Echos of Dolchstoßlegende
Clemens said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” It may also have meter. One century ago there was a rhythmic beat of discontent in Germany following the surprise announcement of surrender on the Western Front.
People were shocked. They were totally unprepared for that news. German generals had known for most of 1918 that the war was lost. Soldiers were being overtaken in the trenches by an influenza that was horribly lethal and easily spread in the wretched conditions of the battlefield. Nonetheless, the bubble of wartime propaganda repelled all contradictory information and fed the populace a steady diet of great victory über alles.
In the Wagner opera Götterdämmerung, Siegfried is speared in the back by his enemy Hagen. In post-1918 Germany, the act of a hero stabbed this way was called Dolchstoßlegende. That became the new national narrative, peddled by the same German generals who had spent the previous years inflating minor victories, insisting they were “undefeated in the field,” and repackaged the armistice as treacherous, stab-in-the-back defeatism and diplomatic retreat. The Kaiser was forced to abdicate. Three juggernaut blame games — lack of patriotism and faith in the Aryan bloodline, communists, and global cabals of Jews — were seized upon by patriotic brown-shirted war veterans and right wing fanatics. The Wiemar Republic was so de-legitimized by the viral stab-in-the-back myth that the 1933 burning of the Reichstag and ascent of Hitler were virtually assured.
We should remember that the Reichstag fire was not the first attempt at power by German radical nationalists. The History Channel recalled:
By November 1923, Hitler and his associates had concocted a plot to seize power of the Bavarian state government (and thereby launch a larger revolution against the Weimar Republic) by kidnapping Gustav von Kahr (1862–1934), the state commissioner of Bavaria, and two other conservative politicians. Hitler’s plan involved using Erich Ludendorff (1865–1937), the right-wing World War I general, as a figurehead to lead a march on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic. Hitler’s proposed putsch was inspired by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), whose march on Rome in October 1922 had been successful in ousting the liberal Italian government.
Hearing that von Kahr was scheduled to address a large crowd in the Bürgerbräukeller, one of the biggest beer halls in Munich, on November 8, 1923, Hitler took hundreds of his followers and surrounded the hall that evening. The Nazi Party leader and about 20 of his associates burst into the hall, and Hitler fired a shot into the ceiling and declared a “national revolution.”
Ludendorff attempted to salvage the situation by calling on Hitler’s followers for a spontaneous march on the city center. He led about 2,500–3,000 supporters in the direction of the Bavarian Defense Ministry. On their way, the marchers were blocked by a group of state police officers. The two groups exchanged fire, and four police officers were killed along with 16 Nazis. Hitler suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell to the ground. He crawled along the pavement and was taken away in a waiting car, leaving his comrades behind.
In November 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, IMF Chair Christine Lagarde noted striking similarities to our times:
Then, as now, rising inequality and the uneven gains from technological change and globalization contributed to a backlash. In the run-up to the war countries responded by scrambling for national advantage, forsaking the idea of mutual cooperation in favor of zero-sum dominance. The result was catastrophe — the full weight of modern technology deployed toward carnage and destruction…. As John Maynard Keynes — one of the IMF’s founding fathers — wrote in response to the Versailles Treaty, the insistence on imposing financial ruin on Germany would eventually lead to disaster. He was entirely correct.
Whether the Capitol Riot of 2021 is to be a turning point or a prelude may well depend on the willingness of the Senate to affirm Articles of Impeachment against the now US President, even if he is no longer sitting by the time they try the matter. If they fail to bar him from holding public office in the future, no one can say for sure that his 74 million voters and 80 million Twitter followers could not be stirred to action once more, and rather than admit they had been deceived about the China virus, the federal bureaucratic swamp, fake news and all the rest, believe they had been stabbed in the back by Satan-worshiping pizzagate pedophile elites disguised as a political party, who with bankers and blacks have control of the Deep State.
Right now that could go either way.
As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.
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