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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, February 28, 2014

RIGHT WING DOES NOT MEAN BAD GUY

“I have put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun,” [Hitler] boasted, adding that “the whole of National Socialism” was “based on Marx”.

One of the more depressing and pervasive lies that has spread around the world is that the Nazis and other 20th century fascists were right wing extremists.  I've written about this several times, and each time I take pains to show how that is not just false, but ridiculously so.
Well someone in England is trying to teach the same lesson to a very unwilling public.  His name is Daniel Hannan and he's writing in the Daily Telegraph, and making a lot of people mad.  Hannan writes:
The idea that Nazism is a more extreme form of conservatism has insinuated its way into popular culture. You hear it, not only when spotty students yell “fascist” at Tories, but when pundits talk of revolutionary anti-capitalist parties, such as the BNP and Golden Dawn, as “far Right”.

What is it based on, this connection? Little beyond a jejune sense that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists are nasty. When written down like that, the notion sounds idiotic, but think of the groups around the world that the BBC, for example, calls “Right-wing”: the Taliban, who want communal ownership of goods; the Iranian revolutionaries, who abolished the monarchy, seized industries and destroyed the middle class; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pined for Stalinism. The “Nazis-were-far-Right” shtick is a symptom of the wider notion that “Right-wing” is a synonym for “baddie”.
At least, that's where it comes from now.  Back in the 50s, they knew better but had a very clever group of folks in Soviet Russia working around the clock to manipulate information and ideas in the west toward their point of view and boy were they successful.  These days most people just don't know any better, but they did back then.
Hannan includes a lot of quotes and quite a few propaganda posters such as this one:

What does that say? "The National Socialist German worker stands against capitalism."  For the Nazis, capitalism was the ideology of the Jew, the rich bolshevik who oppressed the working man.  That's why when the Germans took over, they instituted a long list of leftist dream projects and programs such as free health care, make-work jobs, free housing (and even clothing) for the poor, equal work and pay for women, mandatory government-run schooling (closing down religious schools and home schooling), national socialized medicine, a labor corps all young people had to join and work at for one year, and so on. And, of couse, they raised taxes.  To 80% of income.
As I point out in my Common Knowledge bit, there was some from the right in Nazi ideology as well; the fascists rejected both socialism and capitalism as failures and believed they could come up with a third way that was superior.  So there was a love of country, a strong military, and great honor for tradition in the Fascist countries as well.
But the culture and economic system: Socialism with cronyism thrown in for good measure.  But boy, does the left hate to hear that.  This guy is getting a lot of grief now, and what's interesting is how some of the responses try so earnestly to define any economy with a strong military as right wing, or any country that enriches big corporations with government cronyism as capitalism.
The claim that cronyism and corporatism cannot be socialist is not born up in history, as many of the failed socialist ash heaps of the past had exactly that system.  There's nothing anti-socialist about big rich companies working hand in hand with government, but its certainly anti-capitalist.
Another of the big arguments that always gets trotted out is that Hitler shut down all the unions and killed Socialists and Communists.  He can't have been left wing!  The problem is that he also started up new unions, under government control, and in addition to repeatedly saying he was socialist, ran the economy as a socialist system.  And, as Jonah Goldberg points out:
Sure, Hitler’s effort to destroy competing socialists and Communists “doesn’t explain” all those other things. But it doesn’t have to. Nor does Stalin’s wholesale slaughter (or Lenin’s retail slaughter) of competing Communists and socialists explain the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact or the infield-fly rule. Other considerations — economic, cultural, diplomatic — come into play. But when people say Hitler can’t be a socialist because he crushed independent labor unions and killed socialists, they need to explain why Stalin gets to be a socialist even though he did likewise.
One of the key features of a tyrant is to wipe out all competition, no matter what side they are on.  Just ask Trotksy.  Killing off socialists doesn't make you not a socialist yourself, something that shouldn't even need to be said.
And then there's the other side of the mistaken equation, like this Salon piece all about how nice Communism is and how everyone has it all wrong.  Oh, and how capitalism is nasty and bad.

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