The Corner

An Awful Lot of Words

Ron Rosenbaum gets himself worked up into quite an incoherent tizzy about the Tea Party and Nazism and Hitler and so on. He takes a swipe at my book, I’d wager unread. But I’m long used to that. As for the bile he aims at the Tea Parties, I think his over-protestation speaks for itself. I should say I agree with him that some Tea Party rhetoric goes too far and some signs are indefensible. We are not on the verge of a dictatorship and Obama is not a Hitler in waiting. The fringe folks who carry such signs help no one (which may be why the Larouchies seem to be the main culprits, a fact the MSM has no desire to clarify).

Still, Rosenbaum’s ranting is grating. He asserts a lot of facts as if they prove things they don’t prove and repeats clichés as if they are insights. For instance, there’s this:

….And they were Socialists fighting the Nazis, you might recall. Listen up, T.P.ers: The Nazis were not Socialists. The Socialists were not Nazis. They were blood enemies. In fact, the Socialists fought the Nazis, while conservatives and nationalists stood by and thought Hitler would be their pawn. Hitler, need it be said, was not a Socialist. He hated the Socialists. Had thousands of them murdered as soon as he came to power.

Now, anyone who’s read my book, or my defenses of it, knows, this is not a very strong argument by my lights (to the extent it’s an argument at all).

For starters, there were no end of Nazis who would have disagreed with the proposition that the Nazis weren’t socialists, starting with the folks who took the whole “National Socialist” label seriously.

But notice how Rosenbaum capitalizes Socialists.  It’s true that the National Socialists weren’t Socialists. But they were socialists. They believed in economic policies that intelligent and informed people everywhere recognize as, well, socialistic (redistribution of wealth, state control of capital, universal healthcare, universal education etc etc).  Rosenbaum deliberately uses Socialist as a team name rather than a worldview, hoping that no one will know the difference. It’s akin to saying American conservatives don’t like democracy because they feud with the Democrats. 

Of course, it’s true that the National Socialists  fought like hell against other kinds of socialists. And it’s true that once in power Hitler killed lots of socialists (of both the capital and lowercase S variety).  You know who else fought — and killed — socialists? Stalin, Mao and a host of other socialist dictators. Even within the confines of socialist ideology, there’s not much intellectual pluralism allowed. This is not to say that there aren’t other important differences between, say, the German Social Democrats (the Socialists) and the Nazis or between the Nazis and the Bolsheviks. But Rosenbaum makes no mention of those as he pounds his soapbox. It’s a debater’s trick and nothing more. X hates Y, therefor X and Y must be very different. Alas, in real life it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes  X hates Y because they have so much in common.

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