top of page
  • The Scrivener


Updated: Mar 28, 2023

The attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, was disturbing for many reasons, but for me, principally for two.

It had an uncomfortable similarity to the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, Germany, in 1923, and to the affair of the Reichstag Fire in Berlin ten years later. Both these incidents were designed to replace democracy in Germany with totalitarian Nazi rule. In the case of the Reichstag Fire, the attempt was successful.

The Beer Hall Putsch: in 1923, because of severe political unrest, absolute rule in Bavaria had been handed over by the prime minister to a triumvirate comprised of the state commissioner, the chief of police, and the local army commander. These three were holding a political meeting, attended by a crowd of some three thousand people, in a downtown beer hall in Munich. Political meetings were often held in beer halls in Bavaria. Adolf Hitler surrounded the meeting with six hundred NSDAP (Nazi) stormtroopers and placed a machine gun at the door to stop anyone leaving. Hitler tried unsuccessfully to persuade the commissioner, the police chief, and the general to step down so that the NSDAP could form a new government: Erich Ludendorff, a prestigious World War I veteran and a general, would lead it. The ruling triumvirate would be given new subordinate posts. This new Bavarian state government could then challenge the legitimacy of the German Weimar government in Berlin.

After the crowd had been released, Hitler’s stormtroopers tried to march on the Bavarian ministry of defense, and clashed with the army and police. This clash resulted in a number of fatalities, most of them amongst the stormtroopers, and the Putsch fizzled out.

However, it was this event that gave Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party a national presence. It led eventually to the installation of the party as the sole source of government in Germany.

The Reichstag Fire: Germany’s president, Paul von Hindenberg, appointed Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship of Germany in January 1933 as a means to avoid a communist takeover of the country. Von Hindenberg’s hope was that the country might be ruled by a coalition of Nazis and a mixture of other conservative political factions.

The Reichstag (the German parliament building) was gutted by fire on the night of February 27, 1933. The fire was probably set by a single foreign arsonist who, although he was a communist by conviction, had no connection with the German Communist Party (the KPD). Adolf Hitler declared the fire to be the result of a communist conspiracy and obtained emergency powers, under the aegis of the Reichstag Fire Decree, to suspend civil liberties and arrest a large number of German communists. These included many communist Reichstag delegates.The absence of these delegates in the March 5 elections gave the Nazi party a significant majority in the German government. By intimidating members of the moderate Social Democrat Party and by employing a coalition of conservative delegates to bolster the Nazi vote, Hitler was able to pass an Enabling Act, which made his emergency powers permanent and ushered in his murderous twelve year fascist dictatorship.

Political assassinations began in earnest about a year afterwards with the so-called Night of the Long Knives. The mass liquidation of various groups of alleged undesirables was to follow.

If the attempt to overturn democracy on January 6, 2021 had been successful, the regime that supplanted it would have been fascist. Totalitarianism (dictatorship) that leaves capitalism intact is fascism; totalitarianism that demolishes capitalism as part of its agenda, is usually referred to as Stalinism.

History has shown that both fascism and Stalinism precipitate mass homicide on a colossal scale. Stalin was responsible for about 9,000,000 deaths; Adolf Hitler for about 11,000,000, and Mao Zedong for about 40,000,000. (Generally accepted figures for non-combatant domestic fatalities under the regimes cited).

This correlation between totalitarianism and wholesale homicide is probably the by-product of two principal sociological phenomena.

Firstly, the totalitarian regimes cited above were illegal, at least according to the criteria of the constitutional governments that preceded them. Thus the introduction of these regimes eliminated established legality as a behavioral prerequisite for government.

Secondly, the regimes in question were installed and fostered by ideologues who gave higher priority to their political belief systems than to the rights of individual citizens.

This combination, of lawlessness with the subordination of individual wellbeing to ideology, makes human rights, and ultimately human lives, the object of casual devaluation.

So people get killed arbitrarily and in large numbers.

Also characteristic of fascist regimes is the demonization of a selected racial or demographic minority. If the fiction can be promoted that the selected group is to blame for all domestic misfortune, attention is diverted from personal adversity and directed in the form of anger at the scapegoat group. In Germany from 1933 to 1945 the scapegoat group was primarily the Jews. During Donald Trump’s presidency from 2016 to 2020, Hispanic asylum seekers were demonized in a similar fashion.

Throughout the course of World War II, the aims of the Nazi regime in Germany were frustrated and eventually thwarted. Faced with ever more probable failure, the collective psyche of the ruling faction, already brutish, became progressively more vicious and authoritarian.

Eventually it was not only the target demographic that was persecuted. Any German citizen perceived as being less than unequivocally loyal to the regime was also targeted. Thus incidents like the execution by guillotine of Sophie Scholl, a 21 year old dissident student, along with her brother, and the friend who had written some of the pamphlets, became commonplace.

So the citizens of Germany, who allowed their constitutional government to be usurped by populist ideologues, eventually became the victims of their own disregard for constitutional law and everyday human dignity.

In Germany between World Wars I and II, the desperation of the populace can be understood to some extent. The German economy was in ruins and poverty was rife; an ineffectual democratic socialist government had contributed to the overall socio-political malaise because of its ineptitude. That disastrous state is not duplicated in the USA today. The economy is buoyant and while high wage manufacturing jobs have widely been replaced by service jobs which offer more modest incomes, relatively few people are in great distress. Certainly there is nothing with regard to modern American life which could be improved by replacing the present representative government with an oligarchical dictatorship, especially when one considers what horrors have been shown to accompany the usurpation of constitutional government by extremist insurgency.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page