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This morning's Irish Times reports that German opposition leader, former environment minister, and Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel was in town. And what did he say? Every damn thing.

Athens austerity measures mad, says German opposition leader - The Irish Times - Wed, Nov 02, 2011

THE AUSTERITY measures being imposed on Greece are "mad", and indicate that Europe learned no lesson from the rise of the Nazi Party, Germany's main opposition leader said yesterday.

Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party and potential future chancellor, said the measures were "mad" and amounted to an "evil circle".

At a seminar organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday, Mr Gabriel cited the example of Weimar Republic chancellor Heinrich Brüning, who cut successive budgets during the Great Depression.

Germany ended up with six million people unemployed. Brüning's cutbacks contributed to a rise in support for the Nazi Party, which grabbed power in 1933.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 09:46:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Comment on the AFOE post adds a bit of detail:

PeakVT Says:
November 4th, 2011 at 10:37 am

"Brüning's cutbacks contributed to a rise in support for the Nazi Party, which grabbed power in 1933."

Yes, unemployment in the 1930s, not inflation in the 1920s, was the enabler. The NSDAP went from 32 seats in 1924, to 12 seats in 1928, 107 in 1930, and 230 in 1932.

I'm glad somebody in Europe is saying this aloud.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 09:58:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it was '29-'32 that saw the rise of the NSDAP, not the earlier period. On the contrary, throughout the mid-20s right up to the eve of the Depression the Nazis were marginal, as their legislative election results show:

scan from a French edition of Richard Overy's Historical Atlas of the Third Reich

The steep rise mirrors the steep fall in employment over the same period.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 01:24:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On Brüning, who did not have the support of a majority in the Reichstag for his austerity policy:

By June (1930), Brüning was running into serious difficulties in his attempts to reduce public spending through emergency decrees. On 16 July, his wide-ranging finance bill - aimed at reforming state finances through a stringent deflationary policy of cuts in public expenditure and higher taxes - was rejected by the Reichstag. Brüning... now resorted to emergency decree to make the bill law... a step of doubtful legality. When an SPD motion, supported by the NSDAP, to withdraw the decree was passed by the Reichstag, Brüning sought and received... the dissolution of parliament. (...) New elections were set for 14 September. For democracy's prospects in Germany, they were a catastrophe. They were to bring the Hitler Movement's electoral breakthrough.

The decision to dissolve the Reichstag was one of breathtaking irresponsibility...

(Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889-1936, ch 9, Breakthrough)

In that September 1930 election (the 18.3% marker in the above chart), called through the obstinate deflationary authoritarianism of Brüning, the NSDAP went from 12 to 107 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the second party in Germany and now a "serious" force to be reckoned with.

It was an obdurate policy of austerity during a depression that opened the door to the Nazis, not the spike of hyper-inflation seven years previously.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 01:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One should not react to a myth with building a counter myth.

Seven Years is not really a long time. If you look at the election results of the spring 1924 election, there was clear radicalization.

Not only did win the KPD a lot of votes from the SP, but there was a pronounced shift from the center-right, that is DVP and DDP to the right. Not the NSDAP yet, that is right, but the nominally monarchist DNVP. The DNVP was not only ultra-nationalist but also anti-democratic.

And while the center-left, that is the SPD, did recover somewhat, the center and center-right did terminally decline. Not only lost they permanently votes, but there in a terribly fright of losing votes to the farther right (DNVP, then NSDAP). Making them unfit for coalition governments with the SPD.

Conventional wisdom is that the german middle classes and their traditional (liberal) parties were ruined or at least traumatized during the great inflation. So this part of the population were quite willing to listen to radical messages at the start of the great depression. And the already weak party system succumbed.

So the great inflation was one, if not the only one, reason for the rise of the radical right in Germany from 1930-1933.

by IM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 03:59:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The results were:

                1924      1928     1930    1932    1933
NSDAP     3%       2.6%    18.3%   37.8%   43.9%
SDP       26%      29.8%   24%     21.9%   18.3%
KPD       8.9%     10.6%   13.1%   14.6%   12.3%

Those years saw major loss of support for the German National People's Party from 20.5% to 6.1% (- 14.4%) and the German People's Party 10.1% to 3.6% (- 6.5%.)  

Over the same time frame a slew of minor parties simply collapsed.  Can see the details by comparing this with this.

The Left-Center Left had a minor rise from 34.9% in 1924 to 36.5% in 1932 which was dwarfed by the consolidation of the Center and Far Right by the NSDAP.

One big reason was the street violence and economic hardship coupled with the increase in vote for the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) led to an absurd fear of a "Bolshevik Revolution" by Center and Center-Right voters.  


  1.  In 1924 the NSDAP allied with the Deutschvolkische Freiheitspartei in the "National Socialist Freedom Movement."

  2.  The 1933 election was carried out under heavy state-sponsored intimidation and violence.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 04:36:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, see, but you ignore the earlier elections:

          1919      1920     1924 I   1924 II

DDP:      18,5%      8,3%    5,7%     6,3%

Zentrum:  19,7%     13,6%    13.4%    13,6%

DVP:      4,4%      13,9%     9,2%    10,1

DNVP:    10,3%      15,0%     19,5%    20,5%

NSDAP:    -          -        6,6%     ca. 3%    

What happened was the radicalization of the voters of the center (DDP) and center-right to the radical right DNVP. Zentrum was stable being based on identity politics. In 1928 the DNVP, after a phase of flirting with moderation, got in trouble. The voters did first chose smaller special interest parties like WP and then from 1930 the NSDAP. So the great migration was from DDP to DVP and DNVP, them from DDP and DVP to DNVP, then to splinter parties, then to the NSDAP.

So the radicalization of the center-right voters started during the great inflation and even later the narrative that "the inflation ruined" the middle classes was quite important.    

by IM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 05:13:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The narrative may have had some influence, but surely greater was the Versailles Treaty (not just a narrative, genuinely ruinous).

Look at the numbers you show: the movement from the centre-right to the national right was already well under way in 1920.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 05:25:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that was the third big influence: The treaty. And the other events inflation and depression were connected with the treaty and its consequences.

Brüning for example did not discuss his politics during the depression in our terms. He did see most of the problems as caused by reparations payments and did concentrate on the moratorium and the conference of Lausanne.

And that wasn't a Brüning thing: especially on the right inflation and depression was mostly seen as a foreign plot.

But if you compare 1920 and May 1924 you will see that the combined radical right is at around 25%, instead of 15%. And that is mostly the period of the great inflation.

by IM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 05:47:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I realize I may be interpreting Brüning in a way he would not have deemed acceptable...

But even the radical right votes combined (DNVP + NSDAP) declined slightly from the May to the December 1924 elections, and considerably more by 1928 (16 - 17%). Yet, in the 1930 election called by Brüning, the two parties were back up to a combined 25% again. The difference being that the (all the same more radical) Nazi party had overtaken the DNVP (18% compared to 7%).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 06:10:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I chose 1924 is the starting point because it represented a lull - Ground Zero, so to speak - in the Post World War One political, social, and economic trends and the global economic crisis of 1929 hadn't happened.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 06:16:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
building a counter myth.

I am building nothing there, merely offering historical evidence from recognized sources. The NSDAP actually lost traction in the years following the hyper-inflation spike.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 04:50:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The NSDAP was not the only problem. Not even the only problem on the right. And you are interpreting the facts. I just point why, especially if you look at other radical right-wing parties, the facts can be interpreted in a  different way.
by IM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 05:19:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also have to consider the Wiemar Republic never commanded support from more than a plurality of the population.  The military and most of the Conservative Parties wanted the Kaiser back.  The KPD and Left wing of the SPD wanted a socialist revolution, miscellaneously defined and proposed.  The freikorp were violence prone and deranged.  Other Right Wing elements detested democracy and wanted Authoritarian government, miscellaneously defined and proposed.

The proportional seat allocation of the Wiemar Republic ensured all of these, and more, were in the Reichstag making effective government an impossible task.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 5th, 2011 at 06:31:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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