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afew:
Gleichschaltung, a metaphor from electro-mechanics that might be translated by "phasing" or "synchronisation", can be politically interpreted as "coordination" or ""forcible-coordination" or "bringing into line". Taken in that general sense, it could apply to the events you're describing. But the reason for featuring it here (as your self-Godwin implies) is that the Nazis used it to refer to the process by which they created a totalitarian state in Germany.

...

In this case, the use of Gleichschaltung is at so many removes from the historical reality of the 1930s that its only sense is rhetorical. You may say it's not meant to shed light, but to register an angry protest. But wouldn't it be of more use to describe what is happening now in today's (and preferably tomorrow's) terms, rather than wave around the bloody flags of nearly a century ago?

Well, you know... Barroso to plebes: nice indebted democracy you have there... (June 17th, 2010)
"I had a discussion with Barroso last Friday about what can be done for Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest and his message was blunt: 'Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They've got no choice, this is it'."
Friday Open Thread (December 17, 2010)
Default is evil
Europe cannot default its way back to health

By Lorenzo Bini Smaghi (member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank)

An oft-made assumption is that governments can renegotiate with their creditors the terms and conditions of their debt instruments without this having major repercussions on the rest of the economic and financial system. This assumption is largely based on the experience of developing countries with underdeveloped financial systems and mainly foreign creditors. What is generally not well understood is that, in advanced economies, public debt is the cornerstone of the financial system and an important component of the savings held by citizens.

As recent events have shown, the simple fear of a default or of a restructuring of public debt would endanger the soundness of the financial system, triggering capital flight. Without public support, the liabilities of the banking system would ultimately have to be restructured as well, as was done for example in Argentina with the corralito (freezing of bank accounts). This would lead to a further loss of confidence and make a run on the financial system more likely. Administrative control measures would have to be taken and restrictions imposed. All these actions would have a direct effect on the financial wealth of the country's households and businesses, producing a collapse of aggregate demand. Taxpayers, instead of having a smaller burden of public debt to bear, would end up with an even heavier one.

As opposed to what's happening now?
Many commentators fail to realise that the main impact of a country's default is not on foreign creditors, but on its own citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones. They would suffer the consequences most in terms of the value of their financial and real assets.
In which country do the most vulnerable citizens own financial or real assets?
The economic and social impact of such an event is difficult to predict. The democratic foundations of a country could be seriously threatened. Attentive observers will not fail to notice that sovereign defaults tend to occur in countries where democracy has rather shallow roots.

Europeans have not forgotten the devastating effects that the expropriation of wealth, such as that carried out during the two world wars by way of inflation or defaults, may have on the economic and social fabric.

Godwin! Godwin!
Comments to Flash brief from the #greekrevolution (June 30, 2011)
The Guardian: EU should control member states' budgets, says bank boss (June 2, 2011)
"In this union of tomorrow, or of the day after tomorrow, would it be too bold, in the economic field, with a single market and a single central bank, to envisage a ministry of finance of the union?" he said as he accepted the Charlemagne prize for contributions to European unity.

...

"Looking at the euro area today, we see clearly that countries that abide by the rules of the single currency can thrive and prosper," Trichet said. "But we also see the opposite. Strengthening the rules to prevent unsound policies is therefore an urgent priority."

...

"But if a country is still not delivering, I think all would agree that the second stage has to be different," he said, suggesting that eurozone authorities be given "a much deeper and authoritative say in the formation of the country's economic policies if these go harmfully astray".

He added: "It would be not only possible, but in some cases compulsory, in the second stage for the European authorities - namely the council on the basis of a proposal by the commission, in liaison with the ECB - to take themselves decisions applicable in the economy concerned."

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007 has ushered in a Constitutional Crisis of the EU as a whole and of member state after member state (the words Constitutional Crisis have been used to describe what's going on in Greece, Ireland and Spain at some point or another, I don't know about Portugal, plus then there's Iceland drive to get a new constitution as a result of the 2008 collapse of its financial and political system). Meanwhile, the scale of the Hooverian policies being introduced and the timing has me convinced that we're looking at a Great Depression os the 2010's, however much the Serious People insist on calling it a Great Recession after trying to conjure it away with talk of green shoots in 2009. Extreme right parties are on the rise in all of Europe, and the mainstream Centre-Right is becoming increasingly xenophobic, nationalistic and protectionistic at the level of people, while it kowtows to market pressures and corporate interests at the macroeconomic level. Germany first modifies its own constitution in an insane direction and then leverages the international crisis for a forcible coordination of economic policy and a rewriting of otehr states' constitutions, while asserting the primacy of both the Bundesbank and the German Constitutional Court over not only EU policy but other member states' policies. Just last week
Merkel urges eurozone budgets court enforced - The Local
German Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to see the European Court of Justice (ECJ) play a role in enforcing the rulebook for the eurozone, particularly on limits for public deficits, deputies say.

Members of her parliamentary group said after a specially called meeting on the eurozone debt crisis with the German leader late Tuesday that the ECJ could help beef up monitoring of fiscally errant member states' budgets.

When violations of the deficit or debt ceilings occur, the court could strike down the budget in question and demand a new calculation.

Volker Kauder, leader of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) parliamentary group, said "state bankruptcy proceedings" could start against debt-mired countries from 2013, in a move to tackle national fiscal crises "with a clear procedure.

"It is now Europe's duty to ensure that competitiveness can be established and that sound, necessary reforms can be undertaken," he said.

"The principle that liability and risk are linked must become the order of the day," he added, calling on financial markets to do their part for stability in the eurozone.

The day is not far when the German government will attempt to challenge other member states' budgets at the European Court of Justice, or even initiate bankruptcy proceedings against them. When the American Neocons or the Bush Administration described in detail what they intended to do, people dismissed it as extreme rhetoric, only to be shocked, shocked when they went on to do exactly what they said they would do. You are now making the same mistake with the German establishment (Merkel, Schäuble, Issing, Wulff, Weber, Stark, and the list goes on and on...)

And you tell me drawing parallels with the 1930s is out of place.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 06:16:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and by the way, when Bini Smaghi says:
Many commentators fail to realise that the main impact of a country's default is not on foreign creditors, but on its own citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones. They would suffer the consequences most in terms of the value of their financial and real assets.
A government telling its providers to "go to the courts if you want to get paid" is basically a default. Since Spain (or its regional or local governments) are not defaulting on their bonds, this is a selective sovereign default.
A sovereign nation enters "selective default" when it elects to delay repayment of some of its financial obligations while fully honoring others.

The idea is that eventually everyone gets paid somehow. It's just in a manner different than how it's set up now.

Austerity rules.


Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 06:41:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
And you tell me drawing parallels with the 1930s is out of place.

But I didn't "tell you" that. I said I was wary of historical parallels, not that they were "out of place" by definition. And it wasn't a vague matter of "the 1930s", but specifically the Gleichschaltung process by which Germany became rapidly nazified, by simultaneous top-down and bottom-up movements, in 1933-4.

All you quote above from past ET threads I have read and take no issue with. Where I disagree with you is on whether Gleichschaltung constitutes an illuminating parallel.

As for those who were shocked by the neocons and Bushies, I was not among them. Concerning the current German establishment, what interests me is what interested me with the neocons: who are they, what are their similitudes and differences, what exactly do they think and where do their ideas come from, what aims do they have and what backing for them, what capacity do they have for ideological penetration... Now, in today's terms.

I'm not saying you don't concern yourself with those questions. But I suggest that, by choosing to use a shock-Godwinism with very specifically Nazi content, it is you who are making a mistake.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 11:52:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - Merkel isn't a neo-Nazi skinhead.

But that doesn't mean that financial capture by 'the markets' and their political cronies and toadies isn't essentially fascist, or - more pertinently - ultimately as dangerous, in a slow-boil way, as Nazi-style fascism.

What other word can you use when a supposedly sovereign country immediately modifies its constitution on demand? Anschluss?

The point here is the utter disappearance of bottom up democracy, and its replacement by market-driven policy which is at odds with the desires of an obvious majority of the Spanish population.

When the state and large corporations cooperate to manage populations at their own expense, you have fascism. It doesn't matter if it's dressed up with jackboots, window breaking and flag-waving, or with serious editorials and pompous economic word salad.

Concentration camps aren't the prime symptom of fascism. Propaganda on an industrial scale and a value system that condemns ordinary people to unemployment, crime and starvation are quite enough.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 04:24:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
When the state and large corporations cooperate to manage populations at their own expense, you have fascism. It doesn't matter if it's dressed up with jackboots, window breaking and flag-waving, or with serious editorials and pompous economic word salad.

so true... after the london riots, 'normal' people were begging for more police to save them, whilst the police deliberately had withheld services to ensure that very reaction.

that's how it's done... make things so shitty that force is the only possible counter-reaction.

the is the result of too much stupid for too long. society eating itself...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 05:31:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that doesn't mean that financial capture by 'the markets' and their political cronies and toadies isn't essentially fascist, or - more pertinently - ultimately as dangerous, in a slow-boil way, as Nazi-style fascism.

What other word can you use when a supposedly sovereign country immediately modifies its constitution on demand? Anschluss?

I still think Gleichschaltung in the meaning of forcible legal realignment and policy coordination is apposite.
When the state and large corporations cooperate to manage populations at their own expense, you have fascism. It doesn't matter if it's dressed up with jackboots, window breaking and flag-waving, or with serious editorials and pompous economic word salad.
Indeed: Political Aspects of Full Employment by Michal Kalecki (1943)
A solid majority of economists is now of the opinion that, even in a capitalist system, full employment may be secured by a government spending programme, provided there is in existence adequate plan to employ all existing labour power, and provided adequate supplies of necessary foreign raw-materials may be obtained in exchange for exports.

If the government undertakes public investment (e.g. builds schools, hospitals, and highways) or subsidizes mass consumption (by family allowances, reduction of indirect taxation, or subsidies to keep down the prices of necessities), and if, moreover, this expenditure is financed by borrowing and not by taxation (which could affect adversely private investment and consumption), the effective demand for goods and services may be increased up to a point where full employment is achieved.  Such government expenditure increases employment, be it noted, not only directly but indirectly as well, since the higher incomes caused by it result in a secondary increase in demand for consumer and investment goods.

How we have gone backwards in the last 70 years. Krugman: Fiscalization Watch
A correspondent informs me that Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, has just given a speech asserting that excessive public debt caused the 2008 crisis. In fact, I'm told, he said that
It's actually undisputed among economists worldwide that one of the main causes - if not the main cause - of the turbulence - not just now, but already in 2008 - was excessive public debt everywhere in the world.
OK, we can prove that wrong immediately: I dispute it, Brad DeLong disputes it, Christy Romer disputes it, and I think we fall into the category of "economists worldwide".
Back to Kalecki
In should be first stated that, although most economists are now agreed that full employment may be achieved by government spending, this was by no means the case even in the recent past.  Among the opposers of this doctrine there were (and still are) prominent so-called 'economic experts' closely connected with banking and industry.  This suggests that there is a political background in the opposition to the full employment doctrine, even though the arguments advanced are economic.  That is not to say that people who advance them do not believe in their economics, poor though this is.  But obstinate ignorance is usually a manifestation of underlying political motives.

There are, however, even more direct indications that a first-class political issue is at stake here.  In the great depression in the 1930s, big business consistently opposed experiments for increasing employment by government spending in all countries, except Nazi Germany.  This was to be clearly seen in the USA (opposition to the New Deal), in France (the Blum experiment), and in Germany before Hitler.  The attitude is not easy to explain.  Clearly, higher output and employment benefit not only workers but entrepreneurs as well, because the latter's profits rise.  And the policy of full employment outlined above does not encroach upon profits because it does not involve any additional taxation.  The entrepreneurs in the slump are longing for a boom; why do they not gladly accept the synthetic boom which the government is able to offer them?  It is this difficult and fascinating question with which we intend to deal in this article.

...

One of the important functions of fascism, as typified by the Nazi system, was to remove capitalist objections to full employment.

The dislike of government spending policy as such is overcome under fascism by the fact that the state machinery is under the direct control of a partnership of big business with fascism.  The necessity for the myth of 'sound finance', which served to prevent the government from offsetting a confidence crisis by spending, is removed.  In a democracy, one does not know what the next government will be like.  Under fascism there is no next government.

The dislike of government spending, whether on public investment or consumption, is overcome by concentrating government expenditure on armaments.  Finally, 'discipline in the factories' and 'political stability' under full employment are maintained by the 'new order', which ranges from suppression of the trade unions to the concentration camp.  Political pressure replaces the economic pressure of unemployment.



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 05:51:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
I still think Gleichschaltung in the meaning of forcible legal realignment and policy coordination is apposite.

The two latter terms are apposite. The use of Nazi term itself is historically loaded rhetoric.

But whatever. The circumstances are such that it doesn't matter what we shout as long as we're shouting.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 07:10:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's like Weltanschauung or überfordert... German is such a great language sometimes.
Usually I stay clear of connotation-rich German words that have no real equivalent in other languages. Their purpose is to obfuscate. But there is one that describes the eurozone's crisis management rather well. It is überfordert. The nearest English translation is "overwhelmed", or "not on top of something", but those are not quite the same. You can be overwhelmed one day, and on top the next. Überfordert is as hopeless as Dante's hell. It has an intellectual and an emotional component. If you are it today, you are it tomorrow.


Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 10:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Give fascism a broad catchall sense if you like, but you are not addressing my argument re Gleichschaltung. If Mig had used "fascism", I wouldn't have taken issue with it (even while demurring).

You take my argument to mean that I am dismissing the danger of what is happening, but that's a strawman. My point is that Gleichschaltung is not historically analogous to what's happening now. In particular, though it was indeed associated with propaganda on a hither-to-fore unprecedented scale, Gleichschaltung had its bottom-up side and was enthusiastically embraced by many "ordinary" Germans, who were absolutely not condemned to "unemployment, crime and starvation".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 07:07:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is that all is fine in war and rhetoric.

Strictly speaking you're right. But no one on the right is going to say 'Well, technically...' when they're hardly known for adherence to fact themselves.

This is not a scholarly debate, this is about people being forced into penury - which in itself will make a return to hard fascism more likely across Europe.

Making a rhetorical point which might make some people stop and think about what's happening, instead of accepting it as an economic inevitability hardly seems excessive in the circumstances.

Of course it might be labelled shrill and unserious.

But anything the left says and does is already shrill and unserious by definition. So why should we care about rhetorical propriety when no one else in the debate does?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 09:09:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Making a rhetorical point which might make some people stop and think

The point is that (as talos says above) this one is for the historically literate. Most people have never heard of Gleichschaltung.

If you're addressing the historically literate, Gleichschaltung is not the right term to use; if you're addressing the general public, Gleichschaltung is not the right term to use. And this is not "scholarly debate".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 09:22:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.

Though the thread has moved far from this by now, I think the development of the thread is proof enough that using Gleichschaltung is unproductive.

(On the other hand I find Niemöller moment apt, as Niemöllers quote has been and continues to be used in many situations unrelated to actual nazists.)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 03:13:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the things the Logical Positivists got right was their insistence "emotive language" is Un-Useful.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 03:20:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As opposed to the other kind of language?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 03:24:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think emotive language can be quite useful (admitting that I am uncertain of the exact definition Logical Positivsts used), but one needs to know what emotions one wakes. As I see Godwin's law, in general any reference to nazis gives "evilness on the scale of the Holocaust" as the main connection. And as I have quipped not even the 1930ies nazis lived up to that. Most people not agreeing that X = evilness on the scale of the Holocaust will react badly to your implication that it is, even if you were just trying to say that X = aspect of nazi policy.

As an example, the Swedish Pirate Party has mostly used references to former DDR when doing examples of oppressive surveilliance. That I think is wise as former DDR is in Sweden mainly known for its oppressive surveilliance while for example Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, though examples of oppressive surveilliance, are more known for other things, like mass murders and wars.

So back to the topic here, it might have been more useful to use Merkel expects other countries to fall in line, to form lines as straight as in the 1st of May parades of her youth in DDR if one wants to evoke a picture of oppressive commands from Germany. It is not very catchy (I had to come up with an example right now) and I have no idea of what Merkel did under communism, but it is still more precise and uas a more well known image then Gleichschaltung.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 03:50:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Concentration camps aren't the prime symptom of fascism. Propaganda on an industrial scale and a value system that condemns ordinary people to unemployment, crime and starvation are quite enough.

I still like Merkel's version of fascism better than I like Mussolini's. It involves markedly fewer people getting shot and dumped in a shallow grave.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 08:30:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are countries on the far fringes of Europe where that might not be as true as it is in Germany.

The problem with fascism is that it sets a precedent for exactly that kind of development.

We're not there yet, but ten more years of constitutional austerity are hardly likely to make Europe a more stable and law abiding place.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 09:11:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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