So what makes a Fascist or a Nazi a Socialist?
First off, there is the name.
From the wiki on “Nazi Party”:
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP)
So your first clue is the prominent word “Socialist” and your second is “Workers’ Party”. If you are thinking this sound pretty “left wing”, you are right. So we ought to be on the lookout for things like labor unions, wealth redistribution, nationalization of industries, direction of industries via various kinds of central planning, boards, commissions, or Komissars…
From the Wiki on “Nazism”:
Nazism (Nationalsozialismus, National Socialism; alternatively spelled Naziism) was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany. It was a unique variety of fascism that involved biological racism and antisemitism. Nazism presented itself as politically syncretic, incorporating policies, tactics and philosophies from right- and left-wing ideologies; in practice, Nazism was a far right form of politics.
One of the nice things about the Wiki is that it not only lets you get some facts and references, it lets you uncover the bias and lies of the Looney Side Of Left as they regularly overdo the revision of reality on the pages. It just takes a bit of the “forensics mindset” and some skepticism. So here we have the clear oxymoron of “National Socialism” being assigned to “far right”. We’ll explore that little lie a bit more further on down. The way to use this to advantage is simple: when you have cognitive dissonance from an oxymoron, do not assume you are confused or slow, simply look for the lie and manipulation of terms. For now, we just note the semi-circular definition of Nazi as fascist. They do manage to correctly note the racist characteristic that tends to make them different.
But we are left with “What’s a Fascist?”
First off, I’ve run into a convention used some times that when capitalized, Fascist is specifically the form under Mussolini in Italy. When lower case, fascism is the generic form wherever it might turn up. I’ll try to adhere to that, but it can be a bit sloppy especially as I tend to capitalize for emphasis some times and the first word of sentences will be problematic.
Again from the Fascism wiki:
For the Italian political movement so named, see Italian Fascism.
Fascism (pronounced /ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a country according to a particular nationalist strand of corporatist values and perspectives, with an emphasis on enforcing a collectivist form of political and economic organisation based on a tightly prescribed national identity. Fascism was originally founded by Italian national syndicalists in World War I who combined extreme Sorelian syndicalist political views along with nationalism. Though normally described as being on the far right, there is a scholarly consensus that fascism was also influenced by the left, but with a focus on solutions from the right.
I also note in passing that the root of Fascism means “bundle” in Italian and was often used to mean ‘trade union’ from the notion that a ‘bundle of sticks’ was stronger than any one stick. Hmmm… Trade unions… strength from unity against the capitalists…
OK, another ‘left then right definitional game’… That’s your first clue you’ve got some detangling to do. First notice that the words “corporatist” and “syndicalists” feature prominently. These are being tossed in to make you think Big Business Friends and thus non-socialist, IMHO. The reality is that socialism is quite happy working with businesses, but likes to have control of them and central planning. It’s not a ‘conservative’ thing at all. Syndicalist comes from a French word that is, wait for it, another name for Trade Union and NOT a “Monopoly or Oligopoly Syndicate” as one might expect from an English or American point of view.
So what this is basically saying with those two words is that rather than being outright Communists (who believe in the confiscation of ALL means of production) the Fascists were happy to work with various corporations and trade unions as long as they followed the Central Authority and the Central Plan. Wait a minute, isn’t that what central planning socialism is all about?…
For reference purposes, here is the first paragraph of the wiki on syndicalism, then we’ll go back to the fascism page:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Part of a series on
Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and state socialism which uses federations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions. It is a form of economic corporatism that advocates interest aggregation of multiple non-competitive categorised units to negotiate and manage an economy.
For adherents, labor unions are the potential means of both overcoming economic aristocracy and running society fairly in the interest of the majority, through union democracy. Industry in a syndicalist system would be run through co-operative confederations and mutual aid. Local syndicates would communicate with other syndicates through the Bourse du Travail (labor exchange) which would manage and transfer commodities.
Syndicalism is also used to refer to the tactic of bringing about this social arrangement, typically expounded by anarcho-syndicalism and De Leonism, in which a general strike begins and workers seize their means of production and organise in a federation of trade unionism, such as the CNT. Throughout its history, the reformist section of syndicalism has been overshadowed by its revolutionary section, typified by the IWW or the Federación Anarquista Ibérica section of the CNT.
Shades of Obama handing GM ownership in large part over to the Auto Workers Union and being oh so strongly behind the public employees labor union. Nothing like a nice union dominated public sector to advance down that syndicalist socialist road…
Not exactly sounding like a Classi-Liberal Free Enterprise Capitalist ‘syndicate’ … sounding a whole lot more like a ‘workers take control of means of production’….
But at least we have the answer to why Fascism and Naziism were not taking the factories for the state. They were not communists (or as the wiki puts it ‘state socialists’) but were trade union socialists. It still is not a classi-liberal free market capitalism, nor even close to it.
OK, back to the issue of fascism and the fascist wiki… (God that’s got a nice ring to it… ‘fascist wiki’ ;-)
Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. They claim that culture is created by the collective national society and its state, that cultural ideas are what give individuals identity, and thus they reject individualism. Viewing the nation as an integrated collective community, they see pluralism as a dysfunctional aspect of society, and justify a totalitarian state as a means to represent the nation in its entirety.
Here’s your next clue. They reject the freedom and liberty of a Classical Liberal view of things (and that is NOT the American perversion of the term “liberal” into an American Social Liberal that is more like a common socialist) and the fascists see the good in life as coming from The Collective. This is a classical socialist Marxist root.
So we can start to assemble the de-propagandized core: It is a form of Collectivism that is in favor of suppression of the historic liberties of western capitalist countries (all that messy ‘individualism’ and private direction of capital – they let you ‘own’ it as long as they control it…) and is in favor of a nation regimented and centrally controlled and planned. Wait a minute, that sounds much more “left wing” than “right wing”… in fact, it sounds down right Marxist. And it ought to. Mussolini was raised by a socialist father in a socialist home and some of his first work was as a translator for Marxists and socialist literature as well as being a socialist organizer. He was a socialist through and through. The only salient point that makes Fascism particularly different is that they blend in a heaping helping of Nationalism (as, IIRC, did Stalin when he drifted away from Marx…) and add some Militarism (shades of Red Square May Day parades…).
Yet we get the gratuitous “right wing” bomb tossed into the mix. Hmmm… smells like propaganda to me…
So what happens when we trace back “right wing” and “left wing”?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist are generally used to describe support for preserving traditional social orders and hierarchies. The terms Right and Left were coined during the French Revolution, referring to seating arrangements in parliament; those who sat on the right supported preserving the institutions of the Ancien Régime (the monarchy, the aristocracy and the established church).
Use of the term “Right” became more prominent after the second restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 with the Ultra-royalists. Historically it has been primarily used to refer to conservatives, reactionaries, monarchists, aristocrats, and theocrats. Later on the term would be used to describe those who support free market capitalism, and those who support some forms of nationalism, including fascism.
OK, here we get the ‘game’ laid out. It WAS simply the folks at the French Revolution who wanted to keep Kings, Aristocrats, and The Church in charge. Later, after some Marxists get their hands on things, it has “reactionaries” tossed in. (For those not steeped in Marxism, the Marxists are the “revolutionaries” and then any folks not interested in collectivist, socialist, and communist methods are called ‘reactionaries’ as they react badly to the “revolution”). OK, now I’m having even more trouble putting a collectivist anti-religion anti-aristocracy fascism on the ‘right wing’ side.
I note in passing the assignment of ‘conservatives’ to the ‘right wing’ as well. While this is true in the context of the French Revolution, it becomes more vague and essentially a ‘polite lie’ in modern America. Literally a “conservative” is one who wishes to preserve the present state, whatever it is/was. So when that was Monarchs and The Church, the “right wing” was “conservatives”. Update that to modern America and I don’t think you will find a lot of Republicans and Libertarians looking to support a King or Theocracy… (In fact, IIRC, wasn’t it the French REPUBLIC that was ‘left wing’
and on which our Republic was modeled? (we were first, them second so I’ve sticken the wrong order comment)… Hmmm… my ‘manipulation’ buzzer is going off. At a bare minimum I’m going to need some consistent personal terms to keep things straight here.)
Now, to the meat of it. At the bitter end we get “nationalists and fascists” tossed in along with ‘free market capitalists’. This is starting to look more and more like a list of “Anything the Present Day Socialists / Leftists don’t like” and less and less like a rational classification… So who decided Nationalism was ‘right wing’? And why?
So, our first Ah Ha! moment is to realize that “right wing” means exactly nothing. It’s a catch all for “collectivists don’t like it” and they don’t like the history of Fascism being scored on their side, so they’ve pushed it over here on the “right wing” too and drug Nationalism along for the ride to assure you get both Italy and Germany assigned to “not us over here on the left!!”. So what IS now counted as ‘left wing’?
What about “left wing”?
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist are generally used to describe support for social change to create a more egalitarian society. The terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution, referring to the seating arrangement in parliament; those who sat on the left generally supported the radical changes of the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization.
Use of the term Left became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the “Independents”. The term was then applied to a number of revolutionary movements, especially socialism, anarchism and communism as well as more reformist movements like social democracy and social liberalism.
So, in the beginning it was those Nasty Republicans… Who knew? Then as hangers on we got the “independents” mixed in that brought the early French socialists and communists along for the ride. Note, too, sneaking in “social liberalism” that we’ve discussed earlier is actually NOT Liberalism at all, Classical Liberalism was the stuff of Republics, Libertarians, and Individual Freedom.
Social liberalism is just a back door way to try to hide socialism under the (then) more popular Liberal label (in the USA at least, the “Progressives” such as Woodrow Wilson and FDR had tarnished “Progressive” pretty badly what with mass arrests, propaganda machines, railing against the constitution as it constrained what he could do with the country, attempts (often successful) at control of the media, and a couple of world wars along with some economic depressions; so they rebranded as ‘social liberals’)
Our major clue here is to discover that whenever you see the word Social as a modifier, suspect fraud is being done to the modified word. Also, watch for the ‘redefinition rebranding’ game being played. It may not be 100%, but it is a very fruitful clue.
So where are we now? We’ve got those in favor of the Republic being moved from “Left Wing” over to “Right Wing” and stuck with the folks who want to keep the King on the throne (don’t think they’d like that…) and we’ve got “Classical Liberals” who were dead set against having their liberties stolen being stripped of their good name so collectivists socialists can hide behind it. Oh, and they shove their National Socialist and Fascist attempts at collectivism over with the Republicans and Monarchists and reactionaries and capitalists and all the others that Marxism doesn’t like. Can’t ‘rebrand’ Fascism as good so may as well stick that Tar Baby on the guys who fought to kill it.
OK. conclusion time: “right wing” and “left wing” are entirely useless terms with the possible exception that “Left Wing” is consistently used by the Socialists, Communists and other Marxist Collectivists at least since the time that they shoved the Republicans over into the same (propaganda driven definition) side as the reactionaries and Monarchs.
Basically, I “smell a big fat commie rat” at work manipulating the language.
(Reference: George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove about 2/3 of the way thru the movie with the Russian Ambassador present, just after they find out that one plane is not responding to the return code and not shot down. He says ” Mr. President , I’m beginning to smell a big fat Commie rat ” More quotes.)
That has significant implications for much of our day to day speech. For one thing, I’m not comfortable with using “Right Wing” to mean anything other than “Marxists and Socialists don’t like it”. For another, it’s pretty clear that “Left Wing” is only usable for recent history and only as a marker for Marxists and Socialists, and even there they have thrown out the National Socialists as they didn’t like the press…
This implies we’ll need to actually look at the HISTORY and the ACTIONS of the Fascists and Nazis to know if they were good socialists or not…
So what “Commie Rat” decided National Socialism was not Socialism? Why, it was Stalin.
If you remember your Marx, it was a class struggle and it was international.
How can you have a proper socialist state if you are not being an internationalist but are instead a nationalist? Worse, both Fascism and Naziism were ‘middle class’ socialisms and accepted that professions and small shop keepers were part of the proletariat and not part of the evil capitalist bourgeoisie.
(Sidebar: Golly, I guess that Marxism I was required to learn to get an Econ degree is finally being useful for something… the theory of mandating it was that it WAS a kind of economic system and we needed to know how all of the major ones worked and / or were defined. At any rate, I was schooled in Marxism along with Capitalism and a couple of other ‘isms’ in order to graduate.)
So the Fascists and National Socialists had committed 2 sins. They were not Globalist / Internationalist in focus and they were not looking at things as a class struggle of only the workers against all others but as being, roughly, “all the little guys” against the giant capitalists. An amusing note here is that if you dig into their history, one of the big thing the Fascists and National Socialists railed against was “The Department Store”… See, they run ‘the little guy’ with a shop selling, oh, socks, out of business. Shades of protests against the Evil Walmart…
From the book (ASo type) “Liberal Fascism”:
The Nazis’ ultimate aim was to transcend both left and right, to advance a ‘Third Way’ that broke with both categories. Bit in the real world Nazis seized control of the country by dividing, conquering, and then replacing the left.
This is the monumental fact of the Nazi rise to power that has been slowly airbrushed from our collective memories: the Nazis campaigned as socialists. Yes, they were also nationalists, which in the context of the 1930s was considered a rightist position, but this was at a time when the “internationalism” of the Soviet Union defined all nationalisms as right-wing. Surely we’ve learned from the parade of horribles on offer in the twentieth century that nationalism isn’t inherently right-wing – unless we’re prepared to call Stalin, Castro, Arafat, Chavez, Guevara, Pol Pot, and, for that matter, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, right-wingers.
It then goes on to discuss some of the nationalism of Stalin and that the French Revolution was a nationalism of sorts, but placed on the left wing, as was German Romanticism.
The Nazi ideologist – and Hitler rival – Gregor Strasser put it quite succinctly: “We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever it happens!”
Hmmm… Kind of hard to misunderstand that.
But maybe Hitler was different?
Hitler was just as straightforward in Mein Kampf. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Nazis’ deliberate exploitation of socialist and communist imagery, rhetoric, and ideas and how this marketing confused both liberals and communists.
In 1934 Abel took out an ad in the Nazi Party journal asking “old fighters” to submit essays explaining why they had joined. […] The essays were combined in the fascinating book Why Hitler Came Into Power. One essayist, a coal miner, explained that he was “puzzled by the denial of race and nation implicit in Marxism. Though I was interested in the betterment of the workingman’s plight, I rejected [Marxism] unconditionally. 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 railroad worker concurred, “I shuddered at the thought of Germany in the grip of Bolshevism. The slogan “Workers of the World Unite!” made no sense to me. At the same time, however, National Socialism, with its promise of a community… barring all class struggle, attracted me profoundly.” A third worker wrote that he embraced the Nazis because of their “uncompromising will to stamp out the class struggle, snobberies of caste and party hatreds. The movement bore the true message of socialism to the German workingman”.
These were the folks who made up the rank and file of the Nazis, and THEY did it because it was socialism, but with an appeal to the nation, not the international… I have trouble telling the people who make up a movement that they don’t know why they did it.
Many communists probably didn’t buy the Trotskyite claim that committed socialists like Norman Thomas were no different from Adolf Hitler, but they were soon under orders to act like they did. In 1928, at Stalin’s direction, the Third International advanced the doctrine of “social fascism,” which held that there was really no difference between a Social Democrat and a Fascist or a Nazi. Fascism was “a fighting organization of the bourgeoisie, an organization that rests on the active support of social democracy [which] is the moderate wing of fascism. According to the theory of social fascism, a liberal democrat and a Nazi “do not contradict each other,” but in Stalin’s words, “complete each other. They are not antipodes but twins.” The strategy behind the doctrine of social fascism was as horribly misguided as the theory behind it. The thinking was that the center would not hold in Western democracies, and in a conflict between fascists and communists the communists would win. This was one reason – aside from a common outlook on most issues – that communists and Nazis tended to vote together in the Reichstag. The German Communists were operating under the Moscow-provided motto “Nach Hitler; kommen wir” (“After Hitler, we take over”). Or, “First Brown, then Red.”
Hmmm… Propaganda like a duck, recruits like a duck, votes like a duck…
The doctrine of social fascism had two consequences that are directly relevant to our discussion. The first is that forever afterward, anyone who was against the far left was seen as being in league with the fascist far right. For decades, even after the launch of the Popular Front, if you were against the Soviet Union, you were open to the charge of being a fascist. Even Leon Trotsky – the co-founder of the Soviet state – was labeled a “Nazi agent” and the leader of a failed “fascist coup” the moment Stalin decided to get rid of him. Indeed, charges of rightism, fascism, and Naziism were leveled at countless victims of Stalin’s purges. Eventually the international left simply reserved for itself the absolute right to declare whomever it desired to delegitimize a Nazi or fascist without appeal to reason or fact. In time, as Nazism became synonymous with “ultimate evil,” this became an incredibly useful cudgel, which is still wielded today.
The second consequence of the doctrine of social fascism was that it caused Hitler to win.
So, if you take your orders from as far to the Left Side as it is possible to go, yes, fascism and Naziism are ‘to the right’ (largely because they don’t buy the ‘international’ part and accept shop keepers into the proletariat).
For the rest of us, though, they are still a kind of Socialism and only a little bit to the right of Marxist communist left.
Rather like the Catholics getting their panties in a bunch about Martin Luther and the Protestants. They were all a kind of Christians, and seen from the point of view of a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist pretty much the same; but boy did they hate each other, as each saw the other as a heretic. We forgive folks far from us much more readily than we forgive our siblings or children when they wander astray…
(See the Sunni / Shia conflict for another example)
In the next posting in this series we will look just a bit at some of the actions of the fascists and Nazis on their road to National Socialism. For now, I think it is pretty clear that we must abandon the use of “right wing” as meaning anything other than “Not Marxist” and stick to root definitional characteristics (like support for individual economic self determination) for our “sides”.
I’d also suggest not letting The Left have control of the definitions. They aren’t stable enough to handle it…