There followed a flurry of comments (I thought no one read blogs on Saturday) as if I had blasphemed. As I suppose, I had. The ability to cry Nazi must be very important to some people.
Much of the comments were to "refute" a claim that I did not make, i.e., that Nazism can be referred to as part of what we call "the left" in the United States in 2009. It can't be. My point would be that National Socialism has no place on the American political continuum. There are huge disconnects between it and our politics, almost all of which is rooted in the assumptions of classical liberalism.
To characterize the Nazis as left or right as we use those terms today and in this country is anachronistic. It requires you to pick out something (say its collectivism or its selective invocation of tradition) that sounds conservative and liberal and riding it until it drops. Taken as a whole, National Socialism is completely inconsistent with contemporary conservatism in more ways than I care to count.
For example, in the United States, conservatism is inextricably tied to free markets and limited government. That's not the Nazis. It is inextricably tied to traditional values, often rooted in religion. That's not the Nazis either. It is distrustful of the notion that politics and the state can remake the world. But that was precisely the Nazi project.
One commenter is apparently of the belief that Umberto's Eco's sprawling essay on Ur-Facism resolves the question. I don't think so. It is a collection of 14 contradictory criteria - anyone of which, he says, can lead to fascism. They doesn't help us distinguish Nazi from Soviet totalitarianism other than to note that the two did not manifest themselves in precisely the same way. Nor do they don't point to what I would associate with the right in the United States in 2009.
There was a similar heated reaction to my suggestion that, no, "the right" is not fomenting violence because two nuts shot an abortionist and a guard at the Holocaust Museum any more than the "left" is fomenting violence because a nut shot a military recruiter. Once again I blasphemed. As usual (and somewhat ironically), many of the comments - prompted by a desire to retain that hate card - are full of vitriol as if snide attempts at ridicule and misplaced triumphalist smack add to argument.