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Appeasement and Missed Chances: Nightmare Notes from Weimar Amerika

Nightmare Years: The Appeasement of Hitler and the Third Reich, 1935-1939 Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich could have been stopped in its tracks well before it launched a Second  World War that cost 70-85 million lives. But England and France did nothing when in March of 1935 Hitler tore up the Treaty of Versailles by restoring universal More

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Image by Lidia Stawinska.

Nightmare Years: The Appeasement of Hitler and the Third Reich, 1935-1939

Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich could have been stopped in its tracks well before it launched a Second  World War that cost 70-85 million lives. But England and France did nothing when in March of 1935 Hitler tore up the Treaty of Versailles by restoring universal German military service and ordering the provision of tanks, heavy artillery, and an air force to the Germany Army. The victors of World War I did nothing when Hitler further snubbed his nose at existing treaties by sending 20,000 troops into the formally demilitarized Rhineland in 1936, annexed the Sudetenland, a critical and strategic zone of Czechoslovakia, in September of 1938, and invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia the following March. The Western powers rebuffed repeated Soviet efforts to win British and French assurance that they would take up arms against the Third Reich if Hitler invaded Poland. After the attack on Poland, England was compelled to belatedly take up the fight against the Third Reich, too late to stop the most epic slaughter in human history. France failed to seize a golden opportunity to cripple the Third Reich on its western front by occupying the strategic industrial Ruhr and Rhineland while Hitler’s forces were preoccupied in Poland. (William Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940,  pp. 458-59).

Throughout these tragic years of appeasement, Western elite and popular willingness to act against the Nazi Third Reich was undermined  by widespread denial about the depth and degree of the menace that Hitler and his regime posed to humanity and world order. This failure to take the genocidal-fascist peril seriously was paired with a disturbing Western capitalist-imperialist toleration and in some cases embrace of Italian, Spanish, and German fascism as allies in the campaign against European socialism and of Nazi Germany as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, the first socialist state in world history. It was only at the late date of December 7, 1941, when Germany’s fascist ally Japan attacked imperialist United States naval forces in Hawaii, that the United States joined the so-called global war against fascism, which was really an inter-imperialist war for global power between capitalist states, three of which happened (Germany, Italy, and Japan) to be under the control of fascist regimes. Much US ruling class opinion had favored the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany; many 1930s US elites hoped that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would kill each other off  in ways that would serve US interests.

Amerikaner Nightmare: The Appeasement of  “The Most Dangerous Criminal in Human History,” 2015 to the Present

Here we are nearly nine decades later, witnessing the potential return to power atop the world’s leading imperialist power and aggressor state (the supreme winner of World War II) of Donald Trump, the fascist maniac who Noam Chomsky rightly described as “the most dangerous criminal in human history” in January of 2020 (even before Trump had begun fanning the Covid-19 pandemic across the country).  As Chomsky explained, referencing Trump’s first impeachment (for using the threat of withholding US military support  to try to blackmail Ukraine into providing political dirt to use against Joe Biden) and citing Trump’s attack on environmental regulations and nuclear weapons controls:

“Are the crimes discussed a basis for impeachment? Seems so to me. Has Trump committed vastly more serious crimes? That is hardly debatable.. what might be debatable is whether [Trump] is indeed the most dangerous criminal in human history (which happens to be my personal view)Hitler had been perhaps the leading candidate for this honor. His goal was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other ‘deviants,’ along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But Hitler was not dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future (along with millions of other species)… Trump is.  And those who think he doesn’t know what he’s doing haven’t been looking closely. Is that a wild and ludicrous exaggeration? Or the very simple and apparent truth? It’s not difficult to figure out the answer. There is no need to review what is happening on Trump’s watch while he devotes every effort to accelerating the race to [climate] catastrophe, trailed by such lesser lights as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Australia’s Scott Morrison…Trump’s war on organized life on Earth is only the barest beginning. More narrowly, in recent days, the Chosen One has issued executive orders ridding the country of the plague of regulations that protect children from mercury poisoning and preserve the country’s water supplies and lands, along with other impediments to further enrichment of Trump’s primary constituency, extreme wealth and corporate power…On the side, he has been casually proceeding to dismantle the last vestiges of the arms control regime that has provided some limited degree of security from terminal nuclear war, eliciting cheers from the military industry. And as we have just learned, the great pacifist who is committed to end interventions ‘dropped more bombs and other munitions in Afghanistan last year than any other year since documentation began in 2006, Air Force data shows.’…the list of Trump’s crimes is immense, not least the worst crime in human history. But none merit a nod in the impeachment proceedings.”

“A Blood Bath for the Whole Country”

The nonstop horror and fascist nature of Trump’s first presidency are detailed at length in the first three chapters of my latest book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America.  The ever-sharpening Amerikaner-fascist essence of Trump and his party and the growing menace of US Republi-fascist consolidation during the potentially if not likely one-term “Genocide Joe” Biden presidency has been reported and discussed at length in my essays at CounterPunch and The Paul Street Report and on the remarkable Refuse Fascism podcast.

The story keeps getting darker. The malignant wannabe dictator Donald “Retribution” Trump has in recent months been openly channeling Hitler’s virulent and genocidal rhetoric, calling for the elimination of Marxist “vermin,” saying that nonwhite immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” promising to build giant concentration camps, pledging a massive deportation program, and threatening to deploy the military to crush protest, to round up “illegals,” and to stop urban crime “in one day.” Just last Saturday, Trump told one of his Hate Rallies in Ohio that nonwhite immigrants are “not people” and said that the nation would descend into mass violence if he is not re-elected: “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a blood bath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a blood bath for the country.” Trump referred to incarcerated January 6 terrorists as “unbelievable patriots” and political “hostages.”

This malevolent, misbegotten, and malignant, orange-hued fascist danger clown from Hell is now running well ahead of the pathetic Weimar Democratic president Biden both nationally and in the small handful of contested/swing states that absurdly determine presidential outcomes under the archaic, right-tilted  Electoral College system.

Missed Opportunities and American Weimar

Like Hitler’s march to world war and genocide, “the most dangerous criminal in human history[‘s]” rise to power has been marked by sickening appeasement and numerous missed opportunities to short-circuit the nightmare.  The story so far includes:

+ The media, the Republican establishment, and the Democrats’ shared failure to take the Trump campaign seriously and to publicly denounce Trump and Trumpism as fascist in 2015 and 2016. (The Democrats’ underestimation of Trump’s bid for power is reflected in the curious fact [revealed by Wikileaks] that the 2015-2016 Hillary Clinton campaign developed a “pied piper” strategy to promote Trump as the Republican nominee.)

+ The massive free campaign  publicity the media gave to Trump’s every mad bloviation and tantrum in 2015 and 2016.

+ The neoliberal Democratic Party establishment’s refusal to understand that 2016 was an anti-establishment election in which voters would be drawn to “populist” candidates determined to run against “the elite.”

+ The Democratic establishment’s determination to defeat the candidacy of the neo-New Deal “socialist” (progressive Democrat)  Bernie Sanders, who would have mobilized a much larger share of the electorate than the dismal neoliberal Hillary Clinton could in 2016.

+ The Democrats’  vapid, arrogant, and remarkably policy-free 2016 presidential campaign under the depressing and elitist imperialist Clinton, which ceded the “populist” rhetorical campaign space to the fascist Trump and failed to make a significant effort in the key battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan.

+ The Democrats’ decision to run mainly on candidate character in 2016 – a big mistake given Mrs. Clinton’s highly flawed and unpopular character.

+ FBI Director James Comey’s “October Surprise”: his decision to re-open the Clinton email investigation 11 days before the 2016 election.

+ Barack Obama’s absurd and disingenuous “above it all” Rose Garden speech after the 2016 election – an arrogant oration which he told Americans that “democracy” and rule of law were safe, that all would stay as before under a successor he privately knew very well to be “a fascist” (his actual description of Trump to Hillary Clinton’s risible running mate Tim Kaine in October of 2016)

+ Many left and liberal intellectuals’ dogged and dumb denial of Trump and his presidency’s fascist essence (even Chomsky failed on this topic), a head-in-the-sand position that was documented and critiqued at length in the fourth chapter (titled “The Anatomy of Fascism Denial”) of This Happened Here and that continued even past January 6 (incredibly enough) in some cases.

+ “The left’s” failure to follow the lead or at least the advice of the Revolutionary Communist Party and Refuse Fascism by making a serious effort to organize masses into the streets and public squares to remove the fascist Trump-Pence regime as it committed one outrage after another (see Chapter 3 in This Happened Here) from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021.

+ Special Ukraine-Gate prosecutor Robert Mueller’s pathetic and ridiculous refusal to acknowledge and charge that Trump had engaged in criminal conduct by trying to bribe Ukraine’s president into providing political dirt on Biden.

+ The US Senate’s predictable refusal in February of 2020 to convict Trump in his farcical partisan impeachment trial for Ukraine-Gate.

+ The centrist Weimar Democratic establishment’s predictable decision to deep-six the popular progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders again in the 2019-20 presidential primaries, leading to the nomination of the decrepit and deeply conservative corporate warmonger Joe Biden, who defeated Trump only because of two remarkable events: the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the brutal videotaped  asphyxiation murder of George Floyd.

+ The US Senate’s pathetic and partisan failure in February of 2021 to convict Trump for his obvious commitment of the crime of incitement to insurrection on January 6 of 2021.  (Conviction of Trump in either of his impeachment trials would have constitutionally forbidden Trump from becoming president again.)

+ President Biden’s “above it all” refusal to call out Trump and Trumpism forthrightly and publicly as what they are – as fascist  (the closest he has ever come to doing this when he meekly said this to some wealthy campaign donors at a private home in Maryland August of 2022: “What we’re seeing now is the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something, it’s like semi-fascism.”)

+ Biden’s consistent stance of conciliation towards a formerly republican Republi-fascist Party that has crossed over into Christian white nationalist neofascism since at least the Tea Party movement and quite clearly under Herr Donald. This abject complicity is seen in Biden’s pathetic and opportunistic response to the corrupt and illegitimate Christian fascist Trump Supreme Court’s illegitimate anti-abortion Dobbs v. Jackson ruling and in his willingness to swing far right on the immigration question to try to win Republi-fascist support for his bloody imperial policies in Ukraine and Gaza.

+ Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland’s pathetic and absurdly long delay in appointing a special prosecutor to investigate and indict Trump for attempting to overthrow the 2020 presidential election – basically for the open attempted overthrow of previously normative US bourgeois democracy and rule of law. The delay that means Trump will not likely face a verdict before the 2024 election and that Trump will be free to shut down all federal cases against him after -re-entering the White House.

+ Special Trump prosecutor Jack Smith’s failure to act on the US House January 6 committee’s recommendation that the Justice Department charge Trump with insurrection, conviction for which would have constitutionally forbidden him from returning to the presidency.

+ The blood-soaked imperialist Biden’s apparent willingness to privilege backing Israel’s genocide in Gaza with US bombs, funding, and politico-diplomatic protection over defeating Trump in the general election. Biden’s defense of Israel’s genocidal ethnic cleansing operation is highly unpopular in the Democratic Party base and may well cost him the large Electoral College slate in the critical contested state of Michigan.

+ The Democrats’ failure to replace the decrepit and bumbling warmonger Biden with a more attractive and electable candidate in the 2024 election, which is shaping up very well for Trump and his party in relevant polls.

+ The willingness of much of the ruling capitalist class to tolerate and even back a second Trump presidency as “good for business” – certain to advance deregulation and reduce taxes – despite whatever qualms corporate and financial elites might have with the fascism of Trump, his party, and his base.

+ The mainstream news media’s sick adherence to strict genre conventions that mandate treating the Republi-fascist party of Trump/ism as “normal” and US politics as the usual electoral horse race between two good old “democratic” parties.  As the prolific and brilliant left-liberal US political historian Rick Perlstein recently said on the Refuse Fascism podcast:

“…NPR is saying: ‘Well, now Trump and Biden have to compete for Nikki Haley’s votes, we’ll see what happens on Super Tuesday.’ And, like every channel runs, live feed of the results in from the Nevada caucus, where Trump was 90%, what kind of waste of airspace is that? They’re not seeing that they could play a role in stopping what we saw happen [the rise of fascism in interwar Europe, that is – PS] at the price of millions dead. It’s tragic, it makes me tear my hair out, because I know the institutions are powerful. I know institutions have the power to kind of magnify bad things and magnify good things. Right now they’re magnifying bad things like treating Trump like they’re normal, like treating the Republican Party like It’s normal, and that it is not a political function that more resembles you know, the IRA — it has terrorists and has people who do politics.”

More and more it’s looking like a good portion of the American capitalist-imperialist ruling class, including much of the Democratic Party establishment, is getting ready to let Donald “Take Down the Metal Detectors” Trump rape America and the world for at least four more years starting on January 20, 2025. It is questionable that prospects for a decent human future can survive another horrific Biden-Harris administration; it is certain they cannot survive a second Trump presidency. It’s up to us, the people, to save those prospects. Bourgeois democracy, American style, is not remotely up to the job, as I suggested in my recent essay “The U.S. Bourgeois Democracy Farewell Tour.”

Two questions to be tackled in my future writings:

1. Why are the “infernal” (to use Perlstein’s language) Democrats so damn and dismally Weimar, that is, so conciliatory, hollow, and appeasement-oriented in response to the 21st Century Amerikaner-fascist menace, and thus complicit in the reckless, even apocalyptic fascisation of a country with vastly greater destructive power than late 1930s Nazi Germany? Whence this infernality?

2. What must and can we do to stop this menace in its tracks before it’s too late?

An earlier version of this essay appeared on The Paul Street Report.

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