The Nazi Party stands for the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), which sounds like a name for a communist party, why is it considered a far-right party? Isn't it a far-left party, or was socialism considered to be far-right at the time?

  • I think this is an exact duplicate of history.stackexchange.com/questions/1103/…
    – Anixx
    Jun 18, 2012 at 12:23
  • relevant meta discussion on this question: meta.history.stackexchange.com/questions/251/…
    – Ken Li
    Jun 18, 2012 at 20:21
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    Nazism, Socalisim, and Communisim were very important movements in the mid 20'th century. Asking things like why the Nazis considered themself Socalist when they seemed to particularly hate other Socalist parties seems like a perfectly reasonable history question. Certianly I used to wonder that myself.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 20, 2012 at 16:27
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    Nazism considered a far-right party, because the NSDAP clashed with other socialist parties, most notably the communists. As such they ended up being branded "right" because the communists were already branded "left". That the nazi ideology is extremely close to the communist ideology only goes to show how useless "left-right" is as a labelling. It tells you nothing. Jul 21, 2012 at 7:47
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    Even more: the Soviets were our associates during WW2, it wouldn't make them happy to call the Nazis socialists so that little factoid was quietly omitted from the wartime propaganda, and adding it to the history books later would have caused some very influential people to get egg on their face.
    – jwenting
    Feb 25, 2014 at 13:48

6 Answers 6


The Nazi Party destroyed the political apparatus of the working class, broke the trade union movement, and handed the economy over to German capitalist monopolies. "Socialism" in the mind of the NSDAP involved either the SA's street fighting fantasy of a German nation recast in the image of the right wing worker; or, the NSDAP's central apparatus' conception of a pliant breeding nation. "Socialism" was for the NSDAP the forced mobilisation of the ethnic nation.

Many Germans at the time, particularly right wing Germans, associated these values with a Bismarkian right wing policy that had been called "Socialism," in the sense of state provided goods and services. To take political advantage of this feeling, the NSDAP named itself "National Socialist." The NSDAP did not hope for the abolition of capitalism, nor for workers' control.

In addition to this economic position, the NSDAP wished to reunify their imaginary German nation by force; impose a German order on Europe through war; and to eliminate their imaginary racial "other."

These combination of policies are considered "right wing."

Ordinary socialism, in the sense of workers' control of production, was considered left wing at the time.


The same reason the "Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea" is a democratic republic... It wasn't. There was a time when socialism really seemed like the way forward, tempering free enterprise with thoughtful regulation and investing workers in the means of production. So non-socialists like the Nazis and Communists called themselves socialist to appeal to the political moderates of the interwar period.

In the modern day, anyone who equates socialism with either Nazi-brand Fascism or Soviet-brand Communism is a political propagandist, usually affiliated with right-wing US interests.

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    This answer could be improved by reading about pre-war socialism, particularly in terms of the development of the split between revolutionary and anti-revolutionary social democrats in IInd Internationale parties. Jun 17, 2012 at 5:01
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    "There was a time when socialism really seemed like the way forward" - it still does, to many.
    – quant_dev
    Jun 21, 2012 at 15:27
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    Calling your self a socialist back then would be like saying you like freedom and democracy today... it was valuable because the greater public associated it positively, and any emotionally laden term without an understood definition can be a very valuable propaganda asset. It can mean what it needs to, for whom it means to, and be both and neither at the same time. Jul 30, 2015 at 4:24
  • That can't be correct: according to Marx, socialism is a stepping stone for a social move toward communism. Placing the communism and socialism at odds is, by definition, wrong. Feb 10, 2021 at 10:55
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    @NationWidePants on the other hand, not all socialists are Marxists.
    – xuq01
    Feb 10, 2021 at 14:58

It wasn't socialist, and in fact was vehenmently opposed to actual socialists/communists. The Reichstag Fire was one of the causes for Nazi party to grab power and was sold as the beginnings of a communist uprising.

Socialism was not considered right wing in 1930s Europe. (Remember in the USA "Socialist" is used as a dirty word. In Europe this is not the case ('Socialist Party' is 2nd largest in European Parliament, etc.). That can colour a debate about the word).

Pleanty of countries call themselves things, it doesn't mean they are those things. Like "Democratic Republic of Korea", etc.


It sounded good for marketing purposes, for engaging the average industrial worker without the revolutionary baggage of Communism.

It is important to understand that when it comes to statism, right and left don't matter that much. While they will give different reasons why they're chaining you down, enslaving you or murdering you and there may be different people wielding the bludgeon or the gun, the end result is the same. In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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    Tendentious. You ascribe characteristics of extreme totalitarian version to the whole spectrum of statism. Just because for the anarchist state is coercive in any shape or form, does not mean you can frivolously pose equivalence between, say, a northern European social democracy and tyrannical totalitarianism of Hitler or Stalin.
    – theUg
    Mar 11, 2015 at 15:49

I think that Nazi regime was unique in world history in that it unlike any other regime before and after had two faces: it externally pretended to be a left-center force, a left-centrist socialist pro-workers, progressive, industrialist, anti-monarchist, anti-religious, pro-women rights, pro-animal rights, anti-capitalist, anti-monarchist, anti-colonialist party. But in reality it turned out that Nazism was actually far more right than any monarchists, Russian "black-hundreds" and conservatives were before. It was hiding its ultra-right face for a while to achieve popular support.

This duality led to many mistakes by individuals and politicians who made deals with Nazi party and Nazi Germany. German Cristians thought they are dealing with a centrist patriotic party when voting for enabling act. Vatican thought Hitler is quite like Mussolini: a moderately conservative centrist. Stalin thought he was dealing with a left-center party of small bourgeoisie. Ethnic minorities also thought Nazis are pro-national self-determination and cultural autonomy.

Many Jews saw that Nazis for a first time in 2000 years allowed Jews to have their own police, ambulance service, postal service, orphanages, and even telephone stations. They did not knew the orphanages and hospitals were designed to quickly separate those unable to work. Nobody could imagine Nazis will kill people in new shining uniforms they just designed for Jewish police (no other regime gives a forage cap with a badge to a condemned enemy).

Many Russians and Ukrainians believed Germans will build a moderate form of Socialism without collectivization and other excesses of Soviet Union.

Many Germans believed that Nazis really protect animal rights for ethical reasons, not just to make a ban on Jewish meat.

In reality it turned out that even conservative clergymen looked like Bolshevicks compared to Nazis.

This masquerade became possible because Hitler departed from earlier tradition typical for ultra-right, volkishe movements. Initially he was even criticized from the far-right positions for even use of the word "party" instead of traditional for the right-wing "league" "movement" or "union". But Hitler was smarter. He abandoned monarchism in favor of unrestricted ultimate dictatorship. He pursued clergy because they were too left for him and Christian principles were too egalitarian and not enough anti-Semitic, although historically religious Christians were the most anti-Semitic group. He denounced aristocracy and social estates in favor of eugenics. He denounced right-wing to promote ultra-right instead.

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    I think you're correct in your description of the Nazi regime as having two faces, but fail to see what's particularly unique about it. Any decent "how-to-be-a-dictator" course will emphasize the importance of devising a public agenda which the populace will accept, but which is designed to conceal (but not interfere with) a vastly different agenda which, if known to the public, would be almost universally denounced. While Hitler and Stalin differed in their exact methods, they also have a lot in common.
    – supercat
    Aug 5, 2015 at 21:25

The "Nazi" Party STARTED OUT as the National Socialist German Workers Party, with a left-leaning, socialist bent.

That is, until it enrolled "Member Number 7", aka Adolf Hitler, who had other ideas.

A World War I veteran, Hitler figured out the "Dolchstoss" legend, the idea that Germany had been winning World War I until it was "stabbed in the back" by Hitler's enemies, plus re-armament/revanche, was more appealing to most German people than the idea of a "worker's paradise". This was particularly true of the right wing, where Hitler drew most of his financial support.

In fact, the Nazi party at one time had two wings, a nationalist wing under Hitler and a socialist wing under Gregor Strasser, who considered himself a personal friend of Hitler's.

That is, until Hitler took over the party, and later murdered his "friend" Strasser during the "Night of the Long Knives".

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    The party initially was named "German Workers Party" and was re-named "National-Socialist" by Hitler. German Workers Party never was left-leaning, it was a nationalist right-wing party from the beginning. -1
    – Anixx
    Jun 18, 2012 at 20:02
  • "cold blood" makes this answer subjective.
    – user1128
    Jul 21, 2012 at 0:21
  • @hrishikeshp19: I took out the "cold blood" part. Does it fix the answer?
    – Tom Au
    Jul 21, 2012 at 0:27
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    As @Anixx puts right, the "German Worker's Party" (DAP) has been a far-right organization since its very beginning in that it assembled anti-semites and revanchist anti-republicans. It was founded by members of the occultist, ethno-nationalist "Thule Society", a cover organization of the conspirative elitist "Germanic Brotherhood", which several of later Nazi leaders were members of, including Streicher, Rosenberg and Hess. Even though the Strasser brothers propagated a derivative of socialist ideas, they were nationalists, anti-semites and anti-communists, and had little internal influence. Jan 22, 2013 at 2:22
  • @J.Katzwinkel This is confusing, these traits are not at all exclusive to NSDP. Many (if not most) communist / socialist parties were nationalist and (though less focused) anti-semitic which became very obvious after WWII behind the Iron Curtain, but also during the war (eg ethnic cleansing of Tito). Most pre-wwII left parties, like soc-dems were anti-communist, too, just as the communist were strongly anti soc-dem, sometimes each having their paramilitary beating up each other on the streets. These criteria of distinction are very weak.
    – Greg
    Feb 10, 2021 at 20:42

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