For example, the wikipedia entry for Nazism/National Socialism states:

It incorporates fervent antisemitism, anti-communism, scientific racism, and the use of eugenics into its creed.

Someone who displays racism would be called a racist. Someone who showcases anti-semitic behaviour is called anti-semitic. But can someone who is a racist and also an anti-semitic already be labeled a "(neo) nazi"?
Or asked differently: what about someone who is not anti-semitic but showcases all of the other traits - would it be fair from a categorization point of view to label that person a "(neo) nazi"?

  • 8
    Typically individuals are identified as neo-Nazis through their explicit identification with Nazism, such as by using swastika symbolism, denying the Holocaust, or praising Hitler or Nazi Germany. There are many anti-Semitic, racist fascists who are not neo-Nazis (though that hardly is much of an endorsement). Remember, the Nazis were a political party: a person with beliefs that would fit well in the Nazi Party is not automatically a neo-Nazi.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 10, 2022 at 8:14
  • 24
    The US Democratic Party have basically zero socialist traits, but is still regularly called socialist (to the point were at least one prominent figure has adopted the label for himself). So I guess the answer to the question in the title is "zero", or rather, "depends on who is applying that label". Jan 10, 2022 at 8:44
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    There is no exact dividing line, and the word Nazi can be used in many ways. Think about what you're asking. Are you asking about the dictionary meaning of words such as Nazi? Are you asking about whether it's considered libelous or defamatory to call someone a Nazi? Are you interested in laws prohibiting Nazi symbols? Are you looking for some kind of official body that decides on what is and isn't a Nazi? A commonly used definition for politicians or historians? Or situations when people shout "Nazi"? Some countries have laws that attempt to ban nazis, but the US doesn't.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 10, 2022 at 9:56
  • 4
    @coconut think about all the debates you hear around the topic "is ____ a _____" . Eg is a taco (or hotdog) a sandwich. Even with definitions things get murky quickly. Nature and nurture leads to people forming worldviews and all those things impact how people perceive things and answer questions like you are asking. History is constantly rewritten and reinterpreted through the mores of the current time - just look at the debate over how to teach US history that is currently happening.
    – eps
    Jan 10, 2022 at 14:41
  • 2
    @EikePierstorff If you're thinking about Bernie Sanders, he's not a member of the Democratic party. Never was. He just causcuses with them. He's also proudly called himself a lower-d democratic socialist well before anyone else called him that. Jan 10, 2022 at 18:23

4 Answers 4


"X is a Nazi" is not a statement of fact, it's a personal opinion.

Political labels are social constructs. Different people will have different standards how they apply a label. Not even the dictionaries can agree on one objective definition for most political labels (Nazi in dictionary.com | Nazi in Merriam Webster | Nazi in wiktionary). The only measure of validity of a label is consensus.

Some people might be overzealous in applying a certain label: "Forcing me to own a vaccination card is a nazi method, so when you are pro-vaccination you are a nazi!" Others might gatekeep the ideology and apply a very stringent definition before they call someone a nazi: "You are not a real Nazi like us unless you can quote Mein Kampf from memory and have a swastika tattoo on your face!". Who is right and who is wrong? Personally I would say that both of these definitions of nazism would be wrong. But where exactly is the line? This is a matter of debate. And debating is not what Politics Stack Exchange is for.

The same applies to any other ideology. Any label - self-applied or applied by others - will always be a matter of opinion.

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    @coconut Dictionary definitions don't really work in politics, because different dictionaries rarely agree on exact definitions. I am not sure what kind of answer you would accept. If you want an answer "A person must fulfill 67.39% of the following checkboxes to be officially considered a nazi", then I have to disappoint you.
    – Philipp
    Jan 10, 2022 at 10:22
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    @coconut This is pretty easy to disprove: Nazi in dictionary.com | Nazi in merriam webster | Nazi in wiktionary. As you can see, there are differences in how different dictionaries define "Nazi". So no, there is not "the" dictionary definition of "Nazi".
    – Philipp
    Jan 10, 2022 at 10:48
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    @coconut If that was what it took to persuade you, then I should add it to the answer.
    – Philipp
    Jan 10, 2022 at 11:04
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    @coconut - An important distinction is that dictionaries attempt to describe words based on their common usage, they don't dictate how words should be used. Jan 10, 2022 at 13:37
  • 4
    Someone wanting to learn more about @GeoffAtkins comment should search for "prescriptivism vs descriptivism". There are probably dictionaries made by both sorts of linguist, but the descriptivists lead less frustrating lives Jan 10, 2022 at 22:53

On Labels

Is this block blue or red?

bluish purple block

How about this one?

bluish purple block

How about this one?

purple block

How about this one?

reddish purple block

How about this one?

reddish purple block

At the root of your question is the more general one of "How can we cleanly divide the world into discrete categories"? To which the answer is, "We can't".

Labels can be useful heuristics, but we have no right to expect them to fully and accurately reflect the world we live in.

So what can we do?

We can employ nuance.

A person who's views align with 75% of the Nazi's platform is just that; A person who's views align with 75% of the Nazi's platform. We could label that person '75%-Nazi', but if sort of misses the point.

If you would like to take issue with this person, you should do so for the views themselves, not for the label that refers to them.


The video What is white supremacy?, by YouTuber 'Shaun' may be illustrative as well.

  • 1
    Nice example of the sorites paradox.
    – DrSheldon
    Jan 11, 2022 at 20:13
  • @DrSheldon Thanks for the link. This is exactly what I was looking for but I could not recall its name.
    – eclipz905
    Jan 11, 2022 at 20:19
  • Now if we could all agree on what is part of the X platform, what runs counter to it, what is tangential, then maybe if we had a full and accurate description of a person, we might get those percentages right. For all the good it will do us. Jan 13, 2022 at 21:59

You can call someone a Nazi when that's how they identify themselves.

While political labels are social constructs, and applying them to people can be murky and full of grey areas, I think that there's one area where there's a clear-cut way to apply labels to someone: when it's a political label that they have already applied to themselves. For instance, I think it would be safe to say that George Lincoln Rockwell was a Nazi, for instance, because he was the leader of the American Nazi Party before his death. Similarly, the other members of his party and its successors would probably also be safe to call Nazis, just like it would be safe to call members of the Communist Party of the United States of America Communists.

  • 5
    I don't think it is even as clear cut as this. If someone exhibits all of the ideologies and behaviors associated with Naziism (or any other political belief system) then it is reasonable to apply that label even if they deny it of themselves. The reverse is true as well, if for example someone claims to be a Communist but in actuality vehemently disagrees with all of the tenets of communism then it would be reasonable to label them as a non-communist in spite of their personal claim. It's often not clear cut like that, but self identification isn't enough on its own
    – Kevin
    Jan 11, 2022 at 0:16
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    This is an astoundingly naive answer that modern fascists love to hear. They can just say "I'm not a Nazi" despite having a room full of Nazi wartime paraphernalia that they hold their local far-right militia meetings at. They will call themselves things like "identitarians" or "race realists" or "western chauvinists," but never Nazis, despite a deep-held adoration of the third reich. Ideological labels are always fuzzy. Something as simple as self-ID can never be the indicator of ideological alignment.
    – 2rs2ts
    Jan 11, 2022 at 1:02
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    @2rs2ts - IMO anyone who is walking around adorned with the symbology is in actual fact identifying themselves as such - full stop. Any subsequent verbal denials would not hold water. Come to think of it, your description very compactly states the essential criterion which the symbols represent: adoration or glorification of the third reich as an model to follow.
    – Pete W
    Jan 11, 2022 at 1:33
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    @2rs2ts - The answer is naive (at best...I have seen some of this posters other posts and comments), but there is a point that you are missing, and Pete W. understands: self-identity is a good criterion, but one cannot take a potential neo-Nazi's claims about their self-identity at face value. But a neo-Nazi is not just someone who would be somewhat ideologically aligned with Hitler if they lived in Nazi Germany. For instance, there are currently a large number of anti-Nazi White Supremacists in Russia: they are racist, anti-Semitic, and generally fascist, but dislike Hitler and Germany.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 11, 2022 at 6:15
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    @coconut - Many people are neo-Nazis without openly identifying as such, but I have no problem taking someone who openly identifies as neo-Nazi at their word.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 11, 2022 at 7:59

Nazi is not a political ideology, and never has been. It’s an insult and always has been (*). The correct term would have been National Socialist, or a member of the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). When they were in power, it was expanded to include all Germans, after WWII it shrank a bit to only those that were actively a member of the previous government or supported them. So, Nazi was an insulting abbreviation at the time, and has become just a plain insult since.

As an insult, the only defining characteristic that it has is that someone doesn’t like the person or group being insulted. Feminazis, grammar nazis, whatever.

Ignoring your specific example, and generalizing to when can you say that someone is a member of a particular political ideology, regardless of whether they profess to the ideology or not. The answer is simple: zero percent. After all, you are being proscriptive not descriptive, labeling someone else, who cares whether they or anyone else for that matter agrees with you or not.

If you want to be accurate, you’ll describe characteristics not apply political labels. If someone professes to an ideology or party or to an opposing ideology or party, you can describe the characteristics in relation to that ideology or party.

Otherwise your are just being insulting, which, hey, is ok, there’s a whole world of people to insult, most of them deserve it.

  • 7
    Counter-example: The American Nazi Party self-described as Nazis in a non-ironic way. Although with an estimated peak headcount of 500 people, one can argue about how politically relevant they were.
    – Philipp
    Jan 11, 2022 at 12:03
  • 7
    It seems quite a stretch to assert that it's "not a political ideology" in the same paragraph as admitting that it's merely an abbreviation of the full proper self-applied name of a political party and those who adhere to the ideology of that party.
    – reirab
    Jan 11, 2022 at 16:01
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    The premise of this answer is pedantic. It's along the lines of saying that calling someone fat is only an insult and in no way also an indicator of their state of body. The official BMI states over weight, obese, etc. Yes, it is commonly an insult, but everyone knows what the label is in reference to. This answer just comes across as apologetic in defense against using the label without addressing the question very well.
    – David S
    Jan 11, 2022 at 18:14
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    Nazi is not a political ideology, and never has been. It’s an insult and always has been. This is a fairly disgusting claim, considering the millions of victims of the Nazi regime during and before WW2. Jan 11, 2022 at 20:17
  • 3
    @jmoreno from history.stackexchange.com/a/52125 : The first use of the term "Nazi" by a NSDAP member to refer to the NSDAP was during an abortive attempt to reclaim the word beginning in 1926 by Joseph Goebbels in an early pamphlet called Der Nazi-Sozi or The Nazi-Sozi. The fact that white-washing that term didn't work hardly means that they did not try to make it work, they're on record trying to do just that. Jan 12, 2022 at 17:37

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