Nazism – the ultimate evil?
Capitalism stinks. It stinks of corpses. The millions starved to death, dead of preventable diseases, killed in war, worked to death: and the myriad mundane vicissitudes of class life, beaten to death in the petty squabbles of humans thrown together against their will, coughing out their final days with coaldust on their lungs or dying of lung cancer from tobacco, promoted to children, killing them in old age, ending with the suicide of those who can no longer stand the ruin that capitalism makes of a modern life.
For those of us who remain amongst the living, capitalism is a constant trial, mocked gleefully in the soap operas that, like fairground mirrors, reflect the ugly truth of our existence, misshapen and distorted. Rather than simple poverty, capitalism runs the full gamut of a life with a void at its centre: poverty of the underweight, poverty of the overweight, poverty of the deluded in their temples, poverty of the disillusioned who bear the absurdity of life lived not even for another, but for a number, a bank account, in more or less terror for their sanity.
I say all this to put my next statement into context. Nazism is not a special, nasty kind of capitalism. Everything undertaken in the regimes called Nazi, or fascist, finds its parallel in the capitalism of other areas, whether the ‘free world’ or the ‘communist’. As captain Willard said in Apocalypse Now, of Vietnam, “charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500”. It’s capitalism with a black shirt on.
In case there’s still resistance to this notion, consider the rivers of blood that European powers – amongst which we should really number the United States – waded through in the Americas, treading a bloody trail from sea to shining sea, exploiting and murdering all those in their path. Or the British Empire, whether addicting millions to opium or starving them to death through either discipline or incompetence. The supposedly communist, in both Russia and China, starving millions of their own people in famines both intentional and accidental. Millions have been worked to death in slave conditions within capitalism, from the plantations of the Americas, through the Gulags of Stalin, to the Nazi work camps. Today, of course, the whole world is a work camp, with the barbed wire replaced by immigration control and the richer parts of the West and other parts as gated communities.
So when I say that Nazism is no different to capitalism generally, I am not exonerating Nazism. I am damning capitalism. I am damning the Stalinists who still claim ‘at least we defeated fascism’ as their sole claim to fame – while Stalin killed more than Hitler ever did. The so-called liberal democracies claim that they could never go to war, and their forces are only for defence: yet they have slaughtered their way across the globe on the flimsiest of pretexts, such as the sinking of the USS Maine leading to the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century – a purely imperialist grab against a weakened Spain, fulfilling the Monroe Doctrine just as closely as the Nazis with their Lebensraum. Other incidents, such as the Gulf of Tonkin, are now known to have been ruses; there is no need to enter into vast conspiracy theories to say that a disproportional response is no different to a war of aggression. At least ironically, one could credit mad dictators with honesty; the drive to profit inherent in all capitalist regimes, in them is closer to the surface and less buried in doubletalk.
In fact, one can measure the bankruptcy of a political position fairly accurately by the need to resort to ‘we’re better than the Nazis’ as an excuse. It means that their wages are 5 percent better, they kill 7 percent less civilians, their press is 13 percent less prone to lies and censorship; but they still force their citizens to work, they still murder for profit, they still lie to keep ‘their’ workers in line.
Racism, for example, is not some special product of a diseased ideology. It is a basic part of state building in the early stages, reused at those times when international trade is low and protectionism, coupled with aggressive or military action, becomes a state priority. There is not a magic race ogre that leads people, Pied Piper fashion, down the road to bigotry: in class society it is a well-travelled highway.
In short, capitalism is a thing that should fill us with disgust and revulsion. To pick and choose isolated moments of its history and claim that they are the true evil is to attempt to rescue the whole, like Bolsheviks bickering over whether the charnel house that was Russia in the 1930s would have been better or worse with Trotsky or Stalin at the helm: or, really, like any US presidential election, for the rest of the world. Kennedy or Nixon? Carter or Reagan? Every one of these men has been prepared to turn the world into a radioactive cinder, yet people still debate their relative merits.
We have had a century and more of capitalists trying to bolster their pathetic reputations by showing how much better their labour camp is than that run by those next door. Whether it’s Nazis, Bolsheviks, Maoists, or Prussians, Russians and the Inscrutable East, every single one of these societies has been built on the energies, the lost hopes, and the bones of workers, both at home and abroad. To single out any one of these as the one root of evil is to try to whitewash capitalism itself, to deny that there is evil at the very root of our whole world.
This is why socialists oppose all capitalism, and refuse to take sides. We recognise that some circumstances are better than others, but none are worth a drop of workers’ blood, especially not when all of our energies should be turned towards rooting out capitalism as a system. We do not set up fascism against capitalism – we set up capitalism against socialism. Join us in the real human crusade.