Rewriting the history books

WORLD LEADERS, heads of state, death camp survivors and religious officials congregated last week at Auschwitz-Birkenau, to pray for the 1.5 million victims of Nazi terror and to sign a joint declaration to the ‘peoples’ of the world calling for peace: “We ask all nations and peoples to stop all fanaticism and violence. No more war and killing”.

In the absence of any independent working class challenge, bourgeois propaganda has been extremely successful in blaming the Auschwitz atrocity and the whole of World War II on a mad psyche that must somehow be exorcised from society for good.

Fascism throughout Europe, including the German form known as Nazism, was a product of capitalism when experiencing extreme crisis - in other words, capitalism turned to fascism hoping to rescue itself. When the Allied Powers went to war with the Axis Powers they were fighting a rival dynamic imperialism which needed to expand, just as they had in World War I.

For the capitalists the camps were only a detail of the war. That is why train lines to the camps were not bombed. That is why 191 Jewish refugees were refused access to Britain and sent back to Germany in the first six months of 1939.

Racism and eugenics were popular the world over until the war made them of necessity unfashionable. Neville Henderson, ambassador to Germany, wrote in The Times in May 1937 that “far too many people have an erroneous conception of what the National Socialist regime really stands for. Otherwise they would lay less stress on Nazi dictatorship and much more emphasis on the great social experiment which is being tried out.”

The virtuous halo surrounding the coverage of Auschwitz obscures the grubby and sordid reality we all know exists. The prayers of the Catholic Church rang hollow, given its past anti-semitism and often connivance with fascism and Nazism, and the continued reluctance of its hierarchy to confront and recognise this ugly history.

A vicious brand of capitalism is spreading throughout the US today. In New Orleans they are building state orphanages which they hope will be funded from the money ‘saved’ by abolishing welfare payments to unmarried mothers; and some elements on the ‘lunatic’ right of the Republican Party have, albeit tentatively so far, raised the possibility of sterilisation.

Throughout the world rightwing ideas are gaining hegemony. We should not be fooled by the ‘never again’ hand wringing. If the working class is unable to get rid of the barbaric capitalist system itself, the capitalists will turn again to war and, if necessary, fascism to stave off crisis at home. If we allow a ‘next time’, the economic crisis will be much deeper and more widespread and the capitalist reaction more vicious.

Eddie Ford