Monday, November 27, 2017

Socialism of the right?

Postmodern mariachis att Turnberry, June 2015 in The National.

I spent a ridiculously large part of the afternoon looking for a decent and adequately contextualized source for that quote, which originates from an especially poorly made and poorly documented WikiQuotes page), and ran along the way into a good deal of stuff that might be interesting beyond the usual spectacle of me throwing a pie in Dinesh's face, on the issue of what we're to do with these awful old terms of "right" and "left" and "fascist", especially relevant in the age of Trump.

The best source was a chapter, "Von der amerikanischen Sklaverei zum bundesdeutschen Kampf gegen Rechts: Metamorphosen des Rassismus " (From American Slavery to the Federal German Struggle Against the Right: Metamorphoses of Racism), from a 2008 book by Joseph Schüsslburner, quoting in turn from a 1987 book by the journalist Wolfgang Venohr, Stauffenberg: Symbol des Widerstands ("Stauffenberg: Symbol of Resistance", on the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler):

 „Wenn ich sozialistisch denke, muß ich Antisemit sein. Denn der Jude ist die Inkarnation des Kapitalismus“, so noch Joseph Goebbels, der sich konsequenterweise selbst eindeutig der politischen (nationalen) Linken zugeordnet hat: „Der Idee der NSDAP entsprechend sind w i r die deutsche Linke! Nichts ist uns verhaßter als der rechtsstehende nationale Besitzbürgerblock“.
"When I'm thinking as a socialist, I have to be an anti-Semite; because the Jew is the incarnation of capitalism," said Joseph Goebbels, who was consistent enough to ascribe himself to the political (nationalist) left: "According to NSDAP precepts, we're the German left! There's nothing we hate so much as the right-leaning national bloc of the propertied bourgeoisie".
That is, the NSDAP (claimed Goebbels in 1931) is the German left as opposed to the Social Democrats and Communists, whose leftism is infected with (Marxist) Jewishness and hence not German, or truly left, at all, while the nationalists of the Besitzbürgertum, the true capitalist party, are a presumably even more Jewish, and thus even worse enemy. Goebbels clarifies that the national socialists don't hate socialism, only the Jewish kind, and likewise don't hate nationalism, only the kind of nationalism professed by the (actually "rootless") upper classes.

Thus, even if the WikiQuotes translation was accurate you could hardly argue it supports D'Souza's claim that nationalism in the NSDAP official ideology was subordinatee to socialism. Fixed up with a better rendering and an idea of the context, it becomes still clearer: the "socialism" of the National Socialists is far less important than their nationalism, or Aryanism, or non-Jewishness, which always takes top priority.

Similarly with other Goebbels sayings: Sozialist sein: das heißt, das Ich dem Du unterordnen, die Persönlichkeit der Gesamtheit zum Opfer bringen. "To be a socialist means to subordinate the I to the Thou, to sacrifice the personality to the totality." Whereas in proper, Marxian (Jewish) socialism the aim of collective action is always the achievement of personal liberation (not the liberation of libertarianism, confined to those who have enough money to achieve it for themselves, but the liberation of rich and poor alike, freed from the strictures of class struggle).

With that Goebbels quote when it is properly cited is a quotation from the great antifascist Willi Brandt, West German Chancellor 1969-74, I almost want to say the German Mandela, warning me not to mock D'Souza too hard: Das sozialistische Element im Nationalsozialismus... muß von uns erkannt werden— "The socialist element in National Socialism... is something we have to recognize." That's true, especially because Brandt says it, though I would still contend that the main purpose of the socialism was to attract support from the working classes for the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (Nationalsocialist German Workers' Party), along with the purpose of the "workers" in the party name. But let's not, as Brandt would not, hold the German working class responsible for the disaster that ensued.

Much of the rhetoric in the 1925 party manifesto was ferociously anti-capitalist, indeed, and an entire important faction of the party in those days was led by bona fide socialists of an anti-Semitic type, the brothers Joseph and Otto Strasser. It wasn't until they took power in 1933 (on the invitation of the conservative parties, not the leftist ones) that the Nazis seriously began cuddling up with the corporate conservatives, most notably Gustav Krupp, and Hitler murderously purged the socialist Strasser faction from his party in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives. From the moment he took on the chancellorship, the nominal leftism was over. Whatever the NSDAP's socialism in theory, it was quickly disappeared in practice, as socialist and communists were imprisoned and killed, corporate relationships were cultivated along with conservative Christian organizations, and the regime became to all intensive porpoises as right as it could possibly be.

Indeed, "left" and "right" if we are to keep using the terms at all shouldn't be bound to particular historical moments and ecomomic techniques, and that's the other thing I wanted to say,  High tariffs and protectionism have been "left" policies at certain historical moments, such as in the United States in the first decades after the Civil War, and "right" at other times, particularly in the 1920s and, I think, now, in the Trumpery. Nationalization of industry must be regarded as left in postwar Britain and France but right in the arbitrary form it took in Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union during the war. We should be using "left" to refer to programs aiming Marxian-style at the liberation of all people regardless of class, and "right" for programs aiming at the maintenance of socioeconomic hierarchy. In that sense the "socialism" of the Nazi party in the late 1920s and early 1930s was a socialism of the right, particularly opposed to the liberation of workers.

Sorry about the density of that last paragraph. I'll be getting back to the question, no doubt.

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