Alfred Rosenberg on the Relationship of National-Socialism to Totalitarianism
Translation and Introduction
by Hadding Scott
BY 1934 the supporters of the NSDAP included many recent converts from other ideologies, some of whom had supported the old order of the Prussian Monarchy, others (like Goebbels) who had been Marxists. The Italian Fascist state had already appeared for twelve years as a great success, supported by neo-Hegelianism, a modification of the Hegelian thought-system which had supported the Prussian State until its demise in 1918 (when it was succeeded by the Weimar Republic). Hegelianism and neo-Hegelianism justified the state as an end in itself. National-Socialism did not regard the state as an end in itself, but because the examples of Prussia and Fascist Italy loomed large at the time, it was tempting for people not thoroughly familiar with National-Socialism to see it in this light (and even today it is not unusual for careless sources to mislabel National-Socialism as “fascism”). The liberal age which Rosenberg mentions began with the Enlightenment of the 18th century, and found expression in ideologies ranging from democratic-republicanism to Hegelianism to Marxism. In this piece published in the Völkischer Beobachter of January 9, 1934, Alfred Rosenberg shows that he is not against the use of a powerful state as a tool, but explains that it is important to distinguish the essential ideas of National-Socialism from ideas rooted in the liberal age, so as to avoid a recurrence of the idolatry of the state that liberal ideas engender.
The State is only a means to an end. Its end and its purpose is to preserve and promote a community of human beings who are physically as well as spiritually kindred. (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf)
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by Alfred Rosenberg
IN RECENT MONTHS, in many speeches and essays, the view has been expressed that from now on instead of the multi-party state, instead of the liberally splintered form of government, there is the “total state.” It is said that this state seizes at once the whole political, economic, and cultural life of the nation, that it is the guardian, leader, and commander of all expressions of life, so as to secure thereby the necessary unity of Germany in all fields. In all these utterances it has been overlooked that the abstract state has been thoroughly an idea of the liberal age, which was set up as a technical instrument of power apart from economy and culture as a thing existing for itself, and was accordingly worshiped or, by other tendencies, passionately combatted. In reality it was such that the representatives of the state, before the war, often no longer had any sense of being a servant of the people, but instead regarded the state as a thing for itself, which hovered over the nation and whose representatives possessed the claim of exaltation over all other citizens.This abstract concept of the state had still not changed after 1918, but had merely acquired another attribute.
The revolution of January 30, 1933 is not by any means the continuation of the absolutist state with yet another attribute; rather the state is now cast into a completely different relationship to our people and national character. What has been accomplished in the past year and yet will be accomplished to a greater extent, is not the so-called totality of the state but the totality of the National-Socialist movement. The state is no longer something which should exist apart from the people and apart from the movement, be it as a mechanistic apparatus, be it as a ruling instrument; rather it is a tool of the National-Socialist worldview.
This appears to be only a small distinction between the emphases in the main thrust of a political or epistemological conception. And yet the clarification of ideological assumptions is of enormous importance, because on the basis of a false development of concepts — perhaps not at first, but surely in the course of time — a practical consequence for the conduct of policy will occur. If we spoke continuously of the total state, in this way the concept of the state in itself would gradually move back to the center among younger National-Socialists and coming generations, and the affairs of the state would be perceived as the primary thing. But if we emphasize already today with utmost clarity that it is a specific political worldview and movement which claims the right of totality, so will the gazes of generations focus precisely on this movement and regard the relationship between the state and the NSDAP in a completely different light, than if one designated the state in itself as the highest thing.
The National-Socialist movement is the formed power of the thought of the 20th century, formed for the preservation of the whole German people, its blood and its character. At the disposal of this movement the state stands as its most powerful and manly tool, and must always receive anew its vital powers and impulses from the movement, whereby it remains flexible and enduring, and escapes the danger of bureaucratization, ossification, and alienation from the people. Once it is seen in this relationship, the national-socialist concept of the state becomes properly infused with blood, and we believe that the state thus receives for the first time its consecration, its inner strength, and its authority in a higher degree than if, led perhaps by energetic individuals [Mussolini of course would have been the most obvious example. — H.S.], it could become a goal in itself, and consequently ossified.
On all these grounds it is recommended for all National-Socialists to speak no longer of the total state, rather of the completeness (totality) of the National-Socialist worldview, of the NSDAP as the body of this worldview, and of the National-Socialist state as the tool for the preservation of the soul, spirit, and blood of National-Socialism as the powerful phenomenon which made its beginning in the 20th century.
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Source: National-Socialist Worldview