“Adolph Hitler: Man of the Left”
Favorite Chapter Quote: ”Meanwhile, the contention that industrialists and other fat cats were pulling Hitler’s strings from behind the scenes has also been banished to the province of aging Marxists, nostalgic for paradigms lost.” Pg 58
[Favorite Chapter Quote from Chapter One, “Mussolini: The Father of Fascism”: Speaking of where Mussolini might land in 1904 after being labeled an “enemy of society” by the Swiss (no mean feat in itself), Goldberg writes, “At one point he considered whether he should work in Madagascar, take a job at a socialist newspaper in New York, or join other socialist exiles in the leftist haven of Vermont (which fills much the same function today).” Pg 34]
I truly didn’t plan to make these reviews any kind of anti-Obama screed, but the book’s text practically screams for it. For instance, while discussing the disagreement among scholars about whether Nazism was fascism with a capital F, or was a form of it at all, Goldberg mentions that while Hitler only referenced it twice in Mein Kampf, he admired (and borrowed) its’ most sellable piece. Quoting from pg 533 of the Manheim translation, “And it was only the idea [any idea which is new and inspirational] that enabled Fascism triumphantly to subject a whole nation to a process of complete renovation.” Sound familiar? That’s right, on October 30th, 2008 during a speech at the University of Missouri, BHO delivered the following sentiment, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” And this little discussion is on page 53, the chapter’s FIRST page.
Goldberg goes on to describe Nazi ideology, not as a “program or platform,” (pg 55) but as one which, “…most often resembled a religious crusade wearing the mask of a political ideology.” mmm mmm mmm And he further remarks that the one message Hitler did take away from Italian Fascism is that of “the idea” as mentioned above. The inherent meaning or even truth of “the idea” is of secondary importance. Rather, its’ ability to facilitate certain actions or legitimize various movements – in short, to “arouse the masses” is what recommends it. Indeed, Hitler was a megalomaniacal opportunist, so any apparently consistent theme in his “ideology”, outside of blind racial hatred, was evanescent at best.
The power of symbols is quite closely studied in contemporary schools of social work (and also of sociology, I would imagine) due to the political nature of such schools and their importance in consolidating power for the left. Liberals’ love of euphemisms and their hyper-vigilant suspicion of “code words” are quite suggestive of how they view “the idea.” It may also explain the current administration’s fixation with Fox news network. In any case, although he had none of his own, Hitler’s ability to triangulate, adopt, blend and peddle various ideologies depending on the audience (paraphrase of pg 56) amplifies the significance of symbol over substance and demonstrates how easily masses can be appeased if they have faith in some emotionally redeeming, quasi-religious “idea,” social justice for instance.
The creation of a powerful caricature for political reasons is central to why many people today think Hitler was a right-wing character and/or that his movement was somehow conservative. After the “Night of the Long Knives” (not to mention Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of Russia) the Reds had every reason in the world to distance themselves from him. Says Goldberg, “For decades the left has cherry-picked the facts to form a caricature of what the Third Reich was about….the desired effect was to cast Nazism as the polar opposite of Communism.” More specifically, “...the roles of industrialists and conservatives was grossly exaggerated, while the very large and substantial leftist and socialist aspects of Nazism were shrunk to the status of trivia, the obsession of cranks and Hitler apologists.” (pg 57)
William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” goes a long way in perpetuating the myth of Nazi “right-wing-ism” by conveniently positing that Hitler “destroyed the Left” i.e. supposedly leaving “the Right” in place and unaltered. However, as Goldberg points out, the Nazis did not so much “destroy the Left” as “replace the Left,” just as the SDS and Ramparts crowd became the “New Left” when the truth of Stalin’s purges finally came out. True, the “Left,” as it was understood at that time, WAS destroyed, but only because of a determined attempt by its’ fresher acolytes to distance themselves from it and keep the quaint ideas of socialism alive and well in America.
After decades of leftist propaganda regarding Nazi capitalists, how easy it is to forget that socialism is supposed to be a movement of the proletariat, i.e. the common man, the working poor, the unemployed – the underprivileged, as it were. And surprise, large swaths of the Nazi base were from this very group of downtrodden and lower classes. In addition, the actual German capitalists of the day despised Hitler and initially thought they could simply use him for their own purposes. Of course, when the real terror of the Third Reich began, everyone who was not a party member (and many who were) found that it was quite dangerous to make trouble and more than expedient to become compliant with and even develop a taste for the soupe du jour, so to speak. Organically however, as Goldberg puts it, “Nazism and Fascism were both popular movements with support from every stratum of society.” (pg 58)
My guess is Hitler simply found it easier to let Krupp make weapons and Daimler-Benz make motors. This was and is the main practical difference between National Socialism and sho’ ‘nuff communism. The reds nationalized the means of production and promptly made a mess of it (except during the war, when normal economic exigencies were suspended.) Otherwise, we are simply talking about two or three different chapters of the same fascist club. Goldberg addresses the fantasy that corporations are “inherently right-wing” in a later chapter on economics.
So Hitler was a revolutionary and a reactionary. Never heard him described as a revolutionary before? Neither have I. Nor are you likely to in the popular media or the American academy. Leftists have assiduously cleansed history of any connection he might have had to revolution since they believe it is always positive, “...the inevitable forward motion of the Hegelian wheel of history.” (Pg 59) Hitler may not have had any allegiance to a set ideology (other than racial hatred), but he exploited anti-capitalist rhetoric which was undoubtedly believed by the rank and file. Conservatism by almost any definition is surely the antithesis of revolution. It’s hard to see how Hitler’s revolutionary tendencies have been hidden for so long. The man titled his signature ideological/political screed “My Struggle” for crying out loud.
“Reactionary” is another one of those dusty Marxist terms which gets thrown around a lot by people like Airhead America’s Janeane Garofalo who use the term to mean, basically, “anyone who disagrees with me.” In the patois of early twentieth century Marxists and progressives however, it described folks who wished to return to God, king and country as ideals - certainly not goals of the Third Reich. Yet, insofar as Hitler wanted to throw off millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition and return to paganism, Wotan and Valhalla, he certainly earns the moniker.
In any event, by no stretch of the imagination can Hitler be described as a conservative. Regardless of the shifting locations of “right” or “left” in the modern or historical lexicon of socio-political taxonomy, Monsieur Adolph wanted to preserve nothing, saving maybe the pipe dream of racial purity as personified by an Aryan Superman. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the popular depiction of a mid-twentieth-century ideology of genocide as “right-wing” has been the plaything of socialist and progressive propagandists for decades now. Therefore, it is an important point to dispute, especially given the virulence of Hollywood’s, Democrats’ and academicians’ endless attempts to paint conservatives, Republicans and the political right as somehow connected to Nazism. Again, Goldberg should have the last word: “Certainly, to suggest that Hitler was a conservative in any sense related to American conservatism is lunacy.” (pg 61)
Of course, many other strains of “reasoning” are used to equate Nazism with contemporary right-wing politics. For instance, the National Socialists’ racism, supposed fondness for capitalism and opprobrium of Bolshevism are all used as purported “evidence” that they could accurately be described as conservatives or even garden variety, lower case f fascists. Such pitiful sallies fall apart with even a cursory look.
As far as racism, who practices identity politics today based on race and ethnicity? Which professional association of national social workers for many years opposed (and may still oppose) inter-racial adoption based on the principal that black babies would otherwise lose their cultural (read racial) “authenticity”? (And thereby depriving them of loving homes, which makes me so mad I can’t see straight.) And historically, whereas Hitler is practically defined by his hatred of the Jews, Mussolini, “The Father of Fascism” remember, thought of racial politics as a mere distraction and basically silly. He could have cared less about anyone’s race. Indeed, Jews were protected by his troops far more often than not and persecuted less than by any group other than the Danes. Actually, I’m understating the issue. He despised the so called ubermenchen for their racist policies. From pg 55, Mussolini penned, or at least approved of, an article in Gerachia, “Thirty centuries of history permit us to regard with supreme pity certain doctrines supported beyond the Alps by the descendants of people who did not know how to write, and could not hand down documents recording their own lives, at a time when Rome had Caesar, Virgil, and Augustus.”
The fact of Hitler’s anti-Semitism has been thoroughly documented, yet his strong dislike of Christians is less so. During his time in Vienna, when he discovered National Socialism and the need for Teutonic purity (or Germanic affirmative action at least), he spent late nights, “…writing plays about pagan Bavarians bravely fighting off invading Christian priests trying to impose foreign beliefs on Teutonic civilization.” (Pg 64) And the feeling was mutual for the most part. Reinhold Niebuhr strongly opposed the events occurring in Germany and in 1933 was one of the first Christian leaders in the U.S. to warn against the “cultural annihilation of the Jews” in an article for the Christian Century. Martin Niemoller, the Lutheran pastor who gave us the famous poem, “They came for the Jews”, was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau from 1937 until the end of the war by Hitler personally, even after being released with a fine and time served by a “Special” court. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, another German Lutheran pastor and staunch opponent of Nazism, was involved in a plot by members of the Abwehr to assassinate der Fuhrer in 1943. He was subsequently imprisoned and later executed at Flossenburg one month before the war ended. For the record, Hitler also disliked Slavs, conservatives, gypsies, intellectuals, homosexuals and Marxists – and in fact, including Christians, executed a total of approximately three million people from these groups.
Hitler also studied Marxism during his stay in Vienna. He came to believe Marx was the force behind a Jewish plot, a vast Hebrew conspiracy, one might say. And while serving (King Ludwig III) in WWI, his suspicion of Marxism became a vile hatred for actual communism. German Reds took advantage of the chaos and starvation of German civilians by organizing strikes, calling for peace with the Soviets and pushing for the institution of socialism. Hitler (and many others) saw this as treason by a corrupt government, i.e. the “November criminals.” Wrote Hitler, “During those nights [recovering from war wounds] my hatred increased, hatred for those responsible for this dastardly crime.” He of course conflated “capitalists, communists and cowards” (pg 67) as responsible and saw it all as the work of a thinly veiled cabal of Jewish interests. So this assumed betrayal and not any kind of heavy ideological differences with socialist policies, explain Hitler’s antipathy towards the Bolsheviks.
This corrupt mindset also drives a lot of his thinking about capitalism. The Jews have historically been a popular scapegoat and were much more so after the first war, when pandemic economic malaise easily lent itself to such resentments. As we’ll see later, after coming to power, he even went so far as closing down (or nationalizing) department stores (the Wal-Marts of their day) because of their Jewish connection and the assumed unfair advantage they had over more purely Aryan Mom and Pop enterprises (Tante Emma Laden). Hitler was impressed with one speaker at a German Worker’s Party meeting, Gottfried Feder, whose rant was entitled, “How and by What Means Is Capitalism to Be Eliminated?” (pg 67) Hitler saw the potential for turning such nonsense into a way of appealing to the Volk, who believed capitalists were exploiting them at every turn. Feder never missed a chance to call Jews “parasites.”
As we can see, National Socialism is an ideology based on deep-seated resentments and hatred. It is founded on the idea that the state should work to ensure “social justice”. (Does it really matter whether “justice” must be extracted from purportedly avaricious Joooos or presumably “greedy” and “racist” white crackers?) Take a look at “The Nazi Party Platform” found in the Appendix on pg 410. It reads like a wish list from the fevered imagination of George Clooney or some other moonbat of today: universal education, guaranteed employment, increased entitlements for the aged, the expropriation of land without compensation, the abolition of market-based lending (“interest slavery” – but I guess Hitler wouldn’t have instituted a “pay czar” to regulate bankers’ salaries, maybe a “pay fuhrer”), the expansion of health services, etc. -- hardly the stuff of anyone in bed with capitalism.
Goldberg puts it succinctly, “What the Nazis pursued was a form of anticapitalist, antiliberal [anti-classically-liberal that is], and anti-conservative communitarianism encapsulated in the concept of Volksgemeinschaft, or ‘people’s community.’” (pg 69) And remember, Hitler was a nationalist, not a patriot, with the former interested in blood, soil, ethnicity, race, and Volk, while the latter is more concerned with the ideas, institutions and traditions of a country. (pg 62) Hitler was not at all a patriot to the state of Germany as it then existed. Yet Marx’s idea that “workingmen have no country” was anathema to Herr Schicklgruber. However, he wanted them to have a “Fatherland” (soil) based on racial purity (blood and race) and which excluded Germany’s formerly (classically) liberal policies (institutions) regarding foreigners and traditional religions. Recall that previous to the ‘30’s, Jews had flocked to Germany from all over Eastern Europe and Russia to escape persecution. Germany, under “…the Bismarkian constitution of 1871 [which] brought to legal fruition the process of Jewish emancipation begun during the Prussian reform period early in the Century” (from Karl Schleunes’ “The Twisted Road to Auschwitz”), had allowed them to own businesses, engage in the “learned professions,” intermarry and so on – things which were forbidden in the lands of pure socialism.
Goldberg spends the last few pages of the chapter divining Hitler’s real motives for disliking Bolshevism and piling on yet more evidence that “right wing” was simply applied when convenient to castigate those whose flavor of socialism diverged from acceptable party cant, kind of like Camille Paglia today being accused of “right-wing-ism” because she has departed from modern leftist orthodoxy on several issues. For instance, on pg 71, Goldberg states, “Most of the Bolshevik revolutionaries Stalin executed were accused of being not conservatives or monarchists but rightists --- that is, right wing socialists. Any deviation from the Soviet line was automatic proof of rightism. Ever since, we in the West have apishly mimicked the Soviet usage of such terms without questioning the propagandistic baggage attached.”
And in return, “What distinguished Nazism [from other types of socialism] was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics.” (Pg 73) As previously mentioned, Hitler hated Marxism due to “…his paranoid conviction that the people calling themselves communists were in fact in on a foreign, Jewish conspiracy.” (pg 75) Mein Kampf is replete with such assertions. What he failed to realize was that most Stalinists were anti-Semites themselves – even officially so. Ruth Fischer, a half-Jewish communist radical (boy, talk about self-hate) who later became a high-level commissar in Communist East Germany, employed just such incendiary rhetoric while trying to convince the German proletariat to embrace communism, “Whoever cries out against Jewish capitalists is already a class warrior, even when he does not know it…Kick down the Jewish capitalists, hang them from the lampposts, and stamp upon them.” Pg 76 (Class warfare? Oh yeah, just like the kind we hear about today.)
Not to mix metaphors, and at the risk of beating a dead horse, but aware that this horse has nonetheless been stalking quite a long time, Karl Radek, a communist ideologue, observed in the early twenties that “Fascism is middle-class Socialism…” Suffice to say that if Leon Trotsky, the co-founder of the Soviet state, could be labeled a fascist and “Nazi agent” at Stalin’s whim, anyone could be. And anyone and everyone who has dared to oppose socialist whims ever since has been. Pg 77
Now that we know why “right-wing” doesn’t mean fascism, next week we will learn why “left-wing” does. Chapter Three: “Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism”