Hitler, Reduced to Impotence

The political division within postwar Germany produced a "noisy right wing," led in part by a Great War veteran named Adolf Hitler.

Germany's failed "Beer Hall Putsch" of 1923 landed some of its Nazi leaders in prison, including Adolf Hitler (left) and Rudolf Hess (second from right), who would later serve as Hitler's deputy. (Berliner Verlag/Archiv/Corbis)

The political situation in Germany reveals a triangular conflict between three economic and political groups, none of which is powerful enough to gain permanent ascendancy in the nation. These groups may be roughly designated as the Nationalists, the Industrialists, and the Socialists. Each group has a quarrel with the other two, but also some affinity of interest or inclination with the second against the third …

The Nationalists represent the old traditional Germany which hewed a place for itself in Europe by military power. They exhibit all the vices and virtues of the kind of patriotism which fashioned the modern nation out of the wreck of the Roman and the medieval empires. In them the traditional patriot is the more clearly typified because he is slightly caricatured. They imagine themselves cold-blooded Realpolitiker who deal ruthlessly with the hard facts of Machtpolitik [power politics]. As a matter of fact they are naive romanticists whose sentimental attachment to the nation places them in opposition to the internationalism of “big business” as much as to the internationalism of the workers. Their patriotism is hopelessly anachronistic in the new Europe of economic interdependence …

The Nationalists naturally abhor all the political and economic arrangements which … are for the time being preserving peace in Europe, at the price, of course, of the political and economic servitude of Germany. Momentarily in power at the head of a coalition, they refrain from doing violence to these arrangements only because the Industrialists, whose support they need, are committed to them. Naturally the Nationalists are monarchists. They have convinced themselves that the revolution [that turned Germany into a republic] was the cause and not the consequence of the defeat in 1918; by incessant reiteration they have raised the idea of a Socialist “stab in the back” to a political dogma.

A noisy right wing of the monarchists detached itself from the party some time ago under the leadership of Hitler and [General Erich] Ludendorff, but was fortunately reduced to impotence in the last election.

Originally titled "Germany and Modern Civilization"