Today we are going to finish with the historical part of the series. Beginning with part 9, we move on to the practical material.
But not yet, because we are not yet done with history. We still have the 20th century to kick around.
The 20th century is surely our best-remembered century. It is also our worst-understood. I have spent a substantial percentage of my adult life trying to understand the 20th century. My conclusion: hardly anyone understands it at all.
That says, most of us know most of the relevant facts. The reality and the reality show are made out of (almost) exactly the same materials. In terms of all major factual events, the history of the 20th century that you learned in school is, so far as I can determine, correct – with one small exception.
(And what is that exception? “Why is there a watermelon there?” And no, it’s not the five key Jews behind Osama bin Laden.)
The difference is our interpretation of events. We know what happened. Why did it happen? Let me explain this question with an anecdote.
I apologize for neglecting the blog somewhat of late. I will get the Chinese spam out of the comments somehow, I promise, although I would really hate to have to turn on moderation. I liked one commenter’s idea of accepting it as an inscrutable contribution from the Oriental sages of old. As for the Jews, I admit it: I am their tool. I will deal with the subject more below.
Anyway, one bad excuse for this neglect is that I was in Ohio for Sibyl’s first birthday, getting her infected by a herd of sickly cousins. Sibyl’s aunt and uncle are very much blue-staters in a red state, and they live in a half-gentrified section of Columbus, “Olde Towne East.” (I feel the East deserves an extra E as well.)
Olde Towne Easte has seen some changes in the century of our concern. And not changes for the better. Basically, my sister-in-law, her husband and their two children live in a neighborhood of crumbling mansions. Some have now been restored. Some, like one we saw only three blocks away, are more or less crack dens.
My in-laws are not the people who built these mansions. They are not anything like the people who built these mansions. Nor is anyone in the neighborhood – not the SWPL Obama voters, not the Section 8 Obama voters. The world that built these mansions – the Midwest of Booth Tarkington (have a look at Penrod if you want to see Middle America before progressivism) – is no less dust than the Caesars. Yet its dwellings remain, mostly.
And all this is normal, of course. Completely unremarkable. While I was in Ohio, I asked people a simple question: what happened to Olde Towne Easte? Why did it decline? Why did the mansions of the town pillars of Columbus crumble? Why was the same phenomenon seen in so many other American cities? And where did all these people go?
I got not a single answer that made any sense. For example, people would say: “they moved to the suburbs.” Why? “It was a trend.” Indeed. My stepfather, who is a creature not of Ohio but of Washington, was crafty enough to know where this was going. “I used to own a big old house on Capitol Hill,” he said. “Do you know what it cost to heat?”
Have you ever heard of a civilized human society, anywhere on the planet, any time in the past, departing from its present location and moving singly or in atoms to another, unless it was in some sense fleeing? Not surprisingly, people did not like being asked this question.
“Urban decay” is a fact. You know urban decay happened, I know urban decay happened, Wikipedia knows urban decay happened. But as the page, obviously authored by some prominent chronicler of the human condition, so poignantly explains:
There is no single cause of urban decay, though it may be triggered by a combination of interrelated factors, including urban planning decisions, tight rent control, poverty, the development of freeways and railway lines, suburbanisation, redlining, immigration restrictions, and racial discrimination.
Perhaps I should edit the page and add heating costs. In other words: why did urban decay happen? It just did. Answer unclear – ask again later.
Our aim today is to restore narrative coherence to the 20th century, ridding it of mystical obfuscations, poltergeists, and winds of change. In UR’s 20th century, when things happen, they generally happen for a reason. The reason is generally the obvious reason.
Consider the paradox of the 25th-century historian. To him, which is the more complex century in European history? The 20th, or the 12th? If anything, it must be the 12th. For the student of history is also the student of government. And there were far more independent units of government in Europe in the 12th century, then in the 20th. Which makes for more intricate patterns of interaction. Which makes for more history.
Yet the story of Europe in the 12th century is regularly condensed to a few pages in standard textbooks. While I know more or less nothing at all about the history and historiography of the 12th century, I remain fairly confident that these compressions are decent representations of the period as it actually was. There is no reason for them not to be.
Imagine constructing such a compression of the 20th! How can we explain the 20th century in three pages, when it takes a whole paragraph of causes just to understand urban decay? And yet surely, the historian of the 25th will have no such trouble at all. Therefore, here in the early 21st, we know that there must be a simple explanation of the 20th century. Wikipedia just doesn’t know it.
It is our very proximity to the 20th that prevents us from constructing a plain and summarized understanding of it. Obviously, this comes as no surprise to the UR reader. We have trouble understanding the 20th century because we grew up in it, and our brains remain contaminated with its heinous memetic baggage. It is our Orwellian crimestop that prevents us from seeing the plain facts of the matter.
As Deogolwulf once said to me:
Most people think, in the slough of complacency, that it has always been this way. It has not. We see a thorough-going mendacity and a radical evil set free which was barely anticipated in previous ages, and only then was it anticipated by insightful prophets of the kind such as Dostoevsky and Burckhardt who stood at the beginning of this age. This condition of ours is one of those things that gives me pangs of despair. I do wonder if anything good can survive it. It is not just that it sullies art, history, philosophy, science, and any pursuit of truth, but that it destroys truthfulness, which depends above all upon something too old-fashioned and unquantifiable for our times: good character.
The 20th century was the golden age of lies. The liars of the 20th century, like the painters of the 16th, will be remembered forever as the Old Masters of their art. I know UR has many readers who are Christians or Jews, and sometimes I even regret my own inability to believe in God. But no one who knows anything about the 20th century can fail to believe in the Devil.
Lies are like snowflakes. Every lie is its own unique, perfect self. It is no more possible to list all possible kinds of lie, than all possible kinds of magic trick, or all possible patterns of camouflage. Each is defined only by its goal: misdirecting the mind of the audience. Producing the illusion of a reality that is not real, and obscuring the reality that is.
Every nation in the 20th century produced masterpieces of mendacity. Here is one, from Last Train from Berlin (1942), by the New Deal journalist Howard K. Smith. Bear in mind: Smith is observing the Nazi and Soviet regimes at a point in time at which the former has not committed millions of political murders, and the latter has.
On first glance, Germany [in 1936] was overwhelmingly attractive, and first impressions disarmed many a hardy anti-Nazi before he could lift his lance for attack. Its big cities were cleaner than big cities ought, by custom, to be. You could search far and wide through Berlin’s sea of houses or Hamburg’s huge harbour district, but you could never find a slum or anything approaching one. On the countryside, broad, flourishing acres were cut into neat checkerboards. People looked good. Nobody was in rags, not a single citizen. They were well dressed, if not stylishly dressed. And they were well fed. The impression was one of order, cleanliness and prosperity – and this has been of immense propaganda value to the Nazis.
There is a great fallacy here, and it is a mistake which an unfortunately large number of young American students I met in Heidelberg made and retained for a long time. The fallacy is in connecting this admirable order, cleanliness and apparent prosperity with the Nazi government. Actually, and this was pointed out to me by a German dock-worker on my first magic day in Bremen, Germans and Germany were neat, clean and able to do an amazing lot with amazingly little long before Hitler came to power. Such slums as existed were removed by the Socialist government and replaced with neat workers’ apartments while the Nazis were still a noisy minority chalking swastikas on back-alley fences.
Once, however, I broke my routine and took a trip to Russia. That land impressed me disgustingly favorably for a individual who was still more Liberal than Socialist. Contrary to the development of my reactions in Germany, Russia looked better the longer I stayed and the more I saw. Russia was not neat, clean, and orderly. Russia was dirty and disorderly.
But the spirit of the thing got me. The Bolsheviks did not inherit cleanliness and order; they inherited a wrecked feudal society, and in a relatively short period wonders had been done. The edges were rough and the effort was amateur. But that was just it; it was amateur, everybody was doing it. You got the impression that each and every little individual was feeling pretty important doing the pretty important job of building up a State, eager and interested as a bunch of little boys turned loose in a locomotive and told to do as they please. It showed promise like a gifted child’s first scratchings of “a house” on paper. Klein aber mein; a little but mine own, as the proverb goes.
What is more, the standard of living was definitely rising, not falling. The whole picture was not as pretty as the German one, but the atmosphere, utterly devoid of any trace of militarism or racial prejudice, was clean and healthy as the streets were dirty. I knew all along the atmosphere reminded me of a word, but I couldn’t think what it was until I got back to Germany. The word was “democracy.” That, I know, is a strange reaction to a country which is well known to be a dictatorship, but the atmosphere simply did not coincide with the newspapers’ verdict.
The quality of this propaganda is beyond comparison. Goebbels had talent – there is no denying it. But as a patriotic American, I believe our product is a step beyond.
If there are two words that summarize the above, perhaps they are sincere mendacity. Perhaps not all the journalists of the New Deal, or their heirs of today, were (while not of good character) perfectly sincere. But at worst, even when they consciously lied, they thought of themselves as conveying a higher truth. And when they lied they did so as individuals, not cogs in a machine. Goebbels, who was more or less the pope of Nazi Germany, is not in the building.
The result is a wonderfully chummy tone. You are grateful to your friend, Howard K. Smith, for seeing beyond the simplistic, superficial appearance of Nazi prosperity and Soviet barbarism, and helping you feel the deep and subtle reality of Nazi incompetence and Soviet democracy.
The Smiths of today omit the first-glance impression of Nazi Germany, but in 1942 this was not possible. Let’s be clear on the facts: while German meticulousness is not a myth, the transition from Weimar to Third Reich was indeed responsible for much of the “admirable order, cleanliness and apparent prosperity.” This probably does not change your mind about Nazis, Nazism, or Hitler. And nor is it intended to. It is not a point much stressed these days, that’s all.
Good primary sources are more essential than ever for anyone seeking an accurate impression of prewar Nazism. For a fair anti-Nazi source, try Stephen Roberts‘ House that Hitler Built (1937). For a fair pro-Nazi source, try Francis Yeats-Brown‘s European Jungle (1939).
Both these books will leave you seeing the Third Reich in color. But if you are satisfied with black and white, a modern history (I like Michael Burleigh’s) of the Third Reich is perfectly acceptable.
My perception is that the portrait of Nazi Germany we get from Howard K. Smith, his uniformly synoptic colleagues, and of course their present-day successors, is basically accurate – in analysis as in facts. They portray National Socialism as fundamentally demonic, and indeed it was. In this, they are right and their opponents are wrong. In other things…
The easy error is the assumption that because National Socialism was demonic, its enemies were not. Smith’s portrait of Russia is a brief masterpiece of sincere mendacity. Since truth plus fiction equals fiction, the whole – even with its fresh, clean Germany – becomes an even more staggering masterpiece, enhanced rather than disqualified by its factual fraction.
The New Deal’s picture of the Soviet system has since been corrected, of course. Its picture of the American system has not. And no prizes are available for guessing which category the latter fits.
Thus the standard story of the 20th century includes one set of actors which are portrayed accurately (the fascist regimes), one set which was portrayed inaccurately but has since been repaired with the assistance of whiteout (the revolutionary regimes), and one set whose mythos remains gloriously intact (the democratic regimes). From this stew, clarity is not to be expected.
The reactionary student of history has a great advantage here. To the Nazis, the Soviets and the New Dealers alike, “reactionary” was a term of abuse. The pre-1918 regimes can be described as reactionary, but proto-fascist tropes are also easy to see in them. Every trope of Hitlerism can be found in Wilhelmine Germany. Here, too, the New Dealers are right.
So in the 20th century, the reactionary is without dog in the fight. The reactionary review of the 20th century is obvious: a criminal tragedy, with some comic notes.
And while not all the crimes in this tragedy were committed by democrats, democracy is indeed its prime and ultimate cause. It is not a coincidence that the century of murder and the century of democracy were one and the same. Perhaps the only one to predict this was – no surprise – Carlyle, in Shooting Niagara (1867):
All the Millenniums I ever heard of heretofore were to be preceded by a “chaining of the Devil for a thousand years,” — laying him up, tied neck and heels, and put beyond stirring, as the preliminary. You too have been taking preliminary steps, with more and more ardour, for a thirty years back; but they seem to be all in the opposite direction: a cutting asunder of straps and ties, wherever you might find them; pretty indiscriminate of choice in the matter: a general repeal of old regulations, fetters, and restrictions (restrictions on the Devil originally, I believe, for most part, but now fallen slack and ineffectual), which had become unpleasant to many of you, — with loud shouting from the multitude, as strap after strap was cut, “Glory, glory, another strap is gone!” […] And in fact, THE DEVIL (he, verily, if you will consider the sense of words) is likewise become an Emancipated Gentleman; lithe of limb as in Adam and Eve’s time, and scarcely a toe or finger of him tied any more. And you, my astonishing friends, you are certainly getting into a millennium, such as never was before, — hardly even in the dreams of Bedlam.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Here at UR, we always try to complete the trial before delivering the verdict. So: the 20th century.
It is easy to explain the 20th century. The story is simple, because it is a conflict of armed doctrines, rather than of human personalities. Even the personalities of Hitler and Stalin can be abstracted into their armed doctrines. It is not possible to imagine the 17th century with a French king other than Louis XIV, but it is possible to imagine Nazi Germany with a Fuehrer who wasn’t Hitler.
On the democratic side, the “leaders” are almost figureheads, and the actors are almost interchangeable. They are classified rather than named. For example, I am not sure precisely what I mean when I describe someone like Howard K. Smith as a “New Deal journalist.” But I know his tone is the same as that of Leland Stowe, or Quentin Reynolds, or John Gunther. Or that of James Reston, C.L. Sulzberger, or Herbert Matthews.
The major armed doctrines in the Second German War, for instance, were Universalism, Nazism and Bolshevism. These can easily be taken as examples of the class: democratic, revolutionary, and counter-revolutionary. We consider these in reverse order.
A counter-revolutionary is anyone who fights against revolution. This category can be divided roughly into three parts: reactionary, conservative, and fascist.
Since I am a reactionary, I decline to discuss the creed here. Suffice it to say that reactionaries are always right. And there were few enough in the 20th century that we can ignore them.
A conservative is someone who helps disguise the true nature of a democratic state. The conservative is ineffective by definition, because his goal is to make democracy work properly. The fact that it does not work properly, has never worked properly, and will never work properly, sails straight over his head. He therefore labors cheerfully as a tool for his enemies.
As for a fascist: you know all about fascists. If you want to know anything about fascists, ask a liberal. He will tell you instantly, and he will be right. No regime has ever labored so diligently or so long over the crimes of its defunct foes.
Since there is a bit of misinformation mixed in with the truth, however, I should go into at least some detail.
Basically, fascism is the rightmost end of the tradition that in British politics is called Tory Democracy. It is perfectly legitimate to compare Sarah Palin to Hitler, for example. While they are obviously very different figures, both can be described as Tory democrats. The same can even be said of William Pitt, a threesome that would make an interesting panel discussion. And an even more interesting threesome.
The basic method of Tory democracy is to appeal to the masses to support a non-democratic, ie reactionary, form of government. The basic problem of Tory democracy is that the masses suck. Therefore, if you practice Tory democracy, your movement is liable to become contaminated with all sorts of heinous nonsense, such as anti-Semitism.
The American conservative movement practices the most rigorous possible message control to avoid this fate. It has no enemies to the left, and no friends to the right. And still, it is not enough. It is permanently tarred with the brush of Hitler, just like the old prewar Republican Party, the party of Taft and Vandenberg and Borah and Bricker, of which it is the faint, pathetic ghost. This was the party of the Schofields, of Olde Towne Easte, and like them it is no more.
The old world of Biedermeier, of Central European haute-bourgeois aristocracy, is exactly as dead. But there were many attempts to preserve it, and fascism was one. Conditions are ripe for fascism when there exists an old tradition which is in the process of being destroyed by democracy, but has not yet quite been destroyed. The half-recreated fascist tradition is half reactionary, half democratic, and all nasty.
If you want to see fascism in its pre-Nazi state, take a look at Friedrich von Bernhardi’s Germany and The Next War (1911):
The struggle for existence is, in the life of Nature, the basis of all healthy development. All existing things show themselves to be the result of contesting forces. So in the life of man the struggle is not merely the destructive, but the life-giving principle. “To supplant or to be supplanted is the essence of life,” says Goethe, and the strong life gains the upper hand.
Hitler was a genius, I admit, but he wasn’t smart enough to have actually invented this swill. And why does it appear in Germany around this time? And Russia, and Austria-Hungary? Because all three are being democratized, and jingoism is an excellent way to appeal to the masses against the elite. It works in Britain too, by the way.
When fascism ascends to power, it creates a coherent central authority (good) which is not responsible in any way (bad), maintains itself in power by indocrinating its subjects (bad), and practices unnecessary and sadistic violence (bad). Thus we have one good and three bads, which makes bad. It is not surprising that fascism is generally considered bad.
However, since we have one good, it is not surprising that it can accomplish good as well. For example, it is just the bee’s knees for crime, and may even be the least of two evils. Mussolini did a fine job with the Mafia. Imagine him in Mexico now.
The most gross misstatement about fascism presently understood, however, is that the Axis constituted a plot to take over the world. It is truly amazing that people believe this today, for there is no evidence for it whatsoever. However, most historians simply treat it as a given.
If you want an accurate military history of the Second German War and its aftermath, which is also a primary source, I recommend Albert Wedemeyer‘s memoir on the American side, and Erich von Manstein‘s on the German. Both dispense with this myth, giving it exactly the short shrift it deserves.
Manstein, for instance, points out that Hitler never displayed any emotional interest in going to war with England, even after he was at war with England. Hitler was a man of extremely fixed ideas. These ideas are all set down in Mein Kampf. One of these ideas was that Germany needed to expand to the east. Another was that it needed to have England as a friend. And obviously, he wasn’t getting to America unless he went through England (or both Russia and Japan).
For example: if the Axis was a plot to take over the world, why did Japan never attack Russia? Answer? Because Japan and Germany were acting as independent, sovereign nations. They were not acting under any kind of central command, and they had no great trust in each other. They just happened to have similar forms of government and had signed a few token pacts of understanding.
That was the whole point of the war: a rebellion. Japan and Nazi Germany fought because they wanted to be independent, as did Imperial Germany. They lost, so they became provinces in a world empire. That’s how it goes.
Whereas the Allies were already acting as a single world authority, which was called the “United Nations” even during the war. Ergo: what we are seeing here is a good old case of projection.
If you have a plan to govern the world – not, of course, to win total world domination, but to strive for comprehensive global governance – and you go to war with someone, by definition, he too has a plan for total world domination. Inasmuch as you lose, he wins. Therefore, once the Second German War was started, someone had to win it, and I’m glad the Allies did.
On the other hand, the Second German War – as well as the First – looks a lot more like a rebellion against said single world authority. The conquest between America plus Britain plus Russia, and anyone else, is not and cannot be a conquest of equals.
And world authority was certainly in the air. Read H.G. Wells‘ Open Conspiracy, for example. Wells was not at all a marginal figure. Benjamin Franklin Trueblood was a marginal figure, and his Federation of the World (1899) was nothing a dozen other writers weren’t saying, but his work is still great fun, in a tragic sort of way. Don’t miss chapter 10, “The United States of the World.”
As Trueblood puts it:
The question of the peace of the world, universal and perpetual, is now one of the uppermost in all thoughtful minds. Even those who do not believe that such a state of human society is desirable or realizable are compelled to struggle with the idea. Universal peace, which seemed a little while ago the dream of disordered brains, has suddenly transformed itself into the waking vision of the soberest and clearest of intellects. This world-peace, the signs of whose coming are now many and unmistakable, will not be established between men and nations as so many separate units or groups, standing apart with different and unshared interests, agreeing to let each other alone and to respect each other’s rights at a distance. Such a peace, even if it were possible, would be at best only a negative one, having little vitality and little power for good. Universal peace will come rather through federation and cooperation.
“Agreeing to let each other alone and to respect each other’s rights at a distance” is, of course, the principle of the old school of nations, the reactionary school, who practiced the forms that used to pass under the strange name of “international law.” You can still find these old laws – in Vattel, in Polson, in Davis – and interesting reading they make, indeed. The world they are describing is not the world we live in.
And it certainly isn’t be the Imperial Germany of the World! As Trueblood muses at one point:
But when arbitration has at last come into general and permanent use throughout the civilized world, as there is every reason to believe that it will after a generation or two, then these great military establishments with all their abominations will come to an end. The end of them may come suddenly, as the result of a great war, or a series of great wars, the disastrous results of which will be so deeply and universally felt that the nations will never again permit militarism to take root and grow.
Indeed. A prescient prediction! Note, however, that causality and prediction are easily mistaken for one another. Similarly, John Gunther‘s Inside Europe (1936) describes its subject as “between the wars.” Perhaps the lady doth protest too much.
From Trueblood, George Herron’s Menace of Peace (1917), with its hilariously over-the-top anti-Teutonism, is not far off. I will not excerpt this book. It must be read in its totality. But suffice it to say that Woodrow Wilson employed Herron – as a peace emissary. Some peace!
Herron is good for laughs, but a more serious successor is Ramsay Muir, whose Expansion of Europe (1916) has a wonderful explanation of the principle of “blue imperialism” that would develop, through weird transatlantic osmosis, into Foggy Bottom’s present aid-ocracy, operated not on the principle of dominion but that of dependence:
The words ‘ Empire ‘ and ‘ Imperialism’ come to us from ancient Rome; and the analogy between the conquering and organising work of Rome and the empire-building work of the modern nation-states is a suggestive and stimulating analogy. The imperialism of Rome extended the modes of a single civilisation, and the Reign of Law which is its essence, over all the Mediterranean lands. The imperialism of the nations to which the torch of Rome has been handed on, has made the Reign of Law, and the modes of a single civilisation, the common possession of the whole world. Rome made the common life of Europe possible. The imperial expansion of the European nations has alone made possible the vision—nay, the certainty—of a future world unity. For these reasons we may rightly and without hesitation continue to employ these terms, provided that we remember always that the aim of a sane imperialism is not the extension of mere brute power, but is the enlargement and diffusion, under the shelter of power, of the essentials of Western civilisation: rational law and liberty. It is by its success or failure in attaining these ends that we shall commend or condemn the imperial work of each of the nations which have shared in this vast achievement.
“Mere brute power,” as the reader of Herron might expect, turns out to be the German principle of imperialism. We also must note that there was more than a bit of brute power in the old British Empire, which organism did not survive its passing. Imperialism seems to have something to do with military domination after all. Who’d of thunk it? Not the Romans, surely.
Finally, it is incumbent on us to consider the actual origins of the First German War. What happened was: Britain was the sponsor of France, France was the sponsor of Russia, and Russia was the sponsor of Serbia.
Serbia started behaving very badly – by Vattel’s standards. There is no doubt that the Serbian cabinet was an accessory before the fact to Sarajevo. (Try Sidney Fay‘s Origins of the World War.) In Vattel’s world, Austria had every right to invade Serbia, and it was none of anyone’s business. Certainly not Britain’s!
In Benjamin Franklin Trueblood’s world, of course, it was incumbent on Austria to make peace before making war. I can’t help noticing that Benjamin Franklin Trueblood’s world, now that we have it and all, (a) doesn’t have a whole lot of peace, and (b) does have a whole lot of terrorists. Perhaps this is not a coincidence.
The general behavior of Britain and the Entente before the First German War was to provoke Germany in every way possible, but to make the result appear as if Germany was itself acting unstably and aggressively. The unsurpassed chronicle of this story, for its brilliant writing as well as its early date, is Francis Neilson‘s How Diplomats Make War (1915). I will not excerpt this. Read the whole thing. It is timeless.
Neilson was a friend of the great Albert Jay Nock, with a similar writing style. Like Nock he was a Georgist, which occasionally produces a slight kooky effect. But he was also an MP who in a Britain of another day would have been in high office – an unbelievably learned and expressive man, after the time of his institution. If you really want to immerse yourself in the Second German War, go through interlibrary loan and get Neilson’s almost-unobtainable 5-volume diary of the war, The Tragedy of Europe. It is unsurpassed. Neilson is constantly wrong in his analysis, in all the little things – and right about almost everything big.
The origins of the Second German War are somewhat more debatable. However, they originate in the Treaty of Versailles, which originated in theories of history which by the 1930s had become discredited among scholars. Most responsible statesmen agreed that the confiscation of German territory by the French client states of the Little Entente, Czechoslovakia (which you may search for on a map today) and Poland, was unjust.
Therefore, we may consult our Vattel and reason that Germany had every right, under classical international law, to go to war with Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, or anywhere else. The fact that Nazi Germany invaded Poland does not, believe it or not, imply that its next step would have been to invade Brazil. Frederick the Great invaded Silesia in the 18th century, and he made no claims whatsoever to Brazil.
Fascism existed in a world of Benjamin Franklin Truebloods, who were attempting to replace Vattel with Benjamin Franklin Trueblood. Dangerous itself, it had dangerous enemies. It did not attack the democracies unprovoked. Like the Confederates, who were more than a little fascist themselves, its attacks – even those of Hitler – can be seen as a case of “fear biting.” Hitler would have accepted unconditional peace with America and Britain at any time.
While we are discussing misconceptions, another common misconception which is seldom uttered, but often assumed, is that the Allies entered the war to save the Jews from Hitler.
At least, the Allies often seem to get credit for this, although factually we know that (a) they had no interest in saving Jews before the war, (b) no interest in saving Jews during the war, and indeed (c) preferred not to mention Jews at all.
The Jews of the New Deal were Universalist and assimilationist, not Zionist – they were not even particularly fond of the backward, Yiddish-speaking Jews that Hitler was killing. (If you hear the word “jargon” used to refer to Yiddish, you know you are in the presence of a German Jew whose nose needs breaking.) In fact, far from it being Allied propaganda, the New York Times actually covered up the Aktion Reinhard. But the guilty flee where no man pursueth, and tremble when accused of offenses they have not committed.
The Aktion Reinhard is not even really part of the history of the Second German War, because it had almost no impact on that war. It was not used as propaganda until after the war was over. It is best considered as the first event in postwar history. And indeed, entire histories have been written around it. It is no exaggeration to call it Hitler’s greatest gift to his followers.
We here at UR are not in the business of ranking political murders or murderers, so we will respectfully decline the implicit invitation to compare Hitler to Stalin, Genghis Khan, etc, etc. We can just say that none of them were nice guys, and the same is true of FDR. But at least FDR left a corpse that someday could be dug up and hanged, like Cromwell.
So this is fascism: a dangerous and aggressive movement, with even more dangerous and aggressive enemies. I’m afraid there are not a lot of good guys in this awful century, the 20th.
And fortunately, the other two groups are the same discussion. Revolutionary doctrines are best seen as a subclass of the more important democratic class. A revolutionary democracy is one in which power changes hands through violence. Otherwise, the two are the same form, and they will generally be found in alliance.
For example, in my survey of Soviet Life back issues, it became immediately clear to me that the Soviet 19th century and our 19th century were the same century – the same laundry list of democratic heroes is celebrated.
(If you need a prequel to the 20th century and you are only allowed one book, perhaps that should be C.B. Roylance Kent’s The English Radicals, A Historical Sketch (1899). The Radicals of the 19th century, English and otherwise, are indeed these great progenitors. And a sorry lot they are – when the sketcher is not a Radical.)
Moreover, this relationship did not end like clockwork in 1900, or in any other year. The official sentiment of kinship between the Western democratic establishment and the Soviet Union, though often imperiled by the latter’s various heinous crimes, was never really severed – not even in 1947, with the Anglo-Soviet split. Simple proof of this fact is the extreme variation in Anglo-American treatment of the national socialist and international socialist regimes.
If you care to see the Soviet side of this continuing relationship, you could try reading the memoir of Alexander Feklisov, who was or at least claims to have been the handler for many KGB agents in USG before 1947. These agents – by Feklisov’s own description – were not the same types of people as the random low-life losers, like Aldrich Ames, who we remember from Newsweek articles.
No. They were people like Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Laurence Duggan, and perhaps even Harry Hopkins, and they were at the center of the New Deal state. It is simply inconceivable that these people were in any sense spies, or that they concealed anything from FDR. They were his direct agents. These contacts must have been authorized informally at the highest level, and they must have been considered a normal backchannel by those who participated in them.
Governments everywhere operate in a conspiratorial style. Ie: they keep secrets. Often they keep secrets even from their own employees, or some subset thereof. This requires activities that appear nefarious. Since they are authorized, however, they are not nefarious at all. At least not in the context of FDR’s regime, which was one of personal authority at the top.
However, since they are authorized, they are no less official. Therefore, the regime can be held responsible for them, as for all its official acts. (It can also be held responsible for its official sins of omission, but that’s another post.)
The relationship between the democratic bloc and the revolutionary bloc is like the relationship between an Appalachian father, Bobby Ray, and his teenage son Dwight. Dwight is a hard case, no doubt about it. Bobby Ray does not condone his activities in the slightest. In fact, the two are even found screaming at each other and a few times have come to blows. Sometimes they don’t talk for months, and once Bobby Ray once hit Dwight so hard with an axe handle, he broke the axe handle.
But Bobby Ray and Dwight are family. You know, if the revenuers come, Bobby Ray and Dwight will be standing together. It is true that Dwight done shot that man down in Campbell County, but Bobby Ray obviously is not concerned in that. And besides, he deserved it.
For example, Herbert Hoover, in his biography of Woodrow Wilson, notes that:
During the Armistice all of the Allied and Associated Powers were involved in supporting attacks by “White” armies against the Soviet Government. In Siberia, the United States and Japan were supporting the White Army of General Kolchak. From the Black Sea, the British and French were supporting the White Armies of Generals Denikin and Wrangel. The Allies, including the United States, had taken Murmansk on the Arctic to prevent large stores of munitions, sent to aid the Kerensky regime, from reaching the Communists. Later the British supported a White Army under General Yudenich in an attack directed at Petrograd from the Northern Baltic.
The British and French exerted great pressure on Mr. Wilson for Americans to join in a general attack on Moscow. General Foch drew up plans for such an attack. Winston Churchill, representing the British Cabinet, appeared before the Big Four on February 14, 1919, and demanded a united invasion of Russia.
The Americans then experience a sudden change of heart. Not only that, they ponder the large war debts owed by their allies to them. In an internal note by Tasker Bliss:
It is perfectly well known that every nation in Europe, except England, is bankrupt, and that England would become bankrupt if she engaged on any considerable scale in such a venture.
Ie: “Hey, can you guys really afford that?” Hoover himself supplies additional reasons, in a letter to Wilson (bear in mind that Hoover had considerable experience as an engineer in Czarist Russia):
We have also to… [consider], what would actually happen if we undertook military intervention. We should probably be involved in years of police duty, and our first act would probably in the nature of things make us a party with the Allies to re-establishing the reactionary classes. It also requires consideration as to whether or not our people at home would stand for our providing power by which such reactionaries held their position. Furthermore, we become a junior in this partnership of four. It is therefore inevitable that we would find ourselves subordinated and even committed to politics against our convictions.
In other words: no way is the Light of Democracy, the Republic of Eagles, going to help put the old Baltic barons back in charge. Time’s arrow has moved on, baby. The wind of change is blown. The great experiment must commence.
And indeed, the British and French pulled their support and the Whites were slaughtered. (Many of the Whites were more brown than white at this point, anyway. Hitler was not the inventor of anti-Semitism.) The Soviet Union was the world’s first pure progressive state, although its violent succession and lack of free elections places it in the revolutionary, rather than democratic, category.
Although the US did not recognize the Soviet Union until (obviously) 1933, there were strong ties of friendship well before then, just as there remained such ties after 1947. Alger Hiss and his ilk obviously would have felt quite self-righteous in feeling that they were being prosecuted for a policy that was official when carried out. Nor would they have betrayed this secret. They were, after all, honorable men.
The truth is that, from an ideological level at least, the revolutionary states are best considered as American client states. They are very different from normal client states, such as France (I take it as understood that the USG of today has clients, satellites or puppets, not friends, allies or neighbors).
The normal client state can be described as a total client – it is friendly with all important elements in the sponsor state. The revolutionary states were (and are) partial clients – they are friendly with some elements in the sponsor state, and hostile (often to the point of actual war) to others.
The hostile elements are typically the problem of the friendly elements, and the client at the very least diverts their energy. Thus, the relationship is profitable to the sponsor. In return, the client needs the sponsor, because the friendly elements protect him from the wrath of the hostile elements. Thus the relationship is symbiotic, and can continue for decades.
So, when you ask: why were there American soldiers in Russia in 1919, anyway, if what Hoover says is true? The answer is the same in all cases. They were fighting a partial war. They were not intended to win, and in fact they didn’t. This, too, is not an isolated event. Nor is the demise of the regimes who made the mistake of getting to the right of American “public opinion.”
So, for example, during the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Stalin did not become an enemy, like Mussolini, or even a neutral under intense pressure, like Franco. He was a loved friend who had made a terrible mistake. America’s goal in interacting with Stalin during the years of the Pact was, as usual, to convince him of American friendship and woo him back to sanity.
So, for example, after the demise of the Soviet Union, everyone (including me) expected the world to enter a millennium of peace. Fat chance. The evolutionary niche was unoccupied, and the next-generation neo-revolutionary regimes of Iran, Venezuela, etc, have arisen to fill it – not to mention that wonderful fossil, North Korea.
For the New Dealer and his successors, the world-straddling geniuses of Foggy Bottom, the rule for handling a partial client is simple: whenever it does something bad, the only solution is to placate it. You will note that this is also the recipe for generating the worst possible teenager. This is not anyone’s conscious decision, as usual, but I would not describe it as a coincidence.
In contrast, the rule toward actual enemies is simple: press them as hard as possible, threatening constantly, never taking yes for an answer, always responding to some new concession with some new demand, never being afraid to use violence, and always going for the jugular when the jugular is in sight.
In the second half of the 20th century, actual warfare was generally unnecessary – countries such as Rhodesia, South Africa and (early in the 21st) Israel were easily intimidated into suicide. And Rhodesia was the only true enemy nation – USG had strong friends in both South Africa and Israel, these people being of course citizens of the world. It can have partial enemies, just as it can have partial friends.
The reason that since 1945 we have not seen USG fighting to its right – where it fights without mercy – is simply that it has no true enemies, having defeated them all. Thus, we never get to see its real fangs. It is only in a historical sense that they even exist. Nonetheless, it is a fundamentally carnivorous organism, and I suspect its lack of prey is a major cause of its present difficulties.
Therefore, what we discover today is that the Democrats are right: transnational bureaucracy is the true spirit of USG and of American democracy. Even the governments of Europe, conquered, occupied and reconstructed right down to the brains of their subjects’ children in 1945, are more pure expressions of the American political spirit, of democracy itself, than is found in America itself. This is completely normal with an exported ideology. However, the purest, most refined, and most American form is transnational bureaucracy. And the Soviet Union was no more than American democracy in Russian translation.
It is actually the counterrevolutionary forces in America – the conservatives, the Christians, the “Amerikaners” – who are the most un-American of Americans. They have spontaneously reinvented old European forms of government. For example, while America is a Protestant country by descent, Christianity of the salvationist or “born-again” flavor is a dead ringer for the niche of Catholicism: it satisfies the natural human craving for discipline, obedience and spiritual authority. I’m not saying it’s good, but it works, sort of.
Also, while conservatives believe in democracy, they believe that democracy is best used as a tool to make the government act less like a democracy, ie, to not be socialist. Socialism is the stable state of democracy, for obvious reasons. By making the people universally dependent on the State, their minds as well as their bodies can be controlled. The conservative thus spends his time agitating for un-democratic policies in a democracy – his goal is reactionary democracy. Obviously, if the People can be made reactionary and persuaded to stay that way, this works. But one could just as easily invest one’s efforts in inventing water that isn’t wet.
(Hey, I never said this wouldn’t hurt your head.)
Our interpretation rather absolves Mr. Hiss and his ilk, personally, of collaboration with the crimes of Stalin. But unfortunately, it transfers that responsibility onto the New Deal itself.
The Anglo-American progressive establishment, having spawned the Bolshevik monster in their minds, inflicted it on the chief backwater of Europe, shielded it from its foes in its youth, and fed it money and equipment, not to mention lives and territories, in its prime. It is therefore indicted, on the good general principle of Roman law in which the master is responsible for the deeds of his servant, for the crimes of the Soviet Union.
That it never actually ordered the murders at Katyn, for example, is not particularly relevant. It arguably made them possible. It is certainly an accessory after the fact, because it accused the Nazis of having perpetrated them, while knowingly closing its eyes to the truth.
And if you want to know how I can put USG in the same category as the Third Reich, that is my answer. I consider view both criminal regimes which history will rejoice to see abolished, because I feel that Washington can no less escape the crimes of Moscow than the Wehrmacht can escape the crimes of the SS.
Also, this is convenient because it obviates any conversations about strategic bombing, German prisoners of war, etc. Instead, we get a laundry list of gigantic barbarities: the ethnic cleansing of the Ostdeutsche, the Ukrainian famine, the Gulag, etc, etc. All of these are the crimes of socialism. And socialism and democracy are one thing. Case closed.
Nor is the motive mysterious. During the Second German War, the New Deal became a true one-party state. Its enemies were not simply defeated. They were barred from legitimate political or intellectual occupations for life, and this ban was not revoked at the end of the war. (Consider the case of John T. Flynn. Then, read his Roosevelt Myth.) Indeed, this descent from freedom of speech is the ancestor of our modern political correctness.
With the Nazis and the Japanese, everything that was not Universalist – everything counterrevolutionary, everything old – went down in flames. Even if it was not physically destroyed, it simply became unfashionable. An aristocracy is not an aristocracy unless it is both good and powerful, and if it loses its power it rapidly ceases to become good. And that power ended up in Washington, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin Trueblood.
This is true even in the US itself, which has no true reactionary elite and has had none for quite some time. The postwar American conservative movement is a 1950s forgery – not unlike the fake Presidential candidate of 1940, Wendell Willkie, who was a Democrat until the year before the “election.” If you don’t realize that this party is fraudulent by 2009, there may be no hope for you. It is not and has never been a real opposition. It should disband itself at once.
Moreover, since the publication of George Victor’s extremely convincing Pearl Harbor Myth, it has become clear that the long-bruited rumors of FDR’s prior awareness of Pearl Harbor are quite simply true. (If you doubt this book, just go to “Search Inside” and look at the back cover. And yes, this is the exception.)
Victor’s book is also unusual because he is a supporter of FDR. He believes that governments must sometimes act in Machiavellian ways, and he thinks USG did the right thing in going to war with Nazi Germany. The same can be said of Thomas Mahl, whose Desperate Deception recounts the assistance of British Security Coordination, accounting for two whole floors of Rockefeller Center, in getting the US into the war – by every dirty trick imaginable, including forgery of public documents and political warfare against American politicians, all with FDR’s clear blessing.
Moreover, even if Victor’s controversial hypothesis is not true, it is quite clear that the US intentionally provoked Japan into war in order to enter the Second German War. See the best book of how and why the US entered the war, Back Door to War by the diplomatic historian Charles Callan Tansill. For all those who complain of Bush’s illegal war in Iraq, thou shalt complain no longer. See, how UR hath quieted your frets.
All this is no more than the normal operating procedure of a criminal regime. Its misdemeanors are as miserable as its felonies are appalling. USG must atone for these deeds, and it can only atone with its life. Its employees, however, should receive unconditional amnesty – it is the ideology and the institutions, not the individuals, that must be held responsible.)
I refuse to admit that a criminal sovereign can subsequently become legitimate without at least some substantial breach in symbolic continuity. It is not the deeds that trouble me – power is always bloody. It is the lies. Moreover, now is always a better time than later.
The fundamental argument on which USG rests its present legitimacy and its claims to “world leadership” is its moral supremacy. It has none. Indeed, as we will see, it has less than none. Far from saving the world, USG has wrecked it. The least it can do is apologize and go home.
There is a traditional analogy, not much used in the 20th century, which perhaps can be adapted to tell us the story of the 20th century in one little anecdote. Let me give it a shot.
The upas-tree, as is well known, kills all animals which approach it. What’s less well-known is that it kills all the trees around it, as well. (It needs a clear space in which to hunt.) This un-neighborly result is the effect of a toxin which the upas-tree’s roots secrete.
But the upas-tree itself is not immune to its own toxin. It is just more resistant than its neighbors. When they are dead, it itself is merely dying. But it must succumb all the same. For it was not evolution, but grim destiny, that designed the upas-tree.
In case it’s not obvious, in the reactionary version of the 20th century, the upas-tree is America and its toxin is democracy. Thus we see the same result: American democracy is the last philosophy standing. Not because it is sweet, but just because it is more lethal to its neighbors than itself.
What underlying pattern produces the upas-tree effect? There’s actually a simple and appealing answer. Democracy looks just like the memetic equivalent of an invasive, parasitic species.
The parasite’s native habitat is most resistant to it. The Anglo-American countries are the most resistant to democracy, because they are the native habitat of democracy. They thus harbor not only the roots of democracy and its most diverse expressions, but also its most potent natural enemies. Thus they degrade slowly without any sudden descents into anarchy.
In the presence of said enemies, political pluralism is a chronic, degenerative, probably still terminal, but slow and manageable condition. When this parasite jumps to another species of tree, however, it meets no defenses, and the victim shrivels, blackens and burns overnight. So the same effect is seen when kudzu jumps from Japan to Arkansas, as when democracy jumps from England to France.
The international democratic movement predates 1900, of course. It predates America herself. The leftist or democratic tradition in Anglo-American history is almost four hundred years old. If you read Hobbes’ Behemoth (‘Or, The Long Parliament’), it’ll pop right out at you in 3-D. Our upas-tree is indeed of considerable antiquity, and it was toxic from the very cotyledon.
Whereas in the democratic version of the 20th century, all this death and destruction is the fault of the enemies of democracy. Therefore, the experience of the 20th century demonstrates that human civilization can no longer tolerate the existence of nondemocratic states – since they caused all this death and destruction. Flawless logic!
And so we see democracy conquer the world and produce an outbreak of peace. At least in those areas properly conquered by democracy. Is it ill-mannered to note that the conquests of Genghis Khan had exactly the same result? To conquer is to pacify. The fact tells you nothing.
Basically, the self-interpretation of Universalism today is that America conquered the world in self-defense. Which may be, but it sounds strangely. We also are to understand that America conquered the rest of the world for its own benefit. Again, perfectly plausible.
But did it benefit? Actually? Did anyone? Actually?
Consider the world of Penrod. This book is really a must read, not for the hapless Penrod Schofield, but for the quality of Tarkington’s writing, and the wonderful rendering of the world in which Penrod lives.
The world of Penrod is the world of Olde Towne Easte, or at least those who once lived in those mansions. Tarkington himself was an Indiana man, but it’s all the same. Fake to begin with – but not without a certain grandeur, acquired through time and tradition. It is as gone as Caesar’s ghost. What killed it? The same thing that killed everything else. USG.
The world of 2009 is the root-ball of one ancient gigantic, shaggy and rotting redwood: the Anglo-American tradition we call Universalism. In the redwood’s shade are the seedlings she has thrown among the blackened stumps at her feet. Some of them have prospered and some have not. Some have even evolved a little, but all began as redwood seeds.
In a typical Orwellian fabrication, we call the “nations” of the UN era independent countries. Most are American satellites at best, possessions at worst. Even those that have recreated something like sovereignty, Russia and China, are sterile and uninteresting upstarts, with no real relationship to the old-growth civilizations of the Romanovs or the Ch’ing. Europe also contains some genuine trees, though their independence is questionable and their individuality is nil. They are pallid clones of Massachusetts, planted in grim, mechanical rows. Latin America is a shambles – a festering sink of crime, tyranny and disorder. Africa makes it look healthy.
And everywhere, everywhere – except of course the Anglo-Saxon core – tyranny and rebellion, war and destruction, anarchy and murder, dragged their plow at least once across the land. And not always once. For many, they remain permanent conditions of normal life.
Consider this, which the Times in a strange War Nerd moment plays, almost, for laughs:
BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau — Just after sunset, the general got up from under his favorite mango tree. As he climbed toward his second-floor office, a remote-controlled bomb under the staircase exploded, crumpling the building’s flank into a jumble of rubble.
His nemesis, the president, died less than 12 hours later, after heavily armed men fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the front door of his house. They shot and hacked to death the man who had ruled this tiny West African nation for 23 of its 35 years of existence, leaving behind sprays of blood, a rusty machete and bullet casings.
In almost any other place in the world, the death of a democratically elected president and the chief of the armed forces would be met with horror. But in this former Portuguese colony, the brutal murders of President João Bernardo Vieira and Gen. Batista Tagme Na Waie have been greeted with not just equanimity but optimism.
“Good riddance to both of them,” said Armando Mango, a lawyer in Bissau. “We have been held hostage by these guys for too long.”
Indeed. Three cheers for Mr. Mango! For far too long indeed. But how, exactly, did Guinea get to be in this state? What happened?
Ms. Polgreen is not so kind as to inform us. And while at a certain practical level it becomes difficult to give a shit about the rest of the world, the upas tree is not immune:
TONY BRANCATELLI, A CLEVELAND CITY COUNCILMAN, yearns for signs that something like normal life still exists in his ward. Early one morning last fall, he called me from his cellphone. He sounded unusually excited. He had just visited two forlorn-looking vacant houses that had been foreclosed more than a year ago. They sat on the same lot, one in front of the other. Both had been frequented by squatters, and Brancatelli had passed by to see if they had been finally boarded up. They hadn’t. But while there he noticed with alarm what looked like a prone body in the yard next door. As he moved closer, he realized he was looking at an elderly woman who had just one leg, lying on the ground. She was leaning on one arm and, with the other, was whacking at weeds with a hatchet and stuffing the clippings into a cardboard box for garbage pickup. “Talk about fortitude,” he told me. In a place like Cleveland, hope comes in small morsels.
The number of empty houses is so staggeringly high that no one has an accurate count. The city estimates that 10,000 houses, or 1 in 13, are vacant. The county treasurer says it’s more likely 15,000. Most of the vacant houses are owned by lenders who foreclosed on the properties and by the wholesalers who are now sweeping in to pick up houses in bulk, as if they were trading in baseball cards.
Piranesi’s Rome, cows in the Forum and all. Though I’m not sure Cleveland is safe for cows.