The United States – Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, along with occasions such as the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, a new debate has arisen on whom the German National Socialists and Italian Fascists of the 20th century preceded. A common narrative has been that “Trump is the new Hitler,” or generally comparing him to aspects of Hitler and Mussolini in the early 1930s. This is the view I set to tackle below, but for a more thorough analysis of this issue, the reader may be directed to Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘The Big Lie,’ which he published just earlier this year.
The incident which most notably lightened up thoughts regarding neo-Nazis in contemporary politics seems certainly to have been the one in Charlottesville, but since I have already written extensively on that topic elsewhere, it will not be considered further here. Instead, it will be an analysis of comparing ideologies – i.e. – as what really defines the Left and Right and what distinguishes them from another to the degree that one can call them two different endpoints of the same spectrum(s). What defines the ideologies of Fascism and National Socialism will be mentioned.
Let’s begin with analyzing the philosophers who inspired National Socialism and Fascism, and then go over to how Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini turned them into ways of organizing society. Some of the main philosophers behind National Socialism must be said to be Martin Heidegger and Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche himself died long before the Nazis took power, and many historians have noted that he would likely have been appalled of the actions of Nazi Germany. But both Hitler and Mussolini endorsed his work, and this was especially due to his idea of an “übermensch” and “untermensch.” What this namely advocates is a class system, where humans aren’t to be seen as equal to one another, but rather treated differently according to how the despot chooses to organize this system. Whether Nietzsche desired a class organized society or not, the writer is not familiar of, but what can be said is that he thought the übermensch to be as high above contemporary humans as humans are over apes. It is not difficult to see why this appealed to the Nazis, in addition to the Nietzschean notion of a “Will to Power,” which he had adopted from the pessimist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, in which attempts for unrestrained power are completely justified. It must also be noted that both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche claimed – as Aristotle did some two thousand years before – that there is a slave and a master morality. This mindset was also used to justify Democrat slave-owning in the 1800s’ American South, though Nietzsche didn’t arrive before later that century. More on this later! Unlike Nietzsche, Heidegger was a contemporary in Nazi society, and he openly expressed his sympathy for the ideology. D’Souza quotes him on page 205 to have said of Hitler, “The Fuhrer alone is the present and future German reality and law. The Fuhrer has awakened this will in the entire people and has welded it into a single resolve.” Heidegger was openly atheistic, as was both Hitler and Mussolini, but Hitler’s hatred for Christianity may best be summarized in his own words: “Pure Christianity leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind … Let’s be the only people who are immunized against the disease (p. 216).”
As is commonly known, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who was leading the United States during the second world war – with holding office unprecedently long – between 1932 and 1945. FDR is credited for both winning the war and reviving the economy after a large economic Depression. D’Souza, however, doesn’t think he deserve this credit, claiming that “what actually lifted America out of economic Depression was not New Deal policies, but rather the entrepreneurial vigor, manufacturing prowess, and sheer work ethic of Americans in the post-war era (p. 168).” He also said that the Soviets were a bigger contribution to beating the Germans during WWII than the Americans were. But D’Souza doesn’t stop there, he also claims FDR to have “set the modern Left on its fascist road,” and being “the inventor of American fascism,” (p. 167 and 169, respectively). These statements may all seem outrageous out of context, so let’s consider some examples. Perhaps the most notable of these is seen in Mussolini’s review of FDR’s ‘Looking Forward,’ in which he states that the whole approach of FDR “resembles that of fascism,” also stating that the New Deal was “boldly interventionist in the field of economics (p. 182).” Mussolini also spoke of FDR after he had initiated the National Recovery Act (FDR): “Ecco un ditatore!” which translates to “Behold, a dictator! (p. 184).” Further about NRA can be read in the chapter ‘American Führers’ in D’Souza’s book, but it’s not a topic relevant to the discussion of this article. (See also: Schlechter Poultry Corp v. United States).
Supporting this thesis, D’Souza also referred to a similarity between FDR and Mussolini noted by New York Times correspondent Anne McCormick, quoting her to have said that the FDR administration “envisages a federation of industry, labor and government after the fashion of the corporative State as it exists in Italy (p. 170).” But she praised this similarity, opining that “America today literally asks for orders. Nobody is much disturbed by the idea of dictatorship.” Following these examples, among others, D’Souza states “both Hitler and Mussolini praised FDR,” among the statements already mentioned about him “inventing American fascism.”
By now we have seen a bit of the philosophy behind these doctrines, so now we turn to contemporary politics, what the Left is, what the Right is, and then we’ll conclude with how they may be compared to the doctrines of the 20th century. D’Souza goes about discussing this early in his book (p. 32), where he states that the specter used today comes from the French Revolution of 1789, where the partisans of the revolution sat on the left side, and the defenders of the Ancien Régime on the right. But, D’Souza exclaims, “if this is what ‘right-wing’ and ‘conservative’ mean, then there are no right-wingers or conservatives in America. America has never had either a monarchy or an established church. … In what sense, then, are modern conservatives right-wing? What is it that American conservatives want to conserve?” He answers that this is the principles of the American Revolution, characterized by economic freedom/Capitalism; political freedom/constitutional democracy; and freedom of speech and religion. To summarize, modern-day Conservatives – or right-wingers – want to limit government power. If we then suppose this is the spectrum we go by, then the Left must be on the opposite side, must they not? On the economic spectrum then, this must surely be their differences, as the Left roots from Hegel, Marx, and perhaps Rousseau, while the Right more from Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith, not to mention the American founders.
By now it may be clear to some how different conservatives and the Nazis are, but to make it perfectly clear, let’s mention some more examples. For instance, Hitler called religious conservatives in America “liars” and “hypocrites” for opposing eugenic schemes set in place by Leftists like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. D’Souza also quotes Hitler to have written in his auto-biography that “marriage cannot be an end in itself, but must serve the one higher goal, the increase and preservation of the species and race. This alone is its meaning and its task.” It should be clear that this is not a thought a contemporary conservative would even consider for a second, as family is an important cultural value for conservatives today. We then see another spectrum appear! There are both economic and cultural spectra for determining whether one is Left or Right. It is clear by a few examples mentioned already that Hitler was against at least some of the values of the cultural right, but what then about tradition, weren’t the Nazis obsessed with this? Indeed, they were, and most notably if considering the adoption of Norse writing and ethic from the Viking age, and naming its regime “the Third Reich,” as to follow the historical footsteps of the Holy Roman Empire and Imperial Germany. He also spoke well of the Germanic deities in Germanic Paganism, which dates back to 1st-5th century CE. All this, however, does not indicate similarity to modern day conservatives, as tradition can be attributed to any form of preservation of historical precedents. The historical precedents conservatives wish to conserve, as has already been noted, is the values fought for in the American revolution, values which Hitler despised.
We may then look at the economic systems of National Socialism and Fascism. The term “National Socialism” has been used like a bomb being thrown back and forth between left- and right-wingers as to what it indicates. Conservatives say it indicates socialism, while Liberals say it indicate Nationalism. What the “national” in National Socialism indicates, however, is not the patriotism modern conservative has in respect of their country, but the racist concept that none except for the Nordic Aryans deserve Socialism for its alleged perfection. Communists, on the other hand, wish for an International Socialism. D’Souza said that as “[Giovanni] Gentile and Mussolini knew their fellow socialists had no idea how to run industries,” they instead advocated for a state-run Capitalism, “putting the industrial might of the private sector at the behest of the state (p. 166).” The Nazis called this “Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz,” the common good over the individual good. This is why D’Souza called Obamacare for “fascist”, as it nationalized one sixth of the economy.
The Big Lie that D’Souza seeks to expose, thus, is that the blame has been – using Freudian terminology – “transferred”, from the perpetrator to the victim, claiming that Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School where important participants in this transference, in addition to George Soros, the main funder of hundreds of leftist groups today. Who the real fascists are, D’Souza proclaims, are the Democrats for having taken over media, academia and Hollywood, the main American cultural institutions, as well as the so called “anti-fascists,” for justifying using fascist tactics in order to “destroy fascism.” Buying into the lies promoted by Marxists like Marcuse, many on the Left has declared “no tolerance for the intolerant,” as a justifiable means to prevent something like Nazi-Germany to revive, ironically having to use their tactics in order to do so.
Regimes like Hitler’s Nazi-Germany and Mussolini’s Italy were exactly what the American founders sought to prevent the States from becoming when they wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and Bill of Rights in 1789. They sought to limit the power of the government. This is the values of the contemporary conservatives. It thus seems ludicrous to compare Hitler and Mussolini, as absolute authoritarians, with right-wingers in the United States. The Big Lie has been to confuse the fundamental ideas behind both Conservative (now largely Libertarian), Fascist and National Socialists, so they can be compared freely without much criticism, and thus opens the possibility to demonize innocent conservative ideas and individuals. It’s really a master plan, but conservatives must rise again, and say “Enough is enough!” This unfair treatment has lasted far too long. What has been written here is only a fraction of a fraction of an extensive argument presented in D’Souza’s ‘The Big Lie’, which the specially interested reader may be highly recommended.