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The Greatest Cultural Victory of the Left Has Been to Disregard the Nazi-Soviet Pact 

daniel_hannan_140_small is the author of ‘How we Invented Freedom‘ (published in the US and Canada as ‘Inventing Freedom: how the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World‘). He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes the EU is making its peoples poorer, less democratic and less free.

 writes: Seventy-five years ago today, Red Army troops smashed into Poland. Masters of deception and propaganda, they encouraged locals to believe that they were coming to join the battle against Hitler, who had invaded two weeks’ earlier. But, within a day, the true nature of the Nazi-Soviet collaboration was exposed.

The two armies met at the town of Brest, where the 1918 peace treaty between the Kaiser’s government and Lenin’s revolutionary state had been signed. Soldiers fraternised, exchanging food and tobacco – pre-rolled German cigarettes contrasting favourably against rough Russian papirosi. A joint military parade was staged, the Wehrmacht’s field grey uniforms alongside the olive green of the shoddier
Soviets. The two generals, Guderian and Krivoshein, had a slap-up lunch and, as they bade each other farewell, the Soviet commander 51CPRtOAZxL._SL250_invited German reporters to visit him in Moscow “after the victory over capitalist Albion”.

[Order Daniel Hannan’s book “How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters” from Amazon.com]

These events are keenly remembered in the nations that were victims of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty: Romania, Finland and, most of all, Poland and the Baltic States. But they don’t occupy anything like the place in our collective memory of the war that they deserve.

Almost everyone in Britain knows that the Second World War started when Hitler sent his panzers into Poland. Stalin’s mirror invasion 16 days later, while not exactly forgotten, is not nearly so central in our narrative.

Which is, if you think about it, very odd. The Nazi-Soviet Pact lasted for 22 months – a third of the duration of the entire conflict. We remember, with pride, that we stood alone against Hitler. But in reality, our fathers’ isolation – and commensurate heroism – was even greater than this suggests. I can think of no braver moment in the war than when, having already declared war on Hitler, we prepared to open a new front against Stalin, too. British commandos were on the verge of being deployed to defend Finland, while the Cabinet toyed with various schemes to seize the USSR’s oil supplies in the Caucasus.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA: WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIES

In the event, such plans were overtaken by developments. Still, for sheer, bloody-minded gallantry, it was an unbeatable moment, 51VTuei1XoL._SL250_beautifully captured in the reaction of Evelyn Waugh’s fictional hero, Guy Crouchback: “The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.”

[Order Roger Moorhouse’s bookThe Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941” from Amazon.com]

Why do we downplay that memory? Largely because it doesn’t fit with what happened later. When Hitler attacked the USSR – to the utter astonishment of Stalin, who initially ordered his soldiers not to shoot back – it was in everyone’s interest to forget the earlier phase of the war. Western Communists, who had performed extraordinary acrobatics to justify their entente with fascism, now carried out another somersault and claimed that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had only ever been a tactical pause, a moment when Stalin brilliantly stalled while building up his military capacity. Even today, the historiographical imprint of that propaganda lingers.

[Read the full text here, at Telegraph Blogs]

To the modern reader, George Orwell’s depiction of how enmity alternates between Eurasia and Eastasia seems far-fetched; but when he published his great novel in 1948, such things were a recent memory. It suited Western Leftists, during and after the War, to argue that Hitler had been uniquely evil, certainly wickeder than Stalin. It was thus necessary to forget the enthusiasm with which the two tyrants had collaborated.

The full extent of their conspiracy is exposed in The Devils’ Alliance, a brilliant new history by Roger Moorhouse. Moorhouse is a sober and serious historian, writing with no obvious political agenda. Calmly, he tells the story of the Pact: its genesis, its operation and the reasons for its violent end. When recounting such a monstrous tale, it is proper to be calm: great events need no embroidery. What he reveals is a diabolical compact which, if it stopped just short of being an alliance, can in no way be thought of as a hiccup or anomaly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Magna Carta: Eight Centuries of Liberty

King-John-Magna-Carta

June marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter’ that established the rule of law for the English-speaking world. Its revolutionary impact still resounds today.

Daniel Hannan writes: Eight hundred years ago next month, on a reedy stretch of riverbank in southern England, the most important bargain in the history of the human race was struck. I realize that’s a big claim, but in this case, only superlatives will do. As Lord Denning, the most celebrated modern British jurist put it, Magna Carta was “the greatest constitutional document of all time, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”

“We British have, by any measure, been slow to recognize what we have. Americans, by contrast, have always been keenly aware of the document, referring to it respectfully as the Magna Carta. Why? Largely because of who the first Americans were.”

It was at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, that the idea of the law standing above the government first took contractual form. King John accepted that he would no longer get to make the rules up as he went along. From that acceptance flowed, ultimately, all the rights and freedoms that we inventing-freedomnow take for granted: uncensored newspapers, security of property, equality before the law, habeas corpus, regular elections, sanctity of contract, jury trials.

[Order Daniel Hannan‘s book “Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World” from Amazon.com]

Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter.” It was so named not because the men who drafted it foresaw its epochal power but because it was long. Yet, almost immediately, the document began to take on a political significance that justified the adjective in every sense. The bishops and barons who had brought King John to the negotiating table understood that rights required an enforcement mechanism. The potency of a charter is not in its parchment but in the authority of its interpretation.

“The whole constitutional history of England is little more than a commentary on Magna Carta.”

— Victorian historian William Stubbs

The constitution of the U.S.S.R., to pluck an example more or less at random, promised all sorts of entitlements: free speech, free worship, free association. But as Soviet citizens learned, paper rights are worthless in the absence of mechanisms to hold rulers to account.

United for the first time, the four surviving original Magna Carta manuscripts are prepared for display at the British Library, London, Feb. 1, 2015. Photo: UPPA/ZUMA PRESS

United for the first time, the four surviving original Magna Carta manuscripts are prepared for display at the British Library, London, Feb. 1, 2015. Photo: UPPA/ZUMA PRESS

Magna Carta instituted a form of conciliar rule that was to develop directly into the Parliament that meets at Westminster today. As the great Victorian historian William Stubbs put it, “the whole constitutional history of England is little more than a commentary on Magna Carta.”

“As early as 1637, Maryland sought permission to incorporate Magna Carta into its basic law, and the first edition of the Great Charter was published on American soil in 1687 by William Penn.”

And not just England. Indeed, not even England in particular. Magna Carta has always been a bigger deal in the U.S. The meadow where the abominable King John put his royal seal to the parchment lies in my electoral district in the county of Surrey. It went unmarked until 1957, when a memorial stone was finally raised there—by the American Bar Association.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Only now, for the anniversary, is a British monument being erected at the place where freedom was born. After some frantic fundraising by me and a handful of local councilors, a large bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth II will gaze out across the slow, green waters of the Thames, marking 800 years of the Crown’s acceptance of the rule of law. Read the rest of this entry »


Nazis: STILL Socialists

pic_giant_022714_SM_Nazis-Still-Socialists

Tim Stanley’s definition excludes basically all real socialists, past and present. 

de_nsdapI almost missed this, from a few days ago. NRO‘s Jonah Goldberg is uniquely qualified to contribute to this debate, if you’ve not read Jonah’s book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning”, I’ve plugged it here before — accessible as an ebook download through Amazon — and recommend it again, any chance I get.  To get a fuller picture, flip back to Daniel Hannan‘s provocative essay Leftists Become Incandescent when Reminded of the Socialist Roots of Nazism, and Tim Stanley‘s opposing essay, Hitler wasn’t a socialist. Stop saying he was

Jonah Goldberg weighs in:

This feels like old times. Across the pond at the TelegraphTim Stanley and Daniel Hannan are having a friendly disagreement on the question of whether the Nazis were in fact socialists. I don’t usually wade into these arguments anymore, but I’ve been writing a lot on related themes over the last nazis_posterfew weeks and I couldn’t resist.

Not surprisingly, I come down on Hannan’s side. I could write a whole book about why I agree with Dan, except I already did. So I’ll be more succinct.

Fair warning, though, I wrote this on a plane trip back from Colorado and it’s way too long. So if you’re not interested in this stuff, you might as well wander down the boardwalk and check out some of the other stalls now.

Stanley makes some fine points here and there, but I don’t think they add up to anything like corroboration of his thesis. The chief problem with his argument is that he’s taking doctrinaire or otherwise convenient definitions of socialism and applying them selectively to Nazism.

Stanley’s chief tactic is to simply say Nazis shouldn’t be believed when they called themselves socialists. It was all marketing and spin, even putting the word in their name. Socialism was popular, so they called themselves socialists. End of story.

So when Nazi ideologist Gregor Strasser proclaimed:

We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens!

. . . he was just saying that because, in Stanley’s mind, socialism was “fashionable.”

Obviously there’s some truth to that. Socialism was popular. So was nationalism. That’s why nationalists embraced socialism and why socialists quickly embraced nationalism. It wasn’t a big leap for either because they’re basically the same thing! In purely economic terms, nationalization and socialization are nothing more than synonyms (socialized medicine = nationalized health care).

Nazis Hated Bolsheviks, Who Knew? Read the rest of this entry »


Leftists Become Incandescent when Reminded of the Socialist Roots of Nazism

 writes:  On 16 June 1941, as Hitler readied his forces for Operation Barbarossa, Josef Goebbels looked forward to the new order that the Nazis would impose on a conquered Russia. There would be no come-back, he wrote, for capitalists nor priests nor Tsars. Rather, in the place of debased, Jewish Bolshevism, the Wehrmacht would deliver “der echte Sozialismus”: real socialism.

Goebbels never doubted that he was a socialist. He understood Nazism to be a better and more plausible form of socialism than that propagated by Lenin. Instead of spreading itself across different nations, it would operate within the unit of the Volk.

[Daniel Hannan is the author of“How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters”]

So total is the cultural victory of the modern Left that the merely to recount this fact is jarring. But few at the time would have found it especially contentious. As George Watson put it in The Lost Literature of Socialism:

“It is now clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Hitler and his associates believed they were socialists, and that others, including democratic socialists, thought so too.”

pelosi-incandescent

The clue is in the name. Subsequent generations of Leftists have tried to explain away the awkward nomenclature of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as either a cynical PR stunt or an embarrassing coincidence. In fact, the name meant what it said.

[Order Jonah Goldberg’s classic “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning” From Amazon]

nazi_posters_0

You can’t accuse the NSDAP of downplaying the “Socialist” bit

Hitler told Hermann Rauschning, a Prussian who briefly worked for the Nazis before rejecting them and fleeing the country, that he had admired much of the thinking of the revolutionaries he had known as a young man; but he felt that they had been talkers, not doers. “I have put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun,” he boasted, adding that “the whole of National Socialism” was “based on Marx”.

[Order Daniel Hannan’s book “How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters” from Amazon]

tegenkapitalisme

The Dutch Nazi Party was equally explicit: “With Germany Against Capitalism”

Marx’s error, Hitler believed, had been to foster class war instead of national unity – to set workers against industrialists instead of conscripting both groups into a corporatist order. His aim, he told his economic adviser, Otto Wagener, was to “convert the German Volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists” – by which he meant the bankers and factory owners who could, he thought, serve socialism better by generating revenue for the state. “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish,” he told Wagener, “we shall be in a position to achieve.”

Leftist readers may by now be seething. Whenever I touch on this subject, it elicits an almost berserk reaction from people who think of themselves as progressives and see anti-fascism as part of their ideology. Well, chaps, maybe now you know how we conservatives feel when you loosely associate Nazism with “the Right”.

To be absolutely clear, I don’t believe that modern Leftists have subliminal Nazi leanings, or that their loathing of Hitler is in any way feigned. That’s not my argument. What I want to do, by holding up the mirror, is to take on the equally false idea that there is an ideological continuum between free-marketers and fascists. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World

I heard a portion of an interview with Hannan on the radio yesterday, it was compelling, made me want to hear more. Maybe I’ll get the ebook edition.

Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World [Kindle Edition] [Hardcover Edition]

Daniel Hannan writes: How many countries fought for liberty in both World Wars and the Cold War?

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We are still experiencing the after-effects of an astonishing event. The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.

Why did it happen? Why, after thousands of years of oligarchy and tyranny, did a system evolve that lifted the individual above the tribe rather than the reverse? How did that system see off rival models that elevated collective endeavour, martial glory, faith and sacrifice over liberty and property? How did the world come to speak our language?

I set out to answer these questions in my book, published in North America as Inventing Freedom and in the rest of the Anglosphere as How we Invented Freedom. (It’s reviewed here by Charles Moore.) I trace the lineage of liberty back through its great landmarks – the war against slavery, the American Revolution, the Glorious Revolution, the English Civil War, Magna Carta –  to its origins in the folkright of Anglo-Saxon common law. Read the rest of this entry »