Home / General / Party Like It’s 1939

Party Like It’s 1939


Attempts to connect our current situation with the 1930s are coming out pretty regularly (and more will follow). But when two leading historians of fascism speak up, it’s worth listening.

Timothy Snyder sat down with Süddeutsche Zeitung last week, while Richard Evans weighed in with Slate.

Snyder certainly thinks we need to be learning from the 1930s:

Most  Americans are exceptionalists, we think we live outside of history. Americans tend to think: “We have freedom because we love freedom, we love freedom because we are free.”  It is a bit circular and doesn’t acknowledge the historical structures that can favor or weaken democratic republics.  We don’t realize how similar our predicaments are to those of other people.

I wanted to remind my fellow Americans that intelligent people, not so different from ourselves, have experienced the collapse of a republic before. It is one example among many.  Republics, like other forms of government, exist in history and can rise and fall. The American Founding Fathers knew this, which is why there were obsessed with the history of classical republics and their decline into oligarchy and empire.  We seem to have lost that tradition of learning from others, and we need it back.  A quarter century ago, after the collapse of communism, we declared that history was over – and in an amazing way we forgot everything we once knew about communism, fascism and National Socialism.

Evans sees specific parallels:

When you look at President Trump’s statements, I’m afraid you do see echoes, and they are very alarming. For example, the stigmatization of minorities. First of all, the Trump White House failed to mention the Jews in its statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. And that is very worrying because the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews was not just a genocide; it had a special quality, because Hitler and the Nazis regarded the Jews as an existential threat to Germany. They used hyperbolic and exaggerated language about Jews. If the Jews were not killed, the Nazis said, they would destroy Germany completely, whereas other groups that the Nazis stigmatized, discriminated against, and indeed murdered, like the handicapped, were only to be gotten out of the way. If you look at the language the Trump team has been using about Islamic extremist jihadis, it is exactly the same: They are an existential threat to America. They will defeat, dominate, and destroy America. That is a very extreme kind of language and a very disturbing echo.

Snyder also links rising Islamophobia to Nazi tactics:

[R]ight now the comparison we need to ponder is between the treatment of Muslims and the treatment of Jews. It is obviously the case that the point of the Muslim ban is to instruct Americans that Muslims are an enemy: a small, well-assimilated minority that we are supposed to see not as our neighbors or as fellow citizens but as elements of an international threat.

Both address questions of Trump’s maneuvering within a system of checks and balances. Snyder’s first concern was to disabuse us of the idea that institutions would in any way curb the new POTUS’s power:

He never took them seriously, acts as if they don’t exist, and clearly wishes they didn’t.  The story that Americans have told themselves from the moment he declared his candidacy for president, was that one institution or another would defeat him or at least change his behavior – he won’t get the nomination; if he gets the nomination, he will be a normal Republican; he will get defeated in the general election; if he wins the presidency will mature him (that was what Obama said). I never thought any of that was true. He doesn’t seem to care about the institutions and the laws except insofar as they appear as barriers to the goal of permanent kleptocratic authoritarianism and immediate personal gratification.

Evans specifically looks at the judiciary:

Again, if you look at the courts, that’s one of the most interesting aspects of what Trump has been doing. He clearly has a contempt for the courts and the law, which echoes that of the Nazis very, very clearly

and reminds us that, like the Ninth Circuit, German courts did try to make a stand:

A very famous example is, later in 1933, the trial of the people who Hitler had alleged had burned down the Reichstag earlier in the year. The courts acquitted all but one of them, thus completely undermining Hitler’s claim that the communists started the fire. Hitler then bypassed the courts. He set up a parallel system of justice, the so-called special courts and the people’s courts. In the end, the courts knuckled under, but it was quite a fight.

[S]ome in the judiciary were conservative, but they did have respect for the law and institutions of the law, and for the constitution as well.

Evans’s description of day-to-day administration is eerily familiar:

Hitler … did not rule, for example, through a Cabinet. He didn’t use the accepted institutions of government. He had a clique of people around him, Goebbels, Hermann Göring, and so on: a whole group of top Nazis who were his cheerleaders, really. They’re the ones who do the work. Within just a few years, the Cabinet didn’t meet at all. It’s just a very informal way of ruling that of course leads to a lot of chaos, because competencies are not clearly defined and there are a lot of rivalries within Hitler’s group of leading Nazis that prove often counterproductive. It’s interesting there again to see how the civil service, that’s the administration at every level, really, did not provide a very serious resistance to the orders that came down from above.

In terms of media opposition, Evans highlights the strategy to close down opposition voices–or just overwhelm them with alternative facts:

[O]f course Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, was an inveterate and incorrigible liar. He was an inventor of news. And he also was very strongly attacked in the liberal and left-wing press and threatened to shut it down, and in the end he actually did. Or he took it over.

Snyder also picks up on the repercussions of government facing down the press:

When you say that the press is the opposition, then you are advocating a regime change in the United States. When I am a Republican and say the Democrats are the opposition, we talk about our system. If I say the government is one party and the press is the opposition, then I talk about an authoritarian state. This is regime change.

Most chilling are Evans’s thoughts on how calculated all of this might be:

Many people thought that Hitler was a buffoon. He was a joke. He wasn’t taken seriously. Alternatively, they thought that he could calm down when he assumed the responsibilities of office. That was a very common belief about Hitler. There is a major difference in the sense that Trump speaks off the cuff in a very unguarded, spontaneous way. I think that’s true with his tweets. Hitler very carefully prepared all his speeches. They might seem spontaneous, but they were carefully prepared.

[Hitler] was such an actor. He’s somebody who projected an image of himself onto the public. He could also deceive himself, particularly in the last years of Nazi Germany, when they were clearly losing the war. He somehow managed to convince himself that they were winning. He carried on fighting where it was clearly in everyone’s interest, maybe not his own, but it was in everyone’s interest to stop.

I’m still not convinced that the disarray in the White House is purposeful–but I don’t doubt that folks are using this to their advantage.

Both historians have books coming out later this month, conveniently, so there’s plenty more where this came from.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • ASV

    Flynn now resigning to spend more time with his son investigating Pizzagate.

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    On that note, Ernst Roehm Michael Flynn has been murdered resigned.

    • sigaba


      In fact, it could be said that progress is the act of turning tragedies into farces.

    • wengler

      President Bannon can now add National Security Advisor to his title.

    • Asteroid_Strike_Brexit

      It was clear the intelligence community was very unhappy about him.

    • MAJeff

      Have we reached the Night of Long Fingers already?

  • humanoid.panda

    I’m still not convinced that the disarray in the White House is purposeful–but I don’t doubt that folks are using this to their advantage.

    Yeah, I’m for once, sure that the fact that Trump’s NSA resigned weeks after appointment after barrage of leaks coming from the intel community is just a crucial element of Trump’s real plans.

    Evans is a great historian, Snyder far less so. But historians, like everyone else, risk sounding like overheated-CEO-on-Medium when they wade too far away from their field.

    ETA: I see someone already made the “Flynn is Roehm” comment. Because when all you have is a Nazi hammer..

    • Hells Littlest Angel

      When all you lack is a sense of humor …

      • humanoid.panda

        Fair enough. Apologies.

        • Hells Littlest Angel

          Accepted. (Actually, I should probably be doing less laughing at the Monster In Chief, and more resisting.)

          • rea

            Laughing IS resisting.

            • Dennis Orphen

              It only hurts when I resist, Doc.

    • Evans is a great historian, Snyder far less so. But historians, like everyone else, risk sounding like overheated-CEO-on-Medium when they wade too far away from their field.

      The issue with finding parallels with Nazi Germany is that the U.S. is not Germany. Germany was one state on a continent of competing states. The U.S. is a continent of states linked through multiple layers of government. This means that Trump cannot just destroy the government machinery without the help of the states. That being said, the fact that Congress is in control of Republicans who have no love of democracy, and the majority of the states are in similar control, does not bode well. Does that mean that the states will band together, call a Constitutional Convention, and formerly vote to create the Fourth Reich? Not likely. But that doesn’t mean we’re not witnessing the formal/informal rise of a totalitarian-esk mode of governing sweeping the U.S.

      That being said, I think what we will experience with the Trump Administration is a severe testing of the strength of the checks and balances fundamental to our government. Right now, the judiciary and the few remaining blue states are all that’s left to keep this from being a complete steam roll. Is that enough to ride out the next 2-4 years? I think that remains to be seen. I have a feeling that the only thing that will save us is the demonstrated incompetence of the Trump cabal. Let’s hope they never get their shit together.

      • I always like to remind everyone who tells us to rely on checks and balances (not that you’re really doing this) to recall how much good that did for American Indians during the Trail of Tears, or Japanese-Americans during WWII, or African-Americans during Jim Crow.

        It’s not guaranteed that they will fail again, but it’s not guaranteed that they won’t, either, so if you give a shit at all, then it’s incumbent upon you to get to work making sure that they don’t, whether that’s volunteering or donating for organisations that direct resistance efforts, participating in and organising protests, or any of dozens of other forms of activism that can make a difference on the ground. It’s certainly not guaranteed if people keep being passive.

        • Yes. The buck doesn’t stop with the president. It stops with the people.

  • cleter

    Well, that’s depressing.

  • sigaba

    I read all of Evans’s books, mostly because my mom (a Hart-Tsongas DFLer*) insisted that Karl Rove was the second coming of Goebbels and bought me all the books as they came out. I was always annoyed by the comparison.

    The Nazi comparisons never will do justice because everyone just expects jackboots, and Hugo Boss tunics, and high-peaked caps. Thats what Nazism is to most Americans.

    * She also caucused for Wesley Clark but we don’t talk about that.

    • Linnaeus

      I think, but am not sure, that Robert Paxton in The Anatomy of Fascism wrote something to the effect that the manifestations of fascism are culturally contingent and so we should not expect that fascism in the US would look just like it did in Germany. Yet people make the mistake of holding up the mature forms of fascism in Germany, Italy, etc. as the standard of what fascism would be like anywhere.

      • wengler

        I think the major fear is that the US a major exporter of violence and under Trump a lot of that violence is going to come home. Of course in many of our minority communities, it was never exported to begin with.

        • sigaba

          I feel like I already said this somewhere, but in Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism she made the point that fascism could be interpreted as an organic development of late imperialism, a sort of re-importation of empire back to the homeland.

          Instead of raping, pillaging and killing Africans and arabs, the British, Italians and eventually Germans took all of the skills they developed pacifying the colonies and applied them to Boers, Poles, Russians, Jews, and their own people.

          The final radicalization in Germany was triggered by the invasion of Russia, and the Holocaust itself was only started when it became clear that ultimate victory was in doubt, the Wannsee Conference happened just as Germany was losing Stalingrad. Once there’s a war, people become inured to the idea of death. And it makes all political resistance treason.

          • LeeEsq

            This interpretation of fascism downplays a lot of the ills that existed in European society for centuries. Europeans had no problems killing and persecuting Jews centuries before they even set a foothold outside of Europe.

            • Ronan

              If you think the entirety of European history and the Jews place in Europe was an inevitable lead up to the holocaust, then sure. If you think, on the other hand, that even taking into account European historical anti semitism, that the Nazis particular ideologically racist empire building was contingent, and so needs to be contextualized properly, then arendt had a point.

          • LeeEsq

            I also find this interpretation on the origins of fascism lacking because the European countries who had the biggest colonial Empires like the United Kingdom and France did not go fascist on the home front unless it was imposed after being defeated by Nazi Germany in the case of France. The country with the oldest colonial empire, Portugal, went fascist light. Italy and Germany had small and short lived colonial empires, Germany even lost all of its’ colonies, when it went fascist.

            • Thom

              So they all went fascist except for Britain (which had a significant fascist movement). And we could add Spain.

              • Right. And, in fact, Britain’s fascist movement was stopped in part by violent resistance from other British citizens, which is something today’s anti-Nazi-punching brigade would like to overlook.

                • humanoid.panda

                  Well, that and the fact it never had more than a couple thousand members, and no support from British elites..

                • The Nazis also only had a few thousand members at one point. Physically preventing British fascists from obtaining access to political spaces was doubtless a contributing factor in keeping them from gaining support from elites.

                • Ronan

                  I don’t think this is true that British anti fascists prevented British Nazism. Probably closer to the British being spared the worst of the first world war, and a firmer commitment to liberalism among the elite and population.

                • There were multiple causes that prevented fascism from taking root in Britain as completely. Anti-fascism was one. Being spared the worst of WWI was also probably one. I’m not entirely convinced on the élites having a firmer commitment to liberalism, but maybe by the standards of the time that would actually be true. That seems roughly like saying someone is “more trustworthy than Alex Jones” to my modern standards but Depression-era Europe was a truly horrible place so it could be correct. However Gandhi was roughly simultaneously resisting the British empire so it doesn’t feel particularly convincing to me. Then again, the fact that Gandhi was successful may actually be fairly convincing proof; his tactics probably wouldn’t have worked against Germany. In short I’m ambivalent about the assertion.

                • Ronan

                  Something can have multiple causes, but that doesnt mean all are equally important. (At least if we’re talking about historical events)
                  There was a lot of anti fascist violence on the continent as well, in fact afaik it was more prevalent than in the UK, so.you have to account for why it was so important in the UK but not Germany.

                • humanoid.panda

                  The Nazis also only had a few thousand members at one point. Physically preventing British fascists from obtaining access to political spaces was doubtless a contributing factor in keeping them from gaining support from elites.

                  The Nazis were once a tiny force, true. But the paramilitary culture from which they grew was immense, from the very start of the Weimar Republic. And that sub-culture, and the every-day political violence in which it flourished, were utterly absent in the United Kingdom. So, while the Cable Street battle was a good thing, it was a minor, very minor, cause of Mosley not becoming a serious player.

                • humanoid.panda

                  And of course, even though I agree that punching Nazis in the face is a good thing, morally, one of the things we have to take account is that “violent resistance by German citizens” was a crucial factor in why middle class folks came to accept Nazism as tolerable evil. In fact, it is a historical fact that both the KPD and the NSDAP kept voting for amnesties for political riot participants and opposed attempts at clampdown on militias – both understood that street violence was dissolving the liberal order.

                • guthrie

                  That Britain didn’t go fascist is I think down to a number of things. (Bearing in mind I am not an expert, I’ve merely read a number of books written before and after the war which examine fascism and related topics, but not yet the Arendt book)

                  Firstly, the British ruling class were more flexible and able to give a little to the working classes, and yet maintained their own power well enough, having had 400 years of dealing with royalty.
                  Whereas the German ruling class was not long out of a war in which the aristocracy was heavily involved, and basically their ruling class was running scared.
                  And the british probably were more wedded to actual free trade and liberalism than in Germany.

                  Secondly, fascist ideals as expressed in various countries and ways just don’t quite match the british ‘character’ and general way of doing things.
                  Thirdly, already being top dog means that whilst you do moan a lot about all these other people catching up, a certain amount of complacency and suchlike helps ward off ideals based on becoming the biggest strongest kid on the block.

                • Chetsky

                  Maybe it’s been asked already, but if you had pointers (for the wanting-to-learn-but-unaware-of-the-literature), I’d sure appreciate ’em.

              • humanoid.panda

                France didn’t go fascist – it had a collaboraionist government following a military defeat. And Russia went totalitarian (according to Arendt) without having an overseas empire. A theory that fails to explain so much is problematic..

                • Woodrowfan

                  but France did have significant far right political movements, such as the Action française and the PSF. There was even an attempted RW coup in 1937 or so.

                  And Russia was aggressively imperialist, moving south and east. You don’t need overseas colonies to be imperialist.

                • humanoid.panda

                  Yes, it had them, but they never came close to assuming power unti Vichy. And as for Russia: Arend’t key term is that the colonial rule starts of being different than metropolitan order, and then is reimported to it. Russia, however, was an empire in the old sense of the word: the regime in the Russian heartland was equally, if not more, oppressive and exploitative than the regime in, say, Georgia.

                • Thom

                  Since Melissa Byrnes is a historian of France, I would ask her views on whether Vichy was fascist. Although that government came into being after defeat and occupation of a large portion of the country, it was not run by Germans. And from casual knowledge about it, it looks like it shares a lot with fascism, e.g. authoritarian patriarchal govt. I don’t know enough about it to know what other elements of fascism it had or lacked.

                • Thom

                  “Russia went totalitarian (according to Arendt) without having an overseas empire.”

                  This is the same mistake we make about the US, as if the US only became an imperial power after 1898 (and not even then, according to most Americans.) But lets look back a little, eg. to 1847, when the US attacked Mexico and took half its territory, just as one example.

            • The Dark God of Time

              Germany lost all of its’ colonies when it went fascist after WWI.



              • humanoid.panda

                While historians don’t particulalry like a lot Arendt’s work, it actually has resonance when it comes to Germany. Germany didn’t have much of an empire, true. But while Britain and FRance mostly based their empires on traditional divide and rule methods, Germany famously engaged in military rule and forced modernization and genocidal practices that did go back to the mainland.

                • Ronan

                  I haven’t read arendt, but iirc Mark mazower dealt explicitly with the comparisons with European colonialism in “Hitler’s empire” (his argument being, again iirc, that the comparisons are superficial enough, that it was more the Nazis borrowed practices that were used to pacify and exterminate native populations in the empires, but that you can’t really draw a strong causal relationship between European colonialism leading to Nazi empire building)

            • Woodrowfan

              nothing in Arendt’s theory says you have to have had a large, or even long-lasting imperialistic presence overseas. The mindset needed to adopt imperialism, and the infrastructure the state creates can backfire to change the system of the homeland.

              Germany certainly had that even if their actual empire was relatively short-lived, They even had units that committed genocide against African tribes in SW Africa (Namabia) which wore, yes, brown shirted uniforms. The SA adopting the brown shirt was not an accident.

      • tahfromslc

        Excellent point.

      • Matt McIrvin

        I suspect that major Bad Things happening in the US are most likely to look something like the versions we’ve had already: the models we think about first should probably be the slave state, the Jim Crow state, the Tulsa pogrom and the Wilmington, NC coup, the genocide of the Native Americans, HUAC and Joe McCarthy, the Nixon administration, maybe Huey Long’s Louisiana. There’s a lot of material to draw on.

        • Yeah, we’ve had more than our share of government abuses. I’d add Japanese-American internment camps and the Trail of Tears (I know you mentioned American Indian genocide already, but the Trail of Tears is a particularly horrific case).

    • joejoejoe

      Paul Tsongas calling Bill Clinton a Pander Bear is one of my all-time favorite political digs. Especially because he then proceeded to overexplain the joke like a professor while holding up a stuffed bear.

      • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

        I very distinctly remember my mom taking me to our neighborhood caucus site in ’91 (WA) and hearing her talk up Paul Tsongas for President while expressing her concerns about this Bill Clinton fellow everyone was buzzing about because he reminded her “of the people who wanted to be Preaident since they were in high school.”

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      We have the same problem with “racism” – most Americans equate it with cross burnings and segregated bathrooms, i.e. as something that we buried 50+ years ago when Dr. King gave that speech.

  • Emmryss

    They won’t come as Nazis from the ’30s, no. Where parallels can be helpful is finding out more about how & why people who could have seen it coming didn’t. What were the warning signs and why did they miss them? They weren’t looking for Nazis either. It was all as new to them as this is to us.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I think Trump wanting a parade of tanks and missile launchers for his inauguration was a great big hint.

      Nixon’s White House guards uniform idea pales by comparison.

      • Phil Perspective

        I think Trump wanting a parade of tanks and missile launchers for his inauguration was a great big hint.

        You do know that he wouldn’t have been the first president to do that, right? They were included in JFK’s parade.

        • Hells Littlest Angel

          Any documentation for that claim? I see right-wingers making it, but I can’t seem to find a photograph. You’d think there would be thousands of them, but I can’t find one.

          • wjts
            • Hells Littlest Angel

              Thanks. I feel a whole lot better about Trump now. Whew!

              • wjts

                Since Kennedy actually had missiles at his parade and Trump only wanted them, this proves, once and for all and for all possible situations, that both sides do it but the Democrats are worse.

                • sigaba



                • wjts

                  The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light.

                • sigaba

                  And there’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ‘ya ’bout the Raising of the Wrists.

                • Socrates himself was permanently pissed.

                • redrob

                  wjts, I can do you blood and love without rhetoric, and I can do you blood and rhetoric without love, and I can do you all three concurrent or consecutive, but I can’t do you love and rhetoric without blood. Blood is compulsory – they’re all blood, you see.

                  ETA: And I’m afraid that’s the problem.

    • tahfromslc

      And how to resist.

  • Nobdy

    It’s not a coincidence that we have stopped learning from others. Proud ignorance and a fear and suspicion of academics and experts are explicit parts of the Republican agenda.

    American ignorance is an intentional political choice.

  • Nick never Nick

    I appreciate this article, and it’s interesting — but I think it gets it wrong by looking at these characteristics as ‘Nazi’, when they are much more easily ascribed to simple authoritarianism. The main distinguishing feature of Nazism is the obsession with racial purity and eventually the Final Solution; but shitting on some minority ethnic group is actually pretty common among authoritarians. We have to break away from seeing everything through a Nazi frame.

    I still say that the argument I read here and elsewhere comparing Trump to a Latin American caudillo has great explanatory power — one reason no one is interested in that is because it suggests that the struggle of our times is not a grand and existential one fraught with heroism, but simply against crapification. Trump isn’t a Nazi, he’s a crapifier, and his Platonic self isn’t Hitler, but Trujillo or Chavez.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Latin American caudillos didn’t have the firepower to set the world in fire. This makes the Nazi analogy tempting. Also, I get the impression that Germany was a fairly normal democracy before that particluar freakout. Not quite the same as a place with dictator-of-the-month club.

      And yes, we should ponder the larger subject of authoritarian jerks, but when talking to the American public, Trujillo and Peron and Pinochet aren’t going to ring any bells.

      • Germany wasn’t really a democracy until after WWI. It was a young democracy, and the years between the two world wars saw: Western Germany occupied by the French army, which extracted resources under the peace treaty; hyperinflation, which destroyed the economy; and the Great Depression, with 30% unemployment.

        On top of this, the army and other reactionary forces actively schemed to restore the monarchy, and the Communist party campaigned on dissolving the government and turning Germany into a Soviet state.

        The US has a lot more going for it than the Weimar Republic did. Unfortunately, we live in a world with nuclear weapons, so you don’t have to be literally Hitler to end the world. Hell, nobody was literally Hitler during WWI, and they managed to kill tens of millions of people, with a genocide to boot.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          a) thanks for the quick class on democracy in that era, in Germany. I had a fuzzy memory that it was fairly recent in the UK, too (if you want to quibble about property ownership and suffrage, and ooh, I would quibble that)

          2) In WWI, Hitler was literally Hitler, but I know what you meant.

          • humanoid.panda

            If you take democracy to be universal suffrage, if only for men, Britain was a more recent democracy than Germany- Reicshtag elections had universal suffrage since 1871. But what Britain had going for it is century or more commitment to the idea that executive power stems from election and is bound by laws. Both ideas were anathema to German elites.

    • Nobdy

      Say what you will but there are ties to actual Nazis. Richard Spencer has called for the extermination of African Americans and he was college buddies with Stephen Miller. Steven Bannon ran a racist website. This is scary stuff.

      Also you won’t know if the Nazis are in charge until they start rounding people up beyond the immigration ban and deportations (which are forms of ethnic cleansing, though obviously less horrible than genocide.) So we need to resist now when they are not entrenched to keep them from entrenching and going full Nazi.

      Maybe they wouldn’t anyway, but let’s not find out.

      • Nick never Nick

        But rounding up people and deporting them isn’t ‘full Nazi’ — it’s actually pretty common. Trujillo did worse than that, and the Buddhist authoritarians of Myanmar are doing it today. It’s not like the Nazis were the only racist authoritarian state, and all the other authoritarian states were committed to human equality, only authoritarian too.

        If we frame the debate as ‘democratic or Nazi’ we’re going to lose, because for a long time the majority of Trump’s governance will be partially within norms, only with withered Nazi shoots poking up here and there. As one of the people discussed points out, Americans are exceptionalists, and will identify the normal parts with their country.

        Also, caudillos tend to the ridiculous. For Trump, ‘ridiculous’ is a closer place to take him than ‘evil fascist genius’. As the OP writes, if you start arguing that Trump has a master plan, you get bogged down pretty quick . . .

        • Dilan Esper

          Yeah, have people forgotten Milosevic? We aren’t even anywhere near THAT level.

        • The problem is that Hitler was seen as ridiculous by his contemporaries too.

          And yes, mass deportations happen in states that don’t go full Nazi. The problem is that there are people within the administration who could very plausibly be imagined to go full Nazi – and in fact, Bannon’s site has basically published arguments for doing exactly that.

          I’m not saying people shouldn’t be careful making Hitler comparisons, but they shouldn’t be simply brushed aside because there are several forms of authoritarianism, either. Hitler isn’t exactly the only prolifically authoritarian, anyway – to pick three examples out of a hat, Pol Pot, Stalin, and the rulers of Rwanda certainly had their share of bodies as well. If Richard Evans is worried about the parallels to Hitler, everyone should be worried.

          • sigaba

            Bannon’s site has basically published arguments for doing exactly that.

            “Bannon’s site” straight-up traffics in blood libels— of blacks, of immigrants, of muslims. This is a term which should be revived.

          • Penultimate sentence is intended to start “Hitler isn’t exactly the only prolifically murderous authoritarian”. Noticed the typo just outside the edit window. Hopefully my meaning came through anyway, but wanted to be clear just in case it didn’t.

        • Roberta

          The Nazis didn’t start off as “full Nazi” either. I agree we should be careful about Nazi comparisons, but I don’t think it’s at all out of bounds to note the similarities between this and the early Nazi regime. Which are striking, in part because there’s active and specific imitation going on. Bannon and Spencer and Miller aren’t harkening back to the glory days of the caudillos, and they’re not releasing statements that distort the nature of the crimes of Latin American dictators. No, they’re glorifying fascism, calling for ethnic cleansing, and releasing Holocaust-denying statements. They are acting like wannabe Nazis.

    • I’ve come to the conclusion that Trump isn’t Hitler, but the Pepe army are Nazis.

      Hitler’s rise from obscurity to the chancellery is remarkable. Hitler was a corporal in the army and Trump is a billionaire (maybe). The Nazis were a crappy little political party that hit the big time. There are a thousands that didn’t. The Nazis even tried and failed to overthrow the government in the early 20s. The closest analogy I can think of is if in fifteen years Ammon Bundy ran for president and own.

      That being said, part of the reason people make the Nazi comparison is because so many of Trump’s supporters explicitly invite it. They are exactly the same people who would have become brownshirts, but we’re not 1920s Germany so they harass people online instead of forming street gangs to beat people up.

      The Nazis were murdering political opponents before they were in power. I thought Trump would’ve engaged in some sort of political violence by now. Obviously I was wrong. However, a substantial part of his base wants him to do exactly that. I’m not sure what it means for the future, but it’s scary.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        so they harass people online instead of forming street gangs to beat people up.


      • JonH

        ” I thought Trump would’ve engaged in some sort of political violence by now.”

        I suspect that today’s phone cameras, security cameras, and investigation technology maybe makes that a bit less likely. Too easy to get caught. Night and Fog is a little bit harder in the panopticon.

        But once they have a chance to infiltrate and disable the panopticon…

    • Chetsky

      NnN: um, I’m just a computer guy, and dabble in trying to understand humans; certainly reading this and a few other blogs has advanced my understanding (I hope).

      I think you’re being over-optimistic in thinking that this isn’t akin to Nazis. That this moment in America is akin to just some dictatorship. Others in this thread have pointed out many reasons. I’ll point what for me, as a brown man who grew up “white on the inside”, is the big one:

      white supremacy and the cult of the lost cause

      This shit is -precisely- about racial purity and the “existential struggle between the races”.

      When I disowned my former friends, when I talk to others about this, it is about the fact that white supremacy is being melded with authoritarianism. Just today, a (white) friend and I were talking about Dampnut over lunch. I was going to mention Flynn and what we all hope was a comedy of errors (rather than a Cunning Plan(tm)) at Mar a Lago over the weekend, but wow, he jumped right to “Reichstag fire” (as in, it’s clear that when he thinks of Dampnut, his worry about a triggering event for a real clampdown, is front-and-center in his mind).

      This isn’t Roberto d’Aubuisson. This is a guy (and a cabal) that could upend the entire Western order. That order might not be great. But it’s -my- (-our-) order. Fix it, sure. Kick it over and set it on fire? Nopes. And that’s what they’re aiming to do: kick it over and set it on fire.

  • dn

    I maintain that Trump is just too goddamned dumb to qualify for any ideological category like “fascist”. But Bannon is another story. My working theory is that he’s more of a Charles Maurras type. Right-wing press mogul, ultra-Catholic, claims not to be a racist but obsessed with religious minorities and “internal foreigners”, fancies himself an intellectual, etc.

    • Nick never Nick

      Spenglerian, ‘grand sweep of history’, basically the same attitudes as a British colonial major fucking up the lives of locals in some remote station . . .

  • Nick never Nick

    Can anyone believe that we spent 18 months bitching and fighting and analyzing and pontificating on the fucking campaign, and now we’re writing about President Trump? Jeez.

  • Captain Oblivious

    I think we need to be very concerned and vigilant and keep the pressure on these buttwipes but…

    (a) The Nazis knew what they were doing. Nobody in the WH has a clue. Bannon is probably the least inept, but every button he’s pushed so far has ultimately sputtered out. And the GOP Congress can’t get its act together on anything.

    (b) Anti-semitism was deeply ingrained into German Lutheran and Catholic culture for centuries before Hitler came along. It doesn’t have anywhere near the same penetration in American that it had in 1930s, and the Muslim/Latino/random brown people proxy for it has not generated anything equivalent either.

    (c) The Nazis’s opposition didn’t have social media. The Woman’s March happened only because of Facebook.

    (d) The First Amendment is sacred holy writ to most Americans, but to impose an authoritarian government you have to rip it up. Good luck with that.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Anti-semitism was deeply ingrained into German Lutheran and Catholic culture for centuries before Hitler came along. It doesn’t have anywhere near the same penetration in American that it had in 1930s, and the Muslim/Latino/random brown people proxy for it has not generated anything equivalent either.

      Agree on the first, not so much on the second. Amongst the Archie Bunker class hatred of Mexicans and blacks is as deep as can be. Muslims are just another flavor of same.

      • LosGatosCA

        Ever hear of Jim Crow? Anti-busing surburbanites? Japanese internment?

        As the OP points out Americans are not the special snowflakes they think they are.

      • Philip

        I’m not even totally willing to cede the first. Antisemitism doesn’t behave like “ordinary” racism, in ways I don’t really understand and have never seen an adequate explanation for. It goes underground, seems to have basically disappeared, and then suddenly re-emerges fully fledged decades later, with all the same insane conspiracy theories and violence intact. It’s deeply embedded in Western history and culture, and declaring victory over it is really dangerous.

        • I had only seen the really virulent, genocidal kind of anti-Semitism in films and history books, up until last year. Keep in mind: I live in Florida – “where Cubans go to live and Jews go to die”, as Jon Stewart put it. I’d seen evidence of anti-Semitism in other countries, but even that was nothing like the stuff in the history books – it was mostly just ironic edgelords that thought it would make them look cool for some dumb reason, and a lot of them grew out of it as they got older and realised politics are actually pretty complicated. This analysis strikes me as essentially spot-on – it can skip a generation, maybe, like some recessive genetic traits. I don’t know why it happens; it disappears for awhile and then reappears seventy years later as if no time had passed.

          I suspect black people in this country must feel like this all the time, except at least ten times worse. And probably closer to a hundred. I have no idea how they endure it. Maybe they just have more practice at it, or have been prepared for it by their life experiences. I think that may be it: this caught me completely unprepared. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be scared of anti-Semitism while still living in Florida in 2017, I’d have laughed in your face.

          One final note is that recent events have definitely strengthened my sense of Jewish identity to a level I’ve never had before. I’ve practised writing my name in Hebrew, for example, and prefer to look at it that way now.

          • My (admittedly borderline paranoid) hypothesis is that antisemitism doesn’t ‘pop up’ it is grown in the dark, like smallpox at some secret government biowarfare facility. After WWII, way too many Nazis escaped punishment. The US and other western countries sponsored programs like the Italian Operation Gladio to prepare partisan fighters in almost every European country to resist a communist invasion. link In many cases the people they recruited were Nazis or fascists. Some of them operated and recruited for decades, giving rise to an entire new generation of right wing terrorists. That doesn’t even count things like Operation Paperclip Or the thousands of Germans who emigrated to the US some of whom were hiding a dark Nazi past. And they, along with our very own home-grown bigots fermented in gatherings of Confederate sympathizers, and John Birch society meetings for decades. Right wing talk radio proved that these assholes could be monetized by pandering to their regressive politics. Between sympathetic spies growing Nazis in the dark and the right wing media empire, a resurgence of fascism and antisemitism and racism was all but inevitable.

            • Fuck. Maybe Marvel was right and Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD all along. I refuse to believe Cap was ever a Nazi though. That’s a bridge too far!

              • Roberta

                Cap was created by Jewish artists to punch Nazis. He was never a Nazi.

                But Winter Soldier is looking more and more like an alternative history.

                • I’m referring to the abominable HydraCap story going on in the current Marvel comics. The Sam Wilson Cap story is equally a betrayal of the character’s roots. Overall, I agree; the current portrayal is a complete misrepresentation of everything the character ever stood for.

                  And yeah, if you subtract the superheroes, Winter Soldier pretty much looks like reality now.

        • Roberta

          I’d heard people argue this before and never believed it until 2016. In fact, I thought it was an ahistorical argument that was created mostly to foster paranoia and an uncritical attitude towards Israel.

          Now I figure I was very wrong.

          • Matt McIrvin

            A thing I didn’t get until relatively recently is that some antisemites are really quite fond of Israel. They like Israeli Jews, who they picture as these faintly exotic badasses pushing back Muslim hordes in a faraway place, not like the suspicious cosmopolites who live nearby. And it squares with their love of ethnic nationalism–all the ethnicities neatly sorted out into non-mixing homelands.

            And for the apocalyptic Christianist ones, there’s the whole angle of wanting Israel to fulfill some prophecy so the End Times happen correctly (which involves the Jews all being forced to convert to Christianity or be vaporized by Laser Monster Jesus, but that’s not their problem).

            • This is certainly a thing that’s puzzling to a lot of outsiders, but yes, there’s quite a lot of this (which is also another reason I hate it when criticism of Israel is equated with antisemitism; they are not identical, and just because a person falls into one doesn’t mean they fall into the other). The ones who want us to fulfil some prophecy so we can be sentenced to hell particularly infuriate me.

        • Matt McIrvin

          Antisemitism of the alt-right sort was always floating around in the dark recesses of the Internet. Even at times when nobody really talked about it much in mainstream culture, it seemed as if every conspiracy theorist who posted multi-page Usenet rants about UFOs and the Hollow Earth got onto the subject of the perfidy of the Jews eventually. Which means it was enough there for these fringe figures to be attracted to it.

          • There have always been antisemites, but this seems somehow different. You would rarely have trolls openly calling for gas chambers on mainstream sites two years ago, or if you did, I didn’t see it. The people posting those sorts of things rarely ventured out of sites like Stormfront. Trump’s ascendancy and especially election emboldened them. I believe that’s what Philip means by “goes underground” – it still existed, but it wasn’t mainstream.

            • Matt McIrvin

              Yeah, they definitely felt they had license to run free.

              That’s true to some degree of every kind of bigot, though–a consistent strain in the support for Trump was that when Trump got in, political correctness would be gone, and white men would finally be free to throw slurs around at the women and gays and blacks and Mexicans without any consequences at all.

              • That’s certainly true as well, but I didn’t get the impression that the anti-black/Mexican/Muslim bigotry was underground as much as the antisemitism was. The shitgibbon has certainly emboldened bigots of all stripes, though.

      • Chetsky

        *This* *This*

        Holy moley the racism against black people (and other dusk-hued kinds, but also Asians) is -amazing- in the Heartland. Just *amazing*.

        Still waters run deep, as they say where I grew up.

    • JonH

      “Anti-semitism was deeply ingrained into German Lutheran and Catholic culture for centuries before Hitler came along.”

      I suspect 9/11 and other terrorism act as a powerful accelerant. When that is available I doubt you need centuries of ingrained antisemitic culture. Especially as Americans who have only ever known the post-9/11 world reach adulthood… right about now.

    • As to the First Amendment, a whole lot of good the Bill of Rights did African-Americans during the Civil Rights era, or Japanese-Americans during World War II, or American Indians during the Trail of Tears. As George Carlin pointed out in one of his last routines, rights that can be taken away with the stroke of a pen are a concept; an idea. Guns are frequently more powerful than ideas. Now, sure, there are plenty of people who’d resist, and I’m one of them, but there’s no guarantee who will win. These are truly dangerous times.

    • Woodrowfan

      The Nazis knew what they were doing.

      I’ve been rereading Shirer’s “Nightmare Years” and he was struck by how stupid, ignorant, and incompetent so many of the NAZI leaders were. Many, he thought, had no knowledge of the world outside Germany, and they were proud of their ignorance.

      • Roberta

        Yeah, this is what is preventing me from boarding the ‘maybe Trump’s incompetence will prevent him from being Hitler II’ train.

    • Matt McIrvin

      You don’t need to rip up the First Amendment; you just need to reinterpret it. Right-wing Christians are, for instance, currently busy arguing that what it’s really about is giving their businesses license to discriminate against gays and prevent people from getting contraception, and their churches and PACs to launder campaign contributions without limit, and that it doesn’t apply to Muslims because Islam is not really a religion.

      And once you’ve sufficiently tarred all unsympathetic media outlets as “fake news”, you can get on with shutting them down for libel, fraud and incitement, which the First Amendment surely does not protect, right? It’s all perfectly consistent with legitimate freedom of speech, which is to say, freedom of speech that is nice to the legitimate authorities, and they get to say who those are.

  • wengler

    My major fear is that Trump is going to stumble the US into an unwinnable war(hell, you could say we are in one right now) and then dust off nuclear weapons like they are something no one has ever thought of. If the US attacks Iran(very possible), and Iran puts a US carrier on the bottom of the Arabian Sea(somewhat possible), what then?

    Using nukes against a non-nuclear opponent for the first time since 1945 suddenly throws worldwide proliferation of the demon weapon into an inescapable overdrive.

    • Roberta

      I’m hoping no one actually gave Trump the nuclear codes. The person whose job it was just made something up. “Here you go, Mr. President, the code is @l9!*&.”

      Unlikely? Sure. But can you imagine being the person whose job it was to hand Trump that kind of power? I couldn’t do it, no matter what law compelled me to.

  • Abbey Bartlet
  • Dilan Esper

    This is the left wing version of the neocon fantasy that it’s always Munich.

    There’s a reason Godwin’s law is a thing. People are psychologically attracted to the idea that they are great historical actors and their enemies are comparable to the most sinister in history.

    No, folks, sorry. We aren’t living in Nazi Germany. Stop with the delusions of grandeur. Our armies are not on the march throughout Europe, and we aren’t building extermination camps.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      This is some right-wing bullshit.

      • Dilan Esper

        This is not a response.

        • Abbey Bartlet

          It’s more of a response than you usually give.

    • Nick never Nick

      That’s an interesting suggestion, comparing this trope to the Munich fallacy. I’m not sure that you’re right, but it’s definitely worth remembering and thinking about.

    • JonH

      “Our armies are not on the march throughout Europe, and we aren’t building extermination camps.”

      Things were pretty bad even before the extermination camps and marching armies started, you know.

      1933 Germany isn’t really something good for a country to be, either.

      • humanoid.panda

        And we are not Germany 1933,either. Putting it gently, members of Hitler’s inner circle were not resigning because of effective collaboration between the press and the national security institutions, and millions of people were not on the streets in powerful anti-Nazi protests.

        • The fact that the parallels are not exact is not exactly a convincing rebuttal to the fact that the parallels exist. For starters, the current administration has surveillance tools at its disposal that the Nazis could only have dreamed of. Whether they’ll be able to manage them effectively remains to be seen, but fascism never manifests itself in the exact same way in different countries, and even across different eras it does not manifest itself in the same way.

          • humanoid.panda

            Surveillance tools are a red herring. When the Soviets invaded the Baltic states, they managed to utterly destroy civic society there within 3 months, with the use of nothing more sophisticated than index cards..

            And while its true that fascism manifests itself differently in different places, concepts have to have limits in order to be useful. Which is why a lot of scholars dislike the use of the word fascism even when discussing Spain or Portugal, let alone places far removed in space and time from interwar Europe.

            • Surveillance tools now are much more sophisticated than anything the Soviets had, too. And yes, we have cryptography, but many people are too lazy to use it correctly and of the ones who do use it, many won’t use it correctly. A security system is only as good as its least secure user. Complacency about these things is incredibly dangerous.

              I don’t really care if some pedants don’t like calling Franco’s Spain fascist. I still wouldn’t want to live there.

        • Matt McIrvin

          The point is, as Ray Bradbury said, not so much to predict the future as to prevent it.

    • sigaba

      Of course we’re not living in Nazi Germany, you never stand in the same river twice.

      We could simply be living in Rafael Correa’s Ecuador, except instead of a minor South American country, we have an army seven times the size of China’s, and the words largest nuclear stockpile, and the administration has eliminationist designs against various immigrants.

      And if any foreign policy crisis occurs in the next four years, crises the administration is actively promoting, he’ll become politically untouchable.

      Apart from that, yeah, totally not Nazi Germany.

      • humanoid.panda

        And if any foreign policy crisis occurs in the next four years, crises the administration is actively promoting, he’ll become politically untouchable.

        Assumes facts not in evidence.

        • He might not, but he might. GWB was untouchable for years after 9/11. To be fair, GWB managed his public image much more capably after 9/11 than Tangerine Trujillo seems capable of doing. The prospect that he might actually be capable of doing that is terrifying. What we’ve shown suggests that he isn’t… but we don’t know that for certain.

        • Matt McIrvin

          This is the big question I’m wondering about. 9/11 gave GWB instant legitimacy, gravitas and close to 90% public support… but 9/11 was also a surprise to a degree that a large terrorist attack today wouldn’t be. People simply did not have that kind of thing on their radar.

          Whether that works against Trump or for him, I don’t know. It means that Trump can make really explicit preparations to turn people against the judiciary and the opposition in the event of an attack, as he’s obviously doing now. But it also means that a lot of liberals are already thinking and preparing their minds about what a Reichstag-fire-equivalent would be, and how they might mentally resist, and they were not doing that in the early months of 2001. Bush didn’t crush his opposition–to a large extent, he co-opted them, for a while at least.

    • Snuff curry

      People are psychologically attracted to the idea that they are great historical actors and their enemies are comparable to the most sinister in history.

      Yes, this is correct. Those people, the ones aspiring to become great historical actors, have found diggings in the White House (winter edition, too and also). They look to be after staying awhile.

      • Snuff curry

        Not for nothing that a presidential aide is going around cosplaying Hungarian Nazis. It’s not projection when the little twerps are actively seeking the parallels themselves.

    • Roberta

      People are also psychologically attracted to minimizing dangers until they come to full fruition, to telling themselves “it’s not so bad” and “but that won’t happen” and “he won’t win the primary” and “Hillary could still pull out a victory in PA” and “he didn’t really mean that Muslim ban thing” and “he’s surely not going to take away Obamacare, that’s not what I voted for him for.”

      And the Nazis didn’t start by building extermination camps.

    • bs

      But we do have a concentration camp in Cuba.

  • Chip Daniels

    Historical analogies are useful, but not something to be slavishly followed, anymore than the dueling statistical theories, the “due theory” or “always been thus” theory in sports.

    Nothing is a perfect comparison, and while Trump does traffic a lot in the same methods and strategies of the Nazis, America 2017 is not, in fact, Germany 1937.

    Its useful for us to recognize the symptoms and learn from them, but we also need to keep our eyes open to what is different, what weaknesses they had that we don’t and what strengths we have that they didn’t.

    • At the same time, it’s also useful to note which weaknesses we have that they didn’t and which strengths they had that we don’t.

      But yes, other commenters have also pointed out that fascism never manifests itself the same way in two different countries, and it’s a good point. Hitler is an especially alarming parallel for us, though, with our history of African-American slavery and American Indian genocide. It’s not only not unprecedented for something like the Holocaust to occur here, but I believe Hitler specifically cited it as a model.

  • McAllen

    Let me suggest it might be the case both that the administration’s disarray isn’t purposeful and that they might lead us into fascism anyway.

  • AMK

    Trump is already the fascist dictator of the quarter or so of the country that’s spent the past 20+ years marinating in Fox and talk radio propaganda and Infowars and Brietbart et al. If you pulled those people out of the country and let them assemble their own, it would be fascism. If you examine their heads, it’s briwnshirts and Taliban all the way down.

    The problem for Trump is that the rest of the country is to varying degrees not on board, and his actions in the past three weeks have done nothing to change that…maybe even the opposite.

    • Cassiodorus

      I spent way too much time in the teens/early 20s (approximately 2004-2008) hanging out at the message board of a right-wing radio host (what can I say, I enjoyed arguing with unhinged people). Even before the financial crisis, the desire for a jackbooted thug to “put racial and religious minorities in their place” dripped from most of the posts there. I also saw the universe of “alternative facts” before anyone had dared imagine such an Orwellian term. I’m not sure how representative those people are, but the heart of a fascist beats in each of them.

  • Azza

    I grew up in the state of Queensland, then known to many Australians as the Deep North by analogy to the Deep South.

    Queensland was not a dictatorship but it was a deeply flawed and authoritarian democracy where parliament, press, police, and to some extent courts, did the bidding of the state premier. All forms of protest were banned by law. The electoral boundaries were gerrymandered. Critics were harassed with repeat defamation cases brought by the premier but funded by the state government. When the National party took power in South Africa in 1949 they copied Queensland legislation on indigenous issues word for word into the apartheid law book.

    There are examples of US states and Canadian provinces falling into this kind of authoritarian semi-democracy. Northern Ireland would be another example. They are probably a better analogy to where Trumpism is heading.

  • cpinva

    “He could also deceive himself, particularly in the last years of Nazi Germany, when they were clearly losing the war.”

    he could do this, because by war’s end, he was a total drug addict. this rendered him incapable of seeing reality as it was. he was ordering german units, that no longer existed (in fact, hadn’t existed for some time) around outdated maps, much to the consternation of his professional generals. these generals then worked diligently to get their troops west, to surrender to the americans.

    • IIRC, the famous bunker scene in Downfall that everyone always parodies with subtitles is actually about him completely losing his shit when he’s informed that the armies on the map he has don’t actually exist. This is roughly equivalent to what actually happened. My German is no longer good enough to understand the scene without subtitles, so I can’t confirm this offhand.

  • Woodrowfan

    FWIW, the trumpster’s idea of publishing a weekly list of crimes committed by “illegal aliens*” is a direct copy from the NAZI’s weekly list of “crimes committees by Jews.”

    * i.e. anyone with a “foreign” name

  • LFC

    Evans is a great historian, Snyder far less so

    Evans was first, I believe, an historian of 19th cent Europe, then his focus turned to 20th (though I see he has a recent survey of 19th cent Europe in some series or other). The only thing of Evans’ I’ve read is The Third Reich at War (large chunks of). Awesome command of the literature, generally persuasive judgements. Not, however, imo, all that well written, though many reviewers seemed to think so.

    Have not read Snyder’s books, did hear him give a lecture several years ago, based on Bloodlands I think. Found it impressive, though the details have faded.

It is main inner container footer text