George Walford: Domination

WHEN one major ideology succeeds in detaching itself, if only for a time, from the restraints exercised by the others, trouble invariably results. The Holocaust finds a better explanation in unrestrained practice of the ideology of domination, driving forward to a chosen end whatever horrors it may bring, than in evil tendencies peculiar to the Nazis. Neither dictators personally nor their immediate supporters can do harm on any great scale by themselves; their power comes from social support, and the few cannot coerce the many into supporting them. They seldom try. Istvan Deak drives home the point as it concerns Nazi Germany: ‘… the German soldier’s right and duty to disobey criminal orders was so consistently put into practice in wartime Germany that no SS or Wehrmacht soldier was ever punished by his superiors for refusing to participate in the massacre of innocents.’ [1] IC 61 (p.22) and IC 63 (p.18) both drew attention to one battalion some of whose members refused to take part without suffering any severe punishment.

The full horror of the Holocaust lies in the fact that such behaviour is not so very unusual. Nazi treatment of the Jews was accompanied by circumstances uniquely revolting, but other nations, movements and governments have shown themselves capable of mass murder. Witness the concentration camps set up by the British in the Boer War, the figure of 20 million Robert Conquest gives for Russian deaths under Stalinism [2], the tens of millions of Chinese murdered under Maoism, the genocide committed upon the Tasmanians, the decimation of the native Americans and the present sufferings of the East Timorese. The panhuman extent of such practices may have been what Hannah Arendt had in mind when she spoke of ‘the banality of evil.’

1. NYR Jan 13,94, 52
2. NYR Sept 23, 27

IC 62 said the Old Testament outsells Anarchist journals. To name only one purchaser, Gideon International spends £35 million annually on distributing a million bibles every 10 days. Worldwide there are 600 million Gideons. (Independent, 3 September, quoted in Socialist Standard November 93)

from Ideological Commentary 63, February 1994.