History exhibits strange bedfellows, though the strangeness is arguably retrospective.  The political ruling class of country A resonates with the putative achievements of the political ruling class of country B.  The economic ruling class of country A finds that its opportunities seem enhanced by cooperation with the economic ruling class of country B.  So the two pairs of ruling classes praise and cooperate with their respective allies.  But these ruling classes have several things in common; these include their propensity for aggression toward others, their contempt for the masses and democracy to which they pay lip service, their developed skills in manipulating public opinion, and a common enemy.

When Americans found the true motivations of Nazi Germany those who had cooperated with Germany were embarrassed and sought to cover up their mutual political and economic tracks.   When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, after mutually pledging non-aggression toward each other, the US found it in its interest to cooperate with the Soviet regime and vice versa; though each  was skeptical of the other, they needed each other–at least until the Nazi regime was terminated, after which the Cold War enveloped the former allies, and embarrassment again was generated.

Guido Preparata has shown in CONJURING HITLER that the foregoing model applies to some or many of the upper classes of Britain and the US in relation to Nazi Germany.  Ever thus has it been the case with imperialism, perhaps especially during the period 1789 to 1041, as shifting alliances reflected economic, political, social and religious differences and conflicts, but actually echoing the several hundred years of monarchical wars prior thereto.  But the origins of the Third Reich are infintely more ensconced in the consciousness of the tast three or four generations than
the various great European wars of earlier centuries.  Nor has the history been played out:  the US has joined with various allies, notably Britain and France, first in the conflict with Nazi Germany, then in the conflict with the Soviet Union, taking over the planetary power roles in Vietnam and Iraq, as well as elsewhere.

The story told by Preparata focuses on Nazi Germany but leads, backward and forward, to much more.  In numerous ways, the belief systems of varous societies is marshaled and manipulated as the masses are seduced by apparent nationalism, when in fact patriotism and nationalism are the instruments of various groups within the dynamic ruling classes.  Oddly conspicuous by his absence, Preparata’s story tends strongly to confirm the political-economic sociology of Vilfredo Pareto, whose theories of the circulation of the elite, the role of pseudo-beliefs in a system of mutual manipulation, and so on are shown to be applicable to the rise of the Third Reich.  It is hard to believe, and Preparata, like any ambitious author, may not have gotten every point precisely right, but it is nonetheless substantially true, and whose truth is obfuscated by those who want to manipulate belief system and power for their own purposes.

May 21 2007

Warren J. Samuels

(1933-2011)
Professor Emeritus
Michigan State University