Philosophical Foundations of National-Socialism, by Otto Dietrich — Part 4

The community, as a coherent whole, is a universe. “Universalistic thought sets the community as the uppermost principle,” says Dietrich. Thus it is one’s own community that is the uppermost principle. In this instance community means das Volk, which Dietrich calls “the only real, organically grown totality.” Freedom is defined as “harmony of one’s own personal willing with the duties toward the community.” (This is similar to the traditional Catholic teaching that man is free when he is moral.) All freedom that the individual has derives from his membership in the community. Freedom therefore presupposes living in a community of shared values, and is fulfilled in becoming a responsible member of that community.

This is a doctrine that will try the patience of anyone immersed in the typically American individualism that likes to believe that a man can accomplish great deeds entirely by himself. What must be remembered is that even when a man undertakes some actions alone, he still carries the influence of his community with him; it is the community that gives meaning to the actions of the individual, and has prepared him for such actions.

Dietrich’s statements about the boundaries of science refer mainly to the social sciences, and not “the kind of scientific inquiry that is aimed strictly at matter and has no relevance for the soul.” (The social sciences are treated much more seriously in Germany than in the United States.) Dietrich says that the pursuits of the social sciences must not conflict with “the laws of life of this community.”


Otto Dietrich

Here grow the new great assignments of German spirituality, not only inwardly, but also outwardly, toward the world. One might think that especially liberalism would keep its distance from dogmatically rigid thought, and would at least give free rein to its own principles in the sphere of the mind, where new life begins to bloom. But the so-called immortal ideas of liberalism are the ideas whereby peoples die. In the nations’ progress toward becoming peoples however, which we see has already reached a breakthrough today in Germany and Italy, that great cultural restructuring within peoples proclaims itself; this cultural restructuring is destined not only to unfold the nations’ inner powers for the wellbeing of all, but also to guarantee the ordering of the nations in relation to each other, through a natural delineation of their vital needs and interests. The turning from individualism to universalism, which is the way of the future, corresponds to this evolution in the direction of a dynamic order of the nations, instead of mechanical juxtaposition and conflict (Neben- und Gegeneinander).

Today this turning is already more than a European spiritual problem that is exported from Germany and Italy to the rest of the world.

Italian Fascism is akin to the National-Socialist mindset (Geisteshaltung). The first manifesto of the Fascist Party begins with the following principle: “The nation is not the simple sum of living individuals (Individuen) but instead an organism that encompasses the endless series of generations, and particular persons (die Einzelnen) are nothing but transitory elements in it. [The nation] is the highest synthesis of all material and non-material assets of the nation.” And in the first chapter of the Carta del Lavoro it says: “The Italian nation is an organism, whose purpose, existence, and means take precedence both in power and in duration over those of particular persons or groups.” Here Fascism takes a position fundamentally opposed to individualism, but the Fascist doctrine of the state, as laid out for example by Guido Bortolotto in his work Faschismus und Nation, does not rise to the level of a spiritually consistent, universalistic idea. It repudiates individualism, without however making the universalistic principle into its own; instead it tries to set up between the two principles a third that is supposed to bear the specifically and exclusively Fascistic character: the corporative principle, corporativism. “The distinction for us,” says Bortolotto, “is that with individualism the individual rules over the whole, while with universalism the whole rules over the individual. In between, however, stands corporativism, whereby the individual and the whole exist together in harmony.” Here in the Fascistic doctrine of the state, as presented by Italian science, we thus see the attempt, in any case interesting, to affirm the community while saving the individual from disappearing in the community. And if this attempt also involves the endeavor to include certain inconsistencies as part of the foundation, and intellectually to legitimize them, of course it seems necessary to argue against it.

The problem that confronts us here is, how individualistic freedom is possible within the framework of universalistic connectedness (Gebundenheit). And National-Socialism can give an unassailable answer to this crucial question as well. I want to try to formulate this answer.

Universalistic thought sets the community as the uppermost principle, just as National-Socialism treats not the “individual” (das “Individuum”) or “humanity” (die “Menschheit”) but the people (das Volk) as the only real, organically grown totality (Ganzheit). Since the individual exists only through the community, he can derive his personal freedom only through and from the community. The National-Socialist worldview thus consistently not only acknowledges but indeed demands the freedom of personality – demands it for the sake of the community, which means in the interest of the community and its ever fuller configuration (Gestaltung). The crucial salient characteristic (Wesensmerkmal) of the National-Socialist idea is precisely that it induces the unfolding of the configuring forces and creative values of personality within the community, and exerts them on behalf of the community. So-called individual freedom is not something that would in any way be given to man from nature. From nature is given to man community-consciousness, consciousness of duty toward the community in which he is born. The individualistic concept of freedom however wants to liberate the individual from this duty toward the community. The verbal nuance of the German language (das Sprachgefühl) accordingly also designates such a man rejecting the duties to his community as an Individuum. “Every human is indeed something unique, but not a solitary being,” (“Jeder Mensch ist zwar Einziges, aber nicht Einzelwesen,”) says Rehmke. And we add: as something unique he is a personality, and as “not a solitary being” he is a folk-comrade (Volksgenosse).

Johannes Rehmke (1848-1930)

Thus we see that natural freedom is the freedom of personality, which means the freedom of the man who creates for his community. This uniquely true concept of freedom was taught as far back as Aristotle, who attributed freedom only to the creative man. One can only be creative, however, for a community. Only he who is conscious of his duties toward the community and acts accordingly can be creative. And therefore the concept of freedom presupposes connection to the community. Whoever possesses this sense of community and acknowledges its moral obligations is free and feels that he is free, since his free activity can never be directed against the rules of the community, but instead runs in harmony with it.

This harmony of one’s own personal willing with the duties toward the community however cannot be forcibly and artificially produced through a contrived, corporative system such as occurs in Italian corporativism; rather this harmony results a priori from the actuality of the community, if community-consciousness is cultivated and kept awake in it. On the other hand, whoever does not possess this sense of responsibility toward the community and does not acknowledge his moral obligations places himself outside the community. What he calls individual freedom is not freedom but rather unbridledness (Zügellosigkeit).

We still stand too close to the epoch of individualistic thought from which the National-Socialist worldview has liberated us, or the individual in his thinking is still too much caught in that epoch, to be fully gripped and permeated already by the inner necessity of universalistic thought. This spiritually revolutionary change and transition brings tensions with it, wherein someone still a prisoner to the Individuum may perhaps at times see his mental freedom threatened. But to the degree that, through education into National-Socialist thought, the sense of community will again become something self-evident and natural – and in the young generation that is already the case – the problematic natures of today are relieved of the urge to mourn the passing of an individual freedom that was an error in thinking now hard to imagine, which has become pointless and has been replaced by the true freedom of personality within the universalistic world-picture of National-Socialism.

We see therefore that National-Socialism can guarantee space and free opportunity for action (Wirkungsmöglichkeit) within the community, because it teleologically establishes this freedom through the community itself, thus necessarily through its own principle – while the corporativism of the Fascist conception of the state can only achieve individualistic freedom by borrowing it back as needed from the individualism that it had initially conquered. Here National-Socialism shows greater consistency in its worldview and far stronger deep effect than Fascism, as indeed generally the permeation and encompassing of the people with the worldview of National-Socialism, which derives from the deepest experience of the soul, has much wider ramifications than Italian Fascism.

From the perspective thus acquired is unleashed also the controversy over scientific and academic freedom that many do not want to see guaranteed in the National-Socialist state. The National-Socialist state grants and guarantees this scientific freedom as a matter of principle whenever this freedom, for its own part, also fulfills just the most basic requirements demanded of every citizen, in other words whenever it moves within the boundaries that Nature has set for us through our life in the community. We have seen that universalistically oriented, community-conscious thought is the fundamental category of all scientific inquiry, apart from the kind of scientific inquiry that is aimed strictly at matter and has no relevance for the soul. Whoever affirms this community-conscious thought will also be able to teach within its limits, able in fact to teach freely and without restriction. Whoever by contrast rejects it is intellectually in a dead rut from the start, and the National-Socialist state performs a service to humanity if it does not place a professorial chair at his disposal. Such a doctrine, wrongly oriented from the start, excludes itself from the intellectual life of the nation, since it is no longer science but error.

I would like to adduce as an example from bygone times the Marxist doctrine, the so-called scientific socialism that was built upon the materialistic conception of history, and upon a scientifically impossible economic theory of value, thus upon capital errors in science. Today it is hardly imaginable anymore that this doctrine, this scientific lunacy that was guiding the entire people to destruction, could be taught for decades in German universities merely to satisfy the demand for a wrongly understood, individualistic academic freedom that proclaims science without restriction as a goal in itself. In the sphere of private research, especially in the physical sciences, science can be a goal in itself, but to the extent that its results are handed over to the public, and offered to the community accompanied by a value-judgment that they are universally valid, they cannot possibly stand in contradiction to the laws of life of this community. If they do, they prove thereby that they are wrong. The epistemological point of reference newly acquired through National-Socialism, however, relieves us of all these erroneous paths of thought, since it conquers them from the inside out and makes them impossible. And therefore National-Socialism is in fact the power that also liberates science, since it can give full freedom to science that is relevant to the life of the nation and the foundations of its being (Sein).

From this universalistic or organic groundlaying of thought therefore must also proceed that new philosophical mindfulness (Besinnung) that can ascend to the loftiest heights of the spirit without running the risk of leaving behind the deep connectedness with life and its practical contents. In this sphere of practical life, just as our Leader teaches us, the National-Socialist worldview has yielded in a unique way the proof of its correctness and configuring force. 

Part Five is not yet published.

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