An Army Waiting for a Leader

Mass unemployment in the early 1930s gave rise to Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Could it happen again?

Europe’s unemployment crisis is one we all know about, but very few people think seriously about.

Perhaps you’ve seen the atrocious figures and statistics, the long lines of grumpy, unemployed Greeks and Spaniards. But have you actually thought about what this means for Europe and for the world beyond?

History is laden with examples of economic failure, specifically mass unemployment, resulting in extreme social and political upheaval, then the rise of tyrannical ideologies and government, then war. Europe has an especially storied history of intense public dissatisfaction leading directly to ferocious conflict.

Is 21st-century Europe immune to this historical phenomenon?

The Unemployed Mind

Mass unemployment can be a frightening spectacle. When a working-age person has meaningful daily tasks—making a cappuccino, laying bricks, creating spreadsheets—his mind is active and occupied. He also has income, which means food on the table, a roof overhead, clothed children and a hopeful future. The employed mind tends to be happier, more stable, more content, more confident.

Take away employment, and two things begin to happen psychologically: First, as his bills mount and his stomach aches, the unemployed person becomes stressed and frustrated. As the situation persists, the anxiety evolves into desperation, hopelessness, even despair. Second, disenfranchised by his deteriorating circumstances—the loss of the family home, his decline in status, marital tension—the unemployed person can become emotionally and mentally vulnerable.

The one commodity the unemployed person now has is time—time for his susceptible, disillusioned mind to entertain new, often extreme or radical “solutions” that promise to rescue him from a system he believes has failed him. Disgruntled with the status quo, he longs for something new. A new political party, new ideologies, new leaders, new policies—a whole new system.

When unemployment is low, threats of social unrest and political transformation are easy to mitigate. When it reaches high levels over a sustained period, you suddenly have an army of disenfranchised, angry people. An army primed to embrace extreme political ideologies. An army ready to follow a leader who promises salvation. An army primed to overthrow the established system.

When this happens, unemployment stops being merely an unfortunate economic issue and becomes an alarming social and political crisis that can lead to major—even worldwide—catastrophe!

So, how close is Europe to this transformative moment?

Crisis Level

The combined March unemployment rate of eurozone states was 12.1 percent. Expanded to include all 27 EU states, it was steady at 10.9 percent. These figures are bad, but not dire. But look at unemployment on the national level.

In Greece, the unemployment rate in April was just above 27 percent, up from 21.5 percent 12 months before. Spain’s rate was 26.7 percent. In these two countries, more than one quarter of people who want to work cannot find a job. Unemployment there is worse than it was in America during the Great Depression.

Other European countries are moving in the same direction. Portugal’s April unemployment rate was 17.5 percent and rising. Slovakia’s was 14.5 percent and rising. During a trip to France in May, I spoke with three employed friends, each of whom told me that his or her company would be laying off employees over the next few months. One friend, an accountant privy to the finances of numerous businesses, said that nearly all of them were planning to downsize.

These figures take into account only those who are willing and able to work. They don’t include people who no longer receive unemployment benefits; or people who have given up searching for a job; or people who are working, but only part-time. They don’t include students. And they don’t factor in those who have left the country to look for work elsewhere. In the last 12 months, for example, over a million Europeans have moved to Germany in search of work.

Stratfor ceo George Friedman has a guideline when analyzing unemployment: “A rule I use is that for each person unemployed, three others are affected, whether spouses, children or whomever. That means that when you hit 25 percent unemployment, virtually everyone is affected.” By this measure, unemployment is affecting everyone in Spain and Greece. In many other states, half to two thirds of the populace is touched by unemployment.

Using this guideline, more than 150 million people in the EU are being directly or indirectly impacted by unemployment!

Europe is brimming with millions of disenfranchised young people yearning for change, and ready to throw their support behind someone, anyone, with solutions for a brighter future!

Europe’s young have only a shallow understanding of the Second World War, and of the historical propensity for radical leaders and political parties, like Hitler’s Nazi Party, to exploit economic crises in the pursuit of ugly ambitions. Detached from this history, Europe’s unemployed youth are likely to repeat it.

Looking at the figures, it’s a marvel that Europe isn’t already churning with massive riots and other social upheaval. It seems that many people are still being placated by some form of state handout. But just giving people money simply isn’t sustainable. What happens when these stopgap benefits inevitably dry up?

This is real, it’s happening, and you need to think seriously about it. Across Europe, especially in the southern Mediterranean, there are millions of unhappy, angry people with the time and mentality to support any ideology that can promise them a return to a better life.

A massive army of Europeans is ready right now to get behind the person who can promise salvation.

Rise of the Extremist

In April, Michael Collins, an investment journalist with Fidelity Worldwide Investment, delivered the following warning: “The rise of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during the 1930s depression shows how an unemployment crisis … creates political chaos that demagogues can exploit” (emphasis added throughout).

Between 1930 and Hitler’s inauguration in 1933, who was the primary source of recruits by the SA (Sturmabteilung), Hitler’s infamous army of fierce storm troopers? Germany’s massive army of unemployed. During this short period, the SA built a private army of about 300,000. About 200,000 of them came from the ranks of the unemployed.

Could we see a similar development today?

In The Rise of Fascism, F.L. Carsten documents the rapid rise of National Socialism in Germany in the early 1930s: “At the end of 1929 [the National Socialist Party] had 178,000 members, by the end of 1930 about 380,000, and by the end of 1931 more than 800,000.” Those incredible figures teach an important lesson: Under the right conditions, unconventional leaders and political parties can enjoy huge gains in popularity virtually overnight.

Note this too: “Thirty-eight percent of these members were under 30 years of age, far more than any other party” (ibid). Hitler and his ideology was especially attractive to Germany’s alienated, easily led young people!

In his book, Carsten identifies the various groups that fell prey to Hitler’s personality and promises, and the ideology of National Socialism. “But above all,” he writes, “it was the victims of the crisis, not only the unemployed, but the disinherited in general who flocked to the party and provided it with enthusiastic audiences at carefully staged monster meetings.”

Europe today is filled with “victims of the crisis,” people increasingly “disinherited” by the status quo. Do we dare risk believing that history cannot be repeated?

George Friedman also recently noted the role of unemployment in the rise of pre-war fascist regimes, and how most elites at the time underestimated the potential for severe economic hardship to give rise to extreme figures. He wrote, “It is important to understand the consequences of this kind of unemployment. … Fascism had its roots in Europe in massive economic failures in which the financial elites failed to recognize the political consequences of unemployment” (March 5). You see, history warns us to not be ignorant of the power of the unemployed masses!

“[The elites] laughed at parties led by men who had been vagabonds selling postcards on the street and promising economic miracles if only those responsible for the misery of the country were purged. Men and women, plunged from the comfortable life of the petite bourgeoisie, did not laugh, but responded eagerly to that hope. The result was governments who enclosed their economies from the world and managed their performance through directive and manipulation” (ibid).

Are you aware that we’re already seeing the above scenario unfold? Across Europe, radical political movements are appearing, seemingly out of nowhere, to overturn the established political order. The trend is most evident in Greece, where Golden Dawn, a Nazi party, is the third-most-popular political party in the country, supported by 13 percent of the population. Neo-Nazis now sit—and perform the Nazi salute—in Greece’s national parliament.

Meanwhile, Greece’s traditional parties have been decimated. Just four years ago, the socialist party Pasok received 44 percent of the vote, with Golden Dawn getting a fraction of 1 percent. Today Pasok is one of Greece’s minor parties, with only 7 percent support. Economic crisis, especially widespread unemployment, is responsible!

Italy is experiencing similar changes. In February, a brand new political party, the Five Star Movement, won more votes than any other party in national elections. Few if any of this party’s candidates had any prior political experience. It’s best-known figure, Beppe Grillo, is a former comedian. And Five Star Movement won a quarter of the vote. Italy took months to form a government afterward as the political classes struggled to swallow this radical change.

Thanks to economic crises, many European populations are ready to embrace their own Five Star Movement. Francois Hollande, France’s president, elected only last year, is already the most unpopular president ever in France. The following of Spain’s ruling right-wing Popular Party has halved since it won the last election in November 2011. Yet the main left-wing party, the Spanish Socialist Party, is not gaining in popularity as people desert its rival. The Spanish are fed up with all their usual politicians. Even the Spanish royal family is seeing its approval ratings plummet.

It’s an alarming trend: Across Europe, the popularity of established, moderate political parties is waning, while extremist parties are seeing explosive growth!

For now, this trend is happening mainly at the national level. But what if an individual or regime steps forward and starts winning the hearts of Europeans across the Continent? It wouldn’t be easy to unite such a divided group of nations. But if it were successful, that regime would have astonishing power!

Enter the Vatican

In May, Telegraph columnist and economist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote an excellent article on a development the Trumpet has long been anticipating. Reporting from Toledo, Spain, Evans-Pritchard noted that the Catholic Church had begun to show a keen interest in Europe’s economic crisis, specifically Europe’s problem with unemployment.

Before we note some high points of that article, recall what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about the role of the Vatican and the Catholic Church in uniting Europe. In August 1978, he wrote: “Europeans want their own united military power! … They have made a real effort toward union in the Common Market. … But they well know there is but one possibility of union in Europe—and that is through the Vatican” (Good News, emphasis his).

Two years later, he warned that “world conditions may force European nations … to unite, bringing to pass the revived ‘Holy Roman Empire’ …. [European nations] have wanted to unite politically, with a common currency and common military force, for some time—but have been unable. It can be accomplished only through the Vatican” (Worldwide News, June 1980).

In the January 1979 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong described a scenario that is remarkably relevant today: “The nations of Europe have been striving to become reunited. They desire a common currency, a single combined military force, a single united government. They have made a start in the Common Market. They are now working toward a common currency. Yet, on a purely political basis, they have been totally UNABLE to unite.” In spite of these conflicting political interests, Mr. Armstrong explained, European countries will find a way to unite. How? “In only one way can this resurrected Holy Roman Empire be brought to fruition—by the ‘good offices’ of the Vatican, uniting church and state once again, with the Vatican astride and ruling.”

Gerald Flurry and the Trumpet have been echoing this forecast by Mr. Armstrong ever since Europe’s economic crisis began: Catholicism, and specifically the Vatican, will be chiefly responsible for Europe’s unification under German leadership!

‘We Have to Give People Some Hope’

Now consider the following recent remarks by Braulio Rodriguez, the archbishop of Toledo and the highest Catholic official in Spain. In an interview with the Telegraph he said, “We have to change direction, otherwise this is going to bring down whole political systems.

“It is very dangerous. Unemployment has reached tremendous levels. … There is a deep unease across the whole society, and it is not just in Spain. We have to give people some hope or this is going to foment conflict andmutual hatred.”

The Vatican sees the spirit of disenfranchisement settling over Europe. And it is beginning to step into the leadership vacuum!

About the archbishop’s remarks, Evans-Pritchard wrote: “Europe’s churches are emerging as a powerful pole of authority, filling a vacuum left by political parties of all stripes tainted by the crisis. German leaders may be more ready to heed criticism from the Vatican and their own clergy than from Club Med politicians.”

Note that: German leaders might be hesitant to listen to other European politicians, but they will listen to the Vatican!

There are an enormous number of Catholics in Europe, and especially in southern Europe. Many aren’t what you would call vigilant Catholics. But extreme economic hardship, and all the trials that it can cause, has the tendency to inflame a person’s religious disposition. You watch: As Europe’s economic troubles increase, the popularity of the Catholic Church is going to improve as people turn to the church for solace and guidance.

With an entire Continent looking to the Catholic faith for leadership, the Vatican will have the power to effectively appoint over Europe a leader and regime of its own choosing!

Just as the Bible Said

It will be just as the Bible prophesied in Revelation 13. (You can study the prophecies at length in our free booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?) This chapter discusses two end-time “beasts,” or institutions. The first is a political-military combine, and it has experienced multiple resurrections over the past 1,500 years. This is the Roman Empire.

The second is a “religious” entity, discussed in verse 11: “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” This religion has the appearance of a lamb—it seems peaceful, friendly, harmless—but it speaks, or acts, like a dragon.

Now notice what this second beast, this religious power, does. Verse 12: “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”

This great religion, which looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon, compels people to “worship,” or embrace and support, the political-military beast!

Can you recognize that this deadly axis is already forming? The first beast, the seventh and final manifestation of the Roman Empire, is the German-dominated union of European nations. The second beast is the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican is already a key institution in Europe and has already influenced many important decisions. Yet Bible prophecy says we should expect much greater cooperation between the Vatican and European governments.

We should expect the Vatican to step forward and cause Europe’s disgruntled millions to follow Germany and the coming strongman of Europe.

Continue to pay close attention to Europe, especially its economic malaise and unemployment. As you watch, look past the daily facts and figures, and think seriously about the broader ramifications. Mass unemployment isn’t merely an economic issue. History shows that it can cause massive social and political upheaval, often resulting in the emergence of tyrannical leaders and dangerous ideologies, followed, too often, by immensely destructive wars.

When you consider this history together with Bible prophecy, it becomes obvious that the pertinent question is not, can history be repeated? Rather, it is, how can it not be?