Walker and Hitler
“Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies.”
From the acceptance speech of Barry Goldwater, GOP Candidate for President, 1964
Recently Milwaukee Journal Sentinel associate editorial page editor Ernst-Ulrich Franzen ridiculed UW professor Sara Goldrick-Rab for tweeting similarities between Governor Walker and Adolph Hitler. Franzen claims there aren’t any “terrifying” similarities between Walker and Hitler. “There aren’t even vague similarities…Such metaphors cheapen the language and cheapen the history that’s being referred. I also wonder whether those using the metaphor have more than a facile understanding of that history.” Franzen denigrates any comparisons as “inflammatory hyperbole.”
In 2010 labor writer Kathy Wilkes and I wrote an article comparing Walker to other economic dictators. Franzen’s boss, MJS editorial page editor David Haynes, derided that article as “over the top.” We responded saying that the common thread in all dictatorships is that they destroy their labor movements. That is fact, not hyperbole.
Franzen writes, “I don’t think breaking up labor unions or messing with academic tenure is the equivalent of the Holocaust.” Equating Hitler only with the ultimate evil metaphor is a facile understanding of history. Before he could launch genocide and war Hitler had to crush any domestic opposition to his power, beginning with labor unions.
Perhaps I should share some “vague similarities” between Walker and Hitler based on William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
- In July of 1933 Hitler declared the National Socialist German Workers’ Party the only party in Germany. In 2010 Walker and the GOP took over all state power and in 2011 redistricted the state to preserve one-party rule for the foreseeable future.
- In May of 1933 Hitler outlawed labor unions and abolished the right to collective bargaining. In June of 2011, Walker abolished collective bargaining for all public employee unions except police and firefighters.
- In Nazi Germany, wages were held down by orders of the state, with no provision for the workers to be consulted. Act 10 limits public employee wage hikes to the consumer price index. To suppress wages in the private sector Walker signed a right-to-work law and restrictions on prevailing wage.
- Nazi labor law forbade strikes. Under Walker’s Act 10, bosses can fire any employee who, “Participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit−down, stay−in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government, including specifically participation in purported mass resignations or sick calls.” (Section 365. 230.34)
- Ironically, under Nazi labor law the state was ”responsible for the well-being of the employees and laborers.” In Wisconsin, Walker abolished a law requiring that employee pay, “shall be not less than a living wage,” defined as “adequate to permit any employee to maintain herself or himself in minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being.”
- According to Shirer, “In the former Austrian vagabond the conservative classes thought they had found a man who, while remaining their prisoner, would help them attain their goals. The destruction of the Republic was only the first step. What they then wanted was an authoritarian Germany which at home would put an end to democratic ”nonsense” and the power of the trade unions…” In Walker, ALEC, the Bradley Foundation and Koch Industries have found their champion as well.
- As a result of Hitler’s anti-worker policies Germany’s workers got poorer and all income gains went to the employers. In Wisconsin, income of the top 1% increased 149% while income for the 99% grew only 1%.
In rejecting Professor Goldrick-Rab’s plaint, self-appointed arbiters of civil discourse like the Journal Sentinel seek only to stifle debate in deference to state power. But to paraphrase the conservative idol Barry Goldwater, “Hyperbole in the defense of democracy is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of free speech is no virtue.”
Shirer explained why Germany fell so easily to the Nazis, “Between the Left and the Right, Germany lacked a politically powerful middle class, which in other countries – in France, in England, in the United States had proved to be the backbone of democracy.” Under Walker’s regime, Wisconsin has the fastest shrinking middle-class in the nation.
But maybe that’s just hyperbole.
Link to the article published in the Capital Times
Response by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Christian Schneider
ANIMATION OF SCOTT WALKER AS THE GREAT DICTATOR