Adolf Hitler did a lot of shitty things. I’m not saying that ruining the word “socialism” for conservative Americans is even in the top 1000 terrible things he did. How many of you have seen a variation on the following?
- A meme suggesting that Hitler was a progressive, liberal socialist
- A meme comparing a progressive, modern liberal to Hitler
Because there are people in this country who bristle and the mere mention of the word “socialism,” and since “Nazi” literally is a reference to Nationalist Socialism, there is really no separating Hitler from socialism. Or at least that’s how conservatives who don’t understand how fascism works, or what nationalism is think.
If you ask a lot of right-leaning folks, they’ll tell you without blinking that Hitler was a socialist and therefore left-wing. This of course couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. Then again, the image of a long-haired, Buddhist, progressive, tie-dyed shirt wearing, Grateful Dead loving hippie socialist is a fun one, so I can understand the desire to create a fictional version of the worst human being ever, but to divine the truth about which way Hitler swung, let’s first go to the place where the truth is most often found — a dictionary.
Merriam-Webster defines Nazism thus:
the body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect by the Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945 including the totalitarian principle of government, predominance of especially Germanic groups assumed to be racially superior, and supremacy of the führer
Now, I added the emphasis to the bold words in the quote there, but the key is “totalitarian” there. So let’s have ol’ Merriam and Webster define that word for us, shall we?
1a: of or relating to centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy :authoritarian,dictatorial; especially:despoticb: of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (as censorship and terrorism)
2a: advocating or characteristic of totalitarianismb: completely regulated by the state especially as an aid to national mobilization in an emergencyc: exercising autocratic powers
Nothing specifically says right-wing in that definition, but the right-wing has always and will always be considered to be authoritarian. Don’t believe me? The Oxford English Dictionary defines right-wing politics like this, “Right-wing parties include conservatives, Christian democrats, classical liberals, nationalists and, on the far Right, racists and fascists.” Funny, but to me racists and fascists are the definition of what Nazis were, so why do we keep calling them socialists?
Oh right because idiots who can’t read past one word keep seeing “socialist” associated with Nazism and they can’t understand that the “nationalist” part is really the key. The United States has just as much socialism now as Nazi Germany did then. We have Social Security, medicare, and a military industrial complex that is the largest socialist experiment in the history of the world.
Nationalist socialism is of course tangentially related to democratic socialism, but it’s almost as if conservatives don’t know what nationalist means. Of course, why would they know what that word means when we all learned its definition in our damn socialist government schools, right?
But for the record, here’s what nationalism is defined as, again by those kooky fucks at Merriam-Webster.
loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups
To be fair, there is such a thing as left-wing nationalism, but it rejects imperialistic ideology. Right-wing nationalism on the other hand? It’s just about a copy/paste job of the definition of Nazism. In truth, anyone trying to spin Hitler as some left-wing, populace loving, granola eating hippie is just fantasizing. Because the reality is this — no one is fucking Hitler except Hitler. Even asshole conservatives who don’t want to let Syrian refugees aren’t quite Hitler-bad. They’re bad, don’t get me wrong, but the word Nazi and accusations of who is or isn’t one has become so diluted that confused right-wingers actually think that the “socialist” part is the only thing that matters, and that whole “nationalist” thing is just an afterthought. It’s not, at all.
Why do conservatives insist on painting liberals as Hitler wannabes? The same reason liberals wouldn’t want to be painted as a Hitler wannabe. No one wants to be associated with Hitler. But you don’t get to completely change history and the meanings of words to get out of that comparison, and the truth is no one should be levying the charge of Hitlerdom on anyone these days. Truly. I can’t stand conservative policy ideals, but I’m not about to call my conservative friends and family Hitler, no matter how cute their new little lip mustache is. Kidding.
The point is, that if anything, Hitler and Nazism should get tagged with the right-wing moniker because everything they pushed for — a strong, Imperious, centralized government that controls things with brute military force — is the very definition of right-wing. But that doesn’t mean every Republican or libertarian is a Nazi in the offing, and it’s just as silly to label them as such as it is for them to call us Nazis.
Besides, I happen to think “Republican” is about the meanest thing you could call someone who isn’t a hateful bigot these days anyway.