So Near Yet So Far

I was reading Adam Cadre’s short essay, Trajectories of Fascism, which is all about the alternative histories where the Nazi regime in Germany was not destroyed in 1945.

Sadly WONDERFULLY, Cadre’s essay didn’t mention DOES MENTION Len Deighton’s SS-GB (the obvious prototype for Fatherland) or Katharine Burdekin‘s Swastika Night. SN predates (1937) Dorothy Thompson’s essay on who would go Nazi (1941), and is interesting in that it looks at Nazism from a 1930s female perspective, using an alternative future history in which Nazi Germany won the (obviously looming) World War and endured. We tend to remember the really bad things the Nazis did, and elide over the comprehensiveness of their program to restructure society along conservative, Romantic, and patriarchal lines. Something like Snyder‘s Encyclopedia of the Third Reich lays it all out in mind-numbing and extraordinary detail. Like, did you know that the Nazis funded themselves through sponsored cigarette sales? A big part of their early funding came from effectively MLM sales of Nazi-brand consumables and gadgets to party members and their families and friends. The Nazi regime was capable of dichotomies, arguing fiercely against abortion and contraception (in overmen, of course) while promoting it within captured territories. A similar pattern was seen with pornography, with the State actively constraining porn at home while using it as a social engineering weapon in Poland and elsewhere to create a “degeneration through promiscuity”.

To get a sense of who was thinking about “Going Nazi” in the 1920s and 1930s, English readers would probably find Henry Ford’s The International Jew enlightening. Possibly most interesting of all would be any collection of George Orwell’s journalism essays from the 1930s where he was writing for a local audience. He spends quite a lot of time dissing whichever local politician, patrician, or celebrity had “come out” for Hitlerism, which seems to have happened in the 1930s with alarmingly regularity. What’s cool is that it ties these into a British context, and by virtue of when it was written, it “de-evils” Nazism, stripping it of its historical yuck factor and presenting it as just another odious, totalising ideology. Wells, Hitler and the World State contrasts nicely with Well’s own A Modern Utopia. Orwell also tackles the popularity of fascism among the Romantic intellectuals in W.B. Yeats and In Defence of P. G. Wodehouse, sado-fascism among comic book readers (Boys’ Weeklies), Hitlerism among colonialists (Rudyard Kipling), fascism among Conservatives (The English Revolution), Antisemitism in Britain, and so on.

Cadre also omits Norman Spinrad’s amazing The Iron Dream, a really quite extraordinary book, being mainly about a fantasy/future history novel called Lord of the Swastika, written by the embittered and only marginally sane scifi writer Adolf Hitler who emigrated to the United States in 1919. It’s a send up of science fiction, My Struggle, and nationalistic conservatism.

From the other end of the political spectrum, there’s also Turtledove’s Joe Steele, which is an amusing short story depicting the gradual takeover of the US political system by “Joe Steele”, a immigrant to the US from Russia who eventually becomes a Democratic congressman from Fresno. His rise to power is abetted by the adaptable J Edgar Hoover, who proves to be a man for all seasons.

2 Responses

  1. adamcadre says:

    For the record, SS-GB is mentioned on page 3 and The Iron Dream is mentioned on page 11.

  2. mike says:

    I apologise. These don’t show up in Adobe’s authoritative yet apparently functionless search (for “SS-GB”, “SSGB”, “Deighton” or “Spinrad”). Somewhat chastened, I am now taking the time to, you know, actually *read* your long-but-excellent article

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