News Story

Right-to-Work Laws Are Not Inspired By Hitler

The Nazis saw government as the absolute authority

LANSING — While at the union right-to-work protests this past month, there was no shortage of references in signs and chants to Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislators as “Hitler” or “Nazis.”

Comparing political opponents to one of the world’s greatest monsters is nothing new, and in fact so common that there is a logical fallacy named for it: Reductio ad Hitlerum — “trying to refute an opponent's view by comparing it to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party … a tactic often used to derail arguments because such comparisons tend to distract and anger the opponent.”

The analogy is strange: Is allowing workers the right to choose whether to financially support a political organization to keep a job really a Nazi act? The absurdity stretches further when you realize that this has become a legitimate talking point of some teachers and union leaders:

Chippewa Valley Education Association President Maryanne Levine draws a parallel between Lansing’s actions and those advocated by one of history’s most infamous figures.

“We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers’ salaries and take away their right to strike," Levine quoted. "Those were the words of Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933."

“These are strong words, but that is exactly what they are doing and the path they seem to be taking (in Lansing),” she added.

Strong words of nonsense.

The Nazis were the National Socialist Party — a belief system composed of many things, but an economic policy that was mostly indistinguishable from other socialists of the day. Nazis, as with other socialists, believed in government as an absolute authority (at least when they were in charge). Since the state was to have government ownership of production, at the same time setting work rules and compensation, why would Hitler and the party want to negotiate with workers? 

With that consideration, it should not be surprising that the party set out to break unions: Unions at the time were voluntary associations of people who attempted to negotiate with a company. Those companies were under ownership of the government or in a close corporate-government alliance. Hitler did not go after unions because he was a capitalist — he went after unions because he believed in government as the true dictator of jobs and compensation.

This fight from the left is still happening to this day. Consider: The World Socialist Website, published by the leading socialist group in the world, condemned the attempted union constitutional amendment Proposal 2 as “skullduggery.”

[The coalition of union’s] entire position — financial, political, social — is based on the suppression of the class struggle and their collusion in wage cutting and layoffs. Proposal 2 embodies the anti-working class character of the organizations they lead. The unions are today — not only in the US, but internationally — direct participants and shareholders in the process of capitalist exploitation of the working class.

In response to right-to-work laws, the WSW urges members to disavow the current union structure and “fight for the full industrial and political mobilization of the working class.”

Those who support worker freedom should not be against “unions,” which is simply a word describing two or more people coming together for a cause. We wholeheartedly support voluntary associations of people coming together in the workplace or elsewhere; this is a Constitutional and moral right.

In fact, in what might be described as the world’s first “think tank,” the English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson brought together 12 men in 1787 to map out a way to end the slave trade. With the help of William Wilberforce, this voluntary association fighting for what they believed in was successful.

And in the 1980s, Lech Walesa lead Solidarity — a trade union that rose up against the Communists planted in Poland by the Soviet Union. The group formed to counter the communist government by arranging strikes and generally usurping state power.

But opponents of right-to-work legislation are not arguing for the freedom of association with people; they are arguing for a government-imposed structure in which the state allows groups of employees to compel other groups of employees to pay dues money to a political organization.

Advocating against this use of force and in favor of true worker choice in who they want to represent them is a step toward greater freedom.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.