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March 15, 2010

Comments

TDK

I predict you will get leftists claiming that what distinguishes Hitler from the left is racism.

Those who would comment thus are reminded that leftists before the 20th century were frequently racist. I recommend you read of the racism of Marx/Engels:
http://marxwords.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html#3501802354389011251
and
http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/05/12/karl-marx-radical-antisemitism/

Anna

"I predict you will get leftists claiming that what distinguishes Hitler from the left is racism."

So Marx wasn't left wing? =:0

TDK

Incidentally, I think it was "Hitler's Willing Executioners" that showed that Hitler had no lack of support from the "progressive" German professors. Now obviously German professors will have carefully studied the actual dynamics of history and culture; and ... trained themselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition ... which explains why many of them were Nazis. [that might be a slight misquote]

Ed

"Anti-Semitism is really a hatred of capitalism."

Almost sounds like a headline from Comment is Free...

David

TDK,

“I predict you will get leftists claiming that what distinguishes Hitler from the left is racism.”

Which would be a strange line to take, given the quotes above and quite a few others like them. To say nothing of numerous items that have appeared in the Guardian. I suppose it’s rather like how there are people who read Marx and Engels and somehow overlook the repeated, almost salacious, references to “revolutionary terror”* and the “complete extirpation” of “reactionary peoples.”** As if the actions that followed had nothing at all to do with was written and shouted.

Likewise, maybe it’s possible to overlook the parallels between Stalin’s “engineers of the human soul” and Hitler’s belief that, “National socialism is the determination to create a new man. There will no longer exist any individual arbitrary will, nor realms in which the individual belongs to himself. The time of happiness as a private matter is over.” Maybe the collectivist fetish and repeated advocacy of socialism – as in Goebbels’ “socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole” – can pass unnoticed. If one tries hard enough.

*Karl Marx, “The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna,” Neue Rheinische Zeitung, November 6, 1848.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/11/06.htm

** Friedrich Engels, “The Magyar Struggle,” Neue Rheinische Zeitung, January 13, 1849.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/01/13.htm

 Simen

Keeping the left-right divide alive enables one to position the things one likes on the 'left' and the things one dislikes on the 'right'. The challenge becomes how to move things from the 'left' to the 'right' when one starts disliking them.

Jonah Goldberg (Liberal Fascism) makes a point out of this, in that both Mussolini and Hitler were supported by the Bolsheviks and other communists as leftist before they rejected Stalins international socialism for national socialism.

Likewise, the failed socialist experiments often get referred to as 'right-wing' or fascist, but I've always wondered exactly when they stopped being communist and started being fascist instead, and if that is a change - for others unnoticeable - that could befall the current socialist experiments as well.

I've generally not received any clear - or for that matter polite - answers when I've tried asking about this.

-S

David

Simen,

“Keeping the left-right divide alive enables one to position the things one likes on the ‘left’ and the things one dislikes on the ‘right’. The challenge becomes how to move things from the ‘left’ to the ‘right’ when one starts disliking them.”

Heh. Quite. I’ve known one or two people who defined themselves as being against anything “rightwing,” which in itself apparently made them virtuous. Though the pile of things scorned as “rightwing” was vast and often puzzling.

This place is often labelled – or rather denounced – as “rightwing” and the message board linked above refers to me as “conservative,” which doesn’t seem quite right somehow. If I had to choose a box to stand on, I’d probably go with “classical liberal,” though the word “liberal” now has connotations that are perverse. It’s curious, though, how favouring individualism and disliking authoritarianism is now labelled “rightwing” and therefore, in some minds, synonymous with “evil.”

I think of racism as essentially a collectivist vice – the individual is denied in favour of some notional tribe, all members of which are supposedly interchangeable. So, to me, it’s no great surprise to find Marx airing racist fantasies. If nothing else, it fits his standard rhetorical template and a pointed trend in his thinking. It’s been years since I read any Marx and I’ve no great urge to revisit him. But I don’t recall Marx showing much interest in people as individuals. For all the professed concern for the poor, for “the people,” that concern was expressed in terms of impersonal groups and notional categories. Despite the obvious bitterness and contempt, it all seemed rather abstract. Lots of ostentatious concern for “the” people, but not for actual, individual people. Including, apparently, his own illegitimate child, which I suspect may tell us something.

Tom Foster

'I think of racism as essentially a collectivist vice – the individual is denied in favour of some notional tribe, all members of which are supposedly interchangeable. So, to me, it’s no great surprise to find Marx airing racist fantasies. If nothing else, it fits his standard rhetorical template and a pointed trend in his thinking. It’s been years since I read any Marx and I’ve no great urge to revisit him. But I don’t recall Marx showing much interest in people as individuals. For all the professed concern for the poor, for “the people,” that concern was expressed in terms of impersonal groups and notional categories.'

This kind of attitude explains people like Terry Eagleton and the sort of thing Norm Geras was drawing attention to here:

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2010/03/liberals-against-illiberalism-what-next.html

Leftists like Eagleton often display total contempt for individual people, while reserving their 'respect' for 'groups' or 'communities' or 'movements'. Lindsey German, when it came down to choosing fundamentalist Islam or gay rights, knew exactly where her priorities lay:

'I'm in favour of defending gay rights, [...] but I am not prepared to have it as a shibboleth, [created by] people who . . . regard the state of Israel as somehow a viable presence.'

It seems that these days it is 'right wing' to show concern for the rights of women, homosexuals and any and all dissenters from prevailing Islamic orthodoxy. Standing up for the right of Islam as a monolithic 'movement' to oppress whoever it chooses, on the other hand, seems to be 'left wing'.

Strange days indeed.

Mark

I think if you were to distill the left/right divide down to its most fundamental differences, it would be:

Politics / society: "community" vs "individual"
Economics: "controlled economy" vs "free market"

Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't oddities in this - a lot of US Republican religious supporters today are arguably left-wing on the social front for example, and I'll be the first to say you don't want to go to extremes on either side.

Thoughts?

tehag

Socialism was founded on racism. When Socialism began, "race" meant something then similar to "nationality" now, but the characteristics of the nation were believed inherent in the race. The French race (& German & British & Polish) existed as a strange-to-us fusion of culture and biology, because we have split the 19th century concept of race into different components.

Socialism promised to create a new race of men by creating new environmental conditions (defined by Marx as economic, the most important part of the environment) that would cause the New Socialist (or Soviet) Man to evolve from the obsolete races. That some of the races would be destroyed was taken as inevitable: that is even with changes in the environment some races would not change and must be destroyed. Thus Socialism managed to combine racial hatred, Lamarkian evolution, crackpot economics, and bogus theories of human nature into a vile ideology that murdered millions in pursuit of impossible goals. It is still triumph today. It will repeat those tragedies.

The similarity to Nazism should be obvious, though the Nazi professors and academics made some changes: the New Man already existed-the Aryan.

Anna

From the guy who thinks National Socialism wasn't left wing:

"This semester I decided to switch my minor from economics to political science because the econ department in Behrend was so orthodox."

Edgy!

KMcC

remember the BNP's slogan: Workers must own and owners must work. Which I've run past a few leftist friends before, got their approval and then enjoyed watching the contortions once I reveal the source.

Here's a book that sheds some light on the matter:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Faces-Janus-Marxism-Fascism-Twentieth/dp/0300106025/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268664826&sr=8-6

I'm about halfway through. The argument seems to be that the definition of fascism as a right-wing phenomenon was first offered by Marxist theorists flushed with the apparent success of the Russian Revolution and expecting imminently the arrival of worldwide communism. They couldn't understand events on the Italian peninsula, which had not been predicted by standard Marxism. So fascism must be a sign of the fatal morbidity of capitalism, mustn't it? After all, the workers' paradise was at hand; Italian fascism must be a death-spasm of the old order. However, the similarities of fascism and socialism, and their common roots, are slowly becoming more clear as the Marxist weeds wither and die.

David

Tom,

“Leftists like Eagleton often display total contempt for individual people, while reserving their ‘respect’ for ‘groups’ or ‘communities’ or ‘movements’.”

And there’s the rub. Once you start thinking in terms of Designated Victim Groups (and Designated Oppressor Groups) and the supposed “rights” of such groups (as opposed to those of actual people), unrealism becomes hard to avoid. In its milder forms, we arrive at routine idiocy – Joseph Harker, Shakti Butler, Noel Ignatiev et al – along with little indecencies like this, in which people become pigmented trophies in a PC collection:

“Very casually, the vice president said that a transfer would be difficult because my departure would leave two same gendered people of the same race in that office, and there would be some difficulty ‘finding another black woman to replace you’.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/04/not-a-person-but-a-group.html

And in its most serious forms, we arrive at man-made famines and death on a scale that’s hard to imagine.

David

Just updated the post with a couple of relevant quotes. Longer versions are reproduced below:

“We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”

Adolf Hitler, speech, May 1, 1927. [Quoted in John Toland’s Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. Anchor, 1976, p. 306.]

http://www.stephenhicks.org/2009/12/04/economic-socialism-not-capitalism-section-8-of-nietzsche-and-the-nazis/

“To put it quite clearly: we have an economic programme. Point #13 in that programme demands the nationalisation of all public companies, in other words socialisation, or what is known here as socialism… The basic principle of my party’s economic programme should be made perfectly clear and that is the principle of authority... the good of the community takes priority over that of the individual... Every owner should feel himself to be an agent of the State... If you say that the bourgeoisie is tearing its hair over the question of private property, that does not affect me in the least. Does the bourgeoisie expect some consideration from me? ...The bourgeois press does me damage too and would like to consign me and my movement to the devil. You are, after all a representative of the bourgeoisie... your press thinks it must continuously distort my ideas… We do not intend to nail every rich Jew to the telegraph poles on the Munich-Berlin road.”

Adolf Hitler to Richard Breiting, “bourgeois” newspaper editor, 1931. [Published in Edouard Calic, ed., “First Interview with Hitler,” Secret Conversations with Hitler: The Two Newly-Discovered 1931 Interviews. John Day Co., 1971, pp. 31-35.]

http://www.stephenhicks.org/2009/12/04/appendix-2-quotations-on-nazi-socialism-and-fascism-nietzsche-and-the-nazis/

John D

A racist socialist? It's unheard of.

/ heavy sarcasm

Rich

People tend to think of left and right as opposite ends of a spectrum. I find it more useful to imagine a circle. Go too far in either direction and you end up in the same place, at the bottom.

Steve

David wrote: "This place is often labelled – or rather denounced – as “rightwing” and the message board linked above refers to me as “conservative”

Of course. You are opposed to collective stupidity, so that puts you well beyond the fraternal membership of the club of fools.

Andrew Zalotocky

Nazism combined some ideas that are traditionally associated with the left (e.g. anti-capitalism) with some ideas that are traditionally associated with the right (e.g. nationalism) and then added a huge dose of Germanic racial mysticism. The result was a unique hybrid that contains elements of "left" and "right" but doesn't fit wholly into either tradition. But what Hitler really cared about was race. He used "left-wing" anti-capitalism and "right-wing" nationalism as tools to promote a collectivism based on his own ideas of the German master race. So the correct answer to the question "were the Nazis left-wing or right-wing?" is "neither".

dicentra

"People tend to think of left and right as opposite ends of a spectrum. I find it more useful to imagine a circle. Go too far in either direction and you end up in the same place, at the bottom."

Left and right ARE a spectrum if you posit that Left = Total Gubmint and Right = Anarchy.

Of course, anarchy is violently unstable and usually leads to a strongman taking charge to keep the peace, aka the Taliban.

Of course, that never stopped this guy from telling me that Jesus was an anarchist, which is like socialist only moreso. Or less. I never could tell.

dicentra

"ideas that are traditionally associated with the right (e.g. nationalism)"

When did that association occur: before or after WWI?

Because here in the U.S., Woodrow Wilson was very nationalist and also our first fascist president (so sayeth Jonah Goldberg).

What does "right" even mean, is what I want to know. Devoid of the Left's definition of it, that is.

dicentra

Oops! Tried to embed the link for "this guy" in my penultimate.

http://proteinwisdom.com/pub/?p=2970

Spiny Norman

dicentra,

HTML is turned off. David says he likes to keep it simple. ;^)

Oh, while I somewhat agree with Andrew that the correct answer is "neither", Fascism/Nazism and Communism are, in reality, two sides of the Collectivist coin, and Collectivism is a product of the Left. Full stop.

Spiny Norman

I've always believed that the Left's claims that the the Nazis were "right wing" is based entirely on the Nazis being anti-Bolshevik.

thefrollickingmole

This is also quite useful, its the 25 points the NSDP took as their party platform when they first started.

I hope noone minds if I cut and paste it here, the link has the much more detailed version that is well worth a look.

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/25points.html

Unification of Greater Germany (Austria + Germany)
Land + expansion
Anti-Versailles - abrogation of the Treaty.
Land and territory - lebensraum.
Only a "member of the race" can be a citizen.
Anti-semitism - No Jew can be a member of the race.
Anti-foreigner - only citizens can live in Germany.
No immigration - ref. to Jews fleeing pograms.
Everyone must work.
Abolition of unearned income - "no rent-slavery".
Nationalisation of industry
Divison of profits
Extension of old age welfare.
Land reform
Death to all criminals
German law, not Roman law (anti- French Rev.)
Education to teach "the German Way"
Education of gifted children
Protection of mother and child by outlawing child labour.
Encouraging gymnastics and swimming
Formation a national army.
Duty of the state to provide for its volk.
Duty of individuals to the state

To my limited mind the term "nationalisation of industry" seems a little more Marx than Thatcher or Regan....

David

Andrew,

“The result was a unique hybrid that contains elements of ‘left’ and ‘right’ but doesn’t fit wholly into either tradition.”

What I find interesting is how the socialism aspect is often downplayed, even ignored, despite it being expressed by Hitler, Goebbels and others often and vehemently, and in overtly Marxist terms. (As Dicentra puts it elsewhere, Stalin versus Hitler is rather like Coke versus Pepsi in a fight for market share. The products on offer are not dissimilar.) Given the nasty, paranoid anti-Semitic bluster to be found in Marx, and given the influence of Marxist rhetoric on the Nazis, I’d have thought this theme might warrant some exploration, even in popular accounts.

Some argue the Nazis were only “rhetorical socialists” – i.e. in name only – but that doesn’t quite convince. Unless socialism is being defined in a way that excludes a range of common socialist theories regarding property, the state and the bourgeoisie, and a strident emphasis on collectivism in general. Obviously the Nazis devised a distinctive strain of collectivism and made numerous pragmatic exceptions and associations, as is generally the case. But as Stephen Hicks points out, calling the Nazis “rhetorical” socialists is rather like saying they were “rhetorical” racists or “rhetorical” eugenicists.

But I wonder if there’s something else going on here, something not unrelated to recent posts involving communist projection and Che Guevara chic. Maybe the reluctance to acknowledge Hitler’s brand of socialism and the anti-Semitic crossover with Marx involves a reluctance to connect economic control fantasies with other urges to control, even though one may follow from the other or share a common root. Maybe there’s a desire to keep the image of egalitarianism unblemished, at least in its potential, as though it couldn’t possibly have common ground with anything untoward. Denying the realities of socialist utopias isn’t exactly unknown...

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/02/projection-indeed.html

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/03/they-are-ridiculous.html

rxc

David,

Thanks for the link to Stephen Hicks' page. I just read the first chapter of his book, and it is the clearest explanation of this "philosophy" that I have seen, and a LOT of what is going on in politics is now becoming clear. It seems to me that the eco-left wants to move BACK from the age of reason to the age of belief, but with THEM as the priests in charge. The creation of new myths, the use of guilt, mother-earth worship, it all fits together.

Once again, thanks for the link - it is fascinating

Ralph

"Given the nasty, paranoid anti-Semitic bluster to be found in Marx, and given the influence of Marxist rhetoric on the Nazis, I'd have thought this theme might warrant some exploration, even in popular accounts."

But if you connect the dots Marxism looks even worse. So we won't connect the dots. And you're just right wing. And evil. Bleh. ;)

Mark

"Thanks for the link to Stephen Hicks' page. I just read the first chapter of his book, and it is the clearest explanation of this "philosophy" that I have seen, and a LOT of what is going on in politics is now becoming clear. It seems to me that the eco-left wants to move BACK from the age of reason to the age of belief, but with THEM as the priests in charge. The creation of new myths, the use of guilt, mother-earth worship, it all fits together."

Plenty of people have been saying that the eco-nutters often resemble religious zealots more than rational people for a while now. It gets extra fun when you find the types that support killing 6/7 of the global population or something like that in order to "preserve" the world. To which my answer is "sure, but only after you first help me build Orion rockets for us sane people to leave Earth with". Cookie to them if they figure out the issue with those things...

TDK

I don't buy this idea that left and right are a spectrum or a circle. The plain fact is that left and right as descriptions of political orientation derive from the French Revolution. They served some kind of purpose then and have been reused ever since. However, when faced with a conundrum such as was fascism left or right it fails as a useful descriptor. In themselves, the terms left & right contain no useful information. However, there are other oppositions that are useful

Collectivism vs Individualism
Free market vs State Management
Utopianism vs Conservatism (ie a belief that changes may bring unforeseen (undesirable) consequences)

On all these indicators, Socialists and Fascists end up together.

I'm intrigued by Andrew Zalotocky's claim that Nationalism is an idea of the right. Clearly you have no knowledge of the left's support for Nationalist ideas throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Moreover, it ignores the fact that Nationalist Revolutions were frequently against Conservative forces. And of course, there was no "Mother Russia" to inspire Stalin's forces.

More to the point, I'm intrigued by the idea that Hitler appealed to right wing forces in general. The principle opposition to his rule came from the Junkers and the Prussian elite, probably the most conservative elements in German society. Nazis were openly hostile to the church and other traditional institutions. They wanted to to control industry, not by nationalising it but, by enforcing party control via "workers committees". They were angry about war profiteering and about all the other traditional enemies of the left like big department stores. Conversely Michael Burleigh has shown how ordinary members of the Communist Party were welcomed by Hitler, who thought they made better party members than Social Democrat converts.

David

TDK,

“Michael Burleigh has shown how ordinary members of the Communist Party were welcomed by Hitler, who thought they made better party members than Social Democrat converts.”

The Nazi movement rose to power exploiting revolutionary anti-capitalist, anti-bourgeois rhetoric and presumably much of the rank and file membership found this congenial and imagined themselves as revolutionary, anti-capitalist, anti-bourgeois figures. (It seems reasonable to suppose that the rhetoric, which Hitler valued so highly, was intended to appeal to its audience.) In Mein Kampf, Hitler writes of his deliberate solicitation of communists and “class-conscious proletarians,” and in power his rhetoric still returned to “the workers” and the “fist of the proletariat.” The 1920 Nazi platform railed against individual self-interest and promised to execute “usurers,” expropriate private land and abolish private incomes, which sounds pretty collectivist to me.

http://www.hitler.org/writings/programme/

Hermann Rauschning, whose account is disputed, quotes Hitler as saying, “The difference between [Marxists] and myself is that I have really put into practice what these peddlers and pen-pushers have timidly begun. The whole of National Socialism is based on it [i.e., on Marxism].” Yet there are some, like Robert Heilbroner and Margaret Cole (both socialists), who would have us believe that the socialism in National Socialism was merely rhetorical or inauthentic – as though no actual socialist sentiment existed among the movement’s members and supporters.

mlrosty

More from Mr Message Board:

"I often wonder how people can live in the same world as me and study history without being Marxists. I guess I underestimate bourgeois hegemony."

TDK

Yes, I was going to use some Rauschning quotes from George Watson book but work distracted me.

David

TDK,

Aside from his unwavering racism, one could, I think, argue that Hitler was in many ways an ideological opportunist – using it as a tool rather than necessarily believing in it, at least not consistently. There are, for instance, plenty of quotes in which Hitler denounces Marxism as “Jewish” and something to be “destroyed.” But it’s worth noting that Hitler’s key objections to Marxist collectivism typically centred on the role of the nation and national identity. (I don’t think he was smitten by the “workers of the world” shtick.) So again, it seems the conflict was between a brand of “international” socialism and its fervently nationalist cousin. Or, as Jonah Goldberg puts it, “two dogs fighting for the same bone.”

Framing Nazism as antithetical to communism and its variants seems to miss the larger point. I see it as a rival manifestation of the same collectivist urge and appealing to very similar sentiments. Even if one were to assume total opportunism on the part of Hitler and his associates, that still leaves the issue of the broader membership to which their extreme socialist rhetoric was tailored, successfully. (And if nationalism is now being framed as inherently “rightwing,” as if to neutralise all that socialism business, then what are we to make of Castro or Pol Pot? Even the “internationalist” Stalin came to see value in the idea of “Mother Russia.”) Yes, the Nazis destroyed much of the existing German left, using similar language and similar assumptions, even similar colour schemes; but it seems they did so in order to replace it, with themselves.

georges

I'm sorry, but the attempt to portray Fascism as essentially a mutant version of Marxism seems ridiculous to me. For one thing, in Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Slovakia and many other places the Catholic Church was heavily involved in the Fascist movement. The leader of the Slovakian fascists was a Catholic priest.

It would be difficult to argue that General Franco was ideologically close to Marx, surely? How about the Croatian Ustase? Josef Tiso? Admiral Horthy? Emperor Hirohito? Were they all Marxists too?

Regarding Hitler, whatever he said before taking power, the fact is that the Krupp family kept their business. The state did not take it away from them. Companies were not nationalised in the Soviet style. There was state direction of industry for war purposes - as there was everywhere, including the USA. But militarised Keynesianism isn't the same thing as Soviet collectivisation.

David

Georges,

“...the attempt to portray Fascism as essentially a mutant version of Marxism seems ridiculous to me.”

I’m not sure who you’re addressing with this. I don’t recall anyone here attempting to portray “fascism” – i.e., all fascist movements or fascism in general - as a “mutant version of Marxism.” Perhaps you’ve misunderstood. I think TDK noted some broad criteria that tend to put communism and fascism in much the same place in terms of collectivism, state management and utopianism. He also noted that, “when faced with a conundrum such as was fascism, left or right fails as a useful descriptor.” That’s about it, unless I’ve missed something. Noting some obvious points of crossover between key Nazis and Marxism, using the words and documents of Nazis themselves, doesn’t seem to imply much about other forms of totalitarianism.

I’m not attempting any broad formulation here; I’ve just noted some points of influence and connection that are often overlooked. What interests me is how vehemently some people react to evidence that overtly socialist ideas derived from Marxist rhetoric informed the Nazi worldview, along with many other things. I’m not sure why this fairly obvious (and, to me, unremarkable) line of thought should cause such agitation. I don’t think anyone here is suggesting that socialism leads to Nazism or that people who read Marx go on to torment kittens.

Incidentally, I’ve been sent a heated email that says, among other things, “Glad to know you can boast of being well-versed in Nazi ideology. It sure fits with the rest of your views.”

Which rather illustrates my point.

Anna

"Glad to know you can boast of being well-versed in Nazi ideology. It sure fits with the rest of your views."

Wow. The dumb is strong with that one.

Tom Foster

'I think TDK noted some broad criteria that tend to put communism and fascism in much the same place in terms of collectivism, state management and utopianism. He also noted that, “when faced with a conundrum such as was fascism, left or right fails as a useful descriptor.” That’s about it, unless I’ve missed something.'

Indeed. A slightly different way of putting it might be to say that if Nazism is regarded as right wing, it's a comparatively short step for leftists to accuse moderate right wingers — old-school conservatives, say, who actually believe in things like small government and personal rights and responsibilities — of being Nazis (see almost any Guardian CIF discussion). Whereas the reality is that it's the lefties, some of them these days seemingly regarded as moderate or mainstream (see CIF once again), who are actually much closer to the fascists in their longing for more state control.

Incidentally, David, off-topic I know (but related to the strange mindset that seem to have become frighteningly common among people who still call themselves left wing), have you seen the frankly incredible piece in the Guardian today by Jack Shenker?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/mar/16/islamonline-egypt-qatar?showallcomments=true#comment-51

If they haven't been deleted by now, the comments by 'BeeStrikeMan' put the author nicely in his place, but the response by Brian Whitaker is just astonishing:

'If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air… Don't get me wrong, I'm not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading.'

This is nailed by GarryG who says:

'So why don't you spend a few hours on the StormFront website, and then come back and tell us how refreshing the BNP website is?'

Amazing. Just when I think they couldn't get any lower…

TDK Notarealname

In the case of Spain we have a bit more nuance than the standard narrative supplies.

I don't dispute, we have a Fascist Party in alliance with Conservative forces; perhaps a contrast to German fascism.

However, there were many players on both sides but the only unambiguously Fascist Party in Spain was the Falange. The Falange Party was created by Jose Antonio Primo De Rivera. It was initially a modernist republican party that claimed to champion the poor. In other words it had many simularities with the early Nazis. They chose the Nationalist side when the rebellion began. However their leader was in the wrong zone and was captured and subsequently executed by the Republicans. When Franco wanted to consolidate his rule he co-opted the Falange, forcing it to merge with the royalist Carlists. Not surprisingly the merged movement had a different political agenda.

Incidentally, Hitler is said to have regretted supporting Franco, saying he if he could have his time again he would have supported the Communists instead. Not that you can read too much into that.

Ronald Hilton (who discovered preparations for the Bay of Pigs and reported the fact to The Nation) wrote that prior to the Republic, leftists often admired Jose Antonio.

http://wais.stanford.edu/Spain/spain_JoseAntonio(102703).html

----------------

Here's a conundrum:

When the Nazis and Italian Fascists use Marxist phraseology it is apparently just rhetoric. They didn't mean it. However When movements in Japan, Portugal, Croatia, Slovakia et al use Fascist symbology and phraseology they do sincerely believe it. God forbid anyone claim that they believed it was the movement de jour and were being fashionable or opportunistic.

Think particularly about your claims concerning Slovakia and Croatia. These governments were generally regarded as puppet governments of the Nazi state. Can you make any claims about the nature of fascism from these examples?

Sarcasm aside, it is very difficult to actually define what fascism is. The more we think of it as a modernist movement opposed to traditional institutions, the more we think of Italy and Germany. The more we think of it as a military dictatorships and reaction, the more we think of Japan, Spain and Portugal. Nevertheless, all these examples share some common traits. They are all collectivist and statist.

And one final thought. Prior to WWII Socialists and Progressives across the world liked the idea of the military. That's why most photos show Trotsky in his uniform. The idea of the military inevitably appeals to those who worship the idea of state control and planning.

David

Tom,

“...if Nazism is regarded as right wing, it’s a comparatively short step for leftists to accuse moderate right wingers - old-school conservatives, say, who actually believe in things like small government and personal rights and responsibilities - of being Nazis.”

And classical liberals are now apparently “rightwing.” You’d be forgiven for believing that the words “Nazi” and “fascist” are proprietary curse words of the left - to be used almost randomly against anything uncongenial. As illustrated, for instance, by the email mentioned above. By pointing out some unflattering connections (none of which were refuted or even addressed by the emailer), I’ve earned the label “Nazi.” Since “Nazi” is virtually universal shorthand for irredeemable evil, those so labelled are delegitimized and can therefore be dismissed as unworthy of a meaningful reply. Job done, as they say.

Theodore Abel’s Why Hitler Came Into Power (1938) cites hundreds of grassroots Nazi party members, many of whom who were attracted to Nazism precisely because of the socialist aspect *and* its divergence from Bolshevism. One, a coal miner, says, “I often asked myself why socialism had to be tied up with internationalism – why it could not work as well or better in conjunction with nationalism.” A commonly stated appeal is the casting of socialist ideas in nationalist terms. The Nazi movement, as conceived by many of its adherents, had quite a lot to do with socialism. Why this information should, for some, be indigestible isn’t entirely clear.

http://www.amazon.com/Why-Hitler-Came-into-Power/dp/0674952006

Lovernios

David,

"I’ve just noted some points of influence and connection that are often overlooked."

If the modern Left is able to overlook the stench of 100 million rotting corpses, then we shouldn't be surprised what else they may overlook to clean up their image.

Ronan

I linked to this blog post on my own blog (see here: http://theconvoblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/whats-with-this-creeping-historical.html#comments ) and got a very long response in the comboxes. As I don't have enough invested in the whole Hitler left/right thing to respond in detail, I thought I'd throw it out to the regulars here, cos I know y'all like a good argument (and I'm sure I'll enjoy the fireworks).

Karen M

"and got a very long response in the comboxes."

From someone who sounds manic.

georges

Which only begs the question. What is the right, and what is the left?

For instance, I would never call British Tories fascist. I don't think an over-enthusiastic supporter of David Cameron is likely to wind up planning an invasion of Poland. But the Tories have not always been "right wing" in the way many posting here seem to mean it (basically, free market liberals following the ideas of Milton Friedman). The Wikipedia entry for "Tory" lists "Monarchism, Traditionalism, High Church Christianity, Patriotism, Agrarianism, Conter-revolution, High Culture and Organic Unity" as standout features of Toryism. It's possible to understand how British Tories could prefer Franco to the Republicans in Spain, or, like Churchill, praise Mussolini. Again, Wikipedia (entry for Winston Churchill):

[Churchill] claimed that the fascism of Benito Mussolini had "rendered a service to the whole world," showing, as it had, "a way to combat subversive forces" - that is, he considered the regime to be a bulwark against the perceived threat of Communist revolution. At one point, Churchill went as far as to call Mussolini the "Roman genius... the greatest lawgiver among men."

During WW2 all the combatant countries became more statist, including Britain and America. There was no other way to wage total war. From my reading on the German economy under the Nazis I find it hard to position them on a left-right scale. During the war they made extensive use of slave labour from the conquered "untermenschen". They abolished trade unions. But Hjalmar Schacht pursued broadly centrist Keynesian policies. The capitalist class was not expropriated.

I was thinking about Oskar Schindler. Ultimately his ability to save Polish Jews was dependent on the fact that it was possible for him to own his own factory under the Nazis. There could be no Soviet Oskar Schindler, because there could be no such privately owned factories in the USSR.

David

Georges,

As I and others noted earlier, the Nazis devised a distinctive strain of collectivism, fusing all manner of elements from across the ideological landscape, not least racial mysticism. Clearly, the phenomenon was a hybrid of multiple collectivist ideas and ugly tribalism. And, as noted earlier, we could argue at length about the changing definitions of “left” and “right.” I don’t recall anyone here claiming that Nazism was wholly socialist, or archetypal, or that socialists eat babies, or anything like that. But it seems bizarre to insist, as some have, that the Nazi movement had nothing to do with socialism as conceived at the time. As shown above, members of the party, both grand and humble, would beg to differ. (Even if one assumes total ideological opportunism on Hitler’s part, how do we explain the success of the socialist rhetoric and campaigning? Wasn’t it intended to appeal to a potential membership, i.e., people sympathetic to socialist ideology?)

What interests me – and I’ve said this several times – is the level of *reactiveness* to almost any acknowledgement of the socialist dimension. Pointing to this rather obvious aspect is to invite heated disapproval, which, given the evidence, strikes me as disproportionate and a mite suspicious. It seems a little too defensive.

Maybe we’re supposed to see as inarguably “rightwing” a revolutionary party that campaigned on an extreme socialist platform using extreme socialist rhetoric, that called its members “comrades,” that made a fetish of identity politics and was hostile to bourgeois values, free market capitalism and individualism. While promising guaranteed employment and the nationalisation of industry, and threatening business leaders with hard labour if they didn’t increase workers’ wages and generally comply. (That Hitler came to a more pragmatic arrangement with key industries, not least in light of war and what war requires – and that some businesses offered nominal support for opportunist reasons - hardly validates an adamant pro-capitalist or “rightwing” construal of events. As you say, “there was no other way to wage total war.” See also, Henry Ashby Turner, German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, 1987.)

What jars to modern ears, then, is the nationalistic emphasis - the point on which Hitler’s animosity to Bolshevism was typically centred. But why should we see nationalism as exclusively “rightwing”? Wasn’t Castro nationalistic, or Stalin’s “Mother Russia”? It seems the early success of Nazism hinged in large part on its *fusion* of socialist rhetoric and nationalist sentiment. Evidently, the two weren’t entirely incompatible. (See my comment of 12:58.) Then of course there’s the racism. But again, one can hardly claim that anti-Semitism and racism in general were antithetical to the left of the period. Stalin was an anti-Semite, though not on the same scale as Hitler. Despite his own Jewish ancestry, Marx was a racist and a vehement anti-Semite. Ditto Engels. The “social justice icon” Ernesto “Che” Guevara was also racist, especially regarding “negroes.” So comfortable distinctions don’t seem quite so comfortable. As Jonah Goldberg notes in Liberal Fascism,

“One of the great ironies of history is that the more similar two groups are, the greater the potential for them to hate each other... Hitler’s hatred for communism has been opportunistically exploited to signify ideological distance, when in fact it indicated the exact opposite. Today this manoeuvre has settled into conventional wisdom. But what Hitler hated about Marxism and communism had almost nothing to do with those aspects of communism that we would consider relevant, such as economic doctrine or the need to destroy the capitalists and bourgeoisie... All such ideologies – we can call them totalitarian for now – attract the same *types* of people.”

TDK Notarealname

georges: "They abolished trade unions... The capitalist class was not expropriated."

Again, there's rather more nuance.

They didn't ban trade unions, they took them over under NSDAP leadership and made membership of the DAF compulsory. They established workers councils that had a say in the running of business - an innovation that survived the war. Compare this with Lenin's treatment of trade unions in Russia. Businesses (except those owned by Jews) remained (technically) in the hands of the owners but they were expected to comply with national objectives set by the party and enforced by the workers councils.

You pick Schindler but he wasn't able to set up a factory on a whim and sell whatever pleased him. He had to apply for permission from the authorities and they had a national plan to fulfil. And this wasn't a wartime innovation. The five year plans preceded the war.

Fascists did not so much like Capitalism as seek to end the traditional workers versus owners conflict, which they saw as wasteful. They thought that they could devise a National Plan that would unite the classes - Fascists differed from Communists in their choice of collective. They saw themselves as offering a third way.

Let me ask Georges a question. Where do you see George Galloway? It is no secret that the modern far left has allied itself with clerical fascism. I see George as a modern day Oswald Moseley.

------------------

Let me end with a link showing that anti-semitism isn't a new invention of the left. Or to put it another way - the "socialism of fools" lives again.

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2010/03/14/the-british-anti-war-left-proud-sponsors-of-antisemitism-since-1900/

Simen Thoresen

TDK,

I'd like to point out a parallel to a current socialist (unless he's been deemed fascist by now, of course); Venezuelas Hugo Chavez. It seems mr Chavez is nationalizing the trade unions, thus effectively banning independent worker organization.

Of course, there are different ways to see this. All unions need leadership, and staff and facilities are expensive. In Norway, members get a tax-reduction to help pay for their state-approved, independent membership. In Venezuela the approved, independent unions may be fully funded by the state and run by competent state-appointed managers. It's all a matter of perspective, degrees and how much you want to bend the words to fit your truth.

-S

Karen M

"the more similar two groups are, the greater the potential for them to hate each other..."

Cue video...

"far-far-far-far-left radicals have taken to assaulting the merely far-far-far-left radicals for being insufficiently revolutionary"

http://pajamasmedia.com/zombie/2010/03/17/anarcho-left-meltdown-as-radical-infighting-turns-violent/?singlepage=true

And (of course)...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE

WTP

Karen,
But wouldn't Lierre Keith actually be the more-radical radical and the "radicals" who attacted her actually the "conservative" radicals? After all, isn't she the one moving beyond the status-quo (i.e. the current state of anarcho-vegan radicalism) and upsetting the apple cart? Maybe it's the bourgeois far-far-far-far left against the revolutionary far-far-far-far-far left? It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World out there.

WTP

Or "attacked"...spell checker seems on the blink...

Ronan

Those of us who say it's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World out there spit in the face of those of you who think it is only a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

georges

TDK

Whenever I see George Galloway on TV I get the strong impression he's dissembling - that he doesn't actually believe what he's saying. So placing him on any political map is problematic.

Islamism is off the Richter Scale of right wing. The political terms left and right derive from the seating plan of the States General in 1789. That left, inspired by Voltaire, Rousseau and the American revolutionaries, couldn't be more antithetical to Islamism.

TDK

georges

Your answer illustrates to me precisely why the terms "left" and "right" are useless in this discussion.

We would both be on the "left" of the French assembly but whilst I regard Voltaire and the American revolutionaries as admirable figures, Rousseau is mostly despicable. Most people on the right today would be regarded as classical Liberals. In contrast modern liberals oppose virtually everything classical liberals stood for.

Look again at Tom Foster's link:
http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2010/03/liberals-against-illiberalism-what-next.html

Who are the left wingers here - Norman Geras et al or Terry Eagleton? If the one dissembling in defence of Islamism is leftist, that makes you a right winger.

And to further complicate matters we have parts of the evangelical (so called) right sharing certain obsessions with Islamists - Divine judgements for depraved morality and secret Jewish control of the world. I loath the Pat Robinson types. Does that make me a left winger.

TDK

Simen Thoresen

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. When Lenin took over the trade unions it was to eliminate a potential source of opposition. I can't see any difference with what Hugo Chavez has done and the latter is of a piece with closing down opposition media.

It seems to me that I've said enough to make it clear that attempting to place Chavez on a left-right scale is redundant. He appears to be moving towards a dictatorship. He is much enamoured by by publicity stunts like cheap oil for favoured western politicians. Clearly transferring wealth from poor Venezuelans to relatively wealthy westerners is supposed to impress the gullible.

All I can in his favour is that there doesn't appear to be a charismatic woman by his side - we'll be saved the next Evita.

 Simen

TDK,

I'm sorry if I was unclear - I agreed with your posting, and replied in general terms.

I believe Labor unions are generally seen as a leftist thing, and that when the NSDAP took them over, their actions were not too different from what the generally perceived as leftist Hugo Chavez does today. Thus the actions of 'leftist' Chavez mirror the actions of 'fascist' Hitler.

This is in general support of a individualist-collectivist worldview, rather than a left-right worldview.

Of course, when talking to people with a left-right worldview, it is often more fun to point out the 'leftism' of Hitler (and the fascism of the leftist poster-boys) than to try to argue for a completely different world-view - a world-view in which the figures that they love stand knuckle-iron to knuckle-iron with the figures they think they despise.

-S

georges

TDK

Nationalism was obviously an indispensable element of German Nazism. But Nationalism in Britain & America has very different, non-aggrandising traditions, partly because of the two countries relative immunity from foreign invasion. In particular there is a "Little Englander" tradition in the UK, & a non-interventionist tradition in America which starts with George Washington. Whatever Hitler was, he wasn't an isolationist "Little German" arguing for "no foreign entanglements". He didn't want Germany to be more like Switzerland.

In Britain, radicals such as Charles James Fox, Richard Cobden & John Bright opposed pretty much every war Britain fought, from the American Revolution to the Crimea. Most of the time they were probably right. Cobden's critique of the Second Opium War seems correct to me. In "The Trouble Makers" A.J.P. Taylor wrote a history of this tradition, which he mostly supported. Some - but not all - of the modern anti-war left are best understood as continuing this tradition. On the right, journalists including Matthew Parris, Simon Jenkins & Max Hastings all voice Little Englander sentiments regarding foreign policy.

In America Gore Vidal has arguably opposed the very idea of the US having a foreign policy (in his dotage he seems to have gone a bit crazy). Is Noam Chomsky part of this tradition? Not sure. He considers himself an anarchist. On the right, Ron Paul advocates a George Washington foreign policy, and some on the left find him strangely attractive.

My guess is that this tradition is likely to become stronger. Both countries are currently broke, and expensive foreign wars will be seen to have contributed to their accelerated relative decline. As the BRIC countries & others become more important, the goals of foreign policy will have to become more modest, & more narrowly, honestly self-interested.

TDK

"Some - but not all - of the modern anti-war left are best understood as continuing this tradition."

Who did you have in mind?

I concur with Harry's Place that Stop The War is less anti war than pro war but on the other side. That's certainly how I view Eagleton et al. I'm not claiming that they want us to be conquered but I think they like the idea of us being defeated.

Rich Rostrom

David: I am very disappointed to see you embracing this canard. As Robart Heinlein once wrote, "Just because a package says 'Cigarettes' does not prove it contains cigarettes."

Neither does the word "socialist" in NSDAP mean the Nazis were actual socialists.

All of the evidence cited for socialism on the part of the Nazis and Hitler that you have cited dates from before Hitler gained power. What the Nazis did in power is much more significant.

You wrote: "Some argue the Nazis were only 'rhetorical socialists' – i.e. in name only –... but calling the Nazis 'rhetorical' socialists is rather like saying they were 'rhetorical' racists or 'rhetorical' eugenicists."

That argument fails because the Nazis, in power, enacted and carried through very drastic racist and "eugenicist" measures. But in power they did nothing to confiscate, nationalize, or redistribute property (except the property of Jews).

You wrote "Yet there are some... who would have us believe that the socialism in National Socialism was merely rhetorical or inauthentic – as though no actual socialist sentiment existed among the movement’s members and supporters."

Again, during the 1920s, the NSDAP had a wing which had strong socialist leainings. It was said of the SA that they were "beefsteaks" (brown on the outside, red on the inside). The Strasser brothers had such leanings. And Hitler continuously put out rhetoric to keep this element in his camp, while at the same time not scaring off the Mittelstand voters who were his main power base.

Part of Hitler's political genius was his skill at such balancing acts. In the final push for power, Hitler had to keep the SA straining at the leash for a violent seizure of power, even though he had decided after Munich never to try such an attempt again, as it was sure to fail. At the same time, he negotiated with the Hindenburg-von Papen circle for a lawful accession to power - using the threat of the SA, and also pretending that he would govern "legalistically".

But once in power, all such poses could be dropped. The Strassers and the SA leaders were all purged in 1934. The SA itself was neutered and left to wither. This allowed Hitler to ally with the military and big business. The soldiers were enthused by Hitler's plans for rearmament and the overthrow of Versailles; business welcomed the suppression of Socialist and Communist troublemaking. Most of the working class was satisfied by the way Hitler's rearmament and public works reduced unemployment.

Hitler of course remained a revolutionary. But his revolution was to be biological and cultural - not economic. He had very little interest in economics, and delegated that to his stooges - who had no principles at all.

There is more than enough crime and folly on record to damn socialism out of all consideration. It is not necessary (and is somewhat dishonest) to try to pin the sins of reaction on the Left.

As to anti-semitism and the Left: it has broken out on the Left many times, but was more significant on the Right until recently. Reactionaries and hyper-conservatives have often been infected with what William F. Buckley called "the Jew thing". Consider the Dreyfus Affair, for instance. Imperial Russia was far more anti-semitic than the USSR at its worst. Indeed, in the first decade of the USSR, the elimination of formal barriers against Jewish advancement led to a surge of previously suppressed Jews into the new ruling class.

Georges: "the attempt to portray Fascism as essentially a mutant version of Marxism seems ridiculous to me."

Fascism is a collectivist, radical, revolutionary ideology. It is not so much a mutation of Marxism as an alternative devised by frustrated Marxist radicals. The original Marxist idea was that capitalism would grow ever more unstable and exploitive until the proletariat was driven to spontaneous mass insurrection: the Revolution. By the early 1900s, that was clearly not going to happen. Capitalism was generating relatively stable prosperity and the working class wasn't going to rise up. Lenin proposed one answer: radicals should form a 'disciplined vanguard party' to bring on the Revolution. Mussolini proposed another: use romantic nationalism and militarism to win support for a takeover. The important point was for the radicals to take power; the agenda was fluid.

TDK: "The principal opposition to [Hitler's] rule came from the Junkers and the Prussian elite..."

No, the strongest opponents were the Communists and Socialists. (The Communists, on Moscow's orders, divided the opposition so that Hitler would get in and provoke the Revolution.) Both were totally crushed as soon as Hitler took power. Most German conservatives supported Hitler (though not the rest of the Nazis): they applauded rearmament, repudiation of Versailles, suppression of Communists, restoration of "order", and recovery of lost territory. The conservative opposition became the most dangerous, because the survival of its members was tolerated, and they had many friends in the pro-regime right - some of whom quietly turned against the Nazis.

TDK: "Prior to WWII Socialists and Progressives across the world liked the idea of the military. That's why most photos show Trotsky in his uniform."

No, the Red Left was anti-militarist and often pacifist. My Communist grandfather left Sweden in part because he would have to "don murder rags", i.e. put on a uniform and do military service. Stalin never appeared in uniform until well into World War II; Lenin never did. Trotsky did only during the Russian Civil War (most of the Google image hits show him in suit and tie).

Horace Dunn

" the Red Left was anti-militarist and often pacifist"

Ah yes, all those sweet little May Day parades in cities throughout the Soviet Union. And all the senior party officials sitting watching them in their long hair and kaftans. Love and peace man.

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