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Sandbrooks writes: "As commentators often remark, the world picture has not been grimmer since the dark days of the mid-Seventies, when the OPEC oil shock, the rise of stagflation and the surge of nationalist terrorism cast a heavy shadow over the Western world. For the most chilling parallel, though, we should look back exactly 80 years, to the cold wintry days when 1931 gave way to 1932."

In the Italy of 1932, the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, pictured with Hitler, strengthened his grip, consolidating Italian power in the looted colonies of Albania and Libya. (photo: AP)
In the Italy of 1932, the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, pictured with Hitler, strengthened his grip, consolidating Italian power in the looted colonies of Albania and Libya. (photo: AP)

The Spectre of 1932: Will Fascism Rise Again in 2012?

By Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail UK

31 December 11


he dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition, of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.

Here in Britain, many economists believe that by the end of 2012 we could well have slipped into a second devastating recession. The Coalition remains delicately poised; it would take only one or two resignations to provoke a wider schism and a general election.

But the real dangers lie overseas. In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism. And with so many of the world's oil supplies concentrated in the Persian Gulf, British families will be keeping an anxious eye on events in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, as the eurozone slides towards disaster, the prospects for Europe have rarely been bleaker. Already the European elite have installed compliant technocratic governments in Greece and Italy, and with the markets now putting pressure on France, few observers can be optimistic that the Continent can avoid a total meltdown.

As commentators often remark, the world picture has not been grimmer since the dark days of the mid-Seventies, when the OPEC oil shock, the rise of stagflation and the surge of nationalist terrorism cast a heavy shadow over the Western world.

For the most chilling parallel, though, we should look back exactly 80 years, to the cold wintry days when 1931 gave way to 1932.

Then as now, few people saw much to mourn in the passing of the old year. It was in 1931 that the Great Depression really took hold in Europe, bringing governments to their knees and plunging tens of millions of people out of work.

Then as now, the crisis had taken years to gather momentum. After the Wall Street Crash in 1929 - just as after the banking crisis of 2008 - some observers even thought that the worst was over.

But in the summer of 1931, a wave of banking panics swept across central Europe. As the German and Austrian financial houses tottered, Britain's Labour government came under fierce market pressure to slash spending and cut benefits.

Bitterly divided, the Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald decided to resign from office - only to return immediately as the leader of an all-party Coalition known as the National Government, dominated by Stanley Baldwin's Conservatives.

Like today's Coalition, the National Government was an uneasy marriage. Sunk in self-pity and spending much of his time flirting with aristocratic hostesses, MacDonald cut a miserable and semi-detached figure. By comparison, even Nick Clegg looks a model of strong, decisive leadership.

As for the Tory leader Stanley Baldwin, he had more in common with David Cameron than we might think. A laid-back Old Harrovian, tolerant, liberal-minded and ostentatiously relaxed, Baldwin spent as much time as possible on holiday in the South of France, preferring to enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine rather than get his hands dirty with the nuts and bolts of policy.

Meanwhile, far from offering a strong and coherent Opposition, the rump Labour Party seemed doomed to irrelevance. At least its leader, the pacifist Arthur Henderson, could claim to be a man of the people, having hauled himself up by his bootstraps from his early days as a Newcastle metal worker.

Not even his greatest admirers could possibly say the same of today's adenoidal, stammering Opposition leader, the toothless Ed Miliband.

With the politicians apparently impotent in the face of the economic blizzard, many people were losing faith in parliamentary democracy. Their despair was hardly surprising: in some industrial towns of the North, Wales and Scotland, unemployment in 1932 reached a staggering 70 per cent.

With thousands more being plunged out of work every week, even the National Government estimated that one in four people were making do on a mere subsistence diet. Scurvy, rickets and tuberculosis were rife; in the slag heaps of Wigan, George Orwell saw ‘several hundred women' scrabbling ‘in the mud for hours', searching for tiny chips of coal so they could heat their homes.

Feeling betrayed by mainstream politicians, many sought more extreme alternatives. Then as now, Britain was rocked by marches and demonstrations. In October 1932, a National Hunger March in Hyde Park saw bloody clashes between protesters and mounted policemen, with 75 people being badly injured.

And while Left-wing intellectuals were drawn to the supposedly utopian promise of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin - who turned out to be a brutal tyrant - thousands of ordinary people flocked to the banners of the British Union of Fascists, founded in the autumn of 1932 by the former Labour maverick Sir Oswald Mosley.

Never before or since has the far Right commanded greater British support - a worrying reminder of the potential for economic frustration to turn into demagogic resentment.

But the most compelling parallels between 1932 and 2012 lie overseas, where the economic and political situation was, if anything, even darker.

Eighty years ago, the world was struggling to come to terms with an entirely new financial landscape. In August 1931, the system by which currencies were pegged to the value of gold had fallen apart, with market pressure forcing Britain to pull the pound off the gold standard.

Almost overnight, the system that was supposed to ensure global economic stability was gone. And as international efforts to coordinate a response collapsed, so nations across the world fell back on self-interested economic protectionism.

In August 1932, the British colonies and dominions met in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, and agreed a policy of Imperial Preference, putting high tariffs on goods from outside the Empire. International free trade was now a thing of the past; in this frightening new world, it was every man for himself.

Today's situation, of course, is even more frightening. Our equivalent of the gold standard - the misguided folly of the euro - is poised on the brink of disaster, yet the European elite refuse to let poorer Mediterranean nations like Greece and Portugal leave the eurozone, devalue their new currencies and start again.

Should the eurozone collapse, as seems perfectly likely given Greece's soaring debts, Spain's record unemployment, Italy's non-existent growth and the growing market pressure on France's ailing economy, then the consequences would be much worse than when Britain left the gold standard.

The shockwaves across Europe - which could come as early as next spring - would see banks tottering, businesses crashing and millions thrown out of work. For British firms that trade with Europe, as well as holiday companies, airports, travel firms and the City of London itself, the meltdown of the eurozone would be a catastrophe.

And as the experience of 80 years ago suggests, the political and social ramifications would be too terrible to contemplate. For in many ways, the 12 months between the end of 1931 and the beginning of 1933 were the tipping point between democracy and tyranny, the moment when the world plunged from an uneasy peace towards hatred and bloodshed.

In the East, new powers were already on the rise. At the end of 1931, Imperial Japan had already launched a staggeringly brutal invasion of China, the Japanese armies pouring into the disputed province of Manchuria in search of raw materials.

Today the boot is on the other foot, with China ploughing billions into its defence programme and establishing de facto economic colonies across Africa, bringing copper, cobalt and zinc back to the mother country.

Indeed, future historians may well look back and see the first years of the 2010s as the moment when the Chinese Empire began to strengthen its global grip.

In the Soviet Union in 1932, meanwhile, Stalin's reign of terror was intensifying. With dissent crushed by the all-powerful Communist Party, his state-sponsored collectivisation of the Ukrainian farms saw a staggering 6million die in one of the worst famines in history.

By these standards, the autocratic Vladimir Putin looks almost cuddly.

And yet we should not forget that Putin himself described the fall of the Soviet empire as one of the greatest catastrophes of the century - and that half of all Russian teenagers recently told a survey that Stalin was a wise and strong leader.

By comparison, Europe's democratic leaders look woolly and vacillating, just as they did back in 1932. Indeed, for the democratic West, this was a truly terrible year.

Democracy itself seemed to be under siege. In France, President Paul Doumer was murdered by an assassin. In Portugal, the authoritarian, ultra-Catholic dictator Antonio Salazar launched a reign of terror that would last into the Seventies. And in Italy, the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini strengthened his grip, consolidating Italian power in the looted colonies of Albania and Libya.

Eighty years on, we have no room for complacency. Although the far Right remains no more than a thuggish and eccentric minority, the elected prime ministers of Greece and Italy have already been booted out to make way for EU-approved technocrats for whom nobody has ever voted.

In the new Europe, the will of the people seems to play second fiddle to the demands of Paris and Berlin. And if the eurozone crisis intensifies, then it is no idle fantasy to imagine that Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and their Brussels allies will demand an even greater centralisation of powers, provoking nationalist outrage on the streets of Europe's capitals.

Sadly, there seems little point in looking across the Atlantic for inspiration. In 1932, President Herbert Hoover, beleaguered by rising unemployment and tumbling ratings, flailed and floundered towards election defeat.

Today, Barack Obama cuts a similarly impotent, indecisive and isolationist figure. The difference is that in 1932, one of the greatest statesmen of the century, the Democratic politician Franklin D. Roosevelt, was waiting in the wings.

Today, American voters looking for alternatives are confronted only with a bizarre gaggle of has-beens, inadequates and weirdos, otherwise known as the Republican presidential field. And to anybody who cares about the future of the Western world, the prospect of President Ron Paul or President Newt Gingrich is frankly spine-chilling.

Above all, though, the eyes of the world back in 1932 were fixed on Germany. As the Weimar Republic staggered towards oblivion, an obscure Austrian painter was setting his sights on supreme power.

With rising unemployment eating away at the bonds of democratic civility, the National Socialist Party was within touching distance of government.

And in the last days of 1932, after the technocrats and generals had failed to restore order, President Paul von Hindenburg began to contemplate the unthinkable - the prospect of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.

We all know what happened next. Indeed, by the end of 1932 the world was about to slide towards a new dark age, an age of barbarism and bloodshed on a scale that history had never known.

Eighty years on, it would be easy to sit back and reassure ourselves that the worst could never happen again. But that, of course, was what people told each other in 1932, too.

The lesson of history is that tough times often reward the desperate and dangerous, from angry demagogues to anarchists and nationalists, from seething mobs to expansionist empires.

Our world is poised on the edge of perhaps the most important 12 months for more than half a century. If our leaders provide the right leadership, then we may, perhaps, muddle through towards slow growth and gradual recovery.

But if the European elite continue to inflict needless hardship on their people; if the markets continue to erode faith in the euro; and if Western politicians waste their time in petty bickering, then we could easily slip further towards discontent and disaster.

The experience of 1932 provides a desperately valuable lesson. As a result of the decisions taken in those 12 short months, millions of people later lost their lives.

Today, on the brink of a new year that could well prove the most frightening in living memory, we can only pray that our history takes a very different path. your social media marketing partner


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+37 # RMDC 2011-12-31 20:47
Thanks. This is good. I also think we are on the brink of something really bad. My sense is that a world war is coming. A US and Israeli attack on Iran may touch it off.

In the west, Europe and America, it is the bankers who call all the shots. They own the governments and they can crash any economy at almost a moment's notice. Greece, Italy and the rest did not need to crash. They were crashed by banks in order to loot them.

I don't feel very good about 2012 == but we are going to have to go through the crash before we can rebuild. The people who run the world, fascists for sure, cannot be reformed and they cannot change. They will all have to end up like Moussolini, hanging from a lamp post upside down.
+6 # John Locke 2012-01-01 13:42
RMDC: I agree with you completely, you must be aware of the JP Morgan and Depont attempt to over through the Democratic US Government in the 1930's they wanted to change the form of governmment then to Fascism, but their plan was outed and interestingly No one was prosecuted as our congress was even then on the Bankers Payroll!
+12 # DPM 2011-12-31 23:30
+8 # pokerplayer 2012-01-01 00:37
What a historical parallel we are living through. I recommend the current book Garden of the Beasts which details 1932-33-34.
+12 # pokerplayer 2012-01-01 00:39
read Garden of the Beasts, the current detailing of our present turmoil. It covers 1932-34 during Ambassador Dodd's time in Nazi Germany and the rise of Hitler.
+39 # Yakpsyche 2012-01-01 01:54
Get over it. You're too late. Fascism just means oligarchic plutocracy, run by corporations. Mussolini gave it the name, It's the Italian word, as he put it, for "corporatocracy ". Well, that's what we've had here in the USA for more than ten years. Its not a question of if it will happen. It's more a matter of, Hey! Wake up ! It's already here! Now the question is, what are you going to do in response to it? Occupy? Protest? Do nothing, roll over and go back to sleep? Or what?h
+14 # banichi 2012-01-01 02:13
Thanks - this is a chilling, and realistic, recounting of the process that led to the 2nd world war. Though that war and the Great Depression that preceded it ultimately resulted in a better world - at least for the U.S. and allied nations in the short run - no one at that time had the weapons to literally end the world in a nuclear holocaust. Now, we do.

Like RDMC, 2012 frightens me. I hope I am wrong, but don't see anything good coming - a crash is almost certain, with horrendous consequences that even those of us with some foresight can not predict in sufficient detail to turn aside the world's governments, economies, and power elites. Millions are going to suffer, and many will die of various causes.

My prayer is that there are enough of us left to begin to rebuild, and eradicate those fascists who can't be tamed, controlled, or changed. This is a horrible vision. I can not see anything better, try as I might. God help us all in 2012 and beyond.
+14 # sandyboy 2012-01-01 03:37
Can I just mention that this piece is from the Daily Mail - the only UK paper which SUPPORTED fascism of Mosley back in the 30s! And is still rabidly right-wing.
+17 # Jim52 2012-01-01 07:29
I think that it is just a matter of time before US troops are ordered to fire on US citizens. It could be Occupy Wall Street or some other peaceful group. Blood will run in the street. The military has been planning for this for years. The only question is how many US soldiers are willing to disobey unlawful orders. Remember the war in Vietnam ended because our guys outright refused to attack and engage the enemy.
+11 # Carolyn 2012-01-01 08:14
We need a president, whose living spirit is attuned to the values, the principles of the Founding Fathers of America. We need such a president not in the future. We have no future. We need him or her Now.
0 # John Locke 2012-01-01 13:43
Carolyn, such leaders are here now, I believe in reincarnation.. . it is when they will come out and lead, only time will privide us that answer...
+7 # wcandler1 2012-01-01 09:23
For my money, Climate Change will swamp all other disasters. RSN also features
a very worrying piece.
+7 # brianf 2012-01-01 13:10
I agree. All other disasters will seem very mild in comparison. I think 2012 could easily be the last year that we could prevent unimaginable disasters. However, those disasters won't be here immediately, and most people won't realize they are unavoidable until years later.

If the entire world came together to fight our common enemy, global warming and the climate change it causes, that could at the same time fix many of the problems cited in this article, if we went about it the right way. But as the article says, in tough times countries tend to close off and fight each other instead of working together to fix a common problem.

Can we manage to go against these tendencies, stop denying our current reality, trust the type of peer-reviewed science that has brought us so many amazing discoveries, and come together to fight the biggest enemy we have ever faced? Regardless of how likely that is, we have to try.
+5 # Pufferly 2012-01-01 10:15
Where is it written that our species--any species--must survive our predatory nature? The cockroaches can't wait until we make our next move. We've had a pretty good run: invented the banjo, chocolate chip ice cream and baseball. Let's not get greedy. The only thing left to do is talk to our children.
+5 # Regina 2012-01-01 12:24
Those of us who lived through the 1930s recognized the fact that the Republicans had done it to us AGAIN. They never learn from the fallout of their whacko-backward ideas, they just prate them again and again, and we get the same disastrous results. Obviously there are a few who benefit mightily from the miseries of the many. It's time for the rest of us to quit buying their bilge, and move the country forward to benefit all the people, not just the upper-crust 1%. Of course, the fascists will yell "socialism" and "communism" -- but their mantra has now failed us miserably twice, and partially many times in between. Get 'em out of office and out of power!!!!!
+6 # 2012-01-01 13:13
Both political parties are at fault and self-serving, Regina. Obama is the worst POTUS we've ever had and the most dishonest. Blaming the Republicans is getting old. Our governmental system and our government is corrupt. Obama has sold us out and at a time in history which is more devastating than the 30's. Why do you think the OWL are protesting with such fortitude? Why do you think Obama signed a bill which is fascist and he knows it. Euphemisms mean nothing any more. We need a strong, dedicated leader to get us out and away from the direction we are headed which is either a revolution or living as a third world country.
0 # John Locke 2012-01-01 13:46
Dorian, yes we need such a leader, and we also need him to stay alive if he can be elected...we must not understate the conviction and determination of those ruling our government by that i mean the true rulers of our elected officials,
-1 # Regina 2012-01-01 14:56
You won't get any improvement from (a) a Republican, or (b) a third-partier, even if one could be elected. Most likely any third party candidate will only spoil the outcome, a la Nader. It's a shame that we have to vote for the least of the evils, but all alternatives are more evil.
+1 # disgusted American 2012-01-03 01:48
No, Regina. Our alternatives are Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein. We are looking to STOP what the current system is doing to the 99 percent, to this nation and to the world, and we know that a Democrat or Republican won't stop what is going on b/c they are all too entrenched in corruption and greed.

You won't get any improvement from a Democrat either. And, as I said above, neither will STOP what is going on i.e fascist laws, representation of the corporations and not the electorate, etc.
+1 # disgusted American 2012-01-03 01:41

You don't understand. Democrats are totally complicit. It's not just Republicans. The bickering and daily dog-and-pony show is theatrics - political posturing - a game of good cop, bad cop. But the end result is most always consistent. Democrats vote against our interests right along with Republicans. The few from either party who vote the opposite are chosen ahead of time to do this. it's part of the game.

So to install meaningfull change for the 99 percent and to stop the fake war on terro, both parties have to be removed from office.
+6 # jwb110 2012-01-01 13:00
I watched a film last night called "Council of the Gods". Made in 1950 and clearly propaganda for the new DDR. What was interesting about it was that it was based on the transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials. Seems that in the ramping up to WWII, I.G.Farben and Standard OIl and Royal Dutch Petroleum met in Switzerland and cut some deals. Standard Oil was selling fuel to the Italians for their war planes. Royal Dutch Oil did much the same. Standard Oil and Farben shared patents on synthetic rubber and none of the Farben Factories were bombed by the Allies.
And we think there is something new going on by drawing parallels between the 1930's and now? Same old stuff different century.
+3 # lorenbliss 2012-01-01 20:13
Kudos to RSN for this review of historical facts that are forgotten (or more likely deliberately suppressed) by the U.S. education system whether at the K-12 or collegiate levels. (It's no accident history is taught in a tedious rote-learning mode that makes it one of the most despised subjects in the secondary and collegiate curricula.)

Meanwhile to those (few) of us who recognize the symptoms, fascism has ruled the U.S. since the Vietnam War era, which -- let us never forget -- began 22 November 1963 with the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, last of the New Deal Democrats.

What's happening now is the transition from fascism to an American variant of Nazism. The Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act and the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision established the legal framework even as Christianity -- the demagoguery of the Fundamentalists and the acquiescence of the other sects -- provides the supportive ethos.

Meanwhile the hate-mongers preparing the final act. The rabble-rousing against African-America ns began in 2008. Now the masters of hatefulness shift the blame for capitalist savagery onto its victims -- we who are elderly, disabled, jobless, chronically poor. The next targets will be Hispanic and First Nations peoples and of course Jews...

As Churchill said in 1941, only a miracle can save us now.
+1 # sandyboy 2012-01-02 00:20
"and of course Jews", lorenbliss? On that point I think you're mistaken. Not with the way the USA grovels to Zionist Israel even as it practices fascism and racism itself against the Palestinians.
+1 # jvlarson 2012-01-02 22:08
Sinclair Lewis wrote a fictioal book in 1938 "It Can't Happen Here" which is eerily similar to the present. What he said can't happen here is the institution of a fascist government. we many already have one in fact if not name.
0 # disgusted American 2012-01-03 02:15
Aaron Russo made a terrific documentary titled, America: From Freedon to Fascism.

Don't know how you can get a copy. Maybe if you google his name and the title.

There is also another documentary that was available at my local library: The Final Warning. Everything in this is obviously true b/c it is what is going on now, and you see clearly where we're headed at an accelerated pace.

A third is Maafa 21: Black Genocide in the 21st Century. You can buy it online. It is educational and not what you learned in school - I was aghast from what I learned from this fact-based documentary. It aired on public access TV. When you learn what the wealthy elite did when the slaves were freed and the ensuing propaganda put forth by the American Eugenics Society by its chosen stoolie, Harriet Senger (sp) on behalf of the elite, you will understand a lot of what is going on now.
0 # Don Thomann 2012-01-03 15:43
"Fascism" isn't going to "rise!"
It's already HERE, it's already NOW, and this time it is driven by all the psychological forces of "religious" intolerance plus all the economic power and military might of our "Empire!"

From here on out it can only colapse amid the ruins of a destoyed planet.
It's time for our Requiem.

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