Gleichschaltung, a German word we should understand.

(I originally wrote this as a comment, but I’d like to try to stimulate a little discussion.)

It means something like coming together or bringing together, but people who write about the Nazi Era usually translate it as coordination. Coordination is used to describe the process by which the NSDAP insinuated itself into and gained control of the civil and economic institutions of Germany. We’re watching it now but from the other side.

Some of you know that recent political events have caused me to start looking into the poltics of Weimar Republic in more detail than the “Cabaret” level. Up until about 1928, Germany could have gone either way: remained a liberal constitutional republic, adopted Soviet-style communism, or turned to the NSDAP (Nazis), with the odds somewhat favoring the communists. The Worldwide economic downturn added staggering unemployment to already staggering inflation in Germany. Inflation is tolerable to people if they can make themselves worth more to more or less keep up with it. Germany’s system of unionization and compulsory arbitration (See, e.g., EFCA) had allowed labor to inflate wages with the inflating currency. But, with the deepening depression, many were thrown onto the welfare rolls where falling government revenues precluded the benefits from keeping up with the inflation well enough to provide for the most basic needs. Enter the Nazis.

Business and industry were straitened by the depression and infuriated with the unions, the communists, and the government’s labor policies. While one might not expect business and industry to make common cause with the National Socialist German Workers Party, the English translation of the NSDAP or Nazi Party’s name, the Nazis brought them into the fold with promises of money, growth, and power through bailouts and a massive public works stimulus program. The business assets and processes remained nominally private but they remained so on sufferance of the Nazis. That sufferance depended on their coordination of the activities of the business to the activities of the Nazi Party. Starting to look familiar.

Then the Nazis struck out against their political enemies. For them those were the communists, the unions, and the social democrats (liberals). First, they vilified and intimidated them by means that would make Saul Alinsky proud. As they gained power in the states, they used that power to actively suppress the opposition. Perhaps the most successful early coordination was between the Nazis and the judicial system. While in America the Nazis are usually portrayed as working class thugs, the Nazis had a strong following in the universities, in the professions, and, especially, in the legal community. Thus, they quickly got a strong grasp on the German judicial system and used that system to suppress opposition. Before long in a nation that had prided itself in its positivist legal system was issueing judicial opinions based on “the healthy opinion of the volk.” You find that phrase over and over in the court decisions that countenanced the complete takeover of German society by the Nazi Party.

On thing I admire about thoughtful communists is the fact that they work very hard at understanding their defeats. The greatest defeat communism ever suffered was losing Germany and unleashing the Nazis on the Soviet Union, an event which brought the end of communism to within a dozen miles of Moscow. There are lots of thoughtful communists in America and they’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time. They are definitively not clueless. They are embarked on a program of coordination with the civic and political institutions that are not unalterable opposed to them and are busily setting up the mechanisms by which they will eliminate those, mostly on the right, who will not “come together” with them. Those who don’t know the past are doom to repeat it. Those who do know the past are doomed to be surrounded by people who don’t.

We are facing a perfect political and economic storm.  Either the government will print so much money that the dollar becomes debased or our trading partners and lenders will lose faith in the American government and economy.  Either way, we are facing massive inflation of the sort that destroys retirement plans and savings.   People on SS or other retirement or wage schemes indexed to CPI will feel real pain shortly.  The CPI will remain static or even drop since deflating housing is so heavily weighted by BLS, but all other goods and services will be inflating dramatically.  Heat or eat will be life’s great choice for many retirees.  Need I remind you that there are over 75 million Baby Boomers at or nearing retirement.  EFCA will bring about massive unionization in vital industries, especially healthcare, retail, and the remaining high-tech manufacturing as well as the Southern auto and other manufacturing.  The arbitration provisions in EFCA will result in spiraling wages followed by dramatic layoffs.  The fracturing economy will severely curtail government revenue and it will not be able to keep up the bread and circuses and transfer payments or inflate them enough to keep the mob sullen but not mutinous.  Then the only question is who hits the barricades first and what the government does about it.  Do we turn left or right?