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THE


WAR

AND THE

FUTURE
 


An Address

BY

Thomas Mann

 

THOMAS MANN IS CONSULTANT IN GERMANIC LITERATURE IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS AND THE FOLLOWING IS THE TEXT OF AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY DR. MANN IN THE COOLIDGE AUDITORIUM IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ON THE EVENING OF OCTOBER 13, 1943

 
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
 

NOWADAYS, it is not an easy but a rather oppressive situation to stand upon a platform behind the speaker's desk and see the eyes of an audience turned toward you with inquiry and expectancy. I say "now," but this situation which may be natural for the man of action and mass-persuasion, for the politician and party-man, has in truth always been strange and inappropriate for the artist, the poet, the musician of ideas and words, a situation in which he has never felt quite at home, for he becomes, to a certain extent, untrue to his own nature. The element of strangeness and uneasiness lies, for him, in the very nature of the task, in speaking, in committing himself, teaching, in stating convictions and defending opinions. For the artist, the poet, is one who absorbs all the movements and intellectual tendencies, all the currents and spiritual contents of the times and allows them to act upon him; he is affected by all of them, digests them all mentally, gives them form and in this way makes visual the total cultural picture of his times for his contemporary world and for posterity. He does not preach nor propagandize; he gives things a plastic reality, indifferent to nothing; but committed to no cause except that of freedom, of ironical objectivity. He does not speak himself; he lets others speak and even when he is not a dramatist, his conditions are those of the drama, of Shakespeare, wherein the person who happens to be speaking is always right. To speak on his own responsibility is foreign to him, burdensome and alarming. He is, of necessity, a dialectical nature and knows the truth that lies in Goethe's words: "Sobald man spricht, beginnt man schon zu irren" [as soon as a man speaks, error begins]. He agrees with Turgeniev, who said: "When I describe a man and say that he has a pointed nose, a long chin and white hair, or red cheeks, or long teeth, or that he is cross-eyed, or that his eyes have this color and that expression, it cannot be contradicted. It is a cheerful reality. There is nothing to be said against it. But when I defend an opinion, a contradictory one can immediately be raised against it. It can always be assailed; the opposite can also be defended, and I must not only take into account that I will meet with external contradiction to my one-sided position but I also have the contradiction in myself internally, and, in denying this when committing myself to one point of view, I renounce my freedom."

That is true, and yet there are moments, historical condi tions, in which it would prove to be weak, egoistic and wholly untimely to insist upon one's freedom of criticism and to shy away from a confession of faith. I mean those moments and those historical conditions in which Freedom itself, by which the freedom of the artist also exists, is endangered. It is reactionary, unscrupulous, and suicidal, and the intellectual undermines his own existence, if through his need for freedom, he plays into the hands of the enemies and assassins of freedom. These enemies are only too happy if mind considers nothing but the ironical attitude worthy of itself, if it despises the distinction between good and evil, and considers the preoccupation with ideas such as freedom, truth, justice as "bourgeois." In certain conditions it is the duty of the intellectual to renounce his freedom—for the sake of freedom. It is his duty to find the courage to affirm ideas over which the intellectual snob thinks that he can shrug his shoulders. I have had the experience in America when speaking on democracy and my belief in it, that some high-brow journalist who wanted to earn his critical spurs, would say that I had expressed "middle-class ideas." He was expressing a false and reactionary concept of the banal, a misconception with which I had already become all too well acquainted in Europe. I am thinking of Paris at a time when I was discussing Briand and his liberal European struggle to maintain the peace, with members of the "bourgeoisie" who were already strongly infected with fascism. "But, my dear friend" they would say, "Que voulez-vous avec votre Briand? That is the worst banality, d'une triviality insupportable." What the high-brow journalist was characterizing with "middle class-ideas" is actually nothing else than the liberal tradition. It is the complex of ideas of freedom and progress, of humanitarianism, of civilization—in short, the claim of reason to dominate the dynamics of nature, of instinct, of blood, of the unconscious, the primitive spontaneity of life. Now it is by no means natural for the artist, for any human being who stands in any relationship to the creative, to be eternally talking of reason like some learned ass. He very well knows the importance to life of the sub-rational and super-rational powers of instinct and dream; and he is not at all inclined to over-rate the intellect as the guide and moulder of life. He is far from being an enemy of instinct. He recognizes that the recoil from the rationalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was historically and intellectually justified, was inevitable and necessary, but it was crass and immoderate; and if one had the imagination to foresee how the irrational, the dark dynamics, the glorification of instinct, the worship of blood and impulse, the "will to power" and "élan vital" and "myth as cri de bataille," and the justification of violence—how all these ideas would look, when translated from the intellectual sphere, where they were very interesting and fascinating, to the sphere of reality, of politics—if one had imagination enough to foresee this, the desire speedily evaporated to sit upon this side of the boat, where all and sundry, anyway, down to the last petty scribbler and beer-hall demagogue were to be found. It is a terrible spectacle when irrationalism becomes popular. One feels that disaster is imminent, a disaster such as the one-sided over-valuation of reason could never bring about. The over-valuation of reason can be comical in its optimistic pedantry and can be made to look ridiculous by the deeper powers of life. But it does not evoke catastrophe. That is brought about only by the enthronement of anti-reason. At a certain period when fascism took over politically in Germany and Italy, when nationalism became the focus and universal expression of all these tendencies, I was convinced that nothing but war and general destruction could be the final outcome of the irrationalistic orgy, and that in short order. What seemed necessary was the memory of other values, of the idea of democracy, of humanity, of peace, and of human freedom and dignity. It was this side of human nature that needed our help. There is not the slightest danger that reason will ever gain complete ascendancy, that there could ever be too much reason on earth. There is no danger that people will some day become emotionless angels, which, to be sure, would be very dull. But that they should become beasts, which as a matter of fact would be a little too interesting, that, as we have seen, can readily happen. This tendency is much stronger in human beings than the anemic angelic one, and it is only necessary, through general glorification of instincts to set free the evil ones which are always ready to appropriate such a glorification to themselves, in order to bring the bestial tendencies into triumphant ascendancy. It is easy and self-indulgent to throw oneself on the side of nature against the mind, that is to say on the side which in any case is always the stronger. Simple generosity and a slight sense of humane responsibility should decide us to protect and nourish the poor little flame of mind and reason upon earth that it may shine and warm us a little better.

Freedom and justice have long ceased to be banal; they arc vital; and to think of them as boring, simply means an acceptance of the fascistic pseudo-revolutionary fraud that violence and mass-deception are the last word and most up-to-date. The better mind knows that the really new thing in the world which the living spirit is called upon to serve is something totally different, namely, a social democracy and a humanism which, instead of being caught in a cowardly relativism, have the courage once more to distinguish between good and evil.

That is what the European peoples did. They refused to submit to evil, to Hitler's New Order, to slavery. And I should like to take this opportunity to say a word in honor of this now deeply depressed part of the earth. It may well be that we Europeans will only play the part of "Graeculi" in the Roman world of power that will arise out of this war, whose capitals will be Washington, London, and Moscow; but this diminutive role should not decrease our justifiable pride in our old homeland. How much easier, how much less arduous would it have been for the European peoples if they had accepted Hitler's infamous New Order; if they had reconciled themselves to slavery; if they had, as it is called, "collaborated" with Nazi Germany. They have not done so, not a single one of them. Years of the most brutal terrorism, of martyrdom and executions have not succeeded in breaking their will to resist. On the contrary, the resistance has only grown stronger and the most outrageous of all the Nazi lies is that of a united Europe defending its holiest possessions against the invasion of foreigners; the foreigners against whom these holiest possessions must be defended are they, the Nazis, and no one else. Only a corrupt upper-crust, a treasonous gang for whom nothing is holy but money and advantage, is collaborating with them. The people have refused collaboration and, as the victory of the Allies is more clearly outlined, the more confident does the opposition to oppression become. Seven million people have been deported to enforced labor; almost a million have been executed and murdered; ten thousand more are imprisoned in the hell of the concentration camp. Notwithstanding, the uneven, the heroic battle continues. I say: all honor to the peoples of Europe. They are fighting our battle. They are our allies and they deserve to be treated as our allies. Slowly, very slowly, freedom is drawing near, yet their tenacity is indomitable. They deserve our confidence; they should be allowed to have their way, to clean out the powers who have betrayed them and led them into misery. They deserve to be spoken to in a frank and friendly way so that their belief may not he shaken that the liberators are really coming as liberators and not to submit them to the power of the old, decayed, and despised order.

But in speaking of Europe, I cannot omit my own country, and I take for granted that you wish to hear from me about this problem, about its relationship to the world, about how it could possibly have got into the condition in which we find it today; the question of the common responsibility of the German people for the misdeeds of the Nazis. These are painful and complicated matters—experiences which one can scarcely communicate in words to those, who in these times live amongst their own people, in complete harmony with them, in unshakable faith in the cause of this people, and who are permitted to fight enthusiastically for that cause. This perfectly natural good fortune is denied us emigres, not so the enthusiasm and the struggle for this cause. We also battle. But it is our destiny to carry on this battle against our own land and its aims, of whose corruptness we are convinced; against the land whose speech is the spiritual material in which we work, against the land in whose culture we are rooted, whose traditions we carry on, and whose landscape and atmosphere should be our natural shelter.

You will say to me: "We are all fighting for the same cause, the cause of humanity. There is no distinction between you and us." Certainly, but it is your good fortune to be able to identify yourselves with the cause of your people, of your fighting forces, of your government; and when you see the symbol of American sovereignty, the Stars and Stripes, you are perhaps not naïvely patriotic enough that your heart beats with pride in your throat and that you break into loud hurrahs, but you look upon this emblem with a feeling of home, with sympathy and confidence, with calm pride and heartfelt hopes, while we——. You can scarcely conceive the feelings with which we look upon the present national emblem of Germany, the swastika. We do not look upon it, we look away. We would rather look at the ground or at the sky, for the sight of the symbol under which our people are fighting for their existence, or rather delude themselves that they are fighting for that existence, makes us physically sick. You do not know how horribly strange, how detestable, how shocking it is for us to see the swastika-ornamented entrance to a German consulate or embassy. Now I have this experience only in the cinema; but when I lived in Zürich I often came into the neighborhood of the house of the German representative with the ominous flag upon it, and I confess that I always made a wide detour as one would about a cave of horrors, an outpost of murderous barbarism, extending into the realm of a friendly civilization under whose protection I lived. Germany—a great name, a word which carries with it hundreds of homely and respected, pleasant and proud associations. And now, this word, a name of terror and of deadly wilderness, into which even our dreams do not dare to transport us. Whenever I read that some unhappy person has been "taken to Germany," as recently the party leaders from Milan who had signed the anti-fascist manifesto, or as Romain Rolland who is said to have died in a German concentration camp, cold shudders run up and down my back. To be "taken to Germany," that is the worst. To be sure, Mussolini has also been taken to Germany, but I doubt whether even he is happy under Hitler's protection.

What an abnormal, morbid condition, my friends, abnormal and morbid for anyone, but especially for the writer, the bearer of a spiritual tradition, when his own country becomes the most hostile, the most sinister foreign land! And now I wish to think not only of us out here in exile, I finally wish to remember also those people who are still there, the German masses, and to think of the cruel compulsion which destiny has forced upon the German spirit. Believe me, for many there the fatherland has become as strange as it has for us; an "inner emigration" of millions is there awaiting the end just as we. They await the end, that is the end of the war, and there can be only one end. The people in Germany in spite of their strangled isolation, are well aware of it, and yet they long for it, in spite of their natural patriotism, in spite of their national conscience. The ever present propaganda has deeply impressed upon their consciousness the pretended permanently destructive results of a German defeat, so that in one part of their being they cannot avoid fearing that defeat more than anything else in the world. And yet there is one thing which many of them fear more than a German defeat, that is a German victory; some only occasionally, at moments which they themselves regard as criminal, but others with complete clarity and permanently although with pangs of conscience, too. Imagine that you were forced, with all your wishes and hopes to oppose an American victory as a great misfortune for the entire world; if you can imagine that, you can place yourself in the position of these people. This attitude has become the destiny of uncounted Germans and I can't help feeling that this destiny is of a particular and uncommonly tragic nature. I know that other nations, too, have been put into the position of wishing for the defeat of their government for their own sake and for the sake of the general future. But I must insist that in view of the all-too-great credulousness and the desire for loyalty in the German character the dilemma in this case is especially acute, and I cannot resist a feeling of deepest resentment against those who have forced the German patriotism into such a position.

These people have been deluded and seduced into crimes that cry to High Heaven. They have begun to atone for them and they will atone even more severely. It cannot be otherwise; common morality or, if you wish, divine justice demands it. But we out here, who saw disaster coming, we who ahead of our compatriots intoxicated by a fraudulent revolution, ahead of all the rest of the world, were convinced that the Nazi rule could never bring anything except war, destruction, and catastrophe, we see no great difference between that which these scoundrels have done to us and what they have done to our people at home. We hate the corrupters and we long for the day which rids the world of them. But with very few exceptions we are far from being victims of a wretched emigrant-hatred against our own land and we do not desire the destruction of our people. We cannot deny their responsibility, for somehow man is responsible for his being and doing; but we are rather inclined to speak of an historic curse, a dark destiny and aberration than of crime and guilt.

The case of Germany is for that reason such a confusing and complicated one because in it good and evil, the beautiful and the detestable are combined and blended in a singular way. For example, the great artistic personality of Richard Wagner has often been mentioned in connection with the phenomenon of national socialism, and Mr. A. Hitler's preference for his art has been pointed out, a preference against which one would like to protect Wagner and which, nevertheless, is not without significance and instructive meaning. The Wagnerian art revolution, though upon an incomparably higher plane, was a phenomenon related to the national socialist revolution. It cannot be denied that a work such the the "Ring of the Nibelung" is fundamentally directed against the whole modern culture and civilization in the form in which they were dominant since the Renaissance, and that this work in its mixture of primitiveness and futurity addresses itself to a non-existent world of a class-less folk. The resistance, the indignation, which it aroused were directed much less against the revolutionary aspects of its form, or because it broke with the laws of operatic art, from which it obviously diverged. The opposition arose from a totally different source. The German Goethe disciple, who knew his "Faust" by heart gave utterance to an angry and contemptuous protest, a well-founded protest. It came from the still existing cultivated world of German classicism with which this work was a total break. The cultivated German burgher laughed at the Wagalawaia and all the alliteration business as barbarous nonsense, which can readily be understood. The extraordinary, one can say the planetary, success with which eventually this art met in the modern world, the world of the international bourgeoisie, thanks to certain sensual, nervous, and intellectual stimuli, was a paradox. For we must not forget that it was meant for a totally different public than the capitalistic burgher world, namely, for the romantic "Volk" which is also the ideal of national socialism.

The Wagner revolution was an archaic one in which reactionary and futuristic elements were mingled in the most peculiar way. He is always interested in the Ur-epic, the original and utmost simplicity, the pre-conventional and pre-social. Only this seems to him a theme suitable for art: his work is the German contribution to the monumental art of the nineteenth century which took the form in other nations, primarily, of great social-poetical novels—Dickens, Thackeray, Tolstoy, Dostoievski, Balzac, Zola. These monumental works that reveal a similar tendency toward moral grandeur were, par excellence, the European nineteenth century, the literary world of social critique. The German manifestation of this greatness knows nothing of society and does not want to know it. For the social is not musical and altogether not suitable for artistic productions. The only suitable themes for art are the mythical and purely human ones, the unhistorical, timeless Ur-poetry of nature and of the heart; and out of these depths the German spirit creates perhaps the greatest and most beautiful thing that the century has to offer. The non-social Ur-poetry is in fact Germany's own special myth, its typical and fundamental national nature, which differentiates it from the other European national minds and types. Between Zola and Wagner, between the symbolic naturalism of the Rougon-Maquarts novels and Wagner's art, there are many similarities. I am not thinking only of the "leitmotif." But the essential and typical national difference lies in the social mentality of the Frenchman and the mythical Ur-poetical quality of the German world. The complicated question: "What is German?" receives perhaps its best answer in the formulation of this difference. The German mentality is essentially indifferent to social and political questions. This sphere is utterly foreign to it. This is not to be understood merely negatively but we can actually speak of a vacuum, of a lack, of a deficiency, and it is probably true that in times when the social problem is dominant, when the idea of social and economic equality, of a juster economic order is felt by every alert consciousness as the most vital and urgent problem—that tinder such circumstances, this deficiency which is often so fruitful, does not make the happiest impression and leads to disharmony with the general will of the world. Faced with immediate problems, this deficiency leads to attempts at solutions that are evasive and carry the imprint of a mythical substitute for the genuinely social. It is not difficult to recognize in so-called national socialism, a mythical substitute of this sort. Translated from political terminology into the psychological, national socialism means: "I do not want the social at all. I want the folk fairy-tale." But in the political realm, the fairy-tale becomes a murderous lie.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is horrible and humiliating to behold the civilized world obliged to fight to the death against the politically distorted lie of an aggressive folk fairy-tale, which in its earlier spiritual purity had given the world so much that was beautiful. In former times, it was innocent and idealistic, but this idealism began to be ashamed of itself and became jealous of the world and of reality, "Germany is Hamlet" it used to be said. "Tatenarm und gedankenreich," [lacking in deeds and rich in thought], Holderlin called it; but it preferred to be rich in deeds, even in misdeeds, and poor in thought. "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, that means the end of German philosophy," Nietzsche asserted. This jealousy of the worid and reality, was nothing but jealousy of political action. And because this was so foreign to the German mind, politics were understood as a realm of absolute cynicism and Machiavellianism. The Germans were encouraged in this interpretation by the appearance of Bismarck, who, though not without a certain affinity to the type of the artist, was a man of violence who openly despised the ideological. German liberals, who existed after all, considered him atavistic and reactionary. And yet, because of his "realism," he was admired as a political genius, although he was by no means as brutal as the Germans understood him to be, for Bismarck had a keen appreciation of the importance of moral imponderables. But, to his German fellow-citizens, every moral embellishment and justification of power politics seemed pure hypocrisy, and never would a post-Bismarckian German have been able to say, as Cardinal Manning did, "Politics is a part of morals." Ultimately, hypocrisy is a compliment to virtue. It implies the recognition of moral standards in principle. There is a difference whether the Ten Commandments are not kept, as is the case the world over, or whether they are dropped officially and solemnly. The German, when he wants to be political, thinks that all morality and humanity must be thrown overboard. A Frenchman said: "When a German wishes to be graceful, he jumps out of the window." He does the same thing when he wants to be political. He thinks that for this purpose he must de-humanize himself. We do well to see in national socialism an example of this jumping out of the window, an exaggerated over-compensation of the German lack of political talent.

Does this prove that the German character is fundamentally related to national socialism and that this German nature is inherently unchangeable? There may be some partial truth in this, but one must not forget how many humane and, in the best sense, democratic tendencies were active in German life—tendencies which it has had in common with the great world of Occidental Christian civilization and which were always opposed to nationalistic barbarism. We must not forget that the Hitler party never got a real majority of votes and that it came to absolute power only by intrigue and terror, by coup d'état. At the beginning of the present war, there were more than two hundred thousand people in German concentration camps, to say nothing of the many tens of thousands of victims of this system who were tortured to death in Nazi camps and Gestapo cellars. Even today announcements appear in the German press of executions of so-called national traitors whose real numbers we do not know as only limited numbers are published for purposes of intimidation. It is often said that German youth has been hopelessly corrupted by national socialism, but events that took place in the University of Munich, which created such a stir in America, prove that now, at last, after the experiences of years, German youth is ready to put its head on the executioner's block out of conviction that national socialism is a shameful aberration and that Hitler is the corrupter of Germany and of Europe. For the sake of justice these things must be put into the other side of the scales. Not that Germany and the German people should be relieved of guilt and of responsibility. Looked at from a moral, pedagogical point of view, after the appalling pride, the inexcusable superiority intoxication in which the country has lived for many years, its fall at first, cannot be too deep; and, after all that has happened, it does not become us emigrants to advise the victors as to how Germany should be treated. That the common future should not be too heavily burdened by their decisions is the hope of liberal America. Neither Germany nor the German people should be sterilized or destroyed. What should be destroyed is that fatal power combination, the world threatening association of the Junkers, the army generals, and heavy industry. The German people should not be prevented but should be helped to shatter forever the domination of these groups; to put through the already overdue agrarian reform, in short, to bring about the real, the honest, the purifying revolution which alone can rehabilitate Germany in the eyes of the world, of history, and in its own eyes, and open for her a path into the future—for this future, for the new world of unity and cooperation for which we hope the German spirit is by no means historically unprepared and unfit. We should be psychologists enough to recognize that this monstrous German attempt at world domination, which we now see ending catastrophically, is nothing but a distorted and unfortunate expression of that universalism innate in the German character which formerly had a much higher, purer, and nobler form and which won the sympathy and admiration of the world for this important people. Power politics corrupted this universalism and turned it into evil, for whenever universalism becomes power politics then humanity must arise and defend its liberty. Let us trust that German universalism will again find the way to its old place of honor, that it will forever renounce the wanton ambition of world conquest and that it will again prove itself as world sympathy, world understanding, open-mindedness, and spiritual enrichment of the world.

Wisdom in the treatment of the defeated opponent is desirable if only because of a feeling of shared guilt. The world democracies, which in 1918 were in possession of unlimited power, failed to do anything to prevent the calamity in which we are living today. The pacification of the world through reforms and the satisfaction of human need for justice, which now preoccupy the whole world, could have been realized at that time. This would have prevented the rise of the dictators and the whole dynamic explosive philosophy of hate; but fascism, of which national socialism is a peculiar variation, is not a specialty of Germany. It is a sickness of the times, which is everywhere at home and from which no country is free. Never could the regimes of violence and fraud in Italy and Germany have maintained themselves even for a month, had they not met with a very general and disgraceful sympathy from the economically leading classes and, therefore, from the governments of the democratic countries.

I certainly would flunk an examination in Marxism. But although I know that fascism has its ideological side and must be understood as a fatal, calamitous reaction against the rationalistic humanism of the nineteenth century, I must admit that I also visualize it as a political-economic movement, a counter-revolution pur sang. As such it is an attempt of all the old social and economic reactionaries to suppress the peoples and their aspirations for happiness, to prevent all social progress by attaching to it the frightening name of Bolshevism. In the eyes of Western, conservative capitalism, fascism was frankly a bulwark against Bolshevism and against everything that they wished to assail under this name, especially since the German purges of June 1934, in which everything that was socialistic in national socialism was destroyed and the old power combination of Junkers, army and industry was saved. This bloody act was cleverly aimed to gain international support of the Nazi regime. For it demonstrated to the West that a change of power had taken place in Germany but not a revolution that threatened the existing economic system. It indicated that fascism meant "order" in the established sense of the word. There was a little disgust with the atrocities committed, but no inclination to make the regime internally impossible by diplomatic isolation, a result which at that time could have been easily achieved. Here was the curious phenomenon of a so-called "revolution," which had the support throughout the world of every reactionary, of every "Comité des forges," of all enemies of freedom and of social progress, as well as of the aristocracy, of any "Faubourg St. Germain," of society people, of the nobility, of royalist generals, and of that part of the Catholic Church which sees in Christianity, above all things, hierarchy, humility, and devout adherence to the existing order.

Field Marshal Goering is the personification—the very voluminous personification—of this power complex of the Junker, the military, and industry, a grotesque mixture of the "miles gloriosus" bedecked with medals, and the big business man. He is the master of the German European industrial monopoly since the subjection of Europe, which came into being by undermining the moral resistance of the democratic powers and with the aid of a very general susceptibility to the fascist bacillus. The people are living or perishing in impotent revolt against the new order. Whatever "collaboration" exists is the collaboration of the rich, of the business-as-usual people all over Europe. These prosper; they make profits; buy in the black market; carouse at Monte Carlo, while the people are starving and become the sacrifice of Germany's planned conspiracy to weaken and to ruin them morally and physically.

I repeat: in the eyes of Western conservative capitalism, fascism was simply the bulwark against Bolshevism and against everything which was understood by the word. Every abomination which fascism perpetrated internally was accepted without the realization that its external correlate was war. Perhaps there was no objection even to that. In France, for example, war and defeat were the means of overthrowing the Republic and of bringing about the "national," or fascist revolution. The fascist regimes were braced by the foreign powers, for in the wildest chaos, in disregard of justice and destruction of culture, they professed to see order, beauty and security—security not for the people but from the people, security against all social progress. With a semblance of justice the dictators could shout: "What do these people mean? Why are they suddenly making war on us? Were they not openly or secretly our protectors and abettors? They placed us in the saddle and secured us in it, by financing us, praising us, flattering us: they offered us on a platter the external successes with which we annihilated our internal opposition. Surely they don't mean it. They have no intention of destroying fascism. Secretly, they wish to preserve it. They are fighting half-heartedly with indistinct aims, the indecision of their wills is our protection. To be sure, they are slowly getting the upper hand on the battlefield but, if only we continue the war as long as possible, the inner differences between the Allies will come to an open break and we shall profit by it. We shall play the East against the West and avoid an unconditional surrender."

They are mistaken and their hopes will be crushed.. Certainly there are differences of ideology and world policy between Russia and its allies, but this war is amongst other things a means of conciliating these differences—a conciliation between socialism and democracy upon which rests the hope of the world. They are united in the battle against human degradation which is what the conquest of the world by fascism would mean. They are united in the battle for freedom and justice. But a war for freedom and justice can only be waged with the people and for the people, and we sincerely hope that the same thing will not happen that happened after the wars with Napoleon. Those wars were called "wars of freedom" as long as they lasted, and the people, with their desire for freedom, were needed to do the fighting; but afterwards they were interpreted as "wars of liberation only from foreign oppression" so that the people might be robbed of the internal revolutionary fruits of victory.

At that time, in the year 1813, the princes and the governments were not fighting so much against Napoleon as against the revolution, whose sword-bearer the Emperor was, but the people were given to understand that they were fighting for freedom, and I wonder whether you do not feel, as I do, the abomination of this deceit.

In this connection, let me make a short remark about the idea of democracy. Democracy is of course in the first line a claim, a demand of majority for justice and equal rights. It is a justified demand from below. But in my eyes it is even more beautiful if it is good will, generosity and love coming from the top down. I do not consider it very democratic if little Mr. Smith or little Mr. Jones slaps Beethoven on the back and shouts: "How arc you, old man!" That is not democracy but tactlessness and a lack of feeling for differences. But when Beethoven sings: "Be embraced, ye millions, this kiss to all the world"—that is democracy. For he could say: "I am a great genius and something quite special, but the people are a mob; I am much too proud and particular to embrace them." Instead he calls them all his brothers and children of one Father in Heaven, who is also his own. That is democracy in its highest form, far removed from demagogy and a flattering wooing of the masses. I have always subscribed to this kind of democracy; but that is exactly the reason why I feel deeply that there is nothing more abominable than deception of the masses and betrayal of the people. My unhappiest years were those, when in the name of a false peace, of appeasement, the people were sold out to fascism. The sacrifice of Czechoslovakia at the Munich conference was the most horrible and humiliating political experience of my life, and not only I felt so, but all decent people throughout the world.

In March 1932, a year before I left Germany, I delivered a lecture in honor of Goethe's centenary at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, a speech which closed with the words: "The credit which history today still grants to a free republic, to a democratic society, this rather short-term credit, rests upon the still maintained faith that what its power lusty enemies pretend to be able to do, namely, to lead the state and its economy over into a new world, democracy also can do." This warning, which at that time, was meant for the citizens of the German republic, could today be directed toward the citizens of the entire Occidental world. If democracy has not the courage in this world and afterward to rely upon the popular forces, to see in it a real war of the people and strive toward a new, a freer, and a juster world, the world of social democracy; if, on the other hand, unmindful of its own revolutionary traditions, it allies itself with the powers of the old order, a has-been order, to avoid at any price what it calls anarchy, to subdue every revolutionary tendency; then the faith of the European people who have been oppressed by fascism, will be exhausted and all of them, Germany first, will turn toward the power of the East in whose socialism the idea of individual freedom no longer has any place.

You perceive, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I do not visualize as ideal for humanity, a socialism in which the idea of equality completely outweighs that of freedom. So I hardly can be regarded as a champion of communism. Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling that the panic fear of the Western world of the term communism, this fear by which the fascists have so long maintained themselves, is somewhat superstitions and childish and one of the greatest follies of our epoch. Communism is today die bogeyman of the bourgeoisie, exactly as social democracy was in Germany in 1880. Under Bismarck socialism was the sum of all sans-culottish destruction and dissolution, of chaotic anarchy. I can still hear our school principal shout at some naughty boys who had defaced tables and benches with their pocket knives: "You have behaved like social democrats!" Today he would say: "like communists!" for the social democrat has in the meantime become a thoroughly respectable person whom nobody fears.

Please understand me correctly. Communism is a sharply circumscribed political economic program founded upon the dictatorship of one class, the proletariat, born of the historical materialism of the nineteenth century: in this form it is the product of a particular period and subjected to the changes of tune. But as a vision it is much older and contains at the same time elements that belong only to a future world. It is older because already the religious movements of the late Middle Ages had an escatological communist character; even then the earth, water, air, wild game, fishes, and birds were to be common property, the lords were to work for their daily bread, and all burdens and taxes were to be done away with. In this sense, communism is older than Marx and the nineteenth century. But it belongs to the future in as much as the world that will be when we are gone, whose outlines are beginning to emerge and in which our children and grandchildren will live, can scarcely be imagined without certain communistic traits—that means, without the fundamental idea of common rights of ownership and enjoyment of earthly good, without a progressive equalization of class differences, without the right to work and the duty to work for all. A country of America's courageous progressivity which has never denied its origin in the pioneer spirit, gives us premonitions of this coming world in its equalitarianism and in its feeling that work disgraces nobody. The common possession of opportunities for enjoyment and education are largely achieved. The whole world smokes the same cigarettes, eats the same ice cream, sees the same movies, hears the same music on the radio; even the difference in clothing is disappearing more and more, and the college student who earns his way through college, which would have been very much beneath his class dignity in Europe, is here a commonplace.

Why do I mention this? Because I am persuaded we must not be afraid, we must not fear word spooks like "communism." For our fear is the source of courage to our enemies. Social changes are like developments in music. For the layman's ears new music is wild, lawless cacophony, the dissolution of all restraint, the end of all things. It is rejected until the ear can catch up and becomes accustomed to the new. Today it is scarcely believable that Mozart at first seemed turgid, and harmonically extravagant, that Verdi in comparison with Donizetti was terribly difficult, Beethoven unendurably bizarre, Wagner crazily futuristic, Mahler an incomprehensible noise. In every instance, the human ear caught up slowly, for people need music, and they learn to feel as music whatever the musician produces, not deliberately, not recklessly but because he must, because the Zeitgeist and historical development prescribe it.

The same thing takes place in the social field. The education of the ear corresponds to the education of an organ which can be called the social conscience. What transformations and modifications, have taken place since the days when muraenae were fed the flesh of living slaves, and again since the beginning of the industrial epoch. Private property is undoubtedly something fundamentally human. But even within our own lifetime, how changed is the concept of property rights! It has become weakened and limited if not undermined through inheritance laws and taxations which in some cases approach confiscation. Individual freedom which is closely related to property rights was forced to adjust itself to the collective demand and, through the course of years, made this change almost imperceptibly. The idea of freedom, once revolution itself, realized in the sovereignty of national states, is experiencing certain modifications, that is a new equilibrium is being sought, between the two fundamental ideas of modern democracy, freedom and equality. The one is slowly modified by the other. The sovereignty of national states is being called upon to make sacrifices in favor of the common good. Common good, community—there you have the root of the frightening word by means of which Hitler made his conquests. I haven't the doubt that the world and everyday life are moving, nolens volens, toward a social structure for which the ephithet "communistic" is a relatively adequate term, a communal form of life, of mutual dependence and responsibility, of common rights to the enjoyment of earthly goods, as a result of the ever closer relationship of the world, its contraction, its intimacy resulting from technical progress, a world wherein each and everyone has a right to live and whose administration is everyone's concern.

Do not imagine that what I am saying means that I am in favor only of the new and the untried. By that I would become unfaithful to myself. Never is the artist only the protagonist and prophet of the new but also the heir and repository of the old. Always he brings forth the new out of tradition. Just as I am far from denying the values of the bourgeois epoch to which the largest part of my personal life belongs, just so am I aware that the demands of the times and the problems of the coming peace are not merely of a revolutionary but also of a constructive, yes, of a restorative nature. Ever and again, historical upheaval such as we are now experiencing is inevitably followed by a movement of restoration. The need to reestablish is as imperative as the demand for renewal. What needs to be reestablished more than anything else arc the commandments of religion, of Christianity, which have been trod underfoot by a false revolution. From these commandments must be derived the fundamental law under which the peoples of the future will live together and to which all will have to pay reverence. No real pacification of the world, no cooperation of the people for the common good and for human progress will be possible unless such a basic law is established, which notwithstanding national diversity and liberty must be valid for all and recognized by all as a Magna Carta of human rights, guaranteeing the individual his security in justice, his inviolability, his right to work and to the enjoyment of life. For such a universal basis, may the American Bill of Rights serve as a model.

I believe, Ladies and Gentlemen, that out of the suffering and struggle of our difficult period of transition, a wholly new and more emotional interest in humanity and its fate, in its exceptional position between the realms of nature and mind, in its mystery and its destiny will emerge, a humanistic impulse which even now is alive and active in the best hearts and minds. This new humanism will have a different character, a different color and tone than the earlier related movements. This new humanism will have endured too much to be satisfied with an optimistic naiveté and the desire to sec human life through rosy glasses. It will lack all bombast. It will be aware of the tragedy of all human life without letting that awareness destroy its courage and will. It will not disavow its religious traits, for in the idea of human dignity, of the value of the individual soul, humanism transcends into the religious. Concepts like freedom, truth, justice, belong to a trans-biological sphere, the sphere of the Absolute, to the religious sphere. Optimism and pessimism are empty words to this humanism. They cancel each other in the determination to preserve the honor of man, in the paths of sympathy and duty. It seems to me that without such a pathos as the basis of all thinking and doing, the structure of a better, happier world, the world community that we wish to achieve out of the present struggle, will be impossible. The defense of reason against blood and instinct does not imply that its creative power should be overestimated. Creative alone is feeling guided by reason, is an ever active love.
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Published by The Library of Congress

Washington, 1944

 

U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1944

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