Mohsen Abdelmoumen: In your book "Big Business and Hitler", you talk about the collaboration of the world's economic, industrial and financial elite with Hitler. Was Hitler a pure product, an instrument, of the capitalist system?
Dr. Jacques Pauwels: Hitler’s so-called “National Socialism,” in reality not a form of socialism at all, was the German variety of fascism, and fascism was a manifestation of capitalism, the brutal, nasty way in which capitalism manifested itself in the interwar period in response to the threat of revolutionary change, embodied by communism, and the economic crisis of the Great Depression. To the extent that Hitler personified the German variety of fascism, he may indeed be called an “instrument” of capitalism; however, as I mention in my book, the term “instrument” is really too simplistic. It would be more accurate to define Hitler as a kind of “agent,” a complex human being with a mind of his own, acting on behalf of German capitalism, but not always in accordance with the wishes of capitalists, rather than a mere “instrument” or “tool” of German capitalism. This explains why German capitalists were not always perfectly happy with Hitler’s services. But the advantage of this arrangement was that, after the collapse of Nazi Germany, they could blame the “agent” for all the crimes he had committed on their behalf.
Does capitalism have a vital need of Nazism and fascism?
Capitalism is a very flexible social-economic system that is able to function in different political contexts. It is certainly a myth that capitalism, euphemistically known as “free markets,” is a kind of Siamese twin of democracy, in other words, that capitalism’s favourite political environment is democracy. History shows us that capitalism has flourished in highly authoritarian systems and supported such systems enthusiastically. In Germany, capitalism did extremely well when Bismarck ruled the Reich with an iron fist. Germany remained 100% capitalist under Hitler, and capitalism flourished under Hitler, before and during the war, as I have demonstrated in my book. Capitalism is also able and willing to partner with democracy, especially if democratic reforms appear needed to dissipate the threat of revolutionary change, e.g. after World War II, when democratic political and social reforms (the Welfare State) were introduced in Western Europe to derail the much more radical, even revolutionary demands formulated by Resistance movements in countries such as Italy and France. One could say that, to further its profit-maximizing purposes, capitalism is willing to use the “carrot” of democracy as well as the “stick” of fascism and other forms of authoritarianism, such as military dictatorships.
Does the rise of neo-Nazi and fascist groups around the world serve big capital and the oligarchy that rules the world?
As mentioned earlier, fascism is a manifestation of capitalism. In other words, it is the way in which capitalism, like a chameleon, adjusts its colour to a changing social and political environment. The historical fascism of the thirties, personified by the likes of Mussolini and Hitler, reflected capitalism’s response, in Italy and in Germany, to the twin threat of Russian-style revolutionary change and the Great Depression. After World War II, when fascism was presumably dead and buried, capitalism, especially American capitalism, relied on neo-, quasi-, or crypto-fascist systems to neutralize similar threats. For example, in Chile, where Pinochet was brought to power to forestall radical reforms and keep the country safe for US investment capital. Today, ever-greater economic and social problems, coupled with real or perceived revolutionary threats, have caused capitalism in a number of countries to spawn fascist or, if you prefer, quasi- or neo-fascist, political parties and movements. For the time being, capitalism does not need to bring these fascists to power; but they prove very useful because, like Hitler with his anti-Semitism, they divert the public’s attention from the shortcomings of the capitalist system by blaming all the nasty stuff on (preferably coloured) scapegoats such as Muslims, refugees, the Chinese, and the Russkis. The German writer Bertolt Brecht poetically warned us, alluding to Hitler-fascism and the undiminished capacity of capitalism to generate new forms of fascism:
dass keiner von uns zu früh da triumphiert
Aus dem das kroch”*
*"The world was almost ruled by such a monster!
Fortunately, the nations defeated it.
But let us not rejoice too soon
The womb it crawled from is still fertile."
(“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”)
The European Union blames the USSR for starting World War II. What do you think about that?
Blaming the USSR and, by implication, its Russian successor-state, for World War II, is a purely political statement. It amounts to a monstrous and shameful distortion of history. In the thirties, the Soviet Union sought for years to establish an anti-Hitler alliance with France and Britain, but was turned down time and again. The reason for that is that the gentlemen in power in London and Paris did not want to go to war on the side of the Soviets against Hitler but wanted Hitler to use the military might of Germany to march east and destroy the Soviet Union while they would be watching gleefully from the sidelines. Hitler certainly wanted war, so he is deservedly blamed for starting World War II. But the French and British leaders deserve a share of the blame because they encouraged Hitler and supported him with their “Appeasement”-policy, for example offering him Czecho-Slovakia on a silver platter in the infamous pact they concluded with him in Munich in 1938.
By blaming the USSR, do Western politicians and media not seek to cover up their own ugly history of collaboration with Hitler and Nazism?
Indeed, by blaming the Soviet Union, “Western” countries, or at least their leaders, seek to divert attention from their own role in the outbreak of the Second World War. By means of their infamous policy of appeasement, the British and French leaders encouraged and facilitated Hitler’s plans for a “crusade” against the Soviet Union. And the corporate and financial elite of Western countries, including the US, collaborated very closely – and very profitably – with Hitler, as I have demonstrated in my books, “Big Business and Hitler” and “The Myth of the Good War.”
In your books " Big Business and Hitler " and "Myth of the Good War: America and the Second World War," you dismantle the myth of the "liberation" of Europe by the United States when we know that it was Stalingrad’s victory by the Soviets that was the turning point of the war. Is it not another historical lie to say that the United States liberated Europe? Didn't the United States simply colonize Europe? How do you explain Europe's dependence on the USA and the fact that Europeans still follow the imperialist policy of the USA? Hasn't NATO become obsolete?
It is true that the Soviet Union made the biggest contribution by far to the Allied victory. If the Red Army had not managed to stop the Nazi steamroller in front of Moscow in 1941 and win major victories in Stalingrad and elsewhere, Hitler would have won the war. But the Nazis had the most powerful war machine the world had ever seen, and defeating it required contributions from all allied armies and also from resistance movements. That the American army also made an important contribution cannot be denied; however, American leaders took advantage of the presence of their army in Western Europe to establish their hegemony over that part of the world. In many ways, they did not really “liberate” the countries of Western Europe. Even today, Germany is not “free” to ask US troops to leave its soil, and Belgium and Holland must tolerate the presence within their borders of American atom bombs. France’s president Charles de Gaulle was not far off the mark when he described the American liberation of France as a second “occupation,” following on the heels of the German occupation. Unlike the Germans and the Belgians, he had the nerve to demand that US troops leave France, and that was one of the reasons why the CIA appears to have been involved in various attempts on his life. But even de Gaulle found it impossible to avoid membership in NATO, which is not an alliance of equals at all, but a club of European “satellites” of the US, strictly controlled by the Pentagon, and functioning as a sales and public relations department of the American “military-industrial complex.” NATO was originally set up to defend Western Europe against a totally fictitious threat emanating from the Soviet Union and should therefore have been disbanded after the collapse of the “evil empire”. To the US, however, NATO is a very useful and powerful instrument for control over Europe. And indeed, this control, this hegemony, was established by the US in the months following the landing of its troops in Normandy in 1944. Ironically, this achievement would not have been possible if the Red Army had not dealt mortal blows to Nazi Germany much earlier.
Wasn't the American intervention in Europe during the Second World War simply a capitalist war? Does it not primarily serve the interests of US imperialism and its military-industrial complex?
The Second World War amounted to two wars rolled into one. On the one hand, it was indeed a “capitalist” war, or rather, an “imperialist” war. Imperialism was/is the international, worldwide manifestation of capitalism, involving competition and conflict among the leading capitalist/imperialist powers over territories bursting with desiderata such as raw materials (like petroleum) and cheap labour. The First World War was an imperialist conflict, but it did not settle things, so the imperialist powers went to war a second time. The US would emerge from this conflict as the great winner, thanks, ironically, to the Soviet Union’s crushing defeat of the other candidate for imperialist supremacy, Nazi Germany. At the same time, World War II was also a conflict between capitalism/imperialism and socialism, embodied by the Soviet Union. It is an irony of history that the two types of conflict merged, producing contradictions such as the de facto alliance of the socialist, intrinsically anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Soviet Union, with two anti-socialist imperialist powers, the US and Britain. The war served the interests of US imperialism in that it allowed the US to emerge as the undisputed Number One of imperialism. But the war’s outcome was imperfect because it also meant a triumph for the anti-imperialist Soviet Union. That is why, immediately after World War II, Washington started a new war, the “Cold War,” with as objective nothing less than the elimination of the Soviet Union.
U.S. imperialism has never ceased a policy of war and coups all over the world. Aren't the imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc. symptomatic of the barbarity of US imperialism?
Historically, US imperialism has pursued its objectives systematically, ruthlessly and, one might add, not only openly but also stealthily, via open warfare, economic warfare, destabilization, sabotage, and assassination attempts. Examples of that ruthlessness include the unnecessary nuking of Hiroshima, chemical warfare against the Vietnamese, successful and unsuccessful assassination attempts on recalcitrant leaders such as Fidel Castro and Lumumba, and economic sanctions that cost the lives of tens if not hundreds of thousands of women and children, as Madeline Albright infamously acknowledged in a reference to Iraq. So yes, the wars started by the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc., are symptomatic of this ruthlessness or barbarity, as you call it.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Dr. Jacques Pauwels?
Jacques R. Pauwels is a historian, researcher and writer, born in Ghent, Belgium. He emigrated to Canada in 1969 after studying history at the University of Ghent and settled near the city of Toronto. He pursued doctoral studies at York University in Toronto, specializing in the social history of Nazi Germany, and received his PhD in 1976. He has become professor of history at several Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. In 1995, he obtained a Ph.D. in political science in the specialty of foreign investment regulation in Canada. He is a lecturer at various Ontario universities, including the University of Toronto, Waterloo, Guelph, and has published numerous articles.
He has authored several books translated into several languages including “Women, Nazis, and Universities : Women University Students in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945”; “The Myth of the Good War”; “The Great Class War”; “Big Business and Hitler”.
His website contains conferences and interviews in which he participated, as well as his numerous publications: http://www.jacquespauwels.net/
Published in American Herald Tribune August 13, 2020: https://ahtribune.com/interview/4347-jacques-pauwels.html