The English edition of Why Are They Back? Historical falsification, political conspiracy and the return of fascism in Germany will be launched by Mehring Books in London on Sunday March 17 (tickets are available here). The book’s author Christoph Vandreier will speak at the event and will be joined by World Socialist Web Site
International Editorial Board Chairperson David North, who is also the
national chairperson of the Socialist Equality Party (US).
The appointment of Adolf Hitler in January 1933 as chancellor of
Germany was the outcome not of an election, but of a political
conspiracy involving a small number of senior military and government
officials headed by General Paul von Hindenburg. Its consequences were
World War II, the Holocaust and the destruction of tens of millions of
Nearly 75 years after the fall of the Third Reich, the neo-Nazi right is a major political force in Germany. Why Are They Back?
analyses the interaction of high-level political conspirators, media
propagandists and right-wing academics at Berlin’s Humboldt University
in the present-day resurgence of Nazism and German militarism.
Vandreier’s book focuses on questions of history. This is because the
rise of Germany’s far-right is being abetted by a campaign of
historical falsification. In Berlin, prominent academics such as
Professor Jörg Baberowski have engaged in pro-Nazi apologetics,
relativising the crimes of fascism, downplaying the Holocaust and
rehabilitating Adolf Hitler with claims that the Nazi dictator “was not
vicious.” This falsification of the past is spearheading preparations by
the German state to remilitarise and suppress working class opposition
to war and social inequality.
In the 1986-89 “Historians’ Dispute” (Historikerstreit), British
academics, including Richard Evans and Ian Kershaw, joined their German
colleagues in publicly refuting positions of historian Ernst Nolte
seeking to minimise the crimes of the Nazis. But today’s more brazen
fabrications are met with silence.
Christoph Vandreier, the deputy-chair of the Socialist Equality Party
(Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei–SGP) in Germany, has played a leading
role in the struggle that began at Humboldt University. David North
will discuss the historical background to the return of the far-right,
examining the nature of contemporary fascism and how to defeat it. He
will provide a critique of left populism, elaborating a Marxist response
to the dangerous rise of far-right parties in Germany and across
Tickets available at eventbrite £5.00 full price—£2 concession
Transport: Foyles bookshop is within walking distance of the
Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square, Holborn, Covent Garden and
Oxford Circus stations. Accessibility: The building is fully wheelchair
Mehring Books, the publishing house of the International Committee of
the Fourth International, exhibited at the London Book Fair this week.
Its stall in London Olympia’s Grand Hall attracted interest among
visitors and exhibitors from around the world.
The London Book Fair is the leading publishing trade fair in the
English-speaking world and the second-largest worldwide after the
Frankfurter Buchmesse. Almost 1,000 companies exhibited from more than
60 countries, with around 29,000 visitors between March 12-14.
Mehring Books’ stand featured the newly released English-language edition of Why Are They Back? Historical falsification, political conspiracy and the return of fascism in Germany; the 30th anniversary edition of The Heritage We Defend: A contribution to the history of the Trotskyist movement; and Agents: The FBI and GPU infiltration of the Trotskyist movement.
On the Fair’s opening day, World Socialist Web Site
international editorial board chairperson David North appeared at a
“Meet the Author” event at the Mehring Books stand. Book industry
professionals from Japan, India and Israel, along with visitors from
China, the UK and Canada, were among those who stopped to speak with
Christoph Vandreier, deputy leader of the Socialist Equality Party
(SGP) in Germany, spoke at a “Meet the Author” event the following day.
He explained to those in attendance, “Why Are They Back? is a book dealing with how the rise of the far-right in Germany was ideologically and politically prepared.”
The far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) is now the official
opposition party in the Bundestag (German parliament), Vandreier
explained. “Its MPs include neo-Nazi apologists who have publicly
opposed the construction of memorials to European victims of the
Holocaust, while they declare their support for the record of German
soldiers during the Second World War.”
A wave of historical falsification in German universities paved the
way for such neo-fascistic statements: “Professor Jörg Baberowski at
Humboldt University in Berlin, said things like, ‘Hitler was not
vicious’. There was not a single academic in Germany or internationally
Christoph Vandreier signs copy of Why Are They Back
A group of students visiting the fair from the United States listened
closely as Vandreier discussed how the political struggle of the SGP
and its youth movement, the International Youth and Students for Social
Equality (IYSSE), against historical falsification, won widespread
backing from students in Germany. “This received a lot of support,”
“There is huge opposition to racism and the rise of the far-right in
the population. The support for the far-right does not come from below,
but from the top.”
The Mehring Books stand attracted a great deal of attention and
interest. While book company executives passed by quickly, en route to
business meetings (rights negotiations are the main business of the
trade fair), more thoughtful visitors paused to take in the poster-sized
illustrated covers for The Heritage We Defend, Agents and Why Are They Back?The
association of Mehring Books with the heritage of Trotskyism and its
concern with fundamental historical questions was apparent.
Among those enquiring on opening day was the Executive Vice President
of a Japanese publishing house. He was drawn by the book display for Why Are They Back? and
stopped to discuss what he described as the dangerous rise of Japanese
nationalism. “This is a problem not only for Japan. In response, we are
seeing the rise of nationalism in China and South Korea. The rubbish of
the past is coming back, it seems.”
David North with publisher Shogo Tejima
A Russian publishing executive stopped to look more closely at The Heritage We Defend and David North’s In Defence of Leon Trotsky.
He described Trotsky as “the greatest of all figures in history—not
just in his political accomplishments, which were of course very great,
but in his entire personality.” He explained that disinformation
surrounding Trotsky’s name meant the understanding of Trotsky among
Russians was low. He pointed to the recent Russian television series on
Trotsky as an example, opposing its promotion of anti-Semitism.
“It seems that I have stumbled on something unexpected at the London Book Fair,” the Russian publishing executive concluded.
A search for “socialist” exhibitors on the London Book Fair app returned Mehring Books as the only result. Verso (founded by New Left Review
in 1970) and Pluto Press (established in 1969 by the International
Socialists) describe themselves as “radical publishers.” In general,
their titles reflect the rightward lurch of ex-radical layers among the
1960s middle class, preoccupied with issues of gender, race and sexual
orientation, and steeped in postmodernist hostility to philosophical
materialism and the working class.
On the final day of the London Book Fair, Mehring Books featured a
display in defence of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and former US
Army soldier and courageous whistle-blower Chelsea Manning—jailed again
last week for refusing to testify against Assange. The Mehring Books
Twitter feed issued the following appeal: “Mehring Books, tweeting all
day from the London Book Fair to #FreeAssange. Come visit us at stand
2A43. Show your solidarity with a publisher illegally detained in the
middle of London for publishing true information to the world’s people!”
Mehring Books tweets in support of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning
The response was polarised, with many in the corporate publishing
world ready to believe the wall of disinformation and lies about Assange
and WikiLeaks erected by the mainstream and state-controlled media. A
representative from Mehring Books visited the Media Room at the London
Book Fair to draw to their attention the Mehring Books initiative.
“Julian Assange is perhaps the world’s most famous publisher and his
fate should be of real concern to those attending the London Book Fair,”
she explained. This appeal was met with naked hostility, with one
senior journalist falsely claiming that Assange was “free to leave
whenever he chooses” and repeatedly asserting that Assange was not being
illegally and arbitrarily detained.
Despite the disinformation, there were those who responded strongly
in Assange and Manning’s defence, and willingly posed to have their
photos taken. “Freedom of speech is one of the most important human
rights, without which the world is like a prison,” was the statement
from one book industry professional, while visitors Anne and Nathalie
were proud to speak out: “Chelsea has the strength of her convictions.
More people should know about this. It’s supposed to be the land of the
free and the brave.” The statements in defence of Assange and Manning
were retweeted over 400 times, receiving over 660 likes.
Anne and Nathalie showing their support
Details on Sunday’s book launch in London of Why Are They Back?:
The Heritage We Defend is a history of the Fourth International during the half century following the assassination of its founder, Leon Trotsky, in 1940. Originally published in 1988, this book reviews the issues of theory, politics and principle that confronted the Fourth International during World War II and the post-war era.
Remarkably, David North clearly and precisely anticipated the political crisis that erupted in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991, resulting in the dissolution of the Stalinist regimes. The Heritage We Defend remains an unsurpassed introduction to the history of the Trotskyist movement and obligatory reading for anyone seeking to understand Marxist theory and practice in the present period of capitalist crisis and intensifying class struggle.