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Never Blame the Left (Were the Nazis Left or Right?)
National Review Via ^ | Dec., 1995 | George Watson

Posted on 12/10/2001 10:32:57 AM PST by Ditto

from National Review, 1995-Dec-31, by George Watson:

Never Blame the Left

The Left is perceived as kind and caring,
despite its extensive history of promoting genocide.

When it comes to handing out blame, it is widely assumed that the Right is wicked and the Left incompetent. Or rather, you sometimes begin to feel, any given policy must have been Right if it was wicked, Left if it was incompetent.

Mr. Watson, formerly a professor at New York University and now a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, is the author of Politics & Literature in Modern Britain and The Idea of Liberalism He is currently completing a history of socialism.

To give an example: I happened recently in Vienna to pass a restaurant that was advertising Jewish food, with two armed policemen standing outside. They were there, one of them explained to me, to guard against right wing radical extremists. There had been no violence against the restaurant then, and I believe there has been none since. But racism, and especially anti-Semitism, is wicked, so it must be right-wing.

That is fairly astounding, when you think about it. The truth is that in modern Europe, genocide has been exclusively a socialist idea, ever since Engels proclaimed it in Marx's journal the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in January-February 1849. Ever since then everyone who has advocated genocide has called himself a socialist, without exception.

The Left has a lot to hide. In the 1890s, for example, French socialists dissociated themselves from the Dreyfus affair, and in January 1898 the French Socialist Party issued a manifesto that called it a power struggle within the ruling classes, and warned the workers against taking sides in the matter. Dreyfus's supporters were Jewish capitalists, they argued, eager to clear themselves of financial scandals. A few years later, in 1902, H. G. Wells in Anticipations repeated the Marxist demand for genocide, but with variations, since the book is a blueprint for a socialist utopia that would be exclusively white.

A generation later Bernard Shaw, another socialist, in a preface to his play On the Rocks (1933), called on scientists to devise a painless way of killing large mulititudes of people, especially the idle and the incurable, which is where Hitler's program began six years later. In a letter to his fellow socialist Beatrice Webb (February 6, 1938) Shaw remarked of Hitler's program to exterminate the Jews that ``we ought to tackle the Jewish question,'' which means admitting ``the right of States to make eugenic experments by weeding out any strains that they think undesirable.'' His only proviso was that it should be done humanely.

Ethnic cleansing was an essential part of the socialist program before Hitler had taken any action in the matter. The Left, for a century, was proud of its ruthlessness, and scornful of the delicacy of its opponents. ``You can't make an omelette,'' Beatrice Webb once told a visitor who had seen cattle cars full of starving people in the Soviet Unions, ``without breaking eggs.''

There is abundant evidence, what is more, that the Nazi leaders believed they were socialists and that anti-Nazi socialists often accepted that claim. In Mein Kampf (1926) Hitler accepted that National Socialism was a derivative of Marxism. The point was more bluntly made in private conversations. ``The whole of National Socialism is based on Marx,'' he told Hermann Rauschning. Rauschning later reported the remark in Hitler Speaks (1939), but by that time the world was at war and too busy to pay much attention to it. Goebbels too thought himself a socialist. Five days before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941, he confided in his diary that ``real socialism'' would be established in that country after a Nazi victory, in place of Bolshevism and Czarism.

The evidence that Nazism was part of the socialist tradition continues to accumulate, even if it makes no headlines. In 1978 Otto Wagener's Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant appeared in its original German. Wagener was a lifelong Nazi who had died in 1971. His recollections of Hitler's conversations had been composed from notes in a British prisoner-of-war camp, and they represent Hitler as an extreme socialist utopian, anti-Jewish because ``the Jew is not a socialist.'' Nor are Communists--``basically they are not socialistic, since they create mere herds, as in the Soviet Union, without individual life.'' The real task, Hitler told Wagener, was to realize the socialist dream that mankind over the centuries had forgotten, to liberate labor, and to displace the role of capital. That sounds like a program for the Left, and many parties called socialist have believed in less.

Hitler's allegiance, even before such sources were known, was acknowledged by socialists outside Germany. Julian Huxley, for example, the pro-Soviet British biologist who later became director-general of UNESCO, accepted Hitler's claim to be a socialist in the early 1930s, though without enthusiasm (indeed, with marked embarrassment).

Hitler's program demanded central economic planning, which was at the heart of the socialist cause; and genocide, in the 1930s, was well known to be an aspect of the socialist tradition and of no other. There was, and is, no conservative or liberal tradition of racial extermination. The Nazis, what is more, could call on socialist practice as well as socialist theory when they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and began their exterminatory program. That is documented by Rudolf Hoess in his memoir Kommandant in Auschwitz (1958). Detailed reports of the Soviet camp system were circulated to Nazi camp commandants as a model to emulate and an example to follow.

Soviet exterminations under Lenin and Stalin may have totaled 25 to 30 million, which (if the estimate is accepted) would represent about three times the Nazi total of nine million. That seems to matter very little now. My Austrian policeman was still certain that racism is right-wing. As are a lot of people. After a recent bomb outrage against a synogogue in Lübeck, the German press instantly assumed, before anyone was charged with the crime, that the Right was to blame. The fact that there is no non-socialist tradition of genocide in Europe has not even been noticed.

That is an impressive act of suppression. The Left may have lost the political battle, almost everywhere in the world. But it does not seem to have lost the battle of ideas. In intellectual circles, at least, it is still believed that racism and the Left do not mix.

Why is this? How has the evidence of socialist genocide, how has Hitler's acknowledgement of his debt to Marx, been so efficiently suppressed?

The answer, I suspect, lies in the nature of political commitment. Political knowledge is not like botany or physics, and commitment is not usually made by examining evidence. When socialism was fashionable I used to ask those who believed in it why they thought public ownership would favor the poor. What struck me about their responses was not just that they did not know but that they did not think they were under any obligation to know. But if they had really cared about poverty they would have demanded an answer before they signed up, and would have gone on demanding an answer until they got one. In other words, they were hardly interested in solving poverty. What really interested them was looking and sounding as if they did.

When Marxism was fashionable, similarly, I used to ask Marxists what book by Marx or Engels they had read all the way through, and watch them look shifty and change the subject. Or, for a change, I might ask them what they thought of Engels's 1849 program of racial extermination, and watch them lose their temper. Politics, for lots of people, is not evidence based. It is more like showing off a new dress or a new suit.

There are three motives, broadly speaking, for political commitment, of which the third is admirable. I shall leave it till last.

The first is self-definition. You call yourself Left or Right, that is, as a way of proclaiming to the world and to yourself that you are a certain sort of person--kind and caring if you are Left, competent and realistic if you are Right. The reasons for these associations of ideas are far older than our century and matter now only to historians, and even they would usually prefer not to be asked about them. It might be worrying if anyone did. The line between the efficient and the inefficient, after all, is nothing like as simple as the line between the private and the public, and not all public enterprise is caring: Auschwitz was public enterprise. Never mind. If you want to look caring, you will not ask such questions, and if anybody does it is always possible to change the subject.

The second motive is a sense of community. You choose a political side because the people you know, or would like to know, are already there, and you would like them to be like you. There was a time when, in university life, you would not be accepted unless you were Left, and it took enormous courage in that age to speak out on campus against Soviet or Chinese exterminations. That view is not yet dead. There are still those on both sides of the Atlantic who move, and intend to go on moving, in circles that think anti-Americanism a sufficient substitute for connected thought.

The third motive is instrumental. You can hold a political view with the admirable purpose of achieving something specific like constitutional change or a balanced budget, and support those who support it, whatever their party color. A moment's reflection suggests that this is rare. It is hard work, for one thing. It seldom attracts admiration, for another, though it often should. And it is not always easy to believe that this will work. Much more agreeable, on the whole, to use politics as a way of defining yourself or of making and keeping friends.

The Left got away with its crimes, I suggest, because those who form opinion had their own reasons for looking in another direction. They wanted to see themselves in a certain light and to keep the good opinion of the people whose friendship they valued. They had no wish to look at evidence, and they were adept at pretending, when it was produced, that it did not mean what it said. I remember once, ni a controversy in a British journal, being told that Marx, Wells, and Shaw were being whimsical and nothing more when they committed socialists to mass-murder. Couldn't I take a joke? Evidence is seldom as inconvenient as that in the physical sciences, and scientists do not enjoy such convenient excuses for dismissal as whimsy or irony. Most critical theory, in our times, has been a way of pretending that evidence does not, and perhaps cannot, be taken literally.

The effects of that mood are still visible. The history of socialism, above all, is studiously neglected and even, in some aspects, simply taboo. What we need now is a serious and unblinking study of socialism, of what it said and what it did: one that does not judge the evidence; one that is brave enough to tell it as it was.

TOPICS: Editorial; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: nazi; socialism; soviet; thesovietstory
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Comments? Is our 'conventional wisdom' about what is left and right wrong? Do we need to correct the political map?
1 posted on 12/10/2001 10:32:57 AM PST by Ditto
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To: Ditto
It is a myth, that I am tired of hearing, that the NAZIs were Socialists. Regardless of their official name, the National Socialist German Workers' Party was one of dozens of political parties extant during the time of the Weimar Republic.

Whatever its platform was initially, Hitler and Ernst Rohm had perverted the political party to their own ends, and those ends were not Lenin, Marx and Engles.

2 posted on 12/10/2001 10:46:00 AM PST by The Shootist
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To: Ditto
Where's the link to National Review?
3 posted on 12/10/2001 10:46:37 AM PST by VinnyTex
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To: The Shootist
Nazism, facsism and National Socialism are all expressions of the most extreme right wing of political thought. Hitler claimed to be a lot of different things, often lying many times. Why is it then that, just because he selected the term 'Socialist' so as to be more appealing to the political center, some are so willing to take him at his word?
4 posted on 12/10/2001 10:53:52 AM PST by Petronski
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To: Abbalon
Join the fun here
5 posted on 12/10/2001 10:56:53 AM PST by Ditto
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To: The Shootist
With all due respect (and anyone named "The Shootist" deserves respect from even other armed persons ;-)) I disagree. The idea of the state setting policy and having control of the culture is an idea of the left and not the right (true conservatives want to be left alone and not told what to do by anyone or anything, incluing the state; and, they don't care about telling others what to do).

In my mind, the central issue of Bolshevik leftism was class; the central issue of Hitlerian leftism was race.

Totalitarians suck, and totalitarianism is of the left, not right, IMO.

6 posted on 12/10/2001 10:57:12 AM PST by Pharmboy
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To: Ditto
I agree the Nazi's were really socialists. Hitler's 25 points clearly shows the socialists roots of the National Socialists Party.

The spectrum for state vs. individual rights goes from anarchy (nobody can decide anything for anybody else) to absolute monarchy (one person decides everything for everybody). Socialism, Communism and Monarchy are really quite similar. There is also the function of how the government is selected from democracy to birth-right.

When you start looking at our Constitution in the light of People vs. State, you realize how brilliant the Founding Fathers were.

7 posted on 12/10/2001 10:57:26 AM PST by DrDavid
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To: VinnyTex
I found the article elsewhere. Click the link and scroll about halfway down the page for the article.
8 posted on 12/10/2001 10:58:31 AM PST by Ditto
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To: The Shootist
"NATIONAL SOCIALISM" //Top Navigational Bar III (By BrotherCake @ //Permission granted/modified by to include script in archive //For this and 100's more DHTML scripts, visit

"The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights; under socialism, the right to property (which is the right of use and disposal) is vested in 'society as a whole,' i.e., in the collective, with production and distribution controlled by the state, i.e., by the government.

"Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics--or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia--or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.

"The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure--terrifying, that is, if one's motive is men's welfare.

"Instead of prosperity, socialism has brought economic paralysis and/or collapse to every country that tried it. The degree of socialization has been the degree of disaster. The consequences have varied accordingly."

From: "The Monument Builders," from The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand, c. 1964


"There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism--by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide."

From: "Foreign Policy Drains U.S. of Main Weapon," by Ayn Rand, pub. in Los Angeles Times, 9/9/62 G2


"Both 'socialism' and 'fascism' involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories; socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates 'the vesting of ownership and control' in the community as a whole, i.e., in the state; fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government.

"Ownership without control is a contradiction in terms: it means 'property,' without the right to use it or to dispose of it. It means that the citizens retain the responsibility of holding property, without any of its advantages, while the government acquires all the advantages without any of the responsibility."

From: "The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus," from Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, by Ayn Rand, c.1966


"The difference between [socialism and fascism] is superficial and purely formal, but it is significant psychologically: it brings the authoritarian nature of a planned economy crudely into the open.

"The main characteristic of socialism (and of communism) is public ownership of the means of production, and, therefore, the abolition of private property. The right to property is the right of use and disposal."

Quoting Ayn Rand from: The Fascist New Frontier, pamphlet, p. 5


[Adolf Hitler on Nazism and socialism:] "Each activity and each need of the individual will thereby be regulated by the party as the representative of the general good. There will be no license, no free space, in which the individual belongs to himself. This is Socialism--not such trifles as the private possession of the means of production. Of what importance is that if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape? Let them then own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over them, regardless whether they are owners or workers. All that, you see, is unessential. Our Socialism goes far deeper."

"Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings."

Adolf Hitler to Hermann Rauschning, quoted in The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff C. 1982



"Under fascism, men retain the semblance or pretense of private property, but the government holds total power over its use and disposal.

"The dictionary definition of fascism is: "a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.), emphasizing an aggressive nationalism"[The American College Dictionary, New York: Random House, 1957.]

"Under fascism, citizens retain the responsibilities of owning property, without freedom to act and without any of the advantages of ownership. Under socialism, government officials acquire all the advantages of ownership, without any of the responsibilities, since they do not hold title to the property, but merely the right to use it--at least until the next purge. In either case, the government officials hold the economic, political and legal power of life or death over the citizens.

"Needless to say, under either system, the inequalities of income and standard of living are greater than anything possible under a free economy--and a man's position is determined, not by his productive ability and achievement, but by political pull and force."

Quoting Ayn Rand from: The Fascist New Frontier, pamphlet, p. 5


"Contrary to the Marxists, the Nazis did not advocate public ownership of the means of production. They did demand that the government oversee and run the nation's economy. The issue of legal ownership, they explained, is secondary; what counts is the issue of control. Private citizens, therefore, may continue to hold titles to property--so long as the state reserves to itself the unqualified right to regulate the use of their property.

"If "ownership" means the right to determine the use and disposal of material goods, then Nazism endowed the state with every real prerogative of ownership. What the individual retained was merely a formal deed, a contentless deed, which conferred no rights on its holder. Under communism, there is collective ownership of property de jure. Under Nazism, there is the same collective ownership de facto."

From: The Ominous Parallels, ch. 9, pb.18, by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, C. 1982

9 posted on 12/10/2001 10:59:28 AM PST by VinnyTex
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To: Pharmboy
The central issue for the Taleban is religion!
10 posted on 12/10/2001 10:59:40 AM PST by DrDavid
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To: Ditto
"Right" and "left" are such purely arbitrary designations that I don't think they're either descriptive or particularly useful anymore. Their origin was, after all, lay in the side of the aisle the delegates sat on after the French revolution - and I'm not sure "revolutionary" or "royalist" really captures the current American political scene.

The difference in "socialism" between the economic programs of the Nazis and the Communists lay in whom they'd allow the ownership of the means of production - the Communists wanted the state to own all of them; the Nazis were content to control them and allow the owners (Krupp, e.g.) to maintain nominal ownership. If that's "socialism" then yes, they were socialists too.

11 posted on 12/10/2001 11:00:42 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Ditto
"Ever since then everyone who has advocated genocide has called himself a socialist, without exception. "

Political demonizing at work. Guess the right(bad) or left(good) depends on who is doing and who is the victim of the genocide. OK for the left but not OK for the right. Then there is the human genocide of birth control and abortion - now is that left or right?

Merry Christmas

12 posted on 12/10/2001 11:01:20 AM PST by ex-snook
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Petronski; shootist
Then define for me what is left and what is right. If Nazis and Commies are opposites on the political spectrum as we have been taught, what are the defining characteristics that make them so. According to Prof. Watson, before WWII it was generally accepted, even in socialist circles, that the Nazis were on the left. How, after their demise, did they become the far right? If the far left is total government, would not the far right be total anarchy?
14 posted on 12/10/2001 11:05:22 AM PST by Ditto
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Comment #15 Removed by Moderator

To: Ditto

16 posted on 12/10/2001 11:12:20 AM PST by Cindy
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To: Ditto
Looks as if someone saw your post and decided to share it with the lefties over at Indymedia. They are not amused. Care to see the first response and to reply to them (no need to register), Click here
17 posted on 12/10/2001 11:12:51 AM PST by LarryLied
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To: The Shootist
It is a myth, that I am tired of hearing, that the NAZIs were Socialists.

If this article can be believed, they - and other socialists - certainly seemed to think they were. How is it that you know better than they, what their political opinions were?

Whatever its platform was initially, Hitler and Ernst Rohm had perverted the political party to their own ends, and those ends were not Lenin, Marx and Engles.

Even if true - this means they were "not socialist"?

I guess you'd better tell us all what your definition of "socialism" is. Here's mine, in the interest of fairness: public ownership and disposal of property.

You can successfully argue that the Nazis were "not socialist", I suppose, but you can't reasonably do so using my definition. And mine comes from the dictionary. So: what's yours? And where does it come from?

thanks in advance,

18 posted on 12/10/2001 11:13:05 AM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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To: Ditto
Who is Prof. Watson?
19 posted on 12/10/2001 11:13:52 AM PST by Petronski
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To: Petronski
Nazism, facsism and National Socialism are all expressions of the most extreme right wing of political thought.

How so? Mussolini (who invented "fascism", as such) started out as a Socialist. Can you deny this?

20 posted on 12/10/2001 11:14:00 AM PST by Dr. Frank fan
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