Talking about Mein Kampf again on Luke Ford’s Torah Talk Live.
I’m only a third of the way through it. I will be adding to the notes below.
It’s not poorly written overall, as you’re led to believe, and the melodramatic flourishes are only there in traces. It’s as much political analysis as autobiography so far.
His assessment of the political situation in interwar Europe describes it as strikingly like our own. The analysis reads at points like a historical hoax that’s too on-the-nose in writing the complaints of the present into the past, like a Protocols of the Elders of Zion
An early part of the book is a long exposition on becoming “woke”. Hitler writes that to the extent he thought of antisemitism he saw it as religious bigotry. He writes tersely:
“Then I came to Vienna.”
Probably the most quoted part of the book follows–callow young Hitler is confronted by the outward display of Jewish identity when he sees a man in caftan and side-locks on the streets of Vienna:
Is this a Jew? was my first thought. For, to be sure, they had not looked like that in Linz. I observed the man furtively and cautiously, but the longer I stared at this foreign face, scrutinizing feature for feature, the more my first question assumed a new form: is this a German?
Once Hitler stopped seeing Jews as Germans of another religion but as a separate, self-aware ethnicity the die was cast. Still, he writes that he remained resistant until, among other things, he considered the politics of Zionism
To outward appearances it seemed as if only one group of Jews championed this movement, while the great majority disapproved of it, or even repudiated it.
Similar to what many express in our day, Hitler saw relenting on the Jewish question as a sort of last hurdle on the road to “woke”
My ideas about anti-Semitism changed also in the course of time, but that was the change which I found most difficult. It cost me a greater internal conflict with myself, and it was only after a struggle between reason and sentiment…
The pro-semitic Viennese press, the equivalent of our “mainstream media”, was superior to the antisemitic press, drawing talent and respectability in like fashion (leaving aside ours having lost so much credibility recently).
A young man with intellectual aspirations took that as evidence of its veracity, as compared to the flaky antisemitic press of Hitler’s time. Then as now the poz drew the talent, and even Hitler claims to have initially associated antisemitism with envy in the fashion of a present-day Jordan Peterson:
Generally speaking these anti-Semitic newspapers did not belong to the first rank–and so I regarded them more as the products of jealousy and envy rather than the expression of a sincere, though wrong-headed, feeling.
He begins to see Jews as having separate interests when considering the question of Zionism. Most Jews were not Zionists. But he was struck by the fact the question for the Jewish community regarded whether Zionism was good for the Jews as they related to the gentiles, primarily in how it looked:
For that part of Jewry which was styled Liberal did not disown the Zionists as if they were not members of their race but rather as brother Jews who publicly professed their faith in an unpractical way, so as to create a danger for Jewry itself.
He writes of investigating and discovering the Jewish dominance of the Viennese press (I cannot confirm, obviously, but it too sounds depressingly familiar across time), and in some of the more colorful passages of finding Jews at the productive font of what he saw as the decadent culture of Vienna and the Hapsburg Empire he despised for its treatment of Austrian Germans.
Prostitution on the streets scandalized him, and identifying it with Jews may have been the single most radicalizing element of his conversion to antisemite:
A cold shiver ran down my spine when I first ascertained that it was the same kind of cold-blooded, thick- skinned and shameless Jew who showed his consummate skill in conducting that revolting exploitation of the dregs of the big city. Then I became fired with wrath.
The “thick-skinned” phrase strikes me as suggesting Hitler sees the same difference in psychological make-up between Jew and European gentiles that I suspect: a greater psychological toughness in the face of sexual liberation. Combine that with in-group cohesion preventing the exploitation of co-ethnic women, and one needs identify no particular malice or conspiracy in the Jewish exploitation of gentile women that continues so horribly today.
Of course it doesn’t matter. The Jewish question is not a moral question but an existential one. It always was for the Jews; Hitler decided it was one for the Gentiles.
Hitler briefly worked as a construction laborer, where he says he refused to join the union, saying he didn’t know enough to make an informed decision. His decision against it cites a recurring theme, his distaste for the common man he understood so well politically
During those fourteen days I came to know my fellow workmen better, and no power in the world could have moved me to join…
He studies and then engages in debate with his Marxist fellow workmen claiming, perhaps unsurprisingly, to have had to flee finally or be thrown off a roof.
Everything was disparaged–the nation, because it was held to be an instrument in the hands of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the working masses; the authority of the law, because that was a means of holding down the proletariat; religion, as a means of doping the people, so as to exploit them afterwards; morality, as a badge of stupid and sheepish docility. There was nothing that they did not drag in the mud.
Plus ca change. Was this Marxist process of critiquing and taking down Western civilization at least delayed, first by Hitler and then by capitalist, pre-poz America winning and acquiring influence over Western Europe, before morphing into multiculturalism and gaining its present advantage in a long rebound?
Hitler’s language regarding the Marxist threat is extreme: he sees in it the very end of humanity, not just of Western culture.
Having been exposed to street Marxism he says he set about reading everything he could on the subject. He describes something like our “high/low against the middle” politics of today, at least in the aspect of post-modern theorists at one end and the disaffected at the other:
The theoretical literature was intended for the simpletons of the soi-distant intellectuals belonging to the middle and naturally upper classes. The newspaper propaganda was intended for the masses.
The Bolsheviks had to radicalize a homogenous but impoverished working class. In the prosperity after World War II that working class in the West became prosperous. Now that it is racially diverse, identity and inequality are the means of radicalizing the post-proletariat.
If Hitler is to be believed leftist academic theory hasn’t changed significantly:
Its flamboyant sentences, its obscure and incomprehensible phrases, pretended to contain great thoughts, but they were devoid of thought, and meaningless.
One would have to be a decadent Bohemian in one of our modern cities in order to feel at home in that labyrinth of mental aberration, so that he might discover ‘intimate experiences’ amid the stinking fumes of this literary Dadism.
These writers were obviously counting on the proverbial humility of a certain section of our people, who believe that a person who is incomprehensible must be profoundly wise.
As somebody wrote recently of the present state of critical theory: one has to be very high IQ to rationalize or very low IQ to believe in something so abstruse and illogical.
Hitler accuses the Social Democrats of tactics we would recognize–recognizable are the typical response he reports to them. See if you can spot Conservative Inc here:
…opening, at a given signal, a veritable drum-fire of lies and calumnies against the man whome they believed to be the most redoubtable of their adversaries, until the nerves of the latter gave way and they sacrificed the man who was attacked, simply in the hope of being allowed to live in peace.
But the hope proved always to be a foolish one, for they were never left in peace. The same tactics are repeated again, until the fear of these mad dogs exercises, through suggestion, a paralyzing effect on their victims.
more notes to come