July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
It is impossible to condemn too strongly the terrible brutality of the killing of millions of people, Jews and others, of which Adolf Eichmann is accused. The majority of people have reacted to the press reports with a demand for his punishment. Learning of Eichmann's deeds, they take the short-sighted view that to deal with him as an individual is enough. But Eichmann is the end product of a vast process; he arose from the inhuman conditions of capitalist society. The very people who condemn him are content to leave those conditions untouched.
The working class, not only in Nazi Germany but in post-war Germany—and throughout the world—blindly support capitalism. None of them can escape responsibility for the consequences. For the power wielded by the rulers of world capitalism is a reflection of the political ignorance of the working class everywhere. It is absurd to blame one man, when he is only the instrument of a policy supported by millions.
After a war, the defeated leaders are vilified, some imprisoned and others executed. The victorious leaders are enshrined as heroes. It is fortunate for the leaders of the 1939-45 Allies that no cloak-and-dagger men are hunting for them. They, too, are responsible for terrible slaughter. President Truman gave the orders for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Churchill, Attlee and Stalin supported this atrocity. In Hiroshima alone, 80,000 people were incinerated in a flash and hundreds more have since died—and are still dying—from various causes. Thousands of Germans were killed in the bombing of Hamburg and in the destruction of Dresden.
These are the vicious conditions which make possible the race hater and the mass exterminator. Although tens of millions of people have been butchered in the last two great wars, the world is not safe. The fear of war is still with us. Nowadays, many nations have vast armaments poised in readiness to exterminate each other. How many future Eichmann's wait to stalk upon the scene?
If only workers would find out why all this madness takes place! War is caused by the struggles between national capitalist Powers over markets and economic resources. This can only be cured by the abolition of capitalism. As long as workers support this system, so will they be vulnerable to the racial theorist who, on nationalist grounds, gets support for his programme of mass murder. The dictators of yesterday, and the dictators and leaders of today, with their frightening military machines, only reflect the preparedness of their workers to ignore the bloodshed of two world wars and still to die for capitalism.
It is futile to punish an individual whilst ignoring the vicious conditions which made him possible. Eichmann was involved in some terrible things—but the exterminations which he so methodically organised are only a part of the greatest atrocity of all—the capitalist system of society. As the movement for a classless world—for Socialism—takes root and spreads, so will the possibility of inhuman murderers like Adolf Eichmann decline and die.