Gregor Strasser’s article of June 15, 1926, outlining his thoughts on culture, socialism, and the state
My original plan for the remainder of this month was to continue with the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series, as well as to post a historical excerpt about the revolutionary peasant movement of Weimar Germany – the Landvolkbewegung. Unfortunately, however, life has got in the way; between personal commitments and completing the Paetel translation, I’m not sure I’ll have the time for that content until June. Rather than leave the site dead for the remaining two weeks or so while I finish work on the National Bolshevist Manifesto, I decided instead to post something that I already had lying around – the following article by Gregor Strasser, first published in 1926. Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future may not be new to some people, as bits and pieces of it have been floating around parts of the internet for a while, although usually in an unsatisfactory form (one website I saw hosted a good chunk of the essay, though had bizarrely replaced every instance of the word ‘socialism’ with ‘corporatism’). It is most famous for the “We are socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies, of the present capitalist economic system” quote, which frequently appears online in center-right/boomer memes, usually misattributed to Hitler, and almost always employed as a rhetorical weapon to ‘prove’ that the liberal left are equivalent to National Socialists. The article is a lot more than that quote, obviously – written by Strasser on his sickbed (he had been in a serious car accident in early March, making him bedridden for months) not long after the failure at Bamberg, it was intended to serve as a comprehensive statement of his personal beliefs. Some of the opinions or policies Strasser supports in this article would shift by the early ’30s, but for the most part it remains a valuable insight into his general worldview – both his anti-materialist sentiments and his Prussian-inspired view of man’s relationship with the state would, for instance, essentially remain unchanged until his death.
Lying on a sickbed for a few weeks and months does have its good side. So much that in the trivialities of everyday life does not get a hearing now has the chance to rise slowly from the unconscious to the conscious mind where it is tested and is winged by imagination, so that it acquires form and gains life. In general, people often make the mistake of assuming that practical action – the incessant preoccupation with daily necessities – is not founded in the mind. They therefore like to set up an invidious comparison between the thinker and the doer! It is true that the currents of the mind and the soul do not become conscious when one is resolutely grappling with the tasks of the day and trying, by freshly setting to work, to solve all questions in a practical way!
So it is comfort ever now and then to have the leisure to look beyond the tasks of the day and of the near future and to plumb the depths of the questions toward whose solution we are resolutely dedicating our life’s work. When would this be better than during the many lonely hours of the sickbed, when the hands of the clock seem to stand still and the night never to end – until it becomes finally, finally morning again! This new dawn, the fact that again and again dawn comes, is the deep consolation, is the blessed certainty which makes the night of the present bearable for us – and even if the hours, years, never seem to end – the dawn does come, my friends, and the sun comes, the light!
Such thoughts of the lonely nights, thoughts about the National Socialist tasks of the future – I will briefly survey them here – such thoughts have surely occurred to most of our friends in similar hours and in a similar way – thoughts which at the moment are not yet the subject of our work, but whose undercurrents are flowing, whose blood runs through our work.
I. The Spirit of the Economy
We are Socialists, we are enemies, mortal enemies of the present capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, with its injustice in wages, with its immoral evaluation of individuals according to wealth and money instead of responsibility and achievement, and we are determined under all circumstances to abolish this system! And with my inclination to practical action it seems obvious to me that we have to put a better, more just, more moral system in its place, one which, as it were, has arms and legs and better arms and legs than the present one!
And yet it is not enough to change a system, to replace one economic system by another – necessary above all is a CHANGE OF SPIRIT! The spirit which is to be overcome is the SPIRIT OF MATERIALISM!! We must achieve an entirely new kind of economic thinking, a thinking which frees itself from the present conceptions rooted in money, in property, in profit and false success! It is an indication of the Marxist, the false Socialism, that its way of thinking exactly that of capitalism. For this reason I have said for years that the two form a spiritual unity, only with reversed signals! National Socialism, which stems from organic life itself, casts aside the mendacious words of a theory remote from the world, as well as the dead ideas of a declining civilisation.
We have to learn that in the economy of a people it is not profit, not gain, which are important – but only satisfying the needs of the members of this people!! This and nothing else is the task of a “national economics!” We have to learn that the ideas “world trade” – “balance of trade” – “export surplus” are ideas of a declining epoch which have in the end reduced themselves ad absurdum, because they violate the eternal law of organic life and were born out of speculation, not out of necessity, not out of the soil! We have to learn that it is a betrayal when speculative production, with all its means of touting and advertising, creates an artificial need, a betrayal of human labour, of human life! For artificially stimulated covetousness creates ever-increasing aspirations, and increased aspirations double human slavery, which is slavery of the mind, which instead of the soul has taken up mastery over life! What do people know today about life?! They run around and tire themselves out, torment themselves, strive and drudge like galley slaves – in order to lead a life of horrifying emptiness! It is not that this new economic system which we want produces more. What is at stake is certainly not high production, which Marxism demands, but the human soul!! And production, economy have only the one task: to meet the economic needs of individuals, rejecting goods which owe their demand only to artificial stimulation, rejecting also the prodding of “profit and gain”!
We have to learn that WORK IS MORE THAN PROPERTY! ACHIEVEMENT IS MORE THAN DIVIDENDS!! It is the most unfortunate heritage of this capitalist economic system that all things are evaluated according to money, according to wealth, property! The decline of a people is the inevitable result of the application of this standard, since selection according to property is the mortal enemy of race, of blood, of life! We have never left a doubt that our National Socialism breaks this prerogative of the owner and that the liberation of the German worker shall also extend to SHARING PROFIT, SHARING PROPERTY, AND SHARING ACHIEVEMENT!! But it would mean measuring again with the old standards if one left it at that and did not stress that revolution of the spirit which guides us against the spirit of the present system! We consciously oppose valuation according to property with VALUATION ACCORDING TO ACHIEVEMENT. This is the only valuation which we recognise!! We consciously place WORK higher than PROPERTY! We focus on ACHIEVEMENT, not dividends, but we recognise RESPONSIBILITY, not riches or splendour, as the crowning of human striving. That is a new world view, a new religion of economics. It establishes with certainty that the horrid rule of the golden calf is at an end and that the differences among individuals and the differences among rights – are differences in achievement, differences in degree of responsibility, differences which come from God and which are sacred!!
II. The Spirit of Society and of the State
And just as our fight against the form of the capitalist economy is at the same time a fight against the spirit of this capitalist economy, which must be rooted out in its outward expression and in the heart of every individual; so our fight against the form of society and of the present state is also a life or death struggle against the spirit of this society, this state: AGAINST LIBERALISM AND FALSE DEMOCRACY!
The spirit of our National Socialist idea has to overpower the spirit of liberalism and false democracy if there is to be a third Reich at all! Deeply rooted in organic life, we have realised that the false belief in the equality of man is the deadly threat with which liberalism destroys people and nation, culture and morals, violating the deepest levels of our being! Liberal thinking gnaws at the basis of life itself, destroys the blood, destroys the sacred order which is based on the distance which is created by inequality and which has nothing in common with the present social structure! For hierarchy, of which I am speaking here, depends exclusively on the achievements of the individual for the community. We have to reject with fanatical zeal the frequent lie that people are “basically equal” and equal in regard to their influence in the state and their share of power! People are unequal, they are unequal from birth, become more unequal in life, and are therefore to be valued unequally in their positions in society and in the state! But this inequality in turn has only one standard, can and must have only this one standard: the achievement of the individual for society, for the nation, for the state!!
And thus I reach a demand which at first glance may seem utopian, but which results inevitably from what I have said, and which has occurred to various friends in a similar way. The demand for unequal distribution of rights according to achievement for the state requires the elaboration of a process of selection according to which such achievements are to be measured. In the folkish movement there is much talk about the emergence of a new group of leaders, and this demand touches what I said. But the ways which are recommended for a solution: these blood tests, Nordicization, and so forth, and so forth, appear to my practical mind somewhat dubious as to possibility, value, and even effect! Another way, however, a thoroughly German, Prussian way of which my friend Pfeffer reminded me on one occasion, is suited as no other: selection by the army!
This requires that military service be voluntary, a right and not a duty! The practical way would be that by law every German citizen would have to serve the state for one year; during this year he would not, as the supporters of a compulsory year of labour service want, build roads or do other mass work, but would learn a trade, so that there would not be a single German who had not had at least a year’s training in a trade! The selection of the best, however, would be reserved to the trade of arms, which would last for TWO years and therefore attract only those most willing to sacrifice and which would bring with it the mortal danger of war and therefore demand all the heroic virtues! Entrance is voluntary and not dependent on any force. Who doubts that those Germans who voluntarily apply for the army, which removes them from private life twice as long as the civil service, which further does not, like the latter, include practical advantages for practical life, but on the contrary, after an infinitely more severe service, means danger to life in war – who doubts that these Germans would be the best of their people, the racially best, whose achievements for the state now and in the future would tower high above the average! What would be more natural than that the National Socialist state value these higher achievements above others – so much so that, in addition to the general equal right to vote of every citizen, it would give the voluntary defenders of this state a TENFOLD ADDITIONAL RIGHT TO VOTE?! What is this but the recognition of the principle of achievement as the basis for political rights?! And in return the military profession would visibly take over the leading role in the state, which above all is its state which it will maintain and protect against all attacks from outside.
It would be a sin not to make the same distinction in reference to the female sex in this connection! For since all characteristics of decay are apparent with the same fateful intensity in both sexes, thus also the racial basis is the same; I would almost like to say that experience shows it to be even stronger among the “mothers.” It would therefore be an unforgiveable oversight if the National Socialist state did not look here too for the method of natural selection which would divide the more valuable part and prefer – yes, prefer – it to the other!
With the man military service is the most sincere, and most valuable, form of participation in the state – with the woman motherhood!! There are numerous warlike tribes in Africa in which mothers who die in childbed are buried with the same military honours as the men who have fallen in battle! Therein lies a double meaning: besides recognising personal heroism, it is shown that the value of these people for the tribe was the same. It therefore seems to me a logical as well as an inwardly compelling extension of the efforts toward natural selection of the best of a people to compare wedded motherhood with the military service of the man and reward it too with a corresponding right for more votes. It is self-evident that in both cases the right for more votes can not be the only form of reward, but that in addition preference in all other political rights must be made, in the election of magistrates and high officials, in appointments of civil servants, and in all honorary positions.
Call it utopia, for me it is a certainty: 20 to 30 years of such selection – and Germany will have a group of leaders and lesser leaders which changes the entire face of society and the state and which is the unshakeable support of this state and its economy!
III. The Spirit of Culture
Is any special word still needed to show that the false spirit of our present life too has to be overcome at the root, in order to create something really new, something new that lasts?! It was no longer possible to write “spirit of our present life”; that would be too big a lie! I had not realised clearly the tragedy of this present life until I had time to read during the long weeks. If I did not know how the souls of men hunger, hunger and thirst, then I would have got the impression from the books I read that the soul is finally dead and has been replaced by reason, by “ratio,” which sees meaning and purpose and content only in the mechanical, only in the technical.
There is a terrible hopelessness in the souls of humanity, a dissolution of all firm values, an instability which looks in vain for stability, stability which it does not find any more in religion and which it has lost in ethics! “RELATIVITY!” – that is the keynote of the culture of our times – relativity in all things, relativity in all knowledge, relativity in all feeling – and the numb anxiety of a bad conscience tries in vain to cover and excuse this inner instability with “psychoanalysis”! The core itself is eaten away and has to a great extent already been lost!
And this is the largest, perhaps also incurable wound!! For it is a profound truth that moral recovery is the precondition for the social and political attitude of a people. I do not want to be misunderstood in the word morality – morality is always founded only on animate nature, not on supposedly unalterable commands even if they were once extracted from animate nature! We are not talking about the dogmatic concept of morality of one rank or one religion, but about harmony – harmony between the divine in man and eternal nature. The form [of this harmony] is bound to time as man himself is – but the content is eternal!!
It is difficult, especially here, to propose concrete measures which would promote improvement. And yet my practical mind tries nevertheless to set up general demands. The influence of the state can only be of an indirect and rather external nature: through the schools and especially by using teachers with a corresponding attitude. What, however, is necessary in order to change the present spirit of disintegration, of dissolution, of aimlessness, or relativity and dishonesty; or at least to prevent the further spreading to those individuals or segments of the population which have stayed healthy, is, besides giving support to all TRULY religious endeavours, mainly this: THE FEELING OF HONOUR has to be placed in the centre of the entire spiritual life! It would be wrong to ignore the fact that, for many people, and racially not the worst ones, religion is no longer capable of forming this centre, as it did so splendidly in the Middle Ages. But the sense of honour, which in itself is already a typical characteristic of a first-rate individual, is still thoroughly able to take its place as the dominant force in the soul, to organise man’s thoughts, which have been fragmented and aware of too many nuances, making it possible for him to find once again the “meaning of life.” It is only the second phase of the same line when I demand a strong emphasis on DUTY as the political and social activation of honour. I therefore see the “meaning of life” as the completion of human existence through both HONOUR and DUTY; that is a solution which is possible for the German of today and which perhaps, for him, represents the “Prussian style” of his fulfilment!!
For in one thing we must achieve utter clarity: that FORMS AND INSTITUTIONS ARE CHANGEABLE, are never right “as such” and never wrong “as such”: that there is, however, only one “RIGHT” SPIRIT, only one spirit with a constructive viewpoint: that is the spirit of eternal nature, animated by man, the image of God!
It is our strong belief and our deep knowledge that this spirit is in us, in the idea of National Socialism, so that THIS SPIRIT and NO OTHER will build:
THE MILLENNIAL THIRD REICH!
Article sourced from Barbara Miller Lane’s & Leila J. Rupp’s Nazi Ideology before 1933: A Documentation (2014), University of Texas Press