Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4.: Aggressive Nationalism - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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4.: Aggressive Nationalism - Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War 
Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, edited with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Indiana, 2011).
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Etatism—whether interventionism or socialism—must lead to conflict, war, and totalitarian oppression of large populations. The right and true state, under etatism, is the state in which I or my friends, speaking my language and sharing my opinions, are supreme. All other states are spurious. One cannot deny that they too exist in this imperfect world. But they are enemies of my state, of the only righteous state, even if this state does not yet exist outside of my dreams and wishes. Our German Nazi state, says Steding, is the Reich; the other states are deviations from it.* Politics, says the foremost Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, is the discrimination between friend and foe.†
In order to understand these doctrines we must look first at the liberal attitude toward the problem of linguistic antagonisms.
He who lives as a member of a linguistic minority, within a community where another linguistic group forms the majority, is deprived of the means of influencing the country’s politics. (We are not considering the special case in which such a linguistic minority occupies a privileged position and oppresses the majority as, for example, the German-speaking aristocracy in the Baltic duchies in the years preceding the Russianization of these provinces.) Within a democratic community public opinion determines the outcome of elections, and thereby the political decisions. Whoever wants to make his ideas prevalent in political life must try to influence public opinion through speech and writing. If he succeeds in convincing his fellow citizens, his ideas obtain support and persist.
In this struggle of ideas linguistic minorities cannot take part. They are voiceless spectators of the political debates out of which the deciding vote emerges. They cannot participate in the discussions and negotiations. But the result determines their fate too. For them democracy does not mean self-determination; other people control them. They are second-class citizens. This is the reason why men in a democratic world consider it a disadvantage to be members of a linguistic minority. It explains at the same time why there were no linguistic conflicts in earlier ages, where there was no democracy. In this age of democracy people in the main prefer to live in a community where they speak the same language as the majority of their fellow citizens. Therefore in plebiscites concerning the question to which state a province should belong, people as a rule, but not always, vote in favor of the country where they will not be members of a linguistic minority.
But the recognition of this fact by no means leads liberalism to the principle of nationality. Liberalism does not say: Every linguistic group should form one state and one state only, and each single man belonging to this group should, if at all possible, belong to this state. Neither does it say: No state should include people of several linguistic groups. Liberalism postulates self-determination. That men in the exercise of this right allow themselves to be guided by linguistic considerations is for liberalism simply a fact, not a principle or a moral law. If men decide in another way, which was the case, for example, with the German-speaking Alsatians, that is their own concern. Such a decision, too, must be respected.
But it is different in our age of etatism. The etatist state must necessarily extend its territory to the utmost. The benefits it can grant to its citizens increase in proportion to its territory. Everything that the interventionist state can provide can be provided more abundantly by the larger state than by the smaller one. Privileges become more valuable the larger the territory in which they are valid. The essence of etatism is to take from one group in order to give to another. The more it can take the more it can give. It is in the interest of those whom the government wishes to favor that their state become as large as possible. The policy of territorial expansion becomes popular. The people as well as the governments become eager for conquest. Every pretext for aggression is deemed right. Men then recognize but one argument in favor of peace: that the prospective adversary is strong enough to defeat their attack. Woe to the weak!
The domestic policies of a nationalist state are inspired by the aim of improving the conditions of some groups of citizens by inflicting evils on foreigners and those citizens who use a foreign language. In foreign policy economic nationalism means discrimination against foreigners. In domestic policy it means discrimination against citizens speaking a language which is not that of the ruling group. These pariahs are not always minority groups in a technical sense. The German-speaking people of Meran, Bozen, and Brixen are majorities in their districts; they are minorities only because their country has been annexed by Italy. The same is true for the Germans of the Egerland, for the Ukrainians in Poland, the Magyars of the Szekler district in Transylvania, the Slovenes in Italian-occupied Carniola. He who speaks a foreign mother tongue in a state where another language predominates is an outcast to whom the rights of citizens are virtually denied.
The best example of the political consequences of this aggressive nationalism is provided by conditions in Eastern Europe. If you ask representatives of the linguistic groups of Eastern Europe what they consider would be a fair determination of their national states, and if you mark these boundaries on a map, you will discover that the greater part of this territory is claimed by at least two nations, and not a negligible part by three or even more.* Every linguistic group defends its claims with linguistic, racial, historical, geographical, strategic, economic, social, and religious arguments. No nation is prepared sincerely to renounce the least of its claims for reasons of expediency. Every nation is ready to resort to arms to satisfy its pretensions. Every linguistic group therefore considers its immediate neighbors mortal enemies and relies on its neighbor’s neighbors for armed support of its own territorial claims against the common foe. Every group tries to profit from every opportunity to satisfy its claims at the expense of its neighbors. The history of the last decades proves the correctness of this melancholy description.
Take, for example, the case of the Ukrainians. For hundreds of years they were under the yoke of the Russians and the Poles. There has been no Ukrainian national state in our day. One might assume that the spokesmen of a people which has so fully experienced the hardships of ruthless foreign oppression would be prudent in their pretensions. But nationalists simply cannot renounce. Thus the Ukrainians claim an area of more than 360,000 square miles with a total population of some sixty millions, of whom, according even to their own declaration, only “more than forty millions” are Ukrainians.* These oppressed Ukrainians would not be content with their own liberation; they strive at the oppression of twenty or more millions of non-Ukrainians.
In 1918 the Czechs were not satisfied with the establishment of an independent state of their own. They incorporated into their state millions of German-speaking people, all the Slovaks, tens of thousands of Hungarians, the Ukrainians of Carpatho-Russia and—for considerations of railroad management—some districts of Lower Austria. And what a spectacle was the Polish Republic, which in the twenty-one years of its independence tried to rob violently three of its neighbors—Russia, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia—of a part of their territories!
These conditions were correctly described by August Strindberg in his trilogy To Damascus:†
father melcher: At the Amsteg station, on the Gotthard line, you have probably seen a tower called the castle of Zwing-Uri; it is celebrated by Schiller in Wilhelm Tell. It stands there as a monument to the inhuman oppression which the inhabitants of Uri suffered at the hands of the German Kaiser! Lovely! On the Italian side of the Saint Gotthard lies the station of Bellinzona, as you know. There are many towers there, but the most remarkable is the Castel d’Uri. It is a monument to the inhuman oppression, which the Italian canton suffered at the hands of the inhabitants of Uri. Do you understand?
the stranger: “Liberty! Liberty, give us, in order that we may suppress.”
However, Strindberg did not add that the three cantons Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden under nineteenth-century liberalism peacefully coöperated with the Ticino whose people they had oppressed for almost three hundred years.
[* ]Steding, Das Reich und die Krankheit der Kultur (Hamburg, 1938).
[† ]Carl Schmitt-Dorotić, Der Begriff des Politischen (Munich, 1932).
[* ]E.g., the city of Fiume is claimed by the Hungarians, Croats, Yugoslavs, and Italians.
[* ]Hrushevsky, A History of the Ukraine (published for the Ukrainian National Association by Yale University Press, New Haven, 1941), p. 574.
[† ]Part III, act IV, scene ii. Authorized translation by Sam E. Davidson, Poet Lore, XLII, No. 3 (Boston, Bruce Humphries, Inc., 1935), p. 259.