Translated by G. A. Malvicini
In September 1919, Adolf Hitler joined the tiny “German Workers’ Party” (DAP). In February 1920 — having become the party’s foremost cadre — he relaunches it as the “National Socialist Party of German Workers” (NSDAP). Its program calls for the abolition of the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles, the unification of all Germans in a single Reich, the stripping of all Jews of their citizenship, the nationalization of large companies, profit sharing, the creation of a “healthy middle class,” etc.
The new party grows in Bavaria in particular. It recruits its base among veterans, students and the lower middle-class, who are receptive to its patriotic appeals and frightened by the Communists. To protect its meetings from the disruptive attacks of the left, Hitler founds anti-communist squads, the SA. In favor with the Bavarian regional government, which is monarchist and conservative, and with the complicity of members of the army and the Bavarian police, Hitler’s movement grows until November 1923 — the month when the National Socialists try to take control of Bavaria in order to march on Berlin. The putsch is suppressed and the party is dissolved.
Upon leaving prison Hitler again founds the NSDAP (1925), which — thanks to the Strasser brothers — begins to spread in northern Germany. At the end of 1925 there are 27,000 members, 49,900 at the end of 1926, and at the end of 1927, 72,000. In 1928 the party gains 12 seats in Parliament. It is with the economic crisis of 1929 — which increases the number of unemployed to 6 million — that the Nazi Party becomes a mass party. In the elections of September 1930, the Nazis obtain 107 seats in the Reichstag, and in those of July 1932, 230.
The following social groups converge in the Nazi movement:
a) veterans and nationalists who want to liberate Germany from the humiliating conditions of the Versailles Treaty;
b) the nation’s youth, attracted by the dynamism of the new party and the myth of the Third Reich;
c) the middle and lower-middle classes, threatened by the economic crisis, the concentration of capital and the growing Communist Party;
d) the unemployed, or most of the sub-proletariat.
The rise of Nazism takes place against the backdrop of the crisis of the other parties:
1) of the Social Democrats, responsible — in the eyes of the German bourgeoisie — for the national humiliation of 1918;
2) of the communists, who are prevented by Stalin from forming a common front with the Social Democrats;
3) of the bourgeois parties, incapable of building a solid government majority.
The Jan. 30, 1933, the Reich President von Hindenburg Instructs Hitler to form a coalition government together with the nationalist conservatives (DNVP). The burning of the Reichstag and the elections of March 1933 — in which the Nazis get 43.8 percent of the vote — allow the National Socialist Party to dissolve opposing organizations and seize all power. The following groups continue to resist “Nazification”:
1) workers organized by trade unions in numerous industrial zones;
2) numerous Catholic circles, hostile to certain neo-pagan tendencies;
3) certain segments of the old conservative class, annoyed by the populism of the regime.
After the elimination of the internal left wing opposition in the purge of 30 June 1934, the Nazi state starts to assume its definitive form. It is founded on:
a) the dissolution of political parties and their replacement with the National Socialist Party as the party of the German nation;
b) the suspension of regional autonomy and the coordination of the Länder by the central authority of the Reich;
c) the unification of the police forces into a single regional police force headed by Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler.
d) the creation of concentration camps for political opponents of the regime;
e) the unification of workers’ organizations in the Front of Labor and labor legislation based on principles of solidarity between employers and workers;
f) the creation of numerous forms of welfare for workers (housing, medical assistance, the recreational organization “Strength through joy,” Volkswagen, “the people’s car”), creating a feeling of relief after the economic crisis;
g) the mobilization of the nation’s youth in the Hitler Youth and the annual labor service, which was mandatory for young people from middle-class families, in order that they better get to know the workers and peasants.
The rapid decrease in unemployment, the swift elimination of the most turbulent elements of the Party, protected by the SA, allow the Hitler regime to earn the sympathy of the middle class and the military. Systematic propaganda sets out the achievements of the regime and the Gestapo keeps elements of opposition under surveillance.
As the regime is consolidated, the following trends emerge:
a) a substantial interclassism that brings the previously humiliated lower-middle class to the forefront of German life;
b) a tendency to protect small traders and small investors;
c) a tendency to keep the peasantry in a privileged position through laws concerning inherited property (Reichserbhofgesetz) and primogeniture;
d) the tendency of the SS — the party militia — to see itself as a kind of state within the state and to expand its powers.
On top of this complex social reality lies the uniformity of the totalitarian state with its propaganda, which asserts the following values:
a) the greatness of Germany, manifested first in the Holy Roman Empire (the First Reich), then the Prussian-Bismarckian empire (the second Reich) and which now has a third incarnation in the national and social Third Reich;
b) the purity of the German race (represented mainly by the Nordic type), which is protected by stripping the Jews of German citizenship and implementing various eugenic measures;
c) the military spirit — embodied by the Prussian tradition — and the spirit of the peasantry, exalted in the myth of “blood and soil.”
However, the Third Reich makes sense only as a preparation for revenge. From the beginning of the party, Hitler’s goal is to disavow the Treaty of Versailles and overturn the verdict of the First World War. The foreign policy objectives of National Socialism are:
a) the integration of Austria, Sudetenland, Memel, and Danzig into the Reich;
b) regaining the old dominant position of the German people in Central Europe and the Danube;
c) the war against Bolshevik Russia, with the conquest of living space in the East.
The revision of the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles begins with the reintroduction of compulsory military service (March 1935) and continues with the re-militarization of the Rhineland. In 1938 — after securing the friendship of Italy — Hitler annexes Austria, where since 1918 many had been calling for a union with Germany. German troops entering the Sudetenland are welcomed in the same way. With that, more than ten million Germans were re-united with the Reich. But here, we see that the principle of living space takes precedence over that of nationality: in March 1936, Hitler annexed Bohemia and Moravia. The danger of war, new anti-Jewish persecutions, certain measures of eugenics and euthanasia awaken a certain degree of opposition, represented mainly:
a) by the military, which is assessing the risk of a world conflict;
b) by the churches, hostile to racial policies;
c) by certain circles of the upper middle classes and the aristocracy who despise Nazism as a regime of parvenus.
However, the regime remains in control of the situation and is able to initiate hostilities against Poland. World War II broke out, the annihilation of Poland, the timely occupation of Norway, the sensational victory over France reinforce the Nazi regime, surrounding it with a mood of success and confidence. Meanwhile, the occupation of Western Europe and North Africa, and then of the Danube-Balkan area, create a new situation characterized by:
a) the leadership of Nazi Germany with respect to other European fascist movements;
b) by the slow dawning of the idea of a European “New Order”;
c) the formulation of this “new order” not in terms of equality, but — as dictated by the logic of nationalism — according to the rank of each race: Neuordnung Europas aus Rasse und Raum (“the reorganization of Europe on principles of blood and space”).
In 1941, Germany attacks Russia. The war on Russia originates — besides the need to eliminate the Soviet army before the Anglo-Saxons are ready to invade the continent — from the desire to annihilate Bolshevism, conquering the coveted living space in the East. The war against Russia creates a new situation:
a) the full realization of the front of fascisms led by Germany in the “anti-Bolshevik crusade”;
b) the culmination of the ideological struggle against Bolshevism — a common theme in all forms of fascism — and the anti-Jewish struggle, since in Hitler’s view, Judaism and Bolshevism are the same thing;
c) the development of the Waffen SS through the recruitment of volunteers, at first only “Germanic,” then also “European.”
Thus, the position of National Socialism evolves through the following three phases: a pan-German phase (the reunification of the Germans of Austria and the Sudetenland in the Reich); a pan-Germanic phase (the alignment of the Danes, the Norwegians, the Dutch and the Flemish with the Reich); a European stage (the hegemony of the Reich in Europe, analogous to that of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Middle Ages). The declaration of war on America in December 1941 opens another chapter in the history of war, the main features of which are:
a) the configuration of the conflict as a battle between the fascist world-view on the one hand, and the democratic and communist ideologies on the other;
b) the pressure exerted by this new ideological dimension on the nationalist regimes allied with Germany;
c) the concept of the ’’New Order” as a kind of “Monroe Doctrine of Europe” against Russian-American interference.
Thus, National Socialism arrives — through the idea of race and space — at a global vision of the European problem. This vision is the hegemony of those peoples that dominate by reason of race and population size, and an ideology of Europe on the basis of German hegemony. Meanwhile, the war exaggerates the traits of the regime — but here, unlike in Italy, no contradiction emerges, only a ruthless coherence. It is the coherence of a state that accentuates its totalitarian character through:
a) the growth of the party militia — the SS — a decisive factor in all fields of civil and military life;
b) the increase in surveillance and the multiplication of concentration camps;
c) the liquidation of much of the old ruling class, which conspires against the regime.
However, even Nazi totalitarianism remains very far from that of the Soviet Union. The total planning of the economy to the detriment of the individual, the subordination of consumer goods to production for the war will never be fully implemented — which was also one of the causes of Germany’s defeat.
Unlike Fascism, National Socialism does not have a monarchy in its way and can go further in the construction of a totalitarian state. However, in Germany private enterprise will never be threatened, and Nazi “totalitarianism” is expressed above all in the control of political and spiritual life. But even spiritual control is limited by freedom of religion, which the Nazis never dare to openly threaten.
Through Nazism, the fascist idea — which had emerged and defined itself in Italy — gains European relevance. The central location of Germany, the tradition of the Reich as a hegemonic and ordering power, the ideology of race and space help German fascism to channel the various fascisms into a European perspective. Through the war against America and Russia, this ideology further defines itself as a “Monroe Doctrine” of Europe, a doctrine that from the catastrophic end of the Reich and the subsequent partition of Europe into spheres of Russian and American influence has only gained in credibility.