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This blog once bore the name 'EDL Extra'. I supported the EDL until 2012. As the reader will see, the last post which supports the EDL dates back to 2012. This blog, nonetheless, retains the former web address.

Monday, 22 July 2013

How Professor Wilford Erased Socialism From National Socialism (Nazism)







“We [the Nazis] did not defend Germany against Bolshevism back then because we were not intending to do anything like conserve a bourgeois world… Had communism really intended nothing more than a certain purification by eliminating isolated rotten elements from among the ranks of our so-called ‘upper ten thousand’… one could have sat back quietly and looked on for a while.”


-          Adolph Hitler (said some time after he achieved power in 1933)

“We will initiate massive state-subsidized work programs in order to fulfil our goal of full employment at fair and just wage…  the capitalist system has created a war between the classes.  The losers of this war have been the working class… the modern class structure being based largely on one’s economic prowess…  The spoils of this parasitical elite class will be seized and redistributed to the people.”


-           Andrew Anglin, 2013, from the blog, 'Total Fascism'


Part One

Introduction


This piece is a response to Professor Rick Wilford’s ‘Fascism’, which is a chapter in the book, Political Ideologies: an Introduction (second edition).

Instead of me describing the nature of this book, I will simply quote what’s written on its sleeve:

“This book is written…to introduce students to the complexities of political ideas.”

All the chapters are written by academics at the Politics Department of the Queen’s University of Belfast.

Since Professor Rick Wilford’s chapter, ‘Fascism’, can be found in an academic book aimed at students, I found it hard to accept the rhetoric and polemical nature of his account of fascism and National Socialism. It seems that because most people agree that both fascism and National Socialism were – or are - abominations, then this gave him carte blanche to indulge in many examples of very personal turns of phrase. Perhaps the nature of fascism and National Socialism do allow Wilford and others this freedom to be very subjective. However, does it also give him the license to also offer us (or his students) an utterly Marxist account of the nature of fascism and National Socialism? (I have read another three of the essays in this book, written by other authors, and none of them display even a scintilla of the personal excesses found in Rick Wilford’s essay.)

There are various possibilities on Professor Rick Wilford’s Marxism. One, that Rick Wilford was a Marxist when he wrote this piece (in 1994); though he may not be a Marxist today. Two, that Wilford wasn’t a Marxist then and he’s not a Marxist now. Finally, and this more interesting possibility: that he wasn’t strictly speaking a Marxist then but he still nonetheless offered us an utterly Marxist account of fascism and National Socialism.

In a sense, even if I had discovered (if such a thing can be discovered) that Professor Rick Wilford was neither a Marxist then nor is a Marxist today, that wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest. My contention is simply that his account of Nazism and fascism is out-rightly - and almost in every detail - Marxist in nature.

The last possibility, of Rick Wilford not being a Marxist but nonetheless offering a Marxist account, is very common. There have, of course, been literally thousands of Marxists accounts of the nature of fascism and Nazism as well of ‘the rise of’ these movements. That’s fair enough. But what’s more interesting are the very many accounts that are Marxist even though the writers and analysts wouldn’t have seen themselves as being Marxists. This is because the Marxist accounts of both ‘the rise of’ - and ‘nature of’ - fascism and Nazism have become mainstream and have been for decades. (This parallels how Marxists accounts of, for example, racism, multiculturalism, ‘community cohesion’, ‘embracing diversity’, immigration, ‘Islamophobia’ and whatnot are mainstream even though many, if not most, of these accounts are offered by people who don’t see themselves as Marxists and indeed who aren’t even seen as Marxists by many others.)

There is nothing outrageous or philosophically problematic about what’s just been said. It’s crystal clear that there can be Marxist accounts of Nazism and fascism which don’t come from outright or full Marxists; just as there are Marxist accounts of racism, multiculturalism, ‘community cohesion’, ‘embracing diversity’, immigration, ‘Islamophobia’, etc. which don’t come from Marxists. In addition, I hope people will be aware of the silly mistake of classing people, whether writers, politicians, members of the BBC, etc., of being ‘Marxists’ when they only offer Marxists accounts of certain things or when they are only Marxist in certain ways. This way we save ourselves the embarrassment of accusing all and sundry of being Marxists when all we really mean is that they are Marxists in certain respects or that they offer Marxist analyses of only specific - not of all - things.

So what we have here is not only a thoroughly Marxist account of fascism and National Socialism; but also a Marxist’s, or socialist’s, attempt to disconnect socialism from any connections it may have to these far-right ideologies. This is both a Marxist account of Nazism and fascism as well as an example of a Marxist - or at the very least a sympathiser with socialism - trying to deny any links whatsoever between socialism/Communism and Nazism/fascism.

The Nazis and Fascists Were Never Socialists 




Professor Rick Wilford claims that all Hitler’s and Mussolini’s ‘socialist credentials’ were ‘baseless’ (page 200). This is a very strong Marxist position on Wilford’s part. It’s something I’ve simply never heard outside Marxist analyses of Nazism and fascism (of which there are a hell of a lot). Even the historians and commentators who are fiercely critical of both Mussolini’s fascism and Hitler’s National Socialism have rarely – if ever - made such an absolutist statement. To be more specific, Rick Wilford’s claim is even more outrageous in the case of Mussolini than it is in the case of Hitler. Mussolini, unlike Hitler, started out life as a literal socialist (as it were). It can indeed be argued that Hitler, on the other hand, adopted socialist ideas simply to serve nationalism and racism (though this is not true either). Nonetheless, Hitler still adopted socialist ideas and values. In the case of Mussolini again, he spent at least twelve years of his life as an outright socialist activist and many of the ideas and values of socialism, as with Hitler, stayed with him throughout the rest of his life.

Rick Wilford also glibly says that that the Nazis and fascists didn’t really believe in ‘the common ownership of the means of production’. Perhaps not. However, not a single socialist or Communist regime in the 20th century put the ‘means of production’ in the workers’ hands either. The Communist/socialist parties - or the Communist/socialist states - put the means of production into their own hands - even if ‘on behalf of the workers’. Not only that. Many socialists and Communists knew that this would happen - and even said this this would happen - well before they gained state power. So, in the end, the means of production, at least in the 20th century, was never really in the hands on the workers in any country at any time. Consequently, from a socialist/Communist perspective, singling out the Nazis and fascists as being guilty on this count is a little rich.

Now for the denial that the Nazis and fascists didn’t ‘abolish wage slavery’. For a start, why is a professional academic using phrases like ‘wage slavery’ in the first place? He doesn’t even put the phrase in inverted commas and there is no hint that he’s using it as a term used by others. This is the language of the Far Left used in what purports to be an objective academic book to be used primarily by students of politics. More to the point, what does Rick Wilford mean by the Nazis and fascists failing to carry out ‘the abolition of wage slavery’? As with the workers gaining ‘common ownership of the means of production’ earlier, the abolition of ‘wage slavery’ never happened in a single socialist or Communist state in the 20th century either.

Hitler & the National Socialists in the Early 1920s


Professor Rick Wilford seems to go one step beyond even most Marxist historians and analysts of Nazism and fascism by implying that from the very start, from 1920, Hitler was simply using socialism for his own ends. Nonetheless, he does deign to cite the Nazi’s socialist ‘Twenty-Five Point programme’ of 1920 (see image on the right):

“The ‘Twenty-Five Point Programme’ of the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party published in 1920 included such ostensibly impeccable socialist gaols as the nationalisation of large corporations, the abolition of unearned income, the confiscation of war profits and the prohibition of land speculation. But the commitment to such an agenda wore increasingly thin, albeit, albeit that Hitler was keenly aware of the need to counteract the growth of support among workers for socialism…” (200)

Most Marxists vaguely, or quietly, admit that Hitler was indeed a socialist - of some kind - in the very early days. Nonetheless, by the late 1920s, on most Marxist accounts, Hitler had completely given up on socialism. Nonetheless, Wilford argues that Hitler’s socialism was a ruse from start to finish.

Wilford also says that Hitler ‘was keenly aware of the need to counteract the growth of support among the workers for socialism’. This is interesting in that Wilford completely overlooks the fusion of socialism and nationalism in Hitler’s case. This is odd considering he was a national socialist. Specifically, Wilford discounts two things. Firstly, he discounts Hitler’s fusion of national and socialism. Secondly, he also discounts the possibility that German workers (even if socialists) would - or could - have quite happily accepted Hitler’s fusion of socialism and nationalism. It’s as if Wilford simply takes it for granted that nationalism and socialism could never have been fused and therefore that the German workers would never have been truly committed to Hitler’s National Socialism. Yet why couldn’t nationalism and socialism been combined? And why couldn’t many German workers have accepted that combination? If Wilford simply rejects even the very possibility of any fusion of nationalism and socialism then he should be a little clearer about the impossible nature of that combination. His not doing so is simply an acceptance of a Marxist dogma which is primarily believed to distance all (left) socialists from Hitler’s National Socialists.

Rick Wilford then writes that

“[b]y the later 1920s the relative failure of the Nazi Party to secure mass support among the working class led them to re-orientate their appeal to capitalists, small businessmen, farmers and white-collar workers.” (200)

This is a very problematic statement and on many grounds. Firstly, what does Wilford mean by ‘mass support’? Some would argue that the Nazis did have the mass support of the workers by the late 1920s. But, as I said, it all depends on what ‘mass support’ means in terms of numbers. If Wilford means the support of virtually all the German working class; then Hitler would simply never have needed that level of support to secure political victory. In fact in all parliamentary and in most other kinds of democracies (as Germany was at this time) no party needed or needs such mass support to secure power. Secondly, it is a well-known Marxist platitude that Hitler turned his back on the workers and then embraced the ‘capitalists’ instead (in the late 1920s). Apart from this not be true on many historical and political accounts, Wilford’s claim implies that Hitler wouldn’t have welcomed the support of ‘capitalists, small businessmen, farmers and white-collar workers’ in the early 1920s. That is simply isn’t true. Hitler was always a national socialist. If this were not the case, he would have simply been a socialist in the early days. But he was never a socialist simpliciter and no one has ever claimed that he was. The whole point of National Socialism, even in the early 1920s, was that it was against ‘class conflict’. It wanted to unite the classes on behalf on the nation and the ‘German race’. Again, if this wasn’t the case in the early 1920s, Hitler would have simply been a socialist; not a national(ist) socialist. And there are many quotes from both Hitler and the Nazis generally which explicitly state that the uniting of the classes, though within a socialist context, was a primary goal of National Socialism.

So if it were the case - as on the classic Marxist and Rick Wilford’s own account - of Hitler and the National Socialists stringing the working class along, and then jettisoning them because of ‘the relative failure of the Nazi Party to secure mass support among them’, the all that simply doesn’t make much sense. In other words, the Nazis actually embraced ‘capitalists’ from the beginning – or at least Hitler and the ‘right socialists’ did. Many capitalists, on the other hand, didn’t return that favour until, in actual fact, after Hitler was elected in 1933 (or at the very least immediately before). And all this despite the fact that in the Marxist - and Wilford’s - version the Nazis secured important capitalist support in the late 1920s and onwards. This isn't to say that no capitalists supported the Nazis before 1933 – of course they did! Nevertheless, the Marxist version has it that the capitalists actually helped Hitler gain power in 1933. On many other non-Marxist accounts, most capitalists (though it depends on which type of capitalist we are talking about) jumped ship to the Nazis just before or after the election of the Nazis (as capitalists often do when a new power is elected).

There is No Such Thing as Socialist Totalitarianism

Since this debate is essentially about the nature of totalitarianism, if only Nazi and fascist totalitarianism in Rick Wilford’s case, Wilford does furnish us with a definition of ‘totalitarianism’:

“Such [totalitarian] systems of rule are, [Friedrich and Brzezinski] argue, typified by an official, monolithic ideology; dictatorship within the context of a single party; the reliance on organised terror; and a state monopoly of mass communications, arms and the economy. Where such attributes are evident, the regime is, by definition, totalitarian.”

The problem is that Wilford doesn’t seem to think that the term ‘totalitarianism’ applies to any Communist or socialist regime, not even to Stalin’s Soviet Union. This isn’t odd because Marxists, not surprisingly, have rejected this harmony of Nazi totalitarianism and Communist/socialist totalitarianism. In Wilford’s case, he says that ‘[e]qauting Stalin’s Russia with Nazi German and fascist Italy was a powerful way of demonising the communist threat to liberal democracy’ (213). Not only that. Wilford doesn’t like the fact that the term ‘totalitarianism’ is ‘employed in a cavalier fashion’ when applied to Communist/socialist regimes – any Communist/socialist regimes. It seems that - to use Wilford’s own phrase - totalitarianism cannot, ‘by definition’, be applied to any Communist/socialist regime. This means that only right-wing regimes, or, more tightly, only the Nazi and fascist regimes of the twentieth century, were truly totalitarian. This is of course an utter disgrace and shows Wilford’s Marxist bias perhaps more than anything else he says in this chapter.

There are, of course, differences between Nazism/fascism and Communism/socialism. And Marxists (especially Trotskyists) have fixated on these difference as a means to distance Communist or socialist totalitarianism from Nazi or fascist totalitarianism. Nonetheless, these difference won’t - and don’t - mean that they somehow exclude Communist or socialist regimes from being, ‘by definition’, totalitarian. There are also differences between democratic parliamentary parties but that doesn’t stop all of them being committed to parliamentary democracy. There were differences, some quite large, being Italian fascism and German Nazism but that has never stopped people - certainly not Marxists - from lumping them together. So no doubt Marxists, and Rick Wilford, have their own differences in mind which help make it seem to be the case that Communist/socialist regimes, and even Stalin’s Soviet Union, were not totalitarian. Nonetheless, are they differences that make a big difference to their being totalitarian or not? (It’s hard to say in Wilford’s case because he doesn’t explain why he says the term ‘totalitarianism’ is used in a ‘cavalier fashion’ nor why people using that term to ‘demonise’ Stalin’s Soviet Union somehow made it untrue that his regime was indeed totalitarian.
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Part Two: the Fusion of Nazism/Fascism and Communism/Socialism






   1)  Professor Rick Wilford* writes:

“Communism’s and Trotskyism’s intolerance of difference and opposition and their corresponding preference for a monolithic unity, whether defined in class or revolutionary terms, represented a counter-revolution against liberal values.”

No! He didn’t write that. He wrote this instead:

“Fascism’s intolerance of difference and its corresponding preference for monolithic unity, whether defined in national or racial terms, represented a counter-revolution against liberal values.” 

(page 212, second edition)

2) Rick Wilford* writes:

“The pattern of factionalism and splintering that characterised Trotskyist and Communist organisations appears to be caused by the clash of inflated egos rather than any substantive doctrinal differences. All opponents, of any description, are lumped together as ‘them’, an amorphous mass said to represent a fundamental threat to the ‘working class’, to Muslims or to the revolution.”

Wilford didn’t write that! He wrote this instead:

“The pattern of factionalism and splintering that has characterised neo-fascist organisations appears to be caused by the clash of inflated egos rather than any substantive doctrinal differences. Each has tried to garner support by fostering anti-immigrant feeling directed against black Britons. Irrespective of ethnic differences, all are lumped together as ‘them’, an amorphous mass said to represent a fundamental threat t ‘the British way of life’.” (pg. 210/11)

3) Wilford* writes:

“Leftist Jew-hatred was expressed in euphemistic terms – ‘money power’, ‘loan capitalism’, or ‘finance capitalism’.”   ‘Zionists’, or ‘neo-cons’, or ‘neo-liberals’, by exercising their ‘money power’ so as to subvert the economies and politics of the West.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“… the anti-Semitic character of these ideas tends, as with the BUF [British Union of Fascists], to be expressed in euphemistic terms – ‘money power’, ‘loan capitalism’, or ‘finance capitalism’.” (211/12)

4) Wilford* writes:

“Trotskyists and Communists argued that economic crisis was the result of the stubborn attachment of the ‘old gangs’ of politicians to the free market at home and to imperialism abroad: attachments which reflected the influence and power of ‘international finance’… In the place of minimal government and a free-market economy, Communists and Trotskyists prescribed planning.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“ Mosley… [argued that] the stubborn attachment of the ‘old gangs’ of politicians to laissez-faire at home and free trade abroad: attachments which reflected the influence and power of ‘international finance’… In the place of minimal government and a free-market economy, he prescribed planning and protectionism.” (208)

5) Wilford* writes:

“Trotsky and Lenin talked in terms of socialist/Communist society which is ‘organised as the human body, with each organ performing its individual function but working in harmony with the whole’. This Communist/socialist society as a whole was paramount, its interests superseding the individualism celebrated by liberals.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“[Mussolini wrote] ‘it means a nation organised as the human body, with each organ performing its individual function but working in harmony with the whole’. The national organism was paramount, its interests superseding the individualism celebrated by liberals…” (208)

6) Wilford* writes:

“The Communists’ and Trotskyists’ apocalyptic vision of impending capitalist economic collapse, allied to their conviction that the ‘old gangs’ had succumbed to the machinations of ‘the money power’.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“Mosley’s apocalyptic vision of impeding economic collapse, allied to his conviction that the ‘old gangs’ had succumbed to the machinations of ‘the money power’.” (209)

7) Wilford* writes:

 “What the Communists and Trotskyists shared in common is a belief in ‘the collective good or socialist society as a value to be defended against free-trade and imperialist internationalism’.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“What they shared was, as Robert Skidelsky notes, a belief in ‘the national community as a value to be defended against free-trade internationalism’…” (198)

8) Wilford* writes:

“The exponents of Communism and Trotskyism claimed that the development and security of the individual depended upon the well-being of these Communist/socialist institutions and their ability to foster social, economic, emotional and spiritual solidarity. As such their interests took precedence over those of the individual… As Lenin said: ‘Every interest and every individual is subordinated to the overriding purpose of a socialist society.’ ‘Liberal capitalism’, wrote Lenin, ‘denies society in the interests of the individual’.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“[corporatism’s] exponents claimed that the development and security of the individual depended upon the well-being of these institutions and their ability to foster social, economic, emotional and spiritual solidarity. As such their interests took precedence over those of the individual… [as Mussolini said] ‘Every interest and every individual is subordinated to the overriding purpose of the nation.’ ‘Liberalism’, wrote Mussolini, ‘denies the state in the interests of the individual’…” (198)

9) Wilford* writes:

“Part of the answer to Trotskyism’s or Leftism’s apparent durability lie in its ability to simplify the complexities of political life. Trotskyism or Leftism thrive on simplistic thinking and sloganising, blaming ‘them’ – whether ‘class traitors’, the ‘bourgeoisie’, ‘capitalists’, ‘Zionists’, the ‘far right’, ‘the Media’, - for ‘our’ problems. This feature of the doctrine alerts us to its exclusivity: it is characterised by the disposition to divide peoples or classes into irreconcilable camps, viz. ‘them’ and ‘us’. Moreover, such dualism is invested with hierarchy of value: ‘they’ are not just different from, but inferior (morally, politically) to, ‘us’.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“Part of the answer to fascism’s apparent durability lies in [fascism’s] ability to simplify the complexities of political life. Fascism thrives on simplistic thinking and sloganizing, blaming ‘them’ – whether Jews, blacks or ‘foreigners’ in general – for ‘our’ problems. This feature of the doctrine alerts us to its exclusivity: it is characterised by the disposition to divide peoples and/or nations into two irreconcilable camps, viz. ‘them’ and ‘us’. Moreover, such dualism is invested with a hierarchy of value: ‘they’ are not just different from, but inferior to, ‘us’.” (185)

10) Wilford* writes:

“Communism and Trotskyism were represented as a break with the past, consigning other competing doctrines to the dustbin of history.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“[fascism] was represented as a break with the past, consigning other competing doctrines to the dustbin of history.” (186)

11) Wilford* writes:

“To Trotskyists and Communists, the attachment of conservatism to emergent democratic norms and institutions rendered it powerless to confront the universalising ambitions of competing ideologies such as those of the Nazis and fascists.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“[to fascists] the attachment of conservatism to emergent democratic norms and institutions rendered it powerless to confront the universalising ambitions of competing ideologies.” (186)

12) Wilford* writes:

“Ostensibly a mode of economic organisation, Communist/socialist statism supplied the means to mobilise and control the working population… Yet, while expressing socialist pretensions, Communist/socialist state collectivism in inspiration and practice was nothing more than state capitalism.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“Ostensibly a mode of economic organisation, fascist corporatism supplied the means to mobilise and control the working population… Yet, while expressing socialist pretensions, corporatism in inspiration and practice was nothing more than state capitalism.” (201)

13) Wilford* writes:

“It is no coincidence that Trotskyist and Leftist (or ‘progressive’) groups seem to secure support at times of economic insecurity. The construction of ‘them’ as folk-devils, responsible for perceived economic and political decline, is a simplistic response to material insecurity and political uncertainty. The experience of recession throughout Europe has contributed to the modest revival of support for Trotskyist, Leftist or ‘progressive’ parties. The squeeze on economic resources has been to scapegoat ‘capitalists’, Conservatives, ‘neo-liberalism’, the ‘far right’.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“It is no coincidence that such [fascist] groups seem to secure support at times of economic insecurity… The construction of ‘them’ as folk-devils, responsible for perceived social decline, is a simplistic response to material insecurity and political uncertainty. The experience of recession throughout Europe has contributed to the modest revival of support for neo-fascist parties. The squeeze on economic resources… has been used to scapegoat non-nationals…” (211)

14) Wilford* writes:

“The ‘Zionists’, ‘neo-cons’ and ‘Israel-firsters’ were presented by Leftists and Trotskyists as a subversive ‘state within a state’ seeking to engineer war, primarily in the Middle East but also elsewhere.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“The Jews were presented as a subversive ‘state within the state’ seeking to engineer was with Germany.” (207)

15) Wilford* writes:

“Trotskyists and Communists (such as Lenin) likened society to a pyramid, at the apex of which stood a gifted minority fitted to govern (whether ‘the vanguard’, the Party or the Central Committee), supported by an acquiescent and mediocre mass below. Other Trotskyists and Communists argued for a dominant social groups (again, such as ‘the vanguard’, the Central Committee or the Party) to ensure the well-being of social and political life. Most Communists and Trotskyists were convinced of the unfitness of the people, or the working class, to govern themselves.”

Wilford actually wrote:

“Vilfredo Pareto… likened society to a pyramid, at the apex of which stood a gifted minority fitted to govern, supported by an acquiescent and mediocre mass below… Roberto Michels… argued the need for a dominant social group to ensure the well-being of social and political life. Both he and Pareto feared popular participation and democratic control and were convinced of the unfitness of the people to govern themselves.” (195/6)

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