The Nazis Were Leftists
by Adam Young
On May 6, 2001, The New York Times published the results of a poll of 1,000 Germans conducted between April 25th and 26th by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. This survey found that 60% of Germans feel neither guilt nor responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and that 80% believed that only a small minority of Germans are actually anti-Semitic. 45% flatly said they were fed up hearing about the crimes of National Socialism and are tired of being judged in relation to the Holocaust. 68% of the respondents said Germans could use a little more national pride, and while 61% agreed with the statement that one should not always poke around in the old wounds of the Nazi era, 85% agreed that discussions about the Third Reich remain necessary to learn from the past.
However, as the AP put it, "a full 46% said Nazism had not only bad but good sides, and 28% said Hitler would have been a great statesman had he not instigated World War II and the Holocaust."One can almost imagine the staff of the New York Times shaking their heads that these Germans just won't learn.
Yet, by the standards of the Left – the measurements of the Leftish world community who define "progress" and the inevitable u2018direction' of history – Adolf Hitler would've been deemed a "great statesman" had he died before he started the war (or had won it too). Its sometimes said that if Hitler had died in 1938, he would've been the greatest German who ever lived (if one chooses to measure greatness by the amount of land and number of people under one man's thumb).
For those Germans who believe Nazism had a good side, namely socialism/interventionism in the name of the common man, conclude this to be "good" because this same interventionism is the foundational principle of today's social morality. In the Nazi regime was present the same trends of political, economic and social interventionism and centralization that are lauded by today's social elites and are the object of all governments and political parties before and since.
Since the Germans surveyed are basing this belief on the pre-war Nazi era of 1933-1939, it would be helpful to take a closer look at this period. In the post-war Weimar Republic in order to counterbalance the Reichstag, the President of Germany was given broad powers – he was directly elected, could make treaties and alliances, was supreme commander of the armed forces, and could dissolve the Reichstag and submit any of its laws to a referendum, and under the infamous Article 48, he had the power to suspend civil and political liberties "in case of emergency." This was done in 1933 and remained the basis of Hitler's "legality" throughout the Nazi period when he succeeded Hindenburg as president in 1934. Hitler occupied both the Presidency and the Chancellorship and their powers were combined into the "office" of Fuhrer. The Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which transfered to the Cabinet the Reichstags' legislative functions.
Decrees abolished the states parliaments or diets, abolished their flags and symbols and reduced them to provincial status and mere administrative divisions of the central government. Where are efforts like this happening today one might ask? With the stabilization of the regime came the sprawling tentacles of the state octopus – an alphabet-soup of executive administrative agencies – 42 in all (which, by the way as of 1992, the United States government has 52 such executive agencies). And in addition to these 42 agencies were the regular Cabinet, the Secret Cabinet Council, the Reich Defense Council and its many working committees; the Ministry of Education, the Office of the Deputy Fuhrer, the Office of the Plenipotentiary of War Economy and the Office of the Plenipotentiary of Administration, the Office of the Delegate for the Four Year Plan, both a Ministry of Finance and a Ministry of Economics and so on and on and on. Where does this sound familiar?
In 1933 Germany had an estimated 6 million unemployed, and like his contemporaries in the capitals and governments of the world – and like so many politicians today – Hitler had little interest in economics and in fact was totally ignorant of economic theory. But, although economic centralization had to wait until political opponents and organized opposition was suppressed or liquidated, the Nazi's "New Deal" began almost immediately.
For instance, in October 1933, Hitler declared that "the ruin of the German peasant will be the ruin of the German people." New farm programs were instated along with propaganda about "Blut and Bloden." Hitler appointed as head of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture Walther Darre who in 1929 published a book "The Peasantry as the Life Source of the Nordic Race." Darre wished to "reform" the production and marketing of food and to raise prices for farmers. Darre's entire program was designed with one objective in mind: to insulate the peasant farmer from the market. To this end Darre issued the Hereditary Farm Law in 1933, which had the purpose of preventing forclosure on or the sale of farmland – at the expense of the peasant farmers liberty. This "law" established that only Aryan Germans who could prove the purity of their bloodline back to 1800 could own a farm. All farms up to 308 acres were declared hereditary estates – they could not be sold, divided, mortgaged or foreclosed on for debt. With the death of its present owner it would pass to his nearest male relative, who in turn was obligated to provide an income and education for his relatives. The peasant farmer was called a "bauer" or peasant, an "honored title" that he forfeited if he broke the "peasant honor code," that is, if he stopped farming.
To compliment this the Reich Food Estate was established to regulate the conditions and production of the farmers. Its vast bureacracy enforced regulations that touched all areas of the farmers life and his food production, processing and marketing, and was headed by Darre himself as "Reich Peasant Leader." The Reich Food Estate had two goals: to jack up agricultural prices and to make Germany "self-sufficient in food." Darre arbitrarily fixed the prices of agricultural products: within the first two years of the regime, wholesale prices rose 20 percent, and for cattle, vegetables and dairy products the rise was even steeper. But the farming sector is not exempt; the additional costs of these artificial prices were passed on to all consumers. Where is there a country in the world where public opinion doesn't support farm subsidies and regulatory controls?
For its first year the regime concentrated on a program of government grants of loan credit and stimulus bills for public works, such as road building and forrestation, and "targeted tax cuts" to enterprises that increased capital expenditure and increased their number of employees. But from 1934 onward, the implementation of the Wehrwirtschaft, or war economy, became the model, to which business and labor were subordinated and which was designed to function not just in time of war, but in the period before war began. The economy of total war was based on rearmament – the construction and maintenance of an enormous war machine, to which all of society was subordinated. To do this the regime resorted to inflation. Hjalmar Schacht, the Minister of Economics, printed Reichmarks, manipulated their official exchange value so that at one time it was estimated by contemporary economists to have 237 different official values, arranged barter deals with foreign governments, and invented financial instruments which were issued by the central bank and "guaranteed" by the government, and which were kept "off-budget" to pay for rearmament. German banks were required to accept them and they were discounted by the central bank. The Minister of Finance explained to Hitler that these were merely a way of "printing money." In 1936, Goering's Four Year Plan was inaugurated and which made Goering, almost as ignorant about economics as Hitler, Germany's economic dictator. In the drive for a total war economy, protectionism was decreed and autarchy the desire – the so-called "Battle of Production." Consumer imports were nearly eliminated, price and wage controls were enacted, vast state projects were built to manufacture raw materials. The bureacratization of the economy necessarily followed suit. Walther Funk, who replaced Walther Schacht as Minister of Economics in 1937, admitted that "official communications now make up more than one half of a German Manufacturer's entire correspondence" and that "Germany's export trade involves 40,000 separate transactions daily; yet for a single transaction as many as forty different forms must be filled out." Are there any doctors and physicians reading this who find it sounds familiar?
Businessmen and entrepreneurs were smothered by red tape, told by the state what they could produce and how much and at what price, burdened by taxation and forced to make "special contributions" to the party. Corporations below a capitalization of $40,000 were dissolved and the founding of any below a capitalization of $2,000,000 was forbidden, which wiped out a fifth of all German businesses. The cartelization of industry – which began before the Nazi regime – was made compulsory and the Ministry of Economics was empowered to form new compulsory cartels or to force firms to join existing ones. The maze of business and trade associations created to lobby the Weimar Republic for various considerations in the law, now under the Nazis were nationalized and made compulsory for all businesses. The Reich Economic Chamber was established on top of all these associations and consisted of seven national economic groups, twenty-three economic chambers, seventy chambers of handicrafts and one hundred chambers of industry and commerce. From these bureacracies, and the numerous offices and agencies of the Ministry of Economics and the Office of the Four Year Plan rained down a flood of decrees and laws, which in turn created for businesses the need on the one hand for lawyers and a legal department to understand these rules, and on the other, for a systematic regime of bribing officials.
Then in february 1935 all employment came under the exclusive control of government employment offices which determined who would work where and for how much. And on June 22, 1938, the Office of the Four Year Plan instituted guaranteed employment by conscripting labor. Every German worker was assigned a position from which he could not be released by the employer, nor could he switch jobs, without permission of the government employment office. Worker absenteeism was met with fines or imprisonment. All in the name of job security. A popular Nazi slogan at the time was "the Common Interest before Self!" Does all this sound familiar in any "western democracy" today?
And in his foreward to the 1936 German language edition of his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes wrote: "The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire."
Social life too, was centralized by the Reich. Under the organization "Strength through Joy" the leisure time of the people was regimented. Recreational life – everything from chess and soccer clubs to bird watching to adult education, to the theatre, opera, and music concerts – no organized social, sport or recreational group was allowed to function without the oversight of the state. Besides the social costs of not trusting in people to be able to look after themselves, there were the enormous costs of this vast bureacracy that policed the private activites of the citizens.
Local traditions were attacked and eliminated, private firearms were outlawed and confiscated, and the amalgamation of the various Christian Churches and the elimination of Christian symbols from public places and schools was attempted. Education too came under central control under the Reich Minister of Education, which designed the curriculum, rewrote textbooks, and licensed teachers.
Last but not least, and perhaps the Nazis' true unspoken legacy, is their doctrine of collective guilt which is now so fashionable to deploy not only against the Germans themselves, but also against Catholics and against both Palestinians and Jews alike, and against Muslims and so many others. And which is the basis for the claim of reparations for black slavery, and has been most recently used against the Serbs as well as the Chinese. Collective guilt has returned as central state policy in relation to official victim groups and their alleged victimizers and has become the central feature of political ethics debates today.
Reinhardt Stiebler, president and co-founder of the Liberale Akademie Berlin, a German libertarian think-tank, commented on today's Germany: "… everyone assumes that all political questions are to be settled within political circles. Even the idea of providing private solutions to a problem is virtually unknown." He traces this to "the Enlightenment [which in Germany] was not so much an era when the idea of liberty was advanced but rather a time of Enlightened Absolutism. The idea was that we should have a brilliant leader and a highly educated bureaucratic class that would govern society with no egoistic intentions. This thinking, which survives to this day, eventually led to the political economy of the Third Reich."
In Germany, Britain, France, and the United States, amongst so many others, we still hear the same old calls for protectionism, for national development and "national policies," for price controls and wage and farm subsidies, greater central control over and funding for education, wealth redistributionism schemes and moral justifications, and the resolute maintenance of a war economy in peacetime. We see that what all these so-called progressive causes lead to is social waste, grief and mounting anger.
Ludwig von Mises reminded us in Human Action, and he would know, was that the Nazis used "Jewish" as a synonym for "capitalist." What these 46% of Germans who said that Nazism had not only bad but good sides – and indeed vast majorities in all nations – don't see is that it is these very same so-called good policies – which put "people before profits" – that inevitabily result in the drive to war and total control. The latter necessitates the former as the inevitable proposed remedy for economic decline and impending collapse.
It is unfortunate that the 85% of Germans who believe that it is necessary to learn from the past have not learned the true lessons. But what is even more tragic is that citizens of the countries that conquered the National Socialist German Workers "paradise" have also not learned those lessons from the past and are advocating the same Nazi ideas that lead to – and will lead to – so much evil: conscription, militarism and war, increasing centralization and government control of the economy and the private lives of all citizens, belligerent nationalism, ethnic demagoguery, foreign adventurism and occupation.
Adam Young [send him mail] is studying computer science in Ontario, Canada. His articles have appeared in Ideas on Liberty, Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, The Free Market and Pravda (Yes…THAT Pravda). Note: an earlier version of this article appeared in the September 2001 issue of The Free Market.
© 2001 LewRockwell.com