A Fanatical Foundation
ONE QUESTION came to the fore, however: can spiritual ideas be exterminated by the sword? Can ‘philosophies’ be combated by the use of brute force?
Even at that time I pondered this question more than once: If we ponder analogous cases, particularly on a religious basis, which can be found in history, the following fundamental principle emerges:
Conceptions and ideas, as well as movements with a definite spiritual foundation, regardless whether the latter is false or true, can, after a certain point in their development, only be broken with technical instruments of power if these physical weapons are at the same time the support of a new kindling thought, idea, or philosophy.
The application of force alone, without the impetus of a basic spiritual idea as a starting point, can never lead to the destruction of an idea and its dissemination, except in the form of a complete extermination of even the very last exponent of the idea and the destruction of the last tradition. This, however, usually means the disappearance of such a state from the sphere of political importance, often for an indefinite time and sometimes forever; for experience shows that such a blood sacrifice strikes the best part of the people, since every persecution which occurs without a spiritual basis seems morally unjustified and whips up precisely the more valuable parts of a people in protest, which results in an adoption of the spiritual content of the unjustly persecuted movement. In many this occurs simply through a feeling of opposition against the attempt to bludgeon down an idea by brute force.
As a result, the number of inward supporters grows in proportion as the persecution increases. Consequently, the complete annihilation of the new doctrine can be carried out only through a process of extermination so great and constantly increasing that in the end all the truly valuable blood is drawn out of the people or state in question. The consequence is that, though a so-called ‘inner’ purge can now take place, it will only be at the cost of total impotence. Such a method will always prove vain in advance if the doctrine to be combated has overstepped a certain small circle.
Consequently, here, too, as in all growth, the first period of childhood is most readily susceptible to the possibility of extermination, while with the mounting years the power of resistance increases and only with the weakness of approaching old age cedes again to new youth, though in another form and for different reasons.
Indeed, nearly all attempts to exterminate a doctrine and its organizational expression, by force without spiritual foundation, are doomed to failure, and not seldom end with the exact opposite of the desired result for the following reason:
The very first requirement for a mode of struggle with the weapons of naked force is and remains persistence. In other words: only the continuous and steady application of the methods for repressing a doctrine, etc., makes it possible for a plan to succeed. But as soon as force wavers and alternates with forbearance, not only will the doctrine to be repressed recover again and again, but it will also be in a position to draw new benefit from every persecution, since, after such a wave of pressure has ebbed away, indignation over the suffering induced leads new supporters to the old doctrine, while the old ones will cling to it with greater defiance and deeper hatred than before, and even schismatic heretics, once the danger has subsided, will attempt to return to their old viewpoint. Only in the steady and constant application of force lies the very first prerequisite for success. This persistence, however, can always and only arise from a definite spiritual conviction. Any violence which does not spring from a firm, spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain. It lacks the stability which can only rest in a fanatical outlook. It emanates from the momentary energy and brutal determination of an individual, and is therefore subject to the change of personalities and to their nature and strength.
Added to this there is something else:
Any philosophy, whether of a religious or political nature – and sometimes the dividing line is hard to determine – fights less for the negative destruction of the opposing ideology than for the positive promotion of its own. Hence its struggle is less defensive than offensive. It therefore has the advantage even in determining the goal, since this goal represents the victory of its own idea, while, conversely, it is hard to determine when the negative aim of the destruction of a hostile doctrine may be regarded as achieved and assured. For this reason alone, the philosophy’s offensive will be more systematic and also more powerful than the defensive against a philosophy, since here, too, as always, the attack and not the defense makes the decision. The fight against a spiritual power with methods of violence remains defensive, however, until the sword becomes the support, the herald and disseminator, of a new spiritual doctrine.
Thus, in summing up, we can establish the following:
Any attempt to combat a philosophy with methods of violence will fail in the end, unless the fight takes the form of attack for a new spiritual attitude. Only in the struggle between two philosophies can the weapon of brutal force, persistently and ruthlessly applied lead to a decision for the side it supports.
This remained the reason for the [Bismarck’s] failure of the struggle against Marxism.
— Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Chapter 5 “The World War”
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