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On Congress: Sherrod Brown apologizes for Hitler comment

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), under heat for invoking Adolf Hitler in talking about anti-union movements in his home state and Wisconsin, has apologized for making the comparison on the Senate floor.

“I am passionate about fighting for the middle class. Ohio’s teachers and nurses and police and firefighters are facing the loss of their collective bargaining rights, and I think that’s wrong,” Brown said. “But in speaking about this, I should not have mentioned the hostility of tyrants, like Hitler, to unions. I don’t want my mistake to distract from the critical debate in Ohio, and I apologize for it.”

Here’s what Brown said Thursday: “I look back at history and some of the worst governments we’ve ever had, you know one of the first things they do? They went after the unions. Hitler didn’t want unions, Stalin didn’t want unions. Mubarak didn’t want unions,” said Brown on the Senate floor Thursday.

With all due respect to Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies, Brown had nothing to apologize for. He was not calling Walker a Nazi or a communist. He was making a larger point about worker rights and how the rights of middle-class workers in the U.S. and workers throughout history have been fought for, taken away and sometimes eroded piece bu piece. The rights of workers are intricately connected to the basic rights in our 1st Amendment. Walker is not an authoritarian in the nice and easy classical historical model. Though his assault on bargaining rights for working Americans is reminiscent of Justice William O. Douglas warnings about government and privacy rights, “The privacy and dignity of our citizens are being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen…” Wisconsin is not our Nazi Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) here in America. The assault on bargaining rights motivated solely by Walker and the Right’s desire to weaken unions and the basic rights of workers is the kind of step Justice Douglas warned of. The polls show that even some Wisconsin Republican legislators are beginning to see what Wisconsin public workers see. Sometimes, as in the case of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by a conservative Supreme Court, Republicans take a giant leap in undermining our democratic republic. Most of the time conservatives take incremental steps such as in Wisconsin.

Sen. Sherrod Brown was also echoing a well known position of the Catholic Church who recently defended the rights of workers to organize and bargain,

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate.”

‘“Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the church’s social doctrine … for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”’

It does not follow from this that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid, Archbishop Listecki said: “Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required and to adjust to new economic realities.”

But he said it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth. “As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981, “(a) union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore,” the Milwaukee prelate said.

Archbishop Listecki concluded: “It is especially in times of crisis that ‘new forms of cooperation’ and open communication become essential. We request that lawmakers carefully consider the implications of this proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good.”

Unions from every part of the country from Wisconsin to Ohio to New Jersey and California have been realistic about the state of the economy and have made concessions. Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker has constructed such a complicated lie about his goals and the unions, his on the record public comments are clearly contradictory.

Sen Brown’s comment has given the far Right a chance to engage in one of their favorite pastimes, spinning and fabricating history. Dan Riehl has never been one of the sharpest tools – his blog Riehl World View reads like a fantasy – there were WMD in Iraq, and Bush and Republicans were doing a heck of a job with the economy from 2000 to 2008 and exposing a CIA NOC agent’s identity was not a big deal. With such a stellar resume it is only fitting that he would make a good hand maiden for Andrew Breitbart. Sherrod Brown Wrongly Claims Hitler Opposed Unions

What an irresponsible and repulsive statement in the face of the current controversies over unions in America. Not only that, it’s entirely unfounded.

[  ]….As you’ll see in a piece from February by Brooks Bayne, they even had a customized version of the Nazi swastika for the union movement. Not only is Brown’s assertion ugly given it’s intent, it is flat-out ignorant of history to the point of being idiotic. Brown, from Ohio, is up for re-election to the Senate in 2012.

When Hitler came to power, he moved to correct this hyperinflation while keeping his national socialist views front and center. In 1933, the Nazis disbanded the Weimar unions and replaced them with the new and improved union, the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), which was comprised of 2 primary entities, the National Socialist Factory Organization and the National Socialist Trade and Industry Organization. The labor contracts that were Weimar contracts were now DAF-honored contracts. The Nazi’s funded the DAF’s coffers with the Weimar unions’ stockpile of wealth (the existing unions were part of that inflation problem). One of the new unions’ most popular programs was the Strength through Joy (Kraft durch Freude, KdF)) program, which developed the KdF-wagen, that later became the Volkswagen, or People’s Car.

So Big Government and Riehl link to this trash by a British wing-nut to decide who is idiotic and who knows their history.

Time and time again, the collectivist left in America chooses hyperbole when championing their economy-killing objectives. Most recently, as in the case of the socialist union (yes, they were created by socialists and Marxists)  protests in Wisconsin, you see many signs being wielded by the neo-Marxist rubes stating, “Hitler banned unions”. The purpose of this urban legend-styled disinformation, of course, is a weak attempt to paint Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a Nazi, even though the Nazi’s were national socialists who subscribed to most of the tenets of modern American leftists.

Sorry Marxists did not create the first unions. Trade guilds and workers organizations go back hundreds of years. Karl Marx lived from 1818 to 1883. How did he manage to instigate a printers strike in Philadelphia in 1786.English royalists passed the anti-union/anti-collective bargain law Ordinance of Labourers in 1349. Marx would have been about 6 years old, when in 1824–25, the British government repealed the
anti-Combination laws and, for the first time, trade unions became lawful. In 1829 was first attempt at a modern national trade union – the Grand General Union of the Operative Spinners of Great Britain and Ireland. While it is acceptable short hand to say Hitler banned unions, technically it is more accurate to say he eviscerated them from the inside out. He took away all their bargaining power and made unions a political tool of the Nazi Party. The rise and fall of the Third Reich: a history of Nazi Germany By William L. Shirer

Life in the Third Reich: 1933-37

The Serfdom of Labor

Deprived of his trade unions, collective bargaining and the right to strike, the German worker in the Third Reich became an inductrial surf, bound to his master, the employer, much as medieval peasants had been bound to the lod of the manor. The so-called Labor Front, which in theory replaced the old trade unions, did not represent the worker. According to the law of October 24, 1934, which created it, it was “the oragnization of the creative Germans of brain and fist”. It took in not only wage and salary earners but also the employers and members of the professions. It was in relaity a vast propaganda oragnization and, as some workers said, a gigantic fraud. Its aim, as stated in the law, was not to protect the worker bu “to create a ture scoial and productive community of all Germans. Its task is to see that every single indiviual should be able…to perform the maximum of work.” The Labor Front was not an independent administrative organization but, like almost every other group in Nazi Germany except the Army, an integral part of the N.S.D.A.P. ( The Nazi Party).

[  ]…Hitler was frank about keeping wages low. “It has been the iron prinicple of the nationalist Scoialist leadership,” he declared early in the regime, ” not to permit any rise in the hourly wages but to raise incomes solely by an increase in performance.”

Riehl found something that verified his bias from a wing-nut who took some bits and pieces of history and twisted them to create a false vision of actual events and their repercussions. The unions under Hitler had no collective bargaining power – for better wages, working conditions, sick leave or to bargain over any other issue. Workers did not even have the right to quite a job to get a better one. Many workers used various schemes to get fired so they could change jobs. They were required by the state to keep a “work book”, a kind of resume. Modern Germany, the world’s fourth-biggest national economy, has quite a few unions and a social safety net. Even the WJS thinks Germany is weathering the recession better than the U.S.

Stalin also severely undermined unions rights and during his Five Year Plan also gutted the bargaining rights of workers and made the unions hollow organizations that operated as an extension of his politics. The Soviet Union lasted a lot longer than the Third Reich. Unions went through several changes, but until about the time of the Polish union Solidarity ( the first non-communist controlled labor union in that country since they had become a satellite state of the USSR), Soviet labor unions were unions in name only. Solidarity was largely responsible for the fall of the communist regime in Poland.  Some of that freedom ( somewhat similar to Egypt’s recent affect on Libya and Bahrain), spilled over into the unionists of the USSR, contributing to the era of Glasnost.