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The curious case of “National Socialists”…

Here’s a quote from a comment in a liberal blog:

“The rabid right has useful idiots that call Obama a socialist and a fascist in the same sentence, obviously not realizing that the two are diametrically opposing!”

Forgetting the grammatical errors, I wish I could agree with that statement. In fact I used to believe it was true myself, however unfortunately I did some research on “National Socialists” (aka Nazis) and found there was in fact a curious mix of what we might call socialism and fascism – the “Socialist” moniker was not completely a misnomer.

To see this, you have to read the “25 point Program” (also known as the “National Socialist Program“). For instance among such clearly “fascist” gems as:

  • We demand land and territory (colonies) for the maintenance of our people and the settlement of our surplus population.
  • Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become citizens. Only those who have German blood, regardless of creed, can be our countrymen Hence no Jew can be a countryman.
  • 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.

we also have remarkably “socialist” sounding:

  • We demand an agrarian reform in accordance with our national requirements, and the enactment of a law to expropriate the owners without compensation of any land needed for the common purpose. The abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.
  • We demand the nationalization of all trusts.
  • We demand a generous increase in old-age pensions.

There are even one or two others that are sensible until they go spirally off into hateful racism:

  • We demand that the State shall above all undertake to ensure that every citizen shall have the possibility of living decently and earning a livelihood. If it should not be possible to feed the whole population, then aliens (non-citizens) must be expelled from the Reich.
  • We demand freedom for all religious faiths in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or offend the moral and ethical sense of the Germanic race.

So, does this mean:

socialism = fascism

or, as implied lately by a number on the right:

liberals = fascism

No, not at all. First of all National Socialists are just a single fascist group – Pinochet for instance was an entirely different animal. Second, it means humans and the movements they sponsor are more complicated than the little boxes we like to put them in. That when we say X or Y is “fascist” we better be careful that we see the whole.

It also stands to help see that the Nazis were more human than we thought they were and thus we need to be vigilant in realizing that all humans are capable of great evil, even ones we might believe are “good”. Or to quote Simon Wiesenthal:

“because only the person who has grasped it knows that evil lies dormant in most people and can break out at almost any time. Let no man say that such a ghastly dictatorship is no longer possible today. That is the true lesson from the horror of National Socialism: we must fight against it constantly, against evil, so that it does not emerge again.”

I have no illusion that this might not include me or you, nor should anyone else.

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