There was a logic behind the Holocaust, one which gained mass support through Hitler’s narrative that exterminating entire ethnic groups and waging wars for conquest were necessary for the material benefit of the “Aryan” people. Twisted and counter-scientific as this logic was, the mentality behind it is still very much present within the Euro-American imperialist countries, extending from the way our media portrays the world to the way our ruling institutions are made to function. It’s still so prevalent within our society because it originated here, after which the Nazis merely took example from it.
This is the mindset of “Manifest Destiny,” a worldview which tells us that the “American” nation has a right to conquer and fix the world’s lands and peoples. Now typically called “American exceptionalism,” this worldview takes example from “British Israelism,” the belief that the British are above all others due to being the direct descendents of the ten lost tribes of Israel. Additional genocidal settler-colonial projects, from Nazism to Zionism, have modeled themselves off of it and have given it their own innovations. But the core logic behind it always remains the same: that one’s nation deserves to annex territory from inferior races, who must be subdued and subjugated as part of the conquering process.
The Nazis called the driving logic behind their own iteration of this worldview Lebensraum, the belief that a nation must acquire a certain amount of territory in order to develop properly. Hitler went about trying to attain Lebensraum through effectively turning Germany’s surrounding nations into Nazi colonies, and through attempting to apply the same colonization to Russia. Essential to this land grab effort, claimed the Nazi ideology, was the extermination of the Jews, whose existence supposedly posed an innate obstacle towards the realization of Hitler’s settler-colonial ambitions for the East.
It’s easy to see the similarities between this and the American empire’s genocide of the Natives, or the Zionist state’s genocide against the Palestinians. Both of these atrocities have been taking place (and are still taking place) for the sake of letting the supposedly superior nations attain the territory they believe they’re entitled to. Other variations of this genocidal logic can be found in India’s Hindutva fascists, who’ve been killing Muslims to fortify their colonization of Kashmir, and Bolsonaro’s equivalent Brazilian fascist paradigm, wherein the Amazon’s remaining uncontacted indigenous communities are being hunted down to further business interests. All of these types of noxious reactionary strains will gain more incentive to wreak death and destruction as climate collapse continues.
“The Holocaust may seem a distant horror whose lessons have already been learned,” wrote Timothy Snyder five years ago in his op-ed The Next Genocide. “But sadly, the anxieties of our own era could once again give rise to scapegoats and imagined enemies, while contemporary environmental stresses could encourage new variations on Hitler’s ideas, especially in countries anxious about feeding their growing populations or maintaining a rising standard of living.” The more that global warming’s implications reverberate, the more apparent this risk of a 21st century repeat of the Holocaust becomes.
As was the case throughout the rise of the Third Reich, this danger of genocide is becoming apparent with the increasing trend towards militarism among the oppressor nations and reactionary states. The wildly unprecedented military budget that the U.S. has taken on throughout its last two decades of “War on Terror,” which has resulted in a similarly unprecedented militarization of its police, is the prime example of why we should be alarmed about this. Already this militarization of American society has led to an uptick in police violence against the country’s colonized peoples, and in an ever-expanding series of inhumane migrant detention camps which are tied into border militarization.
The latter human rights abuse, which resembles the Holocaust due to the forced sterilizations and gassings that the victims of these de facto concentration camps have been subjected to, is going to grow in its scale and horror as the climate crisis creates ever more refugees. And American exceptionalism’s drive towards territorial expansion is exacerbating this border crisis; it was the 2009 U.S.-orchestrated coup in Honduras which made that country too dangerous and impoverished for much of its population to remain within, and it’s U.S. sanctions against the anti-imperialist countries Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba that have been economically depriving many of their residents to the point of becoming refugees. U.S./NATO imperialism’s recent wars in Africa and southwest Asia have created even worse destabilization within these regions, causing the unprecedented refugee crisis that stems from them. And the migrant victims of these acts of imperialist aggression have been met with similar cruelty both by the U.S. and by the European imperialist powers.
In the next few decades, as climate catastrophe undermines the stability of countless states around the globe, the imperialists will not just carry out genocides against the refugees from these failed states but will engineer further destabilization within these already unstable nations. They’ve already done this in Syria, where Washington has exploited a drought to ignite a horrific civil war. And a 2019 Pentagon report on how the U.S. military should respond to global warming has named Bangladesh as an upcoming target for similar intervention amid the country’s probability of buckling under the pressure from natural disasters.
What they want to pull off within these places is essentially a repeat of Hitler’s strategy for attaining Lebensraum within Poland, which the Nazis made into a stateless and lawless society so that they could operate inside of it with impunity. As a result of this power that can be gained from ripping the existing institutions out of a society, the Nazis were able to carry out many of the Holocaust’s murders within Poland. Washington has been doing something comparable in Ukraine, which since its 2014 U.S.-orchestrated Nazi coup has become a failed state where fascist militias are free to carry out ethnic cleansing. Should the imperialists succeed at doing the equivalent within places like Bangladesh, there’s no telling what kinds of atrocities will be unleashed upon the world’s poorest and most climatically vulnerable nations.
The rationale behind these near-future wars, as well as for the anti-migrant human rights abuses and militarized police state violence which will tie into these conflicts, will be of the same nature as the war propaganda campaigns of the Nazis: that the nation more land and resources to survive, justifying all of the measures that these colonial expansion efforts will entail.
In a century where land will get more scarce due to sea level rise and loss of habitable ground, and where agricultural breakdowns and water shortages increasingly plague civilization, the campaigns to manufacture consent for these wars will be able to draw upon some extremely tangible material circumstances. The case of the fascists will be as direct and simple as that of Hitler’s: our nation must trample other nations in order to survive.
We’re already seeing the beginnings of these frightful propaganda narratives as the capitalist ruling class approaches the climate crisis through a lens of conflict, personal enrichment, and territorialism. Kamala Harris recently stated it’s become common knowledge among U.S. military technocrats that water wars will have to be waged in the near future, showing that peaceful cooperation between countries and resource-sharing aren’t how our leaders will approach the scarcities of the 21st century. As shown by how water was recently made into a tradable commodity in the U.S. stock market, the bourgeoisie and their imperialist military partners view this crisis as a prompting to hoard and exploit. To them, it’s no question as to whether war and conquest are the answers to our predicament.
When this capitalist scarcity mentality mixes with the fascist conviction that the world must be conquered and cleansed of undesirables, you have a recipe for modern Nazistic strains fusing with the power of capital to replicate the horrors of the Third Reich.
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