One of the most dangerous and increasingly prevalent myths pervading modern American discourse is the “Big Lie” that Hitler, Mussolini, Nazism and Fascism were historical and political phenomena of the Left, rather than the Right.
If you don't believe me, look at these two recent, popular additions to the current conservative canon, one, an article on conservapedia, another a recent and popular book equating fascism with liberal democracy.
This big-lie has been created by the Right-Wing Establishment media, in its unending quest to discredit liberalism and progressivism. Society’s most educated and sophisticated, on both the Left and Right, have mostly ignored these arguments, seeing them as nothing more than harmless, historically inaccurate ramblings. Yet by failing to see the highly calculated method in the madness, we are doing America a grave disservice. By allowing these untruths to go unanswered, I fear, much more harm will transpire than many of us are currently willing to accept.
Basically, the right wing accomplishes three (3) things by calling Hitler a Socialist. It all proceeds according to the propaganda concept of “guilt by association,” first pioneered by Pavlov and later perfected by B.F. Skinner.
One: We all know communists were bad. Mao and Stalin were evil and killed tens of millions. That being said, Socialism is often portrayed as a middle-of-the road approach, a method that combines the best of capitalism with the best of Marxism. It is through this "middle way" methodology that Western European and East Asian nations such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have successfully managed the ebb and flow of the boom-and-bust cycle inherent to the capitalist system for the past 50 years, allowing them to maintain high levels of productivity and growth while minimizing unemployment and maximizing social welfare benefits and similar such public goods. Rather than have the government dictate the price for goods and services, though, they allow the market (supply and demand) serve this function. It has worked rather well.
The right wing does not want Americans to look at these examples. They want us to be afraid of the word “socialist.” Hence they need to associate the word with the most horrible images and ideas possible, in order to pre-emptively discredit it in the hearts, emotions and psyches of the masses. Sadly, these folks do not travel and do not see how successful Western Europe and East Asia have been for the past 50 years.
Two: Modern American Liberals and Progressives advocate a strong, activist government. This is a trait they have in common with socialists. By painting Hitler as a Socialist, you thereby discredit large, activist government programs. You also lead the ignorant and uneducated, who comprise an increasing portion of our electorate, to honestly believe that government-run health care could lead to death camps and death panels. This is not logical, but it follows the logic of emotional irrationality, the laws that govern the psyche.
Three: By persuading the radical right, and perhaps many of the independents that Nazism and Fascism were phenomena of the Left, the Right Wing totally wins the narrative interpretation of 20th century history. If the 20th century taught us anything, its that either side, Left or Right, can oppress and violate human rights in the most murderous and brutally inhumane ways imaginable, if left unchecked by the procedural safeguards typical of a functioning democratic system. The instruments of war and the tools of persuasion that are available to modern man are simply too destructive and too manipulative to be left in the hands of an unaccountable, unresponsive and unrepresentative government.
One of the greatest quotes to come out of the 20th century is that: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely regardless of political persuasion.” What the GOP and Fox News have accomplished with their “Hitler was a Socialist” argument is to turn this quotation on its head. No longer are both sides equally susceptible to engaging in acts of political oppression. No longer are both sides subject to the same dark human impulses for power and control. No longer should both sides measure their passion and emotion with logic and self-restraint. In the new era, only the liberal or the progressive should measure or have such safeguards upon his actions, because it is he and only he who has been responsible for the greatest human rights violations in the history of the known world. Only liberals must be watched. Only liberals are dangerous. Only liberals put people in camps. Only liberals want to control the world. This is the unavoidable, logical conclusion that such arguments lead to.
Throughout the latter-half of the 20th century, both the Left and the Right have had skeletons in our closets. We were both forced by history to gauge our actions and measure our words, lest we go too far toward one extreme and commit the errors and disastrous mistakes committed by those who went before us. Whether it was somebody on the Right wing thinking twice before he employs race-baiting in a public speech, or a member of the Left wing thinking twice before advocating an unresponsive, centrally planned economic policy, promoting the collectivization of agriculture or oppressing religion, both sides are forced to think twice and remember history before impulsively saying or promoting a policy out of pure emotion or passion. Because both sides have committed heinous acts in the pursuit of their particular version of the “truth,” both sides have been forced, by way of historical circumstance, to excercise a certain modicum and degree of personal and political restraint, lest we commit the errors and attrocities of the past. Never Forget!
What the Right Wing has done, has been to effectively remove this self-restraint upon their actions and thought processes by disassociating themselves from the most infamous right-wing extremists in history. There are no more extremists they must measure themselves against. They are all good and all liberals are evil.
All the right wing monsters in history have been redefined and re-interpreted such that they are now seen as left wing monsters. In psychology, this is called "shadow projection." As such, no right winger can properly be seen as a monster. Right wingers now have nothing impeding their self-perception, regardless of their actions or the logic of their throught-processes. We all need and require a realistic, functional external bogeyman to contrast our self-perceptions with, a shadow of our own inner self to keep our inner demons in-check. This is why shadow-projection is so dangerous, both to ourselves and to the targets of our aggression and/or projection.
The conservative media, by removing this bogeyman, and projecting it and/or similar such shadows onto the "other," either intentionally or inadvertantly enables a necessary precondition for fanatical, zealous, perhaps even homicidal self-righteousness to be met.
Upton Sinclair once said that “when Fascism comes to America it will come in the guise of Anti-Fascism.” Well, the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement are making war on Fascism, a Fascism they define as all things liberal, left wing and progressive.
Perhaps its time that we Progressives take a stand.
NO. Hitler was not a Socialist, despite the claims of conservapedia.
Here are the major refutation points:
The Nazis or National Socialists started in 1919 as a right wing, racist, militaristic working-class, lower-middle class organization. Hitler tells us in Mein Kampf that he picked the name in order to confuse members of the German Socialist, Marxist and Communist parties, or at least steal potential membership from them. At this time, the German Left was the most powerful left-wing force throughout Europe outside Russia. Throughout much of the Weimar Republic, the Left Wing was dominant and the Right wing was in retreat. The highly conservative, right wing and reactionary state, Bavaria, even became a Soviet Republic for a limited period of time in 1919.
The Nazis operated on the right-wing of the political spectrum. Hitler clearly admits this in numerous places in Mein Kampf. His earliest allies were members of the radical right wing German nationalist movement and also conservatives.
Men such as Ludendorff, Von Pappen, Hindenburg and the like were all conservative and/or right-wing nationalists and/or monarchists. They all hated eachother on a personal level, as all politicians often do, but they shared a common goal: the elimination of socialism, the preservation of Germany’s class system and the recreation of Germany’s militaristic culture and/or economy.
In no way did the Nazi Party operate within, or come from, the liberal or Leftist political tradition in either Germany, or any other country for that matter. Nobody at the time would have thought so, either. Hitler was a rightwing extremist trying to “cross-over” and win members of the radical middle, as well as convert a sufficient minority of folks on the Left. This does not make him a Leftist.
Just because the Nazis have some characteristics in common with Socialists, does not make them Socialists. This is the fallacy of association or the “fallacy of the undistributed middle.” Just because two things share a trait, does not make them the same. Camels eat lettuce. Rabbits eat lettuce. This does not mean that all camels are rabbits.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Pavlov, (discusses the scientist who discovered the psychological mechanism whereby animals make illogical, emotional associations)
Stalin was a Communist and liked law and order. Republicans in the US like law and order. Does this make Stalin a Republican? Clearly not, but this is the same logic conservatives are currently using.
Industry and banking in Nazi Germany were privatized. They were not nationalized or placed into the collective ownership of workers’ groups. Lenin wrote that the first requirement of a Socialist economy is that the Commanding Heights of the economy must be taken out of private hands (he didn’t call for the abolition of private or consumer property, only that things like coal, forests, railroads, steel, food and strategic resources be controlled by either the people, the government or responsible third parties, rather than a self-interested Capitalist class that apportions said resources according to price/demand rather than need.
Hitler’s promise to Germany’s top families, that they would retain private control of the economy, was the leading factor that caused them to back him, over his conservative, pro-sectarian, monarchist opponents, such as Von Pappen, Hindenburg and Ludendorff.
Conservatives often point to the fact that Hitler granted German workers the May Day holiday that they had spent 100 years agitating for, thus proving the power and potency of his regime. What they fail to mention is that he abolished all labor unions on the following day, further proving the power and potency of his regime, as well as proving, once and for all, whose interests his regime ultimately served. Unlike the Communists, which were a totalitarian regime run from the bottom-up (i.e., by peasants who overthrew the government), the Nazi and Fascist governments were totalitarian regimes run from the top-down (i.e., by marketable members of the Establishment and/or their fellow-travelers who support the ancient regime, albeit in a different guise). An additional fact showing this trait is the fact that under Hitler, German workers lost their right to collectively bargain with industry, a right that they had won in certain German states and cities during the Weimar Republic.
Hitler discarded the concept of class conflict between the Proletariat and Bourgeoisie and sublimated/replaced it, within Germany, with the concept of internal ethnic warfare of Indo-European Aryans against Jews and Gypsies and biological “war” against the incurably ill. Within Germany itself, economically-based class-consciousness was banned and 100 years of Marxist, socialist and Social-Democrat philosophical/ideological influence was discarded and oppressed.
Rather than preach class, the Nazis preached the concept of Völksgemeinschaft, or “folk community,” where all the economic classes would be united in a single purpose and march to the beat of a single drummer, united in a single cause, namely, purity within and conquest without. This was basically an endorsement of a mass, sectarian, ritualistic, communitarian society, of the kind espoused by the Communists, but without the concomitant threat to the Wealthy and their class-interests.
As such, the rich in Germany gave the nation a bait-and-switch if you will. They stole the thunder from the Socialists and Communists, granted them the most superficial and meaningless of their demands, but retained the fundamental essence of their social and economic system. With the advent of World War Two, he imposed this same construct upon occupied/friendly nations, in varying degrees depending upon the nature of the relationship. Many nations with rigid class systems, socio-economic tension, and majority-minority ethnic tension found this peculiar mix useful in their local environment. Nations that adopted this approach were Chile, Argentina, Iraq, South Africa, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.
Hitler did have economic planning, as the Soviets did, but as we discussed above with the associative fallacy, this does not make him a socialist. Most nations from the 1920s up through the 1970s engaged in some form of economic planning, very few of which were or would have considered themselves, Socialist. President Eisenhower had massive economic planning and public works programs, such as the National Highway System. Yet Dwight D. Eisenhower, clearly, was not a Socialist.
The writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky were banned. If Hitler was a socialist, then why ban and burn in bonfires, the leading proponents of such an economic/philosophical/political system?
Racism and Antisemitism are the biggest taboos in Socialist theory. The idea, according to Marx and other socialists, was that the elite use racism and anti-Semitism to divide and distract the poor, such that they cannot effectively organize in the advancement of their own economic interests.
For example, in Czarist Russia, there would often be famines. The peasants would revolt, and, armed with pitchforks would storm into the large palace/estate of the local nobleman (called a Boyar). The Boyar would often have vast stores of grain and food, enough to help the peasants. But he would not share. Instead, he would tell the Peasants that the local Jews or Gypsies ruined the harvest and that they are the reason why Russian babies are forced to starve in winter. Oftentimes, they would produce the Protocols of the Wise Elders of Zion, a famous forgery created by the Czarist secret police, precisely for this reason.
The peasants would then initiate and carry-out a violent, murderous pogrom in the local Jewish village, but to no avail. They would find no extra food. The crops of the Jewish farmers were similarly impacted by the bad harvest: they simply had a bad summer with insufficient rain.
Rather than unite with their Jewish brothers and protest the local nobleman and ask for food, the Russian peasants succumbed to their hatred of the “other.” In so doing, they were easily manipulated by the nobility. At the end of the day, both the Russian Jews and the Russian peasants lose. The Boyar nobleman wins. This is why Socialism hated ethnic and religious intolerance. They saw it as the #1 impediment to effective working-class consciousness and working-class unity.
Wealth Redistribution--> Socialists believe in a progressive income tax. The higher the tax bracket, the higher the portion of one’s income that is taxed. Not just income, but all forms of property, whether land, capital gains, etc. A disproportionate distribution of wealth translates into a disproportionate distribution of political power that corrupts and degrades the concept of democratic political equality inherent in the maxim: “One man-one vote.” Political rights are largely useless and ineffectual if one is too hungry, diseased, ignorant and exhausted to exercise said rights in a meaningful way. As such, economic justice, according to socialists, is a necessary prerequisite for meaningful and effectual, participatory democratic government.
Hitler did not redistribute the wealth of the German aristocracy. This was part of the bargain from the outset of the Third Reich. Rather, he confiscated the wealth and property of a disliked minority within the Reich, namely, the Jews. It was with confiscated Jewish money and later, the looted money derived from conquest, that funded the Nazi social welfare apparatus.
Kaiser Wilhelm II once told Hitler that Germany can’t pursue a policy of total war and total social welfare at the same time--that you can’t buy both guns and butter. Hermann Göring replied for his master and said that the Reich would, indeed, provide both guns and butter, and in vast quantities at that. What he didn’t mention was that German guns would be used to steal Jewish butter and that without the guns, nobody would be able to get any butter, because the wealthy elite in Germany weren’t willing to share it.
Ergo, unlike in true socialism, where the wealth of the collective majority of the people is pooled into a general fund, through legal taxation and redistributed according to need (from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs), the Third Reich cheated, by stealing money from its Jewish citizens. Basically, the wealthy aristocracy of Germany sacraficed the lives and property of its wealthy Jewish brethren, in order to preserve its own inherited wealth and property. This was Leon Trotsky’s essential argument. http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/index.htm