Europe has known such violence before

Par George Jonas le 26 août 2011

To protest Europe's inundation by Muslims, Anders Behring Breivik killed 76 fellow Norwegians. He evidently thought that putting Christians to sleep would wake them up. This puts the mass murdering 32-year-old in a class with Count Anton von Arco-Valley, until now a contender for the title of all-time sicko among political assassins.

Arco-Valley was a half-Austrian, half-Jewish army officer who in February, 1919, assassinated Bavaria's first republican president, Kurt Eisner, for being insufficiently German. "Eisner is a Bolshevist, a Jew, he isn't German, he doesn't feel German," the Austrian-Jewish count wrote of his victim. Insanity being contagious, Arco-Valley's act became a source of inspiration to young Joseph Goebbels, who happened to be in Munich when the disgruntled aristocrat shot the president in the back. Today a glance at the Internet will reveal that there are putative Goebbelses lurking in Europe to whom Breivik's killing spree seems equally inspirational.

The European Union is beginning to look eerily like Germany under the Weimar Republic. Comparisons are never exact, and anyone could come up with a string of obvious differences, but in the EU many groups of citizens are at odds with their society's principal values, just as they were in Weimar, and by now several have expressed it through acts of political terror, targeted or random, as their soul-mates did in Germany between 1919 and 1933.

Like their Weimar counterparts, the EU's bullies, brawlers and assassins have emerged from a combination of colours on the political palette, from neo-Marxist red and neo-Nazi brown all the way to environmental or Islamist green. The last group leads the body count after bombing the train and subway systems, respectively, in Madrid (2004) and London (2005). But last week's Norwegian madman amply demonstrated (if such demonstration were necessary) that acts of hebephrenic malice are available to all regardless of ethnic, political or theological persuasion.

The assassin's act is often counterproductive. When Arco-Valley, the mad Count, shot the president, Eisner was actually on his way to resign his presidency. All his killer achieved, apart from inspiring future reichspropagandaministerGoebbels, was to invite reprisals next month from communists and anarchists against the right-wing Thule Society, costing the life of one of their stars, Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis. Bavaria even had a Soviet-style dictatorship installed in 1919 as a result of Eisner's shooting, to the dismay of an up-and-coming dictator named Adolf Hitler.

The assassination of Eisner wasn't the first in Weimar's series of political murders. That distinction belonged to the killers of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, she a Marxist thinker and he a Marxist doer who should have left all thinking to her. The two were drowned in Berlin's Landwehr Canal after Liebknecht's communist Spartacus League made a rather foolish coup attempt against the social-democratic government in Berlin. That's how it came about that in the left's great WhoDrownsWhom contest the social democrats led for a glorious moment in 1919, though the communists made up for it by drowning, shooting, beating and starving social-democrats en masse around the world.

In the Weimar period the edge really belonged to the terrorists of the right. The thugs of the ultranationalist OC (organisation consul) were leading the thugs of the Marxist RFB (roter frontkämpferbund) by a comfortable margin, both in terms of murders committed and murders gotten away with. According to one source, right-wing terrorists served a combined 90 years for 354 political murders between 1919 and 1922, while the terrorists of the left served 250 years for killing 22, in addition to suffering the death penalty in 10 cases.

The various freikorps -- war veteran legions -- of the right and the left along with their derivatives were piffle compared to the paramilitary organizations of the emerging Nazis. Still, they were piffle with a sting. Thought not as formidable an instrument of evil as the sturmabtelung or SA, in the summer of 1922 a group of freikorps-types still managed to ambush and murder the Weimar Republic's foreign minister, Walther Rathenau. Two of the assassins committed suicide when cornered by the police, eliciting The New York Timesheadline: Germans Repress Royalist Terror. Even if they had, it wouldn't have helped Weimar. By then Nazi terror was just around the corner.

The Weimar Republic was democracy's temporary bridge leading Germans from the shoals of empire to the cataracts of tyranny. It tried to govern on the basis of values it didn't share with its people -- or they with each other. Consensus wasn't Weimar's strong suit, and neither was coercion, which made it an asylum without straitjackets. In this, if nothing else, it resembled the EU.

Some lament that Breivik is a rightwing nutcase; others rub their hands in glee. Both are wasting their time. Misdeeds don't invalidate ideas any more than ideas validate misdeeds. When people who are wrong try to discredit people who are right on the basis of something the lunatic Norwegian said in the days when he was only shooting off his mouth, remember that 2 x 2 = 4, even if the Unabomber says so.

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