Historians Urge Stronger Anti-Fascist Commitment or US Risks Following Weimar GermanyRoundup
tags: fascism, Weimar Republic, Donald Trump
Lifelong Kentuckian Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, recording secretary for the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. His ninth book on the history of his state, Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor: Stories from the Day of Infamy, was published by the University Press of Kentucky in November 2020.
Pundits and historians are comparing President Joe Biden and the Democrats to the Social Democrats, the staunchest supporters of the short-lived German Weimar Republic which Adolf Hitler and the Nazis toppled in 1933.
The comparison between Weimar and today “is imperfect, but the cautionary tale is still clear,” Salon’s Matthew Rozsa wrote last year. He’s pursuing a Ph.D. in history. Added Rozsa, “If Donald Trump’s movement is destined to be America’s answer to Nazism, then the Joe Biden administration is currently a rough equivalent of the Weimar Republic.”
Murray State University historians David Pizzo and Ken Wolf make a similar comparison.
“Biden and the Democrats are institutionalists like the Social Democrats, who were called the ‘Midwife’ of the Weimar Republic,” said Pizzo. “In other words, they had faith in the democratic system. So do the Democrats.”
The left-of-center Social Democrats were the main party throughout most of the Weimar period. The republic was founded in 1918 when Imperial Germany lost World War I. (Germany’s current chancellor is a Social Democrat; the Social Democrats are the main party in a three-party parliamentary coalition.)
To the end, most Social Democrats had faith that Germany’s parliamentary democracy, however fragile, would ultimately triumph over Nazism, even as the Nazis grew more popular and more violent.
“Biden has an institutionalist mindset, too,” said Wolf, an MSU professor emeritus. “He and the Democrats believe in the system.”
But Pizzo and Wolf fear Trumpian authoritarianism, largely rooted in white nationalism and tinged with violence, is a clear and present danger to our republic. “Biden should be shouting ‘Five alarm fire!’ now,” Pizzo said.
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