National-Socialism Not for Export?

Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, as of 1938 was referring to his worldview as national-socialism.

Occasionally some sophomore, somebody hostile to national-socialism, usually somebody wedded to liberal notions (by which I mean a so-called conservative),  will argue that national-socialist ideas have no application outside of Germany, adducing as evidence  some statement attributed to Adolf Hitler: “National-Socialism is not for export.” Ipse dixit!
Isn’t it interesting how these people who are basically hostile to our worldview, suddenly, when it suits them, treat Adolf Hitler as a man whose every casual word must be taken as an inviolable commandment? The assumption seems to be that there is no general idea, no substance in national-socialism, except to copy Adolf Hitler on every point.

Let us examine, however, what this statement, in its original context, must have meant.

In 1934 and 1935 Dr. Joseph Goebbels declared that National-Socialism was not for export, as part of an attempt to maintain positive relations with foreign governments, including that of the United States, that were concerned about the influence of National-Socialist Germany on their ethnic-German populations. The dictum, “National-Socialism is not for export,” was in the first place simply a piece of diplomacy to avoid conflict with foreign governments.

In 1942 when Hitler himself made essentially the same statement in the context of a private conversation, he gave an additional motive behind the position that would have been impolitic to state publicly:

I am firmly opposed to any attempt to export National-Socialism. If other countries are determined to preserve their democratic systems and thus rush to their ruin, so much the better for us. And all the more so, because during this same period, thanks to National Socialism, we shall be transforming ourselves, slowly but surely, into the most solid popular community that it is possible to imagine. [Hitler’s Table Talk, entry for 20 May 1942]

Hitler was not saying that other nations could not apply national-socialism: on the contrary, the assumption was that neighboring European states, having adopted national-socialism, would become strong. Hitler was saying that it was simply not in Germany’s interest to encourage nations that might eventually come into conflict with her to adopt national-socialism.
At the same time, however, Hitler did not say that Germany should attempt to stifle the development of national-socialism anywhere, only that Germany should not exert herself to bring about such a development. Let the other nations keep their liberal system if that’s what they want.

As with many things, Hitler had not been entirely consistent in the application of this principle.

Where it was a question of a nation’s becoming strong and nationalist or aligning with Germany’s enemies, as in the case of Spain in the 1930s, Hitler provided the necessary assistance for the ideologically kindred forces to prevail.

Also, for a few years Hitler subsidized Sir Oswald Mosley, who as of 1938 was referring to his political creed as national-socialism. At that time Hitler was hoping to avoid conflict and even to have harmonious future relations with Britain as described in Mein Kampf, with Britain ruling the seas and retaining its empire while leaving hegemony on the European continent to Germany. When the war broke out, a plan to have Mosley broadcast to Britain from a transmitter on German soil had to be scrapped.

Ultimately, whether or not to attempt to export national-socialism seems to have been determined in each case based on whether it appeared likely to help or hurt Germany’s security.

The statements of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels about national-socialism being “not for export” did not mean that other nations could not apply national-socialism, only that Germany would not attempt to make the world National-Socialist the way the Soviet Union worked at making the world Communist.   

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