WARNING: Contains spoilers for Making History

 

If you don’t know who Rudi Gloder is then this title will mean nothing to you. If you do know who he is, then you will think me mad. You see, Rudi Gloder is a character in Stephen Fry’s novel Making History. I had been telling my friend Caroline about certain events at Ruskin College; she immediately told me that the central figure in this was like Rudi Gloder, which is why I read the novel. As to whether I really did meet him … we should know in a couple of decades

 The Fictional Rudi Gloder

Making History is an Alternate History novel of what I think is called the ‘active type’: It is unlike, for example, Robert Harris’ Fatherland in not just being set in an alternate world, but has a major plot theme of the process whereby one alternate is switched into another. What these two novels have in common is that they envisage a Second World War where the Third Reich is victorious. The title is a play on the dual sense of ‘history’: events in the past and the writing about them [NOTE 1] .

The central character, Michael, is a postgraduate historian at Cambridge who has just finished writing his doctoral thesis, on the early life of Adolf Hitler: ‘From Brunau to Vienna – The Roots of Power’. The morning on which he wakes up to deliver it to his academic supervisor he finds that his girlfriend has left him. So he is in a hyped-up mood as he crosses the grounds of his supervisor’s college. He bumps into an elderly man, the pages of his thesis go flying up into the air (some of the writing seems as if with a movie in mind). The elderly man picks them up and is …. stunned. He invites Michael to his college rooms. The elderly man is an eminent German physicist who has just developed a device which can transmit a small object backwards in time. When we learn that his father had been at Auschwitz we begin to suspect where this is going.

However, both the reader and Michael are shocked to discover that his father had not been an inmate, but a member of the SS – a medical doctor. Because of this, the physicist will not countenance any action would directly cause a death, even that of Hitler – so no sending a mini-nuke into a Munich beer-cellar! However, Michael’s ex-girlfriend is a biochemist who has just developed a mega-potent, irreversible male contraceptive chemical …. as I write this, and perhaps as you read it, this must sound like such a crap plot …. but yet it is an intensely moving novel.So Michael gets hold of the sperm-killer pill and they transmit it back in time to 1st June, 1888, into the reservoir at Braunau, so that Hitler’s father drinks it.But their doing so causes a switch in alternates such that the Third Reich won and still, in the year of the novel, rules Europe and much of Russia. This is explained by a plot which is interleaved with the one in present-day Cambridge: We meet Corporal Hitler, a ‘runner’, ie a messenger, with a Bavarian regiment on the Western Front. One of his comrades is Rudi Gloder, a man who in all essentials shares Hitler’s sensibility, but is talented, charming, personable, highly intelligent and totally in control of his feelings. He is a non-pathological nazi. In the alternate with which the book opens Hitler manipulates a situation in order to make an opportunity to murder Gloder, who he hated as a rival.

So, in an alternate where Hitler was not born, Gloder lives. He rises through the ranks and becomes a much-decorated officer. After the war, like Hitler, he is asked to do intelligence work for the military on one of the plethora of tiny extremist parties which are mushrooming across Germany. So it is he who attends that meeting of Anton Drexler’s ‘German Workers’ Party’ on 12 September 1919, makes a rousing, brilliant speech, and quits working for the military to become its leader. Though he is as anti-semitic as Hitler, it is not the pathological obsession it was for the author of Mein Kampf. He goes out of his way to reassure the leaders of the Jewish community that his party is not really anti-Jewish: ‘Yes it does seem so in some of the propaganda, and yes our street-fighters have attacked Jews … but the former is a ploy to get the workers away from the communists, and the brownshirts … well you know they are peasants, they are stupid and bigoted and it is to be regretted, but you and we share an interest in defeating the communists’. And so the exodus of Jewish intellectuals does not occur, and Germany leads the world in physics. You can guess the rest.

Ruskin College

So …. to move from Fry’s novel of switching alternates to mine and ours:
Ten years ago I moved to Oxford to study for a Certificate in Higher Education at Ruskin College. Though it calls itself ‘Ruskin College, Oxford’ it is not actually a college of The University of Oxford. It is a further education college which was established in the 1890s to provide higher education for trade unionists. It still has a reputation as a trade union college. In fact, when I applied I thought that because I have no trade union background I would have a problem being accepted. Very soon into my interview I realised that it was largely a formality.. One of the interviewers was Stephen Howe, a historian who was clearly delighted to discuss my views on Nietzsche and we disagreed over Lukacs excoriation of him in The Destruction of Reason.

By the middle of my first week there I was feeling depressed, bored and isolated. I had been expecting to tell my friends that I was getting fed-up with yet another discussion with Trotskyists over the Kronstadt revolt of 1921 [NOTE 2]. By Wednesday evening I had yet to meet anyone who had heard of Trotsky, yet alone Kronstadt. Discussions over meals were boring beyond belief. They would move from how folks had got there to the toast at breakfast to how long they expected the essays to be. As to what they expected them to be about, or would have liked them to be about …. nothing.

On the Wednesday eve of the students’ party, I met two of the guys on my course – . history – and was delighted. I don’t know how the subject arose, but we got on to …. have you guessed? Nietzsche! They were both keen fans of his, and appeared – unlike most folk who drop his name – to have read a fair bit of him. Most folk who refer to him have not actually read him, but come across him third-hand in Culture Studies, Media Studies or New Perspectives in Postmodern Psychology or the like. So the conversation then developed along …. to me …. familiar lines (talk about ‘eternal return ’ … I could write the script!). I, in my old-fashioned way, argued that he meant what he wrote when he called for the return of a slave society and that, actually, the NSDAP had got him far more right than the softy pomos. They, predictably, said that this was all due to his bad sister and that anyway you could not take ‘slavery’ literally and that it had a spiritual, not an economic content. One of them, ‘Rudi Gloder’ was also a fan of C J Jung. Now as I also am one of those who argue that the philosophy of Jung (the biographical issues are a diversion) was continuous with that of National Socialism I was utterly delighted to shortly discover that both of these were active Nazi proselytisers.

It took a while for this to sink in. ‘Rudi’s’ name was Dominick Heriz. He was attractive, articulate, a talented artist (his doodlings, in seminars, were of fabulously elaborate ornate sword handles and intricate mandalesque church windows.). I think the first inkling I had of where he was coming from was a remark to the effect that in a hundred years or so Hitler would be regarded in much the same way as Napoleon is now. I was dumfounded by this remark and never really took on its bizarre kind of what I can best call ‘futurist historicism’ [NOTE 3]. It’s hard to get your head around the weirdness of justifying the present and a present reading of the past by reference to an imagined way in which the future will look back on the present. I mean, the more you think on it, the more it fucks your head, – like a time-paradox story, but in reverse.

I guess that I really didn’t quite take this in, I suppose I rationalised it by thinking that he was kind of trying out an idea. It was only later that I learnt that he had spent a couple of year travelling around Europe and getting to know the leaders of the neo-nazi parties.

Then there was a discussion on David Irving, when Heriz said that, yes there were some problems with the evidence, not he was denying the holocaust, but then surely the Nuremburg Trials were a bit unfair? He was also deeply interested in Aleister Crowley, a ‘black magician’ who had flourished and scandalised the England of the 1930s – not quite a character out of a Dennis Wheatley novel, more that at least one of his characters is based on Crowley. Heriz’s political standpoint was self-confessedly elitist and he would wonder why it was that the historians who one of our tutors would talk of spent so much time on ordinary people, rather than on ‘those who had done something’. I should explain that Ruskin College had been one of the major movers in ‘people’s history’ (aka ‘history from below’) via its best-known academic, the late Raphael Samuel, founder of History Workshop Journal. So, on several levels the presence of this guy in that college was somewhat odd.

His friend, Kevin Dean, was a hard Northern lad who at times verged on a caricature: ‘You’re off to library to do “work” ! Where I cum from we don’t call that work … work is in’t factory eight hours a day !’. In one of the early classes on the ‘Concepts and Practices of History’ course the issue was posed as to the knowability of the past, ie can we make true claims about the past, or are all such merely subjective? Dean took the extreme relativist position. I suggested that on this postion it was impossible to have a view on the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [NOTE 4]. At first he mumbled something like ‘oh, we mustn’t talk about that’. This puzzled me immensely. Shortly after, I returned to the point and he averred that they were genuine. I was stunned both by the substantive claim and by its obvious inconsistency with any relativist postion. Hilda Keen, the tutor, was completely thrown by this remark and could only say lamely that she thought that most historians agreed that they were forgeries. At no point did she challenge the nazi view of either Dean or Heriz. Like several other tutors she was an ex-Leftist (like ‘Preacher’ Bob Purdie she was a former member of the trotcult International Marxist Group). None of the tutors ever challenged these two, nor did they give me any support in what was to come. This cowardice is symptomatic of much about Ruskin College.

I rapidly withdrew from any social contact with Dean and Heriz. They were both too far gone into nazism for there to be any chance of me shaking them. I suppose that I should have intervened in discussions they had with other students. I now criticise myself for this, but at the time I really couldn’t be bothered with what the others thought. Most of them preferred watching television or playing games on the puters in the library to actually doing any studying. By this time, I had decided that my only interest was in using the resources of the place to read and write.

‘Adolf the Great’

Some months later Heriz published an article in the student termly journal. It was called ‘Thus Spoke Adolf the Great’ and purported to be a review of a sequel to Mein Kampf. Both the title and some of its content (‘controversial Austrian writer Adolf Hitler’) might suggest that it was meant as a joke. It was not, though it was clearly a provocation. The text was as clear and unequivocal an endorsement of National Socialism as could be imagined. It took the view that Hitler was a great idealist, who had made the mistake of espousing racism, but that his fundamental ideas were sound. The text itself connects directly with the Alternate world where Rudi Gloder became führer in the following astonishing remark:

Somewhere there is a parallel universe where a non-racist Hitler has turned the Earth back into a classical paradise, where it is everyone’s duty to perfect themselves and where culture is more valuable than money.
(The Trumpet, No 2, February 2002, Ruskin College Library, copies available on request from me)

The underlined phrase may well appear oxymoronic, however it was a position which I and a friend had been expecting for some time to encounter: A position which would hold that both capitalism and communism had failed and it was time to consider national socialism, without the racism. What I had not expected was to encounter it at a college whose shield has the emblems of a dove of peace, a black hand clasping a white hand, and the scales of justice. What Heriz meant by ‘non-racist’ was not White Supremacist. However, it is well-known that there is one issue on which Racial Nationalists of all colours are agreed on: anti-semitism.

A central claim of ‘Thus Spoke ..’ is the following:

the whole point of Hitler’s philosophy is that we are running out of space for men and women to live as their ancestors lived: free from credit, debt and interest, free from the international web of abstract finance.

Now you don’t have to know much about modern fascism to know that the underlined phrase is nazispeak for ‘international jewry’. The entire passage uses a rhetoric which purports to be anti-capitalist, but is in fact an attack on ‘Jewish finance’ – this is one of the central ploys of fascist rhetoric. In support of this, I quote from a letter written in my support when I was charged by the Ruskin management with ‘having brought the college into disrepute’:

the review in question is clearly a fascist text … living space’ is so obviously identified within fascist thought that I find it impossible to believe that anyone could knowingly use it without implying both its acceptability and its fascist meaning … the trope of ancestors free from the web of abstract finance .. is a fascist ideological ploy which purports to be against capital but is in fact merely against finance capital [NOTE 5]

When I pointed this out to students I was met with the following response: ‘Oh, but I’d like to live in a world without debt and anyway, that’s only your interpretation’. It is a nice historical irony that a pop deconstructionism – a tendency which looks to Nietzsche and to NSDAP member Heidegger – should be used in order to deny the fascist meaning of a text written by an avowed supporter of Hitler. When I pointed out that the ‘classical’ world referred to in the first quote was the slave-societies of Ancient Greece and Rome I was told that ‘well classical can mean anything, Dickens was a classic, and you’ve got classic cars and classic music’ – this imbecility was from someone who was then a student on the second year ‘Social Change’ course.

One of the aspects of all this which was beyond imagining was the neat way in which Heriz and Dean embodied different aspects of the tradition of National Socialism: the first as the aristocrat, contemptuous of the mob, the second the hard-nosed worker. In the second week of the Summer term Dean showed what he really stood for by playing SS marching music at a Friday student disco. The following Monday I produced a leaflet denouncing these two and calling for students to discuss what should be done about it. The overwhelming reaction from students was anger at me for having raised this issue. The college authorities accused me of harassing Heriz and Dean. I was told that they were entitled to freedom of speech. My own freedom of speech was ignored, and I was given a warning.

A few weeks later the Students’ Union hired a 50-seater coach to take students to the Burford Levellers’ Day – about a dozen went; an indication of the apathy and lack of interest of most Ruskin students in anything other than boozing and doing the minimum amount of work [6]. After a speech by Benn audience members were invited to take the mic. I took the chance to explain the situation at Ruskin and denounce both the apathy of the students and the collusion with nazi propaganda by the college authorities.

For this I was suspended from the college and given a ‘final written warning’ – though in fact no such letter was ever produced.

At various points I was suspicious of my own motives for taking the action I did. Was I doing what I had done so often in my life – shooting myself in the foot? Was I doing it to get attention? I decided that there was no way of objectively assessing my motives, but there was one over-riding consideration. I fully expect Heriz over the next decade to become one of the leading figures in European Fascism. I believe that he will occupy the place currently held by David Myatt [7] . If so, I expect it to be pointed out to me that I was at Ruskin with him and asked what I did. I do not want to be in the position of saying ‘nothing’. My fear is that the future may be such that what I did will seem pitifully inadequate.

Please feel free to copy, distribute, quote from this as you will – so long as it is attributed to me. I will be happy to discuss any aspect of this.
_____________________________________________________________________

NOTES

 

[1] During a brief discussion by the narrator of the alleged two types of historians there is a mention of E P Thompson, so the title may also be an echo of his The Making of the English Working Class. The discussion also mentions Althusser as an example of one of the alleged types of historians ! This may be one of the signals that the alternate in which the narration opens is not quite ours; or it may be Fry’s ingnorance – never underestimate the cavalier disregard for scholarship of poshboys!

[2] This is one of the key events whose evaluation separates Trotskyism from the tradition which I come from.

[3] It now reminds me of the extraordinary remark that Goebells made as the ‘gotterdamerung’ approached, and all the resources of the Propaganda Ministry were used to make his historical epic of the Napoleonic Wars, Kohlberg; in an insane triumph of image over reality this took 100 thousand troops from the Eastern Front to work as extras. He urged his followers to behave heroically, with the thought that in a hundred years time a similar movie would be made of them.

[4] A document purporting to outline the plans of International Jewry for world domination, generally accepted to be a forgery by the Tsarist secret police in 1903

[5] Statement by Dr Mark Neocleous supporting me against the charge of ‘having brought Ruskin College into disrepute’ (19 May 2004) He is the author of State, Power, Administration; Fascism; The Fabrication of Social Order; Imagining the State and The Monstrous and the Dead: Burke, Marx and Fascism. He is Professor of the Critique of Political Economy at Brunel University.

[6] This event was started by Anthony Wedgewood Benn in the 1970s as part of an attempt to connect the left of the Labour Party with the English radical tradition. It commemorates three Levellers (a radical faction during the English Civil War) who had been shot at Burford for refusing to join Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland

[7] See Nick Lowles’ White Riot – The Violent Story of Combat 18 and google his name.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s