Socialism in National Socialism

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While the Nazi Party was always dominated by the charisma of Adolf Hitler, until he gained complete dominance after 1934, there were multiple interpretations of the socialism part of the political philosophy of National Socialism. Nyomarkay suggests that while ideology is the basis of authority in Marxist movements, charisma was always the Nazi basis of leadership.[1] In other words, Nazi ideology was what Hitler believed.

If socialism, broadly, involves ownership of production, Hitler allowed a variety of socialist ideas to coexists, until they came into conflict with his political strategy. He always emphasized that Nazism was a political, not economic revolution. Nyomarkay divides the evolution into four overlapping time periods:

  • Before mass movement (1919-1925)
  • Rise of the Nazis (1925-1930)
  • Rise of the Sturmabteilung (SA) (1926-1934)
  • Consolidation (1934-1945)

Before mass movement

Under its founder, Anton Drexler, the German Workers party was more a discussion group than a political party. Its economic theorist, Gottfried Feder spoke about anticapitalism, which interested Hitler in his first visit on 12 September 1919. Hitler accepted membership, and soon was in charge of recruitment and propaganda. [2] The main appeal was volkisch nationalism.

Rise of the Nazis

A 24 February 1920 meeting spoke more of what the party opposed than what it supported: it was antisemitic, anticapitalist, antiparliamentary, and, above all, opposed to the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1925, Gregor Strasser and Joseph Goebbels had held a 22 November 1925 meeting to do away with Hitler's "reactionary" 25-point platform of 1920. They formed, in January 1926, the Working Association of the North and West, led by Gregor Strasser, Otto Strasser, and Goebbels, formed to balance the Munich faction and push back the 1920 platform, which it considered reactionary. It was not an immediate challenge to the leadership of Adolf Hitler, but Hitler did hold a countermeeting in Bamberg on 14 February.[3] It had considered joining with the Communists to expropriate royal properties. This infuriated Hitler, as he had received contributions from those past leaders, as well as conservative industrialists. After the Bamberg meeting, however, Goebbels became increasingly loyal to Hitler, and broke with Strasser in August 1928.[4]

Otto Strasser himself was expelled from the Party in May 1930, demanding that the Nazis support some trade union strikes, and the nationalization of industry. and formed the Black Front as an alternative. It was strongly socialist, welcomed ex-Nazis, and was not antisemitic. The Black Front, however, had little impact. [5]

Rise of the SA

While both the Working Association and Ernst Roehm had more left-wing goals than Hitler, Roehm was focused on a socialist military government, and did not consider any alliance with the Communists.

Consolidation and corporate socialism

In the early 1930s, Hitler believed it necessary to form alliances with the Right: the aristocracy, business and finance, the landlords and the Army. Roehm and Goebbels, however, believed that there must be a "second revolution" against those factions. In addition to the economic difference, Roehm's personal life became a liability for Hitler's relations with the establishment.[6]

Given the worldwide economic depression, wide sectors of the German people were disaffected. Hitler broadened his appeals to the masses, which left less room for Red or Brown revolutionaries.

In November 1930, Hitler also began alliances with wealthy right-wing industrialists and financiers, a group despised by Roehm and the anti-capitalist Brownshirts. It was preliminary, with 39 businessmen, including Hjalmar Schacht and the leadership of Krupp, Thhyssen, Bosch and Siemens signing a letter to Hindenburg, urging the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor. While they did not yet make major financial contributions to the Nazis, they believed that Hitler, in power, would really be a capitalist. [7]

While the government did nationalize many means of production, favored industrialists had special status. During the Second World War, the Schutzstaffel (SS), under Heinrich Himmler, established its own economic enterprises, directed by Oswald Pohl. Pohl's WVHA ran some businesses itself, and "leased" slave laborers to industry.

After the war, the Nuremberg Military Tribunals included two cases specifically dealing with the close relationship between the government and, respectively, I.G. Farben and Krupp Industries.


  1. Joseph Nyomarkay (1967), Charisma and Factionalism in the Nazi Party, University of Minnesota Press, p. 12
  2. Joachim C. Fest (1973), Hitler, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 123-126
  3. Nyomarkay, pp. 81-82
  4. William Shirer (1960), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon & Schuster, pp. 126-128
  5. Shirer, p. 147
  6. Shirer, pp. 204-205
  7. John Toland (1976), Adolf Hitler, Doubleday, p. 277