Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter V: The Imperialist Crucible

I employ the word ‘State’; it is easy to see what I mean – a band of blonde beasts, a race of conquerors and masters organised for war and strong enough to organise in their turn, seizing without qualms in their terrible grip a population that is perhaps enormously superior in numbers but that still lacks cohesion... (Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Geneology of Morals)

‘The political structure... of monopoly capitalism’, Lenin wrote in 1916, ‘is the change from democracy to political reaction.’ [1] Corresponding, though not directly, immediately or mechanically, to the transition from free capitalist competition ('Manchester capitalism’) to monopoly capitalism dominated by the big trusts and banks, is the trend away from classical liberalism and parliamentary democracy towards authoritarian, extra-parliamentary, militarist, Bonapartist or even fascist forms of rule. Lenin, who made this observation six full years before Mussolini’s ‘March on Rome’, had grasped more clearly than any other contemporary workers’ leader the political implications for the international labour movement of the imperialist era ushered in by the war of 1914. And it is the only methodological approach which enables us to discover how and why certain ideological and philosophical trends which began to emerge in the middle and late nineteenth century subsequently crystallised and fused together in the formation of fascist movements in the three main nations of continental Europe – Italy, France and Germany.

In so doing, we must guard against any tendency to simplify and vulgarise the highly complex skein of dialectical relationships which exists between the economic ‘base’ and the ideological ‘superstructure’ of capitalist (or indeed any) society. Several of Engels’ last letters warn precisely against this eagerness to explain every movement and conflict in the realm of ideas by seeking out – or even inventing – an economic or class origin for such phenomena:

According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this, neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure – political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc, juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas – also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles, and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. [2]

Thus far, we can agree with Engels completely. Unless the importance and origin of form is given its due weight, historical materialism, which is the application of dialectical materialism to the study of human history and specifically the struggle of classes, is vulgarised and reduced to mechanical materialism, to a social variant of Newtonian mechanistic physics. But it is only honest to state that when Engels, in his anxiety to combat the mechanist approach, states that ‘history is made in such a way that the final result always results from conflicts between many individual wills, of which each in turn has been made what it is by a host of particular conditions of life’, [3] he introduces a formulation which can weaken the materialist content of the Marxist historical method. True, the form in which classes and nations act is through the medium of the ‘individual will’. But the content is the movement of collective material forces, unified in moments of historical crisis and decision through the medium of parties and leaderships to forge and wield a collective will. Without such a transition from the molecular and ‘individual’ in periods of relative tranquillity to the united action of millions in situations of profound tension, revolutions would be impossible. [4]

What Engels says about this problem is, in some ways, almost indistinguishable from Hegel’s ‘cunning of reason’ or the ‘hidden hand’ of Adam Smith:

Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant – the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition. For what each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed... [5]

By so dwelling on the mediating factor in human action, that is, the ideological residues and their distillation through the individual consciousness, Engels here almost liquidates class action and class consciousness, though that is obviously completely alien to his purpose. For the proletarian class struggle, the highest form of human action and consciousness, cannot be reduced to a lower form, that of individual actions and wills, even though, on an arithmetic plane, the class is the sum total of its component individual parts. Hegel’s law of the transformation of quantity into quality, developed by Marx (and Engels!) in a materialist fashion, holds that higher forms of motion cannot be reduced to lower, that they contain new opposites, new forms of conflict and tension which are not present in the old.

The reader will, it is hoped, see the relevance of these remarks, not only in the following discussion of the politics of imperialism, but throughout the remainder of the book.

Lenin never fell into the tempting trap of drawing an absolute parallel between imperialism and political reaction. He spoke and wrote only of tendencies and trends, of an overall, but contradictory and oscillating drive of monopoly capitalism to undermine and overturn the most important democratic victories which had been won, under the leadership of an earlier, pre-imperialist bourgeoisie, against the forces of feudalism. He by no means excluded the possibility that, in a given conjuncture of domestic and international forces, an imperialist bourgeoisie could adapt itself to the forms of parliamentary democracy. Thus against those within the international Marxist movement (and also the Russian Bolshevik Party) who argued that since imperialism suppressed all democratic and national rights, there remained little purpose in struggling for them, [6] Lenin wrote:

... in general, political democracy is merely one of the possible forms of superstructure above capitalism (although it is theoretically the normal one for ‘pure’ capitalism). The facts show that both capitalism and imperialism develop within the framework of any political form and subordinate them all. It is, therefore, a basic theoretical error to speak of the ‘impracticability’ of one of the forms and of one of the demands of democracy. [7]

In fact, the rise of imperialism took place, in the cases of France and England, in countries where parliamentary and democratic traditions had sunk deep roots into the petit-bourgeois and proletarian masses, and where parliamentary institutions had evolved into the customary vehicle for the resolution of political differences within the possessing classes. Therefore the imperialist-oriented sections of the bourgeoisie were, whether they liked it or not, compelled to take these traditions and institutions into account when shaping their own political strategy. Not so in Germany, where, as we have already noted, democratic traditions were almost entirely lacking in the big and petit-bourgeoisie. Added to this, of course, was the aristocratic contempt felt by the Prussian Junker caste for anything which remotely smacked of popular rule and wide-ranging democratic liberties. The German bourgeoisie therefore not only found itself politically and psychologically predisposed towards a consistently anti-democratic imperialist policy at home as well as abroad, it encountered scant resistance to such a course amongst any class of the population save the proletariat.

Britain had its highly vocal bourgeois – and even aristocratic – critics of imperialism and colonialism, and the bourgeoisie learned to live with them. They were minor irritants, and only in the war of 1914-18 did they suffer serious persecution for their views. But in Germany, the picture was entirely different. There, the opposition to imperialism, chauvinism, racialism and militarism was confined almost exclusively to those workers organised within the SPD and affiliated bodies such as the trade unions.

So it was inevitable that the main offensive of the emergent imperialist bourgeoisie should be directed against Social Democracy, the movement led by ‘aliens’ and ‘traitors’. As Germany moved into the imperialist epoch and towards the explosion of 1914, the bourgeoisie was faced with two alternative methods of achieving the same political goal. Either it would have to attempt to reimpose a new and far more rigorous version of Bismarck’s anti-socialist laws (and now at a time when the SPD numbered millions amongst its supporters), or seek a rapprochement with the more ‘moderate’ and ‘nationally-minded’ elements of its leadership. History tells us that it was the second option which won out in 1914. But this should not be allowed to obscure those political forces and ideas which, while pushed to one side in the period of enforced collaboration with Social Democracy during the world war, [8] were not only indicative of ultra-reactionary trends inside the German bourgeoisie, but re-emerged with tenfold vigour and eventual triumph in the final years of the Weimar Republic. However before examining the origin, function and development of these ‘proto-fascist’ ideologists, it will be necessary to discuss briefly the important changes which were taking place in the economic base of German society.

Lenin and Bukharin, the two principle theoreticians of the Bolshevik Party prior to 1917, only began a serious and detailed study of imperialism after the outbreak of the First World War, yet their works, together with Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913) remain the most penetrating and politically valuable contributions in this field. Both emphasised the qualitative changes that had taken place in capitalism during the last quarter of the nineteenth century – the transition from ‘laisser faire’ to monopoly capitalism – and understood this as the bedrock of what Marxists term imperialism. We shall employ the works of Lenin and Bukharin on imperialism to illuminate the many and profound economic transformations which were underway in Germany from the 1870s onwards, and how they made themselves felt at every level of society.

Lenin denoted five salient features of imperialism. They were, in their order of chronological appearance:

1. The concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high state that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life.

2. The merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital’, of a financial oligarchy.

3. The export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance.

4. The formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves.

5. The territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. [9]

Elsewhere in the same work, Lenin stresses that imperialism, being the highest stage of capitalism, remains subject to its laws of development and that it is therefore, like the preceding capitalism of free competition, always developing at an uneven tempo, both with regard to rival imperialist states and internally vis-Ó-vis the various branches of national economy. This is especially true in the case of Germany, which, as we have so often had cause to stress, was the ‘late arrival’ on the stage of European capitalism. The ‘late developer’ learnt his economic and technological lessons from his English and French tutors so well and rapidly that by the turn of the century, Germany was in many ways the best prepared of the major imperialist powers to wage a struggle for continental supremacy. Let us see precisely how swift and thoroughgoing this development was. Beginning with Lenin’s first ingredient of imperialism, we see that German capitalism pioneered the large-scale transition from competitive to monopoly capitalism, and that it did so in a semi-planned fashion. We are referring of course to the emergence of the ‘Cartel’ system within German industry in the early years of the Empire. The initial impulse towards the creation of cartels was undoubtedly the economic crisis which hit German industry and finance in 1873. The largely speculative boom nourished by the French war indemnity collapsed after two years of feverish stock exchange activity and dubious financial transactions, and the leaders of heavy industry especially sought to protect their markets and profits by entering into agreements with concerns operating in the same sphere. Prices were maintained and markets divided up between the major companies to the exclusion of the less powerful, thus greatly accelerating a trend towards concentration already under way as a result of business bankruptcies. Thus by 1877, 14 such cartels had been formed, embracing the coke, pig iron, sheet steel and potash industries. Agreements to restrict production were also common, as in the case of the Rhenish-Westphalian coal-owners, who when faced with a contraction of demand, jointly cut output by 10 per cent. In this way they hoped to – and largely succeeded in – maintaining existing price levels. These working agreements contained within them the seeds of a more permanent union, since they recognised the advantages of large-scale, planned production geared to the maximisation of profits. And so, slowly at first, and at an uneven tempo in each sector of industry, firms already organised in cartels began to merge into integrated monopolies, sometimes, as in the case of the Rhenish-Westphalian coal syndicate, through the intermediate stage of a marketing union. This process is reflected statistically in the changing ratio of workers employed in large and small-scale enterprises. Thus in 1882, when the cartel system was in its infancy, the number of workers employed in manufacturing industry was divided almost evenly between large firms on the one hand (166 500) and firms classified as small and medium on the other (189 500). Twenty-five years of capital concentration, cartelisation and monopolisation then greatly undermined the position of the small and medium firm. They now employed 231 500 workers, an absolute increase of a mere 65 000, while the labour force of large-scale manufacturers had swollen more than fourfold to 788 800! Taking German industry overall, 0.9 per cent of firms employed 39.4 per cent of Germany’s total workforce. Capital concentration was even more intense, with 75 per cent of the nation’s industrial energy supply being used by these same 0.9 per cent of firms.

By this time – 1907 – the number of cartels had risen to nearly 500, and had embraced every important sector of the economy, [10] This was the period of the formation and consolidation of the industrial giants which little more than two decades later swung their enormous economic power and political influence behind Hitler. The same is true of the big banks. Established, as we have seen, in the period of reaction following the defeat of 1848, they very quickly became closely involved in the investment policies of German heavy industry, and used their indispensible role as a financier of industry to secure key positions on the boards of the largest concerns. This is, of course, Lenin’s second feature of imperialism, the union of banking and industrial capital. The extent of this fusion can be depicted graphically, as can the degree of dominance which banking capital assumed over industry as a consequence of this process.

In the following chart, column A denotes the number of firms where the big banks held a place on the managing board, column B the number of bank directors holding such positions, and column C the branch of trade or industry where the bank in question had its strongest interests.

BankABC
Bank fur Handel and Industrie93102Transport, commerce, metal, mining
Berliner88100Transport, commerce, metal, mining
Commerz und Disconto3235Engineering, commerce
Deutsche1160128Metal, mines
Disconto-Gesellschaft92126Metal, mines
Dresdner87102Mines, engineering, transport, catering
Nationalbank96102Mines, engineering, commerce
Schaffhausen94111Mines, metal, commerce, trade

Several of these banks were later to fuse, finally comprising the ‘big six’ of German finance, but even here, before 1914, we can see the basic economic structure of German imperialism already solidified. Looking more closely at the interests of the banks, we find that the immensely powerful Deutsche Bank (several of whose directors later helped to finance Hitler’s bid for power) held important positions on the boards of Siemens and Halkse (electrical), Nordeutscher Lloyd [11] (shipping) and Oberschlesiche Kokswerke (coke). Moreover, the Deutsche was banker to the giant Krupps concern. The Berliner Handelsgesellschaft was firmly ensconced on the board of Siemens’ chief rival, AEG, while the Darmstaedter had important interests in the Luxembourg mining industry.

Looking even more closely at the structure and leadership of German monopoly capitalism in the immediate pre-1914 period, certain highly interesting and significant factors emerge. Firstly, there was the enormous economic power concentrated, not simply in the hands of a trust or bank, but single individuals. In effect, a tiny group of monopoly capitalists, by virtue of their grip on entire sections of industry and finance, exploited and dominated socially literally millions of German workers. Thus in the Ruhr, the future backer of National Socialism, the coal magnate Emil Kirdorf through his association with the Discontogesellschaft Bank and fellow tycoon Hugo Stinnes employed either directly or indirectly no less than 69 000 of the region’s 354 200 miners. Altogether, only 10 banking and industrial families accounted for 89.3 per cent of Ruhr coal output! (These 10 also included the future Nazi tycoons Thyssen and Krupp.) Looked at from the standpoint of the big banks, who held the purse strings of nearly all the large mining concerns, we see that the Deutsche Bank controlled 20 mines employing 72 600 workers and producing 19.3 million tons per year, out of a total 89.3 million tons. No bank could match the Deutsche’s degree of penetration into Ruhr coal mining except the Discontogesellschaft, whose operations were linked with Stinnes [12] and Kirdorf.

In the other main branch of Ruhr heavy industry – iron and steel production – the same picture emerges. And even the same names, for here too Thyssen and Krupp were among the leaders of the trust, together with Stumm, Kirdorf and Stinnes. Taken overall, the nerve centres of German monopoly capitalism – the electrical, chemical, mining and steel industries, together with shipping and banking, were ruled, at the outbreak of the First World War, by no more than 13 groups or trusts. And in their turn, these associations were dominated either by single families, as was the case with Stumm, Stinnes, Krupp and Thyssen, or by the biggest banks. The German economy therefore presented the appearance of an inverted pyramid of a few score monopoly capitalists supporting – or rather seeming to support – an immensely broad and variegated industrial, commercial and agricultural base. This economic tyranny could not but have its repercussions in every facet of Germany’s political and social life.

For as regards both the process of monopoly concentration and the fusion of industrial with banking capital, Germany had, by the turn of the century, advanced further along the imperialist path than any of its world rivals. But this immense strength at the industrial base did not find an immediate and direct reflection in the external position of German imperialism. And the main reason for this was once again the uneven nature and tempo of world capitalist development. France and England, Germany’s two main continental competitors, had already carved out vast colonial empires many decades before capitalism in these countries began its transition into the monopoly stage. [13]

Whereas in 1876, the British Empire ruled over 250 million colonial subjects, Germany had yet even to stake a claim for its first overseas possession. Everywhere it turned, German capital came up hard against the already firmly established ‘zones of influence’ of either British, French or Russian imperialism. There could be no question of peaceful or evolutionary development towards a position of European predominance commensurate with its burgeoning economic might. Right from the outset, German capitalism was confronted with the stark alternatives: either prepare for war, or accept the status quo and be slowly ground down by the combined pressure of its French, English and Russian enemies.

It is essential to see how this strategic relationship between the major European capitalist powers accentuated the already powerful trend towards reaction within Germany’s possessing classes, and how it found a peculiar echo among wide layers of the petit-bourgeoisie. The German bourgeoisie found itself, as it entered the imperialist epoch, fighting a war on two fronts; against the workers’ movement, now emerging triumphant and unscathed from its 12 years of illegality under Bismarck’s anti-socialist laws, and against its foreign capitalist rivals, France, Britain and, to a lesser extent, the United States. Indeed, the first shots in this war had been fired some years before when after a prolonged and at times bitter debate within ruling political and economic circles, Bismarck agreed to institute legislation to protect German industry from foreign competition. And significantly, this change of heart coincided with Bismarck’s equally momentous decision to drop his earlier opposition to colonialism, and come out firmly in favour of fighting for Germany’s place in the imperial sun. The great concern felt by the bourgeoisie for Germany’s weak international position vis-Ó-vis the main colonial powers was expressed very cogently by Friedrich Fabri in his Bedarf Deutschland der Kolonien? of 1879:

Should not the German nation, so seaworthy, so industrially and commercially minded, hew a new path on the road of imperialism? We are convinced beyond doubt that the colonial question has become a matter of life or death for the development of Germany. Colonies will have a salutary effect on our economic situation as well as on our entire economic progress.

And in words which were later to become all too familiar for the peoples of Europe, Fabri went on:

If the new Germany wants to protect its newly-won position of power for a long time, it must heed its Kultur-mission, and, above all, delay no longer in the task of renewing the call for colonies.

In the same year, on 2 May 1879, Bismarck addressed the Reichstag on the allied question of protection:

... we are slowly bleeding to death owing to insufficient protection. This process was arrested for a time by the five milliards which we have received from France after the war: otherwise we should have been compelled five years ago to take those steps we are taking today... I see that those countries which possess protection are prospering, and that those countries which possess free trade are decaying. Mighty England, that powerful athlete, stepped out into the open market after she had strengthened her sinews, and said, ‘Who will fight me? I am prepared to meet everybody.’ But England is slowly returning to protection, and in a few years she will take it up in order to save for herself at least the home market.

Fabri and Bismarck here summed up succinctly the problems facing German capitalism on the eve of the imperialist epoch, and in fact correctly indicated the strategy it later adopted to overcome them. In 1885, Bismarck declared a German ‘protectorate’ in the East African region subsequently known as Tanganyika, and the bid for empire was on. The industrialists of the National Liberal Party and agrarians of the Conservatives submerged their political and economic differences in the imperialist-oriented and anti-socialist ‘pact of steel and rye’, which functioned as a parliamentary ‘cartel’ for all governments up to the outbreak of the First World War. Unity against the working-class movement at home, unity in the struggle for domination abroad – this was the driving force of ruling-class politics from the mid-1880s onwards. These important policy shifts made themselves felt at every level of German society, and not least amongst intellectuals most closely linked with the bourgeoisie. For to them fell the task of evolving a theoretical justification for the aggressive and dictatorial course upon which the regime had embarked in all fields of policy.

This development reached its nadir with the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals, published on the outbreak of hostilities by leading university professors and scientists in support of German imperialism’s war aims. [14] But the subordination of ‘official’ intellectual life and cultural activity to the Second Reich began much earlier, and it leaned heavily in its turn on those reactionary, subjectivist and pessimistic trends which had emerged out of the ruins of the classical Hegelian school. In many cases, these philosophers began by regressing to the position adopted by Kant, that the objective world of ‘noumena’ was by its very nature unknowable (the thing-in-itself) and that mankind was forever limited in his knowledge to the world of appearances, ‘phenomena’, which were filtered through from the noumenal world by the subjective categories of mental perception: that is, causality, quantity, quality, etc.

Now while Kant’s philosophy marked a clear step forward from the scepticism of the later English empiricists Berkeley (who held an extreme solipsist [15] position) and Hume, it was also criticised by Hegel for inconsistency in its establishing an arbitrary limit to human knowledge. The contemporary and follower of Kant, Johann Fichte, gave his philosophy a highly humanistic and radical interpretation, holding that since the world existed only through man’s perception of it, then it was within his power, through the exercising of his will, to mould the world as he desired. Here the ‘will’ played a relatively progressive role, as it was the philosophical refraction of the desire by an historically progressive class to create a modern, rationally-governed and united German state. But we can see how this same notion of the will underwent a dramatic transformation in the hands of those philosophers who took part in the anti-Hegelian reaction of the 1840s, a movement that was later given added impetus by the political reaction which followed the defeat of the 1848 Revolution. The main links in this chain, which in fact reaches from the post-Napoleonic reaction to the ideologues of National Socialism, are Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche.

How Schopenhauer became instrumental in evolving an utterly reactionary philosophical and political system out of elements of Kantianism can be seen from his most famous work, The World as Will and Idea. Written in 1818 when the philosopher was 30 years of age, it explicitly sets out to undermine the prevailing Hegelian influence in Germany, a fact which Schopenhauer openly acknowledged in the preface to the book’s second edition, which he wrote in 1844:

... my writing bears the stamp of honesty and openness so distinctly on the face of them, that by this alone they are a glaring contrast to those of three celebrated sophists of the post-Kantian period. [16]

He roundly condemned Hegelian dialectics as ‘bombast and charlatanism’, and Hegel himself as an ‘intellectual Caliban’. (Caliban, derived from a Shakespearian character, denotes someone who is ‘degraded and bestial’.) Ironically, it was Schopenhauer’s subjectivist antidote to Hegelianism which, in a later historical epoch, became an integral strand in the web of that greatest bestiality and degradation known to man, National Socialism.

Central to Schopenhauer’s philosophy was the repudiation of an external, material world existing prior to and independently of human consciousness. ‘Idea’ and ‘Will’ – these were the driving forces of all development:

It is palpable contradiction to call the will free, and yet to prescribe laws for it according to which it ought to will... it follows from the point of view of our system that the will is not only free, but almighty. From it proceeds not only its action, but also its world; and as the will is, so does its action and its world become... The will determines itself, and at the same time both its action and its world; for besides it there is nothing, and these are the will itself. [17]

So intuition and instinct, rather than analysis, synthesis and reflection, should serve as modes of thought for confronting and understanding reality:

... whoever supposes that the inner nature of the world can in any way, however plausibly disguised, be historically comprehended, is infinitely far from a philosophical knowledge of the world... The genuine philosophical consideration of the world, that is, the consideration that affords us a knowledge of its inner nature, and so leads us beyond the phenomenon, is precisely that method which does not concern itself with the whence, the whither, and the why of the world, but always and everywhere demands only the what, the method which considers things not according to any relation, not as becoming and passing away..., but, on the contrary, just that which remains when all that belongs to the form of knowledge proper... has been abstracted, the inner nature of the world, which always appears unchanged in all the relations, but is itself never subject to them, and has the Ideas of the world as its material objector material. [18]

The breakdown of the Hegelian school led, through the material intervention of the German and international working class, to Marxism. The disintegration of Kant’s system, on the contrary, brought forward all those elements within it that left a door ajar for mysticism and extreme subjectivism, the denial of objective, law-governed processes and the material, social basis of human consciousness. Thus empiricism, however ‘rational’ in its assumptions and method, does not stand at the opposite pole to subjectivism, but can, in certain conditions, pass over into it. And though the work in question does not treat directly with the political implications of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, they nevertheless intrude in a disguised form. In discussing the concept of ‘freedom of the will’, Schopenhauer carefully qualifies it when applied to individual human beings:

... we must be aware of the error that the action of the individual definite man is subject to no necessity... The freedom of the will as thing-in-itself... does not extend to the rational animal endowed with individual character, that is, the person. The person is never free although he is the phenomenon of a free will... [19]

How far have we travelled from the bourgeois-revolutionary ideal of the free, rational autonomous individual in a free and rational society where the interests of each coincide with the interests of all. Schopenhauer’s political ideas, which are very clearly derived from his subjectivist philosophy, show how profound was the reaction in German intellectual circles against this bourgeois-democratic Utopia. Here too his main target was Hegel, who, as we have previously observed, was profoundly moved and influenced by the philosophical ideals and government principles of the French Revolution. Not reason, but brute force, was the means by which men and nations should be governed. He looked with favour on the doctrine of Machiavelli, which Schopenhauer interpreted thus:

What you wouldn’t like done to yourself, do to others. If you do not want to be put under a foreign yoke, take time by the forelock, and put your neighbour under it himself... [20]

And of the notion that the people had the right to choose their own form of government and control its leaders, he wrote:

The people, it must be admitted, is sovereign; but it is a sovereign who is always a minor. It must have permanent guardians. And it can never exercise its rights itself, without creating dangers of which no one can foresee the end; especially as, like all minors, it is very apt to become the sport of... what are called demagogues. [21]

This thoroughgoing anti-democratic contempt for the masses runs like a thread through all Schopenhauer’s political writings, exemplified by his essay ‘Government’, from which these extracts have been taken:

... the great mass of mankind, always and everywhere, cannot do without leaders, guides and counsellors, in one shape or another... their common task is to lead the race, for the greater part is incapable and perverse, through the labyrinth of life... That these guides of the race should be permanently relieved of all bodily labour as well as of all vulgar need and discomfort; nay, that in proportion to their much greater achievements they should necessarily own and enjoy more than the common man, is natural and reasonable. Great merchants should also be included in the same privileged class, whenever they make farsighted preparations for national needs... It is physical force alone which is capable of securing respect. Now this force ultimately resides in the masses, where it is associated with ignorance, stupidity and injustice. Accordingly the main aim of statesmanship in these difficult circumstances is to put physical force in subjection to mental force – to intellectual superiority, and thus to make it serviceable. But if this aim is not itself accompanied by justice and good intentions, the result of the business, if it succeeds, is that the state so erected consists of knaves and fools, the deceivers and the deceived. That this is the case is made gradually evident by the progress of intelligence amongst the masses, however much it may be repressed; and it leads to revolution... No doubt it is true that in the machinery of the state the freedom of the press performs the same function as a safety valve in other machinery... On the other hand, the freedom of the press may be regarded as a permission to sell poison – poison for the heart and the mind. There is no idea so foolish but that it cannot be put into the heads of the ignorant and incapable multitude especially if the idea holds out some prospect of any gain or advantage. And when a man has got hold of any such idea, what is there that he will not do? I am, therefore, very much afraid that the danger of a free press outweighs its utility... A peculiar disadvantage attaching to republics... is that in this form of government it must be more difficult for men of ability to attain high position and exercise direct political influence than in the case of monarchies. For always and everywhere and under all circumstances there is a conspiracy, or instinctive alliance, against such men on the part of all the stupid, the weak, and the commonplace; they look upon such men as their natural enemies... There is always a numerous host of the stupid and the weak and in a republican constitution it is easy for them to suppress and exclude the men of ability... They are fifty to one; and here all have equal rights at the start. In a monarchy, on the other hand, this natural and universal league of the stupid against those who are possessed of intellectual advantages is a one-sided affair; it exists only from below, for in a monarchy talent and intelligence receive a natural advocacy and support from above... intelligence has always under a monarchical government a much better chance against its irreconcilable and ever-present foe, stupidity and the advantage which it gains is very great... In general, the monarchical form of government is that which is natural to man, just as it is natural to bees and ants, to a flight of cranes, a herd of wandering elephants, a pack of wolves seeking prey in common, and many other animals, all of which place one of their number at the head of the business in hand. [22] Every business in which men engage... must also be subject to the authority of one commander, everywhere it is one will that must lead. Even the animal organism is constructed on a monarchical principle; it is the brain alone which guides and governs, and exercises the hegemony. Although heart, lungs and stomach contribute much more than the continued existence of the whole body, these philistines cannot on that account be allowed to guide and lead. That is a business which belongs solely to the brain; government must proceed from one central point. Even the solar system is monarchical. On the other, hand, a republic is as unnatural as it is unfavourable to the higher intellectual life and the arts and the sciences... How would it be possible that, everywhere and at all times, we should see many millions of people... become the willing and obedient subjects of one man... unless there were a monarchical instinct in men which drove them to it, as the form of government best suited to them? [23]

It is hardly surprising therefore that Schopenhauer should declare himself for a monarchical solution to the problem of German national unification:

... if Germany is not to meet with the same fate as Italy, it must restore the imperial crown, which was done away with by its arch-enemy, the first Napoleon, and it must restore it as effectively as possible. [24]

Although Schopenhauer died some four years before Bismarck took the helm of the Prussian state, we would be completely justified in regarding him as Germany’s first philosopher of ‘blood and iron’. And we can go much further, and indicate the many remarkable points of contact between Schopenhauer’s reactionary political ideology and that enunciated by Hitler in his semi-autobiographical Mein Kampf. Hitler’s attack on parliamentary democracy, like that of Schopenhauer, had absolutely nothing in common with the Marxist critique of the same political system. Marx and Lenin stressed time and again that bourgeois democracy, while in its time representing an enormous advance on feudal despotism, still denied the working masses real access to the levers of state power. However wide-ranging the political and social concessions which the bourgeoisie might be obliged to make to the working class either in its struggle against feudalism or as a means of buying temporary class peace from the proletariat, bourgeois democracy remains a form of the dictatorship of big capital. This does not, however, lead Marxists to deny the importance of those political social and economic concessions which the proletariat has wrested from the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, they must be defended strenuously, not only for their own sake, but as those fortified proletarian positions within capitalist society which must serve as powerful material and moral levers for the overturn of capitalist rule. [25]

Both Hitler and Schopenhauer, along with an entire range of reactionary German ideologists, instinctively grasped this two-sided nature of bourgeois democracy, and denounced it accordingly. They saw it as a potential doorway to revolution, for it conceded the principle first enunciated in the French Revolution, that the masses are sovereign. Of course, with Hitler, the connections between democratic government and the dangers of socialist revolution are made much more explicit, but this is hardly surprising in view of the fact that, unlike Schopenhauer, he had witnessed at first hand German Social Democracy’s skilful exploitation of manhood suffrage and the many varied political freedoms which accompany the existence of parliamentary democracy. Thus he writes:

The Western democracy of today is the forerunner of Marxism without which it would not be thinkable. It provides this world plague with the culture in which its germs can spread. [26]

And here Hitler develops precisely the same line of argument as Schopenhauer to discredit the notion of popular rule, even under capitalism:

The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight. Thus it denies the value of personality in man, contests the significance of nationality and race, and thereby withdraws from humanity the premise of its existence and culture. [27]

This was the classic programme of German reaction – the Úlite must assert its right to rule over the ‘dead weight’ of the inert masses, whose only task is to work, fight and obey. And Hitler proceeds to elaborate on this theme at some length and with even more vehemence:

Isn’t the very idea of responsibility bound up with the individual? But can an individual directing a government be made practically responsible for actions whose preparation and execution must be set to the account of the will and inclination of a multitude of men? Or will not the task of a leading statesman be seen, not in the birth of a creative idea or plan as such, but rather in the art of making the brilliance of his projects intelligible to a herd of sheep and blockheads, and subsequently begging for their kind approval? Is it the criterion of the statesman that he should possess the art of persuasion in as high degree as that of political intelligence in formulating great policies or decisions? Is the incapacity of a leader shown by the fact that he does not succeed in winning for a certain idea the majority of a mob thrown together by more or less savoury accidents? Indeed, has this mob ever understood an idea before success proclaimed its greatness? Isn’t every deed of genius in this world a visible protest of genius against the inertia of the mass? ... Mustn’t our principle of parliamentary majorities lead to the demolition of any idea of leadership? Does anyone believe that the progress of this world springs from the mind of majorities and not from the brain of individuals? ... By rejecting the authority of the individual and replacing it by the numbers of some momentary mob, the parliamentary principle of majority rule sins against the basic aristocratic principle of nature... [28]

Here, derived from the philosophic tradition pioneered by Schopenhauer, with its reliance on pseudo-scientific parallels from the world of nature, is a worked-out system of counter-revolution and naked dictatorship over the masses, who are derided variously as ‘sheep’, ‘blockheads’, ‘mob’ and ‘inert’. Hitler’s ideal was a regime which paid absolutely no attention to the desires or feelings of the masses, and which put down with ruthless severity any attempt to challenge its authority. Such a system of government Hitler chose to call ‘truly Germanic democracy’ in which once its leader is elected, ‘there is no majority vote on individual questions, but only the decision of an individual who must answer with his fortune and his life for his choice’. [29]

Hitler’s views on ‘genius’ are also remarkably similar to those of Schopenhauer, betraying the same contempt for the vast majority of mankind unable to rise to the same heights – or rather sink to the same depths – as the so-called gifted few. This Úlitism also became the point of departure for Nietzsche’s evolution from a highly gifted writer into a bitter foe of democracy and socialism. Schopenhauer says of genius that it distinguishes ‘the countless millions who use their head only in the service of their belly’, and:

... those very few and rare persons who have the courage to say: No! It is too good for that; my head shall be active only in its own service; it shall try to comprehend the wondrous and varied spectacle of this world, and then reproduce it in some form, whether as art or as literature, that may answer to my character as an individual. These are the truly noble, the real noblesse [aristocracy] of the world. The others are serfs and go with the soil. Great minds, of which there are scarcely one in a hundred millions, are thus the lighthouse of humanity; and without them mankind would lose itself in the boundless sea of monstrous error and bewilderment. [30]

On this theme, the equally anti-Hegelian Nietzsche wrote:

... the hope is that with the preservation of so many blanks one may also protect a few in whom humanity culminates. Otherwise it makes nonsense at all to preserve so many wretched human beings. The history of the state is the history of the egoism of the masses and of the blind desire to exist; this striving is justified to some extent only in the geniuses, inasmuch as they can thus exist. Individual and collective egoisms struggling against each other – an atomic whirl of egoisms – who would look for aims here? Through the genius something does result from this atomic whirl after all, and how one forms a milder opinion concerning the senselessness of this procedure... [31]

And here too we find, in an even more explicit and violent form, Schopenhauer’s contempt for the masses, which with Nietzsche, who wrote with the example of the Paris Commune present in his mind, assumed the proportions of an all-pervading fear of revolution:

I simply cannot see what one proposed to do with the European worker now that one has made a question of him. He is far too well off not to ask for more and more, not to ask for more immodestly. In the end, he has numbers on his side. The hope is gone for ever that a modest and self-sufficient kind of man... might develop here as a class... But what was done? Everything to nip in the bud even the precondition for this... The worker was qualified for military service, granted the right to organise and to vote: is it any wonder that the worker today experiences his own existence as distressing? ... one wants an end, one must also want the means: if one wants slaves, then one is a fool if one educates them to be masters. [32]

What was implicit in Schopenhauer now becomes explicit in his most dedicated follower. The crucial factor in this transition was not the more morbid or unstable personality of Nietzsche, nor even the progressive internal degeneration of a reactionary idealist philosophical school, but rather the intervention of the German and international proletariat as a force in its own right. Nietzsche’s reaction to the rise of the German workers’ movement was, in fact, a brilliant negative verification of the immortal words of Karl Marx written, ironically, in the year of that avowed anti-Hegelian’s birth:

... theory... becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses... Philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without the philosophy being made a reality. [33]

Theory had gripped the German working class and raised it from an inarticulate and unorganised mass to a movement, despite the repressions of Bismarck, numbering millions. This was the force that Nietszche, like so many German bourgeois intellectuals, feared above all else. The ‘will to power’ was the will and desire to rule and exploit the proletariat without mercy. Hence Nietzsche’s anger with those governments who, out of a mistaken sense of political finesse, conceded to the workers the right to be treated as other citizens. If one teaches a worker how to use a gun, allows him to organise in parties and unions, and then permits him to vote for leaders of his own choice, then the worker is being permitted to forge the weapons which can transform him from a slave into a master. In other words, the bourgeoisie was simply committing class suicide. And this, as we shall see, was the central theme of Hitler’s critique of political currents prevailing in the German ruling class in the period prior to the crisis of 1929. We also find in Nietzsche, as in so many of the philosophical antecedents of National Socialism, a craving for a rigidly hierarchical society based on the now familiar Úlitist principles of ‘genius’ and ‘will’:

The order of castes, the supreme, the dominant law, is merely the sanction of a natural order... over which no arbitrariness, no ‘modern idea’ has any power. In every healthy society there are three types which condition each other and gravitate differently physiologically; each has its own hygiene, its own field of work, its own sense of perfection and mastery. Nature, not Manu [hand], distinguishes the pre-eminently spiritual ones, those who are pre-eminently strong in muscle and temperament, and those, the third type, who excel neither in one respect nor in the other, the mediocre ones – the last as the great majority, the first as the Úlite. The highest caste – I call them the fewest – being perfect, also has the privileges of the fewest, among them, to represent happiness, beauty and graciousness on earth... The most spiritual men, as the strongest, find their happiness where others would find their destruction: in the labyrinth, in hardness against themselves and others, in experiments; their joy is self-conquest... They rule not because they want to but because they are; they are not free to be second. The second: they are the guardians of law, those who see to order and security, the noble warriors, and above all the king as the highest formula of warrior, judge, and upholder of the law... The order of castes, the order of rank, merely formulates the highest law of life; the separation of the three types is necessary for the preservation of society, to make possible the higher and then the highest types. The inequality of rights is the first condition for the existence of any rights at all. [34]

Nietzsche went further than sketching the outlines and principles of his reactionary utopia, which in several ways was a crude plagiarism of Plato’s ‘Republic’. It also signposted the road towards the future fascist strategy of securing a basis for their policies and regime in the many-millioned petit-bourgeoisie and aristocracy at the one pole and the industrial proletariat at the other. Nietzsche, as the following extract shows, had begun to grasp one of the essentials of this strategy: namely, that in the era of the masses, the old-style absolutism was utterly unable to repress the rising workers’ movement. Thus his already quoted remark that ‘in the end’, the worker ‘has numbers on his side’. Mass must be pitted against mass, and for this a wide layer of the population must be given either a real or illusory stake in the status quo.

A culture is a pyramid: it can stand only on a broad base: its presupposition is a strong and soundly-consolidated mediocrity. Handicraft, trade, agriculture, science, the greatest part of art, the whole quintessence of professional activity... the instinct required here would contradict both aristocratism and anarchism. [35]

Standing between the ruling Úlite, the ‘aristocrats’ of ‘genius’, and the ‘rabble’ – Nietzsche’s third caste – is therefore the ‘soundly consolidated mediocrity’ of the petit-bourgeoisie, ranging from government officials, professional workers, scientists and artists, to its lowermost reaches: among the artisans, shopkeepers and farmers. It is this class, multifarious in its sub-divisions but capable of great homogeneity in political questions when reaction holds sway, that was to serve as the base of Nietzsche’s capitalist ‘pyramid’. And this strategically important counterweight to the menace of the ‘rabble’ must be courted and flattered accordingly, very much after the style of the later fascist demagogues:

To be a public utility, a wheel, a function, for that one must be destined by nature: it is not society, it is the only kind of happiness of which the great majority are capable that makes intelligent machines of them. For the mediocre, to be mediocre is their happiness; mastery of one thing, specialisation – a natural instinct. [36]

These supports of the aristocratic apex are happy in their mediocrity – such is the cynical view Nietzsche takes of them. But it would not do to treat them publicly as such:

It would be completely unworthy of a more profound spirit to consider mediocrity as such an objection. In fact, it is the first necessity if there are to be exceptions: a high culture depends on it. When the exceptional human being treats the mediocre more tenderly than himself and his peers, this is not mere politeness of the heart – it is his simple duty. [37]

We can better understand the Úlitist Nietzsche’s toleration of ‘mediocrity’ when we turn to his overt expressions of hatred for and fear of socialism which were, as we have already noted, far more clearly articulated than was the case with Schopenhauer, who died three years before the formation of the German socialist movement and 11 years before the Paris Commune:

Whom do I hate most among the rabble of today? The socialist rabble, the chandala apostles, who undermine the instinct, the pleasure. The workers’ sense of satisfaction with his small existence – who make him envious, who teach him revenge. The source of wrong is never unequal rights but the claim of ‘equal’ rights. [38]

At this juncture we should refer to Nietzsche’s tendency to lump together and then denounce Christianity with socialism, or what he sometimes calls ‘anarchism’. He saw them as linked ideologies and movements in that they both advocated a world free from violent or repressive social relations, [39] and espoused the cause of the weak and poor and against the rich and powerful. Both were therefore branded and condemned as spokesmen of the ‘rabble’ and enemies of ‘genius’:

What is bad? ... all that is born of weakness, of envy, of revenge. The anarchist and the Christian have the same origin... One may posit a perfect equation between Christian and anarchist: their aim, their instinct, are directed only toward destruction... [Nietzsche cites as proof of the Christian ‘instinct toward destruction’ the decline and disintegration of the Roman Empire after its rulers embraced the faith – RB] The Christian and the anarchist: both decadents, both incapable of having any effect other than disintegrating, poisoning, withering, blood-sucking, both the instinct of mortal hatred against everything that stands in greatness, that has duration, that promises life a future. [40]

In fact Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity led him directly to his celebrated cult of the ‘superman’ with his irresistible and utterly amoral ‘will to power’.

What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? Everything that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome. Not contentedness but more power; not peace but war, not virtue but fitness... The weak and the failures shall perish: first principle of our love of man. And they shall be given every possible existence. What is more harmful than any vice? Active pity for all the failures and all the weak: Christianity.

Repudiating the Christian message of the ‘meek inheriting the earth’, Nietzsche called instead for the creation of a new race of supermen to rule over and exploit the socialist-led ‘rabble’:

... what type of man shall be bred, shall be willed, for being higher in value, worthier of life, more certain of a future? Even in the past this higher type has appeared often – but as an accident, as an exception, never as something willed. In fact, this has been the type most dreaded – almost the dreadful – and from dread the opposite type was willed, bred, and attained: the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal – the Christian. [41]

Is this so far removed from the pagan cults of Himmler’s SS and the rambling anti-Christian, but equally mystical diatribes of Rosenberg – or indeed, the selective breeding indulged in at Nazi stud farms by blond and blue-eyed SS stallions?

And we should also mark well his use of the term ‘decadent’ [42] to denote political, philosophical or cultural trends which undermined the rise and rule of the ‘superman.’ It was taken over, first by Hitler in his attacks on what he termed ‘cultural Bolshevism’ and then, ironically, by the ‘Bolshevik’ but in reality counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy to slander modernist cultural tendencies in the Soviet Union or the capitalist world which clashed with the official cannons of ‘socialist realism’.

Another target of Nietzsche’s invective is the French Revolution, with its attendant schools of rationalist and materialist philosophy. Here his bŕte noire is that ardent champion of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom he vilified as:

... this first modern man, idealist and rabble [43] in one person – one who needed moral ‘dignity’ to be able to stand his own sight, sick with unbridled self-contempt... I still hate Rousseau in the French Revolution: it is the world-historical expression of this duality of idealist and rabble. The bloody farce which became an aspect of the Revolution, its ‘immorality’, are of little concern to me: what I hate is its Rousseaunian morality – the so-called ‘truths’ of the Revolution through which it still works and attracts everything shallow and mediocre. The doctrine of equality! There is no more poisonous poison anywhere... [44]

This total rejection of bourgeois rationalism and humanism necessarily led Nietzsche to an equally final rupture with the moral philosophy of Kant, notwithstanding those subjectivist notions which he had, partly via Schopenhauer, inherited from the author of the maxim ‘act as though you would create a moral law for all men’. Thus he writes:

Did not Kant find in the French Revolution the transition from the inorganic form of the state to the organic? Did he not ask himself whether there was any event which could be explained only in terms of a moral disposition of mankind, an event which would demonstrate once and for all the ‘tendency of mankind toward the good'? Kant’s answer: ‘This is the Revolution.’ The instinct which errs without fail, anti-nature as instinct, German decadence as philosophy – that is Kant! [45]

And so we could go on, citing example after example of how, in a variety of ways, Nietzsche both anticipated much of the ideology of German fascism, and also helped to shape it. Thus while openly contemptuous of the state of German politics under Bismarck, he nevertheless sang the virtues of ‘iron and blood’ politics, both in relation to domestic affairs, where his demand was for a ruthless dictatorship, and in foreign policy, which he saw as simply a preparation for war. By ‘freedom’ – and what reactionary ideologue or politician has not waged his battles in its name? – Nietzsche explicitly meant the freedom of the few to tyrannise the many. This idea runs like a thread through all his major writings and even his private notes:

... what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsibility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one’s cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example those of ‘pleasure'... [46]

And elsewhere, he writes: ‘I welcome all signs that a more manly, a warlike age is about to begin, an age which, above all, will give honour to valour once again.’ [47] Nietzsche saw the question of war and colonial conquest, as did the English imperialist Cecil Rhodes, [48] as very much related to the fight against revolution at home:

Do your ears ring from the pipes of the socialistic pied pipers, who want to make you wanton with mad hopes? ... until this waiting turns into hunger and thirst and fever and madness, and finally, the day of the bestia triumphans rises in all its glory? Against all this, everyone should think in his heart: sooner emigrate and in savage fresh regions seek to become master of the world... but no more of this indecent serfdom, no more of this becoming sour and poisonous and conspiratorial... the workers... should introduce an era of vast swarming out from the European beehive the like of which has never been experienced, and with this act of emigration in the grand manner protest against the machine, against capital [shades of Nazi ‘ruralism'! – RB], and against the choice with which they are now threatened, of becoming of necessity either slaves of the state or slaves of a revolutionary party. Let Europe relieve itself of the fourth part of its inhabitants... What at home began to degenerate into dangerous discontent and criminal tendencies will, once outside, gain a wild and beautiful naturalness, and be called heroism... [49]

We are in no sense arguing that the political ideology evolved by Nietzsche in the Bismarckian era corresponded in every respect either to that of National Socialism or indeed, the outlook of the German bourgeoisie. For very much to his credit, Nietszche went completely against the prevailing anti-Semitic trend in reactionary circles by coming out firmly in defence of the Jews. When his sister became involved in the activities of the German anti-Semites, he wrote to her:

Your association with an anti-Semitic chief expresses a foreignness to my whole way of life which fills me again with ire or melancholy... It is a matter of honour with me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal in relation to anti-Semitism, namely, opposed to it, as I am in my writings... [50]

And, in another direction, we can see that his frontal attack on Christianity could alienate him from bourgeois, petit-bourgeois and Junker circles which would otherwise have embraced his political ideas with very few reservations. But here, even here, Nietszche’s barbs struck home, for his onslaughts on the pacifist-humanist interpretation of Christianity were partially echoed in the turn of extreme reaction in Germany towards what was euphemistically called ‘positive Christianity’, a creed that adapted itself with the greatest facility to militant chauvinism, militarism, unbridled anti-Semitism and even paganism! [51]

It would be the greatest folly to imagine that the political ideas articulated by Nietszche were the property only of a small circle of isolated intellectuals. The collapse of genuine liberalism in Germany under Bismarck threw entire generations of students, writers and scientists into the arms of the most extreme reaction, and at precisely a time when the rise of the workers’ movement and the growth of colonialist tendencies in Germany’s foreign policy were posing political decisions point-blank to all intellectual strata between the proletariat and the big bourgeoisie. The case of Bismarckian Germany’s most celebrated historian, Heinrich von Treitschke, is highly instructive here. Treitschke was an utterly committed scholar, being not only a Reichstag deputy but an ardent propagandist in his earlier years for the cause of German unity. This was the period of his liberalism, of his opposition to Bismarck’s undemocratic and arrogant disdain for parliamentary conventions and procedures. But since Treitschke was, like so many of his ilk, a nationalist first and foremost, he rapidly made his peace with Bismarck once it became clear that no other force could unify Germany. From this time on, which dates from the mid-1870s, von Treitschke became a spokesman for the most reactionary elements of the big bourgeoisie, dabbling not only in extreme chauvinism but even anti-Semitism. In this sense, he was closer to the pulse of German imperialism than Nietzsche, whose social and political ideas he otherwise shared. Treitschke’s onslaught on Marxism, Socialism and its Sympathisers, written in 1874, was directed not only against the fledgling workers’ movement, but those within the liberal camp who were not prepared to sanction an all-out war of extermination upon it. Universal suffrage was denounced as a sin almost commensurate with that of socialising private property. And he also made the by now familiar claim that ‘class rule... follows from the nature of society as the contrast between rulers and ruled follows from the nature of the state...’. But what predominates is fear of revolution. Awarding the vote to the workers had:

... immeasurably encouraged the fantastic over-estimation of their own power and their own value among the masses. The irreconcilable contrast between the democratic equality of political suffrage and the necessary aristocratic structure proves to the dissatisfied little man with all possible clarity the social decadence [and again! – RB] of the present and makes him a credulous dupe of demagogues... universal suffrage means organised ignorance, the revolt of the soldier against his officer, of the journeyman against his master, of the worker against his employer.

Social Democracy, railed Treitschke, consisted of nothing else but ‘envy and greed’. Marxism’s ‘doctrine of the injustice of society destroys the firm instincts that the worker has about honour, so that fraud and bad and dishonest work are scarcely held to be reprehensible any longer...’. This is, almost word for word, the credo of Krupp, Stumm et al, as is the assertion that:

... such a crudely materialist doctrine can know no fatherland, can know no respect for the personality of the national state. The idea of nationalism, the moving force of history, in our century, remains incompatible with socialism. Socialism is everywhere in league with unpatriotic cosmopolitanism [52] and with a weakness of loyalty toward the state.

Trade unionism was singled out as a particularly pernicious enemy of ‘national’ Germany, not least because it excluded employers from membership! Its only aim was to ‘inflame class hatred to fury, getting people unaccustomed to loyalty during their work, of confusing the masses in their adherence to the law by breaches of contract which occur in every cessation of work...’. Now the ascendancy of views such as those canvassed by Treitschke and Nietzsche among wide segments of the upper and middle bourgeoisie in the final quarter of the nineteenth century was, without the least doubt, related both to economic and political developments within Germany and the heightening of the contradiction already referred to between Germany’s industrial strength and its position of relative backwardness as an imperialist power.

The year of 1873 marked a turning point and watershed in German right-wing politics. It was not only the year of intensified propaganda against Social Democracy and demands for its suppression, but a year of profound economic crisis for every section of the propertied classes. Beginning in Austria and New York, a banking and industrial crisis spread rapidly to Germany, where it found hordes of Junkers, bourgeois and even petit-bourgeois engaged in an orgy of speculation on the Berlin stock exchange with inflationary money originating in the indemnity levied on France after the defeat of its armies in the war of 1870. Numerous speculative firms collapsed overnight, including real estate, railway, building, banking and brewing companies. Of 50 real estate businesses established in Berlin between 1871 and 1873, only seven survived. The petit-bourgeois would-be parvenus were thrown into utter disarray by the cruel dashing of all their hopes, and became an easy prey for those with a simple – and traditional – remedy for their distress. [53] Anti-Semitic agitators quickly seized on the involvement of a Jewish financier in the crash – one Henry Bethel Strousberg – to paint a lurid picture of a nation-wide and even international ‘Jewish conspiracy’ to destroy the German economy and its industrious burghers. In the uppermost levels of the bourgeoisie, steps were taken to protect industrial interests from the worst effects of the crisis by forming cartels and supporting moves in the Reichstag for protectionism. The politically and economically impotent petit-bourgeois had no such easy access to the levers of power, and lacked the resources to insulate themselves from the buffetings of a market economy. Neither could the infant workers’ movement hope to attract large numbers of the middle class and peasantry to its side when it had only just begun the long and arduous task of organising the industrial proletariat. So Germany’s artisans, traders, small businessmen and professional strata were drawn in their hundreds of thousands into the trap of those backward-looking, guild-oriented solutions which were prevalent at the time of the 1848 Revolution, and which were consciously fostered by the Junkers as means of counteracting the political influence of both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Now this same ideology, after slumbering for more than a decade beneath the surface of German political life, re-emerged in an entirely new situation, invested with the viciously sharp cutting edge of anti-Semitism.

Let us trace the progression of events from the 1873 crisis. It was followed in the same year by Bismarck’s first speech in support of protection, and the formation of the first industrial cartels. Treitschke’s already quoted polemic also dates from this year. Then there ensued a veritable spate of anti-Semitic pamphlets and articles whose central theme was that the Jew, either in the guise of the banker, money-lender, stock-exchange manipulator or workers’ leader, was seeking to destroy the fabric of German society by pitting one class against another. The prime target of this mythical plot was, of course, the petit-bourgeoisie trapped between the two contending class giants and threatened with destruction by both. The usurer threatened him with bankruptcy, the Marxist-led worker with expropriation. Either way, the argument ran, the middle class was rendered property-less and converted into the dreaded and despised proletarian. The year of 1873 saw the publication of the first of these anti-Jewish, middle-class-oriented tracts, Wilhelm Marr’s The Victory of Judaism Over Teutonism, which not only coined the term ‘anti-Semitism’ but initiated an infamous canard of the Nazi era that Germany had been converted into a ‘New Israel’ through Jewish control over its government and press. There then followed in 1874 a book specifically about the crisis of the previous year entitled The Stock Exchange and Founding Swindle in Berlin by Otto Glakua. Its message, manna to the floundering and enraged petit-bourgeois speculator with burnt fingers, was that ‘Jewish capital’ had begun to destroy the middle class, using liberalism as its political weapon. Other anti-Jewish broadsides from this period included The Jewish Question by Eugen DŘhring (which claimed that anti-Semitism was democratic since it was directed at a minority!), The Anti-Semitic Catechism of Theodor Fritsch and, in 1910, Werner Sombart’s The Jews and Capitalism, which attempted to prove that the Jews pioneered capitalism, and therefore by implication were responsible for its sins. (Sombart’s work was later used by the Nazis to embellish their anti-capitalist demagogy.) This was also a time for founding anti-Jewish organisations, such as Marr’s ‘Anti-Semitic League’ of 1879, which used biblical texts to justify its attacks on Jews, and the Gobineau Society of Ludwig Schemann, named after the French racist ideologist who, it is believed, influenced Hitler and many other Nazi leaders in their evolution towards fanatical hatred of the Jews. But the most significant movement of this period, and one which pointed towards the rise of mass-based counter-revolutionary politics in the imperialist epoch, was Pastor Adolf St÷cker’s ‘Christian Social Party’. St÷cker, originally a member of the Conservatives, [54] enjoyed far-reaching political influence and patronage as Court Chaplain to the Kaiser, and he undoubtedly enjoyed the support of both the monarchy and Bismarck in his initial attempts to woo workers away from the atheistic and internationalist SPD by a clever mixture of anti-capitalist demagogy, anti-Semitism and ‘social’ Christianity.

St÷cker – and Bismarck – hoped that the new party would be able to exploit the tremendous difficulties experienced by the SPD as a result of the anti-socialist laws. As it turned out, this strategy, like Bismarck’s ‘State Socialism’, proved a total failure, but it did reveal that there was a previously untapped reservoir of support for ‘social’ anti-Semitism amongst wide layers of Germany’s petit-bourgeoisie. Early in 1880, after repeated attempts to rally the workers of Berlin to the party’s banner had failed, [55] St÷cker dropped all pretences at being a workers’ leader and directed his propaganda towards the middle class. A speech from this period warned of the dangers of Social Democracy in Germany, which he correctly saw as a part of a far larger international revolutionary movement: ‘Nihilism in the East, the Commune in the West, the whole great revolutionary movement in Germany all show that we in fact are on volcanic ground...’

Such statements were attuned to the nationalist, bitterly anti-Marxist middle-class masses of Bismarckian Germany, as was his insistence that, contrary to bourgeois democratic opinion:

Social Democracy is not just a movement for social reforms... it is a new conception of the world... which once it has taken hold of people prises them away from Christianity, patriotism and German morality... and directs them down a road... which can only lead to an abyss.

But it was not enough to attack the workers’ movement. The German petit-bourgeoisie, especially those most dependent on the ownership of small property for their livelihood, also feared and detested the power of big business and high finance, and this had to be attacked too if St÷cker’s brand of reaction was to win mass support. In the same speech he emphasised that unrest in the working class was not simply the reaction of ‘evil agitators’, but that it was also caused ‘by the present form of business life, by large industry in combination with free competition, by the alternation of boom and bust’. Here we have the age-old yearning of the small producer for the regulated, crisis-free pre-capitalist economy of the guilds. And even though the social and economic conditions which engendered this longing were fast dying away, the mode of consciousness not only lingered but proved itself remarkably adaptable to the political currents of Bismarckian and, subsequently, imperialist Germany.

Yet while functioning as an ideology of capitalism, it necessarily, because of its function as a political diversion for the anti-capitalist petit-bourgeois masses, had to take a firm line against the ‘excesses’ of the big bourgeoisie. Private property must be defended – it was after all the very foundation of middle-class existence – but it ‘carried with it heavy duties, just as wealth carries with it heavy responsibilities. If property abandons the foundations on which it rests... then it is itself conjuring up the dangers of revolt...’. Also anticipating the future German fascism, and distinguishing his brand of reaction from that of Treitschke and other advocates of rule by a bourgeois Junker Úlite, was St÷cker’s attempt to steal the clothes of his Marxist opponents by professing a ‘national’ (and therefore utterly spurious) socialism:

... the social conception has something to be said for it. For socialism does not mean only the idea of converting all private property into state property, but it contains as well the demand that business life should be made into something social and organic... we can deal with the socialist fantasy of abolishing private property only if we take up very seriously two ideas of socialism. One, to cast economic life in an organic [that is, corporative – RB] form, and two, to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

Armed with this, for its time, quite sophisticated political demagogy, St÷cker’s party, allied with the like-minded ‘Social Conservatives’, gathered 46 228 votes in Berlin at the Reichstag elections of 1881. The high point was reached in 1887, with 72 000 votes, and then came the decline of 1890, when St÷cker, now deprived of much of his previous ruling-class support, saw his party crushed in Berlin by the hated Marxists, who recorded 125 000 votes to his own 34 000. This reverse marked the end of St÷cker’s own political career, but not that of militant anti-Semitism. His pledge, made in 1883, to ‘offer battle to the Jews until final victory has been gained’ was to be honoured, with devastating results for all mankind, by his Nazi successors. [56]

And St÷cker also, despite his fiery anti-capitalist propaganda, endorsed the same views on work discipline which were concurrently being advocated by industrial leaders like Krupp, Stumm and Kirdorf. There was to be ‘no meddling by the worker in the technical, financial or economic policy of the enterprise...’, while the employer was to be the ‘leader’ and the workers his ‘followers’, terms and concepts plagiarised and enforced by Ley’s Labour Front in the Nazi Labour Law of 1934.

Support for St÷cker’s ideas reached far beyond his party. In April 1881, he succeeded in collecting no fewer than 225 000 signatures for an ‘Anti-Semitic Petition’ presented to Bismarck demanding a halt to Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe, their exclusion from teaching and high public office, and a numerus clausus in schools, universities and the legal profession. And even more ominously, there were anti-Semitic riots and demonstrations in Berlin and Pomerania, with mobs attacking synagogues to the chant of ‘out with the Jews’. For the first time since the Middle Ages, pogromists ran amok in the streets of Germany, egged on by a man who enjoyed the confidence of the highest court and government circles. The long and bloody march to Auschwitz had begun. St÷cker’s reactionary work was carried on by the Anti-Semite Party, which from a modest 12 000 votes in 1887, rallied 264 000 avowed Jew-baiters to their racialist banner six years later. The party then lost ground slightly over the next two elections of 1898 and 1903, only more than to recoup it in the election of 1912, when 357 000 Germans – mainly artisans, peasants, shopkeepers and backward, unorganised workers, cast their votes for a party which boldly proclaimed its intention of hounding the Jews from public life. Just as in the first months of the Third Reich, bourgeois Jews sought to deflect this anti-Semitic offensive by proclaiming from the rooftops their loyalty to the Hohenzollerns, but to little effect. There was scarcely a single university which did not have its ban on Jewish membership of student associations, while more than 80 per cent of Wandervogel branches (the mainly petit-bourgeois and highly romantic German youth movement) excluded Jews from their ranks. Our survey of chauvinist and anti-socialist tendencies in Imperial Germany does not end here. Many were the illustrious names of German culture, letters and science who lent their prestige and talents to the cause of extreme reaction, thus helping to render respectable not only militarism and anti-democratic theories, but open racialism. There is the illuminating case of Ernst Haeckel, the celebrated biologist and philosopher whom Lenin, Engels and Plekhanov quoted with approval in polemics against various schools of idealism. But Haeckel’s materialism was not enriched by the dialectical method, and as a result, degenerated when applied to social questions into a most reactionary mystical philosophy. Haeckel’s mechanistic outlook led him utterly to negate the active role of human consciousness in historical development, depicting man as a merely transient and passive phenomenon in the totality of the universe. Thus he declared that ‘the great struggle between the determinist and the indeterminist, between the opponents and the sustainers of the freedom of the will, has ended today, after more than 2000 years, in favour of the determinist’. This position is far removed from that of the great Marxist thinkers, who never ceased to stress the dialectical relationship between man and the material world around him. Since man is himself a part of that world – a fragment which being the highest and the most complex product of the process of evolution is capable of abstract thought through the material organ of the brain – he has the potentiality of discovering through practice the nature of the world outside him, and of changing it in accordance with both natural laws and his own needs. This Haeckel emphatically denied. His was as one-sided a world outlook as that of the subjectivists Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, who erected an entire system on the foundation of the will. And indeed, as is so often the case, these two apparent philosophical extremes merged on the important political questions of the day. Haeckel’s rejection of traditional Christianity in the name of science did not lead him to a consistent materialist outlook, but towards a romantic nature worship (pantheism) and the crudest attempts to transpose theories derived from the world of the lower animals to human society (’social Darwinism’). [57] How popular this notion was among the German bourgeoisie, currently engaged in a desperate struggle for mastery over both its internal and external foes, is illustrated by the theme set for an essay competition in 1900. The chosen topic was: ‘What can we learn from the principles of Darwinism for application to inner political development and the laws of the state?’ The sponsor of this highly ideological literary event was none other than... Alfred Krupp! So great was the response from the German intelligentsia that the essays filled 10 large volumes, with the first prize going to William Schallmayer, a protege of Ernst Haeckel. Some six years afterwards, Haeckel founded the ‘Monist League’ to spread his pantheist gospel among German scientists and men of letters. In politics, it rapidly emerged as a pro-imperialist, anti-socialist force, employing the language of science to justify the most blatant dictatorial and racialist views. Haeckel himself once declared that ‘woolly-haired Negroes are incapable of true inner culture and of a higher mental development’, thereby anticipating future Nazi ‘racial science’, while the Monist League’s vice-president, Dr Johannes Unold, justified violence in human relations in rhetorically asking: ‘Does not human nature lose its best character and fall into weakness... when there is general happiness and a termination of the struggle for existence?’ Unold, who shared Haeckel’s Úlitist prejudices, held that ‘unlimited freedom leads to a lack of regard for the minority and the progressive degeneration of the majority’. For under democracy, the ‘poorest’ had power: ‘Won’t they give their approval to those who charm by their eloquence and win over the masses by promises?’ Democracy led to the ‘exploitation of quality by quantity, the best by the majority, the fit and the conscientious by the unfit and the frivolous, the expert by the inexpert, the prudent by the covetous’. Unold was scandalised that the rise of Social Democracy in Germany had resulted in a situation where ‘the opinion of a 26-year-old labourer can mean as much as that of a 60-year-old owner of a factory...’. The universal franchise had ‘restrained and excluded’ the political influence of the ‘educated and property-owning bourgeoisie, the middle class, which was the true backbone of every state’.

And nothing aroused the ire of German academics more than the rise of the untutored worker in the historic old cities of Germany. ‘Who can justifiably explain’, thundered Unold, ‘that cities like Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart should be represented exclusively by members of the workers’ party?’

Haeckel’s attacks on socialism and the working class were no less trenchant. In the year of the anti-socialist legislation, he poured scorn on the scientific claims of Marxism:

The equality of individuals which socialism strives after is an impossibility... it stands in fact in irreconcilable contradiction to the inevitable inequality of individuals which actually and everywhere exists... The theory of selection teaches that in human life, as in animal and plant life everywhere... only a small and chosen minority can exist and flourish, while the enormous majority starve and perish miserably and more or less prematurely. [58]

This last is nothing more nor less than naked justification of imperialism, of ‘chosen minorities’ to conquer and exploit the ‘enormous majority’. And indeed, the German Haeckels and Unolds put their theories into practice as ardent members of numerous patriotic societies, the most important undoubtedly being the Pan-German League. Founded in 1891, it was the most representative and influential of imperial Germany’s many nationalist organisations agitating in favour of an aggressive military and colonial policy. (Precursors of the League included the Colonial Society (1882) and the Association for German Colonisation (1884), fusing in 1887 to form the German Colonial Society.) The Pan-Germans not only espoused the cause of all-German unity, a demand which involved the incorporation of all German-speaking peoples within a Prussian-dominated ‘greater Germany’, but following this, German imperialist world domination. Just as Nazi domestic political strategy originated in the activities and theories of such racialists as St÷cker and anti-Marxist statesman like Bismarck, so too did the Pan-Germans, a thoroughly ‘respectable’ clique of imperialists, father Hitler’s foreign policy. [59]

Leading Pan-Germans included Haeckel of the Monist League, the industrialists Krupp and Kirdorf, Admiral Tirpitz (later a fervent Nazi) and numerous government officials, academics and school teachers (36 per cent of the League’s branch chairmen were school teachers; they were instrumental in poisoning entire generations of petit-bourgeois with the doctrines of racialism and militarism). The Bavarian Social Democrat Kurt Eisner was not exaggerating when he wrote in 1914:

Behind the programme of the Pan-German League and its manifold branches and daughter associations stand the Land League, the Central League of Industrialists and other employers’ associations, a part of the finance capital interests, especially the shipping interests, and finally, an executive of former generals and admirals...

Under its President Heinrich Class, the League moved steadily towards the ultra-chauvinist, racialist right, making a bid for petit-bourgeois support by attacks on ‘international finance’, while taking care to demarcate it from model ‘national’ capitalists like Krupp. Class set out the Pan-German case for a right-wing dictatorship in his book If I Were the Kaiser, published in 1912: ‘A powerful leader is necessary who will enforce the steps necessary for our recovery...’ This ‘saviour of the Reich’ must be a dictator ‘who uncompromisingly resists the democratisation of the state’. Under this regime, Jews would be treated ‘without pity’. Small wonder that Hitler was later to declare that this work, which anticipated so much of the Nazi programme, ‘contained everything that was important and necessary for Germany’. The activities of the Pan-Germans were supplemented by a proliferation of societies ostensibly pursuing purely ‘cultural’ causes. Such were the Gobineau Society, founded by the leading Pan-German Ludwig Schemann, and the ‘Wagner Circle’, established by the composer’s wife Cosima after his death in 1883. Arthur de Gobineau was the French exponent of racialist ideology who, it is considered by most authorities, enjoyed the greatest influence among German anti-Semites, Hitler included. Gobineau’s political and philosophical writings were clearly a reaction against the rationalist and humanist traditions of the French Revolution, holding as he did the convictions that:

... the racial question overshadows all other problems of history, that it holds the key to them all, and that the inequality of the races from whose fusion a people is formed is enough to explain the whole course of human destiny... everything great, noble and fruitful in the works of man... derives from a single starting point, is the development of a single germ and the result of a single thought; it belongs to one family alone, the different branches of which have reigned in all the civilised countries of the universe. [60]

Gobineau was, of course, referring to the so-called ‘white races’, of whom pride of place went to the ‘Germanic race..., endowed with all the vitality of the Aryan variety’. [61] For unlike France, ‘a country where the nobility does not exist, where the bourgeoisie is no more preponderant as a political class’, [62] Germany remained relatively free from the democratic virus. This cult of the mythical ‘Aryan’, with its emphasis on the ‘civilising’ world mission of the higher ‘white races’, enjoyed an enormous vogue among bourgeois intellectual and artistic circles as Germany entered upon the imperialist phase of its development. Wagner himself in his later years degenerated into a rabid anti-Semite and religious mystic, in sharp contrast to the militant socialist who in 1849 charged, musket in hand, to the barricades of revolutionary Dresden. Politically disoriented by the defeat of the revolution, the composer turned his back on the working class, the only force capable of modernising and democratising Germany in a thoroughgoing fashion, and delved deep into his nation’s mythical past in a search for artistic and philosophical inspiration. The result was, in the sphere of pure music, often superlative. But in the realm of ideology – and Wagner would never have denied the importance of this side of his work – it was utterly escapist, grist to the cultural mill of those in Germany who sought to embellish the nauseous doctrines of racialism with a veneer of great art. Was it just mere coincidence that Hitler’s favourite composer was Wagner, or that even in the pre-1914 period, the circle dedicated to preserving his works and memory became a meeting point for the ideologues of German racialism? [63]

The most influential among these was undoubtedly Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Portsmouth-born natural historian and physicist who became enmeshed in the politics of German reaction through his almost religious conversion to the cult of Wagner at the 1882 Bayreuth Festival. He soon settled permanently in Germany, branching out from his activities on behalf of the Wagner Circle to a rabid propagandist of all things German. Nearly all things, we should have said, for it was Kant and Schopenhauer, not Hegel, whom Chamberlain took as his philosophical mentors. From Kant he took his criticism of the ‘exact sciences’. The unknowable nature of the external world, the world of ‘things-in-themselves’, lay beyond reason’s reach. If this noumenal world was to be grasped at all, then it would be by means of what he called the ‘world of the eye’, or, more prosaically, intuition. And so he passed over the Kantian threshold into the subjectivist, mystical world of Schopenhauer and his successors. Chamberlain sought to employ the ‘world of the eye’ [64] in his main work, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, which he completed in 1898. It shares with de Gobineau’s essay on race the idea that human history is the history of racial struggle, and that the German or ‘Aryan’ race is the highest point of this process. (Chamberlain was probably the first ‘scientific’ racialist to assert that Christ was not a Jew, but an ‘Aryan’. His hero Wagner had pointed the way for this ludicrous contention in Religion and Art, where the composer declared he was ‘more than doubtful whether Jesus was a Jew’. This issue was of profound importance for those imperialists and racialists seeking to ground their theories in traditional Christian teachings.) Chamberlain’s intellectual pretensions enhanced the acceptability of his views in ruling-class circles. Kaiser Wilhelm II not only read the Foundations but distributed it amongst his immediate political and court associates. The two then conducted a voluminous correspondence which ended only in 1923. Long before this, Chamberlain had lost faith in the ability of the Hohenzollern dynasty to fulfil Germany’s racial destiny, and in his last years he became an open supporter, and finally a member, of the Nazi Party. Hitler, who first met Chamberlain at the 1925 Wagner Bayreuth Festival, paid him the highest possible compliment by attending the latter’s funeral in 1927 as the official representative of the Nazi Party. The Nazis recognised their own.

The point therefore being made is that the precursors of National Socialism were by no means ‘cranks’ on the margin of German intellectual or political life, but men at its very centre. And neither is it a question of Germany alone. True these ultra-reactionary and racialist tendencies assumed their most developed form in the country where the problem of national unification had loomed largest, and where the ruling class was faced point-blank with the necessity of outright military conflict with the major European capitalist powers if German imperialism was not to be strangled at birth. And nowhere more than in Germany was the working class better organised and politically educated to thwart the reactionary strategy of its enemies. These contradictions, taken together with the entire tradition of counter-revolutionary politics, became a forcing house for the growth of anti-Semitic, anti-Marxist and imperialist ideology amongst the German middle class. But basically the same process was at work in all the imperialist nations. The form it took depended to a great degree on already-established political, philosophical and cultural patterns. But the content embodied within these diffuse forms was precisely that described by Lenin: away from classical bourgeois democracy and liberalism towards reaction, towards open dictatorial rule over the working class and the waging of imperialist war. And in almost every case, the spokesman for this tendency began by challenging, very much in the manner of Schopenhauer, the rational world outlook developed by the bourgeoisie in its struggle for class hegemony over the forces of feudal and Catholic obscurantism. In other words, intuition is substituted for reason, faith for knowledge, ‘action’ for theory. This is already evident in the writings of Schopenhauer, who argued that:

The aim of our life... is a practical one: our actions, not our knowledge, appertain to eternity. The use of the intellect is to guide our actions, and at the same time to hold up the mirror to our will... [65]

This notion, which seems to begin from the obvious proposition that theory is derived from practice, and in the last analysis must therefore be subordinate to it, is carried much further in the philosopher’s essay on genius, where he contends that:

... if man’s grasp of the universal is so deep as to be intuitive, and to apply not only to general ideas, but to an individual object by itself, then there arises a knowledge of the Ideas in the sense used by Plato. This knowledge is of an aesthetic character; when it is self-active, it rises to genius, and reaches the highest degree of intensity when it becomes philosophic; for then the whole of life and existence as it passes away, the world and all it contains, are grasped in their true nature by an act of intuition, and appear in a form which forces itself upon consciousness as an object of mediation. [66]

With Nietzsche, the role of intuition is even more explicit, being counterposed not only to natural science but the study of history. Man can only act freely when he forgets the past – such is the thesis of Nietzsche:

Forgetfulness is a property of all action... life in any true sense is absolutely impossible without forgetfulness... there is a degree of sleeplessness, of rumination, of ‘historical sense’, that injures and finally destroys the living thing, be it a man or a people or a system of culture. [67]

Nietzsche had sound class motives for opposing any serious and objective study of the past:

Monumental history loves by false analogy; it entices the brave to rashness, and the enthusiastic to fanaticism by tempting comparisons. Imagine this history in the hands – and head – of a gifted egoist or an inspired scoundrel; kingdoms would be overthrown, princes murdered, war and revolution let loose... [68]

And this, Nietzsche considered, was a special danger in Germany, where the people were inclined to theory and an historical approach towards political problems. Instead, men should be guided and motivated by what the self-appointed theoretician of French syndicalism Georges Sorel called ‘myths’:

The unrestrained historical sense, pushed to its logical conclusion, uproots the future, because it destroys illusions and robs existing things of the only atmosphere in which they can live. Historical justice... is therefore a dreadful virtue, because it always undermines and ruins the living thing – its judgement means annihilation... the creative instinct is sapped... the historical audit brings so much to light which is false and absurd, violent and inhuman, that the condition of pious illusion falls to pieces. And a thing can only live through a pious illusion. [69]

And of necessity, this war on historical objectivity on behalf of the philosophy of myth and so-called intuitive knowledge – in other words, in defence of the ‘big lie’ – demanded a total renunciation of the Hegelian heritage:

I believe there has been no dangerous turning point in the progress of German culture in this century that has not been made more dangerous by the enormous and still living influence of the Hegelian philosophy. [70]

In France, where the rationalist tradition was far more deeply embedded in the bourgeoisie, open adherents of subjectivist and intuitionist theories of knowledge were fewer, but not a wit the less vocal and persistent for all that. Their most gifted representative was undoubtedly Henri Bergson, who evolved the notion of the Úlan vitale as the driving force of human evolution. In the case of Bergson, who although conservative in outlook took little interest in politics, [71] we have a philosopher who epitomises the state of flux in all branches of intellectual and cultural activity predominating in the last years of the nineteenth century as the old mechanist conceptions of change and reality, in particular those derived from Newtonian physics, began to disintegrate under the weight of fresh scientific inquiry and evidence. Bergson’s argument contained a particle of truth: that since the real world was in a constant state of motion, it could not accurately be depicted by even the most sophisticated of representational models or symbols. These remained at best tools of analysis, and not reality itself. But Bergson went further than this. Working from an essentially Kantian position, he came to the conclusion that the wall between human consciousness and reality could only be breached by intuition, by an act of will. The old models of the world and the universe were breaking down – this was most certainly the case. Bergson’s answer to this problem was not, like that of Lenin, to view the contradictory development of human knowledge about the world as an eternal process of finer and finer approximations to a reality infinite in both space and time. Instead, a short cut to infinity was proposed, as subjective as the earlier methods had been mechanical and empirical: ‘There are things that intelligence alone is able to seek, but which, by itself, it will never find. These instinct alone could find, but it will never seek them.’ [72] Instinct or intuition was therefore the higher form of understanding, for it could reach, according to Bergson, beyond the shadowy world of phenomenon to the ultimate reality of noumenon:

We see that the intellect, so skilful in dealing with the inert, is awkward the moment it touches the living. Whether it wants to treat the life of the body or the life of the mind, it proceeds with rigour, the stiffness and brutality of an instrument not designed for such use... We are at ease only in the discontinuous, in the immobile, in the dead. The intellect is characterised by a natural inability to comprehend life, instinct, on the contrary, is moulded on the very form of life. While intelligence treats everything mechanically, instinct proceeds... organically. [73]

Bergson’s subjectivist method hinged on the belief that one can, by an act of will, place oneself ‘inside’ a process, and by so doing, discover total, absolute and perfect truths. The political implications of such a notion are as obvious as they are reactionary. It places in the hands of government leaders a theory to justify their riding ruthlessly over the most elementary democratic wishes of the people, on the grounds that they alone can grasp and interpret the true ‘will of the people’. Ordinary mortals, the ‘herd’ to use Hitler’s terminology, are not capable of such intuitive perception and decision-making. The power and right to act reside in the hands of an Úlite gifted with Bergson’s ‘sixth sense’, the inner eye which can penetrate the fog created by the human intellect to the real world of instinct beyond. And it is doubly reactionary because such a method recognises no objective criteria of proof:

... an absolute could only be given in an intuition, whilst everything else falls within the province of analysis. By intuition is meant the kind of intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and consequently inexpressible. [74]

Bergson had stumbled across the basic flaw in the rationalist and empirical methods, but instead of seeing them as historical moments in the evolution of human consciousness towards a more and more scientific world outlook, an outlook which, with the theoretical work of Marx and Engels, reached its highest point in dialectical materialism as a theory of knowledge, he eclectically combined the most ‘useful’ elements of rationalism and empiricism with his own intuitionist method of perception. [75]

Bergson counterposed to the objective materialist dialectic of Marxism a subjective and intuitionist dialectic which reconciled opposites in the mind through an act of will, and not by acting on and changing material reality:

There is hardly any concrete reality which cannot be observed from under two antagonistic concepts. Hence a thesis and an antithesis which endeavour in vain to reconcile logically, for the very simple reason that it is impossible, with concepts and observations taken from outside points of view, to make a thing. But from the object, seized by intuition, we pass easily in many cases to the two contrary concepts; and as in that way thesis and antithesis can be seen to spring from reality, we grasp at the same time how it is that the two are opposed and how they are reconciled. [76]

In a future chapter on Italian fascism, we shall seek to show how the reaction to French rationalism led, in the case of Sorel, to theories which directly served the imperialist counter-revolution against the European workers’ movement. Here we can see that a perfectly sincere attempt to overcome practical and theoretical problems posed by the inadequacies of mechanical materialism, rationalism and empiricism, because it remained indifferent or even hostile to the Marxist world outlook, passed imperceptibly but inexorably over to extreme mysticism. The end product, when combined with the ideas of the other main subjectivists, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, was a school of philosophy and theory of knowledge which proved itself highly adaptable in a period of intense class and national conflict to the most reactionary political tendencies. At the base of this development were two related and converging processes – the break-up of the mechanist – rationalist world outlook in the physical and natural sciences, and a profound crisis in bourgeois democracy as colonial rivalries intensified and the proletarian movement began to stake its claim for political power. Naturally, this process did not evolve uniformly in each country, or necessarily penetrate into the same branches of science, the arts and philosophy. But a general trend does emerge. The reaction in each and every case both preceded and anticipated the rise of imperialism as a world system, but followed and flowed from the decline of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary class. We can see this even in the case of England, where parliamentary traditions had deep roots, a country where only with the Reform Act of 1832 did the industrial and banking bourgeoisie finally succeed in widening its political base by extending the franchise to the urban propertied classes. Yet even as the bourgeoisie was celebrating its victory over the landed aristocracy, a new and far more dangerous enemy was already assembling its forces under the banner of Chartism. It was to this threat that the political writer and essayist Thomas Carlyle addressed himself. His writings, spanning the period between the rise of the English workers’ movement and the dawn of imperialism, contained none of that so-called ‘Victorian optimism’ which is said to be typical of bourgeois thought in that era. Sceptical of democracy, profoundly distrustful of the proletariat, and fanatical in his opposition to what he termed ‘Mammonism’ – worship of money – Carlyle’s thought moved along lines which we have already traced in Germany, [77] as can be seen from a reading of his Lectures on Heroes (1840), where he seeks to replace bourgeois democracy by the cult of hero worship. But his most revealing remarks arise in the course of his essays on Chartism and the problems of contemporary English politics. It is here that Carlyle, with a precision that is, in the light of subsequent developments, almost uncanny, anticipates the economic programme of National Socialism. Firstly there is Carlyle’s mystique of work, a concept which the Nazis employed to dupe backward workers and artisans into believing that fascism was a unique, idealist species of socialism that returned to the worker the ‘dignity of manual labour’ without challenging the rights of private property. This was a constant theme of Labour Front and Labour Service propaganda, and we can also see strong elements of this notion in the writings of Carlyle counterposed, as it was with the Nazis, to ‘Mammonism’, or what Feder termed the ‘thraldom of interest’:

... there is a perennial nobleness and even sacredness in Work... there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works... Work, never so Mammonish, mean, is in communication with Nature; the real desire to get work done will itself lead one more and more to truth, to Nature’s appointments and regulations, which are truth... Consider how, even in the meanest sorts of labour, the whole soul of man is composed into a real kind of harmony... [78]

The reader can also see here how, very much in the manner of the German pantheists, labour becomes a quest for ‘harmony’ with ‘nature’. [79] And here too we find ourselves in the world of instinct and intuition, of pure ‘action’, labour divorced from its economic function as the source of value and profit. And like the petit-bourgeois quack economists of National Socialism, Carlyle always depicted labour as struggling to break free from capital in its money form, while remaining intransigently opposed to the socialisation of industrial capital:

Industry still under bondage to Mammon... is a tragic spectacle... Labour is not a devil, even while encased in Mammonism... The unredeemed ugliness is that of a slothful people. Show me a people energetically busy; heaving, struggling, all shoulders at the wheel, their heart pulsing, every muscle swelling, with man’s energy and will; I will show you a people of whom a great good is already predictable... By very working they will learn; they have Anteus-like, their foot on Mother Fact: how can they but learn? [80]

Carlyle’s panegyric to work as a means of communion with nature obscured, as did Nazi talk of labour as an expression of ‘national solidarity’, the real motive force of capitalist production through all phases of its cycle from money capital, through productive capital to commodity capital. That is, it concealed or rather sought to conceal, the quest for profit and the origin of profit in capitalist production. Stripped of its high-flown phrases and mystical language, this is the essence of what we might call ‘labour romanticism’. For despite his alleged heroic and mystical qualities, the worker was, under Carlyle’s regime, to be kept firmly in his place. Power was to be wielded exclusively by an ‘Aristocracy of Talent’, [81] to be found chiefly among ‘captains of industry’ – who had the task of ‘managing’ what Carlyle called the ‘alarming problem of the working classes’. [82] Worker and employer were, he argued, parts of an organic whole, and instead of pitting their strengths against each other, should be joined together in the pursuit of ‘holy’ work. Only one detail marred this picture of idyllic harmony – the worker was to be totally subordinated to his employer:

The leaders of Industry, if Industry is ever to be led, are virtually the Captains of the World; if there be no nobleness in them, there will never be an Aristocracy more... Captains of Industry are the true Fighters, henceforth recognisable as the only true ones... [83]

But nothing so sordid as profit should serve as their goal. Neither should workers seek their own monetary advancement in the form of higher wages. All this was ‘Mammonism’, or what the Nazis called ‘Jewish-Marxist materialism’:

Love of men cannot be bought by cash payment... You cannot lead a fighting world without having it regimented, chivalried: the thing, in a day, becomes impossible; all men in it, the highest at first, the very lowest at last, discern consciously or by noble instinct, this necessity. [84]

Unless such a relationship between worker and employer was substituted for that of classical ‘Manchester’ laisser faire, which Carlyle despised, then revolution would certainly ensue:

... dark millions of God’s human creatures [will] start up in mad Chartisms, impracticable Sacred Months and Manchester Insurrections: and there is a virtual Industrial Aristocracy as yet only half alive, spellbound amid moneybags and ledgers... no working world, any more than a Fighting World, can be led on without a noble Chivalry of Work, and laws and fixed rules which follow out that... As an anarchic multitude on mere supply and demand, it is becoming inevitable that we dwindle in horrid, suicidal convulsion... will not one French Revolution and Reign of Terror suffice, but must there be two? [85]

Military regimentation embellished by a little ‘love’ and ‘chivalry’ – this was Carlyle’s recipe for the ‘problem of the working classes’. For ‘on the present scheme and principle, work cannot continue. Trades’ strikers, Trades’ Unions, Chartisms, mutiny, squalor, rage and desperate revolt, growing ever more desperate, will go on their way.’ [86] It is easy, in the light of historical experience, to dismiss Carlyle as a gifted writer obsessed by the threat of a Chartist-led revolution which never materialised. But that is not the point. Far more significant is that here, in the homeland of liberalism and free trade, in a nation noted for its tradition of compromise, was a publicist feeling his way towards an outlook which in so many ways foreshadowed the political and economic ideology of fascism. Which underlines our contention that several important ingredients of fascism originated in the pre-imperialist phase of capitalism, and then underwent a qualitative transformation under the impact of the intense social, political and economic crises and upheavals engendered by the development of monopoly capitalism. Just as elements of monopoly are present even in the period of free competition, so, in different ways and at varying tempos in each capitalist country, did the ideologist’s of extreme reaction and chauvinism, of fulminating hatred against socialism and the workers’ movement, begin to evolve their theories at a time when bourgeois democracy seemed to be in the ascendant. And just as we saw that the so-called era of optimism contained within it the forces which unleashed the most terrible global slaughter, so the philosophers of optimism and rational, ordered progress were powerless, despite their worship of the power of reason and science, to prevent the rise of the most horrific manifestations of wild subjectivism and barbaric mysticism. The diffuse – and indeed contradictory – elements which eventually comprised the alloy of fascism were fused in the imperialist crucible.


Notes

1. VI Lenin, ‘A Caricature of Marxism’ (August-October 1916), Collected Works, Volume 23, p 43.

2. F Engels, Letter to J Bloch, London, 21-22 September 1890, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence (Moscow, nd), p 498.

3. Engels to Bloch, 21-22 September 1890, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, p 499.

4. More in keeping with the historical materialist method is Bukharin’s formulation on the same problem: ‘Marxism teaches us that the historical process... is a necessity. To deduce political fatalism from this doctrine is absurd, for the simple reason that historic events are taking place not outside of but through the will of the people, through the class struggle... The will of the classes is in every instance determined by given circumstances: in this respect it is not at all “free.” However, that will becomes in turn a conditioning factor of the historic process.’ (N Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy (1915) (London, 1972), p 131)

5. F Engels, Letter to J Bloch, London, 21-22 September 1890, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, p 499.

6. This tendency Lenin dubbed ‘Imperialist Economism’, after the Russian ‘Economists’ who abjured the political struggle against Tsarism as a diversion from the fight for socialism.

7. VI Lenin, ‘The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up’ (July 1916), Collected Works, Volume 22, p 266.

8. Even this is not strictly true, for it was the war which greatly accelerated the evolution of ultra-chauvinist and anti-socialist groups and ideologists into fully-blown fascism. Thus the ‘Fatherland Front’, a super-patriotic offshoot from the Conservatives founded by industrialists and military leaders to press for a ‘victor’s peace’ in the World War, spawned in its turn the Munich-based ‘German Workers Party’ of Anton Drexler. It was this tiny sect which Hitler joined in 1919 and subsequently transformed into the ‘National Socialist German Workers Party’.

9. VI Lenin, ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’ (Spring 1916), Collected Works, Volume 22, p 266.

10. It is important to note that German technology was far ahead of other nations in several key branches of industry, notably chemicals and electricity production and traction. Monopoly was here the rule from the very outset. A full decade before the outbreak of war, Germany’s electrical industry was dominated by two giants: Siemens and AEG. Concentration in chemicals was also well advanced, en route to its consummation in the IG Farben monolith of Nazi infamy.

11. Also a supporter of the Nazi cause well before 1933.

12. Hugo Stinnes, Germany’s largest ever industrial tycoon, was sympathetic to Hitler in the months preceding his abortive ‘Munich Putsch’ of November 1923. He died in 1926.

13. Contrary to ‘vulgar’ Marxists, and their equally vulgar critics, Lenin never claimed that colonialism was the product of capitalism in its monopoly stage. Marx shows in Capital how the seizure and exploitation of the first colonies comprised, together with the domestic expropriation of non-bourgeois propertied classes, the phase of early capitalist development described as ‘primitive capital accumulation’.

14. Written in the spirit of blind chauvinism which characterised nearly all wartime propaganda, it nevertheless also revealed something unique to German bourgeois intellectuals, a quality which the novelist Thomas Mann once aptly called ‘power-protected inwardness’: ‘It is not true that the combat against our so-called militarism is not a combat against our civilisation... Were it not for German militarism, German civilisation would long since have been extirpated.’ Its signatories were numbered among Germany’s intellectual and cultural Úlites, and included Emil von Behring, Professor of Medicine, Marburg; Professor Paul Ehrlich, Frankfurt on Main; Fritz Haber, Professor of Chemistry, Berlin; Ernst Haeckel, Professor of Zoology, Jena; Professor Adolf von Harnack, General Director of the Royal Library, Berlin; Karl Lamprecht, Professor of History, Leipzig; Max Lieberman, Berlin; Max Planck, Professor of Physics, Berlin; Professor Max Reinhardt, Director of the German Theatre, Berlin; Wilhelm Roentgen, Professor of Physics, Munich; and Gustav von Schmoller, Professor of National Economy, Berlin.

15. Subjective idealism carried to its logical conclusion, namely that the external world exists only in so far as the individual perceives it: ‘That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind is what everybody will allow. And to me it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the Sense... cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them... For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinkable things, without any relation to their being perceived that is to me perfectly unintelligible. Their esse is percipi (being is to be perceived); nor is it possible they should have an existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them. It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding.’ (G Berkeley, ‘Principles of Human Knowledge’ (1710), Berkeley: Selections (New York, 1957), pp 125-26)

16. A Schopenhauer, Preface to Second Edition, The World as Will and Idea, Volume 1 (London, 1957), p xxi. The ‘three celebrated sophists’ are Hegel, Fichte and Schelling.

17. Schopenhauer, Preface to Second Edition, The World as Will and Idea, Volume 1, p 351.

18. Schopenhauer, Preface to Second Edition, The World as Will and Idea, Volume 1, pp 352-53.

19. Schopenhauer, Preface to Second Edition, The World as Will and Idea, Volume 1, p 372.

20. A Schopenhauer, ‘Government’, Human Nature (London, 1951), p 30.

21. Schopenhauer, ‘Government’, Human Nature, p 35.

22. Scientific tests have shown that schools of dolphins do not have a ‘leader’ but coordinate their movements by means of highly sophisticated and complex sound signals. And this highly democratic animal is renowned both for its high intelligence (in some ways approaching that of man) and its utterly pacific nature.

23. Schopenhauer, ‘Government’, Human Nature, pp 37-42.

24. Schopenhauer, ‘Government’, Human Nature, p 44.

25. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels make clear that while in Germany Communists ‘fight with the bourgeoisie wherever it acts in a revolutionary way, against the absolute monarchy, the feudal squirearchy, and the petit-bourgeoisie... they never cease, for a single instant, to instil into the working class the clearest possible recognition of the hostile antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, in order that the German workers may straightaway use, as so many weapons against the bourgeoisie, the social and political conditions that the bourgeoisie must necessarily introduce along with its supremacy, and in order that, after the fall of the reactionary classes in Germany, the fight against the bourgeoisie itself may immediately begin.’ (K Marx and F Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1962), pp 64-65, emphasis added) Whether Hitler, Schopenhauer or Nietzsche had ever read these lines is not important. They were well aware of the revolutionary implications of a thoroughgoing struggle for bourgeois democracy in Germany.

26. A Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1943), p 78.

27. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 65.

28. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 79-81.

29. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 91.

30. A Schopenhauer, ‘On Genius’, The Art of Literature (London, 1951), p 83.

31. F Nietzsche, ‘Notes’ (1873), The Portable Nietzsche (New York, 1962), pp 40-41.

32. F Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’ (1888), The Portable Nietzsche, p 545.

33. K Marx, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’ (1844), K Marx and F Engels, On Religion (Moscow, 1957), pp 50-58.

34. F Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’ (1888), The Portable Nietzsche, pp 644-46. Here the reader can compare Nietzsche’s conception of a society rigidly ordered along hierarchical lines with that of Hitler: ‘Organising the broad masses of our people which are today in the international camp into a national people’s community does not mean renouncing the defence of justified class interests. Divergent class and professional interests are not synonymous with class cleavage, but are natural consequences of our economic life. Professional grouping is in no way opposed to a true national community, for the latter consists in the unity of a nation in all those questions which affect this nation as such.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 339, emphasis added) So the ‘national people’s community’ accepted as ‘natural’ the existence of class divisions. So much for Hitler’s ‘socialism'!

35. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 646.

36. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, pp 646-47.

37. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 647.

38. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 647.

39. This is, of course, Nietzsche’s, and not the author’s, conception of Christianity.

40. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, pp 647-48.

41. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, pp 570-71.

42. For example: ‘The Christian and the anarchist are both decadents. When the Christian condemns, slanders and besmirches “the world,” his instinct is the same as that which prompts the socialist worker to condemn, slander, and besmirch society. The “last judgment” is the sweet comfort of revenge – the revolution, which the socialist worker also awaits, but conceived a little further off.’ (Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 535)

43. In his literary masterpiece Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche likens ‘the rabble’ to pigs, with ‘grinning snouts and the thirst of the unclean’.

44. Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’, The Portable Nietzsche, pp 552-53.

45. Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 578.

46. Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 542.

47. F Nietzsche, ‘The Gay Science’, The Portable Nietzsche, p 97.

48. In 1895, Rhodes told his friend, the journalist W Stead: ‘I was in the East End of London yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to wild speeches, which were just a cry for “bread! bread!” and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism... My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, that is, in order to save the 40 million inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population... If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.’ (Quoted in VI Lenin, ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, Collected Works, Volume 22, pp 256-57)

49. F Nietzsche, ‘The Dawn’, The Portable Nietzsche, pp 90-91.

50. F Nietzsche, Letter to his sister, Christmas, 1887, The Portable Nietzsche, pp 456-57.

51. Point 24 of the founding Nazi Party programme declared its support for ‘positive Christianity’, but did not ‘bind itself in the matter of creed to any particular confession. It combats the Jewish-materialist spirit within and without us...’

52. Another term from the vocabulary of reaction later appropriated by Stalinism. As was the case with Treitschke and his nationalist contemporaries, it was used in the immediate post-1945 period in the Soviet Union to denote Jews who were deemed disloyal to the state. The obligatory term was ‘cosmopolitans without kith or kin’, as in the editorial of Questions of History, no 2, 1949, entitled ‘On the Tasks of Soviet Historians in the Struggle with Manifestations of Bourgeois Ideology’, where unabashed great Russian chauvinism is raised to a semi-official cannon of Stalinist ideology: ‘A bunch of nationless cosmopolitans have been preaching a national nihilism hostile to our world view... have slandered the great Russian people and have propagated a false assertion about its centuries-old backwardness.’ Imperialism and Stalinism, though operating from different economic bases, share an intense hatred of internationalism.

53. A contemporary report from Austria spoke of the ‘calamity which overwhelmed the Vienna Bourse... It involved not merely stock-gamblers, but the representatives of every class who had trusted them.., and the wild frenzy of the miserable crowd who had assembled when their bubble burst threatened tumult and riot, forcing the bearers of the greatest financial names in the Empire to flee for their lives, compelling the Bourse temporarily to close its doors...’ Of the 1005 joint stock companies formed between 1867 and 1873, more than half folded almost at once.

54. The Conservatives’ founding programme of 1859 upheld a corporatist view of state and society, opposing what it called ‘the increasing and destructive Jewish influence in our national life’. Note the similarity on this question to point 24 of the Nazi programme.

55. In early 1880, police reports revealed that less than 20 per cent of this ‘socialist’ party’s 1000 members were workers. They also spoke of ‘better educated persons’ predominating at its public meetings.

56. St÷cker was rightly regarded by the Nazis as a pioneer of German fascism, his memory being celebrated in a biography by Walter Funk which went through several editions.

57. Just as Schopenhauer and later Hitler had done. Of mechanical and crude attempts, usually politically motivated, to project Darwin’s theory of evolution onto human society, the Italian Marxist pioneer Antonio Labriola wrote: ‘Darwinism, political and social, has, like an epidemic, for many years invaded the mind of more than one thinker, and many more of the advocates and declaimers of sociology, and it has been reflected as a fashionable habit and a phraseological current even in the daily language of the politicians.’ (A Labriola, Essays on the Materialist Conception of History (New York, 1966), p 114)

58. Haeckel lived just long enough to witness the revolution of November 1918, an event which occasioned the characteristic comment ‘no one knows the kind of new folly that will be perpetrated by the ordinary German citizen – the least politically educated in the world’. Kurt Eisner, murdered leader of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, was derided as a ‘Galacian Jew’ and ‘degenerate swindler’. Haeckel’s last political act before his death in August 1919 was to curse ‘those damned shop committees’. The Nazis closed them down 14 years later.

59. Not that the League was indifferent to domestic political questions. From its very foundation, it called for a government ban on Jewish immigration, and under its second President, Heinrich Class, evolved a consistently anti-Semitic programme which included demands for the exclusion of Jews from teaching and public offices, and the compulsory display of the Star of David on the masthead of all publications employing Jews in their editorial offices.

60. A de Gobineau, ‘Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races’ (1853-55), Selected Political Writings (London, 1970), pp 41-42.

61. Gobineau, ‘Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races’, Selected Political Writings, p 170.

62. A de Gobineau, ‘France in 1870’, Selected Political Writings, p 208.

63. Wagner’s contradictory evolution from revolutionary democrat to German mystic and chauvinist is discussed in the thought-provoking essay on the composer by Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Soviet Union’s first People’s Commissar of Education. He makes the telling point that like so many great minds trapped by German reaction, Wagner was a follower of the neo-Kantian Schopenhauer (A Lunacharsky, On Literature and Art (Moscow, 1965), p 349).

64. Chamberlain coined the term gestalt to distinguish his intuitive methods from those of the orthodox scientist.

65. A Schopenhauer, ‘The Failure of Philosophy’, Religion: A Dialogue (London, 1951), pp 80-81.

66. Schopenhauer, ‘On Genius’, The Art of Literature, pp 82-83.

67. F Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History (New York, 1957), pp 6-7. Or as Henry Ford, the super-pragmatist, put it: ‘History is bunk.’

68. Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, p 16.

69. Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, p 42, emphasis added.

70. Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, p 51.

71. Though Bergson did hold strong and ultra-reactionary views on war, which he regarded as a strong antidote to revolution: ‘... the only principle capable of neutralising the tendencies of societies to disintegration is a warlike virtue, which may be tinged with mysticism, which mingles no calculation with its religion, which overspreads a great country, which is slowly and reverently evolved out of memories and hopes, out of poetry and love, with faint perfume of every moral beauty under heaven.’ (H Bergson, Two Sources of Morality and Religion (New York, 1954), p 277)

72. H Bergson, Creative Evolution (London, 1960), p 159.

73. Bergson, Creative Evolution, pp 173-74.

74. H Bergson, An Introduction to Metaphysics (New York, 1955), pp 23-24.

75. And here again it must be stressed that Bergson praised Kant as the pioneer in this respect: ‘He affirmed, against his immediate predecessors, that knowledge is not entirely resolvable into terms of intelligence. He brought back into philosophy – while modifying it and carrying it on to another plane – that essential element of the philosophy of Descartes which had been abandoned by the Cartesians [that is, dualism – RB]. Thereby he prepared the way for a new philosophy which might have established itself in the extra intellectual matter of knowledge by a higher effort of intuition.’ (Bergson, Creative Evolution, p 378)

76. Bergson, An Introduction to Metaphysics, p 38.

77. Carlyle was an avid student of German philosophy, especially Schopenhauer. And in his turn, he influenced Nietzsche in the latter’s elaboration of the ‘superman’ concept.

78. T Carlyle, Past and Present (London, nd), p 223.

79. How close the Nazis later came to Carlyle’s labour mystique can be seen from a speech by Hitler quoted by ‘Reich Labour Leader’ Muller Brandenburg in an article on the State Labour Service in Germany: ‘... we want the Labour Service to compel every young German to work with his hands at least once and thus to contribute to the progressive development of his people. Above all, we want those Germans who are in sedentary occupations to learn what manual work means, so that they may find understanding and sympathy for those of their comrades whose lives are spent in the fields, the factory or the workshop... The whole idea underlying the Labour Service is to promote understanding between all classes and thus strengthen the spirit of national solidarity... In our camps, class distinctions are overcome by the facts of experience... we abolish them with the aid of the spade...’ (Germany Speaks (Berlin, 1938), pp 193-95)

80. Carlyle, Past and Present, p 231.

81. Carlyle, Past and Present, p 93.

82. Carlyle, Past and Present, p 280.

83. Carlyle, Past and Present, pp 281-82.

84. Carlyle, Past and Present, p 282.

85. Carlyle, Past and Present, p 283.

86. Carlyle, Past and Present, p 299.