First posted: 13th March, 2011
Of course SWP members will quickly say that there were ‘right wing’ elements in the Nazi Party which were extremely worried by the Brown Shirt fringe. Some were worried that such radicals would take over the Nazi Party completely. So the conventional story is that the Nazi Party destroyed this Leftist element within. It culminated, of course, in the Night of the Long Knives. The story continues by saying that only then could the Junker landlords, Prussian generals, big business men and other financial types sleep soundly in their beds. Thus it is argued that the socialism of National Socialism was completely destroyed. That story is partly correct and partly incorrect.
The Communist or Marxist story is even simpler; and as well known. It is said that from the Night of the Long Knives onwards (some say even before), Hitler and the Nazis colluded with the capitalists and industrialists of Germany in order to destroy the ‘Red menace’ (no longer the Socialist Brown Shirts – these were real Commies). As a result of this, so the story goes, the Nazi Party effectively established what is often called, by the SWP for example, a system of ‘state capitalism’.
But, as I said, this piece of Marxist history is too simplistic and is in fact partly wrong. Hitler did indeed secure the support of German industrialists, etc. However, the left has got the chicken and the egg the wrong way around. It was actually a case that Hitler firstly secured his success, or power, before the capitalists came on board the Nazi boat.
Leftists believe the exact opposite. They say that Hitler gained more power and success precisely because of the support of the capitalists and industrialists. However, Hitler didn’t really need these people to secure his power and success (although they might have contributed to an increase of Hitler’s power and success later).
Another way of looking at this is to say that the capitalists came to realise that Hitler was there to stay. His power was firmly established. Thus capitalists, being capitalists and therefore pragmatic, decided to put all their money on Hitler. Again, they didn’t cause or create Hitler’s power and success, they responded to it. In other words, these German capitalists of 1930s Germany acted like most capitalists act. They acted opportunistically, not politically.
Not only that. It was not only the case that German capitalists followed Hitler, rather than led him, it was also the case that Hitler never really gave up on the vital parts of his socialism – even after the capitalists had come on board.
Hitler had roughly the same attitude to ‘the bourgeois’, for instance, as Lenin – both before and after 1933. What was that attitude? Hitler once wrote:
When did Hitler actually write that? He didn’t write it in 1921, when the socialism of National Socialism was strong, or even in 1929 when that socialism was being challenged by some within the Nazi Party. No. Hitler wrote this after 1933 – after he had actually achieved power (or after the capitalists had put their money on him).
So it’s no surprise that Hitler had a certain uncomfortable admiration for a men like Stalin, as well as Lenin before. What he admired in both these Russians was their taste for destroying all things 'bourgeois'.
Like many middle class SWP-ers from the Home Counties and London (though Hitler, before the 1920s, was probably much poorer than the average contemporary Trot), Hitler loved the (German) poor. He wandered the streets of Vienna hatching up plans to make the lives of its poor citizens better, both politically and in terms of providing more housing for them. In parallel to this, he also hated what he saw as the unearned wealth of the city’s aristocrats. To put it in SWP-speak. Hitler, at this period (and long after), demanded Social Justice for the poor.
Alongside these outbursts against Viennese aristocrats, Hitler also spoke out against the power of the big banks (as many do today!), corporations and even against the Austrian department stores. To Hitler, all these people simply disempowered the working class in Vienna and beyond.
It was not surprising, then, that when, in 1919, Hitler came across a workers’ activist named Gottfried Feder, he was suitably impressed. More precisely, Hitler came across this man speaking at a socialist meeting. The title of Feder’s speech was: ‘How and by What Means Is Capitalism to Be Eliminated?’
Feder’s special area of interest was the Marxist distinction which is made between ‘exploitative’ and ‘productive’ finance (similar, I suppose, to the Marxist distinction between ‘surplus values’ and ‘labour value’). It is no surprise, then, that Hitler attuned himself to Feder and his revolutionary ideas and ideals.
Around a year later, in 1920, the Nazi Party produced and circulated its manifesto or ‘platform’. The most striking and perhaps surprising thing about this platform is its utterly socialist and indeed revolutionary content. The Nazis, at this point, wanted to provide full employment for all German citizens; to abolish income from interest (as with Islam!); to confiscate all war profits; to nationalise all trusts; to share profits with labour; to increase pensions in old age; to ‘communalise’ the department stores (whatever that actually meant); to execute ‘usurers’ (they went further than Islam); and to end all child labour.
So, all in all, we can sum up the Nazis and their platform of this period in very SWP-sounding terms. The Nazi Party was anti-capitalist, anti-liberal and anti-conservative. Let’s not mince words here. We'll use some more SWP-speak. The Nazis wanted to abolish, or perhaps rise above, all class differences. And Hitler had only one thing to say on the Nazi platform of this period. He wrote:
‘We have endeavoured to depart from the external, the superficial, endeavoured to forget social origin, class, profession, fortune, education, capital and everything that separates men, in order to reach that which binds them together."
Of course the SWP will immediately say to this, rather facilely, that Hitler 'was only talking about Germans here’ and then pick out some rather insignificant details of dogma, theory and doctrine in order to facilitate the false impression that even in this early period of Hitler’s career, contemporary SWP-ers would have still been profoundly at odds with the man and his Nazi Party.
There was another Nazi theorist, other than Feder, who was a thoroughly socialist nationalist. His name was Gregor Strasser. He was, in fact, a rival to Hitler, but not in terms of ideology, more in terms of political power. He too was explicitly and blatantly anti-capitalist. He once wrote:
"We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibly and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens."
Unlike the Feder and Hitler passages quoted earlier, which contain little hints that such Nazi exhortations had slightly suspect elements (such as race), this passage should be seen as faultless by the contemporary members of the SWP. It is pure Marxism, never mind pure socialism.
There were many other hints, or I should say giveaways, that the ‘socialism’ in ‘National Socialism’ was never just an afterthought or a means of ingratiating the Nazi Party with the German working class.
For example, rather than ‘black then red’, the Nazis were red in the first place – literally. Hitler himself explained the choice of the colour red in Nazi literature, posters, etc. In Mein Kampf he wrote:
"We chose red for our posters after particular and careful deliberation… so as to arouse their [socialists'] attention and tempt them to come to our meetings… so that in this way we got a chance of talking to the people. In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of Aryan man."
In the first three sentences of this extract, it admittedly seems that Hitler is rather deviously attempting to hoodwink ‘genuine’ socialists into joining the Nazi Party. He talks of ‘careful deliberation’, ‘arousing’ socialists, and ‘tempting them to come to our meetings’. But this only sounds cynical if you have been brainwashed into thinking that nationalism and socialism can never go together and that the whole socialist aspect of the Nazis was basically a fraud – even in the beginning.
But Hitler was simply and sincerely saying, to the ‘genuine’ socialists, that socialism and nationalism can indeed work together. Ironically, earlier and latter communist Governments believed exactly the same thing. For example, didn’t Stalin, Mao and even Lenin fuse socialism and nationalism (Lenin less so than Stalin)? So that fusion was in the air at this time – it seemed entirely natural (at least to many). In that sense, it wasn’t a fusion at all. To many at that time (but not to us in 2011), socialism and nationalism were fused from the very beginning.
It doesn’t take a genius, however, to see that Hitler strays into suspect territory in the second half of the passage above when he talks explicitly about nationalism and, of course, ‘the mission of the Aryan man’. This should not be that odd to contemporary leftists in the sense that, say, SWP Leftism is itself worlds apart not from Nazism, but other versions of communism, such as Stalinism, Maoism, and even the more acceptable (to the SWP) versions such as Trotsky’s original position, or Che Guevara-ism, or Castroism.
Indeed the SWP could never square up with any version of communism precisely because of these socialist and communist fusions with nationalism, statism and often even with plain racism. Thus the SWP retains a purity of spirit and practice which can only ever be maintained by a party which has never had state power or contributed to a successful revolution. Thus it is no big thing when a party with no real success slags off all those actual instantiations of communism which either failed outright or committed sins just as bad as, or worse than, any capitalist state ever did.
Like the Islamists, and other religious sects in the past, the Trotskyite SWP offers something pure and perfect, though it never of course states this in ‘utopian’ terms, which is easy to do from a position of a complete lack of power outside the cultural spheres (where SWP are indeed quite prevalent and pernicious).
To get back to our theme of socialist nationalism, or nationalist socialism.
The socialist, indeed often Marxist, timbre of (early) National Socialism was almost complete. For example, all party members, both male and female, were referred to as ‘comrades’. Again, it may seem cynical, but only because we see it from the prism of SWP (and other) Leftist propaganda which deny all these real similarities of detail and of ideology. Hitler, therefore, admits again that he’s after the communists. He wanted to appeal to the ‘class-conscious proletarians’ (another Marxist term) who fought against the ‘monarchist, reactionary agitation with the fists of the proletariat’. Again, Hitler was not attempting to hoodwink the real socialists, or communists, but to convince them that socialism and nationalism are a happy duo.
In short, then, the problem was not Hitler’s deceit of the communists, or the fake socialism of the Nazi Party, but that the communists and the socialist nationalists were fighting to control the same people and the same political territories; just like, say, the fights between the SWP and Workers' Liberty or the SWP and the Communist Party (or UAF and Hope Not Hate).
Pathetic and petty doctrinal differences between the SWP and these alternatives are of course stressed. (Indeed I once heard once that Martin Smith punched a fellow leftist in the gut because he misinterpreted a single sentence in an obscure early work by Trotsky. Then again, it doesn’t take much to make a violent man, such as Martin Smith, violent. In fact, if Smiffy wasn’t a Trot, he’d be, well, a Nazi… or an Islamist!)
If it were truly purely doctrinal, as with the Nazis and the Communists, the violence and the rancour would never reach such high levels. That is, it was all about power in the case of the Nazis and the Commies; just as it is all about power when it comes to the battles between the commies and the Trots (the SWP, etc.) today. (Actually, Workers' Liberty and the SWP are both Trotskyist groups, which shows us how narrow the doctrinal positions must be. It also shows us how fierce the battles can be between even tiny groups vying for the same political or social space.) After all, no one fights over the correct answer to a difficult equation, or over the exact date when Napoleon died. Nor even over past or present ideological or philosophical differences that have no political, social or moral import today. Perhaps Foucault was right. It’s all about ‘the will to power’. All the rest is simply window dressing, at least in our cases of the Commies and the Nazis, as well as the SWP and the Commies (along with Workers Liberty).
The Nazis and the SWP and the Jews
The SWP will tell us, and tell us again, that Hitler hated the communists. He did. But why did he hate them? Importantly, he didn’t hate communism because of its positions on political economics and certainly not because they hated the bourgeoisie and wanted to destroy capitalism – as we have seen. Hitler’s reasons were more particular than that. Apart from the previously mentioned fact that the commies and Nazis were fighting over the same political bone, and the well-known political fact that similar political groups tend to hate each other just as virulently as groups which are very different, Hitler saw Communism as a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ (just as the Islamists did some time later).
However, even this doesn’t secure a distance from the SWP when you consider the newish hatred the SWP and the far left has developed for the Jews, along with the Left's own Jewish conspiracies – the Zionist Lobby and whatnot.
Not only that. Hitler also made the mistake which many SWP and other far leftists often make – especially when perusing the names of important and wealthy ‘Jews’ in the United States. Hitler noted the Jewish-sounding names of the communists and the socialists, sometimes he got it right; often he got it wrong. From that infantile investigation Hitler concluded that there was a Jewish conspiracy going down; just as the SWP and others wrongly conclude that certain ‘neo-cons’ and ‘neo-liberals’ in the US are Jewish. (And, of course, the Islamists, part of this Trinity of Evil, also make these mistakes; as the fanatically anti-Jewish MPACUK did with Lorna Fitzsimons, former Labour MP for Rochdale, by claiming she was Jewish and thus not to be trusted by Rochdale’s Muslims!)
Since we are on the subject of Zionism and the SWP. As is now well known, even amongst some leftists, Stalin was also an anti-Semite. Not only that. The Soviet Union was also anti-Semitic as a matter of policy. So much so that ‘zionology’, the study of Zionism, etc., made its mark firstly in the Soviet Union. Anti-Semitism, amongst the Russian Communists, inevitably ended in persecution and death. In fact that’s precisely why many Russian Jews ended up in Israel after 1945.
Jews, then, not only escaped the Nazis, or escaped Europe post-1945, and ended up in Israel; Jews also escaped the Russian communists and ended up in Israel. Jews today are also escaping IslamoNazi anti-Semitism in Holland and other European countries and are heading to Israel. And when they get there, they feel the wrath of not only IslamoNazis in Palestine, but also the wrath of anti-Semitic far leftists all over Europe and the United States.
But forget Hitler again. Karl Marx was himself an anti-Semite, as well as a Jew. There is no logical contradiction here because Marx was ‘a Jew only on his parents’ side’, as someone once put it. That is, apart from heritage and, dare I say, race/ethnicity, Marx was not really a Jew at all. Just like Chomsky - another Jew only in name (which sells and justifies his anti-Semitism) and only on ‘his parents’ side’. So anti-Semitism comes easily to him. After all, in what sense is Chomsky (and Marx) Jewish? He wants the destruction of Israel. He is not Jewish religiously. Even culturally he has no Jewish baggage any more (except for his heritage). So he’s only Jewish in the racial sense. And, as the far left keeps on telling us, race does not matter. Thus Chomsky, the ‘Jew’, is not, in fact, a Jew. So just as Marx used phrases like ‘dirty Jews’ and ‘the nigger-like Jew’ (two racisms for the price of one!), so Chomsky, in leftist fashion, would probably say things like ‘dirty Zionists’ or ‘money-mad and power-crazy Zionists’. Again, the far left and the Nazis just merge into each other yet again!
The point is that the far left, and the SWP, hasn’t even got anti-anti-Semitism to differentiate itself from the Nazis. Take my point about anti-Semitic Jews again. Take the example of the communist and half-Jewish radical Ruth Fischer. What did this commie think of the Jews? This:
"Whoever cries out against Jewish capitalists is already a class warrior, even when he does not know it… Kick down the Jewish capitalists, hang them from the lampposts, and stamp upon them."
(This commie half-Jew ended up as a leading light in the East German Communist government.)
So just as this commie successfully fused anti-Semitism with a seemingly bona fide anti-capitalism (bona fide to leftists), so the SWP successfully fuses anti-Semitism with, well, anti-Zionism. That is, they pretend that their anti-Semitism is in fact only anti-Zionism, despite the hundreds of coincidences and bits of evidence which point to the fact that this is pure bullshit on their part.