A lot of Right Wing radio commentators toss around the word “Nazi” these days and it seems that many of them have no idea what they are talking about. Of all absurd things, they call the President a Nazi at times when they are really getting loony. President Barack Obama is a man whom many Democrats think is too much like the Republicans. Actually, if he is too much like the Republicans…maybe….well, he’s not.
So you hear it all the time. You’re a Nazi. I’m a Nazi. Everyone is a Nazi. No one is a Nazi.
So, which is it? What are the facts? Well, strictly by definition, the right answer is no one. Nazis were Fascists in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. So when we talk about Nazis, that’s it. No politician of the twenty first century is a Nazi. Nazis had a philosophy that literally caused the deaths of 50 million people around the world in a matter of only six years.
So why do people call other people Nazis? They want to accuse others of being the worst type of human being possible. There are some pretty rotten people around these days, and some of them are politicians. They are not Nazis. But one could say that some could be called Neo-Fascists.
The Fascist political philosophy began in Western Europe in the period after the First World War and before the Second World War. So all Nazis were technically Fascists, but not all Fascists were Nazis. But Fascism, as delivered by Germans and Italians, was was the cause of the Second World War.
Fascism is a political philosophy that has an exaggerated value of one’s own country–ultra nationalism. Today, we have a term that the Right uses inaccurately to describe this country. It is “American Exceptionalism.” It has some meaning, but very little in the way that it is used by Republican politicians.
After all many countries are exceptional, each in its own way. The Chinese people are exceptional. Their economy is growing at eight per cent per year. Ours is growing at less than two percent. The Chinese people are making their economy advance at wage rates for which Americans would simply lay down their tools.
Is American Exceptionalism our military prowess? So, if it is, then the Roman Empire was also exceptional…and for that matter…remember the Nazis? They were horrid but exceptional enough militarily that it took France, Great Britain, Australia, the Soviet Union, Canada and most of the free world, including the Unites States to defeat…basically…Germany.
Do we want our “exceptionalism” to be domineering and occupying military forces like the Roman Empire or like the Ottoman Empire? Or do we want to be more like Western Europe and Scandinavia today…peaceful and helpful? Most Americans would definitely opt for the latter.
When a country becomes obsessed with exceptionalism it means that they have an exaggerated idea of their importance to the rest of the world, and that means hyper-nationalism. That particular political philosophy, when aligned with heavy industry and the military itself…leads to Imperialism.
Imperialism is when one country sees itself as dominant in the world or an area of the world. It does not mean that the country is always tyrannical. But believing that its opinions, its values and its systems are self-evidently those that everyone else should follow always leads to circumstances where other people’s interests are moved aside for those of the imperialists. That is wrong and that is why imperialism is wrong.
Of course, when Americans talk about American Exceptionalism they mean our imaginative approach to Capitalism and free enterprise and our highly open and mobile society. They mean our inventions and our mass merchandising and our development of life-changing products.
But mostly, America has meant a lifestyle for a Middle Class that is the envy of the rest of the world. People come here to live from other places because, in America, one can find an opportunity for work, and an income and a home and family. We have good roads and clean water and good schools for children. All that is our exceptionalism. But some people, some very selfish, very wealthy people, want to change all that.
Lets return to the Nazis for a minute. Wasn’t the word Nazi made up of “National” and “Socialism?” Weren’t they Socialists? Actually, the Nazis left off the Socialist path as early as the late 1920’s and Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1932. By then they were aligned with the heavy industrial leaders and the financiers of Germany. Even to them, the Nazi leadership appealed to patriotism and German “exceptionalism.”
The Nazis were the most popular party but not the majority party. The Nazis came to power in a compromise in which General Von Hindenburg, the leader among the political parties was finally persuaded against his will to approve a compromise in which Hitler was made Chancellor. That was in November 1932. Now see how fast things can happen in a supposedly free and cultured society…if they let that one little piece of bigotry elect the wrong person.
Hitler promised elections again in March of 1933. One week before the election the Capitol building (the Reichstag) burned down and Hitler blamed the Communist Party. (We now know that the Nazis burned down the Reichstag and blamed the Communists He asked for special powers from President Hindenburg and got them.
He held the March 1933 elections and finally gained a majority in the German parliament. But there were still more than 12 million people who voted against him, even though those parties had been disbanded and were illegal. Hitler immediately tried to enact the Enabling Law which said that within 24 hours after any legislation signed by the Chancellor, it was law. With no Communists or Socialists allowed in the building, the legislation making Hitler dictator was passed immediately.
Within a month, all federal, provincial and local government leadership positions were transferred to members of the Nazi Party. Within two months, trade unions were abolished. Their union funds were confiscated and union leaders were imprisoned. Within four months, all other political parties were made illegal, leaving the Nazis as the one and only political party in Germany.
And, almost simultaneous with the Enabling Law, Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany was established in March of 1933.
A man named Hjalmar Schacht, the head of the Reichsbank or national bank, introduced Hitler to a number of industrialists who helped finance his rise to power and simultaneously helped him build up a military force, even though to do so was against international restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War.
The Nazis were a paramilitary organization from the outset, basically a gang who took on the Communists in street battles in a country in deep financial trouble after a gigantic inflationary bubble had burst with the world wide Depression. Men like Schacht helped them ally with very powerful forces that would finance an organization that the industrialists saw would do their bidding…for a price. The price, unfortunately for them, became too high…war, destruction and total devastation of their enterprises.
But the Nazis were basically nationalists, you say. And, yes, you might say, they were prejudiced against the Jews, but that was not new. Anti-Semitism was a traditional problem going back centuries in Europe and the Slavic countries and Russia, with pogroms occurring before the Middle Ages.
The fact is that the Nazis did not merely persecute the Jews. So if you think that zealous ideologues will spare their own…think again. Do not think that you would be safe if you were a Nazi. If Nazis were here today, no one would be safe. In an irrational world, not even the irrational are safe.
For example, in April of 1945, as the war was coming to a close, approximately 140 people were removed from Dachau concentration camp. Internment in Dachau could be a death sentence. Not everyone at Dachau was gassed and cremated. But there would be thousands of people in a barracks building originally built to house 250. Many people died of typhus, others were shot. Many of these people were non-Jews. They were simply victims of the insanity that happens when an ideology takes over the minds of men.
This group of 140 people were gathered together, put in trucks and moved from Dachau to another location in southern Tyrol on orders of the SS and transported by SS guards. Some members of the Army, hearing this, and knowing that the SS was often the vehicle for people that the Nazi leaders wanted eliminated, decided to intervene. When the prisoners arrived at the new location in Tyrol, far southern Germany, they surrounded the building. The surprised SS troops, not knowing what to do but knowing that the war was about to end, departed.
Once it was discovered who these people were, it became obvious that no matter what your rank or your allegiances or your status among politicians, or scholars or royalty…once the world goes crazy and follows a fanatical dictator…anyone is vulnerable.
Who were these people? They were distinguished men and their wives. There were families that had done nothing except perhaps disagree with Adolph Hitler.
Among the members who had been interned in Dachau, preparing for death, was one Leon Blum. Leon Blum before the war had been a famous French politician who later became Prime Minister of France—under the Nazis—the head of the Vichy government. And his wife.
Another was Kurt Schuschnigg the Chancellor of Austria who similarly fell out of favor and Richard Schmitz, the mayor of Vienna. Still another was Alexandros Papagos, Commander in Chief of the Greek Army. And Miklos Kallay, Prime Minister of Hungary.
Among the Germans were Franz Halder, former Chief of Staff of the entire German Army, and his wife. There was Wilhelm Von Flugge, the Director of I.G. Farben, the huge chemical company which at that time was the fourth largest corporation in the world. It was as if you took the Chairman of Dow Chemical off the street and put him in a concentration camp, marked for death.
There was Prince Philipp of Hesse, (Germany) in case you think being royalty would keep you out of the concentration camps. He was the grandson of the great Prussian King Frederich III, and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and related to virtually every royal house of Europe.
Then there was Fritz Thyssen, owner of Thyssen industries, coal and steel and one of the oldest and largest corporations in Germany, and himself an early Nazi. This shows what happens when you are a true believer when things are good, but try to get out when things go bad and people start to die. Thyssen, one of the richest men in Europe, knew he was a marked man when he disagreed with Hitler. He and his wife tried to escape. He was finally tracked down in Southern France, trying to board a ship for South America. They were sent first to Sachsenhausen and then to Dachau.
Of course Nazis, true believers in a political cause, do not spare the even more innocent. For the fact of being the brother of Claus Von Stauffenberg, who tried but failed to assassinate Hitler, Alexander Von Stauffenberg as well as every other relative of Claus Von Stauffenberg, including his father, and Alexander’s sons, daughters and sons and daughters-in-law were all sent to Dachau.
Finally, even those were imprisoned who would protest that life is precious and no one is so omnipotent that he or she can call for the death of another simply for disagreeing on politics. Martin Niemoller, originally trained from youth as soldier, who spent years as a German Naval officer, and was an early Nazi, later became a pastor and theologian. Outraged by the Nazi treatment of the Jews, he spoke out against Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies and was eventually imprisoned in Dachau. He is famous for this very moving and prophetic poem, that is a warning for the world about those who would take power and rule absolutely.
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
So it wasn’t just the Jews who were put in concentration camps. And it wasn’t just certain enemy soldiers who were sent to concentration camps instead of POW camps, although there were many enemy soldiers who were sent to concentration camps, like the legendary British Commando, Jack Churchill. There were the relatives of anti-Nazis and Generals and businessmen who failed to meet the demands for loyalty or performance required by Nazis. Anyone was game on any given day. And often Nazis didn’t bother with concentration camps. Sometimes they just killed people outright. Sometimes for little or no reason at all.
But the Nazis had not always been killers. Before they gained power, probably the majority were merely thugs, street gang members, some truly believed that they were fighting against Communists, against what they saw as limitation on their freedom. And do some extent, they were obviously right. One need only look at what happened to Russia, the Ukraine, Georgia before the war and all of Eastern Europe after the war.
Some Nazi members were like our average citizens. They did not pay much attention to politics. Hitler would create jobs. Yes, he railed against the Jews but the Jews had been largely the cause of the problem hadn’t they? So the Nazi propaganda told them incessantly. Average Germans did not know that the Jews were not the problem at all.
The stories about the Jews were just a distraction, an appeal to the people Hitler needed, the hard core racists who could be converted to true believers. Fear of secret Jewish rites, fear of secret disloyalty…both despite the facts to the contrary…fed the need for constant anxiety the Fascist system required.
And we come back to 21st Century America. Do we have Nazis? Well, we have a minuscule, derivative, copycat American Nazi Party. But they are insignificant, a bunch of boy scouts with a bad attitude. And we have the isolated, woodsmen-like Aryan groups who hate African-Americans merely because of the color of their skin and Hispanics because they can and Jews because they can easily grab on to the old anti-Semitic myths. There aren’t many of them, although enough to be watched carefully, and they are so consumed with hatred that they are easy to spot and relatively easy to control.
No, the New Fascists, or Neo-Fascists are not these relatively insignificant groups. The the true followers of the old Fascist principles are, like the original Nazis—very political. Hitler was not outside the process. He ran for election and won. And while the Nazi principles were strongly anti-Semitic, that was not unusual in Europe at that time. There were a number of laws restricting the occupations and social conduct of Jews from the late 1800s. It was accepted by many people in those days in many countries. We in the United States had restricted country clubs and private city clubs.
The Nazis were also all about jobs. Even though it was the Weimar Republic that started the autobahn, Hitler followed through and came up with other infrastructure projects to keep Germans working. But when he took power completely in 1932, things began to change in a sinister way.
So, today, we don’t call Right Wing, somewhat militant, and ideological organizations Nazis. That is an antique word, defining horrific policies. Nazis attacked other countries without reason, killed 6 million Jews and caused the deaths of 50 million people, and that is the accurate number. Fifty million people died as a result of the Second World War. You cannot ignore that legacy. You cannot call someone a “Nazi” because no one in political life today has done or is doing anything remotely close to that.
On the other hand, we do have an organization that has some very disturbing characteristics. What are they? Well, first of all they are very close to the military. They own munitions and military equipment manufacturing, some of the last manufacturing being done in the U.S. They have some prejudices, such as anti-Black and anti-Hispanic biases.
They are aligned with major corporations to the point that they hire state legislators to create and get the votes for their corporations rather than the people who elected them. They have initiated legislation against pollution, against education, against laws that control gun crimes and in favor of reducing public workers’ incomes or eliminating their jobs altogether and disbanding their unions.
They will tell you that it is merely an economic necessity in hard times. That is what all Fascist governments say. That is why they arise when times are bad, because it is only then that they can use that excuse. In normal times, when good leaders are following prudent practices and there is less unemployment and civic disruption, no one would give them a second thought. They cannot raise robotic followers in good times, only when a large segment of the people have been laid off from work, have no jobs and see no future do they become desperate enough to look for any solution.
It is clear now that the Right Wing has completely taken over the Republican Party and it has become a Neo-Fascist organization. It has become totally aligned with certain major industries and their secret lobbying groups (like ALEC.) It has as its credo that everyone should believe certain central Christian-political beliefs and they should be turned into law. Those are, of course, that contraception is wrong, abortion in any circumstance is wrong, that science is wrong whenever it conflicts with religion.
Neo-Fascists have their own religion and if you are not a true believer…as was the case with the Nazis and is the case with every other Fascist organization….you are an outsider. Being an outsider means that they will not protect you if you should do something that they do not believe in or…even worse…if you should condone it.
Right now that simply means expulsion from their organizations. But what do you think it means long term? Think about it. If you want to have an abortion…it will be illegal. If you want to have contraception…it will be illegal to sell contraceptive devices. So, if you do have an abortion or you do sell contraceptives….you will go to jail. Those are the laws that are being promulgated right now. Therefore, you need more police to enforce these laws and more prisons in which to incarcerate those who commit the crimes.
Neo-Fascism as a political philosophy compels members and everyone else to follow their doctrines…their interpretations of religious and moral codes. The United States was founded on the opposite principles. Each person…so long as he or she does not hurt others…is free to practice his or her religion and there shall be no state religion that tells us how to live. That is written clearly in the Constitution of the United States.
This Neo-Fascist Party of which we speak is obviously the Republican Party. This Party that so energetically tries to be imitative of the old Fascist Parties of Europe controls a large part of the country. And isn’t it interesting that it is the old, slave and segregationist South. It is of course designated as the Republican Party but we all know that it is not the old Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, or perhaps even the major part of what Ronald Reagan stood for.
The new Neo-Fascist Party has worked with state legislatures to restrict voting rights for young people, the poor and the elderly. That is not the old Republican Party. Young people voted for Barack Obama in overwhelming numbers in 2008. Instead of trying to appeal to them for their votes, the Repbublicans have passed laws creating roadblocks to their votes. Wherever there are Republican state legislatures, the Right Wing organization, ALEC, has moved in to require special photo ID cards and special new residency requirements for college students, blocking them from the vote.
The Republicans in these same states are making it harder for the poor and elderly to vote by demanding that they have a state-issued photo ID, that often costs a substantial sum to a poor person. (That is against the law. It is a virtual poll tax. But will the Supreme Court, now made up of a majority of Neo-Fascist corporate lawyers—including one whose father was the head of the U.S. Fascist Party at one time…astonishing…not likely. These are typical Fascist tricks to suppress the vote.
Of course it should be pointed out that there is something like .000007% voter fraud. So it is much more likely that you will be hit by a car than that you will be in a location that experiences—any—voter fraud.
Remember the connection. Fascists, and now Neo-Fascists, are people who believe that strong authoritarian government aligned with big corporations, aligned with the military and the police, aligned with a certain set of ideological values—which today means Christian Fundamentalism–should tell the people how to vote and indeed how to live their lives.
But today we have a bigger problem with the Neo-Fascists. Those commonly referred to as the “Top 1%” have created a huge problem. Some billionaires, like the avowedly Neo-Fascist Koch Family, with major support from Wall Street and CEOs of major corporations have literally purchased the Republican Party.
That is why they will not add a 7 or 8% increase in taxes, even though they have literally made millions and billions over the last ten years, from the policies of the Bush regime, which they now want to resurrect. In the twenty-five states that they have won with huge expenditures and enormous lies about their intentions, they are now cutting state jobs, cutting back on education, and cutting government services in order to give tax and regulatory breaks to their friends in industry.
It is time to learn more about the real Republican Party and their plans…clear plans now…to continue to increase income disparity among citizens, to eliminate government programs for veterans, the disabled, the poor and the elderly. This is an organization that has become so dedicated to a ruthless, insensitive policy in the name of austerity, which, in reality (as you can see from the fact of the Grover Norquist pledge they have all made—never to increase taxes–) is really about continuing the fabulously wealthy lifestyles of the rich and making wage slaves of everyone else.
Read, learn, act…and most of all vote these scoundrels out of office.