Ph.D. Octopus

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Nazism and Fascism were Ideologies of the Right

with 11 comments

by David

Adolf Hitler: Not a Socialist

Three days ago it was Yom HaShoah, the Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a solemn occasion, one that should not be politicized. On this next day, however, I’d like to address a political pet peeve of mine, namely the view that fascism, specifically Nazism, was somehow an ideology of the Left. It was not.

People often make this mistake by lumping Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia together as two sides of the same totalitarian coin. Both regimes were responsible for monstrous crimes, yet the ideological underpinnings behind them should be distinguished and understood, rather than inaccurately melded together. Fundamentally, fascism and its Nazi manifestation were ideologies of the extreme Right, that advanced not only a racist populism but also a socially Darwinistic, hierarchical individualism that celebrated competition and allowed for for some capitalist industry to coexist alongside and in league with a powerful state.

I was spurred to write this post after listening to right-wing talk radio, where the announcer described fascism as an ideology of the left, the result of the expansion of Big Government. These scare tactics are used to form a slippery slope argument, namely that the welfare state leads to the gas chambers. Friedrich Hayek advanced a version of this argument in his famous and erroneous work, The Road to Serfdomparticularly in his chapter “The Socialist Roots of Nazism.” It is certainly true that fascism represents the worship and expansion of state power. Yet it can and did exist alongside capitalism, as was the case in Nazi Germany. Though Adolf Hitler led the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi), Hitler was not a socialist.

The reasons for this are manifold. First is the obvious: socialist and communist parties existed in Weimar Germany alongside the Nazi party and indeed were its bitter enemy (though Communists and Nazis occasionally colluded too). Second, and equally obvious, Nazism divided Germans along racial rather than class lines. Jews and other enemies of the state were enemies regardless of class, and the Aryan ideal could be achieved at any socioeconomic level.

Third, the Nazi regime did not completely take over all large businesses and industries, but rather colluded with them, most famously with chemical company I.G. Farben. This is a crucial mistake people make about fascism: businesses in fascist states like Hitler’s Germany are not necessarily government owned, and can to some degree  function within a market-oriented capitalist framework subject to the laws of supply and demand. Fascism, in this totalitarian form, functioned occasionally with brute force, like on Kristalnacht, but often through more subtle means. Fascism more frequently used coercive force like that at play in Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault’s Panopticon, a prison that exerted social control through fear of being watched rather than naked displays of state power. This, along with Hitler’s popularity, rendered capitalist business compatible with Nazism, so long as those involved with it were Aryans who obeyed the regime.

Most important, we know Nazism was an ideology of the far right because of the very logic behind it. Unlike socialism, Nazism was a hierarchical, Socially Darwinistic vision that encouraged competition, and  showed disdain for the masses, who Hitler called “mentally lazy.” Most crucially, it did not denigrate individualism, but in fact celebrated it. This is evident in Hitler’s major work, Mein Kampf. 

I’m not simply referring to Hitler’s attacks on “Jewish” Marxism and Bolshevism, which he argued was a “comrade” to the equally Jewish “greedy finance capital.” Hitler believed that “the stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker.” Hitler extrapolated from individual achievement, “true genius,” to racial achievement. Indeed, to ignore racial hierarchy led to an “underestimation of the individual. For denial of the difference between the various races with regard to their general culture-creating forces must necessarily extend this greatest of all errors to the judgment of the individual.” Hitler celebrated the “free play of forces” that enabled both individual and racial advancement in Darwinian struggle. He loved sports, especially boxing, as they served “to make the individual strong, agile and bold.”

Hitler’s individualism and elitism emerged most strongly in his chapter on “Personality and the Conception of the Folkish State.” Hitler distorted Nietzschean philosophy to elevate certain individuals, like himself, above all others. He hoped to organize society that placed  “thinking individuals above the masses, thus subordinating the latter to the former.” This would be true of economic life as well. “in all fields preparing the way for that highest measure of productive performance which grants to the individual the highest measure of participation.”

I could go on. My point here is not to politicize, but to de-politicize. Hitler was of course not a pure capitalist, and Nazi Germany not a purely capitalist state. Nazi Germany’s economy relied on considerable amount of state control and even some Keynesian economics. Many socialists showed similar disdain for the masses. But, and this is crucial, Hitler was not really interested in economics, nor was economic policy central to the Third Reich. Expansion of government and state power was less important to the regime than socially Darwinistic racial competition.

To conclude, I’ll simply say this: socialism and the welfare state should not be advanced by criticizing Nazi Germany and invoking the spectre of the Holocaust, but they should not be attacked that way either.

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Written by David Weinfeld

April 22, 2012 at 11:01

11 Responses

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  1. [...] Nazism and Fascism were Ideologies of the Right [...]

    • HI David. In your assessment have you taken A. James Gregor’s work into account (Marxism Fascism and Totalitarianism, and other books)?

      Do you think that Nazism and Italian Fascism are similar enough to suggest that they have a common source, i.e. capitalism?

      Thanks,
      Stan

      Stan

      April 22, 2012 at 20:32

      • Hi Stan, thanks for the comment. Have not consulted Gregor. I don’t think that capitalism is the source of fascism and certainly not of Nazism. Capitalism in its purest form has an anti-racist logic to it. I think it’s difficult pointing to the sources of these larger phenomena. I think there are enough problems with capitalism on its own that one needn’t say that it necessarily leads to fascism or anywhere else. The same of course can be likely be said of socialism, at least in practice.

        David Weinfeld

        April 23, 2012 at 01:29

      • gregor’s central point (if i’m remembering correctly) is that fascists and even nazis had strong biographical and intellectual connections to different forms of marxist revisionism. the most obvious here is mussolini, but he wants to make a much broader argument: out of the revisionism crisis, you get neokantians like bernstein, who make modern social democracy, you get orthodoxy (kautsky), you get lenin and bolshevism, but *also* italian fascism (understood as a sort of idealist revisionism, i think), and even, gregor argues, people who claim to be marxist materialists writing about the struggle between races, people who give an intellectual foundation to the nazis. this is the argument. even accepting these filiations, we can say, for instance, that gregor gives an intellectual centrality to marxism in the 1900-1920 period that it simply did not have. but also, again even accepting the connections gregor is writing about, this would only mean that it is possible, as of course it is, to enlist the writings of those who believe themselves to be on the left in support of essentially right-wing programs (and, of course, vice versa).

        Eric

        April 23, 2012 at 04:25

  2. [...] Fascism and Nazism are not ideologies of the Left, in case any of you were still confused. [...]

    • LOL, of course not, that’s why they seek to imprison and/or impose fines on anyone with the audacity to defy their opinions. That’s not the very definition of fascism, of course not. It’s the very definition of freedom, LOLOLOLOL

      yamnnjr

      January 1, 2013 at 11:41

  3. Just wanted to point out that it is the German goennrmevt that’s having a problem with YouTube. Turns out Germany has been a bit touchy about Nazis for a while now and have various standing laws that restrict any kind of pro-nazi speech in their country. Accourding to a zdnet quoted by TechCrunch, neo-nazi violence has been on the rise recently.What I think is interesting here is that the German goennrmevt is trying to attack YouTube, which by virtue of being on the intertubes is somewhat international (though the article mentions they are going after Google Germany, it’s all the same in the end). That is what makes the internet so hard to regulate: which country’s standard do you (can you) impose? None or the fewer the better would be my hope.

    Mochi

    May 15, 2012 at 01:11

  4. This book was originally conceived as a study of the generation of 1968 in West Germany. Seeking to understand how Nazism and its legacies were interpreted in the 1960s, especially by the New Left student movement, I was struck by the preponderance of arguments that the Third Reich was a distinctly sexually repressive era and that to liberate sexuality was an antifascist imperative. Numerous New Leftists argued directly that sexuality and politics were causally linked; convinced that sexual repression produced racism and fascism, they proposed that sexual emancipation would further social and political justice.

    mercadeo internet

    May 15, 2012 at 06:32

  5. Nice work here. For clarification, fascism institutionalized in the US with the reconstruction amendments and introduction of it’s SSO counterpart into US political infrastructure [Atramental Lodge 23/Benjamin Harrison], social Darwinism having motivated it’s commemorative Whitechapel and Mary Ann Nichols it’s eugenics product AKA TE Lawrence. May Thomas and John Chapman RIP(per). Sarah Junner-Lawrence never carried: however, she DID raise Nichols’ son renditioned curbside August 31, 1888, also Junner’s birth date. Now what was that you were saying about Nazism? Oh yeah, huh.

    coastx

    July 10, 2012 at 00:30

  6. ” . . . and allowed for for some capitalist industry to coexist alongside and in league with a powerful state.”

    What do you think Socialism is?!

    Of course there are going to be businesses. True governmental control of all business isn’t even possible. There will be business owners, it’s just that their businesses are controlled by the state, i.e. Marxism, I.e. Nazism, i.e. any kind of Socialism.

    So, yes, there will be levels of Capitalism in all Socialism, but those levels, in a socialist economy, will be determined by government. Hitler believed in measures of Capitalism because he really was a smart man even if he was evil. China only lasts because it allows measures of Capitalism to seep in whereas the Soviet Union did not. Even with all we pay China, they were forced to allow measures of Capitalism or they too would have become too expensive and collapsed, just like the Soviet Union did. They still might, even with the small measures of Capitalism they’ve let in.

    Hitler, for all his speeches against the Soviets also admired Stalin, and his economy, and how well it seemed to work at the time. In fact, Hitler wanted to team up with Stalin for a brief period of time.

    When you don’t think things through, and you regurgitate, yes, I’ll admit that your side sounds more logical. But when you actually think things through, really objectively get in there and look at reality for what it is, then you begin to see that logically, Hitler along with his party was socialist and Hitler was an atheist who believed very deeply that he had found the pinnacle of human evolution.

    Just because someone says something when trying to win support from the populace does not mean that they believe it, and it rarely means they believe it entirely as they say it in front of people. So we look at their actions, what they do. And Nazi’s did take control of the economy, did regulate religion, did dictate how the money of the economy could be used, did frequently oppose ideologies of Capitalism.

    I will love the day when you liberals will stop getting so caught up on words that feed your delusions and start looking at actions that defy them.

    yamnnjr

    January 1, 2013 at 11:39

  7. It’s all too apparent this is just more perpetuating of the myth that Fascism is right wing. I won’t bore you with how that is easily discerned as I know you will ignore that as you have ignored all the empirical data to the contrary of your partisan hypothesis.

    When you used flagrant innuendo as evidence, I knew I was not gong to get any factual truths. Why the left insist on always accusing the right what the left is actually guiltiest of, pretty much proves that liberalism, or being left wing is a mental disorder. Psychological projection I believe is the defense mechanism at work here. Assigning to others your own failings that you can not come to grips with, or admit to yourself. Good luck with that :)

    frankboone2013

    September 27, 2013 at 03:02


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