Hitler and socialism
| A lunatic Chaplin imitator|
and his greatest fans
|First as tragedy|
|Then as farce|
“”First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
|—The very first line from Martin Niemöller's poem.|
An entirely Americentric argument, spurred on by certain batty ideologues and infamous websites, claims that Adolf Hitler was not the far-right, anti-communist nationalist that everyone else remembers him to be, but rather an egalitarian socialist.[note 1] Much like the Discovery Institute and their assault on the theory of evolution, this attempts to evoke the association fallacy on anyone who practices left-wing politics and by that standard anyone who slightly leans to the left is an adherent of fascism. The fact that we even need to write this should tell you something about these people, but why not take a hack at it? While the Nazis did oppose capitalism as an "international" ideology out to destroy the German nation, Hitler was not opposed to private enterprise within a national "sandbox". Furthermore, in order to get to power he allied with people whose economic views were much more pro-business, distancing himself from alte kaempfer like Gottfried Feder and bringing people such as Hjalmar Schacht into his circle.
Origin of the National Socialist label
The Nazi use of the term "socialist" most likely originates from the philosopher Oswald Spengler- famous for his book The Decline of the West -- from his book Preussentum und Sozialismus whose view of "socialism" openly opposes Marxism and class conflict as well as supports corporatism:
“”English society is founded on the distinction between rich and poor, Prussian society on the distinction between command and obedience...Democracy in England means the possibility for everyone to become rich, in Prussia the possibility of attaining to every existing rank.
|—H. Stuart Hughes. Oswald Spengler. New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA: Transaction Publishers, 1992. Pp. 108.|
“”In general, it is a question not of nominal possession but of the technique of administration. For a slogan’s sake to buy up enterprises immoderately and purposelessly and to turn them over to public administration in the place of the initiative and responsibility of their owners, who must eventually lose all power of supervision—that means the destruction of socialism. The old Prussian idea was to bring under legislative control the formal structure of the whole national productive force, at the same time carefully preserving the right of property and inheritance, and leaving scope for the kind of personal enterprise, talent, energy, and intellect displayed by an experienced chess player, playing within the rules of the game and enjoying that sort of freedom which the very sway of the rule affords….Socialization means the slow transformation—taking centuries to complete—of the worker into an economic functionary, and the employer into a responsible supervisory official.
|— H. Stuart Hughes. Oswald Spengler. New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA: Transaction Publishers, 1992. Pp. 109.|
Spengler viewed Marxism as a foreign encroachment of the French and British and insisted on his form socialism with German characteristics:
“”Prussiandom and socialism stand together against the inner England, against the world-view that infuses our entire life as a people, crippling it and stealing its soul…The working class must liberate itself from the illusions of Marxism. Marx is dead. As a form of existence, socialism is just beginning, but the socialism of the German proletariat is at an end. For the worker, there is only Prussian socialism or nothing... For conservatives, there is only conscious socialism or destruction. But we need liberation from the forms of Anglo-French democracy. We have our own.
|—Heinrich August Winkler, Alexander Sager. Germany: The Long Road West. English edition. Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. 414.|
The Nazis are everywhere, Glenn!
“”It this historic hour, we German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No Enabling Act can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible ... You can take our lives and our freedom, but you cannot take our honour. We are defenseless but not honourless.
|—Otto Wels, the final head of the pre-war German social democrats|
- That the 96-member Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) was Hitler's main opposition in the Reichstag and the only political party that attempted to halt the laws that established him as dictator and brought down the Weimar Republic. In fact, all of the ideological predecessors of today's conservative and classically liberal parties voted unanimously for the law, while the SPD voted unanimously against despite the presence of SA guards in the building.
- That the first political groups targeted during the Nazi ascendancy were pacifists, trade unionists and communists.
- That Strasserism, the only strand of Nazism that could be referred to as "left-wing" (i.e. pro-working class in nature), were all killed off (with a handful of conservative dissidents) in what we all know as the Night of the Long Knives. About the only true socialists within the Nazi Party include the likes of Gregor and Otto Strasser for example[note 2]
Hitler on the topic of left-wing politics
Hitler was not by any means a political theorist akin to Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Che, Mao or any other of the members of the Marxist pantheon. In fact, the most obvious point he makes in Mein Kampf is that he found the topics of political economy and class boring and mundane, lacking any merit for deep thought (mostly due to the fact he was absolutely clueless about the topic). Rather, Hitler's basic belief was this:
Hitler believed that Germany could have won World War I if the Socialist Second International (all of whom had pretty Jewish last names – of course almost any German surname can be Jewish) had not conspired with the Bolsheviks,[note 4] "hijacked" the government and "forced" the German surrender. This piece of Nazi pseudohistory is known as the stab-in-the-back legend.
Hitler said that everything ever touched by Jews, especially their evil new "religion" of Bolshevism, was a huge cabal... with international capitalism. However, he also said that the notably Christian "Bismarckian Socialism" was not just un-Jewish, it was wholly German and had been a highlight of their cultural and imperial epoch. Ergo, he decided to create a new reactionary populist political trend from a century before. The fact he chose to add the word "socialist" to the party name (National Socialist German Workers' Party) was as relevant to his true thinking as would be tying the word "rational" to Stalin or "Democratic People's Republic" to China or North Korea — a fig-leaf to sucker the hoi polloi vote.
Socialists on Hitler
Not only did Hitler make clear he wanted to eradicate the Bolsheviks and any elements of communism on the planet, every type of leftie on earth, from the Soviets to the British Labour Party to George Orwell, saw the Nazis as bad news. Nonetheless, because Stalin wanted to consolidate power in the government, he adopted the all-or-nothing "social fascist" policy and as a result across Europe and Asia the German Communist Party spent more time demonizing moderate dissidents as fascists (sound familiar?), rather than the actual Nazis who were keen to murder them all as soon as humanly possible. Trotsky of course called this point, but like almost everybody else in the 1920s thought of Hitler more as a cranky tool of German business interests than a genuinely sociopathic authoritarian that could manage to get enough political support. It was only into the tumultuous 1930s and later the liberation of the extermination camps in Eastern Europe that the Allies realized who they had really been up against.
After Hitler banned the SPD, they worked against him in exile (as Sopade) and wrote the "Prague Manifesto", which called for the overthrow of Hitler. Yep, sounds like they got along just fine.
- Fascism and the political spectrum
- Horseshoe theory
- Lying by omission
- Psychological projection
- Social Darwinism
- Third positionism
- The Pink Swastika
- Yeah, Hitler was such an egalitarian socialist that "[t]o maintain the supposed purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani and Poles along with the vast majority of other Slavs and the physically and mentally handicapped. They imposed exclusionary segregation on homosexuals, Africans, Jehovah's Witnesses and political opponents. The persecution reached its climax when the party-controlled German state organized the systematic murder of approximately six million Jews and five million people from the other targeted groups, in what has become known as the Holocaust". Furthermore, improving the stock of the Germanic people alone through racial purity and eugenics, broad social welfare programs and a collective subordination of individual rights, which could be sacrificed (obviously not by "Aryan master race", but by "undesirable people" only) for the good of the state and the "Aryan master race", isn't socialism (not left-wing socialism anyway). Hitler wasn't even egalitarian in his method of killings.
- And even then, the Strasserists weren't actually very socialist either. To be as brief as possible: they still fully supported racism, militarism, ultra-nationalism, anti-communism, and all the rest of the core Nazi ideology, but they also placed heavier emphasis on anti-capitalism (for racist reasons, of course)- that is, they were against the capitalism that was in place in Germany between 1918 and 1933. Where Hitler came to favor courting powerful corporate interests, the Strassers wanted to eliminate them and replace them with more worker-friendly organizations that would of course only be staffed by "pure Germans". In his pamphlet where he famously claims that "we are socialists, we are enemies of the current capitalist system", Gregor Strasser (not Adolf Hitler, as the internet often mistakenly claims) rails against Germany's corrupt capitalist system, as well as notions of "equality" and "liberalism".
- This equation is also the fundamental idea behind the Frankfurt School conspiracy theory.
- Hitler's conception of "Bolshevik" included pretty much anything even slightly leftist (sounds familiar?), lumping in social democracy with communism (sounds familiar?).
- Heinrich August Winkler, Alexander Sager. Germany: The Long Road West. English edition. Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. 414.
- The full speech
- Nazi Rule, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- The final vote: 444 to 94
- How Hitler consolidated power, BBC.
- A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust Victims, University of South Florida.
- Chapter 1. Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
- Gregory Zinoviev. The Last Illusion Gone, 1923 (a moment of pure idiocy on behalf of Zinoviev, whom Hitler especially hated for being Jewish, whereas Stalin was closer to the Little Dictator's brand of tough love).
- What Is National Socialism?
- German Resistance Memorial Center