What was Keynes' real attitude towards Nazism?
Well, it depends who you ask.
If you ask Lord Skidelsky, the answer is clear: Keynes was unambiguously opposed to Nazism, from the start.
Keynes may have been an anti-Semitic, virulently anti-Communist eugenicist, with a questionable attitude towards democracy -- rather like the Nazis -- but he would not give comfort to totalitarian enemies of liberal society, even to support his own theories.
That's why, writes Skidelsky, even though "Hitler's New Deal" by October 1934 had created new jobs for three million previously unemployed workers, Keynes was keeping a "deafening silence" (Lord Skidelsky's words) on Germany:
"Garraty has noted the similarities between Hitler’s and Roosevelt’s programmes; even their rhetoric, with its invocation of the war spirit, sounded the same.
"But, whereas Roosevelt was the scion of the American ruling class, Hitler was nurtured on the hatreds of Central Europe and the agony of Germany’s defeat; for him war was the purpose, not the symbol, of the effort to restore Germany’s industrial might.
"Keynes understood this from the start. ‘Germany is at the mercy of unchained irresponsibles,’ he wrote on 15 July 1933." (Skidelsky 1992: 486)Apparently, Keynes' deafening silence spoke louder than an outright condemnation ever would.
Whatever preferences Keynes may have had for Roosevelt had nothing to do with the latter being the scion of the American ruling class: they were pure expression of Keynes' open anti-Nazism.
To Keynes' deafening silence, Skidelsky adds that quote as evidence of Keynes' manifest anti-Nazi stance.
If you do, you'll find that Keynes' putative anti-Nazism seems less unambiguous, once we add something Lord Skidelsky strangely left out:
"Germany is at the mercy of unchained irresponsibles -- though it is too soon to judge her." (Keynes, 1933: 756)The Reichstag burned in February, 1933. The following day, president Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree, suspending civil liberties and proscribing the German Communist Party.
In March, the Nazis and their allies gained majority in the Reichstag elections; the Enabling Act (authorising chancellor Hitler to enact federal laws without Reichstag approval) was passed. The Dachau concentration camp opened.
By June 1933, when Keynes' article was published, it was too soon to judge Nazi Germany, for Keynes, unambiguously anti-Nazi from the start (!?)
Further comment on Keynes' essay: Keynes' "National Self-Sufficiency"
Keynes, J.M. 1933. National Self-Sufficiency. The Yale Review, 22(4), June 1933, pp. 755-769. (freely available online)
Skidelsky, R. J. A. 1992. John Maynard Keynes: The Economist as Saviour 1920–1937, Macmillan, London.