(We knew this but the mainstream didn’t.)

He declared that ‘national socialism was based on Marx’ Socialists have always disowned him. But a new book insists that he was, at heart, a left-winger
—“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. That led to an odd and paradoxical alliance between modern historians and the mind of a dead dictator. Many recent analysts have fastidiously refused to study the mind of Hitler; and they accept, as unquestioningly as many Nazis did in the 1930s, the slogan “Crusade against Marxism” as a summary of his views. An age in which fascism has become a term of abuse is unlikely to analyse it profoundly.

“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”. He was proud of a knowledge of Marxist texts acquired in his student days before the First World War and later in a Bavarian prison, in 1924, after the failure of the Munich putsch. The trouble with Weimar Republic politicians, he told Otto Wagener at much the same time, was that “they had never even read Marx”, implying that no one who had failed to read so important an author could even begin to understand the modern world; in consequence, he went on, they imagined that the October revolution in 1917 had been “a private Russian affair”, whereas in fact it had changed the whole course of human history! 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.

“That is a devastating remark and it is blunter than anything in his speeches or in Mein Kampf.; though even in the autobiography he observes that his own doctrine was fundamentally distinguished from the Marxist by reason that it recognised the significance of race – implying, perhaps, that it might otherwise easily look like a derivative. Without race, he went on, National Socialism “would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground”. Marxism was internationalist. The proletariat, as the famous slogan goes, has no fatherland. Hitler had a fatherland, and it was everything to him.

“Yet privately, and perhaps even publicly, he conceded that National Socialism was based on Marx. On reflection, it makes consistent sense. The basis of a dogma is not the dogma, much as the foundation of a building is not the building, and in numerous ways National Socialism was based on Marxism. It was a theory of history and not, like liberalism or social democracy, a mere agenda of legislative proposals. And it was a theory of human, not just of German, history, a heady vision that claimed to understand the whole past and future of mankind. Hitler’s discovery was that socialism could be national as well as international. There could be a national socialism. That is how he reportedly talked to his fellow Nazi Otto Wagener in the early 1930s. The socialism of the future would lie in “the community of the volk”, not in internationalism, he claimed, and his task was to “convert the German volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists”, meaning the entrepreneurial and managerial classes left from the age of liberalism. They should be used, not destroyed. The state could control, after all, without owning, guided by a single party, the economy could be planned and directed without dispossessing the propertied classes.

“That realisation was crucial. To dispossess, after all, as the Russian civil war had recently shown, could only mean Germans fighting Germans, and Hitler believed there was a quicker and more efficient route. There could be socialism without civil war.”—