25 September 2016

Trotsky in Exile, the Radicalisation of the Masses in 1930's Germany and Today

Recent political events drove me to revisit an old but stimulating book. Historical repetition is rarely exact, but the parallels are sometimes uncanny.

The Prophet Outcast by Isaac Deutscher (Vol. 3 in his Trotsky Trilogy), contains an interesting chapter on Rationalism and Irrationalism in terms of the unstable period following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the period of economic depression, the rise of Fascism and the consolidation of power on the part of Stalinism.
Trotsky while analysing the rise of Fascism in Germany noted the resurgence of Nazism was not the surviving residue of 1923, a reference to the Beer Hall Putsch, but a harbinger of that which was to come... Hitler's regime and world war.
The frustration or 'radicalisation of the masses' had been channeled not to the forces of revolutionary social change but instead had been garnered by the Counter-Revolutionary reaction.
Socialism was supposed to capture the working class and elements of the lower middle class. Instead the anger and bitterness of these classes (in particular the petit bourgeoisie) was channeled into the Right.
The German Kleinburger or petit bourgeoisie, the lower Middle Class of small business owners, blue collar management, lower-end white collar workers.... who provided the social backbone and foundation to Nazism were motivated by security and fear. These feelings bred a strong desire for self-assertion or what we today might call a 'voice'. They looked for a leader who gave them that voice.
They were anti-Big Business and at times when criticising corporate power and finance, Trotsky said they would sound like Leftists.
And yet these same elements despise the actual working class, labour movements and minorities and will sound solidly bourgeois when criticising them.
They despise communism and Social Democracy and view all these combined forces as a sinister conspiracy working against them.
They're angry, looking for a voice and saviour.
The parallels are rather interesting. I'm not going to try and pretend Donald Trump is of the same calibre as Adolf Hitler. Hitler was far more intelligent.
Yet, the same forces are at work in both Europe and the United States. The conditions and being replicated and thus we're seeing something of a repeat. This resurgence may or may not result in overt Fascism and war. However, this cycle's failures and possible inconclusive results might lead to even more severe era of reaction at some point in the not too distant future.
We ignore history at our own peril. The same social forces (and classes) that rallied around Hitler and flocked to the banner of the Third Reich are the same social elements that in our day support Donald Trump and the Nativist movements in Europe... and for many of the same reasons.
This historical reference is not a call to political activism but instead vigilance and witness. Where was the Church in Germany during the 1930's? For the most part it was supporting Hitler because the great fear was Communism. Where will the Church be in America were another Hitler to arise? We have our answer. In fact our present scenario is very similar to the response of the German Church. Many don't support Trump, but will when faced with the alternatives.  
Others, having severely departed the faith embrace him with great zeal and fervour. And later when someone else arises who makes Trump look like a lightweight, they will eagerly embrace him or perhaps even her.


  1. Do you think the narrative regarding the man of sin/mystery of iniquity/the one who now restrains it will be taken out of the way/etc. found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 has any relevance here? Not only to this post but to others you've made in the past month.

    I'm not saying Trump is the man of sin but when you talk about certain social classes turning to savior-like political figures out of fear, I can't help but think that there are disturbing parallels.

  2. It wasn't really something I was thinking about. Delusion? Most certainly.
    Even within the Amil camp there are different takes on the passage and the identity of the Man of Sin.
    Is he ecclesiastical or political or something of both?
    I agree with MKline that Mystery Babylon is the Church in a state of Apostasy and that Babylon (the Beast-Imperium) destroys the 'whore' in Revelation 17.
    I'm not sure I'm with him on the next part.
    He draws a parallel with 2 Thes. and argues the 'man of sin' is like the little horn of the beast that claims deity and effectively seeks to destroy/supplant the Church. Basically a repeat of Antiochus Epiphanes.
    This differs from older interpretations that would envision the man of sin as a figure akin to the Pope, sitting in the confines of the temple/church claiming divine prerogatives etc.... like Saul son of Kish who I think is one of the main prototypes of the Antichrist in the OT.
    Kline would argue this (the Papal/ecclesiastical theory) cannot be because the false church is eradicated by the Beast and then Christ returns. He would argue this accords with 2 Thes where the man of sin is destroyed by the Parousia. Therefore since the whore is gone, the man of sin is the Beast... again like Antiochus.
    He makes an interesting case. I hold to a Reiterationist position that I believe can still accommodate the older view and would argue the Popes were and are a manifestation of the man of sin but that doesn't mean they are the only manifestations of this phenomenon nor representative of its expression par excellence which may (or may not) occur immediately prior to the Parousia. Like the abomination of desolation this prophetic phenomenon can occur in different contexts but all end in fiery judgment emblematic of the Final Judgment.
    What is Trump? I guess he's a perfect picture of the Babel-Beast impulse. The Church seems to follow after him like an Israelite Bethel-cult king of old. Jeroboam and his political descendants were certainly a type of the Anti-Christ as well. It's weird though. The Church has made him into something he's not, nor does he really claim to be. I know he holds up the Bible but does anyone take it seriously? Does anyone think he takes it seriously?
    Whatever he is, he's dangerous for the world but especially (it would seem) for the Church.
    Pat Buchanan said that Trump is nothing compared to what is to come. I fear he may be right.

  3. Funny...I figured a right-wing populist like Pat Buchanan would support Trump.

    I would agree that the connection is tenuous...could Trump be a Beast-like figure? Sure. So could Hillary if you think about it. Unlike his Republican forebears, however, Trump has managed to divide established Evangelicalism right down the middle. There are those, like James White, who abhor Trump because they believe that his behavior is a gross departure from the traditional, conflated Republican image of bourgeois respectability with an amorphous notion of "Christian morality", whereas others, like Steven Camp, support him on the basis of a consequentialist ethic that perceives Hillary as the greater evil. Based on some of the heated exchanges I've seen between the two camps, one would think that a schism is imminent.

    2 Thessalonians is a real gem when one takes the time to delve into it. Like Hebrews, it's one of those books in the Bible that hits you over the head with redemptive history like a two-by-four. It really puts everything into perspective.

    1. Buchanan does support Trump. He was intimating that the mainstream doesn't grasp the social undercurrents and that Trump is not extreme. He was saying it more in the sense of... you people are flustered by this guy, just wait. White Christian culture isn't going to sit by and let their civilisation slip away. More extreme things are to come.

      I'm paraphrasing but it was something along those lines.

      Hillary is certainly a beast, in many ways.

      I'm surprised White is so against Trump but I wonder if he won't vote for him in the end. As As far as Steve Camp, it's been some years since I heard him or read anything he had to say and I recall that I didn't appreciate it much. I think I liked him better when he stuck to the singing.

      Yes there's a lot in 2 Thes. Hebrews along with Romans are the main doctrinal foundations of the NT. Romans has received tremendous focus by Protestants and Evangelicals. Hebrews, not so much. And generally speaking I think it is grossly misunderstood, misapplied and somewhat problematic for many people... many factions. For them it is full of 'problem texts', sometimes even 'problem concepts'.