Baader-Meinhof was a far Left terrorist group, and one of the most violent, killing dozens and maiming more during the 1970s. Its “official” name was Rote Armee Fraktion (”Red Army Faction”). The logo shows a nice big socialist red star with a Heckler Koch submachine gun.
The group’s two most prominent members were Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Here is one of Meinhof’s explanations:
“Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed, and thrown on the waste-heap of Europe, for what they were: money Jews. Finance capital and the banks, the hard core of the system of imperialism and capitalism, had turned the hatred of men against money and exploitation, and against the Jews … Anti-Semitism is really a hatred of capitalism.” [Source.]
Which is of course right out of Karl Marx: “What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money. Very well: then in emancipating itself from huckstering and money, and thus from real and practical Judaism, our age would emancipate itself.
“As soon as society succeeds in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism—huckstering and its conditions—the Jew becomes impossible … The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.” [Source: “On the Jewish Question” (1843), in The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 48, 52.]
Which is what Hitler agreed with: “Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international Jewish financiers, inside and outside Europe, succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!” [Source: Hitler, speaking in the Reichstag on January 30, 1939.]
As did Goebbels, in speaking of “the money pigs of capitalist democracy”: “Money has made slaves of us.” “Money is the curse of mankind. It smothers the seed of everything great and good. Every penny is sticky with sweat and blood.” [Sources: Goebbels, 1929, quoted in Orlow 1969, p. 87 and Goebbels 1929, quoted in Mosse ed., 1966, p. 107.]
[Bonus question: Who said this?
“The worker in a capitalist state—and that is his deepest misfortune—is no longer a living human being, a creator, a maker. He has become a machine. A number, a cog in the machine without sense or understanding. He is alienated from what he produces.”
Answer: Joseph Goebbels, in his 1932 “Those Damned Nazis” pamphlet.]
Heidegger, anti-humanism, and the Left.
The Nietzsche and the Nazis page.
[Go to the StephenHicks.org main page.]
Posted 3 years, 2 months ago at 4:08 pm. 21 comments
[This excerpt is from Chapter 5 of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault]
Marxism and waiting for Godot
First formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, classical Marxist socialism made two related pairs of claims, one pair economic and one pair moral. Economically, it argued that capitalism was driven by a logic of competitive exploitation that would cause its eventual collapse; socialism’s communal form of production, by contrast, would prove to be economically superior. Morally, it argued, capitalism was evil both because of the self-interested motives of those engaged in capitalist competition and because of the exploitation and alienation that competition caused; socialism, by contrast, would be based on selfless sacrifice and communal sharing.
The initial hopes of Marxist socialists centered on capitalism’s internal economic contradictions. The contradictions, they thought, would manifest themselves in increasing class conflict. As the competition for resources heated up, the capitalists’ exploitation of the proletariat would necessarily increase. As the exploitation increased, the proletariat would come to realize its alienation and oppression. At some point, the exploited proletariat would decide that it was not going to take it any more and revolution would ensue. So the strategy of the Marxist intellectuals was to wait and mount a lookout for signs that capitalism’s contradictions were leading logically and inexorably to revolution.
They waited a long time. By the early part of the twentieth century, after several failed predictions of imminent revolution, not only was it becoming embarrassing to make further predictions, it was beginning to seem that capitalism was developing in a direction opposite to the way that Marxism said it should be developing.
Three failed predictions
Marxism was and is a class analysis, pitting economic classes against each other in a zero-sum competition. In that competition, the stronger parties would win each successive round of competition, forcing the weaker parties into more desperate straits. Successive rounds of capitalist competition would also pit the stronger parties against each other, yielding more winners and losers, until capitalism generated an economic social structure characterized by a few capitalists at the top and in control of the society’s economic resources while the rest of society was pushed into poverty. Even capitalism’s nascent middle class would not remain stable, for the logic of zero-sum competition would squeeze a few of the middle class into the top capitalist class and the rest into the proletariat.
This class analysis yielded three definite predictions. First, it predicted that the proletariat would both increase as a percentage of the population and become poorer: as capitalist competition progressed, more and more people would be forced to sell their labor; and as the supply of those selling their labor increased, the wages they could demand would necessarily decrease. Second, it predicted that the middle class would decrease to a very small percentage of the population: zero-sum competition means there are winners and losers, and while a few would consistently be winners and thus become rich capitalists, most would lose at some point and be forced into the proletariat. Third, it predicted that the capitalists would also decrease as a percentage of the population: zero-sum competition also applies to competition among the capitalists, generating a few consistent winners in control of everything while the rest would be forced down the economic ladder.
Yet that was not how it worked out. By the early twentieth century it seemed that all three of the predictions failed to characterize the development of the capitalist countries. The class of manual laborers had both declined as a percentage of the population and become relatively better off. And the middle class had grown substantially both as a percentage of the population and in wealth, as had the upper class.
Marxist socialism thus faced a set of theoretical problems: Why had the predictions not come to pass? Even more pressing was the practical problem of impatience: If the proletarian masses were the material of revolution, why were they not revolting? The exploitation and alienation had to be there—despite surface appearances—and it had to be being felt by capitalism’s victims, the proletariat. So what was to be done about the decidedly non-revolutionary working class? After decades of waiting hopefully and pouncing on any sign of worker dissatisfaction and unrest, the plain fact was that the proletariat was not going to revolt any time soon.
Consequently, the waiting strategy needed to be rethought.
Chart 5.1: Marxism on the Logic of Capitalism
 Werner Sombart, a Marxist early in his career, was among the first to rethink: “It had to be admitted in the end that Marx had made mistakes on many points of importance” (1896, 87).
Bibliography [pdf] [html]
[This is an excerpt from Stephen Hicks's Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Scholargy Publishing, 2004, 2011). The full book is available in hardcover or e-book at Amazon.com. See also the Explaining Postmodernism page. ]
Posted 3 years, 2 months ago at 6:44 am. 7 comments
Since its 2006 publication, my 2:45-hour documentary on Nietzsche and the Nazis has been available from Amazon, Netflix, and other venues.
Beginning this summer, Netflix has made the documentary available via video-stream, which has led to a healthy uptick in feedback — including gratifying praise, interesting new angles, thoughtful disagreement — and a smattering of ad hominem and/or otherwise vituperative attacks from those whose interpretations of National Socialism or Nietzsche are very different than mine.
Probably par for the course when dealing with such weighty matters and polarizing political movements and philosophers.
This summer I have been turning the script into a manuscript (and am almost finished). The manuscript includes the footnotes for all the key quotations and assertions, along with a full bibliography. This will enable scholars and other interested thinkers to check everything for accuracy and to use it for other scholarly purposes.
The script and manuscript are in 38 sections [pdf of the scene selection menu]. The plan is to release the manuscript sections serially over the next few months, each section containing the text, relevant images, and being available in both HTML and PDF formats. When all of the sections of the manuscript have been released, a full version in PDF will also be made available.
Alongside that process, I will post in response to the many very good emails I’ve been receiving from those who have watched the documentary. By far, the most email I’ve been receiving focuses on the two most controversial interpretive points in the documentary:
1. On the Nazis: I argue that they were socialists and anti-capitalist. .
2. On Nietzsche: I argue that he is an individualist only in a very limited sense and that he is much more a collectivist than he is an individualist. .
Those two theses have generated the most heat, so in near-future blog posts I will take up two important issues:
Were the Nazis really socialists?
Was Nietzsche an individualist or a collectivist?
If those issues interest you, please sharpen your debating skills, brush up on your history and philosophy, and prepare for some serious intellectual fun.
[Go to the Nietzsche and the Nazis page. Go to the StephenHicks.org main page.]
Posted 3 years, 9 months ago at 4:21 pm. 48 comments