For decades, Right-wing pundits have pressed the argument that Hitler was a devout Socialist, and that all the atrocities of the Holocaust can therefore be blamed on the Liberal-Left. In actuality, Hitler hated both Socialism and Communism, and worked to destroy these ideologies.
There’s no way anyone can, or ever should, defend Hitler, and so things like health-care reform are equated with something terrible, a Nazi regime which sought to conquer an empire and commit several genocides. The problem is, this is a distortion of history.
Nazism is a political ideology known as “National Socialism” (Nationalsozialismus), which is where the misconception begins. It was started in the early 1800’s – well before Hitler’s time – and was built around race, not Socialism. As the Nazi Party’s ideology changed further over the decades, the name stayed the same.
“Actions speak louder than words,” as the saying goes, and it is Hitler’s actions that should be the focus here, not the name of the group he was associated with. While he may have joined a political party that used the word ‘Socialism,’ his influence within that party veered it towards German Nationalism.
The Nazis began to subscribe to the idea of a racial hierarchy that considered the “Aryans” to be the Nordic “master race” (Bruce, 2006, pg. 156). If you want proof, just ask any neo-Nazi today, and they’ll echo the same ideology. That’s not Socialism, that’s Fascism, and it is because of that Fascism that Hitler began to exterminate the Jews.
The Alt-Right would like nothing more than to clean their hands of Hitler by rewriting history. But in order to do that, they’ll have to change the definition of words themselves, and get the rest of the world to go along with it.
All political ideologies share various beliefs, and can in some aspects, be indistinguishable from one another. Hitler never thought in terms of “Left” or “Right.” He studied Marxism (considered a form of Socialism for economic reasons) in depth, though it should be noted that Karl Marx never thought in terms of “Left” or “Right,” either.
Marxism had a brutal side, in that Marx believed some races would have to be exterminated. This is not a Socialist belief. This is Fascism, and to attribute this ideology to modern Socialists, is just as wrong as attributing the Alt-Right exclusively to Republicans.
Hitler did concede that his version of National Socialism was based on Marxism, because it was the basis he used for determining what he would incorporate into his vision, and what he would do differently. He was very much anti-Marxist.
Hitler openly used the fear of Socialism and Communism to gain support of the German middle and upper classes. This was done much the same way Trump used the fear of Islam to gain the support of the middle and upper classes in America.
The next common argument presented by today’s Right-wing pundits, is that the Democrats (commonly misrepresented as Left when they’re Center) are no different than the Nazis because they created the KKK. The fact ALL American political parties at that time were filled with racists, is completely ignored.
Let’s play along with the pundits though, and pick apart an example of this that was given to show the similarities between Hitler and Hillary Clinton:
Clinton couldn’t give a “spellbinding” speech to save her life, but it is reminiscent of someone else. “He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany.” Now then, what’s Trump’s catch-phrase? “Make America Great Again.” And who did he make his promises to? Members of the lower middle class, such as coal miners.
These similarities can be applied to literally any politician. They all try to appeal to the lower and middle classes because that’s where the votes are.
Finally, pundits today like to bring attention to issues discussed by figures such as Bernie Sanders – free healthcare, education, etc. – and compare them to Hitler’s plans for Germany. We shouldn’t have to point this out, but wanting free education and healthcare does not make one a Nazi. There are plenty of countries who provide these services to their citizens without being associated with the Nazi Party, or even Marxism.
The terms Liberal and Conservative are ambiguous, and tend to change meaning over the generations – today’s Conservative is yesterday’s Liberal. They are terms that make a comeback during periods of political strife, and only work to divide citizens, which is exactly what the government wants – it is better we take our anger out on each other than them. If you have fallen for this rhetoric and have joined in on the name-calling, congratulations, you’re a sheep.
Political ideologies also tend to change over the generations, and trying to compare Socialism from 100 years ago to Socialism today is absurd. As mentioned before, many of these ideologies share the same beliefs, and whether people realize it or not, Socialism is already deeply embedded in America. In this respect, you can compare America to Nazi Germany as well, and find quite a few similarities.
Americans enjoy having retirement plans, they appreciate that social security check that helps to care for their elders, all of which is a form of Socialism. And yet, Americans aren’t dying by the masses in concentration camps. Go figure.
Is it so hard to believe that a political party will claim to have one ideology while practicing another? It’s happening in the U.S. now: Where Republicans once claimed to stand for traditional Conservative values, they now stand for Nationalism. Where Democrats once claimed to stand for Human Rights, they now stand for Corporatism.
Does this mean that 50-years from now, the meaning of the word “Conservative” will have changed to “Nationalist”? Does it mean that someday, “Human Rights” will translate into “Corporatism”? Or is it more likely that our politicians are lying to us right now?
We’d all like to see the world in black-and-white, and take things at face value. Unfortunately, with that being said, anyone can claim to be the Queen of England, but it doesn’t make it so. Political ideologies mean nothing if something else is being practiced behind closed doors.
Baum, Bruce David (2006). The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race: A Political History of Racial Identity. New York City / London: New York University Press.