You know who created lots of jobs? (Rhymes with Gaydolf Ditler)

21 Apr 2017 01:39 pm
Posted by: Donna

I used to subscribe somewhat to the view of this bike shop owner, until SB1070 in 2010 made me scrutinize it really hard and then the election of 2016 and aftermath beat it completely out of me.

It seems plausible at first glance but there’s simply historical no basis for it. Racism has persisted throughout all kinds of economic conditions and, if anything, the election of Barack Obama twice, first in a recession and next when the economy was improving but unemployment was higher than it was four years later (when Donald Trump rode to an Electoral College victory on a supposed economic populist wave) would seem to indicate that tough economic times don’t necessarily predict racism in the voting booth. But I’ll leave it to the political scientists to debate if there is a correlation that goes either way.

I was thinking yesterday about how economic populism has been used in the past to cloak bigotry and brutality in virtue and (because Godwin’s Law has been obliterated) the obvious example of that came to mind. Looking for a historical account that wasn’t too much of a long reading haul, I found this school exercise the BBC prepared to help students understand how it arose.

Economic policies and benefits

Many German people had suffered during the First World War and the Depression, so welcomed Hitler’s economic policies with open arms. There was full employment, new public works and ordinary workers even had the opportunity to purchase a car to drive on the new autobahns [Autobahns: German motorways ].

Economic policy summary
Hitler’s economic policy had four main ideas:

Full employment – the idea that everyone should have a job. By 1939, there was virtually no unemployment in Germany.
Beauty of Work – the Nazis set up the SdA (Beauty of Work) to help Germans see that work was good, and that everyone who could work should. In fact – because the Nazis had abolished the trade unions, banned strikes, and given more power to the industrialists – real wages fell and hours were longer under Hitler.
Re-armament begun in 1935 – the idea of ‘guns before butter’.
Autarky – there was an unsuccessful attempt at making Germany self-sufficient.

The good life in Nazi Germany
Despite the loss of political and religious freedom, life improved in Germany for many ordinary people who were prepared to ‘toe the line’ and look the other way.

Everybody had a job, and a wage. To people who had been unemployed and starving, ‘work and bread’ was a wonderful blessing worth every civil liberty they lost.
The Nazis set up KdF (Strength through Joy), which gave workers rewards for their work – evening classes, theatre trips, picnics, and even free holidays.
The Nazis devised a scheme to allow workers to buy a Volkswagen Beetle car for a small weekly payment.
The autobahns improved transport and travel.
People appreciated the public works – eg new schools and hospitals.
The streets were safe and there was no crime.
Germany was strong and successful in world affairs.
Nazi rallies provided colour and fun.
Nazi Youth groups provided activities and holidays for young people.
Nazi ideology gave people hope and confidence.

Breaking unions is clearly not populist but the Nazis were careful to promise other things that were. And they made good on many of the promises. People (mostly men) were able to go back to work, public works projects were done, and some German industries (armaments for sure) flourished. Others did not fare so well.

Many Jews were sacked and their jobs given to non-Jews.
Many women were sacked and their jobs given to men.

As we all know it got much, much worse and, contrary to the beliefs of the bike shop owner and others, the bigotry was most assuredly not sorted out by the majority residents of Germany enjoying some increased economic prosperity.

Economic populism is a real thing and a necessary counterpoint to corporate and elite power run amok. Crucial planks of the Democratic Party include supporting a living wage, workers rights, the right to form a union, universal healthcare, and a social safety net. But I no longer think it’s possible to downplay so-called “identity politics” and unite on colorblind econ populist issues. Not in general but certainly not under the current Presidential administration and most state governments.

As our democratic institutions are quickly being overrun by a hideous admixture of religious fundamentalists and white supremacists, it is the worst possible time for Democrats and others on the left to abandon a commitment to racial, gender, LGBTQ, and other identity-based justice movements in the hopes of peeling off some Trump voters, most of whom were primarily motivated by racism and sexism to vote for him.

And if you think many of Trump’s voters are bad, at least most aren’t in the positions of authority to enforce the new immigration bans and anti-choice laws that are sure to come. Speaking of the latter, guess who had definite ideas about women and reproduction?

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