Sherrod Brown needs a history lesson

The latest Deemocrat [sic] with more zeal than knowledge to fall afoul of Godwin’s Law was Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who claimed that (link via Best of the Web)

You know, I look back in history, and some of the worst governments we’ve ever had–you know that one of the first things they did? They went after the trade unions. Hitler didn’t want unions, Stalin didn’t want unions, Mubarak didn’t want independent unions. These autocrats in history don’t want independent unions.

James Taranto makes some predictable word jokes about the Soviet Union, but misses the real historical point. Not only was the Comintern deeply involved in trade union activity outside the Soviet Union (including both the creation of new Communist-controlled ones and attempts at subverting existing social-democratic or Christian-democratic ones) but… the vast majority of workers in Nazi Germany were members of a trade union federation named the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front). Its leader, Robert Ley, was to be in the dock at the original Nuremberg Trial (not for his union activity, obviously, but for his complicity in the large-scale mistreatment of foreign slave labor) but committed suicide before he could stand trial.

The DAF was created as a forced merger of the Weimar-era trade union federations with the NSBO (Nazionalsocialistische Betriebszellenorganization, or National Socialist Factory Cell Organization). Theoretically, membership in the DAF was voluntary; in many sectors of the economy, it was however basically impossible to get a job without being a DAF member.

It would be too much to ask of a politician, however, to actually learn something about the history of the world’s darkest regimes  before making specious comparisons of their present-day political opponents to them.

UPDATE: After I hit “post”, I felt compelled to point out what may not be as obvious to some readers as it is to me: that the above detracts in no way from the heroism displayed by opponents of the Nazi regime (such as July 20 co-conspirator Wilhelm Leuschner) who happened to be (pre-DAF, later underground) trade union activists.

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