The Link between Nazism and Socialism

Originally posted elsewhere on 10/15/2010; the post has been somewhat modified here.

Shannon Love published an excellent article entitled, The Left’s Power of Self-Delusion. In it she argues that the left suffers from a profound need to always see itself as being on the correct side of history. In particular the left whitewashes its own history so that its intellectual heroes appear to be always good, always altruistic, and always working toward a more perfect justice. Love explains that this distorted perspective reduces the left’s own writing on its intellectual roots to little more than hagiography.

Among other things, the left sharply takes issue with any suggestion that Germany’s National Socialist Party, the Nazis, shared any of the underpinnings of socialism. The left’s reasoning goes something like:

  • Nazis are bad
  • Socialists are good, therefore
  • Nazis are not socialists

At the first sign that anyone is about to take issue with this position, the left starts chanting “Bush-Hitler” to drown out their opponent’s words.

In Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change Jonah Goldberg demonstrates the ties between the contemporary left and some of their more unsavory, intellectual predecessors. Since the book’s publication in 2007, Goldberg says that leftists have been unhappy with his characterization of their intellectual history, but rather than attacking the substance of what he’s written, they attack him personally. They may feel ad hominem attacks are all that’s left them because the book cites primary sources substantiating each of Goldberg’s claims.

I just finished reading Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. In case you are unfamiliar with Hayek, he was an Austrian-born, Nobel-prize-winning economist who lived from 1899 through 1992. Hayek witnessed the development of socialism in Germany, and it distressed him greatly that leftists were trying to pretend that socialism and Nazism were unrelated. Throughout his book he points out the intellectual basis uniting the two. In particular he believes that those who clamor for socialism typically don’t understand the degree of authoritarianism and coercion that’s required to make their dreams come true. The economic security that’s the goal of socialism can only be achieved by individuals either surrendering their liberty or having it wrenched from them. Worse yet, the efforts of the government to ensure economic security are ultimately undermined by the inherent inefficiencies of non-capitalistic systems. So in the end people become less free, but not more prosperous.

At the conclusion of Hayek’s book there is an appendix of related documents, and the first such document included is on Nazi-Socialism. In it, Hayek points out the role that Gottfried Feder’s famous 25 points played in Nazism’s intellectual development. The dominant feature of this tract apparently was a fierce hatred of anything related to capitalism. Among other things Feder’s tract denounced:

  • individualistic profit seeking
  • large-scale enterprise
  • banks
  • joint-stock companies
  • department stores
  • international finance and loan capital
  • the system of charging interest in general

The author goes on to say that Feder was an early ally of Hitler, that Feder’s tract was endorsed by Hitler and became recognized by the by-laws of the National-Socialist party (the Nazis) as the “immutable basis of all its actions”. Although this is just one of the book’s examples, it is pretty clear from this that the Nazis did not see themselves as embracing capitalism, and instead approached economic matters from a statist / collectivist point of view — sort of like Hugo Chavez, darling of today’s left.

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