Let me be very clear up front. My intention in bringing up historical parallels in the following article is not to gain election-year political points in name-calling. Instead, I want to focus our attention on some of the worst totalitarian atrocities in human history to suggest we are closer than we care to admit to a totalitarian disposition.
For Black Lives Matter supporters whose goal is addressing substantial problems with excessive force by police, the means to that end shouldn’t be those used by two of the most notoriously brutal political movements of the Left — the French Revolutionaries of the Terror — and the Right — modern Germany’s National Socialists. History has something to teach us about what must absolutely be avoided. Here’s the history lesson.
In July of 1933, Philip Zuckerman was having a Sunday walk with his wife, father-in-law, and sister-in-law in the city of Leipzig. It was also a day that a massive parade of well over 100,000 Storm Troopers were marching through town, displaying the power of the new Hitler regime. The aim was intimidation, a prelude to political terror for those who didn’t take the warning. Upon seeing Zuckerman and his family, a detachment from the SA Brownshirt parade broke away and beat him and his family as a lesson for the crime of being Jews.
The following month, an American surgeon Daniel Mulvihill was walking to the drugstore in Berlin just as a parade of Storm Troopers went by. One of the soldiers calmly walked away from the group, went straight to Mulvihill and struck him hard on the left side of his head, not because he was a Jew, but because he failed to offer the Hitler salute as the SA’s went by. This kind of punishment for not offering the salute was to be repeated so often that the American government filed a formal complaint against the practice of clubbing Americans who didn’t snap to and give the “Heil Hitler.”
Everyone should read, right now, Erik Larson’s excellent In the Garden of Beasts, which details these two incidents (and many others) in pre-World War II Germany. The parallels to our own time are chilling.
This September in Rochester, NY, Black Lives Matter protestors violently attacked diners in a restaurant, smashing their plates and glasses, overturning tables, and driving the shocked diners out. Why? For being of the Caucasian race, and hence undeniably guilty of the death of Daniel Prude.
This August, Black Lives Matter protestors smashed their way into another restaurant, this one in Washington, D.C., and demanded that all its diners offer the BLM raised fist salute.
Why point to the connection between these actions of Black Lives Matter protestors and the Nazis?
It is not to call black people Nazis (the obvious cheap inference that will doubtless be made by those on the Left angling to thought-police this article). Nor is it to call BLM Nazis; they are actually defined by Marxism (and curiously, given the evil ascribed to simply being Caucasian, many of them are white). Nor is it to brush away real problems with police brutality toward black Americans. The point is to draw attention to the destructive means that will ultimately undermine the just ends being sought, and the part played by ignorance of history in choosing these means.
The very people on the Left who now habitually call their enemies Nazis or Fascists cannot have actually read much about either, else they couldn’t help see their own actions—like breaking into restaurants and compelling everyone to do the BLM salute—as a repetition of Nazi tactics used to take full control of Germany in the 1930s. (I suppose we must not discount the possibility of vulgar hypocrisy among at least some of its members.)
Not actually knowing history is exceedingly dangerous because there is some history no one should want to repeat. Only having a vague idea is insufficient.
My well-founded fear is that almost none of the most fervent devotees of cancel culture, Black Lives Matter, or Antifa have read very much at all about how Nazism actually gained totalitarian control of Germany. A serious encounter with this history would make them recoil in horror at finding themselves acting like Kristallnachters in smashing store windows of allegedly white-privileged businesses, targeting private residences for vandalism, and substituting “white” for “Jew” as the irredeemable racial demon that causes all evil and therefore must be expunged.
But we are experiencing not only an echo of Nazi ascendency, but of the French Revolution. As the Jacobins gained increasing power, the revolutionaries spread the Terror to silence potential critics, making the people shake with fear at any possible offence that could lead to their “cancelation” at the guillotine.
Like the politically correct of today, the Revolutionary Terrorists took offence at the very smallest perceived slights. The death penalty was used for such “crimes” as “discrediting the revolutionary Convention,” “misleading people,” “writing anything critical” of the brutal and ever more vindictive revolutionary government, or (and this should sound familiar) being “insufficiently enthusiastic” at public revolutionary spectacles. Unsurprisingly, our own revolutionary terrorists seem to have a fascination with guillotining all who dare oppose them.
Perhaps it all seems so Romantic, imagining themselves (as they sip their Starbucks) living the bold Jacobin life. (Robespierre loved his coffee too.) Do our revolutionaries know that the guillotine in Paris was spilling so much blood that it was polluting the water supply and had to be moved outside the city? One doubts they have any real knowledge of how terrible the Terror was.
Clearly, what the Left doesn’t know about history hurts us, and even more, hurts the real work for justice in the black communities of America.
Revolt of the Elite
I am (I repeat) struck by how many of the BLM protestors aren’t black, but young whites hailing from affluent white society. They are elite college students who’ve been trained by professorial Marxists. Whatever they may happen to believe they are doing, they represent a kind of takeover of the civil rights concerns of the black community for their own purposes of revolution, and their presence in BLM is a subset of that takeover.
Make no mistake. We need police reform. What we’re getting through the terror tactics of violent “protestors,” however, is not sympathy for the cause, but an invitation for an ever-stronger response from the government to restore enough order that society can function.
America cannot become Portland. We need to learn from history because the examples that parallel our own time have been multiplied many times over. And they will be magnified. Leftist leaders have promised that, if Donald Trump wins, they will cancel the election by even more violence. That will only decrease the possibility of true police reform for the black communities.
And that is what black Americans actually want: not the abolition of the police, but reform. Defunding and dismissing the police are the goals of Marxism—in this case, the Marxism that defines Black Lives Matter and not the actual lives of black Americans.