The Gospel of Goebbels
First you get the idea. When you get the idea you get the comrades, when you get the comrades you get the streets, when you get the streets you get the people, when you get the people you get the state.
GOEBBELS TOOK A decisive step forward on the Day of Repentance in 1926 when he founded the National Socialist Freedom Association. In doing so, he was implementing an old plan of his. Back in Elberfeld he had hoped to put the local party’s personnel and finances on a sound, if modest, footing by creating a tightly organized cadre, a “circles of pledged donors.” In Berlin, the Association signed up between two and four hundred party members who committed themselves to monthly donations totaling fifteen-hundred marks, which would enable the Gau to finance the first sorties in the struggle for the capital city.
Goebbels emphasized ruthless activism, not the techniques of persuasion favored by the Strasser circle. To Goebbels, who had studied Gustave Le Bon’s Psychology of the Masses (1911) with care, activism was inseparable from propaganda, which he considered “completely protean,” since it had to adapt to existing conditions. In the case of Berlin this meant taking into account Berlin’s particular political and social structure, its hectic avant-garde pulse. “Berlin needs sensations as a fish needs water,” Goebbels soon realized. “Any political propaganda that fails to recognize that will miss its target.”
So it was a matter of attracting attention, whatever the price. That had to happen in public, in the streets. In the age of the masses, Goebbels commented later, “He who can conquer the streets can conquer the masses; and he who conquers the masses conquers the state.” To prepare the pledged donors for their future role, training in oratory had to be provided, for “fascism and Bolshevism were formed by nothing more nor less than the great orator, the great shaper of words! There is no distinction between the orator and the politician.” By 16 November he had already established a school for orators.
…The beating his party comrades received at the hands of the Communists made it clear to Goebbels that the time was not yet ripe for such propaganda marches. For the present he had to concentrate on the ideological schooling of his little band of supporters, which would strengthen loyalty in the ranks. Later Goebbels would point to “the idea” as the prerequisite for any propaganda. The idea did not need to be explicated in a thick book; rather, it should contain “a simple and readily grasped theme.” “You will never find millions of people who will give their lives for a book. You will never find millions of people who will give their lives for an economic program. But millions of people will one day be prepared to die for a gospel.”
— excerpted from Goebbels by Ralph Georg Reuth
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