Republicans are fond of simplistic, ignorant, sound-bites that masquerade as facts. One of their favorites is to assign Nazism (aka National Socialism) to the left of the political spectrum on account of the ‘socialism’ in the party name.
Never mind that the Nazis saw themselves as firmly part of the extremist right in German politics and despised liberals and actual socialists (and of course, communists), who were properly placed on the left of the political spectrum. Before the Nazis could become the leading party in Germany, they first had to lead the right wing, and that breakthrough came in the period 1928-1930.
On 16 November 1928, in his first speech at the Berlin Sportpalast, Hitler told a crowd of ten thousand plus that, “We have to strip the terms ‘Nationalism’ and ‘Socialism’ of their previous meaning. Only that man is a nationalist who stands by his people, and only that man is a socialist who stands up for the rights of his people both internally and externally.”
But he became more specific yet in response to internal divisions within the NSDAP. It turns out Hitler himself pointed out the flaw in Republican thinking in a May 1930 meeting of the party leadership in Munich. As author Thomas Friedrich wrote, “Hitler…left his listeners in no doubt about what he did not mean by ‘National Socialism.'”
This is what Hitler said National Socialism was not:
It was not, “a universal morality of pity but a master race” – in other words, Hitler did not see his socialism as Republicans today see socialism, but rather as a form of German Exceptionalism (the Nazis called it a “National Community”) which can be equated with the GOP’s version of American Exceptionalism.
National socialism, Hitler said, “did not lie in socialism as a universal panacea nor was it a nationalist variant of that idea.” Republicans, of course, are fond of accusing socialism (and liberalism) as advocating a universal panacea. Indeed, it is all we are hearing leading up to Election Day 2012.
“Rather,” wrote Friedrich, “it was a completely new political concept with a totality that could not be divided into separate components.”
In other words, National Socialism had nothing to do with socialism then or now. Those elements of the party which clung to some hope that actual socialism would be a part of the Nazi platform (including especially Otto Strasser), were kicked out.
Here is what happened with Strasser. As Friedrich explains, in May of 1930, after the leader meeting in Munich, Hitler visited Berlin and met with Strasser. Strasser wanted to know what Hitler would do with Krupp and the other big German corporations when he became dictator. “Would everything remain unchanged in terms of ownership, profits and management?”
“But of course,” Hitler replied.”Do you think I’m mad enough to destroy the economy?” Hitler would intervene, he told Strasser, only when companies failed to act in the “national interest.”
As Friedrich writes, Strasser was dismayed. He told Hitler that if he was planning on retaining the capitalist system he had no right to speak of Socialism. Hitler told Strasser that the term “socialism” was “intrinsically bad” and repeated his position. “As long as that does not happen, it would simply be a crime to destroy the national economy.”
From Hitler’s perspective, Strasser’s viewpoint was “simply Marxist.”
Hitler waited until upcoming regional elections in Saxony had taken place and then moved to silence the “salon Bolshevists” as he called them. He told his Berlin Gauleiter, Joseph Goebbels to remove “all those elements whose views are essentially the same as those of our enemies [socialists] and who are now trying to obtain a hearing for these views of theirs.”
The next day, Strasser responded in his own newspaper, Der Nationale Sozialist with an appeal entitled “The Socialists Are Leaving the NSDAP!”
Somebody hadn’t been paying attention in class. Strasser was extremely naive if he had failed to pick up on the support given the Nazi Party by big industrialists from very early on.
In fact, on 26 January 1932, Hitler would even address the Industry Club, Friedrich writes, “and tried to assure them that they had nothing to fear from his party’s economic policies.” In his two-and-a-half-hour speech he gave a very Social Darwinist, Republican justification for capitalism and private wealth, that those who have wealth have it because they deserve it and because they deserve it they’re better than everybody else:
I am bound to say that private property can be morally and ethically justified only if I admit that men’s achievements are different. Only on that basis can I assert since men’s achievements are different, the results of those achievements are also different. But if the results of those achievements are different, then it is reasonable to leave to men the administration of those results to a corresponding degree. It would not be logical to entrust the administration of the result of an achievement which was bound up with a personality either to the next best but less capable person or to a community which, through the mere fact that it had not performed the achievement, has proved that it is not capable of administering the result of that achievement. Thus it must be admitted that in the economic sphere, from the start, in all branches men are not of equal value or of equal importance. And once this is admitted it is madness to say: in the economic sphere there are undoubtedly differences in value, but that is not true in the political sphere.
In another speech to German industrialists a year later, on 20 February 1933, Hitler again sounds a great deal like a Republican of 2012, espousing false dilemmas and delegitimizing all but his own party:
No two ideologies can continuously live alongside one another. in such struggles the strength of a people eats itself completely up internally and therefore cannot act externally. It does not rest. This condition of attrition lasts until one party emerges victorious or the state itself dissolves, whereby a people loses its place in history.
It is clear that Hitler saw socialists in the same light as Republicans – they were nothing more than Marxists and Bolsheviks. He drew no real distinction between socialists and communists and neither do Republicans as we see almost daily from their rhetoric.
In fact, if there is a comparison to be made, then it is to the Republicans we must look. No the Republicans are not National Socialists but like the National Socialists the Republicans are a right wing party and a now very extreme right wing party. They are, like the National Socialists, a party of nationalists (fanatically so), appealing to the workings of a divine will they say puts America at the forefront of nations. And last, but not least, only the authoritarian Republican Party could come up with a president who adopts the Fuhrerprinzip (Leader Principle) by telling the world, “I am the decider” as though, like Hitler, he held sole power in the land.
Thomas Friedrich, Hitler’s Berlin: Abused City. Yale University Press, 2012.
Hitler/creator image from http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/category/god/
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.