Last week I wrote about Paulo Freire and the friendship Peggy and I formed with him in Brazil in 1984. Paulo had a huge influence on Liberation Theology which I first met during my graduate studies in Rome (1967-’72). There I had written my doctoral dissertation on Jurgen Moltmann, the great Reformed theologian who was the doyen of the Theology of Hope. As a member of a missionary society (Society of St. Columban) I tried to connect Moltmann’s concept of “mission” with the same category in the Second Vatican Council’s Ad Gentes.
While finishing my work on that topic (at the Academia Alfonsiana – with Bernard Haring on my committee), I heard Gustavo Gutierrez speak. At the time, Gustavo was the leading voice in the theology of liberation, which emerged to prominence following the 1968 Medeillin Conference of Latin American Bishops in Colombia. Immediately I could see the connections between the two.
I got the opportunity to explore those connections while Peggy was working on her own dissertation with Freire. I enrolled in a seminar at the Santa Maria de Asuncao seminary in San Paulo. It had me sitting at the feet of a series of liberation theologians I had by that time been reading for years. Prominent among them was Enrique Dussel; so was Chilean scripture scholar, Pablo Richard who (because of the U.S.-supported Pinochet coup) was living in exile in Costa Rica. Dussel was an Argentinian philosopher of liberation. His home had been bombed by the Argentine military during its infamous “dirty war” supported by the United States. So he was then living in exile in Mexico.
He was a dynamic lecturer, but I found him puzzling. He used terms and made references that were new to me. For instance, instead of referring to World Wars I and II, he spoke of the First and Second Inter-capitalist Wars. I had never heard that before. But the phrases caused me to do some research. And sure enough: those wars were between capitalist powers who were struggling for supremacy and to achieve a position in the world very like the one enjoyed by the United States today.
How had I missed that, I wondered? The answer, of course, was that I had learned my history in the United States which conceals such obvious facts. I did more research and eventually wrote a long essay that I published in Spanish in Pasos, the journal of the Ecumenical Research Institute in Costa Rica – a liberation theology think tank. The essay was called “How Hitler Saved Capitalism and Won the War.”
Here it is summarized in the “Easy Essay” form coined by Peter Maurin, the founder (with Dorothy Day) of the Catholic Worker newspaper:
Following Germany’s defeat
in “the First Inter-Capitalist War,”
the system was in trouble in das Vaterland.
It also foundered world-wide
after the Crash of ‘29.
So Joseph Stalin
convoked a Congress of Victory
to celebrate the death of capitalism
and the End of History —
Both Hitler and F.D.R.
tried to revive the corpse.
They enacted similar measures:
government funds to stimulate private sector production,
astronomically increased defense spending,
nationalization of some enterprises,
while carefully keeping most in the hands of private individuals.
To prevent workers from embracing communism,
both enacted social programs otherwise distasteful to the Ruling Class,
but necessary to preserve their system:
legalized unions, minimum wage, shortened work days, safety regulation, social security . . .
Roosevelt called it a “New Deal;”
Hitler’s term was “National Socialism.”
Roosevelt used worker discontent
with their jobs and bosses
to get elected four times.
Meanwhile, Hitler successfully directed worker rage
away from the Krupps and Bayers
and towards the usual scapegoats:
Jews, communists, gays, blacks, foreigners and Gypsies.
He admired the American extermination of “Indians”
and used that model of starvation and internment
to guide his own program for eliminating undesirables
by hunger and concentrated slaughter.
Hitler strictly controlled national unions,
thus relieving the worries of the German elite.
In all of this,
he received the support of mainline churches.
Pius XII even praised der Führer as
“an indispensable bulwark against the Russians.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the German “Confessing Church”
resisted Hitler’s program
of social Darwinism, patriotism and persecution of the undeserving.
Confessing faithful were critical of “religion”
which combined anti-Semitism, white supremacy, patriotism and xenophobia
with selected elements of Christianity.
They insisted on allegiance
to Jesus alone
who stood in judgment over soil, fatherland, flag and blood.
They even urged Christian patriots
to pray for their country’s defeat in war.
Bonhoeffer participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler
and explored the promise of
Christianity without “religion.”
Hitler initially enjoyed great popularity
with the powerful
outside of Germany,
in Europe and America.
Then as baseball magnate and used car saleswoman, Marge Schott, put it,
“He went too far.”
His crime, however, was not gassing Jews,
but trying to subordinate his betters in the club
of white, European, capitalist patriarchs.
He thus evoked their ire
and the “Second Inter-Capitalist War.”
Following the carnage,
the industrialists in other countries
embraced Hitlerism without Hitler.
They made sure that communists, socialists and other “partisans”
who bravely resisted German occupation
did not come to political power,
but that those who had cooperated with Nazis did.
Today, the entrepreneurial classes
still support Nazis, whenever necessary.
The “Hitlers” they championed have aliases
like D’Aubisson (El Salvador), Diem (Vietnam), Duvalier (Haiti), Franco (Spain),
Fujimori (Peru), Mobutu (Zaire), Montt (Guatemala), Noriega (Panama), Peron (Argentina), Pinochet (Chile), Resa Palavi (Iran), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Somoza (Nicaragua), Strossner (Paraguay), Suharto (Indonesia). . . .
The list is endless.
The global elite deflect worker hostility
away from themselves
towards communists, blacks, gays, immigrants and Muslims,
towards poor women who stay at home
and middle class women who leave home to work.
Today, Christians embrace social Darwinism
while vehemently rejecting evolution.
Standing on a ground of being
underpinning the world’s most prominent culture
of religious fundamentalism,
they long for Hoover,
with the right.
In all of this
is forgotten the Jesus of the New Testament
who was born a homeless person
to an unwed,
was an immigrant in Egypt for a while,
came from the working poor,
was accused of being a drunkard,
a friend of sex workers,
possessed by demons
and condemned by the state
a victim of torture
and of capital punishment.
Does this make anyone wonder about Marge Schott,
the difference between Hitler’s system
and our own,
and also about “religion”
and how to be free of it,
about false Christs . . . .
And who won that war anyway?
(Next week: more about our experience in Brazil)
6 thoughts on “Studying Liberation Theology in Brazil: Realizing Hitler Won WWII (Personal Reflections XVI)”
Disagree that Nazis won WWII. On the contrary, rule by communists expanded massively across the globe.
Communism expanded from a tottering starving regime in the USSR to all of Eastern Europe, China, Mongolia, North Korea, etc. There are maps that can demonstrate the impact of this, visually; it is amazing, and occurred with the consent of FDR and Churchill, and elites in the U.S.
You’re right, Mary: communism had great popular appeal following the Great Depression and then (after WWII) with the liberation of the former colonies. However, capitalists kept working at counter-revolution across the planet. Eventually they triumphed to the point that Hitler’s successor (the United States) “enjoys” the position he aspired to attain. In that sense, Hitlerism without Hitler triumphed.
Communists in general opposed the Catholic Church and killed/oppressed Catholic clergy in areas where they gained power (around 6,832 Catholic clergy executed during the Spanish Civil War?) Small wonder Pius XII opposed Bolsheviks who intended to eradicate his organization!
Spanish Red Terror: de la Cueva, Julio (1998), “Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War”, Journal of Contemporary History, XXXIII (3), JSTOR 261121
Pope Pius XII’ 1939 encyclical “Summi Pontificatus” denounced anti-Semitism and taught against memes of racism and cultural superiority. Odd that this is so often effaced from the history
“What a wonderful vision, which makes us contemplate the human race in the unity of its origin in God….”
“…one of most controversial issues of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939): the “Red Terror.” Approximately 50,000 Spaniards were extrajudically executed in Republican Spain following the failure of the military rebellion in July 1936. This mass killing of “fascists” seriously undermined attempts by the legally constituted Republican government to present itself in foreign quarters as fighting a war for democracy. This study, based on a wealth of scholarship and archival sources, challenges the common view that executions were the work of criminal or anarchist “uncontrollables.” Its focus is on Madrid, which witnessed at least 8,000 executions in 1936. It shows that the terror was organized and was carried out with the complicity of the police, and argues that terror was seen as integral to the antifascist war effort. Indeed, the elimination of the internal enemy – the “Fifth Column” – was regarded as important as the war on the front line.”
In revolutions many old scores are settled. That’s an unfortunate fact of life as oppressed peoples take the opportunity to informally exercise their “right” to inflict the capital punishment their oppressors claimed during long years of oppression.
Excellent Mike, cant wait for more…and a suggested solution.
I blame the on-the-fence brigade in ” free and Brave Rome.
Forever preserving their own dreams