitcases, bulky packages, and stuffed bags.” Everyone, even those of high rank, were packaging their luggage with “the most extraordinary consumer goods – furs, watches, medicines, shoes – in nearly unimaginable quantities.” (97) One historian describes what the French called “potato beetles”:
“Loaded with heavy packages, German soldiers departed from the Gare de l’Est for home leave. They had been acquired in countless petty transactions, but they did significant damage to the French national economy, playing a significant role in the development of the black market and inflation. They were the reason it was increasingly difficult for everyday French people to procure the basic necessities.” (98)
In 1942, when debate arose over the failure to enforce customs policies, Göring intervened, “Mr. Reinhardt, desist with your customs checks. I’m, no longer interested in them… I’d rather have unlimited amounts of goods smuggled in than have customs duties paid on nothing at all.” The Nazi elite intervened against the bureaucracy and in favor of the ordinary German. Thus ordinary Germans benefited in a very direct and tangible way from the occupation of defeated peoples.
Conflicts again arose between those bent on helping the ordinary German by the immediate plunder and those with a more long-term approach. In these debates, Göring stated:
“It has been said that we need to restrict soldiers’ access to their pay, or it will cause inflation in France. But inflation is what I want to see more than anything else… The franc should be worth nothing more than a sheet of a certain type of paper used for a specific purpose. That will hit France exactly the way we want to hit France.” (105)
Throughout the war and occupations, debates arose within the regime about how best to transfer value out of the defeated and occupied countries. Bureaucrats weighed the pluses and minuses of short-term and long-term strategies. However, throughout, the Nazis were very aware to design occupation policies to benefit the German state, but also to benefit the ordinary German and keep the social peace.
An estimated 8 to 12 million slave laborers, mostly from Eastern Europe, worked for the Nazi regime. They worked under dangerous and inhuman conditions, often in the German arms industry. In the most infamous cases, especially in the East, German and German-backed enterprises and organizations “worked to death [their forced laborers] in conditions of virtual slavery.” (161) Even capitalists complained on occasion. For example, conditions were so bad for forced laborers that sometimes German companies protested their treatment. For example, in East Prussia, German companies complained that Polish workers were being so brutally exploited that there was no incentive to work. They complained to the Nazi regime that the system was so brutal that it was hindering the ability to produce. Sometimes these workers received a nominal “pay” that was 15 to 40 percent lower than the average German pay. They “paid” the workers as part of public relations to shield themselves from criticism. However, the reality is that the authorities invented a number of schemes to cheat their workers and confiscate this “pay.” For example, when Germans occupied northern Italy, in September 1943, they put more than half a million POWs to work in the Reich as forced laborers. “Pay” was deposited into an account supposedly set up for the workers’ families to be able to withdraw the funds. However, the pay never made it back to the families of the forced laborers. Rather, the funds were secretly converted into German treasury bonds to pay for external occupation costs. (156-161)
The Germans stole the possessions of forced laborers. For example, when forced laborers were conscripted in the Ukraine, “Possessions left behind as well as any cash” were handed over and sold. “Animal inventory (horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, geese, etc.) as well as hay, straw, and field crops” were offered up for sale to the economics command of the local Wehrmacht division. The money from the sale of the assets of forced laborers eventually made their way to the German treasury. In theory, these funds would be transferred back to their owners at a later date. The reality is the funds only made their way into German accounts. This pattern was repeated over and over. The plunder, exploitation and taxation of German forced laborers ended up benefiting the German populace. It gave the cash-strapped German welfare programs a boost. (163-164)
Fat Germans and the Starving East
The Nazis also enacted policies of total plunder, designed to both aid Germans and to destroy enemy populations. In 1941, Göring issued a statement,“As a general principle for occupied territories, only those who work for us should be assured of receiving the food they need.” He advocated “ruthless conservation measures” to ensure the flow of food to Germany. Some of the first to be affected by these policies were Soviet POWs. Goebbels noted: “The catastrophic starvation there exceeds all description.” In Riga, German soldiers discussed their “assignment to let Russian POWs starve and freeze to death.” By, February 2, 1942, 2 million of the 3.3 million Red Army prisoners, 60 percent, had died in the hands of the German camps or in transit. (174-175)
The policy of starving Soviet POWs and Jews was also applied to Soviet cities. Göring addressed an audience in 1942, telling them that “we are feeding our entire army from the occupied territories.” He went on to announce that food rations would be increased and there would be a “special allocation” for Christmas. Göring proclaimed: “From this day on things will continue to get better since we now possess huge stretches of fertile land. There are stocks of eggs, butter, and flour there that you cannot even imagine.” He also announced that there would be an “opening up of space in the East” that would allow for a return of “near-peacetime conditions.” He promised that the war would be fought to “successful conclusion without major privations.” One report stated that “Göring spoke to the heart and stomach.” (175) Aly shows some representative statistics showing how much food was transferred:
In 1942, one official wrote that his job was to relieve “the home front as much as possible from the need to send supplies.” All that was left over that “the Wehrmacht couldn’t find a use for” was to be sent back to Germany.
“Huge amounts of wheat, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, and eggs are being transported for distribution to the Reich. If, as my wife wrote me, the few weeks of food production should see the successful delivery of sunflower oil, I can say with pride that I was directly involved in the operation.” (178-179)
In 1942, extra food sent back from the front was directed especially toward Germans engaged in hard physical labor, pregnant women, and Aryan senior citizens. Ordinary German citizens also benefited. Their access to food and purchasing power increased as a result of the plundering of food. One German recalled after the war, “During the war we didn’t go hungry. Back then everything worked. It was only after the war that things turned bad.” (178-179)
German National “Socialism”
Nazis sought to advance the interests of Germans by creating a great German-centered empire. This vision was linked to the subjugation of other peoples, including the genocide of the Jews and Eastern peoples. Other countries were to be subdued, their populations made to work for the benefit of Germans. Eastern peoples would be enslaved and exterminated, so their land could be settled. Hitler once compared his Eastern ambitions with the genocidal Western expansion of the United States in North America. This vision aimed at German social peace, at elevating the standard of living of ordinary Germans. Aly writes:
“The constant Nazi talk of needing more space and colonies, of Germany’s place on the world stage and eastward expansion, as well as of the imperative of ‘de-Jewification,’ was aimed at hastening a rise in the German standard of living, which the domestic economy alone could never have supported.” (317)
Himmler, in his capacity as Reich commissioner for settlement projects, stated:
“The territories in question have been conquered by armed campaigns as part of a war waged by all Germans [so that] the fruits of this victory may benefit the entire German people.” (306)
Reducing class differences was a big part of the plan to settle Germans in Eastern Europe. (30-31) Reducing divisions and social peace among Germans were a big part of Nazi ideology. Hitler promised equality to all members of the Volk. During the war, every member of the Volk was to be provided for. In 1940, an observer from the Social Democratic Party reported that in Berlin: “The working classes thoroughly welcome the fact that ‘the better off’ have, in practical terms, ceased to be that.” Rationing policies during the war strove for equality among Germans. (322)
Elevating ordinary Germans was a big part of Nazi policy. Their loyalty was secured through progressive taxation policies designed to lift the burden from working and lower-strata Germans. Their loyalty was bought by increasing their wages, purchasing power, and access to consumer goods. Nazi policies sought to increase the benefits to ordinary German workers. They sought to expand privileges once reserved for the upper classes to the lower classes. For example, the Berlin regional warden of the German Labor Front was very energetic in his promotion of benefits to labor:
“In 1938 we want to devote ourselves more and more to reaching all those comrades who still think that vacation travel isn’t something for blue-collar workers. This persistent misconception must finally be overcome.” (21)
In 1943, at the height of the war, Nazis were fixated on keeping Germans happy. Martin Bormann stated: “The spending power of the broad masses is what’s important!” (57) Nazi policy did much to shift the burden off of ordinary Germans to the conquered peoples, but also to the upper classes in Germany:
“From the fall of 1941 onward, the political leadership blocked all proposals by finance experts to levy supplementary wartime taxes on the wages and everyday consumer spending of average Germans. They had no such scruples about taxing the upper classes.” (312)
All of these popular measures combined in National “Socialism.” The Nazi regime kept Germans well fed. It turned genocide and the conquest of other peoples into a gold rush. Ordinary Germans willingly participated. “[C]oncern for the welfare of Germans was the decisive motivation behind policies of terrorizing, enslaving, and exterminating enemy groups.” (309) Aly holds that it was the Nazi appeal to the stomach more than ideological pronouncements about the “master race” that kept the German population loyal. “The Nazi regime profited from the basic satisfaction of ordinary Germans, regardless of whether they felt a sense of attachment to or… distance from the party ideology.” (311) Because the regime sought to advance the interests of ordinary Germans, real resistance to the regime “from below” never materialized. Aly dismisses the myth-making that has surrounded a German supposed “resistance” to Hitler.
“Germans were kept passive and generally content by a lavish social welfare system that was paid for by these riches. The improvement in the public mood that came with increases in people’s material welfare…” (304)
“Nothing less than massive popular greed made it possible for the regime to tame the majority of Germans with a combination of low taxes, ample supplies of consumer goods, and targeted acts of terror against social outsiders. The best strategy in the eyes of the public-opinion-conscious Nazi leadership was to keep all Germans happy.” (324)
“Later, when the fighting was over, the fateful collaboration of millions of Germans vanished, as if by magic, to be replaced by a wildly exaggerated — and historically insignificant — record of resistance to Hitler.” (319)
This lack of resistance was also reflected in the size of the Gestapo:
“[T]he Gestapo in 1937 had just over 7,000 employees, including bureaucrats and secretarial staff. Together with a far smaller force of police, they sufficed to keep tabs on more than 60 million people. Most Germans simply did not need to be subjected to surveillance or detention.” (29)
The parallels today are obvious. Just as Hitler elevated the German population on the backs of the defeated peoples, First World peoples live on the backs of the Third World peoples. Just as people waited in vain for a German worker’s revolution against Hitler, they wait in vain for First World worker’s revolution. The Nazis were not defeated internally, the Nazis were defeated externally, by the Red Army. German workers did not oppose the Nazi regime because they benefited from it. They willingly joined in the cannibalization of other peoples. Today, First World peoples as a whole join with their own rulers against the peoples of the Third World. We are in the middle of yet another world war, a war by the First World against the Third World. This war only benefits the First World at the expense of the Third World. Just as Hitler was defeated by the Red Army, so too must the First World be defeated by a global people’s war led by Leading Light Communists.
Metaphysics versus Materialism
Karl Marx famously critiqued the idea that history should be explained as a series of great men. Instead of looking at history as the result of great men or cabals of great men, Marx looked at history scientifically. Marx looked at the world through the lenses of power. Marx traced historic and social phenomena back to power systems of classes, nations, and genders. Marx called this historical materialism. Aly applies historical materialism to the question of how Nazism could have happened.
“So complex an answer to the question of how Nazism could have happened does not lend itself to mere antifascist sloganeering or didacticism of museum exhibits. It is necessary to focus on the socialist aspect of National Socialism, if only as a way of advancing beyond the usual projections of blame onto specific individuals and groups — most often the delusional, possibly insane Führer but also the cabal of racist ideologues or the members of a particular class, like bankers and business tycoons, or certain Wehrmacht generals or the elite killing units. The chief problem with such approaches is they all suggest that a special group of evil ‘others’ bears culpability for Nazi crimes.” (8)
Aly extends our understanding of the relationship between fascism and social democracy. Aly’s book develops the analysis of the Comintern in the 1930s. Whether Aly is aware of it or not, Aly stands in the tradition of Marxists like Rajani Palme Dutt and the theories of “social fascism.” Aly casts aside “leftist” dogma. Rather Nazism is explained by ruthlessly looking at its material origin. The Nazis represented an alignment of social forces, which included German workers. German workers supported the Nazis. The Nazis returned the favor. In many ways, the Nazi’s politics was very similar to their social democratic opponents. It was Lenin who criticized the German and French social democrats when they supported the war efforts of their imperialist homelands in World War 1. The revisionists placed their own peoples, their own workers, ahead of the global proletariat by doing so. Lenin, by contrast, advocated the policy of revolutionary defeatism. Lenin sought the defeat of the Czarist empire in the hope that a defeat for his imperialist homeland could lead to a revolutionary situation. Contrary to Lenin, the revisionists of the Second International were the social imperialists and social fascists of their day. They were socialist in name, but in reality, they were imperialists. Even the Nazis’ official party name was the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” Today, First Worldism is the main form of social imperialism and social fascism. Like the Nazis in World War 2 and the social democrats of World War 1, First Worldists may use Marxist and socialist rhetoric, they may even claim to care about the Third World, but, in reality, they seek to advance the interests of their populations at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. First Worldism raises the red flag to oppose the red flag. Like Lenin before, Leading Light Communism represents the interests of the proletariat and oppressed as a whole. Just as Lenin made the break with the kind of narrow, unimaginative, dogmatic thinking of his day, so does every real revolutionary scientist, so too does Leading Light Communism.
The First Worldist outlook is not based on scientific analysis, it is based on dogma. Aly helps demonstrate the bankruptcy of First Worldist chauvinism and the vulgar “workerism” that simply assumes that everyone who makes a wage or receives a salary has a common interest in socialism. Such “workerism” makes the assumption that all employees have a common class interest and can be aligned for socialism. To maintain that all of those who are employed, both in the First World and Third World, are part of the same class is pure metaphysics. The entire twentieth century has shown us that this is simply not the case. The reason that “communism” is considered dead today is that people can easily see that the rhetoric of those claiming to be “communist” does not correspond with reality at all. Even radical Islam, and its jihad against the West, draws the lines of friends and enemies more accurately than First Worldist so-called Marxism. By contrast, Leading Light Communism looks at the real world. Leading Lights look at the actual historical record; Leading Lights look at the actual way social forces align, not how we imagine them to align. Leading Light Communism has brought science back to communism. The Leading Lights have elevated revolutionary science to a whole new stage. Aly’s book is a powerful weapon in the struggle against buffoonery posing as Marxism.
Aly, Gotz. Hitler’s Beneficiaries. Holt Paperbacks, USA: 2005