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Youth Movements And Anti-War Pacifism...Of The 1930s?
By Ed Driscoll · August 21, 2007 11:40 PM · Bobos In Paradise · The Return of the Primitive · War And Anti-War

I picked up a copy of Diana West’s The Death of the Grown-up at Borders tonight; it's a topic that certainly fascinates me (see these previous posts for some related thoughts), while I'm sympathetic to John Leo's criticism in the Wall Street Journal, it certainly seems like there's still plenty of material for West to mine.

In his latest Bleat, James Lileks excerpts this passage of Leo's review:

The 1920s is a far better place to begin detecting the seeds of adolescent revolution, but Ms. West thinks not. She finds "no mention of teen-age problems" in the famous Middletown studies done in Muncie, Ind., in the '20s and '30s by Robert Lynd and Helen Merrill Lynd. But in fact the Lynds noted the rising conflict in Middletown between parents and their young. Arguments about too much drinking (this was during Prohibition) and staying out too late were common. The automobile, mass produced and available to ordinary families, offered the young the means of forming peer groups and a place to have sex.

The Roaring '20s were a shock that did much to loosen parental controls. A familiar argument holds that the rebellion of the 1960s might have occurred decades earlier if the Depression, World War II and the recovery period of the 1950s had not intervened. By not noticing the forces unleashed in the '20s, Ms. West misses a chance to analyze the 1930s youthquake that might have been.

In response, Lileks asks us to "Imagine a 60s-style youth movement in the 30s":
Can you imagine these people grooving to Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway at Woodstock? (Armstrong, after all, did enjoy the herb.) If the Depression hadn’t been as severe, and the youth of the thirties had fought the draft and argued for pacifism, could we have fought WW2?
Actually, it's one of the great what-ifs to ponder how close we came to just that last item.

From all accounts, Stalin was apparently quite shocked that Hitler decided to violate his pact with the Soviet Union, and spent a week in deep depression immediately afterwards, even as Nazi Germany was racing through the USSR. Prior to that though, as I've written before, American-based communists such as Pete Seeger, Dalton Trumbo, and Charles Chaplin, were all, in their own way, issuing material whose pacifistic sentiments would have been right at home in the anti-Vietnam war late-1960s. As would these elite British youth of the late 1930s, prompting George Orwell to write, "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist", a truism to this day.

There's another interesting 1930s and '40s-themed review that went up yesterday, this one by David Frum, of Gotz Aly's Hitler's Beneficiaries (which I'm also working my way through, contra Pat.), a sort of Mirror Universe version of Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man:

Gotz Aly's Hitler's Beneficiaries doesn't look like an explosive book. Written in a dry, unsensational style, it studies that driest and least sensational of subjects: public finance.

Aly devotes little attention to generals and commandants. The leading figures in his pages are central bankers and revenue administrators. After the Second World War, many of these men presented themselves as apolitical technicians; many remained in government to serve the democratic Federal Republic. And yet, as Aly tells it, these public financiers in the security of their offices committed crimes as black and terrible as any committed by the black-coated murderers of the SS.

Aly's first great message is that the Nazi regime was a popular one. There was little resistance to Hitler—and comparatively little repression against non-Jewish Germans. In 1936, the Nazi concentration camps contained only 4,700 prisoners, and not all of these were political. In 1937, the Gestapo employed only 7,000 officers and men to police a population of 80 million. (By contrast, the East Germans would employ 190,000 Stasi to monitor a population of 17 million.)

The secret of Nazi popularity was not—repeat not—the allegedly fanatical anti-Semitism of the German people. Rather, Hitler and the Nazis built a welfare state that delivered real benefits to German families. This welfare state was paid for by plundering first Germany's Jews and then the conquered nations of Europe.

Hitler often gets credit for pulling Germany out of the Depression. This claim is false: Germany in 1938 remained a poorer country than the Germany of 1928. Hitler launched a military buildup and created major social programs that Germany could not afford. By 1939, the Nazis were spending 20.5-billion marks on the military and 16.3-billion marks on civilian programs—all supported by only 17-billion marks in tax revenue.

Protective of his popularity, Hitler refused to tax ordinary Germans to pay these bills. (Throughout the Second World War, democratic Britain accepted much higher taxes than Hitler dared impose on totalitarian Germany.)

None of that seems entirely surprisingly; David Ramsay Steele's 2003 essay on "The Mystery of Fascism", seems to dovetail remarkably well with the above passage.

(Incidentally, Reason also had an good review of Hitler's Beneficiaries that's also well worth your time.)



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