As you may know, RedState has started a Great Books style program. We are rather slowly making our way through a series of books on conservative thought and ideas. We have started with Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.
“Contrary to his relentless assertions in Mein Kampf, Hitler had no great foundational ideas or ideological system. His genius lay in the realization that people wanted to rally to ideas and symbols. . . . Time and again in Mein Kampf, Hitler makes it clear that he believed his greatest gift to the party wasn’t his ideas but his ability to speak,” Goldberg writes. I’m reminded of that story Harry Reid tells about Obama where Obama said he, Obama, had a gift. “A real gift, Harry,” he said. It was oration.
This is not to make an Obama=Hitler comparison. It is just to note that like most good demagogues, Hitler and Obama both know the public is more interested in the silver tongue and the Greco-Roman columns as a backdrop than they are in the substantive policy positions.
That, perhaps, more than anything is the take away from Chapter 2 of Liberal Fascism. Hitler stood for nothing except hatred of the Jews. He was happy to do or say anything to get elected so long as it meant extermination of the Jews and a bolstering of the Germany self.
What is also worth nothing is that contrary to left-wing myth about corporatism and the Nazis, derived in part because of the rivalry between communism and nazism, when the Nazis did put out public policy positions, they were right out of the progressive left.
According to Jonah Goldberg, the Nazi Party was “in favor of universal education, guaranteed employment, increased entitlements for the aged, the expropriation of land without compensation, the nationalization of industry, the abolition of market-based lending . . ., the expansion of health services, and the abolition of child labor.” Which party platform does that remind you of.
Indeed, if you go back to the introduction of Liberal Fascism, you’ll note this passage on the Nazis:
Heinrich Himmler was a certified animal rights activist and an aggressive promotor of ‘natural healing.’ Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s deputy, championed homeopathy and herbal remedies. Hitler and his advisers dedicated hours of their time to discussions of the need to move the entire nation to vegetarianism as a response to the unhealthiness promoted by capitalism. Dachau hosted the world’s largest alternative and organic medicine research lab and produced its own organic honey. . . . A Hitler Youth manual proclaimed, “Nutrition is not a private matter!”
Wow. There really is nothing new under the sun.
I remember in college learning the “spectrum of ideologies” with capitalism, conservatism, nationalism, and fascism on the right. Socialism, communism, and anarchy were on the left. It never really truly made sense to me. Eventually I mentally morphed the spectrum into a full circle, but could never get over fascism having to make its way past anarchy to get to communism when they all seemed pretty much the same.
Jonah does a great job showing that Nazism was distinct from Mussolini’s Fascism and where Mussolini derived much of his platform from his own thinking, Hitler built on existing ideas and, frankly, used leftwing ideas more for filler so he wasn’t just campaigning on the extermination of Jews.