Tuesday 18 January 2011

Which was/ is worst? Nazism or Communism?


The correct answer is Communism. And this is a matter of fact.

But the chances are you may think that you disagree, or regard them as equally bad, or that it is too close to call.

However, if so, you are mistaken, and for one of two reasons:

1. Most likely, almost certainly, you do not know enough about Communism. Even I, who am no friend to Communism, continue to be surprised by what I did not know about the evils of the USSR. It has only been during the past year I have begun to appreciate this, and even in the past week some major new horrors have come to my attention. But don't take my word for it, find out for yourself.

2. The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy

I described the TSF here: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2010/06/measuring-human-capability-moonshot.html

The way it work in this instance is that Nazism is defined as the ultimate evil - then other evils are measured according to how closely they resemble Nazism. Naturally, when this is done to Communism, it seems less evil than Nazism.


The relationship between ideologies (over the past couple of thousand years in the West) is as follows:

1. First came Christianity: primary sin = pride; primary virtue = love (i.e. the type of love which is agape/ charity). These defined ultimately in terms of spirituality, transcendentals, other worldly factors.

2. With leftist/ progressive atheism (e.g. Communism) the primary sin became selfishness; the primary virtue = unselfishness (a.k.a. altruism). These being defined in this worldly and materialistic terms - as 'worldly goods' ('goods' including all valued materials factors such as money and also socially-defined factors such as status).

Unselfishness is operationalized as altruism on behalf of others - e.g. other classes, other races, other sex, animals, climate, the planet...

3. Rightist/ reactionary atheism (of which Nazism is a type) reacts against the self-hatred and suicidal effects of leftist altruism on behalf of others, by reversing the morality of unselfishness to regard this-worldly materialist selfishness (under some communitarian description) as a virtue rather than the primary sin.

(In this sense, Nietzsche was indeed the philosopher of Nazism.)

Selfishness is operationalized by right-wing atheism as distributing worldly goods to one's own class, nation, empire, race, sex or whatever.

To be paradoxical about it, Nazism is aggressive altruism on behalf of oneself!


Both Communism and Nazism are relativistic/ nihilistic - they do not aim at a specific state of affairs, but a permanent revolution in a particular direction - secular leftists aim at continually increasing altruism to others, secular rightists aim at continually increasing selfishness.

Hence atheist ideologies of both right and left are capable of unrestrained evil, so their regimes are the worst in human history - but atheist leftism is capable of attracting vastly more widespread and sustained support and idealistic zeal by its pseudo-morality of un-selfishness.

Hence Communism has spread almost everywhere and accomplished (and is accomplishing) vastly more evil than Nazism - which was a narrow and unsustainable product of unique circumstances.


So - Christianity promotes transcendental love, Communism promotes worldly unselfishness on behalf of others, Fascism promotes worldly selfishness.

Leftists and progressives therefore regard Communism as intrinsically superior to Nazism - in a way that takes no account of evidence, since they see Commuinism as having the highest possible human aspirations - albeit they are usually corrupted.

Leftists regard Nazism (and other forms of secular rightism) as intrinsically evil because its advocates openly  promote their own interests: its primary morality is selfishness. Since this is the exact opposite of leftism - indeed, an exact inversion of leftist morality - it is the ultimate evil.


(Note: Leftists also regard supernaturalist Christianity as intrinsically evil because it promotes non-worldly goods, which do not exist; thereby ignoring or neglecting the moral centrality of enforcing the altruistic distribution of worldly goods.

But, for leftists, Christianity is not the ultimate evil, since it is not the exact opposite of leftism. Rather, orthodox Christianity is seen as a hypocritical mask for secular rightism - which is seen as primary. Christians are therefore seen as promoters of selfishness who cleverly disguise it under a cover of nonsensical transcendental aspirations.

Explicit, open, un-ashamed secular rightism is the primary enemy.

So, Communists fear Nazis - because they understand and respect them, but despise Christians - who are seen as fools and cowards.

Communists want to fight real Nazis (if they think they can win), but want to exterminate Christians (as mere vermin.)


So, for leftists, the difference between the mainstream secular right and Nazis is merely that Nazism is more honest and brave: the secular right with the gloves-off. Mainstream rightists are seens as nothing more-than - or other-than - feeble Nazis.)



James Kalb said...

A couple comments:

1. Liberal political philosophy affirms individual self-determination as the highest goal. So it's not really against self-seeking. It just wants equal self-seeking for everyone. That's why e.g. it encourages careerism and self-assertiveness among women.

2. The Nazis and fascists denounced bourgeois self-interest and materialism in favor of idealism and devotion. The point of the idealism and devotion was that it gave the race or state divine status and so created through fanaticism a sort of secular materialist escape from secular materialism. That's one reason they wanted permanent war and revolution--lots of opportunity for sacrifice and giving your all.

You're right that the commies were a sort of intermediate case. The ultimate goal was like liberalism--a final state of society in which everybody had lots of stuff and lots of opportunity for self-expression and whatnot--but the present standard was Nazi--comradely struggle for absolute victory under the direction of the Supreme Leader.

Bruce Charlton said...

"Liberal political philosophy ... wants equal self-seeking for everyone."

I don't think that is quite right - not nowadays. I don't sense any great push from liberalism for individual self determination among lower middle class, native white men - quite the opposite.

My feeling is that as liberalism became PC it ceased to be egalitarian, and now wants self-seeking *only* for favoured 'other' groups. This process to be managed by the PC elite on behalf of the 'others'.

This is not coherent, of course; but then PC is psychotic.

Re; 2. My point was that Nazis explicitly wanted the good stuff for themselves and people like themselves - it was about 'us'; by contrast Communists wanted it for 'others'.

What Nazis most wanted was 'glory' I suppose. An escape from alienation and guilt into a glorious struggle; like an intoxication - to lose oneself in the perpetual moment, to have self-consciousness overwhelmed by primary emotion.

But since they saw glory as the highest 'good', they wanted it all for themselves and people like them - even though glory was also a struggle.

I tend to think the comradely struggle/ glorious leader aspects of Communism were merely tactical corruptions - since they were officially underpinned by a bureacratic committee structure which represented the ideal.

(By contrast the Nazis operating on the anti-bureaucratic Fuhrerprinzip of individual responsibility - a principle that I would like to see revived!)

Stalin was mostly a gangster - and even faked an Orthodox Christian revival during the war (after the most savage slaughter of Christians over the preceding decades) - for purely practical purposes of enlisting support for the war, only for this to be reversed again after the war was won.

I am trying to distinguish between the essence or ideal, and what actually happened (corruptions) - because I think that it what lies behind the PC air-brushing of the massive-scale and scope of the continuing Communist evil, displacing it with an obsessive concentration on the spatially- and temporally- restricted phenomenon of Nazi evil.

Partly it is that (for the PC elite) the Communist Nomenklatura were officer class 'people like us' while the Nazi elite were NCO class; but deeper than this is the moral difference between an altruistic ethic and an explicitly selfish ethic.

A modern version of Noblesse Oblige versus the petty, grasping tradesman.

Dirichlet said...

It seems to me that, at least in America, atheistic rightism doesn't come as nationalistic and Nietzschean as it does in Europe. This is probably because of the influence of Ayn Rand, whose ideas are nothing but economic libertarianism coupled with Max Stirner's moral philosophy.

HenryOrientJnr said...

Your previous post was titled "The binary nature of human evaluations" and I think you are demonstrating it here.

There are many dimensions to evil and on some of them, Nazism seems to me to be the most truly evil regime in history. The absolutely total dehumanization of the concentration camp inmates coupled with the scientific methods of their extermination to me make Nazism uniquely evil.

However, Communism was more dangerous, and it killed more people and enslaved more people, for longer periods than did Nazism. Nazism is dead. Communism will smoulder forever, alas.

Both Communism and Nazism, it should be noted, are on the Left. They hated each other precisely for this reason: they were after the same demographic of supporters.

The closest thing on the right to totalitarianism seem to me to be regimes like those of Iran and the Taliban.

Hail said...

At their purest, both ideologies were about elevating the dignity of Man.

They addressed different aspects of the problems the Industrial Revolution presented us with: In the case of the Voelkisch-Movement (from which Hitler emerged) it was to avoid the prospect of ethnocultural distinctions being annihilated and Man declining to a lowest common denominator of either empty consumerism or cynical "Bolshevism"; In 'Pure' Communism's case it was to stop the then-apparently-genuine prospect of Capitalism creating a new feudal order of proletarian-peasants.

Hail said...

Both of those ideologies are now dead, and Capitalist Liberal Democracy stands as the victor.

Bruce Charlton you pointed out that CLD seems to have morphed into something...else under the reign of "PC". I suspect this has to do with "how" CLD defeated the other two ideologies; the principal way it has drawn legitimacy in the past 70 years is through vilifying racialism/Nazism as the definition of evil, which has spilled over to create the PC climate of today. (As the OP discusses).

Bruce Charlton said...

"The absolutely total dehumanization of the concentration camp inmates coupled with the scientific methods of their extermination to me make Nazism uniquely evil."

Yes, the combination is *uniquely* evil, but it would be a Texas sharpshooter argument to use *unique* evil as being the same as *ultimate* evil.

There is an impressive argument - e.g from Orwell and Solzhenitsyn - which sees the ultimate evil as Communist - in other words aiming to break someone's mind such that they *love* their torturers.

Indeed, Solzhenitsyn describes this as the essence of totalitarianism - to control not just the body but the soul - the desire (whether or not this is really possible) to break and remake the inmost essence of what it is to be human.

The Nazis treated their enemies as sub-human - however, this is (tragically) human nature; and seen recurrently throughout history.

But to regard your enemies as the Communists did/ do is to regard every-mind, every-body and every-thing as non-human - including your own self.

HenryOrientJnr said...

@bgc: I get your point. Nazism never had any pretense of trying to corrupt the souls of the inmates - except perhaps in isolated cases of sadism imposed by the guards on Jewish capos.

However, in practice, I think Communism was more interested in getting signed confessions for the benefit of the audience rather than actually attemping to convert the accused into believing in his own guilt.

Orwell's Ingsoc is the pure example of this idea, but I think theocratic totalitarianisms such as those of the Taliban (or even the Inquisition) are closer to achieving this ideal than Communism ever was.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks Wm - fixed.

HOJnr - I just don't know the facts about that. Islam has not historically, so far, been totalitarian in the Modern/ Orwellian sense as I understand things, although it required submission from Christians and Jews. And is extremely severe with apostates.

Perhaps real totalitarianism in the modern sense requires nihilism?

Anonymous said...

An important fact concerning Islam and totalitarianism; the type of Islam practiced by many of our Islamic opponents, such as Wahabism/Deobandi Islam, are MUCH more totalitarian than their more relaxed Islamic progenitors like Sufism. Many Islamic countries today are far mre repressive than were the Ummayad Caliphs of the Ottomans. Whether Wahabism is fully totalitarian is hard to say but it veers far closer to it than the Islam of 500 years ago. I would imagine that the influence of Communism and Nazism has also had an influence .


Bruce Charlton said...

Tschafer - I think there is probably a distinction between a society being 'repressive' and regulating behavior in detail - which would apply to most societies throughout history, to the limit of their ability - and the modern idea of totalitarianism - which is about controlling people's thoughts.

PC is totalitarian in aspiration because it is primarily about controlling discourse to the point that people cannot think other than in prescribed ways. Most states in the past couldn't do this even if they had wanted to, and didn't even try - they sought behavioral obedience and left it at that.

Brett Stevens said...

I think it makes sense to regard the Nazis, and Nietzsche, as transcendental idealists: they view the individual as a means to an end, which is not communitarian and not individualist, but a sense of continuation of natural order.

In this, they are closest to Hinduism and Christianity of all the world religions. Their opposite is Judaism, or pure materialism, and what most call "nihilism" but I call fatalism, or a negation of any purpose past the individual and immediate.

Great article that makes a powerful point: Communism was the furthest humanity went into fear of death, fear of insignificance and correspondingly, crushing of those who rose above, which is a sin against both reverence and natural selection.