Georg Lukacs. Hegel and the Nazis 1943
Source: Der deutsche Faschismus und Hegel in: Schicksalswende: Beitrage zu einer neuen deutschen Ideologie pp. 29-49, Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin, 1948 (in German);
Translated by: Anton P.
Basically, the relationship of Hitler’s fascists to Hegel’s philosophy is very simple: they resolutely reject it. Alfred Rosenberg, the main Nazi theorist, sees in the connection between Hegel and Marx an essential reason to define the Hegelian philosophy as hostile to the “national socialism” that radically combats it. This is not, of course, the only reason for this hostile attitude. Hegel’s rejection by the Nazis is focused, as we will show later in detail, on his idea of the rationality of the world, on his theory of development, but mainly on his theory of the state.
This rejection of Hegelian philosophy extends, with some minor exceptions, to all classical German idealism.
Alfred Baeumler, who was appointed professor of political pedagogy at the University of Berlin shortly after Hitler’s takeover, clearly expresses this program in his inaugural address: “The systematic critique of the idealist tradition is part of our future work.” It is, explains Baeumler, a polemic against the nineteenth-century worldview of “security”, liberalism, etc. In his previously published book on Nietzsche, Baeumler spells out this program in detail. He talks about the fight of young Nietzsche against David Friedrich Strauss, which he conceives of as a combat against Hegel. “But when Nietzsche ridicules the ‘apotheosis’ of the State, he thinks ... with a certain instinct, of the total Hegelian State as the State of culture ... It is the spirit of Weimar, materialized in the form of the State, that Nietzsche fights. Hegel is the thinker of classicism.” In addition, Hegel is, according to Baeumler, the founder of the ideology of national-liberalism, a “synthesis of Enlightenment and Romanticism”, which intellectually dominated the Bismarkian and Wilhelminian period, later collapsing with the world war, to engender this crisis whose prophetic herald was Nietzsche, according to Baeumler, and which “National Socialism” is called to resolve in a positive way.
To this end, Baeumler leads a systematic campaign to update all the reactionary manifestations of German Romanticism from the “father of gymnastics” Friedrich Ludwig Jahn to Joseph Gorres. And, consequently, he thinks that we cannot make room in the story for these characters “without destroying the nineteenth-century tradition of the preponderant importance of the classicist Weimar and the friendship between Goethe and Schiller. We cannot philosophically express our conception of the world without critically mastering the intellectual evolution that leads from Kant to Nietzsche. We cannot apprehend our world with formulations of Fichte and Hegel, whatever depth of understanding we may have. Furthermore, there is nothing more frequent than assimilating, for example, the intellectual universe of Fichte and that of National Socialism. It would change nothing if the centaur Hegel took the place of the centaur Fichte. We must learn to look with the eyes of the 20th century, that is our task.”
This is a draft program for a rewriting of the history of nineteenth-century philosophy in the spirit of Hitlerite fascism. These programmatic directions for official philosophy were followed by different works of Nazi philosophers. One of these most important attempts to transform the history of recent philosophy in this spirit, and by the same way to dethrone and unmask Hegel, is the book Anti-Cartesianism by Franz Boehm. It is characteristic that it is subtitled German philosophy in resistance. It is about showing the combat between the “Western European” line and the German line of philosophy. The historical presentation contained therein is, admittedly, only a pretext for the author’s practical political objective, the “breaking of the spirit of the Western system”. The thought (spirit) that is fought here is the scientificity of the philosophy founded by Descartes: “With Descartes, in place of the Western man, subject to a unity of national roots and universal perspectives, the European man appears, the creation of a rationality unreal and ahistorical”. Descartes’ dominant position on the philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries, according to Boehm, means “the predominance of scientific consciousness over all intuition of the real, primitive and unthought”.
Thus “everything that characterizes the defeated reality” disappears. In itself, this polemic against Descartes is not a Nazi discovery. It already starts with the older Schelling and was extended by Eduard von Hartmann and his disciples. The novelty in Boehm is solely that he resolutely bases this combat on a philosophy of life and first of all the fact that his arrows are resolutely aimed at Hegel. Boehm sees in Hegel the culmination of all the dangerous efforts of deadly rationalism, the culmination of a non-German philosophy. “Hegel unsurpassedly fulfills the West’s conscience in matters of history and philosophy ... It is precisely through Hegel’s historical framework that Cartesianism found its lasting justification, after the struggle led by the best forces of German philosophy against Cartesianism had lasted for centuries. In the same way as inversely, the themes of the German history of the conceptions of the world were trivialized in Western philosophy by the universalist conception of Hegel, and in part buried for a century”.
We see here that the idea first expoused by Paul de Lagarde of the non-German character of Hegel’s philosophy was energetically developed. According to this representation, Hegel is not only non-German, but his influence is also defined as an ominous and dangerous turning point for German thought, through which comes the temporary victory of the hostile spirit of the West. Unearthing the true German conception of the world was possible for the fascists only because they radically reject Hegelian philosophy, with all its foundations and all its consequences, only because they totally distance themselves from it, together with the scientificity of philosophy and the idea of ??the dialectical evolution of history.
The irreconcilable hostility to the scientificity of philosophy can be seen even more clearly in these polemical passages where Boehm examines the essence of what he understands by the German worldview: “For German thought, the unfathomable is not the definition of a limit, it is on the contrary a totally positive determination. (We see how Kierkegaard’s philosophy of existence here takes the place of Kantian agnosticism. G. L.) It cuts across our entire reality and governs it in macro and detail ... The unfathomable as an indissoluble web of our reality is in its nature inaccessible but not totally unknown. We know it, even if we cannot say it, it acts in our life, it determines our resolutions, it disposes of us.” This dedication to the unfathomable constitutes the “depth” of the German conception of the world, as opposed to the categorically rationalist, scientific philosophy along the lines of Descartes and Hegel. “What is profound, we cannot say it, but we can see it in the men in which it is present.”
The proper initiator of this current of thought from which Boehm drew the consequences in the framework of history and philosophy is Ernst Krieck. Hitler and Rosenberg have already fought all scientificity to put myth in its place. For this central question of the National Socialist worldview, Krieck wants to find a philosophical basis. And in this he energetically confronts: in place of the sciences that founded philosophy until then, ie. logic and the theory of knowledge, it is a biology, an anthropology that is installed: “The racial national political anthropology in the process of formation ... takes the place of ‘philosophy’ dead from another time.”
The fact of basing a construction of worldview in terms of philosophy of life on biology is nothing new in the imperialist period. What is new is the cynicism with which Krieck rejects science and biology itself – unlike his predecessors, who have tried unceasingly, through reinterpretations, to preserve at least the appearance of scientificity – and it is also his new conception of a “biology-based” world, which is actually grounded in the nothingness of the intuitions suggested by the philosophy of life. He expresses himself very clearly about this “foundation” of the new worldview: “The biological conception of the world means, however, something essentially different than founding the world’s conception on the already existing scientific discipline called biology. The concept of life, in terms of worldview, concerns the totality, the concept of life in the sense of the scientific discipline of biology is at best a participation in the whole, when it is not simply derived from a universal mechanism.” Krieck then explains what are the characteristics of this new science fundamental to life: “We can never explain life by a mechanical principle, any more than totality can be. But begetting, birth and death are accessible by those who have lived: as stages in the development of their own life and the lives of others, they are objects of the lived and therefore accessible by intuition. And from the experience, intuition and understanding are understood in return to the universal.” Krieck’s philosophical “performance” therefore consists simply in the fact that he promotes the empirical behavior of modern irrationalism, which has long since become trivial in the branch of fundamental biological science, and which on the other hand, with less discomfort than its predecessors, considers their “life experiences” as categories of objective reality. After having, therefore, in this way, the way of “experience” of engendering, birth and death, apprehending the essence of the universe, he can from there deduce whatever he wants. The means of biological knowledge is, of course, vision, intuition: “The ‘sense’ is always understandable, but never explainable ... Anyone who ventures to give an answer about why or for what, pretends to have a place in the creation advice” (These last words are an ironic allusion to Hegel’s preface to the Science of Logic. G. L.)
Krieck’s fundamental biological science differs from the general philosophy of life, not only in the great boldness with which he draws his apodictic conclusions from non-existent assumptions, but also in the fact that in the place left vacant by the alleged annihilation of understanding and reason, of rationality and of science, it is not an expressly subjective image that appears, but Nazi propaganda transposed into philosophical terms and transfigured into a worldview. We notice it mainly in the way it determines the subject of its biological intuition. According to him, it is not the individual ego that is the subject of knowledge, but “the entire process of knowledge is carried – as a partial phenomenon of the vital process – both by the social, national, racial, historical structure, as a condition, as a determining element in the way of acquiring knowledge and the product of this knowledge, of the truth itself. Therein lies, at the base, global knowledge.” The criterion for the accuracy of the intuition is therefore for Krieck the adequacy with the National Socialist Party’s program, with its interpretation of an order given by the “Fuhrer”. The essence of intuition is in fact to project an image of the human being that corresponds to racial-national demands. “It is in the image that man has of himself that universal biology is verified. This image rests on a racial-national political anthropology. This anthropology takes the place of disused philosophy.”
This new doctrine should not only take the place of philosophy, but of religion as well. In Mein Kampf, Hitler still approaches religions with diplomacy and restrictions, and demagogically promises a general freedom of religion. But after Hitler’s seizure of power, Krieck has expressed much more openly that the old religions must give way to the National Socialist worldview. “God speaks to us ... directly in the national revival”. The foundation of this revelation is evidently race. But even in this supposedly biologically based worldview, race remains a simple demagogic formula. Krieck himself says that race is not a thing, that it has nothing material, “but that it is a law of orientation and culture, entelechy, formal principle. The ‘blood’ of this law is a symbolic expression of imagery.”
Marked by irrationalism and the philosophy of life, this volatilization of the fundamental demagogic concepts of National Socialist propaganda, of race and blood, which, as we see, no longer has any tangible content in Krieck, serves precisely to enact National Socialism as content of the new fundamental science of anthropology: “Every people necessarily has as a pillar of support a ruling race, in which the “vital marrow”, the orientation and the law of life is determinant, crucial for the entire population.” What happens in this case is the “Fuhrer” who decides it: “The Fuhrer’s personality, of which he is the vocation, is the setting where the fate of the whole is decided.” This phraseology, the new anthropology, taken from the philosophy of life, was therefore not only intended to provide a fundamental philosophical presupposition about the fact that in Germany, Hitler exercised an unlimited and arbitrary dictatorship over the entire life of the German population. These excerpts from the drafts of the main “thinker” of the Third Reich are not worth commenting on. We clearly see why Hegel’s scientific dialectic is unbearable to them, because their worldview sees in it – almost in the same words as the old Friedrich Schlegel, who became reactionary – a satanic principle, the principle of evil, of the anti-German, of the anti-racial. The neo-Hegelians have done everything in their power to weaken the progressive and rational character of Hegelianism, in order to adapt Hegelian philosophy to the reactionary needs of the imperialist period. In vain. For German fascism this adaptation was not enough. As Dimitrov rightly said in his time, “it is not the ordinary replacement of one bourgeois government by another, but the exchange of one form of state of domination by the bourgeois class ... for another form of that domination, the declared terrorist dictatorship.” For this dictatorship, Hitlerite fascism needs a spiritual atmosphere in which, on the theoretical plane, all sensitivity to science and scientific control of the facts and laws that govern it are annihilated, in which, on the moral plane, every remnant of high conscience, of German popular humanism has been forgotten, in which the absolute arbitrary band of adventurers and criminals led by Hitler can reign without sharing. As Hitler’s plans for domestic and foreign policy could only be carried out in such an atmosphere, the birth of a corresponding philosophy was absolutely necessary, a philosophy that could not, even in appearance, be reconciled at any point with the Hegelian philosophy.
The field of reason in Hegelian philosophy is not only concerned with the logical correlation of categories, but primarily with the knowledge of evolution, of history. The first third of the nineteenth century was the period in which the historicism of progress appeared. We are not talking about the deep historical visions of the great utopian thinkers, we simply remember Walter Scott, the French historians of the Restoration of the Monarchy (Thierry, Guizot and Mignet), Goethe and Hegel. Seeing the human being an evolved animal, Goethe became one of the forerunners of the theory of evolution. In his theory of colors, he sketched a great picture of universal history, he provided the starting point for a new universal historical approach to all aesthetic phenomena. Hegel’s historicism goes even further. The philosophy of history constitutes only a tiny part of its historical conception; aesthetics, the history of philosophy, the philosophy of religion, phenomenology also illustrate the unity of historical evolution in all areas of material and intellectual life. They show coherence, laws, rationality, knowledge of historical evolution.
All these ideas have been partly weakened and deformed, partly directly opposed by reactionary philosophy since 1848, and particularly in the imperialist era. In the epoch of imperialism, a reactionary pseudo-historicism emerges in a mixture of creeping empiricism and a subjectivist mysticism.
While the National Socialist worldview exploits all the results of the reactionary destruction of historicism, the past destruction of authentic historicism is not enough for it. The Nazis regard this issue as so essential that Rosenberg himself intervened at all times and clearly proclaimed the irreconcilability of a conception of universal history, even one weakened in a reactionary way, and the worldview of Hitlerite fascism: “We believe that there is no true universal history in the sense of racial science and psychology, which is to say that there is no history according to which all peoples and all races were brought into a single systematic fusion, according to which there should be a project for the Christianization of all races, while all this would serve the humanization of so-called humanity. We believe, on the contrary, that the history of each people represents in itself a vital sphere.” Or in another excerpt: “We believe today that there is no such thing as universal history, but only the history of different races and peoples.”
This conception is conditioned on the fascists’ idea of ??world domination, imperialist and barbaric. The old German nationalism also defended the idea that the Germans were the chosen people, destined for world domination. But on the one hand, the idea of ??world domination evolved within the framework of defined political borders, a new plan for sharing the world, more favorable to the German imperialists; it was therefore only an idea of ??relative world domination, not absolute domination like that of the Nazis. On the other hand, this conception certainly considered the German people as a chosen people, but nevertheless a people among other peoples. That is why, on the philosophical plane, this vocation of the German people appeared to the old nationalism as a consequence, as the culmination of its profoundly reactionary conception of universal history.
But for Hitlerian fascism, this conception was not sufficient, neither quantitatively nor qualitatively. The Hitlerian “new order” wanted the whole of Europe to be totally submissive to it (and after that the whole world). Not only did it want to place other peoples in economic or political dependence, but either completely reduce them to slavery or physically annihilate them. Hitler himself openly mentioned this difference between his version of fascism and the old nationalism. He polemicized against the older German nationalists on the issue of assimilation, of Germanization of foreign-speaking peoples. The old nationalists, according to Hitler, would never have understood that Germanization takes place only by land and soil, never by men. The other peoples are therefore for the fascists not relatively subordinate nations, who can assimilate or be subjugated, but an “inferior race” which differs qualitatively from the “Nordic” or “Germanic” race called to dominate, and which can only be considered a human race conditionally, as it has absolutely no right to exist in comparison with the superior race.
That is why it is only logical that Hitler or Rosenberg would always put the word humanity in ironic quotations, and totally reject the conception of a unitary universal history. For the Hitlerian fascists, the general history existed but was only characterized by the development of the “superior race”. All other peoples were only clay in the potter’s hands, they are regarded as animals for work, or appear in history as those who brought about the decay of the superior race. The fact they have an eventual history, their own culture, was not part of the concerns of the Germans and the Nazi conception of history. In this case, the latter was only interested in foreign, hostile and solvent racial influence, which should be extirpated, eradicated. Rosenberg said it this way: “For everything that may have penetrated the soul of Germanic men in matters of late Roman, Christian, or Jewish representations and values, the same on the one hand, so to speak, annihilated: If the representation of a being in struggle to mold his innermost ego it has any characteristic historical significance, so we must just separate the Germanic values ??from all others if we do not want to degrade ourselves. But the most shameful thing is that, following a non-pan-Christian approach, after a belated humanist approach, this stain of history was always relegated to the background, while the dogma of an alleged development of humanity took the lead of the scene.” Rosenberg does not mention Hegel’s name here, his considerations in this passage are directed against Bachofen’s philosophy of history. But it is clear, even if not in the tradition of Lagarde and Chamberlain, that the conception of a universal humanist unitary history that he criticizes is precisely the Hegelian philosophy of history.
That is why there were no universal periods in human history for National Socialists either. In his polemic against Bachofen, Rosenberg strongly asserts that the Germans would never have had a matriarchal period. The interpretation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia by Bachofen would be completely false; it would not be a question of the struggle between two periods, that of matriarchy and that of patriarchy within a single people, but of the struggle of the spirits of two races, the Greek Aryan race, against the Eastern Syrian Jewish race. The Germanic state is not, according to Rosenberg, coming from primitive communism and matriarchy, but from “male leagues”.
But opposition to Hegel’s classic progressive conception of history went even further. Not just the idea of ??a unity of the evolution of humanity was now denied (this had already happened in Spengler’s theory of the “cultural sphere”, which, despite all oppositions, profoundly influenced the fascist conception of history), but evolution itself. Spengler still admits a “natural” growth and a decline within the separate cultural spheres, but already there, their evolutions showed no correlation between them. Fascists could not have started with this one-sided fatalist conception. For propaganda for the limitless domination of the Germanic Aryan race in internal and external politics, they needed both: both limitless fatalism and limitless voluntarism.
It is with boundless fatalism that the characteristics of the race were conceived. Race, blood, etc. have fatalistic stability, they don’t know any evolution. Race is in this case eternal and necessary, immutable; only its incarnations can change, without this changing something decisive in the essence of the race. Rosenberg formulated this conception in the following way: “The first great mythical record can no longer, in essence, be improved, but simply take other forms. The value instilled in a god or heroes is what is eternal, both good and evil, a form of Odin has died ... but Odin as an eternal reflection of the primitive forces of Norse man still lives as 5000 years ago. The last possible “knowing” of a race is already included in its first religious myth. And the recognition of this fact is the very last wisdom of men.”
Within the race, there is therefore no historical evolution. Elsewhere, Rosenberg formulates this fundamental dogma of National Socialism with an even more explicit orientation against the Hegelian concept of development: “The life of a race, of a people is not a philosophy that develops logically, neither is it a process that occurs according to the laws of nature, but the constitution of a mystical synthesis, a spiritual activity that cannot be explained by logical reasoning, nor understandable by the exposed causes and effects.” There are only periods of degeneration and decomposition (due to racial miscegenation) and periods of regeneration, periods of complete restoration of the original and unchanging particularities, thanks to the action of “genius Fuhrers” in which the original spirit of the race is wonderfully incarnated.
With this last idea, we arrive at the diametrically opposite pole, the extreme, arbitrary voluntarism. While for Hegel, the “individual of universal history” is only the organ by which historical necessity is fulfilled, for the National Socialists all historical, economic and social necessity is abolished by the Fuhrer, he is therefore a “Fuhrer by vocation,” he appeals to this entelechy of the race, and that is how, in his work of regeneration, he can do as he pleases. And it follows from the essence of National Socialist adventurism, from the essence of its social demagoguery, that every kind of economic necessity, every kind of economic limitation of the Fuhrer’s work of regeneration is particularly vehemently challenged. Rosenberg says: “It is not true that joint stock companies or cartels, ‘should’ be united in two, three cities, that new factories ‘should’ always be built in Berlin, that only supply and demand ‘should’ govern life.” And Hitler himself, immediately after taking power, expressed himself in the same spirit about the economic crisis: “When, on the one hand, there are thousands of men who want to work and on the other, there are mineral wealth and work possibilities, a necessity consumption and a need for production in the German people, so it would be sad that a will and action could not impose itself.”
The so-called scientific philosophy of the Nazis has nothing more to do but to fulfill this “new conception”, this crude and thoughtless coexistence of the ahistorical fatality of race and the limitless arbitrariness of the “genius Fuhrer” in all domains of history. It thus naturally prolongs the reactionary philosophical views of the imperialist period by carrying on an uninterrupted and powerful fight against the causality of history, against the investigation of the causes of historical events. The transformation of history into an irrational anti-historical myth now reaches its culmination after an almost century-old reactionary preparation. The result is that all research on historical causality is despised, as shallowly rationalist, liberal, as not “adapted”. Baeumler develops this idea as follows: “The people in the Romantic sense is a unity as natural as it is mystical. This mystique of the people was often criticized for Romanticism. From the point of view of the history of philosophy, we therefore see that this mysticism does not dispense with an empirical basis, and contains the answer to a real problem. On the question where humanity comes from, science does not have the answer.” The fascist pseudo-philosophy of history therefore has the sole task of placing the myths of the past as identical with racial actuality and of decreeing that in both the current propaganda needs of Hitlerism are necessary phenomena of racial entelechy.
To accomplish the total annihilation of the idea of evolution, Krieck makes a critique of the theory of evolution in organic nature, a critique of Darwinism. What he says is just a tedious repetition of the old obscurantist reactionary struggle against Darwin. He claims that in the 18th and 19th centuries, as a result of false rationalist philosophy, “an existing coexistence of organic species... has been transformed into a chronological order of development.” If man were to be conceived as the pinnacle of animal evolution, then it would simply be anthropomorphism rather than objective fact-finding. The Darwinian family tree of species would come from “system needs, not experience.” It goes without saying that Krieck contests both the mutation and the heredity of the obtained traits. All this never surpasses the level of an obscurantist conversation known for decades; it was only necessary to mention it briefly in order to demonstrate that the idea of ??evolution was similarly destroyed in the so-called National Socialist philosophy concerning nature.
The ultimate wisdom is therefore eternity, the superhistorical nature of the race in which fate incarnates at a precise moment in the “Fuhrer by vocation”. The one who searches for causes is an “inadaptive” element that deserves the concentration camp. On this final consequence, Krieck expresses himself, in a tone of thinly veiled threat, regarding his “student colleagues”: “He who wishes to devise his own answer is assuredly good for nothing; the predestined course of events will sweep him aside as a useless hindrance and cast him on the dungheap.”
We have already seen, from all the issues dealt with thus far, that the necessities of Hitler’s politics and his propaganda were decisive factors in the resolution of all philosophical problems. Hitler himself expressed himself on these issues in his private conversations with a cynicism hard to overcome. He declares it thus in a conversation with Hermann Rauschning: “The ‘nation’ is a political expression of democracy and liberalism. We must get rid of this false conception and put in its place the conception of race, which politically is not yet used. I know well ... that from a scientific point of view there is nothing like race. I, as a political figure, need a conception that allows the annihilation of the historical bases existing up to the present moment, in order to put in their place a totally new and anti-historical order, and to give it an intellectual basis.” The task is the destruction of national borders. “With the conception of race, National Socialism can lead its revolution and turn the world upside down.” And in another conversation, he explains the precise, barbaric and imperialist sense of this cynical proclamation of a racial theory in which he himself does not believe for a moment: “Germany as it is today does not, however, constitute a biological unit. There will only be a Germany if it has, at the same time, a Europe. Without domination over Europe, we will necessarily fail.” This cynical remark is by no means fortuitous, it is not a mistake by Hitler, but the common position of the fascist ruling layer on their own theory, passionately defended by terror. Rauschning reports a conversation with Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler about banning a German intellectual’s lectures in Danzig on prehistory. Himmler, who decreed this prohibition, explained to Rauschning as follows: “We don’t care whether this or that is the real truth of the prehistory of the Germanic race. Science moves from one hypothesis to another, which change every two years. If, therefore, there is no true basis, because the party could not fix, as a starting point, a particular hypothesis, even if it contradicts the dominant scientific conceptions. The only thing that is important, and that’s why these people (teachers, G. L.) are paid by the State, is to have a history, of ideas that reinforce our people in their necessary national pride.”
This limitless cynicism explains Nazi propaganda’s indifference to the most glaring contradictions of its views. The “adapted” science and philosophy, the task of creating an atmosphere in which this totally contradictory absurdity can be believed without going any further is fixed. In case of need there is, of course, not only the threat of the Gestapo, but the Gestapo itself. Philosophy and science have the task of “intellectually” facilitating the work of the Gestapo, of making it superfluous in certain cases by carrying out submission, standardization, by means of persuasion, so to speak, scientific.
The cynical indifference to truthful method or content is, however, associated with a great determination, certainly adventurous, as to the goals of issues of power and the needs of advertising. This duplicity of the National Socialist worldview manifests itself particularly with regard to the theory of the state.
Given the central importance of the question of the State, both for fascist propaganda in order to mobilize the masses and for building the fascist State itself after the seizure of power, it is not surprising that the fundamental lines of the National Socialist theory of the State were exposed by the “Fuhrer” himself in his work, canonical for the movement, Mein Kampf. We will see that this part of the Nazi program belongs to the small number of things that Hitler actually accomplished after the seizure of power, about which he did not mislead the masses through blatant lies, such as about his economic program. Of course, there is also a demagogic deception there, but in the case of the theory of the state it is much more refined. The fascist state, as Hitler claimed in his program in Mein Kampf, is nothing more than a shamelessly admitted and arbitrary form of the terrorist dictatorship of a gang of criminals, a dictatorship whose social content is the satisfaction of all the wishes of the most reactionary fraction of German monopoly capitalism.
The form of this dictatorship is therefore the unlimited character, the “good pleasure of the Fuhrer” and the party he leads in a dictatorial way, an unlimited and arbitrary character that was necessary for the movement to, on the one hand, be able to settle scores in a bestial way with all opponents of its system, to establish in a Germany shaken by revolutionary crises the “tranquility and order” of one big penitentiary, and the other to transform Germany into a military camp and an arsenal for war, long foreseen, to enslave the whole world. We therefore see Hitler’s refined cynicism in the fact that in his propaganda this character of the National Socialist State is found openly expressed as a programme; on that occasion, one very cleverly appeals to the disappointment and despair of the great masses, and presents the cruel and arbitrary dictatorship as a liberation, as a revolution, as the creation of a state in which the alienation from the state vividly felt by the masses is abolished. As with everything else in Nazi fascist propaganda, Hitler appeals to the deception and despair of the great masses, and in particular the petty bourgeois in town and country. The Wilhelminian state, on the other hand, has moved far from the life of the masses and that is why it was the object, without resistance, of such disaffection after the defeat of the First World War. The Weimar Republic, which the hope of the great masses clung to in the early years, disappointed the masses to an increasing extent, and further aggravated their economic and social situation. Between the population and the state, an abyss had opened in the understanding of the masses.
It is from this situation that Hitler’s developments in Mein Kampf start. That is why it has this seditious tone, inciting rebellion. They are above all directed against the overestimation of the importance of the State, against the absolutism of the State. (Let us remember the Rosenberg developments evoked at the beginning, in which this thought is expressed in open polemics against Hegel; besides, let us remember Baeumler’s conception, who sees in Hegel the philosopher of national-liberalism, that is, of the State of the second half of the 19th century.) In Hitler’s demagogic explanations, the fight against the absolutism of the State configures the people, whose true “eternal” interests are more important than those of the State. When these interests contradict the state, Hitler proclaims the right and the duty to make the revolution. “The authority of the State cannot be an end in itself, for in that case all tyranny would be inviolable and sacred. When a government leads a people to its ruin by all means, the rebellion of every member of that people becomes no longer a right, but a duty ... However, in general, we must not forget that the ultimate purpose of men’s existence it is not the conservation of a State: it is the conservation of its race ... The rights of men precede the law of the State.”
We see with what refined skill Hitler appealed to the extinct revolutionaries existing in an unclear way in the masses at the time, how he described to them a State which, he intended, did not reign above the people and their interests, but should be their expression and their body itself. Hitler’s social demagoguery also proclaimed a “German socialism”. But skillfully, Hitler at the same time demarcated his state from its economic promises. On the one hand, in order not to have to define his demagogic promises very concretely, on the other hand, in order to once again appeal to the rebellious instincts of the backward masses. For in the great circles of masses frightened by the crisis, the fury against the capitalist system was not linked to the clear desire for another economic system, to the desire for socialism; what took them was a confused aspiration to a situation without these economic constraints; in the ideologues of these moods, this manifests itself as an aspiration to a society without an economy. This is why Hitler could then formulate his ideal of state in the following way, and thus be assured that large masses of the petty bourgeoisie would join him: “But the State has no interest in a specific economic concept or economic development! It is not the union of economic contracting parties in a precise and delimited territory, with the purpose of carrying out economic tasks; it is the organization of a community of living beings, equal to one another from a physical and moral point of view, constituted to better ensure their offspring, and achieve the end assigned to their race by Providence.” It is therefore the preservation of the race that becomes the true purpose of the State. The State itself and, even more, the economy are only organs and means to achieve this objective.
From this point on, Hitler delimits his state theory from the others. He rejects both conceptions that see the well-being of its subjects as the objective of the State and those that proclaim the sovereignty of the normal “Mighty State”, in which he even sees a path that would lead, according to him, to Marxism. The State is therefore something relative, submissive to the nation, to the interests of the race; it is only in this case that it has value, that it is useful, in itself, it is nothing.
We see that when the great masses feel alienated from the existing state, the social demagoguery of Hitler’s fascism offers, even in its theory of the state, a whole series of points of attachment. And the disappointment of the masses in Germany about Weimar democracy was so great, their experience and democratic education so restricted, that these views clearly and cynically expressed by Hitler did not impede the effectiveness of the demagoguery.
If we turn now towards some fundamental consequences of the Hitlerian conception of the State, we see that the first principle lies in the denial of juridical legality. Hitler already proclaims in Mein Kampf that in the National Socialist State, there must be a differentiation between citizens and simple residents (deprived of rights). In 1932, regarding the trial of Potempa with the death sentence of some Nazi murderers (those sentenced were five swinish Nazis who had beaten a Communist miner to death in front of their mother), Rosenberg formulated the fundamental difference between the fascist conception of law and the one that prevailed at the time: “This manifests the abysmal difference that profoundly separates our thought, our sense of law, from liberalism and reaction. For the law that prevails today, and which impairs all the healthy conservation instincts of the people, the determining principle is that a man is obligatorily equal to a man.” After the seizure of power, the Reich Secretary of State for Justice Wilhelm Stuckart formulated the following principle: “National Socialism represents a reversal of the liberal principle of equality of all those who have a human face.”
In reality, it is evidently not only a break with liberalism, but also with all the principles of progress and civilization that the European peoples have progressively conquered since the end of the Middle Ages in the harsh class struggles. Formal legal equality in capitalist society may have its problems, it is nevertheless one of the most important achievements of the bourgeois revolutions, an essential step forward compared to medieval society, divided into orders. German fascism exploited the discontent of the masses with regard to material legal equality, with regard to the class character of bourgeois law, which is necessarily linked to formal legal equality, in order to reverse the evolution that had taken place until then. Not only does it stand as an enemy of liberalism, but also of the legal progress of the last centuries in general.
Hegel’s philosophy of law is by no means well disposed towards liberalism; however, as the condensed ideal of bourgeois society as it emerged from the French Revolution, it clings to the principle of legal equality. Hegel says: “Man is valid because he is a man, not because he is Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, German, Italian, etc. He is becoming aware of the value of universal thought and its infinite importance.” (The Philosophy of Right)
There is no bridge between these principles and Hitler and Rosenberg. And the National Socialist ideologues sense this irreconcilable character much more clearly than the neo-Hegelians, who cling to Hegel but nevertheless want to build relations with the new regime. Nor does the temporary reception of Hegel’s philosophy by Italian fascism change the facts. In secret, the Hitlerites never recognized the Italian fascists as truly their equals, nor as truly competent. Hitler expresses himself openly about this in a conversation with Rauschning: “As much as we will never be able to make the Italian people a warrior nation, so has fascism not understood the challenge of the colossal struggle that will begin. We can undoubtedly ally ourselves temporarily with Italy, but in the end, it is only we, the National Socialists and we alone, who have penetrated the secret of the gigantic revolutions that are about to unfold. And that is why we are the only people chosen by Providence to make its mark on the century to come.” Even Krieck felt obliged, at the time, directly, to dismiss irreverently the Italian fascist conception of the “constitution of the people into a State”.
The basis of the inequality codified by the National Socialists is evidently the theory of races. Krieck thus exposes his principles, relying almost always word for word on Hitler: “A people never identified with a race.” That is why “the Nordic race, dominant and determining, must be selected and elevated so that it becomes the backbone of the entire national community. Its objective is the creation, education and training of all compatriots. Purebred individuals will constitute a politically ruling elite and vector of the State”. It is therefore characteristic of the barbaric arbitrariness of the Hitler dictatorship that there is no objective and comprehensible principle for this selection, which depends exclusively on the “Fuhrer”, the “racial elite”, to determine who is part of this racially pure dominant layer. Let us remember that Krieck, in his Anthropology, defines race, blood, etc. in a purely arbitrary and subjective way. This is where the meaning and purpose of this nebulous philosophy of life becomes understandable. It is therefore quite consequential that Krieck concludes his developments as follows: “race is measured by the quality and degree of performance of the racial-national community.” And in full accord with this codification of unlimited arbitrariness, Stuckart speaks of granting nationality to everyone only “after an individual examination to determine whether the individual is worthy, but that it is not expressly stated in the law who should be considered a citizen by blood”. The arbitrariness that frees all men from the ruling layer is therefore a principle of the “new justice”, which means that this arbitrary domination that grants privileges only to those who are considered tools without will, even for the most barbaric criminals of the regime.
As we have seen, this is what founds and represents the break with liberal ideology. The Nazi demagoguery here still clings to the fact that the masses are unhappy with the class state of the bourgeoisie, and demagogically oppose a material right to the formal right. Roland Freisler, the head assassin of the Nazi “people’s court of law”, defines the break with the “neutrality” and “objectivity” of the previous State as the essence of the National Socialist State. The State, he explains, “consciously becomes the soldier of the National Socialist conception of the world within the German people ... The starting point and goal of all action is not the individual, but the people in the eternal success of their race.” Based on these principles, the principle of “material law” and “material injustice” opposes the formal law of bourgeois society. “The new Reich”, says Stuckart, “is no longer a State of law, but it is the State of the worldview, and based on German civilization.” Stuckart therefore explains through the evolution of law in the Hitlerian state that all the old legal categories, including the constitution itself, have become aimless. “The formal concept of the constitution has lost its meaning for the German Reich.”
Again, German fascism seizes on the fact that the masses are discontented with the class limits of formal law in order to tear down all legal concepts in order to establish a regime of limitless tyranny. It must therefore be stressed again forcefully that it is precisely this formal character of the law that guarantees a certain protection against the arbitrariness of authority. That is why the revolutionary imposition of formal law by the bourgeois revolutionaries, despite all its limits, was a great advance compared to the absolutist period. For Hegel, in whose conception the philosophy of law goes far from formalism, who recognized formal law only as the first phenomenon of overcoming the dialectic of the evolution of law and the evolution of the State, the importance of this element is evidently unshakable. He talks about what many people have an aversion to the formalism of law: “We can then be disgusted by such formalities, but the essence of the form is that what is right in itself must also be placed as such ... Then my subjectivity and the other’s must be removed, and the will must reach a security, a firmness and an objectivity that she can only obtain through form.” (The Philosophy of Right) We then see again the irreconcilable opposition between Hegel’s philosophy of law and the tyrannical arbitrariness of the Hitlerian state promoted to the level of theory.
According to the principles we have studied so far, Hitlerite fascism has no legal guarantee for the individual. “The National Socialist popular order”, says Stuckart, “comprehensively apprehends the terrestrial existence of German man.” In other words: the State has the right to intervene at will in the set of acts in the lives of individuals. And there is, in principle, no protection for individual rights, no legal guarantee. This would be liberalism. “The liberal conception of the State”, continues Stuckart, “has placed the individual and society in opposition to the State, believing that it [society] should be concerned with freeing the citizen from the shackles of an all-too-potent state violence, and protecting his sphere of personal law from the attacks of the State. This conception of law is overthrown by National Socialism. The individual is linked to his people by destiny; that is, there is no longer for National Socialism a personal sphere isolated from the world, free in relation to the community, which should be carefully protected from any intrusion by the State.” The individual is therefore completely surrendered to any violation of the State; there is no guarantee for individual freedom, not even in the individual’s private life.
Then there is the appearance, which raises the fascist demagoguery, according to which, unlike the previous state system, the people would find themselves at the highest level of the state, that is where some naive supporters of the Nazis drew the hasty conclusion that the people would have of that henceforth greater influence and would develop a more important activity. Naive men like that ended up on the scaffolding or in the cells of the Gestapo. The Hitlerian practice of the State is an unlimited arbitrariness, a barbaric tyranny to which there is no obstacle. Its theory of the state strives to present the real annihilation of all influence of the people in state decisions as a new form of “Germanic democracy”, as a general politicization of the people.
Otto Dietrich, the head of the press service for the Reich, gives a clear picture of the way in which this “Germanic democracy”, this politicization of the people was desired by the Nazis: “National Socialism does not expect the individual to do politics. This art is reserved for some people whose vocation and predestination is such. However, it expects every individual of the German people to think and feel politically. This political thinking is not complicated, it is not confused, it does not present a scientific problem. It is simple, of course, unitary.” And Dietrich also explains why this is so. Because the “Fuhrer” is the “executor of the popular will [one who executes the popular will], but not by vote, but by that immanent will to self-approval that is viscerally inherent in every people”. It is not in vain that Baeumler and Krieck say that every true German must be a “political soldier”. This is not only about the general preparation for war of the entire German people, this “total mobilization” that prepares them for the attack of the whole Europe that Hitler organizes since the day of his takeover, but it also concerns the time of peace, the relationship of each German with the fascist state. Every German is a “political soldier”: that is, in all political matters, to stand by his superiors, in front of the greater or lesser local “Fuhrers”, and carry out their orders without contradicting them. He thus proves that he belongs to the superior race, he thus materializes the “Germanic democracy”, of which Hitler himself expressed the principle in the following way: “authority downwards, responsibility upwards.”
This is how all the power of the state found itself in the hands of a band of criminals, the so-called new elite. And within this elite, the unlimited arbitrariness of the “Fuhrer” still reigns. The National Socialist “legal revolution” suppressed, in all domains of public and private law, all legal definitions and guarantees. There is no [at the time of the Reich] in Germany a deliberative body of representation, everything is determined by the central power which limits itself to nothing.
It would be false to compare this arbitrary tyrannical domination to the previous absolutism, to compare this arbitrary caste system, made up of despots and pariahs, with previous societies divided into orders. The Middle Ages obviously did not know equal rights, but always in each order, there were some legal guarantees, which determined the limits of oppression and authorized exploitation. Hitler’s fascism knows no such limits. From this point of view, it is something really new: the barbarism of the imperialist period in advanced putrefaction. Ernst Krieck, an enfant terrible on the theoretical plane of National Socialist philosophy, spreads this school secret sometimes very openly. He says: “In place of the ‘State’ slowly rises a new political reality, of which the form must first be guessed and for which there is as yet no name.” And he then expresses the nature of this situation: “Currently, it is the movement that is the State itself, because it is the vector of the destiny of the German mission in history. The logical nonsense, the movement is the State, it totally corresponds to the current reality: reality is beyond all the laws of alleged logic.”
This open-hearted explanation deserves no comment. In it we see clearly why the fascists need their extreme irrationalism, precisely to create an intellectual atmosphere in which barbaric arbitrariness can credibly appear as a necessary form of a new “revolutionary” reality. That the real manipulators do not believe their own words, that they laugh in secret, cynically, at their theoretical proclamations, is not a contradiction, but the necessary opposite of such a “philosophy”. Just as it is not contradictory that the “courage” of the National Socialist ideologues, with which they proclaim the greatest irrationalist nonsense as the new wisdom, is linked to a disgusting servitude towards their superiors. “Every true decision belongs to the Fuhrer”, and if he decides differently from what is exposed in this – official – collection, “it is not that National Socialism has changed its conception of the given subject, but it is that the author was mistaken about the true position of National Socialism on this particular issue.” (these words are to be found in Grundlagen, Aufbau und Wirtschaftsordnung des national sozialistischen Staates, edited by H .H. Lammers, Secretary of State and Chief of the Reich Chancellery, and H. Pfundtner, Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior).
It is clear that this new kind of man, this disgusting mixture of barbarian executioner and backboneless lackey, can have nothing in common with the tradition of Goethe and Hegel. The classic period of German literature and philosophy was the culmination of human thought, of human civilization. Basically, it was a reflection of the French Revolution, its preparations and its consequences, a powerful intellectual organ of progress, which is also, even today, alive and active – in the work of Marx and Engels, of Lenin and Stalin – by being dialectically inverted.
How could the greatest thinker of that era, the greatest practitioner of the dialectical method before Marx, Hegel, possibly have anything in common with these cynical swindlers? Fascist demagoguery, the art of fascist forgery certainly performed not negligible deeds. They tried tirelessly to exploit Goethe for their goals. In vain of course. But it is glorious for Hegel’s memory that despite all the neo-Hegelians’ attempts at reactionary contortions, reason and progress manifest so little ambiguity in his system that his teaching was unbearable for the Hitler thugs.