Review Of The Nazi Achievement
Factors In Estimating Its Future : Success In Czechoslovakia
I ITHERTO the annual Nuremberg Nazi Congress has proved to be the glorification of some diplomatic victory or of sonic outstanding domestic achievement.
1938 looks as though it would register further triumphs abroad, though it also marks an internal state of affairs which certainly cannot be called an improvement on previous years.
It may be useful in the circumstances to try to assess the real worth of this extraordinary creation that is being exhibited once again to the world in this ancient German city.
WHAT NAZISM HAS DONE The greater our natural repugnance towards anything which concerns us and our conviction of its danger, the more important it is to understand thoroughly the secret of its power and attraction. Thus it is childish to dismiss Nazism as the whim of a megalomaniac or the consequence of the high spirits of a set of young German bullies, just as it is very foolish to concentrate solely upon that side of it which we as Christians or democrats or Britishers loathe.
Nazism is, with Communism, one of the two forces which have done most to shape post-war world history and which, whatever happens, will leave indelible marks upon the future. Nazism has succeeded in a few short years in raising Germany from a defeated and maimed second-rate power into a position scarcely less strong than the Germany of 1914. Even more important it has, in achieving this, sapped the political ideals in the light of which Versailles was to re-make the world, it has put triumphant democracy on the defence, it has profoundly disturbed the complacency of the classical economists whose reign has lasted for more than a hundred years.
Though this is a controverted point, many would hold that it has been the only effective cheek against the march of Communist revolution. You cannot dismiss an achievement of this order and the force which has brought it about with mere contempt or negative condemnation, nor can you account for it without digging deep into history and human nature.
THE REAL EVIL OF VERSAILLES The fact that the achievement is unprecedented prompts one to look for something unprecedented as its chief cause. We shall find this in the mingling of the crudest self-interest with the exploitation of the strongest moral emotions which was characteristic of Versailles.
Versailles was the first great peace treaty negotiated and signed in the glare of modern publicity and propaganda. The statesmen immediately responsible, though all ignorant men compared with the average great diplomats of history, were probably neither much better nor much worse morally than their predecessors. They fought for what they considered the best interests of their countries and, not unnaturally, imposed a humiliating peace on the vanquished.
The unprecedented character of Versailles arose from the fact that these measures were framed and propagated in the language of high morality and the peoples of the world were trained to indulge their moral emotions in accepting them. The result was that Germany at Versailles was solemnly judged and condemned by world opinion in the sort of moral atmosphere of righteousness and vindictiveness with which we are familiar in celebrated murder or child-kidnapping cases. It is very rare indeed when one human being can safely judge another in this way. To treat a great nation like this was manifestly unprecedented. To have done so in the course of the imposition of a treaty that compared unfavourably with most in history for justice, equity and statesmanship was monstrous. And moral force is not one with which we can safely play.
The moral Indignation which we unjustly vent on another leads to an equal and opposite reaction. It was Germany's unprecedented moral reaction to the unprecedented moral indignation of Versailles which made the phenomenon of Hitler possible. It ill becomes us, accordingly, to treat this moral reaction to our own misuse of moral force with contempt or, still more, to repeat our mistake of twenty years ago.
HITLER'S OWN CONTF4IBUTION Fortunately or unfortunately, moral justifications and accountings do not alter the factual effects of factual causes, and, however important may be the moral explanation of the origin of Nazism this wilt not of itself prevent it from issuing in disaster to itself and probably to the world if it is a mistaken experiment. Nor, of course, can two wrongs make a right. Certain features of the Nazi regime are absolutely bad and in the long run, though it may be a very long run, this moral badness must entail bad consequences in the order of physical events.
Hitler's rise and triumph were made possible 'by the crime of Versailles, but Hitler himself was not made by Versailles. The actual course of the Nazi movement and the destiny of the new Germany—they are now both identical—has been largely determined by the personality and idiosyneracies of this one man. Versailles and post-Versailles history forced him to cut Germany off from moral, ideological and, largely, physical community with the rest of the world and thereby dictated the main lines of his political and economic measures, but it does not account for either his ambitions or the detailed way in which he has carried out his mission. The destiny of Germany, as described in Mein Kampf, on the one hand, and the persecution of Christians and Jews on the other, are due to Hitler's own choice, The future of Nazism must depend upon a number of factors, some of which are the responsibility of Ver,.ailles and some of Hitler. A very great deal, for example, will depend upon the degree of economic prosperity that can be maintained under the closed monetary and economic system, and this system was largely forced upon Hitler by his need to cut himself off from the great Western Powers in reacting against Versailles. Luckily for him he has been able to persuade a number of other Powers that their future is hound up rather with anti-Versailles than the Soviet-phil Versailles tendencies. The economic health of the leaders of the open monetary and economic system, Britain, the U.S.A. and France is not such as to warra'q rfo r:v•ireci7s in regard to Germany; but the trend of aliai,; s point rather to economic disaster on both sides of the fence than to the triumph of the one at the expense of the other. The outlook here, one fears, is rather for revolutionary trouble and war everywhere than for the maintenance of German economic prosperity.
Again the political ideology and the maintenance of internal discipline by compulsion and propaganda result from the necessities of the situation rather than Hitler's own choice. How long can a system last that in its extravagances at any rate runs counter to the whole trend of Western history and to the nature of man in our civilisation? Many would hold that there is here a degree of artificiality which must sooner or later bring its own reaction, and in view of the need for this artificiality that reaction cannot but be disastrous.
"MEIN KAMPF" Parts of the programme of Mein Kampf do appear envisage a German domination for which there can be no excuse in Versailles and which must entail the depriving of the just rights of others whether by physical or moral force. If the attempt to carry them out is made, they are far more likely in the conditions of the world today to bring disaster to overweening ambition. All that might be said for them is that perpetual conquest is a necessary condition of the maintenance of Nazi power in Germany and that their ultimate end is not so much the advancement of Germany hut the overthrow of the Third international whose very existence and world organisation constitutes a threat to Hitlerism.
The first excuse recalls, of course, the case of Napoleon who once explained that he had no option but to make war since victory could alone maintain him on his throne. Every sane man would reply that, if this is so, then the power that is being maintained must be inherently immoral and pernicious, immoral because good cannot rest upon evil and pernicious because the process must come to an end sooner or later and lead to its own retribution,—country and people then proving the victims of an individual's ambition. There is more to be said for the threat of Communism, but Christians at least are bound to retort that National Socialism has scarcely the right to set itself up as the world-enemy of what is most evil in Communism, namely its materialist anti. God philosophy.
In considering these matters, however, it is only right to recall that Hitler has only hitherto carried out those parts of the Mein Kampf programme which directly involve the reversal of the Versailles settlement in so far as it can be argued to be unjust to Germany. It is scarcely fair to sadd1e. a statesman with the resolutions and programmes which he thought out as an inexperienced and overwrought young roan. Time alone can show whether Hitler is determined to pursue a policy that will lead to his doom and the dooro, alas, of man!, C1,ers.
EVIL OF NAZISM Lastly, we have the features of National Socialism which are most repulsive and for which Hitler himself is responsible at all events in the sense that he has created the spirit which makes them possible and that he could put an end to them. One means especially the persecution of Christianity, exaggerated racialism and anti-semitism, the utter denial of the most obvious human rights to essential liberties, fair trial, property, etc., and those acts of primitive barbarity of which the vindictive treatment of the high-minded and innocent Austrian leaders or the reversal or judgment in regard to the Dollfuss murderers are recent examples.
While it is not passible to exaggerate the moral evil in them nor put too low the measure of human degradation which they mark, it is a mistake to follow the anti-Nazi trend of judging of the whole business by them alone. The very fact that none of them is necessary to the Nazi achievement and that indeed none of them can be said to have done anything to advance the Nazi cause is a proof at least that they do not touch the essence of the movement. They are a hideous disease. Just as we should not condemn the whole man because of a disease, whether of soul, mind or body for the greater part of which the man himself may have been responsible, but still try to cure him and save both his soul and body, so we should take an analogous attitude towards these unpleasant symptoms.
Unfortunately for Germany and the world, a man, however sound in himself who contracts hideous diseases, may ultimately succumb to them. In trying to estimate the future course of events in Germany the possibility of this happening must be taken into account. It is a possibility which Christians who have heard the voice of Pius XI on Germany are not likely to underrate.
CZECH CONQUEST The chances at the moment are that Hitler will triumph once again in his latest campaign, the conquest of the territory of du Sudeten Germans, Even an enemy must admire the method by which this victory is being achieved. The technique differs wholly from either the conquest of the Rhineland or of Austria, and it has been admirably adapted to the special conditions of the problem. Long delays, the increasing of the tension, the fraying of nerves through German mobilisation, the withholding of decisions—and as a result the giving-in of tired Czechoslovakia and the pent-up world.
That a regime of autonomy for the Sudetens can possibly long endure not even a child can believe.
The outcome of the campaign must be secession and the re-alignment of the Czech frontiers.
But the Czechoslovakia conquest still remains within that part of Mein Kampf which demands justice rather than new conquest. Will Hitler stop at this point? Will his internal economic position withstand further strains? Will his religious and racialist policy bring their own retribution? Will, above all, this long drawn-out tight-rope walk with a precipice on either side be possible much Jonge.r?
These are questions that only the future can answer. But it is easy to see that there could lie before Hitler's Germany an era of peace and prosperity. Whether it will conic about depends about equally upon Hitler himself and upon the forces that have willed destruction for Nazi Germany and provide him with his best excuses. These are two factors which no optimist even is likely to view without anxiety,