Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Link to the KGNU show on the Greek democratic uprising: further implications

Go to listings on the KGNU website here, hit Thursday, June 23, go to the show ”It’s the economy” at 6 pm and click the far speaker/horn symbol on the left. The interview with Thomas Ferguson occurs from 6:05 to around 6:20, the rest of the show is the interview and questions – often very interesting ones – with me.

In the questioning, one excellent point raised by Claudia was the danger, given the revolutionary situation in Greece, but little likelihood of an actual revolution, of fascism. Revolutions need leadership and there is no organization with mass support intent on that at the moment (the leftist groups want new elections; the mass movement is far beyond them in mounting nonviolent resistance to the government's auterity policies). Still, these are new circumstances and substantial reforms may come about in such a situation rather than a military coup. Consider the aftermath of May 68 in France, no revolution, but no fascism either {gradually, some educational and other reforms and greater inclusiveness of women and gays in politics). R Palme Dutt’s Fascism and Social Revolution (1934) was resonant on the European situation following the Russian Revolution – mass uprisings which do not overthrow the elite lead to fascism in Italy, Germany, Spain and illuminates Chile in 1973 and perhaps Greece (the post-World War II civil war, the 1967 military coup, though no intense uprising from below in the 60s). Dutt mirrored Marx's 18the Brumaire of Louis Napoleon after the suppression of the June uprising in 1848 and a democratic-socialist (Montagnard) peasant insurrection in 1851 (see my Marx’s Politics: Communists and Citizens, ch 10). But in different international circumstances, there is no single path, no "inevitability" of fascism...

As I emphasized in the interview, a fascist movement against immigrants in the streets of Athens (fascists wrecking a store owned by a Pakistani, see here and here) and considerable racism toward outsiders endangers Greece. (The Greeks have suffered racism from the Ottoman empire, and even their celebrated status in the origins of Europe, as is also, though perhaps less obviously the case with Spain, does not prevent a certain Germanic disdain for them; those who display racism toward others reveal their bad feelings about themselves, their inability to grasp and deal with their own disregard by more powerful others). Militarism, however, is much less a factor in Greece than in the 1960s, Greece less dependent than in the Cold War or American military “protection," bases and arm sales (not that the US is not still pushing weapons on Greece). So an authoritarian alternative does not loom in Greece.

But the reverse of the medal, which I didn’t speak to, is striking. America became a police state, in many respects, under the Bush-Cheney administration, and Obama has now adopted and/or strengthened many aspects of authoritarian rule, for instance, the not constitutionally declared and now Congressionally rejected war on Libya – see Greenwald here; Obama’s claimed authority to murder an American citizen not on the field of battle and without a trial (the Awlaki case); increasing secrecy about and persecution of whistleblowers (fortunately, Wikileaks did great and perhaps permanent damage to the American empire, helping to spark Arab spring in Egypt…). Initially, Obama commendably moved away from torture – but now General Petraeus, head of the CIA, testified Friday that perhaps torture is useful. See below. This merging of the military and intelligence under Petraeus’ leadership further undermines already weakened civilian rule (the military often gets its way – the escalation of the extended Afghanistan occupation being a prize example of their murderous and futile influence – except in the rare case of torture where it initially stood up for decency against tyrannical civilian leadership and lost). Petraeus now aims, perhaps in 2016, to become the tyrant…

That the US now has a budget of some $704 billion (the 2009 figure) for the Pentagon and $60 billion for the State Department, roughly 12 times as much, is a sign of how militaristic, in Martin Luther King’s terms, the United States is. Petraeus' shaping of the CIA in a possible Obama second term is a useful step (removed from the disaster he has presided over in Afghanistan) in his becoming a Presidential candidate in 2016. While not lording it over Congress so obviously as Bush, Obama has also, in important respects, extended the American movement toward a police state. What Cheney did was to bend the stick far in the direction of tyranny (Bush is a murderous but weak and pathetic man, Cheney smart in bureaucratic terms, really crazy and determined for 30 years to install anti-Constitutional, anti-democratic, unchecked executive power…). Whether America can be returned to the rule of law was one great question of the Obama administration.

The answer seems to be negative and more pronouncedly so, as time goes on.

In this context, the democratic revolt in Madison, and learning from Arab spring in Egypt and Tunisia, as I emphasize in the interview, is crucial if America, a great power in its decadence and decline, is not to destroy the world (throgh global warming and the poisoning of vast territories through unending war, gradally extinguishing the conditions for human life on the planet).

The second issue stems from Ferguson’s interview. A contradiction in his position is his too narrow insistence that money rules politics and one could thus tell that Obama was no good because of the money invested in him by powerful corporations and banks. There is some truth in this assertion obviously; the appointment of Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and reliance on Goldman Sachs is clear in many of Obama’s policies, as is health reform – Affordable Care – without a public option that would make it affordable...Universal health care is a third of the cost in Canada and France and Cuba and with better outcomes in healing than privatized American health care.

In contradiction, however, Ferguson also notes that the US elite has to do something about climate change. What he means by this is that the ruling class, the investors, cannot sink money into ignoring this without, very likely, destroying human life on the planet and by the way, conditions for their profit-making. Thus, Al Gore has spent his public career crusading on this - see his "Climate of Denial" in Rolling Stone here (h/t Chris Tranchetti) - and many in the elite, including Obama. realize the danger.

The ruling class is divided. The war complex is not its only source of income, and even it is not always unified or without conflict. Thus, the other big question for the Obama Presidency is whether a new New Deal is possible in America. Instead of a financial casino, industries related to the military (yet even the manufacturing of weapons-parts in mostly done elsewhere), education and health, perhaps America could resume manufacturing and industry. Perhaps it could pioneer green energy. Competition to be a great power will pivot around this issue in the 21st century. Those who work on this (China and Germany, for example) are likely to flourish.

In The Green Collar Economy, Van Jones has eloquently depicted the link between racism, growing inequality and industrial stagnancy. In its place, he envisions green productivity and Obama was listening to him. But when Glenn Beck went after Jones, Obama promptly gave him up. Obama seeks mainly to be President – a better President than recent ones – and not a transformative one. He does occasionally look toward history as the Times has underlined recently about his moves finally to support gay rights (the Times rightly editorializes yesterday that Obama needs to advocate gay marriage). But Obama realizes that extension of basic liberties and opposition to persecution marks what is decent in America.

Except for the stimulus (no money spent on the Pentagon, a lot for green projects), however, Obama has not articulated and fought for this new direction in the economy. But Keysianism and financing of research applied to making America green is as promising future for the American elite as the New Deal (preventing revolution from below) and opposition to Hitler once were.

A green economy is not socialism or communism. It will not save the world from further American wars, though as Obama's somewhat tepid turn in Afghanistan indicates, it could - amplified by a movement from below - be connected to a less aggressive, less murderous of civilians and less militarist policy in the United States. Sadly, even in that case, drones are a low cost in terms of troops, far away, "video game" method of murdering civilians which Obama has advanced far beyond the Bush stage…. Yet even now, American auto manufacturers, as with the Chevy Volt, are turning toward better hybrid or electrical cars… The difference over the green economy, in the elite, points to a productive, decent (saving the planet) comparatively less discriminatory at home, and relatively promising democratic regime as opposed to a police state.

Civil disobedience from below – an American “spring,” extending Madison, to learn from and spark a deeper Arab spring, as well as mirroring the Greek and Spanish indignados – can also push the elite in this direction (destruction of collective bargaining for public employees and the minimum wage are all part of the alternate, police state direction). A green economy, curbing militarism and sustaining and rebuilding unions, are important reforms, ones well short of social revolution and possible here. That this green alternative will win, however, as opposed to moneyed fascism, more wars and occupations, the breaking of unions and the crushing of most Americans, is not obvious.

In the interview, I emphasize two other hopeful developments. In response to my piece on the Greek revolt, Sonia-Skakich Scrima wrote me a very good letter on how elections no longer make a difference in Europe. Illustrated by Papandreou and PASOK (the Panhellenic Socialist Party in Greece) promising to mitigate austerity in the 2009 campaign and then enforcing even more extreme oppression, the elite bipartisanly pushes impoverishment for the Greek people; the rich contribute nothing. Both parties, the Socialists in the lead, seek to “prevent default” by imposing a new regime in which until age 25, no one can make more than 500 euros a month….

On Thursday, however, Samaras, the leader of the Conservatives and likely next prime minister, announced that he would not go along with the cuts (he said it was better to default). That is entirely a result of democratic pressure from below from Greek workers and students. Syntagma Square in Athens, where the protests of 50,000 and more are now more than three weeks old, and on June 15 beat back for a time the government's policies, should go down with Tahrir Square in Cairo as a symbol of what any demos, including the American, sparked by Madison, might do…

If the Greek democracy stops the elite – and Samaras’s sudden and fearful shift indicates the possibility – real change in the direction of decency is possible.

Similarly in America, the imperial, police state reactionaries, led by Mccain, are baying for more wars. But suddenly, the followers of Ron and Rand Paul, libertarians who believe in Ayn Rand (sociopaths) domestically and hate any government compassion for the poor (Scrooges and in Rand Paul’s case, even an opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights act) are troubled about the costs of unending war, the emergence of anti-Constitutonal executive tyranny, and oppose Libya (one might say sarcastically: it is only the very rare war which had a decent moral beginning which the Republicans finally oppose – see here – but the emergence of their opposition (that Ron Paul now has a following about this), coupled with anti-War democrats like Dennis Kucinich and the Progressive Caucus in the House circumvented Obama from legalizing the Libyan "intervention" last Friday. This is a hopeful possibility.

Enmity (the US government's use of drones and the callousness of war, the butchery of innocents – see John Tirman, The Death of Others: the fate of civilians in America’s wars) makes new enemies for ordinary Americans daily, and is linked to depression here. That is what these Republicans, Ron Paul in the lead, recognize. This wakening anti-war setiment among conservatives (returning to conservativism rather than imperial authoritarianism a la Strauss and the neo-cons) is a genuine threat to the war complex, which depends on a unified political component (executive aggression and tyranny, however, still have the Democratic and Republican House leadership behind it). With pressure from below, as is also evident in Afghanistan where 2/3 of Americans want the troops out now, this crack, as Arab spring and Greece have revealed , may over time unleash a flood…


Andrew Sullivan 24 Jun 2011 02:44 PM

"More Than Normal Techniques"

Petraeus resurrected the ticking time-bomb scenario while giving testimony:
Petraeus said "there should be discussion ... by policymakers and by Congress" about something "more than the normal techniques." Petraeus... described an example of a detainee who knows how to disarm a nuclear device set to explode under the Empire State Building.

Ackerman fears the general has re-opened the door to torture:

Petraeus hardly reversed course and endorsed torture. But there are many Republicans in Congress who thought Obama made a big mistake by banning it. If Congress revisits the interrogation debate at Petraeus’ behest, torture might very well return to U.S. interrogations.

Greg Sargent extends Petraeus's logic:

By endorsing torture in this “special circumstance,” Petraeus has implicitly conceded two things—that torture is so effective that it might be of use in an extraordinary circumstance, and that it’s morally defensible. Neither of those things happens to be true—and previously, Petraeus had made that clear.

______________________


Matt Daloisio of Witness against Torture sent the following report of activists standing up and speaking out in the gallery of the House of Representatives:

"While the US House of Representatives chamber filled for a vote today at 4:40pm, Representatives' eyes and ears turned toward the Chamber's gallery as a group of activists interrupted proceedings to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and denounce provisions in the Defense Appropriations Bill concerning detention policy.

Fifteen people from the group Witness Against Torture stood in the gallery to read the following statement:

'Today the House of Representative is in the process of contemplating not the passage of a bill but the commission of a crime. Provisions in the proposed Defense Appropriations Bill grant the United States powers over the lives of detained men fitting of a totalitarian state that uses the law itself as an instrument of tyranny. The law would make the prison at Guantanamo permanent by denying funds for the transfer of men to the United States, even for prosecution in civilian courts.

Abandoning the civilian courts, the bill would be the ultimate concession that the rule of law and cherished American values cannot survive the fear and hatred that have consumed this country. The proposed bill makes restrictions on the transfer of detainees even to foreign countries so severe that no one — whether cleared for release by our own government or acquitted in trials — could be expected to leave Guantanamo. It therefore mandates the indefinite detention even of innocent human beings, which is the very essence of tyranny. Congress has an obligation to uphold the US Constitution. All Americans have the obligation to defend human rights. The proposed bill makes America a callous and reckless jailer, unworthy of the name of democracy. It must be defeated.

Guantanamo must close. Those unjustly bound must be freed. Justice must rule.'

The activists were removed from the gallery by the police and placed under arrest. They will likely appear for arraignment in District of Columbia Superior Court on Friday.

Earlier today, before entering the House chamber, members of Witness Against Torture, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC), Amnesty International and other groups embarked on a March of Shame, walking between the institutions in Washington DC that continue to be responsible for unjust, illegal, and immoral American policies and conduct.

Beginning at the White House at 11am, the anti-torture activists, dressed in the orange jumpsuits and black hoods that are now emblematic of the policies of torture and abuse that the Obama administration inherited from President George W. Bush and has further entrenched, solemnly proceeded to the Department of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol.

The demonstrators called on all branches of government to close Guantanamo, end indefinite detention, repudiate the Military Commissions, and resist any effort to reauthorize torture in the form of “enhanced interrogations.” The procession took place as the House of Representatives is dealing with a version of the 2012 defense appropriations bill that undermines US Federal Courts, keeps Guantanamo open, and attempts to expand indefinite detention.

Witness Against Torture vigiled at the Department of Justice on Friday (6/24) from noon to 2pm. These demonstrations were part of a week of activities organized by the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition International, culminating in a vigil in front of the White House on Saturday, June 25th from 7am to 7pm.

Witness Against Torture demands:

Close the prison at Guantánamo Bay;

Free all prisoners who have been cleared for release, ensuring their safe resettlement and providing asylum in the U.S. for those unable to go elsewhere;

Produce charges against all other prisoners and prosecute them in U.S. courts;

Open all detention centers to outside scrutiny. That includes accepting the oversight of the International Committee of the Red Cross of all facilities; and

Conduct a comprehensive criminal inquiry against all those who designed and carried out torture policies under the Bush administration.

Witness Against Torture
http://www.witnesstorture.org/

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Poem: medi cine

Snake un windsthebed

headbloody

surgesfromwall

beautifulboyinthe dream
Asclepion

touchesherbell y
littleredleaves

asnakefromtheAbadon

bab ymove s

rearsmightil y

poppi es

amarblewall
drainsthewater

redredleaves

fangsoverhisthroat

fromherhead

shed s kin

toomanydie
themanwiththehurtneck

snake

dry sea of
turnsgod

E pi daur e
over the bed

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alan Gilbert will speak on the Greek democratic protests on KGNU – FM 88.5, AM 1390 – today at 6:30 pm

Claudia Cragg is doing a show on “It/s the economy, stupid” Thursday on KGNU – FM 88.5, Am 1390 in Denver and Boulder – on the deficits created by the rich being shunted relentlessly onto the poor in America and Europe. At 6 pm mountain time , she will speak with Thomas Ferguson, a political scientist from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, about the situation in the United States and the effect of political “gridlock” on preventing any further stimuls to the economy. She will then talk with me about the debt crisis in Greece and my experience, reported here, of the direct democracy demonstrations in Syntagma Square in front of parliament (I will also answer questions from callers) – 6:30-7.

Three weeks of demonstrations, of some 50,000 people each, with debates lasting long into the night, and on the Sunday four days after I wrote, some 300,000 people, took place in Syntagma Square; on June 15, the day Papandreou had proposed to enact the massive cutbacks, a million nonviolent protesters gathered, intent on stopping Parliament. They were viciously attacked by the police. Papandreou lost the support of 25 socialists and could not pass his program. These demonstrations make several very large and important points. First, there is an international resistance to the authoritarian policies of the European and American banks, the aganaktismenoi - the Greek indignados or the enraged - that were called forth by and echo the indignados in Spain – see here – and Portugal.

Second, the demonstrators practiced direct democracy descending from the old Athens. People took turns speaking from below, the assembly (though of 50,000) was genuinely popular. This movement is an arena for new proposals, proposals to make Greece democratic in the sense of serving the ordinary people and a common good. This is a startling contrast to the government, led by the socialist George Papandreou (the President of the Second International yet) who with determination, is trying to bleed the poor to sustain the banks.

Third, the American corporate press did not cover this protest until the explosion in Greece on June 15th and then has buried democratic revolution in stories about the financial "necessities" affecting Greece. Greece could – very likely will - default on its debt over the next year and that would be as bad as Lehman Brothers, leading into a further economic collapse (the policy of cutbacks launched by Germany and England also tend to produce such a collapse, unfortunately). But the commerical papers still mislead about the real demands of the Greek people, speaking at most only of numbers - 16% unemployment, 36% youth unemployment (I don’t know if these statistics are less slanted to understate unemployment than American ones) – and not voices. But the young people in Athens were protesting about Papandreou’s maximum wage for anyone under 25: 500 euros a month. Even if you live with 4 or 5 other people, try not going hungry on that wage in Athens…

That is the core reason that Papandreou could not put across his program June 15th. With the popular battle raging in the streets, people trying to occupy the Parliament, 25 socialists (Papandreou’s party) refused to vote for his proposals. Papandreo backed off temporarily, threatened to resign, appointed a new finance minister. Today the Parliament confirmed the government and he will try to pass these measures again on June 28. But the protests may make it impossible for the bankers to collect the money – like their colleagues in the United States, they have sacrificed nothing, demand ever more - at the imposition of such suffering.

Fourth, one of the democratic proposals that my friend Athanasios Bobos has joined in is to have a new popular assembly (initially suggested by Aristotle) which would evaluate leadership in relationship to campaign promises (Papandreou ran two years ago on limiting the effects of austerity, particularly on the poor). This assembly would require leaders who did the opposite of what they campaigned on, not to run again, or recommend cases of criminality to the courts (there was strong sentiment in the crowds for this). Such an assembly would be a startling democratic improvement.

Fifth, there is large sentiment for returning to the drachma, abandoning Europe and using Keynsian methods to put people to work. At the least, the Greeks could devalue the drachma themselves, as they cannot the Euro, and spur exports and jobs. A European community which strangles democracy and ordinary people to elevate the banks and the very rich, is not viable.

Sixth, as Madison revealed, democratic movements, inspired by Arab spring in Tunisia and Egypt, are also needed in the United States. The attack on collective bargaining, the increasing immiseration and joblessness for 15% of the workforce, are growing apace. The American economic elite will make money abroad; while the middle class disappears at home. A year ago, Greek workers put a banner on the Acropolis. “Europe, join us.” Their call also applies to America, urgent especially for the young.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A mystical bond with the World War I German dead: a translation from Will Altman, Part 3

Will Altman sent me a translation – below - of Heidegger’s speech to his 25 year high school reunion in Konstanz (graduation: 1909, speech 1934) which powerfully illuminates Being and Time on historicity. See here and here. He was moved by a passage in Johannes Fritsche’s Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s Being and Time and meditates deeply about Being and Time as a Funeral Oration for the dead of World War I as the last paragraph from his book below illustrates. The young students and volunteers who rose up out of the protection of the trenches, and ran toward the French lines, singing Deutschland ueber Alles, to be torn apart as sacrifices – the Helden von Langemarck, the heroes of Langemarck – these were the exemplars, as Will says, of “vorlaufende [here is a deadly and poignant meaning of running ahead into death] Entschossenheit.” This is somewhat misleadingly translated by Macquarrie and Robinson as anticipatory resoluteness. See here. Will suggests that what Heidegger wrote about the dead was searingly “manly, austere and sad.” Will has written a book on the Funeral Orations, Pericles and Lincoln, as well as the detail of Heidegger which captures this. In many ways, given how reprehensible Heidegger was a person (in large and in small: there is little opportunity to do something odious that he missed as Rector of Freiburg – see here), this emphasis on the Funeral Oration will make Will’s book dramatic and surprising. Every serious writer is complex and to write well about such a person is to see what is human, sometimes even admirable, even in what is sinister, for example, Heidegger’s brilliance in philosophy set in the persistent evil of what he did, his affirmation of sacrifice in his attempt at racial world-reordering…See also here on "The Silence of Gettysburg" and here .

Will calls for a new philosophy - one beyond Heidegger - to fight against this wanton slaughter of the young and I agree wholeheartedly. My own reaction is also fiercer than this paragraph. I think Heidegger is, partly as Will sees him in this passage, an enobler of their sacrifice, but partly a vampire on it. The death cult of fascism, most notable among the Spanish followers of Franco, is something treated more admirably in the great satirical filmmaker and anarchist Luis Bunuel, than it is part of human nobility. There is greatness in risking one’s life for a cause, as Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, especially through nonviolent resistance, did or in the efforts of the French Resistance. There is also greatness in giving one’s life for something one’s believes in (many of those who died on any of the sides in World War I), though the empire-holding on all sides, as Lenin said, and the relentless exploitation of the poor, and merciless racism pulls at this sacrifice. But there is also something diminished (giving oneself for an illusion and an evil illusion) and terribly sad about this. In World War II Germany, giving one’s life on the Russian front or in France or in Poland or in Africa was not admirable. Those who died with the Thaelmann brigade that fought for the Spanish Republic against Franco and Hitler, and Sophie Scholl and other members of the White Rose, were admirable.

Lincoln’s and Pericles’s speeches are moving because they are about sacrifice largely in a noble cause: that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”* (Lincoln’s vision about mercy in his Second Inaugural - that people on both sides sacrificed themselves thinking that God was on their side but “He” could not have been, at least not in the way that they hoped - is deeper). Often such sacrifice is just sad, like the miracle and fading of athletes except with finality, a “garland briefer than a girl’s” (in A.E. Housman’s pre-egalitarian words).

But what Will, and, politics aside, Heidegger, speaks to, is deep and powerful in the human spirit, and worth taking in. Recognizing the sacrifice of others is a deep part of finding the power to heal (cf. Desmond Tutu, No future without forgiveness).

Heidegger’s speech to the reunion at Konstanz raises the spirit of the great War in a way which unforgettably illuminates the discussion of “the one,” of “chatter” and all the other derogatory characterizations of modern life in Being and Time as directed at annihilating the Weimar democracy and the “bourgeois essence” (in this respect, Being and Time, taking in its words, is a very violent book...). That paragraph 74 on Resoluteness was to lead to a victorious repeat of the Great War, to make it the first World War, is – again, unforgettably – spelled out in these words.

That Heidegger’s interest in the pre-Socratics and autochthonous Greece was no positive “development” is also signaled in the Konstanz speech in his invoking of Heraclitus in Greek (German education was different from ours) on how war (polemos) reveals some as master and others as slave (this program does not transcribe the Greek alphabet, so this version of Will's translation omits the original citation). Despite his subsequent exoterica (misleading surfaces), the root and purpose of Heidegger’s writing on the pre-Socratics is shown here unambiguously as the master-race, the Reich or Dasein of Greater Germany…

“Dear Alan:

It was Fritsche's suggestion that the heroes of Langemarck etc. were the exemplars of vorlaufende Entschlossenheit that inspired my book. Here's are its last words:

But if the road from Being and Time leads to National Socialism, it does so only indirectly. The real link between the two is that terrible War and, above all, the young men who fought it. Both Hitler and Heidegger called for fighting the War a second time; both celebrated the heroic achievements of those young men. They were clearly wrong about the Second War. But this does not and will never prove that they were wrong to celebrate the heroes of the First. In Being and Time, the determined young German soldiers of the World War have received a wondrous memorial; only their generation’s greatest philosopher could have written anything so manly, so austere and so unutterably sad. But Heidegger himself must not be allowed to have the last word. That privilege belongs only to them. For their sweet sakes, Martin Heidegger must not long remain the last great German Philosopher. We must learn quite another lesson from their sacrifice.

All best,

Will”

Will also sent me his translation of Heidegger's 1934 speech at the twenty-fifth anniversary of his high school graduation which will be published as an appendix to his "Martin Heidegger and the First World War: Being and Time as Funeral Oration" (forthcoming in 2012 from Lexington Books). The German original can be found at: Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe 16, Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebensweges (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2000), 279-284.


‘The Reunion Speech’

‘Twenty-five Years after Our Graduation’
Reunion in Konstanz on May 26-27, 1934

Dear classmates!


Our reunion—after twenty-five years and more—might well incline us only to be concerned with remembrance and the past. But even granted that such is not the case, nevertheless our first communal action must yet remain the thought of our fallen comrades.

Each human being dies his own death. And this last and ultimate business of existence can never be performed for anyone by another. Death remains the deepest mystery of life. This is why we grow so little used to it and are hardly in a condition to think it out in its essence.

The representation of death and the relationship to it is for the individual human being, for groups of human beings and even for an entire nation, always the measure of its currently dominant conception of life.

Our comrades died an early death; but this early death was the most beautiful and greatest death. The greatest death: because it could become the highest sacrifice for the destiny of the nation. The most beautiful death: because they died this death not in the ebb, or flight and shattering of their life-impulse while in the still (…) time of the (…), but rather when this death was a lavish self-expenditure out of the still undiminished fullness of youth’s life-force.

That which in the old days here at Konstanz—again now as if new—invaded and held us captive: the lake and its magic, the incomparability of its shores and its peace, these scenes probably gathered themselves together one last time as the last manifestation of life before the inner eyes of our dying comrades.

But this unhelpful chatter about their death becomes all too easily a distortion.

The dead would not want to hear such speeches: for now they hear only—as the wisdom of the ancient Greeks tells us—the silence and the stillness. Silence—let that be our conversation with them. And so I ask you: please rise and think of them.—

But what is going on in this mere memory of the fallen? We are making the death of our comrades the subject of a personal, comradely recollection. This gives the appearance that we are reaching back to a past event that by now is already some twenty years distant from us—an event that we might gently relegate to some place in our memory—as though it depends on us whether it might still be there today or not.

But that is all an illusion. For the Great War comes over us now for the first time.

Our awakening to the two million dead in all those endless graves—which the borders of the Reich and German Austria wear like some mysterious crown—only now begins.

The Great War becomes today for us Germans—for us first and foremost among all peoples—the historical actuality of our existence for the first time. For history is not that which has been nor even what presents itself but rather what is to come and our task with respect it to it.

We still are all too ready to repeatedly gauge everything around us with traditional concepts and the measurements of the long-winded talker.

But the actuality of this gigantic event that we call the First World War is even now gradually entering a realm beyond the question of the guilt or innocence of its origins, beyond all questions of imperialism or pacifism.

The War, in its immediate conclusion, has indeed still not produced any decision, neither for the winners nor for the defeated; the mere result of the War is certainly not the decision. This yet stands ahead of us: it is a spiritual matter that concerns the entire earth.

The question to be decided is: which nation possesses the inner strength to grow towards the great test that now for the first time has emerged and becomes manifest.—

It is the question to the nations about the originality of their national arrangements, about the rank and legitimacy of their political will to lead, about the cohesion of their spiritual world, about the health of their national life-force, about their strength to withstand this historical disaster.

The World War puts these questions about the entire living totality of each individual nation. And the deciding of this question divides the nations into the declining and the growing.

We stand in the midst of this decision.

And when we try to understand the meaning of the new German reality, then
we must say: the new movement, which now courses through this nation, is the deepest and widest concern for our nation’s freedom.

For us, freedom does not mean the unchecked license of actions and conduct but rather: adhesion to the innermost law and the institutions of our essence. Freedom means: the gathering of each power that confirms the nation in its historical and spiritual position. Freedom means the awakening and commitment of the will of the nation to its own innermost mission.

That is the authentic sense of German Socialism. It signifies no mere alteration in the conception of society, it does not mean a barren equalization, it does not signify the spontaneous striving for some undefined common good.

German Socialism is the battle over the measure and laws of our nation’s essence-oriented institutions; German Socialism wants an order of merit based on inner confirmation and achievement: it wants the inviolability of service and the absolute honor of all labor.

That is what we mean by national freedom.

The liberation that leads to this freedom demands a complete reconstitution of the entire structure of the nation—its groups, occupations, classes, and every individual.

But this reconstitution can only be the product of an ongoing re-education. This again stands on the basis of two great pre-preconditions.

The first is the overcoming of the whole bourgeois essence; in other words, of that behavior which from first to last only sees what is repellant, inadequate, and noisy; the behavior that absorbs itself in minutia and half-way measures; the behavior that never wants to see and never can see the great and most distant, the unique and truly powerful.

And the second precondition for the future re-education of the nation is: destruction of that strange unreal world of illusion in which we moved about before the War and which flared up once again after the War and degenerated into lawlessness: that characteristic mish-mash of phony humanism—an empty patriotism and a Christianity grown indecisive—with which a cowardly mendacity in all essentials comes along in tow: cant on the one side and impertinence on the other. All of this must now be completely burnt to ashes.

We stand before the gigantic assignment:to apply the transformative power of the Great War—which now is taking hold of our people and taking them out beyond—first and foremost to our future actions and being.

And our generation is the passage and the bridge.

It is not the twenty-fifth reunion but the need for a spiritual decision that brings us together today in a new comradeship. It is not we who, through memory, recall our dead for the fleeting moment of a memorial service but rather it is they—the dead—who are compelling us to a decision and to the confirmation.

From us is demanded the enduring courage, the clear knowledge, the genuine measures, the belief in the mission of the people.

The Great War must now be spiritually won by us, i.e. battle will become the innermost law of our existence. And we are taking up anew that deep wisdom which one of the greatest and earliest thinkers of the Greeks pronounced—that people related to us by race and by essence—that saying of Heraclitus, which we generally know and repeat only in its well-worn and mutilated form: “Battle is the father of all things.” It says: [this program will not record the Greek of Fragment 53]:‘Battle is the producer of all things—but of all things also the ruler—; it indeed makes some manifest as gods, the others as men, some it gives forth as slaves, the others as masters.’

This would tell us that the power of battle holds sway in the whole being of things and humans in a double sense: as the power of production and as the power of preservation. Battle produces things not just to replicate itself from them as soon as they are established and have discovered their actuality; but rather battle preserves and uniquely maintains things in their essential condition.

In general, therefore: where this productive battle is absent begins stagnation, equalization, mediocrity, backsliding, harmlessness, atrophy and decay.

For the bourgeois, battle is always only argument, quarrelsome wrangling, and a disruption.—For essential men, battle is the great test of all being: through it is decided whether we are slaves to ourselves or masters, whether we incline to live so as to make what is already small even smaller, or whether we bring forth the will and inner power to continuously make greater that which is great.

Human beings must first become great in the ground of their essence in order to see great things and advance in obedience to them.

What that false doctrine of modern thought would have us believe is absolutely untrue: that a civil society, formed from collected individuals, is the precondition for a cohesive obedience. Rather is it the exact reverse: obedience, that binding of oneself to the will of the leader, first creates community.

We who belong to this fully mystical comradeship with our dead comrades; our generation is the bridge to spiritual and historical victory in the Great War.

But only that which has been prepared long in advance can build from the ground up for the distant future—, only what has been decided and which maintains itself permanently in that decision is able to decide for distant centuries.

Mere opinions and theories are not effective, programs and organizations have no binding power but only this alone: heart to heart and shoulder to shoulder!


*Pericles celebrates the novelty and greatness of the Athenian democracy - we do not cast censorious looks (Hobbes's translation) on others for their eccentricities so long as they come together for a common good; we live freely and are as prepared for battle as those who do nothing but study for it [Sparta] - but also the murderous "splendor" of empire that would, of course, bring Athens down (the point of Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War). About Lincoln's speech, some of those who fell for the Union were not patriots, let alone the abolitionists such as the German emigres from the failed revolution of 1848 or the 184,000 black soldiers, but Irishman forced off the boat into the Union army. What is noble in sacrifice is, in the deepest sense, self-chosen (Heidegger's resoluteness) and - what is far more difficult - for a decent cause...

Monday, June 20, 2011

For ”repetition” of world war and against “the modern”: Being and Time, part 2

In response to the last post here, my friend Brendan Hogan sent me a link to the book by his teacher Johannes Fritsche, Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s Being and Time (1996). This is an often brilliant etymological study of what Heidegger’s words meant in the context of German politics in the 1920s: how they are relentlessly of the extreme Right (he compares Hitler’s Mein Kampf as well as Max Scheler) and differ in kind from those of the left (Lukacs, Paul Tillich). If scholarly books could settle such a question as the Nazism of Being and Time, this one should have. But the ideology that Being and Time is abstract philosophy and has no political impact, that Heidegger dipped from the "Clouds" into Nazism and hastily retreated, is widely entrenched – see here. Many now have some seeming scholarly self-interest – having staked out positions relying on Heidegger’s abstractness – on preserving this differentiation rather than assessing the difference between Heidegger’s moves which are creative philosophically and the Nazism which was always his underlying theme.

Fritsche also usefully distinguishes his argument in detail from two misinterpretations, using what is often called contextualism and the weakness of the MacQuarrie and Robinson translation, to drive home his argument. Fritsche’s argument stresses overwhelmingly Gemeinschaft (the community of the Volk) which will rise up and destroy Gesellschaft (civil society, the decadent Weimar Republic). Here in section 74 of Being and Time, Heidegger sounds this very theme:

“But if fateful (schicksalhafte) Dasein, as Being-in-the-World, exists essentially in Being-with-Others, its historizing is a co-historizing and is determinative for it as (bestimmt als) destiny (Geschick). This is how we designate the historizing of the community (Gemeinschaft), of (the) people (des Volkes). Destiny is not something that puts itself together out of individual fates (Schicksalen), any more than Being-with-one-another can be conceived as the occurring together of several Subjects [the latter is all civil society to be superseded by community and destiny]. Our fates have already been guided in advance, in our Being with one another in the same world and in our resoluteness for definite possibilities. Only in communicating and in struggling does the power of destiny become free. (Being and Time 436; Sein und Zeit 384)

But Fritsche almost goes too far. A careful reading of the words in any translation will make Heidegger’s Nazism rise up before one’s eyes – his call for death for the Fatherland in a now triumphal repeat of World War I. This post will underline that point.

In Being and Time and afterwards, Heidegger’s aim was to mobilize soldiers authentically to give their lives for the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer, Heidegger would say about the referendum against the League of Nations, gives Germans the choice: to be a people or to capitulate to the French. That choice is already adumbrated in part V of Being and Time.

Consider paragraph 385:

Only an entity which, in its Being , is essentially futural so that it is free for its death and can let itself be thrown back upon its factical ‘there’ by shattering itself against death’ [think of going to war and dying for the Fatherland] that is to say, only an entity which, as futural, is equiprimordially in the process of having been, can, by handing down to itself the possibility it has inherited, take over its own thrownness and be in the moment of vision (augenblicklich) for ‘its time.’ Only authentic temporality which is at the same time finite, makes possible something like fate – that is to say, authentic historicality. “(p. 437, par. 385)

I had previously thought that Strauss’s emphasis on resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) as the key to Nazism in Heidegger – as opposed to say, Cassirer’s reasonableness, compromise or peace - was too limited and not central. Heidegger’s interpretation of Being toward death, and care seemed more central, for instance. I once asked Harvey Mansfield, a political Straussian, about Heidegger’s Nazism, and he, too, responded with one word: resoluteness. But in reading the section on historicity, I found a number of sentences in which I could see everything that Strauss meant.** The crucial concept in Heidegger is actually anticipatory [vorlaufende] resoluteness:

“We have defined ‘resoluteness’ as a projecting of oneself upon one’s own Being-guilty – a projecting which is reticent and ready for anxiety. Resoluteness gains its authenticity as anticipatory resoluteness. In this, Dasein understands itself with regard to its potentiality-for-Being, and it does so in such a manner that it will go right under the eyes of Death in order thus to take over in its thrownness that entity which it is itself and to take it over wholly.” (par. 382, p. 434)

What in 1928 was Heidegger anticipating (literally: running toward]?

This is a grim and beautiful metaphor – anticipatory resoluteness “will go right under the eyes of Death to take over its thrownness.” No casual or accidental death – an acceptance of death in battle, death for the Fatherland, the death in the struggle and destiny of one’s generation - is the core of what Heidegger is saying. In the next post, I will comment on Will Altman’s eerie translation of Heidegger’s 1934 25th reunion speech to his fellow high school graduates from Konstanz (class of 1909), recalling the dead of World War I and calling for a destruction of bourgeois society – of “the one” in Being and Time’s idiom – and the greatness of self-sacrifice of the young, when life is overflowing (there is some grotesque, spiritual vampirism in the fascist love of war):

“Our comrades died an early death; but this early death was the most beautiful and greatest death. The greatest death: because it could become the highest sacrifice for the destiny of the nation. The most beautiful death: because they died this death not in the ebb, or flight and shattering of their life-impulse while in the still (…) time of the (…), but rather when this death was a lavish self-expenditure out of the still undiminished fullness of youth’s life-force.”

Here is a further explanation of what Being and Time’s metaphor – “going right under the eyes of death to take over its own thrownness” – means. It is a summons to the great war to come. In Being and Time, partly for the purpose of being appointed professor at Freiburg when German universities fired those who endorsed National Socialism, Heidegger practices what his initiate Leo Strauss will name “the art of writing”:

“The resolute taking over of one’s factical ‘there’ signifies, at the same time, that the Situation is one which has been resolved upon. In the existential analysis we cannot, in principle, discuss what Dasein factically resolves in any particular case. [no, except that the implications for Germans and German Dasein seem clear enough…]. Our investigation excludes even the existential projection of the factical possibilities of existence. Nevertheless, we must ask whence, in general , Dasein can draw those possibilities upon which it factically projects itself. One’s anticipatory projection of oneself on that possibility of existence which is not to be outstripped – on death – guarantees only the totality and authenticity of one’s resoluteness.” (par 382-83, p. 434)

Droningly, hypnotically repeating the word ”repeat,” as in a not quite said here, do-over of World War I, Heidegger elaborates:

“It is not necessary that in resoluteness one should explicitly know the origin of the possibilities upon which that resoluteness projects itself. It is rather in Dasein’s temporality, and there only, that there lies any possibility that the existentiell potentiality-for-Being upon which it projects itself can be gleaned explicitly from the way in which Dasein has been traditionally understood. The resoluteness which comes back to itself and hands itself down, then becomes the repetition of a possibility of existence, say, going back into the possibilities of the Dasein that has-been-there. The authentic repetition of a possibility of existence that has been – the possibility that Dasein may choose its hero [a veiled reference to Hitler, actualized but a few years later in Heidegger’s fetishization of Hitler’s hands here]- is grounded existentially in anticipatory resoluteness; for it is in resoluteness that one first chooses the footsteps of that which can be repeated. But when one has by repetition, handed down to oneself a possibility that has been [imagined victory in World War I, but actually, crushing defeat], the Dasein that has-been-there is not disclosed in order to be actualized over again. The repeating of that which is possible does not bring again [Wiederbringen] something that is ‘past,’ nor does it bind the ‘Present’ back to that which has already been ‘outstripped.’ Arising as it does from a resolute projection of oneself, repetition does not let itself be persuaded of something by what is ‘past,’ just in order that this, as something which was formerly actual, may recur.” (437-38, par 385-6)

No, the aim of repetition is to make anew, to create a new possibility of victorious German Dasein in a repeat of World War I.

“Rather, the repetition makes a reciprocative rejoinder to the possibility of that existence which has-been-there. But when such a rejoinder is made to this possibility in a resolution, it is made in a moment of vision; and as such , is at the same time a disavowal of that which in the today is working itself out as the 'past' (sich als 'Vergangenheit' auswirkt).”

Nazism is not, as Hermann Rauschning discovered, a conservative revolution. It is a reactionary “revolution” to create something new, seemingly of the Past (Prussia and its peasants) and infinitely nastier, more rapacious and genocidal:

“Repetition does not abandon itself to that which is past, nor does it aim at progress. In the moment of vision, authentic existence is indifferent to both these alternatives. (438, par 386)

Heidegger will distinguish his repeating of a possibility of the past – World War II – radically from “the modern” and modernism. Dying for civil rights in Mississippi, as Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Cheney did, would not be authentic for Heidegger – a sign of the remarkable bad faith (Sartre) or parti pris of his philosophy. There is a pretence in Being and Time that Heidegger’s argument is not politically determined, but read carefully, this is nothing but pretence. This paragraph wraps up Nazism as the only German authenticity, set against the “one” of modernity and the last men:

“In authentic historicality, on the other hand, the way in which fate has been primordially stretched along has been hidden. With the inconstancy of the they-self, Dasein makes present its ‘today.’ In awaiting the next new thing, it has already forgotten the old one. The ‘they’ evades choice. Blind for possibilities, it cannot repeat what has been, but only retains and receives the ‘actual’ that is left over, the world-historical that has been, the leavings, and the information about them that is present-at-hand. Lost in the making present of the ‘today,’ it understands the ‘past’ in terms of the ‘Present.’*** On the other hand, the temporarily of authentic historicality, as the moment of vision of anticipatory repetition, deprives the ‘today’ of its character as present and weans one from the conventionalities of the ‘they.’ When, however, one’s existence is inauthentically historical, it is loaded down with the legacy of a ‘past’ which has become unrecognizable, and it seeks the modern (my italics)." (443-44)

The modern – liberalism and radicalism, interpreted not as a fresh start, human possibilities which surely these are and ones which open more possibilities, but as mere anachronism - is thus the enemy.

‘… when historicality is authentic, it understands history as the ‘recurrence’ [Wiederkehr] of the possible, and knows that a possibility will recur [wiederkehrt] only if existence is open [offen] for it fatefully, in a moment of vision, in resolute repetition [in der entschlossenen Wiederholung].” (par. 393, p. 444; Sein und Zeit, 391)

These sentences are located some four hundred thirty pages into a dense philosophical manuscript. They do not mention Hitler. Nonetheless, the hostility to modernity, to any moral notion of the good of human lives as opposed to the need for German predatory subjection of others, is clear. Education for a Pole, Himmler would later say, is to learn to spell his own name, count to 500 and that the word of Adolf Hitler is the commandment of God…. The Nazis intended to exterminate the Poles for Lebensraum. They intended to subordinate and “regenerate” Western, i.e. “Aryan” Europe under Hitler.

Here again are Heidegger’s words in 1934 to his high school classmates at Konstanz:

“The War, in its immediate conclusion, has indeed still not produced any decision, neither for the winners nor for the defeated; the mere result of the War is certainly not the decision. This yet stands ahead of us: it is a spiritual matter that concerns the entire earth.

The question to be decided is: which nation possesses the inner strength to grow towards the great test that now for the first time has emerged and becomes manifest.—It is the question to the nations about the originality of their national arrangements, about the rank and legitimacy of their political will to lead, about the cohesion of their spiritual world, about the health of their national life-force, about their strength to withstand this historical disaster.

The World War puts these questions about the entire living totality of each individual nation. And the deciding of this question divides the nations into the declining and the growing.

We stand in the midst of this decision. “ (trans. Will Altman)

It is sometimes thought, obviously, that an authentic life, a life of one’s own, facing mortality, is morally superior to an alienated one, a falling into the one. This might be true. But the life of a Nazi soldier really does make the decadence of Weimar republic and ordinary urban life, even unemployment, look like “a golden age” - literally, a “golden polity” as I.F. Stone reminds us - by comparison. (Plato means this term in the Seventh Letter; Strauss, in "What is Political Philosophy?," does not. Strauss uses the vivid words to draw the reader’s attention from his real message about the imperial authoritarian or sovereign).

As Heidegger reveals in his reunion speech, freedom is subordinate to German socialism (National Socialism) and Der Fuehrer. He means to destroy the equal freedoms of individuals (what Fritsche rightly speaks of as Gesellschaft) and substitute the Gemeinschaft (community) of the Volk (people):

“That is what we mean by national freedom.

The liberation that leads to this freedom demands a complete reconstitution of the entire structure of the nation—its groups, occupations, classes, and every individual.

But this reconstitution can only be the product of an ongoing re-education. This again stands on the basis of two great pre-preconditions.

The first is the overcoming of the whole bourgeois essence; in other words, of that behavior which from first to last only sees what is repellant, inadequate, and noisy; the behavior that absorbs itself in minutia and half-way measures; the behavior that never wants to see and never can see the great and most distant, the unique and truly powerful.

And the second precondition for the future re-education of the nation is: destruction of that strange unreal world of illusion in which we moved about before the War and which flared up once again after the War and degenerated into lawlessness: that characteristic mish-mash of phony humanism—an empty patriotism and a Christianity grown indecisive—with which a cowardly mendacity in all essentials comes along in tow: cant on the one side and impertinence on the other. All of this must now be completely burnt to ashes [Note the violence of the sentiment which the Nazis were already enacting].

We stand before the gigantic assignment: to apply the transformative power of the Great War—which now is taking hold of our people and taking them out beyond—first and foremost to our future actions and being.” (Will Altman translation)

Except for the rare philosopher, Heidegger opposes notions of freedom (going off from the tribe and finding gifts, the psychological journey of the shaman or hero – see Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces). More deeply, he opposes the idea of a democracy based on equal rights, of lives beyond the orbit of local, i.e. German dasein, except conquest. This is the sinister upshot of his straightforward view, the one that lies on the surface of Being and Time, and requires, in Strauss’s phrase, a literal reading, one which does not impute to Heidegger other thoughts which one wishes to be there (i.e attempted American Emersonianisms). It is a cagy argument, but one which is clear enough, if one reads it line by line.

In fact, I would recommend reading the whole of part V aloud in which case both the point and the academic disguise will be clear.

It was a good disguise. Heidegger came out as a Nazi on May 1, 1933. Yet many of Heidegger’s students, even his lover Hannah Arendt, were shocked. They were thus somewhat confused about what he meant.

Yet if one looks, one can pretty plainly see. At Davos in 1929, Toni Cassirer dealt with Heidegger for several days. He seemed to her a boor (he may have, in today’s psychological terms, been autistic, a smart man lacking in social graces, empathy, comprehension of others).

“We had been expressly prepared for Heidegger’s remarkable appearance, his repudiation of every social convention was known to us, as well as his enmity [Feindschaft] toward the neo-Kantians, especially against Cohen” (cited in Peter Gordon, Continental Divide, p. 335).

While Ernst Cassirer was sick, she spoke to Heidegger – assuming sympathy and agreement and thus, leaving Heidegger silent - of Ernst’s teacher Hermann Cohen, also a Jew and a Kantian (unlike Cassirer, Cohen emphasized morality) who had died and been buried in Berlin without a single one of his colleagues coming to honor him. By the time Ernst revived, she had somewhat neutralized Heidegger.

“His animosity and combativeness were plain to see. The problem, as I understood it, was how I could pass the next fourteen days as the neighbor to this remarkable nemesis when I recognized him as such. But I hoped for Ernst’s aid, since he was to be sitting at my right and, I assumed, would lead the table conversation. But things turned out differently. The next morning, following his first lecture, Ernst contracted a powerful flu with a high fever and had to stay in bed for many days. So I now sat together twice daily with this peculiar fellow who had resolved to drag Cohen’s achievements in the dust and if possible to vanquish Ernst.”

“Then the thought occurred to me that I might outwit this sly fox – for so he was reputed to be. I began a naïve conversation with him, as if I knew not the slightest thing about either his philosophical or his personal antipathies. I asked him about all manner of common acquaintances, most of all about his familiarity with Cohen as a person, and in my manner of posing the questions I already took for granted his ready acknowledgment. Unprompted, I described for him Ernst’s relation with Cohen. I spoke of the scandalous treatment this preeminent scholar had experienced as a Jew; I told him how not a single member of the Berlin faculty had accompanied his burial casket. I divulged to him, his agreement naturally assured, all sorts of particulars about Ernst’s life, and I had the pleasure of watching this hard biscuit dissolve as if dipped in warm milk. When Ernst arose from his sickbed, Heidegger found himself in a difficult situation for carrying through with his planned hostilities, since he knew personally so much about him. Of course, Ernst too, with his goodwill and the respect he granted him, made a frontal assault no easy matter. The battle dissipated into respectable relations, which must have caused wonder amongst the mob of Heidegger elites who followed him.” (pp. 336-37)

Toni Cassirer played upon the “hard biscuit” brilliantly. But she perhaps overestimates the accomplishment; she made Heidegger comparatively civilized, but the force of what he said still struck home. The effect of the debate, particularly on those who followed Heidegger, was deep and resonant (see Gordon, pp. 346-57).

Toni Cassirer said Heidegger was plainly anti-semitic in manner and that this was common knowledge: “Nor was his tendency toward anti-Semitism unknown to us [Auch seine Neigung zum Antisemitismus war uns nicht fremd].” (p. 336) Heidegger may have deceived students and lovers like Hannah Arendt, but in his enmities, the racism stood out. His experience as a Nazi may have deepened the racism. After World War II, he would defend himself to the French investigating commission with the odious phrase that he shook hands with “the Jew Cassirer.” ( Schmitt in 1938 used this language even toward “the Jew Strauss” who had rendered his fascism more coherent, see my Enmity and Tyranny, American Conservatism, Nomos, ed. Sanford Levinson and Melissa Williams, forthcoming, see here, here and here).

The idea that Heidegger had some other view, that his philosophy was abstract and did not have this (obvious) political punch-line, needs a serious defense…

*Fritsche does not seem aware of contextualism as a method in political theory and history – Skinner, Dunn, Pocock – of what it means to do a realist contextualism – one that is not relativist (relativism tries to recapture “viable” meanings in a context supposedly incommensurable with “ours”; of course, if we can recapture and spell out the meanings, they are then not “incommensurable”), that seeks the truth. See my Marx’s Politics, conclusion, and here and here. The argument I make, however, coincides with, underpins Fritsche’s.

**One has to read Strauss literally (without the inferences encouraged by his words which often go along with the reader's expectations and are misleading). Out of probity, Strauss often literally says what he believes to be true. See Persecution and the Art of Writing and the last paragraph of his 1962 "Introduction" to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion).

***Here is the Heideggerian or Nazi root of Leo Strauss’s critique of historicism or relativism. That these visions are wrong is one of Strauss’s few good philosophical points; that Nazism (or Zionism - national socialism - in Israel, as Strauss conceived it) is a “moral” anchor is the opposite of decency.

****Strauss and Cropsey misuse the term moral profoundly; for instance, Strauss speaks of a moral objection of the nihilist to conventions and – roughly - bourgeois rule. But what the nihilist wants, mass murder and destruction, are evil rather than moral, the slaughter of the last men....

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Being and Time on historicity and Hitler, part 1

That Heidegger was an active Nazi until the defeat of Hitler (the Gestapo checked him out and gave him a clean bill of health in 1938), hoped for Nazi victory, and never gave up his affection for true National Socialism is no longer in doubt. Emmanuel Faye's Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy in Light of the Unpublished Seminars of 1933-1935 and Charles Bambach, Heidegger's Roots,spell out his activity from the 1933 through the War. Further, Heidegger did an interview, which he only allowed to be published in Der Spiegel posthumously, saying that democracy was not the answer to the problem of planetary technology. He remained true to the goals of National Socialism against what he saw as technological domination, the Soviet Union, the United States and post-war Germany. Finally, the BBC movie on Heidegger, “Thinking the Unthinkable,” collects much of the ugly material which has accrued on his personal depravity over the last 20 years, and the fact that he never recanted it. See here (h/t Brian Leiter).

Some Heidegger scholars have been interested in separating his philosophy – or his role as a theorist – from his despicable political action. They imagine that he stumbled into Nazism, and quickly retreated – not just from the Rectorship at Freiburg, which he resigned after a year, but from a vision of imperial authoritarian rule - into the “clouds” (cf. Aristophanes, “The Clouds”). See here Others are misled by the abstractness of Being and Time (1927). It could not and did not have, they think, an obvious political point. He just somehow stumbled into Nazism on May Day, 1933, along with Carl Schmitt (two of the first three leading German intellectuals who joined the Party); it was not - it could not have been - prefigured in his great philosophical work.

But as his student, Hans-georg Gadamer put it acidly in an essay, one of his friends met him on the tram in Freiburg shortly after he resigned the Rectorship. “Back from Syracuse?” the friend asked. This is, of course, an allusion to Plato’s three year journey to advise the tyrant Dionysius the younger of Syracuse to become a philosopher-king (what Plato says he advised him in the Seventh Letter is, however, to rule by laws). That a central surprising – to American and French enthusiasts - strain in Heidegger’s Nazism and in Being and Time was a reactionary interpretation of Plato, founded in his continuing lectures on the Greeks from 1926 on, and culminating in his 1943 The Essence of Truth: on Plato’s Cave-Metaphor and the Theaetetus I have written on at length here, here, here and here. If one looks at post-War editions of The Essence of Truth, Plato is carved out, and the distinct Nazism – that the guardians of the king or tyrant (he who rules without laws, but “wisely”) will be philosophers and set all the regulations for society – paragraph 13 – is omitted. Heidegger was a cagier writer than many of his interpreters take in, especially those who have a need not to see the elements in his philosophy which are plainly pro-Nazi and which envisioned Nazism even in the 1920s.*

When Heidegger wrote Being and Time, he was up for Husserl’s professorship – the phenomenologist and Heidegger’s teacher/initial philosophical inspiration - at Freiburg.** Any faculty member known to be a Nazi was fired in Weimar universities until Hitler came to power. This is quite a motivation to keep one’s affections secret until the moment they could be expressed (May 1, 1933). That Heidegger was one of the first three major intellectuals to declare his love for Hitler has not been given adequate weight…In the BBC film, the point is rightly made that Heidegger took the lead in mobilizing philosophy students and young people generally to the Nazis, helped consolidate their power when it was still shaky. Though the interviewees in the film exaggerate Heidegger’s influence, it was real enough.

From Emmanuel Faye (pp. 19-20), one can learn that Elfrida Heidegger, Martin’s wife, a former student of economics, was already a Nazi in the early 1920s, and tried to recruit Heidegger’s students she (and probably he) imagined sympathetic (amusingly, she agitated Gunther Anders, a blond Jew, whom she mistook for a likely member of the master race; Anders reports that she and Heidegger referred to the Nazi slogan Blut und Boden - Blood and Soil - familiarly as "Blubo"). This is a political tactic, perhaps a shell game. As pro-Nazi, Heidegger would have had to have been crafty about, not to speak openly of, his affections.

Further, Heidegger was a student of Plato who, in the Seventh Letter (mentioned in the very passage of the 1943 work which involves Heidegger’s National Socialist interpretation of the Republic), says that he cannot reveal the truth about legislation in writing. One will have to divine it by careful reading and deciphering of clues; it will then light in the soul like a spark and never go out….

Heidegger would thus have but emulated Plato in not quite making the practical truth of his affections known. That Plato is much more complicated about democracy than Heidegger – a friend of democracy against tyranny, for example – escapes Heidegger entirely (see here, here, and here).***

The thesis of this post and a subsequent one is that Being and Time points straightforwardly toward Nazism. If one reads Heidegger trying to detect some practical stance, the whole section on Historicity (part v) opens up and can have little other meaning. As I have emphasized before, Heidegger’s argument – and its originality – consist in a number of steps. Some of these can easily be separated – though Heidegger does not do so – from the affection for Hitler (and the beauty of Hitler’s hands, see here) which is the upshot of what he argues. Further, it is Heidegger’s affection for the pre-reflective life - the Being-in-the-world - of the German farmer which helps generate his Nazism (the alternative of restoring or enlarging “German greatness” as opposed to going down the road of urbanism, communism, Jewishness). The philosophical creativity is real here – the sense that Heidegger stakes out a whole new and very creative direction in philosophy, shows that many problems or initial steps are badly stated, lead nowhere, and are perhaps even foolish (Descrates’s most notably, but even Husserl’s – is what is exhilarating in reading Being and Time and has influenced many people. But Leo Strauss’s phrase that Heidegger is in philosophy what Hilter was in politics is, sadly, more accurate than not.

For example, Heidegger begins from “Being there” – Dasein – in the midst of the world, involved practically in it. Things are vorhandene – before the hand, i.e., nature – or shaped to the hand (zuhandene). One is engaged in the world – has concerns or care (Sorge), very much as for Heidegger’s teacher Husserl, all consciousness is intentional, is consciousness of something, or, in Heidegger’s conception, a mood toward or about something. For Heidegger, this engagement in the world is paradigmatically, though unsaid in Being and Time, that of a farmer in the Schwarzwald (he himself kept a now famous hut in Todtnauberg - see below and the BBC movie - where he wrote and split wood, and spoke in a Swabian dialect which stood out among more urban professors). This culminates a powerful theme in German thought. For example, when Max Weber speaks of the “disenchantment of the world” of modern capitalism and formal rationality (calculating), he is talking about what Heidegger calls “falling into the one” (das Man) or Marx commodity fetishism. Weber is a Nietzschean, on the German imperial right (in “Science as a Vocation,” he speaks of waking in a thousand years and seeing German faces…see my Democratic Individuality, chs. 9-12).

Heidegger’s vision of engaged life takes Weber’s metaphor of “disenchantment” and works out a whole, novel direction in philosophy countering it. It is perhaps no wonder that Being and Time, obscure as it is, found a wide resonance among German readers in the late 1920s (the understanding may not have been deep, but the direction Heidegger represented struck a chord far broader even than his being, in Hannah Arendt's words, a “secret king in philosophy”).

Following Heidegger’s broader argument, one can, however, imagine others – for example, artisans, or workers or writers being equally “thrown” into, engaged in the world.* That is the attractiveness of Being and Time, a spell deliberately created by Heidegger, although what he means just below the surface is, peasant life and Being-towards-death (Sein zum Tode) as creating an authenticity of self-aware sacrifice for the Fatherland. The term authentic or taking ownership of oneself (eigentlich) seems to refer to individuals, and has often been misread that way. But actually, as we will see below in part V on Historicity, Heidegger was thinking that Dasein invests itself in a destiny (Schicksal) which is part of the fate (Geschick) of one’s generation. “Individual” authenticity is part of the collective authenticity of a people, blindly doing the Hilter salute (he signed his own memos alliteratively in 1933, “Heil Hitler Heidegger). This is not only anti-individuality, but the notion of authenticity in Heidegger’s Nazism is the antithesis of being one’s own person or, minimally, decency. Of course, Heidegger saw himself as the authentic philosopher-advisor to the tyrant, the guide to restoring and advancing Germany as the world ruler. He alone (and Hitler as his advisee) would realize the truth behind the national vision to which everyone else would (slavishly) bow down, march…

But Heidegger would pay a price as a quasi-concealed, academic, national socialist and not an activist. He had no chance to get close to Hitler; Hitler had little interest in him except briefly, through others, as a useful subordinate among professors and students. Heidegger's subsequent role as Rector of Freiburg, zealously praising Hitler and the Nazis, going out of his way to harm the racially and politically "deficient" (for instance, the future Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Hermann Staudinger, whom he sought to ban from the University and deny a pension),accomplished little. He retired in frustration after a year not because his vision had shifted as he later lied to the French post-war investigating commission, but because he could not get near enough to power to counsel Hitler.

In quasi-musical terms, both of these themes in Being and Time – the abstract or somewhat misleading one that most readers take up part of, the political one which I will explore the culmination of in section V on Historicity – are woven together throughout the book.

In fact, the abstract slogan under which Being and Time operates, is, if one dwells on it, obviously misleading. Being and Time claims to raise the question of being, to substitute ontology for metaphysics. But actually, it mainly focuses on Dasein and Being-in-the-world (the being through whom the question of being comes into question…). In actuality, it is more concerned with what would be called existentialism, not by Heidegger, but rather, in the 1950s revival of Heidegger by Sartre and Arendt,***** than with ontology (except to probe everything, to get beyond the “ontic” dimension, to see Dasein uncannily and unforgettably, to start philosophy in a new way). It is actually – also and really - an argument about life in Germany (and perhaps more broadly in the world) with a political culmination.

Living at home in the world is always a possibility and sometimes a reality as Heidegger’s new vision of philosophy indicates. He reached for what he imagined as a glittering image of pre-reflective existence, of a kind of ordinary (though capable of self-awareness) non-alienatedness in the world. But Heidegger also overlooks the bitterness of much rural life. German serfs were not treated as men and were subjected to remarkable abuses - consider the great Peasant War in Germany of 1525 led by Thomas Munzer (see Friedrich Engels, The Peasant War in Germany), the demands of farmers in the Revolution of 1848, echoing those of the French Revolution (see my Marx’s Politics), and the fact that peasants were foundering under landlord and capitalist oppression during the Weimar Republic. Heidegger’s favorite Nazi slogan: Blut und Boden (blood and soil) has a lot to do with the “noble” sacrifice of peasant’s lives for worldwide conquest, not with a pre-reflective engagement with the soil. If his politics were always to the extreme right, saturated in World War I (something he meditated on, though he served only as an inspector in Freiburg, and near the front in the last months of the War as a metereologist – warning others which way the poison gas might blow). In terms of resoluteness (Entschlossenheit), he was more successfully though artificially a peasant in life than a soldier. (Heidegger’s parents, Friedrich and Johanna, were both peasants - the father an artisan and chaplain as well - in rural Messkirch, and his garb and retreat were and were not an affectation.)

Here are four powerful features of Heidegger’s argument. The first is that Dasein is in, not against nature. So the dominion of technology, characteristic of capitalism as a domineering entity (in both Marx and Heidegger) is not an obvious or simple fate for humanity. When Heidegger speaks in his posthumous interview of the confrontation of man and planetary technology, he seems to see forward to the destructiveness of modern war – the saturation of the Middle East by the United States with depleted uranium which has infected and killed many Americans as well since the first gulf War, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the radiation leak at Fukushima (producing a great green movement in Germany and the transformation of Angela Merkel, just three weeks ago, into she who will phase out nuclear power by 2022, as well as an anti-nuclear referendum in Italy), the unabated trend toward global warming and the acidification of the seas…

Unlike most Western philosophy and religion (the notion of original sin, that nature is sinful), Heidegger does not pit man against nature. Capturing a theme of Nazism – an anti-urban theme – Heidegger wants to restore the forests at the expense of the cities. But the theme itself can be regarded, with an un-Heideggerian gloss, as a simple moral effort to preserve the natural surroundings of humanity, to sustain species and diversity, not to set humans (Dasein) over and above other species, to realize and defend, in Michael Zimmerman’s words, a deep ecology. See Zimmerman, Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art and his essay “Heidegger and Deep Ecology” here. This is an original and deep element in Heidegger, particularly on a moral point of view, one which values human life and wellbeing (one that Heidegger eschews, falsely and foolishly, as “fishing in the muddy waters of value”).

Second, the very notion of engagement in the world – care – fits very strongly with ordinary, say working class experience, and/or the experience of women. The engagement in the world of Dasein does not privilege theory or theorizing over the world. Herbert Marcuse saw a kind of existentialist Marxism (a bit of an economic determinist one) in some of Heidegger’s formulations and this was not a bad surmise on his part.

Third, Heidegger speaks of “falling into the one.” This is a notion of alienation or an elaboration of what Marx calls commodity fetishism or Georg Lukacs, reification. The dominance of technology, as Heidegger will say later, makes Dasein not at home in the world. Heidegger aims to overcome a world of having purposes given to each of us by someone else (by “the one” - das Man) or striving for external goods (consumption) in competition with others, not being at home in, but being removed from the world, artificial, alienated, empty, a cipher, a last man – here, he casts up dangers which are also a familiar part of the Marxian and radical critique of capitalism (and socialism).

Fourth, perhaps the most important concept in the book is Being towards death (Sein zum Tode). Humans are mortal. Dasein is a stretching across a time between birth and death. One is born into a generation – thrown into a family, into certain circumstances historically (one may suffer as the Jews did in Germany or the Palestinians in the occupied territories…). And one’s fate (Schicksal) will be tied up with a larger historical destiny (Geschick) which may or may not open to oneself and one’s “generation.”

The originality of Heidegger’s argument is the settledness of peasants (and possibly other humans) in the engaged world of Dasein. One might speak of an active world here, but Heidegger’s views of truth or of a fate, a leader or a god, revealing himself, are prototypically passive. He speaks dramatically of one’s thrownness (Geworfenheit) into the world and a particular generation. It is not a dialectic, as in actual life, between activity and passivity. Thus, the Fuehrer gives Germans a choice between withdrawing from the League of Nations and subservience, he says in a 1933 political address (but the German people also created the chooser, a Nazi might also have said). The world discloses itself; philosophers do not seek it (there is something akin to Taoism in this).

Heidegger criticizes Descartes mechanical ego - I think, therefore I am - and Husserl’s transcendental ego (bracketing the immediate results of consciousness, abstaining from whether consciousness refers to external objects). One is not primarily consciousness, Heidegger argues; consciousness is not primarily of things (if things break down – if know-how does not work – then the worker is driven to think about the things themselves…). The point is to live in the world, and to see how one becomes conscious of it, let alone theoretically conscious of it, how it discloses itself, not to elevate conceptions of consciousness over life.

But much is abandoned here. For instance, any notion of freedom – consider Hegel’s three moments of the free will****** - any capacity to ask with Socrates in book 1 of the Republic – is it just? When Thrasymachus summons up justice as “nothing but the advantage of the stronger,” justice and freedom are evaded. Heidegger responds that there are no ethics, that political rule is the advantage of the stronger. He threw his own lot in with Nazism (the most terrifying and intimidating “stronger” of all).

Dasein can achieve a fate, an authentic relationship to herself, Heidegger suggests, only by facing her own death. It is not death as something that happens to someone else. It is one’s “ownmost possibility,” something not to be “outstripped” or gotten beyond. One must not suppose (it would be an error) that Dasein is what we think of as each of us separately, as individuals; nonetheless, Dasein comes to see her life in the perspective of eternity when facing death, to decide to do what it is in one to do (“What I do is me, for that I came” in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins).

Heidegger likes the patina of individuality (though without freedom) or feints at it in his notion of Dasein. He writes a long and complicated book, precisely so that a sleepy reader will get the false interpretation: “he is really an existentialist…almost a Thoreau…agrees with human freedom…believes in the capacity to say no to authority…What, after all, is authenticity except to reject existing conventions.” But all this is superficial chatter about Heidegger.

It would be best, once again, to think of Heidegger as having a hidden meaning, one lying on the surface of his formulations but hard to take in simply – he can’t mean, he doesn’t mean that - because of their abstraction. One thinks of Strauss, profoundly a Heideggerian (Heidegger is “the one great thinker of our time,” Strauss says in his posthumously published essay on “The Origins of Heideggerian Existentialism,” he whom one cannot get beyond – an almost mystical enthusiasm…). Strauss concurs with Heidegger – with what it means to say that urban life is a mistake ("Marxism is the urbanization of the world"), only the rural a good thing.

As I have noted, Heidegger liked to dress as a peasant. He valued the German fatherland. In 1923, he participated in a demonstration celebrating Schlageter, the German soldier who died fighting the French occupation of the Ruhr. Thus, Heidegger took part in a national demonstration against the Treaty of Versailles and against the French aggression (a demonstration that appealed to justice, but from the extreme Right). Heidegger was possessed by the fact that Germany lost World War I. So there was a need for a do over, a repeat (Wiederholung), as he says repeatedly, one of his favorite words, in part V of Being and Time on historicity, and at the international meeting at Locarno of French and German intellectuals in 1929.

At Locarno, Heidegger clashed with Ernst Cassirer in what Peter Gordon has cleverly named Continental Divide. Cassirer represented the “old,” the rational, critical German philosopher and was, of course, a Jew; Heidegger represented a new direction in philosophy (and was, of course, a bigot). Cassirer wanted German-French intellectual conversation and internationalism or peace. Heidegger wanted a repeat of World War I. Strauss conjures his friend Kurt Riezler who stood with Heidegger (as did many others, including some, often reactionary Jews who were struck by Heidegger’s originality).********But what they stood for was not – as they believed or hoped – some of the innovations in Heidegger’s philosophy that were not Nazi sketched above. Heidegger also stood for the coming German revolution. His thinking led to Hitler (they were both born in 1889; once again, in Leo Strauss’s phrase, Heidegger is to philosophy what Hitler was to politics) and he was a boundless admirer of Hitler’s beautiful hands, a Nazi fetish. See here.

The decisive political move in Heidegger is that awareness of mortality, a genuine Being toward death, enables one to “go right under the gaze” or jaws of death. It enables one to affirm one’s heritage (Erbe), to fight for the restoration of Deutschland against its current humiliation. There are three stages in Heidgger’s thinking: a) medieval peasant engagement with life, b) the alienation caused by industrialization and defeat in World War I (this alienation is wrongly interpreted, Heidegger asserts, as a need for critical or rational thinking and to produce a better, modern society, i.e. liberal democracy or communism); and c) an effort to achieve a genuine understanding of what is good in heritage, to make it new, to be a Nazi. The Schwarzwald, the German forest, would, under Hitler’s leadership, rise up to dominate the world...

Dasein, as in later Heidegger, is often thought to be different from, say, though in conversation with, Japanese Buddhist understandings of the world. That is a true, but also a tame way to see it. More obviously, as his demonstrating for Schlageter manifested, German Dasein was currently prostrate before French Dasein . The German Dasein of the peasantry was also, Heidegger thought, threatened by communism in the Soviet Union and the importation of empty American things (the new of technology which has no history, no shaping to the hand, is but alien dominion from above or a “standing reserve” as Heidegger later called it).

Heidegger wants German Dasein to rise up and devour French Dasein. So to achieve a genuine fatedness as an individual (Schicksal), one must join in the destiny of one’s generation, one’s people (Geschick). Listen now to Heidegger’s words on historicity:

“If Dasein, by anticipation, lets death become powerful in itself, then as free for death, Dasein understands itself in its own superior power, the power of its finite freedom, so that in this freedom, which ‘is’ only in its having chosen to make such a choice, it can take over the powerlessness of abandonment to its having done so, and can thus come to have a clear vision for the accidents of the situation that has been disclosed. But if fateful Dasein, as Being–in-the-world, exists essentially in Being-with-Others, its historicizing is a co-historicizing and is determinative for it as destiny [Geschick]. This is how we designate the historicizing of the community, of a people. Destiny is not something that puts itself together out of individual fates, any more than Being-with-one-another can be conceived as the occurring together of several Subjects. Our fates have already been guided in advance, in our Being with one another in the same world and in our resoluteness for definite possibilities. Only in communicating and in struggling does the power of destiny become free. Dasein’s fateful destiny in and with its `generation’ goes to make up the full authentic historizing of Dasein.”(par 384, p. 436, Macquarrie and Robinson translation).

Put this in a German context of the late 1920s and “the power of destiny” for Heidegger’s generation is plainly a repeat of World War I, with an intended different outcome…He is thus willing a Nazism as German destiny here (Hitler would come to power in 1933 with some 38.5% of the vote…; many Germans were, of course, repulsed by the Nazis…).*********

To join one’s `generation’ in this way is to be authentic, as a German.

This is the very point he made, again in the style of Being and Time, in his Rectoral address at Freiburg and his defense of Hitler’s referendum to withdraw from the League of Nations. The resonant phrase: “ Alles grosse steht im Sturm “ (Everything great stands in the storm) in Heidegger’s address was a reference to Plato. An arcane meaning of Plato’s Republic is that a philosopher should not hide under the wall against a storm, as he seems to suggest in book 6, but come to rule – to be a philosopher–king or alternately, to take democratic action against tyranny. See my “Going down. Heidegger is mistaken in thinking Plato’s goal is to rule authoritarianly or tyrannically; rather, the idea is for philosophers to go down to defend democracy against tyranny, as the little city within a city, the city formed by Socrates's conversation with Glaucon and Adeimantus, that of the philosopher-defenders of justice and democracy under the threat of tyranny, may do. The second reference in Heidegger’s sentence was to the Storm Troopers in the audience, and the aim for renewed world war.

*Strauss, though an imitator, was just about as cagy. See his posthumously published “Introduction to Heideggerian Existentialism” in The Restoration of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. Thomas Pangle, which gives the game away about his admiration for Heidegger, his hatred for urban society and hence, modern liberal (conservative, liberal and radical) views of freedom of each individual. If “stadt luft macht frei” (city air makes free) even in the Middle Ages, Strauss hated cities…

**One of Heidegger’s odious acts as Rector of Freiburg was to affirm the previous Rector’s forbidding of Husserl, a retired faculty member, to use the library…

***That Socrates founded civil disobedience is beyond Heidegger and Strauss.

****In his 1933 Rectoral address, Heidegger imagines the unified workers, students and professors, and soldiers of Germany – ostracizing Jews – in the national community, supporting the Nazis. This is the genocidal purification of the University, something abhorrent - there is much to be said for academic freedom and the preservation of difference against “purification.” The Rectoral Address is the distorted culmination of what was initially an attractive position - that one is engaged in tasks for their own sake, lives engaged with a particular world, at home in it, not a life consumed by the search for money, goods, status….The adequate argument, a form of eudaimonism that includes political community – the opposite of Heidegger’s rapacious or genocidal “community” – could easily incorporate Heidegger’s insights. See my Democratic Individuality, chs. 5-8.

*****The BBC film oddly treats Arendt solely as a luminous writer against Nazism and hence, someone whose forgiveness and propagation of Heidegger – they had been lovers, but unlike Heidegger’s other affairs, achieved a mystical and intellectual connection – helped his miraculous recovery. He had rightly been banned from German universities for 5 years, under Jaspers’ urging, tried to commit suicide and was, for a spell, in a mental hospital. Hugo Ott, wonderingly and acidly, likens the recovery of Heidegger’s intellectual stock, as a world-figure in philosophy, to the German ” economic miracle.”

But Hannah Arendt is, more importantly, a brilliant political theorist, one whose resonance, even to the understanding of nonviolence (her notion of power, though she is, interestingly if perhaps on her own account confusedly, not nonviolent) and democratic community from below (consider her account of the French Resistance), is very great and unlike, Heidegger, for the good.

******First, each of us may allow our will to be sunk in particular purposes; second, each may negate any and all particlar determinations; third, each may seek to realize her will in a regime which is free for everyone. Any of us can examine our will and see these possibilities. The third moment is echoed in Rawls's original position, but is more radical; it questions any particular realization of equal freedom, and asks beyond it, is it free?.

*******Even Emmanuel Levinas who was no reactionary followed Heidegger, though perhaps uneasily…

********Many Germans resisted as in the Thaelmann brigade - one quarter Jewish Germans – which fought in Spain against Franco and Hitler or the communist party – 100,000 in the underground. Daniel Goldhagen thus too easily identifies Germanness with Heideggerian destiny. See here.