Chomsky, Keynes, and Naziism

James Devine jdevine at
Tue Oct 6 10:18:50 PDT 1998

Brad De Long wrote:
>You can call this political complexion whatever you want. You can even
>ignore that it exists. But it *is* a kissing cousin to Action Francaise,
>Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and the National Socialist German
>Workers' Party. It isn't full-blown fascism. But it is proto- or

while Rakesh said that Keynesian policies were in the same league as Nazi policies.

I for one am sick and tired of the Nazi analogy. I know it's a good rhetorical trick and sometimes I stoop to it. But it's been overdone.

Look, the Nazis are one of those exceptions of the 20th century. They lack true peers, standing head and shoulders above the fascists (Mussolini, Action Francaise, Mussolini, Oswald Mosely, Father Coughlin, etc.) on the villany scale. Maybe their policies can be compared to that of the Turks against the Armenians or those of some folks in the former Yugoslavia. Maybe their policies can be compared to that of the white folks against the American Indians. I know this has been said before, but it's important to say it again: Chomsky and Keynes (and Krugman and Michael Lind) can't be put their league.

But the more the analogy is used, the more it waters down the meaning of Naziism. Eventually, it gets us to dividing the world into two groups of people, us vs. the Nazis. (And I'm not so sure about the others on my side, who may be crypto-Nazis because they're not strong enough in their opposition to the Nazis.) Talking all the time about Nazi-this and Nazi-that also undermines one's credibility. It's like boy who cried wolf.

It's also fuzzy thinking. Mussolini and Franco were very different animals.

Watering down the meaning of Naziism unfortunately has the effect of implicitly apologizing for Nazis. If Keynesian policies, say, are seen as part and parcel of Naziism, then the vast majority of US citizens, who have crude Keynesian instincts on a lot of issues, are Nazi-symps. And since the vast majority of these citizens seem like good people most of the time, then maybe Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels were good people too...

BTW, Rakesh, unless my Alzheimer's is acting up, Ronald Reagan also made the FDR-Adolf Hitler link. Does this put you in Reagan's camp? and since Reagan was obviously a fascist type, does that make you a fascist-symp? and since there is no real distinction between the Nazis and the fascists, does that make you a Nazi-symp?

BTW, Brad, I think you're picking up on the populist flavor of fascism. But is populism always of a fascist nature? Similarly, is nationalism always fascist? (Can't nationalism be part of a struggle against some external power that invades or dominates a nation's territory?) The idea that populism and nationalism are always fascist fits very well with the World Bank/IMF neo-liberal view that it's world financial capital that should rule, rejecting democracy, populism, national goals, etc. (Cf. Rudi Dornbusch railing against populism in his old columns in BUSINESS WEEK.) Since there's no world government or state, the only way that people can exert democratic control over their lives is via the nation-state (or similar structures). So any democratic effort will inevitably have some nationalistic flavor. So it seems that a total and utter rejection of nationalism -- as implied by its link to Naziism -- is basically a rejection of democracy.

Jim Devine jdevine at &

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