One of my colleagues sent out an article to an internal
e-mail list the other day that he found to be "a very interesting
perspective." The article, The
Nazis Were Marxists, from the
cosmically misnamed "American Thinker" Web site, put forth the notion
that, as the title suggests, the Nazis were Marxists.
First, let's get out of the way the information cited as facts in Bruce
Walker's article that are just plain wrong.
Walker writes, "Let us consider the original Nazi movement and its
evolution. The National Socialist movement began in Austria with Walter Riehl,
Rudolf Jung and Hans Knirsch, who were, as M.W. Fodor relates in his book, South
of Hitler, the three men who
founded the National Socialist Party in Austria, and hence indirectly in
To begin, there's the matter of Walker's source -- Fodor's South of
Hitler (1939) is too old to be a good source on the topic. It's certainly
true that men such as Riehl, Jung, Knirsch, and others were involved in
proto-National Socialist movements in Austria-Hungary and later the Republic of
Austria. However, just what National Socialism was during this period between
roughly 1904 and the founding of the German Workers Party (DAP) in Munich by
Anton Drexler (about which more in a moment) immediately after WWI tended to
vary quite a bit. But even if we accept Walker's contention that these parties
(Riehl, Jung, and Knirsch never actually worked together as a triumvirate of
some sort) were the inspiration for German National Socialism, the point that
Walker very conveniently omits is that all the parties called "National
Socialist" in Austria-Hungary, the Republic of Austria, and Czechoslovakia
were anti-Marxist. Thus, unless he is ignorant of this fact or suppressing it,
Walker cannot claim that National Socialists are Marxists unless they are
extraordinarily capable of Orwellian doublethink.
Walker continues, "In May 1918, the German National Socialist
Workers Party selected the Harkendruez [sic], or swastika, as its
symbol. Both Hitler and Anton Drexler, the nominal founder of the Nazi Party,
corresponded with this earlier, anti-capitalistic and anti-church party."
Well, there was no German National Socialist Workers Party (actually
National Socialist German Workers Party -- NSDAP) in Germany in May 1918.
Drexler did not found the DAP (see above) until September 1919 with three other
men, none of them being Adolf Hitler. It was Hitler, who joined the party the
following year, who changed the name of the party to include "National
Socialist" in its name. Once Hitler had gained control over the NSDAP, he
eventually ousted Drexler from his own party.
Walker again: "Hitler, before the First World War, was highly
sympathetic to socialism. Emile Lorimer, in his 1939 book, What Hitler
Wants, writes about Hitler during these Vienna years that Hitler already
had felt great sympathy for the trade unions and antipathy toward employers. He
attended sessions of the Austrian Parliament. Hitler was not, as many have
portrayed him, a political neophyte in 1914."
Once again, we get an ancient source, not to mention a misnamed author
(it was Emily, not Emile, Lorimer who wrote What Hitler Wants. More recent (and more scholarly)
sources, such as Hitler's Vienna by Brigitte Hamann (1999) mention
nothing about supposed socialism on Hitler's part in the Vienna period. The
phrase "trade union" appears once in her book (p. 270), and this is
specifically a German nationalist trade union. Finally, Walker should perhaps
recall that the only union leader to become president of the United States was
Interestingly, Walker tips his hand slightly with his next bit:
"Eduard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia at the time of the Munich
Conference, was a leader of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party.
Ironically, at the time of the Munich Conference, out of the fourteen political
parties in the Snemovna (the lower chamber of the Czechoslovakian legislature)
the party most opposed to Hitler was the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party.
The Fascist Party in Czechoslovakia was also anti-Nazi."
Edvard Bene� was indeed a member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist
Party. And, indeed, Bene� was so opposed to Hitler (as were the Austrian
Fascists, leading to the assassination of the Austrian Fascist chancellor in
1934) that he resigned his position as President of Czechoslovakia immediately
following the loss of the Sudetenland to Germany. Walker conveniently omits
that Bene� spent the war in exile in the U.K. as the de jure president
of Czechoslovakia -- something not likely to have happened were Bene�
either a fascist or a communist -- but after the war, returning to
Czechoslovakia to take up the leadership again, Bene� staunchly but
unsuccessfully tried to prevent a communist takeover of his country.
The real obfuscation begins, however, in the next paragraph: "The
first and only platform of the National Socialist German Workers Party called
for very Leftist economic policies. Among other things, this platform called
for the death penalty for war profiteering, the confiscation of all income
unearned by work, the acquisition of a controlling interest by the people in
all big business organizations and so on. Otto Strasser, the brother and fellow
Nazi of Gregor Strasser, who was the second leading Nazi for much of the Nazi
Party's existence, in his 1940 book, Hitler and I revealed his ideology
before he found a home in the Nazi Party. In his own words, Otto Strasser
wrote: 'I was a young student of law and economics, a Left Wing student
First, the 25
points: Walker is cherry-picking his "Leftist" points of the
program. The first six points are authoritarian in the extreme. Point 7 would
seem to concede the creation of a welfare state but really serves only to be
sure that "foreign nationals (non-citizens) must be deported from the
Reich." Walker also leaves out the most anti-Leftist point of all: Point
16, which demands the creation of a large middle class. The other thing Walker
never tells us is how many of these "Leftist" points were never
implemented: Point 13, businesses were not nationalized; Point 14, there was
not profit-sharing; Point 17, there was no land reform; and Point 22, Hitler
prevented a people's army from emerging with the blood purge of 1934. So when,
in his next paragraph, Walker quotes Point 14, bear in mind that it never
Also, this paragraph would give the impression that the Strasser
brothers were close associates of Hitler's. And indeed they were -- until
Hitler had them expelled from the party. (Furthermore, Gregor Strasser was
assassinated on Hitler's orders in 1934.) The Strasser brothers represented the
"left wing" of the Nazi party. Hitler's first large disagreement with
the Strassers was over their attempts in the mid-1920s to form an
anti-capitalist wing of the party -- a move that Hitler successfully quashed in
Walker continues, "In his 1939 indictment of Nazism, Germany
Rampant, Hambloch has an entire chapter on political parties under the
German Empire before the First World War and political parties under the Weimar
Republic. Hambloch lists parts of the 'Left,' 'Right' and 'Centre' in the
German Empire pre-1914, but there are no 'Left,' 'Right' or 'Centre' parties in
the Weimar Republic, but rather 'Weimar Parties, i.e. those who supported the
republican constitution,' 'National Reactionary Parties' and 'Revolutionary
Parties.' The Nazis are listed, along with the Communist Party of Germany, as
the two 'Revolutionary Parties.' Pointedly, the Nazis were not considered a
'National Reactionary Party.'"
Besides another dusty source, this one not even with the full name of
the author (Ernest Hambloch), we get a wonderful example of quote-mining by
Walker. Actually, the term "reactionary" is used most often in
Hambloch's book to refer to religious reactionaries, and, in fact, the term is
applied to Martin Luther on p. 40, where it is said the Great Reformer
"like Hitler was on the side of the reactionaries."
Next Walker quotes the man himself -- Adolf Hitler speaking on May 1,
1927, where Hitler declares that the Nazis are socialists and enemies of
capitalism. I would ask Walker this question: Is North Korea a democratic
country merely because it calls itself "the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea?" And furthermore, was Hitler known for being a consistent
truth-teller? We then get a quote from Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels,
from Der Angriff in 1928, and finally Hans Buchner from 1930 calling the
NSDAP a proponent of "state socialism." Notably these quotes come
from the period before the Nazis took power in Germany.
Also notable is that Walker is aware that, as the Nazis came closer to
power, they promised more and more (much of which was never delivered). Still
trying to pin down the Nazis as Marxists, Walker writes, "The Nazis, for
example, proposed that old age and disability benefits (Social Security) be
paid out of general revenue, rather than from the contributions of the
individual recipient, and that the benefits be indexed to the cost of
living." Is Walker not aware that Social Security benefits are, in fact,
paid in part out of individual contributions? Then we're treated to another
quote from Goebbels -- again before the Nazi rise to power.
Walker goes on: "The Nazis simply did not ride to power on the
backs of wealthy industrialists. In fact, after the Nazis had acquired power
and when it would have been very advantageous to have 'backed the right horse,'
Ernst von Borsig, the prominent Berlin industrialist, said that he and his
colleagues provided very little support to the Nazis. As early as 1921, Paul
Reush, the leading industrialist in the Ruhr, actively insisted that his
company officers not support the Nazis. The Krupp family, famous for producing
arms for Germany, opposed Hitler in the 1932 presidential election. Nazis
received very little support even from industrialists who would benefit from
rearmament until 1930."
Walker's conclusion is that industrialists were not significant in the
rise of the Nazis; his proof is that two industrialists and the Krupp family
did not support Hitler. The problem is that Walker doesn't bother to mention
those industrialists who did support Hitler, e.g., Ferdinand Porsche, IG
Farben, and, of course, the Krupp Family, which produced munitions for Hitler.
Walker goes on to further deny the connections of industrialists to
Hitler, but the mass of scholarship is against him. Next we're told that the
Weimar Republic "had no Right in the way that Americans would conceive of
it." Really? France had 1'Alliance r�publicaine d�mocratique and Germany
the Bayerische Volkspartei. Another boner is Walker's claim that "Hitler,
for example, loathed the Kaiser and Imperial Germany." Why, then, would
Hitler have not only had the Kaiser's son August in the party but also wined
and dined him? (See the first volume of Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler.)
Much of what follows from here details Nazi economic policies, all of
which are deemed "Marxist," though they exist in several non-Marxist
countries today, e.g., income tax raises and government control over the
economy, which Walker fails to identify as corporatism. Notably, Walker never
takes into account that, once at war, Hitler had to raise taxes to fund his
military exploits. We get a whole rash of outdated studies, some of which
conclude that Germany was in economic decline in the mid to late 1930s, when
any person with even the most remote knowledge of German history knows that the
economy was in full recovery by 1937 and did not suffer serious reversal until
the military did. (See Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, particularly
the chapter on National Socialist Economic Policy.)
Here's Walker's final paragraph: "Nazis were Marxists, through and
through. Although Nazi [sic] condemned Bolshevism, the particular
incarnation of Marx in Russia, and although the Nazis often bickered and fought
with Fascism, the particular incarnation of Marx in Italy, Hitler and his
ghastly accomplices were always and forever absolutely committed to that which
we have come to call the 'Far Left.' Nazis were Marxists."
How can Walker conclude so glibly? What has he really proved? For that
we have to look at the Nazi political phenomenon from another point of view --
the correct one.
Another point of
The first thing to establish is that socialism, even on the very, very
limited scale in which it was implemented under the Nazis, is not equivalent to
Marxism or communism or whatever you want to call the system that operated in
the USSR, operates currently in Cuba, etc. Marxism views socialism, i.e., the
concentration and centralization of capital, as a means to an end, which is the
dissolution of class and utopian anarchy. Socialism as a form of political and
economic enterprise is an end unto itself. Once a socialist government is
installed, it does not then seek to dissolve government or conjure pipe dreams
There are two possibilities for why writers such as Walker frequently
conflate socialism and Marxism: (1) They are lying in order to sway their
readers that anything "of the Left" is bad; or (2) They truly don't
understand the difference, either because they're poorly educated, ignorant, or
stupid' or (3) Most, if not all, Marxist states still operate under some form
of socialism. This is not because socialism is the end goal of Marxism,
however. It is because Marxism, being a profoundly flawed political ideology,
requires a transitional "dictatorship of the proletariat" --
something which no Marxist state has ever moved beyond for what I hope are
Not counting states considering themselves Marxist, the following
states (among others) can be said to be socialist to some degree: India
(currently under the rule of the Congress Party); Brazil (Workers Party);
Germany (under a "grand coalition" right now, in which the
Social-Democratic Party of Germany [SPD] is taking part, the SPD being the
oldest party in Germany); the United Kingdom (under Labour); Italy (now under a
formerly Communist president); South Africa (under the ANC); Spain (under the
Socialist Workers Party); Canada; Venezuela; Australia (about to enter a Labour
government); the Netherlands; Sweden; Israel (decades of socialist rule); and
Thus if socialism were Marxism and thus the same issue faced by Reagan
in the 1980s, it would seem we'd still be in a cold war. In fact, however, most
of these nations are our allies. Some are our only allies currently.
The next thing to distinguish is what constitutes the Left and the
Right. In the U.S., obviously, these terms are generally used to describe the
Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, though Nelson Rockefeller, a
Republican, was probably Left of former Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia, who would
seem to the Right of most Democrats.
The descriptions of "Left wing" and "Right wing"
from Wikipedia strike me as accurate:
"In politics, the concept of left-wing, refers to a segment of the
political spectrum that considers a high priority the achieving of social
equality through collective rights (social), as opposed to purely individual
interests (private) and a traditional view of society, represented on the right
policy. In general, the left-wing tends to uphold a secular society,
egalitarian and multicultural. Depending on the balance of all these factors,
the political left is divided into many branches ideologically.The term has
been associated, in varying degrees, with Social (as opposed to Classical)
Liberalism, American Liberalism, some forms of Populism, Social Democracy,
Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Syndicalism, Communalism, Communitarianism,
Libertarian Socialism, Anarchism, Left-Libertarianism, Anti-colonialism, Green
Politics, Progressivism, and the Religious Left."
"In politics, right-wing, the political right, and the right are
terms used in the spectrum of left-right politics, and much like the opposite
appellation of Left-wing, it has a broad variety of definitions: the same name
can, in politics, sometimes mean different things. However, it is generally
used to refer to the segments of the political spectrum often associated with
any of several strains of Conservatism, Traditionalism, Monarchism,
Right-libertarianism, Royalism, Corporatism, the Religious Right, Nationalism,
Militarism, National Socialism, Producerism, Nativism, or simply Reactionism
for the sake of being the opposite of left-wing politics."
Note that the description of "left wing" includes Marxism and
the description of "right wing" includes National Socialism.
Based on the above definitions, we can basically see that a key
distinguishing factor between the left and right wings are strong beliefs in
collective rights and individualism, respectively. Equally important is the
more liberal social outlook of the left wing versus the traditional
conservatism of the right wing.
There is, of course, crossover. No one can deny, e.g., certain things
about the Nazis: They were a revolutionary movement and they collectivized
capital to a certain extent. At the same time, no one can deny that they were
reactionary in terms of their conservatism, obviously seeking to return Germany
to an authoritarian period when Jews were second-class citizens at best and
when Germany was the dominant state in Central Europe.
The question, then, becomes this: If National Socialism had aspects of
both the left and right wings, then why is it typically categorized as
"far-right" or "radically right."
The answer can be found not only in the reactionary conservatism of the
r�gime, but even in the aspects of Nazi governance that Walker would like us to
believe are Marxist.
First, there is no reason that a revolutionary movement cannot be from
the right wing. Certainly the Iranian Islamic Revolution was a conservative,
traditionalist revolution -- making it all the more ridiculous that Walker
includes "radical Islam" in his list of movement that "are on
the Left." Communism is very much frowned upon in countries under Islamic shariya
law, and even though Islam requires its adherents to give money to charity,
there is also a great deal of Islamic law devoted to the protection of private
Second, there is the notion of collectivization. I noted above that this
was done in Nazi Germany (not to mention other fascist states) to a certain
degree. It was also done mainly through corporatism, which is to incorporate
industry into government, thereby giving big business (think Ferdinand Porsche
and the Krupp Family) a large say in what goes on in government.
Giovanni Gentile, the preeminent philosopher of fascism, noted in his The
Doctrine of Fascism that corporatism is a fundamental component to a
fascist state. Conversely, in socialist countries where industry has been
centralized into government hands, it has been done either in the interest of
equally redistributing wealth or having the government control industry rather
than the other way around. On that first point (redistributing wealth), this
would be done on an equal basis without regard to race, religion, national
origin, etc. Very obviously, by disenfranchising minority and dissident groups,
Nazi Germany did not do this.
Thus the Nazis fail the left-wing litmus test on all grounds.
The bottom line about National Socialist Germany is that the NSDAP was
brought to power and strongly supported mainly by the very middle class that it
sought in its aforementioned 25 points to create. These voters put the NSDAP in
power not merely because of the anti-Semitism of the party, but because of
their fear of the resurgence of Marxism in Germany (which had reared its head
in late 1918 and early 1919). Hitler set his major war goal to be the complete
eradication of communism in Europe via the utter destruction of the Soviet
Union. That he lost in this endeavor does not change this fact -- one
acknowledged by Hitler in his speeches and writings over and over again.
Writers such as Bruce Walker would do themselves and their readers a
great service by dropping this line about the Nazis being "leftists,"
"Marxists," "Bolsheviks," or whatever. That they resort to
such tactics not only amounts to red-baiting (the Nazis being perhaps the
greatest enemy that Leftists in Europe ever had to face, being downright
genocidal in their policies toward their opposition -- it would be like calling
Stalin a Republican), but it points perhaps to their inability to defend their
conservative convictions based on their own merits.
I don't agree with William F. Buckley, Jr., on most things, but I
respect and admire him because I don't find that his opinions seem knee-jerk or
poorly thought-out. It seems that an argument like Walker's is one that Buckley
-- who really should be the model of the thinking conservative -- would reject
out of hand.
I could, of course, be wrong.
E. Mathis is a medical editor, Holocaust historian, and adjunct professor of
English and humanities at