The NAZIs are often considred to be a conservative force. They are often referred to as a right wing group in contrast to the Socialists and Communists on the left. This topics has come up on a number of CIH pages. Some readers write that they see the NAZIs as a socialist more akin to the Communists than conservative parties. They note the name of the party and support from working-class Grmans. We do not agree that the NAZIs were a left wing party. There are many fundamental differences between NAZI and Communist ideology. We would agree, however, that the NAZIS were not a conservative party, but a party preparing a massive revolution in Germany. Even so we see a fundamental similarity shared by the NAZIs and Communists which is totalitarianism. And ghere the centralshared tenant is the subordination of the individual to the state and the elimination of basic civil liberties.
There is not doubt there were Socialist influences in the NAZI Party. The name of the party includes both worker and socialist. The term socialist at the time appealed to a wide spectrum of Germans. The largest political party was a socialist party--the SPD. And the Communist Party (KPD) was also important. Thus the part's name was designed to appeal to the German electorate. And the largest element of the party in the early years was the SA. The SA was led by Ernst Röem and recruited from the lower classes who were demanding fundamental social reform. And led was prepared to conduct just such reforms. But this was not exavtly what Hitler wanted which is why Hitler had Röem executed and the SA supressed in the Night of the Long Knives soom after seizing power. Hitler wanted much of what Stalin gad achived--totaly control of the country they ruled. And this necesitated control of the economy. It is why the NAZI Four Year Plan looks very much like the Sioviet Five Year Plan. Both Hitler and Stalin claim to givern in the interests of the workers, but in reality it was not in the best interests of the wirkers. It was Hitler who brought German workers May Day/Tag de Arbeit. But it was in fact a sop to workers. Just as he made May Day a legal holiday, he supressed the independent trade labor movement as Stalin had done. .
The NAZIs are often considred to be a conservative force. They are often referred to as a right wing group in contrast to the Socialists and Communists on the left. They did indeed receive support from right-wing forces such as important industrialists and royaliss. Some of the Kaiser's family supported Hitler thinking that the NAZIs would restore the monarchy. Other groups like important elements of the middle-class supported him seeing Hitler as a conservative force. We believe that this is a misunderstanding of Hitler and the NAZIs. They were not a conservative force. Hitler was determined to carry out a through revolution in Germany life, one which he had only partly started when the War began. One of the fundamental goals was a thorogh-going social revolution. And this in part explains the devotion and support he eventually achieved. While the Kaiser resigned after the end of World War I, the Weimar Republic did not significantly change German's social structure. Germany was a class-bound country. Youth from the working-class or farm backgrounds had little chance to suceed in German life. It was hard for them to even enter secondary school. The NAZIs changed this. Under tge NAZIs, family background meant little. In the Hitler youth or the Reichsarbietsdienst boys from working-class families competed with boys from families with social status and substantial incomes. With the NAZIs political loyalty was all important. Academic opportunity opened up as well as positions in government and other areas. The NAZIs are associated withxenephobic nationalism, racial bigotry, and war crimes, less understood is the extent to which the NAZIs undercut Germany's classbound social system.
While the NAZIs did gain support from the lower classes including some workers, other social classes played a major role in the party. One such group was the lower-middle class. This group was generally very concerned with the possibility of the Communists taking power, in part in the social spectrum they were the closest to the workers. Another major source of support were wealthy industrialists. They were concerbed both with their ownership of plants, but also with worker demands for higher wages and better working conditions. Both these groups (lower-middle class and industrialists were very conservative. Their fear of the workers led them to tolerate Hitler's radicalism. He made no secret about it in Mein Kampf, but he did play n down in his political campaigns.
Many German conservatives and capitalists supported Hitler and the rise of the NAZI Party. The were seduced by Hitler
into thinking that he would prevent the Communist Revolution that they saw unfold in Russia. What hey were unaware of was that Hitler was planning a NAZI Revolution thst was just as radical if not more so than the Communist Revolution. The Term NAZI Revolution was used by the NAZIs to describe their 10 year struggle from the Beer Hall Putsch (1923) to Hitler's appointment as Chancelor (1933). But this was just what made it possible for Hitler to over see a wage a massive social revolution in Germany. He wanted to created an egaltarian society and destroy the highly class stratified German society. He also wanted an Aryan racial society and to expel non Germn elements. He wanted not only to expel non Aryns, especilly the Jews, but through eugenics go purify the Aryan population. And he wanted to destoy democracy and all limits on his personl power so that he could eliminate political divisions. He wanted complete contriolm over the education and formation of German youth. He did not think that he could win over all German adults, butthe youth were a different matter.
Much of these changes were designed to make posdible the creation of a string unified German state that would enabkle him to build a powerful military which could seize territitory in the East for Lebensraum.
There are several elements of the NAZI program that I believe destinguish it from the Communists. First, the NAZIs did not seize German industry let alone the small businesses and shops run by the middle class. Of course they seized control of heavy industry, but not ownership. And industrialists made huge progits until the Allies began bombing their factories. Second there were as racist and natonalistic strains in NAZI idelogy that did not exist in Communist ideology. Coounism is internatioal in character. The first Communist slogan from the "Communist Manifesto" was "Workers of the world unite!" Racism was not an element that was central to all NAZIS, but it was for Hitler. And almost all NAZUS were fervently nationalistic. Third was the Föhrer Principle which was an important part of NAZI idelogy. The Communists persued collective leadership, at least as part of ideology. Now obviously seized control of the Soviet Union, but the Föhrer Principle was never part of Communist ideology. Lenin ran the Soviet Union through collective leasership, and the Soviets returned to collective leadership after Stalin's death. (The concentration of power in a Communist state facilitates an individuals seizure of power, but that is not part of the ideology.) Fourth was militarism. Military power and war was idealized ny the NAZIs. The two most important NAZI organizations were the SA and SS--both para-military organizations. The Communists spent lavishly on the military, but the military and war was not lionized and in fact Stalin conducted a through purge of the Red Army, leaving it weakened in the years just before the War. Hitler had his problems with the military, but he never purged it.
While we see major differences between the NAZIs and Communists we actually see a larger commonality. Both are totalitarian movements which subordinate the individual to the state and the elination of basic civil liberties. This commonaliity expresses itseklf in a range of programs and policies, including secret police, elimination of independent courts, concentration camps and forced labor, extra-legal executions, control of media and the arts, controlled mass movements like youth groups, suppression of independent trade unions, attacks on religion, and other abhorent policies. Both also persued fundamental changes in society and policies that elevated younger loyalists to replace older, more conservative individuals. Both Hitler and Stalin were willing to tolerate the death of millions to achieve state goals, the result of sunjecting the individual to the state. While the methods persued by Communists and NAZIs were similar, the end goals in NAZI and Communist ideology were very different. Hera compilcationf factor was that Commuinsm was in part appropriated by Russian nationalists. But here we are speaking of the ideology and not the practice.
Ebenstein, William. Today's Isms: Communism, Fascism, Capitalism, Socialism (Prentice HALL: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1967), 262p.
Mitchell, Allan. The Nazi Revolution: Hitler's Dictatorship and the German Nation Problems in European Civilization Series, 4th Edition.
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