Capitalism under the Nazis - addition

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Tue Aug 5 17:48:32 MDT 2003

The Progressive Labor Party site has an article comparing practices in the
Hitlerite economy to some American practices in the workfare/welfare area:
"Workfare - Slave Labor U.S. Style". I cannot however judge how accurate
this data is. But it's worth a thought. See:

In quite a number of countries, there already exists a stable,
sub-proletarian underclass characterised by slavery or semi-slavery by any
other name, or de facto forced labour, including of course child labour,
forced prostitution, prison labour, illegal labour, and so on. This does not
however have to be seen as the direct outcome of explicitly fascist-type
policies in all cases, but can be just an effect of extreme poverty and
extreme social inequality promoted by the bourgeois classes through "more
market" and privatisation policies which favour the richer social strata,
whose market position is better, but work against the poor who simply lack
buying power or private property to participate in market activity.

A big problem nowadays is that the meaning of fascism isn't really
understood much at all, beyond symbols and cultural practices. In most
analyses, the connection between fascism and capitalism and imperialism is
not made at all, or not made correctly. When it is made, for example by the
late Prof. Ernest Mandel (himself a survivor of German labour camps),
erudite humanists like Norman Geras complain that he pays "insufficient
attention" to the "uniqueness of the holocaust" and that one must always
have love in one's heart for the poor Jewish victims of Nazi concentration
camps, while supporting imperialist intervention in Iraq. This is of course
a ludicrous distortion of social reality, which ignores the brutal
conditions of poor and starving people in the world today, as well as the
political instruments used to dominate them, in order to appeal to the
philantropic impulses of the rich, about a tragedy that happened in a safely
distant past.

It moreover ignores mass exterminations before and after the Shoah. The
Geras-type "humanitarian-imperialist" intellectual wants to say that
exterminating 6 million Jews is "unique", implying that exterminating many
more Aztecs, Incas, Peruvians, Russians, Africans, Cambodians, Chinese,
Armenians, Iraqis, Gypsies, Palestinians, etc. is somehow "not unique",
thereby mystifying the deadly pattern of imperialist domination, and the
social decay it promotes. Towards the end of his life, in February 1993,
Ernest Mandel gave a lecture in New York in which he refers to some of the
modern contours of fascisation processes:

"According to official United Nations statistics, more than 60 countries
with a total of more than 800 million inhabitants have suffered an absolute
decline of per capita domestic product between 1980 and 1990. In the poorest
of these countries this decline is in the order of 30-50%. For the poorest
layers of these countries' populations the figure oscillates around 50%. Per
capita domestic product in Latin America in 1950 was 45% of the imperialist
countries. In 1988, it fell to 29.7%.
Decades of modest rise in public welfare were wiped out in a few years. What
this means concretely can be illustrated by the example of Peru. According
to the  New York Times, More than 60% of the population of Peru is
undernourished, 79% live below the poverty level, which is quite arbitrarily
fixed at $40 a month. Even college- educated civil servants earn only $85 a
month. This is not enough to pay for a month's car parking in that country.

If one takes into consideration the social differentiation inside the third
world countries, the situation is even more disastrous. The poorest
inhabitants of the poorest country have today a daily food intake which
equals that of a Nazi concentration camp of the 1940s. A report of the
United Nations World Health Organisation prepared for a December 1992
conference estimated that half a billion people suffer from chronic hunger
in addition to several hundreds of millions of people who suffer from
seasonal malnutrition. Nearly 800 million people in the third world suffer
from hunger. If you add to that figure the number of hungry in the post-
capitalist and imperialist countries, you arrive at nearly one billion
people today suffering from hunger. And this is when there exists an overall
situation of overproduction of food.

In the north of Brazil, there is a new race of pygmies which has arisen,
with an average height 35 centimetres less than the average inhabitant of
Brazil. The way the bourgeois ruling class and its ideologues characterise
these people is to call them rat people. This characterisation is completely
dehumanising, reminiscent of the Nazis, and has very sinister implications.
You know what is done to rats.

There is widespread malnutrition involving insufficient consumption of
vitamins, minerals and animal proteins. Women and children especially have
these deficiencies. As a result, children in the third world run a risk of
dying or catching grave diseases 20 times greater than that of children in
the imperialist countries.

The fate of children symbolises the rise of barbarism in the third world.
This is not a question of the future; there barbarism has already started on
a huge scale. According to the statistics of UNICEF, every year 16 million
children die from hunger or curable diseases in the third world. This means
that every four years there is an equal number of deaths of children as all
the deaths of World War II, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the Bengal famine
combined. Every four years a world war against children. There you have the
world reality of imperialism and capitalism in a nutshell. In addition, in
south Asia, 20% of baby girls die before the age of five; 25% die before the
age of 15. Baby girl infanticide is growing from year to year, combined with
massive use of child labour under conditions of semi-slavery.


You might argue, what has this got to do with fascism ? Nothing, if fascism
just means a lot of flags with swastikas and goose-stepping soldiers, and if
you separate the connection between fascism and capitalism and imperialism.
But if you do make that connection, it is clear that social disintegration
and enslavement both give rise to, and result from, fascist-type policies.
It is just that "globalisation" makes it easier to kill and enslave from a
safe distance. "The market" is anonymous and makes it exceedingly difficult
to trace the social reponsibility of anybody in particular. It is not polite
to express fascist or racist ideas, but we need to look at what people do
and the actual social phenomena that result from government policies.
Admittedly, the facts cited by Mandel are now a bit dated, but United
Nations data show no significant reversal of the trends. Some progress has
been made in the health area, and in some countries the poor are slightly
less poor. But at the same time some 54 countries show a drop in income, and
income disparities have increased, primarily through a sharp increase in the
income and assets of the wealthy classes. In a sense, the social problems
have become to big, eroding the will to do something about them.

In general, we can say that, other things remaining equal, the cost of
perpetuating capitalism for another century would mean a massive increase in
slave labour, forced labour and semi-slave labour, which, needless to say,
is incompatible with popular democracy (one person, one vote; equality
before the law; and free elections) and incompatible with harmony between
ethnic groups, since competition for resources becomes more ruthless, not
less ruthless. A more "liberal, feel good" attitude to sexuality can be a
conduit for this trend, rather than have an emancipatory effect, inasmuch as
it increases the porosity and vulnerability of people to exploitation, aided
by modern information and communications technology.

While the learned pomo scholars are disputing the "unique historical meaning
of the holocaust", or the precise causal concatenation involved in 18th and
19th century plantation labour in the American South, they happily ignore
the social reality of contemporary world capitalism and the barbaric,
fascist tendencies it shows, which exist right under their noses. Why this
problem-blindness ? Probably because the topic isn't so sexy or fashionable,
and doesn't jell well with "the power of positive thinking", I suppose.


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