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early days

image of Adolf Hitler from the early days
image of Adolf Hitler from the early days

In the early days of its appearance, its following was extremely great, threatening to become a veritable avalanche. But the success did not last. When I came to Vienna, the movement had long been overshadowed by the Christian Social party which had meanwhile attained power-and had indeed been reduced to almost complete insignificance.

This whole process of the growth and passing of the Pan-German movement on the one hand, and the unprecedented rise of the Christian Social Party on the other, was to assume the deepest significance for me as a classical object of study.

When I came to Vienna, my sympathies were fully and wholly on the side of the Pan-German tendency.

That they mustered the courage to cry 'Loch Hohenzollern' impressed me as much as it pleased me; that they still regarded themselves as an only temporarily severed part of the German Reich, and never let a moment pass without openly attesting this fact, inspired me with joyful confidence; that in all questions regarding Germanism they showed their colors without reserve, and never descended to compromises, seemed to me the one still passable road to the salvation of our people; and I could not understand how after its so magnificent rise the movement should have taken such a sharp decline. Even less could I understand how the Christian Social Party at this same period could achieve such immense power. At that time it had just reached the apogee of its glory.

As I set about comparing these movements, Fate, accelerated by my otherwise sad situation, gave me the best instruction for an understanding of the causes of this riddle.

I shall begin my comparisons with the two men who may be regarded as the leaders and founders of the two parties: Georg von Schonerer and Dr. Karl Lueger.

From a purely human standpoint they both tower far above the scope and stature of so-called parliamentary figures. Amid the morass of general political corruption their whole life remained pure and unassailable. Nevertheless my personal sympathy lay at first on the side of the Pan-German Schonerer, and turned only little by little toward the Christian Social leader as well.

Compared as to abilities, Schonerer seemed to me even then the better and more profound thinker in questions of principle. He foresaw the inevitable end of the Austrian state more clearly and correctly than anyone else. If, especially in the Reich, people had paid more attention to his warnings

against the Habsburg monarchy, the calamity of Germany's World War against all Europe would never have occurred.

But if Schonerer recognized the problems in their innermost essence, he erred when it came to men.

Here, on the other hand, lay Dr. Lueger's strength.

He had a rare knowledge of men and in particular took good care not to consider people better than they are. Consequently, he reckoned more with the real possibilities of life while Schonerer had but little understanding for them. Theoretically speaking, all the Pan-German's thoughts were correct, but since he lacked the force and astuteness to transmit his theoretical knowledge to the masses-that is, to put it in a form suited to the receptivity of the broad masses, which is and remains exceedingly limited-all his knowledge was visionary wisdom, and could never become practical reality.

And this lack of actual knowledge of men led in the course of time to an error in estimating the strength of whole movements as well as age-old institutions.

Finally, Schonerer realized, to be sure, that questions of basic philosophy were involved, but he did not understand that only the broad masses of a people are primarily able to uphold such well-nigh religious convictions.

Unfortunately, he saw only to a limited extent the extra-ordinary limitation of the will to fight in so-called 'bourgeois' circles, due, if nothing else, to their economic position which makes the individual fear to lose too much and thereby holds him in check.

And yet, on the whole, a philosophy can hope for victory only if the broad masses adhere to the new doctrine and declare their readiness to undertake the necessary struggle.

From this deficient understanding of the importance of the lower strata of the people arose a completely inadequate con-ception of the social question.

In all this Dr. Lueger was the opposite of Schonerer.

His thorough knowledge of men enabled him to judge the possible forces correctly, at the same time preserving him from underestimating existing institutions, and perhaps for this very reason taught him to make use of these institutions as instruments for the achievement of his purposes.

He understood only too well that the political fighting power of the upper bourgeoisie at the present time was but slight and inadequate for achieving the victory of a great movement. He therefore laid the greatest stress in his political activity on winning over the classes whose existence was threatened and therefore tended to spur rather than paralyze the will to fight. Likewise he was inclined to make use of all existing implements of power, to incline mighty existing institutions in his favor, drawing from these old sources of power the greatest possible profit for his own movement.

Thus he adjusted his new party primarily to the middle class menaced with destruction, and thereby assured himself of a following that was difficult to shake, whose spirit of sacrifice was as great as its fighting power. His policy toward the Catholic Church, fashioned with infinite shrewdness, in a short time won over the younger clergy to such an extent that the old Clerical party was forced either to abandon the field, or, more wisely, to join the new party, in order slowly to recover position after position.

To take this alone as the characteristic essence of the man would be to do him a grave injustice. For in addition to being an astute tactician, he had the qualities of a truly great and brilliant reformer: though here, too, he observed the limits set by a precise knowledge of the existing possibilities as well as his own personal abilities.

It was an infinitely practical goal that this truly significant man had set himself. He wanted to conquer Vienna. Vienna was the heart of the monarchy; from this city the last flush of life flowed out into the sickly, old body of the crumbling empire. The healthier the heart became, the more the rest of the body was bound to revive: an idea, correct in principle, but which could be applied only for a certain limited time.

And herein lay this man's weakness.

What he had done as mayor of Vienna is immortal in the best sense of the word; but he could no longer save the monarchy, it was too late.

His opponent, Schonerer, had seen this more clearly

All Dr. Lueger's practical efforts were amazingly successfulthe hopes he based on them were not realized.

Schonerer's efforts were not successful, but his most terrible fears came true.

Thus neither man realized his ultimate goal. Lueger could no longer save Austria, and Schonerer could no longer save the German people from ruin.

It is infinitely instructive for our present day to study the causes for the failure of both parties. This is particularly useful for my friends, since in many points conditions today are similar to then and errors can thereby be avoided which at that time caused the end of the one movement and the sterility of the other.

To my mind, there were three causes for the collapse of the Pan-German movement in Austria.

In the first place, its unclear conception of the significance of the social problem, especially for a new and essentially revolutionary party.

Since Schonerer and his followers addressed themselves principally to bourgeois circles, the result was bound to be very feeble and tame.

Though some people fail to suspect it, the German bourgeoisie, especially in its upper circles, is pacifistic to the point of positive self-abnegation, where internal affairs of the nation or state are concerned. In good times that is, in this case, in times of good government such an attitude makes these classes extremely valuable to the state; but in times of an inferior regime it is positively ruinous. To make possible the waging of any really serious struggle, the Pan-German movement should above all have dedicated itself to winning the masses. That it failed to do so deprived it in advance of the elemental impetus which a wave of its kind simply must have if it is not in a short time to ebb away.

Unless this principle is borne in mind and carried out from the very start, the new party loses all possibility of later making up for what has been lost. For, by the admission of numerous moderate bourgeois elements, the basic attitude of the movement will always be governed by them and thus lose any further prospect of winning appreciable forces from the broad masses. As a result, such a movement will not rise above mere grumbling and criticizing. The faith bordering more or less on religion, combined with a similar spirit of sacrifice, will cease to exist; in its place will arise an effort gradually to grind off the edges of struggle by means of 'positive' collaboration; that is, in this case, by acceptance of the existing order, thus ultimately leading to a putrid peace.

And this is what happened to the Pan-German movement because it had not from the outset laid its chief stress on winning supporters from the circles of the great masses. It achieved 'bourgeois respectability and a muffled radicalism.'

From this error arose the second cause of its rapid decline.

At the time of the emergence of the Pan-German movement the situation of the Germans in Austria was already desperate. From year to year the parliament had increasingly become an institution for the slow destruction of the German people. Any attempt at salvation in the eleventh hour could offer even the slightest hope of success only if this institution were eliminated.

Thus the movement was faced with a question of basic importance:

Should its members, to destroy parliament, go into parliament, in order, as people used to say, 'to bore from within,' or should they carry on the struggle from outside by an attack on this institution as such?

They went in and they came out defeated.

To be sure, they couldn't help but go in.

To carry on the struggle against such a power from outside means to arm with unflinching courage and to be prepared for endless sacrifices. You seize the bull by the horns, you suffer many heavy blows, you are sometimes thrown to the Earth , sometimes you get up with broken limbs, and only after the hardest contest does victory reward the bold assailant. Only the greatness of the sacrifices will win new fighters for the cause, until at last tenacity is rewarded by success.

But for this the sons of the broad masses are required.

They alone are determined and tough enough to carry through the fight to its bloody end.

And the Pan-German movement did not possess these broad masses; thus no course remained open but to go into parliament

It would be a mistake to believe that this decision was the result of long soul torments, or even meditations; no, no other idea entered their heads. Participation in this absurdity was only the

sediment resulting from general, unclear conceptions regarding the significance and effect of such a participation in an institution which had in principle been recognized as false. In general, the

party hoped that this would facilitate the enlightenment of the broad masses, since it would now have an opportunity to speak before the 'forum of the whole nation.' Besides, it seemed plausible that attacking the root of the evil was bound to be more successful than storming it from outside. They thought the security of the individual fighter was increased by the protection of parliamentary immunity, and that this could only enhance the force of the attack.

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler: Chapters Below.

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