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James M. Fenwick

The Happy Hypocrite

(November 1941)

From The New International, Vol. VII No. 10, November 1941, pp. 286–7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

You Can’t Do Business With Hitler
by Douglas Miller
Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1941. 229 pp., $1.50

THIS IS THE BOOK that has been causing such a flutter in the bourgeois literary dovecotes. Writing recently in the dreary and reactionary Saturday Review of Literature, William L. Shirer solemnly said: “It’s a book that ought to be on the desk of every business man in the country.” Even Roosevelt has recommended the book – a form of criticism in itself.

The author explicitly directs the book at American business men, stating that they are – surprise! – “one group in America which has not been adequately brought face to face with the facts. Having spent fifteen years as a commercial attaché at the United States embassy in Berlin, Miller comes well equipped with first-hand data on the Nazi regime. The book serves as an economic rationale for the holy onslaught against German capitalism which American capitalism is preparing.

In order to prove his complete competency to prescribe to the American capitalist class, Miller hurriedly establishes in the very first of the book the moral basis for his judgments on the present world crisis. “I confess,” he says – in sharp contrast, we assume, to the amoralism of the Bolsheviks, which we hear so much about nowadays – “a preference for a little civilized hypocrisy once in a while, to conceal some of the ugliness of the world. If we cannot always act according to the highest standards of ethics, the least we can do is to be ashamed of ourselves and conceal our shortcomings as much as possible. Such hypocrisy is much better than openly wallowing in evil and claiming that this is an honest and natural way to live.”

Having established his moral authority to speak on the issues of the day, Miller hastens to prove in a hundred and one ways the hypocrisy of the war “for democracy against fascism.” The whole burden of his complaint can be summed up in a sentence: Hitlerism prevents the United States from exploiting Germany and it will shortly prevent the United States from exploiting the rest of the globe; therefore, the sooner that Germany is destroyed the better.

The chapter headings give an idea of the field covered: Nazi Aims and Methods; Nazi Plans for World Expansion; The New Order in Europe; Hitler Reaches Out for a New World; and The United States Under Nazi Pressure.

A Primer for Innocents

Even as a capitalist analysis of German fascism the book is a superficial job. It was apparently dashed off as a fitting addition to the reading of those persons whose political education has been gained from a year’s subscription to Reader’s Digest. The book contains the standard bourgeois analysis of Nazi racial theories, the leadership principle, Hitler’s treaty-breaking and lying, religious persecution, etc. In these there is nothing more than the standard newspaper treatment.

The most usable sections of the book are those describing fascist economic life. How Germany acquired raw materials necessary for the creation of her war machine through exchange control, manipulation of clearing agreements, the use of the blocked mark, price fixing, job freezing, dumping, wage fixing and export subsidizing is briefly shown. These sections demonstrate very clearly that Hitler’s “planning,” which seems to charm certain “left” liberals as a snake does a bird, is the crudest sort of improvisation based upon severe exploitation at home and the baldest sort of racketeering on the international economic arena.

These sections of the book, however, are inferior even to those contained in such a study as The Vampire Economy by Guenter Reimann, whose contribution to the anti-fascist struggle consists in solicitously warning American capitalists against supporting a fascist movement in this country in view of the simply terrible things that the Nazis are doing to German capitalists. Daniel Guerin’s Fascism and Big Business, despite certain defects, such as a failure to analyze the rôle of the Social Democrats and the Communist Party in the rise of Hitler to power, remains head and shoulders above the rest of the books in the field.

Miller’s book contains an adequate account of the economic consequences to Europe, Africa, South America and the United States of a Hitler victory over Britain. He shows the economic necessity for world domination which inevitably brought Germany and the United States into mortal struggle. His argumentation, incidentally, effectively destroys the case of the isolationists, if only from a capitalist point of view.

It is a simple matter to snap the backbone of Miller’s reasoning. Miller becomes righteously indignant at the brutality of Hitler’s rule, present and future. But in condemning Hitler for certain practices he blithely overlooks these same practices when indulged in by Britain and the United States. Miller condemns Hitler’s barbaric racial methods; he has not a word to say about the treatment of the Negro in the United States. He recoils in horror before Hitler’s future treatment of the colonial population in Africa; he is silent on “democratic” England’s bloody subjection of 400,000,000 people in India. He is shocked by Germany’s economic penetration of South America; he is clamorously silent on the unsavory record of the United States in that sphere. This smug hypocrisy permeates the book.

Remedies Worse Than the Disease

Since the origins of Hitlerism are not approached from a Marxist point of view, Miller cannot show its rise as an inevitable necessity for the preservation of German capitalism. Neither dare he show as the was an inevitable consequence of the struggle for the colonial markets if the world, if German, British, or American capitalism is to survive at home. Having only a capitalist perspective, he can promise nothing following the current war but that a “continuance of economic nationalism, reinforced by the new high-pressure tactics which the totalitarian states have worked out, is very possible. It is too likely to happen to suit me. The passions unleashed by war, the hatreds and fears of a hungry, disillusioned world, create national antagonism and national barriers. It must be plain that after this war there will be more hate, less trust and confidence and more suspicion, less friendship. After this war it will not be a case of getting the lions and the lambs to lie down together. The lambs will be mostly all devoured. There will only be well-armed but torn and angry lions left.” This is all he can promise – plus a dubious hope that “a decent measure of international co-operation” will be established.

And what changes does Miller propose which will have to be made in this country in order to achieve this new barbarism?

I feel that it would prove necessary for us to abandon at least for a time many of the liberties to which we have become accustomed ... This involves the censorship in our own country of activities which have been guaranteed under our Bill of Rights. We should have to suspend or amend our Constitution, creating a new system of bureaucratic control over the individual. We should undoubtedly be forced to have a federal police force, fingerprinting everyone. We might even have to extend police power, requiring that every citizen report his movements, that every arrival and departure at hotels be reported to the nearest police station, and that an American equivalent of the Gestapo or OGPU be called into existence to combat actual or potential fifth-column activities. We should have to sacrifice a goodly portion of our treasured liberties in order to preserve a certain remnant of them. This is not a pretty picture.”

Quite true; it is not a pretty picture.

It is the face of FASCISM!

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