Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement
Chapter XI: Propaganda and Organization
IN SEVERAL RESPECTS THE YEAR 1921 has assumed a special significance for me and the movement.
After my entrance into the German Workers' Party, I at once took over the management of propaganda. I regarded this department as by far the most important. For the present, it was less important to rack one's brains over organizational questions than to transmit the idea itself to a larger number of people. Propaganda had to run far in advance of organization and provide it with the human material to be worked on. Moreover, I am an enemy of too rapid and too pedantic organizing. It usually produces nothing but a dead mechanism, seldom a living organization. For organization is a thing that owes its existence to organic life, organic development. Ideas which have gripped a certain number of people will always strive for a greater order, and a great value must attributed to this inner molding. Here, too, we must reckon with the weakness of men, which leads the individual, at first at least, instinctively to resist a superior mind. If an organization is mechanically ordered from above, there exists a great danger that a once appointed leader, not yet accurately evaluated and perhaps none too capable, will from jealousy strive to prevent the rise of abler elements within the movement. The harm that arises in such a case can, especially in a young movement, be of catastrophic significance..
For this reason it is more expedient for a time to disseminate an idea by propaganda from a central point and then carefully to search and examine the gradually gathering human material for leading minds. Sometimes it will turn out that men inconspicuous in themselves must nevertheless be regarded as born leaders.
But it would be absolutely mistaken to regard a wealth of theoretical knowledge as characteristic proof for the qualities and abilities of a leader.
The opposite is often the case.
The great theoreticians are only in the rarest cases great organizers, since the greatness of the theoretician and program-maker lies primarily in the recognition and establishment of abstractly correct laws, while the organizer must primarily be a psychologist. He must take people as they are and must therefore know them. He must not overestimate them, any more than he must underestimate them in the mass. On the contrary, he must endeavor to take weakness and bestiality equally into account, in order, considering all factors, to create a formation which will be a living organism, imbued with strong and stable power, and thus suited to upholding an idea and paving the way for its success.
Even more seldom, however, is a great theoretician a great leader. Much more readily will an agitator be one, something which many who only work scientifically on the question do not want to hear. And yet that is understandable. An agitator who demonstrates the ability to transmit an idea to the broad masses must always be a psychologist, even if he were only a demagogue. Then he will still be more suited for leadership than the unworldly theoretician, who is ignorant of people. For leading means: being able to move masses. The gift of shaping ideas has nothing to do with ability as a leader. And it is quite useless to argue which is of greater importance, to set up ideals and aims for mankind, or to realize them. Here, as so often in life: one would be utterly meaningless without the other. The finest theoretical insight remains without purpose and value if the leader does not set the masses in motion toward it. And conversely, of what avail would be all the genius and energy of a leader, if the brilliant theoretician did not set up aims for the human struggle? However, the combination of theoretician, organizer, and leader in one person is the rarest thing that can be found on this earth; this combination makes the great man.
As I have already remarked, I devoted myself to propaganda in the first period of my activity in the movement. What it had to do was gradually to fill a small nucleus of men with the new doctrine, and so prepare the material which could later furnish the first elements of an organization.
When a movement harbors the purpose of tearing down a world and building another in its place, complete clarity must reign in the ranks of its own leadership with regard to the following principles:
Every movement will first have to sift the human material it wins into two large groups: supporters and members.
The function of propaganda is to attract supporters, the function of organization to win members.
A supporter of a movement is one who declares himself to be in agreement with its aims, a member is one who fights for them.
The supporter is made amenable to the movement by propaganda. The member is induced by the organization to participate personally in the recruiting of new supporters, from whom in turn members can be developed.
Since being a supporter requires only a passive recognition of an idea, while membership demands active advocacy and defense, to ten supporters there will at most be one or two members.
Being a supporter is rooted only in understanding, membership in the courage personally to advocate and disseminate what has been understood.
Understanding in its passive form corresponds to the majority of mankind which is lazy and cowardly. Membership requires an activistic frame of mind and thus corresponds only to the minority of men.
Propaganda will consequently have to see that an idea wins supporters, while the organization must take the greatest care only to make the most valuable elements among the supporters into members. Propaganda does not, therefore, need to rack its brains with regard to the importance of every individual instructed by it, with regard to his agility, capacity, and understanding, or character, while the organization must carefully gather from the mass of these elements those which really make possible the victory of the movement.
Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people; the organization embraces within its scope only those who do not threaten on psychological grounds to become a brake on the further dissemination of the idea.
Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea, while the organization achieves victory by the persistent, organic, and militant union of those supporters who seem willing and able to carry on the fight for victory.
The victory of an idea will be possible the sooner, the more comprehensively propaganda has prepared people as a whole and the more exclusive, rigid, and firm the organization which carries out the fight in practice.
From this it results that the number of supporters cannot be too large, out that the number of members can more readily be too large than too small.
If propaganda has imbued a whole people with an idea, the organization can draw the consequences with a handful of men. Propaganda and organization, in other words, supporters and members, thus stand in a certain mutual relation. The better the propaganda has worked, the smaller the organization can be; and the larger the number of supporters, the more modest the number of members can be; and vice versa: the poorer the propaganda is, the larger the organization must be, and the smaller the host of followers of a movement remains, the more extensive the number of its members must be, if it still hopes to count on any success at all.
The first task of propaganda is to win people for subsequent organization; the first task of organization is to win men for the continuation of propaganda. The second task of propaganda is the disruption of the existing state of affairs and the permeation of this state of affairs with the new doctrine, while the second task of organization must be the struggle for power, thus to achieve the final success of the doctrine.
The most striking success of a revolution based on a philosophy of life will always have been achieved when the new philosophy of life as far as possible has been taught to all men, and, if necessary, later forced upon them, while the organization of the idea, in other words, the movement, should embrace only as many as are absolutely required for occupying the nerve centers of the state in question.
This, in other words, means the following:
In every really great world-shaking movement, propaganda will first have to spread the idea of this movement. Thus, it will indefatigably attempt to make the new thought processes clear to the others, and therefore to draw them over to their own ground, or to make them uncertain of their previous conviction. Now, since the dissemination of an idea, that is, propaganda, must have a firm backbone, the doctrine will have to give itself a solid organization. The organization obtains its members from the general body of supporters won by propaganda. The latter will grow the more rapidly, the more intensively the propaganda is carried on, and the latter in turn can work better, the stronger and more powerful the organization is that stands behind it.
Hence it is the highest task of the organization to make sure that no inner disunities within the membership of the movement lead to a split and hence a weakening of the movement's work, further, that the spirit of determined attack does not die out, but is continuously renewed and reinforced. The number of members need not grow infinitely; on the contrary: since only a small fraction of mankind is by nature energetic and bold, a movement which endlessly enlarges its organization would inevitably be weakened some day as a result. Organizations, in other words, membership figures, which grow beyond a certain level gradually lose their fighting power and are no longer capable of supporting or utilizing the propaganda of an idea resolutely and aggressively.
The greater and more essentially revolutionary an idea is, the more activistic its membership will become, since the revolutionary force of a doctrine involves a danger for its supporters, which seems calculated to keep cowardly little shopkeepers away from it. They will privately regard themselves as supporters, but decline to make a public avowal of this by membership. By virtue of this fact, the organization of a really revolutionary idea obtains as members only the most active among the supporters won over by propaganda. And precisely in this activity of a movement's membership, guaranteed by natural selection, lies the premise for equally active future propaganda as well as a successful struggle for the realization of the idea.
The greatest danger that can threaten a movement is a membership which has grown abnormally as a result of too rapid successes. For, just as a movement is shunned by all cowardly and egotistic individuals, as long as it has to fight bitterly, these same people rush with equal alacrity to acquire membership when a success of the party has been made probable or already realized by developments
To this it must be ascribed why 1 many victorious movements, on the point of success, or, rather, the ultimate completion of their will, suddenly from inexplicable inner weakness, flag, stop fighting, and finally die out. In consequence of their first victory, so many inferior, unworthy, and worst of all cowardly, elements have entered their organization that these inferior people finally achieve predominance over the militants and then force the movement into the service of their own interests, lower it to the level of their own scanty heroism, and do nothing to complete the victory of the original idea. The fanatical zeal has been blurred, the fighting force paralyzed, or, as the bourgeois world correctly puts it in such cases: 'Water has been mixed with the wine.' And when that happens, the trees can no longer grow skyward.
It is, therefore, most necessary that a movement, for pure reasons of self-preservation, should, once it has begun to achieve success, immediately block enrollments and henceforth increase its organization only with extreme caution and after the most thorough scrutiny. Only in this way will it be able to preserve the core of the movement in unvitiated freshness and health. It must see to it that, from this point on, this core alone shall exclusively lead the movement, that is, determine the propaganda which should lead to its universal recognition, and, in full possession of the power, undertake the actions which are necessary for the practical realization of its ideas. It must not only occupy all the important positions of the conquered territory with the basic core of the old movement, but also constitute the entire leadership. And this until the principles and doctrines of the party have become the foundation and content of the new state. Only then can the reins gradually be handed over to the special government of this state, born of its spirit. This, however, in turn occurs for the most part only in mutual struggle since it is less a question of human insight than of the play and workings of forces which can perhaps be recognized from the first, but cannot forever be guided.
1 'Dem ist es zuzuschreiben warum. . .'
All great movements, whether of a religious or a political nature, must attribute their mighty successes only to the recognition and application of these principles, and all lasting successes in particular are not even thinkable without consideration of these laws.
As director of the party's propaganda I took much pains, not only to prepare the soil for the future greatness of the movement, but by an extremely radical conception in this work I also strove to bring it about that the party should obtain only the best material. For the more radical and inflammatory my propaganda was, the more this frightened weaklings and hesitant characters, and prevented them from penetrating the primary core of our organization. They might continue as supporters, but certainly not with loud emphasis; they timidly concealed the fact. How many thousands assured me at that time that they were essentially in agreement with everything we said, but that under no circumstances could they become members. The movement, they said, was so radical that membership in it would expose the individual to the gravest difficulties, nay, dangers, and we shouldn't take it amiss if the honest, peaceable citizen should stand aside for the present at least, even if at heart he was entirely with the cause.
And this was good.
If these men, who at heart were not for the revolution, had all come into our party at that time, and as members, we could regard ourselves today as a pious fraternal organization, but no longer as a young militant movement.
The live and aggressive form that I then gave to our propaganda reinforced and guaranteed the radical tendency of our movement, since now only radical people - with some exceptions -were ready for membership.
At the same time, this propaganda had the effect that after a short while hundreds of thousands not only believed us to be right lout desired our victory, even if personally they were too cowardly to make sacrifices for it, let alone fight for it.
Up to the middle of 1921 this purely propagandist activity could still suffice and benefit the movement. But special events in the midsummer of this year made it seem indicated that now after the slowly visible success of our propaganda, the organization should be adapted to it and put on a par with it.
The attempt of a group of folkish lunatics to obtain the leadership of the party, with the aid and support of the party chairman of the time, led to the collapse of this little intrigue and, at a general membership meeting, unanimously gave me the leadership over the whole movement. Immediately, a new by-law was passed, transferring full responsibility to the first chairman of the party, eliminating committee decisions as a matter of principle, and introducing instead a system of division of labor which has since proved its worth in the most beneficial way.
Beginning on August 1, 1921, I took over this inner reorganization of the movement and in so doing found the support of a number of excellent people whom I consider it necessary to mention in a special appendix.
In the attempt to organizationally exploit the results of propaganda and thereby establish them for all time, I had to do away with a number of previous habits and introduce principles which none of the existing parties possessed or would even have recognized.
In the years from 1919 to 1920 the movement had for leadership a committee which was chosen by membership meetings, which themselves in turn were prescribed by rule. The committee consisted of a first and second treasurer, a first and second secretary, and at the head, a first and second chairman. Added to these was a membership secretary, the propaganda chief, and various assisting committeemen.
Strange as it may seem, this committee actually embodied exactly what the party most wanted to combat, namely, parliamentarianism. For it was obvious that we were involved with a principle which from the smallest local group, through the later districts, counties, and provinces, up to the Reich leadership, embodied the very same system under which we all suffered and today still suffer.
It was urgently necessary to bring about a change in this some day, unless the movement, in consequence of the poor foundation of its inner organization, were to be forever ruined and hence incapable of ever fulfilling its high mission.
The committee sessions, of which minutes were kept, and in which votes were taken and decisions made by a majority, represented in reality a parliament on a small scale. Here, too, all personal responsibility was lacking. Here, too, the same irrationality and the same unreasonableness reigned as in our great state representative bodies. For this committee, secretaries; treasurers, membership secretaries, propaganda chiefs, and God knows what else were appointed, and then all of them together were made to deliberate on every single question and decide by vote. And so the man who was there for propaganda voted on a matter that regarded the finance man, and he in turn voted on a matter regarding organization, and the latter in turn on a matter which should only have concerned the secretary, etc.
Why they bothered to appoint a special man for propaganda, when treasurers, secretaries, membership secretaries, etc., had to decide on questions regarding it, seems just as incomprehensible to a healthy mind as it would be incomprehensible if in a big industrial enterprise the directors or engineers of other departments and other branches had to decide on questions having nothing to do with their affairs.
I did not submit to this lunacy, but after a short time stayed away from the sessions. I did my propaganda work and let it go at that, and I did not stand for any incompetent trying to tell me what to do in this field. Just as, conversely, I did not interfere in the business of the others.
When the acceptance of the new statutes and my appointment to the position of first chairman had meanwhile given me the necessary authority and the rights that went with it, this nonsense immediately stopped. In the place of committee decisions, the principle of absolute responsibility was introduced.
The first chairman is responsible for the total leadership of the movement. He apportions the work to be performed among the committeemen subordinated to him and among whatever other collaborators are needed. And each one of these gentlemen is absolutely responsible for the tasks transferred to him. He is subordinated only to the first chairman, who must procure the cooperation of all, or else must bring about this cooperation by the choice of persons and the issuance of general directives.
This law of fundamental responsibility was gradually taken for granted within the movement, at least in so far as the party leadership was concerned. In the little local groups and perhaps even in the counties and districts, it will take years before these principles will be forced through, since scare-cats and incompetents will of course always fight against it; to them sole responsibility for an undertaking will always be unpleasant; they always felt freer and better when in every grave decision they were covered by the majority of a so-called committee. But to me it seems necessary to express myself with the greatest sharpness against such an attitude, to make no concession to cowardice in the face of responsibility, and thereby, even if it takes a long time, to achieve a conception of leader's duty and leader's ability, which will bring to leadership exclusively those who are really called and chosen for it.
In any case a movement that wants to combat the parliamentary madness must itself be free of it. Only on such a basis can it win the strength for its struggle.
A movement which in a time of majority rule orients itself in all things on the principle of the leader idea and the responsibility conditioned by it will some day with mathematical certainty overcome the existing state of affairs and emerge victorious.
This idea led to a complete reorganization within the movement. And in its logical effects also to an extremely sharp division between the business activities of the movement and the general political leadership. As a matter of principle, the idea of responsibility was extended to all the party activities and led inevitably to their recovery, in exact proportion as they were freed from political influences and adjusted to purely economic considerations.
When in the fall of 1919, I joined the handful of men who then constituted the party, it had neither a business office nor a clerk, not even forms or rubber stamps; and no printed matter existed. The committee room was first a tavern in the Herrengasse, and later a cafe on the Gasteig. That was an impossible state of affairs. Soon afterward I started out and visited a number of Munich restaurants and taverns with the intention of renting a back room or some other space for the party. In the former Sterneckerbräu in the Tal, there was a small vault-like room which had once served the imperial councilors 2 of Bavaria as a sort of taproom. It was dark and gloomy and thus was just as well suited for its former purpose as it was ill-suited for its projected new use. The alley on which its single window opened was so narrow that even on the brightest summer day the room remained gloomy and dark. This became our first business office. But since the monthly rent was only fifty marks (then an exorbitant sum for us!), we could make no greater demands and were not even in a position to complain when, before we moved in, the wall paneling, formerly intended for the imperial councilors, was quickly torn out, so that now the room really gave more the impression of a funeral vault than of an office.
And yet this was an immense step forward. Slowly we obtained electric light, even more slowly a telephone; a table and a few borrowed chairs were brought in, finally an open book-stand, still somewhat later a cupboard; two sideboards belonging to the landlord served for keeping pamphlets, posters, etc.
The previous system - that is, having the movement run by a committee session taking place once a week - was impossible in the long run. Only an official paid by the movement could guarantee the day-to-day business organization.
At the time that was very difficult. The movement still had so few members that it took great skill to find among them a suitable man who, making the smallest demands for his own person, could satisfy the innumerable demands of the movement.
2 'die Reichsräte von Bayern.' Until 1918 the upper house of the Bavarian Diet, consisting of nobility, high clergy, and other notables.
In the person of a soldier, named Schüssler, one of my former comrades, the first business manager of the party was found. At first he came to our new office only daily from six to eight o'clock, later from five to eight, finally every afternoon, and shortly afterward he was taken on full time and served from morning until late into the night. He was a man as conscientious as he was upright and absolutely honest, who personally took the greatest pains and was devoted with especial loyalty to the movement itself. Schüssler brought with him a small Adler typewriter that belonged to him. It was the first such instrument in the service of our movement. Later the party acquired it by installment payments. A small safe seemed necessary to safeguard the card index and the membership books from thieves. We did not acquire it in order to deposit any large sums of money we might have had at the time. On the contrary, everything was extremely threadbare, and often I contributed from my own small savings.
A year and a half later, the business office was too small, and we moved into a new place in the Corneliusstrasse. Again it was a tavern we moved to, but now we no longer possessed only a single room, but three rooms and one large additional room with a wicket-window. At the time that seemed to us like a good deal. Here we remained until November, 1923.
In December, 1920, we acquired the Völkischer Beobachter. This paper, which, as its name indicates, stood on the whole for folkish interests even then, was now to be transformed into the organ of the NSDAP. At first it appeared twice a week, at the beginning of 1923 became a daily, and at the end of August, 1923, it received its large format which later became well known.
As a total novice in the field of journalism, I sometimes had to pay dearly for my experience in those days.
The mere fact that in comparison with the enormous Jewish press there was hardly a single really significant folkish paper gave food for thought. This, as I later ascertained any number of times in practice, was in large part due to the un-businesslike management of so-called folkish enterprises in general. They were too much conducted from the angle that loyalty takes precedence over achievement. An absolutely false standpoint, in so far as loyalty must not be an outward thing, but find its most eminent expression in achievement. Anyone who creates something really valuable for his people thus gives evidence of an equally valuable loyalty, while another, who merely displays hypocritical loyalty, but in reality performs no useful services for his people, is an enemy to any true loyalty. And his loyalty is a burden to the community.
The Völkischer Beobachter, as its very name indicates, was also a folkish organ, with all the advantages, and even more faults and weaknesses, that were characteristic of folkish institutions. Honest as its content was, the management of the enterprise was impossible from the commercial viewpoint. It, too, was run on the assumption that folkish newspapers must be supported by folkish contributions, instead of the principle that they must make their way in competition with other papers and that it is indecent to cover the negligence or mistakes of their business management by the donations of well-situated patriots.
In any case I attempted to eliminate this state of affairs, the objectionableness of which I had soon recognized, and luck favored me by making me acquainted with the man who since then, not only as business manager of the paper, but also of the party, has performed services of the greatest value for the movement. In 1914 - at the front, that is - I met Max Amann, the present general business manager of the party (then still my superior in rank). During the four years of the War, I had an almost continuous opportunity to observe the extraordinary ability, the industry and scrupulous conscientiousness of my future collaborator.
In midsummer of 1921, when the movement was in a grave crisis and I could no longer be satisfied with a number of employees, and with one in fact had had the bitterest experience, I turned to my former regimental comrade, whom chance brought to me one day, with the request that he become business manager of the movement. After long hesitation - Amann was holding a position with good prospects - he finally consented, though on condition that he would never serve as a stooge for any incompetent committees, but would exclusively recognize a single master.
It is the inextinguishable merit of this first business manager of the movement, a man of really comprehensive business training, to have brought order and neatness into the party's business affairs. Since that time they have remained exemplary and could be equaled, let alone surpassed, by none of the subdivisions of the movement, but, as always in life, outstanding ability is not seldom the cause of envy and disfavor. This, of course, had to be expected in this case and to be taken patiently into account.
By 1922 there existed, by and large, firm directives for the business as well as the purely organizational development of the movement. There was already a complete central card index which embraced all members belonging to the movement. Likewise the financing of the movement had been brought into healthy channels. Current expenses had to be covered by current receipts; extraordinary receipts were used only for extraordinary expenses. Despite the hard times, the movement thereby remained, apart from small running accounts, almost free of debt, and even succeeded in steadily increasing its resources. We worked as in a private business: the employed personnel had to distinguish itself by achievement, and could not get by on the strength of any of your famous 'loyalty.' The loyalty of every National Socialist is demonstrated primarily by his readiness to work, his industry and ability in accomplishing the work entrusted to him by the community. Anyone who does not fulfill his duty in this should not boast of his loyalty, against which he is actually committing an offense. With the utmost energy the new business manager, in opposition to all possible influences, upheld the standpoint that party enterprises must not be a sinecure for supporters or members with no great enthusiasm for work. A movement which fights in so sharp a form against the party corruption of our present administrative apparatus must keep its own apparatus pure of such vices. There were cases where employees were taken into the administration of the newspaper, who in their previous allegiance belonged to the Bavarian People's Party, but, measured by their achievements, showed themselves excellently qualified. The result of this attempt was in general outstanding. By this honest and frank recognition of the individual's real achievement, the movement more quickly and more thoroughly won the hearts of its employees than would otherwise have been the case. They later became good National Socialists and remained so, and not only in words; they also demonstrated it by the conscientious, regular, and honest work which they performed in the service of the new movement. It goes without saying that the well-qualified party comrade was given preference over the equally qualified non-party member. But no one obtained a position on the basis of his party membership alone. The firmness with which the new business manager upheld these principles, and gradually enforced them despite all opposition, was later of the greatest benefit to the movement. Through this alone was it possible, in the difficult inflation period, when tens of thousands of businesses collapsed and thousands of newspapers had to close, for the business leadership of the movement, not only to remain above water and fulfill its tasks, but for the Völkischer Beobachter to be expanded more and more. It had entered the ranks of the great newspapers.
The year 1921 had, furthermore, the significance that I gradually succeeded, through my position as chairman of the party, in withdrawing the various party services from the criticism and interference of dozens of committee members. This was important, because it was impossible to obtain a really capable mind for a job if incompetents kept on babbling and interfering, knowing everything better than anyone else and actually creating a hopeless muddle. Whereupon, to be sure, these know-it-alls usually withdrew quite modestly, to seek a new field for their inspiring supervisory activity. There were men who were possessed by a positive disease for finding something behind anything and everything, and who were in a kind of continuous pregnancy with excellent plans, ideas, projects, methods. Their highest and most ideal aim was usually the formation of a committee or controlling organ to put its expert nose into other people's serious work. It never dawned on many of these committee people how insulting and how un-National Socialist it is, when men who do not understand a thing keep interfering with real specialists. In any case, I regarded it as my duty in these years, to take all real workers, charged with responsibility in the movement, under my protection against such elements, to cover them in the rear, as it were, so as to leave them free to work forward.
The best means for making harmless such committees, who did nothing and only cooked up decisions that could not be practically carried out, was to assign them to some real work. It was laughable how silently one of these clubs would then disappear, and suddenly was impossible to locate. It made me think of our greatest institution of the sort, the Reichstag. How all its members would suddenly evaporate if, instead of talk, some real work were assigned to them; and particularly a task which every single one of these braggarts would have to perform with personal responsibility.
Even then I always raised the demand that, in the movement as everywhere in private life, we keep looking until the obviously capable official, administrator, or director for the various business sections had been found. And this man was then to receive unconditional authority and freedom of action downward, but to be charged with unlimited responsibility upward, and no one obtains authority toward subordinates who does not know the work involved better than they. In the course of two years, I enforced my opinion more and more, and today it is taken for granted in the movement, at least in so far as the top leadership is concerned.
The visible success of this attitude was shown on November 9, 1923: when I came to the movement four years previous, not even a rubber stamp was available. On November 9, the party was dissolved, its property confiscated. This, including all properties and the newspaper, already amounted to over a hundred and seventy thousand gold marks.
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