Posts Tagged ‘Hindenburg’

May Abuses Constitution to Cling to Power – Just Like Hitler

June 19, 2017

No, this isn’t another example of Godwin’s Law. This is a very real instance where the Tories and the Nazis pursue similar legalistic tactics to seize power without a democratic mandate.

Remember back last summer, when one of the comments incorrectly cited by the Israel lobby to support their accusations of anti-Semitism against one of Corbyn’s supporters was a quote from Martin Luther King? The great civil rights leader had said ‘Everything Hitler did was legal’. Historically, MLK was absolutely right. Hitler and Mussolini came to power through the skillful manipulation of their countries’ democratic institutions and their constitution. They were even careful to make sure that the Holocaust – the horrific mass murder of six million Jews – had a legal basis in the German constitution. A few years ago the Beeb staged a drama documentary of the Wannsee Conference, the infamous secret meeting of the Nazi leaders to plan the genocide of the Jewish people in occupied Europe. At one point the drama showed the Nazi party lawyer briefly raising a point against the enactment of the Holocaust. He wasn’t against it for any moral reason. His only objection to it was his concern that it wouldn’t be legal.

Far from being popular revolutions, as they claimed, the Nazis and the Italian Fascists before them were able to seize power through democratic campaigning, and exploiting the political weakness of their right-wing rivals as the various coalitions that had governed Italy and Germany broke down. The governing right-wing parties needed a coalition partner to form a government. And Mussolini in Italy and then Hitler over a decade later were asked to join them in government. The Fascists and Nazis then exploited the political impasse to become the dominant party in these new, rightist coalitions, and then used a series of political crises to ensure that they became the only party following their victory in an election. In the case of Mussolini, the Fascists with the aid of the right wing of the Liberal party altered the Italian constitution so that the whole of Italy became a single electoral district, thus giving them the majority they needed to seize power as the only permitted political party. If the constitution had not been altered, and the separate, individual electoral districts had retained, Mussolini probably wouldn’t have one the election at all. In fact, he was personally embarrassed by the results. In Mussolini’s home town of Pridappa, nobody voted for him or his thugs.

It’s very clear how this situation also applied to Black Americans before the ending of segregation. America is a democratic state, which prides itself on its constitution and democratic institutions. Yet it was also state where Blacks, and other ethnic minorities, such as its indigenous peoples, were marginalised and oppressed through a set of regulations designed to maintain White political and social dominance, a set of regulations that were clearly anti-democratic in that they violated the fundamental democratic principle of equality for everyone under the law, but which nevertheless also claimed a basis in democracy through the support of the majority.

Now it seems Theresa May is also trying to manipulate the British constitution so she can cling to power without a clear electoral mandate. The elections have resulted in a hung parliament. The Conservatives have the largest number of seats in parliament, but lack an overall majority. So May has been desperately trying to form a coalition with the extremely right-wing DUP, a party with connections to Loyalist terror gangs in Ulster, such as the UDA and UVF. And Mike has also reported how she has cancelled next year’s Queen’s Speech, citing the need to maintain a solid government for Brexit, in order to hang on to another two years of power.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/18/desperate-theresa-may-is-playing-fast-and-loose-with-our-constitution-to-keep-herself-in-power/

I don’t think Brexit is particularly important to May. It certainly isn’t to the great mass of the British people. In a poll, only 15 per cent said it was a priority. However, it is a priority for business, and just about the only issue May has left to campaign on, now that a majority of the British public have shown that they don’t like the promises outlined in the Tory manifesto. The Tories are busily revising this to exclude the most unpopular, such as the Dementia Tax.

Meanwhile, the Tory whips are trying to drum up support for May as this country’s defence against ‘Marxist’ Jeremy Corbyn.

This really is the tactics of the Nazis. The Nazis and the Italian Fascists were crisis regimes. That is, they claimed their mandate to rule through a desperate crisis – the threat of Communism – which was facing their countries. In both cases, the threat of a Communist revolution or insurrection was gone when they seized power. Nevertheless, they were adept at exploiting the fear of a Communist uprising amongst the upper and middle classes.

And they exploited their nations’ constitutional provision for government by presidential decree for the duration of the crisis. This had been invoked by Hindenburg, the right-wing German president, in the late 1920s and first years of the ’30s when the coalition between the SDP, Catholic Centre Party and the Liberal parties broke down. It was then adopted by Adolf Hitler, who used it to keep the regime in power.

The German constitution dictated that the state of emergency could only last four years unless it was renewed. And so every four years, Hitler had to call the Reichstag, which was composed solely of members of the Nazi party, to renew the state of national emergency that kept the Nazis in power.

Similar to the way May is using the crisis of negotiations with the EU to extend her term in parliament beyond her actual democratic mandate to govern.

The Tories are now showing that they’re an active threat to democracy in this country. Blair’s New Labour and the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, passed a series of legislation providing for secret courts. If it is deemed necessary for reasons of national emergency, a person may be tried in secret, with the evidence against him kept from both him-or herself and his/her lawyer. The accused may also not be told the identity of their accuser.

It is exactly the type of legal system that was set up in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

And now May is also seeking to manipulate the British constitution, so she can secure a few more years of rule without the support of the British electorate.

This is another step towards authoritarianism and dictatorship, in which parliament only becomes a rubber stamp, or indeed a democratic fa├žade, for an antidemocratic administration.

This has to be stopped. Now.
May either forms a workable coalition government. If she cannot do so within the next few weeks, then there should be absolutely no question of calling another election.

And this time voting her and her vile party out.

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The Rise of Trump, and Kautsky’s Description of the Mass Appeal of Fascism

September 24, 2016

I found this extract from Karl Kautsky’s “Some Causes and Effects of National Socialism” in the section on Fascism in Lucien Laurat’s Marxism and Democracy (London: Victor Gollancz 1940). It’s footnote 2 on pages 174-5. What struck me was the similarity between Kautsky’s view of the rise on the Nazis in Germany, and some of the factors underlying the rise of Trump today and the increasing right-wing extremism of mainstream politics in Britain. Kautsky wrote

Those masses of the people without political and economic knowledge, drawn into political activity only by the war and its effects, were imbued with militarist ideas and were totally ignorant of political economy. They believed that the will and political power would be sufficient to obtain for them all they desired. These desperate people entirely failed to recognise the existence of economic laws, which must be known before measures can be taken to restore the economic system to health, nor did they see the international character of the crisis, which demanded international remedies.

These elements thirst for power rather than for knowledge; having no confidence in themselves they do not demand that political power should be given into their hands, but into the hands of an individual from whom they expect their salvation, that is to say, an improvement in their personal situation…

In a moment like the present the strength of National Socialist propaganda is very great, particularly as since the war the militarist idea has vanquished the economic idea. A far-sighted strategist is well aware of the importance of the economic element, but the ignorant soldier believes only in the omnipotence of violence. The war with all its evil consequences has reinforced this belief amongst certain classes of the people, so that to-day the crassest petty-bourgeois ignorance believes itself capable of guiding the development of the State and of society without any preliminary study, and solely in accordance with its most pressing needs…

To these circumstances is added the absolute necessity for radical intervention in economic life, the paralysis of parliamentary activity owing to a more or less even balance of party strength, the bankruptcy of the old political parties, the despair not only of the workers, but also of the middle classes and the intellectuals, belief in the omnipotence of violence, and the ignorance of great masses of the people, particularly the youth, with regard to economic and social questions, a phenomenon particularly striking since the World War and for which the war is largely responsible.

This analysis of the rise of Nazism doesn’t completely explain the rise of Trump and the Far Right in America and the Continent today, but there are certain elements common to both. These are:

1. The effects of war and violence.

The West has been at war for about 15 years now following 9/11 against Islamism, and the result has been that all Muslims are regarded by a certain portion of the population with deep suspicion as potential terrorists and a threat to western society. The result has been a rise in xenophobia. At the same time, both America and Britain have at the level of popular culture a deep faith in the ability of the militaries to emerge victorious. All it needs is for us to give more support in terms of personnel and funding to our troops, and al-Qaeda and ISIS will be wiped out. While al-Qaeda and ISIS certainly need and deserve to be wiped completely from the face of the Earth, this simplistic view of ending the present wars through more violence and force ignores the radicalising effect of our attacks and counterattacks on the indigenous population, and the possibility that more peaceful methods, such as sanctions and the freezing of terrorist bank accounts, may be a far better solution.

2. Ignorance of the Economic Causes of the Global Crisis.

The current economic crisis, and the devastation of societies all over the globe, has been brought about through the operation of economic laws. Laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t work, and the neoliberalist economics embraced by politicians of various shades since Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan have been responsible for immense economic, social and political damage. But these are supported uncritically by vast numbers of the population, who revere these figures as saving the country from the threat of socialism or encroaching liberalism. As the real economic causes of the crisis aren’t recognised, people look around to find scapegoats for their ills, finding them in the threat of ethnic minorities.

3. Kautsky’s statement that people’s sense of personal powerlessness leads them to expect and demand salvation from a strong political figure also seems apt. The right has led a campaign over the past three decades and more to destroy the very organised working class organisations, which have acted to protect and empower working people, such as trade unions. And the effect of the recession, with its threat of redundancies and the imposition of zero hours contracts and short-term contracts, has been to make more people feel powerless. As a result, they turn to a strong political figure, like Trump, to give them what they feel they need, rather than empowering themselves through left-wing campaigning and political action.

4. The paralysis of parliamentary activity, and the bankruptcy of the old political parties. The precise circumstances between America today and Weimar Germany of the 1920’s and 1930’s is different, but the overall analysis still holds here as well. Hitler came to power at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the ’30s, when parliamentary democracy in Germany broke down completely. The ruling coalition that governed the country since the end of the First World War between the Social Democrats, Catholic Centre Party and the two Liberal parties collapsed, with the individual parties refusing to cooperate with each other. Hindenburg, the president, began to govern by decree, as provided by the German constitution. He also approached the Nazis to break the deadlock by including them in a coalition which would have the necessary majority. The result was demands by Hitler for total power, and the final collapse of German democracy.

In America, public opinion of congress is extremely low. The power of the corporations to influence politics is such that polls have shown that only 9 to 25 per cent of the American public believe their politicians are doing a good job and representing them. A study by Princeton found that America was no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy because of the corporate nature of American politics.

There are also significant differences, however. While the majority of Trump supporters are middle class, the majority of supporters for Bernie Sanders, the self-confessed democratic socialist, were young. Most of the audience for Fox News is in its late sixties and above. It’s America’s young people, who are challenging the Conservative political establishment of the older generation.

As for Trump’s middle class support, this has been interpreted as disproving the explanation that Trump’s rise is due to the impoverishment of the American working class. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean that the threat of impoverishment isn’t one of the factors behind his rise. One of the causes of the emergence of Fascism in Germany and Italy was the fear of those countries middle classes that they were losing their social status, threatened by big business from above and organised labour from below. Certainly the rise of Trump, and that of the neocons before him, is due to the sense of threat felt by white, middle class men that their privileged social status is under threat from women and ethnic minorities. At the same time, the American middle class is shrinking due to the effect of neoliberal economics in immiserating the broader masses of working people, including salaried employees.

My guess is that much of this analysis also applies to Britain, where many people have the same view of the essential morality and effectiveness of using extreme military force against the peoples of the Middle East; a sense of threat of foreigners and the unemployed taking jobs and support from the dwindling welfare state; an ignorance of the role of Conservativism and neoliberal economics as the direct cause of the growing impoverishment of British society; a feeling of powerlessness that looks to strong leaders to save them; a feeling of despair engendered by a corrupt parliamentary system, dominated by a shared political consensus between left and right in neoliberalism, and permeated with corporate corruption.

What is needed to stop the growth of the extreme right is not just a campaign of anti-racism, but also a renewed assault and abandonment of the prevailing neoliberal consensus. More people need to be shown that not only are immigrants not responsible for poverty and poor welfare provision, but that these have been directly caused by the likes of Thatcher and Reagan. And far from neoliberal and conservative economics being the only effective system, it is possible to challenge these and think outside them, to see them as the real cause of contemporary poverty and the economic and political crisis engulfing America and the world.

Germany, the Rise of the Nazis and the Commemoration of the

March 30, 2016

Terror Topography

I think yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world, or at least, Europe gathers to remember Hitler’s extermination of the Jews in the hope that the commemoration of this most appalling of atrocities will never be repeated. There was a piece about on the radio today, in which one woman pointed out that Hitler felt he could go ahead with it with impunity because the Allies in the First World War had made no move to prevent or protest against the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks. Hitler himself asked, ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ And so the world remembers the Holocaust in order to prevent it ever recurring.

I’ve blogged a lot about Nazi crimes and atrocities in eastern Europe in the past few days. As I said, I’m not trying to stir up resentment against the Germans, but to show how authoritarian Britain and the other countries are going as our constitutional freedoms are sacrificed in the interests of national security and the surveillance state. I’ve also blogged about the Nazi persecution and mass-murder of the Slav peoples of eastern Europe, particularly because Fascism and the Far Right is also growing over there. No-one with any self-respect should have anything to do with any Fascist or Nazi party, and especially not the Slav peoples, such as Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Belorussians, Ukrainians and Russians. After the Nazis had conquered their countries, the Nazis intended to deport them from an area extending from part of Poland into the Ukraine and Russia. 30 million Slavs were to be slaughtered, and the rest were to work as slave labourers cultivating agricultural produce for their German masters. About seven million people were rounded up to work as slave labourers in Germany, while another seven were forced to work for the occupying Nazis in their countries. Himmler compared the process to the Western European occupation and colonisation of Africa. He declared that eastern Europe ‘was our Africa, and the Slavs are our negroes’.

I don’t believe that the rise of the Nazis was inevitable, or that it was the natural culmination of German history. Indeed, in the 19th century there was less anti-Semitism in Germany than in France or England, and some of the pseudo-scientific elements of Nazism – the perverted racial theory and eugenics, were part of the general intellectual climate in the West at the time. The Nazis boasted that they had invented nothing. They based their own eugenics legislation on contemporary American laws intended to prevent the biologically unfit from breeding, while their 19th century predecessors in the various anti-Semitic organisations also based their demands for legislation separating Jews and gentiles on American laws governing Chinese immigrant workers.

Nor did all Germans quietly acquiesce as the Nazis seized power. In the last democratic elections held before the Nazi seizure of power, the Nazis themselves only won 44% of the vote. They only gained a bare majority through their alliance with the Nationalists, who only polled 8%. And this was after a campaign of intimidation throughout Germany and the banning of the German Communist Party, the KPD. The mainstream German Socialist party, the SPD, continued to resist the Nazis until the very end. They only lost a single seat, and ended up with 120 in the German parliament. The Catholic Centre Party, another of the major pillars of the Weimar coalition governments, actually increased the number of seats they held by three to 73. In the end, however, it was only the SPD, which voted against the Enabling Act. Otto Wels read out the SPD’s gave the party’s farewells to the previous era of Human Rights and humanity and gave its good wishes to political prisoners and the enemies of the regime, who even then were being rounded up and put in the camps. The address’ conclusion ran:

At this historic hour, we German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and Socialism. No Enabling Law can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible. You yourself have declared your commitment to Socialism. The Socialist Law [of 1878] did not succeed in destroying Social Democracy. From this new persecution too German Social Democracy can draw new strength. We send greetings to the persecuted and oppressed. We greet our friends in the Reich. their steadfastness and loyalty deserve admiration. The courage with which they maintain their convictions and their unbroken confidence guarantee a brighter future.

There have been problems after the War with the persistence of Neo-Nazi groups, like the National Democratic Party and the German Republican Party. There has also been the injustice that many Nazis did escape and were not prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. And one of the complaints by some foreign writers was that the collective guilt about the Nazi past made many Germans unwilling to discuss it with their children, leaving some unprepared when they encountered it and its legacy.

On the other hand, the Germans have enacted legislation to protect democracy against the rise of totalitarianism. Under the terms of the Basic Law, the Grundgesetz, the only parties and political movements which are permitted are those which recognise the basic principles of democracy. And it has been invoked to ban neo-Nazi movements, most notably in the 1970s when it was used to outlaw the National Democrats. And there have been exhibitions and books discussing the Third Reich, its rule through fear and intimidation, and commemorating its victims.

One such is the book at the top of the page, Topographie des Terrors: Gestapo, SS und Reichssicherheitshauptamt auf dem >>Prinz-Albrecht-Gelaende<< Eine Dokumentation, ‘Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office at the >>Prinz-Albrech-Site<< A Documentation (Berlin: Verlag Wilmuth Arenhoevel 1988)'. This was published as part of an exhibition following negotiations about the redevelopment of the site and the commemoration of its past as the headquarters of the Nazi security organisations in 1979/80. Mike brought my copy of the book back with him when he went there with his old college.

The book has the following chapters:

Introduction.
1. Headquarters of the SS State: Addresses and Institutions.
2. History of that party of the City and the Building.
2.1 A quite district on the City’s Edge (1732-1880)
2.2 The Quarter’s Career.
2.3 Departure and Crisis

3. Institutions of Terror
3.1. The Reichsfuhrer of the SS and his Reich
3.2. Seizure of Power and Early Terror
3.3 The Secret State Police
3.4 The Reichfuhrer-SS’ Security Service
3.5 Reich Security’s Main Office
3.6 ‘House Prison’ and Political Prisoners (1933-39)
3.7 ‘Protection’.
3.8. Concentration Camps.

4. Persecution, Annihilation, Resistance
4.1 The Fate of the German Jews 1933-38.
4.2 The Fate of the German Jews 1939-45
4.3 The Fate of the Gypsies.
4.4. Nazi Rule in Europe – Poland
4.5 Nazi Rule in Europe – the Soviet Union
4.6 Nazi Rule in Europe – Other Countries
4.7 Political Resistance and ‘House Prison’ (193945)

5. From Destruction to Rediscovery
5.1 Bombs and Rubble
5.2 The First Year after the War.
5.3 History Made Invisible.
5.4 The Return of the Repressed.

6. Appendix
6.1 Bibliography
6.2. Abbreviations
6.3 Lists of Texts
6.4 Lists of Illustrations
6.5 Register of Names.

Among the illustrations are the following pictures of the Reich’s atrocities.

Concentration Camp Labour

Forced labour at Neugamme Concentration Camp

Roll Call Sachsenhausen

Roll-call at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Deportation of Gypsies

Gypsies being deported.

Kaunas Pogrom

Pogrom initiated by members of Einsatzgruppe A in Kaunas/ Kowno.

In addition to the well-known opponents of the regime, many ordinary Germans also risked their lives to rescue the Jews. Some 5,000 Jews survived in Berlin after being hidden by gentile friends and neighbours. One Jewish woman left this memoir of how she was hidden by a Germany lawyer.

I was constantly sent for by the Gestapo. In 1942 these interrogation sessions became even more threatening and therefore went underground. In the middle of May 1942 I went to Silesia and stayed in several places without officially registering myself. I lived in Breslau, Gleiwitz, Hindenburg, in the countryside and Spahlitz (in the district of Oels). It was here that I remained hidden for months at the house of a German lawyer … (Later after I was arrested this brave amn had another Jewish woman hidden in his house)…

(Wiener Library, Eye Witness Accounts, PIIc, no. 153. In D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) p. 95.

The horrors of the Third Reich need to be remembered, but so too does the heroism of the people, who did their level best to stop, and at least save those they could from its barbarism.