Joe Hendren

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Nazis: Well established baggage of the far right

David Neiwert has written a useful post debunking the ridiculous line of argument that the Nazis were leftwingers because they had the word 'socialism' in their name (Hat tip My Blahg). While I normally would not give the time of day to such claims, they do have a habit of reappearing from time to time among the blogs, so I thought I would bookmark David's post for future reference.

Neiwert explains how modern proponents of the "Nazis were socialists" claim are, in fact, falling for (and repeating) Nazi propaganda from the 1920s. Hitler and Mussolini did the classic bait-and-switch:
"They convinced working-class people to vote against their own self-interest by clever use of propaganda techniques and pretending to embody their values, but then screwed them over from one end to the other once they had obtained power. Sound familiar?"

By the time they gained power, Hitler and Mussolini were "unquestionably" on the right wing politically, acting to abolish trade unions, collective bargaining and the right to strike. As gangs of brownshirts continued to kill socialists on sight, the Nazis ensured the first people sent to the concentration camp at Dachau in 1933-34 were socialist and communist political leaders.

David sees an obvious reason for the popularity of this line of argument among the right.
"It's a convenient way of smearing the left for conservatives, as well as shedding their own well-established baggage from the far right."

In a similar vein, I have often thought it is more than a little ironic for right wingers to accuse those who oppose the war on Iraq of being 'appeasers' of Saddam, as 'appeasement' largely represents baggage for the right. Prior to the start of the war in 1939, support for the policy of appeasement was most widespread among right-wing conservatives.
According to historian Eric Hobsbawn:
"Many a good conservative felt, especially in Britain, that the best of all solutions would be a German-Soviet war, weakening, perhaps destroying both enemies, and a defeat of Bolshevism by a weakened Germany would be no bad thing"*.
British Intelligence services continued to concentrate on the 'Red menace' to such an extent that they did not abandon it as their main target until the middle 1930s.

Only the communists were consistent in their opposition to fascism. Winston Churchill deserves credit for being a lone voice within the Conservative party with his opposition to Hitler, though it must be added that Churchill also expressed support for Mussolini prior to the war.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin desperately wanted an anti-Hitler pact, but western powers remained very very reluctant - this was one of the factors that led Stalin into the bizarre and fateful Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939.

* Eric Hobsbawn, 'Age of Extremes'. p. 151

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At 10:58 am, Blogger RightWingDeathBeast said...

Do you actually have a definition of right and left wing apart from left good right bad?

Look at any sensible, neutral definition of left and right and Hitler fits the left definition like a glove.

Hitler was rightist because he didn't like other left wingers? That would make Stalin a right winger for killing Trotsky.

Hitler abolished the right to strike? That would make the USSR a right wing regime, as they also banned strikes.

The left has always been factional. Hitler abolished trade unions and killed communists not because he wanted bosses to have more power over workers but because he wanted his party to.

Any quote you read from Hitler espouses a left-wing philosophy. Your rediculous rebuttal to this is that Hitler was pretending to be a left-winger all along but secretly engaged is some huge orgy of free market reform without anybody realizing. That's nonsense.

Read this:

"What made it difficult for many people to grasp the very nature of the Nazi economic system was the fact that the Nazis did not expropriate the entrepreneurs and capitalists openly and that they did not adopt the principle of income equality which the Bolshevists espoused in the first years of Soviet rule and discarded only later. Yet the Nazis removed the bourgeois completely from control. Those entrepreneurs who were neither Jewish nor suspect of liberal and pacifist leanings retained their positions in the economic structure. But they were virtually merely salaried civil servants bound to comply unconditionally with the orders of their superiors, the bureaucrats of the Reich and the Nazi party. The capitalists got their (sharply reduced) dividends. But like other citizens they were not free to spend more of their incomes than the Party deemed as adequate to their status and rank in the hierarchy of graduated leadership. The surplus had to be invested in exact compliance with the orders of the Ministry of Economic Affairs."

Now does that sound like an Act Party wet dream to you? No. It sounds like a party that was slightly right of the communists but still very much on the left.

At 10:54 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

Did you actually read David Neiwert's post that I linked to?

For starters, I do not think the USSR is the good example to use as a typical left wing government. Especially as a number of independent leftists, from Bertrand Russell to Noan Chomsky regarded the USSR as run by the Bolsheviks as "counter revolutionary" and right wing, for restricting independent trade unions and demonstrating contempt for democracy. I would like to do some more reading on this, so for now I would defend the claim that several Soviet politicans, while using Marxist language and claiming to be on the side of workers were actually of another political stripe. Stalin, who killed off most of the original bolsheviks in the infamous purges of the 1930s, and Molotov, who was a Russian nationalist more than anything else, I do not believe belong on the left.

For arguments sake, lets use Wikipedia definition of right-wing

"In recent times, the term almost always includes some forms of conservatism and Christian democracy, and usually includes those forms of liberalism that emphasize the free market more than egalitarianism in wealth; the latter has been true since socialism became associated with the left wing. It is often also applied to authoritarian ideologies such as fascism, although some totalitarian ideologies such as Stalinism are generally considered left-wing due to their economic policies. Some consider it to include libertarianism, though most libertarians conceive of an additional spectrum (libertarianism-totalitarianism) upon which they place themselves which intersects the left-right political spectrum and places them 90 degrees away from traditional left and right, much as many anarchists (including "libertarian socialists") avoid placing themselves on the spectrum."

You accuse me of not using a "sensible, neutral definition of left and right" yet you appear to base your argument on an extremely narrow (and convienent) definition where the right is only represented by "free market" liberal/liberterian type views.

This definition is clearly insufficent, as it would consign a singificant portion of the National party as "left wing" and clearly they are not.

It is especially an insuffient definition when used in relation to Germany of the 1930s, where radical free market views were throughly discredited from their failure to deal with the economic and social consequences of the depression. Among the wider "right-wing" of the time, Hitler was certainly not alone in failing to possess an a priori belief in the effectiveness of the "free market". The nazis also included christian conservatives and authoritarian
elements of the right, as well as
the kinds of conservatives who liked to pretend the french revolution had never happened. Any 'sensible definition' would also include these as forces of the right.

While the Nazi's were not doctrinaire free-marketeers, neither were they in any sense egalitarian, especially if you did not happen to fit the 'arayan' myth.

If the Nazi's were left, Why was it those on the right of German politics who handed the Nazi's power in 1932/33? Why was it the conservative Von Papen made the ill fated decision to form a 'new right wing coalition' which included the Nazis, thinking he could control them?

"Your rediculous rebuttal to this is that Hitler was pretending to be a left-winger all along but secretly engaged is some huge orgy of free market reform without anybody realizing. That's nonsense."

I said nothing of the sort. But Hitler certainly pushed forward the agenda of the traditional right, using some of the language of the left.

Hitler and the Nazis fit into the Wikipedia definition of right-wing "like a glove."

If you want to know more about Nazism I suggest you read more of the work of respected historians, and rely less on the self-interested rantings of libertiarian think tanks.


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