Hitler was a socialist – not right wing

I have recently come across a book called “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg. He makes two points that really ring bells.
The first is that the widespread idea that fascism – including Hitler and Mussolini – is of the Right is totally incorrect. Of course you can get into long and unrewarding arguments about definitions. But this matters because those of us who are genuinely of the Right are tainted by any kind of an association with fascism. Any such taint is unfair and unwarranted. I cannot help thinking that the slur is, consciously or unconsciously, encouraged by those media people and teachers who very often are of the Left.
The core of what it means to be Right is surely a belief in free markets. You might add in ‘freedom of the individual’ but not all would agree.
The essence of what it is to be of the Left is a belief in government intervention, control and ownership.
The party of which Hitler was the leader was the National Socialist Party. The word “Socialist” was not a misprint. This was openly and avowedly a Left-wing party. Goldberg includes an entire translation of the 1920 Party Programme which was co-written by Hitler himself. It includes the following points (which I admit are not wholly clear to me but which certainly include plenty of government control and ownership):
“11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.
12. …the total confiscation of all war profits.
13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
14. We demand a division of profits [profit sharing] of heavy industries.
15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare…
17 We demand …provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purpose of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.”
Goldberg suggests that the reason we in Britain began to think of the Nazis as very different from socialists was propaganda by Stalin. Stalin called anyone who disagreed with his line a fascist. He even called Trotsky a fascist. We came to be believe that those who were enemies of Stalin could not be socialist since Stalin was a socialist. But this this was a false conclusion. Socialists are quite capable of falling out among themselves. One big theoretical difference betweeen Stalin and Hitler is shown by the name of Hitler’s party. He believed in “National” socialism. Stalin believed in “international” socialism.
The truth is, says Goldberg, that Hitler did not care that much about economics anyway. He was mainly concerned with German ‘identity politics’. But the point remains that it is not correct to suggest that Hitler was of the Right. He was not.

The Nazis borrowed whole sections from the communist playbook. Party members – male and femals – were referred to as comrades. Hitler recalls how his appeals to “class-conscious proletarians” who wanted to strike out against the “monarchist, reactionary agitation with the fists of the proletariat” were successful in drawing countless communists to their meetings….In short, the battle between the Nazis and the communists was a case of two dogs fighting for the same bone.

I cannot say that Goldberg offers an abolutely knock-down case for his argument. He says almost nothing about what the Nazis did in government as opposed to what they argued prior to reaching power. However the book provides quite a lot of evidence of the latter.
The second point that Goldberg makes is that our modern, so-called “liberal” governments behave in a way that is recognisably fascist in the sense that he defines the term. I won’t go into his full justification here. I will only mention that he bases his idea of what fascism truly means on Mussolini. He seems, basically, to liken ‘real’ fascism with totalitarianism. It is indeed not difficult – or new – to accept the idea that modern so-called ‘liberal’ democracies increasingly seek to determine every aspect of the way we live. In that sense, we increasingly live in totalitarian states.
The state is now entering areas which would have been unthinkable in the 19th century: whether or not children are smacked by their parents, whether or where we smoke cigarettes, whether we wear seat-belts or not, what is printed on food labels, what prices water companies charge, what childen are taught in schools, what we put into rubbish bins and even the exact time at which we put out our rubbish. Many of these will seem to many people to be perfectly reasonable controls on our behaviour. But the word ‘liberal’ does not seem appropriate. The word ‘totalitarian’ increasingly does.
Jonah Goldberg makes many controversial points and I am not convinced by them all. But the book is certainly worth a look.
Jonah Goldberg “Liberal Fascism” published by Doubleday (£18.99).

  1. Sweden – not so great and not so Socialist either it seems
  2. Jeremy Paxman, David Bell – liberal fascists
  3. I considered myself a socialist before…
  4. The return of belief to the Conservative Party
  5. Why, comrade, is the factory less efficient than it was in pre-revolutionary days?
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6 Responses to Hitler was a socialist – not right wing

  1. Sempronius says:

    In fact Stalin was working towards “Socialism in One Country” – in other words “national socialism”. The term “international socialism” is associated more with Trotsky.

  2. fjfjfj says:

    Preventing parents from smacking their children (which the British government, sadly, does not currently do) is no more illiberal than preventing men from hitting their wives.

  3. Michael Petek says:

    This is quite incorrect.
    Socialism in its 19th century manifestation was an ideology which insisted that the chief purpose of man is to dedicate the whole of his life in the production for common ownership of as much material wealth as possible, as efficiently as possible.
    Nazism was deliberately and self-consciously anti-materialist. Its chief preoccupation was to maintain the purity of Aryan blood and of the Aryan race, and insisted that a society with Jews in it could not be a healthy society.
    Nazism was largely indifferent to the mode of production and ownership: it took easily to public ownership, but it also valued private property, though only as a public trust and not as the object of natural right.

  4. HJHJ says:

    I disagree with Michael Petek and agree with you James.
    Hayek pointed during the second world war that the Fascists were just a brand of Socialist. I suggest that Michael Petek reads “The Road To Serfdom”.

  5. When you see what the actual communist party in Russia has as program, you can’t see any meaningful difference with a fascit party ..
    It is the reason why the mainstream medias dont talk about it any more.
    Right wing politics don’t mean either political freedom and economic freedom.
    In other words, you can have evil right wing and left wing politics ..
    Why not telling evryboddy that you are a classical liberal ..

  6. Philip Talmage says:

    Wikipedia has it that Left/Right politics have to do with egalitarianism vs. acceptance (or belief in) social hierarchies:

    In politics, the Left, left-wing, and leftists are people or views which generally support social change to create a more egalitarian society. They usually involve a concern for those in society who are disadvantaged relative to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities (which right-wing politics views as natural or traditional) that should be reduced or abolished.

    In politics, the Right, right-wing, and rightist have been defined as acceptance or support of social hierarchy. Inequality is viewed by the Right as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, whether it arises through traditional social differences or from competition in market economies.

    On this basis, either left- or right-wing governments could be authoritarian. At the extremes, it’s difficult to imagine that they might be anything less than totalitarian.

    Wikipedia would suggest, James, that your view of what it means to be Right is more properly to be described as libertarianism:

    Libertarianism refers to the group of political philosophies that emphasize freedom, liberty, and voluntary association. Libertarians generally advocate a society with a government of small scope relative to most present day societies or no government whatsoever.

    This position would seem to exclude authoritarian or totalitarian systems, and accords very well with my philosophy? However, a libertarian government would, I think, inevitably be right-wing too. Is that a paradox? Perhaps those political parties which accord with your definition, and do not wish it to be thought that they harbour fascist tendencies, should take to describing themselves as libertarian instead of right-wing.

    However … also to quote Wikipedia:

    Political scholars such as Noam Chomsky assert that in most countries the terms “libertarian” and “libertarianism” are synonymous with left anarchism.

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