Roland Barthes’ essay Death of the Author is required reading for many students who wish to study the humanities, such as English Literature. The general thesis of the essay is that narrative intent from the author cannot be discovered as it is impossible to know what the author’s thoughts were at the time of writing. Thus, Death of the Author can be understood to mean “art without the artist” – by the reader is the only true reading. The authority of the author, and therefore the author himself, perishes.
It is an interesting and incredibly influential essay that has played a large part in the development of critical theory over the course of the 20th century. Using this as a basis, it is my belief that we can take the theory further.
Rather than experience the art in a passive way, accepting what the author produces as is, and making our own interpretations from that point, I propose that we instead take an active participation in taking art from the artist and use it to our own ends. This is much easier to do thanks to the internet, and the emergence of meme culture.
It is from meme culture that murdering the author rises. 2016 can be seen as the black swan moment for this with the election of Donald Trump and the reignition of right-wing populism. In this moment, a new breed of meme was born, and it is one of these memes that I think best exemplifies how effective murdering the author can be.
In 2017 MGMT released their song “Little Dark Age”, a protest song lamenting the election of Trump. As the title suggests, the zeitgeist as the artist saw it was regressing back into a period of ignorance, ultimately taking the past 70 years of Progress with it. As recent as 2021 however, the meme remixes of this song have become increasingly popular. The song is used as a backdrop over footage designed to ignite reactionary pride – praise of Christianity and the heroic spirit are commonplace within this. My personal favourites are the ones that glorify the British Empire.
The popularity of the meme is an example of the remix culture unique to the internet, an issue with 21st century creations in general. 21st century art is stunted, and we can only find creative outlets in what has come before. This is a problem with all art and culture in the West, but has been commented on before so I will not belabour the point, except to say that our obsession with nostalgia seems to have left us bereft of creating our own cultural milieu and we are forced to stand blindly on the shoulders of giants.
We are indeed in a little dark age, and MGMT clearly felt that. It just isn’t the dark age they think it is. For a generation of people brought up in countries whose hour of greatness was over, and on whom all the world’s ills could be blamed, it is little surprise that a song like Little Dark Age could be used in the way it did. With lyrics like “Forgiving who you are for what you stand to gain/Just know that if you hide it doesn’t go away”, the song seems to be calling out to those who are trodden on by the current regime, such as political dissidents, delivering the Evolian message of riding the tiger. In the remix culture that epitomises internet trends, this is an example of destroying the meaning of a talented, well intended but misinformed artist and rewiring it for a different purpose.
No matter how MGMT feels about the current political and cultural climate, the fact remains that Little Dark Age is reactionary. It speaks of cultural degradation, inauthenticity – the sense of something being lost. MGMT have put their finger on the pulse, and their diagnosis seems apt – but the wrong patient has died.
Their anger is correct but misdirected, which is why we on the right see the song as something to be hijacked. We are not witnessing the death of the author here – instead, we are the author’s murderers. We are Lenin storming the Tsar’s palace in 1917. We take what is theirs and subvert it to our own ends.
The fact is that reactionary media, be it music, film, literature or television, is entirely hegemonic to the left’s favour. Reactionary discourse is repeatedly shut out of the Overton window, which is panned by boomeresque false idols on one side and comical Marxist villains on the other. In order to make a point, we must use the tools of the enemy. We must be the Vietcong stealing M16s from a US military base. We take from the author what is theirs, deconstruct their arms and create something entirely new using the skeleton of their works.
We are the murderers of the author and this is our strongest weapon.
You Might also like
The Conservatives Used to be the Party of Government and Ideas – Now They No Longer Are | Henry GeorgeBy Henry George — 5 months ago
We are being treated to a clapping seal show presented as the Conservative leadership contest. The only candidate likely to alter Britain’s course into the iceberg of national decline and total senescence was Kemi Badenoch, so of course the MPs ejected her from the contest before the final three. For a moment it looked like it would come down to a face-off between Penny “Tory Blair” Mordaunt and Rishi “Green Card” Sunak, but instead we get Sunak vs Liz “Thatcher LARP” Truss. And of course, we are now witnessing the virus of zombie Thatcherism having colonised the brains of our prospective new prime minister. Each desperately tries to out-Thatcher the other, displaying the degeneration of the Conservative mindscape into a derivative pile of philosophical junk. It used to be that the Tories actually had ideas about how to govern and how to use the state to do this. Not anymore.
Let’s survey the devastation of British national life. Inflation is at 9%, the highest for forty years. Energy prices are already a disaster, and are set to become truly catastrophic in the autumn and next winter. Productivity, bumping along for decades like a sea slug on the ocean floor, is falling into the Mariana Trench. Our levels of private debt are rocketing into the stratosphere. Our public debt is in orbit after the Covid-19 spend binge. Poverty rates are climbing and set to go even higher. The consequences in learning loss from Covid school closures for hundreds of thousands of children is an absolute disaster. A million immigrants settled here last year. Five million people have simply dropped out of the workforce and now subsist on benefits. Thousands of children have been abused, trafficked, raped, and even killed by grooming gangs. We lag behind other European nations for going back into the office. Quality of service from companies in the private sector and public services in the state sector has thudded face-first into the earth as a result. Our sainted health service is performing the worst it ever has, and is a black-hole of funding. The organs of the state have ceased to function: passport and driving licences are apparently a luxury rather than a necessity, while the main goal seems to be implementing ever more diversity and gender quotas. Our state capacity is therefore that of a poor south European country without the compensation of a pleasant climate.
And what is the answer presented to all of this? Why, tax cuts of course! This isn’t the sum total of either finalists’ policy proposals, but these are the prescriptions to our economic and social dis-ease that are being touted most vociferously by Liz Truss, the likely winner. And why would they not be? It’s always an attractive piece of political casuistry to tell people you’ll take less of their money one way while they’ll go on losing it in so many other ways. Given the British tax burden is the highest it’s been since the Second World War, this route to party popularity must seem like too good a golden road to electoral survival to miss. Never mind that the economic rationale for cutting taxes isn’t … completely watertight. It’s a sign of our political disconnect from economic reality that Sunak’s arguments against cutting all the taxes all the time has gone down like a lead-lined lifejacket with his prospective party voters. No, we must all hail our saviour Truss for her faith in the Laffer curve, an economic truism worked out on the back of a napkin and further distorted by politics towards the simplistic formula tax cuts always = higher tax revenue. Never mind that the ideology she adheres to represents the dissolution of social ties and the proletarianization of the middle class. Truss is a revolutionary in the mould of her hero Cromwell, a man who committed regicide. Yay, conservatism!
This tax-cut obsession underpins a religious vision where the small state is the worldly heaven towards which we must sacrifice and strain our sinews, an eternal truth applicable to all times and circumstances. The goal is to further liberate the individual from all bonds and constraints, enabling them to achieve this worldview’s highest good of maximum autonomy, never mind the social and cultural dissolution and chaos that it unleashes. Of course, since Thatcher’s time Conservatism as a party phenomenon has been seen as economically liberal, with nods towards some sort of cultural conservatism. This always amounts to little more than a rhetorical sleight-of-hand to distract from the economic preferences of the party elite, who themselves find the social conservatism of their members and those voters in the Red Wall embarrassing and morally retrograde. The Conservative vision of political-economy, culture and society is as impoverished as those it rules without governing are fast becoming.
Out of Ideas
What makes this all the worse is that when J.S. Mill epitomised the smug, self-congratulatory liberal style by calling the Conservatives “the stupidest party,” this was not actually true. But now the leadership candidates’ vague gestures at imitation Thatcherism looks set to prove Mill right. And yet it wasn’t always like this, and does not have to be like this. E.H.H. Green, in his magisterial historical survey, Ideologies of Conservatism, demonstrates that while the Conservative party may indeed not be as philosophical in a formal sense as the left, to say that Conservatives have always been an intellectually barren party is simply wrong.
As Green writes, “Study of Conservative intra-party debate throughout the party’s history, and especially over the course of the ‘Conservative century’, reveals that the controversy over Conservative ideas in the last quarter of the twentieth century was not unique in terms of either its nature or intensity.” The Conservatives at the century’s beginning debated tariff reform, social reform, land reform, industrial and agricultural productivity, Ireland and Empire.
Intra-party debate continued up through the 20th century, carried out in books, public and private party pamphlets and papers, speeches, articles and newspaper columns, as well as two book clubs, along with the Ashridge college of political philosophy. As Green rightly argues, “it may be that the Conservatives produce fewer ‘great texts’ (although they produce and refer to more than is frequently assumed), but if one sets aside the formal, ‘canonical’ notion of the forms of expression of political thought and examines speeches, policymaking discussions, exchanges of views and opinions in correspondence, and the construction of and response to legislation, the Conservatives’ engagement with ideas is clear, rich, varied, and extensive. Politics is about argument, and arguments are about ideas.”
This intellectual ferment was driven both by an innate interest in ideas shown by significant minority, and in reaction to changing events which demanded empirical observation and adaptation. This stemmed from a sense that to govern a great nation was a weighty and serious matter, fraught with danger and risk, one’s greatness not to be taken for granted or put at risk for ideological whim or purity. Leaders of the party actually thought things through in some depth. Even Prime Ministers engaged with the questions of the day with a depth that is incomprehensible in our time. Harold Macmillan wrote books on political-economy that reduce many such contemporary efforts to toilet paper status.
Thatcherism came from the more liberal side of the Conservative tent, but as Green wrote, it grew out of a scene rich in debate and discussion and had intellectual firepower behind it, whether one agrees with the substance or not. The network of thinktanks discussed in Richard Cockett’s book Thinking the Unthinkable communicated ideas from liberal thinkers like Hayek and developed policies from them. One can see these organisations as following in the wake of earlier arguments and institutions, seeing them as an example of what could be achieved and what to achieve it for. Now the Conservatives either serve up stale neoliberal centrism or cosplay Thatcherism.
As Aris Roussinos recently argued, the cramped vision that the Conservative party now offers is far from the full picture, and does not have to be. A series of Conservative ministers and Prime Ministers gave a more expansive view of what constitutes the Conservative vision of the state, political-economy and their relation to society (which does exist and in which we live). As Roussinos writes, figures like Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, R.A. “Rab” Butler and others argued affirmatively for the use of the state to set the course for economic action, and against unbridled, brutal laissez-faire capitalism. A strong state was not, in their view, inimical to the Conservative tradition, and was in fact integral to insuring the social, political and economic conditions that enabled the good life for families and communities.
This attempt to chart a “middle way” between the Scylla and Charybdis of totalising socialism and atomising laissez-faire capitalism is one that sits well within the Conservative tradition, among whose political ancestors we can include the true One Nation philosophy that grew out of Benjamin Disraeli. His main effort was to reconcile and unite the “Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws . . . . THE RICH AND THE POOR.”
As I’ve written before, Disraeli rightly saw that what at the time was called “Manchester Liberalism,” of economic upheaval under the guise of prosperity and social turmoil presented as progress was inimical to social stability and the good life. Disraeli saw and put into words as no-one else could that “The great body of the people of this country are Conservative. I use the word in its purest and loftiest sense. I mean that the people of England, and especially the working classes of England, are proud of belonging to a great country, and wish to maintain its greatness.”
Rachel Wolf, in arguing that what is being offered now by the leadership candidates is the polar opposite of what won the party its 80-seat majority, echoes Disraeli when he declared that “The Tory party is only in its proper position when it represents popular principles. Then it is truly irresistible”. Disraeli saw rightly saw liberalism as a liquefier of social solidarity, “composed purely of wealth and toil, based on a spirit of rapacious covetousness.” As he wrote in his wonderfully scathing way, “Liberal opinions are the opinions of those who would be free from a certain dependence and duty which are deemed necessary for the general or popular welfare. Liberal opinions are very convenient opinions for the rich and powerful.” For Disraeli, the point of governing, and why Conservatism must actually govern through the state, was to “secure the social welfare of the PEOPLE.”
The Edwardian Bridge
Between Disraeli’s vision and that of Macmillan and his generation is a Conservatism of the early 20th century that arguably links the two. Green traces the development of a British Conservatism inflected by the Idealist school of philosophy espoused by T.H. Green at Balliol. The Historical school of economists grew from this scene. The group “first came to prominence in Britain in the 1880s, and from that point on developed a sustained critique of Classical economics and what it saw as its vulgarized derivatives, Manchesterism [laissez-faire liberalism] and Socialism.” The Historical school was against free trade and for protection where needed, saw nations, unions, trusts and groups in general as more important for political-economy than the isolated, supposedly rational individual of Smith and Ricardo, and supported state intervention to create the conditions for economic prosperity through industrial productivity and thereby ease social discontent and prevent unrest.
Conservative figures like Alfred Milner, Leopold Amery, J.W. Hills, and Arthur Steel-Maitland also came from this milieu, influencing more in the party. All were in favour of using the state for social and economic reform for the common good. Through the minor figure Arthur Boutwood, E.H.H. Green argues that these Conservatives saw the individual as an ethical being whose aim was the realisation of his potential, with self-realisation the sum of life. [HG2] The role of the individual and nation were inseparable: individual self-realisation was only possible through society, as citizens of the nation into which we are born, and which provides our social, cultural, political and economic context. The potential of the individual citizen and the nation were seen as realised by each other. Citizenship was “freedom for duty,” and therefore commitment to the common good.
As Green writes, “Boutwood argued that true freedom could only come through co-operative acts that were born out of a recognition and realization of mutual needs and goals.” According to Green, Boutwood saw the relationship between the individual and the nation as one where the individual and nation had a duty to each other, and if the nation “’be not effectually and equitably serviceable, it should be made so’.” The state was to enable this, and “to achieve its ‘moral conception’ by … ‘work that sustains and fosters [the nation’s] life, that builds up its people into serviceable manhood’”, to create the conditions for individual, communal and national opportunity. In other words, to govern, and to reform where needed for the reciprocal common good.
Boutwood was, again, a minor figure, but one whose writing encapsulated a view of society and political economy that galvanised many more significant men of the time, including eminent aristocratic party members and the Historical economists. The need for politicians and economists to lay the ground for individual and national prosperity and stability was best expressed by H.S. Fox when he wrote “’The State may become social reformer without becoming Socialist, but if the State does not become social reformer it will inevitably become Socialist’.” We face similar circumstances today, and it was because of this that the Historical school and more Conservatives than one would think were in favour of social reforms including pensions and workers rights and protections. As Green writes, ‘By 1914 [the Unionist Social Reform Committee] had proposed an extension of old-age pension rights, argued for minimum wages in certain trades, sponsored several schemes for working-class housing, and was close to presenting a blueprint for a national health service.”
The central aim of this kind of Conservatism, “was to provide the basis for a socially and politically integrative strategy that could overcome tensions and divisions within Britain.” To achieve this required cultivating national unity, “which in turn required acknowledging that the nation was … an organic entity. It was here that a positive role for the State was essential, in that the State was to ensure that no particular section of society was to be systematically undervalued or over-privileged. In practical terms this meant … social reform in the domestic sphere to alleviate the privations of the poorer classes, but carried through without recourse to class-divisive rhetoric or actions.”
There is a Conservative view of the state that runs through the true One Nation tradition descended from Disraeli, which underlay the worldview and policies of Edwardian Conservatism, Macmillan’s post-war Conservatism, and was buried by Thatcherism. We obviously can’t, nor should we, replicate exactly these kinds of Conservatism for today. But we must reignite the intellectual fire that galvanised Conservatism up to Thatcher’s time, and look again at the approach of the figures above towards the use of the state in service to our political, social, economic, and national life. The country is facing a range of problems that could very well prove disastrous or even catastrophic. These will not be solved or ameliorated by pursuing small-state dogma, but by the Conservatives learning to govern again. Whether that can be done remains to be seen.
Post Views: 218
From Weimar to the Third Reich: the birth of a dictatorshipBy Daniel Hawker — 5 months ago
History has seen its fair share of wicked and corrupt leaders and regimes, from Ivan the Terrible, to Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, to Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein. These men, and others like them, desired to tightly grip the reins of power and not let go, entrenching themselves and their position within the political system. Of all the possible regimes to explore with this piece, Hitler’s Third Reich was chosen because to its dual notoriety and anonymity – Nazi Germany is known to almost everyone as a significant historical period, but the system’s context, beginning and how Hitler came to be Führer is a far more elusive story.
A solid understanding of Hitler’s time in power requires some historical context, specifically the end of the First World War and the subsequent years of the democratic Weimar Republic. The country’s crushing defeat, as part of the Central Powers, saw the victors gather to decide how both to punish and subdue Germany – the result was the Treaty of Versailles, signed by Foreign Minister Hermann Müller in 1919. The terms were far harsher than the Germans had anticipated, due mainly to France’s involvement: they accepted war guilt, had to pay 132bn marks in reparations (as well as all war pensions), their army was limited to 100,000 men, and they lost the key territories of Saar, Alsace Lorraine and Danzig. From the perspective of almost all Germans, regardless of region or class, Versailles represented the most heinous betrayal by the political elites. Having been the catalyst for the Weimar Republic, this new political system never managed to escape the Treaty’s legacy, with its dark shadow tarnishing the concept of ‘democracy’.
For conservative nationalists and monarchists however, even Germany’s military defeat couldn’t be accepted, resulting in the anti-Semitic ‘Stab in the Back’ myth, which essentially argued that, far from being the fault of the soldiers, Germany’s defeat had actually been the result of traitorous elites and politicians (many of whom were Jewish) working to undermine the country’s war effort. This was a narrative that greatly appealed to Adolf Hitler, who similarly couldn’t accept the reality of the situation – he described Germany’s defeat in Mein Kampf as “the greatest villainy of the century”, and one which anti-German propaganda greatly contributed to, “with Jewish, socialist propaganda spreading doubt and defeatism from within”.
With such widespread shared outrage following Versailles, it is no wonder that the Weimar Republic was plagued with social unrest, political violence and attempted coups from the very beginning. From the communist left, you had the Spartacist Uprising in 1919, fuelled by a desire to replace Weimar with a Soviet-style system (inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution), and from the nationalist right, you had the Kapp Putsch in 1920 (and Hitler’s Munich Putsch in 1923), who harkened back to the authoritarian monarchical style of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Bismarck. Add to this list the regularity of politically-motivated street violence, as well as the assassinations of major politicians (the finance minister in 1921, and the foreign minister in 1922), and you have a government unable to defend either itself, or it’s citizenry.
Public confidence in the Weimar regime was perhaps most seriously damaged by the country’s economic instability across the entire period, from 1918 to 1933. Already decimated by mass-printing and borrowing during the War, the German economy would suffer numerous economic crises, beginning with hyperinflation in 1923. The result of a French invasion and occupation, the government was forced to increase its borrowing, further decimating living standards – increased alcoholism and suicide rates were recorded, along with a decline in law and order, and more generally, public trust in the government. Although briefly graced with the ‘Golden Years’ (1923-29), Germany once again faced economic decimation in the form of the Great Depression, which again saw mass social unrest, as well as six million unemployed citizens (1933).
By the early 1930s therefore, extremist anti-Weimar parties were becoming increasingly popular with the angry and struggling German electorate. This is reflected in seat counts: the Nazis went from 12 seats in 1928, to 107 in 1930, before reaching their all-time high of 230 in July 1932 – similarly, the communist KPD reached an impressive 100 in November 1932. Fundamentally, what Hitler and the Nazis were offering increasingly spoke to much of the German population – ending reparations, regaining national pride, the promise of full-employment, a Kaiser-like leader, and an uncompromising stance against the boogeymen of the time, Jews and Communists.
His appointment as Chancellor wasn’t guaranteed by any means however, thanks to President Paul von Hindenburg. Having once described Hitler as a ‘bohemian corporal’, he was concerned with Hitler’s lack of government experience, although had offered Hitler the position of vice-chancellor in 1932. What forced his hand however, was the enormous influence wielded by the industry elites, who viewed Hitler as the authoritarian figure that the chancellorship needed, an opinion fuelled by their fear of communism’s increasing popularity
However, once Hitler’s appointment became necessary and inevitable, Hindenburg, along with former chancellor Papen, conspired to control a Hitler-led government, believing Hitler’s lack of experience meant he would be like a puppet who could be ‘tamed’. The two men thought that, with few Nazis in the Cabinet, and with Papen as Vice-Chancellor, true power could lie with them, with Hitler being Chancellor in name only. How wrong they were.
Having attained the chancellorship in January 1933, Hitler now set about securing his position, first through legislative changes. This came most significantly in two forms: the Reichstag Fire Decree in February 1933, and then the Enabling Act in March. Both pieces of legislation legally grounded the fledgling regime, granting them the authority and power to act as they wish, and silence those who opposed them.
The hurried passing of the emergency Reichstag Fire Decree came in the wake of a suspected Communist-led arson of the Reichstag building. Arriving at the scene alongside other leading Nazis, Hitler viewed the crime as a blatant assault on the German state, and all it stood for. In response, Hitler pressured Hindenburg to sign the Act into law, which saw the suspension of essentially all freedoms and civil liberties (e.g., the right to association, speech, freedom of the press etc). These rights wouldn’t see a revival later on. Aside from removing freedoms, the Decree also saw a brutal crackdown of political opponents (as the police no longer required cause, and could hold people indefinitely). Indeed, the first 2 weeks following the Decree’s signing saw around 10,000 people arrested in Prussia, including many prominent communist leaders. From the perspective of Richard J. Evans, “this was the first of the two fundamental documents on which the dictatorship of the Third Reich was erected”.
Even more significant, however, was the passing of the Enabling Act. Single-handedly transforming Germany into a legal dictatorship, the Act allowed the Cabinet to pass legislation without requiring the consent of either the Reichstag or the president. Indeed, this paved the way for the Nazis to further tighten their grip on the political system – for example, the founding of new parties was banned in July 1933. Fundamentally, with an unrivalled number of NSDAP Reichstag members, Hitler had made democracy into dictatorship in only a few months – in the words of Evans: “By the summer of 1933 all opposition had been crushed, more than a hundred thousand Communists, Social Democrats and other opponents of the Nazis had been sent to concentration camps, all independent political parties had been forced to dissolve themselves and the Nazi dictatorship had been firmly established”. Combining the offices of president and chancellor in 1934 (following Hindenburg’s death), Hitler’s adoption of the Führer title cemented his authority and that of his party.
In consolidating Nazi power, Hitler definitely made his position within the new hierarchy very clear. This can be seen in the ‘Hitler Oath’, introduced for the judiciary, military and civil servants. Having previously sworn loyalty to ‘the German Reich’, officials now swore “unconditional obedience” to Hitler personally. This reflected the broader ruling philosophy of the Nazi regime, one in place since the party’s reorganisation in 1924, Führerprinzip (essentially that the Führer’s decisions are always correct, and that he is all-powerful and above the law). With the effective spreading of propaganda, Hitler came to encapsulate a past era of Germany’s history, one dominated by patriotic and statist authoritarians, notably the much-sentimentalized Bismarckian and Wilhelmine Reich.
Regarding institutional control, Hitler set about ensuring political conformity within branches of local government and the Civil Service. Although dominated by conservatives from the Wilhelmine Reich, a purge of ‘enemies of the State’ was still required of civil servants – this came in the form of the anti-Semitic ‘Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service’, which banned Jews, progressives and others. Germany’s Jewish community would, later on, see further exclusion from institutions, including education (both as students and as teachers). Additionally, the local government saw its own purge of dissidents, as well as an overhaul of its structure, with Reich Deputies introduced to administer the different states – in doing this, the Nazis ensured that all areas of the country were under their top-down control.
Nazi actions were similar towards the media establishment. Fearing the damaging impacts of rogue leftist reporting, the Reich Association of the German Press was set up, to review all content and keep the journalists, editors and publishers in line with the regime’s messaging. The same happened within the cultural and artistic spheres of German society – fearing the spread of ‘degenerate’ modern art (labelled as Cultural Bolshevism), it was the Reich Chamber of Culture that reversed the artistic progressivism seen in the ‘Golden Years’ of the Weimar Republic.
Whilst these two agencies monitored for anti-Nazi media sentiment, it was through the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (headed by Joseph Goebbels) that the regime was able to most effectively spread its hateful rhetoric, with a unified radio system being established in 1934, and radios being mass-produced for the population. Allowing Hitler to more easily speak to his people, this communications technology proved vital in further cementing Nazism into the everyday lives of the citizenry. Aside from this, the agency also oversaw the production of pro-Nazi films, which praised Aryan physical qualities, all the whilst presenting Jews as parasitic, manipulative and barbaric (most famously seen with the release of The Eternal Jew in 1940).
These structural changes however, would only get Hitler’s vision for Germany so far. He could make himself the supreme leader, root out opponents in state institutions and the media, and spread the party’s ideas of racial purity all he wanted, but what the Führer really needed was a population ideologically committed to National Socialism, a concept the Nazis referred to as a Volksgemeinschaft, or ‘national/people’s community’. With the population having been divided under Weimar, Hitler aspired to rule a unified Germany, one with a populace devoted to the Fatherland. For this to work however, all social groups would have to see real life improvements.
With unemployment having reached six million by 1933, Hitler’s aim with Germany’s workers was more jobs and improving their living conditions. Emphasizing ‘recovery’ during the first few years, unemployment was indeed reduced, to a staggering 1.6m by 1936. As far as conditions went, the ‘Beauty of Work’ programme managed an overhaul of factories, including improvements to safety measures and the quality of toilets. Alongside this came the ‘Strength through Joy’ (KdF) initiative, which provided workers with cheap leisure activities, such as holidays in the country and trips to the theatre, all of which were eagerly taken advantage of. Despite these steps taken by the German Labour Front (DAF), modern historians have raised the concern that, far from being genuinely dedicated to the regime, workers simply publicly supported Nazism to continue enjoying these benefits.
Having enjoyed uniquely-progressive freedoms under the Weimar Constitution, women under the Nazi regime were reverted back to their traditional domestic childbearing role. Indeed, women under this system were granted easier access to divorce, as well as the ‘Cross of Honour of the German Mother’, to encourage them to have more and more children. With many women enamoured by the image of the Führer as the eternal bachelor, the regime saw essentially no organised opposition by women, along with emotional displays of love for Hitler at public events.
The Nazis’ approach to the youth was focused on combining physical war training with lessons in National Socialism. Achieved through both schools and the Hitler Youth (which became compulsory from 1936), young German boys went on hiking and camping trips, as well as new Nazi content, such as racial science and reading extracts of Mein Kampf. Indeed, many schoolboys became obsessed with the legendary figure of Hitler, and were successfully transformed into puppets of the regime, reporting their neighbours and family members to the authorities for anti-Nazi sentiment. However, the many opposition youth movements of the late-1930s represented a growing disillusionment with the regime and its ideology – groups like the Swingers, who adopted American fashions and jazz music, and the Edelweiss Pirates, who mingled with the opposite sex.
The extent to which a genuine Volksgemeinschaft was actually created however, is greatly debated amongst historians. Fundamentally, whilst these groups may have appeared satisfied and ideologically committed at public events, they were all terrified of what would happen if they weren’t. Everyone in the country was kept in line by the omnipresence of the Reich’s repressive terror apparatus.
Although relatively small in numbers, the Gestapo was, in the mind of the average German, around every street corner – it was this image that people had that made them so terrifying. Reading mail, making midnight arrests and utilising torture, they served to root out enemies of the regime and strike fear into the population. However effective their own methods were, the Gestapo relied even more heavily on public tip-offs and denunciations of neighbours and acquaintances, from which they received 57% of their information from. Established by Goering as the Minister President of Prussia, the Gestapo would soon be transferred over to the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler.
The parent organisation of the Gestapo, the SS served as the regime’s key intelligence, security and terror agency. Rooting out political enemies (such as remaining party and trade union leaders), it was the SS that oversaw the Fire Decree arrests and executions. Also serving a crucial role in the neutralisation of the regime’s racial targets, the agency would later control the building and running of the concentration (and extermination) camps, as well as the death squads sent into Eastern Europe during the War.
Although these two agencies were ruthless and highly-effective at rooting out opposition, certain figures remained, both within the political and party systems, who posed a serious threat to Hitler’s growing power. This increasing paranoia would culminate in June 1934, with the ‘Night of the Long Knives’. A brutal purge of Hitler’s enemies, it was initiated by growing concern over the direction of the SA, the party’s paramilitary group – they were becoming too brutish and uncontrollable. Thus, to consolidate his position, Hitler had the leadership, including his close friend Ernst Röhm, assassinated in the dead of night. Other victims included internal party rivals, like the progressive Gregor Strasser, and remaining Weimar politicians, like former chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. Serving as a harrowing example of what would become of the regime’s enemies, the purge also guaranteed Hitler the loyalty of the Army, who’d supplied the SS with the necessary weaponry.
Hitler’s rise to power, from a minor nationalist political agitator in the 1920s, to the undisputed supreme leader of Germany a decade later, serves as an extreme example of how charismatic and intelligent figures can take advantage of a peoples’ anger towards the Establishment, coupled with dire socioeconomic circumstances. Having come to be engrossed with the anti-Semitism peddled by Richard Wagner and Pan-German groups in the 1910s, Hitler’s vehement racism, combined with his skill for passionate public speaking, would see him go from a semi-homeless failing artist in Vienna, to arguably the most infamous figure in human history, responsible for the deaths of tens of millions.
Post Views: 213
A Libertarian Case Against ImmigrationBy Jess Gill — 5 months ago
Immigration is a massive issue within the UK. Many libertarian and neoliberal think tanks seem to be out of touch with what the ordinary man thinks about immigration as they advocate for a more liberalised immigration system and even open borders. This has given the term liberal a rotten taste for many Britons on the topic of immigration. A notorious example of this is Sam Bowman, a senior fellow of the neoliberal institution The Adam Smith Institute, who tweeted:
“I also favour huge amounts of immigration from unskilled workers from poor countries on the grounds that if it improves their welfare, including if it reduces the welfare of Britons, e.g. through higher crime.”
This, of course, comes off as insensitive and patronising. It is a real concern of the British public, both for economic and cultural reasons, to want to control our borders. This concern should not be dismissed by neoliberals who dismiss the negatives of immigration. In fact, those who claim to be champions of freedom should also take into consideration the freedom of those already inhibiting the country and their property rights.
Those who advocate for “freedom of movement” forget the enormous amounts of benefits that immigrants receive once they enter the country. From the NHS, housing benefits, universal credit, and roads: there are an enormous amount of entitlements that immigrants receive, regardless of whether they pay tax. Even Milton Friedman observed that “you cannot simultaneously have free immigration and the welfare state”. Shouldn’t the British taxpayer be free from being forced to subsidise the lifestyle of those who enter the country?
Currently, the government is trying to implant an asylum centre for up to 1,500 in the small village in Yorkshire, Linton on Ouse. This would severely change the culture of a village which has a population of about 700. The neoliberal approach would be to allow them in, after all freedom of movement is a human right! This mass importation which would massively change the environment is disrespectful to the locals. The solution which respects the rights and concerns of the native population is to decentralise decision making to the lowest level possible. It’s easy for Westminster bureaucrats to assign a thousand men to a small village without acknowledging the consequences. The residents of Linton on Ouse should have their voices heard.
In his book Against the Left, Lew Rockwell discusses how Switzerland’s immigration policy before joining the European Union could be shown as an interesting example of decentralising immigration policy:
“In Switzerland, localities decided on immigration, and immigrants or their employers had to pay to admit a prospective migrant. In this way, residents could better ensure that their communities would be populated by people who would add value and who would not stick them with the bill for a laundry list of “benefits.””
The notion of “freedom of movement” disregards property rights. An individual cannot come into your home without invitation. As Hans Hermann Hoppe noted:
“No one has a right to move to a place already occupied by somebody else, unless he has been invited by a present occupant. And if all places are already occupied, all migration is migration by invitation only. A right to “free” immigration exists only for virgin country, for the open frontier.”
Furthermore, even though libertarians argue that public property has been appropriated illegitimately, it does not mean that the property is unowned and a free for all. Hoppe continues:
“It has been funded through local, regional, national or federal tax payments, and it is the payers of these taxes, then, and no one else, who are the legitimate owners of all public property. They cannot exercise their right – that right has been arrogated by the State – but they are the legitimate owners.”
In his article, Nations by Consent, Murray Rothbard sets out his argument against open borders even within a stateless society:
“On rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have “open borders” at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as “closed” as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire.”
Having controlled borders is not antithetical towards libertarianism. Those who actually favour liberty should value freedom of association and property rights rather than the false leftist notion of “freedom of movement” that tarnishes the name of liberalism and freedom. The Westminster liberals should stop sneering at the British public for their concerns over immigration and join them in the fight for freedom.
Post Views: 211