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2.: A Critique of Some Other Schemes Proposed - 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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A Critique of Some Other Schemes Proposed
It is vain to expect that defeat will change the mentality of the defeated and make them peace loving. They will cling to peace only if conditions are such that they cannot hope to conquer. Any schemes based on the assumption that any German party will immediately after the defeat renounce aggression and voluntarily embark upon a policy of sincere coöperation are futile. A German politician opposing war, if there were any real chance of success of a new aggression, would meet the fate of Erzberger and Rathenau.2
The Germans will one day recover their reason. They will remember that modern civilization was to some extent an achievement of their own. They will find the way back to the ideals of Schiller and Goethe. But this process of recovery must come from within. It cannot be forced upon Germany—nor upon Italy or Japan—by a victorious army or by compulsory education on the part of foreign teachers. The Germans must learn that their aggressive nationalism is suicidal, and that it has already inflicted irreparable evils upon themselves. They will have spontaneously to reject their present tenets and to adopt again all those ideas which they dismiss today as Christian, Western, and Jewish. Out of the midst of their own people men will have to emerge who address them with the words once used by Saint Remigius at the baptism of King Clovis: “Adore what you used to burn, and burn what you used to adore.”
Some groups have hatched out a plan for the political dismemberment of Germany. They recall that Germany in the days of the Deutscher Bund (1815–66) was divided into about forty sovereign states and that at that time the Germans did not venture upon aggression. In those years the nation was prosperous. If all the German princes had fulfilled the obligation, imposed on them by the settlement of Vienna, to grant their citizens parliamentary institutions, the Germans would have had no reason to change their political organization. The German Confederation safeguarded them against foreign aggression while preventing them from waging wars of conquest. Thus the system proved beneficial both to Germany and to the whole of Europe.
These belated eulogists of Prince Metternich ignore the most important facts of German history. They do not realize that the Germans of those days were liberal, and that their ideas of national greatness differed radically from those of modern nationalism. They cherished the values which Schiller had praised. “The German Empire and the German nation,” said Schiller in the draft of his unfinished poem “German Greatness,” are “two different things. The glory of Germany was never vested in the persons of its leaders. The German has established his own values quite apart from political values. Even if the Empire goes astray, German dignity would remain untouched. It is a moral eminence, vested in the nation’s civilization and character, which do not depend on political vicissitudes.”* Such were the ideas of the Germans of the early nineteenth century. In the midst of a world marching toward genuine liberalism the Germans also were enthusiastically liberal. They would have viewed the Deutscher Bund as a satisfactory solution of the political problem if it had not been the realm of despotic princes. Today, in this age of nationalism, the Germans also are nationalists. They have to face a very serious economic problem, and their etatistic prejudices prevent them from seeing any solution other than the conquest of Lebensraum. They worship the “brute force” whose elimination Schiller had hoped for. Under such conditions nationalism could not be overthrown by a partition of the Reich into a score of independent states. In each of these states the heat of nationalist passions would flare up; the bellicose spirit would virtually coördinate and unify their political and military activities, even if formally the independence of each section were to be preserved up to the day of the new mobilization.
The history of Central Europe could have taken a different course. A part of those people who today get their education in classical German, taught in school or learned at home, and used in conversation with people whom they do not address in their local dialect, might be using another of the present-day languages or a language of their own. One group of the people using the Low German dialect (Platt) has created the Dutch language; another, more numerous group of the Low Germans has joined the linguistic community of the High Germans. The political and economic process which made the Dutch people into a nation with a language of its own could have resulted in a more important diminishing of the German linguistic group. If the Counter-Reformation and Jesuitism had not crippled all spiritual, intellectual, and literary freedom in Bavaria and in Austria, the idiom of the Saxon chancellery, which owes its supremacy to Luther’s version of the Bible and to the Protestant writings of the first two centuries of the Reformation, might have found a serious rival in a literary language developed out of the Bavarian dialect. One could indulge even further in such reveries, whether with regard to the Swabian dialect or to the Slavonic and Baltic idioms of the northeast. But such dreams cannot change historical facts and political reality. The Germans are today the most numerous linguistic group in Europe. The age of etatism and nationalism must recognize the importance of this fact. The greater part of the German-speaking group affirm the principle of nationality; they want a unified German state including all German-speaking men. France and Great Britain deserve no credit for the fact that the Austrians and the Swiss reject these plans and are anxious to stay outside the Reich. On the contrary. In suicidal infatuation the French, and later the English, have done much to weaken Austria and to strengthen Prussian aspirations. The Bourbon kings associated in their fight against Austria not only with Prussia but even with the Turks. Great Britain was Prussia’s ally in the Seven Years’ War. What business had Napoleon III to attack Austria? It should be noted that the present-day Axis constellation was but a revival of the league of 1866, when Prussia and Italy assailed Austria, Hungarian nationalists prepared an upheaval with Bismarck’s aid, and the Hohenzollern Prince of Rumania tried to arm for the purpose of giving the finishing stroke. At that time governments and public opinion both in Paris and in London sympathized with the aggressors. The French and the English learned only later that they had been working pour le roi de Prusse.
Our problem would be simpler if all men spoke the same language or if the various linguistic groups were at least more equal in size. But the presence of seventy million German nationalists in the Reich is a datum, a necessary point of beginning, of present-day politics. It cannot be brushed aside by the dismemberment of the Reich. It would be a fatal delusion to assume that the problem could be solved in this way. To safeguard the independence of Austria and Switzerland must, it is true, be the foremost aim of all future plans for a reconstruction of Europe. But the dismemberment of the old Reich (the Altreich, as the Germans say, in order to distinguish it from Gross-Deutschland including Austria and the Sudetenland) would be a futile measure.
Clemenceau has been credited with the dictum that there are twenty million Germans too many. Some fanatics have suggested as the panacea the wholesale extermination of all Nazis. This would solve the problem in a way which from the Nazi point of view would be the logical result of total war. The Nazi concept of total victory implies the radical extermination of the French, Czechs, Poles, Jews, and other groups; and they have already started to execute this plan. They therefore could not logically call it unfair or barbarous if the United Nations profited from their victory to exterminate the “Aryan” citizens of the Reich. Neither could the Italians, the Japanese, the Magyars, and the Rumanians. But the United Nations are not brutes like the Nazis and Fascists.
Some authors believe that the problem of linguistically mixed populations could be solved by forcible transplantation and exchange of minorities. They refer to the allegedly favorable results of this procedure as applied in the case of Turkey and Greece. It seems indeed to be a very obvious method of dealing with the unpleasant consequences of linguistic promiscuity. Segregate the quarreling groups and you will prevent further struggles.
These plans, however, are untenable. They disregard the fundamental problem of present-day antagonisms—the inequality of the various parts of the earth’s surface. Linguistic promiscuity is the result of migrations on the part of men eager to improve their standard of living. Workers move from places where the marginal productivity of labor is low to where it is higher—in other words, from comparatively overpopulated areas to those comparatively underpopulated. To prevent such migrations or to try to undo them by forcible expulsion and repatriation of the immigrants does not solve the problem but only aggravates the conflicts.
The same holds true for peasants. There are, for instance, the German farmers in the Banat, one of the most fertile districts of Europe. These people immigrated in the eighteenth century. At that time the region was at a very low stage of civilization, thinly populated, devastated by Turkish misrule and continuous wars. Today the Banat is a bone of contention between the Serbs, Rumanians, and Hungarians. The German minority is a thorn in the side of all three claimants. They would all be glad to get rid of the Germans. But what kind of compensation could they offer them in exchange for their farms? There are no farms in the countries inhabited by German majorities that are owned by Serbs or Rumanians, and no equivalent farms owned by Hungarians on the borders of Germany. The expropriation and expulsion of the German peasants would not be a step toward pacification; it would only create new grievances. Similar conditions prevail all over Eastern Europe.
Those who are under the illusion that segregation could solve the international problems of our day are blind to reality. The very fact that the Australians succeeded in maintaining linguistic and racial homogeneity in their country helped to push the Japanese into aggression. The closed-door policy is one of the root causes of our wars.
In Great Britain and America many people are frightened by the prospect of a communist Germany. They are afraid of contagion. But these anxieties are unfounded. Communism is not a disease and it does not spread through germs. No country will catch communism because it has moved nearer to its frontiers. For whatever chance there is of a communist regime coming to power in America or Great Britain the mentalities of the citizens of these countries are responsible. Pro-communist sympathies within a country have nothing to do with whether its neighbors are communist or not.
If Germany turns toward communism it cannot be the task of foreign nations to interfere. The numerous friends of communism in the Anglo-Saxon countries will oppose preventing a country from adopting a system which they themselves consider the only beneficial one and advocate for their own countries. The intelligent opponents of communism, on the other hand, will not understand why their nation should essay to prevent the Germans from inflicting harm upon themselves. The shortcomings of communism would paralyze and disintegrate Germany’s industrial apparatus and thereby weaken its military power more effectively than any foreign intervention could ever do.
Russia’s military strength lies in the remoteness and the vastness of its land. It is impregnable because it is so spacious and impassable. Invaders have defeated the Russian armies; but no one has succeeded in overcoming the geographical obstacles. Charles XII, Napoleon, Hindenburg, and Hitler penetrated deep into Russia; their victorious advance itself spelled the doom of their armies. The British and the French in the Crimean War and the Japanese forty years ago only excoriated the edge of the Czar’s Empire. The present war has proved anew the thesis of old Prussia’s military doctrine that it is futile to beat the Russian forces. After having easily conquered hundreds of thousands of square miles, the Nazi armies were broken by the vastness of the country. The main problem that an invading general has to face in Russia is how to withdraw his forces safely. Neither Napoleon nor Hitler has solved this problem.
Communist economic management did not weaken Russia’s ability to repel aggression; it did not interfere with geographical factors. Communism in Germany, i.e., the wholesale liquidation of the bourgeoisie and the substitution of bureaucratic socialism of the Soviet pattern for Zwangswirtschaft, would seriously impair or even destroy Germany’s capacity to export manufactures. Those who believe that a communist Germany could rearm as easily as Russia fail to recognize the fundamental difference between the two countries. While Russia is not forced to import foreign raw materials, Germany must. But for the export of manufactured goods Germany would not have been in a position to import all the raw materials needed for its rearmament. The reason why the Nazis preferred the Zwangswirtschaft system to the Soviet system was that they fully recognized the fact that plants directly managed by government clerks cannot compete on the world market. It was German export trade that provided the materials required for the building of the formidable Blitz machine. Bolshevism did not impair Russia’s potential of defense. It would annihilate Germany’s potential of aggression.
The real danger of communism in Germany lies in the probability that its inevitable economic failure may restore the prestige of Nazism lost by the defeat in this war. Just as the unsatisfactory results of the Nazi regime are now making communism popular with the German masses, the bad consequences of communism could possibly contribute to a rehabilitation of Nazism. The German problem is precisely this, that Germany has no party ready to support liberalism, democracy, and capitalism and that it sees only the two alternatives: Nazism, i.e., socialism of the German pattern of all-round planning (Zwangswirtschaft), on the one hand, or Bolshevism, i.e., socialism of the Russian pattern of immediate state management, on the other. Neither of these two systems could solve Germany’s economic problem. Both of them will push Germany toward a policy of conquering more Lebensraum.
[2. ][Matthias Erzberger (1875–1921), German statesman, opposed Germany’s war policy and favored acceptance of the Versailles Treaty, was shot and killed by former officers. Walther Rathenau (1867–1922), participated in preparations for the Versailles Peace Conference, served as minister of reconstruction and secured reduction of German reparations, was assassinated by reactionaries.—Ed.]
[* ]Cassirer, Freiheit und Form, Studien zur deutschen Geistesgeschichte (Berlin, 1916), pp. 475 ff.