Thursday, August 31, 2023

Friedrich Engels - Anti-Dühring

There's an old joke on the left that says that no one today would remember the German philosopher Eugen Dühring if Friedrich Engels had not written a 500 page polemic against his ideas! But Anti-Dühring or, to use it's full title, Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science is much more than just an attack on a forgotten philosopher. It is a powerful defence of Marxist materialism in the face of criticisms that might have originated with Dühring, but are often repeated. In fact Engels' Anti-Dühring is one of the clearest statements of Marxist ideas and, written as it was much later than the Communist Manifesto, it is in some ways actually a clearer statement of Marx and Engels' revolutionary framework. It should not be surprising that three chapters of Anti-Dühring were 

The first thing readers will not about the book is that Engels is really funny. He clearly despises Dühring and the loathing comes out in every page, Engels deploying a dry wit to skewer his opposition. One example will suffice:

What did Herr Dühring promise us? Everything. And what promises has he kept? None. "The elements of a philosophy which is real and accordingly directed to the reality of nature and of life", the "strictly scientific conception of the world", the "system-creating ideas", and all Herr Dühring's other achievements, trumpeted forth to the world by Herr Dühring in high-sounding phrases, turned out, wherever we laid hold of them, to be pure charlatanism. 

Engels wrote the book because sections of the German workers' movement and the socialist organisations were attracted to Dühring's work. Partly, I suspect, this was because Dühring offered a simplistic explanation of history and social change that was easy to accept, precisely because it failed to challenge bourgeois philosophy. It's why Engels described his work as an "infinitely vulgarised duplicate of Hegelian logic" and its why he took the time to skewer Dühring. Looking at Dühring's arguments it is easy to spot this. For instance, his emphasis on "Force" as the key driver of economic development, where Dühring generalises from a thought-experiment about two people on a desert island and extrapolates to the whole of human society. Dühring's method, Engels' argues 

consists of dissecting each group of objects of knowledge to what is claimed to be their simplest elements, applying to these elements similarly simple and what are claimed to be self-evident axioms and then continuing to operate with the aid of the results so obtained. 

A problem in the "sphere of social life" Dühring says "is to be decided axiomatically, in accordance with particular, simple basic forms, just as if we were dealing with the simple... basic forms of mathematics". 

Engels points out:

This is only giving a new twist to the old favourite ideological method, also known as the a priori method, which consists in ascertaining the properties of an object, by logical deduction from the concept of the object, instead of from the object itself.

To show how wrong Dühring is, Engels takes us on a detailed trip through human history, showing how human society is the product of wider relations that just those between two humans. Concepts like "morality and law. Equality", to take a chapter heading, arise out of specific historical circumstances:

The idea of Equality, both in its bourgeois and in its proletarian form, is therefore itself a historical product, the creation of which required definite historical conditions that in turn themselves presuppose a long previous history. it is therefore anything but an eternal truth. And if today it is taken for granted by the general public - in one sense or another - if, as Marx says, it 'already possesses the fixity of a popular prejudice", this is not the effect of its axiomatic truth, but the effect of the general diffusion and the continued appropriateness of the ideas of the eighteenth century.

Contrast Dühring, who abstracts from relations that are unreal. As Engels says, Dühring is shaped by his own Bourgeois prejudices... 

Dühring is able without more ado to let his famous two men conduct their economic relations on the basis of equality, this is so because it seems quite natural to popular prejudice. And in fact Dühring calls his philosophy natural because it is derived solely from things which see to him quite natural. But why they seem natural to him is a question which of course he does not ask.

In showing the way Marxism provides an alternative to Dühring crude theories, Engels develops a brilliant account of human history and Marxist philosophy. Ranging from the labour theory of value to historical materialism, Engels' polemic is really an exposition of his, and Marx's, own theories. Engels however allows himself some fascinating intellectual detours, from the development of class society to a historical materialist account of the development of modern armies. Anyone, he quips, who tried to use Dühring principles to development and reform military power, would "earn nothing but a beating".

Ultimately though, Engels book is about the project of human emancipation through the fight for socialism, at a time when "every ruling and exploiting class has become superfluous and indeed a hindrance to social development". This is why Engels book continues to be read and Dühring is forgotten.

Related Reviews

Engels - The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
Engels - Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
Engels - Dialectics of Nature
Engels - The Condition of the Working Class in England

Monday, August 28, 2023

Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone - This is How You Lose the Time War

Science fiction and romance is a rare combination, so it is wonderful to find a novel that does the sub-genre so well. This is How You Lose the Time War is a short and very tightly written story (the authors apparently wrote alternate chapters) that tells the story of two super soldiers on opposing sides that fight a war up and down history, to shift historical outcomes so they favour their own side.

On one of these battlefields, Red finds a mocking letter from her opponent Blue. To prevent superiors finding traces of the missive, and hence potential for Red coming under suspicion that she's being turned, the letter quickly vanishes. Further exchanges between the two are written in complex codes, the eddies of liquids, the movement of gases, the reflections of lights, and move from mocking, to flirtation to outright declaration of friendship. Which eventually becomes love. Along the way the two share literature recommendations, favourite places and times.

Its a sweet story, that draws out the way that impersonal communications - letters, emails, messages - can become something much more than expected. But its told in the context of a genocidal fight that flips back and forth through time and space. The battles, fights and strategies are mostly hinted at - though the authors give us enough that we can fill in the blanks. Eventually the romance becomes a threat. Should superiors suspect than the agent is for the chop. But is the romance real? Or is it just a complex plot to turn, or entrap the opposition's best soldier?

That, dear reader, is for you to find out. This is How You Lose the Time War is rightly a phenomena, but its well worth digging out for a neat twist on the genre.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Barbara Kingsolver - Demon Copperhead

Reading Demon Copperhead was not an easy process for me. Barbara Kingsolver has taken, as her inspiration, Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield and its bildungsroman format. Her central character, Demon Copperhead, like Dickens' titular hero, faces trials and tribulations as he grows old. The book takes from Dickens' many characters and names, scenarios and events. But, as a reader, I was struck mostly by the tribulations. Each time Demon's life seemed to make a turn for the better, tragedy or disaster, awaited around the corner.

Demon Copperhead is set in West Virginia, an area of the eastern United States that Kingsolver knows well and features in several of her works. It is an intimate portrait of an area devastated by the loss of the mining industry and provided historical work, and yet an area that remains shaped by that industry and its legacy.  The collapse of the industry has left in its wake unemployment, under-employment, hunger and brutal poverty - and a drug crisis that shapes Demon's life from his birth. His mother is a recovering addict, who loves Demon dearly, but whose life is reversed when she gets together with a new love - a man who brings violence and abuse into Demon's life. Following his mother's death, his neighbours provide love and support, until child services drag Demon away - adding him to a treadmill that puts orphans at the mercy of people who use kids to bolster their workplaces and finances. Their's no love her.

Kingsolver gives her youthful hero a great deal of agency - while he suffers each stage of his life, he constantly tries to break free - though constantly suffering the sort of setback that made this reader grind his teeth in anxiety. His big break, symbolic perhaps of the get out offered to a handful of lucky young men, is a chance on the football team - only to have that snatched away by the inevitable (in this novel anyway) injury - that forces him into opiate addiction.

It's a brutal book, and I found the despair and misery very hard work. But the misery is tempered by hope and solidarity - the community that does look after one another, the social workers that do their best, and the neighbours that support their friends and family. And there is also love.

But other than the individual escape there is little hope. One of Demon's better teachers tells them of the heroic past of the region - the people of the mining towns who fought pitched battles with the mining companies, to get a little more wages for their families. But it is these same multinationals that opened the doors to the drug crisis that blight's Demon's Lee County.  

One of the women who support and love Demon makes a point of pointing out to him that the crises he faces are his fault, they have been "done to him". She encourages Demon, and the reader, to think about who has been doing this. But this is not a Marxist tract - it is a beautiful, if painful, story of hope and personal liberation. Demon's escape - if it is that - is touchingly told. The ending makes the journey worthwhile and with it Kingsolver caps perhaps the great American novel of the 21st century. Let's hope we live to see a time when all the victims of capitalism in places like Lee County, get to see their oceans too.

Related Reviews

Kingsolver - Prodigal Summer

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Mark L Thomas, Jessica Walsh & Charlie Kimber - The Revival of Resistance: The 2022-3 strikes and the battles still to come

In the year to June 2023 Britain saw around 4.1 million strike days. Traditionally these days are described by the media and the government as "lost", but for the trade unionists taking them, and the socialist movement these days represented a revival of the workers movement. This represented the highest level of strike action since the 1980s and a chance for trade unionists to turn back decades of pay freezes, attacks on workers' conditions and austerity. That year saw impressive strikes and pickets lines and huge demonstrations. Like many other socialists engaged in active solidarity I visited more pickets in this year than I had in my previous three decades of activism. The vast majority of those picket lines were exciting, inspiring and big - with a new young generation of workers engaged in strikes, many for the first time.

But the size of the strikes and the celebratory mood on them sometimes hide a problem. In few of the strikes was there a serious strategy to win, and too many disputes have ended with deals that are best described as "poor". With inflation in the UK hitting record levels, many groups of workers settled for deals that were less than inflation and certainly, as this book argues, below what could have been won.

The authors of this book are all leading members of the British Socialist Workers' Party. Their short book is an attempt to analyse the strikes and offer "a sharp challenge to the union bureaucracy and lays out a strategy for the way forward". Thus the book is more than an analysis of the moment, but an attempt to learn lessons and develop workers' struggle. The authors identify a number of problems with the struggle as it stands. The first is the episodic nature of the strikes with unions calling strikes that lasted one or two, sometimes a few days. The second is a failure to coordinate - a reluctance on behalf of the union leadership to strike together with other unions. When this did happen, such as the days that saw the Civil Service union PCS strike with the teachers in the NEU - the joint events, such as the demonstration in Manchester that I was part of, were joyous celebrations of workers' power.

The authors write:

A central less from these experiences is that resisting poor deals is connected to the argument for escalation, which is a break from the limited pressure of episodic strikes. The question of how more can be won, how real victories can be best achieved needs to be raised constantly. This in turn need s to be combined with rebuilding activist networks that understand they cannot rely on the trade union leaderships to fight effectively and consistently.

This critical position on the trade union leadership is often at odds with the initial experience of many strikers. As the authors point out:

For more than 30 years, the near universal experience of working class activists, even the most militant, has been one of relying on and operating within a framework set from above - by the trade union bureaucracy, and acting independently of them has been a rare exception. So it is not surprising that many activists entered the recent strikes with illusions both about the scale of the confrontation needed to achieve decisive victories... but also, and correspondingly the scale of the challenge with their own officials that this would require.

The authors draw on the SWP's analysis, first developed by Tony Cliff, that argues that the trade union apparatus, forms a "separate social layer with its own set of interests distinct from workers on the one hand and the bosses who oversee and enforce their exploitation on the other". The bureaucrats and union leaders have a material interest in maintaining their position and not fighting too hard - not least their high salaries, as a rather shocking and useful salary table in this book shows. 

The strikes could, and should, win more - and the barrier is the inherent conservatism of the trade union bureaucracy. The counter to this is the development of rank and file organisation that can lead the struggle from below, in defiance of the leadership if and when needed. The authors demonstrate this with historical accounts and several examples from contemporary struggles in Britain. But most excitingly there is a really inspiring chapter on the movement in France that is on a much bigger scale than in Britain. There the movement "shook" the country and demonstrated the potential to win so much more. There are plenty of useful lessons for British trade unions. The inclusion of this material and linking it to the British struggle is a real strength of the book. 

The authors' caution though. The potential for developing these movements is not the immediate victory of socialism, but rather a process by which

workers would start to see alternative sources of power and decision-making that could destroy and replace the capitalist state. Everything that diverts and delays that process is fatal. It creates opening s for the bureaucrats to squeeze life from the struggle.

In conclusion then the authors are hopeful that we can build on the movements of 2022/3 to win real change. But there is a struggle - we need a bigger, stronger rank and file within the trade unions and a bigger revolutionary socialist movement. With these tools the movement can grow and expand its horizons. There has never been a greater need for workers' victory and this short, but inspiring and accessible book should be read by every worker who is sick of the system and wants to fight back.

Related Reviews

Cliff & Gluckstein - Marxism and Trade Union Struggle, The General Strike of 1926
Choonara & Kimber - Arguments for Revolution

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Karl Kautsky - Communism in Central Europe in the time of the Reformation

Today, Karl Kautsky is best known for his political demolition at the hands of Lenin. After Kautsky attacked the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks' role, Lenin wrote a polemic against Kautsky - decrying the former "Pope of Marxism" for his betrayal. For generations since Kautsky has been known as the "Renegade". But Kautsky deserved such a polemic because his betrayal was so great. For years he had been the most authoritative Marxist writer and thinker. His reputation had been built up over long years writing theoretical and historical books. Kautsky had a particular interest in the role of religion in the struggles of ordinary people. Communism in Central Europe in the time of the Reformation is a history of class and religious struggle from below in that period.

It is a wide ranging book where Kautsky's central thesis is that the mass of people had long engaged in class struggle against religious authorities as well as their rulers: "The lower classes, the peasants, the town proletarians and the class immediately above them, together with the burgesses and the lower nobility, groaned under the domination of Rome. Even before the days of Wycliffe and Huss they had shown themselves... to enter upon a struggle against the Papal Church". 

Kautsky argues that these class struggles took place using the religious language of the time, and the German Reformation "supplied the catch-words and arguments for the combatants till the middle of the seventeenth century... so that to the superficial observer it might be seen that in all these struggle religion was the only object in question".

This is, of course, the classical Marxist tradition and Kautsky demonstrates this repeatedly over the struggles he covers. He frames these histories in terms of class struggle and the development of class antagonism, particular the emerging capitalist class. 

The problem is that Kautsky tends to project contemporary class relations back into history. There is much, anachronistic discussion of proletarians, far beyond the miners and workers' who would come to form the original working class. At time Kautsky hides this by talking of "proletarian elements" but its not particularly clear that he acknowledges the differences. That said Kautsky does help the reader understand how the struggle "from below" is also in the context of the struggles between groups within the ruling class. It is this element that I found particularly helpful.

Much of the book looks at the development of "Communist" ideas. Today the word is tainted by what Stalin did to the Russian Revolution, but in Kautsky's time it would have been much clearer what he meant. Kautsky was exploring how early religious groups in particular developed ideas of Communal living, Community of goods, common ownership and so on. A long section deals with Münzer and the radical wing of the German Peasant War, Münzer famously envisaged a society free of class oppression. It is why Luther attacked Münzer so forcibly:

If he says that God and His Spirit have sent him like the Apostles, then make him prove it with signs and wonders; but forbid his preaching, for when God would change the natural order of things, He signifies it by all manner of miracles.

But it is in the section on Munster and the anabaptists that Kautsky's framework begins to fail him. In 1534, long after the Peasant War had been destroyed, the anabaptist movement take control of Munster and reorganise society in the face of the Catholic Church and their rulers along "Communistic" lines. Kautsky defends the anabaptists from their critics, arguing that the salacious lies and gossip are accusations designed to justify the violent repression. Kautsky's decent account of the rise and fall of anabaptist Munster is not the problem, nor in fact is his demolition of the slander directed against the anabaptists (in particular the accusations of Common ownership of wives etc). He argues instead that this was a practice that arose out of the reality of Munster under siege and was an economic relationship - not a sexual one. Kautsky explores how the anabaptist thinkers, such as Rothmann, drew such ideas from their Biblical readings. But it doesn't really work - Kautsky doesn't explore enough the different roles of women and men within Reformation society and how this affected reality on the ground. A far more believable summary comes from James Stayer's book on The German Peasants' War and Anabaptist Community of Goods, where he argues:

The reality of community of goods in Münster was nothing like the egalitarian transformation of patterns of life and work achieved by the Hutterites. Although Münsterite polygamy reflected the broad interest among Reformation radicals in a regenerate sexuality, according to I Corinthians 7:29, it amounted in practice to nothing more than the regulating of the female majority according to the prescriptions of biblical misogyny. There was a lot of desperate play-acting in Münster from the actor-king downward. These people must have recognized with one side of their minds... that they were destined to violent death... In the meantime the hegemony of notables over commoners and of men over women continued.

Kautsky essential portrays Münster as a early version of the Paris Commune with similar ideals and experiences. Yet the reality is very different. With his vigorous defence of anabaptist Münster against its reactionary critics he fails to critically examine his heroes. The inevitable defeat of the anabaptists then becomes, for Kautsky a crisis on the scale of the defeat of modern day workers' movements:

Anabaptism, the proletarian cause, nay, the collective democracy in the German Empire, lay helpless in the dust; and outside of Germany also the fighting party of the Baptist order had lost all support.

In his attempt to attack contemporary critics of the anabaptists who used Münster as a way to attack modern socialists, Kautsky ends up making the same mistake as them. 

A careful reader will pick up traces of Kautsky's later ambivalence over the role of the state in society, but there is no need to explore that here. Lenin, after all, did it far better.

Sadly Kautsky's book doesn't stand the test of time. It is rather dull, though it is certainly possible that is the fault of a bad translation, coming alive only when Kautsky is celebrating the achievements of these movements. But there are more useful, modern studies of similar periods and Kautsky's Marxism offers little insight beyond the superficial.

Related Reviews

Kautsky - The Agrarian Question - Volume 1
Stayer - The German Peasants' War and the Anabaptist Community of Goods
Bax - The Peasants War in Germany

Monday, August 14, 2023

Christopher Priest - Airside

In 1949, the massive Hollywood star Jeanette Marchand landed at London airport. She got off the plane, the only passenger in first class for that leg of the journey, the crew watched her walk into the arrivals building, but she never left. She was never seen again. Her disappearance was the subject of a few weeks of intense newspaper discussion, and then she was forgotten. Her career a footnote in Hollywood history.

A couple of decades later, Justin Farmer begins to dig into the mystery. As a youngster he saw Marchand in several old films, then as a film student he looked back into her career and later, as a world famous film expert and critic he, though a series of chance encounters, starts to uncover the secret. Farmer is obsessive - he documents every film he has ever seen in minute detail, and he has a strange and uncomfortable relationship with air travel. Airports, partly related to his own childhood in a primary school near Manchester airport, and partly related to his film interests, become a focus for this obsession. They are strange places, intensely time focused, but also timeless. Farmer begins to see airports as places that are the focus for disappearance, and on a global work related trip, jetlagged and tired he has his own strange experiences.

Airside is an unusual book. It reads like a work of non-fiction, with staccato prose, factual and pointed. Marchand is, of course, invented. But her career is depicted in the obsessive detail that a film buff like Farmer would produce. Her life, loves, and films form the focus for an intense account which jumps back and forth as Farmer unravels historic events. The book is compelling. At times its not really clear what is happening, and Priest adds to the mystery and the feeling of non-fiction by inserting invented reviews by Farmer about films - these add to the concepts of the airport and a strange space, give us insights into the tension of Hollywood in the pre-Hays era and also give us a sense of Farmer himself - obsessive, but devoted to film and those he loves.

Sadly the strange premise and compelling, intense novel are let down by a weak and somewhat obvious conclusion - though Priest handles the ending in a rather surprising and enjoyable way. The feeling of unsettling, unreality that is Priest's trademark is heavily on display here. Readers should enjoy this for the journey more than the ending- though if you find airports and air travel anxiety inducing, you might well want to skip this. 

Related Reviews

Priest - The Affirmation
Priest - Inverted World

Friday, August 11, 2023

Dan Hooper - At the Edge of Time

Somewhere on my shelves I have a copy of Steven Weinberg's book The First Three Minutes, a 1977 classic that looks at the origins of the universe in the Big Bang. Dan Hooper's At the Edge of Time might be considered a modern updating of that book, though it really looks at the "first three seconds" and summarises much of the latest research about how the early universe developed and led to what we can see today in the skies.

The immediate aftermath of the Big Bang was an incredible time. For extremely brief periods the rapidly expanding universe went through a series of different states that saw subatomic particles crashing into each other at massive speeds. Periods known as the Quark-Gluon Plasma era and the Grand Unified era followed in quick succession, followed by longer periods (of minutes) which saw the formation of the first protons and neutrons, followed by the creation of nuclei in the 50,000 years that followed. It is a complex time during which, as Hooper points out, "almost everything... remains a mystery to us". It is a time when the laws of physics we know today probably behaved very very differently, and when the universe expanded faster than the speed of light.

It is this inflationary period to which Hooper devotes much of his discussion - because it is in this period that the large scale structures of the contemporary universe have their origin. It, as he says, ends after a brief moment and "in a sense one can think of the end of inflation as the true beginning of the universe we live in". When Weinberg wrote his book, the idea of the Big Bang had only just been accepted by most cosmologists. Hooper explains that many of them probably expected that 50 years later we would know much of what there is to know, but that isn't true. In fact some of this book is tinged with disappointment as he points out that he, and many of his colleagues, expected the Large Hadron Collider to answer most of their questions about what took place in the very early universe. 

The book is easy to understand, though readers without some physics and astronomy background might find some of it hard going. I was challenged by some of it - one realises that ones physics degree from the early 1990s is going out of date quite quickly when reading Hooper or Chanda Prescod-Weinstein). But at times I wasn't sure my incomprehension was simply lack of clarity on physics. For instance, I thought that Hooper confused the many universes theory by simply explaining how the existing universe is broken up into sections that are unobservable due to them being beyond a cosmic horizon where they are receding from the observer faster than light. This is important because, as Hooper points out, we cannot really explain how the temperatures in those distant areas are so similar. But it is not, in my opinion, quite the same as the many universes idea that speculates about multiple universes with (perhaps) different physical laws.

The book is at its best when Hooper is linking these complex ideas to his day to day work. In fact there is rather a nice part when he explains what he actually does! I think this sort of communication is important because it helps to ground science in reality, as well as making it clear that scientists are ordinary workers too.

For those fascinated by astronomy and the early universe, Dan Hooper's book is excellent. Let us hope that his firm belief that many of the unknowns he highlights will be explained soon.

Related Reviews

Thursday, August 10, 2023

David De Jong - Nazi Billionaires

This is not a cheerful book, but it is an important one. It deals with the close links between German big business and the Nazi regime, primarily during Nazi rule, but it also touches on the importance of big business and its money, to helping Hitler come to power. This is not a new subject, but De Jong's book takes a slightly different approach with a deep dive into the finances and activities of a small number of very powerful, and very wealthy individuals and the corporations they headed. Tragically we find that most of the guilty, who benefited greatly from Nazi war crimes, state antisemitism and the Holocaust, got of completely, and their firms and families continue to benefit from the money made during the Nazi era.

Five families, or dynasties, are discussed in detail, the Quandts, the Flicks, the von Fincks, the Porsche-Piëch and the Oetkers. Some of the products associated with these companies, and their legacy, will be familier to readers today from the brand names. Others are less well known, but their role in banking, mining, engineering and arms manufacturing ensured they were central to the Nazi war effort. Out of this they made millions. 

The Quandts are the focus for much of the book. The complicated family tree, which alongside that of the others is helpfully reproduced in the book's appendices, shows the patriarch, Günther Quandt and a couple of children from two wives. The second of these, Magda Ritschel, became the "first lady" of the Reich, after marrying Joseph Goebbels. The complex story of Magda and Joseph Goebbels battle to adopt one of Günther's and Magda's children is told, but it is only the backdrop to the darker tale of how these close relations led to close financial and then industrial support for Hitler's regime. Magda might have been an ardent Nazi from early on, but her former husband was a classic capitalist. Willing to find wealth through whatever opportunity he could.

And opportunities abounded during the Nazi era. The Quandts, alongside the other families, saw ways to expand their influence and holdings through the takeover of factories and banks in occupied lands, the Aryanization of businesses and the manufacture of arms and ammunition for the war machine. Several of the companies, including corporations that remain house hold names, benefited from slave labour in their workplaces.

It is a sickening story, and De Jong has spent long hours in the archives drawing out the details of what took place, and often correcting official stories or judicial records. For most of the industry heads managed to paint their wartime activity in an entirely different light, rewriting history for the benefit of the future.

De Jong's book is a marvel of research. But it is also a breath taking read, taking the inexpert reader through the maze of financial transactions and legal records. Marxists have long argued that capitalism does not need liberalism or democracy, but is happy to make profits wherever it can. Here is proof that it will use the most diabolical methods to do that. But what De Jong also shows, though perhaps he doesn't draw it out enough, is that big business was keen to support the Nazis (among other right-wing possible future governments) because Hitler promised and end to the troublesome workers' movement. Indeed, the boom time of profits during Hitler's rule was not just about the massive state spending, but also because the trade unions were outlawed and the labour movement crushed.

I was disappointed that the book did not delve much into the links between business and the Holocaust. Some of this material is already known - such as the role of IBM's subsidiaries and IG Farben. More must be out there.

De Jong opens and closes the book by discussing the way that Germany today has not yet fully reckoned with the reality of corporate behaviour during the war. He illustrates this with a number of examples that show how the families and the companies today have, or more usually haven't, attempted to acknowledge their guilt. With the rise of fascist and far right organisations today, this is a legacy that must urgently be explored and highlighted. The companies must be held accountable. The possibility of this has been demonstrated by the Black Lives Matter movement which has forced corporate and public recognition of colonialism and slavery in many, though not enough, areas. De Jong argues that:

This movement toward facing the past is somehow bypassing many of Germany's legendary businessmen. Their dark legacy remains hidden in plain sight. This book, in some small way, tries to right that wrong.

With Nazi Billionaires David De Jong has made an enormous contribution to this process and I encourage everyone to read it.

Related Reviews

Black - IBM and the Holocaust
Paxton - The Anatomy of Fascism
Guerin - Fascism and Big Business
Roseman - The Villa, The Lake, The Meeting: Wannsee and the Final Solution