Courtesy Reuters

National Socialism: Theory and Practice

KONRAD HEIDEN says that National Socialism is a union of causes rather than aims,[i] and certainly the present form of government in Germany is unimaginable without the history of the last twenty years. The Great War immensely furthered the popular sense of unity, and augmented German national consciousness. Versailles created in the midst of Europe a nation with an acute sense of grievance. The early attempts to enforce the Treaty without modification resulted in the inflation, which had serious social and eventually political consequences, for it impoverished the middle classes and accelerated the concentration of capital. The second period of attempted fulfillment, plus rapid industrial reconstruction with borrowed money, resulted in a huge public and private indebtedness, largely to outside banks, and eventually slumped into the depression.

All of these things together created a revolutionary situation which in 1929 was obvious to the blindest observers. Furthermore, the revolution was ripe along many fronts. The German Republic had occurred, historically, about sixty years too late. It set up a parliamentary democracy at a time when liberal democracy was being challenged in its historic strongholds, and the new state was without élan from the beginning. To no single group in Germany -- unless for a time to some of the industrialists -- did it unqualifiedly represent a desirable ultimate form of state. The largest single party, the Social Democrats, who represented the organized workers and part of the intellectuals, and were the Republic's strongest supporters, looked forward to a socialist commonwealth, and realized that they were continually compromising; while the old feudal classes sabotaged the Republic from the beginning. Saddled at the outset with crushing defeat at Versailles, it was associated in the popular mind with misery and humiliation. From being a result of the lost war, it came to be regarded as the cause of the lost war. Liberalism became synonymous with defeatism, and parliamentarism with weakness and disorganization.

The German Republic, too, was forced -- or so it thought -- to present

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