The Nazis, Capitalism and Privatisation

One of the tactics the Right uses to try to discredit socialism is to claim that the Nazis were socialist, based largely on their name and the selective use of quotes from Hitler and other members of the Nazi party.

This claim has been repeatedly attacked and refuted, but nevertheless continues to be made.

In the video below, Jason Unruhe of Maoist Rebel News also refutes the argument that the Nazis were socialists by looking at the economic evidence and the Nazis’ own policy of privatising state-owned industries and enterprises. He puts up several graphs showing how the stock market rose under the Nazis, as did the amount of money going to private industry. Indeed, this evidence shows that the Nazis were actually more successful at managing capitalism than the democratic, laissez-faire capitalist countries of Britain and the US.

Then there is the evidence from the Nazis’ own policy towards industry. He cites a paper by Germa Bel in the Economic History Review, entitled ‘Against the Mainstream: Nazi Privatisation in 1930s Germany’. In the abstract summarising the contents of the article, Bel states

In the mid-1930s, the Nazi regime transferred public ownership to the private sector. In doing so, they went against the mainstream trends in Western capitalistic countries, none of which systematically reprivatized firms during the 1930s.

He goes further, and makes the point that the term ‘privatisation’ actually comes from Nazi Germany. It’s the English form of the German term reprivatisierung.

I am very definitely not a Maoist, and have nothing but contempt for the Great Helmsman, whose Cultural Revolution led to the deaths of 60 million Chinese in the famines and repression that followed, and unleashed a wave of horrific vandalism against this vast, ancient countries traditional culture and its priceless antiquities and art treasures.

But Unruhe has clearly done his research, and is absolutely correct about the capitalist nature of German industry under the Third Reich. Robert A. Brady, in his The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) also described and commented on the privatisation of industry under the Nazis.

He states that the organs set up by the Nazis to ‘coordinate’ the industrial and agricultural sectors were specifically forbidden from giving any advantages to the state sector rather than private industry, and that state industry was handed over to private industrialists.

The same picture holds for the relations between the National Economic Chamber and the organs of local government. As Frielinghaus has put it, “The new structure of economics recognises no differences between public and private economic activity….” Not only are representatives of the various local governments to be found on both the national and regional organs of the National Economic Chamber, but it is even true that local government is co-ordinated to the end that economic activities pursued by them shall enjoy no non-economic advantages over private enterprise.

The literature on this point is perfectly explicit, being of a nature with which the general American public is familiar through numerous utterances of business leaders on the “dangers of government competition with private enterprise.” Under pressure of this sort the Reich government and many of its subsidiary bodies have begun to dispose of their properties to private enterprise or to cease “competition” with private enterprise where no properties are at stake. Thus the Reich, the states and the communes have already disposed of much of the holdings in the iron and steel industry (notably the United Steel Works), coal and electric power. Similarly, support is being withdrawn for loans to individuals wishing to construct private dwellings wherever private enterprise can possibly make any money out the transactions. True, the government has been expanding its activities in some directions, but mainly where there is no talk of “competition with private enterprise”, and with an eye to providing business men with effective guarantees against losses. (Pp. 291-2).

There is a serious academic debate over how far Fascism – both in its Nazi and Italian versions – was genuinely anti-Socialist and anti-capitalist. Mussolini started off as a radical Socialist, before breaking with the socialists over Italian intervention in the First World War. He then moved further to the right, allying with Italian big business and agricultural elites to smash the socialist workers’ and peasants’ organisations, and setting up his own trade unions to control the Italian workforce in the interests of Italian capital.

Ditto the Nazis, who banned the reformist socialist SPD – the German equivalent of the Labour party – and the Communist party, and destroyed the German trade unions. Their role was then taken over by the Labour Front, which also acted to control the workforces in the interests of capital and management.

As for Hitler’s use of the term ‘socialist’ and the incorporation of the colour red, with its socialist overtones, into the Nazi flag, Hitler stated that this was to steal some of the attraction of the genuine socialist left. See the passage on this in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the dictator. The incorporation of the word ‘socialist’ into the Nazi party’s name was highly controversial, and resisted by many of the party’s founders, as they were very definitely anti-socialist.

Brady himself comments on how the Nazis’ appropriation of the term ‘socialist’ is opportunistic, and disguises the real capitalist nature of the economy. He writes

the principle of “self-management” does appear to allow the business men to do pretty much what they wish. The cartels and market organisations remain, and have, in fact, been considerably strengthened in many cases. These are the most important organisations from the point of view of profits. The larger machinery is, as previously indicated, primarily designed to co-ordinate police on threats to the underlying tenets of the capitalistic system. The fact that the new system is called “socialism,” and that “capitalism” has been repudiated, does not detract from this generalisation in the slightest. The changes made to such as worry compilers of dictionaries and experts in etymology, not economists. For the realities of “capitalism” has been substituted the word “socialism”; for the realities of “socialism” has been substituted the word “Marxism”; “Marxism” has,, then, been completely repudiated. By reversing the word order one arrives at the truth, i.e. “socialism” in all its forms has been repudiated and capitalism has been raised into the seventh heaven of official esteem.

And the structure of Nazi Germany, where there were very close links between local and state government and industry, and where private industry and big business were celebrated and promoted, sounds extremely similar to the current corporatist political system in Britain and America. Here, political parties now favour big business over the public good, thanks to receiving donations and other aid, including the loan of personnel, from private firms, and the appointment of senior management and businessmen to positions within government. While at the same time pursuing a policy of deregulation and privatisation.

And this is without discussing the murderous Social Darwinism of the Reaganite/ Thatcherite parties, including Blairite New Labour, which has seen the welfare safety net gradually removed piecemeal, so that hundreds of thousands in Britain are now forced to use food banks to survive, and around 700 desperately poor, and particularly disabled people, have died in misery and starvation thanks to the regime of benefit sanctions and the use of pseudo-scientific procedures by ATOS and Maximus to declare seriously and terminally ill people ‘fit for work’.

The Blairites, Tories and their Lib Dem partners have set up a system of secret courts, in which, if it is considered ‘national security’ is at stake, individuals can be tried in secret, without knowing what the charges against them are, who their accuser is, or the evidence against them. Cameron and May, and indeed Tony Blair, followed Thatcher’s lead in trying to destroy the unions, and have put in place progressively stricter legislation against political protests.

Meanwhile, under the guise of combating ‘fake news’, internet companies like Google and Facebook are trying to drive left-wing, alternative news networks and sites off the Net.

The Code Pink and Green Party campaigner, Vijay Prashad, gave a speech in Washington, where he stated that Trump could be the last president of the US. If he doesn’t destroy the world, the political processes that are operating under him could result in him being the last democratically elected president, should the elites get tired of democracy.

Trump’s regime is certainly Fascistic, particularly in the support it receives from racist, White supremacist and openly Nazi organisations. If the business elites bankrolling the two parties do get tired of democracy – and due to their pernicious influence Harvard University has described the current American political system as an oligarchy, rather than democracy – then the transition to real Fascism will have been completed.

And where the Republicans go in America, the Tories over here in Britain duly follow.


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