- the Nazi regime was a nationalistic, militaristic, imperialistic and racist regime
- the most committed resistance to its rise came from socialists and Communists -- and the first guests of Dachau were socialists and communists
- the bulk of the Nazis' support came from the middle class, unorganized workers (unionized German workers by and large voted Communist and Socialist), rural people and committed right wingers
- the Nazis' rise to power was made possible by collaboration with conservatives and the conservative German military establishment willingly threw its lot in with the Nazis
- no serious historian considers Nazis to be a left-wing phenomenon
it seems odd that someone would say Hitler was a leftist, don't it?
But that's exactly the claim made by Patrick McIlheran, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's resident right-wing columnist.
Here's what he says in his now classic and illustrative post Right Wingers, Such As Stalin:
Hitler, of course, is regarded as right wing though the party he headed was the National Socialists and, as is now being pointed out, built a welfare state to make any socialist proud.
He elaborates in a comment string:
Those on the left in America tend to favor a stronger government that has a more central role in society. Communists do so, too, only to an enormous degree.
Those on the right in America tend to favor a more limited government and prefer its role in society be subsidiary to voluntary institutions, such faith or families. Nazi ideals held nothing of the sort, instead seeing such voluntary institutions as utterly at the service to the nation itself as embodied in the state. There is no continuum as there is on the left.
(Evaluating 1930s and 1940s Germany through the prism of a (highly partial and kind) characterization of the modern American rightist ideology is of course an utterly useless exercise. Not the least because the right tradition in Europe is in fact authoritarian and Hitler was a radical extension of that tradition. But there's not time to go into that.)
So let's see: Those on the left in Wisconsin favor increased government funding for the support of autistic children. Nazis would use a strong central state apparatus to round up and intern or execute those children as unfit or as "useless eaters."
One group wants the government to help kids. One want the government to kill the kids. Both want to use the government. Don't you see the continuum?
But let's dig a little deeper. First off, the "welfare state" in Germany predated the Nazis. Indeed, it was none other than Otto von Bismarck that got the ball rolling in the late 19th century with social insurance to take away an issue from the socialists. I suppose that would make the Iron Chancellor a leftist as well.
As for the Nazi view of a welfare state, let's turn to an actual historian. In this case, Richard J. Evans in his magisterial The Third Reich in Power. This discussion concerns the 1933 period (pp. 483-4)
How did the Third Reich deal with the unemployed and destitute who suffered in their millions under the Depression and were still suffering when they came to power? Nazi ideology did not in principle favor the idea of social welfare. In My Struggle, Hitler, writing about the time he had spent living amongst the poor and destitute in Vienna before the First World War, had waxed indignant about the way in which social welfare had encouraged the preservation of the degenerate and feeble. ...The Nazi Party frequently condemned the elaborate welfare system that had grown up under the Weimar Republic as a bureaucratic, cumbersome and directed essentially to the wrong ends. ... (Brawler: Whoa! Not to say that sounds like the American right ... But that sounds like the American Right!)
Faced with ten million people in receipt of welfare assistance at the height of the Depression, however, it would have been political suicide for the Nazis to have written off the mass of the unemployed and destitute as not worth helping. ...
So, yes, the Nazis created social welfare programs (including the Winter Relief, in which Brownshirts went door-to-door collecting "donations"). But these were politically driven -- politically necessary -- not ideologically driven.
Indeed, programs such as "Strength through Joy" (basically a national recreation system that provided heavily discounted package tours and other leisure activities for the volk) were ways to win over the public -- and encourage them to work harder. And many of the hiking hostels, sports grounds and other assets it absorbed had previously been part of the Social Democratic labor movement, i.e, a voluntary association. (Wait, didn't Paddy say that the left wants the state to do everything? Darn, this history thing is complictated.)
As Evans discusses, the Nazis actually cut benefits, drove agencies to relentlessly question the unemployed as to whether they were fit for work, cut rent supplements, cut payments to those caring for the old and cut payments for medicine.
Truly a welfare state that would make a socialist proud!
Cutting back on welfare payments was only part of a wider strategy. Urging the German people to engage in self-help instead of relying on payouts from the state carried with it the implication that those who could not help themselves were indispensable, indeed a positive threat to the future health of the German people. The racially unsound, deviants, criminals, the 'asocial' and the like were to be excluded from the welfare system altogether. As we have seen, by 1937-8 members of the underclass, social deviants and petty criminals were being arrested in large numbers and put into concentration camps since they were regarded by the Nazis as being of no use to the regime. In the end, therefore, as soon as rearmament had soaked up the mass of the unemployed, the Nazis' original scepticism about the benefits of social welfare reasserted itself in the most brutal possible way. (pp. 491-2)
That's totally Hitllary's secret plan, isn't it Paddy?
As for that "National Socialists" name -- it was a rhetorical flourish to attract industrial workers in the party's early years, before Hitler was involved.
In a different context, McIlheran has said that calling someone a Nazi is a sign that you're losing an argument. Yet he has no difficulty making the absurd case -- based on ill-conceived logic, moral obtuseness, and ignorance or outright distortion of history -- that there is some sort of "continuum" between Nazis and 21st century liberals. It's a contemptible exercise and Paddy ought to be ashamed of himself.
The American left sees an activist role for the state -- but so does the American right. The Brawler seems to recall McIlheran praising a court decision in which a woman has to pay hundreds of thousands for illegally downloading songs. That apparently is limited government. But if government is activist on the behalf of business, that apparently is OK.
The last the Brawler checked it wasn't the left that is supporting a war based on lies (and isn't war, in the end, the most fearsome power of the state?) or enabling an administration that is increasingly secretive, flouts the role of Congress through signing statements, actively seeks to throw blacks off the voter rolls, eavesdrops on its citizen and commits a legion of acts that would offend the ideal conservative held out by McIlheran.
It's conservatives. And it's McIlheran.
(The Brawler has focused on this week-old post of Paddy's for some time (here and here) because it really highlights how his smugness is a mask for intellectual laziness and jejune thinking. Also, given that the National Review's Jonah Goldberg is slated to come out with a fatuous book titled Liberal Fascism in the New Year -- to be reviewed by McIlheran? -- we're sure to hear more of this garbage in the months ahead.)
The Lolcat at the top was lifted from here.