Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter XI: NSDAP

The Revolution’s greatest piece of stupidity was to leave us all alive. If ever I come to power again there will be no pardons. With a good conscience I would have Ebert, Scheidemann and company strung up and dangling. (General Erich Ludendorff, February 1919)

It is almost a truism to say that as a political ‘theorist’, Hitler invented nothing. Neither did he found the party that under his leadership, and with an amended name, rose from its Munich obscurity to seize the levers of state power in little more than 13 years. And in fact even as regards nomenclature, the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) was not the first organisation to bear this thoroughly undeserved title. As we have already noted in Chapter Nine, the Bohemian-based ‘German Workers Party’ (DAP), founded in 1904 to defend the privileges of German-speaking highly-skilled workers and artisans against an imagined threat from their Czech fellow-workers, rapidly evolved in a chauvinist, anti-Marxist direction. At its Vienna conference in August 1918 the party not only adopted a new name (NSDAP), but a new programme which foreshadowed many of the demands soon to be put forward by the Hitler movement in its bid to win support from the middle-class masses:

The NSDAP aims at the elevation and liberation of the German working population from economic, political and intellectual suppression and at a complete equality of rights for it in all fields of volkisch and political life... It rejects, therefore, as unnatural a combination on the basis of supra-nationalism. An improvement of the economic and social conditions can, on the contrary, only be achieved by bringing together all those engaged in work on the basis of the individual nationality... [therefore] the NSDAP is not a narrow class party, but defends the interests of all those engaged in honest productive work. The party is libertarian and strictly volkisch, and it opposes all reactionary tendencies, the privileges of the Church, nobility and capitalists, and all alien influences, but above all the overwhelming power of the Jewish trading spirit in all spheres of public life.

The programme, in line with the party’s already established tactic of indulging in entirely spurious anti-capitalist rhetoric, called for the nationalisation of all enterprises which were working against the ‘common interest’, and specifically for the rooting-out of so-called ‘Jewish’ finance from the national economy. Like Feder, whose ideas were cast in the same petit-bourgeois volkisch mould, the programme took pains to distinguish between what one of its leading publicists, Rudolf Jung, called ‘disintegrating finance capital and the highly desirable productive national capital’. Jung also coined a well-worn slogan of the Nazi era, ‘the common weal comes before private interests’, one which Ley’s Labour Front constantly employed to drive workers to even greater sacrifice on behalf of their employers, who always chose to appear in the self-effacing guise of the ‘people’s community’. The reader can judge for his or herself to what degree the original NSDAP contributed towards the Hitler movement’s programme by comparing these demands with the 25-point programme adopted in January 1920, which is reproduced at the end of this chapter.

One thing is certain. Neither the birth of the Nazi movement, nor its initial growth, can in any sense be considered accidental. Firstly, there is the role of Hitler himself. He did not join the Munich DAP as a free agent, but as a political officer of the German army. Nor was it purely by chance that Hitler rather than some other right-wing fanatic came to be chosen for the task of establishing contact with the various anti-Marxist organisations that had sprung up in the Bavarian capital after the defeat of the Soviet Republic in May 1919. In fact Hitler’s emergence as an army ‘politico’ dates from the Munich Bavarian revolution, when he served as an army stool-pigeon, informing on those among the regular troops who became sympathetic to the workers’ movement in the course of the Bavarian Soviet Republic’s brief life. When counter-revolutionary troops under the command of the future Nazi, Lieutenant General Franz Xavier Ritter von Epp took Munich on 1 May, Hitler added to the ensuing blood-letting by volunteering evidence that led to the decimation of supposedly ‘disloyal’ units. [1] This Hitler subsequently termed – with some justification – as his ‘first more or less purely political activity’. [2]

Not only in Bavaria, but throughout Germany, the reaction was on the offensive, emboldened by the treachery of the reformists and the vacillations of the USPD centrists. The swing to the extreme right was more marked in Munich for a variety of reasons, historical as well as political. The Bavarian capital had long been a centre of anti-Semitic-flavoured volkisch nationalism, a tradition to which the Catholic church had not been slow in accommodating in its efforts to deflect charges that the ‘Romanists’ were lacking in German patriotism. Neither was there that liberal bourgeois tradition which we encounter in the equally Catholic Rhineland, one which owed it origins to the spread of democratic ideas and institutions from neighbouring revolutionary France. The revolutions of 1789 and 1848 passed Bavaria by, just as in the Bismarckian period, the rise of heavy industry and large-scale capitalist farming were least in evidence in this, the most rural of all Germany’s states. Social Democracy in Bavaria was from the very beginning prone to seek opportunist solutions to the problems posed by the class and political structure of the region. Faced by an intransigently hostile clerical movement, which drew its main strength from a pious peasantry and small-town artisans, the Bavarian Social Democratic Party leadership began to cast around for anti-clerical allies in the ranks of the bourgeoisie. And so was conceived and born that forerunner of the Stalinist ‘Popular Front’, the SPD – Progressive electoral alliance, in which the two parties mutually agreed to support each other in run-off ballots against the clericals and monarchists. It is evident from the evolution of Bavarian Social Democracy before 1914 that its leaders (notably Kurt Eisner and Erhard Auer) did not even conceive of the struggle for socialism on a national, let alone international plane, but rather viewed it through the double lenses of Bernsteinian revisionism and Bavarian particularism. All major principled and strategic questions were reduced to the small change of regional peculiarities and tactical combinations, a method which had not only utterly reformist consequences, but could – and in fact did – lead in a period of revolutionary upsurge to the most ill-conceived and ineptly-led adventures. Here too, Social Democracy proved to be the midwife of the most extreme reaction, for undoubtedly the defeat of the Bavarian Soviet Republic created the most favourable political conditions for the birth and rise of movements such as Hitler’s. His political career dates, as he himself acknowledged, from the crushing of the Munich proletariat. To ensure a secure base for the new military regime in the still-seething city, and to root out and counter ‘subversive’ ideas in the army itself – many rank-and-file soldiers had been influenced by the workers’ movement, and had themselves participated in the revolution as members of soldiers’ councils – a bureau was set up (Abteilung I b/P) to carry out political work in the army. The bureau’s head, staff officer Karl Mayr, drew up a list of possible candidates for his staff of spies and informers, one of the first to be drawn to his attention being... Adolf Hitler.

To prime him for his new role, Hitler was sent on a course of lectures at Munich University, and it was here that he first heard Feder extolling the merits of ‘national capital’. Feder’s selection by the army as one of the ‘lecturers’ in this induction course indicates just how reactionary was the political climate prevailing in post-revolutionary Munich. But there were already present elements that could not be directly identified with either militarist or monarchist reaction. The harrowing experience of the soviet republic had strengthened Hitler’s conviction (and also many others of a similar volkisch outlook) that the old style ‘dynastic’ nationalism had had its day, even in Bavaria, where it had proved most impervious to the passage of time and the rise of the workers’ movement.

Still as yet largely independently of the main volkisch groups in Munich, Hitler in his new post of political officer began to grope his way towards the notion of a plebeian-based counter-revolutionary movement which could achieve what the old bourgeois parties had so abysmally failed to accomplish – the extirpation of Marxism:

For the value of the whole affair [the lecture course at Munich University – RB] was that I now obtained an opportunity of meeting a few like-minded comrades with whom I could discuss the situation of the moment. All of us were more or less firmly convinced that Germany could no longer be saved from the impending collapse by the parties of the November crime, the Centre and the Social Democracy, and the so-called ‘bourgeois-national’ formations, even with the best of intentions, could never repair what had happened. A whole series of preconditions were lacking, without which such a task simply could not succeed. The following period confirmed the opinion we then held. Thus, in our own circle we discussed the foundation of a new party. The basic ideas which we had in mind were the same as those realised in the ‘German Workers Party’. The name of the movement to be founded would from the very beginning have to offer the possibility of approaching the broad masses; for without this quality the whole task seemed aimless and superfluous. Thus we arrived at the name of ‘Social Revolutionary Party’; this because the social views of the new organisation did indeed mean a revolution. [3]

The nature of this ‘revolution’ we have already discussed at some length. Hitler himself took great care to distinguish his use of the term from the sense in which the word had been traditionally understood not only by the workers’ movement, but by its class enemies. It was a political ‘revolution’ – counter-revolution, to be precise – that Hitler sought, the forging of a cadre and movement which while usurping the political prerogatives of the old ruling élites – the so-called ‘political bourgeoisie’ and its supplementary literary agencies – would create a new state structure resting on and defending the same capitalist property relations. This is why Hitler so eagerly seized on Feder’s theory of ‘productive capital’ as it enabled him to reconcile his aim of a ‘popular’ national movement with his utterly conservative views on private property. As Hitler himself commented:

Previously I had been unable to recognise with the desired clarity the difference between this pure capital as the end result of productive labour and a capital whose existence and essence rests exclusively on speculation. For this I lacked the initial inspiration [sic], which had simply not come my way. But now this was provided most amply by one of the various gentlemen lecturing in the above mentioned course [at Munich University]: Gottfried Feder. [4]

Thus the struggle against ‘Jewish’ Marxism became, by virtue of this theory, synonymous with the fight against an equally Hebraic ‘finance capitalism’:

... it was the conclusions of Gottfried Feder that caused me to delve into the fundamentals of this field with which I had previously not been very familiar. I began to study again, and now for the first time really achieved an understanding of the content of the Jew Karl Marx’s life effort. Only now did his Kapital become really intelligible to me, and also the struggle of the Social Democracy against the national economy, which aims only to prepare the ground for the domination of truly international finance and stock exchange capital. [5]

Stripped of its wilder moments of rhetoric, there was in fact very little even in Hitler’s public utterances on economics to give the big bourgeoisie cause for concern about their property rights. On the contrary, those that took the trouble to read Chapter Four of Volume Two of Mein Kampf,Personality and the Conception of the Folkish State’, would have found Hitler’s main quarrel with the capitalist class to be over its failure to apply consistently what he called the principle of ‘personality’. The bourgeoisie upheld it in economics by – in Hitler’s declared opinion quite rightly – refusing to countenance any interference by the trade unions or works councils in the running of their enterprises. But by their toleration of, or even collaboration with, the Weimar system, they denied this same principle of ‘personality’ in politics and the affairs of state. And in so doing, they were sinning against what Hitler termed the ‘aristocratic principle of nature’.

In such a ‘Folkish State’ founded on this principle, there would be room for neither trade unions nor parliamentary democracy, for they both were its pure negation:

A philosophy of life which endeavours to reject the democratic mass idea and gives this earth to the best people, must logically obey the same aristocratic principle within this people and make sure that the leadership and the highest influence in this people fall to the best minds. Thus it builds... upon the idea of personality... Even purely theoretical intellectual work... appears as the exclusive product of the individual person. It is not the mass that invents and not the majority that organises or thinks, but in all things only and always the individual person... organisation... must itself be an embodiment of the endeavour to place thinking individuals above the masses, thus subordinating the latter to the former... it must proceed from the principle that the salvation of mankind has never lain in the masses, but in its creative minds, which must therefore be regarded as benefactors of the human race... the selection of these minds... is primarily accomplished by the hard struggle for existence. Many break and perish, this showing that they are not destined for the ultimate, and in the end only a few appear to be chosen. In the fields of thought, artistic creation, even, in fact, of economic life, this selective process is still going on today, though especially in the latter field, it faces a grave obstacle... [6]

And what is this ‘grave obstacle’ that defies nature by standing in the way of the unfettered functioning of the aristocratic or ‘personality’ principle? Hitler’s answer to this question is at the same time an exposition of the historical role of fascism:

Only political life has today turned completely away from this most natural principle. While all human culture is solely the result of the individual’s creative activity, everywhere, and particularly in the highest leadership of the national community, the principle of the value of the majority appears decisive, and from that high place begins gradually to dissolve it... Marxism presents itself as the perfection of the Jew’s attempt to exclude the pre-eminence of personality in all fields of human life and replace it by the numbers of the mass. [7]

At this point, Hitler draws a direct parallel between the threat posed to ‘personality’ in political affairs by bourgeois democracy and the subverting of ‘personality’ in economics by the workers’ movement, specifically its trade unions:

To this [that is, the rule of the masses – RB], in the political sphere, corresponds the parliamentary form of government, [8] which, from the smallest germ cells of the municipality up to the supreme leadership of the Reich, we see in such disastrous operation, and in the economic sphere, the system of a trade union movement which does not serve the real interests of the workers, but exclusively the destructive [that is, revolutionary – RB] purposes of the international world Jew. In precisely the measure in which the economy is withdrawn from the influence of the personality principle and instead exposed to the influences and effects of the masses, it must lose its efficacy in serving all and benefitting all, and gradually succumb to a sure regression. All the shop organisations which, instead of taking into account the interests of their employees, strive to gain influence on production, serve the same purpose. They injure collective achievement, and thus in reality injure individual achievement... The folkish philosophy is basically distinguished from the Marxist philosophy by the fact that it not only recognises the value of race, but with it the importance of the personality, which it therefore makes one of the pillars of its entire edifice. [9]

That fascism has been the instrument for the crushing of the individual’s personality, and his total subordination to the imperialist drive for profit and to war, and that Marxism seeks as its goal the liberation of the individual from this same oppression, is really not the main point here. What has to be stressed is that these conceptions were maturing in Hitler’s mind at precisely the point when he launched himself on his chosen career as a ‘socialist’ and ‘revolutionary’, as an aspiring leader of the very masses he despised as ignorant, inferior and totally unable to guide their own destinies. As we have repeatedly contended, Hitler’s sole strategic orientation was towards a counter-revolutionary alliance with the big bourgeoisie, a bloc in which the Nazi leadership would defend its allies against the threat of revolution in return for its being ceded the dominant positions for its main cadres (drawn almost exclusively from the petit-bourgeoisie) in the government. The quarrel was over politics, not economics. Hence Hitler’s lack of interest in this most vital branch of human activity, and the relatively small importance he placed on it as a determinant of historical development. It was as if Hitler was saying to the bourgeoisie:

You have been selected by nature, through the ruthless working out of its aristocratic principle of the survival of the fittest, [10] to own and dispose of the nation’s wealth, and you rightly cherish and defend this nature-given right against those who seek to subvert it. But by your failure to apply this same principle to the administering of the affairs of state, the selection of those who stand guard over your own property, you place your prized possessions and rights in the gravest jeopardy, for you delegate the running of the state to those who not only do not recognise this aristocratic principle, but are dedicated to eliminating it from every walk of life from culture and government to the army and above all, the running of the economy. In other words, it would lead, step by step, through the gradual encroachment by the trade unions and works councils on your property rights – for which provision has been made in Article 165 of the Weimar Constitution, and against which your parties voted in the Reichstag – to final and total expropriation. The destruction of the national economy – the long-term goal of Jewish Marxism and Jewish loan capital – would have been achieved, and entirely because of your criminal refusal to apply consistently the very principle to which you owe your present position of leadership in the economy. And so there is only one answer. If you wish to remain leaders of the economy, you must break your compact with the Weimar system and strike out on an entirely new course. You must smash parliament, and above all, you must smash the workers’ movement, for until that has been done, you will never be safe, never be free from the pressure of the masses.

This was the message Hitler hammered home over and over again in a series of meetings and secret conversations with business leaders between 1920 and 1933, and it was one which only began to make sense to those who counted, when all other methods had been tried and found wanting.

Yet such an outcome seemed utterly improbable as Hitler commenced his duties as political officer in Captain Mayr’s Abteilung I b/P, even when by dint of his undoubted prowess as an orator, he found himself entrusted with the task of ‘decontaminating’ soldiers infected with socialist ideas during their stay in the Soviet Union as prisoners-of-war. In this capacity he penned what is believed to be his first political document, a reply to a letter written to Captain Mayr by one of his former agents, one Adolf Gemlich, who expressed alarm that the ‘Jewish’ Marxists were appearing to gain the upper hand in the new Germany. Hitler’s reply, dated 16 September 1919, indicates that he had indeed by this date arrived at the conceptions which were to shape his political strategy for the remainder of his life. Anti-Semitism by itself was not enough, he explained. The final goal must be the creation of a ruthless dictatorship that could carry through not merely the removal of the Jews from public life, but their physical elimination, what Hitler prophetically termed the ‘final solution’.

Four days before writing this letter, Hitler had, in the course of his work as an army political agent, attended a meeting of the tiny DAP where none other than Feder happened to be one of the speakers. Small though this group was – when Hitler joined it he was presented with a membership card numbered seven – it nevertheless had origins and associations which linked it with far more elevated circles of Munich society than its humble meeting place and modest means would suggest.

As we have already pointed out, the DAP first saw the light of day as a ‘plebeian’ offshoot of the Fatherland Front, an ultra-chauvinist breakaway from the Conservatives, which with support from several important industrialists and military leaders, stridently opposed a negotiated peace with the Allies when this idea began to gain ground in more liberal sections of the bourgeoisie after 1916. These intransigent Pan-Germans dimly perceived the need to win a degree of popular support for their policies, and to this end looked benignly on the formation of patriotic ‘workers’ groups’ which espoused and propagated their imperialistic views to a proletarian audience, however small it might be. And so was born the Munich ‘Free Labour Committee for a Good Peace’, founded by the engineer Anton Drexler on 7 March 1918. Horrified by the growth of anti-war sentiments in the working class – they had even begun to take hold of a section of the traditionally backward Munich proletariat – he gathered around himself a small group of skilled artisans and craftsmen in the city’s railway workshops on a programme of all-out support for the Kaiser’s war and an equally uncompromising opposition to all and any manifestations of democracy and Marxism in the German body politic. Drexler’s support dwindled as the war grew more and more unpopular with the workers, till in October 1918 he was almost totally isolated even in his own former stronghold. The overthrow of the Wittelsbach dynasty was a further body-blow to Bavarian and Munich ultra-rightists, and it seemed to many that it was only a matter of time before the rising workers’ movement would make a clean sweep of them all. But here events moved directly – and tragically – parallel to those in Berlin. True, the Eisner regime veered further to the left, but like its counterpart, the Ebert Provisional Government, it never settled accounts with those who sought its downfall at the first opportunity. How else can we explain the survival of out-and-out racialist organisations such as the Thule Society, which despite its cultural pretensions, functioned as a meeting place for counter-revolutionaries and would-be assassins. [11] Apart from organising the infiltration of the Eisner government’s security forces, the society also attempted to establish links with more popularly-based volkisch groups in the city, and for this purpose one of their number, Karl Harrer, formed a so-called ‘Political Workers Circle’ to spread the anti-Semitic gospel amongst the more backward elements of the Munich proletariat. Harrer’s circle lacked one essential however – workers. The search for a genuine ‘national-minded’ proletarians eventually brought the Thule Society, through the intermediary of Harrer’s empty ‘Circle’ into contact with Drexler and his tiny following of railway workshop engineers. At Harrer’s instigation, Drexler took the step – momentous as it proved for history – of launching the DAP, a title which, as we have already suggested, was in all probability derived from the Bohemian organisation of the same name. The founding meeting of the new party, on 5 January 1919, was held quite openly under the benevolent protection of the Eisner government. No doubt the Munich Social Democracy believed such seemingly absurd grouplets – there were fewer than 40 present at this inaugural meeting – were as much beneath its contempt as were the new party’s pretensions to speak on behalf of the German worker. Yet if we examine the DAP’s programme, we will find contained in it all that was essential to National Socialism: rejection of the class struggle, opposition to ‘Jewish’ stock exchange capital, support for ‘creative’ ‘national’ capital and a call for solidarity between all workers of ‘hand and brain’ in a struggle against international Marxism.

And so we can establish a direct lineage, organisational as well as political, from the highest levels of German bourgeois and Junker society down to the formation of the Hitler movement; from the Junker Conservatives, through the Fatherland Front and the Thule Society to Drexler’s DAP on the one side of the ‘family tree’, and on the other, Hitler as a professional army political agent of this same bourgeois – Junker class. The two lines intersected in Munich on the night of 12 September 1919, when Hitler attended his first meeting of the DAP. But before continuing with the genealogy of the NSDAP, we should look again at the political forces and individuals which were gathering in Munich under the very nose of the Eisner government. The most notorious of these was without doubt Alfred Rosenberg, the author of that preposterous essay in National Socialist ‘philosophy’ and historical demonology, The Myth of the Twentieth Century. The entry of Rosenberg into German volkisch politics (via his membership of the Thule Society) and thence into the Nazi Party had a truly symbolic significance, for it represented the unification of two allied but until then disparate movements of extreme reaction: the Russian and the German. For Rosenberg was a German Balt who fled the Russian Revolution whilst an art student in Moscow. Before departing, he was introduced to the fantasies of the Protocols by a Russian anti-Semite, and he brought to Munich their message of a world Jewish conspiracy which set as its final goal the destruction of the ‘gentiles’ by means of a Marxist-led proletarian revolution. [12] This unbelievably clumsy forgery belongs to that species of ‘anti-capitalism’ which Marx and Engels denoted in the Communist Manifesto as ‘Feudal Socialism’. It portrays the aristocracy as the true friend and defender of the proletariat, and the Jew, both in his usurious and revolutionary guises, as its sworn enemy. Thus the Protocols not only declared the workers’ movement to be under the control of the mythical ‘Elders of Zion’, but even claimed credit for all the great bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Each and every forward stride of the peoples was but another move in the secret chess game being played by the Elders. The proletariat was nothing but a pawn in their hands, just as, in its time, had been the revolutionary bourgeoisie. For all its lunacy, this view of history gained widespread support in Russia, [13] where the aristocracy felt itself threatened both by the rise of large-scale capitalism and its inevitable polar opposite, an industrial proletariat. Its slanderous legends were retailed in the highest court circles, and, after 1905, provided the counter-revolutionary ‘Union of the Russian People’ (the ‘Black Hundreds’) with all that it required in the way of ‘ideology’ and programme. Based largely on the town petit-bourgeoisie – small shopkeepers, artisans, etc – and the criminal underworld, it was led by a motley assortment of clergymen, ultra-right-wing politicians, police agents and aristocrats. The rallying cry of the Black Hundreds was brutally simple – ‘Beat the Yids and save Russia.’ Founded like the Nazi Party to beat back the rising tide of revolution, it very quickly developed the strategy of mobilising the more backward middle-class and proletarian elements against the revolutionary movement, using the age-old ruse of anti-Semitism to incite mass hatred against bourgeois liberalism and Marxism alike. Typical of Black Hundred propaganda at this time, and providing an instance of how it borrowed from the forged Protocols, was the following proclamation:

The efforts to replace the autocracy of the divinely appointed Tsar by a constitution and a parliament are inspired by those bloodsuckers, the Jews, the Armenians and the Poles. Beware of the Jews! All the evil, all the misfortune of our country comes from the Jews. Down with the traitors, down with the constitution!

Such raging anti-Semitism, not one iota less murderous than that later employed by the Nazis, enjoyed the support of none other than the head of the Romanov dynasty, Nicholas II, even though certain of his politicians looked askance at the ‘plebeian’ methods and following of the Black Hundred movement itself. [14]

When the revolutionary threat was at its greatest, the Tsar’s government poured funds into the coffers of the Black Hundreds to finance its counter-revolutionary activities, which embraced not only the wide dissemination of anti-Marxist and anti-Jewish propaganda, but organised pogroms. In one year alone, 2.5 million roubles found their way from the royal exchequer into the hands of this gang of murderers and Jew-baiters. It was this tradition of virulent anti-Semitism, allied with a hatred of Communism, that Rosenberg brought with him to Munich in the winter of 1918-19, and which drew him irresistibly towards the city’s most reactionary political circles.

Rosenberg’s first acquaintance of note was the playwright and translator Dietrich Eckart. This kindred Jew-baiter and anti-Marxist was preparing to publish an anti-Communist journal inspired by all the usual volkisch garbage about a world Jewish conspiracy of Marxism and high finance, and Rosenberg soon became involved in the venture. As it turned out, they did not found a new magazine but took over the Münchener Beobachter of Rudolf von Sebettendorff, who had himself bought it in July 1918 to publicise the theories of the Thule Society, of which he was the founder. Once under Eckart’s proprietorship, the organ changed its name to the Völkischer Beobachter (the ‘Racist’ Observer). Eckart and Rosenberg may well have differed in terms of genuine intellectual powers, but they shared a common passion for the most reactionary strands of German idealist philosophy – notably Schopenhauer – and they were soon engaged in the common task of doling out a weekly dose of anti-Semitic poison to the more gullible of the Munich petit-bourgeoisie. Eckart’s volkisch views had already brought him into the ranks of the DAP before Hitler joined it, and it was through his good offices that the latter met not only Rosenberg, but a far wider and more influential circle of white Russian émigrés, who saw in the young movement a possible source of support for their campaign to regain their lost positions and possessions in the Soviet Union. Eckart also introduced Hitler into German ‘society’, one of his first converts being Frau Helene Bechstein, the richly endowed wife of the famous piano manufacturer. In turn, through the Bechsteins, who held pseudo-cultural soirées in Berlin and Munich to round up fresh support for the Nazi cause, and Eckart’s influential position in the Thule Society, Hitler gained access to people whom he would otherwise never have met, and without whose aid the young Nazi movement would have barely kept its head above water. Cash was found from these circles to keep the newly-acquired organ, the Völkischer Beobachter, running first as a weekly, and then, after March 1923, and with Rosenberg now its editor, as a daily. [15] The ‘Russian’ element in the formative years of the Nazi Party was important – and in some ways decisive – for its subsequent evolution. Up until 1919, Hitler knew and cared little about political developments outside the German-speaking world. When he spoke of Marxism, it was the German Social Democratic movement that he had in mind, and not the Marxism of the Russian Bolsheviks. His horizons began to broaden only with the arrival in Munich of émigrés such as Rosenberg and the even more influential Balt, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter. They had witnessed – and in the latter’s case, actually fought against – Marxism in its most militantly revolutionary form, by which the ‘Marxism’ of Ebert and Noske paled in comparison. They provided the volkisch movement with an internationalist perspective which it had previously lacked – internationalist, that is, in the sense that Rosenberg and his co-thinkers saw the need to combat Marxism on a continental and indeed global scale. [16] At the very centre of this outlook was an all-embracing hatred for the Soviet Union, depicted in the writings of Rosenberg as the rule of evil on earth. Eckart was a rapid convert to Rosenberg’s anti-Bolshevik crusade, and soon they were publishing a spate of pamphlets and articles on the Soviet menace to Aryan culture and civilisation. Naturally, their anti-Bolshevism had to be given a ‘populist’ flavour if it was to find favour amongst the broader public, and so we find Rosenberg writing, very much after the style he had gleaned from his reading of the Protocols:The Black, the Red and the Gold Internationals represent the dreams of Jewish philosophers from Ezra, Ezekiel and Nehemia to Marx, Rothschild and Trotsky.’ (The three ‘internationals’ were that of the Roman Catholic Church, the Communist International, and international Jewry respectively. It was not to prove the last occasion on which Trotsky found his name linked with a mythical conspiracy!)

It took Hitler some time to find his bearings in these – for him – rather sophisticated political surroundings. Ebert, Scheidemann, Noske, Luxemburg, Lenin all were Marxists, and there was nothing more to be said about it. But under the influence of the two Balts, and also as a result of their success in arousing interest in the Nazi movement amongst richer White Russian émigrés and even pretenders to the vacant Russian throne itself, Hitler began to evolve a foreign policy to supplement his already well-defined political strategy for winning power in Germany. Among the more prominent and generous of Hitler’s White Russian backers were the pretender Prince Kyrill of Coberg, and the Russian industrialists Gukassov, Nobel and Lenissov. For Scheubner-Richter was not only active in the Nazi Party (he first met Hitler in October 1920) but was a front-rank organiser of contacts between the various and often rival Russian émigré groupings. It was he who served for a brief period as liaison officer between the emigration and General Wrangel, and when this mission proved abortive as a result of Wrangel’s defeat in south Russia towards the end of 1920, he convened the monarchist ‘unity’ conference held at Bad Reichenall in May 1921. His goal transcended that of its main participants in that he not only desired the restoration of the old regime: in Russia, but a union of the two counter-revolutionary movements – ‘brown’ and ‘white’ – as the foundation for an anti-Marxist bloc dominating the entire European continent. The struggle for this goal, Scheubner-Richter wrote two weeks before the Munich Putsch (he was one of its 16 fatal Nazi casualties) ‘will be waged under the slogan Soviet Star against Swastika. And the Swastika will prevail!’

It should not be overlooked that at this time (1920-23) right-wing and even volkisch circles were by no means agreed on the future direction that German foreign policy should follow. In the general staff, there were some – Hans von Seeckt was perhaps their most articulate and brilliant spokesman – who saw in the Soviet Union a valuable counter-weight to the Versailles powers’ military and economic supremacy in Europe. For the military it was simply a matter of tactical and strategical expediency, though there was also a very genuine admiration for the way in which the Red Army had defended the revolution against what seemed to be impossible military odds. But there were others on the far right, more ‘ideologically’ inclined, who sought to construct an amalgam of Bolshevism and German nationalism, of the armed forces and the organised German proletariat. A war of revenge would then be waged against the West – a ‘revolutionary’ war, for it would not be fought in the interests of the decadent bourgeoisie, but for the greatness of the entire German nation. Von Seeckt referred to this tendency – utterly utopian, where it was not a conscious stratagem to trap the war-weary German working class into yet another bloodbath on behalf of its class enemies – in a secret report to President Ebert on 26 June 1920 entitled Germany’s Immediate Political Tasks:

The ideas of the Russian Revolution exert a powerful attraction for our epoch. Such [revolutionary] developments in the midst of a great crisis in world history cannot in the long run be held down by armed force. It is therefore essential to take the initiative and harness them to the service of the people’s future. Wide sectors of the German people would regard any fight against Russia as a fight against their own ideals... It would swing the broad masses sharply against us and in the end probably bring Bolshevism in its worst form to Germany... The Entente fears the pan-Russian movement... because in the sphere of foreign policy it is directed against the system which won this war, against Anglo-Saxon capitalism and imperialism... A Russian defeat by the Entente seems out of the question because that vast land mass and its peoples are invulnerable. The future belongs to Russia... This must be said publicly and with the greatest frankness – for in this period of extraordinary difficulty for German internal politics we must win over the broad masses for our policy and lead the German people to ideas of unity... At the same time we ought to give assurances that we wish to live in friendship with Russia... and we ought to set our hopes on Russia, fully respecting the 1914 frontiers... In this way we should have found a few words to draw everyone together, including the German nationalist circles, thereby laying the foundation for ways of overcoming disunity. State power... needs... a politically intact, well-disciplined army with leaders who understand the modern age and the people’s plight. But it is even more important for the government to deal with the present troubles by internal reforms.

Hitler entirely rejected this ‘eastern orientation’. That he came to do so was to a large degree attributable to the ideological influence of Rosenberg and Scheubner-Richter and – though in a different fashion – to the strategic requirements of the White Russian émigré circles into which Hitler was introduced by these same two fanatically anti-Communist Balts. The fight against advocates of an eastern orientation occupied Hitler for many years, and was only finally resolved on 22 June 1941, the day the Nazis launched their fateful invasion of the Soviet Union. And it was a dispute whose origins dated back to well before the First World War, when German imperialist strategy oscillated between what Hitler termed a ‘colonial’ and ‘continental’ policy. Successive chancellors associated with them rose and fell as these two strategic options gained or lost support in military and bourgeois circles. By the time Hitler came to write Mein Kampf, he had irrevocably decided where the destiny of German imperialism lay:

For Germany... the only possibility for carrying out a healthy territorial policy lay in the acquisition of new land in Europe itself. Colonies cannot serve this purpose unless they seem in large part suited for settlement by Europeans. But in the nineteenth century such colonial territories were no longer obtainable by peaceful means. Consequently, such a colonial policy could only have been carried out by means of a hard struggle which, however, would have been carried on to a much better purpose, not for territories outside Europe, but for the land on the home continent itself. [17]

The historical basis for Hitler’s repudiation of a ‘colonial’ policy was therefore Germany’s retarded development as a major capitalist power, and its consequent debilitating effect on the struggle of German imperialism for a colonial position commensurate with its French and British rivals. And by the same token, if Germany was to seek its colonies in the European land mass itself, then it could only turn eastwards, thus parting company with the Bismarckian strategy of securing the German rear by a political and military understanding with the rulers of Russia. The Romanovs, for centuries the ‘gendarmes of Europe’, had gone. Now Russia was ruled by a party and ideology which proclaimed as its final aim the establishment of world-wide socialism. This change was to weigh more heavily in Nazi strategic thinking than the prospect of a tactical alliance with the Red Army against the Entente powers:

If land was desired in Europe, it could only be obtained by and large at the expense of Russia, and this meant that the new Reich must again set itself on the march along the road of the Teutonic Knights of old to obtain by the German sword sod for the German plough and daily bread for the nation. [18]

It is obvious that for all his archaic imagery and precedents, Hitler approached foreign policy from the standpoint of creating an autarchic unit in central Europe, one in which German industry and technique would be supplemented by the rich agricultural and raw material regions of the Soviet Union, notably the Ukraine, traditionally the ‘bread basket of Europe’. Now the entire USSR was to serve as the larder of the Third Reich, a strategy whose wisdom and efficacy was doubted by many who were otherwise in sympathy with Hitler’s counter-revolutionary goals:

Since these very circles are beginning to divert the tendency of our foreign policy in the most catastrophic way from any real defence of the folkish interests of our people, placing it instead in the service of their fantastic ideology, I feel it incumbent upon me to discuss for my supporters the most important question in the field of foreign affairs, our relation to Russia... The foreign policy of the folkish state must safeguard the existence on this planet embodied in the state, by creating a healthy, viable natural relation between the nation’s population and growth on the one hand and the quantity and quality of its soil on the other hand... Only an adequately large space on this earth assures a nation of freedom of existence... If the National Socialist movement really wants to be consecrated by history with a great mission for our nation, it must be permeated by knowledge and filled with pain at our true situation in the world; boldly and conscious of its goal, it must take up the struggle against the aimlessness and incompetence which have hitherto guided our German nation in the line of foreign affairs. Then, without consideration of ‘traditions’ and prejudices, it must find the courage to gather our people and their strength for an advance along the road that will lead this people from its present restricted living space to new land and soil... The National Socialist movement must strive to eliminate the disproportion between our population and our area – viewing this latter as a source of food as well as a basis for power politics – between our historical past and the hopelessness of our present impotence... Land and soil as the goal of our foreign policy, and a philosophically established, uniform foundation as the aim of political activity at home. [19]

And to achieve these intimately linked and mutually conditioning goals – those of fascist dictatorship at home and a war of conquest against the Soviet Union – Hitler was even prepared to relegate in strategic importance the longed-for war of revenge against France. Such a war:

... can and will achieve meaning only if it offers the rear cover for an enlargement of our people’s living space in Europe. For it is not in colonial acquisitions that we must see the solution of this problem, but exclusively in the acquisition of a territory for settlement... And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our prewar period. We take up where we left off 600 years ago. We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze towards the land in the east. At long last we break off the colonial and commercial policy of the prewar period and shift to the soil policy of the future. If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states. [20]

Nor was it simply a question of ‘soil’, as Hitler’s quasi-mystical language and romanticised view of earlier penetrations of the East would seem to suggest. The invasion, colonisation and ‘Germanisation’ of the Soviet Union was also a political task, the international projection of National Socialism’s war to the death against Marxism in Germany. To those nationalists who still contemplated an alliance with the USSR, Hitler replied:

Never forget that the rulers of present-day Russia are common bloodstained criminals, that they are the scum of humanity which, favoured by circumstances, overran a great state in a tragic hour, slaughtered and wiped out thousands of her leading intellectuals in wild bloodlust, and now for almost 10 years have been carrying on the most cruel tyrannical regime of all time... Do not forget that the international Jew who completely dominates Russia today regards Germany, not as an ally, but as a state destined to the same fate. And you do not make pacts with anyone whose sole interest is the destruction of his partner... The danger to which Russia succumbed [that is, proletarian revolution – RB] is always present for Germany. Only a bourgeois simpleton is capable of imagining that Bolshevism has been exorcised... In Russian Bolshevism we must see the attempt undertaken by the Jews in the twentieth century to achieve world domination... Germany is today the great next war aim of Bolshevism. [21]

Tragically, due to the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, which resulted in the reactionary, nationalist policy of ‘socialism in one country’ being foisted on the parties of the Communist International (of which the German Communist Party was numerically the largest and strategically the most important), Germany was not to become the ‘next great war aim’ of what began as Bolshevism, but under Stalin’s leadership, became transformed into its counter-revolutionary opposite. Nevertheless, this does not negate the validity from a German imperialist standpoint of Hitler’s contention that any alliance, however fleeting or grounded in ‘realpolitik’ with the Soviet Union – at least while its rulers pursued the Bolshevik goal of world revolution – could only undermine not just the strategic aims of German imperialism, which Hitler insisted should lie in the conquest of the Soviet east, but the prosecution of the struggle against Communism at home. Hitler’s great merit as far as the bourgeoisie was concerned – and this was something they only came to realise in the last year of the Weimar Republic – was that he offered them – at a price – a unified counter-revolutionary plan of action on a continental, and not merely national scale. This is where National Socialism scored over its competitors among the ‘national’ parties of the bourgeoisie. And it was also why Trotsky warned, in the months preceding Hitler’s victory, and especially against the criminal policies of the Stalinists that were clearing the road for such a Nazi triumph, that if Hitler was permitted by the leaders of the German proletariat to come to power, he would ‘become the super-Wrangel of the world bourgeoisie’. [22] Hitler was still conducting much the same polemical war three years later in a work that remained unpublished for many years and has passed down to posterity under the title Hitler’s Secret Book. The extent and obduracy of the resistance to his ‘continental’ imperialist strategy amongst volkisch circles, not to speak of the bourgeoisie itself, is evidenced by the amount of space Hitler devotes to the question of foreign policy in this work. And once again, there emerges the same fundamental critique of the ‘political bourgeoisie’ that was so evident in Hitler’s attack on the domestic policies of the main nationalist parties of Weimar Germany:

In terms of foreign policy the National Socialist movement is distinguished from previous parties by, for example, the following: the foreign policy of the national bourgeoisie has in truth always been only a border policy; as against that, the policy of the National Socialist movement will always be a territorial one. In its boldest plans... the German bourgeoisie will aspire to the unification of the German nation, but in reality it will finish with a botched-up refutation of the borders. The National Socialist movement, on the contrary, will always let its foreign policy be determined by the necessity to secure the space necessary to the life of our people... Thus the point of departure of its thinking is wholly different from that of the bourgeois world... Nevertheless, a part of German youth, especially from bourgeois circles, will be able to understand me. Neither I nor the National Socialist movement expect to find any support whatsoever in the circles of the political national bourgeoisie active at present, but we certainly know that at least a part of the youth will find its way into our ranks. [23]

Hitler was perfectly content to remain a voice in the volkisch wilderness seemingly isolated from and even opposed to the main policy trends in the German ruling class. And this was just as true of foreign as domestic issues. He was convinced that time and events – accelerated by the bursting of the Weimar bubble – would prove him right:

I'm afraid... that I will never be understood by my bourgeois critics, at least as long as success does not prove to them the soundness of our action... Just as the National Socialist movement not only criticises democratic policy, but possesses its own philosophically grounded programme, likewise in the sphere of foreign policy, it must not only recognise what others have done wrongly, but deduce its own action on the basis of this knowledge. [24]

In this respect, Hitler was far ahead of all but the most astute bourgeois circles. Even before the war, he had already drawn the main lesson of Bismarck’s failure to crush Social Democracy, and in the immediate post-1918 period, he arrived at similarly critical conclusions concerning what he considered to be the false international strategy of the German ruling class. Deprived of arms by the Versailles Treaty (its military clauses forbade arms manufacture in Germany, and limited the army to 100 000 officers and men) the bourgeoisie, so Hitler claimed, thought it could restore Germany’s ‘greatness’ by purely economic means. This, he argued with great passion, was tantamount to committing national suicide. His alternative strategy was brutally simple, and proceeded in three stages: first, utterly destroy the ‘pacifists’ and the internationalists as a force in German politics; next rearm the German nation, only this time for an onslaught on the Soviet east. Finally, and only then, the conditions would have been created for an economic flourishing, the goal so fervently sought by the German bourgeoisie:

Blood values, the idea of personality, and the instinct for self-preservation slowly threatened to be lost to the German people. Internationalism triumphs in its stead and destroys our folk value, democracy spreads by stifling the idea of personality and in the end an evil pacifist liquid manure poisons the mentality favouring self-preservation... The great domestic task of the future lies in the elimination of these general symptoms of decay of our people. This is the mission of the National Socialist movement. A new nation must arise from this work which overcomes even the worst evils of the present, the cleavage between the classes, for which the bourgeoisie and Marxism are equally guilty. [25] The aim of this reform work of a domestic political kind, must finally be the regaining of our people’s strength to represent its vital interests abroad... Whoever wants to act in the name of German honour today must first launch a merciless war against the internal defiling of German honour. They are not the enemies of yore, but they are the representatives of the November crime [that is, the November Revolution – RB], that collection of Marxist demo-pacifists, destructive traitors of our country who pushed our people into its present state of powerlessness. To revile former enemies in the name of national honour and recognise the shameless allies of this enemy as the rulers within their own country – that suits the national dignity of this present-day so-called national bourgeoisie. [26]

Hitler was far more charitable towards the Pan-Germans, who at least had the virtue in his eyes of refusing to acknowledge the ‘November criminals’ as the legitimate rulers of Germany. But here too there was a fatal weakness, precisely that which he detected in the policies of the Schönerer movement in pre-1914 Vienna:

... the foreign policy of the Wilhelmian period was in many ways viewed by not a few people as catastrophic and characterised accordingly. Innumerable warnings came, especially from the circles of the Pan-German League of that time, which were justified in the highest sense of the word... [When the revolution came]... what they had foretold for decades had now come to pass. We cannot think of these men [the Pan-German League pioneers] [27] without a deep compassion, men condemned by fate to foresee a collapse for 20 years, and who now, having not been heeded, and hence in no position to help, had to live to see their people’s most tragic catastrophe... [and] when the revolution shattered the Imperial sceptre and raised democracy to the throne, the critics of that time were as far from the possession of a weapon with which to overthrow democracy as formerly they had been from being able to influence the imperial government. In their decades of activity they had been geared so much to a purely literary treatment of these problems that they not only lacked the real means of power to express their opinion on a situation which was only a reaction to shouting in the streets [sic!], they had also lost the capacity to try to organise a manifestation of power which was to be more than a wave of written protests if it were to be really effective... they could carry out their view in practice only if a large number of them have the opportunity of representing it. And even if they wanted a thousand times to smash the political parties, they still indeed first had to form a political party which viewed as its task that of smashing the other parties. [28]

Although these strategic conceptions were set down in written form between 1924 and 1928, they in fact originated in the months which followed Hitler’s entry into the DAP, the precise period when he began to come under the influence of Rosenberg:

Since the year 1920 I have with all means and most persistently had to accustom the National Socialist movement to the idea of an alliance among Germany, Italy and England. [29] This was very difficult, since the ‘God punish England’ standpoint, first and foremost, still robbed our people of any capacity for clear and sober thinking in the sphere of foreign policy, and continued to hold it prisoner. [30]

So before returning to Hitler’s early activities in the DAP, it would be appropriate to look briefly at a representative sample of Rosenberg’s literary excrement. Not to engage in a useless ‘refutation’ – fascism is least of all a tendency vulnerable to intellectual persuasion – but to glean both an insight into the mind of the man who was – justly or otherwise – regarded as the high priest of National Socialism, and to see to what degree Rosenberg’s brand of racial mysticism was related to the mainstream of German subjective idealist philosophy. Despite his ponderous pseudo-erudition and, verbose rambling and at times only semi-coherent style, there is indeed a common thread running through all his writings; an intuitionism which we also encountered on a far higher intellectual and cultural plane in the writings of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and also, though from a contrasting line of approach, Bergson. A reading of the following key extracts makes this clearer.

The actions of history and the future no longer signify class struggle or warfare between Church dogmas, but rather the conflict between blood and blood, race and race, people and people. And this means conflict between spiritual values... the values of race-soul, which stand behind the new world-picture as driving forces, still have not been brought to living consciousness. Soul means race viewed from within. And, vice-versa, race is the externalisation of soul. [31]

Thus the age-old German ‘inwardness’ – the religious expression of which was Lutheranism – now found a new and even more mystical language – that of Rosenberg’s ‘race-soul’. All human history must be viewed through its prism until, like Rosenberg, we discover such earth-shattering truths as ‘at the latest excavation of the pyramid of Cheops at Mastabas, it was discovered that the princes and Queen Meres-Anah were depicted as having blond hair’, or that ‘in all the sagas, the legendary, myth-enshrouded Queen Nitokris is described as being blonde’. [32]

In all movements that undermined the rule of aristocracy Rosenberg detected the hidden hand of ‘racial polluters’. Thus:

By the middle of the fifth century the first steps towards chaos had been taken; mixed marriages between patricians and plebeians were legalised. For Rome, as for Persia and Hellas, mixed marriages signified the collapse of Volk and state. In AD 336, the first plebeians had already pushed their way into the Roman Assembly and around the year AD 300 there were reports of plebeian priests. In AD 287 the plebeian public assembly had been elevated to the position of being a state institution. Tradesmen and money changers hawked their wares [an early manifestation of the conspiracy between the ‘money power’ and democracy perhaps? – RB]; ambitious apostate priests like Gracchi, driven perhaps by a generous but falsely presented sense of benevolence, displayed democratic tendencies. Others, such as Publius Claudius, openly placed themselves at the head of Roman city mobs. [33]

The frightening thing is not the lunacy of such notions, nor even that their author came to wield the power of life and death over millions of human beings, but that others took them seriously and actually embraced Rosenberg’s fantasies as a guiding world outlook. [34]

Entirely in the German subjectivist tradition was Rosenberg’s total rejection of reason and logic as a means of learning about and changing the world. And he shared Bergson’s substitution of the intuitive method of cognition for that of the materialist world outlook developed by the natural scientists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:

In one forward-striving advance towards self, the solutions necessitated by atomism, mechanism, individualism and universalism, solutions to pedantically posited problems of existence, were transformed and nullified. Through this... a new morality was established: the soul does not adhere to abstract rules imposed from the outside; neither does it move toward a goal posited from without; in no case does it go outside itself, but rather, comes to itself. With this, however, a rather different conception of truth is outlined: for us, truth does not mean that which is logical and that which is false; rather it demands an organic answer to the question: fruitful or unfruitful, self-governed or unfree. [35]

This mystically-conceived pragmatism was derived from Nietzsche’s notion of truth – namely, that it was the prerogative of the powerful, the few, the élite. And Rosenberg invoked Nietzsche’s authority – and it was great indeed with the more intellectually-inclined German middle and upper classes – to bolster his attacks on Marxism:

He offered a thorough critique of the whole social structure, a critique of the Marxist movement, which at that time had already been falsely dubbed socialist – a critique which in logic [sic!] and detestation, is unthinkable even today. For him, Marxism is the tyranny of the least and the dumbest, that is, of the superfluous, the envious and the hack-actor, carried to its final conclusion... Nietzsche, above all, opposed the attempt to overthrow the property concept, because the overthrow of the property concept would encourage a destructive struggle for existence. [36]

In fact Rosenberg’s own views on property allied him with Hitler and the rest of the Nazi ‘conservatives’, as he himself made clear in his own memoirs, written while awaiting execution at Nuremberg. His remarks on this question also underline with extra emphasis the nature and purpose of Hitler’s polemic against the leaders of the bourgeois parties in Weimar Germany, The dispute was not about whether they should rule, but how:

Hitler had come to the conclusion [in the immediate postwar period – RB] that a just socialism had, per se, nothing to do with class war and internationalism. To perpetuate class war was wrong. It would have to be eliminated. Thus he became an opponent of Marxism in all its manifestations, and characterised it as a philosophy of government inimical to both the state and the working class. As far as the workers were concerned, it was therefore a question of renouncing this doctrine as well as their opposition to both the farmer and the property owner. The middle class [that is, bourgeoisie] too had every reason to revise their attitude, they had failed to provide the working classes in their hour of dire need with leaders conversant with their requirements and had left them to the tender mercy of international propagandists. German nationalism, Hitler believed, was hemmed in by the nobility, while an entirely false conceit separated the middle class from the broad mass of the productive population. The bourgeoisie would have to shed its prejudices before it would once again be entitled to leadership. [37]

Such was the truly abysmal intellectual level and thoroughly bourgeois outlook of the man who not only posed as the philosopher of National Socialism, but in the formative years of the Nazi Party, probably exerted more political influence over its leader on questions relating to the Soviet Union (and of course the ‘Jewish conspiracy’) than any other member of the NSDAP’s inner circle.

By 1920 therefore, the various strands which came to comprise German fascism had been fused in the DAP: imperialist Pan-Germanism and belligerent anti-Sovietism in the field of foreign policy, and at home, a murderous anti-Marxism which cloaked its hostility towards the proletariat in spurious anti-capitalism and an unbridled appeal to all the traditional anti-Semitic prejudices and political backwardness of the German petit-bourgeoisie; and finally, demarcating National Socialism from all those earlier and contemporary movements which contributed to its ideology and aims, there was Hitler’s truly epoch-making contribution to the counter-revolutionary armoury of the bourgeoisie – the ‘brown terror’. The Pan-Germans had merely written about the destruction of Marxism and democracy – Hitler intended to carry it out:

The German state is gravely attacked by Marxism. In its struggle of 70 years it has not been able to prevent the victory of this philosophy of life, but, despite a sum total of thousands of years in prison and jail sentences and the bloodiest measures which in innumerable cases it applied to the warriors of the menacing Marxist philosophy, has nevertheless been forced to almost total capitulation... The state which on 9 November 1918 unconditionally crawled on its belly before Marxism will not suddenly arise tomorrow as its conqueror: even today feeble-minded bourgeois in ministerial chairs are beginning to rave about the necessity of not governing against the workers... But in view of this fact – that is, the complete subjection of the present state to Marxism – the National Socialist movement really acquires the duty, not only of preparing the victory of its idea, but of taking over its defence against the terror of an International drunk with victory. [38]

Past experiences had taught Hitler that such a counter-revolutionary overturn could not be accomplished merely by fiery oratory or vitriolic press campaigns, nor even the sheer weight of state repression. Bismarck had attempted such a solution, and as Hitler frequently observed, failed miserably. For Hitler had set himself the task that had not even been achieved – in France, it is true – with the massacre of tens of thousands of communards. The political preconditions for a new imperialist war being waged by Germany demanded the extirpation of the last vestiges of socialist internationalism from the German proletariat, and the physical destruction of each and every one of its organisations:

Historically it is just not conceivable that the German people could recover its former position without settling accounts with those who were the cause and occasion of the unprecedented collapse which struck our state..., [in 1918] any possibility of regaining outward German independence is bound up first and foremost with the recovery of the inner unity of our people’s will. But regarded even from the purely technical point of view, the idea of an outward German liberation seems senseless as long as the broad masses are not also prepared to enter the service of this liberating idea... a foreign struggle cannot be carried on with student battalions, that in addition to the brains of a people, the fists are also needed... [Yet] unconquerable... seem the millions who oppose the national resurrection out of political conviction – unconquerable as long as the inner cause of their opposition, the international Marxist philosophy of life, is not combated and torn out of their hearts and brains. [39]

Summed up in these incredibly hate-laden, savage lines is the historical role of fascism. German monopoly capital could only be rendered secure from revolution, and its wars of conquest waged, over the battered corpse of the German labour movement, and the embers of its Marxist literature. But tearing requires claws, and when Hitler joined the DAP, he possessed none. Once again, and however involuntarily, the SPD leadership was to come to his aid. The Free Corps, which under Noske’s supervision had swollen to an army of 400 000 officers and men, contained just the material the young fascist movement needed to stiffen its ranks in the coming war which its leader had pledged himself to wage against Marxism. They had returned from the trenches thirsting for revenge against the ‘November criminals’ who had, so the right-wing legend ran, ‘stabbed in the back’ a Germany on the verge of victory over the Entente powers. Their sacred war decorations and emblems ripped off their uniforms by revolutionary workers and war-weary soldiers as they made their way home from the front line, these future warriors of National Socialism found to their horror and intense frustration that their trusted officers, instead of leading them into battle against the ‘Marxist traitors’, were actually negotiating with them, and even more monstrous, calling upon the old imperial army to lend its moral and material support to the Ebert regime! Some, like Hermann Goering, could not stomach such a humiliation even if it was deemed by the High Command to be necessary to present a united front of armed forces and Social Democrats against the socialist revolution. [40] But the vast majority of right-wing officers and men decided that it had, at that stage, to be a choice between the lesser of two evils. First, with arms provided by the Social Democrats, crush the Communists, and then, with these same arms, turn on Ebert, Scheidemann and company, and settle accounts with the remainder of the ‘November criminals’. Thus reasoned some of the politically more aware members of the Free Corps. The Kapp Putsch of March 1920, which will be treated in some detail in Chapter XIII ('From Kapp to Munich: The Genesis of a Strategy’), represented the first serious attempt by extreme right-wing military circles to put this plan into practice. Its failure, though initially an enormous blow to the counter-revolutionary camp, in fact accrued to the advantage of the young Nazi movement, for literally thousands of Kapp putschists swarmed from all over Germany to Munich, where the right-wing government installed during the coup remained in power after its collapse, and was therefore able – and only too willing – to offer these rebels against the legal government of Germany a haven from Weimar justice. [41] Here too, the reformists were responsible for this regrouping of the forces of counter-revolution, for they, as the major partners in the Berlin coalition, could have insisted on their ‘extradition’ to face charges of overthrowing the legally elected government of Germany. Afraid of antagonising their bourgeois coalition partners, and even more fearful of the consequences of appealing to the working class for support should the military come out in defence of the Kapp putschists, the SPD leadership continued their step-by-step retreat before the forces of reaction that from the spring of 1920 were gathering in Munich around the National Socialist movement. Their arrival not only coincided with Hitler’s determined bid for leadership within the DAP, but supplemented it in a most direct and concrete way. Hitler, despite his agreement with the ‘theoretical’ and programmatic postulates of the party founded by Drexler and directed politically by Feder, saw that it had to develop an entirely new style of agitation and combat if it was to avoid the fate suffered by numerous other similar volkisch and nationalist formations in the past – that is, their total isolation from the masses. The new movement, Hitler insisted, had to be a combat party, had to take the offensive against the workers’ organisations by carrying the battle onto their own territory – the streets [42] – and above all, if the entire undertaking was not to go the way of all other volkisch movements, the new party had to be ‘anti-bourgeois’, had to demarcate itself as clearly and demonstratively as possible from even the most chauvinist and reactionary of the parties of the ‘national bourgeoisie’. [43] For only in this way could the ‘national classes’ break out of the relative political isolation that had been forced on them by the November Revolution, and the rise of the Weimar coalition based on the bloc between the bourgeois radicals, the Centre and the Social Democrats:

In purely political terms; the following picture presented itself in 1918: a people torn into two parts. The one, by far the smaller, includes the strata of the national intelligentsia, excluding the physically active. It is outwardly national, yet under this word can conceive of nothing but a very insipid and weak-kneed defence of so-called state interests, which in turn seem identical with dynastic interests. They attempt to fight for their ideas and aims with spiritual weapons which are as fragmentary as they are superficial, and which fail completely in the face of the enemy’s brutality. With a single frightful blow, this class, which only a short time before was still governing, is stretched on the ground and with trembling cowardice suffers every humiliation at the hands of a ruthless victory. [44]

So much for Hitler’s opinion of the ‘national classes’ – principally the Junkers and the big bourgeoisie. If left to their own devices, these classes were doomed to perpetual humiliation at the hands of the ‘victors’ of November 1918, for they faced a far more formidable enemy – the proletariat:

Confronting it is a second class, the broad mass of the labouring population. It is organised in more or less radical Marxist movements, determined to break all spiritual resistance by the power of violence. It does not want to be national but consciously rejects any promotion of national interests, just as, conversely, it aids and abets all foreign oppression. It is numerically the stronger and above all comprises all those elements of the nation without which a national resurrection is unthinkable and impossible. [45]

This then was the balance of forces as Hitler saw them in the immediate postwar period. How could the deadlock be broken? For all his vehement polemicising against the bourgeoisie, Hitler acknowledged that the natural allies of his aggressive imperialist policies were to be found within its ranks:

Wretched as our so-called ‘national bourgeoisie’ is on the whole, inadequate as its national attitude seems, certainly from this side no serious resistance is to be expected against a powerful domestic and foreign policy in the future. [46] Even if the German bourgeoisie, for their well-known narrow-minded and short-sighted reasons, should, as they once did toward Bismarck, maintain an obstinate attitude of passive resistance in the hour of coming liberation – an active resistance, in view of their recognised and proverbial cowardice, is never to be feared. [47]

This ‘socialist’ and ‘workers’ party had to fight and crush the socialist workers in order to achieve its aims, which were precisely those of the German bourgeoisie:

It is different with the masses of our internationally-minded comrades. [Sic!] In their natural primitiveness, they are more inclined to the idea of violence, and, moreover, their Jewish leadership is more brutal and ruthless. They will crush any German resurrection just as they once broke the backbone of the German army. But above all: in this state with its parliamentary government they will, thanks to their majority in numbers, not only obstruct any national foreign policy, but also make impossible any higher estimation of the German strength, thus making us seem undesirable as an ally. For not only are we ourselves aware of the element of weakness lying in our fifteen million Marxists, democrats, pacifists and Centrists; it is recognised even more by foreign countries, which measure the value of a possible alliance with us according to the weight of this burden. [48]

And so was begun what Hitler termed the battle for the ‘nationalisation of the masses’, a war that could never be won by:

... half measures, but only by a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientation toward the goal to be achieved... a people cannot be made ‘national’ in the sense understood by our present-day bourgeoisie, meaning with so and so many limitations, but only nationalistic with the entire vehemence that is inherent in the extreme. Poison is countered only by an antidote, and only the shallowness of a bourgeois mind can regard the middle course as the road to heaven. [49]

It might appear from this analysis undertaken by Hitler that he had left out of account the many-millioned German petit-bourgeoisie, since he speaks here only of the bourgeoisie and the ‘broad mass of the labouring population’. Viewed statistically, the middle class of town and country seemed a formidable force, numbering, according to the various methods of classification, between roughly a quarter and a half of the total German population. But never at any time in the history of modern Germany had it proved itself capable of pursuing an independent political line, and this characteristic it of course shared with every other petit-bourgeoisie in Europe. Hitler too acknowledged this by excluding it in his calculations from both the main class formations, for he writes specifically of the ‘labouring population’, which in reality includes the lowest layers of the petit-bourgeoisie – that is, working peasantry, artisans, self-employed tradesmen, etc – as being ‘organised in more or less radical Marxist movements’. Now Hitler was well aware that only a tiny fraction of the working petit-bourgeoisie either identified itself with or was organised in these ‘more or less radical Marxist movements’ – meaning of course the SPD, KPD and ADGB.

And we also know, from Hitler’s own account of his Vienna experiences as a petit-bourgeois ‘drop out’, that he was fully aware of the important distinctions between even the most humble lower reaches of the middle class and the industrial proletariat, distinctions which under certain economic conditions and with the involuntary aid of the leaders of the workers’ organisations, could become transformed into an almost unbridgeable gulf of anti-Marxist hatred. Yet Hitler never valued the middle class highly as a political force. [50] It had all the vices, and none of the virtues, of the German bourgeoisie that it at the same time aped and envied. Alone, it could never provide the forces needed to destroy the workers’ movement. It could only carry out its counter-revolutionary task of a battering ram against the proletariat, as a subordinate partner in the anti-Marxist front:

Every national body can be divided into three great classes: into an extreme of the best humanity on the one hand, good in the sense of possessing all virtues, especially distinguished by courage and self-sacrifice; on the other hand, an extreme of the worst human scum... Between the two extremes there lies a third class, the great, broad, middle stratum, in which neither brilliant heroism nor the basest criminal mentality is embodied. Times when a nation is rising are distinguished, in fact exist only, by the absolute leadership of the best extreme part. Times of a normal, even or of a stable development of affairs are distinguished and exist by the obvious domination of the elements of the middle, in which the two extremes mutually balance one another... Times when a nation is collapsing are determined by the dominant activity of the worst elements. [51]

And here Hitler reaches the nub of his argument, which relates intimately to his entire political strategy:

... the class of the middle only manifests [itself] perceptibly when the two extremes are locked in mutual struggle, but that in the case of the victory of one of the extremes, they complaisantly submit to the victor. In case the best people dominate, the broad masses will follow them; in case the worst element rises up, they will at least offer them no resistance; for the masses of the middle themselves will never fight. [52]

In a general sense this was true, just as Hitler’s description of the balance of forces in the Weimar republic was, despite its volkisch conceptions and language, nearer the mark than estimations made by the leaders of bourgeois liberalism or Social Democracy. The many and violent oscillations within the German petit-bourgeoisie after 1918 were basically determined not by its own highly subjective impressions of Weimar politics, but the objective conflict between the two polar opposites, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – or to employ Hitler’s ill-assumed moralistic terminology, between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. But what if the bourgeoisie – for a whole constellation of historical, economic and political reasons – proved itself unable to win the support of the ‘elements of the middle’, and by its political impotence, drove them into the arms of the ‘internationally minded’ proletariat? Here the Free Corps, or rather their most ruthlessly disposed elements, became integral to Hitler’s strategy. As rootless cut-throats, they could never accomplish their proclaimed goal of destroying Marxism. [53] But as the spearhead of a terrorist movement attracting to its side the avowedly anti-Marxist and duping the more gullible with Hitler’s ‘socialist’ demagogy, they could – and indeed did – serve as the officer corps of the fascist counter-revolutionary army. As we have already noted, the Kappist Free Corps officers and men began to arrive in Munich in the spring of 1920. By the summer of that same year, Hitler had not only succeeded in attracting many of them into the Nazi movement, but was already laying the foundations of what was to become the ‘plebeian’ shock force of German fascism – the SA:

At the very beginning of our big meetings, I began the organisation of a house guard in the form of a monitor service, which as a matter of principle included only young fellows. These were in part comrades whom I knew from military service; others were newly-won comrades who from the very outset were instructed and trained in the viewpoint that terror can only be broken by terror... They were imbued with the doctrine that, as long as reason [sic!] was silent and violence had the last word, the best weapon of defence lay in attack; and that our monitor troop must be preceded by the reputation of not being a debating club, but a combat group determined to go any length. And how this youth had longed for such a slogan! How disillusioned and outraged was this front-line generation, how full of disgust and revulsion at bourgeois cowardice and shilly-shallying. Thus, it became fully clear that the revolution had been possible thanks only to the disastrous bourgeois leadership of the people. Thus fists to protect the German people would have been available even then at the time of the November revolution, but the heads to play the game were lacking. [54]

More accurately, the ‘heads’ who did their thinking for them belonged to Ebert, Noske and company. Given a leadership and organisation which proceeded from mercilessly counter-revolutionary conceptions and strategy, the Free Corps could serve as the military arm and defender of what Hitler termed the ‘national idea’. The so-called ‘red terror’ would now be answered by an even more remorseless ‘brown terror’:

How many times the eyes of my lads glittered when I explained to them the necessity of their mission and assured them over and over again that all the wisdom of this earth remains without success if force does not enter into its service... How much more vividly the idea of military service now dawned on them! ... And how these lads did fight! Like a swarm of hornets they swooped down on the disturbers of our meetings, without regard for their superior power, no matter how great it might be... As early as midsummer 1920, the organisation of the monitor troop gradually assumed definite forms, and in the spring of 1921 little by little divided into hundreds, which themselves in turn were split up into groups. [55]

Standing at the head of these first Storm Troop units were the veterans of more than a year of almost ceaseless civil war against the revolutionary German workers. These exponents of what was often called ‘trench socialism’ – the term employed by Free Corps officers for the regime which reigned in the trenches of the First World War! – were greatly emboldened by their hero Ludendorff’s open espousal of the Nazi cause. Following the collapse of the Kapp Putsch, he moved his headquarters to Munich and there became at once involved in the counter-revolutionary intrigues of volkisch groupings and Free Corps officers alike. Hitler soon visited the wartime dictator of Germany and at once reached agreement with him over the need to fuse the ‘political’ wing of the volkisch movement with the growing band of anti-Marxist war veterans now gathering in the Bavarian capital. The Rossbach, Epp and Ehrhardt Brigades, [56] together with their commanders, placed themselves under the banner of the young Nazi movement, and, as we have seen, comprised the nucleus of the first SA units. There was also, of course the swashbuckling Captain Ernst Röhm, main organiser of the Storm Troops and, moreover, one of the first members of the original DAP (he joined even before Hitler).

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Free Corps movement in securing the victory of National Socialism. For even though – as in the famous case of Captain Röhm – many of its more demagogic officers proved to be an embarrassment to the Hitler leadership once ensconced in the government, they were absolutely indispensable in the years of bitter fighting with the workers’ organisations which blasted Hitler’s road to power.

The skeletal structure of the movement was now complete. It had a programme – jointly drafted by Hitler and Feder and presented to the first mass meeting of the party in Munich on 4 February 1920 – it had a leader, and the embryo of a fighting force that could put his new strategic and tactical conceptions to the test in battle against the workers’ movement. But these were by no means sufficient to guarantee the party a mass following, let alone the opportunity to stake its claim to state power. Such a course of development lay entirely outside Hitler’s control. The ‘national classes’ would turn decisively to the Nazi Party only when all other means of combating democracy and the workers’ movement had been exhausted, and even then, with great anxiety as to the repercussions of such a strategic shift inside the working class. And even this would not necessarily mean that the petit-bourgeois masses would follow them. As Hitler well understood, the middle class would submit to the side that proved itself the stronger. Only the calibre of proletarian leadership would determine which side that would be.

Appendix: The Founding Programme of the NSDAP

1. We demand the union of all Germans, on the basis of the right of the self-determination of peoples, to form a Great Germany.

2. We demand equality of right for the German People in its dealings with other nations, and the abolition of the Peace Treaties of Versailles and St Germain.

3. We demand land and territory for the nourishment of our people and for settling our surplus population.

4. None but members of the nation may be citizens of the state. None but those of German blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. No Jew, therefore, may be a member of the nation.

5. Anyone who is not a citizen of the state may live in Germany only as a guest and must be regarded as being subject to the Alien laws.

6. The right of voting on the leadership and legislation is to be enjoyed by the citizens of the state alone. We demand, therefore, that all official appointments, of whatever kind, whether in the Reich, the provinces, or the small communities, shall be granted to citizens of the state alone. We oppose the corrupt Parliamentary custom of the state of filling posts merely with a view to party considerations, and without reference to character or capacity.

7. We demand that the state shall make it its first duty to promote the industry and livelihood of the citizens of the state, foreign nationals must be excluded from the Reich.

8. All further non-German immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who entered Germany subsequently to 2 August 1914 shall be required forthwith to depart from the Reich.

9. All citizens of the state shall possess equal rights and duties.

10. It must be the first duty of every citizen of the state to perform mental or physical work. The activities of the individual must not clash with the interests of the whole, but must proceed within the framework of the community and must therefore be for the general good.

We demand therefore:

11. Abolition of incomes unearned by work. Abolition of the thraldom of interest.

12. In view of the enormous sacrifice of life and property demanded of a nation by every war, personal enrichment through war must be regarded as a crime against the nation. We demand therefore the ruthless confiscation of all war profits.

13. We demand the nationalisation of all businesses which have been amalgamated.

14. We demand that there shall be profit-sharing in the great industries.

15. We demand a generous development of provision for old age.

16. We demand the creation and maintenance of a healthy middle class, immediate communalisation of wholesale warehouses and their lease at a low rate to small traders, and that the most careful consideration shall be shown to all small purveyors to the state, the provinces, or smaller communities.

17. We demand a land reform suitable to our national requirements, the passing of a law for the confiscation without compensation of land for communal purposes, the abolition of interest on mortgages, and prohibition of all speculation in land.

18. We demand ruthless war upon all those whose activities are injurious to the common interest. Common criminals against the nation, usurers, profiteers, etc, must be punished with death, whatever their creed or race.

19. We demand that the Roman Law, which serves the materialistic world order, shall be replaced by a German common law.

20. With the aim of opening to every capable and industrious German the possibility of higher education and consequent advancement to leading positions the state must consider a thorough reconstruction of our national system of education. The curriculum of all educational establishments must be brought into line with the requirements of practical life. Directly the mind begins to develop the schools must aim at teaching the pupil to understand the idea of the state. We demand the education of specially gifted children of poor parents, whatever their class or occupation, at the expense of the state.

21. The state must apply itself to raising the standard of health in the nation by protecting mothers and infants, prohibiting child labour, and increasing bodily efficiency by legally obligatory gymnastics and sports, and by extensive support of clubs engaged in the physical training of the young.

22. We demand the abolition of mercenary troops and the formation of a national army.

23. We demand legal warfare against conscious political lies and their dissemination in the press. In order to facilitate the creation of a German national press, we demand:

a. That all editors of and contributors to newspapers employing the German language must be members of the nation.

b. That special permission from the state shall be necessary before non-German newspapers may appear. These need not necessarily be printed in the German language.

c. That non-Germans shall be prohibited by law from participating financially in or influencing German newspapers, and that the penalty for the contravention of the law shall be suppression of any such newspaper and the immediate deportation of the non-German involved. It must be forbidden to publish newspapers which do not conduce to the national welfare. We demand the legal prosecution of all tendencies in art and literature of a kind likely to disintegrate our life as a nation, and the suppression of institutions which militate against the above-mentioned requirements.

24. We demand liberty for all religious denominations in the state so far as they are not a danger to it, and do not militate against the morality and moral sense of the German race. The party, as such, stands for positive Christianity, but does not bind itself in the matter of creed to any particular confession. It combats the Jewish-materialist spirit within and without us, and is convinced that our nation can achieve permanent health from within only on the principle: the common interest before self-interest.

25. That all the foregoing requirements may be realised we demand the creation of a strong central power of the Reich. Unconditional authority of the politically central Parliament over the entire Reich and its organisation in general. The formation of Diets and vocational Chambers for the purpose of executing the general laws promulgated by the Reich in the various States of the Confederation. The leaders of the Party swear to proceed regardless of consequences – if necessary at the sacrifice of their lives – towards the fulfilment of the forgoing points.

On 31 August 1927, Hitler decreed this programme to be immutable, declaring: ‘Questions of programme do not concern the Council of Administration; the Programme is fixed, and I shall never suffer changes in the principles of the movement as laid down.’ [57] But his alliance with the leaders of industry and banking, which he had begun to forge by 1930, necessitated certain programmatic adjustments, and this delicate task was allotted to the dutiful Feder: On the land question (point 17) he said the following:

No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to the size of agricultural holdings. From the point of view of our population policy large numbers of prosperous small and middle-sized farms are all-important. Farming on a large scale, however, has its special and necessary part to play... [58]

Feder also made a declaration on behalf of the NSDAP in reply to a series of questions from ‘leading circles’ of the Brandenburg Landbund, published in Deutsche Tageszeitung of 25 January 1930. The questions from this Junker organisation pertained chiefly to private ownership of land, profit-sharing (demanded in point 14 of the 1920 programme) inheritance, tariffs, credits, etc. To the question ‘Is the NSDAP prepared to give guarantees that it will not encroach upon private property?’, the author of the clause demanding the nationalisation of the trusts (point 13) and the confiscation of war profits (point 12) replied:

National Socialism recognises private property ownership in principle, and places it under state protection... It follows from the spirit of the whole programme, clearly and irrefutably that National Socialism, as the most convinced and consistent opponent of Marxism, most decisively repudiates its cardinal doctrine of the ‘confiscation of all property'... and also that National Socialism, as the keenest adversary of the misguided international doctrines of Marxism sees in a class of landowning farmers the best and surest foundation of the national state... We need a strong, healthy class of farmers, free from interest, slavery and taxation-Bolshevism. [Sic!]

And finally on the vexed question of profit-sharing, one that perplexed and worried many potential Nazi supporters in the German business community, Feder wrote:

The present demand for profit-sharing springs either from the desire for gain (essentially capitalistic) or from envy (essentially Marxist)... The lowering of prices is the magic formula which must give every member of the nation a share of the profits of national production.

The industrialists had got the answer they wanted. What did it matter if they had to employ the language of anti-capitalism in order to protect their profits?

This is how the Nazis began to discard their ‘socialist’ demands under pressure from agrarian and big business interests even before they came to power. The study of Nazi ‘socialism’ in action we shall reserve to future chapters.


1. Hitler only makes the vaguest of allusions to this episode in his autobiographical Mein Kampf:A few days after the liberation of Munich, I was ordered to report to the examining commission concerned with revolutionary occurrences in the Second Infantry Regiment.’ (A Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1943), p 208)

2. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 208.

3. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 208, emphasis added.

4. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 209.

5. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 215.

6. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 446-47.

7. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 447.

8. For all his attempts to equate bourgeois parliamentary democracy and Marxism (on the grounds that both upheld the right of the ‘masses’ to rule), Hitler was well aware that there were important differences between the two, and that the Marxist defence of what were essentially bourgeois democratic freedoms and rights was a subordinate part of its overall revolutionary strategy: ‘The Marxists will march with democracy until they succeed in indirectly obtaining for their criminal aims the support of even the national intellectual world. [But if today]... they came to the conviction that from the witches’ cauldron of our parliamentary democracy a majority could be brewed which... would seriously attack Marxism, the parliamentary jugglery would come to an end at once. The banner bearers of the Red International would then, instead of addressing an appeal to the democratic conscience, emit a fiery call to the proletarian masses, and the struggle at one stroke would be removed from the stuffy air of our parliamentary meeting halls to the factories and the streets. Democracy would be done for immediately; what the mental dexterity of those people’s apostles in the parliaments had failed to do, the crowbar and sledgehammer of incited proletarian masses would instantly succeed in doing, as in the autumn of 1918...’ It was from this fanatically anti-Marxist, anti-proletarian viewpoint that Hitler rejected and attacked parliamentary democracy. Not so much for what it was or seemed to represent in itself, but because it was, by virtue of its formal commitment to the principle of popular rule, unable to take the extreme measures necessary to defeat the revolutionary Marxist movement: ‘They [the ‘incited proletarian masses’ – RB] would drive it home to the bourgeois world how insane it is to imagine that they can oppose Jewish world domination with the methods of Western democracy.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 377)

9. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 448, emphasis added.

10. This is no exaggeration. In the same chapter of Mein Kampf, Hitler declares: ‘... as in economic life, the able men cannot be appointed from above, but must struggle through for themselves, and just as the endless schooling, ranging from the smallest business to the largest enterprise, occurs spontaneously, with life alone giving the examinations, obviously political minds cannot be discovered.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 449) And, in another even more explicit comment on the allegedly ‘natural’ rights and origins of business tycoons, Hitler once said: ‘The capitalists have worked their way to the top through their capacity, and on the basis of this selection, which again only proves their higher race, they have a right to lead.’ (Hitler to Otto Strasser, 22 May 1930, cited in O Strasser, Hitler and I (London, 1940), p 113)

11. The Thule Society, whose emblem was the Swastika, was the Bavarian branch of the Pan-German Teutonic Order, and at its peak had a membership of 1500, nearly all of whom were drawn from the ‘cream’ of Munich society – aristocrats, army officers, professors, publicists, etc.

12. The following words are put into the mouths of the ‘Elders of Zion’: ‘We appear on the scene as the alleged saviours of the worker from this [capitalist] oppression when we propose to him to enter the ranks of our fighting forces – Socialists, Anarchists, Communists... By want and the envy and hatred which it engenders we shall move the mobs and with their hands we shall wipe out all those who hinder us on our way... We shall create by aid of gold, which is all in our hands, a universal economic crisis whereby we shall throw upon the streets whole mobs of workers simultaneously in all the countries of Europe... Remember the French Revolution, to which it was we who gave the name ‘Great’: the secrets of its preparations are well known to us for it was wholly the work of our hands. Ever since that time we have been leading the peoples from one disenchantment to another, so that in the end they should turn also from us in favour of that King-Despot of the blood of Zion, whom we are preparing for the world.’ (Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (London, 1960), pp 24-26)

13. And not only Russia. While The Times equivocated over the genuineness of the Protocols when they first appeared – in 1920 – in English translation, the staunchly Conservative Morning Post (the forerunner of the equally reactionary Daily Telegraph) was quite certain; the paper published no fewer than 13 articles in the summer of that year on the theme of the world Jewish conspiracy, which was unfolding in the Soviet Union before the eyes of the paper’s horrified readers. (So enthusiastic was the response to this anti-Semitic filth amongst the Morning Post’s upper and middle-class readers, the articles were republished in book form with a preface by the paper’s editor.) The right-wing London weekly review The Spectator did not venture to declare the Protocols to be genuine, but neither did it expose them as the obvious forgery they were: ‘Upon that much vexed subject of the authenticity of the Protocols of Zion we shall not enter, except to say that if the document is a forgery, as is alleged, then it is one of the most remarkable in the history of literature.’ (The Spectator, 16 October 1920) Henry Ford, as notorious an anti-Semite as he was an enemy of trade unionism and socialism, had no doubts, his private daily paper, the Dearborn Independent, proclaimed to the citizens of Detroit on 10 July 1920: ‘It is too terribly real for fiction, too well sustained for speculation, too deep in its knowledge of the secret springs of life for forgery.’ Ford himself endorsed the authenticity of the Protocols in the classic language of American pragmatism: ‘The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on. They are 16 years old and they have fitted the world situation up to this time. They fit it now.’ (New York World, 17 February 1921) But it was in Germany that the Protocols found their most avid audience. First published in German in 1920, they were destined to become the gospel of the entire volkisch movement, going through no less than 33 editions, before Hitler’s accession to power in 1933. Perhaps this statistic, more than any other, measures the degree to which the German bourgeoisie and wide sections of the middle class had become saturated with fanatical chauvinist hatred for the Jews. As Norman Cohn, in his excellent book on the history of the Protocols makes clear, this most infamous of all forgeries became the Third Reich’s ‘warrant for genocide’. And when the time came, years of anti-Semitic indoctrination ensured there would be no shortage of executioners.

14. Thus Prime Minister Witte wrote of the Russian anti-Semitic movement that it was ‘patriotic to the depths of its soul... but its patriotism is primitive... Most of its leaders are upstarts..., [they] concentrate all their efforts on unleashing the lowest possible impulses in the benighted, savage masses... its leaders are political villains, it has secret sympathisers in court circles and amongst nobles with all kinds of titles – people who seek their salvation in lawlessness and have as their slogan: “Not we for the people, but the people for the good of our stomachs"... And the Tsar dreams of restoring greatness to Russia with the help of this party. Poor Tsar...’ (quoted in N Cohn, Warrant for Genocide (London, 1967), p 111) The similarity between Witte’s reaction to ‘plebeian’ counter-revolution and the repugnance felt towards the Nazis by his German counterparts is quite remarkable. But it did not prevent either from resorting to the services of the ‘lawless’ and ‘savage’ plebeians when the only alternative seemed to be defeat at the hands of the Marxist-led proletariat. Nevertheless, there are also important differences between the two movements, which relate not so much to their social composition, combat methods or ideology but their historical juxtaposition to the major classes in Germany and Russia. The Black Hundreds sought to mobilise ‘the people’ in defence of the monarchy against what was essentially, despite its proletarian vanguard, a bourgeois-democratic revolution, even though the bourgeoisie in its majority recoiled from the implications of its ‘own’ revolution. The National Socialists did not come out as defenders of throne or altar, though they were not averse, when the opportunity presented itself or the tactical situation demanded it, to aligning themselves with supporters of both. Although combating and finally destroying bourgeois democracy, the Nazis’ main – in fact only – target was the organisations of the German proletariat. Fascism is therefore, contrary to the claims of Popular Front Stalinism, the plebeian instrument of bourgeois – and not feudal – counter-revolution.

15. ‘Angels’ contributing to the struggling paper’s finances included Captain Mayr’s political department, which donated a large sum in December 1920 to help secure Nazi ownership of the Völkischer Beobachter. Army influence was also reflected in Hitler’s choice of business manager for what had become the Nazi Party’s official organ – Max Amman, who had been a close friend of Hitler’s during his period of political service in Abteilung I b/p. Other donations came from Kurt Lüdecke, the big-business broker and buying agent who on the testimony of Alfred Rosenberg ‘had money, foreign money... and placed some of it at the disposal of the Party. He even outfitted, at his own expense, a troop of the SA.’ (A Rosenberg, Memoirs (Chicago and New York, 1949), p 60)

16. This Rosenberg did in an official state capacity after the Nazi victory in 1933, heading the Amt Osten (Eastern Department) of the Foreign Political Office of the NSDAP. In this capacity he was also involved in the propaganda and activity of the Anti-Komintern, the anti-Soviet alliance concluded between Germany, Italy and Japan, although this organisation was initially a sub-department of Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda. Preparatory to the invasion of the USSR in June 1941, Rosenberg was appointed by Hitler (on 20 April) as ‘Commissioner for the Central Control of Questions Connected with the Eastern European Region’. Proudly sporting this grandiose title, Rosenberg now planned the plunder of the country whose revolution he fled in 1918, and the physical extermination of its population by mass murder and slow death by systematic starvation: ‘The job of feeding the German people stands this year without doubt on top of the list of Germany’s claims on the East, and here the southern territories and the northern Caucasus will have to serve as a balance for the feeding of the German people. We see absolutely no reason for any obligation on our part to feed also the Russian people with the products of that surplus.’ (A Rosenberg, Speech to his Staff, 20 June 1941, ND 1058-PS) Rosenberg, Hitler’s mentor in Soviet affairs, was now carrying out his Führer’s ‘eastern policy’, as enunciated in Mein Kampf, to the letter.

17. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 139.

18. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 140.

19. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 642-49.

20. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 653-54.

21. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 660-62, emphasis added.

22. LD Trotsky, ‘Germany, the Key to the International Situation’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971), p 126. At the very time when Stalin was beginning to look towards an ultra-nationalistic regime in Germany as a counterweight to what he wrongly considered to be an interventionist threat from French imperialism (presumably mounted through its semi-vassal state, Poland) Trotsky wrote: ‘None of the “normal” bourgeois parliamentary governments can risk a war at the present time [1931] of immense internal complications. [Precisely the point made by von Seeckt in his report to President Ebert! – RB] But if Hitler comes to power and proceeds to crush the vanguard of the German workers, pulverising and demoralising the whole proletariat, the fascist government will be the only government capable of waging war against the USSR... The crushing of the German proletariat by the fascists would already comprise at least half of the collapse of the Soviet republic.’ (Trotsky, ‘Germany, the Key to the International Situation’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp 126-27) And Hitler’s armies did occupy roughly this proportion of European Russia, to be driven out, not by the genius of Stalin’s military leadership, as the official Soviet history textbooks are once again claiming, but by the heroism and avoidable sacrifice of the Soviet working class and peasantry. Their German comrades having been defeated in the battle for power in Berlin, the Soviet proletariat was only able to check the brown onslaught, which began in 1933, at the very gates of Moscow and Leningrad, and in the shattered tractor factories of Stalingrad.

23. A Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Book (New York, 1961) pp 44-45, emphasis added; being the sequel to Mein Kampf, written in 1928, but unpublished until after the war.

24. Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Book, p 42.

25. A typical demagogic turn of phrase, for elsewhere in the same work, Hitler writes: ‘The German national bourgeoisie, which alone is under discussion here – since international Marxism as such has no other aim but Germany’s destruction – even today has learned nothing from the past...’ (Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Book, pp 110-11) Far from condemning them equally, Hitler finds fault with the bourgeoisie only in so far as it has proved itself unable either to learn from the past or to pursue a consistent national policy in the present and future, while Marxism is rejected out of hand as internationalist, and therefore by its very nature incapable of serving the ‘national’ cause.

26. Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Book, pp 79-90, emphasis added.

27. Among whom was numbered Max Weber, a co-author of the Weimar Constitution!

28. Hitler’s Secret Book, pp 38-39, emphasis added.

29. As in the earlier Mein Kampf, Hitler still found it necessary to warn against the implications of a possible German-Soviet alliance: ‘The belief in a German-Russia understanding is in itself fantastic as long as a regime rules in Russia which is permeated by one aim only: to carry over the Bolshevist poisoning to Germany. It is natural, therefore, for communist elements to agitate for a German-Russian alliance. They thereby hope, rightfully, to be able to lead Germany herself to Bolshevism. It is incomprehensible, however, if national Germans believe that it is possible to achieve an understanding with a state whose great interest is the destruction of this very national Germany.’ (Hitler’s Secret Book, p 132) Hitler actually only felt free to make tactical adjustments to this line when the Stalinist counter-revolution had, through the Moscow Trials and the mass purges that accompanied them, crushed Soviet supporters of a genuine internationalist perspective for the European working class. This became the basis for the Stalin – Hitler pact of August 1939, a treaty which in turn enabled German imperialism to defeat its enemies in the West before launching the long-awaited and prepared invasion of the USSR.

30. Hitler’s Secret Book, pp 166-67, emphasis added.

31. A Rosenberg, ‘The Myth of the Twentieth Century’, Alfred Rosenberg: Selected Political Writings (London, 1970), p 34.

32. Rosenberg, ‘The Myth of the Twentieth Century’, Alfred Rosenberg: Selected Political Writings, p 34.

33. Rosenberg, ‘The Myth of the Twentieth Century’, Alfred Rosenberg: Selected Political Writings, p 40.

34. Despite his proclaimed hostility towards Christianity, Rosenberg was at pains to exonerate its founder from slanderous charges concerning his ethnic origins: ‘As far as Jesus’ ancestry is concerned, there is not the slightest reason to believe... that Jesus was of Jewish ancestry, even if it be admitted that He had grown up in Jewish intellectual circles... The thoroughly un-Jewish teachings of the ‘Kingdom of heaven within us’ strengthen this realisation.’ (Rosenberg, ‘The Myth of the Twentieth Century’, Alfred Rosenberg: Selected Political Writings, p 70.) It is significant that Rosenberg’s proof of Christ’s ‘un-Jewishness’ is the latter’s Germanic ‘inwardness’ – in political terms a passive acceptance of the status quo.

35. Rosenberg, ‘The Myth of the Twentieth Century’, Alfred Rosenberg: Selected Political Writings, p 87-88.

36. A Rosenberg, ‘Address on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of Nietzsche’s Birth’, 14 October 1944, Alfred Rosenberg: Selected Political Writings, p 143.

37. Rosenberg, Memoirs, p 56, emphasis added.

38. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 535, emphasis added.

39. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 334-35, emphasis added.

40. At a meeting of officers, held in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall in December 1918, Goering denounced attempts being made by the leaders of the armed forces to win their support for the Ebert government of ‘November criminals’. Minister of War General Reinhardt had told the rally that officers would have to discard their treasured epaulettes and other insignia of imperial caste and rank for the colours of the new republican regime. This was too much for Goering: ‘We officers did our duty for four long years [Goering had been a fighter pilot in the crack Richtofen Squadron – RB] and we risked our bodies for the Fatherland. Now we come home – and how do they treat us? They spit on us and deprive us of what we gloried in wearing... Those alone are to blame who have goaded on the people – those men who stabbed our glorious army in the back and who thought of nothing but attaining power and of enriching themselves at the expense of the people. [Sic! Goering, the greatest Nazi predator of them all, looted the art galleries and museums of all Europe to decorate and furnish his lavish palaces built at the expense of the German people – RB] And therefore, I implore you to cherish hatred – a profound abiding hatred of those animals who have outraged the German people!’ And before striding out of the hall in protest against what he regarded as General Rheinhardt’s treachery, he ended his speech with the following pledge, one which those who were arming the Free Corps allegedly to defend democracy from the ‘dictatorship of the councils’ would have done well to heed: ‘The day will come when we will drive them [the Social Democrats] away out of our Germany. Prepare for that day. Arm yourselves for that day. Work for that day!’

41. Two who were particularly zealous in their protection of the Nazi Party at this time were Ernst Pöhner, a former Bavarian police president, who became a justice of the Bavarian Supreme Court in 1921. At the trial of the Munich Putschists he proudly declared: ‘For five years I did nothing but treason.’ Sentenced to a ludicrously short sentence of a few months by his court cronies, he in fact never went to jail, his election as a volkisch deputy in the Bavarian Diet conveniently providing this self-confessed traitor with immunity from arrest. The other benefactor of the Nazis was Wilhelm Frick, Bavarian police deputy president, who in 1933 became Hitler’s Minister of the Interior. This appointment was in part at least a reward for service rendered. When Pöhner was asked, in the period preceding the Munich Putsch, whether he knew of the existence of right-wing killer squads operating openly on his ‘patch’, he replied: ‘Yes, but there aren’t enough of them.’ Of these two Hitler wrote that they were in his eyes ‘the only men in a state position who possess the right to be called co-creators of a national Bavaria’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 368).

42. ‘What we needed and still need were and are not a hundred or two hundred reckless conspirators, but a hundred thousand, and a second hundred thousand fighters for our philosophy of life. We should not work in secret conventicles, but in mighty mass demonstrations, and it is not by dagger and poison or pistol that the road can be cleared for the movement, but by the conquest of the streets. We must teach the Marxists that the future master of the streets is National Socialism, just as it will some day be the master of the state.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 543, emphasis added)

43. ‘The red colour of our posters in itself drew them [our opponents] to our meeting halls. The run-of-the-mill bourgeoisie were horrified that we had seized upon the red of the Bolsheviks and they regarded this as all very ambiguous. The German national souls kept privately whispering to each other the suspicion [entirely unjustified, as they later found out – RB] that basically we were nothing but a species of Marxism, perhaps Marxists, or rather, socialists in disguise. For to this day these scatterbrains have not understood the difference between socialism and Marxism. Especially when they discovered that, as a matter of principle, we greeted in our meetings no ‘ladies and gentlemen’, but only ‘national comrades’ and among ourselves spoke only of party comrades, the Marxist spook seemed demonstrated for many of our enemies. How often we shook with laughter at these simple bourgeoisie scare-cats, at the sight of their ingenious witty guessing games about our origin, our intentions, and our goal.’ Such confusion and suspicion in the less politically aware elements of the bourgeoisie was but a small price to pay for the enormous advantage these tactics gave the Nazis in the fight for influence in the masses. Hence also Hitler’s injunction: ‘Any meeting which is protected exclusively by the police discredits its organisers in the eyes of the broad masses.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 483, 487)

44. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 331.

45. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 331.

46. ‘The characteristic thing about our bourgeois world is precisely that it can no longer deny the ailments as such. It must admit that much is rotten and bad, but it no longer finds the determination to rebel against the evil, to muster the force of sixty to seventy millions with embittered energy, and oppose it to the danger... our present bourgeoisie has become worthless for every exalted task of mankind, simply because it is without quality and no good; and what makes it no good is not so much in my opinion any deliberate malice as an incredible indolence and everything that springs from it.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 406-07) Hence the need for a ‘plebeian’ solution to – for the bourgeoisie – the seemingly intractable problem of the class struggle.

47. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 333, emphasis added.

48. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 333-34.

49. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 337, emphasis added.

50. In one of his many scornful references to the lack of fighting power exhibited by the bourgeois parties in the early years of the Weimar Republic, Hitler writes: ‘It is obvious that such a “bourgeois” guild is good for anything sooner than struggle; especially if the opposing side does not consist of cautious pepper sacks [German slang for small traders – RB] but proletarian masses, incited to extremes and determined to do their worst.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 407)

51. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 519-20.

52. While eager to enrol these ultra-right class warriors into the ranks of the young Nazi movement, Hitler had no illusions about their political immaturity, which he saw confirmed by their readiness to serve under the Ebert government. Even though they shouldered arms for the Republic to fight Bolshevism, it was in Hitler’s judgment, a monumental political error: ‘As volunteer soldiers they banded together into free corps and began, though grimly hating the revolution, to protect and thus for practical purposes, to secure, this same revolution. This they did in the best good faith... Gradually the Spartacist barricade fighters on the one hand and the nationalist fanatics and idealists on the other were bled white, and in exact proportion as the two extremes wore each other out [that is, the ‘best elements’ and the ‘scum’ – RB] as always the mass of the middle was victorious. The bourgeoisie and Marxism [that is, Social Democracy] met on a ‘realistic basis’ and the Republic began to be consolidated... The sole organisations which at this time would have had the courage and strength to oppose the Marxists and their incited masses, were for the present the free corps, and later the self-defence organisations, citizens’ guards, etc, and finally the tradition leagues that is, the Stahlhelm... [But]... just as the so-called national parties could exert no sort of influence for lack of any threatening power on the streets, likewise the so-called defence organisations, in turn, could exert no sort of influence for lack of any political idea, and above all of any real goal. What had given Marxism its success was its complete combination of political will and activistic brutality. What excluded national Germany from any practical activity in shaping the German development was the lack of a unified collaboration of brutal force with brilliant political will.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 523-32, emphasis added)

53. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 520.

54. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 490-91, emphasis added.

55. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 491.

56. To take only three of the more notorious Free Corps brigades – the von Epp, Rossbach and Ehrhardt. The following officers served the Nazi movement in the positions specified: von Epp Brigade (which, as the unit which overthrew the Bavarian Soviet Republic, had the deepest roots in Munich): Hans Baumann, Battalion commander of Epp Brigade, founder member of DAP, later NSDAP Reichstag deputy; Robert Bergmann, SS Standführer, Reichstag member; Friedrich Eichhinger, joined NSDAP 1921, in Third Reich, adjutant to Bavarian Minister of Interior; Otto Engelbrecht, Munich putschist, appointed to SA leadership, 1933; Hans Hoffmann, leader of SA gruppe Bavaria 1931, inspector of SA and police chief of Regensberg, 1932, Reichstag member; Franz Krausser, co-founder with Röhm of the SA, on supreme SA leadership, purged with Röhm in 1934; Otto Lancelle, secretary of von Epp, on staff of SA leadership, 1931; Johann Malsen-Ponickau, on SS chief Himmler’s personal staff: Wilhelm Stuckart, NSDAP 1922, director in Prussian Ministry of Culture [sic!] under Third Reich; Gerhard Wagner, founder of NSDAP medical association, adviser to Hess on ‘medical questions’; Wilhelm Weiss, SA gruppenführer, on staff of Völkischer Beobachter, Reichstag member 1936; Karl Wolff, adjutant to von Epp, SS brigade leader, Himmler’s adjutant, Reichstag member. Rossbach: Kurt Dalueg, joined NSDAP 1922, founded Berlin SA, Lieutenant General of Prussian State Police; Edmund Heines, Rossbach chief in Silesia, Reichstag 1932, purged 1934. Ehrhardt: Heinz Hauenstein, NSDAP 1922, editor of Nazi paper, Hanover North German Observer; Wilhelm Heinz, Munich putschist, SA chief for west Germany, 1933, director of Reich Union of German Writers [sic!]; Manfred von Killinger, organised murders of Rathenau and Erzberger, SA Obergruppenführer, Reichstag member, Nazi Minister President of Saxony, Nazi ‘ambassador’ to Slovakia, 1940, and to Romania, 1941; Helmut Nicolai, fellow assassin of above (as members of ‘Organisation Consul’), 1931, chief of NSDAP domestic policy departments, 1933, director in Ministry of Interior; Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coberg-Gotha, supreme staff of SA, President of German Red Cross [sic!]. And these are but a sample of the far longer list to be found in Robert Waite’s study of the Free Corps movement in his Vanguard of Nazism (Cambridge, Mass, 1952). And in Daniel Lerner’s study of the social and occupational origins of the Nazi leadership in the Third Reich, it emerges that 25 per cent of the top Nazi administrators served at some time in the Free Corps. The Bavarian basis of the NSDAP is evidenced by 20.5 per cent of its administrative officials being born in that state – precisely double the proportion warranted by Bavaria’s population, which at that time stood at 10.1 per cent of the total Reich (D Lerner, The Nazi Elite, Stanford, 1951).

57. G Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme (English Edition, 1934), p 10.

58. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, p 33, emphasis in original.