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“Interesting. They still treat me well enough to fly me to the Gador. It was still called Gador, not the Gulag. Then, enormous fences of barbed wire for miles and miles. He walks in, everyone salutes him, they say: ‘You are Professor Lukacs. These are the captured German Generals from Stalingrad, the staff of von Paulus. You have been appointed to teach them German history and literature.’ He said he almost fainted. He said proudly he was just able to hold on to the suitcase so as not to faint. An hour later he began with a lecture on Heine. In front of von Paulus and the two thousand captured German staff officers, his first lecture was on Heine.17 Lukacs, who still bore the scars of a bruising battle with official Communist orthodoxy in the 1920s was careful to toe the line throughout the war.
Collaboration in occupied Europe was an experience that many artists struggled with.
The architect Le Corbusier, though, was an enthusiastic supporter of Petain’s regime and was appointed to a commission on reconstruction work in 1941.18 Corbusier worked with the Vichy authorities in Algiers to implement his Plan Obus. The great modernist’s utopian projections could not escape the narrow basis of colonial domination. On the contrary, he
identified the French mission civilisatrice with modernism:
The Arab discovered his education, his instructor. He did not bat an eyelid of doubt.
With two hands outsretched, leaving all his hopeless deceit behind, he loved, admired, understood the new times and respected France with all his conviction. Architecture and urbanism can be the great educator.19 Corbusier’s idea was to restructure the North African capital with its higgledypiggeldy native Casbah subordinated under a large whiplash motorway, and high rise flats. The whole plan was usefully colour-coded to show which populations, Muslims and Europeans, would live in which districts.
Though many French intellectuals collaborated with Vichy, many did not. Albert Camus was active in the Resistance and wrote for the journal Combat. Jean-Paul Sartre worked for the Resistance though a long campaign of slander by the French Communist Party (PCF) sought to undermine his reputation. Claude Morgan, who had been the communist editor of
the clandestine Lettres Francaises told John Gerassi:
Sartre was a tremendous guy. He never looked for what could divide, only for what united us all. He was ready to do anything for the Resistance. He was the kind of guy that, once he had decided something, he would go all the way. He faithfully attended all our meetings.... Most people really liked and everyone respected Sartre - except our chiefs, people like Aragon who kept telling me not to trust him: “Use him but don’t trust him,” he kept saying.20 Sartre himself was more modest. He said that he was a writer who resists, rather than a resistant who writes. He had been among the French troops captured by the Germans early in the war, who were later released. Sartre spent the time studying Heidegger (his guards were happy to give him a fine hardback copy of Being and Time) which was scoffed at by the orthodox communists. His real offence in their eyes, though, was that on his release back into France Sartre had been active in a Resistance group Socialism et Liberté he helped set up before the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The PCF was only active in the Resistance after June 1941, because from that point they had joined the Allied war effort in line with Soviet policy. Sartre understood the basic limit of the PCF’s struggle: ‘they did not want power’.21 Sartre’s view was different. He saw the case for fighting against the occupation as an unambiguous call to moral action. In his novel trilogy The Roads to Freedom Sartre examined the burden of freedom and the many ways that Frenchmen and women avoided it, in the context of the occupation. His talk ‘Is Existentialism a Humanism?’ given at the Club Maintenant on 29 October 1945 insisted against all the bad excuses that ‘Man is responsible for what he is’. It was at the same time a criticism of the economic determinism of the PCF and the evasions of the collaborators and quietists.
Resistant Hélène Rytmann, smeared as a collaborator by her own comrades in the French Communist Party Like Sartre, the structuralist philosopher Althusser was also a prisoner of war. He rather liked the loss of liberty. His wife-to-be the sociologist Hélène Rytmann was very active in the Resistance, but that did not stop the PCF from slandering her as a collaborator, when she became too awkward.
Not all intellectuals embraced the war effort. In America the historian Charles Beard, who wrote the influential Economic Interpretation of the Constitution opposed the war throughout, and afterwards published a strident attack on Roosevelt’s warmongering – though it damaged his career. As we have seen the radical writers Dwight McDonald, A.J.
Muste, Irving Howe and CLR James all opposed the war. Folk America, like the communists Woody Guthrie and Paul Robeson, put its shoulder behind the Patriotic Front, while Be Bop floated coolly, disengaged above the conflict. Thelonius Monk’s biographer Robin Kelley writes that ‘very few black musicians were eager to leave the music scene to fight another white man’s war.’ 22 In Britain, the composer Michael Tippet, who wrote the oratorio ‘A Child of Our Time’ about Herschel Grynszpan, was jailed as a conscientious objector during the war, while the painter Patrick Heron was sent to work in the mines. Novelist Julian Symons’ claim to conscientious objection was turned down and he was sent off to fight. The most remarked upon refusals of the war effort were those of the poets W.H. Auden and novelist Christopher Isherwood. Known for their radicalism in the 1930s, both had reacted against the demands of engaged writing. The Marxist motifs of earlier gave way to Anglicanism in the former and Buddhism in the latter. Auden said that he was willing to be called up though that was not likely. Still, both were harshly criticised by Cyril Connolly in Horizon for leaving England, and, as we have seen, by Orwell. The accusation was charged because, as most people knew, the ocean liner to America was the rich person’s ‘evacuation’ and widely seen as defeatism. One poet of that generation who worried about the justness of the British cause was Louis Macneice who wrote in his Autumn Journal of 1939 And we who have been brought up to think of “Gallant Belgium” As so much blague Are now preparing again to essay good through evil For the sake of Prague;
And we must, we suppose, become uncritical, vindictive, And must, in order to beat The enemy, model ourselves on the enemy, A howling radio for our paraclete.
In the event Macneice worked for the war effort at the BBC. Macneice joined Connolly and Stephen Spender writing for Horizon. After the war Spender worked for the British Administration in Germany, where he lauded the Marshall Plan and was rewarded with the editorship of the secretly CIA-funded magazine Encounter.23 Not everyone who was sceptical about the war effort was radical. The Tory novelists Evelyn Waugh (in the Sword of Honour trilogy) and Anthony Powell mocked the seedier compromises and carreerism of the socialist war effort. Painter and novelist Wyndham Lewis parodied the leftish literary scene of the interwar, leading him to write a paean titled Hitler in 1931, and spend much of the war in Canada.
The war itself and all its aspects were interpreted artistically and philosophically in many different ways afterwards. The writers Pierre Boulle and J.G. Ballard both fictionalised the European experience of the Japanese invasion of South East Asia. Boulle, who had himself been sentenced to hard labour in the Mekong Delta, recounted the misery of the British prisoners of war of the Japanese in The Bridge over the River Kwai, 1952. In Empire of the Sun (1984) Ballard, tells the story of the British humiliation in Singapore through the eyes of a boy called Jim, who, like Ballard, is interned by the Japanese. Both authors told the story allegorically, too. Boulle’s Planet of the Apes (1963) imagines a world where men are slaves to Apes. Allied propaganda of the time often characterised the Japanese as Apes, and the ‘reveal’ comes when the human visitors first see a hunting party of Apes on horseback. Ballard returned again and again to the image of an unexpected and overwhelming catastrophe, and its impact on human relations, in The Drowned World (1962), and The Wind from Nowhere (1961), for example. The artist Ronald Searle learnt his skills sketching life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Thanks in part to the GI bill which gave grants to US ex-servicemen to go to college there are many excellent novels of the American experience of war, notably Joseph Heller’s absurdist Catch 22 (1961) which recounts the impossible bureaucracy and casual cruelty of life in the United States Air Force bombing Italy; Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five reworks some of the infantryman Vonnegut’s life as a prisoner of war in Dresden, as science fiction; Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1948) tells the ordinary marines side of the Pacific War without shying away from the troops brutalisation or racial prejudices.
Frederick Hayek’s seminars at the London School of Economics were a meeting place for liberal critics of statism and also logical positivists. Ernst Gombrich and the Austrian Karl Popper took part. Popper later went to New Zealand. In Austria he saw the rise of nationalism as evidence of the delusional power of metaphysical thinking. ‘All nationalism or racialism is evil’, Popper concluded. He thought the left added to the problem because their Marxism was the ‘policy of using violence’, which ‘gave the police an excuse, in July 1927, to shoot down scores of peaceful and unarmed social democratic workers and bystanders in Vienna’. Popper, whose parents were Jews who had converted to Lutheranism also thought that the ‘influx of Jews into the parties of the left contributed to the downfall of those parties’ and that ‘with so much latent popular anti-Semitism about, the best service which a good socialist could render to his party was not to try to play a role in it’.24 Though he admired Britain’s property relations, Popper was less impressed by popular sovereignty, thinking that ‘democracy – even British democracy – was not an institution designed to fight totalitarianism’. In Hayek’s seminars Popper read chapters of his later work, the Poverty of Historicism, which argues that utopian reform that aims to change society as a whole is doomed to failure. The argument is made more pointed in the two volume work The Open Society and Its Enemies where he identifies Hegelian idealism with Fascism (‘nearly all the more important ideas of modern totalitarianism are inherited from Hegel’) and also Marxism with Fascism, since the Marxists talked of class war and the Fascists waged it.25 Along similar lines, Frederick Hayek in his 1944 statement of the case for free markets against statism worried that ‘few are ready to recognise that the rise of Fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period, but a necessary outcome of those tendencies’.26 Hayek advised the Conservative party on their 1945 election campaign and on 4 June 1945 in an election broadcast Churchill argued that ‘Socialism is inseparably woven with totalitarianism and the abject worship of the state’, and that a Labour government ‘would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo’. Not to be outdone in anti-German chauvinism, Labour’s Hugh Dalton and Bessie Braddock warned against the Tories’ adoption of ‘fatal theories of decontrol for its own sake, nurtured by the German theorists recently landed in this country like Professor Friedrich August von Hayek’.27 While Logical Positivists saw Fascism incubating in idealism, the idealist R.G.
Collingwood claimed that it was those ‘realists’ who destroyed political theory ‘by denying the conception of a “common good,” the fundamental idea of all social life, and insisting all “goods” were private’. For Collingwood it was those analytical philosophers who ‘for all their profession of a purely scientific detachment from practical affairs, were the propagandists of a coming Fascism’.28 That was over the top, and a sign that tarring one’s opponents as Fascists sheds more heat than light. It would have been truer to say that the analytical philosophy moulded itself rather well to the pragmatic outlook of British policy makers, and then later Cold War liberalism that prevailed in Britain, America and Germany after the war.
Collingwood died in 1943, so did not live to see that happen.
After the war
After the war, on July 23, 1945 Heidegger faced the university’s denazification tribunal, established under French jurisdiction, whose attitude was ‘on the whole, friendly’ accepting, against the evidence that Heidegger had ‘not been a Nazi since 1934’. One of the crucial components of Heidegger’s defence before the denazification tribunal after the war was that, ‘he was a secret opponent of National Socialism ever since the Röhm putsch’.29 With Hannah Arendt’s help, Heidegger argued that his philosophical critique of the ‘universal rule of the will to power within history, now understood to rule the planet’ was aimed at Fascism as well as democracy: ‘Today everything stands in this historical reality, no matter whether it is called communism, or fascism, or world democracy.’ 30 In this way Heidegger’s trying to get out of his ties to the NSDAP led him to much the same ideas about the universal trend to totalitarianism as Arendt, as well as those being argued by Adorno and Horkheimer.