On April 1st, 1924, I began to serve my sentence of detention in the Fortress of Landsberg am Lech, following the verdict of the Munich People’s Court of that time.
After years of uninterrupted labour it was now possible for the first time to begin a work which many had asked for and which I myself felt would be profitable for the Movement. So I decided to devote two volumes to a description not only of the aims of ou ur Movement but also of its development. There is more to be learned from this than from any purely doctrinaire treatise.
This has also given me the opportunity of describing my own development in so far as such a description is necessary to the understanding of the first as well as the second volume and to destroy the legendary fabrications which the Jewish Press have circulated about me.
In this work I turn not to strangers but to those followers of f the Movement whose hearts belong to it and who wish to study it more profoundly. I know that fewer people are won over by the written word than by the spoken word and that every great movement on this ea
Nevertheless, in order to produce more equality and uniformity in the defence of any doctrine, its fundamental principles must be committed to writing. May these two volumes therefore serve as the building stones which I contribute to the joint work.
The Fortress, Landsberg am Lech.
At half-past twelve in the afternoon of November 9th, 1923, those whose names are given below fell in front of the Feldherrnhalle and in the forecourt of the former War Ministry in Munich for their loyal faith in the resurrection of their people:
Alfarth, Felix, Merchant, born July 5th, 1901
Bauriedl, Andreas, Hatmaker, born May 4th, 1879
Casella, Theodor, Bank Official, born August 8th, 1900
Ehrlich, Wilhelm, Ba ank Official, born August 19th, 1894
Faust, Martin, Bank Official, born January 27th, 1901
Hechenberger, Anton, Locksmith, born September 28th, 1902
Koerner, Oskar, Merchant, born January 4th, 1875
Kuhn, Karl, Head Waiter, born July 25th, 1897
Laforce, Karl, Student of Engineering, born October 28th, 1904
Neubauer, Kurt, Waiter, born March 27th, 1899
Pape, Claus von, Merchant, born August 16th, 1904
Pfordten, Theodor von der, Councillor to the Superior Provincial Court, born May 14th, 1873
Rickmers, Johann, retired Cavalry Captain, born May 7th, 1881
Scheubner-Richter, Max Erwin von, Dr. of Engineering, bo
Stransky, Lorenz Ritter von, Engineer, born March 14th, 1899
Wolf, Wilhelm, Merchant, born October 19th, 1898
So-called national officials refused to allow the dead heroes a common burial. So I dedicate the first volume of this work to them as a common memorial, that the memory of those martyrs may be a permanent source of light for the followers of our Movement.
The Fortress, Landsberg a/L.,
October 16th, 1924
In placing before the reader this unabridged translation of Adolf Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, I feel it my duty to call attention to certain historical facts which must be borne in mind if the reader would form a fair judgment of what is written in this extraordinary work.
The first volume of Mein Kampf was written while the author was imprisoned in a Bavarian fortress. How did he get there and why? The answer to that question is important, because the book deals with the events which brought the author into this plight and because he wrote under the emotional stress caused by the historical happenings of the time. It was the hour of Germany’s deepest humiliation, somewhat parallel to that of a little over a century before, when Na
In the beginning of 1923 the French invaded Germany, occupied the Ruhr district and seized several German towns in the Rhineland. This was a flagrant breach of international law and was protested against by every section of British political opinion at that time. The Germans could not effectively defend themselves, as they had been already disarmed under the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. To make the situation more fraught with disaster for Germany, and therefore more appalling in its prospect, the French carried on an intensive propaganda for the separation of the Rhineland from the German Republic and the establishment of an independent Rhenania. Money was poured out lavishly to bribe agitators to carry on this work, and some of the most insidious elements of the German population became active in the pay of the invader. At the same time a vigorous movement was being carried on in Bavaria for the secession of that country and the establishment of an independent Catholic monarchy there, under vassalage to France, as Napoleon had done when he made Maximilian the first King of Bavaria in 1805.
The separatist movement in
By the autumn of 1923 the separatist movement in Bavaria was on the point of becoming an accomplished fact. General von Lossow, the Bavarian chief of the Reichswehr no longer took orders from Berlin. The flag of the German Republic was rarely to be seen, Finally, the Bavarian Prime Minister decided to proclaim an independent Bavaria and its secession from the German Republic. This was to have taken place on the eve of the Fifth Anniversary of the establishment of the German Republic (November 9th, 1918.)
Hitler staged a counter-stroke. For several days he had been mobilizing his storm battalions in the neighbourhood of Munich, intending to make a national demonstration and hoping that the Reichswehr would stand by him to prevent secession. Ludendorff was with him. And he thought that the prestige of the great German Commander in the World War would be sufficient to win the allegiance of the professional army.
A meeting had been announced to take place in the Bürgerbräu Keller on the night of November 8th. The Bavarian patriotic societies were gathered there, and the Prime Minister, Dr. von Kahr, started to read his official pronunciamento, which practically amounted to a proclamation of Bavarian independence and secession from the Republic. While von Kahr was speaking Hitler entered the hall, followed by Ludendorff. And the meeting was broken up.
Next day the Nazi battalions took the street for the purpose of making a mass demonstration in favour of national union. They marched in massed formation, led by Hitler and Ludendorff. As they reached one of the central squares of the city the army opened fire on them. Sixteen of the marchers were instantly killed, and two died of their wounds in the local barracks of the Reichswehr. Several others were wounded also. Hitler fell on the pavement and broke a collar-bone. Ludendorff marched straight up to the soldiers who were firing from the barricade, but not a man dared draw a trigger on his old Commander.
Hitler was arrested with several of his comrades and imprisoned in the fortress of Landsberg on the River Lech. On February 26th, 1924, he was brought to trial before the Volksgericht, or People’s Court in Munich. He was sentenced to detention in a fortress for five years. With several companions, who had been also sentenced to various periods of imprisonment, he returned to Landsberg am Lech and remained there until the 20th of the following December, when he was released. In all he spent about thirteen months in prison. It was during this period that he wrote the first volume of Mein Kampf.
If we bear all this in mind we can account for the emotional stress under which Mein Kampf was written. Hitler was naturally incensed against the Bavarian government authorities, against the footling patriotic societies who were pawns in the French game, though often unconsciously so, and of course against the French. That he should write harshly of the French was only natural in the circumstances. At that time there was no exaggeration whatsoever in calling France the implacable and mortal enemy of Germany. Such language was being used by even the pacifists themselves, not only in Germany but abroad. And even though the second volume of Mein Kampf was written after Hitler’s release from prison and was published after the French had left the Ruhr, the tramp of the invading armies still echoed in German ears, and the terrible ravages that had been wrought in the industrial and financial life of Germany, as a consequence of the French invasion, had plunged the country into a state of social and economic chaos. In France itself the franc fell to fifty per cent of its previous value. Indeed, the whole of Europe had been brought to the brink of ruin, following the French invasion of the Ruhr and Rhineland.
But, as those things belong to the limbo of a dead past that nobody wishes to have remembered now, it is often asked: Why doesn’t Hitler revise Mein Kampf? The answer, as I think, which would immediately come into the mind of an impartial critic is that Mein Kampf is an historical document which bears the imprint of its own time. To revise it would involve taking it out of its historical context. Moreover Hitler has declared that his acts and public statements constitute a partial revision of his book and are to be taken as such. This refers especially to the statements in Mein Kampf regarding France and those German kinsfolk that have not yet been incorporated in the Reich. On behalf of Germany he has definitely acknowledged the German portion of South Tyrol as permanently belonging to Italy and, in regard to France, he has again and again declared that no grounds now exist for a conflict of political interests between Germany and France and that Germany has no territorial claims against France. Finally, I may note here that Hitler has also declared that, as he was only a political leader and not yet a statesman in a position of official responsibility, when he wrote this book, what he stated in Mein Kampf does not implicate him as Chancellor of the Reich.
I now come to some references in the text which are frequently recurring and which may not always be clear to every reader. For instance, Hitler speaks indiscriminately of the German Reich. Sometimes he means to refer to the first Reich, or Empire, and sometimes to the German Empire as founded under William I in 1871. Incidentally the regime which he inaugurated in 1933 is generally known as the Third Reich, though this expression is not used in Mein Kampf. Hitler also speaks of the Austrian Reich and the East Mark, without always explicitly distinguishing between the Habsburg Empire and Austria proper. If the reader will bear the following historical outline in mind, he will understand the references as they occur.
The word Reich, which is a German form of the Latin word Regnum, does not mean Kingdom or Empire or Republic. It is a sort of basic word that may apply to any form of Constitution. Perhaps our word, Realm, would be the best translation, though the word Empire can be used when the Reich was actually an Empire. The forerunner of the first German Empire was the Holy Roman Empire which Charlemagne founded in A.D. 800. Charlemagne was King of the Franks, a group of Germanic tribes that subsequently became Romanized. In the tenth century Charlemagne’s Empire passed into German hands when Otto I (936-973) became Emperor. As the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, its formal appellation, it continued to exist under German Emperors until Napoleon overran and dismembered Germany during the first decade of the last century. On August 6th, 1806, the last Emperor, Francis II, formally resigned the German crown. In the following October Napoleon entered Berlin in triumph, after the Battle of Jena.
After the fall of Napoleon a movement set in for the reunion of the German states in one Empire. But the first decisive step towards that end was the foundation of the Second German Empire in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War. This Empire, however, did not include the German lands which remained under the Habsburg Crown. These were known as German Austria. It was Bismarck’s dream to unite German Austria with the German Empire; but it remained only a dream until Hitler turned it into a reality in 1938’. It is well to bear that point in mind, because this dream of reuniting all the German states in one Reich has been a dominant feature of German patriotism and statesmanship for over a century and has been one of Hitler’s ideals since his childhood.
In Mein Kampf Hitler often speaks of the East Mark. This East Mark – i.e. eastern frontier land – was founded by Charlemagne as the eastern bulwark of the Empire. It was inhabited principally by Germano-Celtic tribes called Bajuvari and stood for centuries as the firm bulwark of Western Christendom against invasion from the East, especially against the Turks. Geographically it was almost identical with German Austria.
There are a few points more that I wish to mention in this introductory note. For instance, I have let the word Weltanschhauung stand in its original form very often. We have no one English word to convey the same meaning as the German word, and it would have burdened the text too much if I were to use a circumlocution each time the word occurs. Weltanschhauung literally means “Outlook-on-the World”. But as generally used in German this outlook on the world means a whole system of ideas associated together in an organic unity – ideas of human life, human values, cultural and religious ideas, politics, economics, etc., in fact a totalitarian view of human existence. Thus Christianity could be called a Weltanschhauung, and Mohammedanism could be called a Weltanschhauung, and Socialism could be called a Weltanschhauung, especially as preached in Russia. National Socialism claims definitely to be a Weltanschhauung.
Another word I have often left standing in the original is völkisch. The basic word here is Volk, which is sometimes translated as People; but the German word, Volk, means the whole body of the people without any distinction of class or caste. It is a primary word also that suggests what might be called the basic national stock. Now, after the defeat in 1918, the downfall of the Monarchy and the destruction of the aristocracy and the upper classes, the concept of Das Volk came into prominence as the unifying co-efficient which would embrace the whole German people. Hence the large number of völkisch societies that arose after the war and hence also the National Socialist concept of unification which is expressed by the word Volksgemeinschaft, or folk community. This is used in contradistinction to the Socialist concept of the nation as being divided into classes. Hitler’s ideal is the Völkischer Staat, which I have translated as the People’s State.
Finally, I would point out that the term Social Democracy may be misleading in English, as it has not a democratic connotation in our sense. It was the name given to the Socialist Party in Germany. And that Party was purely Marxist; but it adopted the name Social Democrat in order to appeal to the democratic sections of the German people.
Abbots Langley, February, 1939
“What soon gave me cause for very serious consideration were the activities of the Jews in certain branches of life, into the mystery of which I penetrated little by little. Was there any shady undertaking, any form of foulness, especially in cultural life, in which at least one Jew did not participate? On putting the probing knife carefully to that kind of abscess one immediately discovered, like a maggot in a putrescent body, a little Jew who was often blinded by the sudden light.” (p.42)
“And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.” (p.46)
“The yoke of slavery is and always will remain the most unpleasant experience that mankind can endure. Do the Schwabing decadents look upon Germany’s lot to-day as ‘aesthetic’? Of course, one doesn’t discuss such a question with the Jews, because they are the modern inventors of this cultural perfume. Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God’s image in His creation.” (p.107)
“What we have to fight for is the necessary security for the existence and increase of our race and people, the subsistence of its children and the maintenance of our racial stock unmixed, the freedom and independence of the Fatherland; so that our people may be enabled to fulfil the mission assigned to it by the Creator.” (p.125)
“From time immemorial, however, the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited. Is not their very existence founded on one great lie, namely, that they are a religious community, whereas in reality they are a race? And what a race! One of the greatest thinkers that mankind has produced has branded the Jews for all time with a statement which is profoundly and exactly true. He (Schopenhauer) called the Jew “The Great Master of Lies”. Those who do not realize the truth of that statement, or do not wish to believe it, will never be able to lend a hand in helping Truth to prevail.” (p.134)
“In short, the results of miscegenation are always the following:
(a) The level of the superior race becomes lowered;
(b) physical and mental degeneration sets in, thus leading slowly but steadily towards a progressive drying up of the vital sap.
The act which brings about such a development is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator. And as a sin this act will be avenged. Man’s effort to build up something that contradicts the iron logic of Nature brings him into conflict with those principles to which he himself exclusively owes his own existence. By acting against the laws of Nature he prepares the way that leads to his ruin.” (p.162)
“It is just at those junctures when the idealistic attitude threatens to disappear that we notice a weakening of this force which is a necessary constituent in the founding and maintenance of the community and is thereby a necessary condition of civilization. As soon as the spirit of egotism begins to prevail among a people then the bonds of the social order break and man, by seeking his own personal happiness, veritably tumbles out of heaven and falls into hell.” (p.160)
“In times of distress a wave of public anger has usually arisen against the Jew; the masses have taken the law into their own hands; they have seized Jewish property and ruined the Jew in their urge to protect themselves against what they consider to be a scourge of God. Having come to know the Jew intimately through the course of centuries, in times of distress they looked upon his presence among them as a public danger comparable only to the plague.” (p.174)
“He will stop at nothing. His utterly low-down conduct is so appalling that one really cannot be surprised if in the imagination of our people the Jew is pictured as the incarnation of Satan and the symbol of evil. The ignorance of the broad masses as regards the inner character of the Jew, and the lack of instinct and insight that our upper classes display, are some of the reasons which explain how it is that so many people fall an easy prey to the systematic campaign of falsehood which the Jew carries on. While the upper classes, with their innate cowardliness, turn away from anyone whom the Jew thus attacks with lies and calumny, the common people are credulous of everything, whether because of their ignorance or their simple-mindedness. Government authorities wrap themselves up in a robe of silence, but more frequently they persecute the victims of Jewish attacks in order to stop the campaign in the Jewish Press.” (p.184)
“How devoid of ideals and how ignoble is the whole contemporary system! The fact that the churches join in committing this sin against the image of God, even though they continue to emphasize the dignity of that image, is quite in keeping with their present activities. They talk about the Spirit, but they allow man, as the embodiment of the Spirit, to degenerate to the proletarian level. Then they look on with amazement when they realize how small is the influence of the Christian Faith in their own country and how depraved and ungodly is this riff-raff which is physically degenerate and therefore morally degenerate also. To balance this state of affairs they try to convert the Hottentots and the Zulus and the Kaffirs and to bestow on them the blessings of the Church. While our European people, God be praised and thanked, are left to become the victims of moral depravity, the pious missionary goes out to Central Africa and establishes missionary stations for negroes. Finally, sound and healthy – though primitive and backward – people will be transformed, under the name of our ‘higher civilization’, into a motley of lazy and brutalized mongrels.” (p.226)
“Look at the ravages from which our people are suffering daily as a result of being contaminated with Jewish blood. Bear in mind the fact that this poisonous contamination can be eliminated from the national body only after centuries, or perhaps never. Think further of how the process of racial decomposition is debasing and in some cases even destroying the fundamental Aryan qualities of our German people, so that our cultural creativeness as a nation is gradually becoming impotent and we are running the danger, at least in our great cities, of falling to the level where Southern Italy is to-day. This pestilential adulteration of the blood, of which hundreds of thousands of our people take no account, is being systematically practised by the Jew to-day. Systematically these negroid parasites in our national body corrupt our innocent fair-haired girls and thus destroy something which can no longer be replaced in this world.
The two Christian denominations look on with indifference at the profanation and destruction of a noble and unique creature who was given to the world as a gift of God’s grace. For the future of the world, however, it does not matter which of the two triumphs over the other, the Catholic or the Protestant. But it does matter whether Aryan humanity survives or perishes. And yet the two Christian denominations are not contending against the destroyer of Aryan humanity but are trying to destroy one another. Everybody who has the right kind of feeling for his country is solemnly bound, each within his own denomination, to see to it that he is not constantly talking about the Will of God merely from the lips but that in actual fact he fulfils the Will of God and does not allow God’s handiwork to be debased. For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against God’s Creation and God’s Will.” (p.310)
Volume One, “Retrospect” – Chapter One “In the Home of My Parents
It has turned out fortunate for me to-day that destiny appointed Braunau-on-the-Inn to be my birthplace. For that little town is situated just on the frontier between those two States the reunion of which seems, at least to us of the younger generation, a task to which we should devote our lives and in the pursuit of which every possible means should be employed.
German-Austria must be restored to the great German Motherland. And not indeed on any grounds of economic calculation whatsoever. No, no. Even if the union were a matter of economic indifference, and even if it were to be disadvantageous from the economic standpoint, still it ought to take place. People of the same blood should be in the same Reich. The German people will have no right to engage in a colonial policy until they shall have brought all their children together in the one State. When the territory of the Reich embraces all the Germans and finds itself unable to assure them a livelihood, only then can the moral right arise, from the need of the people to acquire foreign territory. The plough is then the sword; and the tears of war will produce the daily bread for the generations to come.
And so this little frontier town appeared to me as the symbol of a great task. But in another regard also it points to a lesson that is applicable to our day. Over a hundred years ago this sequestered spot was the scene of a tragic calamity which affected the whole German nation and will be remembered for ever, at least in the annals of German history. At the time of our Fatherland’s deepest humiliation a bookseller, Johannes Palm, uncompromising nationalist and enemy of the French, was put to death here because he had the misfortune to have loved Germany well. He obstinately refused to disclose the names of his associates, or rather the principals who were chiefly responsible for the affair. Just as it happened with Leo Schlageter. The former, like the latter, was denounced to the French by a Government agent. It was a director of police from Augsburg who won an ignoble renown on that occasion and set the example which was to be copied at a later date by the neo-German officials of the Reich under Herr Severing’s regime 1).
In this little town on the Inn, haloed by the memory of a German martyr, a town that was Bavarian by blood but under the rule of the Austrian State, my parents were domiciled towards the end of the last century. My father was a civil servant who fulfilled his duties very conscientiously. My mother looked after the household and lovingly devoted herself to the care of her children. From that period I have not retained very much in my memory; because after a few years my father had to leave that frontier town which I had come to love so much and take up a new post farther down the Inn valley, at Passau, therefore actually in Germany itself.
In those days it was the usual lot of an Austrian civil servant to be transferred periodically from one post to another. Not long after coming to Passau my father was transferred to Linz, and while there he retired finally to live on his pension. But this did not mean that the old gentleman would now rest from his labours.
He was the son of a poor cottager, and while still a boy he grew restless and left home. When he was barely thirteen years old he buckled on his satchel and set forth from his native woodland parish. Despite the dissuasion of villagers who could speak from ‘experience,’ he went to Vienna to learn a trade there. This was in the fiftieth year of the last century. It was a sore trial, that of deciding to leave home and face the unknown, with three gulden in his pocket. By when the boy of thirteen was a lad of seventeen and had passed his apprenticeship examination as a craftsman he was not content. Quite the contrary. The persistent economic depression of that period and the constant want and misery strengthened his resolution to give up working at a trade and strive for ‘something higher.’ As a boy it had seemed to him that the position of the parish priest in his native village was the highest in the scale of human attainment; but now that the big city had enlarged his outlook the young man looked up to the dignity of a State official as the highest of all. With the tenacity of one whom misery and trouble had already made old when only half-way through his youth the young man of seventeen obstinately set out on his new project and stuck to it until he won through. He became a civil servant. He was about twenty-three years old, I think, when he succeeded in making himself what he had resolved to become. Thus he was able to fulfil the promise he had made as a poor boy not to return to his native village until he was ‘somebody.’
He had gained his end. But in the village there was nobody who had remembered him as a little boy, and the village itself had become strange to him.
Now at last, when he was fifty-six years old, he gave up his active career; but he could not bear to be idle for a single day. On the outskirts of the small market town of Lambach in Upper Austria he bought a farm and tilled it himself. Thus, at the end of a long and hard-working career, he came back to the life which his father had led.
It was at this period that I first began to have ideals of my own. I spent a good deal of time scampering about in the open, on the long road from school, and mixing up with some of the roughest of the boys, which caused my mother many anxious moments. All this tended to make me something quite the reverse of a stay-at-home. I gave scarcely any serious thought to the question of choosing a vocation in life; but I was certainly quite out of sympathy with the kind of career which my father had followed. I think that an inborn talent for speaking now began to develop and take shape during the more or less strenuous arguments which I used to have with my comrades. I had become a juvenile ringleader who learned well and easily at school but was rather difficult to manage. In my freetime I practised singing in the choir of the monastery church at Lambach, and thus it happened that I was placed in a very favourable position to be emotionally impressed again and again by the magnificent splendour of ecclesiastical ceremonial. What could be more natural for me than to look upon the Abbot as representing the highest human ideal worth striving for, just as the position of the humble village priest had appeared to my father in his own boyhood days? At least, that was my idea for a while. But the juvenile disputes I had with my father did not lead him to appreciate his son’s oratorical gifts in such a way as to see in them a favourable promise for such a career, and so he naturally could not understand the boyish ideas I had in my head at that time. This contradiction in my character made him feel somewhat anxious.
As a matter of fact, that transitory yearning after such a vocation soon gave way to hopes that were better suited to my temperament. Browsing through my father’s books, I chanced to come across some publications that dealt with military subjects. One of these publications was a popular history of the Franco-German War of 1870-71. It consisted of two volumes of an illustrated periodical dating from those years. These became my favourite reading. In a little while that great and heroic conflict began to take first place in my mind. And from that time onwards I became more and more enthusiastic about everything that was in any way connected with war or military affairs.
But this story of the Franco-German War had a special significance for me on other grounds also. For the first time, and as yet only in quite a vague way, the question began to present itself: Is there a difference – and if there be, what is it – between the Germans who fought that war and the other Germans? Why did not Austria also take part in it? Why did not my father and all the others fight in that struggle? Are we not the same as the other Germans? Do we not all belong together?
That was the first time that this problem began to agitate my small brain. And from the replies that were given to the questions which I asked very tentatively, I was forced to accept the fact, though with a secret envy, that not all Germans had the good luck to belong to Bismarck’s Empire. This was something that I could not understand.
It was decided that I should study. Considering my character as a whole, and especially my temperament, my father decided that the classical subjects studied at the Lyceum were not suited to my natural talents. He thought that the Realschule 2) would suit me better. My obvious talent for drawing confirmed him in that view; for in his opinion drawing was a subject too much neglected in the Austrian Gymnasium. Probably also the memory of the hard road which he himself had travelled contributed to make him look upon classical studies as unpractical and accordingly to set little value on them. At the back of his mind he had the idea that his son also should become an official of the Government. Indeed he had decided on that career for me. The difficulties through which he had to struggle in making his own career led him to overestimate what he had achieved, because this was exclusively the result of his own indefatigable industry and energy. The characteristic pride of the self-made man urged him towards the idea that his son should follow the same calling and if possible rise to a higher position in it. Moreover, this idea was strengthened by the consideration that the results of his own life’s industry had placed him in a position to facilitate his son’s advancement in the same career.
He was simply incapable of imagining that I might reject what had meant everything in life to him. My father’s decision was simple, definite, clear and, in his eyes, it was something to be taken for granted. A man of such a nature who had become an autocrat by reason of his own hard struggle for existence, could not think of allowing ‘inexperienced’ and irresponsible young fellows to choose their own careers. To act in such a way, where the future of his own son was concerned, would have been a grave and reprehensible weakness in the exercise of parental authority and responsibility, something utterly incompatible with his characteristic sense of duty.
And yet it had to be otherwise.
For the first time in my life – I was then eleven years old – I felt myself forced into open opposition. No matter how hard and determined my father might be about putting his own plans and opinions into action, his son was no less obstinate in refusing to accept ideas on which he set little or no value.
I would not become a civil servant.
No amount of persuasion and no amount of ‘grave’ warnings could break down that opposition. I would not become a State official, not on any account. All the attempts which my father made to arouse in me a love or liking for that profession, by picturing his own career for me, had only the opposite effect. It nauseated me to think that one day I might be fettered to an office stool, that I could not dispose of my own time but would be forced to spend the whole of my life filling out forms.
One can imagine what kind of thoughts such a prospect awakened in the mind of a young fellow who was by no means what is called a ‘good boy’ in the current sense of that term. The ridiculously easy school tasks which we were given made it possible for me to spend far more time in the open air than at home. To-day, when my political opponents pry into my life with diligent scrutiny, as far back as the days of my boyhood, so as finally to be able to prove what disreputable tricks this Hitler was accustomed to in his young days, I thank heaven that I can look back to those happy days and find the memory of them helpful. The fields and the woods were then the terrain on which all disputes were fought out.
Even attendance at the Realschule could not alter my way of spending my time. But I had now another battle to fight.
So long as the paternal plan to make a State functionary contradicted my own inclinations only in the abstract, the conflict was easy to bear. I could be discreet about expressing my personal views and thus avoid constantly recurrent disputes. My own resolution not to become a Government official was sufficient for the time being to put my mind completely at rest. I held on to that resolution inexorably. But the situation became more difficult once I had a positive plan of my own which I might present to my father as a counter-suggestion. This happened when I was twelve years old. How it came about I cannot exactly say now; but one day it became clear to me that I would be a painter – I mean an artist. That I had an aptitude for drawing was an admitted fact. It was even one of the reasons why my father had sent me to the Realschule; but he had never thought of having that talent developed in such a way that I could take up painting as a professional career. Quite the contrary. When, as a result of my renewed refusal to adopt his favourite plan, my father asked me for the first time what I myself really wished to be, the resolution that I had already formed expressed itself almost automatically. For a while my father was speechless. “A painter? An artist-painter?” he exclaimed.
He wondered whether I was in a sound state of mind. He thought that he might not have caught my words rightly, or that he had misunderstood what I meant. But when I had explained my ideas to him and he saw how seriously I took them, he opposed them with that full determination which was characteristic of him. His decision was exceedingly simple and could not be deflected from its course by any consideration of what my own natural qualifications really were.
“Artist! Not as long as I live, never.” As the son had inherited some of the father’s obstinacy, besides having other qualities of his own, my reply was equally energetic. But it stated something quite the contrary.
At that our struggle became stalemate. The father would not abandon his ‘Never’, and I became all the more consolidated in my ‘Nevertheless’.
Naturally the resulting situation was not pleasant. The old gentleman was bitterly annoyed; and indeed so was I, although I really loved him. My father forbade me to entertain any hopes of taking up the art of painting as a profession. I went a step further and declared that I would not study anything else. With such declarations the situation became still more strained, so that the old gentleman irrevocably decided to assert his parental authority at all costs. That led me to adopt an attitude of circumspect silence, but I put my threat into execution. I thought that, once it became clear to my father that I was making no progress at the Realschule, for weal or for woe, he would be forced to allow me to follow the happy career I had dreamed of.
I do not know whether I calculated rightly or not. Certainly my failure to make progress became quite visible in the school. I studied just the subjects that appealed to me, especially those which I thought might be of advantage to me later on as a painter. What did not appear to have any importance from this point of view, or what did not otherwise appeal to me favourably, I completely sabotaged. My school reports of that time were always in the extremes of good or bad, according to the subject and the interest it had for me. In one column my qualification read ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. In another it read ‘average’ or even ‘below average’. By far my best subjects were geography and, even more so, general history. These were my two favourite subjects, and I led the class in them.
When I look back over so many years and try to judge the results of that experience I find two very significant facts standing out clearly before my mind.
First, I became a nationalist.
Second, I learned to understand and grasp the true meaning of history.
The old Austria was a multi-national State. In those days at least the citizens of the German Empire, taken through and through, could not understand what that fact meant in the everyday life of the individuals within such a State. After the magnificent triumphant march of the victorious armies in the Franco-German War the Germans in the Reich became steadily more and more estranged from the Germans beyond their frontiers, partly because they did not deign to appreciate those other Germans at their true value or simply because they were incapable of doing so.
The Germans of the Reich did not realize that if the Germans in Austria had not been of the best racial stock they could never have given the stamp of their own character to an Empire of 52 millions, so definitely that in Germany itself the idea arose – though quite an erroneous one – that Austria was a German State. That was an error which led to dire consequences; but all the same it was a magnificent testimony to the character of the ten million Germans in that East Mark. 3) Only very few of the Germans in the Reich itself had an idea of the bitter struggle which those Eastern Germans had to carry on daily for the preservation of their German language, their German schools and their German character. Only to-day, when a tragic fate has torn several millions of our kinsfolk away from the Reich and has forced them to live under the rule of the stranger, dreaming of that common fatherland towards which all their yearnings are directed and struggling to uphold at least the sacred right of using their mother tongue – only now have the wider circles of the German population come to realize what it means to have to fight for the traditions of one’s race. And so at last perhaps there are people here and there who can assess the greatness of that German spirit which animated the old East Mark and enabled those people, left entirely dependent on their own resources, to defend the Empire against the Orient for several centuries and subsequently to hold fast the frontiers of the German language through a guerilla warfare of attrition, at a time when the German Empire was sedulously cultivating an interest for colonies but not for its own flesh and blood before the threshold of its own door.
What has happened always and everywhere, in every kind of struggle, happened also in the language fight which was carried on in the old Austria. There were three groups – the fighters, the hedgers and the traitors. Even in the schools this sifting already began to take place. And it is worth noting that the struggle for the language was waged perhaps in its bitterest form around the school; because this was the nursery where the seeds had to be watered which were to spring up and form the future generation. The tactical objective of the fight was the winning over of the child, and it was to the child that the first rallying cry was addressed:
“German youth, do not forget that you are a German,” and “Remember, little girl, that one day you must be a German mother.”
Those who know something of the juvenile spirit can understand how youth will always lend a glad ear to such a rallying cry. Under many forms the young people led the struggle, fighting in their own way and with their own weapons. They refused to sing non-German songs. The greater the efforts made to win them away from their German allegiance, the more they exalted the glory of their German heroes. They stinted themselves in buying things to eat, so that they might spare their pennies to help the war chest of their elders. They were incredibly alert in the significance of what the non-German teachers said and they contradicted in unison. They wore the forbidden emblems of their own kinsfolk and were happy when penalised for doing so, or even physically punished. In miniature they were mirrors of loyalty from which the older people might learn a lesson.
And thus it was that at a comparatively early age I took part in the struggle which the nationalities were waging against one another in the old Austria. When meetings were held for the South Mark German League and the School League we wore cornflowers and black-red-gold colours to express our loyalty. We greeted one another with Heil! and instead of the Austrian anthem we sang our own Deutschland über Alles, despite warnings and penalties. Thus the youth were educated politically at a time when the citizens of a so-called national State for the most part knew little of their own nationality except the language. Of course, I did not belong to the hedgers. Within a little while I had become an ardent ‘German National’, which has a different meaning from the party significance attached to that phrase to-day.
I developed very rapidly in the nationalist direction, and by the time I was 15 years old I had come to understand the distinction between dynastic patriotism and nationalism based on the concept of folk, or people, my inclination being entirely in favour of the latter.
Such a preference may not perhaps be clearly intelligible to those who have never taken the trouble to study the internal conditions that prevailed under the Habsburg Monarchy.
Among historical studies universal history was the subject almost exclusively taught in the Austrian schools, for of specific Austrian history there was only very little. The fate of this State was closely bound up with the existence and development of Germany as a whole; so a division of history into German history and Austrian history would be practically inconceivable. And indeed it was only when the German people came to be divided between two States that this division of German history began to take place.
The insignia 4) of a former imperial sovereignty which were still preserved in Vienna appeared to act as magical relics rather than as the visible guarantee of an everlasting bond of union.
When the Habsburg State crumbled to pieces in 1918 the Austrian Germans instinctively raised an outcry for union with their German fatherland. That was the voice of a unanimous yearning in the hearts of the whole people for a return to the unforgotten home of their fathers. But such a general yearning could not be explained except by attributing the cause of it to the historical training through which the individual Austrian Germans had passed. Therein lay a spring that never dried up. Especially in times of distraction and forgetfulness its quiet voice was a reminder of the past, bidding the people to look out beyond the mere welfare of the moment to a new future.
The teaching of universal history in what are called the middle schools is still very unsatisfactory. Few teachers realize that the purpose of teaching history is not the memorizing of some dates and facts, that the student is not interested in knowing the exact date of a battle or the birthday of some marshal or other, and not at all – or at least only very insignificantly – interested in knowing when the crown of his fathers was placed on the brow of some monarch. These are certainly not looked upon as important matters.
To study history means to search for and discover the forces that are the causes of those results which appear before our eyes as historical events. The art of reading and studying consists in remembering the essentials and forgetting what is not essential.
Probably my whole future life was determined by the fact that I had a professor of history who understood, as few others understand, how to make this viewpoint prevail in teaching and in examining. This teacher was Dr. Leopold Poetsch, of the Realschule at Linz. He was the ideal personification of the qualities necessary to a teacher of history in the sense I have mentioned above. An elderly gentleman with a decisive manner but a kindly heart, he was a very attractive speaker and was able to inspire us with his own enthusiasm. Even to-day I cannot recall without emotion that venerable personality whose enthusiastic exposition of history so often made us entirely forget the present and allow ourselves to be transported as if by magic into the past. He penetrated through the dim mist of thousands of years and transformed the historical memory of the dead past into a living reality. When we listened to him we became afire with enthusiasm and we were sometimes moved even to tears.
It was still more fortunate that this professor was able not only to illustrate the past by examples from the present but from the past he was also able to draw a lesson for the present. He understood better than any other the everyday problems that were then agitating our minds. The national fervour which we felt in our own small way was utilized by him as an instrument of our education, inasmuch as he often appealed to our national sense of honour; for in that way he maintained order and held our attention much more easily than he could have done by any other means. It was because I had such a professor that history became my favourite subject. As a natural consequence, but without the conscious connivance of my professor, I then and there became a young rebel. But who could have studied German history under such a teacher and not become an enemy of that State whose rulers exercised such a disastrous influence on the destinies of the German nation? Finally, how could one remain the faithful subject of the House of Habsburg, whose past history and present conduct proved it to be ready ever and always to betray the interests of the German people for the sake of paltry personal interests? Did not we as youngsters fully realize that the House of Habsburg did not, and could not, have any love for us Germans?
What history taught us about the policy followed by the House of Habsburg was corroborated by our own everyday experiences. In the north and in the south the poison of foreign races was eating into the body of our people, and even Vienna was steadily becoming more and more a non-German city. The ‘Imperial House’ favoured the Czechs on every possible occasion. Indeed it was the hand of the goddess of eternal justice and inexorable retribution that caused the most deadly enemy of Germanism in Austria, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to fall by the very bullets which he himself had helped to cast. Working from above downwards, he was the chief patron of the movement to make Austria a Slav State.
The burdens laid on the shoulders of the German people were enormous and the sacrifices of money and blood which they had to make were incredibly heavy.
Yet anybody who was not quite blind must have seen that it was all in vain. What affected us most bitterly was the consciousness of the fact that this whole system was morally shielded by the alliance with Germany, whereby the slow extirpation of Germanism in the old Austrian Monarchy seemed in some way to be more or less sanctioned by Germany herself. Habsburg hypocrisy, which endeavoured outwardly to make the people believe that Austria still remained a German State, increased the feeling of hatred against the Imperial House and at the same time aroused a spirit of rebellion and contempt.
But in the German Empire itself those who were then its rulers saw nothing of what all this meant. As if struck blind, they stood beside a corpse and in the very symptoms of decomposition they believed that they recognized the signs of a renewed vitality. In that unhappy alliance between the young German Empire and the illusory Austrian State lay the germ of the World War and also of the final collapse.
In the subsequent pages of this book I shall go to the root of the problem. Suffice it to say here that in the very early years of my youth I came to certain conclusions which I have never abandoned. Indeed I became more profoundly convinced of them as the years passed. They were: That the dissolution of the Austrian Empire is a preliminary condition for the defence of Germany; further, that national feeling is by no means identical with dynastic patriotism; finally, and above all, that the House of Habsburg was destined to bring misfortune to the German nation.
As a logical consequence of these convictions, there arose in me a feeling of intense love for my German-Austrian home and a profound hatred for the Austrian State.
That kind of historical thinking which was developed in me through my study of history at school never left me afterwards. World history became more and more an inexhaustible source for the understanding of contemporary historical events, which means politics. Therefore I will not “learn” politics but let politics teach me.
A precocious revolutionary in politics I was no less a precocious revolutionary in art. At that time the provincial capital of Upper Austria had a theatre which, relatively speaking, was not bad. Almost everything was played there. When I was twelve years old I saw William Tell performed. That was my first experience of the theatre. Some months later I attended a performance of Lohengrin, the first opera I had ever heard. I was fascinated at once. My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no limits. Again and again I was drawn to hear his operas; and to-day I consider it a great piece of luck that these modest productions in the little provincial city prepared the way and made it possible for me to appreciate the better productions later on.
But all this helped to intensify my profound aversion for the career that my father had chosen for me; and this dislike became especially strong as the rough corners of youthful boorishness became worn off, a process which in my case caused a good deal of pain. I became more and more convinced that I should never be happy as a State official. And now that the Realschule had recognized and acknowledged my aptitude for drawing, my own resolution became all the stronger. Imprecations and threats had no longer any chance of changing it. I wanted to become a painter and no power in the world could force me to become a civil servant. The only peculiar feature of the situation now was that as I grew bigger I became more and more interested in architecture. I considered this fact as a natural development of my flair for painting and I rejoiced inwardly that the sphere of my artistic interests was thus enlarged. I had no notion that one day it would have to be otherwise.
The question of my career was decided much sooner than I could have expected.
When I was in my thirteenth year my father was suddenly taken from us. He was still in robust health when a stroke of apoplexy painlessly ended his earthly wanderings and left us all deeply bereaved. His most ardent longing was to be able to help his son to advance in a career and thus save me from the harsh ordeal that he himself had to go through. But it appeared to him then as if that longing were all in vain. And yet, though he himself was not conscious of it, he had sown the seeds of a future which neither of us foresaw at that time.
At first nothing changed outwardly.
My mother felt it her duty to continue my education in accordance with my father’s wishes, which meant that she would have me study for the civil service. For my own part I was even more firmly determined than ever before that under no circumstances would I become an official of the State. The curriculum and teaching methods followed in the middle school were so far removed from my ideals that I became profoundly indifferent. Illness suddenly came to my assistance. Within a few weeks it decided my future and put an end to the long-standing family conflict. My lungs became so seriously affected that the doctor advised my mother very strongly not under any circumstances to allow me to take up a career which would necessitate working in an office. He ordered that I should give up attendance at the Realschule for a year at least. What I had secretly desired for such a long time, and had persistently fought for, now became a reality almost at one stroke.
Influenced by my illness, my mother agreed that I should leave the Realschule and attend the Academy.
Those were happy days, which appeared to me almost as a dream; but they were bound to remain only a dream. Two years later my mother’s death put a brutal end to all my fine projects. She succumbed to a long and painful illness which from the very beginning permitted little hope of recovery. Though expected, her death came as a terrible blow to me. I respected my father, but I loved my mother.
Poverty and stern reality forced me to decide promptly.
The meagre resources of the family had been almost entirely used up through my mother’s severe illness. The allowance which came to me as an orphan was not enough for the bare necessities of life. Somehow or other I would have to earn my own bread.
With my clothes and linen packed in a valise and with an indomitable resolution in my heart, I left for Vienna. I hoped to forestall fate, as my father had done fifty years before. I was determined to become ‘something’ – but certainly not a civil servant.
Chapter Two, “Years of Suffering in Vienna”
When my mother died my fate had already been decided in one respect. During the last months of her illness I went to Vienna to take the entrance examination for the Academy of Fine Arts. Armed with a bulky packet of sketches, I felt convinced that I should pass the examination quite easily. At the Realschule I was by far the best student in the drawing class, and since that time I had made more than ordinary progress in the practice of drawing. Therefore I was pleased with myself and was proud and happy at the prospect of what I considered an assured success.
But there was one misgiving: It seemed to me that I was better qualified for drawing than for painting, especially in the various branches of architectural drawing. At the same time my interest in architecture was constantly increasing. And I advanced in this direction at a still more rapid pace after my first visit to Vienna, which lasted two weeks. I was not yet sixteen years old. I went to the Hof Museum to study the paintings in the art gallery there; but the building itself captured almost all my interest, from early morning until late at night I spent all my time visiting the various public buildings. And it was the buildings themselves that were always the principal attraction for me. For hours and hours I could stand in wonderment before the Opera and the Parliament. The whole Ring Strasse had a magic effect upon me, as if it were a scene from the Thousand-and-one-Nights.
And now I was here for the second time in this beautiful city, impatiently waiting to hear the result of the entrance examination but proudly confident that I had got through. I was so convinced of my success that when the news that I had failed to pass was brought to me it struck me like a bolt from the skies. Yet the fact was that I had failed. I went to see the Rector and asked him to explain the reasons why they refused to accept me as a student in the general School of Painting, which was part of the Academy. He said that the sketches which I had brought with me unquestionably showed that painting was not what I was suited for but that the same sketches gave clear indications of my aptitude for architectural designing. Therefore the School of Painting did not come into question for me but rather the School of Architecture, which also formed part of the Academy. At first it was impossible to understand how this could be so, seeing that I had never been to a school for architecture and had never received any instruction in architectural designing.
When I left the Hansen Palace, on the Schiller Platz, I was quite crestfallen. I felt out of sorts with myself for the first time in my young life. For what I had heard about my capabilities now appeared to me as a lightning flash which clearly revealed a dualism under which I had been suffering for a long time, but hitherto I could give no clear account whatsoever of the why and wherefore.
Within a few days I myself also knew that I ought to become an architect. But of course the way was very difficult. I was now forced bitterly to rue my former conduct in neglecting and despising certain subjects at the Realschule. Before taking up the courses at the School of Architecture in the Academy it was necessary to attend the Technical Building School; but a necessary qualification for entrance into this school was a Leaving Certificate from the Middle School. And this I simply did not have. According to the human measure of things my dream of following an artistic calling seemed beyond the limits of possibility.
After the death of my mother I came to Vienna for the third time. This visit was destined to last several years. Since I had been there before I had recovered my old calm and resoluteness. The former self-assurance had come back, and I had my eyes steadily fixed on the goal. I would be an architect. Obstacles are placed across our path in life, not to be boggled at but to be surmounted. And I was fully determined to surmount these obstacles, having the picture of my father constantly before my mind, who had raised himself by his own efforts to the position of a civil servant though he was the poor son of a village shoemaker. I had a better start, and the possibilities of struggling through were better. At that time my lot in life seemed to me a harsh one; but to-day I see in it the wise workings of Providence. The Goddess of Fate clutched me in her hands and often threatened to smash me; but the will grew stronger as the obstacles increased, and finally the will triumphed.
I am thankful for that period of my life, because it hardened me and enabled me to be as tough as I now am. And I am even more thankful because I appreciate the fact that I was thus saved from the emptiness of a life of ease and that a mother’s darling was taken from tender arms and handed over to Adversity as to a new mother. Though I then rebelled against it as too hard a fate, I am grateful that I was thrown into a world of misery and poverty and thus came to know the people for whom I was afterwards to fight.
It was during this period that my eyes were opened to two perils, the names of which I scarcely knew hitherto and had no notion whatsoever of their terrible significance for the existence of the German people. These two perils were Marxism and Judaism.
For many people the name of Vienna signifies innocent jollity, a festive place for happy mortals. For me, alas, it is a living memory of the saddest period in my life. Even to-day the mention of that city arouses only gloomy thoughts in my mind. Five years of poverty in that Phaecian 5) town. Five years in which, first as a casual labourer and then as a painter of little trifles, I had to earn my daily bread. And a meagre morsel indeed it was, not even sufficient to still the hunger which I constantly felt. That hunger was the faithful guardian which never left me but took part in everything I did. Every book that I bought meant renewed hunger, and every visit I paid to the opera meant the intrusion of that inalienabl companion during the following days. I was always struggling with my unsympathic friend. And yet during that time I learned more than I had ever learned before. Outside my architectural studies and rare visits to the opera, for which I had to deny myself food, I had no other pleasure in life except my books.
I read a great deal then, and I pondered deeply over what I read. All the free time after work was devoted exclusively to study. Thus within a few years I was able to acquire a stock of knowledge which I find useful even to-day.
But more than that. During those years a view of life and a definite outlook on the world took shape in my mind. These became the granite basis of my conduct at that time. Since then I have extended that foundation only very little, and I have changed nothing in it.
On the contrary: I am firmly convinced to-day that, generally speaking, it is in youth that men lay the essential groundwork of their creative thought, wherever that creative thought exists. I make a distinction between the wisdom of age – which can only arise from the greater profundity and foresight that are based on the experiences of a long life – and the creative genius of youth, which blossoms out in thought and ideas with inexhaustible fertility, without being able to put these into practice immediately, because of their very superabundance. These furnish the building materials and plans for the future; and it is from them that age takes the stones and builds the edifice, unless the so-called wisdom of the years may have smothered the creative genius of youth.
The life which I had hitherto led at home with my parents differed in little or nothing from that of all the others. I looked forward without apprehension to the morrow, and there was no such thing as a social problem to be faced. Those among whom I passed my young days belonged to the small bourgeois class. Therefore it was a world that had very little contact with the world of genuine manual labourers. For, though at first this may appear astonishing, the ditch which separates that class, which is by no means economically well-off; from the manual labouring class is often deeper than people think. The reason for this division, which we may almost call enmity, lies in the fear that dominates a social group which has only just risen above the level of the manual labourer – a fear lest it may fall back into its old condition or at least be classed with the labourers. Moreover, there is something repulsive in remembering the cultural indigence of that lower class and their rough manners with one another; so that people who are only on the first rung of the social ladder find it unbearable to be forced to have any contact with the cultural level and standard of living out of which they have passed.
And so it happens that very often those who belong to what can really be called the upper classes find it much easier than do the upstarts to descend to and intermingle with their fellow beings on the lowest social level. For by the word upstart I mean everyone who has raised himself through his own efforts to a social level higher than that to which he formerly belonged. In the case of such a person the hard struggle through which he passes often destroys his normal human sympathy. His own fight for existence kills his sensibility for the misery of those who have been left behind.
From this point of view fate had been kind to me. Circumstances forced me to return to that world of poverty and economic insecurity above which my father had raised himself in his early days; and thus the blinkers of a narrow petit bourgeois education were torn from my eyes. Now for the first time I learned to know men and I learned to distinguish between empty appearances or brutal manners and the real inner nature of the people who outwardly appeared thus.
At the beginning of the century Vienna had already taken rank among those cities where social conditions are iniquitous. Dazzling riches and loathsome destitution were intermingled in violent contrast. In the centre and in the Inner City one felt the pulse-beat of an Empire which had a population of fiity-two millions, with all the perilous charm of a State made up of multiple nationalities. The dazzling splendour of the Court acted like a magnet on the wealth and intelligence of the whole Empire. And this attraction was further strengthened by the dynastic policy of the Habsburg Monarchy in centralizing everything in itself and for itself.
This centralizing policy was necessary in order to hold together that hotchpotch of heterogeneous nationalities. But the result of it was an extraordinary concentration of higher officials in the city, which was at one and the same time the metropolis and imperial residence.
But Vienna was not merely the political and intellectual centre of the Danubian Monarchy; it was also the commercial centre. Besides the horde of military officers of high rank, State officials, artists and scientists, there was the still vaster horde of workers. Abject poverty confronted the wealth of the aristocracy and the merchant class face to face. Thousands of unemployed loitered in front of the palaces on the Ring Strasse; and below that Via Triumphalis of the old Austria the homeless huddled together in the murk and filth of the canals.
There was hardly any other German city in which the social problem could be studied better than in Vienna. But here I must utter a warning against the illusion that this problem can be ‘studied’ from above downwards. The man who has never been in the clutches of that crushing viper can never know what its poison is. An attempt to study it in any other way will result only in superficial talk and sentimental delusions. Both are harmful. The first because it can never go to the root of the question, the second because it evades the question entirely. I do not know which is the more nefarious: to ignore social distress, as do the majority of those who have been favoured by fortune and those who have risen in the social scale through their own routine labour, or the equally supercilious and often tactless but always genteel condescension displayed by people who make a fad of being charitable and who plume themselves on ‘sympathising with the people.’ Of course such persons sin more than they can imagine from lack of instinctive understanding. And thus they are astonished to find that the ‘social conscience’ on which they pride themselves never produces any results, but often causes their good intentions to be resented; and then they talk of the ingratitude of the people.
Such persons are slow to learn that here there is no place for merely social activities and that there can be no expectation of gratitude; for in this connection there is no question at all of distributing favours but essentially a matter of retributive justice. I was protected against the temptation to study the social question in the way just mentioned, for the simple reason that I was forced to live in the midst of poverty-stricken people. Therefore it was not a question of studying the problem objectively, but rather one of testing its effects on myself. Though the rabbit came through the ordeal of the experiment, this must not be taken as evidence of its harmlessness.
When I try to-day to recall the succession of impressions received during that time I find that I can do so only with approximate completeness. Here I shall describe only the more essential impressions and those which personally affected me and often staggered me. And I shall mention the few lessons I then learned from this experience.
At that time it was for the most part not very difficult to find work, because I had to seek work not as a skilled tradesman but as a so-called extra-hand ready to take any job that turned up by chance, just for the sake of earning my daily bread.
Thus I found myself in the same situation as all those emigrants who shake the dust of Europe from their feet, with the cast-iron determination to lay the foundations of a new existence in the New World and acquire for themselves a new home. Liberated from all the paralysing prejudices of class and calling, environment and tradition, they enter any service that opens its doors to them, accepting any work that comes their way, filled more and more with the idea that honest work never disgraced anybody, no matter what kind it may be. And so I was resolved to set both feet in what was for me a new world and push forward on my own road.
I soon found out that there was some kind of work always to be got, but I also learned that it could just as quickly and easily be lost. The uncertainty of being able to earn a regular daily livelihood soon appeared to me as the gloomiest feature in this new life that I had entered.
Although the skilled worker was not so frequently thrown idle on the streets as the unskilled worker, yet the former was by no means protected against the same fate; because though he may not have to face hunger as a result of unemployment due to the lack of demand in the labour market, the lock-out and the strike deprived the skilled worker of the chance to earn his bread. Here the element of uncertainty in steadily earning one’s daily bread was the bitterest feature of the whole social-economic system itself.
The country lad who migrates to the big city feels attracted by what has been described as easy work – which it may be in reality – and few working hours. He is especially entranced by the magic glimmer spread over the big cities. Accustomed in the country to earn a steady wage, he has been taught not to quit his former post until a new one is at least in sight. As there is a great scarcity of agricultural labour, the probability of long unemployment in the country has been very small. It is a mistake to presume that the lad who leaves the countryside for the town is not made of such sound material as those who remain at home to work on the land. On the contrary, experience shows that it is the more healthy and more vigorous that emigrate, and not the reverse. Among these emigrants I include not merely those who emigrate to America, but also the servant boy in the country who decides to leave his native village and migrate to the big city where he will be a stranger. He is ready to take the risk of an uncertain fate. In most cases he comes to town with a little money in his pocket and for the first few days he is not discouraged if he should not have the good fortune to find work. But if he finds a job and then loses it in a little while, the case is much worse. To find work anew, especially in winter, is often difficult and indeed sometimes impossible. For the first few weeks life is still bearable He receives his out-of-work money from his trade union and is thus enabled to carry on. But when the last of his own money is gone and his trade union ceases to pay out because of the prolonged unemployment, then comes the real distress. He now loiters about and is hungry. Often he pawns or sells the last of his belongings. His clothes begin to get shabby and with the increasing poverty of his outward appearance he descends to a lower social level and mixes up with a class of human beings through whom his mind is now poisoned, in addition to his physical misery. Then he has nowhere to sleep and if that happens in winter, which is very often the case, he is in dire distress. Finally he gets work. But the old story repeats itself. A second time the same thing happens. Then a third time; and now it is probably much worse. Little by little he becomes indifferent to this everlasting insecurity. Finally he grows used to the repetition. Thus even a man who is normally of industrious habits grows careless in his whole attitude towards life and gradually becomes an instrument in the hands of unscrupulous people who exploit him for the sake of their own ignoble aims. He has been so often thrown out of employment through no fault of his own that he is now more or less indifferent whether the strike in which he takes part be for the purpose of securing his economic rights or be aimed at the destruction of the State, the whole social order and even civilization itself. Though the idea of going on strike may not be to his natural liking, yet he joins in it out of sheer indifference.
I saw this process exemplified before my eyes in thousands of cases. And the longer I observed it the greater became my dislike for that mammoth city which greedily attracts men to its bosom, in order to break them mercilessly in the end. When they came they still felt themselves in communion with their own people at home; if they remained that tie was broken.
I was thrown about so much in the life of the metropolis that I experienced the workings of this fate in my own person and felt the effects of it in my own soul. One thing stood out clearly before my eyes: It was the sudden changes from work to idleness and vice versa; so that the constant fluctuations thus caused by earnings and expenditure finally destroyed the ‘sense of thrift for many people and also the habit of regulating expenditure in an intelligent way. The body appeared to grow accustomed to the vicissitudes of food and hunger, eating heartily in good times and going hungry in bad. Indeed hunger shatters all plans for rationing expenditure on a regular scale in better times when employment is again found. The reason for this is that the deprivations which the unemployed worker has to endure must be compensated for psychologically by a persistent mental mirage in which he imagines himself eating heartily once again. And this dream develops into such a longing that it turns into a morbid impulse to cast off all self-restraint when work and wages turn up again. Therefore the moment work is found anew he forgets to regulate the expenditure of his earnings but spends them to the full without thinking of to-morrow. This leads to confusion in the little weekly housekeeping budget, because the expenditure is not rationally planned. When the phenomenon which I have mentioned first happens, the earnings will last perhaps for five days instead of seven; on subsequent occasions they will last only for three days; as the habit recurs, the earnings will last scarcely for a day; and finally they will disappear in one night of feasting.
Often there are wife and children at home. And in many cases it happens that these become infected by such a way of living, especially if the husband is good to them and wants to do the best he can for them and loves them in his own way and according to his own lights. Then the week’s earnings are spent in common at home within two or three days. The family eat and drink together as long as the money lasts and at the end of the week they hunger together. Then the wife wanders about furtively in the neighbourhood, borrows a little, and runs up small debts with the shopkeepers in an effort to pull through the lean days towards the end of the week. They sit down together to the midday meal with only meagre fare on the table, and often even nothing to eat. They wait for the coming payday, talking of it and making plans; and while they are thus hungry they dream of the plenty that is to come. And so the little children become acquainted with misery in their early years.
But the evil culminates when the husband goes his own way from the beginning of the week and the wife protests, simply out of love for the children. Then there are quarrels and bad feeling and the husband takes to drink according as he becomes estranged from his wife. He now becomes drunk every Saturday. Fighting for her own existence and that of the children, the wife has to hound him along the road from the factory to the tavern in order to get a few shillings from him on payday. Then when he finally comes home, maybe on the Sunday or the Monday, having parted with his last shillings and pence, pitiable scenes follow, scenes that cry out for God’s mercy.
I have had actual experience of all this in hundreds of cases. At first I was disgusted and indignant; but later on I came to recognize the whole tragedy of their misfortune and to understand the profound causes of it. They were the unhappy victims of evil circumstances.
Housing conditions were very bad at that time. The Vienna manual labourers lived in surroundings of appalling misery. I shudder even to-day when I think of the woeful dens in which people dwelt, the night shelters and the slums, and all the tenebrous spectacles of ordure, loathsome filth and wickedness.
What will happen one day when hordes of emancipated slaves come forth from these dens of misery to swoop down on their unsuspecting fellow men? For this other world does not think about such a possibility. They have allowed these things to go on without caring and even without suspecting – in their total lack of instinctive understanding – that sooner or later destiny will take its vengeance unless it will have been appeased in time.
To-day I fervidly thank Providence for having sent me to such a school. There I could not refuse to take an interest in matters that did not please me. This school soon taught me a profound lesson.
In order not to despair completely of the people among whom I then lived I had to set on one side the outward appearances of their lives and on the other the reasons why they had developed in that way. Then I could hear everything without discouragement; for those who emerged from all this misfortune and misery, from this filth and outward degradation, were not human beings as such but rather lamentable results of lamentable laws. In my own life similar hardships prevented me from giving way to a pitying sentimentality at the sight of these degraded products which had finally resulted from the pressure of circumstances. No, the sentimental attitude would be the wrong one to adopt.
Even in those days I already saw that there was a two-fold method by which alone it would be possible to bring about an amelioration of these conditions. This method is: first, to create better fundamental conditions of social development by establishing a profound feeling for social responsibilities among the public; second, to combine this feeling for social responsibilities with a ruthless determination to prune away all excrescences which are incapable of being improved.
Just as Nature concentrates its greatest attention, not to the maintenance of what already exists but on the selective breeding of offspring in order to carry on the species, so in human life also it is less a matter of artificially improving the existing generation – which, owing to human characteristics, is impossible in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred – and more a matter of securing from the very start a better road for future development.
During my struggle for existence in Vienna I perceived very clearly that the aim of all social activity must never be merely charitable relief, which is ridiculous and useless, but it must rather be a means to find a way of eliminating the fundamental deficiencies in our economic and cultural life – deficiencies which necessarily bring about the degradation of the individual or at least lead him towards such degradation. The difficulty of employing every means, even the most drastic, to eradicate the hostility prevailing among the working classes towards the State is largely due to an attitude of uncertainty in deciding upon the inner motives and causes of this contemporary phenomenon. The grounds of this uncertainty are to be found exclusively in the sense of guilt which each individual feels for having permitted this tragedy of degradation. For that feeling paralyses every effort at making a serious and firm decision to act. And thus because the people whom it concerns are vacillating they are timid and half-hearted in putting into effect even the measures which are indispensable for self-preservation. When the individual is no longer burdened with his own consciousness of blame in this regard, then and only then will he have that inner tranquillity and outer force to cut off drastically and ruthlessly all the parasite growth and root out the weeds.
But because the Austrian State had almost no sense of social rights or social legislation its inability to abolish those evil excrescences was manifest.
I do not know what it was that appalled me most at that time: the economic misery of those who were then my companions, their crude customs and morals, or the low level of their intellectual culture.
How often our bourgeoisie rises up in moral indignation on hearing from the mouth of some pitiable tramp that it is all the same to him whether he be a German or not and that he will find himself at home wherever he can get enough to keep body and soul together. They protest sternly against such a lack of ‘national pride’ and strongly express their horror at such sentiments.
But how many people really ask themselves why it is that their own sentiments are better? How many of them understand that their natural pride in being members of so favoured a nation arises from the innumerable succession of instances they have encountered which remind them of the greatness of the Fatherland and the Nation in all spheres of artistic and cultural life? How many of them realize that pride in the Fatherland is largely dependent on knowledge of its greatness in all those spheres? Do our bourgeois circles ever think what a ridiculously meagre share the people have in that knowledge which is a necessary prerequisite for the feeling of pride in one’s fatherland?
It cannot be objected here that in other countries similar conditions exist and that nevertheless the working classes in those countries have remained patriotic. Even if that were so, it would be no excuse for our negligent attitude. But it is not so. What we call chauvinistic education – in the case of the French people, for example – is only the excessive exaltation of the greatness of France in all spheres of culture or, as the French say, civilization. The French boy is not educated on purely objective principles. Wherever the importance of the political and cultural greatness of his country is concerned he is taught in the most subjective way that one can imagine.
This education will always have to be confined to general ideas in a large perspective and these ought to be deeply engraven, by constant repetition if necessary, on the memories and feelings of the people.
In our case, however, we are not merely guilty of negative sins of omission but also of positively perverting the little which some individuals had the luck to learn at school. The rats that poison our body-politic gnaw from the hearts and memories of the broad masses even that little which distress and misery have left.
Let the reader try to picture the following:
There is a lodging in a cellar and this lodging consists of two damp rooms. In these rooms a workman and his family live – seven people in all. Let us assume that one of the children is a boy of three years. That is the age at which children first become conscious of the impressions which they receive. In the case of highly gifted people traces of the impressions received in those early years last in the memory up to an advanced age. Now the narrowness and congestion of those living quarters do not conduce to pleasant inter-relations. Thus quarrels and fits of mutual anger arise. These people can hardly be said to live with one another, but rather down on top of one another. The small misunderstandings which disappear of themselves in a home where there is enough space for people to go apart from one another for a while, here become the source of chronic disputes. As far as the children are concerned the situation is tolerable from this point of view. In such conditions they are constantly quarrelling with one another, but the quarrels are quickly and entirely forgotten. But when the parents fall out with one another these daily bickerings often descend to rudeness such as cannot be adequately imagined. The results of such experiences must become apparent later on in the children. One must have practical experience of such a milieu so as to be able to picture the state of affairs that arises from these mutual recriminations when the father physically assaults the mother and maltreats her in a fit of drunken rage. At the age of six the child can no longer ignore those sordid details which even an adult would find revolting. Infected with moral poison, bodily undernourished, and the poor little head filled with vermin, the young ‘citizen’ goes to the primary school. With difficulty he barely learns to read and write. There is no possibility of learning any lessons at home. Quite the contrary. The father and mother themselves talk before the children in the most disparaging way about the teacher and the school and they are much more inclined to insult the teachers than to put their offspring across the knee and knock sound reason into him. What the little fellow hears at home does not tend to increase respect for his human surroundings. Here nothing good is said of human nature as a whole and every institution, from the school to the government, is reviled. Whether religion and morals are concerned or the State and the social order, it is all the same; they are all scoffed at. When the young lad leaves school, at the age of fourteen, it would be difficult to say what are the most striking features of his character, incredible ignorance in so far as real knowledge is concerned or cynical impudence combined with an attitude towards morality which is really startling at so young an age.
What station in life can such a person fill, to whom nothing is sacred, who has never experienced anything noble but, on the contrary, has been intimately acquainted with the lowest kind of human existence? This child of three has got into the habit of reviling all authority by the time he is fifteen. He has been acquainted only with moral filth and vileness, everything being excluded that might stimulate his thought towards higher things. And now this young specimen of humanity enters the school of life.
He leads the same kind of life which was exemplified for him by his father during his childhood. He loiters about and comes home at all hours. He now even black-guards that broken-hearted being who gave him birth. He curses God and the world and finally ends up in a House of Correction for young people. There he gets the final polish.
And his bourgeois contemporaries are astonished at the lack of ‘patriotic enthusiasm’ which this young ‘citizen’ manifests.
Day after day the bourgeois world are witnesses to the phenomenon of spreading poison among the people through the instrumentality of the theatre and the cinema, gutter journalism and obscene books; and yet they are astonished at the deplorable ‘moral standards’ and ‘national indifference’ of the masses. As if the cinema bilge and the gutter press and suchlike could inculcate knowledge of the greatness of one’s country, apart entirely from the earlier education of the individual.
I then came to understand, quickly and thoroughly, what I had never been aware of before. It was the following:
The question of ‘nationalizing’ a people is first and foremost one of establishing healthy social conditions which will furnish the grounds that are necessary for the education of the individual. For only when family upbringing and school education have inculcated in the individual a knowledge of the cultural and economic and, above all, the political greatness of his own country – then, and then only, will it be possible for him to feel proud of being a citizen of such a country. I can fight only for something that I love. I can love only what I respect. And in order to respect a thing I must at least have some knowledge of it.
As soon as my interest in social questions was once awakened I began to study them in a fundamental way. A new and hitherto unknown world was thus revealed to me.
In the years 1909-10 I had so far improved my, position that I no longer had to earn my daily bread as a manual labourer. I was now working independently as draughtsman, and painter in water colours. This métier was a poor one indeed as far as earnings were concerned; for these were only sufficient to meet the bare exigencies of life. Yet it had an interest for me in view of the profession to which I aspired. Moreover, when I came home in the evenings I was now no longer dead-tired as formerly, when I used to be unable to look into a book without falling asleep almost immediately. My present occupation therefore was in line with the profession I aimed at for the future. Moreover, I was master of my own time and could distribute my working-hours now better than formerly. I painted in order to earn my bread, and I studied because I liked it.
Thus I was able to acquire that theoretical knowledge of the social problem which was a necessary complement to what I was learning through actual experience. I studied all the books which I could find that dealt with this question and I thought deeply on what I read. I think that the milieu in which I then lived considered me an eccentric person.
Besides my interest in the social question I naturally devoted myself with enthusiasm to the study of architecture. Side by side with music, I considered it queen of the arts. To study it was for me not work but pleasure. I could read or draw until the small hours of the morning without ever getting tired. And I became more and more confident that my dream of a brilliant future would become true, even though I should have to wait long years for its fulfilment. I was firmly convinced that one day I should make a name for myself as an architect.
The fact that, side by side with my professional studies, I took the greatest interest in everything that had to do with politics did not seem to me to signify anything of great importance. On the contrary: I looked upon this practical interest in politics merely as part of an elementary obligation that devolves on every thinking man. Those who have no understanding of the political world around them have no right to criticize or complain. On political questions therefore I still continued to read and study a great deal. But reading had probably a different significance for me from that which it has for the average run of our so-called ‘intellectuals’.
I know people who read interminably, book after book, from page to page, and yet I should not call them ‘well-read people’. Of course they ‘know’ an immense amount; but their brain seems incapable of assorting and classifying the material which they have gathered from books. They have not the faculty of distinguishing between what is useful and useless in a book; so that they may retain the former in their minds and if possible skip over the latter while reading it, if that be not possible, then – when once read – throw it overboard as useless ballast. Reading is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Its chief purpose is to help towards filling in the framework which is made up of the talents and capabilities that each individual possesses. Thus each one procures for himself the implements and materials necessary for the fulfilment of his calling in life, no matter whether this be the elementary task of earning one’s daily bread or a calling that responds to higher human aspirations. Such is the first purpose of reading. And the second purpose is to give a general knowledge of the world in which we live. In both cases, however, the material which one has acquired through reading must not be stored up in the memory on a plan that corresponds to the successive chapters of the book; but each little piece of knowledge thus gained must be treated as if it were a little stone to be inserted into a mosaic, so that it finds its proper place among all the other pieces and particles that help to form a general world-picture in the brain of the reader. Otherwise only a confused jumble of chaotic notions will result from all this reading. That jumble is not merely useless, but it also tends to make the unfortunate possessor of it conceited. For he seriously considers himself a well-educated person and thinks that he understands something of life. He believes that he has acquired knowledge, whereas the truth is that every increase in such ‘knowledge’ draws him more and more away from real life, until he finally ends up in some sanatorium or takes to politics and becomes a parliamentary deputy.
Such a person never succeeds in turning his knowledge to practical account when the opportune moment arrives; for his mental equipment is not ordered with a view to meeting the demands of everyday life. His knowledge is stored in his brain as a literal transcript of the books he has read and the order of succession in which he has read them. And if Fate should one day call upon him to use some of his book-knowledge for certain practical ends in life that very call will have to name the book and give the number of the page; for the poor noodle himself would never be able to find the spot where he gathered the information now called for. But if the page is not mentioned at the critical moment the widely-read intellectual will find himself in a state of hopeless embarrassment. In a high state of agitation he searches for analogous cases and it is almost a dead certainty that he will finally deliver the wrong prescription.
If that is not a correct description, then how can we explain the political achievements of our Parliamentary heroes who hold the highest positions in the government of the country? Otherwise we should have to attribute the doings of such political leaders, not to pathological conditions but simply to malice and chicanery.
On the other hand, one who has cultivated the art of reading will instantly discern, in a book or journal or pamphlet, what ought to be remembered because it meets one’s personal needs or is of value as general knowledge. What he thus learns is incorporated in his mental analogue of this or that problem or thing, further correcting the mental picture or enlarging it so that it becomes more exact and precise. Should some practical problem suddenly demand examination or solution, memory will immediately select the opportune information from the mass that has been acquired through years of reading and will place this information at the service of one’s powers of judgment so as to get a new and clearer view of the problem in question or produce a definitive solution.
Only thus can reading have any meaning or be worth while.
The speaker, for example, who has not the sources of information ready to hand which are necessary to a proper treatment of his subject is unable to defend his opinions against an opponent, even though those opinions be perfectly sound and true. In every discussion his memory will leave him shamefully in the lurch. He cannot summon up arguments to support his statements or to refute his opponent. So long as the speaker has only to defend himself on his own personal account, the situation is not serious; but the evil comes when Chance places at the head of public affairs such a soi-disant know-it-all, who in reality knows nothing.
From early youth I endeavoured to read books in the right way and I was fortunate in having a good memory and intelligence to assist me. From that point of view my sojourn in Vienna was particularly useful and profitable. My experiences of everyday life there were a constant stimulus to study the most diverse problems from new angles. Inasmuch as I was in a position to put theory to the test of reality and reality to the test of theory, I was safe from the danger of pedantic theorizing on the one hand and, on the other, from being too impressed by the superficial aspects of reality.
The experience of everyday life at that time determined me to make a fundamental theoretical study of two most important questions outside of the social question.
It is impossible to say when I might have started to make a thorough study of the doctrine and characteristics of Marxism were it not for the fact that I then literally ran head foremost into the problem.
What I knew of Social Democracy in my youth was precious little and that little was for the most part wrong. The fact that it led the struggle for universal suffrage and the secret ballot gave me an inner satisfaction; for my reason then told me that this would weaken the Habsburg regime, which I so thoroughly detested. I was convinced that even if it should sacrifice the German element the Danubian State could not continue to exist. Even at the price of a long and slow Slaviz-ation of the Austrian Germans the State would secure no guarantee of a really durable Empire; because it was very questionable if and how far the Slavs possessed the necessary capacity for constructive politics. Therefore I welcomed every movement that might lead towards the final disruption of that impossible State which had decreed that it would stamp out the German character in ten millions of people. The more this babel of tongues wrought discord and disruption, even in the Parliament, the nearer the hour approached for the dissolution of this Babylonian Empire. That would mean the liberation of my German Austrian people, and only then would it become possible for them to be re-united to the Motherland.
Accordingly I had no feelings of antipathy towards the actual policy of the Social Democrats. That its avowed purpose was to raise the level of the working classes – which in my ignorance I then foolishly believed – was a further reason why I should speak in favour of Social Democracy rather than against it. But the features that contributed most to estrange me from the Social Democratic movement was its hostile attitude towards the struggle for the conservation of Germanism in Austria, its lamentable cocotting with the Slav ‘comrades’, who received these approaches favourably as long as any practical advantages were forthcoming but otherwise maintained a haughty reserve, thus giving the importunate mendicants the sort of answer their behaviour deserved.
And so at the age of seventeen the word ‘Marxism’ was very little known to me, while I looked on ‘Social Democracy’ and ‘Socialism’ as synonymous expressions. It was only as the result of a sudden blow from the rough hand of Fate that my eyes were opened to the nature of this unparalleled system for duping the public.
Hitherto my acquaintance with the Social Democratic Party was only that of a mere spectator at some of their mass meetings. I had not the slightest idea of the social-democratic teaching or the mentality of its partisans. All of a sudden I was brought face to face with the products of their teaching and what they called their Weltanschhauung. In this way a few months sufficed for me to learn something which under other circumstances might have necessitated decades of study – namely, that under the cloak of social virtue and love of one’s neighbour a veritable pestilence was spreading abroad and that if this pestilence be not stamped out of the world without delay it may eventually succeed in exterminating the human race.
I first came into contact with the Social Democrats while working in the building trade.
From the very time that I started work the situation was not very pleasant for me. My clothes were still rather decent. I was careful of my speech and I was reserved in manner. I was so occupied with thinking of my own present lot and future possibilities that I did not take much of an interest in my immediate surroundings. I had sought work so that I shouldn’t starve and at the same time so as to be able to make further headway with my studies, though this headway might be slow. Possibly I should not have bothered to be interested in my companions were it not that on the third or fourth day an event occurred which forced me to take a definite stand. I was ordered to join the trade union.
At that time I knew nothing about the trades unions. I had had no opportunity of forming an opinion on their utility or inutility, as the case might be. But when I was told that I must join the union I refused. The grounds which I gave for my refusal were simply that I knew nothing about the matter and that anyhow I would not allow myself to be forced into anything. Probably the former reason saved me from being thrown out right away. They probably thought that within a few days I might be converted’ and become more docile. But if they thought that they were profoundly mistaken. After two weeks I found it utterly impossible for me to take such a step, even if I had been willing to take it at first. During those fourteen days I came to know my fellow workmen better, and no power in the world could have moved me to join an organization whose representatives had meanwhile shown themselves in a light which I found so unfavourable.
During the first days my resentment was aroused.
At midday some of my fellow workers used to adjourn to the nearest tavern, while the others remained on the building premises and there ate their midday meal, which in most cases was a very scanty one. These were married men. Their wives brought them the midday soup in dilapidated vessels. Towards the end of the week there was a gradual increase in the number of those who remained to eat their midday meal on the building premises. I understood the reason for this afterwards. They now talked politics.
I drank my bottle of milk and ate my morsel of bread somewhere on the outskirts, while I circumspectly studied my environment or else fell to meditating on my own harsh lot. Yet I heard more than enough. And I often thought that some of what they said was meant for my ears, in the hope of bringing me to a decision. But all that I heard had the effect of arousing the strongest antagonism in me. Everything was disparaged – the nation, because it was held to be an invention of the ‘capitalist’ class (how often I had to listen to that phrase!); the Fatherland, because it was held to be an instrument in the hands of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of’ the working masses; the authority of the law, because that was a means of holding down the proletariat; religion, as a means of doping the people, so as to exploit them afterwards; morality, as a badge of stupid and sheepish docility. There was nothing that they did not drag in the mud.
At first I remained silent; but that could not last very long. Then I began to take part in the discussion and to reply to their statements. I had to recognize, however, that this was bound to be entirely fruitless, as long as I did not have at least a certain amount of definite information about the questions that were discussed. So I decided to consult the source from which my interlocutors claimed to have drawn their so-called wisdom. I devoured book after book, pamphlet after pamphlet.
Meanwhile, we argued with one another on the building premises. From day to day I was becoming better informed than my companions in the subjects on which they claimed to be experts. Then a day came when the more redoubtable of my adversaries resorted to the most effective weapon they had to replace the force of reason. This was intimidation and physical force. Some of the leaders among my adversaries ordered me to leave the building or else get flung down from the scaffolding. As I was quite alone I could not put up any physical resistance; so I chose the first alternative and departed, richer however by an experience.
I went away full of disgust; but at the same time so deeply moved that it was quite impossible for me to turn my back on the whole situation and think no more about it. When my anger began to calm down the spirit of obstinacy got the upper hand and I decided that at all costs I would get back to work again in the building trade. This decision became all the stronger a few weeks later, when my little savings had entirely run out and hunger clutched me once again in its merciless arms. No alternative was left to me. I got work again and had to leave it for the same reasons as before.
Then I asked myself: Are these men worthy of belonging to a great people? The question was profoundly disturbing; for if the answer were ‘Yes’, then the struggle to defend one’s nationality is no longer worth all the trouble and sacrifice we demand of our best elements if it be in the interests of such a rabble. On the other hand, if the answer had to be ‘No – these men are not worthy of the nation’, then our nation is poor indeed in men. During those days of mental anguish and deep meditation I saw before my mind the ever-increasing and menacing army of people who could no longer be reckoned as belonging to their own nation.
It was with quite a different feeling, some days later, that I gazed on the interminable ranks, four abreast, of Viennese workmen parading at a mass demonstration. I stood dumbfounded for almost two hours, watching that enormous human dragon which slowly uncoiled itself there before me. When I finally left the square and wandered in the direction of my lodgings I felt dismayed and depressed. On my way I noticed the Arbeiterzeitung (The Workman’s Journal) in a tobacco shop. This was the chief press-organ of the old Austrian Social Democracy. In a cheap café, where the common people used to foregather and where I often went to read the papers, the Arbeiterzeitung was also displayed. But hitherto I could not bring myself to do more than glance at the wretched thing for a couple of minutes: for its whole tone was a sort of mental vitriol to me. Under the depressing influence of the demonstration I had witnessed, some interior voice urged me to buy the paper in that tobacco shop and read it through. So I brought it home with me and spent the whole evening reading it, despite the steadily mounting rage provoked by this ceaseless outpouring of falsehoods.
I now found that in the social democratic daily papers I could study the inner character of this politico-philosophic system much better than in all their theoretical literature.
For there was a striking discrepancy between the two. In the literary effusions which dealt with the theory of Social Democracy there was a display of high-sounding phraseology about liberty and human dignity and beauty, all promulgated with an air of profound wisdom and serene prophetic assurance; a meticulously-woven glitter of words to dazzle and mislead the reader. On the other hand, the daily Press inculcated this new doctrine of human redemption in the most brutal fashion. No means were too base, provided they could be exploited in the campaign of slander. These journalists were real virtuosos in the art of twisting facts and presenting them in a deceptive form. The theoretical literature was intended for the simpletons of the soi-disant intellectuals belonging to the middle and, naturally, the upper classes. The newspaper propaganda was intended for the masses.
This probing into books and newspapers and studying the teachings of Social Democracy reawakened my love for my own people. And thus what at first seemed an impassable chasm became the occasion of a closer affection.
Having once understood the working of the colossal system for poisoning the popular mind, only a fool could blame the victims of it. During the years that followed I became more independent and, as I did so, I became better able to understand the inner cause of the success achieved by this Social Democratic gospel. I now realized the meaning and purpose of those brutal orders which prohibited the reading of all books and newspapers that were not ‘red’ and at the same time demanded that only the ‘red’ meetings should be attended. In the clear light of brutal reality I was able to see what must have been the inevitable consequences of that intolerant teaching.
The psyche of the broad masses is accessible only to what is strong and uncompromising. Like a woman whose inner sensibilities are not so much under the sway of abstract reasoning but are always subject to the influence of a vague emotional longing for the strength that completes her being, and who would rather bow to the strong man than dominate the weakling – in like manner the masses of the people prefer the ruler to the suppliant and are filled with a stronger sense of mental security by a teaching that brooks no rival than by a teaching which offers them a liberal choice. They have very little idea of how to make such a choice and thus they are prone to feel that they have been abandoned. They feel very little shame at being terrorized intellectually and they are scarcely conscious of the fact that their freedom as human beings is impudently abused; and thus they have not the slightest suspicion of the intrinsic fallacy of the whole doctrine. They see only the ruthless force and brutality of its determined utterances, to which they always submit.
If Social Democracy should be opposed by a more truthful teaching, then even, though the struggle be of the bitterest kind, this truthful teaching will finally prevail provided it be enforced with equal ruthlessness.
Within less than two years I had gained a clear understanding of Social Democracy, in its teaching and the technique of its operations.
I recognized the infamy of that technique whereby the movement carried on a campaign of mental terrorism against the bourgeoisie, who are neither morally nor spiritually equipped to withstand such attacks. The tactics of Social Democracy consisted in opening, at a given signal, a veritable drum-fire of lies and calumnies against the man whom they believed to be the most redoubtable of their adversaries, until the nerves of the latter gave way and they sacrificed the man who was attacked, simply in the hope of being allowed to live in peace. But the hope proved always to be a foolish one, for they were never left in peace.
The same tactics are repeated again and again, until fear of these mad dogs exercises, through suggestion, a paralysing effect on their Victims.
Through its own experience Social Democracy learned the value of strength, and for that reason it attacks mostly those in whom it scents stuff of the more stalwart kind, which is indeed a very rare possession. On the other hand it praises every weakling among its adversaries, more or less cautiously, according to the measure of his mental qualities known or presumed. They have less fear of a man of genius who lacks will-power than of a vigorous character with mediocre intelligence and at the same time they highly commend those who are devoid of intelligence and will-power.
The Social Democrats know how to create the impression that they alone are the protectors of peace. In this way, acting very circumspectly but never losing sight of their ultimate goal, they conquer one position after another, at one time by methods of quiet intimidation and at another time by sheer daylight robbery, employing these latter tactics at those moments when public attention is turned towards other matters from which it does not wish to be diverted, or when the public considers an incident too trivial to create a scandal about it and thus provoke the anger of a malignant opponent.
These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human frailties and must lead to success, with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with poison gas. The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be.
I also came to understand that physical intimidation has its significance for the mass as well as for the individual. Here again the Socialists had calculated accurately on the psychological effect.
Intimidation in workshops and in factories, in assembly halls and at mass demonstrations, will always meet with success as long as it does not have to encounter the same kind of terror in a stronger form.
Then of course the Party will raise a horrified outcry, yelling blue murder and appealing to the authority of the State, which they have just repudiated. In doing this their aim generally is to add to the general confusion, so that they may have a better opportunity of reaching their own goal unobserved. Their idea is to find among the higher government officials some bovine creature who, in the stupid hope that he may win the good graces of these awe-inspiring opponents so that they may remember him in case of future eventualities, will help them now to break all those who may oppose this world pest.
The impression which such successful tactics make on the minds of the broad masses, whether they be adherents or opponents, can be estimated only by one who knows the popular mind, not from books but from practical life. For the successes which are thus obtained are taken by the adherents of Social Democracy as a triumphant symbol of the righteousness of their own cause; on the other hand the beaten opponent very often loses faith in the effectiveness of any further resistance.
The more I understood the methods of physical intimidation that were employed, the more sympathy I had for the multitude that had succumbed to it.
I am thankful now for the ordeal which I had to go through at that time; for it was the means of bringing me to think kindly again of my own people, inasmuch as the experience enabled me to distinguish between the false leaders and the victims who have been led astray.
We must look upon the latter simply as victims. I have just now tried to depict a few traits which express the mentality of those on the lowest rung of the social ladder; but my picture would be disproportionate if I do not add that amid the social depths I still found light; for I experienced a rare spirit of self-sacrifice and loyal comradeship among those men, who demanded little from life and were content amid their modest surroundings. This was true especially of the older generation of workmen. And although these qualities were disappearing more and more in the younger generation, owing to the all-pervading influence of the big city, yet among the younger generation also there were many who were sound at the core and who were able to maintain themselves uncontaminated amid the sordid surroundings of their everyday existence. If these men, who in many cases meant well and were upright in themselves, gave the support to the political activities carried on by the common enemies of our people, that was because those decent workpeople did not and could not grasp the downright infamy of the doctrine taught by the socialist agitators. Furthermore, it was because no other section of the community bothered itself about the lot of the working classes. Finally, the social conditions became such that men who otherwise would have acted differently were forced to submit to them, even though unwillingly at first. A day came when poverty gained the upper hand and drove those workmen into the Social Democratic ranks.
On innumerable occasions the bourgeoisie took a definite stand against even the most legitimate human demands of the working classes. That conduct was ill-judged and indeed immoral and could bring no gain whatsoever to the bourgeois class. The result was that the honest workman abandoned the original concept of the trades union organization and was dragged into politics.
There were millions and millions of workmen who began by being hostile to the Social Democratic Party; but their defences were repeatedly stormed and finally they had to surrender. Yet this defeat was due to the stupidity of the bourgeois parties, who had opposed every social demand put forward by the working class. The short-sighted refusal to make an effort towards improving labour conditions, the refusal to adopt measures which would insure the workman in case of accidents in the factories, the refusal to forbid child labour, the refusal to consider protective measures for female workers, especially expectant mothers – all this was of assistance to the Social Democratic leaders, who were thankful for every opportunity which they could exploit for forcing the masses into their net. Our bourgeois parties can never repair the damage that resulted from the mistake they then made. For they sowed the seeds of hatred when they opposed all efforts at social reform. And thus they gave, at least, apparent grounds to justify the claim put forward by the Social Democrats – namely, that they alone stand up for the interests of the working class.
And this became the principal ground for the moral justification of the actual existence of the Trades Unions, so that the labour organization became from that time onwards the chief political recruiting ground to swell the ranks of the Social Democratic Party.
While thus studying the social conditions around me I was forced, whether I liked it or not, to decide on the attitude I should take towards the Trades Unions. Because I looked upon them as inseparable from the Social Democratic Party, my decision was hasty – and mistaken. I repudiated them as a matter of course. But on this essential question also Fate intervened and gave me a lesson, with the result that I changed the opinion which I had first formed.
When I was twenty years old I had learned to distinguish between the Trades Union as a means of defending the social rights of the employees and fighting for better living conditions for them and, on the other hand, the Trades Union as a political instrument used by the Party in the class struggle.
The Social Democrats understood the enormous importance of the Trades Union movement. They appropriated it as an instrument and used it with success, while the bourgeois parties failed to understand it and thus lost their political prestige. They thought that their own arrogant Veto would arrest the logical development of the movement and force it into an illogical position. But it is absurd and also untrue to say that the Trades Union movement is in itself hostile to the nation. The opposite is the more correct view. If the activities of the Trades Union are directed towards improving the condition of a class, and succeed in doing so, such activities are not against the Fatherland or the State but are, in the truest sense of the word, national. In that way the trades union organization helps to create the social conditions which are indispensable in a general system of national education. It deserves high recognition when it destroys the psychological and physical germs of social disease and thus fosters the general welfare of the nation.
It is superfluous to ask whether the Trades Union is indispensable.
So long as there are employers who attack social understanding and have wrong ideas of justice and fair play it is not only the right but also the duty of their employees – who are, after all, an integral part of our people – to protect the general interests against the greed and unreason of the individual. For to safeguard the loyalty and confidence of the people is as much in the interests of the nation as to safeguard public health.
Both are seriously menaced by dishonourable employers who are not conscious of their duty as members of the national community. Their personal avidity or irresponsibility sows the seeds of future trouble. To eliminate the causes of such a development is an action that surely deserves well of the country.
It must not be answered here that the individual workman is free at any time to escape from the consequences of an injustice which he has actually suffered at the hands of an employer, or which he thinks he has suffered – in other words, he can leave. No. That argument is only a ruse to detract attention from the question at issue. Is it, or is it not, in the interests of the nation to remove the causes of social unrest? If it is, then the fight must be carried on with the only weapons that promise success. But the individual workman is never in a position to stand up against the might of the big employer; for the question here is not one that concerns the triumph of right. If in such a relation right had been recognized as the guiding principle, then the conflict could not have arisen at all. But here it is a question of who is the stronger. If the case were otherwise, the sentiment of justice alone would solve the dispute in an honourable way; or, to put the case more correctly, matters would not have come to such a dispute at all.
No. If unsocial and dishonourable treatment of men provokes resistance, then the stronger party can impose its decision in the conflict until the constitutional legislative authorities do away with the evil through legislation. Therefore it is evident that if the individual workman is to have any chance at all of winning through in the struggle he must be grouped with his fellow workmen and present a united front before the individual employer, who incorporates in his own person the massed strength of the vested interests in the industrial or commercial undertaking which he conducts.
Thus the trades unions can hope to inculcate and strengthen a sense of social responsibility in workaday life and open the road to practical results. In doing this they tend to remove those causes of friction which are a continual source of discontent and complaint.
Blame for the fact that the trades unions do not fulfil this much-desired function must be laid at the doors of those who barred the road to legislative social reform, or rendered such a reform ineffective by sabotaging it through their political influence.
The political bourgeoisie failed to understand – or, rather, they did not wish to understand – the importance of the trades union movement. The Social Democrats accordingly seized the advantage offered them by this mistaken policy and took the labour movement under their exclusive protection, without any protest from the other side. In this way they established for themselves a solid bulwark behind which they could safely retire whenever the struggle assumed a critical aspect. Thus the genuine purpose of the movement gradually fell into oblivion, and was replaced by new objectives. For the Social Democrats never troubled themselves to respect and uphold the original purpose for which the trade unionist movement was founded. They simply took over the Movement, lock, stock and barrel, to serve their own political ends.
Within a few decades the Trades Union Movement was transformed, by the expert hand of Social Democracy, from an instrument which had been originally fashioned for the defence of human rights into an instrument for the destruction of the national economic structure. The interests of the working class were not allowed for a moment to cross the path of this purpose; for in politics the application of economic pressure is always possible if the one side be sufficiently unscrupulous and the other sufficiently inert and docile. In this case both conditions were fulfilled.
By the beginning of the present century the Trades Unionist Movement had already ceased to recognize the purpose for which it had been founded. From year to year it fell more and more under the political control of the Social Democrats, until it finally came to be used as a battering-ram in the class struggle. The plan was to shatter, by means of constantly repeated blows, the economic edifice in the building of which so much time and care had been expended. Once this objective had been reached, the destruction of the State would become a matter of course, because the State would already have been deprived of its economic foundations. Attention to the real interests of the working-classes, on the part of the Social Democrats, steadily decreased until the cunning leaders saw that it would be in their immediate political interests if the social and cultural demands of the broad masses remained unheeded; for there was a danger that if these masses once felt content they could no longer be employed as mere passive material in the political struggle.
The gloomy prospect which presented itself to the eyes of the condottieri of the class warfare, if the discontent of the masses were no longer available as a war weapon, created so much anxiety among them that they suppressed and opposed even the most elementary measures of social reform. And conditions were such that those leaders did not have to trouble about attempting to justify such an illogical policy.
As the masses were taught to increase and heighten their demands the possibility of satisfying them dwindled and whatever ameliorative measures were taken became less and less significant; so that it was at that time possible to persuade the masses that this ridiculous measure in which the most sacred claims of the working-classes were being granted represented a diabolical plan to weaken their fighting power in this easy way and, if possible, to paralyse it. One will not be astonished at the success of these allegations if one remembers what a small measure of thinking power the broad masses possess.
In the bourgeois camp there was high indignation over the bad faith of the Social Democratic tactics; but nothing was done to draw a practical conclusion and organize a counter attack from the bourgeois side. The fear of the Social Democrats, to improve the miserable conditions of the working-classes ought to have induced the bourgeois parties to make the most energetic efforts in this direction and thus snatch from the hands of the class-warfare leaders their most important weapon; but nothing of this kind happened.
Instead of attacking the position of their adversaries the bourgeoisie allowed itself to be pressed and harried. Finally it adopted means that were so tardy and so insignificant that they were ineffective and were repudiated. So the whole situation remained just as it had been before the bourgeois intervention; but the discontent had thereby become more serious.
Like a threatening storm, the ‘Free Trades Union’ hovered above the political horizon and above the life of each individual. It was one of the most frightful instruments of terror that threatened the security and independence of the national economic structure, the foundations of the State and the liberty of the individual. Above all, it was the ‘Free Trades Union’ that turned democracy into a ridiculous and scorned phrase, insulted the ideal of liberty and stigmatized that of fraternity with the slogan ‘If you will not become our comrade we shall crack your skull’.
It was thus that I then came to know this friend of humanity. During the years that followed my knowledge of it became wider and deeper; but I have never changed anything in that regard.
The more I became acquainted with the external forms of Social Democracy, the greater became my desire to understand the inner nature of its doctrines.
For this purpose the official literature of the Party could not help very much. In discussing economic questions its statements were false and its proofs unsound. In treating of political aims its attitude was insincere. Furthermore, its modern methods of chicanery in the presentation of its arguments were profoundly repugnant to me. Its flamboyant sentences, its obscure and incomprehensible phrases, pretended to contain great thoughts, but they were devoid of thought, and meaningless. One would have to be a decadent Bohemian in one of our modern cities in order to feel at home in that labyrinth of mental aberration, so that he might discover ‘intimate experiences’ amid the stinking fumes of this literary Dadism. These writers were obviously counting on the proverbial humility of a certain section of our people, who believe that a person who is incomprehensible must be profoundly wise.
In confronting the theoretical falsity and absurdity of that doctrine with the reality of its external manifestations, I gradually came to have a clear idea of the ends at which it aimed.
During such moments I had dark presentiments and feared something evil. I had before me a teaching inspired by egoism and hatred, mathematically calculated to win its victory, but the triumph of which would be a mortal blow to humanity.
Meanwhile I had discovered the relations existing between this destructive teaching and the specific character of a people, who up to that time had been to me almost unknown.
Knowledge of the Jews is the only key whereby one may understand the inner nature and therefore the real aims of Social Democracy.
The man who has come to know this race has succeeded in removing from his eyes the veil through which he had seen the aims and meaning of his Party in a false light; and then, out of the murk and fog of social phrases rises the grimacing figure of Marxism.
To-day it is hard and almost impossible for me to say when the word ‘Jew’ first began to raise any particular thought in my mind. I do not remember even having heard the word at home during my father’s lifetime. If this name were mentioned in a derogatory sense I think the old gentleman would just have considered those who used it in this way as being uneducated reactionaries. In the course of his career he had come to be more or less a cosmopolitan, with strong views on nationalism, which had its effect on me as well. In school, too, I found no reason to alter the picture of things I had formed at home.
At the Realschule I knew one Jewish boy. We were all on our guard in our relations with him, but only because his reticence and certain actions of his warned us to be discreet. Beyond that my companions and myself formed no particular opinions in regard to him.
It was not until I was fourteen or fifteen years old that I frequently ran up against the word ‘Jew’, partly in connection with political controversies. These references aroused a slight aversion in me, and I could not avoid an uncomfortable feeling which always came over me when I had to listen to religious disputes. But at that time I had no other feelings about the Jewish question.
There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become Europeanized in external appearance and were so much like other human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their Faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic anti-Semitism.
Then I came to Vienna.
Confused by the mass of impressions I received from the architectural surroundings and depressed by my own troubles, I did not at first distinguish between the different social strata of which the population of that mammoth city was composed. Although Vienna then had about two hundred thousand Jews among its population of two millions, I did not notice them. During the first weeks of my sojourn my eyes and my mind were unable to cope with the onrush of new ideas and values. Not until I gradually settled down to my surroundings, and the confused picture began to grow clearer, did I acquire a more discriminating view of my new world. And with that I came up against the Jewish problem.
I will not say that the manner in which I first became acquainted with it was particularly unpleasant for me. In the Jew I still saw only a man who was of a different religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I was against the idea that he should be attacked because he had a different faith. And so I considered that the tone adopted by the anti-Semitic Press in Vienna was unworthy of the cultural traditions of a great people. The memory of certain events which happened in the middle ages came into my mind, and I felt that I should not like to see them repeated. Generally speaking, these anti-Semitic newspapers did not belong to the first rank – but I did not then understand the reason of this – and so I regarded them more as the products of jealousy and envy rather than the expression of a sincere, though wrong-headed, feeling.
My own opinions were confirmed by what I considered to be the infinitely more dignified manner in which the really great Press replied to those attacks or simply ignored them, which latter seemed to me the most respectable way.
I diligently read what was generally called the World Press – Neue Freie Presse, Wiener Tageblatt, etc.- and I was astonished by the abundance of information they gave their readers and the impartial way in which they presented particular problems. I appreciated their dignified tone; but sometimes the flamboyancy of the style was unconvincing, and I did not like it. But I attributed all this to the overpowering influence of the world metropolis.
Since I considered Vienna at that time as such a world metropolis, I thought this constituted sufficient grounds to excuse these shortcomings of the Press. But I was frequently disgusted by the grovelling way in which the Vienna Press played lackey to the Court. Scarcely a move took place at the Hofburg which was not presented in glorified colours to the readers. It was a foolish practice, which, especially when it had to do with ‘The Wisest Monarch of all Times’, reminded one almost of the dance which the mountain cock performs at pairing time to woo his mate. It was all empty nonsense. And I thought that such a policy was a stain on the ideal of liberal democracy. I thought that this way of currying favour at the Court was unworthy of the people. And that was the first blot that fell on my appreciation of the great Vienna Press.
While in Vienna I continued to follow with a vivid interest all the events that were taking place in Germany, whether connected with political or cultural question. I had a feeling of pride and admiration when I compared the rise of the young German Empire with the decline of the Austrian State. But, although the foreign policy of that Empire was a source of real pleasure on the whole, the internal political happenings were not always so satisfactory. I did not approve of the campaign which at that time was being carried on against William II. I looked upon him not only as the German Emperor but, above all, as the creator of the German Navy. The fact that the Emperor was prohibited from speaking in the Reichstag made me very angry, because the prohibition came from a side which in my eyes had no authority to make it. For at a single sitting those same parliamentary ganders did more cackling together than the whole dynasty of Emperors, comprising even the weakest, had done in the course of centuries.
It annoyed me to have to acknowledge that in a nation where any half-witted fellow could claim for himself the right to criticize and might even be let loose on the people as a ‘Legislator’ in the Reichstag, the bearer of the Imperial Crown could be the subject of a ‘reprimand’ on the part of the most miserable assembly of drivellers that had ever existed.
I was even more disgusted at the way in which this same Vienna Press salaamed obsequiously before the meanest steed belonging to the Habsburg royal equipage and went off into wild ecstacies of delight if the nag wagged its tail in response. And at the same time these newspapers took up an attitude of anxiety in matters that concerned the German Emperor, trying to cloak their enmity by the serious air they gave themselves. But in my eyes that enmity appeared to be only poorly cloaked. Naturally they protested that they had no intention of mixing in Germany’s internal affairs – God forbid! They pretended that by touching a delicate spot in such a friendly way they were fulfilling a duty that devolved upon them by reason of the mutual alliance between the two countries and at the same time discharging their obligations of journalistic truthfulness. Having thus excused themselves about tenderly touching a sore spot, they bored with the finger ruthlessly into the wound.
That sort of thing made my blood boil. And now I began to be more and more on my guard when reading the great Vienna Press.
I had to acknowledge, however, that on such subjects one of the anti-Semitic papers – the Deutsche Volksblatt – acted more decently.
What got still more on my nerves was the repugnant manner in which the big newspapers cultivated admiration for France. One really had to feel ashamed of being a German when confronted by those mellifluous hymns of praise for ‘the great culture-nation’. This wretched Gallomania more often than once made me throw away one of those ‘world newspapers’. I now often turned to the Volksblatt, which was much smaller in size but which treated such subjects more decently. I was not in accord with its sharp anti-Semitic tone; but again and again I found that its arguments gave me grounds for serious thought.
Anyhow, it was as a result of such reading that I came to know the man and the movement which then determined the fate of Vienna. These were Dr. Karl Lueger and the Christian Socialist Movement. At the time I came to Vienna I felt opposed to both. I looked on the man and the movement as ‘reactionary’.
But even an elementary sense of justice enforced me to change my opinion when I had the opportunity of knowing the man and his work, and slowly that opinion grew into outspoken admiration when I had better grounds for forming a judgment. To-day, as well as then, I hold Dr. Karl Lueger as the most eminent type of German Burgermeister. How many prejudices were thrown over through such a change in my attitude towards the Christian-Socialist Movement!
My ideas about anti-Semitism changed also in the course of time, but that was the change which I found most difficult. It cost me a greater internal conflict with myself, and it was only after a struggle between reason and sentiment that victory began to be decided in favour of the former. Two years later sentiment rallied to the side of reasons and became a faithful guardian and counsellor.
At the time of this bitter struggle, between calm reason and the sentiments in which I had been brought up, the lessons that I learned on the streets of Vienna rendered me invaluable assistance. A time came when I no longer passed blindly along the street of the mighty city, as I had done in the early days, but now with my eyes open not only to study the buildings but also the human beings.
Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I watched the man stealthily and cautiously; but the longer I gazed at the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in my brain: Is this a German?
As was always my habit with such experiences, I turned to books for help in removing my doubts. For the first time in my life I bought myself some anti-Semitic pamphlets for a few pence. But unfortunately they all began with the assumption that in principle the reader had at least a certain degree of information on the Jewish question or was even familiar with it. Moreover, the tone of most of these pamphlets was such that I became doubtful again, because the statements made were partly superficial and the proofs extraordinarily unscientific. For weeks, and indeed for months, I returned to my old way of thinking. The subject appeared so enormous and the accusations were so far-reaching that I was afraid of dealing with it unjustly and so I became again anxious and uncertain.
Naturally I could no longer doubt that here there was not a question of Germans who happened to be of a different religion but rather that there was question of an entirely different people. For as soon as I began to investigate the matter and observe the Jews, then Vienna appeared to me in a different light. Wherever I now went I saw Jews, and the more I saw of them the more strikingly and clearly they stood out as a different people from the other citizens. Especially the Inner City and the district northwards from the Danube Canal swarmed with a people who, even in outer appearance, bore no similarity to the Germans.
But any indecision which I may still have felt about that point was finally removed by the activities of a certain section of the Jews themselves. A great movement, called Zionism, arose among them. Its aim was to assert the national character of Judaism, and the movement was strongly represented in Vienna.
To outward appearances it seemed as if only one group of Jews championed this movement, while the great majority disapproved of it, or even repudiated it. But an investigation of the situation showed that those outward appearances were purposely misleading. These outward appearances emerged from a mist of theories which had been produced for reasons of expediency, if not for purposes of downright deception. For that part of Jewry which was styled Liberal did not disown the Zionists as if they were not members of their race but rather as brother Jews who publicly professed their faith in an unpractical way, so as to create a danger for Jewry itself.
Thus there was no real rift in their internal solidarity.
This fictitious conflict between the Zionists and the Liberal Jews soon disgusted me; for it was false through and through and in direct contradiction to the moral dignity and immaculate character on which that race had always prided itself.
Cleanliness, whether moral or of another kind, had its own peculiar meaning for these people. That they were water-shy was obvious on looking at them and, unfortunately, very often also when not looking at them at all. The odour of those people in caftans often used to make me feel ill. Beyond that there were the unkempt clothes and the ignoble exterior.
All these details were certainly not attractive; but the revolting feature was that beneath their unclean exterior one suddenly perceived the moral mildew of the chosen race.
What soon gave me cause for very serious consideration were the activities of the Jews in certain branches of life, into the mystery of which I penetrated little by little. Was there any shady undertaking, any form of foulness, especially in cultural life, in which at least one Jew did not participate? On putting the probing knife carefully to that kind of abscess one immediately discovered, like a maggot in a putrescent body, a little Jew who was often blinded by the sudden light.
In my eyes the charge against Judaism became a grave one the moment I discovered the Jewish activities in the Press, in art, in literature and the theatre. All unctuous protests were now more or less futile. One needed only to look at the posters announcing the hideous productions of the cinema and theatre, and study the names of the authors who were highly lauded there in order to become permanently adamant on Jewish questions. Here was a pestilence, a moral pestilence, with which the public was being infected. It was worse than the Black Plague of long ago. And in what mighty doses this poison was manufactured and distributed. Naturally, the lower the moral and intellectual level of such an author of artistic products the more inexhaustible his fecundity. Sometimes it went so far that one of these fellows, acting like a sewage pump, would shoot his filth directly in the face of other members of the human race. In this connection we must remember there is no limit to the number of such people. One ought to realize that for one, Goethe, Nature may bring into existence ten thousand such despoilers who act as the worst kind of germ-carriers in poisoning human souls. It was a terrible thought, and yet it could not be avoided, that the greater number of the Jews seemed specially destined by Nature to play this shameful part.
And is it for this reason that they can be called the chosen people?
I began then to investigate carefully the names of all the fabricators of these unclean products in public cultural life. The result of that inquiry was still more disfavourable to the attitude which I had hitherto held in regard to the Jews. Though my feelings might rebel a thousand time, reason now had to draw its own conclusions.
The fact that nine-tenths of all the smutty literature, artistic tripe and theatrical banalities, had to be charged to the account of people who formed scarcely one per cent. of the nation – that fact could not be gainsaid. It was there, and had to be admitted. Then I began to examine my favourite ‘World Press’, with that fact before my mind.
The deeper my soundings went the lesser grew my respect for that Press which I formerly admired. Its style became still more repellent and I was forced to reject its ideas as entirely shallow and superficial. To claim that in the presentation of facts and views its attitude was impartial seemed to me to contain more falsehood than truth. The writers were – Jews.
Thousands of details that I had scarcely noticed before seemed to me now to deserve attention. I began to grasp and understand things which I had formerly looked at in a different light.
I saw the Liberal policy of that Press in another light. Its dignified tone in replying to the attacks of its adversaries and its dead silence in other cases now became clear to me as part of a cunning and despicable way of deceiving the readers. Its brilliant theatrical criticisms always praised the Jewish authors and its adverse, criticism was reserved exclusively for the Germans.
The light pin-pricks against William II showed the persistency of its policy, just as did its systematic commendation of French culture and civilization. The subject matter of the feuilletons was trivial and often pornographic. The language of this Press as a whole had the accent of a foreign people. The general tone was openly derogatory to the Germans and this must have been definitely intentional.
What were the interests that urged the Vienna Press to adopt such a policy? Or did they do so merely by chance? In attempting to find an answer to those questions I gradually became more and more dubious.
Then something happened which helped me to come to an early decision. I began to see through the meaning of a whole series of events that were taking place in other branches of Viennese life. All these were inspired by a general concept of manners and morals which was openly put into practice by a large section of the Jews and could be established as attributable to them. Here, again, the life which I observed on the streets taught me what evil really is.
The part which the Jews played in the social phenomenon of prostitution, and more especially in the white slave traffic, could be studied here better than in any other West-European city, with the possible exception of certain ports in Southern France. Walking by night along the streets of the Leopoldstadt, almost at every turn whether one wished it or not, one witnessed certain happenings of whose existence the Germans knew nothing until the War made it possible and indeed inevitable for the soldiers to see such things on the Eastern front.
A cold shiver ran down my spine when I first ascertained that it was the same kind of cold-blooded, thick-skinned and shameless Jew who showed his consummate skill in conducting that revolting exploitation of the dregs of the big city. Then I became fired with wrath.
I had now no more hesitation about bringing the Jewish problem to light in all its details. No. Henceforth I was determined to do so. But as I learned to track down the Jew in all the different spheres of cultural and artistic life, and in the various manifestations of this life everywhere, I suddenly came upon him in a position where I had least expected to find him. I now realized that the Jews were the leaders of Social Democracy. In face of that revelation the scales fell from my eyes. My long inner struggle was at an end.
In my relations with my fellow workmen I was often astonished to find how easily and often they changed their opinions on the same questions, sometimes within a few days and sometimes even within the course of a few hours. I found it difficult to understand how men who always had reasonable ideas when they spoke as individuals with one another suddenly lost this reasonableness the moment they acted in the mass. That phenomenon often tempted one almost to despair. I used to dispute with them for hours and when I succeeded in bringing them to what I considered a reasonable way of thinking I rejoiced at my success. But next day I would find that it had been all in vain. It was saddening to think I had to begin it all over again. Like a pendulum in its eternal sway, they would fall back into their absurd opinions.
I was able to understand their position fully. They were dissatisfied with their lot and cursed the fate which had hit them so hard. They hated their employers, whom they looked upon as the heartless administrators of their cruel destiny. Often they used abusive language against the public officials, whom they accused of having no sympathy with the situation of the working people. They made public protests against the cost of living and paraded through the streets in defence of their claims. At least all this could be explained on reasonable grounds. But what was impossible to understand was the boundless hatred they expressed against their own fellow citizens, how they disparaged their own nation, mocked at its greatness, reviled its history and dragged the names of its most illustrious men in the gutter.
This hostility towards their own kith and kin, their own native land and home was as irrational as it was incomprehensible. It was against Nature.
One could cure that malady temporarily, but only for some days or at least some weeks. But on meeting those whom one believed to have been converted one found that they had become as they were before. That malady against Nature held them once again in its clutches.
I gradually discovered that the Social Democratic Press was predominantly controlled by Jews. But I did not attach special importance to this circumstance, for the same state of affairs existed also in other newspapers. But there was one striking fact in this connection. It was that there was not a single newspaper with which Jews were connected that could be spoken of as National, in the meaning that my education and convictions attached to that word.
Making an effort to overcome my natural reluctance, I tried to read articles of this nature published in the Marxist Press; but in doing so my aversion increased all the more. And then I set about learning something of the people who wrote and published this mischievous stuff. From the publisher downwards, all of them were Jews. I recalled to mind the names of the public leaders of Marxism, and then I realized that most of them belonged to the Chosen Race – the Social Democratic representatives in the Imperial Cabinet as well as the secretaries of the Trades Unions and the street agitators. Everywhere the same sinister picture presented itself. I shall never forget the row of names – Austerlitz, David, Adler, Ellenbogen, and others. One fact became quite evident to me. It was that this alien race held in its hands the leadership of that Social Democratic Party with whose minor representatives I had been disputing for months past. I was happy at last to know for certain that the Jew is not a German.
Thus I finally discovered who were the evil spirits leading our people astray. The sojourn in Vienna for one year had proved long enough to convince me that no worker is so rooted in his preconceived notions that he will not surrender them in face of better and clearer arguments and explanations. Gradually I became an expert in the doctrine of the Marxists and used this knowledge as an instrument to drive home my own firm convictions. I was successful in nearly every case. The great masses can be rescued, but a lot of time and a large share of human patience must be devoted to such work.
But a Jew can never be rescued from his fixed notions.
It was then simple enough to attempt to show them the absurdity of their teaching. Within my small circle I talked to them until my throat ached and my voice grew hoarse. I believed that I could finally convince them of the danger inherent in the Marxist follies. But I only achieved the contrary result. It seemed to me that immediately the disastrous effects of the Marxist Theory and its application in practice became evident, the stronger became their obstinacy.
The more I debated with them the more familiar I became with their argumentative tactics. At the outset they counted upon the stupidity of their opponents, but when they got so entangled that they could not find a way out they played the trick of acting as innocent simpletons. Should they fail, in spite of their tricks of logic, they acted as if they could not understand the counter arguments and bolted away to another field of discussion. They would lay down truisms and platitudes; and, if you accepted these, then they were applied to other problems and matters of an essentially different nature from the original theme. If you faced them with this point they would escape again, and you could not bring them to make any precise statement. Whenever one tried to get a firm grip on any of these apostles one’s hand grasped only jelly and slime which slipped through the fingers and combined again into a solid mass a moment afterwards. If your adversary felt forced to give in to your argument, on account of the observers present, and if you then thought that at last you had gained ground, a surprise was in store for you on the following day. The Jew would be utterly oblivious to what had happened the day before, and he would start once again by repeating his former absurdities, as if nothing had happened. Should you become indignant and remind him of yesterday’s defeat, he pretended astonishment and could not remember anything, except that on the previous day he had proved that his statements were correct. Sometimes I was dumbfounded. I do not know what amazed me the more – the abundance of their verbiage or the artful way in which they dressed up their falsehoods. I gradually came to hate them.
Yet all this had its good side; because the more I came to know the individual leaders, or at least the propagandists, of Social Democracy, my love for my own people increased correspondingly. Considering the Satanic skill which these evil counsellors displayed, how could their unfortunate victims be blamed? Indeed, I found it extremely difficult myself to be a match for the dialectical perfidy of that race. How futile it was to try to win over such people with argument, seeing that their very mouths distorted the truth, disowning the very words they had just used and adopting them again a few moments afterwards to serve their own ends in the argument! No. The more I came to know the Jew, the easier it was to excuse the workers.
In my opinion the most culpable were not to be found among the workers but rather among those who did not think it worth while to take the trouble to sympathize with their own kinsfolk and give to the hard-working son of the national family what was his by the iron logic of justice, while at the same time placing his seducer and corrupter against the wall.
Urged by my own daily experiences, I now began to investigate more thoroughly the sources of the Marxist teaching itself. Its effects were well known to me in detail. As a result of careful observation, its daily progress had become obvious to me. And one needed only a little imagination in order to be able to forecast the consequences which must result from it. The only question now was: Did the founders foresee the effects of their work in the form which those effects have shown themselves to-day, or were the founders themselves the victims of an error? To my mind both alternatives were possible.
If the second question must be answered in the affirmative, then it was the duty of every thinking person to oppose this sinister movement with a view to preventing it from producing its worst results. But if the first question must be answered in the affirmative, then it must be admitted that the original authors of this evil which has infected the nations were devils incarnate. For only in the brain of a monster, and not that of a man, could the plan of this organization take shape whose workings must finally bring about the collapse of human civilization and turn this world into a desert waste.
Such being the case the only alternative left was to fight, and in that fight to employ all the weapons which the human spirit and intellect and will could furnish leaving it to Fate to decide in whose favour the balance should fall.
And so I began to gather information about the authors of this teaching, with a view to studying the principles of the movement. The fact that I attained my object sooner than I could have anticipated was due to the deeper insight into the Jewish question which I then gained, my knowledge of this question being hitherto rather superficial. This newly acquired knowledge alone enabled me to make a practical comparison between the real content and the theoretical pretentiousness of the teaching laid down by the apostolic founders of Social Democracy; because I now understood the language of the Jew. I realized that the Jew uses language for the purpose of dissimulating his thought or at least veiling it, so that his real aim cannot be discovered by what he says but rather by reading between the lines. This knowledge was the occasion of the greatest inner revolution that I had yet experienced. From being a soft-hearted cosmopolitan I became an out-and-out anti-Semite.
Only on one further occasion, and that for the last time, did I give way to oppressing thoughts which caused me some moments of profound anxiety.
As I critically reviewed the activities of the Jewish people throughout long periods of history I became anxious and asked myself whether for some inscrutable reasons beyond the comprehension of poor mortals such as ourselves, Destiny may not have irrevocably decreed that the final victory must go to this small nation? May it not be that this people which has lived only for the earth has been promised the earth as a recompense? is our right to struggle for our own self-preservation based on reality, or is it a merely subjective thing? Fate answered the question for me inasmuch as it led me to make a detached and exhaustive inquiry into the Marxist teaching and the activities of the Jewish people in connection with it.
The Jewish doctrine of Marxism repudiates the aristocratic principle of Nature and substitutes for it the eternal privilege of force and energy, numerical mass and its dead weight. Thus it denies the individual worth of the human personality, impugns the teaching that nationhood and race have a primary significance, and by doing this it takes away the very foundations of human existence and human civilization. If the Marxist teaching were to be accepted as the foundation of the life of the universe, it would lead to the disappearance of all order that is conceivable to the human mind. And thus the adoption of such a law would provoke chaos in the structure of the greatest organism that we know, with the result that the inhabitants of this earthly planet would finally disappear.
Should the Jew, with the aid of his Marxist creed, triumph over the people of this world, his Crown will be the funeral wreath of mankind, and this planet will once again follow its orbit through ether, without any human life on its surface, as it did millions of years ago.
And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.
Generally speaking a man should not publicly take part in politics before he has reached the age of thirty, though, of course, exceptions must be made in the case of those who are naturally gifted with extraordinary political abilities. That at least is my opinion to-day. And the reason for it is that until he reaches his thirtieth year or thereabouts a man’s mental development will mostly consist in acquiring and sifting such knowledge as is necessary for the groundwork of a general platform from which he can examine the different political problems that arise from day to day and be able to adopt a definite attitude towards each. A man must first acquire a fund of general ideas and fit them together so as to form an organic structure of personal thought or outlook on life – a Weltanschhauung. Then he will have that mental equipment without which he cannot form his own judgments on particular questions of the day, and he will have acquired those qualities that are necessary for consistency and steadfastness in the formation of political opinions. Such a man is now qualified, at least subjectively, to take his part in the political conduct of public affairs.
If these pre-requisite conditions are not fulfilled, and if a man should enter political life without this equipment, he will run a twofold risk. In the first place, he may find during the course of events that the stand which he originally took in regard to some essential question was wrong. He will now have to abandon his former position or else stick to it against his better knowledge and riper wisdom and after his reason and convictions have already proved it untenable. If he adopt the former line of action he will find himself in a difficult personal situation; because in giving up a position hitherto maintained he will appear inconsistent and will have no right to expect his followers to remain as loyal to his leadership as they were before. And, as regards the followers themselves, they may easily look upon their leader’s change of policy as showing a lack of judgment inherent in his character. Moreover, the change must cause in them a certain feeling of discomfiture vis-à-vis those whom the leader formerly opposed.
If he adopts the second alternative – which so very frequently happens to-day – then public pronouncements of the leader have no longer his personal persuasion to support them. And the more that is the case the defence of his cause will be all the more hollow and superficial. He now descends to the adoption of vulgar means in his defence. While he himself no longer dreams seriously of standing by his political protestations to the last – for no man will die in defence of something in which he does not believe – he makes increasing demands on his followers. Indeed, the greater be the measure of his own insincerity, the more unfortunate and inconsiderate become his claims on his party adherents. Finally, he throws aside the last vestiges of true leadership and begins to play politics. This means that he becomes one of those whose only consistency is their inconsistency, associated with overbearing insolence and oftentimes an artful mendacity developed to a shamelessly high degree.
Should such a person, to the misfortune of all decent people, succeed in becoming a parliamentary deputy it will be clear from the outset that for him the essence of political activity consists in a heroic struggle to keep permanent hold on this milk-bottle as a source of livelihood for himself and his family. The more his wife and children are dependent on him, the more stubbornly will he fight to maintain for himself the representation of his parliamentary constituency. For that reason any other person who gives evidence of political capacity is his personal enemy. In every new movement he will apprehend the possible beginning of his own downfall. And everyone who is a better man than himself will appear to him in the light of a menace.
I shall subsequently deal more fully with the problem to which this kind of parliamentary vermin give rise.
When a man has reached his thirtieth year he has still a great deal to learn. That is obvious. But henceforward what he learns will principally be an amplification of his basic ideas; it will be fitted in with them organically so as to fill up the framework of the fundamental Weltanschhauung which he already possesses. What he learns anew will not imply the abandonment of principles already held, but rather a deeper knowledge of those principles. And thus his colleagues will never have the discomforting feeling that they have been hitherto falsely led by him. On the contrary, their confidence is increased when they perceive that their leader’s qualities are steadily developing along the lines of an organic growth which results from the constant assimilation of new ideas; so that the followers look upon this process as signifying an enrichment of the doctrines in which they themselves believe, in their eyes every such development is a new witness to the correctness of that whole body of opinion which has hitherto been held.
A leader who has to abandon the platform founded on his general principles, because he recognizes the foundation as false, can act with honour only when he declares his readiness to accept the final consequences of his erroneous views. In such a case he ought to refrain from taking public part in any further political activity. Having once gone astray on essential things he may possibly go astray a second time. But, anyhow, he has no right whatsoever to expect or demand that his fellow citizens should continue to give him their support.
How little such a line of conduct commends itself to our public leaders nowadays is proved by the general corruption prevalent among the cabal which at the present moment feels itself called to political leadership. In the whole cabal there is scarcely one who is properly equipped for this task.
Although in those days I used to give more time than most others to the consideration of political question, yet I carefully refrained from taking an open part in politics. Only to a small circle did I speak of those things which agitated my mind or were the cause of constant preoccupation for me. The habit of discussing matters within such a restricted group had many advantages in itself. Rather than talk at them, I learned to feel my way into the modes of thought and views of those men around me. Oftentimes such ways of thinking and such views were quite primitive. Thus I took every possible occasion to increase my knowledge of men.
Nowhere among the German people was the opportunity for making such a study so favourable as in Vienna.
In the old Danubian Monarchy political thought was wider in its range and had a richer variety of interests than in the Germany of that epoch – excepting certain parts of Prussia, Hamburg and the districts bordering on the North Sea. When I speak of Austria here I mean that part of the great Habsburg Empire which, by reason of its German population, furnished not only the historic basis for the formation of this State but whose population was for several centuries also the exclusive source of cultural life in that political system whose structure was so artificial. As time went on the stability of the Austrian State and the guarantee of its continued existence depended more and more on the maintenance of this germ-cell of that Habsburg Empire.
The hereditary imperial provinces constituted the heart of the Empire. And it was this heart that constantly sent the blood of life pulsating through the whole political and cultural system. Corresponding to the heart of the Empire, Vienna signified the brain and the will. At that time Vienna presented an appearance which made one think of her as an enthroned queen whose authoritative sway united the conglomeration of heterogenous nationalities that lived under the Habsburg sceptre. The radiant beauty of the capital city made one forget the sad symptoms of senile decay which the State manifested as a whole.
Though the Empire was internally rickety because of the terrific conflict going on between the various nationalities, the outside world – and Germany in particular – saw only that lovely picture of the city. The illusion was all the greater because at that time Vienna seemed to have risen to its highest pitch of splendour. Under a Mayor, who had the true stamp of administrative genius, the venerable residential City of the Emperors of the old Empire seemed to have the glory of its youth renewed. The last great German who sprang from the ranks of the people that had colonized the East Mark was not a ‘statesman’, in the official sense. This Dr. Luegar, however, in his rôle as Mayor of ‘the Imperial Capital and Residential City’, had achieved so much in almost all spheres of municipal activity, whether economic or cultural, that the heart of the whole Empire throbbed with renewed vigour. He thus proved himself a much greater statesman than the so-called ‘diplomats’ of that period.
The fact that this political system of heterogeneous races called Austria, finally broke down is no evidence whatsoever of political incapacity on the part of the German element in the old East Mark. The collapse was the inevitable result of an impossible situation. Ten million people cannot permanently hold together a State of fifty millions, composed of different and convicting nationalities, unless certain definite pre-requisite conditions are at hand while there is still time to avail of them.
The German-Austrian had very big ways of thinking. Accustomed to live in a great Empire, he had a keen sense of the obligations incumbent on him in such a situation. He was the only member of the Austrian State who looked beyond the borders of the narrow lands belonging to the Crown and took in all the frontiers of the Empire in the sweep of his mind. Indeed when destiny severed him from the common Fatherland he tried to master the tremendous task which was set before him as a consequence. This task was to maintain for the German-Austrians that patrimony which, through innumerable struggles, their ancestors had originally wrested from the East. It must be remembered that the German-Austrians could not put their undivided strength into this effort, because the hearts and minds of the best among them were constantly turning back towards their kinsfolk in the Motherland, so that only a fraction of their energy remained to be employed at home.
The mental horizon of the German-Austrian was comparatively broad. His commercial interests comprised almost every section of the heterogeneous Empire. The conduct of almost all important undertakings was in his hands. He provided the State, for the most part, with its leading technical experts and civil servants. He was responsible for carrying on the foreign trade of the country, as far as that sphere of activity was not under Jewish control, The German-Austrian exclusively represented the political cement that held the State together. His military duties carried him far beyond the narrow frontiers of his homeland. Though the recruit might join a regiment made up of the German element, the regiment itself might be stationed in Herzegovina as well as in Vienna or Galicia. The officers in the Habsburg armies were still Germans and so was the predominating element in the higher branches of the civil service. Art and science were in German hands. Apart from the new artistic trash, which might easily have been produced by a negro tribe, all genuine artistic inspiration came from the German section of the population. In music, architecture, sculpture and painting, Vienna abundantly supplied the entire Dual Monarchy. And the source never seemed to show signs of a possible exhaustion. Finally, it was the German element that determined the conduct of foreign policy, though a small number of Hungarians were also active in that field.
All efforts, however, to save the unity of the State were doomed to end in failure, because the essential pre-requisites were missing.
There was only one possible way to control and hold in check the centrifugal forces of the different and differing nationalities. This way was: to govern the Austrian State and organize it internally on the principle of centralization. In no other way imaginable could the existence of that State be assured.
Now and again there were lucid intervals in the higher ruling quarters when this truth was recognized. But it was soon forgotten again, or else deliberately ignored, because of the difficulties to be overcome in putting it into practice. Every project which aimed at giving the Empire a more federal shape was bound to be ineffective because there was no strong central authority which could exercise sufficient power within the State to hold the federal elements together. It must be remembered in this connection that conditions in Austria were quite different from those which characterized the German State as founded by Bismarck. Germany was faced with only one difficulty, which was that of transforming the purely political traditions, because throughout the whole of Bismarck’s Germany there was a common cultural basis. The German Empire contained only members of one and the same racial or national stock, with the exception of a few minor foreign fragments.
Demographic conditions in Austria were quite the reverse. With the exception of Hungary there was no political tradition, coming down from a great past, in any of the various affiliated countries. If there had been, time had either wiped out all traces of it, or at least, rendered them obscure. Moreover, this was the epoch when the principle of nationality began to be in ascendant; and that phenomenon awakened the national instincts in the various countries affiliated under the Habsburg sceptre. It was difficult to control the action of these newly awakened national forces; because, adjacent to the frontiers of the Dual Monarchy, new national States were springing up whose people were of the same or kindred racial stock as the respective nationalities that constituted the Habsburg Empire. These new States were able to exercise a greater influence than the German element.
Even Vienna could not hold out for a lengthy period in this conflict. When Budapest had developed into a metropolis a rival had grown up whose mission was, not to help in holding together the various divergent parts of the Empire, but rather to strengthen one part. Within a short time Prague followed the example of Budapest; and later on came Lemberg, Laibach and others. By raising these places which had formerly been provincial towns to the rank of national cities, rallying centres were provided for an independent cultural life. Through this the local national instincts acquired a spiritual foundation and therewith gained a more profound hold on the people. The time was bound to come when the particularist interests of those various countries would become stronger than their common imperial interests. Once that stage had been reached, Austria’s doom was sealed.
The course of this development was clearly perceptible since the death of Joseph II. Its rapidity depended on a number of factors, some of which had their source in the Monarchy itself; while others resulted from the position which the Empire had taken in foreign politics.
It was impossible to make anything like a successful effort for the permanent consolidation of the Austrian State unless a firm and persistent policy of centralization were put into force. Before everything else the principle should have been adopted that only one common language could be used as the official language of the State. Thus it would be possible to emphasize the formal unity of that imperial commonwealth. And thus the administration would have in its hands a technical instrument without which the State could not endure as a political unity. In the same way the school and other forms of education should have been used to inculcate a feeling of common citizenship. Such an objective could not be reached within ten or twenty years. The effort would have to be envisaged in terms of centuries; just as in all problems of colonization, steady perseverance is a far more important element than the output of energetic effort at the moment.
It goes without saying that in such circumstances the country must be governed and administered by strictly adhering to the principle of uniformity.
For me it was quite instructive to discover why this did not take place, or rather why it was not done. Those who were guilty of the omission must be held responsible for the break-up of the Habsburg Empire.
More than any other State, the existence of the old Austria depended on a strong and capable Government. The Habsburg Empire lacked ethnical uniformity, which constitutes the fundamental basis of a national State and will preserve the existence of such a State even though the ruling power should be grossly inefficient. When a State is composed of a homogeneous population, the natural inertia of such a population will hold the Stage together and maintain its existence through astonishingly long periods of misgovernment and maladministration. It may often seem as if the principle of life had died out in such a body-politic; but a time comes when the apparent corpse rises up and displays before the world an astonishing manifestation of its indestructible vitality.
But the situation is utterly different in a country where the population is not homogeneous, where there is no bond of common blood but only that of one ruling hand. Should the ruling hand show signs of weakness in such a State the result will not be to cause a kind of hibernation of the State but rather to awaken the individualist instincts which are slumbering in the ethnological groups. These instincts do not make themselves felt as long as these groups are dominated by a strong central will-to-govern. The danger which exists in these slumbering separatist instincts can be rendered more or less innocuous only through centuries of common education, common traditions and common interests. The younger such States are, the more their existence will depend on the ability and strength of the central government. If their foundation was due only to the work of a strong personality or a leader who is a man of genius, in many cases they will break up as soon as the founder disappears; because, though great, he stood alone. But even after centuries of a common education and experiences these separatist instincts I have spoken of are not always completely overcome. They may be only dormant and may suddenly awaken when the central government shows weakness and the force of a common education as well as the prestige of a common tradition prove unable to withstand the vital energies of separatist nationalities forging ahead towards the shaping of their own individual existence.
The failure to see the truth of all this constituted what may be called the tragic crime of the Habsburg rulers.
Only before the eyes of one Habsburg ruler, and that for the last time, did the hand of Destiny hold aloft the torch that threw light on the future of his country. But the torch was then extinguished for ever.
Joseph II, Roman Emperor of the German nation, was filled with a growing anxiety when he realized the fact that his House was removed to an outlying frontier of his Empire and that the time would soon be at hand when it would be overturned and engulfed in the whirlpool caused by that Babylon of nationalities, unless something was done at the eleventh hour to overcome the dire consequences resulting from the negligence of his ancestors. With superhuman energy this ‘Friend of Mankind’ made every possible effort to counteract the effects of the carelessness and thoughtlessness of his predecessors. Within one decade he strove to repair the damage that had been done through centuries. If Destiny had only granted him forty years for his labours, and if only two generations had carried on the work which he had started, the miracle might have been performed. But when he died, broken in body and spirit after ten years of rulership, his work sank with him into the grave and rests with him there in the Capucin Crypt, sleeping its eternal sleep, having never again showed signs of awakening.
His successors had neither the ability nor the will-power necessary for the task they had to face.
When the first signs of a new revolutionary epoch appeared in Europe they gradually scattered the fire throughout Austria. And when the fire began to glow steadily it was fed and fanned not by the social or political conditions but by forces that had their origin in the nationalist yearnings of the various ethnic groups.
The European revolutionary movement of 1848 primarily took the form of a class conflict in almost every other country, but in Austria it took the form of a new racial struggle. In so far as the German-Austrians there forgot the origins of the movement, or perhaps had failed to recognize them at the start and consequently took part in the revolutionary uprising, they sealed their own fate. For they thus helped to awaken the spirit of Western Democracy which, within a short while, shattered the foundations of their own existence.
The setting up of a representative parliamentary body, without insisting on the preliminary that only one language should be used in all public intercourse under the State, was the first great blow to the predominance of the German element in the Dual Monarchy. From that moment the State was also doomed to collapse sooner or later. All that followed was nothing but the historical liquidation of an Empire.
To watch that process of progressive disintegration was a tragic and at the same time an instructive experience. The execution of history’s decree was carried out in thousands of details. The fact that great numbers of people went about blindfolded amid the manifest signs of dissolution only proves that the gods had decreed the destruction of Austria.
I do not wish to dwell on details because that would lie outside the scope of this book. I want to treat in detail only those events which are typical among the causes that lead to the decline of nations and States and which are therefore of importance to our present age. Moreover, the study of these events helped to furnish the basis of my own political outlook.
Among the institutions which most clearly manifested unmistakable signs of decay, even to the weak-sighted Philistine, was that which, of all the institutions of State, ought to have been the most firmly founded – I mean the Parliament, or the Reichsrat (Imperial Council) as it was called in Austria.
The pattern for this corporate body was obviously that which existed in England, the land of classic democracy. The whole of that excellent organization was bodily transferred to Austria with as little alteration as possible.
As the Austrian counterpart to the British two-chamber system a Chamber of Deputies and a House of Lords (Herrenhaus) were established in Vienna. The Houses themselves, considered as buildings were somewhat different. When Barry built his palaces, or, as we say the Houses of Parliament, on the shore of the Thames, he could look to the history of the British Empire for the inspiration of his work. In that history he found sufficient material to fill and decorate the 1,200 niches, brackets, and pillars of his magnificent edifice. His statues and paintings made the House of Lords and the House of Commons temples dedicated to the glory of the nation.
There it was that Vienna encountered the first difficulty. When Hansen, the Danish architect, had completed the last gable of the marble palace in which the new body of popular representatives was to be housed he had to turn to the ancient classical world for subjects to fill out his decorative plan. This theatrical shrine of ‘Western Democracy’ was adorned with the statues and portraits of Greek and Roman statesmen and philosophers. As if it were meant for a symbol of irony, the horses of the quadriga that surmounts the two Houses are pulling apart from one another towards all four quarters of the globe. There could be no better symbol for the kind of activity going on within the walls of that same building.
The ‘nationalities’ were opposed to any kind of glorification of Austrian history in the decoration of this building, insisting that such would constitute an offence to them and a provocation. Much the same happened in Germany, where the Reich-stag, built by Wallot, was not dedicated to the German people until the cannons were thundering in the World War. And then it was dedicated by an inscription.
I was not yet twenty years of age when I first entered the Palace on the Franzens-ring to watch and listen in the Chamber of Deputies. That first experience aroused in me a profound feeling of repugnance.
I had always hated the Parliament, but not as an institution in itself. Quite the contrary. As one who cherished ideals of political freedom I could not even imagine any other form of government. In the light of my attitude towards the House of Habsburg I should then have considered it a crime against liberty and reason to think of any kind of dictatorship as a possible form of government.
A certain admiration which I had for the British Parliament contributed towards the formation of this opinion. I became imbued with that feeling of admiration almost without my being conscious of the effect of it through so much reading of newspapers while I was yet quite young. I could not discard that admiration all in a moment. The dignified way in which the British House of Commons fulfilled its function impressed me greatly, thanks largely to the glowing terms in which the Austrian Press reported these events. I used to ask myself whether there could be any nobler form of government than self-government by the people.
But these considerations furnished the very motives of my hostility to the Austrian Parliament. The form in which parliamentary government was here represented seemed unworthy of its great prototype. The following considerations also influenced my attitude:
The fate of the German element in the Austrian State depended on its position in Parliament. Up to the time that universal suffrage by secret ballot was introduced the German representatives had a majority in the Parliament, though that majority was not a very substantial one. This situation gave cause for anxiety because the Social-Democratic fraction of the German element could not be relied upon when national questions were at stake. In matters that were of critical concern for the German element, the Social-Democrats always took up an anti-German stand because they were afraid of losing their followers among the other national groups. Already at that time – before the introduction of universal suffrage – the Social-Democratic Party could no longer be considered as a German Party. The introduction of universal suffrage put an end even to the purely numerical predominance of the German element. The way was now clear for the further ‘de-Germanization’ of the Austrian State.
The national instinct of self-preservation made it impossible for me to welcome a representative system in which the German element was not really represented as such, but always betrayed by the Social-Democratic fraction. Yet all these, and many others, were defects which could not be attributed to the parliamentary system as such, but rather to the Austrian State in particular. I still believed that if the German majority could be restored in the representative body there would be no occasion to oppose such a system as long as the old Austrian State continued to exist.
Such was my general attitude at the time when I first entered those sacred and contentious halls. For me they were sacred only because of the radiant beauty of that majestic edifice. A Greek wonder on German soil.
But I soon became enraged by the hideous spectacle that met my eyes. Several hundred representatives were there to discuss a problem of great economical importance and each representative had the right to have his say.
That experience of a day was enough to supply me with food for thought during several weeks afterwards.
The intellectual level of the debate was quite low. Some times the debaters did not make themselves intelligible at all. Several of those present did not speak German but only their Slav vernaculars or dialects. Thus I had the opportunity of hearing with my own ears what I had been hitherto acquainted with only through reading the newspapers. A turbulent mass of people, all gesticulating and bawling against one another, with a pathetic old man shaking his bell and making frantic efforts to call the House to a sense of its dignity by friendly appeals, exhortations, and grave warnings.
I could not refrain from laughing.
Several weeks later I paid a second visit. This time the House presented an entirely different picture, so much so that one could hardly recognize it as the same place. The hall was practically empty. They were sleeping in the other rooms below. Only a few deputies were in their places, yawning in each other’s faces. One was speechifying. A deputy speaker was in the chair. When he looked round it was quite plain that he felt bored.
Then I began to reflect seriously on the whole thing. I went to the Parliament whenever I had any time to spare and watched the spectacle silently but attentively. I listened to the debates, as far as they could be understood, and I studied the more or less intelligent features of those ‘elect’ representatives of the various nationalities which composed that motley State. Gradually I formed my own ideas about what I saw.
A year of such quiet observation was sufficient to transform or completely destroy my former convictions as to the character of this parliamentary institution. I no longer opposed merely the perverted form which the principle of parliamentary representation had assumed in Austria. No. It had become impossible for me to accept the system in itself. Up to that time I had believed that the disastrous deficiencies of the Austrian Parliament were due to the lack of a German majority, but now I recognized that the institution itself was wrong in its very essence and form.
A number of problems presented themselves before my mind. I studied more closely the democratic principle of ‘decision by the majority vote’, and I scrutinized no less carefully the intellectual and moral worth of the gentlemen who, as the chosen representatives of the nation, were entrusted with the task of making this institution function.
Thus it happened that at one and the