Assorted Links

  1. Angry Panama– A feature in the Economist that looks at the unbalanced economic growth in Panama and the civil unrest that is taking place as a result.
  2. Atheism and Islam– An article in the Economist that uses a trial and riot in Indonesia against an atheist in order to discuss some of the other laws and prejudices against atheism throughout the Muslim world.
  3. How the Nazis Succeeded in Taking Power in Red Berlin– A feature in Spiegel that discusses Goebbels and his campaign to set the Nazis up in the Capital of Germany–a city labelled “the reddest city in Europe besides Moscow.”
  4. Turkey requested NATO missile defenses over Syria chemical weapons fears– Several weeks ago Turkey requested Patriot missiles to protect against potential Syrian air and missile strikes against their towns. Now it appears that there is intelligence that there has been an uptick in activity at Syrian chemical facilities and that the Assad regime is contemplating the use of ballistic missiles and chemical warheads against the rebels if traditional airstrikes do not work.

Meta-Marxism in Wilhelmine German anti-Semitism

Disclaimer: This is a further discussion built off of my Historiography seminar 4.14.2010, and the book The Butcher’s Tale, by Helmut Walser Smith.

This book is focused on the Jewish ritual murder case of Konitz in 1900. In his section on accusations, Smith refutes that they were inherently about class and power struggles. He argues that some of the cases were, but that not all of the charges were brought by a lower class person against a higher class and therefore there was something more than class struggle at play.

What struck me, though, was the rhetoric used by the anti-Semitic newspaper making the ritual murder charges. When the Prussian army deployed to stop the riots, the newspaper denounced the act as the result of Jews running the state and running the police and army. This sounded eerily familiar to another book, namely Mein Kampf. This led to me ask another question: if the rhetoric claims that Jews are in power, can there be a larger sort of analysis that will hold up in terms of groups, but not individual cases? May any attack on a Jew, no matter class in either situation, be seen as a class struggle because of the perceived class?

This further begs the question of whose worldview matters: the historian or the contemporary? For example, if a group claims that the world functions via class struggle, and shapes their actions accordingly, does a historian a hundred years down the line have the right to claim the world functioned differently?

Racial Superiority

Ethnic superiority is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, but rather a queer sort of temperament, world view and modus operandi. Many nations and, especially in places where the population is largely heterogeneous, extreme nationalism devolves into ethnic superiority.1 Perhaps this ethnic superiority is most infamous in the case of the German Third Reich, wherein there was a state sanctioned ethnic ideal to the exclusion of all others, and ultimately the Final Solution.

In retrospect, and even to those who saw the horrors first hand, there was no excuse for it and the ethnic superiority in this case (and, as should be noted, in the case of Japan during the same period), resulted in among the greatest evils that humans have ever inflicted upon each other. Yet when viewing Germans, the ethnic superiority is something associated with Hitler, something associated with the Nazi regime. This is misleading.

After reading the Dr. Faustus of Thomas Mann, <Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist of Friedrich Nietzsche and most of Mein Kampf, plus a number of works on the German Empire created by Bismark through its end under Wilhelm II, I am struck by the overwhelming arrogance, and surety each of these works contains. While evident in the other works, Nietzsche is the most glaring example of this.

I am not going to analyze the philosophy, if for no other reason than I am tired and not properly suited to relate it back to any audience, however Nietzsche is convinced of his own superiority and that of the German Race. I do not imagine that Nietzsche would have liked the Nazis, let alone Hitler, but it would be interesting to think of what he would have said about him since their ideal ethnicity was one and the same, just as Wilhelm and Hitler shared the ideal of a powerful Germany, for which reason Hitler sent flowers to Wilhelm’s funeral.

By and large it is not that these men simply looked down upon other races or actively scorned them, but there is a seemingly natural underlying assumption that Germans were superior; this is not a moralistic judgment that many of the authors care to explain, it is simply so.

1 Not that ethnic superiority cannot create nationalism in heterogeneous areas and what is to follow could be said to be of this sort; my own view is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the two and I chose to start with nationalism because there is an unswerving loyalty that a nation is capable of creating even in ethnically diverse countries.