From an Angry Reader:
Hello Mr Hanson. I read your articles on Townhall.com and have a question on something you wrote in Enemies Of Language. In your article you refer to Nazi Germany as having been “right wing.” This is a question that I have been wanting to pose so many times when reading articles or viewing documentaries on TV. What was it about Nazi government policies in Germany that made it “right wing” rather than left? It seems to me that Nazism was a politically left ideology due to big government control of everything such as industry, one party rule, censorship, anti religion, etc. What are the things you believe made it right wing?
Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:
Dear Not So Angry Reader Rick Bush,
Thank you for your reasoned inquiry. I addressed some of this in a prior response to a genuinely angry reader.
National Socialism was an odd hybrid, reflecting both the adjective National and the noun Socialism. In Hitler’s view, socialism in the German context meant more or less what it implied: anti-capitalist screeds, lots of entitlements and government services, infrastructure building, deals for like-sounding corrupt cronies, and government supervised education, recreation, environmentalism, and employment.
But Nazi economics were not so all-inclusive socialist as communism, given that crony capitalists were given concessions to profit and promises from Hitler et al. that they would be free of union strikes and popular pushback. Average Germans for the large part kept their property. There were no confiscations of private wealth on a mass scale other than the nightmarish hounding of Jews and political opponents—unlike the Soviet Union that collectivized almost everything (of course with exceptions for a privileged elite).
But the key was again “National.” Unlike communism and prior universal socialism, Nazism had no claim on universalism: it never sought to unite the workers of the world or to create a socialist global utopia.
Rather, it unapologetically believed that Germans, as Aryans, were a superior race. Like the nationalist and socialist ancient Spartans, there would be mandated privileged equality among most Germans, but based on cruel exploitation of a vast cast of inferiors below.
If socialism is a crackpot dream that the workers of the world will unite across race and geography against universal capitalist exploiters, unhinged National Socialism meant that pure Germans would advance a Third Reich, promoting arms, patriotism, bizarre mythologies about a past supposedly untainted from the very beginning by decadent Romanism, puffed-up fantastical Nordic religion, and a national creed of patriotic, well-armed, and mostly superior people who would naturally excel over lesser others if united by an anti-democratic single tyrant.
In short, I think Hitler and his predecessors were somewhat accurate in calling this hybrid movement of socialism at home and nationalism abroad Nationalsozialismus, and so we are mostly right in calling Nazism, as outsiders in World War II, who had to deal with its foreign policy, as “right-wing,” at least in comparison to Stalin’s left-wing version of mass extermination.
To be pedantic I might have instead better have referred to right-left wing Nazi Germany and a left-right wing Soviet Union, given that the latter was likewise unfree, highly patriotic, militaristic, and followed the cult of a caudillo—along with being a share-the-poverty and hating capitalism dictatorship. Stalin once admired Hitler and vice versa; they saw each other as somewhat similar, especially their shared barbaric means to an end. The difference perhaps ultimately was one of relative degree: Hitler to his enemies was more right-wing, dictatorial and militaristic than socialist, and Stalin was more ruthlessly communist than other right-wing autocrats.
—Victor Davis Hanson