Is National Socialism a Marxist ideology

Right-wing extremism

Hitler's anti-Semitism as well as his plans for world domination in "Mein Kampf" were spread with remarkable openness. However, hardly anyone took that seriously, explains Barbara Zehnpfennig in her analysis of Hitler's book.

Popular reading among National Socialists: Members of the so-called Memelländisches Ordnungsdienst read "Mein Kampf" (1939) (& copy picture-alliance)

When Hitler wrote the first part of his book "Mein Kampf" after his failed coup attempt in 1924, he had no idea that he would be Chancellor just nine years later. Otherwise he would not have been so frank about his worldview, political goals and strategies. Unfortunately, his frankness had no consequences: there were some warners who pointed out the dangers posed by Hitler's radical anti-Semitism and his plans for conquest. However, the book was hardly taken seriously, probably because, as with Hitler's figure, it was assumed with his book that words would not necessarily be followed by deeds. Today we know what a terrible mistake that was. It is all the more incomprehensible that it is still a widespread judgment that it is not worth looking at Hitler's book.

Admittedly, there are reasons to avoid reading it: the style is bad, Hitler's tirades of hate are repulsive, and with almost 800 pages, the book is a real test for the reader. The prejudice that is often expressed that "Mein Kampf" is confused, full of repetitions and banal in terms of content, is simply not true. Rather, Hitler's thoughts are very consistent, and the impartial reader is given a fascinating insight into the inner life of a fanatically believing person. With "Mein Kampf" one understands the connection between Hitler's worldview and his political practice. And you can see that this practice was entirely in the service of the worldview that Hitler believed he was following a mission when he started his work of extermination.
With remarkable openness, Hitler spread both his anti-Semitism and his plans for world domination in "Mein Kampf". Barbara Zehnpfennig believes that hardly anyone took this seriously. (© Federal Agency for Civic Education)

Origin and effect

As is well known, Hitler wrote the first volume of his book in 1924 in Landsberg's fortress custody; the second volume was written after his release in 1925/26. Both volumes were initially published separately by Eher-Verlag, the first in 1925, the second in 1926. Since the first, describing Hitler's career, sold significantly better than the second, which primarily traced the development of the NSDAP, the first volume had more editions as the second, until 1930 both volumes were published in one "people's edition". The single and complete editions have now been brought onto the market in parallel; In total, around 240,000 copies of "Mein Kampf" were sold until the takeover of power in 1933. After that, the number of edition variants (leather, thin print, anniversary, wedding, special editions, etc.), each of which achieved different print runs, increased. By 1944, when production finally dried up, around 12.5 million copies of "Mein Kampf" had been printed.

How many of these books were read, however, is controversial. It can definitely be ruled out that all those who were delighted with an edition of "Mein Kampf" during Hitler's reign, on the occasion of their marriage or other important events, would also have dealt with the book afterwards. After all, it was considered illegible even then because of the weaknesses mentioned. Just as Hitler was not taken seriously as a person before 1933, the programmatic things he announced in "Mein Kampf" were not taken seriously either.

There were certainly reactions to "Mein Kampf" - from political opponents, from Christian journalism, from other social groups such as the trade unions. But mostly the reception was limited to individual aspects or even only to the biographical parts of the book. The book "Hitler's Path" by Reichstag member Theodor Heuss, published in 1932, dealt with the book more intensively and critically, but misunderstood the revolutionary dynamic on which it was based. Like many other commoners, Heuss believed that Hitler would allow himself to be tamed by the parliamentary procedure.

More realistic assessments were found primarily abroad. In the 1930s, for example, there were warning voices from Austria, Switzerland and England who pointed out the human rights-defying potential of Hitler's racism and the appalling systematic nature of his political program. Perhaps the view from the outside allowed a clearer assessment of what "Mein Kampf" is and what significance it has for Hitler's political actions than the German internal perspective. In any case, these early Warners saw something in Hitler's book that was directly related to Hitler's actions and therefore of great value as a source for understanding Hitler's policy.

In most cases, this view was not shared by Nazi research after the war. On the one hand, it was considered to be an overestimation of the importance of people in history to put Hitler at the center of events and to hope for a deeper understanding of National Socialism by researching his intentions. On the other hand, "Mein Kampf" was generally found to be so banal and confused that a more intensive study was not worthwhile. This is still a widespread judgment today, not infrequently represented by those who have not taken the trouble to read it carefully. However, some of the researchers have shown a certain rethinking in recent years; For example, Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler draws heavily on Hitler's confessional document.

The following brief overview of Hitler's core ideas is intended to show that dealing with "Mein Kampf" can be extremely fruitful if one wants to understand what National Socialism was. When Hitler describes his own development and that of his party, the NSDAP, in his book, he naturally stylizes his biography, and of course he also glosses over the path of his party. In this respect, one cannot simply trust one's factual assertions. But his thoughts, his judgments, his plans are authentic. All of this provides plenty of material to look at National Socialism again from a different perspective: from the perspective of those who, through reading "Mein Kampf", discover a completely new context of the whole.

The belief

Hitler combines biographical and ideological elements in his portrayal. This is most revealing because it allows you to see how a conspiracy theory comes into being. For the sake of clarity, however, the worldview is presented here for itself. Hitler's background is a crumbling multicultural empire: that of the Habsburg monarchy. The nationality struggles in Austria-Hungary threaten to shatter the empire, and in Hitler's perception the main aggression is directed against the culture that the empire has so far supported, namely the German one. In addition to this external threat, there is also an internal one: the social question divides society and weakens it from within. However, there is a force that takes advantage of the situation. That is the Marxist-oriented social democracy, which in Hitler's eyes incites the socially declassed against the haves and agitates against their own nation.

As an ardent nationalist, that is a thorn in the side of Hitler. At the same time, he recognizes the connection between the social question and national orientation: the nation can only bind those who belong to it if it also takes care of them in social terms. Hitler's National Socialism draws the conclusion from this: A decisive social policy is the prerequisite for the nationalization of the masses that Hitler needs for his further plans. With resolute social policy, he believes, one can also turn the Marxists off their supporters. And that is what it must be about, because in Marxism Hitler sees an ideology that will bring people to ruin, should it prevail worldwide as planned.

For Hitler, Marxism is a doctrine of lies and hatred, because it promises a realm of freedom and equality that will never exist, and because it sucks all values, not least of the nation, because these values ​​are only supposed to be stabilize the power relations. Marxism denies the value of personality, kills all idealism through its materialism and destroys all cultural differences through its equalization. If the planned world revolution should actually come about, then, Hitler prophesies, the intellectual elites will be killed everywhere according to the Bolshevik model. But because the communist regime has no creative powers, it will only consume what it has taken over without producing anything itself, and in the end it will doom everything.

In Marxism, Hitler sees the anti-national, yes, the anti-human par excellence. But who, he wonders, comes up with something like Marxism? Who has an interest in destroying the nations and making people equal and thus small? Hitler believes he has got through to the cause of the evil when he "discovers" that the leaders of Marxist Social Democracy are Jews. If you add the Jewish theorists of socialism and the Jewish activists of the Munich Soviet Republic and the Bolshevik government, if you are as resentful as Hitler, you can construct a comprehensive conspiracy theory.

According to this theory, there is a complete correspondence between Jewish interests and Marxist ideology. The Jews - in this respect Hitler follows the stereotypes widespread in his time - are a people with a tenacious will to survive. Even two thousand years of life in the diaspora could not have changed that. They would disguise themselves as a religious community, but are actually a ethnic community. Their religion knows no transcendence and is only oriented towards earthly possessions. Since the Jews are too materialistic and too selfish to fight for their own state, they sneaked into other peoples in order to exploit them and to decompose them from within. For Hitler, the Jews are united among themselves, but divide their host peoples. They wanted to rule, but not fight for it. Therefore all that remains for them is to weaken those who are strong. To do this, they made use of two tried and tested means: mind and money.

Here Hitler's conspiracy theory now reaches its climax: With their money power, the Jews would bring the decisive forces of a society into their dependence. They also carried z. With capitalism, for example, the desire for a good life, because they know that they are making their opponents unfit for fighting and military service. But their even more dangerous weapon is their corrosive intellectuality. So they invent ideologies that portray the struggle as something that is morally outlawed: liberalism, which replaces struggle with economic competition, internationalism, which preaches international understanding, and pacifism, which seeks to eliminate war entirely. Their historically last and most dangerous weapon, however, is Marxism. With him they started to leap to world domination - with the promise of a worldwide human community that no longer knows any differences or rule and in which all struggle has an end. In fact, they are only concerned with leveling the other peoples in order to turn them into a herd of slaves. Then, without having to fight themselves, they could seize power and thus fulfill that biblical promise that the earth has promised them, the chosen people.

So these are Hitler's fears about the future. But why did Hitler, when he came to power, not want to fight the Jews as he did against his other political opponents or against the other peoples? Why did he think he had to exterminate a whole people? There is no direct answer to this question, which is crucial for understanding National Socialism, in "Mein Kampf". However, it can be explored.

For Hitler, the Jews are the people who disturb the natural order. According to his theory, the struggle for survival prevails in nature, and since man is a part of nature, he must obey its laws. There are two reasons why nature calls for a fight. First, the struggle creates order. The struggle creates subordination and supremacy, the weaker is subject to the stronger. Such an order is essential for survival, because only a system with structure can endure; a chaotic one dissolves. Second, the struggle makes progress. Everyone who fights has to make an effort to surpass himself. In addition, the struggle causes selection: only the better can prevail. By commanding the fight, nature ensures the survival of the whole and its further development. The lifting of the struggle therefore means chaos and stagnation or decline.

The principle of combat applies in all of nature. But how are the fighting units defined in humans? In the Age of Nationalities, the line of battle generally runs along the nations. But according to Hitler's theory, there is a problem here: What if foreign elements have crept into the nation that do not necessarily reveal themselves as such? The inner unity is essential for the fight, because one only dies for ones like ones, not for foreign ones. This is where race theory comes into play. We are looking for a characteristic according to which the affiliation of a person to the group of his equals can be determined without this characteristic being able to be manipulated from outside. Hitler finds this characteristic in the "race", which, unlike, for example, religious affiliation, is inherently peculiar to man and is fixed once and for all.

The race theory is therefore part of Hitler's ideology of struggle; The latter forms the absolute center of his worldview. Now what is meant by race? Racial theorists such as Gobineau and Chamberlain had divided humanity into different, physically recognizable "races" such as B. Teutons, Celts, Aryans, Jews etc. and assigned different values ​​to them, whereby this value is measured according to the respective cultural achievement. With the biological differences, one wanted to explain cultural differences and legitimize the view that cultures are not of equal rank. For Hitler, too, "race" and culture are inextricably linked: According to him, there are culturally creative "races" (especially the "Aryans"), those who carry culture, i.e. those who can carry on an inherited culture (e.g. the Japanese) and culture-destroying (the Jews).

What is most important for Hitler in addition to the cultural achievement but above all about the "race" is its supposed ability to make a people internally unified. In the "racial" purity he sees the way to spiritual unity, and this unity of the soul, this unity of the will seems to him indispensable for the struggle with other peoples, other "races". So Hitler interprets the whole story as a story of "races" fighting. For the reasons mentioned, these fights are in the interests of nature and could go on forever - if the "race" of the spoiler had not interfered in the events and threatened to destroy the natural system. That is why Hitler believes that the Jews cannot be fought as political opponents, because they themselves only provide the ruling class of the socialists and communists and let the gullible masses fight for them. As a people, the Jews cannot be fought either, because they have no territorial state and in some cases have literally merged with their "guest peoples". Even as a religious community, they cannot be combated, because many of them have been baptized. Only if you fight them as a "race" will you get hold of them.

But in view of later practice, in view of the Holocaust, the question still arises: Why was it not enough for Hitler to fight the Jews? Why did he think he had to exterminate them? The answer lies in the fact that he wanted to get rid of the thinking that was imputed to them - that outlawing of the struggle that is laid out in theories such as internationalism or Marxism. Hitler believed that the Jews had to advocate such theories because there was only one path to power for them: the demoralization of those who are ready to face open struggle. And because he believed that this thinking is essentially theirs, he probably thought that he could only destroy this thinking by murdering its bearer. At least that is the conclusion that his confessional "Mein Kampf" suggests.

The political program

"Mein Kampf" contains not only Hitler's worldview, but also the plan according to which Hitler intended to put his thinking into practice.Here, too, the system is surprising and, knowing the further history, the fact to what extent Hitler later followed his plan is surprising. Of course, he could not foresee all the circumstances he would encounter and sometimes had to come to terms with the circumstances. But that is already in "Mein Kampf": You can always make compromises when choosing the means, but never when pursuing the great goal.

First of all, of course, power had to be won through intensive propaganda work for the NSDAP, through provocation of the opponent and by eliminating competitors, for example from the nationalist scene. Above all, the masses, allegedly blinded by Marxism, had to be won over to the National Socialist cause, namely through a worldview which was opposed to Marxism in terms of content, but which was also able to inspire people. The "rule over the heads" was the most important thing for Hitler. Everything else would follow.

After the takeover of power, a domestic policy roadmap should take effect, followed by a foreign policy program. The aim of domestic politics should be to unite the German people in order to prepare them for the decisive struggle. The aim of foreign policy was to conquer living space in the East, which the German people would have earned after Hitler had they fulfilled their providential mission - the fight against the "corrupter of humanity".

For the internal homogenization of the German people, the first important measure was a social policy that inspired people to love their own nation and reduced the division between rich and poor. By conveying the National Socialist worldview, children and young people in particular should be sworn into the community from the start. Politically, of course, pluralism, that is, the multi-party system, had to be abolished. Socially, too, it was important to eliminate plurality. There should be no more independent trade unions and employers' associations, and no real federalism either; the task of the countries should be limited to cultural matters. Due to the common service in the army, national differences should lose importance. "Racial" purity should be promoted through eugenic measures, through racial laws and a new citizenship law. All these measures are already listed in "Mein Kampf", and here it is also clear what they should be used for.

Hitler makes it very clear that all of this can only be achieved by organizing politics and society in accordance with the Führer principle. If Hitler paints the picture of the total state with it, he makes it clear again and again that this state is not an end in itself. For him the state is the vessel of the "race"; and the Aryan "race", especially its noblest part, the German people, have the task of leading the final battle against the "enemy of humanity".

If the German people are internally united, they can take the path to expansive self-assertion. The first step in this direction should be rearmament. Although this violated the Versailles Treaty, Hitler believed that a strong-willed, united nation could not ban it in the long term. The next step was to win allies for the coming war. Hitler's dream partners were Italy and England. Italy was already fascist and, due to its Mediterranean competition with the German "hereditary enemy" France, seemed particularly suitable for the implementation of the German plans. In the case of England, Hitler hoped that its traditional equilibrium policy could be the reason to make Germany strong against France, if the latter renounced sea sailing to compensate. As is well known, this was one of Hitler's great miscalculations. Supported by the allies, Hitler finally wanted to undertake the campaign against France in order to secure Germany's western flank. Then the living space in the east was to be conquered, with Hitler leaving no doubt that this should include Russia.

In "Mein Kampf" Hitler does not specifically say how the fight against the Jews should be carried out in this overall plan. Nor is it certain that by the time the book was written he was determined to completely eradicate the Jewish people. In the logic of his thinking, however, the murder of the Jews is already laid out. The great goal that is being pursued should not be announced to the people because it would scare the little minds away, wrote Hitler in "Mein Kampf" and recommended that the great goal be broken down into small milestones, the meaning of which only he can recognize has the ultimate goal in mind. It is therefore conceivable that Hitler's reluctance to proclaim the murder of the Jews is due to this. But whatever that is to be assessed - there is no doubt that the "Jewish question" preoccupied Hitler to his last breath. Shortly before his suicide, Hitler wrote a "political testament" in which he once again swore the Germans on their mission: namely to bring this question, the "Jewish question", to a final solution. [1]