A person who is not willing to accept responsibility for his own actions, but is always seeking to be covered by something, must be classed among the knaves and the rascals. If a national leader should come from that lower class of politicians the evil consequences will soon manifest themselves. Nobody will then have the courage to take a decisive step. They will submit to abuse and defamation rather than pluck up courage to take a definite stand. And thus nobody is left who is willing to risk his position and his career, if needs be, in support of a determined line of policy.
One truth which must always be borne in mind is that the majority can never replace the man. The majority represents not only ignorance but also cowardice. And just as a hundred blockheads do not equal one man of wisdom, a hundred poltroons are incapable of any political line of action that requires moral strength and fortitude.
The intellectual level of the ruling class sinks steadily. One can easily forecast how much the nation and State are bound to suffer from such a condition of affairs, provided one does not belong to that same class of ‘leaders’.
Willingly or unwillingly, one could not help thinking seriously of the narrow intellectual outlook of these chosen representatives of the various constituent nationalities, and one could not avoid pondering on the methods through which these noble figures in public life were first discovered.
Whatever definition we may give of the term ‘public opinion’, only a very small part of it originates from personal experience or individual insight. The greater portion of it results from the manner in which public matters have been presented to the people through an overwhelmingly impressive and persistent system of ‘information’. The political opinions of the masses are the final result of influences systematically operating on human sentiment and intelligence in virtue of a method which is applied sometimes with almost-incredible thoroughness and perseverance.
By far the most effective branch of political education, which in this connection is best expressed by the word ‘propaganda’, is carried on by the Press. The Press is the chief means employed in the process of political ‘enlightenment’. It represents a kind of school for adults. This educational activity, however, is not in the hands of the State but in the clutches of powers which are partly of a very inferior character. It took the Press only a few days to transform some ridiculously trivial matter into an issue of national importance, while vital problems were completely ignored or filched and hidden away from public attention.
The Press succeeded in the magical art of producing names from nowhere within the course of a few weeks. They made it appear that the great hopes of the masses were bound up with those names. And so they made those names more
popular than any man of real ability could ever hope to be in a long lifetime. All this was done, despite the fact that such names were utterly unknown and indeed had never been heard of even up to a month before the Press publicly emblazoned them. At the same time old and tried figures in the political and other spheres of life quickly faded from the public memory and were forgotten as if they were dead, though still healthy and in the enjoyment of their full vigor. Or sometimes such men were so vilely abused that it looked as if their names would soon stand as permanent symbols of the worst kind of baseness.
Those who have been elected by the people come from various dissimilar callings in life and show very varying degrees of political capacity, with the result that the whole combination is disjointed and sometimes presents quite a sorry picture. Surely nobody believes that these chosen representatives of the nation are the choice spirits or first-class intellects. Nobody is foolish enough to pretend that hundreds of statesmen can emerge from papers placed in the ballot box by electors who are anything else but averagely intelligent. The absurd notion that men of genius are born out of universal suffrage cannot be too strongly repudiated. In the first place, those times may be really called blessed when one genuine statesman makes his appearance among a people. Such statesmen do not appear all at once in hundreds or more. Secondly, among the broad masses there is instinctively a definite antipathy towards every outstanding genius. There is a better chance of seeing a camel pass through the eye of a needle than of seeing a really great man ‘discovered’ through an election.
Whatever has happened in history above the level of the average of the broad public has mostly been due to the driving force of an individual personality. But here the elected representatives of less than modest intellectual qualities pass judgment on the most important problems affecting the nation. They form governments which in turn learn to win the approval of the illustrious assembly for every legislative step that may be taken, which means that the policy to be carried out is actually the policy of the elected representatives.
The same holds true of every other problem. It is always a majority of ignorant and incompetent people who decide on each measure; for the composition of the institution does not vary, while the problems to be dealt with come from the most varied spheres of public life. An intelligent judgment would be possible only if different deputies had the authority to deal with different issues. It is out of the question to think that the same people are fitted to decide on transport questions as well as, let us say, on questions of foreign policy, unless each of them is a universal genius. But scarcely more than one genius appears in a century.
Here we are scarcely ever dealing with real brains, but only with dilettante who are as narrow-minded as they are conceited and arrogant, intellectual demimondes of the worst kind. This is why these honorable gentlemen show such astonishing levity in discussing and deciding on matters that would demand the most painstaking consideration even from great minds. Measures of momentous importance for the future existence of the State are framed and discussed in an atmosphere more suited to the card-table. Indeed the latter suggests a much more fitting occupation for these gentlemen than that of deciding the destinies of a people.
This system, by forcing the individual to pass judgment on questions for which he is not competent gradually debases his moral character. Nobody will have the courage to say: “Gentlemen, I am afraid we know nothing about what we are talking about. I for one have no competency in the matter at all.” Anyhow if such a declaration were made it would not change matters very much; for such outspoken honesty would not be understood. The person who made the declaration would be deemed an honorable ass that ought not to be allowed to spoil the game. Those who have knowledge of human nature know that nobody likes to be considered a fool among his associates; and in certain circles honesty is taken as an index of stupidity.
Thus it happens that a naturally upright man, once he finds himself elected to parliament, may eventually be induced by the force of circumstances to acquiesce in a general line of conduct which is base in itself and amounts to a betrayal of the public trust. That feeling that if the individual refrained from taking part in a certain decision his attitude would not alter the situation in the least, destroys every real sense of honor which might occasionally arouse the conscience of one person or another. Finally, the otherwise upright deputy will succeed in persuading himself that he is by no means the worst of the lot and that by taking part in a certain line of action he may prevent something worse from happening.
A counter argument may be put forward here. It may be said that of course the individual member may not have the knowledge which is requisite for the treatment of this or that question, yet his attitude towards it is taken on the advice of his Party as the guiding authority in each political matter; and it may further be said that the Party sets up special committees of experts who have even more than the requisite knowledge for dealing with the questions placed before them.
At first sight, that argument seems sound. But then another question arises – namely, why are so many representatives elected if only a few have the wisdom which is required to deal with the more important problems?
It is not the aim of our modern democratic parliamentary system to bring together an assembly of intelligent and well-informed deputies, not at all. The aim rather is to bring together a group of nonentities who are dependent on others for their views and who can be all the more easily led, the narrower the mental outlook of each individual is. That is the only way in which a party policy, according to the evil meaning it has to-day, can be put into effect. And by this method alone it is possible for the wire puller, who exercises the real control, to remain in the dark, so that personally he can never be brought to account for his actions. For under such circumstances none of the decisions taken, no matter how disastrous they may turn out for the nation as a whole, can be laid at the door of the individual whom everybody knows to be the evil genius responsible for the whole affair. All responsibility is shifted to the shoulders of the Party as a whole. In practice no actual responsibility remains. Responsibility arises only from personal duty and not from the obligations that rest with a parliamentary assembly of empty talkers.
Generally speaking, we must not forget that the highest aim of human existence is not the maintenance of a State of Government but rather the conservation of the race. If the race is in danger of being oppressed or even exterminated the question of legality is only of secondary importance. The established power may in such a case employ only those means which are recognized as ‘legal’, yet the instinct of self-preservation on the part of the oppressed will always justify, to the highest degree, the employment of all possible resources. Only on the recognition of this principle was it possible for those struggles to be carried through, of which history furnishes magnificent examples in abundance, against foreign bondage or oppression at home.
Not one of the representatives of the people will pay homage to a superior truth and devote himself to its service. No. Not one of these gentry will act thus, except he has grounds for hoping that by such a conversion he may be able to retain the representation of his constituency in the coming legislature. Therefore, only when it becomes quite clear that the old party is likely to have a bad time of it at the forthcoming elections – only then will those models of manly virtue set out in search of a new party or a new policy which may have better electoral prospects; but of course this change of position will be accompanied by a veritable deluge of high moral motives to justify it. And thus it always happens that when an existing Party has incurred such general disfavor among the public that it is threatened with the probability of a crushing defeat, then a great migration commences. The parliamentary rats leave the Party ship.
All this happens not because the individuals in the case have become better informed on the questions at issue and have resolved to act accordingly. These changes of front are evidence only of that gift of clairvoyance which warns the parliamentary flea at the right moment and enables him to hop into another warm Party bed.
Among the elected representatives there may, of course, be some who use their sacred calling to further their political ambitions. There are those who unfortunately forget that in the political mêlée they ought to be the paladins of the more sublime truths and not the abettors of falsehood and slander. But for each one of these unworthy specimens we can find a thousand or more who fulfill their mission nobly as the trustworthy guardians of souls and who tower above the level of our corrupt epoch, as little islands above the sea swamp.
If it be objected that here we are concerned not with the petty problems of everyday life but principally with fundamental truths and questions of dogma, the only way of answering that objection is to ask a question:
Do you feel that Providence has called you to proclaim the Truth to the world? If so, then go and do it. But you ought to have the courage to do it directly and not use some political party as your mouthpiece; for in this way you shirk your vocation. In the place of something that now exists and is bad put something else that is better and will last into the future.
As soon as the vacillating masses find themselves facing an opposition that is made up of different groups of enemies their sense of objectivity will be aroused and they will ask how is it that all the others can be in the wrong and they themselves, and their movement, alone in the right. Such a feeling would be the first step towards a paralysis of their fighting vigor.
(Excerpts from MEIN KAMPF, HURST AND BLACKETT LTD., Publishers since 1812 LONDON • NEW YORK • MELBOURNE, Translated by JAMES MURPHY. Abbots Langley, February, 1939, this translation of the unexpurgated edition of “Mein Kampf” was first published on March 21st, 1939)