IN CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL DISCOURSE
If you are involved in political debate, you are almost certain to be faced with Hitler…at least those who use Hitler and Nazism as a strategy to discredit what you are saying. Associating a position with Hitler and Nazism is a surefire way to silence that position. It is also easy, no thought required. Nazis and fascists ran multiple nations and took various positions. Simply link something your debate opponent says to something Hitler did or might have done and…bam…you won your argument–at least in your own mind.If you can’t find a real position taken by Nazis, no problem, just invent something that seems like something Nazis would do, like memes talking about Hitler taking the German people’s guns (he didn’t). Nobody will question you.
One of the reasons nobody will question you is that few Americans actually know what fascism or Nazism is. We just know it’s bad. Due to this ignorance Nazism can be applied to just about anything we find bad. Wherever we see government over-reach, we can apply the Hitler label. Consequently, the Hitler/Nazi analogy becomes useless. This is an especial problem when we see a demagogue on the cusp of power with a message of nationalism, ethnocentrism and militarism. Being able to make legitimate analogies to fascism might come in handy. Yet I hesitate to make such an analogy.
The Classic posts reproduced below represent the troubled, rhetorical relationship we have with constructs of Hitler and Nazism. The first addresses the mindless use of Hitler as a purely rhetorical structure, which is, in fact, an insult to those who were victims of his tyranny. There’s a great deal that can be learned and gleaned from the horrors of fascist tyranny, as well as Bolshevik communist totalitarianism. diminishing real history with shallow rhetoric destroys the depth of real political debate.
The second addresses a related issue. Fascism and Nazism is a right-wing philosophy. Yet over the years, beginning as far as I know with Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism to associate Hitler and Nazism with socialism and progressive liberalism. This is not only a shallow, rhetorical flourish, but a distortion of history and philosophy.
Hitler is being overworked. As a result, the work he should be doing, standing as a stark warning against totalitarianism and the dangers of collective anger, hatred and fear, loses its impact.
Political and Rhetorical Uses of Hitler
All right, I’ve had enough!
In the past couple of weeks I could not help but notice just how often the specter of Nazism and Hitler have been used as rhetorical conventions. It appears that Nazism is alive and well…and living in the minds of policy wonks and desperate lobbying firms intent on perpetuating their own interests at all costs. It is not, however, alive in any real way in public policy or American politics. (Postscript: I sure wish I could continue saying this)
The use of Nazism is the new favored method of silencing discourse. You want to destroy health care reform, find a perfectly innocuous, bi-partisan, sensible amendment about doctors being compensated for providing counseling on advanced directives (which everyone thinks is a good idea), then have talking heads call it a “death panel” provision. Even better, call it an Obama Death Panel provision. Show signs of the President of the United States sporting Nazi attire and wearing the famous Hitler toothbrush mustache. You don’t actually have to say anything, just show the sign.
So far I’ve heard Obama referred to as a Nazi…(really? Obama is a secret Muslem Nazi from Kenya who’s also a socialist? Really?). Leading Democrats referred to as Nazis. The WHO is supposedly embarking on a plan to euthanize…uh…everyone…in some ultra Nazi conspiracy posing as an attempt to force mandatory vaccinations. FEMA is, of course, rebuilding concentration camps a la Auschwitz using Swine Flu as its premise. Feminists are feminazis. Environmentalists are Environazis. I’ve even heard the “recycle” symbol referred to as a “recycle swastika.”
To be fair, there’s been plenty of comparisons of George W to Hitler, Nazis and Fascists, so liberals are not immune to falling back on lame Hitler rebukes.
It’s important to understand the history of fascism. The Nazis were a prime example of how well orchestrated hatred at the state level can be used to scapegoat and motivate and institutionalize all that is dark about the human condition. It’s a horror that we need to be forever on guard against. The way it’s being used by the media, by lobbyists, by the blowhard extreme, however, is demeaning to the real history as experienced and suffered by our predecessors. How are we going to be on guard against the possible menace of hate and spite filled vitriol if we make a mockery of the ultimate expression of such policy?
Historical comparisons can be very powerful and useful. But using Nazism as a fallback to discredit one’s opponents with cheesy photoshops of your political rivals is not poignant historical analysis. It’s an insult to those who fought and died against the real thing. When Hitler becomes just another rhetorical tool, a lobbyist’s technique, then Hitler loses the sinister affect he deserves.
If you have a problem with health care reform, with FEMA, with feminism, conservatism or whatever then let’s have a meaningful debate. Let’s open the discourse to as many ideas as we can. Where we see abuses of power we may perceive a real comparison to Hitler and Nazism, please point it out. But using this most atrocious of human episodes as a backdrop to your website is a base insult.
Socialists/Liberals are not Nazis
Stop getting your history from Glenn Beck and do your own research
There’s just something about the Beckian Conservative mindset. They seem to be incapable of political discourse without calling someone a Nazi. This is especially true if that someone is a Liberal/Socialist (because according to the Beckian schema all liberals are socialists). The socialist as Nazi has crept into the extreme right discourse because, let’s face it, there’s no better way of delegitimizing someone than by association with Hitler.
The evidence for this assertion is that the official Nazi Party name is the “National SOCIALIST Party.” There! See! Socialist is right there in the name! Discussion over. Boooyah!
Yes, Nazi’s called themselves NATIONAL Socialists to differentiate themselves (and perhaps even incorporate some folks on the fringe) from Marxist socialists and present their own nationalistic ideals. Socialists have, historically, eschewed nationalism, preferring to identify themselves with a class rather than a national identity. Of course, this does not matter to the Beckian theorist who will persist in perpetuating a falsehood as a truism. To suggest that socialists are Nazis because the word “socialist” is in the name of the party makes about as much sense as suggesting that the People’s REPUBLIC of China is really a PEOPLE’s republic so Tea Partiers should be lining up to go there. Perhaps a Pineapple is the same as an apple because the word “apple” is in the name. Do all Tea Partiers really serve tea at their parties?
When I pointed this out to one Beckian scholar he suggested that I should read the program of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and any other Socialist group. It is exactly the same as the platform for the Nazi party.
Well, that was a good idea. So I did just that. I looked up the Nazi party platform introduced in 1920. Of course I realized that my worthy opponent may be referring to a more modern platform, so I hunted down the National Socialist Party of the United States. Yes, there is such a group headquartered out of Detroit, of all places. I’m not going to include the link because I just can’t stomach the idea. But it’s a fairly simple Google search if you are interested in fact-checking this blog.
I then researched the CPUSA for their program. Actually, they present their platform as a bill of rights, but it amounts to the same thing. I also looked up the platform for the Socialist Party of America, but this platform was much more detailed than that of the Nazi Parties’ so I deferred to the CPUSA. From these sources I put together the following comparative table. First, I discovered that the Nazi Party Platform of 1920 and the National Socialist Movement USA (NSM) platform were virtually identical with the exception of some historically specific details. For instance, there’s no reason for contemporary Nazis to endeavor in annulling the Peace Treaty of Versailles. So I highlighted in light red the areas where the two platforms overlapped. I then included in blue the new material added by the NSM. The Nazi platform is pretty long because the 25 points included many details that I separated out to make the comparison more complete.
I then highlighted in a darker red those statements on the communist platform that overlap with the Nazi Party platform. There are five areas: freedom from unemployment, a living wage, decent housing, the elimination of corporations, and environmental sustainability. Well, there you go. With an overlap of Nazi to communist platforms of .15 (the number of communist policies that overlap with the Nazi platform divided by the total policies on the communist platform) that must mean the socialists are ready to raise the flag of the fourth Reich.
|Nazi Party Platform 1920/ National Socialist Movement USA||Communist Party of the United States, Bill of Rights of Socialism|
|Uniting all Germans (Americans) within one Greater Germany (America)||People and nature come before profit|
|Equal rights for the German people||All can participate regardless of race, nationality or religion|
|Annulment of the Peace Treaty of Versailles||Immigrants have the same human rights as the native born|
|Demand for colonies||Creating a sustainable economy|
|Citizenship restricted to Nationals of German blood. (Pure white blood)||Elimination of the right of companies to pollute|
|Separate legislation for aliens living in Germany.||Equal rights to women|
|Only citizens (see number 5) can hold public office.||Equality to all ethnic, national and racial groups.|
|State provides employment for citizens first.||Fully funded quality education for children|
|If the state cannot provide employment for all, the non-citizens must be expelled.||Right to free speech|
|An end to all immigration (Non-White Immigration)||Right to assembly|
|Any immigrants who entered German after 8/2/1914 must leave Germany.||freedom of religion|
|Equal rights to all citizens.||Right to a secular government|
|Equal duties of all citizens.||Right to be free from corporate domination|
|Constructive intellectual and physical work is the DUTY of all citizens||Free from “unwarranted government intervention in the lives of individuals.”|
|Abolition of all income derived without labor.||Freedom from unemployment|
|Confiscation of all war profits.||freedom from poverty|
|Nationalization of all corporations.||freedom from illiteracy|
|Profit sharing in large enterprises.||Freedom from discrimination and oppression|
|Old age pensions.||Right to vote|
|Communalization of all department stores to be leased to small tradesmen.||Right to health care|
|Confiscation of land for public use without compensation.||Right to a job at a living wage|
|End all speculation in land||Right to decent housing|
|Death penalty for all persons who commit crimes against The People (usurers, profiteers, etc.)||Pensions and social programs take priority over weapons systems and defense industry profits.|
|Replacement of Roman Law with German Law (Anglo-Saxon Common Law)||Peaceful foreign policy|
|State control of schools.||Socialization of “commanding heights of the economy, run as public utilities with publicly elected boards|
|School curriculum teaching “Understanding of the state at the earliest ages.”||Separation of church and state.|
|Public education for gifted children of poor parents.||Private ownership of small businesses|
|Provide mother-child care.||Right to privately own personal possessions and property|
|Banning juvenile labor.||Workers will be paid according to the principle from each according to their ability, to each according to their work.|
|Compulsory physical fitness programs.||Elimination of corporations.|
|Creation of a national army. No mercenaries.||end the Arms trade|
|All editors of newspapers must be German by race.||Destroy all nuclear weapons|
|Non-German (American) newspapers require permission from the State for publication.||No extension of the arms race into space.|
|Non-Germans (Non-Whites) cannot invest in German newspapers.||Environmental sustainability.|
|Newspapers which violate the public interest are banned.|
|Banning “destructive” art and literature.|
|Freedom for all “positive (those that do not endanger the State) Christian religions.|
|Fight against Jewish “materialism.”|
|Creation of a strong central government with unquestioned authority.|
|Revocation of the United Nations|
|Revocation of NATO|
|Revocation of the World Bank|
|Revocation of NAFTA|
|Revocation of WTO and IMF|
|Jews and homosexuals may not be members of the nation|
|An end to filling political positions based solely on party affiliation.|
|All non-Whites must leave America|
|And end to “interest slavery.”|
|Prohibition of pro-Marxist unions for National Socialist Trade Unions|
|Creation of a livable wage.|
|Drug testing for welfare recipients (huh? Welfare would be outlawed)|
|And end to taxes on all necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and medicine.|
|End abuse of health insurance companies? (no specifics)|
|Affordable prescription drugs.|
|Affordable housing for all|
|“The party as such stands explicitly for private property.”|
|Abolition of ground rent|
|End all property taxes.|
|Set aside land for national wildlife refuges|
|Clean environment, regulating pollution, greenhouse gasses and toxins|
|Continued research for clean fuels.|
|Ruthless prosecution of murderers, rapists, pedophiles, drug dealers, usurers, profiteers, race traitors.|
|Prohibition of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, race-mixing and mental retardation.|
|Ending alcoholism and drug addiction|
|Re-establish traditional nuclear family in which the father works while the mother stays home to take care of the children if they so choose.|
|Pay raises for those who give birth to healthy babies.|
|Right to bear arms|
|End to the use of military as a “meals on wheels program in foreign lands.|
|Exclusion of non-Americans and criminals from armed services|
|End to “sensitivity training” in the military.|
|Prosecution of art and literature which “corrupts our national life.”|
|Religious freedom for all denominations that do not threaten the state or “offend the moral feelings of the White race.|
Of course it’s not that simple, as is obvious in the comparative. First, there are many groups that believe in environmental sustainability, decent housing, a living wage and the right to work, even if they don’t advocate for the elimination of corporations. Would Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi also qualify as Nazis? So I highlighted in green those socialist policies that are flat-out contradicted by the Nazi program calculating a ratio of .25 with the rest, .6, being neutral. Yes, there may be some overlap in some of the neutral areas. Socialists may support giving financial support to women who have given birth and Nazis may demand that all “citizens (read white)” be literate, but I specified only those areas for which an argument could be made for a direct overlap. Suffice it to say that my friend was exaggerating a little when he suggested that the programs were “identical.”
So then I did something just for gits and shiggles. I looked up the platform of the Tea Party–not easy to find, mind you. The Tea Party platforms I found were mostly generalized principles that I did not feel would make for a legitimate analysis. I finally settled on the Tea Party Platform advertised on teaparty.org. The results were interesting, if admittedly skewed by the fact that this platform is much shorter than either the Nazi or communist program. But just for the sake of argument and the opportunity to see those little forehead blood vessels on a right-winger bulge out, I calculated the ratio of Nazism for the Tea Partiers at .2, higher than the same ratio for the socialists! The communist ratio for Tea Partiers is a virtually non-existent .06. Certainly the Tea Party is more Nazi than communist. I wonder how they would feel about that.
|Tea Party Platform: Teaparty.org|
|Illegal Aliens Are Here illegally.|
|Pro-Domestic Employment Is Indispensable.|
|Stronger Military Is Essential.|
|Special Interests Eliminated.|
|Gun Ownership Is Sacred.|
|Government Must Be Downsized.|
|National Budget Must Be Balanced.|
|Deficit Spending Will End.|
|Bail-out And Stimulus Plans Are Illegal.|
|Reduce Personal Income Taxes A Must.|
|Reduce Business Income Taxes Is Mandatory.|
|Political Offices Available To Average Citizens.|
|Intrusive Government Stopped.|
|English As Core Language Is Required.|
|Traditional Family Values Are Encouraged.|
Of course, the above paragraph is balderdash. There are significant methodological problems with making the claim that the Tea Party is at all Nazi. They are not. The key components of the Tea Party movement contradict Nazism, specifically the small government emphasis. So let me be clear before I find my name on some right-winger commentary. I don’t believe that Tea Partiers are Nazis. But I also expect that Tea Partiers and other conservatives will stop associating liberals with socialists and especially stop equating the left with Nazism.
The fact that there is some overlap between the three groups does not equate any of these groups. The similarity between liberals and socialists and Nazis and Tea Partiers is indicative of the similarities between human beings regardless of party affiliation. Many people are concerned about tyrannical government, a quality environment, family values or decent wages. Advocacy for any one or a combination of these concerns does not make one a Nazi. There are larger principles involved that must be looked at. The fundamental principle of the Tea Party is individualism, a thoroughly American concept. It’s no wonder that they perceive the “collectivism” of the Nazis and the socialists as being similar, but they are not. The underlying principles of the Nazi Party are nationalism and racism. The racial purity of the nation-state is the primary goal, with the assumption that if an obviously superior race had sole possession of the nation then the nation itself would be superior. Socialists reject this thesis for a classist approach. For the socialist, matters of race, ethnicity and gender take a back seat to class. They make no distinction between the oppressed workers of one nation or color and the oppressed workers of another. There is no one kind of socialism. Liberalism may accept the validity of class inequalities
presented by the socialists, but the underlying principle remains humanism.
Among these parties there are different competing discourses to further complicate the matter. Among socialists there are different ideas with regard to dealing with capitalist oppression, from a distrust of government that would make a Tea Partier jealous to a faith in a state-run command economy. Liberals come in many wavelengths from the relative centrist to the anarchist radical. Frankly, I don’t know enough about the National Socialists to comment on the complexities of their movement, but I would wager that there is considerable variance among its membership. This must also be true among the Tea Party.
The use of Nazism as a metaphor only serves to silence opposition. It is a rhetorical trick, not a means for honest discourse and debate. Those who choose to use the “Hitler Gambit” should be soundly discredited the moment they make reference to the Nazi Party Platform or the Holocaust. Our political opponents are not Nazis and every effort should be made in making this clear. If there is a substantive argument to make against a particular position, then by all means make your argument. But to stoop to equating the other party to Nazis is to relinquish any rhetorical legitimacy. It’s too easy, too hyperbolic. This blog has called out both ends of the political dialectic for stooping to the lows of Nazi accusations. This strategy does not further the discourse, does not enlighten anyone, and is, upon analysis, meaningless.