By David Sole
On November 8, 1923 Adolph Hitler led a march of hundreds of armed Nazi Party members, right-wing veterans and supporters in the German city of Munich in an attempted insurrection (putsch). They took leaders of the Bavarian state government captive and later took the city council hostage. Gathered in a large beer hall, Hitler convinced some government officials to support the uprising and whipped up a crowd of thousands. On November 9 they led a march of 2,000 through the streets while other Nazi units tried to seize government buildings. Some police and military units confronted the insurgents. In one shootout four police and 16 Nazis were killed. The Munich putsch fell apart. Hitler was captured and sentenced to five years for treason. After 9 months the Nazi chief was released. This wasn’t the end of the fascist threat, however, and only nine years later Hitler and his gang were able to seize power in Germany.
On January 6, 2021 President Donald Trump and his loyalists whipped up a crowd of thousands to march on the U.S. Capitol Building. Many were armed and their aim was to take control of the Capitol where the vote to certify the Electoral College vote affirming Joseph Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 3 election was taking place. This was Donald Trump’s “beer hall putsch.” It also failed, as did Hitler’s first efforts, but it must not be dismissed as an aberration or small thing.
The January 6 insurrectionists included many off duty police, military personnel and veterans and right-wing militia units. They had the secret backing of the Capitol Police leadership who sent under armed and understaffed units, leaving the Capitol easily overrun. Pentagon officials made sure the National Guard was delayed for hours despite desperate phone calls from congressional officials. FBI and Homeland Security higher ups, who monitor right wing groups and their communications made no effort to see that the Capitol was protected. Of course Trump, after announcing publicly that he would march with the crowd to the Capitol, in his typically cowardly fashion, hid out in his White House “Fuhrer Bunker” and sent messages of support to his minions.
It is quite certain that the plan was to seize some Congress members and Senators and murder others. The violent crowd beat police, killing at least one, all the while chanting “Hang [Vice-President] Mike Pence.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was another target whose life might have been taken. It is also certain that many right-wing Republican Senators and Representatives would have willingly joined and given a legal veneer to the insurrection if they hadn’t been rushed out into hiding by armed Capitol police. Later that day, when the insurrectionists had left the building and troops had secured the building, 8 Republican Senators and 139 Republican members of the House of Representatives still voted against certifying Biden’s electoral victory.
Hitler’s following was not just based on his personality and charisma. His movement was fueled by the economic hardships of Germany after its defeat in World War I and the reparations forced on that nation by the victorious allies. He also appealed to nationalism and mixed in a big dose of anti-Semitism to incite his followers. Those elements did not disappear after the Munich putsch, but deepened and festered. Failure of the huge left-wing movement and parties (Social Democrats and Communists) to solve the recurring economic crises allowed Nazism to grow. Also the socialists and communists refused to form a powerful united front to fight fascism and instead fought each other up to the day they were all marched off to concentration camps after January 31, 1933. Most importantly Hitler did not have the support of the broadest elements of the ruling class (bankers and industrialists) in 1924. But by 1933 the capitalist German ruling class had swung decisively behind him ensuring his victory.
Trump’s following is certainly not due to his great personality or charisma. As an individual he is a crude buffoon. But his following is based on the declining standard of living over decades that threatens the middle class and workers. The economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened this economic fear and instability. Welding the Trump base is virulent white supremacy. Racism has been the tool of the ruling class in the United States for centuries to keep the working class weak and divided. Trump has also tossed in anti-immigrant xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, hostility to people with disabilities, anti-women prejudice, anti-Muslim sentiment and more. All of these hatreds have been exhibited at Trump rallies for more than four years and were evident at the January 6 uprising.
What was missing from Hitler’s platform was any program for economic salvation for the masses. The Nazis couldn’t advocate and promote what people needed because that would have meant taking on the German capitalist exploiters. It is said that Fascism is capitalism on steroids. The German ruling class needed union busting, low wages, long hours and imperialist war. So the Nazi program simply was designed to divert and confuse the suffering working class and the middle class. Destruction of unions, World War II and the holocaust death camps were the logical outcome of a Nazi victory.
To defeat Trump and his fascist base will require giving no quarter to white supremacy or any of the other prejudices. Defunding the police nationwide means shifting funds to community programs that benefit people instead of murdering and repressing them.
And it can only succeed if poor and working people see a strong economic program that reverses their suffering. It isn’t difficult to elaborate such a program. Even during the continuing COVID-19 crisis steps can be taken, such as a monthly income of perhaps $2,000 for all unemployed or those unable to work. A national free health care system that does away with the complexities that benefit health insurance companies and also includes low cost prescription drugs is essential.
Elimination of the burden of student debt needs to be enacted and vast investment in quality education – free from kindergarten through college. Immediate moratorium on evictions and foreclosures must secure people in their homes with rents pegged to ability to pay. An end to water insecurity – no shut offs and a national water affordability program. Massive investment is needed right now in water and other infrastructure programs. Immediate, serious programs must be implemented in environmental cleanup and attention to climate change.
A productive national jobs program at union wages and benefits that eliminates unemployment can give hope especially to our youth and ween them away from the racist and fascist recruiters.
Paying for this program can come from defunding and dismantling the Pentagon and ending the endless imperialist wars that only have benefited the Wall Street banks, corporations and military contractors.
Such a program cannot be proposed, let alone passed, by the Democratic Party. The majority of Democrats might favor one or another of the proposals but the party, as a whole, is financed and directed by Wall Street and the Pentagon. They will never allow their profits to seriously suffer to alleviate the suffering of the masses.
Only an independent mass progressive and militant movement can address the real needs of the country. Pulling together such a movement will be an enormously difficult but essential task in the coming years. The left must urgently take on the task of building unity. There is no alternative.