[Fwd: militia research]

Katha Pollitt kpollitt at thenation.com
Tue Jun 2 23:46:09 PDT 1998

I came across an interesting passage in neal Ascherson's review of Norman Finkelstein and Ruth Birn's "A nation on Trial: the Goldhagen thesis and Historical Truth" in the LA Times Book review. (Goldhagen, as you probably know, maintains that ordinary Germans, not just Nazis, were enthusiastic perpetrators of the Holocaust, were intent on exterminating the Jews from the word go, were uniquely anti-semitic among European nations but miraculously ceased to be so in l945, etc etc -- a thesis that many book reviewers but virtually NO scholars of the period agree with). Anyway, Ascherson's discussion of the appeal of fascism to Germans has some relevance to our discussion of the militias:

" Hitler's platform was made up of wildly different planks, incoherently looted from Left and Right: hatred of the old German social order, the promise to overturn the Versailles frontiers, anti-Bolshevism, nostalgia for rural purities, Anti-Semitism, a program to overcome mass unemployment, worship of militarism and so forth. Most Germans believed in some of these causes;very few indeed believed in all of them. But they were all bound together into a single bundle by the party. And when the party and Fuhrer vanished in l945, the bundle fell instantly apart again. this allowed postwar Germans to plead, absurdly but not entirely without sincerity: "I believed in an anti-bolshevist crusade and reconquering Alsace. but I never agreed with state-run trade unions or with killing the Jews --so I was never really a nazi!"

I'm not equating Mark of Michigan with Hitler (although Hitler too started out as the head of a small provincial paramilitary organization). But just as ordinary, economically desperate people signed up with the Nazis because they liked some piece of its program and told themselves the other parts weren't important, AND WERE WRONG, even so people drawn to the militias, buchanan, and other modes of rightwing "populism" etc are buying a whole package, even if they think they're not and even if the package is "wildly contradictory." The fact that nazism had "Left" elements -- a jobs program, much anti-elite rhetoric -- did not mean many Nazis were open to conversion by leftists, if only the leftists could sit them down and explain that the protocols of the Elders of Zion was a Czarist forgery.

best, katha

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list