Nazis of the Left and other corrections

Nazis, with their statist economic policies and penchant for nationalisation, bear almost no resemblance to modern right-wingers. So why is Hitler still considered to be of the far right?

Was Hitler left-wing?
James Snell
On 7 February 2013 11:31

Communism has killed many millions of people the world over, and ever since the fall the Berlin Wall, the spectre of state power has (rather unfairly) haunted every discussion over government control.

The Left, unable as it is to deny the link, has resorted to a game of dictatorial one-upmanship and brought in the Nazis. This, as a trick out of the worst debater’s handbook, is too often bandied around in the blogosphere and seems to infect all aspects of public life.

But it is its only weapon. Franco’s Spain does not hold the same fascination in the minds of the British public, and in Italy, they are rather too fond of the ghost of Mussolini. But Hitler will always be the demonic force which can be depended upon. He is the embodiment of evil which can be trusted to keep on giving.

It is apparently useless to point out that the Nazis have little resemblance to modern right-wingers, advocating statist economic control and nationalising whole industries as they did. This is to do with an unfailingly populist approach to government, and how they wanted to be all things to all possible men.

In the same way that President Obama could count on the votes of industrial workers in 2012 because he bailed out the car industry, Hitler and other Fascists knew that the common man looks out for his interests, not his ideological persuasions.

Another example of a pariah that is a popular hate-figure – and who the public describes as right-wing – is the BNP. Again, this is not strictly true, as the BNP is very far ideologically from the Conservatives and nearly all other current right-wing UK parties.

And this is not just by intensity. The BNP supports nationalising certain industries outright, and favours a deeply un-conservative view of protected industries, with xenophobic polices extending to foreign trade embargoes and the lack of any immigration, both policies which Thatcherites, Classical Liberals and Libertarians alike would despise.

There is a certain irony in Leftish rabble-rousers calling Margaret Thatcher a Nazi, when she differed from the party even on policies which have no moral imperative. Even then, one thing no one can ever accuse Thatcher of is anti-Semitism; the number of Jews in her cabinet actually drew criticism from establishment figures.

But the populist element cannot be overstated. Hitler wanted to win elections, which he eventually did, and he did so by attracting a large crowd of differing political ideologies to his banner. One thing he could virtually take for granted is the anti-Semitism of the country, which was omnipresent and virtually inherent in German society of the time.

Its hatred spanned thousands of years and was especially exacerbated by job-losses following the First World War, as Jewish refugees from the newly formed USSR took jobs in Germany, possessing a higher level of skill than local workers. The same principle applies to the BNP’s desire to virtually halt all immigration. Labour gaps in the marketplace will continue to infuriate authoritarians and racists.

But the Nazis themselves were of the view that it took state intervention to solve problems in the country. Of course there are the obvious cases of cracking down on political dissent, and the suppression of freedoms of speech and thought, all of which do not sit well with the liberty-loving Right which seems today’s norm.

The dehumanisation of the population, too, is something which no political philosophy which values personal rights can abide by. That Germany’s militarisation saw all people as immaterial individually – only as cogs in the state machine – means that the perpetrators cannot be seen as in any way identifiable with the Right today.

The parallels between the authoritarian regimes of Stalin and Hitler are close, and both demonstrate the apolitical nature of tyranny. However, if it is a scale between Authoritarian and Libertarian, then both of the world’s most evil men would be a long way away from the current Right.

It is true though that political control necessitates economic dominance and during Goering's turn as de facto controller of the economy, Germany was more socialist than anything west of the Caucuses. Hitler even went as far as to call his party ‘socialist’ when seeking election.

This was not just an idle buzzword, designed to lure people to his banner (although image was clearly something often on the Führer’s mind), it was in fact a statement of political intent. One of the few non-racialist Nazi policies oft-remembered is the building of new autobahns. This is the one thing which pro-Hitler neo-Fascists bring up today; they see this expansion of public spending as among his elusive ‘good’ points.

But the very nature of an overbearing state, and thus of a party which supports it, are alien to liberty. And so is the concept of nationalistic patriotism, which these organisations seem happy to invoke.

One by-product of this is the support of closed borders, which is anathema to ideas of free trade and movement which fiscal conservatives embrace.

Protectionism fits rather neatly in with this. It is easy to heavily subsidise one country’s industry and then tax other countries’ imports if you are fanatically convinced of that nation’s supremacy. It links in with the patriotic, but deeply un-conservative scheme of ‘Imperial Preference’ championed by Joseph Chamberlain which caused a young Winston Churchill to return to the Tories in 1924.

BNP policies are ridiculed by the public, and so they should be. But since everyone already knows that the BNP doesn’t like immigrants and racial minorities, they switch off, and fail to look deeper. Racism is not the preserve of the Right. And this ‘common knowledge’ clouds the minds of those who let it.

Ignorance breeds misnomers, and in this case, the furious skinheads who march with the EDL are not for free trade, or anything more sophisticated than ‘Muslims Out!’ They are not of the Right, just as much as the thugs who blow up buses in central London in the name of an ostensibly foreign religion are not liberals.

James Snell is a columnist for the Backbencher. Follow him on Twitter @James_P_Snell

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