Liberal Fascism

Nazis & Individualism Cont’d

From a reader:

Dear Mr. Goldberg, (Jonah, if you please),

The discussion about whether Nazis bore a trait tending toward individualism is an interesting one that I think you should explore in greater detail.  My own impression is consistent with yours (i.e., “think volkgemeinschaft”) to a large extent, but I think you are perhaps missing the important aesthetic of Naziism that I feel is probably the characteristic that lends itself to the mis-portrayal of that ideology as one of right-wing origins.  Nazis celebrated heroes…individuals who overcame great adversity to achieve great triumph.   To understand the importance to Nazi propaganda of this sort of hero-worship, one need look no further than the Wagner operas and Germanic myths (i.e., Siegfried) that formed so much of the background.

Yet, while this goes some distance toward allowing leftists to disown National Socialism in the popular mind, it does not undermine your fundamental points, for Hitler’s vision was always of the individual hero in service to the Volk.  A single man, in this sense, can be worthy of storytelling and great song, but only infofar as he serves the collective will.  It is a vision and an aesthetic that serves a way of thinking enslaved to the state, but in a way distinct from, for example, Soviet-style communism, under which individual heroes were much less celebrated (or tolerated, even).

Anyway…my two cents.  Keep up the good work.  I think your book is having an effect that will be felt for generations, and is a very important piece of the intellectual bulwark that conservatives will need to fend off the coming wave of statism.  I thank you for your efforts.

Me: I think this is all basically right. But it’s worth noting that Communists, too, had their hero-martyrs as well. Again, when people say the Nazis were rightwing because of X, the first thing you should ask is “did the Communists do X too?” I’m not saying this reader is trying to do anything of the sort.  But that’s how the topic came up in the first place.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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