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Analysis Last Updated: Dec 6th, 2007 - 01:28:06

Tarring with the same brush
By Andrew E. Mathis
Online Journal Guest Writer

Dec 6, 2007, 01:25

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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.

The facts

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 Germany."

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 Ronald Reagan.

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 leader.'"

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 actually happened.

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 1926.

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 view

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 of utopia.

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 obvious reasons.

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 New Zealand.

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 property.

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.

Andrew E. Mathis is a medical editor, Holocaust historian, and adjunct professor of English and humanities at Villanova University.

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