The Führer Protects the Law

The Führer as source of “supreme justice” in the German Reich: Carl Schmitt’s essay of 1st August, 1934

Schmitt

Legal-political philosopher Carl Schmitt is often described as the “crown jurist of the Third Reich” by modern commentators, an appellation supposedly first coined by  the German-American scholar of totalitarianism, Waldemar Gurian. Schmitt’s actual relationship with the Reich is contentious – there are plenty today who claim that his support for the National Socialist regime was opportunistic, that there is evidence he attempted to defend and support the Weimar constitution during its long period of gradual breakdown. Others counter these claims by pointing directly to works such as Schmitt’s Dictatorship, or to his Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, arguing that they demonstrate an implicit fascist sympathy through their critique of the fundamentals of liberal parliamentarism and their advocacy for authoritarian forms of governance as an essential tool in statecraft. Whatever the reality behind Schmitt’s complex philosophical ideas, it is indisputable that he was part of the Conservative-Revolutionary intellectual milieu and that he fell behind the National Socialist regime after Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship in 1933. Schmitt spent the early years of the new Reich attempting to provide its governance with a solid juridical-philosophical foundation, something he was assisted in by the prominent appointments he attained within the new regime including leading positions within the Prussian State Council, the Academy of German Law, and the National Socialist Lawyers’ League. The article below is a prime example of Schmitt’s writings from this period. Published in the prestigious legal journal Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung less than a month after the final death-spasms of the Night of the Long Knives and Hitler’s speech justifying the purge, “The Führer Protects the Law” sees Schmitt putting forth a legal justification for the extra-judicial killings of Röhm, Schleicher, Gregor Strasser, and numerous other real, potential, or imagined opponents of the regime. It is a juridical argument for Führerprinzip, positing the Führer’s legal role as that of both supreme judge and the supreme source of the Volk’s collective sense of justice; as such it makes for an inestimable contribution to fascist theory. 

The Führer Protects the Law
On Adolf Hitler’s Reichstag Address of 13th July, 1934
By
State Attorney, Prof. Dr. Carl Schmitt, Berlin

I.

At the German Jurists’ Annual Convention, held in Leipzig on October 3rd 1933, the Führer spoke about state and law. He elaborated the distinction between substantial law, which is not divorced from morality and justice, and the empty legality of false neutrality. He also delineated the inner contradictions of the Weimar system, which destroyed itself through this neutral legality and thereby handed itself over to its enemies. To this he added the sentence: “This must be a warning for us.”

In his speech to the Reichstag, delivered on July 13th 1934, which was addressed to the entire German Volk, the Führer invoked yet another historical lesson. The powerful German Reich founded by Bismarck collapsed during the world war because it lacked the strength “to activate statutes pertaining to war” in the decisive moment. The civil bureaucracy, devoid of all political instincts and paralyzed by the logic of the liberal constitutional state, could not muster the courage to treat mutineers and enemies of the state properly under the law. Anyone today who were to read the report on the public plenary session held October 9th 1917, in volume 310 of the Reichstag-Drucksachen [official record], will be appalled, and will understand the Führer’s warning. The Reichs-government reported that the ringleaders of the mutinying sailors were negotiating with members of the Reichstag affiliated with the Independent Socialist Party.

The German Reichstag answered with loud indignation that one cannot curtail a party’s constitutional right to campaign in the army, and that there was no conclusive evidence for high treason in this case. Well, only one year later the Independent Socialists threw this conclusive evidence in our face. The German Volk withstood an onslaught by the entire world with unprecedented bravery and with tremendous sacrifice for four years. But its political leadership woefully failed in the fight against the poisoning of the German Volk and the undermining of German law and its sense of honor. Still to this day we are atoning for the paralyses and hesitations of the German government during the world war.

All moral outrage over the disgrace of such a collapse accumulated in Adolf Hitler and became in him the thriving force of a political act [Tat]. The experiences and warnings of the history of this German calamity live on in him. Most people fear the severity of such warnings and prefer to escape into an evasive and compensatory superficiality. But the Führer takes seriously [macht Ernst] the teachings of German history. This endows him with the right and power to found a new state and order. Continue reading

Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part IV: Joyce

William Joyce’s 1937 critique of British parliamentarism, and his suggested replacement: a representative National Socialist guild system

Joyce

This fourth part in the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series constitutes a slight diversion away from German National Socialism and towards the NS of the British Isles – specifically towards the ideas of William Joyce, the British fascist who later became notorious under the sobriquet ‘Lord Haw Haw’. The piece below is an excerpt (slightly truncated for purposes of brevity) from the second chapter of Joyce’s 1937 pamphlet National Socialism Now, the primary ideological treatise for the National Socialist League which Joyce set up that same year after leaving Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The contents of the document makes both its differences and its similarities with German National Socialism clear. The same basic ideological worldview is there, with its contempt for the plutocratic elements of liberal parliamentarism and the party system, but the solutions Joyce proposes have their own particularly British idiosyncrasies: Joyce’s inspiration for an alternative, illiberal form of representative government derives from the ideas of the earlier guild socialists, who themselves had drawn upon the form and content of the English guild system of the Middle Ages. While there is a distinctly British flavor to Joyce’s prescriptions, the resemblance of his ideas to the ‘council National Socialism’ proposed by early German National Socialists like Rudolf Jung is telling. Grappling with the problem of representation within an authoritarian system, and looking to earlier, pre-capitalist models for inspiration to resolve that problem, was an exercise which all fascists and National Socialists eventually seemed to find unavoidable. 

While the political system remains unaltered, it will be impossible to change radically the economic situation. First, the existing order of Parliamentary incumbents is too closely linked to High Finance to desire revolutionary change; so much is even true of the Labour Party, which has expelled more than one valuable member for having dared to expect Socialism within his own lifetime.

Secondly, this democratic Party System is not intended to be an instrument of fundamental change; on the contrary, it is obviously intended to keep things as they are.

The Leader of the Opposition is paid £2,000 a year to prevent the Government from doing what it pretends to think right. So much for the moral sincerity of the politicians. Even the Sermon on the Mount does not require us to pay our enemies. The answer may be: “But there is no enmity in the House of Commons.”

This answer may be taken as true; but it does not explain why the best of friends should pretend to engage in Homeric struggle and Hibernian vituperation in order to win elections.

From beginning to end, the keynote of the whole performance is callous hypocrisy. The sham fights of Westminster are meant to make the people think that somebody is caring for their interests; otherwise there might be hell to pay; it is more economical to pay the Leader of the Opposition…

…It is now clear that the National Socialist has no apology to make for his decision to end the Parliamentary farce. Constitutionally, and in perfect loyalty to the Crown as the symbol of Britain’s continuous majesty, the National Socialist proposes to make such changes in the system of Government as are necessary to produce the required changes in our system of living. Continue reading

Gregor Strasser’s ‘Thoughts About the Tasks of the Future’

Gregor Strasser’s article of June 15, 1926, outlining his thoughts on culture, socialism, and the state

Hochbahn_unterm_Hakenkreuz

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!

Continue reading

Visions of National Socialist Democracy, Part III: Hitler

Adolf Hitler’s statements on representative government in a future National Socialist state

Nobody would describe Adolf Hitler as a ‘democrat.’ Like most National Socialists, Hitler was contemptuous of parliamentarism and the ‘majority principle’, but he took things a step or two further. Before Hitler, the National Socialist movement in Central Europe was, despite its ideological opposition to liberal-democracy, largely democratic. The various National Socialist parties were organized on the basis of internal democracy, with elected leaders and policies decided through majority vote, and they were all committed to a policy of reformism – working to achieve a National Socialist state via piecemeal reform through the machinery of parliament. Hitler’s accession to the leadership of the trans-national NS movement ushered in radical changes in this area, gradually eroding internal party democracy in favor of Führerprinzip and leading, for a time, to a strictly anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic tactical line. Hitler, with his veneration of strict discipline and strong, centralized leadership, was undoubtedly on the more authoritarian end of the National Socialist political spectrum. Nonetheless, elements of democratic idealism still appear within his speeches and writings. Reproduced below are a number of extracts from several sources which demonstrate that Hitler, despite his authoritarian inclinations, still saw a place for parliaments and voting in a future National Socialist state.    

Mein Kampf

Hitler’s Mein Kampf provides us with one of the only comprehensive descriptions of his personal view of a future National Socialist state structure. It clearly represents a more ‘dictatorial’ vision of National Socialism than those of Jung or Feder, in that under its provisions elected representatives would have no  voting powers but would instead serve solely in an advisory capacity to the national Führer. What makes these excerpts especially interesting are their corporatist aspects – clearly at this early date (Mein Kampf was published in 1925) Hitler was still influenced by the strong corporatist inclinations within the National Socialist movement. Later he was to largely abandon corporatist ideas, making the system described in the following two chapter extracts somewhat obsolete. Nonetheless, the text below is revealing in how it demonstrates Hitler’s beliefs on the ideal balance between authoritarian and democratic tendencies in politics, beliefs which would remain largely unchanged throughout his life. –Bogumil  

Vol. II, Ch. 4: Personality and the Conception of the Völkisch State

…The best state constitution and state form is that which, with the most unquestioned certainty, raises the best minds in the national community to leading position and leading influence.

But, as in economic life, the able men cannot be appointed from above, but must struggle through for themselves, and just as here the endless schooling, ranging from the smallest business to the largest enterprise, occurs spontaneously, with life alone giving the examinations, obviously political minds cannot be ‘discovered.’ Extraordinary geniuses permit of no consideration for normal mankind.

From the smallest community cell to the highest leadership of the entire Reich, the state must have the personality principle anchored in its organisation.

There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons, and the word ‘council’ must be restored to its original meaning. Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man.

The principle which made the Prussian army in its time into the most wonderful instrument of the German people must some day, in a transferred sense, become the principle of the construction of our whole state conception: authority of every leader downward and responsibility upward. Continue reading