Tag Archives: History


Seldom songs will just be played
When it’s not the music
That we need, but
The words.
I would want your love, laying
Right at that couch, in
The living room.
I would want that touch, not
For I need what love gives
But to realise,
All what it failed to make
Of our lives.


Picture : Well, that’s me chilling at the beautiful coastal city of Kochi

A Rumor About the Jews: Reflections on Antisemitism and “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” (2000)

What is antisemitism? How did the persecution of the Jews under the Roman Empire differ from the persecution of the Jews under the Nazis? What part did the widely disseminated literary hoax The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion play in the Holocaust? Even though A Rumor About the Jews: Reflections on Antisemitism and “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” a short book by Rutgers Political Science Professor Stephen Eric Bronner, was written before 9/11 and the Second Intifada, it remains a useful introduction to the history of antisemitism and the paranoid conspiracy theory.

After a brief introduction, Bronner reprints selections of the Protocols themselves, then goes onto explain how the anti-Jewish bigotry of of the Roman Empire and Medieval Europe were fundamentally different from the antisemitism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. For the Romans, who were both uniquely tolerant of religious differences and uniquely intolerant of political dissent, the problem with the Jews wasn’t their race. It was their monotheism. With their “jealous,” all powerful God, and their history of theocratic monarchy, the Jews refused to acknowledge either the Roman, pagan gods, or the political supremacy of the Emperor. That made them a troublesome ethnic and religious minority who needed to be put down hard to keep the peace in Egypt and Palestine. It did not make them uniquely evil or inferior. While Medieval hostility towards Jews did include accusations that would resurface in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries – ritual murder, Christ killing, sorcery – it was only when the feudal, Roman Catholic worldview started to break down during the Enlightenment that religious religious hostility towards Judaism became antisemitism.

According to Stephen Bronner, antisemitism, and “scientific” racism, began as an elite reaction against the egalitarianism of the French Revolution. Feudal hierarchies would be reconstructed as racial and religious hierarchies. The division of France into three estates, a division that privileged the aristocracy and the clergy over the common people, would become the division of the world into superior and inferior races in Arthur comte de Gobineau’s An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. The British proto-Nazi Houston Stewart Chamberlain would continue Gobineau’s work, adding a particular hostility towards the Jews, in his book The Myth of the Twentieth Century. Even as Western Europe and the United States became increasingly democratic and republican, monarchies like the Habsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, the Hanovers, and above all the Romanovs persisted right into the age of European and American imperialism, the mass industrial army and the dreadnought, the telegraph, the telephone, and the electric light. All of it, taken together, set the stage for what be called the classical period of antisemitism that ran from the 1890s roughly through the 1940s.

It was Czarist Russia, the most backward and reactionary state in Europe, that gave birth The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and to modern antisemitism. I spend time on social media debunking conspiracy theories and fraudulent quotes from well-known figures, but it’s always been more out of an irritation over cultural historical illiteracy than out of any sense that they could do any genuine harm. If a gun nut wants to fabricate quotes by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, I’ve always been willing to correct him, and put up with the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth when I direct him to the “Soros funded” Snopes.com, but I’ve never really believed that these kinds of fabrications could lead to gas ovens and mass graves. Stephen Bronner, however, makes it clear just how much damage a literary hoax can do, pointing out not only that the Protocols influence Adolf Hitler, but even the western intervention against the reds in the Russian Civil War.

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which were fabricated by Czarist secret police in 1901 or 1902, and first distributed by a religious crackpot named Sergei Nilus, have two basic sources, the French leftist Maurice Joly’s Dialogue in Hell, a fictional conspiracy theory written to attack Napoleon III, and Biarritz, an anti-Semitic novel written by the obscure German writer Hermann Goedsche. For any American familiar with New World Order or 9/11 conspiracy theories, the basic outline of the Protocols will be familiar. A group of 12 rabbis – each representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel – meet in the Jewish cemetery in Prague to plot a takeover of the press and the government, to destroy faith in the church and to debase the culture, all in the service of world domination.

Poorly written and easily debunked though they are – the author apparently didn’t know that only 2 tribes of Israel survived the Babylonian Captivity – That The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion became a becoming a runaway best seller, eventually published and distributed by Czar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Henry Ford and the Catholic Church. Rational argument seemed to have no more effect than the official websites of Monticello and Mount Vernon has had publishing a list of spurious Washington and Jefferson quotes. You can debunk fake Washington and Jefferson quotes all you want, but you will not stop them from being ever more widely circulated on Tumblr and Facebook. The Protocols served an emotional, not an intellectual need. They allowed religious and political reactionaries, racists, monarchists, and proto-fascists to give an easy explanation for the Revolution of 1905 in Russia, the great Russian Revolution of 1917, the First World War and the crumbling of the old order without blaming the Russian, German, or Austrian ruling classes. You didn’t have to go through the painful process of studying history and economics. This little pamphlet gave you the answer: The Jews did it. After the catastrophe of the First World War, which destroyed an entire generation of young men in Europe, Hitler would go onto to construct a secular, and pseudo-scientific myth of the Jew as the devil, of the Jewish religion as a satanic conspiracy against the “Aryan race” that ended in genocide and mass murder. Not even a Second World War could snap most antisemites to their senses. Even as Soviet and American troops closed in on Berlin from either side, the Nazis continued to divert resources from the front to the “Final Solution” of murdering as many Jews as they could before the Third Reich crumbled into dust.

For Stephen Eric Bronner, classical antisemitism is a historical phenomenon that began in the aftermath of the French Revolution and ended when evidence of the Holocaust filtered out of Central and Eastern Europe in 1945. It had become all too clear that it the antisemite, not the Jew, was a satanic figure who had been engaged in a conspiracy of world domination and mass murder. Bronner, who is a democratic socialist and a critic of the state of Israel, as well as the son of secular Jews who left Germany to escape Hitler, is probably not very popular among Zionists and religious conservatives. While he would agree that the remnants of the antisemitic worldview persist in End the Fed and 9/11 conspiracy theories, in parts of the Middle East and on the far-right, and left, in the United States and Western Europe, his solution is liberalism and democracy, not Zionism and Jewish nationalism. The more democratic a country is, he argues, the less of a history of antisemitism it has. The United States, for example, which has the idea of religious freedom written into its founding documents, has always had little or no history of antisemitism. In autocratic states like Czarist Russia or Saudi Arabia, by contrast, the paranoid and conspiratorial worldview The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is often part of the mainstream, widely distributed and promoted by the government itself. There is a negative correlation between democracy and antisemitism. The more democracy you have, the less antisemitism you have. The more antisemitism you have, the less democracy you have. Jewish nationalism and conservatism, Bronner argues, tends to follow the same pattern as Christian or Islamic nationalism and conservatism. Far from being a safeguard against antisemitism, the more extreme forms of Zionism – although not the democratic liberal Zionism of Yitzhak Rabin – will only serve to promote the antisemitic worldview in other forms. Although he doesn’t mention it directly, the Clarion Project’s wildly Islamophobic video The Third Jihad, which has been used to train New York City police officers, and which might easily be called The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Mecca, might be a good example.

Indeed, while A Rumor About the Jews is a worthwhile read, it’s badly in need of a second edition that addresses the historical developments over the last 16 years, not only 9/11 and the Second Intifada, but the drastic erosion of democracy and the growth of oligarchy and plutocracy in the United States.

All The President’s Men (1976) Silent Coup (1992)

When it comes to the three most traumatic events of recent United States history, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, and 9/11, there is a vast gulf between the political and media elites, and the American people. For the elites, the Kennedy assassination was about Lee Harvey Oswald, a none nut who hated John F. Kennedy for his money and power. 9/11 was about the inspiring leadership of George W. Bush. “He kept us safe.” And Watergate was about two crusading Washington Post reporters who saved The United States of America from Richard Nixon. Democracy worked. For the American people, it’s always been a lot more complex. There will probably be conspiracy theories about what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963 and in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 for as long as the United States exists, and probably long after that. Whatever evidence that could have answered all the questions that the Warren Commission and the 9/11 Commission Report left unanswered is long gone.

Unlike the Kennedy assassination or 9/11, Watergate has always had an enigmatic quality that only seems to get more enigmatic as it fades into the past. Even if you don’t believe the Warren Commission or the 9/11 Commission Report, there’s nothing very mysterious about the the events of November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001. The President of the United States got his brains blown out. Someone destroyed the two biggest skyscrapers in the western hemisphere and killed 3000 people. But Watergate? What was that all about? The break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Complex on on Saturday, June 17, 1972 seems more comic than anything else. Four Miami Cubans and a washed up CIA operative with rubber gloves, a walkie talkie and a pair of 35mm cameras trying to bug the McGovern campaign? It sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit. Yet what people originally dismissed as a “second rate burglary” had real consequences. There was an extensive investigation. People went to jail. Even though he had recently been reelected by a convincing landslide, the President of the United States was forced to resign.

You won’t learn much by watching All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 dramatization of the 1974 book by by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. In fact, unless you already know the history of the Watergate scandal, you’ll probably just scratch your head in confusion trying to follow the plot. But you sure do find out how cool it is to be a newspaper reporter, and what great men Bernstein, Woodward, and Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee were. A space alien who got his entire history of the planet earth from All the President’s Men could be forgiven if he came to the conclusion that humanity could be divided into two categories, superior beings called “newspaper reporters” — who were either earnest young men in their twenties or cranky yet wise middle-aged veterans — and a race of shifty, rat like, scuttling, terrified and secretive beings called “government employees.” The scene where the lordly Ben Bradlee, Jason Robards, puts his feet up on a desk, leans back and critically slices and dices an article by Woodward, Robert Redford, and Bernstein, Dustin Hoffman, is worth the price of admission alone. Jason Robards was 5’8” but he looks like he was 6’4”. Like Redford and Hoffman, we are mesmerized by the presence of his character, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, a direct descendant of Heinrich XXIX, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf, a king among his courtiers. They don’t make liberal elites like that any more.

From the men who broke the Watergate scandal to the deferential stooges who helped George W. Bush lie American into Iraq, how could the fifth estate have fallen so far so fast? According to Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, who authored Silent Coup, the partially suppressed and now largely forgotten revisionist history of the fall of Richard Nixon, the legend of the heroic Woodward and Bernstein is just that, a legend. You won’t find the usual cast of ogres in Silent Coup. Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, John Mitchell and Charles Colson come off more like incompetent corporate executives, oblivious to the way their badly managed company is being snatched out from under them by their subordinates, than threats to American democracy. The villains of Silent Coup, the slimy, manipulative John Dean, and the backstabbing, tinhorn, authoritarian, militarist Alexander Haig appear nowhere in the film All the President’s Men. While both are well known – John Dean has recently come back into public life as a liberal critic of George W. Bush and Haig served as Secretary of State during the Reagan Administration – and have never been particularly popular, Colodny and Gettlin see them as figures of an almost Shakespearean evil. Dean, who plays Iago to Richard Nixon’s Othello, was so outraged by Silent Coup he sued both authors, twice.

Silent Coup is not a well-written book. It took all the energy I could muster to push my way though all 500 pages, and I suspect that its obscurity owes as much to its convoluted, unfocused style as it does to John Dean’s lawsuit. To its credit, however, it does have a perfectly coherent theory of the Watergate affair. Silent Coup begins with an almost totally forgotten prelude to Watergate. In 1970 and 1971, Admiral Thomas Moorer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, frustrated by the way Richard Nixon tried to go around the Pentagon and the State Department and use the National Security Council – an end run that put Henry Kissinger in de facto control of the military and of foreign policy – operated a spy ring out of the Pentagon against the White House. Navy Yeoman Charles Radford, a low-level Pentagon courier cloaked from public view by obscurity, stole top secret NSC documents for his immediate superiors Admiral Rembrandt Robinson and Admiral Robert Welander. After Radford was caught, Nixon and Kissinger covered up for Thomas Moorer, burying a potential scandal so as not to further weaken the reputation of the United States military, already damaged by the war in Vietnam.

The real mastermind behind the Pentagon’s spy ring turned out not to be Thomas Moorer, Rembrandt Robinson or Robert Welander, but Haig, who as Kissinger’s deputy at the National Security Council made it easy for Radford to steal whatever he wanted. In 1970 and 1971 Alexander Haig was, in effect, a Pentagon mole in the White House. All the while that Haig was trying to undermine Nixon’s opening to China and Kissinger’s peace talks in Vietnam, John Wesley Dean was trying to wrest control of the day to day operation of the White House from Haldeman, Mitchell, Ehrlichman and Charles Colson. After Dean consolidated Nixon’s dirty tricks and domestic intelligence operations (basically Cointelpro run out of the West Wing) under his control, he learned that there was a call girl operation being run out of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate. Hoping to dig up dirt on the Democrats, he sent in a team of burglars led by the former FBI man (and current right-wing psycho radio talk show host) G. Gordon Liddy and the perpetually fascinating CIA operative E. Howard Hunt. Hunt is the Zelig of post-War American politics. If there was something slimy going on between 1945 and 1980, Hunt was probably there. In any event Hunt and Liddy were successful in digging up dirt on the Democratic Party. To John Dean’s horror, however, they also managed to dig up dirt on a prominent Republican, himself.

John Dean’s girlfriend Maureen, an ex-prostitute, used to work with the very same call girl ring that was now operating out of the DNC. This put the young White House lawyer in a difficult situation. If word of his girlfriend’s profession got out to the general public, it would destroy his promising career, a career which had already led him to getting virtual control of the White House at the tender age of 34. Why did 5 men being run out of the White House break into the Watergate a second time? Why did attempt to bug the hapless McGovern campaign? It had less to do with wanting to destroy the DNC, which was already destroying itself, then it did with Dean’s urge to get control of his girlfriend’s past, to sweep the DNC headquarters for any more signs of Maureen’s membership in the world’s oldest profession, and put a bug in place to monitor what happened after that. Sadly, and more sadly for the Nixon administration than for Dean himself, the second break in was much less successful than the first. A security guard discovered a door in the Watergate parking garage taped up. He called the cops, and the rest is history.

Enter Bob Woodward. In 1969 and 1970, Woodward, a Yale graduate and naval veteran who had recently landed the job at the Washington Post, worked out of the Pentagon as a “briefer,” a young officer who would summarize and then present military intelligence to the National Security Council. According to Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, and vehemently disputed by Woodward himself, the senior White House official Woodward was charged with briefing was none other than Alexander Haig. Colodny and Gettlin, as far as I know, never managed to get any confirmation from Haig himself but did get Admiral Thomas Moorer to go on the record saying that Woodward had indeed briefed Kissinger’s deputy at the NSC. According to Silent Coup, when news of the Watergate break in hit the Washington Post, Haig saw his chance to get rid of Richard Nixon and the troublesome Henry Kissinger, becoming one of the people who made up the character of Deep Throat. Deep Throat in 1991 was widely considered to be a composite. Mark Felt’s coming out as Deep Throat in 2005 has obviously weakened Silent Coup’s main argument, but it hasn’t, to my mind, totally destroyed it. After the Watergate story “broke,” Haig, according to Colodny and Gettlin become Woodward’s source, manipulating the young Washington Post reporter in a way that not only brought down Richard Nixon, but insured that the story of Moorer/Radford spy ring never received the kind of wide exposure that would have destroyed his own career. Haig had, in fact, especially after Dean’s resignation, managed to gain such complete control of the White House that he, not Richard Nixon, was the real author of the Saturday Night Massacre, replacing the independent-minded Elliot Richardson and Archibald Cox with the pliable and easily manipulated Leon Jaworski.

Silent Coup argues that Alexander Haig continued to manipulate the fallout from the Watergate Scandal right through the Nixon resignation and the Ford pardon, determined to make sure there would never be impeachment hearings, which would have uncovered the Moorer/Radford spy ring, and his own role in the downfall of Richard Nixon. Was Haig the ultimate villain of the Watergate Scandal? Perhaps he was. Perhaps he wasn’t. In the end, I don’t think it matters. By 1974, the American elites were in full damage control mode. So they threw Richard Nixon to the wolves in order to head off a full scale uprising from a population that was in a rebellious mood over the long Vietnam War and the Kent State Massacre. Then, after they gave the people their blood, they snatched the corpse of the Nixon administration out from under the angry mob to make sure there would never be a real autopsy. Silent Coup is a poorly written book, and for all I know it could be nothing more than fiction, but it does succeed in pointing out how the Watergate Scandal has never really gotten the investigation it really deserved. The elites pulled a fast one on the American people, then, like Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black, waived the magic wand and made us forget it ever happened.

Reading Mein Kampf (1925)

Is there any other nation so completely identified with one man as Germany with Adolf Hitler? We don’t necessarily think of Napoleon when we think of a Frenchman or Mussolini when we think of an Italian. Winston Churchill, a bombastic liberal imperialist and wildly overrated military leader, has earned his place in history mainly because of his opposition to the Nazis. That American historians regularly conduct poll about who was the “greatest president” is proof that there is no one representative American head of state. When we imagine the typical German, on the other hand, we don’t conjure up Luther or Goethe, Beethoven, Mozart, Karl Marx, or Frederick the Great. Adolf Hitler has taken the entire history of a great nation, and swallowed it whole.

The American misconception that Hitler was “Austrian not German” points to some of the reasons why. Unlike the British or the French, the Germans do not have a nation state with a history that goes back to the Middle Ages. The Prussian Reich that Bismarck founded in 1870, and which was destroyed in 1918, is only one of many political entities that have, at one time or another, represented the German people. To argue that Hitler wasn’t a “real German” because he was born in Braunau am Inn instead of Berlin or Königsberg is simply another way of fetishizing the dead Prussian state, the ghost of which haunts the late German dictator’s well-known but infrequently studied autobiography.

Mein Kampf is not a well-written book. If anybody needed a good editor it was Adolf Hitler. Getting through all 525 pages of James Murphy’s unabridged translation felt a little bit like fighting the Battle of Stalingrad. Hitler doesn’t argue. He simply asserts, a style of writing best taken in small doses, not gulped down in long turgid paragraphs written by a man determined to make us sit through the history of every thought that’s ever come into his brain without explaining why we should care. Nevertheless critics like George Orwell who spend time criticizing Mein Kampf’s literary inadequacies miss a point that Hitler makes over and over again in the book itself. He knows he’s a shitty writer. He doesn’t care. Unlike many of his critics, he also understands that there’s a difference between “literacy” and the ability to read and write. Most Germans in 1925 could read and write. Very few were “literate.” The typical citizen, even in an advanced first world country like Germany or the United States, responds, not to the written word, but to the spoken word, not to logic, but to personal charisma and the ability to create an aura of power and authority.

In other words, think of Mein Kampf the way you’d think of the screenplay to a movie. The words are only a small part of what makes the entire production. In 1925, José Ortega y Gasset announced the death of the traditional bourgeois novel. That same year, Adolf Hitler proclaimed the death of the traditional, literate, bourgeois politician. If you can get through the bad writing, Mein Kampf is a cogent analysis of the politics of a post-literate society, well-worth looking at, if only because so little has changed. Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan have replaced Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln even as Star Wars and Lady Gaga have replaced Charles Dickens and Herman Melville. If you think you’re ever going to see anything like the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence again in your lifetime, think again. Turn on the TV instead. Look at a meme on Facebook, or go to a rap concert. Adolf Hitler figured out the way our brains work all the way back in 1925. It’s just too bad he used his insights for evil, and not good.

Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 to a lower-middle-class family in Braunau am Inn, a small city in the northwest corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, an authoritarian government employee wanted his son to follow him into the civil service. Hitler himself, convinced he had real artistic talent, wanted to be a painter. In 1907, after both his parents had died, the 16-year-old Hitler moved to Vienna, and quickly descended into the underclass. Like any would-be artist or writer, the young Hitler got through his semi-homeless days as a casual laborer thinking of his future success. His sense of identity fell apart in 1908 when he was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art on the grounds that he was “clearly unfit for painting.” His personal disintegration reflected the political disintegration of the sprawling, multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire, a mostly Slavic state governed by an elite minority of Germans and Hungarians. I don’t think Hitler mentions the Hungarian people in Mein Kampf, not even once, but his hatred of Slavs, of Czechs, Slovaks, Serbians, Poles, and Russians becomes an obsession.

In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, and Hitler, baffled that a Slavic nationalist would murder the pro-Slavic crown prince of the Habsburg Empire, crossed the border into the German Empire to volunteer for military service. Terrified that he would be drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army, and quite possibly have to serve in a multi-ethnic regiment, he was overjoyed when he was accepted into Kaiser Wilhelm’s Army, and sent to the western front to fight the French. For many men of Hitler’s generation, the trenches of northern France, the Battles of Ypres and Verdun, were the definition of hell on earth. Hitler, on the other hand thrived. The Imperial German Army and the powerful, majority German Hohenzollern Reich replaced the disintegrating multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire even as the idea of being a soldier replaced the idea of being a painter. Hitler’s sense of identity became so tied up with fate of the German Empire that in 1918, after German offensive against Paris was turned back — largely because of fresh troops from the United States — and the Hohenzollern monarchy fell apart, he took it as hard as he would have taken the loss of his arms or legs. What’s more, since the French, British, and American armies never pushed their way into Germany and occupied Berlin, He was convinced that the Imperial German Army would have won the war had it not been for a “stab in the back” by Jewish Marxists.

Like hundreds of thousands of other demobilized veterans, Hitler went back to Germany to swell the ranks of a newly emerging radical right. What finally distinguished him from the crowd of so many radical German nationalists was his instinctive understanding of the way propaganda works, his eccentric yet powerful reading of German history, and, quite frankly, his genius. To read Mein Kampf, to plow through hundreds of pages of turgid, badly written prose, is to realize that Adolf Hitler was essentially a brilliant advertising man who put himself in the service of a radically authoritarian political ideology. Had he been born in the United States sometime in the 1930s, he might have ended up as just another Don Draper, a Madison Avenue advertising executive selling Lucky Strikes and Coca Cola instead of anti-Semitism and mass murder. Instead, he was born in Europe in 1889. As if to fulfill his youthful dream of becoming an architect, wound up building a totalitarian state on the smoldering ruins of the Habsburg and Hohenzollern Empires.

As I read Mein Kampf, I tried to look at it from the point of view of someone reading the book in 1925, not 2016, someone who had not yet witnessed the Second World War and the Holocaust. Going through the autobiography of one of the greatest mass murderers in human history felt a bit like reading hard core pornography, something vaguely shameful, but fascinating, if only because of its forbidden quality. So I resisted the impulse to loudly and moralistically condemn the book in order to prove that I’m not a Nazi, to declare that I don’t have any latent fascist or anti-Semitic biases. Instead, the question I kept asking myself was “is the ideology in Mein Kampf harmful in and of itself or was it simply a reflection of the violence that came out of the First World War?” I also kept noting the disturbing similarity between Mein Kampf and the views of a lot of contemporary 9/11 conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, even as I reminded myself that no 9/11 conspiracy theorist has ever committed mass murder or started a world war. The conclusion I came away with was that everybody should read the book at least once, if only to be able to see through the propaganda on the radical right.

There are about 5 or 6 basic tenants to the Nazi worldview:



Conspiracy Theory


Pseudo-Scientific Racism


In 1914, on the eve of the First World War, the largest political party in the German Reichstag was the Social Democrats. It’s important to remember that the German Social Democrats in 1914 were not simply liberals by another name like Bernie Sanders or the British Labor Party. Instead, they were a genuinely revolutionary movement officially devoted to the teachings of Karl Marx. That made it all the more shocking, therefore, when their leadership decided to support the monarchy and vote yes on declaring war against the British, French and Russians. Marxist Leninism, a more radical, and anti-parliamentary, version of social democracy came to the mainstream during the First World War, largely as a protest against the more orthodox German and French socialist surrender to militarism and nationalism. Trotsky and Lenin were allowed free passage into Russia by the German government precisely because of their anti-war views, to give them the opportunity to take Russia out of the war and free up German troops on the eastern front to join the offensive against France. Sending Trotsky and Lenin into Russia worked, but it was too little, too late. In 1918, the German monarchy, which had been starved by the Royal Navy’s blockade, and which was now facing the United States in addition to the British and the French, collapsed. The same Social Democrats who voted for the war credits in 1914, now led the German Revolution against the Kaiser. In October of 1918, Germany was an empire. In November of 1918, it was a democratic republic. Sadly for the fate of Europe, however, the vindictive French government, still resenting their defeat 50 years before in the Franco Prussian War, decided to push for a hard peace, for the return of Alsace and Lorraine, and for massive reparations that would make it difficult, if not impossible for the Weimar Republic to establish itself over the long term.

For Adolf Hitler, and for many radical German nationalists like him, the Social Democrats who led the German Revolution in 1918 were nothing more than front men for an international Jewish conspiracy. Marxism, for Hitler, was not only Judaism by another name, but a dagger aimed at the heart of the German nation itself. History was governed, not by economic forces, but by an eternal, and largely ahistorical struggle between the “Aryan” and the “Jew.” Other peoples, Slavs, blacks, Asians, the French, and even the majority Germans, were a mongrelized, easily manipulated, and degenerate mass, raw material to be fought over by the creative Aryan and the destructive Jew, the Christ and Satan of Hitler’s atheist theology. The disagreement I have with most reviews of Mein Kampf, from Adam Gopnik’s clueless and snobbish article in the New Yorker to Kenneth Burke’s classic examination of Hitler’s rhetoric as a demonic appropriation of Roman Catholicism is that they deny just how sincerely Hitler believed in what he was saying. Hitler wasn’t simply the low-class malcontent of Adam Gopnik or conscious propagandist of Kenneth Burke. He was a man of his age, a Social Darwinist who built an entire world view out of a distorted reading of natural selection and the idea of the death of God, and then built an army to put his ideology into practice.

Hitler’s fundamental insight was the idea that the only way to defeat a revolutionary ideology was with another revolutionary ideology, that the German bourgeoisie was too tame and conservative to defend its class interests against revolutionary socialism. What won Hitler the support of the German ruling class, in spite of his pretension to being anti-capitalist, was that he replaced the Marxist emphasis on economics, the idea that capitalism produced its own gravedigger in the form of the revolutionary proletariat, with a radical right wing nationalism and an ahistorical, biological essentialism. For Hitler, Germany was not a political entity like the Habsburg Empire or the Hohenzollern Reich. It was not defined by the German language, but by “blood.” The idea of forcing Poles, Czechs, and Serbians to speak German, to assimilate into a traditional Germany way of life, was horrifying. A Pole or a Czech, even if he spoke German and worshipped at a Lutheran church, was still a Pole or a Czech, a biological inferior species who degraded the German race as a whole. Human beings did not have souls, did not stand apart from or above nature in any way. For Hitler, the idea that we can master nature is Jewish, and Marxist propaganda. Like any other animal, humans are locked into a biological process that they do not control. Different races, like different species, cannot and should not interbreed. A Pole or a Czech having children with an Aryan is like a pig having a litter with a goat, an abomination of nature orchestrated by the demonic Jew.

To reduce humans to just another animal makes the idea of genocide inevitable. Whether or not someone has the power to kill 6 million Jews or not, the argument Hitler makes in Mein Kampf is that it’s his duty to try. What makes Hitler different from just another racist, anti-Semite, or conspiracy theorist is the radical break with the Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) assumption that we have souls, that we cannot be reduced to our “blood.” For the capitalist ruling class of the 1920s and 1930s, who also believed that humans could be reduced to objects, to “hands” or “human capital,” Hitler’s ideology was a useful weapon to use against revolutionary Marxism. It still is. Whether in the form of the radical French proletariat of the Paris Commune of 1871, the German Social Democratic masses of 1918, or the third world refugees of 2016 desperately streaming into fortress Europe, a class society always produces its own gravediggers. A revolutionary conservative reaction is never far behind.

The co-optation of populism.

In the past, ideas dangerous to those with cultural influence have been subject to direct and purposeful exercises of redefinition. It’s not so easy to see that this has in fact happened in the past outside of inherited folklore: a ‘fog of lore’ settles down over history, which is constantly unfolding under a blanket of narrative forces. But artifacts of redefinition can be seen – no doubt ‘invisible hand’ (which was coined by Adam Smith to mean ‘keep ownership of national resources inside a country’) has left some artifacts on the trail it has taken since to meaning ‘sell ownership of national resources in third world countries to superpowers’. The revolutionary terms ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ have similarly been made to mean ‘liberalism’.

It’s a rare and potentially educational opportunity to be in a position to see this happening as it unfolds with clarity and to have the opportunity to document it.

“Sanders and Trump: Two Populist Peas in a Pod?” the National Review writes. NPR authors a program titled “Nativism And Economic Anxiety Fuel Trump’s Populist Appeal,” though the content and URL both reference Bernie Sanders. Other titles include “Donald Trump Is a Plutocrat Populist From Hell” (HuffPo). These are the first three search results I received searching ‘trump populist’ online. I myself was guilty of adopting the term – writing about the weird inconsistencies in Trump’s platform in which I referenced to it as ‘right-populism’.

The mainstream media equivocation of the term during these elections is to equate ‘populism’ with elements of social welfare, to socialism, or to liberalism. Pressed to describe the populist elements of these candidates’ campaigns: their support for single payer healthcare is cited. For Trump a rejection of migratory peoples. For Sanders his embrace of migratory peoples. Somehow, Trump’s tax cuts to the rich are populist. As is Sander’s calls to end Federal regulation of marijuana.

But these don’t resonate with what it means to be a populist at any point in history nor in any part of the growing international populist movement today. Populism around the world today and throughout history has meant a call for national sovereignty. The recent crawl of populism into the consciousnesses of first world countries has turned the word into “a rise of people’s interests over those of the elites.” (Indeed, this is what Western Wikipedia editors seem to think it means.) When the petty-bourgeoisie think that populism means that it’s unfair that they should be so petty – that they too should be elites, they’ve got it all wrong.

A quick check on Trump’s and Sander’s foreign policy show that they do not believe in national sovereignty for the people of the world. They believe that, or at least retort during debates that, the American people need to be given a real chance to become the elites that take the foreign sovereignty from the majority of the world.

“We’re going to make America strong again.”

There may be hope. While Obama calls for Middle Class Economics – the nicest way to rephrase Reaganomics – eventually American commoners will realize that the elite are a class you are either born or graduate from the Chicago School into, that they can’t be the elite, that democracies don’t make good empires, that “Corn and Superbowl” isn’t that much better than “Bread and Games”, and that they have 6 billion allies around the world who do want to make democracy work.

If Sanders believed that people around the world should be represented as political and economic equals to United States citizens he would never be a candidate for the Democratic Party. Trump wouldn’t get away with saying he thinks Mexicans are hard working people, much less good people or subject to equal political expression and opportunity.

In the 1910 Supreme Court Case “Weems v. United States” it was decided that colonies of the United States (such as the Phillipines under discussion) were not the United States, and therefore colonial subjects inside of these colonies were not subject to the Constitution, and therefore (as written in the Declaration of Independence) these colonial subjects do not have unalienable rights.

This Supreme Court Decision has not been overturned today. Sanders is not proposing to overturn it. Trump is not proposing to overturn it.

We can ask ourselves: who would Venezuela vote for in this election if they could choose an American president? Cuba? Who would Bolivia vote for? Haiti? Honduras? The Middle East and North African countries? Papao? The people of the Philippines?

Amid discussions about political transition in Syria not involving any Syrians. Amid discussions in Washington that recognizing Taiwan as Chinese territory could be a nice superpower bargaining chip. Amid planning to reunify the Korean Peninsula, even if it takes a false flag operation.

What client state of the United States would want United States flavor of populism? What populist country on Earth would want United States flavor of populism?

When our equivocation of populism means ‘slightly left of center in America, slightly right of center everywhere else’ it hardly is a good definition for the political struggles the rest of the populist world faces. For the rest of the world ‘populism’ mans to have a government that represents their, rather than colonial cronies’, interests.