WHEN one remembers how National Socialism appeared to be declining in 1932 and how Hitler was called to power as a last resort, it seems as though the movement might be only a belated convulsion of the war. In fact, the enemies of the movement, especially in Prague, Zurich, and Paris, expect Hitler's downfall quite shortly, and a restoration of the Weimar constitution or something like it, together with their own return. But I believe they are wrong. Hitler may fall, and his enemies may return, but it will probably be to a different Germany from the one they left. The forces at work in that country have only temporarily crystallized in Hitler, and will continue to work themselves out when he is gone.
National Socialism is not only a protest against the Treaty of Versailles, and not only an uprising of the middle class; and it cannot be disposed of by calling it barbarous, dictatorial, or militaristic. It is all these things and a great deal more. It is a revolt against the ideals of democracy; not merely its practices, but the very assumptions upon which the democratic state operates. The Nazis reject equality, and put hierarchy in its place; they reject the ideal of a society run by scientific methods for the ideal of an organic society in which personality will play a greater part than formulae; and, consistently with this, they war against the intellect in favor of 'the creative spirit.'
It is important, in judging National Socialism, to be clear that its objectives are different from those of democracy and still more different from those of Communism. Superficially resembling the Communist state in certain ways, the spirit and aims of National Socialism are diametrically opposite. The Communists are trying to bring more equality, rationality, and scientific patterns into the social order than even America has achieved, but the Nazis regard these aims themselves as disintegrating and demoralizing. In fact, they do not say, 'You are sailing the wrong course to the harbor,' but they say, 'Your harbor is a pile of barren rocks, and any course toward it will bring you to shipwreck.'
To understand why the Germans have undertaken to revise their social order, the historical setting must be recalled. In this setting, the war and the depression are in the foreground, but they do not by any means cover the stage. Indeed, if one is going to start from the war and its consequences to account for National Socialism, there seems to be no reason why the revolution should have happened at all. Consider the situation of the country between 1918 and 1933. German diplomacy was winning concession after concession from the Allies —— Locarno, the League, the Rhineland, and Lausanne. Slowly, successive cabinets were pulling the nation out of the war pit and restoring its prestige. Business revived, the arts flourished, German science was regaining its old position, and the general atmosphere was full of vitality. So much for the upper layers. The workmen were on the whole better off than under the Kaiser. In the post war years, the Social Democrats were the strongest political power, whether in or out of the government, to say nothing of the Christian Unions, left wing of the Centre Party. And during this time the unions increased in membership and strength.
On the other side of the account, it is true that even before the Young Plan Conference a systematic campaign from within Germany to destroy German credit did greatly aggravate the effects of the general depression. It is also true that during the post war period the middle class were almost desperate; their savings gone in inflation, they saw no future for themselves between big business and labor. The dislocated Junkers, too, were bitterly aggrieved, and large industrialists financed the Hitler movement as an offset to Communism. But it does not explain National Socialism to count incomes. Hitler's chief appeal has never been to economic motives; he has never promised prosperity, never held out hope of a return to the old règime. Not when the nation was prostrate in defeat and the power lay open to any adventurer, but in the midst of an ordered enterprising State, this amazing revolution took root. Why?
The reasons, I think, lie below the apparent vigor and stir in Germany, deeper than economic motives and foreign policies. They are found first, probably, in German internal dissension. Bismarck's unification of the country was only a political framework, and when the frame broke, in 1918, the pieces of the picture puzzle fell apart. Sectional feeling became bitterer than ever, and at one time during the twenties the premier of Bavaria, Held, said in a public speech, 'The true enemy is Prussia,' and proposed secession. At the same time, the Treaty of Versailles imposed conditions which weighed on Germans as Germans; and as Germans alike, whether from Pomerania or the Rhine, they had to meet suspicion and dislike from other nations. This modern German nationalism is a curious thing. It is kindled, one might say, from without, but its fuel is the consciousness that there never has been in the real sense a German nation.
Here, of course, was Hitler's double point of appeal, to the sufferings imposed on all Germany and to the need of reacting to these sufferings as a united whole. Apparently something like a real whole has been achieved. Some say the unification is still superficial and will not last, but on the other hand some of Hitler's most serious enemies declare that the creation of a unified Germany is his one great merit. At all events the Nazis have gone about this task in the most thorough way, not only from without, but from within. They have abolished local parliaments and local premiers, and reorganized the country by functions rather than by states. They try to overcome sectional feeling by transporting large groups of people from north to south, east to west, for their holidays; and above all every law, every article, every speech, every school lesson, repeats and repeats: German unity, German wholeness, German spirit.
I shall return to this passion for national wholeness, which the Nazis raise from a political expedient to a philosophic doctrine. But before going on to their system there is another even deeper and much vaguer cause than the political one.
In spite of considerable blossoming in many directions after the war, millions of Germans were restless and discontented, not so much with outward conditions, but because they were not getting what in their souls they longed for. Germans— and this in my experience is about as true as a broad generalization can be have a strong sense for outward order and will make endless sacrifices for what they think will maintain order namely, the State. So we have the familiar picture of the goose stepping German, the verboten signs, the extraordinary respect which all, even the most independently placed, pay to any state official. The story is told that the Communist uprising after the war failed because the leaders neglected to get hold of the state seals, and local functionaries refused to obey any order which was not properly sealed. And it is a fact that when the Communists were rioting in front of the Reichstag, in 1918, they were careful to keep off the grass.