What really caused the Nazis, and how can we avoid their return?

I received a very interesting and thoughtful answer to my question I posted here and on Quora: PH said in answer to my question: “What really caused the Nazis, and how can we avoid their return? Are they something else, or is there a little Nazi in all of us that social circumstances permit us to exhibit?”

Excellent question! There were many factors which caused the rise of the Nazis, and to a larger extent, the Fascism. Their rise included certain economic conditions, a need to regain a loss national pride and purpose, an exaggerated past—-especially a mythological past, the creation of a super powerful enemy (real or imagined) as well as a scapegoat, just to name a few.

Nazism was an extreme form of Fascism. Many people try to tie both to the Left, especially Nazism because of the use of the word “socialism” in the formal name, National Socialist German Workers Party. However, Hitler made it clear that the use of the term did not apply to international socialism in the same way as used by Marx or Lenin. His use of the word meant the creation of a wholly “German social community”. Hitler also used the term “worker” which implied unions or worker associations, which he had no use for. In fact, the day after celebrating the International Day of the Worker—May Day or May 1st—with President Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler outlawed and shut down all unions and associations! In its place, he created a state run union, the German Labor Front (DAF) led by Robert Ley. Hitler’s aim, so he said, was to create a name to attract as many groups as possible to his cause.

Fascism itself is a partnership between the state and big business. In Nazi Germany, it was clear that the state was the senior partner, and the party was the state. Whereas in Communism, there is no corporate partnership. There is no private ownership or boardrooms. The state owns and controls everything. Fascism also borrows from both the Left and Right; mostly from the Left on social issues, but the Right in terms of strong corporations, weak or no unions, a strong sense of nationalism or patriotism. This is what makes it so difficult to place on our outdated Left/Right political spectrum. We tend to think “either/or”, which is completely inaccurate when thinking about Fascism or even Nazism.

As to the last part of your question, sadly I have to say “yes”. I think it’s part of the human condition to want to find and blame others for what happened to us. We still think in terms of tribes, which are an extension of the family unit. Tribes can be familial, racial, cultural, religious, and even national, which is where our sense of nationalism comes form. Wars are usually portrayed in terms similar to tribe vs tribe. It’s why we demonize the other side; we see them as something less than human. There is a “us vs them” mentality that seems to be hardwired into us. It was great for survival once, but not so much nowadays.”

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict History, Conflict Processes, US Political Conflict, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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