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ETpro's avatar

Was fascism under the Nazis a left or right-wing movement?

Asked by ETpro (34428points) November 16th, 2012

Some might assume there is nothing to discuss in this question, but far-right elements in both US and international politics beg to differ. They insist that because the Nazi Party had the word “Socialist” in its name, and because Fascism grew out of a trade unionist movement in Italy around the end of the 19th century, Nazism is thus a left-wing movement.

Should you doubt that there is such a controversy, take a look at this Q&A thread on Yahoo! Questions. It presents arguments on both sides. Also, in its section on Fascism’s positioning within the political spectrum, the Wikipedia article on Fascism does it’s best to give a fair accounting of both sides. So, left-wing or right?

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22 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Left/right breaks down pretty quickly. The Political Compass, despite its shortcomings, at least breaks out the left/right (economic) and authoritarian/libertarian (social) into something that makes sense (to me).

They put Hitler here.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’ve always thought of it as right wing, but I guess any kind of extremist behavior doesn’t really need a label. Wrong is wrong.

bookish1's avatar

Augh ahistorical America. This is what happens when history is an optional class in high school, and public schools teach to the test of mathnscience.

How could the Nazis be on the left when their sworn ideological and racial enemy was the Slavic Soviets??? So many Communists were killed fighting the Nazis, in the Red Army and as Resistance fighters throughout Europe. Communists were the first people to be deported or locked up when the Nazis rolled into town. (But the same people who would call Nazism a leftist movement either don’t know this, or don’t care, and think that Nazi Germany was defeated by the U.S…. in fact it was defeated because of getting stalled on the Eastern Front by the Red Army, who suffered massive casualties…)

The NSDAP had the word “Socialist” in the name because they were trying to be everything to everyone (except racial inferiors, of course.) The Nazi Seizure of Power is an excellent case study of a single German town, that shows how the Nazis worked at the local level to appeal to workers, professionals, intellectuals, nationalists, etc.. It also has descriptions of Nazi vs. Communist street brawls!

tedd's avatar

Pretty clearly right wing.

Not sure how that’s even up for debate.

zenvelo's avatar

And they forget that Trade Unions were banned in Nazi Germany except for the German Labor Front. Like everything else, the Nazi’s co-opted the labor movement, and then set up a system with typical “benefits” for workers which seemingly recognized the value of Labor but installed a system of obedience, no dissension, and required the expression of satisfaction, all under threat of being unemployed or, worse, arrested for being a troublemaker.

ragingloli's avatar

They were clearly right wing.
Pro-traditional family values, anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-union, militaristic, and christian.
Oh sure, they had “socialist” in their name, but East Germany had “democratic” and “republic” in their name as well.

bookish1's avatar

Also, that line of “reasoning,” that if Italian fascism developed out of trade union movements, then all systems which we now currently call fascism must be left wing, is simply flawed logic. It is ahistorical. Historians have been debating for decades if there is even a unified ideology that we can call fascism, and also whether it is most appropriate to refer to Nazism as “totalitarian” or “fascist,” and what both of those terms mean.

If that were a student’s thesis, I would give it a C- and tell them to thank their lucky stars.

Kropotkin's avatar

I think if we were to recreate the French National Assembly, the fascists would probably find more affinity with the monarchists, traditionalists and reactionaries sat on the right, rather than the radicals and reformers sat on the left, that fascists were murdering through the 30s and 40s.

josie's avatar

Europeans ran to right wing fascists to get away from the left wing communists.
But either way, the Nazis were statists, and statists these days are considered left.
The original liberals would have been horrified at the power that modern American liberals have given up to central government. It’s all historical moment and context.

Ron_C's avatar

Nazism in Germany was called the National Socialist Party. I’m not sure why they put socialist in their name because they hated and finally destroyed the communist party in their country and outlawed trade unions.

In fact the party was fascist (authoritarian) for the citizens and socialist for corporations. A totalitarian dictatorship rang the country but provided financial support and slave labor to corporations.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

It was a Right Wing movement. Let the NeoCon revisionists write what they want. This tactic of extablishing new meanings to words and history and then smearing the enemy with it is one of their favorite tactics. It’s old and everyone should be onto to it by now.

flutherother's avatar

I don’t think of extreme authoritarian governments as being left or right wing. Was Stalin left wing? Was Hitler right wing? This kind of regime is not governed by ideology so much as the whims of a maladjusted individual. Who knows what madness they might think up.

ucme's avatar

Neither, they were just fucking mentalists.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The political diagram, as taught to me in the 8th grade by Jesuits, is a circle. At the top center are moderates, Left and Right go in opposite directions from there. Midway down at the sides are the extremes of Communism at the left and Fascism at the right. At the bottom they both meet at totalitarianism. Stalin was a Communist; far left. Hitler was a Fascist; far right. They both became totalitarian nearly indistinct from each other under two different ideologies. That diagram has always made sense to me.

Linda_Owl's avatar

The Nazis were definitively RIGHT-WING CONSERVATIVE & anti-labor union & super patriotic (if you were not FOR them – then you were AGAINST them & if you were against them, you did not live for very long). The Nazis took the Eugenics Movement to the next level, trying their best to get rid of anyone who was deemed ‘unfit’ to survive, like the mentally ill, the homosexual individuals, the retarded individuals, any one who was NOT of Germanic descent!

Blondesjon's avatar

@josie . . . well put

Jussange's avatar

T’was a “revolutionary” centrist doctrine that took from both ends of the spectrum. Frankly, I wonder how it would have turned out if fascism was not led by Militant/Imperialistic individuals but rather those with Isolationism or a more peaceful ideology. It’s unfortunate that we’re unlikely to ever to really see this as the consequences of pigheaded selfish shortsighted leaders of post World Fuck Up (War) One saw to it to grow a bitter and desperate nation out of Germany

ETpro's avatar

@tom_g Thanks for the link. It provides some interesting ideas. The lower graphic, the International Chart near the bottom of the page, is particularly interesting. Despite all the American right’s caterwauling about Barack Obama being a commie who is going to build FEMA prison camps for the “real” Americans and put the UN’s nonexistent Army in charge of rounding up all their guns, it rates Obama as just slightly less right-wing and authoritarian then Mitt Romney.

Perhaps Friedrich Hayek’s triangle approach has some merit. He says that it’s not proper to view left and right as opposite ends of a political continuum. Instead of viewing right and left as opposite ends of a line, he places right-wing conservatives and left-wing socialists on two opposing corners of a triangle, and liberals at the third corner.

ETpro's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Hitler was most definitely wrong.

@bookish1 Indeed. Stalin actually wanted to forge an alliance with Germany, and Hitler must have known that with Russia on hos side for the time being, the Western front would be a cakewalk for the German blitzkrieg. But his visceral hatred of the idea of a worker’s party and collectivism just wouldn’t let him be rational about the matter.

@tedd Thanks. That’s certainly where I’d put them. I can see how one might argue that right and left as currently understood are not an exact match for the Nazis, but to argue they were leftists is absurd.

Paradox25's avatar

I don’t like typical political scale compasses, such as libertarianism equaling maximum freedom and authoritarianism equaling losing ‘freedom’. The term freedom really is a subjective term so I won’t go there, but this excellent article will give you the most accurate answer to your question. At their cores rightism is statist and leftism is antistatist, but of course we’re leaving out all of the complication that really comes with trying to define political terms.

cazzie's avatar

The idealistic manifestos with titles like ‘Marxism’ and ‘Fascism’ and ‘Democracy’ are never implemented nor function as advertised because humans are 1.Lazy 2. Greedy and 3.Stupid. We give these purified labels to dynamic situations in history that belittle the complexity and actual events, people and sacrifice and usually loads of DEATH.

Did the Nazi’s call themselves Fascists? Perhaps some, but they called their party ‘Socialist’ because it was the historical name of the party Hitler rose to power in and a rotten piece of fish would stink anyway, even if you called it a rose.

The Italian Fascists were made up of the wealthy class. If you have not watched the film ‘1900’ I recommend you do. It is very hard going and I puked at one stage, but the events depicted are important to remember. Essentially, Communism was making headway and workers were starting to organise and strike for rights and better pay. To counter the trend, the wealthy land owners joined the fascist party and used bullying and terrorising tactics to try to ‘keep the peasants’ in their place. Italy had always been run by large family groups in a Feudal System. At one point in Italy’s history, the Pope himself took the entire Papacy to France, because these battling rich families were out of control.

cazzie's avatar

@Linda_Owl I think I wrote about this before, but you bring up the eugenics and breeding of an ‘German Race’... it wasn’t actually ‘German’ the Nazis were after. They came to Norway, literally looking for ‘breeding stock’. My husband has a relative (a brother of a woman who married his mother’s brother… so, ... I guess you would call him my husband’s aunt’s brother.) He was taken to Germany with a group of men and women and told ‘These are our plans for you. You will choose to participate or you will choose to die.’ To a person, they decided that being killed was the better option, and they were. The Nazis believed (still do) in the superiority of what they call an ‘Arian’ race of people. Norse and Germanic mythology fed into this belief and they believed that the purer ‘Arian’ could be found in Norway or Sweden. Sick sick sick.

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