Saturday, April 20, 2019

Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

     I would venture to guess that none of Liberty’s Torch’s Gentle Readers were alive and reading the Austrian local papers in 1889. Not that it matters. There was no mention of the event that occurred in the village of Braunau-am-Inn 130 years ago on this day. The principals, whose names were Alois and Marie, had no idea what they had done. They predeceased their infant boy by quite a few years.

     The little tyke was sickly at first, and his parents feared for his survival. Later on in life it was determined that one of them – the records don’t indicate which one, but it’s usually the mother – passed congenital syphilis to the boy. When his health appeared to stabilize, they were overjoyed, and lavished a great deal of attention on him…possibly too much.

     The young man that child became dabbled in several trades. He painted; he worked in construction; he served as a soldier of the German army during the Great War. During the Twenties he became involved in fringe politics, including an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government. The attempt landed him in prison, but it also resulted in his making several political contacts, including Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg, who would be useful to him in later life.

     The accelerating disorder of the Weimar period proved fertile ground for Germany’s fringe parties, including a “workers’ movement” descended from that Bavarian coup attempt. Our protagonist rose steadily in prominence in that movement, slipstreaming into public consciousness behind figurehead Hindenburg. In 1932, when Hindenburg was elected German President, he appointed our protagonist to the post of chancellor of Germany, in which he functioned as its chief executive officer.

     Anyone who hasn’t yet recognized the person whose early life I’ve narrated above should go back to his Gilligan’s Island reruns.

     Adolf Hitler was not a political innovator. He seized on existing currents of thought and disaffection among the German people and applied two theses to win popular sentiment to his National Socialist German Workers’ Party: Benito Mussolini’s newly minted fascism, a variant on Marxist-Leninist theory that sought to evade socialism’s major failing by leaving nominal title to productive enterprises in private hands; and the suggestion that Germany had only lost the Great War because of treachery, with emphasis on “the Jews.” The festering wounds in Germany’s national psyche, augmented by some highly unwise behavior on the part of France, proved sufficient to place Hitler in unopposed control of the nation. And for a while Germany under the Nazis seemed to be once more in the ascendant.

     For a while.

     Fascism, a mere cosmetic gloss over Marxian socialism, had the same overall effect on Germany’s economy as Soviet socialism had: it caused productivity to dwindle as governmental dictates overrode market forces. The Betriebsfuhrers the Nazis installed to parallel the nominal owners of Germany's industries were the true masters of those firms. To defy them was to risk being sentenced to death for treason. A very few industrialists, intimates of Hitler and the regime, managed to become wealthy, largely by catering to the expansion of Germany’s military. The rest were slowly impoverished, brought to the margins of existence.

     Hitler was canny enough to exploit his government’s control of the currency, which had been toughened after the ruinous Weimar inflation, to commit a kind of international robbery of those nations that exported capital goods to Germany. He successfully challenged the pacific inclinations of the Western powers with the Anschluss of Austria, the seizure of Czechoslovakia, and the reabsorption of the Rhineland. But a government cannot sustain an economy that has been burdened beyond its limit, except by ever-expanding conquest. The expansions of the classical empires and their subsequent downfalls had taught that to the masters of the Old World. The pivot point, after which the rest of Europe could no longer soothe itself with pleasant fantasies about the limits to Hitler’s ambitions, arrived on September 1, 1939.

     I trust that my Gentle Readers know the rest of the story well enough, at least, that I need not recount all of it here.

     There is controversy among historians about how important any individual can be to a political development. Some believe that great men rise to master the social and political currents of their times. Others maintain that the currents are the masters, and merely unearth the “leaders” the currents demand. Ultimately it matters very little. Events are what they are. History being what it is, experimentation to determine the “true” causes of a development such as Nazi Germany and what it unleashed on the world is impossible.

     But parallels are important, and should be noted by those who care about their nations. We have this by way of The Feral Irishman:

     Peer about the American political landscape. Can you spy a rising Hitler? A personality of sufficient cleverness and charisma to galvanize and direct a mass movement as compelling, as voracious, and as brutal as the Nazis of Hitler’s time? I cannot…but then, I doubt I could have done so if I were a German of the Twenties.

     Be watchful, always.

1 comment:


I'm torn about nominating AOC.

She's a TRUE BELIEVER, and like all Leftists is a Teflon Intellect - i.e., nothing not already believed will penetrate. And I am, personally, of the opinion that she (or at least her handlers) are a lot shrewder than we give them credit for.

Will she be THE ONE to worry about? I don't know. I don't think we really can know until that person is already rocketing up.