Monday, March 21, 2016

A Note On Weimar Elections

A common theme to historians' recaps of Weimar elections is the idea that the Nazis never received a majority of the vote. Now there is a powerful message with that people who grow up in America as well as other European states. Specifically in America, we see a majority victorious as having the consent and expressing the will of the people as well as an approved mandate to govern. This chips away at the idea that the Nazis used legitimate means to gain power. it also allows for the Germans to wipe away some guilt and separate themselves from those nasty, icky Germans that voted the Nazis in. "It was not all of Germany." they can say. True, but it was an unusual percentage of Germans for that era.

If you look at the history of Weimar elections, the politics was incredibly low level due to the low hurdles to get a party on ballots and low hurdle for voter percentage to get seats in parliament. Think of the ridiculously low level of signatures needed to have a citizens' referendum in California. Germans took to voting like fish to water with incredibly high turnouts well over what we experience today. This made forming a large party with a large share of the vote difficult. In fact, it was so difficult that no one could do it but the Nazis and only until the very end of the republic when things became so chaotic, the voters were looking for willpower to end their problems.

The Social Democratic Party of Germany, which still exists today, declared right at the end of the first world war a German republic. This party had amazing fanfare behind it, and an infrastructure that other parties lacked. Now they had a bit of a rival problem as the communists declared a republic too. There were also people's councils popping up everywhere, so the bolshevik scare was rising. Even with all of the advantages the SDP had, they could only muster 37.9% of the vote in 1919. No party would crack 30% again until 1932. To put this in perspective, only one party has cracked 40%, and only once, in German elections since 2000.

The German ruling coalition had basically dissolved in 1930. The Weimar Republic did have provisions that would allow the president to rule by decree. This power along with the great German bureaucracy, allowed the government to churn along as the elected government got nothing done and warred in the streets. Consider the lack of a budget in America, the rule by executive fiats, the Federal bureaucracy humming along and the lack of cooperation in the elected government in DC, does this sound familiar? Weimar Germany still provided basics for their people, they just had no coalitions in the elected government to steer the ship.

Who did crack the 30% voter barrier in 1932? The Nazis, who garnered 37% of the vote. They did this despite years of obscurity, years of being banned from public speaking and the media yelling at them in near unison. Weimar Germany had experienced center-left coalition governments, center coalition governments and even right coalition governments. No one had answers, but everyone knew something was completely broken in German society. What changed for the Nazis was the elite right wing growing exasperated with the other right wing  parties and finally giving the Nazis a try. The Nazis would stay above 30% and even crack 40% two elections later, but that was the post-Reichstag fire election.

These elections were brutal affairs in some areas with street fights and constant police intervention. One thing often noted by modern historians is how those evil, wicked Nazis grew out of the Freikorps and other paramilitary groups. They were not the only political party to do so in Weimar Germany. Your schools will not discuss it because it reveals that the Nazis just were the most successful, not the most evil. The Communist Party of Germany got its start in Weimar Germany as the Spartacus League. The Spartacus League was a revolutionary Marxist group (sounds like Occupy and BLM) that initiated the Spartacist Uprising that attempted to overthrow the government. The communists would try this three separate times. They still formed a political party that would receive roughly 10% of the vote and would fight in the streets with all comers.

It is true the Nazis never cracked 50% in parliament, but no other party ever cracked 40%. Besides the very first election, no one cracked 30% until the Nazis found their message worked in the depression. This essay does not condone or approve of the Nazis. This essay merely points out that the historians who explain the past to you today chip away at what was really at work in Weimar Germany. No one could build a large base of support for a majority or even close to a majority. Those same historians will not put their electoral results into context to show the weakness built into the system. Weimar Germany's pure democracy was doomed from the start.

10 comments:

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

I happily await the appearance of our own Freikorps.

peterike said...

Another interesting aspect of things we never hear about is how rapidly and successfully Hitler and the Nazis addressed the many societal problems facing everyday Germans, whose lives were vastly improved very quickly. Many Germans went from near starvation to having ample food. Many went from unemployed to employed, and Hitler restricted the amount of hours you could make someone work. (German workers of the time were highly exploited. Let's not discuss who did a lot of that exploiting.)

The perversity and decadence of Weimar were rapidly shut down and Germans encouraged to engage in healthy pursuits, which in fact were made available to one and all. Even things like the opera -- the province of the elites previously -- were thrown open to the general public.

Any fair appraisal of Hitler before the war would show him as one the great Leftist leaders, if we take "Leftism" to mean concern for the working classes (which of course it never really is in practice).

One thing to take from this is that it's really quite easy to make the lives of your working classes vastly better quite quickly. You just have to strangle the bloodsuckers and put your nation's people first. America's problem is that the quality of our working classes has been greatly debased, as we've had Weimerica for a good five decades, much longer than the Germans suffered Weimar. And of course the genetic stock of our underclasses is a horror show. But policy matters and can make a huge difference.



Toddy Cat said...

When it comes to the Left, these people simply never, ever change. As was said in this blog a long time ago, if you don't want Hitler, don't create Weimar. They never learn...

Dave said...

peterike,

Hitler seemed to revive the German economy, but it wasn't sustainable. Printing money to pay for all this largesse was out of the question, so the Nazis instead ran up a huge debt, dispossesed the Jews (maybe some of whom deserved it, but sheep can only be skinned once), and emptied the nation's coffers of gold. The only way out of this fiscal trap was to use the army he'd built up to plunder the bank vaults of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Roosevelt ran into the same problem in 1937, when his attempts to balance the federal budget plunged the economy back into depression, thus demonstrating that economic recovery based on deficit spending is not self-sustaining. The Republicans won big in the election of 1938, and might have ousted Roosevelt in 1940 and repealed his New Deal if the war hadn't intervened.

Toddy Cat said...

All this funny-money economics traces back to the central insanity - World War One...

peterike said...

"All this funny-money economics traces back to the central insanity - World War One..."

Indeed. The Bankers' War par excellence.

Portlander said...

"One thing to take from this is that it's really quite easy to make the lives of your working classes vastly better quite quickly."

This is very true. Few people appreciate how much skimming (value transference) goes on in the economy from the middle class to the elite. The numbers are so vast, it is hard to fathom. It also doesn't help that people have been fed a steady propaganda message that nameless, faceless 'globalization' is to blame. You just can't help it if China industrializes and starts burning oil. You just can't help it if Indians can do sw engineering for $5/hr. So, be happy with what you have. It's all lies based on half-truths, ie. propaganda.

In my opinion one fundamental problem is people conflate million to billion as being the same as hundred to thousand. Million to billion is 1 to thousand. When you hear Zuckerborg is worth X billion, just think for a billion less he could have had 1,000 more employees be millionaires. Just how many people do you thinks a place like Faceborg, or Google, or Apple employ?

Back-out 30 million sub-100 IQ mouths to feed and roofs to build and America not so suddenly has a quality of life that the best of the 50's would envy.

But as I've said before, if the middle class starts feeling a little too financially secure, they stop working like dogs. (Unlike billionaires, most people know when enough is enough to appreciate finer things in life.) Once they stop working like dogs, it's a lot harder to skim off from their productive output.

asdf said...

Nazi economics was a mess. It's true that Germany sprang back in 1933, but so did everyone else essentially. Many of the jobs programs and stimulus had even been passed right before the Nazi's took power. Mostly all that added was re-armerment, some of which even came at the expense of civilian infrastructure programs.

By 1936 Germany's economists and industrialists were warning Hitler that his re-armerment expenses were unsustainable. Hitler had to decide between cutting back on military spending and developing a sustainable economic model, or accelerating re-armerment and paying for it with money printing/trade deficits. Hitler sided against the business class strongly in favor of re-armemerment, and it seems likely that some kind of conflict was in the books from 1936 on. By '38/'39 he needed conquests in the east just to keep it all going.

In terms of management Nazi Germany was an inefficient kleptocracy with many the ministers and party officials setting up their own little feudal fiefdoms. Unemployment was eliminated, but real wages were stagnant or worse. Holidays and operas for the common man are nice but so it being able to afford butter for the weakly meals.

I really recommend "The Wages of Destruction" by Adam Tooze.

One can lament both Weimar and economic actions by the West against Germany without thinking the Nazi's had much of anything figured out economically.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Their initial Econ magic was money printing and massive shell games with other nations about their reserves and what they paid with.

Toddy Cat said...

The Nazis were basically just the New Deal with cooler uniforms. While the Nazi New Deal actually worked better than Roosevelt's, ASDF is essentially right - the Nazi economic program was just as unsound as the New Deal (although no more so). But it is also true that it would be easy to improve the lives of our own Middle Class. Just restricting immigration, a little mild protectionism, and, above all, ending the de-facto war on white people would snap things around pretty quickly. No New Deal, Nazis, or Socialism (Nationalist or otherwise) required. Don't hold your breath, though...