Were the Nazis Left-Wingers?

Well there’s one thing Hitler wasn’t, and that is a Marxist:“I tried to read articles of this nature published in the Marxist Press; but in doing so my aversion increased all the more. And then I set about learning something of the people who wrote and published this mischievous stuff. From the publisher downwards, all of them were Jews…” “I talked to them until my throat ached and my voice grew hoarse. I believed that I could finally convince them of the danger inherent in the Marxist follies. But I only achieved the contrary result. It seemed to me that immediately the disastrous effects of the Marxist Theory and its application in practice became evident, the stronger became their obstinacy…” “In the years 1913 and 1914 I expressed my opinion for the first time in various circles, some of which are now members of the National Socialist Movement, that the problem of how the future of the German nation can be secured is the problem of how Marxism can be exterminated.” ~ Hitler, in Mein Kampf.

Interestingly, in talking about Marxism, he also complained about university “intellectuals” and how they “would not deign to give it [Marxism] their attention” and take seriously what Hitler believed was a “revolutionary trend” of Marxism. He further said…

“that is why State enterprise nearly always lags behind private enterprise.”

Adolph Hitler

So Hitler railed against intellectuals, Marxism, and State-run versus private enterprise? Doesn’t sound very Left-wing.

In addition to his understanding of Marxism, Hitler despised any Left-wing notion of what he referred to as the “Social Democratic gospel.” He said, “Democracy, as practised in Western Europe to-day, is the fore-runner of Marxism. In fact, the latter would not be conceivable without the former. Democracy is the breeding-ground in which the bacilli of the Marxist world pest can grow and spread. By the introduction of parliamentarianism, democracy produced an abortion of filth and fire, the creative fire of which, however, seems to have died out…” Hitler elaborates on that point with a rather un-Leftist analogy about women: “The psyche of the broad masses is accessible only to what is strong and uncompromising. Like a woman whose inner sensibilities are not so much under the sway of abstract reasoning but are always subject to the influence of a vague emotional longing for the strength that completes her being, and who would rather bow to the strong man than dominate the weakling – in like manner the masses of the people prefer the ruler to the suppliant and are filled with a stronger sense of mental security by a teaching that brooks no rival than by a teaching which offers them a liberal choice.”

For another opposite-Left principle, Hitler voiced virulent hatred towards trade unions. He believed they were one of the things that “turned democracy into a ridiculous and scorned phrase.” He continued, “it was one of the most frightful instruments of terror that threatened the security and independence of the national economic structure, the foundations of the State and the liberty of the individual.”

Gottfried Feder

Yes, like many of his time, Hitler thought German workers were being taken advantage of, but he didn’t believe the problem was capitalism like the Left often did. He thought greedy Jews were messing capitalism up. According to him, Jews were leading to Raffendes Kapital, or dishonest, greedy, exploitative, and foreign capitalism. Whereas the normal correct type of capitalism was Schaffendes Kapital, which is capitalism that is nationalist, purely German, creative, and industrious. These terms were promulgated by Gottfried Feder. Hitler said “Previously I did not recognize with adequate clearness the difference between capital which is purely the product of creative labour and the existence and nature of capital which is exclusively the result of financial speculation. Here I needed an impulse to set my mind thinking in this direction; but that impulse had hitherto been lacking. The requisite impulse now came from one of the men who delivered lectures in the course I have already mentioned. This was Gottfried Feder.

Hitler disliked Raffendes Kapital, not because it was mean or brutal like the Left did, but because it got in the way of his social-Darwinistic idea of the “struggle.” He wanted the best workers and businesses to crush the weaker ones but get still get crushed themselves if ever a more powerful entity should enter the scene. Hitler didn’t want “weak” businessmen to survive through currency manipulation or other dishonest means. Likewise, that is a huge reason why Hitler hated trade unions; he thought they protected weak workers who should be crushed by the stronger ones. Hitler was not in favor of a command economy like actual socialists supported.Don’t just take my opinion for it though, let’s look at what one of Hitler’s most respected biographers, historian Ian Kershaw in this book, Hitler – A Biography:

Historian Ian Kershaw

“His [Hitler’s] crude social-Darwinism dictated his approach to the economy, as it did his entire political ‘world-view’. Since struggle among nations would be decisive for future survival, Germany’s economy had to be subordinated to the preparation, then carrying out, of this struggle. That meant that liberal ideas of economic competition had to be replaced by the subjection of the economy to the dictates of the national interest. Similarly, any ‘socialist’ ideas in the Nazi programme had to follow the same dictates. Hitler was never a socialist. But although he upheld private property, individual entrepreneurship, and economic competition, and disapproved of trade unions and workers’ interference in the freedom of owners and managers to run their concerns, the state, not the market, would determine the shape of economic development. Capitalism was, therefore, left in place. But in operation it was turned into an adjunct of the state.”

At most, you could say Hitler intended to use a small number of socialist principles to accomplish radical Right goals; using some socialist means to achieve Right-wing ends. He wanted to use state funds, programs, and encouragement to resist, stop, and even reverse the changes in the racial makeup of Germany. He wanted to use that state encouragement to increase the population of his chosen race, simultaneously increasing Germany’s military might with millions of potential soldiers and innovators. That is as far as his quasi-socialism went. Hitler opposed the primary principle of socialism, which is government or worker ownership of the means of production. That is because he adored the free market, and the principle of the strong crushing the weak. Hitler was by definition NOT a socialist.

The party that would become the Nazis was originally called the German Workers Party (DAP), and only later added “Nationalist” and “Socialist” to the name to lure more people to the party, not truly because they were socialist in any left-wing sense. Historian Bruce F. Pauley says as much in his book Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century:

The DAP (which was one of 73 similar groups in Germany) turned out to be insignificant in size and right wing rather than left wing in its orientation, and the army soon lost interest in it. After giving an impromptu speech during his initial contact with the party, Hitler was asked to join the party’s executive committee in charge of recruiting and propaganda… Hitler also added the words ‘National Socialist’ to the name ‘German Workers’ Party’ – the NSDAP or Nazi party for short…in an attempt to increase the party’s appeal to both nationalists and socialists.

Historical writer William L. Shirer, in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), also repeatedly referred to the Nazis and Hitler as on the political Right:

The N.S.D.A.P was but one of several right-wing movements in Bavaria struggling for public attention…” “the Bavarian Rightists, of whom Hitler was now one of” “This was an assembly not so much of the radical Right, represented by the National Socialists, as of the older, conservative forces of reaction…” “what they [the conservatives] wanted was an authoritarian Germany which at home would put an end to democratic ‘nonsense’ and the power of trade unions…these were Hitler’s aims too.

Hitler does not fit neatly or entirely in any category, but his movement as described by nearly all historians is unequivocally considered Right-wing. Nazism and the Völkisch (populist) movement it sprang from were based on populism, xenophobia, misogyny, ultra-nationalism, and desire for a strong authoritarian leader (versus what was considered effeminate liberal Democracy). The Nazi and Völkisch movements in general were strengthened by their opportunity to give a reactionary response to the temporary communist takeover in Bavaria following the 1st World War. The social democratic Weimar German government that Hitler put an end to was already attacked and blamed for capitulating and signing the Treaty of Versailles. Just after Hitler came to power, capitalizing on a similar situation, a terrorist attack by communists gave the Nazis an excuse to push through the enabling acts, giving Hitler dictatorial power. Nazis were a Conservative reaction to fear from the real and imagined threat of Left-wing communism and socialism.

Responding to partisan, ideological attempts to label Nazis and Hitler as on the Left.

Steven Crowder

Stephen Crowder—a well-known fountain of false Right-wing information—starts his history revision article off with a “quote” of Hitler’s:

The problem is that Hitler never said this. This quote was actually said by National Socialist Gregor Strasser, considered by historians as part of the more anti-capitalistic wing of the Nazi party. A wing at odds with Hitler’s nationalistic Völkisch wing.

Even Strasser, though, could not have been more anti-Left despite disdaining capitalism. In the same pamphlet which Crowder misquoted the last Strasser line, Gregor goes on to say “The spirit of our National Socialist idea has to overpower the spirit of liberalism and false democracy if there is to be a third Reich at all. Deeply rooted in organic life, we have realized that the false belief in the equality of man is the deadly threat with which liberalism destroys people and nation, culture and morals. violating the deepest levels of our being… We have to reject with fanatical zeal the frequent lie that people are basically equal and equal in regard to their influence in the state and their share of power. People are unequal, they are unequal from birth, become more unequal in life and are therefore to be valued unequally in their positions in society and in the state. But this inequality in turn has only one standard can and must have only this one standard : the achievement of the individual for society, for the nation, for the state.

Again citing the historian Ian Kershaw, on this topic:

  • “Some of the north German leaders, like Strasser, advocated a more ‘socialist’ emphasis. This aimed at maximum appeal to workers in the big industrial regions… Following his own leanings, Strasser had made a strong push to win over, especially, the urban proletariat. Even to outside observers, it was plain by autumn 1927 that this strategy was not paying worthwhile dividends, and was at the same time in danger of alienating the lower-middle-class support of the NSDAP… Alfred Hugenberg, former Krupp director, leader of the DNVP and press baron, controlling the nationalist press and with a big stake in the UFA film company, formed in July a ‘Reich Committee for the German People’s Petition’ to organize a campaign to force the government to reject the Young Plan. He persuaded Hitler to join… Franz Seldte and Theodor Duesterberg from the Stahlhelm, Heinrich Claß from the Pan-German League, and the industrial magnate Fritz Thyssen were all members of the committee. Hitler’s presence in this company of capitalist tycoons and reactionaries was not to the liking of the national revolutionary wing of the NSDAP, headed by Otto Strasser, Gregor’s brother… Otto Strasser…had continued to use the publications of the Kampfverlag…as a vehicle for his own version of National Socialism. This was a vague and heady brew of radical mystical nationalism, strident anti-capitalism, social reformism, and anti-Westernism. Rejection of bourgeois society produced admiration for the radical anti-capitalism of the Bolsheviks… By early 1930, however, the quasi-independent line of Otto Strasser had grown shriller as Hitler had sought since the previous year to exploit closer association with the bourgeois Right…A showdown came closer when the Kampfverlag continued to support striking metal-workers in Saxony in April 1930, despite Hitler’s ban, under pressure from industrialists, on any backing of the strike by the party. Strasser accused Hitler of trying to destroy the Kampfverlag because he wanted ‘to strangle’ the ‘social revolution’ through a strategy of legality and collaboration with the bourgeois Right. Hitler angrily denounced Strasser’s socialism as ‘nothing but Marxism’. The mass of the working class, he went on, wanted only bread and circuses, and would never understand the meaning of an ideal. ‘There is only one possible kind of revolution, and it is not economic or political or social, but racial,’ he avowed. Pushed on his attitude towards big business, Hitler made plain that there could be no question for him of socialization or worker control. The only priority was for a strong state to ensure that production was carried out in the national interest. The meeting broke up. Hitler’s mood was black. ‘An intellectual white Jew, totally incapable of organization, a Marxist of the purest ilk,’ was his withering assessment of Otto Strasser…”

Gregor Strasser, adhering greatly to the views of his brother, would eventually be murdered by Hitler’s clique in what became known as The Night of the Long Knives. It seems defense of Crowder’s position of history revisionism requires, not only mislabeling who the quote was even from, but quote-mining the line out of context!

“But the Nazi Program is Left-wing”

It is actually an amalgamation of Left-wing, Right-wing, and ostensibly centrist principals, many of which are contradictory, and others that were directly rejected by the Nazis once they came to power. For example, point number 9 says “All citizens must possess equal rights and duties.” But this is directly contradicted by point 4 which says “Only those who have German blood, regardless of creed, can be our countrymen. Hence no Jew can be a countryman.” And while some of the points demand nationalization of a handful of German entities, the vast majority are left completely in free private hands. Additionally, there are multiple xenophobic anti-immigrant points in the list, setting the platform starkly in contrast to the Leftists internationalist Communists and Socialists.

Ian Kershaw says of the 25-points, “once Strasser had composed his draft programme, a clash was inevitable. Was the party to be subordinated to a programme, or to its leader? The Bamberg meeting decided what National Socialism was to mean. It was not to mean a party torn, as the völkisch movement had been in 1924, over points of dogma. The Twenty-Five-Point Programme of 1920 was therefore regarded as sufficient. ‘It stays as it is,’ Hitler was reported as saying. ‘The New Testament is also full of contradictions, but that hasn’t prevented the spread of Christianity.’ Its symbolic significance, not any practical feasibility was what mattered. Any more precise policy statement would not merely have produced continuing inner dissension. It would have bound Hitler himself to the programme, subordinated him to abstract tenets of doctrine that were open to dispute and alteration.

The Nazi program was thus nearly irrelevant to Hitler and the Nazi leadership because it was not meant to reflect their actual beliefs, only to be an ambiguous rallying cry to attract more members. It was written so early in the formation of the Nazi party that Hitler had not even solidified his beliefs that he would later write down in Mein Kampf, a book filled to the brim with statements (such as what has already been pointed out in this article) rejecting the principles of the original platform.

The Nazis were a lot of things, but liberals, leftists, and progressives are not among them.

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