Nollaig shona daoibh

Now of course I cannot allow Edward to remain the only afoer offering our readers holiday greetings in an obscure Celtic tongue. And I’ll throw in a nice wee pressie to boot: nazis in disarray!

Back in September 2004 I wrote in a comment to a post about neonazi electoral gains in eastern Germany:

As many have pointed out, electoral support for the extreme right in Germany is a fickle and transitory thing, and the Union has a habit of picking up the strays. The Reps and the DVU have had their 15 minutes, now it’s the NPD’s turn. With any luck, this election will have been their high water mark.

Well, it looks like that is indeed the case, and just in time for Christmas, too.

As the Frankfurter Rundschau reports (auf Deutsch), three NPD members of Saxony’s state parliament have left the party (and its parliamentary fraction) in the past week. Two of them have signed on to a programme for those seeking to escape neonazi circles, and all have requested police protection. The NPD are left, then, with nine of the twelve seats they won in the last elections. Their shrinkage has an immediate and positive result: thanks to the reduced size of the NPD fraction, the party lose half the committee positions to which they are entitled. They also forfeit a portion of the state money every party gets.

The party itself is livid, of course, stamping their booted little feet and fuming about ‘treason’ and ‘conspiracy’. I believe the word they are looking for is ‘Dolchstoss‘.

22 thoughts on “Nollaig shona daoibh

  1. Worthy of note also is that one of the highest ranking NPD members to have quit the party is being actively considered for membership in the CDU …

    Pi.

  2. yeah, the CDU seems determined to redefine the term “catch all party”…

    The sister of a friend was the chairwoman of a west German chapter of the PDS/Linkspartei until last summer. A couple of weeks ago I heard something like the following on the radio… “the former chairwoman of the PDS Rhineland-Palatinate, [name], has today become a member of the CDU. [name] stated that this had been a longer thought process.”

    And of course, there’s this report from Spiegel online about 200 alevite Turks signing up for CDU membership in Hamburg.

    http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/0,1518,392112,00.html

    Now that’s clearly gonna bolster their Merkelmania ;).

  3. Seasonal salutations and a happy Saturnalia to all.

    Pardon me, but the Nazis were often in disarray, hence the infamous “night of the long knives” at the end of June 1934.

    It is a mistake, I think, to attach special significance to the defection of a NPD member to the CDU. Sir Oswald Mosley, who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932, had previously been a cabinet minister in Ramsay Macdonald’s Labour government 1929-31. Mussolini was a member of Italy’s socialist party and editor of Aventi!, the party newspaper, before he was expelled and went on to found Fasci di Combattimento in 1919. On the historic evidence, it is a myth that fascist parties and their like are “right wing”.

  4. >”right wing”

    No, not overly significant, except one guy probably realising that he might have a chance to win a seat again in four years but only if he’s no longer attached to the NPD… We won’t know for sure until then, but that’s what I think might have been the reason for such a public and relatively early break-up.

    Still, it would show that even members of their state parliamentary party are realising that the last election led to the NPD’s 15 minutes and that those with any interest of remaining in the political business (those who might even have some sort of feeling for reaching out to otherwise disconnected parts of the electorate) need to cut some kind of deal while that’s still possible.

    That’s my take.

    I think the Hamburg mass-entry is more interesting…

  5. Thanks for that, Edward. If we reflect on it, a high incidence of rows and struggles in fascist movements is to be expected since such movements are avowedly anti-intellectual. The enjoined substitute is to “think with the blood” instead. Disputes over policy differences can therefore never be resolved by rational debate as a matter of high principle.

    Moreover, on a further principle the leader can’t be selected by means of a democratic election as that would amount to an explicit admission of failure in terms of the espoused ideology. The only acceptable way is for the leader to “emerge” as the result of personal charisma and to be endorsed by public acclamation.

    Few recipes for a political movement could be better contrived to ferment splits, often as the result of personality clashes. Arguably, the more interesting issues relate to the similarities between fascism and authoritarian movements popularly dubbed as “leftist”.

    Naturally, the exponents of both ideologies vehemently repudiate any suggestion of convergence but Robert Conquest, in his study of Stalin (Weidenfeld, 2000), reported something which might give us an important insight. The British ambassador to Nazi Germany in 1936 evidently reported back to the foreign office that the contingent of ex-Communists in a march past of the SA [Sturmabteilung – the Nazi brown shirts] in Berlin was the best turned out. Much is made in the history of the events leading up to WW2 of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of late August 1939 and the invasion of Poland shortly thereafter.

    Much less noticed is the German-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 28 September when the war was already in progress. Amongst other issues the treaty provided for the exchange of liaison officers between the German and Soviet armies across their mutual frontier running through what had been Polish tereritory. For documentation, see Norman Davies: Europe (OUP 1996), p.1000. As Norman Davies is widely regarded as a leading authority on Poland’s history – including by the Poles – I think we can take his account as fairly definitive. Whatever else, Stalin evidently had no insuperable objections to the Soviet Union contracting a Friendship Treaty with Nazi Germany.

    Another intriguing issue in this context relates to the provenance of the “third way”. In Martin Clark’s book on: Modern Italy 1871-1995 (Longman 2nd ed. 1996: ISBN: 0582051266), p.250, where the author writes about the policies of Mussolini’s fascist government : “They seemed to offer ‘a third way’, between capitalism and Bolshevism, which looked attractive in the Depression. …”

    All very curious. Martin Clark is an academic historian at Edinburgh University and the second edition of the book was published the year before New Labour was elected to power in Britain with Blair as Prime Minister. Shortly thereafter, Blair launched “the Third Way” as the New Labour vision for the future. It is common knowledge that he was advised by several prominent academics some of whom also wrote about the “Third Way” and its relevance to our times. It is therefore difficult to believe that choice of the term was entirely accidental for surely they would have checked the provenance. The running saga about the endless struggle between Blair and Brown for the leadership of New Labour has acquired a whole new perspective.

  6. Thanks, Bob. Nazis and fascists are extreme nationalist left wingers indeed.

    A real extreme right wing party based on the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek has yet to emerge.

    I don’t dare to dream about an Ayn Rand’s party if something like that is even thinkable 🙂

  7. If you really regard Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) as a “right wing” manifesto that would be an intriguingly novel idea.

    Hayek’s recurring worry was that after WW2 the American and European governments would adopt economic policies that converged with those applied in the Third Reich, which is hardly the concern of someone who supposedly embodies an extreme “rightist” position on the political spectrum.

  8. On the historic evidence, it is a myth that fascist parties and their like are “right wing”

    I agree that ‘fascism as the unpleasant extreme of the right end of the spectrum, Stalinism as its equivalent to the left’ is over-simplistic. However, there’s a problem for the ‘fascism is really leftwing’ meme propagated with glee by so many on the right. At least, there is such a problem in the old nazi homeland. Neonazism here has, you see, always had a small but steady and important feeder-stream from the liberal parties, which is (according to this meme) the last place one should expect to find budding brownshirts. (For the benefit of readers in the USA, I am using ‘liberal’ not in its American sense of ‘social-democracy-and-water’ but in its European sense off ‘libertarianism-and-water’.) Franz Schönhuber, who would eventually mount the hustings for all three of Germany’s leading postwar neonazi parties, began his postwar political career in the FDP, the German liberal party. In Austria, Jörg Haider essentially turned the entire liberal party into his brain-controlled zombie. (Unlike Schönhuber, Haider has not yet departed this vale of tears, but he has withdrawn to his remote mountain fastness to lick his wounds, his nazified FPÖ now led by an even more egregious arsepudding). Even the original nazis got their power when the other parties voted it to them, among them the liberal Deutsche Staatspartei of later FDP-founder (and first postwar German president) Theodor Heuss. (The honourable exceptions in the Reichstag were the SPD, who refused the nazis their votes, and the communists, whose honourable exceptionality was perhaps a bit involuntary, the nazis having illegally detained them, and murdered many of them outright, just before the vote.)

    Still and all, I agree that violent fascist movements and violent Marxist-Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist movements do look rather alike if one squints, and sometimes one needn’t squint very hard. On the other hand, remember what Orwell said about Franco’s Falange: only bishops, landowners and playboys could be happy at its accession to power. Churches and the rich and others who’d advocate the suppression of leftwing movements by all means available have, with some regularity, managed to be strong about the rise of rightwing dictatorships. That’s not, I think, a phenomenon devoid of significance.

    Finally, whatever about fine ideological distinctions, if the term ‘rightwing’ has any meaning at all (though I agree it often has less than we think), then rightwing is what fascists are. Only by artifically limiting the meaning of ‘conservatism’ to a sort of purehearted Burkeanism with a dash of libertarian economics thrown in can one deny that fascists are a conservative movement (and by that same standard George Bush himself is no conservative; though concedely there are one or two conservatives left in America who make that very complaint). It’s fair to remind the left that Musso was a socialist once. But sauce for the goose. The right can’t be allowed to put Burke in the seat of honour while banishing de Maistre to a locked attic and maintaining an embarrassed silence about him.

  9. BTW Tobias, that story about the Alevite Turks does indeed look interesting. I’d like to indulge in a self-satsified hmmph! and point out how this supports my ideas about (i) the Union as natural home for the largely very social-conservative Turkish community and (ii) the countervailing xenophobia of much of the existing Union electorate that prevents the party from exploiting that resource. But a closer reading suggests the whole afair is very much Hanseatic inside-baseball; I’m not certain there even are larger lessons to be drawn from all this, but if so, they seem to be firmly in second place to a highly complex (and highly place- and community-specific) game being played out among (i) the Alevites, (ii) that one CDU bloke with the plump cheeks and brilliantined hair and (iii) the rest of the Hamburg party.

  10. Mrs T., I agree. Still, it’s interesting. I don’t think this would have happened even five years ago, regardless of specific agendas.

    Bob, I’ve spoken to social scientists who regard Hayek as a “fascist in disguise”. That’s because unfettered market forces will in their eyes not lead to any kind of personal and societal liberation but to totalitarianism by private hierarchies. There’s a lot of conceptual confusion there, but that’s the way they some see it.

    Ok, now that she’s given an interview I might as well link to it – the classmate’s sister i talked about above, who’s recently left the PDS and became a member of the CDU has talked about it to (obviously) “Die Welt” (in German) –
    http://www.welt.de/data/2005/12/27/823201.html

  11. I don’t happen to believe that the labels “right-” and “left-wing” or a linear, two-dimentional political spectrum carry any precise connotations. However, it is evident that many folks plainly do use the labels as though they believe the labels have exacting and recognisable connotations. What is arguably worse, it appears as though some make policy decisions and political alignments which suggest that they believe that the labels do have substantive meaning.

    This is worrying because it is clearly documented that Mussolini – who is generally credited with inventing the term “fascism” – was a socialist before he became a fascist. It was also no accident that the full name of the Nazis was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Look at the text of the fundamental Nazi programme. Besides the explicit racist policies there were many items relating to economic policies commonly found in the manifestoes of European socialist parties both before WW2 and since, such as commitments to state ownership of business and welfare benefits. The Nazis denounced “Bolshevism” but not “socialism” and could hardly have done so and retained credibility since the Party’s name and programme clearly displayed explicit commitments to “socialism”.

    In Britain, Mosley was also clear in setting out a “leftist” stall for the British Union of Fascists in his public speeches. We know this is so not only because Mosley claimed that he was a “person of the left” but also because we have a contemporary account by George Orwell of a public meeting in 1936 at which Mosely spoke and Orwell was both an independent and highly critical witness – impeccable citations available. Importantly in relation to other issues, Orwell’s notes on the meeting make it clear that the existence of “camps” in Nazi Germany was already then public knowledge.

    We know from robust sources that the Nazis in power in Germany successfully reduced unemployment by a huge public works programme – initially on autobahns and public buildings before turning to rearmament. Consequential inflationary pressures were curbed through a battery of controls on domestic prices and wages while the gold parity of the Reich Mark was defended by exchange controls on international transactions. The Nazi economy was anything but a laissez-faire economy with unfettered markets.

    The contrast with the framework of government policies in Britain at the time was very marked. The fixed gold parity of Sterling was abandoned in September 1931 and there was no public works programme of any significance to reduce unemployment, partly or mainly because Britain’s Treasury was of a view at the time that public works spending crowded out private spending so the overall effect on employment was minimal. In fact, Britain’s economy grew strongly after the trough of the depression in 1931/2 through to 1938 but that was the outcome of a flexible exchange rate and the (independent) Bank of England keeping interest rates down. Economic buoyancy was generated, amongst other factors, by an extensive private-sector speculative surburban house-building boom promoted by the low interest rates – the many acres of 1930s suburban semis is a striking visual testimony of how extensive this housing boom was.

    I have long held strong reservations about the rounds of flourishing rhetoric on “unfettered markets”. Markets in the affluent market economies are never unfettered. For a start, efficiently functioning markets depend on an elaborate infrastructure of laws, regulations and institutions which shape and enforce contracts. The important controversy (and research) focuses on the differences between the respective national laws, regulations and institutions. On the evidence, some infrastructures of laws and institutions are manifestly more successful than others at achieving higher rates of growth of GDP and employment and lower rates of unemployment and inflation.

  12. …I’ve spoken to social scientists who regard Hayek as a “fascist in disguise”. That’s because unfettered market forces will in their eyes not lead to any kind of personal and societal liberation but to totalitarianism by private hierarchies.

    Oh those “scientists” who keep bashing multinational corporations. Astrology is a hard science when compared to what these charlatans do.

    To Mrs. Tilton: You have a grain of truth pointing that Franco was a “rightist” in the conservative sense meaning emphasis on values like tradition, hierarchy, church, army, family, and so on. OK, I’m fine by that.

    However, Mussolini was a socialist during all his life and so was Hitler. If you ever read the economic program of NPD, it’s very lefty reading, too. Could be a social democratic program after some small changes in wording.

  13. Oh yes, Mrs. T., you should also know that economic growth and fertility rate were higher under Franco’s government, while tax burden and unemployment were lower when compared to the period of 1980-to date.

    Not that I’d like to hang Franco’s portrait in my living room, but one should see things without prejudices.

  14. Yet another reason why the stereotypical left-right labelling is confusing in Europe is that the credit for first devising and implementing a state pension scheme belongs to Bismarck, in his capacity as first chancellor of the German empire (1871-90), and his motivation can hardly be described as “leftist”.

    We need to recall this because it gives us important insights into why the deeply entrenched state welfare systems of western European countries are as much the creation of christian democrat and conservative traditions as they are of social democrat and leftist traditions, which is likely why what is dubbed the European social model has proved so difficult to reform despite valid and profound concerns about whether existing benefit rates in national welfare models are sustainable with population ageing.

    In my experience, many are (understandably) shocked when they first encounter evidence from history showing how flawed is the stereotypical left-right division. Another example comes from Labour governments in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s which introduced state funding institutions to support and restructure business that were modelled on Italian institutions pioneered by Mussloni’s government in the 1930s:

    “However it was with the idea of a state planning agency that [Stuart] Holland [economic assistant to the PM, Cabinet Office 1966-67, political assistant to the PM 1967-8, Downing St., Labour MP for Vauxhall 1979-89] hoped to show the new possibilities open to a more just economy. He looked to the Italian example of the IRI (the Industrial Reconstruction Institute), set up by Mussolini and used by subsequent Italian governments to develop the economy. This had, of course, already been tried through the IRC (the Industrial Reorganization Corporation) set up as part of the National Plan in 1966 [of Harold Wilson’s government], but the IRC had been too small to have much effect on the British economy. A revamped IRC in the form of a National Enterprise Board would, however, have a major effect in stimulating the private sector through an active policy of state intervention and direction.” [from Geoffrey Foote: The Labour Party’s Political Thought: A History (1997) p.311. Holland’s own book, Socialist Challenge (1974), sets out in greater detail policy proposals for a Labour government modelled on the policies of Mussolini’s government.]

  15. Relative to GDP the growth numbers were higher during Franco (not that difficult if your country is almost a third world country) but the growth in absolute numbers is now much bigger. Also unempolyment is highly dependend on how social security payments are stuctured. A more meaningfull measure is % of workforce working and even that can be fake

  16. “A more meaningfull measure is % of workforce working and even that can be fake”

    Absolutely. At present, 2.7 million people in Britain receive “incapacity benefits” from the public purse, at a cost of £12 billion a year, because they have been deemed on medical advice to be unfit to work. By press reports, some government ministers are said to believe that of the 2.7 million, about 1 million are capable of working so the government intends to publish in the near future a consultative paper proposing reforms.

    The following links document the background and issues:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4228645.stm
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-1959541,00.html

  17. With Mrs Thatcher starting the privatization of state owned business in Britain in the early 1980s and Tony Blair’s government continuing it, there are few government owned companies remaining nowadays to hide unemployment in. I must hunt out the Eurostat data again for state aids in the EU but as I recall Britain was somewhere down near the bottom of the EU league table for the amount of state aids paid out to business in Britain.

  18. This should really only be a surprise to anyone who thinks the only variable in the left-right spectrum is the public sector’s share of GDP. In fact, the interesting thing ought to be the difference in values/institutional culture that coexists with a degree of agreement on economics between the left and right..

  19. By many appearances in the news, a wodge of Labour MPs regularly protest about Blair government policies for leading to increasing “privatization” of the public sector. That has most recently cropped up in connection with “modernisation” of the probation service and periodically surfaces in connection with railway maintenance. It featured prominently in the debates about the part-privatization of air traffic control.

    On the evidence, the self-proclaimed left in politics seems to lack a working concensus on the appropriate boundary between the business activities of the public and private sectors.

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