Henry Ford Supported Stalin Too (But loved Hitler)Tweet
At a panel of the Third 2020 Global Conference in New York, we were proposed to return to the old theme of “The role of today’s intellectuals.” To begin with I must admit that it produces us modesty and makes us uncomfortable every time we are presented with that elastic and discredited title.
But I think it is more important to analyze this modesty and defamation which results from the logic of the global dominant powers. Whom have political power, those who manage armies and own the world’s biggest capitals are considered moderate, realistic, and pragmatic. Those who must settle for the only use of words and ideas are accused of dangerous radicals, apart from being bombed with multiple “I and U”: Immature, Useless, Inconvenient, Unnecessary, Insensate, Unintelligible, Inefficient, Unrealistic, Incapable… But when you see radical intellectuals grouped on one side, look to the other to know where the real power and the organic intellectuals are.
Of all the accusations thrown at them, the most popular is to be considered enlightened, destructive, authors or accomplices of catastrophic regimes. For some mysterious reason, the new clergymen, the organic intellectuals, the reasonable people, are not accused nor are the religious nor the generals nor the powerful men. In fact, it is accepted, as a virtue, for a religious person, to self-proclaim as enlightened, chosen, or saved, as it is accepted that a general, loaded with decorations, praise themselves for saving the homeland and honor as if some of it were more than criminal fiction.
In Latin America, for example, those generals (supported by traditional clergy and for the benefit of the owners of the capital) have been the ones who implemented dozens of genocidal dictatorships throughout history. Non-organic intellectuals’ regimes have been rare, nor have they persecuted military, clergy, and businessmen. The inverse has been the constant, the norm.
Yet the job of the intellectuals is not to lecture, let alone rule. There were in the past a few intellectuals who were presidents. For example, the case of the American founding fathers (beyond their serious racial, class contradictions, and hypocrisies). Or the case of Nicolas Solomon, Pi i Margall, and others who formed the First Republic in Spain in 1873, an island that lasted one year and was sunken in a sea of conservative fanaticism. Or the case of the professor Jose Arevalo, the president of the first democracy in Guatemala in 1944, destroyed ten years later by a plot by the United Fruit Company, the CIA, and the U.S. military that would leave 200,000 massacred in forty years of brutal dictatorships (all military and, above all, pragmatic and successful businessmen) and whose culture of impunity continues today, as in other countries.
The ideal of power is that the radical intellectuals dedicate to courtesan poetry or the analysis of the subjunctive in García Márquez. In fact, the secret agencies have invested fortunes with this objective. But the neutrality of an intellectual in social matters is indifference, opportunism, or complicity. Neutrality, such as the remuneration of the organic intellectual and the condemnation of the radical intellectual are products that transpire a dominant system. If a soldier disagrees with a general, the chances he will exercise a complete criticism are minimal. Same for any honest employee, from the manager of a big company to the humblest employee of a supermarket. A lesser criticism of his superiors can pass as the moral tax that the company and the senior chief accept to be considered democratic and tolerant. Of course, there are no democratic companies. When open criticism crosses certain limits, there will always be a good reason for that employee to be fired.
Beyond all the labor laws that exist in any country, a businessman always has the power to hire and fire. Only this power already is coercion against the critics, the opinionated, and the free-thinking of the subordinates. Not by chance, this power of coercion normally is in the hands of some businessmen who support and celebrate a system (for example the capitalist system and its neoliberal variation). If anyone depends on the will or desires of a boss to survive, it will never criticize him or openly fight injustice as a damned intellectual can.
The public opinion is not only created deliberately by advertising agencies and by the dominant media, but it is also a natural consequence of power. The damned, the immature, the loser intellectuals cannot push the same way. The only force of an intellectual is his ideas, not the manipulation of others’ needs. Intellectuals have no power of coercion.
It would be enough to put a classic example of the organic criticism, of the butlers of international power. The intellectuals who were wrong supporting Stalin are crucified every day, but few ones manage to mention some of those many who, still resisting the brutality of the historical right-wing fascism in the hemisphere, were opposed to the same left-wing dictator. The organic ones do not get tired of repeating that the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre supported Stalin. It was a support of word, support based on its ideas, that is the most an intellectual can give. Was he wrong? I think so, and badly, although it is easier to say it now than it was sixty years ago. Few remember, and no one repeats in the big media, that many capitalist businessmen, like Henry Ford, supported both Stalin and Hitler, not just with words but with technical, logistic, and economic resources. Both Hitler and Stalin praised racist and skillful Henry Ford for his invaluable help, even during WWII.
Power does not say “The investors are a calamity who believe they are enlightened.” On the contrary, the chiefs always return to the argument “the alternatives to Capitalism never worked.” Some of them did work, but they were destroyed or blocked to poverty.
Now, whatever alternative that had succeeded (military and economically) would have been presented as the “irreplaceable model,” not just moral but also economic. Because it is much easier to be a successful capitalist country that can harass the rest of the world than to be a poor capitalist country that must suffer the grace of the military and economic harassment of the winners. Not to mention different options. Like in the medieval era, triumph is confused with truth and power with justice. It’s like if Christians mock Jesus for having been a loser, tortured, executed, and disappeared by the Empire of the day as one criminal along with two others. The same Socrates, Jose Artigas, Simon Bolivar, and Jose Marti, among others.
But hegemonic powers not only write history but also present themselves as they want. The same system that invented the idea that our world was created and maintained by capitalists and businessmen, has despised and neutralized the activity of radical intellectual work while robbing and kidnaping centuries of inventions and discoveries made by wage earners, of geniuses that had nothing to do with capital obsession. Without these centuries of intellectuals (philosophers, artists, scientists, humanists, social activists) there would be not the best in our world. Surely, we would have some form of Middle Ages, like that we are heading towards now, with fanatical pride.
jorge majfud, August 2020.
By Jorge Majfud
Translated by, Le’ Tavia Cummings