Thursday, 15 August 2013

Do we actually learn from history?

by Marie-Louise Jensen.

I spent a part of May revising history GCSE with my youngest son. His in-depth topic was Germany 1918-1945. It was a familiar topic to me having studied German at university. But it was a timely reminder of the mechanics of the rise of fascism. This followed a pattern that has been repeated many times and places in the world in adapted forms. After his failed coup (the ‘Putsch’) Hitler realised he needed to take power democratically. And he did so. These are the steps:

1)      The country is in difficult economic times. You promise recovery but say it will be tough.
2)      You appeal to people whose interests are not served by voting for you by scaremongering about foreigners. You do a lot of scapegoating generally.
3)      You divide and rule by setting different sections of society against one another.
4)      You tell your people the health service and the state cannot afford the burden of the weak and disabled in these difficult times.
5)      You take control of the most of the media to present your version of events and you intimidate the rest.
6)      You take control of education, especially history, focusing on nationalism and teaching of former glory.
7)      You say that young people would benefit from military discipline.
8)      You smear and undermine the opposition by every and any means at your disposal. Removing their funding works well, as does blaming them for things that go wrong.
9)      You intimidate those who would protest by heavy policing.

Hitler’s rise to power was as simple as this. The world is a different place now, but I wonder, looking at it like that, how many people are comfortable with how far down that road we in Europe and especially in England have travelled recently? Or whether we will continue to travel along it secure in our own complacency that we have learned the lessons of history?
Myself, I fear it is above all those in power who have properly learned the lessons that history has to offer. And I'm fairly sure that how much further along that road our leaders will travel is entirely dependant on how far we are willing to follow them.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Not all, but many of these sound like recent politics in Austrlia.

JO said...

Please, Michael Gove, read this - it's exactly why history is an essential component of the national curriculum.

Marie-Louise said...

Happening in Greece right now with Operation Zeus. Frightening stuff.

Sally Zigmond said...

I agree totally. Great post. This scenario happens far too often and yet we all let it happen by our complacency. We must always question our leaders of whatever party or mind-set. And everyone should remember that however altruistic politicians begin their journeys to leadership, power DOES corrupt and turn men into monsters. Many freedom fighters end up as the most vicious and repressive dictators. We ordinary folk must not be dazzled by the charismatic narrator. Never again is easy to say but it begins with us.

Marie-Louise Jensen said...

Thanks for the great comments. I'm finding it frightening here in the UK and right around Europe, especially Greece, of course. I didn't know about Australia, Sue, although I read recently that UK New Labour based themselves on the Autralian Labour party in shifting to neo-liberal policies. Austerity is so dangerous - and is really just another word for a reditribution of wealth and power to the top. It does begin with us, but it's easy to feel helpless and insignificant in the face of it.

Mark Burgess said...

Timely and scary. Thank you.

Momma Bear said...

timely post! I find that the GOP, here in america, taking up the mantle of fascist thinking. it's getting damned scary if you live in the south.
it looks, from the posts, that those that can, will try, in spite of what history has taught us.
we the people, of whatever country you are in, must be vigilant to stop it from happening again. we don't learn from history, it would bee nice if we did.

Leslie Wilson said...

You strike a very valid and timely warning note, though it has to be said that Hitler's actions against the opposition and those who disagreed with him included murder, abduction, intimidation,and their removal from their jobs wherever possible. I don't like our government and their actions, but I don't myself feel that they match up to the brutality of Nazi Germany (apart from the internment of terrorist suspects without trial, and the suppression of information about what is being done to them. There there is a distinct paralell.) The parallel I would see is rather that with the last years of Weimar Germany, when, to placate voters who were turning to the extremes, due to the collapse, for the second time in ten years or so, of the fragile German economy, the government implemented all kinds of repressive measures, which only legitimated the extremists. Cameron et al, looking over their shoulder at the EDF, UKIP, and the baying hounds of the Daily Mail et al - though as you say, those hounds are taught to bay by the Right..
However, we might ask why our US allies have been supporting an illegitimate and brutal government in Egypt, purely because it displaces an Islamic government..