The Clare Spark Blog

December 10, 2014

Were Nazis “Socialists”?

stalin-mao-hitler-murderers-secret-combinationWith so many readers expecting short blogs readable on smartphones these days, it is not surprising that a limited number of my numerous Facebook friends have the patience to read deep-diving explanations of why they have swallowed the rumor that Hitler and the Nazis or others called “fascists” were indistinguishable from Communists and other advocates of “progress.” Still, I promised to deliver something that serious  readers would find digestible.

First, it is well known that communist historians in America have often blamed “Republicans” for Nazism.It is understandable that many conservatives, waylaid by the term “National Socialism” would return the favor by pouncing on the word “Socialism,” without deciphering its meaning to Germans.

Even before Hitler was appointed Chancellor by German President Paul von Hindenburg (to destroy the threatening German Communist Party and the Soviet Union, but with von Papen as Vice-Chancellor to hold Hitler in check), citizens of the Reich understood the concept of socialism to entail sacrifice of the individual for the benefit of the state. I already pointed this out: The exact quote in this series German Psychological Warfare: Survey and Bibliography edited by Ladislas Farago (1941) on behalf of the American “moderate” progressives is here Note the date, 1920:

“43. Spengler, O. Preussentum und Sozialismus. Muenchen: Beck, 1920.
PRUSSIANISM AND SOCIALISM. Spengler, a philosopher turned political prophet, ‘discovered’ during the war years the close identity of Prussianism to Socialism. Prussianism and “genuine Socialism”—not of Marx, but of Friedrich Wilhelm I, which was authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-revolutionary—are consolidated in the old Prussian spirit and are equal to each other because both mean power. This thesis was taken up by the Nazis in what was called ‘Socialism of action.’ Socialism meaning comradeship, service, and duty, not class struggle.” [And what “moderate” anticommunist would not find this appealing? CS]

Second, many rightists swear by Jonah Goldberg’s best-seller Liberal Fascism. I read the book twice and blogged about its slant and deficiencies here: No historian or major intellectual takes this book seriously. It does feed into the misconception fostered by ardent anticommunists that it is proper and appropriate to paint the Hitler moustache upon any progressive, particularly those that were interested in social hygiene and public health, as Hitler really was, though in the context of Aryan superiority and “the People’s Community” (the Volk) I suspect that there is a strong misogynistic element motivating Goldberg and his followers, especially with their insistence that the welfare state is better described as the “nanny state.” Or perhaps there is less misogyny here than bitterness over the departure of the patriarchal father in the home, disciplining children and allocating family resources: a process that has been going on since the rise of industrialism and the rise of “the moral mother.” (See, and

Third, although virtually all historians agree that the populist/anti-bourgeois S.A., one obstreperous faction of the new Nazi party, was finished by June 30, 1934 (the Night of the Long Knives), one recent scholar agrees that a minimal socialist element persisted throughout the Nazi regime (see Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism for this judgment, that I have not seen duplicated elsewhere in the English language, though in his earlier book The Racial State, co-written with Wolfgang Wipperman, he makes no such claim). For my rundown of Paxton’s most recent book, see

Finally, rightist culture warriors have spread the inflammatory myth that the refugee scholars of Jewish descent (the Frankfurters fleeing Nazism, who unsuccessfully attempted to fuse Marx and Freud) have turned the heads of the American electorate, propagating the notion of political correctness. I find this particularly infuriating and even likely to be antisemitic. See one of many blogs on this subject: Rather, it was the early Progressive movement, all Christians by the way, who invented identity politics; i.e. “ethnic” or hyphenated American identity would suffocate “proletarian internationalism.” Later, to mollify and co-opt the social movements of the 1960s, similar elitist statists deployed the crypto-racism of “multiculturalism” and “cultural relativism” to quiet the new “extremists” (some of whom did sympathize with the Old Left, especially Leninist anti-imperialism).

I can understand that many conservatives remain hung up on anticommunism and continue to defend Joe McCarthy, for major scholars have examined the briefly opened Soviet archives after 1989, and found that many of McCarthy’s claims were based in fact. But these same scholars have also documented the fall of the KGB and the sharply dwindling communist movement in America. I refer to Mark Kramer, Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Ron Radosh, to name a few. None would deny that Hitler’s task, as patronized by German conservatives, was to destroy the independent working class movement and its inspiration, the Soviet Union.
To imagine that Hitler was “really” a communist/Socialist, is to weaken the argument against the increasing statism demonstrated by the Obama administration. As Paxton and his inspiration Martin Broszat, convincingly demonstrate, Leader, Party, State, and sub-agencies (such as the SS) were in constant conflict during the Third Reich. Earlier scholars failed to see that the State was up for grabs during the Third Reich, partly because of sequestered documents.


Ironically, where conservative have ammunition linking “socially responsible capitalists” to Nazism, they fail to use it. For instance, to my knowledge, only I have uncovered ignore the important role that New Deal-affiliated social psychologists played in mind-management during the late 1930s and early 1940s: if you want to dig up scandals, this one is a dilly, for such luminaries as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, and Walter Langer consciously adopted Hitlerian methods of controlling the little people (the mob or “the people, untrained to rule”) they held responsible for Nazism. (See, and Henry A. Murray argued that Jewish blood would explain Hitler’s success in fooling other world leaders.

September 29, 2012

Index to blogs on antisemitism

Saudi cartoon 2008 (a synthesis that takes account of the “Hebraic” Reformation sects) (index to German Romantic sources for multiculturalism and related issues, such as identity politics) (retitled The Protestant Establishment Taps a Good Jew) (on the pervasiveness of “Christian anti-Semitism”)

It is a misconception to think that a person’s views toward individual Jews tests their antisemitic views one way or another. A-S is above all, a theory of history, most recently a reaction to the “disruptive” effects of modernity, and an identification of the source of Evil. Most or all antisemitism is racist, for no matter how assimilated a person of Jewish descent may be, that person retains mental, physical, and moral attributes attributed to “the Jews” considered as a collective entity. Of these, none is more pernicious than the  notion that all “Jews” partake of the Old Testament God as read by non-Jews, most famously by Voltaire (whose admirers were possibly angrier at Christianity, the offshoot of Judaism). That deity is domineering, militaristic, and genocidal, looking out solely for his “Chosen People.” One would think that such a powerful set of misconceptions would be corrected in the schools and in the mass media, but no. For in a highly populated globe, the masses must be controlled, and there is no more potent poison, directing popular anger away from abusive elites, than antisemitism: our innermost desires for truth, for a relatively accurate inventory of our past, is stigmatized as disintegrating to “the family.” So despite occasional hand-wringing over “the Holocaust,” antisemitism is still poorly, even crudely, understood by most, if not all, trained intellectuals.

Gustave Doré: Lost Satan

Gustave Doré: Lost Satan

July 29, 2009

The centrality of the Holocaust to Nazi war aims

Saul Friedlander and one of his great books

Historian Saul Friedländer gave a lecture at Vanderbilt University, November 5, 2007, that aroused the objection on one of my discussion groups (the history of antisemitism, a group on Humanities Net): one member complained that too much emphasis was placed on the centrality of Jewish extermination to the conduct of the second world war as managed by the Third Reich. This essay attempts to clear up an understandable confusion.

As Europeanist historians are aware, Friedländer and the late Martin Broszat had a very public argument in the 1980s over whether or not the final solution was or was not an indirect consequence of dispersed bureaucratic decision-making as opposed to the obsessive intent of Hitler and his closest lieutenants. There was also in this argument a debate over the “uniqueness” of the Holocaust, compared with other genocides. UCLA professor Peter Baldwin reproduces their correspondence in his Reworking the Past: Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Historians’ Debate, edited with an introduction (Beacon Press, 1990). This argument is now commonly characterized as the intentionalist versus functionalist debate. Near the beginning of his talk, Friedländer breaks away from his notes to describe some of his beef with Broszat, but only mentions, fascinatingly, that Broszat, like some other historians of note, did not think that the testimony of the victims (ostensibly a Jewish myth) should be part of the writing of an “objective” history of the final solution. One of the features of Friedländer’s two volumes is the inclusion of victim diaries (and their recovery is a story in itself), and these voices from the dead not only powerfully remove the Holocaust from the realm of depersonalized abstraction, but reveal what Friedländer describes as an important internal contradiction in some of their writing: a belief that their death is imminent, combined with plans for the future; in short, a degree of denial. This denial, that things are not as bad as they appear to be, is to be part of my comments below.

So, it is my view that when Friedländer describes the centrality of the complete extermination of the Jews in the Nazi project, he is arguing against the functionalist school of interpretation. He is not ignoring other factors that all students of German history are aware of. In his recorded lecture, you will hear him explain what he characterizes as his own view and the evidence for it, for instance, the timing of the extermination (as opposed to deportation and enslavement) moves in response to the entry of the Americans after Pearl Harbor and the counter-attack against the German invasion by the Soviets in late 1941. Hitler was now surrounded by “the Jews” on two fronts, not to speak of the enemy within. He also mentions Jeffrey Herf’s recent book [The Jewish Enemy, 2006] that shows the image of the Jew becoming ever more ominous (in concert with a flood of Nazi propaganda depicting the Jews as instigators of the war and their intention to exterminate Germany). Friedländer makes a nice comment on this point: whereas Nazi propaganda depicts the Jews as a monolithic demonic force, Jews were drastically divided among themselves throughout “the years of extermination,” to the detriment of all. And scariest of all, he points out that the knowledge of the final solution as it was taking place was broadly known by elites in every field (including the churches) and yet nearly all remained publicly silent. I bring this out because we may be in a comparable position today with respect to the terrorist threat emanating from Islamists and the dissemination of such horrors as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf throughout the Arab and Muslim world. (On the understudied subject of antisemitism see

When I first started reading and writing about the role of propaganda in the second world war (in the 1970s), I was dubious about how effective it was as an explanation for the rise of Nazism and its victories. I was then a Marxist of some sort and read numerous left-wing books on fascism as the inevitable result of monopoly capital. And the fact that immediately after the war, American elites were pushing the importance of propaganda and Hitler’s craziness while ignoring the Nazi and Italian Fascist destruction of the independent working class movement in tandem with the destruction of the Soviet Union (the home of “Jewish Bolshevism,” supposedly a bogus form of socialism) tended to minimize in my own mind the toxic cultural inheritance of Germany and Europe in general. Moreover, throughout my education in major universities (whether in the 1950s or from 1983 on in graduate school), I never heard a responsible discussion on the history and power of antisemitism. My postings on the history of antisemitism list have been a record of my own growing change of mind. I have posted numerous comments about “the Jews” perceived as responsible for capitalism and the growing rule of filthy lucre. (I do not imply that this was some kind of original discovery of mine, but only my public education by other scholars plus broad and probably obsessive reading in the sources.) Moreover, as just noted, it was the argument of many Europeans that the Soviet regime was not true socialism but a trick, with finance capital pulling the strings: see the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and its predecessor, “the Rabbi’s speech” (synopsized in Norman Cohn’s book, Warrant for Genocide), but also the ongoing hatred of “finance capitalism” as essentially a Jewish invention that was dominated by Jews and the wide currency such beliefs had at the turn of the twentieth century, for instance in the writing of J. A. Hobson (author of Imperialism: A Study.) Populists bought this notion, I believe on both Left and Right. Little did I know that those publicists of 1945 and after who emphasized propaganda knew whereof they spoke, for they had been, as progressives, creating their own propaganda to maintain an American consensus in support of the New Deal, aka “socially responsible capitalism.” There was nothing in their project that would have enhanced understanding in this country of the power of antisemitism and its fundamental tenets. And none of these social psychologists/sociologists called a conference in America or Europe immediately after the war to make sure that such racist malevolence was entirely bogus, anti-intellectual, and antidemocratic. [This blog might be read along with my blog of 8-22 on sykewar emanating from Harvard , also my blog on the book and movie The Reader]

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