There are a lot of parallels between modern America and Germany during the leadup to the Nazi era: growing racism and xenophobia, economic decline, deteriorating democratic institutions, an obsession with militarism, violent political polarization. But the defining factor that the two countries share in their descent into fascism is a decision by each country's liberals to participate in the campaign to repress the revolutionaries.
The operation by Weimar Germany's majority Social Democratic government to crush the communist-led revolt of 1919 showed just how far social democrats can go when the bourgeois system they align with is threatened; they sent in paramilitary forces to assassinate the leaders of the Spartacus League, including the communist Rosa Luxemburg. This prevented Germany from becoming socialist (which would have stopped it from becoming fascist), and kept the opposition to the fascists incurably divided throughout the decade leading up to when Hitler came to power.
It's notable that the main purpose of the Spartacus League was to be anti-war, because the issues of war and imperialism are what drive the reactionary tendencies of today's social democrats. Namely, the desire among these modern U.S. liberals to side with the imperialists on foreign policy issues is what's primarily driving them to go on the offensive against the communist and anti-imperialist movements. Look at how the social democrat commentator David Pakman attacked anti-imperialists and what he called the "Leninist left" last year for opposing Venezuela regime change narratives, or for decrying the coup in Bolivia. Look at how Bernie Sanders has promoted cold war narratives about Russia and China while legitimizing the regime change campaign in Venezuela. Look at how the progressive network TYT has blatantly misrepresented facts about Venezuela and participated in the media's anti-Russia frenzy. All of these things have served to legitimize both Washington's recent terrorist actions abroad, and the campaign of censorship against anti-imperialist voices within the imperial core.
The examples of social democrats acting complicit in imperialism go on, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' meeting with Bolivian coup organizers to Sanders' endorsement of sanctions on the DPRK. In this moment where the American ruling class is reacting to the decline of U.S. global power and the rise of class conflict, this insistence by the country's mainstream left to align with imperialism is an ominous sign; it shows that they'll continue to enable the descent into fascism in order to remain loyal to the idea of American patriotism.
As capitalism's contradictions come to a head through the recent backlash to racist U.S. police brutality, liberals-including social democrats-are indeed taking the side of the fascists. Sanders has responded to the police murder of George Floyd and the onslaught of police violence against peaceful protesters not by calling to abolish the police, but by stating his opposition to police abolition and endorsing a statement that includes a pay raise for the police. This reflects the general American liberal trends right now of making peace with the cops, making compromises with reactionary politicians, and redirecting the energy of social movements towards their own ineffectual reformist sloganeering.
In a time like this, all of these behaviors from liberals aren't just discouraging; they're frightening. Columnist Genevieve Leigh recently observed the fascistic leaders and policies that social democrats and other liberals are enabling:
Since Trump came to power, the Democrats have worked hand over fist to suppress popular opposition to his administration and have instead elevated the most right-wing military figures as the "official" opposition. The Democrats"--"-Sanders included"--"-have said nothing about Trump's efforts to overturn the Constitution and establish military rule. Instead, they have relied on the military as the arbiter of politics in the United States. It is notable that in Sanders' interview with the New Yorker he made a point of praising General James Mattis's condemnation of Trump's response to the protests, saying that he was "very impressed" by the general's statement. Mattis earned the nickname "Mad Dog" for leading the bloody US campaign to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004 and boasted to his troops during his command of US forces in Afghanistan that "it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot" Afghans.
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