Saturday, November 12, 2011

History lessons

One piece of commentary on the Euro crisis is getting rather tiresome. The obsession of the German Bundesbank with fiscal constraint is constantly being put down to the memory of the hyper-inflation of 1923, which we are then swiftly told led to the rise of Hitler.

This is bad history. Not only is the economic position of Germany today completely different from the Germany that emerged from defeat in the First World War, making the analogy ridiculous, but it was not the inflation crisis that lead to Hitler's accession to power ten years after it ended. Hitler came to power at the peak of an unemployment crisis, precipitated by a deflationary global recession, exacerbated by the very orthodox policies that are being imposed throughout the Eurozone.

I dislike the use of historical analogies as a substitute for proper analysis. But if you are going to use them, please pick the right one.


The Cheshire Cat said...

There are now 3 or 4 the neo-fascists (far-right LAOS party) holding office as ministers in Greece. They have strong links in the police (this was not really purged of its fascist elements after the 1974 fall of the Junta) and there are reports and rumors of their young thugs beating up people in Athens.

One, A Georgiades (Wikipedia combines anti-Islamic & antisemitic attacks on his TV show and channel

The main one, smartest and most dangerous, is Makis Voridis whose CV is replete with neofascist credentials. On wikipedia

As for Giorgos Karatzaferis (leader of LAOS) below is part of a 2007 Greek newspaper Kathimerini (English) on the neo-fascists now holding office in Greece (

“First of all, I am not a Jew. Can the prime minister say that of himself? Secondly, I am not a communist. Can Mr Karamanlis say that?” asked LAOS leader Giorgos Karatzaferis, speaking in Corinth on May 28, 2002. “Thirdly, I am not a homosexual. There aren’t many who can say that,” he added. He was not widely quoted at the time, but Karatzaferis is given to making remarks of a similar nature, and had in the past made reference to a grandfather of then Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Aaron Avouris."

I'm now living in an European Country where I expect to hear the knock on the Door in the middle of the night.

Roger said...

Coincidentally reading Victor Serge's memoirs which have reached the 1923 hyperinflation - he reminds us that not only did Hitler's first attempt to seize power in Munich fail ignominiously - so did an elaborately planned Comintern plot which was cancelled at the last moment as the Soviets just couldn't smuggle in enough guns (unfortunately the comrades in Hamburg failed to get the message and were bloodily crushed).

Overall hyperinflation creates paralysing social chaos rather than revolution (a more recent example might be the failure of Zimbabwei's democratic movement) - everyone is too busy frantically trying to get and spend money to have time to devote to revolutionary politics.

And it was of course mass unemployment that propelled Hitler to power ten years later.

But the right just love the Weimar inflation narrative and will never stop using it.