Socialism, and Sophistry

Socialism, and Sophistry

For one boardgame that I play, looking around for other sources of strategy and knowledge, I came across a mailing list dedicated to the game which I largely ended up ignoring for years until it absolutely blew up because the original designer was looking to republish the game and decided to do so with a very, very, no-good and bad person.

This is not what this post is about.

In the process of the back and forth, most of the crowd, much like the forums at BGG over the GMT and colonialism issue, took to virtuously penning how awful it was that racists and "literal neo-nazis" were to be involved with their beloved game. One forum member filled his posts with so much nauseating gammatude and condescension, including the usual misuse of scripture to shame someone in contravention to what the scripture actually says.* One even casually mentioned how the United States was founded in slavery.  And then someone dared conflate the German National Socialist Workers Party with socialism and Communism in general.

So of course someone had to write a wall of text about it. It's a great example of what our supposed betters post when they get all offended that someone like me or Razorfist believes that socialism is inherently fucked and that it's the traits the Nazis shared with the Soviets, expressed in the truly mechanical style that only Germans can do, that resulted in the evils of Nazi Germany.

First - the Razor himself:

If you search for Razor's video, the odds are still good he'll be the top entry, followed by a page full of refutations including the Washington Post, Snopes (I know....), and so on.

I've tried to stay out of this "conversation" until now. I advocate for the forcible unsubscribe of (redacted by me), not for "having opinions and expressing them" but for the deliberate spread of misinformation, even falsehoods. To address that directly, I quite an article from Ronald J. Granieri:

He's stayed out of the thread until someone conflated Nazis with Socialists, and that crime just cannot stand! He wasn't so offended at his being mean, etc., but this "misinformation", that this, this is good reason to ban a commenter. The hypocrisy of ignoring the utter whopper of the US being founded on slavery? of course it is ignored.

The article he quoted follows:

The right needs to stop falsely claiming that the Nazis were socialists

The Nazis hated socialists. It was the governments that rebuilt Europe that embraced social welfare programs.

The Nazis hated Communists. Communists were, of course, one of the offshoots that grew out of the progressive movement and Marx. The reason they can say this with a straight face is the old motte-and-bailey bit of redefining socialism when convenient. No-one blinks when Venezuela is praised for its socialist strides, or takes the time to pedantically point out "that's not real socialism", as long as one can squint at Venezuela and praise how awesomely it's doing. A decade later, and pointing out the collapse in Venezuela is guaranteed to get a "it wasn't real socialism." Ditto the Soviet Union, etc., ad nauseum. This leads to the other common refrain on moderately more consistent marxists - real socialism has never been tried, so of course it never failed.

Ronald J. Granieri is director of the Center for the Study of America and the West at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and director of research at the University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Institute.

Feb. 5, 2020 at 4:00 a.m. MST

Ah, an academic. I'm not a credentialist, but given one o the other people in the thread made a point of saying that "As someone who has a degree in History as well, I believe this is a reasoned, well-thought out synopsis," I'll point out that these people with degrees in history are not bothered by statements that America is a "country founded on slavery," and that credentialed academics and history professors gave us critical race theory and Howard Zinn, among other bits of bullshit. I won't go into the people with degrees who actually believe post-modernism.

Did you know that “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist”? That means that Hitler and his henchmen were all socialists. Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, too. That means Bernie Sanders and his supporters are the same as Nazis … doesn’t it?

Everyone, even those who believe this article, know this is a dishonest portrayal of the argument made.

Anyone who has been on political Twitter in the past decade has seen a version of this syllogism. Conservatives, seeking to escape the “fascist” and “Nazi” labels tossed at them by leftist critics since the 1960s, have turned the tables.

We're not seeking to escape the labels so much as pissed they're being falsely applied to us.

Books such as Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” have noted that many leading fascists, such as Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, started out as socialists, just as many early 20th-century “progressives” embraced eugenic ideas ultimately linked to Nazi racist genocide.

Dishonest scare quotes around "progressives" - because Margaret Sanger was the founding high priestess of the cult of Planned Parenthood, undoubtedly a progressive, and undoubtedly a eugenecist. And hardly the only one. You can trace the ideological history from Europe to America and back.

This connection has become a silver bullet for voices on the right like Dinesh D’Souza and Candace Owens: Not only is the reviled left, embodied in 2020 by figures like Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren, a dangerous descendant of the Nazis, but anyone who opposes it can’t possibly have ties to the Nazis’ odious ideas.

Nah, bro. Stop telling us what we believe. We hate petty tyrants and socialism, combined with human nature, is a turbocharger for tyranny, as a moral justification of anything and everything for the common good with no brakes or higher authority to say "this is evil."

There is only one problem: This argument is untrue.

Of course it's untrue, because the strawman you're beating up is but a mutilated shadow of the one actually made.

Although the Nazis did pursue a level of government intervention in the economy that would shock doctrinaire free marketeers, their “socialism” was at best a secondary element in their appeal. Indeed, most supporters of Nazism embraced the party precisely because they saw it as an enemy of and an alternative to the political left. A closer look at the connection between Nazism and socialism can help us better understand both ideologies in their historical contexts and their significance for contemporary politics.

Embrace the healing power of "and". The NSDAP was "right" only in the sense that, as opposed to the communists, they were ahead of the curve on intersecionality, and elected to go with the German workers as the favored class instead of the international working class. This silly argument also ignores the history of deadly power struggles in the USSR before Stalin finally took control, over the preferred priorities in spreading the word to the masses of the world.

One brand of socialist hating another to the point of brawls, assassinations, and hot and cold warfare is nothing new.

The Nazi regime had little to do with socialism, despite it being prominently included in the name of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The NSDAP, from Hitler on down, struggled with the political implications of having socialism in the party name. Some early Nazi leaders, such as Gregor and Otto Strasser, appealed to working-class resentments, hoping to wean German workers away from their attachment to existing socialist and communist parties. The NSDAP’s 1920 party program, the 25 points, included passages denouncing banks, department stores and “interest slavery,” which suggested a quasi-Marxist rejection of free markets. But these were also typical criticisms in the anti-Semitic playbook, which provided a clue that the party’s overriding ideological goal wasn’t a fundamental challenge to private property.

Here we start getting to the "Socialism was just a marketing ploy/in the name" or "no true socialist Scotsman" argument, combined with a bald dismissal of actions actually taken in line with the espoused admittedly socialist principles as being motivated by other concerns. More to the point - if the NSDAP was going to be in power, why would they want people to be members of other socialist parties, communist or otherwise?

There is not a single point above that doesn't rely on the assumption that "Nazis are bad, and not socialist, mmmkay.... so of course their stated motives had nothing to do with it."

Instead of controlling the means of production or redistributing wealth to build a utopian society, the Nazis focused on safeguarding a social and racial hierarchy. They promised solidarity for members of the Volksgemeinschaft (“racial community”) even as they denied rights to those outside the charmed circle.

Oh lord.

"Instead of controlling the means of production...."

Bullshit.

They may not have seized and taken outright ownership of the means of production while waving a title around for proof - and you'd think that a history prof would know the phrase is "seize the means of production" - but control the means of production, with the erstwhile owners mere figureheads forced to make what they were ordered to make, or else, at the whims of the party, they certainly had.

Don't believe me or Razor? Go and re-watch Schindler's List, or read the book. I don't think you can credibly call it a source that excuses the Nazis. Tae careful note of the lengths Schindler had to go to in order to get permission to open the factory, get his desired workforce, with permission to own and operate being contingent on producing what was demanded of him.

From interviews:

I want everyone to keep what he has earned subject to the principle that the good of the community takes priority over that of the individual. But the state should retain control; every owner should feel himself to be an agent of the State . . . The Third Reich will always retain the right to control property owners.” When Breiting questioned him on industrial socialization, Hitler pushed further: “Why bother with such half-measures when I have far more important matters in hand, such as the people themselves? . . . Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.”

What is the moral difference between taking over something outright, and being the absolute power behind the throne of a figurehead?

Additionally, while the Nazis tried to appeal to voters across the spectrum, the party’s founders and initial base were small-business men and artisans, not the industrial proletariat of Marxist lore.

The communists had this problem too throughout the decades. The proletariat of Marxist Lore never really bought into it, so thus the long march through the institutions.

Their first notable electoral successes were in small towns and Protestant rural areas in present-day Thuringia and Saxony, among voters suspicious of cosmopolitan, secular cities who associated both “socialism” and “capitalism” with Jews and foreigners.

I wonder why anyone in that day and age would associate jews with communism? It's not like it was a prominent subplot shown as a good thing in a major broadway and theatrical production as recently as Fiddler on the Roof or anything.

This fear of social revolution and a sense that democracy, with its cacophony of voices and the need for compromises, would threaten their preferred social hierarchy gave Nazism its appeal with these voters — even if it meant sacrificing democracy. While Communists abetted the destruction of German democracy, seeing it as a way to eventually produce the revolution they wanted, the only German political party that consistently resisted Nazi arguments, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), offered another sign of the discontinuity between socialism and Nazism.

He's never seen brothers or relatives fight. I guess he also hasn't internalized why domestic abuse gets so nasty. As I've pointed out earlier, deadly disagreements around different priorities in how to best achieve socialist goals were nothing new, even in more traditionally Marxist circles. Or are we going to say Trotsky wasn't really a socialist either? I know Stalin had him and others brushed out of photos as nonpersons.

Those outside Germany who embraced Nazi ideas were also generally anti-leftists. When Frenchmen murmured “Better Hitler than [Socialist Party Leader and Prime Minister Léon] Blum,” they were well aware what National Socialism represented, and it was most emphatically not “socialism.” When many of those same Frenchmen set up the puppet Vichy government in 1940, they did so under the banner of “Travail, famille, patrie,” (Work, family fatherland), happy to use state resources to support their idea of authentic Frenchmen — even as they criticized capitalism for providing benefits to people they didn’t view as French.

This is where we play fast and loose with the concept of left and right insofar as how Europeans think of it vs how Americans think of it. Americans tend toward considering the left as "state dominant" because as a matter of practice, for socialists to enact what they want, the state would have to have power higher than some objective standard like Gods law that would prevent them from using power as they saw fit for the common good. Europeans look at it as a matter of nationalism vs internationalism, with nationalism as bad. Please ignore that every nation opposing Germany's imperial ambitions of dominating the world as Prussian Supremacists did so to defend their people. The French/etc. were happier with a supposed Nationalist - it's not like Hitler respected other nations rights to self-determination for themselves - than with a movement that avowedly wanted to run the whole world.

Again, the real innovation of the Germans, for all that the Nazis were ultimately LARPing losers, wasn't the snappy uniforms but finding an oppressed class other than the global working class. Post modernists and the modern descendants of the progressive/socialist movements have now taken this further with intersectional politics. Also, again, since they were in a struggle for power, of course they were opposed to other - he keeps omitting that word - socialists that wanted to have the workers of the world unite, instead of just the German ones.

Unlike much of the European left,...

When someone like Stalin decides you are in the way, of course you are their enemy. The Communists wanted the workers of the world to unite, including the German ones.

many conservatives proved willing to work with Nazis — something they later regretted — an association that tainted postwar European conservatism.

But since the NYT was getting Pulitzer prizes for writing up bullshit articles on how glorious Soviet Mother Russia was, few were regretting working with the Soviets.

When it came time to rebuild European politics after the war, therefore, it fell to center-left parties such as Labour in Britain, the Socialists in France and the SPD in Germany, which abandoned rigid Marxist doctrines, alongside the new center-right movement of Christian Democracy, which rejected traditional nationalism, to take up the challenge. This was the hour of the welfare state, supported by social and Christian Democrats, which encouraged social solidarity within a democratic and capitalist framework.

Oh lord - that famous "third way". Before we get to that - it's also notable how thoroughly riddled the governments of those countries were with Soviet agents and influencers. I wonder if that had anything to do, along with the Soviet big lie about how evil the Nazis were for being "nationalist", with the ongoing rejection of anyone who sided against the communists and of nationalism.

As to a "third way" - I had an elder Swede tell me with an air of educating the ignorant, that there were alternatives to socialism or capitalism, where you could have a heavy tax and spend economy managed by the government and individual freedoms. I asked him if push came to shove on a moral issue, knowing nothing else, who would prevail: the individual or the state? Turns out if there are two parties, that becomes a binary choice, and the third way was nothing such.

Incidentally, well before I left soft-L libertarianism, I'd already noted that corporations and governments were both power centers. Government may have less incentive to efficiency, but if power corrupts, then one should be wary of corporations and the lack of skin in the game and accountability of their board members.

As to why the difference exists? The American system has subsidiarity and a degree of tribalism build in - decisions were expected to be handled at the town, county, and state level insofar as possible. One has to be educated out of nationalism when growing up in a fractalized system like that. See again "long march through the institutions."

Despite this reality, linking socialism and Nazism to critique leftist ideas became a political weapon in the post-World War II period, perhaps unsurprisingly given that the Cold War followed directly on the heels of World War II. Scholars as diverse as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Hannah Arendt used the larger concept of “totalitarianism” to fuse the two.

Because they both were totalitarian systems, even before world war two. They reveled in it. The state controlled every aspect of life. It's also assumed in the common Marxist / progressive phrase "the personal is political" - that political ideology was a totalitarian system that overrode individual moral choice. Despite the implications, this was not a amde-up commonality but a significant overlap in the Venn diagram arising from a root assumption in the relationship between the people and the government.

This formula made it easier for Americans to slip comfortably from considering the Soviet Union a wartime ally to recognizing it as an existential threat. Totalitarianism emphasized the structural similarities and violent practices of Nazi and Stalinist regimes.

Since structure tends to grow out of mindset and organizational culture - imposed structures that don't fit disappear with the imposer - this supports that those similarities likely had a root cause. he's actually arguing my case, if he actually thought the argument through, but he's not going to because he's a dishonest hack trying to bullshit us while hoping we never look behind the curtain.

This concept, however, proved controversial as an explanation of the origins or subsequent appeal of either communism or Nazism/fascism. Although Hitler and Stalin had cooperated in an effort to conquer Eastern Europe in 1939 to 1941, this was more a marriage of convenience than a byproduct of ideological synergy. Indeed, the two sides eventually fought a genocidal war against each other.

Well, when two different power blocks want to control the world, of course they're going to fight. It's one of those "there can be only one" situations. Our country - the one covered by this idiots supposed historic specialty, fought a bloody civil war that literally split family after family apart. People can fundamentally believe much the same thing and yet repeatedly do fight bitterly over a seemingly small difference.

Austrian economist and future Nobel laureate Friedrich von Hayek added an extra layer to the conversation about socialism and Nazism with his 1943 bestseller, “The Road to Serfdom.” As a staunch free marketeer, Hayek was appalled by the rise of economic planning in democratic states, embodied by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Hayek warned that any government intervention in the market eroded freedom, eventually leading to some form of dictatorship.

While it's not inevitable - the country either goes down the toilet or the leaders have the sense to reverse course before it does. See the number of European countries that had to massively scale back their social programs and government interventionism and business regulation to get going in the first place (Germany) or later when their prosperity came to a crashing halt.

Hayek was enormously influential across the globe within the rising conservative movement during the second half of the 20th century. He advised future leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and his book became foundational for the right. Hayek’s assertion that all government interventions in the economy led to totalitarianism continues to animate popular works such as D’Souza’s “The Big Lie,” reinforcing the idea that the welfare state is a gateway drug to genocide.

Not all addicts take the next step after the gateway drug. Power corrupts, and how much more unaccountable power can a sociopath collect than to unaccountably - except to other party members - be able to dictate every aspect of everyone's lives?

But while these ideas may make sense to free market purists, the history shows that it was the parties that arose in reaction to the Nazi horrors that built such welfare states.

Again - Soviet infiltrated governments, following the path paved in the big lie that the very nationalism that justified defending themselves against Nazi aggression was a bad thing in the face of uniting the workers of the world rose to power. Funny that.

Denouncing their programs as “socialism” or warning of a tie between the two is nothing less than historical and political sophistry that attempts to turn effect into cause and victim into victimizer.

We know who the liar here is. I call him that instead of merely ignorant because the credentials he brags of tell me he should know better. Have he ever heard the term DARVO? He glosses over barely admitting that yes, Hitler and Mussolini got their start in doctrinaire socialist circles. They were the first to find a "third way" by swapping back in Nationalism - of a sort - and yet they repeatedly voiced in word and acted in deed to gather all the power to the government for the people.

Historical analogies have a useful purpose to simplify and clarify, but they work best when used carefully. As manifest problems with global capitalism, as well as political gridlock, encourage a new hunger for fundamental political transformation, it is especially important that we understand the tragic decisions of the 1930s and their consequences in their full context, rather than simply transposing words from the past onto the debates of the present.

True - which is why we remind people that the evil lies in raising a materialist and limitless virtue like "good of the people" in a secular and atheist framework without absolute moral limits, and using it to hand power to a small coterie to make decisions they cannot possibly have enough information for for everyone is doomed to failure, often with mass graves, and is inherently and systemically the problem.

It's not the "nationalism" that caused the evil, it only influenced the choice of the designated oppressor class.

National Socialism preserved private property, ...

In name. But I bet he's a post modernist and thinks renaming it actually changes what it is. You were allowed the private property the government allowed you to keep.

while also putting the entire resources of society at the service of an expansionist and racist national vision, ...

Sounds a lot like Stalin so far....

which included the conquest and murderous subjugation of other peoples.

Still smells like Stalin.

It makes no sense to think that the sole, or even the primary, negative aspect of this regime was the fact that it used state power to allocate financial resources.

Gotta love that strawman. So - what negative aspects did the NDSAP not share with all of the other murderous communist and socialist - remember, the Baathists were the arab national socialist party - that make them uniquely evil while the traits it shared with the rest - including a desire to take over the world - is just a statistic to be ignored? It also has to be something not shared with Germany's enemies, like "nationalism".

It makes as little sense to suggest that using state power to allocate some financial resources today will automatically result in the same dire consequences.

"But I was only just" - nice strawman.

I'm not a libertarian - and I view corporations, etc. as competing power centers with governments, so insofar as the government can act as an arbiter between other power centers and people to maintain a reasonable semblance of fairness and justice, while defending its people, I'm quite content to let the government spend money on law enforcement, defense, postal services, etc.. It's when a power center gains a monopoly over the things people depend on to survive that I get worried. I'm also no fool - there is no way that the ancap dream can ever be stable - power centers will form, and they will never perfectly balance. The best we can hope for is a fairly stable pattern that stays in a given zone.

Many of us, even with the former libertarians, were never sold on the "all government including UR highways is socialism" mindset.

Historical “gotcha” threatens to reduce our political conversations to meaninglessness, and we should resist it. Debates over the proper role of the state in protecting citizens against the negative exigencies of the market are necessarily complex. Finding the proper balance of interests within a democratic political order depends on the measurement of results, not on the power of magic words to devalue competing ideas.

The role of the state is subservient to the absolute moral good and the good of the people.

And it's beautiful projection that someone who obviously has drunk of the postmodernist belief in meaninglessness is blaming others for using magic words to rename a problem into existence as he attempts to define the issue away.

The TL;DR version:

In short, the arguments for "Nazis weren't socialists" relies on several points.

First is the European mode of left v right where the right of rulers and governments - and no, again, "things done by government" isn't simply socialism - is the assumed and right vs left is a matter of nationalism vs "workers of the world, unite." The issue is that it ignores, much like the Swede I knew did, that Socialism is about elevating the "good of the people" over other moral goods without limits (much like the equally materialistic hardcore libertarians elevate freedom as the ultimate good without effective limit). That the government determines what is right and just, instead of serving as a steward of the people and subservient to a higher moral code like "though shalt not murder." That you don't have god-given rights, but that every aspect of your life is subject to the will of the people, and in practice, this will have to be determined my a central power.

Regardless of the pretty theories, socialism always requires central authority to whatever boundaries it rules. And any attempt at subsidiarity - say, federalism, especially in pre- Civil War America - is utterly "right wing" in that it doesn't even acknowledge the authority of the nation over local affairs.

In short - it's about "who chooses." Whether it is regional in scope or international is not unimportant, but as the article I'm critiquing said, "It makes no sense to think that the sole, or even the primary, negative aspect of this regime was the fact that it used state power to allocate financial resources."

It makes no sense that the sole, or primary differentiating aspect of the Nazi regime from "socialism" is the fact that it limited it's scope to German nationals. Even with a supremacist streak which, again, only guided its target selection.

After that, the fundamental argument is usually "it's just a marketing gimmick". Truth be told, the Germans have even more recent experience with that courtesy of the GDR, which everyone knew wasn't actually democratic.  In the case of the GDR, the presence of barbed wire and machineguns to keep it's people in gave away the game. But if you're going to pull the "no true [ socialist | scotsman ]" you have to have a consistent definition of socialism that accounts for the places you call socialism or accept as working towards such and excludes the ones you don't - one reason they lean so heavily on the anti-nationalism aspect rather than the "social" aspect built into the name. You also can't praise countries for their strides towards socialism then turn around and blame their failures on everything but.

You also have to show, using that consistent definition of socialist, that the person who calls himself such isn't. And you cannot do so by saying "well they had the wrong motives for putting the main bullet points in their platform and acting in accordance with them" - especialy when they constantly, even in private letters, discuss the motives of moving toward their own national version of socialism. You can't praise every stride towards the goals of socialism like beginning to nationalize factories, provide universal healthcare, etc. and then say "well they weren't really socialists because despite working toward that goal they didn't actually end up there," because only a fool believes that the process of such a massive change would happen all at once rather than gradually. It's dishonest to argue that the Nazis
"allowed private property" - in name - while ignoring that they exercised full control over the factories and the people "owning" them, and additionally intended to go one level higher by ensuring all the people, including those running the factories, were properly socialized.

You can't point to "they hated each other" and ignore the long history of internecine warfare - sometimes literal - within branches of socialism and progressivism, and the vicious nature of conflict of closely related creeds and "brother against brother" throughout history.

Update: in a response to this I made elsewhere:

Not every science fiction story contains every science fiction trope - there is likely no one trope they all share, some are even mutually exclusive - yet they are all science fiction.

* Specifically using the eye of the needle quote to sarcastically sneer that Jesus obviously respected property rights, not.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.