Sunday, August 18, 2019

Fascists Don't Kick In Our Doors. They Don't Have To, We Leave Them Unlocked.

The United States is degenerating into a fascist nation. I always point out that for all the adherents of the radical right there are more decent Americans appalled at what is happening to their country. I'm no longer convinced that's more than just whistling past the graveyard.

How could fascism take hold in America when most of the populace finds it repugnant? Well, how did it take hold in Germany in the 30s?

Let's look at a passage from the memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, an upper middle class German who grew up during the Weimar Republic, began a legal career only to see the rise of the National Socialists. He watched as his society succumbed to fascism before he fled, with his Jewish-born wife and infant to Britain as war approached.  On Haffner's death his son used those diaries to publish a memoir, "Defying Hitler."

Here is how Sebastian Haffner saw what happened as Hitler rose to power:

The Complacent Revolution
The Nazis celebrate the 30th of January as their day of revolution. They are wrong. There was no revolution on the 30th of January, 1933, just a change of government. Hitler became Chancellor, by no means the Fuhrer of a Nazi regime (the cabinet contained only two Nazis apart from him). The general opinion was that it was not the Nazis who had won, but the bourgeois parties of the Right, who had 'captured' the Nazis and held all the key positions in the Government. In constitutional terms, events had taken a much more conventional, un-revolutionary course than most of what had happened during the previous six months...

The morning headline was 'Hitler called to President'. That produced a certain nervous, impotent irritation. Hitler had been called to the President in August and November. He had been offered the vice-chancellorship and then the chancellorship. Both times he had set impossible conditions, and both times there had been solemn declarations 'Never again...' Each time, 'never again' had lasted exactly three months...

At midday the headline said: 'Hitler makes impossible demands'. We nodded, half reassured. It was only too credible. It would have gone against his nature to ask for less than too much.

At about five o'clock the evening papers arrived: 'Cabinet of National Unity formed - Hitler Reichschancellor'.

...That evening I discussed the prospects of the new Government with my father. We agreed that it had a good chance of doing a lot of damage, but not much chance of surviving very long; a deeply reactionary government with Hitler as its mouthpiece. ...Even with the Nazis it would not have a majority in the Reichstag. Of course that would always be dissolved, but the Government had a clear majority of the population against it, in particular the working class, which would probably go Communist, now that the Social Democrats had completely discredited themselves. One could prohibit the Communists, but that would only make them more dangerous. ...Besides, who were the people who had suddenly started voting Nazi in the last three years? Misguided ignoramuses for the most part, victims of propaganda, a fluctuating mass that would fall apart at the first disappointment. No, all things considered, this government was not a cause for alarm. The only question was what would come after it. It was possible that they would drive the country to civil war...

The next day this turned out to be the general opinion of the intelligent press. It is curious how plausible an argument it is, even today, when we know what came next. How could things turn out so completely differently? Perhaps it was just because we were all so certain that they could not do so - and relied on that with far too much confidence. So we neglected to consider that it might, if the worst came to the worst, be necessary to prevent the disaster from happening.
The Deadly Illusion of Normalcy
Through the whole of February 1933 everything that happened remained a matter of the press, in other words, it took place in an arena that would lose all reality for 99 per cent of the population the moment there were no newspapers. ...The Nazis no longer felt any restraint; with their gangs, they regularly broke up election meetings of other parties. They shot one or two political opponents every day. ...The new Prussian regional interior minister (a Nazi: a certain Captain Goring) promulgated an incredible decree. It ordered the police to intervene in any brawl on the side of the Nazis, without investigating the rights and wrongs of the matter, and furthermore to shoot at the other side without prior warning.

All this was still something one only read about in the press. There were brown SA uniforms on the streets, demonstrations, shouts of 'Heil', but otherwise it was 'business as usual'.

...I must admit that I was inclined to view the undisturbed functioning of the law, and indeed the continued normal course of daily life, as a triumph over the Nazis. They would behave as raucously and wildly as they wished. They could still only stir up the political surface. The depths of the ocean of life remained unaffected.
The March Revolution

The Nazi revolution of March 1933 was not a revolution. Everything went strictly 'by the book', using means that were permitted by the constitution. At first there were 'emergency decrees' by the President of the Reich, and later a bill was passed by a two-thirds majority of the Reichstag giving the Government unlimited legislative powers, perfectly in accordance with the rules for changing the constitution.

...From a simple common-sense point of view, one would say that the essential characteristic of a revolution is that people violently attack the established order and its representatives, police, army, etc., and overcome them. ...At all events, we expect revolutionaries to be on the attack, to show courage, risk their lives.

None of that was to be found in March, 1933. The events were a combination of the most disparate ingredients. What was completely absent was any act of courage or spirit by any of the participants. The month of March demonstrated that the Nazis had achieved an unassailable position of power: through terror, celebration and rhetoric, treachery and finally a collective breakdown - a million individuals suffered a nervous collapse. More bloodshed had accompanied the birth of many European states, but none came into being in a more loathsome way.

European history knows two forms of terror. The first is the uncontrollable explosion of bloodlust in a victorious mass uprising. The other is cold, calculated cruelty committed by a victorious state as a demonstration of power and intimidation. ...It was left to the Nazis to combine both forms of terror. ...The external picture was one of revolutionary terror: a wild unkempt mob breaking into homes at night and dragging defenceless victims to the torture chambers. The internal process was repressive terror: cold, calculated, official orders, directed by the state and carried out under the full protection of the police and armed forces.
The Last Election, a Cowed People Votes
These elections, the last that were ever held in pre-war Germany, brought the Nazis only 44 per cent of the votes... The majority was still against the Nazis. If you consider that terror was in full swing, that the parties of the Left had been prohibited from all public activity in the decisive final week before the elections, you have to admit that the German people as a whole had behaved quite decently. However it made no difference at all.

A week later Hindenburg abolished the Weimar national flag, which was replaced by theswastika banner and a black, white and red 'temporary national flag'. There were daily parades, mass meetings, declarations of gratitude for the liberation of the nation, military music from dawn to dusk, award ceremonies for heroes, the dedication of flags and, as a final climax, the tasteless display of the 'Day of Potsdam'.

...The weather in March, 1933 was glorious. Was it not wonderful to celebrate in the spring sunshine, in squares decked with flags? To merge with the festive crowds and listen to high-sounding patriotic speeches about freedom, and fatherland, and holy vows? (It was certainly better than having one's belly pumped up with a water hose in some hidden SA cellar).

People began to join in - at first mostly from fear. After they had participated, they no longer wanted to do so just from fear. That would have been mean and contemptible. so the necessary ideology was supplied. That was the spiritual basis of the National Socialist revolution.

True, something further was necessary to achieve all this. That was the cowardly treachery of all party and organizational leaders, to whom the 56 per cent of the population who voted against the Nazis on the 5th of March had entrusted themselves. ...Naturally the Nazis had no interest in drawing attention to it, since it would considerably devalue their 'victory', and as for the traitors themselves: well, of course, they did not want to draw attention to it. Nevertheless , it is finally only this betrayal that explains the almost inexplicable fact that a great nation, which cannot have consisted entirely of cowards, fell into ignominy without a fight.
One by one, the opposition parties, Left to Right, abandoned the German people. Communist Party officials looked for the exit doors, emigrating to refuge. The Social Democrats capitulated:
In the month before they were finally dissolved, the Social Democratic faction in the Reichstag had unanimously expressed their confidence in Hitler and joined in the singing of the Horst Wessel Song, the Nazi anthem.

The great middle-class, Catholic party, Zentrum, hd already fallen in March. It was this party that supplied the votes necessary for the two-thirds majority that 'legalized' Hitler's dictatorship.

Finally, the German nationalists, the right-wing conservatives, who venerated 'honour' and 'heroism' as the central characteristics of their programme. Oh God, what an infinitely dishonourable and cowardly spectacle their leaders made in 1933 and continued to make afterwards! One might at least have expected that, once their claim in January proved illusory - that they had 'tamed' the Nazis and 'rendered them harmless' - they would act as a 'brake' and 'prevent the worst'. Not a bit of it. They went along with everything: the terror, the persecution of the Jews, the persecution of Christians. They were not even bothered when their own party was prohibited, and their own members arrested.
...There was not one single example of energetic defence, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight and desertion. In March 1933 millions were ready to fight the Nazis. Overnight they found themselves without leaders. Some tried to join the Stahlhelm and the German nationalists, when it became clear that none of the others were going to fight. For a few weeks their membership numbers showed an exceptional rise, then the organization was disbanded - and it, too, capitulated without a fight.

...It was out of this treachery of its opponents, and the feeling of helplessness, weakness and disgust that it aroused that the Third Reich was born. In the elections of the 5th of March the Nazis had remained a minority. If there had been elections three weeks later, the German people would almost certainly have given them a true majority. This was not just the result of the terror, or intoxication resulting from the constant festivities. The decisive cause was the anger and disgust with the cowardly treachery of their own leadership. That had become for a moment stronger than the rage and hate against the real enemy. Hundreds of thousands, who had until then been opponents, joined the Nazi Party in March 1933.
I had been meaning to post these passages from  Haffner's chilling memoir for some time now but the white nationalist, anti-fa rallies in liberal Portland this weekend and Trump's warning at his latest rally that his government might declare the anti-fa a terrorist movement and would be "keeping its eye" on Portland left me asking myself if not now, when.

Trump is no Hitler. Trump is stupid and lazy. He does, however, prove that you don't have to be as smart and tenacious as that German lunatic to be every bit as devious, ruthless and destructive of your own country.  Complacency, among the opposition and within the population can be all the leg up any tyrant requires.


Gyor said...

America isn't becoming facist, it will still have elections.

And in 2020 Trump will lose unless DNC corruption screws everything up again (and the DNC is cheating to screw over Tulsi Gabbard who they fear).

Rural said...

I briefly alluded to this a while ago (in one of my now rare posts), frankly it scares the shit outa me, the parallels between what happened then and what is happening now, not just in U.S.of EH, is Just a forerunner of what COULD happen if our electorate does not wake up. Not that the choices are very good either way!!

rumleyfips said...

The Portland Proud Poodles this weekend had a disheartening experience. Outnumbered 3 or 4 to 1 the Load Boys were faced with ; a brass band in banana costumes, a dancing unicorn, clowns and worst of all The March of the Corgis. The people of Portland laughed at Donnie's Dorks and they left within half an hour protected from the killer corgis by all of Portland's police.

The influence and power of Trumps Troopers has been faced down. Hopefully this will continue.

Anonymous said...

Tulsa Gabbard is currently polling at 1% nationally. The only polls she's ever led were the Drudge Report and Breitbart News spot polls after the July 31st debates. This far-right, fake news favourite is your champion of democracy?! Give your head a shake!


tf said...

There are many parallels between the rise of Trumpism in the USA of the 2010s and the apparent ease of the rise of Nazism in Germany of the 1930s.
Just watched a dramatized version of Albert Speer's memoir - Inside the 3rd Reich - where Rutger Hauer plays Speer as an eager innocent and devoted follower of Hitler. The program tries to capture how one person, along with the general public, can get caught up in the euphoria of a "crazed" leader - at rallies, in rhetoric, in disenfranchisement, in scapegoating the "other". How the lust for power, prestige and money can close your eyes to the realities of fascism.
We can lose our freedoms in the blink of an eye; look to history to see what "can" happen.
Thanks for the writings!

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, Gyor, America is no longer a democracy, voting notwithstanding. Just as 30s Germany saw a betrayal by the traditional political parties, the Dems have failed to protect the nation from the political capture of the "bought and paid for" Congress, the executive branch, the regulatory branch and, now, the judiciary. Read the 2014 Princeton study by Gilens and Page that found the national government no longer responsive to the electorate.

In Canada we're fed electoral platforms that are largely horse shit, all with the objective of seizing the 'brass ring' which amounts to somewhat less than two votes out of five, enough to ensure a solid majority of seats without the consent of the majority of the governed.

All of which proves that voting is not necessarily synonymous with democracy.

Political religion, the evolution of today's military/industrial/neo-conservative,Christian fundamentalist/corporate warfighting complex and perma-war, gerrymandering and the rise of the surveillance state, all these and more are the markers of modern fascism. It doesn't have to be in the model of the Fuhrer so long as the instincts prevail.

The Mound of Sound said...

Rural, I pretty much agree with all of your observations and concerns. It's the near absence of public outrage that most worries me.

The Mound of Sound said...

Rumley, I don't share your confidence. The Repugs are not constituted to revert to the 'party of Lincoln' once Trump is gone. There are too many acolytes in the wings waiting to continue his relentless onslaught on American democracy. Spend a couple of hours watching a Senate or House committee hearing and you'll see what I mean.

The Mound of Sound said...

Cap, I don't know what to make of this business about Tulsi Gabbard. I wasn't aware she was a contender for the Dem nomination and it seems she isn't.

The Mound of Sound said...

TF, in addition to 'Defying Hitler,' you might find 'They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45' by a German-speaking American Jew, Milton Mayer.

The author relocated to Germany after the war and managed to 'pass' as an ordinary citizen. He zeroed in on 10 Germans and focused on their perceptions of Hitler, the Nazi party and what Germany went through before, during and in the aftermath of the war.

"'They Thought They Were Free' cuts through the noise, revealing instead the slow accretions of change, complicity, and abdication of moral authority that quietly mark the rise of evil."

Anonymous said...

"The Nazis no longer felt any restraint; with their gangs, they regularly broke up election meetings of other parties. They shot one or two political opponents every day. ...The new Prussian regional interior minister promulgated an incredible decree. It ordered the police to intervene in any brawl on the side of the Nazis, without investigating the rights and wrongs of the matter, and furthermore to shoot at the other side without prior warning."

Sweet! Unfortunately I assume Germany was at least 95% white when Hitler took power. America is only 60% white and dropping so it looks like the Eternal Jew won after all.

Now the Krauts can have Muslim rape gangs, terrorist attacks, and Drag Queen story hours instead! Progress!

How about those hundreds and hundreds of acid attacks in your jolly ol England Mound? Dieversity is our strength, dontcha know?

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, I needed a moment to ponder what you remind me of but then it came to me. My dad and my uncles were the original anti-fa and they spent a few productive years shooting and bombing people with whom you would be quite comfortable.

Now, like some sort of toenail fungus, your kind is back. Degenerates Uber Alles, I suppose.

In other circumstances I would have deleted your post but it is an object lesson of the vermin in our midst.

Anonymous said...

No comment on the Muslim rape gangs trafficking young girls or the ever increasing acid attacks? Knife crime? Lee Rigby? The Subway bombings? Westminister bridge? The Ariana Grande concert massacre? Nothing? Part and parcel I suppose eh Moundy? Geez I hope I can be a morally superior boomer one day and turn a blind eye too!

Anonymous said...

Here's a story from your neck of the woods Mound. There's a mentally ill man named "Jessica Yaniv" who has been suing small immigrant-run beauty salons for refusing preform a Brazilian on him (in other words refusing to wax his Male genetilia). He's using the BC human rights commission to sue these poor women out of business.

This is what your dad and uncles fought for. Some legacy.

The Mound of Sound said...

Every right-wing nutjob kills in the name of his God, Anon. Fundamentalism, whether Islamic, Judaic or Christian, is a murderous business and a lasting scourge. It affords everyone a mortal enemy and a litany of plausible grievances. Do try to get over your sanctimonious self.

Anonymous said...

Milliennial Facist/White Supremist 5:24, 5:58, 6:21 - Have you been to Europe? I have frequently been there many times in the last four years and you are clueless. There are no Muslim rape gangs, that's a bullshit story peddled by your facist friends. Acid attacks are by the gangs and criminals who have had their knifes and guns confiscated in the crackdown. There are 500 million people in Europe, way more than North America but their crime rate is much lower than in North America, not including Canada. I have been to Manchester before the terrorist attack and I would go again because it's relatively safe there. I've also been to Liverpool and Birmingham, in those supposedly no go zones full of Muslims which don't exist. I've stayed at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas as well. A few years back I walked past a homeless person putting a gun in the same place Tomi Lahren stores her gun. This was in Hollywood. Europe is much safer than the USA, much safer than Mexico where one million Canadians holiday every year. Europe is safer than Seattle, a city I spend a lot of time in. Grow up junior and stop spreading lies.

mr perfect

Anonymous said...

No Muslim rape gangs? Ok Mr Denial.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, you've crossed the line of acceptable discourse on this blog. You're a thoroughly nasty piece of work. BTW, my daughter lives and works in Europe along with many of her girlfriends from Canada. Dublin, London, Stockholm, Prague, Budapest, Malacca and more. Neither my daughter nor any of her friends nor her betrothed (who has lived there all his life) know the Europe you describe in your hate-filled screed. As I said, in better times we used to shoot, shell and bomb people who said the same things you're saying. We didn't do that because we were offended by the speech so much as what it led to.

tf said...

Thanks Mound!

I'll check out both books.

I copy a comment from goodreads about They Thought They Were Free --

"Dr. Meyer's book shows how everyday people who feel themselves threatened, learn to conform to a gradually more encroaching authoritarianism, how difficult it is to recognize where one's accustomed life is being redirected, and how extremely difficult it is for anyone to effectively resist."

When people are made to feel afraid, they can be highly motivated to follow a charlatan; a "flamboyant deceiver".

The Mound of Sound said...

'They Thought They Were Free' is not the easiest read, TF, and it's certainly no 'feel good' work.

I've been engaged in this from my youth. When I was about 10 I would wonder how the German nation turned Nazi. I was studying classical piano - Handel, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach and such and deeply admired their genius. I loved to play their music.

At home we got by. My dad was horribly wounded in the war, two bullets and the worst, shrapnel. Scars on his torso, his arms, his legs and his face from the devastating shell fragments. A lung gone, about half his stomach, two thirds of his upper and lower intestine. One uncle dead, another a psychological basket case/drunk. All good men and true.

They patched my dad up as best they could. They kept him alive but every other year or three it would go wrong and then it would be a race to get blood into him faster than he was bleeding out. What a mess. Do you know the godawful smell of blood when it pours out of your arsehole? I do.

What I'm leading up to is that I wondered, at that early age, how the German people could be so gifted, so talented and then, suddenly, so evil, monstrous. I pondered whether there was something inherently malevolent in the Germans or, given the right cirumstances, could we be as bad or worse.

What does the rise of this foul right wing fascist movement tell us about ourselves? How did these 'ignoramuses' get so drawn to the dark side?

I fear that today we've become a bit like Haffner's Germans of the 30s. They needed to fight back but they were abandoned by their leaders.

We tolerate these pukes like the slime who left the "Eternal Jew" reference in these comments. I wasn't embellishing my upbringing in noting that my dad and my uncles had left their loved ones and put it all on the line so that they could shoot, shell and bomb people who thought as he does and then put it into action.

Anonymous said...

"How could fascism take hold in America when most of the populace finds it repugnant? Well, how did it take hold in Germany in the 30s?" I too have read "Defying Hitler", and other books. One of the biggest problems was the indifference of journalism and news papers. They (journalists) refused to rouse the German population as to what they knew was happening thinking it would go away. When Trump wants to buy Greenland, you know what he is doing.
It will be Canada next and that is not far-fetched. Anyong

tf said...

Hi Mound,
Back to the comments of your posting and read your response. It's so important to hear where people come from and their experiences. Thank you to your family, your father, and all of those who went to Europe to fight. Little did they know what would happen.
My parents both were children in occupied Holland. My mother lost both of her parents in 1943; her father was shipped to Berlin to work in the factories and died under allied bombs.
Yet the stories my parents tell are of childhood, living through confusing times and learning their German neighbours were fighting them.
I've spent my life trying to understand the unfathomable grief that everyone carries from those times, not so much anger, but grief. And I wonder how we can prevent that from happening to children today.
The worst that I see today - besides the intolerable imbecile sitting behind the desk in the oval office - is the affect his actions and words have on the kids. When I see those young people on camera behind him at his rallies, I shake my head at the parents who expose their children to such disrespect. Or the policies against children at the US southern border. I know the impact on those children will affect them and their own children for generations. It can't be underestimated - lost generations of children caused by a careless charlatan and his authoritarian policies. It's insidious.
Thanks again Mound!