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If Only The Jews Had Guns. An Excavation of a Conservative Assertion.

Among the loose affiliation of reactionary right wing internet talkers, a truism is that, if the Jews of Germany had guns, the Nazis would never have achieved total power or would have had a far more difficult time exterminating their victims.

This argument is attached to the defense of the 2nd Amendment as an example of a possible worst case scenario anywhere the authorities seek to strip civilians of their “right to bare arms” and protect themselves.

Ardent liberals counter with a (selective) examination of the facts including both the power of the legal infrastructure, as well as issues of social conditioning that all coerced Jews into subjugation and eventually extermination.

They are of course not wrong, but what goes missing in this counter narrative is the extent to which it is the liberals who were and thus remain complicit in the maintenance of a false narrative, that in being false, ironically supports the reactionaries.

The fact is that many Jews did have guns, and were part of (semi) well organized anti-fascist militias and paramilitary organizations and that they engaged in an armed rebellion against the fascists.

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were Jews. They had guns. The Spartacus League, regardless of what one thinks of its politics, was armed. They fought against the fascists and they were crushed. They were not alone and thousands of others – Jews and non Jews – were arrested, tortured, and in many cases, executed. Defeated during the 1920s they were far more vulnerable in the 1930s and when the Nazis saw their chance, and declared a state of emergency after the Rheistag fire, among the first people arrested and sent to the first camps, were leftists and among the left many of the Nazis’ victims were Jews.

But behind that, buried within the narrative as it is presented, is the complicity of the liberals who being more afraid of the Bolsheviks and the Marxists than they were of the fascists, made common cause with the extreme right.

Thus, the contemporary reactionaries are not wrong when they say, if the Jews of Germany had guns, the Nazis would have had a far greater challenge, but what they leave out is that it was the liberals and the conservatives who outsourced the savagery to the fascists; that the fascists won, and it was not “Jewish passivity” that led to cattle cars and the abyss.

This in turn is an example of the persistent fabrication of narratives in the service of socio-political hierarchies. And we hasten to add, it is not a habit of only one part of the political spectrum. However, for the contemporary conservatives and neo-fascists, the elision of the facts that contextualize the left’s response to the bankrupt post war system after 1918, allows for an assault on the contemporary progressive agenda. By separating what came before from what came after, by amputating the narrative from context and context from stubborn facts, the fiction is presented as an official autopsy; an excavation of a buried truth that in the light of day proves the illegitimacy of one’s opponent.

For the liberals the limp rejection of the right wing narrative allows both righteous indignation in the face of the blatant knuckle dragging, mouth breathing barbarism of the right, but also allows them to claim the moral high ground by pretending that their political ancestors were not complicit and that it is not the heritage, the very DNA of liberalism that in every instance it has first, made common cause with fascism to defeat the left, and only after having exhausted all other options, did what was right. In other words, appeasement is the political version of children who having murdered their parents, demand mercy from the court because, they are orphans.

Consider the film or photographs that depict British Prime Minister Chamberlain shaking hands with Hitler. A symbol of perfidy, weakness and betrayal. And yet, that image is essential as prologue to the image of Churchill as everything opposite that – honest, heroic, resolute. But add the facts of what occurred prior to Chamberlain having to meet with Hitler and the narrative changes.

Consider then that decades later, a dictator on the eve of a war is defined as another Hitler, but the prologue to that assertion involves a photograph of a high ranking member of the political establishment shaking hands with the dictator.

To say that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and a menace, is to push against an open door. To say that he was, as Bush the First claimed, another Hitler means, that either he was, when shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld, not Hitlerian, or was and the establishment was either too stupid or too feckless to care, or saw that he was and viewed him favorably as a cudgel with which they could destroy the indigenous left, again changes the narrative. Thus, either Bush was analogue to Chamberlain, or the thug, while absolutely a thug, did not arrive from nowhere and was put into power with the assistance of his future enemies.

This is the mirror image in reverse; the narrative spliced, recast, transformed to suit the new narrative which asserts a different moral requirement, but rests on the manipulation of the previous facts to maintain its claim to authority. This is the system of control, exercised by both the left and the right; conservative and liberal. The presentation of facts is in its method a silent assertion of terminal authority. The content and the image fuse and both become symbols of a truth as tautology.

Recently we have been treated to a pair of film biographies of Winston Churchill. Framed as anti-Brexit celebrations of stubborn commitment to unity in the face of division, and a moral defense of basic ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity in the face of the blunt savagery of fascism, this is Churchill as flawed hero but hero above all else.

In this narrative Churchill is aware of his faults and is more Shakespeare’s Henry V than common pol. Like Henry he grows into the burden of command and leadership, and triumphs against both the weak sisters of the appeasement camp, and the monsters of the fascist nightmare.

In this narrative he is troubled by memories of Gallipoli and his responsibility for the deaths of thousands. But, summoned to greatness he answers the clarion call and saves the world from itself. He defeats Brexit, and the Germans and fades away into history until need summons him again.

And, this is not a lie, per se. On the one hand this is the fate of all great figures – to be subsumed within an endless set of narratives until fact is transformed by the alchemy of memory, and time into fable and fable into myth. Thus Churchill, like Arthur and Lancelot, or JFK or any other heroic figure, becomes an amalgam of fact and not quite truth and outright lie all taffy-pulled to suit the needs of different narratives.

But the facts remain. In an attempt to defend T.S. Eliot from being an anti-Semite and a fascist, the amateur literary critic James Wood admitted to the bigotry of Eliot’s poetry, but codified it as a minor rash confined to one limb and not an all-over rot of the soul. It was, said Wood, not essential to Eliot’s world view. What goes missing in this episode of pseudo-intellectual moral palsy, is that even if one grants the premise, the fact remains that if Eliot’s anti-Semitism was not essential to his work, his work was essential to the justification of anti-Semitism in England specifically and to Europe generally, and was of a whole and in support of both the fascist attack on freedom and liberalism’s suicide, as it attempted to escape by throwing leftists and Jews on the fire.

Thus, one returns to Churchill going to Italy to declare Mussolini the man of the hour; the champion of the noble defense against the godless Bolsheviks. This of course is the Mussolini who was on the payroll of British intelligence and a decade later, in one of his lesser known books, Churchill would say of Hitler that while he was a bit rough and his methods more like Al Capone than a statesman, history may yet prove him correct.

That Churchill later was the indispensable man and deserves full credit and honor for doing what was right is true, but the fact remains that his first instinct was to do what was wrong, and evil.

The story it is often said, must be told. True enough but what is just, if not more important, is to ask who is telling it, and what are they leaving out, what are they including and in what order are they arranging the details.

As we stand again before the on-ramp to catastrophe, as we watch the liberal consensus being set on fire and set itself on fire, it is essential to know the facts, and to repeat them.

The issue is not what if they had guns with which they could have defended themselves.

The issue is, what if they had allies who did not betray them to the devil.

6 comments on “If Only The Jews Had Guns. An Excavation of a Conservative Assertion.

  1. As you say, European Jews did have guns. But so did their neighbors. The problem is that Jews were a minority with little support, certainly not from the political right but neither from liberals. If anything, when push came to shove, many liberals were picking up guns against the Jews… or else looking the other way as others did the bloody work for them. The early period of WWII in particular was a bloody fight between neighbors (in one town, the local school teacher killed many of his students’ parents for their supporting resistance) and in mot cases neither side was all that interested in defending Jews.

    Jews were stuck in the middle of an international conflict that had nothing to do with them. They were simply a convenient scapegoat for the fascists while receiving little sympathy from the Allies. All the guns in the world weren’t going to save the Jews, even if they put up the strongest fight possible. This isn’t hard to understand. American blacks had guns. This was true after the Civil War. And it was even more true when many black veterans came back from WWI and WWII. The race wars were literal military-style battles in the street. Blacks had guns and they used them to fight back against large mobs. But the other side had more guns and more people, backed by the power of the state.

    Where were the American liberals to pick up guns in defense of the outgunned American blacks? Many liberals were in the South and in violent places outside of the South. Some of them surely joined the Klan and similar racist groups or else joined in mobs to lynch blacks or drive them out of communities/neighborhoods. If I were a minority, I’d be concerned about a liberal turning a gun against me in defense of the state and the status quo. Think about how quickly so many liberals came to strongly support the right-wing war on terror in demonizing yet another minority group.

    As a side note, Pew data shows that liberals have one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country. So, if liberals want justice, there is nothing stopping them from fighting for it. But I’m not going to wait around for liberals to start a revolution against the authoritarian state, especially considering liberals love soft fascists like the Clintons. And I’m fairly certain liberals aren’t going to organize armed militias to defend poor blacks from being accosted and killed by the police.

    As for conservatives, if guns are the answer to everything, why didn’t American conservatives go over to fight the fascists the moment they heard about the wrong being done to the Jews… oh, yeah, I forgot that they are fascists. According to the conservative argument, the only problem in the failure of minority rights after the Civil War was that blacks didn’t manage to kill enough white people to demand their freedom. And I guess Japanese-Americans should have taken up guns against the US government in order to fight being put into camps.

    As always, it is bullshit all around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Needless to say we agree. The facts, however dreary or cumbersome are still the facts. For example, as you point out, Jews had guns but everyone else did as well and they had more guns and control of the logistical grid, seats of government, etc.

      What is most on my mind these days is the extent to which one can track, rather easily, instances of narrative as construct – as fiction and not because the details are wrong but because the architecture to which they are the brick and mortar, is a set of arbitrary point. Line up the facts one way vs another and the whole narrative changes.

      That in turn brings us back to my current semi-obsession with what you call repetition-compulsion and the consistent habit of inventing narratives.

      I’m working on a draft of a chapter for the expansion of the Faulkner’s sparrows piece and I’m focusing on Baudrillard. It’s amazing to me because he was clearly not an idiot and was very bright but the cherry picking is extraordinary. then there are his critics and their general antagonism towards “Postmodernism” and it’s the same thing – cherry picking.

      In the case of the “If only the Jews had guns” argument it’s the same. Ignore and/or eliminate key facts, arrange the resulting narrative in an arbitrary manner and there you go “History.”

      Specifically of course perhaps the biggest unexamined issue is the complicity of the liberals both then and now. Appeasement is trotted out as a cautionary trope and key figures and images are used almost like showing a piece of the true cross or a relic – behold Chamberlain behold evil etc.

      All well and good except of course it’s designed to feed everyone the contemporary set of fictions and we get Spielberg and “The Greatest Generation” as if everyone was a paratrooper and nothing else happened.

      The liberals and the conservatives benefit from each other’s bullshit and their triangulation against the left or even the sort-of-left continues.

      Your point about Black Americans and Japanese Americans is on point.

      Change the order of the details and all of a sudden the whole picture changes.

      I would add one subjective small sample observation. Beginning with the YouTube based pushback against J. Peterson I’m noticing an uptick in this kind of analysis where fairly knowledgeable people dissect the narrative based on the elision of facts. they are quick to point out that x, y or z conservative’s facts are not wrong but that they are leaving out other facts or presenting the facts selectively. Some of these critics are better or more sophisticated than others but the technology is “democratic” to a certain extent and as a result there’s some noise.

      Of course that doesn’t change other facts – under the heading of the general dystopian shit show.

      “As always, it is bullshit all around.”


      1. “The liberals and the conservatives benefit from each other’s bullshit and their triangulation against the left or even the sort-of-left continues.” That is a thought I’ve been returning to. It has specifically been on my mind with Chomskyan linguistics. And it has been on my mind with Ancel Keys’ involvement in the no-holds-barred public debate/combat in the fields of nutrition, diet, and public health.

        It occurred to me that, along with what you discuss above, are examples of symbolic conflation or in the general proximity of it. These conflicts are really about something else and so the point is to avoid resolution in retaining the tension of conflict. It’s like how Democrats and Republicans don’t want complete victory over the other for social control requires the pretense of two sides in eternal conflict. Democrats are glad to let Republicans win, even Trump, as long as it means Democrats get to remain in the game and maintain their position within the political order.

        This state of bullshit makes it hard to get solid footing, even for those who mean well. As with wrestling pigs, everyone ends up covered in shit. Not everyone is accepting of this state of affairs, but many are as happy as pigs in the muck. The latter being the case with liberals and conservatives or, failing that, liberals don’t mind picking a fight with leftists. In either case, the whole charade feels old and tired… and predictable. At this point, even the major players seem barely able to put on a half-hearted show. But going through the motions is good enough for their loyal fan base and for those too numb to care. We watch the spectacle with the standard suspension of disbelief, as long as it remains entertaining and distracting.

        “…a sore spot where conservatism and liberalism have, from their close proximity, rubbed each other raw. It is also a site of much symbolic conflation, the linchpin like a stake in the ground to which a couple of old warriors are tied in their ritual dance of combat and wounding, where both are so focused on one another that neither pays much attention to the stake that binds them together. In circling around, they wind themselves ever tighter and their tethers grow shorter.”

        That is how the social order operates under the egoic consciousness. Our minds go round and round. And predetermined opposing sides go round and round. The centripetal force creates the gravity holding it all together.


      2. rauldukeblog says:

        There clearly is a sense of something both static and manufactured – bread and circuses – about the contemporary zeitgeist.

        Reading your comment I thought about the few examples where someone offered a detailed examination/consideration of this entropy/stasis Godot and Sartre’s No Exit came to mind and a bit of Catch 22 and a few others. There’s a film from the 60s called, I think, King of Hearts. It’s a Brit film and it takes place during WW 1. The protagonist ends up at the end going to the local insane asylum to be let in so as to escape the insanity.

        There’s a clear sense of sameness at work in and with the media and that’s across the spectrum from the mainstream to the self-described alternative platforms. Same content, same style same bat time same bat channel. Thus, dead on arrival.

        Whitman writing 150+ years ago was being subversive when he said I invite my soul to loaf. 20 or so years before that Thoreau was again radical when he lamented how just sitting in a field made him the source of anxiety to the locals because he wasn’t busy doing “something.”

        Our current era seems especially fraught though I’m suspicious of the extent to which the mass of the mass media creates a kind of false positive but regardless it’s not a healthy environment.

        There’s an old Star Trek (original ST) where they land on a planet that has updated Roman gladiatorial combat and put it on TV and there’s a scene where they show the control room at the studio “increasing the applause.”

        Another example of how this has been an issue for a while but per our exchange obviously we’re in a kind of acute phase.

        There has been a slight change in that there’s an increase in criticism of the “two sides” structure and the “debate” “must be balanced.” But it’s all still proforma and stale but also still agitating – by design. Gin up the crowd but make them feel powerless at the same time.

        That makes me think of Burroughs and his “Interzone.” The nexus for both the physical reality of the 24/7 echo chamber society but also the psychological landscape where as you say “this is how the social order operates…” and “Our mind go round and round…”


      3. What interests me about the continuation and repetition is how persistent it is. Patterns repeat across history and sometimes in a single lifetime. Yet most people don’t seem to notice.

        It’s like finding yourself in a 1950s sitcom. But only you know you’re in a fictional world while almost everyone else perfectly plays their role. Ever since I was a child, I was never overly talented at social roles and I wondered how others seemed to play them so easily. Even those who didn’t play them well rarely seemed to question the very expectation.

        Liberals keep telling me to vote for Democrats or the world will end or whatever. But I simply can’t make myself get excited by the melodrama, even as I cynically anticipate the coming collapse. I see what is happening and where it is heading. I just can’t see how Democrats are going to save me nor how voting for them will give me a sense of meaning or console my conscience.

        I don’t see a moral response to this situation, other than maybe revolution. Not that I can get excited by revolution either. I have too much depressive realism to feel fully radicalized. That said, the metaphorical Jews of the moment should arm themselves in preparation. What none of us knows is whether or not we will find ourselves in that position of scapegoat, as it could happen to any of us, even the rich if there was a coup using right-wing populism to gain support.

        Like Hesse’s Siddhartha, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        We’re on the same page. Your 50s sitcom analogy is seriously if not worryingly on point.

        There is clearly a repetition compulsion and it manifests in multiple ways from stale dead-end politics to larger scale themes of mass movements and of course to intellectuals claiming to be original and definitive.

        Quite right about scapegoats as well. “Revolution” is like all other things subject to repetition and excess and self-destruction. I just read a lengthy piece at The Guardian attacking two upscale liberals who have written a book critical of “identity politics” and it was like watching two blind sumo wrestlers bounce off of each other and then run at each other and miss.

        I agree about the Dems. It feels like voting for a cemetery.

        So, you me an Sid. Thinking, waiting, and fasting.


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