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Voices / Letters from readers

Can we learn from Germany’s history?

I felt for Joe Biden when referring to the attempted coup and he said, “This is not who we are.” The newly elected president was trying to offer a stunned majority of Americans some false hope of normality.

But, this dark side, this destructive fascistic impulse, has always been with us. Of course it’s who we are.

The historical evils of the past that now define our political present in the form of sedition and treason we saw in the fascist mob that attacked Congress. A fascist mob sits in Congress as well. And we saw the combined forces of criminal thuggish fascism and the more-genteel fascist Republicans in Congress trying to overturn an election.

This is fascism.

The brownshirt thuggish fascist political theatrics by the anti-democratic Republicans have left an indelible stain on our political civic life and cleared a path for more barbarism.

A nation committed to the well-being of its citizens has built healthy foundations for democracy. Health care for all and reducing income inequality can reduce the desperation and fear that’s so easily exploited by demagogues. The toxic environment of misinformation has become the sea we swim in.

If one endorses fascism and fascist methods, one is a fascist. If one opposes fascism and the violence, coercion, and distortion behind fascist methods, one can be called an anti-fascist. There should no controversy if one calls oneself an anti-fascist, unless of course, we are living in a fascist nation. It’s too obvious to point out.

MacLean Gander’s reporting on antifa was timely, published on Jan. 6, 2020, the very same day of an American fascist putsch that failed.

The word “antifa” is a composite of the prefix “anti,” meaning “against,” and the word “fascism.” The anti-fascist movement in Germany in the 1930s — Antifaschistische Aktion — was a chaotic coalition of democrats, socialists, communists, and others.

One parallel with 1930s Germany is the money pouring in from right-wing foundations and corporatists to fascist groups and propagandists. The coalition of center-left parties in Germany were rudderless and clueless, and they were quickly eliminated.

We all know what happened: Scapegoating and eliminationism. A cult of personality. A cult of hypermasculinity, violence, murder, and dispossession.

To understand fascism and how a society succumbs to the mind-numbing reductions, one needs to see the fascist impulse as an evil in every society and study it from that perspective.

The question becomes: Can we learn from history, or are we going to be left left rudderless and clueless?

Steve Belczak

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Originally published in The Commons issue #595 (Wednesday, January 13, 2021). This story appeared on page B5.

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