For the past few days, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been filled with assertions from some – mostly from the right, most of whom have no sympathies for Nazis or their ideology whatsoever – that Nazis were actually leftists. It seems that some have become obsessed with trying to prove that, because the Nazi Party’s full name was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, Nazis are actually on the left of the political spectrum. They usually do this by taking the word ‘socialist’, pointing out that socialism is a left-wing ideology, and thus using it to ‘prove’ that the Nazis were actually left-wing.
There are, of course, some major problems with this assertion.
First, the socialism of the Nazis is much different than the socialism that we think of today. They arrested thousands for ‘illegal socialist activity’. One of their party platforms was to defend against a feared communist uprising, and their persecution of communists is well-documented.
Instead, their version of socialism was giving benefits and jobs to ethnic Germans in order to benefit the German race while hurting others.
Second, their views on race and German nationalism, which included excluding anyone they didn’t consider racially pure, were far from being left-wing. That shouldn’t need much more explaining.
It is worth noting that neo-Nazis today are not even trying to advance socialism, the word that many turn to when trying to claim that the Nazis were leftists. They are focused on the second point, racial purity, and are trying to advance toxic racial politics with the goal of persecuting and eliminating Jews and people of color in order to create a ‘pure’ white society.
Today, it is undeniable that neo-Nazis are on the far-right. Their positions on people of color, immigrants, and Jews are identical to the KKK, which nobody would consider a left-wing group. They rally in support of Confederate monuments, and their leaders are vocal in their support of American right-wing politics, specifically in their support of Donald Trump. They named their infamous Charlottesville rally ‘Unite the Right’, and identify themselves as part of the alt-right movement.
This, of course, does not mean that they are anywhere within the mainstream of the right-wing or represent a majority, or even a significant minority, of the conservative movement in America. They don’t. They are an extremely small but vocal minority. Yet I feel it necessary to post this because lately I have seen the claim that Nazis and their supporters today are leftists popping up more and more in my newsfeeds. They aren’t, and in order to confront this problem, it’s important to recognize this fact rather than try to blame the other side.
Blaming neo-Nazis on the left does not serve to help the problem, nor does comparing them to Antifa or any other violent left-wing group. Republicans must make clear that they are not welcome in the mainstream conservative movement, and that racism, anti-Semtism, and all other forms of hatred and bigotry have no place in our political discourse.