Many on the alt-right make references to Weimar Germany and the rise of the NSDAP under Hitler. The Richard Spencer wing is particularly fond of Nazi aesthetics, the haircuts being the most obvious example. Part of it, of course, is owning the insult. If they are going to be called Nazis, they may as well own it. This is a time honored way of signalling a rejection of the prevailing morality. If you are going to be called a dirty hippy, you may as well grow your beard and stop bathing. The alt-right is doing the same thing.
It goes much further than simply adopting the Nazi aesthetics, though. Richard Spencer is fond of drawing comparisons between his thing and the rise of the Nazis in Weimar Germany. He’s not alone. Ryan Landry works from the “Weimerica” motif, in his blogging and his Daily Caller posts. The popular blogger, Brett Stevens, does a lot of this too. The alt-right is not in favor of invading the Sudetenland or partitioning Poland, but they think Weimar Germany is a good analog to the modern US.
I don’t think it works, though. Germany after the Great War was exhausted in every measurable way. It was not just cultural exhaustion. That was certainly part of it, but the heart of Europe was leveled by war. By the end, civilians on both sides were lacking in the necessities of life. The economic base was destroyed. The political classes and social classes were in ruins. Not since The Thirty Years War had Europe been so completely devastated. That does not compare with modern America or even modern Europe.
The utility of such a comparison is mostly on the economic front. Modern America is not suffering from wholesale price inflation due to money printing. We are, however, suffering from asset inflation. The value of homes and businesses, particularly publicly traded companies, has skyrocketed across the West. This is showing up in home owner rates, as young people are finding it hard to buy a home. As Steve Sailer pointed out, affordable family formation is at the heart of what ails modern America.
There’s also the unfathomable public debt. It is not just public debt. Private debt is at record levels and showing no signs of cresting. In fact, it is reasonable to say the world is entirely fueled by debt now. It was the German decision to fund their war effort with debt that led to the economic catastrophe following the war. It was debt that allowed them to make one disastrous decision after another, taking on more risk in a hope of winning a final victory over the Allies, and reaping the benefits of that victory.
The critical missing ingredient, though, is the massive cost of war. America can, if she is inclined, scale back the military-industrial complex, withdraw from policing the barbarian lands and stop playing big brother to Europe. America has good options for averting disaster and no one is dictating policy to us. German after the war had nothing but bad options and the Allies were doing everything possible to maximize the suffering. The soil in which the Nazis blossomed was vastly worse than what is birthing the alt-right today.
A better analogy may be Ireland under British rule or the British Raj. The resistance movements that evolved in those countries were not the result of desperation or a political void. The British, while no one’s idea of generous colonizers, were not ruthless conquerors either. Compared to other European countries, the Brits were sensible and humane administrators. They tried to work with local elites to maintain order. More than a few Indians, for example, were sent to England to be educated and trained.
Even so, they were still foreigners and the natives, like all people, chaffed at being ruled by foreigners. It is a truth of life that most people would rather be ruled by a tyrant from their own tribe than a benevolent king from a foreign tribe.The Irish and the Indians were no different. They wanted the British gone, despite the fact that the Brits were the best thing to happen to them. These nationalists were not motivated by the chaos of cultural collapse. They were motivated by a positive love of their people and their culture.
That’s what makes these nationalist movements a better analogs for what is going on in the West. The people signing onto populist and nationalist movements are not doing so because the state has failed. Ours is not an age of economic dislocation and political chaos. No one is going hungry or being thrown into the streets. What’s motivating these populist revolts is that the people who rule over us are no longer like us. They feel like foreigners, who have no regard for local customs and traditions.
Another reason these are better analogies is the Hindus and Irish were successful, long term movements that brought with them a widespread cultural component. The Nazis, in contrast, were losers whose legacy still haunts the West to this day. Emulating the tactics and philosophy of the Nazis is a good way to follow them into the dustbin of history. It may be a fun taunt, given the nature of the people who rule over us, but in the end, cheap taunts are not going to overthrow colonial rule. Only a legitimate counter culture can do it.
Steve Bannon famously said, “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken.” This is a long war. The alt-right would be wise to think about how to win a long, low grade culture war. That means building up the intellectual and cultural side, while also systematically throwing sand in the gears of the colonial machine. The path to victory is to make neo-liberalism too expensive to maintain and too unappealing to support. Think Michael Collins, not Joseph Goebbels.