Time for NATO to Close Its Door
The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good
EVERY revolution in its moment of triumph creates a vacuum. When victory is attained the mass passions that won it begin to flatten out. After running an abnormally high temperature, the masses start running an abnormally low one. Under many disguises the counter-revolutionary desire for normal quiet, for a juste milieu, begins to appear. In this anticlimax the revolution reaches its end.
Such was the pattern of the French Revolution of 1789; and since then every full-fledged revolution was supposed necessarily to follow it. This year is the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Grande Révolution. A generation ago a jubilee article would have prophesied that any great future revolution would follow the accepted pattern. Meanwhile, however, the classical methods and course of revolution have changed. We see today that the new ones are as different from the old as our modern wars are different from those of Alexander or of Moltke.
The years 1789-1794 furnish the model of the primitive type of revolution. What happened then was merely a fragment of the modern revolution -- the dramatic, explosive, self-destructive stage inherent in all revolutions, primitive or modern. The three great revolutions of our day have been described over and over again. But too little thought has been given to the essential traits common to all three. The fact is that our age has had the doubtful honor of creating the type of full-grown revolution for the first time in history. These modern revolutions possess much longer breath. The energies of earlier revolutions were spent after the institutions, persons and symbols against which they had been invoked had been overturned and replaced. But the mass movements of today cut much deeper. Their programs are much more ambitious. And their prophets demand much longer periods -- longer than their own lifetimes -- to put them into effect.
Therefore after the first subjective and passionate stage there begins in modern revolutions an objective and bureaucratic stage. In fact, no word is more characteristic of contemporary revolutions than this sober word "bureaucratic," out of place as it may sound in this connection.
The leaders of the Grande Révolution had only abstract and nebulous ideas as to what the "morning after" would be like. But in our generation, which feels stifled by its vast social and economic problems, revolutions are started by daring men precisely in order to deal comprehensively with those problems. They think of the first stage of their revolutionary ascent as merely a necessary preliminary. But then they find that if they are to avoid chaos they cannot dispense with many of the inherited institutions and conditions of life. They may despise and disdain them, they may attack them whenever they feel able; but they must accept them as the material out of which they will have to build their new structure. This, in a way, makes the leaders stronger, but it also creates new dangers for them. Huge and complicated modern problems cannot be solved by the spontaneous action of passionate masses. The vacuum which appears after the first passions are spent may be salutary: it offers a chance to get rid of the excited crowds. But at the same time this anticlimax deprives the men at the top of precisely the revolutionary energies which put them there. In the second stage, the revolution must be very prudent in the use it makes of these forces. It must rely mainly on virtues of a different sort. And meanwhile the new masters will have been forced (or perhaps have rashly volunteered) to shoulder responsibilities for general prosperity and well-being to an extent never imagined by their predecessors.
A high Bolshevik of the 1924 vintage is reported once to have said: "Since 1920 we have many times discussed amongst ourselves the problem of the 9th Thermidor." This date is most important for the subject of this article. The 9th Thermidor -- the arrest of Robespierre -- that was the end of the Grande Révolution! Primitive revolutionaries like Robespierre and St. Just utilized the grandly-staged terror of that day to prevent the ebb of revolutionary passions. They were trying to fill the approaching and dreaded void with heads and corpses. Our bureaucratic and systematic revolutions bridge the horrible gap in a more rational way, avoiding thereby a repetition of the 9th Thermidor. They have found an "Ersatz" for the revolutionary emotions which have carried them thus far and no further: they have found their secret state police.
The critical hour for the masters of the new era arrives when, out of the fog of passions, the struggle for life re-emerges in its inexorable monotony, with its worries for tomorrow unchanged by all that has happened or perhaps actually made more harsh and pressing. The laws of social existence have not been annulled. Everybody is trying to cash in on the wealth of promises given, but most people do not find themselves any higher up on the social ladder. As a result, there is much criticism and grumbling about the state of the nation. The leaders and their close entourage have sobered down and see clearly what an unholy confusion now confronts them. They feel compelled to swap horses in midstream, and to perform this feat they need different and more potent supports than they have possessed heretofore.
What does a country look like when the revolutionary tide has ebbed away? While it lasts, the storm of the mass movement drowns out every other current. Each participant in the surging delirium acts as if no one possibly could think otherwise than he does. But as a matter of fact there are always many silent dissenters, some out of indolence, some out of real disagreement. And of course some join in the noise without joining in the sentiment. Thus, despite the colossal propaganda which preceded the last regular elections in Germany (March 1933), only about 44 percent of the voters on that occasion favored handing over their liberties to the totalitarian state.
In every revolution the point comes where a wide breach opens up between the jubilant and the uncommunicative. Then, as some balance and common sense is restored, the dividing line becomes blurred. More and more people, both inside and outside the Party, again feel the urge to get a hearing for their personal opinions. Men who have delivered themselves over heart and soul to mass enthusiasm now think it only fair that some attention be paid to what they think and say individually. Some people make a point of sticking to their opinions. Others have been sobered by unexpectedly finding that the revolution did not halt at precisely the right point, i.e. that it actually is affecting them adversely. Some who promoted the revolution in order to ward off this or that menace to their own private interests now threaten to become troublesome and start invoking their prestige or economic power. The budding vengeance of those against whom the revolution was aimed primarily has also to be reckoned with. Still another source of danger are the enthusiasts who keep their feelings at white heat in season and out -- the type of Roehm and Shlapnikov. There is no revolution without its Héberts, and the hate of these falls particularly on the "experts" of the old régime, whom the responsible leaders now discover to be as indispensable as ever for setting up the new order and making everyday life function smoothly. And what of these experts themselves? Their courage to undertake sabotage may not always be chastened by opportunism. Cool-headed individuals appear on the scene, scenting huge profits to be drawn from the flux of events. There is a rich growth, too, of informers. It always comes about, then, that after the victory -- or even while the fight is still in course -- the leader finds himself surrounded by a crowd of partisans who, garbed in the noble mantle of the great cause, are trying to use him in one way or another to promote their own personal ends. In combination, these types hold as much danger for the new order as would a general relapse of the masses into inertia or sullen exhaustion. They must be kept firmly in check or -- as Kerensky found -- the country will replace its new masters with ones newer still.
The National Socialist Government, victory won, exhibited the same tendencies as its Slavic seniors in revolutionary experience. That the great change had come was revealed plainly, almost ostentatiously, in the declaration with which it initiated the Winter Help Campaign of 1935-36. Every year this party drive nets many hundred millions of marks. Originally it was announced as an opportunity for all citizens to prove their public spirit and devotion to National Socialist ideals. But on this occasion the gracious donors were bluntly cautioned that their gifts were not really voluntary: gifts there must be. Almost naïvely, those in charge admitted that the new high-mindedness supposedly dominant in the era of national regeneration was not, after all, entirely dependable. In an unguarded moment they disclosed that there is only one thing which can be relied upon implicitly -- compulsion.
For some time -- in fact from the very beginning of the Third Reich -- the secret police, or Gestapo, had been the regime's instrument of compulsion. It rapidly became its chief pillar of stability and security. Like the GPU in Soviet Russia, the Gestapo undertook the task of making the state independent of changes in the human heart and soul. When the GPU and Gestapo are described as "state police" the term carries a very precise connotation -- a police for the state and against the people, who are still considered to be potentially recalcitrant and non-conformist.
Dictatorial governments of course are not the only ones which have secret police at their command. But in other countries the secret police have no powers except to watch, investigate and report; and they are themselves carefully supervised. The case of M. Chiappe, chief of the Paris Sûreté, recently demonstrated once again how touchy democratic countries are on this vital issue. The secret police of the "experimental states" derive immense power from the fact that in addition to their rôle of investigation and inquiry they have important executive duties. Their function is not merely to detect crime but to remove opposition against the development of any phase of the régime's program. And the deeper the incision into the living organism of the nation which this program entails -- socially, economically or politically -- the greater the opportunity for a vast expansion of the secret police.
Of course there are many intermediary forms between the secret police of democratic states and the secret police of the régimes which pride themselves on taking great risks today in order to build a correspondingly great future tomorrow. These intermediary forms, as in Japan or Rumania, will not concern us here. Nor is the OVRA of Fascist Italy a full-grown example of the type of secret state police developed in National Socialist Germany and Soviet Russia. This article therefore will concentrate on the latter.
Our epoch is, as has been indicated above, that of revolutions which have succeeded in reaching the bureaucratic phase. Even the terror is bureaucratic. The methods of the highly organized state police systems differ from the spectacular terrors of previous systems. They are more refined; and technical developments, from the machine gun to the microphone, have put overpowering forces in their hands. Neither the Bolshevik police nor the National Socialist police has staged a single public execution. At first, each made use of the "impulses of revolutionary conscience" which at that time were supposed or alleged to actuate everyone. In Germany recourse is still had occasionally to the "spontaneous" cruelty of the street. Not so in the Soviet Union, more seasoned in revolutionary ways.
But in fact the populace of both countries is still subjected to a continuous and active terror, directed against every individual who from any point of view makes himself inacceptable to the state. Such individuals either are "liquidated" outright or manhandled or sent to a concentration camp or crippled in their economic existence or forced to flee the country or merely confined at home (like von Papen). In sum, these various methods constitute a true terror because of their arbitrariness and the severity with which they are executed. Means of defense are extremely limited. In most cases the decision to use coercive methods is reached by the police authorities themselves, often in accord with some personal whim, without any hearings of witnesses and of course without any counsel being provided for the victim. From the moment of his arrest nothing more generally is heard of the delinquent until his fate has been decided; and often the decision is delayed indefinitely. In the Soviet Union it usually is assumed that a prisoner has been executed if his relatives bringing him fresh laundry are refused admission. In Germany, the fact that a prisoner has been executed occasionally is brought to the notice of his family by sending them by parcel post an urn containing his ashes. This kind of terror is in accord with the theory of the deterrent influence of punishment.
From time to time the Soviet Union stages a show tribunal which maintains a faithful semblance of orderly court procedure. This of course is done primarily for political reasons, domestic as well as foreign. In Germany, political "People's Courts" have been set up to satisfy possible pangs of popular conscience. In these courts the defendants are permitted ex officio counsel. But entirely apart from and above such external trappings of "justice" as these the secret police works its pleasure. It supervises the functioning of the People's Courts, and often (as in the case of Pastor Niemöller) supplements the punishments meted out there and in other civil law courts by again taking into custody those who have served their time. Nominally it cannot carry out capital punishment -- but only nominally.
Needless to say, these occult and arbitrary police doings put a great strain on everybody's nerves. The whole atmosphere of the country becomes imbued with a vague horror. The less robust of course tremble most, but even those who are strong physically often are affected. In the middle of 1921 a well-known British football player went to Soviet Russia as a tourist. In Moscow a vague feeling of the existence of some constantly impending yet unfathomable danger came to pervade his mind to such a degree that he lost the use of his legs and did not recover it until he was back in Riga. Visitors who used to know a country before it became totalitarian often are struck by the physical changes noticeable in many of the inhabitants, above all by their general apathy and the lack of expression in their faces, an uncanny contrast to the excited countenances seen in the first moments of revolutionary enthusiasm.
The terror is sharpened by the omnipresence of the secret police. The whole nation begins spying on itself. "Considering that the Soviet Union has 150 million inhabitants who are being spied upon," ran a Soviet joke, "and that there are 150 million spies to do the spying, the country must have at least 300 million inhabitants." Indeed, it is open to question which psychological influence is deeper -- the arbitrariness and severity of the actual punishment meted out to individuals or the atmosphere of ominous secrecy in which the whole populace must live from day to day and from year to year.
Every criminologist has to guard against the danger that he may cultivate more mistrust than really is called for in particular circumstances. All secret police systems, without any exception either as regards individual officials or the organization as a whole, are apt to succumb to this professional weakness. The terror thus automatically multiplies. The leaders who have set out to transform the country ideologically and materially in conformity with a certain plan must gauge correctly the public's current state of mind, its willingness to conform or its apathy. They not only are concerned about their preservation of power -- a miracle to which they never get accustomed -- but even more about the preservation of their lives. It is vital for them to detect and deal with all centers of possible resistance. But when the police systems which they set up undertake to read the minds of the people they soon begin to read almost nothing but evil thoughts. Confronted with the task of seeing that no citizen harbors any mental reservations and everybody holds himself always in a state of complete docility, they make suspicion sovereign. It ends by being sovereign not merely over the public, but over the police as well, and over their leaders.
No wonder that the catalogue of reprehensible acts constantly expands. The scent of the police on trails of possible danger becomes more and more acute, more and more subjective. Its criteria become less and less well defined. These defects should serve as a warning signal to the government and to the secret police itself; they should see that they are dipping into a barrel without a bottom. But they press forward heedlessly. In January 1922, just when he was taking over office as head of the GPU from Dzerzhinsky, Unschlicht told a foreigner that in future the organization was going to concentrate mainly on "preventive" measures. In other words, it was setting out to "eliminate" anyone who fell under a shadow of suspicion of being even passively hostile to the state. In 1926 this principle of regarding suspects as culprits was publicly enunciated by Rykov, at that time President of the Council of People's Commissars, and later the conception appeared in the criminal code of the Soviet Union. In the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten of January 28, 1939, an article which in other respects was duly cautious, and which carried the harmless title of "The rising generation of police leaders," dealt in its very first paragraph with the civil criminal police and with the "security police" (the Gestapo) in these terms: "The way of the security police leads more often than not from the evil doer to the evil deed, whereas the criminal police takes the crime as the point of departure to look for the criminal." The sense to be inferred from these words is that in the eyes of the Gestapo the suspect is enough without the crime.
The notion that the suspect is guilty makes the state police almighty; the bureaucratic terror is supreme; the conception of the state against the citizen has won. But at the same time the principle turns against itself and its adherents. "What is truth?" becomes a permanent question. In pursuit of its revolutionary aims the system must change daily the borderline between what is and what is not permissible. In Germany there often are convictions for offenses which at the time they were committed were inoffensive both in conscience and in law. A person may even run serious danger by saying something in perfectly good faith, or by seeing somebody who at the moment is quite reputable but later falls from grace, or by reading foreign books. These actions may later -- ex post facto -- make one suspect in the light of some recent "don't" and result in serious danger and harsh punishment. So far does suspicion breed suspicion that there was a legend about a former chief of the GPU, Menzhinski, that he had prepared a dossier about his own political unreliability.
Perhaps enough has been said to indicate that in essence one system of secret state police is the same as every other. All are extremist by their very nature. Still their methods of terror differ, both for internal reasons and because of different surroundings and different pasts. The Bolshevik revolution has used mass executions. The National Socialist revolution, on the other hand, has made more use of floggings. The threat of corporal punishment has the advantage of being more elastic than the threat of capital punishment. Its results are less spectacular, but it can be dealt out to larger numbers of persons and with fewer bothersome technicalities. Further, the number of persons who can be trusted to execute floggings is almost unlimited. In the first months of the National Socialist régime, the SA (Sturmabteilungen), elder brother of the SS (Schutzstaffel), had almost a monopoly of flogging. It can be argued in favor of flogging, too, that it actually produces a more rapid and deeper impression on the public than shooting. The range of possible attack is much broader and it is a more efficient instrument for maintaining power over a long period of time. It can be built up, too, as a reaction of the outraged consciences of the people, even though it may simply have been ordered by the SS or SA.
Young men, unfortunately, seem best suited to carry out terror by flogging. And so among the most serious reproaches to be brought against National Socialism and the Gestapo is that they introduce still undeveloped minds to some of the worst forms of physical brutality. Young persons degrade themselves by humiliating older and very often honorable and worthy persons who would, if they could, choose death by a bullet. The SS and SA were used chiefly, one can almost say exclusively, to carry out the pogroms of last November. Each group was accompanied by two officials, one an older man in charge of the active work, the other a "quiet" man whose duty it was to keep the group within the fixed bounds. The whole proceeding was an orderly and bureaucratic way of giving "self-expression" to "the people's soul." The Soviet terror, on the contrary, holds to the "supreme punishment." It seldom inflicts bodily mutilations, and beatings are comparatively rare, not being mandatory unless likely to produce useful results in the course of inquiries and questionings. Cruelties in Soviet concentration camps are haphazard, more thoughtless than vicious. But the German people is deliberately intimidated by the rubber truncheon, the steel rod, the rifle butt. Mortification vies in efficacy with the threat of death and with death itself.
The dilemma in which the secret police find themselves is real even though often they do not seem conscious of it. They want to impress the public unmistakably with their relentless vigilance and sternness. At the same time, they want the average citizen to work as cheerfully as if he were a free agent. As one of the aims is to make the Government popular and trusted, they are eager to create the impression of doing nothing but shield the honest citizen against hidden enemies; yet on the one hand they must constantly expand their repressive activities and, while persuading the public that au fond they are quite good-natured, must remain the incarnation of hidden terror, the potential avenger of every act of nonconformity. In both countries the secret police tends to change its official name from time to time, as if thereby it could shed its burden of accumulated public aversion. The Soviet Government in 1922 made the old Cheka a division of the People's Commissariat of the Interior and gave it the name GPU. Even so they thought best to change the name once more, to NKVD. In all, there have been three names since 1917. The name GPU is still the best known, and hence is used throughout this article. But under any name it smells no more sweet. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Bolshevik régime a movie was shown which depicted, among other activities, a meeting of the directing board of the GPU. Such a thing had never been tried before. The result was hysteria in the moving picture houses; women shrieked in the dark when the picture came on the screen, and within two days it was withdrawn. In the article of the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten quoted above care was taken to speak of the Gestapo under the disguise of the "safety police." No mention was made either of the official but ambiguous epithet "state" -- carrying the implication of something against the people -- nor of the ominous word "secret." In neither Germany nor Soviet Russia are the names of the institutions themselves or of the leaders ever mentioned casually in conversation. This is especially true with regard to the substitute chief of the Gestapo, Reinhard Heydrich. He was an intelligence officer in the Baltic Division of the Admiralty and as such had an opportunity to become an expert on GPU methods. He had to resign from the German Navy in 1931, and entered the SS. He keeps himself strictly out of the limelight, leaving all honor to his chief, Heinrich Himmler. Yet his name is known to every individual in Germany. Even Ministers of the Reich put their finger warningly to their lips if it comes up in the course of a tête-à-tête.
Government by secret police is a screw without end. Its exponents in the beginning comfort themselves with the belief that one day the success of their Great Experiment will simplify their tasks and give them something like the comparative quiet enjoyed by statesmen in the status quo countries. Today hardly any Soviet or German leader can be naïve enough to believe this. The GPU is more diligent in its work than ever, and in Germany the pressure of the Gestapo is only beginning to be fully felt.
Necessarily, the state police undo by night what they have woven by day. They defeat their own ends. Almost unconsciously the innate urge of biological self-protection asserts itself among the people. This attitude makes everybody distrust everybody else. Everybody dissimulates his convictions. Everybody avoids anyone who runs political risks through either open or secret opposition or who promises to become unpopular with the local representatives of the régime because of general apathy towards it. This sort of defensive attitude degenerates easily into blatant cowardice. Sycophantism and byzantism invariably become rampant in all totalitarian states. The result is what might be called the atomization of the nation. Each unit feels unsafe in company with any other unit. What was meant as a means of achieving union in fact produces disintegration.
True, in every human society there is a last "iron ration" of instinct for independence. Some persons have an instinctive desire for self-respect and a native prejudice in favor of justice. These will try to be faithful to themselves as long as possible and to be useful to their country, whatever the character of its rulers at the moment. But a long list of examples shows that the day comes when the state will prefer to do without all such help; then it causes them to disappear by one means or another. For many reasons -- but all of them having a single source -- the life of the country deteriorates. Then the activities of the state police are accentuated, for so, it is hoped, things will be kept going. But though every totalitarian state possesses fanatics who work far beyond their strength, there always is a greater number of people who take their work more easily. Either caution counsels them not to attract attention, or perhaps they are disgusted at heart with the lack of personal liberty in the régime. Thus it may be said that the work of the state police, constructive as it may seem at the moment, gigantic as it is in scale, sucks the vitality of the people which it holds in its hands and remains, despite all its achievements, negative.
It is commonly said that the state police come to form "a state within the state." This is not accurate. The expansive force of a state police is too great. The tendency of all such organizations is towards a saturation point where nothing logically remains for them to do but take over the totality of power. Ambitions in that direction have been attributed to the chief of the Gestapo, though nothing of the sort has been rumored in Soviet Russia. But certain conditions inside the police operate in the opposite direction. To begin with, its work is all-absorbing. The men in the high command always have the appearance of being under a very heavy strain. They are utterly concentrated on their work. Also, they usually are familiar with the limitations and drawbacks of political power as such, as well as of individual positions of responsibility. Most of them prefer the sweetness of real power behind the scenes. In many respects they must resemble a good general staff officer; they must be able to think coolly and logically, they must have patience and the gift of decision at the right moment. It is not a mere coincidence that the Prussian military aristocracy, which for many generations has provided the German Army with its best staff officers, today sends many of its sons into the Gestapo and particularly into those offices requiring hard and constant intellectual application. The work is not with regiments and divisions, but with single individuals, represented by dots connected by lines with other dots. Often it is not very different from the war games of the General Staff; and it is not much different in Berlin or Munich from what it is in Moscow or Kiev. The ranking officials as a group resemble an officers' corps more than a civil service group. Even in the Soviet Union they have a specific esprit de corps. In the first weeks of the Soviet régime some party comrades argued that it would be unworthy of the millennium to organize a new Okhrana. Yet in a short time the Government was speaking of the recently founded Cheka as one of the "angels of the revolution." In Germany nobody has dared to go quite so far, but much propaganda has been spread from mouth to mouth, especially among the younger generation, about the honor of serving in the Gestapo or of helping it.
Despite their various overtures to the public, the state police, whether in Germany or in Soviet Russia, live lives apart. Their members are feared whenever their occupation is known -- often, of course, it is kept secret. They themselves feel separated from the community as a whole, though certainly not as inferiors but rather because they are conscious of serving a special morality. The average citizen seems to them to lead a conventional sort of life, whereas they, wide-awake and indefatigable in the service of the common good, proceed according to rigid principles even if those principles are in conflict with general ethics. Nobody can judge to what extent individual impulses of sadism or revenge operate to reinforce the abstract principles which in their eyes justify them in telling lies, employing agents provocateurs, blackmailing, oppressing, taking hostages. Certain officially undesirable characteristics such as vindictiveness often recur. We can only hint here at this human side of the problem.
The state police are a beautiful handle fitted to a dirty stick. The responsible members are actuated by a spirit of dedication, by the conscious pride natural to men who in splendid isolation, convinced of their own special abilities, and putting forth enormous energies, safeguard the security of the state, require the fulfilment of its plans, and guarantee, as they believe, the nation's fundamental unity. All this might indeed be a worthy matter of pride if only it did not originate in a total absence of morals, even in direct immorality, and did not find fulfilment through instruments of horror. They are, or become, oblivious of this. What happens in the inquisition rooms, in the guardrooms, in the prison cells and in the concentration camps is, for these officials, the same sort of day's work as work in a hospital or surgery is to a doctor.
All the secret police systems pay well and give special attention to the well-being of subordinates. No amount of money, however, can ever buy for the masters of the terror the coveted certainty that everything will be done by their "executive organs" in the manner ordered or that the results will be precisely those foreseen. Certain personal instincts or subjective judgments must be relied upon to produce the required results at a given moment. On the other hand, care must be taken not to allow these instincts too free sway. This may seem a mere matter of bureaucratic discernment. But it is a matter in which decision is most difficult as well as most important. Orders must be given in a dangerous moral twilight. If there are men either at the top or at the bottom with certain propensities they are under terrible temptation to give way to them. There also is a great temptation to succumb to bribery. Such are the limitations on omnipotence! Many of the numerous petty officers, spies and hangers-on of the Gestapo and the GPU are in fact quite openly corrupt. Indeed, in this respect there is hardly any difference between the police forces of the two hostile states. With regard to the higher officers, there is no evidence of corrupt practices in the Gestapo. Sometimes, however, financial corruption exists even very high up in the GPU. In 1926, for example, 120 of the more responsible GPU officers were held prisoners in the concentration camp in Solovetsk on charges of corruption.
By virtue of their extraordinary simplicity of conception and the discipline in the higher ranks the state police acquire an almost aristocratic character. Consciousness of this is encouraged in the Gestapo in order to ward off any qualms of conscience, especially among recruits. The GPU would do the same thing if the political lingo of the country permitted. Several times Stalin has thought fit to plant especially trusted men in the GPU with the aim of softening what seemed to him, even under accepted standards, as excessive cruelty. But in time all of them became hardened and routine Chekists.
Evidently the selection of officials possessing such vast arbitrary powers must be very careful. In Germany the requirements on both the physical and the intellectual score have become stricter as time goes on. Even so, any newly-organized police system is forced to have recourse to the experienced criminologists of the previous régime. In Soviet Russia, men have even been picked out of the hated Okhrana. Both in Germany and Soviet Russia some individuals with dubious -- to say the least -- personal proclivities have secured police posts; and there can be no doubt that during the initial terror in the Soviet Union these men were considered particularly useful.
From the beginning, the SS supplied a considerable number of the state police officers, and today it forms the main reservoir for candidates. The chief of the Gestapo, Henrich Himmler, has been commander of the SS since 1929. Alongside the SS stands the much older SA, consciously designed to be its more plebeian brother. The SA is also an instrument of the state police and a recruiting agency for it. Characteristically, most of the concentration camps are under the supervision of the SA. But it would seem that the SS still has a monopoly of the major activities of the Gestapo. Picked SS men are sent to special schools where they receive both general and specialized instruction. Some of them then go on to the universities, but they live in special houses. Frequently these young men also are sent abroad to "look around." SS men belong to either the "outer" or the "inner" circle. The latter have intimate connections with the state police and with the Party; and, in conjunction with similar groups of the SA, they are usually assigned to carry out the carefully prepared special "actions" intended to be taken as spontaneous explosions of the "folk soul." This sort of occurrence has not been reported from the Soviet Union; the specific methods of terror used there do not require it. The duty of the specially trained GPU army of between 130,000 and 150,000 men is to supervise internal security, watch the frontiers, and in general serve as an adjunct of the state police. Not much is known about the recruiting methods of the GPU. But just as the Hitler Youth organization is constantly sifted in the search for suitable material for the Gestapo, so the Soviet Union seems to turn to the Komsomoltsi and the universities to find young talent.
The positive merits or demerits of Communism or National Socialism are not under discussion here. Both have arisen from precarious social, economic and political conditions, and their enemies make a mistake if they deny them historical justification. In this uncertain epoch, it is as much up to the democracies (that is, the status quo governments) to prove their right to exist as it is to the dictatorships. But it certainly is a point against the totalitarian states that they make use of a secret state police and that evidently they are congenitally obliged to do so. Though the government must needs rely on the police, it finds itself in almost the same uncertain relationship towards it as the individual citizen does. The more the secret police suspect everybody the more sure they feel that they must plant their agents even in the organs of government, both at home and abroad; install their microphones even in the government offices; and use every possible means for finding out exactly what goes on in every branch of government, even in the cabinet meetings. By nature, they disapprove of the typical routine government employee who is inclined to administrative compromises, who pays attention to purely economic considerations, and who in consequence appears to be lukewarm or even, by claiming the right to criticize certain actions on departmental grounds, indicates that he might have a tendency to criticize the system itself. The constant supervision exercised by the police over all government agencies disrupts teamwork and damages initiative and efficiency. The same fear, the same evasion of responsibility, the same lack of initiative which oppresses the ordinary economic processes of the country as a whole, lays its paralyzing hand on the government routine.
The army is peculiarly susceptible to this infiltration. At the end of the 1920's, a whole cavalry regiment left its garrison at Minsk and camped outside the town in protest against attempts of the GPU to invade its officers corps. The GPU never forgot the way the late Marshal Tukhachevsky treated this affair -- and Marshal Tukhachevsky has now been shot. In the same way, the German Army has not forgotten the violent death of General von Schleicher, nor the circumstances in which the Gestapo arranged to bring about the downfall of General von Fritsch. The abolishment of political commissars in the Red Army represented a victory of the Government and of certain party circles over the GPU and the party groups affiliated with it. Their reinstatement in 1937 is generally considered as one reason for the present unsatisfactory state of the Soviet Army.
In both countries the secret state police constantly interfere with the normal activity of the courts. They watch the activities of public prosecutors; they supervise trials and advise in judgments; and they inflict their own punishments after the regular punishments are finished. In this way the whole authority of the public judiciary is gradually obliterated, as was demonstrated in the Soviet Union when a law curtailing the powers of the GPU failed to be given any practical effect whatsoever. It is characteristic of conditions in Germany that a decree, promulgated soon after the purge of June 30, 1934, makes it impossible to hold the Gestapo responsible legally for mistakes. The authority and activities of the legal authorities and of the Minister of the Interior himself are similarly impaired by the concentration of all police powers in a single head, Heinrich Himmler. Recently the Gestapo had a hand in eliminating Dr. Schacht from the Economics Ministry, and finally from the Reichsbank, thus consummating a long-cherished ambition. In every branch of the government the Gestapo has its say.
But as the secret police interfere more and more in matters outside their original scope other state agencies come into conflict with them. Stalin sometimes fights the GPU, sometimes uses it in his fights. So far we have heard nothing of any conflicts in Germany like the one which Stalin had with the GPU in 1928-29 at the start of farm collectivization (the GPU felt it entailed grave risks for the security of the régime). But there can be no question that both in Germany and in Soviet Russia a continuous if largely under-cover conflict is always in progress between the police and various sections of the government which it serves.
The Gestapo's relationship to the "single Party" is different from its relationship to the Government. There are fewer natural causes of friction, for the Party, serving its own interests and guarding its own omnipotence, can take a more purely political view than the Government, which day by day must deal with practical problems. Sometimes when the Party feels tempted to interfere with the Government's conduct of a particular matter the Gestapo supports it; and sometimes the Gestapo turns for support to the Party. Thus the local party organizations frequently coöperated with the Gestapo in forcing non-Aryans out of their positions when the Ministry of Economics and the Reichswehr strongly disapproved of such actions. Similarly in Soviet Russia, while the Government was still maintaining a favorable attitude toward foreigners who had been granted "concessions," the Communist Party coöperated with the GPU to make their life unbearable. The National Socialist Party and the Gestapo also collaborate in revolutionary work in "democratic countries," just as the Comintern and the GPU work together in "capitalistic countries." A distinct section of the state police in Moscow exists for the purpose of coöperating with the Party in this field. In this connection reference might be made to reports that the Gestapo executed the well-timed murder of Baron Kettel, Secretary of the German Legation at Vienna, at the moment of Austria's absorption in the Reich. Thus while the accent of power jumps back and forth between government and party in all the totalitarian states, the state police often is able to weight the balance. And through all the changes, its strength and influence remain essentially intact.
Early Christianity believed that evil was the inevitable function of power. The actions of the totalitarian governments of our time reënforce that view. The more comprehensive their absolutism becomes, the more they base themselves on a conception of morality incompatible with normal ethics. They turn everybody and everything into instruments for achieving their exalted and ambitious aims, trying to set the course of history by anticipation over decades and even centuries to come. But the effort involves resort to the raison d'état, not just as an incidental aid to them in maintaining power but as the paramount principle governing their government.
Here lies the fundamental fallacy of these régimes. As the result of the all-pervading terror, their exalted programs never get beyond a stage which we might compare to laboratory tests executed under artificial and arbitrary conditions. There is no possibility either for those who direct the operation or for observers, even though they are most sympathetic and even though they are in the laboratory itself, to judge how the program would work out in a free society employing individual initiative for the accomplishment of a common task. In the years from 1918 to 1920 many leading Bolsheviks were conscious of this weakness and insisted that a "democratic" test should be applied, at least in some fields. They were defeated, but the tendency lingered on. Then Stalin, helped by the Cheka, dealt with it once for all. He proclaimed the "monolithic" party and thereby the "monolithic" state. He saved the régime. But he condemned the Bolshevik state forever to the use of crutches. The National Socialist State boasts that it avoided such illusions from the beginning. It adopted crutches not only deliberately but with enthusiasm, and it continues to use them and to strengthen them.
Propagandists for totalitarian states never refer to the state police. On occasions when the totalitarian governments feel obliged to mention their existence they claim that their actions are for the greatest good of the greatest number. Nevertheless, their function is the best substantiation of the theory that by reason of the nature of its government a totalitarian country is incapable of ever reaching the optimum of welfare which it might hope to achieve in a normal atmosphere. Totalitarian experimentation cannot escape from the fact that its prerequisite is the perversion of normal life and that the inevitable result is a sapping of the nation's spontaneous vital energies.
Admirers of the dictators are liable consciously or unconsciously to ignore the price paid by nations for their achievements. We can estimate the size of this price and guess the reason why it must be paid if for a moment we imagine that in some totalitarian state the terror suddenly were withdrawn. The government could not hold its own for more than a moment. A totalitarian government can master everything except the fact that the foundations on which it builds are artificial.
Admirers of totalitarian theory concentrate on its promises and on its successes in limited fields. They do not or will not see that terror is the prerequisite for obtaining those successes. Many of them live in some country which as a matter of course functions according to certain political and legal principles. Of course life there is not satisfactory. But those who criticize the faults of their own country and praise what they like about the dictatorships never imagine precisely what it would mean for them individually if the accepted principles of the government under which they live were to be replaced by the concepts of totalitarianism. Like people with good lungs, they consciously avoid thinking what it would be like to have tuberculosis. The great danger for freedom in the world can be summed up in the old saying that "the healthy never understand what it feels like to be sick."
Other experiments may be made with totalitarianism in other lands. But this much may be said after the experience of the last twenty years. Any upheaval planned anywhere in the name of a single man and a single party will face the practical problem of how the revolutionary program is to be realized by a free interplay of social, political and economic forces, thus avoiding the spiritual degeneration and material decomposition which result from reliance on terror. Theoretically this may not seem impossible. But actually the probabilities are against the appearance of the genius, be it of an individual or an entire nation, wise enough and strong enough to carry through such an intricate task.