From a reader:
Dear Mr. Goldberg, (Do all these people who call you ‘Jonah’ actually know you??) After my brief email about using the terms collectivism and individualism, I caught this email that you posted to the blog. “I was in a debate with an attractive blond girl who received her education at Oxford. She asserted that the fascists could not be socialists because they emphasized the individual over the collective.” I’m really puzzled by that. The discussion about unions was one good example of National Socialist collectivism. Why would the individual ever want to protest his working conditions if they were determined by the collective group – his wonderful peers who surely must represent his views and desires because they’re all workers, like him? HOW in the world could anyone think that the Nazis emphasized the individual over the state when they were all into the leader and mindless following and all that? I sense that I’m missing something.
Me: Yes, I think there is room for confusion here. As I wrote back to that reader, individualism really wasn’t a priority of the Nazis, philosophically or otherwise. Their motto was all for one, one for all, essentially. What they emphasized was will which can sound individualistic rhetorically sometimes, but in reality referred almost entirely to collective will (think volkgemeinschaft). Individual will was important only insofar as it was supposed to drive “individuals” to do the hard or horrible things demanded of them by Hitler, the Party or the Fatherland.