Winner: Best Researched Individual Post"While Hitler's attitude towards liberalism was one of contempt, towards Marxism he showed an implacable hostility... Ignoring the profound differences between Communism and Social Democracy in practice and the bitter hostility between the rival working class parties, he saw in their common ideology the embodiment of all that he detested - mass democracy and a leveling egalitarianism as opposed to the authoritarian state and the rule of an elite; equality and friendship among peoples as opposed to racial inequality and the domination of the strong; class solidarity versus national unity; internationalism versus nationalism." -- Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny
One of the most frequent arguments used in favor of the notion that Hitler and the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
(NSDAP) were leftist is the fact that they used "sozialistische"
in the party's title. The party's appropriation of the term was a sick lie.
Generally there have been three broad economic variations in terms of ownership of production: aristocracy, in which a ruling elite owns the land and productive wealth; capitalism, in which a broader range of private individuals own the means of production; and socialism, in which everyone owns and controls the means of production.
As traditionally understood, these three variations roughly fall into a right, center, left pattern as well - with authoritarian, dictatorial regimes and absolute monarchs on the extreme right; corporate/capitalist oligarchies right of center; free enterprise with widespread private ownership more or less in the middle; labor republics or social democracies in which the workers partially own and primarily control the means of production left of center; and utopian communist societies where everyone owns everything and there is essentially no private property on the extreme left. In short, the more limited and narrow the ownership and control of production, the further right. The more widespread such ownership and control, the further left.
By calling themselves "National Socialists", the NSDAP was attempting to woo the left-wing citizenry merely by coopting the terminology. The "national"
combined with the "sozialistische"
implied that the nation as a whole would control the means of production. During his rise, Hitler exploited social unrest by promising workers to back labor unions and increase the standard of living. The reality was quite different: the Nationalsozialistische
party only represented nationalists
, as defined by the NDSAP and represented by the ruling elite, not the nation as a whole. And it was only a corporate oligarchy which owned much of anything. Under the National Socialists in Germany, the system of government was a combination of aristocracy and capitalism (extreme right and centrist). The workers, "the people", owned and controlled nothing
- as they would under socialism or any left-wing government.
Private German businessmen owned and controlled the means of production - and answered to the National Socialist Party. The NDSAP "Charter of Labor" gave employers complete power over their workers and established the employer as the "leader of the enterprise," and dictated that the owner "makes the decisions for the employees and laborers in all matters concerning the enterprise".
Contrary to their promises, the NDSAP outlawed
trade unions, collective bargaining, and the right to strike. They formed the "Labor Front" which replaced the old trade unions and which did not represent workers - and workers' wages fell by 20-25%. Industries, trusts, and military production were not
nationalized and remained in the hands of private owners under the control of the party. Granted, the NDSAP did
nationalize a few utilities - such as the railroads - and created a few public works programs such as the construction of the Autobahn. But these were primarily in order to facilitate the war industry and such "nationalization" did not mean that these were owned by the people, but by the government - and were built with materials which fed back into the capitalist oligarchs. The German National Socialists, like the Italian Fascists, were corporatists
How much control did "the people" have under the NDSAP in terms of running the government? Virtually none. A central principle of the party was Führerprinzip
- "the leadership principle". The National Socialists did not have party congresses in which policy was discussed and determined - there were no dissenting voices heard, no compromises or concessions made. What mattered most was what the leader
thought and decreed. Those whose opinions differed from those of der Führer
either maintained silence or were purged.
The hierarchical nature of the corporatism espoused by the NDSAP, with der Führer
at the pinnacle, supported by a capitalist oligarchy is in direct opposition to the egalitarianism espoused by socialism and other leftist political schools of thought. The National Socialists were anti-egalitarian in every sense and had an elitist view of society in which the superior individual - the übermensch
- would emerge on top. So, in terms of social/governmental structure and
economics, the National Socialists cannot be considered "socialist" by any stretch of the imagination.
grant that the totalitarian extremes of the NDSAP can be compared to the totalitarian extremes of, say, Stalinism - but that does not make Hitler any more left-wing than it does Stalin. Both were variations on the aristocratic (or its extreme, monarchic) systems - systems representing the far right
. It can much
more easily be argued that Stalin was right-wing than it can that Hitler was left-wing. In fact, I'd say that the latter cannot be argued at all
But what of the social policies of the NDSAP? In the thread in which this discussion arose, I cited the late Steve Kangas who composed a lengthy essay
addressing this whole issue. In it, he identifies a number of principles, opposing rightist ideals and leftist ideals. These include (but are not limited to) the following:Individualism
over collectivism. Racism or racial segregation
over racial tolerance. Merit
over equality. Competition
over cooperation. Realism
over idealism. Nationalism
over internationalism. Exclusiveness
over inclusiveness. Gun ownership
over gun control Common sense
over theory or science. Pragmatism
He goes on - and I won't reiterate his arguments here - to demonstrate that Hitler and the NDSAP leaned, often heavily, toward the right, often far right, in every single instance. Many of these leanings are obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of National Socialist policies and history. Again, for those in doubt, I'd recommend checking out the essay
He also discusses National Socialist foreign policy in terms of militarism vs. pacifism. It should suffice here to quote from Mein Kampf
If the German people in its historic development had possessed that herd unity which other peoples enjoyed, the German Reich today would doubtless be mistress of the globe. World history would have taken a different course, and no one can distinguish whether in this way we would not have obtained what so many blinded pacifists today hope to gain by begging, whining and whimpering: a peace, supported not by the palm branches of tearful, pacifist female mourners, but based on the victorious sword of a master people, putting the world into the service of a higher culture.
That may sound like a "real man" - but it sure as hell doesn't sound like a liberal.
So: in terms of economics, the NDSAP was right-wing. In terms of government structure, the NDSAP was right-wing. In terms of social policy, the NDSAP was right-wing. In terms of militarism, the NDSAP was right-wing. I fail to see how anyone can possibly
argue that the Nazis were leftist.