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June 20, 2011
Instant HitlerBy Greyhawk
"His political career began in 1919 when he became Member No. 7 of the midget German Labor Party," Time magazine wrote of their 1938 Man of the Year. "Discovering his powers of oratory, Hitler soon became the party's leader..."
It's more correct to say the first thing Hitler did was create a union, but Shelton went on to call members of the New Jersey legislature "Adolf Christie's generals" for supporting the governor's efforts, adding "They're Nazis, goddamn it" for good measure. (Quick note for the young readers: "Nazi" was short - and pejorative; no one deserved that more - for Hitler's Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. See etymology here. Directly translated: "National Socialist German Workers' Party," though "labor" is interchangeable with "workers..." Various other national or international socialist groups then and now weren't comfortable with the full name for his organization, declaring Hitler to be "far right" and themselves "left" - or center - and the rest of us somewhere in between.)
Other speakers at the New Jersey event were quick to distance themselves from Shelton's remarks. In that situation I'm sure most people would; however, others embrace such highly charged, emotionally delivered declarations with something akin to religious fervor. It's only with disgust I can turn my attention to Adolf Hitler at all, I suspect a majority of Americans share that sentiment, some perhaps in the belief that if you ignore those people they go away. (After all, it can't happen here...) However, we live in a country where erroneous versions of history are increasingly popular and decreasingly trivial. The notion that Paul Revere's ride had nothing whatsoever to do with gun rights is spreading faster than Tony Weiner's Tweets (or unemployment, or mortgage foreclosures...). Meanwhile, off the top of my head I can name four Republican governors who've been declared Hitler over labor-related issues this year (and not just by labor union officials). Along with Christie they are Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Ohio's John Kasich, and Wisconsin's Scott Walker. (Walker most notably insofar as amount of national news coverage and enthusiastic participation of those who believed the charge - mostly government school teachers.)
The presumably anti-Hitler forces even have a new Hitler quote to support their claims:
"We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers salaries and take away their right to strike" - Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933
I've seen it repeatedly on Facebook, discussion boards, blogs and other locations over the past several months. It's a fabricated Hitler quote - it sprang into existence in February this year (just in time for the Wisconsin campaign) - but like so many other fabricated Hitler quotes it does sound kind of... Hitlery, to coin a term. (And like at least one other fabricated Hitler quote it sprang into being at the exact moment it was needed to advance an agenda remarkably similar to Hitler's.) It's even dated the actual day Hitler shut down those unions that weren't part of his socialist labor movement (the day after he held massive May Day celebrations), leaving his own Labor Front the only option available to workers. (Except they had no option - they had to join.)
So Hitler controlled Labor in Germany. The question becomes and then what? We know (or at least, we used to) Hitler blamed "speculators" (nudge wink) for Germany's economic woes, launched World War Two (citing his responsibility to protect German citizens in Czechoslovakia and Poland as an excuse) and killed millions - but we're talking about Labor here. We know (or at least, we used to) he revitalized the economy via government stimulus and jobs programs (the autobahn... public works... munitions... Volkswagen... tanks...), but what did Hitler do for those German workers of the mind and fist he claimed his party represented?
Let's turn to William Shirer for the answer. (Quick note for younger readers: his book Rise and Fall of the Third Reich documents exactly that, combined with his experiences as an American reporter in Germany throughout the period when Hitler came to power. It was a bestseller in an America where most people old enough to read had personal memories of World War Two. The entire book is available online for free here, the section on labor referenced below begins here.)
So, did he really slash wages? The answer is yes. Well, sort of yes. For skilled laborers the average fall was one cent an hour: "from 20.4 cents an hour in 1932... to 19.5 cents during the middle of 1936," Shirer says. Things were even worse for others: "Wage scales for unskilled labor fell from 16.1 cents to 13 cents an hour." How could he pull that off without inciting a workers' revolt? Simple: total income grew by 66 per cent. How can this be, you ask? Simple: Hitler reduced unemployment in Germany from six million to less than a million in that same time frame. (What part of socialism do you not understand?)
However, as Shirer makes clear, the typical German worker's income fell in other ways.
Besides stiff income taxes, compulsory contributions to sickness, unemployment and disability insurance, and Labor Front dues, the manual worker - like everyone else in Nazi Germany - was constantly pressured to make increasingly large gifts to an assortment of Nazi charities...
Much of that charity money went to support Germany's many unwed mothers and their children. With Hitler's encouragement and financial support their numbers were climbing sharply in the pre-war years - Der Führer foresaw the need for a large future pool of soldiers.
"Many a workman lost his job," Shirer reports, "because his contribution was deemed too small." How bad were things at their worst? All totaled, says Shirer, "In the mid-Thirties it was estimated that taxes and contributions took from 15 to 35 per cent of a worker's gross wage." I can only imagine an American veteran of D-Day and beyond reading that in 1960 and wondering... taxes, union dues, health insurance all mandatory, and charity "encouraged" - and totaling 15 per cent of gross income! We Americans fought a revolution over less! How could the Germans put up with that?
Shirer leaves no doubt as to how bad it was for the German worker. Those with weak stomachs might want to stop reading here - it keeps getting worse.
There was another heavy cost to the wage earner. As the largest single party organization in the country, with twenty-five million members, the Labor Front became a swollen bureaucracy, with tens of thousands of full-time employees. In fact, it was estimated that from 20 to 25 per cent of its income was absorbed by administration expense.
Okay, at this point you've probably noticed that mandatory taxes, union dues and health insurance combined to support a bloated bureaucracy isn't just a description of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, it also fits America today. (Though we do have cleaner, less inherently disturbing graphics, IMHO.) We all know Nazi Germany was horrible, Shirer from first hand observation. But reading past his general characterizations and into his specific descriptions it becomes obvious that many of the differences are nothing more than semantic - with obvious exceptions that still set us apart. For instance, we still have some states where (except for federal government employees) you don't have to join a union to get a decent job; union officials in twenty-first century America can still negotiate (while calling anyone who negotiates with them Nazis); and our unemployment rate is nowhere near that low. (And some of us wish our mandatory taxes and contributions were only 15% of our gross income...)
Germans also had something called Kraft durch Freude (KdF - translated: "Strength through Joy") that subsidized vacations (the beach, cruises, skiing...) sports, the theater, opera, concerts, (including a "ninety-piece symphony orchestra which continually toured the country, often playing in the smaller places where good music was not normally available") and a host of other diversions. (We've got the NEA and NPR, of course, but ...) Through KdF Hitler even started up his own government motor company (see Volkswagen link above) to subsidize ownership of economical, fuel efficient cars for German workers. (Many who paid in advance were disappointed; no one ever got one...)
Much of the focus of all KdF efforts was on government "health and fitness" guidelines for the German worker, whose "proper diet" and exercise were seen as government responsibility. "To the ordinary German in the Third Reich this official all-embracing recreational organization no doubt was better than nothing at all," says Shirer, "if one could not be trusted to be left to one's own devices."
It provided members of the Labor Front, for instance, with dirt-cheap vacation trips on land and sea. Dr Ley built two 25,000-ton ships, one of which he named after himself, and chartered ten others to to handle ocean cruises for Kraft Durch Freude.
Shirer went on one such cruise himself, and says "the German workers seemed to have a good time." Of course, Shirer could see something the average German would likely not admit: they'd been transformed into nothing more than "serfs" (to use his term).
I always thought Rise and Fall was a cautionary tale - but obviously others saw it as a how-to manual. I'd like to thank our patriotically concerned American union officials for the numerous shrill warnings over the past several months. I'm not clear if it's lower unemployment or subsidized vacations they're concerned these Hitlerific Republican Governors are trying to force on unsuspecting American workers, but at least when they try it we'll recognize it for what it is - the last few steps on the road to Nazidom.
Are you shovel ready, comrade?
Posted by Greyhawk / June 20, 2011 11:00 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com