Most people will respond to the title of this post with “No duh!” But there’s been a lot of effort by conservatives on the Internet to portray Hitler as a leftist. After all, economic laissez-faire is the sole definition of the right, and anything else is therefore left, right?
Wrong. No true, intelligent libertarian accepts the one-dimensional left/right political spectrum as accurate, which is why they’ve proposed a two-dimensional political compass. And as I posted a while back, Noah Millman has proposed an even more descriptive three-dimensional political taxonomy.
While I don’t agree with all the points presented in the following article, enough of them are true to prove that while the Nazis may or may not have been true right-wingers, they certainly weren’t leftists. (For the record, they viewed themselves as syncretists, not that you have to take their word for it.)
Steve Kangas writes:
Myth: Hitler was a leftist.
Fact: Nearly all of Hitler’s beliefs placed him on the far right.
Many conservatives accuse Hitler of being a leftist, on the grounds that his party was named “National Socialist.” But socialism requires worker ownership and control of the means of production. In Nazi Germany, private capitalist individuals owned the means of production, and they in turn were frequently controlled by the Nazi party and state. True socialism does not advocate such economic dictatorship — it can only be democratic. Hitler’s other political beliefs place him almost always on the far right. He advocated racism over racial tolerance, eugenics over freedom of reproduction, merit over equality, competition over cooperation, power politics and militarism over pacifism, dictatorship over democracy, capitalism over Marxism, realism over idealism, nationalism over internationalism, exclusiveness over inclusiveness, common sense over theory or science, pragmatism over principle, and even held friendly relations with the Church, even though he was an atheist.
To most people, Hitler’s beliefs belong to the extreme far right. For example, most conservatives believe in patriotism and a strong military; carry these beliefs far enough, and you arrive at Hitler’s warring nationalism. This association has long been something of an embarrassment to the far right. To deflect such criticism, conservatives have recently launched a counter-attack, claiming that Hitler was a socialist, and therefore belongs to the political left, not the right.
The primary basis for this claim is that Hitler was a National Socialist. The word “National” evokes the state, and the word “Socialist” openly identifies itself as such.
However, there is no academic controversy over the status of this term: it was a misnomer. Misnomers are quite common in the history of political labels. Examples include the German Democratic Republic (which was neither) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s “Liberal Democrat” party (which was also neither). The true question is not whether Hitler called his party “socialist,” but whether or not it actually was.
In fact, socialism has never been tried at the national level anywhere in the world. This may surprise some people — after all, wasn’t the Soviet Union socialist? The answer is no. Many nations and political parties have called themselves “socialist,” but none have actually tried socialism. To understand why, we should revisit a few basic political terms.
Perhaps the primary concern of any political ideology is who gets to own and control the means the production. This includes factories, farmlands, machinery, etc. Generally there have been three approaches to this question. The first was aristocracy, in which a ruling elite owned the land and productive wealth, and peasants and serfs had to obey their orders in return for their livelihood. The second is capitalism, which has disbanded the ruling elite and allows a much broader range of private individuals to own the means of production. However, this ownership is limited to those who can afford to buy productive wealth; nearly all workers are excluded. The third (and untried) approach is socialism, where everyone owns and controls the means of production, by means of the vote. As you can see, there is a spectrum here, ranging from a few people owning productive wealth at one end, to everyone owning it at the other.
Socialism has been proposed in many forms. The most common is social democracy, where workers vote for their supervisors, as well as their industry representatives to regional or national congresses. Another proposed form is anarcho-socialism, where workers own companies that would operate on a free market, without any central government at all. As you can see, a central planning committee is hardly a necessary feature of socialism. The primary feature is worker ownership of production.
The Soviet Union failed to qualify as socialist because it was a dictatorship over workers — that is, a type of aristocracy, with a ruling elite in Moscow calling all the shots. Workers cannot own or control anything under a totalitarian government. In variants of socialism that call for a central government, that government is always a strong or even direct democracy… never a dictatorship. It doesn’t matter if the dictator claims to be carrying out the will of the people, or calls himself a “socialist” or a “democrat.” If the people themselves are not in control, then the system is, by definition, non-democratic and non-socialist.
And what of Nazi Germany? The idea that workers controlled the means of production in Nazi Germany is a bitter joke. It was actually a combination of aristocracy and capitalism. Technically, private businessmen owned and controlled the means of production. The Nazi “Charter of Labor” gave employers complete power over their workers. It established the employer as the “leader of the enterprise,” and read: “The leader of the enterprise makes the decisions for the employees and laborers in all matters concerning the enterprise.”
Read more here.