“For in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And they knew not until the flood came and took them all away” – JESUS CHRIST (Matthew 24:38-39).
It comes about now and then that a crucial moment turns up in the history of a people when its future course may hang upon the decision of one man or a few.
Such a moment arrived in England in 1923, and such a moment has arrived in our country involving precisely the same circumstances. In the British election of that year the Conservatives won. This seemed to indicate that the earlier prophesies[i] stating that capitalism was dead had no foundation. The flood of socialism had not come at all. The problem, however, was the Conservatives did not elect enough members to give them a majority in the House of Commons. H.H. Asquith, Liberal Party leader, could throw his votes to the Conservatives and give them legislative powers, or to the Labour Party. At this point he made a historic decision which settled the fate of his Liberal Party forever.
Asquith gave his support to the Labour Party and made the Socialist, Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister. “It is better,” Asquith said, “to install a Labour Government with its claws cut as the best insurance against a fighting Labour Government.” Lord Grey, who had been the Liberal Foreign Secretary, added “I regard the advent of the Labour government under these [‘controlled’] circumstances with no apprehension whatsoever.”
About this same time, we witness another example of voters and misguided short-sighted politicians helping totalitarian regimes into power. In the 1928 German elections the Nazis had won only 2.6% of the vote. A German government report at the time stated that “the Nazis had no controllable influences on the masses of the population.” The Nazis were only a small fringe Party – almost a joke. Yet in only four years and eight months later, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany. He was helped into power through circumstance. A sudden drop in agriculture prices and the Wall Street crash caused widespread unemployment; the Americans called in their loans. Five major banks went under and more than 20,000 businesses folded.
It was a crisis that could not be wasted.
During the financial catastrophe the Nazi vote increased. Their message did not change, but the German people were now ready to hear it. By 1930 the Nazi vote increased to 25.8%. It wasn’t just the Nazis who started to pick up votes; the Communists began to do well too. Something sinister was beginning to happen to the German democracy as voters were rushing to the extremes.
Hitler said he was the strong man who could solve the economic crisis and rebuild the country under national unity. He campaigned in a fresh and unusual way for the times, traveling to over twenty cities in seven days by airplane. His speeches resonated with people at all levels. Most Germans believed he was an honorable man with good intentions.
The Nazis did not have much to offer in the way of policy, but they did promise security, order, and the personality of Adolf Hitler.
Though he was to lose the election to President Hindenburg, Hitler established himself as a credible leader. Germans were increasingly supporting candidates who were promising “change.” The voters turned to the Nazis to deliver this change. As a result of the elections of July 1932, the Nazis became the largest party in Germany. Now only one man stood in between Hitler and chancellorship: Hindenburg, the man Hitler challenged and lost.
President Hindenburg met Hitler on the 14 August 1932. Hitler demanded that he be made Chancellor. Hindenburg refused stating “he could not give a single party power which did not represent the views of the majority of the electorate.” But then different pressure groups began lobbying President Hindenburg. A former Chancellor, the aristocratic Franz vön Papen, came up with a deal. Hitler could be chancellor if he (vön Papen) was Chancellor and Hitler became Vice Chancellor. The theory was that they would “tame” the Nazis. Vön Papen crowed “we have hired Hitler.”
As a result, Hindenburg offered Hitler the position on 30 January 1933. The Nazis would later try to rewrite history by saying Hitler won the office because it was his destiny. But the reality was that he was helped into power by economic circumstances, and the support and miscalculation of others.
The same situation occurred in England. After only 18 years after their start, literally from scratch, the Socialists had their man in power as England’s Prime Minister. Instead of cutting the claws of the Labour Government, Asquith had cut the throat of the Liberal Party. Indeed, Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative voters represented a vast majority of the people. But Asquith turned the machinery of the British Empire over to the Socialist Labour Party representing only a third of the electorate.
Totalitarian regimes are usually helped into power by the very people they intend to enslave.
To be continued …
[i] Lloyd George said that “capitalism is to be arraigned before the Supreme Court of the nation, condemned, sentenced and executed …”