What is the Ruling Class? by Sean Gabb


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 183
28th May 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc183.htm

What is the Ruling Class?
By Sean Gabb
A Paper Given on Sunday the 24th May 2009
to the Fourth Annual Conference
of the Property and Freedom Society
in the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum, Turkey

In giving this paper, I make no pretence to originality of thought. Everything I am saying today has been said already – usually better, and always in greater detail – by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, by Roderick Long, by Kevin Carson, by Christian Michel, and by many others. If I can contribute anything to the libertarian analysis of class, it is brevity alone.

Libertarians often define a ruling class as that group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media people who derive income and position from the State. By definition, so far as such people operate as members of a ruling class, they are parasitic on the efforts of ordinary people. Their position comes from forcing others to act as they would not freely choose, or by excluding them from activities they might freely choose. Their income is based on forced transfers of wealth.

The size and activities of a ruling class will be determined by the physical resources it can extract from the people, by the amount of force it can use against them, and by the nature and acceptance of the ideology that legitimises its existence. None of these determinants by itself will be decisive, but each is a necessary factor. Change any one, and the working of the other two will be limited or wholly checked.

Of these determinants, the ideological are the most open to control and change. In the short term, resources are fixed in quantity. At any time, the amount of force available will be limited. What will always interest ruling classes, therefore, is the nature and acceptance of its legitimising ideology. This will vary according to circumstances that are not fully within the control of any ruling class. It may involve averting the Divine Wrath, or promoting acceptance of the True Faith, or protecting the nation from external or external enemies, or raising the condition of the poor, or making us healthier, or saving the planet from us. The claims of the ideology may, in other times and places, seem unfounded or insane. What they generally have in common is the need for an active state directed by the right sort of people.

Since the function of these ideologies is to justify theft or murder or both, they need to be promoted by endless repetition – which is a valid form of argument if truth is less important than winning – and by at least the discouragement of dissent. Efficient promotion will produce a discourse – this being the acceptance of a language and of habits of thought in which dissent cannot be expressed without also conceding its immorality. Efficient promotion will also produce a state of almost universal false consciousness – in which ordinary people are brought to accept ideological claims as true that are opposed to their own interests as these might be reasonably considered.

Now, to speak of ruling classes, and in these terms, will often produce a strongly hostile reaction from libertarians and from conservatives. In the first place, it sounds like Marxism. Indeed, in summarising my own beliefs about a ruling class, I have deliberately borrowed terms from the Marxist theory of class – “discourse”, “false consciousness”, “class consciousness”. This is sure to disturb many – and perhaps many in this room. For at least three generations, our movement was at ideological war with Marxism. We did all we could to refute its claims and to spread the truth about its consequences wherever it was tried. To use its language to express broadly similar concepts will appear to be making concessions that amount to intellectual surrender.

In the second place, many libertarians deny that the concept of a ruling class has any meaning in our own world. In 1605, for example, Guy Fawks and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up Parliament while it was being opened by the King. If they had succeeded, they would have killed the King and the whole of the senior aristocracy and the leaders of the Established Church and – give or take a few nominees – the leading men of every shire and town in England. At one stroke, they would have killed around seven hundred men, and this would have snuffed out the whole of the English ruling class.

And this was a ruling class. Its members were largely there by virtue of birth. They were often related to each other. They shared a common education. They dressed differently and spoke differently from those over whom they ruled. Generally, they were cleaner. They were committed to the Protestant faith and to the land settlement of Henry VIII. Their class consciousness was expressed in countless ways, and was reflected in their language. They spoke of “persons of quality” or “persons of gentle birth” or of “gentlemen”.

In England or America today, whatever I call the ruling class is far larger and has far less apparent unity. I have defined it as a group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media and business people. Perhaps I should just call these a gathering of groups, united only in their competition for power and income via the State, and each with a different legitimising ideology. Perhaps they are best compared not to the undoubted ruling class of Jacobean England, but to the members of a French bus queue. The common defining characteristic of these latter is that they all want to get on the bus. But it plainly serves no analytical or propagandistic purpose to define them on these grounds as a class.

Then there is the problem of collective action. Members of a supposed ruling class, for example – just as of a cartel – have personal interests as well as group interests. The former will often be more pressing than the latter; and the tendency over time will be for the rich and powerful to preach class solidarity while undermining it in their behaviour.

I will deal with the second of these objections in a moment. The first is easily answered. There is nothing specifically Marxist about the analysis of class and of class conflict. The Wealth of Nations is largely an exercise in class analysis. In France, J.B. Say was the father of a whole school of classical liberal class theory that was developed by, among others, Charles Compte, Charles Dunoyer and Augustin Thierry. In England, Cobden and Bright conceived their struggles against the corn laws and against war in terms of a class struggle. Marxian class theory, when it emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, was one theory among many, and not at all the most prominent or most widely accepted.

This being said, Marxian class theory has, since then, received by far the most attention, and has been most fully developed. It is natural for many of us to feel uncomfortable about accepting any parts of this theory. But, if understandable, this is to be regretted. Marxism is false as a theory of human behaviour. But it has been developed by men of sometimes considerable talent and insight. To reject the incidental truths found by these men is rather like denouncing motorways because the first person to build them was Hitler. Astrology and alchemy were false sciences. Their claims about prediction and transformation were long ago falsified. Even so, the real sciences of astronomy and chemistry owe many incidental debts that no chemist or astronomer is ashamed to admit.

It should be the same with libertarians and conservatives in their view of Marxian class theory. Marx himself, together with Marxists like Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and even Michel Foucoult, have much to tell us, and I am not ashamed to use Marxist terminology when I think it suits the needs of a libertarian class theory.

The main difference between Marxist and libertarian theories of class is in where each side locates the source of class power. For the Marxists, class power derives from ownership of the means of production. Standing in the tradition of Rousseau, Marx and his followers believe that mankind lived at first in a state of primitive communism, in which the means of production were held in common. This ended with the rise of a class that was able to take the means of production into its own possession. This class then set up the State as an executive committee to assist in its domination of everyone else. Since then, there have been successive revolutions as changes in the means of production have raised other classes to wealth, and these classes have then consolidated their own leading position by taking over the State.

According to this theory, therefore, the source of class power lies in wealth, and political power follows from wealth. This explains the Marxist belief that a communist revolution, by abolishing class domination, will rid the State of its oppressive nature. The State may then be dispensed from the liberal requirements of limitation and due process, and can be safely used as an instrument for ending such class power as remained. It will then, of itself, wither away.

This theory is manifestly false. Even without the thirty or fifty million corpses piled up by Marxist tyrannies in the twentieth century, it shows a terrible ignorance of human nature. Whether we dismiss the Marxists, in their main theory, as idiots or as villains depends on who is being discussed. But this is not to deny the incidental truths uncovered by Marx and his followers.

And these can be fitted into a libertarian class theory that locates the source of ruling class power in the State. For us, the State is not something created by the already powerful. It is, instead, something captured by those who want to become powerful – and who cannot become powerful by any other means. Without a state, there can be no exploitation. Without a state, the only transactions would be exchanges of value between free individuals from which all parties benefit according to their own conceptions of their interests. It is the State that can steal and kill. It is the State that raises up or calls into being groups that hope to benefit from the use of these powers, and that then constitute a ruling class. Abolish the State – or severely limit its size and power – and class domination will fall to the ground. The groups that comprise the ruling class will either die like tapeworms in a dead rat, or will be forced to offer their services on terms attractive to willing buyers.

I will now deal with the second libertarian objection to the concept of a ruling class. I accept that there is a problem of collective action. But this does not make an absolute refutation. For some purposes, group solidarity may be weaker than the pursuit of individual interests – but not always. Anyone who doubts this has only to look at the large number of young men in every generation who allow themselves – or volunteer – to be put into uniform and sent out to die for their country. Cartels are generally accepted to be conspiracies against the public interest. Class solidarity – so long as based on a legitimising ideology that is as firmly accepted by rulers as by ruled – can generally underpin collective action for many purposes and over long periods. Indeed, one of the sure signs that a ruling class has lost its will to rule is when significant numbers of those within it make fun of their legitimising ideology, or merely cease in private to believe in its truth. It is then that class solidarity becomes a sham, and the rulers begin to act like members of a cartel.

I also accept that ruling classes are, in our societies, much larger and more diverse than in the past. But accepting its size and diversity does not refute the claim that there is a ruling class. It is not necessary for the various groups I have mentioned to agree with each other in all respects. There is no reason for the ruling class to be monolithic. The medical establishment and tax gathering bureaucrats do not agree about state policy on smoking. Big business may disagree with the education establishment about what and how children are taught. Just a few years ago in England, the Government and the state-owned BBC fell out very bitterly over the Iraq War. During such disputes, different groups within the ruling class may even turn for physical or moral support to groups far outside the ruling class. They may even, from time to time, recast themselves – by accepting newly attractive groups, or expelling groups that no longer contribute to the class as a whole, or that endanger the continued existence of the class as a whole.

Even so, there is a general solidarity of interest that holds an effective ruling class together. No matter how they argue over the details of what the State is to do, its constituent groups will extend each other a mutual recognition of legitimacy. They agree that the State is a force for good, and that they are the right people to direct it. Their disputes will not be carried to the point where they knowingly undermine their overall legitimacy as a class – or the legitimacy of any of the constituent groups. Roderick Long has likened modern ruling classes to Church and State in old Europe. For the better part of a millennium, these institutions fought – and often bitterly – over which should be the predominant force in their societies. They hardly ever lost sight of the fact that they had a common interest in keeping the rest of the population subject to authority.

Sot it is now. Anyone who has ever taken money from big business will surely have noticed how his paymasters have been willing to use weakened forms of libertarian ideology to make specific points – but have never shown interest in promoting libertarianism as a full agenda of attack. In all cases, libertarian defenders are brought in to argue for concessions from the taxing and regulatory groups of the ruling class. They are never permitted to argue against the general legitimacy of taxes or regulations. That would risk undermining the system from which all groups –even if they might lose out in the short term – derive income and position in the long term.

This may be the common defining characteristic of a modern ruling class – a belief in the State and in the right and fitness of the groups I have described to direct it, and to gain income and status from their positions within the State. And, as in the past, class consciousness is reinforced by more than commonality of interest. I grant that, in America and to a lesser but similar extent in England, individual position is no longer rigidly fixed by birth, and it is common for people, wherever they start in life, to rise or sink according to their abilities. Nevertheless, we can still see families and networks of families that, in generation after generation, turn out individuals who occupy positions within the ruling class. Remember names like Toynbee and Gore and Kennedy and Cecil.

Otherwise, members of the British and American ruling classes share a common outlook on the world that is gained by attending the same schools and universities, and that is maintained by small but significant movements from one group to another that comprise the ruling class. In England, for example, it is common for politicians to begin or to end their careers in the more privileged big business corporations or in other agencies that look for their existence to the State. And it is fairly common for people from these groups to be recruited into senior political or administrative positions. There may be cultural differences between these groups. But these are not so great as to endanger close cooperation between them in the common project of exploiting ordinary people.

I agree that this is not an entirely satisfactory account of the ruling class. If I were a Marxist, it would be much easier. A member of the ruling class is someone who owns the means of production. I cannot supply an equally clear common defining characteristic. I cannot even put too much emphasis on the parasitic nature of a ruling class. The groups comprising a modern ruling class are parasites so far as they act as a ruling class. But they will often act both as members of a ruling class and as members of the productive class.

Companies like Wallmart and Tesco, for example, are privileged organisations. They benefit from incorporation laws that let them exist in the first place, from transport subsidies that externalise their diseconomies of scale, from taxes and regulations that disproportionately harm their smaller competitors, and in many other ways. At the same time, they provide cheaper and better food than their customers might once have thought possible. The media may be a producer or and conduit for propaganda. At the same time, it provides entertainment that people appear to enjoy. The medical establishment wants to coerce us into giving up probably harmful things like tobacco and probably beneficial things like vitamin pills, and procures laws that limit patient choice. At the same time, it does appear to be encouraging rapid medical progress in at least some areas.

Western ruling classes are not like the Soviet Nomenklatura. Many of the groups within these ruling classes have double functions inside and outside reasonably functioning market systems. Their activities are illegitimate only so far as they take place outside the market.

And so, while I do believe that the concept of a ruling class has meaning in our societies, I cannot dispute that it has problems. Nevertheless, in spite of all reservations, I do believe that the concept of a ruling class is not wholly useless, and I do suggest that those of us who have so far paid it little attention might do well to give it some thought.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3

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22 responses to “What is the Ruling Class? by Sean Gabb

  1. John Blainey

    Congratulations on clarity and I agree with you 98 per cent.
    One thing that worries me is that the big bogey behind things: The desire to control; run things; me tell you what to do and how to do it – the Lucy syndrome in Snoopy – does not go away and has to be guarded against with continual vigilance. May I have the temerity to refer to a writing in a sister (brother?) organisation via the link below?
    Best to you all and to love of reality.
    John B
    Link: http://mises.org/story/3425

  2. “Wallmart”; “Michel Foucoult”
    Careful, Sean, these little slips might undermine your credibility to some.

    “Tesco are privileged … from transport subsidies that externalise their diseconomies of scale”
    Really? How?

  3. Hi Hugo,

    I don’t know what Sean has in mind here, but here in Henley On Thames there is a very close and cosy relationship between the Town Council and the local Tesco and Waitrose superstores, with the Council providing the road infrastructure to both stores and the vital planning permission to build the Tesco large car park so close to the River Thames, on the Flood Plain (tarmaccing over flood plains is exactly the wrong thing to do if you want to prevent greater incidents of flooding). In return, Tesco did provide sporting facilities to the council, so you might say that the costs and benefits balanced out.

    But why should Tesco customers be forced to pay higher prices for the rest of time, so that Tesco can recoup these initial sports facility investment costs?

    Also, if I were to try to open a rival superstore to Tesco, because I didn’t plan to sweeten the council with inducements, thereby enabling me to charge lower product prices than Tesco, how far do you think I would get in gaining planning permission? “You can’t build there, Mr Duncan, that’s a Flood Plain”. So although there was a cost to Tesco in providing sports facilities, this has been more than offset by the regulatory ‘protection’ they have bought from the council, to shut out potential competitors, thus allowing them to sustain higher product prices than they would otherwise have been able to charge.

    The case of the cosy relationship between large supermarkets and the state is even closer between the only other large shop to be allowed in the town, i.e. Waitrose, which works in a different area of the market from Tesco. In that case, the Council used eminent domain to compulsorily purchase a large amount of land to build a large car park to go right next to Waitrose. (Incidentally, in the process, several relations of several councillors also received sums of money for their compulsorily purchased properties far in excess of what some local estate agents thought these properties were worth – in fact, there is some suggestion that some of these relatives bought the businesses involved at quite low prices JUST BEFORE the Waitrose deal was announced – though I would stop short of daring to say that any local government feather bedding and corruption was involved. There just must be some very astute business people in the area, who manage to time their property portfolio acquisitions with immaculate timing, who just happened to be related to those approving the planning process).

    Once again, the usual inducements of Waitrose needing to subsidise special council projects, such as the local cinema, were used as sweeteners to oil the waters of the deal.

    No doubt, as Tesco will probably never have to suffer the competition of an Asda or a Morrisons in Henley, Waitrose will never be forced to suffer the ignominy of competing with a large Marks and Spencer, or a Sainsburys, due to the wonders of the Town and Country Planning Act, which has kept more councillors in funds, illicit or otherwise, than any other single piece of government regulation.

  4. I read Sean’s essay immediately after reading this interesting Wiki entry:

    Tony Hollick

    “National Socialism is a political term that is both vague and ambiguous. As the name suggests, features of nationalism and socialism are combined and interrelated to form an overall National Socialist ideology, although the combination process is neither obvious nor straightforward. The term most typically refers to Nazism, which was the ideology of the German Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP)), which was led by Adolf Hitler.

    As a generic concept, National Socialism opposes capitalism, communism, international socialism and liberalism.[1] It also opposes certain nations, ethnicities and other groups that are deemed to be enemies of the specific ethnicity to which it is applied. Several political parties other than the Nazis in Germany have used the name National Socialist Party or National Socialist Movement. Maurice Barrès was the first to coin the term “national socialism”.[2]

    The National Socialist Program as advanced by Hitler in 1920 set out 25 points that constituted the party’s fundamentals. The points were prepared in a one-night meeting between Hitler and Anton Drexler, and were presented at a public meeting on 24 February 1920, where they were affirmed by the attendees. There were attempts to alter the program in the early 1920s, most notably by Gregor Strasser, but Hitler quashed such deviations at the 1926 Bamberg Conference, and the points were declared soon thereafter to be “immutable” at the party’s 1926 General Meeting.[3][4]. The program advocated uniting the German people (through Pan-Germanism), implementing profit-sharing in industry, nationalizing trusts, providing an extensive welfare state, instituting government control of the media, and persecuting Jews, in part by canceling their German citizenship.[5] The Program stated that “[o]nly a member of the race can be a citizen…. no Jew can be a member of the race.”

    Hitler’s variety of National Socialism was founded on a Weltanschauung, or translated “World View”, in which history was reducible to a racial struggle in the Social Darwinian sense. National Socialism was thus a Messianic movement, centered in the Fuhrerprincip and anchored in the thesis that only through racial purity could Germany find her salvation. The movement was based on anti-Semitism, anti-Marxism and hyper-nationalism, manifesting itself through Pan-Germanism and the quest for Lebensraum.[6]“

  5. Socialism? Hardly, Say Socialists
    Under Obama, socialism chatter has permeated the media in 2009. But beyond sound bites, what is socialism?
    http://images.businessweek.com/story/09/600/0525_obama.jpg

    Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

    By Moira Herbst
    Related Items

    * Poll: Is Socialism a Dirty Word?

    Story Tools

    The first months of the Obama Administration have given rise to abundant talk about a U.S. drift into socialism. “We Are All Socialists Now,” a Newsweek cover declared in February. On May 20 the Republican National Committee approved a resolution calling on Democrats to “stop pushing our country toward socialism.” The resolution was predicated on the idea that, under Obama, Democrats are following the path of Western European countries in advocating expansive social safety nets and deeper government involvement in the economy.

    Some conservative commentators have even likened Obama’s economic stimulus and regulatory initiatives to a Soviet-style takeover of the country. In February, syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of waging war on capitalism. “That’s his objective. He wants to destroy capitalism,” Limbaugh told a caller. “He wants to establish a very powerful socialist government, authoritarian. He wants control of the economy.”

    But real Socialists would vigorously disagree. They say if the Obama Administration were establishing a true socialist state, we’d have at least a $15-an-hour minimum wage (instead of the current $6.55 federal minimum) and 30-hour workweeks. Every American would be guaranteed employment and health-care coverage. Oh, and homeless people would be occupying vacant office buildings in cities and vacant McMansions in the suburbs.

    In fact, many Americans appear to be confused about what socialism actually is. In a poll of 1,000 adults conducted Apr. 6-7, Rasmussen Reports found that 53% of Americans said they prefer capitalism to socialism, while 20% said they prefer socialism. More than one-quarter, 27%, said they’re not sure which system is better. Another poll conducted this month by ConservativeHQ.com found that 70% of self-identified conservatives consider Obama’s political philosophy “Socialist” or “Marxist,” with 11% calling it “Communist.”

    Socialists say the policies Obama has pursued are hallmarks of “democratic capitalist” states, not socialist ones. “None of the societies of Western Europe are socialist, but the political influence of their strong Labor, Social Democratic, and Socialist parties make their form of capitalism much more humane than our own,” says Frank Llewellyn, national director of the New York-based Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest U.S. Socialist party.
    Obama: Saving Capitalism from Itself?

    As with every political ideology, there’s no discrete, tidy explanation of what socialism means. “There have been diverse socialist movements that have pursued different programs,” says Frances Fox Piven, a professor of political science at City University of New York (CUNY) and an honorary chair of the DSA. “What they have shared is an effort to overcome the historical problem with democracies that separate political governance from the economy, often with a rigid wall. Socialists have tried to breach that wall in the interest of democracy, or expanding the idea that the people shall rule.”

    Karl Marx called socialism the “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,” the working class seizing power and replacing a political, economic, and social system controlled by the bourgeoisie, or the propertied class. Such a reordering denotes “an association where the development of each is the basis of the free development of all,” Marx wrote in 1848 in The Communist Manifesto.

    Socialists say that far from creating a state in which workers rule, the Obama team is instead scrambling to rescue and preserve capitalism.

  6. Dear Sean,

    Nice essay. Brief, clear and a belly-laugh or three. And not, in my view, far away from the bull on the dart-board.

    I sent you directly a list of four typos.

    You mention income and status – and, once, power (aka, control over others) – as the main things the ruling class want from their state. I’d add two more – privileges, and immunity. Just to clarify, by privileges I mean rights to do things which those outside the ruling class are not allowed to do. And by immunity I mean that they are not to be held responsible for the consequences of their actions on others.

    Cheers,
    Neil

  7. Neil:

    You write:

    “Just to clarify, by privileges I mean rights to do things which those outside the ruling class are not allowed to do. And by immunity I mean that they are not to be held responsible for the consequences of their actions on others.”

    Well, I’ve encountered more than a few libertarians who want just that. I’m thinking of those who want the private ownership of nuclear weapons in an anarchy, and those who think that it’s OK to wing rifle bullets past your head as long as they don’t infringe upon another’s property rights.. And Rothbard’s “Freedom to blackmail”…. This list is by no means exhaustive…

    Regards,

    Tony

  8. All typos will be dealt with in next few days. Thanks Neil/Hugo for taking the trouble to tell me.

  9. Bodwyn Wook

    This is off-topic, perhaps, but here are a couple of links I perceive to be of general interest:

    LONANG on-line library:

    http://www.lonang.com/

    Online Library Of Liberty:

    http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=149

    Both are good resources for some of the basic documents of our North Atlantic constitutional story, Wook

  10. Have you got a fan club, Sean? I would like to join.

  11. FWIW, it is quite possible that some of these photos were staged, so as to exert the maximum possible coercive impact on detainees who were later shown the photos, with broad hints that this was what would be in store for them if they did not “co-operate.”

    The Inquisition and the Tower of London used the same methods, showing prisoners the horrendous instruments of appalling tortures…

    Tony Hollick

  12. Bodwyn Wook

    ‘[They] are parasites so far as they act as a ruling class. But they will often act both as members of a ruling class and as members of the productive class.’

    May it not be this is the best to be hoped for?

    Is this not still enough of progress, at least on the material side, to off set the deficits of villainy and opportunism?

    The much greater differentiation of /interest/ by claques and factions of to-day’s credentiallised ‘elites’ means, I do think, that there is more wiggle room, really, than e’er before….

  13. John Blainey

    As long as they don’t try to tell other people what to do (or control by some other means more subtle as they do every inch of the way) then I m not too bothered if they are parasite or whatever class. It seems much of what passes for constructive effort in the world is actually damaging to health, wealth and liberty and we would be far better off if we just stopped. It seems to me that most human effort is destructive. We would have vast amounts of everything if people would stop trying to control other people and all the vast effort that goes into that activity. I think I do far less damage to the world by doing relatively little, than many well-meaning souls. (We tell our best lies to ourselves?)

  14. A Forgotten Ruling Class Programme.

    The key point is that it’s human actions that are the real problem.

    Coercive ACTS are what is objectionable. The Ruling Class consists of those who act coercively. This is not tautologous (as Darwinism is).

    Tony Hollick

  15. The 25 point Program of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) was proclaimed by Adolf Hitler at a large public gathering in Munich on February 24, 1920 when the group was still known as the German Workers Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or DAP).[4] The party kept the program when it changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party in April 1920 and it remained the official party program throughout the party’s existence – though many of the demands listed in it were not carried out after the NSDAP eventually came to power. The program was adapted from Rudolf Jung’s Austro-Bohemian program by Anton Drexler, Adolf Hitler, Gottfried Feder and Dietrich Eckart. Unlike the Austrian program, the NSDAP program makes no claims of being “liberal” or democratic, nor does it express an opposition to “reaction” or to aristocracy. However, it endorses democratic institutions such as the central parliament of Germany, and makes no mention of wishing to abolish democracy – on the contrary, by demanding that only Germans be allowed to vote, it implicitly assumes that voting would still take place under a NSDAP government. This is one of the several areas where real Nazi practice diverged from Nazi demands.

    Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn argues that ten of the twenty-five points are pro-labor, claiming that “the program championed the right to employment and called for the institution of profit sharing, confiscation of war profits, prosecution of userers and profiteers, nationalization of trusts, communalization of department stores, extension of the old-age pension system, creation of a national education program of all classes, prohibition of child labor, and an end to the dominance of investment capital.”[5] William Brustein argues that these aspects of the program, along with the statements of Anton Drexler, show that the NSDAP had its origins as a working-class party.[6]

    The Agrarian crisis of the late 1920s prompted Hitler to add a further explanation of point 17, in the hope of winning the sizable agricultural vote in the May 1928 elections. Point 17 stated: “We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land”. Hitler explained that “gratuitous expropriation concerns only the creation of legal opportunities to expropriate if necessary, land which has been illegally acquired or is not administered from the view-point of the national welfare. This is directed primarily against the Jewish land-speculation companies”.

    Several attempts were made in the 1920s to change some of the program or replace it entirely. For instance, in 1924, Gottfried Feder proposed a new 39-point program that kept some of the old planks, replaced others and added many completely new ones.[7] However, all such attempts ultimately failed, because Hitler refused to allow any discussion of the party program after 1925. Ostensibly, Hitler claimed that no discussion was necessary because the program was “inviolable” and did not need any changes.[8] At the same time, however, Hitler never voiced public support for the program and many historians argue that he was in fact privately opposed to it. Hitler did not mention any of the planks of the National Socialist Program in his book, Mein Kampf, and only talked about it in passing as “the so-called program of the movement”.[9] Henry A. Turner holds that many of the program’s vague calls for economic reform and pro-labor legislation, as well as its endorsement of democratic politics, went directly contrary to Hitler’s own social Darwinist views and dictatorial ambitions. Furthermore, he noted that the program’s calls for land reform and anti-trust legislation threatened the interests of the big business tycoons whose support and funding Hitler was trying to acquire (though his efforts in this direction proved largely unsuccessful).[10] Since he could not abolish the program entirely without causing a stir among the party’s voters, Hitler chose to ban all discussion of it instead and hoped it would be largely forgotten.[11]

  16. In JRR Tolkien’s legendarium, coercion is the principal evil, and free will is the foundation of the virtues.

    Sauron’s “One Ring to Bind Them All” was crafted to bring all the Nineteen Rings crafted by Clebrimbor and the Noldorian Elven-Smiths of Eregion together, subjugating all the other Races of Men to his control and command. He placed much of his own Power into the One Ring. This is when he realizes the enormity — and the irrevocable nature – of his mistake:

    “Something struck Sam violently in the back, his legs were knocked from under him and he was flung aside, striking his head against the stony floor, as a dark shape sprang over him. He lay still and for a moment all went black.

    And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

    From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.”

    Anduríl

  17. Ian B – the problem with fan clubs is that the members, if not besotted, are always disappointed in the end.

    Tony – are all these comment strictly relevant?

  18. Sean:

    Certainly.

    As we have discussed here, I would regard (say) Islamic owners of the Highway system insisting on conversion to Islam as a condition of using their highways as coercive. Yet nothing in “Free Market Libertarianism” would seem to prevent said Islamic owners of the highways from (a) purchasing them; and (b) insisting that users convert to Islam before using them.

    In many ways, Saudi Arabia is a family business. Would these islands be more free if Saudi owners had monopolies of key “choke points”?

    “Yes” or “No” will suffice…

    Anyone who cannot conceive of private coercion is suffering from a lack of intelligence, or a lack of imagination, or a lack of both…

    As of this time, Saudi investors own 20% of the shares on Wall Street…

    Regards,

    Tony Hollick

  19. Bodwyn Wook

    Sean Gabb, if this here ain’t precisely comme il faut & all that, please let me know & and I’ll get her down ASAP — Wook:

    http://bodwyn.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/sean-gabb-on-the-ruling-class/

  20. No – I was asking Tony Hollick if his endless and usually irrelevant postings were really necessary.

  21. Pingback: no third solution » Blog Archive » On Class Theory, Revolution

  22. Ola, em primeiro lugar quero dar os parabens pelo excelente trabalho que estao a fazer neste projecto. Como fa do BBB 13 estarei de volta para acompanhar os vossos posts que estao espetaculares.