Hitler and Bernie

I may be breaking my own rule about comparing American politicians by posting this meme.

Separated at birth?

In my defense, I am not posting this because I believe that Bernie Sanders is anything at all like Adolf Hitler. I simply wish to point out that if you wish to call yourself a socialist, like Bernie Sanders, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, and so many other Democrats are doing these days, you are putting yourself in really bad company.

Of course, the standard line taken by the left is that Hitler was not a socialist at all. Certain, Hitler’s party was called the National¬†Socialist German Worker’s Party, but that was only disinformation, a lie designed to beguile the masses into supporting Hitler instead of real socialists. Very well, then, but what about Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, and others. All these men called themselves socialists, and all of them were mass-murdering dictators, like Hitler. Either all of these tyrants were lying, or there really is some link between socialism and mass murder.

I am sure that Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic Socialists do not intend to become mass murderers. The essential basis of every form of socialism, whether democratic or otherwise, is that a small group of elite planners based in Washington or Moscow can organize an economy, or an entire society more efficiently and justly than the decisions made by millions of free people acting in their own interests. In other words, these planners know how to run your life better than you do yourself. The problem is that any plan, no matter how enlightened, is not going to command universal support. There are always going to be people who want to do their own thing and not what the planners want them to do, so some level of coercion is always needed. If a square peg won’t fit into a round hole, it must be pounded in. If the peg’s edges are ground away, or a few million people need to be killed, it’s all for the best of causes.

One might object that unlike all of the true socialists, Hitler preached hate against people of other races, especially Jews. True socialists, like Lenin and Mao, may have used excessive force, but surely their intentions were good. They only wanted to create truly just societies. The means may have been bad, but the ends were good, while the ends of Hitler and the Nazis, the deliberate extermination of entire populations were wholly evil. Maybe, but Hitler did support policies that many people, especially progressives, even Bernie Sanders might view as good. Take a look at the National Socialist party platform.

9. All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.

10. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all Consequently we demand:

11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.

12. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.

13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).

14. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.

15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.

16. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.

17. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.

18. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, Schieber and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.

20. The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbuergerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession.

These seem to be policies that any good progressive could stand behind. I suspect that many Germans eventually supported Hitler because he seemed to be providing hope in desperate economic times, rather than his anti-semitism, although we must not discount the level of German resentment against the Jews, made worse, perhaps, by the depression.

Still, people regarded as truly socialist also preached hatred against groups of people, not race-based hatred, to be sure, but class-based hatred. Historically, socialists have excoriated class enemies as bourgeois capitalist exploiters, grasping landlords, kulaks, or billionaires not paying their fair share, as fervently as Hitler ever attacked the Jews and other inferior races. The socialists have seldom attacked individuals for their misdeeds, which might be somewhat justifiable, but people who belong to the wrong class. In Lenin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China, being the grandson of a factory owner or a landlord was to be guilty of enjoying class privilege even if that particular person had never exploited anyone at all. There is more than an echo of such thinking in the contemporary leftist or socialist obsession with White, male privilege. I do not see that there is very much difference between persecuting someone because of their race and persecuting someone because of the misdeeds of their relatives. Either way, it is making use of a perceived enemy to mobilize people.

To be clear, none of what I have written is meant to imply that Bernie Sanders or any other self-proclaimed Democratic socialist is anything at all like Adolf Hitler, nor would electing Sanders result in any like the Nazi state. What I am saying is that Bernie Sanders has a lot of the same furniture in his mental attic as some of the worst people in history and that socialism, no matter how benevolent the intentions of its proponents might be, sooner or later always ends in tyranny.

Then again, considering that some of Bernie Sanders’s supporters don’t have a problem with Stalin’s gulags and are promising violence if Bernie isn’t elected, there may be a closer parallel between Sanders and the likes of Hitler or Stalin than I would like to believe.