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What Is National Socialism?

Updated: May 14

National Socialism is defined by its seven core elements. A Nazi is anyone who believes in or promotes these seven core elements of National Socialism. The key is to having these core seven elements. If any one of these elements is missing, they are not National Socialist but something else, such as a simpler form of fascism. These seven spell out the acronym MAUSA³ or MAUSA. Four are core ideas that Nazis promote, and three are core ideas that they fight against. These are all of the essential must-have ideas for someone or for some movement to be considered as Nazi.

1. Meritocracy

2. Authoritarianism (Totalitarian)

3. Ultra-Nationalism

4. Social Darwinism

5. Anti-Marxism

6. Anti-Liberalism

7. Anti-Intellectualism

Many people these days are confused about what National Socialism is. The problem is that they don't know that they are confused. They think they know exactly what it is, and that's a problem when talking about Nazis in the public discourse. For example, historians are very clear about what National Socialism is. This website exposes all of that, but most people are not asking or listening to what historians say about it.

For example, many people think that in order to be a Nazi, you have to be wearing a swastika, going around giving Nazi salutes, running a concentration camp, or yelling, "Heil Hitler." That's not what makes someone a Nazi. People have done that at Halloween costume parties (except the concentration camp part), but that didn't mean that they were automatically Nazis, of course not. What we mean by being a Nazi is promoting specific values and ideals that National Socialists promoted and were always consistent about being the core of their identity. Here is an example of what I mean by people being confused about what a Nazi is.

Who do most people listen to instead? Their favorite political pundit. Not the professionals, not the experts, but rather their go-to is someone with a political agenda to sell. Why would they go to someone who is so obviously biased? Because they don't see their favorite pundit as someone who is biased, and sometimes they just don't care.

First, just because something is in a name does not mean that it is necessarily that thing. For example, the country of North Korea calls itself the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). So its name says that it's democratic and that it's a republic. But everyone knows that it's not any of those things. It's the same with National Socialism.

Michael Freeden, a professor of politics and international studies at the University of London, writes about this. He says, "Were we to accept self-declared nominalisms uncritically we would have, for example, to categorize the Nazis as members of the socialist community because they called themselves national socialists. That would, to put things mildly, stretch any reasonable understanding of interwar fascism beyond plausible limits. That is why self-definition by an individual or group--though unquestionably paramount in any investigation--must be tested against a range of perspectives that emanate from outside those engaged in labelling their own ideational wares" (Liberalism, 70).

In the case of National Socialism, the "socialism" part meant something entirely different to Hitler and to the Nazis than what most people would think of as "socialist." Hitler's socialism was not at all Marxist or economically based. His socialism had to do with race. Frequently the word he would use to refer to it is the "volk." In Mein Kampf Hitler defines the socialism of National Socialism as "Front Socialism" rather than as traditional socialism. Front Socialism is the Volksgemeinschaft, or the social darwinist community of ethnic Germans, as being one unified nationalist community.

There was a rationality behind the using of a term like socialism, that most people assumed had a common meaning, and of using the color red which traditionally referred to Marxist revolution and socialism. Hitler knew that if he was ever going to gain power through parliamentary elections, he needed to have a mass following. So, appealing solely to conservatives was never going to provide him with that. Therefore, he pretended to be socialist in order to attract a wider mass of voters from the left. It was obviously deceptive, but it worked.

This contradiction had to ultimately be resolve, though, once Hitler gained power. It was dealt with swiftly in 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives when the small Marxist element that existed within National Socialism was purged. The main agitators within the Nazi party being the Strasser brothers and Ernst Roehm. The SA then became an insignificant militia by ceding the bulk of its power to Himmler's SS.

That's a huge difference between what most people think the word "socialism" in National Socialism means and what Hitler actually meant when he used that word. But in the end, any analysis of a question like this is a historical analysis, which requires the use of historical evidence, such as primary and secondary source material. That's the only way to answer questions like this of a historical matter.

Opinions are fine, but eventually they must be backed up by evidence from credible sources. Otherwise they are meaningless.

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