National Socialism is a unique ideology that has recently gained notoriety among a marginal segment of disaffected right wing youths as a means of restoring American greatness. Like its Fascist cousin however, National Socialism falls prey to the same cultural proclivities it seeks to eliminate in the left. Primarily, these include the subordination of unique cultural identity to an overarching total state.
While not as totalitarian as its Stalinist contemporary National Socialism embraced many of the same traits. Paul Gottfried provides some insight in his book Fascism: The Career of a Concept. Gottfried characterizes National Socialism as a Nihilistic Revolutionary phenomenon different from generic Fascism. Relying on the work of influential authors like Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Hannah Arendt, Gottfried breaks with traditional Conservative and libertarian orthodoxy and properly characterizes National Socialism as a third-positionist ideology that is neither left nor right wing. Gottfried makes the case however, that the National Socialist regime in Germany had much more in common, in structure and technique, with Stalinism.
An important distinction between left and right, when expressed politically, concerns the level of separation between state and civil society. Left wing movements are concerned with the leveling of society in compliance with unattainable egalitarian goals. As such, the natural inequality of man presupposes perpetual social interventions by government in order to bring about a desired state of human equality. When taken to its logical conclusion, leftist ideology is ultimately totalitarian as it must control virtually every aspect of life in order to attempt this feat. The economy, education, art, science, private life, thought and even the morals of citizens must always comply with the official ideology of radical leftist (Communist) regimes. Such an undertaking inevitably requires a terror state to implement while punishing dissenters and maintaining government aims.
In contrast, radical right wing (Fascist) regimes are characterized by authoritarianism, which monopolize political power but leave a degree of separation between state and private life allowing for some modicum of liberty. As Gottfried points out, National Socialist Germany implemented a totalitarian Stalinist, and not an authoritarian Fascist model, especially in terms of political repression. In fact Hitler had many good things to say about his supposed ideological rival Stalin. Prior to the signing of the German-Soviet nonaggression pact, Hitler stated:
Stalin and I are the only ones who envisage the future and nothing but the future. Accordingly, I shall in a few weeks stretch out my hand to Stalin at the common German-Russian frontier and undertake the redistribution of the world with him. Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality.
According to Communist studies scholar Stéphane Courtois, the Nazi regime adopted its system of repression from the Soviet Union, particularly the Gulag system. Both the Stalinist Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany utilized internment camps led by agents of the state, the NKVD in the Soviet Union and the SS in Germany. Both regimes implemented a terror state in which large scale political violence was carried out: the Great Terror of 1937 to 1938 in the Soviet Union and the atrocities committed by National Socialist Germany and its occupied territories during World War II.
Both regimes engaged in violence against minorities. This violence was characterized as combating “asocial” elements by the German government and “anti-soviet,” “counter-revolutionary” and “socially harmful” elements by the Soviet Union. The political violence of both regimes exhibited a large anti-Semitic component. Sometimes called a Jewish revolution waged against the Czarist regime by adherents of the Alternative Right, the Bolshevik Revolution resulted in the almost immediate designation of Jews as class enemies. In 1918, the Soviet Communist Party set up Yevsektsiyas with a stated mission of “destruction of traditional Jewish life, the Zionist movement, and Hebrew culture.” Yevsektsiyas, sections of the Party tasked with carrying communist revolution to the Jewish masses launched an onslaught on the Jewish religion, which was considered to be a form of “bourgeois nationalism.”
The next year the Bolsheviks began confiscating Jewish properties in accordance with newly imposed anti-religious laws. Hebrew schools, libraries and synagogues were then turned into centers of the Communist Party. Jews caught practicing their religion in private received severe punishment. Those caught defending Judaism in public could be arrested and sentenced to death. Following Stalin’s rise to power, anti-Semitic measures continued in the Soviet Union though official state policy rebuked them. Additional parallels between the National Socialist and Stalinist regimes include resettlement and immigration policies, which were ethnically based. As such, the Soviet Union deported some three million citizens between the 1930s and 50s based on their ethnicity. Both regimes implemented a form of eugenics. Though their ideals were very different, the key similarity was the connection of reproduction policies with the ideological goals of the state.
Part of this process involved the attempt to transcend human nature and create a “new man.” As Peter Fritzsche and Jochen Hellbeck point out in their essay The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, both Stalinism and National Socialism involved a total rejection of liberalism in which they sought to create a new, illiberal modern society. To do so both regimes rationalized that a “new man” was required to supplant the “bourgeois” old world. Each regime’s idea of what the “new man” should be differed however. While the Stalinists conceived of a global and non-ethnic man willing to sacrifice his self interest for the liberation of all humanity, the National Socialist conceptualization of a “new man” involved the sacrifice of self-interest for race and nation with the ultimate goal of creating a new racial hierarchy across Europe.
National Socialism and Stalinism also shared many ideological similarities. Both were political systems based upon philosophical determinism: biological determinism in the case of the National Socialist Germany and socio-economic determinism in the case of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Both purportedly sought the establishment of a classless society. While the Soviet Union sought the liquidation of entire classes, like the kulaks, Hitler attempted to unite Germany as a “classless society with a shared ideology” under the National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft or “people’s community.” To promote the idea of an equal society German officials instructed children to toss their varying colored hats into bonfires in order to signify their hostility to class differences. In the 1935 National Socialist propaganda film Triumph of the Will, Hitler declared during a Youth rally, “We want a society with neither castes nor ranks and you must not allow these ideals to grow within you!” Additionally, in Mein Kampf, Hitler states:
The National Socialist State recognizes no ‘classes’. But, under the political aspect, it recognizes only citizens with absolutely equal rights and equal obligations corresponding thereto.
Along with the Stalinists, the National Socialist regime also supported a conception of social justice. Similarly to Lenin and Stalin, Hitler spoke frequently about social justice throughout his career. In an August 15, 1920 speech in Munich he equated socialism with the “final concept of duty” and stated “we do not believe that there could ever exist a state with lasting inner health if it is not built on internal social justice.” In 1940, he told factory workers he wanted “the creation of a socially just state, a model society that would continue to eradicate all social barriers.” As Andrei A. Znamenski states in his essay From “National Socialists” to “Nazi” what made Hitler’s “National Socialism novel and different from earlier forms of socialism was an attempt to blend the ideas of social justice and revolutionary nationalism.” In the book Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, German historian Götz Aly states that the results of National Socialist “policies were remarkably friendly toward the German lower classes.” Indeed, National Socialist Germany implemented a large scale welfare state to facilitate it goals regarding the attainment of a socially justice society. More on this in a later part of this series discussing economic objections of Fascism and National Socialism.
National Socialist Germany was also very similar to the Stalinist Soviet Union in terms of how political power was centralized. Hans Hermann Hoppe points out in Democracy: The God That Failed:
During the second half of the seventeenth century, Germany consisted of some 234 countries, 51 free cities, and 1,500 independent knightly manors. By the early nineteenth century, the total number of the three had fallen to below 50, and by 1871 unification had been achieved.
Like the unification of Italy, which occurred during the same year, the unification of Germany exposed tensions due to religious, linguistic, social, and cultural differences among the inhabitants of the new nation that ultimately coalesced under Hitlers’s National Socialist regime as the unique regional identities of working class Germans were supplanted by the regime’s idea of what being German was supposed to mean. As states become larger and more centralized, unique cultural identities become rivalrous to the expansion of government power. My primary arguments against National Socialism amount to a critique of the political centralization that occurred in Hitler’s Germany, which ultimately led to economic stagnation and a type of uniform monoculture that was forced onto the German population.
The benefits of asserting state, local, or regional sovereignty cannot be overlooked. It is paramount that those who wish to preserve their heritage and values think carefully about what form of political organization can best accomplish their goals. In the American context the assertion of states rights via the 10 Amendment offers an outlet that Thomas Jefferson called the “rightful remedy” to federal innovation. Small states offer many solutions to the problems created by large centralized states. In Mein Kampf Hitler relates his position on states rights:
The National Socialists would totally eliminate states’ rights altogether: Since for us the state as such is only a form, but the essential is its content, the nation, the people, it is clear that everything else must be subordinated to its sovereign interests. In particular we cannot grant to any individual state within the nation and the state representing it state sovereignty and sovereignty in point of political power. . . [The] mischief of individual federated states. . . must cease and will some day cease. . . National Socialism as a matter of principle must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation without consideration of previous federated state boundaries. . . the importance of individual states will in the future no longer lie in the fields of state power and policy.
European historian Maiken Umbach points out in her book German Federalism: Past, Present, Future that during the Weimar Era, regional autonomy decreased because “Democrats and Social Democrats were ideologically opposed to federalism,” and “tended to prefer a centralized Reich.” That process accelerated substantially within months of the National Socialists taking power and the autonomous statehood of the federal states “was brutally swept away.” Following the Enabling Act of 1933 the National Socialists eradicated the states rights tenets of the existing federalism and centralized Germany by liquidating state governments. Additionally, local governments were also targeted by the 1934 Law on Reconstruction of the Reich that “abolishe[d] all states’ rights.” Richard J. Evans notes in his book The Coming of the Third Reich that it became common practice to have armed stormtroopers and SS units raid and occupy town halls, “terrorizing mayors and councils into resigning” before replacing them with handpicked successors.
In the book Lincoln Unmasked, Thomas Dilorenzo details Hitler’s position on the American Civil War characterizing the fuhrer as an ardent Lincolnite who rejected the Compact Theory of the United States Constitution, which holds that the country was formed through a compact agreed upon by all the states, and that the federal government is thus a creation of the states. Consequently, this view holds that states should be the final arbiters over whether the federal government had overstepped the limits of its authority as set forth in the compact. In Mien Kampf, Hitler states:
The individual states of the American Union. . . could not have possessed any state sovereignty of their own. For it was not these states that formed the Union, on the contrary it was the Union which formed a great part of such so-called states.
As Dilorenzo points out, Hitler’s position is consistent with Lincoln’s own arguments. In Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1861), he stated:
The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence . . . by the Articles of Confederation in 1778 . . . and establishing the Constitution . . . It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union. . .
Hitler’s Lincolnian view about the nature of the federal union stands in stark contrast to the understanding of those who originally ratified the United States Constitution. As Kevin Gutzman reminds us in his book James Madison and the Making of America, the Constitution was implemented with the separate states each agreeing to voluntarily ratify it. It wasn’t in Philadelphia, where delegates met in secret, that the peoples understanding of the Constitution was established. It was established during the public debates of each state ratifying convention. As such, the Virginia ratifying convention is instructive. In Virginia the people were told that ratification of the document would give the federal government only a few enumerated powers with the understanding that the 13 original states were voluntary parties to a contract that could reclaim powers from the federal government if it abused them. In other words, the explicit understanding in Virginia was that states could invoke their sovereignty and withdraw their consent or “secede” from the union at any time. This was actually the moderate federalist position of those comprising the Virginia delegation at the time and not a view of the radical decentralist fringe.
Decentralization, state sovereignty and individual liberty beat at the heart of the American experience. National Socialism, as conceptualized by Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party breaks with American tradition in every conceivable away. A large centralized state apparatus not only ensures subordination of unique regional cultural identities to an overarching federal monoculture, it ensures the economic desolation of the country. As Hans Hermann Hoppe states in Democracy: The God That Failed:
According to the orthodox view, centralization is generally a “good” and progressive movement, whereas disintegration and secession, even if sometimes unavoidable, represent an anachronism. . . Centralization can go hand in hand with either economic progress or retrogression. Progress results whenever a less taxing and regulating government expands its territory at the expense of a more exploitative one. If the reverse occurs, centralization implies economic disintegration and retrogression. Smallness contributes to moderation, however. A small government has many close competitors, and if it taxes and regulates its own subjects visibly more than its competitors, it is bound to suffer from the emigration of labor and capital and a corresponding loss of future tax revenue.
In other words, small states generally tend to promote more liberal tax and trade policies that foster cooperation. Unable to be completely self sufficient, small states must rely on neighbors for the production of necessary goods. This decreases the likelihood of conflict and war. Additionally, cultural preservation is seen to be better maintained under smaller decentralized governmental arrangements. Hoppe points out that before the unification of Germany and Italy, small city states and territories sought to preserve distinct regional identities that were ultimately subordinated to the mechanisms of large centralized states. The same thing can be said for the Southern United States following the Civil War during the Reconstruction Era.
Direct measures were taken to impose a cultural identity onto the South in order to erase its culture and heritage, again, in order to subordinate its people to the overarching view of a strong centralized federal government and unified American identity. The process seems symptomatic when dealing with political centralization. Unique culture and identity stands in opposition to those who wish to enforce their will politically. The process is still being perpetuated today across rural and agrarian communities in the United States. These places are where there exists the last vestiges of independence, rugged individualism and a ‘say no’ attitude that remains defiant in the face of forced cultural integration.
While National Socialist Germany did attempt to exalt the status of rural farmers under the state imposed doctrine of blood and soil, the resulting outcome led to the construction of an artificial rural identity utilized primarily for propaganda and foreign policy aims by the regime. According to Richard Grunberger’s book The 12-Year Reich: A Social History Of Nazi Germany, part of the implementation of the ideology of blood and soil called for workers to be relocated from their traditional homes into factory villages. This policy met fierce resistance from landed nobles (Junkers), who would also be required to break up their estates for independent farmers as part of the proposal, which was ultimately not implemented.
A large part of the blood and soil program was carried out by the State Hereditary Farm Law of 1933, which aimed to “preserve the farming community as the blood-source of the German people.” Under the law, the National Socialist regime declared selected lands hereditary. As such, these lands could not be mortgaged or alienated. Farmers of these lands were entitled to call themselves “farmer peasants,” a designation granted high social status by the National Socialist regime. The blood and soil ideology also formed an integral part of the National Socialist conception of Lebensraum or “living space,” used as a justification for Hitler’s imperialist foreign policy goals. It was under the auspices of Lebensraum that designated “solider peasants” were to settle conquered lands following German invasions.
It was these “solider peasants” who were to act as colonists and soldiers defending new German colonies. In much the same way southerners in the United States make up a vastly disproportionate number of those who serve in the military, the rural people of Germany encompassed the majority of those defending the Reich on the front lines of the nation’s military expansions. Inevitably, the mystical identity the National Socialist regime had constructed for rural people under the pretext of the blood and soil ideology meant nothing. They were used as cannon fodder for Hitler’s foreign policy goals. In other words, not only did Germany’s rural population have a state imposed conception of who they were artificially imposed onto them, they were led to slaughter by rulers of a large centralized state that in the end proved to ultimately only care enough about them to use them to accomplish their own objectives.