Washington Post claims the National Socialist German Workers Party weren’t national socialists

On Saturday the Washington Post issued a “fact-check” with “four Pinnochios” to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), for a quote describing the Nazi party of World War II-era Germany as the National Socialist Party.

At a May 27 political rally Greene’s said,You know, Nazis were the National Socialist Party. Just like the Democrats are now a national socialist party.” Greene’s quote is a factual statement combined with an opinion comparison between the Nazis and the Democrat Party. This claim by Greene received “four Pinnochios”, the Washington Post’s worst fact-check rating for an individual claim.  So what’s wrong with what she said?

Summary

  • The full name of the German Nazi Party translates to the  “National Socialist German Workers’ Party”. Greene called the Nazi’s the National Socialist Party, an accurate shortening of the party’s full name.
  • Greene said the “Democrats are now a national socialist party” an opinion.
  • The Washington Post has defined socialism as “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”
  • The Nazi Party included several planks in its party platform, including the “nationalization” of industry and “communalization” of warehouses.
  • The Washington Post makes uncorroborated claims about who supported the Nazi Party.
  • The Washington Post makes the argument that even though the Nazi Party had a “qausi-Marxist” platform, it’s true motive was anti-semitism, as if the two motives must be mutually-exclusive.
  • The Washington Post makes the argument that because the Nazi Party targeted other socialist groups, they therefore could not be socialists themselves.

 

Greene’s description of the Nazi Party as the National Socialist Party is true, as it was indeed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

In its attempt to fact-check Greene, the Washington Post shared eight of the Nazi Party’s 25-part platform.

1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples.

2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.

3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population.

4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race.

5. Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.

6. The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.

7. We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.

8. Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. [Note: this was aimed at Jews fleeing pogroms.] We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since the 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.

It is unclear why the Washington Post only included eight points of the Nazi Party’s 25-point platform, or why this is seen as general evidence that the Nazi Party was not national socialist in nature.

Point 7 for example includes a charge for the German state to “provide the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.” This point could be vaguely seen as describing a state-run job or welfare program (albeit one that excludes foreign nationals if the state cannot meet their needs.) Nazi Germany did indeed implement welfare programs, such as the National Socialist People’s Welfare (NSV). According to Richard J. Evans’  “The Third Reich in Power: 1933–1939” by 1939, 17 million Germans were receiving assistance under the auspices of the NSV. The NSV also operated NSV  about 8,000 day-nurseries by 1939 and funded holiday homes for mothers and distributed additional food for families.

Other points from the Nazi Party platform not included in the Washington Post’s analysis are that “All citizens must have equal rights and obligations,” “Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery,” “The nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts),” “We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries,” “We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare,” “immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms,” “The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor.”

The Washington Post, in a previous analytical write-up on socialism, defined socialism as “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” This definition leaves open the possibility that socialism is broad political ideology, that can include various forms of socialism, including the form practiced by the Nazi Party.

The elements of the Nazi platform, such as “abolition of unearned incomes,” the “nationalization of all associated industries,” the “immediate communalization of the great warehouses” and “a division of profits of all heavy industries” satisfy the elements of collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production. By both its name and its actual platform, the Nazi party meets the Washington Post’s definition of a socialist government.

The Washington Post’s “fact-check” further notes passages in the Nazi platform denouncing banks, department stores and interest slavery. The publication writes, “That could be seen as ‘a quasi-Marxist rejection of free markets. But these were also typical criticisms in the anti-Semitic playbook, which provided a clue that the party’s overriding ideological goal wasn’t a fundamental challenge to private property.” Nowhere does the Washington Post share any “facts” to substantiate this statement. Instead, the publication links to itself, citing an opinion article. This passage can’t be substantiated, but even if it could, the fact that Nazi’s could have ulterior motives in their “qausi-Marxist” platform is not dispositive of the fact that the Nazi platform was indeed a socialist platform and that the Nazi government did administer socialized welfare programs. The Washington Post does not appear to separate between facts and emotions when addressing the history of the Nazi party. Yes, the Nazi Party had a socialist platform and yes, the Nazi party enacted anti-Semitic policies which resulted in the attrocities of the holocaust; no, those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The Washington Post goes on to write, “The Nazi party was largely supported by small-business men and conservative industrialists, not the proletariat.” Nowhere in this portion of the fact-check article is there a reference or a link to a supporting source. It is an uncoroborated claim.

The Washington Post article ends on the famous passage by Martin Niemöller, a prominent Lutheran pastor who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps. Niemöller famously said, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.” This famous quote does describe a pattern of increasing attacks on outgroups living under Nazi rule. It also does not disprove the Nazi party was socialist. First and foremost, Niemöller’s quote about the socialists and trade unionists is an assessment from his point of view of who constitutes a true socialist or trade unionist.

Nazism already satisfies the Washington Post’s definition of socialism, and history has shown different groups of socialists do not always see eye to eye. For example, the Russian socialist movement split into two main factions, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. In 1918, the Bolsheviks targeted opponents of their movement, including Mensheviks and other non-Bolshevik socialists in a period known as the “Krasnyy Terror” or “Red Terror.” Given the conflict between the Bolsheviks and other non-Bolshevik socialist movements, it is not unconceivable that certain socialists did not see the Nazi movement as the appropriate banner carriers of their ideology and that the socialist Nazi government targeted opposing groups, including other socialist groups.

We rate this Washington Post article to be a Dishonest Fact-Check.

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