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Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Liberal Fascism Quote #6

Emphasis, where present, is mine and in bold:
This is the monumental fact of the Nazi rise to power that has been slowly airbrushed from our collective memories: the Nazis campaigned as socialists. Yes, they were also nationalists, which in the context of the 1930s was considered a rightist position, but this was at a time when the "internationalism" of the Soviet Union defined all nationalisms as right-wing. Surely we've learned from the parade of horribles on offer in the twentieth century that nationalism isn't inherently right-wing--unless we're prepared to call Stalin, Castro, Arafat, Chavez, Guevara, Pol Pot, and, for that matter, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, right-wingers. Stalin himself ruled as a nationalist, invoking "mother Russia" and dubbing World War II the "great patriotic war." By 1943 he had even replaced the old Communist anthem ("The Internationale") with one that was thoroughly Russian. Moreover, historically, nationalism was a liberal-left phenomenon. The French Revolution was a nationalist revolution, but it was also seen as a left-liberal one for breaking with the Catholic Church and empowering the people. German Romanticism as championed by Gottfried Herder and others was seen as both nationalistic and liberal. The National Socialist movement was part of this revolutionary tradition.

But even if Nazi nationalism was in some ill-defined but fundamental way right-wing, this only meant that Nazism was right-wing socialism. And right-wing socialists are still socialists. Most of the Bolshevik revolutionaries Stalin executed were accused of being not conservatives or monarchists but rightists--that is, right-wing socialists. Any deviation from the Soviet line was automatic proof of rightism. Ever since, we in the West have apishly mimicked the Soviet usage of such terms without questioning the propagandistic baggage attached.

The Nazi ideologist--and Hitler rival--Gregor Strasser put it quite succinctly: "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 responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens!"

Hitler is just as straightforward in Mein Kampf. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Nazis' deliberate exploitation of socialist and communist imagery, rhetoric, and ideas and how this marketing confused both liberals and communists. The most basic example is the Nazi use of the color red, which was firmly associated with Bolshevism and socialism. "We chose red for our posters after particular and careful as to arouse their attention and tempt them to come to our that in this way we got a chance of talking to the people." The Nazi flag--a black swastika inside a white disk in a sea of red--was explicitly aimed at attracting communists. "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."

The Nazis borrowed whole sections from the communist playbook. Party members--male and female--were referred to as comrades. Hitler recalls how his appeals to "class-conscious proletarians" who wanted to strike out against the "monarchist, reactionary agitation with the fists of the proletariat" were successful in drawing countless communists to their meetings. Sometimes the communists came with orders to smash up the place. But the Reds often refused to riot on command because they had been won over to the National Socialist cause. In short, the battle between the Nazis and the communists was a case of two dogs fighting for the same bone.

Nazism's one -nation politics by its very definition appealed to people from all walks of life. Professors, students, and civil servants were all disproportionately supportive of the Nazi cause. But it's important to get a
sense of the kind of person who served as the rank-and-file Nazi, the young, often thuggish true believers who fought in the streets and dedicated themselves to the revolution. Patrick Leigh Fermor, a young Briton traveling in Germany shortly after Hitler came to power, met some of these men in a Rhineland workers' pub, still wearing their night-shift overalls. One of his new drinking buddies offered to let Fermor crash at his house for the night. When Fermore climbed the ladder to the attic to sleep in a guest bed, he found "a shrine to Hitleriana":
The walls were covered with flags, photographs, posters, slogans and emblems. His SA uniforms hung neatly ironed on a hanger...When I said that it must be rather claustrophobic with all that stuff on the walls, he laughed and sat down on the bed, and said: "Mensch! You should have seen it last year! You would have laughed! Then it was all red flags, stars, hammers, sickles, pictures of Lenin and Stalin and Workers of the World Unite!...Then, suddenly when Hitler came to power, I understood it was all nonsense and lies. I realized Adolf was the man for me. All of a sudden!" He snapped his fingers in the air. "And here I am"...Had a lot of people done the same, then? "Millions! I tell you, I was astonished how easily they all changed sides!"

What distinguished Nazism from other brands of socialism and communism was not so much that it included more aspects from the political right (though there were some). What distinguished Nazism was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics. This was what distinguished Nazism from doctrinaire communism, and it seems hard to argue that the marriage of one leftist vision to another can somehow produce right-wing progeny.


...what Hitler hated about Marxism and communism had almost nothing to do with those aspects of communism that we would consider relevant, such as economic doctrine or the need to destroy the capitalists and bourgeoisie. In these areas Hitler largely saw eye to eye with socialists and communists. His hatred stemmed from his paranoid conviction that the people calling themselves communists were in fact in on a foreign, Jewish conspiracy. He says this over and over again in Mein Kampf He studied the names of communists and socialists, and if they sounded Jewish, that's all he needed to know. It was all a con job, a ruse, to destroy Germany. Only "authentically" German ideas from authentic Germans could be trusted. And when those Germans, like Feder or STrasser, proposed socialist ideas straight out of the Marxist playbook, he had virtually no objection whatsoever.

[mother of all snips]

The communist ideologue Karl Radek...noted as early as 1923 that "Fascism is middle-class Socialism and we cannot persuade the middle classes to abandon it until we can prove to them that it only makes their condition worse."
Of all the things that I occasionally write about, few seem to elicit the negative reaction that noting that fascism is just a variety of socialism does. Leftists seem reluctant, for some reason, to embrace the idea that they own, ideologically speaking, both the murderous monstrosities of the twentieth century, communism and fascism. They'll continually tell you that communism is of the far left, but conservatives shouldn't get all cocky, as fascism/Nazism is conservatism run amok. I guess this makes them feel better, but it is ahistorical nonsense all the same.

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