In my August 17 debate with Vox Day on the question of whether National Socialism is a legitimate part of the Alt Right, Vox argued no, and I argued yes. I have not commented on the debate until now because, in all candor, neither of us was at his best. In fact, I think it is my worst performance ever. I was taken aback by Vox’s basic-bitch American conservative definition of the “Right” as excluding all forms of “socialism,” and I never regained my footing. I am moved to comment today because Vox is doing another debate on the same topic with Andrew Anglin, and the increasingly viperish puffery in the run-up promises a memorable clash.
I think Vox, like many on the Right, has been gaslighted by the bad press following Unite the Right in Charlottesville. He wants to read neo-Nazis out of the Alt Right and thinks it clever to simply brand them the “fake Right” by arguing that “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist,” and no socialist can be Right-wing. He also offers such throw-away arguments as Hitler was not sufficiently anti-Muslim, as if there were any question that a National Socialist Europe would ever allow Muslim colonization.
Vox’s argument presupposes that opposition to socialism and belief in capitalism is essential to being Right-wing. But this is simply false. Free-market economics and anti-Communism have only been central to the Right since the 1950s, when William F. Buckley created a coalition of religious conservatives, classical liberals, and Cold War hawks and called it conservatism, while marginalizing aspects of the pre-war Right that were isolationist, non-religious, and economically interventionist. (Vox himself is a critic of international free trade.)
Libertarians and Straussians have sold us a false vision of America as founded on Lockean natural rights liberalism, when in truth the primary influence on the American founding was the classical and modern republican tradition, which held that there is a common good that trumps individual freedoms whenever they conflict, and which believed that unlimited freedom of trade undermines political sovereignty, and unregulated lending and borrowing — especially with deflationary “hard” currencies that are a fetish of libertarians today — undermine a prosperous middle class, which is the bulwark of republican liberty.
Asserting an essential connection between conservatism and classical liberalism is possible based on a slanted reading of American and British history, providing plausible but false pedigrees for Reaganism and Thatcherism. But it has no basis at all when one examines the European Right, which draws its ethos from the church, aristocracy, and folk traditions; regards commerce and the bourgeoisie with contempt; and rightly regards classical liberalism as a universal cultural and political solvent.
National Socialism, moreover, was not Leftist merely by being critical of capitalism. Indeed, there is a long tradition of Right-wing critiques of free-market orthodoxy — including agrarianism, populism, distributism, guild socialism, and Social Credit — many of which were taken up by the National Socialists. (See Kerry Bolton’s series “Breaking the Bondage of Interest” and the articles at Counter-Currents tagged Third Way Economics.)
Beyond that, National Socialism in theory and practice did not advocate Communist-style collective ownership of the means of production. Instead, most property was left in private hands. There was no need to nationalize the means of production if the people could be nationalized instead, i.e., taught to place the common good over private interest whenever the two clashed.
This collectivist moral principle left a large realm for private life and individual initiative, but it also justified a mixed and regulated economy and a welfare state. But these policies were hardly revolutionary. Indeed, the Third Reich preserved and built upon institutions founded during the Second Reich, which was hardly a Leftist regime. Moreover, many of Third Reich’s interventionist and welfare statist policies are essentially the same as policies that center-Right governments in Europe and America have accepted for decades. If National Socialism is “fake Right” by those standards, then so is Reaganism and Thatcherism.
If opposition to the mixed economy and the welfare state is not an essential trait of the Right, then what is? On this matter, I follow Jonathan Bowden, who argued that the essence of the Right is the rejection of egalitarianism as the highest political value. That formulation does not imply that equality has no value whatsoever, and it leaves open the question of what is the highest political value, so there are many possible variations on the Right. The Left, by contrast, regards equality as the highest political good. (Paul Gottfried, by the way, has essentially the same view of the essential difference between Left and Right. I do not know if Bowden and Gottfried arrived at the same views independently.)
If the Right essentially rejects equality as the highest political value, then National Socialism is a genuinely Right-wing political movement.
But I really wanted to debate a different question. I don’t really care to debate questions like, “Is abstract art really art?” I am perfectly content to let people put anything they want in a gallery or museum and call it art. The real question for me is: “Is abstract art good or bad art?” Likewise, I don’t really care about the question “Is National Socialism Right-wing or not?” The only question I care about is: “Is National Socialism good for white people?”
The answer is: yes and no.
Yes, because many of the principles of National Socialism are true to this day and part of every sensible White Nationalist platform:
- They preferred nationalism to globalization.
- They put the common good before private interests.
- They regarded biology and demographics to be central to politics.
- They regarded whiteness as a necessary condition of German identity.
- They regarded Jews as a distinct people that belonged in its own homeland.
Many of the principles of the 25 Point Program of the NSDAP are perfectly reasonable and valid to this day. Only point three, about foreign colonies, strikes me as completely indefensible. And point 25, giving unlimited power to the central government, was obviously an invitation to abuses.
No, for two reasons. First, as outlined in my essays “New Right vs. Old Right” and “The Relevance of the Old Right,” the National Socialists got a lot of things wrong, which is why we need a New Right. Second, the enemy has spent a great deal of time and money blackening the symbols and reputation of National Socialism, making them a heavy burden. Fortunately, it is a burden we do not have to carry, since the principles of ethnonationalism are based on objective reality: all white nations are faced with extinction, and creating racially and culturally homogeneous white homelands is the only solution. Nothing that happened in Germany between 1933 and 1945 changes those facts in the least.
I also think there is something slightly absurd about debating whether a world-historical phenomenon like National Socialism merits being included in a contrived, ephemeral, marginal, and increasingly ridiculous category like the Alt Right. It is like debating whether King Lear merits being classed among Saturday morning cartoons.
My view is that we should abandon the Alt Right “brand” entirely. It only functioned when it was sufficiently vague to allow there to be a conversation between White Nationalists and people who were closer to the mainstream, which allowed White Nationalists to make converts and build connections. But Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer have pursued a strategy of polarization between the Alt Right and what is now called the Alt Lite that has deprived the term of its original utility. So they can keep it. There need to be new spaces, free from Right-wing sectarianism and purity spiraling, in which new lines of communication, influence, and conversion can emerge.