Op-ed: Were German Nazis and Soviet Socialists the Same?

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There are so many people out there who genuinely believe that financial plutocrats like Soros are communists, and that Wall Street-sponsored Hillary Clinton is a socialist.

Many American self-proclaimed right-wingers seriously assert that the German Nazis were all socialists, simply because “Nazi” is short for ”Nationalsozialismus”, which translates as “National Socialism”. Therefore, they make a conclusion that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were ideologically the same.

Sadly, this is the level of political and historical discourse many people are at at the moment.

German Fascism/Nazism and Soviet Socialism were the polar opposites.

The economy of the Third Reich was based on privately owned industries and banking institutions, with the strong government instrumentalised to instill monopoly over political processes, to crush dissent and to engage people in corporate solidarity through propaganda. Large corporations were thriving, with profits of large industrial conglomerates increasing manifold throughout the 1930s. Small businesses, on the other hand, were strangled with restrictions. Regular workers were severely limited in their rights. As such, it was illegal to form unions and to protest for improving working conditions. Everyone who did try to protest was dealt with as an “enemy of the nation”. Under Fascism and Nazism, the private industrial monopolies like the IG Farben conglomerate enjoyed sharp increase in net profits by abusing labour and milking regular workers whose rights were severely compromised, despite the nationalistic rhetoric by populist political leaders.

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The Soviet Union, in contrast, didn’t have private ownership of the means of production, meaning that all the farms and all the industrial assets were collectively owned, with centralised government redistributing surplus income, investing it into schools, healthcare, and other institutions that were meant to benefit regular people. Of course, people didn’t have many of those abstract freedoms, in the modern libertarian sense, but, given the historical realities, the system was more than just adequate for the region at the time.

As such, before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, around 70% of Russian population were illiterate, and the child mortality rate was close to 50%, because the majority of people lived as peasants in rural areas, where they had to endure relatively harsh climate conditions (compared to Western Europe), so most households couldn’t farm enough food to have sustainable high living standards. Localised and large-scale famines used to happen at regular intervals every couple of years, at times taking the lives of tens of thousands. It took the new Soviet government years of Likbez (“Elimination of Illiteracy”) programs and collectivisation to solve those issues. Of course, there were numerous mistakes made along the way, but, over the decades, the living standards have improved dramatically, with the Soviet Union achieving the highest education levels among the powers similar to its size and a literacy rate above 99%.

Needless to say, the ideological differences between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were immense. Nazis relied on racial supremacy theories, officially implementing racial segregation, giving the working majority another identity component to unite over in corporate solidarity (i. e. “both us, regular workers, and the owners of the large industrial conglomerates are pure Aryans, so we must fight in solidarity, as one nation, against those who try to corrupt us within”). The Soviet Union, in contrast, from the very beginning, was aggressively advocating egalitarianism, investing money into less developed regions at the periphery, building mines and factories there, developing infrastructure, training and educating specialists from the local population, making those communities self-sufficient, as opposed to what European colonists were doing centuries prior to that.

Many Marxist theorists view Fascism (and Nazism, as Fascism in its most extreme ideological form) as Capitalism on steroids in its worst, the most regressive/reactionary form, whereby the corporate elites employ the most inhumane methods (such as institutionalised racism) to gain more profit and power.

Socialism in the Soviet Union and Nazism of the Third Reich did share some superficial similarities, such as the reliance on centralised state apparatus, but making such comparisons is the same as comparing human beings with, say, hyenas by saying that they are both mammals, both have limbs and both rely on binocular vision, therefore, they must both be the same animal. In reality, though, they are completely different species.

All in all, Soviet Socialism and German Nazism were the polar opposites, both in economic theory and in historic reality.

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