As some of you are no doubt aware, we’ve been working on a long-running series on Adolf Hitler and his political predilections. We concluded that, far from being a right-winger, Hitler was decidedly a left-wing, socialist figure. As he himself claimed. We even argued with others on other blogs about this point. Here for example.
Furthermore, we indicated that others are coming around to our way of thinking as well. That thinking can be summed up as follows:
If it resembles everything left-wing, and nothing right-wing, then it’s probably left-wing. No matter what others may claim it to be.
But, but, but … you’ll say, what about historical consensus? Consensus in history is like any other consensus. If it’s right it’s right, but if it’s wrong it’s wrong. There’s nothing sacred about consensus. It can be nothing more than a whole bunch of people either (1) too lazy or dishonest to continue to think about something, or (2) wrong. The Environmental movement gets to do both!
People who believe Hitler was a right-winger are today’s flat-earthers. The scientific “consensus” some years back was that the earth was flat. The consensus was wrong then, as is the “Hitler as right-winger” consensus now.
To continue with the analogy, way back when — in the days when, to get the answer right on the quiz, you needed to bubble in “B – flat” for the question “The earth is: ” — it required brave souls to buck that consensus; souls who then took the same ribbing and snide derision that we take when we demonstrate that it seems pretty obvious that Hitler was a left-winger … and that the earth is not flat.
Here is another of those brave souls.
Read (the above-linked) Jonah Goldberg’s important Liberal Fascism as much for the rationale behind putting Hitler in his proper place, as for the rest of the extremely eye-opening history of today’s American left. If you pause to ponder why the left are so dirty, so power-obsessed, so corrupt, you need not look an awful lot further than their long history — before any of today’s leftist leaders were even glints in their leftist mothers’ eyes — of power obsession, all driven by a large body of thought and an extensive paper trail… and a widespread consensus.
It’s there for anyone to find, and Jonah Goldberg has found it, and exposed it.
So, let’s grant Goldberg’s conclusion: Hitler’s a left-winger. Why, then, do historians place him on the right side of the political spectrum? Easy enough. Historians are, in the vast majority … leftists. Hitler would be a pretty embarrassing ideological confrère to have to drag around with you. Hitler opposed both German communists during his rise to power, and Stalin, after Hitler had secured the German chancellorship. It was pretty easy in the west, therefore, simply to re-assign Hitler to the right-wing, while turning quickly away and pronouncing the political “science” as settled.
I hear you saying it: “But if you — a right-winger — are trying to re-assign Hitler back to the left-wing, aren’t you just as guilty as the left-wing historians?” The answer is: Yes, I am. Absolutely. As a right-winger, I was certainly uncomfortable thinking that Hitler might also be a right-winger. Seems like a pretty natural distaste, don’t you agree? It caused me to investigate just why Hitler was called a right-winger, when all his central beliefs are diametrically opposed to anything I — and any other right-wingers — believe.
One of these things is wrong: either Hitler was a leftist or a rightist.
Well, I point you now to our summary above: “If someone resembles everything left-wing, and nothing right-wing…” and so on.
It’s hard to find any right-wing characteristics in Hitler whatsoever, while he’s swimming in left-wing check marks: Statist? Check. Concentrated central power? Check. Central control of the country’s finances? Check. Large-scale nationalizations? Check. Expansionist? Check. Racist? Check. Militaristic? Check. Vanishing individual liberties? Check. Nationalist? Check. Collectivist rhetoric? Check (“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer“(1))
Now, the rest of this is for the real history/philosophy geeks among you.
I admit that I see, understand, and possibly agree with, some of the rationale behind assigning Hitler to the right-wing a long time ago. And this is a point that Goldberg doesn’t address in his superb book (though no doubt he understands it.). The definition of “right” and “left” will change over time … as it pertains to political thought, that is. That surely happened in the decades following the Second World War.
Yes, there was a consensus that Hitler was an extreme right-winger. Therefore those recognizing themselves as “of the right” in America following the war, would have had ample reason to recoil from this supposed “colleague” on their side of the political spectrum.
It’s a sure bet that many right wingers would do whatever they could to purge anything resembling anything Hitlerian from their thinking. In one fell swoop, left-wing historians might have done the right-wing the greatest possible favor in libeling them by sticking Hitler in their midst. Note: this is the same “favor” that left-wing journalism did for Republicans in the Watergate era. Subsequent to Watergate, the Republican Party has been — corruption-wise — squeaky clean. Yes, there have been several examples of bad apples, and the party expelled them forthwith. The Democrat Party, on the other hand, lacking adult supervision, both from within and from the press, has been the cesspool of corruption that we have seen since that time.
Look at the ones the Democrats continue to hold out as heroes: Bill Clinton (probable rapist), Robert Byrd (klansman), Ted Kennedy (admitted murderer)… The list is too long to enumerate here. Here, however, is a tiny subset of the entire list.
If you’ve ever seen a thin slick of vegetable oil in a pan of water recoil from a drop of dish detergent, you have an idea of what the right-wing must have done at the thought that Hitler was anywhere close to them ideologically. After all, we right-wingers are as prone as anyone else to succumb to the reigning political conventional “wisdom.” Which means that despite its obvious inaccuracy, we on the right likely assigned Hitler to the right wing with us, simply because that was the prevailing narrative. You still had to bubble in “Right-wing” on the history quiz in answer to the question, “Hitler was on the: _________”
We were wrong to do that, though. And we paid for it in subsequent decades. Hitler was never one of us, and he was one of them — the political left. We should have absolutely, unequivocally, no question-about it refused to permit that anyone assign Hitler to our side. Big mistake on our part.
In that historical moment (several decades is but a “moment” in history), it would be perfectly natural for the longtime anti-communist political right to re-make itself then as (1) not Hitler, and (2) not communist.
This realignment shouldn’t in any way diminish the real, true heroism of the right in defining itself as “not-Hitler.” It’s worth repeating that. Furthermore, the political left in America has never, ever, not ever, not once, ever tried to re-make itself against well-known left-wing monsters like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim, Castro… but has always formulated all its policies and prescriptions in function of one thing only; the primary directive: “Determine how this can help us to (1) obtain, and (2) retain power.”
As a result, the left still owns Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, the Castro ghouls, Tito, Ceausescu, Honecker, Jaruzelski, Husak, Kadar, and now … Hitler.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Hitler had no problem making common cause with Stalin before World War II, and that for a short time during World War II, Hitler and Stalin were staunch allies, and dear friends.
Now, here’s the interesting part for me: I was (a tiny) part of that ideological conversation. In high school in the 1970’s, I posed the following innocent question to my very left-wing, but still honest, 9th grade Western Civ teacher: “What’s the difference between the Nazis and the Communists? I don’t see much of a difference.”
His answer was instructive. This liberal-in-good-standing history teacher said simply, “Very little difference. The two are very similar.(2)” He followed that with something really interesting. He said that “Right and left are more like a circle with a tiny break in it.” He then drew on the chalk board (this was back when they used chalk in school) something like the diagram, below:
Do you see the same things I do? By bending the straight-line, left-right axis downward into a circle, he was able to keep the extreme-left as the “Communist side”, with the extreme-right as the “Nazi side.” But that’s not what’s really interesting. You’ll note where he placed “Laissez-faire Capitalism”: As far away from either Nazism or Communism as it could possibly be.
In my opinion he got it wrong. Simply: Communism and Nazism would go on the extreme left; Laissez-faire Capitalism would go on the right side at, say, three o’clock, while Libertarianism would go closer to, say, 4:30 on the right. At the extreme right would be the anarcho-nihilists who are opposed to any government whatsoever. There is practically no such organized movement, as one would expect, so it would be almost silly to include them at all. Near the center, at say, 10:00 or so, would be European Democratic Socialism. There is nothing at 12:00.
Some (Mike?) will disagree with my placement of the various political tendencies, but I think that the concept is solid.
My Western Civ teacher used the middle line to show, he hoped, that Communism and Nazism were both poles apart, and still very much alike. Talk about trying to square a circle!
I wish I’d had the presence of mind to point out to my teacher that the center-line was no barrier, but simply an artificial construct that he himself had invented. It’s no more an unbreachable “barrier” between Communism and Nazism than a line in the beach sand is between two volleyball teams.
Now, the above circular representation of the political right and left is clever as far as it goes. It does, I think, show a reason to suggest that we should replace current “right-left” thinking with something less confining, less simplistic and less limited. Something more like a Venn diagram. In which case, I’d draw something like this:
In the above diagram: Red=Communism, Brown=Nazism, and Green=Capitalism.
Most honest(3) historians, presented with the above simple Venn diagram would agree that it’s at least roughly accurate. There’re several areas of intersection that are interesting, and I’ll point them out.
- Where Nazism and Capitalism have common elements. This is a very small area.
- Where Nazism, Capitalism, and Communism have common elements. Also a very small area.
- Where Capitalism and Communism have common elements. Again, a very small area.
- Where Nazism and Communism have common elements. A huge area. If you were to start to name the commonalities, you would have a very long list indeed, but it would be a list having at least the following high-level characteristics
- Great centralization of power
- Very few individual rights
- No meaningful property rights
- Central control of the nation’s finances
- Limited social, economic or political mobility
- Militant atheism (the state needs to be all-powerful), and therefore:
- Little or no religious freedom
At the end of the day (one of the most loathed phrases of recent years! 🙂 ), there is simply no meaningful difference between Nazism and Communism. If you were to add Communist China to this mix, you would have to place their circle in nearly the exact same place as both the Nazi and Communist circles. That particular branch of the socialist disease would need to encompass both the Nazi and the Communist circles! But, there would still be almost no overlap with the Capitalism circle. As below:
Are you getting the point here? Obviously at some point, we begin to recognize that there are simply very few differences between the historical socialisms that have presented themselves to us. Whether it be “National Socialism,” “Ho-ism,” “Kim-ism,” “Castro-ism,” “Tito-ism,” “Stalinism,” “Maoism,” or anything else, they all result in the same third-world hellholes as all the others.
It’s all “socialism.”
Socialism is like any other disease: you don’t make anything better by having just a little bit less of it; you make everything better by getting rid of it entirely.
(1) (From Wikipedia) “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”
One of the Nazis’ most-repeated political slogans was Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer – “One People, One Empire, One Leader.” Bendersky says the slogan “left an indelible mark on the minds of most Germans who lived through the Nazi years. It appeared on countless posters and in publications; it was heard constantly in radio broadcasts and speeches.” The slogan emphasized the absolute control of the party over practically every sector of German society and culture – with the churches the most notable exception. Hitler’s word was absolute, but he had a narrow range of interest – mostly involving diplomacy and the military – and so his subordinates interpreted his will to fit their own interests.
(2) At that point, World War II had been over for more than a generation, and the above-mentioned right-wing realignment must have been in full swing. My then Western Civ teacher — Mr. Lucas — was a young man, fresh out of college. The colleges of the day were not yet useless, corrupt bastions of left-wing propaganda. Still, they were liberal, and so was the teacher. I venture that if you were to ask that same man today, he’d give the leftist party line answer.
(3) Historians, like anyone else in any other field are just as prone, if not more so, to corruption, power madness, ideological narrow-mindedness, and fraud. The ability to “write history” (Remember: History is written by the victors.) is real power. I might amend Churchill’s quote to say: “He who writes the past, writes the future.”