Thursday, 7 October 2021

Hannah Arendt's foolish theory of Totalitarianism

Hannah Arendt- a woman at a time when women were considered stupid, and a German Jew- at at time when Germany was abject and Jews outside Anglo-America felt insecure- wrote a book titled 'the origins of totalitarianism' 70 years ago. It is shit. 

Totalitarianism is a feature of polities which face an existential threat of invasion or war-lordism. China and Russia have always been more totalitarian because of historic memories of Mongol subjugation. The expected 'price of Anarchy' is too high. 

... not only the Nazis, but fifty years of antisemitic history, stand as evidence against the identification of antisemitism with nationalism.

Nobody was making that identification. Plenty of Jews participated in the first great wave of Liberal German Nationalism and were rewarded with legal emancipation- though, in Anglo Saxon countries this was pretty much a formality- thus forcing the Orthodox Jews to come to terms with 'Haskalah' modernization and 'enlightenment'.  

Interestingly, Turkish Jews played a prominent role in the nationalistic Young Turk movement. Indeed, the exceedingly stupid British Ambassador and 'dragoman', thought the Jews were behind the whole thing. 

The first antisemitic parties in the last decades of the nineteenth century were also among the first that banded together internationally.

Nonsense! The first 'political internationals' were left-wing. Some left-wing groupings became anti-semitic but their 'banding together' was wholly ineffective if not purely imaginary.

From the very beginning, they called international congresses and were concerned with a co-ordination of international, or at least inter-European, activities.

This simply isn't true. There were a couple of 'International Fascist Conferences' in 1934 and 1935 but they failed to agree on anything including anti-semitism.  

 General trends, like the coincident decline of the nation-state and the growth of antisemitism,

There was no such trend. Empires gave up the ghost in 1918 and nation-states rose and rose till the Common Market began to turn into the EU around the time that Hannah's Aunt dropped dead.  

can hardly ever be explained satisfactorily by one reason or by one cause alone.

Empires and monarchs had traditionally protected Jews and, quite naturally, things worsened for Jews after they disappeared.

The historian is in most such cases confronted with a very complex historical situation

Nope. What was happening was simple to grasp. When Empires collapse, urban linguistic minorities are left stranded. The rural masses may be willing to believe the worst about such minorities- more particularly if they are of a different religion. 

where he is almost at liberty, and that means at a loss, to isolate one factor as the "spirit of the time." There are, however, a few helpful general rules.

There is only one rule. Don't be stupider than you need to be.  

Foremost among them for our purpose is Tocqueville's great discovery (in L'Ancien Regime et la Revolution, Book II, chap. 1 ) of the motives for the violent hatred felt by the French masses for the aristocracy at the outbreak of the Revolution —

People don't like being robbed and beaten and sent to jail by a bunch of entitled toffs. That is the 'motive for violent hatred'. But this is not a great discovery. 

a hatred which stimulated Burke to remark that the revolution was more concerned with "the condition of a gentleman" than with the institution of a king.

i.e, the French wanted to replace the propertied gentleman- who has a shrewd enough head on his shoulders- with the citizen who is swayed by emotions.  

According to Tocqueville, the French people hated aristocrats about to lose their power more than it had ever hated them before, precisely because their rapid loss of real power was not accompanied by any considerable decline in their fortunes.

Tocqueville had made a close study of Burke but had got it into his head that Europe was on a one way ride to 'equality'. The cretin thought Louis XIV had achieved this but, sadly, nobody noticed. What he doesn't get that if the French aristocracy had kept 'real power', then they would have been killed by rivals till whoever was best at keeping 'real power' in that locality got the title of Duke or Count or whatever.  

The truth is- as Burke had noted- France was bound to face a convulsion of some sort because of the disorder of its finances. Governance and Laws don't exist so as to pursue equality. Both are service industries. They must pay for themselves one way or another. The Weimar Republic collapsed because of its crazy financial policies. Nazis could blame Jews for the collapse of Danatbank which had a ripple effect. In other countries, it was the 'rule bender' or corrupt immigrant entrepreneur who was the target, but in Germany, because of the salience of the interlocking directorships of State directed Finance-Capital in which the descendants of 'court Jews' featured prominently, it was the entire Politico-Economic Establishment which was impugned. However 'Finance-Capital' was not 'Jewish' in any sense. It embraced Nazi doctrines as eagerly and completely as the Army or the Academy. 

As long as the aristocracy held vast powers of jurisdiction, they were not only tolerated but respected.

So long as a guy can fuck you up, you don't just tolerate him but show him the uttermost respect. But this more true of a psychopath holding your family hostage than some Duke or Count.  

When noblemen lost their privileges, among others the privilege to exploit and oppress, the people felt them to be parasites, without any real function in the rule of the country.

A parasite feeds on its victim but can't defend itself. We rid ourselves of it if we can do so without suffering any great damage or incurring any great cost.  

In other words, neither oppression nor exploitation as such is ever the main cause for resentment;

Nobody gives a shit about being resented. Hostility must have the capacity to inflict harm or reduce profit for us to give it a second thought. I have spent the last ten years attacking Iyengars because I resent them for their superior intelligence and good looks. But they ignore me. So does everybody else but that may be because they expect Iyers to be smart and successful like those damned Iyengars whose achievements are preventing Tambrams getting affirmative action as not just 'Educationally Backward' but 'Mentally fucking retarded'. 

wealth without visible function is much more intolerable because nobody can understand why it should be tolerated.

Fuck off! We harbor warm feelings for lottery winners- unless like Voltaire they start writing stuff which aint porn.  

Antisemitism reached its climax when Jews had similarly lost their public functions

i.e. the 'court Jew', transmogrified into a Banker with seats on the boards of big companies, was no longer vital to keep foreign loans coming in to stave off national bankruptcy

and their influence, and were left with nothing but their wealth.

The problem with this view is that anti-semitism flourished in neighboring countries regardless of whether Jews retained, or had never had, such 'public functions'. 

When Hitler came to power, the German banks were already almost judenrein (and it was here that Jews had held key positions for more than a hundred years)

They were already almost bankrupt. The fact is Germany only got onto the gold standard after getting reparation payments from France. The General Staff believed its job was to extract gold and land from Germany's neighbors and both German Finance Capital as well as German Academia played along with this delusion. German Jews were simply German patriots who rose by merit though no doubt there was a 'hysteresis' effect or relation of 'embeddedness' such that they appeared descended from the 'court Jew' of an earlier period. The Weimar Republic was bound to collapse once foreign loans dried up. Its big mistake was to pauperize the middle classes through a hyperinflation which financed its foolish policy of subsidizing the indigenous opposition to the occupation of the Rhineland.

and German Jewry as a whole, after a long steady growth in social status and numbers, was declining so rapidly that statisticians predicted its disappearance in a few decades.

The smart ones got out if they were able to do so. Those who stayed had elderly relatives or other dependents who could not relocate. 

Why did anti-semitism get a hold on Germany? One explanation has to do with Tzarist Russian persecution of the Jews which culminated in the dissemination of lurid fabrications like the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. After the War, this stupidity morphed into a ridiculous notion that Jewish Bankers on Wall Street were in league with the Bolsheviks. Some British conservatives seem to have been infected with this idiocy.

Arendt associates 'absolute monarchy' with 'court Jews'. This is foolish. No monarch was more absolute than the Tzar. Yet the Russians were harshest on the Jews. By contrast the Polish Lithuanian commonwealth, which was most hospitable to Jews, was the least absolute of monarchies. Incidentally there was once a Jewish titular King of Poland (he was a placeholder for a Radziwill) 

By the end of the eighteenth century it had become clear that none of the estates or classes in the various countries was willing or able to become the new ruling class, that is to identify itself with the government as the nobility had done for centuries.

This is nonsense. The Napoleonic wars showed that the British and French middle class were willing and able to step up to the plate. By 1832, there could be no doubt that they had triumphed. The question was whether the proletariat would be content to be led by the bourgeoisie. 

As for the nobility, left to itself, it wouldn't necessarily identify with the Government. Furthermore there was the problem of noblemen inheriting estates across national borders. It wasn't till the First World War, that some aristocrats were forced to pick one Nationality and stick to it.

 The failure of the absolute monarchy ta find a substitute within society 

Absolute monarchies either created an obedient bureaucracy- e.g. Russia, China, Prussia, Tudor England- or they ceased to be absolute or, in some cases, monarchies. 

led to the full development of the nation-state and its claim to be above all classes, completely independent of society and its particular interests, the true and only representative of the nation as a whole. 

Which state claimed to be subordinate to the particular interest of a class? None at all, even if that was indeed the case. 

It resulted, on the other side, in a deepening of the split between state and society upon which the body politic of the nation rested.

If there was such a split then there was no 'body politic' to speak of- just a ruling caste raping and robbing a bunch of emaciated serfs. 

Without it, there would have been no need—or even any possibility—of introducing the Jews into European history on equal terms. 

Jews have been part of European history for over two thousand years. The triumph of one Jewish sect- Christianity- wasn't always a good thing for them but then they themselves hadn't treated the Samaritans too well. 

When all attempts to ally itself with one of the major classes in society had failed, the state chose to establish itself as a tremendous business concern. 

Which 'major class' anywhere has been against the State? All have been patriotic and have wanted the State to be strong and to create prosperity. 

A State which is a 'business concern' would buy and sell provinces. 

This was meant to be for administrative purposes only, to be sure, but the range of interests, financial and otherwise, and the costs were so great that one cannot but recognize the existence of a special sphere of state business from the eighteenth century on. 

The eighteenth century BC- maybe. 

The independent growth of state business was caused by a conflict with the financially powerful forces of the time, 

Nonsense! Powerful financial forces want the State to provide public goods and infrastructure and a stable currency an so forth. 

with the bourgeoisie which went the way of private investment, shunned all state intervention, 

Rubbish! The car manufacturer wanted the Government to build highways just as the carriage manufacturer wanted the Government to catch and kill highway men. 

and refused active financial participation in what appeared to be an "unproductive" enterprise.

Arendt thought you could politely but firmly refuse to pay your taxes without any evil consequences. 

 Thus the Jews were the only part of the population willing to finance the state's beginnings and to tie their destinies to its further development.

Sheer nonsense. There were Fuggers and Lombards and indigenous merchants like Jacques Coeur. Limited monarchies, if prepared to call a Parliament which would levy a tax, found that the population was perfectly willing to finance the State provided it did things which were sensible and in the interests of the majority. 

Only at the end of the nineteenth century, with the rise of imperialism, did the owning classes begin to change their original estimate of the unproductivity of state business. Imperialist expansion, together with the growing perfection of the instruments of violence and the state's absolute monopoly of them, made the state an interesting business proposition. This meant, of course, that the Jews gradually but automatically lost their exclusive and unique position

Arendt, being ignorant of history, believed that Jews financed the State till 'Imperialism' made the non-Jewish population willing to finance the State's expansion. Naturally, she came up with a completely crazy theory about the origins of totalitarianism. She doesn't understand that Jews were hard working and intelligent. They weren't money grubbing usurers though, no doubt, some Jews recycled Christian money in this way. At a later point, Jews began to rise to the forefront of Scientific and Mathematical Research. Perhaps, the fact that they were of a different faith caused them to be associated with a 'Godless'  or 'materialistic' approach which denied the Supernatural element. We naturally resent people who seem smarter than us- e.g. my hatred of Iyengars- but this does not necessarily mean we would cut off our own nose to spite our face and exclude smart people from useful professions. 

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