There’s a cliché of psychologists in movies, in which the patient will be vigorously defending something and the psychologist will turn and say, “Who are you trying to convince: me, or yourself?”
That’s how I feel when right-wingers claim that Adolf Hitler was secretly a leftist.
Let me preface by saying that I don’t really care if Hitler was a leftist or not. Unless one can argue that Nazi Germany-esque future is the logical conclusion of contemporary left-wing politics, then Hitler’s personal political affiliation seems a bit irrelevant.
Of course, conservatives have long claimed this to be the case. This was the premise of Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism (I’m not joking), in which he basically argued that anti-racists are the true racists. During the Tea Party Protests, many conservatives loved taking a picture of Obama–the United States’ first black president–and giving him the mustache of Hitler–a noted white nationalist dictator.
It’s a little odd that conservatives will spend endless hours making fun “social justice warriors” for caring about racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people, immigrants, disabled people, and religious minorities–and then turn around to compare them to Hitler, who executed en masse people in the aforementioned groups.
The term “Nazism” does come from “National Socialism,” which I’ll admit seems a bit confusing. Historians have debunked the “Nazis were leftists!” trope many times before, but here is a good summation:
The “National Socialists” wanted to unite the two political camps of left and right into which, they argued, the Jews had manipulated the German nation. The basis for this was to be the idea of race. This was light years removed from the class-based ideology of socialism. Nazism was in some ways an extreme counter-ideology to socialism, borrowing much of its rhetoric in the process, from its self-image as a movement rather than a party, to its much-vaunted contempt for bourgeois convention and conservative timidity.
Even in the early 1900s, the Nazis were socialists in name only. Next time a conservative tells you that the Nazis were leftists because they called themselves “national socialists,” ask them if the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea–i.e. North Korea–is really a democracy.