I ask the question because I’ve read, repeatedly (via Twitter) that the violence in Charlottesville was a clash between the left wing and… the left wing. This seems like an attempt by moderate and centre-right supporters to distance themselves from the actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville (and elsewhere). The attempt is understandable in some ways – they don’t wish to be associated with the Nazi sympathisers who were marching so openly – it is also intellectually dishonest.
It is worth noting that describing the Nazis and their sympathisers as far right is not a reflection upon anyone and everyone who identifies as right wing.
Why the Nazis were Right Wing
It is generally agreed that the far right eschews egalitarianism; instead, there is a ‘natural’ (or in some cases a ‘divine’) order to society. The strong (in the Nazis’ case the pure) control the weak. In Hitler’s case, he actually tried to present the Nazis as a centrist movement, attacking the right and left in speeches, including this:
Today our left-wing politicians in particular are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily results from the disarmament of Germany, whereas the truth is that this is the policy of traitors … But the politicians of the Right deserve exactly the same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came into power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms.
The reality is, Hitler and the Nazis were far right. The far right favours elitism, and the Nazis, for all their rhetoric, were the same – Hitler was a dictator whose party elevated him, and he imagined a Third Reich that has uncanny similarities to the elitist ruling monarchies of Europe, despite claims to be different. The far right also prefers racial segregation – a common theme in Nazi messages was about preserving the purity of the German people from ‘undesirable’ elements (such as Jews).
The Nazis were also anti-immigration – a view often held by far right groups.
Of course, the far left has displayed similar characteristics – Stalin’s USSR is a prime example – what this serves to demonstrate is how the far right and far left are very similar, but make no mistake, whilst the outcomes are the same, they arrive at their destinations through very different sets of ideas.
There might be an argument that Nazis were left wing in an economic sense – but their social and political policies were anything but.