Preface to the First Edition

    Preface to Part One: Antisemitism

    Preface to Part Two: Imperialism

    Preface to Part Three: Totalitarianism

      I

      II

      III

  Part One. ANTISEMITISM

    Chapter One. Antisemitism as an Outrage to Common Sense

    Chapter Two. The Jews, the Nation-State, and the Birth of Antisemitism

      I: The Equivocalities of Emancipation and the Jewish State Banker

      II: Early Antisemitism

      III: The First Antisemitic Parties

      IV: Leftist Antisemitism

      V: The Golden Age of Security

    Chapter Three. The Jews and Society

      I: Between Pariah and Parvenu

      II: The Potent Wizard

      III: Between Vice and Crime

    Chapter Four. The Dreyfus Affair

      I: The Facts of the Case

      II: The Third Republic and French Jewry

      III: Army and Clergy Against the Republic

      IV: The People and the Mob

      V: The Jews and the Dreyfusards

      VI: The Pardon and Its Significance

  Part Two. IMPERIALISM

    Chapter Five. The Political Emancipation of the Bourgeoisie

      I: Expansion and the Nation-State

      II: Power and the Bourgeoisie

      III: The Alliance Between Mob and Capital

    Chapter Six. Race-Thinking Before Racism

      I: A ‘Race’ of Aristocrats Against a ‘Nation’ of Citizens

      II: Race Unity as a Substitute for National Emancipation

      III: The New Key to History

      IV: The ‘Rights of Englishmen’ vs. the Rights of Men

    Chapter Seven. Race and Bureaucracy

      I: The Phantom World of the Dark Continent

      II: Gold and Race

      III: The Imperialist Character

    Chapter Eight. Continental Imperialism: the Pan-Movements

      I: Tribal Nationalism

      II: The Inheritance of Lawlessness

      III: Party and Movement

    Chapter Nine. The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man

      I: The ‘Nation of Minorities’ and the Stateless People

      II: The Perplexities of the Rights of Man

  Part Three. TOTALITARIANISM

    Chapter Ten. A Classless Society

      I: The Masses

      II: The Temporary Alliance Between the Mob and the Elite

    Chapter Eleven. The Totalitarian Movement

      I: Totalitarian Propaganda

      II: Totalitarian Organization

    Chapter Twelve. Totalitarianism in Power

      I: The So-called Totalitarian State

      II: The Secret Police

      III: Total Domination

    Chapter Thirteen. Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government

    Bibliography

      Part One: Antisemitism

      Part Two: Imperialism

      Part Three: Totalitarianism

To Heinrich Blücher

Preface to the First Edition

Weder dem Vergangenen anheimfallen noch dem Zukünftigen. Es kommt darauf an, ganz gegenwärtig zu sein.

Karl Jaspers

Two world wars in one generation, separated by an uninterrupted chain of local wars and revolutions, followed by no peace treaty for the vanquished and no respite for the victor, have ended in the anticipation of a third World War between the two remaining world powers. This moment of anticipation is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died. We no longer hope for an eventual restoration of the old world order with all its traditions, or for the reintegration of the masses of five continents who have been thrown into a chaos produced by the violence of wars and revolutions and the growing decay of all that has still been spared. Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena – homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.

Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest – forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries. It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives.

On the level of historical insight and political thought there prevails an ill-defined, general agreement that the essential structure of all civilizations is at the breaking point. Although it may seem better preserved in some parts of the world than in others, it can nowhere provide the guidance to the possibilities of the century, or an adequate response to its horrors. Desperate hope and desperate fear often seem closer to the center of such events than balanced judgment and measured insight. The central events of our time are not less effectively forgotten by those committed to a belief in an unavoidable doom, than by those who have given themselves up to reckless optimism.

This book has been written against a background of both reckless optimism and reckless despair. It holds that Progress and Doom are two sides of the same medal; that both are articles of superstition, not of faith. It was written out of the conviction that it should be possible to discover the hidden mechanics by which all traditional elements of our political and spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration where everything seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human comprehension, unusable for human purpose. To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless, and unreal.

The conviction that everything that happens on earth must be comprehensible to man can lead to interpreting history by commonplaces. Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented from precedents, or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generalities that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer felt. It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden which our century has placed on us – neither denying its existence nor submitting meekly to its weight. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality – whatever it may be.

In this sense, it must be possible to face and understand the outrageous fact that so small (and, in world politics, so unimportant) a phenomenon as the Jewish question and antisemitism could become the catalytic agent for first, the Nazi movement, then a world war, and finally the establishment of death factories. Or, the grotesque disparity between cause and effect which introduced the era of imperialism, when economic difficulties led, in a few decades, to a profound transformation of political conditions all over the world. Or, the curious contradiction between the totalitarian movements’ avowed cynical ‘realism’ and their conspicuous disdain of the whole texture of reality. Or, the irritating incompatibility between the actual power of modern man (greater than ever before, great to the point where he might challenge the very existence of his own universe) and the impotence of modern men to live in, and understand the sense of, a world which their own strength has established.

The totalitarian attempt at global conquest and total domination has been the destructive way out of all impasses. Its victory may coincide with the destruction of humanity; wherever it has ruled, it has begun to destroy the essence of man. Yet to turn our backs on the destructive forces of the century is of little avail.

The trouble is that our period has so strangely intertwined the good with the bad that without the imperialists’ ‘expansion for expansion’s sake,’ the world might never have become one; without the bourgeoisie’s political device of ‘power for power’s sake,’ the extent of human strength might never have been discovered; without the fictitious world of totalitarian movements, in which with unparalleled clarity the essential uncertainties of our time have been spelled out, we might have been driven to our doom without ever becoming aware of what has been happening.

And if it is true that in the final stages of totalitarianism an absolute evil appears (absolute because it can no longer be deduced from humanly comprehensible motives), it is also true that without it we might never have known the truly radical nature of Evil.

Antisemitism (not merely the hatred of Jews), imperialism (not merely conquest), totalitarianism (not merely dictatorship) – one after the other, one more brutally than the other, have demonstrated that human dignity needs a new guarantee which can be found only in a new political principle, in a new law on earth, whose validity this time must comprehend the whole of humanity while its power must remain strictly limited, rooted in and controlled by newly defined territorial entities.

We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply think of it as a dead load which by itself time will bury in oblivion. The subterranean stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this is why all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present into nostalgia for a still intact past, or into the anticipated oblivion of a better future, are vain.

Hannah Arendt

Summer 1950

Preface to Part One: Antisemitism

Antisemitism, a secular nineteenth-century ideology – which in name, though not in argument, was unknown before the 1870’s – and religious Jew-hatred, inspired by the mutually hostile antagonism of two conflicting creeds, are obviously not the same; and even the extent to which the former derives its arguments and emotional appeal from the latter is open to question. The notion of an unbroken continuity of persecutions, expulsions, and massacres from the end of the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages, the modern era, and down to our own time, frequently embellished by the idea that modern antisemitism is no more than a secularized version of popular medieval superstitions,[1] is no less fallacious (though of course less mischievous) than the corresponding antisemitic notion of a Jewish secret society that has ruled, or aspired to rule, the world since antiquity. Historically, the hiatus between the late Middle Ages and the modern age with respect to Jewish affairs is even more marked than the rift between Roman antiquity and the Middle Ages, or the gulf – frequently considered to be the most important turning-point of Jewish history in the Diaspora – that separated the catastrophes of the First Crusades from earlier medieval centuries. For this hiatus lasted through nearly two centuries, from the fifteenth to the end of the sixteenth, during which Jewish-Gentile relations were at an all-time low, Jewish ‘indifference to conditions and events in the outside world’ was at an all-time high, and Judaism became ‘more than ever a closed system of thought.’ It was at this time that Jews, without any outside interference, began to think ‘that the difference between Jewry and the nations was fundamentally not one of creed and faith, but one of inner nature’ and that the ancient dichotomy between Jews and Gentiles was ‘more likely to be racial in origin rather than a matter of doctrinal dissension.’[2] This shift in evaluating the alien character of the Jewish people, which became common among non-Jews only much later in the Age of Enlightenment, is clearly the condition sine qua non for the birth of antisemitism, and it is of some importance to note that it occurred in Jewish self-interpretation first and at about the time when European Christendom split up into those ethnic groups which then came politically into their own in the system of modern nation-states.

The history of antisemitism, like the history of Jew-hatred, is part and parcel of the long and intricate story of Jewish-Gentile relations under the conditions of Jewish dispersion. Interest in this history was practically non-existent prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, when it coincided with the rise of antisemitism and its furious reaction to emancipated and assimilated Jewry – obviously the worst possible constellation for establishing reliable historical records.[3] Since then, it has been the common fallacy of Jewish and non-Jewish historiography – though mostly for opposite reasons – to isolate the hostile elements in Christian and Jewish sources and to stress the series of catastrophes, expulsions, and massacres that have punctuated Jewish history just as armed and unarmed conflicts, war, famine, and pestilence have punctuated the history of Europe. Needless to add, it was Jewish historiography, with its strong polemical and apologetical bias, that undertook to trace the record of Jew-hatred in Christian history, while it was left to the antisemites to trace an intellectually not too dissimilar record from ancient Jewish authorities. When this Jewish tradition of an often violent antagonism to Christians and Gentiles came to light, ‘the general Jewish public was not only outraged but genuinely astonished,’[4] so well had its spokesmen succeeded in convincing themselves and everybody else of the non-fact that Jewish separateness was due exclusively to Gentile hostility and lack of enlightenment. Judaism, it was now maintained chiefly by Jewish historians, had always been superior to other religions in that it believed in human equality and tolerance. That this self-deceiving theory, accompanied by the belief that the Jewish people had always been the passive, suffering object of Christian persecutions, actually amounted to a prolongation and modernization of the old myth of chosenness and was bound to end in new and often very complicated practices of separation, destined to uphold the ancient dichotomy, is perhaps one of those ironies which seem to be in store for those who, for whatever reasons, try to embellish and manipulate political facts and historical records. For if Jews had anything in common with their non-Jewish neighbors to support their newly proclaimed equality, it was precisely a religiously predetermined, mutually hostile past that was as rich in cultural achievement on the highest level as it was abundant in fanaticism and crude superstitions on the level of the uneducated masses.

However, even the irritating stereotypes of this sort of Jewish historiography rest on a more solid basis of historical fact than the outdated political and social needs of European Jewry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While Jewish cultural history was infinitely more diverse than it was then assumed, and while the causes of disaster varied with historical and geographical circumstances, it is true that they varied more in the non-Jewish environment than within the Jewish communities. Two very real factors were decisive for the fateful misconceptions that are still current in popular presentations of Jewish history. Nowhere and at no time after the destruction of the temple did Jews possess their own territory and their own state; they always depended for their physical existence upon the protection of non-Jewish authorities, although some means of self-protection, the right to bear arms, were granted to ‘the Jews in France and Germany well into the thirteenth century.’[5] This does not mean that Jews were always deprived of power, but it is true that in any contest of violence, no matter for what reasons, Jews were not only vulnerable but helpless so that it was only natural, especially in the centuries of complete estrangement that preceded their rise to political equality, that all current outbursts of violence should be experienced by them as mere repetitions. Catastrophes, moreover, were understood in Jewish tradition in terms of martyrology, which in turn had its historical basis in the first centuries of our era, when both Jews and Christians had defied the might of the Roman Empire, as well as in medieval conditions when the alternative of submitting to baptism and thus saving themselves from persecution remained open to Jews even when the cause of violence was not religious but political and economic. This factual constellation gave rise to an optical illusion under which both Jewish and non-Jewish historians have suffered ever since. Historiography ‘has until now dealt more with the Christian dissociation from the Jews than with the reverse,’[6] thus obliterating the otherwise more important fact that Jewish dissociation from the Gentile world, and more specifically from the Christian environment, has been of greater relevance for Jewish history than the reverse, for the obvious reason that the very survival of the people as an identifiable entity depended upon such voluntary separation and not, as was currently assumed, upon the hostility of Christians and non-Jews. Only in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after emancipation and with the spread of assimilation, has antisemitism played any role in the conservation of the people, since only then did Jews aspire to being admitted to non-Jewish society.

Whereas anti-Jewish sentiments were widespread among the educated classes of Europe throughout the nineteenth century, antisemitism as an ideology remained, with very few exceptions, the prerogative of crackpots in general and the lunatic fringe in particular. Even the dubious products of Jewish apologetics, which never convinced anybody but the convinced, were towering examples of erudition and scholarship compared with what the enemies of Jews had to offer in matters of historical research.[7] When, after the close of the war, I began to organize the material for this book, which had been collected from documentary sources and sometimes excellent monographs over a period of more than ten years, there did not exist a single over-all presentation of its subject matter that could be said to conform to the most elementary standards of historical scholarship. And the situation has hardly changed since. This is all the more deplorable as the need for an impartial, truthful treatment of Jewish history has recently become greater than it has ever been before. Twentieth-century political developments have driven the Jewish people into the storm center of events; the Jewish question and antisemitism, relatively unimportant phenomena in terms of world politics, became the catalytic agent first for the rise of the Nazi movement and the establishment of the organizational structure of the Third Reich, in which every citizen had to prove that he was not a Jew, then for a world war of unparalleled ferocity, and finally for the emergence of the unprecedented crime of genocide in the midst of Occidental civilization. That this called not only for lamentation and denunciation but for comprehension seemed to me obvious. This book is an attempt at understanding what at first and even second glance appeared simply outrageous.

Comprehension, however, does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented from precedents, or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generalities that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer felt. It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden that events have placed upon us – neither denying their existence nor submitting meekly to their weight as though everything that in fact happened could not have happened otherwise. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality – whatever it may be or might have been.

For this comprehension a certain familiarity with Jewish history in nineteenth-century Europe and the attendant development of antisemitism is indispensable though, of course, not sufficient. The following chapters deal with only those elements in nineteenth-century history which indeed belong among the ‘origins of totalitarianism.’ A comprehensive history of antisemitism remains still to be written and is beyond the scope of this book. So long as this lacuna exists, there is enough justification even in terms of mere scholarship to publish the following chapters as an independent contribution toward a more comprehensive history, although it was originally conceived as a constituent part of the prehistory, as it were, of totalitarianism. Moreover, what is true for the history of antisemitism, that it fell into the hands of non-Jewish crackpots and Jewish apologetics, and was carefully avoided by reputable historians, is true, mutatis mutandis, for nearly all elements that later crystallized in the novel totalitarian phenomenon; they had hardly been noticed by either learned or public opinion because they belonged to a subterranean stream of European history where, hidden from the light of the public and the attention of enlightened men, they had been able to gather an entirely unexpected virulence.

Since only the final crystallizing catastrophe brought these subterranean trends into the open and to public notice, there has been a tendency to simply equate totalitarianism with its elements and origins – as though every outburst of antisemitism or racism or imperialism could be identified as ‘totalitarianism.’ This fallacy is as misleading in the search for historical truth as it is pernicious for political judgment. Totalitarian politics – far from being simply antisemitic or racist or imperialist or communist – use and abuse their own ideological and political elements until the basis of factual reality, from which the ideologies originally derived their strength and their propaganda value – the reality of class struggle, for instance, or the interest conflicts between Jews and their neighbors – have all but disappeared. It certainly would be a serious error to underestimate the role sheer racism has played and is still playing in the government of the Southern states, but it would be an even more serious fallacy to arrive at the retrospective conclusion that large areas of the United States have been under totalitarian rule for more than a century. The only direct, unadulterated consequence of nineteenth-century antisemitic movements was not Nazism but, on the contrary, Zionism, which, at least in its Western ideological form, was a kind of counterideology, the ‘answer’ to antisemitism. This, incidentally, is not to say that Jewish self-consciousness was ever a mere creation of antisemitism; even a cursory knowledge of Jewish history, whose central concern since the Babylonian exile has always been the survival of the people against the overwhelming odds of dispersion, should be enough to dispel this latest myth in these matters, a myth that has become somewhat fashionable in intellectual circles after Sartre’s ‘existentialist’ interpretation of the Jew as someone who is regarded and defined as a Jew by others.

The best illustration of both the distinction and the connection between pre-totalitarian and totalitarian antisemitism is perhaps the ludicrous story of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ The Nazi use of the forgery as a textbook for global conquest is certainly not part of the history of antisemitism, but only this history can explain why the improbable tale contained enough plausibility to be useful as anti-Jewish propaganda to begin with. What, on the other hand, it can not explain is why the totalitarian claim to global rule, to be exercised by members and methods of a secret society, should become an attractive political goal at all. This latter, politically (though not propagandistically) much more relevant function has its origin in imperialism in general, in its highly explosive Continental version, the so-called pan-movements in particular.

This book then is limited in time and place as well as in subject matter. Its analyses concern Jewish history in Central and Western Europe from the time of the court Jews to the Dreyfus Affair insofar as it was relevant to the birth of antisemitism and influenced by it. It deals with antisemitic movements that were still pretty solidly grounded in factual realities characteristic of Jewish-Gentile relations, that is, in the part Jews played in the development of the nation-state on one side and in their role in non-Jewish society on the other. The emergence of the first antisemitic parties in the 1870’s and 1880’s marks the moment when the limited, factual basis of interest conflict and demonstrable experience was transcended and that road opened which ended in the ‘final solution.’ From then on, in the era of imperialism, followed by the period of totalitarian movements and governments, it is no longer possible to isolate the Jewish question or the antisemitic ideology from issues that are actually almost completely unrelated to the realities of modern Jewish history. And this is not merely and not primarily because these matters played such a prominent role in world affairs, but because antisemitism itself was now being used for ulterior purposes that, though their implementation finally claimed Jews as their chief victims, left all particular issues of both Jewish and anti-Jewish interest far behind.

The reader will find the imperialist and totalitarian versions of twentieth-century antisemitism, respectively, in the second and third volumes of this work.

Hannah Arendt

July 1967

Preface to Part Two: Imperialism

Rarely could the beginnings of a historical period be dated with such precision and seldom were the chances for contemporary observers to witness its definite end so good as in the case of the imperialist era. For imperialism, which grew out of colonialism and was caused by the incongruity of the nation-state system with the economic and industrial developments in the last third of the nineteenth century, started its politics of expansion for expansion’s sake no sooner than around 1884, and this new version of power politics was as different from national conquests in border-wars as it was from true empire-building Roman style. Its end seemed unavoidable after ‘the liquidation of His Majesty’s Empire,’ over which Churchill had refused ‘to preside,’ had become an accomplished fact with the declaration of Indian independence. That the British liquidated their colonial rule voluntarily is still one of the most momentous events of twentieth-century history, and after this had happened no European nation could hold on to its overseas possessions. The only exception is Portugal, and her strange ability to continue a fight that all other European colonial powers had to give up may be due to her national backwardness even more than to Salazar’s dictatorship; for it was not mere weakness or the exhaustion due to two murderous wars in one generation but also the moral scruples and political apprehensions of the fully developed nation-states that advised against extreme measures, the introduction of ‘administrative massacres’ (A. Carthill) that might well have broken the nonviolent rebellion in India, and against a continuation of the ‘government of subject races’ (Lord Cromer) because of the much-feared boomerang effect upon the mother countries. When finally France, thanks to the then still intact authority of De Gaulle, dared to give up Algeria, which she had always considered as much a part of France as the département de la Seine, a point of no return seemed to have been reached.

Whatever the merits of this hope might have been if the hot war against Nazi Germany had not been followed by the cold war between Soviet Russia and the United States, in retrospect one is tempted to look upon the last two decades as the time-span during which the two most powerful countries of the earth jockeyed for position in a competitive struggle for predominance in more or less the same regions in which European nations had ruled before. In the same vein one is tempted to look upon the new uneasy détente between Russia and America as the result of the emergence of a third potential world power, China, rather than as the healthy and natural consequence of Russia’s detotalitarization after Stalin’s death. And if further developments should validate such tentative interpretations, it would mean in historical terms that we are back, on an enormously enlarged scale, where we started from, that is, in the imperialist era and on the collision course that led to World War I.

It has often been said that the British acquired their empire in a fit of absent-mindedness, as consequence of automatic trends, yielding to what seemed possible and what was tempting, rather than as a result of deliberate policy. If this is true, then the road to hell may just as well be paved with no intentions as with the proverbial good ones. And the objective facts that invite a return to imperialist policies are indeed so strong today that one is inclined to believe at least in the half-truth of the statement, the hollow assurances of good intentions on both sides – American ‘commitments’ to the nonviable status quo of corruption and incompetence on one side, Russian pseudo-revolutionary talk about wars of national liberation on the other – notwithstanding. The processes of nation-building in backward areas where lack of all prerequisites for national independence is in exact proportion to a rampant, sterile chauvinism have resulted in enormous power vacuums, for which the competition between the superpowers is all the fiercer, as with the development of nuclear weapons a direct confrontation of their means of violence as a last resort to ‘solve’ all conflicts seems to be definitely ruled out. Not only does every conflict between the small, undeveloped countries in these vast areas, be it a civil war in Vietnam or a national conflict in the Middle East, immediately attract the potential or actual intervention of the superpowers, but their very conflicts, or at least the timing of their outbreaks, are suspect of having been manipulated or directly caused by interests and maneuvers that have nothing whatsoever to do with the conflicts and interests at stake in the region itself. Nothing was so characteristic of power politics in the imperialist era than this shift from localized, limited and therefore predictable goals of national interest to the limitless pursuit of power after power that could roam and lay waste the whole globe with no certain nationally and territorially prescribed purpose and hence with no predictable direction. This backsliding has become apparent also on the ideological level, for the famous domino-theory, according to which American foreign policy feels committed to wage war in one country for the sake of the integrity of others that are not even its neighbors, is clearly but a new version of the old ‘Great Game’ whose rules permitted and even dictated the consideration of whole nations as stepping-stones, or as pawns, in today’s terminology, for the riches and the rule over a third country, which in turn became a mere stepping-stone in the unending process of power expansion and accumulation. It was this chain reaction, inherent in imperialist power politics and best represented on the human level by the figure of the secret agent, of which Kipling said (in Kim), ‘When every one is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before’; and the only reason his prophecy did not come true was the constitutional restraint of the nation-state, while today our only hope that it will not come true in the future is based on the constitutional restraints of the American republic plus the technological restraints of the nuclear age.

This is not to deny that the unexpected revival of imperialist policies and methods takes place under vastly changed conditions and circumstances. The initiative for overseas expansion has shifted westward from England and Western Europe to America, and the initiative for Continental expansion in close geographic continuity no longer comes from Central and Eastern Europe but is exclusively located in Russia. Imperialist policies, more than any other single factor, have brought about the decline of Europe, and the prophecies of statesmen and historians that the two giants flanking the European nations on the east and on the west would ultimately emerge as the heirs of her power seem to have come true. No one justifies expansion any longer by ‘the white man’s burden’ on one side and an ‘enlarged tribal consciousness’ to unite people of similar ethnic origin on the other; instead we hear of ‘commitments’ to client states, of the responsibilities of power, and of solidarity with revolutionary national liberation movements. The very word ‘expansion’ has disappeared from our political vocabulary, which now uses the words ‘extension’ or, critically, ‘overextension’ to cover a very similar meaning. Politically more important, private investments in distant lands, originally the prime mover of imperialist developments, are today surpassed by foreign aid, economic and military, provided directly by governments. (In 1966 alone, the American government spent $4.6 billion in economic aid and foreign credits plus $1.3 billion a year in military aid in the decade 1956–1965, while the outflow of private capital in 1965 was $3.69 billion and in 1966 $3.91 billion.)[8] This means that the era of the so-called dollar imperialism, the specifically American version of pre-World War II imperialism that was politically the least dangerous, is definitely over. Private investments – ‘the activities of a thousand U.S. companies operating in a hundred foreign countries’ and ‘concentrated in the most modern, the most strategic, the most rapidly growing sectors of the foreign economy’ – create many political problems even if they are not protected by the power of the nation,[9] but foreign aid, even if given for purely humanitarian reasons, is political by nature precisely because it is not motivated by the search for profit. Billions of dollars have been spent in political and economic wastelands where corruption and incompetence have caused them to disappear before anything productive could be started, and this money is no longer the ‘superfluous’ capital that could not be invested productively and profitably in the home country but the weird out-growth of sheer abundance that the rich countries, the haves as against the have-nots, can afford to lose. In other words, the profit motive, whose importance for imperialist policies was frequently overrated even in the past, has now completely disappeared; only very rich and very powerful countries can afford to take the huge losses involved in imperialism.

It probably is too early, and certainly beyond the scope of my considerations, to analyze and ascertain with any degree of confidence these recent trends. What seems uncomfortably clear even now is the strength of certain, seemingly uncontrollable processes that tend to shatter all hopes for constitutional development in the new nations and to undermine the republican institutions in the old. Examples are too many to permit even cursory enumeration, but the rise of an ‘invisible government’ by secret services, whose reach into domestic affairs, the cultural, educational, and economic sectors of our life, has only recently been revealed, is too ominous a sign to be passed under silence. There is no reason to doubt Mr. Allan W. Dulles’ statement that Intelligence in this country has enjoyed since 1947 ‘a more influential position in our government than Intelligence enjoys in any other government of the world,’[10] nor is there any reason to believe that this influence has decreased since he made this statement in 1958. The deadly danger of ‘invisible government’ to the institutions of the ‘visible government’ has often been pointed out; what is perhaps less well known is the intimate traditional connection between imperialist politics and rule by ‘invisible government’ and secret agents. It is an error to believe that the creation of a net of secret services in this country after World War II was the answer to a direct threat to its national survival by the espionage network of Soviet Russia; the war had propelled the United States to the position of the greatest world power and it was this world power, rather than national existence, that was challenged by the revolutionary power of Moscow-directed communism.[11]

Whatever the causes for American ascendancy to world power, the deliberate pursuit of a foreign policy leading to it or any claim to global rule are not among them. And the same is probably true for the country’s recent and still tentative steps in the direction of imperialist power politics for which its form of government is less fitted than that of any other country. The enormous gap between the Western countries and the rest of the world, not only and not primarily in riches but in education, technical know-how, and general competence, has plagued international relations ever since the beginnings of genuine world politics. And this gulf, far from decreasing in recent decades under the pressure of the rapidly developing communication systems and the resulting shrinkage of distance on the earth, has constantly grown and is now assuming truly alarming proportions. ‘Population growth rates in less developed countries were double those in the more advanced countries,’[12] and while this factor alone would make it imperative for them to turn to those with surplus food and surplus technological and political knowledge, it is also this same factor which defeats all help. Obviously, the larger the population the less help per capita it will receive, and the truth of the matter is that after two decades of massive help programs all the countries that had not been able to help themselves to begin with – like Japan – are poorer, further away from either economic or political stability than ever. As for the chances of imperialism, this situation improves them frightfully for the simple reason that sheer numbers have never mattered less; white rule in South Africa where the tyrannical minority is outnumbered almost ten to one probably was never more secure than today. It is this objective situation that turns all foreign aid into an instrument of foreign domination and puts all countries that need this help for their decreasing chances of physical survival before the alternative of accepting some form of ‘government of subject races’ or sinking rapidly into anarchic decay.

This book deals only with the strictly European colonial imperialism whose end came with the liquidation of British rule in India. It tells the story of the disintegration of the nation-state that proved to contain nearly all the elements necessary for the subsequent rise of totalitarian movements and governments. Before the imperialist era, there was no such thing as world politics, and without it, the totalitarian claim to global rule would not have made sense. During this period, the nation-state system proved incapable of either devising new rules for the handling of foreign affairs that had become global affairs or enforcing a Pax Romana on the rest of the world. Its political narrowness and shortsightedness ended in the disaster of totalitarianism, whose unprecedented horrors have overshadowed the ominous events and the even more ominous mentality of the preceding period. Scholarly inquiry has almost exclusively concentrated on Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia at the expense of their less harmful predecessors. Imperialist rule, except for the purpose of name-calling, seems half-forgotten, and the chief reason why this is deplorable is that its relevance for contemporary events has become rather obvious in recent years. Thus, the controversy about the United States’ undeclared war in Vietnam has been conducted from both sides in terms of analogies with Munich or other examples drawn from the thirties when indeed totalitarian rule was the only clear and present, all-too present, danger, but the threats of today’s policies in deeds and words bear a much more portentous resemblance to the deeds and verbal justifications that preceded the outbreak of World War I, when a spark in a peripheral region of minor interest to all concerned could start a world-wide conflagration.

To stress the unhappy relevance of this half-forgotten period for contemporary events does not mean, of course, either that the die is cast and we are entering a new period of imperialist policies or that imperialism under all circumstances must end in the disasters of totalitarianism. No matter how much we may be capable of learning from the past, it will not enable us to know the future.

Hannah Arendt

July 1967

Preface to Part Three: Totalitarianism

I

The original manuscript of The Origins of Totalitarianism was finished in autumn 1949, more than four years after the defeat of Hitler Germany, less than four years before Stalin’s death. The first edition of the book appeared in 1951. In retrospect, the years I spent writing it, from 1945 onwards, appear like the first period of relative calm after decades of turmoil, confusion, and plain horror – the revolutions after the First World War, the rise of totalitarian movements and the undermining of parliamentary government, followed by all sorts of new tyrannies, Fascist and semi-Fascist, one-party and military dictatorships, finally the seemingly firm establishment of totalitarian governments resting on mass support:[13] in Russia in 1929, the year of what now is often called the ‘second revolution,’ and in Germany in 1933.

With the defeat of Nazi Germany, part of the story had come to an end. This seemed the first appropriate moment to look upon contemporary events with the backward-directed glance of the historian and the analytical zeal of the political scientist, the first chance to try to tell and to understand what had happened, not yet sine ira et studio, still in grief and sorrow and, hence, with a tendency to lament, but no longer in speechless outrage and impotent horror. (I left my original Preface in the present edition in order to indicate the mood of those years.) It was, at any rate, the first possible moment to articulate and to elaborate the questions with which my generation had been forced to live for the better part of its adult life: What happened? Why did it happen? How could it have happened? For out of the German defeat, which left behind a country in ruins and a nation that felt it had arrived at ‘point zero’ of its history, mountains of paper had emerged virtually intact, a superabundance of documentary material on every aspect of the twelve years that Hitler’s Tausendjähriges Reich had managed to last. The first generous selections from this embarras de richesses, which even today are by no means adequately published and investigated, began to appear in connection with the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals in 1946, in the twelve volumes of Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression.[14]

Much more documentary and other material, however, bearing on the Nazi regime, had become available in libraries and archives when the second (paperback) edition appeared in 1958. What I then learned was interesting enough, but it hardly required substantial changes in either the analysis or the argument of my original presentation. Numerous additions and replacements of quotations in the footnotes seemed advisable, and the text was considerably enlarged. But these changes were all of a technical nature. In 1949, the Nuremberg documents were known only in part and in English translations, and a great number of books, pamphlets, and magazines published in Germany between 1933 and 1945 had not been available. Also, in a number of additions I took into account some of the more important events after Stalin’s death – the successor crisis and Khrushchev’s speech at the Twentieth Party Congress – as well as new information on the Stalin regime from recent publications. Thus I revised Part III and the last chapter of Part II, whereas Part I on Antisemitism and the first four chapters on Imperialism have remained unchanged. Moreover, there were certain insights of a strictly theoretical nature, closely connected with my analysis of the elements of total domination, which I did not possess when I finished the original manuscript that ended with rather inconclusive ‘Concluding Remarks.’ The last chapter of this edition, ‘Ideology and Terror,’ replaced these ‘Remarks,’ which, to the extent that they still seemed valid, were shifted to other chapters. To the second edition, I had added an Epilogue where I discussed briefly the introduction of the Russian system into the satellite countries and the Hungarian Revolution. This discussion, written much later, was different in tone since it dealt with contemporary events and has become obsolete in many details. I have now eliminated it, and this is the only substantial change of this edition as compared with the second (paperback) edition.

Obviously, the end of the war did not spell the end of totalitarian government in Russia. On the contrary, it was followed by the Bolshevization of Eastern Europe, that is, the spread of totalitarian government, and peace offered no more than a significant turning point from which to analyze the similarities and differences in methods and institutions of the two totalitarian regimes. Not the end of the war but Stalin’s death eight years later was decisive. In retrospect, it seems that this death was not merely followed by a successor crisis and a temporary ‘thaw’ until a new leader had asserted himself, but by an authentic, though never unequivocal, process of detotalitarization. Hence, from the viewpoint of events, there was no reason to bring this part of my story up to date now; and as far as our knowledge of the period in question is concerned, it has not changed drastically enough to require extensive revisions and additions. In contrast to Germany, where Hitler used his war consciously to develop and, as it were, perfect totalitarian government, the war period in Russia was a time of temporary suspense of total domination. For my purposes, the years from 1929 to 1941 and then again from 1945 down to 1953 are of central interest, and for these periods our sources are as scarce and of the same nature as they were in 1958 or even in 1949. Nothing has happened, or is likely to happen in the future, to present us with the same unequivocal end of the story or the same horribly neat and irrefutable evidence to document it as was the case for Nazi Germany.

The only important addition to our knowledge, the contents of the Smolensk Archive (published in 1958 by Merle Fainsod) have demonstrated to what an extent dearth of the most elementary documentary and statistical material will remain the decisive handicap for all inquiries into this period of Russian history. For although the archives (discovered at party headquarters in Smolensk by German intelligence and then captured by the American occupation force in Germany) contain some 200,000 pages of documents and are virtually intact for the period from 1917 to 1938, the amount of information they fail to give us is truly amazing. Even with ‘an almost unmanageable abundance of material on the purges’ from 1929 to 1937, they contain no indication of the number of victims or any other vital statistical data. Wherever figures are given, they are hopelessly contradictory, the various organizations all giving different sets, and all we learn beyond doubt is that many of them, if they ever existed, were withheld at the source by order of the government.[15] Also, the Archive contains no information on the relations between the various branches of authority, ‘between Party, the military and NKVD,’ or between party and government, and it is silent about the channels of communication and command. In short, we learn nothing about the organizational structure of the regime, of which we are so well informed with respect to Nazi Germany.[16] In other words, while it has always been known that official Soviet publications served propaganda purposes and were utterly unreliable, it now appears that reliable source and statistical material probably never existed anywhere.

A much more serious question is whether a study of totalitarianism can afford to ignore what has happened, and is still happening, in China. Here our knowledge is even less secure than it was for Russia in the thirties, partly because the country has succeeded in isolating itself against foreigners after the successful revolution much more radically, and partly because defectors from the higher ranks of the Chinese Communist Party have not yet come to our aid – which, of course, in itself is significant enough. For seventeen years, the little we knew beyond doubt pointed to very relevant differences: after an initial period of considerable bloodshed – the number of victims during the first years of dictatorship is plausibly estimated at fifteen million, about three percent of the population in 1949 and, in terms of percentage, considerably less than the population losses due to Stalin’s ‘second revolution’ – and after the disappearance of organized opposition, there was no increase in terror, no massacres of innocent people, no category of ‘objective enemies,’ no show trials, though a great deal of public confession and ‘self-criticism,’ and no outright crimes. Mao’s famous speech in 1957, ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People,’ usually known under the misleading title ‘Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom,’ was certainly no plea for freedom, but it did recognize non-antagonistic contradictions between classes and, more importantly, between the people and the government even under a Communist dictatorship. The way to deal with opponents was ‘rectification of thought,’ an elaborate procedure of constant molding and remolding of the minds, to which more or less the whole population seemed subject. We never knew very well how this worked in everyday life, who was exempt from it – that is, who did the ‘remolding’ – and we had no inkling of the results of the ‘brainwashing,’ whether it was lasting and actually produced personality changes. If one were to trust the present announcements of the Chinese leadership, all it produced was hypocrisy on a gigantic scale, the ‘breeding grounds for counter-revolution.’ If this was terror, as it most certainly was, it was terror of a different kind, and whatever its results, it did not decimate the population. It clearly recognized national interest, it permitted the country to develop peacefully, to use the competence of the descendants of the formerly ruling classes, and to uphold academic and professional standards. In brief, it was obvious that Mao Tse-tung’s ‘thought’ did not run along the lines laid down by Stalin (or Hitler, for that matter), that he was not a killer by instinct, and that nationalist sentiment, so prominent in all revolutionary upheavals in formerly colonial countries, was strong enough to impose limits upon total domination. All this seemed to contradict certain fears expressed in this book (here).

On the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party after its victory had at once aimed at being ‘international in organization, all-comprehensive in its ideological scope, and global in its political aspiration’ (p. 510), that is, its totalitarian traits have been manifest from the beginning. These traits became more prominent with the development of the Sino-Soviet conflict, although the conflict itself might well have been touched off by national rather than ideological issues. The insistence of the Chinese on rehabilitating Stalin and denouncing the Russian attempts at detotalitarization as ‘revisionist’ deviation was ominous enough, and, to make matters worse, it was accompanied by an utterly ruthless, though thus far unsuccessful, international policy which aimed at infiltrating all revolutionary movements with Chinese agents and at reviving the Comintern under Peking’s leadership. All these developments are difficult to judge at the present moment, partly because we don’t know enough and partly because everything is still in a state of flux. To these uncertainties, which are in the nature of the situation, we unhappily have added our own self-created handicaps. For it does not facilitate matters in either theory or practice that we have inherited from the cold-war period an official ‘counter-ideology,’ anti-Communism, which also tends to become global in aspiration and tempts us into constructing a fiction of our own, so that we refuse on principle to distinguish the various Communist one-party dictatorships, with which we are confronted in reality, from authentic totalitarian government as it may develop, albeit in different forms, in China. The point, of course, is not that Communist China is different from Communist Russia, or that Stalin’s Russia was different from Hitler’s Germany. Drunkenness and incompetence, which loom so large in any description of Russia in the twenties and thirties and are still widespread today, played no role whatsoever in the story of Nazi Germany, while the unspeakable gratuitous cruelty in the German concentration and extermination camps seems to have been largely absent from the Russian camps, where the prisoners died of neglect rather than of torture. Corruption, the curse of the Russian administration from the beginning, was also present during the last years of the Nazi regime but apparently has been entirely absent from China after the revolution. Differences of this sort could be multiplied; they are of great significance and part and parcel of the national history of the respective countries, but they have no direct bearing on the form of government. Absolute monarchy, no doubt, was a very different affair in Spain, in France, in England, in Prussia; still it was everywhere the same form of government. Decisive in our context is that totalitarian government is different from dictatorships and tyrannies; the ability to distinguish between them is by no means an academic issue which could be safely left to the ‘theoreticians,’ for total domination is the only form of government with which coexistence is not possible. Hence, we have every reason to use the word ‘totalitarian’ sparingly and prudently.

In stark contrast to the scarcity and uncertainty of new sources for factual knowledge with respect to totalitarian government, we find an enormous increase in studies of all the varieties of new dictatorships, be they totalitarian or not, during the last fifteen years. This is of course particularly true for Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. There exist now many works which are indeed indispensable for further inquiry and study of the subject, and I have tried my best to supplement my old bibliography accordingly. (The second [paperback] edition carried no bibliography.) The only kind of literature which, with few exceptions, I left out on purpose are the numerous memoirs published by former Nazi generals and high functionaries after the end of the war. (That this sort of apologetics does not shine with honesty is understandable enough and should not rule it out of our consideration. But the lack of comprehension these reminiscences display of what actually happened and of the roles the authors themselves played in the course of events is truly astonishing and deprives them of all but a certain psychological interest.) I also added the relatively few new items of importance to the reading lists pertaining to Parts I and II. Finally, for reasons of convenience, the bibliography like the book itself is now divided into three separate parts.

II

As far as evidence is concerned, the early date this book was conceived and written has proved to be less of a handicap than might reasonably be assumed, and this is true of the material on both the Nazi and the Bolshevik variety of totalitarianism. It is one of the oddities of the literature on totalitarianism that very early attempts by contemporaries at writing its ‘history,’ which according to all academic rules were bound to founder on the lack of impeccable source material and emotional overcommitment, have stood the test of time remarkably well. Konrad Heiden’s biography of Hitler and Boris Souvarine’s biography of Stalin, both written and published in the thirties, are in some respects more accurate and in almost all respects more relevant than the standard biographies by Alan Bullock and Isaac Deutscher respectively. This may have many reasons, but one of them certainly is the simple fact that documentary material in both cases has tended to confirm and to add to what had been known all along from prominent defectors and other eye-witness accounts.

To put it somewhat drastically: We did not need Khrushchev’s Secret Speech to know that Stalin had committed crimes, or that this allegedly ‘insanely suspicious’ man had decided to put his trust in Hitler. As to the latter, nothing indeed proves better than this trust that Stalin was not insane; he was justifiably suspicious with respect to all people he wished or prepared to eliminate, and these included practically everybody in the higher echelons of party and government; he naturally trusted Hitler because he did not wish him ill. As to the former, Khrushchev’s startling admissions, which – for the obvious reason that his audience and he himself were totally involved in the true story – concealed considerably more than they revealed, had the unfortunate result that in the eyes of many (and also, of course, of scholars with their professional love of official sources) they minimized the gigantic criminality of the Stalin regime which, after all, did not consist merely in the slander and murder of a few hundred or thousand prominent political and literary figures, whom one may ‘rehabilitate’ posthumously, but in the extermination of literally untold millions of people whom no one, not even Stalin, could have suspected of ‘counter-revolutionary’ activities. It was precisely by conceding some crimes that Khrushchev concealed the criminality of the regime as a whole, and it is precisely against this camouflage and the hypocrisy of the present Russian rulers – all of them trained and promoted under Stalin – that the younger generation of Russian intellectuals is now in an almost open rebellion. For they know everything there is to know about ‘mass purges, and the deportation and annihilation of entire peoples.’[17] Moreover, Khrushchev’s explanation of the crimes he conceded – Stalin’s insane suspiciousness – concealed the most characteristic aspect of totalitarian terror, that it is let loose when all organized opposition has died down and the totalitarian ruler knows that he no longer need to be afraid. This is particularly true for the Russian development. Stalin started his gigantic purges not in 1928 when he conceded, ‘We have internal enemies,’ and actually had still reason to be afraid – he knew that Bukharin compared him to Genghis Khan and was convinced that Stalin’s policy ‘was leading the country to famine, ruin, and a police regime,’[18] as indeed it did – but in 1934, when all former opponents had ‘confessed their errors,’ and Stalin himself, at the Seventeenth Party Congress, also called by him the ‘Congress of the Victors,’ had declared: ‘At this Congress … there is nothing more to prove and, it seems, no one to fight.’[19] Neither the sensational character nor the decisive political importance of the Twentieth Party Congress for Soviet Russia and the Communist movement at large are in doubt. But the importance is political; the light official sources of the post-Stalin period shed on what had happened before should not be mistaken for the light of truth.

As far as our knowledge of the Stalin era is concerned, Fainsod’s publication of the Smolensk Archive, which I mentioned before, has remained by far the most important publication, and it is deplorable that this first random selection has not yet been followed up by a more extensive publication of the material. To judge from Fainsod’s book, there is much to learn for the period of Stalin’s struggle for power in the mid-twenties: We now know how precarious the position of the party was,[20] not only because a mood of outright opposition prevailed in the country but because it was riddled with corruption and drunkenness; that outspoken antisemitism accompanied nearly all demands for liberalization;[21] that the drive for collectivization and dekulakization from 1928 onward actually interrupted the NEP, Lenin’s new economic policy, and with it a beginning reconciliation between the people and its government;[22] how fiercely these measures were resisted by the solidarity of the whole peasant class, which decided that ‘it’s better not to be born than to join the kolkhoz’[23] and refused to be split up into rich, middle, and poor peasants in order to rise against the kulaks[24] – ‘there sits somebody who is worse than these kulaks and who is only planning how to hunt people down’;[25] and that the situation was not much better in the cities, where the workers refused to co-operate with the party-controlled trade unions and addressed the management as ‘well-fed devils,’ ‘hypocritical wall-eyes,’ and the like.[26]

Fainsod rightly points out that these documents clearly show not only ‘wide-spread mass discontent’ but also the lack of any ‘sufficiently organized opposition’ against the regime as a whole. What he fails to see, and what in my opinion is equally supported by the evidence, is that there existed an obvious alternative to Stalin’s seizure of power and transformation of the one-party dictatorship into total domination, and this was the pursuance of the NEP policy as it had been initiated by Lenin.[27] Moreover, the measures taken by Stalin with the introduction of the First Five Year Plan in 1928, when his control of the party was almost complete, prove that transformation of classes into masses and the concomitant elimination of all group solidarity are the condition sine qua non of total domination.

With respect to the period of Stalin’s undisputed rule from 1929 onward, the Smolensk Archive tends to confirm what we knew before from less irrefutable sources. This is even true for some of its odd lacunae, especially those concerning statistical data. For this lack proves merely that, in this as in other respects, the Stalin regime was ruthlessly consistent: all facts that did not agree, or were likely to disagree, with the official fiction – data on crop-yields, criminality, true incidences of ‘counter-revolutionary’ activities as distinguished from the later conspiracy fictions – were treated as non-facts. It was indeed quite in line with the totalitarian contempt for facts and reality that all such data, instead of being collected in Moscow from the four corners of the immense territory, were first made known to the respective localities through publication in Pravda, Izvestia, or some other official organ in Moscow, so that every region and every district of the Soviet Union received its official, fictitious statistical data in much the same way it received the no less fictitious norms allotted to them by the Five Year Plans.[28]

I shall briefly enumerate a few of the more striking points, which could only be guessed at before and which are now supported by documentary evidence. We always suspected, but we now know that the regime was never ‘monolithic’ but ‘consciously constructed around overlapping, duplicating, and parallel functions,’ and that this grotesquely amorphous structure was kept together by the same Führer-principle – the so-called ‘personality cult’ – we find in Nazi Germany;[29] that the executive branch of this particular government was not the party but the police, whose ‘operational activities were not regulated through party channels’;[30] that the entirely innocent people whom the regime liquidated by the millions, the ‘objective enemies’ in Bolshevik language, knew that they were ‘criminals without a crime’;[31] that it was precisely this new category, as distinguished from the earlier true foes of the regime – assassins of government officials, arsonists, or bandits – that reacted with the same ‘complete passivity’[32] we know so well from the behavior patterns of the victims of Nazi terror. There was never any doubt that the ‘flood of mutual denunciations’ during the Great Purge was as disastrous for the economic and social well-being of the country as it was effective in strengthening the totalitarian ruler, but we know only now how deliberately Stalin set this ‘ominous chain of denunciations in motion,’[33] when he proclaimed officially on July 29, 1936: ‘The inalienable quality of every Bolshevik under present conditions should be the ability to recognize an enemy of the Party no matter how well he may be masked.[34] (Italics added.) For just as Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ actually meant to make the command ‘Thou shalt kill’ binding for the elite of the Nazi party, Stalin’s pronouncement prescribed: ‘Thou shalt bear false testimony,’ as a guiding rule for the conduct of all members of the Bolshevik party. Finally, all doubts one still might have nourished about the amount of truth in the current theory, according to which the terror of the late twenties and thirties was ‘the high price in suffering’ exacted by industrialization and economic progress, are laid at rest by this first glimpse into the actual state of affairs and the course of events in one particular region.[35] Terror produced nothing of the sort. The best documented result of dekulakization, collectivization, and the Great Purge was neither progress nor rapid industrialization but famine, chaotic conditions in the production of food, and depopulation. The consequences have been a perpetual crisis in agriculture, an interruption of population growth, and the failure to develop and colonize the Siberian hinterland. Moreover, as the Smolensk Archive spells out in detail, Stalin’s methods of rule succeeded in destroying whatever measure of competence and technical know-how the country had acquired after the October Revolution. And all this together was indeed an incredibly ‘high price,’ not just in suffering, exacted for the opening of careers in the party and government bureaucracies to sections of the population which often were not merely ‘politically illiterate.’[36] The truth is that the price of totalitarian rule was so high that in neither Germany nor Russia has it yet been paid in full.

III

I mentioned before the detotalitarization process which followed upon Stalin’s death. In 1958, I was not yet sure that the ‘thaw’ was more than a temporary relaxation, a kind of emergency measure due to the successor crisis and not unlike the considerable loosening of totalitarian controls during the Second World War. Even today we cannot know if this process is final and irreversible, but it surely can no longer be called temporary or provisional. For however one may read the often bewildering zigzag line of Soviet policies since 1953, it is undeniable that the huge police empire was liquidated, that most of the concentration camps were dissolved, that no new purges against ‘objective enemies’ have been introduced, and that conflicts between members of the new ‘collective leadership’ are now being resolved by demotion and exile from Moscow rather than by show trials, confessions, and assassinations. No doubt, the methods used by the new rulers in the years after Stalin’s death still followed closely the pattern set by Stalin after Lenin’s death: there emerged again a triumvirate called ‘collective leadership,’ a term coined by Stalin in 1925, and after four years of intrigues and contest for power, there was a repetition of Stalin’s coup d’état in 1929, namely, Khrushchev’s seizure of power in 1957. Technically speaking, Khrushchev’s coup followed the methods of his dead and denounced master very closely. He too needed an outside force in order to win power in the party hierarchy, and he used the support of Marshal Zhukov and the army exactly the same way Stalin had used his relationships to the secret police in the succession struggle of thirty years ago.[37] Just as in the case of Stalin, in which the supreme power after the coup continued to reside in the party, not in the police, so in Khrushchev’s case ‘by the end of 1957 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had attained a place of undisputed supremacy in all aspects of Soviet life’;[38] for just as Stalin had never hesitated to purge his police cadres and liquidate their chief, so Khrushchev had followed up his inner-party maneuvers by removing Zhukov from the Presidium and Central Committee of the party, to which he had been elected after the coup, as well as from his post as highest commander of the army.

To be sure, when Khrushchev appealed to Zhukov for support, the army’s ascendancy over the police was an accomplished fact in the Soviet Union. This had been one of the automatic consequences of the breaking up of the police empire whose rule over a huge part of Soviet industries, mines, and real estate had been inherited by the managerial group, who suddenly found themselves rid of their most serious economic competitor. The automatic ascendancy of the army was even more decisive; it now held a clear monopoly of the instruments of violence with which to decide inner-party conflicts. It speaks for Khrushchev’s shrewdness that he grasped these consequences of what they presumably had done together more rapidly than his colleagues. But whatever his motives, the consequences of this shift of emphasis from the police to the military in the power game were of great consequence. It is true, ascendancy of the secret police over the military apparatus is the hallmark of many tyrannies, and not only the totalitarian; however, in the case of totalitarian government the preponderance of the police not merely answers the need for suppressing the population at home but fits the ideological claim to global rule. For it is evident that those who regard the whole earth as their future territory will stress the organ of domestic violence and will rule conquered territory with police methods and personnel rather than with the army. Thus, the Nazis used their SS troops, essentially a police force, for the rule and even the conquest of foreign territories, with the ultimate aim of an amalgamation of the army and the police under the leadership of the SS.

Moreover, the significance of this change in the balance of power had been manifest before, at the occasion of the suppression by force of the Hungarian Revolution. The bloody crushing of the revolution, terrible and effective as it was, had been accomplished by regular army units and not by police troops, and the consequence was that it did by no means represent a typically Stalinist solution. Although the military operation was followed by the execution of the leaders and the imprisonment of thousands, there was no wholesale deportation of the people; in fact, no attempt at depopulating the country was made. And since this was a military operation and not a police action, the Soviets could afford sending enough aid to the defeated country to prevent mass starvation and to stave off a complete collapse of the economy in the year following the revolution. Nothing, surely, would have been farther from Stalin’s mind under similar circumstances.

The clearest sign that the Soviet Union can no longer be called totalitarian in the strict sense of the term is, of course, the amazingly swift and rich recovery of the arts during the last decade. To be sure, efforts to rehabilitate Stalin and to curtail the increasingly vocal demands for freedom of speech and thought among students, writers, and artists recur again and again, but none of them has been very successful or is likely to be successful without a full-fledged re-establishment of terror and police rule. No doubt, the people of the Soviet Union are denied all forms of political freedom, not only freedom of association but also freedom of thought, opinion and public expression. It looks as though nothing has changed, while in fact everything has changed. When Stalin died the drawers of writers and artists were empty; today there exists a whole literature that circulates in manuscript and all kinds of modern painting are tried out in the painters’ studios and become known even though they are not exhibited. This is not to minimize the difference between tyrannical censorship and freedom of the arts, it is only to stress the fact that the difference between a clandestine literature and no literature equals the difference between one and zero.

Furthermore, the very fact that members of the intellectual opposition can have a trial (though not an open one), can make themselves heard in the courtroom and count upon support outside it, do not confess to anything but plead not guilty, demonstrates that we deal here no longer with total domination. What happened to Sinyavsky and Daniel, the two writers who in February 1966 were tried for having published works abroad which could not have been published in the Soviet Union and who were sentenced to seven and five years of hard labor respectively, was certainly outrageous by all standards of justice in constitutional government; but what they had to say was heard around the world and is not likely to be forgotten. They did not disappear in the hole of oblivion which totalitarian rulers prepare for their opponents. Less well known but perhaps even more convincing is that Khrushchev’s own and most ambitious attempt at reversing the process of detotalitarization turned into a complete failure. In 1957, he introduced a new ‘law against social parasites,’ which would have enabled the regime to reintroduce mass deportations, re-establish slave labor on a large scale, and – most importantly for total domination – to let loose another flood of mass denunciations; for ‘parasites’ were supposed to be selected by the people themselves in mass meetings. The ‘law,’ however, met with the opposition of Soviet jurists and was dropped before it could even be tried out.[39] In other words, the people of the Soviet Union have emerged from the nightmare of totalitarian rule to the manifold hardships, dangers, and injustices of one-party dictatorship; and while it is entirely true that this modern form of tyranny offers none of the guarantees of constitutional government, that ‘even accepting the presuppositions of Communist ideology, all power in the USSR is ultimately illegitimate,’[40] and that the country therefore can relapse into totalitarianism between one day and another without major upheavals, it is also true that the most horrible of all new forms of government, whose elements and historical origins I set out to analyze, came no less to an end in Russia with the death of Stalin than totalitarianism came to an end in Germany with the death of Hitler.

This book deals with totalitarianism, its origins and its elements, whereas its aftermath in either Germany or Russia is pertinent to its considerations only insofar as it is likely to throw light on what happened before. Hence, not the period after Stalin’s death but rather the postwar era of his rule is of relevance in our context. And these eight years, from 1945 to 1953, confirm and spin out, they don’t either contradict or add new elements to what had been manifest since the middle thirties. The events that followed upon victory, the measures taken to reaffirm total domination after the temporary relaxation of the war period in the Soviet Union as well as those by which totalitarian rule was introduced in the satellite countries, were all in accord with the rules of the game as we had come to know it. The Bolshevization of the satellites started with popular-front tactics and a sham parliamentary system, proceeded quickly to the open establishment of one-party dictatorships in which the leaders and members of the formerly tolerated parties were liquidated, and then reached the last stage when the native Communist leaders, whom Moscow rightly or wrongly mistrusted, were brutally framed, humiliated in show trials, tortured, and killed under the rulership of the most corrupt and most despicable elements in the party, namely those who were primarily not Communists but agents of Moscow. It was as though Moscow repeated in great haste all the stages of the October Revolution up to the emergence of totalitarian dictatorship. The story therefore, while unspeakably horrible, is without much interest of its own and varies little: what happened in one satellite country happened at almost the same moment in all others from the Baltic Sea down to the Adriatic. Events differed in regions which were not included into the satellite system. The Baltic states were directly incorporated into the Soviet Union and fared considerably worse than the satellites: more than half a million people were deported from the three small countries and an ‘enormous influx of Russian settlers’ began to threaten the native populations with minority status in their own countries.[41] East Germany, on the other hand, is only now, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, slowly being incorporated into the satellite system, having been treated before rather as occupied territory with a Quisling government.

In our context, developments in the Soviet Union, especially after 1948 – the year of Zhdanov’s mysterious death and the ‘Leningrad affair’ – are of greater importance. For the first time after the Great Purge, Stalin had a great number of high and highest officials executed, and we know for certain that this was planned as the beginning of another nationwide purge. This would have been touched off by the ‘Doctors’ plot’ had Stalin’s death not intervened. A group of mostly Jewish physicians were accused of having plotted ‘to wipe out the leading cadres of the USSR.’[42] Everything that went on in Russia between 1948 and January 1953, when the ‘Doctors’ plot’ was being ‘discovered,’ bore a striking and ominous similarity to the preparations of the Great Purge during the thirties: the death of Zhdanov and the Leningrad purge corresponded to Kirov’s no less mysterious death in 1934 which was immediately followed by a kind of preparatory purge ‘of all former oppositionists who remained in the Party.’[43] Moreover, the very content of the absurd accusation against the physicians, that they would kill off people in leading positions all over the country, must have filled with fearful forebodings all those who were acquainted with Stalin’s method of accusing a fictitious enemy of the crime he himself was about to commit. (The best known example is of course his accusation that Tukhachevski conspired with Germany at the very moment when Stalin was contemplating an alliance with the Nazis.) Obviously, in 1952 Stalin’s entourage was much wiser to what his words actually meant than they could have been in the thirties, and the very wording of the accusation must have spread panic among all higher officials of the regime. This panic may still be the most plausible explanation of Stalin’s death, the mysterious circumstances surrounding it, and the swift closing of ranks in the higher echelons of the party, notoriously ridden by strife and intrigues, during the first months of the succession crisis. However little we know of the details of this story, we know more than enough to support my original conviction that such ‘wrecking operations’ as the Great Purge were not isolated episodes, not excesses of the regime provoked by extraordinary circumstances, but that they were an institution of terror and to be expected at regular intervals – unless, of course, the nature of the regime itself was changed.

The most dramatic new element in this last purge, which Stalin planned in the last years of his life, was a decisive shift in ideology, the introduction of a Jewish world conspiracy. For years, the ground for this change had been carefully laid in a number of trials in the satellite countries – the Rajk trial in Hungary, the Ana Pauker affair in Rumania, and, in 1952, the Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia. In these preparatory measures, high party officials were singled out because of their ‘Jewish bourgeois’ origins and accused of Zionism; this accusation was gradually changed to implicate notoriously non-Zionist agencies (especially the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee), in order to indicate that all Jews were Zionists and all Zionist groups ‘hirelings of American imperialism.’[44] There was of course nothing new in the ‘crime’ of Zionism, but as the campaign progressed and began to center on Jews in the Soviet Union, another significant change took place: Jews now stood accused of ‘cosmopolitanism’ rather than Zionism, and the pattern of accusations that developed out of this slogan followed ever more closely the Nazi pattern of a Jewish world conspiracy in the sense of the Elders of Zion. It now became startlingly clear how deep an impression this mainstay of Nazi ideology must have made on Stalin – the first indications of this had been in evidence ever since the Hitler-Stalin pact – partly, to be sure, because of its obvious propaganda value in Russia as in all of the satellite countries, where anti-Jewish feeling was widespread and anti-Jewish propaganda had always enjoyed great popularity, but partly also because this type of a fictitious world conspiracy provided an ideologically more suitable background for totalitarian claims to world rule than Wall Street, capitalism, and imperialism. The open, unashamed adoption of what had become to the whole world the most prominent sign of Nazism was the last compliment Stalin paid to his late colleague and rival in total domination with whom, much to his chagrin, he had not been able to come to a lasting agreement.

Stalin, like Hitler, died in the midst of a horrifying unfinished business. And when this happened, the story this book has to tell, and the events it tries to understand and to come to terms with, came to an at least provisional end.

Hannah Arendt

June 1966



Part One. ANTISEMITISM

This is a remarkable century which opened with the Revolution and ended with the Affaire! Perhaps it will be called the century of rubbish.

Roger Martin Du Gard

Chapter One. Antisemitism as an Outrage to Common Sense

Many still consider it an accident that Nazi ideology centered around antisemitism and that Nazi policy, consistently and uncompromisingly, aimed at the persecution and finally the extermination of the Jews. Only the horror of the final catastrophe, and even more the homelessness and uprootedness of the survivors, made the ‘Jewish question’ so prominent in our everyday political life. What the Nazis themselves claimed to be their chief discovery – the role of the Jewish people in world politics – and their chief interest – persecution of Jews all over the world – have been regarded by public opinion as a pretext for winning the masses or an interesting device of demagogy.

The failure to take seriously what the Nazis themselves said is comprehensible enough. There is hardly an aspect of contemporary history more irritating and mystifying than the fact that of all the great unsolved political questions of our century, it should have been this seemingly small and unimportant Jewish problem that had the dubious honor of setting the whole infernal machine in motion. Such discrepancies between cause and effect outrage our common sense, to say nothing of the historian’s sense of balance and harmony. Compared with the events themselves, all explanations of antisemitism look as if they had been hastily and hazardously contrived, to cover up an issue which so gravely threatens our sense of proportion and our hope for sanity.

One of these hasty explanations has been the identification of antisemitism with rampant nationalism and its xenophobic outbursts. Unfortunately, the fact is that modern antisemitism grew in proportion as traditional nationalism declined, and reached its climax at the exact moment when the European system of nation-states and its precarious balance of power crashed.

It has already been noticed that the Nazis were not simple nationalists. Their nationalist propaganda was directed toward their fellow-travelers and not their convinced members; the latter, on the contrary, were never allowed to lose sight of a consistently supranational approach to politics. Nazi ‘nationalism’ had more than one aspect in common with the recent nationalistic propaganda in the Soviet Union, which is also used only to feed the prejudices of the masses. The Nazis had a genuine and never revoked contempt for the narrowness of nationalism, the provincialism of the nation-state, and they repeated time and again that their ‘movement,’ international in scope like the Bolshevik movement, was more important to them than any state, which would necessarily be bound to a specific territory. And not only the Nazis, but fifty years of antisemitic history, stand as evidence against the identification of antisemitism with nationalism. The first antisemitic parties in the last decades of the nineteenth century were also among the first that banded together internationally. From the very beginning, they called international congresses and were concerned with a co-ordination of international, or at least inter-European, activities.

General trends, like the coincident decline of the nation-state and the growth of antisemitism, can hardly ever be explained satisfactorily by one reason or by one cause alone. The historian is in most such cases confronted with a very complex historical situation where he is almost at liberty, and that means at a loss, to isolate one factor as the ‘spirit of the time.’ There are, however, a few helpful general rules. Foremost among them for our purpose is Tocqueville’s great discovery (in L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, Book II, chap. 1) of the motives for the violent hatred felt by the French masses for the aristocracy at the outbreak of the Revolution – a hatred which stimulated Burke to remark that the revolution was more concerned with ‘the condition of a gentleman’ than with the institution of a king. According to Tocqueville, the French people hated aristocrats about to lose their power more than it had ever hated them before, precisely because their rapid loss of real power was not accompanied by any considerable decline in their fortunes. As long as the aristocracy held vast powers of jurisdiction, they were not only tolerated but respected. When noblemen lost their privileges, among others the privilege to exploit and oppress, the people felt them to be parasites, without any real function in the rule of the country. In other words, neither oppression nor exploitation as such is ever the main cause for resentment; wealth without visible function is much more intolerable because nobody can understand why it should be tolerated.

Antisemitism reached its climax when Jews had similarly lost their public functions and their influence, and were left with nothing but their wealth. When Hitler came to power, the German banks were already almost judenrein (and it was here that Jews had held key positions for more than a hundred years) and German Jewry as a whole, after a long steady growth in social status and numbers, was declining so rapidly that statisticians predicted its disappearance in a few decades. Statistics, it is true, do not necessarily point to real historical processes; yet it is noteworthy that to a statistician Nazi persecution and extermination could look like a senseless acceleration of a process which would probably have come about in any case.

The same holds true for nearly all Western European countries. The Dreyfus Affair exploded not under the Second Empire, when French Jewry was at the height of its prosperity and influence, but under the Third Republic when Jews had all but vanished from important positions (though not from the political scene). Austrian antisemitism became violent not under the reign of Metternich and Franz Joseph, but in the postwar Austrian Republic when it was perfectly obvious that hardly any other group had suffered the same loss of influence and prestige through the disappearance of the Hapsburg monarchy.

Persecution of powerless or power-losing groups may not be a very pleasant spectacle, but it does not spring from human meanness alone. What makes men obey or tolerate real power and, on the other hand, hate people who have wealth without power, is the rational instinct that power has a certain function and is of some general use. Even exploitation and oppression still make society work and establish some kind of order. Only wealth without power or aloofness without a policy are felt to be parasitical, useless, revolting, because such conditions cut all the threads which tie men together. Wealth which does not exploit lacks even the relationship which exists between exploiter and exploited; aloofness without policy does not imply even the minimum concern of the oppressor for the oppressed.

The general decline of Western and Central European Jewry, however, constitutes merely the atmosphere in which the subsequent events took place. The decline itself explains them as little as the mere loss of power by the aristocracy would explain the French Revolution. To be aware of such general rules is important only in order to refute those recommendations of common sense which lead us to believe that violent hatred or sudden rebellion spring necessarily from great power and great abuses, and that consequently organized hatred of the Jews cannot but be a reaction to their importance and power.

More serious, because it appeals to much better people, is another common-sense fallacy: the Jews, because they were an entirely powerless group caught up in the general and insoluble conflicts of the time, could be blamed for them and finally be made to appear the hidden authors of all evil. The best illustration – and the best refutation – of this explanation, dear to the hearts of many liberals, is in a joke which was told after the first World War. An antisemite claimed that the Jews had caused the war; the reply was: Yes, the Jews and the bicyclists. Why the bicyclists? asks the one. Why the Jews? asks the other.

The theory that the Jews are always the scapegoat implies that the scapegoat might have been anyone else as well. It upholds the perfect innocence of the victim, an innocence which insinuates not only that no evil was done but that nothing at all was done which might possibly have a connection with the issue at stake. It is true that the scapegoat theory in its purely arbitrary form never appears in print. Whenever, however, its adherents painstakingly try to explain why a specific scapegoat was so well suited to his role, they show that they have left the theory behind them and have got themselves involved in the usual historical research – where nothing is ever discovered except that history is made by many groups and that for certain reasons one group was singled out. The so-called scapegoat necessarily ceases to be the innocent victim whom the world blames for all its sins and through whom it wishes to escape punishment; it becomes one group of people among other groups, all of which are involved in the business of this world. And it does not simply cease to be coresponsible because it became the victim of the world’s injustice and cruelty.

Until recently the inner inconsistency of the scapegoat theory was sufficient reason to discard it as one of many theories which are motivated by escapism. But the rise of terror as a major weapon of government has lent it a credibility greater than it ever had before.

A fundamental difference between modern dictatorships and all other tyrannies of the past is that terror is no longer used as a means to exterminate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people who are perfectly obedient. Terror as we know it today strikes without any preliminary provocation, its victims are innocent even from the point of view of the persecutor. This was the case in Nazi Germany when full terror was directed against Jews, i.e., against people with certain common characteristics which were independent of their specific behavior. In Soviet Russia the situation is more confused, but the facts, unfortunately, are only too obvious. On the one hand, the Bolshevik system, unlike the Nazi, never admitted theoretically that it could practice terror against innocent people, and though in view of certain practices this may look like hypocrisy, it makes quite a difference. Russian practice, on the other hand, is even more ‘advanced’ than the German in one respect: arbitrariness of terror is not even limited by racial differentiation, while the old class categories have long since been discarded, so that anybody in Russia may suddenly become a victim of the police terror. We are not concerned here with the ultimate consequence of rule by terror – namely, that nobody, not even the executors, can ever be free of fear; in our context we are dealing merely with the arbitrariness by which victims are chosen, and for this it is decisive that they are objectively innocent, that they are chosen regardless of what they may or may not have done.

At first glance this may look like a belated confirmation of the old scapegoat theory, and it is true that the victim of modern terror does show all the characteristics of the scapegoat: he is objectively and absolutely innocent because nothing he did or omitted to do matters or has any connection with his fate.

There is, therefore, a temptation to return to an explanation which automatically discharges the victim of responsibility: it seems quite adequate to a reality in which nothing strikes us more forcefully than the utter innocence of the individual caught in the horror machine and his utter inability to change his fate. Terror, however, is only in the last instance of its development a mere form of government. In order to establish a totalitarian regime, terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology; and that ideology must have won the adherence of many, and even a majority, before terror can be stabilized. The point for the historian is that the Jews, before becoming the main victims of modern terror, were the center of Nazi ideology. And an ideology which has to persuade and mobilize people cannot choose its victim arbitrarily. In other words, if a patent forgery like the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ is believed by so many people that it can become the text of a whole political movement, the task of the historian is no longer to discover a forgery. Certainly it is not to invent explanations which dismiss the chief political and historical fact of the matter: that the forgery is being believed. This fact is more important than the (historically speaking, secondary) circumstance that it is forgery.

The scapegoat explanation therefore remains one of the principal attempts to escape the seriousness of antisemitism and the significance of the fact that the Jews were driven into the storm center of events. Equally widespread is the opposite doctrine of an ‘eternal antisemitism’ in which Jew-hatred is a normal and natural reaction to which history gives only more or less opportunity. Outbursts need no special explanation because they are natural consequences of an eternal problem. That this doctrine was adopted by professional antisemites is a matter of course; it gives the best possible alibi for all horrors. If it is true that mankind has insisted on murdering Jews for more than two thousand years, then Jew-killing is a normal, and even human, occupation and Jew-hatred is justified beyond the need of argument.

The more surprising aspect of this explanation, the assumption of an eternal antisemitism, is that it has been adopted by a great many unbiased historians and by an even greater number of Jews. It is this odd coincidence which makes the theory so very dangerous and confusing. Its escapist basis is in both instances the same: just as antisemites understandably desire to escape responsibility for their deeds, so Jews, attacked and on the defensive, even more understandably do not wish under any circumstances to discuss their share of responsibility. In the case of Jewish, and frequently of Christian, adherents of this doctrine, however, the escapist tendencies of official apologetics are based upon more important and less rational motives.

The birth and growth of modern antisemitism has been accompanied by and interconnected with Jewish assimilation, the secularization and withering away of the old religious and spiritual values of Judaism. What actually happened was that great parts of the Jewish people were at the same time threatened by physical extinction from without and dissolution from within. In this situation, Jews concerned with the survival of their people would, in a curious desperate misinterpretation, hit on the consoling idea that antisemitism, after all, might be an excellent means for keeping the people together, so that the assumption of eternal antisemitism would even imply an eternal guarantee of Jewish existence. This superstition, a secularized travesty of the idea of eternity inherent in a faith in chosenness and a Messianic hope, has been strengthened through the fact that for many centuries the Jews experienced the Christian brand of hostility which was indeed a powerful agent of preservation, spiritually as well as politically. The Jews mistook modern anti-Christian antisemitism for the old religious Jew-hatred – and this all the more innocently because their assimilation had by-passed Christianity in its religious and cultural aspect. Confronted with an obvious symptom of the decline of Christianity, they could therefore imagine in all ignorance that this was some revival of the so-called ‘Dark Ages.’ Ignorance or misunderstanding of their own past were partly responsible for their fatal underestimation of the actual and unprecedented dangers which lay ahead. But one should also bear in mind that lack of political ability and judgment have been caused by the very nature of Jewish history, the history of a people without a government, without a country, and without a language. Jewish history offers the extraordinary spectacle of a people, unique in this respect, which began its history with a well-defined concept of history and an almost conscious resolution to achieve a well-circumscribed plan on earth and then, without giving up this concept, avoided all political action for two thousand years. The result was that the political history of the Jewish people became even more dependent upon unforeseen, accidental factors than the history of other nations, so that the Jews stumbled from one role to the other and accepted responsibility for none.

In view of the final catastrophe, which brought the Jews so near to complete annihilation, the thesis of eternal antisemitism has become more dangerous than ever. Today it would absolve Jew-haters of crimes greater than anybody had ever believed possible. Antisemitism, far from being a mysterious guarantee of the survival of the Jewish people, has been clearly revealed as a threat of its extermination. Yet this explanation of antisemitism, like the scapegoat theory and for similar reasons, has outlived its refutation by reality. It stresses, after all, with different arguments but equal stubbornness, that complete and inhuman innocence which so strikingly characterizes victims of modern terror, and therefore seems confirmed by the events. It even has the advantage over the scapegoat theory that somehow it answers the uncomfortable question: Why the Jews of all people? – if only with the question begging reply: Eternal hostility.

It is quite remarkable that the only two doctrines which at least attempt to explain the political significance of the antisemitic movement deny all specific Jewish responsibility and refuse to discuss matters in specific historical terms. In this inherent negation of the significance of human behavior, they bear a terrible resemblance to those modern practices and forms of government which, by means of arbitrary terror, liquidate the very possibility of human activity. Somehow in the extermination camps Jews were murdered as if in accordance with the explanation these doctrines had given of why they were hated: regardless of what they had done or omitted to do, regardless of vice or virtue. Moreover, the murderers themselves, only obeying orders and proud of their passionless efficiency, uncannily resembled the ‘innocent’ instruments of an inhuman impersonal course of events which the doctrine of eternal antisemitism had considered them to be.

Such common denominators between theory and practice are by themselves no indication of historical truth, although they are an indication of the ‘timely’ character of such opinions and explain why they sound so plausible to the multitude. The historian is concerned with them only insofar as they are themselves part of his history and because they stand in the way of his search for truth. Being a contemporary, he is as likely to succumb to their persuasive force as anybody else. Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.

Plato, in his famous fight against the ancient Sophists, discovered that their ‘universal art of enchanting the mind by arguments’ (Phaedrus 261) had nothing to do with truth but aimed at opinions which by their very nature are changing, and which are valid only ‘at the time of the agreement and as long as the agreement lasts’ (Theaetetus 172). He also discovered the very insecure position of truth in the world, for from ‘opinions comes persuasion and not from truth’ (Phaedrus 260). The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality. In other words, one destroyed the dignity of human thought whereas the others destroy the dignity of human action. The old manipulators of logic were the concern of the philosopher, whereas the modern manipulators of facts stand in the way of the historian. For history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility – based upon the fact that it is enacted by men and therefore can be understood by men – is in danger, whenever facts are no longer held to be part and parcel of the past and present world, and are misused to prove this or that opinion.

There are, to be sure, few guides left through the labyrinth of inarticulate facts if opinions are discarded and tradition is no longer accepted as unquestionable. Such perplexities of historiography, however, are very minor consequences, considering the profound upheavals of our time and their effect upon the historical structures of Western mankind. Their immediate result has been to expose all those components of our history which up to now had been hidden from our view. This does not mean that what came crashing down in this crisis (perhaps the most profound crisis in Western history since the downfall of the Roman Empire) was mere façade, although many things have been revealed as façade that only a few decades ago we thought were indestructible essences.

The simultaneous decline of the European nation-state and growth of antisemitic movements, the coincident downfall of nationally organized Europe and the extermination of Jews, which was prepared for by the victory of antisemitism over all competing isms in the preceding struggle for persuasion of public opinion, have to be taken as a serious indication of the source of antisemitism. Modern antisemitism must be seen in the more general framework of the development of the nation-state, and at the same time its source must be found in certain aspects of Jewish history and specifically Jewish functions during the last centuries. If, in the final stage of disintegration, antisemitic slogans proved the most effective means of inspiring and organizing great masses of people for imperialist expansion and destruction of the old forms of government, then the previous history of the relationship between Jews and the state must contain elementary clues to the growing hostility between certain groups of society and the Jews. We shall show this development in the next chapter.

If, furthermore, the steady growth of the modern mob – that is, of the déclassés of all classes – produced leaders who, undisturbed by the question of whether the Jews were sufficiently important to be made the focus of a political ideology, repeatedly saw in them the ‘key to history’ and the central cause of all evils, then the previous history of the relationship between Jews and society must contain the elementary indications of the hostile relationship between the mob and the Jews. We shall deal with the relationship between Jews and society in the third chapter.

The fourth chapter deals with the Dreyfus Affair, a kind of dress rehearsal for the performance of our own time. Because of the peculiar opportunity it offers of seeing, in a brief historical moment, the otherwise hidden potentialities of antisemitism as a major political weapon within the framework of nineteenth-century politics and its relatively well-balanced sanity, this case has been treated in full detail.

The following three chapters, to be sure, analyze only the preparatory elements, which were not fully realized until the decay of the nation-state and the development of imperialism reached the foreground of the political scene.

Chapter Two. The Jews, the Nation-State, and the Birth of Antisemitism

I: The Equivocalities of Emancipation and the Jewish State Banker

At the height of its development in the nineteenth century, the nation-state granted its Jewish inhabitants equality of rights. Deeper, older, and more fateful contradictions are hidden behind the abstract and palpable inconsistency that Jews received their citizenship from governments which in the process of centuries had made nationality a prerequisite for citizenship and homogeneity of population the outstanding characteristic of the body politic.

The series of emancipation edicts which slowly and hesitantly followed the French edict of 1792 had been preceded and were accompanied by an equivocal attitude toward its Jewish inhabitants on the part of the nation-state. The breakdown of the feudal order had given rise to the new revolutionary concept of equality, according to which a ‘nation within the nation’ could no longer be tolerated. Jewish restrictions and privileges had to be abolished together with all other special rights and liberties. This growth of equality, however, depended largely upon the growth of an independent state machine which, either as an enlightened despotism or as a constitutional government above all classes and parties, could, in splendid isolation, function, rule, and represent the interests of the nation as a whole. Therefore, beginning with the late seventeenth century, an unprecedented need arose for state credit and a new expansion of the state’s sphere of economic and business interest, while no group among the European populations was prepared to grant credit to the state or take an active part in the development of state business. It was only natural that the Jews, with their age-old experience as moneylenders and their connections with European nobility – to whom they frequently owed local protection and for whom they used to handle financial matters – would be called upon for help; it was clearly in the interest of the new state business to grant the Jews certain privileges and to treat them as a separate group. Under no circumstances could the state afford to see them wholly assimilated into the rest of the population, which refused credit to the state, was reluctant to enter and to develop businesses owned by the state, and followed the routine pattern of private capitalistic enterprise.

Emancipation of the Jews, therefore, as granted by the national state system in Europe during the nineteenth century, had a double origin and an ever-present equivocal meaning. On the one hand it was due to the political and legal structure of a new body politic which could function only under the conditions of political and legal equality. Governments, for their own sake, had to iron out the inequalities of the old order as completely and as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it was the clear result of a gradual extension of specific Jewish privileges, granted originally only to individuals, then through them to a small group of well-to-do Jews; only when this limited group could no longer handle by themselves the ever-growing demands of state business, were these privileges finally extended to the whole of Western and Central European Jewry.[45]

Thus, at the same time and in the same countries, emancipation meant equality and privileges, the destruction of the old Jewish community autonomy and the conscious preservation of the Jews as a separate group in society, the abolition of special restrictions and special rights and the extension of such rights to a growing group of individuals. Equality of condition for all nationals had become the premise of the new body politic, and while this equality had actually been carried out at least to the extent of depriving the old ruling classes of their privilege to govern and the old oppressed classes of their right to be protected, the process coincided with the birth of the class society which again separated the nationals, economically and socially, as efficiently as the old regime. Equality of condition, as the Jacobins had understood it in the French Revolution, became a reality only in America, whereas on the European continent it was at once replaced by a mere formal equality before the law.

The fundamental contradiction between a political body based on equality before the law and a society based on the inequality of the class system prevented the development of functioning republics as well as the birth of a new political hierarchy. An insurmountable inequality of social condition, the fact that class membership on the Continent was bestowed upon the individual and, up to the first World War, almost guaranteed to him by birth, could nevertheless exist side by side with political equality. Only politically backward countries, like Germany, had retained a few feudal remnants. There members of the aristocracy, which on the whole was well on its way to transforming itself into a class, had a privileged political status, and thus could preserve as a group a certain special relationship to the state. But these were remnants. The fully developed class system meant invariably that the status of the individual was defined by his membership in his own class and his relationship to another, and not by his position in the state or within its machinery.

The only exceptions to this general rule were the Jews. They did not form a class of their own and they did not belong to any of the classes in their countries. As a group, they were neither workers, middle-class people, landholders, nor peasants. Their wealth seemed to make them part of the middle class, but they did not share in its capitalist development; they were scarcely represented in industrial enterprise and if, in the last stages of their history in Europe, they became employers on a large scale, they employed white-collar personnel and not workers. In other words, although their status was defined through their being Jews, it was not defined through their relationship to another class. Their special protection from the state (whether in the old form of open privileges, or a special emancipation edict which no other group needed and which frequently had to be reinforced against the hostility of society) and their special services to the governments prevented their submersion in the class system as well as their own establishment as a class.[46] Whenever, therefore, they were admitted to and entered society, they became a well-defined, self-preserving group within one of the classes, the aristocracy or the bourgeoisie.

There is no doubt that the nation-state’s interest in preserving the Jews as a special group and preventing their assimilation into class society coincided with the Jewish interest in self-preservation and group survival. It is also more than probable that without this coincidence the governments’ attempts would have been in vain; the powerful trends toward equalization of all citizens from the side of the state and incorporation of each individual into a class from the side of society, both clearly implying complete Jewish assimilation, could be frustrated only through a combination of government intervention and voluntary co-operation. Official policies for the Jews were, after all, not always so consistent and unwavering as we may believe if we consider only the final results.[47] It is indeed surprising to see how consistently Jews neglected their chances for normal capitalist enterprise and business.[48] But without the interests and practices of the governments, the Jews could hardly have preserved their group identity.

In contrast to all other groups, the Jews were defined and their position determined by the body politic. Since, however, this body politic had no other social reality, they were, socially speaking, in the void. Their social inequality was quite different from the inequality of the class system; it was again mainly the result of their relationship to the state, so that, in society, the very fact of being born a Jew would either mean that one was overprivileged – under special protection of the government – or underprivileged, lacking certain rights and opportunities which were withheld from the Jews in order to prevent their assimilation.

The schematic outline of the simultaneous rise and decline of the European nation-state system and European Jewry unfolds roughly in the following stages:

1. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed the slow development of nation-states under the tutelage of absolute monarchs. Individual Jews everywhere rose out of deep obscurity into the sometimes glamorous, and always influential, position of court Jews who financed state affairs and handled the financial transactions of their princes. This development affected the masses who continued to live in a more or less feudal order as little as it affected the Jewish people as a whole.

2. After the French Revolution, which abruptly changed political conditions on the whole European continent, nation-states in the modern sense emerged whose business transactions required a considerably larger amount of capital and credit than the court Jews had ever been asked to place at a prince’s disposal. Only the combined wealth of the wealthier strata of Western and Central European Jewry, which they entrusted to some prominent Jewish bankers for such purposes, could suffice to meet the new enlarged governmental needs. This period brought with it the granting of privileges, which up to then had been necessary only for court Jews, to the larger wealthy class, which had managed to settle in the more important urban and financial centers in the eighteenth century. Finally emancipation was granted in all full-fledged nation-states and withheld only in those countries where Jews, because of their numbers and the general backwardness of these regions, had not been able to organize themselves into a special separate group whose economic function was financial support of their government.

3. Since this intimate relationship between national government and Jews had rested on the indifference of the bourgeoisie to politics in general and state finance in particular, this period came to an end with the rise of imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century when capitalist business in the form of expansion could no longer be carried out without active political help and intervention by the state. Imperialism, on the other hand, undermined the very foundations of the nation-state and introduced into the European comity of nations the competitive spirit of business concerns. In the early decades of this development, Jews lost their exclusive position in state business to imperialistically minded businessmen; they declined in importance as a group, although individual Jews kept their influence as financial advisers and as inter-European middlemen. These Jews, however – in contrast to the nineteenth-century state bankers – had even less need of the Jewish community at large, notwithstanding its wealth, than the court Jews of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and therefore they frequently cut themselves off completely from the Jewish community. The Jewish communities were no longer financially organized, and although individual Jews in high positions remained representative of Jewry as a whole in the eyes of the Gentile world, there was little if any material reality behind this.

4. As a group, Western Jewry disintegrated together with the nation-state during the decades preceding the outbreak of the first World War. The rapid decline of Europe after the war found them already deprived of their former power, atomized into a herd of wealthy individuals. In an imperialist age, Jewish wealth had become insignificant; to a Europe with no sense of balance of power between its nations and of inter-European solidarity, the non-national, inter-European Jewish element became an object of universal hatred because of its useless wealth, and of contempt because of its lack of power.

The first governments to need regular income and secure finances were the absolute monarchies under which the nation-state came into being. Feudal princes and kings also had needed money, and even credit, but for specific purposes and temporary operations only; even in the sixteenth century, when the Fuggers put their own credit at the disposal of the state, they were not yet thinking of establishing a special state credit. The absolute monarchs at first provided for their financial needs partly through the old method of war and looting, and partly through the new device of tax monopoly. This undermined the power and ruined the fortunes of the nobility without assuaging the growing hostility of the population.

For a long time the absolute monarchies looked about society for a class upon which to rely as securely as the feudal monarchy had upon the nobility. In France an incessant struggle between the guilds and the monarchy, which wanted to incorporate them into the state system, had been going on since the fifteenth century. The most interesting of these experiments were doubtless the rise of mercantilism and the attempts of the absolute state to get an absolute monopoly over national business and industry. The resulting disaster, and the bankruptcy brought about by the concerted resistance of the rising bourgeoisie, are sufficiently well known.[49]

Before the emancipation edicts, every princely household and every monarch in Europe already had a court Jew to handle financial business. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these court Jews were always single individuals who had inter-European connections and inter-European credit at their disposal, but did not form an international financial entity.[50] Characteristic of these times, when Jewish individuals and the first small wealthy Jewish communities were more powerful than at any time in the nineteenth century,[51] was the frankness with which their privileged status and their right to it was discussed, and the careful testimony of the authorities to the importance of their services to the state. There was not the slightest doubt or ambiguity about the connection between services rendered and privileges granted. Privileged Jews received noble titles almost as a matter of course in France, Bavaria, Austria and Prussia, so that even outwardly they were more than just wealthy men. The fact that the Rothschilds had such a hard time getting their application for a title approved by the Austrian government (they succeeded in 1817), was the signal that a whole period had come to an end.

By the end of the eighteenth century it had become clear that none of the estates or classes in the various countries was willing or able to become the new ruling class, that is to identify itself with the government as the nobility had done for centuries.[52] The failure of the absolute monarchy to find a substitute within society led to the full development of the nation-state and its claim to be above all classes, completely independent of society and its particular interests, the true and only representative of the nation as a whole. It resulted, on the other side, in a deepening of the split between state and society upon which the body politic of the nation rested. Without it, there would have been no need – or even any possibility – of introducing the Jews into European history on equal terms.

When all attempts to ally itself with one of the major classes in society had failed, the state chose to establish itself as a tremendous business concern. This was meant to be for administrative purposes only, to be sure, but the range of interests, financial and otherwise, and the costs were so great that one cannot but recognize the existence of a special sphere of state business from the eighteenth century on. The independent growth of state business was caused by a conflict with the financially powerful forces of the time, with the bourgeoisie which went the way of private investment, shunned all state intervention, and refused active financial participation in what appeared to be an ‘unproductive’ enterprise. Thus the Jews were the only part of the population willing to finance the state’s beginnings and to tie their destinies to its further development. With their credit and international connections, they were in an excellent position to help the nation-state to establish itself among the biggest enterprises and employers of the time.[53]

Great privileges, decisive changes in the Jewish condition, were necessarily the price of the fulfillment of such services, and, at the same time, the reward for great risks. The greatest privilege was equality. When the Münzjuden of Frederick of Prussia or the court Jews of the Austrian Emperor received through ‘general privileges’ and ‘patents’ the same status which half a century later all Prussian Jews received under the name of emancipation and equal rights; when, at the end of the eighteenth century and at the height of their wealth, the Berlin Jews managed to prevent an influx from the Eastern provinces because they did not care to share their ‘equality’ with poorer brethren whom they did not recognize as equals; when, at the time of the French National Assembly, the Bordeaux and Avignon Jews protested violently against the French government’s granting equality to Jews of the Eastern provinces – it became clear that at least the Jews were not thinking in terms of equal rights but of privileges and special liberties. And it is really not surprising that privileged Jews, intimately linked to the businesses of their governments and quite aware of the nature and conditions of their status, were reluctant to accept for all Jews this gift of a freedom which they themselves possessed as the price for services, which they knew had been calculated as such and therefore could hardly become a right for all.[54]

Only at the end of the nineteenth century, with the rise of imperialism, did the owning classes begin to change their original estimate of the unproductivity of state business. Imperialist expansion, together with the growing perfection of the instruments of violence and the state’s absolute monopoly of them, made the state an interesting business proposition. This meant, of course, that the Jews gradually but automatically lost their exclusive and unique position.

But the good fortune of the Jews, their rise from obscurity to political significance, would have come to an even earlier end if they had been confined to a mere business function in the growing nation-states. By the middle of the last century some states had won enough confidence to get along without Jewish backing and financing of government loans.[55] The nationals’ growing consciousness, moreover, that their private destinies were becoming more and more dependent upon those of their countries made them ready to grant the governments more of the necessary credit. Equality itself was symbolized in the availability to all of government bonds which were finally even considered the most secure form of capital investment simply because the state, which could wage national wars, was the only agency which actually could protect its citizens’ properties. From the middle of the nineteenth century on, the Jews could keep their prominent position only because they had still another more important and fateful role to play, a role also intimately linked to their participation in the destinies of the state. Without territory and without a government of their own, the Jews had always been an inter-European element; this international status the nation-state necessarily preserved because the Jews’ financial services rested on it. But even when their economic usefulness had exhausted itself, the inter-European status of the Jews remained of great national importance in times of national conflicts and wars.

While the need of the nation-states for Jewish services developed slowly and logically, growing out of the general context of European history, the rise of the Jews to political and economic significance was sudden and unexpected to themselves as well as their neighbors. By the later Middle Ages the Jewish moneylender had lost all his former importance, and in the early sixteenth century Jews had already been expelled from cities and trade centers into villages and countryside, thereby exchanging a more uniform protection from remote higher authorities for an insecure status granted by petty local nobles.[56] The turning point had been in the seventeenth century when, during the Thirty Years’ War, precisely because of their dispersion these small, insignificant moneylenders could guarantee the necessary provisions to the mercenary armies of the war-lords in far-away lands and with the aid of small peddlers buy victuals in entire provinces. Since these wars remained half-feudal, more or less private affairs of the princes, involving no interest of other classes and enlisting no help from the people, the Jews’ gain in status was very limited and hardly visible. But the number of court Jews increased because now every feudal household needed the equivalent of the court Jew.

As long as these court Jews served small feudal lords who, as members of the nobility, did not aspire to represent any centralized authority, they were the servants of only one group in society. The property they handled, the money they lent, the provisions they bought up, all were considered the private property of their master, so that such activities could not involve them in political matters. Hated or favored, Jews could not become a political issue of any importance.

When, however, the function of the feudal lord changed, when he developed into a prince or king, the function of his court Jew changed too. The Jews, being an alien element, without much interest in such changes in their environment, were usually the last to become aware of their heightened status. As far as they were concerned, they went on handling private business, and their loyalty remained a personal affair unrelated to political considerations. Loyalty meant honesty; it did not mean taking sides in a conflict or remaining true for political reasons. To buy up provisions, to clothe and feed an army, to lend currency for the hiring of mercenaries, meant simply an interest in the well-being of a business partner.

This kind of relationship between Jews and aristocracy was the only one that ever tied a Jewish group to another stratum in society. After it disappeared in the early nineteenth century, it was never replaced. Its only remnant for the Jews was a penchant for aristocratic titles (especially in Austria and France), and for the non-Jews a brand of liberal antisemitism which lumped Jews and nobility together and pretended that they were in some kind of financial alliance against the rising bourgeoisie. Such argumentation, current in Prussia and France, had a certain amount of plausibility as long as there was no general emancipation of the Jews. The privileges of the court Jews had indeed an obvious similarity to the rights and liberties of the nobility, and it was true that the Jews were as much afraid of losing their privileges and used the same arguments against equality as members of the aristocracy. The plausibility became even greater in the eighteenth century when most privileged Jews were given minor titles, and at the opening of the nineteenth century when wealthy Jews who had lost their ties with the Jewish communities looked for new social status and began to model themselves on the aristocracy. But all this was of little consequence, first because it was quite obvious that the nobility was on the decline and that the Jews, on the contrary, were continually gaining in status, and also because the aristocracy itself, especially in Prussia, happened to become the first class that produced an antisemitic ideology.

The Jews had been the purveyors in wars and the servants of kings, but they did not and were not expected to engage in the conflicts themselves. When these conflicts enlarged into national wars, they still remained an international element whose importance and usefulness lay precisely in their not being bound to any national cause. No longer state bankers and purveyors in wars (the last war financed by a Jew was the Prussian-Austrian war of 1866, when Bleichroeder helped Bismarck after the latter had been refused the necessary credits by the Prussian Parliament), the Jews had become the financial advisers and assistants in peace treaties and, in a less organized and more indefinite way, the providers of news. The last peace treaties drawn up without Jewish assistance were those of the Congress of Vienna, between the Continental powers and France. Bleichroeder’s role in the peace negotiations between Germany and France in 1871 was already more significant than his help in war,[57] and he rendered even more important services in the late seventies when, through his connections with the Rothschilds, he provided Bismarck with an indirect news channel to Benjamin Disraeli. The peace treaties of Versailles were the last in which Jews played a prominent role as advisers. The last Jew who owed his prominence on the national scene to his international Jewish connection was Walter Rathenau, the ill-fated foreign minister of the Weimar Republic. He paid with his life for having (as one of his colleagues put it after his death) donated his prestige in the international world of finance and the support of Jews everywhere in the world[58] to the ministers of the new Republic, who were completely unknown on the international scene.

That antisemitic governments would not use Jews for the business of war and peace is obvious. But the elimination of Jews from the international scene had a more general and deeper significance than antisemitism. Just because the Jews had been used as a non-national element, they could be of value in war and peace only as long as during the war everybody tried consciously to keep the possibilities of peace intact, only as long as everybody’s aim was a peace of compromise and the re-establishment of a modus vivendi. As soon as ‘victory or death’ became a determining policy, and war actually aimed at the complete annihilation of the enemy, the Jews could no longer be of any use. This policy spelled destruction of their collective existence in any case, although the disappearance from the political scene and even extinction of a specific group-life would by no means necessarily have led to their physical extermination. The frequently repeated argument, however, that the Jews would have become Nazis as easily as their German fellow-citizens if only they had been permitted to join the movement, just as they had enlisted in Italy’s Fascist party before Italian Fascism introduced race legislation, is only half true. It is true only with respect to the psychology of individual Jews, which of course did not greatly differ from the psychology of their environment. It is patently false in a historical sense. Nazism, even without antisemitism, would have been the deathblow to the existence of the Jewish people in Europe; to consent to it would have meant suicide, not necessarily for individuals of Jewish origin, but for the Jews as a people.

To the first contradiction, which determined the destiny of European Jewry during the last centuries, that is, the contradiction between equality and privilege (rather of equality granted in the form and for the purpose of privilege) must be added a second contradiction: the Jews, the only non-national European people, were threatened more than any other by the sudden collapse of the system of nation-states. This situation is less paradoxical than it may appear at first glance. Representatives of the nation, whether Jacobins from Robespierre to Clemenceau, or representatives of Central European reactionary governments from Metternich to Bismarck, had one thing in common: they were all sincerely concerned with the ‘balance of power’ in Europe. They tried, of course, to shift this balance to the advantage of their respective countries, but they never dreamed of seizing a monopoly over the continent or of annihilating their neighbors completely. The Jews could not only be used in the interest of this precarious balance, they even became a kind of symbol of the common interest of the European nations.

It is therefore more than accidental that the catastrophic defeats of the peoples of Europe began with the catastrophe of the Jewish people. It was particularly easy to begin the dissolution of the precarious European balance of power with the elimination of the Jews, and particularly difficult to understand that more was involved in this elimination than an unusually cruel nationalism or an ill-timed revival of ‘old prejudices.’ When the catastrophe came, the fate of the Jewish people was considered a ‘special case’ whose history follows exceptional laws, and whose destiny was therefore of no general relevance. This breakdown of European solidarity was at once reflected in the breakdown of Jewish solidarity all over Europe. When the persecution of German Jews began, Jews of other European countries discovered that German Jews constituted an exception whose fate could bear no resemblance to their own. Similarly, the collapse of German Jewry was preceded by its split into innumerable factions, each of which believed and hoped that its basic human rights would be protected by special privileges – the privilege of having been a veteran of World War I, the child of a veteran, the proud son of a father killed in action. It looked as though the annihilation of all individuals of Jewish origin was being preceded by the bloodless destruction and self-dissolution of the Jewish people, as though the Jewish people had owed its existence exclusively to other peoples and their hatred.

It is still one of the most moving aspects of Jewish history that the Jews’ active entry into European history was caused by their being an inter-European, non-national element in a world of growing or existing nations. That this role proved more lasting and more essential than their function as state bankers is one of the material reasons for the new modern type of Jewish productivity in the arts and sciences. It is not without historical justice that their downfall coincided with the ruin of a system and a political body which, whatever its other defects, had needed and could tolerate a purely European element.

The grandeur of this consistently European existence should not be forgotten because of the many undoubtedly less attractive aspects of Jewish history during the last centuries. The few European authors who have been aware of this aspect of the ‘Jewish question’ had no special sympathies for the Jews, but an unbiased estimate of the whole European situation. Among them was Diderot, the only eighteenth-century French philosopher who was not hostile to the Jews and who recognized in them a useful link between Europeans of different nationalities; Wilhelm von Humboldt who, witnessing their emancipation through the French Revolution, remarked that the Jews would lose their universality when they were changed into Frenchmen;[59] and finally Friedrich Nietzsche, who out of disgust with Bismarck’s German Reich coined the word ‘good European,’ which made possible his correct estimate of the significant role of the Jews in European history, and saved him from falling into the pitfalls of cheap philosemitism or patronizing ‘progressive’ attitudes.

This evaluation, though quite correct in the description of a surface phenomenon, overlooks the most serious paradox embodied in the curious political history of the Jews. Of all European peoples, the Jews had been the only one without a state of their own and had been, precisely for this reason, so eager and so suitable for alliances with governments and states as such, no matter what these governments or states might represent. On the other hand, the Jews had no political tradition or experience, and were as little aware of the tension between society and state as they were of the obvious risks and power-possibilities of their new role. What little knowledge or traditional practice they brought to politics had its source first in the Roman Empire, where they had been protected, so to speak, by the Roman soldier, and later, in the Middle Ages, when they sought and received protection against the population and the local rulers from remote monarchical and Church authorities. From these experiences, they had somehow drawn the conclusion that authority, and especially high authority, was favorable to them and that lower officials, and especially the common people, were dangerous. This prejudice, which expressed a definite historical truth but no longer corresponded to new circumstances, was as deeply rooted in and as unconsciously shared by the vast majority of Jews as corresponding prejudices about Jews were commonly accepted by Gentiles.

The history of the relationship between Jews and governments is rich in examples of how quickly Jewish bankers switched their allegiance from one government to the next even after revolutionary changes. It took the French Rothschilds in 1848 hardly twenty-four hours to transfer their services from the government of Louis Philippe to the new short-lived French Republic and again to Napoleon III. The same process repeated itself, at a slightly slower pace, after the downfall of the Second Empire and the establishment of the Third Republic. In Germany this sudden and easy change was symbolized, after the revolution of 1918, in the financial policies of the Warburgs on one hand and the shifting political ambitions of Walter Rathenau on the other.[60]

More is involved in this type of behavior than the simple bourgeois pattern which always assumes that nothing succeeds like success.[61] Had the Jews been bourgeois in the ordinary sense of the word, they might have gauged correctly the tremendous power-possibilities of their new functions, and at least have tried to play that fictitious role of a secret world power which makes and unmakes governments, which antisemites assigned to them anyway. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. The Jews, without knowledge of or interest in power, never thought of exercising more than mild pressure for minor purposes of self-defense. This lack of ambition was later sharply resented by the more assimilated sons of Jewish bankers and businessmen. While some of them dreamed, like Disraeli, of a secret Jewish society to which they might belong and which never existed, others, like Rathenau, who happened to be better informed, indulged in half-antisemitic tirades against the wealthy traders who had neither power nor social status.

This innocence has never been quite understood by non-Jewish statesmen or historians. On the other hand, their detachment from power was so much taken for granted by Jewish representatives or writers that they hardly ever mentioned it except to express their surprise at the absurd suspicions leveled against them. In the memoirs of statesmen of the last century many remarks occur to the effect that there won’t be a war because Rothschild in London or Paris or Vienna does not want it. Even so sober and reliable a historian as J. A. Hobson could state as late as 1905: ‘Does any one seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a great state loan subscribed, if the House of Rothschild and its connexions set their face against it?’[62] This misjudgment is as amusing in its naïve assumption that everyone is like oneself, as Metternich’s sincere belief that ‘the house of Rothschild played a greater role in France than any foreign government,’ or his confident prediction to the Viennese Rothschilds shortly before the Austrian revolution in 1848: ‘If I should go to the dogs, you would go with me.’ The truth of that matter was that the Rothschilds had as little political idea as other Jewish bankers of what they wanted to carry out in France, to say nothing of a well-defined purpose which would even remotely suggest a war. On the contrary, like their fellow Jews they never allied themselves with any specific government, but rather with governments, with authority as such. If at this time and later they showed a marked preference for monarchical governments as against republics, it was only because they rightly suspected that republics were based to a greater extent on the will of the people, which they instinctively mistrusted.

How deep the Jews’ faith in the state was, and how fantastic their ignorance of actual conditions in Europe, came to light in the last years of the Weimar Republic when, already reasonably frightened about the future, the Jews for once tried their hand in politics. With the help of a few non-Jews, they then founded that middle-class party which they called ‘State-party’ (Staatspartei), the very name a contradiction in terms. They were so naïvely convinced that their ‘party,’ supposedly representing them in political and social struggle, ought to be the state itself, that the whole relationship of the party to the state never dawned upon them. If anybody had bothered to take seriously this party of respectable and bewildered gentlemen, he could only have concluded that loyalty at any price was a façade behind which sinister forces plotted to take over the state.

Just as the Jews ignored completely the growing tension between state and society, they were also the last to be aware that circumstances had forced them into the center of the conflict. They therefore never knew how to evaluate antisemitism, or rather never recognized the moment when social discrimination changed into a political argument. For more than a hundred years, antisemitism had slowly and gradually made its way into almost all social strata in almost all European countries until it emerged suddenly as the one issue upon which an almost unified opinion could be achieved. The law according to which this process developed was simple: each class of society which came into a conflict with the state as such became antisemitic because the only social group which seemed to represent the state were the Jews. And the only class which proved almost immune from antisemitic propaganda were the workers who, absorbed in the class struggle and equipped with a Marxist explanation of history, never came into direct conflict with the state but only with another class of society, the bourgeoisie, which the Jews certainly did not represent, and of which they were never a significant part.

The political emancipation of the Jews at the turn of the eighteenth century in some countries, and its discussion in the rest of Central and Western Europe, resulted first of all in a decisive change in their attitude toward the state, which was somehow symbolized in the rise of the house of Rothschild. The new policy of these court Jews, who were the first to become full-fledged state bankers, came to light when they were no longer content to serve one particular prince or government through their international relationships with court Jews of other countries, but decided to establish themselves internationally and serve simultaneously and concurrently the governments in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Austria. To a large extent, this unprecedented course was a reaction of the Rothschilds to the dangers of real emancipation, which, together with equality, threatened to nationalize the Jewries of the respective countries, and to destroy the very inter-European advantages on which the position of Jewish bankers had rested. Old Meyer Amschel Rothschild, the founder of the house, must have recognized that the inter-European status of Jews was no longer secure and that he had better try to realize this unique international position in his own family. The establishment of his five sons in the five financial capitals of Europe – Frankfurt, Paris, London, Naples and Vienna – was his ingenious way out of the embarrassing emancipation of the Jews.[63]

The Rothschilds had entered upon their spectacular career as the financial servants of the Kurfürst of Hessen, one of the outstanding moneylenders of his time, who taught them business practice and provided them with many of their customers. Their great advantage was that they lived in Frankfurt, the only great urban center from which Jews had never been expelled and where they formed nearly 10 per cent of the city’s population at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Rothschilds started as court Jews without being under the jurisdiction of either a prince or the Free City, but directly under the authority of the distant Emperor in Vienna. They thus combined all the advantages of the Jewish status in the Middle Ages with those of their own times, and were much less dependent upon nobility or other local authorities than any of their fellow court Jews. The later financial activities of the house, the tremendous fortune they amassed, and their even greater symbolic fame since the early nineteenth century, are sufficiently well known.[64] They entered the scene of big business during the last years of the Napoleonic wars when – from 1811 to 1816 – almost half the English subventions to the Continental powers went through their hands. When after the defeat of Napoleon the Continent needed great government loans everywhere for the reorganization of its state machines and the erection of financial structures on the model of the Bank of England, the Rothschilds enjoyed almost a monopoly in the handling of state loans. This lasted for three generations during which they succeeded in defeating all Jewish and non-Jewish competitors in the field. ‘The House of Rothschild became,’ as Capefigue put it,[65] ‘the chief treasurer of the Holy Alliance.’

The international establishment of the house of Rothschild and its sudden rise above all other Jewish bankers changed the whole structure of Jewish state business. Gone was the accidental development, unplanned and unorganized, when individual Jews shrewd enough to take advantage of a unique opportunity frequently rose to the heights of great wealth and fell to the depths of poverty in one man’s lifetime; when such a fate hardly touched the destinies of the Jewish people as a whole except insofar as such Jews sometimes had acted as protectors and petitioners for distant communities; when, no matter how numerous the wealthy moneylenders or how influential the individual court Jews, there was no sign of the development of a well-defined Jewish group which collectively enjoyed specific privileges and rendered specific services. It was precisely the Rothschilds’ monopoly on the issuance of government loans which made it possible and necessary to draw on Jewish capital at large, to direct a great percentage of Jewish wealth into the channels of state business, and which thereby provided the natural basis for a new inter-European cohesiveness of Central and Western European Jewry. What in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had been an unorganized connection among individual Jews of different countries, now became the more systematic disposition of these scattered opportunities by a single firm, physically present in all important European capitals, in constant contact with all sections of the Jewish people, and in complete possession of all pertinent information and all opportunities for organization.[66]

The exclusive position of the house of Rothschild in the Jewish world replaced to a certain extent the old bonds of religious and spiritual tradition whose gradual loosening under the impact of Western culture for the first time threatened the very existence of the Jewish people. To the outer world, this one family also became a symbol of the working reality of Jewish internationalism in a world of nation-states and nationally organized peoples. Where, indeed, was there better proof of the fantastic concept of a Jewish world government than in this one family, nationals of five different countries, prominent everywhere, in close co-operation with at least three different governments (the French, the Austrian, and the British), whose frequent conflicts never for a moment shook the solidarity of interest of their state bankers? No propaganda could have created a symbol more effective for political purpose than the reality itself.

The popular notion that the Jews – in contrast to other peoples – were tied together by the supposedly closer bonds of blood and family ties, was to a large extent stimulated by the reality of this one family, which virtually represented the whole economic and political significance of the Jewish people. The fateful consequence was that when, for reasons which had nothing to do with the Jewish question, race problems came to the foreground of the political scene, the Jews at once fitted all ideologies and doctrines which defined a people by blood ties and family characteristics.

Yet another, less accidental, fact accounts for this image of the Jewish people. In the preservation of the Jewish people the family had played a far greater role than in any Western political or social body except the nobility. Family ties were among the most potent and stubborn elements with which the Jewish people resisted assimilation and dissolution. Just as declining European nobility strengthened its marriage and house laws, so Western Jewry became all the more family-conscious in the centuries of their spiritual and religious dissolution. Without the old hope for Messianic redemption and the firm ground of traditional folkways, Western Jewry became over-conscious of the fact that their survival had been achieved in an alien and often hostile environment. They began to look upon the inner family circle as a kind of last fortress and to behave toward members of their own group as though they were members of a big family. In other words, the antisemitic picture of the Jewish people as a family closely knit by blood ties had something in common with the Jews’ own picture of themselves.

This situation was an important factor in the early rise and continuous growth of antisemitism in the nineteenth century. Which group of people would turn antisemitic in a given country at a given historical moment depended exclusively upon general circumstances which made them ready for a violent antagonism to their government. But the remarkable similarity of arguments and images which time and again were spontaneously reproduced have an intimate relationship with the truth they distort. We find the Jews always represented as an international trade organization, a world-wide family concern with identical interests everywhere, a secret force behind the throne which degrades all visible governments into mere façade, or into marionettes whose strings are manipulated from behind the scenes. Because of their close relationship to state sources of power, the Jews were invariably identified with power, and because of their aloofness from society and concentration upon the closed circle of the family, they were invariably suspected of working for the destruction of all social structures.

II: Early Antisemitism

It is an obvious, if frequently forgotten, rule that anti-Jewish feeling acquires political relevance only when it can combine with a major political issue, or when Jewish group interests come into open conflict with those of a major class in society. Modern antisemitism, as we know it from Central and Western European countries, had political rather than economic causes, while complicated class conditions produced the violent popular hatred of Jews in Poland and Rumania. There, due to the inability of the governments to solve the land question and give the nation-state a minimum of equality through liberation of the peasants, the feudal aristocracy succeeded not only in maintaining its political dominance but also in preventing the rise of a normal middle class. The Jews of these countries, strong in number and weak in every other respect, seemingly fulfilled some of the functions of the middle class, because they were mostly shopkeepers and traders and because as a group they stood between the big landowners and the propertyless classes. Small property holders, however, can exist as well in a feudal as in a capitalist economy. The Jews, here as elsewhere, were unable or unwilling to develop along industrial capitalist lines, so that the net result of their activities was a scattered, inefficient organization of consumption without an adequate system of production. The Jewish positions were an obstacle for a normal capitalistic development because they looked as though they were the only ones from which economic advancement might be expected without being capable of fulfilling this expectation. Because of their appearance, Jewish interests were felt to be in conflict with those sections of the population from which a middle class could normally have developed. The governments, on the other hand, tried halfheartedly to encourage a middle class without liquidating the nobility and big landowners. Their only serious attempt was economic liquidation of the Jews – partly as a concession to public opinion, and partly because the Jews were actually still a part of the old feudal order. For centuries they had been middlemen between the nobility and peasantry; now they formed a middle class without fulfilling its productive functions and were indeed one of the elements that stood in the way of industrialization and capitalization.[67] These Eastern European conditions, however, although they constituted the essence of the Jewish mass question, are of little importance in our context. Their political significance was limited to backward countries where the ubiquitous hatred of Jews made it almost useless as a weapon for specific purposes.

Antisemitism first flared up in Prussia immediately after the defeat by Napoleon in 1807, when the ‘Reformers’ changed the political structure so that the nobility lost its privileges and the middle classes won their freedom to develop. This reform, a ‘revolution from above,’ changed the half-feudal structure of Prussia’s enlightened despotism into a more or less modern nation-state whose final stage was the German Reich of 1871.

Although a majority of the Berlin bankers of the time were Jews, the Prussian reforms did not require any considerable financial help from them. The outspoken sympathies of the Prussian reformers, their advocacy of Jewish emancipation, was the consequence of the new equality of all citizens, the abolition of privilege, and the introduction of free trade. They were not interested in the preservation of Jews as Jews for special purposes. Their reply to the argument that under conditions of equality ‘the Jews might cease to exist’ would always have been: ‘Let them. How does this matter to a government which asks only that they become good citizens?’[68] Emancipation, moreover, was relatively inoffensive, for Prussia had just lost the eastern provinces which had a large and poor Jewish population. The emancipation decree of 1812 concerned only those wealthy and useful Jewish groups who were already privileged with most civic rights and who, through the general abolition of privileges, would have suffered a severe loss in civil status. For these groups, emancipation meant not much more than a general legal affirmation of the status quo.

But the sympathies of the Prussian reformers for the Jews were more than the logical consequence of their general political aspirations. When, almost a decade later and in the midst of rising antisemitism, Wilhelm von Humboldt declared: ‘I love the Jews really only en masse; en détail I rather avoid them,’[69] he stood of course in open opposition to the prevailing fashion, which favored individual Jews and despised the Jewish people. A true democrat, he wanted to liberate an oppressed people and not bestow privileges upon individuals. But this view was also in the tradition of the old Prussian government officials, whose consistent insistence throughout the eighteenth century upon better conditions and improved education for Jews has frequently been recognized. Their support was not motivated by economic or state reasons alone, but by a natural sympathy for the only social group that also stood outside the social body and within the sphere of the state, albeit for entirely different reasons. The education of a civil service whose loyalty belonged to the state and was independent of change in government, and which had severed its class ties, was one of the outstanding achievements of the old Prussian state. These officials were a decisive group in eighteenth-century Prussia, and the actual predecessors of the Reformers; they remained the backbone of the state machine all through the nineteenth century, although they lost much of their influence to the aristocracy after the Congress of Vienna.[70]

Through the attitude of the Reformers and especially through the emancipation edict of 1812, the special interests of the state in the Jews became manifest in a curious way. The old frank recognition of their usefulness as Jews (Frederick II of Prussia exclaimed, when he heard of possible mass-conversion: ‘I hope they won’t do such a devilish thing!’)[71] was gone. Emancipation was granted in the name of a principle, and any allusion to special Jewish services would have been sacrilege, according to the mentality of the time. The special conditions which had led to emancipation, though well known to everybody concerned, were now hidden as if they were a great and terrible secret. The edict itself, on the other hand, was conceived as the last and, in a sense, the most shining achievement of change from a feudal state into a nation-state and a society where henceforth there would be no special privileges whatsoever.

Among the naturally bitter reactions of the aristocracy, the class that was hardest hit, was a sudden and unexpected outburst of antisemitism. Its most articulate spokesman, Ludwig von der Marwitz (prominent among the founders of a conservative ideology), submitted a lengthy petition to the government in which he said that the Jews would now be the only group enjoying special advantages, and spoke of the ‘transformation of the old awe-inspiring Prussian monarchy into a new-fangled Jew-state.’ The political attack was accompanied by a social boycott which changed the face of Berlin society almost overnight. For aristocrats had been among the first to establish friendly social relationships with Jews and had made famous those salons of Jewish hostesses at the turn of the century, where a truly mixed society gathered for a brief time. To a certain extent, it is true, this lack of prejudice was the result of the services rendered by the Jewish moneylender who for centuries had been excluded from all greater business transactions and found his only opportunity in the economically unproductive and insignificant but socially important loans to people who had a tendency to live beyond their means. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that social relationships survived when the absolute monarchies with their greater financial possibilities had made the private loan business and the individual small court Jew a thing of the past. A nobleman’s natural resentment against losing a valuable source of help in emergencies made him want to marry a Jewish girl with a rich father rather than hate the Jewish people.

Nor was the outburst of aristocratic antisemitism the result of a closer contact between Jews and nobility. On the contrary, they had in common an instinctive opposition to the new values of the middle classes, and one that sprang from very similar sources. In Jewish as well as in noble families, the individual was regarded first of all as a member of a family; his duties were first of all determined by the family which transcended the life and importance of the individual. Both were a-national and inter-European, and each understood the other’s way of life in which national allegiance was secondary to loyalty to a family which more often than not was scattered all over Europe. They shared a conception that the present is nothing more than an insignificant link in the chain of past and future generations. Anti-Jewish liberal writers did not fail to point out this curious similarity of principles, and they concluded that perhaps one could get rid of nobility only by first getting rid of the Jews, and this not because of their financial connections but because both were considered to be a hindrance to the true development of that ‘innate personality,’ that ideology of self-respect, which the liberal middle classes employed in their fight against the concepts of birth, family, and heritage.

These pro-Jewish factors make it all the more significant that the aristocrats started the long line of antisemitic political argumentation. Neither economic ties nor social intimacy carried any weight in a situation where aristocracy openly opposed the egalitarian nation-state. Socially, the attack on the state identified the Jews with the government; despite the fact that the middle classes, economically and socially, reaped the real gains in the reforms, politically they were hardly blamed and suffered the old contemptuous aloofness.

After the Congress of Vienna, when during the long decades of peaceful reaction under the Holy Alliance, Prussian nobility had won back much of its influence on the state and temporarily become even more prominent than it had ever been in the eighteenth century, aristocratic antisemitism changed at once into mild discrimination without further political significance.[72] At the same time, with the help of the romantic intellectuals, conservatism reached its full development as one of the political ideologies which in Germany adopted a very characteristic and ingeniously equivocal attitude toward the Jews. From then on the nation-state, equipped with conservative arguments, drew a distinct line between Jews who were needed and wanted and those who were not. Under the pretext of the essential Christian character of the state – what could have been more alien to the enlightened despots! – the growing Jewish intelligentsia could be openly discriminated against without harming the affairs of bankers and businessmen. This kind of discrimination which tried to close the universities to Jews by excluding them from the civil services had the double advantage of indicating that the nation-state valued special services higher than equality, and of preventing, or at least postponing, the birth of a new group of Jews who were of no apparent use to the state and even likely to be assimilated into society.[73] When, in the eighties, Bismarck went to considerable trouble to protect the Jews against Stoecker’s antisemitic propaganda, he said expressis verbis that he wanted to protest only against the attacks upon ‘moneyed Jewry … whose interests are tied to the conservation of our state institutions’ and that his friend Bleichroeder, the Prussian banker, did not complain about attacks on Jews in general (which he might have overlooked) but on rich Jews.[74]

The seeming equivocation with which government officials on the one hand protested against equality (especially professional equality) for the Jews, or complained somewhat later about Jewish influence in the press and yet, on the other, sincerely ‘wished them well in every respect,’[75] was much more suited to the interests of the state than the earlier zeal of the reformer. After all, the Congress of Vienna had returned to Prussia the provinces in which the poor Jewish masses had lived for centuries, and nobody but a few intellectuals who dreamed of the French Revolution and the Rights of Man had ever thought of giving them the same status as their wealthy brethren – who certainly were the last to clamor for an equality by which they could only lose.[76] They knew as well as anybody else that ‘every legal or political measure for the emancipation of the Jews must necessarily lead to a deterioration of their civic and social situation.’[77] And they knew better than anybody else how much their power depended upon their position and prestige within the Jewish communities. So they could hardly adopt any other policy but to ‘endeavor to get more influence for themselves, and keep their fellow Jews in their national isolation, pretending that this separation is part of their religion. Why? … Because the others should depend upon them even more, so that they, as unsere Leute, could be used exclusively by those in power.’[78] And it did turn out that in the twentieth century, when emancipation was for the first time an accomplished fact for the Jewish masses, the power of the privileged Jews had disappeared.

Thus a perfect harmony of interests was established between the powerful Jews and the state. Rich Jews wanted and obtained control over their fellow Jews and segregation from non-Jewish society; the state could combine a policy of benevolence toward rich Jews with legal discrimination against the Jewish intelligentsia and furtherance of social segregation, as expressed in the conservative theory of the Christian essence of the state.

While antisemitism among the nobility remained without political consequence and subsided quickly in the decades of the Holy Alliance, liberals and radical intellectuals inspired and led a new movement immediately after the Congress of Vienna. Liberal opposition to Metternich’s police regime on the Continent and bitter attacks on the reactionary Prussian government led quickly to antisemitic outbursts and a veritable flood of anti-Jewish pamphlets. Precisely because they were much less candid and outspoken in their opposition to the government than the nobleman Marwitz had been a decade before, they attacked the Jews more than the government. Concerned mainly with equal opportunity and resenting most of all the revival of aristocratic privileges which limited their admission to the public services, they introduced into the discussion the distinction between individual Jews, ‘our brethren,’ and Jewry as a group, a distinction which from then on was to become the trademark of leftist antisemitism. Although they did not fully understand why and how the government, in its enforced independence from society, preserved and protected the Jews as a separate group, they knew well enough that some political connection existed and that the Jewish question was more than a problem of individual Jews and human tolerance. They coined the new nationalist phrases ‘state within the state,’ and ‘nation within the nation.’ Certainly wrong in the first instance, because the Jews had no political ambitions of their own and were merely the only social group that was unconditionally loyal to the state, they were half right in the second, because the Jews, taken as a social and not as a political body, actually did form a separate group within the nation.[79]

In Prussia, though not in Austria or in France, this radical antisemitism was almost as short-lived and inconsequential as the earlier antisemitism of nobility. The radicals were more and more absorbed by the liberalism of the economically rising middle classes, which all over Germany some twenty years later clamored in their diets for Jewish emancipation and for realization of political equality. It established, however, a certain theoretical and even literary tradition whose influence can be recognized in the famous anti-Jewish writings of the young Marx, who so frequently and unjustly has been accused of antisemitism. That the Jew, Karl Marx, could write the same way these anti-Jewish radicals did is only proof of how little this kind of anti-Jewish argument had in common with full-fledged antisemitism. Marx as an individual Jew was as little embarrassed by these arguments against ‘Jewry’ as, for instance, Nietzsche was by his arguments against Germany. Marx, it is true, in his later years never wrote or uttered an opinion on the Jewish question; but this is hardly due to any fundamental change of mind. His exclusive preoccupation with class struggle as a phenomenon inside society, with the problems of capitalist production in which Jews were not involved as either buyers or sellers of labor, and his utter neglect of political questions, automatically prevented his further inspection of the state structure, and thereby of the role of the Jews. The strong influence of Marxism on the labor movement in Germany is among the chief reasons why German revolutionary movements showed so few signs of anti-Jewish sentiment.[80] The Jews were indeed of little or no importance for the social struggles of the time.

The beginnings of the modern antisemitic movement date back everywhere to the last third of the nineteenth century. In Germany, it began rather unexpectedly once more among the nobility, whose opposition to the state was again aroused by the transformation of the Prussian monarchy into a fell-fledged nation-state after 1871. Bismarck, the actual founder of the German Reich, had maintained close relations with Jews ever since he became Prime Minister; now he was denounced for being dependent upon and accepting bribes from the Jews. His attempt and partial success in abolishing most feudal remnants in the government inevitably resulted in conflict with the aristocracy; in their attack on Bismarck they represented him as either an innocent victim or a paid agent of Bleichroeder. Actually the relationship was the very opposite; Bleichroeder was undoubtedly a highly esteemed and well-paid agent of Bismarck.[81]

Feudal aristocracy, however, though still powerful enough to influence public opinion, was in itself neither strong nor important enough to start a real antisemitic movement like the one that began in the eighties. Their spokesman, Court Chaplain Stoecker, himself a son of lower middle-class parents, was a much less gifted representative of conservative interests than his predecessors, the romantic intellectuals who had formulated the main tenets of a conservative ideology some fifty years earlier. Moreover, he discovered the usefulness of antisemitic propaganda not through practical or theoretical considerations but by accident, when he, with the help of a great demagogic talent, found out it was highly useful for filling otherwise empty halls. But not only did he fail to understand his own sudden successes; as court chaplain and employee of both the royal family and the government, he was hardly in a position to use them properly. His enthusiastic audiences were composed exclusively of lower middle-class people, small shopkeepers and tradesmen, artisans and old-fashioned craftsmen. And the anti-Jewish sentiments of these people were not yet, and certainly not exclusively, motivated by a conflict with the state.

III: The First Antisemitic Parties

The simultaneous rise of antisemitism as a serious political factor in Germany, Austria, and France in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century was preceded by a series of financial scandals and fraudulent affairs whose main source was an overproduction of ready capital. In France a majority of Parliament members and an incredible number of government officials were soon so deeply involved in swindle and bribery that the Third Republic was never to recover the prestige it lost during the first decades of its existence; in Austria and Germany the aristocracy was among the most compromised. In all three countries, Jews acted only as middlemen, and not a single Jewish house emerged with permanent wealth from the frauds of the Panama Affair and the Gründungsschwindel.

However, another group of people besides noblemen, government officials, and Jews were seriously involved in these fantastic investments whose promised profits were matched by incredible losses. This group consisted mainly of the lower middle classes, which now suddenly turned antisemitic. They had been more seriously hurt than any of the other groups: they had risked small savings and had been permanently ruined. There were important reasons for their gullibility. Capitalist expansion on the domestic scene tended more and more to liquidate small property-holders, to whom it had become a question of life or death to increase quickly the little they had, since they were only too likely to lose all. They were becoming aware that if they did not succeed in climbing upward into the bourgeoisie, they might sink down into the proletariat. Decades of general prosperity slowed down this development so considerably (though it did not change its trend) that their panic appears rather premature. For the time being, however, the anxiety of the lower middle classes corresponded exactly to Marx’s prediction of their rapid dissolution.

The lower middle classes, or petty bourgeoisie, were the descendants of the guilds of artisans and tradesmen who for centuries had been protected against the hazards of life by a closed system which outlawed competition and was in the last instance under the protection of the state. They consequently blamed their misfortune upon the Manchester system, which had exposed them to the hardships of a competitive society and deprived them of all special protection and privileges granted by public authorities. They were, therefore, the first to clamor for the ‘welfare state,’ which they expected not only to shield them against emergencies but to keep them in the professions and callings they had inherited from their families. Since an outstanding characteristic of the century of free trade was the access of the Jews to all professions, it was almost a matter of course to think of the Jews as the representatives of the ‘applied system of Manchester carried out to the extreme,’[82] even though nothing was farther from the truth.

This rather derivative resentment, which we find first in certain conservative writers who occasionally combined an attack on the bourgeoisie with an attack on Jews, received a great stimulus when those who had hoped for help from the government or gambled on miracles had to accept the rather dubious help of bankers. To the small shopkeeper the banker appeared to be the same kind of exploiter as the owner of a big industrial enterprise was to the worker. But while the European workers, from their own experience and a Marxist education in economics, knew that the capitalist filled the double function of exploiting them and giving them the opportunity to produce, the small shopkeeper had found nobody to enlighten him about his social and economic destiny. His predicament was even worse than the worker’s and on the basis of his experience he considered the banker a parasite and usurer whom he had to make his silent partner, even though this banker, in contrast to the manufacturer, had nothing whatsoever to do with his business. It is not difficult to comprehend that a man who put his money solely and directly to the use of begetting more money can be hated more bitterly than the one who gets his profit through a lengthy and involved process of production. Since at that time nobody asked for credit if he could possibly help it – certainly not small tradesmen – bankers looked like the exploiters not of working power and productive capacity, but of misfortune and misery.

Many of these bankers were Jews and, even more important, the general figure of the banker bore definite Jewish traits for historical reasons. Thus the leftist movement of the lower middle class and the entire propaganda against banking capital turned more or less antisemitic, a development of little importance in industrial Germany but of great significance in France and, to a lesser extent, in Austria. For a while it looked as though the Jews had indeed for the first time come into direct conflict with another class without interference from the state. Within the framework of the nation-state, in which the function of the government was more or less defined by its ruling position above competing classes, such a clash might even have been a possible, if dangerous, way to normalize the Jewish position.

To this social-economic element, however, another was quickly added which in the long run proved to be more ominous. The position of the Jews as bankers depended not upon loans to small people in distress, but primarily on the issuance of state loans. Petty loans were left to the small fellows, who in this way prepared themselves for the more promising careers of their wealthier and more honorable brethren. The social resentment of the lower middle classes against the Jews turned into a highly explosive political element, because these bitterly hated Jews were thought to be well on their way to political power. Were they not only too well known for their relationship with the government in other respects? Social and economic hatred, on the other hand, reinforced the political argument with that driving violence which up to then it had lacked completely.

Friedrich Engels once remarked that the protagonists of the antisemitic movement of his time were noblemen, and its chorus the howling mob of the petty bourgeoisie. This is true not only for Germany, but also for Austria’s Christian Socialism and France’s Anti-Dreyfusards. In all these cases, the aristocracy, in a desperate last struggle, tried to ally itself with the conservative forces of the churches – the Catholic Church in Austria and France, the Protestant Church in Germany – under the pretext of fighting liberalism with the weapons of Christianity. The mob was only a means to strengthen their position, to give their voices a greater resonance. Obviously they neither could nor wanted to organize the mob, and would dismiss it once their aim was achieved. But they discovered that antisemitic slogans were highly effective in mobilizing large strata of the population.

The followers of Court Chaplain Stoecker did not organize the first antisemitic parties in Germany. Once the appeal of antisemitic slogans had been demonstrated, radical antisemites at once separated themselves from Stoecker’s Berlin movement, went into a full-scale fight against the government, and founded parties whose representatives in the Reichstag voted in all major domestic issues with the greatest opposition party, the Social Democrats.[83] They quickly got rid of the compromising initial alliance with the old powers; Boeckel, the first antisemitic member of Parliament, owed his seat to votes of the Hessian peasants whom he defended against ‘Junkers and Jews,’ that is against the nobility which owned too much land and against the Jews upon whose credit the peasants depended.

Small as these first antisemitic parties were, they at once distinguished themselves from all other parties. They made the original claim that they were not a party among parties but a party ‘above all parties.’ In the class- and party-ridden nation-state, only the state and the government had ever claimed to be above all parties and classes, to represent the nation as a whole. Parties were admittedly groups whose deputies represented the interests of their voters. Even though they fought for power, it was implicitly understood that it was up to the government to establish a balance between the conflicting interests and their representatives. The antisemitic parties’ claim to be ‘above all parties’ announced clearly their aspiration to become the representative of the whole nation, to get exclusive power, to take possession of the state machinery, to substitute themselves for the state. Since, on the other hand, they continued to be organized as a party, it was also clear that they wanted state power as a party, so that their voters would actually dominate the nation.

The body politic of the nation-state came into existence when no single group was any longer in a position to wield exclusive political power, so that the government assumed actual political rule which no longer depended upon social and economic factors. The revolutionary movements of the left, which fought for a radical change of social conditions, had never directly touched this supreme political authority. They had challenged only the power of the bourgeoisie and its influence upon the state, and were therefore always ready to submit to government guidance in foreign affairs, where the interests of an assumedly unified nation were at stake. The numerous programs of the antisemitic groups, on the other hand, were, from the beginning, chiefly concerned with foreign affairs; their revolutionary impulse was directed against the government rather than a social class, and they actually aimed to destroy the political pattern of the nation-state by means of a party organization.

The claim of a party to be beyond all parties had other, more significant, implications than antisemitism. If it had been only a question of getting rid of the Jews, Fritsch’s proposal, at one of the early antisemitic congresses,[84] not to create a new party but rather to disseminate antisemitism until finally all existing parties were hostile to Jews, would have brought much quicker results. As it was, Fritsch’s proposal went unheeded because antisemitism was then already an instrument for the liquidation not only of the Jews but of the body politic of the nation-state as well.

Nor was it an accident that the claim of the antisemitic parties coincided with the early stages of imperialism and found exact counterparts in certain trends in Great Britain which were free of antisemitism and in the highly antisemitic pan-movements on the Continent.[85] Only in Germany did these new trends spring directly from antisemitism as such, and antisemitic parties preceded and survived the formation of purely imperialist groups such as the Alldeutscher Verband and others, all of which also claimed to be more than and above party groups.

The fact that similar formations without active antisemitism – which avoided the charlatan aspect of the antisemitic parties and therefore seemed at first to have far better chances for final victory – were finally submerged or liquidated by the antisemitic movement is a good index to the importance of the issue. The antisemites’ belief that their claim to exclusive rule was no more than what the Jews had in fact achieved, gave them the advantage of a domestic program, and conditions were such that one had to enter the arena of social struggle in order to win political power. They could pretend to fight the Jews exactly as the workers were fighting the bourgeoisie. Their advantage was that by attacking the Jews, who were believed to be the secret power behind governments, they could openly attack the state itself, whereas the imperialist groups, with their mild and secondary antipathy against Jews, never found the connection with the important social struggles of the times.

The second highly significant characteristic of the new antisemitic parties was that they started at once a supranational organization of all antisemitic groups in Europe, in open contrast to, and in defiance of, current nationalistic slogans. By introducing this supranational element, they clearly indicated that they aimed not only at political rule over the nation but had already planned a step further for an inter-European government ‘above all nations.’[86] This second revolutionary element meant the fundamental break with the status quo; it has been frequently overlooked because the antisemites themselves, partly because of traditional habits and partly because they consciously lied, used the language of the reactionary parties in their propaganda.

The intimate relationship between the peculiar conditions of Jewish existence and the ideology of such groups is even more evident in the organization of a group beyond nations than in the creation of a party beyond parties. The Jews very clearly were the only inter-European element in a nationalized Europe. It seemed only logical that their enemies had to organize on the same principle, if they were to fight those who were supposed to be the secret manipulators of the political destiny of all nations.

While this argument was sure to be convincing as propaganda, the success of supranational antisemitism depended upon more general considerations. Even at the end of the last century, and especially since the Franco-Prussian War, more and more people felt that the national organization of Europe was antiquated because it could no longer adequately respond to new economic challenges. This feeling had been a powerful supporting argument for the international organization of socialism and had, in turn, been strengthened by it. The conviction that identical interests existed all over Europe was spreading through the masses.[87] Whereas the international socialist organizations remained passive and uninterested in all foreign policy issues (that is in precisely those questions where their internationalism might have been tested), the antisemites started with problems of foreign policy and even promised solution of domestic problems on a supranational basis. To take ideologies less at their face value and to look more closely at the actual programs of the respective parties is to discover that the socialists, who were more concerned with domestic issues, fitted much better into the nation-state than the antisemites.

Of course this does not mean that the socialists’ internationalist convictions were not sincere. These were, on the contrary, stronger and, incidentally, much older than the discovery of class interests which cut across the boundaries of national states. But the very awareness of the all-importance of class struggle induced them to neglect that heritage which the French Revolution had bequeathed to the workers’ parties and which alone might have led them to an articulate political theory. The socialists kept implicitly intact the original concept of a ‘nation among nations,’ all of which belong to the family of mankind, but they never found a device by which to transform this idea into a working concept in the world of sovereign states. Their internationalism, consequently, remained a personal conviction shared by everybody, and their healthy disinterest in national sovereignty turned into a quite unhealthy and unrealistic indifference to foreign politics. Since the parties of the left did not object to nation-states on principle, but only to the aspect of national sovereignty; since, moreover, their own inarticulate hopes for federalist structures with eventual integration of all nations on equal terms somehow presupposed national liberty and independence of all oppressed peoples, they could operate within the framework of the nation-state and even emerge, in the time of decay of its social and political structure, as the only group in the population that did not indulge in expansionist fantasies and in thoughts of destroying other peoples.

The supranationalism of the antisemites approached the question of international organization from exactly the opposite point of view. Their aim was a dominating superstructure which would destroy all home-grown national structures alike. They could indulge in hypernationalistic talk even as they prepared to destroy the body politic of their own nation, because tribal nationalism, with its immoderate lust for conquest, was one of the principal powers by which to force open the narrow and modest limits of the nation-state and its sovereignty.[88] The more effective the chauvinistic propaganda, the easier it was to persuade public opinion of the necessity for a supranational structure which would rule from above and without national distinctions by a universal monopoly of power and the instruments of violence.

There is little doubt that the special inter-European condition of the Jewish people could have served the purposes of socialist federalism at least as well as it was to serve the sinister plots of supranationalists. But socialists were so concerned with class struggle and so neglectful of the political consequences of their own inherited concepts that they became aware of the existence of the Jews as a political factor only when they were already confronted with full-blown antisemitism as a serious competitor on the domestic scene. Then they were not only unprepared to integrate the Jewish issue into their theories, but actually afraid to touch the question at all. Here as in other international issues, they left the field to the supranationalists who could then seem to be the only ones who knew the answers to world problems.

By the turn of the century, the effects of the swindles in the seventies had run their course and an era of prosperity and general well-being, especially in Germany, put an end to the premature agitations of the eighties. Nobody could have predicted that this end was only a temporary respite, that all unsolved political questions, together with all unappeased political hatreds, were to redouble in force and violence after the first World War. The antisemitic parties in Germany, after initial successes, fell back into insignificance; their leaders, after a brief stirring of public opinion, disappeared through the back door of history into the darkness of crackpot confusion and cure-all charlatanry.

IV: Leftist Antisemitism

Were it not for the frightful consequences of antisemitism in our own time, we might have given less attention to its development in Germany. As a political movement, nineteenth-century antisemitism can be studied best in France, where for almost a decade it dominated the political scene. As an ideological force, competing with other more respectable ideologies for the acceptance of public opinion, it reached its most articulate form in Austria.

Nowhere had the Jews rendered such great services to the state as in Austria, whose many nationalities were kept together only by the Dual Monarchy of the House of Hapsburg, and where the Jewish state banker, in contrast to all other European countries, survived the downfall of the monarchy. Just as at the beginning of this development in the early eighteenth century, Samuel Oppenheimer’s credit had been identical with the credit of the House of Hapsburg, so ‘in the end Austrian credit was that of the Creditanstalt’ – a Rothschild banking house.[89] Although the Danube monarchy had no homogeneous population, the most important prerequisite for evolution into a nation-state, it could not avoid the transformation of an enlightened despotism into a constitutional monarchy and the creation of modern civil services. This meant that it had to adopt certain institutions of the nation-state. For one thing, the modern class system grew along nationality lines, so that certain nationalities began to be identified with certain classes or at least professions. The German became the dominating nationality in much the same sense as the bourgeoisie became the dominating class in the nation-states. The Hungarian landed aristocracy played a role that was even more pronounced than, but essentially similar to, that played by the nobility in other countries. The state machinery itself tried its best to keep the same absolute distance from society, to rule above all nationalities, as the nation-state with respect to its classes. The result for the Jews was simply that the Jewish nationality could not merge with the others and could not become a nationality itself, just as it had not merged with other classes in the nation-state, or become a class itself. As the Jews in nation-states had differed from all classes of society through their special relationship to the state, so they differed from all other nationalities in Austria through their special relationship to the Hapsburg monarchy. And just as everywhere else each class that came into open conflict with the state turned antisemitic, so in Austria each nationality that not only engaged in the all-pervading struggle of the nationalities but came into open conflict with the monarchy itself, started its fight with an attack upon the Jews. But there was a marked difference between these conflicts in Austria, and those in Germany and France. In Austria they were not only sharper, but at the outbreak of the first World War every single nationality, and that meant every stratum of society, was in opposition to the state, so that more than anywhere else in Western or Central Europe the population was imbued with active antisemitism.

Outstanding among these conflicts was the continuously rising state hostility of the German nationality, which accelerated after the foundation of the Reich and discovered the usefulness of antisemitic slogans after the financial crash of 1873. The social situation at that moment was practically the same as in Germany, but the social propaganda to catch the middle-class vote immediately indulged in a much more violent attack on the state, and a much more outspoken confession of nonloyalty to the country. Moreover, the German Liberal Party, under the leadership of Schoenerer, was from the beginning a lower middle-class party without connections or restraints from the side of the nobility, and with a decidedly left-wing outlook. It never achieved a real mass basis, but it was remarkably successful in the universities during the eighties where it organized the first closely knit students’ organization on the basis of open antisemitism. Schoenerer’s antisemitism, at first almost exclusively directed against the Rothschilds, won him the sympathies of the labor movement, which regarded him as a true radical gone astray.[90] His main advantage was that he could base his antisemitic propaganda on demonstrable facts: as a member of the Austrian Reichsrat he had fought for nationalization of the Austrian railroads, the major part of which had been in the hands of the Rothschilds since 1836 due to a state license which expired in 1886. Schoenerer succeeded in gathering 40,000 signatures against its renewal, and in placing the Jewish question in the limelight of public interest. The close connection between the Rothschilds and the financial interests of the monarchy became very obvious when the government tried to extend the license under conditions which were patently to the disadvantage of the state as well as the public. Schoenerer’s agitation in this matter became the actual beginning of an articulate antisemitic movement in Austria.[91] The point is that this movement, in contrast to the German Stoecker agitation, was initiated and led by a man who was sincere beyond doubt, and therefore did not stop at the use of antisemitism as a propaganda weapon, but developed quickly that Pan-German ideology which was to influence Nazism more deeply than any other German brand of antisemitism.

Though victorious in the long run, the Schoenerer movement was temporarily defeated by a second antisemitic party, the Christian-Socials under the leadership of Lueger. While Schoenerer had attacked the Catholic Church and its considerable influence on Austrian politics almost as much as he had the Jews, the Christian-Socials were a Catholic party who tried from the outset to ally themselves with those reactionary conservative forces which had proved so helpful in Germany and France. Since they made more social concessions, they were more successful than in Germany or in France. They, together with the Social Democrats, survived the downfall of the monarchy and became the most influential group in postwar Austria. But long before the establishment of an Austrian Republic, when, in the nineties, Lueger had won the Mayoralty of Vienna by an antisemitic campaign, the Christian-Socials already adopted that typically equivocal attitude toward the Jews in the nation-state – hostility to the intelligentsia and friendliness toward the Jewish business class. It was by no means an accident that, after a bitter and bloody contest for power with the socialist workers’ movement, they took over the state machinery when Austria, reduced to its German nationality, was established as a nation-state. They turned out to be the only party which was prepared for exactly this role and, even under the old monarchy, had won popularity because of their nationalism. Since the Hapsburgs were a German house and had granted their German subjects a certain predominance, the Christian-Socials never attacked the monarchy. Their function was rather to win large parts of the German nationality for the support of an essentially unpopular government. Their antisemitism remained without consequence; the decades when Lueger ruled Vienna were actually a kind of golden age for the Jews. No matter how far their propaganda occasionally went in order to get votes, they never could have proclaimed with Schoenerer and the Pan-Germanists that ‘they regarded antisemitism as the mainstay of our national ideology, as the most essential expression of genuine popular conviction and thus as the major national achievement of the century.’[92] And although they were as much under the influence of clerical circles as was the antisemitic movement in France, they were of necessity much more restrained in their attacks on the Jews because they did not attack the monarchy as the antisemites in France attacked the Third Republic.

The successes and failures of the two Austrian antisemitic parties show the scant relevance of social conflicts to the long-range issues of the time. Compared with the mobilization of all opponents to the government as such, the capturing of lower middle-class votes was a temporary phenomenon. Indeed, the backbone of Schoenerer’s movement was in those German-speaking provinces without any Jewish population at all, where competition with Jews or hatred of Jewish bankers never existed. The survival of the Pan-Germanist movement and its violent antisemitism in these provinces, while it subsided in the urban centers, was merely due to the fact that these provinces were never reached to the same extent by the universal prosperity of the pre-war period which reconciled the urban population with the government.

The complete lack of loyalty to their own country and its government, for which the Pan-Germanists substituted an open loyalty to Bismarck’s Reich, and the resulting concept of nationhood as something independent of state and territory, led the Schoenerer group to a veritable imperialist ideology in which lies the clue to its temporary weakness and its final strength. It is also the reason why the Pan-German party in Germany (the Alldeutschen), which never overstepped the limits of ordinary chauvinism, remained so extremely suspicious and reluctant to take the outstretched hands of their Austrian Germanist brothers. This Austrian movement aimed at more than rise to power as a party, more than the possession of the state machinery. It wanted a revolutionary reorganization of Central Europe in which the Germans of Austria, together with and strengthened by the Germans of Germany, would become the ruling people, in which all other peoples of the area would be kept in the same kind of semiservitude as the Slavonic nationalities in Austria. Because of this close affinity to imperialism and the fundamental change it brought to the concept of nationhood, we shall have to postpone the discussion of the Austrian Pan-Germanist movement. It is no longer, at least in its consequences, a mere nineteenth-century preparatory movement; it belongs, more than any other brand of antisemitism, to the course of events of our own century.

The exact opposite is true of French antisemitism. The Dreyfus Affair brings into the open all other elements of nineteenth-century antisemitism in its mere ideological and political aspects; it is the culmination of the antisemitism which grew out of the special conditions of the nation-state. Yet its violent form foreshadowed future developments, so that the main actors of the Affair sometimes seem to be staging a huge dress rehearsal for a performance that had to be put off for more than three decades. It drew together all the open or subterranean, political or social sources which had brought the Jewish question into a predominant position in the nineteenth century; its premature outburst, on the other hand, kept it within the framework of a typical nineteenth-century ideology which, although it survived all French governments and political crises, never quite fitted into twentieth-century political conditions. When, after the 1940 defeat, French antisemitism got its supreme chance under the Vichy government, it had a definitely antiquated and, for major purposes, rather useless character, which German Nazi writers never forgot to point out.[93] It had no influence on the formation of Nazism and remains more significant in itself than as an active historical factor in the final catastrophe.

The principal reason for these wholesome limitations was that France’s antisemitic parties, though violent on the domestic scene, had no supranational aspirations. They belonged after all to the oldest and most fully developed nation-state in Europe. None of the antisemites ever tried seriously to organize a ‘party above parties’ or to seize the state as a party and for no other purpose but party interests. The few attempted coups d’état which might be credited to the alliance between antisemites and higher army officers were ridiculously inadequate and obviously contrived.[94] In 1898 some nineteen members of Parliament were elected through antisemitic campaigns, but this was a peak which was never reached again and from which the decline was rapid.

It is true, on the other hand, that this was the earliest instance of the success of antisemitism as a catalytic agent for all other political issues. This can be attributed to the lack of authority of the Third Republic, which had been voted in with a very slight majority. In the eyes of the masses, the state had lost its prestige along with the monarchy, and attacks on the state were no longer a sacrilege. The early outburst of violence in France bears a striking resemblance to similar agitation in the Austrian and German Republics after the first World War. The Nazi dictatorship has been so frequently connected with so-called ‘state-worship’ that even historians have become somewhat blind to the truism that the Nazis took advantage of the complete breakdown of state worship, originally prompted by the worship of a prince who sits on the throne by the grace of God, and which hardly ever occurs in a Republic. In France, fifty years before Central European countries were affected by this universal loss of reverence, state worship had suffered many defeats. It was much easier to attack the Jews and the government together there than in Central Europe where the Jews were attacked in order to attack the government.

French antisemitism, moreover, is as much older than its European counterparts as is French emancipation of the Jews, which dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. The representatives of the Age of Enlightenment who prepared the French Revolution despised the Jews as a matter of course; they saw in them the backward remnants of the Dark Ages, and they hated them as the financial agents of the aristocracy. The only articulate friends of the Jews in France were conservative writers who denounced anti-Jewish attitudes as ‘one of the favorite theses of the eighteenth century.’[95] For the more liberal or radical writer it had become almost a tradition to warn against the Jews as barbarians who still lived in the patriarchal form of government and recognized no other state.[96] During and after the French Revolution, the French clergy and French aristocrats added their voices to the general anti-Jewish sentiment, though for other and more material reasons. They accused the revolutionary government of having ordered the sale of clerical property to pay ‘the Jews and merchants to whom the government is indebted.’[97] These old arguments, somehow kept alive through the never-ending struggle between Church and State in France, supported the general violence and embitterment which had been touched off by other and more modern forces at the end of the century.

Mainly because of the strong clerical support of antisemitism, the French socialist movement finally decided to take a stand against antisemitic propaganda in the Dreyfus Affair. Until then, however, nineteenth-century French leftist movements had been outspoken in their antipathy to the Jews. They simply followed the tradition of eighteenth-century enlightenment which was the source of French liberalism and radicalism, and they considered anti-Jewish attitudes an integral part of anticlericalism. These sentiments on the left were strengthened first by the fact that the Alsatian Jews continued to live from lending money to peasants, a practice which had already prompted Napoleon’s decree of 1808. After conditions had changed in Alsace, leftist antisemitism found a new source of strength in the financial policies of the house of Rothschild, which played a large part in the financing of the Bourbons, maintained close connections with Louis Philippe, and flourished under Napoleon III.

Behind these obvious and rather superficial incentives to anti-Jewish attitudes there was a deeper cause, which was crucial to the whole structure of the specifically French brand of radicalism, and which almost succeeded in turning the whole French leftist movement against the Jews. Bankers were much stronger in the French economy than in other capitalist countries, and France’s industrial development, after a brief rise during the reign of Napoleon III, lagged so far behind other nations’ that pre-capitalist socialist tendencies continued to exert considerable influence. The lower middle classes which in Germany and Austria became antisemitic only during the seventies and eighties, when they were already so desperate that they could be used for reactionary politics as well as for the new mob policies, had been antisemitic in France some fifty years earlier, when, with the help of the working class, they carried the revolution of 1848 to a brief victory. In the forties, when Toussenel published his Les Juifs, Rois de l’Epoque, the most important book in a veritable flood of pamphlets against the Rothschilds, it was enthusiastically received by the entire left-wing press, which at the time was the organ of the revolutionary lower middle classes. Their sentiments, as expressed by Toussenel, though less articulate and less sophisticated, were not very different from those of the young Marx, and Toussenel’s attack on the Rothschilds was only a less gifted and more elaborate variation of the letters from Paris which Boerne had written fifteen years before.[98] These Jews, too, mistook the Jewish banker for a central figure in the capitalist system, an error which has exerted a certain influence on the municipal and lower government bureaucracy in France up to our own time.[99]

However this outburst of popular anti-Jewish feeling, nourished by an economic conflict between Jewish bankers and their desperate clientele, lasted no longer as an important factor in politics than similar outbursts with purely economic or social causes. The twenty years of Napoleon III’s rule over a French Empire were an age of prosperity and security for French Jewry much like the two decades before the outbreak of the first World War in Germany and Austria.

The only brand of French antisemitism which actually remained strong, and outlasted social antisemitism as well as the contemptuous attitudes of anticlerical intellectuals, was tied up with a general xenophobia. Especially after the first World War, foreign Jews became the stereotypes for all foreigners. A differentiation between native Jews and those who ‘invaded’ the country from the East has been made in all Western and Central European countries. Polish and Russian Jews were treated exactly the same way in Germany and Austria as Rumanian and German Jews were treated in France, just as Jews from Posen in Germany or from Galicia in Austria were regarded with the same snobbish contempt as Jews from Alsace were in France. But only in France did this differentiation assume such importance on the domestic scene. And this is probably due to the fact that the Rothschilds, who more than anywhere else were the butt of anti-Jewish attacks, had immigrated into France from Germany, so that up to the outbreak of the second World War it became natural to suspect the Jews of sympathies with the national enemy.

Nationalistic antisemitism, harmless when compared with modern movements, was never a monopoly of reactionaries and chauvinists in France. On this point, the writer Jean Giraudoux, the propaganda minister in Daladier’s war cabinet, was in complete agreement[100] with Pétain and the Vichy government, which also, no matter how hard it tried to please the Germans, could not break through the limitations of this outmoded antipathy for Jews. The failure was all the more conspicuous since the French had produced an outstanding antisemite who realized the full range and possibilities of the new weapon. That this man should be a prominent novelist is characteristic of conditions in France, where antisemitism in general had never fallen into the same social and intellectual disrepute as in other European countries.

Louis Ferdinand Céline had a simple thesis, ingenious and containing exactly the ideological imagination that the more rational French antisemitism had lacked. He claimed that the Jews had prevented the evolution of Europe into a political entity, had caused all European wars since 843, and had plotted the ruin of both France and Germany by inciting their mutual hostility. Céline proposed this fantastic explanation of history in his Ecole des Cadavres, written at the time of the Munich pact and published during the first months of the war. An earlier pamphlet on the subject, Bagatelle pour un Massacre (1938), although it did not include the new key to European history, was already remarkably modern in its approach; it avoided all restricting differentiations between native and foreign Jews, between good and bad ones, and did not bother with elaborate legislative proposals (a particular characteristic of French antisemitism), but went straight to the core of the matter and demanded the massacre of all Jews.

Céline’s first book was very favorably received by France’s leading intellectuals, who were half pleased by the attack on the Jews and half convinced that it was nothing more than an interesting new literary fancy.[101] For exactly the same reasons French home-grown Fascists did not take Céline seriously, despite the fact that the Nazis always knew he was the only true antisemite in France. The inherent good sense of French politicians and their deep-rooted respectability prevented their accepting a charlatan and crackpot. The result was that even the Germans, who knew better, had to continue to use such inadequate supporters as Doriot, a follower of Mussolini, and Pétain, an old French chauvinist with no comprehension whatever of modern problems, in their vain efforts to persuade the French people that extermination of the Jews would be a cure for everything under the sun. The way this situation developed during the years of French official, and even unofficial, readiness to co-operate with Nazi Germany, clearly indicates how ineffective nineteenth-century antisemitism was to the new political purposes of the twentieth, even in a country where it had reached its fullest development and had survived all other changes in public opinion. It did not matter that able nineteenth-century journalists like Edouard Drumont, and even great contemporary writers like Georges Bernanos, contributed to a cause that was much more adequately served by crackpots and charlatans.

That France, for various reasons, never developed a full-fledged imperialist party turned out to be the decisive element. As many French colonial politicians have pointed out,[102] only a French-German alliance would have enabled France to compete with England in the division of the world and to join successfully in the scramble for Africa. Yet France somehow never let herself be tempted into this competition, despite all her noisy resentment and hostility against Great Britain. France was and remained – though declining in importance – the nation par excellence on the Continent, and even her feeble imperialist attempts usually ended with the birth of new national independence movements. Since, moreover, her antisemitism had been nourished principally by the purely national French-German conflict, the Jewish issue was almost automatically kept from playing much of a role in imperialist policies, despite the conditions in Algeria, whose mixed population of native Jews and Arabs would have offered an excellent opportunity.[103] The simple and brutal destruction of the French nation-state by German aggression, the mockery of a German-French alliance on the basis of German occupation and French defeat, may have proved how little strength of her own the nation par excellence had carried into our times from a glorious past; it did not change her essential political structure.

V: The Golden Age of Security

Only two decades separated the temporary decline of the antisemitic movements from the outbreak of the first World War. This period has been adequately described as a ‘Golden Age of Security’[104] because only a few who lived in it felt the inherent weakness of an obviously outmoded political structure which, despite all prophecies of imminent doom, continued to function in spurious splendor and with inexplicable, monotonous stubbornness. Side by side, and apparently with equal stability, an anachronistic despotism in Russia, a corrupt bureaucracy in Austria, a stupid militarism in Germany and a half-hearted Republic in continual crisis in France – all of them still under the shadow of the world-wide power of the British Empire – managed to carry on. None of these governments was especially popular, and all faced growing domestic opposition; but nowhere did there seem to exist an earnest political will for radical change in political conditions. Europe was much too busy expanding economically for any nation or social stratum to take political questions seriously. Everything could go on because nobody cared. Or, in the penetrating words of Chesterton, ‘everything is prolonging its existence by denying that it exists.’[105]

The enormous growth of industrial and economic capacity produced a steady weakening of purely political factors, while at the same time economic forces became dominant in the international play of power. Power was thought to be synonymous with economic capacity before people discovered that economic and industrial capacity are only its modern prerequisites. In a sense, economic power could bring governments to heel because they had the same faith in economics as the plain businessmen who had somehow convinced them that the state’s means of violence had to be used exclusively for protection of business interests and national property. For a very brief time, there was some truth in Walter Rathenau’s remark that 300 men, who all know each other, held the destinies of the world in their hands. This odd state of affairs lasted exactly until 1914 when, through the very fact of war, the confidence of the masses in the providential character of economic expansion fell apart.

The Jews were more deluded by the appearances of the golden age of security than any other section of the European peoples. Antisemitism seemed to be a thing of the past; the more the governments lost in power and prestige, the less attention was paid to the Jews. While the state played an ever narrower and emptier representative role, political representation tended to become a kind of theatrical performance of varying quality until in Austria the theater itself became the focus of national life, an institution whose public significance was certainly greater than that of Parliament. The theatrical quality of the political world had become so patent that the theater could appear as the realm of reality.

The growing influence of big business on the state and the state’s declining need for Jewish services threatened the Jewish banker with extinction and forced certain shifts in Jewish occupations. The first sign of the decline of the Jewish banking houses was their loss of prestige and power within the Jewish communities. They were no longer strong enough to centralize and, to a certain extent, monopolize the general Jewish wealth. More and more Jews left state finance for independent business. Out of food and clothing deliveries to armies and governments grew the Jewish food and grain commerce, and the garment industries in which they soon acquired a prominent position in all countries; pawnshops and general stores in small country towns were the predecessors of department stores in the cities. This does not mean that the relationship between Jews and governments ceased to exist, but fewer individuals were involved, so that at the end of this period we have almost the same picture as at the beginning: a few Jewish individuals in important financial positions with little or no connection with the broader strata of the Jewish middle class.

More important than the expansion of the independent Jewish business class was another shift in the occupational structure. Central and Western European Jewries had reached a saturation point in wealth and economic fortune. This might have been the moment for them to show that they actually wanted money for money’s or for power’s sake. In the former case, they might have expanded their businesses and handed them down to their descendants; in the latter they might have entrenched themselves more firmly in state business and fought the influence of big business and industry on governments. But they did neither. On the contrary, the sons of the well-to-do businessmen and, to a lesser extent, bankers, deserted their fathers’ careers for the liberal professions or purely intellectual pursuits they had not been able to afford a few generations before. What the nation-state had once feared so much, the birth of a Jewish intelligentsia, now proceeded at a fantastic pace. The crowding of Jewish sons of well-to-do parents into the cultural occupations was especially marked in Germany and Austria, where a great proportion of cultural institutions, like newspapers, publishing, music, and theater, became Jewish enterprises.

What had been made possible through the traditional Jewish preference and respect for intellectual occupations resulted in a real break with tradition and the intellectual assimilation and nationalization of important strata of Western and Central European Jewry. Politically, it indicated emancipation of Jews from state protection, growing consciousness of a common destiny with their fellow-citizens, and a considerable loosening of the ties that had made Jews an inter-European element. Socially, the Jewish intellectuals were the first who, as a group, needed and wanted admittance to non-Jewish society. Social discrimination, a small matter to their fathers who had not cared for social intercourse with Gentiles, became a paramount problem for them.

Searching for a road into society, this group was forced to accept social behavior patterns set by individual Jews who had been admitted into society during the nineteenth century as exceptions to the rule of discrimination. They quickly discovered the force that would open all doors, the ‘radiant Power of Fame’ (Stefan Zweig), which a hundred years’ idolatry of genius had made irresistible. What distinguished the Jewish pursuit of fame from the general fame idolatry of the time was that Jews were not primarily interested in it for themselves. To live in the aura of fame was more important than to become famous; thus they became outstanding reviewers, critics, collectors, and organizers of what was famous. The ‘radiant power’ was a very real social force by which the socially homeless were able to establish a home. The Jewish intellectuals, in other words, tried, and to a certain extent succeeded, in becoming the living tie binding famous individuals into a society of the renowned, an international society by definition, for spiritual achievement transcends national boundaries. The general weakening of political factors, for two decades having brought about a situation in which reality and appearance, political reality and theatrical performance could easily parody each other, now enabled them to become the representatives of a nebulous international society in which national prejudices no longer seemed valid. And paradoxically enough, this international society seemed to be the only one that recognized the nationalization and assimilation of its Jewish members; it was far easier for an Austrian Jew to be accepted as an Austrian in France than in Austria. The spurious world citizenship of this generation, this fictitious nationality which they claimed as soon as their Jewish origin was mentioned, in part already resembled those passports which later granted their owner the right to sojourn in every country except the one that issued it.

By their very nature, these circumstances could not but bring Jews into prominence just when their activities, their satisfaction and happiness in the world of appearance, proved that, as a group, they wanted in fact neither money nor power. While serious statesmen and publicists now bothered with the Jewish question less than at any time since the emancipation, and while antisemitism almost entirely disappeared from the open political scene, Jews became the symbols of Society as such and the objects of hatred for all those whom society did not accept. Antisemitism, having lost its ground in the special conditions that had influenced its development during the nineteenth century, could be freely elaborated by charlatans and crackpots into that weird mixture of half-truths and wild superstitions which emerged in Europe after 1914, the ideology of all frustrated and resentful elements.

Since the Jewish question in its social aspect turned into a catalyst of social unrest, until finally a disintegrated society recrystallized ideologically around a possible massacre of Jews, it is necessary to outline some of the main traits of the social history of emancipated Jewry in the bourgeois society of the last century.

Chapter Three. The Jews and Society

The Jews’ political ignorance, which fitted them so well for their special role and for taking roots in the state’s sphere of business, and their prejudices against the people and in favor of authority, which blinded them to the political dangers of antisemitism, caused them to be oversensitive toward all forms of social discrimination. It was difficult to see the decisive difference between political argument and mere antipathy when the two developed side by side. The point, however, is that they grew out of exactly opposite aspects of emancipation: political antisemitism developed because the Jews were a separate body, while social discrimination arose because of the growing equality of Jews with all other groups.

Equality of condition, though it is certainly a basic requirement for justice, is nevertheless among the greatest and most uncertain ventures of modern mankind. The more equal conditions are, the less explanation there is for the differences that actually exist between people; and thus all the more unequal do individuals and groups become. This perplexing consequence came fully to light as soon as equality was no longer seen in terms of an omnipotent being like God or an unavoidable common destiny like death. Whenever equality becomes a mundane fact in itself, without any gauge by which it may be measured or explained, then there is one chance in a hundred that it will be recognized simply as a working principle of a political organization in which otherwise unequal people have equal rights; there are ninety-nine chances that it will be mistaken for an innate quality of every individual, who is ‘normal’ if he is like everybody else and ‘abnormal’ if he happens to be different. This perversion of equality from a political into a social concept is all the more dangerous when a society leaves but little space for special groups and individuals, for then their differences become all the more conspicuous.

The great challenge to the modern period, and its peculiar danger, has been that in it man for the first time confronted man without the protection of differing circumstances and conditions. And it has been precisely this new concept of equality that has made modern race relations so difficult, for there we deal with natural differences which by no possible and conceivable change of conditions can become less conspicuous. It is because equality demands that I recognize each and every individual as my equal, that the conflicts between different groups, which for reasons of their own are reluctant to grant each other this basic equality, take on such terribly cruel forms.

Hence the more equal the Jewish condition, the more surprising were Jewish differences. This new awareness led to social resentment against the Jews and at the same time to a peculiar attraction toward them; the combined reactions determined the social history of Western Jewry. Discrimination, however, as well as attraction, were politically sterile. They neither produced a political movement against the Jews nor served in any way to protect them against their enemies. They did succeed, though, in poisoning the social atmosphere, in perverting all social intercourse between Jews and Gentiles, and had a definite effect on Jewish behavior. The formation of a Jewish type was due to both – to special discrimination and to special favor.

Social antipathy for Jews, with its varying forms of discrimination, did no great political harm in European countries, for genuine social and economic equality was never achieved. To all appearances new classes developed as groups to which one belonged by birth. There is no doubt that it was only in such a framework that society could suffer the Jews to establish themselves as a special clique.

The situation would have been entirely different if, as in the United States, equality of condition had been taken for granted; if every member of society – from whatever stratum – had been firmly convinced that by ability and luck he might become the hero of a success story. In such a society, discrimination becomes the only means of distinction, a kind of universal law according to which groups may find themselves outside the sphere of civic, political, and economic equality. Where discrimination is not tied up with the Jewish issue only, it can become a crystallization point for a political movement that wants to solve all the natural difficulties and conflicts of a multinational country by violence, mob rule, and the sheer vulgarity of race concepts. It is one of the most promising and dangerous paradoxes of the American Republic that it dared to realize equality on the basis of the most unequal population in the world, physically and historically. In the United States, social antisemitism may one day become the very dangerous nucleus for a political movement.[106] In Europe, however, it had little influence on the rise of political antisemitism.

I: Between Pariah and Parvenu

The precarious balance between society and state, upon which the nation-state rested socially and politically, brought about a peculiar law governing Jewish admission to society. During the 150 years when Jews truly lived amidst, and not just in the neighborhood of, Western European peoples, they always had to pay with political misery for social glory and with social insult for political success. Assimilation, in the sense of acceptance by non-Jewish society, was granted them only as long as they were clearly distinguished exceptions from the Jewish masses even though they still shared the same restricted and humiliating political conditions, or later only when, after an accomplished emancipation and resulting social isolation, their political status was already challenged by antisemitic movements. Society, confronted with political, economic, and legal equality for Jews, made it quite clear that none of its classes was prepared to grant them social equality, and that only exceptions from the Jewish people would be received. Jews who heard the strange compliment that they were exceptions, exceptional Jews, knew quite well that it was this very ambiguity – that they were Jews and yet presumably not like Jews – which opened the doors of society to them. If they desired this kind of intercourse, they tried, therefore, ‘to be and yet not to be Jews.’[107]

The seeming paradox had a solid basis in fact. What non-Jewish society demanded was that the newcomer be as ‘educated’ as itself, and that, although he not behave like an ‘ordinary Jew,’ he be and produce something out of the ordinary, since, after all, he was a Jew. All advocates of emancipation called for assimilation, that is, adjustment to and reception by, society, which they considered either a preliminary condition to Jewish emancipation or its automatic consequence. In other words, whenever those who actually tried to improve Jewish conditions attempted to think of the Jewish question from the point of view of the Jews themselves, they immediately approached it merely in its social aspect. It has been one of the most unfortunate facts in the history of the Jewish people that only its enemies, and almost never its friends, understood that the Jewish question was a political one.

The defenders of emancipation tended to present the problem as one of ‘education,’ a concept which originally applied to Jews as well as non-Jews.[108] It was taken for granted that the vanguard in both camps would consist of specially ‘educated,’ tolerant, cultured persons. It followed, of course, that the particularly tolerant, educated and cultured non-Jews could be bothered socially only with exceptionally educated Jews. As a matter of course, the demand, among the educated, for the abolition of prejudice was very quickly to become a rather one-sided affair, until only the Jews, finally, were urged to educate themselves.

This, however, is only one side of the matter. Jews were exhorted to become educated enough not to behave like ordinary Jews, but they were, on the other hand, accepted only because they were Jews, because of their foreign, exotic appeal. In the eighteenth century, this had its source in the new humanism which expressly wanted ‘new specimens of humanity’ (Herder), intercourse with whom would serve as an example of possible intimacy with all types of mankind. To the enlightened Berlin of Mendelssohn’s time, the Jews served as living proof that all men are human. For this generation, friendship with Mendelssohn or Markus Herz was an ever-renewed demonstration of the dignity of man. And because Jews were a despised and oppressed people, they were for it an even purer and more exemplary model of mankind. It was Herder, an outspoken friend of the Jews, who first used the later misused and misquoted phrase, ‘strange people of Asia driven into our regions.’[109] With these words, he and his fellow-humanists greeted the ‘new specimens of humanity’ for whom the eighteenth century had ‘searched the earth,’[110] only to find them in their age-old neighbors. Eager to stress the basic unity of mankind, they wanted to show the origins of the Jewish people as more alien, and hence more exotic, than they actually were, so that the demonstration of humanity as a universal principle might be more effective.

For a few decades at the turn of the eighteenth century, when French Jewry already enjoyed emancipation and German Jewry had almost no hope or desire for it, Prussia’s enlightened intelligentsia made ‘Jews all over the world turn their eyes to the Jewish community in Berlin’[111] (and not in Paris!). Much of this was due to the success of Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, or to its misinterpretation, which held that the ‘new specimens of humanity,’ because they had become examples of mankind, must also be more intensely human individuals.[112] Mirabeau was strongly influenced by this idea and used to cite Mendelssohn as his example.[113] Herder hoped that educated Jews would show a greater freedom from prejudice because ‘the Jew is free of certain political judgments which it is very hard or impossible for us to abandon.’ Protesting against the habit of the time of granting ‘concessions of new mercantile advantages,’ he proposed education as the true road to emancipation of Jews from Judaism, from ‘the old and proud national prejudices … customs that do not belong to our age and constitutions,’ so that Jews could become ‘purely humanized,’ and of service to ‘the development of the sciences and the entire culture of mankind.’[114] At about the same time, Goethe wrote in a review of a book of poems that their author, a Polish Jew, did ‘not achieve more than a Christian étudiant en belles lettres,’ and complained that where he had expected something genuinely new, some force beyond shallow convention, he had found ordinary mediocrity.[115]

One can hardly overestimate the disastrous effect of this exaggerated good will on the newly Westernized, educated Jews and the impact it had on their social and psychological position. Not only were they faced with the demoralizing demand that they be exceptions to their own people, recognize ‘the sharp difference between them and the others,’ and ask that such ‘separation … be also legalized’ by the governments;[116] they were expected even to become exceptional specimens of humanity. And since this, and not Heine’s conversion, constituted the true ‘ticket of admission’ into cultured European society, what else could these and future generations of Jews do but try desperately not to disappoint anybody?[117]

In the early decades of this entry into society, when assimilation had not yet become a tradition to follow, but something achieved by few and exceptionally gifted individuals, it worked very well indeed. While France was the land of political glory for the Jews, the first to recognize them as citizens, Prussia seemed on the way to becoming the country of social splendor. Enlightened Berlin, where Mendelssohn had established close connections with many famous men of his time, was only a beginning. His connections with non-Jewish society still had much in common with the scholarly ties that had bound Jewish and Christian learned men together in nearly all periods of European history. The new and surprising element was that Mendelssohn’s friends used these relationships for nonpersonal, ideological, or even political purposes. He himself explicitly disavowed all such ulterior motives and expressed time and again his complete satisfaction with the conditions under which he had to live, as though he had foreseen that his exceptional social status and freedom had something to do with the fact that he still belonged to ‘the lowliest inhabitants of the (Prussian king’s) domain.’[118]

This indifference to political and civil rights survived Mendelssohn’s innocent relationships with the learned and enlightened men of his time; it was carried later into the salons of those Jewish women who gathered together the most brilliant society Berlin was ever to see. Not until after the Prussian defeat of 1806, when the introduction of Napoleonic legislation into large regions of Germany put the question of Jewish emancipation on the agenda of public discussion, did this indifference change into outright fear. Emancipation would liberate the educated Jews, together with the ‘backward’ Jewish people, and their equality would wipe out that precious distinction, upon which, as they were very well aware, their social status was based. When the emancipation finally came to pass, most assimilated Jews escaped into conversion to Christianity, characteristically finding it bearable and not dangerous to be Jews before emancipation, but not after.

Most representative of these salons, and the genuinely mixed society they brought together in Germany, was that of Rahel Varnhagen. Her original, unspoiled, and unconventional intelligence, combined with an absorbing interest in people and a truly passionate nature, made her the most brilliant and the most interesting of these Jewish women. The modest but famous soirées in Rahel’s ‘garret’ brought together ‘enlightened’ aristocrats, middle-class intellectuals, and actors – that is, all those who, like the Jews, did not belong to respectable society. Thus Rahel’s salon, by definition and intentionally, was established on the fringe of society, and did not share any of its conventions or prejudices.

It is amusing to note how closely the assimilation of Jews into society followed the precepts Goethe had proposed for the education of his Wilhelm Meister, a novel which was to become the great model of middle-class education. In this book the young burgher is educated by noblemen and actors, so that he may learn how to present and represent his individuality, and thereby advance from the modest status of a burgher’s son into a nobleman. For the middle classes and for the Jews, that is, for those who were actually outside of high aristocratic society, everything depended upon ‘personality’ and the ability to express it. To know how to play the role of what one actually was, seemed the most important thing. The peculiar fact that in Germany the Jewish question was held to be a question of education was closely connected with this early start and had its consequence in the educational philistinism of both the Jewish and non-Jewish middle classes, and also in the crowding of Jews into the liberal professions.

The charm of the early Berlin salons was that nothing really mattered but personality and the uniqueness of character, talent, and expression. Such uniqueness, which alone made possible an almost unbounded communication and unrestricted intimacy, could be replaced neither by rank, money, success, nor literary fame. The brief encounter of true personalities, which joined a Hohenzollern prince, Louis Ferdinand, to the banker Abraham Mendelssohn; or a political publicist and diplomat, Friedrich Gentz, to Friedrich Schlegel, a writer of the then ultramodern romantic school – these were a few of the more famous visitors at Rahel’s ‘garret’ – came to an end in 1806 when, according to their hostess, this unique meeting place ‘foundered like a ship containing the highest enjoyment of life.’ Along with the aristocrats, the romantic intellectuals became antisemitic, and although this by no means meant that either group gave up all its Jewish friends, the innocence and splendor were gone.

The real turning point in the social history of German Jews came not in the year of the Prussian defeat, but two years later, when, in 1808, the government passed the municipal law giving full civic, though not political, rights to the Jews. In the peace treaty of 1807, Prussia had lost with her eastern provinces the majority of her Jewish population; the Jews left within her territory were ‘protected Jews’ in any event, that is, they already enjoyed civic rights in the form of individual privileges. The municipal emancipation only legalized these privileges, and outlived the general emancipation decree of 1812; Prussia, having regained Posen and its Jewish masses after the defeat of Napoleon, practically rescinded the decree of 1812, which now would have meant political rights even for poor Jews, but left the municipal law intact.

Though of little political importance so far as the actual improvement of the Jews’ status is concerned, these final emancipation decrees together with the loss of the provinces in which the majority of Prussian Jews lived, had tremendous social consequences. Before 1807, the protected Jews of Prussia had numbered only about 20 per cent of the total Jewish population. By the time the emancipation decree was issued, protected Jews formed the majority in Prussia, with only 10 per cent of ‘foreign Jews’ left for contrast. Now the dark poverty and backwardness against which ‘exception Jews’ of wealth and education had stood out so advantageously was no longer there. And this background, so essential as a basis of comparison for social success and psychological self-respect, never again became what it had been before Napoleon. When the Polish provinces were regained in 1816, the formerly ‘protected Jews’ (now registered as Prussian citizens of Jewish faith) still numbered above 60 per cent.[119]

Socially speaking, this meant that the remaining Jews in Prussia had lost the native background against which they had been measured as exceptions. Now they themselves composed such a background, but a contracted one, against which the individual had to strain doubly in order to stand out at all. ‘Exception Jews’ were once again simply Jews, not exceptions from but representatives of a despised people. Equally bad was the social influence of governmental interference. Not only the classes antagonistic to the government and therefore openly hostile to the Jews, but all strata of society, became more or less aware that Jews of their acquaintance were not so much individual exceptions as members of a group in whose favor the state was ready to take exceptional measures. And this was precisely what the ‘exception Jews’ had always feared.

Berlin society left the Jewish salons with unmatched rapidity, and by 1808 these meeting-places had already been supplanted by the houses of the titled bureaucracy and the upper middle class. One can see, from any of the numerous correspondences of the time, that the intellectuals as well as the aristocrats now began to direct their contempt for the Eastern European Jews, whom they hardly knew, against the educated Jews of Berlin, whom they knew very well. The latter would never again achieve the self-respect that springs from a collective consciousness of being exceptional; henceforth, each one of them had to prove that although he was a Jew, yet he was not a Jew. No longer would it suffice to distinguish oneself from a more or less unknown mass of ‘backward brethren’; one had to stand out – as an individual who could be congratulated on being an exception – from ‘the Jew,’ and thus from the people as a whole.

Social discrimination, and not political antisemitism, discovered the phantom of ‘the Jew.’ The first author to make the distinction between the Jewish individual and ‘the Jew in general, the Jew everywhere and nowhere’ was an obscure publicist who had, in 1802, written a biting satire on Jewish society and its hunger for education, the magic wand for general social acceptance. Jews were depicted as a ‘principle’ of philistine and upstart society.[120] This rather vulgar piece of literature not only was read with delight by quite a few prominent members of Rahel’s salon, but even indirectly inspired a great romantic poet, Clemens von Brentano, to write a very witty paper in which again the philistine was identified with the Jew.[121]

With the early idyll of a mixed society something disappeared which was never, in any other country and at any other time, to return. Never again did any social group accept Jews with a free mind and heart. It would be friendly with Jews either because it was excited by its own daring and ‘wickedness’ or as a protest against making pariahs of fellow-citizens. But social pariahs the Jews did become wherever they had ceased to be political and civil outcasts.

It is important to bear in mind that assimilation as a group phenomenon really existed only among Jewish intellectuals. It is no accident that the first educated Jew, Moses Mendelssohn, was also the first who, despite his low civic status, was admitted to non-Jewish society. The court Jews and their successors, the Jewish bankers and businessmen in the West, were never socially acceptable, nor did they care to leave the very narrow limits of their invisible ghetto. In the beginning they were proud, like all unspoiled upstarts, of the dark background of misery and poverty from which they had risen; later, when they were attacked from all sides, they had a vested interest in the poverty and even backwardness of the masses because it became an argument, a token of their own security. Slowly, and with misgivings, they were forced away from the more rigorous demands of Jewish law – they never left religious traditions altogether – yet demanded all the more orthodoxy from the Jewish masses.[122] The dissolution of Jewish communal autonomy made them that much more eager not only to protect Jewish communities against the authorities, but also to rule over them with the help of the state, so that the phrase denoting the ‘double dependence’ of poor Jews on ‘both the government and their wealthy brethren’ only reflected reality.[123]

The Jewish notables (as they were called in the nineteenth century) ruled the Jewish communities, but they did not belong to them socially or even geographically. They stood, in a sense, as far outside Jewish society as they did outside Gentile society. Having made brilliant individual careers and been granted considerable privileges by their masters, they formed a kind of community of exceptions with extremely limited social opportunities. Naturally despised by court society, lacking business connections with the non-Jewish middle class, their social contacts were as much outside the laws of society as their economic rise had been independent of contemporary economic conditions. This isolation and independence frequently gave them a feeling of power and pride, illustrated by the following anecdote told in the beginning eighteenth century: ‘A certain Jew … when gently reproached by a noble and cultured physician with (the Jewish) pride although they had no princes among them and no part in government … replied with insolence: We are not princes, but we govern them.’[124]

Such pride is almost the opposite of class arrogance, which developed but slowly among the privileged Jews. Ruling as absolute princes among their own people, they still felt themselves to be primi inter pares. They were prouder of being a ‘privileged Rabbi of all Jewry’ or a ‘Prince of the Holy Land’ than of any titles their masters might offer them.[125] Until the middle of the eighteenth century, they would all have agreed with the Dutch Jew who said: ‘Neque in toto orbi alicui nationi inservimus,’ and neither then nor later would they have understood fully the answer of the ‘learned Christian’ who replied: ‘But this means happiness only for a few. The people considered as a corpo (sic) is hunted everywhere, has no self-government, is subject to foreign rule, has no power and no dignity, and wanders all over the world, a stranger everywhere.’[126]

Class arrogance came only when business connections were established among state bankers of different countries; intermarriage between leading families soon followed, and culminated in a real international caste system, unknown thus far in Jewish society. This was all the more glaring to non-Jewish observers, since it took place when the old feudal estates and castes were rapidly disappearing into new classes. One concluded, very wrongly, that the Jewish people were a remnant of the Middle Ages and did not see that this new caste was of quite recent birth. It was completed only in the nineteenth century and comprised numerically no more than perhaps a hundred families. But since these were in the limelight, the Jewish people as a whole came to be regarded as a caste.[127]

Great, therefore, as the role of the court Jews had been in political history and for the birth of antisemitism, social history might easily neglect them were it not for the fact that they had certain psychological traits and behavior patterns in common with Jewish intellectuals who were, after all, usually the sons of businessmen. The Jewish notables wanted to dominate the Jewish people and therefore had no desire to leave it, while it was characteristic of Jewish intellectuals that they wanted to leave their people and be admitted to society; they both shared the feeling that they were exceptions, a feeling perfectly in harmony with the judgment of their environment. The ‘exception Jews’ of wealth felt like exceptions from the common destiny of the Jewish people and were recognized by the governments as exceptionally useful; the ‘exception Jews’ of education felt themselves exceptions from the Jewish people and also exceptional human beings, and were recognized as such by society.

Assimilation, whether carried to the extreme of conversion or not, never was a real menace to the survival of the Jews.[128] Whether they were welcomed or rejected, it was because they were Jews, and they were well aware of it. The first generations of educated Jews still wanted sincerely to lose their identity as Jews, and Boerne wrote with a great deal of bitterness, ‘Some reproach me with being a Jew, some praise me because of it, some pardon me for it, but all think of it.’[129] Still brought up on eighteenth-century ideas, they longed for a country without either Christians or Jews; they had devoted themselves to science and the arts, and were greatly hurt when they found out that governments which would give every privilege and honor to a Jewish banker, condemned Jewish intellectuals to starvation.[130] The conversions which, in the early nineteenth century, had been prompted by fear of being lumped together with the Jewish masses, now became a necessity for daily bread. Such a premium on lack of character forced a whole generation of Jews into bitter opposition against state and society. The ‘new specimens of humanity,’ if they were worth their salt, all became rebels, and since the most reactionary governments of the period were supported and financed by Jewish bankers, their rebellion was especially violent against the official representatives of their own people. The anti-Jewish denunciations of Marx and Boerne cannot be properly understood except in the light of this conflict between rich Jews and Jewish intellectuals.

This conflict, however, existed in full vigor only in Germany and did not survive the antisemitic movement of the century. In Austria, there was no Jewish intelligentsia to speak of before the end of the nineteenth century, when it felt immediately the whole impact of antisemitic pressure. These Jews, like their wealthy brethren, preferred to trust themselves to the Hapsburg monarchy’s protection, and became socialist only after the first World War, when the Social Democratic party came to power. The most significant, though not the only, exception to this rule was Karl Kraus, the last representative of the tradition of Heine, Boerne, and Marx. Kraus’s denunciations of Jewish businessmen on one hand, and Jewish journalism as the organized cult of fame on the other, were perhaps even more bitter than those of his predecessors because he was so much more isolated in a country where no Jewish revolutionary tradition existed. In France, where the emancipation decree had survived all changes of governments and regimes, the small number of Jewish intellectuals were neither the forerunners of a new class nor especially important in intellectual life. Culture as such, education as a program, did not form Jewish behavior patterns as it did in Germany.

In no other country had there been anything like the short period of true assimilation so decisive for the history of German Jews, when the real vanguard of a people not only accepted Jews, but was even strangely eager to associate with them. Nor did this attitude ever completely disappear from German society. To the very end, traces of it could easily be discerned, which showed, of course, that relations with Jews never came to be taken for granted. At best it remained a program, at worst a strange and exciting experience. Bismarck’s well-known remark about ‘German stallions to be paired off with Jewish mares,’ is but the most vulgar expression of a prevalent point of view.

It is only natural that this social situation, though it made rebels out of the first educated Jews, would in the long run produce a specific kind of conformism rather than an effective tradition of rebellion.[131] Conforming to a society which discriminated against ‘ordinary’ Jews and in which, at the same time, it was generally easier for an educated Jew to be admitted to fashionable circles than for a non-Jew of similar condition, Jews had to differentiate themselves clearly from the ‘Jew in general,’ and just as clearly to indicate that they were Jews; under no circumstances were they allowed simply to disappear among their neighbors. In order to rationalize an ambiguity which they themselves did not fully understand, they might pretend to ‘be a man in the street and a Jew at home.’[132] This actually amounted to a feeling of being different from other men in the street because they were Jews, and different from other Jews at home because they were not like ‘ordinary Jews.’

The behavior patterns of assimilated Jews, determined by this continuous concentrated effort to distinguish themselves, created a Jewish type that is recognizable everywhere. Instead of being defined by nationality or religion, Jews were being transformed into a social group whose members shared certain psychological attributes and reactions, the sum total of which was supposed to constitute ‘Jewishness.’ In other words, Judaism became a psychological quality and the Jewish question became an involved personal problem for every individual Jew.

In his tragic endeavor to conform through differentiation and distinction, the new Jewish type had as little in common with the feared ‘Jew in general’ as with that abstraction, the ‘heir of the prophets and eternal promoter of justice on earth,’ which Jewish apologetics conjured up whenever a Jewish journalist was being attacked. The Jew of the apologists was endowed with attributes that are indeed the privileges of pariahs, and which certain Jewish rebels living on the fringe of society did possess – humanity, kindness, freedom from prejudice, sensitiveness to injustice. The trouble was that these qualities had nothing to do with the prophets and that, worse still, these Jews usually belonged neither to Jewish society nor to fashionable circles of non-Jewish society. In the history of assimilated Jewry, they played but an insignificant role. The ‘Jew in general,’ on the other hand, as described by professional Jew-haters, showed those qualities which the parvenu must acquire if he wants to arrive – inhumanity, greed, insolence, cringing servility, and determination to push ahead. The trouble in this case was that these qualities have also nothing to do with national attributes and that, moreover, these Jewish business-class types showed little inclination for non-Jewish society and played almost as small a part in Jewish social history. As long as defamed peoples and classes exist, parvenu- and pariah-qualities will be produced anew by each generation with incomparable monotony, in Jewish society and everywhere else.

For the formation of a social history of the Jews within nineteenth-century European society, it was, however, decisive that to a certain extent every Jew in every generation had somehow at some time to decide whether he would remain a pariah and stay out of society altogether, or become a parvenu, or conform to society on the demoralizing condition that he not so much hide his origin as ‘betray with the secret of his origin the secret of his people as well.’[133] The latter road was difficult, indeed, as such secrets did not exist and had to be made up. Since Rahel Varnhagen’s unique attempt to establish a social life outside of official society had failed, the way of the pariah and the parvenu were equally ways of extreme solitude, and the way of conformism one of constant regret. The so-called complex psychology of the average Jew, which in a few favored cases developed into a very modern sensitiveness, was based on an ambiguous situation. Jews felt simultaneously the pariah’s regret at not having become a parvenu and the parvenu’s bad conscience at having betrayed his people and exchanged equal rights for personal privileges. One thing was certain: if one wanted to avoid all ambiguities of social existence, one had to resign oneself to the fact that to be a Jew meant to belong either to an overprivileged upper class or to an underprivileged mass which, in Western and Central Europe, one could belong to only through an intellectual and somewhat artificial solidarity.

The social destinies of average Jews were determined by their eternal lack of decision. And society certainly did not compel them to make up their minds, for it was precisely this ambiguity of situation and character that made the relationship with Jews attractive. The majority of assimilated Jews thus lived in a twilight of favor and misfortune and knew with certainty only that both success and failure were inextricably connected with the fact that they were Jews. For them the Jewish question had lost, once and for all, all political significance; but it haunted their private lives and influenced their personal decisions all the more tyrannically. The adage, ‘a man in the street and a Jew at home,’ was bitterly realized: political problems were distorted to the point of pure perversion when Jews tried to solve them by means of inner experience and private emotions; private life was poisoned to the point of inhumanity – for example in the question of mixed marriages – when the heavy burden of unsolved problems of public significance was crammed into that private existence which is much better ruled by the unpredictable laws of passion than by considered policies.

It was by no means easy not to resemble the ‘Jew in general’ and yet remain a Jew; to pretend not to be like Jews and still show with sufficient clarity that one was Jewish. The average Jew, neither a parvenu nor a ‘conscious pariah’ (Bernard Lazare), could only stress an empty sense of difference which continued to be interpreted, in all its possible psychological aspects and variations from innate strangeness to social alienation. As long as the world was somewhat peaceful, this attitude did not work out badly and for generations even became a modus vivendi. Concentration on an artificially complicated inner life helped Jews to respond to the unreasonable demands of society, to be strange and exciting, to develop a certain immediacy of self-expression and presentation which were originally the attributes of the actor and the virtuoso, people whom society has always half denied and half admired. Assimilated Jews, half proud and half ashamed of their Jewishness, clearly were in this category.

The process by which bourgeois society developed out of the ruins of its revolutionary traditions and memories added the black ghost of boredom to economic saturation and general indifference to political questions. Jews became people with whom one hoped to while away some time. The less one thought of them as equals, the more attractive and entertaining they became. Bourgeois society, in its search for entertainment and its passionate interest in the individual, insofar as he differed from the norm that is man, discovered the attraction of everything that could be supposed to be mysteriously wicked or secretly vicious. And precisely this feverish preference opened the doors of society to Jews; for within the framework of this society, Jewishness, after having been distorted into a psychological quality, could easily be perverted into a vice. The Enlightenment’s genuine tolerance and curiosity for everything human was being replaced by a morbid lust for the exotic, abnormal, and different as such. Several types in society, one after the other, represented the exotic, the anomalous, the different, but none of them was in the least connected with political questions. Thus only the role of Jews in this decaying society could assume a stature that transcended the narrow limits of a society affair.

Before we follow the strange ways which led the ‘exception Jews,’ famous and notorious strangers, into the salons of the Faubourg St. Germain in fin-de-siècle France, we must recall the only great man whom the elaborate self-deception of the ‘exception Jews’ ever produced. It seems that every commonplace idea gets one chance in at least one individual to attain what used to be called historical greatness. The great man of the ‘exception Jews’ was Benjamin Disraeli.

II: The Potent Wizard[134]

Benjamin Disraeli, whose chief interest in life was the career of Lord Beaconsfield, was distinguished by two things: first, the gift of the gods which we moderns banally call luck, and which other periods revered as a goddess named Fortune, and second, more intimately and more wondrously connected with Fortune than one may be able to explain, the great carefree innocence of mind and imagination which makes it impossible to classify the man as a careerist, though he never thought seriously of anything except his career. His innocence made him recognize how foolish it would be to feel déclassé and how much more exciting it would be for himself and for others, how much more useful for his career, to accentuate the fact that he was a Jew ‘by dressing differently, combing his hair oddly, and by queer manners of expression and verbiage.’[135] He cared for admission to high and highest society more passionately and shamelessly than any other Jewish intellectual did; but he was the only one of them who discovered the secret of how to preserve luck, that natural miracle of pariahdom, and who knew from the beginning that one never should bow down in order to ‘move up from high to higher.’

He played the game of politics like an actor in a theatrical performance, except that he played his part so well that he was convinced by his own make-believe. His life and his career read like a fairy-tale, in which he appeared as the prince – offering the blue flower of the romantics, now the primrose of imperialist England, to his princess, the Queen of England. The British colonial enterprise was the fairyland upon which the sun never sets and its capital the mysterious Asiatic Delhi whence the prince wanted to escape with his princess from foggy prosaic London. This may have been foolish and childish; but when a wife writes to her husband as Lady Beaconsfield wrote to hers: ‘You know you married me for money, and I know that if you had to do it again you would do it for love,’[136] one is silenced before a happiness that seemed to be against all the rules. Here was one who started out to sell his soul to the devil, but the devil did not want the soul and the gods gave him all the happiness of this earth.

Disraeli came from an entirely assimilated family; his father, an enlightened gentleman, baptized the son because he wanted him to have the opportunities of ordinary mortals. He had few connections with Jewish society and knew nothing of Jewish religion or customs. Jewishness, from the beginning, was a fact of origin which he was at liberty to embellish, unhindered by actual knowledge. The result was that somehow he looked at this fact much in the same way as a Gentile would have looked at it. He realized much more clearly than other Jews that being a Jew could be as much an opportunity as a handicap. And since, unlike his simple and modest father, he wanted nothing less than to become an ordinary mortal and nothing more than ‘to distinguish himself above all his contemporaries,’[137] he began to shape his ‘olive complexion and coal-black eyes’ until he with ‘the mighty dome of his forehead – no Christian temple, to be sure – (was) unlike any living creature one has met.’[138] He knew instinctively that everything depended upon the ‘division between him and mere mortals,’ upon an accentuation of his lucky ‘strangeness.’

All this demonstrates a unique understanding of society and its rules. Significantly, it was Disraeli who said, ‘What is a crime among the multitude is only a vice among the few’[139] – perhaps the most profound insight into the very principle by which the slow and insidious decline of nineteenth-century society into the depth of mob and underworld morality took place. Since he knew this rule, he knew also that Jews would have no better chances anywhere than in circles which pretended to be exclusive and to discriminate against them; for inasmuch as these circles of the few, together with the multitude, thought of Jewishness as a crime, this ‘crime’ could be transformed at any moment into an attractive ‘vice.’ Disraeli’s display of exoticism, strangeness, mysteriousness, magic, and power drawn from secret sources, was aimed correctly at this disposition in society. And it was his virtuosity at the social game which made him choose the Conservative Party, won him a seat in Parliament, the post of Prime Minister, and, last but not least, the lasting admiration of society and the friendship of a Queen.

One of the reasons for his success was the sincerity of his play. The impression he made on his more unbiased contemporaries was a curious mixture of acting and ‘absolute sincerity and unreserve.’[140] This could only be achieved by a genuine innocence that was partly due to an upbringing from which all specific Jewish influence had been excluded.[141] But Disraeli’s good conscience was also due to his having been born an Englishman. England did not know Jewish masses and Jewish poverty, as she had admitted them centuries after their expulsion in the Middle Ages; the Portuguese Jews who settled in England in the eighteenth century were wealthy and educated. Not until the end of the nineteenth century, when the pogroms in Russia initiated the modern Jewish emigrations, did Jewish poverty enter London, and along with it the difference between the Jewish masses and their well-to-do brethren. In Disraeli’s time the Jewish question, in its Continental form, was quite unknown, because only Jews welcome to the state lived in England. In other words, the English ‘exception Jews’ were not so aware of being exceptions as their Continental brothers were. When Disraeli scorned the ‘pernicious doctrine of modern times, the natural equality of men,’[142] he consciously followed in the footsteps of Burke who had ‘preferred the rights of an Englishman to the Rights of Man,’ but ignored the actual situation in which privileges for the few had been substituted for rights for all. He was so ignorant of the real conditions among the Jewish people, and so convinced of ‘the influence of the Jewish race upon modern communities,’ that he frankly demanded that the Jews ‘receive all that honour and favour from the northern and western races, which, in civilized and refined nations, should be the lot of those who charm the public taste and elevate the public feeling.’[143] Since political influence of Jews in England centered around the English branch of the Rothschilds, he felt very proud about the Rothschilds’ help in defeating Napoleon and did not see any reason why he should not be outspoken in his political opinions as a Jew.[144] As a baptized Jew, he was of course never an official spokesman for any Jewish community, but it remains true that he was the only Jew of his kind and his century who tried as well as he knew to represent the Jewish people politically.

Disraeli, who never denied that ‘the fundamental fact about (him) was that he was a Jew,’[145] had an admiration for all things Jewish that was matched only by his ignorance of them. The mixture of pride and ignorance in these matters, however, was characteristic of all the newly assimilated Jews. The great difference is that Disraeli knew even a little less of Jewish past and present and therefore dared to speak out openly what others betrayed in the half-conscious twilight of behavior patterns dictated by fear and arrogance.

The political result of Disraeli’s ability to gauge Jewish possibilities by the political aspirations of a normal people was more serious; he almost automatically produced the entire set of theories about Jewish influence and organization that we usually find in the more vicious forms of antisemitism. First of all, he actually thought of himself as the ‘chosen man of the chosen race.’[146] What better proof was there than his own career: a Jew without name and riches, helped only by a few Jewish bankers, was carried to the position of the first man in England; one of the less liked men of Parliament became Prime Minister and earned genuine popularity among those who for a long time had ‘regarded him as a charlatan and treated him as a pariah.’[147] Political success never satisfied him. It was more difficult and more important to be admitted to London’s society than to conquer the House of Commons, and it was certainly a greater triumph to be elected a member of Grillion’s dining club – ‘a select coterie of which it has been customary to make rising politicians of both parties, but from which the socially objectionable are rigorously excluded’[148] – than to be Her Majesty’s Minister. The delightfully unexpected climax of all these sweet triumphs was the sincere friendship of the Queen, for if the monarchy in England had lost most of its political prerogatives in a strictly controlled, constitutional nation-state, it had won and retained undisputed primacy in English society. In measuring the greatness of Disraeli’s triumph, one should remember that Lord Robert Cecil, one of his eminent colleagues in the Conservative Party, could still, around 1850, justify a particularly bitter attack by stating that he was only ‘plainly speaking out what every one is saying of Disraeli in private and no one will say in public.’[149] Disraeli’s greatest victory was that finally nobody said in private what would not have flattered and pleased him if it had been said in public. It was precisely this unique rise to genuine popularity which Disraeli had achieved through a policy of seeing only the advantages, and preaching only the privileges, of being born a Jew.

Part of Disraeli’s good fortune is the fact that he always fitted his time, and that consequently his numerous biographers understood him more completely than is the case with most great men. He was a living embodiment of ambition, that powerful passion which had developed in a century seemingly not allowing for any distinctions and differences. Carlyle, at any rate, who interpreted the whole world’s history according to a nineteenth-century ideal of the hero, was clearly in the wrong when he refused a title from Disraeli’s hands.[150] No other man among his contemporaries corresponded to Carlyle’s heroes as well as Disraeli, with his concept of greatness as such, emptied of all specific achievements; no other man fulfilled so exactly the demands of the late nineteenth century for genius in the flesh as this charlatan who took his role seriously and acted the great part of the Great Man with genuine naïveté and an overwhelming display of fantastic tricks and entertaining artistry. Politicians fell in love with the charlatan who transformed boring business transactions into dreams with an oriental flavor; and when society sensed an aroma of black magic in Disraeli’s shrewd dealings, the ‘potent wizard’ had actually won the heart of his time.

Disraeli’s ambition to distinguish himself from other mortals and his longing for aristocratic society were typical of the middle classes of his time and country. Neither political reasons nor economic motives, but the impetus of his social ambition, made him join the Conservative Party and follow a policy that would always ‘select the Whigs for hostility and the Radicals for alliance.’[151] In no European country did the middle classes ever achieve enough self-respect to reconcile their intelligentsia with their social status, so that aristocracy could continue to determine the social scale when it had already lost all political significance. The unhappy German philistine discovered his ‘innate personality’ in his desperate struggle against caste arrogance, which had grown out of the decline of nobility and the necessity to protect aristocratic titles against bourgeois money. Vague blood theories and strict control of marriages are rather recent phenomena in the history of European aristocracy. Disraeli knew much better than the German philistines what was required to meet the demands of aristocracy. All attempts of the bourgeoisie to attain social status failed to convince aristocratic arrogance because they reckoned with individuals and lacked the most important element of caste conceit, the pride in privilege without individual effort and merit, simply by virtue of birth. The ‘innate personality’ could never deny that its development demanded education and special effort of the individual. When Disraeli ‘summoned up a pride of race to confront a pride of caste,’[152] he knew that the social status of the Jews, whatever else might be said of it, at least depended solely on the fact of birth and not on achievement.

Disraeli went even a step further. He knew that the aristocracy, which year after year had to see quite a number of rich middle-class men buy titles, was haunted by very serious doubts of its own value. He therefore defeated them at their game by using his rather trite and popular imagination to describe fearlessly how the Englishmen ‘came from a parvenu and hybrid race, while he himself was sprung from the purest blood in Europe,’ how ‘the life of a British peer (was) mainly regulated by Arabian laws and Syrian customs,’ how ‘a Jewess is the queen of heaven’ or that ‘the flower of the Jewish race is even now sitting on the right hand of the Lord God of Sabaoth.’[153] And when he finally wrote that ‘there is no longer in fact an aristocracy in England, for the superiority of the animal man is an essential quality of aristocracy,’[154] he had in fact touched the weakest point of modern aristocratic race theories, which were later to be the point of departure for bourgeois and upstart race opinions.

Judaism, and belonging to the Jewish people, degenerated into a simple fact of birth only among assimilated Jewry. Originally it had meant a specific religion, a specific nationality, the sharing of specific memories and specific hopes, and, even among the privileged Jews, it meant at least still sharing specific economic advantages. Secularization and assimilation of the Jewish intelligentsia had changed self-consciousness and self-interpretation in such a way that nothing was left of the old memories and hopes but the awareness of belonging to a chosen people. Disraeli, though certainly not the only ‘exception Jew’ to believe in his own chosenness without believing in Him who chooses and rejects, was the only one who produced a full-blown race doctrine out of this empty concept of a historic mission. He was ready to assert that the Semitic principle ‘represents all that is spiritual in our nature,’ that ‘the vicissitudes of history find their main solution – all is race,’ which is ‘the key to history’ regardless of ‘language and religion,’ for ‘there is only one thing which makes a race and that is blood’ and there is only one aristocracy, the ‘aristocracy of nature’ which consists of ‘an unmixed race of a first-rate organization.’[155]

The close relationship of this to more modern race ideologies need not be stressed, and Disraeli’s discovery is one more proof of how well they serve to combat feelings of social inferiority. For if race doctrines finally served much more sinister and immediately political purposes, it is still true that much of their plausibility and persuasiveness lay in the fact that they helped anybody feel himself an aristocrat who had been selected by birth on the strength of ‘racial’ qualification. That these new selected ones did not belong to an elite, to a selected few – which, after all, had been inherent in the pride of a nobleman – but had to share chosenness with an ever-growing mob, did no essential harm to the doctrine, for those who did not belong to the chosen race grew numerically in the same proportion.

Disraeli’s race doctrines, however, were as much the result of his extraordinary insight into the rules of society as the outgrowth of the specific secularization of assimilated Jewry. Not only was the Jewish intelligentsia caught up in the general secularization process, which in the nineteenth century had already lost the revolutionary appeal of the Enlightenment along with the confidence in an independent, self-reliant humanity and therefore remained without any protection against transformation of formerly genuine religious beliefs into superstitions. The Jewish intelligentsia was exposed also to the influences of the Jewish reformers who wanted to change a national religion into a religious denomination. To do so, they had to transform the two basic elements of Jewish piety – the Messianic hope and the faith in Israel’s chosenness, and they deleted from Jewish prayerbooks the visions of an ultimate restoration of Zion, along with the pious anticipation of the day at the end of days when the segregation of the Jewish people from the nations of the earth would come to an end. Without the Messianic hope, the idea of chosenness meant eternal segregation; without faith in chosenness, which charged one specific people with the redemption of the world, Messianic hope evaporated into the dim cloud of general philanthropy and universalism which became so characteristic of specifically Jewish political enthusiasm.

The most fateful element in Jewish secularization was that the concept of chosenness was being separated from the Messianic hope, whereas in Jewish religion these two elements were two aspects of God’s redemptory plan for mankind. Out of Messianic hope grew that inclination toward final solutions of political problems which aimed at nothing less than establishing a paradise on earth. Out of the belief in chosenness by God grew that fantastic delusion, shared by unbelieving Jews and non-Jews alike, that Jews are by nature more intelligent, better, healthier, more fit for survival – the motor of history and the salt of the earth. The enthusiastic Jewish intellectual dreaming of the paradise on earth, so certain of freedom from all national ties and prejudices, was in fact farther removed from political reality than his fathers, who had prayed for the coming of Messiah and the return of the people to Palestine. The assimilationists, on the other hand, who without any enthusiastic hope had persuaded themselves that they were the salt of the earth, were more effectively separated from the nations by this unholy conceit than their fathers had been by the fence of the Law, which, as it was faithfully believed, separated Israel from the Gentiles but would be destroyed in the days of the Messiah. It was this conceit of the ‘exception Jews,’ who were too ‘enlightened’ to believe in God and, on the grounds of their exceptional position everywhere, superstitious enough to believe in themselves, that actually tore down the strong bonds of pious hope which had tied Israel to the rest of mankind.

Secularization, therefore, finally produced that paradox, so decisive for the psychology of modern Jews, by which Jewish assimilation – in its liquidation of national consciousness, its transformation of a national religion into a confessional denomination, and its meeting of the half-hearted and ambiguous demands of state and society by equally ambiguous devices and psychological tricks – engendered a very real Jewish chauvinism, if by chauvinism we understand the perverted nationalism in which (in the words of Chesterton) ‘the individual is himself the thing to be worshipped; the individual is his own ideal and even his own idol.’ From now on, the old religious concept of chosenness was no longer the essence of Judaism; it became instead the essence of Jewishness.

This paradox has found its most powerful and charming embodiment in Disraeli. He was an English imperialist and a Jewish chauvinist; but it is not difficult to pardon a chauvinism which was rather a play of imagination because, after all, ‘England was the Israel of his imagination’;[156] and it is not difficult, either, to pardon his English imperialism, which had so little in common with the single-minded resoluteness of expansion for expansion’s sake, since he was, after all, ‘never a thorough Englishman and was proud of the fact.’[157] All those curious contradictions which indicate so clearly that the potent wizard never took himself quite seriously and always played a role to win society and to find popularity, add up to a unique charm, they introduce into all his utterances an element of charlatan enthusiasm and day-dreaming which makes him utterly different from his imperialist followers. He was lucky enough to do his dreaming and acting in a time when Manchester and the businessmen had not yet taken over the imperial dream and were even in sharp and furious opposition to ‘colonial adventures.’ His superstitious belief in blood and race – into which he mixed old romantic folk credulities about a powerful supranational connection between gold and blood – carried no suspicion of possible massacres, whether in Africa, Asia, or Europe proper. He began as a not too gifted writer and remained an intellectual whom chance made a member of Parliament, leader of his party, Prime Minister, and a friend of the Queen of England.

Disraeli’s notion of the Jews’ role in politics dates back to the time when he was still simply a writer and had not yet begun his political career. His ideas on the subject were therefore not the result of actual experience, but he clung to them with remarkable tenacity throughout his later life.

In his first novel, Alroy (1833), Disraeli evolved a plan for a Jewish Empire in which Jews would rule as a strictly separated class. The novel shows the influence of current illusions about Jewish power-possibilities as well as the young author’s ignorance of the actual power conditions of his time. Eleven years later, political experience in Parliament and intimate intercourse with prominent men taught Disraeli that ‘the aims of the Jews, whatever they may have been before and since, were, in his day, largely divorced from the assertion of political nationality in any form.’[158] In a new novel, Coningsby, he abandoned the dream of a Jewish Empire and unfolded a fantastic scheme according to which Jewish money dominates the rise and fall of courts and empires and rules supreme in diplomacy. Never in his life did he give up this second notion of a secret and mysterious influence of the chosen men of the chosen race, with which he replaced his earlier dream of an openly constituted, mysterious ruler caste. It became the pivot of his political philosophy. In contrast to his much-admired Jewish bankers who granted loans to governments and earned commissions, Disraeli looked at the whole affair with the outsider’s incomprehension that such power-possibilities could be handled day after day by people who were not ambitious for power. What he could not understand was that a Jewish banker was even less interested in politics than his non-Jewish colleagues; to Disraeli, at any rate, it was a matter of course that Jewish wealth was only a means for Jewish politics. The more he learned about the Jewish bankers’ well-functioning organization in business matters and their international exchange of news and information, the more convinced he became that he was dealing with something like a secret society which, without anybody knowing it, had the world’s destinies in its hands.

It is well known that the belief in a Jewish conspiracy that was kept together by a secret society had the greatest propaganda value for antisemitic publicity, and by far outran all traditional European superstitions about ritual murder and well-poisoning. It is of great significance that Disraeli, for exactly opposite purposes and at a time when nobody thought seriously of secret societies, came to identical conclusions, for it shows clearly to what extent such fabrications were due to social motives and resentments and how much more plausibly they explained events or political and economic activities than the more trivial truth did. In Disraeli’s eyes, as in the eyes of many less well-known and reputable charlatans after him, the whole game of politics was played between secret societies. Not only the Jews, but every other group whose influence was not politically organized or which was in opposition to the whole social and political system, became for him powers behind the scenes. In 1863, he thought he witnessed ‘a struggle between the secret societies and the European millionaires; Rothschild hitherto has won.’[159] But also ‘the natural equality of men and the abrogation of property are proclaimed by secret societies’;[160] as late as 1870, he could still talk seriously of forces ‘beneath the surface’ and believe sincerely that ‘secret societies and their international energies, the Church of Rome and her claims and methods, the eternal conflict between science and faith’ were at work to determine the course of human history.[161]

Disraeli’s unbelievable naïveté made him connect all these ‘secret’ forces with the Jews. ‘The first Jesuits were Jews; that mysterious Russian diplomacy which so alarms Western Europe is organized and principally carried on by Jews; that mighty revolution which is at this moment preparing in Germany and which will be in fact a second and greater Reformation … is entirely developing under the auspices of Jews,’ ‘men of Jewish race are found at the head of every one of (communist and socialist groups). The people of God co-operates with atheists; the most skilful accumulators of property ally themselves with communists, the peculiar and chosen race touch the hands of the scum and low castes of Europe! And all this because they wish to destroy that ungrateful Christendom which owes them even its name and whose tyranny they can no longer endure.’[162] In Disraeli’s imagination, the world had become Jewish.

In this singular delusion, even that most ingenious of Hitler’s publicity stunts, the cry of a secret alliance between the Jewish capitalist and the Jewish socialist, was already anticipated. Nor can it be denied that the whole scheme, imaginary and fantastic as it was, had a logic of its own. If one started, as Disraeli did, from the assumption that Jewish millionaires were makers of Jewish politics, if one took into account the insults Jews had suffered for centuries (which were real enough, but still stupidly exaggerated by Jewish apologetic propaganda), if one had seen the not infrequent instances when the son of a Jewish millionaire became a leader of the workers’ movement and knew from experience how closely knit Jewish family ties were as a rule, Disraeli’s image of a calculated revenge upon the Christian peoples was not so far-fetched. The truth was, of course, that the sons of Jewish millionaires inclined toward leftist movements precisely because their banker fathers had never come into an open class conflict with workers. They therefore completely lacked that class consciousness that the son of any ordinary bourgeois family would have had as a matter of course, while, on the other side, and for exactly the same reasons, the workers did not harbor those open or hidden antisemitic sentiments which every other class showed the Jews as a matter of course. Obviously leftist movements in most countries offered the only true possibilities for assimilation.

Disraeli’s persistent fondness for explaining politics in terms of secret societies was based on experiences which later convinced many lesser European intellectuals. His basic experience had been that a place in English society was much more difficult to win than a seat in Parliament. English society of his time gathered in fashionable clubs which were independent of party distinctions. The clubs, although they were extremely important in the formation of a political elite, escaped public control. To an outsider they must have looked very mysterious indeed. They were secret insofar as not everybody was admitted to them. They became mysterious only when members of other classes asked admittance and were either refused or admitted after a plethora of incalculable, unpredictable, apparently irrational difficulties. There is no doubt that no political honor could replace the triumphs that intimate association with the privileged could give. Disraeli’s ambitions, significantly enough, did not suffer even at the end of his life when he experienced severe political defeats, for he remained ‘the most commanding figure of London society.’[163]

In his naïve certainty of the paramount importance of secret societies, Disraeli was a forerunner of those new social strata who, born outside the framework of society, could never understand its rules properly. They found themselves in a state of affairs where the distinctions between society and politics were constantly blurred and where, despite seemingly chaotic conditions, the same narrow class interest always won. The outsider could not but conclude that a consciously established institution with definite goals achieved such remarkable results. And it is true that this whole society game needed only a resolute political will to transform its half-conscious play of interests and essentially purposeless machinations into a definite policy. This is what occurred briefly in France during the Dreyfus Affair, and again in Germany during the decade preceding Hitler’s rise to power.

Disraeli, however, was not only outside of English, he was outside of Jewish, society as well. He knew little of the mentality of the Jewish bankers whom he so deeply admired, and he would have been disappointed indeed had he realized that these ‘exception Jews,’ despite exclusion from bourgeois society (they never really tried to be admitted), shared its foremost political principle that political activity centers around protection of property and profits. Disraeli saw, and was impressed by, only a group with no outward political organization, whose members were still connected by a seeming infinity of family and business connections. His imagination went to work whenever he had to deal with them and found everything ‘proved’ – when, for instance, the shares of the Suez Canal were offered the English government through the information of Henry Oppenheim (who had learned that the Khedive of Egypt was anxious to sell) and the sale was carried through with the help of a four million sterling loan from Lionel Rothschild.

Disraeli’s racial convictions and theories about secret societies sprang, in the last analysis, from his desire to explain something apparently mysterious and in fact chimerical. He could not make a political reality out of the chimerical power of ‘exception Jews’; but he could, and did, help transform chimeras into public fears and to entertain a bored society with highly dangerous fairy-tales.

With the consistency of most race fanatics, Disraeli spoke only with contempt of the ‘modern newfangled sentimental principle of nationality.’[164] He hated the political equality at the basis of the nation-state and he feared for the survival of the Jews under its conditions. He fancied that race might give a social as well as political refuge against equalization. Since he knew the nobility of his time far better than he ever came to know the Jewish people, it is not surprising that he modeled the race concept after aristocratic caste concepts.

No doubt these concepts of the socially underprivileged could have gone far, but they would have had little significance in European politics had they not met with real political necessities when, after the scramble for Africa, they could be adapted to political purposes. This willingness to believe on the part of bourgeois society gave Disraeli, the only Jew of the nineteenth century, his share of genuine popularity. In the end, it was not his fault that the same trend that accounted for his singular great good fortune finally led to the great catastrophe of his people.

III: Between Vice and Crime

Paris has rightly been called la capitale du dixneuvième siècle (Walter Benjamin). Full of promise, the nineteenth century had started with the French Revolution, for more than one hundred years witnessed the vain struggle against the degeneration of the citoyen into the bourgeois, reached its nadir in the Dreyfus Affair, and was given another fourteen years of morbid respite. The first World War could still be won by the Jacobin appeal of Clemenceau, France’s last son of the Revolution, but the glorious century of the nation par excellence was at an end[165] and Paris was left, without political significance and social splendor, to the intellectual avant-garde of all countries. France played a very small part in the twentieth century, which started, immediately after Disraeli’s death, with the scramble for Africa and the competition for imperialist domination in Europe. Her decline, therefore, caused partly by the economic expansion of other nations, and partly by internal disintegration, could assume forms and follow laws which seemed inherent in the nation-state.

To a certain extent, what happened in France in the eighties and nineties happened thirty and forty years later in all European nation-states. Despite chronological distances, the Weimar and Austrian Republics had much in common historically with the Third Republic, and certain political and social patterns in the Germany and Austria of the twenties and thirties seemed almost consciously to follow the model of France’s fin-de-siècle.

Nineteenth-century antisemitism, at any rate, reached its climax in France and was defeated because it remained a national domestic issue without contact with imperialist trends, which did not exist there. The main features of this kind of antisemitism reappeared in Germany and Austria after the first World War, and its social effect on the respective Jewries was almost the same, although less sharp, less extreme, and more disturbed by other influences.[166]

The chief reason, however, for the choice of the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain as an example of the role of Jews in non-Jewish society is that nowhere else is there an equally grand society or a more truthful record of it. When Marcel Proust, himself half Jewish and in emergencies ready to identify himself as a Jew, set out to search for ‘things past,’ he actually wrote what one of his admiring critics has called an apologia pro vita sua. The life of this greatest writer of twentieth-century France was spent exclusively in society; all events appeared to him as they are reflected in society and reconsidered by the individual, so that reflections and reconsiderations constitute the specific reality and texture of Proust’s world.[167] Throughout the Remembrance of Things Past, the individual and his reconsiderations belong to society, even when he retires into the mute and uncommunicative solitude in which Proust himself finally disappeared when he had decided to write his work. There his inner life, which insisted on transforming all worldly happenings into inner experience, became like a mirror in whose reflection truth might appear. The contemplator of inner experience resembles the onlooker in society insofar as neither has an immediate approach to life but perceives reality only if it is reflected. Proust, born on the fringe of society, but still rightfully belonging to it though an outsider, enlarged this inner experience until it included the whole range of aspects as they appeared to and were reflected by all members of society.

There is no better witness, indeed, of this period when society had emancipated itself completely from public concerns, and when politics itself was becoming a part of social life. The victory of bourgeois values over the citizen’s sense of responsibility meant the decomposition of political issues into their dazzling, fascinating reflections in society. It must be added that Proust himself was a true exponent of this society, for he was involved in both of its most fashionable ‘vices,’ which he, ‘the greatest witness of dejudaized Judaism’ interconnected in the ‘darkest comparison which ever has been made on behalf of Western Judaism’:[168] the ‘vice’ of Jewishness and the ‘vice’ of homosexuality, and which in their reflection and individual reconsideration became very much alike indeed.[169]

It was Disraeli who had discovered that vice is but the corresponding reflection of crime in society. Human wickedness, if accepted by society, is changed from an act of will into an inherent, psychological quality which man cannot choose or reject but which is imposed upon him from without, and which rules him as compulsively as the drug rules the addict. In assimilating crime and transforming it into vice, society denies all responsibility and establishes a world of fatalities in which men find themselves entangled. The moralistic judgment as a crime of every departure from the norm, which fashionable circles used to consider narrow and philistine, if demonstrative of inferior psychological understanding, at least showed greater respect for human dignity. If crime is understood to be a kind of fatality, natural or economic, everybody will finally be suspected of some special predestination to it. ‘Punishment is the right of the criminal,’ of which he is deprived if (in the words of Proust) ‘judges assume and are more inclined to pardon murder in inverts and treason in Jews for reasons derived from … racial predestination.’ It is an attraction to murder and treason which hides behind such perverted tolerance, for in a moment it can switch to a decision to liquidate not only all actual criminals but all who are ‘racially’ predestined to commit certain crimes. Such changes take place whenever the legal and political machine is not separated from society so that social standards can penetrate into it and become political and legal rules. The seeming broadmindedness that equates crime and vice, if allowed to establish its own code of law, will invariably prove more cruel and inhuman than laws, no matter how severe, which respect and recognize man’s independent responsibility for his behavior.

The Faubourg Saint-Germain, however, as Proust depicts it, was in the early stages of this development. It admitted inverts because it felt attracted by what it judged to be a vice. Proust describes how Monsieur de Charlus, who had formerly been tolerated, ‘notwithstanding his vice,’ for his personal charm and old name, now rose to social heights. He no longer needed to lead a double life and hide his dubious acquaintances, but was encouraged to bring them into the fashionable houses. Topics of conversation which he formerly would have avoided – love, beauty, jealousy – lest somebody suspect his anomaly, were now welcomed avidly ‘in view of the experience, strange, secret, refined and monstrous upon which he founded’ his views.[170]

Something very similar happened to the Jews. Individual exceptions, ennobled Jews, had been tolerated and even welcomed in the society of the Second Empire, but now Jews as such were becoming increasingly popular. In both cases, society was far from being prompted by a revision of prejudices. They did not doubt that homosexuals were ‘criminals’ or that Jews were ‘traitors’; they only revised their attitude toward crime and treason. The trouble with their new broadmindedness, of course, was not that they were no longer horrified by inverts but that they were no longer horrified by crime. They did not in the least doubt the conventional judgment. The best-hidden disease of the nineteenth century, its terrible boredom and general weariness, had burst like an abscess. The outcasts and the pariahs upon whom society called in its predicament were, whatever else they might have been, at least not plagued by ennui and, if we are to trust Proust’s judgment, were the only ones in fin-de-siècle society who were still capable of passion. Proust leads us through the labyrinth of social connections and ambitions only by the thread of man’s capacity for love, which is presented in the perverted passion of Monsieur de Charlus for Morel, in the devastating loyalty of the Jew Swann to his courtesan and in the author’s own desperate jealousy of Albertine, herself the personification of vice in the novel. Proust made it very clear that he regarded the outsiders and newcomers, the inhabitants of ‘Sodome et Ghomorre,’ not only as more human but as more normal.

The difference between the Faubourg Saint-Germain, which had suddenly discovered the attractiveness of Jews and inverts, and the mob which cried ‘Death to the Jews’ was that the salons had not yet associated themselves openly with crime. This meant that on the one hand they did not yet want to participate actively in the killing, and on the other, still professed openly an antipathy toward Jews and a horror of inverts. This in turn resulted in that typically equivocal situation in which the new members could not confess their identity openly, and yet could not hide it either. Such were the conditions from which arose the complicated game of exposure and concealment, of half-confessions and lying distortions, of exaggerated humility and exaggerated arrogance, all of which were consequences of the fact that only one’s Jewishness (or homosexuality) had opened the doors of the exclusive salons, while at the same time they made one’s position extremely insecure. In this equivocal situation, Jewishness was for the individual Jew at once a physical stain and a mysterious personal privilege, both inherent in a ‘racial predestination.’

Proust describes at great length how society, constantly on the lookout for the strange, the exotic, the dangerous, finally identifies the refined with the monstrous and gets ready to admit monstrosities – real or fancied – such as the strange, unfamiliar ‘Russian or Japanese play performed by native actors’;[171] the ‘painted, paunchy, tightly buttoned personage [of the invert], reminding one of a box of exotic and dubious origin from which escapes the curious odor of fruits the mere thought of tasting which stirs the heart’;[172] the ‘man of genius’ who is supposed to emanate a ‘sense of the supernatural’ and around whom society will ‘gather as though around a turning-table, to learn the secret of the Infinite.’[173] In the atmosphere of this ‘necromancy,’ a Jewish gentleman or a Turkish lady might appear ‘as if they really were creatures evoked by the effort of a medium.’[174]

Obviously the role of the exotic, the strange, and the monstrous could not be played by those individual ‘exception Jews’ who, for almost a century, had been admitted and tolerated as ‘foreign upstarts’ and on ‘whose friendship nobody would ever have dreamed of priding himself.’[175] Much better suited of course were those whom nobody had ever known, who, in the first stage of their assimilation, were not identified with, and were not representative of, the Jewish community, for such identification with well-known bodies would have limited severely society’s imagination and expectations. Those who, like Swann, had an unaccountable flair for society and taste in general were admitted; but more enthusiastically embraced were those who, like Bloch, belonged to ‘a family of little repute, [and] had to support, as on the floor of the ocean, the incalculable pressure of what was imposed on him not only by the Christians upon the surface but by all the intervening layers of Jewish castes superior to his own, each of them crushing with its contempt the one that was immediately beneath it.’ Society’s willingness to receive the utterly alien and, as it thought, utterly vicious, cut short that climb of several generations by which newcomers had ‘to carve their way through to the open air by raising themselves from Jewish family to Jewish family.’[176] It was no accident that this happened shortly after native French Jewry, during the Panama scandal, had given way before the initiative and unscrupulousness of some German Jewish adventurers; the individual exceptions, with or without title, who more than ever before sought the society of antisemitic and monarchist salons where they could dream of the good old days of the Second Empire, found themselves in the same category as Jews whom they would never have invited to their houses. If Jewishness as exceptionalness was the reason for admitting Jews, then those were preferred who were clearly ‘a solid troop, homogeneous within itself and utterly dissimilar to the people who watched them go past,’ those who had not yet ‘reached the same stage of assimilation’ as their upstart brethren.[177]

Although Benjamin Disraeli was still one of those Jews who were admitted to society because they were exceptions, his secularized self-representation as a ‘chosen man of the chosen race’ foreshadowed and outlined the lines along which Jewish self-interpretation was to take place. If this, fantastic and crude as it was, had not been so oddly similar to what society expected of Jews, Jews would never have been able to play their dubious role. Not, of course, that they consciously adopted Disraeli’s convictions or purposely elaborated the first timid, perverted self-interpretation of their Prussian predecessors of the beginning of the century; most of them were blissfully ignorant of all Jewish history. But wherever Jews were educated, secularized, and assimilated under the ambiguous conditions of society and state in Western and Central Europe, they lost that measure of political responsibility which their origin implied and which the Jewish notables had still felt, albeit in the form of privilege and rulership. Jewish origin, without religious and political connotation, became everywhere a psychological quality, was changed into ‘Jewishness,’ and from then on could be considered only in the categories of virtue or vice. If it is true that ‘Jewishness’ could not have been perverted into an interesting vice without a prejudice which considered it a crime, it is also true that such perversion was made possible by those Jews who considered it an innate virtue.

Assimilated Jewry has been reproached with alienation from Judaism, and the final catastrophe brought upon it is frequently thought to have been a suffering as senseless as it was horrible, since it had lost the old value of martyrdom. This argument overlooks the fact that as far as the old ways of faith and life are concerned, ‘alienation’ was equally apparent in Eastern European countries. But the usual notion of the Jews of Western Europe as ‘dejudaized’ is misleading for another reason. Proust’s picture, in contrast to the all too obviously interested utterances of official Judaism, shows that never did the fact of Jewish birth play such a decisive role in private life and everyday existence as among the assimilated Jews. The Jewish reformer who changed a national religion into a religious denomination with the understanding that religion is a private affair, the Jewish revolutionary who pretended to be a world citizen in order to rid himself of Jewish nationality, the educated Jew, ‘a man in the street and a Jew at home’ – each one of these succeeded in converting a national quality into a private affair. The result was that their private lives, their decisions and sentiments, became the very center of their ‘Jewishness.’ And the more the fact of Jewish birth lost its religious, national, and social-economic significance, the more obsessive Jewishness became; Jews were obsessed by it as one may be by a physical defect or advantage, and addicted to it as one may be to a vice.

Proust’s ‘innate disposition’ is nothing but this personal, private obsession, which was so greatly justified by a society where success and failure depended upon the fact of Jewish birth. Proust mistook it for ‘racial predestination,’ because he saw and depicted only its social aspect and individual reconsiderations. And it is true that to the recording onlooker the behavior of the Jewish clique showed the same obsession as the behavior patterns followed by inverts. Both felt either superior or inferior, but in any case proudly different from other normal beings; both believed their difference to be a natural fact acquired by birth; both were constantly justifying, not what they did, but what they were; and both, finally, always wavered between such apologetic attitudes and sudden, provocative claims that they were an elite. As though their social position were forever frozen by nature, neither could move from one clique into another. The need to belong existed in other members of society too – ‘the question is not as for Hamlet, to be or not to be, but to belong or not to belong’[178] – but not to the same extent. A society disintegrating into cliques and no longer tolerating outsiders, Jews or inverts, as individuals but because of the special circumstances of their admission, looked like the embodiment of this clannishness.

Each society demands of its members a certain amount of acting, the ability to present, represent, and act what one actually is. When society disintegrates into cliques such demands are no longer made of the individual but of members of cliques. Behavior then is controlled by silent demands and not by individual capacities, exactly as an actor’s performance must fit into the ensemble of all other roles in the play. The salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain consisted of such an ensemble of cliques, each of which presented an extreme behavior pattern. The role of the inverts was to show their abnormality, of the Jews to represent black magic (‘necromancy’), of the artists to manifest another form of supranatural and superhuman contact, of the aristocrats to show that they were not like ordinary (‘bourgeois’) people. Despite their clannishness, it is true, as Proust observed, that ‘save on the days of general disaster when the majority rally round the victim as the Jews rallied round Dreyfus,’ all these newcomers shunned intercourse with their own kind. The reason was that all marks of distinction were determined only by the ensemble of the cliques, so that Jews or inverts felt that they would lose their distinctive character in a society of Jews or inverts, where Jewishness or homosexuality would be the most natural, the most uninteresting, and the most banal thing in the world. The same, however, held true of their hosts who also needed an ensemble of counterparts before whom they could be different, nonaristocrats who would admire aristocrats as these admired the Jews or the homosexuals.

Although these cliques had no consistency in themselves and dissolved as soon as no members of other cliques were around, their members used a mysterious sign-language as though they needed something strange by which to recognize each other. Proust reports at length the importance of such signs, especially for newcomers. While, however, the inverts, masters at sign-language, had at least a real secret, the Jews used this language only to create the expected atmosphere of mystery. Their signs mysteriously and ridiculously indicated something universally known: that in the corner of the salon of the Princess So-and-So sat another Jew who was not allowed openly to admit his identity but who without this meaningless quality would never have been able to climb into that corner.

It is noteworthy that the new mixed society at the end of the nineteenth century, like the first Jewish salons in Berlin, again centered around nobility. Aristocracy by now had all but lost its eagerness for culture and its curiosity about ‘new specimens of humanity,’ but it retained its old scorn of bourgeois society. An urge for social distinction was its answer to political equality and the loss of political position and privilege which had been affirmed with the establishment of the Third Republic. After a short and artificial rise during the Second Empire, French aristocracy maintained itself only by social clannishness and half-hearted attempts to reserve the higher positions in the army for its sons. Much stronger than political ambition was an aggressive contempt for middle-class standards, which undoubtedly was one of the strongest motives for the admission of individuals and whole groups of people who had belonged to socially unacceptable classes. The same motive that had enabled Prussian aristocrats to meet socially with actors and Jews finally led in France to the social prestige of inverts. The middle classes, on the other hand, had not acquired social self-respect, although they had in the meantime risen to wealth and power. The absence of a political hierarchy in the nation-state and the victory of equality rendered ‘society secretly more hierarchical as it became outwardly more democratic.’[179] Since the principle of hierarchy was embodied in the exclusive social circles of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, each society in France ‘reproduced the characteristics more or less modified, more or less in caricature of the society of the Faubourg Saint-Germain which it sometimes pretended … to hold in contempt, no matter what status or what political ideas its members might hold.’ Aristocratic society was a thing of the past in appearance only; actually it pervaded the whole social body (and not only of the people of France) by imposing ‘the key and the grammar of fashionable social life.’[180] When Proust felt the need for an apologia pro vita sua and reconsidered his own life spent in aristocratic circles, he gave an analysis of society as such.

The main point about the role of Jews in this fin-de-siècle society is that it was the antisemitism of the Dreyfus Affair which opened society’s doors to Jews, and that it was the end of the Affair, or rather the discovery of Dreyfus’ innocence, that put an end to their social glory.[181] In other words, no matter what the Jews thought of themselves or of Dreyfus, they could play the role society had assigned them only as long as this same society was convinced that they belonged to a race of traitors. When the traitor was discovered to be the rather stupid victim of an ordinary frame-up, and the innocence of the Jews was established, social interest in Jews subsided as quickly as did political antisemitism. Jews were again looked upon as ordinary mortals and fell into the insignificance from which the supposed crime of one of their own had raised them temporarily.

It was essentially the same kind of social glory that the Jews of Germany and Austria enjoyed under much more severe circumstances immediately after the first World War. Their supposed crime then was that they had been guilty of the war, a crime which, no longer identified with a single act of a single individual, could not be refuted, so that the mob’s evaluation of Jewishness as a crime remained undisturbed and society could continue to be delighted and fascinated by its Jews up to the very end. If there is any psychological truth in the scapegoat theory, it is as the effect of this social attitude toward Jews; for when antisemitic legislation forced society to oust the Jews, these ‘philosemites’ felt as though they had to purge themselves of secret viciousness, to cleanse themselves of a stigma which they had mysteriously and wickedly loved. This psychology, to be sure, hardly explains why these ‘admirers’ of Jews finally became their murderers, and it may even be doubted that they were prominent among those who ran the death factories, although the percentage of the so-called educated classes among the actual killers is amazing. But it does explain the incredible disloyalty of precisely those strata of society which had known Jews most intimately and had been most delighted and charmed by Jewish friends.

As far as the Jews were concerned, the transformation of the ‘crime’ of Judaism into the fashionable ‘vice’ of Jewishness was dangerous in the extreme. Jews had been able to escape from Judaism into conversion; from Jewishness there was no escape. A crime, moreover, is met with punishment; a vice can only be exterminated. The interpretation given by society to the fact of Jewish birth and the role played by Jews in the framework of social life are intimately connected with the catastrophic thoroughness with which antisemitic devices could be put to work. The Nazi brand of antisemitism had its roots in these social conditions as well as in political circumstances. And though the concept of race had other and more immediately political purposes and functions, its application to the Jewish question in its most sinister aspect owed much of its success to social phenomena and convictions which virtually constituted a consent by public opinion.

The deciding forces in the Jews’ fateful journey to the storm center of events were without doubt political; but the reactions of society to antisemitism and the psychological reflections of the Jewish question in the individual had something to do with the specific cruelty, the organized and calculated assault upon every single individual of Jewish origin, that was already characteristic of the antisemitism of the Dreyfus Affair. This passion-driven hunt of the ‘Jew in general,’ the ‘Jew everywhere and nowhere,’ cannot be understood if one considers the history of antisemitism as an entity in itself, as a mere political movement. Social factors, unaccounted for in political or economic history, hidden under the surface of events, never perceived by the historian and recorded only by the more penetrating and passionate force of poets or novelists (men whom society had driven into the desperate solitude and loneliness of the apologia pro vita sua) changed the course that mere political antisemitism would have taken if left to itself, and which might have resulted in anti-Jewish legislation and even mass expulsion but hardly in wholesale extermination.

Ever since the Dreyfus Affair and its political threat to the rights of French Jewry had produced a social situation in which Jews enjoyed an ambiguous glory, antisemitism appeared in Europe as an insoluble mixture of political motives and social elements. Society always reacted first to a strong antisemitic movement with marked preference for Jews, so that Disraeli’s remark that ‘there is no race at this present … that so much delights and fascinates and elevates and ennobles Europe as the Jewish,’ became particularly true in times of danger. Social ‘philosemitism’ always ended by adding to political antisemitism that mysterious fanaticism without which antisemitism could hardly have become the best slogan for organizing the masses. All the déclassés of capitalist society were finally ready to unite and establish mob organizations of their own; their propaganda and their attraction rested on the assumption that a society which had shown its willingness to incorporate crime in the form of vice into its very structure would by now be ready to cleanse itself of viciousness by openly admitting criminals and by publicly committing crimes.

Chapter Four. The Dreyfus Affair

I: The Facts of the Case

It happened in France at the end of the year 1894. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer of the French General Staff, was accused and convicted of espionage for Germany. The verdict, lifelong deportation to Devil’s Island, was unanimously adopted. The trial took place behind closed doors. Out of an allegedly voluminous dossier of the prosecution, only the so-called ‘bordereau’ was shown. This was a letter, supposedly in Dreyfus’ handwriting, addressed to the German military attaché, Schwartzkoppen. In July, 1895, Colonel Picquart became head of the Information Division of the General Staff. In May, 1896, he told the chief of the General Staff, Boisdeffre, that he had convinced himself of Dreyfus’ innocence and of the guilt of another officer, Major Walsin-Esterhazy. Six months later, Picquart was removed to a dangerous post in Tunisia. At the same time, Bernard Lazare, on behalf of Dreyfus’ brothers, published the first pamphlet of the Affair: Une erreur judiciaire; la vérité sur l’affaire Dreyfus. In June, 1897, Picquart informed Scheurer-Kestner, Vice-President of the Senate, of the facts of the trials and of Dreyfus’ innocence. In November, 1897, Clemenceau started his fight for re-examination of the case. Four weeks later Zola joined the ranks of the Dreyfusards. J’Accuse was published by Clemenceau’s newspaper in January, 1898. At the same time, Picquart was arrested. Zola, tried for calumny of the army, was convicted by both the ordinary tribunal and the Court of Appeal. In August, 1898, Esterhazy was dishonorably discharged because of embezzlement. He at once hurried to a British journalist and told him that he – and not Dreyfus – was the author of the ‘bordereau,’ which he had forged in Dreyfus’ handwriting on orders from Colonel Sandherr, his superior and former chief of the counterespionage division. A few days later Colonel Henry, another member of the same department, confessed forgeries of several other pieces of the secret Dreyfus dossier and committed suicide. Thereupon the Court of Appeal ordered an investigation of the Dreyfus case.

In June, 1899, the Court of Appeal annulled the original sentence against Dreyfus of 1894. The revision trial took place in Rennes in August. The sentence was made ten years’ imprisonment because of ‘alleviating circumstances.’ A week later Dreyfus was pardoned by the President of the Republic. The World Exposition opened in Paris in April, 1900. In May, when the success of the Exposition was guaranteed, the Chamber of Deputies, with overwhelming majority, voted against any further revision of the Dreyfus case. In December of the same year all trials and lawsuits connected with the affair were liquidated through a general amnesty.

In 1903 Dreyfus asked for a new revision. His petition was neglected until 1906, when Clemenceau had become Prime Minister. In July, 1906, the Court of Appeal annulled the sentence of Rennes and acquitted Dreyfus of all charges. The Court of Appeal, however, had no authority to acquit; it should have ordered a new trial. Another revision before a military tribunal would, in all probability and despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of Dreyfus, have led to a new conviction. Dreyfus, therefore, was never acquitted in accordance with the law,[182] and the Dreyfus case was never really settled. The reinstatement of the accused was never recognized by the French people, and the passions that were originally aroused never entirely subsided. As late as 1908, nine years after the pardon and two years after Dreyfus was cleared, when, at Clemenceau’s instance, the body of Emile Zola was transferred to the Pantheon, Alfred Dreyfus was openly attacked in the street. A Paris court acquitted his assailant and indicated that it ‘dissented’ from the decision which had cleared Dreyfus.

Even stranger is the fact that neither the first nor the second World War has been able to bury the affair in oblivion. At the behest of the Action Française, the Précis de l’Affaire Dreyfus[183] was republished in 1924 and has since been the standard reference manual of the Anti-Dreyfusards. At the premiere of L’Affaire Dreyfus (a play written by Rehfisch and Wilhelm Herzog under the pseudonym of René Kestner) in 1931, the atmosphere of the nineties still prevailed with quarrels in the auditorium, stink-bombs in the stalls, the shock troops of the Action Française standing around to strike terror into actors, audience and bystanders. Nor did the government – Laval’s government – act in any way differently than its predecessors some thirty years before: it gladly admitted it was unable to guarantee a single undisturbed performance, thereby providing a new late triumph for the Anti-Dreyfusards. The play had to be suspended. When Dreyfus died in 1935, the general press was afraid to touch the issue[184] while the leftist papers still spoke in the old terms of Dreyfus’ innocence and the right wing of Dreyfus’ guilt. Even today, though to a lesser extent, the Dreyfus Affair is still a kind of shibboleth in French politics. When Pétain was condemned the influential provincial newspaper Voix du Nord (of Lille) linked the Pétain case to the Dreyfus case and maintained that ‘the country remains divided as it was after the Dreyfus case,’ because the verdict of the court could not settle a political conflict and ‘bring to all the French peace of mind or of heart.’[185]

While the Dreyfus Affair in its broader political aspects belongs to the twentieth century, the Dreyfus case, the various trials of the Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus, are quite typical of the nineteenth century, when men followed legal proceedings so keenly because each instance afforded a test of the century’s greatest achievement, the complete impartiality of the law. It is characteristic of the period that a miscarriage of justice could arouse such political passions and inspire such an endless succession of trials and retrials, not to speak of duels and fisticuffs. The doctrine of equality before the law was still so firmly implanted in the conscience of the civilized world that a single miscarriage of justice could provoke public indignation from Moscow to New York. Nor was anyone, except in France itself, so ‘modern’ as to associate the matter with political issues.[186] The wrong done to a single Jewish officer in France was able to draw from the rest of the world a more vehement and united reaction than all the persecutions of German Jews a generation later. Even Czarist Russia could accuse France of barbarism while in Germany members of the Kaiser’s entourage would openly express an indignation matched only by the radical press of the 1930’s.[187]

The dramatis personae of the case might have stepped out of the pages of Balzac: on the one hand, the class-conscious generals frantically covering up for the members of their own clique and, on the other, their antagonist, Picquart, with his calm, clear-eyed and slightly ironical honesty. Beside them stand the nondescript crowd of the men in Parliament, each terrified of what his neighbor might know; the President of the Republic, notorious patron of the Paris brothels, and the examining magistrates, living solely for the sake of social contacts. Then there is Dreyfus himself, actually a parvenu, continually boasting to his colleagues of his family fortune which he spent on women; his brothers, pathetically offering their entire fortune, and then reducing the offer to 150,000 francs, for the release of their kinsman, never quite sure whether they wished to make a sacrifice or simply to suborn the General Staff; and the lawyer Démange, really convinced of his client’s innocence but basing the defense on an issue of doubt so as to save himself from attacks and injury to his personal interests. Lastly, there is the adventurer Esterhazy, he of the ancient escutcheon, so utterly bored by this bourgeois world as to seek relief equally in heroism and knavery. An erstwhile second lieutenant of the Foreign Legion, he impressed his colleagues greatly by his superior boldness and impudence. Always in trouble, he lived by serving as duelist’s second to Jewish officers and by blackmailing their wealthy coreligionists. Indeed, he would avail himself of the good offices of the chief rabbi himself in order to obtain the requisite introductions. Even in his ultimate downfall he remained true to the Balzac tradition. Not treason nor wild dreams of a great orgy in which a hundred thousand besotted Prussian Uhlans would run berserk through Paris[188] but a paltry embezzlement of a relative’s cash sent him to his doom. And what shall we say of Zola, with his impassioned moral fervor, his somewhat empty pathos, and his melodramatic declaration, on the eve of his flight to London, that he had heard the voice of Dreyfus begging him to bring this sacrifice?[189]

All this belongs typically to the nineteenth century and by itself would never have survived two World Wars. The old-time enthusiasm of the mob for Esterhazy, like its hatred of Zola, have long since died down to embers, but so too has that fiery passion against aristocracy and clergy which had once inflamed Jaurès and which had alone secured the final release of Dreyfus. As the Cagoulard affair was to show, officers of the General Staff no longer had to fear the wrath of the people when they hatched their plots for a coup d’état. Since the separation of Church and State, France, though certainly no longer clerical-minded, had lost a great deal of her anticlerical feeling, just as the Catholic Church had itself lost much of its political aspiration. Pétain’s attempt to convert the republic into a Catholic state was blocked by the utter indifference of the people and by the lower clergy’s hostility to clerico-fascism.

The Dreyfus Affair in its political implications could survive because two of its elements grew in importance during the twentieth century. The first is hatred of the Jews; the second, suspicion of the republic itself, of Parliament, and the state machine. The larger section of the public could still go on thinking the latter, rightly or wrongly, under the influence of the Jews and the power of the banks. Down to our times the term Anti-Dreyfusard can still serve as a recognized name for all that is antirepublican, antidemocratic, and antisemitic. A few years ago it still comprised everything, from the monarchism of the Action Française to the National Bolshevism of Doriot and the social Fascism of Déat. It was not, however, to these Fascist groups, numerically unimportant as they were, that the Third Republic owed its collapse. On the contrary, the plain, if paradoxical, truth is that their influence was never so slight as at the moment when the collapse actually took place. What made France fall was the fact that she had no more true Dreyfusards, no one who believed that democracy and freedom, equality and justice could any longer be defended or realized under the republic.[190] At long last the republic fell like overripe fruit into the lap of that old Anti-Dreyfusard clique[191] which had always formed the kernel of her army, and this at a time when she had few enemies but almost no friends. How little the Pétain clique was a product of German Fascism was shown clearly by its slavish adherence to the old formulas of forty years before.

While Germany shrewdly truncated her and ruined her entire economy through the demarcation line, France’s leaders in Vichy tinkered with the old Barrès formula of ‘autonomous provinces,’ thereby crippling her all the more. They introduced anti-Jewish legislation more promptly than any Quisling, boasting all the while that they had no need to import antisemitism from Germany and that their law governing the Jews differed in essential points from that of the Reich.[192] They sought to mobilize the Catholic clergy against the Jews, only to give proof that the priests have not only lost their political influence but are not actually antisemites. On the contrary, it was the very bishops and synods which the Vichy regime wanted to turn once more into political powers who voiced the most emphastic protest against the persecution of the Jews.

Not the Dreyfus case with its trials but the Dreyfus Affair in its entirety offers a foregleam of the twentieth century. As Bernanos pointed out in 1931,[193] ‘The Dreyfus affair already belongs to that tragic era which certainly was not ended by the last war. The affair reveals the same inhuman character, preserving amid the welter of unbridled passions and the flames of hate an inconceivably cold and callous heart.’ Certainly it was not in France that the true sequel to the affair was to be found, but the reason why France fell an easy prey to Nazi aggression is not far to seek. Hitler’s propaganda spoke a language long familiar and never quite forgotten. That the ‘Caesarism’[194] of the Action Française and the nihilistic nationalism of Barrès and Maurras never succeeded in their original form is due to a variety of causes, all of them negative. They lacked social vision and were unable to translate into popular terms those mental phantasmagoria which their contempt for the intellect had engendered.

We are here concerned essentially with the political bearings of the Dreyfus Affair and not with the legal aspects of the case. Sharply outlined in it are a number of traits characteristic of the twentieth century. Faint and barely distinguishable during the early decades of the century, they have at last emerged into full daylight and stand revealed as belonging to the main trends of modern times. After thirty years of a mild, purely social form of anti-Jewish discrimination, it had become a little difficult to remember that the cry, ‘Death to the Jews,’ had echoed through the length and breadth of a modern state once before when its domestic policy was crystallized in the issue of antisemitism. For thirty years the old legends of world conspiracy had been no more than the conventional stand-by of the tabloid press and the dime novel and the world did not easily remember that not long ago, but at a time when the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ were still unknown, a whole nation had been racking its brains trying to determine whether ‘secret Rome’ or ‘secret Judah’ held the reins of world politics.[195]

Similarly, the vehement and nihilistic philosophy of spiritual self-hatred[196] suffered something of an eclipse when a world at temporary peace with itself yielded no crop of outstanding criminals to justify the exaltation of brutality and unscrupulousness. The Jules Guérins had to wait nearly forty years before the atmosphere was ripe again for quasi-military storm troops. The déclassés, produced through the nineteenth-century economy, had to grow numerically until they were strong minorities of the nations, before that coup d’état, which had remained but a grotesque plot[197] in France, could achieve reality in Germany almost without effort. The prelude to Nazism was played over the entire European stage. The Dreyfus case, therefore, is more than a bizarre, imperfectly solved ‘crime,’[198] an affair of staff officers disguised by false beards and dark glasses, peddling their stupid forgeries by night in the streets of Paris. Its hero is not Dreyfus but Clemenceau and it begins not with the arrest of a Jewish staff officer but with the Panama scandal.

II: The Third Republic and French Jewry

Between 1880 and 1888 the Panama Company, under the leadership of de Lesseps, who had constructed the Suez Canal, was able to make but little practical progress. Nevertheless, within France itself it succeeded during this period in raising no less than 1,335,538,454 francs in private loans.[199] This success is the more significant when one considers the carefulness of the French middle class in money matters. The secret of the company’s success lies in the fact that its several public loans were invariably backed by Parliament. The building of the Canal was generally regarded as a public and national service rather than as a private enterprise. When the company went bankrupt, therefore, it was the foreign policy of the republic that really suffered the blow. Only after a few years did it become clear that even more important was the ruination of some half-million middle-class Frenchmen. Both the press and the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry came to roughly the same conclusion: the company had already been bankrupt for several years. De Lesseps, they contended, had been living in hopes of a miracle, cherishing the dream that new funds would be somehow forthcoming to push on with the work. In order to win sanction for the new loans he had been obliged to bribe the press, half of Parliament, and all of the higher officials. This, however, had called for the employment of middlemen and these in turn had commanded exorbitant commissions. Thus, the very thing which had originally inspired public confidence in the enterprise, namely, Parliament’s backing of the loans, proved in the end the factor which converted a not too sound private business into a colossal racket.

There were no Jews either among the bribed members of Parliament or on the board of the company. Jacques Reinach and Cornélius Herz, however, vied for the honor of distributing the baksheesh among the members of the Chamber, the former working on the right wing of the bourgeois parties and the latter on the radicals (the anticlerical parties of the petty bourgeoisie).[200] Reinach was the secret financial counsellor of the government during the eighties[201] and therefore handled its relations with the Panama Company, while Herz’s role was a double one. On the one hand he served Reinach as liaison with the radical wings of Parliament, to which Reinach himself had no access; on the other this office gave him such a good insight into the extent of the corruption that he was able constantly to blackmail his boss and to involve him ever deeper in the mess.[202]

Naturally there were quite a number of smaller Jewish businessmen working for both Herz and Reinach. Their names, however, may well repose in the oblivion into which they have deservedly fallen. The more uncertain the situation of the company, the higher, naturally, was the rate of commission, until in the end the company itself received but little of the moneys advanced to it. Shortly before the crash Herz received for a single intra-parliamentary transaction an advance of no less than 600,000 francs. The advance, however, was premature. The loan was not taken up and the shareholders were simply 600,000 francs out of pocket.[203] The whole ugly racket ended disastrously for Reinach. Harassed by the blackmail of Herz he finally committed suicide.[204]

Shortly before his death, however, he had taken a step the consequences of which for French Jewry can scarcely be exaggerated. He had given the Libre Parole, Edouard Drumont’s antisemitic daily, his list of suborned members of Parliament, the so-called ‘remittance men,’ imposing as the sole condition that the paper should cover up for him personally when it published its exposure. The Libre Parole was transformed overnight from a small and politically insignificant sheet into one of the most influential papers in the country, with a 300,000 circulation. The golden opportunity proffered by Reinach was handled with consummate care and skill. The list of culprits was published in small installments so that hundreds of politicians had to live on tenterhooks morning after morning. Drumont’s journal, and with it the entire antisemitic press and movement, emerged at last as a dangerous force in the Third Republic.

The Panama scandal, which, in Drumont’s phrase, rendered the invisible visible, brought with it two revelations. First, it disclosed that the members of Parliament and civil servants had become businessmen. Secondly, it showed that the intermediaries between private enterprise (in this case, the company) and the machinery of the state were almost exclusively Jews.[205] What was most surprising was that all these Jews who worked in such an intimate relationship with the state machinery were newcomers. Up to the establishment of the Third Republic, the handling of the finances of the state had been pretty well monopolized by the Rothschilds. An attempt by their rivals, Péreires Brothers, to wrest part of it from their hands by establishing the Crédit Mobilier had ended in a compromise. And in 1882, the Rothschild group was still powerful enough to drive into bankruptcy the Catholic Union Générale, the real purpose of which had been to ruin Jewish bankers.[206] Immediately after the conclusion of the peace treaty of 1871, whose financial provisions had been handled on the French side by Rothschild and on the German side by Bleichroeder, a former agent of the house, the Rothschilds embarked on an unprecedented policy: they came out openly for the monarchists and against the republic.[207] What was new in this was not the monarchist trend but the fact that for the first time an important Jewish financial power set itself in opposition to the current regime. Up to that time the Rothschilds had accommodated themselves to whatever political system was in power. It seemed, therefore, that the republic was the first form of government that really had no use for them.

Both the political influence and the social status of the Jews had for centuries been due to the fact that they were a closed group who worked directly for the state and were directly protected by it on account of their special services. Their close and immediate connection with the machinery of government was possible only so long as the state remained at a distance from the people, while the ruling classes continued to be indifferent to its management. In such circumstances the Jews were, from the state’s point of view, the most dependable element in society just because they did not really belong to it. The parliamentary system allowed the liberal bourgeoisie to gain control of the state machine. To this bourgeoisie, however, the Jews had never belonged and they therefore regarded it with a not unwarranted suspicion. The regime no longer needed the Jews as much as before, since it was now possible to achieve through Parliament a financial expansion beyond the wildest dreams of the former more or less absolute or constitutional monarchs. Thus the leading Jewish houses gradually faded from the scene of finance politics and betook themselves more and more to the antisemitic salons of the aristocracy, there to dream of financing reactionary movements designed to restore the good old days.[208] Meanwhile, however, other Jewish circles, newcomers among Jewish plutocrats, were beginning to take an increasing part in the commercial life of the Third Republic. What the Rothschilds had almost forgotten and what had nearly cost them their power was the simple fact that once they withdrew, even for a moment, from active interest in a regime, they immediately lost their influence not only upon cabinet circles but upon the Jews. The Jewish immigrants were the first to see their chance.[209] They realized only too well that the republic, as it had developed, was not the logical sequel of a united people’s uprising. Out of the slaughter of some 20,000 Communards, out of military defeat and economic collapse, what had in fact emerged was a regime whose capacity for government had been doubtful from its inception. So much, indeed, was this the case that within three years a society brought to the brink of ruin was clamoring for a dictator. And when it got one in President General MacMahon (whose only claim to distinction was his defeat at Sedan), that individual had promptly turned out to be a parliamentarian of the old school and after a few years (1879) resigned. Meanwhile, however, the various elements in society, from the opportunists to the radicals and from the coalitionists to the extreme right, had made up their minds what kind of policies they required from their representatives and what methods they ought to employ. The right policy was defense of vested interests and the right method was corruption.[210] After 1881, swindle (to quote Léon Say) became the only law.

It has been justly observed that at this period of French history every political party had its Jew, in the same way that every royal household once had its court Jew.[211] The difference, however, was profound. Investment of Jewish capital in the state had helped to give the Jews a productive role in the economy of Europe. Without their assistance the eighteenth-century development of the nation-state and its independent civil service would have been inconceivable. It was, after all, to these court Jews that Western Jewry owed its emancipation. The shady transactions of Reinach and his confederates did not even lead to permanent riches.[212] All they did was to shroud in even deeper darkness the mysterious and scandalous relations between business and politics. These parasites upon a corrupt body served to provide a thoroughly decadent society with an exceedingly dangerous alibi. Since they were Jews it was possible to make scapegoats of them when public indignation had to be allayed. Afterwards things could go on the same old way. The antisemites could at once point to the Jewish parasites on a corrupt society in order to ‘prove’ that all Jews everywhere were nothing but termites in the otherwise healthy body of the people. It did not matter to them that the corruption of the body politic had started without the help of Jews; that the policy of businessmen (in a bourgeois society to which Jews had not belonged) and their ideal of unlimited competition had led to the disintegration of the state in party politics; that the ruling classes had proved incapable any longer of protecting their own interests, let alone those of the country as a whole. The antisemites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.

The Jews could remain a separate group outside of society only so long as a more or less homogeneous and stable state machine had a use for them and was interested in protecting them. The decay of the state machine brought about the dissolution of the closed ranks of Jewry, which had so long been bound up with it. The first sign of this appeared in the affairs conducted by newly naturalized French Jews over whom their native-born brethren had lost control in much the same way as occurred in the Germany of the inflation period. The newcomers filled the gaps between the commercial world and the state.

Far more disastrous was another process which likewise began at this time and which was imposed from above. The dissolution of the state into factions, while it disrupted the closed society of the Jews, did not force them into a vacuum in which they could go on vegetating outside of state and society. For that the Jews were too rich and, at a time when money was one of the salient requisites of power, too powerful. Rather did they tend to become absorbed into the variety of social ‘sets,’ in accordance with their political leanings or, more frequently, their social connections. This, however, did not lead to their disappearance. On the contrary, they maintained certain relations with the state machine and continued, albeit in a crucially different form, to manipulate the business of the state. Thus, despite their known opposition to the Third Republic, it was none other than the Rothschilds who undertook the placement of the Russian loan while Arthur Meyer, though baptized and an avowed monarchist, was among those involved in the Panama scandal. This meant that the newcomers in French Jewry who formed the principal links between private commerce and the machinery of government were followed by the native-born. But if the Jews had previously constituted a strong, close-knit group, whose usefulness for the state was obvious, they were now split up into cliques, mutually antagonistic but all bent on the same purpose of helping society to batten on the state.

III: Army and Clergy Against the Republic

Seemingly removed from all such factors, seemingly immune from all corruption, stood the army, a heritage from the Second Empire. The republic had never dared to dominate it, even when monarchistic sympathies and intrigues came to open expression in the Boulanger crisis. The officer class consisted then as before of the sons of those old aristocratic families whose ancestors, as emigrés, had fought against their fatherland during the revolutionary wars. These officers were strongly under the influence of the clergy who ever since the Revolution had made a point of supporting reactionary and antirepublican movements. Their influence was perhaps equally strong over those officers who were of somewhat lower birth but who hoped, as a result of the Church’s old practice of marking talent without regard to pedigree, to gain promotion with the help of the clergy.

In contrast to the shifting and fluid cliques of society and Parliament, where admission was easy and allegiance fickle, stood the rigorous exclusiveness of the army, so characteristic of the caste system. It was neither military life, professional honor, nor esprit de corps that held its officers together to form a reactionary bulwark against the republic and against all democratic influences; it was simply the tie of caste.[213] The refusal of the state to democratize the army and to subject it to the civil authorities entailed remarkable consequences. It made the army an entity outside of the nation and created an armed power whose loyalties could be turned in directions which none could foretell. That this caste-ridden power, if but left to itself, was neither for nor against anyone is shown clearly by the story of the almost burlesque coups d’état in which, despite statements to the contrary, it was really unwilling to take part. Even its notorious monarchism was, in the final analysis, nothing but an excuse for preserving itself as an independent interest-group, ready to defend its privileges ‘without regard to and in despite of, even against the republic.’[214] Contemporary journalists and later historians have made valiant efforts to explain the conflict between military and civil powers during the Dreyfus Affair in terms of an antagonism between ‘businessmen and soldiers.’[215] We know today, however, how unjustified is this indirectly antisemitic interpretation. The intelligence department of the General Staff were themselves reasonably expert at business. Were they not trafficking as openly in forged bordereaux and selling them as nonchalantly to foreign military attachés as a leather merchant might traffic in skins and then become President of the Republic, or the son-in-law of the President traffic in honors and distinctions?[216] Indeed, the zeal of Schwartzkoppen, the German attaché, who was anxious to discover more military secrets than France had to hide, must have been a positive source of embarrassment to these gentlemen of the counterespionage service who, after all, could sell no more than they produced.

It was the great mistake of Catholic politicians to imagine that, in pursuit of their European policy, they could make use of the French army simply because it appeared to be antirepublican. The Church was, in fact, slated to pay for this error with the loss of its entire political influence in France.[217] When the department of intelligence finally emerged as a common fake factory, as Esterhazy, who was in a position to know, described the Deuxième Bureau,[218] no one in France, not even the army, was so seriously compromised as the Church. Toward the end of the last century the Catholic clergy had been seeking to recover its old political power in just those quarters where, for one or another reason, secular authority was on the wane among the people. Cases in point were those of Spain, where a decadent feudal aristocracy had brought about the economic and cultural ruin of the country, and Austria-Hungary, where a conflict of nationalities was threatening daily to disrupt the state. And such too was the case in France, where the nation appeared to be sinking fast into the slough of conflicting interests.[219] The army – left in a political vacuum by the Third Republic – gladly accepted the guidance of the Catholic clergy which at least provided for civilian leadership without which the military lose their ‘raison d’être (which) is to defend the principle embodied in civilian society’ – as Clemenceau put it.

The Catholic Church then owed its popularity to the widespread popular skepticism which saw in the republic and in democracy the loss of all order, security, and political will. To many the hierarchic system of the Church seemed the only escape from chaos. Indeed, it was this, rather than any religious revivalism, which caused the clergy to be held in respect.[220] As a matter of fact, the staunchest supporters of the Church at that period were the exponents of that so-called ‘cerebral’ Catholicism, the ‘Catholics without faith,’ who were henceforth to dominate the entire monarchist and extreme nationalist movement. Without believing in their other-worldly basis, these ‘Catholics’ clamored for more power to all authoritarian institutions. This, indeed, had been the line first laid down by Drumont and later endorsed by Maurras.[221]

The large majority of the Catholic clergy, deeply involved in political maneuvers, followed a policy of accommodation. In this, as the Dreyfus Affair makes clear, they were conspicuously successful. Thus, when Victor Basch took up the cause for a retrial his house at Rennes was stormed under the leadership of three priests,[222] while no less distinguished a figure than the Dominican Father Didon called on the students of the Collège D’Arcueil to ‘draw the sword, terrorize, cut off heads and run amok.’[223] Similar too was the outlook of the three hundred lesser clerics who immortalized themselves in the ‘Henry Memorial,’ as the Libre Parole’s list of subscribers to a fund for the benefit of Madame Henry (widow of the Colonel who had committed suicide while in prison[224]) was called, and which certainly is a monument for all time to the shocking corruption of the upper classes of the French people at that date. During the period of the Dreyfus crisis it was not her regular clergy, not her ordinary religious orders, and certainly not her homines religiosi who influenced the political line of the Catholic Church. As far as Europe was concerned, her reactionary policies in France, Austria, and Spain, as well as her support of antisemitic trends in Vienna, Paris, and Algiers were probably an immediate consequence of Jesuit influence. It was the Jesuits who had always best represented, both in the written and spoken word, the antisemitic school of the Catholic clergy.[225] This is largely the consequence of their statutes according to which each novice must prove that he has no Jewish blood back to the fourth generation.[226] And since the beginning of the nineteenth century the direction of the Church’s international policy had passed into their hands.[227]

We have already observed how the dissolution of the state machinery facilitated the entry of the Rothschilds into the circles of the antisemitic aristocracy. The fashionable set of Faubourg Saint-Germain opened its doors not only to a few ennobled Jews, but their baptized sycophants, the antisemitic Jews, were also suffered to drift in as well as complete newcomers.[228] Curiously enough, the Jews of Alsace, who like the Dreyfus family had moved to Paris following the cession of that territory, took an especially prominent part in this social climb. Their exaggerated patriotism came out most markedly in the way they strove to dissociate themselves from Jewish immigrants. The Dreyfus family belonged to that section of French Jewry which sought to assimilate by adopting its own brand of antisemitism.[229] This adjustment to the French aristocracy had one inevitable result: the Jews tried to launch their sons upon the same higher military careers as were pursued by those of their new-found friends. It was here that the first cause of friction arose. The admission of the Jews into high society had been relatively peaceful. The upper classes, despite their dreams of a restored monarchy, were a politically spineless lot and did not bother unduly one way or the other. But when the Jews began seeking equality in the army, they came face to face with the determined opposition of the Jesuits who were not prepared to tolerate the existence of officers immune to the influence of the confessional.[230] Moreover, they came up against an inveterate caste spirit, which the easy atmosphere of the salons had led them to forget, a caste spirit which, already strengthened by tradition and calling, was still further fortified by uncompromising hostility to the Third Republic and to the civil administration.

A modern historian has described the struggle between Jews and Jesuits as a ‘struggle between two rivals,’ in which the ‘higher Jesuit clergy and the Jewish plutocracy stood facing one another in the middle of France like two invisible lines of battle.’[231] The description is true insofar as the Jews found in the Jesuits their first unappeasable foes, while the latter came promptly to realize how powerful a weapon antisemitism could be. This was the first attempt and the only one prior to Hitler to exploit the ‘major political concept’[232] of antisemitism on a Pan-European scale. On the other hand, however, if it is assumed that the struggle was one of two equally matched ‘rivals’ the description is palpably false. The Jews sought no higher degree of power than was being wielded by any of the other cliques into which the republic had split. All they desired at the time was sufficient influence to pursue their social and business interests. They did not aspire to a political share in the management of the state. The only organized group who sought that were the Jesuits. The trial of Dreyfus was preceded by a number of incidents which show how resolutely and energetically the Jews tried to gain a place in the army and how common, even at that time, was the hostility toward them. Constantly subjected to gross insult, the few Jewish officers there were were obliged always to fight duels while Gentile comrades were unwilling to act as their seconds. It is, indeed, in this connection that the infamous Esterhazy first comes upon the scene as an exception to the rule.[233]

It has always remained somewhat obscure whether the arrest and condemnation of Dreyfus was simply a judicial error which just happened by chance to light up a political conflagration, or whether the General Staff deliberately planted the forged bordereau for the express purpose of at last branding a Jew as a traitor. In favor of the latter hypothesis is the fact that Dreyfus was the first Jew to find a post on the General Staff and under existing conditions this could only have aroused not merely annoyance but positive fury and consternation. In any case anti-Jewish hatred was unleashed even before the verdict was returned. Contrary to custom, which demanded the withholding of all information in a spy case still sub iudice, officers of the General Staff cheerfully supplied the Libre Parole with details of the case and the name of the accused. Apparently they feared lest Jewish influence with the government lead to a suppression of the trial and a stifling of the whole business. Some show of plausibility was afforded these fears by the fact that certain circles of French Jewry were known at the time to be seriously concerned about the precarious situation of Jewish officers.

It must also be remembered that the Panama scandal was then fresh in the public mind and that following the Rothschild loan to Russia distrust of the Jews had grown considerably.[234] War Minister Mercier was not only lauded by the bourgeois press at every fresh turn of the trial but even Jaurès’ paper, the organ of the socialists, congratulated him on ‘having opposed the formidable pressure of corrupt politicians and high finance.’[235] Characteristically this encomium drew from the Libre Parole the unstinted commendation, ‘Bravo, Jaurès!’ Two years later, when Bernard Lazare published his first pamphlet on the miscarriage of justice, Jaurès’ paper carefully refrained from discussing its contents but charged the socialist author with being an admirer of Rothschild and probably a paid agent.[236] Similarly, as late as 1897, when the fight for Dreyfus’ reinstatement had already begun, Jaurès could see nothing in it but the conflict of two bourgeois groups, the opportunists and the clerics. Finally, even after the Rennes retrial Wilhelm Liebknecht, the German Social Democrat, still believed in the guilt of Dreyfus because he could not imagine that a member of the upper classes could ever be the victim of a false verdict.[237]

The skepticism of the radical and socialist press, strongly colored as it was by anti-Jewish feelings, was strengthened by the bizarre tactics of the Dreyfus family in its attempt to secure a retrial. In trying to save an innocent man they employed the very methods usually adopted in the case of a guilty one. They stood in mortal terror of publicity and relied exclusively on back-door maneuvers.[238] They were lavish with their cash and treated Lazare, one of their most valuable helpers and one of the greatest figures in the case, as if he were their paid agent.[239] Clemenceau, Zola, Picquart, and Labori – to name but the more active of the Dreyfusards – could in the end only save their good names by dissociating their efforts, with greater or less fuss and publicity, from the more concrete aspects of the issue.[240]

There was only one basis on which Dreyfus could or should have been saved. The intrigues of a corrupt Parliament, the dry rot of a collapsing society, and the clergy’s lust for power should have been met squarely with the stern Jacobin concept of the nation based upon human rights – that republican view of communal life which asserts that (in the words of Clemenceau) by infringing on the rights of one you infringe on the rights of all. To rely on Parliament or on society was to lose the fight before beginning it. For one thing the resources of Jewry were in no way superior to those of the rich Catholic bourgeoisie; for another all of the higher strata of society, from the clerical and aristocratic families of the Faubourg Saint-Germain to the anticlerical and radical petty bourgeoisie, were only too willing to see the Jews formally removed from the body politic. In this way, they reckoned, they would be able to purge themselves of possible taint. The loss of Jewish social and commercial contacts seemed to them a price well worth paying. Similarly, as the utterances of Jaurès indicate, the Affair was regarded by Parliament as a golden opportunity for rehabilitating, or rather regaining, its time-honored reputation for incorruptibility. Last, but by no means least, in the countenancing of such slogans as ‘Death to the Jews’ or ‘France for the French’ an almost magic formula was discovered for reconciling the masses to the existent state of government and society.

IV: The People and the Mob

If it is the common error of our time to imagine that propaganda can achieve all things and that a man can be talked into anything provided the talking is sufficiently loud and cunning, in that period it was commonly believed that the ‘voice of the people was the voice of God,’ and that the task of a leader was, as Clemenceau so scornfully expressed it,[241] to follow that voice shrewdly. Both views go back to the same fundamental error of regarding the mob as identical with rather than as a caricature of the people.

The mob is primarily a group in which the residue of all classes are represented. This makes it so easy to mistake the mob for the people, which also comprises all strata of society. While the people in all great revolutions fight for true representation, the mob always will shout for the ‘strong man,’ the ‘great leader.’ For the mob hates society from which it is excluded, as well as Parliament where it is not represented. Plebiscites, therefore, with which modern mob leaders have obtained such excellent results, are an old concept of politicians who rely upon the mob. One of the more intelligent leaders of the Anti-Dreyfusards, Déroulède, clamored for a ‘Republic through plebiscite.’

High society and politicians of the Third Republic had produced the French mob in a series of scandals and public frauds. They now felt a tender sentiment of parental familiarity with their offspring, a feeling mixed with admiration and fear. The least society could do for its offspring was to protect it verbally. While the mob actually stormed Jewish shops and assailed Jews in the streets, the language of high society made real, passionate violence look like harmless child’s play.[242] The most important of the contemporary documents in this respect is the ‘Henry Memorial’ and the various solutions it proposed to the Jewish question: Jews were to be torn to pieces like Marsyas in the Greek myth; Reinach ought to be boiled alive; Jews should be stewed in oil or pierced to death with needles; they should be ‘circumcised up to the neck.’ One group of officers expressed great impatience to try out a new type of gun on the 100,000 Jews in the country. Among the subscribers were more than 1,000 officers, including four generals in active service, and the minister of war, Mercier. The relatively large number of intellectuals[243] and even of Jews in the list is surprising. The upper classes knew that the mob was flesh of their flesh and blood of their blood. Even a Jewish historian of the time, although he had seen with his own eyes that Jews are no longer safe when the mob rules the street, spoke with secret admiration of the ‘great collective movement.’[244] This only shows how deeply most Jews were rooted in a society which was attempting to eliminate them.

If Bernanos, with reference to the Dreyfus Affair, describes antisemitism as a major political concept, he is undoubtedly right with respect to the mob. It had been tried out previously in Berlin and Vienna, by Ahlwardt and Stoecker, by Schoenerer and Lueger, but nowhere was its efficacy more clearly proved than in France. There can be no doubt that in the eyes of the mob the Jews came to serve as an object lesson for all the things they detested. If they hated society they could point to the way in which the Jews were tolerated within it; and if they hated the government they could point to the way in which the Jews had been protected by or were identifiable with the state. While it is a mistake to assume that the mob preys only on Jews, the Jews must be accorded first place among its favorite victims.

Excluded as it is from society and political representation, the mob turns of necessity to extraparliamentary action. Moreover, it is inclined to seek the real forces of political life in those movements and influences which are hidden from view and work behind the scenes. There can be no doubt that during the nineteenth century Jewry fell into this category, as did Freemasonry (especially in Latin countries) and the Jesuits.[245] It is, of course, utterly untrue that any of these groups really constituted a secret society bent on dominating the world by means of a gigantic conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is true that their influence, however overt it may have been, was exerted beyond the formal realm of politics, operating on a large scale in lobbies, lodges, and the confessional. Ever since the French Revolution these three groups have shared the doubtful honor of being, in the eyes of the European mob, the pivotal point of world politics. During the Dreyfus crisis each was able to exploit this popular notion by hurling at the other charges of conspiring to world domination. The slogan, ‘secret Judah,’ is due, no doubt, to the inventiveness of certain Jesuits, who chose to see in the first Zionist Congress (1897) the core of a Jewish world conspiracy.[246] Similarly, the concept of ‘secret Rome’ is due to the anticlerical Freemasons and perhaps to the indiscriminate slanders of some Jews as well.

The fickleness of the mob is proverbial, as the opponents of Dreyfus were to learn to their sorrow when, in 1899, the wind changed and the small group of true republicans, headed by Clemenceau, suddenly realized, with mixed feelings, that a section of the mob had rallied to their side.[247] In some eyes the two parties to the great controversy now seemed like ‘two rival gangs of charlatans squabbling for recognition by the rabble’[248] while actually the voice of the Jacobin Clemenceau had succeeded in bringing back one part of the French people to their greatest tradition. Thus the great scholar, Emile Duclaux, could write: ‘In this drama played before a whole people and so worked up by the press that the whole nation ultimately took part in it, we see the chorus and anti-chorus of the ancient tragedy railing at each other. The scene is France and the theater is the world.’

Led by the Jesuits and aided by the mob the army at last stepped into the fray confident of victory. Counterattack from the civil power had been effectively forestalled. The antisemitic press had stopped men’s mouths by publishing Reinach’s lists of the deputies involved in the Panama scandal.[249] Everything suggested an effortless triumph. The society and the politicians of the Third Republic, its scandals and affairs, had created a new class of déclassés; they could not be expected to fight against their own product; on the contrary, they were to adopt the language and outlook of the mob. Through the army the Jesuits would gain the upper hand over the corrupt civil power and the way would thus be paved for a bloodless coup d’état.

So long as there was only the Dreyfus family trying with bizarre methods to rescue their kinsman from Devil’s Island, and so long as there were only Jews concerned about their standing in the antisemitic salons and the still more antisemitic army, everything certainly pointed that way. Obviously there was no reason to expect an attack on the army or on society from that quarter. Was not the sole desire of the Jews to continue to be accepted in society and suffered in the armed forces? No one in military or civilian circles needed to suffer a sleepless night on their account.[250] It was disconcerting, therefore, when it transpired that in the intelligence office of the General Staff there sat a high officer, who, though possessed of a good Catholic background, excellent military prospects, and the ‘proper’ degree of antipathy toward the Jews, had yet not adopted the principle that the end justifies the means. Such a man, utterly divorced from social clannishness or professional ambition, was Picquart, and of this simple, quiet, politically disinterested spirit the General Staff was soon to have its fill. Picquart was no hero and certainly no martyr. He was simply that common type of citizen with an average interest in public affairs who in the hour of danger (though not a minute earlier) stands up to defend his country in the same unquestioning way as he discharges his daily duties.[251] Nevertheless, the cause only grew serious when, after several delays and hesitations, Clemenceau at last became convinced that Dreyfus was innocent and the republic in danger. At the beginning of the struggle only a handful of well-known writers and scholars rallied to the cause, Zola, Anatole France, E. Duclaux, Gabriel Monod, the historian, and Lucien Herr, librarian of the Ecole Normale. To these must be added the small and then insignificant circle of young intellectuals who were later to make history in the Cahiers de la quinzaine.[252] That, however, was the full roster of Clemenceau’s allies. There was no political group, not a single politician of repute, ready to stand at his side. The greatness of Clemenceau’s approach lies in the fact that it was not directed against a particular miscarriage of justice, but was based upon such ‘abstract’ ideas as justice, liberty, and civic virtue. It was based, in short, on those very concepts which had formed the staple of old-time Jacobin patriotism and against which much mud and abuse had already been hurled. As time wore on and Clemenceau continued, unmoved by threats and disappointments, to enunciate the same truths and to embody them in demands, the more ‘concrete’ nationalists lost ground. Followers of men like Barrès, who had accused the supporters of Dreyfus of losing themselves in a ‘welter of metaphysics,’ came to realize that the abstractions of the ‘Tiger’ were actually nearer to political realities than the limited intelligence of ruined businessmen or the barren traditionalism of fatalistic intellectuals.[253] Where the concrete approach of the realistic nationalists eventually led them is illustrated by the priceless story of how Charles Maurras had ‘the honor and pleasure,’ after the defeat of France, of falling in during his flight to the south with a female astrologer who interpreted to him the political meaning of recent events and advised him to collaborate with the Nazis.[254]

Although antisemitism had undoubtedly gained ground during the three years following the arrest of Dreyfus, before the opening of Clemenceau’s campaign, and although the anti-Jewish press had attained a circulation comparable to that of the chief papers, the streets had remained quiet. It was only when Clemenceau began his articles in L’Aurore, when Zola published his J’Accuse, and when the Rennes tribunal set off the dismal succession of trials and retrials that the mob stirred into action. Every stroke of the Dreyfusards (who were known to be a small minority) was followed by a more or less violent disturbance on the streets.[255] The organization of the mob by the General Staff was remarkable. The trail leads straight from the army to the Libre Parole which, directly or indirectly, through its articles or the personal intervention of its editors, mobilized students, monarchists, adventurers, and plain gangsters and pushed them into the streets. If Zola uttered a word, at once his windows were stoned. If Scheurer-Kestner wrote to the colonial minister, he was at once beaten up on the streets while the papers made scurrilous attacks on his private life. And all accounts agree that if Zola, when once charged, had been acquitted he would never have left the courtroom alive.

The cry, ‘Death to the Jews,’ swept the country. In Lyon, Rennes, Nantes, Tours, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrant, and Marseille – everywhere, in fact – antisemitic riots broke out and were invariably traceable to the same source. Popular indignation broke out everywhere on the same day and at precisely the same hour.[256] Under the leadership of Guérin the mob took on a military complexion. Antisemitic shock troops appeared on the streets and made certain that every pro-Dreyfus meeting should end in bloodshed. The complicity of the police was everywhere patent.[257]

The most modern figure on the side of the Anti-Dreyfusards was probably Jules Guérin. Ruined in business, he had begun his political career as a police stool pigeon, and acquired that flair for discipline and organization which invariably marks the underworld. This he was later able to divert into political channels, becoming the founder and head of the Ligue Antisémite. In him high society found its first criminal hero. In its adulation of Guérin bourgeois society showed clearly that in its code of morals and ethics it had broken for good with its own standards. Behind the Ligue stood two members of the aristocracy, the Duke of Orléans and the Marquis de Morès. The latter had lost his fortune in America and became famous for organizing the butchers of Paris into a manslaughtering brigade.

Most eloquent of these modern tendencies was the farcical siege of the so-called Fort Chabrol. It was here, in this first of ‘Brown Houses,’ that the cream of the Ligue Antisémite foregathered when the police decided at last to arrest their leader. The installations were the acme of technical perfection. ‘The windows were protected by iron shutters. There was a system of electric bells and telephones from cellar to roof. Five yards or so behind the massive entrance, itself always kept locked and bolted, there was a tall grill of cast iron. On the right, between the grill and the main entrance was a small door, likewise iron-plated, behind which sentries, handpicked from the butcher legions, mounted guard day and night.’[258] Max Régis, instigator of the Algerian pogroms, is another who strikes a modern note. It was this youthful Régis who once called upon a cheering Paris rabble to ‘water the tree of freedom with the blood of the Jews.’ Régis represented that section of the movement which hoped to achieve power by legal and parliamentary methods. In accordance with this program he had himself elected mayor of Algiers and utilized his office to unleash the pogroms in which several Jews were killed, Jewish women criminally assaulted and Jewish-owned stores looted. It was to him also that the polished and cultured Edouard Drumont, that most famous French antisemite, owed his seat in Parliament.

What was new in all this was not the activity of the mob; for that there were abundant precedents. What was new and surprising at the time – though all too familiar to us – was the organization of the mob and the hero-worship enjoyed by its leaders. The mob became the direct agent of that ‘concrete’ nationalism espoused by Barrès, Maurras, and Daudet, who together formed what was undoubtedly a kind of elite of the younger intellectuals. These men, who despised the people and who had themselves but recently emerged from a ruinous and decadent cult of estheticism, saw in the mob a living expression of virile and primitive ‘strength.’ It was they and their theories which first identified the mob with the people and converted its leaders into national heroes.[259] It was their philosophy of pessimism and their delight in doom that was the first sign of the imminent collapse of the European intelligentsia.

Even Clemenceau was not immune from the temptation to identify the mob with the people. What made him especially prone to this error was the consistently ambiguous attitude of the Labor party toward the question of ‘abstract’ justice. No party, including the socialists, was ready to make an issue of justice per se, ‘to stand, come what may, for justice, the sole unbreakable bond of union between civilized men.’[260] The socialists stood for the interests of the workers, the opportunists for those of the liberal bourgeoisie, the coalitionists for those of the Catholic higher classes, and the radicals for those of the anticlerical petty bourgeoisie. The socialists had the great advantage of speaking in the name of a homogeneous and united class. Unlike the bourgeois parties they did not represent a society which had split into innumerable cliques and cabals. Nevertheless, they were concerned primarily and essentially with the interests of their class. They were not troubled by any higher obligation toward human solidarity and had no conception of what communal life really meant. Typical of their attitude was the observation of Jules Guesde, the counterpart of Jaurès in the French party, that ‘law and honor are mere words.’

The nihilism which characterized the nationalists was no monopoly of the Anti-Dreyfusards. On the contrary, a large proportion of the socialists and many of those who championed Dreyfus, like Guesde, spoke the same language. If the Catholic La Croix remarked that ‘it is no longer a question whether Dreyfus is innocent or guilty but only of who will win, the friends of the army or its foes,’ the corresponding sentiment might well have been voiced, mutatis mutandis, by the partisans of Dreyfus.[261] Not only the mob but a considerable section of the French people declared itself, at best, quite uninterested in whether one group of the population was or was not to be excluded from the law.

As soon as the mob began its campaign of terror against the partisans of Dreyfus, it found the path open before it. As Clemenceau attests, the workers of Paris cared little for the whole affair. If the various elements of the bourgeoisie squabbled among themselves, that, they thought, scarcely affected their own interests. ‘With the open consent of the people,’ wrote Clemenceau, ‘they have proclaimed before the world the failure of their “democracy.” Through them a sovereign people shows itself thrust from its throne of justice, shorn of its infallible majesty. For there is no denying that this evil has befallen us with the full complicity of the people itself … The people is not God. Anyone could have foreseen that this new divinity would some day topple to his fall. A collective tyrant, spread over the length and breadth of the land, is no more acceptable than a single tyrant ensconced upon his throne.’[262]

At last Clemenceau convinced Jaurès that an infringement of the rights of one man was an infringement of the rights of all. But in this he was successful only because the wrongdoers happened to be the inveterate enemies of the people ever since the Revolution, namely, the aristocracy and the clergy. It was against the rich and the clergy, not for the republic, not for justice and freedom that the workers finally took to the streets. True, both the speeches of Jaurès and the articles of Clemenceau are redolent of the old revolutionary passion for human rights. True, also, that this passion was strong enough to rally the people to the struggle, but first they had to be convinced that not only justice and the honor of the republic were at stake but also their own class ‘interests.’ As it was, a large number of socialists, both inside and outside the country, still regarded it as a mistake to meddle (as they put it) in the internecine quarrels of the bourgeoisie or to bother about saving the republic.

The first to wean the workers, at least partially, from this mood of indifference was that great lover of the people, Emile Zola. In his famous indictment of the republic he was also, however, the first to deflect from the presentation of precise political facts and to yield to the passions of the mob by raising the bogy of ‘secret Rome.’ This was a note which Clemenceau adopted only reluctantly, though Jaurès did with enthusiasm. The real achievement of Zola, which is hard to detect from his pamphlets, consists in the resolute and dauntless courage with which this man, whose life and works had exalted the people to a point ‘bordering on idolatry,’ stood up to challenge, combat, and finally conquer the masses, in whom, like Clemenceau, he could all the time scarcely distinguish the mob from the people. ‘Men have been found to resist the most powerful monarchs and to refuse to bow down before them, but few indeed have been found to resist the crowd, to stand up alone before misguided masses, to face their implacable frenzy without weapons and with folded arms to dare a no when a yes is demanded. Such a man was Zola!’[263]

Scarcely had J’Accuse appeared when the Paris socialists held their first meeting and passed a resolution calling for a revision of the Dreyfus case. But only five days later some thirty-two socialist officials promptly came out with a declaration that the fate of Dreyfus, ‘the class enemy,’ was no concern of theirs. Behind this declaration stood large elements of the party in Paris. Although a split in its ranks continued throughout the Affair, the party numbered enough Dreyfusards to prevent the Ligue Antisémite from thenceforth controlling the streets. A socialist meeting even branded antisemitism ‘a new form of reaction.’ Yet a few months later when the parliamentary elections took place, Jaurès was not returned, and shortly afterwards, when Cavaignac, the minister of war, treated the Chamber to a speech attacking Dreyfus and commending the army as indispensable, the delegates resolved, with only two dissenting votes, to placard the walls of Paris with the text of that address. Similarly, when the great Paris strike broke out in October of the same year, Münster, the German ambassador, was able reliably and confidentially to inform Berlin that ‘as far as the broad masses are concerned, this is in no sense a political issue. The workers are simply out for higher wages and these they are bound to get in the end. As for the Dreyfus case, they have never bothered their heads about it.’[264]

Who then, in broad terms, were the supporters of Dreyfus? Who were the 300,000 Frenchmen who so eagerly devoured Zola’s J’Accuse and who followed religiously the editorials of Clemenceau? Who were the men who finally succeeded in splitting every class, even every family, in France into opposing factions over the Dreyfus issue? The answer is that they formed no party or homogeneous group. Admittedly they were recruited more from the lower than from the upper classes, as they comprised, characteristically enough, more physicians than lawyers or civil servants. By and large, however, they were a mixture of diverse elements: men as far apart as Zola and Péguy or Jaurès and Picquart, men who on the morrow would part company and go their several ways. ‘They come from political parties and religious communities who have nothing in common, who are even in conflict with each other … Those men do not know each other. They have fought and on occasion will fight again. Do not deceive yourselves; those are the “elite” of the French democracy.’[265]

Had Clemenceau possessed enough self-confidence at that time to consider only those who heeded him the true people of France, he would not have fallen prey to that fatal pride which marked the rest of his career. Out of his experiences in the Dreyfus Affair grew his despair of the people, his contempt for men, finally his belief that he and he alone would be able to save the republic. He could never stoop to play the claque to the antics of the mob. Therefore, once he began to identify the mob with the people, he did indeed cut the ground from under his feet, and forced himself into that grim aloofness which thereafter distinguished him.

The disunity of the French people was apparent in each family. Characteristically enough, it found political expression only in the ranks of the Labor party. All others, as well as all parliamentary groups, were solidly against Dreyfus at the beginning of the campaign for a retrial. All this means, however, is that the bourgeois parties no longer represented the true feelings of the electorate, for the same disunity that was so patent among the socialists obtained among almost all sections of the populace. Everywhere a minority existed which took up Clemenceau’s plea for justice, and this heterogeneous minority made up the Dreyfusards. Their fight against the army and the corrupt complicity of the republic which backed it was the dominating factor in French internal politics from the end of 1897 until the opening of the Exposition in 1900. It also exerted an appreciable influence on the nation’s foreign policy. Nevertheless, this entire struggle, which was to result eventually in at least a partial triumph, took place exclusively outside of Parliament. In that so-called representative assembly, comprising as it did a full 600 delegates drawn from every shade and color both of labor and of the bourgeoisie, there were in 1898 but two supporters of Dreyfus and one of them, Jaurès, was not re-elected.

The disturbing thing about the Dreyfus Affair is that it was not only the mob which had to work along extraparliamentary lines. The entire minority, fighting as it was for Parliament, democracy, and the republic, was likewise constrained to wage its battle outside the Chamber. The only difference between the two elements was that while the one used the streets, the other resorted to the press and the courts. In other words, the whole of France’s political life during the Dreyfus crisis was carried on outside Parliament. Nor do the several parliamentary votes in favor of the army and against a retrial in any way invalidate this conclusion. It is significant to remember that when parliamentary feeling began to turn, shortly before the opening of the Paris Exposition, Minister of War Gallifet was able to declare truthfully that this in no wise represented the mood of the country.[266] On the other hand the vote against a retrial must not be construed as an endorsement of the coup d’état policy which the Jesuits and certain radical antisemites were trying to introduce with the help of the army.[267] It was due, rather, to plain resistance against any change in the status quo. As a matter of fact, an equally overwhelming majority of the Chamber would have rejected a military-clerical dictatorship.

Those members of Parliament who had learned to regard politics as the professional representation of vested interests were naturally anxious to preserve that state of affairs upon which their ‘calling’ and their profits depended. The Dreyfus case revealed, moreover, that the people likewise wanted their representatives to look after their own special interests rather than to function as statesmen. It was distinctly unwise to mention the case in election propaganda. Had this been due solely to antisemitism the situation of the Dreyfusards would certainly have been hopeless. In point of fact, during the elections they already enjoyed considerable support among the working class. Nevertheless even those who sided with Dreyfus did not care to see this political question dragged into the elections. It was, indeed, because he insisted on making it the pivot of his campaign that Jaurès lost his seat.

If Clemenceau and the Dreyfusards succeeded in winning over large sections of all classes to the demand of a retrial, the Catholics reacted as a bloc; among them there was no divergence of opinion. What the Jesuits did in steering the aristocracy and the General Staff, was done for the middle and lower classes by the Assumptionists, whose organ, La Croix, enjoyed the largest circulation of all Catholic journals in France.[268] Both centered their agitation against the republic around the Jews. Both represented themselves as defenders of the army and the commonweal against the machinations of ‘international Jewry.’ More striking, however, than the attitude of the Catholics in France was the fact that the Catholic press throughout the world was solidly against Dreyfus. ‘All these journalists marched and are still marching at the word of command of their superiors.’[269] As the case progressed, it became increasingly clear that the agitation against the Jews in France followed an international line. Thus the Civiltà Cattolica declared that Jews must be excluded from the nation everywhere, in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Catholic politicians were among the first to realize that latter-day power politics must be based on the interplay of colonial ambitions. They were therefore the first to link antisemitism to imperialism, declaring that the Jews were agents of England and thereby identifying antagonism toward them with Anglophobia.[270] The Dreyfus case, in which Jews were the central figures, thus afforded them a welcome opportunity to play their game. If England had taken Egypt from the French the Jews were to blame,[271] while the movement for an Anglo-American alliance was due, of course, to ‘Rothschild imperialism.’[272] That the Catholic game was not confined to France became abundantly clear once the curtain was rung down on that particular scene. At the close of 1899, when Dreyfus had been pardoned and when French public opinion had turned round through fear of a projected boycott of the Exposition, only an interview with Pope Leo XIII was needed to stop the spread of antisemitism throughout the world.[273] Even in the United States, where championship of Dreyfus was particularly enthusiastic among the non-Catholics, it was possible to detect in the Catholic press after 1897 a marked resurgence of antisemitic feeling which, however, subsided overnight following the interview with Leo XIII.[274] The ‘grand strategy’ of using antisemitism as an instrument of Catholicism had proved abortive.

V: The Jews and the Dreyfusards

The case of the unfortunate Captain Dreyfus had shown the world that in every Jewish nobleman and multimillionaire there still remained something of the old-time pariah, who has no country, for whom human rights do not exist, and whom society would gladly exclude from its privileges. No one, however, found it more difficult to grasp this fact than the emancipated Jews themselves. ‘It isn’t enough for them,’ wrote Bernard Lazare, ‘to reject any solidarity with their foreign-born brethren; they have also to go charging them with all the evils which their own cowardice engenders. They are not content with being more jingoist than the native Frenchmen; like all emancipated Jews everywhere, they have also of their own volition broken all ties of solidarity. Indeed, they go so far that for the three dozen or so men in France who are ready to defend one of their martyred brethren you can find some thousands ready to stand guard over Devil’s Island, alongside the most rabid patriots of the country.’[275] Precisely because they had played so small a part in the political development of the lands in which they lived, they had come, during the course of the century, to make a fetish of legal equality. To them it was the unquestionable basis of eternal security. When the Dreyfus Affair broke out to warn them that their security was menaced, they were deep in the process of a disintegrating assimilation, through which their lack of political wisdom was intensified rather than otherwise. They were rapidly assimilating themselves to those elements of society in which all political passions are smothered beneath the dead weight of social snobbery, big business, and hitherto unknown opportunities for profit. They hoped to get rid of the antipathy which this tendency had called forth by diverting it against their poor and as yet unassimilated immigrant brethren. Using the same tactics as Gentile society had employed against them they took pains to dissociate themselves from the so-called Ostjuden. Political antisemitism, as it had manifested itself in the pogroms of Russia and Rumania, they dismissed airily as a survival from the Middle Ages, scarcely a reality of modern politics. They could never understand that more was at stake in the Dreyfus Affair than mere social status, if only because more than mere social antisemitism had been brought to bear.

These then are the reasons why so few wholehearted supporters of Dreyfus were to be found in the ranks of French Jewry. The Jews, including the very family of the accused, shrank from starting a political fight. On just these grounds, Labori, counsel for Zola, was refused the defense before the Rennes tribunal, while Dreyfus’ second lawyer, Démange, was constrained to base his plea on the issue of doubt. It was hoped thereby to smother under a deluge of compliments any possible attack from the army or its officers. The idea was that the royal road to an acquittal was to pretend that the whole thing boiled down to the possibility of a judicial error, the victim of which just happened by chance to be a Jew. The result was a second verdict and Dreyfus, refusing to face the true issue, was induced to renounce a retrial and instead to petition for clemency, that is, to plead guilty.[276] The Jews failed to see that what was involved was an organized fight against them on a political front. They therefore resisted the co-operation of men who were prepared to meet the challenge on this basis. How blind their attitude was is shown clearly by the case of Clemenceau. Clemenceau’s struggle for justice as the foundation of the state certainly embraced the restoration of equal rights to the Jews. In an age, however, of class struggle on the one hand and rampant jingoism on the other, it would have remained a political abstraction had it not been conceived, at the same time, in actual terms of the oppressed fighting their oppressors. Clemenceau was one of the few true friends modern Jewry has known just because he recognized and proclaimed before the world that Jews were one of the oppressed peoples of Europe. The antisemite tends to see in the Jewish parvenu an upstart pariah; consequently in every huckster he fears a Rothschild and in every shnorrer a parvenu. But Clemenceau, in his consuming passion for justice, still saw the Rothschilds as members of a downtrodden people. His anguish over the national misfortune of France opened his eyes and his heart even to those ‘unfortunates, who pose as leaders of their people and promptly leave them in the lurch,’ to those cowed and subdued elements who, in their ignorance, weakness and fear, have been so much bedazzled by admiration of the stronger as to exclude them from partnership in any active struggle and who are able to ‘rush to the aid of the winner’ only when the battle has been won.[277]

VI: The Pardon and Its Significance

That the Dreyfus drama was a comedy became apparent only in its final act. The deus ex machina who united the disrupted country, turned Parliament in favor of a retrial and eventually reconciled the disparate elements of the people from the extreme right to the socialists, was nothing other than the Paris Exposition of 1900. What Clemenceau’s daily editorials, Zola’s pathos, Jaurès’ speeches, and the popular hatred of clergy and aristocracy had failed to achieve, namely, a change of parliamentary feeling in favor of Dreyfus, was at last accomplished by the fear of a boycott. The same Parliament that a year before had unanimously rejected a retrial, now by a two-thirds majority passed a vote of censure on an Anti-Dreyfus government. In July, 1899, the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet came to power. President Loubet pardoned Dreyfus and liquidated the entire affair. The Exposition was able to open under the brightest of commercial skies and general fraternization ensued: even socialists became eligible for government posts; Millerand, the first socialist minister in Europe, received the portfolio of commerce.

Parliament became the champion of Dreyfus! That was the upshot. For Clemenceau, of course, it was a defeat. To the bitter end he denounced the ambiguous pardon and the even more ambiguous amnesty. ‘All it has done,’ wrote Zola, ‘is to lump together in a single stinking pardon men of honor and hoodlums. All have been thrown into one pot.’[278] Clemenceau remained, as at the beginning, utterly alone. The socialists, above all, Jaurès, welcomed both pardon and amnesty. Did it not insure them a place in the government and a more extensive representation of their special interests? A few months later, in May, 1900, when the success of the Exposition was assured, the real truth at last emerged. All these appeasement tactics were to be at the expense of the Dreyfusards. The motion for a further retrial was defeated 425 to 60, and not even Clemenceau’s own government in 1906 could change the situation; it did not dare to entrust the retrial to a normal court of law. The (illegal) acquittal through the Court of Appeals was a compromise. But defeat for Clemenceau did not mean victory for the Church and the army. The separation of Church and State and the ban on parochial education brought to an end the political influence of Catholicism in France. Similarly, the subjection of the intelligence service to the ministry of war, i.e., to the civil authority, robbed the army of its blackmailing influence on cabinet and Chamber and deprived it of any justification for conducting police inquiries on its own account.

In 1909 Drumont stood for the Academy. Once his antisemitism had been lauded by the Catholics and acclaimed by the people. Now, however, the ‘greatest historian since Fustel’ (Lemaître) was obliged to yield to Marcel Prévost, author of the somewhat pornographic Demi-Vierges, and the new ‘immortal’ received the congratulations of the Jesuit Father Du Lac.[279] Even the Society of Jesus had composed its quarrel with the Third Republic. The close of the Dreyfus case marked the end of clerical antisemitism. The compromise adopted by the Third Republic cleared the defendant without granting him a regular trial, while it restricted the activities of Catholic organizations. Whereas Bernard Lazare had asked equal rights for both sides, the state had allowed one exception for the Jews and another which threatened the freedom of conscience of Catholics.[280] The parties which were really in conflict were both placed outside the law, with the result that the Jewish question on the one hand and political Catholicism on the other were banished thenceforth from the arena of practical politics.

Thus closes the only episode in which the subterranean forces of the nineteenth century enter the full light of recorded history. The only visible result was that it gave birth to the Zionist movement – the only political answer Jews have ever found to antisemitism and the only ideology in which they have ever taken seriously a hostility that would place them in the center of world events.



Part Two. IMPERIALISM

I would annex the planets if I could.

Cecil Rhodes

Chapter Five. The Political Emancipation of the Bourgeoisie

The three decades from 1884 to 1914 separate the nineteenth century, which ended with the scramble for Africa and the birth of the pan-movements, from the twentieth, which began with the first World War. This is the period of Imperialism, with its stagnant quiet in Europe and breath-taking developments in Asia and Africa.[281] Some of the fundamental aspects of this time appear so close to totalitarian phenomena of the twentieth century that it may be justifiable to consider the whole period a preparatory stage for coming catastrophes. Its quiet, on the other hand, makes it appear still very much a part of the nineteenth century. We can hardly avoid looking at this close and yet distant past with the too-wise eyes of those who know the end of the story in advance, who know it led to an almost complete break in the continuous flow of Western history as we had known it for more than two thousand years. But we must also admit a certain nostalgia for what can still be called a ‘golden age of security,’ for an age, that is, when even horrors were still marked by a certain moderation and controlled by respectability, and therefore could be related to the general appearance of sanity. In other words, no matter how close to us this past is, we are perfectly aware that our experience of concentration camps and death factories is as remote from its general atmosphere as it is from any other period in Western history.

The central inner-European event of the imperialist period was the political emancipation of the bourgeoisie, which up to then had been the first class in history to achieve economic pre-eminence without aspiring to political rule. The bourgeoisie had developed within, and together with, the nation-state, which almost by definition ruled over and beyond a class-divided society. Even when the bourgeoisie had already established itself as the ruling class, it had left all political decisions to the state. Only when the nation-state proved unfit to be the framework for the further growth of capitalist economy did the latent fight between state and society become openly a struggle for power. During the imperialist period neither the state nor the bourgeoisie won a decisive victory. National institutions resisted throughout the brutality and megalomania of imperialist aspirations, and bourgeois attempts to use the state and its instruments of violence for its own economic purposes were always only half successful. This changed when the German bourgeoisie staked everything on the Hitler movement and aspired to rule with the help of the mob, but then it turned out to be too late. The bourgeoisie succeeded in destroying the nation-state but won a Pyrrhic victory; the mob proved quite capable of taking care of politics by itself and liquidated the bourgeoisie along with all other classes and institutions.

I: Expansion and the Nation-State

‘Expansion is everything,’ said Cecil Rhodes, and fell into despair, for every night he saw overhead ‘these stars … these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could.’[282] He had discovered the moving principle of the new, the imperialist era (within less than two decades, British colonial possessions increased by 4½ million square miles and 66 million inhabitants, the French nation gained 3½ million square miles and 26 million people, the Germans won a new empire of a million square miles and 13 million natives, and Belgium through her king acquired 900,000 square miles with 8½ million population[283]); and yet in a flash of wisdom Rhodes recognized at the same moment its inherent insanity and its contradiction to the human condition. Naturally, neither insight nor sadness changed his policies. He had no use for the flashes of wisdom that led him so far beyond the normal capacities of an ambitious businessman with a marked tendency toward megalomania.

‘World politics is for a nation what megalomania is for an individual,’[284] said Eugen Richter (leader of the German progressive party) at about the same historical moment. But his opposition in the Reichstag to Bismarck’s proposal to support private companies in the foundation of trading and maritime stations, showed clearly that he understood the economic needs of a nation in his time even less than Bismarck himself. It looked as though those who opposed or ignored imperialism – like Eugen Richter in Germany, or Gladstone in England, or Clemenceau in France – had lost touch with reality and did not realize that trade and economics had already involved every nation in world politics. The national principle was leading into provincial ignorance and the battle fought by sanity was lost.

Moderation and confusion were the only rewards of any statesman’s consistent opposition to imperialist expansion. Thus Bismarck, in 1871, rejected the offer of French possessions in Africa in exchange for Alsace-Lorraine, and twenty years later acquired Heligoland from Great Britain in return for Uganda, Zanzibar, and Vitu – two kingdoms for a bathtub, as the German imperialists told him, not without justice. Thus in the eighties Clemenceau opposed the imperialist party in France when they wanted to send an expeditionary force to Egypt against the British, and thirty years later he surrendered the Mosul oil fields to England for the sake of a French-British alliance. Thus Gladstone was being denounced by Cromer in Egypt as ‘not a man to whom the destinies of the British Empire could safely be entrusted.’

That statesmen, who thought primarily in terms of the established national territory, were suspicious of imperialism was justified enough, except that more was involved than what they called ‘overseas adventures.’ They knew by instinct rather than by insight that this new expansion movement, in which ‘patriotism … is best expressed in money-making’ (Huebbe-Schleiden) and the national flag is a ‘commercial asset’ (Rhodes), could only destroy the political body of the nation-state. Conquest as well as empire building had fallen into disrepute for very good reasons. They had been carried out successfully only by governments which, like the Roman Republic, were based primarily on law, so that conquest could be followed by integration of the most heterogeneous peoples by imposing upon them a common law. The nation-state, however, based upon a homogeneous population’s active consent to its government (‘le plébiscite de tous les jours[285]), lacked such a unifying principle and would, in the case of conquest, have to assimilate rather than to integrate, to enforce consent rather than justice, that is, to degenerate into tyranny. Robespierre was already well aware of this when he exclaimed: ‘Périssent les colonies si elles nous en coûtent l’honneur, la liberté.

Expansion as a permanent and supreme aim of politics is the central political idea of imperialism. Since it implies neither temporary looting nor the more lasting assimilation of conquest, it is an entirely new concept in the long history of political thought and action. The reason for this surprising originality – surprising because entirely new concepts are very rare in politics – is simply that this concept is not really political at all, but has its origin in the realm of business speculation, where expansion meant the permanent broadening of industrial production and economic transactions characteristic of the nineteenth century.

In the economic sphere, expansion was an adequate concept because industrial growth was a working reality. Expansion meant increase in actual production of goods to be used and consumed. The processes of production are as unlimited as the capacity of man to produce for, establish, furnish, and improve on the human world. When production and economic growth slowed down, their limits were not so much economic as political, insofar as production depended on, and products were shared by, many different peoples who were organized in widely differing political bodies.

Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came up against national limitations to its economic expansion. The bourgeoisie turned to politics out of economic necessity; for if it did not want to give up the capitalist system whose inherent law is constant economic growth, it had to impose this law upon its home governments and to proclaim expansion to be an ultimate political goal of foreign policy.

With the slogan ‘expansion for expansion’s sake,’ the bourgeoisie tried and partly succeeded in persuading their national governments to enter upon the path of world politics. The new policy they proposed seemed for a moment to find its natural limitations and balances in the very fact that several nations started their expansions simultaneously and competitively. Imperialism in its initial stages could indeed still be described as a struggle of ‘competing empires’ and distinguished from the ‘idea of empire in the ancient and medieval world (which) was that of a federation of States, under a hegemony, covering … the entire recognized world.’[286] Yet such a competition was only one of the many remnants of a past era, a concession to that still prevailing national principle according to which mankind is a family of nations vying for excellence, or to the liberal belief that competition will automatically set up its own stabilizing predetermined limits before one competitor has liquidated all the others. This happy balance, however, had hardly been the inevitable outcome of mysterious economic laws, but had relied heavily on political, and even more on police institutions that prevented competitors from using revolvers. How a competition between fully armed business concerns – ‘empires’ – could end in anything but victory for one and death for the others is difficult to understand. In other words, competition is no more a principle of politics than expansion, and needs political power just as badly for control and restraint.

In contrast to the economic structure, the political structure cannot be expanded indefinitely, because it is not based upon the productivity of man, which is, indeed, unlimited. Of all forms of government and organizations of people, the nation-state is least suited for unlimited growth because the genuine consent at its base cannot be stretched indefinitely, and is only rarely, and with difficulty, won from conquered peoples. No nation-state could with a clear conscience ever try to conquer foreign peoples, since such a conscience comes only from the conviction of the conquering nation that it is imposing a superior law upon barbarians.[287] The nation, however, conceived of its law as an outgrowth of a unique national substance which was not valid beyond its own people and the boundaries of its own territory.

Wherever the nation-state appeared as conqueror, it aroused national consciousness and desire for sovereignty among the conquered people, thereby defeating all genuine attempts at empire building. Thus the French incorporated Algeria as a province of the mother country, but could not bring themselves to impose their own laws upon an Arab people. They continued rather to respect Islamic law and granted their Arab citizens ‘personal status,’ producing the nonsensical hybrid of a nominally French territory, legally as much a part of France as the Département de la Seine, whose inhabitants are not French citizens.

The early British ‘empire builders,’ putting their trust in conquest as a permanent method of rule, were never able to incorporate their nearest neighbors, the Irish, into the far-flung structure either of the British Empire or the British Commonwealth of Nations; but when, after the last war, Ireland was granted dominion status and welcomed as a full-fledged member of the British Commonwealth, the failure was just as real, if less palpable. The oldest ‘possession’ and newest dominion unilaterally denounced its dominion status (in 1937) and severed all ties with the English nation when it refused to participate in the war. England’s rule by permanent conquest, since it ‘simply failed to destroy’ Ireland (Chesterton), had not so much aroused her own ‘slumbering genius of imperialism’[288] as it had awakened the spirit of national resistance in the Irish.

The national structure of the United Kingdom had made quick assimilation and incorporation of the conquered peoples impossible; the British Commonwealth was never a ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ but the heir of the United Kingdom, one nation dispersed throughout the world. Dispersion and colonization did not expand, but transplanted, the political structure, with the result that the members of the new federated body remained closely tied to their common mother country for sound reasons of common past and common law. The Irish example proves how ill fitted the United Kingdom was to build an imperial structure in which many different peoples could live contentedly together.[289] The British nation proved to be adept not at the Roman art of empire building but at following the Greek model of colonization. Instead of conquering and imposing their own law upon foreign peoples, the English colonists settled on newly won territory in the four corners of the world and remained members of the same British nation.[290] Whether the federated structure of the Commonwealth, admirably built on the reality of one nation dispersed over the earth, will be sufficiently elastic to balance the nation’s inherent difficulties in empire building and to admit permanently non-British peoples as full-fledged ‘partners in the concern’ of the Commonwealth, remains to be seen. The present dominion status of India – a status, by the way, flatly refused by Indian nationalists during the war – has frequently been considered to be a temporary and transitory solution.[291]

The inner contradiction between the nation’s body politic and conquest as a political device has been obvious since the failure of the Napoleonic dream. It is due to this experience and not to humanitarian considerations that conquest has since been officially condemned and has played a minor role in the adjustment of borderline conflicts. The Napoleonic failure to unite Europe under the French flag was a clear indication that conquest by a nation led either to the full awakening of the conquered people’s national consciousness and to consequent rebellion against the conqueror, or to tyranny. And though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.

The French, in contrast to the British and all other nations in Europe, actually tried in recent times to combine ius with imperium and to build an empire in the old Roman sense. They alone at least attempted to develop the body politic of the nation into an imperial political structure, believed that ‘the French nation (was) marching … to spread the benefits of French civilization’; they wanted to incorporate overseas possessions into the national body by treating the conquered peoples as ‘both … brothers and … subjects – brothers in the fraternity of a common French civilization, and subjects in that they are disciples of French light and followers of French leading.’[292] This was partly carried out when colored delegates took their seats in the French Parliament and when Algeria was declared to be a department of France.

The result of this daring enterprise was a particularly brutal exploitation of overseas possessions for the sake of the nation. All theories to the contrary, the French Empire actually was evaluated from the point of view of national defense,[293] and the colonies were considered lands of soldiers which could produce a force noire to protect the inhabitants of France against their national enemies. Poincaré’s famous phrase in 1923, ‘France is not a country of forty millions; she is a country of one hundred millions,’ pointed simply to the discovery of an ‘economical form of gunfodder, turned out by mass-production methods.’[294] When Clemenceau insisted at the peace table in 1918 that he cared about nothing but ‘an unlimited right of levying black troops to assist in the defense of French territory in Europe if France were attacked in the future by Germany,’[295] he did not save the French nation from German aggression, as we are now unfortunately in a position to know, although his plan was carried out by the General Staff; but he dealt a death-blow to the still dubious possibility of a French Empire.[296] Compared with this blind desperate nationalism, British imperialists compromising on the mandate system looked like guardians of the self-determination of peoples. And this despite the fact that they started at once to misuse the mandate system by ‘indirect rule,’ a method which permits the administrator to govern a people ‘not directly but through the medium of their own tribal and local authorities.’[297]

The British tried to escape the dangerous inconsistency inherent in the nation’s attempt at empire building by leaving the conquered peoples to their own devices as far as culture, religion, and law were concerned, by staying aloof and refraining from spreading British law and culture. This did not prevent the natives from developing national consciousness and from clamoring for sovereignty and independence – though it may have retarded the process somewhat. But it has strengthened tremendously the new imperialist consciousness of a fundamental, and not just a temporary, superiority of man over man, of the ‘higher’ over the ‘lower breeds.’ This in turn exacerbated the subject peoples’ fight for freedom and blinded them to the unquestionable benefits of British rule. From the very aloofness of their administrators who, ‘despite their genuine respect for the natives as a people, and in some cases even their love for them … almost to a man, do not believe that they are or ever will be capable of governing themselves without supervision,’[298] the ‘natives’ could not but conclude that they were being excluded and separated from the rest of mankind forever.

Imperialism is not empire building and expansion is not conquest. The British conquerors, the old ‘breakers of law in India’ (Burke), had little in common with the exporters of British money or the administrators of the Indian peoples. If the latter had changed from applying decrees to the making of laws, they might have become empire builders. The point, however, is that the English nation was not interested in this and would hardly have supported them. As it was, the imperialist-minded businessmen were followed by civil servants who wanted ‘the African to be left an African,’ while quite a few, who had not yet outgrown what Harold Nicolson once called their ‘boyhood-ideals,’[299] wanted to help them to ‘become a better African’[300] – whatever that may mean. In no case were they ‘disposed to apply the administrative and political system of their own country to the government of backward populations,’[301] and to tie the far-flung possessions of the British Crown to the English nation.

In contrast to true imperial structures, where the institutions of the mother country are in various ways integrated into the empire, it is characteristic of imperialism that national institutions remain separate from the colonial administration although they are allowed to exercise control. The actual motivation for this separation was a curious mixture of arrogance and respect: the new arrogance of the administrators abroad who faced ‘backward populations’ or ‘lower breeds’ found its correlative in the respect of old-fashioned statesmen at home who felt that no nation had the right to impose its law upon a foreign people. It was in the very nature of things that the arrogance turned out to be a device for rule, while the respect, which remained entirely negative, did not produce a new way for peoples to live together, but managed only to keep the ruthless imperialist rule by decree within bounds. To the salutary restraint of national institutions and politicians we owe whatever benefits the non-European peoples have been able, after all and despite everything, to derive from Western domination. But the colonial services never ceased to protest against the interference of the ‘inexperienced majority’ – the nation – that tried to press the ‘experienced minority’ – the imperialist administrators – ‘in the direction of imitation,’[302] namely, of government in accordance with the general standards of justice and liberty at home.

That a movement of expansion for expansion’s sake grew up in nation-states which more than any other political bodies were defined by boundaries and the limitations of possible conquest, is one example of the seemingly absurd disparities between cause and effect which have become the hallmark of modern history. The wild confusion of modern historical terminology is only a by-product of these disparities. By comparisons with ancient Empires, by mistaking expansion for conquest, by neglecting the difference between Commonwealth and Empire (which pre-imperialist historians called the difference between plantations and possessions, or colonies and dependencies, or, somewhat later, colonialism and imperialism[303]), by neglecting, in other words, the difference between export of (British) people and export of (British) money,[304] historians tried to dismiss the disturbing fact that so many of the important events in modern history look as though molehills had labored and had brought forth mountains.

Contemporary historians, confronted with the spectacle of a few capitalists conducting their predatory searches round the globe for new investment possibilities and appealing to the profit motives of the much-too-rich and the gambling instincts of the much-too-poor, want to clothe imperialism with the old grandeur of Rome and Alexander the Great, a grandeur which would make all following events more humanly tolerable. The disparity between cause and effect was betrayed in the famous, and unfortunately true, remark that the British Empire was acquired in a fit of absent-mindedness; it became cruelly obvious in our own time when a World War was needed to get rid of Hitler, which was shameful precisely because it was also comic. Something similar was already apparent during the Dreyfus Affair when the best elements in the nation were needed to conclude a struggle which had started as a grotesque conspiracy and ended as a farce.

The only grandeur of imperialism lies in the nation’s losing battle against it. The tragedy of this half-hearted opposition was not that many national representatives could be bought by the new imperialist businessmen; worse than corruption was the fact that the incorruptible were convinced that imperialism was the only way to conduct world politics. Since maritime stations and access to raw materials were really necessary for all nations, they came to believe that annexation and expansion worked for the salvation of the nation. They were the first to fail to understand the fundamental difference between the old foundation of trade and maritime stations for the sake of trade and the new policy of expansion. They believed Cecil Rhodes when he told them to ‘wake up to the fact that you cannot live unless you have the trade of the world,’ ‘that your trade is the world, and your life is the world, and not England,’ and that therefore they ‘must deal with these questions of expansion and retention of the world.’[305] Without wanting to, sometimes even without knowing it, they not only became accomplices in imperialist politics, but were the first to be blamed and exposed for their ‘imperialism.’ Such was the case of Clemenceau who, because he was so desperately worried about the future of the French nation, turned ‘imperialist’ in the hope that colonial manpower would protect French citizens against aggressors.

The conscience of the nation, represented by Parliament and a free press, functioned, and was resented by colonial administrators, in all European countries with colonial possessions – whether England, France, Belgium, Germany, or Holland. In England, in order to distinguish between the imperial government seated in London and controlled by Parliament and colonial administrators, this influence was called the ‘imperial factor,’ thereby crediting imperialism with the merits and remnants of justice it so eagerly tried to eliminate.[306] The ‘imperial factor’ was expressed politically in the concept that the natives were not only protected but in a way represented by the British, the ‘Imperial Parliament.’[307] Here the English came very close to the French experiment in empire building, although they never went so far as to give actual representation to subject peoples. Nevertheless, they obviously hoped that the nation as a whole could act as a kind of trustee for its conquered peoples, and it is true that it invariably tried its best to prevent the worst.

The conflict between the representatives of the ‘imperial factor’ (which should rather be called the national factor) and the colonial administrators runs like a red thread through the history of British imperialism. The ‘prayer’ which Cromer addressed to Lord Salisbury during his administration of Egypt in 1896, ‘save me from the English Departments,’[308] was repeated over and over again, until in the twenties of this century the nation and everything it stood for were openly blamed by the extreme imperialist party for the threatened loss of India. The imperialists had always been deeply resentful that the government of India should have ‘to justify its existence and its policy before public opinion in England’; this control now made it impossible to proceed to those measures of ‘administrative massacres’[309] which, immediately after the close of the first World War, had been tried occasionally elsewhere as a radical means of pacification,[310] and which indeed might have prevented India’s independence.

A similar hostility prevailed in Germany between national representatives and colonial administrators in Africa. In 1897, Carl Peters was removed from his post in German Southeast Africa and had to resign from the government service because of atrocities against the natives. The same thing happened to Governor Zimmerer. And in 1905, the tribal chiefs for the first time addressed their complaints to the Reichstag, with the result that when the colonial administrators threw them into jail, the German Government intervened.[311]

The same was true of French rule. The governors general appointed by the government in Paris were either subject to powerful pressure from French colonials as in Algeria, or simply refused to carry out reforms in the treatment of natives, which were allegedly inspired by ‘the weak democratic principles of (their) government.’[312] Everywhere imperialist administrators felt that the control of the nation was an unbearable burden and threat to domination.

And the imperialists were perfectly right. They knew the conditions of modern rule over subject peoples better than those who on the one hand protested against government by decree and arbitrary bureaucracy and on the other hoped to retain their possessions forever for the greater glory of the nation. The imperialists knew better than nationalists that the body politic of the nation is not capable of empire building. They were perfectly aware that the march of the nation and its conquest of peoples, if allowed to follow its own inherent law, ends with the peoples’ rise to nationhood and the defeat of the conqueror. French methods, therefore, which always tried to combine national aspirations with empire building, were much less successful than British methods, which, after the eighties of the last century, were openly imperialistic, although restrained by a mother country that retained its national democratic institutions.

II: Power and the Bourgeoisie

What imperialists actually wanted was expansion of political power without the foundation of a body politic. Imperialist expansion had been touched off by a curious kind of economic crisis, the overproduction of capital and the emergence of ‘superfluous’ money, the result of oversaving, which could no longer find productive investment within the national borders. For the first time, investment of power did not pave the way for investment of money, but export of power followed meekly in the train of exported money, since uncontrollable investments in distant countries threatened to transform large strata of society into gamblers, to change the whole capitalist economy from a system of production into a system of financial speculation, and to replace the profits of production with profits in commissions. The decade immediately before the imperialist era, the seventies of the last century, witnessed an unparalleled increase in swindles, financial scandals, and gambling in the stock market.

The pioneers in this pre-imperialist development were those Jewish financiers who had earned their wealth outside the capitalist system and had been needed by the growing nation-states for internationally guaranteed loans.[313] With the firm establishment of the tax system that provided for sounder government finances, this group had every reason to fear complete extinction. Having earned their money for centuries through commissions, they were naturally the first to be tempted and invited to serve in the placement of capital which could no longer be invested profitably in the domestic market. The Jewish international financiers seemed indeed especially suited for such essentially international business operations.[314] What is more, the governments themselves, whose assistance in some form was needed for investments in faraway countries, tended in the beginning to prefer the well-known Jewish financiers to newcomers in international finance, many of whom were adventurers.

After the financiers had opened the channels of capital export to the superfluous wealth, which had been condemned to idleness within the narrow framework of national production, it quickly became apparent that the absentee shareholders did not care to take the tremendous risks which corresponded to their tremendously enlarged profits. Against these risks, the commission-earning financiers, even with the benevolent assistance of the state, did not have enough power to insure them: only the material power of a state could do that.

As soon as it became clear that export of money would have to be followed by export of government power, the position of financiers in general, and Jewish financiers in particular, was considerably weakened, and the leadership of imperialist business transactions and enterprise was gradually taken over by members of the native bourgeoisie. Very instructive in this respect is the career of Cecil Rhodes in South Africa, who, an absolute newcomer, in a few years could supplant the all-powerful Jewish financiers in first place. In Germany, Bleichroeder, who in 1885 had still been a co-partner in the founding of the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft, was superseded along with Baron Hirsch when Germany began the construction of the Bagdad railroad, fourteen years later, by the coming giants of imperialist enterprise, Siemens and the Deutsche Bank. Somehow the government’s reluctance to yield real power to Jews and the Jews’ reluctance to engage in business with political implication coincided so well that, despite the great wealth of the Jewish group, no actual struggle for power ever developed after the initial stage of gambling and commission-earning had come to an end.

The various national governments looked with misgiving upon the growing tendency to transform business into a political issue and to identify the economic interests of a relatively small group with national interests as such. But it seemed that the only alternative to export of power was the deliberate sacrifice of a great part of the national wealth. Only through the expansion of the national instruments of violence could the foreign-investment movement be rationalized, and the wild speculations with superfluous capital, which had provoked gambling of all savings, be reintegrated into the economic system of the nation. The state expanded its power because, given the choice between greater losses than the economic body of any country could sustain and greater gains than any people left to its own devices would have dreamed of, it could only choose the latter.

The first consequence of power export was that the state’s instruments of violence, the police and the army, which in the framework of the nation existed beside, and were controlled by, other national institutions, were separated from this body and promoted to the position of national representatives in uncivilized or weak countries. Here, in backward regions without industries and political organization, where violence was given more latitude than in any Western country, the so-called laws of capitalism were actually allowed to create realities. The bourgeoisie’s empty desire to have money beget money as men beget men had remained an ugly dream so long as money had to go the long way of investment in production; not money had begotten money, but men had made things and money. The secret of the new happy fulfillment was precisely that economic laws no longer stood in the way of the greed of the owning classes. Money could finally beget money because power, with complete disregard for all laws – economic as well as ethical – could appropriate wealth. Only when exported money succeeded in stimulating the export of power could it accomplish its owners’ designs. Only the unlimited accumulation of power could bring about the unlimited accumulation of capital.

Foreign investments, capital export which had started as an emergency measure, became a permanent feature of all economic systems as soon as it was protected by export of power. The imperialist concept of expansion, according to which expansion is an end in itself and not a temporary means, made its appearance in political thought when it had become obvious that one of the most important permanent functions of the nation-state would be expansion of power. The state-employed administrators of violence soon formed a new class within the nations and, although their field of activity was far away from the mother country, wielded an important influence on the body politic at home. Since they were actually nothing but functionaries of violence they could only think in terms of power politics. They were the first who, as a class and supported by their everyday experience, would claim that power is the essence of every political structure.

The new feature of this imperialist political philosophy is not the predominant place it gave violence, nor the discovery that power is one of the basic political realities. Violence has always been the ultima ratio in political action and power has always been the visible expression of rule and government. But neither had ever before been the conscious aim of the body politic or the ultimate goal of any definite policy. For power left to itself can achieve nothing but more power, and violence administered for power’s (and not for law’s) sake turns into a destructive principle that will not stop until there is nothing left to violate.

This contradiction, inherent in all ensuing power politics, however, takes on an appearance of sense if one understands it in the context of a supposedly permanent process which has no end or aim but itself. Then the test of achievement can indeed become meaningless and power can be thought of as the never-ending, self-feeding motor of all political action that corresponds to the legendary unending accumulation of money that begets money. The concept of unlimited expansion that alone can fulfill the hope for unlimited accumulation of capital, and brings about the aimless accumulation of power, makes the foundation of new political bodies – which up to the era of imperialism always had been the upshot of conquest – well-nigh impossible. In fact, its logical consequence is the destruction of all living communities, those of the conquered peoples as well as of the people at home. For every political structure, new or old, left to itself develops stabilizing forces which stand in the way of constant transformation and expansion. Therefore all political bodies appear to be temporary obstacles when they are seen as part of an eternal stream of growing power.

While the administrators of permanently increasing power in the past era of moderate imperialism did not even try to incorporate conquered territories, and preserved existing backward political communities like empty ruins of bygone life, their totalitarian successors dissolved and destroyed all politically stabilized structures, their own as well as those of other peoples. The mere export of violence made the servants into masters without giving them the master’s prerogative: the possible creation of something new. Monopolistic concentration and tremendous accumulation of violence at home made the servants active agents in the destruction, until finally totalitarian expansion became a nation- and a people-destroying force.

Power became the essence of political action and the center of political thought when it was separated from the political community which it should serve. This, it is true, was brought about by an economic factor. But the resulting introduction of power as the only content of politics, and of expansion as its only aim, would hardly have met with such universal applause, nor would the resulting dissolution of the nation’s body politic have met with so little opposition, had it not so perfectly answered the hidden desires and secret convictions of the economically and socially dominant classes. The bourgeoisie, so long excluded from government by the nation-state and by their own lack of interest in public affairs, was politically emancipated by imperialism.

Imperialism must be considered the first stage in political rule of the bourgeoisie rather than the last stage of capitalism. It is well known how little the owning classes had aspired to government, how well contented they had been with every type of state that could be trusted with protection of property rights. For them, indeed, the state had always been only a well-organized police force. This false modesty, however, had the curious consequence of keeping the whole bourgeois class out of the body politic; before they were subjects in a monarchy or citizens in a republic, they were essentially private persons. This privateness and primary concern with money-making had developed a set of behavior patterns which are expressed in all those proverbs – ‘nothing succeeds like success,’ ‘might is right,’ ‘right is expediency,’ etc. – that necessarily spring from the experience of a society of competitors.

When, in the era of imperialism, businessmen became politicians and were acclaimed as statesmen, while statesmen were taken seriously only if they talked the language of successful businessmen and ‘thought in continents,’ these private practices and devices were gradually transformed into rules and principles for the conduct of public affairs. The significant fact about this process of revaluation, which began at the end of the last century and is still in effect, is that it began with the application of bourgeois convictions to foreign affairs and only slowly was extended to domestic politics. Therefore, the nations concerned were hardly aware that the recklessness that had prevailed in private life, and against which the public body always had to defend itself and its individual citizens, was about to be elevated to the one publicly honored political principle.

It is significant that modern believers in power are in complete accord with the philosophy of the only great thinker who ever attempted to derive public good from private interest and who, for the sake of private good, conceived and outlined a Commonwealth whose basis and ultimate end is accumulation of power. Hobbes, indeed, is the only great philosopher to whom the bourgeoisie can rightly and exclusively lay claim, even if his principles were not recognized by the bourgeois class for a long time. Hobbes’s Leviathan[315] exposed the only political theory according to which the state is based not on some kind of constituting law – whether divine law, the law of nature, or the law of social contract – which determines the rights and wrongs of the individual’s interest with respect to public affairs, but on the individual interests themselves, so that ‘the private interest is the same with the publique.’[316]

There is hardly a single bourgeois moral standard which has not been anticipated by the unequaled magnificence of Hobbes’s logic. He gives an almost complete picture, not of Man but of the bourgeois man, an analysis which in three hundred years has neither been outdated nor excelled. ‘Reason … is nothing but Reckoning’; ‘a free Subject, a free Will … [are] words … without meaning; that is to say, Absurd.’ A being without reason, without the capacity for truth, and without free will – that is, without the capacity for responsibility – man is essentially a function of society and judged therefore according to his ‘value or worth … his price; that is to say so much as would be given for the use of his power.’ This price is constantly evaluated and re-evaluated by society, the ‘esteem of others,’ depending upon the law of supply and demand.

Power, according to Hobbes, is the accumulated control that permits the individual to fix prices and regulate supply and demand in such a way that they contribute to his own advantage. The individual will consider his advantage in complete isolation, from the point of view of an absolute minority, so to speak; he will then realize that he can pursue and achieve his interest only with the help of some kind of majority. Therefore, if man is actually driven by nothing but his individual interests, desire for power must be the fundamental passion of man. It regulates the relations between individual and society, and all other ambitions as well, for riches, knowledge, and honor follow from it.

Hobbes points out that in the struggle for power, as in their native capacities for power, all men are equal; for the equality of men is based on the fact that each has by nature enough power to kill another. Weakness can be compensated for by guile. Their equality as potential murderers places all men in the same insecurity, from which arises the need for a state. The raison d’être of the state is the need for some security of the individual, who feels himself menaced by all his fellow-men.

The crucial feature in Hobbes’s picture of man is not at all the realistic pessimism for which it has been praised in recent times. For if it were true that man is a being such as Hobbes would have him, he would be unable to found any body politic at all. Hobbes, indeed, does not succeed, and does not even want to succeed, in incorporating this being definitely into a political community. Hobbes’s Man owes no loyalty to his country if it has been defeated and he is excused for every treachery if he happens to be taken prisoner. Those who live outside the Commonwealth (for instance, slaves) have no further obligation toward their fellow-men but are permitted to kill as many as they can; while, on the contrary, ‘to resist the Sword of the Commonwealth in defence of another man, guilty or innocent, no man hath Liberty,’ which means that there is neither fellowship nor responsibility between man and man. What holds them together is a common interest which may be ‘some Capitall crime, for which every one of them expecteth death’; in this case they have the right to ‘resist the Sword of the Commonwealth,’ to ‘joyn together, and assist, and defend one another … For they but defend their lives.’

Thus membership in any form of community is for Hobbes a temporary and limited affair which essentially does not change the solitary and private character of the individual (who has ‘no pleasure, but on the contrary a great deale of griefe in keeping company, where there is no power to overawe them all’) or create permanent bonds between him and his fellow-men. It seems as though Hobbes’s picture of man defeats his purpose of providing the basis for a Commonwealth and gives instead a consistent pattern of attitudes through which every genuine community can easily be destroyed. This results in the inherent and admitted instability of Hobbes’s Commonwealth, whose very conception includes its own dissolution – ‘when in a warre (forraign, or intestine,) the enemies get a final Victory … then is the Commonwealth dissolved, and every man at liberty to protect himself’ – an instability that is all the more striking as Hobbes’s primary and frequently repeated aim was to secure a maximum of safety and stability.

It would be a grave injustice to Hobbes and his dignity as a philosopher to consider this picture of man an attempt at psychological realism or philosophical truth. The fact is that Hobbes is interested in neither, but concerned exclusively with the political structure itself, and he depicts the features of man according to the needs of the Leviathan. For argument’s and conviction’s sake, he presents his political outline as though he started from a realistic insight into man, a being that ‘desires power after power,’ and as though he proceeded from this insight to a plan for a body politic best fitted for this power-thirsty animal. The actual process, i.e., the only process in which his concept of man makes sense and goes beyond the obvious banality of an assumed human wickedness, is precisely the opposite.

This new body politic was conceived for the benefit of the new bourgeois society as it emerged in the seventeenth century and this picture of man is a sketch for the new type of Man who would fit into it. The Commonwealth is based on the delegation of power, and not of rights. It acquires a monopoly on killing and provides in exchange a conditional guarantee against being killed. Security is provided by the law, which is a direct emanation from the power monopoly of the state (and is not established by man according to human standards of right and wrong). And as this law flows directly from absolute power, it represents absolute necessity in the eyes of the individual who lives under it. In regard to the law of the state – that is, the accumulated power of society as monopolized by the state – there is no question of right or wrong, but only absolute obedience, the blind conformism of bourgeois society.

Deprived of political rights, the individual, to whom public and official life manifests itself in the guise of necessity, acquires a new and increased interest in his private life and his personal fate. Excluded from participation in the management of public affairs that involve all citizens, the individual loses his rightful place in society and his natural connection with his fellow-men. He can now judge his individual private life only by comparing it with that of others, and his relations with his fellow-men inside society take the form of competition. Once public affairs are regulated by the state under the guise of necessity, the social or public careers of the competitors come under the sway of chance. In a society of individuals, all equipped by nature with equal capacity for power and equally protected from one another by the state, only chance can decide who will succeed.[317]

According to bourgeois standards, those who are completely unlucky and unsuccessful are automatically barred from competition, which is the life of society. Good fortune is identified with honor, and bad luck with shame. By assigning his political rights to the state the individual also delegates his social responsibilities to it: he asks the state to relieve him of the burden of caring for the poor precisely as he asks for protection against criminals. The difference between pauper and criminal disappears – both stand outside society. The unsuccessful are robbed of the virtue that classical civilization left them; the unfortunate can no longer appeal to Christian charity.

Hobbes liberates those who are excluded from society – the unsuccessful, the unfortunate, the criminal – from every obligation toward society and state if the state does not take care of them. They may give free rein to their desire for power and are told to take advantage of their elemental ability to kill, thus restoring that natural equality which society conceals only for the sake of expediency. Hobbes foresees and justifies the social outcasts’ organization into a gang of murderers as a logical outcome of the bourgeoisie’s moral philosophy.

Since power is essentially only a means to an end a community based solely on power must decay in the calm of order and stability; its complete security reveals that it is built on sand. Only by acquiring more power can it guarantee the status quo; only by constantly extending its authority and only through the process of power accumulation can it remain stable. Hobbes’s Commonwealth is a vacillating structure and must always provide itself with new props from the outside; otherwise it would collapse overnight into the aimless, senseless chaos of the private interests from which it sprang. Hobbes embodies the necessity of power accumulation in the theory of the state of nature, the ‘condition of perpetual war’ of all against all, in which the various single states still remain vis-à-vis each other like their individual subjects before they submitted to the authority of a Commonwealth.[318] This ever-present possibility of war guarantees the Commonwealth a prospect of permanence because it makes it possible for the state to increase its power at the expense of other states.

It would be erroneous to take at its face value the obvious inconsistency between Hobbes’s plea for security of the individual and the inherent instability of his Commonwealth. Here again he tries to persuade, to appeal to certain basic instincts for security which he knew well enough could survive in the subjects of the Leviathan only in the form of absolute submission to the power which ‘over-awes them all,’ that is, in an all-pervading, overwhelming fear – not exactly the basic sentiment of a safe man. What Hobbes actually starts from is an unmatched insight into the political needs of the new social body of the rising bourgeoisie, whose fundamental belief in an unending process of property accumulation was about to eliminate all individual safety. Hobbes drew the necessary conclusions from social and economic behavior patterns when he proposed his revolutionary changes in political constitution. He outlined the only new body politic which could correspond to the new needs and interests of a new class. What he actually achieved was a picture of man as he ought to become and ought to behave if he wanted to fit into the coming bourgeois society.

Hobbes’s insistence on power as the motor of all things human and divine (even God’s reign over men is ‘derived not from Creating them … but from the Irresistible Power’) sprang from the theoretically indisputable proposition that a never-ending accumulation of property must be based on a never-ending accumulation of power. The philosophical correlative of the inherent instability of a community founded on power is the image of an endless process of history which, in order to be consistent with the constant growth of power, inexorably catches up with individuals, peoples, and finally all mankind. The limitless process of capital accumulation needs the political structure of so ‘unlimited a Power’ that it can protect growing property by constantly growing more powerful. Granted the fundamental dynamism of the new social class, it is perfectly true that ‘he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath at present, without the acquisition of more.’ The consistency of this conclusion is in no way altered by the remarkable fact that for some three hundred years there was neither a sovereign who would ‘convert this Truth of Speculation into the Utility of Practice,’ nor a bourgeoisie politically conscious and economically mature enough openly to adopt Hobbes’s philosophy of power.

This process of never-ending accumulation of power necessary for the protection of a never-ending accumulation of capital determined the ‘progressive’ ideology of the late nineteenth century and foreshadowed the rise of imperialism. Not the naïve delusion of a limitless growth of property, but the realization that power accumulation was the only guarantee for the stability of so-called economic laws, made progress irresistible. The eighteenth-century notion of progress, as conceived in pre-revolutionary France, intended criticism of the past to be a means of mastering the present and controlling the future; progress culminated in the emancipation of man. But this notion had little to do with the endless progress of bourgeois society, which not only did not want the liberty and autonomy of man, but was ready to sacrifice everything and everybody to supposedly superhuman laws of history. ‘What we call progress is [the] wind … [that] drives [the angel of history] irresistibly into the future to which he turns his back while the pile of ruins before him towers to the skies.’[319] Only in Marx’s dream of a classless society which, in Joyce’s words, was to awaken mankind from the nightmare of history, does a last, though utopian, trace of the eighteenth-century concept appear.

The imperialist-minded businessman, whom the stars annoyed because he could not annex them, realized that power organized for its own sake would beget more power. When the accumulation of capital had reached its natural, national limits, the bourgeoisie understood that only with an ‘expansion is everything’ ideology, and only with a corresponding power-accumulating process, would it be possible to set the old motor into motion again. At the same moment, however, when it seemed as though the true principle of perpetual motion had been discovered, the specifically optimistic mood of the progress ideology was shaken. Not that anybody began to doubt the irresistibility of the process itself, but many people began to see what had frightened Cecil Rhodes: that the human condition and the limitations of the globe were a serious obstacle to a process that was unable to stop and to stabilize, and could therefore only begin a series of destructive catastrophes once it had reached these limits.

In the imperialistic epoch a philosophy of power became the philosophy of the elite, who quickly discovered and were quite ready to admit that the thirst for power could be quenched only through destruction. This was the essential cause of their nihilism (especially conspicuous in France at the turn, and in Germany in the twenties, of this century) which replaced the superstition of progress with the equally vulgar superstition of doom, and preached automatic annihilation with the same enthusiasm that the fanatics of automatic progress had preached the irresistibility of economic laws. It had taken Hobbes, the great idolator of Success, three centuries to succeed. This was partly because the French Revolution, with its conception of man as lawmaker and citoyen, had almost succeeded in preventing the bourgeoisie from fully developing its notion of history as a necessary process. But it was also partly because of the revolutionary implications of the Commonwealth, its fearless breach with Western tradition, which Hobbes did not fail to point out.

Every man and every thought which does not serve and does not conform to the ultimate purpose of a machine whose only purpose is the generation and accumulation of power is a dangerous nuisance. Hobbes judged that the books of the ‘ancient Greeks and Romans’ were as ‘prejudicial’ as the teaching of a Christian ‘Summum bonum … as [it] is spoken of in the Books of the old Morall Philosophers’ or the doctrine that ‘whatsoever a man does against his Conscience, is Sinne’ and that ‘Lawes are the Rules of Just and Unjust.’ Hobbes’s deep distrust of the whole Western tradition of political thought will not surprise us if we remember that he wanted nothing more nor less than the justification of Tyranny which, though it has occurred many times in Western history, has never been honored with a philosophical foundation. That the Leviathan actually amounts to a permanent government of tyranny, Hobbes is proud to admit: ‘the name of Tyranny signifieth nothing more nor lesse than the name of Soveraignty … I think the toleration of a professed hatred of Tyranny, is a Toleration of hatred to Commonwealth in generall …’

Since Hobbes was a philosopher, he could already detect in the rise of the bourgeoisie all those antitraditionalist qualities of the new class which would take more than three hundred years to develop fully. His Leviathan was not concerned with idle speculation about new political principles or the old search for reason as it governs the community of men; it was strictly a ‘reckoning of the consequences’ that follow from the rise of a new class in society whose existence is essentially tied up with property as a dynamic, new property-producing device. The so-called accumulation of capital which gave birth to the bourgeoisie changed the very conception of property and wealth: they were no longer considered to be the results of accumulation and acquisition but their beginnings; wealth became a never-ending process of getting wealthier. The classification of the bourgeoisie as an owning class is only superficially correct, for a characteristic of this class has been that everybody could belong to it who conceived of life as a process of perpetually becoming wealthier, and considered money as something sacrosanct which under no circumstances should be a mere commodity for consumption.

Property by itself, however, is subject to use and consumption and therefore diminishes constantly. The most radical and the only secure form of possession is destruction, for only what we have destroyed is safely and forever ours. Property owners who do not consume but strive to enlarge their holdings continually find one very inconvenient limitation, the unfortunate fact that men must die. Death is the real reason why property and acquisition can never become a true political principle. A social system based essentially on property cannot possibly proceed toward anything but the final destruction of all property. The finiteness of personal life is as serious a challenge to property as the foundation of society, as the limits of the globe are a challenge to expansion as the foundation of the body politic. By transcending the limits of human life in planning for an automatic continuous growth of wealth beyond all personal needs and possibilities of consumption, individual property is made a public affair and taken out of the sphere of mere private life. Private interests which by their very nature are temporary, limited by man’s natural span of life, can now escape into the sphere of public affairs and borrow from them that infinite length of time which is needed for continuous accumulation. This seems to create a society very similar to that of the ants and bees where ‘the Common good differeth not from the Private; and being by nature enclined to their private, they procure thereby the common benefit.’

Since, however, men are neither ants nor bees, the whole thing is a delusion. Public life takes on the deceptive aspect of a total of private interests as though these interests could create a new quality through sheer addition. All the so-called liberal concepts of politics (that is, all the pre-imperialist political notions of the bourgeoisie) – such as unlimited competition regulated by a secret balance which comes mysteriously from the sum total of competing activities, the pursuit of ‘enlightened self-interest’ as an adequate political virtue, unlimited progress inherent in the mere succession of events – have this in common: they simply add up private lives and personal behavior patterns and present the sum as laws of history, or economics, or politics. Liberal concepts, however, while they express the bourgeoisie’s instinctive distrust of and its innate hostility to public affairs, are only a temporary compromise between the old standards of Western culture and the new class’s faith in property as a dynamic, self-moving principle. The old standards give way to the extent that automatically growing wealth actually replaces political action.

Hobbes was the true, though never fully recognized, philosopher of the bourgeoisie because he realized that acquisition of wealth conceived as a never-ending process can be guaranteed only by the seizure of political power, for the accumulating process must sooner or later force open all existing territorial limits. He foresaw that a society which had entered the path of never-ending acquisition had to engineer a dynamic political organization capable of a corresponding never-ending process of power generation. He even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psychological traits of the new type of man who would fit into such a society and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d’état.

For a Commonwealth based on the accumulated and monopolized power of all its individual members necessarily leaves each person powerless, deprived of his natural and human capacities. It leaves him degraded into a cog in the power-accumulating machine, free to console himself with sublime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of this machine, which itself is constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following its own inherent law.

The ultimate destructive purpose of this Commonwealth is at least indicated in the philosophical interpretation of human equality as an ‘equality of ability’ to kill. Living with all other nations ‘in the condition of a perpetuall war, and upon the confines of battle, with their frontiers armed, and canons planted against their neighbours round about,’ it has no other law of conduct but the ‘most conducing to [its] benefit’ and will gradually devour weaker structures until it comes to a last war ‘which provideth for every man, by Victory, or Death.’

By ‘Victory or Death,’ the Leviathan can indeed overcome all political limitations that go with the existence of other peoples and can envelop the whole earth in its tyranny. But when the last war has come and every man has been provided for, no ultimate peace is established on earth: the power-accumulating machine, without which continual expansion would not have been achieved, needs more material to devour in its never-ending process. If the last victorious Commonwealth cannot proceed to ‘annex the planets,’ it can only proceed to destroy itself in order to begin anew the never-ending process of power generation.

III: The Alliance Between Mob and Capital

When imperialism entered the scene of politics with the scramble for Africa in the eighties, it was promoted by businessmen, opposed fiercely by the governments in power, and welcomed by a surprisingly large section of the educated classes.[320] To the last it seemed to be God-sent, a cure for all evils, an easy panacea for all conflicts. And it is true that imperialism in a sense did not disappoint these hopes. It gave a new lease on life to political and social structures which were quite obviously threatened by new social and political forces and which, under other circumstances, without the interference of imperialist developments, would hardly have needed two world wars to disappear.

As matters stood, imperialism spirited away all troubles and produced that deceptive feeling of security, so universal in pre-war Europe, which deceived all but the most sensitive minds. Péguy in France and Chesterton in England knew instinctively that they lived in a world of hollow pretense and that its stability was the greatest pretense of all. Until everything began to crumble, the stability of obviously outdated political structures was a fact, and their stubborn unconcerned longevity seemed to give the lie to those who felt the ground tremble under their feet. The solution of the riddle was imperialism. The answer to the fateful question: why did the European comity of nations allow this evil to spread until everything was destroyed, the good as well as the bad, is that all governments knew very well that their countries were secretly disintegrating, that the body politic was being destroyed from within, and that they lived on borrowed time.

Innocently enough, expansion appeared first as the outlet for excess capital production and offered a remedy, capital export.[321] The tremendously increased wealth produced by capitalist production under a social system based on maldistribution had resulted in ‘oversaving’ – that is, the accumulation of capital which was condemned to idleness within the existing national capacity for production and consumption. This money was actually superfluous, needed by nobody though owned by a growing class of somebodies. The ensuing crises and depressions during the decades preceding the era of imperialism[322] had impressed upon the capitalists the thought that their whole economic system of production depended upon a supply and demand that from now on must come from ‘outside of capitalist society.’[323] Such supply and demand came from inside the nation, so long as the capitalist system did not control all its classes together with its entire productive capacity. When capitalism had pervaded the entire economic structure and all social strata had come into the orbit of its production and consumption system, capitalists clearly had to decide either to see the whole system collapse or to find new markets, that is, to penetrate new countries which were not yet subject to capitalism and therefore could provide a new noncapitalistic supply and demand.

The decisive point about the depressions of the sixties and seventies, which initiated the era of imperialism, was that they forced the bourgeoisie to realize for the first time that the original sin of simple robbery, which centuries ago had made possible the ‘original accumulation of capital’ (Marx) and had started all further accumulation, had eventually to be repeated lest the motor of accumulation suddenly die down.[324] In the face of this danger, which threatened not only the bourgeoisie but the whole nation with a catastrophic breakdown in production, capitalist producers understood that the forms and laws of their production system ‘from the beginning had been calculated for the whole earth.’[325]

The first reaction to the saturated home market, lack of raw materials, and growing crises, was export of capital. The owners of superfluous wealth first tried foreign investment without expansion and without political control, which resulted in an unparalleled orgy of swindles, financial scandals, and stock-market speculation, all the more alarming since foreign investments grew much more rapidly than domestic ones.[326] Big money resulting from oversaving paved the way for little money, the product of the little fellow’s work. Domestic enterprises, in order to keep pace with high profits from foreign investment, turned likewise to fraudulent methods and attracted an increasing number of people who, in the hope of miraculous returns, threw their money out of the window. The Panama scandal in France, the Gründungsschwindel in Germany and Austria, became classic examples. Tremendous losses resulted from the promises of tremendous profits. The owners of little money lost so much so quickly that the owners of superfluous big capital soon saw themselves left alone in what was, in a sense, a battlefield. Having failed to change the whole society into a community of gamblers they were again superfluous, excluded from the normal process of production to which, after some turmoil, all other classes returned quietly, if somewhat impoverished and embittered.[327]

Export of money and foreign investment as such are not imperialism and do not necessarily lead to expansion as a political device. As long as the owners of superfluous capital were content with investing ‘large portions of their property in foreign lands,’ even if this tendency ran ‘counter to all past traditions of nationalism,’[328] they merely confirmed their alienation from the national body on which they were parasites anyway. Only when they demanded government protection of their investments (after the initial stage of swindle had opened their eyes to the possible use of politics against the risks of gambling) did they re-enter the life of the nation. In this appeal, however, they followed the established tradition of bourgeois society, always to consider political institutions exclusively as an instrument for the protection of individual property.[329] Only the fortunate coincidence of the rise of a new class of property holders and the industrial revolution had made the bourgeoisie producers and stimulators of production. As long as it fulfilled this basic function in modern society, which is essentially a community of producers, its wealth had an important function for the nation as a whole. The owners of superfluous capital were the first section of the class to want profits without fulfilling some real social function – even if it was the function of an exploiting producer – and whom, consequently, no police could ever have saved from the wrath of the people.

Expansion then was an escape not only for superfluous capital. More important, it protected its owners against the menacing prospect of remaining entirely superfluous and parasitical. It saved the bourgeoisie from the consequences of maldistribution and revitalized its concept of ownership at a time when wealth could no longer be used as a factor in production within the national framework and had come into conflict with the production ideal of the community as a whole.

Older than the superfluous wealth was another by-product of capitalist production: the human debris that every crisis, following invariably upon each period of industrial growth, eliminated permanently from producing society. Men who had become permanently idle were as superfluous to the community as the owners of superfluous wealth. That they were an actual menace to society had been recognized throughout the nineteenth century and their export had helped to populate the dominions of Canada and Australia as well as the United States. The new fact in the imperialist era is that these two superfluous forces, superfluous capital and superfluous working power, joined hands and left the country together. The concept of expansion, the export of government power and annexation of every territory in which nationals had invested either their wealth or their work, seemed the only alternative to increasing losses in wealth and population. Imperialism and its idea of unlimited expansion seemed to offer a permanent remedy for a permanent evil.[330]

Ironically enough, the first country in which superfluous wealth and superfluous men were brought together was itself becoming superfluous. South Africa had been in British possession since the beginning of the century because it assured the maritime road to India. The opening of the Suez Canal, however, and the subsequent administrative conquest of Egypt, lessened considerably the importance of the old trade station on the Cape. The British would, in all probability, have withdrawn from Africa just as all European nations had done whenever their possessions and trade interests in India were liquidated.

The particular irony and, in a sense, symbolical circumstance in the unexpected development of South Africa into the ‘culture-bed of Imperialism’[331] lies in the very nature of its sudden attractiveness when it had lost all value for the Empire proper: diamond fields were discovered in the seventies and large gold mines in the eighties. The new desire for profit-at-any-price converged for the first time with the old fortune hunt. Prospectors, adventurers, and the scum of the big cities emigrated to the Dark Continent along with capital from industrially developed countries. From now on, the mob, begotten by the monstrous accumulation of capital, accompanied its begetter on those voyages of discovery where nothing was discovered but new possibilities for investment. The owners of superfluous wealth were the only men who could use the superfluous men who came from the four corners of the earth. Together they established the first paradise of parasites whose lifeblood was gold. Imperialism, the product of superfluous money and superfluous men, began its startling career by producing the most superfluous and unreal goods.

It may still be doubtful whether the panacea of expansion would have become so great a temptation for non-imperialists if it had offered its dangerous solutions only for those superfluous forces which, in any case, were already outside the nation’s body corporate. The complicity of all parliamentary parties in imperialist programs is a matter of record. The history of the British Labor Party in this respect is an almost unbroken chain of justifications of Cecil Rhodes’ early prediction: ‘The workmen find that although the Americans are exceedingly fond of them, and are just now exchanging the most brotherly sentiments with them, yet they are shutting out their goods. The workmen also find that Russia, France and Germany locally are doing the same, and the workmen see that if they do not look out they will have no place in the world to trade at all. And so the workmen have become Imperialist and the Liberal Party are following.’[332] In Germany, the liberals (and not the Conservative Party) were the actual promoters of that famous naval policy which contributed so heavily to the outbreak of the first World War.[333] The Socialist Party wavered between active support of the imperialist naval policy (it repeatedly voted funds for the building of a German navy after 1906) and complete neglect of all questions of foreign policy. Occasional warnings against the Lumpenproletariat, and the possible bribing of sections of the working class with crumbs from the imperialist table, did not lead to a deeper understanding of the great appeal which the imperialist programs had to the rank and file of the party. In Marxist terms the new phenomenon of an alliance between mob and capital seemed so unnatural, so obviously in conflict with the doctrine of class struggle, that the actual dangers of the imperialist attempt – to divide mankind into master races and slave races, into higher and lower breeds, into colored peoples and white men, all of which were attempts to unify the people on the basis of the mob – were completely overlooked. Even the breakdown of international solidarity at the outbreak of the first World War did not disturb the complacency of the socialists and their faith in the proletariat as such. Socialists were still probing the economic laws of imperialism when imperialists had long since stopped obeying them, when in overseas countries these laws had been sacrificed to the ‘imperial factor’ or to the ‘race factor,’ and when only a few elderly gentlemen in high finance still believed in the inalienable rights of the profit rate.

The curious weakness of popular opposition to imperialism, the numerous inconsistencies and outright broken promises of liberal statesmen, frequently ascribed to opportunism or bribery, have other and deeper causes. Neither opportunism nor bribery could have persuaded a man like Gladstone to break his promise, as the leader of the Liberal Party, to evacuate Egypt when he became Prime Minister. Half consciously and hardly articulately, these men shared with the people the conviction that the national body itself was so deeply split into classes, that class struggle was so universal a characteristic of modern political life, that the very cohesion of the nation was jeopardized. Expansion again appeared as a lifesaver, if and insofar as it could provide a common interest for the nation as a whole, and it is mainly for this reason that imperialists were allowed to become ‘parasites upon patriotism.’[334]

Partly, of course, such hopes still belonged with the old vicious practice of ‘healing’ domestic conflicts with foreign adventures. The difference, however, is marked. Adventures are by their very nature limited in time and space; they may succeed temporarily in overcoming conflicts, although as a rule they fail and tend rather to sharpen them. From the very beginning the imperialist adventure of expansion appeared to be an eternal solution, because expansion was conceived as unlimited. Furthermore, imperialism was not an adventure in the usual sense, because it depended less on nationalist slogans than on the seemingly solid basis of economic interests. In a society of clashing interests, where the common good was identified with the sum total of individual interests, expansion as such appeared to be a possible common interest of the nation as a whole. Since the owning and dominant classes had convinced everybody that economic interest and the passion for ownership are a sound basis for the body politic, even non-imperialist statesmen were easily persuaded to yield when a common economic interest appeared on the horizon.

These then are the reasons why nationalism developed so clear a tendency toward imperialism, the inner contradiction of the two principles notwithstanding.[335] The more ill-fitted nations were for the incorporation of foreign peoples (which contradicted the constitution of their own body politic), the more they were tempted to oppress them. In theory, there is an abyss between nationalism and imperialism; in practice, it can and has been bridged by tribal nationalism and outright racism. From the beginning, imperialists in all countries preached and boasted of their being ‘beyond the parties,’ and the only ones to speak for the nation as a whole. This was especially true of the Central and Eastern European countries with few or no overseas holdings; there the alliance between mob and capital took place at home and resented even more bitterly (and attacked much more violently) the national institutions and all national parties.[336]

The contemptuous indifference of imperialist politicians to domestic issues was marked everywhere, however, and especially in England. While ‘parties above parties’ like the Primrose League were of secondary influence, imperialism was the chief cause of the degeneration of the two-party system into the Front Bench system, which led to a ‘diminution of the power of opposition’ in Parliament and to a growth of ‘power of the Cabinet as against the House of Commons.’[337] Of course this was also carried through as a policy beyond the strife of parties and particular interests, and by men who claimed to speak for the nation as a whole. Such language was bound to attract and delude precisely those persons who still retained a spark of political idealism. The cry for unity resembled exactly the battle cries which had always led peoples to war; and yet, nobody detected in the universal and permanent instrument of unity the germ of universal and permanent war.

Government officials engaged more actively than any other group in the nationalist brand of imperialism and were chiefly responsible for the confusion of imperialism with nationalism. The nation-states had created and depended upon the civil services as a permanent body of officials who served regardless of class interest and governmental changes. Their professional honor and self-respect – especially in England and Germany – derived from their being servants of the nation as a whole. They were the only group with a direct interest in supporting the state’s fundamental claim to independence of classes and factions. That the authority of the nation-state itself depended largely on the economic independence and political neutrality of its civil servants becomes obvious in our time; the decline of nations has invariably started with the corruption of its permanent administration and the general conviction that civil servants are in the pay, not of the state, but of the owning classes. At the close of the century the owning classes had become so dominant that it was almost ridiculous for a state employee to keep up the pretense of serving the nation. Division into classes left them outside the social body and forced them to form a clique of their own. In the colonial services they escaped the actual disintegration of the national body. In ruling foreign peoples in faraway countries, they could much better pretend to be heroic servants of the nation, ‘who by their services had glorified the British race,’[338] than if they had stayed at home. The colonies were no longer simply ‘a vast system of outdoor relief for the upper classes’ as James Mill could still describe them; they were to become the very backbone of British nationalism, which discovered in the domination of distant countries and the rule over strange peoples the only way to serve British, and nothing but British, interests. The services actually believed that ‘the peculiar genius of each nation shows itself nowhere more clearly than in their system of dealing with subject races.’[339]

The truth was that only far from home could a citizen of England, Germany, or France be nothing but an Englishman or German or Frenchman. In his own country he was so entangled in economic interests or social loyalties that he felt closer to a member of his class in a foreign country than to a man of another class in his own. Expansion gave nationalism a new lease on life and therefore was accepted as an instrument of national politics. The members of the new colonial societies and imperialist leagues felt ‘far removed from the strife of parties,’ and the farther away they moved the stronger their belief that they ‘represented only a national purpose.’[340] This shows the desperate state of the European nations before imperialism, how fragile their institutions had become, how outdated their social system proved in the face of man’s growing capacity to produce. The means for preservation were desperate too, and in the end the remedy proved worse than the evil – which, incidentally, it did not cure.

The alliance between capital and mob is to be found at the genesis of every consistently imperialist policy. In some countries, particularly in Great Britain, this new alliance between the much-too-rich and the much-too-poor was and remained confined to overseas possessions. The so-called hypocrisy of British policies was the result of the good sense of English statesmen who drew a sharp line between colonial methods and normal domestic policies, thereby avoiding with considerable success the feared boomerang effect of imperialism upon the homeland. In other countries, particularly in Germany and Austria, the alliance took effect at home in the form of pan-movements, and to a lesser extent in France, in a so-called colonial policy. The aim of these ‘movements’ was, so to speak, to imperialize the whole nation (and not only the ‘superfluous’ part of it), to combine domestic and foreign policy in such a way as to organize the nation for the looting of foreign territories and the permanent degradation of alien peoples.

The rise of the mob out of the capitalist organization was observed early, and its growth carefully and anxiously noted by all great historians of the nineteenth century. Historical pessimism from Burckhardt to Spengler springs essentially from this consideration. But what the historians, sadly preoccupied with the phenomenon in itself, failed to grasp was that the mob could not be identified with the growing industrial working class, and certainly not with the people as a whole, but that it was composed actually of the refuse of all classes. This composition made it seem that the mob and its representatives had abolished class differences, that those standing outside the class-divided nation were the people itself (the Volksgemeinschaft, as the Nazis would call it) rather than its distortion and caricature. The historical pessimists understood the essential irresponsibility of this new social stratum, and they also correctly foresaw the possibility of converting democracy into a despotism whose tyrants would rise from the mob and lean on it for support. What they failed to understand was that the mob is not only the refuse but also the by-product of bourgeois society, directly produced by it and therefore never quite separable from it. They failed for this reason to notice high society’s constantly growing admiration for the underworld, which runs like a red thread through the nineteenth century, its continuous step-by-step retreat on all questions of morality, and its growing taste for the anarchical cynicism of its offspring. At the turn of the century, the Dreyfus Affair showed that underworld and high society in France were so closely bound together that it was difficult definitely to place any of the ‘heroes’ among the Anti-Dreyfusards in either category.

This feeling of kinship, the joining together of begetter and offspring, already classically expressed in Balzac’s novels, antedates all practical economic, political, or social considerations and recalls those fundamental psychological traits of the new type of Western man that Hobbes outlined three hundred years ago. But it is true that it was mainly due to the insights acquired by the bourgeoisie during the crises and depressions which preceded imperialism that high society finally admitted its readiness to accept the revolutionary change in moral standards which Hobbes’s ‘realism’ had proposed, and which was now being proposed anew by the mob and its leaders. The very fact that the ‘original sin’ of ‘original accumulation of capital’ would need additional sins to keep the system going was far more effective in persuading the bourgeoisie to shake off the restraints of Western tradition than either its philosopher or its underworld. It finally induced the German bourgeoisie to throw off the mask of hypocrisy and openly confess its relationship to the mob, calling on it expressly to champion its property interests.

It is significant that this should have happened in Germany. In England and Holland the development of bourgeois society had progressed relatively quietly and the bourgeoisie of these countries enjoyed centuries of security and freedom from fear. Its rise in France, however, was interrupted by a great popular revolution whose consequences interfered with the bourgeoisie’s enjoyment of supremacy. In Germany, moreover, where the bourgeoisie did not reach full development until the latter half of the nineteenth century, its rise was accompanied from the start by the growth of a revolutionary working-class movement with a tradition nearly as old as its own. It was a matter of course that the less secure a bourgeois class felt in its own country, the more it would be tempted to shed the heavy burden of hypocrisy. High society’s affinity with the mob came to light in France earlier than in Germany, but was in the end equally strong in both countries. France, however, because of her revolutionary traditions and her relative lack of industrialization, produced only a relatively small mob, so that her bourgeoisie was finally forced to look for help beyond the frontiers and to ally itself with Hitler Germany.

Whatever the precise nature of the long historical evolution of the bourgeoisie in the various European countries, the political principles of the mob, as encountered in imperialist ideologies and totalitarian movements, betray a surprisingly strong affinity with the political attitudes of bourgeois society, if the latter are cleansed of hypocrisy and untainted by concessions to Christian tradition. What more recently made the nihilistic attitudes of the mob so intellectually attractive to the bourgeoisie is a relationship of principle that goes far beyond the actual birth of the mob.

In other words, the disparity between cause and effect which characterized the birth of imperialism has its reasons. The occasion – superfluous wealth created by overaccumulation, which needed the mob’s help to find safe and profitable investment – set in motion a force that had always lain in the basic structure of bourgeois society, though it had been hidden by nobler traditions and by that blessed hypocrisy which La Rochefoucauld called the compliment vice pays to virtue. At the same time, completely unprincipled power politics could not be played until a mass of people was available who were free of all principles and so large numerically that they surpassed the ability of state and society to take care of them. The fact that this mob could be used only by imperialist politicians and inspired only by racial doctrines made it appear as though imperialism alone were able to settle the grave domestic, social, and economic problems of modern times.

The philosophy of Hobbes, it is true, contains nothing of modern race doctrines, which not only stir up the mob, but in their totalitarian form outline very clearly the forms of organization through which humanity could carry the endless process of capital and power accumulation through to its logical end in self-destruction. But Hobbes at least provided political thought with the prerequisite for all race doctrines, that is, the exclusion in principle of the idea of humanity which constitutes the sole regulating idea of international law. With the assumption that foreign politics is necessarily outside of the human contract, engaged in the perpetual war of all against all, which is the law of the ‘state of nature,’ Hobbes affords the best possible theoretical foundation for those naturalistic ideologies which hold nations to be tribes, separated from each other by nature, without any connection whatever, unconscious of the solidarity of mankind and having in common only the instinct for self-preservation which man shares with the animal world. If the idea of humanity, of which the most conclusive symbol is the common origin of the human species, is no longer valid, then nothing is more plausible than a theory according to which brown, yellow, or black races are descended from some other species of apes than the white race, and that all together are predestined by nature to war against each other until they have disappeared from the face of the earth.

If it should prove to be true that we are imprisoned in Hobbes’s endless process of power accumulation, then the organization of the mob will inevitably take the form of transformation of nations into races, for there is, under the conditions of an accumulating society, no other unifying bond available between individuals who in the very process of power accumulation and expansion are losing all natural connections with their fellow-men.

Racism may indeed carry out the doom of the Western world and, for that matter, of the whole of human civilization. When Russians have become Slavs, when Frenchmen have assumed the role of commanders of a force noire, when Englishmen have turned into ‘white men,’ as already for a disastrous spell all Germans became Aryans, then this change will itself signify the end of Western man. For no matter what learned scientists may say, race is, politically speaking, not the beginning of humanity but its end, not the origin of peoples but their decay, not the natural birth of man but his unnatural death.

Chapter Six. Race-Thinking Before Racism

If race-thinking were a German invention, as it has been sometimes asserted, then ‘German thinking’ (whatever that may be) was victorious in many parts of the spiritual world long before the Nazis started their ill-fated attempt at world conquest. Hitlerism exercised its strong international and inter-European appeal during the thirties because racism, although a state doctrine only in Germany, had been a powerful trend in public opinion everywhere. The Nazi political war machine had long been in motion when in 1939 German tanks began their march of destruction, since – in political warfare – racism was calculated to be a more powerful ally than any paid agent or secret organization of fifth columnists. Strengthened by the experiences of almost two decades in the various capitals, the Nazis were confident that their best ‘propaganda’ would be their racial policy itself, from which, despite many other compromises and broken promises, they had never swerved for expediency’s sake.[341] Racism was neither a new nor a secret weapon, though never before had it been used with this thoroughgoing consistency.

The historical truth of the matter is that race-thinking, with its roots deep in the eighteenth century, emerged simultaneously in all Western countries during the nineteenth century. Racism has been the powerful ideology of imperialistic policies since the turn of our century. It certainly has absorbed and revived all the old patterns of race opinions which, however, by themselves would hardly have been able to create or, for that matter, to degenerate into racism as a Weltanschauung or an ideology. In the middle of the last century, race opinions were still judged by the yardstick of political reason: Tocqueville wrote to Gobineau about the latter’s doctrines, ‘They are probably wrong and certainly pernicious.’[342] Not until the end of the century were dignity and importance accorded race-thinking as though it had been one of the major spiritual contributions of the Western world.[343]

Until the fateful days of the ‘scramble for Africa,’ race-thinking had been one of the many free opinions which, within the general framework of liberalism, argued and fought each other to win the consent of public opinion.[344] Only a few of them became full-fledged ideologies, that is, systems based upon a single opinion that proved strong enough to attract and persuade a majority of people and broad enough to lead them through the various experiences and situations of an average modern life. For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the ‘riddles of the universe,’ or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.

The tremendous power of persuasion inherent in the main ideologies of our times is not accidental. Persuasion is not possible without appeal to either experiences or desires, in other words to immediate political needs. Plausibility in these matters comes neither from scientific facts, as the various brands of Darwinists would like us to believe, nor from historical laws, as the historians pretend, in their efforts to discover the law according to which civilizations rise and fall. Every full-fledged ideology has been created, continued and improved as a political weapon and not as a theoretical doctrine. It is true that sometimes – and such is the case with racism – an ideology has changed its original political sense, but without immediate contact with political life none of them could be imagined. Their scientific aspect is secondary and arises first from the desire to provide watertight arguments, and second because their persuasive power also got hold of scientists, who no longer were interested in the result of their research but left their laboratories and hurried off to preach to the multitude their new interpretations of life and world.[345] We owe it to these ‘scientific’ preachers rather than to any scientific findings that today no single science is left into whose categorical system race-thinking has not deeply penetrated. This again has made historians, some of whom have been tempted to hold science responsible for race-thinking, mistake certain either philological or biological research results for causes instead of consequences of race-thinking.[346] The opposite would have come closer to the truth. As a matter of fact, the doctrine that Might is Right needed several centuries (from the seventeenth to the nineteenth) to conquer natural science and produce the ‘law’ of the survival of the fittest. And if, to take another instance, the theory of de Maistre and Schelling about savage tribes as the decaying residues of former peoples had suited the nineteenth-century political devices as well as the theory of progress, we would probably never have heard much of ‘primitives’ and no scientist would have wasted his time looking for the ‘missing link’ between ape and man. The blame is not to be laid on any science as such, but rather on certain scientists who were no less hypnotized by ideologies than their fellow-citizens.

The fact that racism is the main ideological weapon of imperialistic politics is so obvious that it seems as though many students prefer to avoid the beaten track of truism. Instead, an old misconception of racism as a kind of exaggerated nationalism is still given currency. Valuable works of students, especially in France, who have proved that racism is not only a quite different phenomenon but tends to destroy the body politic of the nation, are generally overlooked. Witnessing the gigantic competition between race-thinking and class-thinking for dominion over the minds of modern men, some have been inclined to see in the one the expression of national and in the other the expression of international trends, to believe the one to be the mental preparation for national wars and the other to be the ideology for civil wars. This has been possible because of the first World War’s curious mixture of old national and new imperialistic conflicts, a mixture in which old national slogans proved still to possess a far greater appeal to the masses of all countries involved than any imperialistic aims. The last war, however, with its Quislings and collaborationists everywhere, should have proved that racism can stir up civil conflicts in every country, and is one of the most ingenious devices ever invented for preparing civil war.

For the truth is that race-thinking entered the scene of active politics the moment the European peoples had prepared, and to a certain extent realized, the new body politic of the nation. From the very beginning, racism deliberately cut across all national boundaries, whether defined by geographical, linguistic, traditional, or any other standards, and denied national-political existence as such. Race-thinking, rather than class-thinking, was the ever-present shadow accompanying the development of the comity of European nations, until it finally grew to be the powerful weapon for the destruction of those nations. Historically speaking, racists have a worse record of patriotism than the representatives of all other international ideologies together, and they were the only ones who consistently denied the great principle upon which national organizations of peoples are built, the principle of equality and solidarity of all peoples guaranteed by the idea of mankind.

I: A ‘Race’ of Aristocrats Against a ‘Nation’ of Citizens

A steadily rising interest in the most different, strange, and even savage peoples was characteristic of France during the eighteenth century. This was the time when Chinese paintings were admired and imitated, when one of the most famous works of the century was named Lettres Persanes, and when travelers’ reports were the favorite reading of society. The honesty and simplicity of savage and uncivilized peoples were opposed to the sophistication and frivolity of culture. Long before the nineteenth century with its tremendously enlarged opportunities for travel brought the non-European world into the home of every average citizen, eighteenth-century French society had tried to grasp spiritually the content of cultures and countries that lay far beyond European boundaries. A great enthusiasm for ‘new specimens of mankind’ (Herder) filled the hearts of the heroes of the French Revolution who together with the French nation liberated every people of every color under the French flag. This enthusiasm for strange and foreign countries culminated in the message of fraternity, because it was inspired by the desire to prove in every new and surprising ‘specimen of mankind’ the old saying of La Bruyère: ‘La raison est de tous les climats.

Yet it is this nation-creating century and humanity-loving country to which we must trace the germs of what later proved to become the nation-destroying and humanity-annihilating power of racism.[347] It is a remarkable fact that the first author who assumed the coexistence of different peoples with different origins in France, was at the same time the first to elaborate definite class-thinking. The Comte de Boulainvilliers, a French nobleman who wrote at the beginning of the eighteenth century and whose works were published after his death, interpreted the history of France as the history of two different nations of which the one, of Germanic origin, had conquered the older inhabitants, the ‘Gaules,’ had imposed its laws upon them, had taken their lands, and had settled down as the ruling class, the ‘peerage’ whose supreme rights rested upon the ‘right of conquest’ and the ‘necessity of obedience always due to the strongest.’[348] Engaged chiefly in finding arguments against the rising political power of the Tiers Etat and their spokesmen, the ‘nouveau corps’ formed by ‘gens de lettres et de lois,’ Boulainvilliers had to fight the monarchy too because the French king wanted no longer to represent the peerage as primus inter pares but the nation as a whole; in him, for a while, the new rising class found its most powerful protector. In order to regain uncontested primacy for the nobility, Boulainvilliers proposed that his fellow-noblemen deny a common origin with the French people, break up the unity of the nation, and claim an original and therefore eternal distinction.[349] Much bolder than most of the later defenders of nobility, Boulainvilliers denied any predestined connection with the soil; he conceded that the ‘Gaules’ had been in France longer, that the ‘Francs’ were strangers and barbarians. He based his doctrine solely on the eternal right of conquest and found no difficulty in asserting that ‘Friesland … has been the true cradle of the French nation.’ Centuries before the actual development of imperialistic racism, following only the inherent logic of his concept, he considered the original inhabitants of France natives in the modern sense, or in his own terms ‘subjects’ – not of the king – but of all those whose advantage was descent from the conquering people, who by right of birth were to be called ‘Frenchmen.’

Boulainvilliers was deeply influenced by the seventeenth-century might-right doctrines and he certainly was one of the most consistent contemporary disciples of Spinoza, whose Ethics he translated and whose Traité théologico-politique he analyzed. In his reception and application of Spinoza’s political ideas, might was changed into conquest and conquest acted as a kind of unique judgment on the natural qualities and human privileges of men and nations. In this we may detect the first traces of later naturalistic transformations the might-right doctrine was to go through. This view is really corroborated by the fact that Boulainvilliers was one of the outstanding freethinkers of his time, and that his attacks on the Christian Church were hardly motivated by anticlericalism alone.

Boulainvilliers’ theory, however, still deals with peoples and not with races; it bases the right of the superior people on a historical deed, conquest, and not on a physical fact – although the historical deed already has a certain influence on the natural qualities of the conquered people. It invents two different peoples within France in order to counteract the new national idea, represented as it was to a certain extent by the absolute monarchy in alliance with the Tiers Etat. Boulainvilliers is antinational at a time when the idea of nationhood was felt to be new and revolutionary, but had not yet shown, as it did in the French Revolution, how closely it was connected with a democratic form of government. Boulainvilliers prepared his country for civil war without knowing what civil war meant. He is representative of many of the nobles who did not regard themselves as representative of the nation, but as a separate ruling caste which might have much more in common with a foreign people of the ‘same society and condition’ than with its compatriots. It has been, indeed, these antinational trends that exercised their influence in the milieu of the émigrés and finally were absorbed by new and outspoken racial doctrines late in the nineteenth century.

Not until the actual outbreak of the Revolution forced great numbers of the French nobility to seek refuge in Germany and England did Boulainvilliers’ ideas show their usefulness as a political weapon. In the meantime, his influence upon the French aristocracy was kept alive, as can be seen in the works of another Comte, the Comte Dubuat-Nançay,[350] who wanted to tie French nobility even closer to its Continental brothers. On the eve of the Revolution, this spokesman of French feudalism felt so insecure that he hoped for ‘the creation of a kind of Internationale of aristocracy of barbarian origin,’[351] and since the German nobility was the only one whose help could eventually be expected, here too the true origin of the French nation was supposed to be identical with that of the Germans and the French lower classes, though no longer slaves, were not free by birth but by ‘affranchissement,’ by grace of those who were free by birth, of the nobility. A few years later the French exiles actually tried to form an internationale of aristocrats in order to stave off the revolt of those they considered to be a foreign enslaved people. And although the more practical side of these attempts suffered the spectacular disaster of Valmy, émigrés like Charles François Dominique de Villiers, who in about 1800 opposed the ‘Gallo-Romains’ to the Germanics, or like William Alter who a decade later dreamed of a federation of all Germanic peoples,[352] did not admit defeat. It probably never occurred to them that they were actually traitors, so firmly were they convinced that the French Revolution was a ‘war between foreign peoples’ – as François Guizot much later put it.

While Boulainvilliers, with the calm fairness of a less disturbed time, based the rights of nobility solely on the rights of conquest without directly depreciating the very nature of the other conquered nation, the Comte de Montlosier, one of the rather dubious personages among the French exiles, openly expressed his contempt for this ‘new people risen from slaves … (a mixture) of all races and all times.’[353] Times obviously had changed and noblemen who no longer belonged to an unconquered race also had to change. They gave up the old idea, so dear to Boulainvilliers and even to Montesquieu, that conquest alone, fortune des armes, determined the destinies of men. The Valmy of noble ideologies came when the Abbé Siéyès in his famous pamphlet told the Tiers Etat to ‘send back into the forests of Franconia all those families who preserve the absurd pretension of being descended from the conquering race and of having succeeded to their rights.’[354]

It is rather curious that from these early times when French noblemen in their class struggle against the bourgeoisie discovered that they belonged to another nation, had another genealogical origin, and were more closely tied to an international caste than to the soil of France, all French racial theories have supported the Germanism or at least the superiority of the Nordic peoples as against their own countrymen. For if the men of the French Revolution identified themselves mentally with Rome, it was not because they opposed to the ‘Germanism’ of their nobility a ‘Latinism’ of the Tiers Etat, but because they felt they were the spiritual heirs of Roman Republicans. This historical claim, in contrast to the tribal identification of the nobility, might have been among the causes that prevented ‘Latinism’ from emerging as a racial doctrine of its own. In any event, paradoxical as it sounds, the fact is that Frenchmen were to insist earlier than Germans or Englishmen on this idée fixe of Germanic superiority.[355] Nor did the birth of German racial consciousness after the Prussian defeat of 1806, directed as it was against the French, change the course of racial ideologies in France. In the forties of the last century, Augustin Thierry still adhered to the identification of classes and races and distinguished between a ‘Germanic nobility’ and a ‘celtic bourgeoisie,’[356] and again a nobleman, the Comte de Rémusat, proclaimed the Germanic origin of the European aristocracy. Finally, the Comte de Gobineau developed an opinion already generally accepted among the French nobility into a full-fledged historical doctrine, claiming to have detected the secret law of the fall of civilizations and to have exalted history to the dignity of a natural science. With him race-thinking completed its first stage, and began its second stage whose influences were to be felt until the twenties of our century.

II: Race Unity as a Substitute for National Emancipation

Race-thinking in Germany did not develop before the defeat of the old Prussian army by Napoleon. It owed its rise to the Prussian patriots and political romanticism, rather than to the nobility and their spokesmen. In contrast to the French brand of race-thinking as a weapon for civil war and for splitting the nation, German race-thinking was invented in an effort to unite the people against foreign domination. Its authors did not look for allies beyond the frontiers but wanted to awaken in the people a consciousness of common origin. This actually excluded the nobility with their notoriously cosmopolitan relations – which, however, were less characteristic of the Prussian Junkers than of the rest of the European nobility; at any rate, it excluded the possibility of this race-thinking basing itself on the most exclusive class of the people.

Since German race-thinking accompanied the long frustrated attempts to unite the numerous German states, it remained so closely connected, in its early stages, with more general national feelings that it is rather difficult to distinguish between mere nationalism and clear-cut racism. Harmless national sentiments expressed themselves in what we know today to be racial terms, so that even historians who identify the twentieth-century German brand of racism with the peculiar language of German nationalism have strangely been led into mistaking Nazism for German nationalism, thereby helping to underestimate the tremendous international appeal of Hitler’s propaganda. These particular conditions of German nationalism changed only when, after 1870, the unification of the nation actually had taken place and German racism, together with German imperialism, fully developed. From these early times, however, not a few characteristics survived which have remained significant for the specifically German brand of race-thinking.

In contrast to France, Prussian noblemen felt their interests to be closely connected with the position of the absolute monarchy and, at least since the time of Frederick II, they sought recognition as the legitimate representatives of the nation as a whole. With the exception of the few years of Prussian reforms (from 1808–1812), the Prussian nobility was not frightened by the rise of a bourgeois class that might have wanted to take over the government, nor did they have to fear a coalition between the middle classes and the ruling house. The Prussian king, until 1809 the greatest landlord of the country, remained primus inter pares despite all efforts of the Reformers. Race-thinking, therefore, developed outside the nobility, as a weapon of certain nationalists who wanted the union of all German-speaking peoples and therefore insisted on a common origin. They were liberals in the sense that they were rather opposed to the exclusive rule of the Prussian Junkers. As long as this common origin was defined by common language, one can hardly speak of race-thinking.[357]

It is noteworthy that only after 1814 is this common origin described frequently in terms of ‘blood relationship,’ of family ties, of tribal unity, of unmixed origin. These definitions, which appear almost simultaneously in the writings of the Catholic Josef Goerres and nationalistic liberals like Ernst Moritz Arndt or F. L. Jahn, bear witness to the utter failure of the hopes of rousing true national sentiments in the German people. Out of the failure to raise the people to nationhood, out of the lack of common historical memories and the apparent popular apathy to common destinies in the future, a naturalistic appeal was born which addressed itself to tribal instincts as a possible substitute for what the whole world had seen to be the glorious power of French nationhood. The organic doctrine of a history for which ‘every race is a separate, complete whole’[358] was invented by men who needed ideological definitions of national unity as a substitute for political nationhood. It was a frustrated nationalism that led to Arndt’s statement that Germans – who apparently were the last to develop an organic unity – had the luck to be of pure, unmixed stock, a ‘genuine people.’[359]

Organic naturalistic definitions of peoples are an outstanding characteristic of German ideologies and German historism. They nevertheless are not yet actual racism, for the same men who speak in these ‘racial’ terms still uphold the central pillar of genuine nationhood, the equality of all peoples. Thus, in the same article in which Jahn compares the laws of peoples with the laws of animal life, he insists on the genuine equal plurality of peoples in whose complete multitude alone mankind can be realized.[360] And Arndt, who later was to express strong sympathies with the national liberation movements of the Poles and the Italians, exclaimed: ‘Cursed be anyone who would subjugate and rule foreign peoples.’[361] Insofar as German national feelings had not been the fruit of a genuine national development but rather the reaction to foreign occupation,[362] national doctrines were of a peculiar negative character, destined to create a wall around the people, to act as substitutes for frontiers which could not be clearly defined either geographically or historically.

If, in the early form of French aristocracy, race-thinking had been invented as an instrument of internal division and had turned out to be a weapon for civil war, this early form of German race-doctrine was invented as a weapon of internal national unity and turned out to be a weapon for national wars. As the decline of the French nobility as an important class in the French nation would have made this weapon useless if the foes of the Third Republic had not revived it, so upon the accomplishment of German national unity the organic doctrine of history would have lost its meaning had not modern imperialistic schemers wanted to revive it, in order to appeal to the people and to hide their hideous faces under the respectable cover of nationalism. The same does not hold true for another source of German racism which, though seemingly more remote from the scene of politics, had a far stronger genuine bearing upon later political ideologies.

Political romanticism has been accused of inventing race-thinking, as it has been and could be accused of inventing every other possible irresponsible opinion. Adam Mueller and Friedrich Schlegel are symptomatic in the highest degree of a general playfulness of modern thought in which almost any opinion can gain ground temporarily. No real thing, no historical event, no political idea was safe from the all-embracing and all-destroying mania by which these first literati could always find new and original opportunities for new and fascinating opinions. ‘The world must be romanticized,’ as Novalis put it, wanting ‘to bestow a high sense upon the common, a mysterious appearance upon the ordinary, the dignity of the unknown upon the well-known.’[363] One of these romanticized objects was the people, an object that could be changed at a moment’s notice into the state, or the family, or nobility, or anything else that either – in the earlier days – happened to cross the minds of one of these intellectuals or – later when, growing older, they had learned the reality of daily bread – happened to be asked for by some paying patron.[364] Therefore it is almost impossible to study the development of any of the free competing opinions of which the nineteenth century is so amazingly full, without coming across romanticism in its German form.

What these first modern intellectuals actually prepared was not so much the development of any single opinion but the general mentality of modern German scholars; these latter have proved more than once that hardly an ideology can be found to which they would not willingly submit if the only reality – which even a romantic can hardly afford to overlook – is at stake, the reality of their position. For this peculiar behavior, romanticism provided the most excellent pretext in its unlimited idolization of the ‘personality’ of the individual, whose very arbitrariness became the proof of genius. Whatever served the so-called productivity of the individual, namely, the entirely arbitrary game of his ‘ideas,’ could be made the center of a whole outlook on life and world.

This inherent cynicism of romantic personality-worship has made possible certain modern attitudes among intellectuals. They were fairly well represented by Mussolini, one of the last heirs of this movement, when he described himself as at the same time ‘aristocrat and democrat, revolutionary and reactionary, proletarian and antiproletarian, pacifist and antipacifist.’ The ruthless individualism of romanticism never meant anything more serious than that ‘everybody is free to create for himself his own ideology.’ What was new in Mussolini’s experiment was the ‘attempt to carry it out with all possible energy.’[365]

Because of this inherent ‘relativism’ the direct contribution of romanticism to the development of race-thinking can almost be neglected. In the anarchic game whose rules entitle everybody at any given time to at least one personal and arbitrary opinion, it is almost a matter of course that every conceivable opinion should be formulated and duly printed. Much more characteristic than this chaos was the fundamental belief in personality as an ultimate aim in itself. In Germany, where the conflict between the nobility and the rising middle class was never fought out on the political scene, personality worship developed as the only means of gaining at least some kind of social emancipation. The governing class of the country frankly showed its traditional contempt for business and its dislike for association with merchants in spite of the latter’s growing wealth and importance, so that it was not easy to find the means of winning some kind of self-respect. The classic German Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meister, in which the middle-class hero is educated by noblemen and actors because the bourgeois in his own social sphere is without ‘personality,’ is evidence enough of the hopelessness of the situation.

German intellectuals, though they hardly promoted a political fight for the middle classes to which they belonged, fought an embittered and, unfortunately, highly successful battle for social status. Even those who had written in defense of nobility still felt their own interests at stake when it came to social ranks. In order to enter competition with rights and qualities of birth, they formulated the new concept of the ‘innate personality’ which was to win general approval within bourgeois society. Like the title of the heir of an old family, the ‘innate personality’ was given by birth and not acquired by merit. Just as the lack of common history for the formation of the nation had been artificially overcome by the naturalistic concept of organic development, so, in the social sphere, nature itself was supposed to supply a title when political reality had refused it. Liberal writers soon boasted of ‘true nobility’ as opposed to the shabby titles of Baron or others which could be given and taken away, and asserted, by implication, that their natural privileges, like ‘force or genius,’ could not be retraced to any human deed.[366]

The discriminatory point of this new social concept was immediately affirmed. During the long period of mere social antisemitism, which introduced and prepared the discovery of Jew-hating as a political weapon, it was the lack of ‘innate personality,’ the innate lack of tact, the innate lack of productivity, the innate disposition for trading, etc., which separated the behavior of his Jewish colleague from that of the average businessman. In its feverish attempt to summon up some pride of its own against the caste arrogance of the Junkers, without, however, daring to fight for political leadership, the bourgeoisie from the very beginning wanted to look down not so much on other lower classes of their own, but simply on other peoples. Most significant for these attempts is the small literary work of Clemens Brentano[367] which was written for and read in the ultranationalistic club of Napoleon-haters that gathered together in 1808 under the name of ‘Die Christlich-Deutsche Tischgesellschaft.’ In his highly sophisticated and witty manner, Brentano points out the contrast between the ‘innate personality,’ the genial individual, and the ‘philistine’ whom he immediately identifies with Frenchmen and Jews. Thereafter, the German bourgeois would at least try to attribute to other peoples all the qualities which the nobility despised as typically bourgeois – at first to the French, later to the English, and always to the Jews. As for the mysterious qualities which an ‘innate personality’ received at birth, they were exactly the same as those the real Junkers claimed for themselves.

Although in this way standards of nobility contributed to the rise of race-thinking, the Junkers themselves did hardly anything for the shaping of this mentality. The only Junker of this period to develop a political theory of his own, Ludwig von der Marwitz, never used racial terms. According to him, nations were separated by language – a spiritual and not a physical difference – and although he was violently opposed to the French Revolution, he spoke like Robespierre when it came to the possible aggression of one nation against another: ‘Who aims at expanding his frontiers should be considered a disloyal betrayer among the whole European republic of states.’[368] It was Adam Mueller who insisted on purity of descent as a test of nobility, and it was Haller who went beyond the obvious fact that the powerful rule those deprived of power by stating it as a natural law that the weak should be dominated by the strong. Noblemen, of course, applauded enthusiastically when they learned that their usurpation of power was not only legal but in accordance with natural laws, and it was a consequence of bourgeois definitions that during the course of the nineteenth century they avoided ‘mesalliances’ more carefully than ever before.[369]

This insistence on common tribal origin as an essential of nationhood, formulated by German nationalists during and after the war of 1814, and the emphasis laid by the romantics on the innate personality and natural nobility prepared the way intellectually for race-thinking in Germany. From the former sprang the organic doctrine of history with its natural laws; from the latter arose at the end of the century the grotesque homunculus of the superman whose natural destiny it is to rule the world. As long as these trends ran side by side, they were but temporary means of escape from political realities. Once welded together, they formed the very basis for racism as a full-fledged ideology. This, however, did not happen first in Germany, but in France, and was not accomplished by middle-class intellectuals but by a highly gifted and frustrated nobleman, the Comte de Gobineau.

III: The New Key to History

In 1853, Count Arthur de Gobineau published his Essai sur l’Inégalité des Races Humaines which, only some fifty years later, at the turn of the century, was to become a kind of standard work for race theories in history. The first sentence of the four-volume work – ‘The fall of civilization is the most striking and, at the same time, the most obscure of all phenomena of history’[370] – indicates clearly the essentially new and modern interest of its author, the new pessimistic mood which pervades his work and which is the ideological force that was capable of uniting all previous factors and conflicting opinions. True, from time immemorial, mankind has wanted to know as much as possible about past cultures, fallen empires, extinct peoples; but nobody before Gobineau thought of finding one single reason, one single force according to which civilization always and everywhere rises and falls. Doctrines of decay seem to have some very intimate connection with race-thinking. It certainly is no coincidence that another early ‘believer in race,’ Benjamin Disraeli, was equally fascinated by the fall of cultures, while on the other hand Hegel, whose philosophy was concerned in great part with the dialectical law of development in history, was never interested in the rise and fall of cultures as such or in any law which would explain the death of nations: Gobineau demonstrated precisely such a law. Without Darwinism or any other evolutionist theory to influence him, this historian boasted of having introduced history into the family of natural sciences, detected the natural law of all courses of events, reduced all spiritual utterances or cultural phenomena to something ‘that by virtue of exact science our eyes can see, our ears can hear, our hands can touch.’

The most surprising aspect of the theory, set forth in the midst of the optimistic nineteenth century, is the fact that the author is fascinated by the fall and hardly interested in the rise of civilizations. At the time of writing the Essai Gobineau gave but little thought to the possible use of his theory as a weapon in actual politics, and therefore had the courage to draw the inherent sinister consequences of his law of decay. In contrast to Spengler, who predicts only the fall of Western culture, Gobineau foresees with ‘scientific’ precision nothing less than the definite disappearance of Man – or, in his words, of the human race – from the face of the earth. After four volumes of rewriting human history, he concludes: ‘One might be tempted to assign a total duration of 12 to 14 thousand years to human rule over the earth, which era is divided into two periods: the first has passed away and possessed the youth … the second has begun and will witness the declining course down toward decrepitude.’

It has rightly been observed that Gobineau, thirty years before Nietzsche, was concerned with the problem of ‘décadence.[371] There is, however, this difference, that Nietzsche possessed the basic experience of European decadence, writing as he did during the climax of this movement with Baudelaire in France, Swinburne in England, and Wagner in Germany, whereas Gobineau was hardly aware of the variety of the modern taedium vitae, and must be regarded as the last heir of Boulainvilliers and the French exiled nobility who, without psychological complications, simply (and rightly) feared for the fate of aristocracy as a caste. With a certain naïveté he accepted almost literally the eighteenth-century doctrines about the origin of the French people: the bourgeois are the descendants of Gallic-Roman slaves, noblemen are Germanic.[372] The same is true for his insistence on the international character of nobility. A more modern aspect of his theories is revealed in the fact that he possibly was an impostor (his French title being more than dubious), that he exaggerated and overstrained the older doctrines until they became frankly ridiculous – he claimed for himself a genealogy which led over a Scandinavian pirate to Odin: ‘I, too, am of the race of Gods.’[373] But his real importance is that in the midst of progress-ideologies he prophesied doom, the end of mankind in a slow natural catastrophe. When Gobineau started his work, in the days of the bourgeois king, Louis Philippe, the fate of nobility appeared sealed. Nobility no longer needed to fear the victory of the Tiers Etat, it had already occurred and they could only complain. Their distress, as expressed by Gobineau, sometimes comes very near to the great despair of the poets of decadence who, a few decades later, sang the frailty of all things human – les neiges d’antan, the snows of yesteryear. As far as Gobineau himself was concerned, this affinity is rather incidental; but it is interesting to note that once this affinity was established, nothing could prevent very respectable intellectuals at the turn of the century, like Robert Dreyfus in France or Thomas Mann in Germany, from taking this descendant of Odin seriously. Long before the horrible and the ridiculous had merged into the humanly incomprehensible mixture that is the hallmark of our century, the ridiculous had lost its power to kill.

It is also to the peculiar pessimistic mood, to the active despair of the last decades of the century that Gobineau owed his belated fame. This, however, does not necessarily mean that he himself was a forerunner of the generation of ‘the merry dance of death and trade’ (Joseph Conrad). He was neither a statesman who believed in business nor a poet who praised death. He was only a curious mixture of frustrated nobleman and romantic intellectual who invented racism almost by accident. This was when he saw that he could not simply accept the old doctrines of the two peoples within France and that, in view of changed circumstances, he had to revise the old line that the best men necessarily are at the top of society. In sad contrast to his teachers, he had to explain why the best men, noblemen, could not even hope to regain their former position. Step by step, he identified the fall of his caste with the fall of France, then of Western civilization, and then of the whole of mankind. Thus he made that discovery, for which he was so much admired by later writers and biographers, that the fall of civilizations is due to a degeneration of race and the decay of race is due to a mixture of blood. This implies that in every mixture the lower race is always dominant. This kind of argumentation, almost commonplace after the turn of the century, did not fit in with the progress-doctrines of Gobineau’s contemporaries, who soon acquired another idée fixe, the ‘survival of the fittest.’ The liberal optimism of the victorious bourgeoisie wanted a new edition of the might-right theory, not the key to history or the proof of inevitable decay. Gobineau tried in vain to get a wider audience by taking a side in the American slave issue and by conveniently building his whole system on the basic conflict between white and black. He had to wait almost fifty years to become a success among the elite, and not until the first World War with its wave of death-philosophies could his works claim wide popularity.[374]

What Gobineau was actually looking for in politics was the definition and creation of an ‘elite’ to replace the aristocracy. Instead of princes, he proposed a ‘race of princes,’ the Aryans, who he said were in danger of being submerged by the lower non-Aryan classes through democracy. The concept of race made it possible to organize the ‘innate personalities’ of German romanticism, to define them as members of a natural aristocracy destined to rule over all others. If race and mixture of races are the all-determining factors for the individual – and Gobineau did not assume the existence of ‘pure’ breeds – it is possible to pretend that physical superiorities might evolve in every individual no matter what his present social situation, that every exceptional man belongs to the ‘true surviving sons of … the Merovings,’ the ‘sons of kings.’ Thanks to race, an ‘elite’ would be formed which could lay claim to the old prerogatives of feudal families, and this only by asserting that they felt like noblemen; the acceptance of the race ideology as such would become conclusive proof that an individual was ‘well-bred,’ that ‘blue blood’ ran through his veins and that a superior origin implied superior rights. From one political event, therefore, the decline of the nobility, the Count drew two contradictory consequences – the decay of the human race and the formation of a new natural aristocracy. But he did not live to see the practical application of his teachings which resolved their inherent contradictions – the new race-aristocracy actually began to effect the ‘inevitable’ decay of mankind in a supreme effort to destroy it.

Following the example of his forerunners, the exiled French noblemen, Gobineau saw in his race-elite not only a bulwark against democracy but also against the ‘Canaan monstrosity’ of patriotism.[375] And since France still happened to be the ‘patriepar excellence, for her government – whether kingdom or Empire or Republic – was still based upon the essential equality of men, and since, worst of all, she was the only country of his time in which even people with black skin could enjoy civil rights, it was natural for Gobineau to give allegiance not to the French people, but to the English, and later, after the French defeat of 1871, to the Germans.[376] Nor can this lack of dignity be called accidental and this opportunism an unhappy coincidence. The old saying that nothing succeeds like success reckons with people who are used to various and arbitrary opinions. Ideologists who pretend to possess the key to reality are forced to change and twist their opinions about single cases according to the latest events and can never afford to come into conflict with their ever-changing deity, reality. It would be absurd to ask people to be reliable who by their very convictions must justify any given situation.

It must be conceded that up to the time when the Nazis, in establishing themselves as a race-elite, frankly bestowed their contempt on all peoples, including the German, French racism was the most consistent, for it never fell into the weakness of patriotism. (This attitude did not change even during the last war; true, the ‘essence aryenne’ no longer was a monopoly of the Germans but rather of the Anglo-Saxons, the Swedes, and the Normans, but nation, patriotism, and law were still considered to be ‘prejudices, fictitious and nominal values.’)[377] Even Taine believed firmly in the superior genius of the ‘Germanic nation,’[378] and Ernest Renan was probably the first to oppose the ‘Semites’ to the ‘Aryans’ in a decisive ‘division du genre humain,’ although he held civilization to be the great superior force which destroys local originalities as well as original race differences.[379] All the loose race talk that is so characteristic of French writers after 1870,[380] even if they are not racists in any strict sense of the word, follows antinational, pro-Germanic lines.

If the consistent antinational trend of Gobinism served to equip the enemies of French democracy and, later, of the Third Republic, with real or fictitious allies beyond the frontiers of their country, the specific amalgamation of the race and ‘elite’ concepts equipped the international intelligentsia with new and exciting psychological toys to play with on the great playground of history. Gobineau’s ‘fils des rois’ were close relatives of the romantic heroes, saints, geniuses and supermen of the late nineteenth century, all of whom can hardly hide their German romantic origin. The inherent irresponsibility of romantic opinions received a new stimulant from Gobineau’s mixture of races, because this mixture showed a historical event of the past which could be traced in the depths of one’s own self. This meant that inner experiences could be given historical significance, that one’s own self had become the battlefield of history. ‘Since I read the Essai, every time some conflict stirred up the hidden sources of my being, I have felt that a relentless battle went on in my soul, the battle between the black, the yellow, the Semite and the Aryans.’[381] Significant as this and similar confessions may be of the state of mind of modern intellectuals, who are the true heirs of romanticism whatever opinion they happen to hold, they nevertheless indicate the essential harmlessness and political innocence of people who probably could have been forced into line by each and every ideology.

IV: The ‘Rights of Englishmen’ vs. the Rights of Men

While the seeds of German race-thinking were planted during the Napoleonic wars, the beginnings of the later English development appeared during the French Revolution and may be traced back to the man who violently denounced it as the ‘most astonishing [crisis] that has hitherto happened in the world’ – to Edmund Burke.[382] The tremendous influence his work has exercised not only on English but also on German political thought is well known. The fact, however, must be stressed because of resemblances between German and English race-thinking as contrasted with the French brand. These resemblances stem from the fact that both countries had defeated the Tricolor and therefore showed a certain tendency to discriminate against the ideas of Liberté-Egalité-Fraternité as foreign inventions. Social inequality being the basis of English society, British Conservatives felt not a little uncomfortable when it came to the ‘rights of men.’ According to opinions widely held by nineteenth-century Tories, inequality belonged to the English national character. Disraeli found ‘something better than the Rights of Men in the rights of Englishmen’ and to Sir James Stephen ‘few things in history [seemed] so beggarly as the degree to which the French allowed themselves to be excited about such things.’[383] This is one of the reasons why they could afford to develop race-thinking along national lines until the end of the nineteenth century, whereas the same opinions in France showed their true antinational face from the very beginning.

Burke’s main argument against the ‘abstract principles’ of the French Revolution is contained in the following sentence: ‘It has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right.’ The concept of inheritance, applied to the very nature of liberty, has been the ideological basis from which English nationalism received its curious touch of race-feeling ever since the French Revolution. Formulated by a middle-class writer, it signified the direct acceptance of the feudal concept of liberty as the sum total of privileges inherited together with title and land. Without encroaching upon the rights of the privileged class within the English nation, Burke enlarged the principle of these privileges to include the whole English people, establishing them as a kind of nobility among nations. Hence he drew his contempt for those who claimed their franchise as the rights of men, rights which he saw fit to claim only as ‘the rights of Englishmen.’

In England nationalism developed without serious attacks on the old feudal classes. This has been possible because the English gentry, from the seventeenth century on and in ever-increasing numbers, had assimilated the higher ranks of the bourgeoisie, so that sometimes even the common man could attain the position of a lord. By this process much of the ordinary caste arrogance of nobility was taken away and a considerable sense of responsibility for the nation as a whole was created; but by the same token, feudal concepts and mentality could influence the political ideas of the lower classes more easily than elsewhere. Thus, the concept of inheritance was accepted almost unchanged and applied to the entire British ‘stock.’ The consequence of this assimilation of noble standards was that the English brand of race-thinking was almost obsessed with inheritance theories and their modern equivalent, eugenics.

Ever since the European peoples made practical attempts to include all the peoples of the earth in their conception of humanity, they have been irritated by the great physical differences between themselves and the peoples they found on other continents.[384] The eighteenth-century enthusiasm for the diversity in which the all-present identical nature of man and reason could find expression provided a rather thin cover of argument to the crucial question, whether the Christian tenet of the unity and equality of all men, based upon common descent from one original set of parents, would be kept in the hearts of men who were faced with tribes which, as far as we know, never had found by themselves any adequate expression of human reason or human passion in either cultural deeds or popular customs, and which had developed human institutions only to a very low level. This new problem which appeared on the historical scene of Europe and America with the more intimate knowledge of African tribes had already caused, and this especially in America and some British possessions, a relapse into forms of social organization which were thought to have been definitely liquidated by Christianity. But even slavery, though actually established on a strict racial basis, did not make the slave-holding peoples race-conscious before the nineteenth century. Throughout the eighteenth century, American slave-holders themselves considered it a temporary institution and wanted to abolish it gradually. Most of them probably would have said with Jefferson: ‘I tremble when I think that God is just.’

In France, where the problem of black tribes had been met with the desire to assimilate and educate, the great scientist Leclerc de Buffon had given a first classification of races which, based upon the European peoples and classifying all others by their differences, had taught equality by strict juxtaposition.[385] The eighteenth century, to use Tocqueville’s admirably precise phrase, ‘believed in the variety of races but in the unity of the human species.’[386] In Germany, Herder had refused to apply the ‘ignoble word’ race to men, and even the first cultural historian of mankind to make use of the classification of different species, Gustav Klemm,[387] still respected the idea of mankind as the general framework for his investigations.

But in America and England, where people had to solve a problem of living together after the abolition of slavery, things were considerably less easy. With the exception of South Africa – a country which influenced Western racism only after the ‘scramble for Africa’ in the eighties – these nations were the first to deal with the race problem in practical politics. The abolition of slavery sharpened inherent conflicts instead of finding a solution for existing serious difficulties. This was especially true in England where the ‘rights of Englishmen’ were not replaced by a new political orientation which might have declared the rights of men. The abolition of slavery in the British possessions in 1834 and the discussion preceding the American Civil War, therefore, found in England a highly confused public opinion which was fertile soil for the various naturalistic doctrines which arose in those decades.

The first of these was represented by the polygenists who, challenging the Bible as a book of pious lies, denied any relationship between human ‘races’; their main achievement was the destruction of the idea of the natural law as the uniting link between all men and all peoples. Although it did not stipulate predestined racial superiority, polygenism arbitrarily isolated all peoples from one another by the deep abyss of the physical impossibility of human understanding and communication. Polygenism explains why ‘East is East and West is West; And never the twain shall meet,’ and helped much to prevent intermarriage in the colonies and to promote discrimination against individuals of mixed origin. According to polygenism, these people are not true human beings; they belong to no single race, but are a kind of monster whose ‘every cell is the theater of a civil war.’[388]

Lasting as the influence of polygenism on English race-thinking proved to be in the long run, in the nineteenth century it was soon to be beaten in the field of public opinion by another doctrine. This doctrine also started from the principle of inheritance but added to it the political principle of the nineteenth century, progress, whence it arrived at the opposite but far more convincing conclusion that man is related not only to man but to animal life, that the existence of lower races shows clearly that gradual differences alone separate man and beast and that a powerful struggle for existence dominates all living things. Darwinism was especially strengthened by the fact that it followed the path of the old might-right doctrine. But while this doctrine when used exclusively by aristocrats, had spoken the proud language of conquest, it was now translated into the rather bitter language of people who had known the struggle for daily bread and fought their way to the relative security of upstarts.

Darwinism met with such overwhelming success because it provided, on the basis of inheritance, the ideological weapons for race as well as class rule and could be used for, as well as against, race discrimination. Politically speaking, Darwinism as such was neutral, and it has led, indeed, to all kinds of pacifism and cosmopolitanism as well as to the sharpest forms of imperialistic ideologies.[389] In the seventies and eighties of the last century, Darwinism was still almost exclusively in the hands of the utilitarian anticolonial party in England. And the first philosopher of evolution, Herbert Spencer, who treated sociology as part of biology, believed natural selection to benefit the evolution of mankind and to result in everlasting peace. For political discussion, Darwinism offered two important concepts: the struggle for existence with optimistic assertion of the necessary and automatic ‘survival of the fittest,’ and the indefinite possibilities which seemed to lie in the evolution of man out of animal life and which started the new ‘science’ of eugenics.

The doctrine of the necessary survival of the fittest, with its implication that the top layers in society eventually are the ‘fittest,’ died as the conquest doctrine had died, namely, at the moment when the ruling classes in England or the English domination in colonial possessions were no longer absolutely secure, and when it became highly doubtful whether those who were ‘fittest’ today would still be the fittest tomorrow. The other part of Darwinism, the genealogy of man from animal life, unfortunately survived. Eugenics promised to overcome the troublesome uncertainties of the survival doctrine according to which it was impossible either to predict who would turn out to be the fittest or to provide the means for the nations to develop everlasting fitness. This possible consequence of applied eugenics was stressed in Germany in the twenties as a reaction to Spengler’s Decline of the West.[390] The process of selection had only to be changed from a natural necessity which worked behind the backs of men into an ‘artificial,’ consciously applied physical tool. Bestiality had always been inherent in eugenics, and Ernst Haeckel’s early remark that mercy-death would save ‘useless expenses for family and state’ is quite characteristic.[391] Finally the last disciples of Darwinism in Germany decided to leave the field of scientific research altogether, to forget about the search for the missing link between man and ape, and started instead their practical efforts to change man into what the Darwinists thought an ape is.

But before Nazism, in the course of its totalitarian policy, attempted to change man into a beast, there were numerous efforts to develop him on a strictly hereditary basis into a god.[392] Not only Herbert Spencer, but all the early evolutionists and Darwinists ‘had as strong a faith in humanity’s angelic future as in man’s simian origin.’[393] Selected inheritance was believed to result in ‘hereditary genius,’[394] and again aristocracy was held to be the natural outcome, not of politics, but of natural selection, of pure breeding. To transform the whole nation into a natural aristocracy from which choice exemplars would develop into geniuses and supermen, was one of the many ‘ideas’ produced by frustrated liberal intellectuals in their dreams of replacing the old governing classes by a new ‘elite’ through nonpolitical means. At the end of the century, writers treated political topics in terms of biology and zoology as a matter of course, and zoologists wrote ‘Biological Views of our Foreign Policy’ as though they had detected an infallible guide for statesmen.[395] All of them put forward new ways to control and regulate the ‘survival of the fittest’ in accordance with the national interests of the English people.[396]

The most dangerous aspect of these evolutionist doctrines is that they combined the inheritance concept with the insistence on personal achievement and individual character which had been so important for the self-respect of the nineteenth-century middle class. This middle class wanted scientists who could prove that the great men, not the aristocrats, were the true representatives of the nation, in whom the ‘genius of the race’ was personified. These scientists provided an ideal escape from political responsibility when they ‘proved’ the early statement of Benjamin Disraeli that the great man is ‘the personification of race, its choice exemplar.’ The development of this ‘genius’ found its logical end when another disciple of evolutionism simply declared: ‘The Englishman is the Overman and the history of England is the history of his evolution.’[397]

It is as significant for English as it was for German race-thinking that it originated among middle-class writers and not the nobility, that it was born of the desire to extend the benefits of noble standards to all classes and that it was nourished by true national feelings. In this respect, Carlyle’s ideas on the genius and hero were really more the weapons of a ‘social reformer’ than the doctrines of the ‘Father of British Imperialism,’ a very unjust accusation, indeed.[398] His hero worship which earned him wide audiences in both England and in Germany, had the same sources as the personality worship of German romanticism. It was the same assertion and glorification of the innate greatness of the individual character independent of his social environment. Among the men who influenced the colonial movement from the middle of the nineteenth century until the outbreak of actual imperialism at its end, not one has escaped the influence of Carlyle, but not one can be accused of preaching outspoken racism. Carlyle himself, in his essay on the ‘Nigger Question’ is concerned with means to help the West Indies produce ‘heroes.’ Charles Dilke, whose Greater Britain (1869) is sometimes taken as the beginning of imperialism,[399] was an advanced radical who glorified the English colonists as being part of the British nation, as against those who would look down upon them and their lands as mere colonies. J. R. Seeley, whose Expansion of England (1883) sold 80,000 copies in less than two years, still respects the Hindus as a foreign people and distinguishes them clearly from ‘barbarians.’ Even Froude, whose admiration for the Boers, the first white people to be converted clearly to the tribal philosophy of racism, might appear suspect, opposed too many rights for South Africa because ‘self-government in South Africa meant the government of the natives by the European colonists and that is not self-government.’[400]

Very much as in Germany, English nationalism was born and stimulated by a middle class which had never entirely emancipated itself from the nobility and therefore bore the first germs of race-thinking. But unlike Germany, whose lack of unity made necessary an ideological wall to substitute for historical or geographical facts, the British Isles were completely separated from the surrounding world by natural frontiers and England as a nation had to devise a theory of unity among people who lived in far-flung colonies beyond the seas, separated from the mother country by thousands of miles. The only link between them was common descent, common origin, common language. The separation of the United States had shown that these links in themselves do not guarantee domination; and not only America, other colonies too, though not with the same violence, showed strong tendencies toward developing along different constitutional lines from the mother country. In order to save these former British nationals, Dilke, influenced by Carlyle, spoke of ‘Saxondom,’ a word that seemed able to win back even the people of the United States, to whom one-third of his book is devoted. Being a radical, Dilke could act as though the War of Independence had not been a war between two nations, but the English form of eighteenth-century civil war, in which he belatedly sided with the Republicans. For here lies one of the reasons for the surprising fact that social reformers and radicals were the promoters of nationalism in England: they wanted to keep the colonies not only because they thought they were necessary outlets for the lower classes; they actually wanted to retain the influence on the mother country which these more radical sons of the British Isles exercised. This motif is strong with Froude, who wished ‘to retain the colonies because he thought it possible to reproduce in them a simpler state of society and a nobler way of life than were possible in industrial England,’[401] and it had a definite impact on Seeley’s Expansion of England: ‘When we have accustomed ourselves to contemplate the whole Empire together and we call it all England we shall see that there too is a United States.’ Whatever later political writers may have used ‘Saxondom’ for, in Dilke’s work it had a genuine political meaning for a nation that was no longer held together by a limited country. ‘The idea which in all the length of my travels has been at once my fellow and my guide – the key wherewith to unlock the hidden things of strange new lands – is the conception … of the grandeur of our race already girdling the earth, which it is destined perhaps, eventually to overspread’ (Preface). For Dilke, common origin, inheritance, ‘grandeur of race’ were neither physical facts nor the key to history but a much-needed guide in the present world, the only reliable link in a boundless space.

Because English colonists had spread all over the earth, it happened that the most dangerous concept of nationalism, the idea of ‘national mission,’ was especially strong in England. Although national mission as such developed for a long while untinged by racial influences in all countries where peoples aspired to nationhood, it proved finally to have a peculiarly close affinity to race-thinking. The above-quoted English nationalists may be considered borderline cases in the light of later experience. In themselves, they were not more harmful than, for example, Auguste Comte in France when he expressed the hope for a united, organized, regenerated humanity under the leadership – présidence – of France.[402] They do not give up the idea of mankind, though they think England is the supreme guarantee for humanity. They could not help but overstress this nationalistic concept because of its inherent dissolution of the bond between soil and people implied in the mission idea, a dissolution which for English politics was not a propagated ideology but an established fact with which every statesman had to reckon. What separates them definitely from later racists is that none of them was ever seriously concerned with discrimination against other peoples as lower races, if only for the reason that the countries they were talking about, Canada and Australia, were almost empty and had no serious population problem.

It is, therefore, not by accident that the first English statesman who repeatedly stressed his belief in races and race superiority as a determining factor of history and politics was a man who without particular interest in the colonies and the English colonists – ‘the colonial deadweight which we do not govern’ – wanted to extend British imperial power to Asia and, indeed, forcefully strengthened the position of Great Britain in the only colony with a grave population and cultural problem. It was Benjamin Disraeli who made the Queen of England the Empress of India; he was the first English statesman who regarded India as the cornerstone of an Empire and who wanted to cut the ties which linked the English people to the nations of the Continent.[403] Thereby he laid one of the foundation stones for a fundamental change in British rule in India. This colony had been governed with the usual ruthlessness of conquerors – men whom Burke had called ‘the breakers of the law in India.’ It was now to receive a carefully planned administration which aimed at the establishment of a permanent government by administrative measures. This experiment has brought England very close to the danger against which Burke had warned, that the ‘breakers of the law in India’ might become ‘the makers of law for England.’[404] For all those, to whom there was ‘no transaction in the history of England of which we have more just cause to be proud … than the establishment of the Indian Empire,’ held liberty and equality to be ‘big names for a small thing.’[405]

The policy introduced by Disraeli signified the establishment of an exclusive caste in a foreign country whose only function was rule and not colonization. For the realization of this conception which Disraeli did not live to see accomplished, racism would indeed be an indispensable tool. It foreshadowed the menacing transformation of the people from a nation into an ‘unmixed race of a first-rate organization’ that felt itself to be ‘the aristocracy of nature’ – to repeat in Disraeli’s own words quoted above.[406]

What we have followed so far is the story of an opinion in which we see only now, after all the terrible experiences of our times, the first dawn of racism. But although racism has revived elements of race-thinking in every country, it is not the history of an idea endowed by some ‘immanent logic’ with which we were concerned. Race-thinking was a source of convenient arguments for varying political conflicts, but it never possessed any kind of monopoly over the political life of the respective nations; it sharpened and exploited existing conflicting interests or existing political problems, but it never created new conflicts or produced new categories of political thinking. Racism sprang from experiences and political constellations which were still unknown and would have been utterly strange even to such devoted defenders of ‘race’ as Gobineau or Disraeli. There is an abyss between the men of brilliant and facile conceptions and men of brutal deeds and active bestiality which no intellectual explanation is able to bridge. It is highly probable that the thinking in terms of race would have disappeared in due time together with other irresponsible opinions of the nineteenth century, if the ‘scramble for Africa’ and the new era of imperialism had not exposed Western humanity to new and shocking experiences. Imperialism would have necessitated the invention of racism as the only possible ‘explanation’ and excuse for its deeds, even if no race-thinking had ever existed in the civilized world.

Since, however, race-thinking did exist, it proved to be a powerful help to racism. The very existence of an opinion which could boast of a certain tradition served to hide the destructive forces of the new doctrine which, without this appearance of national respectability or the seeming sanction of tradition, might have disclosed its utter incompatibility with all Western political and moral standards of the past, even before it was allowed to destroy the comity of European nations.

Chapter Seven. Race and Bureaucracy

Two new devices for political organization and rule over foreign peoples were discovered during the first decades of imperialism. One was race as a principle of the body politic, and the other bureaucracy as a principle of foreign domination. Without race as a substitute for the nation, the scramble for Africa and the investment fever might well have remained the purposeless ‘dance of death and trade’ (Joseph Conrad) of all gold rushes. Without bureaucracy as a substitute for government, the British possession of India might well have been left to the recklessness of the ‘breakers of law in India’ (Burke) without changing the political climate of an entire era.

Both discoveries were actually made on the Dark Continent. Race was the emergency explanation of human beings whom no European or civilized man could understand and whose humanity so frightened and humiliated the immigrants that they no longer cared to belong to the same human species. Race was the Boers’ answer to the overwhelming monstrosity of Africa – a whole continent populated and overpopulated by savages – an explanation of the madness which grasped and illuminated them like ‘a flash of lightning in a serene sky: “Exterminate all the brutes.” ’[407] This answer resulted in the most terrible massacres in recent history, the Boers’ extermination of Hottentot tribes, the wild murdering by Carl Peters in German Southeast Africa, the decimation of the peaceful Congo population – from 20 to 40 million reduced to 8 million people; and finally, perhaps worst of all, it resulted in the triumphant introduction of such means of pacification into ordinary, respectable foreign policies. What head of a civilized state would ever before have uttered the exhortation of William II to a German expeditionary contingent fighting the Boxer insurrection in 1900: ‘Just as the Huns a thousand years ago, under the leadership of Attila, gained a reputation by virtue of which they still live in history, so may the German name become known in such a manner in China that no Chinese will ever again dare to look askance at a German.’[408]

While race, whether as a home-grown ideology in Europe or an emergency explanation for shattering experiences, has always attracted the worst elements in Western civilization, bureaucracy was discovered by and first attracted the best, and sometimes even the most clear-sighted, strata of the European intelligentsia. The administrator who ruled by reports[409] and decrees in more hostile secrecy than any oriental despot grew out of a tradition of military discipline in the midst of ruthless and lawless men; for a long time he had lived by the honest, earnest boyhood ideals of a modern knight in shining armor sent to protect helpless and primitive people. And he fulfilled this task, for better or worse, as long as he moved in a world dominated by the old ‘trinity – war, trade and piracy’ (Goethe), and not in a complicated game of far-reaching investment policies which demanded the domination of one people, not as before for the sake of its own riches, but for the sake of another country’s wealth. Bureaucracy was the organization of the great game of expansion in which every area was considered a stepping-stone to further involvements and every people an instrument for further conquest.

Although in the end racism and bureaucracy proved to be interrelated in many ways, they were discovered and developed independently. No one who in one way or the other was implicated in their perfection ever came to realize the full range of potentialities of power accumulation and destruction that this combination alone provided. Lord Cromer, who in Egypt changed from an ordinary British chargé d’affaires into an imperialist bureaucrat, would no more have dreamed of combining administration with massacre (‘administrative massacres’ as Carthill bluntly put it forty years later), than the race fanatics of South Africa thought of organizing massacres for the purpose of establishing a circumscribed, rational political community (as the Nazis did in the extermination camps).

I: The Phantom World of the Dark Continent

Up to the end of the last century, the colonial enterprises of the seafaring European peoples produced two outstanding forms of achievement: in recently discovered and sparsely populated territories, the founding of new settlements which adopted the legal and political institutions of the mother country; and in well-known though exotic countries in the midst of foreign peoples, the establishment of maritime and trade stations whose only function was to facilitate the never very peaceful exchange of the treasures of the world. Colonization took place in America and Australia, the two continents that, without a culture and a history of their own, had fallen into the hands of Europeans. Trade stations were characteristic of Asia where for centuries Europeans had shown no ambition for permanent rule or intentions of conquest, decimation of the native population, and permanent settlement.[410] Both forms of overseas enterprise evolved in a long steady process which extended over almost four centuries, during which the settlements gradually achieved independence, and the possession of trade stations shifted among the nations according to their relative weakness or strength in Europe.

The only continent Europe had not touched in the course of its colonial history was the Dark Continent of Africa. Its northern shores, populated by Arabic peoples and tribes, were well known and had belonged to the European sphere of influence in one way or another since the days of antiquity. Too well populated to attract settlers, and too poor to be exploited, these regions suffered all kinds of foreign rule and anarchic neglect, but oddly enough never – after the decline of the Egyptian Empire and the destruction of Carthage – achieved authentic independence and reliable political organization. European countries tried time and again, it is true, to reach beyond the Mediterranean to impose their rule on Arabic lands and their Christianity on Moslem peoples, but they never attempted to treat North African territories like overseas possessions. On the contrary, they frequently aspired to incorporate them into the respective mother country. This age-old tradition, still followed in recent times by Italy and France, was broken in the eighties when England went into Egypt to protect the Suez Canal without any intention either of conquest or incorporation. The point is not that Egypt was wronged but that England (a nation that did not lie on the shores of the Mediterranean) could not possibly have been interested in Egypt as such, but needed her only because there were treasures in India.

While imperialism changed Egypt from a country occasionally coveted for her own sake into a military station for India and a stepping-stone for further expansion, the exact opposite happened to South Africa. Since the seventeenth century, the significance of the Cape of Good Hope had depended upon India, the center of colonial wealth; any nation that established trade stations there needed a maritime station on the Cape, which was then abandoned when trade in India was liquidated. At the end of the eighteenth century, the British East India Company defeated Portugal, Holland, and France and won a trade monopoly in India; the occupation of South Africa followed as a matter of course. If imperialism had simply continued the old trends of colonial trade (which is so frequently mistaken for imperialism), England would have liquidated her position in South Africa with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.[411] Although today South Africa belongs to the Commonwealth, it was always different from the other dominions; fertility and sparseness of population, the main prerequisites for definite settlement, were lacking, and a single effort to settle 5,000 unemployed Englishmen at the beginning of the nineteenth century proved a failure. Not only did the streams of emigrants from the British Isles consistently avoid South Africa throughout the nineteenth century, but South Africa is the only dominion from which a steady stream of emigrants has gone back to England in recent times.[412] South Africa, which became the ‘culture-bed of Imperialism’ (Dance), was never claimed by England’s most radical defenders of ‘Saxondom’ and it did not figure in the visions of her most romantic dreamers of an Asiatic Empire. This in itself shows how small the real influence of pre-imperialist colonial enterprise and overseas settlement was on the development of imperialism itself. If the Cape colony had remained within the framework of pre-imperialist policies, it would have been abandoned at the exact moment when it actually became all-important.

Although the discoveries of gold mines and diamond fields in the seventies and eighties would have had little consequence in themselves if they had not accidentally acted as a catalytic agent for imperialist forces, it remains remarkable that the imperialists’ claim to have found a permanent solution to the problem of superfluity was initially motivated by a rush for the most superfluous raw material on earth. Gold hardly has a place in human production and is of no importance compared with iron, coal, oil, and rubber; instead, it is the most ancient symbol of mere wealth. In its uselessness in industrial production it bears an ironical resemblance to the superfluous money that financed the digging of gold and to the superfluous men who did the digging. To the imperialists’ pretense of having discovered a permanent savior for a decadent society and antiquated political organization, it added its own pretense of apparently eternal stability and independence of all functional determinants. It was significant that a society about to part with all traditional absolute values began to look for an absolute value in the world of economics where, indeed, such a thing does not and cannot exist, since everything is functional by definition. This delusion of an absolute value has made the production of gold since ancient times the business of adventurers, gamblers, criminals, of elements outside the pale of normal, sane society. The new turn in the South African gold rush was that here the luck-hunters were not distinctly outside civilized society but, on the contrary, very clearly a by-product of this society, an inevitable residue of the capitalist system and even the representatives of an economy that relentlessly produced a superfluity of men and capital.

The superfluous men, ‘the Bohemians of the four continents’[413] who came rushing down to the Cape, still had much in common with the old adventurers. They too felt ‘Ship me somewheres east of Suez where the best is like the worst, / Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments, an’ a man can raise a thirst.’ The difference was not their morality or immorality, but rather that the decision to join this crowd ‘of all nations and colors’[414] was no longer up to them; that they had not stepped out of society but had been spat out by it; that they were not enterprising beyond the permitted limits of civilization but simply victims without use or function. Their only choice had been a negative one, a decision against the workers’ movements, in which the best of the superfluous men or of those who were threatened with superfluity established a kind of countersociety through which men could find their way back into a human world of fellowship and purpose. They were nothing of their own making, they were like living symbols of what had happened to them, living abstractions and witnesses of the absurdity of human institutions. They were not individuals like the old adventurers, they were the shadows of events with which they had nothing to do.

Like Mr. Kurtz in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’ they were ‘hollow to the core,’ ‘reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity and cruel without courage.’ They believed in nothing and ‘could get (themselves) to believe anything – anything.’ Expelled from a world with accepted social values, they had been thrown back upon themselves and still had nothing to fall back upon except, here and there, a streak of talent which made them as dangerous as Kurtz if they were ever allowed to return to their homelands. For the only talent that could possibly burgeon in their hollow souls was the gift of fascination which makes a ‘splendid leader of an extreme party.’ The more gifted were walking incarnations of resentment like the German Carl Peters (possibly the model for Kurtz), who openly admitted that he ‘was fed up with being counted among the pariahs and wanted to belong to a master race.’[415] But gifted or not, they were all ‘game for anything from pitch and toss to wilful murder’ and to them their fellow-men were ‘no more one way or another than that fly there.’ Thus they brought with them, or they learned quickly, the code of manners which befitted the coming type of murderer to whom the only unforgivable sin is to lose his temper.

There were, to be sure, authentic gentlemen among them, like Mr. Jones of Conrad’s Victory, who out of boredom were willing to pay any price to inhabit the ‘world of hazard and adventure,’ or like Mr. Heyst, who was drunk with contempt for everything human until he drifted ‘like a detached leaf … without ever catching on to anything.’ They were irresistibly attracted by a world where everything was a joke, which could teach them ‘the Great Joke’ that is ‘the mastery of despair.’ The perfect gentleman and the perfect scoundrel came to know each other well in the ‘great wild jungle without law,’ and they found themselves ‘well-matched in their enormous dissimilarity, identical souls in different disguises.’ We have seen the behavior of high society during the Dreyfus Affair and watched Disraeli discover the social relationship between vice and crime; here, too, we have essentially the same story of high society falling in love with its own underworld, and of the criminal feeling elevated when by civilized coldness, the avoidance of ‘unnecessary exertion,’ and good manners he is allowed to create a vicious, refined atmosphere around his crimes. This refinement, the very contrast between the brutality of the crime and the manner of carrying it out, becomes the bridge of deep understanding between himself and the perfect gentleman. But what, after all, took decades to achieve in Europe, because of the delaying effect of social ethical values, exploded with the suddenness of a short circuit in the phantom world of colonial adventure.

Outside all social restraint and hypocrisy, against the backdrop of native life, the gentleman and the criminal felt not only the closeness of men who share the same color of skin, but the impact of a world of infinite possibilities for crimes committed in the spirit of play, for the combination of horror and laughter, that is for the full realization of their own phantom-like existence. Native life lent these ghostlike events a seeming guarantee against all consequences because anyhow it looked to these men like a ‘mere play of shadows. A play of shadows, the dominant race could walk through unaffected and disregarded in the pursuit of its incomprehensible aims and needs.’

The world of native savages was a perfect setting for men who had escaped the reality of civilization. Under a merciless sun, surrounded by an entirely hostile nature, they were confronted with human beings who, living without the future of a purpose and the past of an accomplishment, were as incomprehensible as the inmates of a madhouse. ‘The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us – who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be, before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were traveling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone leaving hardly a sign – and no memories. The earth seemed unearthly … and the men … No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it – this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar’ (‘Heart of Darkness’).

It is strange that, historically speaking, the existence of ‘prehistoric men’ had so little influence on Western man before the scramble for Africa. It is, however, a matter of record that nothing much had happened as long as savage tribes, outnumbered by European settlers, had been exterminated, as long as shiploads of Negroes were imported as slaves into the Europe-determined world of the United States, or even as long as only individuals had drifted into the interior of the Dark Continent where the savages were numerous enough to constitute a world of their own, a world of folly, to which the European adventurer added the folly of the ivory hunt. Many of these adventurers had gone mad in the silent wilderness of an overpopulated continent where the presence of human beings only underlined utter solitude, and where an untouched, overwhelmingly hostile nature that nobody had ever taken the trouble to change into human landscape seemed to wait in sublime patience ‘for the passing away of the fantastic invasion’ of man. But their madness had remained a matter of individual experience and without consequences.

This changed with the men who arrived during the scramble for Africa. These were no longer lonely individuals; ‘all Europe had contributed to the making of (them).’ They concentrated on the southern part of the continent where they met the Boers, a Dutch splinter group which had been almost forgotten by Europe, but which now served as a natural introduction to the challenge of new surroundings. The response of the superfluous men was largely determined by the response of the only European group that ever, though in complete isolation, had to live in a world of black savages.

The Boers are descended from Dutch settlers who in the middle of the seventeenth century were stationed at the Cape to provide fresh vegetables and meat for ships on their voyage to India. A small group of French Huguenots was all that followed them in the course of the next century, so that it was only with the help of a high birthrate that the little Dutch splinter grew into a small people. Completely isolated from the current of European history, they set out on a path such ‘as few nations have trod before them, and scarcely one trod with success.’[416]

The two main material factors in the development of the Boer people were the extremely bad soil which could be used only for extensive cattle-raising, and the very large black population which was organized in tribes and lived as nomad hunters.[417] The bad soil made close settlement impossible and prevented the Dutch peasant settlers from following the village organization of their homeland. Large families, isolated from each other by broad spaces of wilderness, were forced into a kind of clan organization and only the ever-present threat of a common foe, the black tribes which by far outnumbered the white settlers, deterred these clans from active war against each other. The solution to the double problem of lack of fertility and abundance of natives was slavery.[418]

Slavery, however, is a very inadequate word to describe what actually happened. First of all, slavery, though it domesticated a certain part of the savage population, never got hold of all of them, so the Boers were never able to forget their first horrible fright before a species of men whom human pride and the sense of human dignity could not allow them to accept as fellow-men. This fright of something like oneself that still under no circumstances ought to be like oneself remained at the basis of slavery and became the basis for a race society.

Mankind remembers the history of peoples but has only legendary knowledge of prehistoric tribes. The word ‘race’ has a precise meaning only when and where peoples are confronted with such tribes of which they have no historical record and which do not know any history of their own. Whether these represent ‘prehistoric man,’ the accidentally surviving specimens of the first forms of human life on earth, or whether they are the ‘posthistoric’ survivors of some unknown disaster which ended a civilization we do not know. They certainly appeared rather like the survivors of one great catastrophe which might have been followed by smaller disasters until catastrophic monotony seemed to be a natural condition of human life. At any rate, races in this sense were found only in regions where nature was particularly hostile. What made them different from other human beings was not at all the color of their skin but the fact that they behaved like a part of nature, that they treated nature as their undisputed master, that they had not created a human world, a human reality, and that therefore nature had remained, in all its majesty, the only overwhelming reality – compared to which they appeared to be phantoms, unreal and ghostlike. They were, as it were, ‘natural’ human beings who lacked the specifically human character, the specifically human reality, so that when European men massacred them they somehow were not aware that they had committed murder.

Moreover, the senseless massacre of native tribes on the Dark Continent was quite in keeping with the traditions of these tribes themselves. Extermination of hostile tribes had been the rule in all African native wars, and it was not abolished when a black leader happened to unite several tribes under his leadership. King Tchaka, who at the beginning of the nineteenth century united the Zulu tribes in an extraordinarily disciplined and warlike organization, established neither a people nor a nation of Zulus. He only succeeded in exterminating more than one million members of weaker tribes.[419] Since discipline and military organization by themselves cannot establish a political body, the destruction remained an unrecorded episode in an unreal, incomprehensible process which cannot be accepted by man and therefore is not remembered by human history.

Slavery in the case of the Boers was a form of adjustment of a European people to a black race,[420] and only superficially resembled those historical instances when it had been a result of conquest or slave trade. No body politic, no communal organization kept the Boers together, no territory was definitely colonized, and the black slaves did not serve any white civilization. The Boers had lost both their peasant relationship to the soil and their civilized feeling for human fellowship. ‘Each man fled the tyranny of his neighbor’s smoke’[421] was the rule of the country, and each Boer family repeated in complete isolation the general pattern of Boer experience among black savages and ruled over them in absolute lawlessness, unchecked by ‘kind neighbors ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums’ (Conrad). Ruling over tribes and living parasitically from their labor, they came to occupy a position very similar to that of the native tribal leaders whose domination they had liquidated. The natives, at any rate, recognized them as a higher form of tribal leadership, a kind of natural deity to which one has to submit; so that the divine role of the Boers was as much imposed by their black slaves as assumed freely by themselves. It is a matter of course that to these white gods of black slaves each law meant only deprivation of freedom, government only restriction of the wild arbitrariness of the clan.[422] In the natives the Boers discovered the only ‘raw material’ which Africa provided in abundance and they used them not for the production of riches but for the mere essentials of human existence.

The black slaves in South Africa quickly became the only part of the population that actually worked. Their toil was marked by all the known disadvantages of slave labor, such as lack of initiative, laziness, neglect of tools, and general inefficiency. Their work therefore barely sufficed to keep their masters alive and never reached the comparative abundance which nurtures civilization. It was this absolute dependence on the work of others and complete contempt for labor and productivity in any form that transformed the Dutchman into the Boer and gave his concept of race a distinctly economic meaning.[423]

The Boers were the first European group to become completely alienated from the pride which Western man felt in living in a world created and fabricated by himself.[424] They treated the natives as raw material and lived on them as one might live on the fruits of wild trees. Lazy and unproductive, they agreed to vegetate on essentially the same level as the black tribes had vegetated for thousands of years. The great horror which had seized European men at their first confrontation with native life was stimulated by precisely this touch of inhumanity among human beings who apparently were as much a part of nature as wild animals. The Boers lived on their slaves exactly the way natives had lived on an unprepared and unchanged nature. When the Boers, in their fright and misery, decided to use these savages as though they were just another form of animal life, they embarked upon a process which could only end with their own degeneration into a white race living beside and together with black races from whom in the end they would differ only in the color of their skin.

The poor whites in South Africa, who in 1923 formed 10 per cent of the total white population[425] and whose standard of living does not differ much from that of the Bantu tribes, are today a warning example of this possibility. Their poverty is almost exclusively the consequence of their contempt for work and their adjustment to the way of life of black tribes. Like the blacks, they deserted the soil if the most primitive cultivation no longer yielded the little that was necessary or if they had exterminated the animals of the region.[426] Together with their former slaves, they came to the gold and diamond centers, abandoning their farms whenever the black workers departed. But in contrast to the natives who were immediately hired as cheap unskilled labor, they demanded and were granted charity as the right of a white skin, having lost all consciousness that normally men do not earn a living by the color of their skin.[427] Their race consciousness today is violent not only because they have nothing to lose save their membership in the white community, but also because the race concept seems to define their own condition much more adequately than it does that of their former slaves, who are well on the way to becoming workers, a normal part of human civilization.

Racism as a ruling device was used in this society of whites and blacks before imperialism exploited it as a major political idea. Its basis, and its excuse, were still experience itself, a horrifying experience of something alien beyond imagination or comprehension; it was tempting indeed simply to declare that these were not human beings. Since, however, despite all ideological explanations the black men stubbornly insisted on retaining their human features, the ‘white men’ could not but reconsider their own humanity and decide that they themselves were more than human and obviously chosen by God to be the gods of black men. This conclusion was logical and unavoidable if one wanted to deny radically all common bonds with savages; in practice it meant that Christianity for the first time could not act as a decisive curb on the dangerous perversions of human self-consciousness, a premonition of its essential ineffectiveness in other more recent race societies.[428] The Boers simply denied the Christian doctrine of the common origin of men and changed those passages of the Old Testament which did not yet transcend the limits of the old Israelite national religion into a superstition which could not even be called a heresy.[429] Like the Jews, they firmly believed in themselves as the chosen people,[430] with the essential difference that they were chosen not for the sake of divine salvation of mankind, but for the lazy domination over another species that was condemned to an equally lazy drudgery.[431] This was God’s will on earth as the Dutch Reformed Church proclaimed it and still proclaims it today in sharp and hostile contrast to the missionaries of all other Christian denominations.[432]

Boer racism, unlike the other brands, has a touch of authenticity and, so to speak, of innocence. A complete lack of literature and other intellectual achievement is the best witness to this statement.[433] It was and remains a desperate reaction to desperate living conditions which was inarticulate and inconsequential as long as it was left alone. Things began to happen only with the arrival of the British, who showed little interest in their newest colony which in 1849 was still called a military station (as opposed to either a colony or a plantation). But their mere presence – that is, their contrasting attitude toward the natives whom they did not consider a different animal species, their later attempts (after 1834) to abolish slavery, and above all their efforts to impose fixed boundaries upon landed property – provoked the stagnant Boer society into violent reactions. It is characteristic of the Boers that these reactions followed the same, repeated pattern throughout the nineteenth century: Boer farmers escaped British law by treks into the interior wilderness of the country, abandoning without regret their homes and their farms. Rather than accept limitations upon their possessions, they left them altogether.[434] This does not mean that the Boers did not feel at home wherever they happened to be; they felt and still feel much more at home in Africa than any subsequent immigrants, but in Africa and not in any specific limited territory. Their fantastic treks, which threw the British administration into consternation, showed clearly that they had transformed themselves into a tribe and had lost the European’s feeling for a territory, a patria of his own. They behaved exactly like the black tribes who had also roamed the Dark Continent for centuries – feeling at home wherever the horde happened to be, and fleeing like death every attempt at definite settlement.

Rootlessness is characteristic of all race organizations. What the European ‘movements’ consciously aimed at, the transformation of the people into a horde, can be watched like a laboratory test in the Boers’ early and sad attempt. While rootlessness as a conscious aim was based primarily upon hatred of a world that had no place for ‘superfluous’ men, so that its destruction could become a supreme political goal, the rootlessness of the Boers was a natural result of early emancipation from work and complete lack of a human-built world. The same striking similarity prevails between the ‘movements’ and the Boers’ interpretation of ‘chosenness.’ But while the Pan-German, Pan-Slav, or Polish Messianic movements’ chosenness was a more or less conscious instrument for domination, the Boers’ perversion of Christianity was solidly rooted in a horrible reality in which miserable ‘white men’ were worshipped as divinities by equally unfortunate ‘black men.’ Living in an environment which they had no power to transform into a civilized world, they could discover no higher value than themselves. The point, however, is that no matter whether racism appears as the natural result of a catastrophe or as the conscious instrument for bringing it about, it is always closely tied to contempt for labor, hatred of territorial limitation, general rootlessness, and an activistic faith in one’s own divine chosenness.

Early British rule in South Africa, with its missionaries, soldiers, and explorers, did not realize that the Boers’ attitudes had some basis in reality. They did not understand that absolute European supremacy – in which they, after all, were as interested as the Boers – could hardly be maintained except through racism because the permanent European settlement was so hopelessly outnumbered;[435] they were shocked ‘if Europeans settled in Africa were to act like savages themselves because it was the custom of the country,’[436] and to their simple utilitarian minds it seemed folly to sacrifice productivity and profit to the phantom world of white gods ruling over black shadows. Only with the settlement of Englishmen and other Europeans during the gold rush did they gradually adjust to a population which could not be lured back into European civilization even by profit motives, which had lost contact even with the lower incentives of European man when it had cut itself off from his higher motives, because both lose their meaning and appeal in a society where nobody wants to achieve anything and everyone has become a god.

II: Gold and Race

The diamond fields of Kimberley and the gold mines of the Witwatersrand happened to lie in this phantom world of race, and ‘a land that had seen boat-load after boat-load of emigrants for New Zealand and Australia pass it unheeding by now saw men tumbling on to its wharves and hurrying up country to the mines. Most of them were English, but among them was more than a sprinkling from Riga and Kiev, Hamburg and Frankfort, Rotterdam and San Francisco.’[437] All of them belonged to ‘a class of persons who prefer adventure and speculation to settled industry, and who do not work well in the harness of ordinary life … [There were] diggers from America and Australia, German speculators, traders, saloonkeepers, professional gamblers, barristers … ex-officers of the army and navy, younger sons of good families … a marvelous motley assemblage among whom money flowed like water from the amazing productiveness of the mine.’ They were joined by thousands of natives who first came to ‘steal diamonds and to lag their earnings out in rifles and powder,’[438] but quickly started to work for wages and became the seemingly inexhaustible cheap labor supply when the ‘most stagnant of colonial regions suddenly exploded into activity.’[439]

The abundance of natives, of cheap labor, was the first and perhaps most important difference between this gold rush and others of its type. It was soon apparent that the mob from the four corners of the earth would not even have to do the digging; at any rate, the permanent attraction of South Africa, the permanent resource that tempted the adventurers to permanent settlement, was not the gold but this human raw material which promised a permanent emancipation from work.[440] The Europeans served solely as supervisors and did not even produce skilled labor and engineers, both of which had constantly to be imported from Europe.

Second in importance only, for the ultimate outcome, was the fact that this gold rush was not simply left to itself but was financed, organized, and connected with the ordinary European economy through the accumulated superfluous wealth and with the help of Jewish financiers. From the very beginning ‘a hundred or so Jewish merchants who have gathered like eagles over their prey’[441] actually acted as middlemen through whom European capital was invested in the gold mining and diamond industries.

The only section of the South African population that did not have and did not want to have a share in the suddenly exploding activities of the country were the Boers. They hated all these uitlanders, who did not care for citizenship but who needed and obtained British protection, thereby seemingly strengthening British government influence on the Cape. The Boers reacted as they had always reacted, they sold their diamond-laden possessions in Kimberley and their farms with gold mines near Johannesburg and trekked once more into the interior wilderness. They did not understand that this new influx was different from the British missionaries, government officials, or ordinary settlers, and they realized only when it was too late and they had already lost their share in the riches of the gold hunt that the new idol of Gold was not at all irreconcilable with their idol of Blood, that the new mob was as unwilling to work and as unfit to establish a civilization as they were themselves, and would therefore spare them the British officials’ annoying insistence on law and the Christian missionaries’ irritating concept of human equality.

The Boers feared and fled what actually never happened, namely, the industrialization of the country. They were right insofar as normal production and civilization would indeed have destroyed automatically the way of life of a race society. A normal market for labor and merchandise would have liquidated the privileges of race. But gold and diamonds, which soon provided a living for half of South Africa’s population, were not merchandise in the same sense and were not produced in the same way as wool in Australia, meat in New Zealand, or wheat in Canada. The irrational, non-functional place of gold in the economy made it independent of rational production methods which, of course, could never have tolerated the fantastic disparities between black and white wages. Gold, an object for speculation and essentially dependent in value upon political factors, became the ‘lifeblood’ of South Africa[442] but it could not and did not become the basis of a new economic order.

The Boers also feared the mere presence of the uitlanders because they mistook them for British settlers. The uitlanders, however, came solely in order to get rich quickly, and only those remained who did not quite succeed or who, like the Jews, had no country to return to. Neither group cared very much to establish a community after the model of European countries, as British settlers had done in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It was Barnato who happily discovered that ‘the Transvaal Government is like no other government in the world. It is indeed not a government at all, but an unlimited company of some twenty thousand shareholders.’[443] Similarly, it was more or less a series of misunderstandings which finally led to the British-Boer war, which the Boers wrongly believed to be ‘the culmination of the British Government’s lengthy quest for a united South Africa,’ while it was actually prompted mainly by investment interests.[444] When the Boers lost the war, they lost no more than they had already deliberately abandoned, that is, their share in the riches; but they definitely won the consent of all other European elements, including the British government, to the lawlessness of a race society.[445] Today, all sections of the population, British or Afrikander, organized workers or capitalists, agree on the race question,[446] and whereas the rise of Nazi Germany and its conscious attempt to transform the German people into a race strengthened the political position of the Boers considerably, Germany’s defeat has not weakened it.

The Boers hated and feared the financiers more than the other foreigners. They somehow understood that the financier was a key figure in the combination of superfluous wealth and superfluous men, that it was his function to turn the essentially transitory gold hunt into a much broader and more permanent business.[447] The war with the British, moreover, soon demonstrated an even more decisive aspect; it was quite obvious that it had been prompted by foreign investors who demanded the government’s protection of their tremendous profits in faraway countries as a matter of course – as though armies engaged in a war against foreign peoples were nothing but native police forces involved in a fight with native criminals. It made little difference to the Boers that the men who introduced this kind of violence into the shadowy affairs of the gold and diamond production were no longer the financiers, but those who somehow had risen from the mob itself and, like Cecil Rhodes, believed less in profits than in expansion for expansion’s sake.[448] The financiers, who were mostly Jews and only the representatives, not the owners, of the superfluous capital, had neither the necessary political influence nor enough economic power to introduce political purposes and the use of violence into speculation and gambling.

Without doubt the financiers, though finally not the decisive factor in imperialism, were remarkably representative of it in its initial period.[449] They had taken advantage of the overproduction of capital and its accompanying complete reversal of economic and moral values. Instead of mere trade in goods and mere profit from production, trade in capital itself emerged on an unprecedented scale. This alone would have given them a prominent position; in addition profits from investments in foreign countries soon increased at a much more rapid rate than trade profits, so that traders and merchants lost their primacy to the financier.[450] The main economic characteristic of the financier is that he earns his profits not from production and exploitation or exchange of merchandise or normal banking, but solely through commissions. This is important in our context because it gives him that touch of unreality, of phantom-like existence and essential futility even in a normal economy, that are typical of so many South African events. The financiers certainly did not exploit anybody and they had least control over the course of their business ventures, whether these turned out to be common swindles or sound enterprises belatedly confirmed.

It is also significant that it was precisely the mob element among the Jewish people who turned into financiers. It is true that the discovery of gold mines in South Africa had coincided with the first modern pogroms in Russia, so that a trickle of Jewish emigrants went to South Africa. There, however, they would hardly have played a role in the international crowd of desperadoes and fortune hunters if a few Jewish financiers had not been there ahead of them and taken an immediate interest in the newcomers who clearly could represent them in the population.

The Jewish financiers came from practically every country on the continent where they had been, in terms of class, as superfluous as the other South African immigrants. They were quite different from the few established families of Jewish notables whose influence had steadily decreased after 1820, and into whose ranks they could therefore no longer be assimilated. They belonged in that new caste of Jewish financiers which, from the seventies and eighties on, we find in all European capitals, where they had come, mostly after having left their countries of origin, in order to try their luck in the international stock-market gamble. This they did everywhere to the great dismay of the older Jewish families, who were too weak to stop the unscrupulousness of the newcomers and therefore only too glad if the latter decided to transfer the field of their activities overseas. In other words, the Jewish financiers had become as superfluous in legitimate Jewish banking as the wealth they represented had become superfluous in legitimate industrial enterprise and the fortune hunters in the world of legitimate labor. In South Africa itself, where the merchant was about to lose his status within the country’s economy to the financier, the new arrivals, the Barnatos, Beits, Sammy Marks, removed the older Jewish settlers from first position much more easily than in Europe.[451] In South Africa, though hardly anywhere else, they were the third factor in the initial alliance between capital and mob; to a large extent, they set the alliance into motion, handled the influx of capital and its investment in the gold mines and diamond fields, and soon became more conspicuous than anybody else.

The fact of their Jewish origin added an undefinable symbolic flavor to the role of the financiers – a flavor of essential homelessness and rootlessness – and thus served to introduce an element of mystery, as well as to symbolize the whole affair. To this must be added their actual international connections, which naturally stimulated the general popular delusions concerning Jewish political power all over the world. It is quite comprehensible that all the fantastic notions of a secret international Jewish power – notions which originally had been the result of the closeness of Jewish banking capital to the state’s sphere of business – became even more virulent here than on the European continent. Here, for the first time Jews were driven into the midst of a race society and almost automatically singled out by the Boers from all other ‘white’ people for special hatred, not only as the representatives of the whole enterprise, but as a different ‘race,’ the embodiment of a devilish principle introduced into the normal world of ‘blacks’ and ‘whites.’ This hatred was all the more violent as it was partly caused by the suspicion that the Jews with their own older and more authentic claim would be harder than anyone else to convince of the Boers’ claim to chosenness. While Christianity simply denied the principle as such, Judaism seemed a direct challenge and rival. Long before the Nazis consciously built up an antisemitic movement in South Africa, the race issue had invaded the conflict between the uitlander and the Boers in the form of antisemitism,[452] which is all the more noteworthy since the importance of Jews in the South African gold and diamond economy did not survive the turn of the century.

As soon as the gold and diamond industries reached the stage of imperialist development where absentee shareholders demand their governments’ political protection, it turned out that the Jews could not hold their important economic position. They had no home government to turn to and their position in South African society was so insecure that much more was at stake for them than a mere decrease in influence. They could preserve economic security and permanent settlement in South Africa, which they needed more than any other group of uitlanders, only if they achieved some status in society – which in this case meant admission to exclusive British clubs. They were forced to trade their influence against the position of a gentleman, as Cecil Rhodes very bluntly put it when he bought his way into the Barnato Diamond Trust, after having amalgamated his De Beers Company with Alfred Beit’s Company.[453] But these Jews had more to offer than just economic power; it was thanks to them that Cecil Rhodes, as much a newcomer and adventurer as they, was finally accepted by England’s respectable banking business with which the Jewish financiers after all had better connections than anybody else.[454] ‘Not one of the English banks would have lent a single shilling on the security of gold shares. It was the unbounded confidence of these diamond men from Kimberley that operated like a magnet upon their co-religionists at home.’[455]

The gold rush became a full-fledged imperialist enterprise only after Cecil Rhodes had dispossessed the Jews, taken investment policies from England’s into his own hands, and had become the central figure on the Cape. Seventy-five per cent of the dividends paid to shareholders went abroad, and a large majority of them to Great Britain. Rhodes succeeded in interesting the British government in his business affairs, persuaded them that expansion and export of the instruments of violence was necessary to protect investments, and that such a policy was a holy duty of every national government. On the other hand, he introduced on the Cape itself that typically imperialist economic policy of neglecting all industrial enterprises which were not owned by absentee shareholders, so that finally not only the gold mining companies but the government itself discouraged the exploitation of abundant base metal deposits and the production of consumers’ goods.[456] With the initiation of this policy, Rhodes introduced the most potent factor in the eventual appeasement of the Boers; the neglect of all authentic industrial enterprise was the most solid guarantee for the avoidance of normal capitalist development and thus against a normal end of race society.

It took the Boers several decades to understand that imperialism was nothing to be afraid of, since it would neither develop the country as Australia and Canada had been developed, nor draw profits from the country at large, being quite content with a high turnover of investments in one specific field. Imperialism therefore was willing to abandon the so-called laws of capitalist production and their egalitarian tendencies, so long as profits from specific investments were safe. This led eventually to the abolition of the law of mere profitableness and South Africa became the first example of a phenomenon that occurs whenever the mob becomes the dominant factor in the alliance between mob and capital.

In one respect, the most important one, the Boers remained the undisputed masters of the country: whenever rational labor and production policies came into conflict with race considerations, the latter won. Profit motives were sacrificed time and again to the demands of a race society, frequently at a terrific price. The rentability of the railroads was destroyed overnight when the government dismissed 17,000 Bantu employees and paid whites wages that amounted to 200 per cent more;[457] expenses for municipal government became prohibitive when native municipal employees were replaced with whites; the Color Bar Bill finally excluded all black workers from mechanical jobs and forced industrial enterprise to a tremendous increase of production costs. The race world of the Boers had nobody to fear any more, least of all white labor, whose trade unions complained bitterly that the Color Bar Bill did not go far enough.[458]

At first glance, it is surprising that a violent antisemitism survived the disappearance of the Jewish financiers as well as the successful indoctrination with racism of all parts of the European population. The Jews were certainly no exception to this rule; they adjusted to racism as well as everybody else and their behavior toward black people was beyond reproach.[459] Yet they had, without being aware of it and under pressure of special circumstances, broken with one of the most powerful traditions of the country.

The first sign of ‘anormal’ behavior came immediately after the Jewish financiers had lost their position in the gold and diamond industries. They did not leave the country but settled down permanently[460] into a unique position for a white group: they neither belonged to the ‘lifeblood’ of Africa nor to the ‘poor white trash.’ Instead they started almost immediately to build up those industries and professions which according to South African opinion are ‘secondary’ because they are not connected with gold.[461] Jews became manufacturers of furniture and clothes, shopkeepers and members of the professions, physicians, lawyers, and journalists. In other words, no matter how well they thought they were adjusted to the mob conditions of the country and its race attitude, Jews had broken its most important pattern by introducing into South African economy a factor of normalcy and productivity, with the result that when Mr. Malan introduced into Parliament a bill to expel all Jews from the Union he had the enthusiastic support of all poor whites and of the whole Afrikander population.[462]

This change in the economic function, the transformation of South African Jewry from representing the most shadowy characters in the shadow world of gold and race into the only productive part of the population, came like an oddly belated confirmation of the original fears of the Boers. They had hated the Jews not so much as the middlemen of superfluous wealth or the representatives of the world of gold; they had feared and despised them as the very image of the uitlanders who would try to change the country into a normal producing part of Western civilization, whose profit motives, at least, would mortally endanger the phantom world of race. And when the Jews were finally cut off from the golden lifeblood of the uitlanders and could not leave the country as all other foreigners would have done in similar circumstances, developing ‘secondary’ industries instead, the Boers turned out to be right. The Jews, entirely by themselves and without being the image of anything or anybody, had become a real menace to race society. As matters stand today, the Jews have against them the concerted hostility of all those who believe in race or gold – and that is practically the whole European population in South Africa. Yet they cannot and will not make common cause with the only other group which slowly and gradually is being won away from race society: the black workers who are becoming more and more aware of their humanity under the impact of regular labor and urban life. Although they, in contrast to the ‘whites,’ do have a genuine race origin, they have made no fetish of race, and the abolition of race society means only the promise of their liberation.

In contrast to the Nazis, to whom racism and antisemitism were major political weapons for the destruction of civilization and the setting up of a new body politic, racism and antisemitism are a matter of course and a natural consequence of the status quo in South Africa. They did not need Nazism in order to be born and they influenced Nazism only in an indirect way.

There were, however, real and immediate boomerang effects of South Africa’s race society on the behavior of European peoples: since cheap Indian and Chinese labor had been madly imported to South Africa whenever her interior supply was temporarily halted,[463] a change of attitude toward colored people was felt immediately in Asia where, for the first time, people were treated in almost the same way as those African savages who had frightened Europeans literally out of their wits. The difference was only that there could be no excuse and no humanly comprehensible reason for treating Indians and Chinese as though they were not human beings. In a certain sense, it is only here that the real crime began, because here everyone ought to have known what he was doing. It is true that the race notion was somewhat modified in Asia; ‘higher and lower breeds,’ as the ‘white man’ would say when he started to shoulder his burden, still indicate a scale and the possibility of gradual development, and the idea somehow escapes the concept of two entirely different species of animal life. On the other hand, since the race principle supplanted the older notion of alien and strange peoples in Asia, it was a much more consciously applied weapon for domination and exploitation than in Africa.

Less immediately significant but of greater importance for totalitarian governments was the other experience in Africa’s race society, that profit motives are not holy and can be overruled, that societies can function according to principles other than economic, and that such circumstances may favor those who under conditions of rationalized production and the capitalist system would belong to the underprivileged. South Africa’s race society taught the mob the great lesson of which it had always had a confused premonition, that through sheer violence an underprivileged group could create a class lower than itself, that for this purpose it did not even need a revolution but could band together with groups of the ruling classes, and that foreign or backward peoples offered the best opportunities for such tactics.

The full impact of the African experience was first realized by leaders of the mob, like Carl Peters, who decided that they too had to belong to a master race. African colonial possessions became the most fertile soil for the flowering of what later was to become the Nazi elite. Here they had seen with their own eyes how peoples could be converted into races and how, simply by taking the initiative in this process, one might push one’s own people into the position of the master race. Here they were cured of the illusion that the historical process is necessarily ‘progressive,’ for if it was the course of older colonization to trek to something, the ‘Dutchman trekked away from everything,’[464] and if ‘economic history once taught that man had developed by gradual steps from a life of hunting to pastoral pursuits and finally to a settled and agricultural life,’ the story of the Boers clearly demonstrated that one could also come ‘from a land that had taken the lead in a thrifty and intensive cultivation … [and] gradually become a herdsman and a hunter.’[465] These leaders understood very well that precisely because the Boers had sunk back to the level of savage tribes they remained their undisputed masters. They were perfectly willing to pay the price, to recede to the level of a race organization, if by so doing they could buy lordship over other ‘races.’ And they knew from their experiences with people gathered from the four corners of the earth in South Africa that the whole mob of the Western civilized world would be with them.[466]

III: The Imperialist Character

Of the two main political devices of imperialist rule, race was discovered in South Africa and bureaucracy in Algeria, Egypt, and India; the former was originally the barely conscious reaction to tribes of whose humanity European man was ashamed and frightened, whereas the latter was a consequence of that administration by which Europeans had tried to rule foreign peoples whom they felt to be hopelessly their inferiors and at the same time in need of their special protection. Race, in other words, was an escape into an irresponsibility where nothing human could any longer exist, and bureaucracy was the result of a responsibility that no man can bear for his fellow-man and no people for another people.

The exaggerated sense of responsibility in the British administrators of India who succeeded Burke’s ‘breakers of law’ had its material basis in the fact that the British Empire had actually been acquired in a ‘fit of absent-mindedness.’ Those, therefore, who were confronted with the accomplished fact and the job of keeping what had become theirs through an accident, had to find an interpretation that could change the accident into a kind of willed act. Such historical changes of fact have been carried through by legends since ancient times, and legends dreamed up by the British intelligentsia have played a decisive role in the formation of the bureaucrat and the secret agent of the British services.

Legends have always played a powerful role in the making of history. Man, who has not been granted the gift of undoing, who is always an unconsulted heir of other men’s deeds, and who is always burdened with a responsibility that appears to be the consequence of an unending chain of events rather than conscious acts, demands an explanation and interpretation of the past in which the mysterious key to his future destiny seems to be concealed. Legends were the spiritual foundations of every ancient city, empire, people, promising safe guidance through the limitless spaces of the future. Without ever relating facts reliably, yet always expressing their true significance, they offered a truth beyond realities, a remembrance beyond memories.

Legendary explanations of history always served as belated corrections of facts and real events, which were needed precisely because history itself would hold man responsible for deeds he had not done and for consequences he had never foreseen. The truth of the ancient legends – what gives them their fascinating actuality many centuries after the cities and empires and peoples they served have crumbled to dust – was nothing but the form in which past events were made to fit the human condition in general and political aspirations in particular. Only in the frankly invented tale about events did man consent to assume his responsibility for them, and to consider past events his past. Legends made him master of what he had not done, and capable of dealing with what he could not undo. In this sense, legends are not only among the first memories of mankind, but actually the true beginning of human history.

The flourishing of historical and political legends came to a rather abrupt end with the birth of Christianity. Its interpretation of history, from the days of Adam to the Last Judgment, as one single road to redemption and salvation, offered the most powerful and all-inclusive legendary explanation of human destiny. Only after the spiritual unity of Christian peoples gave way to the plurality of nations, when the road to salvation became an uncertain article of individual faith rather than a universal theory applicable to all happenings, did new kinds of historical explanations emerge. The nineteenth century has offered us the curious spectacle of an almost simultaneous birth of the most varying and contradictory ideologies, each of which claimed to know the hidden truth about otherwise incomprehensible facts. Legends, however, are not ideologies; they do not aim at universal explanation but are always concerned with concrete facts. It seems rather significant that the growth of national bodies was nowhere accompanied by a foundation legend, and that a first unique attempt in modern times was made precisely when the decline of the national body had become obvious and imperialism seemed to take the place of old-fashioned nationalism.

The author of the imperialist legend is Rudyard Kipling, its topic is the British Empire, its result the imperialist character (imperialism was the only school of character in modern politics). And while the legend of the British Empire has little to do with the realities of British imperialism, it forced or deluded into its services the best sons of England. For legends attract the very best in our times, just as ideologies attract the average, and the whispered tales of gruesome secret powers behind the scenes attract the very worst. No doubt, no political structure could have been more evocative of legendary tales and justifications than the British Empire, than the British people’s drifting from the conscious founding of colonies into ruling and dominating foreign peoples all over the world.

The foundation legend, as Kipling tells it, starts from the fundamental reality of the people of the British Isles.[467] Surrounded by the sea, they need and win the help of the three elements of Water, Wind, and Sun through the invention of the Ship. The ship made the always dangerous alliance with the elements possible and made the Englishman master of the world. ‘You’ll win the world,’ says Kipling, ‘without anyone caring how you did it: you’ll keep the world without anyone knowing how you did it: and you’ll carry the world on your backs without anyone seeing how you did it. But neither you nor your sons will get anything out of that little job except Four Gifts – one for the Sea, one for the Wind, one for the Sun and one for the Ship that carries you … For, winning the world, and keeping the world, and carrying the world on their backs – on land, or on sea, or in the air – your sons will always have the Four Gifts. Long-headed and slow-spoken and heavy – damned heavy – in the hand, will they be; and always a little bit to windward of every enemy – that they may be a safeguard to all who pass on the seas on their lawful occasions.’

What brings the little tale of the ‘First Sailor’ so close to ancient foundation legends is that it presents the British as the only politically mature people, caring for law and burdened with the welfare of the world, in the midst of barbarian tribes who neither care nor know what keeps the world together. Unfortunately this presentation lacked the innate truth of ancient legends; the world cared and knew and saw how they did it and no such tale could ever have convinced the world that they did not ‘get anything out of that little job.’ Yet there was a certain reality in England herself which corresponded to Kipling’s legend and made it at all possible, and that was the existence of such virtues as chivalry, nobility, bravery, even though they were utterly out of place in a political reality ruled by Cecil Rhodes or Lord Curzon.

The fact that the ‘white man’s burden’ is either hypocrisy or racism has not prevented a few of the best Englishmen from shouldering the burden in earnest and making themselves the tragic and quixotic fools of imperialism. As real in England as the tradition of hypocrisy is another less obvious one which one is tempted to call a tradition of dragon-slayers who went enthusiastically into far and curious lands to strange and naïve peoples to slay the numerous dragons that had plagued them for centuries. There is more than a grain of truth in Kipling’s other tale, ‘The Tomb of His Ancestor,’[468] in which the Chinn family ‘serve India generation after generation, as dolphins follow in line across the open sea.’ They shoot the deer that steals the poor man’s crop, teach him the mysteries of better agricultural methods, free him from some of his more harmful superstitions and kill lions and tigers in grand style. Their only reward is indeed a ‘tomb of ancestors’ and a family legend, believed by the whole Indian tribe, according to which ‘the revered ancestor … has a tiger of his own – a saddle tiger that he rides round the country whenever he feels inclined.’ Unfortunately, this riding around the countryside is ‘a sure sign of war or pestilence or – or something,’ and in this particular case it is a sign of vaccination. So that Chinn the Youngest, a not very important underling in the hierarchy of the Army Services, but all-important as far as the Indian tribe is concerned, has to shoot the beast of his ancestor so that people can be vaccinated without fear of ‘war or pestilence or something.’

As modern life goes, the Chinns indeed ‘are luckier than most folks.’ Their chance is that they were born into a career that gently and naturally leads them to the realization of the best dreams of youth. When other boys have to forget ‘noble dreams,’ they happen to be just old enough to translate them into action. And when after thirty years of service they retire, their steamer will pass ‘the outward bound troopship, carrying his son eastward to the family duty,’ so that the power of old Mr. Chinn’s existence as a government-appointed and army-paid dragon-slayer can be imparted to the next generation. No doubt, the British government pays them for their services, but it is not at all clear in whose service they eventually land. There is a strong possibility that they really serve this particular Indian tribe, generation after generation, and it is consoling all around that at least the tribe itself is convinced of this. The fact that the higher services know hardly anything of little Lieutenant Chinn’s strange duties and adventures, that they are hardly aware of his being a successful reincarnation of his grandfather, gives his dreamlike double existence an undisturbed basis in reality. He is simply at home in two worlds, separated by water- and gossip-tight walls. Born in ‘the heart of the scrubby tigerish country’ and educated among his own people in peaceful, well-balanced, ill-informed England, he is ready to live permanently with two peoples and is rooted in and well acquainted with the tradition, language, superstition, and prejudices of both. At a moment’s notice he can change from the obedient underling of one of His Majesty’s soldiers into an exciting and noble figure in the natives’ world, a well-beloved protector of the weak, the dragon-slayer of old tales.

The point is that these queer quixotic protectors of the weak who played their role behind the scenes of official British rule were not so much the product of a primitive people’s naïve imagination as of dreams which contained the best of European and Christian traditions, even when they had already deteriorated into the futility of boyhood ideals. It was neither His Majesty’s soldier nor the British higher official who could teach the natives something of the greatness of the Western world. Only those who had never been able to outgrow their boyhood ideals and therefore had enlisted in the colonial services were fit for the task. Imperialism to them was nothing but an accidental opportunity to escape a society in which a man had to forget his youth if he wanted to grow up. English society was only too glad to see them depart to faraway countries, a circumstance which permitted the toleration and even the furtherance of boyhood ideals in the public school system; the colonial services took them away from England and prevented, so to speak, their converting the ideals of their boyhood into the mature ideas of men. Strange and curious lands attracted the best of England’s youth since the end of the nineteenth century, deprived her society of the most honest and the most dangerous elements, and guaranteed, in addition to this bliss, a certain conservation, or perhaps petrification, of boyhood noblesse which preserved and infantilized Western moral standards.

Lord Cromer, secretary to the Viceroy and financial member in the pre-imperialist government of India, still belonged in the category of British dragon-slayers. Led solely by ‘the sense of sacrifice’ for backward populations and ‘the sense of duty’[469] to the glory of Great Britain that ‘has given birth to a class of officials who have both the desire and the capacity to govern,’[470] he declined in 1894 the post of Viceroy and refused ten years later the position of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Instead of such honors, which would have satisfied a lesser man, he became the little-publicized and all-powerful British Consul General in Egypt from 1883 to 1907. There he became the first imperialist administrator, certainly ‘second to none among those who by their services have glorified the British race’;[471] perhaps the last to die in undisturbed pride: ‘Let these suffice for Britain’s meed – / No nobler price was ever won, / The blessings of a people freed / The consciousness of duty done.’[472]

Cromer went to Egypt because he realized that ‘the Englishman straining far over to hold his loved India [has to] plant a firm foot on the banks of the Nile.’[473] Egypt was to him only a means to an end, a necessary expansion for the sake of security for India. At almost the same moment it happened that another Englishman set foot on the African continent, though at its opposite end and for opposite reasons: Cecil Rhodes went to South Africa and saved the Cape colony after it had lost all importance for the Englishman’s ‘loved India.’ Rhodes’s ideas on expansion were far more advanced than those of his more respectable colleague in the north; to him expansion did not need to be justified by such sensible motives as the holding of what one already possessed. ‘Expansion was everything’ and India, South Africa, and Egypt were equally important or unimportant as stepping-stones in an expansion limited only by the size of the earth. There certainly was an abyss between the vulgar megalomaniac and the educated man of sacrifice and duty; yet they arrived at roughly identical results and were equally responsible for the ‘Great Game’ of secrecy, which was no less insane and no less detrimental to politics than the phantom world of race.

The outstanding similarity between Rhodes’s rule in South Africa and Cromer’s domination of Egypt was that both regarded the countries not as desirable ends in themselves but merely as means for some supposedly higher purpose. They were similar therefore in their indifference and aloofness, in their genuine lack of interest in their subjects, an attitude which differed as much from the cruelty and arbitrariness of native despots in Asia as from the exploiting carelessness of conquerors, or the insane and anarchic oppression of one race tribe through another. As soon as Cromer started to rule Egypt for the sake of India, he lost his role of protector of ‘backward peoples’ and could no longer sincerely believe that ‘the self-interest of the subject-races is the principal basis of the whole Imperial fabric.’[474]

Aloofness became the new attitude of all members of the British services; it was a more dangerous form of governing than despotism and arbitrariness because it did not even tolerate that last link between the despot and his subjects, which is formed by bribery and gifts. The very integrity of the British administration made despotic government more inhuman and inaccessible to its subjects than Asiatic rulers or reckless conquerors had ever been.[475] Integrity and aloofness were symbols for an absolute division of interests to the point where they are not even permitted to conflict. In comparison, exploitation, oppression, or corruption look like safeguards of human dignity, because exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, corruptor and corrupted still live in the same world, still share the same goals, fight each other for the possession of the same things; and it is this tertium comparationis which aloofness destroyed. Worst of all was the fact that the aloof administrator was hardly aware that he had invented a new form of government but actually believed that his attitude was conditioned by ‘the forcible contact with a people living on a lower plane.’ So, instead of believing in his individual superiority with some degree of essentially harmless vanity, he felt that he belonged to ‘a nation which had reached a comparatively high plane of civilization’[476] and therefore held his position by right of birth, regardless of personal achievements.

Lord Cromer’s career is fascinating because it embodies the very turning point from the older colonial to imperialist services. His first reaction to his duties in Egypt was a marked uneasiness and concern about a state of affairs which was not ‘annexation’ but a ‘hybrid form of government to which no name can be given and for which there is no precedent.’[477] In 1885, after two years of service, he still harbored serious doubts about a system in which he was the nominal British Consul General and the actual ruler of Egypt and wrote that a ‘highly delicate mechanism [whose] efficient working depends very greatly on the judgment and ability of a few individuals … can … be justified [only] if we are able to keep before our eyes the possibility of evacuation … If that possibility becomes so remote as to be of no practical account … it would be better for us … to arrange … with the other Powers that we should take over the government of the country, guarantee its debt, etc.’[478] No doubt Cromer was right, and either, occupation or evacuation, would have normalized matters. But that ‘hybrid form of government’ without precedent was to become characteristic of all imperialist enterprise, with the result that a few decades afterwards everybody had lost Cromer’s early sound judgment about possible and impossible forms of government, just as there was lost Lord Selbourne’s early insight that a race society as a way of life was unprecedented. Nothing could better characterize the initial stage of imperialism than the combination of these two judgments on conditions in Africa: a way of life without precedent in the south, a government without precedent in the north.

In the following years, Cromer reconciled himself to the ‘hybrid form of government’; in his letters he began to justify it and to expound the need for the government without name and precedent. At the end of his life, he laid down (in his essay on ‘The Government of Subject Races’) the main lines of what one may well call a philosophy of the bureaucrat.

Cromer started by recognizing that ‘personal influence’ without a legal or written political treaty could be enough for ‘sufficiently effective supervision over public affairs’[479] in foreign countries. This kind of informal influence was preferable to a well-defined policy because it could be altered at a moment’s notice and did not necessarily involve the home government in case of difficulties. It required a highly trained, highly reliable staff whose loyalty and patriotism were not connected with personal ambition or vanity and who would even be required to renounce the human aspiration of having their names connected with their achievements. Their greatest passion would have to be for secrecy (‘the less British officials are talked about the better’),[480] for a role behind the scenes; their greatest contempt would be directed at publicity and people who love it.

Cromer himself possessed all these qualities to a very high degree; his wrath was never more strongly aroused than when he was ‘brought out of [his] hiding place,’ when ‘the reality which before was only known to a few behind the scenes [became] patent to all the world.’[481] His pride was indeed to ‘remain more or less hidden [and] to pull the strings.’[482] In exchange, and in order to make his work possible at all, the bureaucrat has to feel safe from control – the praise as well as the blame, that is – of all public institutions, either Parliament, the ‘English Departments,’ or the press. Every growth of democracy or even the simple functioning of existing democratic institutions can only be a danger, for it is impossible to govern ‘a people by a people – the people of India by the people of England.’[483] Bureaucracy is always a government of experts, of an ‘experienced minority’ which has to resist as well as it knows how the constant pressure from ‘the inexperienced majority.’ Each people is fundamentally an inexperienced majority and can therefore not be trusted with such a highly specialized matter as politics and public affairs. Bureaucrats, moreover, are not supposed to have general ideas about political matters at all; their patriotism should never lead them so far astray that they believe in the inherent goodness of political principles in their own country; that would only result in their cheap ‘imitative’ application ‘to the government of backward populations,’ which, according to Cromer, was the principal defect of the French system.[484]

Nobody will ever pretend that Cecil Rhodes suffered from a lack of vanity. According to Jameson, he expected to be remembered for at least four thousand years. Yet, despite all his appetite for self-glorification, he hit upon the same idea of rule through secrecy as the overmodest Lord Cromer. Extremely fond of drawing up wills, Rhodes insisted in all of them (over the course of two decades of his public life) that his money should be used to found ‘a secret society … to carry out his scheme,’ which was to be ‘organized like Loyola’s, supported by the accumulated wealth of those whose aspiration is a desire to do something,’ so that eventually there would be ‘between two and three thousand men in the prime of life scattered all over the world, each one of whom would have had impressed upon his mind in the most susceptible period of his life the dream of the Founder, each one of whom, moreover, would have been especially – mathematically – selected towards the Founder’s purpose.’[485] More farsighted than Cromer, Rhodes opened the society at once to all members of the ‘Nordic race’[486] so that the aim was not so much the growth and glory of Great Britain – her occupation of the ‘entire continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the valley of the Euphrates, the islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the islands of the Pacific … the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboards of China and Japan [and] the ultimate recovery of the United States’[487] – as the expansion of the ‘Nordic race’ which, organized in a secret society, would establish a bureaucratic government over all peoples of the earth.

What overcame Rhodes’s monstrous innate vanity and made him discover the charms of secrecy was the same thing that overcame Cromer’s innate sense of duty: the discovery of an expansion which was not driven by the specific appetite for a specific country but conceived as an endless process in which every country would serve only as stepping-stone for further expansion. In view of such a concept, the desire for glory can no longer be satisfied by the glorious triumph over a specific people for the sake of one’s own people, nor can the sense of duty be fulfilled through the consciousness of specific services and the fulfillment of specific tasks. No matter what individual qualities or defects a man may have, once he has entered the maelstrom of an unending process of expansion, he will, as it were, cease to be what he was and obey the laws of the process, identify himself with anonymous forces that he is supposed to serve in order to keep the whole process in motion; he will think of himself as mere function, and eventually consider such functionality, such an incarnation of the dynamic trend, his highest possible achievement. Then, as Rhodes was insane enough to say, he could indeed ‘do nothing wrong, what he did became right. It was his duty to do what he wanted. He felt himself a god – nothing less.’[488] But Lord Cromer sanely pointed out the same phenomenon of men degrading themselves voluntarily into mere instruments or mere functions when he called the bureaucrats ‘instruments of incomparable value in the execution of a policy of Imperialism.’[489]

It is obvious that these secret and anonymous agents of the force of expansion felt no obligation to man-made laws. The only ‘law’ they obeyed was the ‘law’ of expansion, and the only proof of their ‘lawfulness’ was success. They had to be perfectly willing to disappear into complete oblivion once failure had been proved, if for any reason they were no longer ‘instruments of incomparable value.’ As long as they were successful, the feeling of embodying forces greater than themselves made it relatively easy to resign and even to despise applause and glorification. They were monsters of conceit in their success and monsters of modesty in their failure.

At the basis of bureaucracy as a form of government, and of its inherent replacement of law with temporary and changing decrees, lies this superstition of a possible and magic identification of man with the forces of history. The ideal of such a political body will always be the man behind the scenes who pulls the strings of history. Cromer finally shunned every ‘written instrument, or, indeed, anything which is tangible’[490] in his relationships with Egypt – even a proclamation of annexation – in order to be free to obey only the law of expansion, without obligation to a man-made treaty. Thus does the bureaucrat shun every general law, handling each situation separately by decree, because a law’s inherent stability threatens to establish a permanent community in which nobody could possibly be a god because all would have to obey a law.

The two key figures in this system, whose very essence is aimless process, are the bureaucrat on one side and the secret agent on the other. Both types, as long as they served only British imperialism, never quite denied that they were descended from dragon-slayers and protectors of the weak and therefore never drove bureaucratic regimes to their inherent extremes. A British bureaucrat almost two decades after Cromer’s death knew ‘administrative massacres’ could keep India within the British Empire, but he knew also how utopian it would be to try to get the support of the hated ‘English Departments’ for an otherwise quite realistic plan.[491] Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, showed nothing of Cromer’s noblesse and was quite characteristic of a society that increasingly inclined to accept the mob’s race standards if they were offered in the form of fashionable snobbery.[492] But snobbery is incompatible with fanaticism and therefore never really efficient.

The same is true of the members of the British Secret Service. They too are of illustrious origin – what the dragon-slayer was to the bureaucrat, the adventurer is to the secret agent – and they too can rightly lay claim to a foundation legend, the legend of the Great Game as told by Rudyard Kipling in Kim.

Of course every adventurer knows what Kipling means when he praises Kim because ‘what he loved was the game for its own sake.’ Every person still able to wonder at ‘this great and wonderful world’ knows that it is hardly an argument against the game when ‘missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could not see the beauty of it.’ Still less, it seems, have those a right to speak who think it ‘a sin to kiss a white girl’s mouth and a virtue to kiss a black man’s shoe.’[493] Since life itself ultimately has to be lived and loved for its own sake, adventure and love of the game for its own sake easily appear to be a most intensely human symbol of life. It is this underlying passionate humanity that makes Kim the only novel of the imperialist era in which a genuine brotherhood links together the ‘higher and lower breeds,’ in which Kim, ‘a Sahib and the son of a Sahib,’ can rightly talk of ‘us’ when he talks of the ‘chain-men,’ ‘all on one lead-rope.’ There is more to this ‘we’ – strange in the mouth of a believer in imperialism – than the all-enveloping anonymity of men who are proud to have ‘no name, but only a number and a letter,’ more than the common pride of having ‘a price upon [one’s] head.’ What makes them comrades is the common experience of being – through danger, fear, constant surprise, utter lack of habits, constant preparedness to change their identities – symbols of life itself, symbols, for instance, of happenings all over India, immediately sharing the life of it all as ‘it runs like a shuttle throughout all Hind,’ and therefore no longer ‘alone, one person, in the middle of it all,’ trapped, as it were, by the limitations of one’s own individuality or nationality. Playing the Great Game, a man may feel as though he lives the only life worth while because he has been stripped of everything which may still be considered to be accessory. Life itself seems to be left, in a fantastically intensified purity, when man has cut himself off from all ordinary social ties, family, regular occupation, a definite goal, ambitions, and the guarded place in a community to which he belongs by birth. ‘When every one is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before.’ When one is dead, life is finished, not before, not when one happens to achieve whatever he may have wanted. That the game has no ultimate purpose makes it so dangerously similar to life itself.

Purposelessness is the very charm of Kim’s existence. Not for the sake of England did he accept his strange duties, nor for the sake of India, nor for any other worthy or unworthy cause. Imperialist notions like expansion for expansion’s or power for power’s sake might have suited him, but he would not have cared particularly and certainly would not have constructed any such formula. He stepped into his peculiar way of ‘theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die’ without even asking the first question. He was tempted only by the basic endlessness of the game and by secrecy as such. And secrecy again seems like a symbol of the basic mysteriousness of life.

Somehow it was not the fault of the born adventurers, of those who by their very nature dwelt outside society and outside all political bodies, that they found in imperialism a political game that was endless by definition; they were not supposed to know that in politics an endless game can end only in catastrophe and that political secrecy hardly ever ends in anything nobler than the vulgar duplicity of a spy. The joke on these players of the Great Game was that their employers knew what they wanted and used their passion for anonymity for ordinary spying. But this triumph of the profit-hungry investors was temporary, and they were duly cheated when a few decades later they met the players of the game of totalitarianism, a game played without ulterior motives like profit and therefore played with such murderous efficiency that it devoured even those who financed it.

Before this happened, however, the imperialists had destroyed the best man who ever turned from an adventurer (with a strong mixture of dragon-slayer) into a secret agent, Lawrence of Arabia. Never again was the experiment of secret politics made more purely by a more decent man. Lawrence experimented fearlessly upon himself, and then came back and believed that he belonged to the ‘lost generation.’ He thought this was because ‘the old men came out again and took from us our victory’ in order to ‘re-make [the world] in the likeness of the former world they knew.’[494] Actually the old men were quite inefficient even in this, and handed their victory, together with their power, down to other men of the same ‘lost generation,’ who were neither older nor so dissimilar to Lawrence. The only difference was that Lawrence still clung fast to a morality which, however, had already lost all objective bases and consisted only of a kind of private and necessarily quixotic attitude of chivalry.

Lawrence was seduced into becoming a secret agent in Arabia because of his strong desire to leave the world of dull respectability whose continuity had become simply meaningless, because of his disgust with the world as well as with himself. What attracted him most in Arab civilization was its ‘gospel of bareness … [which] involves apparently a sort of moral bareness too,’ which ‘has refined itself clear of household gods.’[495] What he tried to avoid most of all after he had returned to English civilization was living a life of his own, so that he ended with an apparently incomprehensible enlistment as a private in the British army, which obviously was the only institution in which a man’s honor could be identified with the loss of his individual personality.

When the outbreak of the first World War sent T. E. Lawrence to the Arabs of the Near East with the assignment to rouse them into a rebellion against their Turkish masters and make them fight on the British side, he came into the very midst of the Great Game. He could achieve his purpose only if a national movement was stirred up among Arab tribes, a national movement that ultimately was to serve British imperialism. Lawrence had to behave as though the Arab national movement were his prime interest, and he did it so well that he came to believe in it himself. But then again he did not belong, he was ultimately unable ‘to think their thought’ and to ‘assume their character.’[496] Pretending to be an Arab, he could only lose his ‘English self’[497] and was fascinated by the complete secrecy of self-effacement rather than fooled by the obvious justifications of benevolent rule over backward peoples that Lord Cromer might have used. One generation older and sadder than Cromer, he took great delight in a role that demanded a reconditioning of his whole personality until he fitted into the Great Game, until he became the incarnation of the force of the Arab national movement, until he lost all natural vanity in his mysterious alliance with forces necessarily bigger than himself, no matter how big he could have been, until he acquired a deadly ‘contempt, not for other men, but for all they do’ on their own initiative and not in alliance with the forces of history.

When, at the end of the war, Lawrence had to abandon the pretenses of a secret agent and somehow recover his ‘English self,’[498] he ‘looked at the West and its conventions with new eyes: they destroyed it all for me.’[499] From the Great Game of incalculable bigness, which no publicity had glorified or limited and which had elevated him, in his twenties, above kings and prime ministers because he had ‘made ’em or played with them,’[500] Lawrence came home with an obsessive desire for anonymity and the deep conviction that nothing he could possibly still do with his life would ever satisfy him. This conclusion he drew from his perfect knowledge that it was not he who had been big, but only the role he had aptly assumed, that his bigness had been the result of the Game and not a product of himself. Now he did not ‘want to be big any more’ and, determined that he was not ‘going to be respectable again,’ he thus was indeed ‘cured … of any desire ever to do anything for myself.’[501] He had been the phantom of a force, and he became a phantom among the living when the force, the function, was taken away from him. What he was frantically looking for was another role to play, and this incidentally was the ‘game’ about which George Bernard Shaw inquired so kindly but uncomprehendingly, as though he spoke from another century, not understanding why a man of such great achievements should not own up to them.[502] Only another role, another function would be strong enough to prevent himself and the world from identifying him with his deeds in Arabia, from replacing his old self with a new personality. He did not want to become ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ since, fundamentally, he did not want to regain a new self after having lost the old. His greatness was that he was passionate enough to refuse cheap compromises and easy roads into reality and respectability, that he never lost his awareness that he had been only a function and had played a role and therefore ‘must not benefit in any way from what he had done in Arabia. The honors which he had won were refused. The jobs offered on account of his reputation had to be declined nor would he allow himself to exploit his success by profiting from writing a single paid piece of journalism under the name of Lawrence.’[503]

The story of T. E. Lawrence in all its moving bitterness and greatness was not simply the story of a paid official or a hired spy, but precisely the story of a real agent or functionary, of somebody who actually believed he had entered – or been driven into – the stream of historical necessity and become a functionary or agent of the secret forces which rule the world. ‘I had pushed my go-cart into the eternal stream, and so it went faster than the ones that are pushed cross-stream or up-stream. I did not believe finally in the Arab movement: but thought it necessary in its time and place.’[504] Just as Cromer had ruled Egypt for the sake of India, or Rhodes South Africa for the sake of further expansion, Lawrence had acted for some ulterior unpredictable purpose. The only satisfaction he could get out of this, lacking the calm good conscience of some limited achievement, came from the sense of functioning itself, from being embraced and driven by some big movement. Back in London and in despair, he would try to find some substitute for this kind of ‘self-satisfaction’ and would ‘only get it out of hot speed on a motor-bike.’[505] Although Lawrence had not yet been seized by the fanaticism of an ideology of movement, probably because he was too well educated for the superstitions of his time, he had already experienced that fascination, based on despair of all possible human responsibility, which the eternal stream and its eternal movement exert. He drowned himself in it and nothing was left of him but some inexplicable decency and a pride in having ‘pushed the right way.’ ‘I am still puzzled as to how far the individual counts: a lot, I fancy, if he pushes the right way.’[506] This, then, is the end of the real pride of Western man who no longer counts as an end in himself, no longer does ‘a thing of himself nor a thing so clean as to be his own’[507] by giving laws to the world, but has a chance only ‘if he pushes the right way,’ in alliance with the secret forces of history and necessity – of which he is but a function.

When the European mob discovered what a ‘lovely virtue’ a white skin could be in Africa,[508] when the English conqueror in India became an administrator who no longer believed in the universal validity of law, but was convinced of his own innate capacity to rule and dominate, when the dragon-slayers turned into either ‘white men’ of ‘higher breeds’ or into bureaucrats and spies, playing the Great Game of endless ulterior motives in an endless movement; when the British Intelligence Services (especially after the first World War) began to attract England’s best sons, who preferred serving mysterious forces all over the world to serving the common good of their country, the stage seemed to be set for all possible horrors. Lying under anybody’s nose were many of the elements which gathered together could create a totalitarian government on the basis of racism. ‘Administrative massacres’ were proposed by Indian bureaucrats while African officials declared that ‘no ethical considerations such as the rights of man will be allowed to stand in the way’ of white rule.[509]

The happy fact is that although British imperialist rule sank to some level of vulgarity, cruelty played a lesser role between the two World Wars than ever before and a minimum of human rights was always safeguarded. It is this moderation in the midst of plain insanity that paved the way for what Churchill has called ‘the liquidation of His Majesty’s Empire’ and that eventually may turn out to mean the transformation of the English nation into a Commonwealth of English peoples.

Chapter Eight. Continental Imperialism: the Pan-Movements

Nazism and Bolshevism owe more to Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism (respectively) than to any other ideology or political movement. This is most evident in foreign policies, where the strategies of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia have followed so closely the well-known programs of conquest outlined by the pan-movements before and during the first World War that totalitarian aims have frequently been mistaken for the pursuance of some permanent German or Russian interests. While neither Hitler nor Stalin has ever acknowledged his debt to imperialism in the development of his methods of rule, neither has hesitated to admit his indebtedness to the pan-movements’ ideology or to imitate their slogans.[510]

The birth of the pan-movements did not coincide with the birth of imperialism; around 1870, Pan-Slavism had already outgrown the vague and confused theories of the Slavophiles,[511] and Pan-German sentiment was current in Austria as early as the middle of the nineteenth century. They crystallized into movements, however, and captured the imagination of broader strata only with the triumphant imperialist expansion of the Western nations in the eighties. The Central and Eastern European nations, which had no colonial possessions and little hope for overseas expansion, now decided that they ‘had the same right to expand as other great peoples and that if [they were] not granted this possibility overseas, [they would] be forced to do it in Europe.’[512] Pan-Germans and Pan-Slavs agreed that, living in ‘continental states’ and being ‘continental peoples,’ they had to look for colonies on the continent,[513] to expand in geographic continuity from a center of power,[514] that against ‘the idea of England … expressed by the words: I want to rule the sea, [stands] the idea of Russia [expressed] by the words: I want to rule the land,’[515] and that eventually the ‘tremendous superiority of the land to the sea … the superior significance of land power to sea power …,’ would become apparent.[516]

The chief importance of continental, as distinguished from overseas, imperialism lies in the fact that its concept of cohesive expansion does not allow for any geographic distance between the methods and institutions of colony and of nation, so that it did not require boomerang effects in order to make itself and all its consequences felt in Europe. Continental imperialism truly begins at home.[517] If it shared with overseas imperialism the contempt for the narrowness of the nation-state, it opposed to it not so much economic arguments, which after all quite frequently expressed authentic national needs, as an ‘enlarged tribal consciousness’[518] which was supposed to unite all people of similar folk origin, independent of history and no matter where they happened to live.[519] Continental imperialism, therefore, started with a much closer affinity to race concepts, enthusiastically absorbed the tradition of race-thinking,[520] and relied very little on specific experiences. Its race concepts were completely ideological in basis and developed much more quickly into a convenient political weapon than similar theories expressed by overseas imperialists which could always claim a certain basis in authentic experience.

The pan-movements have generally been given scant attention in the discussion of imperialism. Their dreams of continental empires were overshadowed by the more tangible results of overseas expansion, and their lack of interest in economics[521] stood in ridiculous contrast to the tremendous profits of early imperialism. Moreover, in a period when almost everybody had come to believe that politics and economics were more or less the same thing, it was easy to overlook the similarities as well as the significant differences between the two brands of imperialism. The protagonists of the pan-movements share with Western imperialists that awareness of all foreign-policy issues which had been forgotten by the older ruling groups of the nation-state.[522] Their influence on intellectuals was even more pronounced – the Russian intelligentsia, with only a few exceptions, was Pan-Slavic, and Pan-Germanism started in Austria almost as a students’ movement.[523] Their chief difference from the more respectable imperialism of the Western nations was the lack of capitalist support; their attempts to expand were not and could not be preceded by export of superfluous money and superfluous men, because Europe did not offer colonial opportunities for either. Among their leaders, we find therefore almost no businessmen and few adventurers, but many members of the free professions, teachers, and civil servants.[524]

While overseas imperialism, its antinational tendencies notwithstanding, succeeded in giving a new lease on life to the antiquated institutions of the nation-state, continental imperialism was and remained unequivocally hostile to all existing political bodies. Its general mood, therefore, was far more rebellious and its leaders far more adept at revolutionary rhetoric. While overseas imperialism had offered real enough panaceas for the residues of all classes, continental imperialism had nothing to offer except an ideology and a movement. Yet this was quite enough in a time which preferred a key to history to political action, when men in the midst of communal disintegration and social atomization wanted to belong at any price. Similarly, the visible distinction of a white skin, whose advantages in a black or brown environment are easily understood, could be matched successfully by a purely imaginary distinction between an Eastern and a Western, or an Aryan and a non-Aryan soul. The point is that a rather complicated ideology and an organization which furthered no immediate interest proved to be more attractive than tangible advantages and commonplace convictions.

Despite their lack of success, with its proverbial appeal to the mob, the pan-movements exerted from the beginning a much stronger attraction than overseas imperialism. This popular appeal, which withstood tangible failures and constant changes of program, foreshadowed later totalitarian groups which were similarly vague as to actual goals and subject to day-to-day changes of political lines. What held the pan-movements’ membership together was much more a general mood than a clearly defined aim. It is true that overseas imperialism also placed expansion as such above any program of conquest and therefore took possession of every territory that offered itself as an easy opportunity. Yet, however capricious the export of superfluous money may have been, it served to delimit the ensuing expansion; the aims of the pan-movements lacked even this rather anarchic element of human planning and geographic restraint. Yet, though they had no specific programs for world conquest, they generated an all-embracing mood of total predominance, of touching and embracing all human issues, of ‘pan-humanism,’ as Dostoevski once put it.[525]

In the imperialist alliance between mob and capital, the initiative lay mostly with the representatives of business – except in the case of South Africa, where a clear-cut mob policy developed very early. In the pan-movements, on the other hand, the initiative always lay exclusively with the mob, which was led then (as today) by a certain brand of intellectuals. They still lacked the ambition to rule the globe, and they did not even dream of the possibilities of total domination. But they did know how to organize the mob, and they were aware of the organizational, not merely ideological or propaganda, uses to which race concepts can be put. Their significance is only superficially grasped in the relatively modest theories of foreign policy – a Germanized Central Europe or a Russianized Eastern and Southern Europe – which served as starting points for the world-conquest programs of Nazism and Bolshevism.[526] The ‘Germanic peoples’ outside the Reich and ‘our minor Slavonic brethren’ outside Holy Russia generated a comfortable smoke screen of national rights to self-determination, easy stepping-stones to further expansion. Yet, much more essential was the fact that the totalitarian governments inherited an aura of holiness: they had only to invoke the past of ‘Holy Russia’ or ‘the Holy Roman Empire’ to arouse all kinds of superstitions in Slav or German intellectuals.[527] Pseudomystical nonsense, enriched by countless and arbitrary historical memories, provided an emotional appeal that seemed to transcend, in depth and breadth, the limitations of nationalism. Out of it, at any rate, grew that new kind of nationalist feeling whose violence proved an excellent motor to set mob masses in motion and quite adequate to replace the older national patriotism as an emotional center.

This new type of tribal nationalism, more or less characteristic of all Central and Eastern European nations and nationalities, was quite different in content and significance – though not in violence – from Western nationalist excesses. Chauvinism – now usually thought of in connection with the ‘nationalisme intégral’ of Maurras and Barrès around the turn of the century, with its romantic glorification of the past and its morbid cult of the dead – even in its most wildly fantastic manifestations, did not hold that men of French origin, born and raised in another country, without any knowledge of French language or culture, would be ‘born Frenchmen’ thanks to some mysterious qualities of body or soul. Only with the ‘enlarged tribal consciousness’ did that peculiar identification of nationality with one’s own soul emerge, that turned-inward pride that is no longer concerned only with public affairs but pervades every phase of private life until, for example, ‘the private life of each true Pole … is a public life of Polishness.’[528]

In psychological terms, the chief difference between even the most violent chauvinism and this tribal nationalism is that the one is extroverted, concerned with visible spiritual and material achievements of the nation, whereas the other, even in its mildest forms (for example, the German youth movement) is introverted, concentrates on the individual’s own soul which is considered as the embodiment of general national qualities. Chauvinist mystique still points to something that really existed in the past (as in the case of the nationalisme intégral) and merely tries to elevate this into a realm beyond human control; tribalism, on the other hand, starts from non-existent pseudomystical elements which it proposes to realize fully in the future. It can be easily recognized by the tremendous arrogance, inherent in its self-concentration, which dares to measure a people, its past and present, by the yardstick of exalted inner qualities and inevitably rejects its visible existence, tradition, institutions, and culture.

Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people is surrounded by ‘a world of enemies,’ ‘one against all,’ that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others. It claims its people to be unique, individual, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the very possibility of a common mankind long before it is used to destroy the humanity of man.

I: Tribal Nationalism

Just as continental imperialism sprang from the frustrated ambitions of countries which did not get their share in the sudden expansion of the eighties, so tribalism appeared as the nationalism of those peoples who had not participated in national emancipation and had not achieved the sovereignty of a nation-state. Wherever the two frustrations were combined, as in multinational Austria-Hungary and Russia, the pan-movements naturally found their most fertile soil. Moreover, since the Dual Monarchy harbored both Slavic and German irredentist nationalities, Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism concentrated from the beginning on its destruction, and Austria-Hungary became the real center of pan-movements. Russian Pan-Slavs claimed as early as 1870 that the best possible starting point for a Pan-Slav empire would be the disintegration of Austria,[529] and Austrian Pan-Germans were so violently aggressive against their own government that even the Alldeutsche Verband in Germany complained frequently about the ‘exaggerations’ of the Austrian brother movement.[530] The German-conceived blueprint for the economic union of Central Europe under German leadership, along with all similar continental-empire projects of the German Pan-Germans, changed at once, when Austrian Pan-Germans got hold of it, into a structure that would become ‘the center of German life all over the earth and be allied with all other Germanic states.’[531]

It is self-evident that the expansionist tendencies of Pan-Slavism were as embarrassing to the Czar as the Austrian Pan-Germans’ unsolicited professions of loyalty to the Reich and disloyalty to Austria were to Bismarck.[532] For no matter how high national feelings occasionally ran, or how ridiculous nationalistic claims might become in times of emergency, as long as they were bound to a defined national territory and controlled by pride in a limited nation-state they remained within limits which the tribalism of the pan-movements overstepped at once.

The modernity of the pan-movements may best be gauged from their entirely new position on antisemitism. Suppressed minorities like the Slavs in Austria and the Poles in Czarist Russia were more likely, because of their conflict with the government, to discover the hidden connections between the Jewish communities and the European nation-states, and this discovery could easily lead to more fundamental hostility. Wherever antagonism to the state was not identified with lack of patriotism, as in Poland, where it was a sign of Polish loyalty to be disloyal to the Czar, or in Austria, where Germans looked upon Bismarck as their great national figure, this antisemitism assumed more violent forms because the Jews then appeared as agents not only of an oppressive state machine but of a foreign oppressor. But the fundamental role of antisemitism in the pan-movements is explained as little by the position of minorities as by the specific experiences which Schoenerer, the protagonist of Austrian Pan-Germanism, had had in his earlier career when, still a member of the Liberal Party, he became aware of the connections between the Hapsburg monarchy and the Rothschilds’ domination of Austria’s railroad system.[533] This by itself would hardly have made him announce that ‘we Pan-Germans regard antisemitism as the mainstay of our national ideology,’[534] nor could anything similar have induced the Pan-Slav Russian writer Rozanov to pretend that ‘there is no problem in Russian life in which like a “comma” there is not also the question: How to cope with the Jew.’[535]

The clue to the sudden emergence of antisemitism as the center of a whole outlook on life and the world – as distinguished from its mere political role in France during the Dreyfus Affair or its role as an instrument of propaganda in the German Stoecker movement – lies in the nature of tribalism rather than in political facts and circumstances. The true significance of the pan-movements’ antisemitism is that hatred of the Jews was, for the first time, severed from all actual experience concerning the Jewish people, political, social, or economic, and followed only the peculiar logic of an ideology.

Tribal nationalism, the driving force behind continental imperialism, had little in common with the nationalism of the fully developed Western nation-state. The nation-state, with its claim to popular representation and national sovereignty, as it had developed since the French Revolution through the nineteenth century, was the result of a combination of two factors that were still separate in the eighteenth century and remained separate in Russia and Austria-Hungary: nationality and state. Nations entered the scene of history and were emancipated when peoples had acquired a consciousness of themselves as cultural and historical entities, and of their territory as a permanent home, where history had left its visible traces, whose cultivation was the product of the common labor of their ancestors and whose future would depend upon the course of a common civilization. Wherever nation-states came into being, migrations came to an end, while, on the other hand, in the Eastern and Southern European regions the establishment of nation-states failed because they could not fall back upon firmly rooted peasant classes.[536] Sociologically the nation-state was the body politic of the European emancipated peasant classes, and this is the reason why national armies could keep their permanent position within these states only up to the end of the last century, that is, only as long as they were truly representative of the rural class. ‘The Army,’ as Marx has pointed out, ‘was the “point of honor” with the allotment farmers: it was themselves turned into masters, defending abroad their newly established property … The uniform was their state costume, war was their poetry; the allotment was the fatherland, and patriotism became the ideal form of property.’[537] The Western nationalism which culminated in general conscription was the product of firmly rooted and emancipated peasant classes.

While consciousness of nationality is a comparatively recent development, the structure of the state was derived from centuries of monarchy and enlightened despotism. Whether in the form of a new republic or of a reformed constitutional monarchy, the state inherited as its supreme function the protection of all inhabitants in its territory no matter what their nationality, and was supposed to act as a supreme legal institution. The tragedy of the nation-state was that the people’s rising national consciousness interfered with these functions. In the name of the will of the people the state was forced to recognize only ‘nationals’ as citizens, to grant full civil and political rights only to those who belonged to the national community by right of origin and fact of birth. This meant that the state was partly transformed from an instrument of the law into an instrument of the nation.

The conquest of the state by the nation[538] was greatly facilitated by the downfall of the absolute monarchy and the subsequent new development of classes. The absolute monarch was supposed to serve the interests of the nation as a whole, to be the visible exponent and proof of the existence of such a common interest. The enlightened despotism was based on Rohan’s ‘kings command the peoples and interest commands the king’;[539] with the abolition of the king and sovereignty of the people, this common interest was in constant danger of being replaced by a permanent conflict among class interests and struggle for control of the state machinery, that is, by a permanent civil war. The only remaining bond between the citizens of a nation-state without a monarch to symbolize their essential community, seemed to be national, that is, common origin. So that in a century when every class and section in the population was dominated by class or group interest, the interest of the nation as a whole was supposedly guaranteed in a common origin, which sentimentally expressed itself in nationalism.

The secret conflict between state and nation came to light at the very birth of the modern nation-state, when the French Revolution combined the declaration of the Rights of Man with the demand for national sovereignty. The same essential rights were at once claimed as the inalienable heritage of all human beings and as the specific heritage of specific nations; the same nation was at once declared to be subject to laws, which supposedly would flow from the Rights of Man, and sovereign, that is, bound by no universal law and acknowledging nothing superior to itself.[540] The practical outcome of this contradiction was that from then on human rights were protected and enforced only as national rights and that the very institution of a state, whose supreme task was to protect and guarantee man his rights as man, as citizen and as national, lost its legal, rational appearance and could be interpreted by the romantics as the nebulous representative of a ‘national soul’ which through the very fact of its existence was supposed to be beyond or above the law. National sovereignty, accordingly, lost its original connotation of freedom of the people and was being surrounded by a pseudomystical aura of lawless arbitrariness.

Nationalism is essentially the expression of this perversion of the state into an instrument of the nation and the identification of the citizen with the member of the nation. The relationship between state and society was determined by the fact of class struggle, which had supplanted the former feudal order. Society was pervaded by liberal individualism which wrongly believed that the state ruled over mere individuals, when in reality it ruled over classes, and which saw in the state a kind of supreme individual before which all others had to bow. It seemed to be the will of the nation that the state protect it from the consequences of its social atomization and, at the same time, guarantee its possibility of remaining in a state of atomization. To be equal to this task, the state had to enforce all earlier tendencies toward centralization; only a strongly centralized administration which monopolized all instruments of violence and power-possibilities could counterbalance the centrifugal forces constantly produced in a class-ridden society. Nationalism, then, became the precious cement for binding together a centralized state and an atomized society, and it actually proved to be the only working, live connection between the individuals of the nation-state.

Nationalism always preserved this initial intimate loyalty to the government and never quite lost its function of preserving a precarious balance between nation and state on one hand, between the nationals of an atomized society on the other. Native citizens of a nation-state frequently looked down upon naturalized citizens, those who had received their rights by law and not by birth, from the state and not from the nation; but they never went so far as to propose the Pan-German distinction between ‘Staatsfremde,’ aliens of the state, and ‘Volksfremde,’ aliens of the nation, which was later incorporated into Nazi legislation. Insofar as the state, even in its perverted form, remained a legal institution, nationalism was controlled by some law, and insofar as it had sprung from the identification of nationals with their territory, it was limited by definite boundaries.

Quite different was the first national reaction of peoples for whom nationality had not yet developed beyond the inarticulateness of ethnic consciousness, whose languages had not yet outgrown the dialect stage through which all European languages went before they became suited for literary purposes, whose peasant classes had not struck deep roots in the country and were not on the verge of emancipation, and to whom, consequently, their national quality appeared to be much more a portable private matter, inherent in their very personality, than a matter of public concern and civilization.[541] If they wanted to match the national pride of Western nations, they had no country, no state, no historic achievement to show but could only point to themselves, and that meant, at best, to their language – as though language by itself were already an achievement – at worst, to their Slavic, or Germanic, or God-knows-what soul. Yet in a century which naïvely assumed that all peoples were virtually nations there was hardly anything else left to the oppressed peoples of Austria-Hungary, Czarist Russia, or the Balkan countries, where no conditions existed for the realization of the Western national trinity of people-territory-state, where frontiers had changed constantly for many centuries and populations had been in a stage of more or less continuous migration. Here were masses who had not the slightest idea of the meaning of patria and patriotism, not the vaguest notion of responsibility for a common, limited community. This was the trouble with the ‘belt of mixed populations’ (Macartney) that stretched from the Baltic to the Adriatic and found its most articulate expression in the Dual Monarchy.

Tribal nationalism grew out of this atmosphere of rootlessness. It spread widely not only among the peoples of Austria-Hungary but also, though on a higher level, among members of the unhappy intelligentsia of Czarist Russia. Rootlessness was the true source of that ‘enlarged tribal consciousness’ which actually meant that members of these peoples had no definite home but felt at home wherever other members of their ‘tribe’ happened to live. ‘It is our distinction,’ said Schoenerer, ‘… that we do not gravitate toward Vienna but gravitate to whatever place Germans may live in.’[542] The hallmark of the pan-movements was that they never even tried to achieve national emancipation, but at once, in their dreams of expansion, transcended the narrow bounds of a national community and proclaimed a folk community that would remain a political factor even if its members were dispersed all over the earth. Similarly, and in contrast to the true national liberation movements of small peoples, which always began with an exploration of the national past, they did not stop to consider history but projected the basis of their community into a future toward which the movement was supposed to march.

Tribal nationalism, spreading through all oppressed nationalities in Eastern and Southern Europe, developed into a new form of organization, the pan-movements, among those peoples who combined some kind of national home country, Germany and Russia, with a large, dispersed irredenta, Germans and Slavs abroad.[543] In contrast to overseas imperialism, which was content with relative superiority, a national mission, or a white man’s burden, the pan-movements started with absolute claims to chosenness. Nationalism has been frequently described as an emotional surrogate of religion, but only the tribalism of the pan-movements offered a new religious theory and a new concept of holiness. It was not the Czar’s religious function and position in the Greek Church that led Russian Pan-Slavs to the affirmation of the Christian nature of the Russian people, of their being, according to Dostoevski, the ‘Christopher among the nations’ who carry God directly into the affairs of this world.[544] It was because of claims to being ‘the true divine people of modern times’[545] that the Pan-Slavs abandoned their earlier liberal tendencies and, notwithstanding governmental opposition and occasionally even persecution, became staunch defenders of Holy Russia.

Austrian Pan-Germans laid similar claims to divine chosenness even though they, with a similar liberal past, remained anticlerical and became anti-Christians. When Hitler, a self-confessed disciple of Schoenerer, stated during the last war: ‘God the Almighty has made our nation. We are defending His work by defending its very existence,’[546] the reply from the other side, from a follower of Pan-Slavism, was equally true to type: ‘The German monsters are not only our foes, but God’s foes.’[547] These recent formulations were not born of propaganda needs of the moment, and this kind of fanaticism does not simply abuse religious language; behind it lies a veritable theology which gave the earlier pan-movements their momentum and retained a considerable influence on the development of modern totalitarian movements.

The pan-movements preached the divine origin of their own people as against the Jewish-Christian faith in the divine origin of Man. According to them, man, belonging inevitably to some people, received his divine origin only indirectly through membership in a people. The individual, therefore, has his divine value only as long as he belongs to the people singled out for divine origin. He forfeits this whenever he decides to change his nationality, in which case he severs all bonds through which he was endowed with divine origin and falls, as it were, into metaphysical homelessness. The political advantage of this concept was twofold. It made nationality a permanent quality which no longer could be touched by history, no matter what happened to a given people – emigration, conquest, dispersion. Of even more immediate impact, however, was that in the absolute contrast between the divine origin of one’s own people and all other nondivine peoples all differences between the individual members of the people disappeared, whether social or economic or psychological. Divine origin changed the people into a uniform ‘chosen’ mass of arrogant robots.[548]

The untruth of this theory is as conspicuous as its political usefulness. God created neither men – whose origin clearly is procreation – nor peoples – who came into being as the result of human organization. Men are unequal according to their natural origin, their different organization, and fate in history. Their equality is an equality of rights only, that is, an equality of human purpose; yet behind this equality of human purpose lies, according to Jewish-Christian tradition, another equality, expressed in the concept of one common origin beyond human history, human nature, and human purpose – the common origin in the mythical, unidentifiable Man who alone is God’s creation. This divine origin is the metaphysical concept on which the political equality of purpose may be based, the purpose of establishing mankind on earth. Nineteenth-century positivism and progressivism perverted this purpose of human equality when they set out to demonstrate what cannot be demonstrated, namely, that men are equal by nature and different only by history and circumstances, so that they can be equalized not by rights, but by circumstances and education. Nationalism and its concept of a ‘national mission’ perverted the national concept of mankind as a family of nations into a hierarchical structure where differences of history and organization were misinterpreted as differences between men, residing in natural origin. Racism, which denied the common origin of man and repudiated the common purpose of establishing humanity, introduced the concept of the divine origin of one people as contrasted with all others, thereby covering the temporary and changeable product of human endeavor with a pseudomystical cloud of divine eternity and finality.

This finality is what acts as the common denominator between the pan-movements’ philosophy and race concepts, and explains their inherent affinity in theoretical terms. Politically, it is not important whether God or nature is thought to be the origin of a people; in both cases, no matter how exalted the claim for one’s own people, peoples are transformed into animal species so that a Russian appears as different from a German as a wolf is from a fox. A ‘divine people’ lives in a world in which it is the born persecutor of all other weaker species, or the born victim of all other stronger species. Only the rules of the animal kingdom can possibly apply to its political destinies.

The tribalism of the pan-movements with its concept of the ‘divine origin’ of one people owed part of its great appeal to its contempt for liberal individualism,[549] the ideal of mankind and the dignity of man. No human dignity is left if the individual owes his value only to the fact that he happens to be born a German or a Russian; but there is, in its stead, a new coherence, a sense of mutual reliability among all members of the people which indeed was very apt to assuage the rightful apprehensions of modern men as to what might happen to them if, isolated individuals in an atomized society, they were not protected by sheer numbers and enforced uniform coherence. Similarly, the ‘belt of mixed populations,’ more exposed than other sections of Europe to the storms of history and less rooted in Western tradition, felt earlier than other European peoples the terror of the ideal of humanity and of the Judaeo-Christian faith in the common origin of man. They did not harbor any illusions about the ‘noble savage,’ because they knew something of the potentialities of evil without research into the habits of cannibals. The more peoples know about one another, the less they want to recognize other peoples as their equals, the more they recoil from the ideal of humanity.

The appeal of tribal isolation and master race ambitions was partly due to an instinctive feeling that mankind, whether a religious or humanistic ideal, implies a common sharing of responsibility.[550] The shrinking of geographic distances made this a political actuality of the first order.[551] It also made idealistic talk about mankind and the dignity of man an affair of the past simply because all these fine and dreamlike notions, with their time-honored traditions, suddenly assumed a terrifying timeliness. Even insistence on the sinfulness of all men, of course absent from the phraseology of the liberal protagonists of ‘mankind,’ by no means suffices for an understanding of the fact – which the people understood only too well – that the idea of humanity, purged of all sentimentality, has the very serious consequence that in one form or another men must assume responsibility for all crimes committed by men, and that eventually all nations will be forced to answer for the evil committed by all others.

Tribalism and racism are the very realistic, if very destructive, ways of escaping this predicament of common responsibility. Their metaphysical rootlessness, which matched so well the territorial uprootedness of the nationalities it first seized, was equally well suited to the needs of the shifting masses of modern cities and was therefore grasped at once by totalitarianism; even the fanatical adoption by the Bolsheviks of the greatest antinational doctrine, Marxism, was counteracted and Pan-Slav propaganda reintroduced in Soviet Russia because of the tremendous isolating value of these theories in themselves.[552]

It is true that the system of rule in Austria-Hungary and Czarist Russia served as a veritable education in tribal nationalism, based as it was upon the oppression of nationalities. In Russia this oppression was the exclusive monopoly of the bureaucracy which also oppressed the Russian people with the result that only the Russian intelligentsia became Pan-Slav. The Dual Monarchy, on the contrary, dominated its troublesome nationalities by giving to them just enough freedom to oppress other nationalities, with the result that these became the real mass basis for the ideology of the pan-movements. The secret of the survival of the House of Hapsburg in the nineteenth century lay in careful balance and support of a supranational machinery by the mutual antagonism and exploitation of Czechs by Germans, of Slovaks by Hungarians, of Ruthenians by Poles, and so on. For all of them it became a matter of course that one might achieve nationhood at the expense of the others and that one would gladly be deprived of freedom if the oppression came from one’s own national government.

The two pan-movements developed without any help from the Russian or German governments. This did not prevent their Austrian adherents from indulging in the delights of high treason against the Austrian government. It was this possibility of educating masses in the spirit of high treason which provided Austrian pan-movements with the sizable popular support they always lacked in Germany and Russia proper. It was as much easier to induce the German worker to attack the German bourgeoisie than the government, as it was easier in Russia ‘to arouse the peasants against squires than against the Czar.’[553] The differences in the attitudes of German workers and Russian peasants were surely tremendous; the former looked upon a not too beloved monarch as the symbol of national unity, and the latter considered the head of their government to be the true representative of God on earth. These differences, however, mattered less than the fact that neither in Russia nor in Germany was the government so weak as in Austria, nor had its authority fallen into such disrepute that the pan-movements could make political capital out of revolutionary unrest. Only in Austria did the revolutionary impetus find its natural outlet in the pan-movements. The (not very ably carried out) device of divide et impera did little to diminish the centrifugal tendencies of national sentiments, but it succeeded quite well in inducing superiority complexes and a general mood of disloyalty.

Hostility to the state as an institution runs through the theories of all pan-movements. The Slavophiles’ opposition to the state has been rightly described as ‘entirely different from anything to be found in the system of official nationalism’;[554] the state by its very nature was held to be alien to the people. Slav superiority was felt to lie in the Russian people’s indifference to the state, in their keeping themselves as a corpus separatum from their own government. This is what the Slavophiles meant when they called the Russians a ‘stateless people’ and this made it possible for these ‘liberals’ to reconcile themselves to despotism; it was in accord with the demand of despotism that the people not ‘interfere with state power,’ that is, with the absoluteness of that power.[555] The Pan-Germans, who were more articulate politically, always insisted on the priority of national over state interest[556] and usually argued that ‘world politics transcends the framework of the state,’ that the only permanent factor in the course of history was the people and not states; and that therefore national needs, changing with circumstances, should determine, at all times, the political acts of the state.[557] But what in Germany and Russia remained only high-sounding phrases up to the end of the first World War, had a real enough aspect in the Dual Monarchy whose decay generated a permanent spiteful contempt for the government.

It would be a serious error to assume that the leaders of the pan-movements were reactionaries or ‘counter-revolutionaries.’ Though as a rule not too interested in social questions, they never made the mistake of siding with capitalist exploitation and most of them had belonged, and quite a few continued to belong, to liberal, progressive parties. It is quite true, in a sense, that the Pan-German League ‘embodied a real attempt at popular control in foreign affairs. It believed firmly in the efficiency of a strong nationally minded public opinion … and initiating national policies through force of popular demand.’[558] Except that the mob, organized in the pan-movements and inspired by race ideologies, was not at all the same people whose revolutionary actions had led to constitutional government and whose true representatives at that time could be found only in the workers’ movements, but with its ‘enlarged tribal consciousness’ and its conspicuous lack of patriotism resembled much rather a ‘race.’

Pan-Slavism, in contrast to Pan-Germanism, was formed by and permeated the whole Russian intelligentsia. Much less developed in organizational form and much less consistent in political programs, it maintained for a remarkably long time a very high level of literary sophistication and philosophical speculation. While Rozanov speculated about the mysterious differences between Jewish and Christian sex power and came to the surprising conclusion that the Jews are ‘united with that power, Christians being separated from it,’[559] the leader of Austria’s Pan-Germans cheerfully discovered devices to ‘attract the interest of the little man by propaganda songs, post cards, Schoenerer beer mugs, walking sticks and matches.’[560] Yet eventually ‘Schelling and Hegel were discarded and natural science was called upon to furnish the theoretical ammunition’ by the Pan-Slavs as well.[561]

Pan-Germanism, founded by a single man, Georg von Schoenerer, and chiefly supported by German-Austrian students, spoke from the beginning a strikingly vulgar language, destined to appeal to much larger and different social strata. Schoenerer was consequently also ‘the first to perceive the possibilities of antisemitism as an instrument for forcing the direction of foreign policy and disrupting … the internal structure of the state.’[562] Some of the reasons for the suitability of the Jewish people for this purpose are obvious: their very prominent position with respect to the Hapsburg monarchy together with the fact that in a multinational country they were more easily recognized as a separate nationality than in nation-states whose citizens, at least in theory, were of homogeneous stock. This, however, while it certainly explains the violence of the Austrian brand of antisemitism and shows how shrewd a politician Schoenerer was when he exploited the issue, does not help us understand the central ideological role of antisemitism in both pan-movements.

‘Enlarged tribal consciousness’ as the emotional motor of the pan-movements was fully developed before antisemitism became their central and centralizing issue. Pan-Slavism, with its longer and more respectable history of philosophic speculation and a more conspicuous political ineffectiveness, turned antisemitic only in the last decades of the nineteenth century; Schoenerer the Pan-German had already openly announced his hostility to state institutions when many Jews were still members of his party.[563] In Germany, where the Stoecker movement had demonstrated the usefulness of antisemitism as a political propaganda weapon, the Pan-German League started with a certain antisemitic tendency, but before 1918 it never went so far as to exclude Jews from membership.[564] The Slavophiles’ occasional antipathy to Jews turned into antisemitism in the whole Russian intelligentsia when, after the assassination of the Czar in 1881, a wave of pogroms organized by the government brought the Jewish question into the focus of public attention.

Schoenerer, who discovered antisemitism at the same time, probably became aware of its possibilities almost by accident: since he wanted above all to destroy the Hapsburg empire, it was not difficult to calculate the effect of the exclusion of one nationality on a state structure that rested on a multitude of nationalities. The whole fabric of this peculiar constitution, the precarious balance of its bureaucracy could be shattered if the moderate oppression, under which all nationalities enjoyed a certain amount of equality, was undermined by popular movements. Yet, this purpose could have been equally well served by the Pan-Germans’ furious hatred of the Slav nationalities, a hatred which had been well established long before the movement turned antisemitic and which had been approved by its Jewish members.

What made the antisemitism of the pan-movements so effective that it could survive the general decline of antisemitic propaganda during the deceptive quiet that preceded the outbreak of the first World War was its merger with the tribal nationalism of Eastern Europe. For there existed an inherent affinity between the pan-movements’ theories about peoples and the rootless existence of the Jewish people. It seemed the Jews were the one perfect example of a people in the tribal sense, their organization the model the pan-movements were striving to emulate, their survival and their supposed power the best proof of the correctness of racial theories.

If other nationalities in the Dual Monarchy were but weakly rooted in the soil and had little sense of the meaning of a common territory, the Jews were the example of a people who without any home at all had been able to keep their identity through the centuries and could therefore be cited as proof that no territory was needed to constitute a nationality.[565] If the pan-movements insisted on the secondary importance of the state and the paramount importance of the people, organized throughout countries and not necessarily represented in visible institutions, the Jews were a perfect model of a nation without a state and without visible institutions.[566] If tribal nationalities pointed to themselves as the center of their national pride, regardless of historical achievements and partnership in recorded events, if they believed that some mysterious inherent psychological or physical quality made them the incarnation not of Germany but Germanism, not of Russia, but the Russian soul, they somehow knew, even if they did not know how to express it, that the Jewishness of assimilated Jews was exactly the same kind of personal individual embodiment of Judaism and that the peculiar pride of secularized Jews, who had not given up the claim to chosenness, really meant that they believed they were different and better simply because they happened to be born as Jews, regardless of Jewish achievements and tradition.

It is true enough that this Jewish attitude, this, as it were, Jewish brand of tribal nationalism, had been the result of the abnormal position of the Jews in modern states, outside the pale of society and nation. But the position of these shifting ethnic groups, who became conscious of their nationality only through the example of other – Western – nations, and later the position of the uprooted masses of the big cities, which racism mobilized so efficiently, was in many ways very similar. They too were outside the pale of society, and they too were outside the political body of the nation-state which seemed to be the only satisfactory political organization of peoples. In the Jews they recognized at once their happier, luckier competitors because, as they saw it, the Jews had found a way of constituting a society of their own which, precisely because it had no visible representation and no normal political outlet, could become a substitute for the nation.

But what drove the Jews into the center of these racial ideologies more than anything else was the even more obvious fact that the pan-movements’ claim to chosenness could clash seriously only with the Jewish claim. It did not matter that the Jewish concept had nothing in common with the tribal theories about the divine origin of one’s own people. The mob was not much concerned with such niceties of historical correctness and was hardly aware of the difference between a Jewish mission in history to achieve the establishment of mankind and its own ‘mission’ to dominate all other peoples on earth. But the leaders of the pan-movements knew quite well that the Jews had divided the world, exactly as they had, into two halves – themselves and all the others.[567] In this dichotomy the Jews again appeared to be the luckier competitors who had inherited something, were recognized for something which Gentiles had to build from scratch.[568]

It is a ‘truism’ that has not been made truer by repetition that antisemitism is only a form of envy. But in relation to Jewish chosenness it is true enough. Whenever peoples have been separated from action and achievements, when these natural ties with the common world have broken or do not exist for one reason or another, they have been inclined to turn upon themselves in their naked natural givenness and to claim divinity and a mission to redeem the whole world. When this happens in Western civilization, such peoples will invariably find the age-old claim of the Jews in their way. This is what the spokesmen of pan-movements sensed, and this is why they remained so untroubled by the realistic question of whether the Jewish problem in terms of numbers and power was important enough to make hatred of Jews the mainstay of their ideology. As their own national pride was independent of all achievements, so their hatred of the Jews had emancipated itself from all specific Jewish deeds and misdeeds. In this the pan-movements were in complete agreement, although neither knew how to utilize this ideological mainstay for purposes of political organization.

The time-lag between the formulation of the pan-movements’ ideology and the possibility of its serious political application is demonstrated by the fact that the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ – forged around 1900 by agents of the Russian secret police in Paris upon the suggestion of Pobyedonostzev, the political adviser of Nicholas II, and the only Pan-Slav ever in an influential position – remained a half-forgotten pamphlet until 1919, when it began its veritably triumphal procession through all European countries and languages;[569] its circulation some thirty years later was second only to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Neither the forger nor his employer knew that a time would come when the police would be the central institution of a society and the whole power of a country organized according to the supposedly Jewish principles laid down in the Protocols. Perhaps it was Stalin who was the first to discover all the potentialities for rule that the police possessed; it certainly was Hitler who, shrewder than Schoenerer his spiritual father, knew how to use the hierarchical principle of racism, how to exploit the antisemitic assertion of the existence of a ‘worst’ people in order properly to organize the ‘best’ and all the conquered and oppressed in between, how to generalize the superiority complex of the pan-movements so that each people, with the necessary exception of the Jews, could look down upon one that was even worse off than itself.

Apparently a few more decades of hidden chaos and open despair were necessary before large strata of people happily admitted that they were going to achieve what, as they believed, only Jews in their innate devilishness had been able to achieve thus far. The leaders of the pan-movements, at any rate, though already vaguely aware of the social question, were very one-sided in their insistence on foreign policy. They therefore were unable to see that antisemitism could form the necessary link connecting domestic with external methods; they did not know yet how to establish their ‘folk community,’ that is, the completely uprooted, racially indoctrinated horde.

That the pan-movements’ fanaticism hit upon the Jews as the ideological center, which was the beginning of the end of European Jewry, constitutes one of the most logical and most bitter revenges history has ever taken. For of course there is some truth in ‘enlightened’ assertions from Voltaire to Renan and Taine that the Jews’ concept of chosenness, their identification of religion and nationality, their claim to an absolute position in history and a singled-out relationship with God, brought into Western civilization an otherwise unknown element of fanaticism (inherited by Christianity with its claim to exclusive possession of Truth) on one side, and on the other an element of pride that was dangerously close to its racial perversion.[570] Politically, it was of no consequence that Judaism and an intact Jewish piety always were notably free of, and even hostile to, the heretical immanence of the Divine.

For tribal nationalism is the precise perversion of a religion which made God choose one nation, one’s own nation; only because this ancient myth, together with the only people surviving from antiquity, had struck deep roots in Western civilization could the modern mob leader, with a certain amount of plausibility, summon up the impudence to drag God into the petty conflicts between peoples and to ask His consent to an election which the leader had already happily manipulated.[571] The hatred of the racists against the Jews sprang from a superstitious apprehension that it actually might be the Jews, and not themselves, whom God had chosen, to whom success was granted by divine providence. There was an element of feeble-minded resentment against a people who, it was feared, had received a rationally incomprehensible guarantee that they would emerge eventually, and in spite of appearances, as the final victors in world history.

For to the mentality of the mob the Jewish concept of a divine mission to bring about the kingdom of God could only appear in the vulgar terms of success and failure. Fear and hatred were nourished and somewhat rationalized by the fact that Christianity, a religion of Jewish origin, had already conquered Western mankind. Guided by their own ridiculous superstition, the leaders of the pan-movements found that little hidden cog in the mechanics of Jewish piety that made a complete reversion and perversion possible, so that chosenness was no longer the myth for an ultimate realization of the ideal of a common humanity – but for its final destruction.

II: The Inheritance of Lawlessness

Open disregard for law and legal institutions and ideological justification of lawlessness has been much more characteristic of continental than of overseas imperialism. This is partly due to the fact that continental imperialists lacked the geographical distance to separate the illegality of their rule on foreign continents from the legality of their home countries’ institutions. Of equal importance is the fact that the pan-movements originated in countries which had never known constitutional government, so that their leaders naturally conceived of government and power in terms of arbitrary decisions from above.

Contempt for law became characteristic of all movements. Though more fully articulated in Pan-Slavism than in Pan-Germanism it reflected the actual conditions of rule in both Russia and Austria-Hungary. To describe these two despotisms, the only ones left in Europe at the outbreak of the first World War, in terms of multinational states gives only one part of the picture. As much as for their rule over multinational territories they were distinguished from other governments in that they governed the peoples directly (and not only exploited them) by a bureaucracy; parties played insignificant roles, and parliaments had no legislative functions; the state ruled through an administration that applied decrees. The significance of Parliament for the Dual Monarchy was little more than that of a not too bright debating society. In Russia as well as pre-war Austria serious opposition could hardly be found there but was exerted by outside groups who knew that their entering the parliamentary system would only detract popular attention and support from them.

Legally, government by bureaucracy is government by decree, and this means that power, which in constitutional government only enforces the law, becomes the direct source of all legislation. Decrees moreover remain anonymous (while laws can always be traced to specific men or assemblies), and therefore seem to flow from some over-all ruling power that needs no justification. Pobyedonostzev’s contempt for the ‘snares’ of the law was the eternal contempt of the administrator for the supposed lack of freedom of the legislator, who is hemmed in by principles, and for the inaction of the executors of law, who are restricted by its interpretation. The bureaucrat, who by merely administering decrees has the illusion of constant action, feels tremendously superior to these ‘impractical’ people who are forever entangled in ‘legal niceties’ and therefore stay outside the sphere of power which to him is the source of everything.

The administrator considers the law to be powerless because it is by definition separated from its application. The decree, on the other hand, does not exist at all except if and when it is applied; it needs no justification except applicability. It is true that decrees are used by all governments in times of emergency, but then the emergency itself is a clear justification and automatic limitation. In governments by bureaucracy decrees appear in their naked purity as though they were no longer issued by powerful men, but were the incarnation of power itself and the administrator only its accidental agent. There are no general principles which simple reason can understand behind the decree, but ever-changing circumstances which only an expert can know in detail. People ruled by decree never know what rules them because of the impossibility of understanding decrees in themselves and the carefully organized ignorance of specific circumstances and their practical significance in which all administrators keep their subjects. Colonial imperialism, which also ruled by decree and was sometimes even defined as the ‘régime des décrets,[572] was dangerous enough; yet the very fact that the administrators over native populations were imported and felt to be usurpers, mitigated its influence on the subject peoples. Only where, as in Russia and Austria, native rules and a native bureaucracy were accepted as the legitimate government, could rule by decree create the atmosphere of arbitrariness and secretiveness which effectively hid its mere expediency.

Rule by decree has conspicuous advantages for the domination of far-flung territories with heterogeneous populations and for a policy of oppression. Its efficiency is superior simply because it ignores all intermediary stages between issuance and application, and because it prevents political reasoning by the people through the withholding of information. It can easily overcome the variety of local customs and need not rely on the necessarily slow process of development of general law. It is most helpful for the establishment of a centralized administration because it overrides automatically all matters of local autonomy. If rule by good laws has sometimes been called the rule of wisdom, rule by appropriate decrees may rightly be called the rule of cleverness. For it is clever to reckon with ulterior motives and aims, and it is wise to understand and create by deduction from generally accepted principles.

Government by bureaucracy has to be distinguished from the mere outgrowth and deformation of civil services which frequently accompanied the decline of the nation-state – as, notably, in France. There the administration has survived all changes in regime since the Revolution, entrenched itself like a parasite in the body politic, developed its own class interests, and become a useless organism whose only purpose appears to be chicanery and prevention of normal economic and political development. There are of course many superficial similarities between the two types of bureaucracy, especially if one pays too much attention to the striking psychological similarity of petty officials. But if the French people have made the very serious mistake of accepting their administration as a necessary evil, they have never committed the fatal error of allowing it to rule the country – even though the consequence has been that nobody rules it. The French atmosphere of government has become one of inefficiency and vexations; but it has not created an aura of pseudomysticism.

And it is this pseudomysticism that is the stamp of bureaucracy when it becomes a form of government. Since the people it dominates never really know why something is happening, and a rational interpretation of laws does not exist, there remains only one thing that counts, the brutal naked event itself. What happens to one then becomes subject to an interpretation whose possibilities are endless, unlimited by reason and unhampered by knowledge. Within the framework of such endless interpretative speculation, so characteristic of all branches of Russian pre-revolutionary literature, the whole texture of life and world assume a mysterious secrecy and depth. There is a dangerous charm in this aura because of its seemingly inexhaustible richness; interpretation of suffering has a much larger range than that of action for the former goes on in the inwardness of the soul and releases all the possibilities of human imagination, whereas the latter is constantly checked, and possibly led into absurdity, by outward consequence and controllable experience.

One of the most glaring differences between the old-fashioned rule by bureaucracy and the up-to-date totalitarian brand is that Russia’s and Austria’s pre-war rulers were content with an idle radiance of power and, satisfied to control its outward destinies, left the whole inner life of the soul intact. Totalitarian bureaucracy, with a more complete understanding of the meaning of absolute power, intruded upon the private individual and his inner life with equal brutality. The result of this radical efficiency has been that the inner spontaneity of people under its rule was killed along with their social and political activities, so that the merely political sterility under the older bureaucracies was followed by total sterility under totalitarian rule.

The age which saw the rise of the pan-movements, however, was still happily ignorant of total sterilization. On the contrary, to an innocent observer (as most Westerners were) the so-called Eastern soul appeared to be incomparably richer, its psychology more profound, its literature more meaningful than that of the ‘shallow’ Western democracies. This psychological and literary adventure into the ‘depths’ of suffering did not come to pass in Austria-Hungary because its literature was mainly German-language literature in general. Instead of inspiring profound humbug, Austrian bureaucracy rather caused its greatest modern writer to become the humorist and critic of the whole matter. Franz Kafka knew well enough the superstition of fate which possesses people who live under the perpetual rule of accidents, the inevitable tendency to read a special superhuman meaning into happenings whose rational significance is beyond the knowledge and understanding of the concerned. He was well aware of the weird attractiveness of such peoples, their melancholy and beautifully sad folk tales which seemed so superior to the lighter and brighter literature of more fortunate peoples. He exposed the pride in necessity as such, even the necessity of evil, and the nauseating conceit which identifies evil and misfortune with destiny. The miracle is only that he could do this in a world in which the main elements of this atmosphere were not fully articulated; he trusted his great powers of imagination to draw all the necessary conclusions and, as it were, to complete what reality had somehow neglected to bring into full focus.[573]

Only the Russian Empire of that time offered a complete picture of rule by bureaucracy. The chaotic conditions of the country – too vast to be ruled, populated by primitive peoples without experience in political organization of any kind, who vegetated under the incomprehensible overlordship of the Russian bureaucracy – conjured up an atmosphere of anarchy and hazard in which the conflicting whims of petty officials and the daily accidents of incompetence and inconsistency inspired a philosophy that saw in the Accident the true Lord of Life, something like the apparition of Divine Providence.[574] To the Pan-Slav who always insisted on the so much more ‘interesting’ conditions in Russia against the shallow boredom of civilized countries, it looked as though the Divine had found an intimate immanence in the soul of the unhappy Russian people, matched nowhere else on earth. In an unending stream of literary variations the Pan-Slavs opposed the profundity and violence of Russia to the superficial banality of the West, which did not know suffering or the meaning of sacrifice, and behind whose sterile civilized surface were hidden frivolity and triteness.[575] The totalitarian movements still owed much of their appeal to this vague and embittered anti-Western mood that was especially in vogue in pre-Hitler Germany and Austria, but had seized the general European intelligentsia of the twenties as well. Up to the moment of actual seizure of power, they could use this passion for the profound and rich ‘irrational,’ and during the crucial years when the exiled Russian intelligentsia exerted a not negligible influence upon the spiritual mood of an entirely disturbed Europe, this purely literary attitude proved to be a strong emotional factor in preparing the ground for totalitarianism.[576]

Movements, as contrasted to parties, did not simply degenerate into bureaucratic machines,[577] but saw in bureaucratic regimes possible models of organization. The admiration which inspired the Pan-Slav Pogodin’s description of the machine of Czarist Russian bureaucracy would have been shared by them all: ‘A tremendous machine, constructed after the simplest principles, guided by the hand of one man … which sets it in motion at every moment with a single movement, no matter which direction and speed he may choose. And this is not merely a mechanical motion, the machine is entirely animated by inherited emotions, which are subordination, limitless confidence and devotion to the Czar who is their God on earth. Who would dare to attack us and whom could we not force into obedience?’[578]

Pan-Slavists were less opposed to the state than their Pan-Germanist colleagues. They sometimes even tried to convince the Czar to become the head of the movement. The reason for this tendency is of course that the Czar’s position differed considerably from that of any European monarch, the Emperor of Austria-Hungary not excluded, and that the Russian despotism never developed into a rational state in the Western sense but remained fluid, anarchic, and unorganized. Czarism, therefore, sometimes appeared to the Pan-Slavists as the symbol of a gigantic moving force surrounded by a halo of unique holiness.[579] Pan-Slavism, in contrast to Pan-Germanism, did not have to invent a new ideology to suit the needs of the Slavic soul and its movement, but could interpret – and make a mystery of – Czarism as the anti-Western, anticonstitutional, antistate expression of the movement itself. This mystification of anarchic power inspired Pan-Slavism with its most pernicious theories about the transcendent nature and inherent goodness of all power. Power was conceived as a divine emanation pervading all natural and human activity. It was no longer a means to achieve something: it simply existed, men were dedicated to its service for the love of God, and any law that might regulate or restrain its ‘limitless and terrible strength’ was clearly sacrilege. In its complete arbitrariness, power as such was held to be holy, whether it was the power of the Czar or the power of sex. Laws were not only incompatible with it, they were sinful, man-made ‘snares’ that prevented the full development of the ‘divine.’[580] The government, no matter what it did, was still the ‘Supreme Power in action,’[581] and the Pan-Slav movement only had to adhere to this power and to organize its popular support, which eventually would permeate and therefore sanctify the whole people – a colossal herd, obedient to the arbitrary will of one man, ruled neither by law nor interest, but kept together solely by the cohesive force of their numbers and the conviction of their own holiness.

From the beginning, the movements lacking the ‘strength of inherited emotions’ had to differ from the model of the already existing Russian despotism in two respects. They had to make propaganda which the established bureaucracy hardly needed, and did this by introducing an element of violence;[582] and they found a substitute for the role of ‘inherited emotions’ in the ideologies which Continental parties had already developed to a considerable extent. The difference in their use of ideology was that they not only added ideological justification to interest representation, but used ideologies as organizational principles. If the parties had been bodies for the organization of class interests, the movements became embodiments of ideologies. In other words, movements were ‘charged with philosophy’ and claimed they had set into motion ‘the individualization of the moral universal within a collective.’[583]

It is true that concretization of ideas had first been conceived in Hegel’s theory of state and history and had been further developed in Marx’s theory of the proletariat as the protagonist of mankind. It is of course not accidental that Russian Pan-Slavism was as much influenced by Hegel as Bolshevism was influenced by Marx. Yet neither Marx nor Hegel assumed actual human beings and actual parties or countries to be ideas in the flesh; both believed in the process of history in which ideas could be concretized only in a complicated dialectical movement. It needed the vulgarity of mob leaders to hit upon the tremendous possibilities of such concretization for the organization of masses. These men began to tell the mob that each of its members could become such a lofty all-important walking embodiment of something ideal if he would only join the movement. Then he no longer had to be loyal or generous or courageous, he would automatically be the very incarnation of Loyalty, Generosity, Courage. Pan-Germanism showed itself somewhat superior in organizational theory, insofar as it shrewdly deprived the individual German of all these wondrous qualities if he did not adhere to the movement (thereby foreshadowing the spiteful contempt which Nazism later expressed for the non-Party members of the German people), whereas Pan-Slavism, absorbed deeply in its limitless speculations about the Slav soul, assumed that every Slav consciously or unconsciously possessed such a soul no matter whether he was properly organized or not. It needed Stalin’s ruthlessness to introduce into Bolshevism the same contempt for the Russian people that the Nazis showed toward the Germans.

It is this absoluteness of movements which more than anything else separates them from party structures and their partiality, and serves to justify their claim to overrule all objections of individual conscience. The particular reality of the individual person appears against the background of a spurious reality of the general and universal, shrinks into a negligible quantity or is submerged in the stream of dynamic movement of the universal itself. In this stream the difference between ends and means evaporates together with the personality, and the result is the monstrous immorality of ideological politics. All that matters is embodied in the moving movement itself; every idea, every value has vanished into a welter of superstitious pseudoscientific immanence.

III: Party and Movement

The striking and fateful difference between continental and overseas imperialism has been that their initial successes and failures were in exact opposition. While continental imperialism, even in its beginnings, succeeded in realizing the imperialist hostility against the nation-state by organizing large strata of people outside the party system, and always failed to get results in tangible expansion, overseas imperialism, in its mad and successful rushes to annex more and more far-flung territories, was never very successful when it attempted to change the home countries’ political structure. The nation-state system’s ruin, having been prepared by its own overseas imperialism, was eventually carried out by those movements which had originated outside its own realm. And when it came to pass that movements began successfully to compete with the nation-state’s party system, it was also seen that they could undermine only countries with a multiparty system, that mere imperialist tradition was not sufficient to give them mass appeal, and that Great Britain, the classic country of two-party rule, did not produce a movement of either Fascist or Communist orientation of any consequence outside her party system.

The slogan ‘above the parties,’ the appeal to ‘men of all parties,’ and the boast that they would ‘stand far removed from the strife of parties and represent only a national purpose’ was equally characteristic of all imperialist groups,[584] where it appeared as a natural consequence of their exclusive interest in foreign policy in which the nation was supposed to act as a whole in any event, independent of classes and parties.[585] Since, moreover, in the Continental systems this representation of the nation as a whole had been the ‘monopoly’ of the state,[586] it could even seem that the imperialists put the state’s interests above everything else, or that the interest of the nation as a whole had found in them its long-sought popular support. Yet despite all such claims to true popularity the ‘parties above parties’ remained small societies of intellectuals and well-to-do people who, like the Pan-German League, could hope to find a larger appeal only in times of national emergency.[587]

The decisive invention of the pan-movements, therefore, was not that they too claimed to be outside and above the party system, but that they called themselves ‘movements,’ their very name alluding to the profound distrust for all parties that was already widespread in Europe at the turn of the century and finally became so decisive that in the days of the Weimar Republic, for instance, ‘each new group believed it could find no better legitimization and no better appeal to the masses than a clear insistence that it was not a “party” but a “movement.” ’[588]

It is true that the actual disintegration of the European party system was brought about, not by the pan- but by the totalitarian movements. The pan-movements, however, which found their place somewhere between the small and comparatively harmless imperialist societies and the totalitarian movements, were forerunners of the totalitarians, insofar as they had already discarded the element of snobbery so conspicuous in all imperialist leagues, whether the snobbery of wealth and birth in England or of education in Germany, and therefore could take advantage of the deep popular hatred for those institutions which were supposed to represent the people.[589] It is not surprising that the appeal of movements in Europe has not been hurt much by the defeat of Nazism and the growing fear of Bolshevism. As matters stand now, the only country in Europe where Parliament is not despised and the party system not hated is Great Britain.[590]

Faced with the stability of political institutions in the British Isles and the simultaneous decline of all nation-states on the Continent, one can hardly avoid concluding that the difference between the Anglo-Saxon and the Continental party system must be an important factor. For the merely material differences between a greatly impoverished England and an undestroyed France were not great after the close of this war; unemployment, the greatest revolutionizing factor in prewar Europe, had hit England even harder than many Continental countries; and the shock to which England’s political stability was being exposed right after the war through the Labor Government’s liquidation of imperialist government in India and its tentative efforts to rebuild an English world policy along nonimperialist lines must have been tremendous. Nor does mere difference in social structure account for the relative strength of Great Britain; for the economic basis of her social system has been severely changed by the socialist Government without any decisive change in political institutions.

Behind the external difference between the Anglo-Saxon two-party and the Continental multiparty system lies a fundamental distinction between the party’s function within the body politic, which has great consequences for the party’s attitude to power, and the citizen’s position in his state. In the two-party system one party always represents the government and actually rules the country, so that, temporarily, the party in power becomes identical with the state. The state, as a permanent guarantee of the country’s unity, is represented only in the permanence of the office of the King[591] (for the permanent Undersecretaryship of the Foreign Office is only a matter of continuity). As the two parties are planned and organized for alternate rule,[592] all branches of the administration are planned and organized for alternation. Since the rule of each party is limited in time, the opposition party exerts a control whose efficiency is strengthened by the certainty that it is the ruler of tomorrow. In fact, it is the opposition rather than the symbolic position of the King that guarantees the integrity of the whole against one-party dictatorship. The obvious advantages of this system are that there is no essential difference between government and state, that power as well as the state remain within the grasp of the citizens organized in the party, which represents the power and the state either of today or of tomorrow, and that consequently there is no occasion for indulgence in lofty speculations about Power and State as though they were something beyond human reach, metaphysical entities independent of the will and action of the citizens.

The Continental party system supposes that each party defines itself consciously as a part of the whole, which in turn is represented by a state above parties.[593] A one-party rule therefore can only signify the dictatorial domination of one part over all others. Governments formed by alliances between party leaders are always only party governments, clearly distinguished from the state which rests above and beyond them. One of the minor shortcomings of this system is that cabinet members cannot be chosen according to competence, for too many parties are represented, and ministers are necessarily chosen according to party alliances;[594] the British system, on the other hand, permits a choice of the best men from the large ranks of one party. Much more relevant, however, is the fact that the multiparty system never allows any one man or any one party to assume full responsibility, with the natural consequence that no government, formed by party alliances, ever feels fully responsible. Even if the improbable happens and an absolute majority of one party dominates Parliament and results in one-party rule, this can only end either in dictatorship, because the system is not prepared for such government, or in the bad conscience of a still truly democratic leadership which, accustomed to thinking of itself only as part of the whole, will naturally be afraid of using its power. This bad conscience functioned in a well-nigh exemplary fashion when, after the first World War, the German and Austrian Social Democratic parties emerged for a short moment as absolute majority parties, yet repudiated the power which went with this position.[595]

Since the rise of the party systems it has been a matter of course to identify parties with particular interests, economic or others,[596] and all Continental parties, not only the labor groups, have been very frank in admitting this as long as they could be sure that a state above parties exerts its power more or less in the interest of all. The Anglo-Saxon party, on the contrary, founded on some ‘particular principle’ for the service of the ‘national interest,’[597] is itself the actual or future state of the country; particular interests are represented in the party itself, as its right and left wing, and held in check by the very necessities of government. And since in the two-party system a party cannot exist for any length of time if it does not win enough strength to assume power, no theoretical justification is needed, no ideologies are developed, and the peculiar fanaticism of Continental party strife, which springs not so much from conflicting interests as from antagonistic ideologies, is completely absent.[598]

The trouble with the Continental parties, separated on principle from government and power, was not so much that they were trapped in the narrowness of particular interests as that they were ashamed of these interests and therefore developed those justifications which led each one into an ideology claiming that its particular interests coincided with the most general interests of humanity. The conservative party was not content to defend the interests of landed property but needed a philosophy according to which God had created man to till the soil by the sweat of his brow. The same is true for the progress ideology of the middle-class parties and for the labor parties’ claim that the proletariat is the leader of mankind. This strange combination of lofty philosophy and down-to-earth interests is paradoxical only at first glance. Since these parties did not organize their members (or educate their leaders) for the purpose of handling public affairs, but represented them only as private individuals with private interests, they had to cater to all private needs, spiritual as well as material. In other words, the chief difference between the Anglo-Saxon and the Continental party is that the former is a political organization of citizens who need to ‘act in concert’ in order to act at all,[599] while the latter is the organization of private individuals who want their interests to be protected against interference from public affairs.

It is consistent with this system that the Continental state philosophy recognized men to be citizens only insofar as they were not party members, i.e., in their individual unorganized relationship to the state (Staatsbürger) or in their patriotic enthusiasm in times of emergency (citoyens).[600] This was the unfortunate result of the transformation of the citoyen of the French Revolution into the bourgeois of the nineteenth century on one hand, and of the antagonism between state and society on the other. The Germans tended to consider patriotism an obedient self-oblivion before the authorities and the French an enthusiastic loyalty to the phantom of ‘eternal France.’ In both cases, patriotism meant an abandonment of one’s party and partial interests in favor of the government and the national interest. The point is that such nationalistic deformation was almost inevitable in a system that created political parties out of private interests, so that the public good had to depend upon force from above and a vague generous self-sacrifice from below which could be achieved only by arousing nationalistic passions. In England, on the contrary, antagonism between private and national interest never played a decisive role in politics. The more, therefore, the party system on the Continent corresponded to class interests, the more urgent was the need of the nation for nationalism, for some popular expression and support of national interests, a support which England with its direct government by party and opposition never needed so much.

If we consider the difference between the Continental multiparty and the British two-party system with regard to their predisposition to the rise of movements, it seems plausible that it should be easier for a one-party dictatorship to seize the state machinery in countries where the state is above the parties, and thereby above the citizens, than in those where the citizens by acting ‘in concert,’ i.e., through party organization, can win power legally and feel themselves to be the proprietors of the state either of today or of tomorrow. It appears even more plausible that the mystification of power inherent in the movements should be more easily achieved the farther removed the citizens are from the sources of power – easier in bureaucratically ruled countries where power positively transcends the capacity to understand on the part of the ruled, than in constitutionally governed countries where the law is above power and power is only a means of its enforcement; and easier yet in countries where the state power is beyond the reach of the parties and therefore, even if it remains within the reach of the citizen’s intelligence, is removed beyond the reach of his practical experience and action.

The alienation of the masses from government, which was the beginning of their eventual hatred of and disgust with Parliament, was different in France and other Western democracies on one hand, and in the Central European countries, Germany chiefly, on the other. In Germany, where the state was by definition above the parties, party leaders as a rule surrendered their party allegiance the moment they became ministers and were charged with official duties. Disloyalty to one’s own party was the duty of everyone in public office.[601] In France, ruled by party alliances, no real government has been possible since the establishment of the Third Republic and its fantastic record of cabinets. Her weakness was the opposite of the German one; she had liquidated the state which was above the parties and above Parliament without reorganizing her party system into a body capable of governing. The government necessarily became a ridiculous exponent of the ever-changing moods of Parliament and public opinion. The German system, on the other hand, made Parliament a more or less useful battlefield for conflicting interests and opinions whose main function was to influence the government but whose practical necessity in the handling of state affairs was, to say the least, debatable. In France, the parties suffocated the government; in Germany, the state emasculated the parties.

Since the end of the last century, the repute of these Continental parliaments and parties has constantly declined; to the people at large they looked like expensive and unnecessary institutions. For this reason alone each group that claimed to present something above party and class interests and started outside of Parliament had a great chance for popularity. Such groups seemed more competent, more sincere, and more concerned with public affairs. This, however, was so in appearance only, for the true goal of every ‘party above parties’ was to promote one particular interest until it had devoured all others, and to make one particular group the master of the state machine. This is what finally happened in Italy under Mussolini’s Fascism, which up to 1938 was not totalitarian but just an ordinary nationalist dictatorship developed logically from a multiparty democracy. For there is indeed some truth in the old truism about the affinity between majority rule and dictatorship, but this affinity has nothing whatever to do with totalitarianism. It is obvious that, after many decades of inefficient and muddled multiparty rule, the seizure of the state for the advantage of one party can come as a great relief because it assures at least, though only for a limited time, some consistency, some permanence, and a little less contradiction.

The fact that the seizure of power by the Nazis was usually identified with such a one-party dictatorship merely showed how much political thinking was still rooted in the old established patterns, and how little the people were prepared for what really was to come. The only typically modern aspect of the Fascist party dictatorship is that here, too, the party insisted that it was a movement; that it was nothing of the kind, but merely usurped the slogan ‘movement’ in order to attract the masses, became evident as soon as it seized the state machine without drastically changing the power structure of the country, being content to fill all government positions with party members. It was precisely through the identification of the party with the state, which both the Nazis and the Bolsheviks have always carefully avoided, that the party ceased to be a ‘movement’ and became tied to the basically stable structure of the state.

Even though the totalitarian movements and their predecessors, the pan-movements, were not ‘parties above parties’ aspiring to seize the state machine but movements aiming at the destruction of the state, the Nazis found it very convenient to pose as such, that is, to pretend to follow faithfully the Italian model of Fascism. Thus they could win the help of those upper-class and business elite who mistook the Nazis for the older groups they had themselves frequently initiated and which had made only the rather modest pretense of conquering the state machine for one party.[602] The businessmen who helped Hitler into power naïvely believed that they were only supporting a dictator, and one of their own making, who would naturally rule to the advantage of their own class and the disadvantage of all others.

The imperialist-inspired ‘parties above parties’ had never known how to profit from popular hatred of the party system as such; Germany’s frustrated pre-war imperialism, in spite of its dreams of continental expansion and its violent denunciation of the nation-state’s democratic institutions, never reached the scope of a movement. It certainly was not sufficient to haughtily discard class interests, the very foundation of the nation’s party system, for this left them less appeal than even the ordinary parties still enjoyed. What they conspicuously lacked, despite all high-sounding nationalist phrases, was a real nationalist or other ideology. After the first World War, when the German Pan-Germans, especially Ludendorff and his wife, recognized this error and tried to make up for it, they failed despite their remarkable ability to appeal to the most superstitious beliefs of the masses because they clung to an outdated nontotalitarian state worship and could not understand that the masses’ furious interest in the so-called ‘suprastate powers’ (überstaatliche Mächte) – i.e., the Jesuits, the Jews, and the Freemasons – did not spring from nation or state worship but, on the contrary, from envy and the desire also to become a ‘suprastate power.’[603]

The only countries where to all appearances state idolatry and nation worship were not yet outmoded and where nationalist slogans against the ‘suprastate’ forces were still a serious concern of the people were those Latin-European countries like Italy and, to a lesser degree, Spain and Portugal, which had actually suffered a definite hindrance to their full national development through the power of the Church. It was partly due to this authentic element of belated national development and partly to the wisdom of the Church, which very sagely recognized that Fascism was neither anti-Christian nor totalitarian in principle and only established a separation of Church and State which already existed in other countries, that the initial anticlerical flavor of Fascist nationalism subsided rather quickly and gave way to a modus vivendi as in Italy, or to a positive alliance, as in Spain and Portugal.

Mussolini’s interpretation of the corporate state idea was an attempt to overcome the notorious national dangers in a class-ridden society with a new integrated social organization[604] and to solve the antagonism between state and society, on which the nation-state had rested, by the incorporation of the society into the state.[605] The Fascist movement, a ‘party above parties,’ because it claimed to represent the interest of the nation as a whole, seized the state machine, identified itself with the highest national authority, and tried to make the whole people ‘part of the state.’ It did not, however, think itself ‘above the state,’ and its leaders did not conceive of themselves as ‘above the nation.’[606] As regards the Fascists, their movement had come to an end with the seizure of power, at least with respect to domestic policies; the movement could now maintain its motion only in matters of foreign policy, in the sense of imperialist expansion and typically imperialist adventures. Even before the seizure of power, the Nazis clearly kept aloof from this Fascist form of dictatorship, in which the ‘movement’ merely serves to bring the party to power, and consciously used the party ‘to drive on the movement,’ which, contrary to the party, must not have any ‘definite, closely determined goals.’[607]

The difference between the Fascist and the totalitarian movements is best illustrated by their attitude toward the army, that is, toward the national institution par excellence. In contrast to the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, who destroyed the spirit of the army by subordinating it to the political commissars or totalitarian elite formations, the Fascists could use such intensely nationalist instruments as the army, with which they identified themselves as they had identified themselves with the state. They wanted a Fascist state and a Fascist army, but still an army and a state; only in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia army and state became subordinated functions of the movement. The Fascist dictator – but neither Hitler nor Stalin – was the only true usurper in the sense of classical political theory, and his one-party rule was in a sense the only one still intimately connected with the multiparty system. He carried out what the imperialist-minded leagues, societies, and ‘parties above parties’ had aimed at, so that it is particularly Italian Fascism that has become the only example of a modern mass movement organized within the framework of an existing state, inspired solely by extreme nationalism, and which transformed the people permanently into such Staatsbürger or patriotes as the nation-state had mobilized only in times of emergency and union sacrée.[608]

There are no movements without hatred of the state, and this was virtually unknown to the German Pan-Germans in the relative stability of prewar Germany. The movements originated in Austria-Hungary, where hatred of the state was an expression of patriotism for the oppressed nationalities and where the parties – with the exception of the Social Democratic Party (next to the Christian-Social Party the only one sincerely loyal to Austria) – were formed along national, and not along class lines. This was possible because economic and national interests were almost identical here and because economic and social status depended largely on nationality; nationalism, therefore, which had been a unifying force in the nation-states, here became at once a principle of internal disruption, which resulted in a decisive difference in the structure of the parties as compared with those of nation-states. What held together the members of the parties in multinational Austria-Hungary was not a particular interest, as in the other Continental party systems, or a particular principle for organized action as in the Anglo-Saxon, but chiefly the sentiment of belonging to the same nationality. Strictly speaking, this should have been and was a great weakness in the Austrian parties, because no definite goals or programs could be deduced from the sentiment of tribal belonging. The pan-movements made a virtue of this shortcoming by transforming parties into movements and by discovering that form of organization which, in contrast to all others, would never need a goal or program but could change its policy from day to day without harm to its membership. Long before Nazism proudly pronounced that though it had a program it did not need one, Pan-Germanism discovered how much more important for mass appeal a general mood was than laid-down outlines and platforms. For the only thing that counts in a movement is precisely that it keeps itself in constant movement.[609] The Nazis, therefore, used to refer to the fourteen years of the Weimar Republic as the ‘time of the System’ – Systemzeit – the implication being that this time was sterile, lacked dynamism, did not ‘move,’ and was followed by their ‘era of the movement.’

The state, even as a one-party dictatorship, was felt to be in the way of the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing movement. There was no more characteristic difference between the imperialist ‘above party group’ of the Pan-German League in Germany itself and the Pan-German movement in Austria than their attitudes toward the state:[610] while the ‘party above parties’ wanted only to seize the state machine, the true movement aimed at its destruction; while the former still recognized the state as highest authority once its representation had fallen into the hands of the members of one party (as in Mussolini’s Italy), the latter recognized the movement as independent of and superior in authority to the state.

The pan-movements’ hostility to the party system acquired practical significance when, after the first World War, the party system ceased to be a working device and the class system of European society broke down under the weight of growing masses entirely declassed by events. What came to the fore then were no longer mere pan-movements but their totalitarian successors, which in a few years determined the politics of all other parties to such a degree that they became either anti-Fascist or anti-Bolshevik or both.[611] By this negative approach seemingly forced upon them from the outside, the older parties showed clearly that they too were no longer able to function as representatives of specific class interests but had become mere defenders of the status quo. The speed with which the German and Austrian Pan-Germans rallied to Nazism has a parallel in the much slower and more complicated course through which Pan-Slavs finally found out that the liquidation of Lenin’s Russian Revolution had been thorough enough to make it possible for them to support Stalin wholeheartedly. That Bolshevism and Nazism at the height of their power outgrew mere tribal nationalism and had little use for those who were still actually convinced of it in principle, rather than as mere propaganda material, was neither the Pan-Germans’ nor the Pan-Slavs’ fault and hardly checked their enthusiasm.

The decay of the Continental party system went hand in hand with a decline of the prestige of the nation-state. National homogeneity was severely disturbed by migrations and France, the nation par excellence, became in a matter of years utterly dependent on foreign labor; a restrictive immigration policy, inadequate to new needs, was still truly ‘national,’ but made it all the more obvious that the nation-state was no longer capable of facing the major political issues of the time.[612] Even more serious was the ill-fated effort of the peace treaties of 1919 to introduce national state organizations into Eastern and Southern Europe where the state people frequently had only a relative majority and were outnumbered by the combined ‘minorities.’ This new situation would have been sufficient in itself to undermine seriously the class basis of the party system; everywhere parties were now organized along national lines as though the liquidation of the Dual Monarchy had served only to enable a host of similar experiments to start on a dwarfed scale.[613] In other countries, where the nation-state and the class basis of its parties were not touched by migrations and heterogeneity of population, inflation and unemployment caused a similar breakdown; and it is obvious that the more rigid the country’s class system, the more class-conscious its people had been, the more dramatic and dangerous was this breakdown.

This was the situation between the two wars when every movement had a greater chance than any party because the movement attacked the institution of the state and did not appeal to classes. Fascism and Nazism always boasted that their hatred was directed not against individual classes, but the class system as such, which they denounced as an invention of Marxism. Even more significant was the fact that the Communists also, notwithstanding their Marxist ideology, had to abandon the rigidity of their class appeal when, after 1935, under the pretext of enlarging their mass base, they formed Popular Fronts everywhere and began to appeal to the same growing masses outside all class strata which up to then had been the natural prey to Fascist movements. None of the old parties was prepared to receive these masses, nor did they gauge correctly the growing importance of their numbers and the growing political influence of their leaders. This error in judgment by the older parties can be explained by the fact that their secure position in Parliament and safe representation in the offices and institutions of the state made them feel much closer to the sources of power than to the masses; they thought the state would remain forever the undisputed master of all instruments of violence, and that the army, that supreme institution of the nation-state, would remain the decisive element in all domestic crises. They therefore felt free to ridicule the numerous paramilitary formations which had sprung up without any officially recognized help. For the weaker the party system grew under the pressure of movements outside of Parliament and classes, the more rapidly all former antagonism of the parties to the state disappeared. The parties, laboring under the illusion of a ‘state above parties,’ misinterpreted this harmony as a source of strength, as a wondrous relationship to something of a higher order. But the state was as threatened as the party system by the pressure of revolutionary movements, and it could no longer afford to keep its lofty and necessarily unpopular position above internal domestic strife. The army had long since ceased to be a reliable bulwark against revolutionary unrest, not because it was in sympathy with the revolution but because it had lost its position. Twice in modern times, and both times in France, the nation par excellence, the army had already proved its essential unwillingness or incapacity to help those in power or to seize power by itself: in 1850, when it permitted the mob of the ‘Society of December 10’ to carry Napoleon III to power,[614] and again at the end of the nineteenth century, during the Dreyfus Affair, when nothing would have been easier than the establishment of a military dictatorship. The neutrality of the army, its willingness to serve every master, eventually left the state in a position of ‘mediation between the organized party interests. It was no longer above but between the classes of society.’[615] In other words, the state and the parties together defended the status quo without realizing that this very alliance served as much as anything else to change the status quo.

The breakdown of the European party system occurred in a spectacular way with Hitler’s rise to power. It is now often conveniently forgotten that at the moment of the outbreak of the second World War, the majority of European countries had already adopted some form of dictatorship and discarded the party system, and that this revolutionary change in government had been effected in most countries without revolutionary upheaval. Revolutionary action more often than not was a theatrical concession to the desires of violently discontented masses rather than an actual battle for power. After all, it did not make much difference if a few thousand almost unarmed people staged a march on Rome and took over the government in Italy, or whether in Poland (in 1934) a so-called ‘partyless bloc,’ with a program of support for a semifascist government and a membership drawn from the nobility and the poorest peasantry, workers and businessmen, Catholics and orthodox Jews, legally won two-thirds of the seats in Parliament.[616]

In France, Hitler’s rise to power, accompanied by a growth of Communism and Fascism, quickly cancelled the other parties’ original relationships to each other and changed time-honored party lines overnight. The French Right, up to then strongly anti-German and pro-war, after 1933 became the vanguard of pacifism and understanding with Germany. The Left switched with equal speed from pacifism at any price to a firm stand against Germany and was soon accused of being a party of warmongers by the same parties which only a few years before had denounced its pacifism as national treachery.[617] The years that followed Hitler’s rise to power proved even more disastrous to the integrity of the French party system. In the Munich crisis each party, from Right to Left, split internally on the only relevant political issue: who was for, who was against war with Germany.[618] Each party harbored a peace faction and a war faction; none of them could remain united on major political decisions and none stood the test of Fascism and Nazism without splitting into anti-Fascist on one side, Nazi fellow-travelers on the other. That Hitler could choose freely from all parties for the erection of puppet regimes was the consequence of this pre-war situation, and not of an especially shrewd Nazi maneuver. There was not a single party in Europe that did not produce collaborators.

Against the disintegration of the older parties stood the clear-cut unity of the Fascist and Communist movements everywhere – the former, outside of Germany and Italy, loyally advocating peace even at the price of foreign domination, and the latter for a long while preaching war even at the price of national ruin. The point, however, is not so much that the extreme Right everywhere had abandoned its traditional nationalism in favor of Hitler’s Europe and that the extreme Left had forgotten its traditional pacifism in favor of old nationalist slogans, but rather that both movements could count on the loyalty of a membership and leadership which would not be disturbed by a sudden switch in policy. This was dramatically exposed in the German-Russian nonaggression pact, when the Nazis had to drop their chief slogan against Bolshevism and the Communists had to return to a pacifism which they always had denounced as petty-bourgeois. Such sudden turns did not hurt them in the least. It is still well remembered how strong the Communists remained after their second volte-face less than two years later when the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, and this in spite of the fact that both political lines had involved the rank and file in serious and dangerous political activities which demanded real sacrifices and constant action.

Different in appearance but much more violent in reality was the breakdown of the party system in pre-Hitler Germany. This came into the open during the last presidential elections in 1932 when entirely new and complicated forms of mass propaganda were adopted by all parties.

The choice of candidates was itself peculiar. While it was a matter of course that the two movements, which stood outside of and fought the parliamentary system from opposite sides, would present their own candidates (Hitler for the Nazis, and Thälmann for the Communists), it was rather surprising to see that all other parties could suddenly agree upon one candidate. That this candidate happened to be old Hindenburg who enjoyed the matchless popularity which, since the time of MacMahon, awaits the defeated general at home, was not just a joke; it showed how much the old parties wanted merely to identify themselves with the old-time state, the state above the parties whose most potent symbol had been the national army, to what an extent, in other words, they had already given up the party system itself. For in the face of the movements, the differences between the parties had indeed become quite meaningless; the existence of all of them was at stake and consequently they banded together and hoped to maintain a status quo that guaranteed their existence. Hindenburg became the symbol of the nation-state and the party system, while Hitler and Thälmann competed with each other to become the true symbol of the people.

As significant as the choice of candidates were the electoral posters. None of them praised its candidate for his own merits; the posters for Hindenburg claimed merely that ‘a vote for Thälmann is a vote for Hitler’ – warning the workers not to waste their votes on a candidate sure to be beaten (Thälmann) and thus put Hitler in the saddle. This was how the Social Democrats reconciled themselves to Hindenburg, who was not even mentioned. The parties of the Right played the same game and emphasized that ‘a vote for Hitler is a vote for Thälmann.’ Both, in addition, alluded quite clearly to the instances in which the Nazis and Communists had made common cause, in order to convince all loyal party members, whether Right or Left, that the preservation of the status quo demanded Hindenburg.

In contrast to the propaganda for Hindenburg that appealed to those who wanted the status quo at any price – and in 1932 that meant unemployment for almost half the German people – the candidates of the movements had to reckon with those who wanted change at any price (even at the price of destruction of all legal institutions), and these were at least as numerous as the ever-growing millions of unemployed and their families. The Nazis therefore did not wince at the absurdity that ‘a vote for Thälmann is a vote for Hindenburg,’ the Communists did not hesitate to reply that ‘a vote for Hitler is a vote for Hindenburg,’ both threatening their voters with the menace of the status quo in exactly the same way their opponents had threatened their members with the specter of the revolution.

Behind the curious uniformity of method used by the supporters of all the candidates lay the tacit assumption that the electorate would go to the polls because it was frightened – afraid of the Communists, afraid of the Nazis, or afraid of the status quo. In this general fear all class divisions disappeared from the political scene; while the party alliance for the defense of the status quo blurred the older class structure maintained in the separate parties, the rank and file of the movements was completely heterogeneous and as dynamic and fluctuating as unemployment itself.[619] While within the framework of the national institutions the parliamentary Left had joined the parliamentary Right, the two movements were busy organizing together the famous transportation strike on the streets of Berlin in November, 1932.

When one considers the extraordinarily rapid decline of the Continental party system, one should bear in mind the very short life span of the whole institution. It existed nowhere before the nineteenth century, and in most European countries the formation of political parties took place only after 1848, so that its reign as an unchallenged institution in national politics lasted hardly four decades. During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, all the significant political developments in France, as well as in Austria-Hungary, already took place outside of and in opposition to parliamentary parties, while everywhere smaller imperialist ‘parties above parties’ challenged the institution for the sake of popular support for an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

While the imperialist leagues set themselves above parties for the sake of identification with the nation-state, the pan-movements attacked these same parties as part and parcel of a general system which included the nation-state; they were not so much ‘above parties’ as ‘above the state’ for the sake of a direct identification with the people. The totalitarian movements eventually were led to discard the people also, whom, however, following closely in the footsteps of the pan-movements they used for propaganda purposes. The ‘totalitarian state’ is a state in appearance only, and the movement no longer truly identifies itself even with the needs of the people. The Movement by now is above state and people, ready to sacrifice both for the sake of its ideology: ‘The Movement … is State as well as People, and neither the present state … nor the present German people can even be conceived without the Movement.’[620]

Nothing proves better the irreparable decay of the party system than the great efforts after this war to revive it on the Continent, their pitiful results, the enhanced appeal of movements after the defeat of Nazism, and the obvious threat of Bolshevism to national independence. The result of all efforts to restore the status quo has been only the restoration of a political situation in which the destructive movements are the only ‘parties’ that function properly. Their leadership has maintained authority under the most trying circumstances and in spite of constantly changing party lines. In order to gauge correctly the chances for survival of the European nation-state, it would be wise not to pay too much attention to nationalist slogans which the movements occasionally adopt for purposes of hiding their true intentions, but rather to consider that by now everybody knows that they are regional branches of international organizations, that the rank and file is not disturbed in the least when it becomes obvious that their policy serves foreign-policy interests of another and even hostile power, and that denunciations of their leaders as fifth columnists, traitors to the country, etc., do not impress their members to any considerable degree. In contrast to the old parties, the movements have survived the last war and are today the only ‘parties’ which have remained alive and meaningful to their adherents.

Chapter Nine. The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man

It is almost impossible even now to describe what actually happened in Europe on August 4, 1914. The days before and the days after the first World War are separated not like the end of an old and the beginning of a new period, but like the day before and the day after an explosion. Yet this figure of speech is as inaccurate as are all others, because the quiet of sorrow which settles down after a catastrophe has never come to pass. The first explosion seems to have touched off a chain reaction in which we have been caught ever since and which nobody seems to be able to stop. The first World War exploded the European comity of nations beyond repair, something which no other war had ever done. Inflation destroyed the whole class of small property owners beyond hope for recovery or new formation, something which no monetary crisis had ever done so radically before. Unemployment, when it came, reached fabulous proportions, was no longer restricted to the working class but seized with insignificant exceptions whole nations. Civil wars which ushered in and spread over the twenty years of uneasy peace were not only bloodier and more cruel than all their predecessors; they were followed by migrations of groups who, unlike their happier predecessors in the religious wars, were welcomed nowhere and could be assimilated nowhere. Once they had left their homeland they remained homeless, once they had left their state they became stateless; once they had been deprived of their human rights they were rightless, the scum of the earth. Nothing which was being done, no matter how stupid, no matter how many people knew and foretold the consequences, could be undone or prevented. Every event had the finality of a last judgment, a judgment that was passed neither by God nor by the devil, but looked rather like the expression of some unredeemably stupid fatality.

Before totalitarian politics consciously attacked and partially destroyed the very structure of European civilization, the explosion of 1914 and its severe consequences of instability had sufficiently shattered the façade of Europe’s political system to lay bare its hidden frame. Such visible exposures were the sufferings of more and more groups of people to whom suddenly the rules of the world around them had ceased to apply. It was precisely the seeming stability of the surrounding world that made each group forced out of its protective boundaries look like an unfortunate exception to an otherwise sane and normal rule, and which filled with equal cynicism victims and observers of an apparently unjust and abnormal fate. Both mistook this cynicism for growing wisdom in the ways of the world, while actually they were more baffled and therefore became more stupid than they ever had been before. Hatred, certainly not lacking in the pre-war world, began to play a central role in public affairs everywhere, so that the political scene in the deceptively quiet years of the twenties assumed the sordid and weird atmosphere of a Strindbergian family quarrel. Nothing perhaps illustrates the general disintegration of political life better than this vague, pervasive hatred of everybody and everything, without a focus for its passionate attention, with nobody to make responsible for the state of affairs – neither the government nor the bourgeoisie nor an outside power. It consequently turned in all directions, haphazardly and unpredictably, incapable of assuming an air of healthy indifference toward anything under the sun.

This atmosphere of disintegration, though characteristic of the whole of Europe between the two wars, was more visible in the defeated than in the victorious countries, and it developed fully in the states newly established after the liquidation of the Dual Monarchy and the Czarist Empire. The last remnants of solidarity between the nonemancipated nationalities in the ‘belt of mixed populations’ evaporated with the disappearance of a central despotic bureaucracy which had also served to gather together and divert from each other the diffuse hatreds and conflicting national claims. Now everybody was against everybody else, and most of all against his closest neighbors – the Slovaks against the Czechs, the Croats against the Serbs, the Ukrainians against the Poles. And this was not the result of the conflict between nationalities and the state peoples (or minorities and majorities); the Slovaks not only constantly sabotaged the democratic Czech government in Prague, but at the same time persecuted the Hungarian minority on their own soil, while a similar hostility against the state people on one hand, and among themselves on the other, existed among the dissatisfied minorities in Poland.

At first glance these troubles in the old European trouble spot looked like petty nationalist quarrels without any consequence for the political destinies of Europe. Yet in these regions and out of the liquidation of the two multinational states of pre-war Europe, Russia and Austria-Hungary, two victim groups emerged whose sufferings were different from those of all others in the era between the wars; they were worse off than the dispossessed middle classes, the unemployed, the small rentiers, the pensioners whom events had deprived of social status, the possibility to work, and the right to hold property: they had lost those rights which had been thought of and even defined as inalienable, namely the Rights of Man. The stateless and the minorities, rightly termed ‘cousins-germane,’[621] had no governments to represent and to protect them and therefore were forced to live either under the law of exception of the Minority Treaties, which all governments (except Czechoslovakia) had signed under protest and never recognized as law, or under conditions of absolute lawlessness.

With the emergence of the minorities in Eastern and Southern Europe and with the stateless people driven into Central and Western Europe, a completely new element of disintegration was introduced into postwar Europe. Denationalization became a powerful weapon of totalitarian politics, and the constitutional inability of European nation-states to guarantee human rights to those who had lost nationally guaranteed rights, made it possible for the persecuting governments to impose their standard of values even upon their opponents. Those whom the persecutor had singled out as scum of the earth – Jews, Trotskyites, etc. – actually were received as scum of the earth everywhere; those whom persecution had called undesirable became the indésirables of Europe. The official SS newspaper, the Schwarze Korps, stated explicitly in 1938 that if the world was not yet convinced that the Jews were the scum of the earth, it soon would be when unidentifiable beggars, without nationality, without money, and without passports crossed their frontiers.[622] And it is true that this kind of factual propaganda worked better than Goebbels’ rhetoric, not only because it established the Jews as scum of the earth, but also because the incredible plight of an ever-growing group of innocent people was like a practical demonstration of the totalitarian movements’ cynical claims that no such thing as inalienable human rights existed and that the affirmations of the democracies to the contrary were mere prejudice, hypocrisy, and cowardice in the face of the cruel majesty of a new world. The very phrase ‘human rights’ became for all concerned – victims, persecutors, and onlookers alike – the evidence of hopeless idealism or fumbling feeble-minded hypocrisy.

I: The ‘Nation of Minorities’ and the Stateless People

Modern power conditions which make national sovereignty a mockery except for giant states, the rise of imperialism, and the pan-movements undermined the stability of Europe’s nation-state system from the outside. None of these factors, however, had sprung directly from the tradition and the institutions of nation-states themselves. Their internal disintegration began only after the first World War, with the appearance of minorities created by the Peace Treaties and of a constantly growing refugee movement, the consequence of revolutions.

The inadequacy of the Peace Treaties has often been explained by the fact that the peacemakers belonged to a generation formed by experiences in the pre-war era, so that they never quite realized the full impact of the war whose peace they had to conclude. There is no better proof of this than their attempt to regulate the nationality problem in Eastern and Southern Europe through the establishment of nation-states and the introduction of minority treaties. If the wisdom of the extension of a form of government which even in countries with old and settled national tradition could not handle the new problems of world politics had become questionable, it was even more doubtful whether it could be imported into an area which lacked the very conditions for the rise of nation-states: homogeneity of population and rootedness in the soil. But to assume that nation-states could be established by the methods of the Peace Treaties was simply preposterous. Indeed: ‘One glance at the demographic map of Europe should be sufficient to show that the nation-state principle cannot be introduced into Eastern Europe.’[623] The Treaties lumped together many peoples in single states, called some of them ‘state people’ and entrusted them with the government, silently assumed that others (such as the Slovaks in Czechoslovakia, or the Croats and Slovenes in Yugoslavia) were equal partners in the government, which of course they were not,[624] and with equal arbitrariness created out of the remnant a third group of nationalities called ‘minorities,’ thereby adding to the many burdens of the new states the trouble of observing special regulations for part of the population.[625] The result was that those peoples to whom states were not conceded, no matter whether they were official minorities or only nationalities, considered the Treaties an arbitrary game which handed out rule to some and servitude to others. The newly created states, on the other hand, which were promised equal status in national sovereignty with the Western nations, regarded the Minority Treaties as an open breach of promise and discrimination because only new states, and not even defeated Germany, were bound to them.

The perplexing power vacuum resulting from the dissolution of the Dual Monarchy and the liberation of Poland and the Baltic countries from Czarist despotism was not the only factor that had tempted the statesmen into this disastrous experiment. Much stronger was the impossibility of arguing away any longer the more than 100 million Europeans who had never reached the stage of national freedom and self-determination to which colonial peoples already aspired and which was being held out to them. It was indeed true that the role of the Western and Central European proletariat, the oppressed history-suffering group whose emancipation was a matter of life and death for the whole European social system, was played in the East by ‘peoples without a history.’[626] The national liberation movements of the East were revolutionary in much the same way as the workers’ movements in the West; both represented the ‘unhistorical’ strata of Europe’s population and both strove to secure recognition and participation in public affairs. Since the object was to conserve the European status quo, the granting of national self-determination and sovereignty to all European peoples seemed indeed inevitable; the alternative would have been to condemn them ruthlessly to the status of colonial peoples (something the pan-movements had always proposed) and to introduce colonial methods into European affairs.[627]

The point, of course, is that the European status quo could not be preserved and that it became clear only after the downfall of the last remnants of European autocracy that Europe had been ruled by a system which had never taken into account or responded to the needs of at least 25 percent of her population. This evil, however, was not cured with the establishment of the succession states, because about 30 per cent of their roughly 100 million inhabitants were officially recognized as exceptions who had to be specially protected by minority treaties. This figure, moreover, by no means tells the whole story; it only indicates the difference between peoples with a government of their own and those who supposedly were too small and too scattered to reach full nationhood. The Minority Treaties covered only those nationalities of whom there were considerable numbers in at least two of the succession states, but omitted from consideration all the other nationalities without a government of their own, so that in some of the succession states the nationally frustrated peoples constituted 50 per cent of the total population.[628] The worst factor in this situation was not even that it became a matter of course for the nationalities to be disloyal to their imposed government and for the governments to oppress their nationalities as efficiently as possible, but that the nationally frustrated population was firmly convinced – as was everybody else – that true freedom, true emancipation, and true popular sovereignty could be attained only with full national emancipation, that people without their own national government were deprived of human rights. In this conviction, which could base itself on the fact that the French Revolution had combined the declaration of the Rights of Man with national sovereignty, they were supported by the Minority Treaties themselves, which did not entrust the governments with the protection of different nationalities but charged the League of Nations with the safeguarding of the rights of those who, for reasons of territorial settlement, had been left without national states of their own.

Not that the minorities would trust the League of Nations any more than they had trusted the state peoples. The League, after all, was composed of national statesmen whose sympathies could not but be with the unhappy new governments which were hampered and opposed on principle by between 25 and 50 per cent of their inhabitants. Therefore the creators of the Minority Treaties were soon forced to interpret their real intentions more strictly and to point out the ‘duties’ the minorities owed to the new states;[629] it now developed that the Treaties had been conceived merely as a painless and humane method of assimilation, an interpretation which naturally enraged the minorities.[630] But nothing else could have been expected within a system of sovereign nation-states; if the Minority Treaties had been intended to be more than a temporary remedy for a topsy-turvy situation, then their implied restriction on national sovereignty would have affected the national sovereignty of the older European powers. The representatives of the great nations knew only too well that minorities within nation-states must sooner or later be either assimilated or liquidated. And it did not matter whether they were moved by humanitarian considerations to protect splinter nationalities from persecution, or whether political considerations led them to oppose bilateral treaties between the concerned states and the majority countries of the minorities (after all, the Germans were the strongest of all the officially recognized minorities, both in numbers and economic position); they were neither willing nor able to overthrow the laws by which nation-states exist.[631]

Neither the League of Nations nor the Minority Treaties would have prevented the newly established states from more or less forcefully assimilating their minorities. The strongest factor against assimilation was the numerical and cultural weakness of the so-called state peoples. The Russian or the Jewish minority in Poland did not feel Polish culture to be superior to its own and neither was particularly impressed by the fact that Poles formed roughly 60 per cent of Poland’s population.

The embittered nationalities, completely disregarding the League of Nations, soon decided to take matters into their own hands. They banded together in a minority congress which was remarkable in more than one respect. It contradicted the very idea behind the League treaties by calling itself officially the ‘Congress of Organized National Groups in European States,’ thereby nullifying the great labor spent during the peace negotiations to avoid the ominous word ‘national.’[632] This had the important consequence that all ‘nationalities,’ and not just ‘minorities,’ would join and that the number of the ‘nation of minorities’ grew so considerably that the combined nationalities in the succession states outnumbered the state peoples. But in still another way the ‘Congress of National Groups’ dealt a decisive blow to the League treaties. One of the most baffling aspects of the Eastern European nationality problem (more baffling than the small size and great number of peoples involved, or the ‘belt of mixed populations’[633]) was the interregional character of the nationalities which, in case they put their national interests above the interests of their respective governments, made them an obvious risk to the security of their countries.[634] The League treaties had attempted to ignore the interregional character of the minorities by concluding a separate treaty with each country, as though there were no Jewish or German minority beyond the borders of the respective states. The ‘Congress of National Groups’ not only sidestepped the territorial principle of the League; it was naturally dominated by the two nationalities which were represented in all succession states and were therefore in a position, if they wished, to make their weight felt all over Eastern and Southern Europe. These two groups were the Germans and the Jews. The German minorities in Rumania and Czechoslovakia voted of course with the German minorities in Poland and Hungary, and nobody could have expected the Polish Jews, for instance, to remain indifferent to discriminatory practices of the Rumanian government. In other words, national interests and not common interests of minorities as such formed the true basis of membership in the Congress,[635] and only the harmonious relationship between the Jews and the Germans (the Weimar Republic had successfully played the role of special protector of minorities) kept it together. Therefore, in 1933 when the Jewish delegation demanded a protest against the treatment of Jews in the Third Reich (a move which they had no right to make, strictly speaking, because German Jews were no minority) and the Germans announced their solidarity with Germany and were supported by a majority (antisemitism was rife in all succession states), the Congress, after the Jewish delegation had left forever, sank into complete insignificance.

The real significance of the Minority Treaties lies not in their practical application but in the fact that they were guaranteed by an international body, the League of Nations. Minorities had existed before,[636] but the minority as a permanent institution, the recognition that millions of people lived outside normal legal protection and needed an additional guarantee of their elementary rights from an outside body, and the assumption that this state of affairs was not temporary but that the Treaties were needed in order to establish a lasting modus vivendi – all this was something new, certainly on such a scale, in European history. The Minority Treaties said in plain language what until then had been only implied in the working system of nation-states, namely, that only nationals could be citizens, only people of the same national origin could enjoy the full protection of legal institutions, that persons of different nationality needed some law of exception until or unless they were completely assimilated and divorced from their origin. The interpretative speeches on the League treaties by statesmen of countries without minority obligations spoke an even plainer language: they took it for granted that the law of a country could not be responsible for persons insisting on a different nationality.[637] They thereby admitted – and were quickly given the opportunity to prove it practically with the rise of stateless people – that the transformation of the state from an instrument of the law into an instrument of the nation had been completed; the nation had conquered the state, national interest had priority over law long before Hitler could pronounce ‘right is what is good for the German people.’ Here again the language of the mob was only the language of public opinion cleansed of hypocrisy and restraint.

Certainly the danger of this development had been inherent in the structure of the nation-state since the beginning. But insofar as the establishment of nation-states coincided with the establishment of constitutional government, they always had represented and been based upon the rule of law as against the rule of arbitrary administration and despotism. So that when the precarious balance between nation and state, between national interest and legal institutions broke down, the disintegration of this form of government and of organization of peoples came about with terrifying swiftness. Its disintegration, curiously enough, started at precisely the moment when the right to national self-determination was recognized for all of Europe and when its essential conviction, the supremacy of the will of the nation over all legal and ‘abstract’ institutions, was universally accepted.

At the time of the Minority Treaties it could be, and was, argued in their favor, as it were as their excuse, that the older nations enjoyed constitutions which implicitly or explicitly (as in the case of France, the nation par excellence) were founded upon the Rights of Man, that even if there were other nationalities within their borders they needed no additional law for them, and that only in the newly established succession states was a temporary enforcement of human rights necessary as a compromise and exception.[638] The arrival of the stateless people brought an end to this illusion.

The minorities were only half stateless; de jure they belonged to some political body even though they needed additional protection in the form of special treaties and guarantees; some secondary rights, such as speaking one’s own language and staying in one’s own cultural and social milieu, were in jeopardy and were halfheartedly protected by an outside body; but other more elementary rights, such as the right to residence and to work, were never touched. The framers of the Minority Treaties did not foresee the possibility of wholesale population transfers or the problem of people who had become ‘undeportable’ because there was no country on earth in which they enjoyed the right to residence. The minorities could still be regarded as an exceptional phenomenon, peculiar to certain territories that deviated from the norm. This argument was always tempting because it left the system itself untouched; it has in a way survived the second World War whose peacemakers, convinced of the impracticability of minority treaties, began to ‘repatriate’ nationalities as much as possible in an effort to unscramble ‘the belt of mixed populations.’[639] And this attempted large-scale repatriation was not the direct result of the catastrophic experiences following in the wake of the Minority Treaties; rather, it was hoped that such a step would finally solve a problem which, in the preceding decades, had assumed ever larger proportions and for which an internationally recognized and accepted procedure simply did not exist – the problem of the stateless people.

Much more stubborn in fact and much more far-reaching in consequence has been statelessness, the newest mass phenomenon in contemporary history, and the existence of an ever-growing new people comprised of stateless persons, the most symptomatic group in contemporary politics.[640] Their existence can hardly be blamed on one factor alone, but if we consider the different groups among the stateless it appears that every political event since the end of the first World War inevitably added a new category to those who lived outside the pale of the law, while none of the categories, no matter how the original constellation changed, could ever be renormalized.[641]

Among them, we still find that oldest group of stateless people, the Heimatlosen produced by the Peace Treaties of 1919, the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, and the establishment of the Baltic states. Sometimes their real origin could not be determined, especially if at the end of the war they happened not to reside in the city of their birth,[642] sometimes their place of origin changed hands so many times in the turmoil of postwar disputes that the nationality of its inhabitants changed from year to year (as in Vilna which a French official once termed la capitale des apatrides); more often than one would imagine, people took refuge in statelessness after the first World War in order to remain where they were and avoid being deported to a ‘homeland’ where they would be strangers (as in the case of many Polish and Rumanian Jews in France and Germany, mercifully helped by the antisemitic attitude of their respective consulates).

Unimportant in himself, apparently just a legal freak, the apatride received belated attention and consideration when he was joined in his legal status by the postwar refugees who had been forced out of their countries by revolutions, and were promptly denationalized by the victorious governments at home. To this group belong, in chronological order, millions of Russians, hundreds of thousands of Armenians, thousands of Hungarians, hundreds of thousands of Germans, and more than half a million Spaniards – to enumerate only the more important categories. The behavior of these governments may appear today to be the natural consequence of civil war; but at the time mass denationalizations were something entirely new and unforeseen. They presupposed a state structure which, if it was not yet fully totalitarian, at least would not tolerate any opposition and would rather lose its citizens than harbor people with different views. They revealed, moreover, what had been hidden throughout the history of national sovereignty, that sovereignties of neighboring countries could come into deadly conflict not only in the extreme case of war but in peace. It now became clear that full national sovereignty was possible only as long as the comity of European nations existed; for it was this spirit of unorganized solidarity and agreement that prevented any government’s exercise of its full sovereign power. Theoretically, in the sphere of international law, it had always been true that sovereignty is nowhere more absolute than in matters of ‘emigration, naturalization, nationality, and expulsion’;[643] the point, however, is that practical consideration and the silent acknowledgment of common interests restrained national sovereignty until the rise of totalitarian regimes. One is almost tempted to measure the degree of totalitarian infection by the extent to which the concerned governments use their sovereign right of denationalization (and it would be quite interesting then to discover that Mussolini’s Italy was rather reluctant to treat its refugees this way[644]). But one should bear in mind at the same time that there was hardly a country left on the Continent that did not pass between the two wars some new legislation which, even if it did not use this right extensively, was always phrased to allow for getting rid of a great number of its inhabitants at any opportune moment.[645]

No paradox of contemporary politics is filled with a more poignant irony than the discrepancy between the efforts of well-meaning idealists who stubbornly insist on regarding as ‘inalienable’ those human rights, which are enjoyed only by citizens of the most prosperous and civilized countries, and the situation of the rightless themselves. Their situation has deteriorated just as stubbornly, until the internment camp – prior to the second World War the exception rather than the rule for the stateless – has become the routine solution for the problem of domicile of the ‘displaced persons.’

Even the terminology applied to the stateless has deteriorated. The term ‘stateless’ at least acknowledged the fact that these persons had lost the protection of their government and required international agreements for safeguarding their legal status. The postwar term ‘displaced persons’ was invented during the war for the express purpose of liquidating statelessness once and for all by ignoring its existence. Nonrecognition of statelessness always means repatriation, i.e., deportation to a country of origin, which either refuses to recognize the prospective repatriate as a citizen, or, on the contrary, urgently wants him back for punishment. Since nontotalitarian countries, in spite of their bad intentions inspired by the climate of war, generally have shied away from mass repatriations, the number of stateless people – twelve years after the end of the war – is larger than ever. The decision of the statesmen to solve the problem of statelessness by ignoring it is further revealed by the lack of any reliable statistics on the subject. This much is known, however: while there are one million ‘recognized’ stateless, there are more than ten million so-called ‘de facto’ stateless; and whereas the relatively innocuous problem of the ‘de jure’ stateless occasionally comes up at international conferences, the core of statelessness, which is identical with the refugee question, is simply not mentioned. Worse still, the number of potentially stateless people is continually on the increase. Prior to the last war, only totalitarian or half-totalitarian dictatorships resorted to the weapon of denaturalization with regard to those who were citizens by birth; now we have reached the point where even free democracies, as, for instance, the United States, were seriously considering depriving native Americans who are Communists of their citizenship. The sinister aspect of these measures is that they are being considered in all innocence. Yet, one need only remember the extreme care of the Nazis, who insisted that all Jews of non-German nationality ‘should be deprived of their citizenship either prior to, or, at the latest, on the day of deportation’[646] (for German Jews such a decree was not needed, because in the Third Reich there existed a law according to which all Jews who had left the territory – including, of course, those deported to a Polish camp – automatically lost their citizenship) in order to realize the true implications of statelessness.

The first great damage done to the nation-states as a result of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of stateless people was that the right of asylum, the only right that had ever figured as a symbol of the Rights of Man in the sphere of international relationships, was being abolished. Its long and sacred history dates back to the very beginnings of regulated political life. Since ancient times it has protected both the refugee and the land of refuge from situations in which people were forced to become outlaws through circumstances beyond their control. It was the only modern remnant of the medieval principle that quidquid est in territorio est de territorio, for in all other cases the modern state tended to protect its citizens beyond its own borders and to make sure, by means of reciprocal treaties, that they remained subject to the laws of their country. But though the right of asylum continued to function in a world organized into nation-states and, in individual instances, even survived both World Wars, it was felt to be an anachronism and in conflict with the international rights of the state. Therefore it cannot be found in written law, in no constitution or international agreement, and the Covenant of the League of Nations never even so much as mentioned it.[647] It shares, in this respect, the fate of the Rights of Man, which also never became law but led a somewhat shadowy existence as an appeal in individual exceptional cases for which normal legal institutions did not suffice.[648]

The second great shock that the European world suffered through the arrival of the refugees[649] was the realization that it was impossible to get rid of them or transform them into nationals of the country of refuge. From the beginning everybody had agreed that there were only two ways to solve the problem: repatriation or naturalization.[650] When the example of the first Russian and Armenian waves proved that neither way gave any tangible results, the countries of refuge simply refused to recognize statelessness in all later arrivals, thereby making the situation of the refugees even more intolerable.[651] From the point of view of the governments concerned it was understandable enough that they should keep reminding the League of Nations ‘that [its] Refugee work must be liquidated with the utmost rapidity’;[652] they had many reasons to fear that those who had been ejected from the old trinity of state-people-territory, which still formed the basis of European organization and political civilization, formed only the beginning of an increasing movement, were only the first trickle from an ever-growing reservoir. It was obvious, and even the Evian Conference recognized it in 1938, that all German and Austrian Jews were potentially stateless; and it was only natural that the minority countries should be encouraged by Germany’s example to try to use the same methods for getting rid of some of their minority populations.[653] Among the minorities the Jews and the Armenians ran the greatest risks and soon showed the highest proportion of statelessness; but they proved also that minority treaties did not necessarily offer protection but could also serve as an instrument to single out certain groups for eventual expulsion.

Almost as frightening as these new dangers arising from the old trouble spots of Europe was the entirely new kind of behavior of all European nationals in ‘ideological’ struggles. Not only were people expelled from country and citizenship, but more and more persons of all countries, including the Western democracies, volunteered to fight in civil wars abroad (something which up to then only a few idealists or adventurers had done) even when this meant cutting themselves off from their national communities. This was the lesson of the Spanish Civil War and one of the reasons why the governments were so frightened by the International Brigade. Matters would not have been quite so bad if this had meant that people no longer clung so closely to their nationality and were ready eventually to be assimilated into another national community. But this was not at all the case. The stateless people had already shown a surprising stubbornness in retaining their nationality; in every sense the refugees represented separate foreign minorities who frequently did not care to be naturalized, and they never banded together, as the minorities had done temporarily, to defend common interests.[654] The International Brigade was organized into national battalions in which the Germans felt they fought against Hitler and the Italians against Mussolini, just as a few years later, in the Resistance, the Spanish refugees felt they fought against Franco when they helped the French against Vichy. What the European governments were so afraid of in this process was that the new stateless people could no longer be said to be of dubious or doubtful nationality (de nationalité indéterminée). Even though they had renounced their citizenship, no longer had any connection with or loyalty to their country of origin, and did not identify their nationality with a visible, fully recognized government, they retained a strong attachment to their nationality. National splinter groups and minorities, without deep roots in their territory and with no loyalty or relationship to the state, had ceased to be characteristic only of the East. They had by now infiltrated, as refugees and stateless persons, the older nation-states of the West.

The real trouble started as soon as the two recognized remedies, repatriation and naturalization, were tried. Repatriation measures naturally failed when there was no country to which these people could be deported. They failed not because of consideration for the stateless person (as it may appear today when Soviet Russia claims its former citizens and the democratic countries must protect them from a repatriation they do not want); and not because of humanitarian sentiments on the part of the countries that were swamped with refugees; but because neither the country of origin nor any other agreed to accept the stateless person. It would seem that the very undeportability of the stateless person should have prevented a government’s expelling him; but since the man without a state was ‘an anomaly for whom there is no appropriate niche in the framework of the general law’[655] – an outlaw by definition – he was completely at the mercy of the police, which itself did not worry too much about committing a few illegal acts in order to diminish the country’s burden of indésirables.[656] In other words, the state, insisting on its sovereign right of expulsion, was forced by the illegal nature of statelessness into admittedly illegal acts.[657] It smuggled its expelled stateless into the neighboring countries, with the result that the latter retaliated in kind. The ideal solution of repatriation, to smuggle the refugee back into his country of origin, succeeded only in a few prominent instances, partly because a nontotalitarian police was still restrained by a few rudimentary ethical considerations, partly because the stateless person was as likely to be smuggled back from his home country as from any other, and last but not least because the whole traffic could go on only with neighboring countries. The consequences of this smuggling were petty wars between the police at the frontiers, which did not exactly contribute to good international relations, and an accumulation of jail sentences for the stateless who, with the help of the police of one country, had passed ‘illegally’ into the territory of another.

Every attempt by international conferences to establish some legal status for stateless people failed because no agreement could possibly replace the territory to which an alien, within the framework of existing law, must be deportable. All discussions about the refugee problems revolved around this one question: How can the refugee be made deportable again? The second World War and the DP camps were not necessary to show that the only practical substitute for a nonexistent homeland was an internment camp. Indeed, as early as the thirties this was the only ‘country’ the world had to offer the stateless.[658]

Naturalization, on the other hand, also proved to be a failure. The whole naturalization system of European countries fell apart when it was confronted with stateless people, and this for the same reasons that the right of asylum had been set aside. Essentially naturalization was an appendage to the nation-state’s legislation that reckoned only with ‘nationals,’ people born in its territory and citizens by birth. Naturalization was needed in exceptional cases, for single individuals whom circumstances might have driven into a foreign territory. The whole process broke down when it became a question of handling mass applications for naturalization:[659] even from the purely administrative point of view, no European civil service could possibly have dealt with the problem. Instead of naturalizing at least a small portion of the new arrivals, the countries began to cancel earlier naturalizations, partly because of general panic and partly because the arrival of great masses of newcomers actually changed the always precarious position of naturalized citizens of the same origin.[660] Cancellation of naturalization or the introduction of new laws which obviously paved the way for mass denaturalization[661] shattered what little confidence the refugees might have retained in the possibility of adjusting themselves to a new normal life; if assimilation to the new country once looked a little shabby or disloyal, it was now simply ridiculous. The difference between a naturalized citizen and a stateless resident was not great enough to justify taking any trouble, the former being frequently deprived of important civil rights and threatened at any moment with the fate of the latter. Naturalized persons were largely assimilated to the status of ordinary aliens, and since the naturalized had already lost their previous citizenship, these measures simply threatened another considerable group with statelessness.

It was almost pathetic to see how helpless the European governments were, despite their consciousness of the danger of statelessness to their established legal and political institutions and despite all their efforts to stem the tide. Explosive events were no longer necessary. Once a number of stateless people were admitted to an otherwise normal country, statelessness spread like a contagious disease. Not only were naturalized citizens in danger of reverting to the status of statelessness, but living conditions for all aliens markedly deteriorated. In the thirties it became increasingly difficult to distinguish clearly between stateless refugees and normal resident aliens. Once the government tried to use its right and repatriate a resident alien against his will, he would do his utmost to find refuge in statelessness. During the first World War enemy aliens had already discovered the great advantages of statelessness. But what then had been the cunning of individuals who found a loophole in the law had now become the instinctive reaction of masses. France, Europe’s greatest immigrant-reception area,[662] because she had regulated the chaotic labor market by calling in alien workers in times of need and deporting them in times of unemployment and crisis, taught her aliens a lesson about the advantages of statelessness which they did not readily forget. After 1935, the year of mass repatriation by the Laval government from which only the stateless were saved, so-called ‘economic immigrants’ and other groups of earlier origin – Balkans, Italians, Poles, and Spaniards – mixed with the waves of refugees into a tangle that never again could be unraveled.

Much worse than what statelessness did to the time-honored and necessary distinctions between nationals and foreigners, and to the sovereign right of states in matters of nationality and expulsion, was the damage suffered by the very structure of legal national institutions when a growing number of residents had to live outside the jurisdiction of these laws and without being protected by any other. The stateless person, without right to residence and without the right to work, had of course constantly to transgress the law. He was liable to jail sentences without ever committing a crime. More than that, the entire hierarchy of values which pertain in civilized countries was reversed in his case. Since he was the anomaly for whom the general law did not provide, it was better for him to become an anomaly for which it did provide, that of the criminal.

The best criterion by which to decide whether someone has been forced outside the pale of the law is to ask if he would benefit by committing a crime. If a small burglary is likely to improve his legal position, at least temporarily, one may be sure he has been deprived of human rights. For then a criminal offense becomes the best opportunity to regain some kind of human equality, even if it be as a recognized exception to the norm. The one important fact is that this exception is provided for by law. As a criminal even a stateless person will not be treated worse than another criminal, that is, he will be treated like everybody else. Only as an offender against the law can he gain protection from it. As long as his trial and his sentence last, he will be safe from that arbitrary police rule against which there are no lawyers and no appeals. The same man who was in jail yesterday because of his mere presence in this world, who had no rights whatever and lived under threat of deportation, or who was dispatched without sentence and without trial to some kind of internment because he had tried to work and make a living, may become almost a full-fledged citizen because of a little theft. Even if he is penniless he can now get a lawyer, complain about his jailers, and he will be listened to respectfully. He is no longer the scum of the earth but important enough to be informed of all the details of the law under which he will be tried. He has become a respectable person.[663]

A much less reliable and much more difficult way to rise from an unrecognized anomaly to the status of recognized exception would be to become a genius. Just as the law knows only one difference between human beings, the difference between the normal noncriminal and the anomalous criminal, so a conformist society has recognized only one form of determined individualism, the genius. European bourgeois society wanted the genius to stay outside of human laws, to be a kind of monster whose chief social function was to create excitement, and it did not matter if he actually was an outlaw. Moreover, the loss of citizenship deprived people not only of protection, but also of all clearly established, officially recognized identity, a fact for which their eternal feverish efforts to obtain at least birth certificates from the country that denationalized them was a very exact symbol; one of their problems was solved when they achieved the degree of distinction that will rescue a man from the huge and nameless crowd. Only fame will eventually answer the repeated complaint of refugees of all social strata that ‘nobody here knows who I am’; and it is true that the chances of the famous refugee are improved just as a dog with a name has a better chance to survive than a stray dog who is just a dog in general.[664]

The nation-state, incapable of providing a law for those who had lost the protection of a national government, transferred the whole matter to the police. This was the first time the police in Western Europe had received authority to act on its own, to rule directly over people; in one sphere of public life it was no longer an instrument to carry out and enforce the law, but had become a ruling authority independent of government and ministries.[665] Its strength and its emancipation from law and government grew in direct proportion to the influx of refugees. The greater the ratio of stateless and potentially stateless to the population at large – in prewar France it had reached 10 per cent of the total – the greater the danger of a gradual transformation into a police state.

It goes without saying that the totalitarian regimes, where the police had risen to the peak of power, were especially eager to consolidate this power through the domination over vast groups of people, who, regardless of any offenses committed by individuals, found themselves anyway beyond the pale of the law. In Nazi Germany, the Nuremberg Laws with their distinction between Reich citizens (full citizens) and nationals (second-class citizens without political rights) had paved the way for a development in which eventually all nationals of ‘alien blood’ could lose their nationality by official decree; only the outbreak of the war prevented a corresponding legislation, which had been prepared in detail.[666] On the other hand, the increasing groups of stateless in the nontotalitarian countries led to a form of lawlessness, organized by the police, which practically resulted in a co-ordination of the free world with the legislation of the totalitarian countries. That concentration camps were ultimately provided for the same groups in all countries, even though there were considerable differences in the treatment of their inmates, was all the more characteristic as the selection of the groups was left exclusively to the initiative of the totalitarian regimes: if the Nazis put a person in a concentration camp and if he made a successful escape, say, to Holland, the Dutch would put him in an internment camp. Thus, long before the outbreak of the war the police in a number of Western countries, under the pretext of ‘national security,’ had on their own initiative established close connections with the Gestapo and the GPU, so that one might say there existed an independent foreign policy of the police. This police-directed foreign policy functioned quite independently of the official governments; the relations between the Gestapo and the French police were never more cordial than at the time of Léon Blum’s popular-front government, which was guided by a decidedly anti-German policy. Contrary to the governments, the various police organizations were never overburdened with ‘prejudices’ against any totalitarian regime; the information and denunciations received from GPU agents were just as welcome to them as those from Fascist or Gestapo agents. They knew about the eminent role of the police apparatus in all totalitarian regimes, they knew about its elevated social status and political importance, and they never bothered to conceal their sympathies. That the Nazis eventually met with so disgracefully little resistance from the police in the countries they occupied, and that they were able to organize terror as much as they did with the assistance of these local police forces, was due at least in part to the powerful position which the police had achieved over the years in their unrestricted and arbitrary domination of stateless and refugees.

Both in the history of the ‘nation of minorities’ and in the formation of a stateless people, Jews have played a significant role. They were at the head of the so-called minority movement because of their great need for protection (matched only by the need of the Armenians) and their excellent international connections, but above all because they formed a majority in no country and therefore could be regarded as the minorité par excellence, i.e., the only minority whose interests could be defended only by internationally guaranteed protection.[667]

The special needs of the Jewish people were the best possible pretext for denying that the Treaties were a compromise between the new nations’ tendency forcefully to assimilate alien peoples and nationalities who for reasons of expediency could not be granted the right to national self-determination.

A similar incident made the Jews prominent in the discussion of the refugee and statelessness problem. The first Heimatlose or apatrides, as they were created by the Peace Treaties, were for the most part Jews who came from the succession states and were unable or unwilling to place themselves under the new minority protection of their homelands. Not until Germany forced German Jewry into emigration and statelessness did they form a very considerable portion of the stateless people. But in the years following Hitler’s successful persecution of German Jews all the minority countries began to think in terms of expatriating their minorities, and it was only natural that they should start with the minorité par excellence, the only nationality that actually had no other protection than a minority system which by now had become a mockery.

The notion that statelessness is primarily a Jewish problem[668] was a pretext used by all governments who tried to settle the problem by ignoring it. None of the statesmen was aware that Hitler’s solution of the Jewish problem, first to reduce the German Jews to a nonrecognized minority in Germany, then to drive them as stateless people across the borders, and finally to gather them back from everywhere in order to ship them to extermination camps, was an eloquent demonstration to the rest of the world how really to ‘liquidate’ all problems concerning minorities and stateless. After the war it turned out that the Jewish question, which was considered the only insoluble one, was indeed solved – namely, by means of a colonized and then conquered territory – but this solved neither the problem of the minorities nor the stateless. On the contrary, like virtually all other events of our century, the solution of the Jewish question merely produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the number of the stateless and rightless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people. And what happened in Palestine within the smallest territory and in terms of hundreds of thousands was then repeated in India on a large scale involving many millions of people. Since the Peace Treaties of 1919 and 1920 the refugees and the stateless have attached themselves like a curse to all the newly established states on earth which were created in the image of the nation-state.

For these new states this curse bears the germs of a deadly sickness. For the nation-state cannot exist once its principle of equality before the law has broken down. Without this legal equality, which originally was destined to replace the older laws and orders of the feudal society, the nation dissolves into an anarchic mass of over- and underprivileged individuals. Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something contradictory to the very nature of nation-states. The clearer the proof of their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficult it is for states to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police.

II: The Perplexities of the Rights of Man

The declaration of the Rights of Man at the end of the eighteenth century was a turning point in history. It meant nothing more nor less than that from then on Man, and not God’s command or the customs of history, should be the source of Law. Independent of the privileges which history had bestowed upon certain strata of society or certain nations, the declaration indicated man’s emancipation from all tutelage and announced that he had now come of age.

Beyond this, there was another implication of which the framers of the declaration were only half aware. The proclamation of human rights was also meant to be a much-needed protection in the new era where individuals were no longer secure in the estates to which they were born or sure of their equality before God as Christians. In other words, in the new secularized and emancipated society, men were no longer sure of these social and human rights which until then had been outside the political order and guaranteed not by government and constitution, but by social, spiritual, and religious forces. Therefore throughout the nineteenth century, the consensus of opinion was that human rights had to be invoked whenever individuals needed protection against the new sovereignty of the state and the new arbitrariness of society.

Since the Rights of Man were proclaimed to be ‘inalienable,’ irreducible to and undeducible from other rights or laws, no authority was invoked for their establishment; Man himself was their source as well as their ultimate goal. No special law, moreover, was deemed necessary to protect them because all laws were supposed to rest upon them. Man appeared as the only sovereign in matters of law as the people was proclaimed the only sovereign in matters of government. The people’s sovereignty (different from that of the prince) was not proclaimed by the grace of God but in the name of Man, so that it seemed only natural that the ‘inalienable’ rights of man would find their guarantee and become an inalienable part of the right of the people to sovereign self-government.

In other words, man had hardly appeared as a completely emancipated, completely isolated being who carried his dignity within himself without reference to some larger encompassing order, when he disappeared again into a member of a people. From the beginning the paradox involved in the declaration of inalienable human rights was that it reckoned with an ‘abstract’ human being who seemed to exist nowhere, for even savages lived in some kind of a social order. If a tribal or other ‘backward’ community did not enjoy human rights, it was obviously because as a whole it had not yet reached that stage of civilization, the stage of popular and national sovereignty, but was oppressed by foreign or native despots. The whole question of human rights, therefore, was quickly and inextricably blended with the question of national emancipation; only the emancipated sovereignty of the people, of one’s own people, seemed to be able to insure them. As mankind, since the French Revolution, was conceived in the image of a family of nations, it gradually became self-evident that the people, and not the individual, was the image of man.

The full implication of this identification of the rights of man with the rights of peoples in the European nation-state system came to light only when a growing number of people and peoples suddenly appeared whose elementary rights were as little safeguarded by the ordinary functioning of nation-states in the middle of Europe as they would have been in the heart of Africa. The Rights of Man, after all, had been defined as ‘inalienable’ because they were supposed to be independent of all governments; but it turned out that the moment human beings lacked their own government and had to fall back upon their minimum rights, no authority was left to protect them and no institution was willing to guarantee them. Or when, as in the case of the minorities, an international body arrogated to itself a nongovernmental authority, its failure was apparent even before its measures were fully realized; not only were the governments more or less openly opposed to this encroachment on their sovereignty, but the concerned nationalities themselves did not recognize a nonnational guarantee, mistrusted everything which was not clear-cut support of their ‘national’ (as opposed to their mere ‘linguistic, religious, and ethnic’) rights, and preferred either, like the Germans or Hungarians, to turn to the protection of the ‘national’ mother country, or, like the Jews, to some kind of interterritorial solidarity.[669]

The stateless people were as convinced as the minorities that loss of national rights was identical with loss of human rights, that the former inevitably entailed the latter. The more they were excluded from right in any form, the more they tended to look for a reintegration into a national, into their own national community. The Russian refugees were only the first to insist on their nationality and to defend themselves furiously against attempts to lump them together with other stateless people. Since them, not a single group of refugees or Displaced Persons has failed to develop a fierce, violent group consciousness and to clamor for rights as – and only as – Poles or Jews or Germans, etc.

Even worse was that all societies formed for the protection of the Rights of Man, all attempts to arrive at a new bill of human rights were sponsored by marginal figures – by a few international jurists without political experience or professional philanthropists supported by the uncertain sentiments of professional idealists. The groups they formed, the declarations they issued, showed an uncanny similarity in language and composition to that of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. No statesman, no political figure of any importance could possibly take them seriously; and none of the liberal or radical parties in Europe thought it necessary to incorporate into their program a new declaration of human rights. Neither before nor after the second World War have the victims themselves ever invoked these fundamental rights, which were so evidently denied them, in their many attempts to find a way out of the barbed-wire labyrinth into which events had driven them. On the contrary, the victims shared the disdain and indifference of the powers that be for any attempt of the marginal societies to enforce human rights in any elementary or general sense.

The failure of all responsible persons to meet the calamity of an ever-growing body of people forced to live outside the scope of all tangible law with the proclamation of a new bill of rights was certainly not due to ill will. Never before had the Rights of Man, solemnly proclaimed by the French and the American revolutions as the new fundament for civilized societies, been a practical political issue. During the nineteenth century, these rights had been invoked in a rather perfunctory way, to defend individuals against the increasing power of the state and to mitigate the new social insecurity caused by the industrial revolution. Then the meaning of human rights acquired a new connotation: they became the standard slogan of the protectors of the underprivileged, a kind of additional law, a right of exception necessary for those who had nothing better to fall back upon.

The reason why the concept of human rights was treated as a sort of stepchild by nineteenth-century political thought and why no liberal or radical party in the twentieth century, even when an urgent need for enforcement of human rights arose, saw fit to include them in its program seems obvious: civil rights – that is the varying rights of citizens in different countries – were supposed to embody and spell out in the form of tangible laws the eternal Rights of Man, which by themselves were supposed to be independent of citizenship and nationality. All human beings were citizens of some kind of political community; if the laws of their country did not live up to the demands of the Rights of Man, they were expected to change them, by legislation in democratic countries or through revolutionary action in despotisms.

The Rights of Man, supposedly inalienable, proved to be unenforceable – even in countries whose constitutions were based upon them – whenever people appeared who were no longer citizens of any sovereign state. To this fact, disturbing enough in itself, one must add the confusion created by the many recent attempts to frame a new bill of human rights, which have demonstrated that no one seems able to define with any assurance what these general human rights, as distinguished from the rights of citizens, really are. Although everyone seems to agree that the plight of these people consists precisely in their loss of the Rights of Man, no one seems to know which rights they lost when they lost these human rights.

The first loss which the rightless suffered was the loss of their homes, and this meant the loss of the entire social texture into which they were born and in which they established for themselves a distinct place in the world. This calamity is far from unprecedented; in the long memory of history, forced migrations of individuals or whole groups of people for political or economic reasons look like everyday occurrences. What is unprecedented is not the loss of a home but the impossibility of finding a new one. Suddenly, there was no place on earth where migrants could go without the severest restrictions, no country where they would be assimilated, no territory where they could found a new community of their own. This, moreover, had next to nothing to do with any material problem of overpopulation; it was a problem not of space but of political organization. Nobody had been aware that mankind, for so long a time considered under the image of a family of nations, had reached the stage where whoever was thrown out of one of these tightly organized closed communities found himself thrown out of the family of nations altogether.[670]

The second loss which the rightless suffered was the loss of government protection, and this did not imply just the loss of legal status in their own, but in all countries. Treaties of reciprocity and international agreements have woven a web around the earth that makes it possible for the citizen of every country to take his legal status with him no matter where he goes (so that, for instance, a German citizen under the Nazi regime might not be able to enter a mixed marriage abroad because of the Nuremberg laws). Yet, whoever is no longer caught in it finds himself out of legality altogether (thus during the last war stateless people were invariably in a worse position than enemy aliens who were still indirectly protected by their governments through international agreements).

By itself the loss of government protection is no more unprecedented than the loss of a home. Civilized countries did offer the right of asylum to those who, for political reasons, had been persecuted by their governments, and this practice, though never officially incorporated into any constitution, has functioned well enough throughout the nineteenth and even in our century. The trouble arose when it appeared that the new categories of persecuted were far too numerous to be handled by an unofficial practice destined for exceptional cases. Moreover, the majority could hardly qualify for the right of asylum, which implicitly presupposed political or religious convictions which were not outlawed in the country of refuge. The new refugees were persecuted not because of what they had done or thought, but because of what they unchangeably were – born into the wrong kind of race or the wrong kind of class or drafted by the wrong kind of government (as in the case of the Spanish Republican Army).[671]

The more the number of rightless people increased, the greater became the temptation to pay less attention to the deeds of the persecuting governments than to the status of the persecuted. And the first glaring fact was that these people, though persecuted under some political pretext, were no longer, as the persecuted had been throughout history, a liability and an image of shame for the persecutors; that they were not considered and hardly pretended to be active enemies (the few thousand Soviet citizens who voluntarily left Soviet Russia after the second World War and found asylum in democratic countries did more damage to the prestige of the Soviet Union than millions of refugees in the twenties who belonged to the wrong class), but that they were and appeared to be nothing but human beings whose very innocence – from every point of view, and especially that of the persecuting government – was their greatest misfortune. Innocence, in the sense of complete lack of responsibility, was the mark of their rightlessness as it was the seal of their loss of political status.

Only in appearance therefore do the needs for a reinforcement of human rights touch upon the fate of the authentic political refugee. Political refugees, of necessity few in number, still enjoy the right to asylum in many countries, and this right acts, in an informal way, as a genuine substitute for national law.

One of the surprising aspects of our experience with stateless people who benefit legally from committing a crime has been the fact that it seems to be easier to deprive a completely innocent person of legality than someone who has committed an offense. Anatole France’s famous quip, ‘If I am accused of stealing the towers of Notre Dame, I can only flee the country,’ has assumed a horrible reality. Jurists are so used to thinking of law in terms of punishment, which indeed always deprives us of certain rights, that they may find it even more difficult than the layman to recognize that the deprivation of legality, i.e., of all rights, no longer has a connection with specific crimes.

This situation illustrates the many perplexities inherent in the concept of human rights. No matter how they have once been defined (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, according to the American formula, or as equality before the law, liberty, protection of property, and national sovereignty, according to the French); no matter how one may attempt to improve an ambiguous formulation like the pursuit of happiness, or an antiquated one like unqualified right to property; the real situation of those whom the twentieth century has driven outside the pale of the law shows that these are rights of citizens whose loss does not entail absolute rightlessness. The soldier during the war is deprived of his right to life, the criminal of his right to freedom, all citizens during an emergency of their right to the pursuit of happiness, but nobody would ever claim that in any of these instances a loss of human rights has taken place. These rights, on the other hand, can be granted (though hardly enjoyed) even under conditions of fundamental rightlessness.

The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of opinion – formulas which were designed to solve problems within given communities – but that they no longer belong to any community whatsoever. Their plight is not that they are not equal before the law, but that no law exists for them; not that they are oppressed but that nobody wants even to oppress them. Only in the last stage of a rather lengthy process is their right to live threatened; only if they remain perfectly ‘superfluous,’ if nobody can be found to ‘claim’ them, may their lives be in danger. Even the Nazis started their extermination of Jews by first depriving them of all legal status (the status of second-class citizenship) and cutting them off from the world of the living by herding them into ghettos and concentration camps; and before they set the gas chambers into motion they had carefully tested the ground and found out to their satisfaction that no country would claim these people. The point is that a condition of complete rightlessness was created before the right to live was challenged.

The same is true even to an ironical extent with regard to the right of freedom which is sometimes considered to be the very essence of human rights. There is no question that those outside the pale of the law may have more freedom of movement than a lawfully imprisoned criminal or that they enjoy more freedom of opinion in the internment camps of democratic countries than they would in any ordinary despotism, not to mention in a totalitarian country.[672] But neither physical safety – being fed by some state or private welfare agency – nor freedom of opinion changes in the least their fundamental situation of rightlessness. The prolongation of their lives is due to charity and not to right, for no law exists which could force the nations to feed them; their freedom of movement, if they have it at all, gives them no right to residence which even the jailed criminal enjoys as a matter of course; and their freedom of opinion is a fool’s freedom, for nothing they think matters anyhow

These last points are crucial. The fundamental deprivation of human rights is manifested first and above all in the deprivation of a place in the world which makes opinions significant and actions effective. Something much more fundamental than freedom and justice, which are rights of citizens, is at stake when belonging to the community into which one is born is no longer a matter of course and not belonging no longer a matter of choice, or when one is placed in a situation where, unless he commits a crime, his treatment by others does not depend on what he does or does not do. This extremity, and nothing else, is the situation of people deprived of human rights. They are deprived, not of the right to freedom, but of the right to action; not of the right to think whatever they please, but of the right to opinion. Privileges in some cases, injustices in most, blessings and doom are meted out to them according to accident and without any relation whatsoever to what they do, did, or may do.

We became aware of the existence of a right to have rights (and that means to live in a framework where one is judged by one’s actions and opinions) and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only when millions of people emerged who had lost and could not regain these rights because of the new global political situation. The trouble is that this calamity arose not from any lack of civilization, backwardness, or mere tyranny, but, on the contrary, that it could not be repaired, because there was no longer any ‘uncivilized’ spot on earth, because whether we like it or not we have really started to live in One World. Only with a completely organized humanity could the loss of home and political status become identical with expulsion from humanity altogether.

Before this, what we must call a ‘human right’ today would have been thought of as a general characteristic of the human condition which no tyrant could take away. Its loss entails the loss of the relevance of speech (and man, since Aristotle, has been defined as a being commanding the power of speech and thought), and the loss of all human relationship (and man, again since Aristotle, has been thought of as the ‘political animal,’ that is one who by definition lives in a community), the loss, in other words, of some of the most essential characteristics of human life. This was to a certain extent the plight of slaves, whom Aristotle therefore did not count among human beings. Slavery’s fundamental offense against human rights was not that it took liberty away (which can happen in many other situations), but that it excluded a certain category of people even from the possibility of fighting for freedom – a fight possible under tyranny, and even under the desperate conditions of modern terror (but not under any conditions of concentration-camp life). Slavery’s crime against humanity did not begin when one people defeated and enslaved its enemies (though of course this was bad enough), but when slavery became an institution in which some men were ‘born’ free and others slave, when it was forgotten that it was man who had deprived his fellow-men of freedom, and when the sanction for the crime was attributed to nature. Yet in the light of recent events it is possible to say that even slaves still belonged to some sort of human community; their labor was needed, used, and exploited, and this kept them within the pale of humanity. To be a slave was after all to have a distinctive character, a place in society – more than the abstract nakedness of being human and nothing but human. Not the loss of specific rights, then, but the loss of a community willing and able to guarantee any rights whatsoever, has been the calamity which has befallen ever-increasing numbers of people. Man, it turns out, can lose all so-called Rights of Man without losing his essential quality as man, his human dignity. Only the loss of a polity itself expels him from humanity.

The right that corresponds to this loss and that was never even mentioned among the human rights cannot be expressed in the categories of the eighteenth century because they presume that rights spring immediately from the ‘nature’ of man – whereby it makes relatively little difference whether this nature is visualized in terms of the natural law or in terms of a being created in the image of God, whether it concerns ‘natural’ rights or divine commands. The decisive factor is that these rights and the human dignity they bestow should remain valid and real even if only a single human being existed on earth; they are independent of human plurality and should remain valid even if a human being is expelled from the human community.

When the Rights of Man were proclaimed for the first time, they were regarded as being independent of history and the privileges which history had accorded certain strata of society. The new independence constituted the newly discovered dignity of man. From the beginning, this new dignity was of a rather ambiguous nature. Historical rights were replaced by natural rights, ‘nature’ took the place of history, and it was tacitly assumed that nature was less alien than history to the essence of man. The very language of the Declaration of Independence as well as of the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme – ‘inalienable,’ ‘given with birth,’ ‘self-evident truths’ – implies the belief in a kind of human ‘nature’ which would be subject to the same laws of growth as that of the individual and from which rights and laws could be deduced. Today we are perhaps better qualified to judge exactly what this human ‘nature’ amounts to; in any event it has shown us potentialities that were neither recognized nor even suspected by Western philosophy and religion, which for more than three thousand years have defined and redefined this ‘nature.’ But it is not only the, as it were, human aspect of nature that has become questionable to us. Ever since man learned to master it to such an extent that the destruction of all organic life on earth with man-made instruments has become conceivable and technically possible, he has been alienated from nature. Ever since a deeper knowledge of natural processes instilled serious doubts about the existence of natural laws at all, nature itself has assumed a sinister aspect. How should one be able to deduce laws and rights from a universe which apparently knows neither the one nor the other category?

Man of the twentieth century has become just as emancipated from nature as eighteenth-century man was from history. History and nature have become equally alien to us, namely, in the sense that the essence of man can no longer be comprehended in terms of either category. On the other hand, humanity, which for the eighteenth century, in Kantian terminology, was no more than a regulative idea, has today become an inescapable fact. This new situation, in which ‘humanity’ has in effect assumed the role formerly ascribed to nature or history, would mean in this context that the right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to humanity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself. It is by no means certain whether this is possible. For, contrary to the best-intentioned humanitarian attempts to obtain new declarations of human rights from international organizations, it should be understood that this idea transcends the present sphere of international law which still operates in terms of reciprocal agreements and treaties between sovereign states; and, for the time being, a sphere that is above the nations does not exist. Furthermore, this dilemma would by no means be eliminated by the establishment of a ‘world government.’ Such a world government is indeed within the realm of possibility, but one may suspect that in reality it might differ considerably from the version promoted by idealistic-minded organizations. The crimes against human rights, which have become a specialty of totalitarian regimes, can always be justified by the pretext that right is equivalent to being good or useful for the whole in distinction to its parts. (Hitler’s motto that ‘Right is what is good for the German people’ is only the vulgarized form of a conception of law which can be found everywhere and which in practice will remain ineffectual only so long as older traditions that are still effective in the constitutions prevent this.) A conception of law which identifies what is right with the notion of what is good for – for the individual, or the family, or the people, or the largest number – becomes inevitable once the absolute and transcendent measurements of religion or the law of nature have lost their authority. And this predicament is by no means solved if the unit to which the ‘good for’ applies is as large as mankind itself. For it is quite conceivable, and even within the realm of practical political possibilities, that one fine day a highly organized and mechanized humanity will conclude quite democratically – namely by majority decision – that for humanity as a whole it would be better to liquidate certain parts thereof. Here, in the problems of factual reality, we are confronted with one of the oldest perplexities of political philosophy, which could remain undetected only so long as a stable Christian theology provided the framework for all political and philosophical problems, but which long ago caused Plato to say: ‘Not man, but a god, must be the measure of all things.’

These facts and reflections offer what seems an ironical, bitter, and belated confirmation of the famous arguments with which Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man. They appear to buttress his assertion that human rights were an ‘abstraction,’ that it was much wiser to rely on an ‘entailed inheritance’ of rights which one transmits to one’s children like life itself, and to claim one’s rights to be the ‘rights of an Englishman’ rather than the inalienable rights of man.[673] According to Burke, the rights which we enjoy spring ‘from within the nation,’ so that neither natural law, nor divine command, nor any concept of mankind such as Robespierre’s ‘human race,’ ‘the sovereign of the earth,’ are needed as a source of law.[674]

The pragmatic soundness of Burke’s concept seems to be beyond doubt in the light of our manifold experiences. Not only did loss of national rights in all instances entail the loss of human rights; the restoration of human rights, as the recent example of the State of Israel proves, has been achieved so far only through the restoration or the establishment of national rights. The conception of human rights, based upon the assumed existence of a human being as such, broke down at the very moment when those who professed to believe in it were for the first time confronted with people who had indeed lost all other qualities and specific relationships – except that they were still human. The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human. And in view of objective political conditions, it is hard to say how the concepts of man upon which human rights are based – that he is created in the image of God (in the American formula), or that he is the representative of mankind, or that he harbors within himself the sacred demands of natural law (in the French formula) – could have helped to find a solution to the problem.

The survivors of the extermination camps, the inmates of concentration and internment camps, and even the comparatively happy stateless people could see without Burke’s arguments that the abstract nakedness of being nothing but human was their greatest danger. Because of it they were regarded as savages and, afraid that they might end by being considered beasts, they insisted on their nationality, the last sign of their former citizenship, as their only remaining and recognized tie with humanity. Their distrust of natural, their preference for national, rights comes precisely from their realization that natural rights are granted even to savages. Burke had already feared that natural ‘inalienable’ rights would confirm only the ‘right of the naked savage,’[675] and therefore reduce civilized nations to the status of savagery. Because only savages have nothing more to fall back upon than the minimum fact of their human origin, people cling to their nationality all the more desperately when they have lost the rights and protection that such nationality once gave them. Only their past with its ‘entailed inheritance’ seems to attest to the fact that they still belong to the civilized world.

If a human being loses his political status, he should, according to the implications of the inborn and inalienable rights of man, come under exactly the situation for which the declarations of such general rights provided. Actually the opposite is the case. It seems that a man who is nothing but a man has lost the very qualities which make it possible for other people to treat him as a fellow-man. This is one of the reasons why it is far more difficult to destroy the legal personality of a criminal, that is of a man who has taken upon himself the responsibility for an act whose consequences now determine his fate, than of a man who has been disallowed all common human responsibilities.

Burke’s arguments therefore gain an added significance if we look only at the general human condition of those who have been forced out of all political communities. Regardless of treatment, independent of liberties or oppression, justice or injustice, they have lost all those parts of the world and all those aspects of human existence which are the result of our common labor, the outcome of the human artifice. If the tragedy of savage tribes is that they inhabit an unchanged nature which they cannot master, yet upon whose abundance or frugality they depend for their livelihood, that they live and die without leaving any trace, without having contributed anything to a common world, then these rightless people are indeed thrown back into a peculiar state of nature. Certainly they are not barbarians; some of them, indeed, belong to the most educated strata of their respective countries; nevertheless, in a world that has almost liquidated savagery, they appear as the first signs of a possible regression from civilization.

The more highly developed a civilization, the more accomplished the world it has produced, the more at home men feel within the human artifice – the more they will resent everything they have not produced, everything that is merely and mysteriously given them. The human being who has lost his place in a community, his political status in the struggle of his time, and the legal personality which makes his actions and part of his destiny a consistent whole, is left with those qualities which usually can become articulate only in the sphere of private life and must remain unqualified, mere existence in all matters of public concern. This mere existence, that is, all that which is mysteriously given us by birth and which includes the shape of our bodies and the talents of our minds, can be adequately dealt with only by the unpredictable hazards of friendship and sympathy, or by the great and incalculable grace of love, which says with Augustine, ‘Volo ut sis (I want you to be),’ without being able to give any particular reason for such supreme and unsurpassable affirmation.

Since the Greeks, we have known that highly developed political life breeds a deep-rooted suspicion of this private sphere, a deep resentment against the disturbing miracle contained in the fact that each of us is made as he is – single, unique, unchangeable. This whole sphere of the merely given, relegated to private life in civilized society, is a permanent threat to the public sphere, because the public sphere is as consistently based on the law of equality as the private sphere is based on the law of universal difference and differentiation. Equality, in contrast to all that is involved in mere existence, is not given us, but is the result of human organization insofar as it is guided by the principle of justice. We are not born equal; we become equal as members of a group on the strength of our decision to guarantee ourselves mutually equal rights.

Our political life rests on the assumption that we can produce equality through organization, because man can act in and change and build a common world, together with his equals and only with his equals. The dark background of mere givenness, the background formed by our unchangeable and unique nature, breaks into the political scene as the alien which in its all too obvious difference reminds us of the limitations of human activity – which are identical with the limitations of human equality. The reason why highly developed political communities, such as the ancient city-states or modern nation-states, so often insist on ethnic homogeneity is that they hope to eliminate as far as possible those natural and always present differences and differentiations which by themselves arouse dumb hatred, mistrust, and discrimination because they indicate all too clearly those spheres where men cannot act and change at will, i.e., the limitations of the human artifice. The ‘alien’ is a frightening symbol of the fact of difference as such, of individuality as such, and indicates those realms in which man cannot change and cannot act and in which, therefore, he has a distinct tendency to destroy. If a Negro in a white community is considered a Negro and nothing else, he loses along with his right to equality that freedom of action which is specifically human; all his deeds are now explained as ‘necessary’ consequences of some ‘Negro’ qualities; he has become some specimen of an animal species, called man. Much the same thing happens to those who have lost all distinctive political qualities and have become human beings and nothing else. No doubt, wherever public life and its law of equality are completely victorious, wherever a civilization succeeds in eliminating or reducing to a minimum the dark background of difference, it will end in complete petrifaction and be punished, so to speak, for having forgotten that man is only the master, not the creator of the world.

The great danger arising from the existence of people forced to live outside the common world is that they are thrown back, in the midst of civilization, on their natural givenness, on their mere differentiation. They lack that tremendous equalizing of differences which comes from being citizens of some commonwealth and yet, since they are no longer allowed to partake in the human artifice, they begin to belong to the human race in much the same way as animals belong to a specific animal species. The paradox involved in the loss of human rights is that such loss coincides with the instant when a person becomes a human being in general – without a profession, without a citizenship, without an opinion, without a deed by which to identify and specify himself – and different in general, representing nothing but his own absolutely unique individuality which, deprived of expression within and action upon a common world, loses all significance.

The danger in the existence of such people is twofold: first and more obviously, their ever-increasing numbers threaten our political life, our human artifice, the world which is the result of our common and co-ordinated effort in much the same, perhaps even more terrifying, way as the wild elements of nature once threatened the existence of man-made cities and countrysides. Deadly danger to any civilization is no longer likely to come from without. Nature has been mastered and no barbarians threaten to destroy what they cannot understand, as the Mongolians threatened Europe for centuries. Even the emergence of totalitarian governments is a phenomenon within, not outside, our civilization. The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages.[676]



Part Three. TOTALITARIANISM

Normal men do not know that everything is possible.

David Rousset

Chapter Ten. A Classless Society

I: The Masses

Nothing is more characteristic of the totalitarian movements in general and of the quality of fame of their leaders in particular than the startling swiftness with which they are forgotten and the startling ease with which they can be replaced. What Stalin accomplished laboriously over many years through bitter factional struggles and vast concessions at least to the name of his predecessor – namely, to legitimate himself as Lenin’s political heir – Stalin’s successors attempted to do without concessions to the name of their predecessor, even though Stalin had thirty years’ time and could manipulate a propaganda apparatus, unknown in Lenin’s day, to immortalize his name. The same is true for Hitler, who during his lifetime exercised a fascination to which allegedly no one was immune,[677] and who after his defeat and death is today so thoroughly forgotten that he scarcely plays any further role even among the neo-Fascist and neo-Nazi groups of postwar Germany. This impermanence no doubt has something to do with the proverbial fickleness of the masses and the fame that rests on them; more likely, it can be traced to the perpetual-motion mania of totalitarian movements which can remain in power only so long as they keep moving and set everything around them in motion. Therefore, in a certain sense this very impermanence is a rather flattering testimonial to the dead leaders insofar as they succeeded in contaminating their subjects with the specifically totalitarian virus; for if there is such a thing as a totalitarian personality or mentality, this extraordinary adaptability and absence of continuity are no doubt its outstanding characteristics. Hence it might be a mistake to assume that the inconstancy and forgetfulness of the masses signify that they are cured of the totalitarian delusion, which is occasionally identified with the Hitler or Stalin cult; the opposite might well be true.

It would be a still more serious mistake to forget, because of this impermanence, that the totalitarian regimes, so long as they are in power, and the totalitarian leaders, so long as they are alive, ‘command and rest upon mass support’ up to the end.[678] Hitler’s rise to power was legal in terms of majority rule[679] and neither he nor Stalin could have maintained the leadership of large populations, survived many interior and exterior crises, and braved the numerous dangers of relentless intra-party struggles if they had not had the confidence of the masses. Neither the Moscow trials nor the liquidation of the Röhm faction would have been possible if these masses had not supported Stalin and Hitler. The widespread belief that Hitler was simply an agent of German industrialists and that Stalin was victorious in the succession struggle after Lenin’s death only through a sinister conspiracy are both legends which can be refuted by many facts but above all by the leaders’ indisputable popularity.[680] Nor can their popularity be attributed to the victory of masterful and lying propaganda over ignorance and stupidity. For the propaganda of totalitarian movements which precede and accompany totalitarian regimes is invariably as frank as it is mendacious, and would-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones. The Nazis ‘were convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction,’[681] Bolshevik assurances inside and outside Russia that they do not recognize ordinary moral standards have become a mainstay of Communist propaganda, and experience has proved time and again that the propaganda value of evil deeds and general contempt for moral standards is independent of mere self-interest, supposedly the most powerful psychological factor in politics.

The attraction of evil and crime for the mob mentality is nothing new. It has always been true that the mob will greet ‘deeds of violence with the admiring remark: it may be mean but it is very clever.’[682] The disturbing factor in the success of totalitarianism is rather the true selflessness of its adherents: it may be understandable that a Nazi or Bolshevik will not be shaken in his conviction by crimes against people who do not belong to the movement or are even hostile to it; but the amazing fact is that neither is he likely to waver when the monster begins to devour its own children and not even if he becomes a victim of persecution himself, if he is framed and condemned, if he is purged from the party and sent to a forced-labor or a concentration camp. On the contrary, to the wonder of the whole civilized world, he may even be willing to help in his own prosecution and frame his own death sentence if only his status as a member of the movement is not touched.[683] It would be naïve to consider this stubbornness of conviction which outlives all actual experiences and cancels all immediate self-interest a simple expression of fervent idealism. Idealism, foolish or heroic, always springs from some individual decision and conviction and is subject to experience and argument.[684] The fanaticism of totalitarian movements, contrary to all forms of idealism, breaks down the moment the movement leaves its fanaticized followers in the lurch, killing in them any remaining conviction that might have survived the collapse of the movement itself.[685] But within the organizational framework of the movement, so long as it holds together, the fanaticized members can be reached by neither experience nor argument; identification with the movement and total conformism seem to have destroyed the very capacity for experience, even if it be as extreme as torture or the fear of death.

The totalitarian movements aim at and succeed in organizing masses – not classes, like the old interest parties of the Continental nation-states; not citizens with opinions about, and interests in, the handling of public affairs, like the parties of Anglo-Saxon countries. While all political groups depend upon proportionate strength, the totalitarian movements depend on the sheer force of numbers to such an extent that totalitarian regimes seem impossible, even under otherwise favorable circumstances, in countries with relatively small populations.[686] After the first World War, a deeply antidemocratic, prodictatorial wave of semitotalitarian and totalitarian movements swept Europe; Fascist movements spread from Italy to nearly all Central and Eastern European countries (the Czech part of Czechoslovakia was one of the notable exceptions); yet even Mussolini, who was so fond of the term ‘totalitarian state,’ did not attempt to establish a full-fledged totalitarian regime[687] and contented himself with dictatorship and one-party rule. Similar nontotalitarian dictatorships sprang up in prewar Rumania, Poland, the Baltic states, Hungary, Portugal and Franco Spain. The Nazis, who had an unfailing instinct for such differences, used to comment contemptuously on the shortcomings of their Fascist allies while their genuine admiration for the Bolshevik regime in Russia (and the Communist Party in Germany) was matched and checked only by their contempt for Eastern European races.[688] The only man for whom Hitler had ‘unqualified respect’ was ‘Stalin the genius,’[689] and while in the case of Stalin and the Russian regime we do not have (and presumably never will have) the rich documentary material that is available for Germany, we nevertheless know since Khrushchev’s speech before the Twentieth Party Congress that Stalin trusted only one man and that was Hitler.[690]

The point is that in all these smaller European countries nontotalitarian dictatorships were preceded by totalitarian movements, so that it appeared that totalitarianism was too ambitious an aim, that although it had served well enough to organize the masses until the movement seized power, the absolute size of the country then forced the would-be totalitarian ruler of masses into the more familiar patterns of class or party dictatorship. The truth is that these countries simply did not control enough human material to allow for total domination and its inherent great losses in population.[691] Without much hope for the conquest of more heavily populated territories, the tyrants in these small countries were forced into a certain old-fashioned moderation lest they lose whatever people they had to rule. This is also why Nazism, up to the outbreak of the war and its expansion over Europe, lagged so far behind its Russian counterpart in consistency and ruthlessness; even the German people were not numerous enough to allow for the full development of this newest form of government. Only if Germany had won the war would she have known a fully developed totalitarian rulership, and the sacrifices this would have entailed not only for the ‘inferior races’ but for the Germans themselves can be gleaned and evaluated from the legacy of Hitler’s plans.[692] In any event it was only during the war, after the conquests in the East furnished large masses of people and made the extermination camps possible, that Germany was able to establish a truly totalitarian rule. (Conversely, the chances for totalitarian rule are frighteningly good in the lands of traditional Oriental despotism, in India and China, where there is almost inexhaustible material to feed the power-accumulating and man-destroying machinery of total domination, and where, moreover, the mass man’s typical feeling of superfluousness – an entirely new phenomenon in Europe, the concomitant of mass unemployment and the population growth of the last 150 years – has been prevalent for centuries in the contempt for the value of human life.) Moderation or less murderous methods of rule were hardly attributable to the governments’ fear of popular rebellion; depopulation in their own country was a much more serious threat. Only where great masses are superfluous or can be spared without disastrous results of depopulation is totalitarian rule, as distinguished from a totalitarian movement, at all possible.

Totalitarian movements are possible wherever there are masses who for one reason or another have acquired the appetite for political organization. Masses are not held together by a consciousness of common interest and they lack that specific class articulateness which is expressed in determined, limited, and obtainable goals. The term masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot be integrated into any organization based on common interest, into political parties or municipal governments or professional organizations or trade unions. Potentially, they exist in every country and form the majority of those large numbers of neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls.

It was characteristic of the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and of the Communist movements in Europe after 1930[693] that they recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was that the majority of their membership consisted of people who never before had appeared on the political scene. This permitted the introduction of entirely new methods into political propaganda, and indifference to the arguments of political opponents; these movements not only placed themselves outside and against the party system as a whole, they found a membership that had never been reached, never been ‘spoiled’ by the party system. Therefore they did not need to refute opposing arguments and consistently preferred methods which ended in death rather than persuasion, which spelled terror rather than conviction. They presented disagreements as invariably originating in deep natural, social, or psychological sources beyond the control of the individual and therefore beyond the power of reason. This would have been a shortcoming only if they had sincerely entered into competition with other parties; it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.

The success of totalitarian movements among the masses meant the end of two illusions of democratically ruled countries in general and of European nation-states and their party system in particular. The first was that the people in its majority had taken an active part in government and that each individual was in sympathy with one’s own or somebody else’s party. On the contrary, the movements showed that the politically neutral and indifferent masses could easily be the majority in a democratically ruled country, that therefore a democracy could function according to rules which are actively recognized by only a minority. The second democratic illusion exploded by the totalitarian movements was that these politically indifferent masses did not matter, that they were truly neutral and constituted no more than the inarticulate backward setting for the political life of the nation. Now they made apparent what no other organ of public opinion had ever been able to show, namely, that democratic government had rested as much on the silent approbation and tolerance of the indifferent and inarticulate sections of the people as on the articulate and visible institutions and organizations of the country. Thus when the totalitarian movements invaded Parliament with their contempt for parliamentary government, they merely appeared inconsistent: actually, they succeeded in convincing the people at large that parliamentary majorities were spurious and did not necessarily correspond to the realities of the country, thereby undermining the self-respect and the confidence of governments which also believed in majority rule rather than in their constitutions.

It has frequently been pointed out that totalitarian movements use and abuse democratic freedoms in order to abolish them. This is not just devilish cleverness on the part of the leaders or childish stupidity on the part of the masses. Democratic freedoms may be based on the equality of all citizens before the law; yet they acquire their meaning and function organically only where the citizens belong to and are represented by groups or form a social and political hierarchy. The breakdown of the class system, the only social and political stratification of the European nation-states, certainly was ‘one of the most dramatic events in recent German history’[694] and as favorable to the rise of Nazism as the absence of social stratification in Russia’s immense rural population (this ‘great flaccid body destitute of political education, almost inaccessible to ideas capable of ennobling action’[695]) was to the Bolshevik overthrow of the democratic Kerensky government. Conditions in pre-Hitler Germany are indicative of the dangers implicit in the development of the Western part of the world since, with the end of the second World War, the same dramatic event of a breakdown of the class system repeated itself in almost all European countries, while events in Russia clearly indicate the direction which the inevitable revolutionary changes in Asia may take. Practically speaking, it will make little difference whether totalitarian movements adopt the pattern of Nazism or Bolshevism, organize the masses in the name of race or class, pretend to follow the laws of life and nature or of dialectics and economics.

Indifference to public affairs, neutrality on political issues, are in themselves no sufficient cause for the rise of totalitarian movements. The competitive and acquisitive society of the bourgeoisie had produced apathy and even hostility toward public life not only, and not even primarily, in the social strata which were exploited and excluded from active participation in the rule of the country, but first of all in its own class. The long period of false modesty, when the bourgeoisie was content with being the dominating class in society without aspiring to political rule, which it gladly left to the aristocracy, was followed by the imperialist era, during which the bourgeoisie grew increasingly hostile to existing national institutions and began to claim and to organize itself for the exercise of political power. Both the early apathy and the later demand for monopolistic dictatorial direction of the nation’s foreign affairs had their roots in a way and philosophy of life so insistently and exclusively centered on the individual’s success or failure in ruthless competition that a citizen’s duties and responsibilities could only be felt to be a needless drain on his limited time and energy. These bourgeois attitudes are very useful for those forms of dictatorship in which a ‘strong man’ takes upon himself the troublesome responsibility for the conduct of public affairs; they are a positive hindrance to totalitarian movements which can tolerate bourgeois individualism no more than any other kind of individualism. The apathetic sections of a bourgeois-dominated society, no matter how unwilling they may be to assume the responsibilities of citizens, keep their personalities intact if only because without them they could hardly expect to survive the competitive struggle for life.

The decisive differences between nineteenth-century mob organizations and twentieth-century mass movements are difficult to perceive because the modern totalitarian leaders do not differ much in psychology and mentality from the earlier mob leaders, whose moral standards and political devices so closely resembled those of the bourgeoisie. Yet, insofar as individualism characterized the bourgeoisie’s as well as the mob’s attitude to life, the totalitarian movements can rightly claim that they were the first truly antibourgeois parties; none of their nineteenth-century predecessors, neither the Society of the 10th of December which helped Louis Napoleon into power, the butcher brigades of the Dreyfus Affair, the Black Hundreds of the Russian pogroms, nor the pan-movements, ever involved their members to the point of complete loss of individual claims and ambition, or had ever realized that an organization could succeed in extinguishing individual identity permanently and not just for the moment of collective heroic action.

The relationship between the bourgeois-dominated class society and the masses which emerged from its breakdown is not the same as the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the mob which was a by-product of capitalist production. The masses share with the mob only one characteristic, namely, that both stand outside all social ramifications and normal political representation. The masses do not inherit, as the mob does – albeit in a perverted form – the standards and attitudes of the dominating class, but reflect and somehow pervert the standards and attitudes toward public affairs of all classes. The standards of the mass man were determined not only and not even primarily by the specific class to which he had once belonged, but rather by all-pervasive influences and convictions which were tacitly and inarticulately shared by all classes of society alike.

Membership in a class, although looser and never as inevitably determined by social origin as in the orders and estates of feudal society, was generally by birth, and only extraordinary gifts or luck could change it. Social status was decisive for the individual’s participation in politics, and except in cases of national emergency when he was supposed to act only as a national, regardless of his class or party membership, he never was directly confronted with public affairs or felt directly responsible for their conduct. The rise of a class to greater importance in the community was always accompanied by the education and training of a certain number of its members for politics as a job, for paid (or, if they could afford it, unpaid) service in the government and representation of the class in Parliament. That the majority of people remained outside all party or other political organization was not important to anyone, and no truer for one particular class than another. In other words, membership in a class, its limited group obligations and traditional attitudes toward government, prevented the growth of a citizenry that felt individually and personally responsible for the rule of the country. This apolitical character of the nation-state’s populations came to light only when the class system broke down and carried with it the whole fabric of visible and invisible threads which bound the people to the body politic.

The breakdown of the class system meant automatically the breakdown of the party system, chiefly because these parties, being interest parties, could no longer represent class interests. Their continuance was of some importance to the members of former classes who hoped against hope to regain their old social status and who stuck together not because they had common interests any longer but because they hoped to restore them. The parties, consequently, became more and more psychological and ideological in their propaganda, more and more apologetic and nostalgic in their political approach. They had lost, moreover, without being aware of it, those neutral supporters who had never been interested in politics because they felt that no parties existed to take care of their interests. So that the first signs of the breakdown of the Continental party system were not the desertion of old party members, but the failure to recruit members from the younger generation, and the loss of the silent consent and support of the unorganized masses who suddenly shed their apathy and went wherever they saw an opportunity to voice their new violent opposition.

The fall of protecting class walls transformed the slumbering majorities behind all parties into one great unorganized, structureless mass of furious individuals who had nothing in common except their vague apprehension that the hopes of party members were doomed, that, consequently, the most respected, articulate and representative members of the community were fools and that all the powers that be were not so much evil as they were equally stupid and fraudulent. It was of no great consequence for the birth of this new terrifying negative solidarity that the unemployed worker hated the status quo and the powers that be in the form of the Social Democratic Party, the expropriated small property owner in the form of a centrist or rightist party, and former members of the middle and upper classes in the form of the traditional extreme right. The number of this mass of generally dissatisfied and desperate men increased rapidly in Germany and Austria after the first World War, when inflation and unemployment added to the disrupting consequences of military defeat; they existed in great proportion in all the succession states, and they have supported the extreme movements in France and Italy since the second World War.

In this atmosphere of the breakdown of class society the psychology of the European mass man developed. The fact that with monotonous but abstract uniformity the same fate had befallen a mass of individuals did not prevent their judging themselves in terms of individual failure or the world in terms of specific injustice. This self-centered bitterness, however, although repeated again and again in individual isolation, was not a common bond despite its tendency to extinguish individual differences, because it was based on no common interest, economic or social or political. Self-centeredness, therefore, went hand in hand with a decisive weakening of the instinct for self-preservation. Selflessness in the sense that oneself does not matter, the feeling of being expendable, was no longer the expression of individual idealism but a mass phenomenon. The old adage that the poor and oppressed have nothing to lose but their chains no longer applied to the mass men, for they lost much more than the chains of misery when they lost interest in their own well-being: the source of all the worries and cares which make human life troublesome and anguished was gone. Compared with their nonmaterialism, a Christian monk looks like a man absorbed in worldly affairs. Himmler, who knew so well the mentality of those whom he organized, described not only his SS-men, but the large strata from which he recruited them, when he said they were not interested in ‘everyday problems’ but only ‘in ideological questions of importance for decades and centuries, so that the man … knows he is working for a great task which occurs but once in 2,000 years.’[696] The gigantic massing of individuals produced a mentality which, like Cecil Rhodes some forty years before, thought in continents and felt in centuries.

Eminent European scholars and statesmen had predicted, from the early nineteenth century onward, the rise of the mass man and the coming of a mass age. A whole literature on mass behavior and mass psychology had demonstrated and popularized the wisdom, so familiar to the ancients, of the affinity between democracy and dictatorship, between mob rule and tyranny. They had prepared certain politically conscious and overconscious sections of the Western educated world for the emergence of demagogues, for gullibility, superstition, and brutality. Yet, while all these predictions in a sense came true, they lost much of their significance in view of such unexpected and unpredicted phenomena as the radical loss of self-interest,[697] the cynical or bored indifference in the face of death or other personal catastrophes, the passionate inclination toward the most abstract notions as guides for life, and the general contempt for even the most obvious rules of common sense.

The masses, contrary to prediction, did not result from growing equality of condition, from the spread of general education and its inevitable lowering of standards and popularization of content. (America, the classical land of equality of condition and of general education with all its shortcomings, knows less of the modern psychology of masses than perhaps any other country in the world.) It soon became apparent that highly cultured people were particularly attracted to mass movements and that, generally, highly differentiated individualism and sophistication did not prevent, indeed sometimes encouraged, the self-abandonment into the mass for which mass movements provided. Since the obvious fact that individualization and cultivation do not prevent the formation of mass attitudes was so unexpected, it has frequently been blamed upon the morbidity or nihilism of the modern intelligentsia, upon a supposedly typical intellectual self-hatred, upon the spirit’s ‘hostility to life’ and antagonism to vitality. Yet, the much-slandered intellectuals were only the most illustrative example and the most articulate spokesmen for a much more general phenomenon. Social atomization and extreme individualization preceded the mass movements which, much more easily and earlier than they did the sociable, nonindividualistic members of the traditional parties, attracted the completely unorganized, the typical ‘nonjoiners’ who for individualistic reasons always had refused to recognize social links or obligations.

The truth is that the masses grew out of the fragments of a highly atomized society whose competitive structure and concomitant loneliness of the individual had been held in check only through membership in a class. The chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships. Coming from the class-ridden society of the nation-state, whose cracks had been cemented with nationalistic sentiment, it is only natural that these masses, in the first helplessness of their new experience, have tended toward an especially violent nationalism, to which mass leaders have yielded against their own instincts and purposes for purely demagogic reasons.[698]

Neither tribal nationalism nor rebellious nihilism is characteristic of or ideologically appropriate to the masses as they were to the mob. But the most gifted mass leaders of our time have still risen from the mob rather than from the masses.[699] Hitler’s biography reads like a textbook example in this respect, and the point about Stalin is that he comes from the conspiratory apparatus of the Bolshevik party with its specific mixture of outcasts and revolutionaries. Hitler’s early party, almost exclusively composed of misfits, failures, and adventurers, indeed represented the ‘armed bohemians’[700] who were only the reverse side of bourgeois society and whom, consequently, the German bourgeoisie should have been able to use successfully for its own purposes. Actually, the bourgeoisie was as much taken in by the Nazis as was the Röhm–Schleicher faction in the Reichswehr, which also thought that Hitler, whom they had used as a stool-pigeon, or the SA, which they had used for militaristic propaganda and paramilitary training, would act as their agents and help in the establishment of a military dictatorship.[701] Both considered the Nazi movement in their own terms, in terms of the political philosophy of the mob,[702] and overlooked the independent, spontaneous support given the new mob leaders by masses as well as the mob leaders’ genuine talents for creating new forms of organization. The mob as leader of these masses was no longer the agent of the bourgeoisie or of anyone else except the masses.

That totalitarian movements depended less on the structurelessness of a mass society than on the specific conditions of an atomized and individualized mass, can best be seen in a comparison of Nazism and Bolshevism which began in their respective countries under very different circumstances. To change Lenin’s revolutionary dictatorship into full totalitarian rule, Stalin had first to create artificially that atomized society which had been prepared for the Nazis in Germany by historical circumstances.

The October Revolution’s amazingly easy victory occurred in a country where a despotic and centralized bureaucracy governed a structureless mass population which neither the remnants of the rural feudal orders nor the weak, nascent urban capitalist classes had organized. When Lenin said that nowhere in the world would it have been so easy to win power and so difficult to keep it, he was aware not only of the weakness of the Russian working class, but of anarchic social conditions in general, which favored sudden changes. Without the instincts of a mass leader – he was no orator and had a passion for public admission and analysis of his own errors, which is against the rules of even ordinary demagogy – Lenin seized at once upon all the possible differentiations, social, national, professional, that might bring some structure into the population, and he seemed convinced that in such stratification lay the salvation of the revolution. He legalized the anarchic expropriation of the landowners by the rural masses and established thereby for the first and probably last time in Russia that emancipated peasant class which, since the French Revolution, had been the firmest supporter of the Western nation-states. He tried to strengthen the working class by encouraging independent trade unions. He tolerated the timid appearance of a new middle class which resulted from the NEP policy after the end of the civil war. He introduced further distinguishing features by organizing, and sometimes inventing, as many nationalities as possible, furthering national consciousness and awareness of historical and cultural differences even among the most primitive tribes in the Soviet Union. It seems clear that in these purely practical political matters Lenin followed his great instincts for statesmanship rather than his Marxist convictions; his policy, at any rate, proves that he was more frightened by the absence of social and other structure than by the possible development of centrifugal tendencies in the newly emancipated nationalities or even by the growth of a new bourgeoisie out of the newly established middle and peasant classes. There is no doubt that Lenin suffered his greatest defeat when, with the outbreak of the civil war, the supreme power that he originally planned to concentrate in the Soviets definitely passed into the hands of the party bureaucracy; but even this development, tragic as it was for the course of the revolution, would not necessarily have led to totalitarianism. A one-party dictatorship added only one more class to the already developing social stratification of the country, i.e., bureaucracy, which, according to socialist critics of the revolution, ‘possessed the State as private property’ (Marx).[703] At the moment of Lenin’s death the roads were still open. The formation of workers, peasants, and middle classes need not necessarily have led to the class struggle which had been characteristic of European capitalism. Agriculture could still be developed on a collective, co-operative, or private basis, and the national economy was still free to follow a socialist, state-capitalist, or a free-enterprise pattern. None of these alternatives would have automatically destroyed the new structure of the country.

All these new classes and nationalities were in Stalin’s way when he began to prepare the country for totalitarian government. In order to fabricate an atomized and structureless mass, he had first to liquidate the remnants of power in the Soviets which, as the chief organ of national representation, still played a certain role and prevented absolute rule by the party hierarchy. Therefore he first undermined the national Soviets through the introduction of Bolshevik cells from which alone the higher functionaries to the central committees were appointed.[704] By 1930, the last traces of former communal institutions had disappeared and had been replaced by a firmly centralized party bureaucracy whose tendencies toward Russification were not too different from those of the Czarist regime, except that the new bureaucrats were no longer afraid of literacy.

The Bolshevik government then proceeded to the liquidation of classes and started, for ideological and propaganda reasons, with the property-owning classes, the new middle class in the cities, and the peasants in the country. Because of the combination of numbers and property, the peasants up to then had been potentially the most powerful class in the Union; their liquidation, consequently, was more thorough and more cruel than that of any other group and was carried through by artificial famine and deportation under the pretext of expropriation of the kulaks and collectivization. The liquidation of the middle and peasant classes was completed in the early thirties; those who were not among the many millions of dead or the millions of deported slave laborers had learned ‘who is master here,’ had realized that their lives and the lives of their families depended not upon their fellow-citizens but exclusively on the whims of the government which they faced in complete loneliness without any help whatsoever from the group to which they happened to belong. The exact moment when collectivization produced a new peasantry bound by common interests, which owing to its numerical and economic key position in the country’s economy again presented a potential danger to totalitarian rule, cannot be determined either from statistics or documentary sources. But for those who know how to read totalitarian ‘source material’ this moment had come two years before Stalin died, when he proposed to dissolve the collectives and transform them into larger units. He did not live to carry out this plan; this time the sacrifices would have been still greater and the chaotic consequences for the total economy still more catastrophic than the liquidation of the first peasant class, but there is no reason to doubt that he might have succeeded; there is no class that cannot be wiped out if a sufficient number of its members are murdered.

The next class to be liquidated as a group were the workers. As a class they were much weaker and offered much less resistance than the peasants because their spontaneous expropriation of factory owners during the revolution, unlike the peasants’ expropriation of landowners, had been frustrated at once by the government which confiscated the factories as state property under the pretext that the state belonged to the proletariat in any event. The Stakhanov system, adopted in the early thirties, broke up all solidarity and class consciousness among the workers, first by the ferocious competition and second by the temporary solidification of a Stakhanovite aristocracy whose social distance from the ordinary worker naturally was felt more acutely than the distance between the workers and the management. This process was completed in 1938 with the introduction of the labor book which transformed the whole Russian worker class officially into a gigantic forced-labor force.

On top of these measures came the liquidation of that bureaucracy which had helped to carry out the previous liquidation measures. It took Stalin about two years, from 1936 to 1938, to rid himself of the whole administrative and military aristocracy of the Soviet society; nearly all offices, factories, economic and cultural bodies, government, party, and military bureaus came into new hands, when ‘nearly half the administrative personnel, party and nonparty, had been swept out,’ and more than 50 per cent of all party members and ‘at least eight million more’ were liquidated.[705] Again the introduction of an interior passport, on which all departures from one city to another have to be registered and authorized, completed the destruction of the party bureaucracy as a class. As for its juridical status, the bureaucracy along with the party functionaries was now on the same level with the workers; it, too, had now become a part of the vast multitude of Russian forced laborers and its status as a privileged class in Soviet society was a thing of the past. And since this general purge ended with the liquidation of the highest police officials – the same who had organized the general purge in the first place – not even the cadres of the GPU which had carried out the terror could any longer delude themselves that as a group they represented anything at all, let alone power.

None of these immense sacrifices in human life was motivated by a raison d’état in the old sense of the term. None of the liquidated social strata was hostile to the regime or likely to become hostile in the foreseeable future. Active organized opposition had ceased to exist by 1930 when Stalin, in his speech to the Sixteenth Party Congress, outlawed the rightist and leftist deviations inside the Party, and even these feeble oppositions had hardly been able to base themselves on any of the existing classes.[706] Dictatorial terror – distinguished from totalitarian terror insofar as it threatens only authentic opponents but not harmless citizens without political opinions – had been grim enough to suffocate all political life, open or clandestine, even before Lenin’s death. Intervention from abroad, which might ally itself with one of the dissatisfied sections in the population, was no longer a danger when, by 1930, the Soviet regime had been recognized by a majority of governments and concluded commercial and other international agreements with many countries. (Nor did Stalin’s government eliminate such a possibility as far as the people themselves were concerned: we know now that Hitler, if he had been an ordinary conqueror and not a rival totalitarian ruler, might have had an extraordinary chance to win for his cause at least the people of the Ukraine.)

If the liquidation of classes made no political sense, it was positively disastrous for the Soviet economy. The consequences of the artificial famine in 1933 were felt for years throughout the country; the introduction of the Stakhanov system in 1935, with its arbitrary speed-up of individual output and its complete disregard of the necessities for teamwork in industrial production, resulted in a ‘chaotic imbalance’ of the young industry.[707] The liquidation of the bureaucracy, that is, of the class of factory managers and engineers, finally deprived industrial enterprises of what little experience and know-how the new Russian technical intelligentsia had been able to acquire.

Equality of condition among their subjects has been one of the foremost concerns of despotisms and tyrannies since ancient times, yet such equalization is not sufficient for totalitarian rule because it leaves more or less intact certain nonpolitical communal bonds between the subjects, such as family ties and common cultural interests. If totalitarianism takes its own claim seriously, it must come to the point where it has ‘to finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess,’ that is, with the autonomous existence of any activity whatsoever. The lovers of ‘chess for the sake of chess,’ aptly compared by their liquidator with the lovers of ‘art for art’s sake,’[708] are not yet absolutely atomized elements in a mass society whose completely heterogeneous uniformity is one of the primary conditions for totalitarianism. From the point of view of totalitarian rulers, a society devoted to chess for the sake of chess is only in degree different and less dangerous than a class of farmers for the sake of farming. Himmler quite aptly defined the SS member as the new type of man who under no circumstances will ever do ‘a thing for its own sake.’[709]

Mass atomization in Soviet society was achieved by the skillful use of repeated purges which invariably precede actual group liquidation. In order to destroy all social and family ties, the purges are conducted in such a way as to threaten with the same fate the defendant and all his ordinary relations, from mere acquaintances up to his closest friends and relatives. The consequence of the simple and ingenious device of ‘guilt by association’ is that as soon as a man is accused, his former friends are transformed immediately into his bitterest enemies; in order to save their own skins, they volunteer information and rush in with denunciations to corroborate the nonexistent evidence against him; this obviously is the only way to prove their own trustworthiness. Retrospectively, they will try to prove that their acquaintance or friendship with the accused was only a pretext for spying on him and revealing him as a saboteur, a Trotskyite, a foreign spy, or a Fascist. Merit being ‘gauged by the number of your denunciations of close comrades,’[710] it is obvious that the most elementary caution demands that one avoid all intimate contacts, if possible – not in order to prevent discovery of one’s secret thoughts, but rather to eliminate, in the almost certain case of future trouble, all persons who might have not only an ordinary cheap interest in your denunciation but an irresistible need to bring about your ruin simply because they are in danger of their own lives. In the last analysis, it has been through the development of this device to its farthest and most fantastic extremes that Bolshevik rulers have succeeded in creating an atomized and individualized society the like of which we have never seen before and which events or catastrophes alone would hardly have brought about.

Totalitarian movements are mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals. Compared with all other parties and movements, their most conspicuous external characteristic is their demand for total, unrestricted, unconditional, and unalterable loyalty of the individual member. This demand is made by the leaders of totalitarian movements even before they seize power. It usually precedes the total organization of the country under their actual rule and it follows from the claim of their ideologies that their organization will encompass, in due course, the entire human race. Where, however, totalitarian rule has not been prepared by a totalitarian movement (and this, in contradistinction to Nazi Germany, was the case in Russia), the movement has to be organized afterward and the conditions for its growth have artificially to be created in order to make total loyalty – the psychological basis for total domination – at all possible. Such loyalty can be expected only from the completely isolated human being who, without any other social ties to family, friends, comrades, or even mere acquaintances, derives his sense of having a place in the world only from his belonging to a movement, his membership in the party.

Total loyalty is possible only when fidelity is emptied of all concrete content, from which changes of mind might naturally arise. The totalitarian movements, each in its own way, have done their utmost to get rid of the party programs which specified concrete content and which they inherited from earlier, nontotalitarian stages of development. No matter how radically they might have been phrased, every definite political goal which does not simply assert or circumscribe the claim to world rule, every political program which deals with issues more specific than ‘ideological questions of importance for centuries’ is an obstruction to totalitarianism. Hitler’s greatest achievement in the organization of the Nazi movement, which he gradually built up from the obscure crackpot membership of a typically nationalistic little party, was that he unburdened the movement of the party’s earlier program, not by changing or officially abolishing it, but simply by refusing to talk about it or discuss its points, whose relative moderateness of content and phraseology were very soon outdated.[711] Stalin’s task in this as in other respects was much more formidable; the socialist program of the Bolshevik party was a much more troublesome burden[712] than the 25 points of an amateur economist and a crackpot politician.[713] But Stalin achieved eventually, after having abolished the factions of the Russian party, the same result through the constant zigzag of the Communist Party lines, and the constant reinterpretation and application of Marxism which voided the doctrine of all its content because it was no longer possible to predict what course or action it would inspire. The fact that the most perfect education in Marxism and Leninism was no guide whatsoever for political behavior – that, on the contrary, one could follow the party line only if one repeated each morning what Stalin had announced the night before – naturally resulted in the same state of mind, the same concentrated obedience, undivided by any attempt to understand what one was doing, that Himmler’s ingenious watchword for his SS-men expressed: ‘My honor is my loyalty.’[714]

Lack of or ignoring of a party program is by itself not necessarily a sign of totalitarianism. The first to consider programs and platforms as needless scraps of paper and embarrassing promises, inconsistent with the style and impetus of a movement, was Mussolini with his Fascist philosophy of activism and inspiration through the historical moment itself.[715] Mere lust for power combined with contempt for ‘talkative’ articulation of what they intend to do with it is characteristic of all mob leaders, but does not come up to the standards of totalitarianism. The true goal of Fascism was only to seize power and establish the Fascist ‘elite’ as uncontested ruler over the country. Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within. In this sense it eliminates the distance between the rulers and the ruled and achieves a condition in which power and the will to power, as we understand them, play no role, or at best, a secondary role. In substance, the totalitarian leader is nothing more nor less than the functionary of the masses he leads; he is not a power-hungry individual imposing a tyrannical and arbitrary will upon his subjects. Being a mere functionary, he can be replaced at any time, and he depends just as much on the ‘will’ of the masses he embodies as the masses depend on him. Without him they would lack external representation and remain an amorphous horde; without the masses the leader is a nonentity. Hitler, who was fully aware of this interdependence, expressed it once in a speech addressed to the SA: ‘All that you are, you are through me; all that I am, I am through you alone.’[716] We are only too inclined to belittle such statements or to misunderstand them in the sense that acting is defined here in terms of giving and executing orders, as has happened too often in the political tradition and history of the West.[717] But this idea has always presupposed someone in command who thinks and wills, and then imposes his thought and will on a thought- and will-deprived group – be it by persuasion, authority, or violence. Hitler, however, was of the opinion that even ‘thinking … [exists] only by virtue of giving or executing orders,’[718] and thereby eliminated even theoretically the distinction between thinking and acting on one hand, and between the rulers and the ruled on the other.

Neither National Socialism nor Bolshevism has ever proclaimed a new form of government or asserted that its goals were reached with the seizure of power and the control of the state machinery. Their idea of domination was something that no state and no mere apparatus of violence can ever achieve, but only a movement that is constantly kept in motion: namely, the permanent domination of each single individual in each and every sphere of life.[719] The seizure of power through the means of violence is never an end in itself but only the means to an end, and the seizure of power in any given country is only a welcome transitory stage but never the end of the movement. The practical goal of the movement is to organize as many people as possible within its framework and to set and keep them in motion; a political goal that would constitute the end of the movement simply does not exist.

II: The Temporary Alliance Between the Mob and the Elite

What is more disturbing to our peace of mind than the unconditional loyalty of members of totalitarian movements, and the popular support of totalitarian regimes, is the unquestionable attraction these movements exert on the elite, and not only on the mob elements in society. It would be rash indeed to discount, because of artistic vagaries or scholarly naïveté, the terrifying roster of distinguished men whom totalitarianism can count among its sympathizers, fellow-travelers, and inscribed party members.

This attraction for the elite is as important a clue to the understanding of totalitarian movements (though hardly of totalitarian regimes) as their more obvious connection with the mob. It indicates the specific atmosphere, the general climate in which the rise of totalitarianism takes place. It should be remembered that the leaders of totalitarian movements and their sympathizers are, so to speak, older than the masses which they organize so that chronologically speaking the masses do not have to wait helplessly for the rise of their own leaders in the midst of a decaying class society, of which they are the most outstanding product. Those who voluntarily left society before the wreckage of classes had come about, along with the mob, which was an earlier by-product of the rule of the bourgeoisie, stand ready to welcome them. The present totalitarian rulers and the leaders of totalitarian movements still bear the characteristic traits of the mob, whose psychology and political philosophy are fairly well known; what will happen once the authentic mass man takes over, we do not know yet, although it may be a fair guess that he will have more in common with the meticulous, calculated correctness of Himmler than with the hysterical fanaticism of Hitler, will more resemble the stubborn dullness of Molotov than the sensual vindictive cruelty of Stalin.

In this respect, the situation after the second World War in Europe does not differ essentially from that after the first; just as in the twenties the ideologies of Fascism, Bolshevism, and Nazism were formulated and the movements led by the so-called front generation, by those who had been brought up and still remembered distinctly the times before the war, so the present general political and intellectual climate of postwar totalitarianism is being determined by a generation which knew intimately the time and life which preceded the present. This is specifically true for France, where the breakdown of the class system came after the second instead of after the first War. Like the mob men and the adventurers of the imperialist era, the leaders of totalitarian movements have in common with their intellectual sympathizers the fact that both had been outside the class and national system of respectable European society even before this system broke down.

This breakdown, when the smugness of spurious respectability gave way to anarchic despair, seemed the first great opportunity for the elite as well as the mob. This is obvious for the new mass leaders whose careers reproduce the features of earlier mob leaders: failure in professional and social life, perversion and disaster in private life. The fact that their lives prior to their political careers had been failures, naïvely held against them by the more respectable leaders of the old parties, was the strongest factor in their mass appeal. It seemed to prove that individually they embodied the mass destiny of the time and that their desire to sacrifice everything for the movement, their assurance of devotion to those who had been struck by catastrophe, their determination never to be tempted back into the security of normal life, and their contempt for respectability were quite sincere and not just inspired by passing ambitions.

The postwar elite, on the other hand, was only slightly younger than the generation which had let itself be used and abused by imperialism for the sake of glorious careers outside of respectability, as gamblers and spies and adventurers, as knights in shining armor and dragon-killers. They shared with Lawrence of Arabia the yearning for ‘losing their selves’ and the violent disgust with all existing standards, with every power that be. If they still remembered the ‘golden age of security,’ they also remembered how they had hated it and how real their enthusiasm had been at the outbreak of the first World War. Not only Hitler and not only the failures thanked God on their knees when mobilization swept Europe in 1914.[720] They did not even have to reproach themselves with having been an easy prey for chauvinist propaganda or lying explanations about the purely defensive character of the war. The elite went to war with an exultant hope that everything they knew, the whole culture and texture of life, might go down in its ‘storms of steel’ (Ernst Jünger). In the carefully chosen words of Thomas Mann, war was ‘chastisement’ and ‘purification’; ‘war in itself, rather than victories, inspired the poet.’ Or in the words of a student of the time, ‘what counts is always the readiness to make a sacrifice, not the object for which the sacrifice is made’; or in the words of a young worker, ‘it doesn’t matter whether one lives a few years longer or not. One would like to have something to show for one’s life.’[721] And long before one of Nazism’s intellectual sympathizers announced, ‘When I hear the word culture, I draw my revolver,’ poets had proclaimed their disgust with ‘rubbish culture’ and called poetically on ‘ye Barbarians, Scythians, Negroes, Indians, to trample it down.’[722]

Simply to brand as outbursts of nihilism this violent dissatisfaction with the prewar age and subsequent attempts at restoring it (from Nietzsche and Sorel to Pareto, from Rimbaud and T. E. Lawrence to Jünger, Brecht, and Malraux, from Bakunin and Nechayev to Alexander Blok) is to overlook how justified disgust can be in a society wholly permeated with the ideological outlook and moral standards of the bourgeoisie. Yet it is also true that the ‘front generation,’ in marked contrast to their own chosen spiritual fathers, were completely absorbed by their desire to see the ruin of this whole world of fake security, fake culture, and fake life. This desire was so great that it outweighed in impact and articulateness all earlier attempts at a ‘transformation of values,’ such as Nietzsche had attempted, or a reorganization of political life as indicated in Sorel’s writings, or a revival of human authenticity in Bakunin, or a passionate love of life in the purity of exotic adventures in Rimbaud. Destruction without mitigation, chaos and ruin as such assumed the dignity of supreme values.[723]

The genuineness of these feelings can be seen in the fact that very few of this generation were cured of their war enthusiasm by actual experience of its horrors. The survivors of the trenches did not become pacifists. They cherished an experience which, they thought, might serve to separate them definitely from the hated surroundings of respectability. They clung to their memories of four years of life in the trenches as though they constituted an objective criterion for the establishment of a new elite. Nor did they yield to the temptation to idealize this past; on the contrary, the worshipers of war were the first to concede that war in the era of machines could not possibly breed virtues like chivalry, courage, honor, and manliness,[724] that it imposed on men nothing but the experience of bare destruction together with the humiliation of being only small cogs in the majestic wheel of slaughter.

This generation remembered the war as the great prelude to the breakdown of classes and their transformation into masses. War, with its constant murderous arbitrariness, became the symbol for death, the ‘great equalizer’[725] and therefore the true father of a new world order. The passion for equality and justice, the longing to transcend narrow and meaningless class lines, to abandon stupid privileges and prejudices, seemed to find in war a way out of the old condescending attitudes of pity for the oppressed and disinherited. In times of growing misery and individual helplessness, it seems as difficult to resist pity when it grows into an all-devouring passion as it is not to resent its very boundlessness, which seems to kill human dignity with a more deadly certainty than misery itself.

In the early years of his career, when a restoration of the European status quo was still the most serious threat to the ambitions of the mob,[726] Hitler appealed almost exclusively to these sentiments of the front generation. The peculiar selflessness of the mass man appeared here as yearning for anonymity, for being just a number and functioning only as a cog, for every transformation, in brief, which would wipe out the spurious identifications with specific types or predetermined functions within society. War had been experienced as that ‘mightiest of all mass actions’ which obliterated individual differences so that even suffering, which traditionally had marked off individuals through unique unexchangeable destinies, could now be interpreted as ‘an instrument of historical progress.’[727] Nor did national distinctions limit the masses into which the postwar elite wished to be immersed. The first World War, somewhat paradoxically, had almost extinguished genuine national feelings in Europe where, between the wars, it was far more important to have belonged to the generation of the trenches, no matter on which side, than to be a German or a Frenchman.[728] The Nazis based their whole propaganda on this indistinct comradeship, this ‘community of fate,’ and won over a great number of veteran organizations in all European countries, thereby proving how meaningless national slogans had become even in the ranks of the so-called Right, which used them for their connotation of violence rather than for their specific national content.

No single element in this general intellectual climate in postwar Europe was very new. Bakunin had already confessed, ‘I do not want to be I, I want to be We,’[729] and Nechayev had preached the evangel of the ‘doomed man’ with ‘no personal interests, no affairs, no sentiments, attachments, property, not even a name of his own.’[730] The antihumanist, antiliberal, anti-individualist, and anticultural instincts of the front generation, their brilliant and witty praise of violence, power, and cruelty, was preceded by the awkward and pompous ‘scientific’ proofs of the imperialist elite that a struggle of all against all is the law of the universe, that expansion is a psychological necessity before it is a political device, and that man has to behave by such universal laws.[731] What was new in the writings of the front generation was their high literary standard and great depth of passion. The postwar writers no longer needed the scientific demonstrations of genetics, and they made little if any use of the collected works of Gobineau or Houston Stewart Chamberlain, which belonged already to the cultural household of the philistines. They read not Darwin but the Marquis de Sade.[732] If they believed at all in universal laws, they certainly did not particularly care to conform to them. To them, violence, power, cruelty, were the supreme capacities of men who had definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate them into the world. They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.

If we compare this generation with the nineteenth-century ideologists, with whose theories they sometimes seem to have so much in common, their chief distinction is their greater authenticity and passion. They had been more deeply touched by misery, they were more concerned with the perplexities and more deadly hurt by hypocrisy than all the apostles of good will and brotherhood had been. And they could no longer escape into exotic lands, could no longer afford to be dragon-slayers among strange and exciting people. There was no escape from the daily routine of misery, meekness, frustration, and resentment embellished by a fake culture of educated talk; no conformity to the customs of fairy-tale lands could possibly save them from the rising nausea that this combination continuously inspired.

This inability to escape into the wide world, this feeling of being caught again and again in the trappings of society – so different from the conditions which had formed the imperialist character – added a constant strain and the yearning for violence to the older passion for anonymity and losing oneself. Without the possibility of a radical change of role and character, such as the identification with the Arab national movement or the rites of an Indian village, the self-willed immersion in the suprahuman forces of destruction seemed to be a salvation from the automatic identification with pre-established functions in society and their utter banality, and at the same time to help destroy the functioning itself. These people felt attracted to the pronounced activism of totalitarian movements, to their curious and only seemingly contradictory insistence on both the primacy of sheer action and the overwhelming force of sheer necessity. This mixture corresponded precisely to the war experience of the ‘front generation,’ to the experience of constant activity within the framework of overwhelming fatality.

Activism, moreover, seemed to provide new answers to the old and troublesome question, ‘Who am I?’ which always appears with redoubled persistence in times of crisis. If society insisted, ‘You are what you appear to be,’ postwar activism replied: ‘You are what you have done’ – for instance, the man who for the first time had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane (as in Brecht’s Der Flug der Lindberghs) – an answer which after the second World War was repeated and slightly varied by Sartre’s ‘You are your life’ (in Huis Clos). The pertinence of these answers lies less in their validity as redefinitions of personal identity than in their usefulness for an eventual escape from social identification, from the multiplicity of interchangeable roles and functions which society had imposed. The point was to do something, heroic or criminal, which was unpredictable and undetermined by anybody else.

The pronounced activism of the totalitarian movements, their preference for terrorism over all other forms of political activity, attracted the intellectual elite and the mob alike, precisely because this terrorism was so utterly different from that of the earlier revolutionary societies. It was no longer a matter of calculated policy which saw in terrorist acts the only means to eliminate certain outstanding personalities who, because of their policies or position, had become the symbol of oppression. What proved so attractive was that terrorism had become a kind of philosophy through which to express frustration, resentment, and blind hatred, a kind of political expressionism which used bombs to express oneself, which watched delightedly the publicity given to resounding deeds and was absolutely willing to pay the price of life for having succeeded in forcing the recognition of one’s existence on the normal strata of society. It was still the same spirit and the same game which made Goebbels, long before the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany, announce with obvious delight that the Nazis, in case of defeat, would know how to slam the door behind them and not to be forgotten for centuries.

Yet it is here if anywhere that a valid criterion may be found for distinguishing the elite from the mob in the pretotalitarian atmosphere. What the mob wanted, and what Goebbels expressed with great precision, was access to history even at the price of destruction. Goebbels’ sincere conviction that ‘the greatest happiness that a contemporary can experience today’ is either to be a genius or to serve one,[733] was typical of the mob but neither of the masses nor the sympathizing elite. The latter, on the contrary, took anonymity seriously to the point of seriously denying the existence of genius; all the art theories of the twenties tried desperately to prove that the excellent is the product of skill, craftsmanship, logic, and the realization of the potentialities of the material.[734] The mob, and not the elite, was charmed by the ‘radiant power of fame’ (Stefan Zweig) and accepted enthusiastically the genius idolatry of the late bourgeois world. In this the mob of the twentieth century followed faithfully the pattern of earlier parvenus who also had discovered the fact that bourgeois society would rather open its doors to the fascinating ‘abnormal,’ the genius, the homosexual, or the Jew, than to simple merit. The elite’s contempt for the genius and its yearning for anonymity was still witness of a spirit which neither the masses nor the mob were in a position to understand, and which, in the words of Robespierre, strove to assert the grandeur of man against the pettiness of the great.

This difference between the elite and the mob notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the elite was pleased whenever the underworld frightened respectable society into accepting it on an equal footing. The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it. They were not particularly outraged at the monstrous forgeries in historiography of which all totalitarian regimes are guilty and which announce themselves clearly enough in totalitarian propaganda. They had convinced themselves that traditional historiography was a forgery in any case, since it had excluded the underprivileged and oppressed from the memory of mankind. Those who were rejected by their own time were usually forgotten by history, and insult added to injury had troubled all sensitive consciences ever since faith in a hereafter where the last would be the first had disappeared. Injustices in the past as well as the present became intolerable when there was no longer any hope that the scales of justice eventually would be set right. Marx’s great attempt to rewrite world history in terms of class struggles fascinated even those who did not believe in the correctness of his thesis, because of his original intention to find a device by which to force the destinies of those excluded from official history into the memory of posterity.

The temporary alliance between the elite and the mob rested largely on this genuine delight with which the former watched the latter destroy respectability. This could be achieved when the German steel barons were forced to deal with and to receive socially Hitler the housepainter and self-admitted former derelict, as it could be with the crude and vulgar forgeries perpetrated by the totalitarian movements in all fields of intellectual life, insofar as they gathered all the subterranean, nonrespectable elements of European history into one consistent picture. From this viewpoint it was rather gratifying to see that Bolshevism and Nazism began even to eliminate those sources of their own ideologies which had already won some recognition in academic or other official quarters. Not Marx’s dialectical materialism, but the conspiracy of 300 families; not the pompous scientificality of Gobineau and Chamberlain, but the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’; not the traceable influence of the Catholic Church and the role played by anticlericalism in Latin countries, but the backstairs literature about the Jesuits and the Freemasons became the inspiration for the rewriters of history. The object of the most varied and variable constructions was always to reveal official history as a joke, to demonstrate a sphere of secret influences of which the visible, traceable, and known historical reality was only the outward façade erected explicitly to fool the people.

To this aversion of the intellectual elite for official historiography, to its conviction that history, which was a forgery anyway, might as well be the playground of crackpots, must be added the terrible, demoralizing fascination in the possibility that gigantic lies and monstrous falsehoods can eventually be established as unquestioned facts, that man may be free to change his own past at will, and that the difference between truth and falsehood may cease to be objective and become a mere matter of power and cleverness, of pressure and infinite repetition. Not Stalin’s and Hitler’s skill in the art of lying but the fact that they were able to organize the masses into a collective unit to back up their lies with impressive magnificence, exerted the fascination. Simple forgeries from the viewpoint of scholarship appeared to receive the sanction of history itself when the whole marching reality of the movements stood behind them and pretended to draw from them the necessary inspiration for action.

The attraction which the totalitarian movements exert on the elite, so long as and wherever they have not seized power, has been perplexing because the patently vulgar and arbitrary, positive doctrines of totalitarianism are more conspicuous to the outsider and mere observer than the general mood which pervades the pretotalitarian atmosphere. These doctrines were so much at variance with generally accepted intellectual, cultural, and moral standards that one could conclude that only an inherent fundamental shortcoming of character in the intellectual, ‘la trahison des clercs’ (J. Benda), or a perverse self-hatred of the spirit, accounted for the delight with which the elite accepted the ‘ideas’ of the mob. What the spokesmen of humanism and liberalism usually overlook, in their bitter disappointment and their unfamiliarity with the more general experiences of the time, is that an atmosphere in which all traditional values and propositions had evaporated (after the nineteenth-century ideologies had refuted each other and exhausted their vital appeal) in a sense made it easier to accept patently absurd propositions than the old truths which had become pious banalities, precisely because nobody could be expected to take the absurdities seriously. Vulgarity with its cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories carried with it a frank admission of the worst and a disregard for all pretenses which were easily mistaken for courage and a new style of life. In the growing prevalence of mob attitudes and convictions – which were actually the attitudes and convictions of the bourgeoisie cleansed of hypocrisy – those who traditionally hated the bourgeoisie and had voluntarily left respectable society saw only the lack of hypocrisy and respectability, not the content itself.[735]

Since the bourgeoisie claimed to be the guardian of Western traditions and confounded all moral issues by parading publicly virtues which it not only did not possess in private and business life, but actually held in contempt, it seemed revolutionary to admit cruelty, disregard of human values, and general amorality, because this at least destroyed the duplicity upon which the existing society seemed to rest. What a temptation to flaunt extreme attitudes in the hypocritical twilight of double moral standards, to wear publicly the mask of cruelty if everybody was patently inconsiderate and pretended to be gentle, to parade wickedness in a world, not of wickedness, but of meanness! The intellectual elite of the twenties who knew little of the earlier connections between mob and bourgeoisie was certain that the old game of épater le bourgeois could be played to perfection if one started to shock society with an ironically exaggerated picture of its own behavior.

At that time, nobody anticipated that the true victims of this irony would be the elite rather than the bourgeoisie. The avant-garde did not know they were running their heads not against walls but against open doors, that a unanimous success would belie their claim to being a revolutionary minority, and would prove that they were about to express a new mass spirit or the spirit of the time. Particularly significant in this respect was the reception given Brecht’s Dreigroschenoper in pre-Hitler Germany. The play presented gangsters as respectable businessmen and respectable businessmen as gangsters. The irony was somewhat lost when respectable businessmen in the audience considered this a deep insight into the ways of the world and when the mob welcomed it as an artistic sanction of gangsterism. The theme song in the play, ‘Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral,’ was greeted with frantic applause by exactly everybody, though for different reasons. The mob applauded because it took the statement literally; the bourgeoisie applauded because it had been fooled by its own hypocrisy for so long that it had grown tired of the tension and found deep wisdom in the expression of the banality by which it lived; the elite applauded because the unveiling of hypocrisy was such superior and wonderful fun. The effect of the work was exactly the opposite of what Brecht had sought by it. The bourgeoisie could no longer be shocked; it welcomed the exposure of its hidden philosophy, whose popularity proved they had been right all along, so that the only political result of Brecht’s ‘revolution’ was to encourage everyone to discard the uncomfortable mask of hypocrisy and to accept openly the standards of the mob.

A reaction similar in its ambiguity was aroused some ten years later in France by Céline’s Bagatelles pour un Massacre, in which he proposed to massacre all the Jews. André Gide was publicly delighted in the pages of the Nouvelle Revue Française, not of course because he wanted to kill the Jews of France, but because he rejoiced in the blunt admission of such a desire and in the fascinating contradiction between Céline’s bluntness and the hypocritical politeness which surrounded the Jewish question in all respectable quarters. How irresistible the desire for the unmasking of hypocrisy was among the elite can be gauged by the fact that such delight could not even be spoiled by Hitler’s very real persecution of the Jews, which at the time of Céline’s writing was already in full swing. Yet aversion against the philosemitism of the liberals had much more to do with this reaction than hatred of Jews. A similar frame of mind explains the remarkable fact that Hitler’s and Stalin’s widely publicized opinions about art and their persecution of modern artists have never been able to destroy the attraction which the totalitarian movements had for avant-garde artists; this shows the elite’s lack of a sense of reality, together with its perverted selflessness, both of which resemble only too closely the fictitious world and the absence of self-interest among the masses. It was the great opportunity of the totalitarian movements, and the reason why a temporary alliance between the intellectual elite and the mob could come about, that in an elementary and undifferentiated way their problems had become the same and foreshadowed the problems and mentality of the masses.

Closely related to the attraction which the mob’s lack of hypocrisy and the masses’ lack of self-interest exerted on the elite was the equally irresistible appeal of the totalitarian movements’ spurious claim to have abolished the separation between private and public life and to have restored a mysterious irrational wholeness in man. Since Balzac revealed the private lives of the public figures of French society and since Ibsen’s dramatization of the ‘Pillars of Society’ had conquered the Continental theater, the issue of double morality was one of the main topics for tragedies, comedies, and novels. Double morality as practiced by the bourgeoisie became the outstanding sign of that esprit de sérieux, which is always pompous and never sincere. This division between private and public or social life had nothing to do with the justified separation between the personal and public spheres, but was rather the psychological reflection of the nineteenth-century struggle between bourgeois and citoyen, between the man who judged and used all public institutions by the yardstick of his private interests and the responsible citizen who was concerned with public affairs as the affairs of all. In this connection, the liberals’ political philosophy, according to which the mere sum of individual interests adds up to the miracle of the common good, appeared to be only a rationalization of the recklessness with which private interests were pressed regardless of the common good.

Against the class spirit of the Continental parties, which had always admitted they represented certain interests, and against the ‘opportunism’ resulting from their conception of themselves as only parts of a total, the totalitarian movements asserted their ‘superiority’ in that they carried a Weltanschauung by which they would take possession of man as a whole.[736] In this claim to totality the mob leaders of the movements again formulated and only reversed the bourgeoisie’s own political philosophy. The bourgeois class, having made its way through social pressure and, frequently, through an economic blackmail of political institutions, always believed that the public and visible organs of power were directed by their own secret, non-public interests and influence. In this sense, the bourgeoisie’s political philosophy was always ‘totalitarian’; it always assumed an identity of politics, economics and society, in which political institutions served only as the façade for private interests. The bourgeoisie’s double standard, its differentiation between public and private life, were a concession to the nation-state which had desperately tried to keep the two spheres apart.

What appealed to the elite was radicalism as such. Marx’s hopeful predictions that the state would wither away and a classless society emerge were no longer radical, no longer Messianic enough. If Berdyaev is right in stating that ‘Russian revolutionaries … had always been totalitarian,’ then the attraction which Soviet Russia exerted almost equally on Nazi and Communist intellectual fellow-travelers lay precisely in the fact that in Russia ‘the revolution was a religion and a philosophy, not merely a conflict concerned with the social and political side of life.’[737] The truth was that the transformation of classes into masses and the breakdown of the prestige and authority of political institutions had brought to Western European countries conditions which resembled those prevalent in Russia, so that it was no accident that their revolutionaries also began to take on the typically Russian revolutionary fanaticism which looked forward, not to change in social or political conditions, but to the radical destruction of every existing creed, value, and institution. The mob merely took advantage of this new mood and brought about a short-lived alliance of revolutionaries and criminals, which also had been present in many revolutionary sects in Czarist Russia but conspicuously absent from the European scene.

The disturbing alliance between the mob and the elite, and the curious coincidence of their aspirations, had their origin in the fact that these strata had been the first to be eliminated from the structure of the nation-state and the framework of class society. They found each other so easily, if only temporarily, because they both sensed that they represented the fate of the time, that they were followed by unending masses, that sooner or later the majority of European peoples might be with them – as they thought, ready to make their revolution.

It turned out that they were both mistaken. The mob, the underworld of the bourgeois class, hoped that the helpless masses would help them into power, would support them when they attempted to forward their private interests, that they would be able simply to replace the older strata of bourgeois society and to instill into it the more enterprising spirit of the underworld. Yet totalitarianism in power learned quickly that enterprising spirit was not restricted to the mob strata of the population and that, in any event, such initiative could only be a threat to the total domination of man. Absence of scruple, on the other hand, was not restricted to the mob either and, in any event, could be taught in a relatively short time. For the ruthless machines of domination and extermination, the masses of co-ordinated philistines provided much better material and were capable of even greater crimes than so-called professional criminals, provided only that these crimes were well organized and assumed the appearance of routine jobs.

It is not fortuitous, then, that the few protests against the Nazis’ mass atrocities against the Jews and Eastern European peoples were voiced not by the military men nor by any other part of the co-ordinated masses of respectable philistines, but precisely by those early comrades of Hitler who were typical representatives of the mob.[738] Nor was Himmler, the most powerful man in Germany after 1936, one of those ‘armed bohemians’ (Heiden) whose features were d