President Obama’s second inaugural was a speech that the Obama Media literally drooled over as a straight forward and forceful expression of progressivism unmatched in American history. I agree, it was, but there was one thing that bothered me… the tendency of these media personalities to ignore the sources of many of the ideas the president expressed so well.
In the interest of fairness and as a debt to history, I think it’s important that we take a minute to give due credit to one of the greatest progressives in history, someone who undoubtedly should be an inspiration and influence to all progressives – former German leader Adolf Hitler, who against strong odds rose to power and fundamentally changed Germany and for a while, the world.
Like our president, Adolf Hitler came from humble beginnings, the son of an Austrian civil servant in Linz whom died when he was fourteen. Some biographers have said that Alois Heidler provided the young Adolf with his first example of government in action and how it could affect people’s lives. Young Hitler’s early years also undoubtedly gave him a sense of the importance of education and how government could strengthen it. As a young student, Adolf Hitler was frequently at odds with his non-unionized teachers, who seemed content to teach by rote and lacked strong support from government.
When Adolf Hitler gravitated to Vienna as a young man to pursue a career as a painter, not only was he influenced by other progressive thinkers like Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Heinrich Gotthard von Treitschke, but also by an extraordinary activist progressive politician, Karl Lueger, the Burgomaster (Mayor) of Vienna, whom Hitler later called ‘a genius’ and claimed as a model. Lueger, whose Christian Socialist Party was organized along many of the same lines that Hitler would later adopt for his National Socialist Party, could best be described as a early practitioner of Saul Alinky’s political ethics, balancing one special interest group against another for his own political advancement. At one point, when some of his anti-Semitic supporters questioned his taking campaign contributions from wealthy Jewish donors, Luegar famously shut them down by telling them that he was the one whom would decide who was a Jew! Lueger is also credited with municipalizing utilities and instituting public transportation in Vienna, along with a number of other shovel ready public works projects.
During this period, Hitler also experienced first hand what happens when government does not institute an adequate social safety net. After falling into dire poverty in Vienna, Hitler was forced to live in a homeless shelter for some time, and later a men’s hostel for the disadvantaged. He remained a socialist and a champion of the 99% ever after, although rejecting pure Marxism as being unworkable and unsuitable to those who favored strong, nationalist views and German exceptionalism.
In WWI, Hitler served in the German Army, suffered combat wounds and was a decorated veteran.
He later decided to truly make a difference in his adopted homeland by entering the public sector via the National Socialist Democratic German Worker’s Party (NSDAP in German, or Nazi using the typical German diminutive).
Hitler, being a spell binding orator and a charismatic speaker soon took over the party and refined its progressive agenda and message. With the exception of calling for a strong military and a renunciation of the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, two issues unique to that place and time, Hitler and the Nazi’s message hardly sounds out of place in our political climate of today.
The German Hyperinflation and resulting economic crisis of 1921 occurred just as the Party and Adolf Hitler came of political age.
It destroyed the savings of Germany’s middle class, created massive unemployment and was blamed by most Germans on the financial establishment, poor governmental fiscal management, profiteers, and speculators. Or as today’s progressives call them, ‘banksters’, ‘Wall Street’ and the ‘one per cent’.
In this 3 year period, 1921-1923, Hitler’s political star rose as he became a vociferous champion of the middle class and Germany’s 99%. He and the Nazis called for reining in German financial institutions, job creation, making the fat cats pay their fair share and for increased spending on social welfare programs. The main difference in Hitler’s program as opposed to mainstream socialists and communists was his championing of a resurgent German military and his fierce opposition to the restrictions and the huge reparations demanded by the Versailles Treaty. Hitler’s patriotic message, particularly coming from a decorated war hero resonated with a surprising amount of the German people.
The Nazi Party also won friends and influenced people by community organizing. They ran soup kitchens, promoted youth programs and championed the 99% in issues like landlord tenant relations, particularly in their main base of Munich.
And it was in Munich that Adolf Hitler made his first serious political miscalculation, misjudging his popular support in Bavaria with an attempted ‘putsch’, a takeover. It failed, but Hitler’s personal popularity ensured that he received an extraordinarily light sentence of 8 months in comfortable circumstances, where, like a lot of other revolutionary figures, he used the time to refine his message further and wrote his political testament, Mein Kampf (‘My Struggle’).
After he was released in 1924, Hitler used the rest of the 1920’s to consolidate the Nazis and turn them into a nationwide movement. The SA (known colloquially as Brownshirts) were reorganized into an effective force of street activists, Hitler established his own national daily newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and continued to build his following and spread his message of nationalism mixed with progressive social policies. The Nazi banner is a superb symbol of Hitler’s ideology – the red banner of socialism with the Aryan nationalist symbol of the swastika in the middle.