December 11, 2016

The Nazis: Right Wing Extremists or National Socialists?

It has become conventional wisdom to characterize Nazi Germany as an extreme “right wing” or “conservative” reaction against communism. There is no doubt that Hitler hated communism, which he saw as a Jewish conspiracy. Hitler blamed the Reichstag fire, which most historians suspect him of orchestrating himself, on Jewish communists. Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), contains page after page of Hitler railing against the lies and the evils of communism. Does that make Hitler a “right wing conservative?” If by “right wing conservative,” we mean that he was an advocate of free markets, property rights, low taxes, and low regulation, then definitely he was not. The name “National Socialist” should be some indication of what Hitler’s economic policies were, and the plain facts of history bear that name out. Nevertheless, the Nazis are almost universally regarded as “right wing conservative extremism,” a misconception with more ominous ramifications than are obvious at first glance.

Investigation and analysis are not really needed to determine whether Nazi Germany operated under a capitalist, free market system or a socialist one. The economy was centrally planned, with wage and price controls imposed by the Goering, under the threat of concentration camp imprisonment.[1] Hitler sought foreign investment in manufacturing the Volkswagen, but because he sought companies that would not seek to make profits on the “people’s products,” American manufacturers GM and Ford dropped out of the project.[2]

When the Nazi’s came to power, unemployment was nearly 30%.[3] One of Hitler’s stated goals was to eliminate unemployment by 1939, a goal he proclaimed he met when the official unemployment rate fell under 1% that year. However, those statistics are somewhat deceiving when you consider that the Nazi’s forced women and Jews to quit their jobs and were subsequently not counted as unemployed, while unemployed German men replaced them.[4] The balance of the unemployed were absorbed into massive new government works projects to build steel plants, rubber factories, and other capital goods projects, funded by inflating the German currency that was now off the gold standard.[5]

The central planning and control did not stop at the macro level, but reached down into the life of each individual German. The right to quit your job was abolished in 1935, with consent from your previous employer required to accept another job. Trade unions were abolished, and investment was heavily regulated to serve the needs of the state rather than to encourage profit. Heavy taxes on profits made private ownership of companies virtually impossible. While the largest companies were not taxed on profits, they were so heavily controlled that they were privately-owned in name only.[6]

While the unemployment rate was made to look low by simply excluding the people that didn’t have jobs, nothing about the Nazi economy was truly sustainable. You can manipulate statistics for a while, but sooner or later reality will prevail. However, like the languishing American economy (itself suffering from the effects of the socialist New Deal), the German economy found temporary new life in building its war machine. The last of the recognized unemployed were now put to work, with the printing press of Germany’s central bank ready to provide whatever liquidity was needed. The inevitable consequences of inflating the currency were postponed once the war began, as Germany merely plundered the gold to back at least a portion of this new money from the countries they conquered.

In The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek addressed the very issue of whether the Nazis were a right wing or left wing movement. His thesis was that not only were the National Socialists every bit as socialist as their name, but that they were the natural result of socialism itself. Hayek warned his present-day England that they were traveling down the same “road to serfdom” that Germany had traveled decades before, and that he feared that socialism in England would lead to the same horrors there that it had lead to in Germany – that socialism MUST lead to wherever it is practiced.[7]

So, in terms of economic policy, the Nazis were every bit the “National Socialists” that their name suggested. However, they were also militaristic. Hitler launched aggressive, unprovoked wars against Czechoslovakia and Poland. Doesn’t that make him a “right wing conservative?”

Again, it is not “conservative” or “right wing” by any definition that we have ever used here in America until very recently. As Ron Paul pointed out time and again in his presidential campaign, the conservative position has always been anti-war and non-interventionist. Prior to the “neo-conservative” Republicans, the Republican Party always ran on an anti-war platform. It was a Democratic President that took us into every conflict we fought in the 20th century: Woodrow Wilson in WWI, Franklin Roosevelt in WWII[8], Truman in Korea, Johnson in Viet Nam.[9] Conversely, it was conservative, right wing Republicans that opposed each of these wars. “Mr. Conservative” Robert Taft actually opposed the U.S. joining NATO. Even the “right wing extremist” Barry Goldwater ran in 1964 on ending U.S. involvement in Viet Nam. Despite the Democrats’ success in characterizing Goldwater as a “nuke the commies” nutcase, the plain facts are that Goldwater campaigned against the war in Viet Nam and Johnson campaigned for it.

Nazi Germany was arguably the most horrible totalitarian society in history. By characterizing the Nazis as “right wing,” socialists proceed to make the argument that “conservative, right wing” philosophy – i.e. individual liberty, free markets, low taxes, less regulation – spawns a brutal totalitarianism when taken to the extreme. Therefore, any society built upon these principles has to be carefully guarded and imbued with the virtues of socialism to protect against the horrors of another Nazi Germany. In other words, too much freedom leads to totalitarianism, while government control protects us against it. To borrow my favorite line from Ron Paul’s Revolution, “If you think this sounds fishy, then you understand it just fine.”[10]

Welfare and warfare have always gone hand in hand in political ideology. Wherever you have found one, you have usually found the other. We have lost sight of the fact that the two are not merely related, they are actually siblings, or at least first cousins. Welfare is the use of government force to loot individuals and redistribute their wealth. Warfare is the use of government force to loot foreign nations (and their individuals) and redistribute their wealth. They are really one and the same ideology. Both are the antithesis of individual liberty. The only question one must ask in determining what is “right wing conservatism” and what is not is this: Does this policy support individuals dealing with each other by mutual, voluntary consent, or is the initiation of force involved? If the answer is mutual, voluntary consent, the policy is “right wing conservative.” If the answer is the initiation of force, it isn’t.

Ron Paul has been called by some a “right wing extremist.” He is. Ron Paul rejects the initiation of force without compromise or moderation. He is truly the last “right wing conservative” in American politics. This is not an encouraging sign. Already, the terms are being redefined once again.[11] A recent news story on the presidential election characterized Barack Obama’s recent support of the changes to FISA as a move “toward the center,” as was his support of AIPAC and strong rhetoric regarding defense of Israel. It is fair to say that economically, Obama is as far left as we have seen in a presidential candidate in decades. John McCain is considered “conservative” because of his strong support for the war and his support for government encroachment on civil liberties in the name of “security” against terrorism. Neither Obama nor McCain question the need for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or Welfare. Property rights and free markets are completely off the table. Where are the right wing conservatives?

I wrote at the beginning of this article that the misconception of the Nazis as an extreme right wing, conservative movement had ominous ramifications. Let us look back at history in Germany and speculate for a moment about our own future. Before the Nazis came to power, there was a socialist government in place that is best known for the most famous currency destruction in history. In the last days of the Weimar Republic, pictures of citizens carrying the near worthless currency to the supermarket in wheelbarrows illustrated the economic state of the nation. It was this crisis that allowed the Nazis to come to power.

We now have a nation that is thoroughly fed up with the Republican administration of the past eight years. The Republicans lost Congress in the previous mid-term election. Obama has a double-digit lead over John McCain. The public has become confused into thinking that the debate is between “right” and “left,” when in fact there is no “right” in this debate. Why is this ominous?

Let us suppose that Obama wins a landslide victory. It will be hailed as a mandate from the people for all of his policies. While Obama is still officially against the Iraq War, he is not against the rest of the American Empire. So, financially speaking, Obama may cut defense spending by about $150 billion dollars. That would not erase the federal deficit. In fact, the federal government currently spends more on providing the poor and elderly with healthcare than it does on its entire defense budget, and Obama wants to cover EVERYBODY. His positions on other forms of welfare, both direct wealth redistribution and the more covert brand via government intervention in the marketplace, are for much, much more.

America already has a crisis on its hands due to decades of inflating its currency. By comparing its $1.5 trillion entitlement spending to its $650 billion defense spending, it becomes obvious that a 20% decrease in defense spending combined with even a 10% increase in entitlement spending is going to ADD to the deficits, not decrease them. Such an entitlement increase may actually be very conservative when converting some of Obama’s rhetoric to U.S. dollars. Imagine a U.S. in much worse economic crisis four years from now, with inflation that makes today’s problem look mild, and with a citizenry that now blames “the liberal left” for everything. Where will they turn?

An Obama presidency accompanied by a Democratic House and Senate could accelerate an economic cataclysm that, fairly stated, is coming, no matter which party is in power. However, with most Americans considering the neo-con Republicans as the “right wing,” it will be this brand of Republican that America turns to four years from now. With economic decline accelerating, the so-called “neo-cons” could be swept into power in four years with a stronger mandate than the Democrats had in this election. This is a party that has demonstrated its unrestrained desire for war at any cost, its utter disregard for individual liberty, its record-setting government spending, its policy of spying on its citizens, and its policy of unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, and torture. At what time in history have we seen such a unanimous mandate from the people for a political party like this? Do we really think that it couldn’t happen here?

Tom Mullen

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Germany#Economy
[2] http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler
[3] http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazis_and_the_german_economy.htm
[4] http://www.search.com/reference/Nazi_Germany#Economic_policy
[5] http://www.search.com/reference/Nazi_Germany#Economic_policy
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Germany#Economy
[7] F.A. Hayek The Road to Serfdom (rather than cite specific passages, the reader is encourage to read the entire book, as this topic is its central thesis
[8] It is only fair to point out that after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR had unanimous support for a declaration of war on Japan. However, if you examine FDR’s foreign policy before the attack, which many historians regard as having provoked Japan unnecessarily, you will find that it was “conservatives” that were opposed to it.
[9] While the United States had “advisors” in Viet Nam as early as the Eisenhower administration, Viet Nam did not become anywhere near a full scale war until Johnson’s first full term –after the 1964 election. Kennedy has planned to get the U.S. out of Viet Nam while the commitment was still minimal enough to do so.
[10] Ron Paul The Revolution: A Manifesto pg. 141
[11] Remember that the term “liberal” was used 100 years ago to describe what later became the “conservative” position of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 2008, neither “conservative” nor “liberal” mean what they have in the past.

Home

Leave a Reply