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Real Nazis Hate Socialism
The word socialism is being used again and again in the health care debate by the right along with Nazism. But who are the real Nazis? Not to speak up today is same as not speaking against Hitler.
By Ed Knudson
Because I am a Lutheran pastor I have been very interested in the Nazi period of German history. The Lutheran tradition has dominated religious life in Germany. Martin Luther conducted his Reformation there in the 16th century. Contemporary Lutheran theology continues to be greatly influenced by German theologians. The question of how a Lutheran country could have allowed a man like Hitler to rise to power is a critical issue of social ethics. How could the church have failed so completely? Is there something in the Lutheran heritage which made Hitler possible? Certainly, Luther's terrible language about Jews in his later life was used by the Nazis to help justify their program of extirmination. (My church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has explicitly repudiated this racist language.) But is there something in Lutheranism that kept it from being able to engage in a strong political critique of the Nazi program?
I am not here going to answer that question in any complete way. What I want to do here is simply indicate that my study of this period has led me to be aware of the meanings of words which are being used now in the public debate over reform of the health care system in this country. The talk show host Rush Limbaugh has said that Obama is a "fascist socialist", for example, not realizing that the two words cannot be used in such a way except to engage in a rhetoric of public lying. Limbaugh does not know what he is talking about, he is just trying to use two words together which represent what Americans have come to hate and used those words in relation to Obama so that Americans will come to hate Obama as their president. It is so completely off the wall that it is difficult for me to find the words with which to express my disgust for Limbaugh and others who are right now using these type of words for their own cause of stopping health care reform. It is an evil and diabolical form of political discourse and pastors should be standing up and saying that clearly in sermons across the country in Protestant and Catholic churches. Not speaking up at this time about this matter is the same as pastors not speaking up against Hitler in Germany in the 1930s.
The fact is that the terms fascist and socialist are opposites. The term "Nazi" refers to national socialism, but the term socialism at the time was very popular in Germany. The Social Democratic party was the strongest political organization in Germany at the time. The fact that it failed to be able to become the governing party is an interesting historical question, but no party could have gotten elected without some aspect of socialism, that's how popular it was. So Hitler adopted the term in his political organization.
But when he gained power he outlawed the real socialist and Communitst parties and, of course, mounted a war against the Communist Soviet Union. The latter was an ally of the United States in the second world war. The fact is that Hitler entered in alliances with the major corporations in Germany to produce the materials and equipment necessary for his war machine. Fascism as a political philosophy is associated more with the idea of state capitalism than with socialism. Fascism is a political philosophy, socialism is more an economic philosophy, the two are very different and cannot be put together as one thing. Actually, to be a real Nazi was to be literally and strongly opposed to socialism.
That means that the persons and groups who are so strongly opposed to socialism are the real Nazis today. A poster depicting Obama as a joker with the word "socialism" beneath the image can only be the work of someone with a Nazi type of idea opposing a president who was elected by the people of the country. Fascists and Nazis do not believe in democracy, they believe in corporate domination of society, corporate dictatorship. It is private money which is financing opposition right now to reform of the health care system so that it will bring the benefits of modern medicine to everyone in the country. It is corporations who have been profitting from the sickness of people who do not want the system to become more fair and will serve all people. It is corporations who always raise up the fear of "socialism" in order to manipulate the minds of Americans against the idea that government should protect people from the predatory activity of corporations. It is corporations who have the money to hire public relations firms to create websites and hire organizers to agitate people and lie to them about what government will do in relation to the health care system.
Health care in this country began due to people in churches who wanted to follow the example of Jesus in healing ministry. Non-profit hospitals and health care services developed due to the church. What we have seen over the past decades is private corporations taking over the health care functions for purposes of private profit, not for the purpose of healing the sick. This system has now grown to be out of control and manipulative of the people. Health care is not the kind of thing that is done best through a so-called free market; health care is not a product in the same way as other consumer goods. It is an area that requires full government regulation which is the aim of the current health care reform. But those who have been attacking government over these past decades do not want good government regulation and are calling the health care reform "socialism" to scare people and manipulate their minds.
Manipulation of people's minds is exactly what the Nazis were able to do so effectively. Fascism relies on extreme irrationality, such as ideas that the community should be "pure" and free from foreign infuences and racially inferior influences. Hitler's program of hatred for the Jews is based on the same sort of motivation as that which has provided the energy for the Republican backlash against the gains of black people since the 1960s as well as the fear of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. This is a kind of nativism that is associated with right wing ideologies in many countries. It is based on hatred, hatred of others, and the idea that people not like "us" are to be feared and rejected.
Now that the country is being led by a black president, a Latina woman is now on the Supreme Court, many black people are seen in positions of leadership and responsibility in the government, it is those who have responded to the hostile rhetoric of Republicans, especially from the South, who are now leading the fight against health care reform and against anything the "government" would propose. It is white Southerners who especially hate the federal government because that government forced them to change their ways of segregation. All of the so-called cultural war issues, abortion, prayer in school, taxes for social welfare services and public education, are proxies for racial hatred. Race is central in politics in the United States, civil war was fought over it, just as it was central for Hitler's Germany. Race is now being explicitly used to provide the energy for a fascist type of political organizing in the health care debate.
Not to be able to see this clearly today is the same as not being able to see clearly what Hitler meant in the Germany of the 1930s. The people who are calling Obama a Nazi or a socialist are the very ones who themselves are acting like the Nazis acted. It is time to be clear about that and pastors in churches across the country need to start saying that clearly.
Older members of our churches are being terrorized by fascist-type talk show hosts including Fox News and those Republican leaders who are not able to work up the courage to oppose this type of language in public discourse. Too much pastors hesitate to speak because they say "both parties do it" or because they feel that the church should not be involved in politics. That's exactly what happened in Nazi Germany. Pastors failed to speak up in adequate numbers. Yes, there was the Barmen Declaration and the Confessing Church and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But this was not enough to keep Hitler from succeeding to engage in his wars and destroy millions and millions of innocent human beings.
Posters linking Obama and socialism are being placed in public places around Los Angeles.
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