By George Watson*
The most powerful indictment I’ve seen of contemporary historiography has got to be the studied ignorance in the West of the evidence brought to light in this slim little bombshell of a book. You will never be able to look at Marx, Hitler, socialism, fascism, National Socialism, or the Holocaust the same way again.
Watson, a fellow in English at St. John’s College, Cambridge, has been Sandars Reader in Bibliography and is editor of the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature.
What Watson has quietly pointed out should shame an awful lot of history professors. What were you taught about Nazism? If you’re like me, it was that Nazism was opposed to socialism. Indeed, it was socialism’s “opposite”: Nazism and Marxism constitute the two polar opposite ends of the spectrum of political thought. That they may sometimes seem to resemble each other is supposed to show only that opposite extremes may wrap around until they meet on the other side, or that fascism is a “confusing” ideology, too vague and elusive to explain or categorize. Hitler, as Ian Kearnshaw and many others claim, “was never a socialist.” The Nazis’ name: “National Socialist German Workers’ Party”, is supposed to be somehow a “misnomer”—-some kind of “false advertising.”
Or so we’ve been told. Watson’s little book basically explodes this fairy tale.
In fact, Fascism and National Socialism were thoroughly socialist movements. They bitterly opposed the “bourgeois” ideology of capitalism: they bitterly opposed individualism, free trade, private property, free enterprise, limited government, and classical laissez-faire liberalism. Moreover, “almost the whole of National Socialism,” as Hitler would freely admit (at least in private) was based on Marx. He explained in Mein Kampf: “As National Socialists we see our program in our flag. In the red we see the social idea of the movement.”
How can this be?
First of all, as even social-democrat Sidney Hook has admitted, “Anti-Semitism was rife in almost all varieties of socialism.” (Commentary, Sept. 1978)
Listen to Proudhon, socialist founding father and mentor of Marx: “The Jew is the enemy of the human race. One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it…By fire or fusion or by expulsion, the Jew must disappear… What the people of the Middle Ages hated by instinct I hate upon reflection, and irrevocably. …The hatred of the Jew, as that of the English, must be an article of our political faith.” (1847, Carnets)
Remember that the most central, fundamental, and essential tenet of socialism is that moneylenders (“capitalists”) are evil economic “parasites.” “Vampires,” “bloodsuckers,” Marx called them. The Devil of the socialist catechism is the “bourgeoisie.” Indeed, Marx had another word which he used as an equivalent term for “bourgeoisie,”—-“Jews.” And in place of the word “capitalism,” we find the early Marx using the word ‘Judentum,’ i.e., “Jewry.” As early as 1843—-a hundred years before the Holocaust—-Marx published one of his first and most sensational newspaper articles, a vituperative anti-Semitic temper tantrum “On the Jewish Question,” makes Hitler’s own tirades look mild. Its thesis is that “mankind will never be emancipated until it is emancipated from Jews and Jewry.” It concludes: “The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Jewry.” Period. End of essay.
Understand that this popular piece was written and published five years before the Communist Manifesto (1848) and long before Das Kapital attempted to rationalize this as an economic theory in the 1860s. Rather than that Marx’s dubious economic theory of exploitation accidentally drove him to anti-Semitism, it appears things must be more the other way around: that Marx’s anti-Semitism drove him to cook up the dubious economic theory.
“If we are socialists, then we must definitely be anti-Semites,” Hitler explained during a party speech in Munich, August 1920, “How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-Semite?”
Note also that even the idea that Germany should wage a “world war” against Russia and the “barbaric” Slavs, and that the Slavs should be annhilated during this German “world storm,” was an idea proposed by none other than Friedrich Engels, writing with Marx’s approval in Marx’s newspaper, in 1849. Both the advocation of genocide, and of coercive state eugenics generally, were originally a widespread aspect of the socialist movement before WWII.
“I have learned a great deal from Marxism, as I do not hesitate to admit.” Hitler expalined, “I have really put into practice what these peddlers and pen-pushers have timidly begun.”
That the Bolsheviks, German Social Democrats, and National Socialists all hated each other, fought each other, and accused each other of being capitalist sell-outs can never serve to demonstrate that any of them were not thoroughly socialist. Their mutual hatred is no more significant than the fact that various Christian sects often will deny that other Christian sects are at all Christian in any way, and indeed accuse them of being agents of Satan. To anyone who happens to stand outside of Christianity and/or socialism, the hyperbole of such internal quarrels among sects is hardly to be taken seriously.
That the Nazis supressed union violence no more means they weren’t socialists than the fact that the Soviets did the same. Socialism is the public ownership (right of control and disposal) of the means of production, and there is a difference between union control and public control. Orthodox socialism—-public ownership by the state or “society as a whole” collectively—-is incompatible with syndicalism, which is ownership by labor unions.
* Watson’s unjustly marginalized book provides a fine introduction to a subject on which much more needs to be written.