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Hitler and the “Right Wing”

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Joseph Goebbels

Sixty-five years after his death, Adolf Hitler is still the hardest working man in politics. Leftists too lazy to construct a reasoned argument use the words “Hitler” and “Nazi” to disparage anything or anyone with whom they disagree. If Hitler could have one of his sins forgiven every time an American liberal uses his name in a political argument, he’d have full sainthood by now, and be guarding the gates of Heaven in place of Saint Peter.

Mao alone has murdered five or six times as many innocent people as der Fuhrer, but somehow only Hitler has his name used for purposes of political demonization.  The reason leftists always use “Hitler” to disparage conservatives, rather than “Stalin,” or “Mao,” or “Pol Pot;” is that no one has ever been able to portray those mass murderers as being part of the right wing. Left-leaning professors and textbook writers are reluctant to mention the crimes of Communist dictators at all, and no self-respecting liberal would ever use one of their names as a metaphor for evil. Hitler is always portrayed as part of the right wing, hence he can be the personification of everything bad.

But was Hitler really a right winger?

When Socialism is “Right Wing”

Adolf Hitler’s political party was called the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. The word “Nazi” is a contraction of the German words for “National” and “Socialist.” Some left-leaning textbook authors, embarrassed at using the word “Socialist” to describe a political party that is universally condemned for its murders and repressions, only use the contraction, and studiously avoid the actual name of the party. Professor Eric Foner, for example, never uses the words “National Socialist” in his freshman history textbook Give Me Liberty. He even refuses to refer to the movement as “National Socialism,” substituting the rather clumsy-sounding faux word “Nazism.”

In a chapter on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Dr. Foner tells us that President Roosevelt “conceived of the New Deal as an alternative to socialism on the left, Nazism on the right, and the inaction of upholders of unregulated capitalism.” The message is clear: “Nazism” was a right wing movement; the very opposite of socialism.

It’s easy to see why leftists like Professor Foner never mention the party’s actual name.

The five authors1 of the textbook Nation of Nations lump together Mussolini’s Fascist party and Hitler’s National Socialist party as right wing defenders of capitalism: “During the 1920’s, Italian fascists (sic) rejected the liberal belief in political parties in favor of a glorified nation-state dominated by the middle class, small businesspeople, and small farmers. In Germany Adolf Hitler trumpeted similar fascist ideals and relied on equally brutal tactics to gain power in 1933. His Nazi party used its Gestapo, or secret police, to ensure that the…(etc.)”

The misrepresentations here are almost too numerous to count. First of all, spelling “fascist” with a lower case “f,” and then claiming that these “fascists” rejected belief in political parties, is outrageous. Mussolini was the leader of a political party. The name of the party was Partito Nazionale Fascista, or National Fascist Party.

To say that Fascist Party was a friend of small businesspeople is about as far from the truth as you can get. Mussolini was a lifelong believer in socialism. He studied the works of Karl Marx, and was active in Socialist party politics from his youth. The Fascist government controlled every aspect of Italy’s economy. It implemented “progressive” taxes on capital and profits, controlled prices, and dictated wages. Jonah Goldberg has written a best-selling book  on the subject, which Thomas Sowell ably summarizes in a recent column.

The textbook is right about one thing. Hitler’s National Socialist Party was very much like the Fascists.

 The Party Platform

Hitler worked with two other National Socialists to write up the party’s platform in February of 1920. The platform was “nationalist and anti-Semitic in character, and it came out strongly against Capitalism, the trusts, the big industrialists, and the big landowners.”2 Hitler’s talk about socialism was always based more on pragmatic politics than on any deeply felt ideology, but, as author Alan Bullock puts it, “in origin the National Socialists had been a radical anti-capitalist party, and this side of the Nazi programme was not only taken seriously by many loyal Party members but was of increasing importance in a period of economic depression.”3

Hitler understood that the German people found socialist ideas attractive, and positioned himself and his party to attract as much mainstream support as possible. To that end, he chose Joseph Goebbels, a committed socialist, as his propaganda chief. Goebbels and Hitler portrayed their party as being the guardians of “true” socialism, as they battled Germany’s Soviet-backed Communist party for left-leaning voters. To separate leftist voters from the Communist party, Goebbels published posters and articles portraying the Communists as being in league with Germany’s capitalists, as counterintuitive as that might seem.

National Socialist Anti-Semitism

The Nazis’ infamous anti-Semitism was a left wing phenomenon, as anti-Semitism always is. It was based in class envy, and fueled by the stereotypical view of Jews as wealthy professionals and business owners.

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Thomas Sowell examines the history of anti-Semitic resentments in his book The Economics and Politics of Race:

Their skills, work capacity, and frugality made Jews valuable additions to many economies, and the money they lent made them welcome by rulers and the nobility, who were often in need of loans…But the peasants and the poor of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, like their counterparts in southeast Asia, hated foreign middlemen who prospered in their midst and were therefore presumed to have prospered at their expense.4

While protected by the monarchy, Jews were bitterly resented by the poor and the uneducated in Spain – and were victims of sporadic riots in the fourteenth century.5

And it wasn’t always just the poor and uneducated who promoted hostility to Jews based on economic resentments. Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, although frequently sanitized for modern audiences, was written to perpetuate the stereotype of the Jew as a greedy, manipulative money-changer.

When Hitler and Goebbels came along they joined a long line of demagogues who had exploited class envy to stir up anti-Semitism. As author David Welch puts it, “By contrasting Jewish individualism and ‘self seeking,’ with the National Socialist ideal of a ‘people’s community’ (Volksgemeinschaft), and by showing that Jews were only motivated by money, it was possible to demonstrate that Judaism was the total antithesis of German cultural tradition as interpreted by Nazi ideology.”6

Nazi propaganda posters portrayed the “typical” Jew as a well-fed businessman wearing a suit and tie, usually holding either a briefcase or a bag of money. The “real German” was an athletically built proletarian wearing denim work clothes, and often holding a shovel.

The National Socialists advocated boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses for years.7 When they became Germany’s ruling party in 1933, one of the first things the Nazis did was organize a nationwide boycott.

From organizing a boycott the Nazi’s quickly moved on to forced wealth transfers and confiscations, and then mass murder.

The Bottom Line

During their reign, Hitler’s National Socialists murdered some twelve million innocent people. Roughly half of the victims were Jewish. Today history professors and other leftists portray the “right wing” Nazis as the very personification of evil, while overlooking the twenty to thirty million Soviets murdered by their Communist government, and the forty-five to seventy-five million innocents Mao’s Communist government murdered in China. It would be more honest to say that leftist ideologies were responsible for all of the horrors committed in all of these countries.

More honest, but not politically correct.

1Davidson, Gienapp, Heyrman, Lytle, and Stoff
2Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, paperback, p. 41
3ibid., p. 80
4Thomas Sowell, The Economics and Politics of Race, p. 83
5ibid., p. 85
6David Welch, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, p. 103
7C.C. Aronsfeld, The Text of the Holocaust, p. 23