Was Hitler a Socialist? Was Hitler a Left-Winger? Was Hitler a Liberal?
The idea that “Hitler was a left-wing socialist liberal” is a myth. Hitler was a Fascist. Fascism has some socialist roots, but it is a unique right-wing authoritarian and nationalist ideology separate from socialism or liberalism. That is true for Hitler’s “National Socialism” (especially its later 1940’s form) and for fascism in general (although each fascist ideology has unique planks that should be discussed separately).
Below we describe why the National Socialism of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ party is best described as fascism (a right-wing populist ideology, rooted in far-right nationalism, with some socialist planks) and not “left-wing liberal socialism” (despite their party pushing some race-based socialist policies for nationals).
Key Arguments Against Hitler as a “left-wing Socialist Liberal”
The first thing to note is that Hitler was opposed to all the other socialist, liberal, democratic, and/or left parties of the Weimar Republic including the Capitalist Democratic Socialists (SPD and DDP) and the Communist Socialists (KPD).
Despite this, like some other socialist parties, Hitler’s NAZIs were anti-capitalist, anti-elite, and offered social welfare to German pure blooded nationals. Unlike other other socialist parties however, Hitler and his NAZIs favored a far-right nationalist solution to social welfare and rejected all notions of classlessness, egalitarianism, and internationalism (positions generally favored by left-wing socialist movements).
Thus, while the NAZIs did offer socialist planks, they are generally considered a right-wing party alongside other Nationalist parties like the German People’s Party (DVP). In other words, their push for welfare for nationals aside, their core ideology was closer to that of other right-wing ultra-nationalists than it was to their mortal enemies the left-wing socialists.
We can call the ideology that pairs ultra-nationalism, social hierarchy based socialism, and a general socially right-wing ideology National Socialism (a unique brand of fascism). With that said, we could even call it “right-wing socialism” (or playing of Mussolini’s terminology,” a right wing evolution of socialism”). However, we shouldn’t confuse it with “liberal left-wing socialism.”
Today when we say “liberal,” “left-wing,” or “socialist” in America we imagine someone like Bernie Sanders. However, Bernie isn’t a right-wing National Socialist, Bernie is a liberal Social Democrat (like a mix between SPD and DDP). Bernie is more like the type of social liberal that the NAZIs “purged,” and pretty far from even a Strasserist (the left and socialist wing of the NAZI party who the NAZIs also “purged”).
This doesn’t mean National Socialism didn’t have some socialist and left-wing qualities, it just means that its militant right-wing nationalist and socially hierarchical qualities were dominate (and it is for this reason nazism has historically been considered a right-wing ideology).
If you look the NAZIs 1920s “Strasser socialist inspired” platform and in their National Socialist People’s Welfare program, you can see a wide array of anti-elite, pro-worker, and pro-welfare planks that seem rather “socialist” (and they were by most measures; but that were not “left-wing socialist,” which is what today we today think of as socialist).
The key to understanding why National Socialism is not like “left-wing socialism” is understanding what the “Nationalist” part of “National Socialism” meant. The welfare programs were offered to pure blooded nationals in interest of the state (like a military provides healthcare and education, the NAZIs did too).
This sort of race-based socialism based on social hierarchy in service to the military state IS the brand of fascism called National Socialism (it is a right-wing alternative to left-wing socialism that rejects left-wing socialism completely).
Thus, saying “Hitler was a left-wing socialist liberal” is a generally inaccurate and confusing statement given the NAZI’s rejection of left-wing nationalism, left-wing socialism, liberalism, egalitarianism, internationalism, and much else we equate with the modern left.
Ultimately we can call Hitler’s ideology right-wing nationalism, or right-wing socialism, or simply National Socialism, but by any name it is the same thing, a far-right take on fascism with some notable socialist planks for nationals.
Today, despite the socialist planks, we could confidently say that Hitler’s National Socialism is more like the 21st Century right-wing nationalism of Le Pen, the modern right-wing populism of Trump, or neo-fascism than it is like the progressive social liberalism of Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn, the anarchistic left-wing populism of groups like antifa, or even militaristic 21st century Socialism of Chavez.
This doesn’t mean Trump is like Hitler, or that Hitler had nothing in common with any other socialist of a given era, it just means that socialism isn’t the only defining aspect of an ideology, and with all planks considered, fascism and National Socialism are more like modern socially conservative right-wing ideologies than left-wing ones (just like they were considered right-wing in general in their time despite their collectivist and populist qualities).
TIP: One of Hitler’s main ideological stances was his opposition to socialism and Marxism. This can be confusing given the National Socialist label, but it is the case. Hitler’s race-based right-wing socialism was opposed to left-wing socialism and Marxism in just about every way (just like it was opposed to liberalism, democracy, and capitalism). Hitler hated what we today think of as socialism (and so did Mussolini). This somewhat confusing point should become clear as you read on, but for now consider Hitler and Mussolini in their own words below.
“In the years 1913 and 1914 I expressed my opinion for the first time in various circles, some of which are now members of the National Socialist Movement, that the problem of how the future of the German nation can be secured is the problem of how Marxism can be exterminated.” – Excerpt Hitler’s Mein Kampf
“[Fascism is an] EVOLUTION FROM SOCIALISM… Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism… We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right,” a Fascist century…. If liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government… Fascism desires the State to be strong and organic, based on broad foundations of popular [populist] support… Activism: that is to say nationalism, futurism, fascism… Never before have the peoples thirsted for authority, direction, order, as they do now.” – Excerpts from Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism
For more reading: See Mussolini and Hitler Were Fascists and Fascism and Communism are different. Each article explains how the collectivist right-wing fascism of Hitler and Mussolini was different than the collectivist left-wing egalitarianism of Marx, the social democracy of the social democrat parties, and the liberty-minded democratic liberalism of the West. See also the NAZI’s early 1920’s “Strasserist Socialist” platform (which shows the party’s early fascist ideology and socialist roots), Mussolini’s 1932 Doctrine of Fascism (which explains fascism well), all the other socialist and left parties of the Weimar Republic including the German Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the Communist Party (which by contrast show how absurd it is to consider Hitler a left-wing socialist liberal; he even jailed and murdered the German socialists and liberals of the other parties in practice), and Hitler’s Mein Kampf (in which he explains his disdain for Marxism, Capitalism, Liberalism, and Democracy).
The General Argument For Hitler Being a Right-Wing Fascist and Not a Left-Wing Socialist Liberal: Why Hitler is Not Well Described as “a Left-wing Socialist Liberal”
As note above, Hitler was not what we think of today as a socialist by most measures (be it Bernie as a Social Democrat or Stalin as a Communist despot), nor was Hitler what we think of as left-wing by most measures (as he didn’t favor liberty or the whole German collective equally and instead favored authority and social hierarchy), nor was Hitler what we think of as liberal by any decent measure (as he hated Liberalism, Democracy, and Capitalism… almost as much as he hated Socialism and Communism; as he clearly states in his written works).
In fact, as eluded to above, in their rise to power, Hitler and his NAZIs actually jailed and murdered many members of the the left-wing, social democrat, socialist, communist, and liberal parties of the Weimar Republic. Not only that, they actually jailed and murdered members of the socialist / liberal / left (for a NAZI at least) wing of their party, the Strasserists, on the Night of Long Knives (i.e. Hitler’s nationalist wing murdered, jailed, and purged the socialist wing of their party along with other socialist and left-wing parties of their time).
This is to say, despite the socialist elements of the NAZI platform, Hitler was not what we would today consider socially liberal left-winger (as that would mean he was everything he opposed).
Instead, Hitler was the leader of the far-right Nationalist wing of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the NAZIs). Despite the populist name, Hitler’s NAZIs embraced a type of fascism focused on what we might today call right-wing “nativist and militant” nationalism and right-wing “race-based and socially hierarchical” socialism (AKA a militant brand of socially conservative right-wing populism focused on nativist nationalism and “social stratification;” the antithesis of Marxism in almost every way).
In other words, in modern terms we could describe Hitler’s National Socialism as a mix of what we today call “21st Century new Nationalism” (the alt-right Le Pen kind, not the Teddy Roosevelt kind) and “right-wing populism” (the right-wing version of the pro-worker and anti-elite populist movement). After-all, both of these closely related modern right-wing ideologies, like Hitler’s National Socialism was in its day, focus on traditionalism, nativism, protectionism, opposition to immigrants, their day’s version of anti-globalization and euroscepticism, and a general opposition to their day’s establishment, socialists, and liberals.
To understand the above, it helps to understand that:
- National Socialism’s right-wing socialism is notably different from left-wing socialism (be we talking about social democracy or full blown communism). Hitler’s National Socialism championed right-wing race-based socialism for their in-group based on socially conservative social hierarchy (rather than classless egalitarian Marxism).
- National Socialism’s right-wing nationalism is different than left-wing nationalism. Hitler’s NAZIs championed right-wing nativist nationalism (as opposed to nationless global equality of workers like Marx on-paper, the equality of citizens paired with Nationalism like the French Revolution’s Jacobins, or the workers’ first and the globe a close second social liberalism of Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn).
“Fascism is therefore opposed to all individualistic abstractions based on eighteenth century materialism [Marxist Socialism]; and it is opposed to all Jacobinistic utopias and innovations [liberal ideals from the French Revolution].” – Mussolini (a fascist dictator of WW2 who inspired Hitler’s brand of fascism) from his Doctrine of Fascism.
The above is what defined Hitler’s brand of right-wing nationalist and “socialist” fascism, and thus made it different from left-wing ideologies (that doesn’t mean it is like every right-wing ideology, it only means it is generally not left-wing).
In modern terms, if we want to not confuse people with the term socialism, one could say Hitler was to “the populist socially conservative right” (the anti-elite and pro-worker right-wing) not to “the populist socially liberal left” (the anti-elite and pro-worker left-wing)… then we could add that Hitler embraced a militant, xenophobic, and aggressively fascist version of right-wing populism (as opposed to a non-authoritative kind or less xenophobic kind). In other words, it was a very specific version of fascist right-wing (just like Communism is a very specific version of socialist left-wing).
All this is true despite the NAZI platform including some notable socialist planks (like public healthcare for nationals), and this is true despite both above left and right populist styles appealing to frustrated workers. In WW2 the Communists were the militant populist left and NAZIs the militant populist right, meanwhile socialism was simply the fad of the day embraced by many parties on the left-right-and-center (all generally frustrated with the liberal ruling establishment of the West).
In other words, the socialist part of the title isn’t denoting a socially left-wing position in the sense we think of it today, it is denoting a nationalist ideology with an anti-elite sentiment which aimed to attract workers frustrated with the elite after WW1 (no different than Communism in that respect, but very different in left-right ideology).
This is to say, Hitler’s Nationalism wasn’t left-wing, or even center-wing, it was ultra-nationalism focused on both classical and socially right-wing principles paired with aggressive, extreme, and militant race-based nativist nationalism (and a rejection of the liberal economic system and a rejection of left-wing egalitarianism). Thus, it was through this lens that any socialist in practice planks were offered.
It is all these points and more which make Hitler’s National Socialism a unique right-wing version of fascism that has more parallels with 21st Century right-wing Nationalism and right-wing populism than it does with modern social democrats, liberals, communists or any group on the left (today, in Hitler’s time, or any era).
One should not be confused and think just because the NAZIs called themselves socialists that they were left-wingers, that is no more true than a right-wing populist being a left-winger just because they are populist (or a left-wing nationalist being a right-winger just because they are nationalist).
We explain this position in great detail below and point to evidence such as stories of the tensions between different left-wing and right-wing parties and platforms in the Weimar Republic.
Understanding Why Hitler Was a Right-Wing Fascist and Not a Left-wing Socialist Liberal
Nearly all (but certainly not all) of Hitler’s beliefs placed him on the far-right, and this makes sense as Hitler, like Mussolini, was a fascist (where fascism was, according to Mussolini, a right-wing “evolution of socialism,” that we can describe as a type of collectivist right-wing populism focused on social hierarchy and militaristic and totalitarian nationalism which arose after WWI to push back against globalism, liberalism, elitism, democracy, and Marxism).
This isn’t a judgement call, this is literally the doctrine of the ideology that Mussolini coined, Hitler was inspired by, and both popularized.
The above is generally true for both Hitler and Mussolini’s parties (and very generally for all other fascist parties) even though Hitler’s National Socialist Party had a few more socialist planks than Mussolini’s more liberal, cronyist, and way less xenophobic in-practice National Fascist and Republican Fascist Parties.
Fascism in any form is generally a right-wing collectivist ideology that sometimes shares a few odd planks with socialism (like free healthcare for nationals), but otherwise fully rejects liberalism, socialism, democracy, economic liberalism, and communism to create a totalitarian, nationalist, militaristic collective (a “folk state”; see “Völkisch” and “Volksgemeinschaft“) with a social hierarchy focused on the state as a civil religion (where the Highest Good is the state). This is unlike Communism on-paper where the highest good is global social equality and where there is no class or nation. This is also unlike liberalism on-paper where the highest good is liberty.
Given this, it is hard to see fascism as “exactly the same” as “liberal left-wing socialism” in absolute terms, and it is even hard to see it as anything like that in comparative terms going issue by issue through fascist party platforms… and though, this makes sense, as the far-left socialists (the communists) and far-right socialists (the fascists) went to war against the liberals in WW2 (and people don’t generally go to war with each other when they share a bunch of ideological planks).
With that said, Hitler’s fascism was unique, so let’s discuss the race-based and militant right-wing socialist nationalism of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party on its own merit to find out how it is different from other fascist and socialist ideologies.
FACT: In the Weimar Republic the left consisted of the Communists (KPD) and the Social Democrats (SPD). The Center consisted of the Democratic party (DDP), the Catholic Center Party (Z) and the People’s Party (DVP). The right consisted of the German Nationalist Party (DNVP) and the National Socialist Party (NSDAP-Nazi). As it almost always is in any era as a constant, and as it was then: the socialists are left, the liberals center left and right, and the militaristic nationalists are right-wingers.
The Bottomline on the Ideology of Hitler and National Socialism
Hitler’s National Socialism (the ideology of Hitler’s far-right wing of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party aka NAZI party) can be thought of as a type of fascism focused on what one could call right-wing “nativist and militant” nationalism and right-wing “race-based” socialism (as the name implies).
- Like other fascist ideologies of the time, National Socialism was a right-wing “evolution of socialism” focused on social hierarchy, authority, military, and the state that rejected capitalism, communism, left-wing socialism, liberalism, democracy, and traditional conservatism.
- Unlike other fascist ideologies of the time (for example Mussolini’s), National Socialism was particularly xenophobic, nativist, nihilist, and socialist (at least when it came to promising socialist policies for nationals).
- Like other socialist ideologies at the time, National Socialism was “revolutionary” (wanted change quickly), anti-elite, and rejected capitalism (it was an evolution of socialism mostly in these ways).
- Unlike other socialist ideologies of the time, National Socialism was focused on race, hierarchy, and nationalism instead of classlessness and global egalitarianism.
Simply put, Hitler’s fascist and right-wing National Socialism did not embrace left-wing socialism or left-wing nationalism. Instead, they embraced the antithesis of this (with Hitler himself being very vocal about his hatred for Marxists and left-wing socialists).
Hitler rejected left-wing socialism’s classlessness and egalitarianism and instead embraced a militant right-wing ideology focused on racial purity and social hierarchy in service to the “folk state.” Instead of rallying support based on promises of equality, he rallied support from the working class by pushing a xenophobic, race-based, anti-elite, and nationalist message that promised socialism to native nationals as a response to the frustrations felt after WW1 (where the economy was not doing well and Germany’s “national” pride had been hurt; so promising this socially conservative brand of anti-elitism, nationalism, and xenophobic socialism was an effective message for rallying the frustrated working class).
Thus, on one hand the NAZIs were a populist right movement, and on the other hand they were socialist in the way a despotic military state might be. They were collectivist, organized, hierarchical, not democratic, exclusive, aggressive, authoritative, and tyrannical (what we might call “authoritative” and “nativist” right-wing “nationalist” populism today).
In other words, despite having a few left-wing planks for nationals, National Socialism rejected most of what one would consider left-wing socialist ideology, including social democrat ideology and Marxist ideology (to the extent that they tended to jail and murder the actual left-wing parties of the Weimar Republic; although to be fair the other right and center parties didn’t fare much better).
Furthermore, one can argue (like the article “Was Adolf Hitler a Socialist? Debunking a Historical Myth” does) that National Socialism in-practice was pretty far from the on-paper promises made in the NAZI’s early 1920’s “Strasserist Socialist” platform. In fact, as noted above, the NAZIs ended up jailing and murdering the socialist wing of their party (Hitler was the leader of the further-right nationalist wing)!
Thus, when we address the question, “was Hitler a socialist,” we not only need to point out how right-wing national socialism is different from anything we consider socialism today, we have to point out that in-practice Hitler’s nationalist wing of the NAZI party really only delivered on a fraction of their socialist promise (and really just ran the state like a quasi-socialist and quasi-capitalist but otherwise totalitarian military state).
So while the term socialist isn’t fully wrong, Hitler’s race-based socialist message is pretty far from anything the average Western thinks of as socialist today. Today both the populist social liberal left and populist social conservative right both rally support from the working class against the elites, but unlike the left who pushes for social equality and inclusion, the populist right-wing version involves “blaming others and a focus on military and hierarchy.” It was really no different in the 1930s and 1940s in this respect. Frustration with the ruling elite caused two flavors of revolutionaries, one left and one right. Call it socialism or populism, the right-wing version is notably different than the left in Hitler’s era, just like that is still true today.
With all that said, as far as National Socialism was from left-wing socialism (or even left-wing nationalism), it was even further from being “liberal” (due to its complete rejection of democracy, individualism, capitalism, individual rights and liberties, etc).
The Left-right Positions of Hitler and the National Socialists
While we can’t consider much about Hitler liberal, and we shouldn’t confuse Hitler with a modern socialist (if we think of socialism as left-wing), we can reasonably consider some National Socialist planks to be “to the left” of specific socialist planks of other ideologies (just like some populist right social conservative paleocon planks are to the left of classical conservative planks today). After-all, Hitler’s National Socialism (despite being to the political right of nearly ever other socialist party of the time in general) was collectivist to some extent and certainly did offer socialist planks like free healthcare for nationals.
Consider the following left-right positions to better understand the ways in which National Socialism was left-wing and right-wing:
- Anti-specific religions (right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group)
- Pro-racial separation (right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group)
- Anti-civil rights for minorities (right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group)
- Anti-establishment (left-wing, against the elite; but right-wing, against the protections of the state; and right-wing, in practice the NAZIs became despotic tyrants who used the full power of the state, thus becoming “establishment.”)
- Anti-homosexual (right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group)
- Anti-abortion (right-wing, authoritative)
- Anti-intellectual (right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group)
- Anti-immigration (right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group)
- Pro-social programs for their “nationals” AKA their in-group (left-wing, social programs for the collective; right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group).
- Pro-nativist worker (left-wing, social programs for a collective; right-wing, exclusively focused on a small group).
- Anti-Capitalism on paper (left-wing, being against capitalism and toward socialism for the in-group on paper; right-wing, being somewhat capitalist with a strict hierarchy in practice.)
In other words, the NAZI’s anti-capitalist stance and social programs were to the left in general (on-paper at least), but most of the rest of their ideology was to the far-right of other socialist and liberal ideologies (both in the Weimar Republic and today).
When a party is to the far-right, but is otherwise socialist, we can denote that as “right-wing socialism.” When that party is to the far-right and also nationalist, we can denote that as right-wing nationalism or fascism. In this respect, the NAZI’s National Socialism was a fascist right-wing evolution of nationalism and “racial right-wing socialism” (it was not “left-wing liberal socialism for classless egalitarianism”).
For more proof, consider this excerpts from a July 6th, 1923 Speech by Hitler where the nativist, nationalist, anti-elite, and traditionalist race-based and aggressive militaristic spirit is made clear (even all those years before his nationalist wing took over):
—Thus, in our program we did not make promises. Instead we insisted:
1. You are a German. You should treasure your fatherland higher than anything else in the world. Your first responsibility in this world is to be a good German. You must not beg for the rights of your yolk, but demand them. Heaven blesses only those who use their fists to secure their rights.
2. Citizenship rights belong only to those who are worthy and have German blood. German citizenship must become the powerful cement which binds together everything German throughout the world.
3. Our State should not be the plaything of financial interests, but rather should offer to all its citizens the opportunity to maintain themselves honorably in this world. We demand that the State be freed from all unworthy interest payments and compulsory obligations.
4. The State must see to it that property and real estate speculation cease. Property belongs only to those who have built. The Reich exists in order to protect its yolk, its race. In our State, the press, art, and literature will not be free, but handmaidens of the State in order to educate the people to a sense of honor and decency. We want this state to be based upon true Christianity. To be a Christian does not mean a cowardly turning of the other cheek, but a struggle for justice and a fighter against all injustice.
Or consider how these planks from the 1920 NAZI platform which again show the focus on nativist nationalism and militarism rather than anything we might today consider socialist (outside of public education and a populist sentiment).
- A union of all Germans to from a great Germany on the basis of the right to self-determination of peoples.
- Abolition of the Treaty of Versailles.
- Land and territory (colonies) for our surplus population.
- German blood as a requirement for German citizenship. No Jew can be a member of the nation.
- Non-citizens can live in Germany only as foreigners, subject to the law of aliens.
- Only citizens can vote or hold public office.
- The state insures that every citizen live decently and earn his livelihood. If it is impossible to provide food for the whole population, then aliens must be expelled.
- No further immigration of non-Germans. Any non-German who entered Germany after August 2,1914, shall leave immediately.
- A thorough reconstruction of our national system of education. The science of citizenship shall be taught from the beginning.
- All newspapers must be published in the German language by German citizens and owners.
TIP: Learn more about how left-wing and right-wing can be used as comparative terms issue-by-issue to better understand our argument.
TIP: This page is content heavy (and reads a bit like “95 reasons why Hitler is best considered a right-wing nationalist and right-wing socialist and not a left-wing socialist liberal”). Feel free to skip around the page or go straight to the comments section and ask questions or provide counter-arguments. Or, continue reading for more insight.
If we Have to Use the Term Socialist, We Can Say the Fascists Were Right-wing Socialists or Socialist in the Way a Military is
Some people will point to the collectivist policies of Hitler as left-wing, but this is a misunderstanding of fascism’s militant, hierarchical, and right-wing nature.
Yes, Hitler was a gun control advocate, but stripping the opposition of guns isn’t “exactly the same” as background checks for the mentally unstable. Yes, Hitler offered free education, but to the Hitler youth to create super soldiers. Etc (more on that below).
Comparing fascist collectivism with liberal and socialist ideologies is a mistake. Hitler’s “whole thing” was being against liberalism and socialism, not just ideologically, but actively via an imperialistic and nihilistic version of militaristic nationalism (which included planks like genocide based on race).
Although each fascist party has its own planks, fascist movements like Hitler’s National Socialism are well defined as “right-wing Populist Nationalist” movements against the global elite. One can call this “right-wing socialism”, but the term “left-wing socialism” doesn’t work.
In any era, including the era of the World Wars, Communism and left-wing socialism (like the Social Democratic Party of Germany) are generally inclusive globalist ideologies that demand social equality for all. Meanwhile, Fascism is a nationalist ideology that demands social hierarchy and for nationals only (where the nationals best suited to do the job was at the top of the social structure).
Fascists like Hitler are really only socialist and “left-wing” in the way a military is, where healthcare and education is given, where there is social hierarchy, and where every action is in duty to the nation (a type of tyrannical timocracy in Plato’s classical terms, or military despotism in Montesquieu’s terms).
The bottomline here is that Hitler rejected the Marxian and socialist concepts of class equality, planned economy, and global worker unity, he rejected the liberties of Western Democracy, and he rejected the liberal democratic socialist middle-ground (both populist and elitist) international mindset in any form. In words, Hitler rejected almost everything we consider left-wing, socialist, or liberal in practice and acted as a far-right despot by nearly every reasonable measure (which was in-line with his on-paper philosophy).
NOTE: Hitler rejected democracy and favored aggressive military action (not unlike Lenin or Stalin in-action, but certainly unlike a democratic socialist or democratic liberal). For fascism, aggression isn’t just an advent of its ideology in-practice (like with socialism and Communism where despite good intentions things go wrong and the state becomes despotic), fascism is meant to be aggressive and imperialistic on paper (it is “an ideology of action”).
That Said, Some Planks of Fascism Can be Considered “to the Left” of Other Ideologies
With details like the NAZIs socialist planks and fascism’s socialist roots in mind, although it is generally incorrect to describe Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs as “left-wing socialist liberals” as an absolute, it isn’t fully wrong to call them “right-wing socialists” or to point out fascism’s socialist roots or left-wing elements in more nuanced conversation.
Mussolini’s 1932 Doctrine of Fascism, (more than Hitler’s works or the NAZI’s early 1920’s platform; see below) makes it clear that fascism is a totalitarian civil religion that rejects liberalism, socialism, Marxism, individualism, and much else we equate with left-wing socialism, and for that reason alone “left-wing socialist liberal” really isn’t a good description of Hitler.
However, that doesn’t mean rugged individualists wouldn’t consider any ideology with a focus on the collective and state (from social liberalism, to other forms of socialism, to any form of statist fascism) as being “left in terms of collectivism” compared to their own ideology.
In other words, I get why some libertarians consider Hitler and Mussolini “left”, they do so in the way Mises considers all governance “to the collectivist left.” NAZIism is to the right of most ideologies in terms of authority, and to the right of most socialist groups in terms of collectivism due to their exclusive small group ideology, but they are still to the left of some ideologies by some measures when speaking in specific and comparative terms.
TIP: Today when Bernie and Trump call for revolutionary change and decry the establishment, we don’t call them both left just because they share positions. We call them names like “populist right” and one “populist left,” thus denoting a shared quality but otherwise different positions. Furthermore, we don’t confuse these two too quickly with say Bush and Clinton (who both feel a bit more establishment, but share parties and planks with the aforementioned). So it is for the parties of the Weimar Republic. Being anti-elite was in style then, and so was socialism (and so was nationalism… and later fascism). Thus, many parties were types of socialist parties (in action and/or name). Here I’ll note that Hitler didn’t name his party, he joined it and then moved it to the right over time. Further, some was say he just used the fad of the day to ensure his nationalist pro-German military state. Pair that with the fact that he murdered the socialist wing of his party, and it hopefully is helping to pain a clearer picture of what terms like “German workers’ party” and “National Socialism” mean.
Specific Reasons Why Hitler Was not Left-wing, Socialist, or Liberal
With all those general truths in mind, the main problems with using the terms left-wing and socialist to describe Hitler’s fascism are:
- Hitler was opposed to all the other socialist and left parties of the Weimar Republic including the Capitalist Democratic Socialists and the Communist Socialists. Hitler’s Mein Kampf is all about how he hates socialists, liberals, democrats, Communists, the upper-class, the establishment, and both capitalist and Marxist Jews (so he wasn’t those types of left-wing or socialist by his own admission; even in the 1920’s, nearly twenty years before his in-action government during WWII).
- Hitler and his NAZIs ended up murdering and jailing the Socialist Wing of their party (the Strasserists) on the Night of Long Knives (Hitler led the further-right Nationalist Wing of the NAZI party and “purged” the “left-wing” of their party).
- Hitler and his NAZIs didn’t implement many “socialist” planks in-practice, more-so they implemented fascism (which again, especially for the National Socialists, has socialist roots). In other words, they implemented authoritarian statist collectivist policy and xenophobic, totalitarian, and militant policy (both of which are collectivist; but certainly not “left-wing socialist” like a social democrat or even Marxist Communist). Although the NAZI’s early 1920’s “Strasserist Socialist” platform (which Hitler mentions in his Mein Kampf without ever really touting the socialist planks) embraced a good deal of socialism for the German worker (including purely left-wing socialist policy), the 1930’s and 1940’s NAZI government in-practice was essentially just fascist with a few right-wing “militant” socialist planks. After Hitler’s Nationalist wing took over the party, they implemented very little socialist policy and simply embraced a few socialist planks to create an authoritarian, militaristic, despotic, and tyrannical state.
- With fascism, the state and nation is everything and their is social hierarchy, with Communism and socialism international equality and classlessness is everything. Both are an “evolution of socialism” as Mussolini (who inspired Hitler) says regarding fascism (and as Marx himself denoted in his work regarding Communism). So it is true that National Socialism is not unrelated to socialism, it is just a very different type of socialism, it is a right-wing evolution of socialism, a response to Communism that is focused on Nationalism, called National Socialism, which is a type of fascism (especially after Strasser in the 1930’s). See the differences between Communism and Fascism.
- Hitler had an exclusive and xenophobic ideology that is far-right in terms of its prejudice. Militant socialism for an in-group in support of the state is fascism. The word fascist itself describes the evolution of socialism that Hitler embraced.
- Hitler rejected Marx’s ideas of economy, class, globalism, and equality, so even to what degree a National Socialist is socialist, it is truly about social hierarchy in service to the “folk state” more than anything a left-wing socialist (either a liberal one or a Marxist one) would ever want or do on-paper (despotic in-action Communist movements aside, of which history has shown us many).
Given the above points and the rest made below, Hitler is well described by terms like fascist, despot, totalitarian, and tyrant first and foremost, and by other qualifiers like right-wing and socialist second.
Hitler’s mixed ideology is however never well described as liberal given his clear opposition to both liberty and equality. Likewise, Hitler’s right-wing evolution of socialism called Fascism should not be confused with Marxist Communism (despite the parallels, Marx hated Communism as much as he hated Capitalism, Liberalism, and Democracy).
In words, the terms socialist and left wing can describe a few of Hitler’s planks, but truly the fascists were fascists, and fascism is to the right of most other ideologies and was built for the sole purpose of destroying socialism and liberalism (i.e. why the West went to war against it).
Again, this isn’t a judgement call, it is history, and Hitler’s own written works (so Hitler’s book, the NAZI Platform, and certainly everything the fascists did in practice help to confirm it).
TIP: Not only is it historically wrong to consider Hitler a left-wing socialist liberal as an absolute, it is confusing from a modern frame as well. From a modern perspective, Hitler can be described as a “right-wing populist nationalist.” Hitler disliked social democracy just as much as he disliked the neoliberalism of the day. We are currently seeing a rise in right-wing nationalist and xenophobic populism and left-wing progressive pro-social democracy populism in the West, to equate Hitler with the modern left-wing populist movement and ignore his clear parallels with the right-wing populist movement (a state-focused collectivist movement that sometimes embraces aspects small government liberalism) really misses the point of what is happening globally here in 2017. There is a warning story about socialism and statism in the story of fascism, but it is very different than the story of the dangers of left-wing Socialist Communism and its rise in the same time period.
Proof Hitler was a Right-Wing Fascist Includes… his Own Work
The simplest proof of the above is Hitler’s own Mein Kampf and Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism, as Mussolini inspired Hitler’s fascism, and both texts specifically explain how their ideologies are Nationalist, Imperialist, Militaristic, “Right,” Authoritarian, anti-Liberal, anti-Elite, anti-intellectual, anti-Communist, anti-Capitalist, and anti-Socialist (anti-Marxist, anti-Democratic Socialist, and anti-Christian-Socialist). See Political views of Adolf Hitler (Hitler was obsessively anti-Semitic, Mussolini was more purely Nationalist and less xenophobic than Hitler, both were fascists; see more on the differences and similarities of Mussolini and Hitler here).
In other words, not only does history show these fascist movements were generally right-wing, anti-liberal, and anti-[every other type of]-socialist in practice, Hitler and Mussolini’s own works confirm it enthusiastically and in great detail on paper.
Furthermore, Hitler and his NAZIs, and Mussolini and his National Fascist Party and later Republican Fascist Party, became less-and-less socialist over time as their parties moved “to the right” and purged their respective nations of their left-wing allies and opposition.
If the NAZIs Weren’t Left-Wing Socialists, Why is Their Party the National Socialist German Workers’ Party?
Despite the title National Socialist German Workers’ Party (which is what NAZI stands for), and the NAZI’s having a few socialist policies like free health care for nationals, the NAZI party was not a socialist party in terms of their actions beyond these few socialist planks (the same generally goes for Mussolini’s less socialist Party as well).
First off, Hitler was the leader of the Nationalist wing of the National Socialist Party (not the socialist wing), but that aside for a moment, even their socialist policies are best described as fascist (or at least right-wing socialist).
When the NAZIs offered free healthcare for nationals, they were being fascist in their exclusion of non-nationals. When they rejected the capitalist elite “establishment”, they were being fascist in their opposition to capitalism. When they offered free education for the Hitler Youth, they was being fascist in their Germany first youth in military training policy. When they offered gun control for the Jewish population, they was being fascist in their stripping minorities of gun rights. When they called on the German Worker to submit to the state, they were being fascist in their call for submission to the authority of the folk state.
Simply put, Fascism is a statist authoritarian protectionist nativist nationalist ideology that embraces some aspects of socialism for nationals (socialism for the in-group), and thus it is not well described in a single word as “socialism” (and especially not “left-wing socialism” as if we had to use the term “socialism” we would say it is “right-wing socialism” specifically).
In other words, it isn’t that the NAZI’s right-wing fascist socialism wasn’t “left” or “socialist” in some very specific ways, it is only that it was “to the right” of most socialist ideologies in terms of authoritarianism and in terms of what type of social equality was offered and to whom.
Fascism is going to offer you free education like Bernie, but unlike Bernie that education is going to be a state-mandated right-wing fascist education. Hitler will take your guns, but for his militaristic agenda, not for peace. Hitler will heal you when you are sick, but so you can fight in his army. Hitler will help the worker, but only the blonde haired German worker until he is conscripted.
If one wants to create a militaristic master race, they put the state in charge of education and healthcare and strip the opposition of their firearms. Simple as that.
One shouldn’t confuse the socialist elements of authoritative militaristic fascism with “socialism – period”, and one really shouldn’t confuse it with “left-wing liberal socialism” (there were actual left-wing socially liberal parties in Germany at the time, and Hitler hated them).
The terms Fascist, and National Socialism specifically, denote a form of authoritative, imperialistic, and militaristic nationalism which offers aspects of socialism to protect only a core group of nationals (but otherwise uses a quasi-capitalist economy in practice, not because the WWII fascists loved capitalism, but because it works).
The Strasserists, the Actual Socialists in the NAZI Party, and the 1920’s NAZI Platform
Above we noted that Hitler led his party’s Nationalist wing, and that fact is important. It helps explain why the terms left-wing and socialist don’t fit Hitler and Hitler’s 1940’s NAZIs very well.
Although a few will cite the NAZI platform as “proof of socialism,” this misses the point that the party changed drastically from the 1920’s to the 1930’s and 1940’s as the Nationalist Wing took over and replaced the pro-Worker portions of the platform with rhetoric and militaristic authoritarianism at knife-point.
If a party jails and murders their socialist wing and does not act socialist in-action once they get in power save a few aspects of militaristic socialism, they aren’t being “left-wing socialists” by most reasonable measures. Paring that truism with the fact noted above that there are many types of socialism and both Hitler and Mussolini disliked most of them (especially Communist forms and forms that were democratic or liberal), we can safely say Hitler wasn’t what we think of a “left-wing socialist” today.
Let us be very clear, Gregor Strasser was the left-wing socialist in the NAZI party (again, to the extent that a NAZI can be considered such a thing) and the right-wing Nationalist wing literally killed Strasser and the Strasserists before taking over the party.
The bottom line here is that, like with the KKK, European fascism grew out of a left-wing movement in a liberal state, but that doesn’t make it anything we call socialist, liberal, or left-wing in practice.
Below we further explain why it is correct to call Hitler a right-wing Fascist despite some of the NAZI’s socialist planks and generally not correct to call him a left-wing Socialist Liberal (as Infowars does).
SEMANTICS: If someone says “Hitler was a socialist” they aren’t fully wrong. It is a misleading statement given our modern usage of the term socialist and the meaning of the term fascist (which has socialist roots), but not purely incorrect. There are MANY forms of socialism (just consider the other German Socialist and Communist parties of the time… ALL of which the NAZIs jailed, bribed, murdered, or forced into submission), Hitler hated most of them, but joined forces with one that supported anti-Semitic populist nationalism (so that just is what it is). However, using the terms left-wing, Socialist, and Liberal together to describe Hitler (like Infowars) is wrong. Below we will make arguments against the use of any of these terms in practice, but it is important to note the subtlety up front. The reality here is that the NAZI party had a socialist wing and a few socialist planks.
NOTE: It can be tempting to equate radical activist liberalism (the sort of black bandana anti-Fas “lets break a window” resistance against Nativist Populist movements around the globe) with NAZIism and fascism, and that isn’t wrong in terms of militaristic aggressive action and conformity. However, this misses the point that they are actually being more like radical October Revolution Leninists than European fascists. Fascism and Communism are similar when they become militaristic, they just have way different social policies on paper. Stalinists and NAZIs are very similar in some ways, people aren’t wrong to confuse them. However, people are very wrong to equate Hitler the man with the modern socially liberal left. Hitler hated the social liberal left of his day.
TIP: There are groups one might consider left-wing that have fascist elements. Any militaristic ideology that seeks conformity can loosely be described as fascist, whether it is left-wing or right-wing on specific issues. There is lots of conversation to have here. The main point I’m trying to make is that fascism is generally right and communism left in terms of WWII ideologies and that all forms of WWII fascism have right-wing qualities. This relates back to a tug of war between the alt-right and alt-left. The point isn’t to demonize the alt-right or equate them with fascists or to detract from the correct aspects of their argument, it is about debunking the specific talking point that tries to demonize the left by mostly incorrectly conflating general American progressivism with fascism by cherry picking history.
TIP: A good way to think about this is that the global right-wing has more than one faction. The populist nationalist fascists are to the left of the traditional conservative order in terms of populism vs. elitism. Similarly, the “Bannon alt-right” is to the left of a Neoliberal Globalist Elite or Neoconservative Global Elite in some respects. They are to the right of just about everyone else in terms of being authoritarians against liberty and equality. Most people will accurately describe fascists as right-wing and as an absolute, but in very specific conversations you can say they are “to the left” of another right-wing group in terms of the populist and elitist divide. Learn more about the political left-right.
More Details on Why it is Misleading to Call Hitler a Socialist, Even Though His Party Was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party)
Above we covered all the basics, below we will explore some of what we covered already in more detail.
Despite being a far-right nationalist fascist, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party) had socialist roots and embraced a few socialist policies for nationals, especially in the early days, decades before the war. This was like his inspiration, Mussolini and his National Fascist Party and later Republican Fascist Party,
We call this authoritarian militaristic far-right nationalism with hints of socialism, “fascism.”
We should not be sidetracked by other terms like Republican and Socialist in the fascist parties names, especially given the history of these parties. They are important, but they don’t speak to the core of the party.
In fact, since fascism, as a term denotes its own socialist roots, it would be tautological and confusing to call Hitler “a socialist” without first denoting his fascist ideology.
Likewise, fascism comes in both more left-leaning and right-leaning forms. Both Hitler’s and Mussolini’s forms were “right[-wing]” and not “socialist” by Mussolini’s own admission in his Doctrine of Fascism. In this piece, he described his “FASCIST TOTALITARIAN VISION OF THE FUTURE.” It is confusing to give Hitler or Mussolini (or Franco, or any other militant nationalist fascist or quasi-fascist with an authoritarian and/or exclusive ideology) the general label “left-wing.”
Furthermore, given the very authoritative nature of the dictators, and their rabid opposition to liberalism, it is just flat out wrong to call either a liberal (that point really shouldn’t even be up for debate; hopefully by this point in the essay that is clear).
Historically speaking, “Hitler was not a left-wing, socialist, liberal,” and this can be confirmed by their own major written works and recorded history.
Fascism is unique and should not be mistaken as being “progressive,” “left-wing,” liberal, or what today we think of as “socialist” just because it has a few parallels (like the seeking of conformity) and shares some common roots with these ideologies.
Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle….. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ” right “, a Fascist century…. If liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government… Fascism desires the State to be strong and organic, based on broad foundations of popular [populist] support… Activism: that is to say nationalism, futurism, fascism… The Fascist State expresses the will to exercise power and to command…. Never before have the peoples thirsted for authority, direction, order, as they do now. – More Excerpts from Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism that prove in one short essay all the points made, now we need only equate this with Hitler (who was further to the right on most issues, save his party’s socialist wing of Strasserists.)
Further Proof that Hitler Was a Fascist Right-Wing Nationalist Authoritarian like Mussolini and the Other WWII Fascists
Most of what people cite to attempt to show Hitler was “left-wing” or “a socialist” comes from the NAZI’s early 1920’s platform, which was written before Hitler rose to power in the party’s Nationalist wing! Simply, the nationalists were in a party with some socialists (Strasserists) at one point, but that doesn’t make the nationalist fascism left, liberal, or socialist. Fascism is right-wing (authoritative and small group focused) ideology.
In short, just based on general reason, not much about the NAZI’s fascism is left-wing (not much liberty and/or equality going on here). Sure, on paper in the 1920’s they were to the left of a Monarchy with the help of the Strasserists). But the militant WWII era (Sep 1, 1939 – Sep 2, 1945) NAZI fascism is mostly right-wing, despite its quasi-socialist roots.
This exclusive in-group nativist, nationalist, xenophobic, and at times militant ideology is what we call in modern language “right-wing,” and it is not an ideology of liberty and equality, it is an ideology of authority and inequality, it is not liberalism.
In the years 1913 and 1914 I expressed my opinion for the first time in various circles, some of which are now members of the National Socialist Movement, that the problem of how the future of the German nation can be secured is the problem of how Marxism can be exterminated. – Hitler’s Mein Kampf where he states clearly what he means by National “Socialism”… a right-wing fascist type of nationalism with a few socialist elements.
NOTE: Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, like Mussolini’s Doctrine, also describes a right-wing fascist ideology, but be warned, Mussolini’s Doctrine is a short, readable essay, and Hitler’s book is a long-winded recount of his becoming a right-wing nationalist in the Nationalist Socialist party. In the text, Hitler speaks of how he was at first enamored by the Christian-Socialists like Lueger, but he also clearly illustrates his move away from socialism toward National Socialism (socialism for the in-group only, a type of fascism… and one that notably gets less socialist over time in practice).
Hitler admits he’s a Socialist and anti-Communist. People confuse the NAZI’s pro-German worker stance to mean that Hitler was a left-winger, but his despotic exclusive authoritarian fascist form of socialism was very right-wing compared to the other socialist ideologies of the time (all of which the NAZI eradicated as they illegally ceased control of the German Government and created a tyrannical, despotic state where Germans were forced into Hitler’s brand of militaristic fascism… which embraced some aspects of socialism, like free healthcare and education for German nationals). It isn’t that there are no socialist aspects of Hitler’s Nazism, it is that those few socialist aspects don’t make Hitler a left-wing social liberal socialist like Bernie Sanders… obviously.
TIP: The KKK is one of the first modern fascist groups, they were a progressively conservative faction within the old Democratic party. Like the NAZIs who came after them, they were right-wing on just about every issue except for their ideology toward the central government and economic elites. Like the NAZIs, the KKK are not well described (especially in modern terms) as left-wing liberals. It isn’t that there are no parallels, it is that their ideology is fascism and not social liberalism. The Radical Republicans of the Civil War era were arguably the real progressives of the era, and they were the polar opposite of the KKK Confederates. See a heady discussion here: No, the Ku Klux Klan Has Never, Ever Been a ‘Leftist’ Organization or here: The Democrats were the Party of the Ku Klux Klan and Slavery. In short, just based on general reason, not much about the KKK’s fascism is left-wing, especially the militant Civil War era KKK fascism, despite its quasi-liberal roots.
TIP: Hitler was inspired by Karl Lueger when he studied in Vienna Austria in the times leading up to WWI. Lueger was an early European Fascist. Lueger was not liberal-left, he was a populist and anti-Semitic leader of the Christian Social Party… again we see the left-wing roots, but we can’t let that obscure the move toward right-wing ideology, as a response to immigrants, that is part of what makes it fascist. If it wasn’t a unique thing, we wouldn’t have a unique name for it.
TIP: Today, speaking very broadly, the debate is between nativist protectionist “tea party” alt-right-ism against immigration and for nationalism (global right-wing), and a progressive alt-left neoliberal globalization that seeks inclusion (global left-wing). If FDR, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler were alive today, we can kind of figure out which would be Tea Party and which would be Progressive, FDR and Stalin would err toward the globalist collectives, Hitler and Mussolini would be screaming about immigration and nationalism. The left and right in any era are just what they are, the core of the human condition has not changed (not its centered correctness, nor its corrupted extremes). We can compare authoritarians all day long, but we need to use consistent comparative terms. Saying “all WW2 ideologies were left” demonizes the left and socialism and normalized alt-right neo-fascism. Which I think is the point of some propagandists on the right-wing, but let this page stand as an argument against that and the calling out of that alternative-fact.
TIP: It makes sense that people get confused. Try to compare a bunch of authoritative ideologies and policies, and the lines between left and right start to blur. Still, Communism and Fascism are different despite both having some socialist and fascist parallels. To properly explain this debate we need to consider some complex factors. We can appreciate articles like Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt by Cato’s David Boaz for deep insight without confusing liberalism, fascism, socialism, and communism, without confusing FDR, Hitler, and Mussolini, and without trying to normalize modern socialism or fascism by swapping left and right labels when it suits us politically. See our left-right model based on the Nolan chart, Hitler is not “left” generally speaking, FDR is to the left of Stalin in terms of authority, and both FDR and Stalin were to the left of Hitler. Comparative terms are important in complex conversations.
TIP: In general, terms like nationalism, socialism, and even fascism aren’t “inherently bad,” they are bad in extremes when liberty and democracy are cast aside and the ideologies break the non-aggression compact and become aggressive. Most ideologies come in many forms, the NAZI’s ideologies were typically right-wing and extreme broadly speaking, but when we go plank-by-plank, year-by-year, the conversation gets a bit more complex than can be said in a blanket statement.
FACT: The Nazi Party (NSDAP) originated as a working-class political party, it became fascist over the course of 20 years under Hitler’s influence. That isn’t the same as “being socialist.”
A List of Reasons that we Should Consider Hitler a Fascist, and not a Socialist
We already presented a list of evidence above, but here is a list summing up some of the points already made and adding a few more to help better illustrate points we may not have made clear enough above:
- Hitler was in the nationalist wing of his party. Hitler often spoke out against socialists and communists, especially as the 1920’s rolled on.
- That the NAZIs murdered the socialist wing during the Night of the Long Knives. They also murdered and jailed a number of other socialist and communist parties and generally anyone not loyal to the NAZI’s Nationalist wing. That is one of the ways that Hitler rose to power.
- Mussolini’s National Fascist Party, and later Republican Fascist Party, more accurately described the right-wing National Fascist ideology of WWII that Hitler and Mussolini mostly shared. Remember, Hitler came later and was influenced by Mussolini. On that note, Mussolini was a socialist in the 1910’s, before Hitler’s rise and a wing of the NAZI party was previously socialist too. So there are real socialist roots in the fascist ideology, it is just that, despite this, neither Mussolini or Hitler were “socialists” on paper or in practice, they were fascists (a term which, again, implies its own roots; as any term does).
- Many of the parties of WWII Germany were socialist or nationalist (including the Communists and Democratic Socialists the Nationalist NAZIs hated, jailed, and killed).
- NAZIism was about excluding races rather than abolishing class inequality and classes. It didn’t want global equality (on paper) like the Communists. It wanted German world domination.
- Any militaristic despot with half a brain and resources will provide their army healthcare and education or strip their enemy of guns and gold. Even Communist regimes attempted to do this to the other nationalist and socialist parties (Mensheviks and Whites come to mind in Russia).
- Early NAZIism may have had socialist planks, but once in power in 1933, Adolf Hitler turned Germany into a fascist state. WWII started in 1939, so it is super confusing to talk about some “sort-of socialist” NAZI plank from their 1920 platform like it was representative of everything Hitler stood for. The NAZI platform was not progressive in practice in the 1930’s and 1940’s, just on paper in the early days! When most people think of Hitler and the NAZIs, they think of them in their early 1940’s form (long after TIME declared Hitler the man of the year… in 1938). The early 1920’s NAZI party platform might have been “progressive,” but that was before the socialist wing of the NAZIs was taken over by the nationalist wing! It isn’t like their progressive policies led to NAZI Germany, there is no real lesson about socialism in the story of fascism (that is the story of communism). Fascism is more a story of right-wing nationalism and its slippery slopes.
On being left or right: Left and right are complex and comparative terms (see an essay on this). In comparative WWII terms, Fascism is “to the right” of Communism, but both these ideologies are “to the right” of liberalism. In absolute terms, both authoritarian WWII ideologies were very “right-wing” in their use of authority and the state in practice. This doesn’t mean aspects of fascism and communism aren’t “to the left” of other ideologies, especially if we go plank-by-plank through the early fascist platforms. Even the National Review (a right-wing and nationalist conservative American publication) agrees with this logic. Americans and our western modern counterparts are generally liberal, so our love of liberty is going to put us to the left of any despot, in terms of being authoritative. In terms of embracing collectives, communism is much more inclusive than the exclusive fascist ideology which requires a certain race, creed, national allegiance, and more. This is the way in which communism is “more left” and why it is misleading to call Hitler “left-wing.”
OPINION: Was Hitler more like the modern left or right in America and the West? There is some confusion in the West over whether Hitler’s National Socialism was more like the Western left-wing or right-wing. The answer is, when talking about the centered liberals and conservatives, neither group is much like the NAZIs. However, when talking about fringe right-wing nationals or fringe left-wing socialists there are some parallels. We have already offered insight into this, but generally both the far-left and far-right tend to share some planks with each other (see: “horseshoe theory“), and thus they tend to share planks with any extreme ideology including Hitler’s National Socialism. In simple terms, right-wing nationals tend to share nationalist planks with other nationalist ideologies and left-wing socialists tend to share socialist planks with other socialist ideologies. With that said, when comparing current ideologies to the WW2 ideologies, it tends to help to see the far-left as being more like the communists, and the far-right as being more like the fascists. In this respect far-right groups who might be seen waving flags of past fascist groups and calling for militant nationalism tend to be closer to the fascists. Meanwhile, those opposing this and generally waving flags of past communist groups (including those who we might call “anti-fascists”)… tend to be better equated with left-wing anarchists and communists. Any militant group of revolutionaries who wants nationalism or socialism in an extreme form is bound to share qualities, but the differences between these two groups are pronounced enough to start a world war over (ultimately we can denote their left-wing and right-wing differences). Meanwhile, any liberal who also embraces right-wing nationalism, or who also embraces left-wing socialism, will in this way also share planks with these groups (but even here it makes more sense to equate the left with the communists and right with the fascists when looking to the WW2 ideologies).
Conclusion and Complexities
Given the above proofs, I ultimately wouldn’t label the idea that “Hitler was a Socialist” as a fact and call it a day (it is technically a fact, but a very misleading one, which is bridging on being wrong).
In my opinion, calling Hitler as socialist is very confusing for someone not ready to spend time in research mode. Why say “Hitler was a socialist” when you could use a few more descriptors and say “did you know Fascism has socialist roots” or “the NAZI party had a socialist wing” or “Hitler was a right-wing socialist fascist?”
Too many words are required to frame what it means that Hitler was a socialist for a modern audience, as one must understand Mussolini, Hitler, Fascism, Liberalism, Communism, Marxism, the forms of socialism, and the rise of all these to even have a serious conversation here.
History isn’t supposed to be relayed with ease, but it is supposed to be relayed with accuracy. Given this, this essay clearly discusses the ways in which Hitler was and wasn’t a socialist, left-winger, or liberal.
We will ultimately make the case that the best description of populist authoritarian tyrants like Hitler and Mussolini is right-wing national fascist, or just “fascist” (not left-wing socially liberal democratic socialist; that is a whole different WWII ideology despite the parallels; as we discuss below).
This is true even though Mussolini began his political career as a socialist and Hitler’s party once had a socialist wing.
The key here is realizing that Mussolini had pretty much given up on socialism by the time he formed his National Fascist Party in 1921. Meanwhile, Hitler joined the NAZIs in 1921, and although they initially championed socialist themes of anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, over time, they began to downplay this in order to gain the support of industry. Finally, by the 1930s, the party’s focus had mostly shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes, moving further and further right, and further away from socialism.
As Hitler fully gained control of Germany and became Führer und Reichskanzler in 1933, the NAZIs quickly turned Germany into a far-right authoritarian fascist state. At that point, any social programs were designed to do little more than train an army and ensure a master race (which isn’t exactly what we think when we think “Bernie Sanders” democratic socialism… as Hitler also hated democracy, NAZI Germany was not democratic!).
So, we can find socialist roots in fascism, and some socialist policy in 1930’s and 1940’s fascism, but of course, the term fascism inherently accounts for its own quasi-socialist roots and thus isn’t a useful primary descriptor.
Ultimately, NAZIism was less about the German worker and more about a nationalist desire for world domination, as is the case with any despot.
“Socialism! That is an unfortunate word altogether… What does socialism really mean? If people have something to eat and their pleasures, then they have their socialism.” – What Hitler actually thought about socialism. In practice, Hitler supported “social revolution” rather than social welfare, supported private property, and thought competition was good for weeding out the weak (a right-wing individualist stance).
What is Fascism? Fascism is an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. It often has intolerant views toward “others,” and is exclusive to a certain type of native national. It can be protectionist, but in practice, it is often militaristic and imperialistic. In words, it is a mash-up of other ideologies, including in some very specific and nuanced ways, socialism (which, aside from its authoritarian aspects in-practice, is why it has similarities with Communism). Fascism is generally “to the right” of communism and liberalism, as it is for a smaller group the communism and more authoritative the liberalism.
What is Socialism? Socialism is the ideology of common ownership and equality among all (on paper, in general, speaking of all types at once). This means the resources of the world being owned in common by the entire global population. Imagine there are no classes, no possessions, a brotherhood of man, etc. This, of course, sounds more like Communism, the extreme left-wing socialist ideology than fascism the extreme right-wing socialist ideology (and indeed it is that is one of many reasons that each unique form of collectivism gets a different name!). Socialism is generally “left” as it favors equality and collectives, but there are a number of forms, flavors, and mixes. The form “communism” is to the far-left. Democratic socialism is toward liberalism and the center. The form “fascism” is toward the far-right. In terms of authority, socialism can be to the right of liberalism, and Communism to the far-right of liberalism (as liberals champion liberty and all forms of socialism are necessarily authoritative). In terms of social equality, socialism tends to be toward the far-left, but the right-wing fascist form, with its favoring of small groups and social hierarchy, is certainly toward the right of the other forms.
What is Liberalism? The ideology of liberty and equality. And this of course sounds like what we went to war to defend in WWII. Since it is an ideology that favors liberty and equality, the authoritative and exclusive fascism (which favors neither liberty nor equality “for all”) is to the far-right of liberalism. On paper, Communism is to the far-left in terms of equality on paper, but ultimately to the far-right in action in terms of its use of the state (still, in WWII terms, it is to the left of fascism due to its collective nature).
“We want to be aristocrats and democrats, conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and revolutionaries, legalists and antilegalists—depending on the circumstances of the time, place and situation.” – What Benito Mussolini (the other prominent fascist of the time) thought. The implication is the fascism is pulled together from other past ideologies. Simply, neither Mussolini or Hitler was much of a socialist in practice despite their roots. Fascist is the word we use to describe this far-right (but sometimes left) ideology of Mussolini and Hitler.
TIP: See a List of fascist movements by country. We can see that “National Socialism” (not just Socialism in any form) denotes a Fascist right-wing ideology.
TIP: For another look at this, see the differences between Communism and Fascism. Both this page and that page draw the same conclusion, as the conclusion is simply an honest examination of history and political ideology, rather than the twisting of facts into a modern left or right viewpoint (as is common).
BOTTOM LINE: Hitler may have taken a bit of the socialism out of National Socialism on the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 when his nationalist wing killed the Strasserists. However, Mussolini and Hitler’s opportunistic ideologies still pulled from and evolved from socialism (especially in the early days of the late 1910’s and early 1920’s when the NAZI’s 25 point program contained some socialist provisions). Thus, we have to acknowledge Hitler’s socialist characteristics, even if it isn’t the characteristic that defines him. In one word, Hitler and Mussolini were Fascists. In two words, Nationalist Fascists. With a left-right qualifier, far-right National Socialist Fascists with some left-wing elements. In many words, they can be described as anti-capitalist-and-elite, anti-intellectual, far-right, authoritative, extremist, fascist, nativist, populist, nationalists who embraced elements of socialism. Still, NAZIism was about excluding races rather than abolishing classes, and other such points discussed below, leaves us with the obvious conclusion that Hitler is best described as a fascist right-winger, not a left-wing socialist.
The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler Documentary. If you want to know what kind of a person Hitler was, watch this centered documentary. He had left-qualities, but he was not a left-winger. Only so many ways I can say that.
FACT: Hitler was not democratically elected. Some NAZIs were early on, but mostly they rose to power through corruption and murder.
How Hitler’s Fascism Was or Wasn’t Socialist
Although Hitler was technically a socialist (and thus it isn’t a complete myth that Hitler was a socialist), Hitler’s far-right nativist nationalism shouldn’t be confused with being left-wing or what we today think of as socialist.
The term we used to describe the exclusive nationalist fascist movements of the WWII era, which all had some socialist elements, is fascism, not socialism. The distinction is important to make for anyone trying to understand the difference between the far-left Communists and the far-right Fascists in the World Wars.
Even to the degree that we can look the socialist aspects of Hitler and the NAZI, we will find that their socialism is mostly on paper and is a relic of the times, their militaristic agenda, and their party building.
Ultimately, Hitler regretted the use of the term socialism and despite the NAZIs having a few socialist planks, the term really doesn’t describe what Hitler or his NAZIs did (nor does it really teach us lessons of the slippery slope of socialism. I’d say the Communist ideology does that, as it failed to follow through on its promises and was never stopped from spreading (unlike fascism which was mostly squashed after WWIII).
Unlike the Russians, Hitler actually provided most of the socialism he said he would (he set much lower bars), he provided great programs for his pureblooded Germans (if only to gear them up for war)… although he did end up needing to resort the the capitalism he hated, as socialism may have worked with military, education, and healthcare, but it didn’t’ work for the whole economy (strange right?).
Given all the above, and the detailed history below, we can conclude that while Hitler was technically a socialist in some respects, it is a mistake to equate Hitler with a left-wing modern Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders. There was a Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany, so if anything we would compare Bernie to that. Here, we must note, however, that Hitler and his far-right nationalists crushed the SPD and its members along with the other socialist and nationalist parties of 1920’s Germany.
Additional Points to Help Illustrate the Fact that Hitler Was a Right-Wing Fascist
WAS HITLER A SOCIALIST? We can say Hitler was a socialist and be partially correct (although he regretted his party’s use of the term the NAZI party has the term socialist right in it, and we can’t ignore that). Despite this, more specifically, Hitler and his NAZIs hated liberalism, socialism, and communism and were anti-capitalist-and-elite, anti-intellectual, far-right, authoritative, extremist, fascist, nativist, populist, nationalists who, when they offered socialism at all, only offered it to German nationals in order to create a militarized master race with which to dominate the world and stop “the global agenda of the elite” (those who were on the receiving end of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919). Thus, these despotic authoritarians were right-wingers, and not left-wingers, by most measures (see a list of left-right measures). They did not favor liberty or liberalism, they favored authority, and the only collective they favored was their own (which is an individualist stance compared to other collectivist socialist ideologies like Communism). Yet, they offered free healthcare and education, and yes, that IS socialist (just like a few other points in their 25 point National Socialist Program).
HITLER DIDN’T NAME THE NAZI PARTY: Hitler took over the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party), he didn’t name it. At one time the NAZI party had two wings, a far-right nationalist wing under Hitler and a slightly-more-left socialist wing under Gregor Strasser. Strasser considered himself a personal friend of Hitler’s until Hitler took over the party, and later murdered his “friend” Strasser during the “Night of the Long Knives.” Hitler was not much of a left-winger or socialist in practice, not even compared to the other wing of the NAZI party, but history like most things is complex and requires some amount of nuanced discussion. Below we will cover some socialist planks of the NAZI party so you can better understand the complexity, and our conclusion that Hitler was a right-winger yourself.
BUSTING THE HITLER WAS A LEFT-WINGER MYTH: Based on our research, we conclude: the article “Was Adolf Hitler a Socialist? Debunking a Historical Myth” is mostly correct, the article “MYTH BUSTED: Actually, Yes, Hitler Was a Socialist Liberal” is mostly incorrect. Thus, the idea that Hitler was a left-wing socialist is generally a myth when stated as an absolute (as it ignores “what fascism is,” all the other socialist parties of the post-WWI era, and the history of the fascism to paint a narrow picture that is sure to confuse a modern audience). With that said, I understand the confusion. The line between Communism and Fascism is thin, and socialism can be a slippery slope to totalitarianism due to its use of the state, and it is for these reasons people confuse the Lenins and Hitlers of the world. Still, in practice, Hitler hated socialism and communism and worked to destroy these ideologies (starting with his destroying of all the socialist parties of Germany).
FASCISM IS CLASSIST, NOT ANTI-CLASS: Nazism, like Mussolini’s Fascism, pulled ideas from many past ideologies, but ultimately it was exclusive and based on race, and that is fundamentally different from the class-focused socialism found in Democratic Socialism, Communism, or any of the other varying forms of socialism that can be found across the left-right spectrum.
Why Do People Call Hitler a Socialist?
Part of the confusion likely comes from Hitler rising up through the ranks of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party) and having some socialist policy on paper (the party platform and his Mein Kampf both contain some socially liberal and socialist ideas, but both are notably written before his Rise to Power).
However, as noted above, Hitler modeled his party on Mussolini’s National Fascist Party, which had a more honest and appropriate title. Like the German National Socialist party, Mussolini had begun as a socialist and devolved into a Nationalist Fascist movement. Although fascism has some commonalities with socialism, it is not the same.
The other part of the confusion likely comes from a misunderstanding of the post-WWI era ideologies (which include many different exclusive nationalist and inclusive socialist ideologies.)
Communism can generally be considered the extreme inclusive left-wing ideology of the post-WWI era, fascism can generally be considered the extreme exclusive right-wing ideology, and then other socialist and nationalist ideologies of the time fall somewhere in between.
Fascism is a right-wing ideology that essentially grows out of socialism (left) and nationalism (right), so it only makes sense that it would be confused with left-wing socialism.
Fascism Explained: World History Review. If you are moved by reason, then you’ll need little more than this 20-minute lecture on fascism to understand that Hitler and Mussolini were right-wing fascists.
MYTH BUSTED HITLER WAS A LEFT-WINGER: There is a half-truth out there that Hitler was a left-winger and that his form of socialism is comparable to modern social liberalism or Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialism. All these claims are “mostly false.” The essay below explains this position from a historical standpoint. Simply put, like Mussolini, Hitler was a far-right fascist despite his socialist policies. Socialism can certainly devolve into fascism (Mussolini is proof, as is Hitler to some extent), and that is a real concern (just like the concern of it devolving into authoritative communism), and all totalitarian states are similarly despotic and tyrannical, but this speaks little to the WWII fascists being left-wingers. Providing healthcare to a small group of German nationals is only very loosely “a socialist” idea, it isn’t like the NAZI embraced a fully planned economy like the Communist or anything. Providing socialism for a small group of nationals is a common advent of militarism and is much more (speaking in WWII terms) “fascist” than socialist. As noted above, the tale of fascism is more a tale of caution for right-wingers, not left-wingers.
TIP: Mussolini and Hitler were very similar. Mussolini called himself a fascist and was in the National Fascist Party party in Italy. Hitler rose up through the ranks of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, leading its Nationalist wing. Both parties had very similar ideologies, and both had originally been at least partly socialist ideologically before becoming more nationalist and fascist. Mussolini’s party had a more honest name frankly, but we can, naming aside point out some left-wing qualities of the fascists (despite their many right-wing qualities). Fascism and the other post-WWI extreme ideology Communism are both totalitarian ideologies, but they are opposition philosophies with key differences. In terms of the post-WWI ideologies, one is left-wing (Communism), and one is right-wing (fascism). Hitler and Mussolini were Nationalist Fascist Right-Wingers.
Hitler, a Left-Winger or Right-Winger?
Hitler being a socialist shouldn’t be confused with him being a left-winger, nearly every German party in the WWII era was a socialist party… and in no time in history has the entire right-wing disappeared in a nation, including in Germany in the 1920’s and 30’s. Simply, in Germany in WWII, the nativist nationalist populist fascist right-wingers called themselves socialists.
TIP: If you take away nothing else from this article, realize that there are many different types of socialism, and anyone can call themselves socialist, even the far-right nationalist fascists (this is true in any era).
Hitler, the NAZIs, Fascists, and the Types of Socialism in the Weimar Republic
In terms of WWII ideology, the German Communists were the German “far left-wing” (as they offered, on paper, an inclusive socialism for all regardless of race, color, or creed… with an iron fist) and the German Fascists were the “far right wing” (as they sought a form of authoritative fascist socialism for German nationals exclusively… with an iron fist).
If we want to find another right-wing party of the Weimar Republic, then we can look to the German Nationalist People’s Party (DNVP). They were to the right of Hitler’s NAZI in terms of favoring the bourgeoisie elite (not the people, but of course it is just a name, isn’t it), but they were more socially liberal and didn’t agree with the far-right anti-inclusive socially conservative antisemitic views of the NAZI. Meanwhile, most of the other socialist parties in Germany and across Europe in WWII (of which there were many) spanned the left-right spectrum, including the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which was the moderate left party (just like today).
Is Hitler’s Socialism Like Bernie Sander’s Democratic Socialism?
Although we have touched on it above, I’d like to again return to the idea that “although Hitler was a socialist, we can’t compare him very well to a modern Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders”( like the sometimes great, but in this case “mostly false” infowars.com article claims).
Sure, any anti-elite ideology has commonalities, but the alt-right and Tea Party have much more in common with Hitler’s fascists than Bernie Sanders does. They are exclusive, Bernie is inclusive. They think “the liberal Jew media is destroying the world,” Bernie is a liberal Jew who is often in the media. Etc.
Hitler and his NAZI were pro-worker and anti-Capitalist in theory, but that doesn’t make one a left-winger alone (if it did, then the Tea Party would be left-wing). And, if progressive are “right-wing” and the “Tea Party” left then we have simply changed the meaning of the terms left and right! That is pointless and confusing. We use terms to better understand ideologies, not to confuse them.
Don’t confuse the fact that almost all ideologies are “mixed” with the fact that comparatively some things are right-wing and some things are left-wing. In the conversation “America” conservatives are right, and liberals are left. In the conversation “WWII” regarding fascists and Communists, fascists are right, and communists are left. In a broader WWII conversation, America is center-left, the Allies who won WWI center-right, and fascists and communists the extreme left and right that pushed back. We can get complex, but there are very few situations where left-wing socialist is the best description of a NAZI [here I resist saying “lol” in an effort to have this article be more fact than, “F’ off you alt-fascists”].
It may help to take a look at the following left-right chart. This is our own version of the Nolan chart; see our page on left-right politics here for more details; obviously the left-right distinction is political theory, which is different than the historic accounts of Hitler’s platform and the Night of the Long Knives which are more fact than theory.
Was Hitler Left-wing or Right-wing? In More Detail
Speaking again to the above, Hitler was more “left-wing” on paper than he was in practice, but even on paper his “socialism” was very strict, oppressive, aggressive, imperial, exclusive, militaristic, and authoritarian, which makes it far more right-wing than left-wing by most measures (see how to understand the left-right spectrum to understand what qualities are left, and what qualities are right, based on the original definition of left and right from the French Revolution).
Despite the terminology and a few party platform planks, in terms of left-right ideology, Hitler and his NAZIs were right-wing extremist fascists in nearly every respect. Their only “left” qualities in practice are in relation to how they treated some pure blooded German nationals loyal to the NAZI party (the same cannot be said for the German nationals of non-European decent, non-nationals, or those who weren’t loyal to the NAZI such as the other German Socialist and Communist parties of the time).
Suffice to say, Hitler was nothing like what we think a socialist today is. He was not left-wing or a collectivist compared to most other political ideologies of the time, yet he was technically a socialist in name and platform.
Below we further explain how to understand Hitler as a socialist by looking at the NAZI platform, Mein Kampf, and the NAZI government in practice, what that means from a modern frame, and explain why alt-right figures like Alex Jones and Steven Crowder are misinformed (or purposefully spreading propaganda; I honestly can’t tell which).
TIP: To have despotic government, a despot must run their country like a military. They must use fear like the NAZI did, but they must also provide for the citizenry. One can’t have a master race and imperial army if there is no education or healthcare. Montesquie knew this, and when our American forefathers founded America they knew this. America stands against despotism and tyranny; we fight for liberty… this is why, for all its darkness, we find entities like the anti-Fascist anti-Communist House Un-American Committee in American history, and we consider some far-right fascist groups terrorist organizations.
TIP: ISIS and the KKK are both far-right fascist groups that want certain aspects of socialism. That doesn’t make them left-wing ideologies, but it doesn’t make them purely right-wing either. Understanding nuance requires critical thinking.
TIP: Hitler’s NAZIism is exclusive, in that it is more individualist than the collectivist Communist movement or other forms of more inclusive socialism found in the WWII era (thus in left-right terms pertaining to individualism vs. collectivism, it is more “right-wing” than the other socialist ideologies). Today when we think Bernie Sanders, we think about the social liberal ideology of liberty and equality for all… that ideology is very far removed from Hitler. However, Lincoln, the Rooselvets, William Jennings Bryan, LBJ, and Bernie all share a commonality with Hitler, they all sought to use the state to promote their version of socialism. In this, each supported national social policy directed at reforming education, healthcare, and other social issues. Thus, it isn’t like there is no parallels, it is just that in terms of comparing modern forms of liberalism to all the forms of socialism of the WWII era, modern American social liberalism is the least like NAZIism (but the modern alt-right is on the other hand, very similar!; that argument is made below).
This video, featuring a comparison of two fascists, is the type of disinformation we debunk on this page. There are three big bits of mis-information (half-truths) put forth by the alt-right (AKA neo-fascists, where neo and alt denote the idea that it is “not exactly the same” and “mostly on the internet”). They are: 1. Civil War Democrats are the same as modern Democrats, 2. liberals popularized eugenics and all eugenics is the same, and 3. Hitler was a left-winger. All are half-true. In each case it is frustrating because it tries to paint progressive left-wing liberals as the right-wingers of yesterday, when it was the predecessors of the alt-right who were essentially yesterday’s right-wingers in each story (history is a bit more complex than that, but it is closer to true than what they say)… which is a little like me accusing them of inventing hipsterism and hippie culture. We debunk the Hitler myth below, see the aforementioned links for the respective debunk of the other two theories.
OPINION: It is disturbing how the alt-right is trying to equate the modern left with Hitler. Hitler is like the father of the alt-right ultra-nationalist ideology minus his socialist planks, at least more-so than he is an inspiration for modern Progressives like “the Berniecrats“. Perhaps the alt-right thinks that because they are Nationalist Nativist Populists in a liberal capitalist country they aren’t like Hitler. Sorry, most western left-wingers are capitalists too guys. Yes, on the socialist platforms of Hitler alone, he is more like the socialist left than the liberal nationalist right. And, both Hitler and the alt-right are left-wing in wanting to dismantle the central bank, despite the right-wing antisemitic undertone. And, on being pro-worker and anti-elite, Hitler is like both the Tea Party / Alt-Right and Progressives. And, on being anti-capitalist he is like a modern “occupy wall street” left-winger, sure. It is just everything else though, like his nationalism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, militarism, and policy of exclusion which he was fully right-wing. Listen to Hitler talk about “the liberal elite jew bankers and communists”, he was an alt-white guy. All that said, no one should want to be like Hitler and no modern American ideology is “exactly like the NAZIs” (… except the fringe American NAZI groups). I get the pushback, the left does make this comparison, and a reaction would be expected. Thus, this is like the Lincoln conversation, or the parties switching, or the eugenics conversation. The alt-right wants to take the heat off of the right-wing and place it on the left-wing (a diffusions tactic). Fine tactic for a back ally brawl, or say a Beer Hall Putsch, but not one that can hold up to historical fact. There is an interesting conversation in here, but we must start with a honest conversation that says, “you know, Hitler wasn’t fully right-wing despite his fascism”, not with “Hitler was a left-wing socialist liberal”. When we look to the protests in Charlottesville in 2017 America and see the flags of the groups that are marching, it becomes clear why we say in casual speak “the right is closer to the NAZIs and the anti-fascist right is closer to the communist and left-wing anarchists.” They even wave the flags unprompted that show clearly which modern group identifies with which past group.
FACT: The NAZI party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), and National Socialism typically denotes an exclusive fascist ideology in any country in any era (which is right-wing). The NAZI platform included anti-capitalist pro-worker planks (which is left-wing), Sparta-esque planks focused on lifting up a “master race” and turning Germany into a pure German ethno-state via means which included genocide (which is mostly right-wing unless you are part of the exclusive master race being lifted up), and did this all by authoritative and despotic means (which is right-wing). Stalin may have done many similar things, but the Communist ideology, unlike the NAZI ideology, was open to all races (which is more left comparatively). Meanwhile, other forms of socialism are even further left, even going as far to include wacky planks like equality for all and being against genocide and imperial ethno-states (like the modern American Left-Leaning Democratic Social Liberalism we find in the platforms of figures like Bernie Sanders).
TIP: One of the main reasons the NAZI were anti-capitalist and pro-worker on paper is because Germany had been struggling financially due to inflation after their defeat in WWI. Hitler was a WWI solider and connected with those unhappy over the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. There was a lot of forgotten German workers frustrated with the elite capitalist class and a loss of identity and pride for German nationals, and there was a lot of blame placed on the Jews and non-Germans. They wanted to get the liberal jews and international banks out and make Germany great again. See Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic and Hitler’s views on economics. It isn’t that there aren’t similarities between an FDR, a Stalin, and a Hitler as the left-right libertarian Mises.org suggests (certainly any ideology that seeks to use the state for social programs can be compared on such terms), it is just that Hitler wasn’t, all things considered, a left-winger rather than a right-winger.
What it Means that Hitler Was a Socialist From a Modern Frame
Now that we get that Hitler and his NAZI party were fascist right-wingers with some socialist ideology and left-wing qualities, lets discuss what it means that Hitler was a socialist from a modern frame of reference.
Hitler, like Stalin (another type of socialist, a Communist) or any despot, offered a full state-controlled experience common with despotism (call that fascist statist socialism if you want, you won’t be fully wrong, as there are some parallels between any two types of socialism).
However, from a modern frame, Hitler and the NAZI were more like alternative right-wing neo-fascists than left-wing liberal progressive social democrats. It is like the difference between neoliberal globalization and nativist protectionism, yes they both have to do with trade, no they don’t have “the same exact” philosophy (sorry infowars, you are missing some nuance here; to be fair, I pick a bone with articles like Was Adolf Hitler a Socialist? Debunking a Historical Myth too).
Whatever the National Socialist German Workers’ Party platform said on paper aside, in practice, as time went on, Hitler became more and more despotic and tyrannical and less and less of anything a modern American would describe as “socialist”. But even so, from the time the ideology was born, Hitler’s exclusive fascist extremism was very different than other more inclusive forms of socialism found at the time, including “Democratic Socialism”… just ask the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which opposed Hitler’s antisemitism during the Weimar years.
For all its similarities, NAZIism is in many ways the polar opposite and mortal enemy of Communism as represented by the Communist Party (KPD). And of course, if we read history or even just the Communist Manifesto’s chapter on the different types of Socialism, or if we look at any of the other parties of Germany in the elections of the 1920’s (many of whom were left-wing socialists), we see that there are MANY different types of socialism that span the left-right spectrum.
The average Alt-right “thinker” may have only read Mein Kampf, if they have read a WWII era book at all, but even by reading just that single book we know that Hitler’s far-right extremist nationalist movement born on the WWI battlefield and in the Beer house with his other ex-WWI pointy hat right-wing nationalists was not left-wing socialism.
Hitler’s book of struggles is all about how he is against Jews, Social Democrats, Marxists, etc… so how could a Jew like Bernie Sanders, a social Democrat, be accused of having much at all in common with Hitler outside a desire to use the state for some sort of social benefit? Hitler wanted an all national ethno-state, wanted those liberal Jews out, and then wanted to lift up his people, his kin. He believed in the supremacy of his race, he wanted a German state, and for them, yes he offered socialism (in the same way the army offers basic training and free guns to soldiers)… a few commonalities aside, that is like the total opposite of Bernie Sanders on almost every plank.
That said, Hitler’s socialism does indeed sound like a modern American ideology… but it isn’t the modern progressive left… it is the alt-right, the KKK, and other white supremacy movements in the US (all of which we call “right wing”, although they may have aspects of left-wing ideology).
TIP: The terms left and right come from the French revolution and are defined by at least two factors. One factor is authority vs. liberty, the other factor is collective vs. individual. These two paradigms are what allow us to understand left-right politics and label things accurately and consistently as such. Hitler’s ideology was individualist and authoritative, it was a left-right ideology (it is anti-elite, pro a certain type of people, but very authoritative). Although it is left-right broadly speaking, in comparison to other types of socialism, especially democratic socialism or bourgeoisie socialism, it is to the right. Thus, it is, in modern language, especially in the context of comparing the modern American ideologies, a right-wing ideology (in the same way the KKK ideology is despite its stance on states’ rights). It isn’t PURE RIGHT… but what is? The world is too complex for oversimplifications. Here the stakes aren’t mundane, they speak to the very heart of why fought WWII. Nuance is needed.
This is the position of the KKK in 1982. It is not so different than any other fascist position. The ethno-nationalist in the pointy hat is always the ethno-nationalist in the pointy hat in any era. To those who would own this, do so, but don’t accuse the other team of being you… that is just confusing.
MYTH: All Socialism is the Same
Suffice to say, people get confused and think “all socialism is the same” and “all socialism is equatable with the modern left”… but this is a very shallow and inaccurate world view and is fit only for those who favor emotion over fact.
Hitler’s NAZIism has about as much to do with Bernie Sander’s Democratic Socialism or the Democratic Party’s Social Liberal Progressivism as the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has to do with Republicanism, Democracy, or People.
The idea that Hitler’s socialism is equitable to modern socialism, and by extension modern socially liberal progressivism (as the Alex Jones article or Crowder article below suggests), is simply right-wing propaganda of the modern age. It is, when framed the way they frame it, pure counterfeit information that if not intentionally meant to confuse and convolute history is having that effect.
All ideologies must beware the extreme factions who exist on the fringes and pollute the national conversation with half-truths and lies.
With the above said, keeping in mind all the different types of left-wing and right-wing socialism, we can note that aspects of Hitler’s on-paper national policy for Germans was in fact socialist.
Below we will further explore the difference between Hitler, Fascism, Communism, Socialism, and Social Liberalism so we can show the ways in which they do and don’t relate. We’ll also look at Hitler’s policies to show how giving free education to German nationals or stripping guns from Jews is different than modern American social liberalism despite the obvious parallels.
TIP: Mussolini was also a fascist who called himself a socialist. I can call a hand grenade a pineapple, but that doesn’t make it a fruit. Mussolini and Hitler were far-right extremists who nearly destroyed the world, they are different than Castro, Lenin, or even Stalin… the far-left extremists who almost destroyed the world, and they are all different than any normal American. Here we are using the terms left and right comparatively, we could also go issue by issues and discuss how each stance of a party on paper and in-action was left and/or right (although that is another essay).
TIP: Fascists and Communists are both awful [obviously?… right? why do I feel we don’t agree on this?], but they aren’t “exactly the same”. “Socialism” is a wide range of ideologies of which some extreme forms are Fascist Socialism (exclusive) and Communist Socialism (inclusive, on paper).
Nazi and Communist posters: a comparison. I see why people get confused, communism and Fascism are very similar in terms of being authoritative, but are very different in terms of the collectivist vs individualist ideology. Fascism is despotism for some, communism is despotism for all. Communism is Uber’s equality, fascism favors smaller groups. However, neither favors liberty and that is the problem in a liberal nation… or one problem at least. Ultimately, they are the two ideologies the world went to war over in WWII. They nearly destroyed the planet. Turing that into “Hitler was a left-leaning socialist” is a giant misreading of history. He was a far right socialist fascist. The leftists are more like communists, both groups are similar due to their love of tyranny and opposition to American values.
In What Ways Was Hitler a Socialist, How is that Like or not Like the Modern Alt-Right or Progressive Left?
Below we will list different policy stances (planks from the NAZI’s 25 point platform, general policies, general qualities, general ideologies, etc) of Hitler and the NAZIs and describe why they are left or right and how they relate to the modern left and right. Any general history of the NAZI party and Hitler, like this, will confirm the basic points made below. Now you may say “but Tom, we can’t trust the liberal Jew-run media” and of course to you I say, “whoa dude(ette), you ARE getting awful close to acting like a neo-fascist… now drop the ship and start acting like a real American. The NAZIs and Communists of any era are not our friend”.
Here are a few examples of how the NAZI ideology is or isn’t socialist, i’ll expand on this over time.
- Firstly, the main plank of the fascist NAZI was the exclusion of non-native Germans and the creation of a master race and imperial German ethno-state. All planks revolving around genocide, a master race, locking down the media, destroying the other parties, and imperial police state militarism are right-wing and not socialist (although granted, a national army is more socialist than an army of mercenaries in some respects, we can pretty much ignore this part of the platform). So those giant points aside… a few bits of the NAZI platform were socialist (but still they were Hitler’s fascist brand of this in almost every case).
- Hitler’s original NAZI party platform also demanded: Division of profits of all big industries, nationalization of many industries, land reform and the abolition of a land tax and speculation on land, and freedom of religion. Legitimately, on paper, some of the platform is left-wing and socialist (including their stances on banks, in some ways). However, the NAZI didn’t really follow through with most of this. Still, what they did in action aside, these planks are generally left-wing.
- Hitler approved of eugenics, including elective eugenics like abortion and forced negative eugenics like genocide and war. This is a bit like the modern left in that the left is generally for positive elective eugenics like birth control and early-term abortion, it is like the old liberal intellectuals who thought population should be curved (which was mostly right-wing then and is a dark spot on history now), and it is like the modern right believing in supremacy of a race and being willing to take action on it (like genocide and breeding super soldiers; which is very right-wing). Eugenics is too complex to call left or right, but certainly forced negative eugenics and elective eugenics aimed at a certain race, class, or creed is more right-wing than left-wing. Thus, Hitler is right-wing in terms of eugenics and his eugenics programs are not well compared to positive elective eugenics like that of planned parenthood (the idea that we can relate to two is religious right propaganda; often spouted from the same alt-right pseudo-media that claims the idea that Hitler was a right-winger is a myth).
- Hitler wanted free education and healthcare. Just like the modern progressive left, Hitler wanted free education and healthcare. Unlike the modern left he restricted it to a certain class and race. Since Hitler only favored one class of people, it is more like far-right policy that seeks to defund public education and filter funds toward white schools in America. Hitler is left-wing in terms of offering education and healthcare, but is right-wing in terms of offering this only to one group and… militarizing that group, to try to take over the world via authoritative, despotic, and tyrannical progressive militarism.
- Hitler banned guns… yeah, Hitler banned Jews having gun. Which is a good move when you are about to start kicking down doors and stealing property. Has little-to-nothing to do with background checks in the U.S.; next.
- Hitler was a captivating orator. Trump is a brilliant orator, so was William Jennings Bryan, so was Bernie Sanders, so was Lenin. What you say to people, what you say you will do for the worker, however you say “i’ll make this country great again” aside, we must judge based on action and result. Based on action and result Hitler was a manipulated despot who gave up on socialism almost as soon as he started (they quickly realized socialism didn’t work… although stealing gold from other europeans and Jews isn’t socialist or capitalist, it is again, despotic tyranny).
TIP: Name one socialist thing Hitler did that a military wouldn’t do. Right. He was building an army to conquer the world, obviously he offered his soldiers healthcare and education. He wanted to get rid of the Jews, obviously he took their guns and approved of abortion. He needed a ton of money, obviously he screwed over European banks and stole money from the Jews. Hitler thought, “hey this Jewish problem is a problem” better kick all the international banks out and make Germany great again. Socialist isn’t the right word, you know. No this is fascism, looks the same in any era really. Can you think of other ideologies that are pro-white and anti-international bank?
The NAZI Party – Military History Documentary HD.
TIP: Hitler’s original NAZI party platform demanded: Division of profits of all big industries, nationalization of many industries, land reform and the abolition of a land tax and speculation on land, and freedom of religion. Legitimately, on paper, some of the platform is left-wing and socialist. However, the NAZI didn’t follow through with most of this and almost everything else they did was far-right. Using the state and doing a few socialist things doesn’t make someone a left-winger. There is nothing left-wing about fascism and genocide, no matter what party is doing it.
TIP: The NAZIs called mainstream media “the lying press” (today known as “fake news“). They wanted to “get the liberal intellectual jew bankers and communists out” and “make Germany great again”. Hitler said he was against the establishment, but at the end of the day, for all the Jews he killed and all their money he stole, he never did stand up to the international banks. Why would anyone go to war against a neutral entity that is all but required to keep the world turning? Xenophobia is often more a tool to control the plebs than a serious policy. Anyone who studied history knows “Jew Rothschild, and his fellow-Christian, Baring” have “the money” historically speaking. When you are post-WWI Germany and you don’t have “the money”, and you want to take over the world, you may naturally see a target. It is really no different than the prejudice in the Jewish Ghettoes of the Italian Republics where banking and liberalism were born in the times of Fibonacci, the Medici, or Machiavelli, or in Shakespeare’s time when he created his Shylock, or in Ford’s time when he spread Russian propaganda to Germany via his Dearborn Independent. Just like white people like watching Friends in their pajamas, it is true that as a nomadic people Jews have their own culture, and this raises questions… but, let us just say, there was nothing socialist about the way NAZIs treated the Jews, it was pure Kleptocracy and opportunism steeped in long-standing and omnipresent prejudice false narratives parroted by despots, who exploited the peoples’ economic insecurity and fear for political gain (as it always is). See the documentary below for the real story of banking, Britain, and Germany. NAZI gold was not mined by the NAZIs, and I certainly don’t recall it being shared with the German worker.
Banking With Hitler (Full Length) British. There are many ways to illustrate the fact that much which conspiracy theories seek to explain is better explained by “mundane self-interest and opportunism”, but one that comes to my mind is the story of the international banks and the Axis and Allies of WWI. Its tempting go straight to the Alex Jones version, but hearing the BBC version with interviews of family members presents a much more sober introspective into the actual mentality behind what assume wrongly are “shadowy villains”.
Hitler Vs. the Communists
To restate some points made above, Hitler’s main opposition was the Communist Party, the NAZIs killed and jailed left-leaning socialists. Can you imagine anything Hitler hated more than a social liberal Jew like Bernie Sanders who wanted liberty for all classes and creeds and a united global world, no way right? And that is the point!
In WWII America and her Allies teamed up with the Communists (remember, Russia was our ally then) to defeat the fascists, because as bad as one type of socialism (Communism) is, the other (fascist socialism) was simply being more tyrannical and at odds with western values at the time.
America is a Liberal Nation
There is really only one point a true red-blooded American needs to understand, and that is that America is a liberal nation. To us, nationalism means ensuring liberty, not creating an exclusive ethno-state. To us, socialism means social equality, not full-blown communism.
Sure, people accuse Democrats of being Communist or Socialist, and Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist, but none of this has much of anything to do with Hitler. Likewise, one can call Bannon a NAZI, but he is more of a liberal nationalist. If the left-wingers were trying to call the alt-right Communists, I would take up the pen in their defense… but this is not the case.
If there is a party that has aspects of Hitler’s ideology in America, a party that favors nationals and wants a purer ethnic state with clear lines, it is of course the fringes of the Republican party (likewise, if a party is closer to Communist, it is the fringes of the Democrats)… but since these ideologies both stand against what we stand for, we can simply say, the extreme WWII ideologies bare little-to-no relation to either of the major U.S. political parties outside of one being more left and one being more right.
Debunking Alex Jones, Steven Crowder, and the Alt-Right Neo-Fascist Propagandists
Given the above, articles like MYTH BUSTED: Actually, Yes, Hitler Was a Socialist Liberal by Steven Crowder’s Courtney Kirchoff are annoyingly misleading, inaccurate (despite the almost correct title), and prevalent.
It isn’t that they aren’t “part right”, it is that they are pretty blatantly an attempt to twist history to make both Communism and Fascism look like left-wing ideologies.
That makes my job difficult, because the goal is to dismiss this point without getting triggered and offering a tit-for-tat (to the extent I do this on this page, I apologize, I’ll aim to work out the kinks as there is only one history and one set of facts).
Firstly, speaking to just the premise in the title, Hitler hated liberalism, and was a socialist on paper, so the title is part true. However, it is not the title of the article, but the content that is very misleading.
The content tries to insinuate the Hitler is comparable to a modern social liberal like Bernie Sanders and that Hitler was left-wing. The article even says, “Adolf Hitler wasn’t ‘right wing.’ If you take nothing else from this post, just remember Hitler was a socialist” (and as you now know from reading the above, this is a half-truth as it omits any discussion of the right-wing aspects of his character or the other WWII ideologies).
While it is worth discussing the parallels between modern the WWII ideologies and modern ideologies like we did, and we can note that both a modern liberal like Bernie and Hitler share qualities (anti-elite, anti-pure capitalism, pro worker, wants nationalized programs) like we did, we must conclude that Hitler is much more equatable to the modern alt-right than the left despite this.
Why is Hitler’s fascism more like the alt-right than the alt-left? Simple, the ethno-state alt-right actually wants most of what Hitler offered aside from the part where the state nationalizes programs. If Hitler had called for capitalist solutions and deregulation, but had kept his same ideology (his opinions on race and class), it would look very much like the modern far-right (and it is very much like the modern KKK).
When the slave owner provides a meal and house for his slaves, is he a socialist? It is arguable. When a slave owner claims “states’ rights” is he a liberal? Again, we can and do argue. However, we can’t argue that we generally call the slaver a right-winger and the abolitionist a left-winger (despite the fact the abolitionist wants to tell the slaver what to do, he is left-wing by our metrics). Some deal here, just a different issue in a different era.
There is a big difference between the alt-right and Hitler then, and that is what is likely confusing people, it is that (like with the KKK) a modern alt-right-er wants deregulation in many respects, and only wants authoritative statism when it comes to registering Muslims, or building a wall, or repealing marriage equality, or declaring America a Christian nation… otherwise, since so much progressive policy is already in place, they in practice want to deregulate.
So their ends are right-wing, but their means are left-wing in terms of deregulation. This is a nuance worth discussing. Same for the modern progressive left, they want collectivist progressive things, so their ends are left, but since that requires statism their means are right.
The world is complex, and that is why we use a four point spectrum for left-right, but it isn’t THAT complicated.
Right-wingers are right-wingers, left-wingers are left-wingers, and these groups have historically faced conflict in any era, but where WWII split the world and resulted in War, America’s founding was a union of left-and-right who agreed on a liberal center. There is room for all ideologies in America, but no great gains will be had by accusing liberals of being right-wingers.
I suggest the alt-right stop the nonsense and say what they mean (like Richard Spencer) so we can have a real conversation based on differing opinions rather than differing facts. Calling Hitler left-wing means all WWII ideologies are left-wing, which defeats the purpose of having comparative political terms in the first place. No, generally speaking, in WWII the lefties are the allies who favor liberty, and the right-wingers are the authoritarians. In comparative terms in Germany the left-wingers are those who favor inclusive socialism and the right-wingers are the exclusive fascist nationals. Each ideology has aspects of left and right, which are very discussable, but not accurately labeled in such simple and bias terms as Crowder and Alex Jones attempt.
TIP: The Crowder article says “the KKK was founded by Democrats“. This alt-fact is like the Hitler alt-fact. Yes, It was indeed. By the Solid South Dixiecrat Confederates of the Civil War… who are now Republicans. Why else would they be marching in Charlottesville like that waving the NAZI and Confederate flags while anti-fa and BLM protested from the opposite side of the street? Read our essay on the history of the American political parties.
TIP: Crowder tries to equate eugenics with Planned Parenthood. Typical Alex Jones alt-right nonsense that clearly displays a misunderstanding of history. See the history of American eugenics and how negative and positive, forced and unforced, eugenics are different.
TIP: The Crowder article goes on to describe some truths related to Hitler’s policies accurately, but frames them in a dishonest way (sprinkling in half-truths and omitting necessary nuance). Hitler taking away guns from Jews has little to do with Democrats wanting background checks for example. Again, it was national socialism for German nationals only, so obviously his policies are going to reflect that in spirit (if not in practice). An army feeds its soldiers, that is socialist, but they aren’t hippies, they are military, same for Hitler, he bred super soldiers, of course he gave them healthcare. Any state controlled by a despot is going to try to control healthcare, education, guns, etc. Obviously. It really has very little to do with modern American progressivism of any sort. It is fascism, and it is the enemy of the western liberalism… except the far-right parties who have seen a rise during this era of globalization.
Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. – Alexander Hamilton, a true American explaining the true and simple values reflected by the Constitution of our American Republic.
Trump and Hitler Compared. (After the Bell ). Speaking of blonde haired nationalists who favor a native population… Just sayin’, since we are on the subject. It isn’t that Trump is like Hitler, it is that if we seek only to compare Trump, Bernie, Hitler’s Fascist Socialism, and Communism, then Bernie and Communism are left-wing and Hitler’s Socialism and Trump are right-wing (using comparative terms)…. but just so its clear i’m not totally “out here in left-field”, check out an old Woody Guthrie song about the Trump linage, Old Man Trump. Guthrie was a notable “anti-Fascist”. TIP: I’m not equating Trump with Fascism (see the whole very long article above), but put on your thinking cap, Trump and the right are more toward fascism and Bernie and the left are more toward Communism, as far as American ideologies go… as we can see from the 2017 Charlottesville protests.