Following President Trump’s landmark speech in Poland on Thursday, July 6, progressives quickly condemned it as “totalitarian” and “authoritarian” while comparing Trump to a wanna-be Hitler.
The speech was praised as a bold, defining articulation of a governing philosophy and defense of the Western way of life.
The Wall Street Journal lauded the speech in an editorial by saying: “Mr. Trump is taking a clear stand against the kind of gauzy globalism and vague multiculturalism represented by the worldview of, say, Barack Obama and most contemporary Western intellectuals, who are willing, even eager, to concede the argument to critics of the West’s traditions.”
After the speech, President Trump tweeted: “THE WEST WILL NEVER BE BROKEN. Our values will PREVAIL. Our people will THRIVE and our civilization will TRIUMPH!” In response, Twitter critics invited numerous comparisons to Hitler, such as this tweet from @4everNeverTrump: “Triumph over what exactly? How will we triumph? Just come right out and say you want to destroy non-Western civilizations. Kinda like Hitler.”
Salon political writer Amanda Marcotte condemned the speech in her article “Trump’s alt-right Poland speech: Time to call his white nationalist rhetoric what it is.” In the piece, she claims that President Trump’s language about family, God, and hard work is the language of Nazis.
“Which isn’t to say that Trump is a Nazi, but he shares their authoritarian DNA,” she wrote. “And this is what authoritarians do: They wrap their grotesque ideas in ennobling rhetoric of tradition, patriotism or family.”
Perhaps emblematic of the deep chasm between right and left in America today, many conservatives would charge that progressives, not Republicans like President Trump, are the true authoritarians. Conservatives would charge that progressives cloak their authoritarianism under the “ennobling rhetoric” of tolerance, kindness, and love.
“People such as myself would argue that the left’s actions and tactics are more of a reminder [of Nazism],” wrote Elise Cooper at American Thinker. “Their burning of automobiles and buildings, their extremist language, riots, beating up those they disagree with conjure up memories of Kristallnacht, anti-Semitism, and the Nuremberg Laws.”
Part of the debate over which side is more like Hitler stems from confusion over what side the Nazis were really on: Were they right-wing or left-wing?
Due to the Nazi focus on nationalism and aggressive military expansion, Hitler is often described as “right-wing.” The Nazis, however, were not right-wing capitalists. They were socialists. Nazi is short for “der Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei,” which means “the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.”
Progressives often claim that the term “socialist” used by Nazis was simply expedient propaganda rather than literal. Could this same logic apply to Nazi messaging furthering concepts of family or national patriotism?
Many conservatives claim that progressives have “rewritten history” to paint Hitler as right-wing, when really he was left-wing. They cite Hitler’s promises of employment for all, his establishment of nationalized healthcare, and his push for gun control.
A review of original propaganda material from the Nazis paints a more complex picture than the left vs. right ideas of modern America. Progressives point to Hitler abolishing unions, though the Nazis were also trying to organize workers under their own banner. Hitler also sold himself to the people as one of the workers, not one of the elites. His demonization of the Jews had much to do with positioning them as rich fat cats trying to exploit the poor.
In a mass pamphlet produced by the Nazi Party in 1932, a vision for a socialist republic was outlined. After announcing that the “capitalist system has collapsed,” the Nazis promise to replace it by confiscating private property and the means of production to build their new republic:
“The republic means: The absolute rule of the will of the working class, the elimination of serfdom in any form, and general disarmament of the citizenry to protect the accomplishments of the revolution. The abolition of all forms of income without labor, the separation of church and state, the rejection of all bourgeois courts. The special task of the republican government is to liquidate the Saxon state and form a unified socialist German republic.”
Whether the Nazis remained true to their original vision is for scholars to debate, but the full truth is perhaps far more complex than today’s social media soundbites might indicate.
Image Source: whitehouse.gov