Springtime for Hitler

Paul Flewers hatchet.job at SPAMvirgin.net
Thu Jun 22 02:20:10 MDT 2000

The idea that Marxism/Bolshevism/Stalinism and fascism/Nazism are essentially
the same totalitarian thing is nothing new. Back in the 1930s what I call the
convergence theory became popular, particularly as Hitler's regime started to
intervene more in the economy after about 1936. This theory became much more
popular after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939. It was based upon the
fact that both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union shared a statified and planned
economy, a monolithic and monopolising party with a strong leader cult, and the
suppression of individual rights. Bolshevism and fascism (and indirectly Nazism)
were often seen as being rooted in syndicalism, which was defined (somewhat
strangely to me) as a strong leadership manipulating a passive majority into
violent social change. Marx was sometimes seen as an authoritarian philosopher
alongside Nietzsche, Sorel and Bergson, or in a long line of state-worshipping
Germans starting with Luthor.   People subscribing to the theory in the 1930s
included conservatives like Alfred Cobban, free marketeers like Hayek, and
social democrats like Richard Crossman, and they were joined by all manner of
people after August 1939. The most illustrative examples of convergence theory
are Frederick Voigt, Unto Caesar, 1938; Franz Borkenau, The Totalitarian Enemy,
1940; Max Eastman, Soviet Russia and the Crisis in Socialism, 1940. Voigt was a
Christian journalist based in Britain, most probably from a German background,
politically some sort of right-wing liberal; Borkenau was a rightward-moving
former member of the German Communist Party; Eastman was a rightward-moving
former US radical. The British New Statesman was interesting. It was a
fellow-travelling mag in the 1930s, if a bit disillusioned by the time that
Stalin had staged three show trials; then after August 1939 it talked of the
'totalitarian menace' existing from the Rhine to Vladivostok; after June 1941,
it rehabilitated the Soviet Union as a 'workers' republic'!   James Burnham, a
renegade from the Trotskyist movement, is often seen as a pioneer in this field.
This is not true, most of the ideas in his Managerial Revolution of 1942 (I
think) were commonplace in the late 1930s.   The theory of totalitarianism was
first systematised prior to Hitler's victory, by a Russian Jew turned Catholic
and naturalised in Germany called Walter Gurian in 1931, in a thick book called
the Theory and Practice of Bolshevism, English translation 1932. Its main thrust
was that any attempt to eliminate the market would lead to totalitarianism.
Almost every bit of postwar totalitarian theory put out by Cold War types was
ultimately based on this book, although Gurian hardly ever gets mentioned.   I'm
covering a lot of this stuff in my PhD thesis, hopefully in a couple of years
I'll get it out in a book.   Paul F    

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