Book Review: Hitler Is No Fool

Hitler Is No Fool, by Karl Billinger

When I first began reading this long-forgotten work, I wondered why it had been forgotten, given the fact that the book offered surprising insights about Hitler and his regime.  After reading for a while, it becomes clear why this book is a forgotten part of World War II history [1].  This book manages to combine two elements that make it worth forgetting for many people.  On the positive side, the book has a great deal of insight about Hitler and demonstrates the way in which Hitler was taken seriously by at least some influence-makers, which gives the lie to the claim that people did not know how Hitler was being serious about what he said in Mein Kempf.  This author, at least, knew that there was something political underneath the seeming insanity and that the Jews were a scapegoat for a variety of reasons.  On the other hand, this book was deservedly forgotten because of its strident left-wing viewpoint and misguided belief in the virtues of socialism.  Reading this book and the author’s praise of the Soviet Union, one almost wishes that he had been put in one of Hitler’s concentration camps as a political prisoner and didn’t escape to write this book. Almost.

In reviewing this book I feel deeply torn.  In terms of its contents, the author mixes sound and unsound analysis of Hitler, sound because he has a lot of bad to say about Hitler (and this was before WWII, it should be note) and much of what he says bad happens to be warranted.  On the other hand, he has a lot to say that praises socialism and Communism that is definitely warranted.  Choosing between Hitler and Stalin was like choosing between King Kong and Godzilla, or between Aliens and Predator, or between Jason and Freddie Kruger–there are no good options, only different flavors of horribly destructive evil.  This book basically takes the German versions of Hitler’s turgid memoir and look at it over a couple hundred pages in a thematic fashion, seeking to find the common elements that run through it in terms of the class appeal of the Nazis, their hostility towards Jews (not as important a part as it would be in postwar critiques), Hitler’s preference of an alliance with Italy and the United Kingdom, and related subjects.  The book mixes sound criticisms of Hitler and his thought with unsound leftist political pronouncements.

There are really two elements to this book as to why it remains of contemporary relevance.  For one, the author’s comments about reactionism and demagoguery are highly relevant in our own age of political dissatisfaction with elites, corruption, and where the appeal is divided between socialists promising salvation through paternalistic government and reactionaries who seek to turn back the clock to a more glorious past and create a more glorious feature through struggle and violence.  Given the rise of populism of the right-wing variety in many countries, including the English and French-speaking world but certainly not only there, and given the problems that (radical) Socialism is causing in areas like Greece as an alternative, this is relevant.  It is also relevant that socialists have learned exactly nothing in the past seventy-five years despite the utter failure of Communism and socialism around the world.  The same arguments used in this book are used in contemporary discourse about left-wing parties being the only ones who really care about and want to improve the life of the common man and considering the lower middle-class and the working class to be in total opposition in terms of interests and well-being.  If only left-wing writers could realize how tired and stale their rhetoric was, they would cease to act as if they were saying something new.  Is it too much to ask for people like this author to shut up and stop writing?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: Hitler Is No Fool

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