… the words ‘never again’ are little more than a hollow slogandeplores Ed Kozak.
For if we refuse to accept, and more importantly challenge, the ideological origins of a movement that culminated in the systematic murder of millions of innocent human beings, there is absolutely no way we can prevent the same from happening again.
The easiest way of proving that the origins of Nazism are in no way remotely conservative is to start by looking at some defining features of conservatism itself, specifically the European variety.
These include: the belief that a society rooted in monarchy and aristocracy is preferable to mass democracy; that there is a transcendental moral order (what Kirk called the Permanent Things) which in Western Civilization has been preserved and passed down through the Christian Church; that property rights are the very foundation of ordered liberty; and, of course, the universal conservative belief that any necessary societal change must occur slowly and without structural damage to ancient and proven institutions – that problems in society come not from broken traditions and institutions but from broken men and morals.
It should go without saying that Nazism had no love of monarchy or aristocracy. Hitler didn’t reinstate the House of Hohenzollern; he made himself dictator. The notion that the son of a minor civil servant (Alois Hitler himself born a bastard and of peasant stock) had a right to rule over Germany can hardly be called traditionally conservative. Moreover, his great dislike of the aristocratic military establishment is well known; the lack of a ‘von’ in front of his surname was a permanent chip on Hitler’s shoulder. Granted, Himmler liked to play feudal lord with the SS, but his was a ‘feudalism’ based on a half-cocked interpretation of a quasi-mythical pagan past.
This brings us nicely to defining conservative feature number two: Christianity. Himmler’s obsession with paganism is very well-documented. Hitler may have viewed the SS as his personal bodyguard, but Himmler viewed them as a pagan Knights Templar, destined to recreate a utopic, pre-Christian Teutonic society.
Furthermore, the ‘official’ religion of Nazism was positive Christianity, a doctrine that can hardly be called positive or Christian. This ‘Christian’ ideology rejected the Jewish bible in its entirety, rejected Jesus’ Jewish origins, and wished to wipe Catholicism off the face of the earth (stalwart defender of tradition it is) and create a united Nazi protestant church.
Nor can it be said that the Nazis had any respect for traditional property rights. They nationalized industries, advocated progressive taxation schemes, and were virulently anti-capitalist. Now, that’s not to say that conservatism must necessarily be in favour of pure, unrestricted laissez-faire capitalism (see Kirk, Chesterton, etc.), but whereas the traditionalist objection to capitalism is at its heart an objection to the disastrous spiritual and moral effects of industrialisation, the Nazis’ objection to capitalism was rooted firmly in post-industrialist, Marxist interpretations of economics.
The conservative argues that socialism isn’t a cure for the disease of industrial society, but a symptom of the same sickness. As we all know, Nazi property violations weren’t limited solely to estate, they also infringed upon life and liberty with spectacular zeal, especially the life and liberty of those they deemed sub-human.
‘Aha’, says the skeptical reader, ‘this is where I have him! This crazy conservative doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He just wrote it himself, the Nazis were a bunch of racists, surely that means they were right wing!’ Now, unlike you, my dear liberal reader, I understand that man is fallen, so I’ll forgive you your ignorance on the matter. First, let’s briefly get this ‘right wing’ thing out of the way, shall we?
Yes, fascists and Nazis were almost from the start called ‘right wing’, but this was a slander employed by other socialists, meant to discredit these socialists of a distinctly nationalist bent in the eyes of fellow radical travelers. If they were ‘right wing’ at all they were the ‘right wing’ of the left.
As Jonah Goldberg explains in his brilliant (and apparently woefully under-read) Liberal Fascism, this is why street fighting between fascists and communists was so vicious in Germany; these people were fighting for the same hearts and minds, the same segment of middle class voters susceptible to revolutionary nonsense. The godfather of fascism himself, Mussolini, was a member of [the Internationale], and the term ‘national socialist’ was in use in leftist circles well before the Nazi party was created.
Nationalism as we know it was one of the earliest leftist ideologies, and remains fundamentally left wing, going hand in hand with identity politics. It was forged, as almost all ideological poisons that plague us today, in the fires of the French Revolution, and developed as a means of undermining the old European order, specifically the grand and, more importantly, multi-ethnic empires of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, and, to an extent, Britain.
The idea that countries should be based on single ethnic groups – the promotion of nation states – is an ideologically radical position. To a conservative, culture, not race, is what matters. The cry of the National Socialist is blood and soil, race and nation. The cry of the conservative is king and country.
Thus do the intellectually honest arrive at the inescapable conclusion: Nazism is not conservative. And if it is not conservative, it cannot be truly called right wing. It is a product of the French Revolution, just another bastard child of Rousseau’s love affair with himself, simply one more in a long line of deformed, monstrous political creatures to slither its way out of the primordial Jacobin soup.
The fact that Central and Eastern Europe (really all of Europe for that matter) have a long and at times vicious history with anti-Semitism is well known, and frequently referenced when discussing collusion with Nazis in occupied countries.
What is noted with far less frequency, and is far more important, however, is that fact that not until the dissolution of the Christian monarchies and the introduction of mass democracy was there an organised, systematic attempt to wipe out European Jewry (if you think the Holocaust is in any way comparable to the Inquisition in premise or scope, you comprehend neither). In fact, between the time the Christianization of Europe was completed and the French Revolution, there were really no organised, systematic attempts to wipe out anyone in Europe.
This is the obvious truth we ignore when we censure and censor people who would accurately link Nazism with leftism. Political theorist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn articulated this truth brilliantly:
The fatal year is 1789, and the symbol of iniquity is the Jacobin Cap. Its heresy is the denial of personality and of personal liberty. Its concrete realizations are Jacobin mass democracy, all forms of national collectivism and statism, Marxism producing socialism and communism, fascism, and national socialism, leftism in all its modern guises and manifestations to which in America the good term 'liberalism,' perversely enough, is being applied. The issue is between man created in the image of God and the termite in a human guise.
Only a German people ripped from tradition, a German people starved of Judeo-Christian morality, drugged with the false promise of a better future, and subjected to the authority of those who have no right to it, could stand by and watch, at times cheer even, as millions of human beings – precious, living, breathing human beings – were systematically herded up like cattle and sent to be exterminated like termites.
Make no mistake. There is little difference, if any, in principle between fascism, communism, and progressivism – between Soviets, Nazis, and today’s UK Labour Party or US Democratic Party. The difference lies only in the degree to which those ideological principles are followed through.
All promise a utopian future, to be attained by sacrificing tradition at the altar of progress. All deny class distinctions as well as the old order, politically rooted in Feudalism, morally rooted in Christianity. They deny individual liberty, responsibility, and property rights. And most importantly, perhaps not to be counted among the ideological tenants listed above, but as a result of them, they inevitably end up denying the sanctity and value of human life.
In Nazi-occupied Poland, an elderly Jewish rabbi becomes nothing more than a germ, merely to be cleansed. In Soviet-occupied Lithuania, a respectable businessman becomes an enemy of the people, merely to become part of a statistic.
Students across the globe rhetorically ask how people could participate in something as evil as the Holocaust. The answer is simple: It is the easiest thing in the world to commit evil when one doesn’t believe it to be such, when one exists in a society governed by moral relativism. The choice is indeed between man created in the image of God and the termite in a human guise. Those who would obfuscate the ideological and philosophical origins of Nazism have made their choice known.