The idea that Nazism is an ideology of the extreme right, closer to classic liberalism or to conservatism than marxism, is one of the most widespread political myths of today.
A nationalist socialism against marxist internationalist socialism
“There is much more in common between a communist and a Nazi than between any of these and a liberal, or a conservative,” as Carlos López Díaz pointed out yesterday in an article that I recommend reading (like all that he writes in his excellent blog). In fact, the habit of speaking of “nazism” has been imposed by something more than simple economics of language: many leftists are uncomfortable to remember the full name of that ideology is “national-socialism”, that is, a socialism that distinguishes itself mainly from the one formulated by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the former is a nationalist and the latter is an internationalist. In fact, the similarity is so strong that today there are numerous examples of nationalist socialism inspired by marxism. In Spain, for example, there are far-left parties such as the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) or the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) that combine Marxist leftism with nationalism.
Memories of Otto Wagener, advisor and confidant of Hitler
Today we have a valuable testimony about the socialist character of the dictator and genocidal Adolf Hitler, although it is very little known to the general public: these are the memories of Otto Wagener, advisor and confidant of the Nazi leader and one of the first members today of his match. Wagener wrote those memoirs in 1946, when he was a prisoner of the British, and shed much light on the early years of the Nazi Party. Unlike other former Nazi leaders, Wagener continued to worship Hitler all his life, so these are memories written by a faithful follower who continued to believe in that perverse totalitarian ideology. And the most striking of these memories is that they show Hitler’s proximity to the socialist postulates.
Hitler aspired to “travel the road from individualism to socialism without revolution”
In the book, published seven years after Wagener’s death (and which Yale University Press published in english in 1985, the edition I refer to in this post), the Nazi leader quotes Hitler’s words showing his desire “to find and travel the road from individualism to socialism without revolution, without the destruction of the most precious treasures, without annihilation of irreplaceable lives, and without regression to a lower level of civilization and culture” (page 14). According to Wagener, Hitler was critical of those who appealed to law and tradition (from a conservative orbit, it is understood), stating that “law and this tradition were born in individualist thinking and are the pillars of a past time. What counts is to establish new laws and new authority in place of old traditions. If this is not done, they will find that the road to socialist reconstruction will not be traveled according to plan and peaceably, but that the revolution will topple these pillars, bringing down the structure of individualism. But most of them have never even read Marx, and they view Bolshevik revolution as a private Russian affair.”
The Nazi leader intended “to convert the German People to socialism”
On page 16, Wagener quotes Hitler’s words in which he speaks of “the difference between the former age of individualism and the socialism that is on the horizon”, and adds: “In socialism of the future… what counts is the whole, the community of the Volk. The individual and his life play only a subsidiary role. He can be sacrificed – he is prepared to sacrifice himself should the whole demand it, should the commonwealth call for it.” A collectivism that has little to envy the communist and collides fully with liberal individualism. In fact, Hitler’s contempt for the individualists is reflected on that same page in an even more striking quotation: “It is understandable why bolshevism simply removed such creatures. They were worthless to humanity, nothing but an encumbrance to their Volk. Even the bees get rid of the drones when they can no longer be of service to the hive. The Bolshevik procedures are thus quite natural.” Hitler adds: “But that’s precisely the problem we have set out to solve: to convert the German Volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists, without destruction of property and values.”
He wanted to attract the Nazi Party “to all socialists, including communists”
On page 23, Wagener embodies a quote from Hitler in which he states: “We are living in an age of great radical change, as I have said before – an evolution from individualism to socialism, from self-interest to the public interest, from the ‘I’ to the ‘we.’” Although it is true that Hitler later expressed an open rejection of Bolshevism (no less than that of many social-democrats and anarchists), Wagener wrote on page 26 these other words of the future German dictator before his rise to power: “But we National Socialists wish precisely to attract all socialists, even the Communists; we wish to win them over from their international camp to the national one.” It is a strategy that should have been successful, since since 1930 the German Communist Party (KPD) also tried to attract Nazi militants – and also prevent the march of communist militants to the Nazi Party by making a more nationalist speech, a strategy known as Scheringer-Kurs and in which one even published a pamphlet, entitled “Programmerklärung zur nationalen und sozialen Befreiung des deutschen Volkes” (Programmatic declaration for the national and social liberation of the German people), with a strong nationalist content.
Hitler’s contempt for classic liberalism and capitalism
In Wagener’s memoirs are also quotes from Hitler that demonstrate his deep contempt for classic liberalism and capitalism. In one of them, collected on page 59, he states: “economic liberalism are at the helm in the authoritarian democracies, – which are really not democracies at all,” adding that in nations “dominated by capitalism” the word democracy “is derived, not from demos, the people, but from daemon, the devil.” On page 148 this other quote from Hitler appears: “Individualism, which is in the process of being replaced by socialism – and we’re determined to lend a helping hand to abolish and replace it – is actually already being buried by industrialization.” On the next page, the Nazi leader thus expresses the affinity of his purposes regarding communism: “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish, we shall be in a position to achieve.”
“We want to start by implementing socialism in our nation among our Volk!”
Wagener shows on page 170 to what extent Hitler had an international strategy very similar to the theory of “socialism in one country” formulated by Lenin and applied by Stalin: “first, there will have to be national socialism. Otherwise the people and their governments are not ready for the socialism of nations. It is not possible to be liberal to one’s own country and demand socialism among nations.” On page 288 he explains that it is precisely for this reason that his party was called national-socialist: “We want to start by implementing socialism in our nation among our Volk! It is not until the individual nations are socialist that they can address themselves to international socialism.” These statements explain facts such as, for example, that of 241 issues voted in the Reichstag and in the state parliament of Prussia in 1929 and 1930, Nazis and communists agreed on 70% of the occasions, and once in power, the pact between Hitler and Stalin for which Poland was distributed in 1939, even making a joint parade to celebrate their victory against the Poles.
Main picture: Adolf Hitler portrayed by his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, while rehearsing his speeches in 1925.
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