Reading multiple Hitler bios

Since I started investigating fascism I have learned a trick about reading multiple biographies of the same person. Whoever writes the second biography needs to introduce and defend new material and suggest how to interpret it.
The second biography is not going to present in rich detail episodes already conveyed. This truth flows through the ages so a fifth-generation biography may present a lot of material summarily. For the student, then, the proper path is to read the biographies in order, so that you have already read the original treatment of whatever it is in its fullest treatment. Of course newly discovered documentary material can be overwhelming enough that it promotes a re-telling.
Sometimes the earliest works are just trapped in ways of thinking that have gone thankfully away.
Hitler’s first biographer, Konrad Heiden, for instance, offers this up as a guide to Hitler’s relations with his father:
“His father had drunk and his son’s abstinence may be regarded as an unconscious protest against his father, just as his protest against work was a conscious protest….When Hitler father and son fought, the personality type lying at the base of the whole family was fighting with itself; the self-dissatisfaction, expressed in abrupt restlessness, which we suspect in Georg Heidler, clearly recognize in Alois Schicklgruber, and can literally touch in Adloph Hitler, is the real source of the quarrel […]”
I have trouble getting through stuff like that. But then along comes this sort of thing, which makes you understand why Hannah Arendt thought Heiden’s work so insightful.
The context is a speech Hitler gave after he emerged from prison following the Beer Hall Putsch, at a low point of his movement, when he could assemble no more than 4,000 in the Burgerbrau Keller from all of Bavaria. Heiden is discussing Hitler’s sure political touch as he wields the weapon of having been forbidden to speak in Bavaria for fear of violence.
“The dissolution of parties, the prohibition of public speeches–these were strangely violent measures of the state in defense of freedom. ‘The freest constitution in the world’ did not officially provide or allow for such brutal intervention of police power. But Hitler and his like had for years filled the country with violence, murder, and destruction, and the state had not found the strength to suppress them with the cold majesty of law; and now, having unjustly spared them, the state could no longer defend itself except by injustice. Where Hitler began to speak, murder could be expected as a result. Hitler forced the state to stretch the laws in a rather arbitrary way–this in itself was a success. When he attacked, a few drops of his own poisonous spirit dripped on the enemy and infected him. In all points of his career, in the most insignificant and the most important situations, this was his most dangerous power, though unfortunately least understood: that he lured or forced his opponents to imitate him, to use similar methods and even adopt the qualities which he really wanted to combat in Hitler.”
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Fragment on political violence

[On advice of a friend I am publishing the following the following as the very modest beginning of an appraisal of fascism.]

LP’ full-throated attack on antifa is based entirely on tactical
considerations, principally because antifa break up events they have
nothing to do with creating and in so doing expose many to police fighting
they had no intention of engaging in.

J20 is a perfect example. Some 4-5 people pleaded long ago and the hundreds
who made up everybody else — whose trials were dropped this week — were
obviously bystanders.

I think there is a larger problem: in adopting political violence as a
tactic, even a countertactic, antifa do in fact, really, mirror the
fascists or protofascists or wannabe fascists in unpleasant ways.

They mirror them as follows: 1) willingness to engage in violence against
the other on sight; 2) costumery. You could call it uniforms. 3) Like the
fascists, antifa consider political violence to be their actual program.
They don’t explain themselves to the wider public, they don’t have a
newspaper, they don’t have conferences open to the interested public. 4)
They are indifferent to civilian casualties caused by their fights because
casualties are a part of war. 5) They never apologize for their violence.

It’s worth thinking about that public, unapologetic political violence was from
the very beginning a central strategic thrust of the Nazis — not a tactic — and they considered it vital to their recruitment. Their propaganda was always accompanied by
violence, leading to their term “power propaganda”. Their meetings were “defended” by armed uniformed thugs. They were always always willing to be more violent than their opponents, principally the Communists and Social Democrats because they believed the latter  should be not only vanquished politically but exterminated.

This is not a road to go down.

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Zach Medeiros, “Solidarity with the Oppressed, Not the Oppressors: Why We Should Support Syrian Revolutionaries”

From the founding Conference of this group.

Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)


Zach Medeiros, Socialist Party of the USA

Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City

How can we support revolutionary Syrians and the Syrian people as a whole? This is not an easy question to answer. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, one of Syria’s greatest intellectuals and a former political prisoner jailed for nearly two decades for speaking out against his government, once wrote that “Syria is the world, and the world is Syria.” In other words, Syria has not only become a global issue, but the world has become a Syrian issue. When Syrians first took to the streets in 2011 to protest the brutality, corruption, poverty and discrimination that defined life for most living under the Assad regime, who could have foreseen that they would become the world? In those heady…

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Johnathan Cook is a lying schnook

Johnathan Cook is a hard guy to keep up with. He has written not one, not two, but three defenses of Seymour Hersh’s ridiculous and thoroughly disputed account of the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun in the last week or so, all the while claiming he is not a partisan of Assad and not really a partisan of Hersh, who he thinks has just gotten an unfair shake from the MSM.

He poses, as if it were profound, the question of how such an investigative shark could be denied by the very organs who gobbled up his prose in the past? Hersh’s Welt am Sonntag article was submitted to and paid for by the London Review of Books, which then declined to print it. I wouldn’t know, but Cook says it was widely rejected by English-audience publications. Darkly, Cook writes: “Maybe they had evidence that his inside intelligence was wrong.” But then, why didn’t they print that evidence, he asks? For one, editors don’t even have to tell you, let alone the whole world, why they won’t print your piece. Bu if you’re hankering for more, Clay Clairborne over at Linux Beach has posed some pretty good reasons based entirely on Hersh’s text. First, lets clear away a few vocabulary issues. Hersh himself claims no more than to have “interviewed” a mucky-muck former CIA/general spy guy. This has morphed, in Cook’s recounting, into an “investigation.” The entire story, by Hersh’s own words, rests on the opinions of one unnamed source. While Hersh mentions a single source, Cook uses the plural “sources” 8 times in one article and 17 times in another. Relying on a single source alone would be enough to doom a story, but there’s much more. Clairborne details all the places the CIA guy would have had to be in order to witness what he passed on to Hersh. It’s a bunch! Usually one person corroborates this fact which s/he observed, and another observer does the same for a different fact in the chain of the argument, and thus the story emerges by pulling threads together from a bunch of individual’s narratives. Sy Hersh, however, has lighted upon the Ur-Source, the guy who was everywhere at the right time. Plus the Ur-Source provides many quotes — not summaries, but quotes — of many different discussions. Did he take stenographic notes? Did he record?

Cook coyly does not consider the numerous reasons this article might have been justly trashed. He argues instead that the publication of Hersh’s article, in German, in Germany, created a crisis in the US ruling class that caused two separate spoiler events, designed to draw attention away from the otherwise riveting Hersh account, to be foregrounded.

First spoiler was Trump’s surprise announcement that Syria was about to do it again and they’d better not! You just have to say “Wow!” The US threatened to respond to further sarin attacks to divert attention from Hersh’s incendiary journalism. Talk about the power of the pen!

Second spoiler: “Two unnamed diplomats “confirmed” that a report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had found that some of the victims from Khan Sheikhoun showed signs of poisoning by sarin or sarin-like substances.” This is a spoiler, Cook says, because everybody already knew what was gonna be in the report so it wasn’t real news when it was published. But, actually, it is. The report confirmed that sarin was found at Khan Sheikhoun. For months people like Cook have been jabbering that sarin had not been confirmed to be present at Khan Sheikhoun. But now it has been confirmed, and that constitutes news. It is not a spoiler to write about it. It is not a diversion that allows the weak-minded to avoid the truths offered by Hersh, but an important statement of fact that annihilates Hersh’s entire argument.

Let’s go back. What is Hersh’s main claim? It is that there was no sarin attack. Almost unimaginably, Cook elides — as if it were not there — the refutation of Hersh’s claims of no sarin and allows himself to pen the ultra-weaselly statement: “[…] the DOCW has not concluded that the Assad regime was responsible for the traces of sarin.” That is true, but that’s not what Hersh argues. Hersh argues that no sarin attack occurred and claims that that knowledge is spread far and wide in the US government. NOT NOT NOT that Assad didn’t order an attack, but that no sarin attack happened at all. So maybe the OPCW conclusion was olds news to everyone else, but it was a bombshell to Sy Hersh.

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My Father and the Democrats

It’s father’s day tomorrow and I have taken to sharing little reminiscences on facebook about both my parents. It’s easier to write at length here so I’ve changed venues to stir the pot a little more.

My father was a lifelong Democrat after voting Socialist for Norman Thomas in 1932. He would have been exactly 21 and a sophomore or junior at Miami University of Ohio, which sported, among other claims to fame, the Alpha Chapter of the fraternity Sigma Chi. I am old enough to have heard, and have the personal connection to remember a ridiculous song called “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi,” which, as it turns out, is the Number One all-time favorite college song and which was rhapsodized as follows by its author:

“The ‘Sweetheart’ is the symbol for the spiritual ingredient in brotherhood. It was the Sigma Chi Fraternity itself that inspired the song. I wrote the words not long after my initiation, and the magic of our Ritual with its poetic overtones and undertones was, I suppose, the source of my inspiration”.

I seem to have always known that my father was a member of that very Alpha chapter, and that he was disinvited from living in the actual frat house for — at least early on — unspecified shenanigans and wound up his college career living in a boarding house whose matron, naturally, he totally charmed to the point that they remained buddies 30 years later.

Maybe Norman Thomas was just another shenanigan, though I did find some college newspaper columns he wrote that mentioned Thomas, mostly in a sardonic way. But he was definitely flirting with radicalism.

Aside from stories my father’s politics were straight-ahead Democrat. That meant he supported Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956. I was aware enough by the latter date to remember a picture of Stevenson wearing shoes with a hole in the sole: the common man’s intellectual.

The town I grew up in, Mattoon, Illinois, was pretty solidly Republican, as was the surrounding Congressional District, as was the owner of the newspaper my father worked for. Fortunately, that same owner had been a good drinking buddy of my father’s in the pre-war years of horsing around, so not only did he give my father a job when he was really down on his luck, he also tolerated his politics, maybe because by that point the guy was barely ever in the office and mostly paid attention to his show horses. My first job was cutting his massive five-acre grounds for a buck an hour.

As the main editorial guy it fell to my father on election night to oversee the gathering, collating and ultimately printing of the election results in Wednesday’s Journal-Gazette. This involved having the whole editorial staff (4-5 people or so) and other volunteers answer telephones when individual precincts would call in as ballots were counted (of course by hand). I was allowed to tag along and hang out and, nerd that I was, I thought it was the coolest thing ever and naturally everyone good-humoredly chatted with and joshed Dave McDonald’s kid staying up WAY past his bedtime (on a school night!) so I had all the attention I could stand. The room was full, phones rang constantly and news and rumors and speculation abounded. It was very noisy and purposeful. People would bring ballots with numbers written by the candidates’ names with the precinct on top and my father entered all the data onto a gigantic piece of posterboard. Today we would call it a flat file. When it was finished a photographer came in and shot it on 4×5 film and sent it off to Effingham to have a plate burned.

My father was a public Democrat and he did what he could to advance the party’s fortunes in essentially rural central Illinois through his newspaper editing, and so for various favors I know nothing of, he got the crackerjack prize of being an alternate delegate to the upcoming Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles simply by being nominated and unopposed. This cost the DP nothing and from it they got daily newspaper coverage of their convention written by a local guy and therefore of interest in sleepy Mattoon.

This was 1960. I had apprenticed on the 1956 Stevenson campaign so I was all about the 1960 presidential campaign as a spectacle with, for me, absolutely no political meaning, but a way into the adult world. I was as mindlessly Democratic as my father. My father had picked LBJ as his guy, not because he liked him better but because he thought Kennedy had no chance. So suddenly, as the convention unfolded, he turned into a JFK partisan and never budged from that view. Kennedy’s assassination unleashed all his Irish demons.

The DP 1960 Convention was in Los Angeles, so that provided an opportunity for a rare family vacation. All 5 of us piled into a Volkswagen bus — a very exotic vehicle choice in those days, you had to drive 40 miles to get the thing serviced — and rode US 99 all the way to LA. Swimming was my only sport and I was gobsmacked by the thought that we were staying at my godparent’s compound on Mulholland Drive which contained a private swimming pool you could just swim in anytime you wanted. I spent about 10 hours a day of that vacation in the pool. The only outing I remember was a trip to Disneyland but I didn’t care.

Much later, making a joke about his Kennedy jones, I gave my father a nice butane cigarette lighter inscribed “from JFK to DBM”. This backfired as my father morphed reality and later claimed JFK had actually given him the lighter, not so very different maybe from the ways that lots of our stories get better over time. I, however, was mortified every time I heard him make the claim.

The creation of the Election Night chart/spreadsheet for 1960 was epic. I was allowed to man one of the telephones taking data from the precincts. It was unbelievably cool and there was a lot of knowing talk about how long it was going to take the Democratic Party in Cook County to figure out how many ballots they had to steal to overwhelm the downstate Republicans and win the election for Kennedy. I spent a lot of time asking people what they meant when they said stuff, but I was not allowed to pull an all-nighter so I learned of Kennedy’s victory the next morning.

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The black bloc in 1969

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

In an online book titled “The Black Bloc Papers”, David Van Deusen of the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective makes clear that the Weathermen were the forefathers of the people who staged a riot at Berkeley:

The Black Bloc can trace its historical roots all the way back to when- and wherever people comprising an oppressed class or group militantly rose up against their oppressors. Elements of the particular tactics of the Bloc were previously utilized by the Weather faction of Students for a Democratic Society (the SDS) in North America during the “Days of Rage” in 1969.

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Fordham SDS

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

In 1983 I saw the documentary “Seeing Red” that mixed interviews of former members of the Communist Party talking about their experiences with exciting film footage and photographs of the class battles they took part in. Among the highlights was Bill Bailey reminiscing about the day in 1935 when he tore the Nazi flag off the Bremen, a luxury liner docked in New York.

Bill was 25 when he carried out this protest and 72 when he was interviewed for “Seeing Red”. Over the past few years, I have toyed with the idea of making a film like “Seeing Red” but based on the experiences of veterans of the Socialist Workers Party, many of whom are about the same age today as Bill Bailey was in 1983—including me.

For us, there was nothing quite like the experience of fighting in the Spanish Civil War as Bill Bailey did, or being…

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