Nazism: left or right? (again)

A few days ago, Brazil’s Foreign Affair’s Minister declared that Nazism “derives from the left”. Asked about his minister’s remark, president Jair Bolsonaro confirmed that he understands Nazism as a left-wing movement.

The understanding that Nazism is a left-wing movement is growing among Brazilian conservatives, especially those who support Bolsonaro’s government. On the other side of the debate, Bolsonaro’s adversaries ridiculed his remark or manifested concern with his “historical revisionism”.

Seems to me that classifying Nazim as a left-wing movement is not a Brazilian exclusivity. Political commentators from other countries (such as Dinesh D’Souza) are saying the same thing. It is probably more accurate to say that Brazilians are following a trend.

This trend, however, is not new. One of Friedrich Hayek’s main points in Road to Serfdom was to tell social democrats (who were indeed democrats in the classical liberal sense of the word) that they were closer to Nazis than they would like to admit. Hayek’s remark was as polemic then as it is now, but mainly because he is saying the truth: as Milton Friedman said, “The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.” If I remember correctly, it was also Friedman who said that in order to obtain perfect equality more government would be necessary, which would completely undermine the desire for equality, for those in government would most certainly not be equal to everyone else.

The standard in Political Science is, of course, to call Nazim a right-wing movement. However, we see in moments like this how political and how little scientific Political Science can be. What many people observe is that Nazism shares a lot with communism: both are violent, both emphasize the collective (and not the individual), both rely on popular leaders, and so on. Of course, there are also differences: Nazism has nothing of the class-struggle so central to communism and certainly doesn’t appeal to the cosmopolitanism present in “workers of the World, unite!”.

With all that said, I have a growing feeling that there are only two political tendencies: “live and let live” and all others. Some people can’t stand the possibility of having others living a different lifestyle from them. Some people can’t stand people who disagree. Some people like to blame others. Some people truly believe that those who think and do like they do are superior to everyone else. These people come together and ask the government to force everyone else to comply.

RCH: 10 Dead Nazis You’ve Never Heard Of

Yup, dead Nazis. That’s the subject of my weekend column for RealClearHistory. An excerpt:

8. Karl Haushofer (died 1946). While it is perhaps unfair to include Haushofer in this list (he denied being a Nazi and his wife and son were, under Nazi law, considered to be “half-Jews”), his ideas about the world and how he went about promoting them are too important to leave out of the Nazi story. Haushofer became a geopolitical theorist after World War I and is credited with introducing to the German public (including the Nazis) the idea of “Lebensraum,” or “living space.” According to Haushofer, Germany could only compete with the Western powers if it had control over areas of Europe stretching from Norway to the Caspian Sea. Once the German military controlled this geographic space, the Nazis could begin exterminating the indigenous people there to make room for German colonists. Haushofer also viewed Japan as a natural ally of Germany and was instrumental in convincing the Nazis to partner up with Tokyo. One of Haushofer’s former students, Rudolf Hess, was one of Hitler’s closest confidants, and it’s unlikely that Haushofer, bitter about the terms of peace imposed on Germany by France and the U.K. after World War I, did not exploit his former student’s position as Deputy Führer. He and his wife committed suicide together in 1946. Their son had been murdered by the S.S. in April of 1945.

Please, read the rest (if you haven’t already!).

Nazism: left or right?

One of the greatest controversies on the Brazilian internet these last few days was to define Nazism as either left-wing or right-wing. I even wrote something about it in Portuguese, and although I really tried my best not to be controversial, I was amazed by how divisive the issue seems to be. So here is my view on this issue, now in English.

Is Nazism a left or right wing political movement? The first thing I believe we need to consider to answer this question is what is right and left? The answer (surprisingly simple in my view) is that right and left are words. Words are signs we use to describe things, but as (I guess) most linguists will say, words don’t have any objective connection to the things they describe. For example, there’s no special connection between the word “cat” and that fluffy animal that drinks milk and chases rats. It is just a convention that in the English language we call that animal “cat,” and not “alligator” or “hot dog.”

However, when we say that there is no objective connection between words and stuff, that doesn’t mean that words are simply random. Words only work in a linguistic context, so there is no use calling a cat anything else if you want to communicate properly. The English language (as any other language, except for Esperanto) was not invented by any specific person. Languages are actually a spontaneous order, something that economists in the Austrian School really enjoy talking about. So, if you want to communicate well, you have to join the party (or the conversation).

With all that said, we need to admit that the word most often used to describe Nazism politically is right-wing. Actually, far-right. The point in discussion (that so many people in Brazil just don’t seem to get) is if this description makes any sense. You see, other groups classified as right-wing are conservatives and liberals (classical liberals, to be more precise). So the question is: why are conservatives, liberals and Nazis all classified as right-wing? What do all these groups have in common? Going back to the example of the cat, there is a reason why you can call both a lion and a tiger a cat (or a feline): they both share several characteristics. It may be just at the eye of the beholder (although evolutionary biologists will say something different), but a lion has much more to do with a tiger than with a frog. So it seems fair to include lions and tigers in a small group where frogs don’t belong. So, the question is: is it fair to include conservatives, classical liberals and Nazis in the same group? Why?

I know there are reasons why all these groups are generally classified together. I know that left and right are terms that go back to the French Revolution. I know how these terms are generally used. All I’m saying (with Friedrich Hayek, David Nolan, and many others) is that we should reconsider the way we typically classify political groups.

Dinosaurs were classified as reptiles. And then people realized they were closer to birds. I guess it was a shock when someone first said that a Velociraptor has more to do with a chicken than with a Komodo dragon, but it seems to me (as an outsider of paleontology) that this is common wisdom now. Similarly, maybe we should have the courage to reconsider the way we classify Nazis. Leftists, of course, won’t like this. But neither do conservatives like being called fascists. Are leftists tasting their bitter medicine? Maybe. But I believe they should give us a good explanation why Nazis should be considered right-wing. I haven’t heard any.

Iraq to Jews: Don’t Come Back

Dr. Foldvary is renowned for his predictive capabilities, especially after calling the 2008 financial crash in 2007. However, I’d like to highlight his keen sense of direction and justice in regards to foreign affairs as well.

From a 2005 article on the situation in the Middle East, Dr. Foldvary writes:

Before Israel become an independent state in 1948, there were 150,000 Jewish citizens in Iraq. Israelites have lived in Iraq for over 2500 years. In 586 B.C.E., Babylon conquered Judea and brought many Jews to what is now Iraq. Baghdad later became a major center of Jewish thought. During the 1930s and 1940s, Nazi ideology infected the Arab region. In 1941, led by a mufti allied with Nazi Germany, there was a pro-Nazi coup, followed by killing, raping, and looting of Jews. Iraqi Jews call this the “Farhud,” or “violent dispossession.” The British army then came in and squashed the pogrom.

After World War II, the government of Iraq enacted Nazi-like anti-Jewish laws. Most of Iraq’s Jews fled to Israel. In 1952, the Iraqi government prohibited Jews from emigrating. Additional restrictions were placed on Jews in 1963 when the Ba’ath Party came to power. After 1967, Jewish property was confiscated and Jews were executed. Most remaining Jews were allowed to emigrate from Iraq during the 1970s.

This Jew-hating ideology still reigns in Iraq. There is also a concern that if Iraqi Jews are allowed to return and become Iraqi nationals, they will seek to be compensated for their confiscated property. Also, if Iraqis abroad are able to vote in Iraqi elections, Israeli Iraqis would be voting also, and many Iraqi Arabs don’t want foreign Jews voting in their elections.

Muslims, especially Arabs, denounce Israel for not letting Arab Palestinians return to their original places. How, then, can Arabs justify not allowing Jews to return?

Now Dr. Foldvary is not pointing fingers, mind you. He’s just trying to point out the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics and introduce a level of fairness in the whole damned process. Do read the whole thing.