National Socialist theoretician Rudolf Jung explains the concept of freedom and its place within National Socialist ideology
National Socialism, like Marxism, has its own conception of freedom, one separate from the individualist ideal central to liberal-democracy. In some respects there are similarities between the two movements and their perceptions of freedom; certainly members of the NSDAP would have agreed with Marx and Engels that, “Only in the community… is personal freedom possible.” Fundamentally, though, each interpretation was built on different ideological ground. For Marxists, freedom is determined by material economic conditions; those without the money or resources to live a safe, comfortable, fulfilling life are not genuinely free, regardless of which individual rights they might have on paper. For National Socialists, conversely, freedom is ultimately determined by race as well as material circumstance; each racial group has different cultural values, a different outlook on the world, and hence a different conception of the form of freedom appropriate to them as a united people. Freedom and a Volk’s capacity for defending themselves are intrinsically bound together: only by finding the style of freedom best suited to them as a people would a race thus be in the best position to fight and defend themselves as a people. Individualism was the form most suited to the English, with their mercantile, “piratical” spirit. Anarchy was most suited to the chaotic, tumultuous French. And for the Germans, with their supposedly natural inclination towards collectivism? A marriage of the spirit of Prussia in the north with the spirit of the “Baiuvarii” in the south: duty and order, the totality before the individual, but shorn of unthinking submission and centralistic authoritarianism, tempered by a respect for freedom of conscience. At least this is how National Socialist writer and politician Rudolf Jung explained it in his book National Socialism: Its Foundations, Development, and Goals, the earliest major programmatic work of National Socialist theory. Whether or not Jung’s description of National Socialist freedom matches the conditions which later developed in the Third Reich is up for debate, particularly as Hitler arguably represented a more authoritarian strand of NS ideology. The translated excerpt below consists of almost the entire chapter from Jung’s book which covers the subject; the only part I have cut is the introductory paragraph, an excerpt from the DNSAP programme which can be already be read in its entirety here. This translation is of the 1922 2nd edition of Jung’s book, which I have been working on for the past five or six months. The complete translation is probably still a few months away from being finished, but it will be posted on the blog when I am done.
The National Socialist Conception of Freedom
From the chapter ‘The Concept of Freedom and Defensive Readiness’, in
Rudolf Jung’s “National Socialism,” 1922 (2nd ed.)
“Freedom, that which I love, that which fills my heart,”1 sang the poet, thereby telling us that freedom is something which cannot be explained rationally, but is something which must be felt. Now, because freedom is a matter of emotion, it will be different for every Volk. English, French, Germans, Czechs, etc., all feel differently, and therefore all also interpret the concept of freedom differently. There are even different gradations within the individual races. Let us take the Germans, for example. Does the supposedly revolutionary communist – who is certainly imbued with the conviction that he is a thoroughly free-thinking person, standing far above the arch-reactionary bourgeoisie – truly have a feeling for freedom when he, as is so often the case in the German Reich, runs to the representatives of the Entente in order to sabotage his differently-minded countrymen? Or when, for the same reason, he calls upon the help of the Czech authorities, who are thoroughly imbued with the police spirit and are, moreover, capitalist? Is not the exact same question relevant in regards to those bourgeois elements who, in their anxiety over their property, appeal to alien peoples to protect them? And what about press censorship, the prohibition on the publication of newspapers, as well as the forcible integration of people into organizations?
In light of all the things which have happened to the German Volk since the days of the Revolution, after all the lamentable manifestations of servility and indignity, all the errors of an overstretched centralism, one might well doubt the very existence of a feeling of freedom. However, we need to keep in mind that every great upheaval – and such is indeed what we are presently in the middle of – is full of confusion and atrocities, and that brutal people, who tend to be the most involved in these phenomena, are generally cowards within the depths of their souls and are therefore not free at all, but are instead merely of a servile disposition. Only the courageous are truly free. Alien to them is the pitiful fear of death which makes cowardly people tremble, and hence makes them servile. That is why courage and the feeling of freedom, and therefore also one’s readiness to defend themselves,2 belong together. One is inconceivable without the other. But defensive readiness – if that is to serve as our touchstone – must be voluntary and not coerced, because courage cannot be forced.
At present our Volk seem to have given up their capacity for self-defence altogether. It used to be said that, “If anyone wants a disastrous war, then let him pick a quarrel with the Germans,”3 and wherever there was a fight, there the Germans were sure to be. Today anyone can trample upon them at will. The old master Goethe bequeathed us the following wonderful words as a legacy:
“Cowardly thinking, timorous shrinking,
Womanly hesitation, nervous lamentation
Mend not our misery, nor set us free.
Keep true to yourself, in the face of all might,
Never bow down, for to show you have fight
Will call forth the arms of the Gods to your side.”4
In these most fateful of days, this verse should always be hovering before the eyes of those who lead our Volk.
What is a Volk’s feeling of freedom? Is it merely a matter of being delivered from state interference perpetuated by other races [Völker], or does the concept of freedom imply something of greater substance?
We will attempt to explain this in the following remarks, although it must be emphasized yet again that we are dealing here with feelings, and that the dissection of feelings constitutes a challenging place to begin. In any event, one thing seems certain: that freedom is as far removed from fear and coercion as it is from wanton self-indulgence. It is precisely those who are truly free, according to our understanding, who are the most likely to fall into line when matters greater than the welfare of one’s own dear self come into consideration. To us this seems to be a fundamental characteristic of the German conception of freedom.
People talk so much about English freedom and portray it as a model. What does it consist of, exactly? It encompasses all areas of public life. We have already stated previously (see the chapter “At the Gates to the Future”) that in our view the English state is not actually a state at all, but a society of private individuals. This is readily explainable as stemming from the merchant spirit of this race. And yet the same state which conferred complete freedom upon its Anglo-Saxon-Norman citizenry enslaved the Irish in an unprecedented fashion. How can such contradictions be explained? Well, they can be explained by the manner of rule of the Normans, who acquire territories in order to exploit them, for whom it is less the people as such who matter than it is their commodities and natural riches. In one circumstance, however – when it comes to the ownership of land – this manner of rule leads to the enslavement of a people from the outset. This is the case in Ireland, where land and soil belong entirely to the English nobility, who exploit them in accordance with the Norman bandit-system [Raubsystem]. Despite the Anglo-Irish Settlement,5 the Irish were and still are unfree even today, because they do not own the soil upon which they live.
The freedom of the English citizen in matters of public life is a natural concomitant of the Viking spirit which lives and works within him. Its hallmark is the free struggle of one man against another, ending with the victory of the stronger. This is that which we call liberalism, and which consistently leads to the state’s dissolution. In its place there emerges the society of private individuals. Many Germans now reject economic liberalism; yet, oddly enough, the same people tend to rhapsodize about political liberalism, even though the two logically belong together.
But even this much-vaunted English freedom is by no means so unspoilt as some would have us believe. It does indeed encompass all areas of public life. But working in tandem with it is a kind of internal torpor, an inner bondage which for we Germans would be simply unbearable. Consider, for example, the rather ludicrously distorted observance of the Sabbath, which does not arise out of any inner feeling whatsoever. In Oswald Spengler’s writing (from his Prussianism and Socialism) we find the following noteworthy passage about English freedom, that infatuation of the German democrat: “The Englishman pays for his practical freedom with the loss of the other kind of freedom: he is inwardly a slave, whether as puritan, rationalist, sensualist, or materialist. For two centuries now he has been the inventor of all philosophies that do away with inner independence – most recently of Darwinism, which makes man’s entire mental state causally dependent upon material forces and which, via the particularly slick form propagated by Büchner and Haeckel,6 has become the Weltanschauung of the German philistine.” Further, the passage goes on: “For him (the Englishman) there exists private action, but no private thinking. His life is governed by a uniform, theologically-oriented philosophy of little real content, as fashionable as a frockcoat and gloves. The term ‘herd instinct’ is appropriate here, if anywhere.”
Outer freedom, inner bondage is – we are in full agreement with Spengler on this – the most salient characteristic of the Englishman.
What does the Frenchman understand by freedom? His ideal of freedom is anarchy. Proof for this can be seen in his reluctance towards any form of organization. In France, for example, the trade union idea never really gained much of a foothold. The Frenchman hates strenuous work, preferring instead the making of grand gestures. He oscillates back and forth between the poles of anarchy and despotism – that is, between complete disorder and utmost coercion. We can find the following relevant passage about this in Spengler: “The French instinct is that power should belong to no-one. There should be no subordination, and therefore no order. Also no state, in fact, nothing whatsoever; instead there should be equality for all, ideal anarchism, its practice periodically reaffirmed (in 1799, 1851, 1871, and 1918) through the despotism of generals and presidents.”
Looking into the deeper causes of this condition, in our view they lie in the fact that the French are a bastard-race [ein Bastardvolk] who did away with their better Germanic racial elements during the Great Revolution.7 This race is therefore doomed to die, in spite of all appearances today which might suggest otherwise. The Czech neo-Hussite movement8 is, incidentally, closely related in its essence to that of the French.
What then is the essence of the German concept of freedom? In the truest sense of the word, we find it difficult to assess such a thing. Strictly speaking, we Germans are not yet a Volk in the manner of the English and the French, i.e. a great herd, but are still a collection of tribes which exhibit variegated racial characteristics and a disparate course of development, and who need to thoroughly blend together first. The reasons for this lie in our history, and are laid bare with reference to the diversity of the old German Reich with its innumberable city-states and regional principalities. If we nonetheless seek to outline the German concept of freedom, then it must be noted that, in our opinion, every Volk needs to have fought for their freedom as the Swiss once did. Now, in one of the most important periods in German history, the Napoleonic Wars, only two tribes willingly stood up for the sake of their freedom, and those were the Prussians and the Tyroleans (i.e. the Baiuvarii).9 For the moment we will discuss the Prussian conception of freedom, and will then see whether and to what extent it is generally applicable. To contrast it with the French conception, we can once more quote from Spengler: “The German, or more precisely, Prussian instinct was: power belongs to the totality. The individual serves the totality. The totality is sovereign. The King is only the first servant of his state (to quote Frederick the Great). Everyone is assigned his place. He receives his orders, and they are obeyed.”
This Prussian instinct is, as Spengler goes on to explain, anti-revolutionary. Therein lies its strength, when at the head of the state there are personalities of the same rank as Frederick the Great or Wilhelm I, with a Bismarck or a Moltke to do their bidding – but this can also be a weakness when (as occurred in the Great War) the first servant of the state, the King, is a muddleheaded romantic whom Hindenburg and Ludendorff must obey in accordance with their Prussian sentiment. In France the successful general would have deposed the incompetent King; in Prussian Germany he and the totality had to perish together.
It is indisputable that something great lies in Prussia and in its concept of freedom. Strict outer obligation fully prepares people for the winning of their inner freedom. It produces a person averse to all outer trappings, a person with a deeply-engrained faith and a highly-developed sense of duty. The Teutonic Order found its continuation in the Prussian statesman, general, officer, and civil servant, but also in the worker and the peasant. If we wish to draw a historical comparison, then we find in Hohenzollern Prussia traits similar to those of ancient Rome when it was still a republic. Just as occurred there, however, overreach – and eventually exhaustion – inevitably had to occur here, too. A strict sense of duty based on submission runs the risk of ultimately leading to a purely extrinsic centralism and formalism. Such was the case in Prussia over the past few decades. Unfortunately, before it could adapt itself to the change in its mode of life which resulted from its marriage to the German south, it dared to risk the armed engagement in which it was subsequently defeated.10 And with that the old Prussia died. About that there can be no doubt. Thus we now stand at a new turning-point, and must shape anew the German conception of freedom.
How are we to accomplish this? Well, we seek to hold fast to the Prussian spirit, to what is great and noble about it: a sense of duty elevated to the point of highest selflessness, even to a level of self-sacrifice, and a remembrance that the old Prussian maxim was: “Better to be dead than a slave!” But we also wish to leave formalism and centralism aside. They perished along with the old Prussia of the Hohenzollerns. In their place is substituted what is good about the German south: its unfettered creative variety.
In political life this quality must be made manifest through wide-ranging self-government, just as was advocated by the non-Prussian Freiherr vom Stein11 during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Our political endeavors should be directed not only against state centralism, however, but also against that centralistic compulsion which naturally emerges within the major parties, who all strive after party-rule. But we are also opposed to the exertion of pressure within economic life, whether that coercion of conscience is committed by an employer or by a group of employees. We will return to these matters a little later. For the time being let me just say that we consider our inner freedom, our freedom of conscience, to be by far the most precious thing of all. The next chapter will therefore be dedicated to it. It constitutes the foundation of government.
Once we have attained freedom in political life and have set the German state upon those foundations which are best suited to our Volk because they are in accordance with the Volk’s innermost convictions, then the time is not far off when foreign rule of all varieties will be stripped away. If the formation of another People’s Army subsequently proves impossible for us, then the task will instead be ceded to the gymnastics associations in line with the spirit of Jahn,12 a man who fought against every racially-foreign influence and for whom being German also meant being free and, therefore, also being capable of self-defence.
We have no concerns about carrying this out once the core of the future state of the Germans, the German Reich, is consolidated in such a way that it exerts an irresistible attraction towards even those segments of our Volk who languish under foreign rule. The state of Wirth and Rathenau,13 it should be stated outright, does not exercise any such appeal.
The state of the Germans must not be a Jewish state, but neither should it be under Roman14 influence. What we are entitled to demand of it instead is that the German, and only the German, feels comfortable and secure within it, and that only he may flourish within it in accordance with his particular nature. It must be a real, true People’s State [Volkstaat], in which neither the privileges of birth nor property apply, but only ability – i.e. a proficiency and a joy for creative endeavor. All without the application of any pressure or coercion. Not the Roman-Jewish concept of rulership, but the Germanic concept of leadership should be decisive within the German state. Then will true republican freedom prevail, rather than the bogus-democracy of the present.
Thus far, we made reference to both the Volk and the state. As we are striving after a national unitary state, this means that ethnic borders [Volksgrenzen] and state borders are essentially identical, so the distinction between the two does not particularly matter.
How would our Volk have behaved in 1918 if they had been imbued with a genuine sense of freedom? Instead of crying, “Never again war!”, instead of voluntarily disarming themselves, they would have set in motion a general People’s War. The banner under which this would have occurred would not have mattered, even if it happened to be the red one. If Marxism was serious about its struggle against plutocracy, if its revolutionary posturing was not mere bombast, then the Marxists should have planted the red flag upon the trenches and declared war upon capitalism instead of continuing to grind away at the Flemish front. This would have been a deed that would have enflamed the entire Volk. Eternal hot air about world-revolution, by contrast, does not, because experience shows that announced revolutions never take place. In its historical hour Marxism failed, and it failed because it completely disregarded the fact that a people’s freedom is based upon their readiness for self-defence. Contaminated by the thoroughly un-socialist spirit of materialism, it instead threw itself into the arms of pacifism, that symptom of disease and degeneration. Thus did it plunge our Volk into bondage.
If we wish to become free again, this cannot happen solely through external means. What good are weapons to us if – as things stand today – the overwhelming majority of our Volk are gun-shy? The military machine which managed to overcome such obstacles has been shattered. Therefore the spirit of the masses must first become something entirely different. Hardship and oppression will certainly contribute to their transformation. We want to do our part by imbuing the spirit of renewal into their hearts.
1. In German, “Freiheit, die ich meine, die mein Herz erfüllt.” Jung is quoting the 1814 poem “Freiheit die Ich Meine” by German writer Max von Schenkendorf. Von Schenkendorf was a patriotic poet whose works drew their inspiration from the 1813-1815 Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, in which von Schenkendorf had fought. This particular poem was set to music and became a popular folk melody, and its themes of freedom and German patriotism also led to it being adopted by various movements across the political spectrum – it could be found in the official party songbooks of both the Social-Democrats and the National Socialists.
2. “One’s readiness to defend themselves” – In German this concept is summed up in a single word: “Wehrhaftigkeit.” Wehrhaftigkeit is another word which does not have an immediately ready English translation; it is variously rendered as “defensive potential,” “defensive readiness,” “defensive capability,” “defensiveness,” “pugnacity,” “military readiness,” etc. In general it means one’s ability and will to fight and defend themselves and others with courage, spirit, and skill. In most other instances where Jung has used it throughout the chapter, I have translated the word as “defensive readiness” or “self-defence,” depending on the context.
3. An old German maxim associated with the Landesknecht, the pike-bearing mercenary troops widely-used as military forces in the Holy Roman Empire. The phrase rhymes in German: “Wer Unglück will im Kriege han, der binde mit dem Deutschen an.”
4. An excerpt from Goethe’s famous poem “Beherzigung (Feiger Gedanken).” Johann Wolfang von Goethe is one of the greatest and most influential writers and thinkers in German history, the equivalent of that people’s Shakespeare – although he also had a significant impact on disciplines outside literature, such as philosophy, science, and politics (personally, Goethe was a liberal and a Freemason, and probably would not have been sympathetic to National Socialism). The exact publication date of this poem is unknown; it is generally considered to have been written sometime after 1765.
6. Ernst Haeckel (b. 1834 – d.1919) and Ludwig Büchner (b.1824 – d.1899) were scientists and philosophers who did much to champion and spread Darwin’s theories within Germany. Haeckel, whose expertise was in zoology, promoted a form of Lamarckian Darwinism, and his work contributed significantly to the development of the theory of evolution. Büchner promoted Darwinism as part of his broader belief in and advocacy for his materialist view of the world and of nature.
8. “The Czech neo-Hussite movement” – Jan Hus (b.1372 – d.1415) was a Czech religious reformer responsible for the Bohemian Reformation. Hus was a forerunner to Martin Luther, and initiated a kind of proto-Protestantism within the lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia which was treated as heresy by the Catholic Church. Hus’s teachings (“Hussitism”) and legacy became closely tied to the historical emergence of the Czech national identity, and consequently served as an inspiration to many Czech political groups after the foundation of the First Czechoslovak Republic following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Hussite symbols and slogans were frequently invoked by politicians and state institutions, part of the emerging Czech nationalism. “Neo-Hussitism” probably refers to this, i.e. to the strengthening Czech national identity and pride; possibly it also refers to the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and similar Hussite religious institutions, which after 1918 began to expand and play a significant socio-political role in the freer environment of the new Czech State. Jung’s distaste for “Hussitism” as a political-ethnic ideal reflects his distaste for the Czechs generally. National Socialism had originally emerged in areas of Austria-Hungary (particularly Bohemia and Moravia) where Germans were a minority and Czechs the majority, or in areas where Czechs were migrating and competing with the established German majority for jobs and housing. Later, after the Great War, Sudeten-Germans like Jung were forced to become citizens of a Czech-majority nation against their will, a situation which led to enormous racial friction and exacerbated the strong anti-Czech sentiment within the original National Socialist movement.
10. “Produced by its marriage to the German south…” – A reference to the merger of the North German Confederation (dominated by Prussia) with the south German states of Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, and Hesse in 1870, resulting in the founding of the Second (i.e. Wilhelmine) Reich. “The armed engagement” in “which it was defeated” was the Great War.
11. Baron vom Stein (b.1757 – d.1851) was a prominent Prussian statesman and reformer. Beginning in the early 1800s, he initiated a major reform program throughout Prussia which included the introduction of limited representative self-government on a municipal level.
12. A reference to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (b.1778 – d.1852), who from 1811 onwards began popularizing gymnastics as a sport throughout the German lands. Jahn’s gymnastics associations (Turnverein) were intended not only for purposes of exercise, but to train young men in the bodily strength they would need as soldiers – and to help foster a feeling of liberal-national, pan-German resistance against Napoleonic conquest. Jahn also used them to advocate for a “People’s Army” (Volksheer), a military force with a more ‘democratic’ basis (i.e. social class would not be a barrier to promotion) and with a foundation built on mass conscription rather than on hired mercenary forces or a core standing army. During the 1848 revolution, many of Jahn’s followers in the Turnerbewegung (gymnastics movement) were enthusiastic revolutionists, and they turned their gymnastics clubs into armed, grassroots militias for the purposes of local defence and maintenance of law and order. Even after the failure of the 1848 revolution, many in the Turnerverein believed that the sporting and gymnastics associations should form the foundation for a more decentralized, democratic national German army. Jung here is advocating for a continuation of this spirit in the event that a more nationalistically-inclined German state is unable, for whatever reason (Versailles-related issues, lack of money or resources, etc.), to establish a mass, conscription-based army. This was not an entirely unusual idea. Putting aside the military history of the Turnerbewegung, many sporting groups in the post-WWI era were fronts for Freikorps militias or for nationalist paramilitaries. The SA started out as a “gymnastics association,” for instance, and the Sudeten National Socialists’ own paramilitary (the Volkssport, founded in 1929) would also be disguised as a fitness group.
13. “The state of Wirth and Rathenau…” – Joseph Wirth (b.1879 – d.1956) and Walter Rathenau (b.1867 – d.1922) were leading liberal political figures in interwar Germany. Wirth was a Centre Party politician and was Chancellor of Germany at the time of Jung’s writing. He was especially hated by nationalists for his decision to comply with the Entente powers’ demands for reparations payments from Germany. Rathenau was a German-Jewish industrialist and business tycoon who, as an official in the German War Ministry, had been responsible for supply chains of raw materials during WWI. From May 1921 until his death in 1922 (he was assassinated by nationalist terrorists) Rathenau was Minister for Reconstruction in the Wirth government. “The state of Wirth and Rathenau” is the Weimar Republic, which was strongly associated not only with Social-Democrats but also with bourgeois-democratic figures like these two, who were viewed as traitors by nationalists for selling out Germany to foreign powers.
14. “Roman influence” – i.e. Catholic influence, the influence of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church. Also known in National Socialist propaganda as the “Black International” due to the color black being traditionally associated in Germany and Austria with Catholicism the Catholic political parties. Anti-Catholicism was particularly strong in the early National Socialist movement, which had been influenced by the Los von Rom campaign of the late 1800s associated with Schönerer’s Pan-German movement. Hitler later toned down the more overt anti-Catholicism within NS ideology, and after the 1925 reconstitution of the NSDAP maintained that the National Socialist movement had to be neutral in regards to its attitude towards Christian confessions. Nonetheless, anti-Catholic sentiment continued to bubble away under the surface.