It isn’t “difficult to nail down” if you know anything at all of the history.

“This is sometimes difficult to nail down, because even Hitler contradicted himself, sometimes appealing to the right wing, but most often to the left wing workers: he was a politician first and foremost.”

It isn’t “difficult to nail down” if you know anything at all of the history. The Nazi use of “socialist” slogans and imagery was intended to attract votes and attention. At attracting votes, it failed miserably — the Nazis rose to power by absorbing most of the German right while drawing virtually nothing from the German socialist parties. It was a party of the right, its primary appeal was always to the right and that’s who it attracted. At attracting attention, though, the faux-“socialist” stuff succeeded better than anyone could have possibly foreseen. Hitler talked about this himself, writing about how, in the early days, he and the others would laugh at the confusion it generated. He later lamented this approach though; by 1929, he was describing their use of “socialist” as “unfortunate.” Within a few months, he began a series of purges of the anti-capitalists who had been attracted to the party by it; these would continue right on through the ascension to power and come to a crescendo in the Night of the Long Knives.

Hitler hated socialists as badly as he hated Jews or atheists. Upon his assumption of power, they were the first to fall. Dachau wasn’t opened to house Jews; it was opened to house the German left. Hitler’s use of “socialist” imagery and phrases was entirely cynical and for years, he openly admitted they were stripping the word in their usage of all meaning. Hitler’s version of “socialism” was merely nationalism. “We have to strip the terms Nationalism’ and ‘Socialism’ of their previous meaning,” he said in a 1928 speech in Berlin. “Only that man is a nationalist who stands by his people, and only that man is a socialist who stands up for the rights of his people both internally and externally.” Another example: “Whoever is prepared to make the national cause his own to such an extent that he knows no higher ideal than the welfare of his nation; whoever has understood our great national anthem, ‘Deutschland uber Alles,’ to mean that nothing in the wide world surpasses in his eyes this Germany, people and land, that man is a Socialist.” (28 July, 1922). In 1929, he said of the “socialism” of the Nazis, “What does socialism really mean? If people have something to eat and their pleasures, then they have their socialism.”

To note the obvious, these are not definitions of socialism anyone would recognize as socialism. That’s why everyone who actually knows this history has noted his use of “socialist” was a misnomer.

Your “we have an economic programme” quote comes from a very dubious source, the “Unmasked” book, and isn’t credible. It purports to be from a pair of conversations with Hitler in 1931, before the rise to power. In the quote, Hitler makes reference to the 13th plank of the 25-point Nazi party program, which calls for the nationalization of trusts. There are other radical planks in that program as well and while there is also a lot of genuine Nazism in it, it was created, first and foremost, as a propaganda document. Hitler refused to reproduce it in “Mein Kampf,” where he referred to it dismissively as “the so-called programme of the movement.” In the years before the rise to power, he eventually declared it “unalterable” to avoid infighting that has repeatedly broken out over it, then, once in power, entirely ignored the radical portions of it. While socialism is primarily an economic theory, Hitler accurately summarized the Nazi approach to economics thusly: “The basic feature of our economic theory is that we have no theory at all.” And, in fact, the Third Reich wiped out the socialists as its first measure, never created any socialist state and never, in fact, introduced any coherent theory of political economy. Nazi “economic policy” was all just a series of improvisations; they could and regularly did change on a dime.

This, shall we say, fluid relationship to the sort of programmatic doctrine one gets from most other political parties is characteristic of fascist movements, which attempt to turn popular grievances to their own far-right ends. In the U.S., the protofascist presidential campaign of Donald Trump bore all of the same marks. Trump’s appeal was always primarily to the worst, most reactionary elements of the right but at the same time, he regularly trashed corporate elites, the corrupt bribery-and-donor-service system, Clinton’s close relationship to Wall Street (and Goldman Sachs in particular), the poisonous influence of lobbyists, etc. “Drain the swamp!”, he’d exhort his followers to chant. And once in power, all of that went right out the window and he proceeded, instead, to build a murkier swamp than the U.S. has seen in the lifetime of anyone reading these words. Mussolini’s initial attempt at creating a Fascist party crafted a program that fused some of his older left views with his newer far-right ones. After that program was slaughtered at the polls in 1919, he simply abandoned the left items and Fascism became a movement of reactionary ex-soldiers rented out to the big landowners and industrialists to physically destroy the Italian left.

None of this is mysterious to historians who know the subject. They don’t have to rely on dictionary definitions and quick scans of Wikipedia, and none of them — not a single reputable one — supports your ridiculous misrepresentations of these issues.

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