Fucking hell, ONE DAY after I make the absolutely authoritative and IRREFUTABLE
argument assertion that the US is not Weimar, and Jeffrey Goldberg’s Twitter stream puts me on to this:
No. No no no no no no no. Annnnnnnnnnd: No.
Question: Does Cohen state in any way how the US is like Weimar? He does not.
Oh, he goes on about anger and antipathy and xenophobia and bombast—as if these were new things in US politics—but says next-to-nothing about what Weimar was about.
The one thing he does mention, hyperinflation, he (correctly) dismisses: hyperinflation hit Germany in January 1923 (really, the inflation was bad even in the latter half of 1922), but by the following year was under control.
(Which is to say: those who think hyperinflation in 1923 => Hitler in 1933 are incorrect.)
So let’s look at Weimar, if only briefly.
The first thing to know is that the republic was formed out of the corpse of an authoritarian empire, an empire which lasted less than 50 years. Some conservatives had hated Bismarck’s Reich, believing the realpolitik behind its inception too cold, too practical; they wanted an expansive Empire, one which would compete with the UK and France, and which would dominated Europe.
At the onset of war in 1914, Germany failed in the former task, but it certainly was the strongman of the continent: it was the most populous state, and had the largest economy. The Kaiser’s government vacillated in its attempts to restrain the Hapsburgs, but when war came, the population was ecstatic: they were certain they would win, and that the glory, and riches, of victory would be theirs.
The government and the General Staff of the Army encouraged such thinking and then, as Germany’s fortunes turned in 1918, discouraged any counter-message through suppression and censorship; the Kaiser himself was only told of the need for surrender in September.
Oh, and can I pause here to note what shits were Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff? They’d set up what was basically a ‘silent’ military dictatorship in 1916, and when their tactics failed, they disclaimed any responsibility for those failures. Hindenburg went on to testify, twisting the words of an English writer, that the German army had been ‘stabbed in the back’ and Ludendorff—such a shit—set up any following government for failure. According to Detlev Peukert,
he pressed for the formation of a new government, which would have to concede Germany’s defeat and accept the likely peace terms that would follow, from the majority parties in Parliament: the Social Democrats, the liberals, and the [Catholic] Centre. The eventual effect of this cynical manoeuvre, which absolved the ruling conservative and military leadership of responsibility for the consequences of its own failed war policy, was to inflict on the democratic parties the odium of the notorious Dolchstoß [stab-in-the-back], directed by stay-at-home-politicians against the fighting soldiers in the trenches. (The Weimar Republic, p. 27)
(Ludendorff, you will not be at all surprised to learn, was also involved in the 1923 beer-hall-putsch, although the court acquitted him. He was sidelined after an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1925 (Hindenburg won), but remained involved in far-right politics until his death in 1937.)
Now, I’m spending a lot of time on this, and we haven’t even gotten to the republic itself, but the point is, that republic was targeted by its enemies even before it was born—and those enemies came not from outside of Germany,* but from its very center.
To be continued.
*Okay, not entirely true: German Communists, inspired and later directed by the Bolsheviks, were also opposed to the republic—they did, after all, attempt a revolutionary coup in early 1919—and they created no small amount of trouble for the republicans once the new government was established. Still, whatever power they had in the cities and in industrial areas, they had little power in the apparatus of the state itself.
n.b.: I updated what had been “1924 =>. . .” to “1923”.