Tuesday, March 07, 2017

13. Destroying Democracy with Democracy

On to chapter fourteen of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. My reviews of the earlier chapters were:
1. "In 1925 we were again one man. In 1926, seventeen thousand; in 1927, over forty thousand; in 1928, over sixty thousand; in 1929, over a hundred and twenty thousand; today (March, 1930), we are over two hundred thousand" (349).

Hitler had come to understand that he could destroy democracy by democracy. He did not need to take over Germany by force. He could use the discontent of the people to get elected on a populist swell, only then to substitute a dictatorship for democracy.

So the discontent in Germany was just great enough in September of 1930 that he was able to get a sixth of the German vote and take 107 seats in parliament. It was far from a majority, but it was enough to start the chain of events that would eventually lead to his take-over of the state.

2. The global economic downturn was a key element of this vacuum of discontent. As the economy went, so inversely went Hitler's popularity. As wages decreased, Hitler increased. "The age characterized by Henry Ford when he said that 'anything which is economically right is also morally right' was drawing to an end" (331).

The US was throwing up tariffs (e.g., the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930), which hurt everyone (including America). Everyone had become a producer, but now no one was a buyer. Farmers had no one to sell to and soon joined Hitler's base. "The discovery of the peasants [farmers] was a master-stroke of National Socialist propaganda" (335), similar to Trump's discovery of the blue-collar worker in the recent election.

So Hitler now would say things like, "Liberation from this slavery is possible only if the German people can sustain itself mainly from its own soil" (337). "In future, soil can be acquired only by him who means to farm it himself" (337). And of course there was always the Jew to blame, although Jews played no actual role in Germany's situation. Like the illegal immigrant and refugee in America currently, they were simply a pretend target behind which to focus collective angst and anger for other reasons, not a real threat.

Germany had been growing financially primarily because of foreign investment. With the global crisis, this source began to dry up quickly and Germany's true financial situation was again revealed.

3. Meanwhile, Hitler was supported by individuals who did not like his entire agenda, but thought he was useful for creating enthusiasm and excitement in Germany as a nation. Hitler would turn on them once his power was secure. You cannot play with a snake and be surprised when you get bit. But they were enamored by "the sight of the endless crowd" (341). And look at the enthusiasm of the youth, even if Hitler was not someone you would want to run Germany.

So Hitler had the armed ex-soldiers from his beginnings. He gained the ex-small farmers. There was increasing anti-capitalist sentiment because only the large-scale property owners were benefiting. The National Socialists joined in street fights between union workers and former soldiers and communists. Goebbels felt that to dominate the streets was eventually to dominate the state.

In a fight between the, at that time, non-Hitler SA and the Hitler SS resulted in a sound defeat for the SS. (They had to call the police for help) But Hitler stepped in and, with his charisma, won the SA in Berlin to his side. Now he was the Führer of the SA.

4. Hitler was able to make these gains in the election of September 1930 because of the inability of those in power to secure a coalition in parliament. As these things go, the Reichstag was dissolved and new elections took place. The existing chancellor, Heinrich Brüning, had hoped to solidify a reliable majority. Oops.

"It is always the greatest triumph for an opposition when a government becomes its own opposition, attacks its own system, adopts the criticism of its adversary" (345).

Meanwhile, the youth just now entering the vote had no sense of social class or political belonging. There were no jobs for them. They easily flocked to the armed ex-soldier from Hitler's beginnings. They were taught a total disregard of humanity, which came not from bloodthirstiness "but from cold calculation--for the vilest horrors of this age have been perpetuated out of cold intellectual calculation and not out of bestial cruelty" (352).

"This Nothing in human form, drawing all the problems and passions of the day into himself by the suction of an empty personality--this was a profound tragedy for Germany, and not only for Germany" (353).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This method sounds familiar! I re-posted something I'd posted during Obama's administration...and I think it might apply today, as well....It is called the Cloward-Pivan Theory to social revolution!
"First proposed in 1966 and named after Columbia University sociologists Richard Andrew Cloward and his wife Frances Fox Piven (both longtime members of the Democratic Socialists of America, where Piven today is an honorary chair), the "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.

"Inspired by the August 1965 riots in the black district of Watts in Los Angeles (which erupted after police had used batons to subdue a black man suspected of drunk driving), Cloward and Piven published an article titled "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty" in the May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation. Following its publication, The Nation sold an unprecedented 30,000 reprints. Activists were abuzz over the so-called "crisis strategy" or "Cloward-Piven Strategy," as it came to be called. Many were eager to put it into effect.
Click on this link to read all about this plan!