The Communist Manifesto makes an eloquent and convincing case that the economic elite (which they call the bourgeoise) exploits the working class (which they call the proletariat). It is very east to see why Marx and Engles felt that the bourgeoise was indifferent or hostile to the interests of the proletariat.
The Nazis largely agreed with the above assessment. Unlike the communists, the Nazis placed special emphasis on the economic exploitation by Jewish members of the bourgeoise. For the Nazis, a chief cause of the economic exploitation was Jewish enmity towards non-Jews. Marxists believed the exploitation was due to class consciousness, not racial consciousness.
The communist solution to the above problem was for every member of the world’s working class to recognize a common bond with every other member of the world’s working class. United by the bond of common economic status, the world’s proletariat would throw off bourgeoise rule and institute a global communist government.
The Nazi solution to the problem was to awaken a sense of brotherhood toward all German and other Nordic people. German factory owners were told that their workers were valuable human beings. On the off chance any factory owner refused to listen, the Nazi government disbanded the labor unions, and itself assumed their functionality. It dictated terms to the factory owners: a workweek reduced to 40 hours, significantly increased wage rates, improved workplace safety standards, much longer vacation time. The German government also provided heavily subsidized cruises to German workers, so that they could travel and see the world.
The communists were deeply hostile to the bourgeoise. One of the major themes of communism is class warfare; with warfare often understood in the most literal sense possible. The Nazis had a benign view of non-Jewish members of the German bourgeoise. The Nazis made no effort to nationalize the possessions of the bourgeoise. Nor did they object to the notion of German capitalists making profits in their business ventures. Some members of the German bourgeoise had a benign view of the Nazis as they were coming to power. They made large contributions to the Nazis’ political campaign. After Hitler assumed control over Germany, there was no longer a need for privately funded political campaigning. One of the bourgeoise’s main tools for controlling Western democracies–political lobbying dollars–was thus denied to them in Nazi Germany. Perhaps as a result of this reduction in bourgeoise influence, there was not a single major instance of Hitler sacrificing the tenets of his ideology or the needs of Germany in order to benefit the bourgeoise. However, Hitler was still sensitive to bourgeoise concerns. He wanted to give them enough to keep them on his side, as part of his larger goal of a strong, united Germany.
Both communists and Nazis wanted to create a world in which people were willing to sacrifice for something larger than oneself. For communists, that meant sacrificing oneself for the benefit of the proletariat class as a whole. For the Nazis, it meant sacrificing oneself for one’s nation or one’s race.
In an ant colony, ants are united together by the bond of genetic similarity. In ancient times nations were the same way. The Greek word for nation implies a sort of extended clan–a group of somewhat related people. It is reasonable to conclude that most members of any given Greek city state were connected by blood to most other members. (Even if the blood connections were often distant.) These blood relations proved a solid foundation upon which to build national unification and self-sacrifice.
The Nazi basis for unification was therefore based on something which has been proved to work in nature and in the human past. The communist basis for unification–shared economic status–represented a radical experiment, done in the absence of any evidence that experiment would work. In practice, communism has not proved effective at causing people to want to sacrifice for something larger than themselves. With one exception: communists can unite people by persuading them they share a common enemy. The basis of communist unity is hate (toward that common enemy) rather than love (of the world’s proletariat). This is because sharing the same economic status as someone is not a strong basis for love.
On the other hand, there were two bases of Nazi unity: love (of one’s own nation, and one’s own race), and hate (of perceived enemies of the Nazis or the Germans). Because love had been added to the mix, Germans were much more willing to sacrifice for Nazism than the Soviets were to sacrifice for communism. The tremendous sacrifices the Soviet Union made during WWII were made because the Russians were taught to believe the Nazis were monsters. They were not made based on a love for the world’s proletariat, or because of a love for communism, or any other kind of love. Except, perhaps a love for Russia; despite communist propaganda about the need to abandon the notion of nations.
Another point of difference between the Nazis and the communists was eugenics. Under Stalin, a man named Trofim Lysenko was tasked with persecuting Soviet geneticists. Any Soviet scientist who subscribed to modern genetics theory–the idea that traits are passed from parents to children through genes–was either shot in the back of the head or sent to a gulag.
The Nazis, on the other hand, subscribed to the scientific view that traits are passed from parents to children via genes. Accordingly, they sought to improve the gene pool through eugenics. A Nazi propaganda poster lamented the fact that intelligent, law-abiding men were having fewer children than their unintelligent law abiding counterparts; who in turn were having fewer children than unintelligent criminals. Had they remained in power longer, the Nazis would have increased their efforts to counter these dysgenic fertility trends.
A final difference between Nazis and communists is their perspectives on race. The communists welcome the idea of racial intermarriage. For them, the existence of race is a support to the existing social order. Getting rid of race would help the world’s proletariat unite and throw off the bourgeoise oppressors. The Nazis took the polar opposite view.