Liberal as a political modifier has drastically changed meaning in the United States. To the rest of the world, the word means the same as it always has. To communists, socialists, anarchists and fascists, the label has always expressed “selfish” free-market tendencies bordering on laissez-faire. To everyone else the label stood for “individualist” free-market tendencies bordering on laissez-faire. Everything changed in November 1918, then changed again in November, 1932.
Germany’s National Socialist Workers Party, or NSDAP had, of course, despised “liberals” even before it became fashionable Stateside. Germany’s chemical industry had treated salicylic acid with a chemical reagent to produce Aspirin, which became a huge economic success. A similar success was obtained by subjecting ordinary morphine to the same process, and the patent was granted for Heroin™. Like aspirin, heroin was a powdered product, easily absorbed and readily marketable to the medical industry… and to people addicted to opium.
Opium itself had led to wars. Chinese import restrictions on opium grown in India in 1837 resulted in liquidation by British investors of bonds and other securities issued in the United States. By 1840 Chinese restrictions had blossomed into full-blown prohibition and the British Navy was sent to bombard the Celestial Empire into repealing its prohibition laws–as the United States sank into a deep depression. The process was repeated in 1857, this time with French participation in hopes of exporting drugs produced in what we now call Vietnam. The Chinese were horrified by these things, and similar hostilities broke out first with the Boxer Rebellion, and finally in 1911 with the Chinese Republican revolution, at a time when “Republican” was still roughly synonymous with socialist, anarchist and communist throughout most of Europe.
It so happens that much of the world’s high-quality opium was at that time grown in the Balkans — the group of countries between Italy and Turkey, south of the Austro-Hungarian empire which, like Germany, produced chemicals and pharmaceutical products. As soon as China’s renewed prohibition took effect, India, Turkey and that entire region went into a deep economic depression, riddled with wars and skirmishes, which gradually escalated into what we now call World War I.
You would hardly expect modern history books to call it Opium War III, but that is what it was. The Theodore Roosevelt and Taft administrations had labored for years to help China restore its prohibition of opiate imports, just they sought to exclude liquor from Indian reservations in the U.S.. The Woodrow Wilson Administration backed fanatical prohibitionist William Jennings Bryan in his efforts in furtherance of a multinational treaty to curb the production and sale of opium and its derivative chemicals. The upshot of all this was the Final Protocol of the Third International Opium Conference, 1914, signed at the Hague June 25, 1914. Germany had been pressured against her will to sign the document, but it was an open secret that she had no intention of ratifying or enforcing it, for that would mean giving up a lucrative enterprise. A way would have to be found to derail these efforts before a sufficient number of signatures were placed on the Opium Protocol. Three days later, a Bosnian youth shot an Archduke. The pretext was thus supplied, and war preparations replaced opium protocols in newspaper stories worldwide.
Germany and its allies lost the war, had to hand over large amounts of “chemical drugs” as set forth in the surrender documents, and were forced by treaty to pay reparations for damages occasioned by the hostilities. Every schoolchild is taught that German conservatives resented this, and imagined Germany would have won had she not been stabbed in the back by liberal and Jewish entities. No schoolchild hears anything about the Opium Protocol signed three days before the Archduke’s assassination, but they are given to understand that Woodrow Wilson was a low-tariff liberal like any other Democrat at the time. Germany’s Weimar Republic was also liberal in the sense that it did not protect Germany’s huge chemical and drug industries from competition and treaty enforcement. Political contributions found their way into the hands of belligerent Christian conservatives likely to frighten and intimidate Germany’s former enemies, and these worthies began churning out venomous propaganda demonizing “liberal” and “Jewish” financial interests.
Next… Similarities between American and German Conservatives in the 1920s.