Not the least worst aspect of Fraser Anning’s sleazy “final solution” inaugural speech to parliament is that we have to go through the whole “Hitler was a socialist” malarkey all over again. Peter van Onselen is the latest to trot out this self-flattering liberal platitude.


He’s already been schooled on Twitter by the redoubtable Harry Leslie Smith, the 95-year-old socialist activist who actually fought Nazism in World War II, but let’s go over it again.

The Nazi party, when Hitler joined it in the early 1920s (he was about the 150th member, not the seventh, as mythology claims) was a nationalist, racist, socialist party (as indeed was the ALP at the time) which saw capitalism as the enemy, and the Jews as its masters. The party quickly went from being racist to being exterminatory in its attitude to Jews. By the late 1920s, it had developed extensive links with business, who had begun to see its thugs as useful shock troops against the powerful Communist party, and the large Social Democrats.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, he wiped out the party’s remnant economically socialist grouping, the SA, in “The Night of the Long Knives”. Henceforth, the Nazis were in lockstep with German business. The first people into the concentration camps were Communists and socialists, and the camp inmates were quickly made available as work units to business.

The power of business in Germany continued into WWII, and helped Germany lose it — they ran a consumer capitalist economy well into 1944, the Nazis worried that they would lose public support if there were any privations. The giant private conglomerate IG Farben was happy to avail itself of the slave labour from Auschwitz-Birkenau to make household goods for Germans, and it continued trading with US and other companies throughout the war, through the Bank of International Settlements, established for that purpose. Last time I checked, that was capitalism. The UK meanwhile, was a genuinely socialised economy, suspending market relations for directed activity, nationalising substantial enterprises, and all but replacing money with a ration-coupon system.

The “Nazis were socialists” nonsense is the sort of student politics Liberalism that you’d hope that an actual politics lecturer like van Onselen would have grown out of. What are the annual fees for an arts degree at UWA again? Liberals were happy to co-operate with the far right in Germany, just as the “mainstream” right is happy to shake Fraser Anning’s hand — or a genuine liberal commentator, out of relentless ambition, is willing to publish in a newspaper which pumps out anti-African-Australian racism in industrial quantities. Fascism, socialism, left, right — it’s all a question of POV, ain’t it, PVO?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey