In Artists Under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany, Jonathan Petropoulos quoted fellow historian Charles Maier to explain why so many German modernists were willing — in some cases eager — to accommodate Hitler:
In the 1930s the authoritarian party and regime seemed the wave of the future. Disciplined collective man was apparently on the march. Liberalism appeared the effete indulgence of a beleaguered Anglo-American elite or some aging West European philosophers. … In the 1930s the spokesmen for democracy were divided and apparently demoralized. The League of Nations seemed powerless before aggression.
And from the National Socialists’ perspective, “One can also see why the Nazi leaders would seek to cultivate these artists— or, at a minimum, retrain them,”
As Goebbels proclaimed in 1936, expressing some frustration with the younger generation, “One cannot manufacture artists.” His Nazi peer Göring observed, “It is always easier over time to make a decent National Socialist out of an artist than to make a great artist out of a minor Party member. Why was Hitler-the-artist not the first to recognize this?” The regime force-fed the population a diet of culture— far more than they had ever had before. The Nazis needed “cultural workers” of all kinds to realize their ambitions of indoctrination and the creation of a glamorous façade for the Third Reich. Or, in the words of David Schoenbaum, the Nazis shaped a “subjective social reality” that differed from its “objective” (or statistically measurable) counterpart. Germans perceived shifts in society— class divisions, income distribution, and gender roles, among others— that did not correspond to actual events. The state-directed culture and propaganda convinced many of the illusory transformations.
The same was true of International Socialism as well, as Ray Keating of Aleteia writes in his review of Allan Ryskind’s new book, Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler:
Ryskind writes, “The Hollywood Ten, far from being ‘radical innocents,’ far from having just ‘flirted with Communist ideas,’ as their sympathizers so frequently insist, had all been committed to a Soviet America.” This is perhaps best illustrated by the flip-flopping by Hollywood’s communists in and around World War II as they followed Kremlin orders via the Communist Party in America. That is, being anti-Nazi initially; then working against the anti-Nazis, including Great Britain and the U.S., during the Hitler-Stalin pact; once again, turning passionately against Hitler when he attacked the Soviet Union; and finally, turning against U.S. foreign policy and ultimately advocating our nation’s violent demise. It was all about defending the U.S.S.R., not the U.S.A. [Oceania has always been at war with… — Ed]
Ryskind makes clear that the Hollywood communists were working for Stalin, either unconcerned or supportive of “Stalin’s swallowing of Eastern Europe, his installation of Red regimes in Asia, his aggressive acts against Western Europe, and the deep penetration of his fifth column in virtually all areas of American society.” Oh yes, and there were the millions of Russians starved and murdered by Uncle Joe.
Which dovetails well with the Theodore Dalrymple quote Mark Steyn highlighted today:
In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.
In contrast, in 1979, Vaclav Havel wrote:
Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.
Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get along well with those who work with them. For this reason, however, they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.
(Via Orrin Judd.)