GHDI logo

Ernst Bloch, "Hitler’s Force" (April 1924)

page 2 of 2    print version    return to list previous document      next document

Thus the extent to which Hitler has young people on his side should not be underrated. We should not underestimate our opponent but realize what is a psychological force for so many and inspires them. From this standpoint various connections with left-wing radicalism become clear, those of a demagogic, formal kind, if not with regard to content. Through this affinity (mostly only a opportunistic copy of socialism, tuned to primitive instincts) changing banners was made all that much easier for the Bavarian rabble. Among the Communists as among the National Socialists an appeal is made to able-bodied youth; in both cases the capitalist, parliamentary state is negated, in both cases a dictatorship of obedience and command, the virtue of decision, is demanded instead of the cowardly acts of the bourgeoisie, this eternally discussing class. It is above all the type of Hitler and of those who follow his example, who are in psychological terms strongly revolutionary. The goals and contents of this gang are also of course, despite all confusion, recognizably only the totally counterrevolutionary expression of the will of sinking strata and of their youth. The twenty thousand dollars of the industry of Nuremberg already indicate the way in which the bourgeoisie does not feel at all threatened here, how it faces the new state mysticism, apparently hostile to capital, without fear. Engels called anti-Semitism the socialism of the stupid mugs, whereby non-Jewish financial capital and above all original capital superbly prosper. The socialism of the cavalier—patriarchal, reactionary anticapitalism—is an even greater misconception or rather an open deception, in order to conceal by means of the mere contrast to financial capital the very much greater contrast to socialism. Folkish instead of international, romantic-reactionary state mysticism instead of the socialist will towards the atrophy of the state, faith in authority instead of the ultimate anarchy latent in all genuine socialism—these are incompatible contrasts of positive volition, stronger than the apparent affinities of form and of the common negation of the present state. Othmar Spann, the Austrian sociologist, a small imitator of the Austrian state theologians of the Vormärz, sought in this way to create a definition for National Socialism; and what emerged was as different from socialism as the Romantic idolization of the state was from this sentence of the young Engels: “The essence of the state and of religion is humanity’s fear of itself.” The underling, whom the feudal pressure lasting for centuries has produced and left behind, races around and longs as a formal predator to return to stability. He churns up messianic dreams and perverts them with feudal ones, radicalizes the dull center in order to make them into ascetic rebels, and adopts the ideology of “rebellion” by the grace of Metternich, the author of the Karlsbad decrees and guardian of the Holy Alliance.

So to what lengths will this unrest yet lead? It divides into three elements, to be considered separately, and indeed treated in a very different tone of voice. Below runs the petit-bourgeois pack, which deserted from Red to White and is willingly open to malicious and mindless agitation. Above them stand the shock troops of Hitler and his officers, good vigorous youth, raw and infected by the hideous background of the camp followers, but on the whole with pure intentions: nauseated by the stock-market age, the depression of the lost war, the lack of ideals in this dull Republic. Hitler himself here ignited or at least fanned a thoroughly unbourgeois movement in bourgeois youth, and shaped a certain ascetic energy that differs by several degrees from the mindlessness of the first German enthusiasm for war, and also from the senior primary-school-teacher pathos of the former fatherland party. Thirdly, though, the National Socialist ideology and practice is very treacherous. It seeks to have the bourgeois ousted by the knight, but leaves the bourgeois feeling all the more protected and preserved by the young knights. And even the knight himself—he is admittedly more human than the bourgeois, but at the moment even more unreal than the latter, even more abstractly and even more unclearly preventing the breakthrough into reality. Hitler, Hitlerism, fascism is the ecstasy of bourgeois youth: this contradiction between strength and bourgeoisie, between ecstasy and the most lifeless nationalism makes the movement into a specter. It does not become any more real through the feudal ghosts it carries with it, through the alliance of powerfully present enthusiasm with long-sunken chivalric dreams or Old Germanic folk royalty from the tenth century. All the same, the Hitler Youth sustains the only “revolutionary” movement in Germany at the moment, after the proletariat has been robbed by the majority socialist leaders of its own, of the solely valid, consistent revolution. One part of fascism in Germany is as it were the crooked governor of the revolution, an expression of the fact that the social situation is by no means static. But the genuine tribunes of the people are lacking or prove by themselves the shrewd saying of Babel: “Banality is the counterrevolution.”

Source of English translation: Ernst Bloch, “Hitler’s Force” (1924), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 147-49. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: “Hitlers Gewalt,” Das Tagebuch 5, April 12, 1924, pp. 474-77. Reprinted in Ernst Bloch, Gesamtausgabe, Band 4: Erbschaft dieser Zeit, pp. 160-64. © Suhrkamp Verlag: Frankfurt am Main, 1962.

first page < previous   |   next > last page