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Weimar America: Four Major Ways We're Following In Germany's Fascist Footsteps

What happens when a mature industrial nation turns its back on democracy and lets its right-wing elite destroy the middle class? We've seen this movie before.

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The Road Not Taken

None of this means that the United States is about to fall victim to a fascist coup d'etat as Germany did in January 1933. Remember that no outcome is inevitable. Nor would it be accurate to say that the United States is repeating the exact same events and taking the same course as Germany did during the 1930s, because many other important details are different. For example: Germany was a nation saddled with huge debts and lacking the global political power it needed to reverse its situation; but even with today's high unemployment rates, the United States remains the globe's largest economy, and therefore doesn't face the same fiscal constraints Weimar Germany faced. In fact, a better current analogy may be Greece, which is in a far more similar predicament now.

Yet the underlying similarities ought to be troubling -- and are enough to give us pause. The combination of austerity and well-funded right-wing political movements hostile to democracy destroyed Weimar Germany. And Spain and Italy both experienced a similar situation in their slide into authoritarianism in the 1930s. In those cases -- and in ours -- as people saw their own financial position weaken, and as their democratic rights were increasingly limited in favor of giving more power to the large corporations, the future of a democratic society with a strong middle-class was increasingly jeopardized. Fascism is what happens when right-wing plutocrats weaken the middle class, and then convince it to turn its back on democracy.

Will Weimar America face the same disastrous fate Weimar Germany did? On our current path, democracy and shared prosperity are both in serious trouble. We owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to our world to look to the lessons of history, find a way to change course, and get to work building something better.

Robert Cruickshank is a writer, historian and progressive strategist based in Seattle. You can follow him on twitter @cruickshank.

 
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