One: A Reckoning
THE BEGINNING OF MY POLITICAL ACTIVITY
THE END of November, 1918, I returned to Munich. Again I went
to the replacement battalion of my regiment , which was in the
hands of 'soldiers' councils.' Their whole activity was so repellent
to me that I decided at once to leave again as soon as possible.
With Schmiedt Ernst, a faithful war comrade, I went to Traunstein
and remained there till the camp was broken up.
March, 1919, we went back to Munich.
situation was untenable and moved inevitably toward a further
continuation of the revolution. Eisner's death only hastened
the development and finally led to a dictatorship of the Councils,
or, better expressed, to a passing rule of the Jews, as had
been the original aim of the instigators of the whole revolution.
this time endless plans chased one another through my head.
For days I wondered what could be done, but the end of every
meditation was the sober realization that I, nameless as I was,
did not possess the least basis for any useful action. I shall
come back to speak of the reasons why then, as before, I could
not decide to join any of the existing parties.
the course of the new revolution of the Councils I for the first
time acted in such a way as to arouse the disapproval of the
Central Council. Early in the morning of April 27, 1919, I was
to be arrested, but, faced with my leveled carbine, the three
scoundrels lacked the necessary courage and marched off as they
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 .
was my first more or less purely political activity.
a few weeks afterward I received orders to attend a ' course
' that was held for members of the armed forces. In it the soldier
was supposed to learn certain fundamentals of civic thinking.
For me the value of the whole affair was that I now obtained
an opportunity of fleeting a few like-minded comrades with whom
I could thoroughly 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 Center and the Social Democracy,
and that 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 later realized 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
organization did indeed mean a revolution.
the deeper ground for this lay in the following: however much
I had concerned myself with economic questions at an earlier
day, my efforts had remained more or less within the limits
resulting from the contemplation of social questions as such.
Only later did this framework broaden through examination of
the German alliance policy. This in very great part was the
outcome of a false estimation of economics as well as unclarity
concerning the possible basis for sustaining the German people
in the future. But all these ideas were based on the opinion
that capital in any case was solely the result of labor and,
therefore, like itself was subject to the correction of all
those factors which can either advance or thwart human activity;
and the national importance of capital was that it depended
so completely on the greatness, freedom, and power of the state,
hence of the nation, that this bond in itself would inevitably
cause capital to further the state and the nation owing to its
simple instinct of self-preservation or of reproduction. This
dependence of capital on the independent free state would, therefore,
force capital in turn to champion this freedom, power, strength,
etc., of the nation.
the task of the state toward capital was comparatively simple
and clear: it only had to make certain that capital remain the
handmaiden of the state and not fancy itself the mistress of
the nation. This point of view could then be defined between
two restrictive limits: preservation of a solvent, national,
and independent economy on the one hand, assurance of the social
rights of the workers on the other.
I had been unable to recognize with the desired clarity the
difference between this pure capital as the end result of productive
labor and a capital whose existence and essence rests exclusively
on speculation. For this I lacked the initial inspiration, which
had simply not come my way.
now this was provided most amply by one of the various gentlemen
lecturing in the above-mentioned course: Gottfried Feder.
the first time in my life I heard a principled discussion of
international stock exchange and loan capital.
after listening to Feder's first lecture, the thought ran through
my head that I had now found the way to one of the most essential
premises for the foundation of a new party.
my eyes Feder's merit consisted in having established with ruthless
brutality the speculative and economic character of stock exchange
and loan capital, and in having exposed its eternal and age-old
presupposition which is interest. His arguments were so sound
in all fundamental questions that their critics from the start
questioned the theoretical correctness of the idea less than
they doubted the practical possibility of its execution. But
what in the eyes of others was a weakness of Feder's arguments,
in my eyes constituted their strength.
is not the task of a theoretician to determine the varying degrees
in which a cause can be realized, but to establish the cause
as such: that is to say: he must concern himself less with the
road than with the goal. In this, however, the basic correctness
of an idea is decisive and not the difficulty of its execution.
As soon as the theoretician attempts to take account of so-called
'utility' and 'reality' instead of the absolute truth, his work
will cease to be a polar star of seeking humanity and instead
will become a prescription for everyday life. The theoretician
of a movement must lay down its goal, the politician strive
for its fulfillment. The thinking of the one, therefore, will
be determined by eternal truth, the actions of the other more
by the practical reality of the moment. The greatness of the
one lies in the absolute abstract soundness of his idea, that
of the other in his correct attitude toward the given facts
and their advantageous application; and in this the theoretician's
aim must serve as his guiding star. While the touchstone for
the stature of a politician may be regarded as the success of
his plans and acts - in other words, the degree to which they
become reality - the realization of the theoretician's ultimate
purpose can never be realized, since, though human thought can
apprehend truths and set up crystal-clear aims, complete fulfillment
will fail due to the general imperfection and inadequacy of
man. The more abstractly correct and hence powerful the idea
will be, the more impossible remains its complete fulfillment
as long as it continues to depend on human beings. Therefore,
the stature of the theoretician must not be measured by the
fulfillment of his aims, but by their soundness and the influence
they have had on the development of humanity. If this were not
so, the founders of religion could not be counted among the
greatest men of this earth, since the fulfillment of their ethical
purposes will never be even approximately complete. In its workings,
even the religion of love is only the weak reflection of the
will of its exalted founder; its significance, however, lies
in the direction which it attempted to give to a universal human
development of culture, ethics, and morality.
enormous difference between the tasks of the theoretician and
the politician is also the reason why a union of both in one
person is almost never found. This is especially true of the
so-called 'successful' politician of small format, whose activity
for the most part is only an 'art of the possible,' as Bismarck
rather modestly characterized politics in general. The freer
such a 'politician' keeps himself from great ideas, the easier
and often the more visible, but always the more rapid, his successes
will be. To be sure, they are dedicated to earthly transitoriness
and sometimes do not survive the death of their fathers. The
work of such politicians, by and large, is unimportant nor posterity,
since their successes in the present are based solely on keeping
at a distance all really great and profound problems and ideas,
which as such would only have been of value for later generations.
execution of such aims, which have value and significance for
the most distant times, usually brings little reward to the
man who champions them and rarely finds understanding among
the great masses, who for the moment have more understanding
for beer and milk regulations than for farsighted plans for
the future, whose realization can only occur far hence, and
whose benefits will be reaped only by posterity.
from a certain vanity, which is always a cousin of stupidity,
the great mass of politicians will keep far removed from all
really weighty plans for the future, in order not to lose the
momentary sympathy of the great mob. The success and significance
of such a politician lie then exclusively in the present, and
do not exist for posterity. But small minds are little troubled
by this; they are content.
the theoretician conditions are different. His importance lies
almost always solely in the future, for not seldom he is what
is described by the world as 'unworldly.' For if the art of
the politician is really the art of the possible, the theoretician
is one of those of whom it can be said that they are pleasing
to the gods only if they demand and want the impossible. He
will almost always have to renounce the recognition of the present,
but in return, provided his ideas are immortal, will harvest
the fame of posterity.
long periods of humanity, it may happen once that the politician
is wedded to the theoretician. The more profound this fusion,
however, the greater are the obstacles opposing the work of
the politician. He no longer works for necessities which will
be understood by the first best shopkeeper, but for aims which
only the fewest comprehend. Therefore, his life is torn by love
and hate. The protest of the present which does not understand
the man, struggles with the recognition of posterity-for which
For the greater a man's works for the future, the less the present
can comprehend them; the harder his fight, and the rarer success.
If, however, once in centuries success does come to a man, perhaps
in his latter days a faint beam of his coming glory may shine
upon him. To be sure, these great men are only the Marathon
runners of history; the laurel wreath of the present touches
only the brow of the dying hero.
them must be counted the great warriors in this world who, though
not understood by the present, are nevertheless prepared to
carry the fight for their ideas and ideals to their end. They
are the men who some day will be closest to the heart of the
people; it almost seems as though every individual feels the
duty of compensating in the past for the sins which the present
once committed against the great. Their life and work are followed
with admiring gratitude and emotion, and especially in days
of gloom they have the power to raise up broken hearts and despairing
them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other
great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin
Luther as well as Richard Wagner.
I listened to Gottfried Feder's first lecture about the 'breaking
of interest slavery,' I knew at once that this was a theoretical
truth which would inevitably be of immense importance for the
future of the German people. The sharp separation of stock exchange
capital from the national economy offered the possibility of
opposing the internationalization of the German economy without
at the same time menacing the foundations of an independent
national self-maintenance by a struggle against all capital.
The development of Germany was much too clear in my eyes for
me not to know that the hardest battle would have to be fought,
not against hostile nations, but against international capital.
In Feder's lecture I sensed a powerful slogan for this coming
here again later developments proved how correct our sentiment
of those days was. Today the know-it-alls among our
bourgeois politicians no longer laugh at us: today even they,
in so far as they are not conscious liars, see that international
stock exchange capital was not only the greatest agitator for
the War, but that especially, now that the fight is over, it
spares no effort to turn the peace into a hell.
fight against international finance and loan capital became
the most important point in the program of the German nation's
struggle for its economic independence and freedom.
regards the objections of so-called practical men, they can
be answered as follows: All fears regarding the terrible economic
consequences of the ' breaking of interest slavery ' are superfluous;
for, in the first place, the previous economic prescriptions
have turned out very badly for the German people, and your positions
on the problems of national self-maintenance remind us strongly
of the reports of similar experts in former times, for example,
those of the Bavarian medical board on the question of introducing
the railroad. It is well known that none of the fears of this
exalted corporation were later realized: the travelers in the
trains of the new 'steam horse ' did not get dizzy, the onlookers
did not get sick, and the board fences to hide the new invention
from sight were given up - only the board fences around the brains
of all so-called 'experts' were preserved for posterity.
the second place, the following should be noted: every idea,
even the best, becomes a danger if it parades as a purpose in
itself, being in reality only a means to one. For me and all
true National Socialists there is but one doctrine: people and
we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction
of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and
the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the
fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment
of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.
thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must
serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this
point of view and used or rejected according to its utility.
Then no theory will stiffen into a dead doctrine, since it is
life alone that all things must serve.
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.
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
also in another respect these courses were of the greatest consequence
day I asked for the floor. One of the participants felt obliged
to break a lance for the Jews and began to defend them in lengthy
arguments. This aroused me to an answer. The overwhelming majority
of the students present took my standpoint The result was that
a few days later I was sent into a Munich regiment as a so-called
among the men was still comparatively weak at that time. It
suffered from the after-effects of the period of soldiers' councils.
Only very slowly and cautiously was it possible to replace voluntary
obedience - the pretty name that was given to the pig-sty under
Kurt Eisner - by the old military discipline and subordination.
Accordingly, the men were now expected to learn to feel and
think in a national and patriotic way. In these two directions
lay the field of my new activity.
started out with the greatest enthusiasm and love. For all at
once I was offered an opportunity of speaking before a larger
audience; and the thing that I had always presumed from pure
feeling without knowing it was now corroborated: I could 'speak.'
My voice, too, had grown so much better that I could be sufficiently
understood at least in every corner of the small squad rooms.
task could make me happier than this, for now before being discharged
I was able to perform useful services to the institution which
had been so close to my heart: the army.
I could boast of some success: in the course of my lectures
I led many hundreds, indeed thousands, of comrades back to their
people and fatherland. I 'nationalized' the troops and was thus
also able to help strengthen the general discipline.
again I became acquainted with a number of like-minded comrades,
who later began to form the nucleus of the new movement.