cold irons bound

From John Lukacs’s The Last European War, and old book from the 1970′s but still pertinent:

“one of the most, if not the most successful economists of the twentieth century,” Lukacs says, “was Adolf Hitler. He did not believe in Economic Man; he knew nothing of Economic Laws. ‘Why should I nationalize the industries?’ Hitler told Hermann Rausching. ‘I will nationalize the people,’ which is what he did…Hitler reduced unemployment in Germany about thrice as fast as Roosevelt or Mussolini, not to speak of Baldwin, Chamberlain, or Blum. Nor did Hitler achieve this through coercion or through forced armament programs. The German public works program was not very large in the mid-thirties, and the armament industry did not significantly increase employment until after 1936….

—RJ sez, “Very few people have heard of John Heartfield, the German born artist whose photomontages in the late nineteen thirties outraged Adolf Hitler. However, as part of the resistance against the inexorable rise of Nazism, he contributed some of the most biting satirical photographic mashups of the day – and all without the aid of Photoshop. Nice.” —Read More:

…He achieved this because he understood,instinctively, that economics, in the broadest sense of its meaning, involves fiction rather than fact; that economic conditions are often the consequences of confidence, rather than the reverse; and he was one of the most terrifying creators of national confidence. Because of this confidence the German currency, unlike the currencies of many other dictatorships, remained remarkably solid.”

The truth is, as Lukacs observes, World War II broke economic laws with the abandon of a drunken pirate. The German economy produced both guns and butter well into the war, and, as Lukacs points out in one of his many discursive footnotes, the general price index rose 14 per cent between 1933 and 1940- “remarkably little in retropspect.” The greatest German victories, Lukacs writes, “were achieved during 1939-41 when German war production and war economy functioned on a limited scale- a kind of miracle, in retrospect. Or perhaps it is not a miracle: it only shows how limited were, and are,the mental categories and processes of those people who think in terms of economic determinism.”

—It is generally assumed that humour under a totalitarian regime is a form of resistance. Monica Osborne, of The New Republic, subjects this assumption to a critical treatment in her review of Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany. by Rudolph Herzog. With jokes collected from Jews and from German citizens, Osborne highlights critical psychological distinction between the humour of Germans living on the outside and Jews who were subject to disenfranchisement, deportation and extermination.—Read More:

Moreover, the Allies kept expecting Germany to collapse from lack of oil for its motorized army, or from lack of steel, or from lack of food. But Germany managed. Indeed, between 1939 and 1942, German production of synthetic rubber, tanks and aircraft was rising, food was being produced, and the production of consumer goods was held stable; while the “percentage of the German population drafted by the military services plus the entire civilian labor force remained the same in 1939, in 1940, and in 1941.” The British chiefs of staff reached this consensus in 1940: “Upon the economic factor depends our only hope of bringing about the downfall of Germany.” Fortunately, they, and Keynes and Chamberlain and Churchill were all simply wrong about the forcefulness of the “economic factor.”


(See link at end) George Lukacs:Seventy years later we must understand, too, that Germany and National Socialism represented an intellectual and spiritual and ideological movement that for a while—throughout the 1930s and at least during the first part of the Second World War—was very powerful, surely in Europe. By and large this was a reaction against communism and, perhaps even more, against international capitalism, and against the liberal and democratic intellectual ideas and political practices of the 19th century. Such practices seemed antiquated and corrupt by the 1930s, at the latest. We must be careful with these words. A reaction, yes; but reactionary this inclination was not. The mistake of many conservatives across Europe (and especially and disastrously of German conservatives such as Franz von Papen and others) was their belief that the great change, including Hitler, was a natural swinging of the pendulum of history backward, away from the ideas and principles of 1789, of the French Revolution. They—like, alas, many “conservative” thinkers even now—did not see, or did not wish to see, that Hitler and National Socialism were populist and modern (and even democratic, in the narrow sense of that word, extolling popular sovereignty). Hitler’s contempt for the old and creaking aristocratic and monarchical states of the 18th century was deeper and stronger than his dismissal of 1789. (Thomas Carlyle, whom Hitler admired, would, had he lived into the 20th century, unquestionably have admired Hitler. Edmund Burke, who saw 1789 otherwise than Carlyle did, would have not.)

Here is a brief (and necessarily imperfect) list of significant writers, thinkers, and artists whose contempt for the liberal order or disorder (including, in many cases, their anti-Semitism) was such that they, on occasion, identified themselves with Hitler’s (or often with Mussolini’s) ideas, some of them sacrificing their careers and even their lives: the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun; the American Ezra Pound; in France, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Henry de Montherlant; in Germany, Gerhart Hauptmann, Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger (the last two at least for a while); the Englishman Wyndham Lewis; Giovanni Papini in Italy; and many less-well-known figures, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, many Austrian, Slovak, Croatian, Hungarian, Romanian, and other writers and poets. Above and beyond them, on a higher level, take a glimpse at two, perhaps greatest and deepest, European thinkers and writers of that time: the Spanish José Ortega y Gasset, who chose to live in self-imposed exile in Argentina in 1939, and the French Catholic Georges Bernanos, a towering figure of Free France, who chose Brazil for his self-imposed exile in 1938. (Each returned to his native country before his death, after the war.) Both kept largely silent about the stunning phenomenon of Hitler, throughout and even after the war. In the nine large volumes of Ortega’s collected works (Obras completas) there is but on

ntion of Hitler (“a hypernationalist”). In his rare mentions of Hitler, Bernanos, this profound French patriot and prophetic seer, this apostle of resistance against Germany, wrote that Hitler’s rages rose from the depths of the tortured mind of a deeply “humiliated child.” Read More:


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