AT THE END of November, 1918, I returned to Munich. Again I went to the replacement battalion of my regiment, which was in the hands of 'soldiers' councils.' Their whole activity was so repellent to me that I decided at once to leave again as soon as possible. With Schmiedt Ernst, a faithful war comrade, I went to Traunstein and remained there till the camp was broken up.
In March, 1919, we went back to Munich.
The situation was untenable and moved inevitably toward a further continuation of the revolution. Eisner's death only hastened the development and finally led to a dictatorship of the Councils, or, better expressed, to a passing rule of the Jews, as had been the original aim of the instigators of the whole revolution.
At this time endless plans chased one another through my head. For days I wondered what could be done, but the end of every meditation was the sober realization that I, nameless as I was, did not possess the least basis for any useful action. I shall come back to speak of the reasons why then, as before, I could not decide to join any of the existing parties. In the course of the new revolution of the Councils I for the first time acted in such a way as to arouse the disapproval of the Central Council. Early in the morning of April 27, 1919, I was to be arrested, but, faced with my leveled carbine, the three scoundrels lacked the necessary courage and marched off as they had come.
A few days after the liberation of Munich, I was ordered to report to the examining commission concerned with revolutionary occurrences in the Second Infantry Regiment.
This was my first more or less purely political activity.
Only a few weeks afterward I received orders to attend a ' course ' that was held for members of the armed forces. In it the soldier was supposed to learn certain fundamentals of civic thinking. For me the value of the whole affair was that I now obtained an opportunity of fleeting a few like-minded comrades with whom I could thoroughly discuss the situation of the moment. All of us were more or less firmly convinced that Germany could no longer be saved from the impending collapse by the parties of the November crime, the Center and the Social Democracy, and that the so-called 'bourgeois-national' formations, even with the best of intentions, could never repair what had happened. A whole series of preconditions were lacking, without which such a task simply could not succeed. The following period confirmed the opinion we then held. Thus, in our own circle we discussed the foundation of a new party. The basic ideas which we had in mind were the same as those later realized in the ' German Workers' Party.' The name of the movement to be founded would from the very beginning have to offer the possibility of approaching the broad masses; for without this quality the whole task seemed aimless and superfluous. Thus we arrived at the name of ' Social Revolutionary Party'; this because the social views of the new organization did indeed mean a revolution.
But the deeper ground for this lay in the following: however much I had concerned myself with economic questions at an earlier day, my efforts had remained more or less within the limits resulting from the contemplation of social questions as such. Only later did this framework broaden through examination of the German alliance policy. This in very great part was the outcome of a false estimation of economics as well as unclarity concerning the possible basis for sustaining the German people in the future. But all these ideas were based on the opinion that capital in any case was solely the result of labor and, therefore, like itself was subject to the correction of all those factors which can either advance or thwart human activity; and the national importance of capital was that it depended so completely on the greatness, freedom, and power of the state, hence of the nation, that this bond in itself would inevitably cause capital to further the state and the nation owing to its simple instinct of self-preservation or of reproduction. This dependence of capital on the independent free state would, therefore, force capital in turn to champion this freedom, power, strength, etc., of the nation.
Thus, the task of the state toward capital was comparatively simple and clear: it only had to make certain that capital remain the handmaiden of the state and not fancy itself the mistress of the nation. This point of view could then be defined between two restrictive limits: preservation of a solvent, national, and independent economy on the one hand, assurance of the social rights of the workers on the other.
Previously I had been unable to recognize with the desired clarity the difference between this pure capital as the end result of productive labor and a capital whose existence and essence rests exclusively on speculation. For this I lacked the initial inspiration, which had simply not come my way. But now this was provided most amply by one of the various gentlemen lecturing in the above-mentioned course: Gottfried Feder.
For the first time in my life I heard a principled discussion of international stock exchange and loan capital.
Right after listening to Feder's first lecture, the thought ran through my head that I had now found the way to one of the most essential premises for the foundation of a new party.
In my eyes Feder's merit consisted in having established with ruthless brutality the speculative and economic character of stock exchange and loan capital, and in having exposed its eternal and age-old presupposition which is interest. His arguments were so sound in all fundamental questions that their critics from the start questioned the theoretical correctness of the idea less than they doubted the practical possibility of its execution. But what in the eyes of others was a weakness of Feder's arguments, in my eyes constituted their strength.
It is not the task of a theoretician to determine the varying degrees in which a cause can be realized, but to establish the cause as such: that is to say: he must concern himself less with the road than with the goal. In this, however, the basic correctness of an idea is decisive and not the difficulty of its execution. As soon as the theoretician attempts to take account of so-called 'utility' and 'reality' instead of the absolute truth, his work will cease to be a polar star of seeking humanity and instead will become a prescription for everyday life. The theoretician of a movement must lay down its goal, the politician strive for its fulfillment. The thinking of the one, therefore, will be determined by eternal truth, the actions of the other more by the practical reality of the moment. The greatness of the one lies in the absolute abstract soundness of his idea, that of the other in his correct attitude toward the given facts and their advantageous application; and in this the theoretician's aim must serve as his guiding star. While the touchstone for the stature of a politician may be regarded as the success of his plans and acts-in other words, the degree to which they become reality-the realization of the theoretician's ultimate purpose can never be realized, since, though human thought can apprehend truths and set up crystal-clear aims, complete fulfillment will fail due to the general imperfection and inadequacy of man. The more abstractly correct and hence powerful the idea will be, the more impossible remains its complete fulfillment as long as it continues to depend on human beings. Therefore, the stature of the theoretician must not be measured by the fulfillment of his aims, but by their soundness and the influence they have had on the development of humanity. If this were not so, the founders of religion could not be counted among the greatest men of this earth, since the fulfillment of their ethical purposes will never be even approximately complete. In its workings, even the religion of love is only the weak reflection of the will of its exalted founder; its significance, however, lies in the direction which it attempted to give to a universal human development of culture, ethics, and morality.
The enormous difference between the tasks of the theoretician and the politician is also the reason why a union of both in one person is almost never found. This is especially true of the so-called 'successful' politician of small format, whose activity for the most part is only an 'art of the possible,' as Bismarck rather modestly characterized politics in general. The freer such a 'politician' keeps himself from great ideas, the easier and often the more visible, but always the more rapid, his successes will be. To be sure, they are dedicated to earthly transitoriness and sometimes do not survive the death of their fathers. The work of such politicians, by and large, is unimportant nor posterity, since their successes in the present are based solely on keeping at a distance all really great and profound problems and ideas, which as such would only have been of value for later generations.
The execution of such aims, which have value and significance for the most distant times, usually brings little reward to the man who champions them and rarely finds understanding among the great masses, who for the moment have more understanding for beer and milk regulations than for farsighted plans for the future, whose realization can only occur far hence, and whose benefits will be reaped only by posterity.
Thus, from a certain vanity, which is always a cousin of stupidity, the great mass of politicians will keep far removed from all really weighty plans for the future, in order not to lose the momentary sympathy of the great mob. The success and significance of such a politician lie then exclusively in the present, and do not exist for posterity. But small minds are little troubled by this; they are content.
With the theoretician conditions are different. His importance lies almost always solely in the future, for not seldom he is what is described by the world as 'unworldly.' For if the art of the politician is really the art of the possible, the theoretician is one of those of whom it can be said that they are pleasing to the gods only if they demand and want the impossible. He will almost always have to renounce the recognition of the present, but in return, provided his ideas are immortal, will harvest the fame of posterity.
In long periods of humanity, it may happen once that the politician is wedded to the theoretician. The more profound this fusion, however, the greater are the obstacles opposing the work of the politician. He no longer works for necessities which will be understood by the first best shopkeeper, but for aims which only the fewest comprehend. Therefore, his life is torn by love and hate. The protest of the present which does not understand the man, struggles with the recognition of posterity-for which he works. For the greater a man's works for the future, the less the present can comprehend them; the harder his fight, and the rarer success. If, however, once in centuries success does come to a man, perhaps in his latter days a faint beam of his coming glory may shine upon him. To be sure, these great men are only the Marathon runners of history; the laurel wreath of the present touches only the brow of the dying hero.
Among them must be counted the great warriors in this world who, though not understood by the present, are nevertheless prepared to carry the fight for their ideas and ideals to their end. They are the men who some day will be closest to the heart of the people; it almost seems as though every individual feels the duty of compensating in the past for the sins which the present once committed against the great. Their life and work are followed with admiring gratitude and emotion, and especially in days of gloom they have the power to raise up broken hearts and despairing souls.
To them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.
As I listened to Gottfried Feder's first lecture about the 'breaking of interest slavery,' I knew at once that this was a theoretical truth which would inevitably be of immense importance for the future of the German people. The sharp separation of stock exchange capital from the national economy offered the possibility of opposing the internationalization of the German economy without at the same time menacing the foundations of an independent national self-maintenance by a struggle against all capital. The development of Germany was much too clear in my eyes for me not to know that the hardest battle would have to be fought, not against hostile nations, but against international capital. In Feder's lecture I sensed a powerful slogan for this coming struggle.
And here again later developments proved how correct our sentiment of those days was. Today the know-it-alls among our bourgeois politicians no longer laugh at us: today even they, in so far as they are not conscious liars, see that international stock exchange capital was not only the greatest agitator for the War, but that especially, now that the fight is over, it spares no effort to turn the peace into a hell.
The fight against international finance and loan capital became the most important point in the program of the German nation's struggle for its economic independence and freedom.
As regards the objections of so-called practical men, they can be answered as follows: All fears regarding the terrible economic consequences of the ' breaking of interest slavery ' are superfluous; for, in the first place, the previous economic prescriptions have turned out very badly for the German people, and your positions on the problems of national self-maintenance remind us strongly of the reports of similar experts in former times, for example, those of the Bavarian medical board on the question of introducing the railroad. It is well known that none of the fears of this exalted corporation were later realized: the travelers in the trains of the new 'steam horse ' did not get dizzy, the onlookers did not get sick, and the board fences to hide the new invention from sight were given up-only the board fences around the brains of all so-called 'experts' were preserved for posterity.
In the second place, the following should be noted: every idea, even the best, becomes a danger if it parades as a purpose in itself, being in reality only a means to one. For me and all true National Socialists there is but one doctrine: people and fatherland.
What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.
Every thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility. Then no theory will stiffen into a dead doctrine, since it is life alone that all things must serve.
Thus, it was the conclusions of Gottfried Feder that caused me to delve into the fundamentals of this field with which I had previously not been very familiar.
I began to study again, and now for the first time really achieved an understanding of the content of the Jew Karl Marx's life effort. Only now did his Capital become really intelligible to me, and also the struggle of the Social Democracy against the national economy, which aims only to prepare the ground for the domination of truly international finance and stock exchange capital.
But also in another respect these courses were of the greatest consequence to me.
One day I asked for the floor. One of the participants felt obliged to break a lance for the Jews and began to defend them in lengthy arguments. This aroused me to an answer. The overwhelming majority of the students present took my standpoint The result was that a few days later I was sent into a Munich regiment as a so-called 'educational officer.'
Discipline among the men was still comparatively weak at that time. It suffered from the after-effects of the period of soldiers' councils. Only very slowly and cautiously was it possible to replace voluntary obedience-the pretty name that was given to the pig-sty under Kurt Eisner-by the old military discipline and subordination. Accordingly, the men were now expected to learn to feel and think in a national and patriotic way. In these two directions lay the field of my new activity.
I started out with the greatest enthusiasm and love. For all at once I was offered an opportunity of speaking before a larger audience; and the thing that I had always presumed from pure feeling without knowing it was now corroborated: I could 'speak.' My voice, too, had grown so much better that I could be sufficiently understood at least in every corner of the small squad rooms.
No task could make me happier than this, for now before being discharged I was able to perform useful services to the institution which had been so close to my heart: the army.
And I could boast of some success: in the course of my lectures I led many hundreds, indeed thousands, of comrades back to their people and fatherland. I 'nationalized' the troops and was thus also able to help strengthen the general discipline.
Here again I became acquainted with a number of like-minded comrades, who later began to form the nucleus of the new movement.