German National "Socialism"

Chapter VII, Society and Economics, from Aurel Kolnai's seminal work on German National Socialism, "The War Against the West", published in 1938. "The War Against the West" is perhaps the best deconstruction of the German National Socialist ideology. Kolnai's destruction of the "socialism" of German National Socialism is particularly well documented and, as such, is presented here.

1. The Socialist Phrase

That both [classical] liberal and socialist thought may derive considerable gain, perhaps their very salvation, from the re-establishment of direct communication with Christian ethics and possibly even with some of the economic teachings forming part of the Church tradition, may sound less novel or extravagant to English than to continental [eastern, German] ears.

At all events, the Western mind will desire personal liberty and rational insight to be shared by everyone, in the direction of the economic life of society; it will consider Man and Mankind as the supreme object of social discipline and economic effort; it will recognize man's standard of life (material and mental, in so far as the mental standard is conditioned by the material) to be the main theme of economic science; to breed a keener sense of civilization as regards trade customs and economic instincts.

Now all this is utterly alien - and for the most part, antagonistic - to the national socialist mind, most of all when it expresses itself in National Socialism. We shall see presently what the term national "Socialism" denotes under this act of brazen expropriation, which is called a "harmless misnomer".

It [national socialism] signifies, not a construction of society based on the relinquishment of certain individualist illusions and carelessnesses for the sake of individual dignity and happiness, but a savage mood of anti-individual. Indeed, national "Socialism" has no consistent opinion as to the desirability and efficiency of a definite social structure, nor is it connected with a school of economics in any classic or comprehensive sense of that term.

The very doctrine of the "Corporative State" adopted by Italian Fascism after its conquest of power, commended (though with a more democratic accent) by the Pope in his famous encyclic of Whitsuntide,1931, and selected for its charter by the former Austrian Fascist State, is a thing very much wrapt up in commonplaces and contradictory expoundings, without any economic conception of its own. Apart from some additional innuendoes about granting workers a share in the enterprises which employ them, "Corporativism" is chiefly preoccupied with securing a smooth and undisturbed functioning economies by bringing about, in each branch of industrial production, a benevolent harmonization, between owners' associations and workers' syndicates.

Obviously the scheme can only he put into effect by the fascist methods of a state monopoly of syndicates as well as of political parties. In the Third Empire there is talk of "corporative reconstruction" without anybody having a clear idea of what it means, or attaching too much importance to it.

The entrepreneur is threatened with legal penalties for "unsocial behaviour ". In a word, the national socialist state is not a" bourgeois" but a "socialist" state and national "socialism" is but a mood, not a structural conception; this, however, must not lead us to doubt that national socialism itself, including its display of pinchbeck "socialism", is certainly far from being a meaningless and ineffectual mood.

Rather does it indicate a reactionary position in contradistinction to other conceivable positions within the limits of Capitalism; secondly, it bears a special reference to the crisis of Capitalist society; and finally, it reveals the undoubted fact that the "social problem" (as stated in the terms of "capital and labour") is not the primary and central theme of National Socialism.

Let us now proceed to show this German socialism in its various forms. Moeller-Bruck, the Prussian aesthete who in the years before his death became a prophet of the Third Empire, demanded that a "socialism of sentiment" [socialism of the blood] should replace Marx' "socialism of reason", which had failed to fulfill its promise.

He urged that the new Socialism should focus its interests on the problem of population neglected by the old Socialism, "a problem that will overshadow the idea of class-war by extending it into the conception of a war of nations". Among others, Werner Haverbeck (The rising (AlIfbruch) of the young Nation", in National sozialislische Monatsheftc ", 1932) discloses the miracle of "German Socialism" which has become the" community experience of the masses"; he then tells us that Germanic man needs property and a" meaning of labour", and mentions the "labour youth of the brain and the fist" and "the sword and the plough". Professor Sombart in his "German Socialism" (1934) defines Socialism as "social regulationism".

The Socialist principle demands that "the behaviour of the individual should be determined essentially by the constraint of norms originating in a general reason rooted in the political community, and finding their expression in the Nomos". In practice, socialism takes the shape in "legal punishment for murder; compulsory education; laws for the protection of labour injunctions like' Smoking prohibited " ' Keep to the Right ', ' Pay your taxes ' " .

But Sombart adds "essentially regulated planned economy" as a closer definition for Socialism, and proceeds to enumerate its abundant varieties. His own he calls" German Socialism ", of which more later. At any rate he would have it known as" thoroughgoing anti-Capitalism", meaning, of course, anti-[classical] liberalism.

Time and again, an apparently" radical " note flashes up in national socialist literature; but it soon becomes apparent that its substance is slight: sympathy with workers of German blood as opposed to Jewish money-lenders, aversion to bourgeois because they are civilian, or a hankering for "final solutions".

Thus Feder, Hitler's oldest comrade and the Party's official programme-builder, instructs us that National Socialism means the "powerful synthesis and fervent wish to achieve a radical solution of the social problem"; in the same breath he condemns" Marxist tendencies" such as a contribution of the great estates, denies the necessity for part-ownership of factories by the workers, and dismisses nationalization as mere modification of the outward structure of production.

Whoever felt alarmed by the hint that "man's worth, pure and naked, shall decide alone forthwith ", would soon be reassured by the pacific promise of "concord based upon the common task in place of dissension obsessed with dogmas. Indeed, the gist of the "unheard-of revolution" is cann ier-revolution, conceived so radically that it certainly overleaps the restoration of yesterday's society and produces a social order with some peculiar and evasive traits of " novelty". 'We see in Ferdinand Fried, an apostle of national " Autarkic" and exponent of the pro-Russian "Die Tat" circle, the" brain trust" of the Prussian Conservative youth in the incubation years of the Third Empire.

Fried's "anti-capitalism" is slightly more serious than is the case with the average national socialist thinker. In "The end of Capitalism" (1931) he argues that the evolution of free markets has distorted the people into a " propertied " and "propertyless" class, provoking an anti-Capitalist reaction furthered by the democratic process of identification between People and State.

"The mass of the disinherited people is growing into the State" and the State is becoming the battering-ram of a "popular social counter-movement against Capitalism" National socialism is producing new types of leaders in antagonism to the sphere of competitive economy: The "capitalistic world" in which the value of a man is gauged by his income, in which the exchangeable monetary tender, devoid of "quality", forms the common denominator of values, is heading for destruction.

The consequences drawn by Fried are not in favour of a socialistic self-government of the masses engaged in industrial production, but in the sense of replacing "dynamics" by "statics" (quite after the heart of Sombart and the votaries of "Corporativism"), of discarding democracy, of an economy planned by the government on a strictly Nationalist basis.

The malaise under Capitalism is crystallized out into anti-Western resentment. In his book " Autarkic" (1932) Fried's progress along the path of reaction is clear beyond all possibility of misconstruction. " The field of social Nationalism is not the world: it is the nation, it is the Volk, it is man (!) .... 'Socialism' in the word's best sense, that is, German or National Socialism, as contrasted to he international Socialism of the Marxians." The formulas of Moeller-Bruck echo ths view, but in more elegant phrases. "To socialize is to nationalize." "Socialism" is the general label for a "new will" turning against [classical] Liberalism and "the obsolete and outmoded idea of the West".

 

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