(World History) FASCISM – NAZISM


  • Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties.
  • It emphasizes a myth of national or racial rebirth after a period of decline or destruction.
  • To this end, fascism calls for a “spiritual revolution” against signs of moral decay such as individualism and materialism, and seeks to purge “alien” forces and groups that threaten the organic community. 
  • Fascism tends to celebrate masculinity, youth, mystical unity, and the regenerative power of violence. Often, but not always, it promotes racial superiority doctrines, ethnic persecution, imperialist expansion, and genocide.
  • At the same time, fascists may embrace a form of internationalism based on either racial or ideological solidarity across national boundaries.
  • Usually fascism espouses open male supremacy, though sometimes it may also promote female solidarity and new opportunities for women of the privileged nation or race.
  • Fascism’s approach to politics is both populist—in that it seeks to activate “the people” as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies— and elitist—in that it treats the people’s will as embodied in a select group, or often one supreme leader, from whom authority proceeds downward.
  • Fascism seeks to organize a cadre-led mass movement in a drive to seize state power. It seeks to forcibly subordinate all spheres of society to its ideological vision of organic community, usually through a totalitarian state.
  • Both as a movement and a regime, fascism use mass organizations as a system of integration and control, and uses organized violence to suppress opposition, although the scale of violence varies widely. 
  • Fascism is hostile to Marxism, liberalism, and conservatism, yet it borrows concepts and practices from all three.
  • Fascism rejects the principles of class struggle and workers’ internationalism as threats to national or racial unity, yet it often exploits real grievances against capitalists and landowners through ethnic scapegoating or radical-sounding conspiracy theories. 
  • Fascism rejects the liberal doctrines of individual autonomy and rights, political pluralism, and representative government, yet it advocates broad popular participation in politics and may use parliamentary channels in its drive to power. Its vision of a “new order” clashes with the conservative attachment to traditionbased institutions and hierarchies, yet fascism often romanticizes the past as inspiration for national rebirth. 
  • Fascism has a complex relationship with established elites and the non- fascist right. It is never a mere puppet of the ruling class, but an autonomous movement with its own social base.
  • In practice, fascism defends capitalism against instability and the left, but also pursues an agenda that sometimes clashes with capitalist interests in significant ways.
  • There has been much cooperation, competition, and interaction between fascism and other sections of the right, producing various hybrid movements and regimes.

Fourteen defining characteristics of fascism:

Dr. Lawrence Britt’s 14 defining characteristics common to each:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays. 
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. 
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people is rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. 
  4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized. 
  5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution. 
  6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common. 
  7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  8. Religion and Government are intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  9. Corporate Power is protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often is the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  10. Labor Power is suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. 
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. 1
  14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections. 


Nazi Ideological theory

  • According to Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler developed his political theories after carefully observing the policies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • He was born as a citizen of the Empire, and believed that ethnic and linguistic diversity had weakened it. Further, he saw democracy as a destabilizing force, because it placed power in the hands of ethnic minorities, who he claimed had incentives to further “weaken and destabilize” the Empire.
  • The Nazi rationale was heavily invested in the militarist belief that great nations grow from military power, which in turn grows “naturally” from “rational, civilized cultures.”
  • Hitler’s calls appealed to disgruntled German Nationalists, eager to save face for the failure of World War I, and to salvage the militaristic nationalist mindset of that previous era.
  • After Austria and Germany’s defeat of World War I, many Germans still had heartfelt ties to the goal of creating a greater Germany, and thought that the use of military force to achieve it was necessary.
  • Many placed the blame for Germany’s misfortunes on those whom they perceived, in one way or another, to have sabotaged the goal of national victory. Jews and communists became the ideal scapegoats for Germans deeply invested in a German Nationalist ideology.
  • Hitler’s Nazi theory also claimed that the Aryan race is a master race, superior to all other races that a nation is the highest creation of a race, and great nations (literally large nations) were the creation of great races.
  • These nations developed cultures that naturally grew from races with “natural good health, and aggressive, intelligent, courageous traits.”
  • The weakest nations, Hitler said were those of impure or mongrel races, because they have divided, quarrelling, and therefore weak cultures.
  • Worst of all were seen to be the parasitic Untermensch (Subhumans), mainly Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled and so called anti- socials, all of whom were considered lebensunwertes Leben(Life unworthy Life) due to their perceived deficiency and inferiority.
  • The roles of homosexuals during the Holocaust are controversial among historians. Some, like the International Committee for Holocaust Truth and authors Scott Lively and Kevin E. Abrams in “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party”, defend the perspective that many homosexuals were involved in the inner circle of the Nazi party: Ernst Rohm of the SA, Horst Wessel, Max Bielas, and others.
  • This perspective is denounced as hateful propaganda by most homosexual associations and groups, stirring heated debates and accusations of censorship and “hatespeech” from both sides.
  • People of the Eastern European Russian-dominated Slavic descent were also seen as subhuman, but only marginally parasitic, because they had their own land and nations, though many of them lived in German countries such as Austria, which Hitler saw as an ethnic invasion of Germanic Lebensraum by foreign populations who would have incentive to force Austria’s loyalty to their lands of ethnic and cultural origin. 
  • According to Nazism, it is an obvious mistake to permit or encourage multilingualism and multiculturalism within a nation.
  • Fundamental to the Nazi goal was the unification of all German-speaking peoples, “unjustly” divided into different Nation States. Hitler claimed that nations that could not defend their territory did not deserve it. Slave races, he thought of as less-worthy to exist than “master races.”
  • In particular, if a master race should require room to live (Lebensraum), he thought such a race should have the right to displace the inferior indigenous races. 
  • Hitler draws parallels between Lebensraum and the American ethnic cleansing and relocation policies towards the Native Americans, which he saw as key to the success of the US. 
  • “Races without homelands,” Hitler claimed, were “parasitic races,” and the richer the members of a “parasitic race” are, the more “virulent” the parasitism was thought to be.
  • A “master race” could therefore, according to the Nazi doctrine, easily strengthen itself by eliminating “parasitic races” from its homeland.
  • This was the given rationalization for the Nazi’s later oppression and elimination of Jews and Gypsies. Despite the popularity of Hitler and his living space doctrine, some Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS soldiers found the duty repugnant. 
  • Only a small fraction of them were actively involved in genocide.
  • Hitler extended his rationalizations into religious doctrine, claiming that those who agreed with and taught his “truths,” were “true” or “master” religions, because they would “create mastery” by avoiding comforting lies.
  • Those that preach love and tolerance, “in contravention to the facts,” were said to be “slave” or “false” religions.
  • The man who recognizes these “truths,” Hitler continued, was said to be a “natural leader,” and those who deny it were said to be “natural slaves.” “Slaves,” especially intelligent ones, he claimed were always attempting to hinder masters by promoting false religious and political doctrines. 
  • The ideological roots which became German “National Socialism” were based on numerous sources in European history, drawing especially from Romantic 19th Century idealism, and from a biological misreading of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts on “breeding upwards” toward the goal of an Ubermensch (Super human).
  • Hitler was an avid reader and received ideas that were later to influence Nazism from traceable publications, such as those of the Germanenorden (Germanic Order) or the Thule society.

Key elements of the Nazi Ideology

  • National Socialist Program
  • Racism o Especially anti-Semitism, which eventually culminated in the Holocaust. o The creation of a Herrenrasse (Master Race= by the Lebensborn (Fountain of Life; A department in the Third Reich) o Anti-Slavism o Belief in the superiority of the White, Germanic, Aryan or Nordic races. 
  • Euthanasia and Eugenics with respect to “Racial Hygiene”
  • Anti-Marxism, Anti-Communism, Anti-Bolshevism
  • The rejection of democracy, with as a consequence the ending the existence of political parties, labour unions, and free press. 
  • Fuhrerprinzip (Leader Principle) /belief in the leader (Responsibility up the ranks, and authority down the ranks.) 
  • Strong show of local culture.
  • Social Darwinism 
  • Defense of Blood and Soil (German: ”Blut und Boden” – represented by the red and black colors in the Nazi flag) 
  • “Lebensraumpolitik”, “Lebensraum im Osten” (The creation of more living space for Germans)
  • Related to Fascism 

Nazism and Romanticism 

  • According to Bertrand Russell, Nazism comes from a different tradition than that of either liberal capitalism or communism.
  • Thus, to understand values of Nazism, it is necessary to explore this connection, without trivializing the movement as it was in its peak years in the 1930s and dismissing it as a little more than racism. 
  • Many historiographers say that the anti-Semitic element, which does not exist in the sister fascism movement in Italy and Spain, was adopted by Hitler to gain popularity for the movement. 
  • Anti-Semitic prejudice was very common among the masses in German Empire. It is claimed that mass acceptance required anti-Semitism, as well as flattery of the wounded pride of German people after the defeat of WWI.
  • Others see anti-Semitism as central to Hitler’s Weltanschauung (World view).
  • Many see strong connections to the values of Nazism and the irrationalism tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century.
  • Strength, passion, lack of hypocrisy, utilitarianism, traditional family values, and devotion to community were valued by the Nazis and first expressed by many Romantic artists, musicians, and writers, as well as, among the Nazi elite, the ancient Greek habit of same-sex relations between the military and young boys praised notably in Plato’s works, and favored by German sensualists such as Rohm, Bielas and Wessel.
  • German romanticism in particular expressed these values. For instance, the Nazis identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner (a noted anti-Semite, author of Das Judenthum in der Musik, and idol to the young Hitler). 
  • Many of his operas express the ideals of the strong dominating the weak, and a celebration of traditional Norse Aryan folklore and values. The style of his music is often very militaristic.
  • The idealization of tradition, folklore, classical thought, the leadership of Frederick the Great, their rejection of the liberalism of the Weimar Republic and the decision to call the German state the Third Reich (which hearkens back to the medieval First Reich and the pre Weimar Second Reich) has led many to regard the Nazis as reactionary. 

Ideological competition 

  • Nazism and Communism emerged as two serious contenders for power in Germany after the First World War, particularly as the Weimar Republic became increasingly unstable.
  • What became the Nazi movement arose out of resistance to the Bolshevik- inspired insurgencies that occurred in Germany in the aftermath of the First World War.
  • The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused a great deal of excitement and interest in the Leninist version of Marxism and caused many socialists to adopt revolutionary principles.
  • The 1918-1919 Munich Soviet and the 1919 Spartacist uprising in Berlin were both manifestations of this. 
  • The Freikorps, a loosely organised paramilitary group (essentially a militia of former World War I soldiers) were used to crush both these uprising and many leaders of the Freikorps, including Ernst Rohm, later became leaders in the Nazi party.
  • Capitalists and conservatives in Germany feared that a takeover by the Communists was inevitable and did not trust the democratic parties of the Weimar Republic to be able to resist a communist revolution.
  • Increasing numbers of capitalists began looking to the nationalist movements as a bulwark against Bolshevism.
  • After Mussolini’s fascists took power in Italy in 1922, fascism presented itself as a realistic option for opposing “Communism”, particularly given Mussolini’s success in crushing the Communist and anarchist movements which had destabilized Italy with a wave of strikes and factory occupations after the First World War.
  • Fascist parties formed in numerous European countries.
  • Many historians such as Ian Kershaw and Joachim Fest argue that Hitler and the Nazis were one of numerous nationalist and increasingly fascistic groups that existed in Germany and contended for leadership of the anti- Communist movement and, eventually, of the German state.
  • Further, they assert that fascism and its German variant National Socialism became the successful challengers to Communism because they were able to both appeal to the establishment as a bulwark against Bolshevism and appeal to the working class base, particularly the growing underclass of unemployed and unemployable and growingly impoverished middle class elements who were becoming declassed (the lumpen proletariat).
  • The Nazi’s use of socialist rhetoric appealed to disaffection with capitalism while presenting a political and economic model that divested “socialism” of any elements which were dangerous to capitalism, such as the concept of class struggle, “the dictatorship of the proletariat” or worker control of the means of production.

Support of anti-Communists for Fascism and Nazism 

  • Various right-wing politicians and political parties in Europe welcomed the rise of fascism and the Nazis out of an intense aversion towards Communism. 
  • According to them, Hitler was the savior of Western civilization and of capitalism against Bolshevism.
  • Among these supporters in the 1920s and early 1930s was the Conservative Party in Britain.
  • During the later 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis were supported by the Falange movement in Spain, and by political and military figures that would form the government of Vichy France.
  • A Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism (LVF) and other anti-Soviet fighting formations were formed.
  • The British Conservative party and the right-wing parties in France appeased the Nazi regime in the mid- and late-1930s, even though they had begun to criticize its totalitarianism. Some contemporary commentators suggested that these parties did in fact still support the Nazis. 

Nazism and Anglo-Saxons 

  • Hitler admired the British Empire as a shining example of Nordic genius. Racist theories were developed by British intellectuals in the 19th century to control the Indian people and other “savages.” These methods were often copied by the Nazis.
  • Similarly, in his early years Hitler also greatly admired the United States of America.
  • In Mein Kampf, he praised the United States for its race-based anti-immigration laws. According to Hitler, America was a successful nation because it kept itself “pure” of “lesser races.”
  • However as war approached, his view of the United States became more negative and he believed that Germany would have an easy victory over the United States precisely because the United States in his later estimation had become a mongrel nation.

Factors which promoted the success of Nazism

An important question about National Socialism is that of which factors promoted its success, not only in Germany, but also in other European countries (in the 1930s and early 1940s Nazi-type movements could be found in Sweden, Britain, Italy, Spain and even in the US) in the twenties and thirties of the last century? These factors may have included:

  • Economic devastation all over Europe after WWI 
  • Lack of orientation of many people after the breakdown of monarchy in many European countries.
  • A perception that there was a disproportionate number of Jews in the German bourgeoisie (or upper class).
  • Perceived Jewish involvement in WWI of war profiteering 
  • Appeal of socialism or socialist rhetoric to the German working class 
  • Humiliation of Germany at the Treaty of Versailles
  • Rejection of Communism (particularly redistribution of wealth ) and the perception that socialism and Communism were Jewish- inspired and Jewish led movements; hence the Nazi use of the term Judeo-Bolshevik 
  • Hatred of the Jews 

Nazism and religion

  • The relationship between Nazism and mysticism is one that has provoked both curiosity and controversy over the years.
  • Hitler and other Nazi leaders clearly made use of Pagan symbolism and emotion in propagandizing the Germanic public, and it remains a matter of controversy whether Hitler believed himself a Christian, a heathen, or something else entirely.
  • Many historians have typified Hitler as a Satanist or occultist, whereas some writers have often utilized Nazism’s occasional outward use of Christian doctrine, regardless of what its inner-party mythology may have been. 
  • The existence of a Ministry of Church Affairs, instituted in 1935 and headed by Hanns Kerrl, was hardly recognized by ideologists such as Rosenberg and by other political decision-makers.
  • The nature of the Nazi Party’s relations with the Catholic Church is yet more fraught. Many Catholic priests and leaders vociferously opposed Nazism on the grounds of its incompatibility with Christian morals.
  • Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937) condemning Nazi ideology.
  • Like political dissenters, many priests were sent to the concentration camps for their opposition, including the parson of Berlin Cathedral Bernhard Lichtenberg. (Some of these were Poles persecuted due to their nationality.) 
  • Nonetheless, since the 1960s it has been claimed by some that the Church hierarchy headed by Pope Pius XII remained largely silent in the face of Nazism, and allegations of the Pope’s complicity are today commonplace; see for example John Cornwell’s book Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (although many works have since been published defending Pius’ wartime record, e.g. Ralph McInerny’s The Defamation of Pius XII.)
  • As Nazism continued to rule Germany, to many people it became a kind of religion in and of itself, sometimes called Esoteric Hitlerism, and sometimes associated with Asatru 

Nazism and fascism

  • The term Nazism is often used interchangeably with fascism, but this usage is controversial. 
  • Some use the word Fascism (spelled with a capital F), only to describe Italian Fascism, while generic fascism (spelled with a small f) may include many different movements, in many different countries.
  • Nazism and Italian Fascism both employed a similar style of propaganda, including military parades and uniforms, and the Roman salute.
  • The ideologies of both ostensibly included an extreme nationalism and a rebirth of their own nation to some former, past state of national greatness. 
  • Both movements, when in power, also put in place totalitarian governments that pursued wars of expansion.
  • There were also many important differences between the two movements. For example, racism was central to Nazism but of less significance in Italian Fascism. Fascist Italy did not adopt anti-Semitism until it followed Hitler’s example. 

Nazism and socialism 

  • Because Nazism is an abbreviation for “National Socialism”, and Nazi leaders sometimes described their ideology as a form of socialism, some people believe that Nazism was a form of socialism, or that there are similarities between Nazism and socialism. 
  • It has also been argued that the Nazi use of economic intervention, including central planning and some limited public ownership, is indicative of socialism.
  • Nazi leaders were opposed to the Marxist idea of class conflict and opposed the idea that capitalism should be abolished and that workers should control the means of production.
  • For those who consider class conflict and the abolition of capitalism as essential components of socialist progress, these factors alone are sufficient to categorize “National Socialism” as non-socialist.
  • Nazi leaders made statements describing their views as socialist, while at the same time opposing the idea of class conflict espoused by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Communists (KPD).
  • Established socialist movements did not view the Nazis as socialists and argued that the Nazis were thinly disguised reactionaries. 
  • Historians such as Ian Kershaw also note the links between the Nazis and the German political and economic establishment and the significance of the Night of the Long Knives in which Hitler purged what were at the time seen as “leftist” elements in the Nazi Party and how this was done at the urging of the military and conservatives.
  • Many of the traditional center and right political parties of the Weimar Republic accused the Nazis of being socialists citing planks in the Nazis’ party program which called for nationalization of trusts and other socialist measures. 
  • However, the German National People’s Party (DNVP), the most important party on the mainstream right, usually treated the Nazis as a respected potential member of coalition cabinet.
  • The Nazis came to power through an alliance with traditional conservative forces. Franz von Papen, a very conservative former German Chancellor and former member of the Catholic Centre Party supported Hitler for the position of Chancellor and later became an important Nazi official.
  • The Enabling Act which gave the Nazis dictatorial powers passed only because of the support of conservative and centrist deputies in the Reichstag, over the opposition of Social Democrats and Communists.
  • When the Nazis were still an opposition party some leaders, particularly Gregor Strasser, espoused anti-big business stances and advocated the idea of the Nazis as a workers’ party.
  • In spite of this, most workers continued to vote for the SPD or the KPD as late as the March 1933 elections held shortly after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor.
  • Central to Nazi ideology and propaganda was not the rights of workers or the need for socialism but opposition to Marxism and Bolshevism which the Nazis called Judeo-Bolshevism.
  • According to the Nazi world view Marxism was part of a Jewish conspiracy. 
  • Rather than being afraid of the Nazis’ “socialism” many prominent conservatives and capitalists supported and funded the Nazis because they saw them as a bulwark against Bolshevism. 
  • Ideologically fascism and Nazism reject the most important aspects of Marxist theory. 
  • For instance, Hitler did not exalt the working class over the capitalist class as Marx prescribed. In his book ”Mein Kampf”, Hitler wrote ‘the suspicion was whispered in German Nationalist circles that we also were merely another variety of Marxism, perhaps even Marxists suitably disguised, or better still, Socialists… We used to roar with laughter at these silly faint-hearted bourgeoisie and their efforts to puzzle out our origin, our intentions and our aims.
  • ‘Moreover, Hitler despised Karl Marx as a Jew and condemned communism and Marxism as Judeo- Bolshevism pledging to block its rise in Germany arguing that the nation’s downfall was due to Marxism and its Jewish influence.
  • There were ideological shades of opinion within the Nazi Party, particularly prior to their seizure of power in 1933, but a central tenet of the party was always the leadership principle or Fuhrer prinzip. 
  • The Nazi Party did not have party congresses in which policy was deliberated upon and concessions made to different factions. What mattered most was what the leader, Adolf Hitler, thought and decreed.
  • Those who held opinions which were at variance with Hitler’s either learned to keep quiet or was purged, particularly after 1933.
  • Although this is in some respects comparable to the behavior of certain Communist dictatorships such as that of Stalin in the Soviet Union or Mao Zedong in China, it also presents a strong contrast to the collective leadership exercised in other Communist parties, more so to the more democratic organization of most European socialist parties. 
  • In power, the Nazis jettisoned practically all of the socialistic aspects of their program, and worked with big business, frequently at the expense of both small business and the working classes. Gregor Strasser was murdered, as was Ernst Rohm while Otto Strasser was purged from the party. Independent trade unions were outlawed, as were strikes. In place of the unions, the Nazis created the Deutsche Arbeit front.
  • The Nazis took other symbolic steps to co-opt the working classes’ support, such as the introduction of May Day as a national holiday in 1933.
  • These were described by socialists as superficial moves designed to win the allegiance of workers rather than grant them any material concessions at the expense of capital.
  • Industries and trusts were not nationalised, with the exception of private rail lines (nationalised in the late 1930s to meet military contingencies).
  • The only private holdings that were expropriated were those belonging to Jews.
  • These holdings were then sold or awarded to businessmen who supported the Nazis and satisifed their ethnic and racial policies.
  • Military production and even film production remained in the hands of private industries whilst serving the Nazi government and many private companies flourished during the Nazi period.
  • The Nazis never interfered with the profits made by such large German firms as Krupp, Siemens AG, and IG Farben.
  • Efforts were made to coordinate business’s actions with the needs of the state, particularly with regard to rearmament, and the Nazis established some state owned concerns such as Volkswagen. 
  • But these were functions of the new German expansionism rather than an implementation of socialist measures. Germany had moved to a war economy, and similar measures occurred in the western democracies during the First World War, and again once the Second World War had begun. 
  • The Nazis engaged in an extensive public works program including the construction of the Autobahn system.
  • As with the expropriation of rail lines, however, the Autobahn system was created with the purpose of facilitating military transport, and government investment in transport systems is common in almost all nations.
  • Similarly, all political movements that have formed governments have used economic intervention of some form or another.
  • The suggestion that economic intervention is left-wing ignores the tradition of intervention practiced by monarchies and oligarchies in Europe before the eighteenth century, and the intervention, including protectionism, subsidies and anti-trade union laws, practiced by right-wing parties in government in Europe and North America during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century’s.
  • Since the fall of the Nazi regime, many theorists have argued that there are similarities between the government of Nazi Germany and that of Stalin’s Soviet Union.
  • In most cases, this has not taken the form of arguing that the Nazis were socialist, but arguing that both Nazism and Stalinism are forms of totalitarianism.
  • This view was advanced most famously by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. However, most socialists argue that Stalin’s system was not a truly socialist one, since it did not meet certain requirements that they see as essential for socialism – requirements such as a functional democracy, for example.

Nazism and race

  • All forms of socialism focus on economic relationships as central in shaping society. In contrast, as can be seen in “Mein Kompf”, the central doctrine of Nazism is racism and the struggle between peoples. Nazis see the society divided not according to social classes, but according to races and peoples.
  • Nazis claimed to scientifically measure a strict hierarchy among races; at the top was the Caucasian or (“Aryan”) race (minus the Slavs, who were seen as slightly below Aryan), then lesser races.
  • At the bottom of this hierarchy were “parasitic” races, especially the Jews, which were perceived to be dangerous to society.
  • Nazi theory said that because the nation was the expression of the race, the greatness of a race could be evaluated according to a race’s ability and desire to acquire a large homeland.
  • German accomplishments in science, weaponry, philosophy and art were interpreted as scientific evidence to support Nazi racist claims.
  • Primo Levi suggested another difference between socialism and Nazism: while both had their idea of what kind of parasitic classes or races society ought to be rid of, he saw the former to determine them by a social position (which people may change within their life), while the latter assign a place given by birth. In his view, revolutionary communists would accept one may be born the son of a wealthy capitalist to be acceptable as a productive member of society; according to Nazis, one born a Jew is a born parasite who must be disposed of.
  • A counterexample may be found in Maoism in China; where at times during the Cultural Revolution the relatives of a “capitalist”, even generations removed, were beaten, killed, or, at best, sent to a reeducation camp. Collective punishment is another way of describing this phenomenon.
  • In support of Levi’s contention, however, the Chinese Communists have had some members with “bourgeois” social origin, some of whom, such as Soong Ching-ling, achieved prominent positions in the People’s Republic of China. 
  • Similarly there were a number of prominent Bolsheviks who came from wealthy backgrounds and were accepted in the movement despite this.

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