The Rise and Fall of The United States?
Our Current State
It is virtually undeniable that the centralization of government under the Obama administration is taking place at breakneck speed. Upon the election of the media-anointed candidate, an unknown with a shadowy history of rabble rousing, the Democrat-controlled government immediately launched an obviously premeditated and comprehensive program of “progressive” policies. Capitalizing upon the national uncertainty springing from a banking and housing crisis, a backdrop so vital to Obama’s election, both the departing and incoming governments grossly rewarded financial and corporate backers with the hard-earned money of their tax-paying subjects. This alerted many shrewd observers that the politicians might be positioning themselves to murder liberty. As the father of this country pointed out, “The last official act of any government is to loot the treasury.”
Shifting into high gear in the drive toward statism by engaging the transmission belt of monetary destruction, the radicals both loosened fiscal restraints and bought precious time to implement their transformational program at the expense of our futures. Using the monetary value of our currency to buffer the shock of economic reality, they bought valuable time to lay the foundation of institutional transfiguration and yet potentially repeat victory in the national elections. In accordance with their statist designs, the radicals installed tighter financial regulations, coordinated support of big labor unions, accrued vast swathes of state-administered property, captured the scientific community through the funding of anthropogenic climate change research, harmonized state and industrial interests under the nouveau rubric of environmentalism, swelled the bureaucracy and staffed it with unaccountable “czars,” and set the stage for the institutionalization of nationalized healthcare. This welfare state engine, fueled by fiat currency and lubricated by massive debt, is destined to overheat, and the eventual breakdown of our economic system is certain.
While the disruption caused by the regime’s radical policies is causing millions of Americans acute distress, others sheltered by the government from personally experiencing the destruction remain oblivious. National misery has been veiled among the welfare dependent, and among the overpaid and insular government bureaucrats, due partly to mass media propaganda intent on omitting, understating, or suppressing the critics of the negative effects of the regime’s policies. While it is true that due to the open nature of the Internet the media stonewalling campaign is easier to circumvent, due to the entertainment-obsessed, and one might surmise, intentionally miseducated and generally ignorant mentality of millions of voting Americans, the political demise of the regime in the upcoming national elections is far from certain.
Historical Comparisons to Modern Germany
Though comparisons between the current state of affairs to the rise of the Third Reich seem unhelpful in persuading those who conflate reason with emotional temperance of the dire trajectory of our national path, perhaps a necessarily rudimentary analysis extending back to Bismarckian Germany brought through the Weimar Republic period to the Third Reich would assist in elucidating America’s distinctly Germanic drive towards unification.
The Third Reich towers over the rest of modern German history in the public consciousness as the culmination of the particular German spirit. Nationalistic, romantic, and anti-Semitic, the peculiarities of the Hitlerian form of totalitarianism seem to circumscribe and limit useful generalizations between the behaviors of any regime and those of the Third Reich, both within the lay and academic communities. William Shirer, in his popular The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, adopts a Sonderweg interpretation on the German people‘s national path to the supposed ultimate in state-led heinousness. Shirer argues that the Third Reich represented the pinnacle of the German spirit – a continuity of national character extending from Martin Luther to Adolph Hitler, thereby implying that any “lessons” one might draw from the German case regarding any causal processes that may lead a nation to the committal of mass acts of evil are severely limited in scope.
Nazi Germany, for example, defies comparisons to Stalinist Russia on the left, though the latter killed far more innocent people and displayed similar institutional and behavioral characteristics; including nationalism during the “Great Patriotic War,” which both totalitarian states initially embarked upon together. Despite its parallels with Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia remains aloof from public criticism in our mass culture, and even garners praise among sequestered academics, because among tacit and avowed socialists, apparently, there are no “enemies on the left.” Such a blase attitude towards the mass-murdering tendencies of one of the left’s own, and one can add to Stalin fellow mass murderer Mao Tse Tong, should worry us, especially as the left remains oblivious to introspection of any kind.
Beneath the bloodspattered historical canvas of twentieth century Germany, and its denouement the Third Reich, is the forgotten harbinger of today’s welfare state, the Second Reich of Bismarckian Germany. Numerous policies of nominally socialist and fascist regimes – and we must be careful not to subsume comparison of them under a false dichotomy of “left” and “right,” which is indicative of an “us-them” mentality resistant to sober analysis – have drawn on the innovations of Otto von Bismarck, Imperial Chancellor of Germany. While it is widely acknowledged that Bismarck was the father of the modern welfare state, having introduced old age pensions, unemployment insurance, and universal medical care, and whose policies presage Social Security, unemployment, nationalized healthcare, and numerous other welfare programs, it is sometimes lost why Bismarck adopted these policies: to co-opt the thrust of the international socialists’ platform. By tracing back the inception of the welfare state and examining its development in its original country, this short article seeks to show is that it is legitimate and valid to see parallels and linkages between contemporary America and modern Germany.
Bismarck, Primat Der Innenpolitik, and Welfare Statism
First, we shall briefly discuss Bismarck’s political career and his shifting views on unification, before his domestic and economic policies. When Bismarck became a representative in the Prussian legislature, he was averse to unification with other German principalities, because he thought it would undermine Prussian sovereignty. After the radical 1848 revolutions, however, he saw the need for the royalists and the centralist liberal democrats to band together against burgeoning threats against imperial authority, and was converted over time to endorse the view of forging one great power that could resist French and Russian encroachments into continental Europe. The unification drive would not be easy. After he became prime minister under the new Prussian monarch Wilhelm I, Bismarck set upon a course of coalescing principalities into one federation, and diplomatically maneuvering Prussia for war against Austria. The defeat of Austria at The Battle of Sadowa would relegate Austria to a junior neighbor, and would clear the way to the strongly bound “Dual Alliance” of Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. Such a loose “unification,” with Austria the cowed partner of Prussia, would be repeated with the Anschluss unification under Hitler.
Such an absolutely scant narrative of events nonetheless shows the aspect of truth to the Primat der Innenpolitik, or “primacy of the domestic,” interpretation of Wilhelmine history. From this school of thinking, the foreign policy actions of Bismarck were intended to forge a united Germany, and to prevent the rise of a radical insurgent movement that could topple the crown. To cite Han Ulrich-Wehler, who is considered a seminal scholar of the socio-political analysis of foreign policy:
“From a consideration of these two theoretical questions first, the problems of uneven economic growth, and second, the need for an authoritarian system to legitimate itself – there emerges one fundamental point for the following discussion: German imperialism is to be seen primarily as the result of endogenous socio-economic and political forces, and not as a reaction to exogenous pressure nor as a means of defending traditional foreign interest.” (“Bismarck’s Imperialism,” Past and Present, 148)
One need not follow Wehler into his mode of socialist class warfare interpretation of social and political phenomenon to gather the key point: that for Bismarck, his diplomacy and foreign policy were aspects of his need to build power and to unify Germany against its internal and external enemies. The relevance of this point is that such a manner of thinking greatly sheds light on the foreign policy actions of Barack Obama. As former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton bluntly put it for purposes of simplification, “(President Obama) just doesn’t care about national security.” Put another way, Obama cares primarily about the security of his power base, and those of his associates. When Obama launches an undeclared war against Libya, in defiance aforehand to any objection by Congress, he acts in a very Bismarckian manner. Bismarck led Germany to war in 1866 against Austria in disregard of parliamentary opposition. When the German Federation was dissolved into one entity after the successful war with Austria, the new Chancellor’s budgets for the last four years were approved by the liberal parliament, implying that Bismarck had funded his wars against Denmark and Austria without Congressional approval.
The Winding Road to Hitler
An ineffective parliament leading to a rubber-stamping parliament on behalf of an executive power foreshadows national disaster in the Western world. In addition to Bismarck’s gradually more obeisant parliament, one can add, conceding numerous particularistic caveats, Adolph Hitler’s heeling Reichstag. Should people need reminding, Hitler was elected to Reichschancellor in 1933, and soon absorbed the parliament into his totalitarian program of Gleichschaltung. Such a brazen act would only be tolerated in light of the hapless and ineffectual parliament of the Weimar Republic. In a supreme abdication of popular authority, the Reichstag yielded its power to the National Socialists in March 1933 under the Enabling Act.
While international socialists like to separate themselves from being lumped in with the national socialists, and commonly point out that Hitler himself persecuted communists and disbanded trade unions, they rarely, if ever, mention that the social democrats, communists, and Nazis were all enemies of their antithetical ideology – classical liberalism. If classical liberalism is a force that divides state power and thus prevents the rise of a dictatorial state, modern collectivist ideologies seek to use the state to reign in all aspects of human life under the elites’ control. Such a fact makes any comparison of the American right and Nazis nonsensical, since conservatives in America stand for liberty, an unfettered economy, and the individual. As for the “shattered unions,” they were soon replaced by the German Labour Front, which had compulsory membership. Card check, anyone?
But going outside of the German cases to illuminate further similarities between weak parliaments and the rise of strong executives, there is also the case of the Duma under Nicholas II, which was dominated for a period by the state-loyalist Sergei Witte. The toothless parliament led to the feckless and unstable Provisional Government of 1917, whose inability to handle the national crisis of the first world war set the groundwork for the Bolshevik putsch, and the installation of a nominally communist, effectively fascist, dictatorship comprised of a dedicated revolutionary minority. The policies that underscore the fascistic tendencies of the Bolsheviks are war communism, the retention of currency, and finally, Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which he called “state capitalism.”
In addition to classical liberals, another common enemy between the proto-fascists, National Socialists, and the communists, was organized religion. While the hostility to organized religion is well-known among communists, the Nazis relationship to Christianity is complex. Scholar of fascism Stanley Payne notes that: “fundamental to fascism was the foundation of a purely materialistic ‘civic religion’ that would ‘displace preceding structures of belief and relegate supernatural religion to a secondary role, or to none at all,’ and that ‘though there were specific examples of religious or would-be ‘Christian fascists,’ fascism presupposed a post-Christian, post-religious, secular, and immanent frame of reference.” (A History of Fascism, 9)
Preceding the communist and fascist attacks on organized religion was Otto von Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, which waged ideological war on The Catholic Church, because it fostered a powerful alternative form of identity and loyalty. It should be noted that Bismarck’s plan did not work, and only mobilized the Catholics to defend themselves, showing that religion is perhaps the strongest bond of shared identity, possibly rivaled only by shared tongue. (See the Hungarians’ uprising against and overthrow of the communist Bela Kun government after Minister of Culture Gyorgi Lukacs attempted to destroy Christianity by trying to sexualize youths in the state-run schools, for another example.) Bismarck was forced back to the middle, where he commandeered socialist causes by initiating a series of welfare state programs. Such usurpation of the left can be suspected as a tactic of President Obama, given that he garnered far more contributions by corporate donors in nearly all separate sectors of the economy. (One can follow these links to compare Obama’s contributions by industry to those of his top competitor McCain.)
While Bismarck was a proponent of trade protectionism, a policy that Obama does not share across the board due to the nature of our weakly based credit and debt-fueled consumer economy, Bismarck, Hitler, and Obama are advocates of welfare statism and increasing the dependence of the people on the state. It should be pointed out here that the German philosophical point of view encapsulating Bismarck’s and Hitler’s domestic policies is not Marxian, but rather Hegelian. Karl Marx’s teacher G.W.F. Hegel, known as the father of totalitarianism, is the red thread connecting Bismarck’s policies to those of Hitler and through the Frankfurt School of the New Left to Obama. A distinction can be made between the German dictators in that Bismarck was a coolly rational but bellicose practitioner of realpolitik, while Hitler was a rabid, romantic, and nihilistic mass-murderer and warmonger. There is a great deal of difference in tactics, but the strategy of promoting “unity in the state” is the same.
State-directed industry, retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, universal healthcare, economic crisis leading to consolidation of national power, an obeisant and unpopular parliament yielding to an empowered executive, a bellicose and cynical foreign policy, these are not glancing similarities, but fundamental parallels among the Second Reich, the Third Reich, and our potentially burgeoning Fourth Reich. The historical accident of anti-Semitism in the Third Reich does not rule out all tactical and policy similarities between the three polities. While the National Socialists were racialists, and despised the Jews for the nature of their diaspora, their alien and conservative culture, and their penchant for capitalist accumulation, one might say that some on the American left, but not all, are anti-Semitic because the Jews are successful capitalists, and the Jewish state is both a painfully glaring example of relatively successful, though American-subsidized liberal democracy, and a foil to the backwards and despotic regimes of the Middle East that the left non-coincidentally has a soft spot for.
Potential Benefits of Thoughtful Historical Analogies, Dangers of Crude or Superficial Analogies
One must be careful when making such arguments to state up front that claiming some parallels among political phenomena is not the same as claiming all parallels, or that they lead, as if in a vacuum, to the same results. World War I is a rift in German history that makes a straightforward “continuity” argument between Bismarckian Germany and Hitlerian Germany simplistic; harsh reparations and national humiliation added insult to injury in a German defeat that was far from certain. By extension, comparing future America to the the Weimar republic, marked by currency devaluation to pay war reparations, hyper-inflation, an ineffective parliament enjoying low confidence, and in general, economic crisis leading to the rise of a popular demagogue to the status of dictator, make for potentially fruitful, but admittedly treacherous terrain for exploration. But the shared overriding context of the centralization and accumulation of immense amounts of state power over the economy, and thus all aspects of national life, make comparison possibly illuminating. The parallels along the most important state and economic lines are too uncomfortably similar for sane citizens to ignore. But in no wise is the author claiming that something like a Holocaust is impending in America; indeed, we may have on our hands a “smiley-faced fascism,” as Jonah Goldberg believes comedian George Carlin was prescient to point out. The insidious nature of Obama’s unaccountable czars, including avowed communists and hardcore environmentalists, suggest to me that the Obama regime is nonetheless extremely dangerous. This is a hypothesis, not a statement of fact. I hold out sincere hope that I am completely wrong, and invite any reader to disprove me using counter-factuals that strike at the core of my informed speculation.
What the author of this argument needs to point out in order to gain fuller plausibility for what may simply be superficial similarities that may be shared among, say, even the most benevolent of regimes, are linkages and the likelihood of conspiratorial designs hidden by deception. The latter, in my opinion, can be shown to be the case due to the bizarre manner in which Barack Obama was mentored and subsidized by communists and Islamists; was steadily elevated throughout his career, without an accessible and demonstrable record of achievement; and was propelled to the presidency by a completely fawning, disingenuous, and almost uniformly laudatory mainstream press. The mythos of Barack Obama, along with the deceptive covering of his radical past, demonstrates all the hallmarks of cultural Marxist fabrication, and de facto, some kind of conspiracy.
Ideological and Institutional Linkages Between Modern Germany and Contemporary America
With this in mind, the New Left is a crucial linkage that substantively ties this argument together. While the nature and importance of the Frankfurt School is beyond the scope of this essay to fully explore, suffice it to say, that it is a little-known but absolutely indispensable institution for conservatives to be aware of, and whose contribution to the formation of the New Left explains the great majority of the radicals’ behavior. While Obama’s ideological mentor Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals, is a key to understanding the president’s tactics, the architect of his grand strategy must be understood to be Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. The New Left mastermind instructed radicals to infiltrate the institutions of cultural and information dissemination in Western countries, and to make a “long march” through the universities, schools, entertainment and news media, and courts in order to transform the culture before transforming the economy to meet popular demands.
This Gramscian strategy of tandem cultural manipulation and economic manipulation would eventually recreate the European class warfare conditions necessary to foment a socialist revolution and for radicals to take power. It should be noted that in regards to Alinsky’s writings, it is quite glaring that power is both the means and ends of the New Left’s radicalism; and the lack of ideological principle therein, in accordance with nihilism, is a major driving force shared between the New Left and National Socialism. For more cultural linkages between America and pre-Nazi Germany, one can refer to Professor Allan Bloom’s irreplaceable text, The Closing of the American Mind. For similarities between America’s compulsory universal education system, and the German innovations that drive it, one can consult John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education.
In addition to the similarities in ideology between the rise to power of the German dictators and the ascendancy of the New Left in America, the nihilistic lack of principle and the Hegelian statist philosophy, there are political linkages extending back a century. Woodrow Wilson can be seen as the progenitor of left-leaning American progressivism in mainstream politics, and again, his contribution to the similarities between the United States’ trajectory and that of Germany since Bismarck are too extensive to mention here. One can, however, point out that Wilson was a great admirer and student of two politicians: Abraham Lincoln and Otto von Bismarck. Why did Wilson revere Bismarck? To quote Jonah Goldberg’s masterful book Liberal Fascism, “[Bismarck’s] top-down socialism was a Machiavellian masterstroke because it made the middle class dependent on the state.” What better summation of the left’s drive since Wilson can be encapsulated?
In addition to Wilson’s reverence for Bismarckian domestic policies, he laid the institutional groundwork through which the left could “fundamentally transform” America into a state-dominated nation. The foundation of a central bank and the institution of a progressive income tax were not merely agencies of statist greed, but two planks straight out of the Communist Manifesto. Though it is conceivable that such institutions can be put into place by a state without communist motivations, that is to say, without subscribing to the full Marxist program, the destruction of the currency by The Federal Reserve System has been so stark, and its aiding of state-accumulated debt so critical to the left’s program, that one with an appreciation for history might rightfully be apprehensive about a purposive recreation of Weimar-like hyper-inflation. This is particularly a real possibility in an economy whose industrial capability has been decimated by a crusade of environmental regulation and the second highest corporate taxes in the world. America’s dependence on presumed future antagonist China not only for debt-financing, but for manufactured goods, make the likelihood that such a program is mere coincidence somewhat beyond the stretch of this person’s imagination.
One would also be remiss not to point out that the master of Nazi propaganda Joseph Goebbels indeed studied and learned greatly from the propaganda techniques of the Wilson administration. The American president enacted numerous anti-speech and anti-liberty policies, and called on public relations guru Edward Bernays to help lead the Committee on Public Information, which pioneered public propaganda techniques later borrowed by numerous regimes. Goebbels was indeed a student of Bernays, as has been documented. Circumventing the watchdogs of information, one can find the similarities online by simply researching the connections between “Bernays and Goebbels”, rather than “Wilson and Goebbels”, which solicits numerous left-wing denials.
The last linkage to be cited here is economics. The central bank’s destruction of the currency and subsequent inflation is a crucial linkage because it creates the class warfare conditions that make socialism of any stripe possible (recall that the hyper-inflation of Weimar was due to the excessive printing of money for war reparations). The following is a quote from the patron saint of American economics John Maynard Keynes on the effects of inflation:
“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. – As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery. […]
“Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”
F.A. Hayek in the virtually required reading The Road to Serfdom noted that John Maynard Keynes, Fabian Socialist and architect of the post-war world economic order, was an ardent admirer of the Germans’ statist outlook. Hayek cites Keynes:
“[E]ven in peace industrial life must remain mobilized. This is what he [a German author] means by speaking of the ‘militarization of our industrial life’ [‘the title of the work reviewed,’ brackets by Hayek]. Individualism must come to an end absolutely. A system of regulations must be set up, the object of which is not the greater happiness of the individual (Professor Jaffe is not ashamed to say this in so many words), but the strengthening of the organized unity of the state for the object of attaining the maximum degree of efficiency…” (195)
What better explanation for the assault on the American Dream can be had than the economists and politicians falling under the sway of such a liberty hostile program? Under the economic guidance of Keynesianism, whose falsity can be demonstrated as easily as pointing to the phenomenon of stagflation, is it any surprise that the current economy in America is not conducive to ‘individual happiness’? That the lives of human beings are being ground between the gears of state to make for supposed ‘greater efficiency’?
But human beings are not widgets to be inserted into the engine of statism, and they will not be remolded into the docile and pliable image desired by their statist masters as easily as might be supposed. The people must be brainwashed, they must develop a desire to be remade, they must throw themselves into the hands of the collectivist mob, to desire emancipation from themselves, from the dire economic conditions, from reality itself. Such is the stuff of dangerous mass movements leading too frequently to bloody results.
Whether or not America can avoid such a disastrous fate is in some degree up to the intentions of those in the state. And as history has shown, when the lives of men can be so arbitrarily manipulated by a powerful state, narcissists flock into the immoral and thus corrupt government seeking to wield power for personal and political gain. If America is not yet another nation to be entered into the annals of political tragedies, it is only a matter of time before it will be. That is, unless, a pro-liberty counter-culture can foment up, and overwhelm the hell-bent statists before it is too late.