LITERALLY HITLER: The Obsession with Accusations of Nazism
Justin Pinard | firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ve seen it before: every six seconds, someone, somewhere – on television, Facebook, Twitter, in a newspaper, news conference, or in person – is branded a “Nazi”, “neo-Nazi”, “fascist”, or “Hiterlite”. People, in great numbers, have been accused of fascist sympathies, secret membership in various neo-Nazi political parties, and of having a shrine to Hitler in their bedroom (yours truly included). You can help these unfortunate victims of actual hate and ignorance – no, not by donating twenty-five cents – but by understanding what fascism actually is.
Fascism, surprisingly, is not defined as “a policy proposal or general political ideology one disagrees with.” Fascism is not just a form of government wherein the state maintains a grasp on a great deal of power. Fascism is not temporarily banning - or restricting, for that matter - immigration or visitation, for whatever reason, from seven countries with a recent history of political instability, civil war, or international terrorism.
Fascism is not the ideology to which the current President (whether in the years of Bush, Obama, or Trump) subscribes. Fascism is not nationalism, and vice versa. Fascism is not wanting a strong military. Fascism is not social conservatism. What fascism is is a highly complex political ideology that has not been seen in the real world in over seventy years, and likely will never be seen again.
The education system – or, perhaps more accurately, the public education system – from kindergarten through the twelfth grade does a spectacularly poor job of educating our students on the history of the twentieth century – and, clearly, the rise of Mussolini and Hitler and the radicalization of Japan in the 1920s and 30s, both fall within that category. It might be easy to say that the driving force behind the March on Rome and the Nazi electoral victories in 1932 and ’33, and the following Machtergreifung (“seizure of power”), was anti-Semitism.
Hitler and his ilk promoted the belief that the Jews were behind the German defeat in the First World War, and caused the economic (and moral) collapse of Germany in the early 1920s and again in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929. In Japan, starting in the late 1920s, politics took a trend toward extremism, which culminated in the dissolution of all political parties, except for the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, which espoused its own fascist ideologies and policies with a Japanese tinge. It spoke of the united cause of all East Asian people against the West, while simultaneously speaking of Japanese racial superiority over the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Indonesians, and others, thereby “justifying” the government’s terrible oppression of those groups. While all of this is true, this is not the defining characteristic of fascism.
Perhaps the best way to get a simple (if somewhat superficial) definition of fascism is to read from the man that created the ideology itself: Benito Mussolini. The Duce of Italy famously wrote, “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Fascist rhetoric of the 1920s and ‘30s espoused a deep rejection of liberalism, republicanism, and mainstream conservatism; similarly, it looked with horror (humorously enough) at the totalitarian communist system being imposed in the Soviet Union at the time by Josef Stalin.
Fascists hated - and continue to hate - capitalism as much as communism; they would spit on the graves of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman as much as they would on those of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. To fascists, both of these models have been tried – and both have failed. To Mussolini, people needed a third path. His solution was fascism, an ideology that brought about the most destructive war in world history, killing three percent of the world population in six years and all but destroying dozens of countries.
Fascism does more than promote racial purity and a new “third position”. Fascism seeks to mobilize the choice racial or ethnic group – in Germany, the “Aryans”; in Italy, the Italian “Romans”; in Japan, the Japanese – into doing all that it takes, and sacrificing everything if need be, in the name of the nation, the state, and the national leader. Mussolini’s proclamation of “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” echoes his demands for the state – the government – to be all-encompassing, for the state to have no opposition, for the national leader to be hailed as the savior of the nation’s ethnic pride and dignity. The government plays a game of realpolitik, taking what it can at the expense of other nations, without outright invoking war – after all, Hitler did not expect the British or French to declare war on Germany, as they ended up doing, when he invaded Poland.
Fascism’s opposition to capitalism was expanded upon during Hitler’s early days as leader of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Worker’s Party in German), as seen in the party’s 25 Point Program, which, among many other things, demands: the nationalization of trusts and corporations; wide-reaching land reform; an expansion of welfare and pensions; the abolition of child labor; an expansion of public educational opportunities; and increased taxes on heavy industries (this all literally comes out of the Party Program, which can easily be Googled. The Nazis implemented much of this after they came to power).
Gregor Strasser, a noted early Nazi before being executed by Hitler in 1934, went further, demanding the abolition of social classes in what was eerily reminiscent of communist rhetoric. At the same time, the 25 Point Program outlined the racist tendencies of the ideology, stating that “only a member of the race [“Aryans”] can be a citizen …. no Jew can be a member of the race,” and “every public office [may] be filled only by citizens.” With this information - excluding the racially-charged bits - I could more easily support the statement “Bernie Sanders is a fascist,” than the statement “Donald Trump is a fascist.”
This brings me to my final point. My point is not to ramble on about the history of the founding of fascism. Rather, it is to tie into present-day politics the politics of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and to reveal a glaring lack of understanding on the part of many people.
When people want to compare politicians they don’t like to something, they compare them to Hitler. It sort of makes sense in most regards: no man or group of men have so shaped world history, politics, and culture through more terrible acts than Hitler and his cronies in the Nazi Party leadership. However, not all analogies were made equal. Sharing a NowThis or Occupy Democrats video on Facebook titled “How did Hitler rise to power?” which insinuates some vague similarity between the Nazi persecution of the Jews and Trump’s immigration policy – and therefore Trump’s alleged neo-Nazi sympathies – not only does a disservice to those that suffered through the Holocaust, it reveals an underlying layer of intellectual laziness, ignorance, and irresponsibility that border on the immoral.
Is Donald Trump a fascist for nominating Elaine Chao (born in Taiwan), Nikki Haley (born a part of an Indian Sikh family), Ben Carson (born into a black family from Detroit, a city destroyed by outsourcing and high taxes under decades of Democratic leadership), Steve Mnuchin (a Jew), and others to his Cabinet?
Is Donald Trump a fascist for promoting gay rights since before Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton publicly supported them? Is Donald Trump a fascist for opposing the outsourcing of jobs, which most leftists similarly opposed before June 2015? Is Donald Trump a fascist for being the most pro-Israel presidential candidate in the 2016 race, and perhaps being as pro-Israel as George W. Bush (who was noted for his particularly strong pro-Israel stance)? Is Donald Trump a fascist for temporarily restricting people from coming to the United States from seven countries for 120 days, a similar length of time as when a similar policy was implemented by Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter?