Remind socialists that Hitler was one of them, and there will be no end to the ensuing wailing and gnashing of teeth.
A Tory MEP found that out the hard way when he responded to a socialist’s attack on ‘right-wing nationalism’ (not liking the EU very much) with a counterattack of his own:
“We have to remember that Nazis were national socialists. It’s a strain of socialism.”
This simple statement of fact had the effect of painting a target on the poor chap’s chest. A cacophony of jeering shook the building, with words like ‘rubbish’ and ‘idiot’ hitting particularly shrill notes.
Thus the debate was engaged on the intellectual terms left-wingers favour to the exclusion of all others. Howling, name-calling, verbal and sometimes physical violence – such are the rhetorical tools in their box.
Good knock-about stuff, that – provided one doesn’t see arriving at truth as the desired destination. If that’s indeed where one wishes to arrive, then less febrile and more contemplative techniques will work better.
In this case, the truth is simple: the Tory was right. Nazism and fascism at one end and communism at the other bookmark the span of socialism. They are all different manifestations of the same thing.
I define this same thing as inordinate empowerment of the state at the expense of the individual, with everything else acting as either window dressing or a diversionary tactic.
Yet fairness compels me to admit that this isn’t how the founders of socialism defined it. They focused on economics, which they saw as the be-all and end-all of life.
Engaging the adversary on his own ground, I suggest you put side by side two economic programmes, Roosevelt’s New Deal and Hitler’s New Order. I dare you to find any substantial differences between the two – this although the New Deal is socialist (meaning virtuous in today’s cant) and the New Order is fascist (the opposite of that).
Herbert Hoover certainly saw them as similar, which is why he described the New Deal as a ‘fascist measure’. And he wasn’t the only one.
When the New Deal was first introduced, the conservatives cringed, the Nazis gloated, the socialists cheered – and none of them failed to see the parallels. No wonder.
The two programmes are strikingly similar, and this is only partly because they were both designed at roughly the same time and by mostly the same people (Gerard Swopes of General Electric, Paul Warburg of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Walter Teagle, of Standard Oil of New Jersey, were the principal authors of FDR’s New Deal and also acted as economic consultant to the authors of Hitler’s New Order).
Even a cursory examination will show that Hitler’s beliefs ran towards socialist ideals: big government, nationalised or at least subjugated economy, wage and price controls, strict tariffs, cradle-to-grave welfare, vegetarianism and the kind of genocidal peccadilloes that until (or after) him were practised on that scale only by socialists.
The direct link between Hitler and Marx isn’t widely publicised, but it was self-acknowledged. In his memoir Hitler Speaks Hermann Rauschning quotes the führer as saying that “the whole of National Socialism” was based on Marx. “I have learned a great deal from Marx,” conceded Hitler, “as I do not hesitate to admit.”
Such debts are never acknowledged, while the differences between ‘democratic’ socialism and fascism are overemphasised. It’s true that the socialists of France or Sweden hold civil liberties in somewhat higher esteem than Hitler did.
But while all fascists were hideous and oppressive, not all of them were murderous. Some, such as Mussolini, compare favourably in that respect with figures who are widely canonised as secular saints.
Abraham Lincoln, for example, closed down 300 pro-Southern newspapers (and had their presses smashed), suppressed the writ of habeas corpus and had 13,535 Northern citizens arrested for political crimes from February 1862 to April 1865.
Comparing his record with that of Mussolini, who only managed 1,624 political convictions in 20 years and yet is universally and justly reviled, one begins to see modern hagiography in a different light.
Mussolini, incidentally, had been one of the most effective socialist journalists in Europe before the fascist light shone in his eyes. He clearly found the transition to be seamless and painless, especially since he professed admiration for Lenin and his jolly band of cutthroats.
Lefties would do well to respond to political issues in an Aristotelian rather than Pavlovian fashion. When they hear the word ‘fascism’, their knees jerk and they don’t even attempt to engage their minds.
The word ‘socialist’ makes their knees jerk in a different direction, with the mind remaining equally unemployed. That negates the advantage of being human, vindicating Darwin.
Except that, judging by the level of modern intellectual discourse, the ape isn’t our past but our future. And a rapidly approaching future at that.