Was Hitler a Socialist? Was Hitler a Left-Winger?
The idea that “Hitler was a socialist” is a myth. Hitler was a Fascist. Fascism has some socialist roots, but it is a unique authoritarian and nationalist ideology separate from socialism.
Understanding Why it is Incorrect to Call Hitler a Socialist, Even Though His Party Was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party)
Despite being a far-right nationalist fascist, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI party), just like his inspiration Mussolini and his National Fascist Party, had socialist roots and embraced a few socialist policies for nationals (especially in the early days, decades before the war).
We call this authoritarian militaristic far-right nationalism with hints of socialism, “fascism“.
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, since fascism comes in left and right forms, and since both Hitler’s and Mussolini’s forms were right-wing (by Mussolini’s own admission), it is confusing to give Hitler 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.
This is to say, no, historically speaking, “Hitler was not a left-wing, socialist, liberal”. Fascism is unique and should not be mistaken as being “progressive”, “left-wing”, or what today we think of as “socialist” just because it has a few parallels and shares roots with these ideologies. 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!
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
The essay below makes all these points in detail, but to start:
- 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 in 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 arguably “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”.
Conclusion and Complexities
Given the above proofs, I ultimately couldn’t label the idea that “Hitler was a Socialist” as a Fact. It is too confusing for someone not ready to spend time in research mode. Too many words are required to frame this 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, the essay below 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 for all types at once). This means the resources of the world being owned in common by the entire global population. Imagine there’s no classes, no possessions, a brotherhood of man, etc… And this of course sounds more like Communism, the extreme left-wing socialist ideology. Socialism is generally “left” as it favors equality and collectives, and the form “communism” is to the far-left (democratic socialism is toward liberalism and the center). That said, 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).
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, and 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 the socialism out of National Socialism on the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 when he killed the Strasserists… but Mussolini and Hitler’s opportunistic ideologies still pulled 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 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.
As noted above, 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.
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.
Additional Points to Help Illustrate the Fact that Hitler Was a Right-Wing Fascist
WAS HITLER REALLY A SOCIALIST? We can say Hitler was a socialist and be sort of 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 any one 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 on 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”].
To make this point clearer, it’ll help to take a look at the following left-right chart (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 off 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 national’s of non-European decent, non-nationals, or those who wren’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 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 left than the 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”. 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”.
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.
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. 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 dangerously misleading, inaccurate (despite the almost correct title), and prevalent. Thus, they must be debunked (which I admit, like when we debunked their BS about modern Democrats being like Civil War southern Democrats, gets a little meta… as they say they are debunking a myth, but actually they are spreading a myth that needs debunking).
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 exactly 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, never have we ever really liked each other, 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, did you know”… Oh yes, It was indeed. By the Solid South Dixiecrat Confederates of the Civil War… who are now Republicans. 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”.