National Socialism an extreme Left Wing Ideology?

Originally published at:

The choice of the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Worker’s Party) to incorporate ‘Worker’s’ and then changing name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German National Socialist Worker’s Party), NSDAP for short, has created controversy in the classification into a left/right political position of Naziism. Lately it has become an issue of some virulent public debate as populism resurges…


Hopefully this will settle the matter somewhat - if not it will at least save me a lot of typing :wink:


Interesting article.

On the political compass, the Nazis were definitely about as authoritarian as they come, but then so were hardline communist countries like Stalin’s USSR or Mao’s China.

While the rhetoric was very different, I’m not sure the practical result on the ground was all that different. Stalin certainly wasn’t above a bit of genocide when it suited him either. The continued existence of private enterprise in Nazi Germany might be a significant difference between the two I guess although as the war progressed, large parts of the Nazi economy came increasingly intertwined with the state anyway.

I’m kind of reminded of Oceania and Eastasia in Orwell’s 1984.


I appreciate the reply to my comment over on YouTube about this. I originally tried to specifically not use the terms “left” or “right” in my original comment because it can, at least in my experience, be difficult to accurately define where the line gets drawn between the two positions. Cultural differences also make defining the term a little tricky. Frustratingly, people get their knickers in a bunch when they hear one particular group associated with the “left” or the “right” because they may associate themselves with that particular political position and then worry themselves to death that they’ll be associated with the radical elements. For example, politically conservative individuals in the USA being associated with the “alt-right” or classical liberals being labeled “communists.” I find neither to be helpful. This is why I was just asking for some clarification regarding the terminology you’re using in the series. Having read this article I have a much better understanding of what definitions you’re using now in the videos and I feel you’ve explained your position well. I really appreciate the interaction you’re taking with these videos. Writing out articles like this to clarify things really helps out with both the discussion and in understanding the concepts covered in the video series. Thanks!


Thank you for this clarifying piece! The matter of left/right division gets really nasty very quickly, partly because left and right are not all-inclusive categories. I think comparing the authoritarian nationalist groups of the 1920s or 1930s to some of the populist, anti-immigration nationalist parties of today can make for a useful analogy: they both combine traditionalist values and a strong nationalist rhetoric with vehement opposition to the traditional elites and left-leaning labour movements. An early example of a party filling this particular niche would be the Christian Socialists in Austria-Hungary.

I would say a useful way to determine if a movement is left wing is to ask their intentions: is their stated goal an egalitarian world or not? The Nazis obviously had the opposite goal in mind: a hierarchical world with white German men on top. This would make nazis a right wing movement, even if generous social policies would be granted to Germans. Of course leftist movements can state that they are pursuing an egalitarian world and in practice build regimes that resemble 17th century monarchies. Stated ideology can rarely be implanted on the world as was intended and revolutionary chaos is historically prone to producing dictators. But, crucially, the nazis never stated any intent for a peaceful, egalitarian world. They explicitly sought to take rights away from groups that they saw as degenerates and were also in constant conflict with the actual German left wing. The nazi party was founded by and adopted the symbols of the far-right Freikorps, not the Spartacists or the Red Ruhr revolutionaries.


I wanted to revive this thread because it deserves more discussion. I disagree with Mustonen’s standard for using desired egalitarianism as a barometer for what is Left-wing because that standard contradicts how the terms are used in practice. Most movements that are considered Leftist don’t clearly state egalitarian goals with any significance, and at times, even the Nazis cloaked their rhetoric with terms of equality such as ‘volksgemeinschaft’. Before anybody notes that they were only offering equality to Germans, keep in mind that they intended to exterminate most other peoples, and Germanize the remainder, which means that they were promising some kind of equality for everyone left.

The terms ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ don’t have absolute meaning, but ‘Right’ implies rooting an ideology in tradition and ‘Left’ implies rooting an ideology in Revolution and wanting rapid change. The Nazis usually definitely presented themselves as Right-wing, but there’s definite arguments to be made for Left-wing influence on Nazi ideology. Martin Heidegger is definitely the biggest example of this, as Heidegger was respected, continues to be fairly respected, by academics that most would definitely consider to be on the Left such as Herbert Marcuse. Heidegger, who enjoys a status afforded to very few 20th Century philosophers, was an out and out Nazi and considered the chief philosopher of the Nazi Party.

Of course, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was an alliance made out of convenience and not of any mutual ideological affinity between the Nazis and Soviets, but nonetheless, its existence implies some political influence affecting both sides of the pact. Furthermore, one must remember that most, maybe all, high-ranking Nazis had previously fought for an army that actively aided Communists constantly throughout the second half of WW1. I have seen a photograph of Hitler marching in Kurt Eisner’s funeral procession while wearing a red armband in 1919, which could have potentially indicated that Hitler was considering Communism before joining the Nazis.

You also had the relatively smooth transitions that many Communists made to Nazism, resulting in the term “Beefsteak” Nazi to describe them. Even Erich Honecker expressed an interest in collaborating with the Nazis, although his very young age should be taken into account. Just as many Communists became Nazis, after the War, many former Nazis in East Germany quickly became Communists with relatively little change in their profession or rank. While some of these Nazis, possibly all of them, who became Communists clearly did so to avoid execution, the mere fact that the Communists offered them the same jobs that they previously held under the Nazis suggests a certain ideological connection in terms of practical consequence. Prime examples of this are the numerous Gestapo agents who joined the Stasi such as Josef Settnik and Willy Laritz.

The last aspect of Nazism that I’ll talk about on this post is its secret hostility to Christianity. For practical purposes, it’s somewhat difficult to count leaders who want to ditch Christianity and switch to some new form of Paganism as exclusively Right-wing by European norms. Usually, when people describe a movement as “Right-Wing” in Europe or the West, they’re talking about a movement that emphasizes Christianity of some sort, usually a powerfully legislatively influential form of Christianity.

I would say that Nazism was neither solidly on the Left or the Right by modern political standards. It’s tough to classify a movement led by a vegetarian artist as exclusively Right-wing.


Hre’s an interesting video from TIK, he came to the conclusion that in name, practice and rhetoric the Nazi’s were left. To summarize his position he says that socialism and communism both demand a centralization of government either as an ends or as a means to an end. Therefore, the case could be made that facsim (a centralized government) is a left wing ideology either as an end of itself or as a means to an end.

Yes, socialism is supposed to be multiple people forming the centralized government, but as we have seen in places like Venezuela, someone always makes their way to the top. One thing often forgotten about when painting racist Italy and Germany is that their respective leaders, while having the final say, were surrounded by other people who helped them make decisions. So saying facism entails centralizing government to one person isn’t entirely true.

Rather than having facism as the extreme right, what the extreme right really is would be anarchy. Going from conservative (towards the middle), Libertarian (more right) and ending at Anarchy (far right). It hardly makes sense looking at most used scales to say that as people get more and more freedom they would eventually elect a dictator. Rather as they got more freedom their human nature would pit them against one another in pure chaos.

Nonetheless its a great video, I would advise giving it a watch!


It sounds like he recast the definition of right wing to left wing to be “More government --------} Less Government.”

The Nazis had a strong central state so I guess left wing. But that’s a useless definition when talking about modern governments. No state in the world has “no government” or a “libertarian” government.

Even in this period, it makes little sense. Take the Spanish Civil War. By this definition, it was a war between Traditional Left Wing Authoritarian Franco against Left Wing Communists working with Right Wing Anarchists.

It’s a definition that works on paper, but tells you nothing practical. Right and Left work better as definitions of end goals of the government while size and power of government is a different conversation.

It all depends on the definitions, I suppose. Also, between continental Europe and US/UK these definitions differ.

Mr. TIK would probably fail sociology (?) class. Whilst fascism, certainly in its early stages had borrowed from socialism, the longer time went by the less pronounced that became. Fascism ultimately indentified itself in opposition to communism and to a lesser degree socialism as well as working with private enterprise to achieve its goals. All of that apart from the rampant racism as well as alliances with conservative forces and militarists to gain power. I hope Mr. TIK doesn’t classify Hindenburg, Papen, Hugenberg and Schacht as left wing.

I’d earlier argue that Stalin was right wing than Hitler being left wing. Though for both of them its a mixture.
Factors that Mr. TIK doesn’t seem to take into account much are rampant racism and discrimination and the cooperation between government and business (which I’d classify as right wing, especially if government lets business free to do what it wants, and unregulated monopolies always lead to abuse of workers rights and that sort of thing).

In a sense, it’s like saying left wing is wanting government control and right wing is wanting corporate control, and both have its major drawbacks.

For practical purposes, it doesn’t make sense to argue the Stalin was somehow a right-wing conservative though. The traditional spectrum places Stalin and Communism on the Far Left and Fascism on the Far Right. The real problem is the Left/Right dichotomy in its entirety.

Hindenburg, though generally Right-wing in terms of rhetoric, actively helped Left-Wing causes on numerous occasions–one example is the Ukrainian People’s Republic. I consider it to be axiomatic that a cause in support of a nation that has “People’s Republic” in its name is Left-wing.

Schacht was probably a staunch resistance supporter and mainly an economist, so it’s really tough to either consider him to be a genuine Nazi or to even put him on a political spectrum at all. The Right-Left spectrum really transcends mere economic policy and relates much more to one’s cultural goals.

While openly advocating “rampant racism and discrimination” is usually considered “right-wing” in academia, this classification appears to be cursory at best. Numerous “Left-wing” regimes such as the governments in Cuba, China, and Vietnam appeal to racism and discrimination all the time in reality( The Soviet Union also frequently used to appeal to racism:

I certainly wouldn’t consider “the cooperation between government and business” to be “right-wing” at all because most of the politicians who champion it openly are unanimously placed on the Left-wing of the political spectrum. Buying a re-founded General Motors was a signature political move of Obama’s presidency. Elizabeth Warren, definitely on the Far Left of the spectrum, supports creating a massive public-private partnership to control large tech companies.

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There’s nothing far left about wanting to control these large tech companies that have become way too large and powerful as they are. Should have been broken up long ago Teddy Roosevelt style. They’re virtual monopolies in many aspects and unregulated business has a tendency to ride roughshod over people’s rights, livelyhood, environmental protection, consumer protection and so on. All important and necessary things except the right wing doesn’t believe in any of it.

The right would happily led chemical companies spill wherever they desire (such as how former Texas governor Rick Perry had a politburo of corporate executives who were able to buy their way to deregulation and even threatened to dump toxic waste into what is one of the US’s main acquifers). The idea that some single mother who lost a child to cancer because of corporate toxic waste dumps, that this person can succesfully litigate for years against a dedicated multi million dollar legal team is ludicrous. She’d have to take a settlement and all the costs would come out of her share leaving her with virtually nothing.

That’s what happens when right wing businessmen are allowed to run amok. Like in Britain in the 19th century when politicians were so wedded to the “free market” idea that they allowed business to do whatever they wanted, and one day a business decided to put arsenic into childrens sweets… with predictable results. This did however lead to what were essentially the worlds first food safety standard laws… much to the protest of right wing business and its political lackeys.

Warren’s idea is therefore quite centrist.

Nearly all the colonial empires (based on what were essentially conservative/right wing/monarchist governments) justified their practises based on religion, which is often invoked by right wing politicians. Slavery and colonization, all abolished and phased out under loud protest from the right (take for example France letting Algeria go and the right wing tried to foment a coup against De Gaulle to prevent it). The UK Labour government letting India go under protest from Churchill’s conservatives etc. All colonial empires were racist to the hilt.

In a sense, one might argue that German conservative militarist monarchists shoulder the blame for the 20th century’s greatest atrocities. They asked kaiser Wilhelm to let Lenin travel to Petrograd, and without Lenin the Bolsheviks never get near to power because the leadership (Zinoviev, Kamenev) had just drafted a party platform to encourage collaboration with the provisional government, Lenin’s return (enabled by the German right wing) changed everything. His April theses were so radical (all out opposition to the provisional government and the war), that only one member of the party’s leadership committee (Alexandra Kollontai) supported them from the start. Even Stalin thought it too radical at the time though he changed his mind once the Bolsheviks achieved power.

Then, right wing discontent over losing the Great War led them to undermine the Weimar Republic and use Hitler (or so they thought) to destroy communism and socialism and restore the monarchy. Except Hitler had no intention to share power. Without these right wing militarist monarchists neither Stalin nor Hitler would have come to power at all.

First of all, whether or not public-private partnerships are good or bad is completely irrelevant as to whether or not they are Left or Right wing politically. By the same token, the pros and cons of government breaking up monopolies is completely irrelevant as to whether or not such action is politically Left-wing or Right-wing. You’re making the wrong argument there. Debates concerning the government’s proper role in regulating industry need to be separate from the debates about where economic positions lie on the Left/Right spectrum. Otherwise, “Left-wing” and “Right-wing” become nothing more than mere dirty words.

Generally, the politicians championing public-private partnerships and increased government regulation on business are considered Leftwing though. Obama is generally regarded as Center-Left and Elizabeth Warren is generally regarded as “Progressive” or Far-Left.

Teddy Roosevelt was a “Progressive” in his day, and “Progressive” is an implicitly Leftwing term just as “Conservative” is a Rightwing term. Teddy Roosevelt was regarded as being to the Left of William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson.

Yeah i would say the Nazis were different than socialists, but I’m also not a big fan of using the term far-right to describe them (to me that should be what’s used for Milton Friedman). I’m not a big fan of the left-right spectrum generally.