Tag Archives: Nazism

Could a Nazi-type takeover happen in America?

The Kindertransport Association (my grandfather and his brother were on the kindertransport) recently asked, “Could a Nazi-type takeover of our Federal government happen in America. Why? Why not? Could it happen in Western Europe?” My response made the front page of their newsletter:

History teaches us that society is always at risk of losing its freedom and descending into tyranny because there are always people who wish for and actively seek to rule over others and profit at their expense.

With the separation of powers and checks and balances, western civilization has created systems, best exemplified by the United States Constitution, designed to prevent demagogues from gaining power. However, when people think the political system no longer functions properly, they will demand change, thinking that “anything else will be better than this.” At this point, a demagogue may convince them that he will fix the nation and bring prosperity to all with relative ease. These demagogues tell the people that all they need to do is vote for him and their problems will be solved.

Demagogues seeking to take over the government create or find an enemy to attack and blame. The demagogue informs the public that it is not their fault the economy is bad, they lost in a recent war, or that they are poor. Instead, it is somebody else’s fault. Hitler’s blamed Germany’s problems on both the communists and capitalists, with the Jews supposedly supporting both groups. Julius Caesar blamed the Roman Senate. The Communists in Russia blamed both the Czar and the democrats. With the recent economic weakness and increased partisanship in the United States and Western Europe, there has been a lot of blame bandied about, especially by politicians looking to win election.

Weak economies, a wide disparity between rich and poor sparking class warfare rhetoric, and the perception of a broken political system open the door for an eloquent demagogue to trick the people into voting for him, increasing his power, and paving the way for him or his successor to become a tyrant.

So it is possible for a Nazi-type takeover in the United States or Western Europe? Most certainly. In fact, we have already seen something similar happen just recently in Venezuela, which had been a prosperous western-style nation until the late 1980s when an economic crisis and political corruption paved the way for Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian socialism.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers of the United States created a system specifically designed to prevent one man or faction from gaining too much power. Western Europe has largely copied that system, with some alterations. Additionally, our long tradition of liberty is not one that people will throw away lightly. However, an eloquent demagogue promising peace and prosperity at no expense amid economic and political chaos may, at times, be able to overthrow the delicate political, economic, and social system we have. This happened in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Israel, Russia in the 1910s, Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s, and Venezuela in the 1990s, to name just a few of the most notable examples.

Only through eternal vigilance against demagogues, their false promises, and their scapegoating of minority groups can we prevent Nazi-type takeovers in the United States and Western Europe.

Michael E. Newton, KT3

— Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

The socialist promises of the Nazis

A “friend” of mine just wrote “Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a conservative favorite” in a comment to a facebook post of mine. As a conservative and a Jew, I am upset and angered by this comment. Furthermore, as somebody who has studied conservatism and Nazism, I am perplexed by people’s ignorance and/or stupidity.

In a first, I am going to post an entire section from my book, The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. (The bracketed numbers are the citations which are not included here.) Of course, it helps to read the previous sections showing how Germany got to where it was in the late 1920s and also the previous chapters which explain some of the terminology, including what is meant by socialism and fascism.

Nazi Promises

Throughout the 1920s, the Nazis were a non-entity in German politics. In the May 1928 federal election, the National Socialist German Workers Party received just 2.6 percent of the vote.[766] Within four years, the Nazis would become Germany’s largest political party. After another year, Adolf Hitler would become dictator of Germany and all other political parties would be banned. This remarkable rise to power came about through the skilled use of populist rhetoric, including promises of wealth, equality, and national rebirth. The German people, disillusioned with the failures of the center-left coalitions of the 1920s, were swayed by this new party that promised the benefits of both left-wing socialism and right-wing authoritarianism and nationalism.

As the name implies, the National Socialist German Workers Party was founded primarily to promote socialism in Germany. National Socialism originally stood for partial collectivism aimed primarily at large industrial corporations, leading financial institutions, and wealthy landowners, as detailed in the party’s Twenty-Five Points of 1920.[767] The Twenty-Five Points included the following socialist demands:[768]

  • “Every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood.”
  • “All unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished.”
  • “Total confiscation of all war profits.”
  • “Nationalization of all trusts.”
  • “Profit-sharing in large industries.”
  • “Increase in old-age pensions.”
  • “Communalization of large stores which will be rented cheaply to small tradespeople.”
  • “A law to expropriate the owners without compensation of any land needed for the common purpose.”
  • “The abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.”
  • “Usurers, profiteers, etc., are to be punished with death, regardless of creed or race.”
  • “The State must assume the responsibility of organizing thoroughly the entire cultural system of the people.”
  • “Specially talented children of poor parents, whatever their station or occupation, be educated at the expense of the State.”

Many today believe that the Nazis were capitalists, despite the evidence of Nazism’s socialist roots and agenda. Jacques Ellul, a leader of the French Resistance in World War II, philosopher, and law professor, writes, “The dogmatic and elementary interpretation of Nazism as having been conceived by capitalists to counter communism, and a bourgeois tool in the class struggle, has gained incredibly broad acceptance as a self-evident fact, despite its contradiction of fact. Even after his alliance with certain capitalists, Hitler controlled them as much as they did him.”[769] In 1927, Hitler said, “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”[770]

The Nazis failed to draw left-wing support away from the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party, so they toned down their socialist economic propaganda beginning in 1927, though they continued to believe in government control of the economy.[771] The Nazis adopted the “third way” style of the Italian Fascists by supporting partial socialism with some government ownership of business and heavy regulation of large businesses, but limited regulation of small businesses and individuals.[772] In 1931, Hitler said, “I want everyone to keep the property he has acquired for himself according to the principle: common good takes precedence over self-interest. But the state must retain control and each property owner should consider himself an agent of the state… The Third Reich will always retain its right to control the owners of property.”[773] Hitler claimed that property could be privately owned but, in reality, the individual would not retain control over it. By controlling “the owners of property,” the state obviously controls the property as well. As Stanley Payne, the eminent authority on fascism writes, Hitler “boasted that there was no need to nationalize the economy since he had nationalized the entire population.”[774] As late as 1941, Hitler declared, “basically National Socialism and Marxism are the same.”[775]

Though Hitler and the Nazis remained committed to socialism throughout, in theory and in practice, their new toned-down “third way” socialism found support among the middle class,[776] who feared the radical left but were still enchanted by the utopian promises of socialism. The new Nazi economic platform also found support among the land-owning farmers. Whereas the Twenty-Five Points vowed to take land away from its owners without compensation “for the common purpose,”[777] by 1930 the Nazis had dropped that proposal[778] and were offering aid to the land owning peasant farmers and praising the peasants as the defenders of German morality and tradition.[779] The Nazis also promised high prices and ready markets for the farmer’s agricultural products and extolled the virtues of “blood and soil” and the “agricultural estate.”[780]

Considering the working class was already aligned with the Marxist parties, Hitler and the Nazis focused their campaign on the middle class, who were also suffering under the weak economy.[781] The new strategy resulted in gains in state elections and increased campaign donations.[782] The Nazis also sought the support of the industrialists, a natural ally when they started presenting themselves as the alternative to the communists and other radical left-wing socialists. Many industrialists were wary of the new, unstable, violent, and radical Nazis, yet some industrialists still gave the Nazis much needed financial support in the 1920s, though they also supported the much larger and less radical conservative German National People’s Party.[783] As the Nazis attracted larger shares of the vote in elections and especially after Hitler became Chancellor, the industrialists gave much more money to the Nazis,[784] partly to help the Nazis defeat the communists, but also to win their favor after their inevitable political victory.

The Nazi agenda went well beyond promises of economic prosperity. The Nazis also promoted German nationalism and Aryan superiority, which helped lift the spirits of many native Germans after the humiliating defeat in World War I, the disastrous hyperinflation of the early 1920s, and the economic depression that began in 1929. Point four of the Twenty-Five Points detailed the Nazis’ German exclusivity: “Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become citizens. Only those who have German blood, regardless of creed, can be our countrymen. Hence no Jew can be a countryman.”[785] Although this anti-Semitism became a centerpiece of the Nazi agenda once in power, it was not instrumental in the Nazis’ rise to power because they toned down their anti-Semitic propaganda during their election campaigns.[786] Thus, the rising fortune of the Nazis had little to do with any anti-Semitic rhetoric, though everybody voting for the Nazis understood their hatred of the Jews, given that it was part of the Twenty-Five Points and was a centerpiece of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Nevertheless, by promoting Aryan superiority and blaming the Jews, capitalists, republicans, and other liberals for Germany’s problems, German nationalism became the centerpiece of the Nazi agenda and enabled the Nazis to attract members from all economic and social classes.[787]

Like their fascist cousins in Italy, the Nazis also took a pro-military position. After World War I, the Weimar republic did not support the military, even refusing to build a monument to the war dead or issue a commemorative medal.[788] Of course, this upset many veterans and families of the war dead, and the Nazis pursued these disaffected Germans by favoring a strong military, reoccupation of territory lost in the war, and expansion of Germany to include all German-speaking people. The Nazis claimed “National Socialism means peace,” arguing that only a strong Germany can defend against an invasion by France or the Soviet Union.[789] Like the Fascists in Italy, the Nazis were always seen in their military uniform. When Hitler met Mussolini for the first time in 1934, Hitler wore civilian clothing at the insistence of his advisors, whereas Mussolini was dressed in his military uniform. Hitler appeared weak next to Mussolini and he vowed never to make that mistake again. From then on, Hitler was always in uniform when making public appearances.[790]

The Nazis managed to exceed the Italian Fascists in their development of a myth culture, with their ever-present swastika and promotion of the old German folk traditions and rituals. The Nazis also exalted Hitler, well beyond what the Italians did with Mussolini. Many Nazis saw Hitler as a Christ or a Messiah[791] who will save Germany from Jews, foreigners, capitalists, and communists. For example, in 1941, the Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter announced, “The Fuhrer is the highest synthesis of his race… He embodies the universalism of Goethe, the depth of Kant, the dynamism of Hegel, the patriotism of Fichte, the genius of Frederick II, the realism of Bismarck as well as the tumultuous inspiration of Wagner, the perspicacity of Spengler.”[792] Thus, their youth organization was not called the German Youth or even the Nazi Youth, but the Hitler Youth. Hitler became the infallible god of the Nazis and of Germany.

By adapting their agenda to meet the desires of the people and courting unaffiliated groups, the Nazis drew support from various geographic areas and several economic and social classes.[793] Their focus on nationalism, a strong military, authoritarian leadership, and “third way” socialism, with promises of economic prosperity and equality, enabled the Nazis to win over industrialists on the right, peasants on the left, and many in the center, especially World War I veterans. By organizing this coalition of disparate interests, the National Socialists quickly grew from a political non-entity into Germany’s dominant political party.

* This was an excerpt from The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny.

Great leaders! Washington and Churchill had a rare trait: character.

I came across two quotes today, one in my casual reading and one in research for a book I hope to publish this summer. I will be using these quotes in a future book, which may be published in 2012 or 2013 if I write that book immediately after this one. But I’d like to share the quotes with you now:

From The American Revolution by Gordon Wood (page 84):

Washington’s ultimate success as the American commander in chief, however, never stemmed from his military abilities… Instead, it was his character and political talent and judgment that mattered most. His stoicism, dignity, and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds came to symbolize the entire Revolutionary cause.

Washington always deferred to civilian leadership and never lost the support of the Congress.

He was always loyal to his fellow officers in the Continental Army and they to him; they trusted him, and with good reason.

Speaking about trust, famed historian Paul Johnson writes in Forbes Magazine:

I remember feeling this as a boy in 1940, when Britain was in danger of being drowned in the rapidly advancing tide of Nazi military success. We trusted Winston Churchill to save us, and he, in turn, trusted the British people to have the courage and endurance and the intelligence and strength to make salvation possible.

George Washington and Winston Churchill may be best remembered for winning their respective wars and their successful terms as leaders of their countries. But their successes in both the military and political arenas (both were also outstanding writers) because of their character. They could be trusted. They exercised good judgment. They exercised courage in both action and inaction if reason advised caution at the moment. They were thoughtful and honorable.

One marked difference between the two: Washington tried to avoid public office while Churchill actively sought fame and power. However, both gave themselves fully to the service of their countries when chosen to do so. And even as Churchill sought power, he never backed down from unpopular opinions (attacking Nazism in the 1930s and then Communism after World War II) even if it cost him politically.

A message to our public servants: whether you sought power (that’s 99% of you people) or were drafted into it, be honest, be truthful, and be honorable. Do the right thing, even when it is difficult. Especially when it is difficult. Follow the examples of Washington and Churchill.