Published: 19 April, 2012
by GERALD ISAAMAN
Answers galore have been forthcoming since George Galloway swept all the political parties aside and grabbed an historic 56 per cent of the vote in Bradford West to win a seat in the Commons for the Respect Party.
Yet all of them ignore the vital factor that has provided power for all politicians throughout history, albeit this time Galloway enjoying access to today’s social media, which put him in instant touch with young people seeking succour for today’s ills.
And that’s the gift of the gab, the oratorical skills so missing from the front benches in Parliament, the ability to touch, inspire, magic a moment when the oppressed – and the depressed – are switched on and march courageously to your tune and tumbril.
Winston Churchill had it when it came to broadcasting on the radio during the Second World War but was hopeless when TV came along.
The one other giant was Herr Adolf Hitler, the demon king of tyrants who gratuitously slaughtered millions of Jews for bank-rolling the West – his paranoia, alas, still in international evidence.
In 1923, Hitler, aged 34, was languishing in prison after trying to overthrow the German government, very much a failure who grew up wanting to be an artist or an architect, yet, in 1913, found himself in Munich a penniless layabout and draft dodger from the Austro-Hungarian imperial army.
He was almost without sensible skills, had but a modest education, little energy or any passion at all for politics, though he was always prepared to throw petulant tantrums over trivial upsets.
Nevertheless, by 1933 he was Chancellor of Germany, one of the most powerful and feared men in Europe, on the brink of conquest at the command of a huge army.
How did he do?
That’s the question put by AN Wilson in his brilliantly timed short history of the Fuhrer, provocatively published by Rupert Murdoch’s Harper Press when British politics is in a state of turmoil rarely witnessed before – bankers, the media too held in contempt.
We have all three party leaders unloved and distrusted to an alarming degree, their manifesto promises lying broken, their so-called principles shattered and the hard-won democratic process in danger of being ignored by the electorate.
And the answer is that Hitler had the evil genius of being able to use the spoken word to manipulate a nation to follow him on a disastrous path to inevitable hell, in many cases people willingly sacrificing their lives for him.
As he waited to commit suicide in his bunker, 1.5 million Berliners were homeless, some 52,000 civilians killed by the rain of bombs from the 14,562 sorties of British planes, more bombs being dropped on Berlin in one year than fell on Britain during the entire war.
He had touched the nerve of a nation that felt humiliated by its treatment after the First World War.
He offered solutions to the bankruptcy Germany – like the world today – faced.
He captured the imagination of people, then abused it in wanting to emulate Napoleon and conquer all.
In a masterful final chapter, Wilson writes: “Hitler’s crude belief in science fed his unhesitating belief in modernity.
He abolished the old black-letter Gothic typeface in which Germans had been producing books since they invented printing, and replaced it with a typeface in conformity with the rest of the Western world.
“He liked the idea of every family possessing a car. He built a system of motorways all over Germany. The mechanized age was one which he assumed to be good.
“In this respect, Hitler was like almost every politician of influence since. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister, he called for every child in every British primary school to be given a laptop computer.
“He was echoing, almost exactly, Hitler’s view.”
Wilson, who lives in Camden Town, insists that Hitler’s story is a prodigy.
“He was able to do so much damage, first in Germany, and then in the rest of the world, because, as well as being an ordinary little man with the most commonplace, boringly modern outlook, he was also a species of magician.
“He was, as his wise critic called him, not the Leader (Führer) but the Seducer (Verführer).
While the commonplace, ordinary side of Hitler insisted that the human race had come of age, that it was now led by reason, not mumbo-jumbo, that it was rational and scientific, the extraordinary Hitler, the Mage-Hitler, the Wizard Hitler, demonstrated the exact opposite to be the case.
“His career showed that human beings in crowds behave as irrationally in modern times as they did in the Dark Ages – possibly more irrationally, since the techniques of modern broadcasting, lighting, film and propaganda can appeal to the darker depths of our chaotic souls more immediately than an old village seer or hell-fire preacher could ever hope to do.
“Hitler’s career proved that human nature was actually as chaotic, as easily led, as superstitious, as passionate as the characters in the wilder Dostoyevsky novels or as the tormented mythological beings in Wagner’s operas.”
So don’t ever say you’ve never been warned. And be thankful that those who claim to represent us don’t have that true electric sparkle when they speak in Parliament and on the box.
• Hitler: A Short Biography. By AN Wilson. Harper Press, £14.99