By chance a few days ago, I ran across an article from The Independent‘s archives.

The article is called ‘Hitler and the socialist dream’ by George Watson, who summarised his latest book for the paper. The book is called The Lost Literature of Socialism (Lutterworth); the article appeared on Sunday, November 22, 1998.

I wrote about this recently for Orphans of Liberty. My post below will organise Watson’s information in a slightly different format, with additional information on the Fabians. You might wish to read both or read Watson’s article in full. Emphases and sub-heads are mine.

Political misconceptions about Hitler

Watson says that after Hitler committed suicide (by cyanide), the world was so pleased to be rid of him that they no longer cared much about his political outlook.

Only a few years earlier in the mid-1930s, he writes:

By the outbreak of civil war in Spain, in 1936, sides had been taken, and by then most western intellectuals were certain that Stalin was left and Hitler was right. That sudden shift of view has not been explained, and perhaps cannot be explained, except on grounds of argumentative convenience. Single binary oppositions – cops-and-robbers or cowboys-and-indians – are always satisfying ...


By the outbreak of world war in 1939 the idea that Hitler was any sort of socialist was almost wholly dead. One may salute here an odd but eminent exception. Writing as a committed socialist just after the fall of France in 1940, in The Lion and the Unicorn, Orwell saw the disaster as a “physical debunking of capitalism”, it showed once and for all that “a planned economy is stronger than a planless one” … “Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a socialist state.” These words were written just before Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union …

Furthermore, the West found both Hitler’s and Mussolini’s politics puzzling:

The first reactions to National Socialism outside Germany are now largely forgotten. They were highly confused, for the rise of fascism had caught the European left by surprise. There was nothing in Marxist scripture to predict it and must have seemed entirely natural to feel baffled. Where had it all come from? Harold Nicolson, a democratic socialist, and after 1935 a Member of the House of Commons, conscientiously studied a pile of pamphlets in his hotel room in Rome in January 1932 and decided judiciously that fascism (Italian-style) was a kind of militarised socialism

Bella Dodd, the late member (expelled after many years) of the Communist Party in the United States, says that her party controlled the political memes during the 1930s, which persist today. When I excerpted her book, School of Darkness in 2011 — also recommended for home schoolers and family reading discussions — she explained how this worked (Chapter 7):

Beginning in 1936 a prodigious effort was made by the Party in support of the Spanish Civil War, and this continued until 1939.  Perhaps no other activity aroused greater devotion among American intellectuals …

Since 1932 the Communist Party had publicized itself as the leading opponent of fascism … Its propaganda machine ground out an endless stream of words, pictures, and cartoons.  It played on intellectual, humanitarian, racial, and religious sensibilities until it succeeded to an amazing degree in conditioning America to recoil at the word fascist even when people did not know its meaning.

Today I marvel that the world communist movement was able to beat the drums against Germany and never once betray what the inner group knew well: that some of the same forces which gave Hitler his start had also started Lenin and his staff of revolutionists from Switzerland to St. Petersburg to begin the revolution which was to result in the Soviet totalitarian state.

There was not a hint that despite the propaganda of hate unleashed against Germany and Italy, communist representatives were meeting behind the scenes to do business with Italian and German fascists to whom they sold materiel and oil.  There was not a hint that Soviet brass was meeting with German brass to redraw the map of Europe.  There was no betrayal of these facts until one day they met openly to sign a contract for a new map of Europe — a treaty made by Molotov and Von Ribbentrop ...

The communist publicists carefully took for their own the pleasant word of Loyalist and called all who opposed them “Franco-Fascists.” This was a literary coup which confused many men and womenViolent communist literature repeatedly lumped all of the Church hierarchy on the side of the “Fascists,” and, using this technique, they sought to destroy the Church by attacking its priests.  This was not a new tactic.  I had seen it used in our own country over and over again … 

It became obvious, as the extensive campaign went on, that some of the funds were coming from sources other than the collections.  It is now well known that the Soviet Union was doing everything in its power to bring the foreign policy of the United States into conformity with its own devious plans and that it did not hesitate to use trickery to do so.  It wanted the United States to support Soviet policy on Spain.  I did not understand this at the time ...

As one example of the puzzle that finally became a picture there is the story of the Erica Reed, which will serve as an example of hundreds of others.  It was supposed to be a mercy ship taking food, milk, and medicines to hard-pressed Barcelona.  It was chartered ostensibly by the North American Committee for Loyalist Spain.  In reality it was financed by Soviet agents

The “relief ship” with its supplies reached Barcelona where she was immediately ordered to Odessa.  And so the Erica Reed, ostensibly chartered by the North American Committee for Loyalist Spain, was sent to Odessa by her real charterer, the Soviet Union.  The Spanish people were expendable.

Private memoirs about Hitler’s Marxism appeared too late

Back now to George Watson’s article. As we know, books and television programmes about Hitler are ten a penny.

The better memoirs and biographies, such as those of insider Albert Speer, have been read by millions around the world.

However, others — equally useful — did not appear until the 1970s or 1980s, by which time, our minds were made up that Hitler was ‘right wing’.

Another reason why we continue to accept this point of view is that Hitler was careful not to mention Marxism publicly. As we shall see, private mentions were quite another matter.

Yet, the later memoirs from those who worked closely with him, some preserved from the postwar years, describe the Fuhrer’s political philosophy:

Shortly before they fell out in the summer of 1933, Hitler uttered sentiments in front of Otto Wagener, which were published after his death in 1971 as a biography by an unrepentant Nazi. Wagener’s Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, composed in a British prisoner-of-war camp, did not appear until 1978 in the original German, and arrived in English, without much acclaim, as recently as 1985.

Watson also cites Hermann Rauschning, who knew Hitler well — before and after his accession to power.

Hitler’s admitted debt to Marxism

Watson writes:

It is now clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Hitler and his associates believed they were socialists, and that others, including democratic socialists, thought so too. The title of National Socialism was not hypocritical. The evidence before 1945 was more private than public, which is perhaps significant in itself. In public Hitler was always anti-Marxist, and in an age in which the Soviet Union was the only socialist state on earth, and with anti-Bolshevism a large part of his popular appeal, he may have been understandably reluctant to speak openly of his sources. His megalomania, in any case, would have prevented him from calling himself anyone’s disciple.


His private conversations, however, though they do not overturn his reputation as an anti-Communist, qualify it heavily. Hermann Rauschning, for example, a Danzig Nazi who knew Hitler before and after his accession to power in 1933, tells how in private Hitler acknowledged his profound debt to the Marxian tradition. “I have learned a great deal from Marxism” he once remarked, “as I do not hesitate to admit” … The trouble with Weimar Republic politicians, he told Otto Wagener at much the same time, was that “they had never even read Marx” … His differences with the communists, he explained, were less ideological than tactical. German communists he had known before he took power, he told Rauschning, thought politics meant talking and writing. They were mere pamphleteers, whereas “I have put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun”, adding revealingly that “the whole of National Socialism” was based on Marx

Socialism relies on eugenics and death — Fabians

During the same time frame — at the turn of the 20th century through the 1930s — the Fabians in England supported similar socialist ideals of a pure race. They were also big fans of the Soviet project.

Creating a pure race of intelligent, healthy, acceptable people could mean only that selective breeding — eugenics — would need to be established. This was also popular in Sweden and elsewhere in the West, including the United States (e.g. Margaret Sanger, a friend of the Fabians).

Watson explains:

… the socialist intelligentsia of the western world entered the First World War publicly committed to racial purity and white domination and no less committed to violence. Socialism offered them a blank cheque, and its licence to kill included genocide. In 1933, in a preface to On the Rocks, for example, Bernard Shaw publicly welcomed the exterminatory principle which the Soviet Union had already adopted. Socialists could now take pride in a state that had at last found the courage to act, though some still felt that such action should be kept a secret. In 1932 Beatrice Webb remarked at a tea-party what “very bad stage management” it had been to allow a party of British visitors to the Ukraine to see cattle-trucks full of starving “enemies of the state” at a local station. “Ridiculous to let you see them”, said Webb, already an eminent admirer of the Soviet system. “The English are always so sentimental” adding, with assurance: “You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.” A few years later, in 1935, a Social Democratic government in Sweden began a eugenic programme for the compulsory sterilisation of gypsies, the backward and the unfit, and continued it until after the war.

Hitler: socialism demands anti-Semitism

Therefore, it is not surprising that being unfit comprised racial or cultural differences. In the previous paragraph, the Swedes targeted gypsies or those lacking physical and intellectual vigour. Similar experiments occurred in the southern United States with poor blacks, those afflicted with Downs Syndrome or people whom authorities viewed as undesirable.

And where did all these ideas originate? With none other than Karl Marx. I recapped the mindset of famous Marxists the other day. Even though they are long dead, the ideology continues. That post is meant as a warning for the future, something to always keep in mind. Marxism isn’t dead, nor is communism. Socialism is alive and well, even in so-called ‘conservative’ circles and political parties.

Marx mixed it up with regard to the Jews, the late Richard Wurmbrand — a Lutheran pastor tortured in communist prison — wrote. In some instances, Marx railed against the Jews. In others, he said the contrary. With all the anti-Semitism (pogroms) rife in Eastern Europe during that time, however, it is not surprising that Marxist apologists picked up on it.

Marx, Wurmbrand’s book Marx and Satan tells us, was born into a Jewish family. His mother was Jewish but his father converted to Lutheranism before his son was born. Marx was raised in the Christian faith. As my post stated the other day, Marx turned against religion altogether and wanted it stamped out. What follows is but one example of this, an excerpt from an article he wrote for the New York Tribune in 1856:

We know that behind every tyrant stands a Jew, as a Jesuit stands behind every Pope. As the army of the Jesuits kills every free thought, so the desire of the oppressed would have chances of success, the usefulness of wars incited by capitalists would cease, if it were not for the Jews who steal the treasures of mankind. It is no wonder that 1856 years ago Jesus chased the usurers from the Jerusalem temple …

We still see similar thoughts on today’s conspiracy theory sites — left or right wing.

Anti-Semitism is a dangerous sentiment.

And most of the anti-Semites I have known have allied themselves with … the left wing.

Hitler wasted no time in pointing out the similarity between socialism and anti-Semitism. Watson writes:

The claim that Hitler cannot really have been a socialist because he advocated and practised genocide suggests a monumental failure, then, in the historical memory. Only socialists in that age advocated or practised genocide, at least in Europe, and from the first years of his political career Hitler was proudly aware of the fact. Addressing his own party, the NSDAP, in Munich in August 1920, he pledged his faith in socialist-racialism: “If we are socialists, then we must definitely be anti-semites – and the opposite, in that case, is Materialism and Mammonism, which we seek to oppose.” There was loud applause. Hitler went on: “How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-semite?” The point was widely understood, and it is notable that no German socialist in the 1930s or earlier ever sought to deny Hitler’s right to call himself a socialist on grounds of racial policy. In an age when the socialist tradition of genocide was familiar, that would have sounded merely absurd. The tradition, what is more, was unique. In the European century that began in the 1840s from Engels’s article of 1849 down to the death of Hitler, everyone who advocated genocide called himself a socialist, and no exception has been found.

Socialism and ‘moral laws’

Another important point about Marxism, socialism and communism is their rhetoric appeals to the setting right of imperfection, according to ‘moral law’.

Along with this comes the labelling of one’s enemies, whether individuals or nations. The skewed morality they use to justify anti-Semitism also becomes a similar hate with regard to many others. Wurmbrand cites Marx:

Marx hated not only the Jews, but also the Germans: “Beating is the only means of resurrecting the Germans.” He spoke about “the stupid German people … the disgusting national narrowness of the Germans” and said that “Germans, Chinese, and Jews have to be compared with peddlers and small merchants.” He called the Russians “cabbage-eaters.” The Slavic peoples were “ethnic trash.” He expressed his hatred of many nations, but never his love.

Marx wrote in his new year’s roundup of 1848 about “the Slavic riffraff,” which included Russians, Czechs, and Croats. These “retrograde” races had nothing left for them by fate except “the immediate task of perishing in the revolutionary world storm.” “The coming world war will cause not only reactionary classes and dynasties, but entire reactionary peoples, to disappear from the face of the earth. And that will be progress.” “Their very name will vanish.”

Of course, in the Marxist-socialist-communist mind, once one’s perceived enemies are vanquished, the result will be utopia.

Hitler played with this in his unique National Socialism, evoking a certain nostalgia of a Germanic people that probably never existed. Watson tells us:

Hitler’s remembered talk offers a vision of a future that draws together many of the strands that once made utopian socialism irresistibly appealing to an age bred out of economic depression and cataclysmic wars; it mingles, as Victorian socialism had done before it, an intense economic radicalism with a romantic enthusiasm for a vanished age before capitalism had degraded heroism into sordid greed and threatened the traditional institutions of the family and the tribe …

The Jew, Hitler told Wagener, was not a socialist, and the Jesus they crucified was the true creator of socialist redemption. As for communists, he opposed them because they created mere herds, Soviet-style, without individual life, and his own ideal was “the socialism of nations” rather than the international socialism of Marx and Lenin.

What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish,” he told Wagener, “we shall be in a position to achieve.”

That was the National Socialist vision. It was seductive, at once traditional and new. Like all socialist views it was ultimately moral, and its economic and racial policies were seen as founded on universal moral laws. By the time such conversations saw the light of print, regrettably, the world had put such matters far behind it, and it was less than ever ready to listen to the sayings of a crank or a clown …


We would do well to think of this political ‘philosophy’ (for lack of a better word) when we read of the state encroaching on our freedom, proposing communitarianism.

We would also do well to consider the anti-Israel sentiments coming from mainstream Protestant pulpits.

Furthermore, the current Pope has a few questions to answer when he proposes that we all give more to the poor to create a more moral and just society. Odd that he never calls for a bit of tax relief for the middle classes which would enrich the Church’s coffers. He, too, sees a utopia created from environmentalism, moral law and wealth redistribution.

Left-wing dogma assumes many forms. We need to see it and call it out for what it is.