Capitalism's Victor's Justice: The Hidden Story of the Prosecution of Industrialists Post-WWII
UNTOLD STORIES: HIDDEN HISTORIES OF WAR CRIMES TRIALS, G. Simpson & K. Heller, eds., Oxford University Press, 2012
Posted: 21 Feb 2012
Date Written: October 31, 2011
It is well known that in the "subsequent trials" held in Nuremberg by the U.S. military occupation in post-WWII Germany, the directors of three of Germany’s largest industrial combines (and one banker), were prosecuted for their roles in the Nazi aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity. What has remained largely hidden, is how U.S. foreign and economic policy influenced, first, the decision to try these individuals, the subsequent conduct of the trials and eventually the early release of the convicted business leaders. With the commencement of the Cold War, the role of economic actors in instigating WWII, which had once been a point of agreement among the Allies, became a point of sharp ideological divide. Henceforth the "economic case" as it had been called in the main international trial at Nuremberg, was moved over to the hidden side in the West. It remained visible only in GDR/Soviet discourse. Likewise, the omission of zaibatsu leaders from the Tokyo International Tribunal hid the Allies’ expressed conviction that also the war on the Eastern front had been one of economic imperialism. With this, over time, the way we conceptualise and explain international conflict in mainstream Western (legal) discourse changed, and as a result, whose accountability is sought through international criminal law (ICL). Together, these reflect capitalism’s hidden victor’s justice. Post-WWII, and indeed post-Cold War, renewed impetus for international cooperation including in the sphere of international criminal law (ICL), did not lead to the application of ICL to the explicitly economic actors in conflict. Instead, the economic causes of contemporary conflict are again hidden behind nationalist, racialised, religious etc. explanations in recent ICL prosecutions. As such, to paraphrase Miéville, the de facto immunity of business leaders, a necessary ingredient of economic imperialism, is ICL.
Keywords: International criminal law, Nuremberg trials, World War II, corporate accountability, Marxist theory of law, ideology, hegemony, imperialism, US occupation of Germany, Marshall Plan, Cold War
JEL Classification: B24, F23, K14, K33, M14, N44, P12, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation