Were the Nazis Really Socialists?

Self proclaimed socialist  Senator Bernie Sanders declares victory in Nevada, the third state to vote in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.  Sanders is a socialist and that brings back the question of Socialist of the past.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama said following Secretary Barr’s briefing on the Mueller Report. In his speech, Brooks then referred to Adolf Hitler as a socialist, drawing a connection between the Fuhrer and democratic socialists.

Democrats are always quick to deny the Nazis were Socialist and choose to claim the Nazis were far-right, and thus they claim they were far removed from socialism.

“Nazi” was an abbreviation for “der Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei — in English translation: the National Socialist German Workers’ Party

The Nazis didn’t call their ideology “national socialism” because they thought it sounded good. They were fervently opposed to capitalism. The Nazi Party’s chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, even once remarked that he’d sooner live under Bolshevism than capitalism. The Nazis instituted major public works projects such as the Autobahn, promised full employment, and dramatically increased government spending,  not right wind ideas at all.

National socialism began as a fusion of socialist ideas of a technocratically-managed economy with Völkisch nationalism, a deeply anti-Semitic form of German nationalism. In their burgeoning ideology, the Nazis saw both capitalism and communism as unhealthily materialistic and based in selfishness rather than national unity, traits they negatively associated with Judaism.

The Nazis also distinguished themselves from Marxists in their support for private property, although this came with some caveats.

The Nazi government did not own the means of production in Germany, but they certainly controlled them. They set up control boards, cartels, and state-sponsored monopolies and konzerns, which they then carefully planned and regulated.Democratic socialists don’t believe in total government ownership of the means of production, nor do they wish to technocratically manage the economy.

Industrial leaders hardly objected. In surrendering control of their enterprises to the state, they insulated themselves from market forces, ensuring they’d remain at the top of their respective industries.

Marx hated the free market for obscuring the value of workers’ labor, while Hitler hated the free market because it brought cultures closer together and made warmongering difficult. AOC believes the free market is incapable of responding to climate change, and like her forebears, she plans on using the state as a vehicle for dramatic social and economic readjustment.

Nazi Banner – “With Germany – No Capitalism”

The basis of the claim that Nazi Germany was capitalist was the fact that most industries in Nazi Germany appeared to be left in private hands.

What was identified was that private ownership of the means of production existed in name only under the Nazis and that the actual substance of ownership of the means of production resided in the German government. For it was the German government and not the nominal private owners that exercised all of the substantive powers of ownership: it, not the nominal private owners, decided what was to be produced, in what quantity, by what methods, and to whom it was to be distributed, as well as what prices would be charged and what wages would be paid, and what dividends or other income the nominal private owners would be permitted to receive.

What specifically established de facto socialism in Nazi Germany was the introduction of price and wage controls in 1936, many on the left like Bernie Sanders also want to control wages, at least min wage, much like the Nazi’s did.

Socialism lacks freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Of course, it lacks these freedoms. If the government owns all the newspapers and publishing houses, if it decides for what purposes newsprint and paper are to be made available, then obviously nothing can be printed which the government does not want printed. If it owns all the meeting halls, no public speech or lecture can be delivered which the government does not want delivered. But socialism goes far beyond the mere lack of freedom of press and speech.

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A socialist government totally annihilates these freedoms. It turns the press and every public forum into a vehicle of hysterical propaganda in its own behalf, and it engages in the relentless persecution of everyone who dares to deviate by so much as an inch from its official party line.

The reason for these facts is the socialist rulers’ terror of the people. To protect themselves, they must order the propaganda ministry and the secret police to work ’round the clock. The one, to constantly divert the people’s attention from the responsibility of socialism, and of the rulers of socialism, for the people’s misery. The other, to spirit away and silence anyone who might even remotely suggest the responsibility of socialism or its rulers — to spirit away anyone who begins to show signs of thinking for himself. It is because of the rulers’ terror, and their desperate need to find scapegoats for the failures of socialism, that the press of a socialist country is always full of stories about foreign plots and sabotage, and about corruption and mismanagement on the part of subordinate officials, and why, periodically, it is necessary to unmask large-scale domestic plots and to sacrifice major officials and entire factions in giant purges.

It is because of their terror, and their desperate need to crush every breath even of potential opposition, that the rulers of socialism do not dare to allow even purely cultural activities that are not under the control of the state. For if people so much as assemble for an art show or poetry reading that is not controlled by the state, the rulers must fear the dissemination of dangerous ideas. Any unauthorized ideas are dangerous ideas, because they can lead people to begin thinking for themselves and thus to begin thinking about the nature of socialism and its rulers. The rulers must fear the spontaneous assembly of a handful of people in a room, and use the secret police and its apparatus of spies, informers, and terror either to stop such meetings or to make sure that their content is entirely innocuous from the point of view of the state.

Socialism cannot be ruled for very long except by terror. As soon as the terror is relaxed, resentment and hostility logically begin to well up against the rulers. The stage is thus set for a revolution or civil war. In fact, in the absence of terror, or, more correctly, a sufficient degree of terror, socialism would be characterized by an endless series of revolutions and civil wars, as each new group of rulers proved as incapable of making socialism function successfully as its predecessors before it. The inescapable inference to be drawn is that the terror actually experienced in the socialist countries was not simply the work of evil men, such as Stalin, but springs from the nature of the socialist system. Stalin could come to the fore because his unusual willingness and cunning in the use of terror were the specific characteristics most required by a ruler of socialism in order to remain in power. He rose to the top by a process of socialist natural selection: the selection of the worst.

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I need to anticipate a possible misunderstanding concerning my thesis that socialism is totalitarian by its nature. This concerns the allegedly socialist countries run by Social Democrats, such as Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, which are clearly not totalitarian dictatorships.

In such cases, it is necessary to realize that along with these countries not being totalitarian, they are also not socialist. Their governing parties may espouse socialism as their philosophy and their ultimate goal, but socialism is not what they have implemented as their economic system. Their actual economic system is that of a hampered market economy, as Mises termed it. While more hampered than our own in important respects, their economic system is essentially similar to our own, in that the characteristic driving force of production and economic activity is not government decree but the initiative of private owners motivated by the prospect of private profit.

The reason that Social Democrats do not establish socialism when they come to power, is that they are unwilling to do what would be required. The establishment of socialism as an economic system requires a massive act of theft — the means of production must be seized from their owners and turned over to the state. Such seizure is virtually certain to provoke substantial resistance on the part of the owners, resistance which can be overcome only by use of massive force.

The Communists were and are willing to apply such force, as evidenced in Soviet Russia. Their character is that of armed robbers prepared to commit murder if that is what is necessary to carry out their robbery. The character of the Social Democrats in contrast is more like that of pickpockets, who may talk of pulling the big job someday, but who in fact are unwilling to do the killing that would be required, and so give up at the slightest sign of serious resistance.

As for the Nazis, they generally did not have to kill in order to seize the property of Germans other than Jews. This was because, as we have seen, they established socialism by stealth, through price controls, which served to maintain the outward guise and appearance of private ownership. The private owners were thus deprived of their property without knowing it and thus felt no need to defend it by force.

I think I have shown that socialism — actual socialism — is totalitarian by its very nature.

In the United States at the present time, we do not have socialism in any form. And we do not have a dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian dictatorship.

We also do not yet have Fascism, though we are moving towards it. Among the essential elements that are still lacking are one-party rule and censorship. We still have freedom of speech and press and free elections, though both have been undermined and their continued existence cannot be guaranteed.

What we have is a hampered market economy that is growing ever more hampered by ever more government intervention, and that is characterized by a growing loss of individual freedom. The growth of the government’s economic intervention is synonymous with a loss of individual freedom because it means increasingly initiating the use of physical force to make people do what they do not voluntarily choose to do or prevent them from doing what they do voluntarily choose to do.

Since the individual is the best judge of his own interests, and at least as a rule seeks to do what it is in his interest to do and to avoid doing what harms his interest, it follows that the greater the extent of government intervention, the greater the extent to which individuals are prevented from doing what benefits them and are instead compelled to do what causes them loss.

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Today, in the United States, government spending, federal, state, and local, amounts to almost half of the monetary incomes of the portion of the citizenry that does not work for the government. Fifteen federal cabinet departments, and a much larger number of federal regulatory agencies, together, in most instances with counterparts at the state and local level, routinely intrude into virtually every area of the individual citizen’s life. In countless ways he is taxed, compelled, and prohibited.

The effect of such massive government interference is unemployment, rising prices, falling real wages, a need to work longer and harder, and growing economic insecurity. The further effect is growing anger and resentment.

Though the government’s policy of interventionism is their logical target, the anger and resentment people feel are typically directed at businessmen and the rich instead. This is a mistake which is fueled for the most part by an ignorant and envious intellectual establishment and media.

And in conformity with this attitude, since the collapse of the stock market bubble, which was in fact created by the Federal Reserve’s policy of credit expansion and then pricked by its temporary abandonment of that policy, government prosecutors have adopted what appears to be a particularly vengeful policy toward executives guilty of financial dishonesty, as though their actions were responsible for the widespread losses resulting from the collapse of the bubble. Thus the former head of a major telecommunications company was recently given a twenty-five year prison sentence. Other top executives have suffered similarly.

Even more ominously, the government’s power to obtain mere criminal indictments has become equivalent to the power to destroy a firm, as occurred in the case of Arthur Andersen, the major accounting firm. The threatened use of this power was then sufficient to force major insurance brokerage firms in the United States to change their managements to the satisfaction of New York State’s Attorney General. There is no way to describe such developments other than as conviction and punishment without trial and as extortion by the government. These are major steps along a very dangerous path.

Fortunately, there is still sufficient freedom in the United States to undo all the damage that has been done. There is first of all the freedom to publicly name it and denounce it.

More fundamentally, there is the freedom to analyze and refute the ideas that underlie the destructive policies that have been adopted or that may be adopted. And that is what is critical. For the fundamental factor underlying interventionism and, of course, socialism as well, whether Nazi or Communist, is nothing but wrong ideas, above all, wrong ideas about economics and philosophy.

There is now an extensive and growing body of literature that presents sound ideas in these two vital fields. In my judgment, the two most important authors of this literature are Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand. An extensive knowledge of their writings is an indispensable prerequisite for success in the defense of individual freedom and the free market.

Related:

The Link between Today’s Leftists and Yesterday’s Nazis

Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism Is Totalitarian

Leftists become incandescent when reminded of the socialist roots of Nazism

 

 

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