Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Germany's "Democratic Party" in the 1930s

In my various writings I am much indebted to readers who send me interesting links and, occasionally, interesting books. One regular and generous correspondent has just sent me a copy of a recent book: Living with Hitler: Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich.

To understand what the book is about, you need to know that the German electoral system both then and now is/was run on proportional representation lines. There was nothing like the "First past the post" voting system that prevails in most Anglo-Saxon countries. In other words, the number of seats in the legislature that a party gets reflects roughly the proportion of votes cast that the party got in the most recent election. This invariably leads to a parliament in which MANY parties are represented, unlike the two-party system of the USA. It is very rare for any one party to get a majority of the seats available and governments are therefore usually formed by alliances between different parties. Israel and most of Europe has such a system to this day.

And in interwar Germany, politics were dominated by various flavours of Leftism. There was very little support for much in the way of conservatism. And the parties could be ranked in their degree of Leftism -- from Communist, to Nazi, to Social Democrats to Liberal Democrats. The Social Democrats were equivalent to the Labor parties that one finds in the Anglosphere, strongly allied with the Labor unions, and the Liberal Democrats saw themselves as "progressives", quite similar to the Democrats in the USA today. And it is that latter group that the book concerns.

So how did the German "Democrats" go in Hitler's Germany? Did they furiously resist Nazism, as the rhetoric of modern-day Democrats would suggest? No way! Like the FDR Democrats in the America of the 1930s, they got along with Hitler to various degrees. There were a small number of highly principled ones who fled Germany but most did little more than mutter and got by quite well under Hitler. Some even made distinguished careers under Hitler. Most thought that Hitler was too rough and too extreme but they appreciated his basic Leftism and went along with him willingly.

Conventional history since the war has focused on the small number of German "Democrats" who fled Germany but this latest book shows that they were highly atypical. If you want the details, you will have to read the book. It is a large and comprehensive work so you will be left in no doubt at the end of it about how easily "Democrats" can drift into Fascism. With the passage of Obamacare, many American conservatives would say the the drift concerned is now well underway in the USA.


Shunning the party of whiners

We're not yet a nation wholly of whiners, but some of our congresspersons are working on it. Democrats who should have been taking a victory lap spent a week cowering in fear of the contents of a tea cup. No wonder real men — mostly but, by no means all, white — are shunning the Democrats.

The polling gurus are finding that millions of the white men who helped put Barack Obama in the White House are leaving the Democrats in great numbers, and this could lead to really bad news in November. Gallup finds that white male support for a Democratic Congress has fallen 8 percentage points since last summer, while the support of women has remained remarkably steady. White women who voted for Mr. Obama continue to support him, but only 38 percent of white men support him now. Unless the president and his party find a way to reverse this trend they must prepare for an epic bath nine months hence.

Accomplishing such a turnaround would require first of all for Democrats to pipe down about what a tough life they have. Life is real, often hard, and, as Damon Runyon famously said to a whiner at the poker table, "three out of three people die, so shut up and deal." Democrats in Congress who got their way in the health care "reform" debate are frightened now that the people they abused are angry and determined to do something about it. With the help of the compliant "mainstream" media, they have created the specter of a tsunami of hate, bigotry, racism, slander, rock-throwing, spitting, irritable bowel syndrome and seven-year itch. Sarah Palin has got the Democrats particularly spooked.

What the Democrats actually got were dirty looks, catcalls, and cries of "shame!" They accused their constituents of hurling naughty words, including "the N-word" (which has become more terrible than the A-bomb in modern usage) as well as sticks, stones and occasional bricks. Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who betrayed his anti-abortion allies who believed him when he vowed never, ever, to vote for legislation to make taxpayer-funded abortion easier, even insists that his life was threatened by unidentified evildoers.

Exaggeration is the coin of politics, of course, and it turns out that nearly all of the threats of mayhem, dismemberment, death and rudeness cited by frightened Democrats were merely manufactured for effect. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, who said he was spat upon at the Capitol, on drying off changed his story. He told The Washington Post that, umm, well, actually the heckler was, ah, "the man who allowed his saliva to hit my face." Anyone who has sat in the front row at the theater knows that drenching spittle, unpleasant but innocent, often accompanies dramatic speech. An examination of videotape finds no evidence that anyone at a certain Tea Party rally actually shouted the "N-word" at black Democrats, and the coffin that was supposed to have been left on his lawn to threaten another Missouri congressman was actually displayed at a prayer vigil against abortion down the street.

Incivility is the name of the game in modern politics, and the Internet has made the gratuitous insult as American as the banana-cream pie so tempting to smash into the face of someone who deserves it. But anyone who expresses a public opinion must expect dissent, colorfully expressed. Occasionally a threat is real and should be denounced and if need be punished. But the vilification of Barack Obama is no more passionate than the vilification of George W. Bush. Extremes beget extremes. Alec Baldwin promised to leave the country if George W. was re-elected president in 2004, and by 2008 Sean Penn was screaming that Republicans should "die in agony from rectal cancer." (What is this Hollywood obsession with the southern terminus of the alimentary canal?)

What most Democratic whiners don't understand — and what some of their betters understand very well — is that people get mad when they're ignored and punished by consequences imposed on them. Barack Obama understands it, and is contemptuous of the backlash, as anyone knows who saw the curl of his lip and heard the disdain in his voice when he celebrated the signing of Obamacare.

The Democrats know they have shoved an unwanted and despised health care "reform" down the throats of Americans, and they understand that arrogance, like elections, sometimes invites consequences. Once upon a time the liberal establishment — now the terrified whiners — didn't have to worry about consequences, since it had silenced the great unwashed. But the unwashed have found their voice, and they're not giving it up.



Winston Churchill an unlikely adviser for General Stanley A. McChrystal in the Afghan conflict

GENERAL Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, has found an unlikely adviser in the continuing struggle against the Taliban. This new counsellor is British, a former journalist, soldier, writer, painter and politician. He is also dead, and the last time he was anywhere near Afghanistan was in 1897.

Winston Churchill has come to the aid of the Allies. McChrystal is said to listen to the writings of Churchill on his iPod during his daily eight-mile jog. A recent visitor to Nato headquarters in Kabul found the American general immersed in Churchill's first book, his account of the struggle to pacify the tribes of the North West Frontier at the end of the 19th century.

Next on the general's reading list, it was reported, is Churchill's The River War, describing the reconquest of the Sudan that ended in the battle of Omdurman in 1898.

Barack Obama, fresh from his first presidential visit to Afghanistan, is no admirer of Britain's colonial past, and his own writings echo with anger at the iniquities of imperialism. Yet Britain's last great imperial leader offered an extraordinary insight into the nature of warfare in the region, Islamic fundamentalism and the history and character of Afghan tribal society.

In 1897, at the age of 23, Churchill was attached as a soldier-journalist to the Malakand Field Force, the British expedition under the splendidly named Sir Bindon Blood, dispatched to put down the rebellious Pathan tribesmen of the North West Frontier, on what is now the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Churchill described his impressions of this land "where every man is a soldier" in a series of vivid newspaper reports, which were incorporated into The Story of the Malakand Field Force, published a year later. Churchill's time among the border tribes was also recalled in his autobiography, My Early Life.

The Young Winston was only on the North West Frontier for a few weeks, but like most journalists he swiftly considered himself an expert on the Afghans in general, and the Pathans in particular. His prose is typically rich and colourful, his generalisations lofty and patronising. He shared the peculiar British reverence for the Pathans as a noble warrior race: "the ferocity of the Zulu are added to the craft of the Redskin and the marksmanship of the Boer". He never set foot in Afghanistan itself.

Yet Churchill was a natural historian, and for all their imperial arrogance, his words carry unmistakable relevance to Afghanistan today. "Tribe wars with tribe. Every man's hand is against the other and all are against the stranger... the state of continual tumult has produced a habit of mind which holds life cheap and embarks on war with careless levity."

Churchill was fascinated by the fabulously complex web of feud and counter-feud among the Taleban's ancestors, the conglomeration of tribes and sub-tribes and the total absence of central authority. "Such a disposition, combined with an absolute lack of reverence for all forms of law and authority, is the cause of their frequent quarrels with the British power."

Churchill reserved a special disdain for Talibs, the religious students who would later form the core of the original Taliban. He called them "a host of wandering Talib-ul-ulms [who] live free at the expense of the people".

Yet his attitude towards Islamic fundamentalism was far more nuanced than that of his contemporaries. Later in the Sudan he did not merely dismiss the Dervishes following the Mahdi as lunatics, but sought to understand the "mighty stimulus of fanaticism" that thrived, as it does today, in the "fearful fatalistic apathy" in much of the Muslim world.

Despite deploying the latest military technology, British imperial Forces were at a severe disadvantage when faced by rebels armed with long-handled jezail muskets, able to shoot and kill at a distance, and then disappear. "The weapons of the 19th century," wrote Churchill, "in the hands of the savages of the Stone Age."

The IED, the remote-controlled improvised explosive device planted at roadsides in Afghanistan to such devastating effect, is the modern equivalent of the jezail; the Taliban's "asymmetric tactics" are directly descended from the long-distance sniping of a century ago.

Above all, Churchill realised that pacifying the rebel Pathans was a matter of culture, politics and persuasion, not compulsion. The more an outside army sought to impose order, the more ferocious the Afghan response. For this society to develop and progress, he predicted, any government would have to first tackle "the warlike nature of the people and their hatred of control".

Brute force of arms, he knew, was not only insufficient and probably ineffective, but also likely to foment greater antagonism. After experiencing the wild borderlands firsthand, Churchill laid out the options for dealing with a country like Afghanistan: imposing the rule of law at the barrel of a gun, pulling out and leaving the tribes to their stone age bloodletting or working through and with the tribal system. As General McChrystal recently told Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic magazine, "the third choice - Churchill's choice - is really the only one we have".

One can see Churchill's choice reflected in the allies' changing policy in Afghanistan: in the determination to recruit and train Afghans for the army and police, in the greater willingness to talk to elements within the Taliban and the distribution of hard cash. On his brief visit to Bagram this week, Obama spoke of the progress made in "good governance, rule of law, anti-corruption efforts".

David Miliband, too, has suggested that Britain's past in Afghanistan might usefully be recruited to the present. "Imperial strategists sought and secured a saner and more sustainable objective: a self-governing, self-policing, but heavily subsidised Afghanistan where the tribes balanced each other and the Afghan state posed no threat to the safety of British India."

That sounds like the sort of solution Churchill would have applauded, yet he also knew that any policy reliant on raw force would have its limitations in a land saturated by centuries of violence. As a 23-year-old journalist, Churchill looked on, as Blood's British Forces laid waste to the rebel villages "in punitive devastation", and wondered whether peace would ever be possible here.

"At the end of a fortnight the valley was a desert," he wrote. "Whether it was worth it... I cannot tell."




Australian government death panel condemns man to death: "Robin Stevens is dying of prostate cancer and he can no longer get the drug that was helping him. If he had breast cancer, he would still be eligible for Taxotere, a chemotherapy drug. His wife Angela says the powerful breast cancer lobby has ensured women have access to the "gold medal" treatment, but men don't have the same benefit. His doctors have written to state and federal politicians, saying that without Taxotere, his cancer - which has spread to his bones - will "increase and overwhelm him".

Break up the banks: "Big banks are bad for free markets. Far from being engines of free enterprise, they are conducive to what might be called ‘crony capitalism,’ ‘corporatism,’ or, in Jonah Goldberg’s provocative phrase, ‘liberal fascism.’ There is a free-market case for breaking up large financial institutions: that our big banks are the product, not of economics, but of politics.”

How China can rule the world -- maybe: "Martin Jacques’ new book, ‘When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order,’ is causing controversy. Is it possible that China will ‘rule the world’ in the near future? Perhaps, but only if it’s able to successfully transform from an industrial-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, and then transform even further to an innovation-based economy.”

Obamacare blowback dumbfounds disbelieving Democrats: "Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), found a coffin in front of his house meant to symbolize Obamacare-aborted babies (but according to many Republicans may symbolize Carnahan’s political future.) This is nothing compared to the millions who believe they live in a land of property rights finding bulldozers in front of their homes with slick-talking politicians and their rich developer buddies shoving eminent domain documents in their faces. What’s good for the law-abiding is good for the lawmaker. Others who voted for Obamacare decry the threats filling their voicemail, mailboxes and inboxes. But that’s nothing compared to the monumental mound of laws that threaten all citizens with fines, arrest, prosecution, imprisonment and even death by trigger-happy law enforcers for failing to conform to every whim of the law creators. What’s good for the law-abiding is good for the lawmaker.”

Obamacare dystopia: "Ask yourself this: If you impose a sudden 35 percent tax on something, are you likely to get as much of it? Go on, take a wild guess. On the day President Obama signed Obamacare into law, Verizon sent an e-mail to all its employees warning that the company’s costs ‘will increase in the short term.’ And in the medium term? Well, U.S. corporations that are able to do so will get out of their prescription-drug plans and toss their retirees onto the Medicare pile. So far just three companies — Deere, Caterpillar, and Valero Energy — have calculated that the loss of the deduction will add a combined $265 million to their costs. There are an additional 3,500 businesses presently claiming the break. The cost to taxpayers of that 28 percent benefit is about $665 per person. The cost to taxpayers of equivalent Medicare coverage is about $1,200 per person. So we’re roughly doubling the cost of covering an estimated 5 million retirees.”

Minutemen give up: "The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which posted hundreds of civilian volunteers along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past five years, has disbanded, citing what it called "rising aggression" in the country and decisions by lawmakers in Washington who have "pushed amnesty down our throats." "The mental attitude of many Americans is turning meaner … and we are concerned that this could cause problems," MCDC President Carmen Mercer told The Washington Times on Monday. "You see aggression surfacing even at the tea party marches. We just did not want to deal with the liability anymore."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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