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The average citizen
In the preceding chapter I mentioned the existence of a co-operative union between the German patriotic associations. Here I shall deal briefly with this question.
In speaking of a co-operative union we generally mean a group of associations which, for the purpose of facilitating their work, establish mutual relations for collaborating with one another along certain lines, appointing a common directorate with varying powers and thenceforth carrying out a common line of action. The average citizen is pleased and reassured when he hears that these associations, by establishing a co-operative union among one another, have at long last discovered a common platform on which they can stand united and have eliminated all grounds of mutual difference. Therewith a general conviction arises, to the effect that such a union is an immense gain in strength and that small groups which were weak as long as they stood alone have now suddenly become strong. Yet this conviction is for the most part a mistaken one.
It will be interesting and, in my opinion, important for the better understanding of this question if we try to get a clear notion of how it comes about that these associations, unions, etc., are established, when all of them declare that they have the same ends in view. In itself it would be logical to expect that one aim should be fought for by a single association and it would be more reasonable if there were not a number of associations fighting for the same aim. In the beginning there was undoubtedly only one association which had this one fixed aim in view. One man proclaimed a truth somewhere and, calling for the solution of a definite question, fixed his aim and founded a movement for the purpose of carrying his views into effect.
That is how an association or a party is founded, the scope of whose programme is either the abolition of existing evils or the positive establishment of a certain order of things in the future.
Once such a movement has come into existence it may lay practical claim to certain priority rights. The natural course of things would now be that all those who wish to fight for the same objective as this movement is striving for should identify themselves with it and thus increase its strength, so that the common purpose in view may be all the better served. Especially men of superior intelligence must feel, one and all, that by joining the movement they are establishing precisely those conditions which are necessary for practical success in the common struggle. Accordingly it is reasonable and, in a certain sense, honest which honesty, as I shall show later, is an element of very great importance that only one movement should be founded for the purpose of attaining the one aim.
The fact that this does not happen must be attributed to two causes. The first may almost be described as tragic. The second is a matter for pity, because it has its foundation in the weaknesses of human nature. But, on going to the bottom of things, I see in both causes only facts which give still another ground for strengthening our will, our energy and intensity of purpose; so that finally, through the higher development of the human faculties, the solution of the problem in question may be rendered possible.
The tragic reason why it so often happens that the pursuit of one definite task is not left to one association alone is as follows: Generally speaking, every action carried out on the grand style in this world is the expression of a desire that has already existed for a long time in millions of human hearts, a longing which may have been nourished in silence. Yes, it may happen that throughout centuries men may have been yearning for the solution of a definite problem, because they have been suffering under an unendurable order of affairs, without seeing on the far horizon the coming fulfilment of the universal longing. Nations which are no longer capable of finding an heroic deliverance from such a sorrowful fate may be looked upon as effete. But, on the other hand, nothing gives better proof of the vital forces of a people and the consequent guarantee of its right to exist than that one day, through a happy decree of Destiny, a man arises who is capable of liberating his people from some great oppression, or of wiping out some bitter distress, or of calming the national soul which had been tormented through its sense of insecurity, and thus fulfilling what had long been the universal yearning of the people.
An essential characteristic of what are called the great questions of the time is that thousands undertake the task of solving them and that many feel themselves called to this task: yea, even that Destiny itself has proposed many for the choice, so that through the free play of forces the stronger and bolder shall finally be victorious and to him shall be entrusted the task of solving the problem.
Thus it may happen that for centuries many are discontented with the form in which their religious life expresses itself and yearn for a renovation of it; and so it may happen that through this impulse of the soul some dozens of men may arise who believe that, by virtue of their understanding and their knowledge, they are called to solve the religious difficulties of the time and accordingly present themselves as the prophets of a new teaching or at least as declared adversaries of the standing beliefs.
Here also it is certain that the natural law will take its course, inasmuch as the strongest will be destined to fulfil the great mission. But usually the others are slow to acknowledge that only one man is called. On the contrary, they all believe that they have an equal right to engage in the solution of the diffculties in question and that they are equally called to that task. Their contemporary world is generally quite unable to decide which of all these possesses the highest gifts and accordingly merits the support of all.
So in the course of centuries, or indeed often within the same epoch, different men establish different movements to struggle towards the same end. At least the end is declared by the founders of the movements to be the same, or may be looked upon as such by the masses of the people. The populace nourishes vague desires and has only general opinions, without having any precise notion of their own ideals and desires or of the question whether and how it is impossible for these ideals and desires to be fulfilled.
The tragedy lies in the fact that many men struggle to reach the same objective by different roads, each one genuinely believing in his own mission and holding himself in duty bound to follow his own road without any regard for the others.
These movements, parties, religious groups, etc., originate entirely independently of one another out of the general urge of the time, and all with a view to working towards the same goal. It may seem a tragic thing, at least at first sight, that this should be so, because people are too often inclined to think that forces which are dispersed in different directions would attain their ends far more quickly and more surely if they were united in one common effort. But that is not so. For nature herself decides according to the rules of her inexorable logic. She leaves these diverse groups to compete with one another and dispute the palm of victory and thus she chooses the clearest, shortest and surest way along which she leads the movement to its final goal.
How could one decide from outside which is the best way, if the forces at hand were not allowed free play, if the final decision were to rest with the doctrinaire judgment of men who are so infatuated with their own superior knowledge that their minds are not open to accept the indisputable proof presented by manifest success, which in the last analysis always gives the final confirmation of the justice of a course of action.
Hence, though diverse groups march along different routes towards the same objective, as soon as they come to know that analogous efforts are being made around them, they will have to study all the more carefully whether they have chosen the best way and whether a shorter way may not be found and how their efforts can best be employed to reach the objective more quickly.
Through this rivalry each individual protagonist develops his faculties to a still higher pitch of perfection and the human race has frequently owed its progress to the lessons learned from the misfortunes of former attempts which have come to grief. Therefore we may conclude that we come to know the better ways of reaching final results through a state of things which at first sight appeared tragic; namely, the initial dispersion of individual efforts, wherein each group was unconsciously responsible for such dispersion.
In studying the lessons of history with a view to finding a way for the solution of the German problem, the prevailing opinion at one time was that there were two possible paths along which that problem might be solved and that these two paths should have united from the very beginning. The chief representatives and champions of these two paths were Austria and Prussia respectively, Habsburg and Hohenzollern. All the rest, according to this prevalent opinion, ought to have entrusted their united forces to the one or the other party. But at that time the path of the most prominent representative, the Habsburg, would have been taken, though the Austrian policy would never have led to the foundation of a united German Reich.
Finally, a strong and united German Reich arose out of that which many millions of Germans deplored in their hearts as the last and most terrible manifestation of our fratricidal strife. The truth is that the German Imperial Crown was retrieved on the battle field of Königgrätz and not in the fights that were waged before Paris, as was commonly asserted afterwards.
Thus the foundation of the German Reich was not the consequence of any common will working along common lines, but it was much more the outcome of a deliberate struggle for hegemony, though the protagonists were often hardly conscious of this. And from this struggle Prussia finally came out victorious. Anybody who is not so blinded by partisan politics as to deny this truth will have to agree that the so-called wisdom of men would never have come to the same wise decision as the wisdom of Life itself, that is to say, the free play of forces, finally brought to realization. For in the German lands of two hundred years before who would seriously have believed that Hohenzollern Prussia, and not Habsburg, would become the germ cell, the founder and the tutor of the new Reich? And, on the other hand, who would deny today that Destiny thus acted wiser than human wisdom. Who could now imagine a German Reich based on the foundations of an effete and degenerate dynasty?
No. The general evolution of things, even though it took a century of struggle, placed the best in the position that it had merited.
And that will always be so. Therefore it is not to be regretted if different men set out to attain the same objective. In this way the strongest and swiftest becomes recognized and turns out to be the victor.
Now there is a second cause for the fact that often in the lives of nations several movements which show the same characteristics strive along different ways to reach what appears to be the same goal. This second cause is not at all tragic, but just something that rightly calls forth pity. It arises from a sad mixture of envy, jealousy, ambition, and the itch for taking what belongs to others. Unfortunately these failings are often found united in single specimens of the human species.
The moment a man arises who profoundly understands the distress of his people and, having diagnosed the evil with perfect accuracy, takes measures to cure it; the moment he fixes his aim and chooses the means to reach it then paltry and pettifogging people become all attention and eagerly follow the doings of this man who has thus come before the public gaze. Just like sparrows who are apparently indifferent, but in reality are firmly intent on the movements of the fortunate companion with the morsel of bread so that they may snatch it from him if he should momentarily relax his hold on it, so it is also with the human species. All that is needed is that one man should strike out on a new road and then a crowd of poltroons will prick up their ears and begin to sniff for whatever little booty may possibly lie at the end of that road. The moment they think they have discovered where the booty is to be gathered they hurry to find another way which may prove to be quicker in reaching that goal.
As soon as a new movement is founded and has formulated a definite programme, people of that kind come forward and proclaim that they are fighting for the same cause. This does not imply that they are ready honestly to join the ranks of such a movement and thus recognize its right of priority. It implies rather that they intend to steal the programme and found a new party on it. In doing this they are shameless enough to assure the unthinking public that for a long time they had intended to take the same line of action as the other has now taken, and frequently they succeed in thus placing themselves in a favourable light, instead of arousing the general disapprobation which they justly deserve. For it is a piece of gross impudence to take what has already been inscribed on another's flag and display it on one's own, to steal the programme of another, and then to form a separate group as if all had been created by the new founder of this group. The impudence of such conduct is particularly demonstrated when the individuals who first caused dispersion and disruption by their new foundation are those who as experience has shown are most emphatic in proclaiming the necessity of union and unity the moment they find they cannot catch up with their adversary's advance.
It is to that kind of conduct that the so-called 'patriotic disintegration' is to be attributed.
Certainly in the years 1918 1919 the founding of a multitude of new groups, parties, etc., calling themselves 'Patriotic,' was a natural phenomenon of the time, for which the founders were not at all responsible. By 1920 the National socialist German Labour party had slowly crystallized from all these parties and had become supreme. There could be no better proof of the sterling honesty of certain individual founders than the fact that many of them decided, in a really admirable manner, to sacrifice their manifestly less successful movements to the stronger movement, by joining it unconditionally and dissolving their own.
This is specially true in regard to Julius Streicher, who was at that time the protagonist of the German socialist party in Nürnberg. The National Socialist German Labour party had been founded with similar aims in view, but quite independently of the other. I have already said that Streicher, then a teacher in Nürnberg, was the chief protagonist of the German Socialist Party. He had a sacred conviction of the mission and future of his own movement. As soon, however, as the superior strength and stronger growth of the National socialist party became clear and unquestionable to his mind, he gave up his work in the German socialist party and called upon his followers to fall into line with the National socialist German Labour Party, which had come out victorious from the mutual contest, and carry on the fight within its ranks for the common cause. The decision was personally a difficult one for him, but it showed a profound sense of honesty.
When that first period of the movement was over there remained no further dispersion of forces: for their honest intentions had led the men of that time to the same honourable, straightforward and just conclusion. What we now call the 'patriotic disintegration' owes its existence exclusively to the second of the two causes which I have mentioned. Ambitious men who at first had no ideas of their own, and still less any concept of aims to be pursued, felt themselves 'called' exactly at that moment in which the success of the National socialist German Labour party became unquestionable.
Suddenly programmes appeared which were mere transcripts of ours. Ideas were proclaimed which had been taken from us. Aims were set up on behalf of which we had been fighting for several years, and ways were mapped out which the National socialist s had for a long time trodden. All kinds of means were resorted to for the purpose of trying to convince the public that, although the National socialist German Labour party had now been for a long time in existence, it was found necessary to establish these new parties. But all these phrases were just as insincere as the motives behind them were ignoble.
In reality all this was grounded only on one dominant motive. That motive was the personal ambition of the founders, who wished to play a part in which their own pigmy talents could contribute nothing original except the gross effrontery which they displayed in appropriating the ideas of others, a mode of conduct which in ordinary life is looked upon as thieving.
At that time there was not an idea or concept launched by other people which these political kleptomaniacs did not seize upon at once for the purpose of applying to their own base uses. Those who did all this were the same people who subsequently, with tears in their eyes, profoundly deplored the 'patriotic disintegration' and spoke unceasingly about the 'necessity of unity'. In doing this they nurtured the secret hope that they might be able to cry down the others, who would tire of hearing these loud-mouthed accusations and would end up by abandoning all claim to the ideas that had been stolen from them and would abandon to the thieves not only the task of carrying these ideas into effect but also the task of carrying on the movements of which they themselves were the original founders.
When that did not succeed, and the new enterprises, thanks to the paltry mentality of their promoters, did not show the favourable results which had been promised beforehand, then they became more modest in their pretences and were happy if they could land themselves in one of the so-called 'co-operative unions'.
At that period everything which could not stand on its own feet joined one of those co-operative unions, believing that eight lame people hanging on to one another could force a gladiator to surrender to them.
But if among all these cripples there was one who was sound of limb he had to use all his strength to sustain the others and thus he himself was practically paralysed.
We ought to look upon the question of joining these working coalitions as a tactical problem, but, in coming to a decision, we must never forget the following fundamental principle:
Through the formation of a working coalition associations which are weak in themselves can never be made strong, whereas it can and does happen not infrequently that a strong association loses its strength by joining in a coalition with weaker ones. It is a mistake to believe that a factor of strength will result from the coalition of weak groups; because experience shows that under all forms and all conditions the majority represents the duffers and poltroons. Hence a multiplicity of associations, under a directorate of many heads, elected by these same associations, is abandoned to the control of poltroons and weaklings. Through such a coalition the free play of forces is paralysed, the struggle for the selection of the best is abolished and therewith the necessary and final victory of the healthier and stronger is impeded. Coalitions of that kind are inimical to the process of natural development, because for the most part they hinder rather than advance the solution of the problem which is being fought for.
It may happen that, from considerations of a purely tactical kind, the supreme command of a movement whose goal is set in the future will enter into a coalition with such associations for the treatment of special questions and may also stand on a common platform with them, but this can be only for a short and limited period. Such a coalition must not be permanent, if the movement does not wish to renounce its liberating mission. Because if it should become indissolubly tied up in such a combination it would lose the capacity and the right to allow its own forces to work freely in following out a natural development, so as to overcome rivals and attain its own objective triumphantly.
It must never be forgotten that nothing really great in this world has ever been achieved through coalitions, but that such achievements have always been due to the triumph of the individual. Successes achieved through coalitions, owing to the very nature of their source, carry the germs of future disintegration in them from the very start; so much so that they have already forfeited what has been achieved. The great revolutions which have taken place in human thought and have veritably transformed the aspect of the world would have been inconceivable and impossible to carry out except through titanic struggles waged between individual natures, but never as the enterprises of coalitions.
And, above all things, the People's State will never be created by the desire for compromise inherent in a patriotic coalition, but only by the iron will of a single movement which has successfully come through in the struggle with all the others.
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler: Chapters Below.
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