No, the Fascists and the Nazis Were Not Right-Wingers

The Left and mainstream political science identify Italian fascism and German National Socialism as right-wing ideologies.  Their motivation is clear: they do not want to be associated with regimes that brought civilization horror and suffering on an unprecedented scale.  The Left traditionally substantiates its point of view with two theoretical propositions.  First of all, fascism and Nazism do not belong to the Left because those regimes did not institute total collective ownership on means of production as Marx prescribed.  Secondly, nationalism and racism have traditionally been features of the right, whereas the Left is perceived to comprise internationalists.

Thus, Stalin pointed out in his interview to American journalist Roy Howard, "The foundation of the [socialist] society is public property: state, i.e., national, and co-operative, collective farm property.  Neither Italian fascism nor German National-'socialism' has anything in common with such a society.  Primarily, this is because the private ownership of the factories and works, of the land, the banks, transport, etc. has remained intact, and, therefore, capitalism remains in full force in Germany and Italy."  That has been the notorious argument of Marxian socialists.

Unfortunately, rightists are accustomed to fighting anti-materialist and anti-positivist socialist ideologies, using the materialistic line of reasoning.  The prominent libertarian scholar Ludwig von Mises showed that even though fascists and Nazis allowed private property, nominal owners were deprived of the rights to manage it.  "If the State takes the power of disposal from the owner piecemeal, by extending its influence over production; if its power to determine what direction production shall be, is increased, then the owner is left at last with nothing except the empty name of ownership, and property has passed into the hands of the State," wrote Mises in Socialism.  Indisputably, his arguments adequately describe real economic affairs under these regimes.  The government began to influence the economy on a scale that was unheard of, except for the Soviet Union.  Indeed, entrepreneurs were deprived of the free commodity market, labor market, and international money market; the state established wage and price controls and overall influenced production, distribution, and consumption.

It should be recognized that Mises's arguments have lost their sharpness in the present.  For the last century, the state had been firmly fixed in the economic sphere of society, and it reluctantly gave up its position.  After all, many generations of people live in conditions where the government dictates the terms of the economy.  They do not even suspect that the state and the economy may have different relations, meaning that the government could be limited in its impact on business.  Fascist and Nazi regimes had created a prototype of the nanny state, which was further developed in Europe after World War II.  Modern industrial countries are guilty of conducting policies that resemble the ones from the cookbooks of the Italian and German governments of the past.  Indeed, the modern state has put in place various regulations and policies that adversely affect businesses and the economy as a whole. 

It seems correct to return to the comprehensive definition of socialism and see if fascism and Nazism fall under its cover.  It is also necessary to free oneself from the hegemony of the materialistic interpretation of socialism imposed by Marxism-Leninism.  Thus, socialism is a set of artificial socioeconomic systems characterized by a different degree of socialization of property and consciousness.  Numerous socialist trends emphasize the role of unified ideology and the predominance of moral principles rather than the socialization of property as the ultimate way to achieve socialism.  Consciousness, like the physical body of a person, is the firstborn private entity of the personality.  Material private property and own ideas are the main objectives of the socialists' attack.  Collectivization of consciousness, which is the subjugation of the individual to the collective, was the main path chosen by Mussolini and Hitler, instead of outright expropriation of private property as the Bolsheviks did.  Socialist regimes used coercion and persuasion to carry out the collectivization of consciousness; moreover, the latter occupied even more prominence in the regime.  In modern settings, the outright collectivist indoctrination in educational institutions became a primary form of belief.

The majority of the respective populations almost effortlessly accepted national ideas of fascists and Nazis.  Götz Aly mentioned in Hitler's Beneficiaries that the Third Reich was not a dictatorship maintained by force.  He gave a vivid example: in 1937, the Gestapo had just over 7,000 employees, which sufficed to keep tabs on more than 60 million people.  The vast majority of the population voluntarily subordinated their thoughts to the ideas of the ruling party.  Consequently, the society that underwent collectivization of mind eagerly supported any policies, including economic measures, proposed by the government.  German entrepreneurs were an integral part of the nationalist movement and did not mind accepting new rules.  They enthusiastically took part in the social experiment.  Both fascists and Nazis undertook an enormous task to amalgamate entrepreneurs and toilers into one classless nation directed by a single ideology and reporting to the state and party elites.

Therefore, the first argument put forward by the Left should be rebuffed by truth-seekers with the following reasoning.  First of all, Italian fascism and National Socialism belong to the Left, as they are incarnations of the non-Marxian socialism that utilized collectivization of consciousness rather than the socialization of private property as the primary path.  Secondly, de facto state control over the economy will ultimately lead to the socialization of private property, which will make the state de jure owner.

Now, let's consider the second argument put forward by leftist academia.  The supposed exclusive nationalism and racism of the right happens to be a political myth propelled by vicious leftist propaganda.  Since it was proven that Italian fascism and German National Socialism were genuine socialist movements, the argument of the Left regarding the intrinsic chauvinism of the right does not hold water.  Moreover, it is long overdue to turn the tables on leftist academia and protect the good name of conservatism as well as libertarianism with the firm facts.  It is known that the founders of Marxism were xenophobes who adhered to the Hegelian division of nations to historical and non-historical.  Overall, some currents of socialism preached outright chauvinism; others used internationalist rhetoric to gain political benefits.

Moreover, nationalism was not a factor that divided the political spectrum into the left-right wings at the beginning of the 20th century.  Instead, it is precisely the antagonism between capital and labor that, in Marxist terms, divided the political spectrum.  Therefore, nationalism might be inherent in various political philosophies, in both the defenders of capital and the proponents of labor.  No firm historical facts suggest that nationalism is a particular characteristic of the right.  On the contrary, as proponents of the free market, rightists promote an international division of labor and trade.  At the same time, traditional regimes of the Left, including Italian fascism and German National Socialism, implemented an economy of national autarchy.

Therefore, propagandist arguments put forward by the Left happen to be a disturbance of the truth.  The irony is that the sins of nationalism and racism attributed to the right mostly originated and grew on the Left's turf.

Image: Chris Dodds via Flickr.

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