Were the Nazis socialist?
“In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”
— Communist Manifesto
The Nazi regime did not nationalize industries and in fact mass privatized industries wherever possible.
“…the Nazi state — unlike the Soviet Union to which it is sometimes compared — refrained from the widespread nationalization of industry…Available sources make perfectly clear that the Nazi regime did not want at all a German economy with public ownership of many or all enterprise…. On the contrary the reprivatization of enterprises was furthered wherever possible.”
— “The Role of Private Property in the Nazi Economy”, The Journal of Economic History
The word “privatization” was coined by The Economist to describe Hitler’s economic policies in Germany.
“The April 4, 1959, issue of The Economist gave information about the first sale of state-owned shares of the Preussische Bergwerks -und Hu¨tten AG, commenting: “A whole series of political and legal hurdles will have to be taken before the way is clear to denationalize, or reprivatise, in earnest” (CXCI, 6032, p. 53).”
— “Retrospectives: The Coining of ‘Privatization’ and Germany’s National Socialist Party”, Journal of Economic Perspectives
Within the Nazi party there was a wing called the Strasserite wing led by Otto and Gregor Strasser. They differed from Hitler’s wing as they actually did favor nationalizations of industry. Hitler had Gregor Strasser killed in the Night of the Long Knives and Otto Strasser fled the country. Here is a quote from one of Otto Strasser’s books where he recalls a conversation he had with Hitler in which he tried to convince Hitler to nationalize industry.
“Then I laid before him the points of the Strasser programme…and our ideas on the nationalization of industry.
‘It’s Marxism!’ cried Hitler. ‘In fact, it’s Bolshevism! Democracy has laid the world in ruins, and nevertheless you want to extend it to the economic sphere. It would be the end of German economy. You would wipe out all human progress, which has only been achieved by the individual efforts of great scholars and great inventors.”
— Otto Strasser, “Hitler and I”
Hitler started killing off socialists and trade unionists before he came after Jewish people.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
— Martin Niemöller
Niemöller was a pastor who spent 7 years in a German concentration camp.
Hitler actually objected to the word “socialist” even being added to the party’s name. It was added there purely to appeal to working people since socialism was popular at the time.
“Meanwhile, on February 20, 1920, the German Workers’ Party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeitpartei, called the NSDAP or Nazi Party). Hitler did not like the addition of the term “Socialist” but acquiesced because the executive committee thought it might be helpful in attracting workers from the left.”
— Samuel Mitcham, “Why Hitler?”
Later, since he was stuck with the name, Hitler embraced the term but insisted that his socialism was just synonymous with nationalism. The “nation” and the “social” are the same, therefor for him, socialism just meant nationalism. He explains this in an interview with George Sylvester Viereck where he was asked this very question.
“Viereck: Why do you call yourself a National Socialist, since your party programme is the very antithesis of that commonly accredited to socialism?
Hitler: Socialism is the science of dealing with the common weal. Communism is not Socialism. Marxism is not Socialism. The Marxians have stolen the term and confused its meaning. I shall take Socialism away from the Socialists. Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. Our German ancestors held certain lands in common. They cultivated the idea of the common weal. Marxism has no right to disguise itself as socialism. Socialism, unlike Marxism, does not repudiate private property. Unlike Marxism, it involves no negation of personality, and unlike Marxism, it is patriotic. We might have called ourselves the Liberal Party. We chose to call ourselves the National Socialists. We are not internationalists. Our socialism is national. We demand the fulfilment of the just claims of the productive classes by the state on the basis of race solidarity. To us state and race are one.”
People who insist the Nazis were socialist only do it for political reasons because they don’t like socialists and want to make socialists look bad. The claim is not connected to historical reality in any way and the only argument they have is “it’s in the name!” despite Hitler himself objecting to it being put in the name, killing socialists, purging anyone suggesting socialist policies from his party, and implementing the very exact opposite policies that a socialist would.