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What colour are the shirts?

This is not a re-run of the 1930’s but surely I am not the only person who can hear the thin bat-squeak of warning?

Germany’s Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party made sweeping gains in important elections in the eastern state of Saxony yesterday after a shock protest vote that reflected the widespread unpopularity of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s economic reform programme.

The extreme-right Deutsche Volks Union also retained seats in Brandenburg state elections. However Mr Schröder’s Social Democrats remained the strongest party in the state despite substantial gains by the reformed-communist Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS.)

National Socialists+Communists+Germany = Hackles rising.

29 comments to What colour are the shirts?

  • Tim Sturm

    I’m not worried about a few angry young skinheads.

    It’s the Communists that bother me, because they still haven’t been morally discredited.

    Communists 28% in Brandenburg, why isn’t the media worried about that?

  • Tim,

    Your lack of concern about the strength of the electoral showing of the NDP and the DVU eerily parallels the attitude of many in the Weimar Republic, especially in light of your much greater concern with the communists. Extremism tends to have a dynamic of its own, with every push towards the extreme left instigating a counteracting push to the extreme right and vice versa, and pretty soon you find that it’s the brown- and redshirts who are running the show.

    I’d say there’s a great deal to be concerned about in the former East Germany, the inhabitants of which seem not to have acquired much of an appreciation for the benefits of a free society since their absorption by their Western neighbors. More than $1 trillion in transfer payments later and theirs is still an attitude of resentful ingratitude; a more clearcut warning of the dangers of dependency one would be hard-pressed to find.

  • No, David, you’re not the only one.

  • jon

    Reactionary nutcase parties have always found a home in times of economic uncertainty. Communists and Fascists just aren’t spontaneously generated when the people are happy and everything in the economy is humming along nicely. And the answers these parties purport to have to the questions that the scared masses have are clear and simple: we’ll take care of you.

    The track record of such parties upon the attainment of political power validates concern.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    What makes it worse is the vicious circle relationship between economic uncertainty and and socialist/fascist policies. The one common feature socialism and fascism have in common is a significant bulk of the economy being dictated by state policy. And as has been demonstrated quite satisfactorily, state intervention is usually not a good thing, leading to inefficiency and poor allocation of resources in an economic system.

    So the further the economy sinks, the more people clamor for state intervention, the more the state complies by even more hand-holding policies, the more the economy sinks as a result of those policies.

    It takes a determined application of will and intelligence by any peoples to break out of that circle. Do the Germans have it? Let’s hope so.


  • Tim makes a very important point. Let us not forget it was the economic mismanagement of socialists and social democrats, and the threat of Communism, which pushed so many Germans towards Nazism in the Weimar days.

  • jon

    I think that it may be a sort of anti-socialist myopia to suggest that the German economy went into the toilet in the Weimar days because of socialist policies. If I recall correctly, there were a number of crippling debt payments that the victors of WWI forced Germany to pay, which were not made any easier by the fact that there was this worldwide depression thing happening at the time. I won’t say the socialist policies didn’t hurt things, but I can’t pin the full blame for Nazism on socialist do-gooders in the Reichstadt, either.

  • Jacob

    “Reactionary nutcase parties have always found a home in times of economic uncertainty.”

    Well, in the times of economic uncertainty following WW2 Germany managed to produce a Konrad Adenauer and a Ludwig Ehrhard wich implemented very sane free market and democratic reforms.

    A pity that many have forgotten their own good traditions and flock now after the nutcases.

  • “A pity that many have forgotten their own good traditions”

    That’s just the problem: they aren’t “their own good traditions”, not in the east anyway. The last previous generation of people from East Germany with any exposure to such traditions probably lived in the time of the Zollverein.

  • Euan Gray

    in the times of economic uncertainty following WW2 Germany

    … was under foreign military occupation and subsequently operated under a constitution imposing constraints on military capability and the functioning of the political and judicial systems. It’s just possible this may have had a teensy bit to do with it. And let’s not forget the billions of dollars in Marshall Aid, the complete reconstruction of the economic base from zero, the security guarantee of the US forces in Europe, etc, etc.


  • Shaun Bourke

    It has always started out as a small but vicious internacine feud/war but has always ended up engulfing the continent. And just like the twenties and thirties it will be factional fighting between the various Socialist/Marxist groups.

    This past weekend in Krautland is a shot across the bow for Great Britain to high-tail it out of Zerope now as it is no-longer possible to deal with, from a long term point of view, any of the major players in the EU.

    I have mentioned previously that the EU is headed for war and this past weekend has bettered the odds for me…… care to place your bets Ladies and Gentlemen and what odds would you like this week ?

  • zmollusc

    I would think that the UK has run down its armed forces far enough for the usual ‘frantic ad hoc rearming – war – disarmament’ cycle to be at the pre-war stage.
    But who will risk their lives to protect what nulabour has turned the country into? Britain’s way of life in the thirties was worth defending. The spin doctors will really have their work cut out at the recruiting office.

  • Germany is unlikely to wreck the continent again, at least directly. They stopped having babies so they don’t have hordes of teenage boys to indoctrinate and teach to goose step. The danger is that they will wreck and impoverish themselves by stupid policies, which will be harmful enough for their neighbors even without a war.

    zmollusc, I live in the USA, but I have been to Britain, I have friends in Britain. New Labor will do its worst and some day go away. Britain is still worth defending.

  • What amused me about this event is that the far-left was already out getting into the fights with the police when they heard the results. Why is it the far-left only respects election results when their extremists do well?

    It is worth noting that in some areas of Germany third parties are kept out of power by a coalition between the SDU and CDU. This creates great dissatisfaction is those who like either and they are drawn to even more extremes.

    Ultimately, I agree with your David. This is worrying, if not at all surprising.

  • Verity

    Shaun Burke – Several of us posting here have mentioned the probability of war in Europe. What form it will take, I don’t know. Perhaps one country will resign from the EU and the rest of them will send in this fancy new international gendarmerie they’ve apparently got up their sleeves. No doubt the uniforms will be divine, having been designed in France, but it will be like all other EU warrior outfits – all fur coat and no knickers.

  • toolkien

    If I recall correctly, there were a number of crippling debt payments that the victors of WWI forced Germany to pay

    And the US loaned them the money to make the ones they reparation payments they actually made. It was these investors that really lost out.

    What seems to be lost in the shuffle here is the notion that soft-leftism ultimately breeds hard left and hard right. They make soft transfers through entitlements, borrowing, and manipulation of centrally controlled monetary policies, all the while quitely collectivizing the economy. Whenever the treasury dries up, they cut the handouts a little, pissing off the ‘entitled’ and finally get around to nakedly confiscating property once and for all, pissing off the property holders. The ‘good times’ only exist as a fiction, and when the rubber has to finally meet the road, the ‘fringes’ come out to play. That’s the cycle I’ve seen in Germany, Russia, France, and to a somewhat slighter degree, the US.

    This is what has me shivering. With decades of borrowing and monetary massaging reaching its end point, the benefits will have to contract, and the assessments on property holders will have to be quite painful to get decades of book-cooking to balance. The backlash of radicalization must follow, and it’s going to be proportionate to the length of false prosperity – read – HUGE.

  • I dunno. Tension is building up, but I think this is a problem that can and will be solved without an apocalypse.

  • Tanker Schreiber

    10% unemployment, Zero GDP growth, Surge in popularity of Communists and Fascists…….yeah, they deserve a permanent seat on the UN Security Council!

  • Tony Di Croce

    Socialism doesn’t work because it is contrary to the very nature of man. It doesn’t matter how you spin it, or how slowly you apply it. It is destructive to civilization and results in at best stagnation, and at worst outright war.

    For an economic system to work long term, the majority of the people have to put in more than they take out. If this is not the case, the balance will be repaid one way or another. TANSTAFL.


  • These far-right parties have been making inroads all over Europe for the past few years, which makes me wonder why (american) academics are so loath to discuss fascism, neo-fascism, and their effects on both European political systems and the EU from either a political, theoretical, or historical perspective. Thank god for blogs!


  • Jacob

    “… was under foreign military occupation and subsequently operated under a constitution imposing constraints on ..”

    If memory serves me right, the American Commander Gen. Lucius Clay got some advice on reconstruction from the State Department boys, recommending new-deal socialism and government management of the economy. Ludwig Erhard said: thanks, but no, thanks, and adopted free market reforms that produced the German economic miracle that lasted some 50 years.

    Will Europe explode into war ?? I don’t think so. They are far too weak, too pacifist in outlook, too impotent.
    They will sink slowly, slowly into oblivion, as they have been doing for 50 years. They will become just another region of the globe, like South America or Africa. Or maybe not. I don’t know. But I see no war.

  • ATM

    Sorry, Apark, but the KKK doesn’t exactly win elections in the US. They don’t represent a signficant force in the US. Far right parties in Europe on the other hand do win elections and seem to speak for a relatively large fraction of the population.

  • I’d be careful of saying pop, not bang. The Reichswehr was 100,000 men, no navy to speak of, no air force, under international sanctions…

    The industrial base is there. It’s not like H&K and Steyr Mannlicher just vanished. If the Germans suddenly seriously want to re arm, in 10 years the Wehrmacht will be reborn.

  • I would not discount Europe descending into a war. It will be interesting to see what happens when countries in the EU really try to leave once they have discovered what a scam it is in the end.

  • veryretired

    Here’s a little hypothetical for the followers of the “Swiss model”.

    In 2020, the German economy is moribund, unemployment and inflation rising, there are frequent street battles between opposing political/religious/cultural groups, and a coalition government seems powerless to take any positive action.

    A very charismatic, media savvy figure emerges from relative obscurity to contend for high political office, his campaign based on strong state action to invigorate the economy, fiery condemnations of “foriegn cultural influences”, and a program of rebuilding the military in order to truly make the EU, with Germany as its major player, a world power in every sense of the word.

    How long should “Switzerland” wait for these developments to play themselves out? What would you need to see in order to see the need to take action?

    Over 100 million are sitting up in their graves waiting to hear your answer.

  • Jacob

    Couldn’t the same happen in Britain ? If not in Britain than surely it could happen in France (Le Pen). And France is a nuclear power, with a “force de frappe”.

    Or maybe in Russia ? Also a nuclear power. And maybe it’s already happening there.

    Or maybe in Iran ? An almost nuclear power. And it has already happened there.

    So, though it’s ok to worry about Germany, there are other, much more immediate problems.

  • veryretired

    Churchill’s comment on the German psyche was, to paraphrase, “They are very cultured people who come boiling out of Central Europe every generation or so and try to kill every one in their path.”

    The question was specific for a specific reason: there is a great theoretical debate about the morality of going back in time and killing hitler in 1935, before any of the great war crimes. I merely updated it to encompass the current US policy of pre-emption, and would be interested in the response of the “Swiss” proponents here at Samizdata.

    Since they have declined to answer other questions, I am not surprized that all I got was your non-response to this one.

  • Peter Sykes

    A worrying development.

    I think its always worrying when the press don’t seem to care about the communists, believing they are different to the nazis, when in fact they are equally focused on state controlled brainwashing.

  • Dr. Cruel

    Your lack of concern about the strength of the electoral showing of the NDP and the DVU eerily parallels the attitude of many in the Weimar Republic, especially in light of your much greater concern with the communists.

    Your lack of concern regarding the communists is reminiscent of the Kerensky government in Russia, before the rise of Lenin and the subsequent slaughter of millions of people by Lenin’s Cheka, especially in light of your much greater concern for “rightist” elements from the past regaining power.

    I’d say there’s a great deal to be concerned about in the former East Germany, the inhabitants of which seem not to have acquired much of an appreciation for the benefits of a free society since their absorption by their Western neighbors.

    They had a great deal less concern for the benefits of a free society when they were goose-stepping for the Warsaw Pact. Or is that too long ago to remember?