Were the Fascists and Nazis Leftists?
"Fascism, sitting on the right, could also have sat on the mountain of the center….These words in any case do not have a fixed and unchanged meaning: they do have a variable subject to location, time and spirit. We don't give a damn about these empty terminologies and we despise those who are terrorized by these words." —Benito Mussolini
When I was in high school I was taught that, on the political spectrum, Communism represents the extreme far left, and Fascism represents the extreme far right. I grew up into middle age taking this distinction for granted. Then, relatively recently, I began seeing comments to YouTube videos and articles on Breitbart, etc., declaring that the Nazis in particular were leftists, one of the main arguments being that the Nazis called themselves National Socialists. I wondered about that, but was not convinced. Then just recently the conservative ideologue and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza came out with a book (which I’ll almost certainly never read) alleging, and even demonstrating, that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party derived many of their political policies from the American Democratic Party, especially with regard to racial segregation and eugenics—the implication being that Hitler was, if not a leftist, much influenced by leftist Democrat ideology. So I decided to research a little to clear up this contentious issue. Which side gets the blame for Nazism and Fascism?
Poor old Adolf is like a tennis ball nowadays, being knocked back and forth by both sides because neither side wants him. Only a few neo-Nazis on the fringe of the far right accept him as their own—if only because (it must be admitted) the Nazis had the coolest-looking uniforms. Hitler has been demonized as the arch-villain of the modern western world, largely because his side lost the war; so certainly the left doesn’t want him, especially since they’re already burdened with the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, and the current psychopathic maniac in North Korea, just to name a few. (On the other hand, Lenin, Mao, and Castro may actually be heroes to the New Left for all I know.) Meanwhile, the right understandably doesn’t want to be saddled with the one guy who has received more vehement denunciation than all the rest combined. The name Adolf is ruined forever—who could bear to name a cute, harmless little baby Adolf? (Then again, quite a few Turks still name cute little babies Attila.) Same goes for the little mustache. Nobody can wear one now. As for the left, nobody in their right mind would want hair like Mao or Kim Jong Un anyway. And their uniforms! Ridiculous.
The amateur arguers in comments sections fall into the typical error of not bothering to define the terms they’re arguing over. The case is a hopeless one so long as each side has a different definition of the term; or, what may be more likely, so long as one or both sides have only the vaguest ideas of what the terms mean, even to themselves. With regard to fascism, I’d guess even most members of Antifa, the so-called anti-Fascists, couldn’t clearly define what an actual fascist is. You might wind up with little better than “Fucking capitalists!” or “Fucking racist police!” as an answer. Nazi and Fascist have been thrown around by progressives so much, directed toward just about anyone with whom they disagree, that the terms have come to be approximately as meaningless and pointless as Racist and Sexist.
So it may be of some use to refer first to the dictionary. My New Oxford American Dictionary defines Fascism like this:
an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
• (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.
The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.
Right-wing is defined like this:
the conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system. [with reference to the National Assembly in France (1789–91), where the nobles sat to the president's right and the commons to the left.]
That gives us some potentially useful information; although of course dictionaries tend to be written by elitist scholars in academia, who mostly lean to the left. Maybe lexicographers are foisting Hitler onto the right too. I have noticed a little leftist bias in my New Oxford American Dictionary. So we can be a little skeptical, but it is a good start.
As was already mentioned, some on the right shove Hitler leftwards with the idea that the Nazis were National Socialists. But the mere name National Socialism doesn’t necessarily imply socialism, any more than the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea implies democracy. Just because Fascism and Nazism had socialist roots doesn’t mean that what they developed into was still functionally socialist. The mere name means nothing.
Some comments section polemicists apparently go with the idea that the hard left is authoritarian, and favoring a controlled economy, with the extreme right being represented by absolute free market libertarianism—total freedom, including the right to own private property, and to keep what one earns, with minimal government. But the dichotomy of authoritarian vs. libertarian represents a different spectrum from the economic one, as can be seen in the well-known two-dimensional graphs known as the Political Compass (with some personal avatars on the Internet showing the individual’s own point on the graph). Although pure communism would eliminate personal property, and its opposite would eliminate pretty much anything else under the sun, still, a communist society can be totalitarian or, at least in theory, free and democratic; as can a capitalistic one. Gandhi and Pol Pot were both essentially communists, although one stressed authority and repressive force more than the other. Communism can be free and anarchistic, so long as it is voluntary (although it tends not to stay voluntary for very long).
Which brings up the issue of possible alternative spectra, different ways of dividing up political orientations. I assume that these various dichotomies help to confuse even the experts, resulting in disagreements even among supposed authorities on the subject. There can be big government or small government, centralized or diffuse, managed economy or laissez-faire, democracy or autocracy, emphasis on equality or emphasis on freedom, nationalism or globalism, emphasis on progressive change or emphasis on tradition, leader as servant or leader as commander, classless society or stratified society, and so on. To what extent each of these alternative spectra should be factored into the equation, and how, is something too complex for everyone to agree upon, so it’s probably futile to argue the point with much heat.
Getting back to Benito and Adolf though, it is true that Mussolini’s Fascist Party began as a heretical offshoot of the Italian Socialist Party. They parted ways because Mussolini’s faction favored Italy’s entry into the first World War against the Austrian Empire, whereas the official Party line was to oppose this, considering it to be “nationalistic.” After going his own way, Mussolini allied himself with industrialists and conservatives against the socialists, and came to despise socialism. Hitler admired Mussolini in the early years of his own political career and modeled Nazism on Italian Fascism. Hitler also came to sincerely hate Marxists; and not only did German industrialists and conservatives support Hitler, but one of the main reasons why the Nazis were able to come to power was the German people’s desire not to be taken over by communism, as had already happened in Russia and was threatening to happen elsewhere. He did oppose the “parasitic” capitalism of a rich bourgeoisie (largely Jews) who invest and reap profits without actually working; though he did support “productive” capitalism, private initiative, and private property. He did advocate nationalized health care (for Aryans anyway), public works to eliminate unemployment, and some other stereotypically socialist policies—hell, even the SA brownshirts started as a more or less socialist organization supporting the unemployed. Also, Hitler did seize control of a small percentage of German industry, thereby nationalizing it; but this was mainly for the sake of gaining greater control over the war effort. Mussolini on the other hand nationalized most of Italy’s economy during the 1930s; but this was largely a matter of expedience, as the Italian government was buying out and maintaining banks and other businesses that were going belly up during the Great Depression. If the economy were booming he probably wouldn’t have done it. And in any case one could hardly call this nationalization of industry “socialist” in the Marxist sense, as the workers certainly did not control the means of production, and wielded little power at all; industry was managed by political elites who answered only to the central authority of the State.
So it appears, and scholars more expert than I am agree, that Mussolini and Hitler weren’t so much economic leftists as opportunists who adopted whatever strategy looked like it would work. Hitler especially has been referred to as a “revolutionary centrist”; he certainly had no loyalty toward any political dogma and just did as he pleased—almost the only policy he followed with undeviating earnestness was hatred of Jews. So, economically at least, the Fascists and Nazis were either rightists or “radical” centrists, but certainly not communists or even socialists in the usual senses of the words. They both seem to have sincerely despised lefties.
From a more political point of view, though, the situation is less ambiguous. For starters, the hard right tends toward nationalism, and thus also toward some form of institutionalized racism; whereas orthodox communism, typical of the hard left, tends to be globalist in scope and pretty much colorblind. Mussolini and Hitler fit the hard-right stereotype pretty well on that one. (Although there are always aberrations, like North Korea: the glorious leader of that country is the political great-grandson of Mao, and great-great-grandson of Stalin, and a radical, if corrupt, leftist; but nevertheless he is also a nationalistic racist—but there can be such a thing as a “Fascist Left,” even if Benito and Adolf weren’t it.)
A more important point, and a central one with or without economic considerations, is the idea of social equality. It seems to be a fundamental law that the farther left one looks, the more equality is insisted upon, until we reach the farthest extreme of leftism which apparently wants equality to the point of perfect sameness and an ideologically undifferentiated hive mentality. The farther rightwards one looks, the more it is assumed that inequality is unavoidable, or not necessarily a bad thing in some ways; the extreme right may approve of enforced sameness for the subservient masses of peons and cannon fodder, but the ruling elite Übermenschen would be individualists par excellence, if you will pardon the mixed foreign terms. Whereas the left insists upon complete equality, the right considers this to be impossible, or even undesirable—inequality is inevitable, maybe even best; and in this respect the position of Fascists and Nazis is pretty obvious. They liked inequality. They reveled in it. They considered a classless society to be an abomination. So considering the data I’d have to say yeah, Mussolini and Hitler, and the movements they led, leaned more right than left. In fact they were extremely rightist in certain important respects, especially with regard to political philosophy. Like Nietzsche before them, they saw survival of the fittest to be more important than egalitarian care for the weak, the “bungled and botched,” and that’s hard right.
I apologize for the fact that this post isn’t very politically incorrect, except to the extent that it considers fascists and Nazis to be human beings, some of them even intelligent ones, whose systems are worth investigating, if only for the sake of understanding what college students and feminized PC progressives are howling against, or think they’re howling against, or for aiding the reader in debates in comments sections. Perhaps I can rectify the situation a little by stating my own political position along the equality/inequality spectrum.
First of all, I value freedom above equality, and the two are not necessarily compatible. Sometimes one must choose one or the other; and beyond the idea that everyone should have equal rights, equal protection under the law, and equal consideration as human beings, I choose freedom.
Second, beyond the equalities just mentioned, of equal humanity, etc., I consider natural, absolute equality to be a myth. People simply are not the same. Some people are inherently smarter than others, or very much smarter than others, or more talented, or more imaginative, or more industrious, or more aggressive, or more athletic, for instance. This applies not only to this individual compared to that individual, but also to this ethnicity statistically compared to that one. Even on a totally level playing field, there simply will not be equality of outcome. Some people, and groups of people, will naturally come out on top. Whether this SHOULD be the case is utterly irrelevant, because that’s the way it actually IS, and I don’t consider it to be beneficial to society or to the human race to deny this or to fight against it, hysterically or otherwise. Some people are best suited to be doctors and engineers, and some people are best suited to dig holes and pick strawberries, and different ethnicities will show different percentages of these groups. Furthermore, regardless of all the denial and howls of “racist!” or “fascist!” or whatever, science, and especially genetics, is slowly, gradually revealing the ugly truth, and continues to grind its way forward, much like the mythical mountain in Buddhist texts that inexorably moves ever forwards and crushes everything before it to dust. The myth of “it’s all a cultural construct and everyone’s the same” will eventually be crushed by science, and the sooner the better. A society ruled by emotional wishful thinking is simply insane.
So, I suppose that puts me somewhere near the center—or would put me there, if the center itself had not veered drunkenly leftwards (much like the Middle Path between extremes has veered drastically towards the extreme of hedonism in western Buddhism). And thus being near the center would presumably make me a “fascist” by Antifa’s reckoning. Ah, well, maybe the word can be rehabilitated, like “queer” and “slut” have been rehabilitated. For now it’s little more than a cussword.
Quasi-Appendix: It’s Always Been Like This
Click here to see a short article written by George Orwell in 1944 entitled “What Is Fascism?” One will see that even when self-proclaimed Fascists were a major political force people still didn’t know what Fascism meant exactly, and that the term Fascist, then as now, was flung about prodigally to indicate anyone that the speaker happened to despise. The moral of the story: The more things change, the more they stay the same. (It’s really a short article.)
George Orwell, “What Is Fascism?” http://orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc
Also, click here for one of my all-time favorite Hitler rants. This one occurred after he was unfriended on Facebook for, eh…reasons.