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The Origins of 


The Origins of 


Meridian Books 


Cleveland and New York 


Published by The World Publishing Company 
2231 West llOth Street, Cleveland 2, Ohio 
First Meridian printing September 1958 
Seventh printing September 1962 

Copyright © 1951 by Hannah Arendt; second enlarged edition 

copyright © 1958 by Hannah Arendt 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced 

in any form without written permission from the publisher, 

except for brief passages included in a review appearing in 

a newspaper or magazine. 

Reprinted by arrangement with Harcourt, Brace and Company 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-11927 

Printed in the United States of America v/p962 


Weder dent Verpanp;enen anheimfallen noch 
dem Zukiinftif^eii. Es komnit darauf an, g,anz 
gepemvarli^ zu sein. K A H L JASPERS 

Preface to the First Edition 

Two WORLD WARS in one generation, separated by an uninterrupted 
chain of local wars and revolutions, followed by no peace treaty for the 
vanquished and no respite for the victor, have ended in the anticipation of 
a third World War between the two remaining world powers. This moment 
of anticipation is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died. We 
no longer hope for an eventual restoration of the old world order with 
all its traditions, or for the reintegration of the masses of five continents 
who have been thrown into a chaos produced by the violence of wars 
and revolutions and the growing decay of all that has still been spared. 
Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch 
the development of the same phenomena — homelessness on an unprece- 
dented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth. 

Never has our future been more unpredictable, nevej have we depended 
so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of 
common sense and self-interest — forces that look like sheer insanity, if 
judged by the standards of other centuries. It is as though mankind had 
divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who 
think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize masses for 
it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience 
of their lives. 

On the level of historical insight and political thought there prevails an 
ill-defined, general agreement that the essential structure of all civilizations 
is at the breaking point. Although it may seem better preserved in some 
parts of the world than in others, it can nowhere provide the guidance to 
the possibilities of the century, or an adequate response to its horrors. Des- 
perate^hope and desperate fear often seem closer to the center of such events 
than balanced judgment and measured insight. The central events of our 
time are not less effectively forgotten by those committed to a belief in an 
unavoidable doom, than by those who have given themselves up to reckless 

This book has been written against a background of both reckless opti- 
mism and reckless despair. It holds that Progress^and Doom are two sides 
of the same medal; that both are articles of superstition, not of faith. It was 


written out of the conviction that it should be possible to discover the 
hidden mechanics by which all traditional elements of our political and 
spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration where everything 
seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human 
comprehension, unusable for human purpose. To yield to the mere process 
of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because 
it has assumed the spurious grandeur of "historical necessity," but also 
because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, mean- 
ingless, and unreal. 

The conviction that everything that happens on earth must be compre- 
hensible to man can lea3^ to interpreting history by commonplaces. Compre- 
hension does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented 
from precedents, or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generali- 
ties that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer 
felt. It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden which 
our century has placed on us — neither denying its existence nor submitting 
meekly to its weight. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, 
attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality — whatever it may be. 

In this sense, it must be possible to face and understand the outrageous 
fact that so small (and, in world politics, so unimportant) a phenomenon as 
the Jewish question and antisemitism could become the catalytic agent for 
first, the Nazi movement, then a world war, and finally the establishment 
of death factories. Or, the grotesque disparity between cause and effect 
which introduced the era of imperialism, when economic diflficulties led, in 
a few decades, to a profound transformation of political conditions all over 
the world. Or, the curious contradiction between the totalitarian movements' 
avowed cynical "realism" and their conspicuous disdain of the whole texture 
of reality. Or, the irritating incompatibility between the actual power of 
modern man (greater than ever before, great to the point where he might 
challenge the very existence of his own universe) and the impotence of 
modern men to live in, and understand the sense of, a world which their 
own strength has established. 

The totalitarian attempt at global conquest and total domination has 
been the destructive way out of all impasses. Its victory may coincide 
with the destruction of humanity; wherever it has ruled, it has begun to 
destroy the essence of man. Yet to turn our backs on the destructive forces 
of the century is of little avail. 

The trouble is that our period has so strangely intertwined the good with 
the bad that without the imperialists' "expansion for expansion's sake," the 
world might never have become one; without the bourgeoisie's political 
device of "power for power's sake," the extent of human strength might 
never have been discovered; without the fictitious world of totalitarian move- 
ments, in which with unparalleled clarity the essential uncertainties of our 
time have been spelled out, we might have been driven to our doom with- 
out ever becoming aware of what has been happening. 

And if it is true that in the final stages of totalitarianism an absolute evil 


appears (absolute because it can no longer be deduced from humanly 
comprehensible motives), it is also true that without it we might never 
have known the^ truly radical nature of Evil. 

Antisemitism (not merely tTie hatred of Jews), imperialism (not merely 
conquest), totalitarianism (not merely dictatorship) — one after the other, 
one more brutally than the other, have demonstrated that human dignity 
needs a new guarantee which can be found only in a new political principle, 
in a new law on earth, whose validity this time must comprehend the 
whole of humanity while its power must remain strictly limited, rooted in 
and controlled by newly defined territorial entities. 

We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and 
simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply think of it as a 
dead load which by itself time will bury in oblivion. The subterranean 
stream of Western history has finally come to the surface and usurped the 
dignity of our tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this is why 
all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present into nostalgia for a still 
intact past, or into the anticipated oblivion of a better future, are vain. 

Summer, 1950 

Preface to the Second Enlarged Edition 

SINCE 1951, when this book first appeared, only one event happened 
that had a direct bearing upon our understanding of totalitarianism 
and total domination as a novel form of government. This is not Stalin's 
death, nor even the succession crisis in Russia and the satellite countries, 
but the Hungarian revolution — the first and yet unique instance of a 
people's uprising against total domination. At this moment, hardly two 
years after the uprising, no one can tell whether this was only the last 
and most desperate flare-up of a spirit which, since 1789, has manifested 
itself in the series of European revolutions, or if it contains the germ of 
something new which will have consequences of its own. In either case, the 
event itself is important enough to require a re-examination of what we 
know, or think we know, about totalitarianism. The reader will find in this 
new edition a last chapter, in the form of an Epilogue, where I have tried 
to bring the older story up to date. However, the reader should bear in 
mind that developments of the year 1958 have not been taken into account, 
with the result that the partial restalinization in Soviet Russia and the satel- 
lite countries is hinted at as a strong probability, but not told and analyzed 
as an accomplished fact. 

This is not the only addition. As sometimes happens in such matters, 
there were certain insights of a more general and theoretical nature which 
now appear to me to grow directly out of the analysis of the elements of 
total domination in the third part of the book, but which I did not possess 
when I finished the original manuscript in 1949. These are now incor- 
porated in Chapter XIII, "Ideology and Terror," of the present edition 
and they replace the rather inconclusive "Concluding Remarks" that closed 
the original edition, some of which, however, have been shifted to other 

These changes are not revisions. It is true that in the present edition, 
even apart from the two new chapters. Part III on Totalitarianism and the 
last chapters of Part II on Imperialism (dealing with such pretotalitarian 
phenomena as statelessness and the transformation of parties into move- 
ments) are considerably enlarged, while Part I on Antisemitism and the 
chapters 5 to 8 on Imperialism have remained untouched. But the changes 
are technical additions and replacements which do not alter either the 
analysis or argument of the original text. They were necessary because 
so much documentary and other source material on the Hitler regime 
had become accessible years after this book was finished. Thus I knew 
the Nuremberg documents only in part and only in English translations, 
and many books, pamphlets and magazines published in Germany during 


the war were not available in this country. Additions and replacements, 
therefore, concern mainly quotations in text and footnotes where I can 
now use original instead of secondary sources. 

However, what I tried to do for source material, I could not do for the 
huge literature of recent years on Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Not 
even all of the more important contributions are mentioned. While I sin- 
cerely regret this omission, I left out of account, without regret, the rather 
voluminous literature of memoirs published by Nazi and other German 
functionaries after the end of the war. The dishonesty of this kind of apolo- 
getics is obvious and embarrassing but understandable, whereas the lack 
of comprehension they display of what actually happened, as well as of the 
roles the authors themselves played in the course of events, is truly aston- 

For kind permission to peruse and quote archival material, I thank the 
Hoover Library in Stanford, California, the Centre de Documentation 
Juive in Paris, and the Yiddish Scientific Institute in New York. Documents 
in the Nuremberg Trials are quoted with their Nuremberg File Number; 
other documents are referred to with indication of their present location 
and archival number. 

The two new chapters of this edition appeared before in the Review of 
Politics, July 1953, under the title, "Ideology and Terror, a Novel Form 
of Government," and in the Journal of Politics, February 1958, under the 
title, "Totalitarian Imperialism: Reflections on the Hungarian Revolution." 

The additions and enlargements of the present edition, with the excep- 
tion of the analysis of the Hungarian revolution, appeared first in the 
German edition published in 1955. Therefore they had to be translated and 
incorporated into the English edition. TTiis difficult job of editing and 
translating was done by Mrs. Therese Pol, to whom I am greatly indebted. 

Hannah Arendt 
New York, April, 1958 


Preface to the First Edition 

Preface to the Second Enlarged Edition 




Chapter one: Antisemitism as an Outrage to Common Sense 3 

two: The Jews, the Nation-State, and the Birth of 

Antisemitism 11 

i: The Equivocalities of Emancipation and the Jewish 
State Banker 11. ii: Early Antisemitism 28. in: The 
First Antisemitic Parties 35. IV : Leftist Antisemitism 
42. v: The Golden Age of Security 50. 

three: The Jews and Society 

i: Between Pariah and Parvenu 56. n: The Potent 
Wizard 68. in: Between Vice and Crime 79. 


four: The Dreyfus Affair 

i: The Facts of the Case 89. n: The Third Republic 
and French Jewry 95. in: Army and Clergy Against 
the Republic. 100. iv: The People and the Mob 106. 
v: The Jews and the Dreyfusards 117. vi: The 
Pardon and Its Significance 119. 



five: The Pohtical Emancipation of the Bourgeoisie 123 

i: Expansion and the Nation-State 124. ii: Power and 
the Bourgeoisie 135. Ill: The Alliance Between Mob 
and Capital 147. 



Six: Race-Thinking Before Racism 158 

i: A "Race" of Aristocrats Af;ainst a "Nation" of 
Citizens 161. ii: Race Unity as a Substitute for 
National Emancipation 165. ill: The New Key to 
History 170. iv: The "Rif^hts of Enf>lishmen" vs. the 
Rif^hts of Men 175. 

seven: Race and Bureaucracy 185 

i: The Phantom World of the Dark Continent 186. 
II : Gohi and Race 197. iii: The Imperialist 
Character 207. 

eight: Continental Imperialism: the Pan-Movements 222 

i: Tribal Nationalism 111. ii: The Inheritance of 
Lawlessness 243. in: Party and Movement 250. 

nine: The Decline of the Nation-State and the End 

of the Rights of Man 267 

i: The "Nation of Minorities" and the Stateless 
People 269. ii: The Perplexities of the Rights of 
Man 290. 


ten: a Classless Society 305 

i: The Masses 305. ii: The Temporary Alliance 
Between the Mob and the Elite 326. 

eleven: The Totalitarian Movement 341 

i: Totalitarian Propaganda 341. ii: Totalitarian 
Organization 364. 

twelve: Totalitarianism in Power 389 

i: The So-called Totalitarian State 392. ii: The Secret 
Police 419. Ill: Total Domination 437. 

thirteen: Ideology and Terror: 

A Novel Form of Government 



fourteen: Epilogue: Reflections on the 
Hungarian Revolution 

i: Russia after Slalin's Death 483. ii: The Hungarian 
Revolution 492. in: The Satellite System 502. 






This is a remarkable century which opened with 
the Revolution and ended with the Affaire! Per- 
haps it will be called the century of rubbish. 


CHAPTER one: Aiitisemitism as an Outrage 
to Common Sense 

MANY STILL consider it an accident that Nazi ideology centered around 
antisemitism and that Nazi policy, consistently and uncompromis- 
ingly, aimed at the persecution and finally the extermination of the Jews. 
Only the horror of the final catastrophe, and even more the homelessness 
and uprootedness of the survivors, made the "Jewish question" so promi- 
nent in our everyday political life. What the Nazis themselves claimed to 
be their chief discovery — the role of the Jewish people in world politics — 
and their chief interest — persecution of Jews all over the world — have 
been regarded- by public opinion as a pretext for winning the masses or 
an interesting device of demagogy. 

The failure to take seriously what the Nazis themselves said is compre- 
hensible enough. There is hardly an aspect of contemporary history more 
irritating and mystifying than the fact that of all the great unsolved po- 
litical questions of our century, it should have been this, seemingly small 
and unimportant Jewish problem that had the dubious honor of setting 
the whole infernal machine in motion. Such discrepancies between cause 
and efifect outrage our common sense, to say nothing of the historian's 
sense of balance and harmony. Compared with the events themselves, all 
explanations of antisemitism look as if they had been hastily and hazard- 
ously contrived, to cover up an issue which so gravely threatens our sense 
js£„proportion and our hope for sanity. 

One of these hasty explanations has been the identification of antisemi- 
tism with rampant nationalism and its xenophobic outbursts. Unfortu- 
nately, the fact is that modern antisemitism grew in proportion as tradi- 
tional nationalism declined, and reached its climax at the exact moment 
when the European system of nation-states and its precarious balance of 
power crashed. 

It has already been noticed that the Nazis were not simple nationalists. 
Their nationaUst propaganda was directed toward their fellow-travelers and 
not their convinced members; the latter, on the contrary, were never al- 
lowed to lose sight of a consistently supranational approach to politics. 
Nazi "nationalism" had more than one aspect in common with the recent 
nationalistic propaganda in the Soviet Union, which is also used only to 
feed the prejudices of the masses. The Nazis had a genuine and never re- 


voked contempt for the narrowness of nationalism, the provinciaHsm of 
the nation-state, and they repeated time and again that their "movement," 
international in scope like the Bolshevik movement, was more important to 
them than any state, which would necessarily be bound to a specific terri- 
tory. And not only the Nazis, but fifty years of antiscmitic history, stand 
as evidence against the identification of antisemitism with nationalism. The 
first antisemitic parties in the last decades of the nineteenth century were 
also among the first that banded together internationally. From the very 
beginning, they called international congresses and were concerned with a 
co-ordination of international, or at least inter-European, activities. 

General trends, like the coincident decline of the nation-state and the 
growth of antisemitism, can hardly ever be explained satisfactorily by one 
reason or by one cause alone. The historian is in most such cases con- 
fronted with a very complex historical situation where he is almost at 
liberty, and that means at a loss, to isolate one factor as the "spirit of the 
time." There are, however, a few helpful general rules. Foremost among 
them for our purpose is Tocqueville's great discovery (in L'Ancien Regime et 
la Revolution, Book II, chap. 1 ) of the motives for the violent hatred felt 
by the French masses for the aristocracy at the outbreak of the Revolution 
— a hatred which stimulated Burke to remark that the revolution was more 
concerned with "the condition of a gentleman" than with the institution of 
a king. According to Tocqueville, the French people hated aristocrats 
about to lose their power more than it had ever hated them before, pre- 
cisely because their rapid loss of real power was not accompanied by any 
considerable decline in their fortunes. As long as the aristocracy held vast 
powers of jurisdiction, they were not only tolerated but respected. When 
noblemen lost their privileges, among others the privilege to exploit and 
oppress, the people felt them to be parasites, without any real function in 
the rule of the country. In other words, neither oppression nor exploita- 
\ tion as such is ever the main cause for resentment; wealth without visible-' 
function is much more intolerable because nobody can understand why 
Tt'should be tolerated. 

Antisemitism reached its climax when Jews had similarly lost their 
public functions and their influence, and were left with nothing but their 
wealth. When Hitler came to power, the German banks were already 
almost judenrein (and it was here that Jews had held key positions for 
more than a hundred years) and German Jewry as a whole, after a long 
steady growth in social status and numbers, was declining so rapidly that 
statisticians predicted its disappearance in a few decades. Statistics, it is 
true, do not necessarily point to real historical processes; yet it is note- 
worthy that to a statistician Nazi persecution and extermination could look 
like a senseless acceleration of a process which would probably have come 
about in any case. 

The same holds true for nearly all Western European countries. The 
Dreyfus Affair exploded not under the Second Empire, when French Jewry 
was at the height of its prosperity and influence, but under the Third Re- 


public when Jews had all but vanished from important positions (though 
not from the political scene). Austrian antisemitism became violent not 
under the reign of Metternich and Franz Joseph, but in the postwar Aus- 
trian Rep ublic when it was perfectly obvious that hardly any other group 
had suffe red the same loss of influence and prestige through the disappeair 
ance of the Hapsburg monarchy. 

Persecution of powerless or power-losing groups may not be a very 
pleasant spectacle, but it does not spring from human meanness alone. 
What makes men obey or tolerate real power and, on the other hand, hate 
people who have wealth without power, is the rational instinct that power 
has a certain function and is of some general use. Even exploitation and 
oppression still make society work and establish some kind of order. Only 
wealth without power or aloofness without a policy are felt to be parasitical, 
useless, revolting, because such conditions cut all the threads which tie men 
together. Wealth which does not exploit lacks even the relationship which 
exists between exploiter and exploited; aloofness without policy does not 
imply even the minimum concern of the oppressor for the oppressed. 

The general decline of Western and Central European Jewry, however, 
constitutes merely the atmosphere in which the subsequent events took 
place. The decline itself explains them as little as the mere loss of power 
by the aristocracy would explain the French Revolution. To be aware of 
such general rules is important only in order to refute those recommenda- 
tions of common sense which lead us to believe that violent hatred or 
sudden rebellion spring necessarily from great power and great abuses, and 
that consequently organized hatred of the Jews cannot but be a reaction to 
their importance and power. 

More serious, because it appeals to much better people, is another com- 
mon-sense fallacy: the Jews, because they were an entirely powerless group 
caught up in the general and insoluble conflicts of the time, could be blamed 
for them and finally be made to appear the hidden authors of all evil. The 
best illustration — and the best refutation — of this explanation, dear to the 
hearts of many liberals, is in a joke which was told after the first World 
War. An antisemite claimed that the Jews had caused the war; the reply 
was: Yes, the Jews and the bicycHsts. Why the bicyclists? asks the one. Why 
the Jews? asks the other. 

The theory that the Jews are always the scapegoat implies that the scape- 
joaUttight have been anyone else as well. It upholds the perfect innocence 
of the victim, an innocence which insinuates nof only that no evil was done 
but that nothing at all was done which might possibly have a connection 
jwith the issue at stake. It is true that the scapegoat theory in its purely 
ar'bltrary form never appears in print. Whenever, however, its adherents 
painstakingly try to explain why a specific scapegoat was so well suited to 
his role, they show that they have left the theory behind them and have got 
themselves involved in the usual historical research — where nothing is ever 
discovered except that history is made by many groups and that for certain 
reasons one group was singled out. The so-called scapegoat necessarily 


ceases to be the innocent victim whom the world blames for all its sins and 
through whom it wishes to escape punishment; it becomes one group of 
people among other groups, all of which are involved in the business of this 
world. And it does not simply cease to be coresponsible because it became 
the victim of the world's injustice and cruelty. 

Until recently the inner inconsistency of the scapegoat theory was suffi- 
cient reason to discard it as one of many theories which are motivated by 
escapism. But the rise of terror as a major weapon of government has lent 
it a credibility greater than it ever had before. 

A fundamental difference between modem dictatorships and all other 
tyrannies of the past is that terror is no longer used as a means to extermi- 
nate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people 
who are perfectly obedient. Terror as we know it today strikes without any 
preliminary provocation, its victims are innocent even from the point of 
view of the persecutor. This was the case in Nazi Germany when full terror 
was directed against Jews, i.e., against people with certain common char- 
acteristics which were independent of their specific behavior. In Soviet 
Russia the situation is more confused, but the facts, unfortunately, are 
only too obvious. On the one hand, the Bolshevik system, unlike the Nazi, 
never admitted theoretically that it could practice terror against innocent 
people, and though in view of certain practices this may look like hypocrisy, 
it makes quite a difference. Russian practice, on the other hand, is even 
more "advanced" than the German in one respect: arbitrariness of terror is 
not even limited by racial differentiation, while the old class categories have 
long since been discarded, so that anybody in Russia may suddenly become 
a victim of the police terror. We are not concerned here with the ultimate 
consequence of rule by terror — namely, that nobody, not even the executors, 
can ever be free of fear; in our context we are dealing merely with the arbi- 
trariness by which victims are chosen, and for this it is decisive that they 
are objectively innocent, that tiiey are chosen regardless of what they may 
or may not have done. 

At first glance this may look like a belated confirmation of the old scape- 
goat theory, and it is true that the victim of modern terror does show all 
the characteristics of the scapegoat: he is objectively and absolutely inno- 
cent because nothing he did or omitted to do matters or has any connection 
with his fate. 

There is, therefore, a temptation to return to an explanation which auto- 
matically discharges the victim of responsibility: it seems quite adequate 
to a reality in which nothing strikes us more forcefully than the utter inno- 
cence of the individual caught in the horror machine and his utter inability 
to change his fate. Terror, however, is only in the last instance of its develop- 
J ment a mere form of government. In order to establish a totalitarian regime, 
f terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology; 
and that ideology must have won the adherence of many, and even a majority, 
before terror can be stabilized. The point for the historian is that the Jews, 
before becoming the main victims of modem terror, were the center of Nazi 


ideology. And an^ideology which has to persuade and mobilize people cannot 
choose its victim arbitrarily. In other words, if a patent forgery like tfie" 
"Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is believed by so many people that it can 
become the text of a whole political movement, the task of the historian 
is no longer to discover a forgery. Certainly it is not to invent explanations 
which dismiss the chief political and historical fact of the matter: that the 
forgery is being believed. This fact is more important than the (historically 
speaking, secondary) circumstance that it is forgery. 

The scapegoat explanation therefore remains one of the principal at- 
tempts to escape the seriousness of antisemitism and the significance of the 
fact that the Jews were driven into the storm center of events. Equally wide- 
spread is the opposite doctrine of an "eternal antisemitism" in which Jew- 
hatred is a normal and natural reaction to which history gives only more 
or less opportunity. Outbursts need no special explanation because they are 
natural consequences of an eternal problem. That this doctrine was adopted 
by professional antisemites is a matter of course; it gives the best possible 
alibi for all horrors. If it is true that mankind has insisted on murdering 
Jews for more than two thousand years, then Jew-killing is a normal, and 
even human, occupation and Jew-hatred is justified beyond the need of 

The more surprising aspect of this explanation, the assumption of an 
eternal antisemitism, is that it has been adopted by a great many unbiased 
historians and by an even greater number of Jews. It is this odd coincidence 
which makes the theory so very dangerous and confusing. Its escapist basis 
is in both instances the same: just as antisemites understandably desire to 
escape responsibility for their deeds, so Jews, attacked and on the defensive, 
even more understandably do not wish under any circumstances to discuss 
their share of responsibility. In the case of Jewish, and frequently of Chris- 
tian, adherents of this doctrine, however, the escapist tendencies of official 
apologetics are based upon more important and less rational motives. 

The birth and growth of modern antisemitism has been accompanied by 
and interconnected with Jewish assimilation, the secularization and withering 
away of the old religious and spiritual values of Judaism. What actually 
happened was that great parts of the Jewish people were at the same time 
threatened by physical extinction from without and dissolution from within. 
In this situation, Jews concerned with the survival of their people would, 
in a curious desperate misinterpretation, hit on the consoling idea that anti- 
semitism, after all, might be an excellent means for keeping the people to- 
gether, so that the assumption of eternal antisemitism would even imply an 
eternal guarantee of Jewish existence. This superstition, a secularized 
travesty of the idea of eternity inherent in a faith in chosenness and a Mes- 
sianic hope, has been strengthened through the fact that for many centuries 
the Jews experienced the Christian brand of hostility which was indeed a 
powerful agent of preservation, spiritually as well as politically. The Jews 
mistook modern anti-Christian antisemitism for the old religious Jew-hatred 
— and this all the more irmocently because their assimilation had by-passed 


Christianity in its religious and cultural aspect. Confronted with an obvious 
symptom of the decline of Christianity, they could therefore imagine in 
all ignorance that this was some revival of the so-called "Dark Ages." 
Ignorance or misunderstanding of their own past were partly responsible for 
their fatal underestimation of the actual and unprecedented dangers which 
lay ahead. But one should also bear in mind that lack of political ability 
and judgment have been caused by the very nature of Jewish history, the 
history'of a people without a government, without a country, and without 
a language. Jewish history offers the extraordinary spectacle of a people, 
unique in this respect, which began its history with a well-defined concept 
of history and an almost conscious resolution to achieve a well-circum- 
scribed plan on earth and then, without giving up this concept, avoided all 
political action for two thousand years. The result was that the political 
history of the Jewish people became even more dependent upon unforeseen, 
accidental factors than the history of other nations, so that the Jews stumbled , 
<^from one role to the other and accepted responsibility for none. / 

In view of the final catastrophe, which brought the Jews so near to com- 
plete annihilation, the thesis of eternal antisemitism has become more dan- 
gerous than ever. Today it would absolve Jew-haters of crimes greater than 
anybody had ever believed possible. Antisemitism, far from being a mys- 
terious guarantee of the survival of the Jewish people, has been clearly 
revealed as a threat of its extermination. Yet this explanation of antisemitism, 
like the scapegoat theory and for similar reasons, has outlived its refutation 
by reality. It stresses, after all, with different arguments but equal stub- 
bornness, that complete and inhuman innocence which so strikingly char- 
acterizes victims of modern terror, and therefore seems confirmed by the 
events. It even has the advantage over the scapegoat theory that somehow it 
answers the uncomfortable question: Why the Jews of all people? — if only 
with the question begging reply: Eternal hostility. 

It is quite remarkable that the only two doctrines which at least attempt 
to explain the political significance of the antisemitic movement deny all 
specific Jewish responsibility and refuse to discuss matters in specific his- 
i/ torical terms. In this inherent negation of the significance of human be- 
havior, they bear a terrible resemblance to those modern practices and 
forms of government which, by means of arbitrary terror, liquidate the very 
possibility of human activity. Somehow in the extermination camps Jews 
were murdered as if in accordance with the explanation these doctrines 
had given of why they were hated: regardless of what they had done or 
omitted to do, regardless of vice or virtue. Moreover, the murderers them- 
selves, only obeying orders and proud of their passionless efficiency, un- 
cannily resembled the "innocent" instruments of an inhuman impersonal 
course of events which the doctrine of eternal antisemitism had considered 
them to be. 

Such common denominators between theory and practice are by them- 
selves no indication of historical truth, although they are an indication of 
the "timely" character of such opinions and explain why they sound so 


plausible to the multitude. The historian is concerned with them only insofar 
as they are themselves part of his history and because they stand in the way 
of his search for truth. Being a contemporary, he is as likely to succumb to 
their persuasive force as anybody else. Caution in handling generally ac- 
cepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially 
important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has 
produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but 
are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility. 

Plato, in his famous fight against the ancient Sophists, discovered that 
their "universal art of enchanting the mind by arguments" (Phaedrus 261) 
had nothing to do with truth but aimed at opinions which by their very 
nature are changing, and which are valid only "at the time of the agreement 
and as long as the agreement lasts" (Theaetetus 172). He also discovered 
the very insecure position of truth in the world, for from "opinions comes 
persuasion and not from truth" (Phaedrus 260). The most striking dif- 
ference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were 
satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, 
whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality. 
In other words, one destroyed the dignity of human thought whereas the 
others destroy the dignity of human action. The old manipulators of logic 
were the concern of the philosopher, whereas the modern manipulators of 
facts stand in the way of the historian. For history itself is destroyed, and its 
comprehensibility — based upon the fact that it is enacted by men and there- 
fore can be understood by men — is in danger, whenever facts are no longer 
held to be part and parcel of the past and present world, and are misused 
to prove this or that opinion. 

There are, to be sure, few guides left through the labyrinth of inarticulate 
facts if opinions are discarded and tradition is no longer accepted as un- 
questionable. Such perplexities of historiography, however, are very minor 
consequences, considering the profound upheavals of our time and their 
effect upon the historical structures of Western mankind. Their immediate 
result has been to expose all those components of our history which up to 
now had been hidden from our view. This does not mean that what came 
crashing down in this crisis (perhaps the most profound crisis in Western 
history since the downfall of the Roman Empire) was mere fagade, although 
many things have been revealed as fagade that only a few decades ago we 
thought were indestructible essences. 

The simultaneous decline of the European nation-state and growth of 
antisemitic movements, the coincident downfall of nationally organized Eu- 
rope and the extermination of Jews, which was prepared for by the victory 
of antisemitism over all competing isms in the preceding struggle for persua- 
sion of public opinion, have to be taken as a serious indication of the source 
of antisemitism. Modern antisemitism must be seen in the more general 
framework of the development of the nation-state, and at the same time its 
source must be found in certain aspects of Jewish history and specifically 
Jewish functions during the last centuries. If, in the final stage of disintegra- 


tion, antiscmitic slogans proved the most cfTectivc means of inspiring and 
organizing great masses of people for imperialist expansion and destruction 
of the old forms of government, then the previous history of the relationship 
between Jews and the state must contain elementary clues to the growing 
hostility between certain groups of society and the Jews. We shall show this 
development in the next chapter. 

If, furthermore, the steady growth of the modem mob — that is, of the 
dcclassi's of all classes — produced leaders who, undisturbed by the question 
of whether the Jews were sufficiently important to be made the focus of a 
political ideology, repeatedly saw in them the "key to history" and the 
central cause of all evils, then the previous history of the relationship be- 
tween Jews and society must contain the elementary indications of the 
hostile relationship between the mob and the Jews. We shall deal with the 
relationship between Jews and society in the third chapter. 

The fourth chapter deals with the Dreyfus AfTair, a kind of dress rehearsal 
for the performance of our own time. Because of the peculiar opportunity 
it offers of seeing, in a brief historical moment, the otherwise hidden po- 
tentialities of antisemitism as a major political weapon within the framework 
of nineteenth-century politics and its relatively well-balanced sanity, this 
case has been treated in full detail. 

The following three chapters, to be sure, analyze only the preparatory 
elements, which were not fully realized until the decay of the nation-state 
and the development of imperialism reached the foreground of the political 

CHAPTER two: THg Jgws, thc Natioii- Statc, 
and the Birth of Antisemitism 

I: The Equivocalities of Emancipation 
and the Jewish State Banker 

AT THE height of its development in the nineteenth century, the nation- 
1- state granted its Jewish inhabitants equaHty of rights. Deeper, older, 
and more fateful contradictions are hidden behind the abstract and palpa- 
ble inconsistency that Jews received their citizenship from governments 
which in the process of centuries had made nationality a prerequisite for 
citizenship and homogeneity of population the outstanding characteristic 
of the body politic. 

The series of emancipation edicts which slowly and hesitantly followed 
the French edict of 1792 had been preceded and were accompanied by 
an equivocal attitude toward its Jewish inhabitants on the part of the 
nation-state. The breakdown of the feudal order had given rise to the new 
revolutionary concept of equality, according to which a "nation within 
the nation" could no longer be tolerated. Jewish restrictions and privi- 
leges had to be abolished together with all other special rights and liberties. 
This growth of equality, however, depended largely upon the growth of an 
independent state machine which, either as an enlightened despotism or 
as a constitutional government above all classes and parties, could, in 
splendid isolation, function, rule, and represent the interests of the nation 
as a whole. Therefore, beginning with the late seventeenth century, an un- 
precedented need arose for state credit and a new expansion of the state's 
sphere of economic and business interest, while no group among the Euro- 
pean populations was prepared to grant credit to the state or take an active 
part in the development of state business. It was only natural that the Jews, 
with their age-old experience as moneylenders and their connections with 
European nobility — to whom they frequently owed local protection and for 
whom they used to handle financial matters — would be called upon for help; 
it was clearly in the interest of the new state business to grant the Jews cer- 
tain privileges and to treat them as a separate group. Under no circumstances 
could the state afford to see them wholly assimilated into the rest of the 
population, which refused credit to the state, was reluctant to enter and to 


develop businesses owned by the state, and followed the routine pattern 
of private capitalistic enterprise. 

Emancipation of the Jews, therefore, as granted by the national state 
system in Europe during the nineteenth century, had a double origin and 
an ever-present equivocal meaning. On the one hand it was due to the 
political and legal structure of a new body politic which could function only 
under the conditions of political and legal equality. Governments, for their 
own sake, had to iron out the inequalities of the old order as completely and 
as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it was the clear result of a gradual 
extension of specific Jewish privileges, granted originally only to individuals, 
then through them to a small group of well-to-do Jews; only when this 
limited group could no longer handle by themselves the ever-growing de- 
mands of state business, were these privileges finally extended to the whole 
of Western and Central European Jewry.* 

Thus, at the same time and in the same countries, emancipation meant 
equality and privileges, the destruction of the old Jewish community auton- 
omy and the conscious preservation of the Jews as a separate group in 
society, the abolition of special restrictions and special rights and the exten- 
sion of such rights to a growing group of individuals. Equality of condition 
for all nationals had become the premise of the new body politic, and while 
this equality had actually been carried out at least to the extent of depriving 
the old ruling classes of their privilege to govern and the old oppressed 
classes of their right to be protected, the process coincided with the birth 
of the class society which again separated the nationals, economically and 
socially, as efficiently as the old regime. EquaUty of condition, as the 
Jacobins had understood it in the French Revolution, became a reality 
only in America, whereas on the European continent it was at once re- 
placed by a mere formal equality before the law. 

The fundamental contradiction between a political body based on equality 
before the law and a society based on the inequality of the class system 
prevented the development of functioning republics as well as the birth of 
a new poUtical hierarchy. An insurmountable inequality of social condition, 

1 To the modern historian rights and Uberties granted the court Jews during the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may appear to be only the forerunners of 
equality: court Jews could live wherever they liked, they were permitted to travel 
freely within the realm of their sovereign, they were allowed to bear arms and had 
rights to special protection from local authorities. Actually these court Jews, char- 
acteristically called Generalpn'vilegierte Jiidcn in Prussia, not only enjoyed better 
living conditions than their fellow Jews who still lived under almost medieval re- 
strictions, but they were better off than their non-Jewish neighbors. Their standard 
of living was much higher than that of the contemporary middle class, their privi- 
leges in most cases were greater than those granted to the nicrch:>nts. Nor did this 
situation escape the attention of their contemporaries. Christian Wilhelm Dohm, the 
outstanding advocate of Jewish emancipation in eighteenth-century Prussia, com- 
plained of the practice, in force since the time of Frederick William I, which granted 
rich Jews "all sorts of favors and support" often "at the expense of, and with 
neglect of diligent legal [that is, non-Jewish] citizens." In Denkwurdigkeiten meiner 
Zeit, Lemgo, 1814-1819, IV, 487. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 13 

the fact that class membership on the continent was bestowed upon the in- 
dividual and, up to the first World War, almost guaranteed to him by birth, 
could nevertheless exist side by side with political equality. Only politically 
backward countries, like Germany, had retained a few feudal remnants. 
There members of the aristocracy, which on the whole was well on its way 
to transforming itself into a class, had a privileged political status, and thus 
could preserve as a group a certain special relationship to the state. But 
these were remnants. The fully developed class system meant invariably 
that the status of the individual was defined by his membership in his own 
class and his relationship to another, and not by his position in the state 
or within its machinery. 

The only exceptions to this general rule were the Jews. They did not 
form a class of their own and they did not belong to any of the classes in 
their countries. As a group, they were neither workers, middle-class people, 
landholders, nor peasants. Their wealth seemed to make them part of the 
middle class, but they did not share in its capitalist development; they were 
scarcely represented in industrial enterprise and if, in the last stages of their 
history in Europe, they became employers on a large scale, they employed 
white-collar personnel and not workers. In other words, although their status 
was defined through their being Jews, it was not defined through their rela- 
tionship to another class. Their special protection from the state (whether 
in the old form of open privileges, or a special emancipation edict which 
no other group needed and which frequently had to be reinforced against 
the hostility of society) and their special services to the governments pre- 
vented their submersion in the class system as well as their own establish- 
ment as a class.- Whenever, therefore, they were admitted to and entered 
society, they became a well-defined, self-preserving group within one of the 
classes, the aristocracy or the bourgeoisie. 

There is no doubt that the nation-state's interest in preserving the Jews 
as a special group and preventing their assimilation into class society coin- 
cided with the Jewish interest in self-preservation and group survival. It is 
also more than probable that without this coincidence the governments' 
attempts would have been in vain; the powerful trends toward equalization 
of all citizens from the side ot the state and incorporation of each individual 
into a class from the side of society, both clearly implying complete Jewish 
assimilation, could be frustrated only through a combination of government 
intervention and voluntary co-operation. Official policies for the Jews were, 
after all, not always so consistent and unwavering as we may believe if we 
consider only the final results.^ It is indeed surprising to see how consistently 

2 Jacob Lestschinsky, in an early discussion of the Jewish problem, pointed out 
that Jews did not belong to any social class, and spoke of a "Klasseneinschiebsel" 
(in Weltwirtschafts-Archiv, 1929, Band 30, 123 ff.), but saw only the disadvantages 
of this situation in Eastern Europe, not its great advantages in Western and Central 
European countries. 

3 For example, under Frederick 11 after the Seven Years' War, a decided effort 
was made in Prussia to incorporate the Jews into a kind of mercantile system. The 


Jews neglected their chances for normal capitalist enterprise and business.* 
But without the interests and practices of the governments, the Jews could 
hardly have preserved their group identity. 

In contrast to all other groups, the Jews were defined and their position 
determined by the body politic. Since, however, this body politic had no 
other social reality, they were, socially speaking, in the void. Their social 
inequality was quite dilTerent from the inequality of the class system; it was 
again mainly the result of their relationship to the state, so that, in society, 
the very fact of being born a Jew would either mean that one was over- 
privileged — under special protection of the government — or underprivileged, 
lacking certain rights and opportunities which were withheld from the Jews 
in order to prevent their assimilation. 

The schematic outline of the simultaneous rise and decline of the Euro- 
pean nation-state system and European Jewry unfolds roughly in the fol- 
lowing stages: 

1. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed the slow develop- 
ment of nation-states under the tutelage of absolute monarchs. Individual 
Jews everywhere rose out of deep obscurity into the sometimes glamorous, 
and always influential, position of court Jews who financed state affairs and 
handled the financial transactions of their princes. This development af- 
fected the masses who continued to live in a more or less feudal order as 
little as it affected the Jewish people as a whole. 

2. After the French Revolution, which abruptly changed political condi- 
tions on the whole European continent, nation-states in the modern sense 
emerged whose business transactions required a considerably larger amount 
of capital and credit than the court Jews had ever been asked to place at a 

older general Juden-reglement of 1750 was supplanted by a system of regular per- 
mits issued only to those inhabitants who invested a considerable part of their for- 
tune in new manufacturing enterprises. But here, as everywhere else, such govern- 
ment attempts failed completely. 

* Felix Priebatsch ("Die Judenpolitik des furstlichen Absolutismus im 17. und 18. 
Jahrhundert," in Forschungen und Versuche zur Geschichte des Mittelalters und der 
Neuzeit, 1915) cites a typical example from the early eighteenth century: "When 
the mirror factory in Neuhaus, Lower Austria, which was subsidized by the adminis- 
tration, did not produce, the Jew Wertheimer gave the Emperor money to buy it. 
When asked to take over the factory he refused, stating that his time was taken up 
with his financial transactions." 

See also Max Kohler, "Beitrage zur neueren judischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Die 
Juden in Halbcrstadt und Umgebung," in Studien zur Geschichte der Wirtschaft und 
Ceisteskultur, 1927, Band 3. 

In this tradition, which kept rich Jews from real positions of power in capitalism, 
is the fact that in 1911 the Paris Rothschilds sold their share in the oil wells of Baku 
to the Royal Shell group, after having been, with the exception of Rockefeller, the 
world's biggest petroleum tycoons. This incident is reported in Richard Lewinsohn, 
Wie sie gross und reich wurden, Berlin, 1927. 

Andre Sayou's statement ("Les Juifs" in Revue Economique Interruitionale, 1932) 
in his polemic against Werner Sombart's identification of Jews with capitalist develop- 
ment, may be taken as a general rule: "The Rothschilds and other Israelites who 
were almost exclusively engaged in launching state loans and in the international 
movement of capital, did not try at all ... to create great industries." 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 15 

prince's disposal. Only the combined wealth of the wealthier strata of 
Western and Central European Jewry, which they entrusted to some promi- 
nent Jewish bankers for such purposes, could suffice to meet the new en- 
larged governmental needs. This period brought with it the granting of 
privileges, which up to then had been necessary only for court Jews, to 
the larger wealthy class, which had managed to settle in the more important 
urban and financial centers in the eighteenth century. Finally emancipation 
was granted in all full-fledged nation-states and withheld only in those coun- 
tries where Jews, because of their numbers and the general backwardness 
of these regions, had not been able to organize themselves into a special 
separate group whose economic function was financial support of their 

3. Since this intimate relationship between national government and Jews 
had rested on the indifference of the bourgeoisie to politics in general and 
state finance in particular, this period came to an end with the rise of im- 
perialism at the end of the nineteenth century when capitalist business in 
the form of expansion could no longer be carried out without active political 
help and intervention by the state. Imperialism, on the other hand, under- 
mined the very foundations of the nation-state and introduced into the 
European comity of nations the competitive spirit of business concerns. 
In the early decades of this development, Jews lost their exclusive position 
in state business to imperialistically minded businessmen; they declined in 
importance as a group, although individual Jews kept their influence as 
financial advisers and as inter-European middlemen. These Jews, however — 
in contrast to the nineteenth-century state bankers — had even less need of 
the Jewish community at large, notwithstanding its wealth, than the court 
Jews of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and therefore they fre- 
quently cut themselves off completely from the Jewish community. The 
Jewish communities were no longer financially organized, and although in- 
dividual Jews in high positions remained representative of Jewry as a whole 
in the eyes of the Gentile world, there was little if any material reality be- 
hind this. 

4. As a group. Western Jewry disintegrated together with the nation- 
state during the decades preceding the outbreak of the first World War. 
The rapid decline of Europe after the war found them already deprived of 
their former power, atomized into a herd of wealthy individuals. In an im- 
perialist age, Jewish wealth had become insignificant; to a Europe with no 
sense of balance of power between its nations and of inter-European solidar- 
ity, the non-national, inter-European Jewish "lement became an object of 
universal hatred because of its useless wealth, and of contempt because of 
its lack of power. 

The first governments to need regular income and secure finances were 
the absolute monarchies under which the nation-state came into being. 
Feudal princes and kings also had needed money, and even credit, but for 
specific purposes and temporary operations only; even in the sixteenth cen- 


tury, when the Fuggers put their own credit at the disposal of the state, 
they were not yet thinking of establishing a special state credit. The absolute 
monarchs at first provided for their financial needs partly through the old 
method of war and looting, and partly through the new device of tax 
monopoly. This undermined the power and ruined the fortunes of the nobil- 
ity without assuaging the growing hostility of the population. 

For a long time the absolute monarchies looked about society for a class 
upon which to rely as securely as the feudal monarchy had upon the nobility. 
In France an incessant struggle between the guilds and the monarchy, which 
wanted to incorporate them into the state system, had been going on since 
the fifteenth century. The most interesting of these experiments were doubt- 
less the rise of mercantilism and the attempts of the absolute state to get 
an absolute monopoly over national business and industry. The resulting 
disaster, and the bankruptcy brought about by the concerted resistance of 
the rising bourgeoisie, are sufficiently well known. ^ 

Before the emancipation edicts, every princely household and every mon- 
arch in Europe already had a court Jew to handle financial business. During 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these court Jews were always single 
individuals who had inter-European connections and inter-European credit 
at their disposal, but did not form an international financial entity." Char- 

* The influence, however, of mercantile experiments on future developments can 
hardly be overrated. France was the only country where the mercantile system was 
tried consistently and resulted in an early flourishing of manufactures which owed their 
existence to state interference; she never quite recovered from the experience. 
In the era of free enterprise, her bourgeoisie shunned unprotected investment in 
native industries while her bureaucracy, also a product of the mercantile system, sur- 
vived its collapse. Despite the fact that the bureaucracy also lost all its productive 
functions, it is even today more characteristic of the country and a greater impediment 
to her recovery than the bourgeoisie. 

" This had been the case in England since Queen Elizabeth's Marrano banker 
and the Jewish financiers of Cromwell's armies, until one of the twelve Jewish brokers 
admitted to the London Stock Exchange was said to have handled one-quarter of all 
government loans of his day (see Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the 
Jews, 1937, Vol. II: Jews and Capitalism); in Austria, where in only forty years 
(1695-1739), the Jews credited the government with more than 35 million florins 
and where the death of Samuel Oppenheimer in 1703 resulted in a grave financial 
crisis for both state and Emperor; in Bavaria, where in 1808 80 per cent of all govern- 
ment loans were endorsed and negotiated by Jews (see M. Grunwald, Samuel Oppen- 
heimer und sein Kreis, 1913); in France, where mercantile conditions were especially 
favorable for the Jews, Colbert already praised their great usefulness to the state 
(Baron, op. cit., loc. cit.), and where in the middle of the eighteenth century the German 
Jew, Licfman Calmer, was made a baron by a grateful king who appreciated services 
and loyalty to "Our state and Our person" (Robert Anchel, "Un Baron Juif 
Fran^ais au 18e siecle, Licfman Calmer," in Souvenir et Science, I, pp. 52-55); and 
also in Prussia where Frederick II's Miinzjuden were titled and where, at the end 
of the eighteenth century, 400 Jewish families formed one of the wealthiest groups in 
Berlin. (One of the best descriptions of Berlin and the role of the Jews in its society 
at the turn of the eighteenth century is to be found in Wilhelm Dilthey, Das Leben 
Schleiermachers, 1870, pp. 182 ff.). 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 17 

acteristic of these times, when Jewish individuals and the first small wealthy 
Jewish communities were more powerful than at any time in the nineteenth 
century/ was the frankness with which their privileged status and their 
right to it was discussed, and the careful testimony of the authorities to the 
importance of their services to the state. There was not the slightest doubt 
or ambiguity about the connection between services rendered and privileges 
granted. Privileged Jews received noble titles almost as a matter of course 
in France, Bavaria, Austria and Prussia, so that even outwardly they were 
more than just wealthy men. The fact that the Rothschilds had such a hard 
time getting their appHcation for a title approved by the Austrian govern- 
ment (they succeeded in 1817), was the signal that a whole period had 
come to an end. 

By the end of the eighteenth century it had become clear that none of the 
estates or classes in the various countries was willing or able to become the 
new ruUng class, that is to identify itself with the government as the nobihty 
had done for centuries.* The failure of the absolute monarchy ta find a sub- "/ 
stitute within society led to the full development of the nation-state and its 
claim to be above all classes, completely independent of society and its 
particular interests, the true and only representative of the nation as a whole. 
It resulted, on the other side, in a deepening of the split between state and 
society upon which the body politic of the nation rested. Without it, there 
would have been no need — or even any possibility — of introducing the 
Jews into European history on equal terms. 

When all attempts to ally itself with one of the major classes in society 
had failed, the state chose to establish itself as a tremendous business con- 
cern. This was meant to be for administrative purposes only, to be sure, but 
the range of interests, financial and otherwise, and the costs were so great 
that one cannot but recognize the existence of a special sphere of state busi- 
ness from the eighteenth century on. The independent growth of state busi- 
ness was caused by a conflict with the financially powerful forces of the 
time, with the bourgeoisie which went the way of private investment, shunned 
all state intervention, and refused active financial participation in what ap- 
peared to be an "unproductive" enterprise. Thus the Jews were the only 
part of the population willing to finance the state's beginnings and to tie 
their destinies to its further development. With their credit and international 
connections, they were in an excellent position to help the nation-state to 

^ Early in the eighteenth century, Austrian Jews succeeded in banishing Eisemenger's 
Entdecktes Judentum, 1703, and at the end of it, The Merchant of Venice could be 
played in Berlin only with a little prologue apologizing to the (not emancipated) Jew- 
ish audience. 

8 The only, and irrelevant, exception might be those tax collectors, called fermiers- 
generaux, in France, who rented from the state the right to collect taxes by guaran- 
teeing a fixed amount to the government. They earned their great wealth from and 
depended directly upon the absolute monarchy, but were too small a group and too 
isolated a phenomenon to be economically influential by themselves. 


establish itself among the biggest enterprises and employers of the time.' 
Great privileges, decisive changes in the Jewish condition, were neces- 
sarily the price of the fulfillment of such services, and, at the same time, the 
reward for great risks. The greatest privilege was equality. When the Miinz- 
juden of Frederick of Prussia or the court Jews of the Austrian Emperor 
received through "general privileges" and "patents" the same status which 
half a century later all Prussian Jews received under the name of emancipa- 
tion and equal rights; when, at the end oi' the eighteenth century and at 
the height of their wealth, the Berlin Jews managed to prevent an influx 
from the Eastern provinces because they did not care to share their "equal- 
ity" with poorer brethren whom they did not recognize as equals; when, at 
the time of tlie French National Assembly, the Bordeaux and Avignon Jews 
protested violently against the French government's granting equality to 
Jews of the Eastern provinces — it became clear that at least the Jews were 
not thinking in terms of equal rights but of privileges and special liberties. 
And it is really not surprising that privileged Je^vs, intimately linked to the 
businesses of their governments and quite aware of the nature and conditions 
of their status, were reluctant to accept for all Jews this gift of a freedom 
which they themselves possessed as the price for services, which they knew 
had been calculated as such and therefore could hardly become a right 
for all.^o 

Only at the end of the nineteenth century, with the rise of imperialism, 
did the owning classes begin to change their original estimate of the un- 
productivity of state business. Imperialist expansion, together with the 
growing perfection of the instruments of violence and the state's absolute 
monopoly of them, made the state an interesting business proposition. This 
meant, of course, that the Jews gradually but automatically lost their ex- 
clusive and unique position. 

But the good fortune of the Jews, their rise from obscurity to political 
significance, would have to come to an even earlier end if they had been 
confined to a mere business function in the growing nation-states. By the 
middle of the last century some states had won enough confidence to get 

8 The urgencies compelling the ties between government business and the Jews 
may be gauged by those cases in which decidedly anti-Jewish officials had to carry 
out the policies. So Bismarck, in his youth, made a few antisemitic speeches only 
to become, as chancellor of the Reich, a close friend of Bleichroeder and a reliable 
protector of the Jews against Court Chaplain Stoecker's antisemitic movement in 
Berlin. William II, although as Crown Prince and a member of the anti-Jewish 
Prussian nobility very sympathetic to all antisemitic movements in the eighties, 
changed his antisemitic convictions and deserted his antisemitic proteges overnight 
when he inherited the throne. 

10 As early as the eighteenth century, wherever whole Jewish groups got wealthy 
enough to be useful to the state, they enjoyed collective privileges and were separated 
as a group from their less wealthy and useful brethren, even in the same country. 
Like the Schutzjitden in Prussia, the Bordeaux and Bayonne Jews in France en- 
joyed equality long before the French Revolution and were even invited to present 
their complaints and propositions along with the other General Estates in the Convo- 
cation des Etats Generaux of 1787. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism J9 

along without Jewish backing and financing of government loans. ^^ The 
nationals' growing consciousness, moreover, that their private destinies were 
becoming more and more dependent upon those of their countries made 
them ready to grant the governments more of the necessary credit. Equality 
itself was symbolized in the availability to all of government bonds which 
were finally even considered the most secure form of capital investment 
simply because the state, which could wage national wars, was the only 
agency which actually could protect its citizens' properties. From the middle 
of the nineteenth century on, the Jews could keep their prominent position 
only because they had still another more important and fateful role to play, 
a role also intimately linked to their participation in the destinies of the 
state. Without territory and without a government of their own, the Jews 
had always been an inter-European element; this international status the 
nation-state necessarily preserved because the Jews' financial services rested 
on it. But even when their economic usefulness had exhausted itself, the 
inter-European status of the Jews remained of great national importance in 
times of national conflicts and wars. 

While the need of the nation-states for Jewish services developed slowly 
and logically, growing out of the general context of European history, the 
rise of the Jews to political and economic significance was sudden and un- 
expected to themselves as well as their neighbors. By the later Middle Ages 
the Jewish moneylender had lost all his former importance, and in the 
early sixteenth century Jews had already been expelled from cities and 
trade centers into villages and countryside, thereby exchanging a more 
uniform protection from remote higher authorities for an insecure status 
granted by petty local nobles.'- The turning point had been in the seventeenth 
century when, during the Thirty Years' War, precisely because of their 
dispersion these small, insignificant moneylenders could guarantee the 
necessary provisions to the mercenary armies of the war-lords in far-away 
lands and with the aid of small peddlers buy victuals in entire provinces. 
Since these wars remained half-feudal, more or less private affairs of the 
princes, involving no interest of other classes and enlisting no help from 
the people, the Jews' gain in status was very limited and hardly visible. But 
the number of court Jews increased because now every feudal household 
needed the equivalent of the court Jew. 

As long as these court Jews served small feudal lords who, as members 

" Jean Capefigue (Histoire des grandes operations financieres, Tome III: Banqite, 
Bourses, Emprunts, 1855) pretends that during the July Monarchy only the Jews, 
and especially the house of Rothschild, prevented a sound state credit based upon the 
Banque de France. He also claims that the events of 1848 made the activities of the 
Rothschilds superfluous. Raphael Strauss ("The Jews in the Economic Evolution of 
Central Europe" in Jewish Social Studies, 111, 1, 1941) also remarks that after 1830 
"public credit already became less of a risk so that Christian banks began to handle 
this business in increasing measure." Against these interpretations stands the fact 
that excellent relations prevailed between the Rothschilds and Napoleon HI, although 
there can be no doubt as to the general trend of the time. 

'^ See Priebatsch, op. tit. 


of the nobility, did not aspire to represent any centralized authority, they 
were the servants of only one group in society. The property they handled, 
the money they lent, the provisions they bought up, all were considered the 
private property of their master, so that such activities could not involve 
them in political matters. Hated or favored, Jews could not become a political 
issue of any importance. 

When, however, the function of the feudal lord changed, when he de- 
veloped into a prince or king, the function of his court Jew changed too. The 
Jews, being an alien element, without much interest in such changes in their 
environment, were usually the last to become aware of their heightened 
status. As far as they were concerned, they went on handling private busi- 
ness, and their loyalty remained a personal affair unrelated to political con- 
siderations. Loyalty meant honesty; it did not mean taking sides in a con- 
flict or remaining true for political reasons. To buy up provisions, to clothe 
and feed an army, to lend currency for the hiring of mercenaries, meant 
simply an interest in the well-being of a business partner. 

This kind of relationship between Jews and aristocracy was the only one 
that ever tied a Jewish group to another stratum in society. After it dis- 
appeared in the early nineteenth century, it was never replaced. Its only 
remnant for the Jews was a penchant for aristocratic titles (especially in 
Austria and France), and for the non-Jews a brand of liberal antisemitism 
which lumped Jews and nobility together and pretended that they were in 
some kind of financial alliance against the rising bourgeoisie. Such argu- 
mentation, current in Prussia and France, had a certain amount of plausibility 
as long as there was no general emancipation of the Jews. The privileges 
of the court Jews had indeed an obvious similarity to the rights and liberties 
of the nobility, and it was true that the Jews were as much afraid of losing 
their privileges and used the same arguments against equality as members of 
the aristocracy. The plausibility became even greater in the eighteenth cen- 
tury when most privileged Jews were given minor titles, and at the opening 
of the nineteenth century when wealthy Jews who had lost their ties with 
the Jewish communities looked for new social status and began to model 
themselves on the aristocracy. But all this was of little consequence, first 
because it was quite obvious that the nobility was on the decline and that 
the Jews, on the contrary, were continually gaining in status, and also be- 
cause the aristocracy itself, especially in Prussia, happened to become the 
first class that produced an antisemitic ideology. 

The Jews had been the purveyors in wars and the servants of kings, but 
they did not and were not expected to engage in the conflicts themselves. 
When these conflicts enlarged into national wars, they still remained an in- 
ternational element whose importance and usefulness lay precisely in their 
not being bound to any national cause. No longer state bankers and pur- 
veyors in wars (the last war financed by a Jew was the Prussian- Austrian 
war of 1866, when Bleichroeder helped Bismarck after the latter had been 
refused the necessary credits by the Prussian Parliament), the Jews had 
become the financial advisers and assistants in peace treaties and, in a less 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 21 

organized and more indefinite way, the providers of news. The last peace 
treaties drawn up without Jewish assistance were those of the Congress of 
Vienna, between the continental powers and France. Bleichroeder's role in 
the peace negotiations between Germany and France in 1871 was akeady 
more significant than his help in war," and he rendered even more impor- 
tant services in the late seventies when, through his connections with the 
Rothschilds, he provided Bismarck with an indirect news channel to Ben- 
jamin Disraeli. The peace treaties of Versailles were the last in which Jews 
played a prominent role as advisers. The last Jew who owed his prominence 
on the national scene to his international Jewish connection was Walter 
Rathenau, the ill-fated foreign minister of the Weimar Republic. He paid 
with his life for having (as one of his colleagues put it after his death) 
donated his prestige in the international world of finance and the support 
of Jews everywhere in the world ^* to the ministers of the new Republic, 
who were completely unknown on the international scene. 

That antisemitic governments would not use Jews for the business of war 
and peace is obvious. But the elimination of Jews from the international 
scene had a more general and deeper significance than antisemitism. Just 
because the Jews had been used as a non-national element, they could be 
of value in war and peace only as long as during the war everybody tried 
consciously to keep the possibilities of peace intact, only as long as every- 
body's aim was a peace of compromise and the re-establishment of a modus 
Vivendi. As soon as "victory or death" became a determining policy, and 
war actually aimed at the complete annihilation of the enemy, the Jews 
could no longer be of any use. This policy spelled destruction of their 
collective existence in any case, although the disappearance from the political 
scene and even extinction of a specific group-life would by no means neces- 
sarily have led to their physical extermination. The frequently repeated 
argument, however, that the Jews would have become Nazis as easily as their 
German fellow-citizens if only they had been permitted to join the move- 
ment, just as they had enlisted in Italy's Fascist party before Italian Fascism 
introduced race legislation, is only half true. It is true only with respect to 
the psychology of individual Jews, which of course did not greatly differ 
from the psychology of their environment. It is patently false in a historical 
sense. Nazism, even without antisemitism, would have been the deathblow 
to the existence of the Jewish people in Europe; to consent to it would have 

13 According to an anecdote, faithfully reported by all his biographers, Bismarck 
said immediately after the French defeat in 1871: "First of all, Bleichroeder has got 
to go to Paris, to get together with his fellow Jews and to talk it (the five billion 
francs for reparations) over with the bankers." (See Otto Joehlinger, Bismarck und 
die Juden, Berlin, 1921.) 

" See Walter Frank, "Walter Rathenau und die blonde Rasse," in Forschungen zur 
Judenfrage, Band IV, 1940. Frank, in spite of his official position under the Nazis, 
remained somewhat careful about his sources and methods. In this article he quotes 
from the obituaries on Rathenau in the Israelitisches Familienblatt (Hamburg, July 6, 
1922), Die Zeit, (June, 1922) and Berliner Tageblatt (May 31, 1922). 


meant suicide, not necessarily for individuals of Jewish origin, but for the 
Jews as a people. 

To the first contradiction, which determined the destiny of European 
Jewry during the last centuries, that is, the contradiction between equality 
and privilege (rather of equality granted in the form and for the purpose 
of privilege) must be added a second contradiction: the Jews, the only non- 
national European people, were threatened more than any other by the 
sudden collapse of the system of nation-states. This situation is less para- 
doxical than it may appear at first glance. Representatives of the nation, 
whether Jacobins from Robespierre to Clemenceau, or representative^ of 
Central European reactionary governments from Metternich to Bismarck, 
had one thing in common: they were all sincerely concerned with the "bal- 
ance of power" in Europe. They tried, of course, to shift this balance to the 
advantage of their respective countries, but they never dreamed of seizing a 
monopoly over the continent or of annihilating their neighbors completely. 
The Jews could not only be used in the interest of this precarious balance, 
they even became a kind of symbol of the common interest of the Euro- 
pean nations. 

It is therefore more than accidental that the catastrophic defeats of the 
peoples of Europe began with the catastrophe of the Jewish people. It was 
particularly easy to begin the dissolution of the precarious European balance 
of power with the elimination of the Jews, and particularly difficult to under- 
stand that more was involved in this elimination than an unusually cruel 
nationalism or an ill-timed revival of "old prejudices." When the catastrophe 
came, the fate of the Jewish people was considered a "special case" whose 
history follows exceptional laws, and whose destiny was therefore of no 
general relevance. This breakdown of European solidarity was at once re- 
flected in the breakdown of Jewish solidarity all over Europe. When the 
persecution of German Jews began, Jews of other European countries dis- 
covered that German Jews constituted an exception whose fate could bear 
no resemblance to their own. Similarly, the collapse of German Jewry was 
preceded by its split into innumerable factions, each of which believed and 
hoped that its basic human rights would be protected by special privileges — 
the privilege of having been a veteran of World War I, the child of a veteran, 
the proud son of a father killed in action. It looked as though the annihila- 
tion of all individuals of Jewish origin was being preceded by the bloodless 
destruction and self-dissolution of the Jewish people, as though the Jewish 
people had owed its existence exclusively to other peoples and their hatred. 

It is still one of the most moving aspects of Jewish history that the Jews' 
active entry into European history was caused by their being an inter- 
European, non-national element in a world of growing or existing nations. 
That this role proved more lasting and more essential than their function as 
state bankers is one of the material reasons for the new modern type of 
Jewish productivity in the arts and sciences. It is not without historical 
justice that their downfall coincided with the ruin of a system and a political 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 23 

body which, whatever its other defects, had needed and could tolerate a 
purely European element. 

The grandeur of this consistently European existence should not be for- 
gotten because of the many undoubtedly less attractive aspects of Jewish 
history during the last centuries. The few European authors who have been 
aware of this aspect of the "Jewish question" had no special sympathies for 
the Jews, but an unbiased estimate of the whole European situation. Among 
them was Diderot, the only eighteenth-century French philosopher who 
was not hostile to the Jews and who recognized in them a useful link be- 
tween Europeans of different nationalities; Wilhelm von Humboldt who, 
witnessing their emancipation through the French Revolution, remarked 
that the Jews would lose their universality when they were changed into 
Frenchmen; ^^ and finally Friedrich Nietzsche, who out of disgust with 
Bismarck's German Reich coined the word "good European," which made 
possible his correct estimate of the significant role of the Jews in European 
history, and saved him from falling into the pitfalls of cheap philosemitism 
or patronizing "progressive" attitudes. 

This evaluation, though quite correct in the description of a surface 
phenomenon, overlooks the most serious paradox embodied in the curious 
political history of the Jews. Of all European peoples, the Jews had been 
the only one without a state of their own and had been, precisely for this 
reason, so eager and so suitable for alliances with governments and states 
as such, no matter what these governments or states might represent. On 
the other hand, the Jews had no political tradition or experience, and were 
as little aware of the tension between society and state as they were of the 
obvious risks and power-possibilities of their new role. What little knowledge 
or traditional practice they brought to politics had its source first in the 
Roman Empire, where they had been protected, so to speak, by the Roman 
soldier, and later, in the Middle Ages, when they sought and received pro- 
tection against the population and the local rulers from remote monarchical 
and Church authorities. From these experiences, they had somehow drawn 
the conclusion that authority, and especially high authority, was favorable 
to them and that lower officials, and especially the common people, were 
dangerous. This prejudice, which expressed a definite historical truth but 
no longer corresponded to new circumstances, was as deeply rooted in and 
as unconsciously shared by the vast majority of Jews as corresponding 
prejudices about Jews were commonly accepted by Gentiles. 

The history of the relationship between Jews and governments is rich in 
examples of how quickly Jewish bankers switched their allegiance from one 

15 Wilhelm von Humboldt, Tagebucher, ed. by Leitzmann, Berlin, 1916-1918, I, 
475. — The article "Juif" of the Encyclopedic, 1751-1765, Vol. IX, which was prob- 
ably written by Diderot: "Thus dispersed in our time . . . [the Jews] have become 
instruments of communication between the most distant countries. They are like the 
cogs and nails needed in a great building in order to join and hold together all other 


government to the next even after revolutionary changes. It took the French 
Rothschilds in 1848 hardly twenty-four hours to transfer their services from 
the government of Louis Philippe to the new short-lived French Republic 
and again to Napoleon III. The same process repeated itself, at a slightly 
slower pace, after the downfall of the Second Empire and the estabhshment 
of the Third Republic. In Germany this sudden and easy change was sym- 
bolized, after the revolution of 1918, in the financial policies of the War- 
burgs on one hand and the shifting political ambitions of Walter Rathenau 
on the other.*" 

More is involved in this type of behavior than the simple bourgeois pat- 
tern which always assumes that nothing succeeds like success.*' Had the 
Jews been bourgeois in the ordinary sense of the word, they might have 
gauged correctly the tremendous power-possibilities of their new functions, 
and at least have tried to play that fictitious role of a secret world power 
which makes and unmakes governments, which antisemites assigned to them 
anyway. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. The Jews, 
without knowledge of or interest in power, never thought of exercising 
more than mild pressure for minor purposes of self-defense. This lack of 
ambition was later sharply resented by the more assimilated sons of Jewish 
bankers and businessmen. While some of them dreamed, like Disraeli, of a 
secret Jewish society to which they might belong and which never existed, 
others, hke Rathenau, who happened to be better informed, indulged in 
half-antisemitic tirades against the wealthy traders who had neither power 
nor social status. 

This innocence has never been quite understood by non- Jewish statesmen 
or historians. On the other hand, their detachment from power was so much 
taken for granted by Jewish representatives or writers that they hardly ever 
mentioned it except to express their surprise at the absurd suspicions leveled 
against them. In the memoirs of statesmen of the last century many remarks 
occur to the effect that there won't be a war because Rothschild in London 
or Paris or Vienna does not want it. Even so sober and reliable a historian 
as J. A. Hobson could state as late as 1905: "Does any one seriously sup- 
pose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a great 
state loan subscribed, if the House of Rothschild and its connexions set their 
face against it?" ** This misjudgment is as amusing in its naive assumption 

16 Walter Rathenau, foreign minister of the Weimar Republic in 1921 and one 
of the outstanding representatives of Germany's new will to democracy, had pro- 
claimed as late as 1917 his "deep monarchical convictions," according to which only 
an "anointed" and no "upstart of a lucky career" should lead a country. See Von 
kominenden Dingen, 1917, p. 247. 

17 This bourgeois pattern, however, should not be forgotten. If it were only a 
matter of individual motives and behavior patterns, the methods of the house of 
Rothschild certainly did not differ much from those of their Gentile colleagues. For 
instance, Napoleon's banker, Ouvrard, after having provided the financial means for 
Napoleon's hundred days' war, immediately offered his services to the returning 

18 J. H. Hobson, Imperialism, 1905, p. 57 of unrevised 1938 edition. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 25 

that everyone is like oneself, as Mettemich's sincere belief that "the house 
of Rothschild played a greater role in France than any foreign government," 
or his confident prediction to the Viennese Rothschilds shortly before the 
Austrian revolution in 1848: "If I should go to the dogs, you would go 
with me." The truth of that matter was that the Rothschilds had as little 
political idea as other Jewish bankers of what they wanted to carry out in 
France, to say nothing of a well-defined purpose which would even remotely 
suggest a war. On the contrary, like their fellow Jews they never allied 
themselves with any specific government, but rather with governments, with 
authority as such. If at this time and later they showed a marked preference 
for monarchical governments as against republics, it was only because they 
rightly suspected that republics were based to a greater extent on the will 
of the people, which they instinctively mistrusted. 

How deep the Jews' faith in the state was, and how fantastic their ignorance 
of actual conditions in Europe, came to light in the last years of the Weimar 
Republic when, already reasonably frightened about the future, the Jews 
for once tried their hand in politics. With the help of a few non-Jews, they 
then founded that middle-class party which they called "State-party" 
(Staatspartei) , the very name a contradiction in terms. They were so naively 
convinced that their "party," supposedly representing them in political and 
social struggle, ought to be the state itself, that the whole relationship of 
the party to the state never dawned upon them. If anybody had bothered to 
take seriously this party of respectable and bewildered gentlemen, he could 
only have concluded that loyalty at any price was a fagade behind which 
sinister forces plotted to take over the state. 

Just as the Jews ignored completely the growing tension between state and 
society, they were also the last to be aware that circumstances had forced 
them into the center of the conflict. They therefore never knew how to 
evaluate antisemitism, or rather never recognized the moment when social 
discrimination changed into a political argument. For more than a hundred 
years, antisemitism had slowly and gradually made its way into almost all 
social strata in almost all European countries until it emerged suddenly 
as the one issue upon which an almost unified opinion could be achieved. 
The law according to which this process developed was simple: each class 
of society which came into a conflict with the state as such became anti- 
semitic because the only social group which seemed to represent the state 
were the Jews. And the only class which proved almost immune from anti- 
semitic propaganda were the workers who, absorbed in the class struggle 
and equipped with a Marxist explanation of history, never came into direct 
conflict with the state but only with another class of society, the bourgeoisie, 
which the Jews certainly did not represent, and of which they were never a 
significant part. 

The poUtical emancipation of the Jews at the turn of the eighteenth 
century in some countries, and its discussion in the rest of Central and 
Western Europe, resulted first of all in a decisive change in their attitude 


toward the state, which was somehow symbolized in the rise of the house of 
Rothschild, The new policy of these court Jews, who were the first to become 
full-fledged state bankers, came to light when they were no longer content 
to serve one particular prince or government through their international 
relationships with court Jews of other countries, but decided to establish 
themselves internationally and serve simultaneously and concurrently the 
governments in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Austria. To a 
large extent, this unprecedented course was a reaction of the Rothschilds 
to the dangers of real emancipation, which, together with equality, threat- 
ened to nationalize the Jewries of the respective countries, and to destroy 
the very inter-European advantages on which the position of Jewish bankers 
had rested. Old Meyer Amschel Rothschild, the founder of the house, must 
have recognized that the inter-European status of Jews was no longer secure 
and that he had better try to realize this unique international position in his 
own family. The establishment of his five sons in the five financial capitals 
of Europe — Frankfurt, Paris, London, Naples and Vienna — was his ingeni- 
ous way out of the embarrassing emancipation of the Jews." 

The Rothschilds had entered upon their spectacular career as the financial 
servants of the Kurfurst of Hessen, one of the outstanding moneylenders of 
his time, who taught them business practice and provided them with many 
of their customers. Their great advantage was that they lived in Frankfurt, 
the only great urban center from which Jews had never been expelled and 
where they formed nearly 10 per cent of the city's population at the begin- 
ning of the nineteenth century. The Rothschilds started as court Jews without 
being under the jurisdiction of either a prince or the Free City, but directly 
under the authority of the distant Emperor in Vienna. They thus combined 
all the advantages of the Jewish status in the Middle Ages with those of 
their own times, and were much less dependent upon nobility or other local 
authorities than any of their fellow court Jews. The later financial activities 
of the house, the tremendous fortune they amassed, and their even greater 
symbolic fame since the early nineteenth century, are sufficiently well known.^" 
They entered the scene of big business during the last years of the Napoleonic 
wars when — from 1811 to 1816 — almost half the EngUsh subventions to 
the Continental powers went through their hands. When after the defeat 
of Napoleon the Continent needed great government loans everywhere for 
the reorganization of its state machines and the erection of financial struc- 
tures on the model of the Bank of England, the Rothschilds enjoyed almost a 
monopoly in the handling of state loans. This lasted for three generations 

19 How well the Rothschilds knew the sources of their strength is shown in their 
early house law according to which daughters and their husbands were eliminated 
from the business of the house. The girls were allowed, and after 1871, even en- 
couraged, to marry into the non-Jewish aristocracy; the male descendants had to 
marry Jewish girls exclusively, and if possible (in the first generation this was gen- 
erally the case) members of the family. 

20 See especially Egon Cesar Conte Corti, The Rise of the House of Rothschild, 
New York, 1927. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 27 

during which they succeeded in defeating all Jewish and non-Jewish com- 
petitors in the field. "The House of Rothschild became," as Capefigue put 
it,-i "the chief treasurer of the Holy Alliance." 

The international establishment of the house of Rothschild and its sudden 
rise above all other Jewish bankers changed the whole structure of Jewish 
state business. Gone was the accidental development, unplanned and un- 
organized, when individual Jews shrewd enough to take advantage of a 
unique opportunity frequently rose to the heights of great wealth and fell 
to the depths of poverty in one man's lifetime; when such a fate hardly 
touched the destinies of the Jewish people as a whole except insofar as 
such Jews sometimes had acted as protectors and petitioners for distant 
communities; when, no matter how numerous the wealthy moneylenders or 
how influential the individual court Jews, there was no sign of the develop- 
ment of a well-defined Jewish group which collectively enjoyed specific 
privileges and rendered specific services. It was precisely the Rothschilds' 
monopoly on the issuance of government loans which made it possible and 
necessary to draw on Jewish capital at large, to direct a great percentage of 
Jewish wealth into the channels of state business, and which thereby pro- 
vided the natural basis for a new inter-European cohesiveness of Central 
and Western European Jewry. What in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries had been an unorganized connection among individual Jews of 
different countries, now became the more systematic disposition of these 
scattered opportunities by a single firm, physically present in all important 
European capitals, in constant contact with all sections of the Jewish people, 
and in complete possession of all pertinent information and all opportunities 
for organization.^^ 

The exclusive position of the house of Rothschild in the Jewish world 
replaced to a certain extent the old bonds of religious and spiritual tradition 
whose gradual loosening under the impact of Western culture for the first 
time threatened the very existence of the Jewish people. To the outer 
world, this one family also became a symbol of the working reality of Jew- 
ish internationalism in a world of nation-states and nationally organized 
peoples. Where, indeed, was there better proof of the fantastic concept of 
a Jewish world government than in this one family, nationals of five different 
countries, prominent everywhere, in close co-operation with at least three 
different governments (the French, the Austrian, and the British), whose 
frequent conflicts never for a moment shook the solidarity of interest of 
their state bankers? No propaganda could have created a symbol more 
effective for political purposes than the reality itself. 

The popular notion that the Jews — in contrast to other peoples — were 
tied together by the supposedly closer bonds of blood and family ties, was 
to a large extent stimulated by the reality of this one family, which virtually 

21 Capefigue, op. cit. 

22 It has never been possible to ascertain the extent to which the Rothschilds used 
Jewish capital for their own business transactions and how far their control of Jew- 
ish hankers went. The family has never permitted a scholar to work in its archives. 


represented the whole economic and political significance of the Jewish 
people. The fateful consequence was that when, for reasons which had 
nothing to do with the Jewish question, race problems came to the fore- 
ground of the political scene, the Jews at once fitted all ideologies and 
doctrines which defined a people by blood ties and family characteristics. 

Yet another, less accidental, fact accounts for this image of the Jewish 
people. In the preservation of the Jewish people the family had played a far 
greater role than in any Western political or social body except the nobility. 
Family ties were among the most potent and stubborn elements with which 
the Jewish people resisted assimilation and dissolution. Just as declining 
European nobility strengthened its marriage and house laws, so Western 
Jewry became all the more family-conscious in the centuries of their spiritual 
and religious dissolution. Without the old hope for Messianic redemption 
and the firm ground of traditional folkways, Western Jewry became over- 
conscious of the fact that their survival had been achieved in an alien and 
often hostile environment. They began to look upon the inner family circle as 
a kind of last fortress and to behave toward members of their own group 
as though they were members of a big family. In other words, the anti- 
semitic picture of the Jewish people as a family closely knit by blood ties 
had something in common with the Jews' own picture of themselves. 

This situation was an important factor in the early^ rise and continuous 
growth of antisemitism in the nineteenth century. Which group of people 
would turn antisemitic in a given country at a given historical moment de- 
pended exclusively upon general circumstances which made them ready for 
a violent antagonism to their government. But the remarkable similarity of 
arguments and images which time and again were spontaneously reproduced 
have an intimate relationship with the truth they distort. We find the Jews 
always represented as an international trade organization, a world-wide 
family concern with identical interests everywhere, a secret force behind 
the throne which degrades all visible governments into mere facade, or into 
marionettes whose strings are manipulated from behind the scenes. Because 
of their close relationship to state sources of power, the Jews were invariably 
identified with power, and because of their aloofness from society and con- 
centration upon the closed circle of the family, they were invariably sus- 
pected of working for the destruction of all social structures. 

n: Early Antisemitism 

IT IS an obvious, if frequently forgotten, rule that anti-Jewish feeling ac- 
quires political relevance only when it can combine with a major political 
issue, or when Jewish group interests come into open conflict witfi those 
of a major class in society. Modern antisemitism, as we know it from 
Central and Western European countries, had political rather than eco- 
nomic causes, while complicated class conditions produced the violent 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 29 

popular hatred of Jews in Poland and Rumania. There, due to the inability 
of the governments to solve the land question and give the nation-state 
a minimum of equality through liberation of the peasants, the feudal 
aristocracy succeeded not only in maintaining its political dominance but 
also in preventing the rise of a normal middle class. The Jews of these 
countries, strong in number and weak in every other respect, seemingly 
fulfilled some of the functions of the middle class, because they were mostly 
shopkeepers and traders and because as a group they stood between the big 
landowners and the propertyless classes. Small property holders, however, 
can exist as well in a feudal as in a capitalist economy. The Jews, here as 
elsewhere, were unable or unwilling to develop along industrial capitalist 
lines, so that the net result of their activities was a scattered, inefficient 
organization of consumption without an adequate system of production. 
The Jewish positions were an obstacle for a normal capitalistic development 
because they looked as though they were the only ones from which economic 
advancement might be expected without being capable of fulfilling this ex- 
pectation. Because of their appearance, Jewish interests were felt to be in 
conflict with those sections of the population from which a middle class 
could normally have developed. The governments, on the other hand, tried 
halfheartedly to encourage a middle class without liquidating the nobility 
and big landowners. Their only serious attempt was economic liquidation 
of the Jews — partly as a concession to public opinion, and partly because 
the Jews were actually still a part of the old feudai order. For centuries 
they had been middlemen between the nobility and peasantry; now they 
formed a middle class without fulfilling its productive functions and were 
indeed one of the elements that stood in the way of industrialization and 
capitalization." These Eastern European conditions, however, although 
they constituted the essence of the Jewish mass question, are of little im- 
portance in our context. Their political significance was limited to backward 
countries where the ubiquitous hatred of Jews made it almost useless as a 
weapon for specific purposes. 

Antisemitism first flared up in Prussia immediately after the defeat by 
Napoleon in 1807, when the "Reformers" changed the political structure 
so that the nobility lost its privileges and the middle classes won their free- 
dom to develop. This reform, a "revolution from above," changed the 
half-feudal structure of Prussia's enhghtened despotism into a more or less 
modern nation-state whose final stage was the German Reich of 1871. 

Although a majority of the Berlin bankers of the time were Jews, the 
Prussian reforms did not require any considerable financial help from them. 
The outspoken sympathies of the Prussian reformers, their advocacy of 
Jewish emancipation, was the consequence of the new equality of all citizens, 
the abolition of privilege, and the introduction of free trade. They were not 
interested in the preservation of Jews as Jews for special purposes. Their 

23 James Parkes, The Emergence of the Jewish Problem, 1878-1939, 1946, discusses 
these conditions briefly and without bias in chapters iv and vi. 


reply to the argument that under conditions of equaUty "the Jews might 
cease to exist" would always have been: "Let them. How does this matter 
to a government which asks only that they become good citizens?" -' Emanci- 
pation, moreover, was relatively inoffensive, for Prussia had just lost the 
eastern provinces which had a large and poor Jewish population. The 
emancipation decree of 1812 concerned only those wealthy and useful 
Jewish groups who were already privileged with most civic rights and who, 
through the general abolition of privileges, would have suffered a severe loss 
in civil status. For these groups, emancipation meant not much more than 
a general legal affirmation of the status quo. 

But the sympathies of the Prussian reformers for the Jews were more than 
the logical consequence of their general political aspirations. When, almost 
a decade later and in the midst of rising antisemitism, Wilhelm von Hum- 
boldt declared: "I love the Jews really only en masse; en detail I rather avoid 
them," ^^ he stood of course in open opposition to the prevailing fashion, 
which favored individual Jews and despised the Jewish people. A true 
democrat, he wanted to liberate an oppressed people and not bestow privi- 
leges upon individuals. But this view was also in the tradition of the old 
Prussian government officials, whose consistent insistence throughout the 
eighteenth century upon better conditions and improved education for 
Jews have frequently been recognized. Their support was not motivated by 
economic or state reasons alone, but by a natural sympathy for the only 
social group that also stood outside the social body and within the sphere 
of the state, albeit for entirely different reasons. The education of a civil 
service whose loyalty belonged to the state and was independent of change 
in government, and which had severed its class ties, was one of the out- 
standing achievements of the old Prussian state. These officials were a de- 
cisive group in eighteenth-century Prussia, and the actual predecessors of 
the Reformers; they remained the backbone of the state machine all through 
the nineteenth century, although they lost much of their influence to the 
aristocracy after thd Congress of Vienna. ^^ 

Through the attitude of the Reformers and especially through the emanci- 
pation edict of 1812, the special interests of the state in the Jews became 
manifest in a curious way. The old frank recognition of their usefulness as 
Jews (Frederick II of Prussia exclaimed, when he heard of possible mass- 
conversion: "I hope they won't do such a devilish thing!") -^ was gone. 
Emancipation was granted in the name of a principle, and any allusion to 

2* Christian Wilhelm Dohm, Ober die biirgerliche Verbesserung der Juden, Berlin 
and SteUin, 1781, I, 174. 

25 Wilhelm und Caroline von Humboldt in ihren Brief en, Berlin, 1900, V, 236. 

26 For an excellent description of these civil servants who were not essentially 
different in different countries, see Henri Pirenne, A History of Europe from the In- 
vasions to the XVI Century, London, 1939, pp. 361-362: "Without class prejudices 
and hostile to the privileges of the great nobles who despised them, ... it was not 
the King who spoke through them, but the anonymous monarchy, superior to all, 
subduing all to its power." 

2^ See Kleines Jahrbuch des NiitzUchen und Angenehmen fiir Israeliten, 1847, 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 31 

special Jewish services would have been sacrilege, according to the mentality 
of the time. The special conditions which had led to emancipation, though 
well known to everybody concerned, were now hidden as if they were a 
great and terrible secret. The edict itself, on the other hand, was conceived 
as the last and, in a sense, the most shining achievement of change from a 
feudal state into a nation-state and a society where henceforth there would 
be no special privileges whatsoever. 

Among the naturally bitter reactions of the aristocracy, the class that was 
hardest hit, was a sudden and unexpected outburst of antisemitism. Its most 
articulate spokesman, Ludwig von der Marwitz (prominent among the 
founders of a conservative ideology), submitted a lengthy petition to the 
government in which he said that the Jews would now be the only group 
enjoying special advantages, and spoke of the "transformation of the old 
awe-inspiring Prussian monarchy into a new-fangled Jew-state." The political 
attack was accompanied by a social boycott which changed the face of 
Berlin society almost overnight. For aristocrats had been among the first 
to establish friendly social relationship with Jews and had made famous 
those salons of Jewish hostesses at the turn of the century, where a truly 
mixed society gathered for a brief time. To a certain extent, it is true, this 
lack of prejudice was the result of the services rendered by the Jewish 
moneylender who for centuries had been excluded from all greater business 
transactions and found his only opportunity in the economically un- 
productive and insignificant but socially important loans to people who had 
a tendency to live beyond their means. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that 
social relationships survived when the absolute monarchies with their greater 
financial possibilities had made the private loan business and the individual 
small court Jew a thing of the past. A nobleman's natural resentment against 
losing a valuable source of help in emergencies made him want to marry 
a Jewish girl with a rich father rather than hate the Jewish people. 

Nor was the outburst of aristocratic antisemitism the result of a closer 
contact between Jews and nobility. On the contrary, they had in common 
an instinctive opposition to the new values of the middle classes, and one 
that sprang from very similar sources. In Jewish as well as in noble families, 
the individual was regarded first of all as a member of a family; his duties 
were first of all determined by the family which transcended the life and 
importance of the individual. Both were a-national and inter-European, 
and each understood the other's way of life in which national allegiance 
was secondary to loyalty to a family which more often than not was scattered 
all over Europe. They shared a conception that the present is nothing more 
than an insignificant link in the chain of past and future generations. Anti- 
Jewish liberal writers did not fail to point out this curious similarity of prin- 
ciples, and they concluded that perhaps one could get rid of nobility only by 
first getting rid of the Jews, and this not because of their financial connections 
but because both were considered to be a hindrance to the true development 
of that "innate personality," that ideology of self-respect, which the liberal 


middle classes employed in their fight against the concepts of birth, family, 
and heritage. 

These pro-Jewish factors make it all the more significant that the aristo- 
crats started the long line of antisemitic political argumentation. Neither 
economic ties nor social intimacy carried any weight in a situation where 
aristocracy openly opposed the egalitarian nation-state. Socially, the attack 
on the state identified the Jews with the government; despite the fact that the 
middle classes, economically and socially, reaped the real gains in the 
reforms, politically they were hardly blamed and suffered the old contemptu- 
ous aloofness. 

After the Congress of Vienna, when during the long decades of peaceful 
reaction under the Holy Alliance, Prussian nobility had won back much of 
its influence on the state and temporarily become even more prominent than 
it had ever been in the eighteenth century, aristocratic antisemitism changed 
at once into mild discrimination without further poHtical significance.^® At 
the same time, with the help of the romantic intellectuals, conservatism 
reached its full development as one of the political ideologies which in Ger- 
many adopted a very characteristic and ingeniously equivocal attitude toward 
the Jews. From then on the nation-state, equipped with conservative argu- 
ments, drew a distinct line between Jews who were needed and wanted and 
those who were not. Under the pretext of the essential Christian character 
of the state — what could have been more alien to the enlightened despots! — 
the growing Jewish intelligentsia could be openly discriminated against with- 
out harming the affairs of bankers and businessmen. This kind of discrimina- 
tion which tried to close the universities to Jews by excluding them from 
the civil services had the double advantage of indicating that the nation-state 
valued special services higher than equality, and of preventing, or at least 
postponing, the birth of a new group of Jews who were of no apparent use 
to the state and even likely to be assimilated into society.^^ When, in the 
eighties, Bismarck went to considerable trouble to protect the Jews against 
Stoecker's antisemitic propaganda, he said expresses verbis that he wanted 
to protest only against the attacks upon "moneyed Jewry . . . whose 
interests are tied to the conservation of our state institutions" and that his 
friend Bleichroeder, the Prussian banker, did not complain about attacks on 
Jews in general (which he might have overlooked) but on rich Jews.^° 

28 When the Prussian Government submitted a new emancipation law to the 
Vereinigte Landtage in 1847, nearly all members of the high aristocracy favored 
complete Jewish emancipation, See I. Elbogen, Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, 
Berlin, 1935, p. 244. 

29 This was the reason why Prussian kings were so very much concerned with 
the strictest conservation of Jewish customs and religious rituals. In 1823 Frederick 
William III prohibited "the slightest renovations," and his successor, Frederick Wil- 
liam IV, openly declared that "the state must not do anything which could further an 
amalgamation between the Jews and the other inhabitants" of his kingdom. Elbogen, 
op. cit., pp. 223, 234. 

30 In a letter to Kultusminister v. Puttkammer in October, 1880. See also Herbert 
von Bismarck's letter of November, 1880, to Tiedemann. Both letters in Walter 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 33 

The seeming equivocation with which government officials on the one 
hand protested against equality (especially professional equality) for the 
Jews, or complained somewhat later about Jewish influence in the press 
and yet, on the other, sincerely "wished them well in every respect," ^^ was 
much more suited to the interests of the state than the earlier zeal of the 
reformer. After all, the Congress of Vienna had returned to Prussia the 
provinces in which the poor Jewish masses had lived for centuries, and 
nobody but a few intellectuals who dreamed of the French Revolution and 
the Rights of Man had ever thought of giving them the same status as their 
wealthy brethren — who certainly were the last to clamor for an equality by 
which they could only lose.^" They knew as well as anybody else that "every 
legal or political measure for the emancipation of the Jews must necessarily 
lead to a deterioration of their civic and social situation." ^^ And they knew 
better than anybody else how much their power depended upon their posi- 
tion and prestige within the Jewish communities. So they could hardly adopt 
any other policy but to "endeavor to get more influence for themselves, 
and keep their fellow Jews in their national isolation, pretending that this 
separation is part of their religion. Why? . . . Because the others should 
depend upon them even more, so that they, as unsere Leute, could be used 
exclusively by those in power." ** And it did turn out that in the twentieth 
century, when emancipation was for the first time an accomplished fact for 
the Jewish masses, the power of the privileged Jews had disappeared. 

Thus a perfect harmony of interests was established between the powerful 
Jews and the state. Rich Jews wanted and obtained control over their fellow 
Jews and segregation from non- Jewish society; the state could combine a 
policy of benevolence toward rich Jews with legal discrimination against 
the Jewish intelligentsia and furtherance of social segregation, as expressed 
in the conservative theory of the Christian essence of the state. 

While antisemitism among the nobility remained without political conse- 
quence and subsided quickly in the decades of the Holy Alliance, liberals 

Frank, Hofprediger Adolf Stoecker und die christlich-soziale Bewegung, 1928, pp. 
304, 305. 

*i August Varnhagen comments on a remark made by Frederick William IV. "The 
king was asked what he intended to do with the Jews. He replied: 'I wish them well in 
every respect, but I want them to feel that they are Jews.' These words provide 
a key to many things." Tagebiicher, Leipzig, 1861, II, 113. 

32 That Jewish emancipation would have to be carried out against the desires of 
Jewish representatives was common knowledge in the eighteenth century. Mirabeau 
argued before the Assemblee Nationale in 1789: "Gentlemen, is it because the Jews 
don't want to be citizens that you don't proclaim them citizens? In a government like 
the one you now establish, all men must be men; you must expel all those who are 
not or who refuse to become men." The attitude of German Jews in the early nine- 
teenth century is reported by J. M. Jost, Neuere Geschichte der Israeliten. 1815-1845, 
Berlin, 1846, Band 10. 

33 Adam Mueller (see Ausgewdhlte Abhandlungen, ed. by J. Baxa, Jena, 1921, 
p. 215) in a letter to Metternich in 1815. 

3* H. E. G. Paulus, Die jiidische N ationalabsonderung nacfi Ursprung, Folgen und 
Besserungsmitteln, 1831. 


and radical intellectuals inspired and led a new movement immediately after 
the Congress of Vienna. Liberal opposition to Metternich's police regime 
on the continent and bitter attaclcs on the reactionary Prussian government 
led quickly to antisemitic outbursts and a veritable flood of anti-Jewish 
pamphlets. Precisely because they were much less candid and outspoken 
in their opposition to the government than the nobleman Marwitz had 
been a decade before, they attacked the Jews more than the government. 
Concerned mainly with equal opportunity and resenting most of all the re- 
vival of aristocratic privileges which limited their admission to the public 
services, they introduced into the discussion the distinction between indi- 
vidual Jews, "our brethren," and Jewry as a group, a distinction which 
from then on was to become the trademark of leftist antisemitism. Although 
they did not fully understand why and how the government, in its enforced 
independence from society, preserved and protected the Jews as a separate 
group, they knew well enough that some political connection existed and 
that the Jewish question was more than a problem of individual Jews and 
human tolerance. They coined the new nationalist phrases "state within the 
state," and "nation within the nation." Certainly wrong in the first instance, 
because the Jews had no pohtical ambitions of their own and were merely 
the only social group that was unconditionally loyal to the state, they were 
half right in the second, because the Jews, taken as a social and not as a 
political body, actually did form a separate group within the nation. ^^ 

In Prussia, though not in Austria or in France, this radical antisemitism 
was almost as short-lived and inconsequential as the earlier antisemitism of 
nobility. The radicals were more and more absorbed by the liberalism of 
the economically rising middle classes, which all over Germany some twenty 
years later clamored in their diets for Jewish emancipation and for realiza- 
tion of political equahty. It established, however, a certain theoretical and 
even literary tradition whose influence can be recognized in the famous anti- 
Jewish writings of the young Marx, who so frequently and unjustly has been 
accused of antisemitism. That the Jew, Karl Marx, could write the same way 
these anti-Jewish radicals did is only proof of how little this kind of anti- 
Jewish argument had in common with full-fledged antisemitism. Marx as 
an individual Jew was as little embarrassed by these arguments against 
"Jewry" as, for instance, Nietzsche was by his arguments against Germany. 
Marx, it is true, in his later years never wrote or uttered an opinion on the 
Jewish question; but this is hardly due to any fundamental change of mind. 
His exclusive preoccupation with class struggle as a phenomenon inside 
society, with the problems of capitahst production in which Jews were not 
involved as either buyers or sellers of labor, and his utter neglect of political 
questions, automatically prevented his further inspection of the state struc- 
ture, and thereby of the role of the Jews. The strong influence of Marxism 
on the labor movement in Germany is among the chief reasons why German 

35 For a clear and reliable account of German antisemitism in the nineteenth 
century see Waldemar Gurian, "Antisemitism in Modern Germany," in Essays on 
Anti-Semitism, ed. by K. S. Pinson, 1946. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 35 

revolutionary movements showed so few signs of an ti- Jewish sentiment. ^^ 
The Jews were indeed of little or no importance for the social struggles of 
the time. 

The beginnings of the modem antisemitic movement date back every- 
where to the last third of the nineteenth century. In Germany, it began 
rather unexpectedly once more among the nobility, whose opposition to 
the state was again aroused by the transformation of the Prussian monarchy 
into a fell-fledged nation-state after 1871. Bismarck, the actual founder of 
the German Reich, had maintained close relations with Jews ever since he 
became Prime Minister; now he was denounced for being dependent upon 
and accepting bribes from the Jews. His attempt and partial success in 
abolishing most feudal remnants in the government inevitably resulted in 
conflict with the aristocracy; in their attack on Bismarck they represented 
him as either an innocent victim or a paid agent of Bleichroeder. Actually 
the relationship was the very opposite; Bleichroeder was undoubtedly a 
highly esteemed and well-paid agent of Bismarck.^^ 

Feudal aristocracy, however, though still powerful enough to influence 
public opinion, was in itself neither strong nor important enough to start a 
real antisemitic movement like the one that began in the eighties. Their 
spokesman, Court Chaplain Stoecker, himself a son of lower middle-class 
parents, was a much less gifted representative of conservative interests than 
his predecessors, the romantic intellectuals who had formulated the main 
tenets of a conservative ideology some fifty years earlier. Moreover, he dis- 
covered the usefulness of antisemitic propaganda not through practical or 
theoretical considerations but by accident, when he, with the help of a great 
demagogic talent, found out it was highly useful for filling otherwise empty 
halls. But not only did he fail to understand his own sudden successes; as 
court chaplain and employee of both the royal family and the government, 
he was hardly in a position to use them properly. His enthusiastic audiences 
were composed exclusively of lower middle-class people, small shopkeepers 
and tradesmen, artisans and old-fashioned craftsmen. And the anti- Jewish 
sentiments of these people were not yet, and certainly not exclusively, 
motivated by a conflict with the state. 

III: The First Antisemitic Parties 

the simultaneous rise of antisemitism as a serious political factor in 
Germany, Austria, and France in the last twenty years of the nineteenth cen- 

*8The only leftist German antisemite of any importance was E. Duehring who, 
in a confused way, invented a naturalistic explanation of a "Jewish race" in his 
Die Judenfrage als Frage der Rassenschddlichkeit fiir Existenz, Sitte und Cultur der 
Volker mil einer weltgeschichtlichen Antwort, 1880. 

37 For antisemitic attacks on Bismarck see Kurt Wawrzinek, Die Entstehung der 
deutschen Antisemitenparteien. 1873-1890. Historische Studien, Heft 168, 1927. 


tury was preceded by a scries of financial scandals and fraudulent affairs 
whose main source was an overproduction of ready capital. In France a 
majority of Parliament members and an incredible number of government 
orticials were soon so deeply involved in swindle and bribery that the Third 
Republic was never to recover the prestige it lost during the first decades of 
its existence; in Austria and Germany the aristocracy was among the most 
compromised. In all three countries, Jews acted only as middlemen, and not 
a single Jewish house emerged with permanent wealth from the frauds of 
the Panama Affair and the Grimdungsschwindel. 

However, another group of people besides noblemen, government officials, 
and Jews were seriously involved in these fantastic investments whose prom- 
ised profits were matched by incredible losses. This group consisted mainly 
of the lower middle classes, which now suddenly turned antisemitic. They 
had been more seriously hurt than any of the other groups: they had risked 
small savings and had been permanently ruined. There were important 
reasons for their gullibility. Capitalist expansion on the domestic scene 
tended more and more to liquidate small property-holders, to whom it had 
become a question of life or death to increase quickly the little they had, 
since they were only too likely to lose all. They were becoming aware that 
if they did not succeed in climbing upward into the bourgeoisie, they might 
sink down into the proletariat. Decades of general prosperity slowed down 
this development so considerably (though it did not change its trend) that 
their panic appears rather premature. For the time being, however, the 
anxiety of the lower middle classes corresponded exactly to Marx's predic- 
tion of their rapid dissolution. 

The lower middle classes, or petty bourgeoisie, were the descendants of 
the guilds of artisans and tradesmen who for centuries had been protected 
against the hazards of life by a closed system which outlawed competition 
and was in the last instance under the protection of the state. They conse- 
quently blamed their misfortune upon the Manchester system, which had 
exposed them to the hardships of a competitive society and deprived them 
of all special protection and privileges granted by public authorities. They 
were, there/ore, the first to clamor for the "welfare state," which they ex- 
pected not only to shield them against emergencies but to keep them in the 
professions and callings they had inherited from their families. Since an out- 
standing characteristic of the century of free trade was the access of the 
Jews to all professions, it was almost a matter of course to think of the 
Jews as the representatives of the "applied system of Manchester carried 
out to the extreme," ^'* even though nothing was farther from the truth. 

This rather derivative resentment, which we find first in certain conserva- 
tive writers who occasionally combined an attack on the bourgeoisie with 
an attack on Jews, received a great stimulus when those who had hoped 
for help from the government or gambled on miracles had to accept the 

•■"< Otto Glagau. Der Bankroll des Nalionalliberalismus und die Reaktion, Berlin, 
1878. The same author's Der Boersen- und Gruendungsschwindel. 1876, is one of 
the most important antisemitic pamphlets of the time. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 37 

rather dubious help of bankers. To the small shopkeeper the banker ap- 
peared to be the same kind of exploiter as the owner of a big industrial 
enterprise was to the worker. But while the European workers, from their 
own experience and a Marxist education in economics, knew that the capi- 
talist filled the double function of exploiting them and giving them the op- 
portunity to produce, the small shopkeeper had found nobody to enlighten 
him about his social and economic destiny. His predicament was even worse 
than the worker's and on the basis of his experience he considered the 
banker a parasite and usurer whom he had to make his silent partner, even 
though this banker, in contrast to the manufacturer, had nothing whatsoever 
to do with his business. It is not difficult to comprehend that a man who 
put his money solely and directly to the use of begetting more money can 
be hated more bitterly than the one who gets his profit through a lengthy and 
involved process of production. Since at that time nobody asked for credit 
if he could possibly help it — certainly not small tradesmen — bankers looked 
like the exploiters not of working power and productive capacity, but of 
misfortune and misery. 

Many of these bankers were Jews and, even more important, the general 
figure of the banker bore definite Jewish traits for historical reasons. Thus 
the leftist movement of the lower middle class and the entire propaganda 
against banking capital turned more or less antisemitic, a development of 
little importance in industrial Germany but of great significance in France 
and, to a lesser extent, in Austria. For a while it looked as though the Jews 
had indeed for the first time come into direct conflict with another class 
without interference from the state. Within the framework of the nation- 
state, in which the function of the government was more or less defined by 
its ruling position above competing classes, such a clash might even have 
been a possible, if dangerous, way to normalize the Jewish position. 

To this social-economic element, however, another was quickly added 
which in the long run proved to be more ominous. The position of the Jews 
as bankers depended not upon loans to small people in distress, but pri- 
marily on the issuance of state loans. Petty loans were left to the small fel- 
lows, who in this way prepared themselves for the more promising careers 
of their wealthier and more honorable brethren. The social resentment of 
the lower middle classes against the Jews turned into a highly explosive 
poUtical element, because these bitterly hated Jews were thought to be well 
on their way to political power. Were they not only too well known for 
their relationship with the government in other respects? Social and eco- 
nomic hatred, on the other hand, reinforced the political argument with that 
driving violence which up to then it had lacked completely. 

Friedrich Engels once remarked that the protagonists of the antisemitic 
movement of his time were noblemen, and its chorus the howling mob of the 
petty bourgeoisie. This is true not only for Germany, but also for Austria's 
Christian SociaUsm and France's Anti-Dreyfusards. In all these cases, the 
aristocracy, in a desperate last struggle, tried to ally itself with the- conserva- 
tive forces of the churches — the Catholic Church in Austria and France, 


the Protestant Church in Germany — under the pretext of fighting hberalism 
with the weapons of Christianity. The mob was only a means to strengthen 
their position, to give their voices a greater resonance. Obviously they neither 
could nor wanted to organize the mob, and would dismiss it once their aim 
was achieved. But they discovered that antisemitic slogans were highly 
effective in mobilizing large strata of the population. 

The followers of Court Chaplain Stoecker did not organize the first anti- 
semitic parties in Germany. Once the appeal of antisemitic slogans had been 
demonstrated, radical antiscmites at once separated themselves from 
Stacker's Berlin movement, went into a full-scale fight against the govern- 
ment, and founded parties whose representatives in the Reichstag voted in 
all major domestic issues with the greatest opposition party, the Social 
Democrats.'" They quickly got rid of the compromising initial aUiance with 
the old powers; Boeckcl, the first antisemitic member of Parliament, owed 
his seat to votes of the Hessian peasants whom he defended against "Junkers 
and Jews," that is against the nobility which owned too much land and 
against the Jews upon whose credit the peasants depended. 

Small as these first antisemitic parties were, they at once distinguished 
themselves from all other parties. They made the original claim that they 
were not a party among parties but a party "above all parties." In the class- 
and party-ridden nation-state, only the state and the government had ever 
claimed to be above all parties and classes, to represent the nation as a 
whole. Parties were admittedly groups whose deputies represented the in- 
terests of their voters. Even though they fought for power, it was implicitly 
understood that it was up to the government to establish a balance between 
the conflicting interests and their representatives. The antisemitic parties' 
claim to be "above all parties" announced clearly their aspiration to become 
the representative of the whole nation, to get exclusive power, to take posses- 
sion of the state machinery, to substitute themselves for the state. Since, on 
the other hand, they continued to be organized as a party, it was also clear 
that they wanted state power as a party, so that their voters would actually 
dominate the nation. 

The body politic of the nation-state came into existence when no single 
group was any longer in a position to wield exclusive political power, so 
that the government assumed actual poHtical rule which no longer depended 
upon social and economic factors. The revolutionary movements of the 
left, which fought for a radical change of social conditions, had never directly 
touched this supreme political authority. They had challenged only the 
power of the bourgeoisie and its influence upon the state, and were therefore 
always ready to submit to government guidance in foreign affairs, where the 
interests of an assumedly unified nation were at stake. The numerous 
programs of the antisemitic groups, on the other hand, were, from the begin- 
ning, chiefly concerned with foreign affairs; their revolutionary impulse was 

'" Sec Wawrzinek, op. cit. An instructive account of all these events, especially 
with respect to Court Chaplain Stoecker, in Frank, op. cit. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 39 

directed against the government rather than a social class, and they actually 
aimed to destroy the political pattern of the nation-state by means of a party 

The claim of a party to be beyond all parties had other, more significant, 
implications than antisemitism. If it had been only a question of getting rid 
of the Jews, Fritsch's proposal, at one of the early antisemitic congresses,^** 
not to create a new party but rather to disseminate antisemitism until 
finally all existing parties were hostile to Jews, would have brought much 
quicker results. As it was, Fritsch's proposal went unheeded because anti- 
semitism was then already an instrument for the liquidation not only of the 
Jews but of the body politic of the nation-state as well. 

Nor was it an accident that the claim of the antisemitic parties coincided 
with the early stages of imperialism and found exact counterparts in certain 
trends in Great Britain which were free of antisemitism and in the highly 
antisemitic pan-movements on the Continent.*^ Only in Germany did these 
new trends spring directly from antisemitism as such, and antisemitic parties 
preceded and survived the formation of purely imperialist groups such as 
the AUdeutscher Verband and others, all of which also claimed to be more 
than and above party groups. 

The fact that similar formations without active antisemitism — which 
avoided the charlatan aspect of the antisemitic parties and therefore seemed 
at first to have far better chances for final victory — were finally submerged 
or liquidated by the antisemitic movement is a good index to the importance 
of the issue. The antisemites' belief that their claim to exclusive rule was no 
more than what the Jews had in fact achieved, gave them the advantage of a 
domestic program, and conditions were such that one had to enter the arena 
of social struggle in order to win political power. They could pretend to fight 
the Jews exactly as the workers were fighting the bourgeoisie. Their ad- 
vantage was that by attacking the Jews, who were believed to be the secret 
power behind governments, they could openly attack the state itself, whereas 
the imperialist groups, with their mild and secondary antipathy against Jews, 
never found the connection with the important social struggles of the times. 

The second highly significant characteristic of the new antisemitic parties 
was that they started at once a supranational organization of all antisemitic 
groups in Europe, in open contrast to, and in defiance of, current nationalistic 
slogans. By introducing this supranational element, they clearly indicated 
that they aimed not only at political rule over the nation but had already 
planned a step further for an inter-European government "above all na- 
tions." *2 This second revolutionary element meant the fundamental break 

*0This proposition was made in 1886 in Cassel, where the Deutsche Antisemitische 
Vereinigung was founded. 

*i For an extensive discussion of the "parties above parties" and the pan-movements 
see chapter viii. 

*2The first international anti-Jewish congress took place in 1882 in Dresden, with 
about 3,000 delegates from Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia; during the dis- 
cussions, Stoecker was defeated by the radical elements who met one year later in 


\^ith the status quo; it has been frequently overlooked because the anti- 
scmitcs themselves, partly because of traditional habits and partly because 
Ihcy consciously lied, used the language of the reactionary parties in their 

The intimate relationship between the peculiar conditions of Jewish ex- 
istence and the ideology of such groups is even more evident in the organiza- 
tion of a group beyond nations than in the creation of a party beyond parties. 
The Jews very clearly were the only inter-European element in a nationalized 
Europe. It seemed only logical that their enemies had to organize on the 
same principle, if they were to fight those who were supposed to be the 
secret manipulators of the political destiny of all nations. 

While this argument was sure to be convincing as propaganda, the suc- 
cess of supranational antisemitism depended upon more general considera- 
tions. Even at the end of the last century, and especially since the Franco- 
Prussian War, more and more people felt that the national organization of 
Europe was antiquated because it could no longer adequately respond to 
new economic challenges. This feeling had been a powerful supporting argu- 
ment for the international organization of socialism and had, in turn, been 
strengthened by it. The conviction that identical interests existed all over 
Europe was spreading through the masses.''^ Whereas the international 
socialist organizations remained passive and uninterested in all foreign policy 
issues (that is in precisely those questions where their internationalism 
might have been tested), the antisemites started with problems of foreign 
policy and even promised solution of domestic problems on a supranational 
basis. To take ideologies less at their face value and to look more closely 
at the actual programs of the respective parties is to discover that the 
socialists, who were more concerned with domestic issues, fitted much better 
into the nation-state than the antisemites. 

Of course this does not mean that the socialists' internationalist convic- 
tions were not sincere. These were, on the contrary, stronger and, inciden- 
tally, much older than the discovery of class interests which cut across the 
boundaries of national states. But the very awareness of the all-importance 
of class struggle induced them to neglect that heritage which the French 
Revolution had bequeathed to the workers' parties and which alone might 
have led them to an articulate political theory. The socialists kept implicitly 
intact the original concept of a "nation among nations," all of which belong 
to the family of mankind, but they never found a device by which to trans- 
Chemnitz and founded the Alliance Antijuive Universelle. A good account of these 
meetings and congresses, their programs and discussions, is to be found in Wawrzinek, 
op. cit. 

♦3 The international solidarity of the workers' movements was, as far as it went, 
an intcr-European matter. Their indifference to foreign policy was also a kind of 
self-protection against both active participation in or struggle against the con- 
temporary imperialist policies of their respective countries. As far as economic 
interests were concerned, it was all too obvious that everybody in the French or 
British or Dutch nation would feel the full impact of the fall of their empires, and 
not just capitalists and bankers. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 41 

form this idea into a working concept in the world of sovereign states. 
Their internationalism, consequently, remained a personal conviction shared 
by everybody, and their healthy disinterest in national sovereignty turned 
into a quite unhealthy and unrealistic indifference to foreign politics. Since 
the parties of the left did not object to nation-states on principle, but only 
to the aspect of national sovereignty; since, moreover, their own inarticulate 
hopes for federalist structures with eventual integration of all nations on 
equal terms somehow presupposed national liberty and independence of all 
oppressed peoples, they could operate within the framework of the nation- 
state and even emerge, in the time of decay of its social and political struc- 
ture, as the only group in the population that did not indulge in expansionist 
fantasies and in thoughts of destroying other peoples. 

The supranationalism of the antisemites approached the question of in- 
ternational organization from exactly the opposite point of view. Their aim 
was a dominating superstructure which would destroy all home-grown na- 
tional structures alike. They could indulge in hypernationalistic talk even 
as they prepared to destroy the body politic of their own nation, because 
tribal nationalism, with its immoderate lust for conquest, was one of the 
principal powers by which to force open the narrow and modest limits of 
the nation-state and its sovereignty.** The more effective the chauvinistic 
propaganda, the easier it was to persuade public opinion of the necessity 
for a supranational structure which would rule from above and without 
national distinctions by a universal monopoly of power and the instruments 
of violence. 

There is little doubt that the special inter-European condition of the 
Jewish people could have served the purposes of socialist federalism at 
least as well as it was to serve the sinister plots of supranationalists. But 
socialists were so concerned with class struggle and so neglectful of the 
political consequences of their own inherited concepts that they became 
aware of the existence of the Jews as a political factor only when they were 
already confronted with full-blown antisemitism as a serious competitor on 
the domestic scene. Then they were not only unprepared to integrate the 
Jewish issue into their theories, but actually afraid to touch the question 
at all. Here as in other international issues, they left the field to the supra- 
nationalists who could then seem to be the only ones who knew the answers 
to world problems. 

By the turn of the century, the effects of the swindles in the seventies 
had run their course and an era of prosperity and general well-being, espe- 
cially in Germany, put an end to the premature agitations of the eighties. 
Nobody could have predicted that this end was only a temporary respite, 
that all unsolved political questions, together with all unappeased political 
hatreds, were to redouble in force and violence after the first World War. 
The antisemitic parties in Germany, after initial successes, fell back into 
insignificance; their leaders, after a brief stirring of public opinion, disap- 

*^ Compare chapter viii. 


pcarcd through the back door of history into the darkness of crackpot con- 
fuMon and cure-all charlatanry. 

IV: Leftist Antisemitism 

WERE IT NOT for the frightful consequences of antisemitism in our own time, 
wc might have given less attention to its development in Germany. As a 
political movement, nineteenth-century antisemitism can be studied best 
in France, where for almost a decade it dominated the political scene. As 
an ideological force, competing with other more respectable ideologies for 
the acceptance of public opinion, it reached its most articulate form in 

Nowhere had the Jews rendered such great services to the state as in 
Austria, whose many nationalities were kept together only by the Dual 
Monarchy of the House of Hapsburg, and where the Jewish state banker, 
in contrast to all other European countries, survived the downfall of the 
monarchy. Just as at the beginning of this development in the early eighteenth 
century, Samuel Oppenheimer's credit had been identical with the credit 
of the House of Hapsburg, so "in the end Austrian credit was that of the 
Creditanstalt" — a Rothschild banking house.^^ Although the Danube mon- 
archy had no homogeneous population, the most important prerequisite for 
evolution into a nation-state, it could not avoid the transformation of an 
enlightened despotism into a constitutional monarchy and the creation of 
modern civil services. This meant that it had to adopt certain institutions of 
the nation-state. For one thing, the modern class system grew along nation- 
ality lines, so that certain nationalities began to be identified with certain 
classes or at least professions. The German became the dominating na- 
tionality in much the same sense as the bourgeoisie became the dominating 
class in the nation-states. The Hungarian landed aristocracy played a role 
that was even more pronounced than, but essentially similar to, that played 
by the nobility in other countries. The state machinery itself tried its best to 
keep the same absolute distance from society, to rule above all nationalities, 
as the nation-state with respect to its classes. The result for the Jews was sim- 
ply that the Jewish nationality could not merge with the others and could 
not become a nationality itself, just as it had not merged with other classes in 
the nation-state, or become a class itself. As the Jews in nation-states had 
differed from all classes of society through their special relationship to the 
state, so they diflfcred from all other nationalities in Austria through their 
special relationship to the Hapsburg monarchy. And just as everywhere 
else each class that came into open conflict with the state turned antisemitic, 
so in Austria each nationality that not only engaged in the all-pervading 
struggle of the nationalities but came into open conflict with the monarchy 

«* See Paul H. Emden, "The Story of the Vienna Creditanstalt," in Menorah Journal, 
XXVIII. 1, 1940. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 43 

itself, started its fight with an attack upon the Jews. But there was a marked 
difference between these conflicts in Austria, and those in Germany and 
France. In Austria they were not only sharper, but at the outbreak of the 
first World War every single nationality, and that meant every stratum of 
society, was in opposition to the state, so that more than anywhere else in 
Western or Central Europe the population was imbued with active anti- 

Outstanding among these conflicts was the continuously rising state hos- 
tility of the German nationality, which accelerated after the foundation of 
the Reich and discovered the usefulness of antisemitic slogans after the 
financial crash of 1873. The social situation at that moment was practically 
the same as in Germany, but the social propaganda to catch the middle- 
class vote immediately indulged in a much more violent attack on the state, 
and a much more outspoken confession of nonloyalty to the country. More- 
over, the German Liberal Party, under the leadership of Schoenerer, was 
from the beginning a lower middle-class party without connections or re- 
straints from the side of the nobility, and with a decidedly left-wing outlook. 
It never achieved a real mass basis, but it was remarkably successful in the 
universities during the eighties where it organized the first closely knit 
students' organization on the basis of open antisemitism. Schoenerer's anti- 
semitism, at first almost exclusively directed against the Rothschilds, won 
him the sympathies of the labor movement, which regarded him as a true 
radical gone astray." His main advantage was that he could base his anti- 
semitic propaganda on demonstrable facts: as a member of the Austrian 
Reichsrat he had fought for nationalization of the Austrian railroads, the 
major part of which had been in the hands of the Rothschilds since 1836 
due to a state license which expired in 1886. Schoenerer succeeded in gather- 
ing 40,000 signatures against its renewal, and in placing the Jewish question 
in the limelight of public interest. The close connection between the Roth- 
schilds and the financial interests of the monarchy became very obvious 
when the government tried to extend the license under conditions which 
were patently to the disadvantage of the state as well as the public. 
Schoenerer's agitation in this matter became the actual beginning of an ar- 
ticulate antisemitic movement in Austria.*^ The point is that this movement, 
in contrast to the German Stoeckcr agitation, was initiated and led by a 
man who was sincere beyond doubt, and therefore did not stop at the use 
of antisemitism as a propaganda weapon, but developed quickly that Pan- 
German ideology which was to influence Mazism more deeply than any 
other German brand of antisemitism. 

46 See F. A. Neuschaefer. Georg Ritter von Schoenerer, Hamburg, 1935, and 
Eduard Pichl, Georg Schoenerer, 1938, 6 vols. Even in 1912, when the Schoenerer 
agitation had long lost all significance, the Viennese Arbeiterzeitung cherished very 
affectionate feelings for the man of whom it could think only in the words Bismarck 
had once uttered about Lassalle: "And if we exchanged shots, justice would still de- 
mand that we admit even during the shooting: He is a man; and the others are old 
women." (Neuschaefer, p. 33.) 

*^ See Neuschaefer, op. cit., pp. 22 ff., and Pichl, op. cit., I, 236 flf. 


riiDugh victorious in the long run. the Schocncrcr movement was tempo- 
rarilv defeated hv a second antisemitic party, the Christian-Socials under 
the leadership of I.ueizer. While Schoenerer had attacked the Catholic 
Church and its considerable inlUience on Austrian politics almost as much 
as he had the Jews, the Christian-Socials were a Catholic party who tried 
from the outset to ally themselves with those reactionary conservative forces 
which had proved so helpful in Germany and France. Since they made more 
social concessions, they were more successful than in Germany or in France. 
They, together with the Social Democrats, survived the downfall of the 
monarchy and became the most influential group in postwar Austria. But 
long before the establishment of an Austrian Republic, when, in the nineties, 
Lueger had won the Mayoralty of Vienna by an antisemitic campaign, the 
Christian-Socials already adopted that typically equivocal attitude toward 
the Jews in the nation-state — hostility to the intelligentsia and friendliness 
toward the Jewish business class. It was by no means an accident that, after 
a bitter and bloody contest for power with the socialist workers' movement, 
they took over the state machinery when Austria, reduced to its German 
nationality, was established as a nation-state. They turned out to be the 
only party which was prepared for exactly this role and, even under the 
old monarchy, had won popularity because of their nationalism. Since the 
Hapsburgs were a German house and had granted their German subjects 
a certain predominance, the Christian-Socials never attacked the monarchy. 
Their function was rather to win large parts of the German nationality for 
the support of an essentially unpopular government. Their antisemitism 
remained without consequence; the decades when Lueger ruled Vienna were 
actually a kind of golden age for the Jews. No matter how far their propa- 
ganda occasionally went in order to get votes, they never could have pro- 
claimed with Schoenerer and the Pan-Germanists that "they regarded anti- 
semitism as the mainstay of our national ideology, as the most essential 
expression of genuine popular conviction and thus as the major national 
achievement of the century." "* And although they were as much under the 
influence of clerical circles as was the antisemitic movement in France, they 
were of necessity much more restrained in their attacks on the Jews because 
they did not attack the monarchy as the antisemites in France attacked the 
Third Republic. 

The successes and failures of the two Austrian antisemitic parties show 
the scant relevance of social conflicts to the long-range issues of the time. 
Compared with the mobilization of all opponents to the government as such, 
the capturing of lower middle-class votes was a temporary phenomenon. 
Indeed, the backbone of Schoenerer's movement was in those German- 
speaking provinces without any Jewish population at all, where competition 
with Jews or hatred of Jewish bankers never existed. The survival of the 
Pan-Germanist movement and its violent antisemitism in these provinces, 
while it subsided in the urban centers, was merely due to the fact that these 

'" Quoted from PichI, op. cit., I, p. 26. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 45 

provinces were never reached to the same extent by the universal prosperity 
of the pre-war period which reconciled the urban population with the gov- 

The complete lack of loyalty to their own country and its government, 
for which the Pan-Germanists substituted an open loyalty to Bismarck's 
Reich, and the resulting concept of nationhood as something independent 
of state and territory, led the Schoenerer group to a veritable imperialist 
ideology in which lies the clue to its temporary weakness and its final 
strength. It is also the reason why the Pan-German party in Germany (the 
Alldeutschen), which never overstepped the limits of ordinary chauvinism, 
remained so extremely suspicious and reluctant to take the outstretched 
hands of their Austrian Germanist brothers. This Austrian movement aimed 
at more than rise to power as a party, more than the possession of the state 
machinery. It wanted a revolutionary reorganization of Central Europe in 
which the Germans of Austria, together with and strengthened by the Ger- 
mans of Germany, would become the ruling people, in which all other 
peoples of the area would be kept in the same kind of semiservitude as the 
Slavonic nationahties in Austria. Because of this close affinity to imperialism 
and the fundamental change it brought to the concept of nationhood, we 
shall have to postpone the discussion of the Austrian Pan-Germanist move- 
ment. It is no longer, at least in its consequences, a mere nineteenth-century 
preparatory movement; it belongs, more than any other brand of anti- 
semitism, to the course of events of our own century. 

The exact opposite is true of French antisemitism. The Dreyfus Affair 
brings into the open all other elements of nineteenth-century antisemitism 
in its mere ideological and political aspects; it is the culmination of the 
antisemitism which grew out of the special conditions of the nation-state. Yet 
its violent form foreshadowed future developments, so that the main actors 
of the Affair sometimes seem to be staging a huge dress rehearsal for a per- 
formance that had to be put off for more than three decades. It drew to- 
gether all the open or subterranean, political or social sources which had 
brought the Jewish question into a predominant position in the nineteenth 
century; its premature outburst, on the other hand, kept it within the frame- 
work of a typical nineteenth-century ideology which, although it survived 
all French governments and political crises, never quite fitted into twentieth- 
century poUtical conditions. When, after the 1940 defeat, French anti- 
semitism got its supreme chance under the Vichy government, it had a 
definitely antiquated and, for major purposes, rather useless character, 
which German Nazi writers never forgot to point out.*'' It had no influence 
on the formation of Nazism and remains more significant in itself than as 
an active historical factor in the final catastrophe. 

The principal reason for these wholesome hmitations was that France's 
antisemitic parties, though violent on the domestic scene, had no supra- 

*9 See especially Walfried Vemunft, "Die Hintergriinde dcs fraazosischen Anti- 
semitismus," in Nationalsozialistische Monaishefte, Juni, 1939. 


national aspirations. They belonged after all to the oldest and most fully 
developed nation-state in Europe. None of the antisemites ever tried seriously 
to organize a "party above parties" or to seize the state as a party and for 
no other purpose but party interests. The few attempted coups d'etat which 
might be credited to the alliance between antisemites and higher army 
oflicers were ridiculously inadequate and obviously contrived.^" In 1898 
some nineteen members of Parliament were elected through antisemitic 
campaigns, but this was a peak which was never reached again and from 
which the decline was rapid. 

It is true, on the other hand, that this was the earliest instance of the 
success of antisemitism as a catalytic agent for all other political issues. This 
can be attributed to the lack of authority of the Third Republic, which had 
been voted in with a very slight majority. In the eyes of the masses, the 
state had lost its prestige along with the monarchy, and attacks on the state 
were no longer a sacrilege. The early outburst of violence in France bears 
a striking resemblance to similar agitation in the Austrian and German 
Republics after the first World War. The Nazi dictatorship has been so 
frequently connected with so-called "state-worship" that even historians 
have become somewhat blind to the truism that the Nazis took advantage 
of the complete breakdown of state worship, originally prompted by the 
worship of a prince who sits on the throne by the grace of God, and which 
hardly ever occurs in a Republic. In France, fifty years before Central 
European countries were affected by this universal loss of reverence, state 
worship had suffered many defeats. It was much easier to attack the Jews 
and the government together there than in Central Europe where the Jews 
were attacked in order to attack the government. 

French antisemitism, moreover, is as much older than its European coun- 
terparts as is French emancipation of the Jews, which dates back to the end 
of the eighteenth century. The representatives of the Age of Enlightenment 
who prepared the French Revolution despised the Jews as a matter of course; 
they saw in them the backward remnants of the Dark Ages, and they hated 
them as the financial agents of the aristocracy. The only articulate friends 
of the Jews in France were conservative writers who denounced anti-Jewish 
attitudes as "one of the favorite theses of the eighteenth century." " For 
the more liberal or radical writer it had become almost a tradition to warn 
against the Jews as barbarians who still lived in the patriarchal form of gov- 
ernment and recognized no other state." During and after the French Rev- 
olution, the French clergy and French aristocrats added their voices to the 
general anti-Jewish sentiment, though for other and more material reasons. 
They accused the revolutionary government of having ordered the sale of 
clerical property to pay "the Jews and merchants to whom the government 

*o Sec Chapter iv. 

»i See J. de Maistre, Les Soirees de St. Petersburg, 1821, II, 55. 

»2 Charles Fourier, Nouveau Monde Industriel, 1829, Vol. V of his Oeuvres Com- 
putes, 1841, p. 421. For Fourier's anti-Jewish doctrines, see also Edmund Silbemer, 
"Charles Fourier on the Jewish Question" in Jewish Social Studies, October, 1946. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 47 

is indebted." " These old arguments, somehow kept alive through the never- 
ending struggle between Church and State in France, supported the general 
violence and embitterment which had been touched off by other and more 
modern forces at the end of the century. 

Mainly because of the strong clerical support of antisemitism, the French 
socialist movement finally decided to take a stand against antisemitic propa- 
ganda in the Dreyfus Affair. Until then, however, nineteenth-century French 
leftist movements had been outspoken in their antipathy to the Jews, They 
simply followed the tradition of eighteenth-century enlightenment which 
was the source of French hberalism and radicaUsm, and they considered 
anti-Jewish attitudes an integral part of anticlericalism. These sentiments on 
the left were strengthened first by the fact that the Alsatian Jews continued 
to live from lending money to peasants, a practice which had already 
prompted Napoleon's decree of 1808. After conditions had changed in 
Alsace, leftist antisemitism found a new source of strength in the financial 
policies of the house of Rothschild, which played a large part in the financ- 
ing of the Bourbons, maintained close connections with Louis Philippe, and 
flourished under Napoleon III. 

Behind these obvious and rather superficial incentives to anti-Jewish 
attitudes there was a deeper cause, which was crucial to the whole struc- 
ture of the specifically French brand of radicaUsm, and which almost suc- 
ceeded in turning the whole French leftist movement against the Jews. 
Bankers were much stronger in the French economy than in other capitalist 
countries, and France's industrial development, after a brief rise during the 
reign of Napoleon III, lagged so far behind other nations that pre-capitalist 
socialist tendencies continued to exert considerable influence. The lower 
middle classes which in Germany and Austria became antisemitic only dur- 
ing the seventies and eighties, when they were already so desperate that they 
could be used for reactionary politics as well as for the new mob policies, 
had been antisemitic in France some fifty years earlier, when, with the help 
of the working class, they carried the revolution of 1848 to a brief victory. 
In the forties, when Toussenel published his Les Juifs, Rois de I'Epoque, 
the most important book in a veritable flood of pamphlets against the 
Rothschilds, it was enthusiastically received by the entire left-wing press, 
which at the time was the organ of the revolutionary lower middle classes. 
Their sentiments, as expressed by Toussenel, though less articulate and 
less sophisticated, were not very different from those of the young Marx, 
and Toussenel's attack on the Rothschilds was only a less gifted and more 
elaborate variation of the letters from Paris which Boerne had written 
fifteen years before." These Jews, too, mistook the Jewish banker for a 

63 See the newspaper Le Patriate Frangais, No. 457, November 8, 1790. Quoted 
from Clemens August Hoberg, "Die geistigen Grundlagen des Antisemitismus im 
modernen Frankreich," in Forschungen zur Judenjrage, 1940, Vol. IV. 

s* Marx's essay on the Jewish question is sufficiently well known not to warrant 
quotation. Since Boerne's utterances, because of their merely polemical and un- 
theoretical character, are being forgotten today, we quote from the 72nd letter from 


central figure in the capitalist system, an error which has exerted a certain 
influence on the municipal and lower government bureaucracy in France 
up to our own time." 

However this outburst of popular anti-Jewish feeling, nourished by an 
economic conflict between Jewish bankers and their desperate clientele, 
lasted no longer as an important factor in politics than similar outbursts 
with purely economic or social causes. The twenty years of Napoleon Ill's 
rule over a French Empire were an age of prosperity and security for French 
Jewry much like the two decades before the outbreak of the first World War 
in Germany and Austria. 

The only brand of French antisemitism which actually remained strong, 
and outlasted social antisemitism as well as the contemptuous attitudes of 
anticlerical intellectuals, was tied up with a general xenophobia. Especially 
after the first World War, foreign Jews became the stereotypes for all for- 
eigners. A differentiation between native Jews and those who "invaded" the 
country from the East has been made in all Western and Central European 
countries. Polish and Russian Jews were treated exactly the same way in 
Germany and Austria as Rumanian and German Jews were treated in France, 
just as Jews from Posen in Germany or from Galicia in Austria were re- 
garded with the same snobbish contempt as Jews from Alsace were in 
France. But only in France did this difl[erentiation assume such importance 
on the domestic scene. And this is probably due to the fact that the Roth- 
schilds, who more than anywhere else were the butt of anti- Jewish attacks, 
had immigrated into France from Germany, so that up to the outbreak of 
the second World War it became natural to suspect the Jews of sympathies 
with the national enemy. 

Nationalistic antisemitism, harmless when compared with modem move- 
ments, was never a monopoly of reactionaries and chauvinists in France. 
On this point, the writer Jean Giraudoux, the propaganda minister in 
Daladier's war cabinet, was in complete agreement ^^ with Retain and the 

Paris (January, 1832): "Rothschild kissed the Pope's hand. ... At last the order 
has come which God had planned when he created the world. A poor Christian 
kisses the Pope's feet, and a rich Jew kisses his hand. If Rothschild had gotten his 
Roman loan at 60 per cent, instead of 65, and could have sent the cardinal-chamber- 
lain more than ten thousand ducats, they would have allowed him to embrace the 
Holy Father. . . . Would it not be the greatest luck for the world if all kings were 
deposed and the Rothschild family placed on the throne?" Briefe aus Paris. 1830-1833. 

»"* This attitude is well described in the preface by the municipal councilor Paul 
Brousse to Cesare Lombroso's famous work on antisemitism (1899). The character- 
istic part of the argument is contained in the following: "The small shopkeeper needs 
credit, and we know how badly organized and how expensive credit is these days. 
Here too the small merchant places the responsibility on the Jewish banker. All the 
way down to the worker — i.e. only those workers who have no clear notion of scien- 
tific socialism — everybody thinks the revolution is being advanced if the general ex- 
propriation of capitalists is preceded by the expropriation of Jewish capitalists, who 
are the most typical and whose names are the most familiar to the masses." 

" For the surprising continuity in French antisemitic arguments, compare, for 
instance, Charles Fourier's picture of the Jew "Iscariote" who arrives in France with 
100,000 pounds, establishes himself in a town with six competitors in his field. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 49 

Vichy government, which also, no matter how hard it tried to please the 
Germans, could not break through the Umitations of this outmoded antip- 
athy for Jews. The failure was all the more conspicuous since the French 
had produced an outstanding antisemite who realized the full range and 
possibilities of the new weapon. That this man should be a prominent novel- 
ist is characteristic of conditions in France, where antisemitism in general 
had never fallen into the same social and intellectual disrepute as in other 
European countries. 

Louis Ferdinand Celine had a simple thesis, ingenious and containing 
exactly the ideological imagination that the more rational French anti- 
semitism had lacked. He claimed that the Jews had prevented the evolution 
of Europe into a political entity, had caused all European wars since 843, 
and had plotted the ruin of both France and Germany by inciting their 
mutual hostihty. Cehne proposed this fantastic explanation of history in 
his Ecole des Cadavres, written at the time of the Munich pact and pub- 
lished during the first months of the war. An earlier pamphlet on the sub- 
ject, Bagatelle pour un Massacre (1938), although it did not include the 
new key to European history, was already remarkably modem in its ap- 
proach; it avoided all restricting differentiations between native and foreign 
Jews, between good and bad ones, and did not bother with elaborate legisla- 
tive proposals (a particular characteristic of French antisemitism), but went 
straight to the core of the matter and demanded the massacre of all Jews. 

Celine's first book was very favorably received by France's leading in- 
tellectuals, who were half pleased by the attack on the Jews and half con- 
vinced that it was nothing more than an interesting new literary fancy."^ 
For exactly the same reasons French home-grown Fascists did not take 
Celine seriously, despite the fact that the Nazis always knew he was the 
only true antisemite in France. The inherent good sense of French poUticians 
and their deep-rooted respectabiUty prevented their accepting a charlatan 
and crackpot. The result was that even the Germans, who knew better, had 
to continue to use such inadequate supporters as Doriot, a follower of Mus- 
solini, and Petain, an old French chauvinist with no comprehension what- 
ever of modern problems, in their vain efforts to persuade the French people 
that extermination of the Jews would be a cure for everything under the 
sun. The way this situation developed during the years of French ofl&cial, 

crushes all the competing houses, amasses a great fortune, and returns to Germany 
(in Theorie des quatre mouvements, 1808, Oeuvres Completes, 88 ff.) with Giraudoux's 
picture of 1939: "By an infiltration whose secret I have tried in vain to detect, hun- 
dreds of thousands of Ashkenasim, who escaped from the Polish and Rumanian 
Ghettos, have entered our country . . . eliminating our fellow citizens and, at the 
same time, ruining their professional customs and traditions . . . and defying all in- 
vestigations of census, taxes and labor." In Pleins Pouvoirs, 1939. 

*^ See especially the critical discussion in the Nouvelle Revue Frangaise by Marcel 
Arland (February, 1938) who claims that Celine's position is essentially "solide." 
Andre Gide (April, 1938) thinks that Celine in depicting only the Jewish "specialite," 
has succeeded in painting not the reality but the very hallucination which reality 


and even unofTicial. readiness to co-operate with Nazi Germany, clearly 
indicates how inctTcctivc ninctccnth-ccntury antiscmitism was to the new 
political purposes of the twentieth, even in a country where it had reached 
its fullest development and had survived all other changes in public opinion. 
It did not matter that able nineteenth-century journalists Hke Edouard Dru- 
mont. and even great contemporary writers Hke Georges Bernanos, con- 
tributed to a cause that was much more adequately served by crackpots and 

That France, for various reasons, never developed a full-fledged im- 
perialist party turned out to be the decisive element. As many French 
colonial politicians have pointed out,^''' only a French-German alliance 
would have enabled France to compete with England in the division of the 
world and to join successfully in the scramble for Africa. Yet France some- 
how never let herself be tempted into this competition, despite all her noisy 
resentment and hostility against Great Britain. France was and remained — 
though declining in importance — the nation par < xcellence on the Continent, 
and even her feeble imperialist attempts usually ended with the birth of new 
national independence movements. Since, moreover, her antiscmitism had 
been nourished principally by the purely national French-German conflict, 
the Jewish issue was almost automatically kept from playing much of a 
role in imperialist policies, despite the conditions in Algeria, whose mixed 
population of native Jews and Arabs would have offered an excellent oppor- 
tunity. '''^ The simple and brutal destruction of the French nation-state by 
German aggression, the mockery of a German-French alliance on the basis 
of German occupation and French defeat, may have proved how little 
strength of her own the nation par excellence had carried into our times 
from a glorious past; it did not change her essential pohtical structure. 

V: The Golden Age of Security 

ON'LY TWO DECADES Separated the temporary decline of the antisemitic 
movements from the outbreak of the first World War. This period has been 
adequately described as a "Golden Age of Security" "^ because only a few 
who lived in it felt the inherent weakness of an obviously outmoded political 
structure which, despite all prophecies of imminent doom, continued to 
function in spurious splendor and with inexplicable, monotonous stubborn- 
ness. Side by side, and apparently with equal stability, an anachronistic 
despotism in Russia, a corrupt bureaucracy in Austria, a stupid militarism 

*8 Sec for instance Rene Pinon. France et Alleinagne, 1912. 

*» Some aspects of the Jewish question in Algeria are treated in the author's 
article. "Why the Cremieux Decree was Abrogated," in Contemporary Jewish Record, 
April, 1943. 

«°The term is Stefan Zweig's, who thus named the period up to the first World 
War in The World of Yesterday: An Autobiography, 1943. 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 51 

in Germany and a half-hearted RepubUc in continual crisis in France — all 
of them still under the shadow of the world-wide power of the British Em- 
pire — managed to carry on. None of these governments was especially 
popular, and all faced growing domestic opposition; but nowhere did there 
seem to exist an earnest political will for radical change in political condi- 
tions. Europe was much too busy expanding economically for any nation 
or social stratum to take political questions seriously. Everything could go 
on because nobody cared. Or, in the penetrating words of Chesterton, "every- 
thing is prolonging its existence by denying that it exists." "^ 

The enormous growth of industrial and economic capacity produced a 
steady weakening of purely political factors, while at the same time economic 
forces became dominant in the international play of power. Power was 
thought to be synonymous with economic capacity before people discovered 
that economic and industrial capacity are only its modern prerequisites. In a 
sense, economic power could bring governments to heel because they had 
the same faith in economics as the plain businessmen who had somehow 
convinced them that the state's means of violence had to be used exclusively 
for protection of business interests and national property. For a very brief 
time, there was some truth in Walter Rathenau's remark that 300 men, who 
all know each other, held the destinies of the world in their hands. This 
odd state of affairs lasted exactly until 1914 when, through the very fact of 
war, the confidence of the masses in the providential character of economic 
expansion fell apart. 

The Jews were more deluded by the appearances of the golden age of 
security than any other section of the European peoples. Antisemitism seemed 
to be a thing of the past; the more the governments lost in power and prestige, 
the less attention was paid to the Jews. While the state played an ever nar- 
rower and emptier representative role, pohtical representation tended to 
become a kind of theatrical performance of varying quality until in Austria 
the theater itself became the focus of national life, an institution whose pub- 
lic significance was certainly greater than that of Parliament. The theatrical 
quality of the political world had become so patent that the theater could 
appear as the realm of reality. 

The growing influence of big business on the state and the state's de- 
clining need for Jewish services threatened the Jewish banker with extinc- 
tion and forced certain shifts in Jewish occupations. The first sign of the 
'decline of the Jewish banking houses was their loss of prestige and power 
within the Jewish communities. They were no longer strong enough to cen- 
tralize and, to a certain extent, monopolize the general Jewish wealth. More 
and more Jews left state finance for independent business. Out of food and 
clothing deliveries to armies and governments grew the Jewish food and 
grain commerce, and the garment industries in which they soon acquired a 
prominent position in all countries; pawnshops and general stores in small 

61 For a wonderful description of the British state of affairs, see G. K. Chesterton, 
The Return of Don Quixote, which did not appear until 1927 but was "planned and 
partly written before the War." 


country towns were the predecessors of department stores in the cities. 
This docs not mean that the relationship between Jews and governments 
ceased to exist, but fewer individuals were involved, so that at the end of this 
period wc have almost the same picture as at the beginning: a few Jewish 
individuals in important financial positions with little or no connection with 
the broader strata of the Jewish middle class. 

More important than the expansion of the independent Jewish business 
class was another shift in the occupational structure. Central and Western 
European Jewries had reached a saturation point in wealth and economic 
fortune. This might have been the moment for them to show that they 
actually wanted money for money's or for power's sake. In the former case, 
they might have expanded their businesses and handed them down to their 
descendants; in the latter they might have entrenched themselves more 
firmly in state business and fought the influence of big business and in- 
dustry on governments. But they did neither. On the contrary, the sons of 
the well-to-do businessmen and, to a lesser extent, bankers, deserted their 
fathers' careers for the liberal professions or purely intellectual pursuits they 
had not been able to afford a few generations before. What the nation-state 
had once feared so much, the birth of a Jewish intelligentsia, now proceeded 
at a fantastic pace. The crowding of Jewish sons of well-to-do parents into 
the cultural occupations was especially marked in Germany and Austria, 
where a great proportion of cultural institutions, like newspapers, publishing, 
music, and theater, became Jewish enterprises. 

What had been made possible through the traditional Jewish preference 
and respect for intellectual occupations resulted in a real break with tradi- 
tion and the intellectual assimilation and nationalization of important strata 
of Western and Central European Jewry. Politically, it indicated emancipa- 
tion of Jews from state protection, growing consciousness of a common 
destiny with their fellow-citizens, and a considerable loosening of the ties 
that had made Jews an inter-European element. Socially, the Jewish intel- 
lectuals were the first who, as a group, needed and wanted admittance to 
non- Jewish society. Social discrimination, a small matter to their fathers 
who had not cared for social intercourse with Gentiles, became a paramount 
problem for them. 

Searching for a road into society, this group was forced to accept social 
behavior patterns set by individual Jews who had been admitted into society 
during the nineteenth century as exceptions to the rule of discrimination. 
They quickly discovered the force that would open all doors, the "radiant 
Power of Fame" (Stefan Zweig), which a hundred years' idolatry of genius 
had made irresistible. What distinguished the Jewish pursuit of fame from 
the general fame idolatry of the time was that Jews were not primarily in- 
terested in it for themselves. To hve in the aura of fame was more important 
than to become famous; thus they became outstanding reviewers, critics, 
collectors, and organizers of what was famous. The "radiant power" was 
a very real social force by which the socially homeless were able to estabhsh 
a home. The Jewish intellectuals, in other words, tried, and to a certain 

THE nation-state; the birth of antisemitism 53 

extent succeeded, in becoming the living tie binding famous individuals 
into a society of the renowned, an international society by definition, for 
spiritual achievement transcends national boundaries. The general weaken- 
ing of political factors, for two decades having brought about a situation 
in which reality and appearance, poUtical reality and theatrical performance 
could easily parody each other, now enabled them to become the repre- 
sentatives of a nebulous international society in which national prejudices 
no longer seemed valid. And paradoxically enough, this international society 
seemed to be the only one that recognized the nationalization and assimila- 
tion of its Jewish members; it was far easier for an Austrian Jew to be 
accepted as an Austrian in France than in Austria. The spurious world 
citizenship of this generation, this fictitious nationality which they claimed 
as soon as their Jewish origin was mentioned, in part already resembled 
those passports which later granted their owner the right to sojourn in 
every country except the one that issued it. 

By their very nature, these circumstances could not but bring Jews into 
prominence just when their activities, their satisfaction and happiness in the 
world of appearance, proved that, as a group, they wanted in fact neither 
money nor power. While serious statesmen and publicists now bothered with 
the Jewish question less than at any time since the emancipation, and while 
antisemitism almost entirely disappeared from the open political scene, Jews 
became the symbols of Society as such and the objects of hatred for all 
those whom society did not accept. Antisemitism, having lost its ground in 
the special conditions that had influenced its development during the nine- 
teenth century, could be freely elaborated by charlatans and crackpots into 
that weird mixture of half-truths and wild superstitions which emerged in 
Europe after 1914, the ideology of all frustrated and resentful elements. 

Since the Jewish question in its social aspect turned into a catalyst of 
social unrest, until finally a disintegrated society recrystallized ideologically 
around a possible massacre of Jews, it is necessary to outhne some of the 
main traits of the social history of emancipated Jewry in the bourgeois 
society of the last century. 


The Jews and Society 

THE jews' political ignorance, which fitted them so well for their special 
role and for taking roots in the state's sphere of business, and their 
prejudices against the people and in favor of authority, which blinded them 
to the political dangers of antiscmitism, caused them to be oversensitive 
toward all forms of social discrimination. It was difficult to see the decisive 
difference between political argument and mere antipathy when the two 
developed side by side. The point, however, is that they grew out of exactly 
opposite aspects of emancipation: political antiscmitism developed because 
the Jews were a separate body, while social discrimination arose because 
of the growing equality of Jews with all other groups. 

Equality of condition, though it is certainly a basic requirement for jus- 
tice, is nevertheless among the greatest and most uncertain ventures of mod- 
ern mankind. The more equal conditions are, the less explanation there is for 
the differences that actually exist between people; and thus all the more 
unequal do individuals and groups become. This perplexing consequence 
came fully to light as soon as equality was no longer seen in terms of an 
omnipotent being like God or an unavoidable common destiny like death. 
Whenever equality becomes a mundane fact in itself, without any gauge by 
which it may be measured or explained, then there is one chance in a hun- 
dred that it will be recognized simply as a working principle of a political 
organization in which otherwise unequal people have equal rights; there are 
ninety-nine chances that it will be mistaken for an innate quality of every 
individual, who is "normal" if he is like everybody else and "abnormal" if 
he happens to be different. This perversion of equality from a political into 
a social concept is all the more dangerous when a society leaves but little 
space for special groups and individuals, for then their differences become 
all the more conspicuous. 

The great challenge to the modern period, and its peculiar danger, has 
been that in it man for the first time confronted man without the protection 
of differing circumstances and conditions. And it has been precisely this new 
concept of equality that has made modem race relations so difficult, for there 
we deal with natural differences which by no possible and conceivable 
change of conditions can become less conspicuous. It is because equality 
demands that I recognize each and every individual as my equal, that the 
conflicts between different groups, which for reasons of their own are re- 
luctant to grant each other tliis basic equality, take on such terribly cruel 


Hence the more equal the Jewish condition, the more surprising were 
Jewish differences. This new awareness led to social resentment against the 
Jews and at the same time to a peculiar attraction toward them; the com- 
bined reactions determined the social history of Western Jewry. Discrimina- 
tion, however, as well as attraction, were politically sterile. They neither 
produced a pohtical movement against the Jews nor served in any way to 
protect them against their enemies. They did succeed, though, in poisoning 
the social atmosphere, in perverting all social intercourse between Jews and 
Gentiles, and had a definite effect on Jewish behavior. The formation of a 
Jewish type was due to both — to special discrimination and to special favor. 

Social antipathy for Jews, with its varying forms of discrimination, did 
no great political harm in European countries, for genuine social and eco- 
nomic equality was never achieved. To all appearances new classes de- 
veloped as groups to which one belonged by birth. There is no doubt that 
it was only in such a framework that society could suffer the Jews to establish 
themselves as a special clique. 

The situation would have been entirely different if, as in the United 
States, equality of condition had been taken for granted; if every member of 
society — from whatever stratum — had been firmly convinced that by ability 
and luck he might become the hero of a success story. In such a society, 
discrimination becomes the only means of distinction, a kind of universal 
law according to which groups may find themselves outside the sphere of 
civic, political, and economic equality. Where discrimination is not tied 
up with the Jewish issue only, it can become a crystallization point for a 
political movement that wants to solve all the natural difficulties and con- 
flicts of a multinational country by violence, mob rule, and the sheer vul- 
garity of race concepts. It is one of the most promising and dangerous para- 
doxes of the American Republic that it dared to realize equality on the basis 
of the most unequal population in the world, physically and historically. 
In the United States, social antisemitism may one day become the very 
dangerous nucleus for a political movement.^ In Europe, however, it had 
little influence on the rise of political antisemitism. 

1 Although Jews stood out more than other groups in the homogeneous populations 
of European countries, it does not follow that they are more threatened by discrimina- 
tion than other groups in America. In fact, up to now, not the Jews but the Negroes — 
by nature and history the most unequal among the peoples of America — have borne 
the burden of social and economic discrimination. 

This could change, however, if a political movement ever grew out of this merely 
social discrimination. Then Jews might very suddenly become the principal objects 
of hatred for the simple reason that they, alone among all other groups, have them- 
selves, within their history and their religion, expressed a well-known principle of 
separation. This is not true of the Negroes or Chinese, who are therefore less en- 
dangered politically, even though they may differ more from the majority than the 


I: Between Pariah and Parvenu 

THE PRECARIOUS balance between society and state, upon which the nation- 
state rested socially and politically, brought about a peculiar law governing 
Jewish admission to society. During the 150 years when Jews truly lived 
amidst, and not just in the neighborhood of, Western European peoples, 
they always had to pay with political misery for social glory and with social 
insult for political success. Assimilation, in the sense of acceptance by non- 
Jewish society, was granted them only as long as they were clearly distin- 
guished exceptions from the Jewish masses even though they still shared 
the same restricted and humiliating political conditions, or later only when, 
after an accomplished emancipation and resulting social isolation, their 
political status was already challenged by antisemitic movements. Society, 
confronted with political, economic, and legal equality for Jews, made it 
quite clear that none of its classes was prepared to grant them social equaUty, 
and that only exceptions from the Jewish people would be received. Jews 
who heard the strange compliment that they were exceptions, exceptional 
Jews, knew quite well that it was this very ambiguity — that they were Jews 
and yet presumably not like Jews — which opened the doors of society to 
them. If they desired this kind of intercourse, they tried, therefore, "to be 
and yet not to be Jews." ^ 

The seeming paradox had a solid basis in fact. What non-Jewish society 
demanded was that the newcomer be as "educated" as itself, and that, 
although he not behave like an "ordinary Jew," he be and produce some- 
thing out of the ordinary, since, after all, he was a Jew. All advocates of 
emancipation called for assimilation, that is, adjustment to and reception by, 
society, which they considered either a prehminary condition to Jewish 
emancipation or its automatic consequence. In other words, whenever those 
who actually tried to improve Jewish conditions attempted to think of the 
Jewish question from the point of view of the Jews themselves, they im- 
mediately approached it merely in its social aspect. It has been one of the 
most unfortunate facts in the history of the Jewish people that only its 
enemies, and almost never its friends, understood that the Jewish question 
was a political one. 

The defenders of emancipation tended to present the problem as one of 
"education," a concept which originally applied to Jews as well as non- 
Jews.^ It was taken for granted that the vanguard in both camps would con- 

*This surprisingly apt observation was made by the liberal Protestant theologian 
H. E. G. Paulus in a valuable little pamphlet, Die judische Nationalabsonderung nach 
Ursprung, Folgen und Besserungsmitteln, 1831. Paulus, much attacked by Jewish 
writers of the time, advocated a gradual individual emancipation on the basis of 

8 This auitude is expressed in Wilhelm v. Humboldt's "Expert Opinion" of 1809: 
"The state should not exactly teach respect for the Jews, but should abolish an in- 


sist of Specially "educated," tolerant, cultured persons. It followed, of 
course, that the particularly tolerant, educated and cultured non-Jews could 
be bothered socially only with exceptionally educated Jews. As a matter 
of course, the demand, among the educated, for the abolition of prejudice 
was very quickly to become a rather one-sided affair, until only the Jews, 
finally, were urged to educate themselves. 

This, however, is only one side of the matter. Jews were exhorted to be- 
come educated enough not to behave like ordinary Jews, but they were, on 
the other hand, accepted only because they were Jews, because of their 
foreign, exotic appeal. In the eighteenth century, this had its source in the 
new humanism which expressly wanted "new specimens of humanity" 
(Herder), intercourse with whom would serve as an example of possible 
intimacy with all types of mankind. To the enlightened Berlin of Mendels- 
sohn's time, the Jews served as living proof that all men are human. For 
this generation, friendship with Mendelssohn or Markus Herz was an ever- 
renewed demonstration of the dignity of man. And because Jews were a 
despised and oppressed people, they were for it an even purer and more 
exemplary model of mankind. It was Herder, an outspoken friend of the 
Jews, who first used the later misused and misquoted phrase, "strange people 
of Asia driven into our regions." * With these words, he and his fellow- 
humanists greeted the "new specimens of humanity" for whom the eighteenth 
century had "searched the earth," ^ only to find them in their age-old neigh- 
bors. Eager to stress the basic unity of mankind, they wanted to show the 
origins of the Jewish people as more alien, and hence more exotic, than 
they actually were, so that the demonstration of humanity as a universal 
principle might be more effective. 

For a few decades at the turn of the eighteenth century, when French 
Jewry already enjoyed emancipation and German Jewry had almost no 
hope or desire for it, Prussia's enUghtened intelligentsia made "Jews all over 
the world turn their eyes to the Jewish community in Berlin" ^ (and not in 
Paris!). Much of this was due to the success of Lessing's Nathan the Wise, 
or to its misinterpretation, which held that the "new specimens of humanity," 
because they had become examples of mankind, must also be more intensely 
human individuals.^ Mirabeau was strongly influenced by this idea and used 
to cite Mendelssohn as his example.^ Herder hoped that educated Jews would 

human and prejudiced way of thinking etc. ..." In Ismar Freiind, Die Emancipation 
der Juden in Preussen, Berlin, 1912, II, 270. 

* J. G. Herder, "Uber die politische Bekehrung der Juden" in Adrastea und das 18. 
Jahrhundert, 1801-03. 

5 Herder, Brieje zur Beforderung der Humanitdt (1793-97), 40. Brief. 

6 Felix Priebatsch, "Die Judenpolitik des fiirstlichen Absolutismus im 17. und 18. 
Jahrhundert," in Forschungen und Versuche zur Geschichte des Mittelalters und der 
Neuzeit, 1915, p. 646. 

^ Lessing himself had no such illusions. His last letter to Moses Mendelssohn ex- 
pressed most clearly what he wanted: "the shortest and safest way to that European 
country without either Christians or Jews." For Lessing's attitude toward Jews, see 
Franz Mehring, Die Lessinglegende, 1906. 

8 See Honore Q. R. de Mirabeau, Sur Moses Mendelssohn, London, 1788. 


show a greater freedom from prejudice because "the Jew is free of certain 
pohtical judgments which it is very hard or impossible for us to abandon." 
Protcstinc against the habit of the time of granting "concessions of new 
mercantile advantages," he proposed education as the true road to emancipa- 
tion of Jews from Judaism, from "the old and proud national prejudices, . . . 
customs that do not belong to our age and constitutions," so that Jews could 
become "purely humanized," and of service to "the development of the 
sciences and the entire culture of mankind."^ At about the same time, 
Goethe wrote in a review of a book of poems that their author, a Polish 
Jew. did "not achieve more than a Christian etudiant en belles lettres," and 
complained that where he had expected something genuinely new, some 
force beyond shallow convention, he had found ordinary mediocrity.^" 

One can hardly overestimate the disastrous effect of this exaggerated good 
will on the newly Westernized, educated Jews and the impact it had on 
their social and psychological position. Not only were they faced with the 
demoralizing demand that they be exceptions to their own people, recognize 
"the sharp difference between them and the others," and ask that such 
"separation ... be also legalized" by the governments; ^^ they were ex- 
pected even to become exceptional specimens of humanity. And since this, 
and not Heine's conversion, constituted the true "ticket of admission" into 
cultured European society, what else could these and future generations of 
Jews do but try desperately not to disappoint anybody? " 

In the early decades of this entry into society, when assimilation had not 
yet become a tradition to follow, but something achieved by few and ex- 
ceptionally gifted individuals, it worked very well indeed. While France was 
the land of political glory for the Jews, the first to recognize them as citizens, 
Prussia seemed on the way to becoming the country of social splendor. 
Enlightened Berlin, where Mendelssohn had established close connections 
with many famous men of his time, was only a beginning. His connections 
with non-Jewish society still had much in common with the scholarly ties 
that had bound Jewish and Christian learned men together in nearly all 
periods of European history. The new and surprising element was that 

8 J. G. Herder. "Ueber die politische Bekehrung der Juden," op. cit. 

10 Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe's review of Isachar Falkensohn Behr, Gedichte eines 
polnischen Juden, Mietau and Leipzig, 1772, in Frankfurter Gelehrte Anzeigen. 

" Fricdrich Schieiermacher, Brief e bei Gelegenheit der politisch theologischen Auf- 
gabe und des Sendschreibens jiidischer Hausvdler, 1799, in Werke, 1846, Abt. I, Band 
V, 34. 

'2 This does not, however, apply to Moses Mendelssohn, who hardly knew the 
thoughts of Herder, Goethe, Schieiermacher, and other members of the younger 
generation. Mendelssohn was revered for his uniqueness. His firm adherence to his 
Jewish religion made it impossible for him to break ultimately with the Jewish people, 
which his successors did as a matter of course. He felt he was "a member of an 
oppressed people who must beg for the good will and protection of the governing 
nation" (see his "Letter to Lavater," 1770, in Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. VII, Berlin. 
1930); that is, he always knew that the extraordinary esteem for his person paralleled 
an extraordinary contempt for his people. Since he. unlike Jews of following genera- 
tions, did not share this contempt, he did not consider himself an exception. 



Mendelssohn's friends used these relationships for nonpersonal, ideological, 
or even political purposes. He himself explicitly disavowed all such ulterior 
motives and expressed time and again his complete satisfaction with the 
conditions under which he had to live, as though he had foreseen that his 
exceptional social status and freedom had something to do with the fact 
that he still belonged to "the lowliest inhabitants of the (Prussian king's) 
domain." ^^ 

This indifference to political and civil rights survived Mendelssohn's inno- 
cent relationships with the learned and enlightened men of his time; it was 
carried later into the salons of those Jewish women who gathered together 
the most brilliant society Berlin was ever to see. Not until after the Prussian 
defeat of 1806, when tiie introduction of Napoleonic legislation into large 
regions of Germany put the question of Jewish emancipation on the agenda 
of public discussion, did this indifference change into outright fear. Emanci- 
pation would liberate the educated Jews, together with the "backward" 
Jewish people, and their equality would wipe out that precious distinction, 
upon which, as they were very well aware, their social status was based. 
When the emancipation finally came to pass, most assimilated Jews escaped 
into conversion to Christianity, characteristically finding it bearable and not 
dangerous to be Jews before emancipation, but not after. 

Most representative of these salons, and the genuinely mixed society they 
brought together in Germany, was that of Rahel Varnhagen. Her original, 
unspoiled, and unconventional intelligence, combined with an absorbing 
interest in people and a truly passionate nature, made her the most brilliant 
and the most interesting of these Jewish women. The modest but famous 
soirees in Rahel's "garret" brought together "enlightened" aristocrats, mid- 
dle-class intellectuals, and actors — that is, all those who, like the Jews, did 
not belong to respectable society. Thus Rahel's salon, by definition and 
intentionally, was established on the fringe of society, and did not share 
any of its conventions or prejudices. 

It is amusing to note how closely the assimilation of Jews into society 
followed the precepts Goethe had proposed for the education of his Wil- 
helm Meister, a novel which was to become the great model of middle-class 
education. In this book the young burgher is educated by noblemen and 

13 The Prussia which Lessing had described as "Europe's most enslaved country" 
was to Mendelssohn "a state in which one of the wisest princes who ever ruled men 
has made the arts and sciences flourish, has made national freedom of thought so 
general that its beneficent effects reach even the lowliest inhabitants of his domain." 
Such humble contentment is touching and surprising if one realizes that the "wisest 
prince" had made it very hard for the Jewish philosopher to get permission to sojourn 
in Berlin and, at a time when his Miinzjuden enjoyed all privileges, did not even grant 
him the regular status of a "protected Jew." Mendelssohn was even aware that he, 
the friend of all educated Germany, would be subject to the same tax levied upon 
an ox led to the market if ever he decided to visit his friend Lavater in Leipzig, but 
no political conclusion regarding the improvement of such conditions ever occurred 
to him. (See the "Letter to Lavater," op. cit., and his preface to his translation of 
Menasseb Ben Israel in Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. Ill, Leipzig, 1843-45.) 


actors. SO that he may learn how to present and represent his individuality, 
and thereby advance from the modest status of a burgher's son into a noble- 
man. For the middle classes and for the Jews, that is, for those who were 
actually outside of high aristocratic society, everything depended upon "per- 
sonality" and the ability to express it. To know how to play the role of what 
one actually was, seemed the most important thing. The pecuUar fact that 
in Germany the Jewish question was held to be a question of education was 
closely connected with this early start and had its consequence in the educa- 
tional Philistinism of both the Jewish and non-Jewish middle classes, and 
also in the crowding of Jews into the liberal professions. 

The charm of the early Berlin salons was that nothing really mattered 
but personality and the uniqueness of character, talent, and expression. 
Such uniqueness, which alone made possible an almost unbounded com- 
munication and unrestricted intimacy, could be replaced neither by rank, 
money, success, nor literary fame. The brief encounter of true personalities, 
which joined a HohenzoUern prince, Louis Ferdinand, to the banker Abra- 
ham Mendelssohn; or a political publicist and diplomat, Friedrich Gentz, 
to Friedrich Schlegel, a writer of the then ultramodern romantic school — 
these were a few of the more famous visitors at Rahel's "garret" — came to 
an end in 1806 when, according to their hostess, this unique meeting place 
"foundered like a ship containing the highest enjoyment of life." Along 
with the aristocrats, the romantic intellectuals became antisemitic, and al- 
though this by no means meant that either group gave up all its Jewish 
friends, the innocence and splendor were gone. 

The real turning point in the social history of German Jews came not in 
the year of the Prussian defeat, but two years later, when, in 1808, the 
government passed the municipal law giving full civic, though not political, 
rights to the Jews. In the peace treaty of 1807, Prussia had lost with her 
eastern provinces the majority of her Jewish population; the Jews left within 
her territory were "protected Jews" in any event, that is, they already en- 
joyed civic rights in the form of individual privileges. The municipal eman- 
cipation only legalized these privileges, and outlived the general emancipa- 
tion decree of 1812; Prussia, having regained Posen and its Jewish masses 
after the defeat of Napoleon, practically rescinded the decree of 1812, which 
now would have meant political rights even for poor Jews, but left the mu- 
nicipal law intact. 

Though of little political importance so far as the actual improvement of 
the Jews' status is concerned, these final emancipation decrees together 
with the loss of the provinces in which the majority of Prussian Jews lived, 
had tremendous social consequences. Before 1807, the protected Jews of 
Prussia had numbered only about 20 per cent of the total Jewish population. 
By the time the emancipation decree was issued, protected Jews formed the 
majority in Prussia, with only 10 per cent of "foreign Jews" left for contrast. 
Now the dark poverty and backwardness against which "exception Jews" 
of wealth and education had stood out so advantageously was no longer 


there. And this background, so essential as a basis of comparison for social 
success and psychological self-respect, never again became what it had been 
before Napoleon. When the Polish provinces were regained in 1816, the 
formerly "protected Jews" (now registered as Prussian citizens of Jewish 
faith) still numbered above 60 per cent," 

Socially speaking, this meant that the remaining Jews in Prussia had lost 
the native background against which they had been measured as exceptions. 
Now they themselves composed such a background, but a contracted one, 
against which the individual had to strain doubly in order to stand out at all. 
"Exception Jews" were once again simply Jews, not exceptions from but 
representatives of a despised people. Equally bad was the social influence of 
governmental interference. Not only the classes antagonistic to the govern- 
ment and therefore openly hostile to the Jews, but all strata of society, be- 
came more or less aware that Jews of their acquaintance were not so much 
individual exceptions as members of a group in whose favor the state was 
ready to take exceptional measures. And this was precisely what the "ex- 
ception Jews" had always feared. 

Berlin society left the Jewish salons with unmatched rapidity, and by 
1808 these meeting-places had already been supplanted by the houses of the 
titled bureaucracy and the upper middle class. One can see, from any of 
the numerous correspondences of the time, that the intellectuals as well as 
the aristocrats now began to direct their contempt for the Eastern European 
Jews, whom they hardly knew, against the educated Jews of Berlin, whom 
they knew very well. The latter would never again achieve the self-respect 
that springs from a collective consciousness of being exceptional; henceforth, 
each one of them had to prove that although he was a Jew, yet he was not 
a Jew. No longer would it suffice to distinguish oneself from a more or less 
unknown mass of "backward brethren"; one had to stand out — as an in- 
dividual who could be congratulated on being an exception — from "the 
Jew," and thus from the people as a whole. 

Social discrimination, and not political antisemitism, discovered the phan- 
tom of "the Jew." The first author to make the distinction between the 
Jewish individual and "the Jew in general, the Jew everywhere and no- 
where" was an obscure pubficist who had, in 1 802, written a biting satire on 
Jewish society and its hunger for education, the magic wand for general 
social acceptance, Jews were depicted as a "principle" of philistine and up- 
start society.^^ This rather vulgar piece of literature not only was read with 
delight by quite a few prominent members of Rahel's salon, but even indi- 
rectly inspired a great romantic poet, Clemens von Brentano, to write a 

1* See Heinrich Silbergleit, Die Bevolkerungs- und Berufsverhdltnisse der Juden im 
Deutschen Reich, Vol. I, Berlin, 1930. 

15 C. W. F. Grattenauer's widely read pamphlet Wider die Juden of 1802 had been 
preceded as far back as 1791 by another, Ueber die physische und moralische V erf as- 
sung der heutigen Juden in which the growing influence of the Jews in Berlin was 
already pointed out. Although the early pamphlet was reviewed in the Allgemeine 
Deutsche Bibliothek, 1792, Vol. CXII, almost nobody ever read it. 


very witty paper in which again the philistine was identified with the Jew.^« 
With the early idyll of a mixed society something disappeared which was 
never, in any other country and at any other time, to return. Never again 
did any siKial group accept Jews with a free mind and heart. It would be 
friendly with Jews either because it was excited by its own daring and "wick- 
edness" or as a protest against making pariahs of fellow-citizens. But social 
pariahs the Jews did become wherever they had ceased to be political and 
civil outcasts. 

It is important to bear in mind that assimilation as a group phenomenon 
really existed only among Jewish intellectuals. It is no accident that the 
first educated Jew, Moses Mendelssohn, was also the first who, despite his 
low civic status, was admitted to non-Jewish society. The court Jews and 
their successors, the Jewish bankers and businessmen in the West, were 
never socially acceptable, nor did they care to leave the very narrow limits 
of their invisible ghetto. In the beginning they were proud, like all un- 
spoiled upstarts, of the dark background of misery and poverty from which 
they had risen; later, when they were attacked from all sides, they had a 
vested interest in the poverty and even backwardness of the masses because 
it became an argument, a token of their own security. Slowly, and with mis- 
givings, they were forced away from the more rigorous demands of Jewish 
law — they never left religious traditions altogether — yet demanded all the 
more orthodoxy from the Jewish masses.*' The dissolution of Jewish com- 
munal autonomy made them that much more eager not only to protect 
Jewish communities against the authorities, but also to rule over them with 
the help of the state, so that the phrase denoting the "double dependence" 
of poor Jews on "both the government and their wealthy brethren" only 
reflected reality.** 

The Jewish notables (as they were called in the nineteenth century) ruled 

"■■ Clemens Brentano's Der Philister vor, in und nach der Geschichte was written 
for and read to the so-called Christlicli-Deutsche Tischgesellschaft, a famous club of 
writers and patriots, founded in 1808 for the struggle against Napoleon. 

1' Thus the Rothschilds in the 1820's withdrew a large donation from their native 
community of Frankfurt, in order to counteract the influence of reformers who 
wanted Jewish children to receive a general education. See Isaak Markus Jost, Neiiere 
Geschichte der Israeliten, 1846, X, 102. 

^^ Op. cit., IX, 38. — The court Jews and the rich Jewish bankers who followed in 
their footsteps never wanted to leave the Jewish community. They acted as its rep- 
resentatives and protectors against public authorities; they were frequently granted 
ofTicial power over communities which they ruled from afar so that the old autonomy 
of Jewish communities was undermined and destroyed from within long before it 
was abolished by the nation-state. The first court Jew with monarchical aspirations in 
his own "nation" was a Jew of Prague, a purveyor of supplies to the Elector Maurice 
of Saxony in the sixteenth century. He demanded that all rabbis and community 
heads be selected from members of his family. (See Bondy-Dworsky, Geschichte der 
Jiiden in Boehmen, Maehren und Schlesien, Prague, 1906, II, 727.) The practice of 
installing court Jews as dictators in their communities became general in the eighteenth 
century and was followed by the rule of "notables" in the nineteenth century. 


the Jewish communities, but they did not belong to them socially or even 
geographically. They stood, in a sense, as far outside Jewish society as they 
did outside Gentile society. Having made brilliant individual careers and 
been granted considerable privileges by their masters, they formed a kind 
of community of exceptions with extremely Umited social opportunities. 
Naturally despised by court society, lacking business connections with the 
non- Jewish middle class, their social contacts were as much outside the laws 
of society as their economic rise had been independent of contemporary 
economic conditions. This isolation and independence frequently gave them 
a feeling of power and pride, illustrated by the following anecdote told in 
the beginning eighteenth century: "A certain Jew . . . , when gently 
reproached by a noble and cultured physician with (the Jewish) pride al- 
though they had no princes among them and no part in government . . . 
replied with insolence: We are not princes, but we govern them." ^^ 

Such pride is almost the opposite of class arrogance, which developed 
but slowly among the privileged Jews. Ruling as absolute princes among 
their own people, they still felt themselves to be primi inter pares. They 
were prouder of being a "privileged Rabbi of all Jewry" or a "Prince of the 
Holy Land" than of any titles their masters might offer them.^" Until the 
middle of the eighteenth century, they would all have agreed with the 
Dutch Jew who said: "Neque in toto orbi alicui nationi inservimus," and 
neither then nor later would they have understood fully the answer of the 
"learned Christian" who replied: "But this means happiness only for a few. 
The people considered as a corpo {sic) is hunted everywhere, has no self- 
government, is subject to foreign rule, has no power and no dignity, and 
wanders all over the world, a stranger everywhere." ^^ 

Class arrogance came only when business connections were established 
among state bankers of different countries; intermarriage between leading 
families soon followed, and culminated in a real international caste system, 
unknown thus far in Jewish society. This was all the more glaring to non- 
Jewish observers, since it took place when the old feudal estates and castes 
were rapidly disappearing into new classes. One concluded, very wrongly, 
that the Jewish people were a remnant of the Middle Ages and did not see 
that this new caste was of quite recent birth. It was completed only in the 
nineteenth century and comprised numerically no more than perhaps a 
hundred families. But since these were in the limelight, the Jewish people 
as a whole came to be regarded as a caste. -^ 

Great, therefore, as the role of the court Jews had been in political his- 
tory and for the birth of antisemitism, social history might easily neglect 

isjohann Jacob Schudt, Jiidische Merkwurdigkeiten, Frankfurt a.M., 1715-1717, 
IV, Annex, 48. 

20 Selma Stern, Jud Suess, Berlin, 1929, pp. 18 f. 

21 Schudt, op. cit., I, 19. 

22 Christian Friedrich Ruehs defines the whole Jewish people as a "caste of mer- 
chants." "Ueber die Anspriiche der Juden an das deutsche Biirgerrecht," in Zeitschrift 
fiir die neueste Geschichte, 1815. 


them were it not for the fact that they had certain psychological traits and 
behavior patterns in common with Jewish intellectuals who were, after all, 
usually the sons of businessmen. The Jewish notables wanted to dominate 
the Jewish people and therefore had no desire to leave it, while it was char- 
acteristic of Jewish intellectuals that they wanted to leave their people and 
be admitted to society; they both shared the feeling that they were exceptions, 
a feelini: perfectly in harmony with the judgment of their environment. The 
"exception Jews" of wealth felt like exceptions from the common destiny 
of the Jewish people and were recognized by the governments as exception- 
ally useful; the "exception Jews" of education felt themselves exceptions from 
the Jewish people and also exceptional human beings, and were recognized 
as such by society. 

Assimilation, whether carried to the extreme of conversion or not, never 
was a real menace to the survival of the Jews.^^ Whether they were welcomed 
or rejected, it was because they were Jews, and they were well aware of it. 
The first generations of educated Jews still wanted sincerely to lose their 
identity as Jews, and Boerne wrote with a great deal of bitterness, "Some 
reproach me with being a Jew, some praise me because of it, some pardon 
me for it, but all think of it." -* Still brought up on eighteenth-century ideas, 
they longed for a country without either Christians or Jews; they had de- 
voted themselves to science and the arts, and were greatly hurt when they 
found out that governments which would give every privilege and honor to 
a Jewish banker, condemned Jewish intellectuals to starvation.'-^ The con- 
versions which, in the early nineteenth century, had been prompted by fear 
of being lumped together with the Jewish masses, now became a necessity 
for daily bread. Such a premium on lack of character forced a whole genera- 
tion of Jews into bitter opposition against state and society. The "new 
specimens of humanity," if they were worth their salt, all became rebels, and 
since the most reactionary governments of the period were supported and 
financed by Jewish bankers, their rebellion was especially violent against 
the official representatives of their own people. The anti-Jewish denuncia- 
tions of Marx and Boerne cannot be properly understood except in the 
light of this conflict between rich Jews and Jewish intellectuals. 

This conflict, however, existed in full vigor only in Germany and did not 
survive the antisemitic movement of the century. In Austria, there was no 
Jewish intelligentsia to speak of before the end of the nineteenth century, 

23 A remarkable, though little-known, fact is that assimilation as a program led 
much more frequently to conversion than to mixed marriage. Unfortunately statistics 
cover up rather than reveal this fact because they consider all unions between con- 
verted and nonconverted Jewish partners to be mixed marriages. We know, however, 
that there were quite a number of families in Germany who had been baptized for 
generations and yet remained purely Jewish. That the converted Jew only rarely left 
his family and even more rarely left his Jewish surroundings altogether, accounts for 
this. The Jewish family, at any rate, proved to be a more conserving force than 
Jewish religion. 

2* Briefe aus Paris. 74th Letter, February, 1832. 

" Ibid., 72nd Letter. 


when it felt immediately the whole impact of antisemitic pressure. These 
Jews, like their wealthy brethren, preferred to trust themselves to the 
Hapsburg monarchy's protection, and became socialist only after the first 
World War, when the Social Democratic party came to power. The most 
significant, though not the only, exception to this rule was Karl Kraus, the 
last representative of the tradition of Heine, Boerne, and Marx. Kraus's 
denunciations of Jewish businessmen on one hand, and Jewish journalism 
as the organized cult of fame on the other, were perhaps even more bitter 
than those of his predecessors because he was so much more isolated in a 
country where no Jewish revolutionary tradition existed. In France, where 
the emancipation decree had survived all changes of governments and re- 
gimes, tfie small number of Jewish intellectuals were neither the forerunners 
of a new class nor especially important in intellectual life. Culture as such, 
education as a program, did not form Jewish behavior patterns as it did in 

In no other country had there been anything like the short period of true 
assimilation so decisive for the history of German Jews, when the real van- 
guard of a people not only accepted Jews, but was even strangely eager to 
associate with them. Nor did this attitude ever completely disappear from 
German society. To the very end, traces of it could easily be discerned, which 
showed, of course, that relations with Jews never came to be taken for 
granted. At best it remained a program, at worst a strange and exciting ex- 
perience. Bismarck's well-known remark about "German stallions to be 
paired off with Jewish mares," is but the most vulgar expression of a prevalent 
point of view. 

It is only natural that this social situation, though it made rebels out of 
the first educated Jews, would in the long run produce a specific kind of 
conformism rather than an effective tradition of rebellion."" Conforming to 
a society which discriminated against "ordinary" Jews and in which, at the 
same time, it was generally easier for an educated Jew to be admitted to 
fashionable circles than for a non-Jew of similar condition, Jews had to 
differentiate themselves clearly from the "Jew in general," and just as clearly 
to indicate that they were Jews; under no circumstances were they allowed 
simply to disappear among their neighbors. In order to rationalize an am- 
biguity which they themselves did not fully understand, they might pretend 
to "be a man in the street and a Jew at home." -' This actually amounted to 
a feeling of being different from other men in the street because they were 
Jews, and different from other Jews at home because they were not like 
"ordinary Jews." 

26 The "conscious pariah" (Bernard Lazare) was the only tradition of rebellion 
which established itself, although those who belonged to it were hardly aware of its 
existence. See the author's "The Jew as Pariah. A Hidden Tradition," in Jewish Social 
Studies, Vol. VI, No. 2 (1944). 

27 It is not without irony that this excellent formula, which may serve as a motto 
for Western European assimilation, was propounded by a Russian Jew and first pub- 
lished in Hebrew. It comes from Judah Leib Gordon's Hebrew poem, Hakitzah ami, 
1863. See S. M. Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 1918, II, 228 f. 


The behavior patterns of assimilated Jews, determined by this continuous 
concentrated effort to distinguish themselves, created a Jewish type that is 
recognizable everywhere. Instead of being defined by nationality or religion, 
Jews' were being transformed into a social group whose members shared 
certain psychological attributes and reactions, the sum total of which was 
supposed to constitute "Jewishness." In other words, Judaism became a 
psychological quality and the Jewish question became an involved personal 
problem for every individual Jew. 

In his tragic endeavor to conform through differentiation and distinction, 
the new Jewish type had as little in common with the feared "Jew in gen- 
eral" as with that abstraction, the "heir of the prophets and eternal pro- 
moter of justice on earth," which Jewish apologetics conjured up whenever 
a Jewish journalist was being attacked. The Jew of the apologists was en- 
dowed with attributes that are indeed the privileges of pariahs, and which 
certain Jewish rebels living on the fringe of society did possess — humanity, 
kindness, freedom from prejudice, sensitiveness to injustice. The trouble 
was that these qualities had nothing to do with the prophets and that, worse 
still, these Jews usually belonged neither to Jewish society nor to fashionable 
circles of non-Jewish society. In the history of assimilated Jewry, they played 
but an insignificant role. The "Jew in general," on the other hand, as de- 
scribed by professional Jew-haters, showed those qualities which the par- 
venu must acquire if he wants to arrive — inhumanity, greed, insolence, 
cringing servility, and determination to push ahead. The trouble in this case 
was that these qualities have also nothing to do with national attributes and 
that, moreover, these Jewish business-class types showed little inclination 
for non-Jewish society and played almost as small a part in Jewish social 
history. As long as defamed peoples and classes exist, parvenu- and pariah- 
qualities will be produced anew by each generation with incomparable 
monotony, in Jewish society and everywhere else. 

For the formation of a social history of the Jews within nineteenth- 
century European society, it was, however, decisive that to a certain extent 
every Jew in every generation had somehow at some time to decide whether 
he would remain a pariah and stay out of society altogether, or become a 
parvenu, or conform to society on the demoralizing condition that he not so 
much hide his- origin as "betray with the secret of his origin the secret of his 
people as well." ^^ The latter road was difficult, indeed, as such secrets did 
not exist and had to be made up. Since Rahel Vamhagen's unique attempt 
to establish a social life outside of official society had failed, the way of the 
pariah and the parvenu were equally ways of extreme solitude, and the way 
of conformism one of constant regret. The so-called complex psychology of 
the average Jew, which in a few favored cases developed into a very modem 
sensitiveness, was based on an ambiguous situation. Jews felt simultaneously 
the pariah's regret at not having become a parvenu and the parvenu's bad 
conscience at having betrayed his people and exchanged equal rights for 

"This formulation was made by Karl Kraus around 1912. See Untergang der Welt 
duTch schwarze Magie, 1925. 


personal privileges. One thing was certain: if one wanted to avoid all am- 
biguities of social existence, one had to resign oneself to the fact that to be 
a Jew meant to belong either to an overprivileged upper class or to an 
underprivileged mass which, in Western and Central Europe, one could be- 
long to only through an intellectual and somewhat artificial solidarity. 

The social destinies of average Jews were determined by their eternal 
lack of decision. And society certainly did not compel them to make up their 
minds, for it was precisely this ambiguity of situation and character that 
made the relationship with Jews attractive. The majority of assimilated Jews 
thus lived in a twilight of favor and misfortune and knew with certainty only 
that both success and failure were inextricably connected with the fact that 
they were Jews. For them the Jewish question had lost, once and for all, all 
political significance; but it haunted their private Uves and influenced their 
personal decisions all the more tyrannically. The adage, "a man in the street 
and a Jew at home," was bitterly realized: political problems were distorted 
to the point of pure perversion when Jews tried to solve them by means of 
inner experience and private emotions; private life was poisoned to the point 
of inhumanity — for example in the question of mixed marriages — when the 
heavy burden of unsolved problems of public significance was crammed 
into that private existence which is much better ruled by the unpredictable 
laws of passion than by considered policies. 

It was by no means easy not to resemble the "Jew in general" and yet re- 
main a Jew; to pretend not to be like Jews and still show with sufficient 
clarity that one was Jewish. The average Jew, neither a parvenu nor a 
"conscious pariah" (Bernard Lazare), could only stress an empty sense of 
difference which continued to be interpreted, in all its possible psychological 
aspects and variations from innate strangeness to social alienation. As long 
as the world was somewhat peaceful, this attitude did not work out badly and 
for generations even became a modus vivendi. Concentration on an artifi- 
cially complicated inner life helped Jews to respond to the unreasonable 
demands of society, to be strange and exciting, to develop a certain imme- 
diacy of self-expression and presentation which were originally the attributes 
of the actor and the virtuoso, people whom society has always half denied 
and half admired. Assimilated Jews, half proud and half ashamed of their 
Jewishness, clearly were in this category. 

The process by which bourgeois society developed out of the ruins of its 
revolutionary traditions and memories added the black ghost of boredom 
to economic saturation and general indifference to political questions. Jews 
became people with whom one hoped to while away some time. The less 
one thought of them as equals, the more attractive and entertaining they 
became. Bourgeois society, in its search for entertainment and its passionate 
interest in the individual, insofar as he differed from the norm that is man, 
discovered the attraction of everything that could be supposed to be mys- 
teriously wicked or secretly vicious. And precisely this feverish preference 
opened the doors of society to Jews; for within the framework of this society, 
Jewishness, after having been distorted into a psychological quality, could 


easily be perverted into a vice. The Enlightenment's genuine tolerance and 
curiosity for everything human was being replaced by a morbid lust for the 
exotic, abnormal, and different as such. Several types in society, one after 
the other, represented the exotic, the anomalous, the different, but none of 
them was in the least connected with political questions. Thus only the role of 
Jews in this decaying society could assume a stature that transcended the 
narrow limits of a society affair. 

Before we follow the strange ways which led the "exception Jews," famous 
and notorious strangers, into the salons of the Faubourg St. Germain in 
fin-de-sii-cle France, we must recall the only great man whom the elaborate 
self-deception of the "exception Jews" ever produced. It seems that every 
commonplace idea gets one chance in at least one individual to attain what 
used to be called historical greatness. The great man of the "exception Jews" 
was Benjamin Disraeli. 

II : The Potent Wizard " 

BENJAMIN DISRAELI, whosc chief interest in life was the career of Lord 
Beaconsfield, was distinguished by two things: first, the gift of the gods 
which we moderns banally call luck, and which other periods revered as a 
goddess named Fortune, and second, more intimately and more wondrously 
connected with Fortune than one may be able to explain, the great carefree 
innocence of mind and imagination which makes it impossible to classify the 
man as a careerist, though he never thought seriously of anything except his 
career. His innocence made him recognize how foolish it would be to feel 
declasse and how much more exciting it would be for himself and for others, 
how much more useful for his career, to accentuate the fact that he was a 
Jew "by dressing differently, combing his hair oddly, and by queer manners 
of expression and verbiage." ^° He cared for admission to high and highest 
society more passionately and shamelessly than any other Jewish intellectual 
did; but he was the only one of them who discovered the secret of how to 
preserve luck, that natural miracle of pariahdom, and who knew from the be- 
ginning that one never should bow down in order to "move up from high to 

He played the game of politics like an actor in a theatrical performance, 
except that he played his part so well that he was convinced by his own 
make-believe. His life and his career read like a fairy-tale, in which he ap- 
peared as the prince — offering the blue flower of the romantics, now the 
primrose of imperialist England, to his princess, the Queen of England. 

2> The title phrase is taken from a sketch of Disraeli by Sir John Skleton in 1867. 
See W. F. Monypenny and G. E. Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of 
Beaconsfield, New York, 1929, II, 292-93. 

'" Morris S. Lazaron, Seed of Abraham, New York, 1930, "Benjamin Disraeli," 
pp. 260 S. 


The British colonial enterprise was the fairyland upon which the sun never 
sets and its capital the mysterious Asiatic Delhi whence the prince wanted 
to escape with his princess from foggy prosaic London. This may have been 
foolish and childish; but when a wife writes to her husband as Lady Beacons- 
field wrote to hers: "You know you married me for money, and I know 
that if you had to do it again you would do it for love," ^^ one is silenced 
before a happiness that seemed to be against all the rules. Here was one who 
started out to sell his soul to the devil, but the devil did not want the soul 
and the gods gave him all the happiness of this earth. 

Disraeli came from an entirely assimilated family; his father, an en- 
lightened gentleman, baptized the son because he wanted him to have the 
opportunities of ordinary mortals. He had few connections with Jewish 
society and knew nothing of Jewish religion or customs. Jewishness, from 
the beginning, was a fact of origin which he was at liberty to embellish, un- 
hindered by actual knowledge. The result was that somehow he looked at 
this fact much in the same way as a Gentile would have looked at it. He 
realized much more clearly than other Jews that being a Jew could be as 
much an opportunity as a handicap. And since, unlike his simple and modest 
father, he wanted nothing less than to become an ordinary mortal and 
nothing more than "to distinguish himself above all his contemporaries," ^- 
he began to shape his "olive complexion and coal-black eyes" until he with 
"the mighty dome of his forehead — no Christian temple, to be sure — (was) 
unlike any hving creature one has met." " He knew instinctively that every- 
thing depended upon the "division between him and mere mortals," upon 
an accentuation of his lucky "strangeness." 

All this demonstrates a unique understanding of society and its rules. 
Significantly, it was Disraeli who said, "What is a crime among the multi- 
tude is only a vice among the few" ^* — perhaps the most profound insight 
into the very principle by which the slow and insidious decline of nineteenth- 
century society into the depth of mob and underworld morality took place. 
Since he knew this rule, he knew also that Jews would have no better chances 
anywhere than in circles which pretended to be exclusive and to discriminate 
against them; for inasmuch as these circles of the few, together with the 
multitude, thought of Jewishness as a crime, this "crime" could be trans- 
formed at any moment into an attractive "vice." Disraeli's display of exoti- 
cism, strangeness, mysteriousness, magic, and power drawn from secret 
sources, was aimed correctly at this disposition in society. And it was his 
virtuosity at the social game which made him choose the Conservative 
Party, won him a seat in Parliament, the post of Prime Minister, and, last 

31 Horace B. Samuel, "The Psychology of Disraeli," in Modernities, London, 1914. 

32 J. A. Froude thus closes his biography of Lord Beaconsfield, 1890: "The aim 
with which he started in life was to distinguish himself above all his contemporaries, 
and wild as such an ambition must have appeared, he at last won the stake for which 
he played so bravely." 

83 Sir John Skleton, op. cit. 
3< In his novel Tancred, 1847. 


but not least, the lasting admiration of society and the friendship of a 

One of the reasons for his success was the sincerity of his play. The im- 
pression he made on his more unbiased contemporaries was a curious mix- 
ture of acting and "absolute sincerity and unreserve." ^^ This could only be 
achieved by a genuine innocence that was partly due to an upbringing from 
which all specific Jewish influence had been excluded. ^^ But Disraeli's good 
conscience was also due to his having been born an Englishman. England 
did not know Jewish masses and Jewish poverty, as she had admitted them 
centuries after their expulsion in the Middle Ages; the Portuguese Jews who 
settled in England in the eighteenth century were wealthy and educated. 
Not until the end of the nineteenth century, when the pogroms in Russia 
initiated the modern Jewish emigrations, did Jewish poverty enter London, 
and along with it the difference between the Jewish masses and their well- 
to-do brethren. In Disraeli's time the Jewish question, in its Continental 
form, was quite unknown, because only Jews welcome to the state lived 
in England. In other words, the English "exception Jews" were not so aware 
of being exceptions as their Continental brothers were. When Disraeli 
scorned the "pernicious doctrine of modern times, the natural equality of 
men," *' he consciously followed in the footsteps of Burke who had "pre- 
ferred the rights of an Englishman to the Rights of Man," but ignored the 
actual situation in which privileges for the few had been substituted for rights 
for all. He was so ignorant of the real conditions among the Jewish people, 
and so convinced of "the influence of the Jewish race upon modern com- 
munities," that he frankly demanded that the Jews "receive all that honour 
and favour from the northern and western races, which, in civilized and 
refined nations, should be the lot of those who charm the pubhc taste and 
elevate the public feeling." ^** Since political influence of Jews in England 
centered around the English branch of the Rothschilds, he felt very proud 
about the Rothschilds' help in defeating Napoleon and did not see any 
reason why he should not be outspoken in his political opinions as a Jew.^" 
As a baptized Jew, he was of course never an official spokesman for any 
Jewish community, but it remains true that he was the only Jew of his kind 
and his century who tried as well as he knew to represent the Jewish people 

Disraeli, who never denied that "the fundamental fact about (him) was 
that he was a Jew," *° had an admiration for all things Jewish that was 
matched only by his ignorance of them. The mixture of pride and ignorance 

•> Sir John Skleton, op. c'lt. 

*• Disraeli himself reported: "I was not bred among my race and was nourished 
in great prejudice against them." For his family background, see especially Joseph 
Caro, "Benjamin Disraeli, Juden und Judentum," in Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und 
Wissenschaft des Judentums, 1932, Jahrgang 76. 

" Lord George Bentinck. A Political Biography, London, 1852, 496. 

*^Ibid.. p. 491. 

3» Ibid., pp. 497 ff. 

♦0 Monypenny and Buckle, op. cit., p. 1507. 


in these matters, however, was characteristic of all the newly assimilated 
Jews. The great difference is that Disraeli knew even a little less of Jewish 
past and present and therefore dared to speak out openly what others be- 
trayed in the half-conscious twilight of behavior patterns dictated by fear 
and arrogance. 

The political result of Disraeli's ability to gauge Jewish possibilities by the 
political aspirations of a normal people was more serious; he almost auto- 
matically produced the entire set of theories about Jewish influence and 
organization that we usually find in the more vicious forms of antisemitism. 
First of all, he actually thought of himself as the "chosen man of the chosen 
race." *^ What better proof was there than his own career: a Jew without 
name and riches, helped only by a fev/ Jewish bankers, was carried to the 
position of the first man in England; one of the less liked men of Parliament 
became Prime Minister and earned genuine popularity among those who for 
a long time had "regarded him as a charlatan and treated him as a pariah." ^^ 
Political success never satisfied him. It was more difficult and more important 
to be admitted to London's society than to conquer the House of Commons, 
and it was certainly a greater triumph to be elected a member of Grillion's 
dining club — "a select coterie of which it has been customary to make rising 
politicians of both parties, but from which the socially objectionable are 
rigorously excluded" *^ — than to be Her Majesty's Minister. The delightfully 
unexpected climax of all these sweet triumphs was the sincere friendship of 
the Queen, for if the monarchy in England had lost most of its political 
prerogatives in a strictly controlled, constitutional nation-state, it had won 
and retained undisputed primacy in English society. In measuring the great- 
ness of Disraeli's triumph, one should remember that Lord Robert Cecil, 
one of his eminent colleagues in the Conservative Party, could still, around 
1850, justify a particularly bitter attack by stating that he was only "plainly 
speaking out what every one is saying of Disraeli in private and no one will 
say in public." ^* Disraeli's greatest victory was that finally nobody said in 
private what would not have flattered and pleased him if it had been said in 
public. It was precisely this unique rise to genuine popularity which Disraeli 
had achieved through a policy of seeing only the advantages, and preaching 
only the privileges, of being born a Jew. 

Part of Disraeli's good fortune is the fact that he always fitted his time, 
and that consequently his numerous biographers understood him more com- 
pletely than is the case with most great men. He was a living embodiment of 
ambition, that powerful passion which had developed in a century seemingly 
not allowing for any distinctions and differences. Carlyle, at any rate, who 
interpreted the whole world's history according to a nineteenth-century 
ideal of the hero, was clearly in the wrong when he refused a title from 

*i Horace S. Samuel, op. cit. 
■*2 Monypenny and Buckle, op. cit., p. 147. 
43 Ibid. 

■** Robert Cecil's article appeared in the most authoritative organ of the Tories, 
the Quarterly Review. See Monypenny and Buckle, op. cit., pp. 19-22. 


Disraeli's hands/* No other man among his contemporaries corresponded 
to Carlylc's heroes as well as Disraeli, with his concept of greatness as 
such, emptied of all specific achievements; no other man fulfilled so exactly 
the demands of the late nineteenth century for genius in the flesh as this 
charlatan who took his role seriously and acted the great part of the Great 
Man with genuine naivete and an overwhelming display of fantastic tricks 
and entertaining artistry. Politicians fell in love with the charlatan who trans- 
formed boring business transactions into dreams with an oriental flavor; 
and when society sensed an aroma of black magic in Disraeli's shrewd 
dealings, the "potent wizard" had actually won the heart of his time. 

Disraeli's ambition to distinguish himself from other mortals and his 
longing for aristocratic society were typical of the middle classes of his time 
and country. Neither political reasons nor economic motives, but the im- 
petus of his social ambition, made him join the Conservative Party and 
follow a policy that would always "select the Whigs for hostility and the 
Radicals for alliance." *^ In no European country did the middle classes 
ever achieve enough self-respect to reconcile their intelligentsia with their 
social status, so that aristocracy could continue to determine the social scale 
when it had already lost all political significance. The unhappy German 
Philistine discovered his "innate personality" in his desperate struggle against 
caste arrogance, which had grown out of the decline of nobility and the 
necessity to protect aristocratic titles against bourgeois money. Vague blood 
theories and strict control of marriages are rather recent phenomena in the 
history of European aristocracy. Disraeli knew much better than the German 
Philistines what was required to meet the demands of aristocracy. All at- 
tempts of the bourgeoisie to attain social status failed to convince aristo- 
cratic arrogance because they reckoned with individuals and lacked the 
most important element of caste conceit, the pride in privilege without 
individual effort and merit, simply by virtue of birth. The "innate person- 
ality" could never deny that its development demanded education and special 
effort of the individual. When Disraeli "summoned up a pride of race to 
confront a pride of caste," *'' he knew that the social status of the Jews, 
whatever else might be said of it, at least depended solely on the fact of birth 
and not on achievement. 

Disraeli went even a step further. He knew that the aristocracy, which 
year after year had to see quite a number of rich middle-class men buy titles, 
was haunted by very serious doubts of its own value. He therefore defeated 
them at their game by using his rather trite and popular imagination to 
describe fearlessly how the Englishmen "came from a parvenu and hybrid 
race, whUe he himself was sprung from the purest blood in Europe," how 
"the life of a British peer (was) mainly regulated by Arabian laws and 

♦"This happened as late as 1874. Carlyle is reported to have called Disraeli "a 
cursed Jew," "the worst man who ever lived." See Caro, op. cit. 
••'Lord Salisbury in an article in the Quarterly Review, 1869. 
" E. T. Raymond, Disraeli, The Alien Patriot, London, 1925, p. 1. 


Syrian customs," how "a Jewess is the queen of heaven" or that "the flower 
of the Jewish race is even now sitting on the right hand of the Lord God of 
Sabaoth." ** And when he finally wrote that "there is no longer in fact an 
aristocracy in England, for the superiority of the animal man is an essential 
quality of aristocracy," " he had in fact touched the weakest point of modern 
aristocratic race theories, which were later to be the point of departure for 
bourgeois and upstart race opinions. 

Judaism, and belonging to the Jewish people, degenerated into a simple 
fact of birth only among assimilated Jewry. Originally it had meant a spe- 
cific religion, a specific nationality, the sharing of specific memories and 
specific hopes, and, even among the privileged Jews, it meant at least still 
sharing specific economic advantages. Secularization and assimilation of 
the Jewish intelligentsia had changed self-consciousness and self-interpreta- 
tion in such a way that nothing was left of the old memories and hopes but 
the awareness of belonging to a chosen people. Disraeli, though certainly not 
the only "exception Jew" to believe in his own chosenness without believing 
in Him who chooses and rejects, was the only one who produced a full- 
blown race doctrine out of this empty concept of a historic mission. He was ^ 
ready to assert that the Semitic principle "represents all that is spiritual in 
our nature," that "the vicissitudes of history find their main solution — all is 
race," which is "the key to history" regardless of "language and religion," 
for "there is only one thing which makes a race and that is blood" and there 
is only one aristocracy, the "aristocracy of nature" which consists of "an 
unmixed race of a first-rate organization." ^° 

The close relationship of this to more modern race ideologies need noti/ 
be stressed, and Disraeli's discovery is one more proof of how well theyi 
serve to combat feelings of social inferiority. For if race doctrines finally^ 
served much more sinister and immediately political purposes, it is still 
true that much of their plausibility and persuasiveness lay in the fact that 
they helped anybody feel himself an aristocrat who had been selected by 
birth on the strength of "racial" qualification. That these new selected ones 
did not belong to an elite, to a selected few — which, after all, had been in- 
herent in the pride of a nobleman — but had to share chosenness with an 
ever-growing mob, did no essential harm to the doctrine, for those who did 
not belong to the chosen race grew numerically in the same proportion. 

Disraeli's race doctrines, however, were as much the result of his extraor- 
dinary insight into the rules of society as the outgrowth of the specific 
secularization of assimilated Jewry. Not only was the Jewish intelligentsia 
caught up in the general secularization process, which in the nineteenth cen- 
tury had already lost the revolutionary appeal of the Enlightenment along 
with the confidence in an independent, self-reliant humanity and therefore 
remained without any protection against transformation of formerly genuine 
religious beliefs into superstitions. The Jewish intelligentsia was exposed also 

^8 H. B. Samuel, op. cit., Disraeli, Tancred, and Lord George Bentinck, respectively. 

*^ In his novel Coningsby, 1844. 

^° See Lord George Bentinck and the novels Endymion, 1881, and Coningsby. 


to the Influences of the Jewish reformers who wanted to change a national 
religion into a religious denomination. To do so, they had to transform the 
two basic elements of Jewish piety — the Messianic hope and the faith in 
Israel's chosenness, and they deleted from Jewish prayerbooks the visions of 
an ultimate restoration of Zion, along with the pious anticipation of the day 
at the end of days when the segregation of the Jewish people from the nations 
of the earth would come to an end. Without the Messianic hope, the idea 
of chosenness meant eternal segregation; without faith in chosenness, which 
charged one specific people with the redemption of the world, Messianic 
hope evaporated into the dim cloud of general philanthropy and universalism 
which became so characteristic of specifically Jewish political enthusiasm. 

The most fateful element in Jewish secularization was that the concept 
of chosenness was being separated from the Messianic hope, whereas in 
Jewish religion these two elements were two aspects of God's redemptory 
plan for mankind. Out of Messianic hope grew that inclination toward final 
solutions of political problems which aimed at nothing less than establishing 
a paradise on earth. Out of the belief in chosenness by God grew that fan- 
tastic delusion, shared by unbelieving Jews and non-Jews alike, that Jews 
are by nature more intelligent, better, healthier, more fit for survival — the 
motor of history and the salt of the earth. The enthusiastic Jewish intellectual 
dreaming of the paradise on earth, so certain of freedom from all national 
ties and prejudices, was in fact farther removed from political reality than 
his fathers, who had prayed for the coming of Messiah and the return of 
the people to Palestine. The assimilationists, on the other hand, who without 
any enthusiastic hope had persuaded themselves that they were the salt of 
the earth, were more effectively separated from the nations by this unholy 
conceit than their fathers had been by the fence of the Law, which, as it was 
faithfully believed, separated Israel from the Gentiles but would be de- 
stroyed in the days of the Messiah. It was this conceit of the "exception 
Jews," who were too "enlightened" to believe in God and, on the grounds 
of their exceptional position everywhere, superstitious enough to believe in 
themselves, that actually tore down the strong bonds of pious hope which 
had tied Israel to the rest of mankind. 

Secularization, therefore, finally produced that paradox, so decisive for 
the psychology of modern Jews, by which Jewish assimilation — in its liqui- 
dation of national consciousness, its transformation of a national religion 
into a confessional denomination, and its meeting of the half-hearted and 
ambiguous demands of state and society by equally ambiguous devices and 
psychological tricks — engendered a very real Jewish chauvinism, if by chau- 
vinism we understand the perverted nationalism in which (in the words of 
Chesterton) "the individual is himself the thing to be worshipped; the indi- 
vidual is his own ideal and even his own idol." From now on, the old 
religious concept of chosenness was no longer the essence of Judaism; it 
became instead the essence of Jewishness. 

This paradox has found its most powerful and charming embodiment in 
Disraeli. He was an English imperialist and a Jewish chauvinist; but it is 


not difficult to pardon a chauvinism which was rather a play of imagination 
because, after all, "England was the Israel of his imagination"; ^^ and it is 
not difficult, either, to pardon his English imperialism, which had so little 
in common with the single-minded resoluteness of expansion for expansion's 
sake, since he was, after all, "never a thorough Englishman and was proud 
of the fact." ^^ All those curious contradictions which indicate so clearly 
that the potent wizard never took himself quite seriously and always played 
a role to win society and to find popularity, add up to a unique charm, they 
introduce into all his utterances an element of charlatan enthusiasm and 
day-dreaming which makes him utterly different from his imperialist fol- 
lowers. He was lucky enough to do his dreaming and acting in a time when 
Manchester and the businessmen had not yet taken over the imperial dream 
and were even in sharp and furious opposition to "colonial adventures." 
His superstitious belief in blood and race — into which he mixed old ro- 
mantic folk credulities about a powerful supranational connection between 
gold and blood — carried no suspicion of possible massacres, whether in 
Africa, Asia, or Europe proper. He began as a not too gifted writer and 
remained an intellectual whom chance made a member of Parliament, 
leader of his party, Prime Minister, and a friend of the Queen of England. 

Disraeli's notion of the Jews' role in politics dates back to the time when 
he was still simply a writer and had not yet begun his political career. His 
ideas on the subject were therefore not the result of actual experience, but 
he clung to them with remarkable tenacity throughout his later life. 

In his first novel, Alroy (1833), Disraeli evolved a plan for a Jewish 
Empire in which Jews would rule as a strictly separated class. The novel 
shows the influence of current illusions about Jewish power-possibiUties as 
well as the young author's ignorance of the actual power conditions of his 
time. Eleven years later, political experience in Parliament and intimate 
intercourse with prominent men taught Disraeli that "the aims of the Jews, 
whatever they may have been before and since, were, in his day, largely 
divorced from the assertion of political nationality in any form." ^^ In a new 
novel, Coningsby, he abandoned the dream of a Jewish Empire and unfolded 
a fantastic scheme according to which Jewish money dominates the rise and 
fall of courts and empires and rules supreme in diplomacy. Never in his life 
did he give up this second notion of a secret and mysterious influence of the 
chosen men of the chosen race, with which he replaced his earlier dream of 
an openly constituted, mysterious ruler caste. It became the pivot of his 
political philosophy. In contrast to his much-admired Jewish bankers who 
granted loans to governments and earned commissions, Disraeli looked at 
the whole affair with the outsider's incomprehension that such power-possi- 
bilities could be handled day after day by people who were not ambitious for 
power. What he could not understand was that a Jewish banker was even 

^^ Sir John Skleton, op. cit. 

52 Horace B. Samuel, op. cit. 

^3 Monypenny and Buckle, op. cit., p. 882. 


less interested in politics than his non-Jewish colleagues; to Disraeli, at any 
rate, it was a matter of course that Jewish wealth was only a means for 
Jewish politics. 1 he more he learned about the Jewish bankers' well-function- 
ing organization in business matters and their international exchange of 
news and information, the more convinced he became that he was dealing 
with something like a secret society which, without anybody knowing it, 
had the world's destinies in its hands. 

It is well known that the belief in a Jewish conspiracy that was kept to- 
gether by a secret society had the greatest propaganda value for antisemitic 
publicity, and by far outran all traditional European superstitions about ritual 
murder and well-poisoning. It is of great significance that Disraeli, for exactly 
opposite purposes and at a time when nobody thought seriously of secret 
societies, came to identical conclusions, for it shows clearly to what extent 
such fabrications were due to social motives and resentments and how much 
more plausibly they explained events or political and economic activities 
than the more trivial truth did. In Disraeli's eyes, as in the eyes of many less 
well-known and reputable charlatans after him, the whole game of poHtics 
was played between secret societies. Not only the Jews, but every other group 
whose influence was not politically organized or which was in opposition to 
the whole social and political system, became for him powers behind the 
scenes. In 1863, he thought he witnessed "a struggle between the secret so- 
cieties and the European millionaires; Rothschild hitherto has won." ** But 
also "the natural equality of men and the abrogation of property are pro- 
claimed by secret societies";" as late as 1870, he could still talk seriously 
of forces "beneath the surface" and believe sincerely that "secret societies 
and their international energies, the Church of Rome and her claims and 
methods, the eternal conflict between science and faith" were at work to 
determine the course of human history.^" 

Disraeli's unbelievable naivete made him connect all these "secret" forces 
with the Jews. "The first Jesuits were Jews; that mysterious Russian di- 
plomacy which so alarms Western Europe is organized and principally 
carried on by Jews; that mighty revolution which is at this moment preparing 
in Germany and which will be in fact a second and greater Reformation . . . 
is entirely developing under the auspices of Jews," "men of Jewish race are 
found at the head of every one of (communist and socialist groups). The 
people of God co-operates with atheists; the most skilful accumulators of 
property ally themselves with communists, the peculiar and chosen race 
touch the hands of the scum and low castes of Europe! And all this be- 
cause they wish to destroy that ungrateful Christendom which owes them 
even its name and whose tyranny they can no longer endure." ^^ In Disraeli's 
imagination, the world had become Jewish. 

»♦ Ibid., p. 73. In a letter to Mrs. Brydges Williams of July 21, 1863. 
'* Lord George Benlinck, p. 497. 
*« In his novel Lothair, 1870. 
*' Lord George Bentinck. 


In this singular delusion, even that most ingenious of Hitler's publicity 
stunts, the cry of a secret alliance between the Jewish capitalist and the 
Jewish socialist, was already anticipated. Nor can it be denied that the whole 
scheme, imaginary and fantastic as it was, had a logic of its own. If one 
started, as Disraeli did, from the assumption that Jewish millionaires were 
makers of Jewish politics, if one took into account the insults Jews had suf- 
fered for centuries (which were real enough, but still stupidly exaggerated 
by Jewish apologetic propaganda), if one had seen the not infrequent in- 
stances when the son of a Jewish millionaire became a leader of the workers' 
movement and knew from experience how closely knit Jewish family ties 
were as a rule, Disraeli's image of a calculated revenge upon the Christian 
peoples was not so far-fetched. The truth was, of course, that the sons of 
Jewish millionaires inclined toward leftist movements precisely because their 
banker fathers had never come into an open class conflict with workers. 
They therefore completely lacked that class consciousness that the son of 
any ordinary bourgeois family would have had as a matter of course, while, 
on the other side, and for exactly the same reasons, the workers did not 
harbor those open or hidden antisemitic sentiments which every other class 
showed the Jews as a matter of course. Obviously leftist movements in most 
countries offered the only true possibilities for assimilation. 

Disraeli's persistent fondness for explaining politics in terms of secret 
societies was based on experiences which later convinced many lesser Euro- 
pean intellectuals. His basic experience had been that a place in English 
society was much more difficult to win than a seat in Parliament. English 
society of his time gathered in fashionable clubs which were independent 
of party distinctions. The clubs, although they were extremely important 
in the formation of a political elite, escaped pubhc control. To an outsider 
they must have looked very mysterious indeed. They were secret insofar as 
not everybody was admitted to them. They became mysterious only when 
members of other classes asked admittance and were either refused or ad- 
mitted after a plethora of incalculable, unpredictable, apparently irrational 
difficulties. There is no doubt that no political honor could replace the 
triumphs that intimate association with the privileged could give. Disraeli's 
ambitions, significantly enough, did not suffer even at the end of his life when 
he experienced severe political defeats, for he remained "the most com- 
manding figure of London society." ^^ 

In his naive certainty of the paramount importance of secret societies, 
Disraeli was a forerunner of those new social strata who, born outside the 

s»Monypenny and Buckle, op. cit, p. 1470. This excellent biography gives a correct 
evaluation of Disraeli's triumph. After having quoted Tennyson's In Memoriam, 
canto 64, it continues as follows: "In one respect Disraeli's success was more striking 
and complete than that suggested in Tennyson's lines; he not only scaled, the political 
ladder to the topmost rung and 'shaped the whisper of the throne'; he also conquered 
Society. He dominated the dinner-tables and what we would call the salons of May- 
fair . . . and his social triumph, whatever may be thought by philosophers of its 
intrinsic value, was certainly not less difficult of achievement for a despised outsider 
than his political, and was perhaps sweeter to his palate" (p. 1506). 


framework of society, could never understand its rules properly. They found 
themselves in a state of affairs where the distinctions between society and 
politics were constantly blurred and where, despite seemingly chaotic condi- 
tions, the same narrow class interest always won. The outsider could not but 
conclude that a consciously established institution with definite goals 
achieved such remarkable results. And it is true that this whole society game 
needed only a resolute political will to transform its half-conscious play of 
interests and essentially purposeless machinations into a definite policy. This 
is what occurred briefly in France during the Dreyfus Affair, and again in 
Germany during the decade preceding Hitler's rise to power. 

Disraeli, however, was not only outside of English, he was outside of 
Jewish, society as well. He knew little of the mentality of the Jewish bankers 
whom he so deeply admired, and he would have been disappointed indeed 
had he realized that these "exception Jews," despite exclusion from bour- 
geois society (they never really tried to be admitted), shared its foremost 
political principle that political activity centers around protection of property 
and profits. Disraeli saw, and was impressed by, only a group with no out- 
ward political organization, whose members were still connected by a seem- 
ing infinity of family and business connections. His imagination went to 
work whenever he had to deal with them and found everything "proved" — 
when, for instance, the shares of the Suez Canal were offered the English 
government through the information of Henry Oppenheim (who had learned 
that the Khedive of Egypt was anxious to sell) and the sale was carried 
through with the help of a four million sterling loan from Lionel Rothschild. 

Disraeli's racial convictions and theories about secret societies sprang, 
in the last analysis, from his desire to explain something apparently mysteri- 
ous and in fact chimerical. He could not make a political reality out of the 
chimerical power of "exception Jews"; but he could, and did, help transform 
chimeras into public fears and to entertain a bored society with highly 
dangerous fairy-tales. 

With the consistency of most race fanatics, DisraeU spoke only with con- 
tempt of the "modern newfangled sentimental principle of nationaUty." ^® He 
hated the political equality at the basis of the nation-state and he feared for 
the survival of the Jews under its conditions. He fancied that race might 
give a social as well as political refuge against equalization. Since he knew 
the nobility of his time far better than he ever came to know the Jewish 
people, it is not surprising that he modeled the race concept after aristocratic 
caste concepts. 

No doubt these concepts of the socially underprivileged could have gone 
far, but they would have had little significance in European politics had they 
not met with real political necessities when, after the scramble for Africa, 
they could be adapted to political purposes. This willingness to believe on the 
part of bourgeois society gave Disraeli, the only Jew of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, his share of genuine popularity. In the end, it was not his fault that the 

w Ibid., Vol. I, Book 3. 


same trend that accounted for his singular great good fortune finally led to 
the great catastrophe of his people. 

Ill: Between Vice and Crime 

PARIS HAS rightly been called la capitale du dixneuvieme siecle (Walter 
Benjamin). Full of promise, the nineteenth century had started with the 
French Revolution, for more than one hundred years witnessed the vain 
struggle against the degeneration of the citoyen into the bourgeois, reached 
its nadir in the Dreyfus Affair, and was given another fourteen years of 
morbid respite. The first World War could still be won by the Jacobin appeal 
of Clemenceau, France's last son of the Revolution, but the glorious century 
of the nation par excellence was at an end '^° and Paris was left; without 
political significance and social splendor, to the intellectual avant-garde of 
all countries. France played a very small part in the twentieth century, which 
started, immediately after Disraeli's death, with the scramble for Africa and 
the competition for imperialist domination in Europe. Her decline, there- 
fore, caused partly by the economic expansion of other nations, and partly 
by internal disintegration, could assume forms and follow laws which seemed 
inherent in the nation-state. 

To a certain extent, what happened in France in the eighties and nineties 
happened thirty and forty years later in all European nation-states. Despite 
chronological distances, the Weimar and Austrian Republics had much in 
common historically with the Third Republic, and certain political and 
social patterns in the Germany and Austria of the twenties and thirties 
seemed almost consciously to follow the model of France's fin-de-siecle. 

Nineteenth-century antisemitism, at any rate, reached its climax in France 
and was defeated because it remained a national domestic issue without 
contact with imperialist trends, which did not exist there. The main features 
of this kind of antisemitism reappeared in Germany and Austria after the 
first World War, and its social effect on the respective Jewries was almost 
the same, although less sharp, less extreme, and more disturbed by other 
influences. "^^ 

60 Yves Simon, La Grande Crise de la Republique Frangaise, Montreal, 1941, p. 
20: "The spirit of the French Revolution survived the defeat of Napoleon for more 
than a century. ... It triumphed but only to fade unnoticed on November 11, 1918. 
The French Revolution? Its dates must surely be set at 1789-1918." 

61 The fact that certain psychological phenomena did not come out as sharply in 
German and Austrian Jews, may partly be due to the strong hold of the Zionist move- 
ment on Jewish intellectuals in these countries. Zionism in the decade after the first 
World War, and even in the decade preceding it, owed its strength not so much to 
political insight (and did not produce political convictions), as it did to its critical 
analysis of psychological reactions and sociological facts. Its influence was mainly 
pedagogical and went far beyond the relatively small circle of actual members of the 
Zionist movement. 


The chief reason, however, for the choice of the salons of the Faubourg 
Saint-Germain as an example of the role of Jews in non-Jewish society is 
that nowhere else is there an equally grand society or a more truthful record 
of it. When Marcel Proust, himself half Jewish and in emergencies ready to 
identify himself as a Jew, set out to search for "things past," he actually 
wrote what one of his admiring critics has called an apologia pro vita sua. 
The life of this greatest writer of twentieth-century France was spent ex- 
clusively in society; all events appeared to him as they are reflected in society 
and reconsidered by the individual, so that reflections and reconsiderations 
constitute the specific reality and texture of Proust's world.^- Throughout 
the Remembrance of Things Past, the individual and his reconsiderations 
belong to society, even when he retires into the mute and uncommunicative 
solitude in which Proust himself finally disappeared when he had decided 
to write his work. There his inner life, which insisted on transforming all 
worldly happenings into inner experience, became like a mirror in whose 
reflection truth might appear. The contemplator of inner experience re- 
sembles the onlooker in society insofar as neither has an immediate approach 
to life but perceives reality only if it is reflected. Proust, bom on the fringe 
of society, but still rightfully belonging to it though an outsider, enlarged 
this inner experience until it included the whole range of aspects as they 
appeared to and were reflected by all members of society. 

There is no better witness, indeed, of this period when society had eman- 
cipated itself completely from public concerns, and when politics itself 
was becoming a part of social life. The victory of bourgeois values over the 
citizen's sense of responsibility meant the decomposition of political issues 
into their dazzling, fascinating reflections in society. It must be added that 
Proust himself was a true exponent of this society, for he was involved in 
both of its most fashionable "vices," which he, "the greatest witness of 
dejudaized Judaism" interconnected in the "darkest comparison which ever 
has been made on behalf of Western Judaism": ^^ the "vice" of Jewishness 
and the "vice" of homosexuality, and which in their reflection and individual 
reconsideration became very much alike indeed.^* 

It was Disraeli who had discovered that vice is but the corresponding 
reflection of crime in society. Human wickedness, if accepted by society, is 
changed from an act of will into an inherent, psychological quality which 
man cannot choose or reject but which is imposed upon him from without, 
and which rules him as compulsively as the drug rules the addict. In as- 

*2 Compare the interesting remarks on this subject by E. Levinas, "L' Autre dans 
Proust" in Deucalion, No. 2, 1947. 

** J. E. van Praag, "Marcel Proust, Temoin du Judaisme dejudaize" in Revue Juive 
de Geneve, 1937, Nos. 48, 49, 50. 

A curious coincidence (or is it more than a coincidence?) occurs in the moving- 
picture Crossfire which deals with the Jewish question. The story was taken from 
Richard Brooks's The Brick Foxhole, in which the murdered Jew of Crossfire was a 

«♦ For the following see especially Cities of the Plain, Part I, pp. 20-45. 


similating crime and transforming it into vice, society denies all responsibility 
and establishes a world of fatalities in which men find themselves entangled. 
The moralistic judgment as a crime of every departure from the norm, which 
fashionable circles used to consider narrow and philistine, if demonstrative 
of inferior psychological understanding, at least showed greater respect for 
human dignity. If crime is understood to be a kind of fataUty, natural or 
economic, everybody will finally be suspected of some special predestination 
to it. "Punishment is the right of the criminal," of which he is deprived if 
(in the words of Proust) "judges assume and are more inclined to pardon 
murder in inverts and treason in Jews for reasons derived from . . . racial 
predestination." It is an attraction to murder and treason which hides behind 
such perverted tolerance, for in a moment it can switch to a decision to 
liquidate not only all actual criminals but all who are "racially" predestined 
to commit certain crimes. Such changes take place whenever the legal and 
political machine is not separated from society so that social standards can 
penetrate into it and become political and legal rules. The seeming broad- 
mindedness that equates crime and vice, if allowed to establish its own code 
of law, will invariably prove more cruel and inhuman than laws, no matter 
how severe, which respect and recognize man's independent responsibiUty 
for his behavior. 

The Faubourg Saint-Germain, however, as Proust depicts it, was in the 
early stages of this development. It admitted inverts because it felt attracted 
by what it judged to be a vice. Proust describes how Monsieur de Charlus, 
who had formerly been tolerated, "notwithstanding his vice," for his per- 
sonal charm and old name, now rose to social heights. He no longer needed 
to lead a double life and hide his dubious acquaintances, but was encouraged 
to bring them into the fashionable houses. Topics of conversation which he 
formerly would have avoided — love, beauty, jealousy — lest somebody sus- 
pect his anomaly, were now welcomed avidly "in view of the experience, 
strange, secret, refined and monstrous upon which he founded" his views.®' 

Something very similar happened to the Jews. Individual exceptions, 
ennobled Jews, had been tolerated and even welcomed in the society of the 
Second Empire, but now Jews as such were becoming increasingly popular. 
In both cases, society was far from being prompted by a revision of preju- 
dices. They did not doubt that homosexuals were "criminals" or that Jews 
were "traitors"; they only revised their attitude toward crime and treason. 
The trouble with their new broadmindedness, of course, was not that they 
were no longer horrified by inverts but that they were no longer horrified 
by crime. They did not in the least doubt the conventional judgment. The 
best-hidden disease of the nineteenth century, its terrible boredom and 
general weariness, had burst like an abscess. The outcasts and the pariahs 
upon whom society called in its predicament were, whatever else they might 
have been, at least not plagued by ennui and, if we are to trust Proust's 
judgment, were the only ones in fin-de-siecle society who were still capable 

6^ Cities of the Plain, Part 11, chapter iii. 


of passion. Proust leads us through the labyrinth of social connections and 
ambitions onlv by the thread of man's capacity for love, which is presented 
in the perverted passion of Monsieur de Charlus for Morel, in the devastat- 
ing loyaUy of the Jew Swann to his courtesan and in the author's own 
desperate jealousy of Albertinc, herself the personification of vice in the 
novel. Proust made it very clear that he regarded the outsiders and new- 
comers, the inhabitants of "Sodome et Ghomorre." not only as more human 
but as more normal. 

The ditlerence between the Faubourg Sa nt-Germain, which had suddenly 
discovered the attractiveness of Jews and inverts, and the mob which cried 
"Death to the Jews" was that the salons had not yet associated themselves 
openly with crime. This meant that on the one hand they did not yet want 
to participate actively in the killing, and on the other, still professed openly 
an antipathy toward Jews and a horror of inverts. This in turn resulted in 
that typically equivocal situation in which the new members could not con- 
fess their identity openly, and yet could not hide it either. Such were the 
conditions from which arose the complicated game of exposure and con- 
cealment, of half-confessions and lying distortions, of exaggerated humility 
and exaggerated arrogance, all of which were consequences of the fact that 
only one's Jewishness (or homosexuality) had opened the doors of the 
exclusive salons, while at the same time they made one's position extremely 
insecure. In this equivocal situation, Jewishness was for the individual Jew 
at once a physical stain and a mysterious personal privilege, both inherent 
in a "racial predestination." 

Proust describes at great length how society, constantly on the lookout 
for the strange, the exotic, the dangerous, finally identifies the refined with 
the monstrous and gets ready to admit monstrosities — real or fancied — such 
as the strange, unfamiliar "Russian or Japanese play performed by native 
actors"; '^''' the "painted, paunchy, tightly buttoned personage [of the invert], 
reminding one of a box of exotic and dubious origin from which escapes the 
curious odor of fruits the mere thought of tasting which stirs the heart"; "^ 
the "man of genius" who is supposed to emanate a "sense of the super- 
natural" and around whom society will "gather as though around a turning- 
table, to learn the secret of the Infinite." ^^ In the atmosphere of this 
"necromancy," a Jewish gentleman or a Turkish lady might appear "as if 
they really were creatures evoked by the effort of a medium." ^^ 

Obviously the role of the exotic, the strange, and the monstrous could 
not be played by those individual "exception Jews" who, for almost a cen- 
tury, had been admitted and tolerated as "foreign upstarts" and on "whose 
friendship nobody would ever have dreamed of priding himself." ''° Much 
better suited of course were those whom nobody had ever known, who, in 
the first stage of their assimilation, were not identified with, and were not 
representative of, the Jewish community, for such identification with well- 

88 Ibid. 69 itid, 

8' Ibid. 70 ihid, 

"8 The Guermantes Way, Part I, chapter i. 


known bodies would have limited severely society's imagination and ex- 
pectations. Those who, like Swann, had an unaccountable flair for society 
and taste in general were admitted; but more enthusiastically embraced were 
those who, like Bloch, belonged to "a family of little repute, [and J had to 
support, as on the floor of the ocean, the incalculable pressure of what was 
imposed on him not only by the Christians upon the surface but by all the 
intervening layers of Jewish castes superior to his own, each of them crushing 
with its contempt the one that was immediately beneath it." Society's will- 
ingness to receive the utterly alien and, as it thought, utterly vicious, cut short 
that climb of several generations by which newcomers had "to carve their 
way through to the open air by raising themselves from Jewish family to 
Jewish family." " It was no accident that this happened shortly after native 
French Jewry, during the Panama scandal, had given way before the initia- 
tive and unscrupulousness of some German Jewish adventurers; the indi- 
vidual exceptions, with or without title, who more than ever before sought 
the society of antisemitic and monarchist salons where they could dream 
of the good old days of the Second Empire, found themselves in the same 
category as Jews whom they would never have invited to their houses. If 
Jewishness as exceptionalness was the reason for admitting Jews, then those 
were preferred who were clearly "a solid troop, homogeneous within itself 
and utterly dissimilar to the people who watched them go past," those who 
had not yet "reached the same stage of assimilation" as their upstart 

Although Benjamin Disraeli was still one of those Jews who were ad- 
mitted to society because they were exceptions, his secularized self-represen- 
tation as a "chosen man of the chosen race" foreshadowed and outlined the 
lines along which Jewish self-interpretation was to take place. If this, fantastic 
and crude as it was, had not been so oddly similar to what society expected 
of Jews, Jews would never have been able to play their dubious role. Not, 
of course, that they consciously adopted Disraeli's convictions or purposely 
elaborated the first timid, perverted self-interpretation of their Prussian 
predecessors of the beginning of the century; most of them were blissfully 
ignorant of all Jewish history. But wherever Jews were educated, secularized, 
and assimilated under the ambiguous conditions of society and state in 
Western and Central Europe, they lost that measure of political responsi- 
bility which their origin implied and which the Jewish notables had still felt, 
albeit in the form of privilege and rulership. Jewish origin, without religious 
and political connotation, became everywhere a psychological quaUty, was 
changed into "Jewishness," and from then on could be considered only in 
the categories of virtue or vice. If it is true that "Jewishness" could not have 
been perverted into an interesting vice without a prejudice which considered 
it a crime, it is also true that such perversion was made possible by those 
Jews who considered it an innate virtue. 

^1 Within a Budding Grove, Part II, "Placenames: The Place." 
" Ibid. 


Assimilated Jewry has been reproached with aHenation from Judaism, and 
the final catastrophe brought upon it is frequently thought to have been a 
suffering as senseless as it was horrible, since it had lost the old value of 
martyrdom. This argument overlooks the fact that as far as the old ways of 
faith and life are concerned, "alienation" was equally apparent in Eastern 
European countries. But the usual notion of the Jews of Western Europe 
as "dejudaized" is misleading for another reason. Proust's picture, in con- 
trast to the all too obviously interested utterances of official Judaism, shows 
that never did the fact of Jewish birth play such a decisive role in private 
life and everyday existence as among the assimilated Jews. The Jewish re- 
former who changed a national religion into a religious denomination with 
the understanding that religion is a private affair, the Jewish revolutionary 
who pretended to be a world citizen in order to rid himself of Jewish na- 
tionality, the educated Jew, "a man in the street and a Jew at home" — each 
one of these succeeded in converting a national quality into a private affair. 
The result was that their private lives, their decisions and sentiments, be- 
came the very center of their "Jewishness." And the more the fact of Jewish 
birth lost its religious, national, and social-economic significance, the more 
obsessive Jewishness became; Jews were obsessed by it as one may be by a 
physical defect or advantage, and addicted to it as one may be to a vice. 

Proust's "innate disposition" is nothing but this personal, private obses- 
sion, which was so greatly justified by a society where success and failure 
depended upon the fact of Jewish birth. Proust mistook it for "racial pre- 
destination," because he saw and depicted only its social aspect and indi- 
vidual reconsiderations. And it is true that to the recording onlooker the 
behavior of the Jewish clique showed the same obsession as the behavior 
patterns followed by inverts. Both felt either superior or inferior, but in any 
case proudly different from other normal beings; both believed their dif- 
ference to be a natural fact acquired by birth; both were constantly justifying, 
not what they did, but what they were; and both, finally, always wavered 
between such apologetic attitudes and sudden, provocative claims that they 
were an elite. As though their social position were forever frozen by nature, 
neither could move from one clique into another. The need to belong existed 
in other members of society too — "the question is not as for Hamlet, to be 
or not to be, but to belong or not to belong" " — but not to the same extent. 
A society disintegrating into cliques and no longer tolerating outsiders, 
Jews or inverts, as individuals but because of the special circumstances of 
their admission, looked like the embodiment of this clannishness. 

Each society demands of its members a certain amount of acting, the 
ability to present, represent, and act what one actually is. When society dis- 
integrates into cliques such demands are no longer made of the individual 
but of members of cliques. Behavior then is controlled by silent demands 
and not by individual capacities, exactly as an actor's performance must fit 

'^ Cities of the Plain. Part II, chapter iii. 


into the ensemble of all other roles in the play. The salons of the Faubourg 
Saint-Germain consisted of such an ensemble of cliques, each of which pre- 
sented an extreme behavior pattern. The role of the inverts was to show 
their abnormality, of the Jews to represent black magic ("necromancy"), 
of the artists to manifest another form of supranatural and superhuman con- 
tact, of the aristocrats to show that they were not like ordinary ("bourgeois") 
people. Despite their clannishness, it is true, as Proust observed, that "save 
on the days of general disaster when the majority rally round the victim as 
the Jews rallied round Dreyfus," all these newcomers shunned intercourse 
with their own kind. The reason was that all marks of distinction were de- 
termined only by the ensemble of the cliques, so that Jews or inverts felt 
that they would lose their distinctive character in a society of Jews or inverts, 
where Jewishness or homosexuality would be the most natural, the most 
uninteresting, and the most banal thing in the world. The same, however, 
held true of their hosts who also needed an ensemble of counterparts before 
whom they could be different, nonaristocrats who would admire aristocrats 
as these admired the Jews or the homosexuals. 

Although these cliques had no consistency in themselves and dissolved as 
soon as no members of other cliques were around, their members used a 
mysterious sign-language as though they needed something strange by which 
to recognize each other. Proust reports at length the importance of such 
signs, especially for newcomers. While, however, the inverts, masters at sign- 
language, had at least a real secret, the Jews used this language only to 
create the expected atmosphere of mystery. Their signs mysteriously and 
ridiculously indicated something universally known: that in the corner of 
the salon of the Princess So-and-So sat another Jew who was not allowed 
openly to admit his identity but who without this meaningless quality would 
never have been able to climb into that corner. 

It is noteworthy that the new mixed society at the end of the nineteenth 
century, like the first Jewish salons in Berlin, again centered around nobility. 
Aristocracy by now had all but lost its eagerness for culture and its curiosity 
about "new specimens of humanity," but it retained its old scorn of bourgeois 
society. An urge for social distinction was its answer to political equality and 
the loss of political position and privilege which had been affirmed with the 
establishment of the Third Republic. After a short and artificial rise during 
the Second Empire, French aristocracy maintained itself only by social clan- 
nishness and half-hearted attempts to reserve the higher positions in the 
army for its sons. Much stronger than political ambition was an aggressive 
contempt for middle-class standards, which undoubtedly was one of the 
strongest motives for the admission of individuals and whole groups of 
people who had belonged to socially unacceptable classes. The same motive 
that had enabled Prussian aristocrats to meet socially with actors and Jews 
finally led in France to the social prestige of inverts. The middle classes, on 
the other hand, had not acquired social self-respect, although they had in 
the meantime risen to wealth and power. The absence of a political hierarchy 


in the nation-state and the victory of equality rendered "society secretly 
more hierarchical as it became outwardly more democratic." ''* Since the 
principle of hierarchy was embodied in the exclusive social circles of the 
Faubourg Saint-Germain, each society in France "reproduced the character- 
istics more or less modified, more or less in caricature of the society of the 
Faubourg Saint-Germain which it sometimes pretended ... to hold in 
contempt, no matter what status or what political ideas its members might 
hold." Aristocratic society was a thing of the past in appearance only; 
actually it pervaded the whole social body (and not only of the people of 
France) by imposing "the key and the grammar of fashionable social life." " 
When Proust felt the need for an apologia pro vita sua and reconsidered his 
own life spent in aristocratic circles, he gave an analysis of society as such. 

The main point about the role of Jews in this fin-de-siecle society is that 
it was the antisemitism of the Dreyfus Affair which opened society's doors 
to Jews, and that it was the end of the Affair, or rather the discovery of 
Dreyfus' innocence, that put an end to their social glory. ^^ In other words, 
no matter what the Jews thought of themselves or of Dreyfus, they could 
play the role society had assigned them only as long as this same society was 
convinced that they belonged to a race of traitors. When the traitor was dis- 
covered to be the rather stupid victim of an ordinary frame-up, and the inno- 
cence of the Jews was established, social interest in Jews subsided as quickly 
as did political antisemitism. Jews were again looked upon as ordinary 
mortals and fell into the insignificance from which the supposed crime of 
one of their own had raised them temporarily. 

It was essentially the same kind of social glory that the Jews of Germany 
and Austria enjoyed under much more severe circumstances immediately 
after the first World War. Their supposed crime then was that they had been 
guilty of the war, a crime which, no longer identified with a single act of a 
single individual, could not be refuted, so that the mob's evaluation of Jew- 
ishness as a crime remained undisturbed and society could continue to be 
delighted and fascinated by its Jews up to the very end. If there is any psy- 
chological truth in the scapegoat theory, it is as the effect of this social atti- 
tude toward Jews; for when antisemitic legislation forced society to oust the 
Jews, these "philosemites" felt as though they had to purge themselves of 
secret viciousness, to cleanse themselves of a stigma which they had mys- 
teriously and wickedly loved. This psychology, to be sure, hardly explains 
why these "admirers" of Jews finally became their murderers, and it may 

''* The Guermantes Way, Part II, chapter ii. 

^» Ramon Fernandez, "La vie sociale dans I'oeuvre de Marcel Proust," in Les Cahiers 
Marcel Proust, No. 2, 1927. 

'« "But this was the moment when from the effects of the Dreyfus case there had 
arisen an antisemitic movement parallel to a more abundant movement towards the 
penetration of society by Israelites. The politicians had not been wrong in thinking 
that the discovery of the judicial error would deal a fatal blow to antisemitism. But 
provisionally at least a social antisemitism was on the contrary enhanced and 
exacerbated by it." See The Sweet Cheat Gone, chapter ii. 


even be doubted that they were prominent among those who ran the death 
factories, ahhough the percentage of the so-called educated classes among 
the actual killers is amazing. But it does explain the incredible disloyalty of 
precisely those strata of society which had known Jews most intimately and 
had been most delighted and charmed by Jewish friends. 

As far as the Jews were concerned, the transformation of the "crime" of 
Judaism into the fashionable "vice" of Jewishness was dangerous in the 
extreme. Jews had been able to escape from Judaism into conversion; from 
Jewishness there was no escape. A crime, moreover, is met with punishment; 
a vice can only be exterminated. The interpretation given by society to the 
fact of Jewish birth and the role played by Jews in the framework of social 
life are intimately connected with the catastrophic thoroughness with which 
antisemitic devices could be put to work. The Nazi brand of antisemitism 
had its roots in these social conditions as well as in political circumstances. 
And though the concept of race had other and more immediately political 
purposes and functions, its application to the Jewish question in its most 
sinister aspect owed much of its success to social phenomena and convictions 
which virtually constituted a consent by public opinion. 

The deciding forces in the Jews' fateful journey to the storm center of 
events were without doubt political; but the reactions of society to anti- 
semitism and the psychological reflections of the Jewish question in the 
individual had something to do with the specific cruelty, the organized and 
calculated assault upon every single individual of Jewish origin, that was 
already characteristic of the antisemitism of the Dreyfus Affair. This pas- 
sion-driven hunt of the "Jew in general," the "Jew everywhere and nowhere," 
cannot be understood if one considers the history of antisemitism as an 
entity in itself, as a mere political movement. Social factors, unaccounted 
for in political or economic history, hidden under the surface of events, never 
perceived by the historian and recorded only by the more penetrating and 
passionate force of poets or novelists (men whom society had driven into 
the desperate solitude and loneliness of the apologia pro vita sua) changed 
the course that mere political antisemitism would have taken if left to 
itself, and which might have resulted in anti-Jewish legislation and even 
mass expulsion but hardly in wholesale extermination. 

Ever since the Dreyfus Affair and its political threat to the rights of 
French Jewry had produced a social situation in which Jews enjoyed an 
ambiguous glory, antisemitism appeared in Europe as an insoluble mixture 
of political motives and social elements. Society always reacted first to a 
strong antisemitic movement with marked preference for Jews, so that 
Disraeli's remark that "there is no race at this present . . . that so much 
delights and fascinates and elevates and ennobles Europe as the Jewish," 
became particularly true in times of danger. Social "philosemitism" always 
ended by adding to political antisemitism that mysterious fanaticism with- 
out which antisemitism could hardly have become the best slogan for or- 
ganizing the masses. All the declasses of capitaUst society were finally ready 


to unite and establish mob organizations of their own; their propaganda and 
their attraction rested on the assumption that a society which had shown its 
willingness to incorporate crime in the form of vice into its very structure 
would by now be ready to cleanse itself of viciousness by openly admitting 
criminals and by publicly committing crimes. 


The Dreyfus Affair 

i: The Facts of the Case 

IT HAPPENED in France at the end of the year 1894. Alfred Dreyfus, a 
Jewish officer of the French General Staff, was accused and convicted 
of espionage for Germany. The verdict, lifelong deportation to Devil's 
Island, was unanimously adopted. The trial took place behind closed doors. 
Out of an allegedly voluminous dossier of the prosecution, only the so-called 
"bordereau" was shown. This was a letter, supposedly in Dreyfus' hand- 
writing, addressed to the German military attache, Schwartzkoppen. In July, 
1895, Colonel Picquard became head of the Information Division of the 
General Staff. In May, 1896, he told the chief of the General Staff, Boisdeffre, 
that he had convinced himself of Dreyfus' innocence and of the guilt of an- 
other officer, Major Walsin-Esterhazy. Six months later, Picquard was re- 
moved to a dangerous post in Tunisia. At the same time, Bernard Lazare, on 
behalf of Dreyfus' brothers, published the first pamphlet of the Affair: Une 
erreur judiciaire; la verite sur I'affaire Dreyfus. In June, 1897, Picquard in- 
formed Scheurer-Kesten, Vice-President of the Senate, of the facts of the 
trials and of Dreyfus' innocence. In November, 1897, Clemenceau started 
his fight for re-examination of the case. Four weeks later Zola joined the 
ranks of the Dreyfusards. J' Accuse was published by Clemenceau's news- 
paper in January, 1898. At the same time, Picquard was arrested. Zola, tried 
for calumny of the army, was convicted by both the ordinary tribunal and 
the Court of Appeal. In August, 1898, Esterhazy was dishonorably dis- 
charged because of embezzlement. He at once hurried to a British journalist 
and told him that he — and not Dreyfus — was the author of the "bordereau," 
which he had forged in Dreyfus' handwriting on orders from Colonel Sand- 
herr, his superior and former chief of the counterespionage division. A few 
days later Colonel Henry, another member of the same department, con- 
fessed forgeries of several other pieces of the secret Dreyfus dossier and com- 
mitted suicide. Thereupon the Court of Appeal ordered an investigation of 
the Dreyfus case. 

In June, 1899, the Court of Appeal annulled the original sentence against 
Dreyfus of 1894. The revision trial took place in Rennes in August. The 
sentence was made ten years' imprisonment because of "alleviating circum- 
stances." A week later Dreyfus was pardoned by the President of the Repub- 
lic. The World Exposition opened in Paris in April, 1900. In May, when the 
success of the Exposition was guaranteed, the Chamber of Deputies, with 


overwhelming majority, voted against any further revision of the Dreyfus 
case. In December of the same year all trials and lawsuits comiected with the 
affair were liquidated through a general amnesty. 

In 1903 Dreyfus asked for a new revision. His petition was neglected 
until 1906, when Clcmenccau had become Prime Minister. In July, 1906, 
the Court of Appeal annulled the sentence of Rennes and acquitted Dreyfus 
of all charges. The Court of Appeal, however, had no authority to acquit; 
it should have ordered a new trial. Another revision before a military 
tribunal would, in all probability and despite the overwhelming evidence in 
favor of Dreyfus, have led to a new conviction. Dreyfus, therefore, was never 
acquitted in accordance with the law,^ and the Dreyfus case was never really 
settled. The reinstatement of the accused was never recognized by the French 
people, and the passions that were originally aroused never entirely subsided. 
As late as 1908, nine years after the pardon and two years after Dreyfus 
was cleared, when, at Clemenceau's instance, the body of Emile Zola was 
transferred to the Pantheon, Alfred Dreyfus was openly attacked in the 
street. A Paris court acquitted his assailant and indicated that it "dissented" 
from the decision which had cleared Dreyfus. 

Even stranger is the fact that neither the first nor the second World War 
has been able to bury the affair in oblivion. At the behest of the Action 
Frangaise, the Precis de I' Affaire Dreyfus ^ was republished in 1924 and has 
since been the standard reference manual of the Anti-Dreyfusards. At the 
premiere of L' Affaire Dreyfus (a play written by Rehfisch and Wilhelm 
Herzog under the pseudonym of Rene Kestner) in 1931, the atmosphere of 
the nineties still prevailed with quarrels in the auditorium, stink-bombs in the 
stalls, the shock troops of the Action Fran^aise standing around to strike 
terror into actors, audience and bystanders. Nor did the government — 
Laval's government — act in any way differently than its predecessors some 
thirty years before: it gladly admitted it was unable to guarantee a single 
undisturbed performance, thereby providing a new late triumph for the Anti- 
Dreyfusards. The play had to be suspended. When Dreyfus died in 1935, 
the general press was afraid to touch the issue ^ while the leftist papers 
still spoke in the old terms of Dreyfus' innocence and the right wing of 
Dreyfus' guilt. Even today, though to a lesser extent, the Dreyfus Affair is 
still a kind of shibboleth in French politics. When Petain was condemned 
the influential provincial newspaper Voix du Nord (of Lille) linked the 

> The most extensive and still indispensable work on the subject is that of Joseph 
Reinach, L' Affaire Dreyfus, Paris, 1903-11, 7 vols. The most detailed among recent 
studies, written from a socialist viewpoint, is by Wilhelm Herzog, Der Kampf einer 
Republik, Ziirich, 1933. Its exhaustive chronological tables are very valuable. The 
best political and historical evaluation of the affair is to be found in D. W. Brogan, 
The Development of Modern France, 1940, Books VI and VII. Brief and reliable is 
G. Charcnsol, L' Affaire Dreyfus el la Troisienie Republique, 1930. 

2 Written by two officers and published under the pseudonym Henri Dutrait-Crozon. 

»The Action Frangaise (July 19, 1935) praised the restraint of the French press 
while voicing the opinion that "the famous champions of justice and truth of forty 
years ago have left no disciples." 


Petain case to the Dreyfus case and maintained that "the country remains 
divided as it was after the Dreyfus case," because the verdict of the court 
could not settle a political conflict and "bring to all the French peace of 
mind or of heart." * 

While the Dreyfus Affair in its broader political aspects belongs to the 
twentieth century, the Dreyfus case, the various trials of the Jewish Captain 
Alfred Dreyfus, are quite typical of the nineteenth century, when men fol- 
lowed legal proceedings so keenly because each instance afforded a test of 
the century's greatest achievement, the complete impartiaUty of the law. 
It is characteristic of the period that a miscarriage of justice could arouse 
such political passions and inspire such an endless succession of trials and 
retrials, not to speak of duels and fisticuffs. The doctrine of equality before 
the law was still so firmly implanted in the conscience of the civilized world 
that a single miscarriage of justice could provoke public indignation from 
Moscow to New York. Nor was anyone, except in France itself, so "modern" 
as to associate the matter with pohtical issues.^ The wrong done to a single 
Jewish officer in France was able to draw from the rest of the world a more 
vehement and united reaction than all the persecutions of German Jews a 
generation later. Even Czarist Russia could accuse France of barbarism 
while in Germany members of the Kaiser's entourage would openly express 
an indignation matched only by the radical press of the 1930's.^ 

The dramatis personae of the case might have stepped out of the pages 
of Balzac: on the one hand, the class-conscious generals frantically covering 
up for the members of their own clique and, on the other, their antagonist, 
Picquard, with his calm, clear-eyed and slightly ironical honesty. Beside 
them stand the nondescript crowd of the men in Parliament, each terrified 
of what his neighbor might know; the President of the Republic, notorious 
patron of the Paris brothels, and the examining magistrates, living solely 
for the sake of social contacts. Then there is Dreyfus himself, actually a 
parvenu, continually boasting to his colleagues of his family fortune which 
he spent on women; his brothers, pathetically offering their entire fortune, 
and then reducing the offer to 150,000 francs, for the release of their kins- 
man, never quite sure whether they wished to make a sacrifice or simply to 
suborn the General Staff; and the lawyer Demange, really convinced of his 

* See G. H. Archambault in New York Times, August 18, 1945, p. 5. 

5 The sole exceptions, tlie Catholic journals most of which agitated in all countries 
against Dreyfus, will be discussed below. American public opinion was such that in 
addition to protests an organized boycott of the Paris World Exposition scheduled for 
1900 was begun. On the effect of this threat see below. For a comprehensive study 
see the master's essay on file at Columbia University by Rose A. Halperin, "The 
American Reaction to the Dreyfus Case," 1941. The author wishes to thank Professor 
S. W. Baron for his kindness in placing this study at her disposal. 

6 Thus, for example, H. B. von Buelow, the German charge d'affaires at Paris, wrote 
to Reichchancellor Hohenlohe that the verdict at Rennes was a "mixture of vulgarity 
and cowardice, the surest signs of barbarism," and that France "has therewith shut 
herself out of the family of civilized nations," cited by Herzog, op. cit., under date of 
September 12, 1899. In the opinion of von Buelow the Affaire was the "shibboleth" of 
German liberalism; see his DenkwUrdigkeiten, Berlin, 1930-31, I, 428. 


client's innocence but basing the defense on an issue of doubt so as to save 
himself from attacks and injury to his personal interests. Lastly, there is the 
adventurer Estcrhazy, he of the ancient escutcheon, so utterly bored by this 
bourgeois world as to seek relief equally in heroism and knavery. An erst- 
while second lieutenant of the Foreign Legion, he impressed his colleagues 
greatly by his superior boldness and impudence. Always in trouble, he lived 
by serving as duelist's second to Jewish officers and by blackmailing their 
wealthy coreligionists. Indeed, he would avail himself of the good offices of 
the chief rabbi himself in order to obtain the requisite introductions. Even in 
his ultimate downfall he remained true to the Balzac tradition. Not treason 
nor wild dreams of a great orgy in which a hundred thousand besotted 
Prussian Uhlans would run berserk through Paris ^ but a paltry embezzle- 
ment of a relative's cash sent him to his doom. And what shall we say of 
Zola, with his impassioned moral fervor, his somewhat empty pathos, and 
his melodramatic declaration, on the eve of his flight to London, that he 
had heard the voice of Dreyfus begging him to bring this sacrifice? ^ 

All this belongs typically to the nineteenth century and by itself would 
never have survived two World Wars. The old-time enthusiasm of the mob 
for Esterhazy, like its hatred of Zola, have long since died down to embers, 
but so too has that fiery passion against aristocracy and clergy which had 
once inflamed Jaures and which had alone secured the final release of Drey- 
fus. As the Cagoulard affair was to show, officers of the General Staff no 
longer had to fear the wrath of the people when they hatched their plots for 
a coup d'etat. Since the separation of Church and State, France, though cer- 
tainly no longer clerical-minded, had lost a great deal of her anticlerical 
feeling, just as the CathoHc Church had itself lost much of its political aspira- 
tion. Petain's attempt to convert the republic into a Catholic state was 
blocked by the utter indifference of the people and by the lower clergy's 
hostility to clerico-fascism. 

The Dreyfus Affair in its political implications could survive because two 
of its elements grew in importance during the twentieth century. The first is 
hatred of the Jews; the second, suspicion of the republic itself, of ParUament, 
and the state machine. The larger section of the public could still go on think- 
ing the latter, rightly or wrongly, under the influence of the Jews and the 
power of the banks. Down to our times the term Anti-Dreyfusard can still 
serve as a recognized name for all that is antirepublican, antidemocratic, and 
antisemitic. A few years ago it still comprised everything, from the monarch- 
ism of the Action Frangaise to the National Bolshevism of Doriot and the 
social Fascism of Deat. It was not, however, to these Fascist groups, numer- 
ically unimportant as they were, that the Third Republic owed its collapse. 
On the contrary, the plain, if paradoxical, truth is that their influence was 
never so shght as at the moment when the collapse actually took place. 

' Theodore Reinach, Histoire sommaire de I'Affaire Dreyfus, Paris, 1924, p. 96. 
* Reported by Joseph Reinach, as cited by Herzog, op. cU., under date of June 18, 


What made France fall was the fact that she had no more true Dreyfusards, 
no one who believed that democracy and freedom, equality and justice could 
any longer be defended or realized under the republic.® At long last the 
republic fell like overripe fruit into the lap of that old Anti-Dreyfusard 
clique ^° which had always formed the kernel of her army, and this at a 
time when she had few enemies but almost no friends. How little the Petain 
clique was a product of German Fascism was shown clearly by its slavish 
adherence to the old formulas of forty years before. 

While Germany shrewdly truncated her and ruined her entire economy 
through the demarcation line, France's leaders in Vichy tinkered with the 
old Barres formula of "autonomous provinces," thereby crippling her all 
the more. They introduced anti-Jewish legislation more promptly than any 
Quisling, boasting all the while that they had no need to import antisemitism 
from Germany and that their law governing the Jews differed in essential 
points from that of the Reich. ^^ They sought to mobilize the Catholic clergy 
against the Jews, only to give proof that the priests have not only lost their 
political influence but are not actually antisemites. On the contrary, it was 
the very bishops and synods which the Vichy regime wanted to turn once 
more into political powers who voiced the most emphastic protest against 
the persecution of the Jews. 

Not the Dreyfus case with its trials but the Dreyfus Affair in its entirety 
offers a foregleam of the twentieth century. As Bernanos pointed out in 
J932 ij "Xhe Dreyfus affair aheady belongs to that tragic era which cer- 
tainly was not ended by the last war. The affair reveals the same inhuman 
character, preserving amid the welter of unbridled passions and the flames 
of hate an inconceivably cold and callous heart." Certainly it was not in 
France that the true sequel to the affair was to be found, but the reason why 
France fell an easy prey to Nazi aggression is not far to seek. Hitler's propa- 

» That even Clemenceau no longer believed in it toward the end of his life is shown 
clearly by the remark quoted in Rene Benjamin, Clemenceau dans la retraite, Paris, 
1930, p. 249: "Hope? Impossible! How can I go on hoping when I no longer believe 
in that which roused me, namely, democracy?" 

10 Weygand, a known adherent of the Action Frangaise, was in his youth an Anti- 
Dreyfusard. He was one of the subscribers to the "Henry Memorial" established by 
the Libre Parole in honor of the unfortunate Colonel Henry, who paid with suicide 
for his forgeries while on the General Staff. The list of subscribers was later published 
by Quillard, one of the editors of L'Aurore (Clemenceau's paper), under the title of 
Le Monument Henry, Paris, 1899. As for Petain, he was on the general staff of the 
military government of Paris from 1895 to 1899, at a time when nobody but a proven 
anti-Dreyfusard would have been tolerated. See Contamine de Latour, "Le Marechal 
Petain," in Revue de Paris, I, 57-69. D. W. Brogan, op. cit., p. 382, pertinently ob- 
serves that of the five World War I marshals, four (Foch, Petain, Lyautey, and Fa- 
yolle) were bad republicans, while the fifth, Joffre, had well-known clerical leanings. 

11 The myth that Petain's anti-Jewish legislation was forced upon him by the Reich, 
which took in almost the whole of French Jewry, has been exploded on the French 
side itself. See especially Yves Simon, La Grande crise de la Republique Frangaise: 
observations sur la vie politique des frangais de 1918 a 1938, Montreal, 1941. 

12 Cf. Georges Bernanos, La grande peur des bien-pensants, Edouard Drumont, 
Paris, 1931, p. 262. 


ganda spoke a language long familiar and never quite forgotten. That the 
"Caesarism" '* of the Action Franqaise and the nihilistic nationalism of 
Barres and Maurras never succeeded in their original form is due to a variety 
of causes, all of them negative. They lacked social vision and were unable 
to translate into popular terms those mental phantasmagoria which their con- 
tempt for the intellect had engendered. 

We are here concerned essentially with the political bearings of the Drey- 
fus Affair and not with the legal aspects of the case. Sharply outlined in it 
arc a number of traits characteristic of the twentieth century. Faint and 
barely distinguishable during the early decades of the century, they have at 
last emerged into full daylight and stand revealed as belonging to the main 
trends of modern times. After thirty years of a mild, purely social form of 
anti-Jewish discrimination, it had become a little difficult to remember that 
the cry, "Death to the Jews," had echoed through the length and breadth of 
a modern state once before when its domestic policy was crystallized in the 
issue of antisemitism. For thirty years the old legends of world conspiracy 
had been no more than the conventional stand-by of the tabloid press and the 
dime novel and the world did not easily remember that not long ago, but 
at a time when the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were still unknown, a 
whole nation had been racking its brains trying to determine whether 
"secret Rome" or "secret Judah" held the reins of world politics.^* 

Similarly, the vehement and nihihstic philosophy of spiritual self-hatred ^^ 
suffered something of an eclipse when a world at temporary peace with 
itself yielded no crop of outstanding criminals to justify the exaltation of 
brutality and unscrupulousness. The Jules Guerins had to wait nearly forty 
years before the atmosphere was ripe again for quasi-military storm troops. 
The declasses, produced through nineteenth-century economy, had to grow 
numerically until they were strong minorities of the nations, before that 
coup d'etat, which had remained but a grotesque plot ^^ in France, could 
achieve reality in Germany almost without effort. The prelude to Nazism 
was played over the entire European stage. The Dreyfus case, therefore, is 

" Waldemar Gurian, Der integrate Nationalismus in Frankreich: Charles Maurras 
und die Action Frangaise, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1931, p. 92, makes a sharp distinction 
between the monarchist movement and other reactionary tendencies. The same author 
discusses the Dreyfus case in his Die politischen und sozialen Ideen des franzosischen 
Katholizismus. M. Gladbach, 1929. 

>* For the creation of such myths on both sides, Daniel Halevy, "Apologie pour 
notre passe," in Cahiers de la quinzaine, Series XL, No. 10, 1910. 

>s A distinctly modern note is struck in Zola's Letter to France of 1898: "We hear 
on all sides that the concept of liberty has gone bankrupt. When the Dreyfus business 
cropped up, this prevalent hatred of liberty found a golden opportunity. . . . Don't 
you see that the only reason why Scheurer-Kestner has been attacked with such fury 
is that he belongs to a generation which believed in liberty and worked for it? Today 
one shrugs one's shoulders at such things . . . 'Old greybeards,' one laughs, 'outmoded 
greathearts.' " Hcrzog, op. cit., under date of January 6, 1898. 

>o The farcical nature of the various attempts made in the nineties to stage a coup 
d'etat was clearly analyzed by Rosa Luxemburg in her article, "Die soziale Krise in 
Frankreich," in Die Neue Zeit, Vol. \, 1901. 


more than a bizarre, imperfectly solved "crime," ^^ an affair of staff officers 
disguised by false beards and dark glasses, peddling their stupid forgeries 
by night in the streets of Paris. Its hero is not Dreyfus but Clemenceau and 
it begins not with the arrest of a Jewish staff officer but with the Panama 

II: The Third Republic and French Jewry 

BETWEEN 1880 and 1888 the Panama Company, under the leadership of 
de Lesseps, who had constructed the Suez Canal, was able to make but 
little practical progress. Nevertheless, within France itself it succeeded dur- 
ing this period in raising no less than 1,335,538,454 francs in private loans.^^ 
This success is the more significant when one considers the carefulness of 
the French middle class in money matters. The secret of the company's 
success lies in the fact that its several public loans were invariably backed 
by Parliament. The building of the Canal was generally regarded as a public 
and national service rather than as a private enterprise. When the company 
went bankrupt, therefore, it was the foreign policy of the republic that really 
suffered the blow. Only after a few years did it become clear that even more 
important was the ruination of some half-million middle-class Frenchmen. 
Both the press and the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry came to roughly 
the same conclusion: the company had already been bankrupt for several 
years. De Lesseps, they contended, had been Uving in hopes of a miracle, 
cherishing the dream that new funds would be somehow forthcoming to push 
on with the work. In order to win sanction for the new loans he had been 
obliged to bribe the press, haff of Parliament, and all of the higher officials. 
This, however, had called for the employment of middlemen and these in 
turn had commanded exorbitant commissions. Thus, the very thing which 
had originally inspired public confidence in the enterprise, namely. Parlia- 
ment's backing of the loans, proved in the end the factor which converted a 
not too sound private business into a colossal racket. 

There were no Jews either among the bribed members of Parliament or 
on the board of the company. Jacques Reinach and Cornelius Herz, however, 
vied for the honor of distributing the baksheesh among the members of the 
Chamber, the former working on the right wing of the bourgeois parties and 
the latter on the radicals (the anticlerical parties of the petty bourgeoisie).^^ 
Reinach was the secret financial counsellor of the government during the 

1' Whether Colonel Henry forged the bordereau on orders from the chief of staff or 
upon his own initiative, is still unknown. Similarly, the attempted assassination of 
Labori, counsel for Dreyfus at the Rennes tribunal, has never been properly cleared 
up. Cf. Emile Zola, Correspondance: lettres a Maitre Labori, Paris, 1929, p. 32, n. 1. 

1** Cf. Walter Frank, Demokratie und Nationalismus in Frankreich, Hamburg, 1933, 
p. 273. 

i» Cf. Georges Suarez, La Vie orgueilleuse de Clemenceau, Paris, 1930, p. 156. 


eighties -" and therefore handled its relations with the Panama Company, 
while Herz's role was a double one. On the one hand he served Reinach as 
liaison with the radical wings of Parliament, to which Reinach himself had 
no access; on the other this office gave him such a good insight into the 
extent of the corruption that he was able constantly to blackmail his boss and 
to involve him ever deeper in the mess.^^ 

Naturally there were quite a number of smaller Jewish businessmen work- 
ing for both Herz and Reinach. Their names, however, may well repose in 
the oblivion into which they have deservedly fallen. The more uncertain the 
situation of the company, the higher, naturally, was the rate of commission, 
until in the end the company itself received but little of the moneys advanced 
to it. Shortly before the crash Herz received for a single intra-parliamentary 
transaction an advance of no less than 600,000 francs. The advance, how- 
ever, was premature. The loan was not taken up and the shareholders were 
simply 600,000 francs out of pocket.-- The whole ugly racket ended dis- 
astrously for Reinach. Harassed by the blackmail of Herz he finally com- 
mitted suicide.-^ 

Shortly before his death, however, he had taken a step the consequences 
of which for French Jewry can scarcely be exaggerated. He had given the 
Libre Parole, Edouard Drumont's antisemitic daily, his list of suborned 
members of Parliament, the so-called "remittance men," imposing as the 
sole condition that the paper should cover up for him personally when it 
published its exposure. The Libre Parole was transformed overnight from 
a small and politically insignificant sheet into one of the most influential 
papers in the country, with 300,000 circulation. The golden opportunity 
proffered by Reinach was handled with consummate care and skill. The list 
of culprits was published in small installments so that hundreds of politicians 
had to live on tenterhooks morning after morning. Drumont's journal, and 
with it the entire antisemitic press and movement, emerged at last as a 
dangerous force in the Third Republic. 

The Panama scandal, which, in Drumont's phrase, rendered the invisible 
visible, brought with it two revelations. First, it disclosed that the members 
of Parliament and civil servants had become businessmen. Secondly, it 
showed that the intermediaries between private enterprise (in this case, 
the company) and the machinery of the state were almost exclusively Jews.^* 

20 Such, for instance, was the testimony of the former minister, Rouvier, before the 
Commission of Inquiry. 

21 Barres (quoted by Bemanos, op. cit., p. 271) puts the matter tersely: "Whenever 
Reinach had swallowed something, it was Cornelius Herz who knew how to make 
him disgorge it." 

"Cf. Frank, op. cit., in the chapter headed "Panama"; cf. Suarez, op. cit., p. 155. 

23 The quarrel between Reinach and Herz lends to the Panama scandal an air of 
gangsterism unusual in the nineteenth century. In his resistance to Herz's blackmail 
Reinach went so far as to recruit the aid of former police inspectors in placing a price 
of ten thousand francs on the head of his rival; cf. Suarez, op. cit., p. 157. 

2< Cf. Levaillant, "La Genese de I'antisemitisme sous la troisieme Republique," in 
Revue des etudes juives. Vol. LUX (1907), p. 97. 


What was most surprising was that all these Jews who worked in such an 
intimate relationship with the state machinery were newcomers. Up to the 
establishment of the Third Republic, the handling of the finances of the 
state had been pretty well monopolized by the Rothschilds. An attempt by 
their rivals, Pereires Brothers, to wrest part of it from their hands by estab- 
lishing the Credit Mobilier had ended in a compromise. And in 1882, the 
Rothschild group was still powerful enough to drive into bankruptcy the 
Catholic Union Generale, the real purpose of which had been to ruin Jewish 
bankers.-'^ Immediately after the conclusion of the peace treaty of 1871, 
whose financial provisions had been handled on the French side by Roth- 
schild and on the German side by Bleichroeder, a former agent of the house, 
the Rothschilds embarked on an unprecedented policy: they came out openly 
for the monarchists and against the republic.^^ What was new in this was 
not the monarchist trend but the fact that for the first time an important 
Jewish financial power set itself in opposition to the current regime. Up to 
that time the Rothschilds had accommodated themselves to whatever political 
system was in power. It seemed, therefore, that the republic was the first 
form of government that really had no use for them. 

Both the political influence and the social status of the Jews had for cen- 
turies been due to the fact that they were a closed group who worked directly 
for the state and were directly protected by it on account of their special 
services. Their close and immediate connection with the machinery of gov- 
ernment was possible only so long as the state remained at a distance from 
the people, while the ruling classes continued to be indifferent to its manage- 
ment. In such circumstances the Jews were, from the state's point of view, 
the most dependable element in society just because they did not really be- 
long to it. The parliamentary system allowed the liberal bourgeoisie to gain 
control of the state machine. To this bourgeoisie, however, the Jews had 
never belonged and they therefore regarded it with a not unwarranted sus- 
picion. The regime no longer needed the Jews as much as before, since it 
was now possible to achieve through Parliament a financial expansion be- 
yond the wildest dreams of the former more or less absolute or constitutional 
monarchs. Thus the leading Jewish houses gradually faded from the scene of 
finance politics and betook themselves more and more to the antisemitic 
salons of the aristocracy, there to dream of financing reactionary movements 
designed to restore the good old days." Meanwhile, however, other Jewish 
circles, newcomers among Jewish plutocrats, were beginning to take an in- 

25 See Bernard Lazare, Contre rAntisemitisme: histoire d'une polemique, Paris, 1896. 

28 On the complicity of the Haute Banque in the Orleanist movement see G. 
Charensol, op. cit. One of the spokesmen of this powerful group was Arthur Meyer, 
publisher of the Gaulois. A baptized Jew, Meyer belonged to the most virulent section 
of the Anti-Dreyfusards. See Clemenceau, "Le spectacle du jour," in L'Iniquite, 1899; 
see also the entries in Hohenlohe's diary, in Herzog, op. cit., under date of June 11, 

-^ On current leanings toward Bonapartism see Frank, op. cit., p. 419, based upon 
unpublished documents taken from the archives of the German ministry of foreign 


creasing part in the commercial life of the Third Republic. What the 
Rothschilds had almost forgotten and what had nearly cost them their 
power was the simple fact That once they withdrew, even for a moment, 
from active interest in a regime, they immediately lost their influence not 
only upon cabinet circles but upon the Jews. The Jewish immigrants were 
the first to see their chance.-"* They realized only too well that the republic, 
as it had developed, was not the logical sequel of a united people's uprising. 
Out of the slaughter of some 20,000 Communards, out of military defeat 
and economic collapse, what had in fact emerged was a regime whose 
capacity for government had been doubtful from its inception. So much, 
indeed, was this the case that within three years a society brought to the 
brink of ruin was clamoring for a dictator. And when it got one in President 
General MacMahon (whose only claim to distinction was his defeat at 
Sedan ) , that individual had promptly turned out to be a parliamentarian of 
the old school and after a few years (1879) resigned. Meanwhile, however, 
the various elements in society, from the opportunists to the radicals and 
from the coalitionists to the extreme right, had made up their minds what 
kind of policies they required from their representatives and what methods 
they ought to employ. The right policy was defense of vested interests and 
the right method was corruption.^^ After 1881, swindle (to quote Leon Say) 
became the only law. 

It has been justly observed that at this period of French history every 
political party had its Jew, in the same way that every royal household 
once had its court Jew.^° The difference, however, was profound. Investment 
of Jewish capital in the state had helped to give the Jews a productive role 
in the economy of Europe. Without their assistance the eighteenth-century 
development of the nation-state and its independent civil service would have 
been inconceivable. It was, after all, to these court Jews that Western Jewry 
owed its emancipation. The shady transactions of Reinach and his con- 
federates did not even lead to permanent riches. ^^ All they did was to shroud 

-** Jacques Reinach was born in Germany, received an Italian barony and was 
naturalized in France. Cornelius Herz was born in France, the son of Bavarian parents. 
Migrating to America in early youth, he acquired citizenship and amassed a fortune 
there. For further details, cf. Brogan, op. cit., p. 268 ff. 

Characteristic of the way in which native Jews disappeared from public office is the 
fact that as soon as the affairs of the Panama Company began to go badly, Levy- 
Cremieux, its original financial adviser, was replaced by Reinach; see Brogan, op. cit.. 
Book VI, chapter 2. 

2" Georges Lachapelle, Les Finances de la Troisieme Republique, Paris, 1937, pp. 
54 ff., describes in detail how the bureaucracy gained control of public funds and 
how the Budget Commission was governed entirely by private interests. 

With regard to the economic status of members of Parliament cf. Bernanos, op. cit., 
p. 192: "Most of them, like Gambetta, lacked even a change of underclothes." 

30 As Frank remarks (op. cit.. pp. 321 ff.), the right had its Arthur Meyer, Bou- 
langerism its Alfred Naquet, the opportunists their Reinachs, and the Radicals their 
Dr. Cornelius Herz. 

*i To these newcomers Drumont's charge applies (Les Tretaiix du succes, Paris, 
1901, p. 237): "Those great Jews who start from nothing and attain everything . . . 
they come from God knows where, live in a mystery, die in a guess. . . . They don't 
arrive, they jump up. . . . They don't die, they fade out." 


in even deeper darkness the mysterious and scandalous relations between 
business and politics. These parasites upon a corrupt body served to provide 
a thoroughly decadent society with an exceedingly dangerous alibi. Since 
they were Jews it was possible to make scapegoats of them when public 
indignation had to be allayed. Afterwards things could go on the same old 
way. The antisemites could at once point to the Jewish parasites on a cor- 
rupt society in order to "prove" that all Jews everywhere were nothing but 
termites in the otherwise healthy body of the people. It did not matter to 
them that the corruption of the body politic had started without the help of 
Jews; that the policy of businessmen (in a bourgeois society to which Jews 
had not belonged) and their ideal of unlimited competition had led to the 
disintegration of the state in party politics; that the ruling classes had proved 
incapable any longer of protecting their own interests, let alone those of 
the country as a whole. The antisemites who called themselves patriots 
introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in 
a complete whitewash of one's own people and a sweeping condemnation 
of all others. 

The Jews could remain a separate group outside of society only so long 
as a more or less homogeneous and stable state machine had a use for them 
and was interested in protecting them. The decay of the state machine 
brought about the dissolution of the closed ranks of Jewry, which had so 
long been bound up with it. The first sign of this appeared in the affairs 
conducted by newly naturalized French Jews over whom their native-born 
brethren had lost control in much the same way as occurred in the Ger- 
many of the inflation period. The newcomers filled the gaps between the 
commercial world and the state. 

Far more disastrous was another process which likewise began at this 
time and which was imposed from above. The dissolution of the state into 
factions, while it disrupted the closed society of the Jews, did not force 
them into a vacuum in which they could go on vegetating outside of state 
and society. For that the Jews were too rich and, at a time when money 
was one of the salient requisites of power, too powerful. Rather did they 
tend to become absorbed into the variety of social "sets," in accordance with 
their political leanings or, more frequently, their social connections. This, 
however, did not lead to their disappearance. On the contrary, they main- 
tained certain relations with the state machine and continued, albeit in a 
crucially different form, to manipulate the business of the state. Thus, despite 
their known opposition to the Third Republic, it was none other than the 
Rothschilds who undertook the placement of the Russian loan while Arthur 
Meyer, though baptized and an avowed monarchist, was among those in- 
volved in the Panama scandal. This meant that the newcomers in French 
Jewry who formed the principal links between private commerce and the 
machinery of government were followed by the native-born. But if the Jews 
had previously constituted a strong, close-knit group, whose usefulness for 
the state was obvious, they were now split up into cliques, mutually antag- 
onistic but all bent on the same purpose of helping society to batten on the 



III: Army and Clergy Against the Republic 

SEEMINGLY REMOVED ffom all such factofs, Seemingly immune from all 
corruption, stood the army, a heritage from the Second Empire. The re- 
public had never dared to dominate it, even when monarchistic sympathies 
and intrigues came to open expression in the Boulanger crisis. The officer 
class consisted then as before of the sons of those old aristocratic families 
whose ancestors, as emigres, had fought against their fatherland during the 
revolutionary wars. These officers were strongly under the influence of the 
clergy who ever since the Revolution had made a point of supporting re- 
actionary and antirepublican movements. Their influence was perhaps 
equally strong over those officers who were of somewhat lower birth but 
who hoped, as a result of the Church's old practice of marking talent without 
regard to pedigree, to gain promotion with the help of the clergy. 

In contrast to the shifting and fluid cliques of society and Parliament, 
where admission was easy and allegiance fickle, stood the rigorous exclusive- 
ness of the army, so characteristic of the caste system. It was neither mili- 
tary life, professional honor, nor esprit de corps that held its officers together 
to form a reactionary bulwark against the republic and against all democratic 
influences; it was simply the tie of caste." The refusal of the state to democ- 
ratize the army and to subject it to the civil authorities entailed remarkable 
consequences. It made the army an entity outside of the nation and created 
an armed power whose loyalties could be turned in directions which none 
could foretell. That this caste-ridden power, if but left to itself, was neither 
for nor against anyone is shown clearly by the story of the almost burlesque 
coups d'etat in which, despite statements to the contrary, it was really un- 
willing to take part. Even its notorious monarchism was, in the final analysis, 
nothing but an excuse for preserving itself as an independent interest-group, 
ready to defend its privileges "without regard to and in despite of, even 
against the republic." '-^ Contemporary journalists and later historians have 
made valiant efforts to explain the conflict between military and civil powers 
during the Dreyfus Affair in terms of an antagonism between "businessmen 
and soldiers." " We know today, however, how unjustified is this indirectly 
antiscmitic interpretation. The intelligence department of the General Staff 
were themselves reasonably expert at business. Were they not trafficking as 

^- See the excellent anonymous article, "The Dreyfus Case: A Study of French 
Opinion." in The Contemporary Review, Vol. LXXIV (October, 1898). 

^3 See Luxemburg, loc. cil.: "The reason the army was reluctant to make a move 
was that it wanted to show its opposition to the civil power of the republic, without 
at the same time losing the force of that opposition by committing itself to a monarchy." 

3* It is under this caption that Maximilian Harden (a German Jew) described the 
Dreyfus case in Die Zukunjt (1898). Walter Frank, the antisemitic historian, employs 
the same slogan in the heading of his chapter on Dreyfus while Bernanos {op. cit., 
p. 413) remarks in the same vein that "rightly or wrongly, democracy sees in the mili- 
tary its most dangerous rival." 


openly in forged bordereaux and selling them as nonchalantly to foreign 
military attaches as a leather merchant might traffic in skins and then become 
President of the Republic, or the son-in-law of the President traffic in honors 
and distinctions? ^^ Indeed, the zeal of Schwartzkoppen, the German attache, 
who was anxious to discover more military secrets than France had to hide, 
must have been a positive source of embarrassment to these gentlemen of 
the counterespionage service who, after all, could sell no more than they 

It was the great mistake of Catholic politicians to imagine that, in pursuit 
of their European policy, they could make use of the French army simply 
because it appeared to be antirepublican. The Church was, in fact, slated 
to pay for this error with the loss of its entire political influence in France.^" 
When the department of intelligence finally emerged as a common fake 
factory, as Esterhazy, who was in a position to know, described the Deuxieme 
Bureau," no one in France, not even the army, was so seriously compro- 
mised as the Church. Toward the end of the last century the Catholic clergy 
had been seeking to recover its old political power in just those quarters 
where, for one or another reason, secular authority was on the wane among 
the people. Cases in point were those of Spain, where a decadent feudal 
aristocracy had brought about the economic and cultural ruin of the coun- 
try, and Austria-Hungary, where a conflict of nationalities was threatening 
daily to disrupt the state. And such too was the case in France, where the 
nation appeared to be sinking fast into the slough of conflicting interests.^® 
The army — left in a political vacuum by the Third Republic — gladly ac- 
cepted the guidance of the Catholic clergy which at least provided for civilian 
leadership without which the military lose their "raison d'etre (which) is to 
defend the principle embodied in civilian society" — as Clemenceau put it. 

The Catholic Church then owed its popularity to the widespread popular 
skepticism which saw in the republic and in democracy the loss of all order, 
security, and political will. To many the hierarchic system of the Church 
seemed the only escape from chaos. Indeed, it was this, rather than any 
religious revivahsm, which caused the clergy to be held in respect. ^^ As a 
matter of fact, the staunchest supporters of the Church at that period were 
the exponents of that so-called "cerebral" Catholicism, the "Cafliolics with- 
out faith," who were henceforth to dominate the entire monarchist and ex- 

35 The Panama scandal was preceded by the so-called "Wilson affair." The Presi- 
dent's son-in-law was found conducting an open traffic in honors and decorations. 

38 See Father Edouard Lecanuet, Les Signes avant-coureurs de la separation, 1894- 
1910, Paris, 1930. 

3" See Bruno Weil, L'Affaire Dreyfus, Paris, 1930, p. 169. 

38 Cf. Clemenceau, "La Croisade," op. cit.: "Spain is writhing under the yoke 
of the Roman Church. Italy appears to have succumbed. The only countries left are 
Catholic Austria, already in her death-struggle, and the France of the Revolution, 
against which the papal hosts are even now deployed." 

39 Cf. Bernanos, op. cit., p. 152: "The point cannot be sufficiently repeated: the 
real beneficiaries of that movement of reaction which followed the fall of the empire 
and the defeat were the clergy. Thanks to them national reaction assumed after 1873 
the character of a religious revival." 


treme nationalist movement. Without believing in their other-worldly basis, 
these "Catholics" clamored for more power to all authoritarian institutions. 
This, indeed, had been the line first laid down by Drumont and later endorsed 
by Maurras/** 

The large majority of the Catholic clergy, deeply involved in political 
maneuvers, followed a policy of accommodation. In this, as the Dreyfus 
Affair makes clear, they were conspicuously successful. Thus, when Victor 
Basch took up the cause for a retrial his house at Rennes was stormed under 
the leadership of three priests," while no less distinguished a figure than the 
Dominican Father Didon called on the students of the College D'Arcueil 
to "draw the sword, terrorize, cut off heads and run amok." "'- Similar too 
was the outlook of the three hundred lesser clerics who immortalized them- 
selves in the "Henry Memorial," as the Libre Parole's list of subscribers to a 
fund for the benefit of Madame Henry (widow of the Colonel who had com- 
mitted suicide while in prison ") was called, and which certainly is a monu- 
ment for all time to the shocking corruption of the upper classes of the 
French people at that date. During the period of the Dreyfus crisis it was 
not her regular clergy, not her ordinary reUgious orders, and certainly not 
her homines religiosi who influenced the political line of the Catholic Church. 
As far as Europe was concerned, her reactionary policies in France, Austria, 
and Spain, as well as her support of antisemitic trends in Vienna, Paris, and 
Algiers were probably an immediate consequence of Jesuit influence. It was 
the Jesuits who had always best represented, both in the written and spoken 
word, the antisemitic school of the Catholic clergy.** This is largely the 
consequence of their statutes according to which each novice must prove that 
he has no Jewish blood back to the fourth generation.*^ And since the be- 
ginning of the nineteenth century the direction of the Church's international 
policy had passed into their hands.** 

«> On Drumont and the origin of "cerebral Catholicism," see Bernanos, op. cit., 
pp. 127 ff. 

*' Cf. Herzog, op. cit., under date of January 21, 1898. 

*2 See Lecanuet, op. cit., p. 182. 

*3 See above, note 10. 

** The Jesuits' magazine Civilta Cattolica was for decades the most outspokenly 
antisemitic and one of the most influential Catholic magazines in the world. It carried 
anti-Jewish propaganda long before Italy went Fascist, and its policy was not affected 
by the anti-Christian attitude of the Nazis. See Joshua Starr, "Italy's Antisemites," in 
Jewish Social Studies, 1939. 

According to L. Koch, SJ.: "Of all orders, the Society of Jesus through its con- 
stitution is best protected against any Jewish influences." In Jesuiten-Lexikon, Pader- 
born, 1934, article "Juden." 

<•'• Originally, according to the Convention of 1593, all Christians of Jewish descent 
were excluded. A decree of 1608 stipulated reinvestigations back to the fifth generation; 
the last provision of 1923 reduced this to four generations. These requirements can be 
waived oy the chief of the order in individual cases. 

<6Cf. H. Boehmer, Les Jesuites, translated from the German, Paris, 1910, p. 284: 
"Since 1820 ... no such thing as independent national churches able to resist the 
Jesuit-dictated orders of the Pope has existed. The higher clergy of our day have pitched 
their tents in front of the Holy See and the Church has become what Bellarmin, the 


We have already observed how the dissolution of the state machinery 
facilitated the entry of the Rothschilds into the circles of the antisemitic 
aristocracy. The fashionable set of Faubourg Saint-Germain opened its 
doors not only to a few ennobled Jews, but their baptized sycophants, the 
antisemitic Jews, were also suffered to drift in as well as complete new- 
comers.*^ Curiously enough, the Jews of Alsace, who like the Dreyfus family 
had moved to Paris following the cession of that territory, took an especially 
prominent part in this social climb. Their exaggerated patriotism came out 
most markedly in the way they strove to dissociate themselves from Jewish 
immigrants. The Dreyfus family belonged to that section of French Jewry 
which sought to assimilate by adopting its own brand of antisemitism.** 
This adjustment to the French aristocracy had one inevitable result: the 
Jews tried to launch their sons upon the same higher military careers as 
were pursued by those of their new-found friends. It was here that the first 
cause of friction arose. The admission of the Jews into high society had 
been relatively peaceful. The upper classes, despite their dreams of a restored 
monarchy, were a politically spineless lot and did not bother unduly one 
way or the other. But when the Jews began seeking equality in the army, 
they came face to face with the determined opposition of the Jesuits who 
were not prepared to tolerate the existence of officers immune to the influence 
of the confessional." Moreover, they came up against an inveterate caste 
spirit, which the easy atmosphere of the salons had led them to forget, a 
caste spirit which, already strengthened by tradition and calling, was still 
further fortified by uncompromising hostility to the Third Republic and 
to the civil administration. 

A modern historian has described the struggle between Jews and Jesuits 
as a "struggle between two rivals," in which the "higher Jesuit clergy and 
the Jewish plutocracy stood facing one another in the middle of France hke 
two invisible lines of battle." ^° The description is true insofar as the Jews 

great Jesuit controversialist, always demanded it should become, an absolute monarchy 
whose policies can be directed by the Jesuits and whose development can be deter- 
mined by pressing a button." 

*" Cf. Clemenceau, "Le spectacle du jour," in op. cit.: "Rothschild, friend of the 
entire antisemitic nobility ... of a piece with Arthur Meyer, who is more papist 
than the Pope." 

*8 On the Alsatian Jews, to whom Dreyfus belonged, see Andre Foucault, Un 
nouvel aspect de V Affaire Dreyfus, in Les Oeuvres Libres, 1938, p. 310: "In the eyes 
of the Jewish bourgeoisie of Paris they were the incarnation of nationalist raideur . . . 
that attitude of distant disdain which the gentry affects towards its parvenu co-religion- 
ists. Their desire to assimilate completely to Gallic modes, to live on intimate terms 
with our old-established families, to occupy the most distinguished positions in the 
state, and the contempt which they showed for the commercial elements of Jewry, 
for the recently naturalized 'Polaks' of Galicia, gave them almost the appearance of 
traitors against their own race. . . . The Dreyfuses of 1894? Why, they were anti- 

40 Cf. "K.V.T." in The Contemporary Review. LXXIV, 598: "By the will of the 
democracy all Frenchmen are to be soldiers; by the will of the Church Catholics only 
are to hold the chief commands." 

so Herzog, op. cit., p. 35. 


found in the Jesuits their first unappeasable foes, while the latter came 
promptly to realize how powerful a weapon antisemitism could be. This 
was the first attempt and the only one prior to Hitler to exploit the "major 
political concept" " of antisemitism on a Pan-European scale. On the other 
hand, however, if it is assumed that the struggle was one of two equally 
matched "rivals" the description is palpably false. The Jews sought no 
higher degree of power than was being wielded by any of the other cliques 
into which the republic had split. All they desired at the time was sufficient 
influence to pursue their social and business interests. They did not aspire to 
a political share in the management of the state. The only organized group 
who sought that were the Jesuits. The trial of Dreyfus was preceded by a 
number of incidents which show how resolutely and energetically the Jews 
tried to gain a place in the army and how common, even at that time, was 
the hostility toward them. Constantly subjected to gross insult, the few 
Jewish officers there were were obliged always to fight duels while Gentile 
comrades were unwilling to act as their seconds. It is, indeed, in this con- 
nection that the infamous Esterhazy first comes upon the scene as an excep- 
tion to the rule." 

It has always remained somewhat obscure whether the arrest and con- 
demnation of Dreyfus was simply a judicial error which just happened by 
chance to light up a political conflagration, or whether the General Staff 
deliberately planted the forged bordereau for the express purpose of at last 
branding a Jew as a traitor. In favor of the latter hypothesis is the fact that 
Dreyfus was the first Jew to find a post on the General Staff and under exist- 
ing conditions this could only have aroused not merely annoyance but posi- 
tive fury and consternation. In any case anti-Jewish hatred was unleashed 
even before the verdict was returned. Contrary to custom, which demanded 
the withholding of all information in a spy case still sub iudice, officers of 
the General Staff cheerfully supplied the Libre Parole with details of the case 
and the name of the accused. Apparently they feared lest Jewish influence 
with the government lead to a suppression of the trial and a stifling of the 
whole business. Some show of plausibility was afforded these fears by the 
fact that certain circles of French Jewry were known at the time to be 
seriously concerned about the precarious situation of Jewish officers. 

"> Cf. Bernanos, op. cit., p. 151: "So, shorn of ridiculous hyperbole, antisemitism 
showed itself for what it really is: not a mere piece of crankiness, a mental quirk, 
but a major political concept." 

=•- See Esterhazy's letter of July, 1894, to Edmond de Rothschild, quoted by J. 
Reinach, op. cit., II, 53 ff.: "I did not hesitate when Captain Cremieux could find no 
Christian officer to act as his second." Cf. T. Reinach, Histoire sommaire de I'Affaire 
Dreyfus, pp. 60 ff. See also Herzog, op. cit., under date of 1892 and June, 1894, where 
these duels are listed in detail and all of Esterhazy's intermediaries named. The last 
occasion was in September, 1896, when he received 10,000 francs. This misplaced 
generosity was later to have disquieting results. When, from the comfortable security 
of England. Esterhazy at length made his revelations and thereby compelled a revision 
of the case, the antisemitic press naturally suggested that he had been paid by the 
Jews for his self-condemnation. The idea is still advanced as a major argument in 
favor of Dreyfus' guilt. 


It must also be remembered that the Panama scandal was then fresh in 
the public mind and that following the Rothschild loan to Russia distrust of 
the Jews had grown considerably.^^ War Minister Mercier was not only 
lauded by the bourgeois press at every fresh turn of the trial but even Jaures' 
paper, the organ of the socialists, congratulated him on "having opposed the 
formidable pressure of corrupt politicians and high finance." ^* Character- 
istically this encomium drew from the Libre Parole the unstinted commenda- 
tion, "Bravo, Jaures!" Two years later, when Bernard Lazare published his 
first pamphlet on the miscarriage of justice, Jaures' paper carefully refrained 
from discussing its contents but charged the sociaUst author with being an 
admirer of Rothschild and probably a paid agent." Similarly, as late as 1897, 
when the fight for Dreyfus' reinstatement had already begun, Jaures could 
see nothing in it but the conflict of two bourgeois groups, the opportunists 
and the clerics. Finally, even after the Rennes retrial Wilhelm Liebknecht, 
the German Social Democrat, still believed in the guilt of Dreyfus because 
he could not imagine that a member of the upper classes could ever be the 
victim of a false verdict.^^ 

The skepticism of the radical and socialist press, strongly colored as it 
was by anti-Jewish feelings, was strengthened by the bizarre tactics of the 
Dreyfus family in its attempt to secure a retrial. In trying to save an inno- 
cent man they employed the very methods usually adopted in the case of a 
guilty one. They stood in mortal terror of publicity and relied exclusively on 
back-door maneuvers." They were lavish with their cash and treated Lazare, 
one of their most valuable helpers and one of the greatest figures in the case, 
as if he were their paid agent.^^ Clemenceau, Zola, Picquard, and Labori — to 

53 Herzog, op. cit., under date of 1892 shows at length how the Rothschilds began 
to adapt themselves to the republic. Curiously enough the papal policy of coalitionism, 
which represents an attempt at rapprochement by the Catholic Church, dates from 
precisely the same year. It is therefore not impossible that the Rothschild line was 
influenced by the clergy. As for the loan of 500 million francs to Russia, Count 
Miinster pertinently observed: "Speculation is dead in France. . . . The capitalists 
can find no way of negotiating their securities . . . and this will contribute to the 
success of the loan. . . . The big Jews believe that if they make money they will best 
be able to help their small-time brethren. The result is that, though the French market 
is glutted with Russian securities, Frenchmen are still giving good francs for bad 
roubles"; Herzog, ibid. 

" Cf. J. Reinach, op. cit., I, 471. 

65 Cf. Herzog, op. cit., p. 212. 

56 Cf. Max J. Kohler, "Some New Light on the Dreyfus Case," in Studies in Jewish 
Bibliography and Related Subjects in Memory of A. S. Freidus, New York, 1929. 

57 The Dreyfus family, for instance, summarily rejected the suggestion of Arthur 
Levy, the writer, and Levy-Bruhl, the scholar, that they should circulate a petition of 
protest among all leading figures of public life. Instead they embarked on a series of 
personal approaches to any politician with whom they happened to have contact; 
cf. Dutrait-Crozon, op. cit., p. 51. See also Foucault, op. cit., p. 309: "At this distance, 
one may wonder at the fact that the French Jews, instead of working on the papers 
secretly, did not give adequate and open expression to their indignation." 

58 Cf. Herzog, op. cit., under date of December, 1894 and January, 1898. See also 
Charensol, op. cit., p. 79, and Charles Peguy, "Le Portrait de Bernard Lazare," in 
Cahiers de la quinzaine, Series XI, No. 2 (1910). 


name but the more active of the Dreyfusards — could in the end only save 
their good names by dissociating their efforts, with greater or less fuss and 
publicity, from the more concrete aspects of the issue. ^^ 

There was only one basis on which Dreyfus could or should have been 
saved. The intrigues of a corrupt Parliament, the dry rot of a collapsing 
society, and the clergy's lust for power should have been met squarely with 
the stern Jacobin concept of the nation based upon human rights — that 
republican view of communal life which asserts that (in the words of 
Clcmenceau) by infringing on the rights of one you infringe on the rights 
of all. To rely on Parliament or on society was to lose the fight before be- 
ginning it. For one thing the resources of Jewry were in no way superior 
to those of the rich Catholic bourgeoisie; for another all of the higher strata 
of society, from the clerical and aristocratic families of the Faubourg Saint- 
Germain to the anticlerical and radical petty bourgeoisie, were only too 
willing to see the Jews formally removed from the body pohtic. In this way, 
they reckoned, they would be able to purge themselves of possible taint. 
The loss of Jewish social and commercial contacts seemed to them a price 
well worth paying. Similarly, as the utterances of Jaures indicate, the Affair 
was regarded by Parliament as a golden opportunity for rehabilitating, or 
rather regaining, its time-honored reputation for incorruptibility. Last, but 
by no means least, in the countenancing of such slogans as "Death to the 
Jews" or "France for the French" an almost magic formula was discovered 
for reconciling the masses to the existent state of government and society. 

rv: The People and the Mob 

IF IT IS the common error of our time to imagine that propaganda can achieve 
all things and that a man can be talked into anything provided the talking is 
sufficiently loud and cunning, in that period it was commonly believed that 
the "voice of the people was the voice of God," and that the task of a leader 
was, as Clemenceau so scornfully expressed it,^° to follow that voice shrewdly. 

»» Labori's withdrawal, after Dreyfus' family bad hurriedly withdrawn the brief 
from him while the Rennes tribunal was still sitting, caused a major scandal. An ex- 
haustive, if greatly exaggerated, account will be found in Frank, op. cit., p. 432. 
Labori's own statement, which speaks eloquently for his nobility of character, ap- 
peared in La Grande Revue (February, 1900). After what had happened to his 
counsel and friend Zola at once broke relations with the Dreyfus family. As for 
Picquard, the Echo de Paris (November 30, 1901) reported that after Rennes he 
had nothing more to do with the Dreyfuses. Clemenceau in face of the fact that the 
whole of France, or even the whole world, grasped the real meaning of the trials 
better than the accused or his family, was more inclined to consider the incident 
humorous; cf. Weil, op. cit., pp. 307-8. 

«oCf. Clemenceau's article, February 2, 1898, in op. cit. On the futility of trying 
to win the workers with antisemitic slogans and especially on the attempts of Leon 
Daudet, see the Royalist writer Dimier, Vingt ans d'Action Frangaise, Paris, 1926. 


Both views go back to the same fundamental error of regarding the mob as 
identical with rather than as a caricature of the people. 

The mob is primarily a group in which the residue of all classes are repre- 
sented. This makes it so easy to mistake the mob for the people, which also 
comprises all strata of society. While the people in all great revolutions 
fight for true representation, the mob always will shout for the "strong 
man," the "great leader." For the mob hates society from which it is excluded, 
as well as Parliament where it is not represented. Plebiscites, therefore, with 
which modern mob leaders have obtained such excellent results, are an old 
concept of politicians who rely upon the mob. One of the more intelligent 
leaders of the Anti-Dreyfusards, Deroulede, clamored for a "Republic 
through plebiscite." 

High society and politicians of the Third Republic had produced the 
French mob in a series of scandals and public frauds. They now felt a tender 
sentiment of parental familiarity with their offspring, a feeling mixed with 
admiration and fear. The least society could do for its offspring was to pro- 
tect it verbally. While the mob actually stormed Jewish shops and assailed 
Jews in the streets, the language of high society made real, passionate vio- 
lence look like harmless child's play.''^ The most important of the con- 
temporary documents in this respect is the "Henry Memorial" and the 
various solutions it proposed to the Jewish question: Jews were to be torn 
to pieces like Marsyas in the Greek myth; Reinach ought to be boiled aUve; 
Jews should be stewed in oil or pierced to death with needles; they should 
be "circumcised up to the neck." One group of officers expressed great im- 
patience to try out a new type of gun on the 100,000 Jews in the country. 
Among the subscribers were more than 1,000 officers, including four gen- 
erals in active service, and the minister of war, Mercier. The relatively large 
number of intellectuals ^- and even of Jews in the list is surprising. The upper 
classes knew that the mob was flesh of their flesh and blood of their blood. 
Even a Jewish historian of the time, although he had seen with his own eyes 
that Jews are no longer safe when the mob rules the street, spoke with secret 
admiration of the "great collective movement." ^^ This only shows how 
deeply most Jews were rooted in a society which was attempting to eUminate 

If Bemanos, with reference to the Dreyfus Affair, describes antisemitism 
as a major political concept, he is undoubtedly right with respect to the mob. 

^1 Very characteristic in this respect are the various depictions of contemporary 
society in J. Reinach, op. cit., I, 233 ff.; Ill, 141: "Society hostesses fell in step with 
Guerin. Their language (which scarcely outran their thoughts) would have struck 
horror in the Amazon of Damohey . . ." Of special interest in this connection is an 
article by Andre Chevrillon, "Huit Jours a Rennes," in La Grande Revue, February, 
1900. He relates, inter alia, the following revealing incident: "A physician speaking to 
some friends of mine about Dreyfus, chanced to remark, 'I'd like to torture him.' 'And 
I wish,' rejoined one of the ladies, 'that he were innocent. Then he'd suffer more.' " 

"2 The intellectuals include, strangely enough, Paul Valery, who contributed three 
francs "non sans reflexion." 

63 J. Reinach, op. cit., I, 233. 


It had been tried out previously in Berlin and Vienna, by Ahlwardt and 
Stoecker, by Schoenerer and Lueger, but nowhere was its efficacy more 
clearly proved than in France. There can be no doubt that in the eyes of 
the mob the Jews came to serve as an object lesson for all the things they 
detested. If they hated society they could point to the way in which the Jews 
were tolerated within it; and if they hated the government they could point 
to the way in which the Jews had been protected by or were identifiable with 
the state. While it is a mistake to assume that the mob preys only on Jews, 
the Jews must be accorded first place among its favorite victims. 

E.xcluded as it is from society and political representation, the mob turns 
of necessity to extraparliamentary action. Moreover, it is inclined to seek 
the real forces of political life in those movements and influences which are 
hidden from view and work behind the scenes. There can be no doubt that 
during the nineteenth century Jewry fell into this category, as did Free- 
masonry (especially in Latin countries) and the Jesuits."* It is, of course, 
utterly untrue that any of these groups really constituted a secret society 
bent on dominating the world by means of a gigantic conspiracy. Neverthe- 
less, it is true that their influence, however overt it may have been, was 
exerted beyond the formal realm of politics, operating on a large scale in 
lobbies, lodges, and the confessional. Ever since the French Revolution these 
three groups have shared the doubtful honor of being, in the eyes of the 
European mob, the pivotal point of world politics. During the Dreyfus crisis 
each was able to exploit this popular notion by hurling at the other charges 
of conspiring to world domination. The slogan, "secret Judah," is due, no 
doubt, to the inventiveness of certain Jesuits, who chose to see in the first 
Zionist Congress (1897) the core of a Jewish world conspiracy.*'^ Similarly, 
the concept of "secret Rome" is due to the anticlerical Freemasons and per- 
haps to the indiscriminate slanders of some Jews as well. 

The fickleness of the mob is proverbial, as the opponents of Dreyfus were 
to learn to their sorrow when, in 1899, the wind changed and the small 
group of true republicans, headed by Clemenceau, suddenly realized, with 
mixed feelings, that a section of the mob had rallied to their side.^" In some 
eyes the two parties to the great controversy now seemed like "two rival 
gangs of charlatans squabbling for recognition by the rabble" ''^ while actually 
the voice of the Jacobin Clemenceau had succeeded in bringing back one 
part of the French people to their greatest tradition. Thus the great scholar, 
Emile Duclaux, could write: "In this drama played before a whole people 

^* A study of European superstition would probably show that Jews became objects 
of this typically nineteenth-century brand of superstition fairly late. They were preceded 
by the Rosicrucians, Templars, Jesuits, and Freemasons. The treatment of nineteenth- 
century history suffers greatly from the lack of such a study. 

o^-See "II caso Dreyfus," in Civiltd CattoUca (February 5, 1898). — Among the 
exceptions to the foregoing statement the most notable is the Jesuit Pierre Charles 
Louvain, who has denounced the "Protocols." 

«« Cf. Martin du Card, Jean Barois, pp. 272 ff., and Daniel Halevy, in Cahiers de 
la quinzaine. Series XI, cahier 10, Paris, 1910. 

8^Cf. Georges Sorel, La Revolution dreyfusienne, Paris, 1911, pp. 70-71. 


and so worked up by the press that the whole nation ultimately took part 
in it, we see the chorus and anti-chorus of the ancient tragedy railing at each 
other. The scene is France and the theater is the world." 

Led by the Jesuits and aided by the mob the army at last stepped into 
the fray confident of victory. Counterattack from the civil power had been 
effectively forestalled. The antisemitic press had stopped men's mouths by 
publishing Reinach's lists of the deputies involved in the Panama scandal.^* 
Everything suggested an effortless triumph. The society and the politicians 
of the Third Republic, its scandals and affairs, had created a new class of 
declasses; they could not be expected to fight against their own product; on 
the contrary, they were to adopt the language and outlook of the mob. 
Through the army the Jesuits would gain the upper hand over the corrupt 
civil power and the way would thus be paved for a bloodless coup d'etat. 

So long as there was only the Dreyfus family trying with bizarre methods 
to rescue their kinsman from Devil's Island, and so long as there were only 
Jews concerned about their standing in the antisemitic salons and the still 
more antisemitic army, everything certainly pointed that way. Obviously 
there was no reason to expect an attack on the army or on society from that 
quarter. Was not the sole desire of the Jews to continue to be accepted in 
society and suffered in the armed forces? No one in military or civilian 
circles needed to suffer a sleepless night on their account.*'^ It was discon- 
certing, therefore, when it transpired that in the intelligence office of the 
General Staff there sat a high officer, who, though possessed of a good 
Catholic background, excellent military prospects, and the "proper" degree 
of antipathy toward the Jews, had yet not adopted the principle that the end 
justifies the means. Such a man, utterly divorced from social clannishness 
or professional ambition, was Picquard, and of this simple, quiet, politically 
disinterested spirit the General Staff was soon to have its fill. Picquard was 
no hero and certainly no martyr. He was simply that common type of citizen 
with an average interest in public affairs who in the hour of danger (though 
not a minute earlier) stands up to defend his country in the same unques- 
tioning way as he discharges his daily dutiesJ" Nevertheless, the cause only 

68 To what extent the hands of members of Parliament were tied is shown by the 
case of Scheurer-Kestner, one of their better elements and vice-president of the senate. 
No sooner had he entered his protest against the trial than Libre Parole proclaimed 
the fact that his son-in-law had been involved in the Panama scandal. See Herzog, 
op. cit., under date of November, 1897. 

69 Cf. Brogan, op. cit., Book VII, ch. 1 : "The desire to let the matter rest was not 
uncommon among French Jews, especially among the richer French Jews." 

^0 Immediately after he had made his discoveries Picquard was banished to a dan- 
gerous post in Tunis. Thereupon he made his will, exposed the whole business, and 
deposited a copy of the document with his lawyer. A few months later, when it was 
discovered that he was still alive, a deluge of mysterious letters came pouring in, 
compromising him and accusing him of complicity with che "traitor" Dreyfus. He was 
treated like a gangster who had threatened to "squeal." When all this proved of no 
avail, he was arrested, drummed out of the array, and divested of his decorations, all 
of which he endured with quiet equaoimity. 


grew serious when, after several delays and hesitations, Clemenceau at last 
became convinced that Dreyfus was innocent and the republic in danger. 
At the beginning of the struggle only a handful of well-known writers and 
scholars rallied to the cause, Zola, Anatole France, E. Duclaux, Gabriel 
Monod, the historian, and Lucien Herr, librarian of the Ecole Normalc. To 
these must be added the small and then insignificant circle of young intel- 
lectuals who were later to make history in the Cahiers de la quinzaine.''^ 
That, however, was the full roster of Clemenceau's allies. There was no 
political group, not a single politician of repute, ready to stand at his side. 
The greatness of Clemenceau's approach lies in the fact that it was not 
directed against a particular miscarriage of justice, but was based upon such 
"abstract" ideas as justice, liberty, and civic virtue. It was based, in short, 
on those very concepts which had formed the staple of old-time Jacobin 
patriotism and against which much mud and abuse had already been hurled. 
As time wore on and Clemenceau continued, unmoved by threats and dis- 
appointments, to enunciate the same truths and to embody them in demands, 
the more "concrete" nationalists lost ground. Followers of men like Barres, 
who had accused the supporters of Dreyfus of losing themselves in a "welter 
of metaphysics," came to realize that the abstractions of the "Tiger" were 
actually nearer to political realities than the limited intelligence of ruined 
businessmen or the barren traditionalism of fatalistic intellectuals.'^^ Where 
the concrete approach of the realistic nationalists eventually led them is 
illustrated by the priceless story of how Charles Maurras had "the honor 
and pleasure," after the defeat of France, of falling in during his flight to 
the south with a female astrologer who interpreted to him the political mean- 
ing of recent events and advised him to collaborate with the Nazis. ^^ 

Although antisemitism had undoubtedly gained ground during the three 
years following the arrest of Dreyfus, before the opening of Clemenceau's 
campaign, and although the anti-Jewish press had attained a circulation 
comparable to that of the chief papers, the streets had remained quiet. It 
was only when Clemenceau began his articles in L'Aiirore, when Zola pub- 
lished his J' Accuse, and when the Rennes tribunal set off the dismal suc- 
cession of trials and retrials that the mob stirred into action. Every stroke of 
the Dreyfusards (who were known to be a small minority) was followed 
by a more or less violent disturbance on the streets.^* The organization of 
the mob by the General Staff was remarkable. The trail leads straight from 

TiTo this group, led by Charles Peguy, belonged the youthful Romain Rolland, 
Suarez, Georges Sorel, Daniel Halcvy, and Bernard Lazare. 

'- Cf. M. Barres, Scenes et doctrines du nationalisme, Paris, 1899. 

'^ See Yves Simon, op. cit., pp. 54-55. 

"<* The faculty rooms of Rennes University were wrecked after five professors had 
declared themselves in favor of a retrial. After the appearance of Zola's first article 
Royalist students demonstrated outside the offices of Figaro, after which the paper 
desisted from further articles of the same type. The publisher of the pro-Dreyfus 
La Bataille was beaten up on the street. The judges of the Court of Cassation, which 
finally set aside the verdict of 1894, reported unanimously that they had been threat- 
ened with "unlawful assault." Examples could be multiplied. 


the army to the Libre Parole which, directly or indirectly, through its articles 
or the personal intervention of its editors, mobilized students, monarchists, 
adventurers, and plain gangsters and pushed them into the streets. If Zola 
uttered a word, at once his windows were stoned. If Scheurer-Kestner wrote 
to the colonial minister, he was at once beaten up on the streets while the 
papers made scurrilous attacks on his private life. And all accounts agree 
that if Zola, when once charged, had been acquitted he would never have 
left the courtroom alive. 

The cry, "Death to the Jews," swept the country. In Lyon, Rennes, 
Nantes, Tours, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrant, and Marseille — everywhere, 
in fact — antisemitic riots broke out and were invariably traceable to the 
same source. Popular indignation broke out everywhere on the same day 
and at precisely the same hour." Under the leadership of Guerin the mob 
took on a military complexion. Antisemitic shock troops appeared on the 
streets and made certain that every pro-Dreyfus meeting should end in blood- 
shed. The complicity of the pohce was everywhere patent.^^ 

The most modern figure on the side of the Anti-Dreyfusards was probably 
Jules Guerin. Ruined in business, he had begun his political career as a police 
stool pigeon, and acquired that flair for discipline and organization which 
invariably marks the underworld. This he was later able to divert into political 
channels, becoming the founder and head of the Ligue Antisemite. In him 
high society found its first criminal hero. In its adulation of Guerin bourgeois 
society showed clearly that in its code of morals and ethics it had broken for 
good with its own standards. Behind the Ligue stood two members of the 
aristocracy, the Duke of Orleans and the Marquis de Mores. The latter had 
lost his fortune in America and became famous for organizing the butchers of 
Paris into a manslaughtering brigade. 

Most eloquent of these modern tendencies was the farcical siege of the 
so-called Fort Chabrol. It was here, in this first of "Brown Houses," that 
the cream of the Ligue Antisemite foregathered when the police decided at 
last to arrest their leader. The installations were the acme of technical per- 
fection. "The windows were protected by iron shutters. There was a system 
of electric bells and telephones from cellar to roof. Five yards or so behind 
the massive entrance, itself always kept locked and bolted, there was a tall 
grill of cast iron. On the right, between the grill and the main entrance was 
a small door, likewise iron-plated, behind which sentries, handpicked from 
the butcher legions, mounted guard day and night." " Max Regis, instigator 
of the Algerian pogroms, is another who strikes a modern note. It was this 
youthful Regis who once called upon a cheering Paris rabble to "water the 

^5 On January 18, 1898, antisemitic demonstrations took place at Bordeaux, Mar- 
seille, Clermont-Ferrant, Nantes, Rouen, and Lyon. On the following day student 
riots broke out in Rouen, Toulouse, and Nantes. 

^6 The crudest instance was that of the police prefect of Rennes, who advised Pro- 
fessor Victor Basch, when the latter's house was stormed by a mob 2,000 strong, that 
he ought to hand in his resignation, as he could no longer guarantee his safety. 

'''' Cf. Bernanos, op. cit., p. 346. 


tree of freedom with the blood of the Jews." Regis represented that section 
of the movement which hoped to achieve power by legal and parliamentary 
methods. In accordance with this program he had himself elected mayor of 
Algiers and utilized his office to unleash the pogroms in which several Jews 
were killed, Jewish women criminally assaulted and Jewish-owned stores 
looted. It was to him also that the polished and cultured Edouard Drumont, 
that most famous French antisemite, owed his seat in Parliament. 

What was new in all this was not the activity of the mob; for that there 
were abundant precedents. What was new and surprising at the time — though 
all too familiar to us — was the organization of the mob and the hero-worship 
enjoyed by its leaders. The mob became the direct agent of that "concrete" 
nationalism espoused by Barres, Maurras, and Daudet, who together formed 
what was undoubtedly a kind of elite of the younger intellectuals. These men, 
who despised the people and who had themselves but recently emerged from 
a ruinous and decadent cult of estheticism, saw in the mob a living expression 
of virile and primitive "strength." It was they and their theories which first 
identified the mob with the people and converted its leaders into national 
heroes.'** It was their philosophy of pessimism and their deUght in doom that 
was the first sign of the imminent collapse of the European inteUigentsia. 

Even Clemenceau was not immune from the temptation to identify the 
mob with the people. What made him especially prone to this error was 
the consistently ambiguous attitude of the Labor party toward the ques- 
tion of "abstract" justice. No party, including the socialists, was ready to 
make an issue of justice per se, "to stand, come what may, for justice, the 
sole unbreakable bond of union between civilized men." " The socialists 
stood for the interests of the workers, the opportunists for those of the liberal 
bourgeoisie, the coalitionists for those of the Catholic higher classes, and 
the radicals for those of the anticlerical petty bourgeoisie. The socialists had 
the great advantage of speaking in the name of a homogeneous and united 
class. Unlike the bourgeois parties they did not represent a society which 
had split into innumerable cliques and cabals. Nevertheless, they were con- 
cerned primarily and essentially with the interests of their class. They were 
not troubled by any higher obligation toward human solidarity and had no 
conception of what communal life really meant. Typical of their attitude 
was the observation of Jules Guesde, the counterpart of Jaures in the French 
party, that "law and honor are mere words." 

The nihilism which characterized the nationalists was no monopoly of 
the Anti-Dreyfusards. On the contrary, a large proportion of the socialists 
and many of those who championed Dreyfus, like Guesde, spoke the same 
language. If the Catholic La Croix remarked that "it is no longer a question 
whether Dreyfus is innocent or guilty but only of who will win, the friends 
of the army or its foes," the corresponding sentiment might well have been 

^8 For these theories see especially Charles Maurras, Au Signe de Flore; souvenirs 
de la vie politique; I'Affaire Dreyfus et la fondalion de I'Action Frangaise, Paris, 1931; 
M. Barres, op. cit.; Leon Daudet, Panorama de la Troisieme Republique, Paris, 1936. 

^* Cf. Clemenceau, "A la derive," in op. cit. 


voiced, mutatis mutandis, by the partisans of Dreyfus.^" Not only the mob 
but a considerable section of the French people declared itself, at best, quite 
uninterested in whether one group of the population was or was not to be 
excluded from the law. 

As soon as the mob began its campaign of terror against the partisans of 
Dreyfus, it found the path open before it. As Clemenceau attests, the workers 
of Paris cared little for the whole affair. If the various elements of the bour- 
geoisie squabbled among themselves, that, they thought, scarcely affected 
their own interests. "With the open consent of the people," wrote Clemen- 
ceau, "they have proclaimed before the world the failure of their 'democracy.' 
Through them a sovereign people shows itself thrust from its throne of 
justice, shorn of its infallible majesty. For there is no denying that this evil 
has befallen us with the full complicity of the people itself. . . . The people 
is not God. Anyone could have foreseen that this new divinity would some 
day topple to his fall. A collective tyrant, spread over the length and breadth 
of the land, is no more acceptable than a single tyrant ensconced upon his 
throne." " 

At last Clemenceau convinced Jaures that an infringement of the rights 
of one man was an infringement of the rights of all. But in this he was suc- 
cessful only because the wrongdoers happened to be the inveterate enemies 
of the people ever since the Revolution, namely, the aristocracy and the 
clergy. It was against the rich and the clergy, not for the republic, not for 
justice and freedom that the workers finally took to the streets. True, both 
the speeches of Jaures and the articles of Clemenceau are redolent of the 
old revolutionary passion for human rights. True, also, that this passion 
was strong enough to rally the people to the struggle, but first they had to 
be convinced that not only justice and the honor of the repubhc were at stake 
but also their own class "interests." As it was, a large number of socialists, 
both inside and outside the country, still regarded it as a mistake to meddle 
(as they put it) in the internecine quarrels of the bourgeoisie or to bother 
about saving the republic. 

The first to wean the workers, at least partially, from this mood of in- 
difference was that great lover of the people, Emile Zola. In his famous in- 
dictment of the republic he was also, however, the first to deflect from the 
presentation of precise political facts and to yield to the passions of the mob 
by raising the bogy of "secret Rome." This was a note which Clemenceau 
adopted only reluctantly, though Jaures did with enthusiasm. The real 
achievement of Zola, which is hard to detect from his pamphlets, consists 
in the resolute and dauntless courage with which this man, whose life and 
works had exalted the people to a point "bordering on idolatry," stood up 
to challenge, combat, and finally conquer the masses, in whom, like Clemen- 

80 It was precisely this which so greatly disillusioned the champions of Dreyfus, 
especially the circle around Charles Peguy. This disturbing similarity between Drey- 
fusards and Anti-Dreyfusards is the subject matter of the instructive novel by Martin 
du Gard, Jean Barois, 1913. 

81 Preface to Contre la Justice, 1900. 


ccau, he could all the time scarcely distinguish the mob from the people. 
"Men have been found to resist the most powerful monarchs and to refuse 
to bow down before them, but few indeed have been found to resist the 
crowd, to stand up alone before misguided masses, to face their implacable 
frenzy without weapons and with folded arms to dare a no when a yes is 
demanded. Such a man was Zola!" "- 

Scarcely had J' Accuse appeared when the Paris socialists held their first 
meeting and passed a resolution calling for a revision of the Dreyfus case. 
But only live days later some thirty-two socialist officials promptly came out 
with a declaration that the fate of Dreyfus, "the class enemy," was no con- 
cern of theirs. Behind this declaration stood large elements of the party in 
Paris. Although a split in its ranks continued throughout the AlTair, the 
party numbered enough Dreyfusards to prevent the Ligue Antisemite from 
thenceforth controlling the streets. A socialist meeting even branded anti- 
scmitism "a new form of reaction." Yet a few months later when the parlia- 
mentary elections took place, Jaures was not r.iturned, and shortly after- 
wards, when Cavaignac, the minister of war, treated the Chamber to a speech 
attacking Dreyfus and commending the army as indispensable, the delegates 
resolved, with only two dissenting votes, to placard the walls of Paris with 
the text of that address. Similarly, when the great Paris strike broke out in 
October of the same year, Miinster, the German ambassador, was able re- 
liably and confidentially to inform Berlin that "as far as the broad masses 
are concerned, this is in no sense a political issue. The workers are simply 
out for higher wages and these they are bound to get in the end. As for the 
Dreyfus case, they have never bothered their heads about it." *^ 

Who then, in broad terms, were the supporters of Dreyfus? Who were the 
300,000 Frenchmen who so eagerly devoured Zola's J' Accuse and who fol- 
lowed religiously the editorials of Clemenceau? Who were the men who 
finally succeeded in splitting every class, even every family, in France into 
opposing factions over the Dreyfus issue? The answer is that they formed 
no party or homogeneous group. Admittedly they were recruited more from 
the lower than from the upper classes, as they comprised, characteristically 
enough, more physicians than lawyers or civil servants. By and large, how- 
ever, they were a mixture of diverse elements: men as far apart as Zola and 
Peguy or Jaures and Picquard, men who on the morrow would part com- 
pany and go their several ways. "They come from political parties and 
religious communities who have nothing in common, who are even in con- 
flict with each other. . . . Those men do not know each other. They have 
fought and on occasion will fight again. Do not deceive yourselves; those 
are the 'elite' of the French democracy." «» 

Had Clemenceau possessed enough self-confidence at that time to consider 
only those who heeded him the true people of France, he would not have 

""' Clemenceau, in a speech before the Senate several years later; cf. Weil op cit., 
pp. 112-13. ' f ' 

"3 See Herzog, op. cit., under date of October 10, 1898 
8* "K.V.T.," op. cit., p. 608. 


fallen prey to that fatal pride which marked the rest of his career. Out of 
his experiences in the Dreyfus Affair grew his despair of the people, his con- 
tempt for men, finally his belief that he and he alone would be able to save 
the republic. He could never stoop to play the claque to the antics of the 
mob. Therefore, once he began to identify the mob with the people, he 
did indeed cut the ground from under his feet, and forced himseltf into that 
grim aloofness which thereafter distinguished him. 

The disunity of the French people was apparent in each family. Char- 
acteristically enough, it found political expression only in the ranks of the 
Labor party. All others, as well as all parliamentary groups, were solidly 
against Dreyfus at the beginning of the campaign for a retrial. All this 
means, however, is that the bourgeois parties no longer represented the true 
feelings of the electorate, for the same disunity that was so patent among the 
socialists obtained among almost all sections of the populace. Everywhere a 
minority existed which took up Clemenceau's plea for justice, and this 
heterogeneous minority made up the Dreyfusards. Their fight against the 
army and the corrupt complicity of the republic which backed it was the 
dominating factor in French internal politics from the end of 1897 until 
the opening of the Exposition in 1900. It also exerted an appreciable in- 
fluence on the nation's foreign policy. Nevertheless, this entire struggle, which 
was to result eventually in at least a partial triumph, took place exclusively 
outside of Parliament. In that so-called representative assembly, comprising 
as it did a full 600 delegates drawn from every shade and color both of 
labor and of the bourgeoisie, there were in 1898 but two supporters of 
Dreyfus and one of them, Jaures, was not re-elected. 

The disturbing thing about the Dreyfus Affair is that it was not only the 
mob which had to work along extraparliamentary lines. The entire minority, 
fighting as it was for Parliament, democracy, and the republic, was likewise 
constrained to wage its battle outside the Chamber. The only difference 
between the two elements was that while the one used the streets, the other 
resorted to the press and the courts. In other words, the whole of France's 
political life during the Dreyfus crisis was carried on outside Parliament. 
Nor do the several parliamentary votes in favor of the army and against a 
retrial in any way invalidate this conclusion. It is significant to remember 
that when parliamentary feeling began to turn, shortly before the opening 
of the Paris Exposition, Minister of War Gallifet was able to declare truth- 
fully that this in no wise represented the mood of the country.*^ On the other 
hand the vote against a retrial must not be construed as an endorsement of 
the coup d'etat policy which the Jesuits and certain radical antisemites were 
trying to introduce with the help of the army.®*^ It was due, rather, to plain 

8^ Gallifet, minister of war, wrote to Waldeck: "Let us not forget that the great 
majority of people in France are antisemitic. Our position would be, therefore, that on 
the one side we would have the entire army and the majority of Frenchmen, not to 
speak of the civil service and the senators; . . ." cf. J. Reinach, op. cit., V, 579. 

86 The best known of such attempts is that of Deroulede who sought, while attending 
the funeral of President Paul Faure, in February, 1899, to incite General Roget to 


resistance against any change in the status quo. As a matter of fact, an equally 
overwhelming majority of the Chamber would have rejected a military- 
clerical dictatorship. 

Those members of Parliament who had learned to regard politics as the 
professional representation of vested interests were naturally anxious to 
preserve that state of affairs upon which their "calling" and their profits de- 
pended. The Dreyfus case revealed, moreover, that the people likewise 
wanted their representatives to look after their own special interests rather 
than to function as statesmen. It was distinctly unwise to mention the case in 
election propaganda. Had this been due solely to antisemitism the situation 
of the Dreyfusards would certainly have been hopeless. In point of fact, 
during the elections they already enjoyed considerable support among the 
working class. Nevertheless even those who sided with Dreyfus did not care 
to see this political question dragged into the elections. It was, indeed, be- 
cause he insisted on making it the pivot of his campaign that Jaures lost 
his seat. 

If Clemenceau and the Dreyfusards succeeded in winning over large 
sections of all classes to the demand of a retrial, the Catholics reacted as a 
bloc; among them there was no divergence of opinion. What the Jesuits did 
in steering the aristocracy and the General Staff, was done for the middle 
and lower classes by the Assumptionists, whose organ. La Croix, enjoyed 
the largest circulation of all Catholic journals in France." Both centered 
their agitation against the republic around the Jews. Both represented them- 
selves as defenders of the army and the commonweal against the machina- 
tions of "international Jewry." More striking, however, tlian the attitude of 
the Catholics in France was the fact that the Catholic press throughout the 
world was solidly against Dreyfus. "All these journalists marched and are 
still marching at the word of command of their superiors." ** As the case 
progressed, it became increasingly clear that the agitation against the Jews 
in France followed an international line. Thus the Civilta CattoUca declared 
that Jews must be excluded from the nation everywhere, in France, Germany, 
Austria, and Italy. Catholic politicians were among the first to realize that 
latter-day power politics must be based on the interplay of colonial ambi- 
tions. They were therefore the first to link antisemitism to imperialism, de- 
claring that the Jews were agents of England and thereby identifying 
antagonism toward them with Anglophobia.^' The Dreyfus case, in which 

mutiny. The German ambassadors and charges d'affaires in Paris reported such at- 
tempts every few months. The situation is well summed up by Barres, op. cit., p. 4: 
"in Rennes we have found our battlefield. All we need is soldiers or, more precisely, 
generals — or. still more precisely, a general." Only it was no accident that this general 
was non-existent. 

*' Brogan goes so far as to blame the Assumptionists for the entire clerical agitation. 

88 "K.V.T.," op. cit.. p. 597. 

8* "The initial stimulus in the Affair very probably came from London, where the 
Congo-Nile mission of 1896-1898 was causing some degree of disquietude"; thus 
Maurras in Action Frangaise (July 14, 1935). The Catholic press of Lxjndon defended 
the Jesuits; see "The Jesuits and the Dreyfus Case," in The Month, Vol. XVni (1899). 


Jews were the central figures, thus afforded them a welcome opportunity to 
play their game. If England had taken Egypt from the French the Jews were 
to blame/" while the movement for an Anglo-American alliance was due, 
of course, to "Rothschild imperialism." ®^ That the Catholic game was not 
confined to France became abundantly clear once the curtain was rung down 
on that particular scene. At the close of 1899, when Dreyfus had been par- 
doned and when French public opinion had turned round through fear of a 
projected boycott of the Exposition, only an interview with Pope Leo XIII 
was needed to stop the spread of antisemitism throughout the world.^^ Even 
in the United States, where championship of Dreyfus was particularly en- 
thusiastic among the non-Catholics, it was possible to detect in the Catholic 
press after 1897 a marked resurgence of antisemitic feeling which, however, 
subsided overnight following the interview with Leo XIII.^* The "grand 
strategy" of using antisemitism as an instrument of Catholicism had proved 

v: The Jews and the Dreyfusards 

THE CASE of the unfortunate Captain Dreyfus had shown the world that in 
every Jewish nobleman and multimillionaire there still remained something 
of the old-time pariah, who has no country, for whom human rights do not 
exist, and whom society would gladly exclude from its privileges. No one, 
however, found it more difficult to grasp this fact than the emancipated Jews 
themselves. "It isn't enough for them," wrote Bernard Lazare, "to reject any 
solidarity with their foreign-born brethren; they have also to go charging 
them with all the evils which their own cowardice engenders. They are not 
content with being more jingoist than the native Frenchmen; like all emanci- 
pated Jews everywhere, they have also of their own volition broken all ties 
of solidarity. Indeed, they go so far that for the three dozen or so men in 
France who are ready to defend one of their martyred brethren you can find 
some thousands ready to stand guard over Devil's Island, alongside the 
most rabid patriots of the country." »* Precisely because they had played so 
small a part in the political development of the lands in which they lived, 
they had come, during the course of the century, to make a fetish of legal 
equality. To them it was the unquestionable basis of eternal security. When 
the Dreyfus Affair broke out to warn them that their security was menaced, 
they were deep in the process of a disintegrating assimilation, through which 

»o Civiltd Cattolica, February 5, 1898. 

81 See the particularly characteristic article of Rev. George McDermot, C.S.P., "Mr. 
Chamberlain's Foreign Policy and the Dreyfus Case," in the American monthly 
Catholic World, Vol. LXVII (September, 1898). 

82 Cf. Lecanuet, op. cit., p. 188. 

83 Cf. Rose A. Halperin, op. cit., pp. 59, 77 flf. 

8* Bernard Lazare, Job's Dungheap, New York, 1948, p. 97. 


their lack of poliiical wisdom was intensified rather than otherwise. They 
were rapidly assimilating themselves to those elements of society in which 
nil political passions are smothered beneath the dead weight of social snob- 
hcry, big business, and hitherto unknown opportunities for profit. They 
hoped to get rid of the antipathy which this tendency had called forth by 
diverting it against their poor and as yet unassimilatcd immigrant brethren. 
Using the same tactics as Gentile society had employed against them they 
took pains to dissociate themselves from the so-called Ostjuden. Political 
antisemitism, as it had manifested itself in the pogroms of Russia and 
Rumania, they dismissed airily as a survival from the Middle Ages, scarcely 
a reality of modern politics. They could never understand that more was at 
stake in the Dreyfus AITair than mere social status, if only because more than 
mere social antisemitism had been brought to bear. 

These then are the reasons why so few wholehearted supporters of Dreyfus 
were to be found in the ranks of French Jewry. The Jews, including the very 
family of the accused, shrank from starting a political fight. On just these 
grounds, Labori, counsel for Zola, was refused the defense before the 
Rcnncs tribunal, while Dreyfus' second lawyer, Demange, was constrained 
to base his plea on the issue of doubt. It was hoped thereby to smother under 
a deluge of compliments any possible attack from the army or its officers. 
The idea was that the royal road to an acquittal was to pretend that the 
whole thing boiled down to the possibility of a judicial error, the victim of 
which just happened by chance to be a Jew. The result was a second verdict 
and Dreyfus, refusing to face the true issue, was induced to renounce a 
retrial and instead to petition for clemency, that is, to plead guilty."'' The 
Jews failed to see that what was involved was an organized fight against 
them on a political front. They therefore resisted the co-operation of men 
who were prepared to meet the challenge on this basis. How blind their atti- 
tude was is shown clearly by the case of Clemenceau. Clemenceau's struggle 
for justice as the foundation of the state certainly embraced the restoration 
of equal rights to the Jews. In an age, however, of class struggle on the one 
hand and rampant jingoism on the other, it would have remained a political 
abstraction had it not been conceived, at the same time, in actual terms of 
the oppressed fighting their oppressors. Clemenceau was one of the few 
true friends modern Jewry has known just because he recognized and pro- 
claimed before the world that Jews were one of the oppressed peoples of 
Europe. The antisemite tends to see in the Jewish parvenu an upstart pariah; 
consequently in every huckster he fears a Rothschild and in every shnorrer 
a parvenu. But Clemenceau, in his consuming passion for justice, still saw 
the Rothschilds as members of a downtrodden people. His anguish over the 

^■' Cf. Fcrnand Labori, "Le mal politique et les partis," in La Grande Revue 
(October-December, 1901): "From the moment at Rennes when the accused pleaded 
guilty and the defendant renounced recourse to a retrial in the hope of gaining a 
pardon, the Dreyfus case as a great, universal human issue was definitely closed." In 
his article entitled "Le Spectacle du jour," Clemenceau speaks of the Jews of Algiers 
"in whose behalf Rothschild will not voice the least protest." 


national misfortune of France opened his eyes and his heart even to those 
"unfortunates, who pose as leaders of their people and promptly leave them 
in the lurch," to those cowed and subdued elements who, in their ignorance, 
weakness and fear, have been so much bedazzled by admiration of the 
stronger as to exclude them from partnership in any active struggle and who 
are able to "rush to the aid of the winner" only when the battle has been 

VI: The Pardon and Its Significance 

THAT THE Drcyfus drama was a comedy became apparent only in its final 
act. The deus ex machina who united the disrupted country, turned Parlia- 
ment in favor of a retrial and eventually reconciled the disparate elements 
of the people from the extreme right to the socialists, was nothing other than 
the Paris Exposition of 1900. What Clemenceau's daily editorials, Zola's 
pathos, Jaures' speeches, and the popular hatred of clergy and aristocracy 
had failed to achieve, namely, a change of parliamentary feeling in favor of 
Dreyfus, was at last accomplished by the fear of a boycott. The same Parlia- 
ment that a year before had unanimously rejected a retrial, now by a two- 
thirds majority passed a vote of censure on an anti-Dreyfus government. In 
July, 1899, the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet came to power. President Loubct 
pardoned Dreyfus and liquidated the entire affair. The Exposition was able 
to open under the brightest of commercial skies and general fraternization 
ensued: even socialists became eligible for government posts; Millerand, the 
first socialist minister in Europe, received the portfolio of commerce. 

Parliament became the champion of Dreyfus! That was the upshot. For 
Clemenceau, of course, it was a defeat. To the bitter end he denounced the 
ambiguous pardon and the even more ambiguous amnesty. "All it has done," 
wrote Zola, "is to lump together in a single stinking pardon men of honor 
and hoodlums. All have been thrown into one pot." "^ Clemenceau remained, 
as at the beginning, utterly alone. The socialists, above all, Jaures, welcomed 
both pardon and amnesty. Did it not insure them a place in the government 
and a more extensive representation of their special interests? A few months 
later, in May, 1900, when the success of the Exposition was assured, the 
real truth at last emerged. All these appeasement tactics were to be at the 
expense of the Dreyfusards. The motion for a further retrial was defeated 
425 to 60, and not even Clemenceau's own government in 1906 could change 
the situation; it did not dare to entrust the retrial to a normal court of law. 
The (illegal) acquittal through the Court of Appeals was a compromise. 
But defeat for Clemenceau did not mean victory for the Church and the 

88 See Clemenceau's articles entitled "Le Spectacle du jour," "Et les Juifs!" "La 
Farce du syndicat," and "Encore les juifs!" in L'lniqiiite. 

»' Cf. Zola's letter dated September 13, 1899, in Correspondance: lettres d Mditre 


army. The separation of Church and State and the ban on parochial educa- 
tion brought to an end the political influence of Catholicism in France. 
Similarly, the subjection of the intelligence service to the ministry of war, i.e., 
to the civil authority, robbed the army of its blackmailing influence on cabinet 
and Chamber and deprived it of any justification for conducting police in- 
quiries on its own account. 

In 1909 Drumont stood for the Academy. Once his antisemitism had 
been lauded by the Catholics and acclaimed by the people. Now, however, 
the "greatest historian since Fustel" (Lemaitre) was obliged to yield to 
Marcel Provost, author of the somewhat pornographic Demi-Vierges, and 
the new "immortal" received the congratulations of the Jesuit Father Du 
Lac."' Even the Society of Jesus had composed its quarrel with the Third 
Republic. The close of the Dreyfus case marked the end of clerical anti- 
semitism. The compromise adopted by the Third Republic cleared the de- 
fendant without granting him a regular trial, while it restricted the activities 
of Catholic organizations. Whereas Bernard Lazare had asked equal rights 
for both sides, the state had allowed one exception for the Jews and another 
which threatened the freedom of conscience of Catholics. ^^ The parties which 
were really in conflict were both placed outside the law, with the result that 
the Jewish question on the one hand and political Catholicism on the other 
were banished thenceforth from the arena of practical politics. 

Thus closes the only episode in which the subterranean forces of the 
nineteenth century enter the full light of recorded history. The only visible 
result was that it gave birth to the Zionist movement — the only political 
answer Jews have ever found to antisemitism and the only ideology in which 
they have ever taken seriously a hostility that would place them in the center 
of world events. 

"« CI. Hcrzog, op. cit., p. 97. 

•"• Lazare's position in the Dreyfus Affair is best described by Charles Peguy, "Notre 
Jeunesse," in Cahiers de la quinzaine, Paris, 1910. Regarding him as the true repre- 
sentative of Jewish interests, Peguy formulates Lazare's demands as follows: "He was 
a partisan of the impartiality of the law. Impartiality of law in the Dreyfus case, im- 
partial law in the case of the religious orders. This seems like a trifle; this can lead 
far. This led him to isolation in death." (Translation quoted from Introduction to 
Lazare's Job's Dungheap.) Lazare was one of the first Dreyfusards to protest against 
the law governing congregations. 



/ would annex the planets if I could. 


CHAPTER five: 

The Political Emancipation 
of the Bourgeoisie 

THE THREE DECADES from 1884 to 1914 separate the nineteenth century, 
which ended with the scramble for Africa and the birth of the pan- 
movements, from the twentieth, which began with the first World War. This 
is the period of Imperialism, with its stagnant quiet in Europe and breath- 
taking developments in Asia and Africa.^ Some of the fundamental aspects of 
this time appear so close to totalitarian phenomena of the twentieth century 
that it may be justifiable to consider the whole period a preparatory stage 
for coming catastrophes. Its quiet, on the other hand, makes it appear still 
very much a part of the nineteenth century. We can hardly avoid looking at 
this close and yet distant past with the too-wise eyes of those who know the 
end of the story in advance, who know it led to an almost complete break 
in the continuous flow of Western history as we had known it for more than 
two thousand years. But we must also admit a certain nostalgia for what can 
still be called a "golden age of security," for an age, that is, when even 
horrors were still marked by a certain moderation and controlled by re- 
spectabiUty, and therefore could be related to the general appearance of 
sanity. In other words, no matter how close to us this past is, we are perfectly 
aware that our experience of concentration camps and death factories is as 
remote from its general atmosphere as it is from any other period in Western 

The central inner-European event of the imperialist period was the po- 
litical emancipation of the bourgeoisie, which up to then had been the first 
class^ in history to achieve economic pre-eminence without aspiring to politi- 
caljule. The bourgeoisie had developed within, and together with, the nation- 
state, which almost by definition ruled over and beyond a class-divided so- 
ciety. Even when the bourgeoisie had already established itself as the ruling 
class, it had left all pohtical decisions to the state. Only when the nation- 
state proved unfit to be the framework for the further growth of capitahst 
economy did the latent fight between state and society become openly a 
struggle for power. During the imperialist period neither the state nor the 

1 J. A. Hobson, Imperialism, London, 1905, 1938, p. 19: "Though, for convenience, 
the year 1870 has been taken as indicative of the beginning of a conscious policy of 
Imperialism, it will be evident that the movement did not attain its full impetus 
until the middle of the eighties . . . from about 1884." 


bourgeoisie won a decisive victory. National institutions resisted throughout 
the brutality and megalomania of imperialist aspirations, and bourgeois at- 
tempts to use the state and its instruments of violence for its own economic 
purposes were always only half successful. This changed when the German 
bourgeoisie staked everything on the Hitler movement and aspired to rule 
with the help of the mob, but then it turned out to be too late. The_bour- 
gcoisie succeeded in destroying the nation-state but won a Pyrrhic victory; 
the mob proved quite capable of taking care of politics by itself and liqui- 
dated the bourgeoisie along with all other classes and institutions. 

I: Expansion and the Nation-State 

"EXPANSION IS everything," said Cecil Rhodes, and fell into despair, for 
every night he saw overhead "these stars . . . these vast worlds which we 
can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could." ^ He had discovered 
the moving principle of the new, the imperialist era (within less than two 
decades, British colonial possessions increased by AVz million square miles 
and 66 million inhabitants, the French nation gained 3Vi million square 
miles and 26 milHon people, the Germans won a new empire of a million 
square miles and 1 3 million natives, and Belgium through her king acquired 
900,000 square miles with SVi million population^); and yet in a flash of 
wisdom Rhodes recognized at the same moment its inherent insanity and its 
contradiction to the human condition. Naturally, neither insight nor sadness 
changed his policies. He had no use for the flashes of wisdom that led him so 
far beyond the normal capacities of an ambitious businessman with a marked 
tendency toward megalomania. 

"World politics is for a nation what megalomania is for an individual," * 
said Eugen Richtcr (leader of the German progressive party) at about the 
same historical moment. But his opposition in the Reichstag to Bismarck's 
proposal to support private companies in the foundation of trading and 
maritime stations, showed clearly that he understood the economic needs of 
a nation in his time even less than Bismarck himself. It looked as though 
those who opposed or ignored imperialism — like Eugen Richter in Germany, 
or Gladstone in England, or Clemenceau in France — had lost touch with 
reality and did not realize that trade and economics had already involved 
every nation in world politics. The national principle was leading into pro- 
vincial ignorance and the battle fought by sanity was lost. 

2 S. Gertrude Millin. Rhodes, London, 1933, p. 138. 

3 These figures are quoted by Carlton J. H. Hayes, A Generation of Materialism, 
New York, 1941, p. 237, and cover the period from 1871-1900.— See also Hobson, 
op. cit., p. 19: "Within 15 years some 3% millions of square miles were added to 
the British Empire, 1 million square miles with 14 millions inhabitants to the Ger- 
man, 3'/i millions square miles with 37 millions inhabitants to the French." 

♦ Sec Ernst Hasse, Deutsche Weltpolitik. Flugschriften des Alldeutschcn Verbandcs, 
No. 5. 1897, p. 1. 


Moderation and confusion were the only rewards of any statesman's con- 
sistent opposition to imperialist expansion. Thus Bismarck, in 1871, rejected 
the offer of French possessions in Africa in exchange for Alsace-Lorraine, 
and twenty years later acquired Heligoland from Great Britain in return for 
Uganda, Zanzibar, and Vitu — two kingdoms for a bathtub, as the German 
imperialists told him, not without justice. Thus in the eighties Clemenceau 
opposed the imperialist party in France when they wanted to send an ex- 
peditionary force to Egypt against the British, and thirty years later he sur- 
rendered the Mosul oil fields to England for the sake of a French-British 
alUance. Thus Gladstone was being denounced by Cromer in Egypt as "not 
a man to whom the destinies of the British Empire could safely be 

That statesmen, who thought primarily in terms of the established na- 
tional territory, were suspicious of imperialism was justified enough, except 
that more was involved than what they called "overseas adventures." They 
knew by instinct rather than by insight that this new expansion movement, 
in which "patriotism ... is best expressed in money-making" (Huebbe- 
Schleiden) and the national flag is a "commercial asset" (Rhodes), could 
only destroy the political body of the nation-state. Conquest as well as empire 
building had fallen into disrepute for very good reasons. They had been car- 
ried out successfully only by governments which, like the Roman Republic, 
were based primarily on law, so that conquest could be followed by integra- 
tion of the most heterogeneous peoples by imposing upon them a common 
law. The nation-state, however, based upon a homogeneous population's 
active consent to its government ("/e plebiscite de tous les jours" ^), lacked 
such a unifying principle and would, in the case of conquest, have to assimi- 
late rather than to integrate, to enforce consent rather than justice, that is, 
to degenerate into tyranny. Robespierre was already well aware of this when 
he exclaimed: "Perissent les colonies si elles nous en coiitent I'honneur, la 

Expansion as a permanent and supreme aim of politics is the central po- 
litical idea of imperialism. Since it implies neither temporary looting nor the 
more lasting assimilation of conquest, it is an entirely new concept in the 
long history of political thought and action. The reason for this surprising 
originality — surprising because entirely new concepts are very rare in poli- 
tics — is simply that this concept is not really political at all, but has its 
origin in the realm of business speculation, where expansion meant the 
permanent broadening of industrial production and economic transactions 
characteristic of the nineteenth century. 

In the economic sphere, expansion was an adequate concept because in- 
dustrial growth was a working reality. Expansion meant increase in actual 

* Ernest Renan in his classical essay Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?, Paris, 1882, stressed 
"the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to preserve worthily the un- 
divided inheritance which has been handed down" as the chief elements which keep 
the members of a people together in such a way that they form a nation. Translation 
quoted from The Poetry of the Celtic Races, and other Studies, London, 1896. 


production of goods to be used and consumed. The processes of production 
arc as unlimited as the capacity of man to produce for, establish, furnish, 
and improve on the human world. When production and economic growth 
slowed down, their limits were not so much economic as political, insofar 
as production depended on, and products were shared by, many different 
peoples who were organized in widely differing political bodies. 

Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came 
up against national limitations to its economic expansion. The bourgeoisie 
turned to polities out of economic necessity; for if it did not want to give up 
the capitalist system whose inherent law is constant economic growth, it had 
to impose this law upon its home governments and to proclaim expansion to 
be an ultimate political goal of foreign policy. 

With the slogan "expansion for expansion's sake," the bourgeoisie tried 
and partly succeeded in persuading their national governments to enter upon 
the path of world politics. The new policy they proposed seemed for a mo- 
ment to find its natural limitations and balances in the very fact that several 
nations started their expansions simultaneously and competitively. Im- 
perialism in its initial stages could indeed still be described as a struggle of 
"competing empires" and distinguished from the "idea of empire in the 
ancient and medieval world (which) was that of a federation of States, under 
a hegemony, covering ... the entire recognized world." '^ Yet such a com- 
petition was only one of the many remnants of a past era, a concession to 
that still prevailing national principle according to which mankind is a family 
of nations vying for excellence, or to the liberal belief that competition will 
automatically set up its own stabilizing predetermined limits before one 
competitor has liquidated all the others. This happy balance, however, had 
hardly been the inevitable outcome of mysterious economic laws, but had 
relied heavily on political, and even more on police institutions that pre- 
vented competitors from using revolvers. How a competition between fully 
armed business concerns — "empires" — could end in anything but victory 
for one and death for the others is difficult to understand. In other words, 
competition is no more a principle of politics than expansion, and needs 
political power just as badly for control and restraint. 

In contrast to the economic structure, the political structure cannot be 
expanded indefinitely, because it is not based upon the productivity of man, 
which is, indeed, unlimited. Of all forms of government and organizations 
of people, the nation-state is least suited for unlimited growth because the 
genuine consent at its base cannot be stretched indefinitely, and is only 
rarely, and with difliculty, won from conquered peoples. No nation-state 
could with a clear conscience ever try to conquer foreign peoples, since 
such a conscience comes only from the conviction of the conquering nation 
that it is imposing a superior law upon barbarians.^ The nation, however, 

" Hobson, op. cil. 

^ This bad conscience springing from the belief in consent as the basis of all political 
organization is very well described by Harold Nicolson, Curzon: The Last Phase 1919- 
1925. Boston-New York. 1934. in the discussion of British policy in Egypt: "The 


conceived of its law as an outgrowth of a unique national substance which 
was not valid beyond its own people and the boundaries of its own territory. 

Wherever the nation-state appeared as conqueror, it aroused national 
consciousness and desire for sovereignty among the conquered people, 
thereby defeating all genuine attempts at empire building. Thus the French 
incorporated Algeria as a province of the mother country, but could not 
bring themselves to impose their own laws upon an Arab people. They con- 
tinued rather to respect Islamic law and granted their Arab citizens "personal 
status," producing the nonsensical hybrid of a nominally French territory, 
legally as much a part of France as the Departement de la Seine, whose in- 
habitants are not French citizens. 

The early British "empire builders," putting their trust in conquest as a 
permanent method of rule, were never able to incorporate their nearest 
neighbors, the Irish, into the far-flung structure either of the British Empire 
or the British Commonwealth of Nations; but when, after the last war, Ire- 
land was granted dominion status and welcomed as a full-fledged member 
of the British Commonwealth, the failure was just as real, if less palpable. 
The oldest "possession" and newest dominion unilaterally denounced its 
dominion status (in 1937) and severed all ties with the English nation when 
it refused to participate in the war. England's rule by permanent conquest, 
since it "simply failed to destroy" Ireland (Chesterton), had not so much 
aroused her own "slumbering genius of imperialism" ^ as it had awakened 
the spirit of national resistance in the Irish. 

The national structure of the United Kingdom had made quick assimila- 
tion and incorporation of the conquered peoples impossible; the British 
Commonwealth was never a "Commonwealth of Nations" but the heir of the 
United Kingdom, one nation dispersed throughout the world. Dispersion and 
colonization did not expand, but transplanted, the political structure, with 
the result that the members of the new federated body remained closely tied 
to their common mother country for sound reasons of common past and 
common law. The Irish example proves how ill fitted the United Kingdom 
was to build an imperial structure in which many different peoples could live 
contentedly together.** The British nation proved to be adept not at the 

justification of our presence in Egypt remains based, not upon the defensible right of 
conquest, or on force, but upon our own behef in the element of consent. That ele- 
ment, in 1919, did not in any articulate form exist. It was dramatically challenged by 
the Egyptian outburst of March 1919." 

8 As Lord Salisbury put it, rejoicing over the defeat of Gladstone's first Home Rule 
Bill. During the following twenty years of Conservative — and that was at that time 
imperialist — rule (1885-1905), the English-Irish conflict was not only not solved but 
became much more acute. See also Gilbert K. Chesterton, The Crimes of England, 
1915, pp. 57 ff. 

^ Why in the initial stages of national development the Tudors did not succeed in 
incorporating Ireland into Great Britain as the Valois had succeeded in incorporating 
Brittany and Burgundy into France, is still a riddle. It may be, however, that a 
similar process was brutally interrupted by the Cromwell regime, which treated 
Ireland as one great piece of booty to be divided among its servants. After the Crom- 
well revolution, at any rate, which was as crucial for the formation of the British 


Roman art of empire building but at following the Greek model of coloniza- 
tion. Instead of conquering and imposing their own law upon foreign peo- 
ples, the English colonists settled on newly won territory in the four corners 
of the world and remained members of the same British nation. '° Whether 
the federated structure of the Commonwealth, admirably built on the reality 
of one nation dispersed over the earth, will be sufficiently elastic to balance 
the nation's inherent difficulties in empire building and to admit perma- 
nently non-British peoples as full-fledged "partners in the concern" of the 
Commonwealth, remains to be seen. The present dominion status of India — 
a status, by the way, flatly refused by Indian nationalists during the war — has 
frequently been considered to be a temporary and transitory solution. ^^ 

The inner contradiction between the nation's body politic and conquest as 
a political device has been obvious since the failure of the Napoleonic dream. 
It is due to this experience and not to humanitarian considerations that con- 
quest has since been officially condemned and has played a minor role in 
the adjustment of borderline conflicts. The Napoleonic failure to unite 
Europe under the French flag was a clear indication that conquest by a 
nation led either to the full awakening of the conquered people's national 
consciousness and to consequent rebellion against the conqueror, or to 
tyranny. And though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully 
rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all 
the national institutions of its own people. 

The French, in contrast to the British and all other nations in Europe, 

nation as the French Revolution became for the French, the United Kingdom had 
already reached that stage of maturity that is always accompanied by a loss of the 
power of assimilation and integration which the body politic of the nation possesses 
only in its initial stages. What then followed was, indeed, one long sad story of 
"coercion [that] was not imposed that the people might live quietly but that people 
might die quietly" (Chesterton, op. cit., p. 60). 

For a historical survey of the Irish question that includes the latest developments, 
compare the excellent unbiased study of Nicholas Mansergh, Britain and Ireland (in 
Longman's Pamphlets on the British Commonwealth, London, 1942). 

10 Very characteristic is the following statement of J. A. Froude made shortly before 
the beginning of the imperialist era: "Let it be once established that an Englishman 
emigrating to Canada or the Cape, or Australia, or New Zealand did not forfeit his 
nationality, that he was still on English soil as much as if he was in Devonshire or 
Yorkshire, and would remain an Englishman while the English Empire lasted; and 
if we spent a quarter of the sums which were sunk in the morasses at Balaclava in 
sending out and establishing two millions of our people in those colonies, it would 
contribute more to the essential strength of the country than all the wars in which 
we have been entangled from Agincourt to Waterloo." Quoted from Robert Livingston 
Schuyler, The Full of the Old Colonial System, New York, 1945, pp. 280-81. 

"The eminent South African writer, Jan Disselboom, expressed very bluntly the 
attitude of the Commonwealth peoples on this question: "Great Britain is merely a 
partner in the concern ... all descended from the same closely allied stock. . . . 
Those parts of the Empire which are not inhabited by races of which this is true, 
were never partners in the concern. They were the private property of the pre- 
dominant partner. . . . You can have the white dominion, or you can have the 
Dominion of India, but you cannot have both." (Quoted from A. Carthill, The Lost 
Dominion, 1924.) 


actually tried in recent times to combine ius with imperium and to build an 
empire in the old Roman sense. They alone at least attempted to develop the 
body politic of the nation into an imperial political structure, believed that 
"the French nation (was) marching ... to spread the benefits of French 
civilization"; they wanted to incorporate overseas possessions into the na- 
tional body by treating the conquered peoples as "both . . . brothers and 
, . . subjects — brothers in the fraternity of a common French civilization, 
and subjects in that they are disciples of French light and followers of 
French leading." *^ This was partly carried out when colored delegates took 
their seats in the French Parliament and when Algeria was declared to be a 
department of France. 

The result of this daring enterprise was a particularly brutal exploitation 
of overseas possessions for the sake of the nation. All theories to the con- 
trary, the French Empire actually was evaluated from the point of view of 
national defense, ^^ and the colonies were considered lands of soldiers which 
could produce a jorce noire to protect the inhabitants of France against their 
national enemies. Poincare's famous phrase in 1923, "France is not a coun- 
try of forty millions; she is a country of one hundred millions," pointed 
simply to the discovery of an "economical form of gunfodder, turned out by 
mass-production methods." '^ When Clemenceau insisted at the peace table 
in 1918 that he cared about nothing but "an unlimited right of levying black 
troops to assist in the defense of French territory in Europe if France were 
attacked in the future by Germany," ^^ he did not save the French nation 
from German aggression, as we are now unfortunately in a position to know, 
although his plan was carried out by the General Staff; but he dealt a death- 
blow to the still dubious possibihty of a French Empire.^" Compared with 

12 Ernest Barker, Idecis and Ideals of the British Empire, Cambridge, 1941, p. 4. 

See also the very good introductory remarks on the foundations of the French Em- 
pire in The French Colonial Empire (in Information Department Papers No. 25, pub- 
lished by The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 1941), pp. 9 ff. "The 
aim is to assimilate colonial peoples to the French people, or, where this is not pos- 
sible in more primitive communities, to 'associate' them, so that more and more the 
difference between la France metropole and la France d'outremer shall be a geo- 
graphical difference and not a fundamental one." 

1-' See Gabriel Hanotaux, "Le General Mangin" in Revue des Deux Mondes (1925), 
Tome 27. 

1* W. P. Crozier, "France and her 'Black Empire' " in New Republic, January 23, 

15 David Lloyd George, Memoirs of the Peace Conference, New Haven, 1939, 
I, 362 ff. 

I*' A similar attempt at brutal exploitation of overseas possessions for the sake of 
the nation was made by the Netherlands in the Dutch East Indies after the defeat of 
Napoleon had restored the Dutch colonies to the much impoverished mother country. 
By means of compulsory cultivation the natives were reduced to slavery for the 
benefit of the government in Holland. Multatuli's Max Havelaar, first published in 
the sixties of the last century, was aimed at the government at home and not at the 
services abroad. (See de Kat Angelino, Colonial Policy, Vol. II, The Dutch East Indies, 
Chicago, 1931, p. 45.) 

This system was quickly abandoned and the Netherlands Indies, for a while, be- 


this blind desperate nationalism, British imperialists compromising on the 
mandate system looked like guardians of the self-determination of peoples. 
And this despite the fact that they started at once to misuse the mandate 
system by "indirect rule," a method which permits the administrator to 
govern a people "not directly but through the medium of their own tribal 
and local authorities." *' 

The British tried to escape the dangerous inconsistency inherent in the 
nation's attempt at empire building by leaving the conquered peoples to their 
own devices as far as culture, religion, and law were concerned, by staying 
aloof and refraining from spreading British law and culture. This did not 
prevent the natives from developing national consciousness and from clamor- 
ing for sovereignty and independence — though it may have retarded the 
process somewhat. But it has strengthened tremendously the new im- 
perialist consciousness of a fundamental, and not just a temporary, superi- 
ority of man over man, of the "higher" over the "lower breeds." This in turn 
exacerbated the subject peoples' fight for freedom and blinded them to the 
unquestionable benefits of British rule. From the very aloofness of their 
administrators who, "despite their genuine respect for the natives as a peo- 
ple, and in some cases even their love for them . . . almost to a man, do 
not believe that they are or ever will be capable of governing themselves 
without supervision," " the "natives" could not but conclude that they were 
being excluded and separated from the rest of mankind forever. 

Imperialism is not empire building and expansion is not conquest. The 
British conquerors, the old "breakers of law in India" (Burke), had little 
in common with the exporters of British money or the administrators of the 
Indian peoples. If the latter had changed from applying decrees to the mak- 
ing of laws, they might have become empire builders. The point, however, 
is that the English nation was not interested in this and would hardly have 
supported them. As it was, the imperialist-minded businessmen were fol- 
lowed by civil servants who wanted "the African to be left an African," while 
quite a few, who had not yet outgrown what Harold Nicolson once called 

came "the admiration of all colonizing nations." (Sir Hesketh Bell, former Governor 
of Uganda, Northern Nigeria, etc., Foreign Colonial Administration in the Far East, 
1928, Part I). The Dutch methods have many similarities with the French: the 
granting of European status to deserving natives, introduction of a European school 
system, and other devices of gradual assimilation. The Dutch thereby achieved the 
same result: a strong national independence movement among the subject people. 

In the present study Dutch and Belgian imperialism are being neglected. The first 
is a curious and changing mixture of French and English methods; the second is 
the story not of the expansion of the Belgian nation or even the Belgian bourgeoisie, 
but of the expansion of the Belgian king personally, unchecked by any government, 
unconnected with any other institution. Both the Dutch and the Belgian forms of 
imperialism are atypical. The Netherlands did not expand during the eighties, but 
only consolidated and modernized their old possessions. The unequalled atrocities 
committed in the Belgian Congo, on the other hand, would offer too unfair an example 
for what was generally happening in overseas possessions. 

1^ Ernest Barker, op. cit., p. 69. 

" Selwyn James, South of the Congo, New York, 1943, p. 326. 


their "boyhood-ideals," *° wanted to help them to "become a better Afri- 
can" ^^ — whatever that may mean. In no case were they "disposed to apply 
the administrative and political system of their own country to the govern- 
ment of backward populations," ^^ and to tie the far-flung possessions of the 
British Crown to the English nation. 

In contrast to true imperial structures, where the institutions of the mother 
country are in various ways integrated into the empire, it is characteristic of 
imperialism that national institutions remain separate from the colonial ad- 
ministration although they are allowed to exercise control. The actual mo- 
tivation for this separation was a curious mixture of arrogance and respect: 
the new arrogance of the administrators abroad who faced "backward pop- 
ulations" or "lower breeds" found its correlative in the respect of old-fash- 
ioned statesmen at home who felt that no nation had the right to impose its 
law upon a foreign people. It was in the very nature of things that the arro- 
gance turned out to be a device for rule, while the respect, which remained 
entirely negative, did not produce a new way for peoples to live together, 
but managed only to keep the ruthless imperialist rule by decree within 
bounds. To the salutary restraint of national institutions and politicians we 
owe whatever benefits the non-European peoples have been able, after all 
and despite everything, to derive from Western domination. But the colonial 
services never ceased to protest against the interference of the "inexperienced 
majority" — the nation — that tried to press the "experienced minority" — the 
imperialist administrators — "in the direction of imitation," -^ namely, of gov- 
ernment in accordance with the general standards of justice and liberty at 

That a movement of expansion for expansion's sake grew up in nation- 
states which more than any other poHtical bodies were defined by boundaries 
and the limitations of possible conquest, is one example of the seemingly 
absurd disparities between cause and effect which have become the hallmark 
of modern history. The wild confusion of modern historical terminology is 
only a by-product of these disparities. By comparisons with ancient Empires, 
by mistaking expansion for conquest, by neglecting the difference between 
Commonwealth and Empire (which pre-imperialist historians called the dif- 
ference between plantations and possessions, or colonies and dependencies, 
or, somewhat later, colonialism and imperialism^^), by neglecting, in other 

1^ About these boyhood ideals and their role in British imperialism, see chapter vii. 
How they were developed and cultivated is described in Rudyard Kipling's Stalky 
and Company. 

20 Ernest Barker, op. cit., p. 150. 

21 Lord Cromer, "The Government of Subject Races," in Edinburgh Review, Jan- 
uary, 1908. 

2 2 Ibid. 

23 The first scholar to use the term imperialism to differentiate clearly between the 
"Empire" and the "Commonwealth" was J. A. Hobson. But the essential difference 
was always well known. The principle of "colonial freedom" for instance, cherished 
by all liberal British statesmen after the American Revolution, was held valid only 


words, the difTcrcncc between export of (British) people and export of 
(British) money,-* historians tried to dismiss the disturbing fact that so 
many of the important events in modern history look as though molehills 
had labored and had brought forth mountains. 

Contemporary historians, confronted with the spectacle of a few capitalists 
conducting their predatory searches round the globe for new investment pos- 
sibilities and appealing to the profit motives of the much-too-rich and the 
gambling instincts of the much-too-poor, want to clothe imperialism with 
the old grandeur of Rome and Alexander the Great, a grandeur which would 
make all following events more humanly tolerable. The disparity between 
cause and elTect was betrayed in the famous, and unfortunately true, remark 
that the British Empire was acquired in a fit of absent-mindedness; it be- 
came cruelly obvious in our own time when a World War was needed to get 
rid of Hitler, which was shameful precisely because it was also comic. 
Something similar was already apparent during the Dreyfus Affair when 
the best elements in the nation were needed to conclude a struggle which had 
started as a grotesque conspiracy and ended as a farce. 

The only grandeur of imperialism lies in the nation's losing battle against 
it. The tragedy of this half-hearted opposition was not that many national 
representatives could be bought by the new imperialist businessmen; worse 
than corruption was the fact that the incorruptible were convinced that im- 
perialism was the only way to conduct world politics. Since maritime stations 
and access to raw materials were really necessary for all nations, they came 
to believe that annexation and expansion worked for the salvation of the 
nation. They were the first to fail to understand the fundamental difference 
between the old foundation of trade and maritime stations for the sake of 
trade and the new policy of expansion. They believed Cecil Rhodes when 
he told them to "wake up to the fact that you cannot live unless you have 
the trade of the world," "that your trade is the world, and your life is the 
world, and not England," and that therefore they "must deal with these 
questions of expansion and retention of the world." -^ Without wanting to, 
sometimes even without knowing it, they not only became accomplices in 
imperialist politics, but were the first to be blamed and exposed for their 
"imperialism." Such was the case of Clemenceau who, because he was so 
desperately worried about the future of the French nation, turned "ira- 

insofar as the colony was "formed of the British people or . . . such admixture of 
the British population as to make it safe to introduce representative institutions." See 
Robert Livingston Schuyler, op. cil., pp. 236 ff. 

In the nineteenth century, we must distinguish three types of overseas possessions 
within the British Empire: the settlements or plantations or colonies, like Australia 
and other dominions; the trade stations and possessions like India; and the maritime 
and military stations like the Cape of Good Hope, which were held for the sake of 
the former. All these possessions underwent a change in government and political 
significance in the era of imperialism. 

** Ernest Barker, op. cil. 

»»Millin, op. cit., p. 175. 


perialist" in the hope that colonial manpower would protect French citizens 
against aggressors. 

The conscience of the nation, represented by Parliament and a free press, 
functioned, and was resented by colonial administrators, in all European 
countries with colonial possessions — whether England, France, Belgium, 
Germany, or Holland. In England, in order to distinguish between the im- 
perial government seated in London and controlled by Parliament and co- 
lonial administrators, this influence was called the "imperial factor," thereby 
crediting imperialism with the merits and remnants of justice it so eagerly 
tried to eliminate.^" The "imperial factor" was expressed politically in the 
concept that the natives were not only protected but in a way represented 
by the British, the "Imperial Parliament." ^' Here the English came very 
close to the French experiment in empire building, although they never went 
so far as to give actual representation to subject peoples. Nevertheless, they 
obviously hoped that the nation as a whole could act as a kind of trustee 
for its conquered peoples, and it is true that it invariably tried its best to 
prevent the worst. 

The conflict between the representatives of the "imperial factor" (which 
should rather be called the national factor) and the colonial administrators 
runs like a red thread through the history of British imperialism. The 
"prayer" which Cromer addressed to Lord Salisbury during his adminis- 
tration of Egypt in 1896, "save me from the English Departments,""^^ was 
repeated over and over again, until in the twenties of this century the nation 
and everything it stood for were openly blamed by the extreme imperialist 
party for the threatened loss of India. The imperialists had always been 
deeply resentful that the government of India should have "to justify its ex- 
istence and its policy before public opinion in England"; this control now 
made it impossible to proceed to those measures of "administrative mas- 

26 The origin of this misnomer probably lies in the history of British rule in South 
Africa, and goes back to the times when the local governors, Cecil Rhodes and 
Jameson, involved the "Imperial Government" in London, much against its intentions, 
in the war against the Boers. "In fact Rhodes, or rather Jameson, was absolute ruler 
of a territory three times the size of England, which could be administered 'without 
waiting for the grudging assent or polite censure of the High Commissioner' " who 
was the representative of an Imperial Government that retained only "nominal con- 
trol." (Reginal Ivan Lovcll, The Struggle for South Africa, 1875-1899, New York, 
1934, p. 194.) And what happens in territories in which the British government has 
resigned its jurisdiction to the local European population that lacks all traditional 
and constitutional restraint of nation-states, can best be seen in the tragic story of 
the South African Union since its independence, that is, since the time when the 
"Imperial Government" no longer had any right to interfere, 

27 The discussion in the House of Commons in May, 1908, between Charles Dilke 
and the Colonial Secretary is interesting in this respect. Dilke warned against giving 
self-government to the Crown colonies because this would result in rule of the 
white planters over their colored workers. He was told that the natives too had a 
representation in the English House of Commons. See G. Zoepfl, "Kolonien and 
Kolonialpolitik" in Handwdrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften. 

2« I^wrence J. Zetland, Lord Cromer, 1923, p. 224. 


sacres" " which, immediately after the close of the first World War, had 
been tried occasionally elsewhere as a radical means of pacification,^" and 
which indeed might have prevented India's independence. 

A similar hostility prevailed in Germany between national representatives 
and colonial administrators in Africa. In 1897, Carl Peters was removed 
from his post in German Southeast Africa and had to resign from the gov- 
ernment service because of atrocities against the natives. The same thing 
happened to Governor Zimmerer. And in 1905, the tribal chiefs for the first 
time addressed their complaints to the Reichstag, with the result that when 
the colonial administrators threw them into jail, the German Government 

The same was true of French rule. The governors general appointed by 
the government in Paris were either subject to powerful pressure from 
French colonials as in Algeria, or simply refused to carry out reforms in the 
treatment of natives, which were allegedly inspired by "the weak democratic 
principles of (their) government." ^^ Everywhere imperialist administrators 
felt that the control of the nation was an unbearable burden and threat to 

And the imperialists were perfectly right. They knew the conditions of 
modern rule over subject peoples better than those who on the one hand 
protested against government by decree and arbitrary bureaucracy and on 
the other hoped to retain their possessions forever for the greater glory of 
the nation. The imperialists knew better than nationalists that the body 
politic of the nation is not capable of empire building. They were perfectly 
aware that the march of the nation and its conquest of peoples, if allowed 
to follow its own inherent law, ends with the peoples' rise to nationhood and 
the defeat of the conqueror. French methods, therefore, which always tried 
to combine national aspirations with empire building, were much less suc- 
cessful than British methods, which, after the eighties of the last century, 
were openly imperialistic, although restrained by a mother country that 
retained its national democratic institutions. 

" A. Carthill, The Lost Dominion, 1924, pp. 41-42, 93. 

*o An instance of "pacification" in the Near East was described at great length by 
T. E. Lawrence in an article "France, Britain and the Arabs" written for The Ob- 
server (1920): "There is a preliminary Arab success, the British reinforcements go 
out as a punitive force. They fight their way ... to their objective, which is mean- 
while bombarded by artillery, aeroplanes, or gunboats. Finally perhaps a village is 
burnt and the district pacified. It is odd that we don't use poison gas on these occasions. 
Bombing the houses is a patchy way of getting the women and children. ... By 
gas attacks the whole population of offending districts could be wiped out neatly; and 
as a method of government it would be no more immoral than the present system." 
See his Letters, edited by David Garnett, New York, 1939, pp. 311 fF. 

"In 1910, on the other hand, the Colonial Secretary B. Dernburg had to resign 
because he had antagonized the colonial planters by protecting the natives. See 
Mary E. Townsend. Rise and Fall of Germany's Colonial Empire. New York 1930, 
and P. Leutwem, Kdmpfe um Afrika, Luebeck, 1936. 

" In }^e words of Leon Cayla, former Governor General of Madagascar and 
fnend of Petam. 


II: Power and the Bourgeoisie 

WHAT IMPERIALISTS actually wanted was expansion of political power with- 
out the foundation of a body politic. Imperialist expansion had been touched 
off by a curious kind of economic crisis, the overproduction of capital and 
the emergence of "superfluous" money, the result of oversaving, which could 
no longer find productive investment within the national borders. For the 
first time, investment of power did not pave the way for investment of money, 
but export of power followed meekly in the train of exported money, since 
uncontrollable investments in distant countries threatened to transform large 
strata of society into gamblers, to change the whole capitalist economy from 
a system of production into a system of financial speculation, and to replace 
the profits of production with profits in commissions. The decade immedi- 
ately before the imperialist era, the seventies of the last century, witnessed 
an unparalleled increase in swindles, financial scandals, and gambling in the 
stock market. 

The pioneers in this pre-imperialist development were those Jewish finan- 
ciers who had earned their wealth outside the capitalist system and had been 
needed by the growing nation-states for internationally guaranteed loans. *^ 
With the firm establishment of the tax system that provided for sounder gov- 
ernment finances, this group had every reason to fear complete extinction. 
Having earned their money for centuries through commissions, they were 
naturally the first to be tempted and invited to serve in the placement of 
capital which could no longer be invested profitably in the domestic market. 
The Jewish international financiers seemed indeed especially suited for such 
essentially international business operations.^* What is more, the govern- 
ments themselves, whose assistance in some form was needed for investments 
in faraway countries, tended in the beginning to prefer the well-known 

33 For this and the following compare chapter ii. 

3* It is interesting that all early observers of imperialist developments stress this 
Jewish element very strongly while it hardly plays any role in more recent literature. 
Especially noteworthy, because very reliable in observation and very honest in 
analysis, is J. A. Hobson's development in this respect. In the first essay which he 
wrote on the subject, "Capitalism and Imperialism in South Africa" (in Contemporary 
Review, 1900), he said: "Most of (the financiers) were Jews, for the Jews are par 
excellence the international financiers, and, though English-speaking, most of them 
are of continental origin. . . . They went there (Transvaal) for money, and those 
who came early and made most have commonly withdrawn their persons, leaving their 
economic fangs in the carcass of their prey. They fastened on the Rand ... as they 
are prepared to fasten upon any other spot upon the globe. . . . Primarily, they are 
financial speculators taking their gains not out of the genuine fruits of industry, even 
the industry of others, but out of construction, promotion and financial manipulation 
of companies." In Hobson's later study Imperialism, however, the Jews are not even 
mentioned; it had become obvious in the meantime that their influence and role had 
been temporary and somewhat superficial. 

For the role of Jewish financiers in South Africa, see chapter vii. 


Jew ish financiers to newcomers in international finance, many of whom were 

After the financiers had opened the channels of capital export to the 
superfluous wealth, which had been condemned to idleness within the nar- 
row framework of national production, it quickly became apparent that the 
absentee shareholders did not care to take the tremendous risks which cor- 
responded to their tremendously enlarged profits. Against these risks, the 
commission-earning financiers, even with the benevolent assistance of the 
state, did not have enough power to insure them: only the material power of 
a state could do that. 

As soon as it became clear that export of money would have to be fol- 
lowed by export of government power, the position of financiers in general, 
and Jewish financiers in particular, was considerably weakened, and the 
leadership of imperialist business transactions and enterprise was gradually 
taken over by members of the native bourgeoisie. Very instructive in this 
respect is the career of Cecil Rhodes in South Africa, who, an absolute new- 
comer, in a few years could supplant the all-powerful Jewish financiers in 
first place. In Germany, Bleichroeder, who in 1885 had still been a co- 
partner in the founding of the Ostafrikanische Gesellschajt, was superseded 
along with Baron Hirsch when Germany began the construction of the 
Bagdad railroad, fourteen years later, by the coming giants of imperialist 
enterprise, Siemens and the Deutsche Bank. Somehow the government's re- 
luctance to yield real power to Jews and the Jews' reluctance to engage in 
business with political implication coincided so well that, despite the great 
wealth of the Jewish group, no actual struggle for power ever developed 
after the initial stage of gambling and commission-earning had come to 
an end. 

The various national governments looked with misgiving upon the grow- 
ing tendency to transform business into a political issue and to identify the 
economic interests of a relatively small group with national interests as such. 
But it seemed that the only alternative to export of power was the dehberate 
sacrifice of a great part of the national wealth. Only through the expansion 
of the national instruments of violence could the foreign-investment move- 
ment be rationalized, and the wild speculations with superfluous capital, 
which had provoked gambling of all savings, be reintegrated into the eco- 
nomic system of the nation. The state expanded its power because, given the 
choice between greater losses than the economic body of any country could 
sustain and greater gains than any people left to its own devices would have 
dreamed of, it could only choose the latter. 

The first consequence of power export was that the state's instruments of 
violence, the police and the army, which in the framework of the nation 
existed beside, and were controlled by, other national institutions, were 
separated from this body and promoted to the position of national repre- 
sentatives in uncivilized or weak countries. Here, in backward regions with- 
out industries and political organization, where violence was given more 
latitude than in any Western country, the so-called laws of capitalism were 


actually allowed to create realities. The bourgeoisie's empty desire to have 
money beget money as men beget men had remained an ugly dream so long 
as money had to go the long way of investment in production; not money 
had begotten money, but men had made things and money. The secret of 
the new happy fulfillment was precisely that economic laws no longer stood 
in the way of the greed of the owning classes. Money could finally beget 
money because power, with complete disregard for all laws — economic as 
well as ethical — could appropriate wealth. Only when exported money suc- 
ceeded in stimulating the export of power could it accomplish its owners' 
designs. Only the unlimited accumulation of power could bring about the 
unHmited accumulation of capital. 

Foreign investments, capital export which had started as an emergency 
measure, became a permanent feature of all economic systems as soon as it 
was protected by export of power. The imperialist concept of expansion, 
according to which expansion is an end in itself and not a temporary 
means, made its appearance in political thought when it had become obvious 
that one of the most important permanent functions of the nation-state 
would be expansion of power. The state-employed administrators of vio- 
lence soon formed a new class within the nations and, although their field of 
activity was far away from the mother country, wielded an important influ- 
ence on the body politic at home. Since they were actually nothing but 
functionaries of violence they could only think in terms of power politics. 
They were the first who, as a class and supported by their everyday experi- 
ence, would claim that power is the essence of every political structure. 

The new feature of this imperialist political philosophy is not the pre-*/ 
dom inant place it gave violence, nor the discovery that power is one of the ^ 
basic political realities. Violence has always been the ultima ratio in po- 
litical action and power has always been the visible expression of rule and 
government. Butjierther had ever before been the conscious aim of the body 
politic or the ultimate goal of any definite policy. For power left to itself can 
achieve nothing but more power, and violence administered for power's (and 
not for law's) sake turns into a destructive principle that will not stop until 
there is nothing left to violate. 

This contradiction, inherent in all ensuing power politics, however, takes 
on an appearance of sense if one understands it in the context of a sup- 
posedly permanent process which has no end or aim but itself. Then the 
test of achievement can indeed become meaningless and power can be 
thought of as the never-ending, self-feeding motor of all political action 
that corresponds to the legendary unending accumulation of money that 
begets money. The concept of unlimited expansion that alone can fulfill the 
hope for unlimited accumulation of capital, and brings about the aimless 
accumulation of power, makes the foundation of new political bodies — 
which up to the era of imperialism always had been the upshot of conquest — 
well-nigh impossible. In fact, its logical consequence is the destruction of all 
living communities, those of the conquered peoples as well as of the people 
at home. For every political structure, new or old, left to itself develops 


Stabilizing forces which stand in the way of constant transformation and ex- 
pansion/'! hcrcforc all political bodies appear to be temporary obstacles 
when they are seen as part of an eternal stream of growing power. 

While the administrators of permanently increasing power in the past era 
of moderate imperialism did not even try to incorporate conquered terri- 
tories, and preserved existing backward political communities like empty 
ruins of bygone life, their totalitarian successors dissolved and destroyed all 
politically stabilized structures, their own as well as those of other peoples. 
The mere export of violence made the servants into masters without giving 
them the master's prerogative: the possible creation of something new. 
Monopolistic concentration and tremendous accumulation of violence at 
home made the servants active agents in the destruction, until finally totali- 
tarian expansion became a nation- and a people-destroying force. 

Power became the essence of political action and the center of political 
thought when it was separated from the political community which it should 
serve. This, it is true, was brought about by an economic factor. But the re- 
sulting introduction of power as the only content of politics, and of expansion 
as its only aim, would hardly have met with such universal applause, nor 
would the resulting dissolution of the nation's body politic have met with 
so little opposition, had it not so perfectly answered the hidden desires and 
secret convictions of the economically and socially dominant classes. The 
bourgeoisie, so long excluded from government by the nation-state and by 
their own lack of interest in public aflairs, was politically emancipated by 

Imperialism must be considered the first stage in political rule of the 
bourgeoisie rather than the last stage of capitalism. It is well known how 
little the owning classes had aspired to government, how well contented they 
had been with every type of state that could be trusted with protection of 
property rights. For them, indeed, the state had always been only a well- 
organized police force. This false modesty, however, had the curious conse- 
quence of keeping the whole bourgeois class out of the body poHtic; before 
they were subjects in a monarchy or citizens in a republic, they were 
essentially private persons. This privateness and primary concern with 
money-making had developed a set of behavior patterns which are expressed 
in all those proverbs — "nothing succeeds like success," "might is right," 
"right is expediency," etc. — that necessarily spring from the experience of a 
society of competitors. 

When, in the era of imperialism, businessmen became politicians and were 
acclaimed as statesmen, while statesmen were taken seriously only if they 
talked the language of successful businessmen and "thought in continents," 
these private practices and devices were gradually transformed into rules 
and principles for the conduct of public affairs. The significant fact about 
this process of revaluation, which began at the end of the last century and is 
still in effect, is that it began with the application of bourgeois convictions 
to foreign affairs and only slowly was extended to domestic politics. There- 
fore, the nations concerned were hardly aware that the recklessness that had 


prevailed in private life, and against which the public body always had to 
defend itself and its individual citizens, was about to be elevated to the one 
publicly honored political principle. 

It is significant that modern believers in power are in complete accord 
with the philosophy of the only great thinker who ever attempted to derive 
public good from private interest and who, for the sake of private good, 
conceived and outhned a Commonwealth whose basis and ultimate end is 
accumulation of power. Hobbes, indeed, is the only great philosopher to 
whom the bourgeoisie can rightly and exclusively lay claim, even if his prin- 
ciples were not recognized by the bourgeois class for a long time. Hobbes's 
Leviathan ^^•' exposed the only political theory according to which the state 
is based not on some kind of constituting law — whether divine law, the law 
of nature, or the law of social contract — which determines the rights and 
wrongs of the individual's interest with respect to public affairs, but on the 
individual interests themselves, so that "the private interest is the same with 
the publique." ^'^ 

There is hardly a single bourgeois moral standard which has not been an- 
ticipated by the unequaled magnificence of Hobbes's logic. He gives an 
almost complete picture, not of Man but of the bourgeois man, an analysis 
which in three hundred years has neither been outdated nor excelled. "Rea- 
son ... is nothing but Reckoning"; "a free Subject, a free Will . . . 
[are] words . . . without meaning; that is to say. Absurd." A being with- 
out reason, without the capacity for truth, and without free will — that is, 
without the capacity for responsibility — man is essentially a function of 
society and judged therefore according to his "value or worth ... his 
price; that is to say so much as would be given for the use of his power." 
This price is constantly evaluated and re-evaluated by society, the "esteem of 
others," depending upon the law of supply and demand. 

Power, according to Hobbes, is the accumulated control that permits the 
individual to fix prices and regulate supply and demand in such a way that 
they contribute to his own advantage. The individual will consider his ad- 
vantage in complete isolation, from the point of view of an absolute mi- 
nority, so to speak; he will then realize that he can pursue and achieve his 
interest only with the help of some kind of majority. Therefore, if man is 
actually driven by nothing but his individual interests, desire for power must 
be the fundamental passion of man. It regulates the relations between indi- 
vidual and society, and all other ambitions as well, for riches, knowledge, 
and honor follow from it. 

35 All quotes in the following if not annotated are from the Leviathan. 

3s The coincidence of this identification with the totalitarian pretense of having 
abolished the contradictions between individual and public interests is significant 
enough (see chapter xii). However, one should not overlook the fact that Hobbes 
wanted most of all to protect private interests by pretending that, rightly understood, 
they were the interests of the body politic as well, while on the contrary totalitarian 
regimes proclaim the nonexistence of privacy. 


Hobbcs points out that in the struggle for power, as in their native ca- 
pacities for power, all men are equal; for the equality of men is based on the 
fact that each has by nature enough power to kill another. Weakness can be 
compensated for by guile. Their equality as potential murderers places all 
men in the same insecurity, from which arises the need for a state. The 
raisori d'etre of the state is the need for some security of the individual, who 
feels himself menaced by all his fellow-men. 

The crucial feature in Hobbes's picture of man is not at all the realistic 
pessimism for which it has been praised in recent times. For if it were true 
that man is a being such as Hobbes would have him, he would be unable to 
found any body politic at all. Hobbes, indeed, does not succeed, and does 
not even want to succeed, in incorporating this being definitely into a po- 
litical community. Hobbes's Man owes no loyalty to his country if it has 
been defeated and he is excused for every treachery if he happens to be 
taken prisoner. Those who live outside the Commonwealth (for instance, 
slaves ) have no further obligation toward their fellow-men but are permitted 
to kill as many as they can; while, on the contrary, "to resist the Sword of 
the Commonwealth in defence of another man, guilty or innocent, no man 
hath Liberty," which means that there is neither fellowship nor responsi- 
bility between man and man. What holds them together is a common in- 
terest which may be "some Capitall crime, for which every one of them ex- 
pecteth death"; in this case they have the right to "resist the Sword of the 
Commonwealth," to "joyn together, and assist, and defend one another. . . . 
For they but defend their lives." 

Thus membership in any form of community is for Hobbes a temporary 
and limited affair which essentially does not change the solitary and private 
character of the individual (who has "no pleasure, but on the contrary a 
great deale of griefe in keeping company, where there is no power to over- 
awe them all") or create permanent bonds between him and his fellow-men. 
It seems as though Hobbes's picture of man defeats his purpose of pro- 
viding the basis for a Commonwealth and gives instead a consistent pattern 
of attitudes through which every genuine community can easily be de- 
stroyed. This results in the inherent and admitted instability of Hobbes's 
Commonwealth, whose very conception includes its own dissolution — "when 
in a warre (forraign, or intestine,) the enemies get a final Victory . . . then 
is the Commonwealth dissolved, and every man at liberty to protect him- 
selfe" — an instability that is all the more striking as Hobbes's primary and 
frequently repeated aim was to secure a maximum of safety and stability. 

It would be a grave injustice to Hobbes and his dignity as a philosopher 
to consider this picture of man an attempt at psychological realism or philo- 
sophical truth. The fact is that Hobbes is interested in neither, but concerned 
exclusively with the political structure itself, and he depicts the features of 
man according to the needs of the Leviathan. For argument's and convic- 
tion's sake, he presents his political outline as though he started from a 
realistic insight into man, a being that "desires power after power," and as 
though he proceeded from this insight to a plan for a body politic best 


fitted for this power-thirsty animal. The actual process, i.e., the only 
process in which his concept of man makes sense and goes beyond the 
obvious banality of an assumed human wickedness, is precisely the opposite. 

This new body poUtic was conceived for the benefit of the new bourgeois 
society as it emerged in the seventeenth century and this picture of man is a 
sketch for the new type of Man who would fit into it. The Commonwealth is 
based on the delegation of power, and not of rights. It acquires a monopoly 
on killing and provides in exchange a conditional guarantee against being 
killed. Security is provided by the law, which is a direct emanation from the 
power monopoly of the state (and is not established by man according to 
human standards of right and wrong). And as this law flows directly from 
absolute power, it represents absolute necessity in the eyes of the individual 
who lives under it. In regard to the law of the state — that is, the accumulated 
power of society as monopolized by the state — there is no question of right 
or wrong, but only absolute obedience, the blind conformism of bourgeois 

Deprived of political rights, the individual, to whom public and official 
life manifests itself in the guise of necessity, acquires a new and increased 
interest in his private life and his personal fate. Excluded from participation 
in the management of public affairs that involve all citizens, the individual 
loses his rightful place in society and his natural connection with his fellow- 
men. He can now judge his individual private life only by comparing it with 
that of others, and his relations with his fellow-men inside society take the 
form of competition. Once public affairs are regulated by the state under 
the guise of necessity, the social or public careers of the competitors come 
under the sway of chance. In a society of individuals, all equipped by nature 
with equal capacity for power and equally protected from one another by 
the state, only chance can decide who will succeed." 

According to bourgeois standards, those who are completely unlucky and 
unsuccessful are automatically barred from competition, which is the life of 
society. Good fortune is identified with honor, and bad luck with shame. By 
assigning his political rights to the state the individual also delegates his 
social responsibiUties to it: he asks the state to relieve him of the burden of 

8^ The elevation of chance to the position of final arbiter over the whole of life was 
to reach its full development in the nineteenth century. With it came a new genre of 
literature, the novel, and the decline of the drama. For the drama became meaning- 
less in a world without action, while the novel could deal adequately with the destinies 
of human beings who were either the victims of necessity or the favorites of luck. 
Balzac showed the full range of the new genre and even presented human passions as 
man's fate, containing neither virtue nor vice, neither reason nor free will. Only the 
novel in its full maturity, having interpreted and re-interpreted the entire scale of 
human matters, could preach the new gospel of infatuation with one's own fate that 
has played such a great role among nineteenth-century intellectuals. By means of 
such infatuation the artist and intellectual tried to draw a line between themselves 
and the philistines, to protect themselves against the inhumanity of good or bad 
luck, and they developed all the gifts of modern sensitivity — for suffering, for under- 
standing, for playing a prescribed role — which are so desperately needed by human 
dignity, which demands of a man that ho at least be a willing victim if nothing else. 


caring for the poor precisely as he asks for protection against criminals. The 
difference between pauper and criminal disappears — both stand outside 
society. The unsuccessful are robbed of the virtue that classical civilization 
left them; the unfortunate can no longer appeal to Christian charity. 

Hobbes liberates those who are excluded from society — the unsuccessful, 
the unfortunate, the criminal — from every obligation toward society and state 
if the state does not take care of them. They may give free rein to their de- 
sire for power and are told to take advantage of their elemental ability to 
kill, thus restoring that natural equahty which society conceals only for the 
sake of expediency. Hobbes foresees and justifies the social outcasts' organi- 
zation into a gang of murderers as a logical outcome of the bourgeoisie's 
moral philosophy. 

Since power is essentially only a means to an end a community based 
solely on power must decay in the calm of order and stability; its complete 
security reveals that it is built on sand. Only by acquiring more power can it 
guarantee the status quo; only by constantly extending its authority and only 
through the process of power accumulation can it remain stable. Hobbes's 
Commonwealth is a vacillating structure and must always provide itself with 
new props from the outside; otherwise it would collapse overnight into the 
aimless, senseless chaos of the private interests from which it sprang. Hobbes 
embodies the necessity of power accumulation in the theory of the state of 
nature, the "condition of perpetual war" of all against all, in which the 
various single states still remain vis-a-vis each other like their individual 
subjects before they submitted to the authority of a Commonwealth.^* This 
ever-present possibility of war guarantees the Commonwealth a prospect of 
permanence because it makes it possible for the state to increase its power 
at the expense of other states. 

It would be erroneous to take at its face value the obvious inconsistency 
between Hobbes's plea for security of the individual and the inherent in- 
stability of his Commonwealth. Here again he tries to persuade, to appeal 
to certain basic instincts for security which he knew well enough could sur- 
vive in the subjects of the Leviathan only in the form of absolute submission 
to the power which "over-awes them all," that is, in an all-pervading, over- 
whelming fear — not exactly the basic sentiment of a safe man. What Hobbes 
actually starts from is an unmatched insight into the political needs of the 
new social body of the rising bourgeoisie, whose fundamental belief in an 
unending process of property accumulation was about to eliminate all indi- 
vidual safety. Hobbes drew the necessary conclusions from social and eco- 
nomic behavior patterns when he proposed his revolutionary changes in 
political constitution. He outlined the only new body politic which could 

38 The presently popular liberal notion of a World Government is based, like all 
liberal notions of political power, on the same concept of individuals submitting to 
a central authority which "overawes them all," except that nations are now taking the 
place of individuals. The World Government is to overcome and eliminate authentic 
politics, that is, different peoples getting along with each other in the full force of 
their power. 


correspond to the new needs and interests of a new class. What he actually 
achieved was a picture of man as he ought to become and ought to behave 
if he wanted to fit into the coming bourgeois society. 

Hobbes's insistence on power as the motor of all things human and divine 
(even God's reign over men is "derived not from Creating them . . . but 
from the Irresistible Power") sprang from the theoretically indisputable 
proposition that a never-ending accumulation of property must be based on 
a never-ending accumulation of power. The philosophical correlative of the 
inherent instability of a community founded on power is the image of an 
endless process of history which, in order to be consistent with the constant 
growth of power, inexorably catches up with individuals, peoples, and 
finally all mankind. The limitless process of capital accumulation needs the 
political structure of so "unlimited a Power" that it can protect growing 
property by constantly growing more powerful. Granted the fundamental 
dynamism of the new social class, it is perfectly true that "he cannot assure 
the power and means to live well, which he hath at present, without the 
acquisition of more." The consistency of this conclusion is in no way altered 
by the remarkable fact that for some three hundred years there was neither 
a sovereign who would "convert this Truth of Speculation into the Utility of 
Practice," nor a bourgeoisie politically conscious and economically mature 
enough openly to adopt Hobbes's philosopny of power. 

This process of never-ending accumulation of power necessary for the 
protection of a never-ending accumulation of capital determined the "pro- 
gressive" ideology of the late nineteenth century and foreshadowed the rise 
of imperialism. Not the naive delusion of a limitless growth of property, but 
the realization that power accumulation was the only guarantee for the sta- 
bility of so-called economic laws, made progress irresistible. The eighteenth- 
century notion of progress, as conceived in pre-revolutionary France, in- 
tended criticism of the past to be a means of mastering the present and con- 
trolling the future; progress culminated in the emancipation of man. But 
this notion had little to do with the endless progress of bourgeois society, 
which not only did not want the liberty and autonomy of man, but was ready 
to sacrifice everything and everybody to supposedly superhuman laws of 
history. "What we call progress is [the] wind . . . [that] drives [the angel 
of history] irresistibly into the future to which he turns his back while the 
pile of ruins before him towers to the skies." ^° Only in Marx's dream of a 
classless society which, in Joyce's words, was to awaken mankind from the 
nightmare of history, does a last, though Utopian, trace of the eighteenth- 
century concept appear. 

39 Walter Benjamin, "Ober den Begriff der Geschichte," Institut fiir Sozialforschung. 
New York, 1942, mimeographed. — The imperialists themselves were quite aware of 
the implications of their concept of progress. Said the very representative author from 
the Civil Services in India who wrote under the pseudonym A. Carthill: "One must 
always feel sorry for those persons who are crushed by the triumphal car of progress" 
{op. cit., p. 209). 


The imperialist-minded businessman, whom the stars annoyed because he 
could not annex them, realized that power organized for its own sake would 
beget more power. When the accumulation of capital had reached its natural, 
national limits, the bourgeoisie understood that only with an "expansion is 
everything" ideology, and only with a corresponding power-accumulating 
process, would it be possible to set the old motor into motion again. At the 
same moment, however, when it seemed as though the true principle of per- 
petual motion had been discovered, the specifically optimistic mood of the 
progress ideology was shaken. Not that anybody began to doubt the irre- 
sistibility of the process itself, but many people began to see what had 
frightened Cecil Rhodes: that the human condition and the limitations of 
the globe were a serious obstacle to a process that was unable to stop and 
to stabilize, and could therefore only begin a series of destructive catas- 
trophes once it had reached these limits. 

In the imperialistic epoch a philosophy of power became the philosophy 
of the elite, who quickly discovered and were quite ready to admit that the 
thirst for power could be quenched only through destruction. This was the 
essential cause of their nihilism (especially conspicuous in France at the 
turn, and in Germany in the twenties, of this century) which replaced the 
superstition of progress with the equally vulgar superstition of doom, and 
preached automatic annihilation with the same enthusiasm that the fanatics 
of automatic progress had preached the irresistibility of economic laws. It 
had taken Hobbes, the great idolator of Success, three centuries to succeed. 
This was partly because the French Revolution, with its conception of man as 
lawmaker and citoyen, had almost succeeded in preventing the bourgeoisie 
from fully developing its notion of history as a necessary process. But it 
was also partly because of the revolutionary implications of the Common- 
wealth, its fearless breach with Western tradition, which Hobbes did not fail 
to point out. 

Every man and every thought which does not serve and does not conform 
to the ultimate purpose of a machine whose only purpose is the generation 
and accumulation of power is a dangerous nuisance. Hobbes judged that the 
books of the "ancient Greeks and Romans" were as "prejudicial" as the 
teaching of a Christian "Summum bonum ... as [it] is spoken of in the 
Books of the old Morall Philosophers" or the doctrine that "whatsoever a 
man does against his Conscience, is Sinne" and that "Lawes are the Rules of 
Just and Unjust." Hobbes's deep distrust of the whole Western tradition of 
political thought will not surprise us if we remember that he wanted nothing 
more nor less than the justification of Tyranny which, though it has occurred 
many times in Western history, has never been honored with a philosophical 
foundation. That the Leviathan actually amounts to a permanent govern- 
ment of tyranny, Hobbes is proud to admit: "the name of Tyranny signi- 
fieth nothing more nor lesse than the name of Soveraignty . . . ; I think the 
toleration of a professed hatred of Tyranny, is a Toleration of hatred to 
Commonwealth in generall. . . ." 

Since Hobbes was a philosopher, he could already detect in the rise of the 


bourgeoisie all those antitraditionalist qualities of the new class which would 
take more than three hundred years to develop fully. His Leviathan was not 
concerned with idle speculation about new political principles or the old 
search for reason as it governs the community of men; it was strictly a 
"reckoning of the consequences" that follow from the rise of a new class in 
society whose existence is essentially tied up with property as a dynamic, 
new property-producing device. The so-called accumulation of capital which 
gave birth to the bourgeoisie changed the very conception of property and 
wealth : they were no longer considered to be the results of accumulation and 
acquisition but their beginnings; wealth became a never-ending process of 
getting wealthier. The classification of the bourgeoisie as an owning class 
is only superficially correct, for a characteristic of this class has been that 
everybody could belong to it who conceived of life as a process of per- 
petually becoming wealthier, and considered money as something sacrosanct 
which under no circumstances should be a mere commodity for con- 

Property by itself, however, is subject to use and consumption and there- 
fore diminishes constantly. The most radical and the only secure form of 
possession is destruction, for only what we have destroyed is safely and for- 
ever ours. Property owners who do not consume but strive to enlarge their 
holdings continually find one very inconvenient limitation, the unfortunate 
fact that men must die. Death is the real reason why property and acquisition 
can never become a true political principle. A social system based essentially 
on property cannot possibly proceed toward anything but the final destruc- 
tion of all property. The finiteness of personal life is as serious a challenge 
to property as the foundation of society, as the Umits of the globe are a chal- 
lenge to expansion as the foundation of the body politic. By transcending the 
limits of human life in planning for an automatic continuous growth of 
wealth beyond all personal needs and possibilities of consumption, indi- 
vidual property is made a public affair and taken out of the sphere of mere 
private life. Private interests which by their very nature are temporary, lim- 
ited by man's natural span of life, can now escape into the sphere of pubUc 
affairs and borrow from them that infinite length of time which is needed 
for continuous accumulation. This seems to create a society very similar to 
that of the ants and bees where "the Common good differeth not from the 
Private; and being by nature enclined to their private, they procure thereby 
the common benefit." 

Since, however, men are neither ants nor bees, the whole thing is a delu- 
sion. Public life takes on the deceptive aspect of a total of private interests 
as though these interests could create a new quaUty through sheer addition. 
All the so-called hberal concepts of politics (that is, all the pre-imperialist 
pohtical notions of the bourgeoisie) — such as unlimited competition regu- 
lated by a secret balance which comes mysteriously from the sum total of 
competing activities, the pursuit of "enhghtened self-interest" as an adequate 
pohtical virtue, unUmited progress inherent in the mere succession of events 
— have this in common: they simply add up private lives and personal be- 


havior patterns and present the sum as laws of history, or economics, or 
politics. Liberal concepts, however, while they express the bourgeoisie's 
instinctive distrust of and its innate hostility to public affairs, are only a 
temporary compromise between the old standards of Western culture and the 
new class's faith in property as a dynamic, self-moving principle. The old 
standards give way to the extent that automatically growing wealth actually 
replaces political action. 

Hobbcs was the true, though never fully recognized, philosopher of the 
bourgeoisie because he realized that acqu sition of wealth conceived as a 
never-ending process can be guaranteed only by the seizure of political power, 
for the accumulating process must sooner or later force open all existing 
territorial limits. He foresaw that a society which had entered the path of 
never-ending acquisition had to engineer a dynamic political organization 
capable of a corresponding never-ending process of power generation. He 
even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psy- 
chological traits of the new type of man who wjuld fit into such a society 
and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power 
itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a 
power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender 
all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor 
meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and 
who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and 
does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incom- 
prehensible ralson d'etat. 

For a Commonwealth based on the accumulated and monopolized power 
of all its individual members necessarily leaves each person powerless, de- 
prived of his natural and human capacities. It leaves him degraded into a 
cog in the power-accumulating machine, free to console himself with sub- 
lime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of this machine, which itself is 
constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following 
its own inherent law. 

The ultimate destructive purpose of this Commonwealth is at least in- 
dicated in the philosophical interpretation of human equality as an "equality 
of ability" to kill. Living with all other nations "in the condition of a per- 
petuall war, and upon the confines of battle, with their frontiers armed, 
and canons planted against their neighbours round about," it has no other 
law of conduct but the "most conducing to [its] benefit" and will gradually 
devour weaker structures until it comes to a last war "which provideth for 
every man, by Victory, or Death." 

By "Victory or Death," the Leviathan can indeed overcome all political 
limitations that go with the existence of other peoples and can envelop 
the whole earth in its tyranny. But when the last war has come and every 
man has been provided for, no ultimate peace is established on earth: the 
power-accumulating machine, without which continual expansion would not 
have been achieved, needs more material to devour in its never-ending 
process. If the last victorious Commonwealth cannot proceed to "annex the 


planets," it can only proceed to destroy itself in order to begin anew the 
never-ending process of power generation. 

Ill: The Alliance Between Mob and Capital 

WHEN IMPERIALISM entered the scene of politics with the scramble for Africa 
in the eighties, it was promoted by businessmen, opposed fiercely by the 
governments in power, and welcomed by a surprisingly large section of the 
educated classes.*" To the last it seemed to be God-sent, a cure for all evils, 
an easy panacea for all conflicts. And it is true that imperialism in a sense 
did not disappoint these hopes. It gave a new lease on life to political and 
social structures which were quite obviously threatened by new social and 
political forces and which, under other circumstances, without the inter- 
ference of imperialist developments, would hardly have needed two world 
wars to disappear. 

As matters stood, imperialism spirited away all troubles and produced 
that deceptive feeling of security, so universal in pre-war Europe, which 
deceived all but the most sensitive minds. Peguy in France and Chesterton 
in England knew instinctively that they lived in a world of hollow pretense 
and that its stability was the greatest pretense of all. Until everything began 
to crumble, the stability of obviously outdated political structures was a 
fact, and their stubborn unconcerned longevity seemed to give the lie to 
those who felt the ground tremble under their feet. The solution of the riddle 
was imperialism. The answer to the fateful question: why did the European 
comity of nations allow this evil to spread until everything was destroyed, 
the good as well as the bad, is that all governments knew very well that their 
countries were secretly disintegrating, that the body politic was being de- 
stroyed from within, and that they lived on borrowed time. 

Innocently enough, expansion appeared first as the outlet for excess 
capital production and offered a remedy, capital export.*^ The tremendously 
increased wealth produced by capitalist production under a social system 
based on maldistribution had resulted in "oversaving" — that is, the accu- 

*" "The Services offer the cleanest and most natural support to an aggressive foreign 
policy; expansion of the empire appeals powerfully to the aristocracy and the pro- 
fessional classes by offering new and ever-growing fields for the honorable and 
profitable employment of their sons" (J. A. Hobson, "Capitalism and Imperialism in 
South Africa," op. cit.). It was "above all . . . patriotic professors and publicists 
regardless of political affiliation and unmindful of personal economic interest" who 
sponsored "the outward imperialistic thrusts of the '70ies and early '80ies" (Hayes, 
op. cit., p. 220). 

*i For this and the following see J. A. Hobson, Imperialism, who as early as 1905 
gave a masterly analysis of the driving economic forces and motives as well as of 
some of its political implications. When, in 1938, his early study was republished, 
Hobson could rightly state in his introduction to an unchanged text that his book was 
real proof "that the chief perils and disturbances ... of today . . . were all latent 
and discernible in the world of a generation ago. ..." 


mulalion of capital which was condemned to idleness within the existing 
national capacity for production and consumption. This money was actually 
superfluous, needed by nobody though owned by a growing class of some- 
bodies. The ensuing crises and depressions during the decades precedmg 
the era of imperialism *■ had impressed upon the capitalists the thought 
that their whole economic system of production depended upon a supply 
and demand that from now on must come from "outside of capitalist so- 
ciety." «' Such supply and demand came from inside the nation, so long as 
the capitalist system did not control all its classes together with its entire 
productive capacity. When capitalism had pervaded the entire economic 
structure and all social strata had come into the orbit of its production and 
consumption system, capitalists clearly had to decide either to see the whole 
system collapse or to find new markets, that is, to penetrate new countries 
which were not yet subject to capitalism and therefore could provide a 
new noncapitalistic supply and demand. 

The decisive point about the depressions of the sixties and seventies, which 
initiated the era of imperialism, was that they forced the bourgeoisie to 
realize for the first time that the original sin of simple robbery, which cen- 
turies ago had made possible the "original accumulation of capital" (Marx) 
and had started all further accumulation, had eventually to be repeated lest 
the motor of accumulation suddenly die down." In the face of this danger, 
which threatened not only the bourgeoisie but the whole nation with a 
catastrophic breakdown in production, capitalist producers understood that 
the forms and laws of their production system "from the beginning had 
been calculated for the whole earth." *' 

*- The obvious connection between the severe crises in the sixties in England and 
the seventies on the Continent and imperialism is mentioned in Hayes, op. cit., in a 
footnote only (on p. 219), and in Schuyler, op. cit., who believes that "a revival of 
interest in emigration was an important factor in the beginnings of the imperial 
movement" and that this interest had been caused by "a serious depression in British 
trade and industry" toward the close of the sixties (p. 280). Schuyler also describes 
at some length the strong "anti-imperial sentiment of the mid-Victorian era." Un- 
fortunately. Schuyler makes no differentiation between the Commonwealth and the 
Empire proper, although the discussion of pre-imperialist material might easily have 
suggested such a differentiation. 

*^ Rosa Luxemburg, Die Akkumulation des Kapitals, Berlin, 1923, p. 273. 

♦< Rudolf Hilfcrding, Das Finanzkapilat, Wien, 1910, p. 401, mentions — but does 
not analyze the implications of — the fact that imperialism "suddenly uses again the 
methods of the original accumulation of capitalistic wealth." 

♦* According to Rosa Luxemburg's brilliant insight into the political structure of 
imperialism {op. cit., pp. 273 ff., pp. 361 ff.), the "historical process of the accumu- 
lation of capital depends in all its aspects upon the existence of noncapitalist social 
strata." so that "imperialism is the political expression of the accumulation of capital 
in its competition for the possession of the remainders of the noncapitalistic world." 
This essential dependence of capitalism upon a noncapitalistic world lies at the basis 
of all other aspects of imperialism, which then may be explained as the results of 
oversaving and maldistribution (Hobson, op. cit.), as the result of overproduction 
and the consequent need for new markets (Lenin, Imperialism, the Last Stage of 
Capitalism, 1917), as the result of an undersupply of raw material (Hayes, op. cit.), 
or as capital export in order to equalize the national profit rate (Hilferding, op. cit.). 


The first reaction to the satiirated home market, lack of raw materials, 
and growing crises, was export of capital. The owners of superfluous wealth 
first tried foreign investment without expansion and without political con- 
trol, which resulted in an unparalleled orgy of swindles, financial scandals, 
and stock-market speculation, all the more alarming since foreign invest- 
ments grew much more rapidly than domestic ones.*" Big money resulting 
from oversaving paved the way for little money, the product of the little 
fellow's work. Domestic enterprises, in order to keep pace with high profits 
from foreign investment, turned likewise to fraudulent methods and attracted 
an increasing number of people who, in the hope of miraculous returns, 
threw their money out of the window. The Panama scandal in France, the 
Griindungsschwindel in Germany and Austria, became classic examples. 
Tremendous losses resulted from the promises of tremendous profits. The 
owners of little money lost so much so quickly that the owners of superfluous 
big capital soon saw themselves left alone in what was, in a sense, a battle- 
field. Having failed to change the whole society into a community of 
gamblers they were again superfluous, excluded from the normal process 
of production to which, after some turmoil, all other classes returned 
quietly, if somewhat impoverished and embittered.*^ 

Export of money and foreign investment as such are not imperiaUsm and 
do not necessarily lead to expansion as a political device. As long as the 
owners of superfluous capital were content with investing "large portions 
of their property in foreign lands," even if this tendency ran "counter to 
all past traditions of nationalism," ** they merely confirmed their aUenation 
from the national body on which they were parasites anyway. Only when 
they demanded government protection of their investments (after the initial 
stage of swindle had opened their eyes to the possible use of politics against 
the risks of gambling) did they re-enter the life of the nation. In this appeal, 
however, they followed the established tradition of bourgeois society, always 
to consider political institutions exclusively as an instrument for the pro- 
tection of individual property.*' Only the fortunate coincidence of the rise 

*8 According to Hilferding, op. cit., p. 409, note, the British income from foreign 
investment increased ninefold while national income doubled from 1865 to 1898. 
He assumes a similar though probably less marked increase for German and French 
foreign investments. 

*' For France see George Lachapelle, Les Finances de la Troisieme Republique, 
Paris, 1937, and D. W. Brogan, The Development of Modern France, New York, 
1941. For Germany, compare the interesting contemporary testimonies like Max 
Wirth, Geschichte der Handelskrisen, 1873, chapter 15, and A. Schaeffle, "Der 'grosse 
Boersenkrach' des Jahres 1873" in Zeitschrift fiir die gesamte Staatswissenschaft, 
1874, Band 30. 

*8 J. A. Hobson, "Capitalism and Imperialism," op. cit. 

*9 See Hilferding, op. cit., p. 406. "Hence the cry for strong state power by all capi- 
talists with vested interests in foreign countries. . . . Exported capital feels safest 
when the state power of its own country rules the new domain completely. ... Its 
profits should be guaranteed by the state if possible. Thus, exportation of capital 
favors an imperialist policy." P. 423: "It is a matter of course that the attitude of 
the bourgeoisie toward the state undergoes a complete change when the political 


of a new class of property holders and the industrial revolution had made 
the Ixnirgcoisie producers and stimulators of production. As long as it ful- 
filled this basic function in modern society, which is essentially a community 
of producers, its wealth had an important function for the nation as a whole. 
The owners of superfluous capital were the first section of the class to want 
profits without fulfilling some real .social function— even if it was the func- 
tion of an exploiting producer— and whom, consequently, no police could 
ever have saved from the wrath of the people. 

Expansion then was an escape not only for superfluous capital. More 
important, it protected its owners against the menacing prospect of remain- 
ing entirely superfluous and parasitical. It saved the bourgeoisie from the 
consequences of maldistribution and revitalized its concept of ownership 
at a time when wealth could no longer be used as a factor in production 
within the national framework and had come into conflict with the produc- 
tion ideal of the community as a whole. 

Older than the superfluous wealth was another by-product of capitalist 
production: the human debris that every crisis, following invariably upon 
each period of industrial growth, eliminated permanently from producing 
society. Men who had become permanently idle were as superfluous to the 
community as the owners of superfluous wealth. That they were an actual 
menace to society had been recognized throughout the nineteenth century 
and their export had helped to populate the dominions of Canada and 
Australia as well as the United States. The new fact in the imperialist era 
is that these two superfluous forces, superfluous capital and superfluous 
working power, joined hands and left the country together. The concept 
of expansion, the export of government power and annexation of every 
territory in which nationals had invested either their wealth or their work, 
seemed the only alternative to increasing losses in wealth and population. 
Imperialism and its idea of unlimited expansion seemed to offer a permanent 
remedy for a permanent evil.'" 

Ironically enough, the first country in which superfluous wealth and 

power of the state becomes a competitive instrument for the finance capital in the 
world market. The bourgeoisie had been hostile to the state in its fight against eco- 
nomic mercantilism and political absolutism. . . . Theoretically at least, economic 
life was to be completely free of state intervention; the state was to confine itself 
politically to the safeguarding of security and the establishment of civil equality." 
P. 426: "However, the desire for an expansionist policy causes a revolutionary change 
in the mentality of the bourgeoisie. It ceases to be pacifist and humanist." P. 470: 
"Socially, expansion is a vital condition for the preservation of capitalist society; eco- 
nomically, it is the condition for the preservation of, and temporary increase in, the 
profit rate." 

'"These motives were especially outspoken in German imperialism. Among the 
first activities of the Alldeutsche Verband (founded in 1891) were efi'orts to prevent 
German emigrants from changing their citizenship, and the first imperialist speech of 
William II. on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the 
Reich, contained the following typical passage: "The German Empire has become a 
World Empire. Thousands of our compatriots live everywhere, in distant parts of the 
earth. . . . Gentlemen, it is your solemn duty to help me unite this greater German 
Empire with our native country." Compare also J. A. Froude's statement in note 10. 


superfluous men were brought together was itself becoming superfluous. 
South Africa had been in British possession since the beginning of the cen- 
tury because it assured the maritime road to India. The opening of the 
Suez Canal, however, and the subsequent administrative conquest of Egypt, 
lessened considerably the importance of the old trade station on the Cape. 
The British would, in all probability, have withdrawn from Africa just as 
all European nations had done whenever their possessions and trade in- 
terests in India were liquidated. 

The particular irony and, in a sense, symbolical circumstance in the un- 
expected development of South Africa into the "culture-bed of Imperial- 
ism" ^^ lies in the very nature of its sudden attractiveness when it had lost 
all value for the Empire proper: diamond fields were discovered in the 
seventies and large gold mines in the eighties. The new desire for profit-at- 
any-price converged for the first time with the old fortune hunt. Prospectors, 
adventurers, and the scum of the big cities emigrated to the Dark Continent 
along with capital from industrially developed countries. From now on, the 
mob, begotten by the monstrous accumulation of capital, accompanied its 
begetter on those voyages of discovery where nothing was discovered but 
new possibilities for investment. The owners of superfluous wealth were the 
only men who could use the superfluous men who came from the four 
corners of the earth. Together they established the first paradise of parasites 
whose lifeblood was gold. Imperialism, the product of superfluous money 
and superfluous men, began its startling career by producing the most 
superfluous and unreal goods. 

It may still be doubtful whether the panacea of expansion would have 
become so great a temptation for non-imperialists if it had offered its 
dangerous solutions only for those superfluous forces which, in any case, 
were already outside the nation's body corporate. The complicity of all 
parliamentary parties in imperialist programs is a matter of record. The 
history of the British Labor Party in this respect is an almost unbroken 
chain of justifications of Cecil Rhodes' early prediction: "The workmen 
find that although the Americans are exceedingly fond of them, and are 
just now exchanging the most brotherly sentiments with them yet are shutting 
out their goods. The workmen also find that Russia, France and Germany 
locally are doing the same, and the workmen see that if they do not look 
out they will have no place in the world to trade at all. And so the workmen 
have become Imperialist and the Liberal Party are following." "^ In Ger- 
many, the liberals (and not the Conservative Party) were the actual pro- 
moters of that famous naval policy which contributed so heavily to the out- 
break of the first World War.^^ The Socialist Party wavered between active 

61 E. H. Damce, The Victorian Illusion, London, 1928, p. 164: "Africa, which had 
been included neither in the itinerary of Saxondom nor in the professional philosophers 
of imperial history, became the culture-bed of British imperialism." 

62 Quoted from Millin, op. cit. 

63 "The liberals, and not the Right of Parliament, were the supporters of the naval 
policy." Alfred von Tirpitz, Erinnerungen, 1919. See also Daniel Frymann (pseud, for 
Heinrich Class), Wenn ich der Kaiser war, 1912: "The true imperial party is the Na- 


support of ihc imperialist naval policy (it repeatedly voted funds for the 
building of a German navy after 1906) and complete neglect of all ques- 
tions of foreign policy. Occasional warnings against the Lumpenproletanat, 
and the possible bribing of sections of the working class with crumbs from 
the inHH-rialist table, did not lead to a deeper understanding of the great 
appeal which the imperialist programs had to the rank and file of the party. 
In Marxist terms the new phenomenon of an alliance between mob and 
capital seemed so unnatural, so obviously in conflict with the doctrine of 
class struggle, that the actual dangers of the imperialist attempt— to divide 
mankind into master races and slave races, into higher and lower breeds, 
into colored peoples and white men, all of which were attempts to unify 
the people on the basis of the mob — were completely overlooked. Even the 
breakdown of international solidarity at the outbreak of the first World War 
did not disturb the complacency of the socialists and their faith in the 
proletariat as such. Socialists were still probing the economic laws of im- 
perialism when imperialists had long since stopped obeying them, when in 
overseas countries these laws had been sacrificed to the "imperial factor" 
or to the "race factor," and when only a few elderly gentlemen in high 
finance still believed in the inalienable rights of the profit rate. 

The curious weakness of popular opposition to imperialism, the numerous 
inconsistencies and outright broken promises of liberal statesmen, frequently 
ascribed to opportunism or bribery, have other and deeper causes. Neither 
opportunism nor bribery could have persuaded a man like Gladstone to 
break his promise, as the leader of the Liberal Party, to evacuate Egypt 
when he became Prime Minister. Half consciously and hardly articulately, 
these men shared with the people the conviction that the national body 
itself was so deeply split into classes, that class struggle was so universal a 
characteristic of modern political life, that the very cohesion of the nation 
was jeopardized. Expansion again appeared as a lifesaver, if and insofar as 
it could provide a common interest for the nation as a whole, and it is mainly 
for this reason that imperialists were allowed to become "parasites upon 
patriotism." '•"* 

Partly, of course, such hopes still belonged with the old vicious practice of 
"healing" domestic conflicts with foreign adventures. The difference, how- 
ever, is marked. Adventures are by their very nature limited in time and 
space; they may succeed temporarily in overcoming conflicts, although as 
a rule they fail and tend rather to sharpen them. From the very beginning 
the imperialist adventure of expansion appeared to be an eternal solution, 
because expansion was conceived as unlimited. Furthermore, imperialism 
was not an adventure in the usual sense, because it depended less on na- 
tionalist slogans than on the seemingly solid basis of economic interests. 
In a society of clashing interests, where the common good was identified 

tional Liberal Party." Frymann, a prominent German chauvinist during the first World 
War, even adds with respect to the conservatives: "The aloofness of conservative milieus 
with regard to race doctrines is also worthy of note." 
'♦ Hobson, op. cit., p. 61. 


with the sum total of individual interests, expansion as such appeared to be 
a possible common interest of the nation as a whole. Since the owning and 
dominant classes had convinced everybody that economic interest and the 
passion for ownership are a sound basis for the body politic, even non- 
imperialist statesmen were easily persuaded to yield when a common eco- 
nomic interest appeared on the horizon. 

These then are the reasons why nationalism developed so clear a tendency 
toward imperialism, the inner contradiction of the two principles notwith- 
standing.''* The more ill-fitted nations were for the incorporation of foreign 
peoples (which contradicted the constitution of their own body politic), 
the more they were tempted to oppress them. In theory, there is an abyss 
between nationalism and imperialism; in practice, it can and has been 
bridged by tribal nationalism and outright racism. From the beginning, 
imperialists in all countries preached and boasted of their being "beyond 
the parties," and the only ones to speak for the nation as a whole. This was 
especially true of the Central and Eastern European countries • with few 
or no overseas holdings; there the alliance between mob and capital took 
place at home and resented even more bitterly (and attacked much more 
violently) the national institutions and all national parties.'^® 

The contemptuous indifference of imperialist politicians to domestic 
issues was marked everywhere, however, and especially in England. While 
"parties above parties" like the Primrose League were of secondary in- 
fluence, imperialism was the chief cause of the degeneration of the two-party 
system into the Front Bench system, which led to a "diminution of the power 
of opposition" in Parliament and to a growth of "power of the Cabinet as 
against the House of Commons." " Of course this was also carried through 
as a policy beyond the strife of parties and particular interests, and by men 
who claimed to speak for the nation as a whole. Such language was bound 
to attract and delude precisely those persons who still retained a spark of 
political idealism. The cry for unity resembled exactly the battle cries which 
had always led peoples to war; and yet, nobody detected in the universal 
and permanent instrument of unity the germ of universal and permanent war. 

Government officials engaged more actively than any other group in the 
nationalist brand of imperialism and were chiefly responsible for the con- 
fusion of imperiaUsm with nationahsm. The nation-states had created and 
depended upon the civil services as a permanent body of officials who. served 

55 Hobson, op. cit., was the first to recognize both the fundamental opposition of 
imperiaUsm and nationalism and the tendency of nationalism to become imperialist. 
He called imperialism a perversion of nationalism "in which nations . . . transform 
the wholesome stimulative rivalry of various national types into the cut-throat 
struggle of competing empires" (p. 9.). 

^'^ See chapter viii. 

57 Hobson, op. cit., pp. 146 ff. — "There can be no doubt that the power of the 
Cabinet as against the House of Commons has grown steadily and rapidly and it 
appears to be still growing," noticed Bryce in 1901, in Studies in History and Juris- 
prudence, 1901, I, 177. For the working of the Front Bench system see also Hilaire 
Belloc and Cecil Chesterton, The Party System, London, 1911. 


recardlcss of class interest and governmental changes. Their professional 
honor and sclf-respect-^^specially in England and Germany— denved from 
their being servants of the nation as a whole. They were the only group with 
a direct interest in supporting the state's fundamental claim to mdependence 
of classes and factions. That the authority of the nation-state itself depended 
largely on the economic independence and political neutrality of its civil 
servants becomes obvious in our time; the dechne of nations has invariably 
started with the corruption of its permanent administration and the general 
conviction that civil servants are in the pay, not of the state, but of the 
owning classes. At the close of the century the owning classes had become 
so dominant that it was almost ridiculous for a state employee to keep up 
the pretense of serving the nation. Division into classes left them outside 
the social body and forced them to form a clique of their own. In the 
colonial services they escaped the actual disintegration of the national body. 
In ruling foreign peoples in faraway countries, they could much better pre- 
tend to be heroic servants of the nation, "who by their services had glorified 
the British race," '^^ than if they had stayed at home. The colonies were no 
longer simply "a vast system of outdoor relief for the upper classes" as 
James Mill could still describe them; they were to become the very backbone 
of British nationalism, which discovered in the domination of distant coun- 
tries and the rule over strange peoples the only way to serve British, and 
nothing but British, interests. The services actually believed that "the pe- 
culiar genius of each nation shows itself nowhere more clearly than in their 
system of dealing with subject races." °^ 

The truth was that only far from home could a citizen of England, Ger- 
many, or France be nothing but an Englishman or German or Frenchman. 
In his own country he was so entangled in economic interests or social 
loyalties that he felt closer to a member of his class in a foreign country 
than to a man of another class in his own. Expansion gave nationalism a 
new lease on life and therefore was accepted as an instrument of national 
politics. The members of the new colonial societies and imperialist leagues 
felt "far removed from the strife of parties," and the farther away they 
moved the stronger their belief that they "represented only a national pur- 
pose." "° This shows the desperate state of the European nations before 
imperialism, how fragile their institutions had become, how outdated their 
social system proved in the face of man's growing capacity to produce. The 

^'^ Lord Curzon at the unveiling of Lord Cromer's memorial tablet. See Lawrence 
J. Zetland, Lord Cromer, 1932, p. 362. 

^»Sir Hesketh Bell, op. cit., Part I, p. 300. 

The same sentiment prevailed in the Dutch colonial services. "The highest task, the 
task without precedent is that which awaits the East Indian Civil Service official . . . 
it should be considered as the highest honor to serve in its ranks .... the select 
body which fulfills the mission of Holland overseas." See De Kat Angelino, Colonial 
Policy, Chicago. 1931, II. 129. 

•oThe President of the German "Kolonialverein," Hohenlohe-Langenburg, in 1884. 
See Mary E. Townsend, Origin of Modern German Colonialism. 1871-1885. 1921. 


means for preservation were desperate too, and in the end the remedy proved 
worse than the evil — which, incidentally, it did not cure. 

The allia nce between capital and mob is to be found at the genesis of 
every consistently imperialist policy. In some countries, particularly in 
GreaFIBritain, this new alliance between the much-too-rich and the much- 
too-poor was and remained confined to overseas possessions. The so-called 
hypocrisy of British policies was the result of the good sense of English 
statesmen who drew a sharp line between colonial methods and normal 
domestic policies, thereby avoiding with considerable success the feared 
boomerang eff^ect of imperialism upon the homeland. In other countries, 
particularly in Germany and Austria, the alliance took effect at home in 
the form of pan-movements, and to a lesser extent in France, in a so-called 
colonial policy. The aim of these "movements" was, so to speak, to im- 
perialize the whole nation (and not only the "superfluous" part of it), to 
combine domestic and foreign policy in such a way as to organize the nation 
for_the looting of foreign territories and the permanent degradation of alien 

The rise of the mob out of the capitalist organization was observed early, 
and its growth carefully and anxiously noted by all great historians of the 
nineteenth century. Historical pessimism from Burckhardt to Spengler springs 
essentially from this consideration. But what the historians, sadly pre- 
occupied with the phenomenon in itself, failed to grasp was that the mob 
could not be identified with the growing industrial working class, and cer- 
tainly not with the people as a whole, but that it was composed actually of 
the refuse of all classes. This composition made it seem that the mob and 
its representatives had abolished class differences, that those, standing out- 
side the class-divided nation were the people itself (the Volksgemeinschaft, 
as the Nazis would call it) rather than its distortion and caricature. The 
historical pessimists understood the essential irresponsibility of this new 
social stratum, and they also correctly foresaw the possibility of converting 
democracy into a despotism whose tyrants would rise from the mob and 
lean on it for support. Wh at they f ailed to understand was that the mobis^ 
not only the refuse but also the by-product of bourgeois society, directly 
produced by it and therefore never quite separable from it. They failed for 
this reason to notice high society's constantly growing admiration for the 
underworld, which runs like a red thread through the nineteenth century, 
its continuous step-by-step retreat on all questions of morality, and its 
growing taste for the anarchical cynicism of its offspring. At the turn of the 
century, the Dreyfus Affair showed that underworld and high society in 
France were so closely bound together that it was difficult definitely to place 
any of the "heroes" among the Anti-Dreyfusards in either category. 

This feeling of kinship, the joining together of begetter and offspring, 
already classically expressed in Balzac's novels, antedates all practical eco- 
nomic, political, or social considerations and recalls those fundamental 
psychological traits of the new type of Western man that Hobbes outlined 


ihrcc hundred years ago. But it is true that it was mainly due to the insights, 
acuuircd by the bourgeoisie during the crises and depressions which pre- 
ceded imperiaUsm, that high society finally admitted its readiness to accept 
the revolutionary change in moral standards which Hobbes's "realism" had 
proposed, and which was now being proposed anew by the mob and its 
leaders. The very fact that the "original sin" of "original accumulation of 
capital" would need additional sins to keep the system going was far more 
effective in persuading the bourgeoisie to shake off the restraints of Western 
tradition than either its philosopher or its underworld. It finally induced the 
German bourgeoisie to throw off the mask of hypocrisy and openly confess 
its relationship to the mob, calling on it expressly to champion its property 


It is significant that this should have happened in Germany. In England 
and Holland the development of bourgeois society had progressed relatively 
quietly and the bourgeoisie of these countries enjoyed centuries of security 
and freedom from fear. Its rise in France, however, was interrupted by a 
great popular revolution whose consequences interfered with the bour- 
geoisie's enjoyment of supremacy. In Germany, moreover, where the bour- 
geoisie did not reach full development until the latter half of the nineteenth 
century, its rise was accompanied from the start by the growth of a revolu- 
tionary working-class movement with a tradition nearly as old as its own. 
It was a matter of course that the less secure a bourgeois class felt in its own 
country, the more it would be tempted to shed the heavy burden of hypoc- 
risy. High society's affinity with the mob came to light in France earlier 
than in Germany, but was in the end equally strong in both countries. 
France, however, because of her revolutionary traditions and her relative 
lack of industrialization, produced only a relatively small mob, so that her 
bourgeoisie was finally forced to look for help beyond the frontiers and to 
ally itself with Hitler Germany. 

Whatever the precise nature of the long historical evolution of the bour- 
geoisie in the various European countries, the political principles of the 
mob, as encountered in imperialist ideologies and totalitarian movements, 
betray a surprisingly strong affinity with the political attitudes of bourgeois 
society, if the latter are cleansed of hypocrisy and untainted by concessions 
to Christian tradition. What more recently made the nihihstic attitudes of 
the mob so intellectually attractive to the bourgeoisie is a relationship of 
principle that goes far beyond the actual birth of the mob. 

In other words, the disparity between cause and effect which character- 
ized the birth of imperialism has its reasons. The occasion — superfluous 
wealth created by ovcraccumulation, which needed the mob's help to find 
safe and profitable investment — set in motion a force that had always lain 
in the basic structure of bourgeois society, though it had been hidden by 
nobler traditions and by that blessed hypocrisy which La Rochefoucauld 
called the compliment vice pays to virtue. At the same time, completely un- 
principled power politics could not be played until a mass of people^ w^as 
available who were free of all principles and so large numerically that they 


surpassed the ability of state and society to take care of them. The fact that 
this mob could be used only by imperialist politicians and inspired only by 
racial doctrines made it appear as though imperialism alone were able to 
settle the grave domestic, social, and economic problems of modern times. 

The philosophy of Hobbes, it is true, contains nothing of modern race 
doctrines, which not only stir up the mob, but in their totalitarian form out- 
line very clearly the forms of organization through which humanity could 
carry the endless process of capital and power accumulation through to its 
logical end in self-destruction. But Hobbes at least provided political thought 
with the prerequisite for all race doctrines, that is, the exclusion in principle 
of the idea of humanity which constitutes the sole regulating idea of inter- 
national law. With the assumption that foreign pohtics is necessarily outside 
of the human contract, engaged in the perpetual war of all against all, which 
is the law of the "state of nature," Hobbes affords the best possible theoretical 
foundation for those naturalistic ideologies which hold nations to be tribes, 
separated from each other by nature, without any connection whatever, 
unconscious of the solidarity of mankind and having in common only the 
instinct for self-preservation which man shares with the animal world. If 
the idea of humanity, of which the most conclusive symbol is the common 
origin of the human species, is no longer valid, then nothing is more plausible 
than a theory according to which brown, yellow, or black races are descended 
from some other species of apes than the white race, and that all together 
are predestined by nature to war against each other until they have dis- 
appeared from the face of the earth. 

If it should prove to be true that we are imprisoned in Hobbes's endless 
process of power accumulation, then the organization of the mob will in- 
evitably take the form of transformation of nations into races, for there is, 
under the conditions of an accumulating society, no other unifying bond 
available between individuals who in the very process of power accumulation 
and expansion are losing all natural connections with their fellow-men. 

Racism may indeed carry out the doom of the Western world and, for 
that matter, of the whole of human civilization. When Russians have become 
Slavs, when Frenchmen have assumed the role of commanders of a jorce 
noire, when Englishmen have turned into "white men," as already for a 
disastrous spell all Germans became Aryans, then this change will itself 
signify the end of Western man. For no matter what learned scientists may 
say, race is, politically speaking, not the beginning of humanity but its end, 
not the origin of peoples but their decay, not the natural birth of man but 
his unnatural death. 

cnAPTKR six: Race-Thinking Before 

IF RACE-THINKING were a German invention, as it has been sometimes 
a>iscrted, then "German thinking" (whatever that may be) was vic- 
torious in many parts of the spiritual world long before the Nazis started 
their ill-fated attempt at world conquest. Hitlerism exercised its strong 
international and inter-European appeal during the thirties because racism, 
although a state doctrine only in Germany, had been a powerful trend in 
public opinion everywhere. The Nazi political war machine had long been 
m motion when in 1939 German tanks began their march of destruction, 
since — in political warfare — racism was calculated to be a more powerful 
ally than any paid agent or secret organization of fifth columnists. 
Strengthened by the experiences of almost two decades in the various capi- 
tals, the Nazis were confident that their best "propaganda" would be their 
racial policy itself, from which, despite many other compromises and 
broken promises, they had never swerved for expediency's sake.^ Racism 
was neither a new nor a secret weapon, though never before had it been 
used with this thoroughgoing consistency. 

The historical truth of the matter is that race-thinking, with its roots 
deep in the eighteenth century, emerged simultaneously in all Western 
countries during the nineteenth century. Racism has been the powerful 
ideology of imperialistic pohcies since the turn of our century. It certainly 
has absorbed and revived all the old patterns of race opinions which, how- 
ever, by themselves would hardly have been able to create or, for that 
matter, to degenerate into racism as a Weltanschauung or an ideology. In 
the middle of the last century, race opinions were still judged by the 
yardstick of political reason: Tocqueville wrote to Gobineau about the 
lattcr's doctrines, "They are probably wrong and certainly pernicious." ^ 
Not until the end of the century were dignity and importance accorded 
race-thinking as though it had been one of the major spiritual contribu- 
tions of the Western world.' 

» During the German-Russian pact, Nazi propaganda stopped all attacks on "Bol- 
shevism" but never gave up the race-line. 

2 "Lettres de Alexis de Tocqueville et de Arthur de Gobineau," in Revue des Deux 
Monties, 1907. Tome 199, Letter of November 17, 1853. 

3 The best historical account of race-thinking in the pattern of a "history of ideas" 
is Erich Voegelin, Rasse und Staat, Tuebingen, 1933. 


Until the fateful days of the "scramble for Africa," race-thinking had 
been one of the many free opinions which, within the general framework 
of liberalism, argued and fought each other to win the consent of public 
opinion/ Only a few of them became full-fledged ideologies, that is, sys- 
tems based upon a single opinion that proved strong enough to attract and 
persuade a majority of people and broad enough to lead them through 
the various experiences and situations of an average modern life. For an 
ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the 
key to history, or the solution for all the "riddles of the universe," or the 
intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to 
rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to 
survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come 
out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets 
history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets 
history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was 
so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish them- 
selves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within 
which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory 
patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent 
that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept 
a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either 
of these views. 

The tremendous power of persuasion inherent in the main ideologies of 
our times is not accidental. Persuasion is not possible without appeal to 
either experiences or desires, in other words to immediate political needs. 
Plausibility in these matters comes neither from scientific facts, as the vari- 
ous brands of Darwinists would like us to believe, nor from historical laws, 
as the historians pretend, in their efforts to discover the law according to 
which civilizations rise and fall. Every full-fledged ideology has been 
created, continued and improved as a political weapon and not as a 
theoretical doctrine. It is true that sometimes — and such is the case with 
racism — an ideology has changed its original political sense, but without 
immediate contact with political life none of them could be imagined. 
Their scientific aspect is secondary and arises first from the desire to pro- 
vide watertight arguments, and second because their persuasive power 
also got hold of scientists, who no longer were interested in the result of 
their research but left their laboratories and hurried off to preach to the 
multitude their new interpretations of life and world.' We owe it to these 

* For the host of nineteenth-century conflicting opinions see Carlton J. H. Hayes, 
A Generation of Materialism, New York. 1941, pp. 111-122. 

5 "Huxley neglected scientific research of his own from the '70's onward, so busy 
was he in the role of 'Darwin's bulldog' barking and biting at theologians" (Hayes, 
op. cit., p. 126). Ernst Haeckel's passion for popularizing scientific results which was 
at least as strong as his passion for science itself, has been stressed recently by an ap- 
plauding Nazi writer, H. Bruecher, "Ernst Haeckel, Ein Wegbereiter biologischen 
Staatsdenkens." In Nationalsoziaiistische Monatshefte, 1935, Heft 69. 

Two rather extreme examples may be quoted to show what scientists are capable 


"scientific" preachers rather than to any scientific findings that today no 
single science is left into whose categorical system race-thinking has not 
deeply |-)enetrated. This again has made historians, some of whom have 
been tempted to hold science responsible for race-thinking, mistake certain 
cither philological or biological research results for causes instead of 
consequences of race-thinking." The opposite would have come closer to 
the truth. As a matter of fact, the doctrine that Might is Right needed 
several centuries (from the seventeenth to the nineteenth) to conquer natu- 
ral science and produce the "law" of the survival of the fittest. And if, to 
lake another instance, the theory of de Maistre and Schelling about savage 
tribes as the decaying residues of former peoples had suited the nineteenth- 
century political devices as well as the theory of progress, we would 
probably never have heard much of "primitives" and no scientist would 
have wasted his time looking for the "missing link" between ape and man. 
The blame is not to be laid on any science as such, but rather on certain 
scientists who were no less hypnotized by ideologies than their fellow- 

The fact that racism is the main ideological weapon of imperialistic 
politics is so obvious that it seems as though many students prefer to 
avoid the beaten track of truism. Instead, an old misconception of racism 

of. Both were scholars of good standing, writing during World War I. The German 
historian of art, Josef Strzygowski, in his Altai, Iran und Volkerwanderung (Leipzig, 
|V|7) discovered the Nordic race to be composed of Germans. Ukrainians. Armenians, 
Persians. Hungarians, Bulgars and Turks (pp. 306-307). The Society of Medicine of 
Paris not only published a report on the discovery of "polychesia" (excessive defeca- 
tion) and "bromidrosis" (body odor) in the German race, but proposed urinalysis 
for the detection of German spies; German urine was "found" to contain 20 per cent 
non-uric nitrogen as against 15 per cent for other races. See Jacques Barzun, Race, 
New York. 1937. p. 239. 

■' This quid pro quo was partly the result of the zeal of students who wanted to put 
down every single instance in which race has been mentioned. Thereby they mistook 
relatively harmless authors, for whom explanation by race was a possible and some- 
times fascinating opinion, for full-fledged racists. Such opinions, in themselves harmless, 
were advanced by the early anthropologists as starting points of their investiga- 
tions. A typical instance is the naive hypothesis of Paul Broca. noted French anthro- 
pologist of the middle of the last century, who assumed that "the brain has something 
to do with race and the measured shape of the skull is the best way to get at the con- 
tents of the brain" (quoted after Jacques Barzun, op. cit., p. 162). It is obvious that 
this assertion, without the support of a conception of the nature of man, is simply 

As for the philologists of the early nineteenth century, whose concept of "Aryanism" 
has seduced almost every student of racism to count them among the propagandists or 
even inventors of race-thinking, they are as innocent as innocent can be. When they 
overstepped the limits of pure research it was because they wanted to include in the 
same cultural brotherhood as many nations as possible. In the words of Ernest Seillicre, 
La Philosophie de ilmpcrialisnw. 4 vols.. 1903-1906: "There was a kind of intoxica- 
tion: modern civilization believed it had recovered its pedigree . . . and an organism 
was born which embraced in one and the same fraternity all nations whose language 
showed some affinity with Sanskrit." (Preface, Tome I. p. xxxv.) In other words, 
these men were still in the humanistic tradition of the eighteenth century and shared 
its enthusiasm about strange people and exotic cultures. 


as a kind of exaggerated nationalism is still given currency. Valuable works 
of students, especially in France, who have proved that racism is not only 
a quite different phenomenon but tends to destroy the body politic of the 
nation, are generally overlooked. Witnessing the gigantic competition be- 
tween race-thinking and class-thinking for dominion over the minds of 
modern men, some have been inclined to see in the one the expression of 
national and in the other the expression of international trends, to believe 
the one to be the mental preparation for national wars and the other to be 
the ideology for civil wars. This has been possible because of the first 
World War's curious mixture of old national and new imperialistic conflicts, 
a mixture in which old national slogans proved still to possess a far greater 
appeal to the masses of all countries involved than any imperialistic aims. 
The last war, however, with its Quislings and collaborationists everywhere, 
should have proved that racism can stir up civil conflicts in every country, 
and is one of the most ingenious devices ever invented for preparing civil 

For the truth is that race-thinking entered the scene of active politics 
the moment the European peoples had prepared, and to a certain extent 
realized, the new body politic of the nation. From the very beginning, 
racism deliberately cut across all national boundaries, whether defined by 
geographical, linguistic, traditional, or any other standards, and denied 
national-political existence as such. Race-thinking, rather than class-think- 
ing, was the ever-present shadow accompanying the development of the 
comity of European nations, until it finally grew to be the powerful weapon 
for the destruction of those nations. Historically speaking, racists have a 
worse record of patriotism than the representatives of all other inter- 
national ideologies together, and they were the only ones who consistently 
denied the great principle upon which national organizations of peoples 
are built, the principle of equality and solidarity of all peoples guaranteed 
by the idea of mankind. 

i: A "Race" of Aristocrats Against a "Nation" of Citizens 

A STEADILY rising interest in the most different, strange, and even savage 
peoples was characteristic of France during the eighteenth century. 
This was the time when Chinese paintings were admired and imitated, 
when one of the most famous works of the century was named Lettres 
Persanes, and when travelers' reports were the favorite reading of society. 
The honesty and simplicity of savage and uncivilized peoples were opposed 
to the sophistication and frivolity of culture. Long before the nineteenth 
century with its tremendously enlarged opportunities for travel brought the 
non-European world into the home of every average citizen, eighteenth- 
century French society had tried to grasp spiritually the content of cultures 
and countries that lay far beyond European boundaries. A great enthusiasm 


for "new specimens of mankind" (Herder) filled the hearts of the heroes 
of ihc French Revolution who together with the French nation liberated 
every people of every color under the French flag. This enthusiasm for 
strange and foreign countries culminated in the message of fraternity, be- 
cause" it was inspired by the desire to prove in every new and surprising 
"specimen of mankind" the old saying of La Bruyere: "La raison est de tous 
les climats." 

Yet it is this nation-creating century and humanity-loving country to 
which we must trace the germs of what later proved to become the nation- 
destroying and humanity-annihilating power of racism.^ It is a remarkable 
fact that the first author who assumed the coexistence of different peoples 
with different origins in France, was at the same time the first to elaborate 
definite class-thinking. The Comte de Boulainvillicrs, a French nobleman 
who wrote at the beginning of the eighteenth century and whose works 
were published after his death, interpreted the history of France as the 
history of two different nations of which the one, of Germanic origin, had 
conquered the older inhabitants, the "Gaules," had imposed its laws upon 
them, had taken their lands, and had settled down as the ruling class, the 
"peerage" whose supreme rights rested upon the "right of conquest" and 
the "necessity of obedience always due to the strongest." * Engaged chiefly 
in finding arguments against the rising political power of the Tiers Etat and 
their spokesmen, the "nouveau corps" formed by "gens de lettres et de 
his," Boulainvillicrs had to fight the monarchy too because the French king 
wanted no longer to represent the peerage as primus inter pares but the 
nation as a whole; in him, for a while, the new rising class found its most 
powerful protector. In order to regain uncontested primacy for the nobility, 
Boulainvillicrs proposed that his fellow-noblemen deny a common origin 
with the French people, break up the unity of the nation, and claim an 
original and therefore eternal distinction." Much bolder than most of the 
later defenders of nobility, Boulainvillicrs denied any predestined connec- 
tion with the soil; he conceded that the "Gaules" had been in France longer, 
that the "Francs" were strangers and barbarians. He based his doctrine 
solely on the eternal right of conquest and found no difficulty in asserting 
that "Friesland . . . has been the true cradle of the French nation." Cen- 
turies before the actual development of imperialistic racism, following only 
the inherent logic of his concept, he considered the original inhabitants of 
France natives in the modern sense, or in his own terms "subjects" — not of 

' Francois Hotman, French sixteenth-century author of Franco-Gallia, is sometimes 
held to be a forerunner of eighteenth-century racial doctrines, as by Ernest Seilliere, 
op. cit. Against this misconception, Theophile Simar has rightly protested: "Hotman 
appears, not as an apologist for the Teutons, but as the defender of the people which 
was oppressed by the monarchy" (Etude Critique sur la Formation de la doctrine des 
Races au I8e et son expansion au 19e siecle, Bruxelles, 1922, p. 20). 

* Histoire de I'Ancien Gouvernement de la France, 1727, Tome I, p. 33. 

■ That the Comte Boulainvillicrs' history was meant as a political weapon against 
the Tiers Etat was stated by Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, 1748, XXX, chap. x. 


the king — but of all those whose advantage was descent from the con- 
quering people, who by right of birth were to be called "Frenchmen." 

Boulainvilliers was deeply influenced by the seventeenth-century might- 
right doctrines and he certainly was one of the most consistent contempo- 
rary disciples of Spinoza, whose Ethics he translated and whose Traite 
theologico-polUique he analyzed. In his reception and application of 
Spinoza's political ideas, might was changed into conquest and conquest 
jicted as a kind of unique judgment on the natural qualities and human 
^ivileges of men and nations. In this we may detect the first traces of later 
naturalistic transformations the might-right doctrine was to go through. 
This view is really corroborated by the fact that Boulainvilliers was one 
of the outstanding freethinkers of his time, and that his attacks on the 
Christian Church were hardly motivated by anticlericalism alone. 

Boulainvilliers' theory, however, still deals with peoples and not with 
races; it bases the right of the superior people on a historical deed, conquest, 
and not on a physical fact — although the historical deed already has 
a certain influence on the natural qualities of the conquered people. It 
invents two different peoples within France in order to counteract the new 
national idea, represented as it was to a certain extent by the absolute 
monarchy in alliance with the Tiers Etat. Boulainvilliers is antinational at 
a time when the idea of nationhood was felt to be new and revolutionary, 
but had not yet shown, as it did in the French Revolution, how closely it 
was connected with a democratic form of government. Boulainvilliers pre- 
pared his country for civil war without knowing what civil war meant. 
He is representative of many of the nobles who did not regard themselves 
as representative of the nation, but as a separate ruling caste which might 
have much more in common with a foreign people of the "same society 
and condition" than with its compatriots. It has been, indeed, these anti- 
national trends that exercised their influence in the milieu of the emigres 
and finally were absorbed by new and outspoken racial doctrines late in 
the nineteenth century. 

Not until the actual outbreak of the Revolution forced great numbers 
of the French nobility to seek refuge in Germany and England did Boulain- 
villiers' ideas show their usefulness as a political weapon. In the meantime, 
his influence upon the French aristocracy was kept alive, as can be seen 
in the works of another Comte, the Comte Dubuat-Nangay,^^ who wanted 
to tie French nobility even closer to its continental brothers. On the eve 
of the Revolution, this spokesman of French feudalism felt so insecure that 
he hoped for "the creation of a kind of Internationale of aristocracy of 
barbarian origin," ^^ and since the German nobility was the only one whose 
help could eventually be expected, here too the true origin of the French 
nation was supposed to be identical with that of the Germans and the 
French lower classes, though no longer slaves, were not free by birth but 

^0 Les Origines de I'Ancien Gouvernement de la France, de I'Allemagne et de I'ltalie, 
11 Seilliere, op. cit., p. xxxii. 


by "affranchisscment," by grace of those who were free by birth, of the 
nobility. A few years later the French exiles actually tried to form an 
intcrmitionale of aristocrats in order to stave off the revolt of those they 
considered to be a foreign enslaved people. And although the more practi- 
cal side of these attempts suffered the spectacular disaster of Valmy, 
emigres like Charles Francois Dominique de Villiers, who about 1800 
opposed the "Gallo-Romains" to the Germanics, or like William Alter who 
a decade later dreamed of a federation of all Germanic peoples/- did not 
admit defeat. It probably never occurred to them that they were actually 
traitors, so firmly were they convinced that the French Revolution was a 
"war between foreign peoples" — as Fran9ois Guizot much later put it. 

While Boulainvilliers, with the calm fairness of a less disturbed time, 
based the rights of nobility solely on the rights of conquest without directly 
depreciating the very nature of the other conquered nation, the Comte de 
Montlosier, one of the rather dubious personages among the French exiles, 
openly expressed his contempt for this "new people risen from slaves . . . 
(a mixture) of all races and all times." ^^ Times obviously had changed 
and noblemen who no longer belonged to an unconquered race also had 
to change. They gave up the old idea, so dear to Boulainvilliers and even 
to Montesquieu, that conquest alone, fortune des armes, determined the 
destinies of men. The Valmy of noble ideologies came when the Abbe 
Sie'yes in his famous pamphlet told the Tiers Etat to "send back into the 
forests of Franconia all those families who preserve the absurd pretension 
of being descended from the conquering race and of having succeeded to 
their rights." '* 

It is rather curious that from these early times when French noblemen 
in their class struggle against the bourgeoisie discovered that they belonged 
to another nation, had another genealogical origin, and were more closely 
tied to an international caste than to the soil of France, all French racial 
theories have supported the Germanism or at least the superiority of the 
Nordic peoples as against their own countrymen. For if the men of the 
French Revolution identified themselves mentally with Rome, it was not 
because they opposed to the "Germanism" of their nobility a "Latinism" of 
the Tiers Etat, but because they felt they were the spiritual heirs of Roman 
Republicans. This historical claim, in contrast to the tribal identification 
of the nobility, might have been among the causes that prevented "Latinism" 
from emerging as a racial doctrine of its own. In any event, paradoxical as 
it sounds, the fact is that Frenchmen were to insist earlier than Germans 

12 See Rene Maunier, Sociologie Coloniale, Paris, 1932, Tome II, p. 115. 

13 Montlosier, even in exile, was closely connected with the French chief of police, 
Fouche, who helped him improve the sad financial conditions of a refugee. Later, he 
served as a secret agent for Napoleon in French society. See Joseph Brugerette, Le 
Comte de Montlosier, 1931, and Simar, op. cit., p. 71. 

" Qu'cst-ce-que le Tiers Etat? (1789) published shortly before the outbreak of the 
Revolution. Translation quoted after J. H. Clapham, The Abbe Sie'yes, London, 1912, 
p. 62. 


or Englishmen on this idee fixe of Germanic superiority.^* Nor did the 
birth of German racial consciousness after the Prussian defeat of 1806, 
directed as it was against the French, change the course of racial ideologies 
in France. In the forties of the last century, Augustin Thierry still adhered 
to the identification of classes and races and distinguished between a 
"Germanic nobility" and a "celtic bourgeoisie," ^® and again a nobleman, 
the Comte de Remusat, proclaimed the Germanic origin of the European 
aristocracy. Finally, the Comte de Gobineau developed an opinion already 
generally accepted among the French nobility into a full-fledged historical 
doctrine, claiming to have detected the secret law of the fall of civilizations 
and to have exalted history to the dignity of a natural science. With him 
race-thinking completed its first stage, and began its second stage whose 
influences were to be felt until the twenties of our century. 

II: Race Unity as a Substitute for National Emancipation 

RACE-THINKING in Germany did not develop before the defeat of the old 
Prussian army by Napoleon. It owed its rise to the Prussian patriots and 
political romanticism, rather than to the nobility and their spokesmen. In 
contrast to the French brand of race-thinking as a weapon for civil war 
and for splitting the nation, German race-thinking was invented in an effort 
to unite the people against foreign domination. Its authors did not look 
for allies beyond the frontiers but wanted to awaken in the people a 
consciousness of common origin. This actually excluded the nobility with 
their notoriously cosmopolitan relations — which, however, were less char- 
acteristic of the Prussian Junkers than of the rest of the European nobility; 
at any rate, it excluded the possibility of this race-thinking basing itself 
on the most exclusive class of the people. 

Since German race-thinking accompanied the long frustrated attempts 
to unite the numerous German states, it remained so closely connected, in 
its early stages, with more general national feelings that it is rather difficult 
to distinguish between mere nationalism and clear-cut racism. Harmless 
national sentiments expressed themselves in what we know today to be 
racial terms, so that even historians who identify the twentieth-century 
German brand of racism with the peculiar language of German nationalism 
have strangely been led into mistaking Nazism for German nationalism, 
thereby helping to underestimate the tremendous international appeal of 
Hitler's propaganda. These particular conditions of German nationalism 
changed only when, after 1870, the unification of the nation actually had 
taken place and German racism, together with German imperialism, fully 
developed. From these early times, however, not a few characteristics sur- 

15 "Historical Aryanism has its origin in 18th century feudalism and was supported 
by 19th century Germanism" observes Seilliere, op. cit., p. ii. 
^^ Lettres sur I'histoire de France (1840). 


vivcd which have remained significant for the specifically German brand 
of race-thinking. 

In contrast to France, Prussian noblemen felt their mterests to be closely 
connected with the position of the absolute monarchy and, at least since 
the time of Frederick II, they sought recognition as the legitimate repre- 
sentatives of the nation as a whole. With the exception of the few years of 
Prussian reforms (from 1808-1812), the Prussian nobility was not fright- 
ened by the rise of a bourgeois class that might have wanted to take over 
the government, nor did they have to fear a coalition between the middle 
classes and the ruling house. The Prussian king, until 1809 the greatest 
landlord of the country, remained primus inter pares despite all efforts of 
the Reformers. Race-thinking, therefore, developed outside the nobility, as 
a weapon of certain nationalists who wanted the union of all German- 
speaking peoples and therefore insisted on a common origin. They were 
liberals in the sense that they were rather opposed to the exclusive rule of 
the Prussian Junkers. As long as this common origin was defined by com- 
mon language, one can hardly speak of race-thinking.^^ 

It is noteworthy that only after 1814 is this common origin described 
frequently in terms of "blood relationship," of family ties, of tribal unity, 
of unmixed origin. These definitions, which appear almost simultaneously 
in the writings of the Catholic Josef Goerres and nationalistic liberals like 
Ernst Moritz Arndl or F. L. Jahn, bear witness to the utter failure of the 
hopes of rousing true national sentiments in the German people. Out of 
the failure to raise the people to nationhood, out of the lack of common 
historical memories and the apparent popular apathy to common destinies 
in the future, a naturalistic appeal was born which addressed itself to 
tribal instincts as a possible substitute for what the whole world had seen 
to be the glorious power of French nationhood. The organic doctrine of a 
history for which "every race is a separate, complete whole" ^^ was invented 
by men who needed ideological definitions of national unity as a substitute 
for political nationhood. It was a frustrated nationalism that led to Arndt's 
statement that Germans — who apparently were the last to develop an organic 
unit>' — had the luck to be of pure, unmixed stock, a "genuine people." " 

Organic naturalistic definitions of peoples are an outstanding characteris- 
tic of German ideologies and German historism. They nevertheless are not 
yet actual racism, for the same men who speak in these "racial" terms still 
uphold the central pillar of genuine nationhood, the equality of all peoples. 
Thus, in the same article in which Jahn compares the laws of peoples with 

"This is tne case for instance in Friedrich Schlegel's Philosophische Vorlesungen 
aus den Juhren 1804-1806, 11, 357. The same holds true for Ernst Moritz Arndt. 
See Alfred P. Pundt, Arndt and the National Awakening in Germany, New York, 
1935, pp. 116 f. Even Fichte, the favorite modern scapegoat for German race-thinking, 
hardly ever went beyond the limits of nationalism. 

"Joseph Goerres, in Rheinischer Merkur, 1814, No. 25. 

>» In Phantasien lur Berichtigung der Urteile Uber kunftige deutsche Verfassungen, 


the laws of animal life, he insists on the genuine equal plurality of peoples 
in whose complete multitude alone mankind can be realized.^" And Arndt, 
who later was to express strong sympathies with the national liberation move- 
ments of the Poles and the Italians, exclaimed: "Cursed be anyone who 
would subjugate and rule foreign peoples." ^^ Insofar as German national 
feelings had not been the fruit of a genuine national development but rather 
the reaction to foreign occupation,^^ national doctrines were of a peculiar 
negative character, destined to create a wall around the people, to act as 
substitutes for frontiers which could not be clearly defined either geograph- 
ically or historically. 

If, in the early form of French aristocracy, race-thinking had been in- 
vented as an instrument of internal division and had turned out to be a 
weapon for civil war, this early form of German race-doctrine was invented 
as a weapon of internal national unity and turned out to be a weapon for 
national wars. As the decline of the French nobility as an important class 
in the French nation would have made this weapon useless if the foes of the 
Third Republic had not revived it, so upon the accomplishment of German 
national unity the organic doctrine of history would have lost its meaning 
had not modern imperialistic schemers wanted to revive it, in order to 
appeal to the people and to hide their hideous faces under the respectable 
cover of nationalism. The same does not hold true for another source of 
German racism which, though seemingly more remote from the scene of 
politics, had a far stronger genuine bearing upon later political ideologies. 

Political romanticism has been accused of inventing race-thinking, as it 
has been and could be accused of inventing every other possible irresponsible 
opinion. Adam Mueller and Friedrich Schlegel are symptomatic in the high- 
est degree of a general playfulness of modern thought in which almost any 
opinion can gain ground temporarily. No real thing, no historical event, no 
political idea was safe from the all-embracing and all-destroying mania by 
which these first literati could always find new and original opportunities 
for new and fascinating opinions. "The world must be romanticized," as 
Novalis put it, wanting "to bestow a high sense upon the common, a mys- 
terious appearance upon the ordinary, the dignity of the unknown upon 

20 "Animals of mixed stock have no real generative power; similarly, hybrid peo- 
ples have no folk propagation of their own. . . . The ancestor of humanity is dead, 
the original race is extinct. That is why each dying people is a misfortune for human- 
ity. . . . Human nobility cannot express itself in one people alone." In Deutsches 
Volkstum, 1810. 

The same instance is expressed by Goerres, who despite his naturalistic definition of 
people ("all members are united by a common tie of blood"), follows a true national 
principle when he states: "No branch has a right to dominate the other" {op. cit.). 

21 Blick aus der Zeit auf die Zeit, 1814. — Translation quoted from Alfred P. Pundt, 
op. cit. 

22 "Not until Austria and Prussia had fallen after a vain struggle did I really begin 
to love Germany ... as Germany succumbed to conquest and subjection it became 
to me one and indissoluble," writes E. M. Arndt in his Erinnerungen aus Schweden, 
1818, p. 82. Translation quoted from Pundt, op. cit., p. 151. 


tlic well-known." " One of these romanticized objects was the people, an 
object that could be changed at a moment's notice into the state, or the 
family, or nobility, or anything else that either — in the earlier days — hap- 
pened to cross the minds of one of these intellectuals or — later when, grow- 
ing older, they had learned die reality of daily bread — happened to be asked 
for by some paying patron.-' Therefore it is almost impossible to study the 
development of any of the free competing opinions of which the nineteenth 
century is so amazingly full, without coming across romanticism in its 
Cierman form. 

What these first modern intellectuals actually prepared was not so much 
the development of any single opinion but the general mentality of modern 
German scholars; these latter have proved more than once that hardly an 
ideology can be found to which they would not willingly submit if the only 
reality — which even a romantic can hardly afford to overlook — is at stake, 
the reality of their position. For this peculiar behavior, romanticism pro- 
vided the most excellent pretext in its unlimited idolization of the "per- 
sonality" of the individual, whose very arbitrariness became the proof of 
genius. Whatever served the so-called productivity of the individual, namely, 
the entirely arbitrary game of his "ideas," could be made the center of a 
whole outlook on life and world. 

This inherent cynicism of romantic personality-worship has made possible 
certain modern attitudes among intellectuals. They were fairly well repre- 
sented by Mussolini, one of the last heirs of this movement, when he de- 
scribed himself as at the same time "aristocrat and democrat, revolutionary 
and reactionary, proletarian and antiproletarian, pacifist and antipacifist." 
The ruthless individualism of romanticism never meant anything more 
serious than that "everybody is free to create for himself his own ideology." 
What was new in Mussolini's experiment was the "attempt to carry it out 
with all possible energy." ^^ 

Because of this inherent "relativism" the direct contribution of roman- 
ticism to the development of race-thinking can almost be neglected. In the 
anarchic game whose rules entitle everybody at any given time to at least 
one personal and arbitrary opinion, it is almost a matter of course that every 
conceivable opinion should be formulated and duly printed. Much more 
characteristic than this chaos was the fundamental belief in personality as 
an ultimate aim in itself. In Germany, where the conflict between the nobility 
and the rising middle class was never fought out on the political scene, per- 
sonality worship developed as the only means of gaining at least some kind 
of social emancipation. The governing class of the country frankly showed 
its traditional contempt for business and its dislike for association with 
merchants in spite of the latter's growing wealth and importance, so that it 

23"Neue Fragmentcnsammlung" (1798) in Schriften, Leipzig, 1929, Tome II, p. 335. 

=< For the romantic attitude in Germany see Carl Schmitt, Politische Romantik, 
MiJnchcn, 1925. 

-•• Mussolini, "Relativismo e Fascismo," in Diuturna, Milano, 1924. The translation 
quoted from F. Neumann, Behemoth, 1942, pp. 462-463. 


was not easy to find the means of winning some kind of self-respect. The 
classic German Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meister, in which the middle-class 
hero is educated by noblemen and actors because the bourgeois in his own 
social sphere is without "personality," is evidence enough of the hopeless- 
ness of the situation. 

German intellectuals, though they hardly promoted a political fight for 
the middle classes to which they belonged, fought an embittered and, un- 
fortunately, highly successful battle for social status. Even those who had 
written in defense of nobility still felt their own interests at stake when it 
came to social ranks. In order to enter competition with rights and qualities 
of birth, they formulated the new concept of the "innate personality" which 
was to win general approval within bourgeois society. Like the title of the 
heir of an old family, the "innate personality" was given by birth and not 
acquired by merit. Just as the lack of common history for the formation of 
the nation had been artificially overcome by the naturalistic concept of 
organic development, so, in the social sphere, nature itself was supposed to 
supply a title when political reality had refused it. Liberal writers soon 
boasted of "true nobility" as opposed to the shabby titles of Baron or others 
which could be given and taken away, and asserted, by implication, that 
their natural privileges, like "force or genius," could not be retraced to any 
human deed.-® 

The discriminatory point of this new social concept was immediately 
affirmed. During the long period of mere social antisemitism, which intro- 
duced and prepared the discovery of Jew-hating as a political weapon, it 
was the lack of "innate personality," the innate lack of tact, the innate lack 
of productivity, the innate disposition for trading, etc., which separated the 
behavior of his Jewish colleague from that of the average businessman. In 
its feverish attempt to summon up some pride of its own against the caste 
arrogance of the Junkers, without, however, daring to fight for political 
leadership, the bourgeoisie from the very beginning wanted to look down 
not so much on other lower classes of their own, but simply on other peoples. 
Most significant for these attempts is the small literary work of Clemens 
Brentano -^ which was written for and read in the ultranationalistic club 
of Napoleon-haters that gathered together in 1808 under the name of "Die 
Christlich-Deutsche Tischgesellschaft." In his highly sophisticated and witty 
manner, Brentano points out the contrast between the "innate personality," 
the genial individual, and the "philistine" whom he immediately identifies 
with Frenchmen and Jews. Thereafter, the German bourgeois would at least 
try to attribute to other peoples all the qualities which the nobility despised 
as typically bourgeois — at first to the French, later to the English, and al- 
ways to the Jews. As for the mysterious qualities which an "innate person- 

26 See the very interesting pamphlet against the nobility by the liberal writer Buch- 
holz, Vntersuchungen ueber den Geburtsadel, Berlin, 1807, p. 68: "True nobility . . . 
cannot be given or taken away; for, like power and genius, it sets itself and exists by 

2^ Clemens Brentano, Der Philister vor, in und nach der Geschichte, 1811. 


ality" received at birth, they were exactly the same as those the real Junkers 
claimed for themselves. 

Although in this way standards of nobility contributed to the rise of race- 
thinking, the Junkers themselves did hardly anything for the shaping of 
this mentality. The only Junker of this period to develop a political theory 
of his own, Ludwig von der Marwitz, never used racial terms. According 
to him, nations were separated by language— a spiritual and not a physical 
difference — and although he was violently opposed to the French Revolu- 
tion, he spoke like Robespierre when it came to the possible aggression of 
one nation against another: "Who aims at expanding his frontiers should be 
considered a disloyal betrayer among the whole European republic of 
states." -' It was Adam Mueller who insisted on purity of descent as a test 
of nobility, and it was Haller who went beyond the obvious fact that the 
powerful rule those deprived of power by stating it as a natural law that 
the weak should be dominated by the strong. Noblemen, of course, applauded 
enthusiastically when they learned that their usurpation of power was not 
only legal but in accordance with natural laws, and it was a consequence 
of bourgeois definitions that during the course of the nineteenth century they 
avoided "mesalliances" more carefully than ever before." 

This insistence on common tribal origin as an essential of nationhood, 
formulated by German nationalists during and after the war of 1814, and 
the emphasis laid by the romantics on the innate personality and natural 
nobility prepared the way intellectually for race-thinking in Germany. From 
the former sprang the organic doctrine of history with its natural laws; from 
the latter arose at the end of the century the grotesque homunculus of the 
superman whose natural destiny it is to rule the world. As long as these 
trends ran side by side, they were but temporary means of escape from 
political realities. Once welded together, they formed the very basis for 
racism as a full-fledged ideology. This, however, did not happen first in 
Germany, but in France, and was not accomplished by middle-class intel- 
lectuals but by a highly gifted and frustrated nobleman, the Comte de 

Ill: The New Key to History 

IN 1853, Count Arthur de Gobineau published his Essai sur Vlnegalite des 
Races Hutnaines which, only some fifty years later, at the turn of the cen- 
tury, was to become a kind of standard work for race theories in history. 

2* "Entwurf eines Friedenspaktes." In Gerhard Ramlow, Ludwig von der Marwitz 
and die Anjdnge konservativer Politik und Staatsauffassung in Preussen, Historische 
Studien, Heft 185, p. 92. 

2* See Sigmund Neumann, Die Stufen des preussischen Konservatismus, Historische 
Studien, Heft 190, Berlin, 1930. Especially pp. 48, 51, 64, 82. For Adam Mueller, see 
Elemente der Staatskunst, 1809. 


The first sentence of the four-volume work — "The fall of civilization is the 
most striking and, at the same time, the most obscure of all phenomena of 
history" ^^ — indicates clearly the essentially new and modern interest of its 
author, the new pessimistic mood which pervades his work and which is 
the ideological force that was capable of uniting all previous factors and 
conflicting opinions. True, from time immemorial, mankind has wanted to 
know as much as possible about past cultures, fallen empires, extinct peo- 
ples; but nobody before Gobineau thought of finding one single reason, one 
single force according to which civilization always and everywhere rises 
and falls. Doctrines of decay seem to have some very intimate connection 
with race-thinking. It certainly is no coincidence that another early "be- 
liever in race," Benjamin Disraeli, was equally fascinated by the fall of 
cultures, while on the other hand Hegel, whose philosophy was concerned 
in great part with the dialectical law of development in history, was never 
interested in the rise and fall of cultures as such or in any law which would 
explain the death of nations: Gobineau demonstrated precisely such a law. 
Without Darwinism or any other evolutionist theory to influence him, this 
historian boasted of having introduced history into the family of natural 
sciences, detected the natural law of all courses of events, reduced all 
spiritual utterances or cultural phenomena to something "that by virtue of 
exact science our eyes can see, our ears can hear, our hands can touch." 

The most surprising aspect of the theory, set forth in the midst of the 
optimistic nineteenth century, is the fact that the author is fascinated by 
the fall and hardly interested in the rise of civilizations. At the time of writing 
the Essai Gobineau gave but little thought to the possible use of his theory 
as a weapon in actual politics, and therefore had the courage to draw the 
inherent sinister consequences of his law of decay. In contrast to Spengler, 
who predicts only the fall of Western culture, Gobineau foresees with "scien- 
tific" precision nothing less than the definite disappearance of Man — or, in 
his words, of the human race — from the face of the earth. After four volumes 
of rewriting human history, he concludes: "One might be tempted to assign 
a total duration of 12 to 14 thousand years to human rule over the earth, 
which era is divided into two periods : the first has passed away and possessed 
the youth ... the second has begun and will witness the declining course 
down toward decrepitude." 

It has rightly been observed that Gobineau, thirty years before Nietzsche, 
was concerned with the problem of "decadence." ^* There is, however, this 
difference, that Nietzsche possessed the basic experience of European de- 
cadence, writing as he did during the climax of this movement with 
Baudelaire in France, Swinburne in England, and Wagner in Germany, 
whereas Gobineau was hardly aware of the variety of the modern taedium 
vitae, and must be regarded as the last heir of Boulainvilliers and the French 

3° Translation quoted from The Inequality of Human Races, translated by Adrien 
Collins, 1915. 

31 See Robert Dreyfus, "La vie et les propheties du Comte de Gobineau," Paris, 1905, 
in Cahiers de la quinzaine, Ser. 6, Cah. 16, p. 56. 


exiled nobility who, without psychological complications, simply (and 
rightly) feared for the fate of aristocracy as a caste. With a certain naivete 
he accepted almost literally the eighteenth-century doctrines about the 
origin of the French people: the bourgeois are the descendants of Gallic- 
Roman slaves, noblemen are Germanic.'- The same is true for his insistence 
on the international character of nobility. A more modern aspect of his 
theories is revealed in the fact that he possibly was an impostor (his French 
title being more than dubious), that he exaggerated and overstrained the 
older doctrines until they became frankly ridiculous — he claimed for him- 
self a genealogy which led over a Scandinavian pirate to Odin: "I, too, am 
of the race of Gods." " But his real importance is that in the midst of 
progress-ideologies he prophesied doom, the end of mankind in a slow 
natural catastrophe. When Gobineau started his work, in the days of the 
bourgeois king, Louis Philippe, the fate of nobility appeared sealed. Nobihty 
no longer needed to fear the victory of the Tiers Etat, it had already oc- 
curred and they could only complain. Their distress, as expressed by Gobi- 
neau, sometimes comes very near to the great despair of the poets of de- 
cadence who, a few decades later, sang the frailty of all things human — 
les neiges d'antan, the snows of yesteryear. As far as Gobineau himself was 
concerned, this affinity is rather incidental; but it is interesting to note that 
once this affinity was established, nothing could prevent very respectable 
intellectuals at the turn of the century, like Robert Dreyfus in France or 
Thomas Mann in Germany, from taking this descendant of Odin seriously. 
Long before the horrible and the ridiculous had merged into the humanly 
incomprehensible mixture that is the hallmark of our century, the ridiculous 
had lost its power to kill. 

It is also to the peculiar pessimistic mood, to the active despair of the last 
decades of the century that Gobineau owed his belated fame. This, however, 
does not necessarily mean that he himself was a forerunner of the generation 
of "the merry dance of death and trade" (Joseph Conrad). He was neither 
a statesman who believed in business nor a poet who praised death. He was 
only a curious mixture of frustrated nobleman and romantic intellectual 
who invented racism almost by accident. This was when he saw that he 
could not simply accept the old doctrines of the two peoples within France 
and that, in view of changed circumstances, he had to revise the old line 
that the best men necessarily are at the top of society. In sad contrast to his 
teachers, he had to explain why the best men, noblemen, could not even 
hope to regain their former position. Step by step, he identified the fall of 
his caste with the fall of France, then of Western civilization, and then of 
the whole of mankind. Thus he made that discovery, for which he was so 
much admired by later writers and biographers, that the fall of civilizations 
is due to a degeneration of race and the decay of race is due to a mixture 
of blood. This implies that in every mixture the lower race is always dom- 

.„r ^"°'' ^°"^^ "• ^°'^^ ^^' P- '*'*5' a"^ the article "Ce qui est arrive a la France en 
1870," in Europe. 1923. 

" J. Duesberg, "Le Comte de Gobineau," in Revue Ginirale, 1939. 


inant. This kind of argumentation, almost commonplace after the turn of 
the century, did not fit in with the progress-doctrines of Gobineau's con- 
temporaries, who soon acquired another idee fixe, the "survival of the 
fittest." The liberal optimism of the victorious bourgeoisie wanted a new 
edition of the might-right theory, not the key to history or the proof of in- 
evitable decay. Gobineau tried in vain to get a wider audience by taking a 
side in the American slave issue and by conveniently building his whole 
system on the basic conflict between white and black. He had to wait almost 
fifty years to become a success among the elite, and not until the first World 
War with its wave of death-philosophies could his works claim wide popu- 

What Gobineau was actually looking for in politics was the definition and 
creation of an "elite" to replace the aristocracy. Instead of princes, he 
proposed a "race of princes," the Aryans, who he said were in danger of 
being submerged by the lower non-Aryan classes through democracy. The 
concept of race made it possible to organize the "innate personalities" of 
German romanticism, to define them as members of a natural aristocracy 
destined to rule over all others. If race and mixture of races are the all- 
determining factors for the individual — and Gobineau did not assume the 
existence of "pure" breeds — it is possible to pretend that physical superiori- 
ties might evolve in every individual no matter what his present social situa- 
tion, that every exceptional man belongs to the "true surviving sons of . . . 
the Merovings," the "sons of kings." Thanks to race, an "elite" would be 
formed which could lay claim to the old prerogatives of feudal families, and 
this only by asserting that they felt like noblemen; the acceptance of the 
race ideology as such would become conclusive proof that an individual was 
"well-bred," that "blue blood" ran through his veins and that a superior 
origin implied superior rights. From one political event, therefore, the decline 
of the nobility, the Count drew two contradictory consequences — the decay 
of the human race and the formation of a new natural aristocracy. But he did 
not live to see the practical application of his teachings which resolved their 
inherent contradictions — the new race-aristocracy actually began to effect 
the "inevitable" decay of mankind in a supreme effort to destroy it. 

Following the example of his forerunners, the exiled French noblemen, 
Gobineau saw in his race-elite not only a bulwark against democracy but 
also against the "Canaan monstrosity" of patriotism.^'* And since France 
still happened to be the "patrie" par excellence, for her government — 

3* See the Gobineau memorial issue of the French review Europe, 1923. Especially 
the article of Clement Serpeille de Gobineau, "Le Gobinisme et la pensee moderne." 
"Yet it was not until ... the middle of the war that I thought the Essai sur les 
Races was inspired by a productive hypothesis, the only one that could explain certain 
events happening before our eyes. ... I was surprised to note that this opinion was 
almost unanimously shared. After the war, I noticed that for nearly the <vhole younger 
generation the works of Gobineau had become a revelation." 

35 Essai, Tome II, Book IV, p. 440 and note on p. 445: "The word patrie . . . has 
regained its significance only since the Gallo-Roman strata rose and assumed a po- 
litical role. With their triumph, patriotism has again become a virtue." 


whether kingdom or Empire or Republic— was still based upon the essential 
equality of men, and since, worst of all, she was the only country of his 
Umc in which even people with black skin could enjoy civil rights, it was 
natural for Gobineau to give allegiance not to the French people, but to 
the English, and later, after the French defeat of 1871, to the Germans.^" 
Nor can this lack of dignity be called accidental and this opportunism an 
unhappy coincidence. The old saying that nothing succeeds like success 
reckons with people who are used to various and arbitrary opinions. Ideolo- 
gists who pretend to possess the key to reality are forced to change and 
twist their opinions about single cases according to the latest events and can 
never afford to come into conflict with their ever-changing deity, reality. 
It would be absurd to ask people to be reliable who by their very convictions 
must justify any given situation. 

It must be conceded that up to the time when the Nazis, in establishing 
themselves as a race-elite, frankly bestowed their contempt on all peoples, 
including the German, French racism was the most consistent, for it never 
fell into the weakness of patriotism. (This attitude did not change even 
during the last war; true, the "essence aryenne" no longer was a monopoly 
of the Germans but rather of the Anglo-Saxons, the Swedes, and the Nor- 
mans, but nation, patriotism, and law were still considered to be "prejudices, 
fictitious and nominal values.") " Even Taine believed firmly in the superior 
genius of the "Germanic nation," ^* and Ernest Renan was probably the 
first to oppose the "Semites" to the "Aryans" in a decisive "division du genre 
humain," although he held civilization to be the great superior force which 
destroys local originalities as well as original race differences.^'' All the loose 
race talk that is so characteristic of French writers after 1870,*° even if they 
are not racists in any strict sense of the word, follows antinational, pro- 
Germanic lines. 

If the consistent antinational trend of Gobinism served to equip the 
enemies of French democracy and, later, of the Third Republic, with real 
or fictitious allies beyond the frontiers of their country, the specific amalga- 
mation of the race and "elite" concepts equipped the international intelli- 

" See Seilliere, op. cit., Tome I: Le Comte de Gobineau et I'Aryanisme historique, 
p. 32: "In the Essai Germany is hardly Germanic, Great Britain is Germanic to a 
much higher degree. . . . Certainly, Gobineau later changed his mind, but under the 
influence of success." It is interesting to note that for Seilliere who during his studies 
became an ardent adherent of Gobinism — "the intellectual climate to which probably 
the lungs of the 20th century will have to adapt themselves" — success appeared as 
quite a sufficient reason for Gobineau's suddenly revised opinion. 

3' Examples could be multiplied. The quotation is taken from Camille Spiess, 
Imperialismes Gohinisme en France, Paris, 1917. 

3s For Taine's stand see John S. White, "Taine on Race and Genius," in Social Re- 
search, February, 1943. 

3» In Gobineau's opinion, the Semites were a white hybrid race bastardized by a 
mixture with blacks. For Renan see Histoire Generate et Systeme compare des Langues, 
1863, Part I, pp. 4, 503, and passim. The same distinction in his Langues Semitiques, 

♦0 This has been very well exposed by Jacques Barzun, op. cit. 


gentsia with new and exciting psychological toys to play with on the great 
playground of history. Gobineau's "fils des rois" were close relatives of the 
romantic heroes, saints, geniuses and supermen of the late nineteenth cen- 
tury, all of whom can hardly hide their German romantic origin. The inherent 
irresponsibility of romantic opinions received a new stimulant from Gobi- 
neau's mixture of races, because this mixture showed a historical event of 
the past which could be traced in the depths of one's own self. This meant 
that inner experiences could be given historical significance, that one's own 
self had become the battlefield of history. "Since I read the Essai, every time 
some conflict stirred up the hidden sources of my being, I have felt that a 
relentless battle went on in my soul, the battle between the black, the yellow, 
the Semite and the Aryans." ^^ Significant as this and similar confessions 
may be of the state of mind of modern intellectuals, who are the true heirs 
of romanticism whatever opinion they happen to hold, they nevertheless 
indicate the essential harmlessness and political innocence of people who 
probably could have been forced into line by each and every ideology. 

IV: The "Rights of Englishmen" vs. the Rights of Men 

WHILE THE SEEDS of German race-thinking were planted during the Na- 
poleonic wars, the beginnings of the later English development appeared 
during the French Revolution and may be traced back to the man who 
violently denounced it as the "most astonishing [crisis] that has hitherto 
happened in the world" — to Edmund Burke. *^ The tremendous influence 
his work has exercised not only on English but also on German political 
thought is well known. The fact, however, must be stressed because of re- 
semblances between German and English race-thinking as contrasted with 
the French brand. These resemblances stem from the fact that both coun- 
tries had defeated the Tricolor and therefore showed a certain tendency to 
discriminate against the ideas of Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite as foreign in- 
ventions. Social inequality being the basis of English society, British Con- 
servatives felt not a little uncomfortable when it came to the "rights of 
men." According to opinions widely held by nineteenth-century Tories, in- 
equality belonged to the English national character. Disraeli found "some- 
thing better than the Rights of Men in the rights of Englishmen" and to Sir 
James Stephen "few things in history [seemed] so beggarly as the degree 
to which the French allowed themselves to be excited about such things." " 
This is one of the reasons why they could afford to develop race-thinking 

41 This surprising gentleman is none other than the well-known writer and historian 
Elie Faure, "Gobineau et le Probleme des Races," in Europe, 1923. 

*'^ Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, Everyman's Library Edition, New 
York, p. 8. 

*^ Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, 1873, p. 254. For Lord Beaconsfield see Benjamin 
Disraeli, Lord George Bentinck, 1853, p. 184. 


along national lines until the end of the nineteenth century, whereas the 
same opinions in France showed their true antinational face from the very 

Burke's main argument against the "abstract principles" of the French 
Revolution is contained in the following sentence: "It has been the uni- 
form policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an 
entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted 
to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this king- 
dom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior 
right." The concept of inheritance, applied to the very nature of liberty, has 
been the ideological basis from which English nationalism received its 
curious touch of race-feeling ever since the French Revolution. Formulated 
by a middle-class writer, it signified the direct acceptance of the feudal con- 
cept of liberty as the sum total of privileges inherited together with title 
and land. Without encroaching upon the rights of the privileged class within 
the English nation, Burke enlarged the principle of these privileges to in- 
clude the whole English people, establishing them as a kind of nobility 
among nations. Hence he drew his contempt for those who claimed their 
franchise as the rights of men, rights which he saw fit to claim only as "the 
rights of Englishmen." 

In England nationalism developed without serious attacks on the old 
feudal classes. This has been possible because the English gentry, from the 
seventeenth century on and in ever-increasing numbers, had assimilated the 
higher ranks of the bourgeoisie, so that sometimes even the common man 
could attain the position of a lord. By this process much of the ordinary 
caste arrogance of nobility was taken away and a considerable sense of 
responsibility for the nation as a whole was created; but by the same token, 
feudal concepts and mentality could influence the political ideas of the lower 
classes more easily than elsewhere. Thus, the concept of inheritance was 
accepted almost unchanged and applied to the entire British "stock." The 
consequence of this assimilation of noble standards was that the English 
brand of race-thinking was almost obsessed with inheritance theories and 
their modern equivalent, eugenics. 

Ever since the European peoples made practical attempts to include all 
the peoples of the earth in their conception of humanity, they have been 
irritated by the great physical differences between themselves and the peo- 
ples they found on other continents.'" The eighteenth-century enthusiasm 
for the diversity in which the all-present identical nature of man and reason 
could find expression provided a rather thin cover of argument to the crucial 
question, whether the Christian tenet of the unity and equaUty of all men, 
based upon common descent from one original set of parents, would be kept 

** A significant if moderate echo of this inner bewilderment can be found in many 
an eighteenth-century traveling report. Voltaire thought it important enough to make a 
special note in his Dictionnaire Philosophique: "We have seen, moreover, how dif- 
ferent the races are who inhabit this globe, and how great must have been the sur- 
prise of the first Negro and the first white man who met" (Article: Homme). 


in the hearts of men who were faced with tribes which, as far as we know, 
never had found by themselves any adequate expression of human reason 
or human passion in either cultural deeds or popular customs, and which 
had developed human institutions only to a very low level. This new prob- 
lem which appeared on the historical scene of Europe and America with the 
more intimate knowledge of African tribes had already caused, and this 
especially in America and some British possessions, a relapse into forms 
of social organization which were thought to have been definitely liquidated 
by Christianity. But even slavery, though actually established on a strict 
racial basis, did not make the slave-holding peoples race-conscious be- 
fore the nineteenth century. Throughout the eighteenth century, American 
slave-holders themselves considered it a temporary institution and wanted to 
abolish it gradually. Most of them probably would have said with Jefferson: 
"I tremble when I think that God is just." 

In France, where the problem of black tribes had been met with the 
desire to assimilate and educate, the great scientist Leclerc de Buffon had 
given a first classification of races which, based upon the European peoples 
and classifying all others by their differences, had taught equality by strict 
juxtaposition.^^ The eighteenth century, to use Tocqueville's admirably pre- 
cise phrase, "believed in the variety of races but in the unity of the human 
species." " In Germany, Herder had refused to apply the "ignoble word" 
race to men, and even the first cultural historian of mankind to make use of 
the classification of different species, Gustav Klemm," still respected the idea 
of mankind as the general framework for his investigations. 

But in America and England, where people had to solve a problem of 
living together after the abolition of slavery, things were considerably less 
easy. With the exception of South Africa — a country which influenced 
Western racism only after the "scramble for Africa" in the eighties — these 
nations were the first to deal with the race problem in practical politics. The 
abolition of slavery sharpened inherent conflicts instead of finding a solution 
for existing serious difficulties. This was especially true in England where 
the "rights of Englishmen" were not replaced by a new political orientation 
which might have declared the rights of men. The abolition of slavery in 
the British possessions in 1834 and the discussion preceding the American 
Civil War, therefore, found in England a highly confused public opinion 
which was fertile soil for the various naturalistic doctrines which arose in 
those decades. 

The first of these was represented by the polygenists who, challenging 
the Bible as a book of pious lies, denied any relationship between human 
"races"; their main achievement was the destruction of the idea of the 
natural law as the uniting Hnk between all men and all peoples. Although 
it did not stipulate predestined racial superiority, polygenism arbitrarily iso- 
lated all peoples from one another by the deep abyss of the physical impos- 
es //w/o/>^ Naturelle, 1769-89. 
*^Op. cit., leUer of May 15, 1852. 
*'' Allgemeine Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit, 1843-1852. 


sibility of human understanding and communication. Polygenism explains 
why "Hast is East and West is West; And never the twain shall meet," and 
helped much to prevent intermarriage in the colonies and to promote dis- 
crimination against individuals of mixed origin. According to polygenism, 
these people are not true human beings; they belong to no single race, but 
arc a kind of monster whose "every cell is the theater of a civil war." *^ 

Lasting as the influence of polygenism on English race-thinking proved 
to be in the long run, in the nineteenth century it was soon to be beaten in 
the field of public opinion by another docuine. This doctrine also started 
from the principle of inheritance but added to it the political principle of the 
nineteenth century, progress, whence it arrived at the opposite but far more 
convincing conclusion that man is related not only to man but to animal 
life, that the existence of lower races shows clearly that gradual differences 
alone separate man and beast and that a powerful struggle for existence 
dominates all living things. Darwinism was especially strengthened by the 
fact that it followed the path of the old might-right doctrine. But while this 
doctrine, when used exclusively by aristocrats, had spoken the proud language 
of conquest, it was now translated into the rather bitter language of people 
who had known the struggle for daily bread and fought their way to the 
relative security of upstarts. 

Darwinism met with such overwhelming success because it provided, on 
the basis of inheritance, the ideological weapons for race as well as class rule 
and could be used for, as well as against, race discrimination. Politically 
speaking, Darwinism as such was neutral, and it has led, indeed, to all kinds 
of pacifism and cosmopolitanism as well as to the sharpest forms of im- 
perialistic ideologies. •''-' In the seventies and eighties of the last century, 
Darwinism was still almost exclusively in the hands of the utilitarian anti- 
colonial party in England. And the first philosopher of evolution, Herbert 
Spencer, who treated sociology as part of biology, believed natural selec- 
tion to benefit the evolution of mankind and to result in everlasting peace. 
For political discussion, Darwinism offered two important concepts: the 
struggle for existence with optimistic assertion of the necessary and auto- 
matic "survival of the fittest," and the indefinite possibilities which seemed 
to lie in the evolution of man out of animal life and which started the new 
"science" of eugenics. 

The doctrine of the necessary survival of the fittest, with its implication 
that the top layers in society eventually are the "fittest," died as the conquest 
doctrine had died, namely, at the moment when the ruling classes in England 
or the English domination in colonial possessions were no longer absolutely 
secure, and when it became highly doubtful whether those who were "fittest" 
today would still be the fittest tomorrow. The other part of Darwinism, the 
genealogy of man from animal life, unfortunately survived. Eugenics prom- 
ised to overcome the troublesome uncertainties of the survival doctrine ac- 

<» A. Carthill, The Lost Dominion, 1924, p. 158. 

<» See Friedrich Brie, Imperialistische Strdmungen in der englischen Literatur, Halle, 


cording to which it was impossible either to predict who would turn out to 
be the fittest or to provide the means for the nations to develop everlasting 
fitness. This possible consequence of applied eugenics was stressed in Ger- 
many in the twenties as a reaction to Spengler's Decline of the West.^" The 
process of selection had only to be changed from a natural necessity which 
worked behind the backs of men into an "artificial," consciously applied 
physical tool. Bestiality had always been inherent in eugenics, and Ernst 
Haeckel's early remark that mercy-death would save "useless expenses for 
family and state" is quite characteristic.^^ Finally the last disciples of Dar- 
winism in Germany decided to leave the field of scientific research altogether, 
to forget about the search for the missing link between man and ape, and 
started instead their practical efforts to change man into what the Darwinists 
thought an ape is. 

But before Nazism, in the course of its totalitarian policy, attempted to 
change man into a beast, there were numerous efforts to develop him on a 
strictly hereditary basis into a god." Not only Herbert Spencer, but all the 
early evolutionists and Darwinists "had as strong a faith in humanity's angelic 
future as in man's simian origin." " Selected inheritance was believed to 
result in "hereditary genius," ^^ and again aristocracy was held to be the 
natural outcome, not of politics, but of natural selection, of pure breeding. 
To transform the whole nation into a natural aristocracy from which choice 

^0 See, for instance, Otto Bangert, Gold ocier Bint, 1927. "Therefore a civilization 
can be eternal," p. 17. 

f'l In Lebenswmnler, 1904, pp. 128 ff. 

^- Almost a century before evolutionism had donned the cloak of science, warning 
voices foretold the inherent consequences of a madness that was then merely in the 
stage of pure imagination. Voltaire, more than once, had played with evolutionary 
opinions — see chiefly "Philosophic Gencrale: Metaphysique, Morale et Theoiogie," 
Ocuvres Completes, 1785, Tome 40, pp. 16fr. — In his Dictionnaire Philosophique, 
Article "Chaine des Etrcs Crccs," he wrote: "At first, our imagination is pleased at 
the imperceptible transition of crude matter to organized matter, of plants to zoo- 
phytes, of these zoophytes to animals, of these to man, of man to spirits, of these 
spirits clothed with a small aerial body to immaterial substances; and ... to God 
Himself. . . . But the most perfect spirit created by the Supreme Being, can he be- 
come God? Is there not an infinity between God and him? ... Is there not obviously 
a void between the monkey and man?" 

53 Hayes, op. cit., p. 1 1 . Hayes rightly stresses the strong practical morality of all 
these early materialists. He explains "this curious divorce of morals from beliefs" by 
"what later sociologists have described as a time lag" (p. 130). This explanation, 
however, appears rather weak if one recalls that other materialists who, like Haeckel 
in Germany or Vacher de Lapouge in France, had left the calm of studies and 
research for propaganda activities, did not greatly suffer from such a time lag; that, 
on the other hand, their contemporaries who were not tinged by their materialistic 
doctrines, such as Barres and Co. in France, were very practical adherents of the per- 
verse brutality which swept France during the Dreyfus Affair. The sudden decay of 
morals in the Western world seems to be caused less by an autonomous development of 
certain "ideas" than by a series of new political events and new political and social 
problems which confronted a bewildered and confused humanity. 

^* Such was the title of the widely read book of Fr. Galton, published in 1869, which 
caused a flood of literature about the same topic in the following decades. 


exemplars would develop into geniuses and supermen, was one of the many 
'•ideas" produced by frustrated liberal intellectuals in their dreams of re- 
placing the old governing classes by a new "elite" through nonpolitical 
means. At the end of the century, writers treated political topics in terms 
of biology and zoology as a matter of course, and zoologists wrote "Bio- 
logical Views of our Foreign Policy" as though they had detected an in- 
fallible guide for statesmen.^' All of them put forward new ways to control 
and regulate the "survival of the fittest" in accordance with the national in- 
terests of the English people/" 

The most dangerous aspect of these evolutionist doctrines is that they 
combined the inheritance concept with the insistence on personal achieve- 
ment and individual character which had been so important for the self- 
respect of the nineteenth-century middle class. This middle class wanted 
scientists who could prove that the great men, not the aristocrats, were the 
true representatives of the nation, in whom the "genius of the race" was 
personified. These scientists provided an ideal escape from poHtical re- 
sponsibility when they "proved" the early statement of Benjamin Disraeli 
that the great man is "the personification of race, its choice exemplar." The 
development of this "genius" found its logical end when another disciple 
of evolutionism simply declared: "The Englishman is the Overman and the 
history of England is the history of his evolution." " 

It is as significant for English as it was for German race-thinking that it 
originated among middle-class writers and not the nobility, that it was born 
of the desire to extend the benefits of noble standards to all classes and that 
it was nourished by true national feelings. In this respect, Carlyle's ideas on 
the genius and hero were really more the weapons of a "social reformer" 
than the doctrines of the "Father of British ImperiaUsm," a very unjust 
accusation, indeed.'* His hero worship which earned him wide audiences in 
both England and in Germany, had the same sources as the personahty 
worship of German romanticism. It was the same assertion and glorification 
of the innate greatness of the individual character independent of his social 
environment. Among the men who influenced the colonial movement from 

** "A Biological View of Our Foreign Policy" was published by P. Charles Michel in 
Saturday Review, London, February, 1896. The most important works of this kind are: 
Thomas Huxley, The Struggle for Existence in Human Society, 1888. His main thesis: 
The fall of civilizations is necessary only as long as birthrate is uncontrolled. Benjamin 
Kidd, Social Evolution, 1894. John B. Crozier, History of Intellectual Development on 
the Lines of Modern Evolution, 1897-1901. Karl Pearson (National Life, 1901), Pro- 
fessor of Eugenics at London University, was among the first to describe progress as a 
kind of impersonal monster which devours everything that happens to be in its way. 
Charles H. Harvey, The Biology of British Politics, 1904, argues that by strict control 
of the "struggle for life" within the nation, a nation could become all-powerful for the 
inevitable fight with other people for existence. 

*« Sec especially K. Pearson, op. cit. But Fr. Galton had already stated: "I wish to 
emphasize the fact that the improvement of the natural gifts of future generations of 
the human race is largely under our control" (op. cit., ed. 1892, p. xxvi). 

*' Testament of John Davidson, 1908. 

" C. A. Bodclsen, Studies in Mid-Victorian ImperiaUsm, 1924, pp. 22 ff. 


the middle of the nineteenth century until the outbreak of actual imperiaUsm 
at its end, not one has escaped the influence of Carlyle, but not one can be 
accused of preaching outspoken racism. Carlyle himself, in his essay on the 
"Nigger Question" is concerned with means to help the West Indies produce 
"heroes." Charles Dilke, whose Greater Britain (1869) is sometimes taken 
as the beginning of imperialism,^^ was an advanced radical who glorified the 
English colonists as being part of the British nation, as against those who 
would look down upon them and their lands as mere colonies. J. R. Seeley, 
whose Expansion of England (1883) sold 80,000 copies in less than two 
years, still respects the Hindus as a foreign people and distinguishes them 
clearly from "barbarians." Even Froude, whose admiration for the Boers, 
the first white people to be converted clearly to the tribal philosophy of 
racism, might appear suspect, opposed too many rights for South Africa 
because "self-government in South Africa meant the government of the 
natives by the European colonists and that is not self-government." *" 

Very much as in Germany, English nationalism was born and stimulated 
by a middle class which had never entirely emancipated itself from the 
nobility and therefore bore the first germs of race-thinking. But unlike 
Germany, whose lack of unity made necessary an ideological wall to sub- 
stitute for historical or geographical facts, the British Isles were completely 
separated from the surrounding world by natural frontiers and England as 
a nation had to devise a theory of unity among people who lived in far-flung 
colonies beyond the seas, separated from the mother country by thousands 
of miles. The only link between them was common descent, common origin, 
common language. The separation of the United States had shown that these 
links in themselves do not guarantee domination; and not only America, 
other colonies too, though not with the same violence, showed strong 
tendencies toward developing along dififerent constitutional lines from the 
mother country. In order to save these former British nationals, Dilke, in- 
fluenced by Carlyle, spoke of "Saxondom," a word that seemed able to win 
back even the people of the United States, to whom one-third of his book is 
devoted. Being a radical, Dilke could act as though the War of Independence 
had not been a war between two nations, but the English form of eighteenth- 
century civil war, in which he belatedly sided with the Republicans. For 
here lies one of the reasons for the surprising fact that social reformers and 
radicals were the promoters of nationalism in England: they wanted to keep 
the colonies not only because they thought they were necessary outlets for 
the lower classes; they actually wanted to retain the influence on the mother 
country which these more radical sons of the British Isles exercised. This 
motif is strong with Froude, who wished "to retain the colonies because he 
thought it possible to reproduce in them a simpler state of society and a 
nobler way of life than were possible in industrial England," ^^ and it had a 

58 E. H. Damce, The Victorian Illusion, 1928. "Imperialism began with a book . . . 
Dilke's Greater Britain." 

00 "Two Lectures on South Africa," in Short Studies on Great Subjects, 1867-1882. 
«i C. A. Bodelsen, op. cit., p. 199. 



definite impact on Scclcy's Expansion of England: "When we have accus- 
tomed ourselves to contemplate the whole Empire together and we call it all 
lingland \se shall see that there too is a United States." Whatever later polit- 
ical writers may nave used "Saxondom" for, in Dilkc's work it had a genuine 
political meaning for a nation that was no longer held together by a limited 
country. 'The idea which in all the length of my travels has been at once my 
fellow and my guide — the key wherewith to unlock the hidden things of 
strange new lands— is the conception ... of the grandeur of our race 
already girdling the earth, which it is destined perhaps, eventually to over- 
spread" (Preface). For Dilke, common origin, inheritance, "grandeur of 
race" were neither physical facts nor the key to history but a much-needed 
guide in the present world, the only reliable link in a boundless space. 

Because English colonists had spread all over the earth, it happened that 
the most dangerous concept of nationalism, the idea of "national mission," 
was especially strong in England. Although national mission as such de- 
veloped for a long while untinged by racial influences in all countries where 
peoples aspired to nationhood, it proved finally to have a peculiarly close 
aflinity to race-thinking. The above-quoted English nationalists may be con- 
sidered borderline cases in the light of later experience. In themselves, they 
were not more harmful than, for example, Auguste Comte in France when 
he expressed the hope for a united, organized, regenerated humanity under 
the leadership — presidence — of France.''- They do not give up the idea of 
mankind, though they think England is the supreme guarantee for humanity. 
They could not help but ovcrstress this nationalistic concept because of its 
inherent dissolution of the bond between soil and people implied in the mis- 
sion idea, a dissolution which for English politics was not a propagated 
ideology but an established fact with which every statesman had to reckon. 
What separates them definitely from later racists is that none of them was 
ever seriously concerned with discrimination against other peoples as lower 
races, if only for the reason that the countries they were talking about, 
Canada and Australia, were almost empty and had no serious population 

It is, therefore, not by accident that the first English statesman who re- 
peatedly stressed his belief in races and race superiority as a determining 
factor of history and politics was a man who without particular interest in 
the colonies and the English colonists — "the colonial deadweight which we 
do not govern" — wanted to extend British imperial power to Asia and, 
indeed, forcefully strengthened the position of Great Britain in the only 
colony with a grave population and cultural problem. It was Benjamin 
Disraeli who made the Queen of England the Empress of India; he was 
the first English statesman who regarded India as the cornerstone of an 
Empire and who wanted to cut the ties which linked the English people 
to the nations of the Continent."^ Thereby he laid one of the foundation 

•2 In his Discours sur I' Ensemble du Positivisme, 1848, pp. 384 ff. 
9* "Power and influence we should exercise in Asia; consequently in Western 
Europe" (W. F. Monypenny and G. E. Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of 


stones for a fundamental change in British rule in India. This colony had 
been governed with the usual ruthlessness of conquerors — men whom Burke 
had called "the breakers of the law in India." It was now to receive a care- 
fully planned administration which aimed at the establishment of a permanent 
government by administrative measures. This experiment has brought Eng- 
land very close to the danger against which Burke had warned, that the 
"breakers of the law in India" might become "the makers of law for Eng- 
land." "* For all those, to whom there was "no transaction in the history of 
England of which we have more just cause to be proud . . . than the es- 
tablishment of the Indian Empire," held Hberty and equality to be "big 
names for a small thing." ""^ 

The policy introduced by Disraeli signified the establishment of an exclu- 
sive caste in a foreign country whose only function was rule and not coloniza- 
tion. For the realization of this conception which Disraeli did not live to see 
accomplished, racism would indeed be an indispensable tool. It foreshadowed 
the menacing transformation of the people from a nation into an "unmixed 
race of a first-rate organization" that felt itself to be "the aristocracy of 
nature" — to repeat in Disraeli's own words quoted above."" 

What we have followed so far is the story of an opinion in which we 
see only now, after all the terrible experiences of our times, the first dawn 
of racism. But although racism has revived elements of race-thinking in every 
country, it is not the history of an idea endowed by some "immanent logic" 
with which we were concerned. Race-thinking was a source of convenient 
arguments for varying political conflicts, but it never possessed any kind of 
monopoly over the political life of the respective nations; it sharpened and 
exploited existing conflicting interests or existing poHtical problems, but it 
never created new conflicts or produced new categories of political think- 
ing. Racism sprang from experiences and political constellations which were 
still unknown and would have been utterly strange even to such devoted 
defenders of "race" as Gobineau or Disraeh. There is an abyss between 
the men of brilliant and facile conceptions and men of brutal deeds and 
active bestiality which no intellectual explanation is able to bridge. It is 
highly probable that the thinking in terms of race would have disappeared 
in due time together with other irresponsible opinions of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, if the "scramble for Africa" and the new era of imperialism had not 
exposed Western humanity to new and shocking experiences. Imperialism 

Beaconsfield, New York, 1929, II, 210). But "If ever Europe by her shortsightedness 
falls into an inferior and exhausted state, for England there will remain an illustrious 
future" {Ibid., I, Book IV, ch. 2). For "England is no longer a mere European power 
. . . she is really more an Asiatic power than a European." (Ibid., II, 201). 

"* Burke, op. cit., pp. 42-43: "The power of the House of Commons ... is indeed 
great; and long may it be able to preserve its greatness . . . and it will do so, as long 
as it can keep the breaker of the law in India from becoming the maker of law for 

65 Sir James F. Stephen, op. cit., p. 253, and passim; see also his "Foundations of 
the Government of India," 1883, in The Nineteenth Century, LXXX. 

88 For Disraeli's racism, compare chapter iii. 


would have necessitated the invention of racism as the only possible "ex- 
planation" and excuse for its deeds, even if no race-thinking had ever existed 
in the civilized world. 

Since, however, race-thinking did exist, it proved to be a powerful help 
to racism. The very existence of an opinion which could boast of a certain 
tradition served to hide the destructive forces of the new doctrine which, 
without this appearance of national respectability or the seeming sanction of 
tradition, might have disclosed its utter incompatibility with all Western 
political and moral standards of the past, even before it was allowed to 
destroy the comity of European nations. 


Race and Bureaucracy 

Two NEW DEVICES for political organization and rule over foreign peoples 
were discovered during the first decades of imperialism. One was race as 
a principle of the body politic, and the other bureaucracy as a principle of 
foreign domination. Without race as a substitute for the nation, the scramble 
for Africa and the investment fever might well have remained the purpose- 
less "dance of death and trade" (Joseph Conrad) of all gold rushes. Without 
bureaucracy as a substitute for government, the British possession of India 
might well have been left to the recklessness of the "breakers of law in India" 
(Burke) without changing the political climate of an entire era. 

Both discoveries were actually made on the Dark Continent. Race was the 
emergency explanation of human beings whom no European or civilized 
man could understand and whose humanity so frightened and humiliated 
the immigrants that they no longer cared to belong to the same human 
species. Race was the Boers' answer to the overwhelming monstrosity of 
Africa — a whole continent populated and overpopulated by savages — an 
explanation of the madness which grasped and illuminated them like "a 
flash of lightning in a serene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes.' " ^ This an- 
swer resulted in the most terrible massacres in recent history, the Boers' 
extermination of Hottentot tribes, the wild murdering by Carl Peters in 
German Southeast Africa, the decimation of the peaceful Congo population 
— from 20 to 40 million reduced to 8 million people; and finally, perhaps 
worst of all, it resulted in the triumphant introduction of such means of 
pacification into ordinary, respectable foreign policies. What head of a 
civilized state would ever before have uttered the exhortation of William II 
to a German expeditionary contingent fighting the Boxer insurrection in 
1900: "Just as the Huns a thousand years ago, under the leadership of 
Attila, gained a reputation by virtue of which they still live in history, so 
may the German name become known in such a manner in China that no 
Chinese will ever again dare to look askance at a German." ^ 

1 Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness" in Yot4th and Other Tales, 1902, is the most 
illuminating work on actual race experience in Africa. 

^Quoted from Carlton J. Hayes, A Generation of Materialism, New York, 1941, 
p. 338. — An even worse case is of course that of Leopold II of Belgium, responsible 
for the blackest pages in the history of Africa. "There was only one man who could 
be accused of the outrages which reduced the native population [of the Congo] from 
between 20 to 40 million in 1890 to 8,500,000 in 1911— Leopold II." See Selwyn 
James, South of the Congo, New York, 1943, p. 305. 


While race, whether as a home-grown ideology in Europe or an emer- 
gency explanation for shattering experiences, has always attracted the worst 
elements m Western civilization, bureaucracy was discovered by and first 
attracted the best, and sometimes even the most clear-sighted, strata of the 
i:uro|x-an intelligentsia. 1 he administrator who ruled by reports ■' and de- 
crees in more hostile secrecy than any oriental despot grew out of a tradi- 
tion of military discipline in the midst of ruthless and lawless men; for a 
long time he had lived by the honest, earnest boyhood ideals of a modern 
knight in shining armor sent to protect helpless and primitive people. And 
he fulfilled this task, for better or worse, as long as he moved in a world 
dominated by the old "trinity — war, trade and piracy" (Goethe), and not 
in a complicated game of far-reaching investment policies which demanded 
the domination of one people, not as before for the sake of its own riches, 
but for the sake of another country's wealth. Bureaucracy was the organiza- 
tion of the great game of expansion in which every area was considered a 
stepping-stone to further involvements and every people an instrument for 
further conquest. 

Although in the end racism and bureaucracy proved to be interrelated 
in many ways, they were discovered and developed independently. No one 
who in one way or the other was implicated in their perfection ever came 
to realize the full range of potentialities of power accumulation and destruc- 
tion that this combination alone provided. Lord Cromer, who in Egypt 
changed from an ordinary British charge d'affaires into an imperialist 
bureaucrat, would no more have dreamed of combining administration with 
mxssacre ("administrative massacres" as Carthill bluntly put it forty years 
later), than the race fanatics of South Africa thought of organizing massacres 
for the purpose of establishing a circumscribed, rational political community 
(as the Nazis did in the extermination camps). 

I: The Phantom World of the Dark Continent 

vv TO THE END of the last century, the colonial enterprises of the seafaring 
European peoples produced two outstanding forms of achievement: in re- 
cently discovered and sparsely populated territories, the founding of new 
settlements which adopted the legal and political institutions of the mother 
country; and in well-known though exotic countries in the midst of foreign 
peoples, the establishment of maritime and trade stations whose only func- 
tion was to facilitate the never very peaceful exchange of the treasures of 
the world. Colonization took place in America and Australia, the two con- 
Uncnts that, without a culture and a history of their own, had fallen into the 
hands of Europeans. Trade stations were characteristic of Asia where for 
centuries Europeans had shown no ambition for permanent rule or inten- 

Ti.' ^*^ A. Canhills description of the "Indian system of government by reports" in 
The Lost Dominion, 1924, p. 70. 


tions of conquest, decimation of the native population, and permanent 
settlement.* Both forms of overseas enterprise evolved in a long steady 
process which extended over almost four centuries, during which the settle- 
ments gradually achieved independence, and the possession of trade stations 
shifted among the nations according to their relative weakness or strength 
in Europe. 

The only continent Europe had not touched in the course of its colonial 
history was the Dark Continent of Africa. Its northern shores, populated by 
Arabic peoples and tribes, were well known and had belonged to the Euro- 
pean sphere of influence in one way or another since the days of antiquity. 
Too well populated to attract settlers, and too poor to be exploited, these 
regions suffered all kinds of foreign rule and anarchic neglect, but oddly 
enough never — after the decline of the Egyptian Empire and the destruction 
of Carthage — achieved authentic independence and reliable poHtical organ- 
ization. European countries tried time and again, it is true, to reach beyond 
the Mediterranean to impose their rule on Arabic lands and their Chris- 
tianity on Moslem peoples, but they never attempted to treat North African 
territories like overseas possessions. On the contrary, they frequently aspired 
to incorporate them into the respective mother country. This age-old tradi- 
tion, still followed in recent times by Italy and France, was broken in the 
eighties when England went into Egypt to protect the Suez Canal without 
any intention either of conquest or incorporation. The point is not that 
Egypt was wronged but that England (a nation that did not lie on the shores 
of the Mediterranean) could not possibly have been interested in Egypt as 
such, but needed her only because there were treasures in India. 

While imperialism changed Egypt from a country occasionally coveted 
for her own sake into a military station for India and a stepping-stone for 
further expansion, the exact opposite happened to South Africa. Since the 
seventeenth century, the significance of the Cape of Good Hope had de- 
pended upon India, the center of colonial wealth; any nation that established 
trade stations there needed a maritime station on the Cape, which was then 
abandoned when trade in India was liquidated. At the end of the eighteenth 
century, the British East India Company defeated Portugal, Holland, and 
France and won a trade monopoly in India; the occupation of South Africa 
followed as a matter of course. If imperialism had simply continued the old 
trends of colonial trade (which is so frequently mistaken for imperiahsm), 
England would have liquidated her position in South Africa with the opening 
of tlie Suez Canal in 1869.^ Although today South Africa belongs to the 

* It is important to bear in mind that colonization of America and Australia was 
accompanied by comparatively short periods of cruel liquidation because of the na- 
tives' numerical weakness, whereas "in understanding the genesis of modern South 
African society it is of the greatest importance to know that the land beyond the 
Cape's borders was not the open land which lay before the Australian squatter. It was 
already an area of settlement, of settlement by a great Bantu population." See C. W. 
de Kiewiet, A History of South Africa, Social and Economic (Oxford, 1941), p. 59. 

6 "As late as 1884 the British Government had still been willing to diminish its 
authority and influence in South Africa" (De Kiewiet, op. cit., p, 113). 


Commonwealth, it was always different from the other dominions; fertility 
and sparscncss of population, the main prerequisites for definite settlement, 
were lacking and a sinulc clfort to settle 5,000 unemployed Englishmen at 
the beginning of the nineteenth century proved a failure. Not only did the 
streams of emigrants from the British Isles consistently avoid South Africa 
throughout the nineteenth century, but South Africa is the only dominion 
from which a steady stream of emigrants has gone back to England in recent 
times.* South Africa, which became the "culture-bed of Imperialism" 
(Damce), was never claimed by England's most radical defenders of "Saxon- 
dom" and it did not figure in the visions of her most romantic dreamers of 
an Asiatic Empire. Th^s in itself shows how small the real influence of pre- 
imperialist colonial enterprise and overseas settlement was on the develop- 
ment of imperialism itself. If the Cape colony had remained within the 
framework of prc-imperialist policies, it would have been abandoned at 
the exact moment when it actually became all-important. 

Although the discoveries of gold mines and diamond fields in the seventies 
and eighties would have had little consequence in themselves if they had 
not accidentally acted as a catalytic agent for imperialist forces, it remains 
remarkable that the imperialists' claim to have found a permanent solution 
to the problem of superfluity was initially motivated by a rush for the most 
superfluous raw material on earth. Gold hardly has a place in human produc- 
tion and is of no importance compared with iron, coal, oil, and rubber; 
instead, it is the most ancient symbol of mere wealth. In its uselessness in 
industrial production it bears an ironical resemblance to the superfluous 
money that financed the digging of gold and to the superfluous men who did 
the digging. To the imperialists' pretense of having discovered a permanent 
savior for a decadent society and antiquated political organization, it added 
its own pretense of apparently eternal stability and independence of all 
functional determinants. It was significant that a society about to part with 
all traditional absolute values began to look for an absolute value in the 
world of economics where, indeed, such a thing does not and cannot exist, 
since everything is functional by definition. This delusion of an absolute 
value has made the production of gold since ancient times the business of 

« The following table of British immigration to and emigration from South Africa 
between 1924 and 1928 shows that Englishmen had a stronger inclination to leave the 
country than other immigrants and that, with one exception, each year showed a 
greater number of British people leaving the country than coming in: 



































Total 17.184 30.911 19.932 22.254 

These figures are quoted from Leonard Barnes, Caliban in Africa. An Impression of 
Colour Madness, Philadelphia, 1931, p. 59, note. 


adventurers, gamblers, criminals, of elements outside the pale of normal, 
sane society. The new turn in the South African gold rush was that here 
the luck-hunters were not distinctly outside civilized society but, on the 
contrary, very clearly a by-product of this society, an inevitable residue of 
the capitalist system and even the representatives of an economy that re- 
lentlessly produced a superfluity of men and capital. 

The superfluous men, "the Bohemians of the four continents" ^ who came 
rushing down to the Cape, still had much in common with the old adven- 
turers. They too felt "Ship me somewheres east of Suez where the best is 
like the worst, / Where there aren't no Ten Commandments, an' a man can 
raise a thirst." The difference was not their morality or immorality, but 
rather that the decision to join this crowd "of all nations and colors" * was 
no longer up to them; that they had not stepped out of society but had been 
spat out by it; that they were not enterprising beyond the permitted limits 
of civilization but simply victims without use or function. Their only choice 
had been a negative one, a decision against the workers' movements, in 
which the best of the superfluous men or of those who were threatened with 
superfluity estabhshed a kind of countersociety through which men could 
find their way back into a human world of fellowship and purpose. They 
were nothing of their own making, they were like living symbols of what 
had happened to them, living abstractions and witnesses of the absurdity of 
human institutions. They were not individuals like the old adventurers, they 
were the shadows of events with which they had nothing to do. 

Like Mr. Kurtz in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," they were "hollow to 
the core," "reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity and cruel 
without courage." They believed in nothing and "could get (themselves) to 
believe anything — anything." Expelled from a world with accepted social 
values, they had been thrown back upon themselves and still had nothing 
to fall back upon except, here and there, a streak of talent which made them 
as dangerous as Kurtz if they were ever allowed to return to their homelands. 
For the only talent that could possibly burgeon in their hollow souls was 
the gift of fascination which makes a "splendid leader of an extreme party." 
The more gifted were walking incarnations of resentment like the German 
Carl Peters (possibly the model for Kurtz), who openly admitted that he 
"was fed up with being counted among the pariahs and wanted to belong to 
a master race." ^ But gifted or not, they were all "game for anything from 
pitch and toss to wilful murder" and to them their fellow-men were "no 
more one way or another than that fly there." Thus they brought with them, 
or they learned quickly, the code of manners which befitted the coming 
type of murderer to whom the only unforgivable sin is to lose his temper. 

There were, to be sure, authentic gentlemen among them, like Mr. Jones 
of Conrad's Victory, who out of boredom were willing to pay any price to 

"J. A. Froude, "Leaves from a South African Journal" (1874), in Short Studies 
on Great Subjects, 1867-1882, Vol. IV. 

8 Ibid. 

9 Quoted from Paul Ritter, Kolonien im deutschen Schrifttum, 1936, Preface. 


inhabit the "world of hazard and adventure," or like Mr. Heyst, who was 
drunk with contempt for everything human until he drifted "like a detached 
leaf . . . without ever catching on to anything." They were irresistibly 
attracted by a world where everything was a joke, which could teach them 
"the Cireat Joke" that is "the mastery of despair." The perfect gentleman 
and the perfect scoundrel came to know each other well in the "great wild 
jungle without law," and they found themselves "well-matched in their 
enormous dissimilarity, identical souls in difTcrent disguises." We have seen 
the behavior of high society during the Dreyfus Affair and watched Disraeli 
discover the social relationship between vice and crime; here, too, we have 
essentially the same story of high society falling in love with its own under- 
world, and of the criminal feeling elevated when by civilized coldness, the 
avoidance of "unnecessary exertion," and good manners he is allowed to 
create a vicious, refined atmosphere around his crimes. This refinement, the 
very contrast between the brutality of the crime and the manner of carrying 
it out, becomes the bridge of deep understanding between himself and the 
perfect gentleman. But what, after all, took decades to achieve in Europe, 
because of the delaying effect of social ethical values, exploded with the 
suddenness of a short circuit in the phantom world of colonial adventure. 

Outside all social restraint and hypocrisy, against the backdrop of native 
life, the gentleman and the criminal felt not only the closeness of men who 
share the same color of skin, but the impact of a world of infinite possibili- 
ties for crimes committed in the spirit of play, for the combination of horror 
and laughter, that is for the full realization of their own phantom-like 
existence. Native life lent these ghostlike events a seeming guarantee against 
all consequences because anyhow it looked to these men like a "mere play of 
shadows. A play of shadows, the dominant race could walk through un- 
aflectcd and disregarded in the pursuit of its incomprehensible aims and 

The world of native savages was a perfect setting for men who had 
escaped the reality of civilization. Under a merciless sun, surrounded by an 
entirely hostile nature, they were confronted with human beings who, living 
without the future of a purpose and the past of an accomplishment, were 
as incomprehensible as the inmates of a madhouse. "The prehistoric man 
was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us — who could tell? We were 
cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like 
phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be, before 
an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because 
we were too far and could not remember, because we were traveling in the 
night of first ages, of those ages that are gone leaving hardly a sign — and 
no memories. The earth seemed unearthly, ... and the men ... No, 
they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it — this sus- 
picion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled 
and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was 
just the thought of their humanity— like yours— the thought of your remote 
kmship with this wild and passionate uproar" ("Heart of Darkness"). 


It is strange that, historically speaking, the existence of "prehistoric men" 
had so little influence on Western man before the scramble for Africa. It is, 
however, a matter of record that nothing much had happened as long as 
savage tribes, outnumbered by European settlers, had been exterminated, as 
long as shiploads of Negroes were imported as slaves into the Europe- 
determined world of the United States, or even as long as only individuals 
had drifted into the interior of the Dark Continent where the savages were 
numerous enough to constitute a world of their own, a world of folly, to 
which the European adventurer added the folly of the ivory hunt. Many of 
these adventurers had gone mad in the silent wilderness of an overpopulated 
continent where the presence of human beings only underlined utter soli- 
tude, and where an untouched, overwhelmingly hostile nature that nobody 
had ever taken the trouble to change into human landscape seemed to wait 
in sublime patience "for the passing away of the fantastic invasion" of man. 
But their madness had remained a matter of individual experience and with- 
out consequences. 

This changed with the men who arrived during the scramble for Africa. 
These were no longer lonely individuals; "all Europe had contributed to the 
making of (them)." They concentrated on the southern part of the con- 
tinent where they met the Boers, a Dutch splinter group which had been 
almost forgotten by Europe, but which now served as a natural introduc- 
tion to the challenge of new surroundings. The response of the superfluous 
men was largely determined by the response of the only European group 
that ever, though in complete isolation, had to live in a world of black 

The Boers are descended from Dutch settlers who in the middle of the 
seventeenth century were stationed at the Cape to provide fresh vegetables 
and meat for ships on their voyage to India. A small group of French 
Huguenots was all that followed them in the course of the next century, so 
that it was only with the help of a high birthrate that the little Dutch splinter 
grew into a small people. Completely isolated from the current of European 
history, they set out on a path such "as few nations have trod before them, 
and scarcely one trod with success." ^^ 

The two main material factors in the development of the Boer people were 
the extremely bad soil which could be used only for extensive cattle-raising, 
and the very large black population which was organized in tribes and lived 
as nomad hunters." The bad soil made close settlement impossible and 
prevented the Dutch peasant settlers from following the village organization 
of their homeland. Large families, isolated from each other by broad spaces 
of wilderness, were forced into a kind of clan organization and only the ever- 
present threat of a common foe, the black tribes which by far outnumbered 

10 Lord Selbourne in 1907: "The white people of South Africa are committed to 
such a path as few nations have trod before them, and scarcely one trod with success." 
See Kiewiet, op. cit., chapter 6. 

11 See especially chapter iii of Kiewiet, op. cit. 


the white settlers, deterred these clans from active war against each other. 
Ihc solution to the double problem of lack of fertility and abundance of 
natives \sas slavery." 

Slavery, however, is a very inadequate word to describe what actually 
happened. First of all, slavery, though it domesticated a certain part of the 
savage population, never got hold of all of them, so the Boers were never 
.iblc to forget their first horrible fright before a species of men whom human 
pride and the sense of human dignity could not allow them to accept as 
fcilow-mcn. This fright of something like oneself that still under no circum- 
stances ought to be like oneself remained at the basis of slavery and became 
the basis for a race society. 

Mankind remembers the history of peoples but has only legendary 
knowledge of prehistoric tribes. The word "race" has a precise meaning only 
when and where peoples are confronted with such tribes of which they have 
no historical record and which do not know any history of their own. Whether 
these represent "prehistoric man," the accidentally surviving specimens of 
the first forms of human life on earth, or whether they are the "posthistoric" 
survivors of some unknown disaster which ended a civilization we do not 
know. They certainly appeared rather like the survivors of one great catas- 
trophe which might have been followed by smaller disasters until cata- 
strophic monotony seemed to be a natural condition of human life. At any 
rate, races in this sense were found only in regions where nature was par- 
ticularly hostile. What made them different from other human beings was 
not at all the color of their skin but the fact that they behaved like a part of 
nature, that they treated nature as their undisputed master, that they had 
not created a human world, a human reality, and that therefore nature had 
remained, in all its majesty, the only overwhelming reality — compared to 
which they appeared to be phantoms, unreal and ghostlike. They were, as 
it were, "natural" human beings who lacked the specifically human character, 
the specifically human reality, so that when European men massacred them 
they somehow were not aware that they had committed murder. 

Moreover, the senseless massacre of native tribes on the Dark Continent 
was quite in keeping with the traditions of these tribes themselves. Ex- 
termination of hostile tribes had been the rule in all African native wars, 
and it was not abolished when a black leader happened to unite several 
tribes under his leadership. King Tchaka, who at the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century united the Zulu tribes in an extraordinarily disciplined and 
warlike organization, established neither a people nor a nation of Zulus. 
He only succeeded in exterminating more than one million members of 
weaker tribes.'^ Since discipline and military organization by themselves 

>2 "Slaves and Hottentots together provoked remarkable changes in the thought and 
habits of the colonists, for climate and geography were not alone in forming the dis- 
tinctive traits of the Boer race. Slaves and droughts, Hottentots and isolation, cheap 
labor and land, combined to create the institutions and habits of South African society. 
Ihc sons and daughters born to sturdy Hollanders and Huguenots learned to look 
upon the labour of the field and upon all hard physical toil as the functions of a 
servile race" (Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 21). 

" See James, op. cit., p. 28. 


cannot establish a political body, the destruction remained an unrecorded 
episode in an unreal, incomprehensible process which cannot be accepted 
by man and therefore is not remembered by human history. 

Slavery in the case of the Boers was a form of adjustment of a European 
people to a black race,^* and only superficially resembled those historical 
instances when it had been a result of conquest or slave trade. No body 
politic, no communal organization kept the Boers together, no territory was 
definitely colonized, and the black slaves did not serve any white civilization. 
The Boers had lost both their peasant relationship to the soil and their 
civilized feeling for human fellowship. "Each man fled the tyranny of his 
neighbor's smoke" ^^ was the rule of the country, and each Boer family 
repeated in complete isolation the general pattern of Boer experience among 
black savages and ruled over them in absolute lawlessness, unchecked by 
"kind neighbors ready to cheer you or to fall on you stepping delicately 
between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and 
gallows and lunatic asylums" (Conrad). Ruling over tribes and living 
parasitically from their labor, they came to occupy a position very similar 
to that of the native tribal leaders whose domination they had liquidated. 
The natives, at any rate, recognized them as a higher form of tribal leader- 
ship, a kind of natural deity to which one has to submit; so that the divine 
role of the Boers was as much imposed by their black slaves as assumed 
freely by themselves. It is a matter of course that to these white gods of 
black slaves each law meant only deprivation of freedom, government only 
restriction of the wild arbitrariness of the clan.^" In the natives the Boers 
discovered the only "raw material" which Africa provided in abundance 
and they used them not for the production of riches but for the mere essen- 
tials of human existence. 

The black slaves in South Africa quickly became the only part of the 
population that actually worked. Their toil was marked by all the known 
disadvantages of slave labor, such as lack of initiative, laziness, neglect of 
tools, and general inefficiency. Their work therefore barely sufficed to keep 
their masters alive and never reached the comparative abundance which nur- 
tures civilization. It was this absolute dependence on the work of others 
and complete contempt for labor and productivity in any form that trans- 
formed the Dutchman into the Boer and gave his concept of race a distinctly 
economic meaning. ^^ 

1* "The true history of South African colonization describes the growth, not of a 
settlement of Europeans, but of a totally new and unique society of different races and 
colours and cultural attainments, fashioned by conflicts of racial heredity and the 
oppositions of unequal social groups" (Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 19). 

I'' Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 19. 

16 "[The Boers'] society was rebellious, but it was not revolutionary" {ibid., p. 58). 

1^ "Little effort was made to raise the standard of living or increase the opportunities 
of the class of slaves and servants. In this manner, the limited wealth of the Colony 
became the privilege of its white population. . . . Thus early did South Africa learn 
that a self-conscious group may escape the worst effects of life in a poor and unpros- 
perous land by turning distinctions of race and colour into devices for social and eco- 
nomic discrimination" (ibid., p. 22). 


Ihc Bivrs ucrc the first European group to become completely alienated 
irom the pride which Western man felt in living in a world created and 
f.ibricatcd hy himself. '^ Fhey treated the natives as raw material and lived 
on them as one might live on the fruits of wild trees. Lazy and unproductive, 
;hcy agreed to vegetate on essentially the same level as the black tribes had 
vegetated for thousands of years. The great horror which had seized European 
men at their first confrontation with native life was stimulated by precisely 
this touch of inhumanity among human beings who apparently were as much 
a part of nature as wild animals. The Boers lived on their slaves exactly the 
way natives had lived on an unprepared and unchanged nature. When the 
BtK-rs. in their fright and misery, decided to use these savages as though 
they were just another form of animal life, they embarked upon a process 
which could only end with their own degeneration into a white race living 
beside and together with black races from whom in the end they would 
differ only in the color of their skin. 

The poor whites in South Africa, who in 1923 formed 10 per cent of the 
total white population'"' and whose standard of living does not differ much 
from that of the Bantu tribes, are today a warning example of this possibility. 
Their poverty is almost exclusively the consequence of their contempt for 
work and their adjustment to the way of life of black tribes. Like the blacks, 
they deserted the soil if the most primitive cultivation no longer yielded 
the little that was necessary or if they had exterminated the animals of the 
region.-" Together with their former slaves, they came to the gold and dia- 
mond centers, abandoning their farms whenever the black workers departed. 
But in contrast to the natives who were immediately hired as cheap un- 
skilled labor, they demanded and were granted charity as the right of a 
white skin, having lost all consciousness that normally men do not earn a 
living by the color of their skin.-' Their race consciousness today is violent 

"* The point is that, for instance, in "the West Indies such a large proportion of 
slaves as were held at the Cape would have been a sign of wealth and a source of pros- 
perity"; whereas "at the Cape slavery was the sign of an unenterprising economy . . . 
whose labour was wastcfully and inefficiently used" (ih'uL). It was chiefly this that led 
Barnes (o/i. (//.. p. 107) and many other observers to the conclusion: "South Africa 
is thus a foreign country, not only in the sense that its standpoint is definitely un- 
British. but also in the much more radical sense that its very raison d'etre, as an attempt 
at an organised society, is in contradiction to the principles on which the states of 
Christendom are founded." 

'"This corresponded to as many as 160,000 individuals (Kiewiet, op. cil., p. 181). 
James (op. cii.. p. 43) estimated the number of poor whites in 1943 at 500,000 which 
would correspond to about 20 per cent of the white population. 

-'" "The poor while Afrikaaner population, living on the same subsistence level as 
the Banlus, is primarily the result of the Boers' inability or stubborn refusal to learn 
agricultural science. Like the Bantu, the Boer likes to wander from one area to 
another, tilling Ihc soil until it is no longer fertile, shooting the wild game until it 
ceases to exist" (ibid.). 

^' "Their race was their title of superiority over the natives, and to do manual labour 
conflicted with the dignity conferred upon them by their race. . . . Such an aversion 
degenerated, in those who were most demoralized, into a claim to charity as a right" 
(Kiewiet. op. cil., p. 216). 


not only because they have nothing to lose save their membership in the 
white community, but also because the race concept seems to define their 
own condition much more adequately than it does that of their former 
slaves, who are well on the way to becoming workers, a normal part of 
human civilization. 

Racism as a ruling device was used in this society of whites and blacks 
before imperialism exploited it as a major political idea. Its basis, and its 
excuse, were still experience itself, a horrifying experience of something alien 
beyond imagination or comprehension; it was ternpting indeed simply to 
declare that these were not human beings. Since, however, despite all ideo- 
logical explanations the black men stubbornly insisted on retaining their 
human features, the "white men" could not but reconsider their own human- 
ity and decide that they themselves were more than human and obviously 
chosen by God to be the gods of black men. This conclusion was logical and 
unavoidable if one wanted to deny radically all common bonds with savages; 
in practice it meant that Christianity for the first time could not act as a 
decisive curb on the dangerous perversions of human self-consciousness, a 
premonition of its essential ineffectiveness in other more recent race so- 
cieties."^ The Boers simply denied the Christian doctrine of the common 
origin of men and changed those passages of the Old Testament which did 
not yet transcend the limits of the old Israelite national religion into a super- 
stition which could not even be called a heresy. ^^ Like the Jews, they firmly 
believed in themselves as the chosen people,-* with the essential difference 
that they were chosen not for the sake of divine salvation of mankind, but for 
the lazy domination over another species that was condemned to an equally 
lazy drudgery.'-' This was God's will on earth as the Dutch Reformed Church 
proclaimed it and still proclaims it today in sharp and hostile contrast to 
the missionaries of all other Christian denominations.^'' 

22 The Dutch Reformed Church has been in the forefront of the Boers' struggle 
against the influence of Christian missionaries on the Cape. In 1944, however, they 
went one step farther and adopted "without a single voice of dissent" a motion oppos- 
ing the marriage of Boers with EngUsh-speaking citizens. (According to the Cape 
Times, editorial of July 18, 1944. Quoted from New Africa, Council on African Af- 
fairs. Monthly Bulletin, October, 1944.) 

23 Kiewiet {op. cit., p. 181) mentions "the doctrine of racial superiority which was 
drawn from the Bible and reinforced by the popular interpretation which the nine- 
teenth century placed upon Darwin's theories." 

2* "The God of the Old Testament has been to them almost as much a national 
figure as He has been to the Jews. ... I recall a memorable scene in a Cape Town 
club, where a bold Briton, dining by chance with three or four Dutchmen, ventured 
to observe that Christ was a non-European and that, legally speaking, he would have 
been a prohibited immigrant in the Union of South Africa. The Dutchmen were so 
electrified at the remark that they nearly fell off their chairs" (Barnes, op. cit., p. 33). 

25 "For the Boer farmer the separation and the degradation of the natives are or- 
dained by God, and it is crime and blasphemy to argue to the contrary" (Norman Bent- 
wich, "South Africa. Dominion of Racial Problems." In Political Quarterly, 1939, 
Vol. X, No. 3). 

26 "To this day the missionary is to the Boer the fundamental traitor, the white man 
who stands for black against white" (S. Gertrude Millin, Rhodes, London, 1933, p. 38). 


BiXT racism, unlike the other brands, has a touch of authenticity and, so 
to speak of inniKence. A complete lack of literature and other mtellectual 
achievement is the best witness to this statement." It was and remams a 
desperate reaction to desperate living conditions which was inarticulate and 
inconsequential as long as it was left alone. Things began to happen only 
with the arrival of the British, who showed little interest m their newest 
colony which in 1849 was still called a military station (as opposed to either 
a colony or a plantation). But their mere presence— that is, their contrasting 
altitude toward the natives whom they did not consider a different animal 
species, their later attempts (after 1834) to abolish slavery, and above all 
their elforts to impose fixed boundaries upon landed property — provoked 
the stagnant Boer society into violent reactions. It is characteristic of the 
Boers thai these reactions followed the same, repeated pattern throughout 
the nineteenth century: Boer farmers escaped British law by treks into the 
interior wilderness of the country, abandoning without regret their homes 
and their farms. Rather than accept limitations upon their possessions, they 
left ihem altogether. =" This does not mean that the Boers did not feel at 
home wherever they happened to be; they felt and still feel much more at 
home in Africa than any subsequent immigrants, but in Africa and not in 
any specific limited territory. Their fantastic treks, which threw the British 
administration into consternation, showed clearly that they had transformed 
themselves into a tribe and had lost the European's feeling for a territory, a 
pairia of his own. 1 hey behaved exactly like the black tribes who had also 
roamed the Dark Continent for centuries — feeling at home wherever the 
horde happened to be, and fleeing like death every attempt at definite settle- 

Rootlessness is characteristic of all race organizations. What the European 
"movements" consciously aimed at, the transformation of the people into a 
horde, can be watched like a laboratory test in the Boers' early and sad 
attempt. While rootlessness as a conscious aim was based primarily upon 

2' "Because they had little art, less architecture, and no literature, they depended 
upon their farms, their Bibles, and their blood to set them off sharply against the 
native and the outlandcr" (Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 121). 

2" "The true Vortrckker hated a boundary. When the British Government insisted 
on fixed boundaries for the Colony and for farms within it, something was taken from 
him. ... It was best surely to betake themselves across the border where there were 
water and free land and no British Government to disallow Vagrancy Laws and where 
white men could not be haled to court to answer the complaints of their servants" 
(Ihid., pp. 54-55). "The Great Trek, a movement unique in the history of colonization" 
(p. 58) "was the defeat of the policy of more intensive settlement. The practice which 
required the area of an entire Canadian township for the settlement of ten families was 
extended through all of South Africa. It made for ever impossible the segregation of 
white and black races in separate areas of settlement. ... By taking the Boers beyond 
the reach of British law. the Great Trek enabled them to establish 'proper' relations 
with the native population" (p. 56). "In later years, the Great Trek was to become 
more than a protest; it was to become a rebellion against the British administration, 
and the foundation stone of the Anglo-Boer racialism of the twentieth century" (James, 
op. cit., p. 28). 


hatred of a world that had no place for "superfluous" men, so that its de- 
struction could become a supreme political goal, the rootlessness of the 
Boers was a natural result of early emancipation from work and complete 
lack of a human-built world. The same striking similarity prevails between 
the "movements" and the Boers' interpretation of "chosenness." But while 
the Pan-German, Pan-Slav, or Polish Messianic movements' chosenness was 
a more or less conscious instrument for domination, the Boers' perversion 
of Christianity was solidly rooted in a horrible reality in which miserable 
"white men" were worshipped as divinities by equally unfortunate "black 
men." Living in an environment which they had no power to transform into 
a civilized world, they could discover no higher value than themselves. The 
point, however, is that no matter whether racism appears as the natural 
result of a catastrophe or as the conscious instrument for bringing it about, 
it is always closely tied to contempt for labor, hatred of territorial limita- 
tion, general rootlessness, and an activistic faith in one's own divine chosen- 

Early British rule in South Africa, with its missionaries, soldiers, and 
explorers, did not realize that the Boers' attitudes had some basis in reality. 
They did not understand that absolute European supremacy — in which they, 
after all, were as interested as the Boers — could hardly be maintained except 
through racism because the permanent European settlement was so hope- 
lessly outnumbered; ''•• they were shocked "if Europeans settled in Africa 
were to act like savages themselves because it was the custom of the coun- 
try," ^° and to their simple utilitarian minds it seemed folly to sacrifice pro- 
ductivity and profit to the phantom world of white gods ruling over black 
shadows. Only with the settlement of Englishmen and other Europeans dur- 
ing the gold rush did they gradually adjust to a population which could not 
be lured back into European civilization even by profit motives, which had 
lost contact even with the lower incentives of European man when it had 
cut itself off from his higher motives, because both lose their meaning and 
appeal in a society where nobody wants to achieve anything and everyone 
has become a god. 

II: Gold and Race 

THE DIAMOND FIELDS of Kimbcrley and the gold mines of the Witwatersrand 
happened to He in this phantom world of race, and "a land that had seen 
boat-load after boat-load of emigrants for New Zealand and Australia pass 
it unheeding by now saw men tumbling on to its wharves and hurrying 

29 In 1939, the total population of the Union of South Africa amounted to 9,500,000 
of whom 7,000,000 were natives and 2,500,000 Europeans. Of the latter, more than 
1,250,000 were Boers, about one-third were British, and 100,000 were Jews. See Nor- 
man Bentwich, op. cit. 

30 J. A. Froude, op. cit., p. 375. 


Up country to the mines. Most of them were English, but among them was 
more than a sprinkling from Riga and Kiev, Hamburg and Frankfort, Rotter- 
dam and San Francisco." " All of them belonged to "a class of persons who 
prefer adventure and speculation to settled industry, and who do not work 
well in the harness of ordinary life. . . . (There were] diggers from Amer- 
ica and Australia, German speculators, traders, saloonkeepers, professional 
gamblers, barristers , . . , ex-officers of the army and navy, younger sons 
of good families ... a marvelous motley assemblage among whom money 
flowed like water from the amazing productiveness of the mine." They were 
joined by thousands of natives who first came to "steal diamonds and to lag 
their earnings out in rifles and powder," ^- but quickly started to work for 
wages and became the seemingly inexhaustible cheap labor supply when 
the "most stagnant of colonial regions suddenly exploded into activity." -^^ 
The abundance of natives, of cheap labor, was the first and perhaps most 
important difference between this gold rush and others of its type. It was 
soon apparent that the mob from the four corners of the earth would not 
even have to do the digging; at any rate, the permanent attraction of South 
Africa, the permanent resource that tempted the adventurers to permanent 
settlement, was not the gold but this human raw material which promised a 
permanent emancipation from work." The Europeans served solely as super- 
visors and did not even produce skilled labor and engineers, both of which 
had constantly to be imported from Europe. 

Second in importance only, for the ultimate outcome, was the fact that 
this gold rush was not simply left to itself but was financed, organized, and 
connected with the ordinary European economy through the accumulated 
superfluous wealth and with the help of Jewish financiers. From the very 
beginning "a hundred or so Jewish merchants who have gathered like eagles 
over their prey"" actually acted as middlemen through whom European 
capital was invested in the gold mining and diamond industries. 

The only section of the South African population that did not have and 
did not want to have a share in the suddenly exploding activities of the 
country were the Boers. They hated all these uitlanders, who did not care for 
citizenship but who needed and obtained British protection, thereby seem- 
ingly strengthening British government influence on the Cape. The Boers 
reacted as they had always reacted, they sold their diamond-laden possessions 
m Kimberley and their farms with gold mines near Johannesburg and 
trekked once more into the interior wilderness. They did not understand 
that this new influx was different from the British missionaries, government 
officials, or ordinary settlers, and they realized only when it was too late 

3> Kiewict, op. cit., p. 119. 

'2 Froude. op. cit., p. 400. 

'3 Kiewict, op. cit., p. 119. 

^« "What an abundance of rain and grass was to New Zealand mutton, what a plenty 

oi Cheap grazing land was to Australian wool, what the fertile prairie acres were to 

en^mr^-'^rL'"'' ^^^^"^ °^^'^^ '^^°"^ ^^ ^ South African mining and industrial 
enterprise (Kjewiet, op. cit., p. 96). 

"J. A. Froude. ibid. 


and they had already lost their share in the riches of the gold hunt that the 
new idol of Gold was not at all irreconcilable with their idol of Blood, that 
the new mob was as unwilling to work and as unfit to establish a civilization 
as they were themselves, and would therefore spare them the British officials' 
annoying insistence on law and the Christian missionaries' irritating con- 
cept of human equality. 

The Boers feared and fled what actually never happened, namely, the in- 
dustrialization of the country. They were right insofar as normal production 
and civilization would indeed have destroyed automatically the way of life 
of a race society. A normal market for labor and merchandise would have 
liquidated the privileges of race. But gold and diamonds, which soon pro- 
vided a living for half of South Africa's population, were not merchandise 
in the same sense and were not produced in the same way as wool in Aus- 
tralia, meat in New Zealand, or wheat in Canada. The irrational, non-func- 
tional place of gold in the economy made it independent of rational produc- 
tion methods which, of course, could never have tolerated the fantastic dis- 
parities between black and white wages. Gold, an object for speculation and 
essentially dependent in value upon political factors, became the "lifeblood" 
of South Africa ^^ but it could not and did not become the basis of a new 
economic order. 

The Boers also feared the mere presence of the uitlanders because they 
mistook them for British settlers. The uitlanders, however, came solely in 
order to get rich quickly, and only those remained who did not quite succeed 
or who, like the Jews, had no country to return to. Neither group cared very 
much to establish a community after the model of European countries, as 
British settlers had done in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It was 
Barnato who happily discovered that "the Transvaal Government is like 
no other government in the world. It is indeed not a government at all, but 
an unlimited company of some twenty thousand shareholders." ^^ Similarly, 
it was more or less a series of misunderstandings which finally led to the 
British-Boer war, which the Boers wrongly believed to be "the culmination 
of the British Government's lengthy quest for a united South Africa," while 
it was actually prompted mainly by investment interests.^** When the Boers 
lost the war, they lost no more than they had already deliberately abandoned, 
that is, their share in the riches; but they definitely won the consent of all 
other European elements, including the British government, to the lawless- 

36 "The goldmines are the life-blood of the Union . . . one half of the population 
obtained their livelihood directly or indirectly from the goldmining industry, and . . . 
one half of the finances of the government were derived directly or indirectly from 
gold mining" (Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 155). 

3" See Paul H. Emden, Jews of Britain, A Series of Biographies, London, 1944, 
chapter "From Cairo to the Cape." 

^« Kiewiet {op. cit., pp. 138-39) mentions, however, also another "set of circum- 
stances": "Any attempt by the British Government to secure concessions or reforms 
from the Transvaal Government made it inevitably the agent of the mining mag- 
nates. . . . Great Britain gave its support, whether this was clearly realized in Downing 
Street or not, to capital and mining investments." 


ncss of a race society." Today, all sections of the population, British or 
Afrikander, organized workers or capitalists, agree on the race question,*" 
and whereas the rise of Nazi Germany and its conscious attempt to trans- 
form the German people into a race strengthened the political position of 
the Boers considerably, Germany's defeat has not weakened it. 

The Boers hated and feared the financiers more than the other foreigners. 
They somehow understood that the financier was a key figure in the com- 
bination of superfluous wealth and superfluous men, that it was his function 
to turn (he essentially transitory gold hunt into a much broader and more 
permanent business.*' The war with the British, moreover, soon demon- 
strated an even more decisive aspect; it was quite obvious that it had been 
prompted by foreign investors who demanded the government's protection 
of their tremendous profits in faraway countries as a matter of course — as 
though armies engaged in a war against foreign peoples were nothing but 
native police forces involved in a fight with native criminals. It made little 
difference to the Boers that the men who introduced this kind of violence 
into the shadowy affairs of the gold and diamond production were no longer 
the financiers, but those who somehow had risen from the mob itself and, 
like Cecil Rhodes, believed less in profits than in expansion for expansion's 
sake.*= The financiers, who were mostly Jews and only the representatives, 
not the owners, of the superfluous capital, had neither the necessary political 
influence nor enough economic power to introduce poHtical purposes and the 
use of violence into speculation and gambling. 

Without doubt the financiers, though finally not the decisive factor in 

»» "Much of the hesitant and evasive conduct of British statesmanship in the gen- 
eration before the Boer War could be attributed to the indecision of the British Gov- 
ernment between its obligation to the natives and its obligation to the white com- 
munities. . . . Now, however, the Boer War compelled a decision on native policy. 
In the terms of the peace the British Government promised that no attempt would be 
made to alter the political status of the natives before self-government had been 
granted to the ex-Rcpublics. In that epochal decision the British Government receded 
from its humanitarian position and enabled the Boer leaders to win a signal victory in 
the peace negotiations which marked their military defeat. Great Britain abandoned 
the effort to exercise a control over the vital relations between white and black. 
Downing Street had surrendered to the frontiers" (Kiewiet, op. cit., pp. 143-44). 

♦0 "There is ... an entirely erroneous notion that the Africaaners and the English- 
speaking people of South Africa still disagree on how to treat the natives. On the 
contrary, it is one of the few things on which they do agree" (James, op. cit., p. 47). 

<• This was mostly due to the methods of Alfred Beit who had arrived in 1875 to 
buy diamonds for a Hamburg firm. "Till then only speculators had been shareholders 
in mining ventures. . . . Beit's method attracted the genuine investor also" (Emden, 
op. cit.). 

*' Very characteristic in this respect was Barnato's attitude when it came to the 
amalgamation of his business with the Rhodes group. "For Barnato the amalgamation 
was nothmg but a financial transaction in which he wanted to make money. ... He 
therefore desired that the company should have nothing to do with politics. Rhodes 
however was not merely a business man. . . ." This shows how very wrong Barnato 
was when he thought that "if I had received the education of Cecil Rhodes there would 
not have been a Cecil Rhodes" {ibid.). 


imperialism, were remarkably representative of it in its initial period/^ They 
had taken advantage of the overproduction of capital and its accompanying 
complete reversal of economic and moral values. Instead of mere trade in 
goods and mere profit from production, trade in capital itself emerged on 
an unprecedented scale. This alone would have given them a prominent 
position; in addition profits from investments in foreign countries soon in- 
creased at a much more rapid rate than trade profits, so that traders and 
merchants lost their primacy to the financier." The main economic char- 
acteristic of the financier is that he earns his profits not from production and 
exploitation or exchange of merchandise or normal banking, but solely 
through commissions. This is important in our context because it gives him 
that touch of unreality, of phantom-hke existence and essential futility 
even in a normal economy, that are typical of so many South African 
events. The financiers certainly did not exploit anybody and they had 
least control over the course of their business ventures, whether these 
turned out to be common swindles or sound enterprises belatedly confirmed. 

It is also significant that it was precisely the mob element among the 
Jewish people who turned into financiers. It is true that the discovery of gold 
mines in South Africa had coincided with the first modem pogroms in 
Russia, so that a trickle of Jewish emigrants went to South Africa. There, 
however, they would hardly have played a role in the international crowd 
of desperadoes and fortune hunters if a few Jewish financiers had not been 
there ahead of them and taken an immediate interest in the newcomers who 
clearly could represent them in the population. 

The Jewish financiers came from practically every country on the con- 
tinent where they had been, in terms of class, as superfluous as the other 
South African immigrants. They were quite different from the few estab- 
lished families of Jewish notables whose influence had steadily decreased 
after 1820, and into whose ranks they could therefore no longer be assimi- 
lated. They belonged in that new caste of Jewish financiers which, from the 
seventies and eighties on, we find in all European capitals, where they had 
come, mostly after having left their countries of origin, in order to try their 
luck in the international stock-market gamble. This they did everywhere to 
the great dismay of the older Jewish families, who were too weak to stop 
the unscrupulousness of the newcomers and therefore only too glad if the 
latter decided to transfer the field of their activities overseas. In other words, 
the Jewish financiers had become as superfluous in legitimate Jewish bank- 
ing as the wealth they represented had become superfluous in legitimate 

*s Compare chapter v, note 34. 

** The increase in profits from foreign investment and a relative decrease of foreign 
trade profits characterizes the economic side of imperialism. In 1899, it was estimated 
that Great Britain's whole foreign and colonial trade had brought her an income of 
only 18 million pounds, while in the same year profits from foreign investment 
amounted to 90 or 100 million pounds. See J. A. Hobson, Imperialism, London, 1938, 
pp. 53 ff. It is obvious that investment demanded a much more conscious long-range 
policy of exploitation than mere trade. 


industrial enterprise and the fortune hunters in the world of legitimate labor. 
In South Africa itself, where the merchant was about to lose his status within 
the countr>'s economy to the financier, the new arrivals, the Barnatos, 
Beits. Sammy Marks, removed the older Jewish settlers from first position 
much more easily than in Europe."'' In South Africa, though hardly any- 
where else, they were the third factor in the initial alliance between capi- 
tal and mob; to a large extent, they set the alliance into motion, handled 
the influx of capital and its investment in the gold mines and diamond 
fields, and soon became more conspicuous than anybody else. 

The fact of their Jewish origin added an undefinable symbolic flavor to 
the role of the financiers — a flavor of essential homelessness and rootlessness 
— and thus served to introduce an element of mystery, as well as to symbol- 
ize the whole affair. To this must be added their actual international connec- 
tions, which naturally stimulated the general popular delusions concerning 
Jewish political power all over the world. It is quite comprehensible that 
all the fantastic notions of a secret international Jewish power — notions 
which originally had been the result of the closeness of Jewish banking 
capital to the state's sphere of business — became even more virulent here 
than on the European continent. Here, for the first time Jews were driven 
into the midst of a race society and almost automatically singled out by the 
Boers from all other "white" people for special hatred, not only as the 
representatives of the whole enterprise, but as a different "race," the embodi- 
ment of a devilish principle introduced into the normal world of "blacks" 
and "whites." This hatred was all the more violent as it was partly caused 
by the suspicion that the Jews with their own older and more authentic 
claim would be harder than anyone else to convince of the Boers' claim 
to chosenness. While Christianity simply denied the principle as such, 
Judaism seemed a direct challenge and rival. Long before the Nazis con- 
sciously built up an antisemitic movement in South Africa, the race issue 
had invaded the conflict between the uitlander and the Boers in the form of 
antisemitism,"" which is all the more noteworthy since the importance of 
Jews in the South African gold and diamond economy did not survive the 
turn of the century. 

As soon as the gold and diamond industries reached the stage of imperialist 
development where absentee shareholders demand their governments' polit- 
ical protection, it turned out that the Jews could not hold their important 
economic position. They had no home government to turn to and their posi- 
tion in South African society was so insecure that much more was at stake 
for them than a mere decrease in influence. They could preserve economic 

*'- Early Jewish settlers in South Africa in the eighteenth and the first part of the 
nineteenth century were adventurers; traders and merchants followed them after the 
middle of the century, among whom the most prominent turned to industries such as 
fishing, sealing, and whaling (De Pass Brothers) and ostrich breeding (the Mosenthal 
family). Later, they were almost forced into the Kimberley diamond industries where, 
however, they never achieved such pre-eminence as Barnato and Beit. 

"Ernst Schultze, "Die Judenfrage in Sued-Afrika." in Der Weltkampf, October, 
1938, Vol. XV, No. 178. 


security and permanent settlement in South Africa, which they needed more 
than any other group of uitlanders, only if they achieved some status in 
society — which in this case meant admission to exclusive British clubs. 
They were forced to trade their influence against the position of a gentle- 
man, as Cecil Rhodes very bluntly put it when he bought his way into the 
Barnato Diamond Trust, after having amalgamated his De Beers Company 
with Alfred Beit's Company.*^ But these Jews had more to offer than just 
economic power; it was thanks to them that Cecil Rhodes, as much a new- 
comer and adventurer as they, was finally accepted by England's respectable 
banking business with which the Jewish financiers after all had better con- 
nections than anybody else.*^ "Not one of the English banks would have 
lent a single shilling on the security of gold shares. It was the unbounded 
confidence of these diamond men from Kimberley that operated like a mag- 
net upon their co-rehgionists at home." *^ 

The gold rush became a full-fledged imperialist enterprise only after Cecil 
Rhodes had dispossessed the Jews, taken investment policies from Eng- 
land's into his own hands, and had become the central figure on the Cape. 
Seventy-five per cent of the dividends paid to shareholders went abroad, 
and a large majority of them to Great Britain. Rhodes succeeded in inter- 
esting the British government in his business affairs, persuaded them that 
expansion and export of the instruments of violence was necessary to protect 
investments, and that such a policy was a holy duty of every national govern- 
ment. On the other hand, he introduced on the Cape itself that typically 
imperialist economic policy of neglecting all industrial enterprises which were 
not owned by absentee shareholders, so that finally not only the gold mining 
companies but the government itself discouraged the exploitation of abundant 
base metal deposits and the production of consumers' goods. ^^ With the 
initiation of this policy, Rhodes introduced the most potent factor in the 
eventual appeasement of the Boers; the neglect of all authentic industrial 
enterprise was the most solid guarantee for the avoidance of normal capitaUst 
development and thus against a normal end of race society. 

It took the Boers several decades to understand that imperialism was 

*^ Barnato sold his shares to Rhodes in order to be introduced to the Kimberley 
Club. "This is no mere money transaction," Rhodes is reported to have told Barnato, 
"I propose to make a gentleman of you." Barnato enjoyed his life as a gentleman for 
eight years and then committed suicide. See Millin, op. cit., pp. 14, 85. 

*8 "The path from one Jew [in this case, Alfred Beit from Hamburg] to another is 
an easy one. Rhodes went to England to see Lord Rothschild and Lord Rothschild ap- 
proved of him" {ibid.). 

''^ Emden, op. cit. 

60 "South Africa concentrated almost all its peacetime industrial energy on the pro- 
duction of gold. The average investor put his money into gold because it offered the 
quickest and biggest returns. But South Africa also has tremendous deposits of iron 
ore, copper, asbestos, manganese, tin, lead, platinum, chrome, mica and graphite. 
These, along with the coal mines and the handful of factories producing consumer 
goods, were known as 'secondary' industries. The investing public's interest in them was 
limited. And development of these secondary industries was discouraged by the gold- 
mining companies and to a large extent by the government" (James, op. cit., p. 333). 


nothing to be afraid of, since it would neither develop the country as Aus- 
tralia and Canada had been developed, nor draw profits from the country 
at large, being quite content with a high turnover of investments in one 
specific field. Imperialism therefore was willing to abandon the so-called 
laws of capitalist production and their egalitarian tendencies, so long as 
profits from specific investments were safe. This led eventually to the aboli- 
tion of the law of mere profitableness and South Africa became the first 
example of a phenomenon that occurs whenever the mob becomes the 
dominant factor in the alliance between mob and capital. 

In one respect, the most important one, the Boers remained the undisputed 
masters of the country: whenever rational labor and production policies 
came into conflict with race considerations, the latter won. Profit motives 
were sacrificed time and again to the demands of a race society, frequently 
at a terrific price. The rentability of the railroads was destroyed overnight 
when the government dismissed 17,000 Bantu employees and paid whites 
wages that amounted to 200 per cent more; ^^ expenses for municipal gov- 
ernment became prohibitive when native municipal employees were replaced 
with whites; the Color Bar Bill finally excluded all black workers from 
mechanical jobs and forced industrial enterprise to a tremendous increase 
of production costs. The race world of the Boers had nobody to fear any 
more, least of all white labor, whose trade unions complained bitterly that 
the Color Bar Bill did not go far enough." 

At first glance, it is surprising that a violent antisemitism survived the 
disappearance of the Jewish financiers as well as the successful indoctrination 
with racism of all parts of the European population. The Jews were certainly 
no excepfion to this rule; they adjusted to racism as well as everybody else 
and their behavior toward black people was beyond reproach." Yet they 
had, without being aware of it and under pressure of special circumstances, 
broken with one of the most powerful traditions of the country. 

The first sign of "anormal" behavior came immediately after the Jewish 
financiers had lost their position in the gold and diamond industries. They 
did not leave the country but settled down permanently ** into a unique posi- 

*' James, op. cit., pp. 111-112. "The Government reckoned that this was a good ex- 
ample for private employers to follow . . . and public opinion soon forced changes 
in the hiring policies of many employers." 

*2 James, op. cit., p. 108. 

»' Here again, a definite difference between the earlier settlers and the financiers 
can be recognized until the end of the nineteenth century. Saul Salomon, for instance, 
a Negrophilist member of the Cape Parliament, was a descendant of a family which 
had settled in South Africa in the early nineteenth century. Emden, op. cit. 

"Between 1924 and 1930, 12,319 Jews immigrated to South Africa while only 
461 left the country. These figures are very striking if one considers that the total 
immigration for the same period after deduction of emigrants amounted to 14,241 
persons. (See SchulUe, op. cit.) If we compare these figures with the immigration 
table of note 6, it follows that Jews constituted roughly one-third of the total immi- 
gration to South Africa in the twenties, and that they, in sharp contrast to all other 


tion for a white group: they neither belonged to the "lifeblood" of Africa 
nor to the "poor white trash." Instead they started almost immediately to 
build up those industries and professions which according to South African 
opinion are "secondary" because they are not connected with gold." Jews 
became manufacturers of furniture and clothes, shopkeepers and members 
of the professions, physicians, lawyers, and journalists. In other words, no 
matter how well they thought they were adjusted to the mob conditions of 
the country and its race attitude, Jews had broken its most important pattern 
by introducing into South African economy a factor of normalcy and pro- 
ductivity, with the result that when Mr. Malan introduced into Parliament a 
bill to expel all Jews from the Union he had the enthusiastic support of all 
poor whites and of the whole Afrikander population.®" 

This change in the economic function, the transformation of South African 
Jewry from representing the most shadowy characters in the shadow world 
of gold and race into the only productive part of the population, came like 
an oddly belated confirmation of the original fears of the Boers. They had 
hated the Jews not so much as the middlemen of superfluous wealth or the 
representatives of the world of gold; they had feared and despised them as 
the very image of the uitlanders who would try to change the country into 
a normal producing part of Western civilization, whose profit motives, at 
least, would mortally endanger the phantom world of race. And when the 
Jews were finally cut off from the golden lifeblood of the uitlanders and 
could not leave the country as all other foreigners would have done in 
similar circumstances, developing "secondary" industries instead, the Boers 
turned out to be right. The Jews, entirely by themselves and without being 
the image of anything or anybody, had become a real menace to race society. 
As matters stand today, the Jews have against them the concerted hostility 
of all those who believe in race or gold — and that is practically the whole 
European population in South Africa. Yet they cannot and will not make 
common cause with the only other group which slowly and gradually is 
being won away from race society: the black workers who are becoming 
more and more aware of their humanity under the impact of regular labor 
and urban life. Although they, in contrast to the "whites," do have a genuine 
race origin, they have made no fetish of race, and the abolition of race society 
means only the promise of their liberation. 

In contrast to the Nazis, to whom racism and antisemitism were major 
political weapons for the destruction of civilization and the setting up of a 
new body politic, racism and antisemitism are a matter of course and a 

categories of uitlanders, settled there permanently; their share in the annual emigration 
is less than 2 per cent. 

5* "Rabid Afrikaaner nationalist leaders have deplored the fact that there are 
102,000 Jews in the Union; most of them are white-collar workers, industrial em- 
ployers, shopkeepers, or members of the professions. The Jews did much- to build up 
the secondary industries of South Africa — i.e., industries other than gold and diamond 
mining — concentrating particularly on the manufacture of clothes and furniture" 
(James, op. cit., p. 46). 

" Ibid., pp. 67-68. 


natural consequence of the status quo in South Africa. They did not need 
Nazism in order to be born and they influenced Nazism only in an indirect 

There were, however, real and immediate boomerang effects of South 
Africa's race society on the behavior of European peoples: since cheap 
Indian and Chinese labor had been madly imported to South Africa when- 
ever her interior supply was temporarily halted,"*^ a change of attitude to- 
ward colored people was felt immediately in Asia where, for the first time, 
people were treated in almost the same way as those African savages who 
had frightened Europeans literally out of their wits. The difference was only 
that there could be no excuse and no humanly comprehensible reason for 
treating Indians and Chinese as though they were not human beings. In a 
certain sense, it is only here that the real crime began, because here every- 
one ought to have known what he was doing. It is true that the race notion 
was somewhat modified in Asia; "higher and lower breeds," as the "white 
man" would say when he started to shoulder his burden, still indicate a scale 
and the possibility of gradual development, and the idea somehow escapes 
the concept of two entirely different species of animal life. On the other hand, 
since the race principle supplanted the older notion of alien and strange peo- 
ples in Asia, it was a much more consciously applied weapon for domination 
and exploitation than in Africa. 

Less immediately significant but of greater importance for totalitarian 
governments was the other experience in Africa's race society, that profit 
motives are not holy and can be overruled, that societies can function ac- 
cording to principles other than economic, and that such circumstances may 
favor those who under conditions of rationalized production and the capital- 
ist system would belong to the underprivileged. South Africa's race society 
taught the mob the great lesson of which it had always had a confused 
premonition, that through sheer violence an underprivileged group could 
create a class lower than itself, that for this purpose it did not even need a 
revolution but could band together with groups of the ruling classes, and 
that foreign or backward peoples offered the best opportunities for such 

The full impact of the African experience was first realized by leaders 
of the mob, like Carl Peters, who decided that they too had to belong to a 
master race. African colonial possessions became the most fertile soil for 
the flowering of what later was to become the Nazi elite. Here they had 
seen with their own eyes how peoples could be converted into races and how, 
simply by taking the initiative in this process, one might push one's own 
people into the position of the master race. Here they were cured of the 

" More than 100,000 Indian coolies were imported to the sugar plantations of Natal 
in the nineteenth century. These were followed by Chinese laborers in the mines who 
numbered about 55,000 in 1907. In 1910, the British government ordered the repatria- 
tion of all Chinese mine laborers, and in 1913 it prohibited any further immigration 
from India or any other part of Asia. In 1931, 142,000 Asiatics were still in the Union 
and treated like African natives. (See also Scbultze, op. cit ) 


illusion that the historical process is necessarily "progressive," for if it was 
the course of older colonization to trek to something, the "Dutchman trekked 
away from everything," ^* and if "economic history once taught that man 
had developed by gradual steps from a life of hunting to pastoral pursuits 
and finally to a settled and agricultural life," the story of the Boers clearly 
demonstrated that one could also come "from a land that had taken the lead 
in a thrifty and intensive cultivation . . . [and] gradually become a herds- 
man and a hunter." ^^ These leaders understood very well that precisely 
because the Boers had sunk back to the level of savage tribes they remained 
their undisputed masters. They were perfectly willing to pay the price, to 
recede to the level of a race organization, if by so doing they could buy 
lordship over other "races." And they knew from their experiences with 
people gathered from the four corners of the earth in South Africa that the 
whole mob of the Western civilized world would be with them.^° 

III: The Imperialist Character 

OF THE TWO main political devices of imperialist rule, race was discovered 
in South Africa and bureaucracy in Algeria, Egypt, and India; the former 
was originally the barely conscious reaction to tribes of whose humanity 
European man was ashamed and frightened, whereas the latter was a con- 
sequence of that administration by which Europeans had tried to rule foreign 
peoples whom they felt to be hopelessly their inferiors and at the same time 
in need of their special protection. Race, in other words, was an escape into 
an irresponsibility where nothing human could any longer exist, and bureauc- 
racy was the result of a responsibility that no man can bear for his fellow- 
man and no people for another people. 

The exaggerated sense of responsibility in the British administrators of 
India who succeeded Burke's "breakers of law" had its material basis in the 
fact that the British Empire had actually been acquired in a "fit of absent- 
mindedness." Those, therefore, who were confronted with the accomplished 
fact and the job of keeping what had become theirs through an accident, had 
to find an interpretation that could change the accident into a kind of willed 
act. Such historical changes of fact have been carried through by legends 

^* Barnes, op. cit., p. 13. 

^8 Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 13. 

CO "When economists declared that higher wages were a form of bounty, and that 
protected labour was uneconomical, the answer was given that the sacrifice was well 
made if the unfortunate elements in the white population ultimately found an assured 
footing in modern life." "But it has not been in South Africa alone that the voice of 
the conventional economist has gone unheeded since the end of the Great War. . . . 
In a generation which saw England abandon free trade, America leave the gold standard, 
the Third Reich embrace autarchy, . . . South Africa's insistence that its economic 
life must be organized to secure the dominant position of the white race is not seriously 
out of place" (Kiewiet, op. cit., pp. 224 and 245). 


since ancient Umcs. and legends dreamed up by the British intelligentsia 
have played a decisive role in the formation of the bureaucrat and the secret 
agent of the British services. 

Legends have always played a powerful role in the making of history. 
Man, who has not been granted the gift of undoing, who is always an un- 
consiilted heir of other men's deeds, and who is always burdened with a 
responsibility that appears to be the consequence of an unending chain of 
events rather than conscious acts, demands an explanation and interpreta- 
tion of the past in which the mysterious key to his future destiny seems to 
be concealed. Legends were the spiritual foundations of every ancient city, 
empire, people, promising safe guidance through the limitless spaces of the 
future. Without ever relating facts reliably, yet always expressing their true 
significance, they offered a truth beyond realities, a remembrance beyond 

Legendary explanations of history always served as belated corrections 
of facts and real events, which were needed precisely because history itself 
would hold man responsible for deeds he had not done and for consequences 
he had never foreseen. The truth of the ancient legends — what gives them 
their fascinating actuality many centuries after the cities and empires and 
peoples they served have crumbled to dust — was nothing but the form in 
which past events were made to fit the human condition in general and 
political aspirations in particular. Only in the frankly invented tale about 
events did man consent to assume his responsibility for them, and to con- 
sider past events his past. Legends made him master of what he had not 
done, and capable of dealing with what he could not undo. In this sense, 
legends are not only among the first memories of mankind, but actually the 
true beginning of human history. 

The flourishing of historical and political legends came to a rather abrupt 
end with the birth of Christianity. Its interpretation of history, from the days 
of Adam to the Last Judgment, as one single road to redemption and salva- 
tion, olTered the most powerful and all-inclusive legendary explanation of 
human destiny. Only after the spiritual unity of Christian peoples gave way 
to the plurality of nations, when the road to salvation became an uncertain 
article of individual faith rather than a universal theory applicable to all 
happenings, did new kinds of historical explanations emerge. The nineteenth 
century has offered us the curious spectacle of an almost simultaneous birth 
of the most varying and contradictory ideologies, each of which claimed to 
know the hidden truth about otherwise incomprehensible facts. Legends, 
however, arc not ideologies; they do not aim at universal explanation but 
are always concerned with concrete facts. It seems rather significant that 
the growth of national bodies was nowhere accompanied by a foundation 
legend, and that a first unique attempt in modem times was made precisely 
when the decline of the national body had become obvious and imperialism 
seemed to take the place of old-fashioned nationalism. 

The author of the imperialist legend is Rudyard Kipling, its topic is the 


British Empire, its result the imperialist character (imperialism was the 
only school of character in modern politics). And while the legend of the 
British Empire has little to do with the realities of British imperialism, it 
forced or deluded into its services the best sons of England. For legends at- 
tract the very best in our times, just as ideologies attract the average, and the 
whispered tales of gruesome secret powers behind the scenes attract the very 
worst. No doubt, no political structure could have been more evocative of 
legendary tales and justifications than the British Empire, than the British 
people's drifting from the conscious founding of colonies into ruling and 
dominating foreign peoples all over the world. 

The foundation legend, as Kipling tells it, starts from the fundamental 
reality of the people of the British Isles.*'' Surrounded by the sea, they need 
and win the help of the three elements of Water, Wind, and Sun through the 
invention of the Ship. The ship made the always dangerous alliance with the 
elements possible and made the Englishman master of the world. "You'll 
win the world," says Kipling, "without anyone caring how you did it: you'll 
keep the world without anyone knowing how you did it: and you'll carry the 
world on your backs without anyone seeing how you did it. But neither you 
nor your sons will get anything out of that little job except Four Gifts — one 
for the Sea, one for the Wind, one for the Sun and one for the Ship that 
carries you. . . . For, winning the world, and keeping the world, and carry- 
ing the world on their backs — on land, or on sea, or in the air — your sons 
will always have the Four Gifts. Long-headed and slow-spoken and heavy 
— damned heavy — in the hand, will they be; and always a little bit to wind- 
ward of every enemy — that they may be a safeguard to all who pass on the 
seas on their lawful occasions." 

What brings the little tale of the "First Sailor" so close to ancient founda- 
tion legends is that it presents the British as the only politically mature 
people, caring for law and burdened with the welfare of the world, in the 
midst of barbarian tribes who neither care nor know what keeps the world 
together. Unfortunately this presentation lacked the innate truth of ancient 
legends; the world cared and knew and saw how they did it and no such 
tale could ever have convinced the world that they did not "get anything out 
of that little job." Yet there was a certain reality in England herself which 
corresponded to Kipling's legend and made it at all possible, and that was 
the existence of such virtues as chivalry, nobility, bravery, even though they 
were utterly out of place in a political reality ruled by Cecil Rhodes or Lord 

The fact that the "white man's burden" is either hypocrisy or racism has 
not prevented a few of the best Englishmen from shouldering the burden in 
earnest and making themselves the tragic and quixotic fools of imperialism. 
As real in England as the tradition of hypocrisy is another less obvious one 
which one is tempted to call a tradition of dragon-slayers who went enthusi- 
astically into far and curious lands to strange and naive peoples to slay the 

"' Rudyard Kipling, "The First Sailor," in Humorous Tales, 1891. 


numerous dragons that had plagued them for centuries. There is more than 
a grain of truth in Kipling's other tale, "The Tomb of His Ancestor," "^ 
in which the Chinn family "serve India generation after generation, as 
dolphins follow in line across the open sea." They shoot the deer that steals 
the poi>r man's crop, teach him the mysteries of better agricultural methods, 
free him from some of his more harmful superstitions and kill lions and 
tigers in grand style. Their only reward is indeed a "tomb of ancestors" and 
a family legend, believed by the whole Indian tribe, according to which "the 
revered ancestor ... has a tiger of his own — a saddle tiger that he rides 
round the country whenever he feels inclined." Unfortunately, this riding 
around the countryside is "a sure sign of war or pestilence or — or some- 
Ihiniz." and in this particular case it is a sign of vaccination. So that Chinn 
the Voungcst, a not very important underling in the hierarchy of the Army 
Services, but all-important as far as the Indian tribe is concerned, has to 
shoot the beast of his ancestor so that people can be vaccinated without fear 
of "war or pestilence or something." 

As modern life goes, the Chinns indeed "are luckier than most folks." 
Their chance is that they were born into a career that gently and naturally 
leads them to the realization of the best dreams of youth. When other boys 
have to forget "noble dreams," they happen to be just old enough to trans- 
late them into action. And when after thirty years of service they retire, 
their steamer will pass "the outward bound troopship, carrying his son east- 
ward to the family duty," so that the power of old Mr. Chinn's existence as 
a government-appointed and army-paid dragon-slayer can be imparted to the 
next generation. No doubt, the British government pays them for their serv- 
ices, but it is not at all clear in whose service they eventually land. There 
is a strong possibility that they really serve this particular Indian tribe, gen- 
eration after generation, and it is consoling all around that at least the tribe 
itself is convinced of this. The fact that the higher services know hardly 
anything of little Lieutenant Chinn's strange duties and adventures, that 
they are hardly aware of his being a successful reincarnation of his grand- 
father, gives his dreamlike double existence an undisturbed basis in reality. He 
is simply at home in two worlds, separated by water- and gossip-tight walls. 
Born in "the heart of the scrubby tigerish country" and educated among his 
own people in peaceful, well-balanced, ill-informed England, he is ready to 
live permanently with two peoples and is rooted in and well acquainted with 
the tradition, language, superstition, and prejudices of both. At a moment's 
notice he can change from the obedient underling of one of His Majesty's 
soldiers into an exciting and noble figure in the natives' world, a well-beloved 
protector of the weak, the dragon-slayer of old tales. 

The point is that these queer quixotic protectors of the weak who played 
their role behind the scenes of oflicial British rule were not so much the 
product of a primitive people's naive imagination as of dreams which con- 
tained the best of European and Christian traditions, even when they had 

" In The Day's Work. 1898. 


already deteriorated into the futility of boyhood ideals. It was neither His 
Majesty's soldier nor the British higher official who could teach the natives 
something of the greatness of the Western world. Only those who had never 
been able to outgrow their boyhood ideals and therefore had enlisted in the 
colonial services were fit for the task. Imperialism to them was nothing but 
an accidental opportunity to escape a society in which a man had to forget 
his youth if he wanted to grow up. English society was only too glad to see 
them depart to faraway countries, a circumstance which permitted the tolera- 
tion and even the furtherance of boyhood ideals in the public school system; 
the colonial services took them away from England and prevented, so to 
speak, their converting the ideals of their boyhood into the mature ideas of 
men. Strange and curious lands attracted the best of England's youth since 
the end of the nineteenth century, deprived her society of the most honest 
and the most dangerous elements, and guaranteed, in addition to this bliss, 
a certain conservation, or perhaps petrification, of boyhood noblesse which 
preserved and infantilized Western moral standards. 

Lord Cromer, secretary to the Viceroy and financial member in the pre- 
imperialist government of India, still belonged in the category of British 
dragon-slayers. Led solely by "the sense of sacrifice" for backward popula- 
tions and "the sense of duty" *^^ to the glory of Great Britain that "has given 
birth to a class of officials who have both the desire and the capacity to 
govern,"*''' he declined in 1894 the post of Viceroy and refused ten years 
later the position of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Instead of such 
honors, which would have satisfied a lesser man, he became the little-publi- 
cized and all-powerful British Consul General in Egypt from 1883 to 1907. 
There he became the first imperialist administrator, certainly "second to 
none among those who by their services have glorified the British race"; "'^ 
perhaps the last to die in undisturbed pride: "Let these suffice for Britain's 
meed — / No nobler price was ever won, / The blessings of a people freed / 
The consciousness of duty done." *"' 

Cromer went to Egypt because he realized that "the Englishman straining 
far over to hold his loved India [has to] plant a firm foot on the banks of 
the Nile." *'^ Egypt was to him only a means to an end, a necessary expansion 
for the sake of security for India. At almost the same moment it happened 
that another Englishman set foot on the African continent, though at its op- 
posite end and for opposite reasons: Cecil Rhodes went to South Africa 
and saved the Cape colony after it had lost all importance for the English- 
man's "loved India." Rhodes's ideas on expansion were far more advanced 

"3 Lawrence J. Zetland, Lord Cromer, 1932, p. 16. 

«' Lord Cromer, "The Government of Subject Races" in Edinburgh Review, Janu- 
ary, 1908. 

^^ Lord Curzon at the unveiling of the memorial tablet for Cromer. See Zetland, 
op. cit., p. 362. 

66 Quoted from a long poem by Cromer. See Zetland, op. cit., pp. 17-18. 

«^ From a letter Lord Cromer wrote in 1882. Ibid., p. 87. 


than those of his more respectable colleague in the north; to him expansion did 
not need to be justified by such sensible motives as the holding of what one 
already possessed. "Expansion was everything" and India, South Africa, and 
Eg>pt were equally important or unimportant as stepping-stones in an ex- 
pansion limited only by the size of the earth. There certainly was an abyss 
between the vulgar megalomaniac and the educated man of sacrifice and 
duty; yet they arrived at roughly identical results and were equally respon- 
sible for the "Great Game" of secrecy, which was no less insane and no less 
detrimental to politics than the phantom world of race. 

The outstanding similarity between Rhodes's rule in South Africa and 
Cromer's domination of Egypt was that both regarded the countries not as 
desirable ends in themselves but merely as means for some supposedly higher 
purpose. They were similar therefore in their indifference and aloofness, in 
their genuine lack of interest in their subjects, an attitude which differed as 
much from the cruelty and arbitrariness of native despots in Asia as from the 
exploiting carelessness of conquerors, or the insane and anarchic oppression 
of one race tribe through another. As soon as Cromer started to rule Egypt 
for the sake of India, he lost his role of protector of "backward peoples" 
and could no longer sincerely believe that "the self-interest of the subject- 
races is the principal basis of the whole Imperial fabric." "** 

Aloofness became the new attitude of all members of the British services; 
it was a more dangerous form of governing than despotism and arbitrariness 
because it did not even tolerate that last link between the despot and his sub- 
jects, which is formed by bribery and gifts. The very integrity of the British 
administration made despotic government more inhuman and inaccessible 
to its subjects than Asiatic rulers or reckless conquerors had ever been.**^ 
Integrity and aloofness were symbols for an absolute division of interests 
to the point where they are not even permitted to conflict. In comparison, 
exploitation, oppression, or corruption look hke safeguards of human dig- 
nity, because exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, corruptor 
and corrupted still live in the same world, still share the same goals, fight 
each odier for the possession of the same things; and it is this tertium com- 
parationis which aloofness destroyed. Worst of all was the fact that the aloof 
administrator was hardly aware that he had invented a new form of govern- 
ment but actually believed that his attitude was conditioned by "the forcible 
contact with a people living on a lower plane." So, instead of believing in 
his individual superiority with some degree of essentially harmless vanity, 
he felt that he belonged to "a nation which had reached a comparatively 
high plane of civilization" "^ and therefore held his position by right of birth, 
regardless of personal achievements. 

Lord Cromer's career is fascinating because it embodies the very turning 

«' Lord Cromer, op. cil. 

•» Bribery "was perhaps the most human institution among the barbed-wire entangle- 
ments of the Russian order." Moissaye J. Olgin, The Soul of the Russian Revolution. 
New York, 1917. 

'« Zetland, op. cit., p. 89. 


point from the older colonial to imperialist services. His first reaction to his 
duties in Egypt was a marked uneasiness and concern about a state of af- 
fairs which was not "annexation" but a "hybrid form of government to which 
no name can be given and for which there is no precedent." ^^ In 1885, after 
two years of service, he still harbored serious doubts about a system in which 
he was the nominal British Consul General and the actual ruler of Egypt 
and wrote that a "highly delicate mechanism [whose] efficient working de- 
pends very greatly on the judgment and ability of a few individuals . . . can 
... be justified [only] if we are able to keep before our eyes the possibihty 
of evacuation. ... If that possibility becomes so remote as to be of no 
practical account ... it would be better for us ... to arrange . . . with 
the other Powers that we should take over the government of the country, 
guarantee its debt, etc." ^^ No doubt Cromer was right, and either, occupa- 
tion or evacuation, would have normalized matters. But that "hybrid form 
of government" without precedent was to become characteristic of all im- 
perialist enterprise, with the result that a few decades afterwards everybody 
had lost Cromer's early sound judgment about possible and impossible forms 
of government, just as there was lost Lord Selboume's early insight that a 
race society as a way of life was unprecedented. Nothing could better char- 
acterize the initial stage of imperialism than the combination of these two 
judgments on conditions in Africa: a way of life without precedent in the 
south, a government without precedent in the north. 

In the following years, Cromer reconciled himself to the "hybrid form 
of government"; in his letters he began to justify it and to expound the need 
for the government without name and precedent. At the end of his life, he 
laid down (in his essay on "The Government of Subject Races") the main 
lines of what one may well call a philosophy of the bureaucrat. 

Cromer started by recognizing that "personal influence" without a legal 
or written political treaty could be enough for "sufficiently effective super- 
vision over public affairs" ^^ in foreign countries. This kind of informal in- 
fluence was preferable to a well-defined policy because it could be altered 
at a moment's notice and did not necessarily involve the home government 
in case of difficulties. It required a highly trained, highly reliable staff whose 
loyalty and patriotism were not connected with personal ambition or vanity 
and who would even be required to renounce the human aspiration of having 
their names connected with their achievements. Their greatest passion would 
have to be for secrecy ("the less British officials are talked about the 
better"),^* for a role behind the scenes; their greatest contempt would be 
directed at publicity and people who love it. 

Cromer himself possessed all these qualities to a very high degree; his 
wrath was never more strongly aroused than when he was "brought out of 

'^i From a letter Lord Cromer wrote in 1884. Ibid., p. 117. 

'^2 In a letter to Lord Granville, a member of the Liberal Party, in 1885. Ibid., p. 219. 

"From a letter to Lord Rosebery in 1886. Ibid., p. 134. 

^* Ibid., p. 352. 


Ihisl hiding place." when "the reality which before was only known to a 
few behind the scenes [became] patent to all the world." " His pride was 
indeed U> "remain more or less hidden [andl to pull the strmgs." ^« In ex- 
change, and in order to make his work possible at all, the bureaucrat has to 
feel safe from control— the praise as well as the blame, that is— of all public 
institutions, either Parliament, the "English Departments," or the press. 
i;ver>' growth of democracy or even the simple functioning of existing 
demiKratic institutions can only be a danger, for it is impossible to govern 
"a people bv a people— the people of India by the people of England." " 
Bureaucracy is always a government of experts, of an "experienced minority" 
which has to resist as well as it knows how the constant pressure from "the 
inexperienced majority." Each people is fundamentally an inexperienced 
majority and can therefore not be trusted with such a highly specialized 
matter as politics and public affairs. Bureaucrats, moreover, are not sup- 
posed to have general ideas about political matters at all; their patriotism 
should never lead them so far astray that they believe in the inherent good- 
ness of political principles in their own country; that would only result in 
their cheap "imitative" application "to the government of backward popula- 
tions." which, according to Cromer, was the principal defect of the French 

Nobody will ever pretend that Cecil Rhodes suffered from a lack of 
vanity. According to Jameson, he expected to be remembered for at least 
four thousand years. Yet, despite all his appetite for self-glorification, he hit 
upon the same idea of rule through secrecy as the overmodest Lord Cromer. 
Extremely fond of drawing up wills, Rhodes insisted in all of them (over 
the course of two decades of his public life) that his money should be used 
to found "a secret society ... to carry out his scheme," which was to be 
"organized like Loyola's, supported by the accumulated wealth of those 
whose aspiration is a desire to do something," so that eventually there would 
be "between two and three thousand men in the prime of life scattered all 
over the world, each one of whom would have had impressed upon his mind 
in the most susceptible period of his life the dream of the Founder, each 
one of whom, moreover, would have been especially — mathematically — 
selected towards the Founder's purpose." ''" More farsighted than Cromer, 

"From a letter to Lord Rosebery in 1893. Ibid., pp. 204-205. 

" From a letter to Lord Rosebery in 1893. Ibid., p. 192. 

^T From a speech by Cromer in Parliament after 1904. Ibid., p. 3n. 

^» During the negotiations and considerations of the administrative pattern for the 
annexation of the Sudan. Cromer insisted on keeping the whole matter outside the 
sphere of French influence; he did this not because he wanted to secure a monopoly in 
Africa for England but much rather because he had "the utmost want of confidence in 
their administrative system as applied to subject races" (from a letter to Salisbury in 
1899, Ibid., p. 248). 

'" Rhodes drew up six wills (the first was already composed in 1877), all of which 
mention the "secret society." For extensive quotes, see Basil Williams. Cecil Rhodes, 
London. 1921. and Millin. op. cit., pp. 128 and 331. The citations are upon the authority 
of W. T. Stead. 


Rhodes opened the society at once to all members of the "Nordic race" *" so 
that the aim was not so much the growth and glory of Great Britain — her 
occupation of the "entire continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the valley of 
the Euphrates, the islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South Amer- 
ica, the islands of the Pacific, . . . the whole of the Malay Archipelago, 
the seaboards of China and Japan [and] the ultimate recovery of the United 
States" *^ — as the expansion of the "Nordic race" which, organized in a 
secret society, would establish a bureaucratic government over all peoples 
of the earth. 

What overcame Rhodes's monstrous innate vanity and made him dis- 
cover the charms of secrecy was the same thing that overcame Cromer's 
innate sense of duty: the discovery of an expansion which was not driven 
by the specific appetite for a specific country but conceived as an endless 
process in which every country would serve only as stepping-stone for further 
expansion. In view of such a concept, the desire for glory can no longer 
be satisfied by the glorious triumph over a specific people for the sake of 
one's own people, nor can the sense of duty be fulfilled through the con- 
sciousness of specific services and the fulfillment of specific tasks. No matter 
what individual qualities or defects a man may have, once he has entered 
the maelstrom of an unending process of expansion, he will, as it were, 
cease to be what he was and obey the laws of the process, identify himself 
with anonymous forces that he is supposed to serve in order to keep the 
whole process in motion; he will think of himself as mere function, and 
eventually consider such functionality, such an incarnation of the dynamic 
trend, his highest possible achievement. Then, as Rhodes was insane enough 
to say, he could indeed "do nothing wrong, what he did became right. It 
was his duty to do what he wanted. He felt himself a god — nothing less." ^^ 
But Lord Cromer sanely pointed out the same phenomenon of men degrad- 
ing themselves voluntarily into mere instruments or mere functions when he 
called the bureaucrats "instruments of incomparable value in the execution 
of a policy of Imperialism." ®^ 

It is obvious that these secret and anonymous agents of the force of ex- 
pansion felt no obligation to man-made laws. The only "law" they obeyed 
was the "law" of expansion, and the only proof of their "lawfulness" was 
success. They had to be perfectly willing to disappear into complete oblivion 
once failure had been proved, if for any reason they were no longer "in- 
struments of incomparable value." As long as they were successful, the 
feeling of embodying forces greater than themselves made it relatively easy 
to resign and even to despise applause and glorification. They were monsters 
of conceit in their success and monsters of modesty in their failure. 

80 It is well known that Rhodes's "secret society" ended as the very respectable 
Rhodes Scholarship Association to which even today not only Englishmen but mem- 
bers of all "Nordic races," such as Germans, Scandinavians, and Americans, are 

81 Basil Williams, op. cit., p. 51. 

82 Millin, op. cit., p. 92. "^ Cromer, op. cit. 


At the basis of bureaucracy as a form of government, and of its inherent 
replacement of law with temporary and changing decrees, lies this supersti- 
tion of a possible and magic identification of man with the forces of history. 
1 he ideal of such a political body will always be the man behind the scenes 
who pulls the strings of history. Cromer hnally shunned every "written in- 
strument, or, indeed, anything which is tangible" "' in his relationships with 
Egypt — even a proclamation of annexation — in order to be free to obey 
only the law of expansion, without obligation to a man-made treaty. Thus 
docs the bureaucrat shun every general law, handling each situation sepa- 
rately by decree, because a law's inherent stability threatens to establish a 
permanent community in which nobody could possibly be a god because all 
would have to obey a law. 

The two key figures in this system, whose very essence is aimless process, 
arc the bureaucrat on one side and the secret agent on the other. Both types, 
as long as they served only British imperialism, never quite denied that 
they were descended from dragon-slayers and protectors of the weak and 
therefore never drove bureaucratic regimes to their inherent extremes. A 
British bureaucrat almost two decades after Cromer's death knew "adminis- 
trative massacres" could keep India within the British Empire, but he knew 
also how Utopian it would be to try to get the support of the hated "Eng- 
lish Departments" for an otherwise quite realistic plan.*^ Lord Curzon, 
Viceroy of India, showed nothing of Cromer's noblesse and was quite 
characteristic of a society that increasingly inclined to accept the mob's 
race standards if they were offered in the form of fashionable snobbery.*^ 
But snobbery is incompatible with fanaticism and therefore never really 

The same is true of the members of the British Secret Service. They too 
are of illustrious origin — what the dragon-slayer was to the bureaucrat, the 
adventurer is to the secret agent — and they too can rightly lay claim to a 

•« From a letter of Lord Cromer to Lord Rosebery in 1886. Zetland, op. cit., p. 134. 

»=> "The Indian system of government by reports was . . . suspect [in England]. 
There was no trial by jury in India and the judges were all paid servants of the Crown, 
many of them removable at pleasure. . . . Some of the men of formal law felt rather 
uneasy as to the success of the Indian experiment. 'If,' they said, 'despotism and 
bureaucracy work so well in India, may not that be perhaps at some time used as an 
argument for introducing something of the same system here?' " The government of 
India, at any rate, "knew well enough that it would have to justify its existence and its 
policy before public opinion in England, and it well knew that that public opinion would 
never tolerate oppression" (A. Carthill, op. cit., pp. 70 and 41-42). 

"« Harold Nicolson in his Curzon: The Last Phase 1919-1925, Boston-New York, 
1934. tells the following story: "Behind the lines in Flanders was a large brewery in the 
vats of which the private soldiers would bathe on returning from the trenches. Curzon 
was taken to see this dantesque exhibit. He watched with interest those hundred naked 
hgures disportmg themselves in the steam. 'Dear me!,' he said. 'I had no conception 
that the lower classes had such white skins.' Curzon would deny the authenticity of 
this story but loved it none the less" (pp. 47-48). 


foundation legend, the legend of the Great Game as told by Rudyard Kipling 
in Kim. 

Of course every adventurer knows what Kipling means when he praises 
Kim because "what he loved was the game for its own sake." Every person 
still able to wonder at "this great and wonderful world" knows that it is 
hardly an argument against the game when "missionaries and secretaries of 
charitable societies could not see the beauty of it." Still less, it seems, have 
those a right to speak who think it "a sin to kiss a white girl's mouth and 
a virtue to kiss a black man's shoe." ^^ Since life itself ultimately has to be 
lived and loved for its own sake, adventure and love of the game for its 
own sake easily appear to be a most intensely human symbol of life. It 
is this underlying passionate humanity that makes Kim the only novel of 
the imperialist era in which a genuine brotherhood links together the 
"higher and lower breeds," in which Kim, "a Sahib and the son of a 
Sahib," can rightly talk of "us" when he talks of the "chain-men," "all 
on one lead-rope." There is more to this "we" — strange in the mouth 
of a believer in imperialism — than the all-enveloping anonymity of men 
who are proud to have "no name, but only a number and a letter," more 
than the common pride of having "a price upon [one's] head." What 
makes them comrades is the common experience of being — through dan- 
ger, fear, constant surprise, utter lack of habits, constant preparedness 
to change their identities — symbols of life itself, symbols, for instance, 
of happenings all over India, immediately sharing the life of it all as 
"it runs like a shuttle throughout all Hind," and therefore no longer 
"alone, one person, in the middle of it all," trapped, as it were, by the 
limitations of one's own individuality or nationality. Playing the Great 
Game, a man may feel as though he lives the only life worth while because 
he has been stripped of everything which may still be considered to be 
accessory. Life itself seems to be left, in a fantastically intensified purity, 
when man has cut himself off from all ordinary social ties, family, regular 
occupation, a definite goal, ambitions, and the guarded place in a com- 
munity to which he belongs by birth. "When every one is dead the Great 
Game is finished. Not before." When one is dead, life is finished, not before, 
not when one happens to achieve whatever he may have wanted. That the 
game has no ultimate purpose makes it so dangerously similar to life itself. 

Purposelessness is the very charm of Kim's existence. Not for the sake 
of England did he accept his strange duties, nor for the sake of India, nor for 
any other worthy or unworthy cause. Imperialist notions like expansion for 
expansion's or power for power's sake might have suited him, but he would 
not have cared particularly and certainly would not have constructed any 
such formula. He stepped into his peculiar way of "theirs not to reason 
why, theirs but to do and die" without even asking the first question. He 
was tempted only by the basic endlessness of the game and by secrecy as 

87 Carthill, op. cit., p. 88. 


such. And secrecy again seems like a symbol of the basic mysteriousness of 

Somehow it was not the fault of the born adventurers, of those who by 
their very nature dwelt outside society and outside all political bodies, that 
they found m imperialism a political game that was endless by definition; 
ihcy were not supposed to know that in politics an endless game can end 
only in catastrophe and that political secrecy hardly ever ends in anything 
nobler than the vulgar duplicity of a spy. The joke on these players of the 
Great Game was that their employers knew what they wanted and used their 
passion for anonymity for ordinary spying. But this triumph of the profit- 
hungry- investors was temporary, and they were duly cheated when a few 
decades later they met the players of the game of totalitarianism, a game 
played without ulterior motives like profit and therefore played with such 
murderous efficiency that it devoured even those who financed it. 

Before this happened, however, the imperialists had destroyed the best 
man who ever turned from an adventurer (with a strong mixture of dragon- 
slayer) into a secret agent, Lawrence of Arabia. Never again was the experi- 
ment of secret politics made more purely by a more decent man. Lawrence 
experimented fearlessly upon himself, and then came back and believed that 
he belonged to the "lost generation." He thought this was because "the old 
men came out again and took from us our victory" in order to "re-make 
[the world] in the likeness of the former world they knew." ^^ Actually the 
old men were quite inefficient even in this, and handed their victory, together 
with their power, down to other men of the same "lost generation," who 
were neither older nor so dissimilar to Lawrence. The only difference was 
that Lawrence still clung fast to a morality which, however, had already 
lost all objective bases and consisted only of a kind of private and neces- 
sarily quixotic attitude of chivalry. 

Lawrence was seduced into becoming a secret agent in Arabia because of 
his strong desire to leave the world of dull respectability whose continuity 
had become simply meaningless, because of his disgust with the world as well 
as with himself. What attracted him most in Arab civilization was its "gospel 
of bareness . . . [which] involves apparently a sort of moral bareness 
too," which "has refined itself clear of household gods." ^^ What he tried 
to avoid most of all after he had returned to English civilization was living 
a life of his own, so that he ended with an apparently incomprehensible en- 
listment as a private in the British army, which obviously was the only in- 
stitution in which a man's honor could be identified with the loss of his 
individual personality. 

When the outbreak of the first World War sent T. E. Lawrence to the 
Arabs of the Near East with the assignment to rouse them into a rebellion 
against their Turkish masters and make them fight on the British side, he 

•«T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Introduction (first edition, 1926) which 
was omitted on the advice of George Bernard Shaw from the later edition. See T. E. 
Lawrence, Letters, edited by David Garnett, New York, 1939, pp. 262 ff. 

»» From a letter written in 1918. Letters, p. 244. 


came into the very midst of the Great Game. He could achieve his purpose 
only if a national movement was stirred up among Arab tribes, a national 
movement that ultimately was to serve British imperialism. Lawrence had to 
behave as though the Arab national movement were his prime interest, and 
he did it so well that he came to believe in it himself. But then again he 
did not belong, he was ultimately unable "to think their thought" and to 
"assume their character." "" Pretending to be an Arab, he could only lose 
his "English self" ®* and was fascinated by the complete secrecy of self- 
effacement rather than fooled by the obvious justifications of benevolent 
rule over backward peoples that Lord Cromer might have used. One genera- 
tion older and sadder than Cromer, he took great delight in a role that de- 
manded a reconditioning of his whole personality until he fitted into the 
Great Game, until he became the incarnation of the force of the Arab na- 
tional movement, until he lost all natural vanity in his mysterious alliance 
with forces necessarily bigger than himself, no matter how big he could have 
been, until he acquired a deadly "contempt, not for other men, but for all 
they do" on their own initiative and not in alliance with the forces of history. 
When, at the end of the war, Lawrence had to abandon the pretenses of 
a secret agent and somehow recover his "English self," '■*- he "looked at the 
West and its conventions with new eyes: they destroyed it all for me.""'' 
From the Great Game of incalculable bigness, which no publicity had 
glorified or Umited and which had elevated him, in his twenties, above kings 
and prime ministers because he had "made 'em or played with them," ""' 
Lawrence came home with an obsessive desire for anonymity and the deep 
conviction that nothing he could possibly still do with his life would ever 
satisfy him. This conclusion he drew from his perfect knowledge that it was 
not he who had been big, but only the role he had aptly assumed, that his 
bigness had been the result of the Game and not a product of himself. Now 
he did not "want to be big any more" and, determined that he was not 
"going to be respectable again," he thus was indeed "cured ... of any 
desire ever to do anything for myself." °^ He had been the phantom of a 
force, and he became a phantom among the living when the force, the 
function, was taken away from him. What he was frantically looking for was 
another role to play, and this incidentally was the "game" about which 

^o T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Garden City, 1938, chapter i. 
»i Ibid. 

82 How ambiguous and how difficult a process this must have been is illustrated by 
the following anecdote: "Lawrence had accepted an invitation to dinner at Claridge's 
and a party afterwards at Mrs. Harry Lindsay's. He shirked the dinner, but came to 
the party in Arab dresses." This happened in 1919. Letters, p. 272, note 1. 

83 Lawrence, op. cit., ch. i. 

8* Lawrence wrote in 1929: "Anyone who had gone up so fast as I went . . . and 
had seen so much of the inside of the top of the world might well lose his aspirations, 
and get weary of the ordinary motives of action, which had moved him till he reached 
the top. I wasn't King or Prime Minister, but I made 'em, or played with them, and 
after that there wasn't much more, in that direction, for me to do" {Letters, p. 653). 

^^ Ibid., pp. 244, 447, 450. Compare especially the letter of 1918 (p. 244) with the 
two letters to George Bernard Shaw of 1923 (p. 447) and 1928 (p. 616). 


George Bernard Shaw inquired so kindly but uncomprehendingly, as though 
he srK>kc from another century, not understanding why a man of such great 
achie\ements should not own up to them.''" Only another role, another 
function would be stroni; enough to prevent himself and the world from 
idcntif>ing him with his deeds in Arabia, from replacing his old self with 
a new personality. He did not want to become "Lawrence of Arabia," since, 
fundamentally, he did not want to regain a new self after having lost the old. 
His greatness was that he was passionate enough to refuse cheap compro- 
mises and easy roads into reality and respectability, that he never lost his 
awareness that he had been only a function and had played a role and there- 
fore "must not benefit in any way from what he had done in Arabia. The 
honors which he had won were refused. The jobs offered on account of his 
reputation had to be declined nor would he allow himself to exploit his suc- 
cess by profiting from writing a single paid piece of journalism under the 
name of Lawrence." "^ 

The story of T. E. Lawrence in all its moving bitterness and greatness 
was not simply the story of a paid official or a hired spy, but precisely the 
story of a real agent or functionary, of somebody who actually believed he 
had entered — or been driven into — the stream of historical necessity and 
become a functionary or agent of the secret forces which rule the world. 
"I had pushed my go-cart into the eternal stream, and so it went faster than 
the ones that are pushed cross-stream or up-stream. I did not believe finally 
in the Arab movement: but thought it necessary in its time and place." "^ 
Just as Cromer had ruled Egypt for the sake of India, or Rhodes South 
Africa for the sake of further expansion, Lawrence had acted for some 
ulterior unpredictable purpose. The only satisfaction he could get out of 
this, lacking the calm good conscience of some limited achievement, came 
from the sense of functioning itself, from being embraced and driven by 
some big movement. Back in London and in despair, he would try to find 
some substitute for this kind of "self-satisfaction" and would "only get it 
out of hot speed on a motor-bike." "^ Although Lawrence had not yet been 
seized by the fanaticism of an ideology of movement, probably because he 
was too well educated for the superstitions of his time, he had already ex- 
perienced that fascination, based on despair of all possible human responsi- 
bility, which the eternal stream and its eternal movement exert. He drowned 
himself in it and nothing was left of him but some inexplicable decency and 
a pride in having "pushed the right way." "I am still puzzled as to how far 
the individual counts: a lot, I fancy, if he pushes the right way." i"" This, 
then, is the end of the real pride of Western man who no longer counts as 
an end in himself, no longer does "a thing of himself nor a thing so clean 

»« George Bernard Shaw, asking Lawrence in 1928 "What is your game really?", 
suggested that his role in the army or his looking for a job as a night-watchman (for 
which he could "get good references") were not authentic. 

•' Garnett. op. cil.. p. 264. »» //j/d., in 1924, p. 456. 

^^Ullers, in 1930. p. 693. ^'^o Ibid., p 693 


as to be his own" ^"^ by giving laws to the world, but has a chance only "if 
he pushes the right way," in alliance with the secret forces of history and 
necessity — of which he is but a function. 

When the European mob discovered what a "lovely virtue" a white skin 
could be in Africa,^"^ when the English conqueror in India became an ad- 
ministrator who no longer believed in the universal validity of law, but was 
convinced of his own innate capacity to rule and dominate, when the dragon- 
slayers turned into either "white men" of "higher breeds" or into bureau- 
crats and spies, playing the Great Game of endless ulterior motives in an 
endless movement; when the British Intelligence Services (especially after the 
first World War) began to attract England's best sons, who preferred serv- 
ing mysterious forces all over the world to serving the common good of 
their country, the stage seemed to be set for all possible horrors. Lying under 
anybody's nose were many of the elements which gathered together could 
create a totalitarian government on the basis of racism. "Administrative mas- 
sacres" were proposed by Indian bureaucrats while African officials declared 
that "no ethical considerations such as the rights of man will be allowed 
to stand in the way" of white rule.^"^ 

The happy fact is that although British imperialist rule sank to some level 
of vulgarity, cruelty played a lesser role between the two World Wars than 
ever before and a minimum of human rights was always safeguarded. It is 
this moderation in the midst of plain insanity that paved the way for what 
Churchill has called "the liquidation of His Majesty's Empire" and that 
eventually may turn out to mean the transformation of the English nation 
into a Commonwealth of English peoples. 

i°i Lawrence, op. cit., chapter i. 

102 Millin, op. cit., p. 15. 

103 As put by Sir Thomas Watt, a citizen of South Africa, of British descent. See 
Barnes, op. cit., p. 230. 

c „ . .. . K a K . . .. T : Continental Imperialism : 
lh(^ Pan-iVlovements 

NAZISM AND BOLSHEVISM owc morc to Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism 
(respectively) than to any other ideology or pohtical movement. This 
is most evident in foreign policies, where the strategies of Nazi Germany 
and Soviet Russia have followed so closely the well-known programs of 
conquest outlined by the pan-movements before and during the first World 
War that totalitarian aims have frequently been mistaken for the pursuance 
of some permanent German or Russian interests. While neither Hitler nor 
Sialin has ever acknowledged his debt to imperialism in the development 
of his methods of rule, neither has hesitated to admit his indebtedness to 
the pan-movements' ideology or to imitate their slogans.^ 

The birth of the pan-movements did not coincide with the birth of im- 
f>crialism; around 1870, Pan-Slavism had already outgrown the vague and 
confused theories of the Slavophiles,- and Pan-German sentiment was cur- 
rent in Austria as early as the middle of the nineteenth century. They crys- 
tallized into movements, however, and captured the imagination of broader 
strata only with the triumphant imperialist expansion of the Western nations 
in the eighties. The Central and Eastern European nations, which had no 
colonial possessions and little hope for overseas expansion, now decided 
that they "had the same right to expand as other great peoples and that if 
[they were] not granted this possibility overseas, [they would] be forced 

> Hitler wrote in Mein Kampj (New York, 1939): In Vienna, "I laid the founda- 
tions for a world concept in general and a way of political thinking in particular 
which I had later only to complete in detail, but which never afterward forsook me" 
(p. 129). — Stalin came back to Pan-Slav slogans during the last war. The 1945 Pan- 
Slav Congress in Sofia, which had been called by the victorious Russians, adopted 
a resolution pronouncing it "not only an international political necessity to declare 
Russian its language of general communication and the official language of all Slav 
countries, but a moral necessity." (See Aufhau, New York, April 6, 1945.) Shortly 
before, the Bulgarian radio had broadcast a message by the Metropolitan Stefan, 
vicar of the Holy Bulgarian Synod, in which he called upon the Russian people "to 
remember their messianic mission" and prophesied the coming "unity of the Slav 
people." (See Politics, January, 1945.) 

2 For an exhaustive presentation and discussion of the Slavophiles see Alexandre 
Koyri, La philosopliie el le prohleme national en Russie au debut du 19e siecle 
(Institut Fran^ais de Leningrad, Bibliotheque Vol. X, Paris, 1929). 


to do it in Europe." ^ Pan-Germans and Pan-Slavs agreed that, living in 
"continental states" and being "continental peoples," they had to look for 
colonies on the continent," to expand in geographic continuity from a center 
of power,'^ that against "the idea of England . . . expressed by the words: 
I want to rule the sea, [stands] the idea of Russia [expressed] by the words: 
I want to rule the land," ® and that eventually the "tremendous superiority 
of the land to the sea . . . , the superior significance of land power to sea 
power . . . ," would become apparent.^ 

The chief importance of continental, as distinguished from overseas, im- 
perialism lies in the fact that its concept of cohesive expansion does not 
allow for any geographic distance between the methods and institutions of 
colony and of nation, so that it did not require boomerang effects in order 
to make itself and all its consequences felt in Europe. Continental imperial- 
ism truly begins at home.** If it shared with overseas imperialism the contempt 
for the narrowness of the nation-state, it opposed to it not so much economic 
arguments, which after all quite frequently expressed authentic national 
needs, as an "enlarged tribal consciousness" ^ which was supposed to unite 
all people of similar folk origin, independent of history and no matter where 

3 Ernst Hasse, Deutsche Politik. 4. Heft. Die Zukunjt des deutschen Volkstums, 
1907, p. 132. 

* Ibid., 3. Heft. Deutsciie Grenzpolitik, pp. 167-168. Geopolitical theories of this 
kind were current among the AUdeutschen, the members of the Pan-German League. 
They always compared Germany's geopolitical needs with those of Russia. Austrian 
Pan-Germans characteristically never drew such a parallel. 

!^ The Slavophile writer Danilewski, whose Russia and Europe (1871) became the 
standard work of Pan-Slavism, praised the Russians' "political capacity" because of 
their "tremendous thousand-year-old state that still grows and whose power does 
not expand like the European power in a colonial way but remains always concen- 
trated around its nucleus, Moscow." See K. Staehlin, Geschiclite Russlands von den 
Anfiingen bis zur Gegenwart, 1923-1939, 5 vols., IV/1, 274. 

"The quotation is from J. Slowacki, a Polish publicist who wrote in the forties. 
See N. O. Lossky, Three Chapters from the History of Polish Messianism, Prague, 
1936, in International Philosophical Library, II, 9. 

Pan-Slavism, the first of the pan-isms (see Hoetzsch, Russland, Berlin, 1913, p. 439), 
expressed these geopolitical theories almost forty years before Pan-Germanism began 
to "think in continents." The contrast between English sea power and continental land 
power was so conspicuous that it would be far-fetched to look for influences. 

"> Reismann-Grone, Ueberseepolitik oder Festlandspolitik?, 1905, in AUdeutsche 
Flugschriften, No. 22, p. 17. 

« Ernst Hasse of the Pan-German League proposed to treat certain nationalities 
(Poles, Czechs, Jews, Italians, etc.) in the same way as overseas imperialism treated 
natives in non-European continents. See Deutsche Politik. 1. Heft: Das Deutsche 
Reich als Nationalstaat, 1905, p. 62. This is the chief difference between the Pan- 
German League, founded in 1886, and earlier colonial societies such as the Central- 
Verein fiir Handelsgeographie (founded in 1863). A very reliable description of the 
activities of the Pan-German League is given in Mildred S. Wertheimer, The Pan- 
German League, 1890-1914, 1924. 

8 Emil Deckert, Panlatinismus, Panslawismus und Panteutonismus in ihrer Bedeutung 
fiir die politische Weltlage, Frankfurt a/M, 1914, p. 4. 


they happened to live.'" Continental imperialism, therefore, started with a 
much closer afVinity to race concepts, enthusiastically absorbed the tradition 
of race-thinking." and relied very little on specific experiences. Its race con- 
cepts were completely ideological in basis and developed much more quickly 
into a con\enient political weapon than similar theories expressed by over- 
seas imperialists which could always claim a certain basis in authentic 

Ihe pan-movements have generally been given scant attention in the dis- 
cussion of imperialism. Their dreams of continental empires were over- 
shadowed by the more tangible results of overseas expansion, and their 
lack of interest in economics '- stood in ridiculous contrast to the tremendous 
profits of early imperialism. Moreover, in a period when almost everybody 
had come to believe that politics and economics were more or less the same 
thing, it was easy to overlook the similarities as well as the significant differ- 
ences between the two brands of imperialism. The protagonists of the pan- 
movements share with Western imperialists that awareness of all foreign- 
policy issues which had been forgotten by the older ruling groups of the na- 
tion-state." Their influence on intellectuals was even more pronounced — 
the Russian intelligentsia, with only a few exceptions, was Pan-Slavic, and 
Pan-Germanism started in Austria almost as a students' movement.^* Their 
chief difference from the more respectable imperialism of the Western na- 
tions was the lack of capitalist support; their attempts to expand were not 

"> Pan-Germans already talked before the first World War of the distinction between 
"Slaalsfremde," people of Germanic origin who happened to live under the authority 
of another country, and "Volksfremde," people of non-Germanic origin who happened 
to live in Germany. See Daniel Frymann (pseud, for Heinrich Class), Wenn ich der 
Kaiser war. Polilische Wahrheiten und Notwendigkeiten, 1912. 

When Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich, Hitler addressed the German 
people of Austria with typically Pan-German slogans. "Wherever we may have been 
born." he told them, we are all "the sons of the German people." Hitler's Speeches, 
cd. by N. H. Baynes. 1942, II. 1408. 

>>Th. G. Masaryk. Zur riissischen Geschichts- und Religlonsphilosophie (1913), 
describes the "zoological nationalism" of the Slavophiles since Danilewski (p. 257). 
Otto Bonhard, official historian of the Pan-German League, stated the close relation- 
ship between its ideology and the racism of Gobineau and H. S. Chamberlain. See 
Geschichie des aildeutschen Verbandes, 1920, p. 95. 

1= An exception is Friedrich Naumann. Central Europe (London, 1916), who wanted 
to replace the many nationalities in Central Europe with one united "economic 
people" (Wirtschaftsvolk) under German leadership. Although his book was a best- 
seller throughout the first World War, it influenced only the Austrian Social Democratic 
Party; see Karl Renner, Oesterreichs Erneuerung. Politisch-programmatische Aufsdtze 
Vienna, 1916. pp. 37 ff. 

'» "At least before the war, the interest of the great parties in foreign affairs had 
been completely overshadowed by domestic issues. The Pan-German League's attitude 
IS different and this is undoubtedly a propaganda asset" (Martin Wenck, Alldeutsche 
Taktik, 1917). 

I " ^iQ.A^"' ^n^'f^' ^"^^'^^'^ ''''■ deutschnationalen Bewegung in Oesterreich, 

ena. 1926 p. 90: It ,s a fact "that the student body does not at all simply mirror 

he general political constellation; on the contrary, strong Pan-German opinions have 

largely originated in the student body and thence found their way into general politics " 


and could not be preceded by export of superfluous money and superfluous 
men, because Europe did not offer colonial opportunities for either. Among 
their leaders, we find therefore almost no businessmen and few adventurers, 
but many members of the free professions, teachers, and civil servants.'* 

While overseas imperialism, its antinational tendencies notwithstanding, 
succeeded in giving a new lease on life to the antiquated institutions of the 
nation-state, continental imperialism was and remained unequivocally hos- 
tile to all existing political bodies. Its general mood, therefore, was far more 
rebellious and its leaders far more adept at revolutionary rhetoric. While 
overseas imperialism had offered real enough panaceas for the residues of 
all classes, continental imperialism had nothing to offer except an ideology 
and a movement. Yet this was quite enough in a time which preferred a key 
to history to political action, when men in the midst of communal disintegra- 
tion and social atomization wanted to belong at any price. Similarly, the 
visible distinction of a white skin, whose advantages in a black or brown en- 
vironment are easily understood, could be matched successfully by a purely 
imaginary distinction between an Eastern and a Western, or an Aryan and 
a non-Aryan soul. The point is that a rather complicated ideology and an 
organization which furthered no immediate interest proved to be more at- 
tractive than tangible advantages and commonplace convictions. 

Despite their lack of success, with its proverbial appeal to the mob, the 
pan-movements exerted from the beginning a much stronger attraction than 
overseas imperialism. This popular appeal, which withstood tangible failures 
and constant changes of program, foreshadowed later totalitarian groups 
which were similarly vague as to actual goals and subject to day-to-day 
changes of political lines. What held the pan-movements' membership to- 
gether was much more a general mood than a clearly defined aim. It is true 
that overseas imperialism also placed expansion as such above any program 
of conquest and therefore took possession of every territory that offered it- 
self as an easy opportunity. Yet, however capricious the export of super- 
fluous money may have been, it served to delimit the ensuing expansion; the 
aims of the pan-movements lacked even this rather anarchic element of 
human planning and geographic restraint. Yet, though they had no specific 
programs for world conquest, they generated an all-embracing mood of total 
predominance, of touching and embracing all human issues, of "pan-human- 
ism," as Dostoevski once put it.*" 

In the imperialist alliance between mob and capital, the initiative lay 
mostly with the representatives of business — except in the case of South 
Africa, where a clear-cut mob policy developed very early. In the part- 
is Useful information about the social composition of the membership of the Pan- 
German League, its local and executive officers, can be found in Wertheimer, op. cit. 
See also Lothar Werner, Der alldeutsche Verband. 1890-1918. Historische Studien. 
Heft 278, Berlin, 1935, and Gottfried Nippold, Der deutsche Chauvinismus, 1913, pp. 
179 ff. 

i« Quoted from Hans Kohn, "The Permanent Mission" in The Review of Politics, 
July, 1948. 


movements, on the other hand, the initiative always lay exclusively wjth 
the mob, which was led then (as today) by a certain brand of intellectuals^ 
Ihey still lacked the ambition to rule the globe, and they did not even 
dream of the possibilities of total domination. But they did know how t o or- 
gani/.e the mob, and they were aware of the organizational, not merely 
ideological or propaganda, uses to which race concepts can be put. Their 
significance is only superficially grasped in the relatively modest theories of 
foreign policy — a Germanized Central Europe or a Russianized Eastern 
and Southern Europe — which served as starting points for the world-con- 
quest programs of Nazism and Bolshevism." The "Germanic peoples" out- 
side the Reich and "our minor Slavonic brethren" outside Holy Russia 
generated a comfortable smoke screen of national rights to self-determina- 
tion, easy stepping-stones to further expansion. Yet, much more essential 
was the fact that the totalitarian governments inherited an aura of holiness: 
they had only to invoke the past of "Holy Russia" or "the Holy Roman Em- 
pire" to arouse all kinds of superstitions in Slav or German intellectuals.^* 
Pseudomystical nonsense, enriched by countless and arbitrary historical 
memories, provided an emotional appeal that seemed to transcend, in depth 
and breadth, the limitations of nationalism. Out of it, at any rate, grew that 
new kind of nationalist feeling whose violence proved an excellent motor 
to set mob masses in motion and quite adequate to replace the older na- 
tional patriotism as an emotional center. 

This new type of tribal nationalism, more or less characteristic of all 
Central and Eastern European nations and nationalities, was quite different 
in content and significance — though not in violence — from Western nation- 
alist excesses. Chauvinism — now usually thought of in connection with the 
"nationalisme integral" of Maurras and Barres around the turn of the cen- 
tury, with its romantic glorification of the past and its morbid cult of the 
dead — even in its most wildly fantastic manifestations, did not hold that men 
of French origin, born and raised in another country, without any knowledge 
of French language or culture, would be "born Frenchmen" thanks to some 
mysterious qualities of body or soul. Only with the "enlarged tribal con- 
sciousness" did that peculiar identification of nationality with one's own soul 
emerge, that turned-inward pride that is no longer concerned only with 
public affairs but pervades every phase of private life until, for example, 
"the private life of each true Pole ... is a public life of Polishness." ^^ 

In psychological terms, the chief difTerence between even the most violent 

»' Danilewski, op. cit., included in a future Russian empire all Balkan countries, 
Turkey. Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Galicia, and Istria with Trieste. 

'« The Slavophile K. S. Aksakow, writing in the middle of the nineteenth century, 
took the omcial name "Holy Russia" quite literally, as did later Pan-Slavs. See Th. G. 
Masaryk, op. cit., pp. 234 ff.— Very characteristic of the vague nonsense of Pan- 
Gcrmanism is Moellcr van den Bruck, Germany's Third Empire (New York, 1934), 
in which he proclaims: "There is only One Empire, as there is only One Church. Any- 
thmg else that claims the title may be a state or a community or a sect. There exists 
only The Empire" (p. 263). 

i» George Cleinow, Die Zukunft Polens, Leipzig, 1914, II, 93 ff. 


chauvinism and this tribal nationaUsm is that the one is extroverted, con- 
cerned with visible spiritual and material achievements of the nation, 
whereas the other, even in its mildest forms (for example, the German youth 
movement) is introverted, concentrates on the individual's own soul which 
is considered as the embodiment of general national qualities. Chauvinist 
mystique still points to something that really existed in the past (as in 
the case of the nationalisme integral) and merely tries to elevate this into a 
realm beyond human control; tribalism, on the other hand, starts from non- 
existent pseudomystical elements which it proposes to realize fully in the 
future. It can be easily recognized by the tremendous arrogance, inherent in 
its self-concentration, which dares to measure a people, its past and present, 
by the yardstick of exalted inner qualities and inevitably rejects its visible 
existence, tradition, institutions, and culture. 

Po litica lly speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people 
is surrounded by "a world of enemies," "one against all," that a fundamental 
difference exists be tween this people and all others. It cla ims its people to be 
unique, individua l, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the 
very possibility of a common mankind lonjg before it is used to destroy the 
humanity, of man. 

i: Tribal Nationalism 

JUST AS continental imperialism sprang from the frustrated ambitions of 
countries which did not get their share in the sudden expansion of the 
eighties, so tribalism appeared as the nationalism of those peoples who had 
not participated in national emancipation and had not achieved the sov- 
ereignty of a nation-state. Wherever the two frustrations were combined, as 
in multinational Austria-Hungary and Russia, the pan-movements naturally 
found their most fertile soil. Moreover, since the Dual Monarchy harbored 
both Slavic and German irredentist nationalities, Pan-Slavism and Pan-Ger- 
manism concentrated from the beginning on its destruction, and Austria- 
Hungary became the real center of pan-movements. Russian Pan-Slavs 
claimed as early as 1870 that the best possible starting point for a Pan-Slav 
empire would be the disintegration of Austria,^" and Austrian Pan-Germans 
were so violently aggressive against their own government that even the 
Alldeutsche Verband in Germany complained frequently about the "exag- 

20 During the Crimean War (1853-1856) Michael Pagodin, a Russian folklorist 
and philologist, wrote a letter to the Czar in which he called the Slav peoples Russia's 
only reliable powerful aUies (Staehlin, op. cit., p. 35); shortly thereafter General 
Nikolai Muravyev-Amursky, "one of the great Russian empire-builders," hoped for 
"the liberation of the Slavs from Austria and Turkey" (Hans Kohn, op. cit.); and as 
early as 1870 a military pamphlet appeared which demanded the "destruction of 
Austria as a necessary condition for a Pan-Slav federation" (see Staehlin, op. cit., 
p. 282). 


aerations" of the Austrian brother movement.==* The German-conceived 
hlueprint for the economic union of Central Europe under German leader- 
ship, along with all similar continental-empire projects of the German Pan- 
Cicrmans, changed at once, when Austrian Pan-Germans got hold of it, into 
a structure that would become "the center of German life all over the earth 
and be allied with all other Germanic states." " 

It is self-evident that the expansionist tendencies of Pan-Slavism were 
as embarrassing to the Czar as the Austrian Pan-Germans' unsolicited pro- 
fessions of loyalty to the Reich and disloyalty to Austria were to Bismarck." 
For no matter how high national feelings occasionally ran, or how ridiculous 
nationalistic claims might become in times of emergency, as long as they 
were bound to a defined national territory and controlled by pride in a limited 
nation-state they remained within limits which the tribalism of the pan- 
movements overstepped at once. 

The modernity of the pan-movements may best be gauged from their en- 
tirely new position on antisemitism. Suppressed minorities like the Slavs in 
Austria and the Poles in Czarist Russia were more likely, because of their 
conflict with the government, to discover the hidden connections between 
the Jewish communities and the European nation-states, and this discovery 
could easily lead to more fundamental hostility. Wherever antagonism to the 
state was not identified with lack of patriotism, as in Poland, where it was 
a sign of Polish loyalty to be disloyal to the Czar, or in Austria, where Ger- 
mans looked upon Bismarck as their great national figure, this antisemitism 
assumed more violent forms because the Jews then appeared as agents not 
only of an oppressive state machine but of a foreign oppressor. But the 
fundamental role of antisemitism in the pan-movements is explained as little 
by the position of minorities as by the specific experiences which Schoenerer, 
the protagonist of Austrian Pan-Germanism, had had in his earlier career 
when, still a member of the Liberal Party, he became aware of the connec- 
tions between the Hapsburg monarchy and the Rothschilds' domination of 
Austria's railroad system. =' This by itself would hardly have made him an- 
nounce that "we Pan-Germans regard antisemitism as the mainstay of our 

*> Sec Otto Bonhard, op. dr., pp. 58 flf., and Hugo Grell, Der alldeutsche Verband, 
seine Geschichle, seine Beslrebungen, seine Erfolge, 1898, in Alldeutsche Flugschriften, 
No. 8. 

** According to the Austrian Pan-German program of 1913, quoted from Eduard 
Pichl (al. Hcrwig), Georg Schoenerer, 1938. 6 vols., VI, 375. 

"When Schoenerer. with his admiration for Bismarck, declared in 1876 that 
"Austria as a great power must cease" (Pichl, op. cit., I, 90), Bismarck thought and 
told his Austrian admirers that "a powerful Austria is a vital necessity to Germany." 
See F. A. Neuschaefer, Georg Ritier von Schoenerer (Dissertation), Hamburg, 1935. 
The Czars' attitude toward Pan-Slavism was much more equivocal because the Pan- 
Slav conception of the state included strong popular support for despotic government. 
Yet even under such tempting circumstances, the Czar refused to support^ the expan- 
sionist demand of the Slavophiles and their successors. See Staehlin, op. cit., pp. 30 ff. 

•* See chapter ii. 


national ideology."-"^ nor could anything similar have induced the Pan-Slav 
Russian writer Rozanov to pretend that "there is no problem in Russian life 
in which like a 'comma' there is not also the question: How to cof)e with 
the Jew."'-'"' 

The clue to the sudden emergence of antisemitism as the center of a whole 
outlook on life and the world — as distinguished from its mere political role 
in France during the Dreyfus Affair or its role as an instrument of propa- 
ganda in the German Stoecker movement — lies in the nature of tribalism 
rather than in political facts and circumstances. The true significance of the 
pan-movements' antisemitism is that hatred of the Jews was, for the first 
time, severed from all actual exp>erience concerning the Jewish people, polit- 
ical, social, or economic, and followed only the peculiar logic of an ideology. 

Tribal nationalism, the driving force behind continental imperialism, had 
little in common with the nationalism of the fully developed Western nation- 
state. The nation-state, with its claim to popular representation and national 
sovereignty,', as it had developed since the French Revolution through the 
nineteenth century, was the result of a combination of two factors that were 
still separate in the eighteenth centurv' and remained separate in Russia and 
Austria-Hungary: nationality and state. Nations entered the scene of history 
and were emancipated when peoples had acquired a consciousness of them- 
selves as cultural and historical entities, and of their territorv- as a permanent 
home, where history had left its visible traces, whose cultivation was the 
product of the common labor of their ancestors and whose future would de- 
pend upon the course of a common civilization. Wherever nation-states 
came into being, migrations came to an end, while, on the other hand, in the 
Eastern and Southern European regions the establishment of nation-states 
failed because they could not fall back upon firmly rooted peasant classes.-' 
Sociologically the nation-state was the body politic of the European emanci- 
pated peasant classes, and this is the reason why national armies could keep 
their permanent position within these states only up to the end of the last 
centurv', that is. only as long as they were truly representative of the rural 
class. "The Army,"' as Marx has pointed out, "was the 'point of honor" with 
the allotment farmers: it was themselves turned into masters, defending 
abroad their newly established property. . . . The uniform was their state 
costume, war was their poetry; the allotment was the fatherland, and patriot- 
ism became the ideal form of property.""-'' The Western nationalism which 

^'' Pichl, op. cit.. I. 26. TTie translation is quoted from the excellent article by Oscar 
Karbach, "The Founder of Modern Political Antisemitism: Georg von Schoenerer." 
in Jewish Social Studies, Vol. VII, No 1, January. 1945. 

^'^Vassiliff Rozanov, Fallen Uaves, 1929, pp. 163-164. 

" See C. A. Macartney. National States and National Minorities, Lo.ndon, 1934, 
pp. 432 ff. 

^® Karl Marx. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte English translation by 
De Leon. 1898. 


culminated in general conscription was the product of firmly rooted and 
emancipated peasant classes. 

While consciousness of nationality is a comparatively recent development, 
the structure of the state was derived from centuries of monarchy and en- 
lightened despotism. Whether in the form of a new republic or of a reformed 
constitutional monarchy, the state inherited as its supreme function the pro- 
tection of all inhabitants in its territory no matter what their nationality, and 
was supposed to act as a supreme legal institution. The tragedy of the nation- 
state was that the people's rising national consciousness interfered with these 
functions. In the name of the will of the people the state was forced to 
recognize only "nationals" as citizens, to grant full civil and political rights 
only to those who belonged to the national community by right of origin and 
fact of birth. This meant that the state was partly transformed from an in- 
strument of the law into an instrument of the nation. 

The conquest of the state by the nation ^° was greatly facilitated by the 
downfall of the absolute monarchy and the subsequent new development of 
classes. The absolute monarch was supposed to serve the interests of the 
nation as a whole, to be the visible exponent and proof of the existence of 
such a common interest. The enlightened despotism was based on Rohan's 
"kings command the peoples and interest commands the king"; ^" with the 
abolition of the king and sovereignty of the people, this common interest was 
in constant danger of being replaced by a permanent conflict among class in- 
terests and struggle for control of the state machinery, that is, by a permanent 
civil war. The only remaining bond between the citizens of a nation-state 
without a monarch to symbolize their essential community, seemed to be 
national, that is, common origin. So that in a century when every class and 
section in the population was dominated by class or group interest, the inter- 
est of the nation as a whole was supposedly guaranteed in a common origin, 
which sentimentally expressed itself in nationalism. 

The secret conflict between state and nation came to light at the very birth 
of the modern nation-state, when the French Revolution combined the decla- 
ration of the Rights of Man with the demand for national sovereignty. The 
same essential rights were at once claimed as the inahenable heritage of all 
human beings and as the specific heritage of specific nations, the same nation 
was at once declared to be subject to laws, which supposedly would flow 
from the Rights of Man, and sovereign, that is, bound by no universal law 
and acknowledging nothing superior to itself." The practical outcome of this 
contradiction was that from then on human rights were protected and en- 
forced only as national rights and that the very institution of a state, whose 
supreme task was to protect and guarantee man his rights as man, as citizen 

26 Sec J. T. Delos, La Nation, Montreal. 1944, an outstanding study on the subject. 

30 See the Due de Rohan, De flnteret des Princes et Etats de la Chretiente, 1638, 
dedicated to the Cardinal Richelieu. 

31 One of the most illuminating discussions of the principle of sovereignty is still 
Jean Bodin. Six Livres de la Republique, 1576. For a good report and discussion of 
Bodm's mam theories, see George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, 1937. 


and as national, lost its legal, rational appearance and could be interpreted 
by the romantics as the nebulous representative of a "national soul" which 
through the very fact of its existence was supposed to be beyond or above 
the law. National sovereignty, accordingly, lost its original connotation of 
freedom of the people and was being surrounded by a pseudomystical aura of 
lawless arbitrariness. 

Nationalism is essentially the expression of this perversion of the state 
into an instrument of the nation and the identification of the citizen with the 
member of the nation. The relationship between state and society was de- 
termined by the fact of class struggle, which had supplanted the former 
feudal order. Society was pervaded by liberal individualism which wrongly 
believed that the state ruled over mere individuals, when in reality it ruled 
over classes, and which saw in the state a kind of supreme individual before 
which all others had to bow. It seemed to be the will of the nation that the 
state protect it from the consequences of its social atomization and, at the 
same time, guarantee its possibility of remaining in a state of atomization. To 
be equal to this task, the state had to enforce all earlier tendencies toward 
centralization; only a strongly centralized administration which monopolized 
all instruments of violence and power-possibihties could counterbalance the 
centrifugal forces constantly produced in a class-ridden society. Nationalism, 
then, became the precious cement for binding together a centralized state 
and an atomized society, and it actually proved to be the only working, live 
connection between the individuals of the nation-state. 

Nationalism always preserved this initial intimate loyalty to the govern- 
ment and never quite lost its function of preserving a precarious balance 
between nation and state on one hand, between the nationals of an atomized 
society on the other. Native citizens of a nation-state frequently looked down 
upon naturalized citizens, those who had received their rights by law and not 
by birth, from the state and not from the nation; but they never went so 
far as to propose the Pan-German distinction between "Staatsfremde," 
aliens of the state, and "Volksjremde," aliens of the nation, which was 
later incorporated into Nazi legislation. Insofar as the state, even in its per- 
verted form, remained a legal institution, nationalism was controlled by some 
law, and insofar as it had sprung from the identification of nationals with 
their territory, it was limited by definite boundaries. 

Quite different was the first national reaction of peoples for whom nation- 
ality had not yet developed beyond the inarticulateness of ethnic conscious- 
ness, whose languages had not yet outgrown the dialect stage through which 
all European languages went before they became suited for literary purposes, 
whose peasant classes had not struck deep roots in the country and were not 
on the verge of emancipation, and to whom, consequently, their national 
quality appeared to be much more a portable private matter, inherent in 
their very personality, than a matter of public concern and civilization.^- If 

32 Interesting in this context are the socialist propositions of Karl Renner and Otto 
Bauer in Austria to separate nationality entirely from its territorial basis and to make 
it a kind of personal status; this of course corresponded to a situation in which ethnic 


they wanted to match the national pride of Western nations, they had no 
country, no state, no historic achievement to show but could only point to 
themselves, and that meant, at best, to their language— as though language 
by itself were already an achievement — at worst, to their Slavic, or Ger- 
manic, or God-knows-what soul. Yet in a century which naively assumed 
that all peoples were virtually nations there was hardly anything else left 
to the oppressed peoples of Austria-Hungary, Czarist Russia, or the Balkan 
countries, where no conditions existed for the realization of the Western 
national trinity of pcoplc-tcrritory-statc, where frontiers had changed con- 
stantly for many centuries and populations had been in a stage of more or 
less continuous migration. Here were masses who had not the slightest idea 
of the meaning of patria and patriotism, not the vaguest notion of responsi- 
bility for a common, limited community. This was the trouble with the "belt 
of mixed populations" (Macartney) that stretched from the Baltic to the 
Adriatic and found its most articulate expression in the Dual Monarchy. 

Tribal nationalism grew out of this atmosphere of rootlessness. It spread 
widely not only among the peoples of Austria-Hungary but also, though on 
a higher level, among members of the unhappy intelligentsia of Czarist Rus- 
sia. Rootlessness was the true source of that "enlarged tribal consciousness" 
which actually meant that members of these peoples had no definite home 
but felt at home wherever other members of their "tribe" happened to 
live. "It is our distinction," said Schoenerer, ". . . that we do not gravi- 
tate toward Vienna but gravitate to whatever place Germans may live in." ^^ 
The hallmark of the pan-movements was that they never even tried to 
achieve national emancipation, but at once, in their dreams of expansion, 
transcended the narrow bounds of a national community and proclaimed a 
folk community that would remain a political factor even if its members 
were dispersed all over the earth. Similarly, and in contrast to the true na- 
tional liberation movements of small peoples, which always began with an 
exploration of the national past, they did not stop to consider history but 
projected the basis of their community into a future toward which the move- 
ment was supposed to march. 

Tribal nationalism, spreading through all oppressed nationalities in East- 
em and Southern Europe, developed into a new form of organization, the 
pan-movements, among those peoples who combined some kind of national 
home country, Germany and Russia, with a large, dispersed irredenta, Ger- 
mans and Slavs abroad.^* In contrast to overseas imperialism, which was 

groups were dispersed all over the empire without losing any of their national char- 
acter. See Otto Bauer, Die Nationalitdtenfrage imd die dsterreichisvhe Sozialdemo- 
kratic, Vienna, 1907, on the personal (as opposed to the territorial) principle, pp. 
332 ff., 353 ff. "The personal principle wants to organize nations not as territorial 
bodies but as mere associations of persons." 

3' Pichl. op. cit., I, 152. 

3< No full-fledged pan-movement ever developed except under these conditions. 
Pan-Latinism was a misnomer for a few abortive attempts of the Latin nations to 
make some kind of alliance against the German danger, and even Polish Messianism 
never claimed more than what at some time might conceivably have been Polish- 


content with relative superiority, a national mission, or a white man's burden, 
the pan-movements started with absolute claims to chosenness. Nationalism 
has been frequently described as an emotional surrogate of religion, but only 
the tribalism of the pan-movements offered a new religious theory and a new 
concept of holiness. It was not the Czar's religious function and position in 
the Greek Church that led Russian Pan-Slavs to the atVirmation of the Chris- 
tian nature of the Russian people, of their being, according to Dostoevski, 
the "Christopher among the nations" who carry God directly into the affairs 
of this world. ■'■• It was because of claims to being "the true divine people of 
modern times" '"■ that the Pan-Slavs abandoned their earlier liberal tenden- 
cies and, notwithstanding governmental opposition and occasionally even 
persecution, became staunch defenders of Holy Russia. 

Austrian Pan-Germans laid similar claims to divine chosenness even 
though they, with a similar liberal past, remained anticlerical and became 
anti-Christians. When Hitler, a self-confessed disciple of Schoenerer, stated 
during the last war: "God the Almighty has made our nation. We are defend- 
ing His work by defending its very existence," ''■ the reply from the other 
side, from a follower of Pan-Slavism, was equally true to type: "The German 
monsters are not only our foes, but God's foes." '^ These recent formulations 
were not born of propaganda needs of the moment, and this kind of fanati- 
cism does not simply abuse religious language; behind it lies a veritable 
theology which gave the earlier pan-movements their momentum and re- 
tained a considerable influence on the development of modern totalitarian 

The pan-movements preached the divine origin of their own people as 
against the Jewish-Christian faith in the divine origin of Man. According to 
them, man, belonging inevitably to some people, received his divine origin 
only indirectly through membership in a people. The individual, therefore, 
has his divine value only as long as he belongs to the people singled out 
for divine origin. He forfeits this whenever he decides to change his nation- 
ality, in which case he severs all bonds through which he was endowed with 

dominated territory. See also Dcckcrt, op. cit., who stated in 1914: "that Pan-Latinism 
has declined more and more, and that nationalism and state consciousness have be- 
come stronger and retained a greater potential there than anywhere else in Europe" 
(p. 7). 

3-' Nicolas Berdyaev, The Origin of Russian Communism, 19.^7, p. 102. — K. S. 
Aksakow called the Russian people the "only Christian people on earth" in 18.'55 (see 
Hans Ehrenberg and N. V. Bubnotl. Ocstlichcs Chrisicntum, Bd. I, pp. 92 ff.), and the 
poet Tyutchev asserted at the same time that "the Russian people is Christian not 
only through the Orthodoxy of its faith but by something more intimate. It is Christian 
by that faculty of renunciation and sacrifice which is the foundation of its moral 
nature." Quoted from Hans Kohn, op. cit. 

3« According to Chaadaycv whose Philosophical Letters. 1S29-1831 constituted the 
first systematic attempt to see world history centered around the Russian people. See 
Ehrenberg, op. cit., 1, 5 fT. 

3" Speech of January 30, 1945, as recorded in the New York Times, January 31. 

s** The words of Luke, the Archbishop of Tambov, as quoted in The Journal of 
the Moscow Patriarchate, No. 2, 1944. 


divine origin and falls, as it were, into metaphysical homelessness. The polit- 
ical advantage of this concept was twofold. It made nationality a permanent 
quality which no longer could be touched by history, no matter what hap- 
pened to a given people — emigration, conquest, dispersion. Of even more 
immediate impact, however, was that in the absolute contrast between the 
divine origin of one's own people and all other nondivine peoples all differ- 
ences between the individual members of the people disappeared, whether 
social or economic or psychological. Divine origin changed the people into 
a uniform "chosen" mass of arrogant robots.^^ 

The untruth of this theory is as conspicuous as its poHtical usefulness. 
God created neither men — whose origin clearly is procreation — nor peoples 
— who came into being as the result of human organization. Men are unequal 
according to their natural origin, their different organization, and fate in his- 
tory. 1 heir equality is an equality of rights only, that is, an equality of human 
purpose; yet behind this equality of human purpose lies, according to Jew- 
ish-Christian tradition, another equality, expressed in the concept of one 
common origin beyond human history, human nature, and human purpose 
— the common origin in the mythical, unidentifiable Man who alone is God's 
creation. This divine origin is the metaphysical concept on which the polit- 
ical equality of purpose may be based, the purpose of establishing mankind 
on earth. Nineteenth-century positivism and progressivism perverted this 
purpose of human equality when they set out to demonstrate what cannot be 
demonstrated, namely, that men are equal by nature and different only by 
history and circumstances, so that they can be equalized not by rights, but 
by circumstances and education. Nationalism and its concept of a "national 
mission" perverted the national concept of mankind as a family of nations 
into a hierarchical structure where differences of history and organization 
were misinterpreted as diflerences between men, residing in natural origin. 
Racism, which denied the common origin of man and repudiated the common 
purpose of estabUshing humanity, introduced the concept of the divine origin 
of one people as contrasted with all others, thereby covering the temporary 
and changeable product of human endeavor with a pseudomystical cloud of 
divine eternity and finality. 

This finality is what acts as the common denominator between the pan- 
movements' philosophy and race concepts, and explains their inherent af- 
finity in theoretical terms. Politically, it is not important whether God or 
nature is thought to be the origin of a people; in both cases, no matter how 
exalted the claim for one's own people, peoples are transformed into animal 
species so that a Russian appears as different from a German as a wolf is 
from a fox. A "divine people" lives in a world in which it is the born perse- 

»eThis was already recognized by the Russian Jesuit, Prince Ivan S. Gagarin, in 
his pamphlet La Russie sera-l-elle catholique? (1856) in which he attacked the 
Slavophiles because "they wish to establish the most complete religious, political, and 
national uniformity. In their foreign policy, they wish to fuse all Orthodox Christians 
of whatever nationality, and all Slavs of whatever religion, in a great Slav and Orthodox 
empire." (Quoted from Hans Kohn, op. cit.) 


cutor of all other weaker species, or the bom victim of all other stronger 
species. Only the rules of the animal kingdom can possibly apply to its polit- 
ical destinies. 

The tribalism of the pan-movements with its concept of the "divine origin" 
of one people owed part of its great appeal to its contempt for liberal in- 
dividualism/" the ideal of mankind and the dignity of man. No human dig- 
nity is left if the individual owes his value only to the fact that he happens 
to be born a German or a Russian; but there is, in its stead, a new coherence, 
a sense of mutual reliability among all members of the people which indeed 
was very apt to assuage the rightful apprehensions of modern men as to what 
might happen to them if, isolated individuals in an atomized society, they 
were not protected by sheer numbers and enforced uniform coherence. 
Similarly, the "belt of mixed populations," more exposed than other sections 
of Europe to the storms of history and less rooted in Western tradition, felt 
earlier than other European peoples the terror of the ideal of humanity and 
of the Judaeo-Christian faith in the common origin of man. They did not 
harbor any illusions about the "noble savage," because they knew something 
of the potentialities of evil without research into the habits of cannibals. The 
more peoples know about one another, the less they want to recognize other 
peoples as their equals, the more they recoil from the ideal of humanity. 

The appeal of tribal isolation and master race ambitions was partly due 
to an instinctive feeling that mankind, whether a religious or humanistic 
ideal, implies a common sharing of responsibility.*^ The shrinking of geo- 
graphic distances made this a political actuality of the first order.*^ It also 
made idealistic talk about mankind and the dignity of man an affair of the 
past simply because all these fine and dreamlike notions, with their time- 
honored traditions, suddenly assumed a terrifying timeliness. Even insistence 
on the sinfulness of all men, of course absent from the phraseology of the 
liberal protagonists of "mankind," by no means suffices for an understand- 
ing of the fact — which the people understood only too well — that the idea 

^0 "People will recognize that man has no other destination in this world but to 
work for the destruction of his personality and its replacement through a social and 
unpersonal existence." Chaadayev, op. cit. Quoted from Ehrenberg, op. cit., p. 60. 

*i The following passage in Frymann, op. cit., p. 186, is characteristic: "We know 
our own people, its qualities and its shortcomings — mankind we do not know and we 
refuse to care or get enthusiastic about it. Where does it begin, where does it end, 
that we are supposed to love because it belongs to mankind . . . ? Are the decadent 
or half-bestial Russian peasant of the mir, the Negro of East-Africa, the half-breed 
of German South-West Africa, or the unbearable Jews of Galicia and Rumania all 
members of mankind? . . . One can believe in the solidarity of the Germanic peo- 
ples — whoever is outside this sphere does not matter to us." 

^2 It was this shrinking of geographic distances that found an expression in Fried- 
rich Naumann's Central Europe: "The day is still distant when there shall be 'one fold 
and one shepherd,' but the days are past when shepherds without number, lesser or 
greater, drove their flocks unrestrained over the pastures of Europe. The spirit of 
large-scale industry and of super-national organisation has seized politics. People 
think, as Cecil Rhodes once expressed it, 'in Continents.' " These few sentences were 
quoted in innumerable articles and pamphlets of the time. 


of hunKinily. purged of all sentimentality, has the very serious consequence 
that in one form or another men must assume responsibihty for all crimes 
committed by men, and that eventually all nations will be forced to answer 
for the evil committed by all others. 

Tribalism and racism are the very realistic, if very destructive, ways of 
escaping this predicament of common responsibility. Their metaphysical 
rootlessness, which matched so well the territorial uprootedness of the na- 
tionalities it tirst seized, was equally well suited to the needs of the shifting 
masses of modern cities and was therefore grasped at once by totalitarian- 
ism; even the fanatical adoption by the Bolsheviks of the greatest antina- 
tional doctrine. Marxism, was counteracted and Pan-Slav propaganda rein- 
troduced in Soviet Russia because of the tremendous isolating value of these 
theories in themselves."'-' 

It is true that the system of rule in Austria-Hungary and Czarist Russia 
served as a veritable education in tribal nationalism, based as it was upon 
the oppression of nationalities. In Russia this oppression was the exclusive 
monopoly of the bureaucracy which also oppressed the Russian people with 
the result that only the Russian intelligentsia became Pan-Slav. The Dual 
Monarchy, on the contrary, dominated its troublesome nationalities by giv- 
ing to them just enough freedom to oppress other nationalities, with the 
result that these became the real mass basis for the ideology of the pan- 
movements. The secret of the survival of the House of Hapsburg in the 
nineteenth century lay in careful balance and support of a supranational 
machinery by the mutual antagonism and exploitation of Czechs by Ger- 
mans, of Slovaks by Hungarians, of Ruthenians by Poles, and so on. For 
all of them it became a matter of course that one might achieve nation- 
hood at the expense of the others and that one would gladly be deprived 
of freedom if the oppression came from one's own national government. 

The two pan-movements developed without any help from the Russian 
or German governments. This did not prevent their Austrian adherents from 
indulging in the delights of high treason against the Austrian government. 
It was this possibility of educating masses in the spirit of high treason which 
provided Austrian pan-movements with the sizable popular support they 
always lacked in Germany and Russia proper. It was as much easier to 
induce the German worker to attack the German bourgeoisie than the gov- 
ernment, as it was easier in Russia "to arouse the peasants against squires 
than against the Czar." '^ The difference in the attitudes of German workers 

" Very interesting in this respect arc the new theories of Soviet Russian genetics. 
Inhcniance of acquired characteristics clearly means that populations living under 
unfavorable conditions pass on poorer hereditary endowment and vice versa. "In a 
word, we should have innate master and subject races." See H. S. Muller. "The Soviet 
Master Race Theory," in New Leader. July 30. 1949. 

"G. FedotoVs "Russia and Freedom," in The Review of Politics. Vol. VIII, No. 1, 
January 1946. is a veritable masterpiece of historical writing; it gives the gist of the 
whole of Russian history. 


and Russian peasants were surely tremendous; the former looked upon a 
not too beloved monarch as the symbol of national unity, and the latter 
considered the head of their government to be the true representative of 
God on earth. These differences, however, mattered less than the fact that 
neither in Russia nor in Germany was the government so weak as in Austria, 
nor had its authority fallen into such disrepute that the pan-movements 
could make political capital out of revolutionary unrest. Only in Austria 
did the revolutionary impetus find its natural outlet in the pan-movements. 
The (not very ably carried out) device of divide et impera did little to di- 
minish the centrifugal tendencies of national sentiments, but it succeeded 
quite well in inducing superiority complexes and a general mood of dis- 

Hostility to the state as an institution runs through the theories of all pan- 
movements. The Slavophiles' opposition to the state has been rightly de- 
scribed as "entirely different from anything to be found in the system of 
official nationalism"; *'•" the state by its very nature was held to be alien to 
the people. Slav superiority was felt to lie in the Russian people's indiffer- 
ence to the state, in their keeping themselves as a corpus separatum from 
their own government. This is what the Slavophiles meant when they called 
the Russians a "stateless people" and this made it possible for these "liber- 
als" to reconcile themselves to despotism; it was in accord with the demand 
of despotism that the people not "interfere with state power," that is, with 
the absoluteness of that power.^" The Pan-Germans, who were more articu- 
late politically, always insisted on the priority of national over state interest *^ 
and usually argued that "world politics transcends the framework of the 
state," that the only permanent factor in the course of history was the 
people and not states; and that therefore national needs, changing with cir- 
cumstances, should determine, at all times, the political acts of the state. ^* 
But what in Germany and Russia remained only high-sounding phrases up to 
the end of the first World War, had a real enough aspect in the Dual Mon- 
archy whose decay generated a permanent spiteful contempt for the gov- 

It would be a serious error to assume that the leaders of the pan-move- 
ments were reactionaries or "counter-revolutionaries." Though as a rule not 
too interested in social questions, they never made the mistake of siding with 
capitalist exploitation and most of them had belonged, and quite a few 
continued to belong, to liberal, progressive parties. It is quite true, in a 

*5 N. Berdyaev, op. cit., p. 29. 

*" K. S. Aksakov in Ehrenberg, op. cit., p. 97. 

^^ See for instance Schoenerer's complaint that the Austrian "Verfassungspartei" 
still subordinated national interests to state interests (Pichl, op. cit., I, 151). See also 
the characteristic passages in the Fan-German Graf E. Reventlow's Judas Kampf und 
Niederlage in Deutschland, 1937, pp. 39 ff. Reventlow saw National Socialism as the 
realization of Pan-Germanism because of its refusal to "idolize" the state which is 
only one of the functions of folk life. 

48 Ernst Hasse, Deutsche WeltpoUtik, 1897, in Alldeutsche Flugschriften, No. 5, 
and Deutsche Politik, 1. Heft: Das deutsche Reich als Nationalstaat, 1905, p. 50. 


sense that the Pan-German League "embodied a real attempt at popular 
control in foreign alTairs. It believed firmly in the efficiency of a strong na- 
tionally minded publie opinion ... and initiating national policies through 
force of popular demand." ♦» Except that the mob, organized in the pan- 
movements and inspired by race ideologies, was not at all the same people 
whose revolutionary actions had led to constitutional government and whose 
true representatives at that time could be found only in the workers' move- 
ments, but with its "enlarged tribal consciousness" and its conspicuous lack 
of patriotism resembled much rather a "race." 

Pan-Slavism, in contrast to Pan-Germanism, was formed by and perme- 
ated the whole Ru.ssian intelligentsia. Much less developed in organizational 
form and much less consistent in political programs, it maintained for a 
remarkably long time a very high level of literary sophistication and philo- 
sophical speculation. While Rozanov speculated about the mysterious dif- 
ferences between Jewish and Christian sex power and came to the surpris- 
ing conclusion that the Jews are "united with that power, Christians being 
separated from it," '" the leader of Austria's Pan-Germans cheerfully dis- 
covered devices to "attract the interest of the little man by propaganda songs, 
post cards, Schocnerer beer mugs, walking sticks and matches. ^^ Yet eventu- 
ally "Schelling and Hegel were discarded and natural science was called upon 
to furnish the theoretical ammunition" by the Pan-Slavs as well.^^ 

Pan-Germanism, founded by a single man, Georg von Schoenerer, and 
chiefly supported by German-Austrian students, spoke from the beginning a 
strikingly vulgar language, destined to appeal to much larger and different 
social strata. Schocnerer was consequently also "the first to perceive the 
possibilities of antiscmitism as an instrument for forcing the direction of 
foreign policy and disrupting ... the internal structure of the state." " 
Some of the rea.sons for the suitability of the Jewish people for this purpose 
arc obvious: their very prominent position with respect to the Hapsburg 
monarchy together with the fact that in a multinational country they were 
more easily recognized as a separate nationality than in nation-states whose 
citizens, at least in theory, were of homogeneous stock. This, however, while 
it certainly explains the violence of the Austrian brand of antisemitism and 
shows how shrewd a politician Schoenerer was when he exploited the issue, 
docs not help us understand the central ideological role of antisemitism in 
both pan-movements. 

"Enlarged tribal consciousness" as the emotional motor of the pan-move- 
ments was fully developed before antisemitism became their central and cen- 
tralizing issue. Pan-Slavism, with its longer and more respectable history of 

'» Wcrthcimcr. op. cit., p. 209. 
*• Rozanov, op. cit., pp. 56-57. 
»' Oscar Karbach, op. cit. 

»' Louis Lcvine, Pan-Slavism and European Politics. New York, 1914, describes this 
change from the older Slavophile generation to the new Pan-Slav movement 
»• Oscar Karbach, op. cit. 


philosophic speculation and a more conspicuous political ineffectiveness, 
turned antisemitic only in the last decades of the nineteenth century; Schoe- 
nerer the Pan-German had already openly announced his hostility to state 
institutions when many Jews were still members of his party." In Germany, 
where the Stoecker movement had demonstrated the usefulness of anti- 
semitism as a political propaganda weapon, the Pan-German League started 
with a certain antisemitic tendency, but before 1918 it never went so far as 
to exclude Jews from membership.^' The Slavophiles' occasional antipathy 
to Jews turned into antisemitism in the whole Russian intelligentsia when, 
after the assassination of the Czar in 1881, a wave of pogroms organized 
by the government brought the Jewish question into the focus of pubhc at- 

Schoenerer, who discovered antisemitism at the same time, probably be- 
came aware of its possibilities almost by accident: since he wanted above all 
to destroy the Hapsburg empire, it was not difficult to calculate the effect 
of the exclusion of one nationality on a state structure that rested on a multi- 
tude of nationalities. The whole fabric of this peculiar constitution, the pre- 
carious balance of its bureaucracy could be shattered if the moderate op- 
pression, under which all nationaUties enjoyed a certain amount of equality, 
was undermined by popular movements. Yet, this purpose could have been 
equally well served by the Pan-Germans' furious hatred of the Slav national- 
ities, a hatred which had been well established long before the movement 
turned antisemitic and which had been approved by its Jewish members. 

What made the antisemitism of the pan-movements so effective that it 
could survive the general decline of antisemitic propaganda during the de- 
ceptive quiet that preceded the outbreak of the first World War was its 
merger with the tribal nationalism of Eastern Europe. For there existed an 
inherent affinity between the pan-movements' theories about peoples and the 
rootless existence of the Jewish people. It seemed the Jews were the one 
perfect example of a people in the tribal sense, their organization the model 
the pan-movements were striving to emulate, their survival and their sup- 
posed power the best proof of the correctness of racial theories. 

If other nationalities in the Dual Monarchy were but weakly rooted in 
the soil and had little sense of the meaning of a common territory, the Jews 
were the example of a people who without any home at all had been able to 
keep their identity through the centuries and could therefore be cited as 
proof that no territory was needed to constitute a nationality.'" If the pan- 
movements insisted on the secondary importance of the state and the para- 
mount importance of the people, organized throughout countries and not 
necessarily represented in visible institutions, the Jews were a perfect model 

^* The Linz Program, which remained the Pan-Germans' program in Austria, was 
originally phrased without its Jew paragraph; there were even three Jews on the 
drafting committee in 1882. The Jew paragraph was added in 1885. See Oscar 
Karbach, op. cit. 

S5 Otto Bonhard, op. cit., p. 45. 

B« So by the certainly not antisemitic Socialist Otto Bauer, op. cit., p. 373. 


of a nation without a state and without visible institutions." If tribal na- 
tionalities pointed to themselves as the center of their national pride, re- 
gardless of historical achievements and partnership in recorded events, if 
they believed that some mysterious inherent psychological or physical qual- 
ity made them the incarnation not of Germany but Germanism, not of 
Russia, but the Russian soul, they somehow knew, even if they did not 
know how to express it, that the Jcwishness of assimilated Jews was ex- 
actly the same kind of personal individual embodiment of Judaism and that 
the peculiar pride of secularized Jews, who had not given up the claim to 
chi>senness. really meant that they believed they were different and better 
simply because they happend to be born as Jews, regardless of Jewish 
achievements and tradition. 

It is true enough that this Jewish attitude, this, as it were, Jewish brand 
of tribal nationalism, had been the result of the abnormal position of the 
Jews in modern states, outside the pale of society and nation. But the posi- 
tion of these shifting ethnic groups, who became conscious of their nation- 
ality only through the example of other — Western — nations, and later the 
position of the uprooted masses of the big cities, which racism mobilized so 
cflicicntly, was in many ways very similar. They too were outside the pale 
of siKiety. and they too were outside the political body of the nation-state 
which seemed to be the only satisfactory political organization of peoples. 
In the Jews they recognized at once their happier, luckier competitors be- 
cause, as they saw it, the Jews had found a way of constituting a society of 
their own which, precisely because it had no visible representation and no 
normal political outlet, could become a substitute for the nation. 

But what drove the Jews into the center of these racial ideologies more 
than anything else was the even more obvious fact that the pan-movements' 
claim to chosenness could clash seriously only with the Jewish claim. It did 
not matter that the Jewish concept had nothing in common with the tribal 
theories about the divine origin of one's own people. The mob was not 
much concerned with such niceties of historical correctness and was hardly 
aware of the dilTerence between a Jewish mission in history to achieve the 
establishment of mankind and its own "mission" to dominate all other 
peoples on earth. But the leaders of the pan-movements knew quite well 
that the Jews had divided the world, exactly as they had, into two halves — 
themselves and all the others.'"^ In this dichotomy the Jews again appeared 

" Very instructive for Jewish self-interpretation is A. S. Steinberg's essay "Die 
wcll:insch;iulichen Voraussetzungen dcr judischen Geschichtsschreibung," in Dubnov 
Fesisihrifi, 1930: "If one . . . is convinced of the concept of life as expressed in 
Jewish history . . . then the state question loses its importance, no matter how one 
may answer it." 

"-The closeness of these concepts to each other may be seen in the following co- 
incidence to which many other examples could be added: Steinberg, op. cit., says of 
he Jews: their history takes place outside all usual historical laws; Chaadayev calls 
ihc Kuvsians an exception people. Berdyaycv stated bluntly {op. cit., p. 135): "Rus- 
sian Mcssianism is akin to Jewish Messianism." 


to be the luckier competitors who had inherited something, were recognized 
for something which Gentiles had to build from scratch. ^^ 

It is a "truism" that has not been made truer by repetition that antiscm- 
itism is only a form of envy. But in relation to Jewish chosenness it is true 
enough. Whenever peoples have been separated from action and achieve- 
ments, when these natural ties with the common world have broken or do 
not exist for one reason or another, they have been inclined to turn upon 
themselves in their naked natural givenness and to claim divinity and a mis- 
sion to redeem the whole world. When this happens in Western civilization, 
such peoples will invariably find the age-old claim of the Jews in their way. 
This is what the spokesmen of pan-movements sensed, and this is why they 
remained so untroubled by the realistic question of whether the Jewish 
problem in terms of numbers ^nd power was important enough to make 
hatred of Jews the mainstay of their ideology. As their own national pride 
was independent of all achievements, so their hatred of the Jews had eman- 
cipated itself from all specific Jewish deeds and misdeeds. In this the pan- 
movements were in complete agreement, although neither knew how to 
utilize this ideological mainstay for purposes of political organization. 

The time-lag between the formulation of the pan-movements' ideology and 
the possibility of its serious political application is demonstrated by the fact 
that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" — forged around 1900 by agents 
of the Russian secret police in Paris upon the suggestion of Pobyedonostzev, 
the political adviser of Nicholas II, and the only Pan-Slav ever in an influ- 
ential position — remained a half -forgotten pamphlet until 1919, when it 
began its veritably triumphal procession through all European countries and 
languages; "^^ its circulation some thirty years later was second only to Hit- 
ler's Mein Kampf. Neither the forger nor his employer knew that a time 
would come when the police would be the central institution of a society 
and the whole power of a country organized according to the supposedly 
Jewish principles laid down in the Protocols. Perhaps it was Stalin who was 
the first to discover all the potentialities for rule that the police possessed; it 
certainly was Hitler who, shrewder than Schoenerer his spiritual father, 
knew how to use the hierarchical principle of racism, how to exploit the anti- 
semitic assertion of the existence of a "worst" people in order properly to 
organize the "best" and all the conquered and oppressed in between, how to 
generalize the superiority complex of the pan-movements so that each people, 
with the necessary exception of the Jews, could look down upon one that 
was even worse off than itself. 

Apparently a few more decades of hidden chaos and open despair were 
necessary before large strata of people happily admitted that they were going 

69 See the antisemite E. Reventlow, op. cit., but also the philosemite Russian phi- 
losopher Vladimir Solovyov, Judaism and the Christian Question (1884): Between the 
two religious nations, the Russians and the Poles, history has introduced a third re- 
ligious people, the Jews. See Ehrenberg, op. cit., p. 314 ff. See also Cleinow, op. cit., 
pp. 44 flf. 

«o See John S. Curtiss, The Protocols of Zion, New York, 1942. 


to achieve what, as they believed, only Jews in their innate devilisiiness had 
K-cn able to achieve thus far. The leaders of the pan-movements, at any rate, 
though already vaguely aware of the social question, were very one-sided 
in their insistence on foreign policy. They therefore were unable to see that 
antiscmitism could form the necessary link connecting domestic with ex- 
ternal methods; they did not know yet how to establish their "folk com- 
munity." that is. the completely uprooted, racially indoctrinated horde. 

That the pan-movements' fanaticism hit ipon the Jews as the ideological 
center, which was the beginning of the end of European Jewry, constitutes 
one of the most logical and most bitter revenges history has ever taken. For 
of course there is some truth in "enlightened" assertions from Voltaire to 
Rcnan and Taine that the Jews' concept of chosenness, their identification 
of religion and nationality, their claim to an absolute position in history and 
a singlcd-out relationship with God, brought into Western civilization an 
otherwise unknown element of fanaticism ( inherit .;d by Christianity with its 
claim to exclusive possession of Truth) on one side, and on the other an 
clement of pride that was dangerously close to its racial perversion.''^ Politi- 
cally, it was of no consequence that Judaism and an intact Jewish piety al- 
ways were notably free of, and even hostile to, the heretical immanence of 
the Divine. 

For tribal nationalism is the precise perversion of a religion which made 
God choose one nation, one's own nation; only because this ancient myth, 
together with the only people surviving from antiquity, had struck deep roots 
in Western civilization could the modern mob leader, with a certain amount 
of plausibility, summon up the impudence to drag God into the petty con- 
flicts between peoples and to ask His consent to an election which the leader 
had already happily manipulated."^ The hatred of the racists against the 
Jews sprang from a superstitious apprehension that it actually might be the 
Jews, and not themselves, whom God had chosen, to whom success was 
granted by divine providence. There was an element of feeble-minded re- 
sentment against a people who, it was feared, had received a rationally in- 
comprehensible guarantee that they would emerge eventually, and in spite of 
appearances, as the final victors in world history. 

For to the mentality of the mob the Jewish concept of a divine mission to 

•' See Bcrdyaev, op. cit., p. 5: "Religion and nationality in the Muscovite kingdom 
grew up together, as they did also in the consciousness of the ancient Hebrew people. 
And in the same way as Messianic consciousness was an attribute of Judaism, it was 
an attribute of Russian Orthodoxy also." 

" A fantastic example of the madness in the whole business is the following pas- 
sage m Leon Bloy— which fortunately is not characteristic of French nationalism: 
France is so much the first of the nations that all others, no matter who they are, 
must be honored if they are permitted to eat the bread of her dogs. If only France is 
happy, then the rest of the world can be satisfied even though they have to pay for 
rXrr,h.'?'"'M ^i'^'^'^^^H' °r destruction. But if France suffers, then God Himself 
Drcde!;,nJ,.nn •• n' ^H . • • J^'' '' ^' ^^'°'"'^ ^"'J ^s inevitable as the secret of 
predestination. Quoted from R. Nadolny. Germanisierung oder Slavisierung? . 1928, 


bring about the kingdom of God could only appear in the vulgar 
success and failure. Fear and hatred were nourished and somewhal 
alized by the fact that Christianity, a religion of Jewish origin, had already 
conquered Western mankind. Guided by their own ridiculous superstition, 
the leaders of the pan-movements found that little hidden cog in the me- 
chanics of Jewish piety that made a complete reversion and perversion pos- 
sible, so that chosenness was no longer the myth for an ultimate realization 
of the ideal of a common humanity — but for its final destruction. 

II: The Inheritance of Lawlessness 

OPEN DISREGARD for law and legal institutions and ideological justification 
of lawlessness has been much more characteristic of continental than of 
overseas imperialism. This is partly due to the fact that continental imperial- 
ists lacked the geographical distance to separate the illegality of their rule 
on foreign continents from the legality of their home countries' institutions. 
Of equal importance is the fact that the pan-movements originated in coun- 
tries which had never known constitutional government, so that their lead- 
ers naturally conceived of government and power in terms of arbitrary de- 
cisions from above. 

Contempt for law became characteristic of all movements. Though more 
fully articulated in Pan-Slavism than in Pan-Germanism it reflected the 
actual conditions of rule in both Russia and Austria-Hungary. To describe 
these two despotisms, the only ones left in Europe at the outbreak of the first 
World War, in terms of multinational states gives only one part of the pic- 
ture. As much as for their rule over multinational territories they were dis- 
tinguished from other governments in that they governed the peoples di- 
rectly (and not only exploited them) by a bureaucracy; parties played in- 
significant roles, and parliaments had no legislative functions; the state ruled 
through an administration that applied decrees. The significance of Parlia- 
ment for the Dual Monarchy was little more than that of a not too bright 
debating society. In Russia as well as pre-war Austria serious opposition 
could hardly be found there but was exerted by outside groups who knew 
that their entering the parliamentary system would only detract popular 
attention and support from them. 

Legally, government by bureaucracy is government by decree, and this 
means that power, which in constitutional government only enforces the law, 
becomes the direct source of all legislation. Decrees moreover remain anony- 
mous (while laws can always be traced to specific men or assemblies), and 
therefore seem to flow from some over-all ruling power that needs no justi- 
fication. Pobyedonostzev's contempt for the "snares" of the law was the 
eternal contempt of the administrator for the supposed lack of freedom of 
the legislator, who is hemmed in by principles, and for the inaction of the 
executors of law, who are restricted by its interpretation. The bureaucrat. 


who by merely administering decrees has the illusion of constant action, feels 
tremendously superior to these "impractical" people who are forever en- 
tangled in "legal niceties" and therefore stay outside the sphere of power 
which to him is the source of everything. 

Ihe administrator considers the law to be powerless because it is by 
definition separated from its application. The decree, on the other hand, 
does not exist at all except if and when it is applied; it needs no justification 
except applicability. It is true that decrees are used by all governments in 
times of emergency, but then the emergency itself is a clear justification and 
automatic limitation. In governments by bureaucracy decrees appear in their 
naked purity as though they were no longer issued by powerful men, but 
were the incarnation of power itself and the administrator only its accidental 
agent. There are no general principles which simple reason can understand 
behind the decree, but ever-changing circumstances which only an expert 
can know in detail. People ruled by decree never know what rules them be- 
cause of the impossibility of understanding decrees in themselves and the 
carefully organized ignorance of specific circumstances and their practical 
significance in which all administrators keep their subjects. Colonial imperi- 
alism, which also ruled by decree and was sometimes even defined as the 
"rci;inu' dvs dec rets,"''-" was dangerous enough; yet the very fact that the ad- 
ministrators over native populations were imported and felt to be usurpers, 
mitigated its influence on the subject peoples. Only where, as in Russia and 
Austria, native rulers and a native bureaucracy were accepted as the legiti- 
mate government, could rule by decree create the atmosphere of arbitrari- 
ness and .secretiveness which effectively hid its mere expediency. 

Rule by decree has conspicuous advantages for the domination of far- 
flung territories with heterogeneous populations and for a policy of oppres- 
sion. Its efficiency is superior simply because it ignores all intermediary 
stages between issuance and application, and because it prevents political 
reasoning by the people through the withholding of information. It can 
easily overcome the variety of local customs and need not rely on the neces- 
sarily slow process of development of general law. It is most helpful for the 
establishment of a centralized administration because it overrides auto- 
matically all matters of local autonomy. If rule by good laws has sometimes 
been called the rule of wisdom, rule by appropriate decrees may rightly be 
called the rule of cleverness. For it is clever to reckon with ulterior motives 
and aims, and it is wise to understand and create by deduction from gen- 
erally accepted principles. 

Government by bureaucracy has to be distinguished from the mere out- 
growth and deformation of civil services which frequently accompanied the 
decline of the nation-state — as, notably, in France. There the administration 
has survived all changes in regime since the Revolution, entrenched itself 
like a parasite in the body politic, developed its own class interests, and be- 
come a useless organism whose only purpose appears to be chicanery and 
prevention of normal economic and political development. There are of 

'i^^A<^' llt'"'^^*^'"' ^'■"''^' Elementaire cle U}-iskttion Algi-riemie, 1903, Vol. II, 
pp. nu-152: The rcf-ime des decrets i.s tfie government of all French colonies." 


course many superficial similarities between the two types of bureaucracy, 
especially if one pays too much attention to the striking psychological simi- 
larity of petty officials. But if the French people have made the very serious 
mistake of accepting their administration as a necessary evil, they have 
never committed the fatal error of allowing it to rule the country — even 
though the consequence has been that nobody rules it. The French atmos- 
phere of government has become one of inefficiency and vexations; but 
it has not created an aura of pseudomysticism. 

And it is this pseudomysticism that is the stamp of bureaucracy when it 
becomes a form of government. Since the people it dominates never really 
know why something is happening, and a rational interpretation of laws does 
not exist, there remains only one thing that counts, the brutal naked event 
itself. What happens to one then becomes subject to an interpretation whose 
possibilities are endless, unlimited by reason and unhampered by knowl- 
edge. Within the framework of such endless interpretative speculation, so 
characteristic of all branches of Russian pre-revolutionary literature, the 
whole texture of life and world assume a mysterious secrecy and depth. 
There is a dangerous charm in this aura because of its seemingly inex- 
haustible richness; interpretation of suffering has a much larger range than 
that of action for the former goes on in the inwardness of the soul and re- 
leases all the possibilities of human imagination, whereas the latter is con- 
stantly checked, and possibly led into absurdity, by outward consequence 
and controllable experience. 

One of the most glaring differences between the old-fashioned rule by 
bureaucracy and the up-to-date totalitarian brand is that Russia's and Aus- 
tria's pre-war rulers were content with an idle radiance of power and, sat- 
isfied to control its outward destinies, left the whole inner life of the soul 
intact. Totalitarian bureaucracy, with a more complete understanding of 
the meaning of absolute power, intruded upon the private individual and his 
inner life with equal brutality. The result of this radical efficiency has been 
that the inner spontaneity of people under its rule was killed along with their 
social and political activities, so that the merely political sterility under the 
older bureaucracies was followed by total sterility under totalitarian rule. 

The age which saw the rise of the pan-movements, however, was still 
happily ignorant of total sterilization. On the contrary, to an innocent ob- 
server (as most Westerners were) the so-called Eastern soul appeared to be 
incomparably richer, its psychology more profound, its literature more 
meaningful than that of the "shallow" Western democracies. This psycho- 
logical and literary adventure into the "depths" of suffering did not come 
to pass in Austria-Hungary because its literature was mainly German- 
language literature, which after all was and remained part and parcel of Ger- 
man literature in general. Instead of inspiring profound humbug, Austrian 
bureaucracy rather caused its greatest modern writer to become the humorist 
and critic of the whole matter. Franz Kafka knew well enough the super- 
stition of fate which possesses people who live under the perpetual rule of 
accidents, the inevitable tendency to read a special superhuman meaning 
into happenings whose rational significance is beyond the knowledge and 


undcpiianding of the ccncemed. He was well aware of the weird attractive- 
ness of such peoples, their melancholy and beautifully sad folk tales which 
seemed so superior to the lighter and brighter literature of more fortunate 
peoples. He exposed the pride in necessity as such, even the necessity of 
evil, and the nauseating conceit which identifies evil and misfortune with 
destiny. The miracle is only that he could do this in a world in which the 
main elements of this atmosphere were not fully articulated; he trusted his 
great powers of imagination to draw all the necessary conclusions and, as 
it were, to complete what reality had somehow neglected to bring into full 


Only the Russian Empire of that time offered a complete picture of rule 
by bureaucracy. 1 he chaotic conditions of the country — too vast to be ruled, 
populated by primitive peoples without experience in political organization 
of any kind, who vegetated under the incomprehensible overlordship of the 
Russian bureaucracy — conjured up an atmosphere of anarchy and hazard in 
which the conflicting whims of petty officials and the daily accidents of in- 
competence and inconsistency inspired a philosophy that saw in the Acci- 
dent the true Lord of Life, something like the apparition of Divine Prov- 
idence.** To the Pan-Slav who always insisted on the so much more "inter- 
esting" conditions in Russia against the shallow boredom of civilized coun- 
tries, it looked as though the Divine had found an intimate immanence in 
the soul of the unhappy Russian people, matched nowhere else on earth. 
In an unending stream of literary variations the Pan-Slavs opposed the pro- 
fundity and violence of Russia to the superficial banality of the West, which 
did not know suffering or the meaning of sacrifice, and behind whose sterile 
civilized surface were hidden frivolity and triteness. "^^ The totalitarian move- 
ments still owed much of their appeal to this vague and embittered anti- 

*' Sec especially the magnificent story in The Castle (1930) of the Barnabases, which 
reads like a weird travesty of a piece of Russian literature. The family is living under 
a curse, treated as lepers till they feel themselves such, merely because one of their 
pretty daughters once dared to reject the indecent advances of an important official. 
The plain villagers, controlled to the last detail by a bureaucracy, and slaves even in 
their thoughts to the whims of their all-powerful officials, had long since come to 
realize that to be in the right or to be in the wrong was for them a matter of pure 
"fate" which they could not alter. It is not, as K. naively assumes, the sender of an 
obscene letter who is exposed, but the recipient who becomes branded and tainted. 
This is what the villagers mean when they speak of their "fate." In K.'s view, "it's 
unjust and monstrous, but |he is) the only one in the village of that opinion.' 

«« Dcitkalion of accidents serves of course as rationalization for every people that 
is not master of its own destiny. See for instance Steinberg, op. cit.: "For it is Accident 
that has become decisive for the structure of Jewish history. And Accident .... in 
the language of religion is called Providence" (p. 34). 

«»A Russian writer once said that Pan-Slavism "engenders an implacable hatred 
of the West, a morbid cult of everything Russian; ... the salvation of the universe 
is .still possible, but it can come about only through Russia. . . . The Pan-Slavists, 
seeing enemies of their idea everywhere, persecute everybody who does not agree 
with them . . ." (Victor Berard, f Empire riisse et le tsarisme, 1905.) See also N. V. 
Bubnoff. Kuliur und Geschichte im russischen Denken der Gegenwart, 1927, in 
Osteuropa: Quellcn und Studien. Heft 2. Chapter v 


Western mood that was especially in vogue in pre-Hitler Germany and Aus- 
tria, but had seized the general European intelligentsia of the twenties as 
well. Up to the moment of actual seizure of power, they could use this pas- 
sion for the profound and rich "irrational," and during the crucial years 
when the exiled Russian intelligentsia exerted a not negligible influence upon 
the spiritual mood of an entirely disturbed Europe, this purely literary atti- 
tude proved to be a strong emotional factor in preparing the ground for total- 

Movem ents, as contrasted to parties, did not simply degenerate into bu- 
reaucratic jnachines,"^ but saw in bureaucratic regimes possible models of 
organization. The admiration which inspired the Pan-Slav Pogodin's descrip- 
tion of the machine of Czarist Russian bureaucracy would have been shared 
by them all: "A tremendous machine, constructed after the simplest prin- 
ciples, guided by the hand of one man . . . which sets it in motion at every 
moment with a single movement, no matter which direction and speed he 
may choose. And this is not merely a mechanical motion, the machine is 
entirely animated by inherited emotions, which are subordination, limitless 
confidence and devotion to the Czar who is their God on earth. Who would 
dare to attack us and whom could we not force into obedience?" '^^ 

Pan-Slavists were less opposed to the state than their Pan-Germanist col- 
leagues. They sometimes even tried to convince the Czar to become the 
head of the movement. The reason for this tendency is of course that the 
Czar's position differed considerably from that of any European monarch, 
the Emperor of Austria-Hungary not excluded, and that the Russian des- 
potism never developed into a rational state in the Western sense but re- 
mained fluid, anarchic, and unorganized. Czarism, therefore, sometimes ap- 
peared to the Pan-Slavists as the symbol of a gigantic moving force sur- 
rounded by a halo of unique holiness. "'■* Pan-Slavism, in contrast to Pan- 
Germanism, did not have to invent a new ideology to suit the needs of the 

60 Ehrenberg, op. cit., stresses this in his epilogue: The ideas of a Kirejcwski, 
Chomjakow, Leontjew "may have died out in Russia after the Revolution. But now 
they have spread all over Europe and live today in Sofia, Constantinople, Berlin, 
Paris, London. Russians, and precisely the disciples of these authors, . . . publish 
books and edit magazines that are read in all European countries; through them, 
these ideas — the ideas of their spiritual fathers — are represented. The Russian spirit 
has become European" (p. 334). 

"7 For the bureaucratization of party machines, Robert Michels, Political Parties; 
a sociolosical study of the oligarchical tendencies of modern democracy (English 
translation Glencoe, 1949, from the German edition of 1911), is still the standard 

"** K. Staehlin, "Die Entstchung des Panslawismus," in G ermano-Slavica, 1936, 
Heft 4. 

"" M. N. Katkov: "All power has its derivation from God; the Russian Czar, how- 
ever, was granted a special significance distinguishing him from the rest of the world's 
rulers. ... He is a successor of the Caesars of the Eastern Empire, . . . the founders 
of the very creed of the Faith of Christ. . . . Herein lies the mystery of the deep 
distinction between Russia and all the nations of the world." Quoted from Salo W. 
Baron, Modern Nationalism and Religion, 1947. 



Slavic soul ;md its movement, but could interpret— and make a mystery of — 
Czarism as the anti-Western, anticonstitutional, antistatc expression of the 
movement itself. This mystification of anarchic power inspired Pan-Slavism 
with its most pernicious theories about the transcendent nature and inherent 
gixxlncss of all power. Power was conceived as a divine emanation per- 
vadmg all natural and human activity. It was no longer a means to achieve 
somcthini;: it simply existed, men were dedicated to its service for the love 
of CukI, and any law that might regulate or restrain its "limitless and ter- 
rible strength" was clearly sacrilege, in its complete arbitrariness, power as 
such was held to be holy, whether it was the power of the Czar or the power 
of sex. Laws were not only incompatible with it, they were sinful, man- 
made "snares" that prevented the full development of the "divine."'" The 
government, no matter what it did, was still the "Supreme Power in action,"^' 
and the Pan-Slav movement only had to adhere to this power and to or- 
ganize its }x>pular support, which eventually would permeate and therefore 
sanctify the whole [-n^ople — a colossal herd, obedient to the arbitrary will 
of one man. ruled neither by law nor interest, but kept together solely by 
the cohesive force of their numbers and the conviction of their own holiness. 
From the beginning, the movements lacking the "strength of inherited 
emotions" had to differ from the model of the already existing Russian 
despotism in two respects. They had to make propaganda which the estab- 
hshed bureaucracy hardly needed, and did this by introducing an element 
o_f_yiolence; '-■ and they found a substitute for the role of "inherited emo- 

'" Pobycilt>nosl/cv in his RejUitions of a Russian Statesman, London, 1898: "Power 
cxiNis not for itself alone bin for the love of God. It is a service to which men are 
dedicated. Ihence comes the limitless, terrible strength of power and its limitless and 
icrriblc burden" (p. 254). Or: "The law becomes a snare not only to the people, but 
to the very authorities engai;ed in its administration ... if at every step the 
executor of the law finds in the law itself restrictive prescriptions . . . then all 
HUthority is lost in doubt, weakened by the law . . . and crushed by the fear of 
responsibility" (p. 88). 

" According to Katkov "government in Russia means a thing totally different from 
what is understood by (his term in other countries. ... In Russia the government in 
Ihc highest sense of the word, is the Supreme Power in action. . . ." Moissaye J. Olgin, 
The Soul <»/ the Russian Revolution. New York. 1917, p. 57. — In a more rationalized 
form, we find the theory that "legal guarantees were needed in states founded upon 
conquest and threatened by the conflict of classes and races; they were superfluous in 
a Russia with harmony of classes and friendship of races" (Hans Kohn, op. cit.). 

Although idolization of power played a less articulate role in Pan-Germanism, there 
wa.ii always a certain antilegal tendency which for instance comes out clearly in 
Frymann. op. cii.. who as early as 1912 proposed the introduction of that "protective 
cusicxly iSnhcrhfitshafi). that is. arrest without any legal reason, which the Nazis 
then used to fill concentration camps. 

" There is of course a patent similarity between the French mob organization 
durmg Ihc Dreyfus Affair (see p. 1 1 1 ) and Russian pogrom groups such as the "Black 
Hundreds -m which the "wildest and the least cultivated dregs of old Russia [were 
gathered ahd which) kept contact with the majority of the Orthodox episcopate" 
(P-cdotow. op. (//.)-or the "League of the Russian People" with its secret Fighting 
Squadrons recruited rom the lower agents of the police, paid by the government, 
and led by intellectuals. See fc. Cherikover. "New Materials on the Pogroms in Russia 


tions" in the ideologies which Continental parties had already developed 
to a co nsiderable extent. The difference in their use of ideology was that 
they not only added ideological justification to interest representation, but 
used ideologies as organizational principles. If the parties had been bodies 
for the organization of class interests, the movements became embodiments 
of ideologies. I n oth er words, movements were "charged with philosophy" 
and claim ed they had set into motion "the individualization of the moral 
u niversal within a collective." ^^ 

It is true that concretization of ideas had first been conceived in Hegel's 
theory of state and history and had been further developed in Marx's theory 
of the proletariat as the protagonist of mankind. It is of course not acci- 
dental that Russian Pan-Slavism was as much influenced by Hegel as Bol- 
shevism was influenced by Marx. Yet neither Marx nor Hegel assumed 
actual human beings and actual parties or countries to be ideas in the flesh; 
both believed in the process of history in which ideas could be concretized 
only in a complicated dialectical movement. It needed the vulgarity of mob 
leaders to hit upon the tremendous possibilities of such concretization for 
the organization of masses. These men began to tell the mob that each of 
its members could become such a lofty all-important walking embodiment 
of something ideal if he would only join the movement. Then he no longer 
had to be loyal or generous or courageous, he would automatically be the 
very incarnation of Loyalty, Generosity, Courage. Pan-Germanism showed 
itself somewhat superior in organizational theory, insofar as it shrewdly 
deprived the individual German of all these wondrous qualities if he did 
not adhere to the movement (thereby foreshadowing the spiteful contempt 
which Nazism later expressed for the non-Party members of the German 
people), whereas Pan-Slavism, absorbed deeply in its limitless speculations 
about the Slav soul, assumed that every Slav consciously or unconsciously 
possessed such a soul no matter whether he was properly organized or not. 
It needed Stalin's ruthlessness to introduce into Bolshevism the same con- 
tempt for the Russian people that the Nazis showed toward the Germans. 

I t is thi s absoluteness of movements which more than anything else sep- 
arates them from party structures and their partiality, and serves to justify 
thei r claim to overrule all objections of individual conscience. The partic- 
ular reality of the individual person appears against the background of a 
spurious reality of the general and universal, shrinks into a negligible quan- 
tity or is submerged in the stream of dynamic movement of the universal 
itself. In this stream the difference between ends and means evaporates 
together with the personality, and the result is the monstrous immorality 
of ideological politics. All that matters is embodied in the moving movement 
itself; every idea, every value has vanished into a welter of superstitious 
pseudoscientific immanence. 


at the Beginning of the Eighties" in Historishe Shriftn (Vilna), II, 463; and N. M. 
Gelber, "The Russian Pogroms in the Early Eighties in the Light of the Austrian 
Diplomatic Correspondence," ibid. 

73 Deles, op. cit. 


III: Party and Movement 

THi STRIKING iind fatcful difference between continental and overseas im- 
perialism has been that their initial successes and failures were in exact op- 
position. While continental imperialism, even in its beginnings, succeeded 
in realizing the imperialist hostility against the nation-state by organizing 
large strata of people outside the party system, and always failed to get 
results in tangible expansion, overseas imperialism, in its mad and success- 
ful rushes to annex more and more far-flung territories, was never very 
successful when it attempted to change the home countries' political struc- 
ture. The nation-state system's ruin, having been prepared by its own over- 
seas imperialism, was eventually carried out by those movements which had 
originated outside its own realm. And when it came to pass that movements 
began successfully to compete with the nation-state's party system, it was 
also seen that they could undermine only countries with a multiparty sys- 
tem, that mere imperialist tradition was not sufficient to give them mass 
appeal, and that Great Britain, the classic country of two-party rule, did 
not produce a movement of either Fascist or Communist orientation of 
any consequence outside her party system. 

The slogan "above the parties," the appeal to "men of all parties," and 
the boast that they would "stand far removed from the strife of parties and 
represent only a national purpose" was equally characteristic of all imperial- 
ist groups,"* where it appeared as a natural consequence of their exclusive 
interest in foreign policy in which the nation was supposed to act as a 
whole in any event, independent of classes and parties."^ Since, moreover, in 
the Continental systems this representation of the nation as a whole had 

"As the President of the German Kolonialverein put it in 1884. See Mary E. 
Townscnd. Origin of Modern German Colonialism: 1871-1885, New York, 1921. 
The Pan-German League always insisted on its being "above the parties; this was 
and is a vital condition for the League" (Otto Bonhard, op. cit.). The first real party 
that claimed to be more than a party, namely an "imperial party," was the National- 
Liberal Party in Germany under the leadership of Ernst Bassermann (Frymann, 
op. lit.). 

In Russia, the Pan-Slavs needed only to pretend to be nothing more than popular 
support for the government, in order to be removed from all competition with parties; 
for the government as "the Supreme Power in action . . . cannot be understood as 
related to parties." Thus M. N. Katkov, close journalistic collaborator of Pobyedo- 
nostzev Sec Olgin, op. cit., p. 57. 

"This clearly was still the purpose of the early "beyond party" groups among 
which up to 1918 the Pan-German League must still be counted. "Standing outside of 
all organized political parties, we may go our purely national way. We do not ask: Are 
you conservative' Are you liberal? ... The German nation is the meeting point 
upon which all parties can make common cause." Lehr, Zwecke and Ziele des all- 
deuischen Verbandes. Flugschriften, No. 14. Translation quoted from Wertheimer, 
op. cit., p. 1 10. 


been the "monopoly" of the state,'^" it could even seem that the imperialists 
put the state's interests above everything else, or that the interest of the 
nation as a whole had found in them its long-sought popular support. Yet 
despite all such claims to true popularity the "parties above parties" re- 
mained small societies of intellectuals and well-to-do people who, like the 
Pan-German League, could hope to find a larger appeal only in times of 
national emergency J^ 

The decisive invention of the pan-movements, therefore, was not that 
they too claimed to be outside and above the party system, but that they 
called themselves "movements," their very name alluding to the profound 
distrust for all parties that was already widespread in Europe at the turn 
of the century and finally became so decisive that in the days of the Weimar 
Rep ublic, for instance, "oach new group believed it could find no better 
l egitim ization and no better appeal to the masses than a clear insistence 
that it was not a 'party' but a 'movement.' "'*' 

It is true that the actual disintegration of the European party system was 
brought about, not by the pan- but by the totalitarian movements. The 
pan-movements, however, which found their place somewhere between the 
small and comparatively harmless imperialist societies and the totalitarian 
movements, were forerunners of the totalitarians, insofar as they had 
already discarded the element of snobbery so conspicuous in all imperialist 
leagues, whether the snobbery of wealth and birth in England or of educa- 
tion in Germany, and therefore could take advantage of the deep popular 
hatred for those institutions which were supposed to represent the people. '''* 
It is not surprising that the appeal of movements in Europe has not been 
hurt much by the defeat of Nazism and the growing fear of Bolshevism. 
As matters stand now, the only country in Europe where Parliament is not 
despised and the party system not hated is Great Britain.^" 

■'"Carl Schmitt, Stuat, Bewegung, Volk (1934). speaks of the "monopoly of politics 
which the state had acquired during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries." 

''■' Wertheimer, op. cit., depicts the situation quite correctly when she says: "That 
there was any vital connection before the war between the Pan-German League and 
the imperial government is entirely preposterous." On the other hand, it was perfectly 
true that German policy during the first World War was decisively influenced by Pan- 
Germans because the higher officer corps had become Pan-German. See Hans Del- 
briJck, Ludendorffs Selhstportrait. Berlin, 1922. Compare also his earlier article 
on the subject, "Die Alldeutschen," in Preussische Jahrhiicher, 154, December, 1913. 

''^ Sigmund Neumann, Die deutschen Parteien, 1932, p. 99. 

^" Moeller van den Bruck, Das dritte Reich, 1923, pp. vii-viii, describes the situa- 
tion: "When the World War ended in defeat ... we met Germans everywhere who 
said they were outside all parties, who talked about 'freedom from parties,' who tried 
to find a point of view 'above parties.' ... A complete lack of respect for Parlia- 
ments . . . which at no time have the faintest idea of what is really going on in the 
country ... is very widespread among the people." 

*" British dissatisfaction with the Front Bench system has nothing to do with this 
anti-Parliamentarian sentiment, the British in this instance being opposed to some- 
thing that prevents Parliament from functioning properly. 



Faced with the stability of political institutions in the British Isles and the 
simultaneous decline of all nation-states on the Continent, one can hardly 
avoid concluding that the difference between the Anglo-Saxon and the 
Continental party system must be an important factor. For the merely 
material differences between a greatly impoverished England and an un- 
dcstroyed France were not great after the close of this war; unemployment, 
the greatest revolutionizing factor in prewar Europe, had hit England even 
harder than many Continental countries; and the shock to which England's 
political stability was being exposed right after the war through the Labor 
Government's liquidation of imperialist government in India and its ten- 
tative efforts to rebuild an English world policy along nonimperialist lines 
must have been tremendous. Nor does mere difference in social structure 
account for the relative strength of Great Britain; for the economic basis 
of her social system has been severely changed by the socialist Government 
without any decisive change in political institutions. 

Behind the external difference between the Anglo-Saxon two-party and 
the Continental multiparty system lies a fundamental distinction between 
the party's function within the body politic, which has great consequences 
for the party's attitude to power, and the citizen's position in his state. In 
the two-party system one party always represents the government and 
actually rules the country, so that, temporarily, the party in power becomes 
identical with the state. The state, as a permanent guarantee of the coun- 
try's unity, is represented only in the permanence of the office of the King*^^ 
( for the permanent Undersecretaryship of the Foreign Office is only a mat- 
ter of continuity). As the two parties are planned and organized for alter- 
nate rule,"*- all branches of the administration are planned and organized 
for alternation. Since the rule of each party is limited in time, the opposition 
party exerts a control whose efficiency is strengthened by the certainty 
that it is the ruler of tomorrow. In fact, it is the opposition rather than 
the symbolic position of the King that guarantees the integrity of the whole 
against one-party dictatorship. The obvious advantages of this system are 
that there is no essential difference between government and state, that 
power as well as the state remain within the grasp of the citizens organized 
in the party, which represents the power and the state either of today or 
of tomorrow, and that consequently there is no occasion for indulgence in 
lofty speculations about Power and State as though they were something 
beyond human reach, metaphysical entities independent of the will and 
action of the citizens. 

"' The British party system, the oldest of all, "began to take shape . . . only when 
the affairs of state ceased to be exclusively the prerogative of the crown . . . ," that 
IS. after 1688. "The King's role has been historically to represent the nation as a 
unity as against the factional strife of parties." See article "Political Parties" 3, "Great 
BrMam by W. A. Rudlin in Encyclopedu, of the Social Sciences. 

" In what seems to be the earliest history of the "party," George W. Cooke, The 
Hiuory of Party. London. 1836, in the preface defines the subject as a system by 
which "two classes of statesmen . . . alternately govern a mighty empire." 


The Continental party system supposes that each party defines itself con- 
sciously as a part of the whole, which in turn is represented by a state above 
parties.**^ A one-party rule therefore can only signify the dictatorial dom- 
ination of one part over all others. Governments formed by alliances be- 
tween party leaders are always only party governments, clearly distinguished 
from the state which rests above and beyond them. One of the minor 
shortcomings of this system is that cabinet members cannot be chosen ac- 
cording to competence, for too many parties are represented, and ministers 
are necessarily chosen according to party alliances; ^^^ the British system, 
on the other hand, permits a choice of the best men from the large ranks 
of one party. Much more relevant, however, is the fact that the multiparty 
system never allows any one man or any one party to assume full responsi- 
bility, with the natural consequence that no government, formed by party 
alliances, ever feels fully responsible. Even if the improbable happens and 
an absolute majority of one party dominates Parliament and results in one- 
party rule, this can only end either in dictatorship, because the system is 
not prepared for such government, or in the bad conscience of a still truly 
democratic leadership which, accustomed to thinking of itself only as part 
of the whole, will naturally be afraid of using its power. This bad conscience 
functioned in a well-nigh exemplary fashion when, after the first World 
War, the German and Austrian Social Democratic parties emerged for a 
short moment as absolute majority parties, yet repudiated the power which 
went with this position. '^^ 

Since the rise of the party systems it has been a matter of course to 
identify parties with particular interests, economic or others,**** and all Con- 

"^ The best account of the essence of the Continental party system is given by the 
Swiss jurist Johann Caspar Bluntschli, Charakter unci Geist der politischen Parteien, 
1869. He states: "It is true that a party is only part of a greater whole, never this 
whole itself. ... It must never identify itself with the whole, the people or the 
state . . . ; therefore a party may fight against other parties, but it must never ignore 
them and usually must not want to destroy them. No party can exist all by itself" 
(p. 3). The same idea is expressed by Karl Rosenkranz, a German Hegelian philoso- 
pher, whose book on political parties appeared before parties existed in Germany: 
Ueber den Begriff der politischen Partei ( 1843): "Party is conscious partiality" (p. 9). 

^■^ See John Gilbert Heinberg, Comparative Major European Governments, New 
York, 1937, chapters vii and viii. "In England one political party usually has a majority 
in the House of Commons, and the leaders of the party are members of the Cab- 
inet. ... In France, no political party in practice ever has a majority of the mem- 
bers of the Chamber of Deputies, and, consequently, the Council of Ministers is com- 
posed of the leaders of a number of party groups" (p. 158). 

'^^ See Demokratie and Partei, ed. by Peter R. Rohden, Vienna, 1932, Introduction: 
"The distinguishing characteristic of German parties is . . . that all parlianjentary 
groups are resigned not to represent the volonte generate. . . . That is why the parties 
were so embarrassed when the November Revolution brought them to power. Each 
of them was so organized that it could only make a relative claim, i.e., it always reck- 
oned with the existence of other parties representing other partial interests and thus 
naurally limited its own ambitions" (pp. 13-14). 

^^ The Continental party system is of very recent date. With the exception of the 
French parties which date back to the French Revolution, no European country knew 
party representation prior to 1848. Parties came into being through formation of 


tincntal parties, not only the labor groups, have been very frank in admit- 
ting this as long as they could be sure that a state above parties exerts its 
power more or less in the interest of all. 1 he Anglo-Saxon party, on the 
contrary, founded on some "particular principle" for the service of the 
"national interest.""' is itself the actual or future state of the country; 
particular interests are represented in the party itself, as its right and left 
wmg, and held in check by the very necessities of government. And since 
in the two-party system a party cannot exist for any length of time if it 
dt-tcs not win enough strength to assume power, no theoretical justification 
IS needed, no ideologies are developed, and the peculiar fanaticism of Con- 
tinental party strife, which springs not so much from conflicting interests 
as from antagonistic ideologies, is completely absent. ^^ 

The trouble with the Continental parties, separated on principle from 
government and power, was not so much that they were trapped in the nar- 
rowness of particular interests as that they were ashamed of these interests 
and therefore developed those justifications which led each one into an 
ideology claiming that its particular interests coincided with the most gen- 
eral interests of humanity. The conservative party was not content to defend 
the interests of landed property but needed a philosophy according to which 
God had created man to till the soil by the sweat of his brow. The same 
is true for the progress ideology of the middle-class parties and for the 
labor parties' claim that the proletariat is the leader of mankind. This 
strange combination of lofty philosophy and down-to-earth interests is para- 
doxical only at first glance. Since these parties did not organize their 
members (or educate their leaders) for the purpose of handling public 
affairs, but represented them only as private individuals with private inter- 
ests, they had to cater to all private needs, spiritual as well as material. 
In other words, the chief difference between the Anglo-Saxon and the 
Continental party is that the former is a political organization of citizens 
who need to "act in concert" in order to act at all,^'* while the latter is 

iclions in Parliament. In Sweden, the Social Democratic Party was the first party 
(m 1889) with a fully formulated program (Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, loc. cit.). 
For Germany, see Ludwiy Be rgst raes.se r. Ge.ichichle der politischen Parteien, 1921. 
All parties were frankly based upon protection of interests; the German Conservative 
Party for instance developed from the "Association to protect the interests of big 
landed property'" founded in 1848. Interests were not necessarily economic, however. 
The Dutch parties, for instance, were formed "over the two questions that so largely 
dommalc Dutch politics— the broiidening of the franchise and the subsidizing of 
private Imainiy denominational] education" (Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 
Int. cil.). 

" F-.dmund Burke-s definition of party: "Party is a body of men united for promot- 
ing;, by ihcir joint endeavor, the national interest, upon some particular principle in 
which they arc all agreed" (Upon Party. 2nd edition, London, 1850). 

""Arthur N. Ho\combc '(Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, loc. cit.) rightly 
stressed that in the double party system the principles of the two parties "have tended 
to be the same. If they had not been substantially the same, submission to the victor 
would have been intolerable to the vanquished." 

"" Burke, op. ci,.: "They believed that no men could act with effect, who did not 
..ct m concert; that no men could act in concert, who did not act with confidence; that 


the organization of private individuals who want their interests to be pro- 
tected against interference from public affairs. 

It is consistent with this system that the Continental state philosophy rec- 
ognized men to be citizens only insofar as they were not party members, i.e., 
in their individual unorganized relationship to the state {Staatsbiirger) or in 
their patriotic enthusiasm in times of emergency {citoyens) .^^ This was 
the unfortunate result of the transformation of the citoyen of the French 
Revolution into the bourgeois of the nineteenth century on one hand, and 
of the antagonism between state and society on the other. The Germans 
tended to consider patriotism an obedient self-oblivion before the authori- 
ties and the French an enthusiastic loyalty to the phantom of "eternal 
France." In both cases, patriotism meant an abandonment of one's party 
and partial interests in favor of the government and the national interest. 
The point is that such nationalistic deformation was almost inevitable in a 
system that created political parties out of private interests, so that the pub- 
lic good had to depend upon force from above and a vague generous self- 
sacrifice from below which could be achieved only by arousing national- 
istic passions. In England, on the contrary, antagonism between private 
and national interest never played a decisive role in politics. The more, 
therefore, the party system on the Continent corresponded to class interests, 
the more urgent was the need of the nation for nationalism, for some pop- 
ular expression and support of national interests, a support which England 
with its direct government by party and opposition never needed so much. 

If we consider the difference between the Continental multiparty and the 
British two-party system with regard to their predisposition to the rise 
of movements, it seems plausible that it should be easier for a one-party 
dictatorship to seize the state machinery in countries where the state is 
above the parties, and thereby above the citizens, than in those where the 
citizens by acting "in concert," i.e., through party organization, can win 
power legally and feel themselves to be the proprietors of the state either 
of today or of tomorrow. It appears even more plausible that the mystifica- 

no men could act with confidence, who were not bound together by common opinions, 
common affections, and common interests." 

^° For the Central European concept of citizen (the Staatsbiirger) as opposed to 
party member, see Bluntschli, op. cit.: "Parties are not state institutions, . . . not 
members of the state organism, but free social associations whose formations depend 
upon a changing membership united for common political action by a definite con- 
viction." The difference between state and party interest is stressed time and again: 
"The party must never put itself above the state, must never put its party interest 
above the state interest" (pp. 9 and 10). 

Burke, on the contrary, argues against the concept according to which party in- 
terests or party membership make a man a worse citizen. "Commonwealths are made 
of families, free commonwealths of parties also; and we may as well affirm that our 
natural regards and ties of blood tend inevitably to make men bad citizens, as that the 
bonds of our party weaken those by which we are held to our country" {op. cit.). 
Lord John Russell, On Party (1850), even goes one step further when he asserts that 
the chief of the good effects of parties is "that it gives a substance to the shadowy 
opinions of politicians, and attaches them to steady and lasting principles." 


tion of pKHvcr inherent in the movements should be more easily achieved 
ihe f.irthcr removed the eitizcns arc from the sources of power — easier 
in bureaucraticaily ruled countries where power positively transcends the 
capacity to understand on the part of the ruled, than in constitutionally 
governed countries where the law is above power and power is only a 
rneans of its enforcement; and easier yet in countries where the state power 
IS beyond the reach of the parties and therefore, even if it remains within 
the reach of the citizen's intelligence, is removed beyond the reach of his 
practical experience and action. 

The ahenation of the masses from government, which was the beginning 
i)f their eventual hatred of and disgust with Parliament, was different in 
France and other Western democracies on one hand, and in the Central 
European countries, Germany chiefly, on the other. In Germany, where 
the state was by definition above the parties, party leaders as a rule sur- 
rendered their party allegiance the moment they became ministers and 
were charged with official duties. Disloyalty to one's own party was the 
duty of everyone in public office.'" In France, ruled by party alliances, no 
real government has been possible since the establishment of the Third 
Republic and its fantastic record of cabinets. Her weakness was the op- 
posite of the German one; she had liquidated the state which was above the 
parties and above Parliament without reorganizing her party system into 
a body capable of governing. The government necessarily became a ridic- 
ulous exponent of the ever-changing moods of Parliament and public 
opinion. The German system, on the other hand, made Parliament a more 
or less useful battlefield for conflicting interests and opinions whose main 
function was to influence the government but whose practical necessity 
in the handling of state affairs was, to say the least, debatable. In France, 
the parties suffocated the government; in Germany, the state emasculated 
the parties. 

Since the end of the last century, the repute of these Constitutional par- 
liaments and parties has constantly declined; to the people at large they 
looked like expensive and unnecessary institutions. For this reason alone 
each group that claimed to present something a bove party and class inter- 
^ts and starFed o utside ot Parliament had a great Chance for po pularity." 
Such groups seeTiTgtf--m orc competent, more ainccrc , and moro concc nTed 
with public affairs. This, however, was so in appearance only, for the true 
goal of every "party above parties" was to promote one particular interest 
until it had devoured all others, and to make one particular group the 
master of the state machine. This is what finally happened in Italy under 

"' Compare with this attitude the telling fact that in Great Britain Ramsay Mac- 
Donald was never able to live down his "betrayal" of the Labor Party. In Germany 
ihc spirit of civil service asked of those in public office to be "above the parties." 
Against this spirit of the old Prussian civil service the Nazis asserted the priority of 
the Party, because they wanted dictatorship. Goebbels demanded explicitly: "Each 
party member who becomes a state functionary has to remain a National Socialist 
first ... and to co-operate closely with the party administration" (quoted from GoU- 
fried Neesse, Pariei iinJ Staat, 1939, p. 28). 


Mussolini's Fascism, which up to 1938 was not totalitarian but just an 
ordinary nationalist dictatorship developed logically from a multiparty 
democracy. For there is indeed some truth in the old truism about the 
affinity between majority rule and dictatorship, but this affinity has nothing 
whatever to do with totalitarianism. It is obvious that, after many decades 
of inefficient and muddled multiparty rule, the seizure of the state for the 
advantage of one party can come as a great relief because it assures at 
least, though only for a limited time, some consistency, some permanence, 
and a little less contradiction. 

The fact that the seizure of power by the Nazis was usually identified 
with such a one-party dictatorship merely showed how much political 
thinking was still rooted in the old established patterns, and how little the 
people were prepared for what really was to come. The only typically 
modern aspect of the Fascist party dictatorship is that here, too, the party 
insisted that it was a movement; that it was nothing of the kind, but 
merely usurped the slogan "movement" in order to attract the masses, 
became evident as soon as it seized the state machine without drastically 
changing the power structure of the country, being content to fill ail gov- 
ernment positions with party members. It was precisely through the iden- 
tification of the party with the state, which both the Nazis and the 
Bolsheviks have always carefully avoided, that the party ceased to be 
a "movement" and became tied to the basically stable structure of the state. 

Even though the totalitarian movements and their predecessors, the pan- 
movements, were not "parties above parties" aspiring to seize the state 
machine but movements aiming at the destruction of the state, the Nazis 
found it very convenient to pose as such, that is, to pretend to follow faith- 
fully the Italian model of Fascism. Thus they could win the help of those 
upper-class and business elite who mistook the Nazis for the older groups 
they had themselves frequently initiated and which had made only th^^ 
rather modest pretense of conquering the state machine for one party. ^^ 
The businessmen who helped Hitler into power naively believed that they 
were only supporting a dictator, and one of their own making, who would 
naturally rule to the advantage of their own class and the disadvantage of 
all others. 

The imperialist-inspired "parties above parties" had never known how to 
profit from popular hatred of the party system as such; Germany's frus- 
trated pre-war imperialism, in spite of its dreams of continental expansion 
and its violent denunciation of the nation-state's democratic institutions, 
never reached the scope of a movement. It certainly was not sufficient to 
haughtily discard class interests, the very foundation of the nation's party 
system, for this left them less appeal than even the ordinary parties still 

^^ Such as the Kolonialverein, the Centralverein fiir Handelsgeographie, the Flot- 
tenverein, or even the Pan-German League, which however prior to the first World 
War had no connection whatsoever with big business. See Wertheimer, op. cit., p. 73. 
Typical of this "above parties" of the bourgeoisie were of course the Nationalliberalen; 
see note 74. 


enjoyed. What they conspicuously lacked, despite all high-sounding na- 
tionalist phrases, was a real nationalist or other ideology. After the first 
World War. when the German Pan-Germans, especially Ludendorff and 
his wife, recognized this error and tried to make up for it, they failed 
despite their remarkable ability to appeal to the most superstitious beliefs 
of the masses because they clung to an outdated nontotalitarian state wor- 
ship and could not understand that the masses' furious interest in the 
so-called "suprastate powers" {iiberstaatliche Mdchte) — i.e., the Jesuits, 
the Jews, and the Freemasons — did not spring from nation or state worship 
but, on the contrary, from envy and the desire also to become a "suprastate 
power." "^ 

The only countries where to all appearances state idolatry and nation 
worship were not yet outmoded and where nationalist slogans against the 
"suprastate" forces were still a serious concern of the people were those 
Latin-European countries like Italy and, to a lesser degree, Spain and 
Portugal, which had actually suffered a definite hindrance to their full 
national development through the power of the Church. It was partly due 
to this authentic element of belated national development and partly to 
the wisdom of the Church, which very sagely recognized that Fascism was 
neither anti-Christian nor totalitarian in principle and only established a 
separation of Church and State which already existed in other countries, 
that the initial anticlerical flavor of Fascist nationalism subsided rather 
quickly and gave way to a modus vivendi as in Italy, or to a positive al- 
liance, as in Spain and Portugal. 

Mussolini's interpretation of the corporate state idea was an attempt to 
overcome the notorious national dangers in a class-ridden society with a 
new integrated social organization"^ and to solve the antagonism between 
state and society, on which the nation-state had rested, by the incorpora- 
tion of the society into the state.""' The Fascist movement, a "party above 
parties," because it claimed to represent the interest of the nation as a 
whole, seized the state machine, identified itself with the highest national 

"^ Erich Ludendorff, Die iiberstaatUchen Miichte im letzten Jahre des Weltkrieges, 
Leipzig, 1927. See also Feldherrnworte. 1938. 2 vols.; I, 43, 55; II, 80. 

"* The main purpose of the corporate state was "that of correcting and neutralizing 
a condition brought about by the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century which 
dissociated capital and labor in industry, giving rise on the one hand to a capitalist 
class of employers of labor and on the other to a great propertyless class, the industrial 
proletariat. The juxtaposition of these classes inevitably led to the clash of their 
opposing interests" (The Fascist Era, published by the Fascist Confederation of In- 
dustrialists, Rome, 1939, Chapter iii). 

"■"If the State is truly to represent the nation, then the people composing the 
nation must be part of the State. 

"How is this to be secured? 

"The Fascist answer is by organizing the people in groups according to their re- 
spective activities, groups which through their leaders . . . rise by stages as in a 
pyrarnid. at the base of which are the masses and at the apex the State. 

"No group outside the State, no group against the State, all groups within the 
Mate . . . which ... is the nation itself rendered articulate." (Ibid.) 


authority, and tried to make the whole people "part of the state." It did 
not, however, think itself "above the state," and its leaders did not conceive 
of themselves as "above the nation."^'' As regards the Fascists, their 
movement had come to an end with the seizure of power, at least with 
respect to domestic policies; the movement could now maintain its motion 
only in matters of foreign policy, in the sense of imperialist expansion and 
typically imperialist adventures. Even before the seizure of power, the 
Nazis clearly kept aloof from this Fascist form of dictatorship, in which 
the "movement" merely serves to bring the party to power, and con- 
sciously used the party "to drive on the movement," which, contrary to 
the party, must not have any "definite, closely determined goals. "^^ 

The difference^ fcptwppn th? Fns'"i''t nn^ th*^ totfi'jta rian moveme nts is 
best illustrated by their attitude toward the army, thatis, toward the na- 
tional institution par excellence. In contrast to the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, 
who destroyed the spirit of the army by subordinating it to the political 
commissars or totalitarian elite formations, the Fascists could use such 
intensely nationalist instruments as the army, with which they identified 
themselves as they had identified themselves with the state. They wanted 
a Fascist state and a Fascist army, but still an army and a state; only in 
Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia army and state became subordinated 
functions of the movement. The Fascist dictator — but neither Hitler nor 
Stalin — was the only true usurper in the sense of classical political theory, 
and his one-party rule was in a sense the only one still intimately coimected 
with the multiparty system. He carried out what the imperialist-minded 
leagues, societies, and "parties above parties" had aimed at, so that it is 
particularly Italian Fascism that has become the only example of a modern 
mass movement organized within the framework of an existing state, 
inspired solely by extreme nationalism, and which transformed the people 
permanently into such Staatsbiirger or patriotes as the nation-state had 
mobilized only in times of emergency and union sacree.^^ 

There are no movements without hatred o f t he state, a nd this was virtu- 
ally unknown to the German Pan-Germans in tlie relative stability of pre- 
war Germany. The movements originated in Austria-Hungary, where 
hatred of the state was an expression of patriotism for the oppressed 
nationalities and where the parties — with the exception of the Social Demo- 

^^ For the relationship between party and state in totaUtarian countries and especially 
the incorporation of the Fascist party into the state of Italy, see Franz Neumann, 
Behemoth, 1942, chapter 1. 

^"^ See the extremely interesting presentation of the relationship between party and 
movement in the "Dienstvorschrift fiir die Parteiorganisation der NSDAP," 1932, 
p. II ff., and the presentation by Werner Best in Die deutsche Polizei, 1941, p. 107, 
which has the same orientation: "It is the task of the Party ... to hold the move- 
ment together and give it support and direction." 

'"'Mussolini, in his speech of November 14, 1933, defends his one-party rule with 
arguments current in all nation-states during a war: A single political party is needed 
so "that political discipline may exist . . . and that the bond of a common fate may 
unite everyone above contrasting interests" (Benito Mussolini, Four Speeches on the 
Corporate State, Rome, 1935). 


Lfaiic Party (next to the Christian-Social Party the only one sincerely loyal 
to Austria')— were formed alonj: national, and not along class lines. This 
•A-as possible because economic and national interests were almost iden- 
tical here and because economic and social status depended largely on 
nationality; nationalism, therefore, which had been a unifying force in the 
nation-states, here became at once a principle of internal disruption, which 
resulted in a decisive ditTerence in the structure of the parties as com- 
pared with those of nation-states. What held together the members of the 
parties in multinational Austria-Hungary was not a particular interest, 
as in the other Continental party systems, or a particular principle for 
organized action as in the Anglo-Saxon, but chiefly the sentiment of be- 
longing to the same nationality. Strictly speaking, this should have been 
and was a great weakness in the Austrian parties, because no definite goals 
or programs could be deduced from the sentiment of tribal belonging. 
The pan-movements made a virtue of this shortcoming by transforming 
parties into movements and by discovering that form of organization which, 
in contrast to all others, would never need a goal or program but could 
change its policy from day to day without harm to its membership. Long 
before Nazism proudly pronounced that though it had a program it did 
not need one. Pan-Germanism discovered how much more important for 
mass appeal a general mood was than laid-down outlines and platforms. 
For the only thing that counts in a movement is precisely that it keeps 
itself in constant movement."" The Nazis, therefore, used to refer to the 
fourteen years of the Weimar Republic as the "time of the System" — 
Sysicmzcii — the implication being that this time was sterile, lacked dyna- 
mism, did not "move." and was followed by their "era of the movement." 
The state, even as a one-party dictatorship, was felt to be in the way of 
the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing movement. There was no more 
characteristic difference between the imperialist "above party group" of 
the Pan-German League in Germany itself and the Pan-German movement 
in Austria than their attitudes toward the state: ^°" while the "party above 
parties" wanted only to seize the state machine, the true movement aimed 
at its destruction; while the former still recognized the state as highest 
authority once its representation had fallen into the hands of the members 
of one party (as in Mussolini's Italy), the latter recognized the movement 
as independent of and superior in authority to the state. 

The pan-movements' hostility to the party system acquired practical 
significance when, after the first World War, the party system ceased to be 

""The following anecdote recorded by Berdyaev is noteworthy: "A Soviet young 
man went lo France . . . [and] was asked what impression France left upon him. 
He answered: There is no freedom in this country.' . . . The young man expounded 
his idea of freedom: . . The so-called [French] freedom was of the kind which 
leaves cverylhmt; unchanged; every day was like its predecessors; ... and so the 
young man who came from Russia was bored in France" {op. cit.. pp. 182-183). 

'""The Austrian state hostility sometimes occurred also among German Pan- 
Germans, especially if these were Aiislamlscleiitsche. like Moeller van den Bruck. 


a working device and the class system of European society broke down 
under the weight of growing masses entirely declassed by events. What 
came to the fore then were no longer mere pan-movements but their totali- 
tarian successors, which in a few years determined the politics of all other 
parties to such a degree that they became either anti-Fascist or anti- 
Bolshevik or both.'"^ By this negative approach seemingly forced upon them 
from the outside, the older parties showed clearly that they too were no 
longer able to function as representatives of specific class interests but 
had become mere defenders of the status quo. The speed with which the 
German and Austrian Pan-Germans rallied to Nazism has a parallel in 
the much slower and more complicated course through which Pan-Slavs 
finally found out that the liquidation of Lenin's Russian Revolution had 
been thorough enough to make it possible for them to support Stalin 
wholeheartedly. That Bolshevism and Nazism at the height of their power 
outgrew mere tribal nationalism and had little use for those who were 
still actually convinced of it in principle, rather than as mere propaganda 
material, was neither the Pan-Germans' nor the Pan-Slavs' fault and hardly 
checked their enthusiasm. 

The decay of the Continental party system went hand in hand with a 
decline of the prestige of the nation-state. National homogeneity was 
severely disturbed by migrations and France, the nation par excellence, 
became in a matter of years utterly dependent on foreign labor; a restrictive 
immigration policy, inadequate to new needs, was still truly "national," 
but made it all the more obvious that the nation-state was no longer capable 
of facing the major political issues of the time.^**- Even more serious was 
the ill-fated effort of the peace treaties of 1919 to introduce national state 
organizations into Eastern and Southern Europe where the state people 
frequently had only a relative majority and were outnumbered by the 
combined "minorities." This new situation would have been sufficient in 
itself to undermine seriously the class basis of the party system; every- 
where parties were now organized along national lines as though the 
liquidation of the Dual Monarchy had served only to enable a host of 
similar experiments to start on a dwarfed scale. ^"^ In other countries, where 
the nation-state and the class basis of its parties were not touched by mi- 
grations and heterogeneity of population, inflation and unemployment caused 
a similar breakdown; and it is obvious that the more rigid the country's 

'°' Hitler described the situation correctly when he said during the elections of 
1932: "Against National Socialism there are only negative majorities in Germany" 
(quoted from Konrad Heiden, Der Fiihrer, 1944, p. 564). 

'°^ At the outbreak of the second World War, at least 10 per cent of France's pop- 
ulation was foreign and not naturalized. Her mines in the north were chiefly worked 
by Poles and Belgians, her agriculture in the south by Spaniards and Italians. See 
Carr-Saunders, World Population. Oxford, 1936, pp. 145-158. 

'°^ "Since 1918 none of the [succession states] has produced ... a party which 
might embrace more than one race, one religion, one social class or one region. The 
only exception is the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia" {Encyclopedia of the 
Social Sciences, loc. cit.). 


cloM system, the more class-conscious its people had been, the more 
dramatic and dangerous was this breakdown. 

This was the situation between the two wars when evejy movement had 
a greater chanc e than any ^ irty because the movement attacked the instiTtl^ 
TiOfl ol the stale and did not apf>eal to classes. Fascism and Nazism always 
boasted that their hatred was directed not against individual classes, but 
the class system as such, which they denounced as an invention of Marxism. 
Even more significant was the fact that the Communists also, notwithstand- 
ing their Marxist ideology, had to abandon the rigidity of their class appeal 
when, after 1935, under the pretext of enlarging their mass base, they 
formed Popular Fronts everywhere and began to appeal to the same grow- 
mg masses outside all class strata which up to then had been the natural 
prey to Fascist movements. Jsirtna f ^ f th^ r,\(\ p prt^es ^was pr ppare<i - to r e c e i v fe— 
these masses, nor did they gauge correctly the growing importance of their 
8umTvrs~Trnd the growing political influence of their leaders. This error in 
judgment by the older parties can be explained by the fact that their secure 
position in Parliament and safe representation in the offices and institutions 
of the state made them feel much closer to the sources of power than to 
the masses; they thought the state would remain forever the undisputed 
master of all instruments of violence, and that the army, that supreme insti- 
tution of the nation-state, would remain the decisive element in all domestic 
crises. They therefore felt free to ridicule the numerous paramilitary forma- 
tions which had sprung up without any officially recognized help. For the 
weaker the party system grew under the pressure of movements outside 
of Parliament and classes, the more rapidly all former antagonism of the 
parties to the state disappeared. The parties, laboring under the illusion 
of a "state above parties," misinterpreted this harmony as a source of 
strength, as a wondrous relationship to something of a higher order. But the 
state was as threatened as the party system by the pressure of revolutionary 
movements, and it could no longer afford to keep its lofty and necessarily 
unpopular position above internal domestic strife. The army had long since 
ceased to be a reliable bulwark against revolutionary unrest, not because 
it was in sympathy with the revolution but because it had lost its position. 
Twice in modern times, and both times in France, the nation par excellence, 
the army had already proved its essential unwillingness or incapacity to 
help those in power or to seize power by itself: in 1850, when it permitted 
the mob of the "Society of December 10" to carry Napoleon III to power,i"^ 
and again at the end of the nineteenth century, during the Dreyfus Affair, 
when nothing would have been easier than the establishment of a military 
dictatorship. The,jiciilj:alit^ ^f the army, its willingness to serve every 
master, eventually left thTltSTe m a position of "mediation between the 
organized party interests. It was no longer above but between the classes 
of society." "'■• In other words, the state and the parties together defended 

'"* See Karl Marx, op. cit. 
'"'Carl Schmitt. op. cit., p. 31. 


the status quo without reaHzing that this very alliance served as much as 
anything else to change the status quo. 

The break down of the European party syste m occurred in a spectacular 
wa'y with Hitler's rise to power. It is now otten conveniently forgotten 
that at the moment of the outbreak of the second World War, the majority 
of European countries had already adopted some form of dictatorship and 
discarded the party system, and that this revolutionary change in govern- 
ment had been effected in most countries without revolutionary upheaval. 
Revolutionary action more often than not was a theatrical concession to 
the desires of violently discontented masses rather than an actual battle for 
power. After all, it did not make much difference if a few thousand almost 
unarmed people staged a march on Rome and took over the government 
in Italy, or whether in Poland (in 1934) a so-called "partyless bloc," 
with a program of support for a semifascist government and a membership 
drawn from the nobility and the poorest peasantry, workers and business- 
men, Catholics and orthodox Jews, legally won two-thirds of the seats in 

In France, Hitler's rise to power, accompanied by a growth of Com- 
munism and Fascism, quickly cancelled the other parties' original relation- 
ships to each other and changed time-honored party lines overnight. The 
French Right, up to then strongly anti-German and pro-war, after 1933 
became the vanguard of pacifism and understanding with Germany. The 
Left switched with equal speed from pacifism at any price to a firm stand 
against Germany and was soon accused of being a party of warmongers 
by the same parties which only a few years before had denounced its 
pacifism as national treachery. ^'^'^ The years that followed Hitler's rise to 
power proved even more disastrous to the integrity of the French party 
system. In the Munich crisis each party, from Right to Left, split internally 
on the only relevant political issue: who was for, who was against war with 
Germany.*"^ Each party harbored a peace faction and a war faction; none 
of them could remain united on major political decisions and none stood 
the test of Fascism and Nazism without splitting into anti-Fascist on one 
side, Nazi fellow-travelers on the other. That Hitler could choose freely 
from all parties for the erection of puppet regimes was the consequence of 
this pre-war situation, and not of an especially shrewd Nazi maneuver. 
There was not a single party in Europe that did not produce collaborators. 

Against the disintegration of the older parties stood the clear-cut unity 
of the Fascist and Communist movements everywhere — the former, outside 
of Germany and Italy, loyally advocating peace even at the price of foreign 
domination, and the latter for a long while preaching war even at the price 

""'Vaclav Fiala, "Les Partis politiques polonais," in Monde Slave, Fevrier, 1935. 

'"■^ See the careful analysis by Charles A. Micaud, The French Right and Nazi 
Germany. 1933-1939. 1943. 

"^^ The most famous instance was the split in the French socialist party in 1938 
when Blum's faction remained in a minority against Deal's pro-Munich group during 
the party Congress of the Seine Department. 


of national ruin. The point, however, is not so much that the extreme Right 
even. Av here had abandoned its traditional nationalism in favor of Hitler's 
Kuropc and that the extreme Left had forgotten its traditional pacifism in 
favor of old nationalist slogans, but rather that both movements could 
count on the loyalty of a membership and leadership which would not be 
disturbed by a sudden switch in policy. This was dramatically exposed in 
the Cierman-Russian nonaggression pact, when the Nazis had to drop their 
chief slogan against Bolshevism and the Communists had to return to a 
pacifism which they always had denounced as petty-bourgeois. Such sudden 
turns did not hurt them in the least. It is still well remembered how strong 
the Communists remained after their second volte-face less than two years 
later when the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, and this in 
spite of the fact that both political lines had involved the rank and file in 
serious and dangerous political activities which demanded real sacrifices 
and constant action. 

Different in appearance but much more violent in reality was the break- 
down of the party system in pre-Hitler Germany. This came into the open 
during the last presidential elections in 1932 when entirely new and com- 
plicated forms of mass propaganda were adopted by all parties. 

The choice of candidates was itself peculiar. While it was a matter of 
.ourse that the two movements, which stood outside of and fought the 
parliamentary system from opposite sides, would present their own candi- 
dates (Hitler for the Nazis, and Thiilmann for the Communists), it was 
rather surprising to see that all other parties could suddenly agree upon 
one candidate. That this candidate happened to be old Hindenburg who 
enjoyed the matchless popularity which, since the time of MacMahon, 
awaits the defeated general at home, was not just a joke; it showed how 
much the old parties wanted merely to identify themselves with the old- 
time state, the state above the parties whose most potent symbol had been 
the national army, to what an extent, in other words, they had already given 
up the party system itself. For in the face of the movements, the differences 
between the parties had indeed become quite meaningless; the existence of 
all of them was at stake and consequently they banded together and hoped 
to maintain a status quo that guaranteed their existence. Hindenbur:g..became 
t{?e symbol oM he nation-state and the part y system, while Hitler and^al- 
_IIiann _£omnctccl with each ot.^er to becom EIiriir Imih ^^ymhnlj^ tT^7~j^;^P 

As significant as the choice of candidates were the electoraT^osterSTi^one 
of them praised its candidate for his own merits; the posters for Hinden- 
burg claimed merely that "a vote for Thiilmann is a vote for Hitler"— 
warning the workers not to waste their votes on a candidate sure to be 
beaten (Thiilmann) and thus put Hitler in the saddle. This was how the 
Social Democrats reconciled themselves to Hindenburg., who was not even 
mentioned. The parties of the Right played the same game and emphasized 
that "a vote for Hitler is a vote for Thalmann." Both, in addition, alluded 
quite clearly to the instances in which the Nazis and Communists had made 
common cause, in order to convince aU loyal party members, whether 


Right or Left, that the preservation of the status quo demanded Hindenburg. 

In contrast to the propaganda for Hindenburg that appealed to those 
who wanted the status quo at any price — and in 1932 that meant unemploy- 
ment for almost half the German people — the candidates of the movements 
had to reckon with those who wanted change at any price (even at the price 
of destruction of all legal institutions), and these were at least as numerous 
as the ever-growing millions of unemployed and their families. The Nazis 
therefore did not wince at the absurdity that "a vote for Thalmann is a 
vote for Hindenburg," the Communists did not hesitate to reply that "a 
vote for Hitler is a vote for Hindenburg," both threatening their voters 
with the menace of the status quo in exactly the same way their opponents 
had threatened their members with the specter of the revolution. 

Behind the curious uniformity of method used by the supporters of all the 
candidates lay the tacit assumption that the electorate would go to the polls 
because it was frightened — afraid of the Communists, afraid of the Nazis, 
or afraid of the status quo. In this general fear all class divisions disappeared 
from the political scene; while the party alliance for the defense of the status 
quo blurred the older class structure maintained in the separate parties, 
the rank and file of the movements was completely heterogeneous and as 
dynamic and fluctuating as unemployment itself. ^^•* While within the frame- 
work of the national institutions the parliamentary Left had joined the 
parliamentary Right, the two movements were busy organizing together the 
famous transportation strike on the streets of Berlin in November, 1932. 

When one considers the extraordinarily rapid decline of the Continental 
party system, one should bear in mind the very short life span of the whole 
institution. It existed nowhere before the nineteenth century, and in most 
European countries the formation of political parties took place only after 
1848, so that its reign as an unchallenged institution in national politics 
lasted hardly four decades. During the last two decades of the nineteenth 
century, all the significant political developments in France, as well as in 
Austria-Hungary, already took place outside of and in opposition to parlia- 
mentary parties, while everywhere smaller imperialist "parties above parties" 
challenged the institution for the sake of popular support for an aggressive, 
expansionist foreign policy. 

While the imperialist leagues set themselves above parties for the sake 
of identification with the nation-state, the pan-movements attacked these 
same parties as part and parcel of a general system which included the 
nation-state; they were not so much "above parties" as "above the state" 
for the sake of a direct identification with the people. The totalitarian 

'°® The German socialist party underwent a typical change from the beginning of 
the century to 1933. Prior to the first World War only 10 per cent of its members did 
not belong to the working class whereas about 25 per cent of its votes came from the 
middle classes. In 1930, however, only 60 per cent of its members were workers and 
at least 40 per cent of its votes were middle-class votes. See Sigmund Neumann, op. 
cit., pp. 28 ff. 


movements eventually were led to discard the people also, whom, how- 
ever, following closely in the footsteps of the pan-movements they used 
for propaganda purposes. The "totalitarian state" is a state in appearance 
only, and the movement no longer truly identifies itself even with the 
needs of the people. Thr Mnvt^pienthynow is above state and peoplg^ 
ready to sacrifice both for the sake"ori tsjaeolo^IL"The Movement ... is 
StaTiT as wL 'tt us P c up Te^ and neither the present state . . . nor the present 
German people can even be conceived without the Movement.""** 

Nothing proves better the irreparable decay of the party system than the 
great efforts after this war to revive it on the Continent, their pitiful results, 
the enhanced appeal of movements after the defeat of Nazism, and the 
obvious threat of Bolshevism to national independence. The result of all 
efforts to restore the status quo has been only the restoration of a political 
situation in which the destructive movements are the only "parties" that 
function properly. Their leadership has maintained authority under the 
most trying circumstances and in spite of constantly changing party lines. 
In order to gauge correctly the chances for survival of the European nation- 
state, it would be wise not to pay too much attention to nationalist slogans 
which the movements occasionally adopt for purposes of hiding their 
true intentions, but rather to consider that by now everybody knows that 
they are regional branches of international organizations, that the rank 
and file is not disturbed in the least when it becomes obvious that their 
policy serves foreign-policy interests of another and even hostile power, 
and that denunciations of their leaders as fifth columnists, traitors to the 
country, etc., do not impress their members to any considerable degree. In 
contrast to the old parties, the movements have survived the last war and 
are today the only "parties" which have remained alive and meaningful 
to their adherents. 

""Schmilt, op. cit. 

CHAPTER nine: Thc Decliiie of the Nation- 
State and the End of the Rights of Man 

IT IS ALMOST impossible even now to describe what actually happened 
in Europe on August 4, 1914. The days before and the days after the 
first World War are separated not like the end of an old and the beginning 
of a new period, but like the day before and the day after an explosion. Yet 
this figure of speech is as inaccurate as are all others, because the quiet of 
sorrow which settles down after a catastrophe has never come to pass. The 
first explosion seems to have touched off a chain reaction in which we have 
been caught ever since and which nobody seems to be able to stop. The 
first World War exploded the European comity of nations beyond repair, 
something which no other war had ever done. Inflation destroyed the whole 
class of small property owners beyond hope for recovery or new formation, 
something which no monetary crisis had ever done so radically before. 
Unemployment, when it came, reached fabulous proportions, was no longer 
restricted to the working class but seized with insignificant exceptions whole 
nations. Civil wars which ushered in and spread over the twenty years of 
uneasy peace were not only bloodier and more cruel than all their prede- 
cessors; they were followed by migrations of groups who, unlike their 
happier predecessors in the religious wars, were welcomed nowhere and 
could be assimilated nowhere. Once they had left their homeland they 
remained homeless, once they had left their state they became stateless; 
once they had been deprived of their human rights they were rightless, the 
scum of the earth. Nothing which was being done, no matter how stupid, 
no matter how many people knew and foretold the consequences, could be 
undone or prevented. Every event had the finality of a last judgment, a 
judgment that was passed neither by God nor by the devil, but looked 
rather like the expression of some unredeemably stupid fatality. 

Before totalitarian politics consciously attacked and partially destroyed 
the very structure of European civilization, the explosion of 1914 and its 
severe consequences of instability had sufficiently shattered the facade of 
Europe's political system to lay bare its hidden frame. Such visible exposures 
were the sufferings of more and more groups of people to whom suddenly 
the rules of the world around them had ceased to apply. It was precisely 
the seeming stability of the surrounding world that made each group forced 
out of its protective boundaries look like an unfortunate exception to 


.in Otherwise sane and normal rule, and which filled with equal cynicism 
victims and observers of an apparently unjust and abnormal fate. Both 
rnisiixik this cynicism for growing wisdom in the ways of the world, while 
.ictuaily they were more baffled and therefore became more stupid than 
they ever had been before. Hatred, certainly not lacking in the pre-war 
world, began to play a central role in public affairs everywhere, so that the 
[x>litical scene in the deceptively quiet years of the twenties assumed the 
sordid and weird atmosphere of a Strindbergian family quarrel. Nothing 
perhaps illustrates the general disintegration of political life better than 
this vague, pervasive hatred of everybody and everything, without a focus 
for its passionate attention, with nobody to make responsible for the state 
of affairs — neither the government nor the bourgeoisie nor an outside 
power. It consequently turned in all directions, haphazardly and unpre- 
dictably, incapable of assuming an air of healthy indifference toward 
anything under the sun. 

This atmosphere of disintegration, though characteristic of the whole of 
F-urope between the two wars, was more visible in the defeated than in the 
victorious countries, and it developed fully in the states newly established 
after the liquidation of the Dual Monarchy and the Czarist Empire. The 
last remnants of solidarity between the nonemancipated nationalities in 
the "belt of mixed populations" evaporated with the disappearance of a 
central despotic bureaucracy which had also served to gather together and 
divert from each other the diffuse hatreds and conflicting national claims. 
Now everybody was against everybody else, and most of all against his 
closest neighbors — the Slovaks against the Czechs, the Croats against the 
Serbs, the Ukrainians against the Poles. And this was not the result of the 
conflict between nationalities and the state peoples (or minorities and 
majorities); the Slovaks not only constantly sabotaged the democratic 
Czech government in Prague, but at the same time persecuted the Hun- 
garian minority on their own soil, while a similar hostility against the state 
people on one hand, and among themselves on the other, existed among 
the dissatisfied minorities in Poland. 

At first glance these troubles in the old European trouble spot looked 
like petty nationalist quarrels without any consequence for the political 
destinies of Europe. Yet in these regions and out of the liquidation of the 
two multinational states of pre-war Europe, Russia and Austria-Hungary, 
two victim groups emerged whose sufferings were different from those of 
all others in the era between the wars; they were worse off than the dispos- 
sessed middle classes, the unemployed, the small rentiers, the pensioners 
whom events had deprived of social status, the possibility to work, and 
the right to hold property: they had lost those rights which had been 
thought of and even defined as inalienable, namely the Rights of Man. The 
stateless and the minorities, rightly termed "cousins-germane," ^ had no 

. ' .^^..^•. Lawford Childs. "Refugees— a Permanent Problem in International Organ- 
'"k.°u J1 t' !' ""' '"^'''"'f''^- Problems of Peace. 13th Series, London, 1938, 
published by the International Labor Office. 


governments to represent and to protect them and therefore were forced 
to Hve either under the law of exception of the Minority Treaties, which 
all governments (except Czechoslovakia) had signed under protest and 
never recognized as law, or under conditions of absolute lawlessness. 

With the emergence of the minorities in Eastern and Southern Europe 
and with the stateless people driven into Central and Western Europe, a 
completely new element of disintegration was introduced into postwar 
Europe. Denationalization became a powerful weapon of totalitarian politics, 
and the constitutional inability of European nation-states to guarantee human 
rights to those who had lost nationally guaranteed rights, made it possible 
for the persecuting governments to impose their standard of values even 
upon their opponents. Those whom the persecutor had singled out as 
scum of the earth — Jews, Trotskyites, etc. — actually were received as scum 
of the earth everywhere; those whom persecution had called undesirable 
became the indesirables of Europe. The official SS newspaper, the Schwarze 
Korps, stated explicitly in 1938 that if the world was not yet convinced 
that the Jews were the scum of the earth, it soon would be when unidenti- 
fiable beggars, without nationality, without money, and without passports 
crossed their frontiers.- And it is true that this kind of factual propaganda 
worked better than Goebbels' rhetoric, not only because it established the 
Jews as scum of the earth, but also because the incredible plight of an 
ever-growing group of innocent people was like a practical demonstration 
of the totalitarian movements' cynical claims that no such thing as inalien- 
able human rights existed and that the affirmations of the democracies to 
the contrary were mere prejudice, hypocrisy, and cowardice in the face of 
the cruel majesty of a new world. The very phrase "human rights" became 
for all concerned — victims, persecutors, and onlookers alike — the evidence 
of hopeless idealism or fumbling feeble-minded hypocrisy. 

i: The "Nation of Minorities" and the Stateless People 

MODERN POWER CONDITIONS which make national sovereignty a mockery 
except for giant states, the rise of imperialism, and the pan-movements un- 

- The early persecution of German Jews by the Nazis must be considered as an 
attempt to spread antisemitism among "those peoples who are friendlily disposed to 
Jews, above all the Western democracies" rather than as an effort to get rid of the 
Jews. A circular letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all German authorities 
abroad shortly after the November pogroms of 1938, stated: "The emigration move- 
ment of only about 100,000 Jews has already sufficed to awaken the interest of many 
countries in the Jewish danger. . . . Germany is very interested in maintaining the 
dispersal of Jewry . . . the influx of Jews in all parts of the world invokes the op- 
position of the native population and thereby forms the best propaganda for the 
German Jewish policy. . . . The poorer and therefore more burdensome the im- 
migrating Jew is to the country absorbing him, the stronger the country will react." 
See Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Washington, 1946, published by the U. S. Gov- 
ernment, VI, 87 ff. 


dcrniined the stability of Europe's nation-state system from the outside. 
None of these factors, however, had sprung directly from the tradition and 
the institutions of nation-states themselves. Their internal disintegration 
began only after the first World War, with the appearance of minorities 
created by the Peace Treaties and of a constantly growing refugee move- 
ment, the consequence of revolutions. 

The inadequacy of the Peace Treaties has often been explained by the 
fact that the peacemakers belonged to a generation formed by experiences 
in the pre-war era. so that they never quite realized the full impact of the 
war whose peace they had to conclude. There is no better proof of this than 
their attempt to regulate the nationality problem in Eastern and Southern 
Europe through the establishment of nation-states and the introduction of 
minority treaties. If the wisdom of the extension of a form of government 
which even in countries with old and settled national tradition could not 
handle the new problems of world politics had become questionable, it was 
even more doubtful whether it could be imported into an area which lacked 
the very conditions for the rise of nation-states: homogeneity of population 
and rootedness in the soil. But to assume that nation-states could be estab- 
lished by the methods of the Peace Treaties was simply preposterous. 
Indeed: "One glance at the demographic map of Europe should be suffi- 
cient to show that the nation-state principle cannot be introduced into 
Eastern Europe."^ The Treaties lumped together many peoples in single 
states, called some of them "state people" and entrusted them with the 
government, silently assumed that others (such as the Slovaks in Czecho- 
slovakia, or the Croats and Slovenes in Yugoslavia) were equal partners 
in the government, which of course they were not/ and with equal arbi- 
trariness created out of the remnant a third group of nationalities called 
"minorities," thereby adding to the many burdens of the new states the 
trouble of observing special regulations for part of the population.^ The 
result was that those peoples to whom states were not conceded, no matter 
whether they were official minorities or only nationalities, considered the 
Treaties an arbitrary game which handed out rule to some and servitude 
to others. The newly created states, on the other hand, which were prom- 
ised equal status in national sovereignty with the Western nations, regarded 
the Minority Treaties as an open breach of promise and discrimination 

' Kurt Tramples, "Voikerbund und Volkerfreiheit," in Siiddeutsche Monatshefte, 26. 
Jahrpang. Juli 1929. 

' The struggle of the Slovaks against the "Czech" government in Prague ended with 
the Hitler-supported independence of Slovakia; the Yugoslav constitution of 1921 was 
"accepted" in Parliament against the votes of all Croat and Slovene representatives. 
Kor a good summary of Yugoslav history between the two wars, see Propylaen 
WeUgeschkhte. Dos Zeitalter des Imperialismus. 1933, Band 10, 471 flF. 

• Mussolini was quite right when he wrote after the Munich crisis: "If Czecho- 
slovakia finds herself today in what might be called a 'delicate situation,' it is because 
she was not iust Czechoslovakia, but Czech-Germano-Polono-Magyaro-Rutheno- 
Rumano-Slovakia. . . ." (Quoted from Hubert Ripka, Mimich: Before and After, 
1 ondon. 1939, p. 1 17.) 


because only new states, and not even defeated Germany, were bound to 

The perplexing power vacuum resulting from the dissolution of the Dual 
Monarchy and the liberation of Poland and the Baltic countries from Czar- 
ist despotism was not the only factor that had tempted the statesmen into 
this disastrous experiment. Much stronger was the impossibility of arguing 
away any longer the more than 100 million Europeans who had never 
reached the stage of national freedom and self-determination to which co- 
lonial peoples already aspired and which was being held out to them. It was 
indeed true that the role of the Western and Central European proletariat, 
the oppressed history-suffering group whose emancipation was a matter of 
life and death for the whole European social system, was played in the East 
by "peoples without a history."*' The national liberation movements of the 
East were revolutionary in much the same way as the workers' movements 
in the West; both represented the "unhistorical" strata of Europe's popula- 
tion and both strove to secure recognition and participation in public affairs. 
Since the object was to conserve the European status quo, the granting of 
national self-determination and sovereignty to all European peoples seemed 
indeed inevitable; the alternative would have been to condemn them ruth- 
lessly to the status of colonial peoples (something the pan-movements had 
always proposed) and to introduce colonial methods into European affairs. '^ 

The point, of course, is that the European status quo could not be pre- 
served and that it became clear only after the downfall of the last rem- 
nants of European autocracy that Europe had been ruled by a system which 
had never taken into account or responded to the needs of at least 25 per 
cent of her population. This evil, however, was not cured with the estab- 
lishment of the succession states, because about 30 per cent of their roughly 
100 million inhabitants were officially recognized as exceptions who had 
to be specially protected by minority treaties. This figure, moreover, by no 

° This term was first coined by Otto Bauer, Die Nationalitiitenfrage unci die oster- 
reichische Sozialdemokratie, Vienna, 1907. 

Historical consciousness played a great role in the formation of national conscious- 
ness. The emancipation of nations from dynastic rule and the overlordship of an inter- 
national aristocracy was accompanied by the emancipation of literature from the "in- 
ternational" language of the learned (Latin first and later French) and the growth 
of national languages out of the popular vernacular. It seemed that peoples whose 
language was fit for literature had reached national maturity per definitionem. The 
liberation movements of Eastern European nationalities, therefore, started with a 
kind of philological revival (the results were sometimes grotesque and sometimes 
very fruitful) whose political function it was to prove that the people who possessed 
a literature and a history of their own, had the right to national sovereignty. 

^ Of course this was not always a clear-cut ahernative. So far nobody has bothered 
to find out the characteristic similarities between colonial and minority exploitation. 
Only Jacob Robinson, "Staatsbiirgerliche und wirtschaftliche Gleichberechtigung" in 
Siiddeutsche Monatshefte, 26: Jahrgang, July, 1929, remarks in passing: "A peculiar 
economic protectionism appeared, not directed against othc; countries but against cer- 
tain groups of the population. Surprisingly, certain methods of colonial exploitation 
could be observed in Central Europe." 


means tells the whole story; it only indicates the difference between peoples 
with a government of their own and those who supposedly were too small 
and tiK) scattered to reach full nationhood. The Minority Treaties covered 
only those nationalities of whom there were considerable numbers in at 
least two of the succession states, but omitted from consideration all the 
other nationalities without a government of their own, so that in some 
of the succession states the nationally frustrated peoples constituted 50 per 
cent of the total population.^ The worst factor in this situation was not 
even that it became a matter of course for the nationalities to be disloyal 
to their imposed government and for the governments to oppress their 
nationalities as etViciently as possible, but that the nationally frustrated 
population was firmly convinced — as was everybody else — that true free- 
dom, true emancipation, and true popular sovereignty could be attained 
only with full national emancipation, that people without their own national 
government were deprived of human rights. In this conviction, which could 
base itself on the fact that the French Revolution had combined the decla- 
ration of the Rights of Man with national sovereignty, they were supported 
by the Minority Treaties themselves, which did not entrust the governments 
with the protection of different nationalities but charged the League of 
Nations with the safeguarding of the rights of those who, for reasons of 
territorial settlement, had been left without national states of their own. 
Not that the minorities would trust the League of Nations any more 
than they had trusted the state peoples. The League, after all, was com- 
posed of national statesmen whose sympathies could not but be with the 
unhappy new governments which were hampered and opposed on principle 
by between 25 and 50 per cent of their inhabitants. Therefore the creators 
of the Minority Treaties were soon forced to interpret their real intentions 
more strictly and to point out the "duties" the minorities owed to the new 
stales;" it now developed that the Treaties had been conceived merely as a 
painless and humane method of assimilation, an interpretation which 
naturally enraged the minorities.^" But nothing else could have been ex- 

" It has been estimated that prior to 1914 there were about 100 million people whose 
national aspirations had not been fulfilled. (See Charles Kingsley Webster, "Minori- 
ties: History," in Encyclopedia BritannUa, 1929.) The population of minorities was 
estimated approximately between 25 and 30 millions. (P. de Azcarate, "Minorities: 
League of Nations." ihid.). The actual situation in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia was 
much worse. In the former, the Czech "state people" constituted, with 7,200.000, 
about 50 per cent of the population, and in the latter 5,000,000 Serbs formed only 42 
per cent of the total. See W. Winkler, Statistisches Handhuch der eiiropdischen Na- 
lit>nahi,iicn. Vienna. 1931; Otto Junghann, National Minorities in Europe, 1932. 
Shphtly dilTerent figures are given by Tramples, op. cit. 

' P. dc Azcarate. op. cit.: "The Treaties contain no stipulations regarding the 'duties' 
of minorities towards the States of which they are a part. The Third Ordinary As- 
sembly of the League, however, in 1922. . . . adopted . . . resolutions regarding the 
duties of minorities. . ..." & & 

n • "^^'^•J^u*^"''^ ''"'* '^^ ^"^'""^ delegates were most outspoken in this respect. Said 
h!!!"l I ^^^^P^o^i^'"'' at which we should aim is not the disappearance of the minorities. 
but a kind of assimilation " And Sir Austen Chamberlain. British representative, 


pected within a system of sovereign nation-states; if the Minority Treaties 
had been intended to be more than a temporary remedy for a topsy-turvy 
situation, then their impHed restriction on national sovereignty would have 
affected the national sovereignty of the older European powers. The repre- 
sentatives of the great nations knew only too well that minorities within 
nation-states must sooner or later be either assimilated or hquidated. And 
it did not matter whether they were moved by humanitarian considerations 
to protect splinter nationalities from persecution, or whether political con- 
siderations led them to oppose bilateral treaties between the concerned 
states and the majority countries of the minorities (after all, the Germans 
were the strongest of all the officially recognized minorities, both in num- 
bers and economic position); they were neither willing nor able to overthrow 
the laws by which nation-states exist. *^ 

Neither the League of Nations nor the Minority Treaties would have 
prevented the newly established states from more or less forcefully assimi- 
lating their minorities. The strongest factor against assimilation was the 
numerical and cultural weakness of the so-called state peoples. The Russian 
or the Jewish minority in Poland did not feel Polish culture to be superior 
to its own and neither was particularly impressed by the fact that Poles 
formed roughly 60 per cent of Poland's population. 

The embittered nationalities, completely disregarding the League of Na- 
tions, soon decided to take matters into their own hands. They banded to- 
gether in a minority congress which was remarkable in more than one 
respect. It contradicted the very idea behind the League treaties by calling 
itself officially the "Congress of Organized National Groups in European 
States," thereby nullifying the great labor spent during the peace negotiations 
to avoid the ominous word "national."^- This had the important conse- 
quence that all "nationalities," and not just "minorities," would join and 
that the number of the "nation of minorities" grew so considerably that 

even claimed that "the object of the Minority Treaties [is] ... to secure . . . that 
measure of protection and justice which would gradually prepare them to be merged 
in the national community to which they belonged" (C. A. Macartney, National States 
and National Minorities, London, 1934, pp. 276, 277). 

" It is true that some Czech statesmen, the most liberal and democratic of the lead- 
ers of national movements, once dreamed of making the Czechoslovak republic a kind 
of Switzerland. The reason why even Benes never serious attempted to effectuate such 
a solution to his harassing nationality problems was that Switzerland was not a model 
that could be imitated, but rather a particularly fortunate exception that proved an 
otherwise established rule. The newly established states did not feel secure enough to 
abandon a centralized state apparatus and could not create overnight those small self- 
administrative bodies of communes and cantons upon whose very extensive powers the 
Swiss system of federation is based. 

'^Wilson notably, who had been a fervent advocate of granting "racial, religious, 
and linguistic rights to the minorities," "feared that 'national rights' would prove harm- 
ful inasmuch as minority groups thus marked as separate corporate bodies would be 
rendered thereby 'liable to jealousy and attack'" (Oscar J. Janowsky, The Jews and 
Minority Rights, New York, 1933, p. 351). Macartney, op. cit., p. 4, describes the 
situation and the "prudent work of the Joint Foreign Committee" that labored to 
avoid the term "national." 


the combined nationalities in the succession states outnumbered the state 
peoples. But in still another way the "Congress of National Groups" dealt 
a decisive blow to the League treaties. One of the most baffling aspects of 
the Eastern European nationality problem (more baffling than the small 
size and great number of peoples involved, or the "belt of mixed popula- 
tions"'*) was the interregional character of the nationalities which, in case 
they put their national interests above the interests of their respective gov- 
ernments, made them an obvious risk to the security of their countries." 
The League treaties had attempted to ignore the interregional character of 
the minorities by concluding a separate treaty with each country, as though 
there were no Jewish or German minority beyond the borders of the re- 
spective states. The "Congress of National Groups" not only sidestepped 
the territorial principle of the League; it was naturally dominated by the 
two nationalities which were represented in all succession states and were 
therefore in a position, if they wished, to make their weight felt all over 
Eastern and Southern Europe. These two groups were the Germans and 
the Jews. The German minorities in Rumania and Czechoslovakia voted of 
course with the German minorities in Poland and Hungary, and nobody 
could have expected the Polish Jews, for instance, to remain indiflferent to 
discriminatory practices of the Rumanian government. In other words, 
national interests and not common interests of minorities as such formed 
the true basis of membership in the Congress, '•"' and only the harmonious 
relationship between the Jews and the Germans (the Weimar Republic had 
successfully played the role of special protector of minorities) kept it to- 
gether. Therefore, in 1933 when the Jewish delegation demanded a protest 
against the treatment of Jews in the Third Reich (a move which they had 
no right to make, strictly speaking, because German Jews were no minority) 
and the Germans announced their solidarity with Germany and were sup- 
ported by a majority (antisemitism was ripe in all succession states), the 
Congress, after the Jewish delegation had left forever, sank into complete 

The real significance of the Minority Treaties lies not in their practical 
application but in the fact that they were guaranteed by an international 
body, the League of Nations. Minorities had existed before,i« but the 

"The term is Macartney's, op. cit., passim. 

'* "The result of the Peace settlement was that every State in the belt of mixed popu- 
lation . . now looked upon itself as a national state. But the facts were against them. 
... Not one of these states was in fact uni-national, just as there was not, on the 
other hand, one nation all of whose members lived in a single state" (Macartney, op. 
lit., p. 210). ' '^ 

'In 1933 the chairman of the Congress expressly emphasized: "One thing is cer- 
lajn: we do not meet in our congresses merely as members of abstract minorities; 
each of us belongs body and soul to a specific people, his own, and feels himself tied 
to the fate of that people for better or worse. Consequently, each of us stands here, if 
I may say %o as a full-blooded German or full-blooded Jew, as a full-blooded Hun- 
garian or full-blooded Ukrainian." See Sitzungshericht cles Kongresses der organisierten 
nattonalen Gruppen in den Siaaten Eiiropas. 1933. p. 8. 

'•The first minorities arose when the Protestant principle of freedom of conscience 


minority as a permanent institution, the recognition that milHons of people 
lived outside normal legal protection and needed an additional guarantee of 
their elementary rights from an outside body, and the assumption that this 
state of affairs was not temporary but that the Treaties were needed in order 
to establish a lasting modus vivendi — all this was something new, certainly 
on such a scale, in European history. The Minority Treaties said in plain 
language what until then had been only implied in the working system of 
nation-states, namely, that only nationals could be citizens, only people of 
the same national origin could enjoy the full protection of legal institutions, 
that persons of different nationality needed some law of exception until 
or unless they were completely assimilated and divorced from their origin. 
The interpretative speeches on the League treaties by statesmen of coun- 
tries without minority obligations spoke an even plainer language: they 
took it for granted that the law of a country could not be responsible for 
persons insisting on a different nationality.^^ They thereby admitted — ^and 
were quickly given the opportunity to prove it practically with the rise of 
stateless people — that the transformation of the state from an instrument 
of the law into an instrument of the nation had been completed; the nation 
had conquered the state, national interest had priority over law long be- 
fore Hitler could pronounce "right is what is good for the German people." 
Here again the language of the mob was only the language of public opinion 
cleansed of hypocrisy and restraint. 

Certainly the danger of this development had been inherent in the struc- 
ture of the nation-state since the beginning. But insofar as the establishment 
of nation-states coincided with the establishment of constitutional govern- 
ment, they always had represented and been based upon the rule of law as 
against the rule of arbitrary administration and despotism. So that when the 
precarious balance between nation and state, between national interest and 
legal institutions broke down, the disintegration of this form of government 
and of organization of peoples came about with terrifying swiftness. Its 
disintegration, curiously enough, started at precisely the moment when the 
right to national self-determination was recognized for all of Europe and 
when its essential conviction, the supremacy of the will of the nation over 
all legal and "abstract" institutions, was universally accepted. 

accomplished the suppression of the principle cuius regio eius religio. The Congress of 
Vienna in 1815 had already taken steps to secure certain rights to the Polish populations 
in Russia, Prussia, and Austria, rights that certainly were not merely "religious"; it is, 
however, characteristic that all later treaties — the protocol guaranteeing the inde- 
pendence of Greece in 1830, the one guaranteeing the independence of Moldavia and 
Wallachia in 1856, and the Congress of Berlin in 1878 concerned with Rumania — 
speak of "religious," and not "national" minorities, which were granted "civil" but 
not "political" rights. 

'^ De Melio Franco, representative of Brazil on the Council of the League of Na- 
tions, put the problem very clearly: "It seems to me obvious that those who con- 
ceived this system of protection did not dream of creating within certain States a group 
of inhabitants who would regard themselves as permanently foreign to the general or- 
ganization of the country" (Macartney, op. cit., p. 277). 


At the time of the Minority Treaties it could be, and was, argued in 
their favor, as i( were as their excuse, that the older nations enjoyed consti- 
tutions which unplicitly or explicitly (as in the case of France, the nation 
IHtr t-xcfllt-nir) were founded upon the Rights of Man, that even if there 
were other nationalities within their borders they needed no additional law 
for them, and that only in the newly established succession states was a 
temporary enforcement of human rights necessary as a compromise and 
exception."* The arrival of the stateless people brought an end to this illusion. 

The minorities were only half stateless; de jure they belonged to some 
ptilitical body even though they needed additional protection in the form of 
special treaties and guarantees; some secondary rights, such as speaking 
one's own language and staying in one's own cultural and social milieu, 
were in jeopardy and were halfheartedly protected by an outside body; 
but other more elementary rights, such as the right to residence and to 
work, were never touched. The framers of the Minority Treaties did not 
foresee the possibility of wholesale population transfers or the problem of 
people who had become "undeportable" because there was no country on 
earth in which they enjoyed the right to residence. The minorities could 
still be regarded as an exceptional phenomenon, peculiar to certain terri- 
tories that deviated from the norm. This argument was always tempting 
because it left the system itself untouched; it has in a way survived the 
second World War whose peacemakers, convinced of the impracticability 
of minority treaties, began to "repatriate" nationalities as much as possible 
in an ctTort to unscramble "the belt of mixed populations."^^ And this at- 
tempted large-scale repatriation was not the direct result of the catastrophic 
experiences following in the wake of the Minority Treaties; rather, it was 
hoped that such a step would finally solve a problem which, in the pre- 
ceding decades, had assumed ever larger proportions and for which an 
internationally recognized and accepted procedure simply did not exist — 
the problem of the stateless people. 

Much more stubborn in fact and much more far-reaching in consequence 

'""The regime for the prelection of minorities was designed to provide a remedy 
in cases where a territorial settlement was inevitably imperfect from the point of view 
of nationality" (Joseph Roucek. The Minority Principle us a Problem of Political 
Sciencf. Prague. 1928. p. 29). The trouble was that imperfection of territorial settle- 
ment was the fault not only in the minority settlements but in the establishment of the 
succession states themselves, since there was no territory in this region to which several 
nationalities could not lay claim. 

'"An almost symbolic evidence of this change of mind can be found in statements 
of President Eduard Benes of Czecho.slovakia, the only country that after the first 
World War had submitted with good grace to the obligations of the Minority Treaties. 
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II Benes began to lend his support to the 
principle of transfer of populations, which finally led to the expulsion of the German 
minority and the addition of another category to the growing mass of Displaced Per- 
sons. I-or Benes stand, see Oscar I. Janowsky, Nationalities and National Minorities. 
New York, 1945. pp. 136 ff. 


has been statelessness, the newest mass phenomenon in contemporary his- 
tory, and the existence of an ever-growing new people comprised of stateless 
persons, the most symptomatic group in contemporary politics.^" Their ex- 
istence can hardly be blamed on one factor alone, but if we consider the 
different groups among the stateless it appears that every political event 
since the end of the first World War inevitably added a new category to 
those who lived outside the pale of the law, while none of the categories, no 
matter how the original constellation changed, could ever be renormalized.^^ 
Among them, we still find that oldest group of stateless people, the 
Heimatlosen produced by the Peace Treaties of 1919, the dissolution of 
Austria-Hungary, and the establishment of the Baltic states. Sometimes their 
real origin could not be determined, especially if at the end of the war they 
happened not to reside in the city of their birth, 2- sometimes their place of 

^° "The problem of statelessness became prominent after the Great War. Before the 
war, provisions existed in some countries, notably in the United States, under which 
naturalization could be revoked in those cases in which the naturalized person ceased 
to maintain a genuine attachment to his adopted country. A person so denaturalized 
became stateless. During the war, the principal European States found it necessary to 
amend their laws of nationality so as to take power to cancel naturalization" (John 
Hope Simpson, The Refugee Problem, Institute of International Affairs, Oxford, 1939, 
p. 231). The class of stateless persons created through revocation of naturalization was 
very small; they established, however, an easy precedent so that, in the interwar period, 
naturalized citizens were as a rule the first section of a population that became state- 
less. Mass cancellation of naturalizations, such as the one introduced by Nazi Germany 
in 1933 against all naturalized Germans of Jewish origin, usually preceded denationali- 
zation of citizens by birth in similar categories, and the introduction of laws that made 
denaturalization possible through simple decree, like the ones in Belgium and other 
Western democracies in the thirties, usually preceded actual mass denaturalization; a 
good instance is the practice of the Greek government with respect to the Armenian 
refugees: of 45,000 Armenian refugees 1,000 were naturalized between 1923 and 1928. 
After 1928, a law which would have naturalized all refugees under twenty-two years 
of age was suspended, and in 1936, all naturalizations were canceled by the govern- 
ment. (See Simpson, op. cit., p. 41.) 

^' Twenty-five years after the Soviet regime had disowned one and a half million 
Russians, it was estimated that at least 350,000 to 450,000 were still stateless — which 
is a tremendous percentage if one considers that a whole generation had passed since 
the initial flight, that a considerable portion had gone overseas, and that another large 
part had acquired citizenship in different countries through marriage. (See Simpson, 
op. cit., p. 559; Eugene M. Kulischer, The Displacement of Population in Europe, 
Montreal, 1943; Winifred N. Hadsel, "Can Europe's Refugees Find New Homes?" in 
Foreign Policy Reports, August, 1943, Vol. X, no. 10.) 

It is true that the United States has placed stateless immigrants on a footing of com- 
plete equality with other foreigners, but this has been possible only because this, the 
country par excellence of immigration, has always considered newcomers as pros- 
pective citizens of its own, regardless of their former national allegiances. 

^^ The American Friends Service Bulletin (General Relief Bulletin, March, 1943) 
prints the perplexed report of one of their field workers in Spain who had been con- 
fronted with the problem of "a man who was born in Berlin, Germany, but who is of 
Polish origin because of his Polish parents and who is therefore . . . Apatride, but is 
claiming Ukrainian nationality and has been claimed by the Russian government for 
repatriation and service in the Red Army." 


origin changed hands so many times in the turmoil of postwar disputes 
that the nationality of its inhabitants changed from year to year (as in Vilna 
which a French official once termed la capitale des apatrides); more often 
than one would imagine, people took refuge in statelessness after the first 
World War in order to remain where they were and avoid being deported 
to a "homeland" where they would be strangers (as in the case of many 
Polish and Rumanian Jews in France and Germany, mercifully helped by 
the antiscmitic attitude of their respective consulates). 

Unimportant in himself, apparently just a legal freak, the apatride 
received belated attention and consideration when he was joined in his 
legal status by the postwar refugees who had been forced out of their coun- 
tries by revolutions, and were promptly denationalized by the victorious 
governments at home. To this group belong, in chronological order, mil- 
lions of Russians, hundreds of thousands of Armenians, thousands of Hun- 
garians, hundreds of thousands of Germans, and more than half a million 
Spaniards — to enumerate only the more important categories. The behavior 
of these governments may appear today to be the natural consequence of 
civil war; but at the time mass denationalizations were something entirely 
new and unforeseen. They presupposed a state structure which, if it was 
not yet fully totalitarian, at least would not tolerate any opposition and 
would rather lose its citizens than harbor people with different views. They 
revealed, moreover, what had been hidden throughout the history of na- 
tional sovereignty, that sovereignties of neighboring countries could come 
into deadly conflict not only in the extreme case of war but in peace. It now 
became clear that full national sovereignty was possible only as long as the 
comity of European nations existed; for it was this spirit of unorganized 
solidarity and agreement that prevented any government's exercise of its 
full sovereign power. Theoretically, in the sphere of international law, it 
had always been true that sovereignty is nowhere more absolute than in 
matters of "emigration, naturalization, nationality, and expulsion"; ^3 the 
point, however, is that practical consideration and the silent acknowledg- 
ment of common interests restrained national sovereignty until the rise of 
totalitarian regimes. One is almost tempted to measure the degree of totali- 
tarian infection by the extent to which the concerned governments use 
their sovereign right of denationalization (and it would be quite interesting 
then to discover that Mussolini's Italy was rather reluctant to treat its 
refugees this way^^). But one should bear in mind at the same time that 
there was hardly a country left on the Continent that did not pass between 
the two wars some new legislation which, even if it did not use this right 

- ' Lawrence Preuss, "La Denationalisation imposee pour des motifs politiques," in 
Revue Internationale Fran(;aise dii Droit des Gens, 1937, Vol. IV, Nos. 1, 2, 5. 

^^ An Italian law of 1926 against "abusive emigration" seemed to foreshadow de- 
naturalization measures against anti-Fascist refugees; however, after 1929 the de- 
naturalization policy was abandoned and Fascist organizations abroad were intro- 
duced. Of the 40,000 members of the Unione Popolare Italiana in France, at least 
10,000 were authentic anti-Fascist refugees, but only 3,000 were without passports. 
See Simpson, op. cit., pp. 122 ff. 


extensively, was always phrased to allow for getting rid of a great number 
of its inhabitants at any opportune moment.'^''' 

No paradox of contemporary politics is filled with a more poignant irony 
than the discrepancy between the efforts of well-meaning idealists who 
stubbornly insist on regarding as "inalienable" those human rights, which 
are enjoyed only by citizens of the most prosperous and civilized countries, 
and the situation of the rightless themselves. Their situation has deteriorated 
just as stubbornly, until the internment camp — prior to the second World 
War the exception rather than the rule for the stateless — has become the 
routine solution for the problem of domicile of the "displaced persons." 

Even the terminology applied to the stateless has deteriorated. The term 
"stateless" at least acknowledged the fact that these persons had lost the 
protection of their government and required international agreements for 
safeguarding their legal status. The postwar term "displaced persons" was 
invented during the war for the express purpose of liquidating stateless- 
ness once and for all by ignoring its existence. Nonrecognition of stateless- 
ness always means repatriation, i.e., deportation to a country of origin, 
which either refuses to recognize the prospective repatriate as a citizen, 
or, on the contrary, urgently wants him back for punishment. Since non- 
totalitarian countries, in spite of their bad intentions inspired by the climate 
of war, generally have shied away from mass repatriations, the number 
of stateless people — twelve years after the end of the war — is larger than 
ever. The decision of the statesmen to solve the problem of statelessness 
by ignoring it is further revealed by the lack of any reliable statistics on 
the subject. This much is known, however: while there are one million 
"recognized" stateless, there are more than ten million so-called "de facto" 
stateless; and whereas the relatively innocuous problem of the "de jure" 
stateless occasionally comes up at international conferences, the core of state- 
lessness, which is identical with the refugee question, is simply not men- 
tioned. Worse still, the number of potentially stateless people is con- 
tinually on the increase. Prior to the last war, only totalitarian or half- 
totalitarian dictatorships resorted to the weapon of denaturalization with 

^° The first law of this type was a French war measure in 1915 which concerned 
only naturalized citizens of enemy origin who had retained their original nationality; 
Portugal went much farther in a decree of 1916 which automatically denaturalized 
all persons born of a German father. Belgium issued a law in 1922 which canceled 
naturalization of persons who had committed antinationa! acts during the war, and 
reaffirmed it by a new decree in 1934 which in the characteristically vague manner 
of the time spoke of persons "manquant gravement a letirs devoirs de citoyen beige." 
In Italy, since 1926, all persons could be denaturalized who were not" "worthy of 
Italian citizenship" or a menace to the public order. Egypt and Turkey in 1926 and 
1928 respectively issued laws according to which people could be denaturalized who 
were a threat to the social order. France threatened with denaturalization those of its 
new citizens who committed acts contrary to the interests of France (1927). Austria 
in 1933 could deprive of Austrian nationality any of her citizens who served or par- 
ticipated abroad in an action hostile to Austria. Germany, finally, in 1933 followed 
closely the various Russian nationality decrees since 1921 by stating that all persons 
"residing abroad" could at will be deprived of German nationality. 


regard lo those who were citizens by birth; now we have reached the point 
where even free democracies, as, for instance, the United States, were 
seriously considering depriving native Americans who are Communists 
of their citizenship. The sinister aspect of these measures is that they are 
being considered in all innocence. Yet, one need only remember the ex- 
treme care of the Nazis, who insisted that all Jews of non-German nationality 
"should be deprived of their citizenship either prior to, or, at the latest, 
on the day of deportation"-^" (for German Jews such a decree was not 
needed, because in the Third Reich there existed a law according to which 
all Jews who had left the territory — including, of course, those deported to 
a Polish camp — automatically lost their citizenship) in order to realize 
the true implications of statelessness. 

The first great damage done to the nation-states as a result of the arrival 
of hundreds of thousands of stateless people was that the right of asylum, 
the only right that had ever figured as a symbol of the Rights of Man in 
the sphere of international relationships, was being abolished. Its long 
and sacred history dates back to the very beginnings of regulated political 
life. Since ancient times it has protected both the refugee and the land of 
refuge from situations in which people were forced to become outlaws 
through circumstances beyond their control. It was the only modern rem- 
nant of the medieval principle that quid quid est in territorio est de terri- 
loriu, for in all other cases the modern state tended to protect its citizens 
beyond its own borders and to make sure, by means of reciprocal treaties, 
that they remained subject to the laws of their country. But though the 
right of asylum continued to function in a world organized into nation- 
states and. in individual instances, even survived both World Wars, it was 
felt to be an anachronism and in conflict with the international rights of the 
slate. Therefore it cannot be found in written law, in no constitution or 
international agreement, and the Covenant of the League of Nations never 
even so much as mentioned it.^" It shares, in this respect, the fate of the 
Rights of Man, which also never became law but led a somewhat shadowy 

^ -The quotation is taken from an order of Hauptsturmfuhrer Dannecker, dated 
March 10. 1943, and referring to the "deportation of 5,000 Jews from France, quota 
1942." The document (photostat in the Centre de Documentation Juive in Paris) is 
part of the Nuremberfi Documents No. RF 1216. Identical arrangements were made 
for the Bulgarian Jews. Cf. ibidem the relevant memorandum by L. R. Wagner, dated 
April 3. 1943, Document NG 4180. 

'"S. I.awford Childs (op. cit.) deplores the fact that the Covenant of the League 
contained "no charter for political refugees, no solace for exiles." The most recent 
attempt of the United Nations to obtain, at least for a small group of stateless— the 
so-called "Je jure stateless"— an improvement of their legal status was no more than 
a mere gesture: namely, to gather the representatives of at least twenty states, but 
with the explicit assurance that participation in such a conference would entail no 
obligations whatsoever. Even under these circumstances it remained extremely doubtful 
whether the conference could be called. See the news item in the New York Times. 


existence as an appeal in individual exceptional cases for which normal 
legal institutions did not suffice.^^ 

The second great shock that the European world suffered through the 
arrival of the refugees ^^ was the realization that it was impossible to get 
rid of them or transform them into nationals of the country of refuge. From 
the beginning everybody had agreed that there were only two ways to solve 
the problem: repatriation or naturalization.-^ When the example of the first 
Russian and Armenian waves proved that neither way gave any tangible 
results, the countries of refuge simply refused to recognize statelessness in 
all later arrivals, thereby making the situation of the refugees even more 
intolerable.^" From the point of view of the governments concerned it was 
understandable enough that they should keep reminding the League of 
Nations "that [its] Refugee work must be liquidated with the utmost ra- 
pidity";^' they had many reasons to fear that those who had been ejected 

^'' The only guardians of the right of asylum were the few societies whose special 
aim was the protection of human rights. The most important of them, the French- 
sponsored Ligue des Droits de I'Homme with branches in all democratic European 
countries, behaved as though the question were still merely the saving of individuals 
persecuted for their political convictions and activities. This assumption, pointless 
already in the case of millions of Russian refugees, became simply absurd for Jews 
and Armenians. The Ligue was neither ideologically nor administratively equipped to 
handle the new problems. Since it did not want to face the new situation, it stumbled 
into functions which were much better fulfilled by any of the many charity agencies 
which the refugees had built up themselves with the help of their compatriots. When 
the Rights of Man became the object of an especially inefficient charity organization, 
the concept of human rights naturally was discredited a little more. 

^*^ The many and varied efforts of the legal profession to simplify the problem by 
stating a difference between the stateless person and the refugee — such as maintaining 
"that the status of a stateless person is characterized by the fact of his having no nation- 
ality, whereas that of a refugee is determined by his having lost diplomatic protection" 
(Simpson, op. cit., p. 232) — were always defeated by the fact that "all refugees are for 
practical purposes stateless" (Simpson, op. cit., p. 4). 

^" The most ironical formulation of this general expectation was made by R. Yewdall 
Jermings, "Some International Aspects of the Refugee Question" in British Yearbook 
of International Law, 1939: "The status of a refugee is not, of course, a permanent 
one. The aim is that he should rid himself of that status as soon as possible, either by 
repatriation or by naturalization in the country of refuge." 

^° Only the Russians, in every respect the aristocracy of the stateless people, and the 
Armenians, who were assimilated to the Russian status, were ever officially recognized 
as "stateless," placed under the protection of the League of Nations' Nansen Office, 
and given traveling papers. 

^' Childs, op. cit. The reason for this desperate attempt at promptness was the fear 
of all governments that even the smallest positive gesture "might encourage countries 
to get rid of their unwanted people and that many might emigrate who would otherwise 
remain in their countries even under serious disabilities" (Louise W. Holborn, "The 
Legal Status of Political Refugees, 1920-38," in American Journal of International Law. 

See also Georges Mauco (in Esprit, 7e annee. No. 82, July, 1939, p. 590): "An 
assimilation of the German refugees to the status of other refugees who were taken 
care of by the Nansen office would naturally have been the simplest and best solution 



from the old trinity of state-people-territory, which still formed the basis 
of E:uropcan organization and political civilization, formed only the begin- 
ning of an increasing movement, were only the first trickle from an ever- 
growing reservoir. It was obvious, and even the Evian Conference recog- 
nized it in 1938, that all German and Austrian Jews were potentially 
stateless; and it was only natural that the minority countries should be 
encouraged by Germany's example to try to use the same methods for 
getting rid of some of their minority populations.'^-' Among the minorities 
the Jews and the Armenians ran the greatest risks and soon showed the 
highest proportion of statelessness; but they proved also that minority 
treaties did not necessarily offer protection but could also serve as an in- 
strument to single out certain groups for eventual expulsion. 

Almost as frightening as these new dangers arising from the old trouble 
spots of Europe was the entirely new kind of behavior of all European na- 
tionals in "ideological" struggles. Not only were people expelled from coun- 
try and citizenship, but more and more persons of all countries, including 
the Western democracies, volunteered to fight in civil wars abroad (some- 
thing which up to then only a few idealists or adventurers had done) even 
when this meant cutting themselves off from their national communities. 
This was the lesson of the Spanish Civil War and one of the reasons why 
the governments were so frightened by the International Brigade. Matters 
would not have been quite so bad if this had meant that people no longer 
clung so closely to their nationality and were ready eventually to be as- 
similated into another national community. But this was not at all the case. 
The stateless people had already shown a surprising stubbornness in re- 
taining their nationality; in every sense the refugees represented separate 
foreign minorities who frequently did not care to be naturalized, and they 
never banded together, as the minorities had done temporarily, to defend 
common interests.^'' The International Brigade was organized into national 

for the German refugees themselves. But the governments did not want to extend the 
privileges already granted to a new category of refugees who, moreover, threatened 
to increase their number indefinitely." 

^* To the 600,000 Jews in Germany and Austria who were potentially stateless in 
1938, must be added the Jews of Rumania (the president of the Rumanian Federal 
Commission for Minorities, Professor Dragomir, having just announced to the world 
the impending revision of the citizenship of all Rumanian Jews) and Poland (whose 
foreign minister Beck had officially declared that Poland had one million Jews too 
many). See Simpson, op. cit., p. 235. 

^^ It is difficult to decide what came first, the nation-states' reluctance to naturalize 
refugees (the practice of naturalization became increasingly restricted and the practice 
of denaturalization increasingly common with the arrival of refugees) or the refugees' 
reluctance to accept another citizenship. In countries with minority populations like 
Poland, the refugees (Russians and Ukrainians) had a definite tendency to assimilate 
to the mmonties without however demanding Polish citizenship. (See Simpson, op. cit., 
p. 364.) 

The behavior of Russian refugees is quite characteristic. The Nansen passport de- 
scribed Its bearer as "personne d'origine riisse," because "one would not have dared 
to tell the Russian emigre that he was without nationality or of doubtful nationality." 
(See Marc Vichniac, "Le Statut International des Apatrides," in Recueil des Cours de 


battalions in which the Germans felt they fought against Hitler and the Ital- 
ians against Mussolini, just as a few years later, in the Resistance, the 
Spanish refugees felt they fought against Franco when they helped the 
French against Vichy. What the European governments were so afraid of 
in this process was that the new stateless people could no longer be said 
to be of dubious or doubtful nationality (de nationalite indeterminee) . 
Even though they had renounced their citizenship, no longer had any con- 
nection with or loyalty to their country of origin, and did not identify their 
nationality with a visible, fully recognized government, they retained a 
strong attachment to their nationality. National splinter groups and minori- 
ties, without deep roots in their territory and with no loyalty or relationship 
to the state, had ceased to be characteristic only of the East. They had by 
now infiltrated, as refugees and stateless persons, the older nation-states of 
the West. 

The real trouble started as soon as the two recognized remedies, repatria- 
tion and naturalization, were tried. Repatriation measures naturally failed 
when there was no country to which these people could be deported. They 
failed not because of consideration for the stateless person (as it may ap- 
pear today when Soviet Russia claims its former citizens and the democratic 
countries must protect them from a repatriation they do not want); and 
not because of humanitarian sentiments on the part of the countries that 
were swamped with refugees; but because neither the country of origin nor 
any other agreed to accept the stateless person. It would seem that the very 
undeportability of the stateless person should have prevented a govern- 
ment's expelling him; but since the man without a state was "an anomaly 
for whom there is no appropriate niche in the framework of the general 
law"-'^ — an outlaw by definition — he was completely at the mercy of the 
police, which itself did not worry too much about committing a few illegal 
acts in order to diminish the country's burden of indesirables.^-' In other 
words, the state, insisting on its sovereign right of expulsion, was forced by 

I'Academie de Droit hitenuitioniil. Vol. XXXIII, 1933.) An attempt to provide all 
stateless persons with uniform identity cards was bitterly contested by the holders of 
Nansen passports, who claimed that their passport was "a sign of legal recognition 
of their peculiar status." (See Jermings, op. cit.) Before the outbreak of the war even 
refugees from Germany were far from eager to be merged with the mass of the state- 
less, but preferred the description "refiigie proveiuint d'Allemagne" with its remnant 
of nationality. 

More convincing than the complaints of European countries about the difficulties of 
assimilating refugees are statements from overseas which agree with the former that 
"of all classes of European immigrants the least easy to assimilate are the South, 
Eastern, and Central Europeans." (See "Canada and the Doctrine of Peaceful 
Changes," edited by H. F. Angus in International Studies Conference: Demographic 
Questions: Peaceful Changes, 1937, pp. 75-76.) 

^■^ Jermings, op. cit. 

^^ A circular letter of the Dutch authorities (May 7, 1938) expressly considered each 
refugee as an "undesirable alien," and defined a refugee as an "alien who left his 
country under the pressure of circumstances." See "L'Emigration, Probleme Revolu- 
tionnaire," in Esprit, 7e annee, No. 82, July, 1939, p. 602. 


ihc illegal nature of statelessness into admittedly illegal acts.^" It smuggled 
its expelled stateless into the neighboring countries, with the result that the 
latter retaliated in kind. The ideal solution of repatriation, to smuggle the 
refugee back into his country of origin, succeeded only in a few prominent 
instances, partly because a nontotalitarian police was still restrained by a 
few rudimentary ethical considerations, partly because the stateless person 
was as likely to be smuggled back from his home country as from any 
other, and last but not least because the whole traffic could go on only with 
neighboring countries. The consequences of this smuggling were petty wars 
between the police at the frontiers, which did not exactly contribute to good 
international relations, and an accumulation of jail sentences for the state- 
less who. with the help of the police of one country, had passed "illegally" 
into the territory of another. 

Every attempt by international conferences to establish some legal status 
for stateless people failed because no agreement could possibly replace the 
territory to which an alien, within the framework of existing law, must be 
deportable. All discussions about the refugee problems revolved around 
this one question: How can the refugee be made deportable again? The 
second World War and the DP camps were not necessary to show that the 
only practical substitute for a nonexistent homeland was an internment camp. 
Indeed, as early as the thirties this was the only "country" the world had 
to offer the stateless.^'' 

Naturalization, on the other hand, also proved to be a failure. The whole 
naturalization system of European countries fell apart when it was con- 
fronted with stateless people, and this for the same reasons that the right 
of asylum had been set aside. Essentially naturalization was an appendage 
to the nation-state's legislation that reckoned only with "nationals," people 
born in its territory and citizens by birth. Naturalization was needed in ex- 
ceptional cases, for single individuals whom circumstances might have 
driven into a foreign territory. The whole process broke down when it be- 

"'Lawrence Preuss. op. vit., describes the spread of illegality as follows: "The ini- 
tial illegal act of the denationalizing government . . . puts the expelling country in 
the position of an offender of international law, because its authorities violate the law 
of the country to which the stateless person is expelled. The latter country, in turn, 
cannot get rid of him . . . except by violating ... the law of a third country. . . . 
(The stateless person finds himself before the following alternative]: either he vio- 
lates the law of the country where he resides ... or he violates the law of the coun- 
try to which he is expelled." 

Sir John Fischer Williams ("Denationalisation," in British Year Book of International 
Law. VII. 1927) concludes from this situation that denationalization is contrary to 
international law; yet at the Conference pour la Codification du Droit International at 
the Hague in 1930. it was only the Finnish government which maintained that "loss of 
nationality . should never constitute a punishment ... nor be pronounced in 

° „■■ '°. ee' rid of an undesirable person through expulsion." 

Childs, op. cit., after having come to the sad conclusion that "the real difficulty 
about receiving a refugee is that if he turns out badly . . . there is no way of getting 
nd of him. proposed "transitional centers" to which the refugee could be returned 
pu^rjos'"'" '^^''''^' '" °'^^'' '^°'''''' '''''"''^ '■^P'^'^^ ^ homeland for deportation 


came a question of handling mass applications for naturalization:^^ even 
from the purely administrative point of view, no European civil service 
could possibly have dealt with the problem. Instead of naturalizing at least 
a small portion of the new arrivals, the countries began to cancel earlier 
naturalizations, partly because of general panic and partly because the ar- 
rival of great masses of newcomers actually changed the always precarious 
position of naturalized citizens of the same origin.'*'' Cancellation of natural- 
ization or the introduction of new laws which obviously paved the way for 
mass denaturalization^" shattered what little confidence the refugees might 
have retained in the possibility of adjusting themselves to a new normal 
life; if assimilation to the new country once looked a little shabby or dis- 
loyal, it was now simply ridiculous. The difference between a naturalized 
citizen and a stateless resident was not great enough to justify taking any 
trouble, the former being frequently deprived of important civil rights and 
threatened at any moment with the fate of the latter. Naturalized persons 
were largely assimilated to the status of ordinary aliens, and since the 
naturalized had already lost their previous citizenship, these measures simply 
threatened another considerable group with statelessness. 

It was almost pathetic to see how helpless the European governments 
were, despite their consciousness of the danger of statelessness to their estab- 
lished legal and political institutions and despite all their efforts to stem the 
tide. Explosive events were no longer necessary. Once a number of state- 
less people were admitted to an otherwise normal country, statelessness 
spread like a contagious disease. Not only were naturalized citizens in 
danger of reverting to the status of statelessness, but living conditions for 
all aliens markedly deteriorated. In the thirties it became increasingly diffi- 

^^ Two instances of mass naturalization in the Near East were clearly exceptional: 
one involved Greek refugees from Turkey whom the Greek government naturalized 
en bloc in 1922 because it was actually a matter of repatriation of a Greek minority 
and not of foreign citizens; the other benefited Armenian refugees from Turkey in 
Syria, Lebanon, and other formerly Turkish countries, that is, a population with which 
the Near East had shared common citizenship only a few years ago. 

^® Where a wave of refugees found members of their own nationality already set- 
tled in the country to which they immigrated — as was the case with the Armenians 
and Italians in France, for example, and with Jews everywhere — a certain retrogression 
set in in the assimilation of those who had been there longer. For their help and 
solidarity could be mobilized only by appealing to the original nationality they had 
in common with the newcomers. This point was of immediate interest to countries 
flooded by refugees but unable or unwilling to give them direct help or the right to 
work. In all these cases, national feelings of the older group proved to be "one of the 
main factors in the successful establishment of the refugees" (Simpson, op. cit., pp. 
45-46), but by appealing to such national conscience and solidarity, the receiving 
countries naturally increased the number of unassimilated aliens. To take one par- 
ticularly interesting instance, 10,000 Italian refugees were enough to postpone indefi- 
nitely the assimilation of almost one million Italian immigrants in France. 

'*° The French government, followed by other Western countries, introduced during 
the thirties an increasing number of restrictions for naturalized citizens: they were 
eliminated from certain professions for up to ten years after their naturalization, they 
had no political rights, etc. 



cult to distinguish clearly between stateless refugees and normal resident 
aliens. Once the government tried to use its right and repatriate a resident 
ilien against his will, he would do his utmost to find refuge in statelessness. 
During the first World War enemy aliens had already discovered the great 
advantages of statelessness. But what then had been the cunning of in- 
dividuals who found a loophole in the law had now become the instinctive 
reaction of masses. France, Europe's greatest immigrant-reception area,-*' 
because she had regulated the chaotic labor market by calling in alien 
workers in times of need and deporting them in times of unemployment 
and crisis, taught her aliens a lesson about the advantages of statelessness 
which they did not readily forget. After 1935, the year of mass repatriation 
by the Laval government from which only the stateless were saved, so-called 
"economic immigrants" and other groups of earlier origin — Balkans, 
Italians. Poles, and Spaniards — mixed with the waves of refugees into a 
tangle that never again could be unraveled. 

Much worse than what statelessness did to the time-honored and neces- 
sary distinctions between nationals and foreigners, and to the sovereign 
right of states in matters of nationality and expulsion, was the damage 
suffered by the very structure of legal national institutions when a grow- 
ing number of residents had to live outside the jurisdiction of these laws 
and without being protected by any other. The stateless person, without 
right to residence and without the right to work, had of course constantly 
to transgress the law. He was liable to jail sentences without ever com- 
mitting a crime. More than that, the entire hierarchy of values which per- 
tain in civilized countries was reversed in his case. Since he was the anomaly 
for whom the general law did not provide, it was better for him to become 
an anomaly for which it did provide, that of the criminal. 

The best criterion by which to decide whether someone has been forced 
outside the pale of the law is to ask if he would benefit by committing a 
crime. If a small burglary is likely to improve his legal position, at least 
temporarily, one may be sure he has been deprived of human rights. For 
then a criminal offense becomes the best opportunity to regain some kind 
of human equality, even if it be as a recognized exception to the norm. 
The one important fact is that this exception is provided for by law. As a 
criminal even a stateless person will not be treated worse than another 
criminal, that is, he will be treated like everybody else. Only as an offender 
against the law can he gain protection from it. As long as his trial and his 
sentence last, he will be safe from that arbitrary police rule against which 
there are no lawyers and no appeals. The same man who was in jail yes- 
terday because of his mere presence in this world, who had no rights what- 
ever and lived under threat of deportation, or who was dispatched without 
sentence and without trial to some kind of internment because he had tried 
to work and make a living, may become almost a full-fledged citizen be- 
cause of a little theft. Even if he is penniless he can now get a lawyer, com- 
plain about his jailers, and he will be listened to respectfully. He is no 

*' Simpson, op. cit.. p. 289. 


longer the scum of the earth but important enough to be informed of all 
the details of the law under which he will be tried. He has become a re- 
spectable person. ^2 

A much less reliable and much more difficult way to rise from an un- 
recognized anomaly to the status of recognized exception would be to be- 
come a genius. Just as the law knows only one difference between human 
beings, the difference between the normal noncriminal and the anomalous 
criminal, so a conformist society has recognized only one form of determined 
individualism, the genius. European bourgeois society wanted the genius to 
stay outside of human laws, to be a kind of monster whose chief social 
function was to create excitement, and it did not matter if he actually was 
an outlaw. Moreover, the loss of citizenship deprived people not only of 
protection, but also of all clearly established, officially recognized identity, 
a fact for which their eternal feverish efforts to obtain at least birth certifi- 
cates from the country that denationalized them was a very exact symbol; 
one of their problems was solved when they achieved the degree of dis- 
tinction that will rescue a man from the huge and nameless crowd. Only 
fame will eventually answer the repeated complaint of refugees of all social 
strata that "nobody here knows who I am"; and it is true that the chances 
of the famous refugee are improved just as a dog with a name has a better 
chance to survive than a stray dog who is just a dog in general.^"' 

The nation-state, incapable of providing a law for those who had lost the 
protection of a national government, transferred the whole matter to the 
police. This was the first time the police in Western Europe had received 
authority to act on its own, to rule directly over people; in one sphere of 
public life it was no longer an instrument to carry out and enforce the law, 
but had become a ruling authority independent of government and min- 
istries.^* Its strength and its emancipation from law and government grew 
in direct proportion to the influx of refugees. The greater the ratio of state- 

^- In practical terms, any sentence meted out to him will be of small consequence 
compared with an expulsion order, cancellation of a work permit, or a decree sending 
him into an internment camp. A West Coast Japanese- American who was in jail when 
the army ordered the internment of all Americans of Japanese ancestry would not 
have been forced to liquidate his property at too low a price; he would have remained 
right where he was, armed with a lawyer to look after his interests; and if he was 
so lucky as to receive a long sentence, he might have returned righteously and peace- 
fully to his former business and profession, even that of a professional thief. His jail 
sentence guaranteed him the constitutional rights that nothing else — no protests of 
loyalty and no appeals — could have obtained for him once his citizenship had become 

*^ The fact that the same principle of formation of an elite frequently worked in 
totalitarian concentration camps where the "aristocracy" was composed of a majority 
of criminals and a few "geniuses," that is entertainers and artists, shows how closely 
related the social positions of these groups are. 

** In France, for instance, it was a matter of record that an order of expulsion 
emanating from the police was much more serious than one which was issued "only" by 
the Ministry of Interior and that the Minister of Interior could only in rare cases 
cancel a police expulsion, while the opposite procedure was often merely a question of 
bribery. Constitutionally, the police is under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. 


less and potentially stateless to the population at large — in prewar France 
it had reached 10 per cent of the total — the greater the danger of a gradual 
transformation into a police state. 

It gcK-s without saying that the totalitarian regimes, where the police 
had risen to the peak of power, were especially eager to consolidate this 
power through the domination over vast groups of people, who, regardless 
of any offenses committed by individuals, found themselves anyway be- 
yond the pale of the law. In Nazi Germany, the Nuremberg Laws with their 
distinction between Reich citizens (full citizens) and nationals (second- 
class citizens without political rights) had paved the way for a development 
in which eventually all nationals of "alien blood" could lose their nation- 
ality by official decree; only the outbreak of the war prevented a corre- 
sponding legislation, which had been prepared in detail. ^*^ On the other 
hand, the increasing groups of stateless in the nontotalitarian countries 
led to a form of lawlessness, organized by the police, which practically 
resulted in a co-ordination of the free world with the legislation of the 
totalitarian countries. That concentration camps were ultimately provided 
for the same groups in all countries, even though there were considerable 
differences in the treatment of their inmates, was all the more characteristic 
as the selection of the groups was left exclusively to the initiative of the 
totalitarian regimes: if the Nazis put a person in a concentration camp 
and if he made a successful escape, say, to Holland, the Dutch would put 
him in an internment camp. Thus, long before the outbreak of the war 
the police in a number of Western countries, under the pretext of "national 
security," had on their own initiative established close connections with 
the Gestapo and the GPU, so that one might say there existed an independ- 
ent foreign policy of the police. This police-directed foreign policy func- 
tioned quite independently of the official governments; the relations between 
the Gestapo and the French police were never more cordial than at the 

^'•In February, 1938, the Reich and Prussian Ministry of Interior presented the 
"draft of a law concerning the acquisition and loss of German nationality" which went 
far beyond the Nuremberg legislation. It provided that all children of "Jews, Jews of 
mixed blood or persons of otherwise alien blood" (who could never become Reich 
citizens anyway) were also no longer entitled to the nationality, "even if the father 
possesses German nationality by birth." That these measures were no longer merely 
concerned with anti-Jewish legislation is evident from an opinion expressed July 19, 
1939 by the Minister of Justice, who suggests that "the words Jew and Jew of mixed 
b ood should If possible be avoided in the law, to be replaced by 'persons of alien 
t>lood or persons of non-German or non-Germanic [nicht artverwandt] blood.' " 
An interesting feature in planning this extraordinary expansion of the stateless popu- 
d ion in Nazi Germany concerns the foundlings, who are explicitly regarded as state- 
nrnHni ,k'." '"^""K^'.'O" °^ '^^'' '^'^'^' 'characteristics can be made." Here the 
nZnliv h. T'^ 'nd'V'dual is born with inalienable rights guaranteed by his 
siScs unt k" ^'^''^'^^^•ely reversed: every individual is born rightless. namely 
stateless, unless subsequently other conclusions are reached 

of an M;SHL''°'t,''.'TY"''"^'^' ^'"^' "^ '^'^ legislation, including the opinions 
I Yidd r Sn.?fi ?' .*^^^''"""'/'/ "''eh Command, can be found in the arcWves of 
me Yiouish ^lentitic Institute in New York (G-75). 


time of Leon Blum's popular-front government, which was guided by a 
decidedly anti-German policy. Contrary to the governments, the various 
police organizations were never overburdened with "prejudices" against any 
totalitarian regime; the information and denunciations received from GPU 
agents were just as welcome to them as those from Fascist or Gestapo 
agents. They knew about the eminent role of the police apparatus in all 
totalitarian regimes, they knew about its elevated social status and po- 
litical importance, and they never bothered to conceal their sympathies. 
That the Nazis eventually met with so disgracefully little resistance from 
the police in the countries they occupied, and that they were able to or- 
ganize terror as much as they did with the assistance of these local police 
forces, was due at least in part to the powerful position which the police 
had achieved over the years in their unrestricted and arbitrary domination 
of stateless and refugees. 

Both in the history of the "nation of minorities" and in the formation of 
a stateless people, Jews have played a significant role. They were at the head 
of the so-called minority movement because of their great need for protec- 
tion (matched only by the need of the Armenians) and their excellent inter- 
national connections, but above all because they formed a majority in no 
country and therefore could be regarded as the minorite par excellence, i.e., 
the only minority whose interests could be defended only by internationally 
guaranteed protection.^^ 

The special needs of the Jewish people were the best possible pretext 
for denying that the Treaties were a compromise between the new nations' 
tendency forcefully to assimilate alien peoples and nationalities who for 
reasons of expediency could not be granted the right to national self- 

A similar incident made the Jews prominent in the discussion of the ref- 
ugee and statelessness problem. The first Heimatlose or apatrides, as they 
were created by the Peace Treaties, were for the most part Jews who came 
from the succession states and were unable or unwilling to place themselves 
under the new minority protection of their homelands. Not until Germany 
forced German Jewry into emigration and statelessness did they form a 
very considerable portion of the stateless people. But in the years following 
Hitler's successful persecution of German Jews all the minority countries 
began to think in terms of expatriating their minorities, and it was only 
natural that they should start with the minorite par excellence, the only 
nationality that actually had no other protection than a minority system 
which by now had become a mockery. 

The notion that statelessness is primarily a Jewish problem*^ was a pre- 

■"'' On the role of the Jews in formulating the Minority Treaties, see Macartney, 
op. cit., pp. 4, 213, 281 and passim; David Erdstein, Le Statut juridique des Minorites 
en Europe, Paris, 1932, pp. 11 ff.; Oscar J. Janowsky, op. cit. 

■*" This was by no means only a notion of Nazi Germany, though only a Nazi author 
dared to express it: "It is true that a refugee question will continue to exist even 


text used by all governments who tried to settle the problem by ignoring it. 
None of the statesmen was aware that Hitler's solution of the Jewish prob- 
lem, first to reduce the German Jews to a nonrecognized minority in Ger- 
many, then to drive them as stateless people across the borders, and 
finally to gather them back from everywhere in order to ship them to 
extermination camps, was an eloquent demonstration to the rest of the 
world how really to "liquidate" all problems concerning minorities and 
stateless. After the war it turned out that the Jewish question, which was 
considered the only insoluble one, was indeed solved — namely, by means 
of a colonized and then conquered territory — but this solved neither the 
problem of the minorities nor the stateless. On the contrary, like virtually 
all other events of our century, the solution of the Jewish question merely 
produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the 
number of the stateless and rightless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people. 
And what happened in Palestine within the smallest territory and in terms 
of hundreds of thousands was then repeated in India on a large scale in- 
volving many millions of people. Since the Peace Treaties of 1919 and 
1920 the refugees and the stateless have attached themselves like a curse 
to all the newly established states on earth which were created in the 
image of the nation-state. 

For these new states this curse bears the germs of a deadly sickness. For 
the nation-state cannot exist once its principle of equality before the law 
has broken down. Without this legal equality, which originally was des- 
tined to replace the older laws and orders of the feudal society, the nation 
dissolves into an anarchic mass of over- and underprivileged individuals. 
Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something 
contradictory to the very nature of nation-states. The clearer the proof of 
their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the 
extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficuh it is for states 
to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them 
with an omnipotent police. 

II: The Perplexities of the Rights of Man 

THE DECLARATION of the Rights of Man at the end of the eighteenth century 
was a turning point in history. It meant nothing more nor less than that 
from then on Man, and not God's command or the customs of history, 
should be the source of Law. Independent of the privileges which history 
had bestowed upon certain strata of society or certain nations, the declara- 
tion indicated man's emancipation from all tutelage and announced that he 
had now come of age. 

when there is no longer a Jewish question; but since Jews form such a high percent- 
age of the refugees, the refugee question will be much simplified" (Kabermann, "Das 
mternationale Fliichtlingsproblem," in Zeitschrift fiir Politik. Bd. 29, Heft 3, 1939). 


Beyond this, there was another implication of which the framers of the 
declaration were only half aware. The proclamation of human rights was 
also meant to be a much-needed protection in the new era where individuals 
were no longer secure in the estates to which they were born or sure of 
their equality before God as Christians. In other words, in the new secu- 
larized and emancipated society, men were no longer sure of these social 
and human rights which until then had been outside the political order and 
guaranteed not by government and constitution, but by social, spiritual, and 
religious forces. Therefore throughout the nineteenth century, the consensus 
of opinion was that human rights had to be invoked whenever individuals 
needed protection against the new sovereignty of the state and the new 
arbitrariness of society. 

Since the Rights of Man were proclaimed to be "inalienable," irreducible 
to and undeducible from other rights or laws, no authority was invoked for 
their establishment; Man himself was their source as well as their ultimate 
goal. No special law, moreover, was deemed necessary to protect them be- 
cause all laws were supposed to rest upon them. Man appeared as the only 
sovereign in matters of law as the people was proclaimed the only sovereign 
in matters of government. The people's sovereignty (different from that of 
the prince) was not proclaimed by the grace of God but in the name of 
Man, so that it seemed only natural that the "inalienable" rights of man 
would find their guarantee and become an inalienable part of the right of 
the people to sovereign self-government. 

In other words, man had hardly appeared as a completely emancipated, 
completely isolated being who carried his dignity within himself without ref- 
erence to some larger encompassing order, when he disappeared again into 
a member of a people. From the beginning the paradox involved in the dec- 
laration of inalienable human rights was that it reckoned with an "abstract" 
human being who seemed to exist nowhere, for even savages lived in some 
kind of a social order. If a tribal or other "backward" community did not 
enjoy human rights, it was obviously because as a whole it had not yet 
reached that stage of civilization, the stage of popular and national sov- 
ereignty, but was oppressed by foreign or native despots. The whole ques- 
tion of human rights, therefore, was quickly and inextricably blended with 
the question of national emancipation; only the emancipated sovereignty 
of the people, of one's own people, seemed to be able to insure them. As 
mankind, since the French Revolution, was conceived in the image of a 
family of nations, it gradually became self-evident that the people, and not 
the individual, was the image of man. 

The full implication of this identification of the rights of man with the 
rights of peoples in the European nation-state system came to light only 
when a growing number of people and peoples suddenly appeared whose 
elementary rights were as little safeguarded by the ordinary functioning of 
nation-states in the middle of Europe as they would have been in the heart 
of Africa. The Rights of Man, after all, had been defined as "inalienable" 
because they were supposed to be independent of all governments; but it 


turned out that the moment human beings lacked their own government and 
had to fall back upon their minimum rights, no authority was left to protect 
them and no institution was willing to guarantee them. Or when, as in the 
case of the minorities, an international body arrogated to itself a nongovern- 
mental authority, its failure was apparent even before its measures were 
fully realized; not only were the governments more or less openly opposed 
to this encroachment on their sovereignty, but the concerned nationalities 
themselves did not recognize a nonnational guarantee, mistrusted everything 
which was not clear-cut support of their "national" (as opposed to their 
mere "linguistic, religious, and ethnic") rights, and preferred either, like the 
Germans or Hungarians, to turn to the protection of the "national" mother 
country, or, like the Jews, to some kind of interterritorial solidarity."*"^ 

The stateless people were as convinced as the minorities that loss of na- 
tional rights was identical with loss of human rights, that the former in- 
evitably entailed the latter. The more they were excluded from right in any 
form, the more they tended to look for a reintegration into a national, into 
their own national community. The Russian refugees were only the first to 
insist on their nationality and to defend themselves furiously against attempts 
to lump them together with other stateless people. Since them, not a single 
group of refugees or Displaced Persons has failed to develop a fierce, violent 
group consciousness and to clamor for rights as — and only as — Poles or 
Jews or Germans, etc. 

Even worse was that all societies formed for the protection of the Rights 
of Man, all attempts to arrive at a new bill of human rights were sponsored 
by marginal figures — by a few international jurists without political experi- 
ence or professional philanthropists supported by the uncertain sentiments 
of professional idealists. The groups they formed, the declarations they is- 
sued, showed an uncanny similarity in language and composition to that 
of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. No statesman, no po- 
litical figure of any importance could possibly take them seriously; and 
none of the liberal or radical parties in Europe thought it necessary to 
incorporate into their program a new declaration of human rights. Neither 
before nor after the second World War have the victims themselves ever 
invoked these fundamental rights, which were so evidently denied them, in 
their many attempts to find a way out of the barbed-wire labyrinth into which 
events had driven them. On the contrary, the victims shared the disdain 

" Pathetic instances of this exclusive confidence in national rights were the con- 
sent before the second World War, of nearly 75 per cent of the German minority in 
the Itahan Tyrol to leave their homes and resettle in Germany, the voluntary repatria- 
tion of a German island in Slovenia which had been there since the fourteenth century 
or. immediately after the close of the war, the unanimous rejection by Jewish refugees 
in an Italian DP camp of an offer of mass naturalization by the Italian government. 
In the face of the experience of European peoples between the two wars, it would be 
a serious mistake to interpret this behavior simply as another example of fanatic 
nationalist sentiment; these people no longer felt sure of their elementary rights if 
these were not protected by a government to which they belonged by birth. See 
Eugene M. Kulisher, op. cit. 


and indifference of the powers that be for any attempt of the marginal so- 
cieties to enforce human rights in any elementary or general sense. 

The failure of all responsible persons to meet the calamity of an ever- 
growing body of people forced to live outside the scope of all tangible law 
with the proclamation of a new bill of rights was certainly not due to ill 
will. Never before had the Rights of Man, solemnly proclaimed by the 
French and the American revolutions as the new fundament for civilized 
societies, been a practical political issue. During the nineteenth century, 
these rights had been invoked in a rather perfunctory way, to defend indi- 
viduals against the increasing power of the state and to mitigate the new 
social insecurity caused by the industrial revolution. Then the meaning of 
human rights acquired a new connotation: they became the standard slogan 
of the protectors of the underprivileged, a kind of additional law, a right 
of exception necessary for those who had nothing better to fall back upon. 

The reason why the concept of human rights was treated as a sort of 
stepchild by nineteenth-century political thought and why no liberal or 
radical party in the twentieth century, even when an urgent need for en- 
forcement of human rights arose, saw fit to include them in its program 
seems obvious: civil rights — that is the varying rights of citizens in different 
countries — were supposed to embody and spell out in the form of tangible 
laws the eternal Rights of Man, which by themselves were supposed to be 
independent of citizenship and nationality. All human beings were citizens 
of some kind of political community; if the laws of their country did not 
live up to the demands of the Rights of Man, they were expected to change 
them, by legislation in democratic countries or through revolutionary action 
in despotisms. 

The Rights of Man, supposedly inalienable, proved to be unenforceable — 
even in countries whose constitutions were based upon them — whenever 
people appeared who were no longer citizens of any sovereign state. To this 
fact, disturbing enough in itself, one must add the confusion created by the 
many recent attempts to frame a new bill of human rights, which have 
demonstrated that no one seems able to define with any assurance what these 
general human rights, as distinguished from the rights of citizens, really are. 
Although everyone seems to agree that the plight of these people consists 
precisely in their loss of the Rights of Man, no one seems to know which 
rights they lost when they lost these human rights. 

The first loss which the rightless suffered was the loss of their homes, and 
this meant the loss of the entire social texture into which they were born and 
in which they established for themselves a distinct place in the world. This 
calamity is far from unprecedented; in the long memory of history, forced 
migrations of individuals or whole groups of people for political or economic 
reasons look like everyday occurrences. What is unprecedented is not the 
loss of a home but the impossibility of finding a new one. Suddenly, there 
was no place on earth where migrants could go without the severest restric- 
tions, no country where they would be assimilated, no territory where they 
could found a new community of their own. This, moreover, had next to 


nothing to do with any material problem of overpopulation; it was a prob- 
lem not of space but of political organization. Nobody had been aware that 
mankind, for so long a time considered under the image of a family of na- 
tions, had reached the stage where whoever was thrown out of one of these 
tightly organized closed communities found himself thrown out of the family 
of nations altogether.^'* 

The second loss which the rightless suffered was the loss of government 
protection, and this did not imply just the loss of legal status in their own, 
but in all countries. Treaties of reciprocity and international agreements 
have woven a web around the earth that makes it possible for the citizen of 
every country to take his legal status with him no matter where he goes (so 
that, for instance, a German citizen under the Nazi regime might not be 
able to enter a mixed marriage abroad because of the Nuremberg laws). 
Yet. whoever is no longer caught in it finds himself out of legality altogether 
(thus during the last war stateless people were invariably in a worse position 
than enemy aliens who were still indirectly protected by their governments 
through international agreements). 

By itself the loss of government protection is no more unprecedented than 
the loss of a home. Civilized countries did offer the right of asylum to those 
who. for political reasons, had been persecuted by their governments, and 
this practice, though never officially incorporated into any constitution, has 
functioned well enough throughout the nineteenth and even in our century. 
Tlie trouble arose when it appeared that the new categories of persecuted 
were far too numerous to be handled by an unofficial practice destined for 
exceptional cases. Moreover, the majority could hardly qualify for the right 
of asylum, which implicitly presupposed political or religious convictions 
which were not outlawed in the country of refuge. The new refugees were 
persecuted not because of what they had done or thought, but because of 
what they unchangeably were — born into the wrong kind of race or the 
wrong kind of class or drafted by the wrong kind of government (as in the 
case of the Spanish Republican Army).^"' 

The more the number of rightless people increased, the greater became 
the temptation to pay less attention to the deeds of the persecuting govern- 
ments than to the status of the persecuted. And the first glaring fact was 
that these people, though persecuted under some political pretext, were no 

"The few chances for reintegration open to the new migrants were mostly based 
on their nationality: Spanish refugees, for instance, were welcomed to a certain extent 
in Mexico. The United States, in the early twenties, adopted a quota system according 
to which each nationality already represented in the country received, so to speak, the 
right to receive a number of former countrymen proportionate to its numerical part 
in the total population. 

'" How dangerous it can be to be innocent from the point of view of the perse- 
cutmg government, became very clear when, during the last war, the American gov- 
ernment offered asylum to all those German refugees who were threatened by the 
extradition paragraph in the German-French Armistice. The condition was, of course, 
that the applicant could prove that he had done something against the Nazi regime. 
The proportion of refugees from Germany who were able to fulfill this condition was 
very small, and they, strangely enough, were not the people who were most in danger. 


longer, as the persecuted had been throughout history, a liability and an 
image of shame for the persecutors; that they were not considered and 
hardly pretended to be active enemies (the few thousand Soviet chizens who 
voluntarily left Soviet Russia after the second World War and found asylum 
in democratic countries did more damage to the prestige of the Soviet Union 
than millions of refugees in the twenties who belonged to the wrong class), 
but that they were and appeared to be nothing but human beings whose very 
innocence — from every point of view, and especially that of the persecuting 
government — was their greatest misfortune. Innocence, in the sense of com- 
plete lack of responsibility, was the mark of their rightlessness as it was the 
seal of their loss of political status. 

Only in appearance therefore do the needs for a reinforcement of human 
rights touch upon the fate of the authentic political refugee. Political ref- 
ugees, of necessity few in number, still enjoy the right to asylum in many 
countries, and this right acts, in an informal way, as a genuine substitute for 
national law. 

One of the surprising aspects of our experience with stateless people who 
benefit legally from committing a crime has been the fact that it seems to 
be easier to deprive a completely innocent person of legality than someone 
who has committed an offense. Anatole France's famous quip, "If I am 
accused of stealing the towers of Notre Dame, I can only flee the country," 
has assumed a horrible reality. Jurists are so used to thinking of law in terms 
of punishment, which indeed always deprives us of certain rights, that they 
may find it even more difficult than the layman to recognize that the depriva- 
tion of legality, i.e., of all rights, no longer has a connection with specific 

This situation illustrates the many perplexities inherent in the concept of 
human rights. No matter how they have once been defined (life, liberty, and 
the pursuit of happiness, according to the American formula, or as equality 
before the law, liberty, protection of property, and national sovereignty, 
according to the French); no matter how one may attempt to improve an 
ambiguous formulation like the pursuit of happiness, or an antiquated one 
like unqualified right to property; the real situation of those whom the 
twentieth century has driven outside the pale of the law shows that these are 
rights of citizens whose loss does not entail absolute rightlessness. The sol- 
dier during the war is deprived of his right to life, the criminal of his right 
to freedom, all citizens during an emergency of their right to the pursuit of 
happiness, but nobody would ever claim that in any of these instances a 
loss of human rights has taken place. These rights, on the other hand, can 
be granted (though hardly enjoyed) even under conditions of fundamental 

The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty, 
and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of 
opinion — formulas which were designed to solve problems within given 
communities — but that they no longer belong to any community whatso- 
ever. Their plight is not that they are not equal before the law, but that no 


law exists for them; not that they are oppressed but that nobody wants even 
to oppress them. Only in the last stage of a rather lengthy process is their 
right to live threatened; only if they remain perfectly "superfluous," if no- 
btxly can be found to "claim" them, may their lives be in danger. Even the 
Nazis started their extermination of Jews by first depriving them of all legal 
status (the status of second-class citizenship) and cutting them off from the 
world of the living by herding them into ghettos and concentration camps; 
and before they set the gas chambers into motion they had carefully tested 
the ground and found out to their satisfaction that no country would claim 
these people. The point is that a condition of complete rightlessness was 
created before the right to live was challenged. 

The same is true even to an ironical extent with regard to the right of 
freedom which is sometimes considered to be the very essence of human 
rights. There is no question that those outside the pale of the law may have 
more freedom of movement than a lawfully imprisoned criminal or that 
they enjoy more freedom of opinion in the internment camps of democratic 
countries than they would in any ordinary despotism, not to mention in a 
totalitarian country."'" But neither physical safety — being fed by some state 
or private welfare agency — nor freedom of opinion changes in the least their 
fundamental situation of rightlessness. The prolongation of their lives is due 
to charity and not to right, for no law exists which could force the nations 
to feed them; their freedom of movement, if they have it at all, gives them 
no right to residence which even the jailed criminal enjoys as a matter of 
course; and their freedom of opinion is a fool's freedom, for nothing they 
think matters anyhow. 

These last points are crucial. The fundamental deprivation of human 
rights is manifested first and above all in the deprivation of a place in the 
world which makes opinions significant and actions effective. Something 
much more fundamental than freedom and justice, which are rights of cit- 
izens, is at stake when belonging to the community into which one is born 
is no longer a matter of course and not belonging no longer a matter of 
choice, or when one is placed in a situation where, unless he commits a 
crime, his treatment by others does not depend on what he does or does not 
do. This extremity, and nothing else, is the situation of people deprived of 
human rights. They are deprived, not of the right to freedom, but of the 
right to action; not of the right to think whatever they please, but of the 
right to opinion. Privileges in some cases, injustices in most, blessings and 
doom are meted out to them according to accident and without any relation 
whatsoever to what they do, did, or may do. 

We became aware of the existence of a right to have rights (and that 
means to live in a framework where one is judged by one's actions and 

•"Even under the conditions of totalitarian terror, concentration camps sometimes 

?,m^,"." 7^^ °"'y P'2" where certain remnants of freedom of thought and discussion 

JIh ^^^^r "* '^°"''^'' ^" ^''"'■•^ ''"^ ^""^ ^"'•'. Paris, 1947, passim, for 

940 n 7nn'r"°" '? ^"^henwald. and Anton Ciliga, The Russian Enigma, London, 

he Soviet ni' f 1 °^ '"^^"y-" "'^^ f'^^^«"^ °f "^'"d" that reigned in some of 

the ;>oviet places of detention. 


opinions) and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only 
when millions of people emerged who had lost and could not regain these 
rights because of the new global political situation. The trouble is that this 
calamity arose not from any lack of civilization, backwardness, or mere 
tyranny, but, on the contrary, that it could not be repaired, because there 
was no longer any "uncivilized" spot on earth, because whether we like it 
or not we have really started to live in One World. Only with a completely 
organized humanity could the loss of home and political status become 
identical with expulsion from humanity altogether. 

Before this, what we must call a "human right" today would have been 
thought of as a general characteristic of the human condition which no 
tyrant could take away. Its loss entails the loss of the relevance of speech 
(and man, since Aristotle, has been defined as a being commanding the 
power of speech and thought), and the loss of all human relationship (and 
man, again since Aristotle, has been thought of as the "political animal," 
that is one who by definition lives in a community), the loss, in other words, 
of some of the most essential characteristics of human life. This was to a 
certain extent the plight of slaves, whom Aristotle therefore did not count 
among human beings. Slavery's fundamental offense against human rights 
was not that it took liberty away (which can happen in maii.y other situa- 
tions), but that it excluded a certain category of people even from the pos- 
sibility of fighting for freedom — a fight possible under tyranny, and even 
under the desperate conditions of modern terror (but not under any condi- 
tions of concentration-camp life). Slavery's crime against humanity did not 
begin when one people defeated and enslaved its enemies (though of course 
this was bad enough), but when slavery became an institution in which 
some men were "born" free and others slave, when it was forgotten that it 
was man who had deprived his fellow-men of freedom, and when the sanc- 
tion for the crime was attributed to nature. Yet in the light of recent events 
it is possible to say that even slaves still belonged to some sort of human 
community; their labor was needed, used, and exploited, and this kept them 
within the pale of humanity. To be a slave was after all to have a distinctive 
character, a place in society — more than the abstract nakedness of being 
human and nothing but human. Not the loss of specific rights, then, but 
the loss of a community willing and able to guarantee any rights whatsoever, 
has been the calamity which has befallen ever-increasing numbers of people. 
Man, it turns out, can lose all so-called Rights of Man without losing his 
essential quality as man, his human dignity. Only the loss of a polity itself 
expels him from humanity. 

The right that corresponds to this loss and that was never even men- 
tioned among the human rights cannot be expressed in the categories of 
the eighteenth century because they presume that rights spring immediately 
from the "nature" of man — whereby it makes relatively little difference 
whether this nature is visualized in terms of the natural law or in terms of 
a being created in the image of God, whether it concerns "natural" rights or 
divine commands. The decisive factor is that these rights and the human 
dignity they bestow should remain valid and real even if only a single human 


being existed on earth; they are independent of human plurality and should 
remain valid even if a human being is expelled from the human community. 

When the Rights of Man were proclaimed for the first time, they were 
regarded as being independent of history and the privileges which history 
had accorded certain strata of society. The new independence constituted 
the newly discovered dignity of man. From the beginning, this new dignity 
was of a rather ambiguous nature. Historical rights were replaced by natural 
rights, "nature" took the place of history, and it was tacitly assumed that 
nature was less alien than history to the essence of man. The very language 
of the Declaration of Independence as well as of the Declaration des Droits 
de I'Homme — "inalienable," "given with birth," "self-evident truths" — im- 
plies the belief in a kind of human "nature" which would be subject to 
the same laws of growth as that of the individual and from which rights and 
laws could be deduced. Today we are perhaps better qualified to judge 
exactly what this human "nature" amounts to; in any event it has shown 
us potentialities that were neither recognized nor even suspected by West- 
ern philosophy and religion, which for more than three thousand years have 
defined and redefined this "nature." But it is not only the, as it were, human 
aspect of nature that has become questionable to us. Ever since man learned 
to master it to such an extent that the destruction of all organic life on 
earth with man-made instruments has become conceivable and technically 
possible, he has been alienated from nature. Ever since a deeper knowledge 
of natural processes instilled serious doubts about the existence of natural 
laws at all, nature itself has assumed a sinister aspect. How should one be 
able to deduce laws and rights from a universe which apparently knows 
neither the one nor the other category? 

Man of the twentieth century has become just as emancipated from 
nature as eighteenth-century man was from history. History and nature have 
become equally alien to us, namely, in the sense that the essence of man 
can no longer be comprehended in terms of either category. On the other 
hand, humanity, which for the eighteenth century, in Kantian terminology, 
was no more than a regulative idea, has today become an inescapable fact. 
This new situation, in which "humanity" has in effect assumed the role 
formerly ascribed to nature or history, would mean in this context that 
the right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to hu- 
manity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself. It is by no means certain 
whether this is possible. For, contrary to the best-intentioned humanitarian 
attempts to obtain new declarations of human rights from international or- 
ganizations, it should be understood that this idea transcends the present 
sphere of international law which still operates in terms of reciprocal agree- 
ments and treaties between sovereign states; and, for the time being, a 
sphere that is above the nations does not exist. Furthermore, this dilemma 
would by no means be eliminated by the establishment of a "world gov- 
ernment." Such a world government is indeed within the realm of possibility, 
but one may suspect that in reality it might differ considerably from the ver- 
sion promoted by idealistic-minded organizations. The crimes against hu- 
man rights, which have become a specialty of totalitarian regimes, can always 


be justified by the pretext that right is equivalent to being good or useful 
for the whole in distinction to its parts. (Hitler's motto that "Right is what 
is good for the German people" is only the vulgarized form of a conception 
of law which can be found everywhere and which in practice will remain 
ineffectual only so long as older traditions that are still effective in the 
constitutions prevent this.) A conception of law which identifies what is 
right with the notion of what is good for — for the individual, or the family, 
or the people, or the largest number — becomes inevitable once the absolute 
and transcendent measurements of religion or the law of nature have lost 
their authority. And this predicament is by no means solved if the unit to 
which the "good for" applies is as large as mankind itself. For it is quite 
conceivable, and even within the realm of practical political possibilities, 
that one fine day a highly organized and mechanized humanity will conclude 
quite democratically — namely by majority decision — that for humanity as 
a whole it would be better to liquidate certain parts thereof. Here, in the 
problems of factual reality, we are confronted with one of the oldest per- 
plexities of political philosophy, which could remain undetected only so 
long as a stable Christian theology provided the framework for all political 
and philosophical problems, but which long ago caused Plato to say: "Not 
man, but a god, must be the measure of all things." 

These facts and reflections offer what seems an ironical, bitter, and be- 
lated confirmation of the famous arguments with which Edmund Burke 
opposed the French Revolution's Declaration of the Rights of Man. They 
appear to buttress his assertion that human rights were an "abstraction," 
that it was much wiser to rely on an "entailed inheritance" of rights which 
one transmits to one's children like life itself, and to claim one's rights to be 
the "rights of an Englishman" rather than the inalienable rights of man.^^ 
According to Burke, the rights which we enjoy spring "from within the na- 
tion," so that neither natural law, nor divine command, nor any concept of 
mankind such as Robespierre's "human race," "the sovereign of the earth," 
are needed as a source of law.^^ 

The pragmatic soundness of Burke's concept seems to be beyond doubt in 
the light of our manifold experiences. Not only did loss of national rights in 
all instances entail the loss of human rights; the restoration of human rights, 
as the recent example of the State of Israel proves, has been achieved so 
far only through the restoration or the establishment of national rights. The 
conception of human rights, based upon the assumed existence of a human 
being as such, broke down at the very moment when those who professed 
to believe in it were for the first time confronted with people who had in- 
deed lost all other qualities and specific relationships — except that they were 
still human. The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of 
being human. And in view of objective political conditions, it is hard to say 
how the concepts of man upon which human rights are based — that he is 

^' Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, edited by E. J. 
Payne, Everyman's Library. 

■"'^Robespierre, Speeches, 1927. Speech of April 24, 1793. 


created in the image of God (in the American formula), or that he is the 
a'prcsentativc of mankind, or that he harbors within himself the sacred de- 
mands of natural law (in the French formula) — could have helped to find 
a solution to the problem. 

The survivors of the extermination camps, the inmates of concentration 
and internment camps, and even the comparatively happy stateless people 
could see without Burke's arguments that the abstract nakedness of being 
nothing but human was their greatest danger. Because of it they were re- 
garded as savages and, afraid that they might end by being considered beasts, 
they insisted on their nationality, the last sign of their former citizenship, as 
their only remaining and recognized tie with humanity. Their distrust of 
natural, their preference for national, rights comes precisely from their real- 
ization that natural rights are granted even to savages. Burke had already 
feared that natural "inalienable" rights would confirm only the "right of the 
naked savage,""''' and therefore reduce civilized nations to the status of sav- 
agery. Because only savages have nothing more to fall back upon than the 
minimum fact of their human origin, people cling to their nationality all the 
more desperately when they have lost the rights and protection that such 
nationality once gave them. Only their past with its "entailed inheritance" 
seems to attest to the fact that they still belong to the civilized world. 

If a human being loses his political status, he should, according to the 
implications of the inborn and inalienable rights of man, come under exactly 
the situation for which the declarations of such general rights provided. 
Actually the opposite is the case. It seems that a man who is nothing but a 
man has lost the very qualities which make it possible for other people to 
treat him as a fellow-man. This is one of the reasons why it is far more dif- 
ficult to destroy the legal personality of a criminal, that is of a man who has 
taken upon himself the responsibility for an act whose consequences now 
determine his fate, than of a man who has been disallowed all common hu- 
man responsibilities. 

Burke's arguments therefore gain an added significance if we look only 
at the general human condition of those who have been forced out of all 
political communities. Regardless of treatment, independent of liberties or 
oppression, justice or injustice, they have lost all those parts of the world 
and all those aspects of human existence which are the result of our common 
labor, the outcome of the human artifice. If the tragedy of savage tribes is 
that they inhabit an unchanged nature which they cannot master, yet upon 
whose abundance or frugality they depend for their livelihood, that they live 
and die without leaving any trace, without having contributed anything to a 
common world, then these rightless people are indeed thrown back into a 
peculiar state of nature. Certainly they are not barbarians; some of them, 
indeed, belong to the most educated strata of their respective countries; 
nevertheless, in a world that has almost liquidated savagery, they appear as 
the first signs of a possible regression from civilization. 

The more highly developed a civilization, the more accomplished the 
^^ Introduction by Payne to Burke, op. cit. 



world it has produced, the more at home men feel within the human artifice 
— the more they will resent everything they have not produced, everything 
that is merely and mysteriously given them. The human being who has lost 
his place in a community, his political status in the struggle of his time, and 
the legal personality which makes his actions and part of his destiny a con- 
sistent whole, is left with those qualities which usually can become articulate 
only in the sphere of private life and must remain unqualified, mere exist- 
ence in all matters of public concern. This mere existence, that is, all that 
which is mysteriously given us by birth and which includes the shape of 
our bodies and the talents of our minds, can be adequately dealt with only 
by the unpredictable hazards of friendship and sympathy, or by the great 
and incalculable grace of love, which says with Augustine, "Volo ut sis (I 
want you to be)," without being able to give any particular reason for such 
supreme and unsurpassable affirmation. 

Since the Greeks, we have known that highly developed political life 
breeds a deep-rooted suspicion of this private sphere, a deep resentment 
against the disturbing miracle contained in the fact that each of us is made 
as he is — single, unique, unchangeable. This whole sphere of the merely 
given, relegated to private life in civilized society, is a permanent threat to 
the public sphere, because the public sphere is as consistently based on the 
law of equality as the private sphere is based on the law of universal dif- 
ference and differentiation. Equality, in contrast to all that is involved in 
mere existence, is not given us, but is the result of human organization inso- 
far as it is guided by the principle of justice. We are not born equal; we 
become equal as members of a group on the strength of our decision to 
guarantee ourselves mutually equal rights. 

Our political life rests on the assumption that we can produce equality 
through organization, because man can act in and change and build a com- 
mon world, together with his equals and only with his equals. The dark 
background of mere givenness, the background formed by our unchange- 
able and unique nature, breaks into the political scene as the alien which 
in its all too obvious difference reminds us of the limitations of human 
activity — which are identical with the limitations of human equality. The 
reason why highly developed political communities, such as the ancient city- 
states or modern nation-states, so often insist on ethnic homogeneity is 
that they hope to eliminate as far as possible those natural and always pres- 
ent differences and differentiations which by themselves arouse dumb hatred, 
mistrust, and discrimination because they indicate all too clearly those 
spheres where men cannot act and change at will, i.e., the limitations of the 
human artifice. The "alien" is a frightening symbol of the fact of difference 
as such, of individuality as such, and indicates those realms in which man 
cannot change and cannot act and in which, therefore, he has a distinct 
tendency to destroy. If a Negro in a white community is considered a Negro 
and nothing else, he loses along with his right to equality that freedom of 
action which is specifically human; all his deeds are now explained as "nec- 
essary" consequences of some "Negro" qualities; he has become some speci- 



men of an animal species, called man. Much the same thing happens to 
those who have lost all distinctive political qualities and have become human 
beings and nothing else. No doubt, wherever public life and its law of 
equality are completely victorious, wherever a civilization succeeds in elim- 
inating or reducing to a minimum the dark background of difference, it 
will end in complete petrifaction and be punished, so to speak, for having 
forgotten that man is only the master, not the creator of the world. 

The great danger arising from the existence of people forced to live out- 
side the common world is that they are thrown back, in the midst of civil- 
ization, on their natural givenness, on their mere differentiation. They lack 
that tremendous equalizing of differences which comes from being citizens 
of some commonwealth and yet, since they are no longer allowed to par- 
take in the human artifice, they begin to belong to the human race in 
much the same way as animals belong to a specific animal species. The par- 
adox involved in the loss of human rights is that such loss coincides with 
the instant when a person becomes a human being in general — without a 
profession, without a citizenship, without an opinion, without a deed by 
which to identify and specify himself — and different in general, representing 
nothing but his own absolutely unique individuality which, deprived of 
expression within and action upon a common world, loses all significance. 

The danger in the existence of such people is twofold: first and more 
obviously, their ever-increasing numbers threaten our political life, our 
human artifice, the world which is the result of our common and co-ordi- 
nated effort in much the same, perhaps even more terrifying, way as the 
wild elements of nature once threatened the existence of man-made cities 
and countrysides. Deadly danger to any civilization is no longer likely to 
come from without. Nature has been mastered and no barbarians threaten to 
destroy what they cannot understand, as the Mongolians threatened Europe 
for centuries. Even the emergence of totalitarian governments is a phe- 
nomenon within, not outside, our civilization. The danger is that a global, 
universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own 
midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all ap- 
p>earances, are the conditions of savages.^* 

'■■* This modern expulsion from humanity has much more radical consequences than 
the ancient and medieval custom of outlawry. Outlawry, certainly the "most fearful 
fate which primitive law could inflict," placing the life of the outlawed person at the 
mercy of anyone he met, disappeared with the establishment of an effective system of 
law enforcement and was finally replaced by extradition treaties between the nations. 
It had been primarily a substitute for a police force, designed to compel criminals to 

The early Middle Ages seem to have been quite conscious of the danger involved 
m "civil death." Excommunication in the late Roman Empire meant ecclesiastical 
death but left a person who had lost his membership in the church full freedom in 
all other respects. Ecclesiastical and civil death became identical only in the Mero- 
vmgian era, and there excommunication "in general practice [was] limited to tempo- 
rary withdrawal or suspension of the rights of membership which might be regained." 
See the articles "Outlawry" and "Excommunication" in the Encyclopedia of Social 
Sciences. Also the article "Friedlosigkeit" in the Schweizer Lexikon 



Normal men do not know that everything is possible. 



A Classless Society 

i: The Masses 

NOTHING is more characteristic of the totaUtarian movements in general 
and of the quality of fame of their leaders in particular than the 
startling swiftness with which they are forgotten and the startling ease with 
which they can be replaced. What Stalin accomplished laboriously over 
many years through bitter factional struggles and vast concessions at least 
to the name of his predecessor — namely, to legitimate himself as Lenin's 
political heir — Stalin's successors attempted to do without concessions to 
the name of their predecessor, even though Stalin had thirty years' time and 
could manipulate a propaganda apparatus, unknown in Lenin's day, to 
immortalize his name. The same is true for Hitler, who during his lifetime 
exercised a fascination to which allegedly no one was immune,^ and who 

' The "magic spell" that Hitler cast over his listeners has been acknowledged many 
times, latterly by the publishers of Hitlers Tischgesprache, Bonn, 1951 {Hitler's Table 
Talks, American edition. New York, 1953; quotations from the original German 
edition). This fascination — "the strange magnetism that radiated from Hitler in such 
a compelling manner" — rested indeed "on the fanatical belief of this man in himself" 
(introduction by Gerhard Ritter, p. 14), on his pseudo-authoritative judgments about 
everything under the sun, and on the fact that his opinions — whether they dealt with 
the harmful effects of smoking or with Napoleon's policies — could always be fitted 
into an all-encompassing ideology. 

Fascination is a social phenomenon, and the fascination Hitler exercised over his 
environment must be understood in terms of the particular company he kept. Society 
is always prone to accept a person offhand for what he pretends to be, so that a 
crackpot posing as a genius always has a certain chance to be believed. In modern 
society, with its characteristic lack of discerning judgment, this tendency is strengthened, 
so that someone who not only holds opinions but also presents them in a tone of 
unshakable conviction will not so easily forfeit his prestige, no matter how many 
times he has been demonstrably wrong. Hitler, who knew the modern chaos of 
opinions from first-hand experience, discovered that the helpless seesawing between 
various opinions and "the conviction . . . that everything is balderdash" (p. 281) 
could best be avoided by adhering to one of the many current opinions with "unbend- 
ing consistency." The hair-raising arbitrariness of such fanaticism holds great fascina- 
tion for society because for the duration of the social gathering it is freed from the 
chaos of opinions that it constantly generates. This "gift" of fascination, however, 
has only social relevance; it is so prominent in the Tischgesprficlie because here Hitler 
played the game of society and was not speaking to his own kind but to the generals 
of the Wehrmacht, all of whom more or less belonged to "society." To believe that 
Hitler's successes were based on his "powers of fascination" is altogether erroneous; 
with those qualities alone he would have never advanced beyond the role of a promi- 
nent figure in the salons. 


after his defeat and death is today so thoroughly forgotten that he scarcely 
plays any further role even among the neo-Fascist and neo-Nazi groups of 
postwar Germany. This impermanence no doubt has something to do with 
the proverbial fickleness of the masses and the fame that rests on them; 
more likely, it can be traced to the perpetual-motion mania of totalitarian 
movements which can remain in power only so long as they keep moving 
and set everything around them in motion. Therefore, in a certain sense 
this very impermanence is a rather flattering testimonial to the dead leaders 
insofar as they succeeded in contaminating their subjects with the speci- 
fically totalitarian virus; for if there is such a thing as a totalitarian per- 
sonality or mentality, this extraordinary adaptability and absence of con- 
tinuity are no doubt its outstanding characteristics. Hence it might be a 
mistake to assume that the inconstancy and forgetfulness of the masses 
signify that they are cured of the totalitarian delusion, which is occasionally 
identified with the Hitler or Stalin cult; the opposite might well be true. 

It would be a still more serious mistake to forget, because of this Im- 
permanence, that the totalitarian regimes, so long as they are in power, and 
the totalitarian leaders, so long as they are alive, "command and rest upoii 
mass support" up to the end.'- Hitler's rise to power was legal in terms of 
majority rule"* and neither he nor Stalin could have maintained the leader- 
ship of large populations, survived many interior and exterior crises, and 
braved the numerous dangers of relentless intra-party struggles if they had 
not had the confidence of the masses. Neither the Moscow trials nor the 
liquidation of the Rohm faction would have been possible if these masses 
had not supported Stalin and Hitler. The widespread belief that Hitler was 
simply an agent of German industrialists and that Stalin was victorious in 
the succession struggle after Lenin's death only through a sinister conspiracy 
are both legends which can be refuted by many facts but above all by the 
leaders' indisputable popularity.'' Nor can their popularity be attributed Lo 
the victory of masterful and lying propaganda over ignorance and stupidity. 

' See the illuminating remarks of Carlton J. H. Hayes on "The Novelty of Totali- 
tarianism in the History of Western Civilization," in Symposium on the Totalitarian 
Slate. 1939. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1940, 

^ This was indeed "the first large revolution in history that was carried out by 
applying the existing formal code of law at the moment of seizing power" (Hans 
Frank. Recht und Verwaltung, 1939, p. 8). 

* The best study of Hitler and his career is the new Hitler biography by Alan Bul- 
lock. Hitler, A Study in Tyranny, London, 1952. In the English tradition of political 
biographies it makes meticulous use of all available source material and gives a com- 
prehensive picture of the contemporary political background. By this publication the 
excellent books of Konrad Heiden— primarily Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power, 
Boston, 1944— have been superseded in their details although they remain important 
for the general mterpretation of events. For Stalin's career, Boris Souvarine, Stalin: A 
Cr/nro/ Survey of Bolshevism. New York, 1939, is still a standard work. Isaac 
L)cutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography. New York and London, 1949, is indispensable 
u\ T "^ documentary material and great insight into the internal struggles of the 
Bolshevik party; it suffers from an interpretation which likens Stalin to— Cromwell, 
Napoleon, and Robespierre. 


For the propaganda of totalitarian movements which precede and accom- 
pany totalitarian regimes is invariably as frank as it is mendacious, and 
would-be totalitarian rulers usually start their careers by boasting of their 
past crimes and carefully outlining their future ones. The Nazis "were con- 
vinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction,"'' Bol- 
shevik assurances inside and outside Russia that they do not recognize 
ordinary moral standards have become a mainstay of Communist propa- 
ganda, and experience has proved time and again that the propaganda value 
of evil deeds and general contempt for moral standards is independent of 
mere self-interest, supposedly the most powerful psychological factor in 

The attraction of evil and crime for the mob mentality is nothing new. It 
has always been true that the mob will greet "deeds of violence with the 
admiring remark: it may be mean but it is very clever."" The disturbing 
factor in the success of totalitarianism is rather the true selflessness of its 
adherents: it may be understandable that a Nazi or Bolshevik will not be 
shaken in his conviction by crimes against people who do not belong to 
the movement or are even hostile to it; but the amazing fact is that neither 
is he likely to waver when the monster begins to devour its own children 
and not even if he becomes a victim of persecution himself, if he is framed 
and condemned, if he is purged from the party and sent to a forced-labor 
or a concentration camp. On the contrary, to the wonder of the whole 
civilized world, he may even be willing to help in his own prosecution and 
frame his own death sentence if only his status as a member of the move- 
ment is not touched.^ It would be naive to consider this stubbornness of 
conviction which outlives all actual experiences and cancels all immediate 
self-interest a simple expression of fervent idealism. Idealism, foolish or 
heroic, always springs from some individual decision and conviction and 
is subject to experience and argument.^ The fanaticism of totalitarian move- 

' Franz Borkenau, The Totalitarian Enemy, London, 1940, p. 231. 

° Quoted from the German edition of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Die 
Zionistischen Protokolle mit cinem Vor- unci N athwart von Theodor Fritsch, 1924, 
p. 29. 

^ This, to be sure, is a specialty of the Russian brand of totalitarianism. It is inter- 
esting to note that in the early trial of foreign engineers in the Soviet Union, Com- 
munist sympathies were already used as an argument for self-accusation: "All the 
time the authorities insisted on my admitting having committed acts of sabotage I had 
never done. 1 refused. I was told: 'If you are in favour of the Soviet Government, as 
you pretend you are, prove it by your actions; the Government needs your con- 
fession.' " Reported by Anton Ciliga, The Russian Enigma, London, 1940, p. 153. 

A theoretical justification for this behavior was given by Trotsky: "We can only 
be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in 
the right. The English have a saying, 'My country, right or wrong.' . . . We have 
much better historical justification in saying whether it is right or wrong in certain 
individual concrete cases, it is my party" (Souvarine, op. tit., p. 361). 

On the other hand, the Red Army officers who did not belong to the movement 
had to be tried behind closed doors. 

^ The Nazi author Andreas Pfenning explicitly rejects the notion that the SA were 
fighting for an "ideal" or were prompted by an "idealistic experience." Their "basic 


mcnts. contrary to all forms of idealism, breaks down the moment the move- 
ment leaves its fanaticized followers in the lurch, killing in them any re- 
maining conviction that might have survived the collapse of the movement 
itself." But within the organiza