(12/27/00 9:44:08 pm)
Can someone help me with an introduction to the ideology of the nazi party?
(12/28/00 12:53:24 am)
Reply Mein Kampf
If you really want to know it would probably be best to read Mein Kampf. I could never get through the bloody thing, but have read sections. Even as a political student I had trouble reading much. I don't know which was worse Mein Kampf or Das Kapital. :^)
There are also many books about the subject. Perhaps do a search on an internet book vendor.
(12/28/00 1:08:15 pm)
Reply Nazi Ideology:
First of all there is no real canon of doctrine for NS ideology. National Socialism was dedicated to the Leadership Principle—and the Führer, Adolf Hitler was its leader, who saw himself as the voice and executive instrument of the will of the silent-majority of German people following their defeat and degradation in the First World War.
The Leadership Principle or Führerprinzip is not difficult to understand but few seem to grasp it. It is essentially just what in the military would be called the chain-of-command. A leader has subordinates, and those subordinates are responsible to their chief for whatever is in their area of responsibility, and these little Führers are thus given maximum authority to deal with their own matters as necessary. It is not centralized command-and-control (although admittedly, Hitler as military general tended to micromanage details and neglect his own overarching responsibilities too much by delegating carelessly without oversight). Hitler also had an unfortunate tendency to value-link a person’s managerial competence to his political/ideological favor (e.g., Göring and Speer). But subordinates were intended to have maximum initiative in solving problems on their own and in developing their own subordinates. It is a big myth of Democracy-Capitalist propaganda that the German armies in both world wars fought like automatons. Ideally, Hitler’s Führerprinzip was to follow politically the example of individual initiative and non-bureaucratized heuristic creativity displayed by the NCO’s and officers of the German Army in the war. This philosophy is basically a new German idea, though not originally Nazi, and was expounded upon by the great German sociologist and bureaucratic theorist Max Weber, who also coined the familiar phrase “protestant-bourgeois work ethic.”
We always hear that Hitler sacked generals going and coming if he didn’t like the outcome of a battle, and that nobody ever gave him any real feedback as to what was really going on. There is no doubt some truth to this. However, it is just as important for a subordinate to be a bearer of bad news as to report a successful outcome to his chief. Indeed, the Führerprinzip technique requires/demands that the subordinate will question his orders, if he believes that they might fail, because the leader cannot reward sycophancy any more than noncompliance, incompetence, and failure. The Leader needs skilled advisors/professionals as much as can-do, yes-men. If the reality under Hitler in practice didn’t always measure up to his theory, then don’t blame me. In any case, Hitler valued his loyal and patriotic chiefs that didn’t kiss-up much more so than those that were always gung-ho yet consistently failed, or those squirrels who were always antagonistic sub rosa.
In politics, the Leadership Principle sought to put some of that old-fashioned military “Must” into getting things done. “All military action is permeated by intelligent forces and their effects.”—Clausewitz. Instead of checks-and-balances, with each political horse pulling the carriage of State in an opposite direction, and the outcome going willy-nilly to the strongest coalition or erratic confluence of interests, National Socialism sought to rationally tie all horses together and have them all pull in the same direction.
By contrast, Fascism was essentially built on the basis of disgruntled Italian WWI veterans who felt cheated by the big powers in the victory spoils of the war, and who therefore rejected the liberal-bourgeois progressive new-world-order in favor of the old system where the State was personified in a vigorous monarch. With Fascism, vigorous citizen-soldiers would replace effete warrior-kings.
Italian Fascism was therefore non-rational; it was not geared toward maximizing profits, or achieving the-greatest-good-for-the-greatest-number but was instead a simple soldier’s way-of-life projected into politics and government. The Fascists categorically rejected Communism and its leitmotiv, class warfare, and instead sought a paramilitary State where the interests of Capital and Labor were arbitrated in the national interest by the government, which would no longer be the tool of any divisive class interest. This is the major contribution of Fascism, which is derived from federalism—E Pluribus Unum, the many tribes or factions are united as one.
In fact, Roosevelt’s New Deal incorporated some Fascist ideas into its own reform package, such as the National Labor Relations Board (Wagner Act, 1935) and especially the National Recovery Administration (but the National Industrial Recovery Act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1937, thus stunting New Deal economic reform).
It can be argued that Fascism, emulating Roman Imperium, required an endless frontier of imperial military expansion. Nazism has similarities to Italian Fascism or Catholic (anti-Bolshevist) Fascism practiced elsewhere, but it was signally different. German National Socialism was German nationalism-socialism and was difficult to export, even when it reluctantly transmogrified into an anti-Red crusade when Germany started losing the war.
It was on the plane of grand strategy that (Hitler’s) decline began. There lay his fatal flaw. If he had known how to allay the fears that his progress created, and to reassure the neighbouring peoples that his ‘New Order’ was beneficent, he might have succeeded where Napoleon had failed, and achieved the union of Europe under German leadership—a union too strong for outside forces to break. But the end was frustrated by the means. His political approach had been too direct. It was subtle enough to cause dissension in the threatened countries, but not to disarm opposition. In his gospel of National Socialism, nationalistic emphasis marred the effect of the socialistic appeal that might otherwise have attracted the masses in other countries. The iron hand was poorly concealed by a threadbare velvet glove. Likewise, following his conquests, his attempts at conciliation were clumsy and ill-sustained. These mistakes piled up an accumulating debit as his further ventures miscarried.
——B. H. Liddell Hart. Strategy,1954 (p. 253).
For one thing, Nazism is nothing without Hitler. The Nazis could not achieve their aims within the lifetime of their Leader because Germany wasn’t strong enough for such a bold and risky endeavor. It was a paradox—the raison d’ etre of Nazism was to erase the Versailles Treaty in Hitler’s lifetime, but this could not be done except by patient stratagem, the opposite approach to bold sickle-strokes of diplomacy and military force. And the Germans could barely arm themselves adequately, much less arm their foreign boosters in any kind of pan-European crusade.
Without Hitler, the so-called neo-Nazis are a different movement entirely, and I think that they have more of a racial (and possibly anti-Semitic) agenda than the NSDAP (National Socialist German Worker’s Party) had, which sought simply to erase the Versailles Treaty at any cost and promote the interests of the lower-middle classes that mostly comprised the Party. Therefore, Nazism was revolutionary but in a limited sense. The Nazis made many reforms before the war, but these were largely abandoned with the coming of war. Totalitarianism (i.e., Total War) did not actually come until the later, losing phases of the Second World War, but in any case, one argument is that “totalitarianism” is when civil defense block-maidens force an apathetic public to shuffle into the air-raid shelters each-and-every time that the sirens go off. Journalist William L. Shirer saw something sinister in all things Nazi/German, from civil defense preparedness to recycling of trash. I do not agree, however, with some sociologists who dismiss NS ideology as merely nihilism and will-to-power or social-Darwinism. War was always a means to an end for Hitler, not an end in itself—and the fact that Hitler was extremely reluctant to move the nation to a full-blown war economy from 1942-44 is indicative of this.
Here is what Liddell-Hart has to say contrasting Hitler’s Strategy and the famous General Ludendorff, an early Nazi supporter from the Munich Putsch (1923) who advocated Total War (1935) and who as Field Marshal Hindenburg’s Chief-of-Staff (1918) nearly defeated the Allies in the Great War:
In Ludendorff’s view…the totalitarian principle demanded that in war a nation should place everything at its service; and, in peace, at the service of the next war. War was the highest expression of the national ‘will to live’, and politics must therefore be subservient to the conduct of war.
Reading Ludendorff’s book, it became clear that the main difference between his theory and Clausewitz’s was that the former had come to think of war as a means without an end—unless making the nation into an army be considered an end in itself. This was hardly so new as Ludendorff appeared to imagine. Sparta tried it and in the end succumbed to self-inflicted paralysis. With the aim of developing the nation for war, or creating a super-Sparta, Ludendorff’s primary concern was to ensure ‘the psychical unity of the people’. Towards this he sought to cultivate a religion of nationalism through which all women would accept that their noblest goal was to bear sons to ‘bear the burden of the totalitarian war’, and all men would develop their powers for that purpose—in short, to breed, and be bred, for slaughter. The other positive suggestions which Ludendorff offered towards achieving ‘psychical unity’ amounted to little more than the age-old prescription of suppressing everyone who might express, or even entertain, views contrary to those of the High Command…
Much as there was in common between Ludendorff and Hitler in their conception of the race, the state, and the German people’s right to dominate, their differences were quite as great—especially in regard to method.
While Ludendorff demanded the absurdity that strategy should control policy—which is like saying that the tool should decide its own task— Hitler solved the problem by combining the two functions in one person. Thus he enjoyed the same advantage as Alexander and Caesar in the ancient world, or Frederick the Great and Napoleon in later times. This gave him an unlimited opportunity, such as no pure strategist would enjoy, to prepare and develop his means for the end he had in view. At the same time he had early grasped what the soldier, by his very profession, is less ready to recognize—that the military weapon is but one of the means that serve the purposes of war: one out of the assortment which grand strategy can employ…
In the human will lies the source and mainspring of conflict For a state to gain its object in war it has to change this adverse will into compliance with its own policy. Once this is realized, the military principle of ‘destroying the main armed forces on the battlefield’, which Clausewitz’s disciples exalted to a paramount position, fits into its proper place along with the other instruments of grand strategy—which includes the more oblique kinds of military action as well as economic pressure, propaganda, and diplomacy. Instead of giving excessive emphasis to one means, which circumstances may render ineffective, it is wiser to choose and combine whichever are the most suitable, most penetrative, and most conservative of effort—i.e. which will subdue the opposing will at the lowest war-cost and minimum injury to the post-war prospect. For the most decisive victory is of no value if a nation be bled white gaining it… To strike with strong effect, one must strike at weakness…
The object of war was to make the enemy capitulate. If his will to resist could be paralysed, killing was superfluous—besides being a clumsy and expensive way of attaining the object…
Force can always crush force, given sufficient superiority in strength or skill. It cannot crush ideas. Being intangible they are invulnerable, save to psychological penetration, and their resilience has baffled innumerable believers in force. None of them perhaps were so aware of the power of ideas as Hitler. But the increasing extent to which he had to rely on the backing of force as his power extended, showed that he had over-estimated the value of his political technique in converting ideas to his purpose. For ideas that do not spring from the truth of experience have a relatively brief impetus—and a sharp recoil…
Hitler gave the art of offensive strategy a new development. He also mastered, better than any of his opponents, the first stage of grand strategy—that of developing and co-ordinating all forms of warlike activity, and all possible instruments which may be used to operate against the enemy’s will. But like Napoleon he had an inadequate grasp of the higher level of grand strategy—that of conducting war with a far-sighted regard to the state of the peace that will follow.(Emphasis added.)
——Liddell-Hart (op cit, pp. 223-236).
For further study of National Socialist ideology, the major source of course will be Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1925/1927). Mein Kampf was somewhat outdated by WWII, as the propaganda remnant of the earlier phase of the NSDAP movement’s Time of Struggle or Kampfzeit. Everyone always talks about Mein Kampf but few have ever actually read it! Dictated to Rudolf Hess by Hitler while in Landsberg political prison, it does make heavy reading. Also, see Hermann Göring’s Germany Reborn (1934), and Alfred Rosenberg’s Mythos of the Twentieth Century (1930). Rosenberg’s philosophy can be regarded as a sequel to Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1910). I would emphasize, however, the leftwing-economic aspect of National Socialism and the writings of Dr. Goebbels in his diaries and so forth. Whereas Rosenberg favored a medieval, rural Teutonic State, Goebbels favored a modern, dynamic, urban industrial powerhouse—and Hitler and Himmler supported the later view, certainly at the very least to secure the economic foundations necessary for modern warfare and economic sovereignty. Also, the Hitler-Bormann documents give us a glimpse into how Hitler might have viewed his mistakes if he, like Churchill, had somehow lived to write his memoirs. Finally, though not a tome of NS ideology, I also recommend a book about the movement’s struggle to power, which encapsulates better than any propaganda, what Nazi political methods were, and the motives and lower-middle class ambitions of its personnel:
James and Suzanne Pool. Who Financed Hitler: the secret funding of Hitler’s rise to power 1919-1933. NY: Dial Press, 1979 (1978).
(12/31/00 5:14:58 pm)
Reply Re: Nazi Ideology:
Thanks for the excellent introduction.