Pat Buchanan wrote a book contemplating alternatives to war with the Nazis. One implication of Buchanan’s alternative history is the Nazis never would have existed. A more sensible policy toward Germany after he Great War would have short circuited the process that created the Nazis. His other assertion is that even if Hitler came to power, his ambitions would not have been magnified by the humiliation resulting from the Treaty of Versailles. This means the Nazis would have followed much different trajectory.
In one of Dan Carlin’s podcasts, he speculated a bit about what would have happened if the Nazis had survived World War II and continued to rule Germany. Instead of war, the British had struck a deal with the Germans so they could have a country for all German people, but not dominating the continent militarily. The result being something similar to modern Germany, in terms of territory, but run by the Nazis. The point of his thought experiment was to imagine how Nazism would evolve as a peacetime ruling ideology.
Usually, these sorts of thought experiments just assume the Nazis would have remained the evil Hollywood version we have all been trained to imagine. The rest of the fantasy has them doing awful things to all of the usual suspects. In reality, the Nazis evolved into what they were partially in response to war. Germany was turned into a munitions factory in order to wage war and that altered the nature of the Nazi party. A party ruling a complete nation, at peace with its neighbors, would have been a different party.
One outcome of the Buchanan scenario of a Germany at peace, but ruled by the Nazis is there would not have been a Holocaust. That sounds counter-intuitive, but the choice of mass murder was not the first option for the Nazis, when dealing with unwanted minority populations. War made it the default option. In a peaceful world, the most likely scenario would have been the traditional one, where Jews, gypsies, slaves and anyone else deemed undesirable would have been exiled to lands at or beyond the border.
Another probable outcome is Hitler would have been deposed at some point after peace with the rest of Europe. His personal style was appealing in the economic and political crisis of pre-war Germany and tolerable in the crisis of war. Megalomaniacs tend not to do well in stable periods. Eventually, the various classes and interests of German society would have decided they could do better than Hitler. That and the leadership of the party was full of ambitious and aggressive men willing to hatch a coup against the Fuehrer.
That means the most likely outcome of peace would have been turmoil in the party and either a collapse of authority or a series of purges similar to what happened with the Soviets. Germans are not Russians, so a period of turmoil would most likely have resulted in a some sort of stable ruling committee at the top of the party. The unbalanced lunatics and sadists would have been purged in favor of the more practical. There were a lot of Albert Speer types in the junior ranks, who knew how to run a proper society.
There are a lot of assumptions there, but that’s the nature of alternative history. If things were different, they would not be the same. Assuming the Nazis could have negotiated peace to a willing Europe and managed to get through the decade or so of intra-party squabbles to emerge as a stable ruling elite, what would the “new” Germany have evolved into as a society? It’s not something anyone thinks much about as it does not further the narrative. The Nazis are the forever black hat in the mythology of the present orthodoxy.
In all probability, the Great War veterans that founded the party would have been pushed aside, in favor of the inter-war generation from upper-class families who joined the party in the 1930’s. A guy like Albert Speer was able to rise quickly because he was smart, well educated and cultured. That means the party would have become less militaristic and more corporate. That also means German society would have evolved away from a martial order to something like a corporate order. Something like modern Europe, in fact.
Economically, the Nazis were ad hoc socialists, in that they embraced command economics as a practical solution to present problems. Ideologically, they had no economic plan. Again, Albert Speer provides some insight into what the post-peace Nazi party would have done. Companies like Mercedes, Siemens, Krupp, BASF, Deutsche Bank and others that profited doing business with the Nazis during the war, would have emerged as the dominant companies under the imaginary peacetime Nazi Germany.
It would have been the sort of corporatism we see emerging in America, where private firms get narrow monopolies and in exchange for enforcing the cultural norms desired by the ruling elite. Corporations are not supporters of civil liberties and they certainly don’t like market competition. Wherever big business prevails, freedom declines and markets collapse. Instead of being turned into a massive munitions facility, the peaceful Nazi Germans would have been turned into a national corporate conglomerate.
The point of this sort of speculation is not to better understand the past, but to better understand the present. The first half of the 20th century in Europe was the result of a great economic paradigm shift. Europe had moved from an agrarian, trading society to an industrial and urban one. The result was the great concentration of wealth and the rise of corporatism. It was not just in Germany. The Italians, Spanish, Portuguese and even the Americans saw a lot of merit in fascism. The New Dealers loved Mussolini, for a while.
When looked at from the current age, where global corporations are enthusiastically enforcing moral codes and partnering with the state to impose an order that benefits the managerial class, it suggests corporatism is inevitable or a default arrangement. The democratic state prefers dealing with a few dominant actors, so popular government encourages the concentration of capital. Eventually, those concentrations of wealth become rival power centers and then they join the state as partners in power.
Interestingly, what the Nazis imagined for Europe, where Germany sat atop a unified continent, is pretty much what the EU is today. What we have come to call globalism is taking the same concept and scaling it up to include all of the modern economies. A guy like Albert Speer, if he were alive today, would recognize what was evolving. It also means that the balance to this would be some sort of organized labor component, that includes everyone outside the managerial class. The third leg of the stool, so to speak.
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