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Nigel Harris

The Nazis

(Winter 1967/68)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.31,Winter 1967/68, p.38.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Hitler’s Social Revolution
David Schoenbaum
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 50s

Nazi Culture
George L. Mosse
W.H. Allen, 50s

Mr Schoenbaum has tried to gather together the fragmentary information available on Germany between 1933 and 1939 to present a composite picture of the Nazi impact upon German society. He examines in turn the social elements of the Nazi programme, its general ideology, and the Nazi impact upon labour, business, agriculture, women, the State and social mobility. There is much in this book which is of great value, and it embodies a great deal of die new research of recent years (including Mr Schoenbaum’s research). In particular, the incompetence and muddle of the new regime, in contrast to its propaganda (and thereby, the estimate of foreigners), is clearly portrayed. The style of the book is journalistic in parts, and this perhaps exacerbates the relatively poor theoretical framework within which this excellent material is presented. In particular, Mr Schoenbaum has only the most exiguous notion of ‘class,’ and thus infers that the Nazi regime was anti-business because it was nasty to many businessmen. The intentions of particular Nazi leaders, how far they accepted bourgeois society, is imperfectly discriminated from the objective effects of Nazi rule. However, the account of the sheer opportunism of the Nazis, their lack of any real programme, is excellent.

Mr Mosse presents edited extracts from writings and speeches by Nazis to recapture the flavour of their peculiar silliness. It is like any collection of bad literature: it does convey the flavour, but, unlike the joyful blurb which calls the book a ‘shockingly vivid picture,’ it is very dreary. The Nazis, without any particular view of society, retreated to the poorest kind of lower middle-class taste or mediocre scholarship which was duly dressed in the glad rags of ‘true German culture.’ The editing is competent although the editor does tend to take some of the material a little too solemnly. After all, much the same kind of material can be found with ease in any west European country from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.

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Last updated: 28.12.2007