Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"The Stream" on Obama's Legacy

There is already a lot of coverage of Obama's legacy, which will presumably intensify over the next month until the new President takes office.

Al Jazeera English's The Stream take a 25 minute look at Barack Obama's legacy 12/21/2016 with six different writers, including Sarah Jaffe, Mychal Denzel Smith, Michael Days, Trevor Thrall, Karen Attiah and Vijay Prashad:

Sarah Jaffe is one of my favorite political writers. But just after 10:15, she sends me into fingers-on-the-blackboard mode with, "the environment that Hitler rose out of was a massive, massive inflation crisis."

This is a zombie idea very popular with Americans. The infamous hyperinflation in Germany was mainly in in 1923-4, resolved in early 1924. Karl Schleunes' article on that period in the "Germany" entry of the trusty Britannica 2015 observes, "Although the inflation was rooted in the huge debt that Germany had amassed in financing its war effort, the hyperinflation of 1923 was triggered by the French-Belgian military occupation in January 1923 of the German industrial district in the Ruhr valley." It was directly related to the popular cause in Germany of opposing the occupation of the industrial German Ruhr district by France that began in 1923.

The political facts in this table from Peter Gay in his The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx (1952), p. 209, have yet to put this zombie idea to rest. The Nazis (National Socialists in this table) pulled 0.9 million votes in 1924, a smaller vote of 0.8 million in 1928, then jumped to 6.4 million in 1930 and to 13.7 million in July of 1932, then down to 11.7 million in November 1932.

There was one more semi-free election in Germany in early 1933 after Hitler became Chancellor, but there was considerable political repression already in motion and that vote total isn't so meaningful, which is presumably the reason it wasn't shown on Gay's chart.

So, there was a very dramatic hyperinflation in 1923-4. It was stabilized and did not recur. Then, six years later in 1930, the Nazi vote shot up 800% from 1928 - because people suddenly got really upset about the 1923-4 hyperinflation? Or could the onset of the Great Depression, massive unemployment and deflation, and the Merkel-like austerity policies of Chacnellor Heinrich Brüning have had some affect on that voting outcome?

I'm certainly tempted to think so.

BTW, that decline in the NSDAP (Nazi) vote from July to November of 1932 was 15%.

Al Jazeera English calls the program the first in a series. (And it really is about Obama, not about prewar German politics.)

It's obvious that the fact of who and what his successor is will weigh heavily on our evaluations of Obama's Presidency, now and in the future.

Today's PBS Newshour 12/21/2016 has an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates, How Obama’s unique background shaped his outlook on race. It's informative, though the video segment strikes me as a bit on the hagiographic side:

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