Who said this? A representative of the 21st century U.S. Democratic party, maybe?
“As things stand today, the trade unions in my opinion cannot be dispensed with. On the contrary, they are among the most important institutions of the nation’s economic life. Their significance lies not only in the social and political field, but even more in the general field of national politics. A people whose broad masses, through a sound trade-union movement, obtain the satisfaction of their living requirements and at the same time an education, will be tremendously strengthened in its power of resistance in the struggle for existence”.
It could well be any Leftist speaker of the present time but it is in fact a small excerpt from chapter 12 of Mein Kampf, wherein Hitler goes to great lengths to stress the importance of unions. The association between unions and Leftism is of course historic and, as a Leftist, Hitler made great efforts to enlist unions as supporters of his party.
Let us look at what the Left and Right in politics consist of at present. Consider this description by Edward Feser of someone who would have been a pretty good Presidential candidate for the modern-day U.S. Democratic party:
He had been something of a bohemian in his youth, and always regarded young people and their idealism as the key to progress and the overcoming of outmoded prejudices. And he was widely admired by the young people of his country, many of whom belonged to organizations devoted to practicing and propagating his teachings. He had a lifelong passion for music, art, and architecture, and was even something of a painter. He rejected what he regarded as petty bourgeois moral hang-ups, and he and his girlfriend “lived together” for years. He counted a number of homosexuals as friends and collaborators, and took the view that a man’s personal morals were none of his business; some scholars of his life believe that he himself may have been homosexual or bisexual. He was ahead of his time where a number of contemporary progressive causes are concerned: he disliked smoking, regarding it as a serious danger to public health, and took steps to combat it; he was a vegetarian and animal lover; he enacted tough gun control laws; and he advocated euthanasia for the incurably ill.
He championed the rights of workers, regarded capitalist society as brutal and unjust, and sought a third way between communism and the free market. In this regard, he and his associates greatly admired the strong steps taken by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to take large-scale economic decision-making out of private hands and put it into those of government planning agencies. His aim was to institute a brand of socialism that avoided the inefficiencies that plagued the Soviet variety, and many former communists found his program highly congenial. He deplored the selfish individualism he took to be endemic to modern Western society, and wanted to replace it with an ethic of self-sacrifice: “As Christ proclaimed ‘love one another’,” he said, “so our call — ‘people’s community,’ ‘public need before private greed,’ ‘communally-minded social consciousness’ — rings out.! This call will echo throughout the world!”
The reference to Christ notwithstanding, he was not personally a Christian, regarding the Catholicism he was baptized into as an irrational superstition. In fact he admired Islam more than Christianity, and he and his policies were highly respected by many of the Muslims of his day. He and his associates had a special distaste for the Catholic Church and, given a choice, preferred modern liberalized Protestantism, taking the view that the best form of Christianity would be one that forsook the traditional other-worldly focus on personal salvation and accommodated itself to the requirements of a program for social justice to be implemented by the state. They also considered the possibility that Christianity might eventually have to be abandoned altogether in favor of a return to paganism, a worldview many of them saw as more humane and truer to the heritage of their people. For he and his associates believed strongly that a people’s ethnic and racial heritage was what mattered most. Some endorsed a kind of cultural relativism according to which what is true or false and right or wrong in some sense depends on one’s ethnic worldview, and especially on what best promotes the well-being of one’s ethnic group
There is surely no doubt that the man Feser describes sounds very much like a mainstream Leftist by current standards. But who is the man concerned? It is a historically accurate description of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was not only a socialist in his own day but he would even be a mainstream socialist in MOST ways today. Feser does not mention Hitler’s antisemitism above, of course, but that too seems once again to have become mainstream among the Western-world Left in the early years of the 21st century.
But there is no claim that Hitler was WHOLLY like modern democratic Leftists. In ways other than those so far mentioned, Hitler was, as has already been detailed to some extent, more like his Communist predecessors. Ludwig von Mises speaks of those similarities. Writing in 1944 he said:
“The Nazis have not only imitated the Bolshevist tactics of seizing power. They have copied much more. They have imported from Russia the one-party system and the privileged role of this party and its members in public life; the paramount position of the secret police; the organization of affiliated parties abroad which are employed in fighting their domestic governments and in sabotage and espionage, assisted by public funds and the protection of the diplomatic and consular service; the administrative execution and imprisonment of political adversaries; concentration camps; the punishment inflicted on the families of exiles; the methods of propaganda. They have borrowed from the Marxians even such absurdities as the mode of address, party comrade (Parteigenosse), derived from the Marxian comrade (Genosse), and the use of a military terminology for all items of civil and economic life. The question is not in which respects both systems are alike but in which they differ…”
(For those who are unaware of it, Von Mises was an Austrian Jewish intellectual and a remarkably prescient economist. He got out of Vienna just hours ahead of the Gestapo. He did therefore have both every reason and every opportunity to be a close observer of Nazism. So let us also read a bit of what he said about the Nazi economy:)
The Nazis did not, as their foreign admirers contend, enforce price control within a market economy. With them price control was only one device within the frame of an all-around system of central planning. In the Nazi economy there was no question of private initiative and free enterprise. All production activities were directed by the Reichswirtschaftsministerium. No enterprise was free to deviate in the conduct of its operations from the orders issued by the government. Price control was only a device in the complex of innumerable decrees and orders regulating the minutest details of every business activity and precisely fixing every individual’s tasks on the one hand and his income and standard of living on the other.
What made it difficult for many people to grasp the very nature of the Nazi economic system was the fact that the Nazis did not expropriate the entrepreneurs and capitalists openly and that they did not adopt the principle of income equality which the Bolshevists espoused in the first years of Soviet rule and discarded only later. Yet the Nazis removed the bourgeois completely from control. Those entrepreneurs who were neither Jewish nor suspect of liberal and pacifist leanings retained their positions in the economic structure. But they were virtually merely salaried civil servants bound to comply unconditionally with the orders of their superiors, the bureaucrats of the Reich and the Nazi party.
And let us look at the words of someone who was actually in Germany in the 1930s and who thus saw Nazism close up. He said:
“If I’d been German and not a Jew, I could see I might have become a Nazi, a German nationalist. I could see how they’d become passionate about saving the nation. It was a time when you didn’t believe there was a future unless the world was fundamentally transformed.”
So who said that? It was the famous historian, Eric Hobsbawm (original surname: Obstbaum), who became a Communist instead and who later became known as perhaps Britain’s most resolute Communist. Hobsbawn clearly saw only slight differences between Communism and Nazism at that time. And as this summary of a book (by Richard Overy) comparing Hitler and Stalin says:
“But the resemblances are inescapable. Both tyrannies relied on a desperate ideology of do-or-die confrontation. Both were obsessed by battle imagery: ‘The dictatorships were military metaphors, founded to fight political war.’ And despite the rhetoric about a fate-struggle between socialism and capitalism, the two economic systems converged strongly. Stalin’s Russia permitted a substantial private sector, while Nazi Germany became rapidly dominated by state direction and state-owned industries.
In a brilliant passage, Overy compares the experience of two economic defectors. Steel magnate Fritz Thyssen fled to Switzerland because he believed that Nazi planning was ‘Bolshevising’ Germany. Factory manager Victor Kravchenko defected in 1943 because he found that class privilege and the exploitation of labour in Stalinist society were no better than the worst excesses of capitalism.
As Overy says, much that the two men did was pointless. Why camps? Prisons would have held all their dangerous opponents Who really needed slave labour, until the war? What did that colossal surplus of cruelty and terror achieve for the regimes? ‘Violence was… regarded as redemptive, saving society from imaginary enemies.’”
And let us listen to Hitler himself on the matter:
“There is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it. There is, above all, genuine, revolutionary feeling, which is alive everywhere in Russia except where there are Jewish Marxists. I have always made allowance for this circumstance, and given orders that former Communists are to be admitted to the party at once. The petit bourgeois Social-Democrat and the trade-union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the Communists always will.”
“Of what importance is all that, if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape? Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the Party, is supreme over them regardless of whether they are owners or workers. All that is unessential; our socialism goes far deeper. It establishes a relationship of the individual to the State, the national community. Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.”
(Both quotes above are from Hermann Rauschning in Hitler Speaks, London, T. Butterworth, 1940, also called The Voice of Destruction. See e.g. here.
Because what he records is so inconvenient, many contemporary historians dismiss Rauschning’s 1940 book as inaccurate, even though it is perfectly in accord with everything else we now know about Hitler. But no-one disputes that Rauschning was a prominent Nazi for a time. He was however basically a conservative so eventually became disillusioned with the brutalities of Nazism and went into opposition to it. Rauschning’s book was in fact prophetic, which certainly tends to indicate that he knew what he was talking about.)