[Marxism] Did Nazi rule benefit the German people?
brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Thu Dec 21 14:11:40 MST 2006
A useful review of the literature, but ultimately it left me
dissatisfied. This is not because I have any better theory as to why
there was no concerted opposition to Hitler, but because the views
discussed just don't jibe well with my experience living in Germany
just after the war.
I can't claim that what I experienced was representative, but I did
live for a while in an agricultural mountain village in the North and
in a fairly large city in the Saarland. The war was a delicate matter
to bring up, but when people relaxed a bit they showed that the war
and its effects were much on their mind.
It seems to me that people in the war period were very
parochial. While Germany's history provides convincing reasons for
such a culture of localism, it is hard to reconcile it with the fact
that people really did read newspapers thoughtfully. I came to realize
that there were a significant number of articles in periodicals that
anticipated well in advance in general terms the horrors of the Nazi
regime. If folks knew what was going on, why didn't they manage to
connect to it?
It seems that people's experiences up to and including the Nazi era
seemed the effect of forces to which they had no connection, much like
people in the US doing precious little about likelihood of a climatic
disaster. To an extent, this disconnect seems a natural result of
Germany's history, with the exception of the Weimar era. Instead of
joining together to act to change outside factors, people focused more
on preserving their own little world as best they could.
For example, in the mountain village in which I lived (Brilon), there
was a prosperous Jewish family. At some point the Nazis removed it,
and the villagers reacted angrily, such as refusing to cooperate with
Nazi authorities, although it came to nothing. The experience probably
taught them to mind their own business in the future. That future came
with the decision to station an SS contingent in the village because
of its healthy mountain air. First thing in the morning, the soldiers
would march down the street, and everyone cringed at the sound of
hob-nailed boots hitting the stone. It seems everyone saw the SS
contingent as an alien and insurmountable irritation. It was
threatening because it clashed with local values, but like a rain
storm, you simply do the best you can to adjust.
In labor, it is obvious that solidarity brings strength, but this can
be merely a principle in theory. For people to accept it as being
real, there has to be some history in which the principle is
validated, not merely that it is logically correct. In the US,
unionization brings obvious benefits, but that does not keep the
numbers from falling. The strength arising from solidarity requires a
target that is accessible and clearly not invincible. However, that is
ever less the situation experienced by US labor, and it does not seem
to have been the case in Germany. People apparently did not see the
Nazi movement as something that could be readily addressed, and so
they remained passive until it was too late to do anything about it.
As Marx pointed out, capitalism tends to reduce us to a subsistence
existence, where daily struggle comes down to just what is needed to
get by. That deprives us of a sense of having a social existence and
the knowledge that in joining with others we might bring about
change. There's a big difference between a theoretical power, and
having a real power in terms of which one acts because you know it
can suceed based on experience. While constitutional rights are
certainly useful and necessary in a stable democracy, they don't
create popular power. The people do.
I don't draw an overly pessimistic conclusion from all this, but if
what I mentioned has any truth, it certainly makes things more
difficult for us.
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
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