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