Hitler, Nazis, Socialism, and Rightwing Propaganda

David Klein
January 2011

For several years, the right wing has been equating nazism, the left, and socialism. This is standard propaganda for Fox News and the Tea Party which both denounce Obama as a socialist and at the same time portray him visually with a Hitler mustache.  Conservatives have also argued that Jared Loughner -- the shooter of  U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords -- was influenced by leftwing ideology because his reading list included both Das Kapital by Karl Marx and Hitler's Mein Kampf (without mentioning another book on his list, We the Living, by Ayn Rand).

he conflation of nazism and socialism has gone largely unchallenged by the media, and through repetition it is becoming almost "common knowledge" in the US, so I feel compelled to speak against it.  I hope that others, especially professors who have occasion to talk about it in and out of class, will also speak against this vile propaganda.

The basis of the conflation of nazism and socialism is the term "National Socialism," a self description of the Nazis.  "National Socialism" includes the word "socialism", but it is just a word.  Hitler and the Nazis outlawed socialism, and executed socialists and communists en masse, even before they started rounding up Jews.  In 1933, the Dachau concentration camp held socialists and leftists exclusively. The Nazis arrested more than 11,000 Germans for "illegal socialist activity" in 1936.

In the 1930s and even beyond, nazism, in sharp contrast to socialism, was strongly supported by leading capitalists and right wingers in the US.  Henry Ford, the leading industrialist and auto maker, was a great admirer of the nazis.  When Henry Ford announced that he might run for president in 1923, the little-known Hitler told the Chicago Tribune that he would like to send shock troops to Chicago to assist in the campaign.  Later in 1938, the year of Kristallnacht, Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest civilian award given by the nazis.  Ford accepted it with pride, and Ford's company collaborated with the nazis as late as August 1942.  General Motors, Standard Oil, ITT, and Chase National Bank (later Chase Manhattan Bank) among others also had major financial investments and collaborations with Nazi Germany.

J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI (and virulently anti-communist) was a great admirer of the nazis and was a pen pal of Heinrich Himmler (Reichsfuhrer of the Nazi SS, head of the Gestapo, and second most powerful leader of the Nazi party).  Hoover sent Himmler a personal invitation to attend the 1937 World Police Conference in Montreal, and in 1938 welcomed one of Himmler's top aids to the U.S.  In June 1939, when the Nazi SS was conducting savage attacks against Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals throughout Germany, Hoover personally autographed a photo of himself and sent it in response to a request, to KRIPO, the Nazi criminal police agency.  He continued communication with Nazi police until December 4, 1941 (three days before Pearl Harbor).* 

Nazism is a right wing ideology. It is violently racist, anti-socialist, and it targets the political left for extermination.  This is underscored by Albert Einstein's embrace of socialism throughout his life -- and in particular in his 1949 essay, Why Socialism? -- along with the fact that Einstein's name was included on a nazi death list with a bounty of $50,000 offered for his assassination.  If nazism really is socialism, why would Einstein have identified himself as a socialist a scant four years after WWII?

The current right wing conflation of nazism and the left is sleazy. A more informed population would view this  as completely idiotic, but unfortunately this
propaganda is becoming increasingly effective.

For elaboration and references, see Fred Jerome's excellent books, The Einstein File and Einstein on Race and Racism.