Henry Schnautz letter to the editor - 1937_6_9


Henry Schnautz was a Trotskyist, not a Stalinist. Like him or not, Trotsky's two main enemies were Stalin and Hitler. He advised that Hitler should be prevented from taking power with force. In late 1938, Trotsky wrote a letter trying to raise funds from American Jews in which he said the coming world war would likely mean the physical extermination of the Jewish people in Europe. Trotsky knew well the purges going on in Russia.

Why did people tend to look the other way and say Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini "did what they had to do"? The depression was world-wide. 1937 was a down year. People in hard times sometimes want or are sympathetic to a "strong man". Here Henry rails against a speaker who said that Hitler saved Germany, and "was temporarily justified". As in all such discussions, it eventually gets around to the antagonism between labor and capital. Labor being the democratic force and capital being the source of Hitler and Mussolini's unpopular power, in Henry's letter.

Henry Ford by fighting unionism created enmity with militants like Henry Schnautz, but Ford also helped build the industry that employed millions. Labor and capital both feel they are the host and the other the parasite. The Socialist view is that labor creates capital. The Capitalist view is that labor has to be driven by imagination. Capital magnifies labor. The severe decline we see in manufacturing in America today, I believe, has something to do with the fact that capital and labor could never quite get over the fight.

In an era where labor in large quantity was essential, was sometimes producing wealth directly, as in mining, and sometimes helping to produce wealth, as in auto making, but in either case sharing little of it, Socialism, or something like it, was a predictable response to hard times, poverty and actual hunger. It was a call against central authoritarian control. Socialism is government control of capital, but socialists argue it is worker control of capital. In practice, power is concentrated and decisions have to be made. But central planning can be very powerful in the short term. The speaker here that Henry Schnautz is driven to protest, says that Hitler and Mussolini created an economic miracle, by "temporarily justified" authoritarian means.

Henry Schnautz saw through this. Societies should guard against permanent leaders. Power never retreats, he often said. After their economic miracle, Hitler and Mussolini led their people into utter desolation.