“The Road to Serfdom (1944) – F.A. Hayek, Chapter 12 – The Socialist Roots of Nazism

  • It’s a mistake to see Nazism as just a revolt against reason & a movement without intellectual background. Its doctrines are the culmination of a long evolution of thought from beyond the confines of Germany. The men who created the new doctrines were powerful writers without ruthless consistency. Once you accept the premises, there’s no escaping its logic. It’s collectivism freed from all traces of an individualist tradition that would slow it down.
    • The beginning train of thought started over 150 years but was not held in high regard by most Germans through most of that time. The popularization didn’t simply come from losing WW1 or the wave of nationalism afterwards. It was even less a reaction to socialism. It was actional socialism that started it due to the lack of a solid sized bourgeois class in Germany.
      • These doctrines guided the ruling elements of Germany & aren’t opposed to Marxist socialism, just its liberal elements, which formed obstacles to its realization. Left socialists began to resemble those on the right. It was the union of anti-capitalists on the right & left, & fusion of radical & conservative socialism that drove everything liberal out of Germany.
      • Nationalism & Socialism were connected early in Germany. Theoretical Socialism from Marxism directed the German labor movement while the authoritarian & nationalist elements faded into the background. From 1914 onward, the laborers & youth idealists were brought into the National Socialist fold. Only afterwards didn’t grow into Hitler’s doctrine. The hysteria from the war was never cured & old socialists mixed with the new ones.
  • Werner Sombart started as a Marxian socialist & spread many socialist & anti-capitalist ideas. He represented the persecuted socialist intelligentsia as he was too extreme to become a full professor.
    • He welcomed the “German War” which he saw as representative of a clash between English commercialism & heroic German culture. He hated English commercial views & universal striving for happiness of the individual.
    • To him the “German idea of the state” is that the state is neither founded nor formed by individuals, nor an aggregate of them, nor to serve any individual. The individual has no rights, only duties. Claims of the individual are always the outcome of the commercial spirit. The French Revolution’s ideas of liberty, equality & fraternity are commercial ideals & serve no purpose but for the individual.
    • Before 1914, all the true German ideals were in danger from the encroachment of English commerce, comfort & sport. The English had become corrupted & unionists were sunk in the “morass of comfort” & began to infect other people. Only the war helped Germans remember their heroic past & their activities were subordinated to military ends.
    • To regard war as inhumane was considered a commercial view. There’s a life higher than individual life – the light of the people & state. The purpose of the individual was to sacrifice himself for the good of the state. War was a heroic idea of life & war against England was a war against the opposite ideal.
  • Johann Plenge was the first of the renaissance of Hegel among Marxian socialists.
    • To him, organization is the essence of socialism from its roots in the 19th century France. Marx & his acolytes had betrayed the idea by their Utopian adherence to the abstract idea of freedom.
    • Now the idea of organization was coming into its own, especially through the works of H.G. Wells. Plenge was influenced heavily by him. Now the war between England & Germany was really a conflict between opposite principles.
    • To him, world history experiences at the moment gave a new great ideal of life penetrates to the final victory for the Germans, while in England, their principles would “collapse”.
    • The war economy on Germany in 1914 was the realization of a socialist society & its spirit. The needs of the war established the socialist idea in German economic life. State & economic life formed a new unity – the feeling of economic responsibility that characterizes the work of a civil servant pervaded all private activity.
    • Plenge hope to reconcile the ideals of liberty & organization but through complete but voluntary submission of the individual. But he abandoned liberal ideas. But 1918 the union between socialism & ruthless power politics had become complete.
    • To him, socialism had to be power policy because it’s to be organization. Socialism has to win power & never blindly destroy it. The main question was who was to be called to power because organization requires an exemplary leader.
      • He forecast all the ideas used to justify Hitler’s New Order. To him, economic individualism & right of self-determination was akin to anarchy. Consistent socialism only gives people a right to incorporation according to distribution of forces.
  • Plenge’s ideals were popular among German scientists & engineers who clamored for central planning. Ostwald stated Germany wanted to organization a Europe that was fairly chaotic. To him, German’s secret organizational skills were the cure to individualism.
    • Walther Rathenau also deserves a place in Nazism’s history. His economic views came out of WW1 & his collaborators made up Göring’s staff.
    • Paul Lensch, a left-wing socialist in the Reichstag, developed these ideas. He  described the war as the flight of the English Bourgeoisie before the advance of socialism. He based his argument on how the adoption of protection by Bismarck making industrial concentration & cartelization.
    • In the present world revolution, Germany represents the revolutionary & her antagonist, England, the counter-revolutionary. This fact proves how little the constitution of a country affects whether it’s liberal or not.
    • Or our conceptions of liberalism, democracy, etc. are derived from the ideas of English individualism according to what a state with a weak government is a liberal state & every restriction on individual freedom is conceived as a product of autocracy & militarism.
      • The war of the Entente against Germany resembled the attempt of the lower bourgeoisie to prevent the decline of their own class.
    • Organization of capital began unconsciously before the war, continued consciously during & will be systematically continued after the war. “Socialism is coming because we can’t live without it.”
      • Only liberals oppose socialism because they reason from English standards – the whole of the German bourgeoisie whose political notions of freedom come from an individualist view of the world, English liberalism.
      • These standards are old-fashioned & shattered. These ideas need to be gotten rid of to boost the growth of a new conception of state & society. Here, socialism must present a conscious & determined opposition to individualism.
    • He continues: Since universal suffrage, social democrats have occupied every post they could get in government – Reichstag, state parliaments, city councils, courts, sick funds, etc. They penetrated deeply into the state but there was one drawback. The state affected the working classes as much as they influenced it – Socialization & Nationalization.
  • Plenge & Lensch gave the leading ideas for National Socialism via Oswald Spengler & Arthur Moeller van den Bruck.
    • Spengler gave expression to the ideas held by German socialists: Prussian spirit & socialist conviction – usually at war with each other – are the same thing.
    • With civilization represented in Germany, German liberals & the invisible English army, the reformers in Germany were seen as “English”.
    • The last 3 nations of the west were presented by the words, “Freedom”, “Equality” & “Community”. They appear in political forms of liberal Parliamentarianism, Social Democracy & authoritarian socialism.
      • The German/Prussian instinct is that the power belongs to the whole & everyone is given his place. One commands & one obeys. It’s authoritarian socialism, illiberal & anti-democratic compared to England & France.
      • The structure of England is based on the distinction between the rich & poor. In Prussia, it’s between command & obedience. Deliberate organization of economic activity became more socialist with no private persons, everyone worked like clockwork. Prussia became a civil servant state.
    • Then it went on to the patron saint of National Socialism, van den Bruck, who proclaimed WW1 a war between liberalism & socialism – & socialism lost. To him, liberalism was the enemy & the German government was not only to become collectivist & authoritarian but to snuff out liberalism.
      • Those writers were not isolated in history. The fight against liberalism was the common idea that unified socialists & conservatives. This was now conservative socialism.

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