Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Wednesday, August 4, 2021. The current temperature is 77˚F under sunny skies. With humidity at 73% and a southeasterly breeze blowing at 9 MPH, the feels-like temperature is 76˚F. Today we can expect more Florida-style subtropical weather: the forecast calls for scattered rain showers and a high of 86˚F. Tonight, scattered rain showers will continue. The low will be 76˚F. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 22 or Good.
Even though it is midsummer, it’s cool – for Florida, anyway – because we already had some heavy downpours earlier this morning. It was raining hard when I got up around 7 AM, and when I saw a weather report on our local ABC affiliate while I ate breakfast, I saw a shot of the Doppler radar loop. Man, It showed a line of thunderstorms and heavy showers that covered the eastern half of the county where I live. I think it was moving to the east or southeast on a sea breeze from the Gulf of Mexico – I am not certain because I was still a bit sleepy and not really paying attention.
Apparently, that line of squalls has – per my Weather app’s radar map – indeed moved off to the interior part of the state, and another, less severe-looking line of showers is moving in from the Gulf. Hopefully all we will get from that is a bunch of scattered showers and no thunderstorms!
The Conservative Mindset
You know what never ceases to amaze me? The simplistic, dishonest, topsy-turvy, and unimaginative mindset of what passes for conservatism in the U.S. and other Western countries.
For instance, it is now fashionable in conservative circles, especially among the far right, to rewrite world history – especially when it comes to World War II and the nature of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
According to Republicans who support former President Donald Trump, Hitler, the Austrian-born demagogue who was appointed as Germany’s Chancellor in January 1933 and ruled the nation as its dictatorial Fuhrer for 12 years was not a far-right demagogue, but rather a Communist who, in the delusions of the MAGA crowd, inspires the modern Democratic Party and its adherents.
Per Adolf Hitler was not a socialist (Vox, March 27, 2019), the new spin from Trump era Republicans is that Hitler and the Nazis were on the same side of the political spectrum as Soviet leader Josef Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Here is what Vox staff writer Jane Coaston has to say about how some Republican politicians – including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) – have taken to saying Hitler and the Nazis were not fascists (extreme right-wingers) but socialists.
On Monday, after the end of the Mueller investigation, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks took to the House floor to denounce the probe as “the big lie” — and to link it to what he said was another of history’s greatest lies.
Discussing special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign’s ties with Russia, Brooks said, “socialist Democrats and their fake news allies … have perpetrated the biggest political lie, con, scam, and fraud in American history.”
Brooks went on, saying, “In that vein, I quote from another socialist who mastered big lie propaganda to a maximum, and deadly, effect.” And then, after reading a long quote about how “broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature,” Brooks got to his big conclusion:
“Who is this big lie master? That quote was in 1925 by a member of Germany’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party—that’s right, Germany’s socialist party—more commonly known as the Nazis. The author was socialist Adolf Hitler, in his book Mein Kampf.”
Now, if you know anything about the Second World War, Hitler, the Nazi Party, and the politics of the Third Reich, you already know that Brooks is being disingenuous and twisting history to fit his pro-Trump narrative.
And, as Coaston points out in her Vox piece, Brooks is not the only conservative member of Congress to argue that Hitler was a leftist and that Democrats in the U.S. are the philosophical heirs of the Nazis.
And Brooks was somehow not alone in making the “Nazis were socialists” argument in Congress this week. Rep. Louis Gohmert did the same, during a House Judiciary Committee meeting about a GOP resolution on the Mueller probe in which he said the Justice Department could, in the future, enable “another socialist like Hitler to come along.”
There are many, many, many things wrong with Rep. Brooks’s and Rep. Gohmert’s understanding of Nazism, from a basic misunderstanding of Nazism and Nazi ideology to what I term the ‘Americanization’ of Nazism: an effort to put Nazi Germany somewhere on the American political axis, where it very much does not belong.
You see, Brooks, Gohmert, and like-minded right-wingers hang their absurd argument on one detail: the name of what we refer to usually as the Nazi Party. The term “Nazi” is actually a German colloquial abbreviation of its real, longer name: National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in German).
According to the encyclopedic entry in Wikipedia:
The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a far-right political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of Nazism. Its precursor, the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei; DAP), existed from 1919 to 1920. The Nazi Party emerged from the German nationalist, racist and populist Freikorps paramilitary culture, which fought against the communist uprisings in post-World War I Germany. The party was created to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch nationalism. Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric. This was later downplayed to gain the support of business leaders, and in the 1930s the party’s main focus shifted to antisemitic and anti-Marxist themes.
That the Nazis were a far-right (rather than a far-left) movement is a fact that anyone with any familiarity with Hitler’s political views and especially his insistence of destroying Marxism (which he said was a Jewish invention) by invading the Soviet Union knows. I’ve known this since I started reading books about World War II when I was a young boy living in Bogota, Colombia. Only in the crazy fringe of the conservative movement – which clearly does not like the fact that the Nazis were on the extreme end of its side of the political spectrum – do we hear the Orwellian claim that “Nazis were Communists.”
Of course, the one thread that folks like Brooks and Gohmert, as well as Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) grab onto is that the NSDAP called itself a “national socialist” movement.
Again, let’s turn to Seaton’s essay on Vox for a clear, fact-based explanation as to why it is historically wrong to label Hitler and the Nazis as “Socialists.”
[D]espite joining what would be called the “National Socialist” German workers party, Adolf Hitler was not a socialist. Far from it. In fact, in July 1921, Hitler briefly left the NSDAP because an affiliate of the party in Augsburg signed an agreement with the German Socialist Party in that city, only returning when he had been largely given control of the party itself.
Whatever interest Hitler had in socialism was not based on an understanding of socialism that we might have today — a movement that would supplant capitalism in which the working class would seize power over the state and the means of production. He repeatedly pushed back efforts by economically left-leaning elements of the party to enact socialist reforms, saying in a 1926 conference in Bamberg (organized by Nazi Party leaders over the very question of the party’s ideological underpinnings) that any effort to take the homes and estates of German princes would move the party toward communism and that he would never do anything to assist “communist-inspired movements.” He prohibited the formation of Nazi trade unions, and by 1929 he outright rejected any efforts by Nazis who argued in favor of socialistic ideas or projects in their entirety….
Rather, Hitler viewed socialism as a political organizing mechanism for the German people more broadly: a way of creating a “people’s community” — the volksgemeinschaft — that would bring everyday Germans (and businesspeople) together not based on their class but on their race and ethnicity. Thus, he would use the unifying aspects of “National Socialism” to get everyday Germans on board with the Nazi program while simultaneously negotiating with powerful businesses and the Junkers, industrialists and nobility.
Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 not just for territorial expansion and the creation of “living space” (lebensraum) for the German people, but also to destroy Marxism-Leninism (or Bolshevism, as he more frequently called Communism) once and for all. It was on the Eastern Front that Germany unleashed its brutality and racist ideology with far more zeal than it did against the Western Allies and the occupied territories in Western Europe.
Here’s a relevant quote from Adolf Hitler regarding the difference between the Nazis and the Communists:
The Germany of today is a National Socialist State. The ideology that dominates us is in diametrical contradiction to that of Soviet Russia. National Socialism is a doctrine that has reference exclusively to the German people. Bolshevism lays stress on international mission. We National Socialists believe a man can, in the long run, be happy only among his own people. We are convinced the happiness and achievements of Europe are indissolubly tied up with the continuation of the system of independent and free national States. Bolshevism preaches the establishment of a world empire and recognizes only section of a central international. We National Socialists grant each people the right to its own inner life according to its needs and its own nature. Bolshevism, on the other hand, establishes doctrinal theories that are to be accepted by all peoples, regardless of their particular essence, their special nature, traditions, etc. National Socialism speaks up for the solution of social problems, issues and tensions in their own nation, with methods that are consistent with our common human, spiritual, cultural and economic beliefs, traditions and conditions. Bolshevism preaches the international class struggle, the international world revolution with the weapons of the terror and the violence. National Socialism fights for the reconciliation and consequent adjustment of the differences in life and the union of all for common benefits. Bolshevism teaches the overcoming of an alleged class rule by the dictatorship of the power of a different class. National Socialism does not attach importance to a only theoretical rule of the working class, but especially on the practical improvement of their living conditions and standard of living. Bolshevism fights for a theory and, for it, sacrifices millions of people, immense values of traditional culture and traditions, and achieves, compared with us, only a very low standard of living for all. – Speech made at the Reichstag (21 May 1935)
Hitler loved to twist terminology like “Socialism” and “Communism” to suit his political goal of making the Nazi Party the sole political organization in Germany. Just like Communist nations use the term “Democratic Republic” in their official names – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea comes to mind – the Nazis loved to play word games to obfuscate the public about their political beliefs.
Here is Seaton again on Hitler’s habit of bandying semantics regarding “Socialism” and “National Socialism”:
The best example of Hitler’s own views on socialism are evident in a debate he had over two days in May 1930 with then-party member Otto Strasser. Strasser and his brother Gregor, who was an avowed socialist of sorts, were a part of the Nazi Party’s left wing, arguing in favor of political socialism as an essential ingredient in Nazism.
But Hitler did not agree. When Strasser argues for “revolutionary socialism,” Hitler dismisses the idea, arguing that workers are too simple to ever understand socialism:
“Your socialism is Marxism pure and simple. You see, the great mass of workers only wants bread and circuses. Ideas are not accessible to them and we cannot hope to win them over. We attach ourselves to the fringe, the race of lords, which did not grow through a miserabilist doctrine and knows by the virtue of its own character that it is called to rule, and rule without weakness over the masses of beings.”
And when Strasser calls for the return of 41 percent of private property to the state and dismisses the role of private property in an industrialized economy, Hitler tells him that will not only ruin “the entire nation” but also “end all progress of humanity.”
In fact, Hitler dismisses even the idea of challenging the status of capitalism, telling Strasser that his socialism is actually Marxism and making the argument that powerful businessmen were powerful because they were evolutionarily superior to their employees. Thus, Hitler argues, a “workers council” taking charge of a company would only get in the way.
“Our great heads of industry are not concerned with the accumulation of wealth and the good life, rather they are concerned with responsibility and power. They have acquired this right by natural selection: they are members of the higher race. But you would surround them with a council of incompetents, who have no notion of anything. No economic leader can accept that.”
Again, there are many books and documentaries about the Nazis, Hitler, World War II, and the life-or-death struggle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia that prove, without a doubt, that the National Socialist Party had about as much in common with Socialists/Communists/Bolsheviks as I do with the average Trump supporter.
So, if anyone out there says to you that U.S. Democrats are analogous to Nazis and that they have the same goals, avoid getting into an argument with that person. But, if you must argue, just refer them to this blog post or any of the sources cited in it. Preferably, avoiding right-wing nuts who share the viewpoints of Mo Brooks and Louie Gohmert should be your first – and best – option. But if that’s not possible, fight the “big lie” with facts!
Adolf Hitler was not a socialist, Jane Coaston, in the March 27, 2019 Vox post
7 thoughts on “On Right-Wing Lunacy: How the Right Wants You to Think that Hitler Was a ‘Socialist’”
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We live in the disinformation era. Goebbels would be proud.
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Also, if you look at the graphic with the number of deaths caused by ideologies or religions, the figures posted for deaths under each “regime” are wildly inaccurate. For instance, the numbers of millions killed because of Nazi aggression are too low. In the Soviet Union, 25 million people, most of them civilians, are estimated to have died during the “Great Patriotic War” (June 22, 1941-May 2, 1945). And that was just in one of the countries Hitler invaded. Poland lost 3 million to the Nazis during the war. Right there the number exceeds the “21 million” figure in that stupid meme.
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Well written piece, Alex. Thanks for sharing. It reminds me of an argument my brother and I had several years ago in which he said that Hitler and the Nazis were left wingers using the term Hitler used (National Socialism). It’s funny how people can turn ANYTHING around to suit their needs. I replied that, to his way of thinking, the NEO-nazis are left wingers? He knows better than that so he quit talking.
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Thanks for the compliment!
Unfortunately, the “Hitler was a socialist” BS has a lot of traction with right-wingers, especially those who try REALLY hard to convince others (and perhaps themselves) that fascism is a construct of the left, rather than being a toxic and extreme extension of conservatism.
Remember, folks who say the Nazis were socialists tend to be the same ones who say the Civil War was NOT fought over slavery.
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