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February 27, 2014

Daniel Hannan: Yeah, About That National Socialist Workers Party

Great piece from @rdbrewer4 in the sidebar.

Hannan's goal is not prove that the left harbors secret Nazi sympathies. His point is rather more nuanced:

To be absolutely clear, I don’t believe that modern Leftists have subliminal Nazi leanings, or that their loathing of Hitler is in any way feigned. That’s not my argument. What I want to do, by holding up the mirror, is to take on the equally false idea that there is an ideological continuum between free-marketers and fascists.

The idea that Nazism is a more extreme form of conservatism has insinuated its way into popular culture. You hear it, not only when spotty students yell “fascist” at Tories, but when pundits talk of revolutionary anti-capitalist parties, such as the BNP and Golden Dawn, as “far Right”.

What is it based on, this connection? Little beyond a jejune sense that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists are nasty. When written down like that, the notion sounds idiotic, but think of the groups around the world that the BBC, for example, calls “Right-wing”: the Taliban, who want communal ownership of goods; the Iranian revolutionaries, who abolished the monarchy, seized industries and destroyed the middle class; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pined for Stalinism. The “Nazis-were-far-Right” shtick is a symptom of the wider notion that “Right-wing” is a synonym for “baddie”.

One of my constituents once complained to the Beeb about a report on the repression of Mexico's indigenous peoples, in which the government was labelled Right-wing. The governing party, he pointed out, was a member of the Socialist International and, again, the give-away was in its name: Institutional Revolutionary Party. The BBC’s response was priceless. Yes, it accepted that the party was socialist, “but what our correspondent was trying to get across was that it is authoritarian”.

In fact, authoritarianism was the common feature of socialists of both National and Leninist varieties, who rushed to stick each other in prison camps or before firing squads. Each faction loathed the other as heretical, but both scorned free-market individualists as beyond redemption. Their battle was all the fiercer, as Hayek pointed out in 1944, because it was a battle between brothers.

It's very difficult to capture any country's politics in the short-hand you use for your own. For example, do you know who the "bad guys" were to the French Revolutionaries?

Well, the monarchy, of course, and the aristocrats, obviously, and the priests, eventually. But there was a fourth villain despised by those of the French Revolution:

Liberals.

Yes, liberals. Because economic liberals had convinced Louis Capet to reduce the mandates and restrictions on trade in grains (that is, they convinced him to let the farmers sell to foreign buyers at the best price they could find).

This proved unpopular, because, as bad luck would have it, France was hit with a few cold seasons of crop failures just before the French Revolution, and Parisians got very angry about paying more for bread under the new liberalized selling regime. The French farmers were selling French grain to the British, you see, and French bread went up in cost, as the new cost was set not by Louis Capet's ministers but the free market. (And the price of bread was a major factor in sparking the Revolution, but there were a set of about four major factors.)

Treason!

The concept of liberalizing economics and freedom became discredited, and liberals were among the enemies of the Revolution.

When the Revolution went into its decapitation frenzy, those damned farmers and bakers refusing to sell their wares for below cost were explicitly charged with economic treason (hoarding), and beheaded.*

Now, it is common for people to immediately analogize all parties in a foreign country with their "analogues" -- not really their analogues, thus the scare-quotes -- from the country they know, their own.

Everyone does this. At first. But as your read more and understand more, you realize that another nation's politics cannot be reduced the easy-peasy lemon-squeezey third grade level template you began with.

But reporters keep on doing it, don't they? And they claim to be "experts" in the subject matters they report on.

The media does this because they are imbeciles. They ought to know better than to pretend that the politics of any country tracks with the American (or British) models.

In fact, they were probably told a dozen times that they shouldn't do this, as it's false.

But they do it anyway. Because they're shamefully partisan and not-terribly-secretly propagandists for leftism.

They refuse to label any bad-acting regime as "socialist" or "communist," even when they are clearly that (and even when it says that right on the tin), and instead insist on referring to all Baddies as Right-Wing.

When anarchists destroy property in the US, they are referred to as "anarchists" and "anti-globalists" -- never "the far left."

When Occupy Wall Street gets a little stinky and embarrassing, they are "anti-capitalists." Never the "far left," and certainly not "extreme liberals."

But all violent regimes are called rightwing, even the ones that are expressly leftwing.

As Hannan explains, they just say that the nice good leftwing government because shamefully Rightwing when it crushed the opposition and murdered dissidents. (Even when they're crushing opposition and murdering dissidents in the service of redistributing wealth!)

Because you know -- leftwing governments hardly ever do that, except for always. Only rightwing people do that, so if it happens, you know what you're dealing with is a rightwing government.

Real the whole piece. The beginning bit, which I didn't excerpt, constitutes his proof that the Nazis were indeed socialist.

* In the interests of accuracy, I should note that the beginning of the French Revolution contained liberals on the revolutionary side. And it also contained a lot of priests on the revolutionary side, too. It contained aristocrats. Hell, it even contained a member of Louis Capet's royal family, his cousin, the Duke of Orleans (Philippe "Egalité," he would style himself, calling himself an equal, not a lord-- but he did keep his property).

In fact, it contained a lot of monarchists on the revolutionary side -- people like Lafayette (IIRC) supported a constitutional monarchy, like Britain's, not an all-powerful sovereign.

But as the grim, bloody logic of the Revolution continued (as almost all revolutionary regimes do), each of these once-allies were deemed enemies, and either forced to flee or brought to Place de la Revolution to have their heads deducted from their bodies' heights.


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posted by Ace at 02:32 PM

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