Patrick Buchanan’s Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War is an uncompromising attack on the US ruling class and its course in the world from 1917 to the present. He says that US foreign policy today is “headed inexorably for an American Dienbienphu” (p. 423).
“America is as overextended as the British Empire of 1939. We have commitments to fight on behalf of scores of nations that have nothing to do with our vital interests, commitments we could not honor were several to be called at once. We have declared it to be U.S. policy to democratize the planet, to hold every nation to our standard of social justice and human rights, and to ‘end tyranny in the world'” (p. 423).
As communists we reject such a characterization of the US’s place in the world in relation to other nations and the root of US policy toward them. Rationalizers of empire, prettying up the reasons for Washington’s permanent war drive, drag out the tried and true phrases for the delectation of “we Americans.” Phrases like “Wilsonian internationalism” and “Democratic Fundamentalism.” Our response as members of the class that is compelled to do the fighting and dying needs to be loud and clear: “What’s all this ‘we Americans’ talk, Pale Face?”
Buchanan contra Churchill
Buchanan hates the British and US empires the way a small shopkeeper is driven into a frenzy by the arrival of Wal-Mart. The class roots of Buchanan’s politics are not far from this analogy. He detests the mighty as much as the proletarian, realizing his position as a petit bourgeois trapped between the two, loathing each. His cry of “What happened to us?” (p. ix) is heard on family farms and in the soon-to-be foreclosed houses of the middle-class professionals and labor aristocrats. Buchanan calls his supporters among them his “troops,” his “peasant army” shouldering their pitchforks. Buchanan prepares the fertile ground, hoping to germinate an incipient fascist movement ready to march in the streets against militant immigrants, striking unionists, as well as “degenerate bankers” and “cosmopolitans” and “treasonous leaders.”
In Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War he tells the story of why the struggle is coming. He sets his sights first and foremost on Winston Churchill. It is the Great Man who ruins or saves a nation here. For Buchanan, the 20th century started out as a utopian paradise where everyone knew their place. All’s gone with the wind now, alas.
“We can see clearly now that the West is passing away” (p. ix), he weeps. What he really means is that the bourgeois-democratic forms of capitalist rule are passing away, along with the church and the family that propped them up. And Churchill gave that fine old world the push: egging on the UK cabinet to enter World War One, fueling a fire that consumed the old order of kings, queens, dreadnaughts, and pogroms; encouraged war against Hitler in 1939 instead of guiding Hitler to war against that supreme enemy of Christian Civilization, Stalin (i.e. the victorious dictatorship of the proletariat.)
He quotes historian Roy Denman’s book Missed Chances with obvious approval: “The fear that after Poland Hitler would have attacked Britain was an illusion. As he had made clear in Mein Kampf, Hitler would have marched against Russia. As it was, Britain was dragged into an unnecessary was [by UK guarantees to Poland] which cost her nearly 400,000 dead, bankruptcy, and the end of the British Empire” (p. 293).
Buchanan spends time assuring us the Third Reich wanted nothing but quid pro quo understandings with London and Washington so that it could expand a land empire into Russia. This was also the argument of a sizable majority of ruling class figures in the US early in the war. They were, however, overruled when it became clear Wall Street could snap up nations and zones of occupation and bullions belonging to London, Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo at fire sale prices.
And it was Churchill who inadvertently delivered that world.
Writes Buchanan: “. . . in his Ahab-like pursuit of Hitler ‘at all cost,’ did Churchill ever reckon the cost of a war to the death — for Britain, the empire, and Europe?
“Was it worth it? A few British historians say Britain and the world would be a better place had England ended the war in 1940 after victory in the Battle of Britain, or in 1941 after the invasion of Russia. Most yet believe that if the cost of exterminating the Nazi regime of Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels was forty or fifty million more dead, the price had to be paid” (p. 366).
Obviously, Buchanan thinks that the price was too high: that Hitler, while admittedly a monster and dastard, was a necessary historic prophylactic to protect Europe’s Christian Civilization from invasion, decline, and destitution. The Churchill course pursued by Washington today, Buchanan says, will soon drive the US to the same position the UK ruling class awoke to in 1945.
The majority of humanity can only respond, “Speed that day!”
While communists eschew unscientific terms like “hyper-power” and “super-imperialism,” we do acknowledge that since 1991 the US has stolen a march on its imperialist rivals. Its preparations for future wars (Iran) and accommodations (China) coincide with global military restructuring by the Pentagon (missile shield, space) that will give it uncontested first-strike capability against any other imperialist states for the first time. This summer’s US Marine urban war games in Indianapolis and cop war on political demonstrations at the St. Paul Republican Convention reveal the shape of the war we will face at home, too.
Buchanan’s Role in US Politics
Patrick Buchanan has a well-earned reputation as a hater. At the 1992 Republican Convention he invited supporters to join him in a “culture war” to take back their country “block by block, street by street.”
A majority of the ruling class never cross over to support of fascist street movements until all less costly solutions to crisis rule have been tried and failed. Buchanan knows the showdown with our class will come, and seeks to politically isolate and discredit ruling-class political figures who would propose compromise in hopes of avoiding the open warfare such battles would ignite. In Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, he shows us how Asquith, Chamberlain, Churchill, and Roosevelt wrecked Christian Civilization with their pragmatism and lack of nerve.
Buchanan on Jews and the Holocaust
Anyone picking up a book by Buchanan about the wars of the 20th century starts hunting up the word “Holocaust” in the index pretty fast. We find here idiosyncratic formulations and counter-factual wet-dream fantasies more common to reactionary “alternate history” science fiction novels than to mainstream histories of the period.
Buchanan starts by laying the blame for the Holocaust squarely on Hitler’s shoulders. Then, a few lines later, the revisionist batwings begin to beat. “But was the Holocaust inevitable? Could it have been averted?” (p. 310)
“. . . If Britain had not issued the war guarantee [to Poland] and then declared war on Germany, Hitler might never have invaded France or Greece, or declared war on England.
“With no war in the west, all the Jews of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece might have survived a German-Polish or Nazi-Soviet war, as the Jews of Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland survived.
“But because Britain issued the guarantee to Poland and declared war on Germany, by June 1941 Hitler held hostage most of the Jews in Western Europe and the Balkans. By 1942 . . . he held hostage virtually the entire Jewish population of Europe.
“Yet neither the Allies nor the Soviets were focused on the potential fate of the hostages Hitler held” (p. 312).
Buchanan refers to European Jewry as “hostages” of Hitler. Does this word “hostages” set up a mitigation? Is Buchanan saying the US and UK could have paid a ransom of some kind? Like peace? If he is, it flies in the face of the real, unfantasized historical record. From 1933 communists, unionists, progressives, and defenders of democratic rights in Europe and the Americas were campaigning to demand their governments “open the doors” unconditionally to Jewish immigrants from Germany. No country did so. Is Buchanan saying because the Jews under the Reich went unransomed, fascism does not bear responsibility for the Holocaust?
Fascism is not a German or Italian disease; it is simply one of the last resorts to survival of any bourgeoisie whose rule is directly threatened by the organized opposition of our class. Communists do not give any ruling class a “free ride” for their actions simply because we have a scientific understanding of history, war, class rule, and genocide. Does Buchanan? He tap dances very delicately.
The Gathering Storm
Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War is a step-by-step guide to Buchanan style decision-making and values. These are the values of a battered middle class in the age of imperialism and war.
Social labor has achieved unsurpassed heights of productivity; byproducts of the normal operations of capitalism (hunger, homelessness, lack of electricity and clean water) can no longer be explained away by lack of resources or plant capacity. Food, shelter, and power are material foundations of society and culture.
Washington and Wall Street and the class whose interests they embody are still running the world and its wars today because of defeats they forced on our class and its allies. Patrick Buchanan and his ilk, in their political movement and in his books, celebrate our defeats and castigate ruling-class figures for not understanding the historic context of this “culture war,” for “selling out” the advantages of Fortress America, the Homeland.
But Buchanan also knows, though only in a partial way expressed with utmost crudity, that the rule of the capitalists is not permanent or foreordained. Buchanan intimates fascism and war may be the only way to save the rule of capital. Until we, the only historically progressive class in the world, start organizing with the same level of seriousness and commitment to victory as our enemies, the defeats of the past will revisit us in more devastating forms.
Heading toward historic showdowns between labor and capital, Buchanan is saying to his allies and enemies alike: “Look at history; it is later than we think.”
Jay Rothermel lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio.