Sometimes the claim is bandied about that the Nazis were a left-wing party on economic questions, perhaps because the Nazis were called “National socialists”. This is flatly and completely wrong and a form of pseudo-historiography. Here’s why:
- The Nazi party was built on right-wing voters and a right-wing support base:
There are many disputes about the nature of Hitler’s voting base. What isn’t under dispute though is that prior to voting Nazi, Nazi voters voted for centre-right and far-right parties, or didn’t vote at all. Support for the Nazis did not come from disaffected left-wing or centre-left voters, but from right-wing voters frustrated with the existing parties of the right.
In my view this point alone is decisive. The meaning of right-wing and left-wing is not an ahistorical abstraction, it’s created by the behaviour of people and institutions. The right-wing citizens of Germany implicitly recognised the Nazis as right-wing by voting for them, case closed.
Read more about which parties Nazi voters defected from here: https://gking.harvard.edu/files/gking/files/nazivp.pdf
2. The were so devoted to privatisation, that the word was invented to describe what they did:
The Nazis were responsible for huge privatisation programs. The extent of their privatisations was enormous, but it was particularly vast when compared with other countries at the time, who were generally moving in the opposite direction. The privatisations of Nazi Germany may indeed have been the first mass privatisations of public property in modern history and included “Steel, mining, banking, shipyard, ship-lines, and railways.” More on how Nazis bucked historical trends by privatising when no one else was here: http://www.ub.edu/graap/nazi.pdf
3. Nazi policies greatly increased income inequality:
Income inequality spiked under Hitler, as was observed even at the time. More here: http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/capitalisback/CountryData/Germany/Other/Pre1950Series/RefsHistoricalGermanAccounts/Sweezy39.pdf
4. Capital as a share of factor income also spiked under Hitler, at the expense of wages:
Factor income describes the division between the factors of production, with land receiving rent, capital receiving profit and labour receiving wages. The capital share, or profit as a proportion of total income, increased by about 50% in Nazi Germany and was much higher than the US’s capital share at the time. See the below graph from Capital in the Twenty-First Century reproduced in a Jacobin article by Corey Robin:
I’m sorry if there’s not much in the way of Belles-lettres here. If I am blunt it is for a purpose. The Nazis were right-wing. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong, much in the same way it is wrong to say that the world is flat, six-thousand years old, or made of cheese.