Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ghetto Nerds: If Germany had Won World War Two Would Black Americans have Greater or Fewer Civil Rights by Now?

I would like to formally thank all of the kind folks who offered up monies to finance my ghetto nerd sojourn to Chicon 7. I will be on several panels at the conference and am looking forward to doing some networking, as well as attending some of the parties at the event--if folks want to invite a brother over to their room/suite/floor, or to get a drink or three, do shoot me an email so we can build.

I would not be able to attend the conference if you had not extended your kindness and support. I thank you. I mean that sincerely and from my heart. In keeping with our bargain, I will be offering up a lurid story or two next week, and some selections from my zombie opus for your laughs, mocking, and amusement.

I will be sharing posts over the next few days about Chicon 7 as the events merit. I will also be borrowing a friend's camera and taking some pictures that I will offer up as "proof of life" so to speak. In keeping with the science fiction theme of the weekend's events, I would like to share the following essay by the always entertaining and readable Cobb as featured on his eponymous website a few days ago.

As a ghetto nerd and sci-fi fan, I am a sucker for a good counter-factual or "what if?" scenario. I have read books about Germany invading Connecticut and New York during World War One, I have the various "What if?" volumes, and I did in fact read all of Harry Turtledove's mammoth Civil War, World War One, and World War Two saga over one summer. And never mind of all of the various gambits and scenarios I played out with Grigsby's sims on the old Commodore and Amiga, or the time suck that was Harpoon (damn those Backfire bombers near Greenland!).

Of course, my interest in counter-factuals extends to the world of space fantasy. Across the years, I have spent many hours debating who would win a confrontation between the Galactic Empire and the various civilizations in the Star Trek Universe. My answer is a no brainer: the Empire, even without the Force, would own the Federation, the Borg, and any other "race" in Star Trek.

For example, one on one, an Imperial class Star Destroyer could easily handle multiple Galaxy Class starships--multiply that by several factors and you get a sense of the broader outcome. We do not need to even discuss what an Executor class Star Destroyer would do to the Federation--the Battle of Wolf 359 would look like a minor car accident by comparison.

Serious folks who study international relations and history are finally warming up to the theory-building possibilities embodied by the counter-factual. Our imaginations can be fertile sites, that when combined with deep empirical and historical rigor, are quite capable of enriching our understandings of empirical reality in the present (and near future).

Speculative fiction also has a downside: it is only as good and valuable as the expertise brought to bear on a given topic.

When dilettantes and amateurs offer up "what if?" scenarios for matters that we already have good answers for, the result is usually far from satisfying. Nevertheless, the effort is provocative and can lead to some interesting (and intellectually productive) discussions.
This morning, as every morning, I woke up with a song in my head. On August 27th, that song was Deuchland Uber Alles. Part of it, I think had to do with the fact that I went to bed last night watching the Motor Trend 2012 Driver's Car Award which went to the new Porsche 911 Carrera S. Or maybe it was the Olympics. Or maybe it was the fact that my youngest daughter is now reading about WW1 (All's Quiet). Either way, the granduer of the song, and my growing fondness for Mahler (starting with #5 of course) provoked an interesting question.

If Germany had won WW2, would black Americans have greater or fewer civil rights by now?

In part, the rhetorical question seeks to debunk the racial qua racial aspect of complaints against racism. Racism doesn't exist because whites are white. It exists because whites are politically racist. It isn't about one's 'aryan' qualities that makes one more or less racist, rather about ones need for a theory of race in politics and government.

That in turn raises the question of whether or not the extermination of Jews as part and parcel of the plan of the Third Reich was an ultimate goal, or an enabler, or both. Was it a domestic question or not? I'm not sure of the answers to these questions even though I did read, some time ago, the book Fatherland.

But tangential to the direct question is whether or not the UK would have fragmented & what the character of the British we Americans would be fond of, which goes back to how much of the global order we now know and take for granted would have emerged under the triumphant but exhausted Third Reich. Would Hitler have initiated his own Marshall Plan? Was Vichy France actually so terrible? Is it conceivable that the Germany we have today, which is by all appearances kinder, gentler, more reasonable and civilized would be similar under the National Socialists? What differences in European Socialism, or the sort Barack Obama seeks to establish as a Neoliberal Social Democrat today would be evident as the Third Reich evolved? These are all variations of the question of whether or not Hitler's fascism would have survived and scaled in the post-war era. Surely the Japanese, holding out as long as they did, would not have capitulated as Axis partners and their influence would have been served as well, in the post-war era - the Italians, not so much.

Ultimately, it is a question of the ways in which, philosophically, National Socialism itself regards the citizen and what levels of provisional citizenship Germany would have given to Americans, and much of that depends upon what level of recognitions Americans would have demanded of themselves.

It might be argued that the American defeats in Korea and Vietnam generated a new kind of abashed unity among Americans, and that such a defeat in WW2 would have all Americans demanding the most rights possible for all Americans under German rule. It could also be argued that given any opportunity for advanced rights under a German system, American whites would gladly accept second (or third) class citizens for all American ethnics the Germans bothered to classify. I find it difficult to believe, without researching the matter, that triumphant Germans would leave the matter open to interpretation. There most definitely would be classes of citizens in the Global Third Reich, and you would be held to them.

It is that notion of the Teutonic persnickety factor that suggests to me that whatever rights were granted to the American Negro, he would have them in short order and have little more than that in the long term. And so that is my position. Now what exactly might those rights be? Would they have been enough? Would we have been satisfied? How effective could any protest against them be in the short term, in the long term? And so where would we be today?

Now here's where the question gets a lot more tricky and interesting. Considering the status and tone of the debate on race today, and especially with the particular significance given by writers like T. Coates at the Atlantic about latent racial cultural politics in America:

What we are now witnessing is not some new and complicated expression of white racism—rather, it’s the dying embers of the same old racism that once rendered the best pickings of America the exclusive province of unblackness. What are we to make of the inevitable(?) progress in anti-racist politics? In other words, if black Americans understood white supremacy so well, is there anything at all so different about the white supremacy of the Third Reich, of Jim Crow of Apartheid that would have disabled the sort of progress we have seen in America? Would the Black Panthers, MLK and Malcolm X sufficed? Would black America have come up with the right formula no matter who the white overlords were and how they manifested their dominance? I don't see it difficult to imagine black and white resistance against Nazis building, as it were, a second Underground Railroad - a different kind of Civil Rights movement. On the other hand, it's also not so difficult to imagine a horde of white American Nazi sellouts led by the like of Charles Lindbergh. You may feel free to speculate.


CNu said...

The 4th Reich is here, now.

Is it really of any consequence whether the German people and their peculiar instantiation of western culture won that cull of 15% of able bodied workers in the developed world 70 years ago?

Or, is it of greater consequence to ponder what the infinitely more capable and technologically advanced 4th Reich - in which we are now all embedded - will do when it sets about the dirty nasty business of consolidating its holdings, taking its profits, and implementing its cull in order to bring about an orderly close to the ongoing global Greatest Depression?

fred c said...

Interesting, Professor, but it begs the question: have you run out of things to worry about?

I have no basic objections, though, to such speculations. I confess to having enjoyed the comic series, "Luftwaffe '46." For the Axis powers to have prevailed would have required, at least, much, much greater production capacities and supplies of energy, particularly gasoline to fuel the war effort. Even allowing for that, I don't think it could have been done if the alliances stood as actually constituted.

If the Axis powers had come to some accommodation with the Soviet Union, and their force for all-out war included Germany, the USSR, and Japan, things might have been different.

That's a tall order. If they had somehow subjugated the US, how would Blacks have fared? Not well, I fear. Each of those three countries held extreme racist views on the subject. Actually, it doesn't bear too much thinking about.

Better the devil you know, even considering the one-step-forward, three-steps-back progress that has been made.

Black Sage said...

Ghetto Nerds: If Germany had Won World War Two Would Black Americans have Greater or Fewer Civil Rights by Now? - ChanuceyD

I concur with CNU, we are in the 4th Reich at this very moment within these so-called United States of America. Two Fasces (a bundle of rods with a protruding ax) on the bottom, center portion US Senate Seal and both sides of the Speaker of The House’s podium in Congress. These same symbols also appear on German mailing stamps as well. All of these symbols prove that the practice of Nazism is alive and doing quite well within our own government. The only thing different here is that Nazis terror gradient has been lessened. Therefore, invoking our imagination isn’t necessary at all, as it relates to the proposed question how Blacks and minorities would’ve faired from a social standpoint under a 4th Reich.

Furthermore, I do not believe for a mere second that Blacks, Whites and other minorities would’ve joined hands in solidarity to collectively resist the Nazis. Perhaps Blacks and Browns only. Why? Because there would’ve been an overwhelming amount of defectors and capitulators amongst Whites who would’ve easily morphed into an Army of Benedict Arnolds in support of the Nazis and snitched their asses out of a slow, but certain death trap. Indeed, you could cancel your long shot bets that a second Underground Railroad would’ve been formed in an attempt to circumvent the 4th Reich Nazis!

In the words, of James Oppenheim, “Free men set themselves free”! In other words, we need to stop depending on others to set ourselves free from this mad, cabal government of ours.

CNu said...

“Free men set themselves free”! In other words, we need to stop depending on others to set ourselves free from this mad, cabal government of ours.

Bear's repeating.

Black Sage is truth!

Accept no substitutes....,

Comrade Physioprof said...

(1) Where the fucken fucke did you find that motherfucken photograph?

(2) The money I sent you is to be spent on BEER (or other alcoholic libations)!

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

As someone who's studied both German and American history, I guess I'll weigh in here. I think the counter-factual misses too many of the factuals to be potent. Contrary to what most people in the US think, Hitler's goal was not total world domination, but something less grandiose and more sinister. He sought to turn Eastern Europe and Russia west of the Urals into an Aryan Lebensraum (living space) where certain groups (particularly Jews) were marked for complete annihilation, while the Slavic population would be starved into submission and those who survived the onslaught would be enslaved to work the fields of their German overlords. (Hence the German army allowing millions of Soviet troops to starve to death in captivity, one of the lesser known Nazi atrocities.) This particular strategy was laid out in the military's plan for the Eastern Front, called Generalplan Ost. As we know, this plan was put into action during the war with horrific consequences. The murder of Jews was such a high priority for the Nazi regime that it expended a great deal of resources to round up and kill the Jewish population of Hungary in 1944 at a time when men and materiel were drastically needed on a collapsing Eastern Front. Invading and occupying the United States was not really in the cards or even a priority. (It would have been impossible for the Germans to mount such an invasion anyway, they could not even get across the English Channel at their most powerful!)

There's also the impact World War II had on the home front in America in regards to race. Fighting officially racist regimes like Japan and Germany raised questions in America about its own racism. The Double V campaign and great men like A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and James Farmer used the war to agitate for equality. Black soldiers and their sacrifice on the battle front also helped make the case. The aftermath of WWII saw the color line broken in baseball and the military. Had the US been forced to sign a peace treaty with Germany and vacate Europe (again, an invasion is beyond even a counter-factual), I would imagine that such a victory by a regime based around the whole idea of Aryan superiority would have more firmly legitimated white supremacy in the United States, whereas the Allied victory helped get the ball rolling for the civil rights movement.

FWIW, the fasces are an old Roman symbol that was picked up by Mussolini for Italian nationalist purposes that have nothing to do with its presence in the capitol, which is related to the desire in early American history to emulate the example of prior republics, such as the one in Rome.

CNu said...

The particular killer-ape motivations underlying the collective desire/necessity/quest for Aryan living space ought not be thrown out as an empty slogan, rather, it should be unpacked in order to yield the motivations underlying Germany and Russia's part in the great slaughter.

Hitler vs. Stalin - An Economic Deathride
World War II was fought for economics, not for political or ideological reasons. That is not a new thesis, to be sure, but his is a creative approach, holding that not only the motivations but also the maneuvers of the war were almost entirely economic in nature.

Hitler, for example, wanted Poland because it was a net exporter of goods to Germany. The Allies then tried to block iron ore shipments from Scandinavia, hoping to deny the Nazis the materials required to build tanks and planes. And the whole bloody thing was a war on an economic, not a political, front. The Allies, which included the Soviet Union by war’s end, simply out produced Germany, and in fact the Third Reich was defeated by two nations that weren’t even their adversaries when the war began, the United States and the Soviet Union.

This is a clear-eyed, compelling description of a battle that has been described many times, but seldom with such an ironic eye. This monstrous war, conducted against the backdrop of the tyrants’ purges and their mechanical approaches to civilian death, was conducted in a great killing field of ethnic groups, including the Poles and other Slavic peoples, many of whom fared little better under Stalin than they did under Hitler. And these persecuted Eastern Europeans were themselves no friends of the Jews, who were virtually exterminated in this charnel house.

An Environmental Age of Slaughter
The age of mass killing, the 1930s and 1940s, was also a moment of environmental panic. World War I had disrupted free trade, and the new Europe was divided between those who needed food and those who controlled it. By the 1960s, improvements in seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides would make surpluses rather than shortages the problem. But, during the crucial 1930s and 1940s, when the decisions were made that sealed the fate of millions, European leaders such as Hitler and Stalin were preoccupied with mastering fertile soil and the people who farmed it.

World War I, in which both Hitler and Stalin played a role, had seemed to show that conquest of cropland meant security and power. It ended in 1918 during a failed German attempt to colonize Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe. To us, the “Ukrainian breadbasket” is a strange notion—perhaps as strange as the concept of “Saudi oil fields” will be 70 years from now. In the 1930s, however, it was at the center of strategic discussions in Moscow and Berlin. The Soviets held Ukraine and wanted to exploit its black earth; the Nazi leadership, ruling a country that was not self-sufficient in food, wanted to take it back.

Both Hitler’s Holocaust and Stalin’s Terror took place during an interval of environmental risk: between the identification of a critical environmental problem and the introduction of the technologies that would solve it.

CNu said...

America's 10 year old quest to implement Full-Spectrum domination is NOTHING short of an updated aryan living space grab at global resource domination.

A good old-fashioned Roman republic imperial quest to control all the world's valuable energy and material resources by any means necessary.

The Hon.Bro.Preznit.Double-O embodies/exemplifies and provides mimetic cover for the 4th Reich's global predations under a visual impression of racial big tent inclusivity.

chaunceydevega said...

@Comrade. I spent it on beer tonight. Saw a boring, but still fascinating panel with one of the flight engineers from Apollo 13, listened to people wax and wane about dystopia, and made an "expert" uncomfortable about his white privileged musings about "us" and "them" and aliens. Leave it up to me to make people unhappy with some real talk.

I also went to a very interesting and useful panel about ebooks and self-publishing and how traditional presses are in big trouble. I learned alot and am going to get some beers with the panelists tomorrow night to build thanks to the generosity of the WARN family.

Tomorrow I am doing a panel and will likely cause more mischief.

As for that picture, ask Cobb where he found that fuckery.

@Werner. Glad you chimed in. What of the experiences of blacks in Germany during this time and Hitler's discussions of what to do with Africans and other "sub-races?"

annum natalem said...

I want to hear about the dystopia panel!

Ms. Bunny Easter said...

I tried to find a quote from a documentary by black Canadian filmmaker William Greaves. The movie was titled "American Odyssey". It was about the African American mediator and United Nations diplomat, Ralph Bunche. Bunche was the first person of color in the world to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Though Bunche lived through the height of the Civil Rights Movement, his accomplishments have been vastly overlooked. It took a black Canadian to remind us of his legacy, and bring his successes to light.

There was a discussion in the film about World War II. African American were questioning their participation in the war. Bunche thought it was foolish that some thought there would be no difference between the Nazis and the Americans. But he also feared the rise of Americanism. As you know Americanism was a euphemism for white supremacy. He said, and I am paraphrasing "100% Americanism could seal our doom." He declared in so many words, that if African Americans did not better organize and strongly advocate for respect and equality, we would find ourselves in the next Concentration Camp. As I look at the prison population today, Bunche appears to be right.

Furthermore, we must never forget that many of the tactics Hitler used on the Jews, he got from America. The cruelty of American racism is profound. I don't think Hitler's carnage included family picnics that featured humans hanging from trees, and bodies burned alive. He tried to hide his shyte. Americans were proud of theirs. So much so they put it on postcards.

If Hitler would have been successful in conquering all of Europe, and let's say, eventually America, we would be the first to be exterminated.

chaunceydevega said...

@fictional. there are a few others. i will share on monday/tuesday. some interesting thoughts about the role of optimism in sci-fi.

CNu said...

The cruelty of American racism is profound. I don't think Hitler's carnage included family picnics that featured humans hanging from trees, and bodies burned alive. He tried to hide his shyte.

lol, 4th Reich Americanism hides its shyte so well that it installs a negroe president for mimetic cover.

If Hitler would have been successful in conquering all of Europe, and let's say, eventually America, we would be the first to be exterminated.

Hitler did so succeed. It was Germany and German peasantry who failed. Through the auspices of Operation Paperclip, America and the Americas(particularly Argentina) were broadly, culturally, scientifically, and cognitively infiltrated by the Nazi Slice(Cobbism)

nomad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nomad said...

"lol, 4th Reich Americanism hides its shyte so well that it installs a negroe president for mimetic cover."

Yep. That's the mask I was talking about when I said "Who is that masked man?". Subterfuge, thy name is Obama.

Anonymous said...

I like the sort of questioning this post raises. One, I am very much tired of so-called liberal whites in America, Australia, the UK, etc. using the Nazis or the South (Slavery or Jim Crow) to prove how they themselves are not racist. "We fought against those 'bad white people;' we are the 'good white people.'" It's tired. As Baldwin said, "as long as you think you are white, there's no hope for you." But I digress. Usually the story that's told about the Nazis vs. the Americans (or the North vs. the South) is from the perspective of whites. We don't ask people of color--Blackamericans, Japanese Americans, American Indians, Mexican Americans--what they think; we assume we already know. "Just be grateful we saved you from the 'bad white men' and be quiet." So, I say-- let's speculate. Let's ask, "what if?" Who's afraid of that?