Why can't a communist be a nationalist?

worth talking about

A conservative British MP is causing a tumult in the EU Parliament because he claims that National Socialism is basically a left-wing ideology. Outrage everywhere. But also approval. How does he come to such a claim and how is that to be classified? I will try to answer this question in the following blog post.

The scandal in the EU Parliament was not the first on the subject. In right-wing discussion forums on Facebook, for example, this argument that Nazis are leftists is often used. In this abbreviation and in the context of the meaning of being right and left in 2018, that is nonsense. But it makes use of historical truths, but arbitrarily places them in a different context of meaning. That provokes some and gets caught in others. You can also call it disinformation.

National Socialists and left revolutionaries of the 20s and 30s

This is how the left taz becomes popular with the right. Ironically, people who think right-wing nationalist or right-wing extremists, people who otherwise like to cite BILD and Junge Freiheit as evidence, use a link to the taz from 2003 when they want to “prove” that National Socialism was a left ideology. There Joachim Fest writes: "In Italy in the 1920s and 1930s there were still traditional class differences, while Hitler, like the socialists of all shades, pushed for social conformity." A little further in the text, he names the similarities between Trotskyists and communists , Socialists and National Socialists of the 20s and 30s of the last century: They wanted to fundamentally change the existing system. And he also formulates the biggest difference between the National Socialists and the left-wing groups: "... only that from now on one was also allowed to be national, not a" traitor to the fatherland "of the Comintern." Jakob Augstein referred to Fest in a Spiegel column in December 2015 and is outraged: “The socialists were among the first to migrate to Hitler's concentration camps. And then you still expect them to be taken hostage with the Nazis in "socialist" custody? "

Both are historically correct. The Nazis wanted to abolish the Weimar Republic as well as the Trotskyists and Communists. This is not the case with the Social Democrats. They had come to terms with the democracy of the Weimar Republic. And the left - including the Social Democrats - were among the first to be put in concentration camps and killed by the Nazis.

Also in December 2015, Jan Fleischauer, also in Spiegel, deals with the new federal states, when the AfD was already celebrating successes there and comes to the conclusion: “Around 20 percent of the people there vote for the Left Party, which promises to level social diversity . According to the surveys, another 16 percent are in favor of the AfD, which competes against too much strangeness in the streetscape. (...) The central promise is homogeneity, that is the word around which everything here revolves. Some promise social homogeneity, others cultural. Both are against too much inequality. ”But can this be described as uniformly left-wing? Hardly likely.

Left and Right - Revolutionaries and Preservers

The terms left and right come from the French National Assembly at the end of the 18th century. To the left of the speaker sat the revolutionaries who wanted to radically change the system. On the right sat the keepers (of the monarchist structures). I think we agree that most people have little to do with this context of meaning from right and left in 2018 or that it is simply not true in 2018. Above all, all parties in the German Bundestag want changes in the system. Now one can assume that the AfD wants to change the system, i.e. transform democracy. But is that already on the left? The AfD itself would refuse to be called left.

That is not what the Tory MP meant when he asserted in the EU Parliament that, after all, National Socialists were national socialists. At this point he refers to the same root word: socialist. Well: a concept alone does not create any content. A noun is not necessarily an omen. After all, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was no more democratic than the Democratic Republic of the Congo is today. Chocolate bars are also not healthy just because the advertising industry wants us to believe it.

But Kamall is not stupid. The play on words provokes and reaches simpler minds. In fact, he refers to something else, namely the economic policy component.

Economy and society in the 20s and 30s

Here is a brief look at the economic and social realities of the 20s of the last century: The monarchy had only just been abolished, the nobility still powerful. He was accompanied by the upper class, which had come to wealth and power through the industrial revolution. The upper class and the aristocracy were in charge. You determined. The simple workers had to take the crumbs that the rich and powerful threw at them. The union movement was in its infancy. The social insurance, which was introduced by Otto von Bismarck's initiative and against the emerging socialism and communism in the 1880s, was far from having the scope of benefits as we know it today.

So we are moving in a time of great social inequality and largely unlawful workers, far removed from what we understand today by social market economy and welfare state. There were different social models that promised an improvement in living conditions, the Weimar Republic was just one of them, a young, not yet established democracy that had yet to prove itself, while unemployment and hardship were everywhere. Communism (with different forms as socialism, Trotskyism, etc.) was a different model of society and government, National Socialism a third, and the monarchy, i.e. the old, just abolished regime, a fourth. What the Democrats, the socialist and communist currents and the National Socialists had in common was that they were against the monarchy. In addition, there were big differences in the idea of ​​what each regime should look like.

Economic policy orientation of the National Socialists

In terms of economic policy, one can neither claim that Hitler was a communist or a socialist, as we know from the socialism and communism of the former Eastern Bloc and other countries. Large areas were expropriated there. Most of the property belonged to the state, which also made the decisions about who should produce what, when and in what quantities. On the other hand, Hitler cannot be called a radical market capitalist; he directed and controlled too much by the state for that.

There was no nationalization of property under the Nazi regime. The property was expropriated for completely different reasons and for a different purpose: Jews and opponents of the system were robbed of their property, which was then passed on to party friends. It was relatively irrelevant whether the recipients already belonged to the nobility and upper class or whether they rose to the upper class due to the increase in property and power. Both happened in abundance.

Hitler and his regime ordered massive state investments and pushed society into line. You can call that left, but it doesn't have to be. For a long time Hitler's economic policy was considered Keynesian, but this is now doubted by economic historians. Jörg Lichter wrote in the Handelsblatt in 2007: “New work shows that it was not civil job creation, but armament that was the focus of Nazi policy from the start. The elimination of unemployment was only a by-product of the preparations for war. "

So one can say: The ideological ground on which the economic policy decisions of the National Socialists were based was neither particularly right (radical market) nor left (public property), but focused on another, from Hitler's point of view, higher goal: the creation of a large German empire with the Germans as supermen. He was obsessed with that.

Sociopolitical orientation of the National Socialists and left groups

While the socialists, communists, Trotskyists and social democrats, that is, the left milieus, sang the International and wanted to fraternize the workers of all countries, the National Socialists marched for the nation. In doing so, they defined everyone who was not nationalistic as traitors to the fatherland who deserved to die (i.e. everyone who was on the left). The aristocracy and the upper classes, on the other hand, were not opponents, but - insofar as they were nationalist - allies.

Not only that: the Nazis used monarchist traditions to enforce their ideology. They defined as German and valuable only those people who exclusively descended from German blood and introduced Aryan passports. Jewish was - although Jewish is a religion, not a designation of origin and the people were also German - defined as non-German. In doing so, the Nazis killed two birds with one stone: With the people of Jewish descent, they presented the people with a guilty party for the high unemployment and poverty, and they opened up fantastic opportunities to acquire the wealth, wealth and power of a section of the upper class through which They pushed ahead with their war plans and significantly reduced the number of workers looking for work by simply murdering people.

More power and money for workers - in very different ways

People like Kamall mean economic policy and bringing people into line when they want to turn Nazis into leftists. But we have seen that this is not really true. Then one would have to call Otto von Bismarck a leftist because he introduced social security. In fact, he did it primarily to calm the people down and keep them from running to the left and overthrowing the Empire.

The Nazis and the left of their time were fierce competitors. They promoted the same goal: more work and money for ordinary people, but with completely different models. That is why the communists, socialists and social democrats were among the first to be killed by the Nazis. They wanted to turn off the competition.

People like Kamall deliberately provoke. They consciously tear the concepts of right and left out of their historical context and throw them into the present day in a disinforming way. The terms left and right have undergone several changes in meaning since the 20s and 30s of the last century.

Word meaning left and right - origins and change

As mentioned, the origin of the designation right and left comes from the seating arrangements of the French National Assembly. Associated with this was an attitude for or against changing the system.

The origins of socialism and communism have a strong economic policy component. They wanted to give the workers more power, rights and ownership of the means of production. So on the left there is something like more state, more regulation, more redistribution, while on the right there is more market, more inequality, less regulation.

The other important component of left ideologies is the idea of ​​the equality of all people regardless of their origin or religion (religion was rejected as a deception of the people anyway). It is not for nothing that the International was the song of the labor movement around the world and it is said: Workers of all countries unite. Right ideologies, on the other hand, emphasize the diversity of people and the national. They value their own origin, religion, ethnicity, nation as stronger, better and more valuable than foreign nations, religions and peoples.

In 2018 we are living in a different world than 90 years ago. Democracy is widely accepted as a form of government. Very few people in Germany reject it and want to establish another regime. We find opponents of the regime in all extremist movements, but even there not all of them want to abolish democracy, some just want major changes within democratic structures. That was different in the 20s of the last century.

The same applies to capitalism as a basic form of economy. Not even the left in the Bundestag or critics of globalization want to go back to a nationalized planned economy. The conflicts that are being waged today are more about limiting the excesses of capitalism, (again) containing it and civilizing it. And conversely, an FDP does not want to completely abolish the welfare state, i.e. the socialist elements in our social market economy, but rather reduce it, give entrepreneurs more freedom to make decisions. The social market economy, as it was introduced by the founders of the Federal Republic of Germany after the Second World War, for which the National Socialists were responsible, is a model that tries to unite the market and the state, the individual and solidarity on the basis of democratic principles.

Meaning of the words Nazi, right wing, right-wing national, right-wing extremist 2018

When we speak of Nazis, neo-Nazis, right-wing, right-wing nationalists and right-wing extremists in everyday language today, we almost always mean the socio-political level. While our Basic Law stipulates that all people regardless of their religion, ethnicity, origin or gender are equally dignified and have the same rights, this is rejected to varying degrees by right-wing groups. The race, the religion, the nation are emphasized and it is assumed that one's own is better than others. And these racist ideas, which go back to the ideology of the National Socialists, are not a privilege of the AfD or the NPD. Thilo Sarrazin is proof of this, who perhaps only stays with the SPD out of spite, which does not manage to exclude him. But there are also racist, nationalist and anti-Semitic groups and attitudes in the migrant milieu.

The ascription of being on the right and being on the left does not focus today on the competition between monarchy and democracy. There is an economic policy connotation when it comes to criticism of globalization or basic income, but these days this is usually not described as right and left, but as capitalist and anti-capitalist.

The attribution right and left today focuses almost exclusively on the nationalist and racist worldview and the rejection of ethnic and religious diversity in a global society.

If you look up dictionaries today to get to the bottom of the meaning of the term Nazi, that is exactly what is reflected. Both the digital dictionary of the German language and Openthesaurus suggest the same synonyms for Nazi, namely: fascist, national socialist, right-wing extremist, right-wing radical, Brauner (coll.), Braunhemd (coll.), Fascho (coll.), Right-wing extremist (coll.) . I wrote my own blog post on the etymology of the term Nazi.


So if someone claims in the future that National Socialists are actually socialists, i.e. left-wing, then you can rightly argue: The word socialism is in both, but that alone is worth nothing. At the time, both milieus wanted a radical change in the prevailing conditions in the Weimar Republic. Their ideas about what should be different were very different, as history later showed.

In contrast to National Socialists, socialists accepted people as equal in value, while the Nazis emphasized the race and the Germans as particularly valuable and simply defined people of Jewish origin as non-German in order to get their money or to reduce unemployment in a murderous way.

When we talk about Nazis, neo-Nazis, right-wing, right-wing nationalists or right-wing extremists in 2018, we mean the people who reject other people just because they have a different skin color, origin or religion. There are not only German Nazis. They are also found in Greece, Turkey, the USA and elsewhere. Nazis are people who consider their race and nation to be better than others, want to isolate themselves and ideally only want pure-bred sex, at least when he is supposed to beget offspring.

Addition: This audio contribution from Freunde der Zeit with the journalist Christian Fuchs deals with the network of the new right.

Sources used:

  • Augstein: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/querfront-debatte-war-hitler-links-augstein-kolumne-a-1068892.html
  • Fixed: http://www.taz.de/!703669/
  • Fleischhauer: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/toleranz-war-die-wiedervereinigung-ein- Fehler-a-1067871.html
  • http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/eu-parlament-britischer-eu-abteilunger-vergleicht-nazis-mit-sozialdemokrats-a-1234936.html
  • https://www.dwds.de/wb/Nazi
  • https://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/konjendung/oekonomie/nachrichten/wirtschaftshistoriker-bewerten-hitlers-wirtschaftspektiven-neu-kanonen-statt-butter/2826738-all.html
  • https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-nazi-german-mep-syed-kamall-eu-uk-conservative-spd-communists-a8599536.html
  • https://www.ksta.de/politik/eklat-im-eu-parlament-abteilunger-rueckt-linke-pektiven-in-die-naehe-der-nazis-31486410
  • https://www.rechtslexikon.net/d/bismarcksche-sozialversicherung/bismarcksche-sozialversicherung.htm
  • Sowi NRW introductory phase, textbook, C.C. Buchner, Bamberg, 2018
  • www.openthesaurus.de