One day after the spectacular attack against the U.S. Parliament, the German historian, retired Professor Wolfram Siemann published an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, one of the leading German newspapers, entitled „Gebt mir ein Blutbad!“ (Give me a bloodbath!).
Siemann argues that the U.S. President, when inciting his followers to storm the Capitol, had a clear goal: to stir up violence and to proclaim a state of emergency in order to keep power. A few weeks before Trump had fired and replaced several key personalities in the military and the Secret Service (CIA), which had led to a letter of ten previous Secretaries of Defence, warning against the use of the military in the election contest.
An expert of European revolutionary history, Siemann continues:
“For quite some time I have observed Trump as a politician, aiming at a populistic, partly fascist dictatorship (although himself not being a fascist), using methods similar to the Nazis in the 1920s: de-legitimising the constitutional institutions, [using] permanent propagandistic lies, effective emotional slogans, [treating] the opposition as an absolute enemy instead of a democratic alternative, negating the whole [political] system…“
Indeed, we have witnessed a proto-fascist coup attempt, aiming at reverting a democratic presidential election result by force, after all other attempts like appealing to several courts and trying to manipulate the election result in Georgia had failed.
While Benito Mussolini in his „March towards Rome (1922) and Adolf Hitler in his Munich coup attempt (1923) sought to gain power (one successfully, the other not), Donald Trump wanted to keep power. In all three cases it was a rebellion against the existing political order.
What can we learn from this unique event?
Democracy is a complicated and vulnerable political institution and an ongoing process. It needs the respect for and faithfulness to the constitution of those who govern. It needs that government to be restricted to a defined period of time. It needs the trust of the population governed according to set democratic laws and instutions. Without loyal, non-partisan state officials and a truly free press, there is no guarantee that democracy can work.
In the age of the internet there is a significant danger that power-hungry business men and politicians use the new media to directly appeal to „the masses“ and thereby circumvent or manipulate the democratic process.
The Brexit vote and Trump’s election victory in 2016 have demonstrated how vulnerable two of the most-advanced and old democracies have become. It would be good for Britain to think about the political friendships of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson had with Donald Trump.
“Tell me who your friends are, and I tell you who you are!”