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Germany on the March

ISSUE:  Winter 1934

Radetsky March. By Joseph Roth. New York: The Viking Press. $2.50. Hitler’s Reich. By Hamilton Fish Armstrong. New York: The Macmillan Company. $1.00. Germany Enters the Third Reich. By Calvin B. Hoover. New York: The Macmillan Company. $3.00. The Menace of Fascism. By John Strachey. New York: Covici-Fiiede. $2.25. My Battle. By Adolf Hitler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $3.00.

Entrance music for Hitler, Radetsky March! Rhythmic futility on the Blue Danube, the futility of Schnitzler’s “Leutnant Gustl” written out into the family novel of three generations; the futility of “The Pure in Heart,” creeping paralysis with restlessness in the parts still able to move. The long death of an empire, as long as the long life of the last man who held it:

“This is a silly death,” said the doctor. “It’ll be as stupid as my life has been.”

“I won’t have you die!” cried the lieutenant, stamping on the bricks of the kitchen floor. “And I don’t want to die either, though my life is just as stupid as yours.”

“Shut up,” answered Demnant. “You’re the grandson of the hero of Solferino. He’d have died almost as stupidly. Though it does seem to make some difference whether you die with as much belief as he had, or as feebly as we two.”

As Hitler saw it, “In Vienna amazing riches and degrading poverty were mixed together in violent contrast. . . . Thousands of unemployed hung about the palaces on the Ringstrasse, and below that via triumphalis those who had no homes crowded in the dinginess and filth of the canals. Social questions could hardly be studied in any German town better than in Vienna. But let there be no mistake. This studying cannot be done from above. No one who is not caught up in the coils of this poisonous snake can get to know its poison fangs.”

Hitler in 1912, in search of a means of living and of a reason to live: Radetsky March. Hitler in 1933, the arbiter of both for a nation of sixty millions: the tune changes; Hitler calls the tune.

What is that tune? Beneath the tumult and the shouting of revolution, what is there that will have the significance for the Third Reich that the Marseillaise had for the First Republic? Two of the most competent observers who this past fall have suggested an answer are Mr. Hamilton Fish Arm-strong, the editor of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Calvin B. Hoover, whose “Economic Life of Soviet Russia,” published two years ago, established his capacity as an economic analyst. The two new books, which present their respective answers, differ widely in intent and in stylistic form. Within the compass of some sixty pages, Mr. Armstrong’s volume, “Hitler’s Reich,” gives the gist of his observations last summer in a rapid, graphic commentary, which by the shorthand of illustrative instance tells very nearly the whole tale. Mr. Hoover’s full-length book, “Germany Enters the Third Reich,” covers the ground; the admirably careful record it contains of the steps by which Hitler’s succession to power was realized makes it of permanent historical value. A judgment as to which of them is the more successful in presenting Hitler’s Reich involves a judgment as to the importance, in assessing certain social movements, to be given to values other than economic. There are those who say that such values are only by-products: among them is Mr. John Strachey, whose “The Menace of Fascism” begins with a collection of reports of Nazi excesses. According to his thesis, the Nazi forces are the pawns of private ownership, which, unable to maintain itself further with democratic machinery and unwilling to do its own fighting, has brought Nazidom into being to redress a balance in danger of going permanently into the Red. While that was undoubtedly what was in the minds of such Ruhr industrialists as Thyssen in contributing to Hitler’s funds, as a general explanation of German National Socialism it sounds academically thin and doctrinaire. Mr. Strachey’s second book is a distinct lapse from his “Coming Struggle for Power”: the chapters on “The Policy of the Lesser Evil” largely repeat the analysis of the failure of Social Democracy which gave his earlier work its brilliance, and there seems little else to add.

While Mr. Hoover would certainly deny to the economic factor the primacy which Mr. Strachey awards it, he nevertheless gives it a generous measure of precedence. At the outset of his study he states that “through the National Socialist success in Germany, liberalism, democracy and old-style capitalism have lost their most important stronghold on the Continent,” but it is the decay of the third of these elements which claims his attention until well on in the progress of his book.

Is that the line along which to approach Hitler? There is no doubt but that the economic line was a main line of Hitler’s approach to power, in the negative sense that without the economic difficulties of the post-war years his adherents would have been fewer, and his claim to save Germany from the extreme left hollower, than they became. But what of the positive sense? The impotence of Necker and Turgot is only half the story of the French Revolution. Is the economic line, in Revolutionary Germany, the general line that it is in Revolutionary Russia?

There seems plausible ground for belief that it is not, for belief that Mr. Hoover should have paralleled his excellent chapter on “The Attitude of the German People Toward the Economic System” by a chapter on the attitude of the German people toward the political and social system; for belief that Mr, Armstrong has touched an indispensable segment of the problem in taking, as the title and thesis of one of his earlier chapters, the name and substance of Senor Ortega y Gasset’s “Revolt of the Masses.” Thus viewed, 1933 in Germany represents the clamor for power of the outs or near-outs of the social system as well as the economic cycle; it represents 1922 less than it represents at once a novel and a laggard form of 1789. The Weimar Republic brought to Germany the institutions which liberal democracy had built upon the rationalism of the nineteenth century in the other countries of the West, without the convulsions that elsewhere preceded them. Germany’s present convulsions are a revolt against those very institutions and the basic assumption underlying them, against the rationalist deduction as a whole and its specific applications in internationalism, in democracy, in trade unionism and the economic left; yet by their popular character they indicate that the coming of the Third Reich announces the accession of the German Third Estate. Early this past summer one of the ablest American foreign correspondents in Europe remarked that in his opinion observers would do well to remember that Hitler did not take power, though the military means to do so were almost surely his, until popular support had been undeniably demonstrated at the polls. He predicted that the Nazis would make use of the type of plebescite which they announced, three and a half months later, to follow Germany’s withdrawal from the League and the Disarmament Conference. That a government should have had a grasp upon power as firm as the Nazis’ at that time—so firm as to make the exercise of any vote a farce—and yet consider such a gesture important enough to make, seems fairly clear evidence that the mass behind the Party is to be cast in an active role by this dictatorship.

Until Harper’s published the article by Trotsky which John Day has just reprinted as a pamphlet, critics generally took the attitude that what Hitler said was unimportant as an indication of what Hitler would do. When this reviewer was last in Germany the imposing sales of Hitler’s autobiography were laughed off on the grounds that the contents didn’t matter. The book was indeed the Bible of the Hitlerites, but like its prototype it was more prominently displayed than frequently read by the faithful; thus speaking, the higher criticism was content to base itself upon ignorance of the original. In parallel fashion, when “My Battle” was published this year, a greatly condensed translation of the eight hundred pages to which “Mein Kampf” has attained in the course of revision and republication since Hitler wrote it in jail after the blocked putsch of 1923, reviewers in both Great Britain and America laid stress on what had been eliminated, on what has been recognized as Not-to-be-Taken-Externally, on such soothing substitutions as “parasite” for “maggot” in describing non-Aryan elements in the body politic, etc., etc. The cuts are indeed revealing, and aside from what was cut, the elimination of two-thirds of the contents has materially altered the book by giving it a measure of coherence. But more revealing than the five hundred pages that are gone are the three hundred pages that remain, for in that residual third can be found most of what has astonished the world in the acts of the Nazi government in 1933.

Hitler’s present ideas and technique are directly related to his apprenticeship in pre-war Vienna. In his book he analyzes in detail the strength and weakness of both the strategies and the principles of the Pan-German and the Christian Socialist parties in Austria: the pro-German, anti-Jewish platform of the former, the anti-organized-labor collectivism of the latter, summed together and subjected to certain post-war modifications, make up no small part of the aims of National Socialism today. His attribution of the relative impotence of both parties to their failure “to attach supreme importance to gaining adherents among the great mass of people” incidentally lends support to the theory of the Third Reich suggested above.

His pages on propaganda do away with the myth that he is an emotional fanatic needing a crowd to be inspired—at least, his fanaticism seems to be based upon well understood principles. The unchanging dogma of the Catholic Church impressed him as a useful weapon against the relativist world of reason and the intellectuals; by consequence, the Party program of twenty-five points, drawn up early in the Party’s history, was declared to be unalterable, and has remained unaltered. Its brief and durable statements offer an admirable starting point for the reiterative effectiveness of Hitler’s speeches:

All propaganda should be popular and adapt its intellectual level to the receptive ability of the least intellectual of those whom it is desired to address. Thus it must sink its mental elevation deeper in proportion to the numbers of the mass whom it has to grip. . . .

What is Hitler’s case? It is a case for an Aryan state, composed of the pure in blood. (“The exact opposite of the Aryan is the Jew.”) Those who cannot contribute patriots to such a state shall be sterilized; those who can shall be encouraged to breed by every means in the State’s power. Citizenship shall be given only to those of certified soundness of body and thought. The rest shall be subjects. Soundness of body and thought shall be fostered by the State through control of education and the press:

“It is the State’s duty, therefore, to watch over the people’s education and prevent its taking a wrong direction, and it should keep an eye on what the press in particular is doing. . . . Here, if anywhere, it is the State’s duty not to forget that whatever it does must be directed at one aim and one alone; it must not be led astray by the will o’ the wisp of so-called ‘freedom of the press’ or be persuaded into neglecting its duties and withholding the nourishment which the nation needs to keep it healthy.”

The program of education must be directed “in the first place, not so much towards pumping in mere knowledge as towards cultivating thoroughly healthy bodies. After that comes development of mental capability. Here again formation of character comes first, especially encouragement of will-power and determination, combined with teaching the joy of assuming responsibility, and last of all comes schooling in pure knowledge.” . . .

The army “has to act as the final and highest school of national instruction. . . . Fortified by confidence in his own strength, filled with the esprit de corps, which he feels in common with the rest, the boy shall attain to the conviction that his nation is inconquerable.”

While “religion should not be mixed up with party intrigues,” nevertheless, “Protestantism will always help in furthering all that is essentially German whenever it is a matter of inward purity or increasing national sentiment, or defence of German life, language, nay, even German freedom, since all these are essentially part of itself. . . .”

The trade union movement must be remade in the Nazi image. “The National-Socialist movement, which aims at the National-Socialist State for the People, may entertain no doubts that every future institution of that State must be rooted in the movement itself. . . . It is senseless to have a National-Socialist trades union side by side with other trades unions. For it must be deeply convinced of the universality of its task and of the resulting obligation, be un- I hampered by other institutions with similar and perhaps hostile aims, and be ready to proclaim its own individuality.”

The foreign policy of Germany must look towards expansion to the east. The pre-war choice between magnifying the Empire by expansion in Europe or by acquiring colonies and building up foreign trade was most unwisely made in favor of the latter. A break must now be made not only with the policy of the dastardly Republic but with those aims of the pre-war Reich.

It is the duty of National Socialism to cling steadfastly to our aims in foreign policy, and these are to assure to the German nation the territory which is due it on this earth. This form of action is the only one which could justify bloodshed in the eyes of God and of future generations in Germany. . . . Just as our forefathers did not receive the land in which we live as a present from Heaven, but had to fight with their lives for it, so in future nothing will grant us land and life for our nation, except the power of a victorious sword. . . . There can only be sense in it [a settlement with the arch-enemy, France] if it offers a backing for extending the space which our people are to inhabit in Europe. , . . When we talk of new lands in Europe we are bound to think first of Russia and her border States.

These excerpts give the impression that Hitler knew what he wanted for some time prior to January, 1933. The Jew-ish boycott, the “cleansing” of the universities and the press, the establishment of a Reichsbishop nominated by the “German Christian” Protestants, the smashing of trade unionism and every political party except the Party, the “Gleich-schaltung” of all social life, the withdrawal from the Disarmament Conference and the League: these headlines of the last months are the realization of a program long previously stated. What now?

The first constant factor essential to authority is popular support. But authority, resting on this foundation alone, is utterly weak, unstable, and wavering. The second element of all authority is evidently power. If popular support and power are joined together, and can survive for a certain period in unison, authority may then be found to rest on an even firmer foundation, the authority of tradition. If once popular support, power, and the authority of tradition are united in one, authority may be considered to be unshakable.

Two-thirds of this unity have already been effected in Hitler’s Reich. What of the last third? Mr. Armstrong subtitles his book, “The First Phase”; Mr. Hoover emphasizes the preliminary character of present events in his title itself. In a curious way, Hitler’s book likewise contributes to the impression that we are dealing with beginnings. Already, in less than a year, he has drained his program of action into the State. Except for foreign war, for expansion to the south and east, the kinetics of his prepared ideas have been spent. That explains much of his vehemence in decrying the “second revolution” proposed by some of his colleagues, much of his insistence that the Revolution is complete, and must be recognized as such. Is he remembering the prophecy which was made before he came to power, Hitler is Kerensky? The mystical mantle of “Der Fuehrer” with which he has been draped by a large part of the German people, would seem to protect him from attack within the Party, by Goering or Goebbels, restive as those lieutenants may upon occasion be. Yet William Martin’s aphorism echoes ominously: a dictator is like a bicyclist; if he stops, he falls. In Russia, the dictatorship of the proletariat has kept its momentum by an offensive to organize Russia’s inanimate resources and an offensive to communize the peasant, which have supplied most of the elements of foreign war. The minimum of popular anticipation on which it was established has given the dictatorship of the Fascists far less momentum to maintain. After ten years of accumulated emotion, the German masses are on the move. If under Hitler, whither?


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