Monday, February 18, 2013

National Socialists are Socialists

This week a UK "crime commissioner" (I understand that this is a civilian who oversees the police, not someone who commissions crime) named Dr Rachel Frosh was forced to resign for equating Socialists with National Socialists after an outcry from people on the political left.  Her posting on Twitter can be seen here.

The reaction to this is wrong on so many levels.  

Firstly, it is incredibly hypocritical.  How often do you read and hear comments from the political left-wing comparing the beliefs of their political opposites with Nazism?  What is good for the goose is surely OK for the gander.

Secondly, it is not offensive to equate one political philosophy with another.  Frosh did not say any individual was a Nazi; she didn't even equate a political party with Nazism (unlike the original post that hers was in response to, which said the British National Party members were Nazis).

Thirdly, the comparison is correct.  National Socialists were, first and foremost, Socialists.  Hitler was at pains to point out, as the quote in Frosh's posting states, "We are Socialists."  Why else would he have called his party the National Socialist Workers Party?  Nazis believed they represented the workers against the oppression, just like all other Socialists.  Nazis made scapegoats of those they saw as oppressors (the Jews mainly) just like other Socialists (who scapegoat capitalists and the bourgeoisie).

The most important common factor is that both regular Socialists and National Socialists believe the individual must be subjugated to the interests of the collective.  They differ only in their definition of the collective - Nazis believe the important collective is the race and the state, Socialists the proletariat.  Once you accept that the interests of the individual can be sacrificed for that of the collective, however you choose to define it, you legitimize any act against any individual that stands in the way of collective. Socialists and National Socialists agree on the principle, just not the definition of the collective's interests and the means to pursue them.  They both believe that a political elite should define those interests.

This issue raises the question of the popular terms used to define political beliefs in the world today.  "Left wing" and "right wing" are not different ends of a political spectrum.  Nazism and Socialism occupy the same philosophical territory.  The other end of the spectrum is not some other variation of these philosophies, it is the belief that the rights of the individual are paramount and the only moral basis for political action is to protect those rights.  This is the philosophy that has found expression down through the ages via Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, and has found its fullest expression in the writings of Ayn Rand.