Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’

Putin couldn’t be a Hitler if he tried

February 16, 2015

In 1938, a ruthless autocrat named Adolf Hitler claimed to be protector of the Sudetenland, a border region of Czechoslovakia, in order to protect ethnic Germans who lived there.

In 2015, a ruthless autocrat named Vladimir Putin claims to be protector of the eastern border region of Ukraine in order to protect the ethnic Russians there. Putin another Hitler?  Would his next step be to conquer all Ukraine, as Hitler conquered all Czechoslovakia?  Would Poland be next, as it was for Hitler?

I don’t believe these are Putin’s intentions.  Everything he has done so far is consistent with his stated goal, which is for the world’s great powers to accept Russia as a peer and to take Russia’s vital interests into account.

But, for the sake of argument, suppose Putin’s aim is to reconquer eastern Europe or even all of Europe.  How could he carry it out?

The old Soviet Union was unable to pacify Afghanistan, and had to retreat in ignominious defeat.  Putin’s Russian Federation was barely able to crush the rebellion in tiny Chechnya.  How could he hope to conquer a nation as large as Ukraine?

Germany in Hitler’s time had world-class science, technology and industrial power, an efficient government and possibly the best army, man-for-man, in the world.

The Russian Federation is ruled by a corrupt oligarchy.  It lacks high-technology industry.  Its economy is based on exports of natural resources, like Venezuela’s or Iran’s.  The military potential of Putin’s Russia is not comparable to Hitler’s Germany

Russians would no doubt fight valiantly to protect their homeland, if invaded, as they always have.  They have succeeded in protecting their compatriots in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where most of the local people welcome them.   The Russian army could probably occupy Kiev as quickly as the U.S. army occupied Baghdad.

But then what?  The USA was able to quickly occupy Baghdad in 2003, but then became bogged down in a quagmire more.   A Russian conquest of Ukraine would be an even bigger quagmire.   The result would be a devastated Ukraine and a Russia that had been bled dry.

The Russian Federation has the power to destroy the USA with nuclear weapons, just as our government has the power to destroy them.  What neither country has the power to do is to defeat a determined insurgent force being armed by the other side.

Vladimir Putin is too intelligent and realistic to put Russia into such a situation situation.  I think that what he wants is a neutral and, if necessary, a neutralized Ukraine—to have enough of a foothold in that country, as in Georgia and Moldova, to prevent that country from allying itself to a hostile foreign power.

If that is his desire, I think it is completely reasonable—certainly not something for the USA to risk nuclear war over.


What does Russia want? by James Meek for the London Review of Books.

Russian science is amazing.  So why hasn’t it taken over the world?, an interview of MIT’s Loren Graham for the Boston Globe.

Has the IMF Annexed Ukraine?, an interview of Michael Hudon for the Real News Network.  Ukraine faces other worse threats than Putin.

Don’t Arm Ukraine by John J. Mearsheimer for The New York Times.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey).

The newest Hitler

September 11, 2014

During the First World War, the British engaged in lying but successful propaganda against the Germans.  People believed that the Kaiser was a monster in human form, and that German soldiers liked to toss Belgian babies up in the air and catch them on their bayonets.

A quarter-century later, Hitler came along.   He was more of a monster than the British claimed the Kaiser was, but people who remembered the previous war’s propaganda were slow to believe it.   It’s an example of how, when you falsely cry “wolf” like the boy in the fable, people won’t believe you when the real wolf comes

Lately the U.S. government has been telling us Americans so ofter that we need to mobilize against new Hitlers—the Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Un, Bashar al Assad, Muammar Qaddafi, Vladimir Putin—that we are Hitler’d out.

In fact, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS or ISIL) is the closest yet to being the equivalent of the Nazis.  Like the Nazis, ISIS is carrying on a war of extermination.  Like the Nazis, the ambitions of ISIS are unlimited.

The difference is that the Nazis controlled Germany, one of the world’s great industrial and military powers.  The Islamic State merely controls many square miles of desert.


The difference between Communism and fascism

June 10, 2014

MaoTens of millions of people died in China in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a result of Mao Zedong’s failed policies and his refusal to acknowledge they were failures.

I said his policies were failures, but from Mao’s standpoint, maybe they weren’t.  Like Stalin’s agricultural collectivization policies in the 1930s, they have have caused death and suffering, but they enabled the government to tighten its grip over the nation’s food supply and its population.

adolf-hitlerSome scholars think that Stalin and Mao caused the deaths of more than beings than Hitler did.   It is impossible to say for certain because the historical record was suppressed.

Why, then, does Hitler stand alone as a symbol of evil?  I think that one reason is that Hitler is a defeated enemy.  If Nazi Germany had won the Second World War, and if there were a powerful government in existence today that was the heir of Hitler’s regime, there would still be apologists for Hitler.

638519-stalinThe other reason is the difference between the appeal of fascism and Communism.  Fascists for the most part are racists, elitists and thugs.  Communists for the most part are defenders of labor rights and civil rights.

Throughout the 20th century, members of the American Communist Party became disillusioned when they discovered that Communist regimes in fact suppress labor rights and civil liberties.   I never heard of a member of the American Nazi Party becoming disillusioned because they discovered the Nazis were insufficiently racists and thuggish.

I don’t think that Communists—the ones outside actual Communist countries—are as bad as fascists.  Many have fought courageously for civil rights, labor rights and other things I believe in myself.  The worst you can say of them is that they have been willfully blind to horrible things.

But Communism is the more insidious ideology.   It is one thing to recruit racists and thugs to defend a cruel totalitarian dictatorship.   It is a far worse thing to persuade people who believe in democracy and workers’ rights to justify the crimes of a totalitarian dictatorship.

The Nazis were good for business (until the end)

April 25, 2014

Nazi is an abbreviation for “National Socialist” which is a short form of “National Socialist German Workers Party,” but they were not, in fact, a left-wing or socialist party under any reasonable definition.

The Nazis were opponents of free enterprise.  They did not believe in the unregulated free market.  But they were not opponents of capitalism.   The capitalists did very well under the Nazi regime.

Source: The Wages of Destruction, by Adam Tooz.  Click to enlarge

Source: The Wages of Destruction, by Adam Tooze.   Click to enlarge

I have read The Wages of Destruction, and it refutes the notion that Hitler was a madman — evil, yes, but not without reasons for what he did.  Hitler’s idea was that Germany could be a great nation only if it had access to resources equal to the great continental nations, the United States and Soviet Russia, or the great overseas empires, Britain and France.

To accomplish this, after coming to power in 1933, he planned to conquer and depopulate Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia in order to create “living space” for the Germans.  Ukrainians and Poles were starved so that the German population could be fed.  Even Hitler’s anti-Semitism, even though it didn’t have an economic motive, served an economic purpose.  Confiscation of Jewish property helped to finance the Nazi regime.

Click to enlarge,

Source: Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century.   Click to enlarge,

This chart shows that, in Germany under Hitler, holders of financial assets received about a third of the national income, while in the United States under the New Deal, they received less than one-fourth.   Piketty’s statistics only go through 1938, but the German capitalists did very well in the early days of the war, when they were able to buy up property and companies in conquered countries at bargain rates.

Of course in the end the Hitler regime ended disastrously for everybody, including the Nazis themselves.   Germany later achieved prosperity and a dominant position in Europe in the way it always could have done — but developing its industry and its human resources.

The Hitler and Stalin regimes were both one-party dictatorships exercising absolute power, and both were among history’s greatest mass killers.  But instead of being regarded as two examples of the same thing, they have been regarded as opposite extremes, both in their time and the present.

The explanation is in the charts.   Under Lenin and Stalin, capitalist wealth was confiscated.  Under Mussolini and Hitler, the capitalists lost their power, but continued to enjoy their incomes and affluent ways of life.  That is the difference.


I took the charts from this post and this post on Corey Robin’s web log.