AT the present juncture, when the followers of Adolf Hitler appear to be the strongest group in Germany, when, as the London Times recently said, 'the Hitler movement has ceased to be the frothy ebullition of irresponsible young men, and undoubtedly represents at the moment the most powerful element of public feeling which the Chancellor has to take into account,' it may be of interest to consider the ideas of this extraordinary man, what he believes, and how he came to believe it. When Hitler was in prison, after the Bavarian Putsch of 1923, he set himself to write down for the instruction of his followers a full account of his political philosophy. The volume that resulted, entitled Mein Kampf ('My Fight'), is now the Bible of the National Socialist movement and is diligently circulated among faithful by the official 'Nazi' publishing house. It was not intended (in fact, Hitler has always declined) to offer a detailed programme or outline a specific procedure for attaining the National Socialist ideals when the actual control of Germany shall have fallen to his party; nevertheless the book does indicate very clearly the governing ideas, the fundamental points of view, the feelings and beliefs, which will guide him if he comes to power.
To what extent Hitler's Fascism is similar to Italian Fascism or to the academic Fascism of other countries, or to other movements of forcible salvation, I shall not attempt to determine here. Obviously they have much in common. Nor shall I consider Hitler's indebtedness to Nietzsche or to Treitschke. What I propose to do is to set down from his own words just what he stands for. What he stood for in 1923 he still stands for, and we shall do him no injustice if we judge him up on the evidence presented in his book.*
The principal articles of Hitler's political faith may be briefly summarized as follows:
1. His violent racial nationalism, which springs from his conviction that the Aryan stocks in general, and the Germans in particular, are a chosen people in whose victorious survival the divine purposes are bound up.
2. His violent animosity to Marxian Socialism as in essence opposed to his ideal of a nationally minded people and a racial state. He condemns the Socialism of Marx as a poisonous teaching which by its humanitarianism, its internationalism, and its pacifism—all legacies of the unnatural an unwholesome democracy of the French Revolution—operates to undermine the clean ideal of Aryan (that is, German) overlordship.
3. His violent hatred of the Jews as the racial enemies of all Aryans, the subtle corrupters of pure Aryan states. These parasites, says Hitler, have made Marxian Socialism, which they invented, the principal tool by which they insinuate themselves into healthy, pure blooded, racial states in order to debase simultaneously the national ideals and the national blood. Destroyers of Aryan civilizations, they remain impotent to create a civilization of their own.
4. His concern for social betterment ('true Socialism') as a necessary prerequisite to the acceptance of his ideals by the masses.
5. His contempt for the intelligence of the ordinary man and for a democracy based on faith in his development to higher levels.
6. His contempt for parliamentary institutions as the organs of such a democracy, which substitutes for the decision of a competent leader the majority vote of the incompetent. A parliament, moreover, says Hitler, is the natural field of operations for the Jewish Socialist enemy.
7. His insistence on the power of personality and on the entire concentration of authority in the hands of one leader (up to now, himself).
8. His economic nationalism, with its distrust of international capital and its preference for small, locally controlled business organizations. Hitler fears the banks and all newfangled ideas for controlling credit. He objects to stock companies and stresses the value of personal ownership. In short, he believes in the ruthless subordination of economic interests and economic leaders to racial and national considerations.
9. His insistence that Germany must acquire more land in Europe as a vital requirement for national expansion and progress (after the present corruption of the national blood and the national ideals has been stopped).
10. His insistence that France is the archenemy. France, he urges, must be broken before Germany can undertake to conquer land from Russia (the only possible source).
All these extraordinary ideas Hitler traces to their origin in the experiences of his early years all except his passion for German nationalism, which seems to have antedated the beginnings of his conscious thought and to have been the guiding principle of his life. The egocentric mentality which has enabled him to identify himself with this ideal, and persuade others to do the same, is the mainspring of his gift of leadership. Whatever may be the ultimate consequences of his leadership for good or ill, there can be no doubt that he has exploited his philosophy in masterly fashion; through it he has made himself a force that will have to be reckoned with in German politics.
As yet he has given no indication of his competence for the responsibilities of government, but it would be rash to go beyond that and assert that he lacks capacity in this direction. He has not yet been put to the test. During the last ten years, however, he has established himself in control of a movement which now numbers not less than eight million supporters, and he has certainly not done this on blood-and thunder talk alone.
It would appear from Hitler's account of his youth that he has been a fanatically rabid German from boyhood. An Austrian by birth, he says that he has always looked upon all persons of German stock as one people and has passionately desired the union of all sections of this people in one national state. Regarding the non-German subjects of the Austro Hungarian monarchy as aliens, he favored the Anschluss of German Austria to the Reich of Bismarck. Consequently he felt no loyalty toward the Hapsburgs, for his German national patriotism was essentially hostile to the dynastic interests which sought to hold together a polyglot empire, and which could not, therefore, be exclusively German or Germanizing in policy. It is notable that at twelve years of age Hitler was 'enthralled' by the music of Richard Wagner, and it is fair to assume that it was the stream of heroic national German feeling, so strong in much of Wagner, that made its elemental appeal to the young Hitler.
Left an orphan at seventeen, he removed from the neighborhood of Linz, where most of his previous life had been passed, to Vienna. He was practically penniless, but he carried with him a burning passion for everything German, a love of art, and an ambition to become a painter (later given up for architecture). The next six years were spent, according to his account, in intense study and observation while he earned his living as a laborer. To the experiences of this period he attributes the ideas which have since guided his life and the development of the National Socialist movement. All of them, however, are secondary to and derived from his fundamental conception of the Germans as a chosen people.