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But seen from a perspective of more than 70 years, were their insights accurate or rather naive? Were their predictions born out by subsequent events? It is all too often forgotten these days that in the 1930s and '40s there were political observers outside university campuses who had not been trained in Hegel's ontology and, were unfamiliar with Marx's early writings (the Frühschriften had been rediscovered in 1932) and yet, one way or another, perhaps instinctively, perhaps for the wrong reasons, understood Nazism better than the academics. They realised almost immediately that Hitler meant war. 

One of them was Sir Horace Rumbold, British ambassador in Berlin. Like his father a career diplomat, he was an educated man, and a gifted linguist; one of his pre-1914 dispatches to the Foreign Secretary was in the form of a poem. In a seven-page farewell cable (it became known as the Mein Kampf telegram) dispatched from Berlin in April 1933 he argued persuasively that Hitler, while disguising his foreign political aims until Germany was strong enough to expand and conquer, aimed at the suppression of all parties but his own, that there would be intensive militarisation and racial domination, and that a return to sanity and moderation in Germany seemed impossible in the foreseeable future. This at a time when Adorno, a pillar of the Frankfurt School, still lived under the illusion that Nazism would not last long, and that he had to remain in Germany at any price. Adorno went on to publish musical reviews and much to his later embarrassment even quoted Goebbels favourably. 

Rumbold was not a philo-Semite — he detected among Jews more than among others a proclivity towards pacifism which in the context of the need to combat Nazism was a wrong and very dangerous attribute. But he considered anti-Semitism a far more essential (and deadly) factor in Nazi ideology and practice than the Frankfurters in OSS. Neumann had somehow persuaded himself that  for the Nazis anti-Semitism was just a substitute for the class struggle. It was no more than an ideological instrument to the attainment of the ultimate objective: the destruction of free institutions, beliefs and groups. This half-baked idea became known as the "spearhead theory".

Secret Reports on Nazi Germany is a collection of period pieces. They cover a wide range of topics dealing with the economic situation, social stratification, the likely effects on the German people of air raids and (in the last part) proposals for de-Nazification and the impending Nuremberg trials. The language is mercifully free of the Frankfurt School idiom. But altogether there is very little secret about these reports apart from the fact that their distribution was quite restricted. Most could have been written by educated Germans with some knowledge of politics, some training in philosophy and sociology, the ownership of a short-wave radio and access to German newspapers and periodicals — something that could have been arranged even in wartime, albeit with a certain delay. In other words, they were based on open sources and not, it would appear, on secret material.

There is a distinct unevenness to Secret Reports. There is a competent report on National Bolshevism, an issue which apparently became of interest to the Allies in 1943. Franz Neumann, who advanced to acting head of the central European section of the OSS, provides an accurate historical survey of this trend in German left-wing politics, but when it comes to identifying the leading thinkers and actors, he picks Heinz Neumann, Hermann Remmele, and Max Hoelz who had little or nothing to do with National Bolshevism. Since none was alive any longer in 1943-two, possibly all, had perished in the Moscow purges — this was not a matter of great practical importance. But Neumann and his colleagues should have known better and mistakes like this make one doubt their competence. 

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September 15th, 2013
3:09 PM
People who live in ivory academic towers are destined to intellectually suffocate in them. The so-called left had a problem with National Socialists, it currently has problems with Islam. Anti-semitism is a thread running through some "left" world-views. Might secular/atheistic Jewish "antisemitism" have contributed to this? That beginning with Marx.

Russ Davis
September 9th, 2013
2:09 PM
As usual, the whole vacuous consideration of motives and notions misses the most important, underlying matter of man's rebellion against God from the beginning with Adam & Eve. Because Jews & Christians are in varying aspects objects of God's Covenant, they are thus likewise the devil's objects of persecution and destruction before, above and beyond all other considerations, as America's Founders of her Christian endeavor understood (no matter the blind, ignorant, groundless bigotry of those in antiChristian denial). See and for a true understanding of this.

September 8th, 2013
2:09 PM
I think this analysis is somewhat misguided. The spearhead theory, as articulated in this review, might seem unpalatable, but Horkheimer and Adorno's explanation of antisemitism and the threats of fascism in Dialetic of Enlightenment offer a more nuanced view. The legacy of the Frankfurt School argument on antisemitism and genocide is, in my opinion, this: The extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany was not just a singular, local, delimited event in history, but rather represents a dangerous potential within the structure of late capitalism itself. When ideology combines with limitless technological mobilization, evil on a grand scale is possible. I have always seen, therefore, the "conservative" strain of thought in the later Horkheimer and Adorno as being an attempt to preserve humanism against this dangerous potential. These OSS papers might not make this argument clearly, but the seminal works of the school hold up better to criticisms of naivete.

September 8th, 2013
4:09 AM
Hitler's madness may have come from influenza.

Wim Schul
September 5th, 2013
8:09 AM
I do not consider the spearhead concept as essential element in Frankfurter thought. This alarmist consideration can be found in nearly every consideration of nazism that calls to action. The legacy consists in taking attention from social and geopolitical images to that of the mindset of fascism, later autoritarism, more parallel to lines of thought of Wilhelm Reich or someone like Walter Benjamin. Apart from onesidedness and narrowness there still remains this lasting legacy of the Frankfurters in connection with fascism, as well as - contrary to some of the others - the obligation to take sides in practice, that was the Allied cause.

Granite Sentry
September 5th, 2013
2:09 AM
Not especially surprising; the record of Leftist intellectuals woefully misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misstating political developments around the world during most of the last 100 years is unfortunately quite extensive. But to this day they still think they're the smartest guys and gals in the room. Go figure.

Ted Schrey Montreal
September 2nd, 2013
6:09 PM
This is one sad story. It is depressing in the extreme to realize activist-theorists of this calibre didn't amount to a whole-hell-of-a-heap of useful thought. It is quite incredible, actually, coming from those who lived close to the abyss, and obviously blinded by their own precious ideas. Yuck.

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