The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was often mistaken for a communist. But the facts speak otherwise. Photo/Illustration
JAKARTA – Adolf Hitler was the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi Party, which was a right-wing political party in Germany. Even so, the man who is synonymous with Chaplin’s mustache is often thought to be a communist. Was Hitler a Communist? Check the facts.
Adolf Hitler, a failed artist from Braunau am Inn, Austria, joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP) in 1919. The party would later change its name to the NSDAP; National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party in 1920, and a year later Hitler became its head.
However, even though he joined the German workers’ party called the National Socialists, in fact Hitler was not a socialist. In fact, in July 1921, Hitler briefly left the NSDAP because the party’s affiliate in Augsburg signed an agreement with the German Socialist Party in that city, and only returned when he had been given control of the party itself.
Hitler’s interest in socialism was not based on an understanding of socialism as we have it today – a movement that would replace capitalism in which the working class would seize power over the state and the means of production.
He repeatedly rejected attempts by economically left-leaning elements of the party to enact socialist reforms, saying in a 1926 conference in Bamberg (convened by Nazi Party leaders on the question of the party’s ideological foundations) that any attempt to confiscate the homes and land of the the German prince would move the party towards communism and he would never do anything to help the “communist-inspired movement.”
He banned the formation of Nazi trade unions, and in 1929 he outright rejected any Nazi efforts to support socialist ideas or projects as a whole.
In contrast, Hitler saw socialism as a political organizing mechanism for the German people more broadly: a way to create a “community of the people” – volksgemeinschaft – that would unite everyday Germans (and businesspeople) not based on their class but on the basis of their race and ethnicity. Therefore, he would use the unifying aspects of “National Socialism” to invite the German people to participate in the Nazi program while negotiating with powerful businessmen and Junkers, industrialists and aristocrats, which would ultimately help Hitler gain complete power over the German state.
The best example of Hitler’s views on socialism is clearly seen in a two-day debate in May 1930 with a member of his party at the time, Otto Strasser. Strasser and his brother Gregor, who was a socialist, were part of the left wing of the Nazi Party, which supported political socialism as an important element in Nazism.
But Hitler disagreed. When Strasser supported “revolutionary socialism,” Hitler rejected the idea, arguing that workers were too simple to understand socialism.
“Your socialism is Marxism pure and simple. You see, most workers just want bread and circuses. Ideas are inaccessible to them and we cannot hope to win their hearts. We attach ourselves to the fringe group, the noble race, who have not grown up through miserabilist doctrine and know by their own character that they are called to rule, and to rule without weakness over the multitude of creatures.”