Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part III: German Nazism - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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Part III: German Nazism - 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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The Peculiar Characteristics of German Nationalism
German nationalism did not differ from other peoples’ nationalism until—in the late 1870’s and early ’80’s—the German nationalists made what they believed to be a great discovery. They discovered that their nation was the strongest in Europe. They concluded that Germany was therefore powerful enough to subdue Europe or even the whole world. Their reasoning ran as follows:
The Germans are the most numerous people in Europe, Russia excepted. The Reich itself has within the boundaries drawn by Bismarck more inhabitants than any other European country, with the same exception. Outside the Reich’s borders many millions of German-speaking people are living, all of whom, according to the principle of nationality, should join the Reich. Russia, they said, should not be considered since it is not a homogeneous nation but a conglomeration of many different nationalities. If you deduct from Russia’s population figures the Poles, Finns, Estonians, Letts, Lithuanians, White Russians, the Caucasian and Mongolian tribes, the Georgians, the Germans in the Baltic provinces and on the banks of the Volga, and especially the Ukrainians, there remain only the Great Russians, who are fewer in number than the Germans. Besides, Germany’s population is increasing faster than that of other European nations and much faster than that of the “hereditary” foe, France.
The German nation enjoys the enormous advantage of occupying the central part of Europe. It thus dominates strategically the whole of Europe and some parts of Asia and Africa. It enjoys in warfare the advantages of standing on interior lines.
The German people are young and vigorous, while the Western nations are old and degenerate. The Germans are diligent, virtuous, and ready to fight. The French are morally corrupt, the idol of the British is mammon and profit, the Italians are weaklings, the Russians are barbarians.
The Germans are the best warriors. That the French are no match for them has been proved by the battles of Rossbach, Katzbach, Leipzig, Waterloo, St. Privat, and Sedan. The Italians always take to their heels. The military inferiority of Russia was evidenced in the Crimea and in the last war with the Turks. English land power has always been contemptible. Britain rules the waves only because the Germans, politically disunited, have in the past neglected the establishment of sea power. The deeds of the old Hanse clearly proved Germany’s maritime genius.
It is therefore obvious that the German nation is predestined for hegemony. God, fate, and history chose the Germans when they endowed them with their great qualities. But unfortunately this blessed nation has not yet discovered what its right and its duty demand. Oblivious of their historic mission, the Germans have indulged in internal antagonisms. Germans have fought each other. Christianity has weakened their innate warlike ardor. The Reformation has split the nation into two hostile camps. The Habsburg emperors have misused the Empire’s forces for the selfish interests of their dynasty. The other princes have betrayed the nation by supporting the French invaders. The Swiss and the Dutch have seceded. But now finally the day of the Germans has dawned. God has sent to his chosen people their saviors, the Hohenzollerns. They have revived the genuine Teutonic spirit, the spirit of Prussia. They have freed the people from the yoke of the Habsburgs and of the Roman Church. They will march on and on. They will establish the German imperium mundi. It is every German’s duty to support them to the extent of his own ability; thus he serves his own best interests. Every doctrine by which Germany’s foes attempt to weaken the German soul and hinder it in accomplishing its task must be radically weeded out. A German who preaches peace is a traitor and must be treated as such.
The first step of the new policy must consist in the reincorporation of all Germans now outside. The Austrian Empire must be dismembered. All its countries which until 1866 were parts of the German Federation must be annexed (this includes all Czechs and Slovenes). The Netherlands and Switzerland must be reunited with the Reich, and so must the Flemings of Belgium, and the Baltic provinces of Russia, whose upper classes speak German. The army must be strengthened until it can accomplish these conquests. A navy has to be built strong enough to smash the British fleet. Then the most valuable British and French colonies must be annexed. The Dutch East Indies and the Congo State will come automatically under German rule with the conquest of the mother countries. In South America the Reich must occupy a vast area where at least thirty million Germans can settle.*
This program assigned a special task to the German emigrants living in different foreign countries. They were to be organized by nationalist emissaries, to whom the consular service of the Reich should give moral and financial backing. In countries which were to be conquered by the Reich they were to form a vanguard. In the other countries they were by political action to bring about a sympathetic attitude on the part of the government. This was especially planned in regard to the German-Americans, as the plan was to keep the United States neutral as long as possible.
The Ascendancy of Pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism was an achievement of intellectuals and writers. The professors of history, law, economics, political science, geography, and philosophy were its most uncompromising advocates. They converted the students of the universities to their ideas. Very soon the graduates made more converts. As teachers in the field of higher education (in the famous German Gymnasium and educational institutions of the same rank), as lawyers, judges, civil servants, and diplomats they had ample opportunity to serve their cause.
All other strata of the population resisted the new ideas for some time. They did not want more wars and conquests; they wanted to live in peace. They were, as the nationalists scornfully observed, selfish people, not eager to die but to enjoy life.
The popular theory that the Junkers and officers, big business and finance, and the middle classes were the initiators of German nationalism is contrary to fact. All these groups were at first strongly opposed to the aspirations of Pan-Germanism. But their resistance was vain because it lacked an ideological backing. There were no longer any liberal authors in Germany. Thus the nationalist writers and professors easily conquered. Very soon the youth came back from the universities and lower schools convinced Pan-Germans. By the end of the century Germany was almost unanimous in its approval of Pan-Germanism.
Businessmen and bankers were for many years the sturdiest opponents of Pan-Germanism. They were more familiar with foreign conditions than were the nationalists. They knew that France and Great Britain were not decadent, and that it would be very difficult to conquer the world. They did not want to imperil their foreign trade and investments through wars. They did not believe that armored cruisers could accomplish the tasks of commercial travelers and bring them higher profits. They were afraid of the budgetary consequences of greater armaments. They wanted increased sales, not booty. But it was easy for the nationalists to silence these plutocratic opponents. All important offices soon came into the hands of men whom university training had imbued with nationalist ideas. In the etatist state entrepreneurs are at the mercy of officialdom. Officials enjoy discretion to decide questions on which the existence of every firm depends. They are practically free to ruin any entrepreneur they want to. They had the power not only to silence these objectors but even to force them to contribute to the party funds of nationalism. In the trade associations of businessmen the syndics (executives) were supreme. Former pupils of the Pan-German university teachers, they tried to outdo each other in nationalist radicalism. Thus they sought to please the government officials and further their own careers through successful intercession on behalf of the interests of their members.
German nationalism was not, as the Marxians insist, the “ideological superstructure of the selfish class interests of the armaments industry.” In the 1870’s Germany possessed—apart from the Krupp plant—only comparatively small and not very profitable armament works. There is not the slightest evidence for the assumption that they subsidized the contemporary nationalist free-lance writers. They had nothing whatever to do with the much more effective propaganda of the university teachers. The large capital invested in munitions works since the ’eighties has been rather a consequence than the cause of German armaments.* Of course every businessman is in favor of tendencies that may result in an increase in his sales. “Soap capital” desires more cleanliness, “building capital” a greater demand for homes, “publishing capital” more and better education, and “armaments capital” bigger armaments. The short-run interests of every branch of business encourage such attitudes. In the long run, however, increased demand results in an inflow of more capital into the booming branch, and the competition of the new enterprises cuts down the profits.
The dedication of a greater part of Germany’s national income to military expenditure correspondingly reduced that part of the national income that could be spent by individual consumers for their own consumption. In proportion as armaments increased the sales of munition plants, they reduced the sales of all other industries. The more subtle Marxians do not maintain that the nationalist authors have been bribed by munitions capital but that they have “unconsciously” supported its interests. But this implies that they have to the same extent “unconsciously” hurt the interests of the greater part of the German entrepreneurs and capitalists. What made the “world soul,” which directs the working of philosophers and writers against their will, and forces them to adjust their ideas to the lines prescribed by inevitable trends of evolution, so partial as to favor some branches of business at the expense of other, more numerous branches?
It is true that since the beginning of the twentieth century almost all German capitalists and entrepreneurs have been nationalists. But so were, even to a greater degree, all other strata, groups, and classes of Germany. This was the result of nationalist education. This was an achievement of authors like Lagarde, Peters, Langbehn, Treitschke, Schmoller, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and Naumann.
It is not true that the Berlin court, the Junkers, and the aristocratic officers sympathized from the beginning with the Pan-German ideas. The Hohenzollerns and their retainers had sought Prussian hegemony in Germany and an increase in German prestige in Europe. They had attained these goals and were satisfied. They did not want more. They were anxious to preserve the German caste system, with the privileges of the dynasties and of the aristocracy; this was more important for them than the struggle for world domination. They were not enthusiastic about the construction of a strong navy or about colonial expansion. Bismarck yielded unwillingly to colonial plans.
But courts and noblemen were unable to offer successful resistance to a popular movement supported by intellectuals. They had long since lost all influence on public opinion. They derived an advantage from the defeat of liberalism, the deadly foe of their own privileges. But they themselves had contributed nothing to the ascendancy of the new etatist ideas; they simply profited by the change of mentality. They regarded the nationalist ideas as somewhat dangerous. Pan-Germanism was full of praise for old Prussia and its institutions, for the conservative party in its capacity as adversary of liberalism, for the army and the navy, for the commissioned officers and for the nobility. But the Junkers disliked one point in the nationalist mentality which seemed to them democratic and revolutionary. They considered the nationalist commoners’ interference with foreign policy and military problems a piece of impudence. In their eyes these two fields were the exclusive domain of the sovereign. While the support which the nationalists granted to the government’s domestic policies pleased them, they regarded as a kind of rebellion the fact that the Pan-Germans had views of their own about “higher politics.” The court and the nobles seemed to doubt the right of the people even to applaud their achievements in these fields.
But all such qualms were limited to the older generations, to the men who had reached maturity before the foundation of the new Empire. William II and all his contemporaries were already nationalists. The rising generation could not protect itself from the power of the new ideas. The schools taught them nationalism. They entered the stage of politics as nationalists. True, when in public office, they were obliged to maintain a diplomatic reserve. Thus it happened time and again that the government publicly rebuked the Pan-Germans and sharply rejected suggestions with which it secretly sympathized. But as officialdom and Pan-Germans were in perfect agreement about ultimate aims, such incidents were of little importance.
The third group which opposed radical nationalism was Catholicism. But Catholicism’s political organization, the Center party, was neither prepared nor mentally fitted to combat a great intellectual evolution. Its method consisted simply in yielding to every popular trend and trying to use it for its own purposes, the preservation and improvement of the Church’s position. The Center’s only principle was Catholicism. For the rest it had neither principles nor convictions, it was purely opportunist. It did everything from which success in the next election campaign could be expected. It coöperated, according to changing conditions, at one time with the Protestant conservatives, at another with the nationalists, at another with the Social Democrats. It worked with the Social Democrats in 1918 to overthrow the old system and later in the Weimar Republic. But in 1933 the Center was ready to share power in the Third Reich with the Nazis. The Nazis frustrated these designs. The Center was not only disappointed but indignant when its offer was refused.
The Center party had organized a powerful system of Christian labor unions which formed one of its most valuable auxiliaries and was eager to call itself a working man’s party. As such it considered it its duty to further Germany’s export trade. The economic ideas generally accepted by German public opinion maintained that the best means of increasing exports was a great navy and an energetic foreign policy. Since the German pseudo-economists viewed every import as a disadvantage and every export as an advantage, they could not imagine how foreigners could be induced to buy more German products by other means than by “an impressive display of German naval power.” As most of the professors taught that whoever opposes increased armaments furthers unemployment and a lowering of the standard of living, the Center in its capacity as a labor party could not vigorously resist the nationalist extremists. Besides, there were other considerations. The territories marked first for annexation in Pan-Germanism’s program for conquest were inhabited mainly by Catholics. Their incorporation was bound to strengthen the Reich’s Catholic forces. Could the Center regard such plans as unsound?
Only liberalism would have had the power to antagonize Pan-Germanism. But there were no more liberals left in Germany.
German Nationalism within an Etatist World
German nationalism differs from that of other European countries only in the fact of the people’s believing itself to be the strongest in Europe. Pan-Germanism and its heir, Nazism, are the application of general nationalist doctrines to the special case of the most populous and most powerful nation, which is, however, in the unlucky position of being dependent on imported foodstuffs and raw materials.
German nationalism is not the outcome of innate Teutonic brutality or rowdyism. It does not stem from blood or inheritance. It is not a return of the grandsons to the mentality of their Viking ancestors; the Germans are not the descendants of the Vikings. The forefathers of the Germans of our day were German tribes (who did not participate in the invasions which gave the last blow to ancient civilization), Slavonic and Baltic tribes of the northeast, and Celtic aborigines of the Alps. There is more non-German than German “blood” in the veins of present-day Germans. The Scandinavians, the genuine scions of the Vikings, have a different type of nationalism and apply different political methods from those of the Germans. No one can tell whether the Swedes, if they were as numerous as the Germans are today, would in our age of nationalism have adopted the methods of Nazism. Certainly the Germans, if they had not been more numerous than the Swedes, would not have succumbed to the mentality of world conquest.
The Germans invented neither interventionism nor etatism, with their inevitable result, nationalism. They imported these doctrines from abroad. They did not even invent the most conspicuous chauvinistic adornment of their own nationalism, the fable of Aryanism.
It is easy to expose the fundamental errors, fallacies, and paralogisms of German nationalism if one places oneself on the sound basis of scientific praxeology and economics and the practical philosophy of liberalism derived from them. But etatists are helpless when trying to refute the essential statements of Pan-Germanism and Nazism. The only objection they can consistently raise to the teachings of German nationalism is that the Germans were mistaken when they assumed they could conquer all other nations. And the only weapons they can use against Nazism are military ones.
It is inconsistent for an etatist to object to German nationalism on the ground that it means coercion. The state always means coercion. But while liberalism seeks to limit the application of coercion and compulsion to a narrow field, etatists do not recognize these restrictions. For etatism coercion is the essential means of political action, indeed the only means. It is considered proper for the government of Atlantis to use armed men—i.e., customs and immigration officers—in order to hinder the citizens of Thule from selling commodities on the markets of Atlantis or from working in the factories of Atlantis. But if this is so, then no effective logical argument can be brought forward against the plans of the government of Thule to defeat the armed forces of Atlantis and thus to prevent them from inflicting harm on the citizens of Thule. The only working argument for Atlantis is to repulse the aggressors.
We can see this essential matter clearly by comparing the social effects of private property and those of territorial sovereignty. Both private property and territorial sovereignty can be traced back to a point where somebody either appropriated ownerless goods or land or violently expropriated a predecessor whose title had been based on appropriation. To law and legality no other origin can be ascribed. It would be contradictory or nonsensical to assume a “legitimate” beginning. The factual state of affairs became a legitimate one by its acknowledgment by other people. Lawfulness consists in the general acceptance of the rule that no further arbitrary appropriations or violent expropriations shall be tolerated. For the sake of peace, security, and progress, it is agreed that in the future every change of property shall be the outcome of voluntary exchange by the parties directly concerned.
This, of course, involves the recognition of the appropriations and expropriations effected in the past. It means a declaration that the present state of distribution, although arbitrarily established, must be respected as the legal one. There was no alternative. To attempt to establish a fair order through the expropriation of all owners and an entirely new distribution would have resulted in endless wars.
Within the framework of a market society the fact that legal formalism can trace back every title either to arbitrary appropriation or to violent expropriation has lost its significance. Ownership in the market society is no longer linked up with the remote origin of private property. Those events in a far-distant past, hidden in the darkness of primitive mankind’s history, are no longer of any concern for our present life. For in an unhampered market society the consumers decide by their daily buying or not buying who should own and what he should own. The working of the market daily allots anew the ownership of the means of production to those who know how to use them best for the satisfaction of consumers. Only in a legal and formalistic sense can the owners be considered the successors of appropriators and expropriators. In fact, they are the mandataries of the consumers, bound by the laws of the market to serve the wants or whims of the consumers. The market is a democracy. Capitalism is the consummation of the self-determination of consumers. Mr. Ford is richer than Mr. X because he succeeded better in serving the consumers.
But all this is not true of territorial sovereignty. Here the fact that once in a remote past a Mongolian tribe occupied the country of Tibet still has its full importance. If there should one day be discovered in Tibet precious resources that could improve the lot of every human being it would depend on the Dalai Lama’s discretion whether the world should be allowed to make use of these treasures or not. His is the sovereignty of this country; his title, derived from a bloody conquest thousands of years ago, is still supreme and exclusive. This unsatisfactory state of things can be remedied only by violence, by war. Thus war is inescapable; it is the ultima ratio; it is the only means of solving such antagonisms—unless people have recourse to the principles of liberalism. It is precisely in order to make war unnecessary that liberalism recommends laissez faire and laissez passer, which would render political boundaries innocuous. A liberal government in Tibet would not hinder anyone from making the best use of the country’s resources. If you want to abolish war, you must eliminate its causes. What is needed is to restrict government activities to the preservation of life, health, and private property, and thereby to safeguard the working of the market. Sovereignty must not be used for inflicting harm on anyone, whether citizen or foreigner.
In the world of etatism sovereignty once more has disastrous implications. Every sovereign government has the power to use its apparatus of coercion and compulsion to the disadvantage of citizens and foreigners. The gendarmes of Atlantis apply coercion against the citizens of Thule. Thule orders its army to attack the forces of Atlantis. Each country calls the other aggressor. Atlantis says: “This is our country; we are free to act within its boundaries as we like; you, Thule, have no right to interfere.” Thule answers: “You have no title but earlier conquest; now you take advantage of your sovereignty to discriminate against our citizens; but we are strong enough to annul your title by superior force.”
Under such conditions there is but one means to avoid war: to be so strong that no one ventures aggression against you.
A Critique of German Nationalism
No further critique of nationalism is needed than that provided by liberalism, which has refuted in advance all its contentions. But the plans of German nationalism must be considered impracticable even if we omit any reference to the doctrines of liberalism. It is simply not true that the Germans are strong enough to conquer the world. It is moreover not true that they could enjoy the victory if they succeeded.
Germany built up a tremendous military machine while other nations foolishly neglected to organize their defenses. Nevertheless Germany is much too weak, even when supported by allies, to fight the world. The arrogance of the Pan-Germans and of the Nazis was founded upon the vain hope that they would be able to fight each foreign nation as an isolated enemy in a sequence of successful wars. They did not consider the possibility of a united front of the menaced nations.
Bismarck succeeded because he was able to fight first Austria and then France, while the rest of the world kept its neutrality. He was wise enough to realize that this was due to extraordinarily fortunate circumstances. He did not expect that fate would always favor his country in the same way, and he freely admitted that the cauchemar des coalitions1 disturbed his sleep. The Pan-Germans were less cautious. But in 1914 the coalition which Bismarck had feared became a fact. And so it is again today.
Germany did not learn the lesson taught by the first World War. We shall see later, in the chapter dealing with the role of anti-Semitism, what ruse the Nazis used to disguise the meaning of this lesson.
The Nazis are convinced that they must finally conquer because they have freed themselves from the chains of morality and humanity. Thus they argue: “If we conquer, this war will be the last one, and we will establish our hegemony forever. For when we are victorious we will exterminate our foes, so that a later war of revenge or a rebellion of the subdued will be impossible. But if the British and the Americans conquer, they will grant us a passable peace. As they feel themselves bound by moral law, divine commandments, and other nonsense, they will impose on us a new Versailles, maybe something better or something worse, at any rate not extermination, but a treaty which will enable us to renew the fighting after some lapse of time. Thus we will fight again and again, until one day we will have reached our goal, the radical extermination of our foes.”
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Nazis succeed and that they impose on the world what they call a German peace. Will the satisfactory functioning of the German state be possible in such a world, whose moral foundations are not mutual understanding but oppression? Where the principles of violence and tyranny are supreme, there will always be some groups eager to gain advantage from the subjugation of the rest of the nation. Perpetual wars will result among the Germans themselves. The subdued non-German slaves may profit from these troubles in order to free themselves and to exterminate their masters. The moral code of Nazism supported Hitler’s endeavors to smash by the weapons of his bands all opposition that his plans encountered in Germany. The Storm Troopers are proud of “battles” fought in beer saloons, assembly halls, and back streets,* of assassinations and felonious assaults. Whoever deemed himself strong enough would in the future too take recourse to such stratagems. The Nazi code results in endless civil wars.
The strong man, say the Nazis, is not only entitled to kill. He has the right to use fraud, lies, defamation, and forgery as legitimate weapons. Every means is right that serves the German nation. But who has to decide what is good for the German nation?
To this question the Nazi philosopher replies quite candidly: Right and noble are what I and my comrades deem such, are what the sound feelings of the people (das gesunde Volksempfinden) hold good, right, and fair. But whose feelings are sound and whose unsound? About that matter, say the Nazis, there can be no dispute between genuine Germans. But who is a genuine German? Whose thoughts and feelings are genuinely German and whose are not? Whose ideas are German ones—those of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller, or those of Hitler and Goebbels? Was Kant, who wanted eternal peace, genuinely German? Or are Spengler, Rosenberg, and Hitler, who call pacifism the meanest of all ideas, genuine Germans? There is dissension among men to whom the Nazis themselves do not deny the appellation German. The Nazis try to escape from this dilemma by admitting that there are some Germans who unfortunately have un-German ideas. But if a German does not always necessarily think and feel in a correct German way, who is to decide which German’s ideas are German and which un-German? It is obvious that the Nazis are moving in a circle. Since they abhor as manifestly un-German decision by majority vote, the conclusion is inescapable that according to them German is whatever those who have succeeded in civil war consider to be German.
Nazism and German Philosophy
It has been asserted again and again that Nazism is the logical outcome of German idealistic philosophy. This too is an error. German philosophical ideas played an important role in the evolution of Nazism. But the character and extent of these influences have been grossly misrepresented.
Kant’s moral teachings, and his concept of the categorical imperative, have nothing at all to do with Prussianism or with Nazism. The categorical imperative is not the philosophical equivalent of the regulations of the Prussian military code. It was not one of the merits of old Prussia that in a far-distant little town a man like Kant occupied a chair of philosophy. Frederick the Great did not care a whit for his great subject. He did not invite him to his philosophical breakfast table whose shining stars were the Frenchmen Voltaire and Alembert. The concern of his successor, Frederick William II, was to threaten Kant with dismissal if he were once more insolent enough to write about religious matters. Kant submitted. It is nonsensical to consider Kant a precursor of Nazism. Kant advocated eternal peace between nations. The Nazis praise war “as the eternal shape of higher human existence”* and their ideal is “to live always in a state of war.”†
The popularity of the opinion that German nationalism is the outcome of the ideas of German philosophy is mainly due to the authority of George Santayana. However, Santayana admits that what he calls “German philosophy” is “not identical with philosophy in Germany,” and that “the majority of intelligent Germans held views which German philosophy proper must entirely despise.”‡ On the other hand, Santayana declares that the first principle of German philosophy is “borrowed, indeed, from non-Germans.”§ Now, if this nefarious philosophy is neither of German origin nor the opinion held by the majority of intelligent Germans, Santayana’s statements shrink to the establishment of the fact that some German philosophers adhered to teachings first developed by non-Germans‖ and rejected by the majority of intelligent Germans, in which Santayana believes he has discovered the intellectual roots of Nazism. But he does not explain why these ideas, although foreign to Germany and contrary to the convictions of its majority, have begotten Nazism just in Germany and not in other countries.
Then, again, speaking of Fichte and Hegel he says: “Theirs is a revealed philosophy. It is the heir of Judaism. It could never have been founded by free observation of life and nature, like the philosophy of Greece or of the Renaissance. It is Protestant theology rationalized.”¶ Exactly the same could be said with no less justification of the philosophy of many British and American philosophers.
According to Santayana the main source of German nationalism is egotism. Egotism should “not be confused with the natural egoism or self-assertion proper to every living creature.” Egotism “assumes, if it does not assert, that the source of one’s being and power lies in oneself, that will and logic are by right omnipotent, and that nothing should control the mind or the conscience except the mind or the conscience itself.** But egotism, if we are prepared to use the term as defined above by Santayana, is the starting point of the utilitarian philosophy of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Bentham, and the two Mills, father and son. Yet, these British scholars did not derive from their first principle conclusions of a Nazi character. Theirs is a philosophy of liberalism, democratic government, social coöperation, good will and peace among nations.
Neither egoism nor egotism is the essential feature of German nationalism, but rather its ideas concerning the means through which the supreme good is to be attained. German nationalists are convinced that there is an insoluble conflict between the interests of the individual nations and those of a world-embracing community of all nations. This also is not an idea of German origin. It is a very old opinion. It prevailed up to the age of enlightenment, when the above-mentioned British philosophers developed the fundamentally new concept of the harmony of the—rightly understood—interests of all individuals and of all nations, peoples, and races. As late as 1764 no less a man than Voltaire could blithely say, in the article “Fatherland” of his Dictionary of Philosophy: “To be a good patriot means to wish that one’s own community shall acquire riches through trade and power through its arms. It is obvious that a country cannot profit but by the disadvantage of another country, and cannot be victorious but by making other peoples miserable.” This identification of the effects of peaceful human coöperation and the mutual exchange of commodities and services with the effects of war and destruction is the main vice of the Nazi doctrines. Nazism is neither simple egoism nor simple egotism; it is misguided egoism and egotism. It is a relapse into errors long ago refuted, a return to Mercantilism and a revival of ideas described as militarism by Herbert Spencer. It is, in short, the abandonment of the liberal philosophy, today generally despised as the philosophy of Manchester and laissez faire. And its ideas are, in this respect, unfortunately not limited to Germany.
The contribution of German philosophy to the ascendancy of Nazi ideas had a character very different from that generally ascribed to it. German philosophy always rejected the teachings of utilitarian ethics and the sociology of human coöperation. German political science never grasped the meaning of social coöperation and division of labor. With the exception of Feuerbach all German philosophers scorned utilitarianism as a mean system of ethics. For them the basis of ethics was intuition. A mystical voice in his soul makes man know what is right and what is wrong. The moral law is a restraint imposed upon man for the sake of other people’s or society’s interests. They did not realize that each individual serves his own—rightly understood, i.e., long-run—interests better by complying with the moral code and by displaying attitudes which further society than by indulging in activities detrimental to society. Thus they never understood the theory of the harmony of interests and the merely temporary character of the sacrifice which man makes in renouncing some immediate gain lest he endanger the existence of society. In their eyes there is an insoluble conflict between the individual’s aims and those of society. They did not see that the individual must practice morality for his own, not for somebody else’s or for the state’s or society’s, welfare. The ethics of the German philosophers are heteronomous. Some mystical entity orders man to behave morally, that is to renounce his selfishness for the advantage of a higher, nobler, and more powerful being, society.
Whoever does not understand that the moral laws serve the interests of all and that there is no insoluble conflict between private and social interests is also incapable of understanding that there is no insoluble conflict between the different collective entities. The logical outcome of his philosophy is the belief in an irremediable antagonism between the interest of every nation and the whole of human society. Man must choose between allegiance to his nation and allegiance to humanity. Whatever best serves the great international society is detrimental to every nation, and vice versa. But, adds the nationalist philosopher, only the nations are true collective entities, while the concept of a great human society is illusory. The concept of humanity was a devilish brew concocted by the Jewish founders of Christianity and of Western and Jewish utilitarian philosophy in order to debilitate the Aryan master race. The first principle of morality is to serve one’s own nation. Right is whatever best serves the German nation. This implies that right is whatever is detrimental to the races that stubbornly resist Germany’s aspirations for world domination.
This is very fragile reasoning. It is not difficult to expose its fallacies. The Nazi philosophers are fully aware that they are unable logically to refute the teachings of liberal philosophy, economics, and sociology. And thus they resort to polylogism.
The Nazis did not invent polylogism. They only developed their own brand.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century no one ventured to dispute the fact that the logical structure of mind is unchangeable and common to all human beings. All human interrelations are based on this assumption of a uniform logical structure. We can speak to each other only because we can appeal to something common to all of us, namely, the logical structure of reason. Some men can think deeper and more refined thoughts than others. There are men who unfortunately cannot grasp a process of inference in long chains of deductive reasoning. But as far as a man is able to think and to follow a process of discursive thought, he always clings to the same ultimate principles of reasoning that are applied by all other men. There are people who cannot count further than three; but their counting, as far as it goes, does not differ from that of Gauss or Laplace. No historian or traveler has ever brought us any knowledge of people for whom a and non-a were identical, or who could not grasp the difference between affirmation and negation. Daily, it is true, people violate logical principles in reasoning. But whoever examines their inferences competently can uncover their errors.
Because everyone takes these facts to be unquestionable, men enter into discussions; they speak to each other; they write letters and books; they try to prove or to disprove. Social and intellectual coöperation between men would be impossible if this were not so. Our minds cannot even consistently imagine a world peopled by men of different logical structures or a logical structure different from our own.
Yet, in the course of the nineteenth century this undeniable fact has been contested. Marx and the Marxians, foremost among them the “proletarian philosopher” Dietzgen, taught that thought is determined by the thinker’s class position. What thinking produces is not truth but “ideologies.” This word means, in the context of Marxian philosophy, a disguise of the selfish interest of the social class to which the thinking individual is attached. It is therefore useless to discuss anything with people of another social class. Ideologies do not need to be refuted by discursive reasoning; they must be unmasked by denouncing the class position, the social background, of their authors. Thus Marxians do not discuss the merits of physical theories; they merely uncover the “bourgeois” origin of the physicists.
The Marxians have resorted to polylogism because they could not refute by logical methods the theories developed by “bourgeois” economics, or the inferences drawn from these theories demonstrating the impracticability of socialism. As they could not rationally demonstrate the soundness of their own ideas or the unsoundness of their adversaries’ ideas, they have denounced the accepted logical methods. The success of this Marxian stratagem was unprecedented. It has rendered proof against any reasonable criticism all the absurdities of Marxian would-be economics and would-be sociology. Only by the logical tricks of polylogism could etatism gain a hold on the modern mind.
Polylogism is so inherently nonsensical that it cannot be carried consistently to its ultimate logical consequences. No Marxian was bold enough to draw all the conclusions that his own epistemological viewpoint would require. The principle of polylogism would lead to the inference that Marxian teachings also are not objectively true but are only “ideological” statements. But the Marxians deny it. They claim for their own doctrines the character of absolute truth. Thus Dietzgen teaches that “the ideas of proletarian logic are not party ideas but the outcome of logic pure and simple.”* The proletarian logic is not “ideology” but absolute logic. Present-day Marxians, who label their teachings the sociology of knowledge, give proof of the same inconsistency. One of their champions, Professor Mannheim, tries to demonstrate that there exists a group of men, the “unattached intellectuals,” who are equipped with the gift of grasping truth without falling prey to ideological errors.† Of course, Professor Mannheim is convinced that he is the foremost of these “unattached intellectuals.” You simply cannot refute him. If you disagree with him, you only prove thereby that you yourself are not one of this elite of “unattached intellectuals” and that your utterances are ideological nonsense.
The German nationalists had to face precisely the same problem as the Marxians. They also could neither demonstrate the correctness of their own statements nor disprove the theories of economics and praxeology. Thus they took shelter under the roof of polylogism, prepared for them by the Marxians. Of course, they concocted their own brand of polylogism. The logical structure of mind, they say, is different with different nations and races. Every race or nation has its own logic and therefore its own economics, mathematics, physics, and so on. But, no less inconsistently than Professor Mannheim, Professor Tirala, his counterpart as champion of Aryan epistemology, declares that the only true, correct, and perennial logic and science are those of the Aryans.* In the eyes of the Marxians Ricardo, Freud, Bergson, and Einstein are wrong because they are bourgeois; in the eyes of the Nazis they are wrong because they are Jews. One of the foremost goals of the Nazis is to free the Aryan soul from the pollution of the Western philosophies of Descartes, Hume, and John Stuart Mill. They are in search of an arteigen† German science, that is, of a science adequate to the racial character of the Germans.
We may reasonably assume as a hypothesis that man’s mental abilities are the outcome of his bodily features. Of course, we cannot demonstrate the correctness of this hypothesis, but neither is it possible to demonstrate the correctness of the opposite view as expressed in the theological hypothesis. We are forced to recognize that we do not know how out of physiological processes thoughts result. We have some vague notions of the detrimental effects produced by traumatic or other damage inflicted on certain bodily organs; we know that such damage may restrict or completely destroy the mental abilities and functions of men. But that is all. It would be no less than insolent humbug to assert that the natural sciences provide us with any information concerning the alleged diversity of the logical structure of mind. Polylogism cannot be derived from physiology or anatomy or any other of the natural sciences.
Neither Marxian nor Nazi polylogism ever went further than to declare that the logical structure of mind is different with various classes or races. They never ventured to demonstrate precisely in what the logic of the proletarians differs from the logic of the bourgeois, or in what the logic of the Aryans differs from the logic of the Jews or the British. It is not enough to reject wholesale the Ricardian theory of comparative cost or the Einstein theory of relativity by unmasking the alleged racial background of their authors. What is wanted is first to develop a system of Aryan logic different from non-Aryan logic. Then it would be necessary to examine point by point these two contested theories and to show where in their reasoning inferences are made which—although correct from the viewpoint of non-Aryan logic—are invalid from the viewpoint of Aryan logic. And, finally, it should be explained what kind of conclusions the replacement of the non-Aryan inferences by the correct Aryan inferences must lead to. But all this never has been and never can be ventured by anybody. The garrulous champion of racism and Aryan polylogism, Professor Tirala, does not say a word about the difference between Aryan and non-Aryan logic. Polylogism, whether Marxian or Aryan, or whatever, has never entered into details.
Polylogism has a peculiar method of dealing with dissenting views. If its supporters fail to unmask the background of an opponent, they simply brand him a traitor. Both Marxians and Nazis know only two categories of adversaries. The aliens—whether members of a nonproletarian class or of a non-Aryan race—are wrong because they are aliens; the opponents of proletarian or Aryan origin are wrong because they are traitors. Thus they lightly dispose of the unpleasant fact that there is dissension among the members of what they call their own class or race.
The Nazis contrast German economics with Jewish and Anglo-Saxon economics. But what they call German economics differs not at all from some trends in foreign economics. It developed out of the teachings of the Genevese Sismondi and of the French and British socialists. Some of the older representatives of this alleged German economics merely imported foreign thought into Germany. Frederick List brought the ideas of Alexander Hamilton to Germany, Hildebrand and Brentano brought the ideas of early British socialism. Arteigen German economics is almost identical with contemporary trends in other countries, e.g., with American Institutionalism.
On the other hand, what the Nazis call Western economics and therefore artfremd is to a great extent an achievement of men to whom even the Nazis cannot deny the term German. Nazi economists wasted much time in searching the genealogical tree of Carl Menger for Jewish ancestors; they did not succeed. It is nonsensical to explain the conflict between economic theory, on the one hand, and Institutionalism and historical empiricism, on the other hand, as a racial or national conflict.
Polylogism is not a philosophy or an epistemological theory. It is an attitude of narrow-minded fanatics, who cannot imagine that anybody could be more reasonable or more clever than they themselves. Nor is polylogism scientific. It is rather the replacement of reasoning and science by superstitions. It is the characteristic mentality of an age of chaos.
Pan-Germanism and Nazism
The essential ideas of Nazism were developed by the Pan-Germans and the socialists of the chair in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. The system was completed long before the outbreak of the first World War. Nothing was lacking and nothing but a new name was added later. The plans and policies of the Nazis differ from those of their predecessors in imperial Germany only in the fact that they are adapted to a different constellation of political conditions. The ultimate aim, German world hegemony, and the means for its attainment, conquest, have not changed.
One of the most curious facts of modern history is that the foreigners for whom this German nationalism was a menace did not sooner become aware of the danger. A few Englishmen saw through it. But they were laughed at. To Anglo-Saxon common sense the Nazi plans seemed too fantastic to be taken seriously. Englishmen, Americans, and Frenchmen seldom have a satisfactory command of the German language; they do not read German books and newspapers. English politicians who had visited Germany as tourists and had met German statesmen were regarded by their fellow countrymen as experts on German problems. Englishmen who had once attended a ball at the court in Berlin or dined in the officers’ mess of a Potsdam regiment of the Royal Guards came home with the glad tidings that Germany is peace loving and a good friend of Great Britain. Proud of their knowledge acquired on the spot, they arrogantly dismissed the holders of dissenting views as “theorists and pedantic doctrinaires.”
King Edward VII, himself the son of a German father and of a mother whose German family did not assimilate itself to British life, was highly suspicious of the challenging attitudes of his nephew, William II. It was to the King’s credit that Great Britain, almost too late, turned toward a policy of defense and of coöperation with France and Russia. But even then the British did not realize that not the Kaiser alone but almost the whole German nation was eager for conquest. President Wilson labored under the same mistake. He too believed that the court and the Junkers were the instigators of the aggressive policy and that the people were peace loving.
Similar errors prevail today. Misled by Marxian prejudices, people cling to the opinion that the Nazis are a comparatively small group which has, through fraud and violence, imposed its yoke on the reluctant masses. They do not understand that the internal struggles which shook Germany were disputes among people who were unanimous in regard to the ultimate ends of German foreign policy. Rathenau, whom the Nazis assassinated, was one of the outstanding literary champions both of German socialism and of German nationalism. Stresemann, whom the Nazis disparaged as pro-Western, was in the years of the first World War one of the most radical advocates of the so-called German peace—i.e., the annexation of huge territories at both western and eastern borders of the Reich. His Locarno policy was a make-shift devised to give Germany a free hand in the East. If the communists had seized power in Germany, they would not have adopted a less aggressive policy than the Nazis did. Strasser, Rauschning, and Hugenberg were personal rivals of Hitler, not opponents of German nationalism.
The Social Democrats in Imperial Germany
Knowledge concerning Germany and the evolution and present-day actions of Nazism is obscured by the legends about the German Social Democrats.
The older legend, developed before 1914, runs like this: The German bourgeoisie have betrayed freedom to German militarism. They have taken refuge with the imperial government in order to preserve, through the protection of the Prussian Army, their position as an exploiting class, which was menaced by the fair claims of labor. But the cause of democracy and freedom, which the bourgeois have deserted, has found new advocates in the proletarians. The Social Democrats are gallantly fighting Prussian militarism. The Emperor and his aristocratic officers are eager to preserve feudalism. The bankers and industrialists, who profit from armaments, have hired corrupt writers in order to spread a nationalist ideology and to make the world believe that Germany is united in nationalism. But the proletarians cannot be deceived by the nationalist hirelings of big business. Thanks to the education that they got from the Social Democrats they see through this fraud. Millions vote the socialist ticket and return to Parliament members fearlessly opposing militarism. The Kaiser and his generals arm for war, but they fail to take account of the people’s strength and resolution. There are the 110 socialist members of Parliament.* Behind them are millions of workers organized in the trade-unions who vote for the Social Democrats, in addition to other voters, who—although not registered members of the party—also vote its ticket. They all combat nationalism. They stand with the (second) International Working Men’s Association, and are firmly resolved to oppose war at all costs. These truly democratic and pacifist men can be relied upon without hesitation. They, the workers, are the deciding factor, not the exploiters and parasites, the industrialists and Junkers.
The personalities of the Social Democratic leaders were well known all over the world. The public listened whenever they addressed the Reichstag or party congresses. Their books were translated into nearly every language and read everywhere. Led by such men, mankind seemed to be marching toward a better future.
Legends die hard. They blind the eyes and close the mind against criticism or experience. It was in vain that Robert Michels* and Charles Andler† tried to give a more realistic picture of the German Social Democrats. Not even the later events of the first World War shattered these illusions. To the old legend, instead, a new one was added.
This new legend goes: Before the outbreak of the first World War the party’s great old men, Bebel and Liebknecht, unfortunately died. Their successors, mainly intellectuals and other professional politicians of nonproletarian background, betrayed the party’s principles. They coöperated with the Kaiser’s policy of aggression. But the workers, who in their capacity as proletarians naturally and necessarily were socialist, democratic, revolutionary, and internationally minded, deserted these traitors and replaced them by new leaders, old Liebknecht’s son Karl and Rosa Luxemburg. The workers, not their old dishonest leaders, made the Revolution of 1918 and dethroned the Kaiser and other German princes. But the capitalists and the Junkers did not give up the game. The treacherous party leaders Noske, Ebert, and Scheidemann aided them. For fourteen long years the workers fought a life-and-death struggle for democracy and freedom. But, again and again betrayed by their own leaders, they were doomed to fail. The capitalists concocted a satanic scheme which finally brought them victory. Their armed gangs seized power, and now Adolf Hitler, the puppet of big business and finance, rules the country. But the masses despise this wretched hireling. They yield unwillingly to the terrorism which has overpowered them, and they gallantly prepare the new decisive rebellion. The day of victory for genuine proletarian communism, the day of liberation, is already dawning.
Every word of these legends distorts the truth.
Marxism and the Labor Movement
Karl Marx turned to socialism at a time when he did not yet know economics and because he did not know it. Later, when the failure of the Revolution of 1848 and 1849 forced him to flee Germany, he went to London. There, in the reading room of the British Museum, he discovered in the ’fifties not, as he boasted, the laws of capitalist evolution, but the writings of British political economy, the reports published by the British Government, and the pamphlets in which earlier British socialists used the theory of value as expounded by classical economics for a moral justification of labor’s claims. These were the materials out of which Marx built his “economic foundations” of socialism.
Before he moved to London Marx had quite naïvely advocated a program of interventionism. In the Communist Manifesto in 1848 he expounded ten measures for imminent action. These points, which are described as “pretty generally applicable in the most advanced countries,” are defined as “despotic inroads on the rights of property and on the conditions of bourgeois methods of production.” Marx and Engels characterize them as “measures, economically unsatisfactory and untenable, but which in the course of events outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order and are indispensable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the whole mode of production.”* Eight of these ten points have been executed by the German Nazis with a radicalism that would have delighted Marx. The two remaining suggestions (namely, expropriation of private property in land and dedication of all rents of land to public expenditure, and abolition of all right of inheritance) have not yet been fully adopted by the Nazis. However, their methods of taxation, their agricultural planning, and their policies concerning rent restriction are daily approaching the goals determined by Marx. The authors of the Communist Manifesto aimed at a step-by-step realization of socialism by measures of social reform. They were thus recommending procedures which Marx and the Marxians in later years branded as socio-reformist fraud.
In London, in the ’fifties, Marx learned very different ideas. The study of British political economy taught him that such acts of intervention in the operation of the market would not serve their purpose. From then on he dismissed such acts as “petty-bourgeois nonsense” which stemmed from ignorance of the laws of capitalist evolution. Class-conscious proletarians are not to base their hopes on such reforms. They are not to hinder the evolution of capitalism as the narrow-minded petty bourgeois want to. The proletarians, on the contrary, should hail every step of progress in the capitalist system of production. For socialism will not replace capitalism until capitalism has reached its full maturity, the highest stage of its own evolution. “No social system ever disappears before all the productive forces are developed for the development of which it is broad enough, and new higher methods of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have been hatched out in the womb of the previous society.”* Therefore there is but one road toward the collapse of capitalism—i.e., the progressive evolution of capitalism itself. Socialization through the expropriation of capitalists is a process “which executes itself through the operation of the inherent laws of capitalist production.” Then “the knell of capitalistic private property sounds.”† Socialism dawns and “ends . . . the primeval history of human society.”‡
From this viewpoint it is not only the endeavors of social reformers eager to restrain, to regulate, and to improve capitalism that must be deemed vain. No less contrary to purpose appear the plans of the workers themselves to raise wage rates and their standard of living, through unionization and through strikes, within the framework of capitalism. “The very development of modern industry must progressively turn the scales in favor of the capitalist against the workingman,” and “consequently the general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise but to sink the average standard of wages.” Such being the tendency of things within the capitalist system, the most that trade-unionism can attempt is to make “the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement.” Trade-unions ought to understand that and to change their policies entirely. “Instead of the conservative motto: A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work, they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: Abolition of the wages system!”*
These Marxian ideas might impress some Hegelians steeped in dialectics. Such doctrinaires were prepared to believe that capitalist production begets “with the inexorability of a law of nature its own negation” as “negation of negation,”† and to wait until, “with the change of the economic basis,” the “whole immense superstructure will have, more or less rapidly, accomplished its revolution.”‡ A political movement for the seizure of power, as Marx envisaged it, could not be built up on such beliefs. Workers could not be made supporters of them. It was hopeless to look for coöperation on the ground of such views from the labor movement, which did not have to be inaugurated but was already in existence. This labor movement was essentially a trade-union movement. Fully impregnated with ideas branded as petty bourgeois by Marx, unionized labor sought higher wage rates and fewer hours of work; it demanded labor legislation, price control of consumer’s goods, and rent restriction. The workers sympathized not with Marxian teachings and the recipes derived from them but with the program of the interventionists and the social reformers. They were not prepared to renounce their plans and wait quietly for the far-distant day when capitalism was bound to turn into socialism. These workers were pleased when the Marxian propagandists explained to them that the inevitable laws of social evolution had destined them for greater things, that they were chosen to replace the rotten parasites of capitalist society, that the future was theirs. But they wanted to live for their own day, not for a distant future, and they asked for an immediate payment on account of their future inheritance.
The Marxians had to choose between a rigid uncompromising adherence to their master’s teachings and an accommodating adaptation to the point of view of the workers, who could provide them with honors, power, influence and, last but not least, with a nice income. They could not resist the latter temptation, and yielded. They kept on discussing Marxian dialectics in the midst of their own circles; Marxism, moreover, had an esoteric character. But out in the open they talked and wrote in a different way. They headed the labor movement for which wage raises, labor legislation, and social insurance provisions were of greater importance than sophisticated discussions concerning “the riddle of the average rate of profit.” They organized consumer’s coöperatives and housing societies; they backed all the anticapitalist policies which they stigmatized in their Marxian writings as petty-bourgeois issues. They did everything that their Marxian theories denounced as nonsense, and they were prepared to sacrifice all their principles and convictions if some gain at the next election campaign could be expected from such a sacrifice. They were implacable doctrinaires in their esoteric books and un-principled opportunists in their political activities.
The German Social Democrats developed this double-dealing into a perfect system. There was on the one side the very narrow circle of initiated Marxians, whose task it was to watch over the purity of the orthodox creed and to justify the party’s political actions, incompatible with these creeds, by some paralogisms and fallacious inferences. After the death of Marx, Engels was the authentic interpreter of Marxian thought. With the death of Engels, Kautsky inherited this authority. He who deviated an inch from the correct dogma had to recant submissively or face pitiless exclusion from the party’s ranks. For all those who did not live on their own funds such an exclusion meant the loss of the source of income. On the other hand, there was the huge, daily increasing body of party bureaucrats, busy with the political activities of the labor movement. For these men the Marxian phraseology was only an adornment to their propaganda. They did not care a whit for historical materialism or for the theory of value. They were interventionists and reformers. They did whatever would make them popular with the masses, their employers. This opportunism was extremely successful. Membership figures and contributions to the party, its trade unions, coöperatives, and other associations increased steadily. The party became a powerful body with a large budget and thousands of employees. It controlled newspapers, publishing houses, printing offices, assembly halls, boarding houses, coöperatives, and plants to supply the needs of the coöperatives. It ran a school for the education of the rising generation of party executives. It was the most important agency in the Reich’s political structure, and was paramount in the Second International Working Men’s Association.
It was a serious mistake not to perceive this dualism, which housed under the same roof two radically different principles and tendencies, incompatible and incapable of being welded together. For it was the most characteristic feature of the German Social Democratic party and of all parties formed abroad after its model. The very small groups of zealous Marxians—probably never more than a few hundred persons in the whole Reich—were completely segregated from the rest of the party membership. They communicated with their foreign friends, especially with the Austrian Marxians (the “Austro-Marxian doctrinaires”), the exiled Russian revolutionaries, and with some Italian groups. In the Anglo-Saxon countries Marxism in those days was practically unknown. With the daily political activities of the party these orthodox Marxians had little in common. Their points of view and their feelings were strange, even disgusting, not only to the masses but also to many party bureaucrats. The millions voting the Social Democratic ticket paid no attention to these endless theoretical discussions concerning the concentration of capital, the collapse of capitalism, finance capital and imperialism, and the relations between Marxian materialism and Kantian criticism. They tolerated this pedantic clan because they saw that they impressed and frightened the “bourgeois” world of statesmen, entrepreneurs, and clergymen, and that the government-appointed university professors, that German Brahmin caste, took them seriously and wrote voluminous works about Marxism. But they went their own way and let the learned doctors go theirs.
Much has been said concerning the alleged fundamental difference between the German labor movement and the British. But it is not recognized that a great many of these differences were of an accidental and external character only. Both labor parties desired socialism; both wanted to attain socialism gradually by reforms within the framework of capitalist society. Both labor movements were essentially trade-union movements. For German labor in the imperial Reich Marxism was only an ornament. The Marxians were a small group of literati.
The antagonism between the Marxian philosophy and that of labor organized in the Social Democratic party and its affiliated trade-unions became crucial the instant the party had to face new problems. The artificial compromise between Marxism and labor interventionism broke down when the conflict between doctrine and policies spread into fields which up to that moment had had no practical significance. The war put the party’s alleged internationalism to the test, as the events of the postwar period did its alleged democratic tendencies and its program of socialization.
The German Workers and the German State
For an understanding of the role played by the Social Democratic labor movement within imperial Germany, a correct conception of the essential features of trade-unionism and its methods is indispensable. The problem is usually dealt with from the viewpoint of the right of workers to associate with one another. But this is not at all the question. No liberal government has ever denied anybody the right to form associations. Furthermore, it does not matter whether the laws grant or do not grant the employees and wage earners the right to break contracts ad libitum. For even if the workers are legally liable to indemnify the employer concerned, practical expediency renders the claims of the employer worthless.
The chief method which trade-unions can and do apply for the attainment of their aims—more favorable terms for labor—is the strike. At this point of our inquiry we do not need to discuss again whether trade-unions can ever succeed in raising wages, lastingly and for all workers, above the rates fixed by the unhampered market; we need merely mention the fact that economic theory—both the old classic theory, including its Marxian wing, and the modern, including its socialist wing—categorically answers this question in the negative.* We are here concerned only with the problem of what kind of weapon trade-unions employ in their dealings with employers. The fact is that all their collective bargaining is conducted under the threat of a suspension of labor. Union spokesmen argue that a yellow or company union is a spurious union, because it objects to recourse to strike. If the labor unions were not to threaten the employer with a strike, their collective bargaining would succeed no better than the individual bargaining of each worker. But a strike may be frustrated by the refusal of some of the workers to join it, or the entrepreneur’s employing strikebreakers. The trade-unions use intimidation and coercion against everyone who tries to oppose the strikers. They resort to acts of violence against the persons and property of both strikebreakers and entrepreneurs or executives who try to employ strikebreakers. In the course of the nineteenth century the workers of all countries achieved this privilege, not so much by explicit legislative sanction as by the accommodating attitudes of the police and the courts. Public opinion has espoused the unions’ cause. It has approved strikes, stigmatized strikebreakers as treacherous scoundrels, approved the punishment inflicted by organized labor on reluctant employers and on strikebreakers, and reacted strongly when the authorities tried to interfere to protect the assaulted. A man who ventures to oppose trade-unions has been practically an outlaw, to whom the protection of the government is denied. A law of custom has been firmly established that entitles trade-unions to resort to coercion and violence.
This resignation on the part of the governments has been less conspicuous in the Anglo-Saxon countries, where custom always allowed a wider field for the individual’s redress of his private grievances, than in Prussia and the rest of Germany, where the police were almighty and accustomed to interfere in every sphere of life. Woe to anybody who in the realm of the Hohenzollerns was found guilty of the slightest in-fraction of one of the innumerable decrees and “verboten”! The police were busy interfering, and the courts pronounced draconic sentences. Only three kinds of infringements were tolerated. Dueling, although prohibited by the penal code, was practically free, within certain limits, to commissioned officers, university students, and men of that social rank. The police also connived when drunken members of smart university students’ clubs kicked up a row, disturbed quiet people, and took their pleasures in other kinds of disorderly conduct. Of incomparably greater importance, however, was the indulgence granted to the excesses usually connected with strikes. Within a certain sphere the violent action of strikers was tolerated.
It is in the nature of every application of violence that it tends toward a transgression of the limit within which it is tolerated and viewed as legitimate. Even the best discipline cannot always prevent police officers from striking harder than circumstances require, or prison wardens from inflicting brutalities on inmates. Only formalists, cut off from reality, fall into the illusion that fighting soldiers can be induced to observe the rules of warfare strictly. Even if the field customarily assigned for the violent action of trade unions had been limited in a more precise manner, transgressions would have occurred. The attempt to put boundaries around this special privilege has led again and again to conflicts between officials and strikers. And because the authorities time and again could not help interfering, sometimes even with the use of weapons, the illusions spread that the government was assisting the employers. For that reason the public’s attention has been diverted from the fact that employers and strikebreakers were within broad limits at the mercy of the strikers. Wherever there was a strike, there was within certain limits no longer any government protection for the opponents of the trade unions. Thus the unions became in effect a public agency entitled to use violence to enforce their ends, as were later the pogrom gangs in Czarist Russia and the Storm Troopers in Nazi Germany.
That the German Government granted these privileges to the trade unions became of the highest importance in the course of German affairs. Thus from the 1870’s on successful strikes became possible. There had been some strikes, it is true, before then in Prussia. But at that time conditions were different. The employers could not find strikebreakers in the neighborhood of plants located in small places; and the backward state of transportation facilities, the laws restricting freedom of migration within the country, and lack of information about labor market conditions in other districts prevented them from hiring workers from distant points. When these circumstances changed, strikes could only be successful when supported by threats, violence, and intimidation.
The imperial government never seriously considered altering its pro-union policy. In 1899, seemingly yielding to the demands of the employers and nonunionized workers, it brought up in the Reichstag a bill for the protection of nonstrikers. This was merely a deception. For the lack of protection of those ready to work was not due to the inadequacy or defectiveness of the existing penal code but to the purposeful neglect of the valid laws on the part of the police and other authorities. Neither the laws nor the rulings of the courts played any real role in this matter. As the police did not interfere and the state’s attorneys did not prosecute, the laws were not enforced and the tribunals had no opportunity to pass judgment. Only when the trade unions transgressed the actual limits drawn by the police could a case be brought to the tribunals. The government was firmly resolved not to change this state of affairs. It was not eager to induce Parliament to agree to the proposed bill; and Parliament in fact rejected it. If the government had taken the bill seriously, Parliament would have proceeded quite differently. The German Government knew very well how to make the Reichstag yield to its wishes.
The outstanding fact in modern German history was the imperial government’s entering into a virtual alliance and factual political coöperation with all groups hostile to capitalism, free trade, and an unhampered market economy. Hohenzollern militarism tried to fight “bourgeois” liberalism and “plutocratic” parliamentarism by associating with the pressure groups of labor, farming, and small business. It aimed at substituting, for what it called a system of unfair exploitation, government interference with business and, at a later stage, all-round national planning.
The ideological and speculative foundations of this system were laid down by the socialists of the chair,1 a group of professors monopolizing the departments of the social sciences at the German universities. These men, whose tenets were almost identical with those later held by the British Fabians and the American Institutionalists, acted, as it were, as the brain trust of the government. The system itself was called by its supporters Sozialpolitik, or das soziale Königtum der Hohenzollern. Neither expression lends itself to a literal translation. Perhaps they should be translated as New Deal; for their main features—labor legislation, social security, endeavors to raise the price of agricultural products, encouragement of coöperatives, a sympathetic attitude toward trade-unionism, restrictions imposed on stock exchange transactions, heavy taxation of corporations—corresponded to the American policy inaugurated in 1933.*
The new policy was inaugurated at the end of the ’seventies and was solemnly advertised in an imperial message of November 17, 1881. It was Bismarck’s aim to outdo the Social Democrats in measures beneficial to labor interests. His old-fashioned autocratic inclinations pushed him into a hopeless fight against the Social Democratic leaders. His successors dropped the antisocialist laws but unswervingly continued the Sozialpolitik. It was with regard to British policies that Sidney Webb said, as early as in 1889: “It may now fairly be claimed that the socialist philosophy of today is but the conscious and explicit assertion of principles of social organization which have been already in great part unconsciously adopted. The economic history of the century is an almost continuous record of the progress of socialism.”† However, in those years German Sozialpolitik was far ahead of contemporary British reformism.
The German socialists of the chair gloried in the achievements of their country’s social progress. They prided themselves on the fact that Germany was paramount in pro-labor policies. It escaped their notice that Germany could eclipse Great Britain in matters of social legislation and trade-unionism only because its protective tariff and its cartels raised domestic prices above world market prices, while the English still clung to free trade. German real wages did not rise more than the productivity of labor. Neither the government’s Sozialpolitik nor trade-union activities but the evolution of capitalist enterprise caused the improvement in the general standard of living. It was no merit of the government or of trade unions that the entrepreneurs perfected the methods of production and filled the market with more and better goods. The German worker could consume more goods than his father and grandfather, because, thanks to the new methods of production, his work was more efficient and produced more and better commodities. But in the eyes of the professors the fall of mortality figures and the rise in per capita consumption were a proof of the blessings of the Hohenzollern system. They attributed the increase of exports to the fact that Germany was now one of the most powerful nations, and that the imperial navy and army made other nations tremble before it. Public opinion was fully convinced that but for the government’s interference the workers would be no better off than they had been fifty or a hundred years earlier.
Of course, the workers were prepared to believe that the government was slow to act and that its pro-labor policy could proceed much more quickly. They found in every new measure only an incentive to ask for more. Yet while criticizing the government for its tardiness they did not disapprove of the attitude of the Social Democrat members of the Reichstag who voted against all bills proposed by the government and supported by the “bourgeois” members. The workers agreed both with the Social Democrats, who called every new pro-labor measure an insolent fraud imposed by the bourgeoisie on labor, and with the government-appointed professors, who lauded the same measures as the most beneficial achievements of German Kultur. They were delighted with the steady rise in their standard of living, which they too attributed not to the working of capitalism but to the activities both of trade unions and of the government. They ventured no attempts at upheaval. They liked the revolutionary phraseology of the Social Democrats because it frightened the capitalists. But the glory and the splendor of the Reich fascinated them. They were loyal citizens of the Reich, his Majesty’s loyal opposition.
This allegiance was so firm and unshakable that it stood the test of the laws against the Social Democrats. These laws were but one link in the long series of blunders committed by Bismarck in his domestic policies. Like Metternich, Bismarck was fully convinced that ideas could be successfully defeated by policemen. But the results obtained were contrary to his intentions. The Social Democrats emerged from the trial of these years no less invigorated than in the ’seventies the Center party and the Catholic Church had emerged from the Kulturkampf, the great anti-Catholic campaign. In the twelve years the antisocialist laws were in force (1878–90) the socialist votes increased considerably. The laws touched only those socialists who took an active part in politics. They did not seriously discommode the trade unions and the masses voting for the socialists. Precisely in those years the government’s pro-labor policy made its greatest steps forward; the government wanted to surpass the socialists. The workers realized that the state was becoming more and more their own state and that it was increasingly backing their fight against the employers; the government-appointed factory inspectors were the living personification of this coöperation. The workers had no reason to be hostile to this state merely because it annoyed the party leaders.* The individual party member in the years of the antisocialist laws punctually and regularly received newspapers and pamphlets smuggled in from Switzerland, and read the Reichstag speeches of the socialist deputies. He was a loyal “revolutionary” and a—somewhat critical and sophisticated—monarchist. Marx and the Kaiser both were mistaken in their belief that these quiet fellows thirsted for the princes’ blood. But Lassalle had been right when he delineated the future coöperation of the Hohenzollern state and the socialist proletarians.
The unconditional loyalty of the proletarians made the army an accommodating tool in the hands of its commanders. Liberalism had shaken the foundations of Prussian absolutism. In the days of its supremacy the king and his aides no longer trusted the bulk of their army; they knew that this army could not be used against the domestic foe or for wars of undisguised aggression. Socialism and interventionism, the Kaiser’s New Deal, had restored the loyalty of the armed forces; now they could be used for any purpose. The men responsible for the new trend in politics, the statesmen and professors, were fully aware of this. It was just because they strove toward this end that they supported the inauguration of the Sozialpolitik and asked for its intensification. The officers of the army were convinced that the Social Democratic soldiers were completely reliable men. The officers disapproved, therefore, of the Kaiser’s contemptuous disparagement of the Social Democrats just as in earlier years they had disapproved of Bismarck’s measures against them (as well as of his anti-Catholic policy). They detested the defiant speeches of the socialist deputies but trusted the Social Democratic soldier. They themselves hated the wealthy entrepreneurs no less than the workers did. In the days of the antisocialist campaign, in 1889, their lyrical spokesman, Detlev von Liliencron, admitted it frankly.* Junkers and officers were firmly welded into a virtual coalition with labor by the instrument that forges the most solid unions, deadly hatred. When the Social Democrats paraded in the streets, the officers—in plain clothes—looked upon the marching columns and smilingly commented: “We ourselves have taught these boys how to march properly; they will do a very good job under our orders when Mobilization day comes.” Later events proved the correctness of these expectations.
On August 3, 1914, Reich’s Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg received the chairmen of all parliamentary party groups at a conference. Comrade Scheidemann reports: “The Chancellor shook hands with each of us. It seemed to me that he shook my hand in a surprising way, firmly and long, and when he then said, How do you do, Mr. Scheidemann, I felt as if he were giving me to understand: Well, now I hope our traditional squabble is finished for some time.”† Such were the views of the party’s great popular leader on the fifty years of antagonism. Not a historical struggle of the class-conscious proletariat against exploiters and imperialistic warmongers, as the official speakers at party meetings used to declare, but merely a squabble that could be ended by a handshake.
The Social Democrats within the German Caste System
Capitalism improved the social and economic position of hired labor. From year to year the number of hands employed in German industries increased. From year to year the incomes and living standard of labor went up. The workers were more or less contented. Of course, they envied the wealth of the upper middle classes (but not that of the princes and the aristocrats) and they were eager to get more. But looking back to the conditions under which their parents had lived and remembering the experiences of their own childhood, they had to confess that things were after all not so bad. Germany was prosperous and the working masses shared its prosperity.
There was still much poverty left in Germany. It could hardly be otherwise in a country in which public opinion, government, and almost all political parties were eager to put obstacles in the way of capitalism. The standards of living were unsatisfactory in eastern agriculture, in coal mining, and in some branches of production which failed to adjust their methods to changed conditions. But those workers who were not themselves involved were not much concerned about the lot of their less fortunate fellow workers. The concept of class solidarity was one of the Marxian illusions.
Yet one thing vexed the more prosperous workers just because they were prosperous. In their capacity as wage earners they had no definite standing in German society. Their new caste lacked recognition by the old established castes. The petty bourgeois, the small traders, shopkeepers, and craftsmen, and the numerous class of people holding minor offices in the service of the Reich, of the individual states, and of the municipalities turned up their noses at them. The incomes of these petty bourgeois were no higher than the workers’; their jobs indeed were often more tedious than the average worker’s; but they were haughty and priggish and disdained the wage earners. They were not prepared to admit workers to their bowling circles, to permit them to dance with their daughters, or to meet them socially. Worst of all, the burghers would not let the workers join their ex-warriors’ associations.* On Sundays and on state occasions these ex-warriors, clad in correct black frock coats, with tall silk hats and black ties, paraded gravely through the main streets, strictly observing the rules of military marching. It distressed the workers very much that they could not participate. They felt ashamed and humiliated.
For such grievances the Social Democratic organization provided an efficacious remedy. The Social Democrats gave the workers bowling clubs, dances, and outdoor gatherings of their own. There were associations of class-conscious proletarian canary breeders, philatelists, chess-players, friends of Esperanto, and so on. There were independent workers’ athletics, with labor championships. And there were proletarian parades with bands and flags. There were countless committees and conferences; there were chairmen and deputy chairmen, honorary secretaries, honorary treasurers, committee members, shop stewards, wardens, and other party officers. The workers lost their feeling of inferiority and sense of loneliness. They were no longer society’s stepchildren; they were firmly integrated into a large community; they were important people burdened with responsibilities and duties. And their official speakers, spectacled scholars with academic degrees, convinced them that they were not only as good but better than the petty bourgeois, a class that was in any event doomed to disappear.
What the Social Democrats really achieved was not to implant a revolutionary spirit in the masses but on the contrary to reconcile them to the German caste system. The workers got a status within the established order of the German clan system; they became a caste by themselves, with all the narrow-mindedness and all the prejudices of a social set. They did not cease to fight for higher wages, shorter hours of work, and lower prices for cereals, but they were no less loyal citizens than the members of those other pressure groups, the farmers and the artisans.
It was one of the paradoxical phenomena of imperial Germany that the Social Democratic workers used to talk sedition in public while remaining in their hearts perfectly loyal, and that the upper middle class and the professions, although flamboyantly advertising their loyalty to king and fatherland, grumbled in private. One of the main objects of their worry was their relation to the army.
The Marxian legends, which have misrepresented every angle of German life, have distorted this too. The bourgeoisie, they say, surrendered to militarism because they were anxious to obtain commissions in the reserve of the armed forces. Not to be an officer in the reserve, it is true, was a serious blow to the honor and reputation of a man of the upper middle class. The civil servants, the professional men, the entrepreneurs, and the business executives who did not achieve this were seriously handicapped in their careers and business activities. But the attainment and maintenance of a commission in the reserve also brought their troubles. It was not the fact that an officer of the reserve was forbidden to be connected in any way with opposition parties that made them complain. The judges and the civil servants were in any case members of the parties backing the government; if they had not been they would never have received their appointments. The entrepreneurs and the business executives were, by the working of the interventionist system, forced to be politically neutral or to join one of the pro-government parties. But there were other difficulties.
Governed by Junker prejudices, the army required that in his private life and business an officer of the reserve should strictly comply with its own code of gentlemanly conduct. It was not officer-like for an entrepreneur or an executive to do any manual work in his plant, even merely to show a worker how he should perform his task. The son of an entrepreneur who worked for some time at a machine, in order to become familiar with the business, was not eligible for a commission. Neither was the owner of a big store who occasionally looked after a customer. A lieutenant of the reserve who happened to be an architect of world-wide fame was once reprimanded by his colonel because one day, when supervising the redecoration of the reception room in the town hall of a large city, he had taken off his jacket and personally hung an old painting on the wall. There were men who were distressed because they did not obtain commissions in the reserve, and there were officers who secretly boiled with rage because of the attitude of their superiors. It was, in brief, not a pleasure for a commoner to be an officer of the reserve in the Prussian Army.
The lower classes, of course, were not familiar with these tribulations of the officers of the reserve. They saw only the insolence with which these men overcompensated their feelings of inferiority. But they observed too that the officers—both commissioned and non-commissioned—were eager to harass the so-called one-year men, i.e., the high-school graduates who had only one year to serve. They exulted when the officers called the son of their boss names and shouted that in the ranks of the army neither education nor wealth nor one’s father’s big business made any difference.
The social life of the upper middle class was poisoned by the continuous friction between the pretensions of the noble officers and the bourgeoisie. But the civilians were helpless. They had been defeated in their struggle for a reorganization of Germany.2
The Social Democrats and War
Marx was not a pacifist. He was a revolutionary. He scorned the wars of emperors and kings, but he worked for the great civil war, in which the united proletarians of the world should fight the exploiters. Like all other utopians of the same brand, he was convinced that this war would be the last one. When the proletarians had conquered and established their everlasting regime, nobody would be in a position to deprive them of the fruits of their victory. In this last war Engels assigned to himself the role of commander in chief. He studied strategy in order to be equal to his task when the day should dawn.
This idea of the coöperation of all proletarians in the last struggle for liberation led to the foundation of the First International Working Men’s Association in 1864. This association was hardly more than a round table of doctrinaires. It never entered the field of political action. Its disappearance from the scene attracted as little notice as had its previous existence.
In 1870 two of the five Social Democratic members of the North German Parliament, Bebel and Liebknecht, opposed the war with France. Their attitudes, as the French socialist Hervé observed, were “personal gestures which had no consequences and did not meet with any response.” The two nations, the Germans and the French, says Hervé, “were heart and soul on the battlefields. The Internationalists of Paris were the most fanatical supporters of the war to the knife. . . . The Franco-German War was the moral failure of the International.”*
The Second International, founded in Paris in 1889, was an achievement of one of the many international congresses held in cities blessed by a world’s fair. In the twenty-five years which had passed since the foundation of the First International the concept of a great world revolution had lost a good deal of its attraction. The new organization’s purpose could no longer be presented as coördinating the military operations of the proletarian armies of various countries. Another object had to be found for its activities. This was rather difficult. The labor parties had begun to play a very important role in the domestic policies of their countries. They were dealing with innumerable problems of interventionism and economic nationalism, and were not prepared to submit their own political tactics to the supervision of foreigners. There were many serious problems in which the conflict of interests between the proletarians of different countries became apparent. It was not always feasible to evade discussion of such annoying matters. Sometimes even immigration barriers had to be discussed; the result was a violent clash of dissenting views and a scandalous exposure of the Marxian dogma that there is an unshakable solidarity among proletarian interests all over the world. The Marxian pundits had some difficulty in tolerably concealing the fissures that had become visible.
But one neutral and innocuous subject could be found for the agenda of the International’s meetings: peace. The discussion soon made plain how vain the Marxian catchwords were. At the Paris congress Frederick Engels declared that it was the duty of the proletarians to prevent war at all costs until they themselves had seized power in the most important countries.* The International discussed various measures in the light of this principle: the general strike, general refusal of military service, railroad sabotage, and so on. But it was impossible not to touch on the problem of whether destroying one’s own country’s defense system would really serve the interests of the workers. The worker has no fatherland, says the Marxian; he has nothing to lose but his chains. Very well. But is it really of no consequence to the German worker whether he exchanges his German chains for Russian ones? Should the French workingman let the republic fall prey to Prussian militarism? This Third Republic, said the German Social Democrats, is only a plutodemocracy and a counterfeit republic; it is not the French proletarian’s business to fight for it. But the French could not be persuaded by such reasoning. They clung to their prejudice against the Hohenzollerns. The Germans took offense at what they called French stubbornness and petty bourgeois sentiments, although they themselves made it plain that the Social Democrats would unconditionally defend Germany against Russia. Even Bebel had boasted that in a war with Russia he himself, old fellow as he was, would shoulder a rifle.* Engels, in a contribution to the almanac of the French workers’ party for 1892, declared: “If the French Republic aids his Majesty the Czar and Autocrat of all the Russias, the German Social Democrats will be sorry to fight them but they will fight them nevertheless.”† The request which Engels put in these words to the French was in full agreement with the naïve demands of the German nationalists. They, too, considered it the duty of France to isolate itself diplomatically and either remain neutral in a war between the Triple Alliance3 and Russia or find itself without allies in a war against Germany.
The amount of delusion and insincerity in the dealings of the Second International was really amazing. It is still more astonishing that people followed these loquacious discussions with eager attention and were convinced that the speeches and resolutions were of the highest importance. Only the pro-socialist and pro-Marxian bias of public opinion can explain this phenomenon. Whoever was free from this could easily understand that it was mere idle talk. The oratory of these labor congresses meant no more than the toasts proposed by monarchs at their meetings. The Kaiser and the Czar too used to speak on such occasions of the comradeship and traditional friendship which linked them and to assure each other that their only concern was the maintenance of peace.
Within the Second International the German Social Democratic party was paramount. It was the best organized and largest of all socialist parties. Thus the congresses were an exact replica of conditions within the German party. The delegates were Marxians who interlarded their speeches with quotations from Marx. But the parties which they represented were parties of trade unions, for which internationalism was an empty concept. They profited from economic nationalism. The German workers were biased not only against Russia but also against France and Great Britain, the countries of Western capitalism. Like all other Germans they were convinced that Germany had a fair title to claim British and French colonies. They found no fault with the German Morocco policy but its lack of success.* They criticized the administration of military and naval affairs; but their concern was the armed forces’ readiness for war. Like all other Germans they too viewed the sword as the main tool of foreign policy. And they too were sure that Great Britain and France envied Germany’s prosperity and planned aggression.
It was a serious mistake not to recognize this militarist mentality of the German masses. On the other hand, too much attention has been paid to the writings of some socialists who, like Schippel, Hildebrand, and others, proposed that the Social Democrats should openly support the Kaiser’s aggressive policy. After all, the Social Democrats were a party of opposition; it was not their job to vote for the government. Their accommodating attitude, however, was effective enough to encourage the nationalist trend of foreign policy.
The government was fully aware that the Social Democratic workers would back it in the event of war. About the few orthodox Marxians the administration leaders were less assured; but they knew very well that a wide gulf separated these doctrinaires from the masses, and they were convinced that the bulk of the party would condone precaution-ary measures against the Marxian extremists. They ventured, therefore, to imprison several party leaders at the outbreak of the war; later they realized that this was needless. But the party’s executive committee, badly informed as it had always been, did not even learn that the authorities had changed their minds and that there was nothing to fear from them. Thus on August 3, 1914, the party chairman, Ebert, and the treasurer, Braun, fled to Switzerland with the party funds.†
It is nonsense to say that the socialist leaders in voting for war credits betrayed the masses. The masses unanimously approved the Kaiser’s war. Even those few members of Parliament and editors who dissented were bound to respect the will of the voters. The Social Democratic soldiers were the most enthusiastic fighters in this war for conquest and hegemony.
Later, of course, things changed. The hoped-for victories did not come. Millions of Germans were sacrificed in unsuccessful attacks against the enemy’s trenches. Women and children were starving. Then even the trade-union members discovered they had been mistaken in considering the war a favorable opportunity to improve their standard of living. The nation became ripe for the propaganda of radicalism. But these radicals did not advocate peace; they wanted to substitute class war—civil war—for the war against the external foe.
Anti-Semitism and Racism
The Role of Racism
Nazism is frequently regarded as primarily a theory of racism.
German chauvinism claims for the Germans a lofty ancestry. They are the scions of the Nordic-Aryan master race, which includes all those who have contributed to the development of human civilization. The Nordic is tall, slim, with fair hair and blue eyes; he is wise, a gallant fighter, heroic, ready to sacrifice, and animated by “Faustic” ardor. The rest of mankind are trash, little better than apes. For, says Hitler, “the gulf which separates the lowest so-called human beings from our most noble races is broader than the gulf between the lowest men and the highest apes.”* It is obvious that this noble race has a fair claim to world hegemony.
In this shape the Nordic myth serves the national vanity. But political nationalism has nothing in common with chauvinistic self-praise and conceit. The German nationalists do not strive for world domination because they are of noble descent. The German racists do not deny that what they are saying of the Germans could be said, with better justification, of the Swedes or Norwegians. Nevertheless, they would call these Scandinavians lunatics if they ventured to adopt the policies which they recommend for their own German nation. For the Scandinavians lack both of the conditions which underlie German aggressivism: high population figures and a strategically advantageous geographical position.
The idiomatic congeniality of the Indo-European languages was once explained on the hypothesis of a common descent of all these peoples. This Aryan hypothesis was scientifically disproved long ago. The Aryan race is an illusion. Scientific anthropology does not recognize this fable.*
The first Mosaic book tells us that Noah is the ancestor of all men living today. Noah had three sons. From one of them, Shem, stem the old Hebrews, the people whom Moses delivered from Egyptian slavery. Judaism teaches that all persons embracing the Jewish religion are the scions of this people. It is impossible to prove this statement; no attempt has ever been made to prove it. There are no historical documents reporting the immigration of Jews from Palestine to Central or Eastern Europe; on the other hand, there are documents available concerning the conversion of European non-Jews to Judaism. Nevertheless, this ancestry hypothesis is widely accepted as an unshakable dogma. The Jews maintain it because it forms an essential teaching of their religion; others because it can justify a policy of discrimination against Jews. The Jews are called Asiatic strangers because, according to this hypothesis, they immigrated into Europe only some 1800 years ago. This explains also the use of the term Semites to signify people professing the Jewish religion and their offspring. The term Semitic languages is used in philology to signify the family of languages to which Hebrew, the idiom of the Old Testament, belongs. It is a fact, of course, that Hebrew is the religious language of Judaism, as Latin is of Catholicism and Arabic of Islam.
For more than a hundred years anthropologists have studied the bodily features of various races. The undisputed outcome of these scientific investigations is that the peoples of white skin, Europeans and non-European descendants of emigrated European ancestors, represent a mixture of various bodily characteristics. Men have tried to explain this fact as the result of intermarriage between the members of pure primitive stocks. Whatever the truth of this, it is certain that there are today no pure stocks within the class or race of white-skinned people.
Further efforts have been made to coördinate certain bodily features—racial characteristics—with certain mental and moral characteristics. All these endeavors have also failed.
Finally people have tried, especially in Germany, to discover the physical characteristics of an alleged Jewish or Semitic race as distinguished from the characteristics of European non-Jews. These quests, too, have failed completely. It has proved impossible to differentiate the Jewish Germans anthropologically from the non-Jewish ones. In the field of anthropology there is neither a Jewish race nor Jewish racial characteristics. The racial doctrine of the anti-Semites pretends to be natural science. But the material from which it is derived is not the result of the observation of natural phenomena. It is the genealogy of Genesis and the dogma of the rabbis’ teaching that all members of their religious community are descended from the subjects of King David.
Men living under certain conditions often acquire in the second, sometimes even in the first generation, a special physical or mental conformation. This is, of course, a rule to which there are many exceptions. But very often poverty or wealth, urban or rural environment, indoor or outdoor life, mountain peaks or lowlands, sedentary habits or hard physical labor stamp their peculiar mark on a man’s body. Butchers and watchmakers, tailors and lumbermen, actors and accountants can often be recognized as such by their expression or physical constitution. Racists intentionally ignore these facts. However, they1 alone can account for the origin of those types which are in everyday speech called aristocratic or plebeian, an officers’ type, a scholarly type, or a Jewish type.
The laws promulgated by the Nazis for discrimination against Jews and the offspring of Jews have nothing at all to do with racial considerations proper. A law discriminating against people of a certain race would first have to enumerate with biological and physiological exactitude the characteristic features of the race concerned. It would then have to decree the legal procedure and proper formalities by which the presence or absence of these characteristics could be duly established for every individual. The validly executed final decisions of such procedures would then have to form the basis of the discrimination in each case. The Nazis have chosen a different way. They say, it is true, that they want to discriminate not against people professing the Jewish religion but against people belonging to the Jewish race. Yet they define the members of the Jewish race as people professing the Jewish religion or descended from people professing the Jewish religion. The characteristic legal feature of the Jewish race is, in the so-called racial legislation of Nuremberg, the membership of the individual concerned or of his ancestors in the religious community of Judaism. If a law pretends that it tends toward a discrimination against the shortsighted but defines shortsightedness as the quality of being bald, people using the generally accepted terminology would not call it a law to the disadvantage of the shortsighted but of the bald. If Americans want to discriminate against Negroes, they do not go to the archives in order to study the racial affiliation of the people concerned; they search the individual’s body for traces of Negro descent. Negroes and whites differ in racial—i.e., bodily—features; but it is impossible to tell a Jewish German from a non-Jewish one by any racial characteristic.
The Nazis continually speak of race and racial purity. They call their policies an outcome of modern anthropology. But it is useless to search their policies for racial considerations. They consider—with the exception of Jews and the offspring of Jews—all white men speaking German as Aryans. They do not discriminate among them according to bodily features. German-speaking people are in their opinion Germans, even if it is beyond doubt that they are the scions of Slavonic, Romanic, or Mongol (Magyar or Finno-Ugric) ancestors. The Nazis have claimed that they were fighting the decisive war between the Nordic master race and the human underdogs. Yet for this struggle they were allied with the Italians, whom their racial doctrines depicted as a mongrel race, and with the slit-eyed, yellow-skinned, dark-haired Japanese Mongols. On the other hand, they despise the Scandinavian Nordics who do not sympathize with their own plans for world supremacy. The Nazis call themselves anti-Semites but they aid the Arab tribes in their fight against the British, whom they themselves consider as Nordic. The Arabs speak a Semitic idiom, and the Nazi scholars call them Semites. Who, in the Palestinian struggles, has the fairer claim to the appellation “anti-Semites”?
Even the racial myth itself is not a product of Germany. It is of French origin. Its founders, especially Gobineau, wanted to justify the privileges of the French aristocracy by demonstrating the gentle Frankish birth of the nobility. Hence originated in Western Europe the mistaken belief that the Nazis too recognize the claims of princes and noblemen to political leadership and caste privileges. The German nationalists, however, consider the whole German people—with the exception of the Jews and the offspring of Jews—a homogeneous race of noblemen. Within this noble race they make no discriminations. No higher degree of nobility than Germanhood is conceivable. Under the laws of the Nazis all German-speaking people are comrades (Volksgenossen) and as such equal. The only discrimination which the Nazis make among Germans is according to the intensity of their zeal in the display of those qualities which are regarded as genuinely German. Every non-Jewish German—prince, nobleman, or commoner—has the same right to serve his nation and to distinguish himself in this service.
It is true that in the years preceding the first World War the nationalists too clung to the prejudice, once very popular in Germany, that the Prussian Junkers were extraordinarily gifted for military leadership. In this respect only did the old Prussian legend survive until 1918. The lessons taught by the failure of the Prussian officers in the campaign of 1806 were long since forgotten. Nobody cared about Bismarck’s skepticism. Bismarck, himself the son of a nonaristocratic mother, observed that Prussia was breeding officers of lower ranks up to the position of regimental commanders of a quality unsurpassed by any other country; but that as far as the higher ranks were concerned, the native Prussian stock was no longer so fertile in producing able leaders as it had been in the days of Frederick II.* But the Prussian historians had extolled the deeds of the Prussian Army until all critics were silenced. Pan-Germans, Catholics, and Social Democrats were united in their dislike of the arrogant Junkers but fully convinced that these Junkers were especially fitted for military leadership and for commissions. People complained about the exclusion of nonaristocratic officers from the Royal Guards and from many regiments of the cavalry, and about the disdainful treatment they received in the rest of the army; but they never ventured to dispute the Junkers’ paramount military qualifications. Even the Social Democrats had full confidence in the active officers of the Prussian Army. The firm conviction that the war would result in a smashing German victory, which all strata of the German nation held in 1914, was primarily founded on this overestimation of the military genius of the Junkers.
People did not notice that the German nobility, who had long since ceased to play a leading role in political life, were now on the point of losing the army’s reins. They had never excelled in science, art, and literature. Their contributions in these fields cannot be compared with the achievements of British, French, and Italian aristocrats. Yet in no other modern country was the position of the aristocrats more favorable or that of the commoners less auspicious than in Germany. At the peak of his life and success Goethe wrote, full of bitterness: “I do not know how conditions are in foreign countries, but in Germany only the nobleman can attain a certain universal and personal perfection. A commoner may acquire merit, he may, at best, cultivate his mind; but his personality goes astray, whatever he tries.”* But it was commoners and not noblemen who created the works which led Germany to be called the “nation of poets and thinkers.”
In the ranks of the authors who formed the nation’s political thought there were no noblemen. Even the Prussian conservatives got their ideologies from plebeians, from Stahl, Rodbertus, Wagener, Adolf Wagner. Among the men who developed German nationalism there was hardly a member of the aristocracy. Pan-Germanism and Nazism are in this sense “bourgeois” movements like socialism, Marxism, and interventionism. Within the ranks of the higher bureaucracy there was a steady penetration of nonaristocratic elements.
It was the same with the armed forces. The hard work in the offices of the General Staff, in the technical services, and in the navy did not suit the tastes and desires of the Junkers. Many important posts in the General Staff were occupied by commoners. The outstanding personality in German prewar militarism was Admiral Tirpitz, who attained nobility only in 1900. Ludendorff, Groener, and Hoffmann were also commoners.
But it was the defeat in the first World War which finally destroyed the military prestige of the Junkers. In the present German Army there are still many aristocrats in higher ranks, because the officers who got their commissions in the last years preceding the first World War have now reached the top of the ladder. But there is no longer any preference given to aristocrats. Among the political leaders of Nazism there are few nobles—and the titles even of these are often questionable.
The German princes and nobles, who unswervingly disparaged liberalism and democracy and until 1933 stubbornly fought for the preservation of their privileges, have completely surrendered to Nazism and connive at its egalitarian principles. They are to be found in the ranks of the most fanatical admirers of the Führer. Princes of the blood take pride in serving as satellites of notorious racketeers who hold party offices. One may wonder whether they act out of sincere conviction or out of cowardice and fear. But there can be no doubt that the belief, common to many members of the British aristocracy, that a restoration of the German dynasties would change the German mentality and the temper of politics is entirely mistaken.*
The Struggle against the Jewish Mind
Nazism wants to combat the Jewish mind. But it has not succeeded so far in defining its characteristic features. The Jewish mind is no less mythical than the Jewish race.
The earlier German nationalists tried to oppose to the Jewish mind the “Christian-Teutonic” world-view. The combination of Christian and Teutonic is, however, untenable. No exegetical tricks can justify a German claim to a preferred position within the realm of Christianity. The Gospels do not mention the Germans. They consider all men equal under God. He who is anxious to discriminate not only against Jews but against the Christian descendants of Jews has no use for the Gospels. Consistent anti-Semites must reject Christianity.
We do not need to decide here whether or not Christianity itself can be called Jewish.† At any rate Christianity developed out of the Jewish creed. It recognizes the Ten Commandments as eternal law and the Old Testament as Holy Writ. The Apostles and the members of the primitive community were Jews. It could be objected that Christ did not agree in his teachings with the rabbis. But the facts remain that God sent the Saviour to the Jews and not to the Vandals, and that the Holy Spirit inspired books in Hebrew and in Greek but not in German. If the Nazis were prepared to take their racial myths seriously and to see in them more than oratory for their party meetings, they would have to eradicate Christianity with the same brutality they use against liberalism and pacifism. They failed to embark upon such an enterprise, not because they regarded it as hopeless, but because their politics had nothing at all to do with racism.
It is strange indeed in a country in which the authorities officially outrage Jews and Judaism in filthy terms, which has outlawed the Jews on account of their Judaism, and in which mathematical theorems, physical hypotheses, and therapeutical procedures are boycotted, if their authors are suspected of being “non-Aryans,” that priests continue in many thousands of churches of various creeds to praise the Ten Commandments, revealed to the Jew Moses, as the foundation of moral law. It is strange that in a country in which no word of a Jewish author must be printed or read, the Psalms and their German translations, adaptations, and imitations are sung. It is strange that the German armies, which exult in Eastern Europe in cowardly slaughtering thousands of defenseless Jewish women and children, are accompanied by army chaplains with Bibles in their hands. But the Third Reich is full of such contradictions.
Of course, the Nazis do not comply with the moral teachings of the Gospels. Neither do any other conquerors and warriors. Christianity is no more allowed to become an obstacle in the way of Nazi politics than it was in the way of other aggressors.
Nazism not only fails explicitly to reject Christianity; it solemnly declares itself a Christian party. The twenty-fourth point of the “unalterable Party Program” proclaims that the party stands for positive Christianity, without linking itself with one of the various Christian churches and denominations. The term “positive” in this connection means neutrality in respect to the antagonisms between the various churches and sects.*
Many Nazi writers, it is true, take pleasure in denouncing and deriding Christianity and in drafting plans for the establishment of a new German religion. The Nazi party as such, however, does not combat Christianity but the Christian churches as autonomous establishments and independent agencies. Its totalitarianism cannot tolerate the existence of any institution not completely subject to the Führer’s sovereignty. No German is granted the privilege of defying an order issued by the state by referring to an independent authority. The separation of church and state is contrary to the principles of totalitarianism. Nazism must consequently aim at a return to the conditions prevailing in the German Lutheran churches and likewise in the Prussian Union Church before the Constitution of Weimar. Then the civil authority was supreme in the church too. The ruler of the country was the supreme bishop of the Lutheran Church of his territory. His was the jus circa sacra.
The conflict with the Catholic Church is of a similar character. The Nazis will not tolerate any link between German citizens and foreigners or foreign institutions. They dissolved even the German Rotary Clubs because they were tied up with the Rotary International, whose headquarters are located in Chicago. A German citizen owes allegiance to his Führer and nation only; any kind of internationalism is an evil. Hitler could tolerate Catholicism only if the Pope were a resident of Germany and a subordinate of the party machine.
Except for Christianity, the Nazis reject as Jewish everything which stems from Jewish authors. This condemnation includes the writings of those Jews who, like Stahl, Lassalle, Gumplowicz, and Rathenau, have contributed many essential ideas to the system of Nazism. But the Jewish mind is, as the Nazis say, not limited to the Jews and their off-spring only. Many “Aryans” have been imbued with Jewish mentality—for instance the poet, writer, and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the socialist Frederick Engels, the composer Johannes Brahms, the writer Thomas Mann, and the theologian Karl Barth. They too are damned. Then there are whole schools of thought, art, and literature rejected as Jewish. Internationalism and pacifism are Jewish, but so is warmongering. So are liberalism and capitalism, as well as the “spurious” socialism of the Marxians and of the Bolsheviks. The epithets Jewish and Western are applied to the philosophies of Descartes and Hume, to positivism, materialism, and empiro-criticism, to the economic theories both of the classics and of modern subjectivism. Atonal music, the Italian opera style, the operetta, and the paintings of impressionism are also Jewish. In short, Jewish is what any Nazi dislikes. If one put together everything that various Nazis have stigmatized as Jewish, one would get the impression that our whole civilization has been the achievement only of Jews.
On the other hand, many champions of German racism have tried to demonstrate that all the eminent men of non-German nations were Aryan Nordics of German extraction. The ex-Marxian Woltmann, for example, has discovered features of Germanism in Petrarch, Dante, Ariosto, Raphael, and Michelangelo, who have their genius as an inheritance from their Teutonic ancestors. Woltmann is fully convinced that he has proved that “the entire European civilization, even in the Slavonic and Latin countries, is an achievement of the German race.”*
It would be a waste of time to dwell upon such statements. It is enough to remark that the various representatives of German racism contradict one another both in establishing the racial characteristics of the noble race and in the racial classification of the same individuals. Very often they contradict even what they themselves have said elsewhere. The myth of the master race has been elaborated carelessly indeed.†
All Nazi champions insist again and again that Marxism and Bolshevism are the quintessence of the Jewish mind, and that it is the great historic mission of Nazism to root out this pest. It is true that this attitude did not prevent the German nationalists either from coöperating with the German communists in undermining the Weimar Republic, or from training their black guards in Russian artillery and aviation camps in the years 1923–1933, or—in the period from August, 1939,2 until June, 1941—from entering into a close political and military complicity with Soviet Russia. Nevertheless, public opinion supports the view that Nazism and Bolshevism are philosophies—Weltanschauungen—implacably opposed to each other. Actually there have been in these last years all over the world two main political parties: the anti-Fascists, i.e., the friends of Russia (communists, fellow travelers, self-styled liberals and progressives), and the anticommunists, i.e., the friends of Germany (parties of shirts of different colors, not very accurately called “Fascists” by their adversaries). There have been few genuine liberals and democrats in these years. Most of those who have called themselves such have been ready to support what are really totalitarian measures, and many have enthusiastically praised the Russian methods of dictatorship.
The mere fact that these two groups are fighting each other does not necessarily prove that they differ in their philosophies and first principles. There have always been wars between people who adhered to the same creeds and philosophies. The parties of the Left and of the Right are in conflict because they both aim at supreme power. Charles V used to say: “I and my cousin, the King of France, are in perfect agreement; we are fighting each other because we both aim at the same end: Milan.” Hitler and Stalin aim at the same end; they both want to rule in the Baltic States, in Poland, and in the Ukraine.
The Marxians are not prepared to admit that the Nazis are socialists too. In their eyes Nazism is the worst of all evils of capitalism. On the other hand, the Nazis describe the Russian system as the meanest of all types of capitalist exploitation and as a devilish machination of World Jewry for the domination of the gentiles. Yet it is clear that both systems, the German and the Russian, must be considered from an economic point of view as socialist. And it is only the economic point of view that matters in debating whether or not a party or system is socialist. Socialism is and has always been considered a system of economic organization of society. It is the system under which the government has full control of production and distribution. As far as socialism existing merely within individual countries can be called genuine, both Russia and Germany are right in calling their systems socialist.
Whether the Nazis and the Bolsheviks are right in styling themselves workers’ parties is another question. The Communist Manifesto says, “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement of the immense majority,” and it is in this sense that old Marxians used to define a workers’ party. The proletarians, they explained, are the immense majority of the nation; they themselves, not a benevolent government or a well-intentioned minority, seize power and establish socialism. But the Bolsheviks have abandoned this scheme. A small minority proclaims itself the vanguard of the proletariat, seizes the dictatorship, forcibly dissolves the Parliament elected by universal franchise, and rules by its own right and might. Of course, this ruling minority claims that what it does serves best the interests of the many and indeed of the whole of society, but this has always been the pretension of oligarchic rulers.
The Bolshevists set the precedent. The success of the Lenin clique encouraged the Mussolini gang and the Hitler troops. Both Italian Fascism and German Nazism adopted the political methods of Soviet Russia.* The only difference between Nazism and Bolshevism is that the Nazis got a much bigger minority in the elections preceding their coup d’état than the Bolsheviks got in the Russian elections in the fall of 1917.
The Nazis have not only imitated the Bolshevist tactics of seizing power. They have copied much more. They have imported from Russia the one-party system and the privileged role of this party and its members in public life; the paramount position of the secret police; the organization of affiliated parties abroad which are employed in fighting their domestic governments and in sabotage and espionage, assisted by public funds and the protection of the diplomatic and consular service; the administrative execution and imprisonment of political adversaries; concentration camps; the punishment inflicted on the families of exiles; the methods of propaganda. They have borrowed from the Marxians even such absurdities as the mode of address, party comrade (Parteigenosse), derived from the Marxian comrade (Genosse), and the use of a military terminology for all items of civil and economic life.† The question is not in which respects both systems are alike but in which they differ.
It has already been shown wherein the socialist patterns of Russia and Germany differ.‡ These differences are not due to any disparity in basic philosophical views; they are the necessary consequence of the differences in the economic conditions of the two countries. The Russian pattern was inapplicable in Germany, whose population cannot live in a state of self-sufficiency. The German pattern seems very inefficient when compared with the incomparably more efficient capitalist system, but it is far more efficient than the Russian method. The Russians live at a very low economic level notwithstanding the inexhaustible richness of their natural resources.
There is inequality of incomes and of standards of living in both countries. It would be futile to try to determine whether the difference in the living standards of party comrade Goering and the average party comrade is greater or smaller than that in the standards of comrade Stalin and his comrades. The characteristic feature of socialism is not equality of income but the all-round control of business activities by the government, the government’s exclusive power to use all means of production.
The Nazis do not reject Marxism because it aims at socialism but because, as they say, it advocates internationalism.* Marx’s internationalism was nothing but the acceptance of eighteenth-century ideas on the root causes of war: princes are eager to fight each other because they want aggrandizement through conquest, while free nations do not covet their neighbors’ land. But it never occurred to Marx that this propensity to peace depends upon the existence of an unhampered market society. Neither Marx nor his school was ever able to grasp the meaning of international conflicts within a world of etatism and socialism. They contented themselves with the assertion that in the Promised Land of socialism there would no longer be any conflicts at all.
We have already seen what a questionable role the problem of the maintenance of peace played in the Second International. For Soviet Russia the Third International has been merely a tool in its unflagging warfare against all foreign governments. The Soviets are as eager for conquest as any conqueror of the past. They did not yield an inch of the previous conquests of the Czars except where they were forced to do so. They have used every opportunity to expand their empire. Of course they no longer use the old Czarist pretexts for conquest; they have developed a new terminology for this purpose. But this does not render the lot of the subdued any easier.
What the Nazis really have in mind when indicting the Jewish mind for internationalism is the liberal theory of free trade and the mutual advantages of international division of labor. The Jews, they say, want to corrupt the innate Aryan spirit of heroism by the fallacious doctrines of the advantages of peace. One could hardly overrate in a more inaccurate way the contribution of Jews to modern civilization. Peaceful coöperation between nations is certainly more than an outcome of Jewish machinations. Liberalism and democracy, capitalism and international trade are not Jewish inventions.
Finally, the Nazis call the business mentality Jewish. Tacitus informs us that the German tribes of his day considered it clumsy and shameful to acquire with sweat what could be won by bloodshed. This is also the first moral principle of the Nazis. They despise individuals and nations eager to profit by serving other people; in their eyes robbery is the noblest way to make a living. Werner Sombart has contrasted two specimens of human being: the peddlers (Händler) and heroes (Helden). The Britons are peddlers, the Germans heroes. But more often the appellation peddlers is assigned to the Jews.
The Nazis simply call everything that is contrary to their own doctrines and tenets Jewish and communist. When executing hostages in the occupied countries they always declare that they have punished Jews and communists. They call the President of the United States a Jew and a communist. He who is not prepared to surrender to them is by that token unmistakably a Jew. In the Nazi dictionary the terms Jew and communist are synonymous with non-Nazi.
Interventionism and Legal Discrimination against Jews
In the days before the ascendancy of liberalism the individuals professing a certain religious creed formed an order, a caste, of their own. The creed determined the membership in a group which assigned to each member privileges and disqualifications (privilegia odiosa.) In only a few countries has liberalism abolished this state of affairs. In many European countries, in which in any other respect freedom of conscience and of the practice of religion and equality of all citizens under the law are granted, matrimonial law and the register of births, marriages, and deaths remain separate for each religious group. Membership within a church or religious community preserves a peculiar legal character. Every citizen is bound to belong to one of the religious groups, and he bestows this quality upon his children. The membership and procedure to be observed in cases of change of religious allegiance are regulated by public law. Special provisions are made for people who do not want to belong to any religious community. This state of things makes it possible to establish the religious allegiance of a man and of his ancestors with legal precision in the same unquestionable way in which kinship can be ascertained in inheritance cases.
The bearing of this fact can be elucidated by contrasting it with conditions concerning attachment to a linguistic group. Membership within a linguistic group never had a caste quality. It was and is a matter of fact but not a legal status.* It is as a rule impossible to establish the linguistic group to which a man’s dead ancestors belonged. The only exceptions are those ancestors who were eminent personalities, writers, or political leaders of linguistic groups. It is further for the most part impossible to establish whether or not a man changed his linguistic allegiance at some time in his past. He who speaks German and declares himself to be a German need seldom fear that his statement could be disproved by documentary evidence that his parents or he himself in the past were not German. Even a foreign accent need not betray him. In countries with a linguistically mixed population the accent and inflection of each group influence the other. Among the leaders of German nationalism in the eastern parts of Germany, and in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the other eastern countries there were numerous men who spoke German with a sharp Slavonic, Hungarian, or Italian accent, whose names sounded foreign, or who had only a short time before substituted German-sounding names for their native ones. There were even Nazi Storm Troopers whose still living parents understood no German. It happened often that brothers and sisters belonged to different linguistic groups. One could not attempt to discriminate legally against such neophytes, because it was impossible to determine the facts in a legally unquestionable way.
In an unhampered market society there is no legal discrimination against anybody. Everyone has the right to obtain the place within the social system in which he can successfully work and make a living. The consumer is free to discriminate, provided that he is ready to pay the cost. A Czech or a Pole may prefer to buy at higher cost in a shop owned by a Slav instead of buying cheaper and better in a shop owned by a German. An anti-Semite may forego being cured of an ugly disease by the employment of the “Jewish” drug Salvarsan and have recourse to a less efficacious remedy. In this arbitrary power consists what economists call consumer’s sovereignty.
Interventionism means compulsory discrimination, which furthers the interests of a minority of citizens at the expense of the majority. Nevertheless discrimination can be applied in a democratic community too. Various minority groups form an alliance and thereby a majority group in order to obtain privileges for each. For instance, a country’s wheat producers, cattle breeders, and wine growers form a farmers’ party; they succeed in obtaining discrimination against foreign competitors and thus privileges for each of the three groups. The costs of the privilege granted to the wine growers burden the rest of the community—including the cattle breeders and wheat producers—and so on for each of the others.
Whoever sees the facts from this angle—and logically they cannot be viewed from any other—realizes that the arguments brought forward in favor of this so-called producer’s policy are untenable. One minority group alone could not obtain any such privilege because the majority would not tolerate it. But if all minority groups or enough of them obtain a privilege, every group that did not get a more valuable privilege than the rest suffers. The political ascendancy of interventionism is due to the failure to recognize this obvious truth. People favor discrimination and privileges because they do not realize that they themselves are consumers and as such must foot the bill. In the case of protectionism, for example, they believe that only the foreigners against whom the import duties discriminate are hurt. It is true the foreigners are hurt, but not they alone: the consumers who must pay higher prices suffer with them.
Now wherever there are Jewish minorities—and in every country the Jews are only a minority—it is as easy to discriminate against them legally as against foreigners, because the quality of being a Jew can be established in a legally valid way. Discrimination against this helpless minority can be made to seem very plausible; it seems to further the interests of all non-Jews. People do not realize that it is certain to hurt the interests of the non-Jews as well. If Jews are barred from access to a medical career, the interests of non-Jewish doctors are favored, but the interests of the sick are hurt. Their freedom to choose the doctor whom they trust is restricted. Those who did not want to consult a Jewish doctor do not gain anything but those who wanted to do so are injured.
In most European countries it is technically feasible to discriminate legally against Jews and the offspring of Jews. It is furthermore politically feasible, because Jews are usually insignificant minorities whose votes do not count much in elections. And finally, it is considered economically sound in an age in which government interference for the protection of the less efficient producer against more efficient and cheaper competitors is regarded as a beneficial policy. The non-Jewish grocer asks, Why not protect me too? You protect the manufacturer and the farmer against the foreigners producing better and at lower cost; you protect the worker against the competition of immigrant labor; you should protect me against the competition of my neighbor, the Jewish grocer.
Discrimination need have nothing to do with hatred or repugnance toward those against whom it is applied. The Swiss and Italians do not hate the Americans or Swedes; nevertheless, they discriminate against American and Swedish products. People always dislike competitors. But for the consumer the foreigners who supply him with commodities are not competitors but purveyors. The non-Jewish doctor may hate his Jewish competitor. But he asks for the exclusion of Jews from the medical profession precisely because many non-Jewish patients not only do not hate Jewish doctors but prefer them to many non-Jewish doctors and patronize them. The fact that the Nazi racial laws impose heavy penalties for sexual intercourse between Jews and “Aryans” does not indicate the existence of hatred between these two groups. It would be needless to keep people who hate each other from sexual relations. However, in an investigation devoted to the political problems of nationalism and Nazism we need not deal with the issues of sex pathology involved. To study the inferiority complexes and sexual perversity responsible for the Nuremberg racial laws and for the sadistic bestialities exhibited in killing and torturing Jews is the task of psychiatry.
In a world in which people have grasped the meaning of a market society, and therefore advocate a consumer’s policy, there is no legal discrimination against Jews. Whoever dislikes the Jews may in such a world avoid patronizing Jewish shopkeepers, doctors, and lawyers. On the other hand, in a world of interventionism only a miracle can in the long run hinder legal discrimination against Jews. The policy of protecting the less efficient domestic producer against the more efficient foreign producer, the artisan against the manufacturer, and the small shop against the department store and the chain stores would be incomplete if it did not protect the “Aryan” against the Jew.
Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda did not succeed in preventing German “Aryans” from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors. They did not patronize the Jews unawares—“Aryan” competitors were careful to tell them again and again that these people were Jews. Whoever wanted to get rid of his Jewish competitors could not rely on an alleged hatred of Jews; he was under the necessity of asking for legal discrimination against them.
Such discrimination is not the result of nationalism or of racism. It is basically—like nationalism—a result of interventionism and the policy of favoring the less efficient producer to the disadvantage of the consumer.
Nearly all writers dealing with the problem of anti-Semitism have tried to demonstrate that the Jews have in some way or other, through their behavior or attitudes, excited anti-Semitism. Even Jewish authors and non-Jewish opponents of anti-Semitism share this opinion; they too search for Jewish faults driving non-Jews toward anti-Semitism. But if the cause of anti-Semitism were really to be found in distinctive features of the Jews, these properties would have to be extraordinary virtues and merits which would qualify the Jews as the elite of mankind. If the Jews themselves are to blame for the fact that those whose ideal is perpetual war and bloodshed, who worship violence and are eager to destroy freedom, consider them the most dangerous opponents of their endeavors, it must be because the Jews are foremost among the champions of freedom, justice, and peaceful coöperation among nations. If the Jews have incurred the Nazis’ hatred through their own conduct, it is no doubt because what was great and noble in the German nation, all the immortal achievements of Germany’s past, were either accomplished by the Jews or congenial to the Jewish mind. As the parties seeking to destroy modern civilization and return to barbarism have put anti-Semitism at the top of their programs, this civilization is apparently a creation of the Jews. Nothing more flattering could be said of an individual or of a group than that the deadly foes of civilization have well-founded reasons to persecute them.
The truth is that while the Jews are the objects of anti-Semitism, their conduct and qualities did not play a decisive role in inciting and spreading its modern version. That they form everywhere a minority which can be legally defined in a precise way makes it tempting, in an age of interventionism, to discriminate against them. Jews have, of course, contributed to the rise of modern civilization; but this civilization is neither completely nor predominantly their achievement. Peace and freedom, democracy and justice, reason and thought are not specifically Jewish. Many things, good and bad, happen on the earth without the participation of Jews. The anti-Semites grossly exaggerate when they see in the Jews the foremost representatives of modern culture and make them alone responsible for the fact that the world has changed since the centuries of the barbarian invasions.*
In the dark ages heathens, Christians, and Moslems persecuted the Jews on account of their religion. This motive has lost much of its strength and is still valid only for a comparatively few Catholics and Fundamentalists who make the Jews responsible for the spread of free thinking. And this too is a mistaken idea. Neither Hume nor Kant, neither Laplace nor Darwin were Jews. Higher criticism of the Bible was developed by Protestant theologians.† The Jewish rabbis opposed it bitterly for many years.
Neither were liberalism, capitalism, or a market economy Jewish achievements. There are those who try to justify anti-Semitism by denouncing the Jews as capitalists and champions of laissez faire. Other anti-Semites—and often the same ones—blame the Jews for being communists. These contradictory charges cancel each other. But it is a fact that anticapitalist propaganda has contributed a good deal to the popularity of anti-Semitism. Simple minds do not grasp the meaning of the abstract terms capital and exploitation, capitalists and exploiters; they substitute for them the terms Jewry and Jews. However, even if the Jews were more unpopular with some people than is really the case, there would be no discrimination against them if they were not a minority clearly distinguishable legally from other people.
The “Stab in the Back”
The end of the first World War glaringly exposed the nucleus of German nationalism’s dogma. Ludendorff, idol of the nationalists, himself had to confess that the war was lost, that the Reich had suffered a crushing defeat. The news of this failure was not anticipated by the nation. For more than four years the government had told the credulous people that Germany was victorious. It was beyond doubt that the German armies had occupied almost the whole territory of Belgium and several departments of France, while the Allied armies held only a few square miles of the Reich’s territory. German armies had conquered Brussels, Warsaw, Belgrade, and Bucharest. Russia and Rumania had been forced to sign peace treaties dictated by Germany. Look at the map, said the German statesmen, if you want to see who is victorious. The British Navy, they boasted, had been swept from the North Sea and was creeping into port; the British Merchant Marine was an easy prey for German U-boats. The English were starving. The citizens of London could not sleep for fear of Zeppelins. America was not in a position to save the Allies; the Americans had no army, and if they had had, they would have lacked the ships to send it to Europe. The German generals had given proof of ingenuity: Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and Mackensen were equal to the most famous leaders of the past; and in the German armed forces everybody was a hero, above all the intrepid pilots and the unflinching crews of the submarines.
And now, the collapse! Something horrible and ghastly had happened, for which the only explanation could be treason. Once again a traitor had ambushed the victor from a safely hidden corner. Once again Hagen had murdered Siegfried. The victorious army had been stabbed in the back. While the German men were fighting the enemy, domestic foes had stirred up the people at home to rise in the November rebellion, that most infamous crime of the ages. Not the front but the hinterland had failed. The culprits were neither the soldiers nor the generals but the weaklings of the civil government and of the Reichstag who failed to curb the rebellion.
Shame and contrition for the events of November, 1918, were the greater with aristocrats, officers, and nationalist notables because they had behaved in those days in a way that they themselves very soon were bound to regard as scandalous. Several officers on battleships had tried to stop the mutineers, but almost all other officers had bowed to the revolution. Twenty-two German thrones were smashed without any attempt at resistance. Court dignitaries, adjutants, orderly officers, and bodyguards quietly acquiesced when the princes to whom they had sworn oaths of personal allegiance unto death were dethroned. The example once set by the Swiss Guards who died for Louis XVI and his consort was not imitated. There was not a trace of the Fatherland party and of the nationalists when the masses assaulted the castles of the various kings and dukes.
It was salvation for the self-esteem of all these disheartened souls when some generals and nationalist leaders found a justification and an excuse: it had been the work of the Jews. Germany was victorious by land and sea and air, but the Jews had stabbed the victorious forces in the back. Whoever ventured to refute this legend was himself denounced as a Jew or a bribed servant of the Jews. No rational argument could shake the legend. It has been picked to pieces; each of its points has been disproved by documentary evidence; an overwhelming mass of material has been brought to its refutation—in vain.
It must be realized that German nationalism managed to survive the defeat of the first World War only by means of the legend of the stab in the back. Without it the nationalists would have been forced to drop their program, which was founded wholly on the thesis of Germany’s military superiority. In order to maintain this program it was indispensable to be able to tell the nation: “We have given new proof of our invincibility. But our victories did not bring us success because the Jews have sabotaged the country. If we eliminate the Jews, our victories will bring their due reward.”
Up to that time anti-Semitism had played but a small role in the structure of the doctrines of German nationalism. It was mere byplay, not a political issue. The endeavors to discriminate against the Jews stemmed from interventionism, as did nationalism. But they had no vital part in the system of German political nationalism. Now anti-Semitism became the focal point of the nationalist creed, its main issue. That was its meaning in domestic politics. And very soon it acquired an equal importance in foreign affairs.
Anti-Semitism as a Factor in International Politics
It was a very strange constellation of political forces that turned anti-Semitism into an important factor in world affairs.
In the years after the first World War Marxism swept triumphantly over the Anglo-Saxon countries. Public opinion in Great Britain came under the spell of the neo-Marxian doctrines on imperialism, according to which wars are fought only for the sake of the selfish class interests of capital. The intellectuals and the parties of the Left felt rather ashamed of England’s participation in the World War. They were convinced that it was both morally unfair and politically unwise to oblige Germany to pay reparations and to restrict its armaments. They were firmly resolved never again to let Great Britain fight a war. They purposely shut their eyes to every unpleasant fact that could weaken their naïve confidence in the omnipotence of the League of Nations. They overrated the efficacy of sanctions and of such measures as outlawing war by the Briand-Kellogg Pact. They favored for their country a policy of disarmament which rendered the British Empire almost defenseless within a world indefatigably preparing for new wars.
But at the same time the same people were asking the British government and the League to check the aspirations of the “dynamic” powers and to safeguard with every means—short of war—the independence of the weaker nations. They indulged in strong language against Japan and against Italy; but they practically encouraged, by their opposition to armaments and their unconditional pacifism, the imperialistic policies of these countries. They were instrumental in Great Britain’s rejecting Secretary Stimson’s proposals to stop Japan’s expansion in China. They frustrated the Hoare-Laval plan, which would have left at least a part of Abyssinia independent; but they did not lift a finger when Italy occupied the whole country. They did not change their policy when Hitler seized power and immediately began to prepare for the wars which were meant to make Germany paramount first on the European continent and later in the whole world. Theirs was an ostrich policy in the face of the most serious situation that Britain ever had to encounter.*
The parties of the Right did not differ in principle from those of the Left. They were only more moderate in their utterances and eager to find a rational pretext for the policy of inactivity and indolence in which the Left acquiesced lightheartedly and without a thought of the future. They consoled themselves with the hope that Germany did not plan to attack France but only to fight Soviet Russia. It was all wishful thinking, refusing to take account of Hitler’s schemes as exposed in Mein Kampf. The Left became furious. Our reactionaries, they shouted, are aiding Hitler because they are putting their class interests over the welfare of the nation. Yet the encouragement which Hitler got from England came not so much from the anti-Soviet feelings of some members of the upper classes as from the state of British armament, for which the Left was even more responsible than the Right. The only way to stop Hitler would have been to spend large sums for rearmament and to return to conscription. The whole British nation, not only the aristocracy, was strongly opposed to such measures. Under these conditions it was not unreasonable that a small group of lords and rich commoners should try to improve relations between the two countries. It was, of course, a plan without prospect of success. The Nazis could not be dissuaded from their aims by comforting speeches from socially prominent Englishmen. British popular repugnance to armaments and conscription was an important factor in the Nazi plans, but the sympathies of a dozen lords were not. It was no secret that Great Britain would be unable, right at the outbreak of a new war, to send an expeditionary force of seven divisions to France as it did in 1914; that the Royal Air Force was numerically much inferior to the German Air Force; or that even the British Navy was less formidable than in the years 1914–18. The Nazis knew very well that many politicians in South Africa opposed that dominion’s participating in a new war, and they were in close touch with the anti-British parties in the East Indies, in Egypt, and the Arabian countries.
The problem which Great Britain had to face was simply this: Is it in the interest of the nation to permit Germany to conquer the whole European continent? It was Hitler’s great plan to keep England neutral at all costs, until the conquest of France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Ukraine should be completed. Should Great Britain render him this service? Whoever answered this question in the negative must not talk but act. But the British politicians buried their heads in the sand.
Given the state of British public opinion, France should have understood that it was isolated and must meet the Nazi danger by itself. The French know little about the German mentality and German political conditions. Yet when Hitler seized power every French politician should have realized that the main point in his plans was the annihilation of France. Of course the French parties of the Left shared the prejudices, illusions, and errors of the British Left. But there was in France an influential nationalist group which had always mistrusted Germany and favored an energetic anti-German policy. If the French nationalists in 1933 and the years following had seriously advocated measures to prevent German rearmament, they would have had the support of the whole nation with the exception of the intransigent communists. Germany had already started to rearm under the Weimar Republic. Nevertheless in 1933 it was not ready for a war with France, nor for some years thereafter. It would have been forced either to yield to a French threat or to wage a war without prospect of success. At that time it was still possible to stop the Nazis with threats. And even had war resulted, France would have been strong enough to win.
But then something amazing and unexpected happened. Those [French] nationalists who for more than sixty years had been fanatically anti-German, who had scorned everything German, and who had always demanded an energetic policy against the Weimar Republic changed their minds overnight. Those who had disparaged as Jewish all endeavors to improve Franco-German relations, who had attacked as Jewish machinations the Dawes and Young plans and the Locarno agreement, and who had held the League suspect as a Jewish institution suddenly began to sympathize with the Nazis. They refused to recognize the fact that Hitler was eager to destroy France once and for all. Hitler, they hinted, is less a foe of France than of the Jews; as an old warrior he sympathizes with his French fellow warriors. They belittled German rearmament. Besides, they said, Hitler rearms only in order to fight Jewish Bolshevism. Nazism is Europe’s shield against the assault of World Jewry and its foremost representative, Bolshevism. The Jews are eager to push France into a war against the Nazis. But France is wise enough not to pull any chestnuts out of the fire for the Jews. France will not bleed for the Jews.
It was not the first time in French history that the nationalists put their anti-Semitism above their French patriotism. In the Dreyfus Affair they fought vigorously in order to let a treacherous officer quietly evade punishment while an innocent Jew languished in prison.
It has been said that the Nazis corrupted the French nationalists. Perhaps some French politicians really took bribes. But politically this was of little importance. The Reich would have wasted its funds. The anti-Semitic newspapers and periodicals had a wide circulation; they did not need German subsidies. Hitler left the League; he annulled the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles; he occupied the demilitarized zone on the Rhine; he stirred anti-French tendencies in North Africa. The French nationalists for the most part criticized these acts only in order to put all the blame on their political adversaries in France: it was they who were guilty, because they had adopted a hostile attitude toward Nazism.
Then Hitler invaded Austria. Seven years earlier France had vigorously opposed the plan of an Austro-German customs union. But now the French Government hurried to recognize the violent annexation of Austria. At Munich—in coöperation with Great Britain and Italy—it forced Czechoslovakia to yield to the German claims. All this met with the approval of the majority of the French nationalists. When Mussolini, instigated by Hitler, proclaimed the Italian aspirations for Savoy, Nice, Corsica, and Tunis, the nationalists’ objections were ventured timidly. No Demosthenes rose to warn the nation against Philip. But if a new Demosthenes had presented himself the nationalists would have denounced him as the son of a rabbi or a nephew of Rothschild.
It is true that the French Left did not oppose the Nazis either, and in this respect they did not differ from their British friends. But that is no excuse for the nationalists. They were influential enough to induce an energetic anti-Nazi policy in France. But for them every proposal seriously to resist Hitler was a form of Jewish treachery.
It does credit to the French nation that it loved peace and was ready to avoid war even at the price of sacrifice. But that was not the question. Germany openly prepared a war for the total annihilation of France. There was no doubt about the intentions of the Nazis. Under such conditions the only policy appropriate would have been to frustrate Hitler’s plans at all costs. Whoever dragged in the Jews in discussing Franco-German relations forsook the cause of his nation. Whether Hitler was a friend or foe of the Jews was irrelevant. The existence of France was at stake. This alone had to be considered, not the desire of French shopkeepers or doctors to get rid of their Jewish competitors.
That France did not block Hitler’s endeavors in time, that it long neglected its military preparations, and that finally, when war could no longer be avoided, it was not ready to fight was the fault of anti-Semitism. The French anti-Semites served Hitler well. Without them the new war might have been avoided, or at least fought under much more favorable conditions.
When war came, it was stigmatized by the French Right as a war for the sake of the Jews and by the French communists as a war for the sake of capitalism. The unpopularity of the war paralyzed the hands of the military chiefs. It slowed down work in the armament factories. From a military point of view matters in June, 1940, were not worse than in early September, 1914, and less unfavorable than in September, 1870. Gambetta, Clemenceau, or Briand would not have capitulated. Neither would Georges Mandel. But Mandel was a Jew and therefore not eligible for political leadership. Thus the unbelievable happened: France disavowed its past, branded the proudest memories of its history Jewish, and hailed the loss of its political independence as a national revolution and a regeneration of its true spirit.
Not alone in France but the world over anti-Semitism made propaganda for Nazism. Such was the detrimental effect of interventionism and its tendencies toward discrimination that a good many people became unable to appreciate problems of foreign policy from any viewpoint but that of their appetite for discrimination against successful competitors. The hope of being delivered from a Jewish competitor fascinated them while they forgot everything else, their nation’s independence, freedom, religion, civilization. There were and are pro-Nazi parties all over the world. Every European country has its Quislings. Quislings commanded armies whose duty it was to defend their country. They capitulated ignominiously; they coöperated with invaders; they had the impudence to style their treachery true patriotism. The Nazis have an ally in every town or village where there is a man eager to get rid of a Jewish competitor. The secret weapon of Hitler is the anti-Jewish inclinations of many millions of shopkeepers and grocers, of doctors and lawyers, professors and writers.
The present war would never have originated but for anti-Semitism. Only anti-Semitism made it possible for the Nazis to restore the German people’s faith in the invincibility of its armed forces, and thus to drive Germany again into the policy of aggression and the struggle for hegemony. Only the anti-Semitic entanglement of a good deal of French public opinion prevented France from stopping Hitler when he could still be stopped without war. And it was anti-Semitism that helped the German armies find in every European country men ready to open the doors to them.
Mankind has paid a high price indeed for anti-Semitism.
The Weimar Republic and Its Collapse
The Weimar Constitution
The main argument brought forward in favor of the Hohenzollern militarism was its alleged efficiency. Democracy, said the nationalist professors, may be a form of government adequate to small countries, whose independence is safeguarded by the mutual rivalries of the great powers, or to nations like England and the United States sheltered by their geographical situation; but it is different with Germany. Germany is surrounded by hostile nations; it stands alone in the world; its borders are not protected by natural barriers; its security is founded on its army, that unique achievement of the house of Hohenzollern. It would be foolish to hand over this invincible instrument to a parliament, to a body of talkative and incompetent civilians.
But now the first World War had resulted in a smashing defeat and had destroyed the old prestige of the royal family, of the Junkers, the officers, and the civil servants. The parliamentary system of the West had given evidence of its military superiority. The war to which President Wilson had assigned the aim of making the world safe for democracy appeared as an ordeal by fire for democracy. The Germans began to revise their political creeds. They turned toward democracy. The term democracy, almost forgotten for half a century, became popular again in the last weeks of the war. Democracy meant in the minds of the Germans the return to the civil liberties, the rights of man, suspended in the course of the war, and above all the substitution of parliamentary government for monarchical half-despotism. These points were, as every German knew, implied in the official program of the most numerous parliamentary party, the Social Democrats. Men expected that the Social Democrats would now realize the democratic principles of their program, and were ready to back this party in its endeavors for political reconstruction.
But from the ranks of the Marxians came an answer which nobody outside the small group of professional Marx experts could have foreseen. We class-conscious proletarians, the Marxians proclaimed, have nothing to do with your bourgeois concepts of freedom, parliamentarism, and democracy. We do not want democracy but the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., our dictatorship. We are not prepared to grant you bourgeois parasites the rights of men, to give you the franchise and parliamentary representation. Only Marxians and proletarians shall henceforth rule. If you misinterpreted our stand on democracy, that is your mistake. Had you studied the writings of Marx more carefully, you would have been better informed.
On the second day of the  revolution the Social Democrats in Berlin appointed a new government for the Reich, the Mandataries of the People. This government was a dictatorship of the Social Democrats. It was formed by the delegates of that party only, and it was not planned to give the other parties a share in the government.*
At the end of the war the old Social Democratic party was split into three groups: the majority socialists, the independent socialists, and the communists. One half of the government members belonged to the majority socialists, the other half to the independent socialists. The most radical of the three groups did not participate in the establishment of the government. They abhorred coöperation with the moderate majority socialists, whom they denounced as social traitors. These radicals, the Spartacus group or Communist party, immediately demanded the extermination of the bourgeoisie. Their condensed program was: all power must be in the hands of the Soviets of workers and soldiers. They vigorously rejected every plan to grant political rights to people who were not members of their own party, and they fanatically opposed the parliamentary system. They wanted to organize Germany according to the Soviet pattern and to “liquidate” the bourgeoisie in the Russian manner. They were convinced that the whole world was on the eve of the great proletarian revolution which was to destroy capitalism and establish the everlasting communist paradise, and they were eager to contribute their share to this glorious undertaking. The independent socialists sympathized with the views of the communists but they were less outspoken. This very reserve made them dependent on the communists, whose radical expression struck the keynote. The majority socialists had neither opinions of their own nor a clear idea what policy they ought to adopt. Their irresolution was not due to a change of mind with regard to their socialist convictions but to a realization that a great part of the German socialist workers had taken seriously the democratic points in the Social Democratic program and were opposed to the abandonment of parliamentarism. They still believed that socialism and democracy are compatible, indeed that socialism can only be realized within a democratic community. They neither recognized the incompatibility of socialism and democracy nor understood why Germany should prefer the Russian method of dictatorship to the Western principle of democracy.
The communists were eager to seize power through violence. They trusted to Russian aid but they felt themselves strong enough to conquer even without this foreign assistance. For they were fully convinced that the overwhelming majority of the German nation backed them. They deemed it therefore needless to make special preparations for the extermination of the bourgeoisie. As long as the adversaries kept quiet, it was unnecessary to strike the first blow. If the bourgeoisie were to start something, it would be easy to beat them down. And the first events confirmed this view. At Christmas time, 1918, a conflict broke out in Berlin between the new government and a pugnacious communist troop, the people’s sailors’ division. The sailors resisted the government. The People’s Mandataries, in a panic, called to their aid a not-yet-disbanded body of the old army garrisoned in the environs of Berlin, a troop of dismounted cavalrymen of the former Royal Guards, commanded by an aristocratic general. A skirmish took place; then the government ordered the guardsmen to retreat. They had gained a slight tactical success, but the government withdrew its forces because it lacked confidence in its own cause; it did not want to fight the “comrades.” This unimportant combat convinced the independent socialists that the victorious advance of communism could not be stopped. In order not to lose their popularity and not to come too late to participate in the prospective communist government they withdrew their representatives from the body of the People’s Mandataries. The majority socialists were now alone in the government, alone responsible for everything that happened in the Reich, for the growing anarchy, for the unsatisfactory supply of food and other necessities, for the rapid spread of unemployment. In the eyes of the radicals they were the defenders of reaction and injustice.
There could be no doubt about the plans of these radicals. They would occupy the government buildings and imprison, probably even kill, the members of the government. In vain Noske, whom the government had appointed commander in chief, tried to organize a troop of majority socialists. No Social Democrat was willing to fight against the communists. The government’s situation seemed hopeless when on January 5, 1919, the communists and independent socialists opened the battle in the streets of Berlin and got control of the main part of the capital. But in this utmost danger unexpected aid appeared.
The Marxians report the events that followed in this way: The masses were unanimous in their support of the radical Marxian leaders and in their desire for the realization of socialism. But unfortunately they were trusting enough to believe that the government, composed solely of old Social Democratic chiefs, would not hinder them in these endeavors. Yet Ebert, Noske, and Scheidemann betrayed them. These traitors, eager to save capitalism, plotted with the remnants of the old army and with the gangs hired by the capitalists, the free corps. The troops of reaction rushed in upon the unsuspecting communist leaders, assassinated them, and dispersed the masses which had lost their leaders. Thus started a policy of reaction which finally culminated in the fall of the Weimar Republic and in the ascendancy of Nazism.
This statement of the facts ignores the radical change which took place in the last weeks of 1918 in the political mentality of the German nation. In October and early November, 1918, the great majority of the nation was sincerely prepared to back a democratic government. As the Social Democrats were considered a democratic party, as they were the most numerous parliamentary party, there was almost unanimity in the readiness to entrust to them the leading role in forming the future system of popular government. But then came the shock. Outstanding men of the Marxian party rejected democracy and declared themselves for the dictatorship of the proletariat. All that they had professed for fifty years, in short, consisted of lies. All this talk had had but one end in view, to put Rosa Luxemburg, a foreigner, in the place of the Hohenzollerns. The eyes of the Germans had been opened. How could they have let themselves be deluded by the slogans of the Democrats? Democracy, they learned, was evidently a term invented for the deception of fools. In fact, as the conservatives had always asserted, the advocates of democracy wished to establish the rule of the mob and the dictatorship of demagogues.
The communists had grossly underrated the intellectual capacity of the German nation. They did not realize that it was impossible to deal with the Germans by the same methods that had succeeded in Russia. When they boasted that in fifty years of pro-democratic agitation they had never been sincere in advocating democracy; when they told the Germans: “You dupes, how clever we were in gulling you! Now we have caught you!” it was too much not only for the rest of the nation but even for the majority of the old members of the Social Democratic party. Within a few weeks Marxism and Marxian socialism—not socialism as an economic system—had lost all their former prestige. The idea of democracy itself became hopelessly suspect. From that time on the term democracy was for many Germans synonymous with fraud. At the beginning of 1919 the communists were already much less numerous than their leaders believed. And the great majority of organized labor was also solidly against them.
The nationalists were quick to comprehend this change in mentality. They seized their opportunity. A few weeks before they had been in a state of desperation. Now they learned how to stage a comeback. The “stab in the back” legend had already restored their lost self-confidence. And now they saw what their future policy must be. First they must thwart the establishment of a red dictatorship and prevent the communists from exterminating the nonproletarians wholesale.
The former conservative party [the Social Democrats] and some affiliated groups had in November changed their party name to German Nationalist People’s Party (Deutsch-nationale Volkspartei). In their first manifesto, issued on November 24, they asked “for a return from the dictatorship of one class only to parliamentary government as the only appropriate system in the light of recent events.” They asked further for freedom of the individual and of conscience, for freedom of speech and science, and for equality of franchise. For the second time in German history a party which was essentially antidemocratic presented to the electorate for purely tactical reasons a program of liberalism and democracy. The Marxian methods found adepts; the nationalists had profited from reading Lenin and Bukharin. They had now elaborated a precise plan for their future operations for the seizure of power. They decided to support the cause of parliamentary government, freedom, and democracy for the immediate future in order to be able to overthrow them at a later time. They were ready to coöperate for the execution of the first part of this program not only with the Catholics but also with the majority socialists and their old leaders, who sat trembling in the government palaces of the Wilhelmstrasse.
In order to keep out Bolshevism and to save parliamentarism and freedom for the intermediate period, it was necessary to defeat the armed forces of the communists and of the independent socialists. The available remnants of the old army, when led by able commanders, were strong enough to intervene successfully against the communists.
But such commanders could not be found in the ranks of the generals. Hindenburg was an old man; his role in the war had consisted simply in giving a free hand to Ludendorff; now, without Ludendorff, he was helpless. The other generals were waiting for Hindenburg’s orders; they lacked initiative. But the disintegration of army discipline had already progressed so far that this apathy of the generals could no longer hinder the army’s actions. Younger officers, sometimes even lieutenants, filled the gap. Out of demobilized soldiers, who were not too eager to go back to honest jobs and preferred the adventurous life of troopers to regular work, some of these officers formed free corps, at the head of which they fought on their own account. Other officers pushed aside the more scrupulous officers of the General Staff and, sometimes without proper respect, forced the generals to take part in the civil war.
The People’s Mandataries had already lost all hope of salvation when suddenly help appeared. Troops invaded Berlin and suppressed the communist revolt. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were taken prisoner and then assassinated. This victory did not end the civil war. It continued for months in the provinces, and time and again broke out afresh in Berlin. However, the victory reported by the troops in January, 1919, in Berlin safeguarded the elections for the Constituent Assembly, the session of this Parliament, and the promulgation of the Weimar Constitution. William II used to say: “Where my guards set foot, there is no further question of democracy.” The Weimar democracy was of a peculiar sort. The horsemen of the Kaiser’s guards had fought for it and won it. The Constitution of Weimar could be deliberated and voted only because the nationalist adversaries of democracy preferred it to the dictatorship of the communists. The German nation obtained parliamentary government as a gift from the hands of deadly foes of freedom, who waited for an opportunity to take back their present.
It was in vain that the majority socialists and their affiliate, the Democratic party, invented one legend more, in order to obfuscate these sad facts. In the first months following the November Revolution, they said, the Marxians discussed in their party circles the question of what form of government would serve best the interests of German labor. The disputations were sometimes very violent, because some radicals tried to disturb them. But finally, after careful deliberation, the workers resolved that parliamentary democracy would be the most appropriate form of government. This magnanimous renunciation of dictatorship was the outcome of a voluntary decision and gave new evidence of the political maturity of German labor.
This interpretation of events cautiously evades dealing with the main problem. In early January, 1919, there was but one political problem in Germany: the choice between Bolshevist totalitarianism under the joint dictatorship of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, on the one hand, and parliamentarism on the other. This struggle could not be decided by the peaceful methods of democracy. The communists were not prepared to yield to the majority. They were an armed troop; they had gained control of the greater part of the capital and of a good many other places. But for the nationalist gangs and troops and for the remnants of the old army, they could have seized power throughout the Reich and established Bolshevism in Germany. There was but one factor that could stop their assault and that really did stop it: the armed forces of the Right.
The moderate Marxians are correct in asserting that not only the bourgeoisie and the farmers but also the greater part of organized labor was opposed to dictatorship and preferred parliamentary government. But at that time it was no longer a question of whether a man was ready to vote for a party ticket but of whether he was ready to stake his life for his conviction. The communists were only a small minority, but there was just one means left to combat them: by deadly weapons. Whoever wanted democracy—whether from the point of view of his Weltanschauung or simply as the lesser evil—had to attack the strongholds of communism, to rout its armed bands, and to put the government in control of the capital and of the rest of the country. Everyone knew that this was the state of affairs. Every member of the majority socialists was fully aware that not to fight the communists by force of arms was equivalent to yielding to communism. But only a few functionaries of the government made even a lame attempt to organize resistance; and their endeavors failed as all their political friends refused coöperation.
It is very important to understand the ideas which in those fateful days shaped the attitudes of the majority socialists. For these ideas sprang out of the very essence of Marxian thought. They reappear whenever and wherever in the world people imbued with Marxian doctrines have to face similar situations. We encounter in them one of the main reasons why Marxism—leaving its economic failure out of the question—even in the field of political action was and is the most conspicuous failure of history.
The German Marxians—remember, not the communists, but those sincerely rejecting dictatorship—argued this way: It is indispensable to smash the communists in order to pave the way for democratic socialism. (In those days of December, 1918, and January, 1919, the German noncommunist Marxians were still wrapped in the illusion that the majority of the people backed their socialist program.) It is necessary to defeat the communist revolt by armed resistance. But that is not our business. Nobody can expect us, Marxians and proletarians as we are, to rise in arms against our class and party comrades. A dirty job has to be done but it is not our task to do it. Our tenets are contrary to such a policy. We must cling to the principle of class and party solidarity. Besides, it would hurt our popularity and imperil our success at the impending election. We are, indeed, in a very unfortunate position. For the communists do not feel themselves bound by the same idea. They can fight us, because they have the enormous advantage of denouncing us as social traitors and reactionaries. We cannot pay them back in their own coin. They are revolutionaries in fighting us, but we would appear as reactionaries in fighting them. In the realm of Marxian thought the more radical are always right in despising and attacking the more prudent party members. Nobody would believe us if we were to call them traitors and renegades. As Marxians, in this situation we cannot help adopting an attitude of nonresistance.
These oversophisticated Marxians did not see what the German people—among them millions of old party members—realized very well: that this policy meant the abdication of German Marxism. If a ruling party has to admit: This has to be done now; this is the necessity of the hour; but we cannot do it because it does not comply with our creed; somebody else has to fill the gap—it renounces once and for all its claims to political leadership.
The noncommunist Marxians severely blame Ebert, Noske, and others of their leaders for their coöperation with the nationalist vanquishers of the communist forces. But this coöperation consisted in nothing more than some consultations. It is likely that the frightened Mandataries of the People and their aides did not conceal in these talks with the nationalist commanders that they were frightened and powerless and would be glad to be saved. But in the eyes of the adamant supporters of the principle of class solidarity this already meant treason.
The outstanding fact in all this is that German communism was defeated by the Right alone, while the noncommunist Marxians were eager to stay neutral. But for the nationalist armed intervention, Germany would have turned to Bolshevism in 1919. The outcome of the events of January, 1919, was an enormous increase in the prestige of the nationalists; theirs was the glory of having saved the nation, while the Social Democrats became despicable. Every new communist upheaval repeated the same experience. The nationalists fought the communists single-handed, while the Social Democrats hesitated to oppose their “communist comrades.” The Social Democrats ruled Prussia, the paramount state, and some of the smaller states of the Reich; but they ruled only thanks to the support they got from the nationalists of the Reichswehr and of the free corps. From that time on the Social Democrats were at the mercy of the Right.
The Weimar Republic was regarded both by the nationalists and by the communists only as a battleground in their struggle for dictatorship. Both armed for civil war; both tried several times to open the attack and had to be beaten back by force. But the nationalists daily grew more powerful, while the communists gradually became paralyzed. It was not a question of votes and number of members in Parliament. The centers of gravity of these parties lay outside parliamentary affairs. The nationalists could act freely. They were supported by the majority of the intellectuals, salaried people, entrepreneurs, farmers, and by a part of skilled labor. They were familiar with the problems of German life. They could adjust their actions to the changing political and economic conditions of the nation and of each of its provinces. The communists, on the other hand, had to obey orders issued by ignorant Russian chiefs who were not familiar with Germany, and they were forced to change their policies over night whenever the central committee of Moscow ordered them to do so. No intelligent or honest man could endure such slavery. The intellectual and moral quality of the German communist leaders was consequently far below the average level of German politicians. They were no match for the nationalists. The communists played the role in German politics only of saboteurs and conspirators. After January, 1919, they no longer had any chance of success. Of course, the ten years of Nazi misrule have revived German communism; on the day of Hitler’s collapse they will be the strongest party in Germany.
The Germans would have decided in 1918 in favor of democracy, if they had had the choice. But as things were, they had only the choice between the two dictatorships, of the communists and of the nationalists. Between these two dictatorial parties there was no third group ready to support capitalism and its political corollary, democracy. Neither the majority socialists and their affiliates, the Democratic party, nor the Catholic Center party was fitted for the adoption of “pluto-cratic” democracy and of “bourgeois” republicanism. Their past and their ideologies were strongly opposed to such an attitude. The Hohenzollerns lost their throne because they rejected British parliamentarism. The Weimar Republic failed because it rejected French republicanism as realized from 1875 to 1930 in the Third Republic. The Weimar Republic had no program but to steer a middle course between two groups aiming at dictatorship. For the supporters of the government parliamentarism was not the best system of government. It was only an emergency measure, an expedient. The majority socialists wanted to be moderate Marxians and moderate nationalists, nationalist Marxians and Marxian nationalists. The Catholics wanted to combine nationalism and socialism with Catholicism and yet to maintain democracy. Such eclecticism is doomed. It does not appeal to youth. It succumbs in every conflict with resolute adversaries.
There was only one alternative to nationalism left: the adoption of unrestricted free trade. Nobody in Germany considered such a reversion. It would have required an abandonment of all measures of Sozialpolitik, government control and trade-union pressure. Those parties that believed they were fighting radical nationalism—the Social Democrats and their satellites, then the communists, the Center, and some farmer groups—were, on the contrary, fanatical supporters of etatism and hyper-protectionism. But they were too narrow-minded to see that these policies presented Germany with the tremendous problem of autarky. They simply shut their eyes. We should not overrate the intellectual capacities of the German masses. But they were not too dull to see that autarky was the focal problem of Germany and that only the nationalist parties had an idea (although a spurious one) of how to deal with it. While the other parties shunned a discussion of its dangers, the nationalists offered a plan for a solution. As this plan of world conquest was the only one offered to the Germans, they endorsed it. No one told them that there was another way out. The Marxians and the Catholics were not even keen enough to point out that the Nazi plan of world domination was doomed to military failure; they were anxious not to hurt the vanity of the people, firmly assured of their own invincibility. But even if the adversaries of aggression had adequately exposed the dangers and the risks of a new war, the plain citizen would still have given preference to the Nazis. For the more cautious and subtle Nazis said: We have a precise plan for the salvation of Germany; it is a very risky plan and we cannot guarantee success. But anyhow it gives us a chance, while no one else has any idea how to deal with our serious condition. If you drift your fate is sealed; if you follow us there is at least a prospect of success.
The conduct of the German Left was no less an ostrich policy than that of the Left in Great Britain and in France. On the one hand, the Left advocated state omnipotence and consequently hyper-protectionism; on the other hand, it gave no thought to the fact that within a world of autarky Germany was doomed to starvation. The German Marxian refugees boast that their parties made some—very lame and timid, indeed—endeavors to prevent German rearmament. But this was only a proof of their inconsistency and their inability to see reality as it was. Whoever wanted to maintain peace had to fight etatism. Yet the Left was no less fanatical in its support of etatism than the Right. The whole German nation favored a policy of government interference with business which must result in Zwangswirtschaft. But only the Nazis grasped the fact that while Russia could live in autarky Germany could not. Therefore the Nazis succeeded, for they did not encounter any party advocating laissez faire, i.e., a market economy.
The Abortive Socialization
The Social Democrats had put at the top of their party programs the demand for the socialization (Vergesellschaftung) of the means of production. This would have been clear and unambiguous if people had been ready to interpret it as forcible expropriation of the means of production by the state, and consequently as government management of all branches of economic activity. But the Social Democrats emphatically asserted that this was not at all the meaning of their basic claim. Nationalization (Verstaatlichung) and socialization, they insisted, were two entirely different things. The measures of nationalization and municipalization (Verstadtlichung) of various plants and enterprises, which the Reich and its member states had considered since the ’eighties of the past century an essential part of their socio-economic policies, were, they maintained, neither socialization nor the first steps toward it. They were on the contrary the outcome of a capitalist policy extremely detrimental to the interests of labor. The unfavorable experience with these nationalized and municipalized concerns, therefore, had no bearing on the socialist demand for socialization. However, the Marxians did not explain what socialization really means and how it differs from nationalization. They made some clumsy attempts but very soon they retired from the discussion of this awkward problem. The subject was tabooed. No decent German was rash enough to break this ban by raising the question.
The first World War brought about a trend toward war socialism. One branch of business after the other was centralized, i.e., forcibly placed under the management of a committee whose members—the entrepreneurs of the branch concerned—were nothing but an advisory board of the government’s commissary. Thus the government obtained full control of all vital branches of business. The Hindenburg program advocated an all-round application of this system for all branches of German trade and production. Its execution would have transformed Germany into a purely socialist commonwealth of the Zwangswirtschaft pattern. But the Hindenburg program was not yet completely realized when the German Empire collapsed.
War socialism was extremely unpopular in Germany. People even blamed it for what was not its fault. It was not exclusively to blame for German starvation. The blockade, the absence of millions of workers serving in the armed forces, and the fact that a good deal of the productive effort had to be directed to the production of armament and munitions contributed to the distress even more than the inadequacy of socialist methods of production. The Social Democrats should have pointed out these things as well. But they did not want to miss any opportunity which could be exploited for demagogic distortion of facts. They attacked the Zwangswirtschaft as such. The Zwangswirtschaft was the worst kind of capitalist exploitation and abuse, they contended; and it had demonstrated the urgent need for the substitution of socialism for capitalism.
The end of the war brought military defeat, revolution, civil war, famine, and desolation. Millions of demobilized soldiers, many of whom had retained their arms, flowed back to their homes. They robbed the military magazines. They stopped trains to search them for food. In company with workers, dismissed by plants which had been forced overnight to discontinue the production of munitions, they raided the open country for bread and potatoes. The villagers organized armed resistance. Conditions were chaotic. The inexperienced and ignorant socialists who had seized the government were helpless. They had no idea how to cope with the situation. Their orders and counterorders disintegrated the apparatus of administration. The starving masses called for food and were fed bombastic speeches.
In this emergency capitalism gave proof of its adaptability and efficiency. The entrepreneurs, at last defying the innumerable laws and decrees of the Zwangswirtschaft, tried to make their plants run again. The most urgent need was to resume production for export in order to buy food and raw materials in the neutral countries and in the Balkans. Without such imports Germany would have been doomed. The entrepreneurs succeeded in their efforts and thus saved Germany. People called them profiteers but scrambled for the goods brought to the market and were happy to acquire these badly needed necessities. The unemployed found jobs again. Germany began to return to normal.
The socialists did not worry much about the slackening of the Zwangswirtschaft. In their opinion this system, far from being socialist, was a capitalist evil that had to be abolished as soon as possible. Now real socialization had to start.
But what did socialization mean? It was, said the Marxians, neither the kind of thing represented by the nationalization of state railroads, state mines, and so on, nor the war socialism of Zwangswirtschaft. But what else could it be? Marxians of all groups had to admit that they did not know. For more than fifty years they had advocated socialization as the focal point of their party program. Now that they had seized power they must start to execute their program. Now they had to socialize. But at once it became apparent that they did not know what socialization meant. It was really rather awkward.
Fortunately the socialist leaders remembered that there is a class of men whose business it is to know everything—the omniscient professors. The government appointed a socialization committee. The majority of its members were Social Democrats; yet it was not from these that the solution of the riddle was expected but from the professors. The professors whom the government nominated were not Social Democrats. They were advocates of that Sozialpolitik which in earlier years had favored the nationalization and municipalization of various enterprises, and in recent years had supported the planned economy, the Zwangswirtschaft. They had always backed precisely the reformism that the orthodox Marxians denounced as capitalist humbug, detrimental to the interests of the proletarians.
The socialization committee deliberated many years, splitting hairs, distilling oversophisticated definitions, drafting spurious plans, and selling very bad economics. Its minutes and reports, collected in shelves of thick volumes, rest in the libraries for the edification of future generations. They are a token of the intellectual decay brought about by Marxism and etatism. But they failed to answer the question of what else socialization could mean besides nationalization (Verstaatlichung) or planning (Zwangswirtschaft).
There are only two methods of socialization, both of which had been applied by the German Imperial Government. There is on the one hand outright nationalization, today the method of Soviet Russia; and there is on the other hand central planning, the Zwangswirtschaft of the Hindenburg program and the method of the Nazis. The German Marxians had barred both ways to themselves through their hypocritical demagogy. The Marxians of the Weimar Republic not only did not further the trend toward socialization; they tolerated the virtual abandonment of the most effective socialization measures inaugurated by the imperial government. Their adversaries, foremost among them the regime of the Catholic Chancellor Bruening, later resumed the policy of planning, and the Nazis perfected these endeavors by establishing all-round planning, the German socialism of the Zwangswirtschaft type.
The German workers, both Social Democrats and communists, were not much concerned about socialization. For them, as Kautsky remarked, the revolution meant only an opportunity to raise wages. Higher wages, higher unemployment doles, and shorter hours of work meant more to them than socialization.
This situation was not the result of treason on the part of the socialist leaders but of the inherent contradictions in the Social Democratic creed. The Marxians advocated a program whose realization was bound to render the state omnipotent and totalitarian; but they also talked indefatigably about shaking off “this state rubbish in its entirety,” about “the withering away of the state.” They advocated socialization but rejected the only two methods available for its achievement. They talked of the frustration of trade unionism as a means of improving the conditions of the workers; but they made trade-union policies the focal point of their political action. They taught that socialism could not be attained before capitalism had reached its full maturity, and disparaged as petty bourgeois all measures designed to check or delay the evolution of capitalism. But they themselves vehemently and fanatically demanded such measures. These contradictions and inconsistencies, not machinations of capitalists or entrepreneurs, caused the downfall of German Marxism.
True, the leaders of the Social Democrats were incompetent; some were corrupt and insincere. But this was no accident. No intelligent man could fail to see the essential shortcomings of Marxian doctrine. Corruption is an evil inherent in every government not controlled by a watchful public opinion. Those who were prepared to take the demand for socialization seriously deserted the ranks of Marxism for those of Nazism. For the Nazis, although still more corrupt morally, aimed unambiguously at the realization of central planning.
The Armed Parties
The November Revolution brought a resurgence of a phenomenon that had long before disappeared from German history. Military adventurers formed armed bands or Freikorps and acted on their own behalf. The communist revolutionaries had inaugurated this method, but soon the nationalists adopted and perfected it. Dismissed officers of the old army called together demobilized soldiers and maladjusted boys and offered their protection to the peasants menaced by raids of starving townsfolk and to the population of the eastern frontiers suffering from Polish and Lithuanian guerrilla invasions. The landlords and the farmers provided them in return for their services with food and shelter. When the condition which had made their interference appear useful changed these gangs began to blackmail and to extort money from landowners, businessmen, and other wealthy people. They became a public calamity.
The government did not dare to dissolve them. Some of the bands had fought bravely against the communists. Others had successfully defended the eastern provinces against the Poles and Lithuanians. They boasted of these achievements, and the nationalist youth did not conceal their sympathy for them. The old leaders of the nationalist party were profoundly hostile to these unmanageable gang leaders, who defied their advice and whose heedless actions came into collision with their considered plans. The extortions of the free corps were a heavy burden for the landowners and peasants. The bands were no longer needed as a safeguard against communist uprisings. The Reichswehr, the new army reorganized according to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, was now strong enough for this task. The nationalist champions were quite right in suspecting that the young men who formed these corps hoped to displace them in the leadership of the nationalist movement. They devised a clever scheme for their suppression. The Reichswehr was to incorporate them and thus render them innocuous. As it became more difficult from day to day for the captains of the free corps to provide funds for the sustenance of their men, they were ready to accept this offer and to obey the orders of the army officers.
This solution, however, was a breach of the Treaty of Versailles, which had limited the size of the Reichswehr to a hundred thousand men. Hence conflicts arose with the French and the British representatives. The Allied Powers demanded the total disbandment of the so-called black Reichswehr. When the government, complying, decided to dissolve the most important black troop, the sailors’ Ehrhardt brigade, it hastened the outbreak of the Kapp insurrection.
War and civil war, and the revolutionary mentality of the Marxians and of the nationalists, had created such a spirit of brutality that the political parties gave their organizations a military character. Both the nationalist Right and the Marxian Left had their armed forces. These party troops were, of course, entirely different from the free corps formed by nationalist hotspurs and by communist radicals. Their members were people who had their regular jobs and were busy from Monday to Saturday noon. On week ends they would don their uniforms and parade with brass bands, flags, and often with their firearms. They were proud of their membership in these associations but they were not eager to fight; they were not animated by a spirit of aggression. Their existence, their parades, their boasting, and the challenging speeches of their chiefs were a nuisance but not a serious menace to domestic peace.
After the failure of the revolutionary attempts of Kapp1 in March, 1920, that of Hitler and Ludendorff in November, 1923, and of various communist uprisings, of which the most important was the Holz riot in March, 1921, Germany was on the way back to normal conditions. The free corps and the communist gangs began slowly to disappear from the political stage. They still waged some guerrilla warfare with each other and against the police. But these fights degenerated more and more into gangsterism and rowdyism. Such riots and the plots of a few adventurers could not endanger the stability of the social order.
But the Social Democratic party and press made the blunder of repeatedly denouncing the few still operating nationalist free corps and vehemently insisting on their dissolution. This attitude was a challenge to the nationalist parties who disliked the adventurers no less than the Social Democrats did but did not dare to abandon them openly. They retorted by calling for the dissolution of the communist formations as well. But the Social Democrats were in a similar position with regard to the communist bands. They hated and feared them yet did not want to combat them openly.
As in the Bismarck Reich, so in the Weimar Republic, the main powers of civil administration were not assigned to the government of the Reich but to the governments of the member states. Prussia was the largest and richest member state; its population was the most numerous; it was the Reich’s center of gravity, or, properly speaking, the Reich. The fact that the conservative party had dominated Prussia had given the conservatives hegemony over imperial Germany. The fact that the Social Democrats ruled Prussia under the Weimar Republic made them paramount in the republican Reich. When Chancellor Papen’s coup d’état of July 20, 1932, overthrew the socialist regime in Prussia, the struggle for the Reich was virtually decided.
The Bavarian Government was reluctant to disband the nationalist bands on its territory. It was not sympathy with the nationalists but provincial particularism that determined this attitude. To disobey the central authority was for it a matter of principle. The Government of the Reich was helpless because it had but one means to impose its will on a disobedient member state, namely, civil war. In this plight the Social Democratic Prussian Government took recourse to a fateful measure. On February 22, 1924, in Magdeburg, it founded the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold. This was not a private troop like the other armed party forces. It was an army of Prussia’s ruling party and had the full support of the Prussian Government. An outstanding Prussian functionary, the governor of the province of Saxony, was appointed its chief. The Reichsbanner was to be a nonpartisan association of all men loyal to the republican system of government and the Constitution of Weimar. Virtually, however, it was a Social Democratic institution. Its leaders insisted that members of other loyal parties were welcome in its ranks. But the immense majority of the members were Social Democrats who up to that time had been members of the various local and provincial Social Democratic armed party forces. Thus the foundation of the Reichsbanner did not strengthen the military forces of the Social Democrats; it only gave them a new, more centralized organization and the sanction of the Prussian state. Members of the Catholic Center party were never very numerous in the Reichsbanner and soon disappeared completely from its ranks. The third loyal party, the Democrats, were merely an insignificant affiliate of the Social Democrats.
The Social Democrats have tried to justify the foundation of the Reichsbanner by referring to the nationalist bias of the Reichswehr, the one hundred thousand soldiers who formed the Reich’s army. But the Kapp revolt had demonstrated that the socialists had a very efficacious weapon available to defeat the nationalists in the general strike. The only serious menace for the Weimar Republic was the nationalist sympathies within the ranks of organized labor. The Social Democratic chiefs were unable to work successfully against these tendencies; many secretly sympathized with them.
The ominous import of the foundation of the Reichsbanner was that it provided Hitler with a good start. His Munich putsch of November, 1923, had resulted in complete failure. When he left prison in December, 1924, his political prospects looked black. The foundation of the Reichsbanner was just what he wanted. All the non-Marxians, i.e., the majority of the population, were terrified by the defiant speeches of its chiefs and the fact that at the end of the first year of its existence its membership was three millions—more than the membership of all the Wehrverbände2 of the Right together.* Like the Social Democrats, they overrated the strength of the Reichsbanner and its readiness to fight. Thus a good many people were prepared to aid the Nazi Storm Troopers.
But these Storm Troopers were very different from the other armed party forces both of the Left and of the Right. Their members were not elderly men who had fought in the first World War and who now were eager to hold their jobs in order to support their families. The Nazi Storm Troopers were, as the free corps had been, jobless boys who made a living from their fighting. They were available at every hour of every day, not merely on week ends and holidays. It was doubtful whether the party forces—either of the Left or the Right—would be ready to fight when seriously attacked. It was certain that they would never be ready to wage a campaign of aggression. But Hitler’s troops were pugnacious; they were professional brawlers. They would have fought for their Führer in a bloody civil war if the opponents of Nazism had not yielded without resistance in 1933.
Hitler got subsidies from big business in the first period of his career. He extorted much greater sums from it in the second period of his struggle for supremacy. Thyssen and the rest paid him but they did not bribe him. Hitler took their money as a king takes the tribute of his subjects. If they had refused to give him what he asked, he would have sabotaged their plants or even murdered them. Such drastic measures were needless. The entrepreneurs preferred to be reduced by Nazism to the status of shop managers than to be liquidated by communism in the Russian way. As conditions were in Germany, there was no third course open to them.
Both force and money are impotent against ideas. The Nazis did not owe their conquest of Germany either to their getting a few million Reichsmarks from big business or to their being ruthless fighters. The great majority of the German nation had been both socialist and nationalist for many years. The Social Democratic trade-union members sympathized as much with nationalist radicalism as did the peasants, the Catholics, and the shopkeepers. The communists owed their votes in great part to the idea that communism was the best means to establish German hegemony in Europe and defeat Western capitalism. The German entrepreneurs and businessmen contributed their share to the triumph of Nazism, but so did all other strata of the nation. Even the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, were no exception.
Great ideological changes are scarcely explained by saying that somebody’s money was spent in their behalf. The popularity of communism in present-day America, whatever else it may be, is not the result either of the lavish subventions of the Russian Government or of the fact that some millionaires subsidize the newspapers and periodicals of the Left. And though it is true that some Jewish bankers, frightened by Nazi anti-Semitism, contributed to socialist party funds, and that far the richest endowment ever made for the study of the social sciences in Germany was that of a Jewish grain dealer for the foundation of a Marxian institute at the University of Frankfurt, German Marxism nevertheless was not, as the Nazis contend, the product of Jewish jobbers.
The slogan “national solidarity” (Volksgemeinschaft) had got such a hold on the German mentality that nobody dared to resist the Nazis when they struck their final blow. The Nazis crushed the hopes of many groups who once supported them. Big business, the landowners and the farmers, the artisans and the shopkeepers, the churches, all were disappointed. But the prestige of the main items of the Nazi creed—nationalism and socialism—was so overwhelming that this dissatisfaction had no important consequences.
Only one thing could put an end to Nazi rule: a military defeat. The blockade and the bombing of German cities by British and American planes will finally convince the Germans that Nazism is not the best means to make their nation prosperous.
The Treaty of Versailles
The four peace treaties of Versailles, Saint Germain, Trianon, and Sèvres together form the most clumsy diplomatic settlement ever carried out. They will be remembered as outstanding examples of political failure. Their aim was to bring lasting peace; the result was a series of minor wars and finally a new and more terrible World War. They were intended to safeguard the independence of small states; the results were the disappearance of Austria, Abyssinia, Albania, Czechoslovakia. They were designed to make the world safe for democracy; the results were Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Horthy.
However, one reproach generally cast upon the Treaty of Versailles is entirely unfounded. German propaganda succeeded in convincing public opinion in the Anglo-Saxon countries that the terms of the treaty were extremely unfair to Germany, that the hardships they inflicted upon the Germans drove them to despair, and that Nazism and the present war are the outcome of the mistreatment of Germany. This is wholly untrue. The political order given to Europe by the four treaties was very unsatisfactory. The settlement of East European problems was done with such disregard of the real conditions that chaos resulted. But the Treaty of Versailles was not unfair to Germany and it did not plunge the German people into misery. If the provisions of the treaty had been enforced, it would have been impossible for Germany to rearm and to attack again. The mischief was not that the treaty was bad so far as Germany was concerned, but that the victorious powers permitted Germany to defy some of its most important clauses.
The treaty obliged Germany to cede non-German territories that Prussia had conquered, and whose mainly non-German-speaking population was decidedly opposed to German rule. Germany’s only title to these countries was previous conquest. It was not—as the German propagandists used to say—the most scandalous robbery ever committed that the Reich was forced to give back what the Hohenzollerns had seized in earlier years. The favorite subject of German propaganda was the Polish Corridor. What, shouted the Nazi speakers and their foreign friends, would the British or the French have said if a piece of land had been cut out from their country, dividing it into two disconnected parts, in order to give a passage way to some other nation? Such utterances impressed public opinion all over the world. The Poles themselves threw little light upon this subject. In all those years they were ruled by an incompetent and corrupt oligarchy, and this ruling clique lacked the intellectual power to combat the German propaganda.
The true facts are these. In the Middle Ages the Teutonic Knights conquered the country which is today known as the Prussian province of East Prussia. But they did not succeed in their attempts to conquer the territory which in 1914 was the Prussian province of West Prussia. Thus East Prussia did not adjoin the German Empire. Between the western boundaries of East Prussia and the eastern borders of the Holy Empire there lay a piece of land ruled by the Kings of Poland, forming a part of Poland, and inhabited by Poles. This piece of land, namely, West Prussia, was in 1772 annexed by Prussia at the first partition of Poland. It is important to realize that West Prussia (and the same is true for the Prussian province of Posen) was annexed by Prussia, not by the German Empire. These provinces belonged neither to the Holy Empire, which disintegrated in 1806, nor to the German Confederation, which from 1815 to 1866 was the political organization of the German nation. They were the “private property,” as it were, of the kings of Prussia. The fact that the King of Prussia in his capacity as Elector-marquis of Brandenburg and as Duke of Pomerania was a member of the Holy Empire and of the German Confederation had legally and constitutionally no more significance for these eastern provinces than the fact once had for Great Britain that the King of England was in his capacity as Elector (and later as King) of Hanover a prince of the Holy Empire and later a member of the German Confederation. Until 1866 the relation of these provinces to Germany was like the relation of Virginia or Massachusetts to Germany between 1714 and 1776 and of Scotland from 1714 to 1837. They were foreign countries ruled by a prince who happened at the same time to rule a German country.
It was only in 1866 that the King of Prussia incorporated these provinces by his own sovereign decision into the Norddeutscher Bund and in 1871 into the Deutsches Reich. The people living in these countries were not asked whether they agreed or not. In fact they did not agree. They returned Polish members to the German Reichstag and they were anxious to preserve their Polish idiom and their allegiance to Polish traditions. For fifty years they resisted every endeavor of the Prussian Government to germanize them.
When the Treaty of Versailles renewed Poland’s independence and restored the provinces of Posen and of West Prussia to Poland, it did not give a corridor to Poland. It simply undid the effects of earlier Prussian (not German) conquests. It was not the fault of the peacemakers or of the Poles that the Teutonic Knights had conquered a country not adjoining the Reich.
The Treaty of Versailles returned Alsace-Lorraine to France and northern Schleswig to Denmark. It did not rob Germany in these cases either. The population of these countries violently opposed German rule and longed to be freed from its yoke. Germany had but one title to oppress these people—conquest. The logical outcome of defeat was ceding the spoils of earlier conquest.
The second provision of the treaty which used to be criticized severely concerned reparations. The Germans had devastated a great part of Belgium and of northeastern France. Who was to pay for the reconstruction of these areas? France and Belgium, the assailed, or Germany, the aggressor? The victorious or the defeated? The treaty decided that Germany ought to pay.
We need not enter into a detailed discussion of the reparations problem. It is sufficient here to determine whether the reparations really meant misery and starvation for Germany. Let us see what Germany’s income and reparation payments were in the period from 1925 to 1930.
It is a grotesque misrepresentation of the facts to assert that these payments made Germany poor and condemned the Germans to starvation. They would not have seriously affected the German standard of living even if the Germans had paid these sums out of their own pockets and not, as they did in fact, out of money borrowed from abroad.
For the years 1925–29 there are figures available concerning the increase of German capital. These increases are, in millions of Reichsmarks:†
From September, 1924, until July, 1931, Germany paid as reparations under the Dawes and Young plans 10,821 million Reichsmarks. Then the payments stopped altogether. Against this outflow Germany’s private and public indebtedness abroad, most of which originated in the same period, amounted to something over 20,500 million Reichsmarks. To this may be added approximately 5,000 million Reichsmarks of direct foreign investments in Germany. It is obvious that Germany did not suffer from lack of capital. If any more proof were needed it may be found in the fact that Germany invested in the same period approximately 10,000 million Reichsmarks abroad.*
The reparations were not responsible for Germany’s economic distress. But if the Allies had insisted on their payment, they would have seriously hampered Germany’s rearmament.
The antireparations campaign resulted in a complete fiasco for the Allies and in the full success of Germany’s refusal to pay. What the Germans did pay they paid out of foreign borrowings which they later repudiated. Thus the whole burden in fact fell on foreigners.
With regard to possible future reparations it is extremely important to know the basic causes of this previous failure. The Allies were from the very beginning of the negotiations handicapped by their adherence to the spurious monetary doctrines of present-day etatist economics. They were convinced that the payments represented a danger to the maintenance of monetary stability in Germany, and that Germany could not pay unless its balance of trade were “favorable.” They were concerned by a spurious “transfer” problem. They were disposed to accept the German thesis that “political” payments have effects radically different from payments originating from commercial transactions. This entanglement in mercantilist fallacies led them not to fix the total amount due in the Peace Treaty itself but to defer the decision to later negotiations. In addition it induced them to stipulate deliveries in kind, to insert the “transfer protection” clause, and finally to agree to the Hoover moratorium of July, 1931, and the cancellation of all reparation payments.
The truth is that the maintenance of monetary stability and of a sound currency system has nothing whatever to do with the balance of payments or of trade. There is only one thing that endangers monetary stability—inflation. If a country neither issues additional quantities of paper money nor expands credit, it will not have any monetary troubles. An excess of exports is not a prerequisite for the payment of reparations. The causation, rather, is the other way round. The fact that a nation makes such payments has the tendency to create such an excess of exports. There is no such thing as a “transfer” problem. If the German Government collects the amount needed for the payments (in Reichsmarks) by taxing its citizens, every German taxpayer must correspondingly reduce his consumption either of German or of imported products. In the second case the amount of foreign exchange which otherwise would have been used for the purchase of these imported goods becomes available. In the first case the prices of domestic products drop, and this tends to increase exports and thereby the amount of foreign exchange available. Thus collecting at home the amount of Reichsmarks required for the payment automatically provides the quantity of foreign exchange needed for the transfer. None of this, of course, depends in any way on whether the payments are “political” or commercial.
The payment of reparations, it is true, would have hurt the German taxpayer. It would have forced him to restrict his consumption. Under any circumstances, somebody had to pay for the damage inflicted. What the aggressors did not pay had to be paid by the victims of the aggression. But nobody pitied the victims, while hundreds of writers and politicians all over the world wept both crocodile and real tears over the Germans.
Perhaps it would have been politically wiser to choose another method for fixing the amount to be paid every year by Germany. For instance, the annual payment could have been brought into some fixed relation to the sums spent in future for Germany’s armed forces. For every Reichsmark spent on the German Army and Navy a multiple might have had to be paid as an installment. But all schemes would have proved ineffective as long as the Allies were under the spell of mercantilist fallacies.
The inflow of Germany’s payments necessarily rendered the receiving countries’ balance of trade “unfavorable.” Their imports exceeded their exports because they collected the reparations. From the viewpoint of mercantilist fallacies this effect seemed alarming. The Allies were at once eager to make Germany pay and not to get the payments. They simply did not know what they wanted. But the Germans knew very well what they wanted. They did not want to pay.
Germany complained that the trade barriers of the other nations rendered its payments more burdensome. This grievance was well founded. The Germans would have been right, if they had really attempted to provide the means required for cash payments by an increase of exports. But what they paid in cash was provided for them by foreign loans.
The Allies were mistaken to the extent that they blamed the Germans for the failure of the treaty’s reparation clauses. They should rather have indicted their own mercantilist prejudices. These clauses would not have failed if there had been in the Allied countries a sufficient number of influential spokesmen who knew how to refute the objections raised by the German nationalists.
Foreign observers have entirely misunderstood the role played by the Treaty of Versailles in the agitation of the Nazis. The nucleus of their propaganda was not the unfairness of the treaty; it was the “stab in the back” legend. We are, they used to say, the most powerful nation in Europe, even in the world. The war has evidenced anew our invincibility. We can, if we want to, put to rout all other nations. But the Jews have stabbed us in the back. The Nazis mentioned the treaty only in order to demonstrate the full villainy of the Jews.
“We, the victorious nation,” they said, “have been forced to surrender by the November crime. Our government pays reparations, although nobody is strong enough to force us to do that. Our Jewish and Marxian rulers abide by the disarmament clauses of the treaty, because they want us to pay this money to World Jewry.” Hitler did not fight the treaty. He fought those Germans who had voted in the German Parliament for its acceptance and who objected to its unilateral breach. For that Germany was powerful enough to annul the treaty the nationalists considered already proved by the “stab in the back” legend.
Many Allied and neutral critics of the Treaty of Versailles used to assert that it was a mistake to leave Germany any cause for grievance. This view was erroneous. Even if the treaty had left Germany’s European territory untouched, if it had not forced it to cede its colonies, if it had not imposed reparation payments and limitation of armaments, a new war would not have been averted. The German nationalists were determined to conquer more dwelling space. They were eager to obtain autarky. They were convinced that their military prospects for victory were excellent. Their aggressive nationalism was not a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles. The grievances of the Nazis had little to do with the treaty. They concerned Lebensraum.
There have been frequent comparisons of the Treaty of Versailles with the settlements of 1814 and 1815. The system of Vienna succeeded in safeguarding European peace for many years. Its generous treatment of the vanquished French allegedly prevented France from planning wars of revenge. If the Allies had treated Germany in a similar way, it is contended, they would have had better results.
A century and a half ago France was the paramount power in continental Europe. Its population, its wealth, its civilization, and its military efficiency eclipsed those of the other nations. If the French of those days had been nationalists in the modern sense, they would have had the opportunity to attain and hold hegemony on the continent for some time. But nationalism was foreign to the French of the revolutionary period. They were, it is true, chauvinists. They considered themselves (perhaps on better grounds than some other peoples) the flower of mankind. They were proud of their newly acquired liberty. They believed that it was their duty to assist other nations in their struggle against tyranny. They were chauvinists, patriots, and revolutionaries. But they were not nationalists. They were not eager for conquest. They did not start the war; foreign monarchs attacked them. They defeated the invaders. It was then that ambitious generals, foremost among them Napoleon, pushed them toward territorial expansion. The French certainly connived at the beginning; but they grew more and more reluctant as they began to realize that they were bleeding for the sake of the Bonaparte family. After Waterloo they were relieved. Now they no longer had to worry about the fate of their sons. Few Frenchmen complained about the loss of the Rhineland, the Netherlands, or Italy. No Frenchman wept because Joseph was no longer King of Spain or Jerome no longer King of Westphalia. Austerlitz and Jena became historical reminiscences; the citizen’s conceit derived edification from the poetry praising the late Emperor and his battles, but no one was now eager to subdue Europe.
Again, later, the events of June, 1848, directed attention to the Emperor’s nephew. Many expected him to overcome the new domestic troubles in the same way his uncle had dealt with the first revolution. There is no doubt that the third Napoleon owed his popularity solely to the glory of his uncle. Nobody knew him in France, and he knew nobody; he had seen the country only through prison bars and he spoke French with a German accent. He was only the nephew, the heir of a great name; nothing more. Certainly the French did not choose him because they wanted new wars. He brought them to his side by persuading them that his rule would safeguard peace. The empire means peace, was the slogan of his propaganda. Sevastopol and Solferino did not advance his popularity; they rather injured it. Victor Hugo, the literary champion of the first Napoleon’s glory, unswervingly vilified his successor.
The work of the Congress of Vienna could endure, in short, because Europe was peaceloving and considered war an evil. The work of Versailles was doomed to fail in this age of aggressive nationalism.
What the Treaty of Versailles really tried to achieve was contained in its military clauses. The restriction of German armaments and the demilitarization of the Rhineland did not harm Germany, because no nation ventured to attack it. But they would have enabled France and Great Britain to prevent a new German aggression if they had been earnestly resolved to prevent it. It is not the fault of the treaty that the victorious nations did not attempt to enforce its provisions.
The Economic Depression
The great German inflation was the result of the monetary doctrines of the socialists of the chair. It had little to do with the course of military and political events. The present writer forecast it in 1912. The American economist B. M. Anderson confirmed this forecast in 1917. But most of those men who between 1914 and 1923 were in a position to influence Germany’s monetary and banking policies and all journalists, writers, and politicians who dealt with these problems labored under the delusion that an increase in the quantity of bank notes does not affect commodity prices and foreign exchange rates. They blamed the blockade or profiteering for the rise of commodity prices, and the unfavorable balance of payments for the rise of foreign exchange rates. They did not lift a finger to stop inflation. Like all pro-inflation parties, they wanted to combat merely the undesirable but inevitable consequences of inflation, i.e., the rise of commodity prices. Their ignorance of economic problems pushed them toward price control and foreign exchange restrictions. They could never understand why these attempts were doomed to fail. The inflation was neither an act of God nor a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles. It was the practical application of the same etatist ideas that had begotten nationalism. All the German political parties shared responsibility for the inflation. They all clung to the error that it was not the increase of bank credits but the unfavorable balance of payments that was devaluing the currency.
The inflation had pauperized the middle classes. The victims joined Hitler. But they did not do so because they had suffered but because they believed that Nazism would relieve them. That a man suffers from bad digestion does not explain why he consults a quack. He consults the quack because he thinks that the man will cure him. If he had other opinions, he would consult a doctor. That there was economic distress in Germany does not account for Nazism’s success. Other parties also, e.g., the Social Democrats and the communists, recommended their patent medicines.
Germany was struck by the great depression from 1929 on, but not to a greater extent than other nations. On the contrary. In the years of this depression the prices of foodstuffs and raw materials that Germany imports decreased more than the prices of manufactures that it exports.
The depression would have resulted in a fall in wage rates. But as the trade unions would not permit wage cuts, unemployment increased. Both the Social Democrats and the communists were confident that the increase of unemployment would strengthen their forces. But it worked for Nazism.
The great depression was international. Only in Germany, however, did it result in the victory of a party recommending armaments and war as a panacea.
Nazism and German Labor
A riddle that has puzzled nearly all writers dealing with the problems of Nazism is this: There were in Germany many millions organized in the parties of the Social Democrats, of the communists, and of the Catholic Center; they were members of the trade unions affiliated with these parties. How could the Nazis succeed in overthrowing these masses of resolute adversaries and in establishing their totalitarian system? Did these millions change their minds overnight? Or were they cowards, yielding to the terror of the Storm Troopers and waiting for the day of redemption? Are the German workers still Marxians? Or are they sincere supporters of the Nazi system?
There is a fundamental error in posing the problem in this way. People take it for granted that the members of the various party clubs and trade-unions were convinced Social Democrats, communists, or Catholics, and that they fully endorsed the creeds and programs of their leaders. It is not generally realized that party allegiance and trade-union membership were virtually obligatory. Although the closed shop system was not carried to the extreme in Weimar Germany that it is today in Nazi Germany and in some branches of foreign industry, it had gone far enough. In the greater part of Germany and in most of the branches of German production it was practically impossible for a worker to stay outside of all the big trade-union groups. If he wanted a job or did not want to be dismissed, or if he wanted the unemployment dole, he had to join one of these unions. They exercised an economic and political pressure to which every individual had to yield. To join the union became practically a matter of routine for the worker. He did so because everybody did and because it was risky not to. It was not for him to inquire into the Weltanschauung of his union. Nor did the union bureaucrats trouble themselves about the tenets or feelings of the members. Their first aim was to herd as many workers as possible into the ranks of their unions.
These millions of organized workers were forced to pay lip service to the creeds of their parties, to vote for their candidates at the elections for Parliament and for union offices, to subscribe to the party newspapers, and to avoid open criticism of the party’s policy. But daily experience nonetheless brought them the evidence that something was wrong with their parties. Every day they learned about new trade barriers established by foreign nations against German manufactures—that is, against the products of their own toil and trouble. As the trade unions, with few exceptions, were not prepared to agree to wage cuts, every new trade barrier immediately resulted in increased unemployment. The workers lost confidence in the Marxians and in the Center. They became aware that these men did not know how to deal with their problems and that all they did was to indict capitalism. German labor was radically hostile to capitalism, but it found denunciation of capitalism unsatisfactory in this instance. The workers could not expect production to keep up if export sales dropped. They therefore became interested in the Nazi arguments. Such happenings, said the Nazis, are the drawbacks of our unfortunate dependence on foreign markets and the whims of foreign governments. Germany is doomed if it does not succeed in conquering more space and in attaining self-sufficiency. All endeavors to improve the conditions of labor are vain as long as we are compelled to serve as wage slaves for foreign capitalists. Such words impressed the workers. They did not abandon either the trade unions or the party clubs since this would have had very serious consequences for them. They still voted the Social Democrat, the communist, or the Catholic ticket out of fear and inertia. But they became indifferent both to Marxian and to Catholic socialism and began to sympathize with national socialism. Years before 1933 the ranks of German trade-unions were already full of people secretly sympathizing with Nazism. Thus German labor was not greatly disturbed when the Nazis finally forcibly incorporated all trade-union members into their Labor Front. They turned toward Nazism because the Nazis had a program dealing with their most urgent problem—foreign trade barriers. The other parties lacked such a program.
The removal of the unpopular trade-union bureaucrats pleased the workers no less than the humiliations inflicted by the Nazis on the entrepreneurs and executives. The bosses were reduced to the rank of shop managers. They had to bow to the almighty party chiefs. The workers exulted over the misfortunes of their employers. It was their triumph when their boss, foaming with rage, was forced to march in their ranks on state holiday parades. It was balm for their hearts.
Then came the rearmament boom. There were no more unemployed. Very soon there was a shortage of labor. The Nazis succeeded in solving a problem that the Social Democrats had been unable to master. Labor became enthusiastic.
It is highly probable that the workers are now fully aware of the dark side of the picture. They are disillusioned.* The Nazis have not led them into the land of milk and honey. In the desert of the ration cards the seeds of communism are thriving. On the day of the defeat the Labor Front will collapse as the Marxian and the Catholic trade unions did in 1933.
The Foreign Critics of Nazism
Hitler and his clique conquered Germany by brutal violence, by murder and crime. But the doctrines of Nazism had got hold of the German mind long before then. Persuasion, not violence, had converted the immense majority of the nation to the tenets of militant nationalism. If Hitler had not succeeded in winning the race for dictatorship, somebody else would have won it. There were plenty of candidates whom he had to eclipse: Kapp, General Ludendorff, Captain Ehrhardt, Major Papst, Forstrat Escherich, Strasser, and many more. Hitler had no inhibitions and thus he defeated his better instructed or more scrupulous competitors.
Nazism conquered Germany because it never encountered any adequate intellectual resistance. It would have conquered the whole world if, after the fall of France, Great Britain and the United States had not begun to fight it seriously.
The contemporary criticism of the Nazi program failed to serve the purpose. People were busy dealing with the mere accessories of the Nazi doctrine. They never entered into a full discussion of the essence of National Socialist teachings. The reason is obvious. The fundamental tenets of the Nazi ideology do not differ from the generally accepted social and economic ideologies. The difference concerns only the application of these ideologies to the special problems of Germany.
These are the dogmas of present-day “unorthodox” orthodoxy:
1. Capitalism is an unfair system of exploitation. It injures the immense majority for the benefit of a small minority. Private ownership of the means of production hinders the full utilization of natural resources and of technical improvements. Profits and interest are tributes which the masses are forced to pay to a class of idle parasites. Capitalism is the cause of poverty and must result in war.
2. It is therefore the foremost duty of popular government to substitute government control of business for the management of capitalists and entrepreneurs.
3. Price ceilings and minimum wage rates, whether directly enforced by the administration or indirectly by giving a free hand to trade unions, are an adequate means for improving the lot of the consumers and permanently raising the standard of living of all wage earners. They are steps on the way toward entirely emancipating the masses (by the final establishment of socialism) from the yoke of capital. (We may note incidentally that Marx in his later years violently opposed these propositions. Present-day Marxism, however, endorses them fully.)
4. Easy money policy, i.e., credit expansion, is a useful method of lightening the burdens imposed by capital upon the masses and making a country more prosperous. It has nothing to do with the periodical recurrence of economic depression. Economic crises are an evil inherent in unhampered capitalism.
5. All those who deny the foregoing statements and assert that capitalism best serves the masses and that the only effective method of permanently improving the economic conditions of all strata of society is progressive accumulation of new capital are ill-intentioned and narrow-minded apologists of the selfish class interests of the exploiters. A return to laissez faire, free trade, the gold standard, and economic freedom is out of the question. Mankind will fortunately never go back to the ideas and policies of the nineteenth century and the Victorian age. (Let us note incidentally that both Marxism and trade-unionism have the fairest claim to the epithets “nineteenth-century” and “Victorian.”)
6. The advantage derived from foreign trade lies exclusively in exporting. Imports are bad and should be prevented as much as possible. The happiest situation in which a nation can find itself is where it need not depend on any imports from abroad. (The “progressives,” it is true, are not enthusiastic about this dogma and sometimes even reject it as a nationalist error; however, their political acts are thoroughly dictated by it.)
With regard to these dogmas there is no difference between present-day British liberals and the British labor party on the one hand and the Nazis on the other. It does not matter that the British call these principles an outgrowth of liberalism and economic democracy while the Germans, on better grounds, call them antiliberal and antidemocratic. It is not much more important that in Germany nobody is free to utter dissenting views, while in Great Britain a dissenter is only laughed at as a fool and slighted.
We do not need to deal here with the refutation of the fallacies in these six dogmas. This is the task of treatises expounding the basic problems of economic theory. It is a task that has already been fulfilled. We need only emphasize that whoever lacks the courage or the insight to attack these premises is not in a position to find fault with the conclusions drawn from them by the Nazis. The Nazis also desire government control of business. They also seek autarky for their own nation. The distinctive mark of their policies is that they refuse to acquiesce in the disadvantages which the acceptance of the same system by other nations would impose upon them. They are not prepared to be forever “imprisoned,” as they say, within a comparatively overpopulated area in which the productivity of labor is lower than in other countries.
Both the German and foreign adversaries of Nazism were defeated in the intellectual battle against it because they were enmeshed in the same intransigent and intolerant dogmatism. The British Left and the American progressives want all-round control of business for their own countries. They admire the Soviet methods of economic management. In rejecting German totalitarianism they contradict themselves. The German intellectuals saw in Great Britain’s abandonment of free trade and of the gold standard a proof of the superiority of German doctrines and methods. Now they see that the Anglo-Saxons imitate their own system of economic management in nearly every respect. They hear eminent citizens of these countries declare that their nations will cling to these policies in the postwar period. Why should not the Nazis be convinced, in the face of all this, that they were the pioneers of a new and better economic and social order?
The chiefs of the Nazi party and their Storm Troopers are sadistic gangsters. But the German intellectuals and German labor tolerated their rule because they agreed with the basic social, economic, and political doctrines of Nazism. Whoever wanted to fight Nazism as such, before the outbreak of the present war and in order to avoid it (and not merely to oust the scum which happens to hold office in present-day Germany), would have had to change the minds of the German people. This was beyond the power of the supporters of etatism.
It is useless to search the Nazi doctrines for contradictions and inconsistencies. They are indeed self-contradictory and inconsistent; but their basic faults are those common to all brands of present-day etatism.
One of the most common objections raised against the Nazis concerned the alleged inconsistency of their population policy. It is contradictory, people used to say, to complain, on the one hand, of the comparative overpopulation of Germany and ask for more Lebensraum and to try, on the other hand, to increase the birth rate. Yet there was in the eyes of the Nazis no inconsistency in these attitudes. The only remedy for the evil of overpopulation that they knew was provided by the fact that the Germans were numerous enough to wage a war for more space, while the small nations laboring under the same evil of comparative overpopulation were too weak to save themselves. The more soldiers Germany could levy, the easier it would be to free the nation from the curse of overpopulation. The underlying doctrine was faulty; but one who did not attack the whole doctrine could not convincingly find fault with the endeavors to rear as much cannon fodder as possible.
One reason why the objections raised to the despotism of the Nazis and the atrocities they committed had so little effect is that many of the critics themselves were inclined to excuse the Soviet methods. Hence the German nationalists could claim that their adversaries—both German and foreign—were being unfair to the Nazis in denouncing them for practices which they judged more mildly in the Russians. And they called it cant and hypocrisy when the Anglo-Saxons attacked their racial doctrines. Do the British and the Americans themselves, they retorted, observe the principle of equality of all races?
The foreign critics condemn the Nazi system as capitalist. In this age of fanatical anticapitalism and enthusiastic support of socialism no reproach seems to discredit a government more thoroughly in the eyes of fashionable opinion than the qualification pro-capitalistic. But this is one charge against the Nazis that is unfounded. We have seen in a previous chapter that the Zwangswirtschaft is a socialist system of all-round government control of business.
It is true that there are still profits in Germany. Some enterprises even make much higher profits than in the last years of the Weimar regime. But the significance of this fact is quite different from what the critics believe. There is strict control of private spending. No German capitalist or entrepreneur (shop manager) or any one else is free to spend more money on his consumption than the government considers adequate to his rank and position in the service of the nation. The surplus must be deposited with the banks or invested in domestic bonds or in the stock of German corporations wholly controlled by the government. Hoarding of money or banknotes is strictly forbidden and punished as high treason. Even before the war there were no imports of luxury goods from abroad, and their domestic production has long since been discontinued. Nobody is free to buy more food and clothing than the allotted ration. Rents are frozen; furniture and all other goods are unattainable. Travel abroad is permitted only on government errands. Until a short time ago a limited amount of foreign exchange was allotted to tourists who wanted to spend a holiday in Switzerland or Italy. The Nazi government was anxious not to arouse the anger of its then Italian friends by preventing its citizens from visiting Italy. The case with Switzerland was different. The Swiss Government, yielding to the demands of one of the most important branches of its economic system, insisted that a part of the payment for German exports to Switzerland should be balanced by the outlays of German tourists. As the total amount of German exports to Switzerland and of Swiss exports to Germany was fixed by a bilateral exchange agreement, it was of no concern to Germany how the Swiss distributed the surplus. The sum allotted to German tourists traveling in Switzerland was deducted from that destined for the repayment of German debts to Swiss banks. Thus the stockholders of the Swiss banks paid the expenses incurred by German tourists.
German corporations are not free to distribute their profits to the shareholders. The amount of the dividends is strictly limited according to a highly complicated legal technique. It has been asserted that this does not constitute a serious check, as the corporations are free to water the stock. This is an error. They are free to increase their nominal stock only out of profits made and declared and taxed as such in previous years but not distributed to the shareholders.
As all private consumption is strictly limited and controlled by the government, and as all unconsumed income must be invested, which means virtually lent to the government, high profits are nothing but a subtle method of taxation. The consumer has to pay high prices and business is nominally profitable. But the greater the profits are, the more the government funds are swelled. The government gets the money either as taxes or as loans. And everybody must be aware that these loans will one day be repudiated. For many years German business has not been in a position to replace its equipment. At the end of the war the assets of corporations and private firms will consist mainly of worn-out machinery and various doubtful claims against the government. Warring Germany lives on its capital stock, i.e., on the capital nominally and seemingly owned by its capitalists.
The Nazis interpret the attitudes of other nations with regard to the problem of raw materials as an acknowledgment of the fairness of their own claims. The League of Nations has established that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory and hurts the interests of those nations calling themselves have-nots. The fourth point of the Atlantic Declaration of August 14, 1941, in which the chiefs of the governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States made known “certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hope for a better future of the world,” reads as follows: “They will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.”
The Roman Catholic Church is, in a world war, above the fighting parties. There are Catholics in both camps. The Pope is in a position to view the conflict with impartiality. It was, therefore, in the eyes of the Nazis very significant when the Pope discovered the root causes of the war in “that cold and calculating egoism which tends to hoard the economic resources and materials destined for the use of all to such an extent that the nations less favored by nature are not permitted access to them,” and further declared that he saw “admitted the necessity of a participation of all in the natural riches of the earth even on the part of those nations which in the fulfillment of this principle belong to the category of givers and not to that of receivers.”*
Well, say the Nazis, everybody admits that our grievances are reasonable. And, they add, in this world which seeks autarky of totalitarian nations, the only way to redress them is to redistribute territorial sovereignty.
It was often contended that the dangers of autarky which the Nazis feared were still far away, that Germany could still expand its export trade, and that its per capita income continued to increase. Such objections did not impress the Germans. They wanted to realize economic equality, i.e., a productivity of German labor as high as that of any other nation. The wage earners of the Anglo-Saxon countries too, they objected, enjoy today a much higher standard of living than in the past. Nevertheless, the “progressives” do not consider this fact a justification of capitalism, but approve of labor’s claims for higher wages and the abolition of the wage system. It is unfair, said the Nazis, to object to the German claims when nobody objects to those of Anglo-Saxon labor.
The weakest argument brought forward against the Nazi doctrine was the pacifist slogan: War does not settle anything. For it cannot be denied that the present state of territorial sovereignty and political organization is the outcome of wars fought in the past. The sword freed France from the rule of the English kings and made it an independent nation, converted America and Australia into white men’s countries, and secured the autonomy of the American republics. Bloody battles made France and Belgium predominantly Catholic and Northern Germany and the Netherlands predominantly Protestant. Civil wars safeguarded the unity of the United States and of Switzerland.
Two efficacious and irrefutable objections could well have been raised against the plans of German aggression. One is that the Germans themselves had contributed as much as they could to the state of affairs that they considered so deplorable. The other is that war is incompatible with the international division of labor. But “progressives” and nationalists were not in a position to challenge Nazism on these grounds. They were not themselves concerned with the maintenance of the international division of labor; they advocated government control of business which must necessarily lead toward protectionism and finally toward autarky.
The fallacious doctrines of Nazism cannot withstand the criticism of sound economics, today disparaged as orthodox. But whoever clings to the dogmas of popular neo-Mercantilism and advocates government control of business is impotent to refute them. Fabian and Keynesian “unorthodoxy” resulted in a confused acceptance of the tenets of Nazism. Its application in practical policies frustrated all endeavors to form a common front of all nations menaced by the aspirations of Nazism.
Nazism as a World Problem
The Scope and Limitations of History
It is the function of historical research to trace historical events back to their sources. The historian has to demonstrate how any historical situation developed out of previously existing—natural and social—conditions and how the actions of men and occurrences beyond human control transformed any previous state of affairs into the subsequent state of affairs. This analytical retrospection cannot be carried out indefinitely. Soon or late history reaches a point at which its methods of interpretation are of no further use. Then the historian can do nothing more than establish that a factor was operative which brought to pass what resulted. The usual way of putting this into words is to speak of individuality or uniqueness.
The same is essentially true of the natural sciences. They too inevitably sooner or later reach a point which they must simply take as a datum of experience, as the “given.” Their scope is to interpret (or, as people once preferred to say, to explain) occurring changes as the outcome of forces working throughout the universe. They trace one fact back to previous facts; they show us that the a, the b, and the n are the outcome of the x. But there are x’s which, at least in our day, cannot be traced back to other sources. Coming generations may succeed in pushing the limits of our knowledge further back. But there cannot be any doubt that there will always remain some items which cannot be traced back to others.
The human mind is not even capable of consistently grasping the meaning of such a concept as the ultimate cause of all things. Natural science will never go further than the establishment of some ultimate factors which cannot be analyzed and traced back to their sources, springs, or causes.
The term individuality as used by the historians means: here we are confronted with a factor which cannot be traced back to other factors. It does not provide an interpretation or explanation. It establishes, on the contrary, that we have to deal with an inexplicable datum of historical experience. Why did Caesar cross the Rubicon? The historians can provide us with various motives which might have influenced Caesar’s decision, but they cannot deny that another decision would have been possible. Perhaps Cicero or Brutus, faced with a similar situation, would have behaved differently. The only correct answer is: he crossed the Rubicon because he was Caesar.
It is misleading to explain a man’s or a group’s behavior by referring to their character. The concept of character is tantamount to the concept of individuality. What we call a man’s or a group’s character is the totality of our knowledge about their conduct. If they had behaved otherwise than as they actually did, our notions of their character would be different. It is a mistake to explain the fact that Napoleon made himself emperor and tried in a rather foolish way to break into the circle of the old European dynasties as a result of his character. If he had not substituted emperorship for his lifelong consular dignity, and had not married an archduchess, we would, in the same way, have had to say that this was a peculiar mark of his character. The reference to character explains no more than does the famous explanation of the soporific effect of opium by its virtus dormitiva qui facit sensus assupire.
Therefore it is vain to expect any help from psychology, whether individual or mass psychology. Psychology does not lead us beyond the limits fixed in the concept of individuality. It does not explain why being crossed in love turns some people toward dipsomania, others to suicide, others to writing clumsy verses, while it inspired Petrarch and Goethe to immortal poems and Beethoven to divine music. The classification of men into various character types is not a very profitable expedient. Men are classified according to their conduct, and then people believe they have provided an explanation in deducing conduct from their classification. Moreover, every individual or group has traits which do not fit into the Procrustean bed of classification.
Neither can physiology solve the problem. Physiology cannot explain how external facts and circumstances bring about definite ideas and actions within human consciousness. Even if we were to know everything about the operation of brain cells and nerves, we should be at a loss to explain—otherwise than by referring to individuality—why identical environmental facts result with different individuals, and with the same individuals at various times, in diverse ideas and actions. The sight of a falling apple led Newton to the laws of gravitation; why not other people before him? Why does one man succeed in the correct solution of an equation whereas other people do not? In what does the physiological process resulting in the mathematically correct solution of a problem differ from that leading to an incorrect solution? Why did the same problems of locomotion in snow-covered mountains lead the Norwegians to the invention of skiing, while the inhabitants of the Alps did not have this inspiration?
No historical research can avoid reference to the concept of individuality. Neither biography, dealing with the life of only one personality, nor the history of peoples and nations can push its analysis further than a point where the last statement is: individuality.
The Fallacy of the Concept of “National Character”
The main deficiency of the character concept when applied as an explanation is in the permanency attributed to it. The individual or the group is conceived as equipped with a stable character of which all its ideas and actions are the outcome. The criminal is not a criminal because he has committed a crime; he commits the crime because he is a criminal. Therefore, the fact that a man has once committed a crime is the proof that he is a criminal and makes it plausible that he is guilty of any other crime ascribed to him. This doctrine has deeply influenced penal procedure in continental Europe. The state is eager to prove that the defendant has already committed other crimes in his previous career; the defense in the same way is eager to whitewash the defendant by demonstrating that his past life was free from fault.* Yet a man who has already committed several murders may be guiltless of the murder for which he is standing trial, whereas a man after sixty years of impeccable behavior may have committed an abominable crime.
The concept of a nation’s character is a generalization of features discovered in various individuals. It is mainly the result of precipitate and ill-considered induction from an insufficient number of ill-assorted samples. In the old days the German citizens of Bohemia met few Czechs other than cooks and maids. Hence they concluded that the Czechs are servile, submissive, and cringing. A student of Czech political and religious history may rather qualify them as rebellious and lovers of freedom. But what entitles us to search for common characteristics of the various individuals of an aggregate which includes, on the one hand, John Huss and Žižka of Trocnov1 and, on the other, foot-men and chambermaids? The criterion applied in the formation of the class concept “Czechs” is the use of the Czech language. To assume that all members of a linguistic group must have some other marks in common is a petitio principii.
The most popular interpretation of the ascendancy of Nazism explains it as an outcome of the German national character. The holders of this theory search German literature and history for texts, quotations, and deeds indicating aggressiveness, rapacity, and lust for conquest. From these scraps of knowledge they deduce the German national character, and from the character so established the rise of Nazism.
It is very easy indeed to assemble many facts of German history and many quotations from German authors that can be used to demonstrate an inherent German propensity toward aggression. But it is no less easy to discover the same characteristics in the history and literature of other linguistic groups, e.g., Italian, French, and English. Germany has never had more excellent and eloquent panegyrists of military heroism and war than Carlyle and Ruskin were, never a chauvinist poet and writer more eminent than Kipling, never more ruthless and Machiavellian conquerors than Warren Hastings and Lord Clive, never a more brutal soldier than Hodson of Hodson’s Horse.
Very often the quotations are taken out of context and thus entirely distorted. In the first World War British propagandists used to cite over and over again a few lines from Goethe’s Faust. But they omitted to mention that the character into whose mouth these words are put, Euphorion, is a counterpart of Lord Byron, whom Goethe admired more than any other contemporary poet (except for Schiller), although Byron’s romanticism did not appeal to his own classicism. These verses do not at all express Goethe’s own tenets. Faust concludes with a glorification of productive work; its guiding idea is that only the self-satisfaction received from rendering useful services to his fellow men can make a man happy; it is a panegyric upon peace, freedom, and—as the Nazis scornfully call it, “bourgeois”—security. Euphorion-Byron represents a different ideal: the restless craving for ends inaccessible to human beings, the yearning for adventure, combat, and glory which results in failure and in premature death. It is nonsensical to quote as proof of Germany’s innate militarism the verses in which Euphorion answers his parents’ commendation of peace with passionate praise of war and victory.
There have been in Germany, as in all other nations, eulogists of aggression, war, and conquest. But there have been other Germans too. The greatest are not to be found in the ranks of those glorifying tyranny and German world hegemony. Are Heinrich von Kleist, Richard Wagner, and Detlev von Liliencron more representative of the national character than Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Mozart, and Beethoven?
The idea of a nation’s character is obviously arbitrary. It is derived from a judgment which omits all unpleasant facts contradicting the preconceived dogma.
It is not permissible to apply statistical procedures in the establishment of a nation’s character. The question is not to find out how the Germans would have voted in the past if they had had to decide by plebiscites what course their country’s policy should follow. Even if such an investigation could be successfully undertaken, its results would not provide us with any information helpful in our case. The political situation of each period has its unique form, its individuality. We are not justified in drawing from past events conclusions applicable to the present day. It would not clear up our problems if we knew whether the majority of the Goths approved of the invasion of the Roman Empire or whether the majority of the twelfth-century Germans favored Barbarossa’s treatment of the Milanese. The present situation has too little in common with those of the past.
The usual method applied is to pick out some famous personalities of a nation’s past and present and to take their opinions and actions as representative of the whole nation. This would be a faulty method even if people were conscientious enough to confront these arbitrarily chosen men with others who held contrary ideas and behaved in a different way. It is not permissible to attach the same representative importance to the tenets of Kant and to those of a dull professor of philosophy.
It is contradictory, on the one hand, to consider only famous men as representative while ignoring the rest, and, on the other hand, to treat even these, arbitrarily selected as famous, as constituting an un-differentiated group of equals. One man of this group may stand out as much from the rest as the whole group does from the entire nation. Hundreds of poetasters and rhymesters do not outweigh the unique Goethe.
It is correct to speak of a nation’s mentality at a certain historical epoch if we conceive by this term the mentality of the majority. But it is subject to change. The German mentality has not been the same in the age of medieval feudalism, in the age of the Reformation, in that of the Enlightenment, in the days of liberalism, and in our time.
It is probable that today about 80 per cent of all German-speaking Europeans are Nazis. If we leave out the Jews, the Austrians, and the German-speaking Swiss, we might say that more than 90 per cent of the Germans support Hitler’s fight for world hegemony. But this cannot be explained by referring to the characterization of the contemporary Germans given by Tacitus. Such an explanation is no better than the Nazis’ method of proving the alleged barbarism of the present-day Anglo-Saxons by citing the execution of Jeanne d’Arc, the wholesale extermination of the aborigines of Tasmania by the British settlers, and the cruelties described in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
There is no such thing as a stable national character. It is a vicious circle to explain Nazism by alleging that the Germans have an inherent tendency to adopt the tenets of Nazism.
This book has tried to clarify the rise of Nazism; to show how, out of the conditions of modern industrialism and of present-day socio-economic doctrines and policies, there developed a situation in which the immense majority of the German people saw no means to avoid disaster and to improve their lot but those indicated by the program of the Nazi party. On the one hand they saw in an age rapidly moving toward economic autarky a dark future for a nation which can neither feed nor clothe its citizens out of its domestic natural resources. On the other hand they believed that they were powerful enough to avoid this calamity by conquering a sufficient amount of Lebensraum.
This explanation of the ascendancy of Nazism goes as far as any historical investigation can possibly go. It must stop at the points which limit our endeavors to study historical events. It has to take recourse to the concepts of individuality and nonrepeatable uniqueness.
For Nazism was not the only conceivable means of dealing with the problems that concern present-day Germany. There was and there is another solution: free trade. Of course, the adoption of free-trade principles would require the abandonment of interventionism and socialism and the establishment of an unhampered market economy. But why should this be brushed aside as out of the question? Why did the Germans fail to realize the futility of interventionism and the impracticability of socialism?
It is neither a sufficient explanation nor a valid excuse to say that all other nations also cling to etatism and to economic nationalism. Germany was threatened sooner, and in a worse way, by the effects of the trend toward autarky. The problem was first and for some time a German one, although it later concerned other great nations. Germany was forced to find a solution. Why did it choose Nazism and not liberalism, war and not peace?
If forty to sixty years ago Germany had adopted unconditional free trade, Great Britain, its crown colonies, British India, and some smaller European nations would not have abandoned free trade either. The cause of free trade would have received a mighty propulsion. The course of world affairs would have been different. The further progress of protectionism, monetary particularism, and discrimination against foreign labor and foreign capital would have been checked. The tide would have been stemmed. It is not unlikely that other countries would have imitated the example set by Germany. At any rate, Germany’s prosperity would not have been menaced by the further advance of other nations toward autarky.
But the Germans did not even consider this alternative. The handful of men advocating unconditional freedom both in foreign and in domestic trade were laughed at as fools, despised as reactionaries, silenced by threats. In the 1890’s Germany was already almost unanimous in its support of policies which were designed as the preparation for the impending war for more space, the war for world hegemony.
The Nazis defeated all the other socialist, nationalist, and interventionist parties within Germany because they were not afraid to follow their program to its ultimate logical conclusion. People were confident that they meant it seriously. They offered a radical solution for the problem of foreign trade; and they outdid by this radicalism the other parties which advocated essentially the same solution but with moderation and in a vacillating and half-way manner. It was the same with other problems. There were, for instance, the territorial clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. All German parties, without exception, deplored these provisions as the most infamous inflicted on Germany, and as one of the main causes of its economic distress. The communists did not mention these clauses especially, but their disparagement of the whole treaty, this most shameful product of capitalist imperialism, as they said, included those clauses. It was no different with the pacifists. But only the Nazis were sincere and consistent enough to proclaim that there was no hope of reacquiring the lost provinces except by a victorious war. Thus they alone seemed to offer a remedy for an alleged evil that everyone decried.
But it is impossible to explain why, in all these critical years, the Germans never seriously considered the other alternative to nationalism: liberalism and free trade. The fateful decision against free trade and peace and in favor of nationalism and war is not open to explanation. In a unique, nonrepeatable historical situation the German nation chose war and rejected the peaceful solution. This was an individual historical event, which cannot be further analyzed or explained. They crossed their Rubicon.
We may say they acted in this way because they were Germans of the age of nationalism. But that explains nothing.
The American Civil War would have been avoided if the Northerners had acquiesced in the secession. The American Revolution would not have occurred if the colonists had not been ready to wage a risky war for their independence. These characteristics of the Americans of 1776 and 1861 are ultimate facts, individual cases of historical events.
We cannot explain why some people, faced with an alternative, choose a and not b.
Of course, the method chosen by Germany hurts not only every other people but the Germans as well. The Germans will not attain the ends sought. The Lebensraum wars will prove disastrous for them. But we do not know why the Americans in the two cases mentioned above made of their option a use which later events proved to be beneficial to them and to Western civilization, while the Germans chose the road to catastrophe.
The same thing can be said about the conduct of the nations menaced by the German plans for aggression. The present state of world affairs is due not only to the malicious aspirations of German nationalists but no less to the failure of the rest of the world to thwart them by appropriate measures. If the victims had substituted a close political and military coöperation for their mutual rivalries, Germany would have been forced to abandon its plans. Everybody knew that there was but one means to stop the aggressors and to prevent war: collective security. Why did those menaced not adopt this scheme? Why did they prefer to cling to their policies of economic nationalism, which rendered vain all plans for the formation of a united front of all the peaceful nations? Why did they not abandon etatism in order to be able to abolish trade barriers? Why did they fail, like the Germans, to consider a return to laissez faire?
Etatism not only brought about a situation from which the German nationalists saw no way out but conquest, but also rendered futile all attempts to stop Germany in time. While the Germans were busy re-arming for the “day,” Great Britain’s main concern was to injure the interests of the French and of all other nations by barring their exports to Great Britain. Every nation was eager to use its sovereignty for the establishment of government control of business. This attitude necessarily implied a policy of insulation and economic nationalism. Every nation was waging a continuous economic war against every other nation. Every citizen glowed when the latest statistical report showed an increase in exports or a drop in imports. The Belgians were jubilant when the imports from the Netherlands diminished; the Dutch rejoiced when they succeeded in reducing the number of Dutch tourists visiting Belgium. The Swiss Government subsidized French tourists traveling in Switzerland; the French Government subsidized Swiss tourists traveling in France. The Polish Government penalized its citizens for visiting foreign countries. If a Pole, a Czech, a Hungarian, or a Rumanian wanted to consult a Viennese doctor or to send his son to a Swiss school, he had to apply for a special permit from the office of foreign exchange control.
Everybody was convinced that this was lunacy—unless it was an act of his own government. Every day the newspapers reported examples of especially paradoxical measures of economic nationalism and criticized them severely. But no political party was prepared to demolish its own country’s trade walls. Everybody was in favor of free trade for all other nations and of hyper-protectionism for his own. It did not seem to occur to anyone that free trade begins at home. For nearly everyone favored government control of business within his own country.
For this attitude too history cannot provide any better explanation than recourse to the notion of individuality or uniqueness. Faced with a serious problem, the nations chose the way to disaster.
The reality of Nazism faces everybody else with an alternative: They must smash Nazism or renounce their self-determination, i.e., their freedom and their very existence as human beings. If they yield, they will be slaves in a Nazi-dominated world. Their civilizations will perish; they will no longer have the freedom to choose, to act, and to live as they wish; they will simply have to obey. The Führer, the vicar of the “German God,” will become their Supreme Lord. If they do not acquiesce in such a state of affairs, they must fight desperately until the Nazi power is completely broken. There is no escape from this alternative; no third solution is available. A negotiated peace, the outcome of a stalemate, would not mean more than a temporary armistice. The Nazis will not abandon their plans for world hegemony. They will renew their assault. Nothing can stop these wars but the decisive victory or the final defeat of Nazism.
It is a fatal mistake to look at this war as if it were one of the many wars fought in the last centuries between the countries of Western civilization. This is total war. It is not merely the destiny of a dynasty or a province or a country that is at stake, but the destiny of all nations and civilizations. Europe has not had to encounter a similar danger since the Tartar invasions in the thirteenth century. The lot of the defeated would be worse than that of the Greeks and the Serbs under the Turkish yoke. The Turks did not attempt to wipe out the vanquished Greeks and Serbs, or to eradicate their language and their Christian creed. But the Nazis have other things in store for the conquered: extermination of those stubbornly resisting the master race, enslavement for those spontaneously yielding.
In such a war there cannot be any question of neutrality. The neutrals know very well what their fate will be if the Nazis conquer the United Nations. Their boasts that they are ready to fight for their independence if the Nazis attack them are vain. In the event of a defeat of the United Nations, military action on the part of Switzerland or Sweden would not be more than a symbolic gesture. Under present conditions neutrality is equal to a virtual support of Nazism.
The same holds true for German-speaking men and women whether they are citizens of the Reich or not. There are citizens of the Reich who want to save face by asserting that they are not Nazis but that they cannot help fighting in the ranks of their fellow citizens. It is a man’s duty, they say, to be unconditionally loyal to his own linguistic group whether its cause is right or wrong. It was this idea that turned some citizens of Austria, Switzerland, and various American countries either toward Nazism or toward what they believed to be an attitude of neutrality.
But this doctrine of the unlimited solidarity of all members of a linguistic group is one of the main vices of nationalism. Nobody would be prepared to maintain such a principle of solidarity with regard to other groups. If the majority of the inhabitants of a town or a province decided to fight against the rest of the country, few would admit that the minority had a moral obligation to stand with the majority and to support its action. The issue in the struggle between Nazism and the rest of mankind is whether the community of people speaking the same language is the only legitimate social collectivity, or whether the supremacy must be assigned to the great society embracing all human beings. It is the fight of humanity against the claims of the intransigent particularism of a group. On better grounds than those on which the Nazis deny to the Austrians and the Swiss the rights of moral and political autonomy and of unrestricted sovereignty, the members of the human society must deny these rights to the various linguistic groups. No human coöperation and no lasting peace are conceivable if men put loyalty to any particular group above loyalty to humanity, moral law, and the principle of every individual’s moral responsibility and autonomy. Renan was right in asserting that the problem is whether a man belongs to any particular group or to himself.*
The Nazis themselves realize clearly that under the conditions brought about by the international division of labor and the present state of industrialism, the isolation of nations or countries has become impossible. They do not want to withdraw from the world and to live on their own soil in splendid isolation. They do not want to destroy the great world-embracing society. They intend to organize it as an oligarchy. They alone are to rule in this oligarchy; the others are to obey and be their slaves. In such a struggle whoever does not take the part of those fighting against the Nazis furthers the cause of Nazism.
This is true today of many pacifists and conscientious objectors. We may admire their noble motives and their candid intentions. But there is no doubt that their attitudes result in complicity with Nazism. Non-resistance and passive obedience are precisely what the Nazis need for the realization of their plans. Kant was right in asserting that the proof of a principle’s moral value is whether or not it could be accepted (the pragmatists would say, whether or not it would “work”) as a universal rule of conduct. The general acceptance of the principle of nonresistance and of passive obedience by the non-Nazis would destroy our civilization and reduce all non-Germans to slavery.
There is but one means to save our civilization and to preserve the human dignity of man. It is to wipe out Nazism radically and pitilessly. Only after the total destruction of Nazism will the world be able to resume its endeavors to improve social organization and to build up the good society.
The alternatives are humanity or bestiality, peaceful human coöperation or totalitarian despotism. All plans for a third solution are illusory.
[* ]In order to demonstrate that this last demand, which could be realized only by a victorious war against the United States, was endorsed not only by hotspurs but also by more moderate men, whom the radical nationalists scorned for their leniency and indifference, we need only quote a dictum of Gustav von Schmoller. Schmoller was the universally recognized head of the German socialists of the chair, professor of political science at the University of Berlin, permanent adviser of the Reich government on economic problems, member of the Prussian chamber of Lords and of the Prussian Academy. His compatriots and German officialdom considered him the greatest economist of the age and a great economic historian. The words which we quote are to be found in a book published in Stuttgart in 1900 under the title, Handels- und Machtpolitik, Reden und Aufsätze im Auftrage der Freien Vereinigung für Flottenvorträge, edited by Gustav Schmoller, Adolf Wagner, and Max Sering, Professors of Political Science at the University of Berlin, in I, pp. 35, 36. They are: “I cannot dwell on the details of the commercial and colonial tasks for which we need the navy. Only some points may be mentioned briefly. We are bound to wish at all costs that in the coming century a German country of twenty or thirty million Germans be established in Southern Brazil. It is immaterial whether this remain a part of Brazil, whether it be an independent state, or whether it be more closely connected with our Reich. Without communications continually safeguarded by battleships, without Germany’s standing ready for vigorous interference in these countries, this evolution would be exposed to peril.”
[* ]Of the five iron armored battleships which the Germans had in the Franco-German war of 1870, three were built in England and two in France. It was only later that Germany developed a domestic industry of naval armaments.
[1. ][Nightmare of coalitions.—Ed.]
[* ]The old Storm Troopers call themselves proudly Saalkämpfer, i.e., beer-hall fighters.
[* ]Spengler, Preussentum und Sozialismus (Munich, 1925), p. 54.
[† ]Th. Fritsch in “Hammer” (1914), p. 541, as quoted by Hertz, Nationalgeist und Politik (Zurich, 1937), I, p. 467.
[‡ ]Santayana, Egotism in German Philosophy (new ed. London, 1939), p. 1.
[§ ]Santayana, op. cit., p. 9.
[‖ ]Speaking of Fichte, Mr. Santayana (op. cit., p. 21) says that his philosophy “was founded on one of Locke’s errors.”
[¶ ]Santayana, op. cit., p. 11.
[** ]Santayana, op. cit., p. 151.
[* ]Dietzgen, Briefe über Logik, speziell demokratisch-proletarische Logik (2d ed. Stuttgart, 1903), p. 112.
[† ]Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (London, 1936), pp. 137 ff.
[* ]Tirala, Rasse, Geist und Seele (Munich, 1935), pp. 190 ff.
[† ]The word arteigen is one of the many German terms coined by the Nazis. It is a main concept of their polylogism. Its counterpart is artfremd, or alien to the racial character. The criterion of science and truth is no longer correct or incorrect, but arteigen or artfremd.
[* ]Elected in 1912, the last election in the imperial Reich.
[* ]See the bibliography of Michels’s writings in Studi in Memoria di Roberto Michels, “Annali della Facoltà di Giurisprudenza delle R. Università di Perugia” (Padova, 1937), Vol. XLIX.
[† ]Andler, Le Socialisme impérialiste dans l’Allemagne contemporaine, Dossier d’une polémique avec Jean Jaurès (1912–13) (Paris, 1918).
[* ]Communist Manifesto, end of the second section. In their preface to a new edition of the Manifesto, dated June 24, 1872, Marx and Engels declare that because of changed circumstances “stress is no longer laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of the second section.”
[* ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, edited by Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1897), p. xii.
[† ]Marx, Das Kapital (7th ed. Hamburg, 1914), I, p. 728.
[‡ ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, p. xii.
[* ]Marx, Value, Price and Profit, edited by Eleanor Marx Aveling (New York, 1901), pp. 72–74.
[† ]Marx, Das Kapital, op. cit., p. 729.
[‡ ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, p. xi.
[* ]See above, pp. 74–75.
[1. ][See the note on p. 149.—Ed.]
[* ]Elmer Roberts used the term “monarchical socialism.” See his book Monarchical Socialism in Germany (New York, 1913).
[† ]Sidney Webb in Fabian Essays in Socialism (American ed. New York, 1891), p. 4.
[* ]In those days in the happy 1880’s people used to speak of “persecutions.” But compared with what the Bolsheviks and the Nazis have since done to their opponents, these persecutions were little more than a nuisance.
[* ]See his letter of September 17, 1889, published in Deutsche Rundschau, XXI (Berlin, 1910), p. 663.
[† ]Scheidemann, Der Zusammenbruch (Berlin, 1921), p. 9.
[* ]The official name of these clubs was Warriors’ Associations (Kriegervereine). The members were men who had served in the Reich’s armed forces.
[2. ][The Revolution of 1848.—Ed.]
[* ]Hervé, L’Internationalisme (Paris, 1910), pp. 129 ff.
[* ]Kautsky, Sozialisten und Krieg (Prague, 1937), p. 300.
[* ]Kautsky, op. cit., p. 307.
[† ]Ibid., p. 352.
[3. ][The Triple Alliance (1882) allied Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy against Russia. —Ed.]
[* ]Andler, op. cit., p. 107.
[† ]Ziekursch, Politische Geschichte des neuen deutsche Kaiserreichs, III, p. 385.
[* ]Speech at the party meeting at Nuremberg, September 3, 1933. Frankfurter Zeitung, September 4, 1933.
[* ]Houzé, L’Aryen et l’Anthroposociologie (Brussels, 1906), pp. 3 ff.; Hertz, Rasse und Kultur (3d ed. Leipzig, 1925), pp. 102 ff.
[1. ][Environmental influences.—Ed.]
[* ]Bismarck, Gedanken und Erinnerungen, I, p. 6.
[* ]Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre, book V, chap. iii.
[* ]The last sovereign duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, born and brought up in Great Britain as a grandson of Queen Victoria, was the first German prince who—long before 1933—took office in the Nazi party.
[† ]Pope Pius XI is credited with the dictum: “Spiritually we are Semites.” G. Seldes, The Catholic Crisis (New York, 1939), p. 45.
[* ]For another interpretation of the term “positiv” see Die Grundlagen des Nationalsozialismus (Leipzig, 1937, p. 59) by Bishop Alois Hudal, the outstanding Catholic champion of Nazism.
[* ]See Woltmann’s books: Politische Anthropologie (Eisenach, 1903); Die Germanen und die Renaissance in Italien (Leipzig, 1905); Die Germanen in Frankreich (Jena, 1907).
[† ]Hertz, op. cit., pp. 159 ff.
[2. ][Soviet-German Nonaggression Pact.—Ed.]
[* ]Few people realize that the economic program of Italian Fascism, the stato corporativo, did not differ from the program of British Guild Socialism as propagated during the first World War and in the following years by the most eminent British and by some continental socialists. The most brilliant exposition of this doctrine is the book of Sidney and Beatrice Webb (Lord and Lady Passfield), A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, published in 1920. Compared with this volume the speeches of Mussolini and the writings of the Italian professors of the economia corporativa appear clumsy. Of course, neither the British Left-wing socialists nor the Italian Fascists ever made any serious attempts to put this widely advertised program into effect. Its realization would lead to complete chaos. The economic regime of Fascist Italy was actually an abortive imitation of German Zwangswirtschaft. See Mises’s Nationalökonomie (Geneva, 1940), pp. 705–715. [Mises expanded his analysis of corporativism and syndicalism in Human Action (1949), pp. 808–826; later editions, pp. 812–820.—Ed.]
[† ]For a comparison of the two systems see Max Eastman, Stalin’s Russia (New York, 1940), pp. 83–94.
[‡ ]See above, pp. 67–68.
[* ]In a similar way many Christian authors reject Bolshevism only because it is anti-Christian. See Berdyaew, The Origin of Russian Communism (London, 1937), pp. 217–225.
[* ]We may disregard some occasional attempts, made in old Austria, to give legal status to a man’s linguistic character.
[* ]We are dealing here with conditions in Central and Western Europe and in America. In many parts of Eastern Europe things were different. There modern civilization was really predominantly an achievement of Jews.
[† ]Bishop Hudal calls David Friedrich Strauss, the outstanding figure in German higher criticism, a “non-Aryan.” (op. cit., p. 23). This is incorrect; Strauss had no Jewish ancestors (see his biography by Th. Ziegler, I, pp. 4–6). On the other hand, Nazi anti-Catholics say that Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, was of Jewish origin (Seldes, op. cit., p. 261). There is no proof of this statement.
[* ]An amazing manifestation of this mentality is Bertrand Russell’s book, Which Way to Peace?, published in 1936. Devastating criticism of the British Labor party’s foreign policy is provided in the editorial, “The Obscurantists,” in Nineteenth Century and After, No. 769 (March, 1941), pp. 209–229.
[* ]It is important to realize that the Social Democrats, although the largest single group in the Reichstag of monarchical Germany, were far outnumbered by the other parties combined. They never got the support of the majority of the voters. Never during the Weimar Republic did all the Marxian parties together succeed in polling an absolute majority of votes or winning an absolute majority in the Reichstag.
[1. ][Wolfgang Kapp (1858–1922) German revolutionary. Founder of the German Fatherland Party (1917). He was a leader of the March 1920 coup attempt in Berlin known as the Kapp Putsch, which failed because of the socialist general strike. Kapp fled to Sweden, returned to Germany in 1922, and died awaiting trial.—Ed.]
[2. ][Defense alliances.—Ed.]
[* ]Stampfer, Die vierzehn Jahre der ersten Deutschen Republik (Karlsbad, 1936), p. 365.
[† ]“Zuwachs an bereitgestelltem Geldkapital,” Vierteljahrshefte zur Konjunkturforschung, Special number 22 (Berlin, 1931), p. 29.
[* ]Stolper, German Economy 1870–1940 (New York, 1940), p. 179.
[* ]However, the London Times as late as October 6, 1942, reported from Moscow that interrogation of German prisoners of war by the Russian authorities showed that a majority of the skilled workers were still strong supporters of the Nazis; particularly men in the age groups between 25 and 35, and those from the Ruhr and other older industrial centers.
[* ]Christmas Eve broadcast. New York Times, December 25, 1941.
[* ]These statements do not apply to American penal procedure.
[1. ][John Huss (1360?–1415) Bohemian religious reformer, burned at the stake. Jan Žižka (1360?–1424) Successful Bohemian general and Hussite leader.—Ed.]
[* ]See above, p. 103.