National Socialism

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Political poster from Germany during the 1930's; translated, it reads National Socialism -- the organized will of the nation

National Socialism (Nazism) is a totalitarian system originally created in Germany immediately following World War I, and characterized by intense nationalism, dictatorial or draconian rule, mass appeal, brutal use of violence, disregard for the law, and a racial policy emphasizing the subjugation or extermination of people considered inferior, based heavily on a belief in social Darwinism, as advocated by people such as Heinrich von Treitschke and Houston Stewart Chamberlain.[1] This philosophy extrapolated Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory and said that persons, groups, and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection that Darwin proposed for animals.[2]

The name Nazi is a contraction of the full party name, National Socialist German Workers Party. Nazism, in short, is simply one of several varieties of socialism. As a political party it controlled Germany from 1933-1945 under Adolf Hitler, resulting in World War II and a campaign of mostly anti-Jewish and racist politics, resulting in genocide (see the Holocaust). Supporters of Communism, or of socialism in general, like to pretend that Nazism was not socialist but "right wing".

  • It was common in those days, as it is in ours, to identify the Communists as leftist and the Nazis as rightists, as if they stood on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. But Ludwig von Mises knew differently. They both sported the same ideological pedigree of socialism. "The German and Russian systems of socialism have in common the fact that the government has full control of the means of production. It decides what shall be produced and how. It allots to each individual a share of consumer's goods for his consumption."
  • The difference between the systems, wrote Mises, is that the German pattern "maintains private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary prices, wages, and markets." But in fact the government directs production decisions, curbs entrepreneurship and the labor market, and determines wages and interest rates by central authority. "Market exchange," says Mises, "is only a sham." [1]


For a more detailed treatment, see Nazi platform of 1925.

National Socialism is related to socialism in which the basic core is a control of people, property, and income by a centralized government. The core concepts of socialism were kept, transferred, and implemented in the 25 points of the Nazi Party Platform of 1925, which included:

  • The abolition of unearned income;
  • Nationalization of trusts;
  • Inclusion into profit-sharing;
  • Increase in old-age pensions;
  • Creation and maintenance of a sound middle-class;
  • Aguarian reform, which included the siezing of land without compensation;
  • State control of education;
  • Creation of a "folk" army to supplant or replace the regular army;
  • State control of the press [2]

Several concepts, however, make National Socialism unique as a political philosophy:

  • A regimented, militaristic style of governance which had its origins in the Prussian traditions exemplified by Frederick William I (1688–1740), Frederick the Great (1712–68), and Otto von Bismarck (1815–98);
  • A belief of the Nordic “Aryan” man as superior in blood, intellect, and culture over all other races of man, given emphasis by the works of Frederich Nietzsche (Mensch und Übermensch) and other 19th century intellectuals.

Added to these beliefs was the science of the time, specifically the theories related to “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” as postulated by British naturalist Charles Darwin; these theories would be used later as justification for Nazi removal and extermination of non-German people throughout much of Europe prior to and during World War II.

When Hitler joined and took control of the German Worker’s Party in 1920, he added what could be the most damaging elements:

  • A rabid hatred for anything and anyone not German;
  • and a passionate German nationalism which demanded an expansion of German territory by force or other means.

Prior to World War I, Hitler had been a homeless tramp eking out a meager living as an artist in Vienna, Austria, a multi-ethnic city which included Slavs and Jews among its population; his experience there, as well as the racial propaganda Hitler read voraciously - among them the classic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion - fed into his pro-Germanic racist beliefs.

National Socialism did not come into its own until after Germany’s defeat in World War I. What gave it impetus was the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, in which Germany was forced to assume guilt and responsibility for causing the war and the death and destruction which resulted. The Allies’ insistence on the drafting of the Treaty without German participation, the heavy reparations, the despair and disillusionment felt by many Germans after the war, and those diplomats Hitler felt had agreed to cease the war (the “November criminals”) were all used in Hitler’s propaganda to persuade as many Germans as possible to support the Nazi cause. The hyper-inflation of 1923 which wiped out middle-class savings and made the German mark worthless added to the National Socialist cause.

Hitler went into detail as to what National Socialism would be when he wrote his political testament while in prison in 1922. In Mein Kampf he outlined his racial policies and theories, his theories regarding German expansion, and his understandings of mass psychology and propaganda; in the latter he understood that a weak-minded people would be led by someone who can speak at their level, regarding "truth" less important than "success":

"It is part of a great leader's genius to make even widely separated adversaries appear as if they belonged to but one category, because among weakly and undecided characters the recognition of various enemies all too easily marks the beginning of doubt of one's own rightness."

Before he was ousted from the Party, Hermann Rauschning, National Socialist President of the Danzig Senate in 1933-1934, recalled being told by Hitler that:

"Each activity and each need of the individual will thereby be regulated by the party as the representative of the general good. There will be no license, no free space, in which the individual belongs to himself. This is Socialism—not such trifles as the private possession of the means of production. Of what importance is that if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape? Let them then own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over them, regardless whether they are owners or workers. All that, you see, is unessential. Our Socialism goes far deeper . . . ."
"[T]he people about us are unaware of what is really happening to them. They gaze fascinated at one or two familiar superficialities, such as possessions and income and rank and other outworn conceptions. As long as these are kept intact, they are quite satisfied. But in the meantime they have entered a new relation; a powerful social force has caught them up. They themselves are changed. What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings." (Peikoff, p. 231)

“To be a socialist,” said Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels, “is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.” (Peikoff, p. 19).

Furthermore, when asked about the position of National Socialism, Goebbels responded, "the NSDAP is the German Left. We despise bourgeois nationalism." (Der Angriff, Dec 6th, 1931).


National Socialism is revolutionary in nature and without end. National identity and nationalist ideology have been blended with a social radicalism in which liberalism, democracy, human rights, rationalism, and the rule of law were subordinated to the will of the state, the "state" being autocratic and concentrated in the person of the Fuhrer, i.e. Hitler. Once in power, the Nazis held on to it by threat, intimidation, violence, and the manipulation of the masses. It assumed that the strong had the right to rule the weak and the so-called "Master Race" had to expand its territory through the policy of lebensraum, "living space", and prepared Germans to accept an ethic of "ferocity" and "hardness".

After World War II

National Socialism as a political force in Germany ended with that country’s defeat in 1945. Despite a “de-nazification” program by the victorious Allies, adherents to Nazism attempted to create new political groups as early as 1948 in West Germany, but were ineffective at reviving the movement; many were later banned, as with the symbolism that was part of it, such as the swastika.

Today, the only political party considered to have many elements of Nazism is the Baath Party of Syria and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) has also many times been accused of neo-Nazism and has survived repeated attempts at banning; party president Udo Voigt has made repeated anti-semitic/anti-immigrant statements, including attacks against America. Small neo-Nazi hate groups operate in several European countries and the United States.

In the media, including the Internet, neo-Nazism has also appeared. Radio programs hosted by such as David Duke and repeated appearances of noted Holocaust deniers such as David Irving are an example. Major hate sites like Stormfront and Metapedia contribute for Nazi/White Supremacist views.

Further reading

  • Abel, Theodore. Why Hitler Came into Power. Harvard U. Press, 1986. 315 pp.
  • Bracher, Karl D. The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure and Consequences of National Socialism (1973). Influential analysis by political scientist
  • Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. (2000). 864 pp. Stress on antisemitism; excerpt and text search
  • Bullock, Alan. Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, (1962) online edition
  • Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich: A History. 2004. 622 pp., a major scholarly survey excerpt and text search
  • Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich in Power: 1933-1939. (2005). 800 pp. The major scholarly study excerpt and text search
  • Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (1998); vol. 2: The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (2007), the standard history excerpt and text search
  • Geary, Dick. Hitler and Nazism, (2000) 97 pages
  • Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris. vol. 1. 1999. 700 pp. excerpt and text search vol 1; vol 2: Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis. 2000. 832 pp.; the leading scholarly biography, excerpt and text search vol 2
  • Koonz, Claudia. Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, Family Life, and Nazi Ideology, 1919-1945. (1986). 640 pp. The major study
  • Overy, Richard. The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Owings, Alison. Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich. Rutgers U. Press, 1993. 484 pp. oral histories
  • Peikoff, Leonard. The Omninous Parallels: A Brilliant Study of America Today - and the 'ominous parallels' with the chaos of pre-Hitler Germany; Plume, New York City (1983)
  • Rempel, Gerhard. Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS, (1989) online edition
  • Stibbe, Matthew. Women in the Third Reich, 2003, 208 pp.
  • Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (2007), highly influential new study
  • Welch, David. Hitler (1998.) 123pp online edition


  1. [
  2. Britannica's entry on social Darwinism