Much hay has been made of late regarding a decades-old debate as to whether Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were socialists.
On the face of it, the argument may seem ridiculous. … After all, the name of the party was National Socialist German Workers' Party. For some, it should be as simple as that. They called themselves socialists, so they were socialists.
However, proponents of the idea that Hitler and the Nazis were diametrically opposed to socialism point out numerous reasons that this simple explanation is, by itself, insufficient, and in fact can point out several facts, which clearly demonstrate that the Nazis were socialist in name only, but not in ideology.
As is generally (and gloriously) true, the truth behind this debate is extremely nuanced and takes effort to discover. But it is very clearly there.
For those of you looking for the Cliff's Notes version, here is the answer: Yes, Hitler and the Nazis were socialists, for the simple reasons that they were staunchly anti-capitalist and believed that the means of production in their society should be controlled by a centralized state power. That is very clear from their writings, their words and their actions. Done and done.
Now, for those of you looking for a more complete and nuanced analysis of the topic, please consider the following thoughts:
With a recent article in Vox as case-in-point, those who believe that Hitler and the Nazis were not socialists will generally put forward some version of the following arguments:
- 1. The Nazis did not preach or practice pure, "classical" socialism, so they weren't socialists.
- 2. The Nazis were not the true Socialist party in Germany — there were already socialist and communist political parties in Germany — when they adopted the term "socialism."
- 3. The Nazis were fascists, not socialists. Everyone knows fascism is right wing, socialism is left wing.
- 4. The Nazis only adopted the title of "socialist" for political reasons, not ideological ones.
- 5. The Nazis were staunchly anti-communist and anti-Marxist, therefore they couldn't have been socialists.
- 6. The Nazis were racists and nationalists, so they couldn't have been socialists.
- 7. The Nazis did not seize all private property and money, so they weren't socialists.
- 8. Hitler was only interested in power, in being a dictator, not in socialist principals of peace and love and equality…
I'll address each of these in turn, but the above arguments and themes all miss a central and critical reality … and demonstrates a lack of critical thinking as well.
What's missing from the simple question of "Was Hitler a socialist?" is this: When do you mean?
It's a vital component of any coherent discussion, for two reasons.
First, because when examined over a timeline it becomes perfectly clear that yes, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party was an extremely, very clearly socialist-aligned organization at the time of their founding. One could argue that over time the specific manifestation of Nazi-socialism did drift away from what is today viewed as "classical"' or archetypal socialism (also a misnomer, which I'll cover shortly) and toward a nationalistic, "Germanified" socialism. During the build-up to war, it then morphed further into economic-statist policies of fascism and eventually a fascist-dictatorship.
Second, it's vital to note the shift and migration "from" socialism "to" a dictatorship because this is almost always what ends up happening when socialism, communism and/or Marxism implemented in any country (as evidenced by Germany's Hitler, the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin, China's Mao Zedong, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro, etc).
Marxist-collectivist systems devolving into brutal dictatorship with some elements of Marxist-philosophy remaining is the norm, not the exception. I'll leave what that says about Marxism to your own judgment.
So, with that said, let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), and review the historical record:
1. The Nazis did not preach or practice pure, "classical" socialism, so they weren't socialists.
Statements like this one are generally followed with quotes from Hitler or some other Nazi leader saying something negative about socialism, or examples of a policy like leaving most manufacturing in private hands as proof that the Nazi Party wasn't a socialist organization. But generally, those quotes and those policies were from much later in the Nazi-Germany saga.
What is conveniently ignored is the fact that Hitler joined the German Workers' Party in 1919, when he was 30 years old. Six years before he wrote "Mein Kampf," and 14 years before he was appointed chancellor of Germany.
So, at the time the political party was formed, what did it espouse and believe? And what did Hitler espouse and believe?
History is abundantly clear on this. As we know from "The Coming of the Third Reich" by Richard J. Evans, we know because Hitler joined the German Workers' Party, a party he'd initially been ordered to spy on and join by his Germany Army Intelligence handlers. It's key to note that the original name of the group was the German Socialist Worker's Party (italics mine), but party-supporter and journalist Karl Herrer recommended against including the word "socialist" because it might be confused with another local political party (the Social Democratic Party of Germany) and might make it more challenging to gain the support of his middle-class newspaper subscribers. Subsequently, the name was shortened to German Workers' Party. Author F.L. Carlsten makes that clear in his book, "The Rise of Fascism."
Hitler joined the party and within a few months had risen to a level of authority. Having spoken publicly for the first time at a party meeting just weeks after joining, by early 1920 he was appointed chief of propaganda, a period of party history covered in excellent detail in "The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany" by T.L. Jarman.
As the party grew in prominence, Hitler believed they needed a public manifesto that clearly articulated the party's political beliefs and platform. He, along with party founders Gottfried Feder, Dietrich Eckart, and Anton Drexler, wrote a manifesto titled, The National Socialist Program. As explained in William Shirer's seminal, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (a work every American should read), on that same day, the German Workers' Party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Hitler arranged a public meeting at a large Beer-Hall and personally read the manifesto aloud to more than 2,000 attendees, receiving ever increasing applause as he continued.
You can review the entire 25-point plan here, and yes, it is a platform that is filled with anti-Semitic and nationalist themes, but a review of several of the key points of the manifesto are important to understand their political beliefs as they orient around socialist and Marxist philosophy.
"…We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens…"
"…The first obligation of every citizen must be to productively work, mentally or physically..."
"…The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality [the state], but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all..." [italics mine]
"…We demand the Breaking of debt (interest)-slavery…"
"…In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore, we demand the total confiscation of all war profits…"
"…We demand the nationalisation of all (previous) associated industries..." [italics mine]
"…We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries…"
"…We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare…"
"…We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation…"
"…We demand the immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality…"
"…We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death…" [italics mine]
"…We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the [existing] Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order…"
"…The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education…"
"…The comprehension of the concept of the state must be striven for by the school as early as the beginning of understanding…"
"…We demand the education at the expense of the state of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession…"
"…The state is to care for the national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young…"
"…We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press… Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden… We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands…"
"…a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: "THE GOOD OF THE COMMUNITY BEFORE THE GOOD OF THE INDIVIDUAL." [All CAPS theirs in the original document]
"…For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power… Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general…"
"…The leaders of the Party promise, if necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration…"
I apologize for the length here, but this was their "Declaration of Independence", and the length to which they spoke of these beliefs is strong evidence of how important these ideals were to them and their platform. That Hitler would dedicate the bulk of his written manifesto for his party to these indicates they were more than just a convenient political tool.
It's also worth noting that according to the US Holocaust Museum, the National Socialist Program remained the platform of the Nazi Party until Hitler's suicide in 1945, although clearly some of the specific tenets were ignored as the Third Reich matured and entered its "war" phase. In fact, we know from Big Business & Hitler, in 1924, party co-founder Gottfried Feder proposed an expanded 39-point plan that would include accommodation for Industrialists and large landowners with the National Socialists, but at the 1925 Bamburg Conference, then party leader Hitler refused to make any changes, stating that the manifesto was "inviolable" and would never be changed. Even after coming to power and declaring himself Dictator for Life, Hitler never modified a single word.
The point is that the original German Workers' Party as well as the National Socialist German Workers' Party, from its earliest roots, absolutely believed in and ran on many traditionally "Socialist" ideals, such as subordinating the individual to the "common good" and "the State."
Arguments as to whether the Nazi Party was "right wing" or "left wing" is what confuses most modern pundits and scholars. They clearly were nationalists, socialists, anti-capitalists and statists. Placing them on modern "right vs. left" political spectrum is an entirely different debate, and largely a semantic one. Whether they have more in common with the modern U.S. "right" or "left" is in the eye of the beholder.
2. The Nazis were not the true socialist party in Germany, there were already socialist and communist political parties in Germany when they adopted the term "socialism."
It's completely true that there were already socialist and communist political parties in Germany. Socialist parties had sprung up and gained popularity in Europe both before and during World War I. Russia had collapsed into a communist revolution during World War I, and there were communist political parties and organizations throughout Germany and Austria who had proven, friendly ties to the Russian communist parties responsible for the Russian revolution.
But the presence of other parties does not in any way indicate that Hitler's party wasn't also socialist. Just as today in America there are democratic socialists, socialist, Green Party and Communist parties, does not mean that I couldn't start up a new flavor of socialist political party tomorrow.
What is clear is that the founders of the Nazi Party did want a very different type of political party, one that was highly nationalist and one that sought an ethno-German racial ideal. In fact, as detailed in the already cited "The Rise and Fall of Fascism," the reason that Anton Drexler and others founded the National Socialist German Workers' Party in the first place was their rejection of the existing Social-Democratic Party and Communist Party's lack of nationalism. Hitler's flavor of socialism was staunchly anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semitic and he spoke against "Jewish-Marxism" and communism, as did key party leaders Alfred Rosenberg and Rudolph Hess. Existing socialist and Marxist parties were too globalist for them – they were after a purely ethno-German socialism.
3. The Nazis were fascists, not socialists. Everyone knows fascism is right wing, socialism is left wing.
Without turning this into a purely semantic debate, applying the modern "U.S.-centric" idea of the right vs. left political spectrum to political, economic and social philosophies such as socialism or fascism is truly an apples vs. Legos idea.
Of course, the origins of "right" vs. "left" political spectrum likely dates to the French Revolution and had to do with which side of the King's throne courtiers and lords were seated. At that time, those Loyal to the King were on the "right" and those who favored the people's independence and Democracy would be on the "left" …but clearly today's modern conservatives and libertarians would not support rule by a monarch or dictator, whether his name was Louis, Washington or Trump.
This is a key part of why there is so much cognitive dissonance for today's self-avowed socialists when someone dares to point out that Nazis were socialists and did support many socialist ideals. Nazis were also nationalists, were anti-immigration, often xenophobic and pro-militarism. Those are traits they associate with today's modern far-right.
As Jane Carlson points out in her recent Vox article, trying to put German-Nazis of 1930 on our modern U.S. political spectrum is a troublesome exercise. For our purposes, we'll simply note that the policies and platform of the early Nazi Party clearly aligned to socialist theory of the time, simply modified to fit the Volkish German tastes of the time.
Furthermore, claims that Hitler and the Nazis were fascists, not socialists, is again an inherently anachronistic view of events. It also clouds the issue of fascism and socialism, painting them as polar opposites on the political spectrum, when, in fact, they were close bedfellows in the 1920s.
Fascism didn't come to the Nazi Party and Germany until late in the 1920s or even early 1930s. Certainly there are no contemporary media references to the National Socialist German Workers' Party as "fascists" during the era of the party's founding in 1919, at the time Hitler wrote and presented the National Socialist Program in 1920, leading up to the Beer-Hall Putsch in late 1923, during Hitler's incarceration in 1924 and even leading up to the elections of 1928 and 1930.
During that entire era, no paper, across all of Germany, Italy, England or America can be found that refers to Hitler or to the National Socialist party of Germany as a "fascist" party. They were referred to as the national socialists or Nazis, a name meant to be a pejorative. It's also noteworthy that in his book, "Mein Kampf," Hitler did not refer to himself as a fascist or even use the word a single time.
It wasn't truly until the elections of 1932 that "fascism" could truly be applied to the policies espoused by Hitler and other Nazi politicians who held seats in the German Parliament. By then, it had been nearly a decade since Benito Mussolini, the publisher of a Socialist newspaper for more than six years, founded his own version of a violent nationalist-socialist party within Italy: fascism.
Fascist political ideology was the brainchild of another Marxist, a man named Giovanni Gentile. Gentile was an Italian intellectual and student of Marx, but whose criticism of the standard socialist model was based on the idea that the human mind was insufficiently pure to make communal socialism practical for industrial countries. As such, he advocated for a hybrid of a strong-centralized government with total authority (lead by intellectuals and experts) but leaving direct ownership of industrial production in the hands of the business elite. A Socialist-Corporate state.
Mussolini had seen in World War I, his countrymen were no longer fighting for some grand, socialist utopia as they had been toward the outset of the war. By the end of the war, they were fighting for their country. Under the tutelage of Gentile, he morphed that nationalist passion into fascism, but it was not a far-right movement. Mussolini referred to himself as a socialist in his own diary just 12 days before his capture, and it's worth noting that the party he was head of at the time of his capture was called the Italian Social Republic.
Hitler, seeing the success of Mussolini in Italy in the 1920s and wishing to curry favor with the Italian leader to help reinforce his southern flank, developed a warm and open relationship with him. By the time Hitler had been named chancellor in 1933 and dictator in 1934, it would have been fair to start thinking of Nazis as having fascist ideas. But even as late as 1937, Winston Churchill was still making speeches and writing essays about the "two" great "creeds of the Devil" in socialism and fascism, as threats faced by Britain.
The real difference between communists, national socialists and fascists is simply this: Communists are the international workers party and fascists are the national workers party.
In the end, it's reasonable to look at Hitler's adoption of some tenets of the fascist political-economic system of an authoritarian-central government but leaving private ownership of some industries as an indication that Hitler was not, in the end, a "perfect" socialist. But, as you'll learn below, that notion is itself, nonsense.
4. The Nazis only adopted the title of "socialist" for political reasons, not ideological ones.
As we have already cited from Carlsten's "The Rise of Fascism," the opposite is actually true. Anton Drexler had originally wanted to include socialist in the party's title, but its primary "publicist" at the time, Karl Herrer, had objected — not because they were opposed to socialist ideas, but because it would make it difficult to stand apart from the already existent Social-Democratic Party, and because it would make it more difficult to appeal to middle class readers of his newspaper.
In fact, as author Robert Spector covers thoroughly in his book, "A World Without Civilization," Drexler and others went out of their way to publish articles clearly delineating between Marxist-socialism and the German-socialism they intended to create, which would be a massive social-welfare state that would provide aid only to true ethno-Aryan Germans.
The ideals of the Nazi leadership were absolutely and significantly focused on German nationalism, anti-Semitism, racial purity, etc. It's also fair to say that Hitler's personal ideology and goals were built around German-idealized delusions of grandeur, and less around the philosophical tenets of socialism.
But a fair assessment of the progression of Nazi Party socialist doctrine cannot start in 1933 when Hitler became chancellor or 1938 when he invaded Poland. A more fair assessment might to be say that Hitler and the Nazis wanted to create a 1,000-year German Reich and a pure ethno-German race, and they were also socialists. More pure socialists when they started in 1919 than when they finished in 1945? Yes, certainly if our goal here is to measure Hitler against some 'perfect socialist' yardstick, then it might be fair to suggest that, by the end, he was less of a socialist than he was at the beginning.
But as I've already pointed out, the same could be said for virtually every socialist leader of all time. They all started with grand socialist ideals, tried them out, found that they didn't seem to work to achieve any practical real-world goals, so instead they became a tyrannical dictator wielding violence, torture and autocratic rule to maintain their vision. Ask Mao, ask Stalin, ask Maduro, Ask Xi, ask Castro, ask Che, ask Minh, ask Lenin…Hitler was just a me-too.
5. The Nazis were staunchly anti-Communist and anti-Marxist, therefore they couldn't have been socialists.
The idea that being anti-communist or anti-Marxist indicates one couldn't be a socialist is an anachronism, especially for post-Great War Germany. Let's not forget that Russia and Germany had fought ferociously during the war, including clashes before and after the communist revolution. Many Germans strongly blamed Germany's surrender at the end of World War I on communist sympathizers and/or spies within Germany, especially Marxist-Jewish political leaders, intellectuals and writers.
Leaders of the early Nazi Party, in particular, viewed the Treaty of Versailles not so much as a surrender to Western powers but as a surrender to international "Jewry", both the capitalist-Jews from America and England as well as the communist Jews from Russia. As Shirer points out in "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," Hitler and other Nazi leaders frequently referred to being "stabbed in the back" by communist-Jewish elements in Germany and Austria.
As such, as we learned from Roger Griffin's epic work "Fascism," the anti-Marxism present in the early Nazi Party was strongly anti-Bolshevik, or, said more plainly, it was "anti-Jewish Russians and Germans who betrayed at the end of World War I and who profited from the war."
Recall as well that communism is merely one manifestation of Marxist political philosophy … one that could progress out of a Socialist foundation. Even today, communists and socialists can have lively debates on the topic, one rejecting or point out logical flaws in the "purity" of the other on the scale of Karl Marx's idea of "perfect" socialism. (Marx never really had such an ideal, see below).
The point is, the fact that Hitler was feverishly and passionately anti-Marxist (because he was massively anti-Semitic) and anti-communist doesn't indicate he wasn't some form of socialist.
6. The Nazis were racists and nationalists, so they couldn't have been socialists.
I would have hoped I didn't have to go too deeply into this topic, but many people seem to make some form of this argument.
The disconnect here is that most people today associate left-leaning or socialist-aligned politics to be also "globalist," for open borders and pro-immigration. On the other hand, many people associate right-leaning and even "conservative" groups with anti-illegal-immigration and "America-first" policies.
Again, let's not start a semantic debate about modern policies of those on the right vs. those on the left and whether one or the other group is more or less racist than the other (let's do that on Twitter instead!); for our purposes here, what is key to point out is that Marx himself was a fairly racist bloke, who wrote an essay in 1844 titled, "The Jewish Question" (wonder where Hitler got that?):
"What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. … Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man—and turns them into commodities. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general." — Karl Marx, The Jewish Question, 1844
In a letter to co-creator of Socialist doctrine, Friedrich Engels, Marx wrote:
"It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses' exodus from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother on the paternal side had not interbred with a n—–. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product." — Karl Marx, Letter to Friedrich Engels, 1856
Many seem to believe that today's democratic socialism is inherently and not racist universally (unless perhaps, you happen to be a Jew … or maybe a white male, at least in some of the more vehement circles), so the fact of Nazi racism demonstrates simply that they could not have been socialists. But the socialism of the Nazi era was generally not-free of the every-day racism that was pervasive throughout that era.
To be sure, the Nazis were perhaps the most racist, anti-Semitic socialists who ever existed, but their racism, just like their nationalism, doesn't erase their socialism.
Furthermore, while socialism is not inherently racist, socialism and racism have been happy bedfellows numerous times.
One of the key and so-often-present-it-seems-to-be-required components of socialist movements is the presence of a bogeyman. An enemy of the people, or, in the case of Germany, the "volk."
In today's Americanized version of socialism, the bogeyman is the Gordon Gekko from "Wall Street," Oh, wait, we have a more modern caricature of the same profile: Donald Trump. A self-made, unapologetic billionaire capitalist, flaunting both his wealth and ego across every TV screen and Twitter-feed 24/7.
For today's democratic socialist, that is the bogeyman. The rich (generally white) capitalist male who has more than his neighbor and doesn't feel bad about that.
Hitler's bogeyman was also a banker — the Jew. Anti-Semitism and versions of socialism have often gone together because of the anti-capitalist and anti-wealthy-person ethos at the heart of Marxist ideology. Because Jews have tended to be industrious and have accumulated wealth, the Jewish people have been hated by many socialist and fascist groups throughout history. Socialist and totalitarian regimes in the Middle East also hated Jews, long before the founding of Israel after World War II.
In fact, after meeting with Hitler in the 1940s, Muslim regimes in Turkey and Syria planned on building Polish-styled death camps in the Middle East. During the war, Hitler also invited the creation of an entire Muslim division of Waffen-SS, such was the alliance between Islamic-Marxism and the National Socialists, all oriented around the anti-Capitalism and anti-Semitic ideals of Marxism.
As Richard Pipes detailed in "Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime," Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin also implemented anti-Jewish (themed as anti-capitalist) programs in Russia and the USSR after the Communist revolution. Lenin ordered the Jews to be sent to the front lines of combat in battle, and ordered that no Jew should be given high-ranking administrative positions in government, as was detailed in "Time of Darkness: Moscow" by the great Russian political reformer and historian, Alexander Nikolayevich Yakovlev.
The argument that it is fascism that was the birth of Hitler's anti-Semitism also fails to hold water. Mussolini founded the fascist movement in Italy and had seized control of the Italian government well before Hitler's SS had started harassing Jews, but Mussolini protected Jews in Italy from persecution (as long as they swore political loyalty to him), until much later after his country was under Allied attack and he had to beg Hitler for German troops to fight off the Allied advance.
To this day, even in America, democratic socialists struggle with elements of anti-Semitism in their own ranks, because Jews are still being accused of hypnotizing the world via money by democratic socialist members of the U.S. Congress.
No, socialism is not inherently and always racist. But neither is socialism free from racist ideology, if that racist ideology serves as a bogeyman, any enemy of "the people" who is preventing the utopia of equality. Hitler's enemy of the "volk" was the capitalist, banker Jew, sucking the life out of his precious Fatherland. For freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), it's the un-woke white male, driving an SUV and drinking single-malt while hunting deer from a tree stand, making the world unsafe for women, children and minorities. Both were self-ascribed socialists. Both racist, too.
Racism isn't always about "race" either. The point is about dehumanization as a means to classify the enemies of "The People." In addition to murdering six million Jews, the Nazis killed additional millions of gypsies, homosexuals, blacks, Christians and Slovaks. Hitler and the Nazis used dehumanizing language to describe all of them… . Jews just happened to be his favorite target. But the techniques used by socialist were universal. Marx referred to capitalists or the bourgeoisie as "parasites" over 120 times in books, essays and speeches.
As recently as this past year, National of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan referred to Jews as "termites"… although luckily Chelsea Clinton was kind enough to write an article for the online progressive magazine, "Forward," politely correcting him and implying, emphatically, she'd never met a Jewish termite.
Today's democratic socialists are using the same techniques. How many times have Trump supporters been called "sub-human" or a "Basket of Deplorables"? Marxism requires an enemy of the people, but when push comes to shove, people don't like to kill other people. So, the enemies must be made sub-human in order to justify the "purging" and "liquidation" that must necessarily follow. What will Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez do when wealthy, white males won't go along with their gun and SUV confiscation schemes required under their green-collectivist state? The Weather Underground boldly let us know back in the 1970s, when they issued a news release claiming that in order to bring justice to the U.S., up to 25 million white people would have to die.
Today, the Chinese Communist Party is rounding up Christians, Muslims and Uigars, placing them in concentration camps and re-education camps. More than 35 percent of the current Chinese population has been relegated to digital and travel-restricted ghettos, because their social-trust score is below Communist Party standards. Hitler had to go through the trouble of rounding Jews up and moving them into ghettos. Today, Chinese leader Xi Jinping does it with the help of Facebook and Google.
All part of creating the socialist utopia Marx dreamed would destroy the unfair inequality of capitalism.
Dozens of classical stars of the socialist firmament were ardent racists. Margaret Sanger, socialist and anti-black advocate…sorry, pro-black-abortion advocate. Bernard Shaw, famous socialist, was first to dream up and write about using gas chambers to 'gently, humanely' remove those societies that was determined to no longer have a productive use. "Sir or madame, please kindly justify your existence." Both Shaw and Sanger are still widely studied and celebrated by socialists today.
Perhaps a final lesson here can be learned by examining the ideology of Richard Spencer, self-proclaimed racist and white supremacist, and therefore branded by the media and political elite as a right-wing extremist. However, Spencer also rejects the U.S. Constitution, is pro-universal health care and pro-free (segregated) college education, and in favor of government-funded abortions. Most of the National Socialist program themes Hitler wrote about, he'd embrace in total. And he's a right-wing extremist? Take away just his virulent racism, he'd be a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, espousing purely leftist ideologies.
Hopefully you are getting the wider picture. Socialism doesn't guarantee racism, but neither does it offer any sort of protection from it. To claim otherwise is willful blindness to history.
7. The Nazis did not seize all private property and money, so they weren't socialists.
Again, it's vital to review the overall timeline of Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers' Party from the early and perhaps idealistic days of 1919 all the way through the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. For most of the 1920s, Hitler and the Nazis held little by way of political power through which they could have seized anybody's property, but that doesn't mean they didn't advocate for doing so, first in their National Socialists program cited extensively above, but numerous times after that. They did, after all, seize substantial privately owned property in Germany as well as conquered lands, including thousands of businesses, farms and bank accounts.
The fact that they focused first on Jewish businesses is irrelevant to the fact that private property was seized and transferred to the ownership of the state. The fact that Jewish property was at the top of the list of whom to target doesn't make it less Marxist or socialist to do, any more than it would be less socialist to target rich white males, as is currently being proposed by Bernie Sanders and others on the far left. Who you're targeting for confiscation schemes should be a moot point.
It's key to recall who Hitler and the Nazis were. They were socialists by way of economic policies, but staunchly nationalist and staunchly anti-Semitic racists who believed in a German super-race that could only be realized by way of physically purging inferior peoples and blood and by "reclaiming" lands stolen from their rightful Aryan-ancestors. Eric Kurlander powerfully and skillfully provided that history in "Hitler's Monsters," another book every American should read to fully understand the Nazi era.
It is true that once the Nazis came to power and started down their twin paths of political dominance within Germany and military conflict with external forces, Hitler's pragmatic side certainly overwhelmed any traditional or "classic" socialist ideals he may have once held. Surely after the powerful success he'd seen Mussolini seemingly achieve in Italy under fascism, the idea of communal socialism wouldn't have seemed the most efficient way for him to achieve his vision of a blood-pure and massive German super-state.
Note that the Nazis did nationalize dozens of industries and, by law, did have total centralized-control over the means of production … business owners and manufacturers had ownership of their property and factories in name only once the Waffen-SS and stormtroopers were fully in power. So, in his own way, Hitler did achieve Karl Marx-vision of control over the means of production by an all-powerful state. For Hitler, that state was simply imbued in him, instead of in a democratically elected central committee. Hitler's rejection of the authorities of labor unions or of workers' councils shouldn't, then, be viewed as anti-socialist. … Hitler was not in favor of giving any other person or group any authority over his own. Coincidentally, President Xi of China just recently declared himself dictator for life. History seems to love to recycle these themes, no?
Hitler was a pragmatist. He saw the favor of the German aristocracy and wealthy manufacturers (if they were not Jewish) as key to achieving his vision for the Third Reich. The fact that this meant not being a "perfect" socialist may have occurred to some, but certainly not to him.
8. Hitler was only interested in power, in being a dictator, not in socialist principals of peace and love and equality.
Before I dispense with the peace and love and equality BS … look, a study of Marx is a study about inequality! Marx was a racist, class-warfare-monger whom the average democratic socialist in America today would wholly reject from their social circles and political party.
So, I won't argue this last one, it's just beyond discussion. Socialism isn't nice and peaceful and filled with love and equality. Just stop it. Please pick up a history book and get back to me when you're ready to have a real conversation.
Yet, one final point should be made:
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT "MARXIST" SOCIALISM!!
From the time Marx wrote "The Communist Manifesto" in the 1850s until his death in 1883, Marx never once espoused any version of "perfect" Socialism. As socialist professor Philip Gasper pointed out quite correctly in his 2005 book, "The Communist Manifesto: A Roadmap to the World's Most Important Political Document":
"Marx and Engels never speculated on the detailed organization of a future socialist or communist society. The key task for them was building a movement to overthrow capitalism. If and when that movement was successful, it would be up to the members of the new society to decide democratically how it was to be organized, in the concrete historical circumstances in which they found themselves."
So, for Karl Marx, the "father" of socialism, there is no thing as perfect, idealized, "do it this way or you're not a socialist" socialism.
The primary goal was building a movement to overthrow capitalism. In that Hitler and the Nazis viewed Jewry as capitalistic (as did Marx), it's very likely that Marx would have found them to be wonderfully and perfectly socialist. He did exactly what Marx advised: Take what you got and organize your own brand of socialism against the "concrete historical circumstances" in which they found themselves.
The very statement that "Hitler was not a socialist" by some imaginary perfect socialist checklist is itself a ludicrous notion. Marx never created one, it's only via the magic of a modern veil of anachronistic imagination that one can create such a yardstick by which to make such a claim. And so, we're back where we started, according to Marx himself: The Nazis, including Adolf Hitler, called themselves Socialists. The claimed an all-powerful centralized state power as having authority over the means of production. As such, they were socialists, by Marx' own definition.
In the end, the story follows the Occam's Razor theorem to the "T"…
A younger and idealistic Hitler returning from the Great War believed in and espoused many socialist ideas and political ideals and got together with a bunch of other young people also espousing socialist ideas. As he grew older and gained more political power, he found that those socialist ideas weren't much use when it was time to actually accomplish anything in the real world, so he did what all socialist rulers eventually do — he claimed power by force and used violence to try to achieve his political ends, killing millions of people along the way, all the while still calling himself a socialist. And Marx slept soundly in his grave.
Socialism is the building block that undergirds all forms of modern totalitarianism. But it should never be confused with a large welfare-state safety net. Charity and safety nets can be and should be created for those who cannot fully take care of themselves. As individuals, we have a responsibility to take care of and protect the weakest among us. If we fail to do this we revert back to the laws of the jungle, that leaves its weakest behind for the good of the "pride." Safety nets when done right are uniquely human and humane as still look to help individual.
The human "pride" knows that what ennobles man is that we refuse to leave the weakest behind to be eaten and we certainly could not call ourselves a noble species if our stated goal was to not only leave the weak behind, but to set out to purposely kill any group deemed "inferior" or slowing the pack down. A true safety net empowers anyone that has been kicked to the ground to stand back up. It gives them a hand up as an individual — while they regain their footing.
Socialism at its root is and always must be about the collective. Collective "injustice" in all of its forms. In opposition to a "safety net" for individuals, socialism looks for "groups" of victims and groups of villains. Socialism is at its heart a system that dismisses rights of the one for the gain of the many. Once those the in-group deems vermin, cockroaches, greedy, privileged or problems — anything is justifiable to provide "social justice" to the collective.
In western society, traditional western liberalism stand against the collective mob and as a protector of the individual. Once one understands why socialism is defined as a "stepping stone," you will begin to understand why the story usually ends in mass graves of enemies or starvation. Create a collective at the expense of the individual and it becomes a playground for those who seek power and riches at any cost, justifying every evil they commit in the name of the collective they are supposedly defending.
So yes, Virginia, Hitler really was a socialist. Tragically, a very successful one.