WHEN examined from abroad, the elements of the political struggle in Germany are certainly most puzzling. There are the National Socialists, who formally rule; there are the Conservatives -- Junkers, big industrialists and upper bureaucracy -- who actually rule; and there is a third group, so far apparently neutral, the "Wehrmacht," as the Reichswehr is now called. There is this further complication (among many others), that there is doubt as to who is dominant even in the Nazi Party. Who are the real régisseurs for the great stage show which all the world is summoned to witness? Are the known leaders the genuine dynamos propelling German politics? Or are the "best brains" hidden from the public?

There is ground for all who know German history and the structure of German society to believe that the last of the above questions may be answered in the affirmative. It has all along been impossible for them to accept the idea that the so-called Junker class and their deep-rooted political tradition belong to a closed chapter of German history. Nor have they been turned from their conviction by vague projects of agrarian reform, the rumor of radical tendencies in the Nazi Secretary of Agriculture, the dominance of the "labor front" by a radical leftist, the murder of prominent members of the feudal class, or a score of other facts and incidents.

The entire morphology of Germany cannot be completely transformed by even such efficiently applied mass psychology as that of the Nazis. They are magicians in commanding and coordinating cheers. They are the propaganda champions of all time. The skill of these trainers of the human beast extends even to the point where they can turn the strife of their political enemies to their own advantage, as the creation of the brown shirts out of the red fighting corps proved. Press and radio, schools and universities, stage and movies, fine arts and sports, all are under their absolute domination and are made to supply grist to their political mill. The Nazi torch is so held that there is illumination or a black shadow over every department of Germany's history, over every hope and plan for the future. Nevertheless the Nazis do not carry in their hands the future destiny of Germany. We can now say that they are not even the masters of the essential Germany of today, despite the fact that many peripheral fields of spectacular action still lie in their grasp.

No, the Junkers have never ceased to be the master minds alike in German internal and foreign politics, whether in the days of enlightened absolutism or under the constitutional monarchy, whether in the postwar republic or today under a one-party dictatorship.[i] When Bismarck, a supreme statesman, held the reins of Germany's destiny in his cautious hands, members of the Junker caste obstructed and bored him by their intrigues. Finally those intrigues succeeded in arousing in the young Kaiser the desire to oust the Chancellor who had welded the particularist states and Prussia into the Reich. It was under the influence of the Junker caste that Bismarck's successors, Caprivi, Prince Hohenlohe and Prince von Bülow, were forced out when agrarian problems and the economic interests of the eastern estates came under discussion.

However, these prewar chapters of German history are too familiar to be described again. What few know in its entirety is the story of the elaborate, hazardous and now apparently successful game which the Junkers have played since the war. This latter story is much more exciting than that of their prewar politics, and is worthy of illumination by a brilliant historian. The present article is not intended as a chapter for one of those volumes still waiting to be written, but merely as an attempt to give some sort of coherence to recent events and so to permit a tentative and brief forecast of probable future trends.

The genuine center of the German political scene is the agrarian problem. German republican forces lost their struggle after fourteen years because they did not understand this fact. The Nazi Party now seems to have lost its struggle within less than two years because it too lacked real insight into that problem. No party will ever stay in power in Germany unless it tackles and solves the agrarian problem with the utmost decision.[ii]

Many acts of the 1918 provisional government were directly derived from the famous example of the French Revolution. The mere thought of what had happened to the landed nobility in France, and only the year before to the landed nobility in Russia, made every Junker shiver. He belonged to a class whose 18,000 families owned approximately twenty percent of all the German farmlands. This compared with 2,200,000 small farmers and 3,000,000 more small landholders, whose sons and daughters had to emigrate or to join the industrial class because of the Junker land monopoly. At the close of a lost war and with starvation widespread in the cities such a class had certainly good reason to be afraid.

Besides their traditional title to political power and social prominence, to subsidies and economic privilege, the Junkers still occupied a large proportion of the highest posts in the now discredited diplomatic corps, in the upper bureaucracy, and in the officer corps of the exhausted and distressed army. The Social Democratic Party had struggled against the Junker class from the time of its birth. Now, quite unexpectedly, it had the power and the opportunity to liquidate its arch-foes. But its plan for dealing with the Junker problem fully conformed to its political philosophy, which despised violence and revolution and believed in the inevitable trend of capitalism toward catastrophe. To measure the importance of the feudal landlords, and of the related nobility of the sword and the robe, the Socialist Government investigated the volume of production, the possession of means of production and economic privileges. Upon this appraisal they built their plan for subjugating the seigneurial caste. By raising the wages of farm labor, increasing taxes and lowering tariffs on grain, they expected to deprive the Junkers of their competitive power and their political foothold. The universal and equal franchise for men and women, the abolition of the large estates as units of local government, and the abolition of the entail were all designed to serve the same purpose, especially in combination with governmental purchases of large estates and the division of them into small holdings.

In retrospect we see that it was strange tactics, to fight at such a critical moment against such a strong power mainly by means of votes and economic pressure. The method, however, was consistent with the general misinterpretation of policy as a procedure mainly to be pursued in the economic sphere. How deep-rooted was this belief in compulsory trends in history cannot be better demonstrated than by quoting the great German sociologist, Max Weber, who long before the war wrote of the Junkers: "They have done their work and are lying today in economic agony. No economic policy could restore them to their former social character."

Even so the plan of the socialists might have been carried out successfully if their leaders had acted quickly and forcefully enough. But their lack of decision and the time factor alike worked for their enemy. The Junkers meanwhile played dead or tried to gain time and distract the attention of their pursuers by counter-attacking at new and different points. They camouflaged their projects so skilfully that eventually those in power abandoned all precaution and ultimately even made friends with them. Nothing reveals the truth of this description of events better than the transition from the Social Democratic act empowering the government to confiscate farms and land for the purpose of settling small farmers, to the policy of ultra-protection and agrarian subsidies initiated by the same Social Democrats for the salvation of the feudal class against which they had struggled desperately for more than two generations. It is true that the Social Democrats did not have absolute control of the government at that time; but for several years their influence had been strong enough to finish the fight once and for all. Nor can the excuse that they lacked complete power be accepted to explain their voluntary rescue of their foes, which really was in the nature of a too smart horsetrade. For the doctrinaire victory of securing a state monopoly in production and distribution, the Social Democrats made a pact with the Junkers to establish the state grain trade monopoly. The price they had to pay was that the monopoly should be used in aid of the large estates. But there were two other reasons why the Social Democrats patronized their arch-foes. In the first place, small independent farmers made no political appeal to socialists, whereas farm laborers on large estates could be organized into unions. Secondly, there was no adequate Marxian doctrine about the competitive power of the middle class and small-farm enterprise. Although there was a party split on the question of the size of farms socially and economically desirable, the large-estate wing dominated, and it sacrificed the consumers to the benefit of their pet type of agriculture. Thus of the two billion marks spent as direct or indirect subsidies to agriculture between 1926 and 1930, the lion's share went to the eastern estates, and a large part was paid in cash to prevent forced sales. Above all, the entail remained.

In face of this attitude of the republican standard bearers, how did the Junkers behave, this caste of noblemen who sturdily believe in monarchy and the divine right, who hated the republican constitution and all its supporters? Familiar with the rules of ruling, they knew the ultima ratio regis, that armed force determines the final issue of political trends. Looking farther ahead than their opponents, they started immediately, in the turmoil of revolution, to stabilize the command within the army in the reliable hands of members of their caste. It is symbolical that two members of the nobility, Colonel von Seeckt and the diplomat von Brockdorff-Rantzau, undertook the painful duty of receiving the dictated peace conditions at Versailles, where they preserved at least a ceremonial honor for their defeated nation by their perfect behavior as gentlemen of proud old stock. Meanwhile, while the soldier and labor councils still were celebrating their victory, while the communist and socialist wings were quarreling about principles and Friedrich Ebert was busy setting up a democratic government, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, General Groener and Major Kurt von Schleicher maintained their headquarters at Wilhelmshoehe near Kassel. And every night the socialist president and former representative of German labor had a telephone consultation with General Groener over a secret wire. From the military he requested and received counsel and advice. The volunteer corps which coöperated with the army to defeat the Bolshevik Republic at Munich and similar revolts in Saxony were mainly organized by members of the feudal caste. Still more important at that time was the fact that the republicans were hindered by the lack of trained and competent officials of their own political creed. An army of newly-appointed officials from the left parties entered the administration equipped with more political faith than knowledge and experience; but a large number of representatives of the prewar hierarchy remained as well. The skill and technique of the latter in the inbred art of smooth domination and strategic retreat secured for them and their kin the efficient keys to control. In the foreign office almost no changes occurred at all. In every one of the ministries some of the former Geheimräte remained.

All these acts of self-defense might be called natural, because the character of the individuals was such that they would always insist stubbornly on remaining in office. But how farsighted the Junkers were is clear when we see them in June 1919, scarcely seven months after the revolution, establishing the so-called Juniklub, the nucleus of the famous Herrenklub. While the political parvenus were abolishing titles, decorations and noble privileges, and making bashful attempts to establish a new style of democratic society, the Junkers in the utmost secrecy were reorganizing the traditional orders and boldly preserving their sacred, inherited stronghold. The fathers of the organization were the leading members of the eastern landed nobility. As time went on their task was facilitated by the heavy industrialists of the Rhine and the Ruhr, who are linked by marriage with the landed nobility of Prussia and its twin, the nobility of the sword. In 1923 the secret order of the Herrenklub was just sufficiently developed to take a leading part, through its many social relations, in the passive resistance in the Ruhr.

Another extremely useful instrument was created in 1919. Under the prewar régime the ideals of conservatism had found compact expression and leadership through the Bund der Landwirte (Society of Farmers), which was always under the unchallenged rule of the Junkers. When the Social Democrats began to organize farm labor unions and to introduce collective bargaining, the Junkers of Pomerania, the "crack regiment," founded the Landbund on a platform of reconciliation between town and country. It aimed to embrace all the farm dwellers, farm laborers, peasants and craftsmen, not forgetting landlords. That its leadership was to be strictly manorial was only barely hidden. In any case the Landbund succeeded in uniting the majority of German farmers under the guidance of Junkers.

It was not long before the Landbund had a chance to carry out a master stroke in high politics. The first Reichspresident, Ebert, died in 1924. Estimating correctly the immense importance of this office, the Junkers saw that they needed in it a man of their faith, of their tribe, with all the reputation a man could have, but a man who was not too energetic and not so obstinate that he might become a danger to themselves. President von Hindenburg's election to the presidency in 1925 was the greatest possible victory for the Junkers. It happened too early to be recognized at once as such, but it was nevertheless the victory which finally saved the Junker class and Junker rule.

Another cunning attempt turned out a fiasco. When the inflated mark was to be stabilized, the Junkers made an attempt to establish a currency based on rye. In fact, rye certificates were already being used. A grain currency would have placed the bank of issue under the direct influence of the Junkers. But their proposal was set aside for the Rentenmark plan.

Through the professional organization of farmers, the Landbund not only enjoyed a monopoly of representation in agrarian affairs but also injected itself into the various economic deals which were made with industry. During the prosperous period preceding 1929 these contacts became sufficiently well cemented to permit coöperation by the Junkers with the industrial barons on ordinary projects. And when the old rascal Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau and his fellow monarchists had the ingenious idea of reintroducing the Field Marshal and Reichspresident into the manorial nobility through a national gift to him of his ancestral estate in East Prussia, they were able to persuade their friends among the western industrialists to pay the bill. In agrarian politics the admirable diplomatic skill of the Junkers was used persistently to disseminate the theory that the productive capacity of the large estates was an essential part of German economy and of the armory of national defense. In 1928 one-third of the large estates had reached the stage of over-indebtedness, but when Chancellor Brüning dared in 1932 to suggest the liquidation of only the completely bankrupt estates Hindenburg dismissed him brusquely with the statement that he did not want any agrarian Bolshevik experiments. Two worlds clashed there: that of men who openly identify economics with politics, and that of a seigneurial noble caste which despises money and economics as subaltern affairs and which views the risky game of politics as a privilege of lords. The strength of the latter lay in the knowledge, apparently possessed by them exclusively, that in politics not ideals or morals but success is the only arbiter of right or wrong. "The Junkers are dead," was the diagnosis of the economically-minded statesmen on the left. "Long live the Junkers," sounded the firm echo of the bankrupt lords.

Feeling that the hour of decision had arrived, the Junkers girded themselves for all eventualities. Their camarilla around the Field Marshal and his son, Colonel von Hindenburg, almost exclusively composed of members of the Herrenklub, had manœuvred Colonel von Papen into the Chancellery. Though a Catholic industrialist, he yet was a Junker in spirit, and he formed the famous "cabinet of barons" which started in the manner of the Uhlans, von Papen's own regiment, a fierce frontal attack upon the Weimar Republic, upon postwar democracy and upon every pacifist attitude. Tricky intrigues back and forth brought about the early downfall of von Papen and put in his place the master of the Reichswehr, General Kurt von Schleicher. But when von Schleicher dared to consider a plan for lifting the agrarian moratorium and clearing the bankrupt estates in the east, the clique which possessed the Field Marshal's ear had him removed in the same way that they had disposed of Brüning.

By that time the National Socialists had attained the position and strength of a mass movement. It was the opportunity for von Papen to take revenge on his former friend von Schleicher and at the same time play his trump card for securing conservative control over the radical movement. He and his Herrenklub friends persuaded the barons of the steel and coal industries to finance the National Socialists and to bring them into power. We need not explain how Hitler manœuvred. His acquisition of power cannot be minimized by saying that the conservatives chose to give it to him. But he would hardly have slipped into absolute control of the state as he did if he had not had the assistance of the Junkers. Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, who from his retirement was preparing his comeback, assisted with great persuasive power. The plan was this: the "grandiose National Socialist movement," as von Papen called it, must be linked up with the conservative forces. Its leader should be granted the chancellorship, but the vice-chancellorship, the ministries of commerce and industry, of finance and of transportation, as well as control of the foreign office and the headship of the Reichsbank should all remain in the hands of conservatives. It was assumed that the National Socialists, unfamiliar with administrative routine, could be disposed of in a rather short time, while Hitler, the great drummer and magician, cast his spell over the radical masses, crushed the pestiferous socialists and communists, and thus covered the left wing for a right victory. Hindenburg, patron of the Herrenklub and now Lord of the Manor of Neudeck, would shield the Reich against any incidental hazards through the supreme power of the Reichswehr. It is typical of the intrepidity, courage and farsightedness of the Junkers that they alone dared to attempt to harness and exploit the revolutionary movement and its eloquent demagogues and agitators. They risked their wealth and their heads. But thereby they became the only group to acquire a ticket in the national sweepstakes.

Fifteen months after the ascension of National Socialism to power, the Junkers had regained real control. And today we can say that they are in process of liquidating their dangerous servant. The victory has not been accomplished without heavy losses; but it is victory.

Let us see how the knights of the manor and the sword, unfortunately the only capable politicians Germany ever had, neutralized the nitroglycerine of the Nazi movement, and how they gained control. Anyone who observed the strategy which the Junkers pursued in undermining the Republic with such success and in diverting all streams to their political mills will know where to look for the answer. The initial stage of National Socialist activities served the purpose of blowing off the nation's supercharged pressure of steam and of letting the whole hierarchy of the ravaging Party settle down somewhere. Nothing better could happen in the eyes of the Junkers than that every Nazi should somehow or other get entangled with an official job. This would give opportunities for gradually proving their corruption and their inefficiency, or alternatively for taming them and converting them into ordinary officials. The anti-Semitic drive, though dangerous to a number of prominent crossbred Junker families, was nevertheless welcome in general because it distracted the attention of the radical Nazis from the agrarian problems of the east.

During that turbulent period when the Nazis had just come to power it often looked as if these calculations would go astray, as if Naziism would absorb everything and persist for many years. General Goering's coup d'état which gave the Party control of the Prussian police and of the Reich secret police was a hard blow. But the Junkers were not discouraged. For one thing, they knew that despite his revolutionary acts Goering is essentially a conservative. They realized that the main thing was to keep the Reichswehr free from radicalization. Attempts to force the Reichswehr to recruit from the storm troops were successfully resisted. Then the Junkers began to send their best soldierly types into the storm troops, and especially into the picked Black Guards. When the tension within the Nazi Party reached the breaking point in the spring of 1934 the Junkers began to act more vigorously and on a broader scale. They lent succor to any kind of spiritual resistance against the Nazi crusaders, to the Protestant Churches and also to the Catholic Church. But this was only logical, for both churches were fighting for conservative aims of their own.

The Nazi Party had introduced masses of new officials into the administrative machine. But they had defects just as the former republican officials had had, only of the reverse sort. While the Social Democrats had held purely economic concepts and lacked political insight, the Nazis, fed on their dogma of the preponderance of politics, were lacking in any understanding of economics. Thus the Junkers had a great opportunity. Dr. Schacht, an arch-conservative who owns his own estate and has fought shoulder to shoulder with the Junkers, was the master of the Reichsbank and later gained an absolute dictatorship in the field of economics. Count Schwerin von Krosigk engineers the budget and the financing of the public works program. Both have perfect control in economic matters, and the Secretary of Agriculture, a Nazi, is subject to them in any question of economic importance. Of course the utterly uninformed German public receives a quite different impression.

The question as to whether the Nazi revolution should be carried forward by the radical storm troopers led to the blood purge of June 30, 1934. When Captain Röhm tried to force his millions of brown shirts into the Reichswehr the general staff insisted on a show down. The most dangerous part of dynamic Naziism was blotted out. The Junkers had won their most decisive battle against the swastika banner. True, on that dark day in German history they lost members of their own ranks. Besides the murdered General von Schleicher and his wife, and besides the murdered Colonel von Bredow, a considerable number of other noblemen were killed. But the victory of the army was overwhelming in comparison with those sacrifices exacted in revenge by the punished party. That day, June 30, 1934, might indeed be called the birthday of the Fourth Reich. Since then the Nazis have been on the retreat in practically every sphere of political life. When Hindenburg died, Hitler was installed as First Lord of the Army. But he could not avoid living up to the social standards and code of honor of the feudal staff of generals. That would have been impossible even for someone untainted with the urgent desire to be esteemed as equal.

It was the most natural result of control by the Junkers that they should prepare to reintroduce the old Prussian scheme of general conscription and to enlarge the army to prewar size. Universal military service contains the essence of the Prussian philosophy of the "duties of subjects." Modern Prussian history began with the construction of the conscripted army, and any analysis of German thought must start with the influence of military drill, of the concept of discipline and the military code of honor which are a common inheritance of every German. Even the German labor movement and the German communists are involuntary heirs of this mental disposition. Nothing was therefore more natural than the reëstablishment of the famous "school of the nation," the conscript army. Within a short period the expansion of the officer corps and the spread of its social influence in every garrison town will have set up the old hierarchical pyramid which was for so long the basis of conservative rule. The influence of all the newly-appointed commanders of divisions, brigades and regiments cannot be overestimated. Their distinguished Old Prussian behavior will quietly outshine the pomposity of the rich storm troop parvenus, the party officials and the over-dressed air generals. Their solemnity, their contempt for so many things which the Nazis like, will soon begin to exercise an effect on public opinion.

So much for the struggle of the hereditary Prussian élite, a struggle which to date has been most successful. But it would be an underestimation of the National Socialists to assume that they had not thought about this problem, that they had not read the literature of the French revolution, of the Napoleonic dictatorship, of the Bolsheviks and of Italian fascism, and that they had omitted to prepare to replace the old feudal élite with a newly-created one of their own design. Six months after the ignominious surrender of democracy the Hitler government issued a law on hereditary homesteads. This law is a most exciting document from the sociological aspect. This is not the place for a detailed discussion of its far-reaching consequences; but mention must be made of the attempt to create by decree a new élite as successor to and competitor of the Junker caste.

The law of September 29, 1933, compulsorily converts into hereditary homesteads all family farms of a certain size which indicate that they are self-sustaining. More than a million German farms fall into this category. Such homesteads are exempt from voluntary or forced sale. They cannot be mortgaged nor can they be sub-divided in case of succession or otherwise. They can be inherited by only one of the sons.

The expressed aim of the law is to establish the owners and their heirs as the new political and sociological élite. In accordance with élite traditions they receive a new exclusive social standard, based upon the concept of the honor of the estate of Bauern (peasants). Only the members of the "new nobility of blood and soil," as the author of the law calls them, bear the honorary title Bauer. The law is based upon the theory of the necessary link between blood and soil, and upon the assumed superiority of the German peasant stock to that of any other group. A pure "Aryan" pedigree is one of the presuppositions for the ownership of a hereditary farm and for being a member of the new nobility. Uniforms have been designed to symbolize the foundation of a new social layer. "Daggers of honor" have been granted. Great stress is laid upon the revival of folklore. The creation of a special civil code for the farmer élite, with laymen representatives as members of the jury and the Secretary of Agriculture as the supreme judge, complete the scheme. Since representatives of the owners and heirs of homesteads have their place in the party élite and in the party militia the peasants also have a chance to ascend within the Nazi Party.

This attempt artificially to create a new élite by a plan decreed from above is not as new as may appear at first sight. From Septimius Severus on the Roman military monarchs tried to establish a new élite by grants of citizenship and land to veterans. During the period of absolutism in France the Crown tried to upset the old élite, the so-called noblesse d'épée, with its privileges through birth, by the noblesse de robe. The members of the new nobility derived their titles from wealth and public office. By the time of the French Revolution this élite of bourgeois parvenus had so far amalgamated itself with the traditional hierarchy of the old nobility of the sword that both were treated alike by the revolutionnaires. Napoleon tried to create a much smaller élite of faithful officers and administrators by granting large entailed landed estates.

Now the accidental composition of the one million farmer families singled out for honor is the straight opposite of any positive system of selection such as is required by the very concept of an élite. Moreover, the vastness of the crowd is a serious obstacle to the development of an élite behavior and to the production of genuine élite qualities. An élite of one million is a contradictio in adjecto exactly as would be the application of the title "Leader" to everybody who has some administrative party function. This group of one million farmers, with the second million of their heirs, does not possess any solid exclusive spiritual basis. But the greatest handicap on the growth of the million blood-and-soil élite is the agrarian compromise with the feudal caste. The genuine Junker nobility has all the treasures essential to an élite -- the unity of consanguinity, of a solid common spiritual heritage, of the tradition of command. This caste is protected by the same National Socialist government that holds it necessary to create a substitute class. The Junkers very gently fraternize with the newly-appointed élite, indicate to them how petty they are, and keep them thereby at leash. Probably in the end the only surviving effect of the élite part of the homestead law will be a lifting of the sad feeling of the everlasting inferiority of the small farmer toward city dwellers -- although even this depends more largely upon the accessibility of education in rural districts than on anything else.

What about the personality of Hitler amid the various currents? After all, is he not German Chancellor, Reichspresident and Dictator, besides being the chief of the ruling National Socialist Party? Certainly he is. But there is no real paradox between that fact and the position which is implied for him in the argument here set forth. Hitler has revealed his political utopia for Germany in his confession "Mein Kampf." Large parts of his concepts had long been commonplace in books and pamphlets issued by the Pan-German Union and in Junker circles. Hitler's national ambitions turn around foreign policy. Internal affairs are to him merely a basis for a successful policy abroad. He has kept his promises to his conservative mentors and financiers: he has rid them of the hated labor unions and their interference in business, he has rid them of the parties and parliamentarism, he has crushed marxism and communism. He has done his best to recreate the army, which in turn joins hands with heavy industry as a result of the need for war equipment. And he has protected the large estates of the Junkers. In all this there is evident not the slightest difference between him and the Junker class. His concept of foreign policy also follows the Junker trend. Perhaps the Junkers are more cautious and diplomatic. But that is a question of timing and form rather than of principle.

All this is not to say that the struggle of the Junker class is over. It will never be over as long as the class exists. Hitler is too good a strategist, the while he commands the army and takes a conservative line upon important issues, not to preserve as long as possible the dynamite carried by the radical wing of the Party. Even if he did not choose to do this, he would have to, because the national trend of the Party is definitely towards the left. The Party today has its essential backing in the labor masses. Hitler has found from experience that this fact can be useful to him in blunting the weapons of the conservatives when they press him too hard. Nevertheless, a real wave of Nazi revolutionary fervor -- as distinct from racial ballyhoo and anti-Christian propaganda -- would end in a new blood purge.

To sum up the fifteen-year fight of the "Prussian Samurais," and their final victory, it is probably adequate to say that German democracy has once again lost its chance, its second great chance in history. It did this in its first months of rule by a plain lack of knowledge regarding the real nature of its opponents, and by a lack of emotion, courage and decision. Democracy avoided the militant dispute. On the other hand, a small group of men of real ability, the heirs of the feudal régime, have in turn defeated the large and extremely well-disciplined labor movement, the Catholic Party, and the sweeping National Socialist Revolution. This small body, which always identified the national interest with its own and with aristocratic conservative thought, has so far proved invincible because it represents a hereditary creed and yet avoids identifying itself with any kind of church. Coherent by consanguinity of clans, it acts without being organized, and its successes are widely cheered by the German bourgeoisie, especially the intelligentsia, by the still influential academic fraternities, by large sections of the German youth, by the Steelhelmet elements among the farmers, by other groups of veterans, and by both churches, because in comparison with the incompetence and hysterics and abuses of power of the Nazi Reich the Junkers appear to possess at least steadiness and the tradition of living up to the rules of the game.

The present stage does not, of course, represent the full realization of the Fourth Reich. For the time being the army is absorbed in the reconstruction of its prewar strength, a task which will not be finished before the spring of 1936. Eventually the monarchy may be restored; the columns now being set up could easily carry such a roof. In any case, some of the most visible achievements of Naziism will probably survive: the ceremonies and rituals of mass meetings, the methods of propaganda, the brutal suppression of socialism or communism in any form whatsoever, and, lastly, a perhaps less violent and more legalized but none the less stubborn anti-Semitism. It is also likely that the still somewhat confused eugenic aims and the stressing of eugenics in rural sociology may leave their traces.

Wide-ranging problems remain in the destiny of Germany. Assuming that a moderate conservative rule and a moderate course in foreign policy permit a slow but steady recovery and a gradual reintegration of Germany with the outside world, one nevertheless wonders whether spiritual forces will regain sufficient creative power to fill out the life of the nation and enable it to contribute to the progress of civilization as it did in former times. Social standards, standards of conduct for ordinary respectable citizens, general rules of fairness, a universal respect for justice and for other peoples' rights, civic courage and the responsible use of the privileges of liberty -- these, it has been shown, can be destroyed rapidly. To restore them may take decades.

We must hope that the suppression may itself produce the reaction, that it may encourage the fresh growth of more forceful and perceptive minds. Freedom of thought and the search for the truth still find gallant fighters. Many a man, looking back at the disgraceful slow death of the former Republic, has discovered that the preservation of great ideals demands great sacrifices. If the persecution mania -- an essential part of dictatorships since ancient times -- should wane, the friction between the romantic impulses of youth and the conservative and reactionary rule of the old might once again provide the stimulus for a new vitality. At the moment, one stands aghast at what is happening to the reputation of German intellectual life. The only consolation is that the human spirit has the power of regeneration.

A final question must be put, though the answer is still hidden. It concerns the future of the newly-established system of power. Is not the revived conservative Junker régime merely a parallel to the restoration of the Bourbons in France after the defeat of Napoleon? Are not great historical forces stronger than the ability of even an unusually gifted small élite? The Junkers will one day have to make answer.

[i] The word "Junker" as here used should be understood as a definition of a certain mentality rather than one of strict genetics. The habit of the "blue-blood" Junker nobility always was to borrow strength from intelligent or wealthy "red-blood" bourgeois. They assimilated especially the best fighting spirits of bourgeois origin if they were conservative and Junker-minded.

[ii] See the author's "The Crisis in German Agriculture," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1932.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • KARL BRANDT, formerly Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Berlin; now a member of the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, New York
  • More By Karl Brandt