Moral conservatism and Nazism
I wrote the post below as an update to my big article on Hitler but I think it has a place here too
Nazis preached tradition and particularly traditional morality in a number of ways. A well-known example was the role of women, with the traditional German conception of Kinder, Küche, Kirche (children kitchen, church) being honoured. And as is equally well-known, the Nazis persecuted homosexuals.
Their artistic taste was also conservative. Rather ironically they organized the most visited art exhibition ever seen: The exhibition of Entartete Kunst (degenerate art.) They put up an exhibition of modern German art which they saw as disgusting, in the belief that most other Germans would also see it as disgusting. We will never know, however, how many of the viewers actually liked what they saw. Below is one of the exhibits:
So how can we reconcile that with their being Leftist? In answering that I once again have to stress that the Nazis were Leftist BY THE STANDARDS OF THEIR DAY. Most Leftists of the time were conservative in the ways I have mentioned. With the exception of the role of women, even the Soviets were fairly conservative morally. Right up to the implosion of the Soviet Union, Soviet representatives claimed that there was no such thing as homosexuality in Russia: "That was before the revolution"
But there is no doubt that the Nazis preached the "conservative" elements of their doctrine more vigorously than other Leftists of the day. And again, context explains that. Weimar Germany of the 1920s was a time in which social, artistic, and philosophical revolutions took root and flourished. It was extraordinarily "progressive" and contemptuous of all traditional rules. The surreal became commonplace in German cinema. The cultural atmosphere at that time was in fact startlingly similar to modern times. There was open homosexuality and sexual promiscuity generally and traditional mores were mocked. So the Nazis had a lot to react against. They were just conventional Leftists, not avant garde Leftists.
What is Leftist in any era changes. The focus can be on many things. But what abidingly defines the Left is their wish to "fundamentally transform" their society (To quote Mr. Obama). In Hitler's case, he wanted to fundamentally transform the world -- JR