MOSCOW – Had Adolf Hitler won his war against Russia, he had a market and land reform plan that should ring a bell.
That’s because the policies that have come closest to the targets Hitler envisaged have been implemented by well-known officials of the Boris Yeltsin administration, many of whom still occupy high posts in the Russian government.
As Moscow police deployed this week to prevent young skinheads from rampaging violently against the foreigners they accuse of stripping Russia of its identity and prosperity, the heads who really skinned Russia continue in power to promote reforms that are closer to Hitler’s schemes than the fantasies of today’s lumpen proletariat.
Deficit cutting, market relations, free trade, resettlement and population reduction were the watchwords Hitler discussed with his generals and planners, and which he wrote down in his political diaries. (They were published as Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-44 by Oxford University Press in 1988.) Hitler wasn’t sentimental about what he meant by Russian reforms. “No vaccination for the Russians,” he wrote in February 1942, “and no soap to get the dirt off them. But let them have all the spirits and tobacco they want.”
Hitler wasn’t expecting to lose the war, much less have his table talk published by his enemies. So he was frank – franker than those responsible for the Yeltsin reforms dare to be 60 years later.
Setting up markets “at all the centers of any importance”, Hitler began, would then encourage the substitution of domestic foodstuffs and manufactures for imports. “We will sell the more trashy products of our own manufacture. Our agricultural machinery factories, our transport companies, our manufacturers of household goods and so forth will find there an enormous market for their goods.”
The conventional wisdom is that it wasn’t just Hitler but his ideas that were defeated in 1945. And you are sure to be called a crackpot if you dare say that what has happened to Russia since 1991 might be worse than Hitler’s war or Stalin’s persecution.
Of course, this depends on whose suffering we are talking about. For the cattle, it is clear that the years since 1991 are the worst the livestock of Russia have ever seen – more than 25 million head of cattle slaughtered. That compares with 17 million killed during Stalin’s collectivization experiments, and 2 million killed by Hitler’s invasion.
But we need to talk also about the reform of Russia’s human population. Hitler couldn’t imagine using television or the electronic media as means of population control. Nor did he consider elections the way to go. Russians, he thought, were “a mass of born slaves, who feel the need of a master”. His model for Russia, he confided in Table Talk, was the way the English had ruled India. “The Russian space is our India,” he wrote. “Like the English, we shall rule this empire with a handful of men.” What he intended was divide and rule, exacerbating inter-ethnic conflicts among the peoples of Russia, and introducing a foreign presence (Germans) to support a hand-picked local elite.
“We’re not going to play at children’s nurses; we’re absolutely without obligations as far as these people are concerned. To struggle against the hovels, chase away the fleas, provide German teachers, bring out newspapers – very little of that for us. For the rest, let them know just enough to understand our highway signs so that they won’t get themselves run over by our vehicles.”
In practice, this meant unequal human rights inside Russia, with favoritism for the non-Slavic populations of the Caucasus. According to a Wehrmacht order of 1941, troops should “treat the population of the Caucasus as friends … respect private property and pay for requisitioned goods … win the confidence of the people by model conduct… respect especially the honor of the women of the Caucasus.” In this respect, the skinheads have interpreted Hitler back to front.
In 1942 there was policy conflict in Berlin between Hitler’s theory of introducing liberal privatization reforms to Russia; the resettlement and ethnic-cleansing program of SS commander Heinrich Himmler; and the logistics and materiel strategy of the German army. SS planners wanted to reduce the Russian population, and advocated a cessation of public health measures, thereby raising infant mortality. They also favored mass abortion, and mass production of prophylactics. Had they the option of withholding condoms and letting drugs, tuberculosis and AIDS run uncontrolled, there’s no doubt they would have opted for the latter, because it would be cheaper and more effective.
The German army wasn’t at all keen on Hitler’s desire to dismantle the Soviet command system, because it wanted to ensure an abundant and low-cost supply of Russian raw materials. In Russian industry, the big German groups such as Flick, Krupp and Mannesmann competed with one another to “sponsor” the takeover and exploitation of Soviet enterprises in the occupied territories. Sound familiar?
Isn’t it obvious that Hitler’s vodka-without-vaccinations plan has been dutifully implemented since 1991 to a degree not even the Fuehrer imagined possible, reducing life expectancy and population numbers? Then there is the string of regional warlords that has been created out of the republics of the federation, each purporting to represent the locally dominant ethnic group that pays tribute to the center. And how about the argument so often trumpeted by Kremlin reformers that Russians “feel the need of a master”? Hitler would be astounded by all of this, and also at how many billions of Russian-earned dollars have been successfully “requisitioned” into the German banking system by entrepreneurial quislings.
On the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday, it is worth looking carefully to discover where exactly Hitler’s spirit remains most alive, and who his ideological heirs really are in Russia today.