The direction of the 20th century history and society was irrevocably altered and redefined by ideologies, a subject that has become a matter of intense analysis within the academic and secular worlds. In his book, Encounters: My Life With Nixon, Marcuse and Other Friends and Teachers, he analyses the characteristics of a number of ideologies most of which were multifaceted based on minor or major modifications of political philosophies developed either towards the end of the previous century or the turn of the century. It is imperative to note that Gottfried’s opinions on communism and Nazism as forms of the most influential ideologies that affected much of the social and political developments of the century are based on his close association with major political and intellectual figures such as Richard Nixon, Robert Nisbet, Murray Rothbard, Christopher Lasch, John Lukacs among other eminent personalities.
Communism as an Ideology and a Political System
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Gottfried affirms that Communism as an ideology was chiefly used for didactic purposes in their application towards the establishment and propagation of an indeterminate number of the 20th century revolutions. He notes that, Communism for example was adopted by a number of nations and its ideological predisposition used by revolutionary leaders for instructive purposes. Most of them began by outlining their ethical, moral and economic principles in didactic works which thereafter served to instruct and to teach the masses defining their way of life, (Gottfried 8). A number of these philosophies’ instructiveness were however narrowed and limited to given mindsets. Communism sought to promote a classless society, with common ownership of the means of production rather than this being endowed few in society.
Gottfried also states that the adoption of the communist ideology was purposefully to convince the poor masses who happened to be the majority in society. It was adopted by a high number of revolutionary groups due to its dual nature of having an intellectual foundation as well as its ability to appeal to human emotions. Gottfried exemplifies the case of the communist revolution in Hungary where the communists dishonestly stated that their course was to defend the rights of Hungarians against their enemies yet they were the actual enemies of Hungary, (Gottfried 36). Together with all its other branches Gottfried states that Communism was similar in terms of primary ideological statements, though there were differences based on the relative interpretations of these primary principles. Communist revolutions similarly were practically totalitarian implementing the principle of absolute leadership.
Gottfried affirms that Nazism was advanced due to its appeal to the socially and economically less empowered in attempts to gain favorable political and economic positions. Hitler Ideologies’ chief purpose was to arouse sympathy of the masses, providing enlightenment of their predicament with respect to their interest, and providing political base for the aspect of their plight, (Gottfried 67). Nazism as an ideology was used to coerce the masses by appealing to their emotions rather than their intellect to duly participate in their revolutionary practices; whether ethical or not. The Nazi movement was looked at as inspirational avenues to restoration of justice to persons who had experienced real or virtual forms of injustices. He notes that his father had been a refugee from the Nazis, and would go ballistic if individuals misinterpreted the events or drew dishonest accounts of what befell the Nazi victims. The German’s form of violence was however virtual and not real since most of the persecutions stated by Hitler lacked any solid foundation.
Gottfried affirms that Nazism could have been controlled by increased opposition from the western societies. He documents his father’s love for president Roosevelt whom he claimed kept Hitler from annexing Europe. Basing his analysis on the history of Nazism in Europe, he notes that the extermination of Jews of Europe was nonetheless catastrophic although conclusive theoretical explanation cannot be reached at. He also notes that, rather than fail to discuss the catastrophe, scholars, individuals and politicians should accept variant debates relating to the crimes, a development that will directly influence intellectual shifts and views on Nazism, (Gottfried 132). He affirms that although a final solution to National Socialism practiced by the Nazi cannot be reached, the extermination of Jews of Europe remains the most extreme case of mass criminality and must be challenged at all levels.
Gottfried affirms that both Nazism and Communism were founded out of the need to convince individuals to follow certain commonalities; defined by race, relative economic position or political inclination, and were all used to perpetuate concepts which were devoid of meaning with terms used lacking any rational or moral justification. It is on this basis that the established the Nazi and communist regimes were all accompanied by volumes of literature representation that were used to appeal to both individual and collective psychopathologies with their concepts being used to persuade individuals, (Gottfried 89). Their combination formed the basis for ideological convictions or rather a program for rationalization of both communism and Nazism.
Both political systems proved to be rather radical in nature with fear and oppression against those perceived as enemies of the state being astonishing. Extremism and fundamentalism, two characterizations of both ideologies and political systems made these movements be in accord to the basic absolutes defining Communism and Nazism; the aspect of violence and war. He notes that based on his father’s recounting on the struggle and suffering on the communist revolution in 1919, his position was that communism was largely anti-Semitic and their political system led to massive loss to communist violence. Gottfried notes that they therefore served as a model of an indeterminate number of revolutions as they tended to have similar sociopolitical and philosophical aspirations.
Analyzing the Communism and Nazi political economy, Gottfried concludes that simply put, communism is repressive and inefficient although it constitute a coherent system slacked by internal contradictions. He notes that most scholars he discussed faltered the failing of communism on the fact that it was unable to internally renew itself and prove viable in the long run unlike the capitalist systems hence was doomed to fail.
Gottfried’s ideas and his Austro-Hungarian-Jewish roots
Being an Austro-Hungarian Jew, Gottfried’s ideas were to a greater extent influenced by this observation. Although other most scholars affirm that his attitude towards communism and Nazism are documented without bitterness, self justification or a settling of scores, his Jewish roots and his relative experiences of anti-Semitism certainly had psychological impact on his ideas. His portrayal of Nazism for example, is based on settling of scores. Although true to his ideas, Nazism was genocidal, Gottfried could be biased in his affirmation that human rights are not absolute but rather signify what the press or the government in power wishes it to reflect on the global scale. Paul describes distinctly the events that surrounded his father’s life such as his father’s encounters with the First World War in Austro-Hungary, the communist revolution in 1919, the communist violence, the Nazi’s ‘liberation’ of Hungary all affirmed to his predisposition to the fact that Nazism and Communism were dire ideologies and political systems.
Gottfried’s opinion affirms that both Nazism and Communism were founded by fundamentalists; and pertinently, fundamentalism is founded on myths, instincts, intuition and mostly irrational predispositions. He affirms that they were therefore theoretical from the onset, exhibiting heightened aspects of internal contradiction and meaninglessness although they became pragmatic on becoming political systems. He states that of critical importance is that both Communism and Nazism movements were on the ‘right’ rather than ‘left’ with their ideologies seeking to denigrate rather than inform, (Gottfried 191). The complexity and multifaceted nature of these revolutions coupled with existent literary support that could be referred to, made them pivotal models for revolutionary movements of the past century.