Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Bavarian Soviet Republic (And California)

Fear of Communism was a real thing back in the 1930's - for a reason!

What we learn in history class in school is often very superficial.  We are told to memorize "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue!" and all that talk of genocide and theft was swept under the rug.  Winners write history.

The run-up to World War II is similarly sanitized - or at least summarized.  Naughty Nazis took over, and started a world war and genocide.  Then Brad Pitt went over there and showed them what for and we won.  The End.

Or was there more to it.  Numerous volumes have been written about the inter-war years and what caused the rise of fascism.  Was it the great depression?  Or something else?  In my primary education that was taught in a vacuum and the next semester we learned about the Russian revolution - which was treated as a separate thing.

But of course, it was all one thing.  Ideologies were changing in that era - even before the collapse of the stock market and a worldwide depression.  The concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few was a concern, as was the working conditions for factory workers, who were often children.  Hey, stop me if this sounds familiar today, eh?

So people started embracing "-isms" as a solution to their problems.  Communism was envisioned as a solution to governance in an industrial society were "the workers" would "control the means of production."  However, as much as organizers tried to agitate for a Communist utopia in the West, it only took hold in Russia, which as a backward agrarian society (and not much has changed in the last 100 years other than Russia is now a backward energy export society).

There was a real fear, in places like Germany, that Communism would take hold - and it did.  However, people were enamored of their private property, it turns out.  But that didn't stop some from trying to create a Communist utopia, and in Bavaria, for a brief period of time, they sort of took over and tried to create a "Soviet Republic" in that State.

It is almost comical to read the results - people with no qualifications in government, such as a playwright, trying to institute radical societal changes, with predictable results - everyone suffered, whether from confiscation of their property to food and material shortages.  It lasted less than a month.

What is interesting to me is that I never learned about this in school, although granted, one could argue that a "Soviet Republic" that lasted less than a month was little more than a footnote in history.  But it illustrated how volatile things were in Germany after the war, and why people were nervous about Communism "taking over" the country.

The Bavarian Soviet Republic was arguably something of a joke - a bunch of artists and writers playing at being revolutionaries - and making bizarre pronouncements:

Other Toller appointments included: as commissar for military affairs, a former waiter; a burglar with a conviction for moral turpitude as police president of Munich; as commissar for transportation a part-time railroad track maintenance worker; and – in Catholic Bavaria, where nuns ran the schools – a Jew as minister for education. Toller's minister for public housing published a decree saying that no house could thereafter contain more than three rooms and that the living room must always be above the kitchen and bedroom.

Of course, none of it made any sense or did any of it stick.  Toller was in "power" for less than a week.  I would presume that some Bavarians who went on vacation that month came back and said, "Anything happen while I was gone?"  "Oh, a Communist Revolution, but we put that down."  "Oh, right."

But nevertheless, fear of Communism was palpable, and fascist thugs would get into street brawls with communist thugs, who were more than happy to oblige.  It was this fear that allowed the fascists to take power - with more centrist politicians believing that they could use the fascists to retain power and then neuter them later on.  Today it is the boogeyman of "Antifa" which comprises a half-dozen patchouli-stink leftover hippies, and "proud boys" or some such, playing at Commies-and-Nazis in the streets.

We see the same pattern of appeasement today, in the United States.  Republicans - the more traditional type - are using the far-right to try to win elections.  Since their actual fiscal and political policies are not that attractive (cutting taxes for the rich, increasing spending, cutting benefits to ordinary people) they rely on culture wars to achieve power.   Forget about balanced budgets!  That was our mantra back in the Clinton era (when budgets were balanced)!  We want you to be upset about M&Ms not being sexy enough!

It almost sounds like a comedic bit, except that it isn't funny.  The most serious issues facing the United States today isn't some guy in a dress.  But they don't want you to think about that too hard.

Too late, the "normal" part of the GOP tries to rein-in the extremes.  Mitch McConnell (who is the first Google hit if you type in "Senator Turtle") is trying to convince the far-right that we should support Ukraine.  It is an uphill battle for McConnell as many of these far-right politicians are supported by the Kremlin, either financially or through social media tampering - which has been well-documented.  Politicians like Our Miss Margie and Lara Boobert or lying drag-queen turned dog-thief Santos got into office only because of Russia and they are smart enough not to bite the hand that feeds them.

In fact, they are now calling McConnell a "communist" and worse.  The GOP hoped to tame the far-right as they tried to tame the "tea partiers" - but the new Nazis of our era are not having it.

Of course, there are not exact parallels to 1936 with today. Not many Americans really embrace Communism.  Sure, there are postings online about how great Communism would be - but their broken English and poor grammar (and British spelling) give away the game - the people making these postings as "Mike from Cincinnati" are clearly not Americans, but from the Russian Internet Research Agency.

But the far-right of today has their own Bavarian Soviet Republic to use as a whipping boy - California.  Whenever people agitate for a government that is more accountable to the actual citizens, the folks on the right (and Fox News) will use some wacky legislation or legislator from California - whether it is someone proposing "guaranteed annual income" (usually on a limited basis, which proves nothing) or some sort of law requiring us to all use designated pronouns.

The point is, California is held up as some sort of socialist bogeyman, intended to frighten the rest of America into capitulation.  "Maybe we should let the fascists win - they'll put a stop to this transgender nonsense once and for all!"   Of course, more pressing issues - like economic issues - are not addressed, by design.

And one has to wonder whether these far-left wackos are not as equally influenced (and financed) by Russia as well - persuading leftists to embrace wacky liberalism as a means of discrediting the left and also increasing divisiveness.  After all, divisiveness plays into their hands, and again, you see these postings online in fractured English that give away the game.  After all Bradley/Chelsea Manning, the self-proclaimed "Transgender Hero" leaked classified information to Wikileaks which has been proven to be basically a Russian asset, which should come as no surprise to anyone:

The organisation has been criticized for inadequately curating its content and violating the personal privacy of individuals. Wikileaks has, for instance, revealed Social Security numbers, medical information, credit card numbers and details of suicide attempts. Various news organisations, activists, journalists and former members have also criticized the organisation over allegations of antisemitism, an anti-Clinton and pro-Trump bias, various associations with the Russian government, a history of buying and selling leaks, and a lack of internal transparency. Journalists have also criticized the organisation for promoting false flag conspiracy theories, and its exaggerated and misleading descriptions of the contents of leaks. The CIA defined the organisation as a "non-state hostile intelligence service" after the release of Vault 7.
We are being manipulated, and that is well-documented online.  Foreign powers are trying to influence elections in our country and other countries worldwide.  And yes, we've been doing this (and I presume we still do it) for decades.  In fact, we've influenced politics in other countries for over a century.  Every country looks out for its own interests - this should surprise no one.  Folks who claim that other countries are not trying to influence American politics are either incredibly gullible or just being obstinate.

Back in the old days of the cold war, you had to have boots on the ground and throw some money around and maybe some weapons as well.  Start a proxy war in some undeveloped country.  Usurp an election in another.  Co-opt the press.  Maybe even an assassination or two.  We did it.  The Russians did it.  The Israelis did it - and still do it.  You don't let world events "just happen" without trying to shape them - anything less is an abrogation of your responsibilities as a government.

Today,  of course, we have the Internet.  No need - or as much of a need - for "boots on the ground" in some foreign country, when you can hire an army of young people who are (hopefully) fluent in the local language to go online and just nudge the conversation on social media one way or another.

And that's all it takes, is a nudge.