by Jay Johansen | Apr 17, 2015
The Nazis are often described as "extreme right-wing". People who warn against the dangers of conservative extremism often hold up the Nazis as the premier example of what can happen when conservatives come to power.
So in exactly what sense were the Nazis "right-wing"?
On February 24, 1920, Hitler gave a speech in which he first spelled out the Nazi party platform to the public. It contained 25 items, and thus historians often refer to it as the "25 Point Plan". With just minor changes, it remained the official Nazi party platform throughout their history.
As you would probably expect if you know anything at all about the Nazis, it declared that Jews should have no legal rights (point 4). It has a few general statements that almost everyone would agree with, like stating that government employees should be appointed based on "character and fitness" and not handed out as political favors (point 6), and that "all citizens must possess equal rights and duties" (point 9). It had a few points very specific to that time and place in history, like denouncing the treaty that ended World War I as unfair to Germany (point 2).
But the specific, non-platitude points were:
Point 7: The government should "ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood."
Point 10: "No individual shall do any work that offends against the interest of the community to the benefit of all."
Point 11: "That all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished." That is, you cannot make money from savings or investing in the stock market: only from salary for a job.
Point 12: "Total confiscation of all war profits."
Point 13: "Nationalization of all trusts." That is, government to take over key industries.
Point 14: "Profit-sharing in large industries."
Point 15: "A generous increase in old-age pensions."
Point 16: "The creation and maintenance of a sound middle-class." They go on to explain that this means that the government should subsidize small businesses.
Point 17: Government must have the power to take over private land for government use without compensation. Prohibit private investment in land.
Point 20: "In order to make it possible for every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education", the government must take over the schools and set the curriculum. "Specially talented children of poor parents, whatever their station or occupation, be educated at the expense of the State."
Point 21: Government to provide free health care. Government to run gym classes for young people to promote health.
Point 23: Government to prevent the news media from publishing false information.
Point 24: Freedom of religion, as long as one's religious beliefs do not "offend the moral and ethical sense of the Germanic race."
Point 25: "COMMON GOOD BEFORE INDIVIDUAL GOOD". And, "the creation of a strong central authority in the State".
So tell me: Suppose that an American political party adopted the above platform. Would they be called "conservative" or "liberal"? Can you imagine either the Democrats or the Republicans adopting some or all of the above platform points? Which party would that be?
The word "Nazi" is a short form of the offical name of the party, the "Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei", which means "National Socialist German Workers Party". Note they called themselves "socialist", and as you can see from the platform statement above, they were socialist in the sense in which we use the word in America today.
How did they ever come to be called "right wing"? The key is in the word "nationalist". The communists of the time called for abolishing individual nations and creating a world government. The Nazis were strongly opposed to this. They considered themselves patriots who loved Germany and wanted to keep Germany distinct from the rest of the world. So they were socialists like the communists, but they were not "world government socialists", they were "national socialists".
So in fairness, were there any elements of the Nazi platform, besides affirmation of patriotism, that could be considered right wing?
Point 5 would probably be called "conservative": "Those who are not citizens must live in Germany as foreigners and must be subject to the law of aliens."
And by the same token, maybe part of point 6: "The right to choose the government and determine the laws of the State shall belong only to citizens."
Point 8: "Any further immigration of non-Germans must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who have entered Germany since August 2, 1914, shall be compelled to leave the Reich immediately."
And ... that's about it. The Nazis were anti-immigration, like many modern conservatives. Besides that, their policies were all liberal.
© 2015 by Jay Johansen
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