Orthodoxy and Economism.

            At the end of the Nineteenth Century, European Socialism had become theoretically Orthodox Marxist, but practically Revisionist.  Revisionist Socialism saw the spread of representative government, the legalization of labor unions, and the expansion—rather than contraction—of the middle class as evidence of a new world.  Reforms could be achieved through politics and union bargaining with employers.  Higher pay, shorter working hours, medical insurance, affordable housing, old age pensions all were within reach.  Not everyone wanted to toss overboard the idea of Revolution.[1]  Critics, notably Vladimir Lenin, argued that this “Economism” deluded and diverted the working class.[2]  The debate continues to this day. 

            Since the time of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese Communist Party has argued that a single-party state offers a more efficient management of society than does a multi-party democracy.[3]  In effect, they said “Just look at the United States.”  Western businessmen responded “OK, whatever, so long as I don’t have to live there myself and can get my money out when I want.”  Chinese businessmen responded “Sounds good, so long as I do have to live here anyway and there isn’t any other choice.”  Decades of increasing prosperity followed, so it seemed to be true.  For that matter, it may even have been true—for a developing economy like China’s anyway.  The essential issue lay in the government keeping its mitts off a large sector of the economy. 

            Then came Zi Jinping.  He started by locking up the levers of power: control of the government, the Party, and the military.  He moved on to re-asserting government primacy in economic decision-making by publicly bullying leading businessmen and pursuing his “Zero Covid” strategy regardless of the economic harm.  Now, at the start of his third term in power, Zi has really started to scare the bejeezus of China’s business elite.  His almost endless speech to a Party Congress to mentioned “security” seventeen times more often than he did “markets.”  On top of that, he has stacked the national leadership with people who represent—in the language of the Cultural Revolution—“Redness” over “Expertise.”  That is, they’re his creatures.  China’s “age of economism” is over, at least for now. 

            The thing is that Economism as originally defined in Europe meant material benefits for the industrial working class.  The middle and upper classes already had a nice life.  In China, Economism meant material benefits for both the rural and urban working classes AND for a rapidly growing middle class.  It especially benefitted the entrepreneurs.  Now it is the entrepreneurs who fear getting it in the neck. 

            How will they respond?  One answer is flight abroad.  Several recent stories have related anecdotes of businessmen suffering from “political depression.”  Some of them say they will apply for permission to migrate to Europe or America or anywhere, really, where they and their families can exchange some money for passports.  China’s loss would be the world’s gain.    

            Another is what is currently known in the United States as “quiet quitting” and in other places as “work to rule.”[4]  Do exactly what you are told, but no more, and go home when your shift ends.  That approach isn’t what built China into an economic giant. 


[1] Carl Schorske, German Social Democracy, 1905–1917: The Development of the Great Schism (1955). 

[2] See, fir example, Lenin: A Talk With Defenders of Economism (marxists.org) from 1901. 

[3] Li Yuan, “Xi Is Scaring Away China’s Business Elite,” NYT, 8 November 2022. 

[4] See Quiet quitting – Wikipedia  But see Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk (1921-1923). 

My Weekly Reader 8 November 2022.

            In the Nineteenth Century, the German philosopher Hegel popularized (among intellectuals) the concept of the “dialectic”: an idea (thesis) generates opposition (antithesis); their struggle produces a new idea (synthesis); and then the cycle begins all over again.  On the surface at least, the idea seems to hold up for the history of Economics.  Economic Liberalism met disaster in the Great Depression.  This led to the creation of Neo-Liberalism (sometimes referred to as “Keynesianism”) which met disaster in the 1970s.  This led to an experiment with “Monetarism,” which met disaster in the financial crisis of 2008.  Now we are living in a period of angry, messy uncertainty.[1] 

            Such an account may serve as a bare-bones or thumbnail sketch of ideas interacting with policy in a key area of public life.  Inevitably, it leaves much of importance in the shadows.  To take one example, where do the ideas come from?  Ideas don’t emerge fully developed from the forehead of some deity.  They are formulated, expounded, and revised by human beings.  They take time and effort on the part of someone to triumph (or fail) in society at large.  So, who produces them in what context of personal experiences and public events?  This, in turn, raises the problem of whether ideas inspire action that would not otherwise have happened OR merely provide the rationale for the impulses of certain individuals or groups.[2] 

            Paul Krugman[3] uses a book review to address, if not to resolve, this problem.[4]  He begins my limning the position of Paul Samuelson.[5]  In a nutshell, “markets can work, but only with government-created guardrails” and “changes in government spending and taxes can be used to manage the economy.”  However, Samuelson was “an economists’ economist” for whom “politics was never more than a peripheral concern.” 

            Krugman devotes much of the review to a critique of Milton Friedman,[6] the University of Chicago economist who provided key arguments for what Krugman labels the “pushback” against Keynesianism since the 1980s.  He writes that “it’s hard to avoid the sense that Friedman viewed his professional research,.., [as] a way to establish his academic bona fides and hence add credibility to his free-market crusade.”[7]  In Krugman’s view, the crusade for Monetarism and de-regulation ended in failure.  That failure came at a high cost to millions of ordinary people. 

            Krugman concludes by asking of the “pushback”: “Was all of this just a grand, ideologically driven detour away from sensible economic theory and policy.  And why did that happen?”  Perhaps the high tax-high regulation economy that was acceptable to the trust fund heirs of the great industrialists proved unacceptable to a later generation that aspired to build a new economy.  Perhaps they sought a rationale to help free them of unions, taxes, and regulation. 


[1] See: Keynesianism and Monetarism | waroftheworldblog 

[2] Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776) provides an interesting way of getting at these issues. 

[3] See: Does Paul Krugman eat lunch alone? | waroftheworldblog 

[4] Paul Krugman, “Market Watch,” NYTBR, 22 August 2021, a review of Nicholas Wapshott, Samuelson Friedman: The Battle Over the Free Market (2021). 

[5] On Samuelson, see: Paul Samuelson – Wikipedia  His textbook on Economics is still on my bookshelf, heavily underlined and annotated in places. 

[6] On Friedman, see: Milton Friedman – Wikipedia 

[7] This is a little rich coming from someone who has been an Opinion Columnist for the New York Times for twenty years. 

Rush to Judgment just before the election.

            The New York Times recently offered an interesting exposition of “stochastic terrorism” and its relationship to individual acts of political violence.[1]  “Stochastic” comes from a Greek word.  In the current understanding, it is used to denote the “random determination” of who will act in response to inciting language.  Formulation of the term by scholars began a decade ago in an effort to understand the “lone wolf” attacks by “jihadists” wound-up by Islamist propagandists like Anwar al-Awlaki.[2]  Such language divides the world between a demonic “them” and an angelic “us”; it creates a sense of impending danger; and it provides “disturbed individuals” with a way to impose meaning on their troubled lives. 

It has been objected that the “connections between mental illness, conspiratorial thinking, right-wing rhetoric, and violence are made in our heads, not [in those of the perpetrators].”[3]  Proponents of the “stochastic terror” thesis dismiss such objections, essentially insisting that Correlation is so Causation.  Today, the source of inspiration is said to be the “dehumanizing and apocalyptic language by prominent right-wing figures,” which is “helping to drive the rise in far-right violence.” 

            History, in that awkward way it has with theories, both supports and challenges the theory.  In support of the theory one can point to the struggle between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation.  The age abounded in engaged theologians who portrayed the troubled questions of the day as a fight to the death between Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.  Unsurprisingly, the times also abounded in seemingly demented assassins.[4] 

            On the other hand, the list of attempted American presidential assassinations is mostly made up of mental cases acting violently in not-polarized times.  Richard Lawrence, who tried to shoot Andrew Jackson in 1835, was sent to mental hospital for the rest of his life.  Charles Guiteau, who killed James Garfield in 1881, was believed to be mentally unbalanced or suffering the effects of neurosyphilis.  James Schrank, who wounded Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, got sent to a hospital for the criminally insane.  Giuseppe Zangara, who may have tried to kill Franklin D. Roosevelt and did kill Chicago mayor Anton Cermak in 1933, certainly talked afterward as if he was crazy.  Samuel Byck, who planned to kill Richard Nixon in 1974, had a history of mental illness.  John Hinckley, who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981, went to a mental hospital for 35 years. 

            The main incident of right-wing violence inspired by extremist language is the 6 January 2020 riot.  Whatever the rioters were, they weren’t “disturbed loners.”  There were thousands of them; none has tried an insanity defense; they don’t fit this particular theory. 

            Finally, there were four attacks on Donald Trump between 2016 and 2020.  What are we to make of Presidential-candidate Hilary Clinton’s labeling of half of her opponents as “deplorables”?  Or of President Joe Biden’s recent denunciation of Republicans as semi-fascist and of his insistence that Democracy is in danger?  Does this sort of talk add to a possible psychological climate crisis?  A good theory explains most examples, not just one side’s view. 


[1] Max Fisher, “The Messiness of a Motive in the Attack on Paul Pelosi,” NYT, 5 November 2022. 

[2] On whom, see Anwar al-Awlaki – Wikipedia  On “lone wolves” he is thought to have inspired, see People linked to Anwar al-Awlaki – Wikipedia 

[3] Jay Caspian Kang, “The Futile Race to Label Paul Pelosi’s Attacker,” New Yorker, 30 October 2022. 

[4] See: List of assassinations in Europe – Wikipedia; France, Netherlands,

China Hawks and Chinese Hawks 2.

The Future. 

            Can the United States (and the “rest of the West”) “win” a competition with China when they are late in even recognizing that a competition is underway?  In the view of some observers, the answer is “Undoubtedly Yes,” even if they don’t share Donald Trump’s belief that trade wars are easily won. 

            China has vulnerabilities.  One of them may be Xi Jinping himself. 

            First, the “new” China of Xi Jinping scares people.  This is intentional.  Xi enjoys making his power evident.[1]  He has belabored Australia and Lithuania economically over trade issues, launched “military exercises” around Taiwan as a response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit; and shows no interest in moderating the behavior of North Korea as it fires missiles through Japanese airspace.  That is driving people back toward the American camp. 

Second, China’s rapid economic growth has emphasized investment over consumption.  That has created a certain underlying dissatisfaction among the mass of ordinary Chinese.  Part of Xi’s early program lay in shifting from an investment-based economy toward a more consumption-based economy.  He hasn’t been able to fulfill that intention.  Perhaps he never intended to and just used it as a claim to power. 

Instead, he has been preoccupied with consolidating both his own power and that of the Chinese state.  Part of that assertion of authority appears in his treatment of the high-tech sector.  The government has insisted that the companies pay close attention to government goals.  Major entrepreneurs have suddenly come in for rough treatment.  The case of Jack Ma is emblematic.[2]  Reportedly, many tech industry leaders are urging their children to find a way to build a life elsewhere.[3]  Kids aren’t their parents, so this doesn’t mean that China is losing future tech talent.  It does give a sense of the current state of mind of leaders in the tech industry. 

            For the moment, there is a recognition that semiconductors, broadly conceived, hold the key to modern manufacturing.[4]  The Biden administration recently has limited China’s access to semiconductors, related manufacturing equipment, and even people who work in key areas.  The intention, in one view, is not merely to fire a shot across China’s bow to make it more amenable to talks.  Those days are past, at least for the moment.  The goals is “strangling large segments of the Chinese technology industry—strangling with an intent to kill.”[5]  Those policies could be—and likely will be—strengthened and extended into other areas.  A Sino-Western confrontation could be just beginning. 

            “It seems that Xi doesn’t have great judgement.”[6]  Unfortunately for all concerned. 


[1] Case in point: Chinese ex-President Hu Jintao escorted out of party congress – Bing video 

[2] On Ma, see Jack Ma – Wikipedia 

[3] Ip cites Sebastian Mallaby, The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future (2022).  The book gets a far more favorable review in Foreign Affairs The Power Law | Council on Foreign Relations (cfr.org) than it does in the New York Times ‘The Power Law’ Is a Funder-Friendly Look at the World of Venture Capital – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[4] See National Security and the Economy. | waroftheworldblog, for more ponderous editorializing on this subject. 

[5] Gregory Allen of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quoted in Ip, “In Economic Race, U.S. Benefits From Xi’s Rule,” WSJ, 20 October 2022.  On Allen, see Gregory C. Allen | Center for a New American Security (en-US) (cnas.org)  Like Doshi, Allen appears to be a young fogie. 

[6] Andrew Batson, quoted in Ip, “In Economic Race,…”  On Batson, see Andrew Batson – Gavekal Research 

China Hawks and Chinese Hawks 1.

The Past. 

            The Succession:[1]  Deng Xiaoping (the guy in charge[2] of China, 1978-1989); Jiang Zemin (the guy in charge of China, 1989-2003; president of China, 1993-2003); Hu Jintao (president of China, 2003-2013); Xi Jinping (president of China, 2013—2028 at least). 

            Deng reoriented China away from Maoism and its catastrophes.  He launched China on the road toward achieving its immense national potential.  It wasn’t then exactly clear what that potential might be.  It did rest on economic and intellectual engagement with the capitalist, democratic world.  Not the least of his achievements came in the orderly transfer of power.  To his successors fell the duty of bringing greater clarity to China’s future. 

            Under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao (1989-2013) that meant several things.  One was keeping a loose rein on the great entrepreneurs who would develop the industries that would make China strong.  Another theme appeared in the more-or-less private admission that China had embarked on a long-term competition with the United States and the international system America had created after 1945.  Following on this second theme came the need to—eventually—exclude the Americans from their dominant position in the Western Pacific.  That goal would be linked to regaining possession of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the South China Sea.  In turn, achieving these goals would require building the military power to run with China’s economic power.  Still, there seems to have been no specific timeline urging on Chinese leaders. 

            That emphasis upon economic development over politico-military goals allowed Western leaders to see China not as an opponent or rival, but rather as a partner in expanding the American-created system.  For example, a series of American presidents used stock phrases about desiring a “strong, peaceful, and prosperous” China.  Other capitalist democracies eagerly joined the hunt for their share of the China Market. 

The Present. 

            Not everyone expected this era of relatively tranquil cooperation to last.  In the United States there were “China hawks.”[3]  People as varied as Michael Pillsbury (a deeply influential person during the Trump administration) and Rush Doshi (currently serving on President Biden’s National Security Council) argued that China had started a “long game” against the United States.  The United States, they urged, should start playing.[4] 

            In China, there was Xi Jinping, who came to power in 2013.  Xi has started using the power built by his predecessors and himself in pursuit of goals shared by his predecessors and himself.  Thus, Hong Kong, Taiwan, a cautious endorsement of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and border troubles with India “among many, many other departures from our normative behavior.”[5] 

            One open question is what triggered Xi’s decision that the hour for action was at hand? 


[1] Greg Ip, “In Economic Race, U.S. Benefits From Xi’s Rule,” WSJ, 20 October 2022. 

[2] Deng accumulated multiple powerful offices in the same fashion as did the Roman Emperor Octavian. 

[3] For one introduction to the subject, see the critical evaluation by “China Doves,” “The Overreach of the China Hawks,” Foreign Affairs, 23 October 2020, with a response by Aaron Friedberg.  The Overreach of the China Hawks | Foreign Affairs

[4] On th two men, see: Michael Pillsbury – Wikipedia and Rush Doshi.  Doshi was Friedberg’s student at Princeton. 

[5] Interveiws with Sergeant Dignam and Captain Queenan (The Departed 2006) – YouTube 

Journal of Trump Studies vol 1 #4.

            There is a new door-stop of a book on the presidency of Donald Trump by two veteran journalists.[1]  It received a warm, fulsome, even gooey, review.[2]  The review reveals much about where Democratic thought-leaders stand on the Trump presidency. 

            “[T]heir low opinion of Trump shines through, occasionally garnished with a soupcon of snark.”  For example, “they devote only fleeting attention to Trump’s concrete achievements, of which even critics must concede there were a few.  The strength of the pre-Covid economy…is little discussed.”  What were the “few” concrete achievements? 

            Recognizing that China is the major foreign opponent, rather than a tame Panda bear?  Plastering China with tariffs and harassing its predatory tech companies in order to get it to moderate its behavior?  The Biden administration has maintained that policy.

            Recognizing that decades of economic sanctions had done nothing to change North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and that, just at the end of Obama’s second term, North Korea had acquired ICBMs to run with its nuclear weapons?  Trump was willing to talk to the North Korean dictator since nothing else had worked.  The Biden administration hasn’t kept talking, but it hasn’t come up with any alternative either. 

            Recognizing that NATO had become a shell, with few of its members meeting their military commitments because they could just 9-1-1 the US if trouble arose?  Recognizing that the malefactor-in-chief here was Germany?  The Ukraine War has forced the Europeans to change, although Germany still is dragging its feet.  As it is, the US is still bearing most of the burden for military assistance. 

            Recognizing that there really was a crisis at the Southern border, at least in the eyes of many Americans; and that laws passed by Congress limited the number of immigrants, at least in the eyes of many Americans; and that Presidents took an oath to enforce those laws, at least in the eyes of many Americans?   Other than building a wall, the Biden administration kept key Trump policies. 

            Stopping the flood of regulations that the Obama Administration used to enforce a policy that could pass neither Congress or the courts?  Here the Biden administration has broken with the Trump administration.  It doesn’t have much choice without a solid majority in Congress. 

            A major theme of the book by Baker and Glasser is that that many “reasonable” people took ship on a sea of troubles in an effort to harness Trump and they all failed.  “Baker and Glasser seem to endorse the view of the Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, who, during the first impeachment, warned Republicans, ‘You will not change him, you cannot constrain him’.”  Their intention is probably to show that these people compromised their honor to no purpose. 

            There’s another way to see this.  If the “Axis of Adults” could not change or constrain Donald Trump, then all the “concrete achievements” belong to Donald Trump.  For good and ill, he is a far more consequential president that either his predecessor or successor. 

            Greenberg refers to “the long national fever dream that was the Trump presidency.”  Truer words were never spoken, but who is it that was delirious? 


[1] Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 (2022). 

[2] David Greenberg, “The Unmanageable President,” NYTBR, 9 October 2022. 

Zion Island 36 19 October 2022.

Reichsarchiv.  Nachlasse Bach-Zalewski.  Private files–Miscellaneous.

Transcript of Recording.  Private Meeting held at the Villa Remoulade[1] near Theresienstadt.  3 July 1950.  Meeting began at 9:00 PM. 

PART TWO. 

EZB: Yes, of course.  Well, you certainly have landed on your feet. 

WB: I’m a paratrooper, we’re supposed to land on our feet. 

EZB: Laughter. 

EZB: Even so, I might not have expected so much after Latvia.  How do you find the Abwehr? 

WB: It’s an odd collection of people.  Very varied in personalities and interests.  Most of them are very able….in their own sphere of interest.  General Gehlen[2] is a superb leader for such a crew. 

EZB: You’ve been some places?  Done some things…of a covert nature? 

WB: I’ve been some places, done some things.  Although I can’t talk about those any more than I can about my current mission. 

EZB: No, of course not.  I’m just trying to get a sense of things. 

EZB: And your sergeant, Arpke is it? 

WB: We’ve been together for a long time.  Since Gibraltar.  Comrades, friends really.  You know how this is among soldiers.

EZB: Yes.  Shared experience of remarkable things builds a bond.  Another drink? 

WB: If you’re having one. 

EZB: I am. 

EZB: So, you two are settled in town.  I hope that the accommodations are satisfactory. 

WB: The accommodations are very comfortable.  And so many possible exits to several different streets. 

EZB: I thought that someone from the Abwehr would appreciate that.  Have you seen any trace of Lange’s little watchers? 

WB: Yes, although it is being done with a light and skillful touch.  Rather Hungarian really. 

EZB: He likes to know everything that is going on.  He watches the immigrants like a hawk, of course, but also everyone else. 

WB: Even you? 

EZB: Even me.  He’ll want to know what you are up to. 

EZB: Well, it’s getting late.  We both have much to do, so I’ll let you be on your way.  I hope that we can talk again from time to time.  If you are going to be here for some time.  Please contact me directly if I can be of any assistance to your mission. 

WB: Thank you.  General, I’m still very grateful for your help in Latvia. 

EZB: Unexpected things come up.  We deal with them as best we can under the circumstance.  Good night, Colonel. 

WB: Good night, General. 


[1] The Villa Remoulade is a two-story brick residence with verandas on both levels all around the house.  The house was built by a banana planter in the Twenties and requisitioned by the German government in 1941.  It is on the outskirts of Theresienstadt.  Set in the midst of an elaborate garden of tropical plants and surrounded by a stone wall (with broken bottles cemented into the top), it is a calm and very private place.  Bach-Zalewski occasionally spent week-ends there and seems to have used it for private meetings as well.  

[2] Reinhard Gehlen (1902–).  Son of a former officer; joined the “Reichswehr” of the Weimar Republic in 1920; slow climb up the ranks; graduated from the Staff College (1935) and joined the General Staff (1936); various increasingly responsible positions thereafter; appointed head of “Foreign Armies East” (military intelligence, Eastern Front broadly conceived) (1940-1944); replaced Admiral Wilhelm Canaris as head of the Abwehr after the “20 July Plot” (1944). 

My Weekly Reader 18 October 2022 Part Two.

            In January 1917, Germany launched an “unrestricted” campaign of submarine warfare that sank American ships along with all the others.  In February 1917, the British gave Wilson the text of the “Zimmerman Telegram.”[1]  In March 1917, the Russian people revolted against their disastrously incompetent government and began a march toward democracy.  On 2 April 1917 Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.  In a few days he got it. 

            The vote on war won bipartisan support, but many people opposed the war.  Socialists and the Wobblies saw the war as a rig-up intended to get the working people of the world to kill each other for the benefit of the bosses.  Some liberals also saw American participation in the war as a fool’s errand.[2]  After the declaration of war, they opposed the war by resisting the draft, or by criticizing participation in the war or of the management of the war effort. 

            The Wilson administration took a hard line.  On the eve of joining the war, the Department of Justice approved a semi-official American Protective League to assist with the hunt for dissidents.[3]  The Espionage Act (June 1917) and Sedition Act (May 1918) provided the means to convict Socialist leaders Victor Berger and Eugene Debs, anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, Jehovah’s Witness Joseph Rutherford, and hundreds of lesser lights.  In September 1917, government agents seized the records in many IWW offices.  More than a hundred Wobbly leaders stood trial in 1918. 

However, the worst of the repression took place after the war.  In part, this extremism sprang from rapidly changing circumstances.  In November 1917, the Bolsheviks, an extremist faction of the Russian Socialists, seized power in St. Petersburg and opened a war against all other parties in pursuit of a revolutionary dictatorship.  Soon, bloody stories of the revolution alarmed or inspired people in the West.  Bolsheviks grabbed violently at power in postwar Germany, Hungary, and Italy. 

Far less abstract than foreign revolution, unrest at home seemed to foreshadow revolution.  Labor troubles ran from a general strike in Seattle through a huge steel strike to a police strike in Boston.  A small group of immigrant Italian anarchists had been waging a growing bombing campaign since 1914.  It had peaked in an attack on a “Preparedness Day” parade in San Francisco in July 1916 that killed ten people.  After a pause in early 1917, the bombing campaign took off again in November 1917.  It ran in full spate from late 1918 to September 1920, when a bomb killed 38 people on Wall Street. 

The official response was moderate, even if the political language was not.  In October 1918, Congress passed an Immigration law that made it easier to deport undesirables.  The governor of Massachusetts fired the striking policemen.  In November 1919 and January 1920, the Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer launched raids that arrested thousands, although many of those were soon released.  About 250 people were deported on the so-called “Red Ark” in December 1919.  The unofficial response was more violent.  The Wobblies, for example, suffered repeated violence at the hands of vigilantes that left some of their leaders dead

Does a free society have a right to defend itself against a violent minority? 


[1] See Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmerman Telegram (1958).  You can still find it in used book-stores. 

[2] See, for example, James McKeen Cattell – Wikipedia 

[3] See: American Protective League – Wikipedia 

My Weekly Reader 18 October 2022 Part One.

            Woodrow Wilson harbored vast ambitions for himself and for the United States.[1]  In one view,[2] Wilson wanted to modernize America’s national government on the model of advanced European states.  He also wanted to assert the primacy of American values in an ever-growing international realm.  The two ambitions intersected within the global context of social and economic change, political division, and international conflict.[3] 

            The Wilson administration (1913-1921) inherited the fruits of a global “generation of materialism.”  The “Second” Industrial Revolution; rapid population growth leading to massive urbanization and international migration; the emergence of the modern corporation; the division of Socialism into reformist, revolutionary, and anarchist factions; the emergence of the problem-solving State; the assertion of power by advanced states over disordered parts of the world; and the beginning of a reaction against pure Reason in intellectual life provided the larger context.[4]  People struggled to understand and impose order on this new society. 

            In domestic affairs, Wilson sought his changing goals in a complex environment.  For one thing, he had been elected by a clear minority of Americans thanks to the Electoral College.[5]  For another, his own vision often proved unworkable, and he had to default to that of his defeated Republican opponents while covering his tracks with high-flown prose.  Finally, the radical Left exerted an unprecedented appeal.  In the elections of 1912 and 1916, the reformist Socialist candidate pulled 6 million votes; and all through the 1910s, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, “Wobblies”) loudly urged “revolutionary industrial unionism.”

            In foreign affairs, Wilson began by sending troops to occupy Haiti, pledging to “teach the Mexicans to elect good men,” and then invading the country when his lessons didn’t take.  The outbreak of the First World War in Summer 1914 led him to declare American neutrality in what looked to be a short war.  By 1916 the troops were still fighting.  Meanwhile, America became entangled in the war.  Britain’s blockade and Germany’s submarines imperiled neutral shipping rights.  American goods flowed from farm and factory to the British and French, as did American loans.  Irish-Americans, German-Americans, and Jewish-Americans[6] sympathized with Britain’s opponents, while “Old Stock” Anglo-Saxons often sympathized with Britain. 

Other forces worked mightily against any foreign entanglements: America’s long tradition of isolationism, horror at the immense loss of life to no apparent purpose, and fear of the expanded power of government seized by the belligerents.  These included propaganda and censorship, controls on movement (passports, emigration restriction), and economic controls.

In November 1916, Wilson won re-election on the slogan “He kept us out of war.” 


[1] Many writers have tried to puzzle out this unusual, unstable, unlikeable, but important, man. Compare Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917 (1954) and Robert H. Ferrell, Woodrow Wilson and World War I, 1917-1921 (1985).  

[2] Adam Hochschild, American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis (2022).  There’s an appallingly bad review by Thomas Meaney, “Extreme Measures,” NYTBR, 9 October 2022. 

[3] So maybe not so different from our own time.  But see Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859), p. 1.

[4] Carleton J.H. Hayes, A Generation of Materialism, 1871-1900 (1941) is a grumpy, antique book by a grumpy antique historian.  Not less valuable for that as a well-written and accessible history of the main developments. 

[5] Wilson won 41.8 percent of the vote; the two rival Republican candidates split 50.6 percent, and the Socialist Eugene Debs won 6 percent. 

[6] Most of the latter were refugees or the children of refugees from Tsarist anti-Semitism.

Zion Island 35.

Reichsarchiv.  Nachlasse Bach-Zalewski.  Private files–Miscellaneous.

Transcript of Recording.  Private Meeting held at the Villa Remoulade[1] near Theresienstadt.  Meeting began at 9:00 PM. 

PART ONE. 

WB:[2] Heil Hitler! 

EBZ:[3] Graf von Blucher,[4] Good evening. 

WB: Good evening, sir.  It’s been a long time. 

EBZ: Yes, a long time, and much has happened.  Would you care for a drink? 

NOTE: A series of social pleasantries follow.  These have not been transcribed.  Then substantive conversation resumes. 

EBZ: What brings you to Madagascar, if I’m allowed to ask? 

WB: You haven’t been told anything? 

EBZ: Only that an Abwehr officer with special knowledge was coming out for what was termed an “inspection tour.”  I didn’t even know that it was you. 

WB: Well, I’m not allowed to reveal my mission.  However, I’ll tell you the bits that you will observe and then put together for yourself anyway.  I’m here to identify possible air strips for transport aircraft along the West coast of the island.  I’m a Fallschirmjager.  I’m serving with the Abwehr, which reports to the General Staff.  Our workhorse transport plane has been the Ju-52 with various improvements.  It has a range of almost 1,000 kilometers,[5] but the Luftwaffe has been developing an improved version of the American C-47.  That has a range of 2,600 kilometers.[6] 

EBZ: And the Mozambique Channel is, what, 400-odd kilometers[7] wide at its narrowest point? 

WB: And about 700[8] at its widest point. 

EBZ: So, Portuguese Mozambique.  And where from there? 

WB: That’s really all that I can say. 


[1] The Villa Remoulade is a two-story brick residence with verandas on both levels all around the house.  The house was built by a banana planter in the Twenties and requisitioned by the German government in 1941.  It is on the outskirts of Theresienstadt.  Set in the midst of an elaborate garden of tropical plants and surrounded by a stone wall (with broken bottles cemented into the top), it is a calm and very private place.  Bach-Zalewski occasionally spent week-ends there and seems to have used it for private meetings as well.  

[2] Wolfgang, Graf von Blucher, Colonel of Fallschirmjager

[3] Erich von dem Bach-Zalewski, General of the SS and Military Governor of Madagascar. 

[4] In background a horse appears to whinny. 

[5] About 620 miles. 

[6] About 1,600 miles. 

[7] About 260 miles. 

[8] About 400 miles.